Part I of IV
It was late winter, or early spring depending on how you figure such things, when Sarah first decided Greg was actually in love with Samantha. And sure, it made sense. Samantha was a very popular junior at Coldbrook Senior High School. Greg, who used to be decidedly, and most wonderfully nerdy, no longer wished to be anything but fashionable. Of course, not the “preppy” sort of fashionable but the sort that Samantha was. And wasn’t.
Samantha had a token ally in every “cool” crowd of kids. And she attained her golden status through manipulation, hard work, wit, her parent’s money and a touch of pure evil.
Anyway, Samantha was perfect for Greg right now. Or so he seemed to think.
She was the one who he sat with for lunch every day. Unfailingly.
And that put Sarah in a sad spot because Greg was her ride home on Thursdays after track practice (they both had been running since childhood and often used to practice together since they grew up just two blocks apart). And… she had a terrible crush on him.
Sarah had “asked him out” in the fifth grade in front of the entire class at recess once. Of course, Greg was speechless and never truly responded that day or ever. But, it was well known that Sarah adored him and people often had assumed they were together.
“I’m not sorry for anything I did at Amber’s party! You and I are not together.” Greg turned to face Sarah with a look of both rage and disappointment.
She had waited for him at his locker at the end of the school day and now was leaving the school with him towards the parking lot. They had been chatting about a party that happened over the last weekend. Sarah had heard rumors about him and Sam… Greg was confirming them.
“I know. I know.” She calmly and reassuringly responded.
“Then why are you always following me?!” He half shrieked, acting as if it was the oddest thing in the world for her to be doing so even right now, despite the unspoken agreement they had always previously adhered to that suggested otherwise. …At least on Thursdays after track practice.
“Because you’ve been giving me rides home on Thursdays after practice for the last three years?” She could tell he just wanted to find a way to get rid of her without having to actually say it, but she felt both hurt and determined to make him admit whatever it was that was finally drawing these moments to a close.
“Yeah, I guess. But, so what?! Maybe I’m busier now than I was before? I don’t know.” He moved towards his old red convertible and reached to open the driver’s door then added, “Or maybe I just realized what a fat toad I had sitting next to me the whole time.” He laughed to himself.
“What!?” This cruelty was not like him.
“Yeah. Listen, it’s no big deal.” He sat down in the driver’s seat and put his key in the ignition. “You clearly just don’t get it. Kinda like how you don’t get so many other things…”. He laughed to himself yet again. “Actually,” he stared out the windshield and grinned impishly, “…the best thing for you to do right now is just go away and then home and cry because… I just don’t like you anymore. At all. Mmkay?” He closed the door and rolled down the window quickly to add, “And I know you’ll just go home and cry after this. Because… I know you. I know you love me and I know you think I love you. But, sweetie, you’re just…”. He paused, “Oh my gosh, how did Samantha put it? It was perfect.” He placed his finger on his lips and closed his eyes to think. “Oh yes!” He opened his eyes again and snapped his fingers and then, “You’re basically an overgrow baby.”
“Yeah… I probably will cry, but I’m not fat and I’m not a baby. And why are you being so mean and emotionally abusive? You’ve been cold off and on since October, but right now you’re being cruel.”
He rolled his eyes and shrugged, then lit up a joint. He puffed a little. Then he decided:
“You know, really, I’m just not who you think I am. I never was. Seriously.” Then he turns to her finally and in total deadpan flatly says, “Just go home and bawl. Mmkay? Truly. It’ll make you feel better.” Then he rolled up his window and drove away.
The cold air around Sarah had a familiarity that made it safe, but also a certain spitefulness. It was as if she was being punished somehow for not seeing this moment coming. If she’d anticipated this moment she’d not be so cold right now…
Then Sarah made a mental note to kill whatever feelings she had for Greg. Whatever feelings she had for him that would die in the duration of a hopefully quick and frigid run home… She wanted to get rid of him in her heart and mind as quickly as possible. No matter how painful.
But first, she had to absorb the shock. She really hadn’t seen this moment coming… They had been friends since childhood.
She had walked as far as the first house, beyond the first stoplight when she heard a loud honk. It succeeds in totally startling Sarah from her despair filled daze.
Behind Sarah was a black shiny pickup truck that had pulled over to the curb. But, “…who in the world did she know who owned a pickup?!” she wondered to herself. Then she saw the driver; Patrick Steele was in her math class. He was a somewhat tall, rather handsome junior and he was certainly intelligent enough to be a nerd, which would have been her crowd, but she didn’t think he even knew she existed. Patrick was much more popular than that. Or so it seemed?
He motioned for her to get closer to the truck. He rolled down the window and she looked in, slightly aghast.
“Hi. Do you need a ride?” He asked so plainly and honestly that it was hard to twist it. Sure, he was a relatively unknown young man. That was a no no – getting a car with a guy who you didn’t know. Bad idea. But, he seemed so… simple. Her usually keen senses didn’t send any signs of alarm. Maybe it was safe? She decided to risk it.
“Thank you for the ride.” She said, half amazing herself as she slid in and felt lifted farther from the ground than she expected. Then she composed herself with as much self control as she could gather. Looking straight ahead she tried to act as “natural” as possible.
