“Roni I don’t feel so good” Bridget complained when she slumped down into a dinning chair on Friday morning. Her nose was red, eyes puffy and she sounded congested. I placed a hand on her forehead and felt she was radiating heat from a fever.
“Go back to bed Bridgy, no school today” I told her, handing her the box of tissues from the centre of the table. “I’ll bring you in some honey tea and toast”
She begins her slow walk back to her bedroom but stops and turns, leaning against the dinning room doorway for support, her face full of disappointment.
“Does this mean I can’t go out for dinner tonight either?” She sniffles and grabs a few tissues from the box to blow her running nose.
“I’m afraid so” The poor kid looks like death warmed up and her only concern is missing out on celebrating Kristen’s fall from grace. “I’ll bring you home some dessert” I promise her, she gives me a small smile and shuffles off back towards her bedroom.
I check my emails while I wait for the kettle to boil and am excited when I see Sam’s name in my inbox with the subject line ‘I have a surprise for you’. I click on the email and go make Bridget’s cup of tea while the next page slowly loads, dial up internet is the worst and coupled with an outdated operating system, the wait time could be anywhere from a minute, up to 10, it seemed that the greater the urgency the slower it would run, just to frustrate me, jokes on you dial up, one day you will be replaced by a much faster, more sophisticated system and people will look back on these times and curse your existence, but for now I have to suffer through with you because I have nothing else.
By the time I had made tea and toast for Bridget, I returned to find the computer had shit itself trying to load the email and was now giving me the dreaded blue screen of death as punishment for asking it to do one job. How is there not more media reports of people getting so fed up that they just throw the whole crappy machine out the window?
Fed up and angry I just shut the computer down, realising I don’t have anymore time to waste, I have to get ready for school because Kate would be here in 20 minutes and I was still in my pyjamas.
I was pulling my hair up in to a lazy, ‘I can’t be arsed’ top knot when I heard Kate’s VW blue beetle outside, I grabbed my school bag and binder and shouted out a goodbye to Bridget. Dad was on a half day and would be home soon from work so I sent him a text to let him know that Bridget was sick and quarantining in her room, warning him to steer clear of her, last thing he needed in his condition was to catch the flu and end up in hospital.
“Morning Sweets, I grabbed you a mocha” Kate greeted me, handing me a much welcomed warm cup of coffee. “Unfortunately it comes with a side of bad news I’m afraid”
I stop mid sip, alarmed that there could be something wrong with the babies, although I doubt she’d be attending school today if that was the case.
“Are you ok?”
“Oh, yeah, the bubs are fine” She reassures me after seeing the panic spread across my face, I let out a breath of relief. “Alex and I can’t go out for dinner tonight”
“What? No, you have to go, Bridget is home sick with the flu and if you don’t go then it will just be me and Lucas, alone, together, like a date” The panic resurfaces, this can’t be happening.
“I’m sorry Roni, my parents gave Alex and I a hard lecture about needing to save as much money as we can before the twins arrive and how ‘celebration dinners with friends’ is not a priority right now.” They’re right, I know that they’re right but still it just added to my crappy morning.
“I understand, I’ll just have to break the news to Lucas that the dinner is off. He’s going to be crushed, he kinda has no one right now and is really trying to become a better person, I think he needed this more than any of us, just to feel included” Lucas had been sitting with us again since Tuesday and had really been making an effort to show everyone that he was making a change, even Kate had commented to me that she was surprised by his turn around.
“You should still go” She urged me, I looked at her surprised, this was the same girl who had once told me to run as fast as I can from Lucas.
“You’re encouraging me to go to dinner, alone, with Lucas, ok, who are you and what have you done with the real Katherine Stolls?”
“Maybe it’s my maternal hormones taking over but I really do think that Lucas is deserving of a second chance with all of us if he’s willing to make the change and not be the arrogant dick he was for years plus he has zero romantic feelings towards you so you’re safe”
“I’m happy he has no feelings for me but how do you know that?” Surely she didn’t become that intuitive from just eating lunch with him this week.
