With this trip in mind, all the regular problems and strife of the week seemed almost tolerable. The only thing that was different for me this week, in particular, was Stephen. He didn’t really act any different around me after our kiss, but things felt subtly different between us now. For example, he would touch me more, little things like ruffling my hair now and then, or rubbing my shoulder when I was complaining or stressed, or putting his hand on my back to lead me in front of him when he would open a door for me. But I didn’t mind it.
On Thursday, in place of sixth period, there was an assembly in the gym. I spotted my friends in the crowd and we pushed our way up the bleachers to sit together. It was only after I sat down that I heard the world’s most annoying laugh beside me.
Crap! We had to hurry up and leave before she saw me! Oh, but there were no other places to sit. The bleachers were all full now. In my search for better seating, I accidentally looked at Brianna, and, of course, she turned in my direction right when I did that.
Our eyes locked and she scowled icily at me.
“What are you doing here?” she sneered.
“It’s not my fault there was no other place to sit,” I snapped. “If I’d had the option, there’s no damn way I’d want to sit next to you.”
“Then why don’t you and your little friends go sit on the floor,” she said.
She narrowed her eyes even more, venomously, but then she closed her eyes and turned away, raising her chin ever so slightly.
“I should feel sorry for you,” she sighed with mock generosity. “You’re dating my leftovers.”
“Whatever,” I said. “And we’re not dating. We’re just friends.”
“Oh, don’t give me that,” she laughed. “Everyone knows you two are going out, even if you don’t. No girl can ever be just friends with Stephen. Has he gotten into your pants yet?”
“That’s none of your damn business!” I shouted. “And, no, Stephen’s not like that. Just because you’ve slept with him and every other guy you’ve ever met doesn’t mean that everyone else is like you.”
She threw her head back and laughed.
“You are so naïve,” she kept laughing. “All Stephen wants is for you to give it up, and you will. My guess is he’ll expect it as birthday present. Just trying to warn you.” She shrugged and turned away from me like she had more interesting company to keep.
“Just forget about her,” Amber said. “Slutty girls always assume everyone else acts the way they do. She’s just trying to get in your head.”
I nodded, and then tried to divert my attention to the speaker when the assembly began.
I met Stephen at his car after school.
“So, I saw you and Brianna talking in the gym today,” he began. “What were you guys talking about? Did I miss another epic verbal smackdown?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer. What she had said bothered me. But why? Stephen hadn’t made any physical advances on me aside from that one kiss. And it certainly seemed as though he liked me for me. But isn’t that what all high school girls think? Was Stephen just like every other guy out there.
I shrugged. “She and I are just complete opposites. We are like matter and antimatter, and when we come in contact, we explode!”
He chuckled, and I didn’t understand why.
“You really do love science,” he said. “You’re such a nerd!” He pat the top of my head patronizingly; another one of his casual touches.
“I know,” I said.
He finally pulled out and drove out of the parking lot.
“Are you doing anything this weekend?” he asked.
“Actually, my friends and I are going to Madera Canyon,” I said.
“Really? For what?”
“Just to get away. We’re going to do some hiking and stuff.”
“Hiking? I love hiking! I haven’t been hiking since last summer!”
I could tell that he wanted to come with us, but that he didn’t want to just ask.
“Do you want to come?” I invited.
“Yeah, that would be awesome,” he said happily.
“Cool. I’m sure the others won’t mind.”
Robert definitely didn’t mind. He and Reina came to my house after I got home, and he was giddy to know that the jock of his dreams was going to spend a day with us. I, for one, couldn’t wait.