“I know you from math class, don’t I?” He questioned politely.
“Yes.” She turned to him and smiled sweetly and innocently; mostly because that’s exactly the sort of girl Sarah was.
“Right.” He looked at her sharply and quickly and he seemed to be forming a half thought-out conjecture. It showed on his face. “So, can you tell me what I just saw in the parking lot? I know that’s nosy of me to ask, but I can’t figure it out and it bothers me.”
“What do you mean?” He had her full attention.
“You looked like you were about ready to burst into tears.”
Sarah was shocked. She felt the slight jiggle of the road and looked about, searching for something familiar to mentally assuage her anxiety. But this whole experience was foreign. And yet she liked him more and more each second.
“Greg Brown has been giving me rides home on Thursdays after track practice for the last three years.” She was further taken off guard to notice that Patrick was fervently listening so she happily continued.
“Anyway… He told me he wanted to learn how to win the votes of all the popular kids. So he befriended Samantha Olson.” Then there was an awkward silence because she couldn’t quite figure out where to take this train of conversation now that she had vulnerably started it and what if Patrick and Sam were friends?
“…So… then he started acting different. But, well… I’ve sort of had a crush on him for years.” She nervously chuckled and blushed. “I bet you know that though. Half the school probably knows that.” And as she said that, Patrick felt that she almost seemed to be half apologizing for it. She was… Privacy was very important to dear, sweet little Sarah…
He looked over at her momentarily, studying her further. Then she continued.
“Well, anyway. I’ve been waiting for this spring to ask him if we can make our relationship official because I thought we might go to the prom together. And then plan our senior year. And he actually had been hinting at that being a possibility for about a year.” She shrugged.
“But, umm… I think him and Samantha are going to go together to the prom now.” She lingered over her words and stared out the passenger window. “Anyway, I don’t think Samantha likes me very much. And I think she wants to hurt me. So, he said some really mean things and basically ended our friendship. And I think Sam was a big reason why.” She finished.
“So, he did that to get the votes he needs to win the class presidency?” Patrick half asked and half insinuated some other intention in the tone of his words. It was almost if he was cutting the wound deeper and Sarah couldn’t figure out why, although she wondered.
“I mean, it’s possible he’s just really into Sam and is trying to make her feel like I’m not a problem?” She offered this thought thinking that’s the answer he might be looking for.
“Or both.” He suggested.
She nodded her head. “Exactly.” She murmured intrigued. Then she looked out the passenger’s window again.
“You can go with me, if you want.” He said. Very suddenly…
She turned and looked at him in shock. Maybe he was just making fun of her. A boy that handsome and popular wouldn’t be interested in her. Right? How cruel? But he said nothing more for the time being.
They pulled up to her house. Nobody was home. Then with an agile quickness he leaned over and breathed a damp, quiet breath in her left ear.
She faced him now in shock. Her eyes were huge.
And Patrick kissed her neck softly by her ear and then leaned back and away from her, against the car door, as if he was waiting for a response. Very patiently waiting…
“I mean.” She tried to quickly and impeccably collect her thoughts and feelings. She had determined that this would not be another painful moment. No! “Umm, well, you’re very good-looking. And if you were at all serious I’d accept your offer, but I’m not in the mood to be teased right now.”
He smiled and nearly chuckled. “Ok… I’m not teasing you.”
“Then, yes?” She surprised herself even.
“Really?” It was his turn to seem a bit taken aback.
“Yes.” She read his “really” with a subtext of being a probe to indicate her remaining feelings or intentions toward Greg. “Well, I mean, I…” She looked over at Patrick’s face momentarily but he still looked quite serious and sincere so she continued.
“I’ve had a crush on you I suppose, but I never thought it would come to anything. It’s been in the back of my mind, maybe. You know? I’m very loyal and I always thought I’d end up with Greg at some point, but you can’t help but notice people sometimes, even if it means nothing more than that you’re noticing them. In that moment, at least. Well… I mean… that sounds awful.” Sarah nervously laughed.
“I think that’s fine.” He smiled and blushed a little, which further amazed her. “I’m not afraid… And I find you attractive too.” Then he leaned over and kissed her softly but passionately for just long enough for it to be ever so slightly disorientating, but also enticing and not at all frightening.
It felt unclear to Sarah how she could ever have been so interested in Greg when someone and something like this was out there. But it was a momentary thought and she reasoned that there must be a catch. Some flaw… So she didn’t let herself get too excited. The beautiful, languid and happy shock passed then, rather quickly.
“Well, it’s a date then?” He attempted to finalize it.
“Yes. Thank you.” She felt a little cheerful.
“Can you give me your number?” He got out his phone and took down her number. “I’ll see you later then,” he finished when they were done. Then he looked at her firmly, seemingly dismissing her.
“Ok. Sounds wonderful.” She smiled half in shock and half inspired. Then she reached around to open the door, but before she could open the door he leaned in again and gave her another quiet, infinitely passionate, but still delightfully tasteful kiss. Then, as if to escape some fire looming on the horizon, she opened the door quickly and smiled quietly.
He smiled back.
She got out, walked away to her front door and found herself perfectly and very unexpectedly content. As he drove away she wondered. Many things…