A group of ladies’ figure skaters straight out of the film Mean Girls stopped me and Lara on the way out of the building with snickers and rude comments.
“How many guys are you going to hook up with in a twenty-four-hour period, Lara?” one girl asked, pointing deliberately at our adjoined hands. We had just finished skating a perfect practice during which we’d made zero mistakes and had jealous daggers flying from all around the arena.
“Maybe all three of the guys like to be with her together,” another one said. What? Is that really what they thought?
“How about it, Jordan? Are you more turned on by Thomas or Gil?” The idea of being in the same room with either Thomas or Gil made me angry, not turned on.
“You obviously don’t mind your partner hooking up with either of the guys or you wouldn’t be hanging all over her when they’re not around.” I fought the need to release Lara’s hand but clung tighter on principle.
“Is Lara just a placeholder until tonight when you can be together with the guys?” My stomach churned at the insinuation.
“Which one of the guys is better in the sack, Lara?” That made me angry. As far as I knew, Lara was a virgin and intended to stay that way until marriage. Of course, there had been multiple times this week when she’d been alone with either Thomas or Gil and who knows what she’d done with either of them.
“Or do they even let you have a chance? Are they too busy with each other to give it up for you?”
I held Lara back when she took an offensive step toward one of the girls. “They’re not worth your emotions, Lara. Don’t listen to them.” I pulled her toward the door.
“What’s the matter, Jordan? Hit too close to home? Or maybe too far below the belt?”
“I don’t think he keeps his belt on long enough to hit below,” another girl said. They all laughed.
I shoved the door open and pulled Lara with me, wanting to turn around and give those girls a piece of my mind. How dare they?
Practically holding Lara up, we stumbled toward the shuttle bus and somehow climbed the steps.
“Is that really what they think about me?” Lara asked in shock. “Do they think I’m hooking up with all three of you?”
“Apparently.” I stared straight ahead, almost oblivious to the other passengers. “Is that really what they think about me? That I’m hooking up with other guys?”
“Are you?” Lara looked over at me in shock.
“No! Are you?”
“No! How could you think that?”
“How could you think that about me?” I asked, suddenly more aware of the stares we were receiving.
“I don’t know. Because of what they said.”
“You’ve been alone with both of them more than I have. And I caught you kissing Thomas in the hall outside your room. What else did you do? And then you kissed me the following day.”
“You kissed me. I didn’t kiss you,” Lara insisted.
“You kissed me back,” I said.
“This is all your fault,” Lara said.
“How is this my fault?” I asked, incredulous.
“You’re the one who kissed me in front of the whole world!”
“Well, you’re the one who dated three guys in less than two days. The girls have a point. How many of us are you hooking up with?”
“None of you!”
“How would anyone know?”
“You’ll just have to take my word for it.”
“Excuse me,” the shuttle bus driver called back to us. “Would you like me to pull over and let you off so you can have a boxing match outside of my bus? I’m trying to drive.”
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled. “We’ll stop arguing.”
Lara and I turned our backs toward one another and folded our arms across our chests. In an attempt to not argue, we also didn’t talk.
When the bus stopped in front of our building, we stomped down the steps and strode angrily into the lobby and over to the elevator.
Lara pushed the button for her floor and then broke into tears. I pulled her into my arms, and she collapsed against me, sobbing. “How… could they… say… such mean things?”
“I don’t know, babe, I’m sorry.” I held her in my arms, rubbing my hands up and down her back, not sure what else to do.
“They practically called me a slut,” Lara cried.
“You’re not a slut,” I assured her. The elevator slowed at the correct floor, and we stepped into the hallway, heading toward Lara’s room.
“But I dated three guys in two days,” she said clinging to me as she stumbled along. “Does that make me a slut?”
“No, that makes you a normal seventeen-year-old girl,” I told her. “Like you said yesterday, we shouldn’t be making long-term plans when we’re this young. You should be allowed to date around.”
“But I probably shouldn’t be dating around if I’m in love with you,” Lara said, releasing me and using the electronic key from her lanyard to open her door.
“What did you just say?” I asked, hesitating in the doorway.
“What?” Lara reached for a box of tissues on her dresser and blew her nose loudly.
“Did you just say that you’re in love with me?” I asked, hoping I heard her right but fearing she was just caught up in the moment and didn’t really mean what she’d said.
“Did I?” She gulped then tossed her tissue across the room, missing the trashcan by several feet.
“Didn’t you?” I stepped over and picked up her tissue with the tips of my fingers, knowing I must love her a lot to be picking up snot rags from the floor and placing them in the trashcan.
“I don’t know.” She shrugged sheepishly.
“Do you?” I leaned against her dresser.
“Do I what?” she asked, suddenly interested in the color of her nail polish.
“Do you love me?” My voice was husky and soft as I pushed away from the dresser and stepped cautiously toward her.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” I closed the distance between us and crushed my mouth to hers with a passion that made yesterday’s kiss seem like a peck on the cheek.
Lara reached for me hungrily and pulled my body close to hers, grasping onto my shirt as if to yank it over my head. That woke me up.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, that’s not happening.” I backed away and clasped both her wrists in my hands. “Not that I don’t want to. Trust me, I do. But we would both regret that choice, so let’s just slow down.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, horror in her wide eyes. “I didn’t mean to get carried away. Trust me, I’ve never done that with Gil or Thomas.”
“Okay, can we not talk about them anymore?” I pleaded. “Like, can we put those guys firmly in your past, where they never belonged in the first place?”
“Sure…” she bit her lower lip. “I’ll never go out with either of them again. I promise.”
“Good.” I leaned forward and kissed Lara softly on her lips, then stepped toward the door. “Now, I’m going downstairs to my room, where I am going to take a cold shower and then hit the weight room, and maybe run a 5K, and I’m going to trust that you are going to stay right here like a good girl and not go running off to either of your other boyfriends.”
“I promise.” She shook her head vehemently. “Never again.”
“Okay, give me one more kiss goodbye,” I said, stepping closer again.
That was my first mistake. Allowing Lara to wrap both arms around my neck and both legs around my waist was my second mistake. Falling down onto her bed with her was my third mistake. Her roommate walking into the room was our saving grace, and the wakeup call I needed to fall onto the floor when Lara pushed me off.
“I was just leaving.” I scrambled to get up from the floor and hurried toward the doorway, not looking Lara’s roommate in the eye, even as I mumbled, “Hi, Chelley.” I sprinted for the elevator and didn’t look back.
(As always, feedback is greatly appreciated. -Julie)
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