Chapter 4 – Romancing the Popcorn

It takes Quinn little time to disregard her mother’s instructions and leave her sister to her own devices. Their dad won’t care. On the drive to Ellie’s house, Quinn calls Geoff with the good news.

“Yeah.” His tired voice cracks through the car’s speakers.

“Dude, you had better get used to getting out of bed way earlier than this.” Stopping at an intersection, Quinn’s eyes settle on the ridiculous gold convertible parked up the street. “It’s the middle of the afternoon. When you start working for my mom, you’ll be halfway through a shift by now.”

“Whatever, mo… Hey! Wait! When I’m working for your mom?” Geoff’s voice perks.

“Yup, you start after she gets back from Beijing.”

“Think she’ll ever take me with her? You know, to get the youth experience.”

“Hell no. If she doesn’t take me, she sure as hell better not take you.” Quinn laughs, glancing at the car parked in front of Stevie’s boyfriend’s house. Casually gliding down the walkway, Chelsea fingers her blond hair into place, oblivious to anything other than herself. Leaning against the doorframe, Kevin watches her go. “I wonder what that’s about.” Quinn mutters under her breath.

“What?”

“Hmmm? Oh, nothing.” She snaps back to attention. “Anyhoo, I’m on my way to Ellie’s. Just thought you’d want to know that you’ll be bringing in the tiny bucks soon.”

“Thanks, dude. You’re my favourite.”

“I better be.” Quinn smiles.

“Hang up the phone and get over here.” Through the receiver, Quinn hears an unfamiliar female voice softly in the background.

“Hey, who’s that?”

“I’ll talk to you later, Quinn.” His chuckle is cut off when the call ends. Quinn stares curiously at the now silent speakers.

Pulling her car into the driveway beside Ellie’s house, Quinn’s mind wanders from Chelsea to Geoff to Stevie. Bypassing the house, Quinn heads around the side of the garage, to the small patch of grass where they’re hidden from view. Ellie is stretched out on her back, eyes closed.

“Hey bitch.” Ellie greets her, eyes still closed. “Did you bring me a slushie?”

“Next best thing.” Quinn stretches out beside her best friend.

“Chocolate?”

“Gossip.”

“Oooo. Do tell” Propping herself up on her elbow, Ellie looks over the top of her sunglasses.

“I was on the phone with Geoff on my way here.”

“This is not gossip. This is routine.”

“Shut up.” Quinn swats at her friend. “Anyway, he’s clearly in bed when he answers the phone. So I’m giving him a hard time. Blah blah blah.”

“Yes, blah blah blah.” Ellie settles back onto the ground, losing interest. “Teen boy sleeps past noon. I can see the headlines now.”

“That’s what I thought too. Until, I hear a girl’s voice telling him to get off the phone and come back to bed or something.”

“No way!” Ellie pops back into a sitting position.

“Yes way! I have no idea who it was. The voice was totally unfamiliar. How ballsy is it to do it in your parents’ house, in the middle of the day?”

“I wonder who it was.” Falling back onto her elbows, Ellie taps her fingers rapidly against the ground. “I bet it’s that new girl. The one with the silver hair.”

“Right. What the hell is her name again?”

“Lyric? Melody? Something musical.”

“Harmony?”

“Yeah, that’s it.” Ellie snaps her fingers. “I bet it was her.”

“You think so?” Quinn grimaces. “It’s not like we’ve been hanging out with her.”

“Who else could it be?”

“Who else could what be?” A male voice sounds from the corner of the garage. They look up to see Jason and Terry walking towards them, slushies in hand, awkward, blindingly white, teenage boy legs sticking out of colourful board shorts.

“Who would Geoff be banging other than that Harmony chick?” Taking the drink, Ellie pulls Jason down beside her. Terry hands an orange and sprite slush to Quinn as he sits down near her.

“Hey, my favourite. Thanks.” Smiling at Terry, Quinn turns back to Jason. “You know anything about it?”

