Chapter 52 - What About Now
“What about now? / What about today? / What if you’re making me all that I was meant to be? / What if our love never went away? / What if it’s lost behind words we could never find? / Baby, before it’s too late / What about now?” – What About Now, Daughtry
The high the school was on yesterday from the two East Side victories continues to today. Everyone is in good cheer with the two victories and that both teams will be going to EOSSA. After the championship game, James told me that Henri had not played in the final game yesterday and the reason why. I couldn’t believe it. I guess there is still hope for that school and there are decent people. No one has heard from Henri since. He hasn’t even been at school. I’m glad he didn’t play in the game, but now I want to know where he is, what he’s doing. I need peace of mind.
“What did the doctor say?” I ask Eleanor as she hobbles to her locker on her two crutches with her right leg in a cast. Diana, Sarah, and I are waiting at her locker before first period. Lincoln is beside her, carrying her backpack, with George and Teddy close behind.
“Broken leg,” Eleanor says when she gets to her locker, placing her crutches against the lockers. “Six to eight weeks recovery time.”
“I’m so sorry, Eleanor,” I say.
“Don’t be.” Eleanor says as she opens her locker, “I’m just glad you guys beat those bitches yesterday.” Eleanor holds out her hand for Lincoln to give her her backpack. She bounces around on her one leg to move.
“Are you sure you don’t want a wheelchair, Eleanor?” Lincoln asks.
“No, I am fine,” Eleanor says sternly.
“Always a stubborn one,” George says to no one in particular.
Eleanor slams her binder, textbook, and pencil case in George’s arms. “You can take these to my first class though.”
“We don’t even have the same class!” George objects.
“So then you better get moving!” Eleanor says, shutting and locking her locker. She grabs her crutches and starts down the hallway and George follows behind her, rolling his eyes.
“I think he has a new job for the next six to eight weeks,” Lincoln says when they are out of earshot, and we all laugh.
“Why don’t you come over after work?” I ask James while we stand at my locker before my Chemistry class.
“I’m sorry, Arya.” James says, “My mom is working late tonight so I have to get groceries after work.”
His life is so different from mine. He takes on more than any teenager should but acts like it’s nothing. James is everything to me, all I want is more of him, but no matter what, I’m always second to his family and his work. I can’t hold it against him. He has his priorities straight. I just want more of him. Is that so selfish?
“Am I bad if I don’t want to share you?” I say, coming up closer to him so there is no space between us, grabbing his shirt. “Just want to keep you all to myself?”
James laughs. “It is me that doesn’t want to share you, Arya. And if that is wrong,” James leans in close to me, “then I don’t want to be right.” And then he kisses me softly. “I have to get to class though, I will see you after.” He turns and walks away and just stare at him. He’s perfect.
“So I guess you got everything you wanted.” I hear a voice say behind me. I turn to see Lisa standing there. “Won the championship, everyone at the school loves you, you got James back. Just perfect, isn’t it?”
“With no help from you.” I say to her irritably, “Why do you hate me so much? What did I do to you?”
“You took him away from me!” Lisa says. “You came to this school out of nowhere and he was just entranced with you the second he laid eyes on you. It was at MY party and he looked at you like you were the only person in the room. I have liked him from the beginning! The beginning! And then his dad passed away and he changed, but I still tried. And then you come here and flip your hair and bat your eyelashes at him and he’s a new person.”
“You and James were never together.” I say, “I never took him away from you. Lisa, you are this beautiful, smart, athletic girl who could get any guy she wants. Why are you so hung up over James? You are better than this. You deserve a guy that cares for you and wants to give you everything. You shouldn’t be chasing after a guy that doesn’t have any interest.”
“He’s the only guy I’ve ever truly liked.” Lisa says, “No one is like him. He’s perfect. He has always been so kind to me. I can’t be with someone else when I have such strong feelings for him. I’m the best in all the sciences (Diana would disagree, but I’ll hold my tongue), I’m on the volleyball team, I’m the most popular girl in this school. What more can I do? What more does he want from me?”
Underneath the tough exterior is a girl that just wants to be with the boy she loves. She’s pictured it. What it would be like to be with James. She’s worked hard and done everything she can to make it a reality, but then I came in and ‘ruined’ everything for her. I feel sorry for her, but I can’t forget the destruction she has caused.
“You tried to ruin me.” I say, “You tried to ruin me and my relationship with James and you almost succeeded. I am just lucky that I have great family and friends that got me through this, and that James eventually came back to me. You did a terrible thing, but I do not think you are a terrible person. I feel sorry for you. That the only way you could bring yourself up was to bring me down. I hope you can leave James and me alone now.“′
“I don’t know how to get over him.” Lisa says helplessly, “I just don’t.”
