I never thought that I would ever see these two as a united front against anything. After all, they are usually pretty firmly set against each other and they generally keep to their own sides of the battlefields. Having these two allied against me was definitely even more unexpected, and especially considering the topic they are currently interrogating me about.
"This is an intervention, Arthur," Kurt informs me, stepping in front of my chair as I'm about to leave Glee rehearsal and blocking my way. Almost everyone has left already and I'm not too keen on being cornered by him with my only backup being Puck, who is loitering in the back of the room. "Something really needs to be done about this."
"For the last time, Kurt, I am not letting you give me a make-over," I say in exasperation. "Drop it."
Kurt scowls. "This is not about your severe lack of sense when it comes to fashion and color palettes and accessorizing," he informs me, eyeing my outfit with distaste but not commenting on it. For a second I'm tempted to run over the toe of one of his overly polished shoes. "We're talking about your lady issues."
"We?" I ask in confusion.
"Do not group me in with you," Puck says from behind me, and when I glance back he's crossing his arms over his chest. "I'm here for Artie, not because I want to be part of your stupid matchmaking dynamic duo."
Yeah, like I said, weirdest combination of people ever, right? "What is this about?" I ask and now I'm starting to get really nervous. Not to mention truly surprised about the fact that Puck said he was here for me. After all, he has spent most of the years we've known each other tossing me in dumpsters and other less pleasant things. Sure we've gotten on better recently, but I've never thought of us as being tight.
"Your lady issues," Kurt repeats. "We've let this slide until now because of all the emotional turmoil leading up to Sectionals, but that's over and now something really needs to be done about whatever's going on with you and Tina."
Oh God, it would have to be about this. Of course. I try to roll past Kurt but this time Puck steps up next to him and they've effectively blocked the choir room door. There's always the door on the other side of the room, but one short glance tells me there's no way I'm going to make it there before Puck could. When I meet Puck's eyes his expression is telling me he knows what I'm thinking and that I'm right.
"Guys, there's nothing going on between me and Tina," I say, resigning myself to talking my way out.
"That's the problem," Kurt says. "It's pretty clear to all of us that you are both interested in each other, and yet you are hardly talking at all. Why?"
"Why is it any of your guys' business?" I ask defensively. I hate that he was so close to the mark with his comment and I really don't want to get into that.
"The tension in the air is extremely distracting to all of us," Kurt says and shrugs. "First you're inseparable, then dating, then fighting, and now you're just sort of existing in the same place and hardly acknowledging each other and trying to pretend that nothing ever happened."
"Seriously, dude, all your drama is drivin' me crazy," Puck agrees.
I scoff. "My drama is distracting?"
Puck frowns. "Another word about that and you're gonna be on the flagpole," he informs me.
"Duly noted." I might be offended that the man who knocked up his best friend's girlfriend and nearly ruined our team thinks that I'm being dramatic, but not enough that spending a few hours locked in a port-a-potty would be worth voicing my opinions.
"Stop threatening him, Puck, we're here as friends," Kurt says in annoyance. Then he turns back to me. "So, what are you going to do to fix this?"
"Nothing needs fixing," I say firmly. "We tried dating, it didn't work out, and now we're just friends again. Quit looking more into it than that just so you can have your gossip fill for the day." I'm not entirely sure why I'm lashing out at him, other than I don't want to admit that he might be right.
Kurt gives me a sardonic smile. "Really? And how is that working out for you? It's not so easy to just be friends with someone you want, is it? To just pretend that you don't care as much as you do." I bite my lip, trying to resist the urge to either scream or cry, I'm not sure which. No wait, it's definitely the screaming. I'm done crying over this whole mess.
"I don't know about all this feely love crap, but even I can tell whatever you've got with her is something cool," Puck says. "You gotta do something."
I stare down at my hands for a long minute, debating with myself. Do I really want to do this? Of course I do. If I'm honest with myself, I miss Tina. I still see her every day, but it doesn't feel like it. It's a rare occasion when things feel good between us and for the most part we've avoided being near each other. For me, it hurts too much to be with her and feel all of that tension between us. I want things to go back to where they were. I want to be able to be near my best friend and feel that fluttery feeling in my stomach and still have hope that someday there might be a chance for us.
And that's how I find myself doing something that I never expected would happen. There are a lot of things I figure I'll never do; become president of a foreign country, go to Jupiter, river dance, things like that. But this one definitely gets the blue ribbon: I'm taking relationship advice from a gay guy and the resident playboy of Western Ohio.
It's been a week since their intervention and I'm waiting anxiously on the auditorium stage, checking my watch every fifteen seconds. What am I doing? Tina is supposed to meet me here in ten minutes, as soon as she gets out of some meeting with her history teacher, and my heart is already racing a mile a minute in my chest. Can I really do this?
"Clear the air." I hear Kurt's advice from last week in my head. "Get everything out there and take things from there."
So much easier said than done. I don't talk about these sorts of things. I'm a guy. He seemed sort of insulted when I pointed that out to him, but thankfully the brunt of the irritation turned to Puck when he agreed with me. And made a comment about Kurt's extreme lack of testosterone. I don't want to sit and talk about everything; explain to her about how I was hurt, how we can't let one argument ruin everything we have, and how I miss her like crazy but I'm too scared of getting hurt to try again. Guys don't say that sort of thing out loud.
