Chapter 43: Tennis Court - Lorde
I bust into Izzie’s room as I was in our suite. She was thankfully alone and seated crossed legged on her bed.
“It came?” She looked up at me with a bright smile.
I nodded, stepped out of my heels, and crawled to sit beside her on the bed. She put her laptop on her nightstand to give me her full attention.
I took a deep breath, staring at the thick envelope in my hands.
“They’d be stupid not to take you.” She massaged my shoulders.
“Thick envelopes are supposed to mean good news.”
“That’s why you need to open it so that we can start celebrating.”
“What happens if I don’t get in?”
“You’ll act or model. You have an impressive portfolio, but it doesn’t matter because you got into Yale. Open the letter. I know the suspense is killing you too.”
“Not as much as you.” I cracked a smile and looked in her direction.
“I’m here. Let’s do this.” She put her hand on my shoulder.
I used my keys to break the adhered seal, not wanting to mess up my nails. I skimmed past the header and settled on the first line. I started screaming as soon as I read: we are pleased to inform you.
“You did it?!”
“I knew you would!” She scrambled off of her bed.
She slammed her hand on the play button of her speakers and Fleeting Moment’s Ignite the Night started to play. She took my hands and dragged me off of the bed. She pulled open her drawer and threw metallic navy and white confetti that was housed within it up into the air. We jumped around and danced the entirety of the song. We laughed and fell onto her bed once we were done.
“You had all of the cued up for me?” I looked over at her.
“Duh. I have sparkling cider too. We’re going to get all dressed up and drink it while we eat the wonderfully prepared takeout that I will be paying for.”
“You don’t have to do all that.”
“I want to. It’s not everyday that my very best friend gets into her dream school. Besides, it’s the day before your birthday. You’re having a big party tomorrow and I insist on giving you my present first.”
“A fancy bestie dinner?”
“I love it.”
“Morgan and I are going out tomorrow afternoon to get the last of the supplies for your party. Is there anything you want to add to the list at the last minute?”
“No, I was very thorough.”
“As always. I know it’s an ugly winter sweater party. Are you going to wear an undeniably cute sweater or wear one that is so ugly that it is cute?”
“So ugly it’s cute. I won’t be like one of those brides that puts their bridesmaids in horrible dresses so that they can look even better on their wedding day.”
“Awesome blossom. I will write that in.” She swung her legs off of her bed and walked over to her desk. She lifted a clipboard from her desk and sat back down on the bed with a pen.
I rolled onto my side and propped my head up with my hand. “Why are you over-dedicating yourself to this party?”
“I love you.”
“I know you would do this at any other time of the year, but this crunch time. Finals start next week and you’re working on your website. You are too busy to be doing all of this.”
“I am always going to make time for you. I am promising you with actions.”
I smiled. It fell flat when I recalled the rumors that had been circulating about her.“Iz--?”
“Hm?” She looked up.
Her calm and angelic expression made me feel guiltier. “I’ve gone to great lengths to keep you from hearing anything, but you deserve to know. People think you are pregnant because you ran out during the baby distribution. “
“I caught on to that a while ago. They are not very good at whispering. “
“Why didn’t you say anything to me?” My eyebrows met in the center of my forehead.
“I turned to the would-be father. They are saying his name too. It becomes a bigger issue because of who he is. It could have been an international scandal. It didn’t because of Sami’s tabletop announcement.”
“How are you handling it?” I rubbed her leg.
“It’s uncomfortable for both of us, but we have each other.”
“I still can’t believe you didn’t come to me. I’m your person.” I resumed pouting.
“That’s how you know I don’t think I’m pregnant. You are undoubtedly the person I’d run to first in the event of a pregnancy scare. You’d get me the test, hold me as I freaked out, and help me figure out what to do next.”
“Good, you know that. That’s all I needed to ensure.”
“Milo’s been complaining about your status in my life since the day you walked in on us.”
“He can get over it. Art can too. We had each other first. There are some things only I can do.”
“Yes, but we need to keep it our secret.” She giggled.
“No promises. I brag about you whenever I can. How’s your special project going?”
“Really well!” Her face lit up. “Sami submitted a video the other day. It was so beautiful. She didn’t say much, but her cello playing was all she needed. I almost feel guilty about how much I love doing this.”
“She’d be so proud of you. Don’t feel guilty.”
She exhaled to regroup. “Can we please talk about you for the rest of the night?”
“I’ll never say no to that.” I rolled off of her bed.