“We talked, I went over to his house last night to collect some baby items his mum had. I wasn’t just going to grab them and then run away, that would have been rude so I started talking, of course your name came up and he made it super clear that he was happy for you and Sam and had no romantic feelings towards you what so ever” She parks her car in the almost full school parking lot, we’ve got plenty of time to kill and it’s cold outside so we decide to just sit in the car and talk because it’s warmer.
“Sam still believes that this is another game from Lucas, he refuses to see Lucas has changed and whenever I bring it up we get into a heated argument and I feel like this is going to be a never ending battle, I want them to become friends again because I think they both miss that friendship that they had, before I came between them” My reasons for wanting to repair their relationship is driven by my own guilt of feeling like I am the cause of the fracture.
“Sam’s biggest concern is losing you to Lucas” Katherine states the fact that we’ve all been aware of since I first started dating Sam. “They’re not going to be friends again, well not any time soon”
“So I’m just going to be caught in the middle? How am I supposed to go out for dinner with Lucas tonight without hurting Sam and starting a massive fight between us?”
“Simple, we don’t tell Sam” Kate says, I look at her shocked at the suggestion, it was one thing to keep it from Sam when it was a group of us going out but now that it’s just Lucas and I, hiding it from Sam could be taken as me sneaking around behind his back, not that I would ever cheat on him but from the outside it doesn’t look good on my behalf. “I’d never tell him, neither would Alex and I’m pretty sure Bridget wouldn’t go around starting up trouble between you two, not when she’s your biggest supporter. You’re not doing anything wrong Veronica, you’re going out for dinner with a friend”
“I just don’t want Sam to get the wrong idea if he ever found out” Sam is the last person I’d ever want to hurt, not when he’s been so good to me.
“I’d set him straight, you know I’ve always got your back.” She reassures me
“Thank you Kate” I lean over and hug her, she’s a loyal friend, she’s proven this to me through the many years of friendship we have shared. “I’m guessing that formal dress shopping was now off the table for Sunday too?” Kate and I had planned to hit up Claremont mall on Sunday, there were a few formal dress shops which were having half yearly sales that we wanted to take advantage of.
“Over my dead body Veronica, formal is a priority, I may be the size of a house by then but I’ll be going to my year 12 formal because I’ll never get another chance” The look of determination on her face lets me know that this is one battle she won’t be backing down from, no matter what.
“I’ll meet you outside Hearts Formalwear at 11 then, their sale is up to 75% off and their dresses are amazing. I’ll bring Bridget, she’s a fashion guru and will be able to give us the best feedback” Making plans to shop for dresses made my day perk up, the formal wasn’t going to be until November but, if I had learnt anything from my first time, it was best to be prepared really early, dresses had to be ordered in and could take weeks to arrive, given the demand, plus styles and sizes sell out really quickly.
I arrived home from school that afternoon to find Bridget asleep on the couch, a mountain of tissues on the floor below her, a bowl of cold soup on the coffee table and a rerun of Family Ties on TV, I felt her forehead, still fairly warm which indicated that the fever hadn’t broken yet. I threw a warm blanket over her, cleaned up the tissues and emptied the bowl of soup into the garbage bin.
Dad was sitting in the dinning room, newspaper spread out before him, he looked up from it when he saw me enter the room. He looked completely run down too, colour drained from his face and his eyes were bloodshot. I worried that he might be coming down with the flu too, which could be much worse for him than Bridget.
“I told you to steer clear of the snot monster” I say as I check his forehead but he hasn’t got a fever.
“I did, I swear, I only made her soup and I wore a mask like I was told to by my doctors, I’m being careful Veronica” Dad’s doctor had given him a full run down of the dangers of what impact of being exposed to the common cold could have on his system, he had been told to wear a mask if he was in contact with anyone who had symptoms or even if he was going to leave the house, which included wearing one at work too. “I’m just tired, normal tired, not sick tired”
“Go lay down, I’ll cook some dinner for you and Bridge, put it in the fridge and you guys can just heat it up when you want to eat” I offer, I’d been taking on a lot more tasks around the house, just to help ease the load for Dad.