“Oh yeah.” Jason nods. “They’ve been hooking up for a couple weeks.”

“And you didn’t tell me!” Ellie pushes him onto the grass. “There are girlfriend rules.”

“And there are dude rules.” He poked her in the side. “Besides, she’s cute. Why not?”

“You think she’s cute, ‘eh?” Ellie raises her eyebrows.

“Obviously not as cute as you, baby.”

“Oh gag. Will you please stab me in the eye with this?” Quinn holds out her straw for Terry.

“Only if you return the favour when I’m done.”

“You wanna do something? They’ve obviously got their own agenda.” Quinn waves a hand towards the make out session on the grass beside them.

“God yes. You know how these two are once they get started. It’s god damn boring.”

“Non-make out options?”

“Movie?” Terry suggests, shrugging off his jacket. “Or we could make out.” He grins playfully.

“What’s playing?” She scowls and ignores him.

“Does it matter?” He replies, as a giggle peals from Ellie.

“Well, if it’s a really…” Quinn stops when Jason’s shirt lands on her lap. “Fuck it. Let’s go.”

Slushies in hand, they walk towards the street, bypassing the cars; the theatre is only a few blocks away.

“Your parents getting on you about applying for schools?” Terry asks, taking a sip from his cup.

“Always. Mom anyway. Dad’s harping on me to keep my grades up.” Quinn shrugs. “What about you? Dad pushing for you to follow the family calling?”

Terry laughs. “No! He’s just hoping I’ll get in to somewhere. My grades last year were… less than good.” Quinn just raises an eyebrow. “I know. You’re all advance classes and stuff, but I took a year to… sow my oats.”

“And what are you calling this year?” Quinn steps down from the curb onto the crosswalk. Terry’s hand shoots out, grabs her arm, and pulls her back as a pickup flies through the crosswalk.

“Asshole!!!” Terry yells in the direction of the truck’s tailgate. “You alright?”

“Yeah. God. Thanks.” Quinn leans over, hands on her knees, breathing fast. She steadies herself and straightens up. Taking a deep breath, Quinn feels Terry hand slide from her back to her arm, sliding lower as she straightens, inching toward her hand. As his fingers slide between hers, she feels the rough edges. The size. The shape. So unlike Stevie’s. Her heart doesn’t flutter. Her pulse doesn’t quicken. She simply feels a hand in hers. She curls her fingers around his, smiling at him as they step into the crosswalk together.

“So, no seminary school for you?” Quinn picks up the conversation again.

“Celibacy is possibly the worst thing I can imagine.”

“You’re not catholic. And obviously, your pops isn’t celibate, cause, you know, you exist.”

“It’s a good go to argument.” Terry shrugs. “Honestly, I’m not really sure what I want to do, I just know it’s not that.”

As they approach the front of the theatre, Quinn sees Chelsea and her flock of followers gathered on the sidewalk. She stiffens instinctually.

“What’s up?” Terry slows, looking down at her. She nods at the girls heading into the theatre. He squeezes her hand reassuringly. “Just ignore her. She’s a bitch.”

“Easier said than done.” Quinn mutters as they walk forward. Pushing through the doors, she automatically scans the lobby. Crowding the ticket booth are the five girls who entered before them. Short shorts, bronzed skin, long cascading hair all vie for attention. Through the throng, Quinn sees the hint of red peeking out from behind the ticket counter. Pulling Terry’s hand, she tries to lead him towards the concession stand and away from a confrontation. To do what Stevie asked and not get into it with Chelsea.  “Let’s get our tickets from the machine”

“Well, look what we have here.” Chelsea’s voice sing-songs across the lobby. “Princess freak has finally found her freaky little prince.”

Turning, Quinn sees the blonde leaning against the counter, her back to Stevie, whose forced smirk cannot hide the look of apology in her eyes. The edges of the smirk turn down as she sees the intertwined hands of her girlfriend and this guy. Quinn’s instinct is to pull away, but she resists. Not wanting to give Chelsea the satisfaction of thinking the response has anything to do with her.