I called my parents before getting ready for my dinner date with Izzie. It was a dress and heels occasion. I went to her room once I was done. She transformed her desk into a dinner table, draping a tablecloth on it and putting chairs on either side, allowing us to look at each other.
“You look beautiful, Honey.” She put an LED candle in the center of the table.
“As do you.” I pulled out my chair and sat down in my seat.
“I ordered right after you left. It should be here any minute now.”
“I got you a combination of Alaska rolls and California rolls, your favorites.” She put a flute glass in front of me.
“This is a fantastic birthday present, Babydoll.”
“Is it? I set the bar too high last year. I feel like this is a let down.” She continued to set up for our fancy dinner.
“Far from it. I have regular access to Everett Woods, I went into his house this year and took pictures; you are willing to do anything for me, and you’re giving me a beautiful celebration/birthday feast. I love this so much more. It is personal.”
“If you’re sure.” She smoothed down her dress. “Ooo, let’s take pictures!” She rushed to her phone.
“You’ve got the right idea.” I stood up from my chair.
We posed for my phone’s camera and hers. When we had a substantial amount of them, she poured us glasses of sparkling cider.
Her phone started ringing. She quickly answered it.
“The food is here?”
“Mhmm.” She fetched her coat from the closet. Once it was on, she flipped her hair out of the collar and buttoned the middle button. “I will be back shortly.”
“You’re working those heels!” I catcalled her as she was walking out.
I sighed and leaned back in my seat, smiling off into space. I jumped at the sound of my phone. I read the screen and saw that it was Arthur.
“Guess who got into Yale.” I sang.
“No need. I knew before you applied.”
I smiled. “Sooo…how’s my boyfriend?”
“He’s doing well. He would like to see his girlfriend tonight to watch her transform into an eighteen year old at midnight. Do you know if that is possible?”
“I have plans with my special lady.”
“Is Milo there yet?”
“He’s not coming over. Iz has prepared a beautiful dinner for us, complete with ambiance.”
“Yes, he is.”
“Well, he’s going to be greatly disappointed when he is swiftly sent home.” I examined my nails.
“Let him talk to her.”
“This feels like a Ryan job. Why were you sicked on me?”
“He is off campus with Misha. I was asked to be his understudy.”
“It’s like he lives off campus with her. I never see or talk to him anymore.“
“Shifts in dynamics happen.”
I rolled my eyes. “Why wasn’t Adam the one that called me?”
“Milo left without consulting him. You seem less than thrilled that I have called.”
“No, I just – I hate being left out of the loop.”
“Can I come over to see you if I tell you what it is about?”
“Maybe.” I begrudgingly replied, trying not to crack a smile.
“What if I say it pertains to their relationship?”
“Still maybe. You could say something anticlimactic like, ‘he hasn’t seen her in five minutes’ or something.”
“She’s been physically distant with him in public.”
“They’ve always been a cute hand holding couple – affectionate, but not overly so. They’ve been on Finn and Sami level of intimacy lately. They have been off their game.” I admitted.
“See, legitimate concern. May I see you?”
“Your place. Not mine.”
“Is there are reason?”
“I want to go outside in my outfit. It’s super cute.” I rearranged it.
“Not because you are prohibiting people from entering your personal space?”
“I would not be coming over if that were the case. Izzie takes care of me when that happens.”
“We have discussed the mild element of codependence in your relationship, correct?”
“We have. I failed to care. I love my babydoll.”
“Oh, Elle.” He sighed with a playful tone.
“You picked the wrong girl if you expected uncomplicated.”
“It appears as though I did.”
“But you like that about me though, right?” I lightly coaxed for reassurance.
“Hm. It is something.”
“Don’t get all mysterious on me.” I whined. “I’ve lost boyfriends to this in the past and –“
“You are too confident to question your power over others.”
“In terms of lust, maybe. Love’s different. It’s me as a person. I’m kinda – neurotic.” I fidgeted.
“You are special to me, even when I close my eyes.”
“I am not imagining your physicality.” He shut down the argument I was about to make.
“I know you’re not going to tell me what you are thinking.”
“You are correct in that assumption.”
I sat back and wrapped my free arm around myself. “Do you like the sweater I bought you for my party?”
“I thought that not liking it was the whole point.”
“But you will wear it, right?”
“I have never had a major objection to wearing something someone has thrown at me.”
“I’m sure your namesake dressed you up a lot, huh, Winnie?”
He exhaled sharply. “Winifred. And you wonder why I never explain things.”
“Your great aunt Winifred, whom you were named after, goes by Winnie. Embrace your name.”