“You’re not home for dinner tonight?” Dad asks, I had told him of my plans earlier in the week but I guess he forgot.
“I’m heading out, it was meant to be a group thing but now it’s just Lucas and I” Dad looks at me surprised. “It’s not like that, we’re friends, nothing more”
“I know pumpkin, if you had told me this a few months ago then I’d be giving you the dad speech about how much trouble that boy is but after talking to him at the trial I can now see a huge improvement in his attitude, he’s finally growing up, it’s just a shame that it took losing his best friend to make it happen”
“You got all of that in the 10 minutes you chatted to him at the court?” I feel like I’m missing something here.
“I may have talked to him a bit on Tuesday night when he called and asked how he would go about getting a restraining order against his step father, lets just say I have a different understand of Lucas than I did when you two were going out, I’m not saying that everything is sunshine and roses between us, he still treated you poorly but he’s making real efforts to become a better man and I respect that” Dad closes the newspaper, folds it up and tucks it under his arm, he stands up and starts making his way out of the room. “Be his friend Veronica, he needs one right now” I don’t want to ask him how much he knows but I suspect it’s more than he’s letting on.
I set about fixing spaghetti and meatballs for Dad and Bridget, something that can easily be reheated whenever they get hungry, loading it up with plenty of garlic to help Bridget try and fight her flu. When I walked back through the living room, on my way to the bathroom, Bridget was no longer sleeping on the couch, she had taken her box of tissues and retreated back to her bedroom, where it was darker, making it easier to sleep.
After my shower I browsed through my closet, searching for my most non date, nice looking clothing, I threw together an outfit consisting of a black turtleneck and dark jeans with my long, white overcoat and ankle boots. Lucas and I had made a plan to just meet up outside the restaurant, I had told him that it was germ city in my house, on account of Bridget’s flu when really I just didn’t want this to feel awkward and date-like if he picked me up. I’d been out with Lucas a thousand times but as his girlfriend, this was new territory and I needed to set boundaries up so that mixed messages weren’t being sent out.
Lucas was already waiting in his car when I pulled into the parking lot down by the lake, the chilly winds coming off the water made me regret not bringing my scarf and gloves when I got out of the car, at least I had the forethought to pull my hair up or the winds would be blowing it all over the place. Lucas climbed out of his own car and made his way over to me, he had on a black hoodie with blue jeans, his hair was styled with a bit of product to keep it in place and I could smell the familiar, crisp notes of the aftershave he always wore. He looked completely casual, I knew him well enough to know that he hadn’t done anything extra, he wasn’t going to try and turn this into anything other than two friends hanging out.
“It’s freezing out here” He commented on our short walk to the restaurant, hands tucked into the pockets of his jeans, seems he also forgot gloves and a scarf. He didn’t try to hug me or touch me inappropriately, if anything he placed a bit of distance between us as if to show me that he had no intentions of crossing that invisible line and I really appreciated him for it, he was trying.
The restaurant was the same one where I’d had my first date with Sam, all those months ago. The memories of that night made me miss him so much, he’d be home in a few days but it felt like this week was just dragging on forever.
As soon as we step inside theres a rush of warmth from the roaring fireplace in the corner of the room, I shrug off my overcoat when the waitress greets us and shows us to our table, Lucas must have called this afternoon and had the booking changed from five people down to two because the table the waitress leads us to is a cozy, two seater in the middle of the room, styled with a thick white table cloth and a single red rose in a tiny vase.
“This is really nice” Lucas comments, slipping his hoodie over his head, he was wearing a white button up underneath it.
“The food here is unbelievably good too” I tell him, taking the menu from the waitress, she takes our drinks order and then leave us.
“You’ve been here before?” Lucas asks, looking up from the menu in front of him. I stall, contemplating if I should tell him when I was last here, it was only a week after we broke up, I don’t want him to feel that I’m rubbing that in his face. “With Sam?” He pushes, smiling at me to show that he’s alright, theres no issue here, I’m the one who is making a bigger deal about this than it needs to be, I need to just relax.