“You deserve someone amazing, Lisa.” I say, “Someone that will love your passion and everything about you. That person is out there. It’s just not James.” I look at her and I see a lovesick girl, not an enemy. Queens fix each other’s crowns. “You are an amazing person, Lisa, as much as I hate to admit it. You have so much going for you. If you could just harness your potential into something good instead of trying to ruin my life, you would be something amazing, you could do amazing things. Focusing on science and sports would probably help a lot instead of one boy.”
“You need to talk to her,” I say to James at his locker while he is trying to stuff all his books in it.
“Who?” James says, only half listening to me.
“Lisa.” I say, “You must talk to her.”
James slams his stubborn book into the top of his locker and then finally turns to me. “Lisa?” he says, and then he thinks about it. “What did she do to you? I told her to leave you alone.”
“She didn’t do anything to me, James,” I reassure him. “But she still really likes you. She needs closure from you.”
“We never dated,” James says.
“Please, James.” I say, “I don’t think you have ever actually told her that you are not interested in her. She needs to hear it plain as day from you. You can’t always be the good guy. Sometimes you have to tell the truth and if someone’s feelings get hurt it’s unfortunate, but you can’t just leave people in limbo.”
“I have never liked her in that way, and I have never said it either,” James says. “She has no reason to think I like her.”
“I know.” I say, “But in her mind, she always thought she had a shot with you. She believes that I am the reason you two aren’t together. You just need to set her straight. Only you can do that. You are the only one she will believe.”
“Fine.” James smiles. “You’re lucky you’re cute.”
“Look who it is!” Malcolm says with a smile as he approaches James’ locker along with Samson and Richard. “I guess we are going to have to get used to you hanging around here again.”
“Don’t act too disappointed,” I say.
“Never.” Malcolm says, “I just think if you want to spend more time with me, you should meet me at my locker instead, so you don’t make your boyfriend jealous.”
“Bugger off!” James slaps Malcolm on the shoulder with the back of his hand.
“I did technically see her first,” Malcolm says.
“If we’re getting technical, it was Richard that saw her first,” Samson says, and Richard winks at Malcolm.
“Fine.” Malcolm concedes, “But don’t forget that she flirted back with me at that party when we first met!”
“Not flirting, Malcolm, just talking. I cut you off when I found out you were just trying to make out with me,” I joke.
“Can’t blame me for wanting to,” Malcolm says, “I’m always available if your boyfriend ever slips up.”
“You’re stretching your luck, brother,” James says.
“I told you we wouldn’t stop bothering you now that you have a girlfriend.” Malcolm says, “Your reactions are always the best. Almost as funny as Richard.”
“Hey!” Richard says.
“I think this is my cue to leave.” I say, “I will see you guys later.”
When she walks away, I slap Malcolm on the side of the head. “Hey!” Malcolm rubs wear I hit him, “I was only joking.”
I know he is only joking, but it still bothers me inside. I see enough guys staring at her, commenting on her, flirting with her when she doesn’t even realize it. I get enough of it from strangers; I don’t need to get it from my best friend as well. Will I always be bothered by the fact that Malcolm flirted with Arya first? She never did anything with him, so there is no reason to be jealous. They are friends, close friends now. They always joke around with each other now.
Malcolm has always been my best friend, but I see the way he looks at her when he thinks no one is paying attention. I think he will always be hung up on the girl that rejected him. I think he will always be curious about her. What she feels like, what she tastes like. And now he has to see his best friend with her all the time. Is there a part of Malcolm that hates me? I was the one that took him away from her at that party. He threatened Lincoln that night for stepping in, thinking that he was taking her for himself, but he never said anything to me.
After their second interaction, he thought she was crazy and wanted to stay as far away from her as possible, and now that he has gotten to know her, he likes her. But is it only friendship? A part of me thinks that it’s impossible for Malcolm to just be friends with a girl. He has never been just friends with a girl, and definitely not one as beautiful as Arya. I’ve never talked to him about this. But maybe it’s time to man up.
“Do you guys mind if I talk to Malcolm alone?” I say to Richard and Samson and they both nod.
“See you later!” Richard says as they walk away.
“I told you I was only joking, James.” Malcolm says, “Why are you going all serious on me?”
“I’m only going to ask you this once, Malcolm, and then I will never ask it again,” I say and take a deep breath. I look him straight in the eyes, so I read his face and see if they match his words. “Do you really think that you can be just friends with Arya?”
“She’s your girl, James,” Malcolm says.
“That’s not what I asked,” I say.