“We are going there, Eleanor?”
I giggled. “Yes, we are. –“ Izzie came through the door with Fitz on her hip. Milo was a few steps behind.
“I’ll see you later. Text you before I come over.” I double kissed the air and hung up the phone.
“He forgot our little guy’s blanket.” She tried to validate his presence.
“I know why he’s here. I just got off the phone with his decoy.” I eyed him with a small smile.
“Ryan would not have told.” He put the bag of takeout on the table.
“He wouldn’t have. He’s yours. Art’s mine.”
“Fitz’s blankie really is here.” She went to her chair and lifted the yellow cloth from it.
“Great. Now resume being cute; I miss it too.”
She bundled up the robot baby and transferred him back to Milo. She kissed the top of Fitz’s head. She picked up the hand Milo had at his side. She held it as she kissed his lips.
“I did both. Go home.” She pulled away with a smile.
“I love you too.” He kissed her forehead.
He waved goodbye to me. She shooed him out and slowly shut the door on him, smiling at him through the shrinking crack.
She was starry-eyed with flushed cheeks when she twirled around. She was nibbling on her bottom lip to prevent herself from smiling too hard.
“Every time.” I shook my head.
“Not every time.” She walked to our bathroom.
“Yes, you do.” I stood up from my chair. “I should know. I’ve observed you together for over a year.” I took it upon myself to set up our dinner.
“I still get butterflies every time I see him.” She left the door open as she washed her hands. “I am curious as to when they will go away, but I never want to know at the same time. Does that make any sense?”
“Tons of it –“
“Stop right now and sit! I am the one preparing dinner. It is my present.” She ordered, pointing to my chair with her index finder.
I shuffled to it and sat down. “I hate being useless.”
“You’re not useless. You are the birthday girl.” She put a container of food in front of me.
She arranged everything and sat down in her seat.
“You should invite Milo over early.” I tore a soy sauce packet open with my teeth.
“Are you ditching me for Art?” She narrowed her eyes at me. She had just pulled her chopsticks apart and was holding them in either hand.
“It is not ditching if you have plans.” I batted my eyelashes.
“I have videos to watch and reply to on my website. If I finish before bed time, I’ll go hang out with Lydia.”
“The blushing, the butterflies – you’re choosing one of your dance department friends over that?”
“It’s like a home, you know? You love it, but you don’t stay inside perpetually. You leave when you want to and return when you need it. He’ll be slumbering over here, as has been the norm for a while. --”
“Because when I say I will be sleeping a joke about my mother’s gift will be made.”
I grinned in response, acknowledging she was right. “Have you always seen him like that?”
“He’s one of my best friends. I see all of you like that. He simply fulfills different needs.”
“I’m sure he does.” I picked up my first piece of sushi.
“I’ll ignore that implication. That is not all that he is kept around for. His personality is great too.”
“Lydia is one of Misha’s suitemates.” I changed subjects in the abrupt manner we were prone to.
“That is correct. Why?” She concentrated on her meal.
“Have decided if we like her?”
“We do not decide as a couple whether or not we like people. We develop our own decisions and discuss them. We’ve gone over this.”
“Fine. Do you like her?”
“Yeah. She’s nice.” She answered after swallowing the food in her mouth. “Again, why?”
I bought thinking time by inserting another piece of sushi into my mouth. “We never see Ry anymore.”
“I see him all the time. My public distance from Milo has made him cling to his best friend. I’ve been third wheeling them for some time now.”
“I never see him anymore.”
“Oh.” She tilted her head to the side a touch. “What makes you think she’s keeping him from you?” She softened her tone.
“The way she looks at me. Have you noticed she never talks to me directly? She either poses questions to a group that she knows I’ll answer or whispers something to Ryan and he says it.”
“So she encourages him to talk to you…”
“It’s a power move, Iz! Keep up!”
“Sorry, sorry. I don’t want to assume the worst. Ry has several platonic female friends. Why would she target you?”
“You have to promise not to tell anyone.” I pleaded.
I sighed. “We used to have – feelings. We never acted on them, but they were there and we thought about acknowledging them at the music festival. He made his decision by hooking up with beach girl.”
“You never told me.”
I looked down at me food, “I was ashamed of how stupid that notion was. The very day I gave him the option of being with me, he wandered off with the hottest girl he could find. How I felt meant nothing.” I teared up.
“I’m sure that’s not true.”
“I hate how much I miss him – laughing, fighting, more fighting, support -- our combined passion is exciting.”