“I do not want to get into this. Let’s go.” Quinn mumbles, turning away from the confrontation.

“I’m talking to you.”

Quinn ignores her and taps the screen to order tickets for the movie.

“Is she ignoring you?” Brianne’s nasally voice chuckles. Quinn grabs Terry’s hand as he starts to turn.

“Ignore them.” She mumbles. “They’re not worth it.”

“I think she might be.” Chelsea tossed a candy across the room so it bounced off Quinn’s shoulder. “It’s like she thinks she’s special or something.”

Quinn begins to spin, but Terry wraps his arms around her shoulders. He tries to make it look like an embrace, but his arms are too tight. She tries to block out Chelsea’s continued assault.

“If she stopped dressing like a total weirdo, maybe someone good looking would actually want to date her. Instead of ugly stick behind her there. Stupid bitch.”

Stevie’s voice breaks through the giggling. “Jesus, Chels, can’t you ever just shut the hell up?”

Quinn can’t help looking over her shoulder. Even Terry, who had stiffened at Chelsea’s comments, is turning to watch the confrontation between the two most popular girls in the school.

“Excuse me?” Hands flying to exposed hips, Chelsea’s eyebrows raise to an almost comical level.

“There was absolutely no reason to say that, except that you’ve got this pathological need to be mean to someone at least once a day.”

“And you’re suddenly what? Mary fuckin Sunshine? Is this your new pet project?” Anger flashes behind cold blue eyes. “That’s so cute. You want to play adopt a freak? Does it cost more than those stupid starving kids?” Her arms fold across her chest. Behind her, the followers mimic Chelsea like poorly controlled marionettes.

“Just because someone isn’t exactly like you, doesn’t mean they’re a freak.”

“Um, yeah. That’s exactly what it means.” The blonde tosses her empty candy wrapper on the floor, her voice losing its sticky sweet edge as she continues speaking. She doesn’t notice Quinn and Terry sneaking into the theatre. “And unless you want to join them permanently, that’s today’s lesson. You’re welcome.”

“Get out of here, Chelsea. I’m trying to work.” Stevie turns back to the screen on her desk.

“We’ll finish this later, Stevie. We’re going to watch the movie.” Chelsea’s voice is cold.

“That’s $10 a piece.”

“Right. Come on girls.” Chelsea doesn’t even pretend to take Stevie seriously.

Behind the counter, Stevie is thankful for the glass in front of her. It’s the only thing stopping her from throwing herself at Chelsea. For a moment, she considers calling security. Having that no-ticket-holding-bitch escorted out of the theatre. Humiliating her. But she doesn’t. The retaliation isn’t worth the five minutes of victory. She knows that by Monday, she’ll have apologized and everything will be back to normal.

Leaning on her elbows, hair hanging forward, she hides the tears welling up in her eyes. The silence of the lobby gives her nothing by time. Time to picture Terry with his arm wrapped Quinn’s shoulders as they disappeared into the theatre. Of Quinn leaning against him. Of their hands. Their fingers. Woven together. Those were her hands. Her fingers. She didn’t want Quinn touching anyone but her. She definitely didn’t want anyone touching Quinn.

“Hey.” The voice is soft through the glass. Almost inaudible. Fingers slide through the ticket opening, brushing the side of her elbow. It’s as far as they can reach. The glossy black paint reflects the light. Stevie’s eyes rise slowly. They meet the piercing grey. A smile dances behind them.  “You got a second?”

She quickly scans the lobby. No one there but the strange old guy that works the popcorn machine. “Maybe even minutes.” Stevie throws up the break sign. Ducking around the corner, they escape down the stairs to the emergency exit that leads to the alleyway between the theatre and the restaurant beside it.

