A/N: Thanks for the support I've gotten so far on this little story. As always, I love reading your reviews. Thanks! ~gagirl29
"I didn't feel like it," was my response to Shane asking why I hadn't shown up for rehearsal the night before.
I hadn't felt like it. By the time I'd gotten off work, went home to shower and ate some of the dinner my mom had warming for me, I hadn't felt like going back out again. Instead, I'd went up to my room and listened to the radio while I did what homework I could by myself. I finished my algebra. I tried to answer the questions for physical science. Then I picked up my copy of The Raven and sat propped against my pillows reading what I could.
As I'd went along, I highlighted the words that I didn't know. That was easiest for me. Then I could go back later and ask Linda what they meant. She never seemed to mind when I asked her stuff like that. She said she just wanted to help.
In a lot of ways she reminded me of Brain. She was really smart. And she was really patient. She never made feel stupid or anything. The way she explained things made it all so much easier. Sometimes I missed having Brain around, but I knew it would probably be awkward for both of us now. Linda was working out just fine.
I sat on my bed reading for a long time. I sat there so long I got through forty pages. That was a lot for me. I was proud of myself. Usually, I gave up before I finished the first chapter, so this was a good start.
I don't know why I felt like reading in the first place. Or maybe I did know why. Maybe it was because of her, the girl who was fast approaching where I sat with Shane on the back of my car. Maybe I didn't want to look like a complete idiot in front of her when we worked on this stupid project together.
Shane caught a glimpse of her striding toward us and slid from his seat. "Later," he muttered, heading in the direction of the bleachers. Chicken shit, I thought, frowning at his retreating back.
Her steps slowed when she was almost in front of me. "Hey," she said, tucking her hair behind her ear, the way she always did when she was nervous. She leaned against the trunk beside me, a little closer than I expected her to.
"Hey." Catching a wiff of her scent, I glanced away from her. Why was she leaning so close to me? Did she even know what she was doing?
"Look, I know you said you didn't want to work with me," she rushed out. I turned back to find her face close to mine. "But I want you to be my partner. Not that I think you need the help or anything. Just that I want to work with you."
Crossing my arms over my chest, more in an effort to keep from reaching for her than anything else, I asked, "Why?" Why now? When she's wanted nothing to do with me?
"Because," was her answer. Nothing else, just because. That wasn't good enough.
"I thought you wanted me to leave you alone?" I sneered. This wasn't making sense.
"I never said that, Jordan." She laid her hand on my leg, just above my knee. "I just needed some time to think about things."
I looked down to where her hand was lying on my leg, then back up to her face. Her expression was hard to read. Her body language wasn't. Why was she so confusing?
"What things? Like how you want to be with Brain instead of me?" Yeah, it was a low blow, but that's what she implied, isn't it? I really didn't expect her to answer me, but she did.
"That's not how it was. I didn't want to be with him. I just thought I owed it to him to clear the air between us." She leaned into my arm and continued softly, "I didn't want to hurt him."
So it was okay to hurt me instead? She'd flat out ignored me for weeks and now because she was ready to talk to me again it was supposed to be alright? It wasn't alright. I wasn't alright.
Separating myself from her, I slid to the ground and put some distance between us. Holding my hands out in front of me, I found myself asking, "What do you want from me, Angela?"
Her brow pinched into a frown as she worried her bottom lip between her teeth. Softly, she spoke. "To be your friend again."
"My friend?" How fucking nice. She wants to be my friend.
"Yes." She looked down at her feet and said, "I miss you."
"As a friend?" This was starting to feel like that night all over again. "What if I don't want to be your friend?"
"We were friends before, weren't we?" She seemed to be on the verge of tears, but I couldn't make myself care at the moment.
"We aren't friends, Angela." Stepping around her, I started walking toward the front steps of the school as the bell was ringing.
She fell into step beside me, hurrying to keep up. "What about the assignment?"
I stopped, taking her by the arm and making her stop, too. Pushing my face close to hers, I ground out, "We'll do this project together. Then you can find someone else to be your FRIEND. I'm done."
Scowling at her angrily, I spun away and stalked toward the building. She wanted to be my friend. Yeah, like that was going to work.
Heading into History, I tried to block her from my mind. That worked for all of ten minutes, then I was back to thinking about her again. Through that class and the next, all I could think about was her green eyes shimmering with unshod tears. I could close my eyes and see her brow creased and her lips quivering. No doubt, after I walked off, she had stood there crying. It wasn't the first time I'd made her cry.
The day we broke up, she had cried. The night she told me we couldn't be together because of what I'd done, giving her that fucking letter, she had cried. I'm sure there were more times that I didn't even know about. It made me feel like dirt, knowing that I hurt her. That I always seemed to be hurting her. It didn't matter that she had hurt me, too.
As the time passed, I found myself wanting to go to her, to make sure she was okay. I wanted to apologize for being a dick and tell her, yeah, we could be friends. If that's what she really wanted. Having her as a friend was better than nothing at all. At least I'd have an excuse to be around her that way.
By the time I got to Katimski's, I'd talked myself out of that, too. I decided to write her a note. A note from me, written by me. To tell her I was sorry. That had to count for something, right?
On a piece of notebook paper, I scrawled, "Ang, I am sorry. I was mean. I will take you home. OK?"
I folded it neatly, then I got up to sharpen my pencil, intentionally passing by her desk on the way back. She looked up at me. Her eyes met mine when I was standing right next to her. The sadness I saw there made me believe I was doing the right thing. I didn't want her to be sad.
I dropped the note next to her hand and walked back to my desk. Holding my breath, I watched as she opened it, reading over it quickly. When she turned to look at me, the corners of her mouth were tilted into a small smile. She nodded to me and went back to the work in front of her.
I didn't know what was going to happen later, but for now, everything was alright again. I picked up my freshly sharpened pencil and started trying to dissect the sentences that Katimski had written on the board. That's really why I was here in the first place.