It started with my stupid brother Charlie making sure Ginny got inside her house okay. Normally I had to pull the parking brake to get him to wait long enough when we dropped her off after ballet, but one day he sat there by his own choice.
"What are you up to, troll?"
"Nothing, gorgon. You're going to make me sit here anyway, I might as well just be cool about it."
I squinted at him suspiciously. He ran a hand through his ugly long hair, something he only does when he's trying to get away with lying. That's when I noticed he was watching my tiny blonde best friend a little too closely. Like Edward Cullen level watching her.
"Oh, hell no. Hell. No!" I scowled. "You do nothave a crush on her."
He opened his mouth to protest, but I was having none of his asshattery.
"First of all, she is forever off-limits because she's my best friend. There is no universe where that's even kind of sort of acceptable. Plus? We're pretty much the same person so you having a crush on her is like you having a crush on me which is straight up messed up. Third, she has a boyfriend and has since she was eight. You're an unprincipled jerk, but even you wouldn't make a move on another guy's girl. And if you did, Josh'd hire me to kick your ass because he's incapable of doing something so violent."
"I didn't say I was going to ask her out. Chill out!"
"I'm not going to chill out until you swear on the life of grandma and grandpa that you're never going to be disgusting about my best friend ever again, Brosef Stalin!"
When he didn't immediately promise, I began slugging him in the shoulder.
And that was the end of that. I never mentioned it to him again. Of course, that didn't stop me from tormenting him even more than normal because even if he didn't ever say anything about it, I would still catch him smiling stupidly whenever Ginny got into the car or when he came home and she was sitting at the counter. Thanks to twelve years of training, Ginny was an expert at ignoring everything Charlie did and being annoyed by it if she did notice.
She broke up with Josh after a random comment from Michelle, which was fine with me. Her boyfriend had never gotten between us. She had her Josh time and her Melanie time and, thanks to ballet, Melanie time generally outweighed Josh time ten to one. But it was nice to have all of her time.
And then she started acting weird.
Like not laughing when I made a particularly good Charlie slam. And not talking to me when he was in the same vicinity. Hell, not talking at all when he was around.
It finally came to a head when we were having our usual Friday night sleepover. Normally we camped out in my room, but Ginny insisted we sleep in the living room instead. And, of course, Charlie and his stupid friend came and crashed the party.
"Ugh. Get out."
"Like I wanna stay."
"We're getting beer. You want anything?" Charlie's crony asked.
"Uh, we're not bringing heranything." He made a face at me and then gestured to the blonde sitting on the couch. "Ginny can have something."
"No thanks. I'm not much of a drinker. Or eater. I don't really ingest." Her voice was uncharacteristically fast and nervous.
"All right." Charlie shrugged. "Later."
"See? This is why we should've set up in my room. Maybe we can change the locks before they get back."
Ginny, as had become usual after encounters of the imbecilic kind, didn't listen to a word I said. Instead she went to her bag and pulled out a sheer cream nightie.
"What. The. Hell." I tried not to think how gorgeous she would look in it, especially combined with her smooth skin. "All right, freak, what's going on with you? You've been acting fifty shades of cray-cray lately."
"I know. I can't think or talk and my stomach hurts all the time and I don't know why but I borrowed my mom's nightgown from her honeymoon just in case he'd see me in it and I don't even think it'll even fit- she's fifteen times taller than me. And ever since I found out that Charlie likes me nothing I do makes sense!"
I froze, my mind refusing to believe it. Ginny liked Charlie. Ginny, my best friend, the person I always wanted to be around, the girl I may or may not have kind of sort of a crush on but would never admit ever, liked Charlie, my brother, the smelly, the completely unworthy.
"Charlie. My brother Charlie."
"He asked Boo about me and now my brain is ninety-five percent empty. I seriously cannot form words while he's around! All that happens in my head is me going 'talk talk talk!' But the more I think that the more I realize I haven't actually said anything. And then I end up giggling and occasionally drooling. I can't do this! I can't be always interesting and never hungry! It makes me want Josh back coz at least I could eat and speak and wear comfortable pants!"
"Wait, are you saying you want to date Charlie...?"
Please, God, no! I had never imagined something so awful in my whole life.
"That's not the point! The point is that I'm acting like a mental patient!"
"No, the point is you can't date Charlie."
Ever. She can never ever ever ever ever ever date Charlie without me wanting to kill him in his sleep. But I couldn't tell her the real reason. Somehow I didn't think "You can't date Charlie because I want to date you" would go over real well. Why couldn't she date my brother…? Come on, Mel, think!
"Boo likes Charlie."
Thank goodness for that sweet girl's inexplicable undying crush.
"That means," I said, picking up steam, "as long as you're friends, you cannot go near him. It's bra code!"
"But Charlie doesn't like Boo."
"It doesn't matter!" She still hadn't denied that she liked Charlie. I wanted to shake her until she did. "She owns the rights. I mean, maybe if Boo becomes a nun or a lesbian you could consider liking Charlie but only with her permission and there still might be some blow back. Do what you gotta do, but this stops now."
"Why are you being so weird about this? You've never supported Boo's crush on Charlie before. You always pretend to throw up any time she even looks at him!"
"That's because it's disgusting, but she has first dibs!"
"Are you jealous?"
"Why would I be jealous?"
"I don't know." Ginny looked at me, trying to puzzle it out. "Because a boy likes me and not you? I keep telling you, Mel, wait until we get out of Paradise and go to college. Boys will be all over you. You don't need to go all Rebecca Evans on me!"
"This isn't about boys! Or Charlie!"
"Then what is it about?"
"This is about me and you!"
The words were out before I could stop them. I had come way too close to confessing everything to her. Her eyes widened, confused, but I turned and stormed out of the room.
"Where are you going?"
"To get sweats and a big T-shirt for you to sleep in."
I sure as hell wasn't going to let her sleep in that skimpy number. Sure, she'd totally rock it, but that would mean Charlie would get to see it too.
And I couldn't stand the thought that she wanted him to.