I am ridiculously happy. Nothing has really changed except for the physical stuff. Dylan’s not my first, but he’s my best. Best of everything: friend, lover, confider. The intimacy feels real and raw – an intensity that I never would’ve imagined possible. It’s like being blind and then seeing color for the first time. It’s startling yet beautiful, almost sublime and makes me want to cry. I just want to be with him, to sit around watching every move he makes, every smile, every chin scratch, the glint of light making his eyes go bluer then darker. It sounds clichéd, but something has shifted in me. It’s like there is no one else in our world, it’s just him and me and then there’s everyone else. Us and them and I don’t care. Well mostly.
Except for Cassie. God damn Cassie.
She is a pain in my ass. She rolled over much quicker than I’d anticipated which kinda threw me off. I had expected her to put up a fight when the rumors going around school about Dylan and me turned out to be true, but she took it in stride. And now she sits across from us, drinking her stupid diet drink and simpering and playing with her hair. I don’t trust her as far as I can throw her, which would be pretty far since she’s stick thin.
And I can’t simply get rid of her. It’s not as easy as you would think. When you’ve been frenemies for as long as Cassie and I’ve been, it makes it complicated. Unlike what most people think, High School is a precariously balanced structure that you just don’t fuck with. Yes, there’s the jocks and the popular kids, and the beauty queens, but for the rest of us, you stay in your place, in the natural order of things. If you deviate from it, there are ramifications that you don’t even want to think about. Everyone buys in; we’re all in for all that we’ve got – even the kids who think they’re rebelling. They’re just part of the system, too. Checks and balances. Don’t fucking get out of line. They’re all in on it. No matter what you do, the faction puts you back where you belong. And Cassie hasn’t done anything wrong so she can’t simply be pushed out as irritating as that is for me.
I put my hand on Dylan’s knee before leaning into him. He’s a little self-conscious since we’re at school, but it doesn’t stop him from wrapping his arm around me. Take that Cassie Goodman.
“So what are you two up to this weekend?” trills Cassie. She waves to someone on the other side of the cafeteria.
“Dunno,” says Dylan shrugging his shoulders. “My brother might be here, but there’s a big party that supposed to be happening over at the old feed and seed store. I’m thinking it might be cool to go to that if you guys wanna go.”
“Oh wow. That would be cool,” enthuses Cassie. “I’d be totally up for it.”
I turn and look at Dylan. He glances away before removing his arm from around me. It’s the first I’ve heard about his brother coming into town, and I can’t help feeling paranoid. When was he going to tell me? I don’t say anything because I don’t want Cassie to know that he hasn’t told me. And that’s another thing, we don’t go to parties. We hang out in the garage. Sometimes with Cassie, a lot of times without.
I try to change the topic.
“There’s this zombie movie on down at the multiplex. It’s probably gruesome, but it’s supposed to be pretty good,” I offer up.
Cassie and Dylan look at each other and I don’t like what I see. She still has that big plastic smile on her face, but there’s something more like she’s just humoring me. Dylan clears his throat before squeezing my hand. “Yeah, I’m sure it’s cool and we should go see it, but the party is like this weekend only. I think it’d be nice to go hang out somewhere other than the garage.”
I’m finding it hard to control my anger. I give him a tight smile and pull my hand out of his grasp. “Since when do we go to parties? Those people are lame.” I state it matter-of-factly.
“Yeah, but it’d be something different, wouldn’t it? I mean we always go to the movies.” He looks at me this time and doesn’t look away first. He’s irritated.
I am not prepared for this. I am overwhelmed with anxiety and partly suspicious. It’s two against one and although this is our little group, the rules still apply. Don’t fuck with the majority. Go with it.
“Fine.” I’m exasperated because there’s nothing else I can say. “Can we go now?” I’m tired of being around Cassie and I want alone time with Dylan before the bell rings.
He seems unsure, but he nods his head. I feel relief. “Yeah, let’s go to the parking lot. Catch you later, Cass,” he says. Dylan gets up from the bench and waits for me to gather up my things. Cassie isn’t about to let us go without getting the last word in.
“It’ll be fun, Holly. You’ll see.” She gives me another one of her big beaming fake smiles. I want to reach across the table and slap her, but I can’t. I take the resentment and push it way down inside and match her smile with a fake one of my own.
“I can’t wait,” I say as I grab Dylan’s hand and head down the hall.
* * *