Quinn wakes to the sound of her phone ringing, the constant looping refrain of an indie pop song. Without opening her eyes, she answers.
“Hello?” Her voice rough with sleep.
“Dude! Is your lazy ass still in bed?” A male voice booms over the line.
“Geoff?” Quinn asks sleepily.
“Of course. Get up.”
“What time is it?” Rolling over, she opens her eyes to look at her clock. Two beady eyes stare back at her. “Jesus Christ!” She screams, jumping out of bed, the phone flying out of her hand.
“What? Quinn!? Are you alright?” Geoff’s tinny voice squeaks from the speaker. “Quinn?”
“I’m fine!” She picks of the phone and jams it between her ear and her shoulder, staring at the lamp that has found its way into her room while she was sleeping. “Ha ha, Dad! You’re so hilarious!” She calls down the hallway. She hears him chuckling from the tv room at the end of the hall. Placing the lamp in the corner of her closet, she makes a mental note to plot her revenge.
“I’m not even going to ask. Your family is so weird.”
“Shut up, jerk.”
“Ah, witticism at its finest. I tremble in fear of your biting come backs.”
“I just woke up. It takes me a while to warm the wit.” Quinn sighs, smiling to herself.
“We’re going for lunch. My treat. Like I said, get dressed. I’ll be there in half an hour.” The phone goes dead as Geoff hangs up.
Knowing that when Geoff says half an hour, he means twenty minutes, Quinn runs for the shower. Dressing and braiding her hair into two plaits, she makes her way upstairs. The smell of turkey fills the air.
“Hey, Dad. When are we eating?” She calls down over the stairs. “I’m heading out for a bit.”
“Be home by 5:00. And unless you’ve magically finished your homework in all the time you haven’t been home this weekend, you should maybe aim for earlier than that.”
“I’ll see around 3:00.” She replies, hurrying out the door as she sees Geoff’s truck pull to a stop out front.
Hopping inside the vehicle, Quinn sighs. “Thank god for air conditioning. This weather is ridiculous.” She wipes the sweat from her neck. “How ya doing, dude?”
“Alright, alright.” He nods, pushing his sunglasses onto his face. He drives without asking where she wants to go. Not out of rudeness, but out of confidence. Their friendship is unlike anything she has with anyone else, even Ellie. They’ve known each other for years, but no longer than any of her other friends. They’ve never dated, but know each other’s emotional queues like they have. Geoff reads her even better than Stevie. He knows when to ask for input. When to push her. When to just make the decisions and take her along for the ride. She’s the same way with him. But somehow, he hasn’t figured out that she’s hiding this huge thing from him.
Before long, they’re parking in front of a small coffee shop mostly frequented by middle-aged women looking to gossip away the afternoon. Congregating near the door in the hopes of getting a look at any interesting tidbits that might wander in, they’re sure to accost any young people who dare to enter their sanctuary.
The door chimes ring as Quinn pushes through. A dozen heads turn in unison. Matching glimmers of curiosity turn sour as they see the pair walking over their threshold. No one here is interested in them. They have nothing to feed into the stream of consciousness that is small town life. These are kids that will leave as soon as they have the opportunity. These are the kids that they need to protect their own perfect children from. Corruptors of innocence in denim and hair dye.
Quinn and Geoff sit in the corner. Orders placed. Cold beverages on the way. Partially hidden by a wall of ferns, they settle onto the wooden chairs that litter the room. The old fashioned country style is more outdated and corny than retro chic. Tracing the outline of a rooster on her placemat, Quinn lets her thoughts wander. Geoff says nothing until their milkshakes arrive.
“You’ve been a million miles away lately.” He finally breaks the silence.
“Hmmm? What?” Quinn snaps herself out of her daydream, the one of waking up in a comfortably foreign bed with a beautiful redhead beside her. “Oh it’s nothing. I’ve just got a lot on my mind. Exams and stuff. Where were you yesterday? Have another go round with that little girl?”
“What little girl?” He smirks.
“You know the one that was in your bed yesterday.” She stirs her drink with her straw. “We’re guessing it’s that Harmony chick from grade ten.”
“You figured that out, ‘eh?” He smiles into his glass. “Clever girls.”
“It wasn’t exactly difficult, especially when you answered the phone with her in your bed.” She raises her eyebrows suggestively.
“She’s also a child.”
“She’s a year and a half younger than us.” He shrugs. “It’s not a big deal.”
“Is it serious?”
“I am more jealous of this rooster’s luscious comb.” She stabs a finger at the placemat.
“We’ve hooked up a couple times. I don’t see it going anywhere.”
“Yeah, fifteen year old girls are like that.” Quinn moves her milkshake out of the way as the waitress slides a plate in front of her. “Easy breezy. I’m sure this’ll go super well for you.”
“What the hell are you eating?” Geoff pokes at her plate with his fork, changing the subject.
“Get out of my food, you dork.” Jabbing at his hand with the butter knife, she smiles at the adopted language. “It’s smoked salmon. It’s delicious.”
“Have I ever told you that you eat the grossest food?” He picks up his cheeseburger and takes a giant bite.
“Whatever. So where were you last night? You just stayed in and turned in early? You and not going anywhere Harmony were a no show at the party.” Quinn loads a cracker with fish and cheese.
“We were there.” He garbles around a mass of ground beef,
“No you weren’t.” Quinn insists.
“I think I would know where my body was better than you would.” He swallows “We were late. You were pretty wrapped up with Terry. Or should I say wrapped around Terry. We were on our way over when the battle of the super preps broke out.”