That's when Puck had offered the first piece of intelligent advice I'd ever heard leave his mouth, and likely the last.
"Sing it then. Girls love it, it makes 'em all teary-eyed and crazy hot for you at the same time. Sweet Caroline almost got me into Berry's pants."
Okay, well at least that very first part was intelligent. I'd spent most of the last week pouring over every song in my collection, searching for just the right thing. The right way to tell her everything that I can't make myself just say.
"Hey, Artie." I feel my heart jump up into my throat as I turn to the voice and see Tina walking down the stairs into the auditorium. I swallow but that blockage in my throat won't clear so I just smile and wave in reply. "Sorry I'm late, Mr. Turner wouldn't shut up."
She climbs up onto the stage and walks over to me, and the moment she's here that awkward silence settles over us. The one where it feels like we both want things to be normal but they aren't. There's too much getting in the way.
"So, what're we doing here?" she asks after a few hours, or maybe it's just seconds that feel like hours. I'm not sure, really. "You said there was something you wanted to show me?"
"Oh, right, yeah," I say quickly, managing to pull myself mostly back to normal. "Well, not show you, really. More for you to hear. Sit down, this'll take a second."
Tina looks even more confused than she did when I first asked her to meet me in the auditorium after school, but she nods and sits down on the stage. I bend down to unzip my guitar case and pull the instrument onto my lap. Now I can see curiosity in her eyes, and something like intrigue maybe. She gives me a soft smile.
"I've been practicing a new song," I tell her as I start tuning the strings quietly. "I've only been working on it for about two days, but I want you to hear it." Tina looks for a second like she's going to ask why, so I smile. "I always run new songs by you first," I say with a shrug.
Tina beams, something that's almost normal again, and nods me on. "Okay, take it away," she says.
"Right." I check the strings one last time, tug off my gloves and stuff them into my pocket, and then place my fingers for the chords. "C'mon Abrams, grow some stones and go win your girl back." Thanks for that Puck, you're a real motivational speaker. I take a deep breath to steady myself, my heart still pounding so hard it makes my breathing sound shaky, and then nod. "Here goes."
The chords come out a little awkward, since I'd just re-arranged them for the guitar, but I take the short instrumental piece at the beginning to collect my thoughts. I need to get in the mindset, so it comes out right. Opening my eyes, I see her attentive, curious, beautiful face and it sweeps through me in a rush, dragging the lyrics out of me.
Girl, I'm in love with you.This ain't the honeymoon,We're past the infatuation phase.
I see Tina's eyes widen slightly but I don't let it deter me. She needs to hear this, needs to know this is really how I'm feeling. Because I do love her. I am positive of that. We're young, but I can already tell that whatever sort of relationship we have is a whole lot more than just a high school crush.
Right in the thick of love.At times we get sick of love.It seems like we argue every day.
It feels like we do, and it's tearing me apart. No words are ever exchanged, but I can feel it in her eyes sometimes. We'll be okay for a moment, and then suddenly something will appear in her gaze that pushes me away. Makes me feel angry. Hurt. Betrayed. Alone. By the way she withdraws from me sometimes, I know I'm probably doing the same thing to her, whether I mean to or not. Without saying a single word about the subject, we are bickering and arguing and accusing, because we've never actually talked about it before. The day after, she apologized, I said I was over it, and the whole thing was never brought up again. So now we attack each other through this hole left behind by our lack of closure.
I know I misbehaved,And you made your mistakes,And we've both still got room left to grow.
I notice that Tina's eyes widen again at this, and I can imagine why. This is the closest I've ever come to admitting that I made a mistake that night too. I know that I shouldn't have left the way I did, that I should have stayed and at least heard her out. Instead I'd taken a low blow at her and then left without a backward glance. But I'm admitting it now, I'm telling her that we both screwed up and that I believe we can both move beyond it. I really hope we can.
And though love sometimes hurts,I still put you first,And we'll make this thing work.
Something like hope sparks in Tina's eyes and I feel something similar surge into life in my stomach. As much as this whole thing has hurt me, it was nothing compared to the way I felt when I saw her red and puffy eyes the next morning. No matter how badly she hurt me, at the end of it I still cared more about her than I did about the betrayal, and that's how I know this is right. That we can make things right.
But I think we should take it slow.
Oh God, most definitely. This is going to be a tentative venture at best, and I know it's going to take a lot more than a couple guitar chords and some soulful phrases to fix this. Time and patience and perseverance. That's the only way this will work, no jumping in headlong.
We're just ordinary people,We don't know which way to go.'Cause we're ordinary peopleMaybe we should take it slow.This time we'll take it slow.This time we'll take it slow.
Tina sort of smiles at this and I feel my heart leap again. I know what she's thinking about. Ordinary people. That's something neither of us has thought about ourselves being for a long time. In a way, we aren't; I'm the kid in the wheelchair and she's the one with the crippling fear of people and interaction. And at the same time, we are. Because when you boil it down, we're just the same old-fashioned story of boy meets girl. Heart meets heart. Soul meets soul. Just like every other romance since the beginning of time.