“We had our first date here” I still feel bad telling him but the smile stays plastered on his face, so I start rambling, telling every single detail that I can remember about that night, leaving out about the kiss though.
“I’m shit at date ideas, I never know where to take a girl and when I do come up with an idea I can’t relax because I’m constantly thinking that she’s thinking it’s shit” He says laughing. The waitress returns with our drinks, a beer for Lucas and glass of coke for me but now I’m wishing I had just ordered the glass of wine, I’m overthinking everything and one glass may have helped with the nerves.
“So that’s why you use to make me plan all our dates” The penny drops, it was always up to me to come up with quality dates, otherwise, left to Lucas, we’d just spend the night driving around the city in his car and then making out on his backseat. He cringes at the realisation that I’ve just figured him out.
“I guess now it’s safe to tell you that any good date ideas I did come up with actually came from Sam” Lucas confesses, his face turning red with shame. “If it’s any constellation, the only dates I took Kristen on were to McDonalds, that girl only ever wanted to eat chicken nuggets”
“This is the only time I’d ever agree with Kristen on anything but nugs are delicious” I laugh, I probably developed my own love for chicken nuggets from when Kristen and I would hang out and eat a 24 pack together while we watched movies, before she became a hoe.
“Well I’m happy that Sam took you somewhere that doesn’t have a drive thru for your first date, this place is pretty cool” He takes a swig of his beer as he glances around the room, the restaurant is starting to fill up now, there’s couple out on dates and families.
“Sam doesn’t know that I’m here with you tonight” I blurt out, surprising not only myself but Lucas too, he almost chokes on his beer. I guess I figured it we were making confessions I had to come clean too. “I was going to tell him, when he came back, that we all went out as a group thing but then the group cancelled and Kate said I shouldn’t tell him” The nervous rambling has returned.
“I understand why you wouldn’t want to tell him, I saw how he stormed off after the trial but I don’t want to be the cause of trouble between you two, if he’s not comfortable with us hanging out then I respect that and I won’t bother you again” I shake my head firmly at him, I don’t want to hurt him.
“I want to be friends with you Lucas, this is just Sam’s insecurity and all I need to do is show him that you’re not a threat to our relationship, once he sees that then he will come around and see that you’ve changed”
“How would you feel if you found out Sam had been hanging out with an ex behind your back? Even if it was completely innocent, they were just friends but he still kept it from you because he thought it might make you think something else?” Lucas poses the question at me, making me see this in a completely different light now.
“I’d be pretty hurt, even if he hadn’t done anything, I’d feel a little betrayed and wonder why he hid it” This whole time, I never once stepped into Sam’s shoes, I’ve never considered how I would feel if Sam suddenly told me Kristen had changed and then started hanging out with her, I wouldn’t believe it and I wouldn’t ever trust her around him.
“I see your point, I shouldn’t be hiding anything from Sam and then expecting him to trust me, I’ll tell him everything when he comes home.” He won’t be happy about it but I don’t want to have a relationship built on lies. “I don’t want to lose your friendship though Lucas”
“We can still be friends Veronica but maybe we are best not hanging out alone anymore, not if it’s going to make Sam feel uncomfortable” He’s right, I should have just cancelled dinner tonight and explained to Lucas why, he would have understood. I need to stop having this mindset that I’m hurting him or that he’s going to hurt himself if I can’t be around him.
“I’m just so torn between not wanting to hurt you and not wanting to hurt Sam and every time I try I end up hurting one of you anyway”
“I’m not that fragile Roni, I’m not going to hurt myself if you cancel on me” He tells me, “It is not your responsibility to fix the friendship between Sam and I, I’m the one who caused the split between us so I need to start making the effort to repair it”
“Do you think you can” Sam seemed pretty set on never wanting to be friends with Lucas ever again.
“Well I won’t really know until I actually try”
I never, in my lifetime, thought I’d ever consider being friends with Lucas again, Lucas and Sam had managed to maintain their friendship for two decades without me in the picture too so I maybe Lucas could fix this.