“Are you not happy with Art?”
“He’s great. We’re great. That doesn’t stop me from wanting my best guy friend. And I don’t think I look like you after our interactions.”
“Don’t compare yourself to me. Milo always teases me about being too expressive.”
“You’re so in love that you can’t help it. I want that!”
“Focus on the way he makes you feel and forget about the rest, okay?”
“Do you know who you are talking to?”
“Yes. That’s how I know you can do it. My Ellebell can do anything.”
I rolled my eyes with a smile.
“I’m serious. You are the Swiss army knife of people.”
“You know you’re the best, right? That I’m madly in love with you?”
“I figured it was mutual.” She winked at me.
The duration of our dinner was playful and joyous as was the case with most of our interactions; it was one of many reasons I loved her so.
I brushed my teeth and touched up my make up before heading over to Art’s. I confidently strolled down the path outside. I felt fantastic because of Izzie, my admittance, birthday, and outfit. I stopped midstride when my phone started ringing.
“Hi, Elle. It’s me, Janet.”
“Hi, how are you?” I resumed walking after learning it was my agent.
“I am doing well. I hope you are too because I have a role for you.”
My eyes perked up. “What kind of role?”
“The lead actress in a teen drama show. Her name is Amber. She is from England. She moves to California to live with her father after her mother dies. He is a wealthy businessman that has never been a part of her life. She has to acclimate to both America and her new economic status. It is a classic fish out of water tale. “
“They might want to go with authenticity and hire a British actress.”
“For diversity purposes, they have decided to cast parents of different races. Their options are limited because of it. You more than fit the bill. You can do a flawless British accent, you are stunning, your appearance lends itself to the character’s ethnic make up, and you have a resumé that any young actress would kill for because you attend Sella Moora.”
“When are auditions?”
“A few weeks. Will you be in California for the holidays?”
“Yes. I leave school in a week.”
“Fantastic. I will email you the script. Call me if you have any questions.”
“I will. Thank you so much for the opportunity.”
“You are very welcome. Have a happy birthday.”
“Thanks. See ya.”
There was even more pep in my step as I continued my walk to Astaire Hall. I removed my coat before knocking on the door of his suite.
“Hi.” He was glowing as he smiled at me.
He was wearing the flannel shirt I bought him bought him before he left for his movie. It in combination with the expression on his handsome face in made me swoon.
“Well, hello.” Kissing him made the feelings grow tenfold. His cologne smelled incredible.
“I am happy you could make it.” He escorted me inside, holding both of my hands as he walked backwards.
He let go of one of my hands to shut the door behind me.
“Would you like tea or a snack?”
“I just finished dinner. May I have my birthday gift early?”
“Now?” He hung my jacket on the hook on the door.
“Mhmm.” I crossed my legs.
“We have a few hours until midnight.”
“Izzie gave me my gift early. Would you like to be on the same level as her?”
“I would like to out do her for once.”
“That’ll be nearly impossible, but I will let you try.”
“I will be right back.”
I ran a hand through my hair and settled into the couch.
“For you.” He handed an envelope to me after sitting down beside me.
“Ohh. I wonder what it is.” I used my keys to break the seal.
There was a pass to the Sundance Film Festival inside and a post-it note on the back that read, “Will you walk the red carpet with me?”
I looked over at him. “Is your film premiering there?”
“Yes. My parents and sister are going. My sister is begging to serve as my date for better access to celebrities, which is creepy on a multitude of levels.”
“I would be honored to serve as your date.” I leaned over and kissed him.
“As you know, my parents love you.”
“They do.” I smiled as I thought of all the times they congratulated me after shows. They eventually started bringing me flowers.
He put his arm behind me on the back of the couch. “Put it someplace safe.”
“I will.” I inserted it into my purse.
He turned on the television and cued up a movie. When I noticed it was one of my favorites, I grinned in his direction.
“You hate this movie.”
“The Notebook and every other Nicholas Sparks movie and book pander to female audiences to an exploitive degree and set unrealistic standards for romance, but it is your birthday. I will let you have this one.”
“You’re doing well so far. You might end up beating her after all.” I rested my head on his shoulder as he pressed play.
I found myself unable to focus on the movie after a while. I kept sneaking glances at Art instead of watching the screen.
“If you’re not watching this, please let me turn it off. I am dying inside.” He met my gaze.
I put my hand on the side of his face and kissed him. The hunger grew as our kissing intensified. It didn’t go away when our blanket of darkness vanished and one of his roommates walked into the suite.
