Another bank of lockers later, Kevin and Stevie turn left into the janitorial hallway. The door at the end leads to a grassy area beside a large tree. Stevie leans into an odd crevice where the old building joins the new and kicks at an empty beer bottle. Her breathing is fast, laboured, and quickly heading towards uncontrollable.
Kevin leans against the tree, waiting. His quiet calm from the hallway gone. She can feel the waves of anger rolling off him. Stevie pushes away from the building and silently leads them towards the parking lot. They climb into Kevin’s truck. They drive in silence until Kevin turns into the driveway of his house.
“Here?” Stevie looks towards the house she’s been coming to for years.
“No one will interrupt us here.” With that, Kevin hops from the vehicle and heads towards the door. He’s in the kitchen switching on the coffee machine before she even makes it through the foyer. He pulls a bottle of beer from the fridge for himself. Stevie raises her eyebrows as he twists off the top. “You no longer have any say in my life.” He says without looking at her.
“I know.” They wait silently until the machine finishes her drink. She picks up and the cup and inhales the smell of the rich, dark liquid. The feel of the distinct square cup in her hand is too familiar; she opens the french doors and steps out into the pool area, the confines of the house driving her outside where she can breathe.
“What the hell, Stevie?” Kevin throws himself into a lounge chair only to get back up against almost immediately.
“About what happened Saturday night…” Stevie curls into a deck chair “That was not how I wanted this to happen. I mean, it’s not how I wanted you to find out.”
He paces the edge of the pool. “Find out what? That you’re fucking gay, Stevie?! Since when?”
“I just … I don’t know, Kevin. It’s complicated.”
“You didn’t screw me like a lesbian. Are you saying that all those times? Every time… you were what…? Thinking about some chick?”
“No! Kevin. God. I really did love you. I think. I don’t know. You were important to me. I’ve spent two years of my life with you. I couldn’t have done that if I didn’t love you. But I can’t stay with you just to make you happy. To make Chels happy.”
“Is that why you’ve been so distant the last few months? Have you been fucking some girl?” Anger and disgust meld on his face.
“I’m not going to talk about that, Kevin.” Stevie’s determination to protect Quinn strengthens her resolve. It reminds her of why this is all happening. “Besides, you’re not exactly in the clear here. You’ve been fucking another girl. My best friend.”
“That’s not the point!” Kevin brushes her off.
“How?! How is that not the point? The whole entire point.” Stevie throws herself out of her chair, kicking at the air. “Yes. I wasn’t be honest with you, and that’s my bad, but if I hadn’t found out about you guys, this would have happened a completely different way.”
“How did you find out, anyway?” Kevin’s anger levels off. Defeated, he sinks into the lounge chair he originally rejected.
“Someone saw you guys together at Mabel’s. In a store! Right there in public. Really? You weren’t even hiding it.”
“Who do you know that shops at Mabel’s?”
“I shop there, dumbass.”
“Oh.” Kevin shrugs “I didn’t know that.”
Stevie sinks into the chair beside him. “Two years. Two years, Kev. Most of our high school life. It’s been you and I. Now what?”
“Now we figure it out.” Reaching over, he brushes his fingers against her hand. Not a romantic gesture, one of comfort and habit. “Clearly, we’re not getting back together.” He chuckles.
“Clearly!” Stevie laughs halfheartedly.
Kevin puts the beer bottle, still half-full, on the ground. “This isn’t a phase, is it?”
“No. It isn’t.” Stevie’s stomach clenches as she speaks the words aloud, giving them life.
“I wish you’d talked to me about this.”
“I wish I had, too. But, would it have been easier?”
“No. I still don’t know how I feel about this.” Kevin adjusts his ball cap on his head. “I’m not really okay with this. I don’t understand how you can want to be with girls. Are you sure that this isn’t…” he pauses.
“Something you did?” Stevie crosses her legs under her, turning to face her former boyfriend. “Don’t be stupid.”
“But what can you do with girls? I don’t understand.”