This ain't a movie, no.No fairy tale conclusion, ya'll.It gets more confusing every day.
Fairy tales, definitely not. It might feel like she's my fairy tale princess sometimes, with the way she can look at me and see the prince instead of the pauper. But there won't be any kisses that magically make everything better or riding off into the sunset in this. We're going to have to work on fixing and maintaining this relationship until the very end, just like everyone else.
Sometimes it's heaven sent,Then we head back to hell again.We kiss then we make up on the way.
This relationship has been full of highs and lows, ever since we met. The days when everything feels right, and then that same night she'll show up at my house crying because of her parents. We'll spend a glorious day together that only gets ruined because of something to do with my chair. Together we have more than our fair share of problems, but at the end of the day we always come back to each other and that's the most important part.
I hang up, you call;We rise and we fall,And we feel like just walking away.As our love advancesWe take second chancesThough it's not a fantasyI still want you to stay.
That's the sincerest truth I've ever spoken. No matter how much we fight and we argue and everything feels like it's trying to pull us apart, all I want is to have her with me. She's the one I want to be with me when I'm feeling frustrated about my condition. I want to be the one she comes to for comfort when she's upset. I just want to be with her. I want her.
We're just ordinary people,We don't know which way to go.'Cause we're ordinary peopleMaybe we should take it slow.This time we'll take it slow.This time we'll take it slow.
Her eyes are unnaturally bright and it makes something in my chest catch. I know that look, I've seen it before. She's trying not to cry. And at the same time, she's still smiling. She's not upset with me, she's crying because she's happy. Despite myself, I feel the corner of my eyes prickling and I hastily blink it away. No, I will not start crying. Man up. Besides, the song's not even finished.
Take it slow.Maybe we'll live and learn,Maybe we'll crash and burnMaybe you'll stay,Maybe you'll leave,Maybe you'll return.
Every single insecurity about our relationship pours out of me and I feel my voice crack in the middle of the verse. There are so many possibilities, so many places where we could go wrong. She could decide she can't handle dealing with all the complications that come with my condition, that it's too much to take and not worth the hassle. Or we could just never be able to get past this whole thing and it could tear us apart from inside.
Maybe another fight,Maybe we won't survive,But maybe we'll grow.We never know,Baby, you and I.
At the same time, with all those bad things that could happen, there's also so much good that can come from it. We could find out this really will work between us, we could have that comfort of our go-to person always being there with us, we can make a real life for ourselves someday when we're out of school. For the first time in eight years, I seriously consider the possibility of me finding that sort of happiness that everyone else plans on. And she, we, could be it.
We're just ordinary people,We don't know which way to go.'Cause we're ordinary peopleMaybe we should take it slow.We're just ordinary people,We don't know which way to go.'Cause we're ordinary peopleMaybe we should take it slow.This time we'll take it slow.This time we'll take it slow.
The final chord seems to vibrate through the air around us as I let it die off. She's staring at me so intently, her eyes still swimming, that I have to look away. To occupy myself, I bend over and put my guitar back into its case, and then make a grand affair of slowly pulling my gloves back on. She still hasn't said anything by the time I've finished, and when I look over at her, her eyes look distant. She's smiling vaguely, but she seems to be looking at something beyond me, something only she can see.
"So, uh," my start at a question jerks her back to reality and I watch her hastily brush at her eyes with the backs of her hands, "what'd you think? But be fair, I haven't had much time to practice."
Tina smiles, a soft sort of smile that makes the tightness in my chest melt just a little. "It was beautiful," she says and the honesty in her tone makes my cheeks hot.
"Thanks," I say because I can't think of anything else to say, and I rub at the back of my neck awkwardly. I keep staring at my knees until I hear her move. When I look up she's moved closer, so she's kneeling right in front of me.
"Take it slow," she says slowly and quietly, like she's saying it to herself. She smiles and then holds out a hand. "Nice to meet you, I'm Tina."
I laugh. Like honestly, genuinely laugh for the first time in weeks. "I said slow, Tee, not backwards."
Tina laughs too, a sound that makes me feel warm and content all over, and then stands up, brushing dust off her pants. "Well then where do we start?" she asks.
I take a deep breath, because this is a loaded question. Where do we start from when beginning our relationship over again? Do we just keep going from where we are, or do we backtrack, try and be friends again and work our way up? She's letting me set the pace, but I want it to be her decision too. Two to tango, and all that. I need to give an answer in a way that gives her the chance to say no, to set her own limits. I steel myself.
"First date, take two," I say. "Kurt's having that party at his house this weekend. No pressure, just you and me with our friends. Would you be my date?"
There's nothing soft and gentle about the blinding smile she gives me this time. "I'd love to."
I can't help the way my chest feels sort of buzzy at this. "Cool." I glance at my watch. "But we're like five minutes late for Glee now." Tina helps me gather up my things and we go to rehearsal together, and the vibe between us is a lot less tense. We both know it's going to be a long road ahead of us, but we've got each other to get us through and we're going to take every hurdle as it comes. Just like ordinary people.