“Terry thinks I’m in the washroom. We don’t have a lot of time.” Quinn feeds her arms around Stevie’s waist, pulling her close.  “This smell may help speed things up a bit.” She wrinkles her nose at the dumpster.

“Nothing says romance like the smell of week old popcorn and Chinese food.” Stevie chuckles as she kisses Quinn’s nose.  “So… you and Terry…”

“I’m so sorry you saw that.” She pushes a piece of red hair behind Stevie’s ear, and kisses her gently. The taste of Stevie’s watermelon lip gloss distracts her from the dumpster smell.  “Jackass Pete almost ran me over. Terry saved me. It was a recipe for instant romance.”

“Pete is such a dork.”

“I’m sorry; did you just call him a dork?” Quinn throws her head back, laughing. “Who says dork?”

“It’s making a comeback. Just you wait.”

“You’ve got to stop listening to your dad!”

“He was right about vests.”

“Oh, how I wish he had been wrong on that one.” A soft chuckle escapes Quinn’s lips. “But it does make for some good laughs. Did you see that ridiculous purple thing Brianne was wearing?”

“Awful!” Stevie leans into the brick wall, pulling Quinn closer to her. “She would wear a jock strap if Chelsea told her to.”

“That’s might actually be worth seeing.”

“Hey. Hey.” Stevie poked Quinn in the side, right where she’s ticklish. “If you’re going to be picturing anyone mostly naked, it had better be me.” She flips open the top two buttons of her shirt.

“It’s always you.” Quinn leans in, kisses her deeply, before whispering against her cheek, “But Brie does have a pretty sweet ass.” A grin erupting across Quinn’s face.

“Jerk!” Stevie laughs, playfully pushing against Quinn’s shoulders. “We should probably get back.”

“We can stretch out a few more minutes. Let’s make it worth it.” Quinn pulls Stevie tight against her and pulls her into a deep kiss. Her tongue pushes past Stevie’s teeth and finds a welcome host. Stevie’s hands push under Quinn’s t-shirt until her fingers meet the delicate fabric of a bra. She feels Quinn stiffen expectantly beneath her fingers, her breath catching in her throat. Quinn trails her lips down the side of Stevie’s neck to the bare flesh of the open shirt. Stevie drives her fingers into Quinn’s dark hair.

“Quinn.” Stevie sighs. “We have to…”

“I know.” Quinn pulls back. “I guess it’s time.”

“I guess it is.” Stevie buttons her shirt.

“What about tonight?” Quinn adjusts her hair and pulls a tube of lip gloss from her pocket.

“I have to do some damage control for that whole yelling at Chelsea thing.”

“That was… You’re amazing. Have I told you that?”

“Not nearly often enough.” Stevie opens the door back into the theatre. They edge down the hallway towards the lobby, peeking around the corner to make sure it’s still empty. “All clear. I’ll call you later.”

Waving a quick hand behind her, Quinn saunters back through the doors to the theatre. Her eyes take a minute to adjust to the darkness. Taking her seat beside Terry, she slips back under his arm. “Sorry.” She whispers. “My mom called.”

“No problem.” His fingers trace the curve of her arm. “This movie is pretty lame. You didn’t miss anything.”

“How lame exactly?” She whispers.

“Lame enough that we should just make out.”

Quinn looks at him with mock horror. “Excuse me! Make out? You are being awfully presumptuous.”

“But I brought you a slushie.” He raises his eyebrows. “Doesn’t that mean you have to do it with me or something.”

Quinn sighs in whispered dramatics. “Slushies totally aren’t do it food. If you’d coupled it with say Fun Dip, then it might be up for discussion.”

A shush sounds from a couple rows ahead of them. “Uh oh.” Terry whispers into her ear. “I guess we should stop talking.”

“I guess we should.” Quinn smiles and inhales deeply, mustering up her courage. Pushing back the feel of Stevie still on her skin, she lifts up to meet his lips. It’s not the same, but she has to admit that he’s an excellent kisser.

Chapter 5

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