“If you’d like, I can go to the store, buy you some magazines. Or I think you may have some of them hidden in your closet…” leaning over she punches him lightly in the arm.
“I did not know you knew about those.” He blushes.
“Never underestimate how much your girlfriend knows about you.”
“I’m just trying to picture you doing those things.” Kevin grimaces.
“Please stop!” Stevie presses her fingers to her mouth.
“Darling, I’ve seen you in all your glory already.”
“Well, now that we’re just friends, you’re not allowed to do that anymore.”
“Yeah, about that…” Kevin mumbles.
“You don’t want to be friends?” Her voice drops, genuinely hurt.
“You know how complicated this situation is, right?” Kevin brushes his hair back. “You heard Chelsea’s ultimatum.”
“God, why is everything in my life so damn complicated all of a sudden?” Stevie’s face sinks into her hands.
“Maybe we can be friends. After a while.” He reaches over to squeeze her knee. “I’ve always been able to confide in you, but you really burned your bridges with Chelsea, and she’s a horror show when she doesn’t get her way.”
“Are you going to keep seeing her?” Stevie needs to know. She can deal with everything else, but to have to see them date would break her.
“God no.” He insists “And we were never seeing each other. It was just sex. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.”
“How long were you guys…?”
“Since school started. After you started pulling away from me.”
“Don’t blame your inability to keep it in your pants on me…” Stevie snaps, her anger starting to rise again.
“That’s not what I meant. I’m not saying it was all your fault, but you have to take some of the blame, Stevie.” Kevin sits up, turning towards her, his arms folded across his chest. “Clearly you were going through something huge or whatever, but it was unfair to just let me think that things were normal. Especially when you don’t seem to have been keeping it in your pants either…”
“I know that!” Stevie stands again, hugging herself as she walks towards the pool. She dips her toe into the cool water.
“Don’t do anything dramatic like jumping in that pool.” He mocks her from his chair.
“Yeah, cause I’m the super dramatic one, right?” She raises her eyebrows. “Why are you letting her control your life?”
“Chelsea? Yeah, she’s a problem.” He leans forward, arms on his knees. “You may be willing to give up everything we’ve spent the last few years building, but I’m not. Who am I going to hang out with if I lose my friends? The nerd herd? The wannabe hippy stoners? The goths? Like that’s going to happen. I’d rather put up with Chelsea and be popular.”
“You’re making your own bed, Kev.” Stevie turns and walks back to the house. “Can we go back to school now?”
***** ***** *****
Quinn forages under a pile of books in her locker, trying to find her calculator. “Why do you never stay where I put you?” She mumbles.
“I’m right here.” A voice whispers in her ear.
“Jesus Christ!” She yelps, jumping back, her arm scraping against metal, a rough edge ripping through. Red bubbles rise to the surface. “Mother of…” She brings her arm to her lips. The coppery taste fills her mouth.
“Shit!” Terry’s voice is full of concern. “I am so sorry! Are you okay?”
“No biggie. Look, the blood’s already stopped.” She jams her arm in his face.
“Alright, alright. I see.” He pulls her close to him. Arms wrapping around her waist, he tilts his head down towards her. Quinn meets his lips quickly before prying herself loose to continue the search for her missing calculator.
“Ah ha!” She pulls her arm back out of her locker, more carefully this time, the large graphing calculator between her fingers. Throwing it onto the textbook at her feet, she stands and does a little dance. Her skirt swishes against her skin. “Take that calculator!” She turns to Terry. “Go get your books. It’s almost time for class.”
“Why don’t we blow off first period? Go have a replay of Saturday night?” Terry raises his eyebrows. Quinn’s forehead creases. Her thoughts immediately fill with the image of Stevie facing off with Chelsea. Stevie standing in the doorway looking miserable. Stevie standing in her bedroom, telling her that they would be together no matter what. It takes her a minute to realize what Terry is talking about. She smacks him playfully, though she’s serious.