“Honestly?” Malcolm says, taking his time to think over what he’s going to say next. “I think you are the luckiest bastard at this school to be with her. And initially, whenever I saw you guys together, I was kicking myself for having treated her that way at the party when I first met her. I thought that if I hadn’t been so forceful with her then maybe it would be me that she was with and not my best friend. That I would be the lucky bastard with the girl that all the other guys just drool over.”
“You never said this,” I say.
“What was I going to say, James?” Malcolm says, “I’m attracted to your girlfriend? I think you should step aside so I can have her because I saw her first?”
“Well, no,” I start.
“But in time I realized that she was never mine to have.” Malcolm says, “She’s meant to be with you, and you are meant to be with her. So to answer your question, I am fully capable of being just friends with Arya because I know she is with the best guy for her.”
“When did you make this realization?” I ask.
“When you guys broke up.” Malcolm says, “It was like watching a vase break in two and no one was trying to put it back together, just leaving it on the ground. That’s why I talked to her James. I wasn’t trying any moves or anything, I saw two people a part that needed to be together. There is no other guy that can make that girl smile like you can. She doesn’t deserve anyone but you. She only wants you.”
“And I only want her,” I say.
“Besides,” Malcolm says, “you are my best friend. You know that I would never make a move on her no matter what I feel.”
“I know,” I say, “the mind just plays tricks with you sometimes. Let’s agree to tell each other the hard things and ask the hard questions. For so long I thought that you hated me for being the guy who swooped in and took the girl you liked.”
“Well, I did.” Malcolm smiles, “But fortunately that feeling has passed.”
“Funny.” I say, “One more thing though.”
“Anything,” Malcolm says.
“Do not proposition my girlfriend ever again,” I say.
“What?” Malcolm smiles, “Scared she’ll agree?”
“Do not make me hit you again,” I say.
“I see your office hasn’t gone up in flames yet,” I say as I sit next to my dad on the couch, who is reading a book.
“I told you not to worry about it,” he says, not looking up from his book.
“What did you do?”
“What was necessary,” Dad says.
“Mr. Young has ruined other construction companies and gotten away with it,” Dad says, closing his book to look at me, “but there is one company that did stand up to him and are still standing today.”
“I might have asked them for their…” Dad pauses, “services.”
“You have them staking out of the practice overnight,” I smile.
“Just until this blows over and Mr. Young backs off,” Dad says.
“Has anything happened?” I ask.
“There have been some minor conflicts in the night,” Dad says as if it’s nothing. I know it’s not nothing. Those guys can be vicious. “but I think Mr. Young will back off soon enough.”
I laugh. “Are your men equipped with baseball bats?”
“Only the best!” Dad says, “I will owe them big time for this, but they were also more than happy to go against Mr. Young’s guys again. They’re not afraid of them. And, I have been the one taking care of them and their family’s teeth all these years.” Dad takes a breath. “Arya, I hope this shows you that no matter what is happening, you can always come to us, whatever the problem is, we can work it out. Even when it seems like too much.”
“I know that now,” I say.
“And remember,” Dad says, “if there is an asshole or someone you hate, chances are, there’s a lot of other people that feel the same way. There is no stronger bond than two people hating the same person.”
I laugh. “Thanks, Dad. I’ll keep that in mind.”
“On a different note,” Dad says, and I look at him, “how’s Lexi doing?”
“Sorry to ruin yours and Mom’s dream,” I say, “but you know I’m back with James.”
“Then why did I hear from the boy’s hockey coach that you were at their practice distracting him?” Dad asks. Damn small towns. It’s like people have nothing better to do than gossip.
“Strictly as friends,” I say, “but why are you talking to Aunt Suzie’s ex-husband anyway?”
“He called,” Dad says, “wanted to see how you girls were doing considering everything that’s happened. It’s all over the town. He also wanted to congratulate you on winning your game this week.”
“That’s nice of him,” I say, “how’s he doing?”
“Good,” Dad says, “he’s happy with his life, his wife and small kids, but he will always have a special place in his heart for you and Mia, even if he’s not your uncle anymore. He cares about both of you.”
“I should give him a call,” I say, “to thank him for checking in.”
“I think he’d like that.”
“Yes, love,” Dad says.
“You understand now why I was so upset for the past couple of weeks,” I say. “It wasn’t all to do with James. It was much more than that.”
“I know, Arya,” Dad says, “I guess he isn’t a terrible boyfriend.” I’ll take it as a compliment.
“Can he come over for dinner on Sunday?” I ask. Reunite them. They do like each other. And they both want the best for me.
“Maybe it’s time for his whole family to come over,” Dad says.
“Really?” I’m surprised. This is a big step. This is my dad accepting James.
“But you’ll have to help your mother prepare the meal,” Dad says.