They ultimately just want me to be happy, so they back off, but just knowing how they really feel is confusing. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Shouldn’t they be pushing me to wait and to be sure? I think I must be living in an alternate universe and surely I’ll wake up soon.
Michael comes over four days in a row and for the first time in our relationship, we fight. Thankfully, my parents completely stay out of these discussions. I think I’d bang my head against a wall if the three of them ganged up on me at once.
I sort of thought we had broken up when I turned down his proposal, but apparently that was just phase one of wearing me down to a nub. The first day he’s mopey and pitiful. The second day he’s edgy and ticked. The third day he’s sad and all hands. (I know he thinks the handsy approach will work because he knows I have a slight weakness toward the slutty. Okay, not just slight.) The fourth day he’s a half mope/half edgy mix, and I am worn out from the whiplash. The fifth day he calls and says he’s going to see his family in Seattle for a week. He needs to think. A month ago, I would have been sad for him to go, especially this close to leaving for school, but I am so relieved.
Tessa calls after I get off the phone with Michael. “Is Loverboy over there?”
“No, he’s going home for the week. To mull over his heartbreak.” I snap.
“You’re heartless,” she laughs.
“I feel heartless after all this drama! It’s been pure craziness. It’s like I’m the only adult around here!”
“Well, I wouldn’t go that far … but well … yeah, it does sound like you’re the only one thinking clearly.”
“Thanks for not jumping on the marriage bandwagon. You could have been a kickin’ maid of honor.”
She sighs. “Yeah, I thought of that. Believe me. I could stand some excitement. A wedding would have been fun … besides that one little complication of you being married afterwards. That would completely suck. You know, that would wreck our entire New York plan.”
“It’s sad that my life is your highest form of entertainment. You definitely need more exciting friends,” I sigh. “And you know I could never wreck our New York plan. We’ve worked too hard for this!
“You’re right. I would have a REALLY hard time forgiving you if you bailed.”
“Well, now everyone else won’t forgive me, so I’m going to need you as a best friend a little longer … wanna do something later?”
“Yes! It’s about time you pay me some attention. Come spend the night. Let’s have a movie marathon.”
“Sounds perfect. I’ll be over in an hour.”
Tessa is exactly what I’ve needed. I find myself relaxing for the first time since the Child Bride Project. We make a massive pile of nachos, get our Cokes propped beside us and put a movie in the DVD player. We’ve been doing this since we met in fifth grade. I don’t think we’ve ever gone more than two weeks without seeing each other.
Tessa was the first person I met when I started a new school in the middle of fifth grade. She was a blonde little nymph that practically sailed in the air as she ran up to meet me, all bubbly personality. I saw warmth in her eyes and clung to her like she was the safety harness on an upside-down roller coaster.
We’ve wanted to go to New York for as long as we’ve been friends. Honestly, I began looking at NYU only minimally because of their writing program. I really just wanted to be able to say I lived in New York once in my life. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that the school has an excellent reputation within the literary world. Same with Tessa—she will be going to Parsons, even though there’s a perfectly good Fashion Institute in San Fran. That’s us, though, never ones to do things the easy way.
We haven’t made it through a single movie yet. It’s still paused, and Tessa’s asking question after question about Ian. Michael’s proposal barely made a blip in her radar; she’s onto the more pressing topics…
“So tell me again what he said when you told him you like to read books AND write them?”
For some reason, this cracks her up more and more each time. I tell her the whole story at least three times before she is fully satisfied. Yes, she confirms. He’s way into me.
“But you didn’t give him your number, did you?” She wrinkles her nose.
“No! Michael was right there!”
“Pssssshhh,” she scoffs. “That didn’t stop you from practically kissing each other! You may as well have given him your number while he was asking for it.”
I cringe. Ugh. This is bad. This is really bad.
“Can you imagine if I did end up with Ian Sterling some day? It’s really farfetched, but let’s say I did. When people ask how we met, what would I say? ‘Well, uh, I was at lunch with family friends and had my boyfriend on one side and Ian on the other. It was love at first sight.’ Ahhh!” I put my head in my hands. “I would never live that down. Or what about if I did marry Michael and everyone wanted to know about how he proposed? ‘Well, let’s see … he proposed right after I met the man of my dreams.’ There is no tidy outcome to this situation.”
Tessa’s voice startles me in the middle of my downward spiral. “Oh, since when do you care what anybody thinks?”
She’s crinkling her forehead at me now, looking like I’ve grown a horn in the middle of my nose. “Noooo, you’re nice and respectful, but you’ve still always done your own thing. This might be a little ‘inconvenient’, but everyone who knows you sees that you follow the beat of a different drummer boy. People would be disappointed if you did the expected.”
Now I’m looking at her like she has a third ear. I’m used to her giving her own twist to expressions, it’s not that. This is news to me: I know that I’m a bit of a weirdo, but I didn’t realize I wasn’t doing a better job of hiding it.
“That might be the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me,” I say. “And it’s beat of a different drummer, no boy…”
She continues, not fazed in the slightest by my mush and my correction not registering either. “I’m surprised he hasn’t called you anyway. He sounds like he isn’t afraid of being persistent. He could have gotten your number from Jeff.”