“Oh, right, that.” Quinn jams food into her mouth to avoid further comment.
“Yeah. That.” The odd tone in his voices causes Quinn to glance up quickly. Geoff looks at her intently from across the table. Using a french fry to mix together a combination of mayo and ketchup, he appears almost completely relaxed.
“What?” She sorts through everything she’d done around him to see if there was anything he could have picked up on. Nothing. There’s no way he can know.
“You should tell me what’s going on.” He popped a condiment coated fry in his mouth. “You obviously need to talk to someone.”
“Going on?” Quinn feigns ignorance.
“With you and Terry.” Geoff watches her intently as he takes a long sip from his shake.
Relief rushes through her body. “Terry and I are new. Just something I’m trying out.” Leaning across the table, she grabs one of his French fries and pops it into her mouth.
“You seemed pretty into him last night.”
“We wouldn’t be seeing each other if I weren’t, right?” Quinn mentally chastises herself for freaking out over nothing.
“Good, cause for a moment last night, I thought maybe you were dating him to hide the fact that you’re into someone else.” Geoff’s posture changes as he leans forward. Sliding his plate to the side, he crosses his hands in front of him. Quinn’s mind races for the second time in a matter of moments. How does he know something is going on?
“I don’t know what you mean.” She stammers, searching for a way out of this conversation. Glancing quickly from side to side, she makes sure no one is close enough to overhear them.
“I don’t even really know what I mean.” His face softens. He reaches out and touches her hand. “I saw you leaving Stevie’s house yesterday morning. And by leaving, I mean running, at full speed, fully dressed, at like 9 in the morning. It slipped my mind until I saw you react to her fight with Chelsea. These people that you purport to hate. And you couldn’t look away. Not in a juicy gossip, I hope those bitches kick the shit out each other way, but in a genuinely concerned way. Like you would have looked if it was Ellie. Then there’s the I-like-girls revelation and you bolt. What the hell, Quinn?”
It feels like her tongue is too big for her mouth. She can’t seem to make it form words. Her brain has melted to a pool of useless mush. She wants to come up with an excuse. Something. Anything. But she can’t. The shock is almost tangible.
“There have been signs of something since school started. You’ve been distant. You take off without warning. You go missing for entire evenings. We no longer have to bribe you to watch a game, as long as the cheerleaders are there. You’re suddenly getting text messages from a cousin I’ve never heard you talk about before.”
“Geoff…” Quinn’s eyes swell with moisture. “I don’t know what to tell you. I… I’m not ready for this.”
“For what, Quinn? Are you interested in Stevie?”
Quinn’s chair tips as she bolts from her seat. The sound of wood meeting wood reverberates through the restaurant as the chair hits the floor. Heads swivel towards them. Eyes follow Quinn’s blue skirt fluttering in the breeze as she rushes out the door. Heads snap back to stare at Geoff. Throwing money onto the table, he yells to the waitress to wrap up the food, grabs the left behind purse, and follows his friend out the door.
The sunlight momentarily blinds him as he exits the darkened building. The heat causes an instant layer of sweat on any exposed skin. He pauses for a second. Looking at the truck. Up and down the sidewalk. Towards the park across the street. Trying to find a hint of that trademark purple hair. Nothing. Then he knows. Doing a quick check for traffic, he heads across to the park. Striding purposefully, he heads to the gazebo at the far end. Circling around the side, he sees the break in the hedge. Fumbling with a purse he has no idea how to hold, he slips between the branches.
On the other side, he finds her, sitting on a small patch of grass in a tiny clearing. They used to come here in elementary school. To trade lunches. To read books stolen from their parents’ bookshelves. To see how many bugs they could burn with the lenses from Quinn’s glasses. It seems so much smaller than it used to. The hedges are higher. The grass unkempt. The circle of shrubbery forcing them into close proximity. Squeezing in beside her, Geoff puts a hand on her arm. He sees her panic in the speed of her breathing.
“Quinn, you need to calm down and talk to me. What the hell is going on?” He reaches into her purse and pulls out the blue inhaler.
Taking a couple deep puffs, Quinn attempts to calm herself. Pulling her knees to her chest, she turns to look at him. “I don’t know what to say, Geoff.”
“Just say it, Quinn. Whatever you have to say, I can deal?”
“Okay,” She takes a deep breath, “I’m not interested in Stevie…”
“Please don’t lie to me.” He rubs his forehead.
“I’m dating her.” Quinn finishes.
“For real?” Geoff’s face shows that, whatever he was expecting, he wasn’t really prepared for the answer.
“Mm-hm.” Quinn mutters. The feeling in her stomach reminds her of playing with cornstarch and water as a kid. Oddly solid, but liquid. Completely unsettled. Unsure of how it will react next. “Since the summer.”
“How? What? When? I’m so confused. This is a huge deal.” He leans into the heavy foliage behind him, ignoring the branches stabbing his back. “How come you didn’t tell me?”
“Hello, cause you’re a guy. I assumed you didn’t care that much. It’s not like we sit around and talk about our feelings.”
“Yeah, dude, I’m a guy. Of course I want to hear about some hot girl on girl action.” He punches her lightly in the arm and winks.
“Gross, you know I hate winkers.” She giggles delicately, starting to feel more relaxed. Her arms release her knees from her chest. “And I don’t really know what I feel. I didn’t plan this. I don’t even really know when it happened.” But that’s a lie, she knows exactly when this all started. Three months ago…