25. A suitor returns
Another amazing thing happened on Monday. Except it was more awkward than amazing.
Josh was hanging by Marcy’s locker when she arrived there morning.
"Hi, how are you?"
Marcy was surprised and also suspicious that this was some set up by Brittanny and her cronies. She retrieved the things she needed and closed the door. "I’m fine, thanks."
She turned to walk away, but Josh caught her arm.
"I just thought… it’s been a while since we hung out."
Marcy turned to him, bewildered. And not a little outraged. "And why do you think that is?"
"I know I’ve made mistakes. I didn’t handle things very well." He looked contrite.
Marcy wanted to laugh. But more than that, she wanted to be rid of Josh. The last thing she needed was any more grief from Brittanny and Gretchen. "It’s fine. I’ve moved on. No hard feelings." She tried to make herself sound as genuine as possible so Josh couldn’t think it was an act.
Because it wasn’t. She truly didn’t care for Josh any more, and everything that had happened with Gray had eclipsed the Josh-and-Gretchen thing to such an extent that she couldn’t care less about it any more.
"Marcy, I know you’re still upset with me. Deep down," Josh said.
"Deep down, really, I’m not."
"You don’t have to put on an act."
"It’s not an act," Marcy told him. "Sure, I was upset at the time, but it’s been some time and I’ve moved on."
Josh looked hurt. "We went out for months, Marcy. How can you be over it so quickly?"
Marcy stopped and turned to him. She fixed him with a cool gaze. "I asked myself that same question of you, when you chose to ditch me for someone else over the summer. And now I understand why, because the whole thing was pretty meaningless and pretty forgettable."
She continued on her way to class leaving him there, stunned. Josh had obviously expected she would be hanging out to get him back. Marcy would almost have felt sorry for his hurt pride, were he not such a jerk who deserved every morsel of it.
Marcy had a shift at the café after school on Monday. She couldn’t conceal how much happier she was feeling and Ben picked up on it almost instantly.
"Who is he? Romance back on track with Josh-the-Jock?" Ben had always made fun of Josh, whom he claimed was a shallow stereotype of high school life.
Marcy’s grimace at Josh’s name told Ben all he needed to know.
"So who is it then?"
Ben was a terrible gossip but he could be discreet when it counted. Also he had no connection to Springdale High, so Marcy figured it was safe to tell him.
"You remember that guy I met here for coffee some weeks ago? At the end of the vacation?"
'Who could forget him? Mr Super Hot. You can’t have been keeping him under wraps all this time?"
Marcy wasn’t sure how to phrase it. "Not exactly…"
"Don’t tell me he got a new car and you totalled that one too?"
Marcy wanted to protest that she hadn’t totalled his car in the first place, she was as much a victim as Gray had been. But they were getting off on a tangent.
"Nothing like that. We had a couple of dates, it was really great…"
"Just really great, or stay the night and get your rocks off great?"
Marcy laughed and pretended to hit Ben with a damp cloth. "The latter, not that it’s any of your business. But anyway, that wasn’t the issue. The issue was - " she braced herself, took a mental deep breath " - that when I arrived in my French class the following week, he turned up there as well."
Ben was confused. "So he’s a student at Springdale."
"Not a student."
Ben was still confused, then the light dawned. "You’re hot for teacher? This is just exquisite. We need to celebrate."
"No!" Marcy was adamant. "You can’t tell anyone. Except Jason." She knew asking Ben to not even tell his partner would be futile.
"Jase will love this. You have to bring Mr Hotness down here. We’ll be subtle."
Marcy knew all too well what they would be like. Ben and Jason were like mischievous school kids when they got in the mood.
Ben had once served Josh a coffee with an obscene foam drawing on it. She wasn’t going to let Gray suffer that.
It never rains but it pours. That night when Marcy got home from her shift at the café there were flowers waiting for her. A large bunch of white roses interspersed with dark foliage. From an expensive florist too, judging by the card and wrappings.
Her heart leapt for a moment thinking they might be from Gray.
Then it sank when she opened the envelope. "I miss you and I’m truly sorry. J."
"Those are beautiful," Marcy’s mother said, coming past her in the hallway. "Who are they from?"
"Josh," Marcy told her. His name sounded leaden as she spoke it. She would rather have had the flowers from anyone else but him. It just made an awkward situation even more complicated. God forbid Gretchen ever found out.
"You don’t sound very happy. Just a few weeks ago you were head over heels about him."
Marcy went to get a vase for the flowers. "That was then."
Her father also commented on them. "Young men make lavish gestures these days. In my day - "
" - in your day I was lucky to get a wilted flower picked off the sidewalk," her mom interrupted.
"I was being careful, saving for our first house deposit." Marcy’s dad adjusted his spectacles.
Marcy adored her parents. Even when they bickered they were madly in love.
What was she doing to do about the damn flowers? She felt bad keeping them given she still had no desire nor intention to see Josh, even just as friends.
"We’re supposed to have moved on. He’s seeing someone else," Marcy said.
"Then you just concentrate on your school work," her dad said. "Getting into a good college will serve you far better than boys."
This was doubtless true, except Marcy’s choice wasn’t exactly between college and high school boys. It was something quite different.
To her delight, Gray texted her that night.
Are you free tomorrow night? I’ll cook.
Marcy was free, but there was no way she’d get away with staying out all night mid-week. Not without an exceptional reason, and "sexy times with my teacher" was hardly that.
She hated having to imply she had a curfew. She didn’t really have a formal one anyway, just an understanding that she’d be back at a reasonable hour. Until now she’d never really had cause to push the limits.
Love to. But I can’t stay late.
He didn’t seem concerned.
We’ll eat early. Save our strength for the weekend.
For the weekend? Marcy felt a flicker inside her at what he might have planned. The thought of any time alone with him was amazing, as was pushing the limits with something already so forbidden.