“Hey, Dylan.” Art rested his forehead against mine.
“I’m not here. Do whatever it was that you were doing.”
Art sighed and sat back on the couch, thinking the moment was over. I switched off the television via the remote. I took his hand and led him to his bedroom. He locked his door as I removed my heels and bib necklace.
I slid my arms around his neck. He backed me over to his bed. I pushed his flannel shirt off of his shoulders. I lifted his t-shirt over his head.
“Unfair.” He remarked as he returned his lips to mine.
I smiled against them. “I’m the birthday girl.”
I ended up removing my dress shortly there after, swept up in what we were doing. Things naturally progressed further, self-restraint pushed to the recesses of our minds for the most part. I watched as he retrieved a condom from his nightstand drawer. He was laying down with me as he worked to get it on. I removed my underwear and tossed it out.
“Got it?” I asked when he turned to me.
He nodded and placed his lips on mine.
Starting was little awkward. We worked through that in no time. It was much different being with him than it was with Scott. I wasn’t trying to be sexy or anything, really. I was just feeling and reacting. It was nice. We rolled onto our sides and kissed slowly.
“I love you.”
I smiled through my exhaustion. “I love you too.” I tucked his hair behind his ear. I realized I meant it.
He glanced over my shoulder and settled back onto the pillow. “Happy birthday.”
“You have been eighteen for fifteen minutes. I’m the first to congratulate you.”
“Your gifts barely beat Izzie. Don’t tell her.”
He smirked. “I won’t.” He kissed me once more before excusing himself to the bathroom. I put on my underwear and his t-shirt before climbing back into bed with my phone. I sat up straight and rested my back on the wall.
There was a notification for a new text message on my home screen.
‘Ry: Eighteen years ago, a star was born. Expect your usual gift. Oh and I knew about Yale before you did. Finn checked your application account. HA!’
It was time stamped at exactly midnight.
I smiled uncontrollably as I typed my reply.
′You’re the worst ;P’
I transitioned to my email application once I had sent it. His response popped up as I was scrolling through my inbox.
′Ry: We both know that’s not true.′
‘Maybe not today’ I fired back.
I went back to my email.
“Put it down. You can tell her later.” He walked back into the room in his boxers.
“I was checking my email, actually. My agent sent me a script.”
“For what?” He settled in beside me.
“A show. They are looking for someone like me and it doesn’t sound offensive. Rare combo.”
“What about Yale?” He put his arm around me.
“An audition isn’t a guarantee. I am one option of many. They could say no and I’ll have to move on to another plan.”
“You said the same thing about Yale.”
“Hypothetically, I don’t know what I’d do. Help?” I looked at him with my bottom lip poked out.
He put his hand on the side of my face. “You will do it all one way or another. Relax and take your time deciding the order.”
I nodded slowly, hypnotized by his silver eyes. We gravitated towards each other and started kissing.
“May I stay the night?”
“You really want to?”
“I’ve never woken up to someone I love before. I’d like to tackle that at eighteen.” I rested my head on his shoulder.
“You really love me?” He kept his arm was around my waist and his hand started to soothingly graze my torso.
“I’d say so. I’m willing to admit you’re right about the relationship standards thing. You know how much I love being right.”
“I think too much; I read into everything; and I’m always striving to be better. You are a calm and warm retreat from the war in my mind. I think that constitutes love. You’ve debunked my main resource, so I have no idea.”
“I count it.”
“May I stay?” I pulled back to look at him.
“I thought it was implied that I would let you stay the entire time.” His twinge of a smile told me he was playing with me.
“No, it really wasn’t. I thought you were skirting an answer by asking a question.” I nudged him with my shoulder.
“Please stay. How’s that?”
“Good, very good. I guess I can continue to grace you with my birthday girl presence.” I stole a quick kiss.
He confiscated my phone when I resumed reading the script.
“Hey, --!” I reached for it.
“It’s time for bed. You have a busy day today.”
I pouted as he put it on his nightstand.
“What?” He chuckled lightly when he saw my face.
“Stop being a positive influence. I’d like to be able to overwork sometimes.”
“Okay, but not on your birthday.”
I scooted down to lay on my back. He switched off his lamp and did the same. He put his arm around me and I laid my head and hand on his chest.
“There’s the whole thing about birthday wishes. I feel like reading a script could qualify --”
“Go to sleep.” He kissed my forehead.
“You’ve made quite the habit out of quieting me with kisses.” I closed my eyes with a smile.
I smiled harder at his refusal to go back and forth with me.