“You’ve known me long enough to know that I do not blow off class!” She tries to squirm out of his arms but they tighten around her waist playfully. The sound of angry voices drifts around the corner. Quinn’s muscles tense instinctively as she hears Stevie’s voice. People around the hall stop moving. Ellie breaks away from Jason, turning towards the sound of the voices. She enjoys nothing more than a good spat.
Chelsea and Brianne flounce around the corner, arm in arm. The grin on the blonde’s face is perhaps one of the most genuine Quinn has ever seen. It’s weird to see the class mean girl on her arm instead of Stevie. As they pass, Brianne reaches over and slaps the books out of the hands of a girl standing along the wall. Chelsea and Brianne laugh without breaking stride. They thrive on drama. Quinn’s fingers tighten around Terry’s arms. She suppresses an urge to hurtle herself across the hallway, slamming her body into the cheerleader, ripping out strands of long blond hair. The smile that spreads across her face is irrepressible. She buried her face in Terry’s shoulder.
“You sure you don’t want to blow off first period?” Terry responds to her perceived advance, pulling Quinn tightly against him, his desire obvious. Before she can answer him, the din in the hallway dies completely. They both look down the hall as Stevie rounds the corner with Kevin. Not touching him, but clearly with him. Her pulled together appearance startles Quinn. She takes in the pretty, yellow dress with black lace and can’t help but notice that their clothes echo each other. She bites the corner of her lip, catches Stevie’s eye, and knows everything is okay. They watch as Stevie hurries down the hall, leaving Kevin in her wake.
“Awe, poor little cheer girl. How the mighty will fall.” Ellie taps her fingers together maniacally.
“Give it a rest, Ellie.” The words are out of Quinn’s mouth before she can stop them. Ellie says nothing, merely raises an eyebrow. “I just mean that it looks like things aren’t that bad. Seems like they’re still dating. Let’s not gloat until we’re sure they’re really falling apart, alright?” Silence hangs over their small group. The boys become edgy as neither girl says anything.
“Meanwhile, back on the ranch…” Geoff drawls, breaking the tension from his post against the side of the lockers. Four heads pivot slowly towards him.
“Weirdo.” Quinn breaks out into a genuine laugh, chucking a pencil in his direction. Everyone’s mood instantly lightens. “Oh Ter, I hear our fathers spent the weekend golfing together.”
“Yeah. Did you like your lamp?” He chuckles.
“Oh my god! That thing…” she shudders “Hideous. Did you get something equally charming?”
“A collection of miniature spoons. What the hell am I supposed to do with those?”
“At least they were never alive.” Quinn counters.
“True story.” Terry’s hands have maneuver their way back to Quinn’s waist.
“It’s almost time for class, guys. Get your crap together.” She breaks away gently and pulls Terry by the hand. “You come with me.” She leads him down the hall and out into the parking lot. Her heart stops for a moment when she sees the bright yellow dress in a sea of steel. She pulls Terry towards her jeep, watching as Stevie and Kevin drive away, hoping Stevie is alright.
“Alright, we’re skipping class.” Terry smiles, sliding his hand around her neck.
“We are, but not for the reason you think.” She pulls back until she’s leaning against the driver’s door.
“What’s up, Quinn?” Terry frowns, turning to face her. “You’re being weird.”
“I just…” She reaches forward and brushes her fingers against his “We’ve been friends for a really long time.”
“Yes.” Terry stares at her uncertainly.
“And I just… I feel like this is moving too fast. Like I made a mistake this weekend.”
“You don’t want to date me? Dating me is a mistake?” He straightens up in his seat.
“Sleeping with you was a mistake.” She holds up her hand so she can keep speaking. “Having sex with you two days after we started dating, after we’ve been friends for so long, was a mistake. I should have taken this more seriously.”
“It’s just sex, Quinn.” Terry shrugs. “It’s not the end of the world.”
“It might be for you, but for me, it’s different.” She plays with his fingers. “I think we should slow things down a little bit. Maybe pull back on the physical stuff for a while.”
“But keep dating, right?” Terry tries to keep his tone relaxed, but she can see the panic in his eyes.
“If you think we can do that without jumping into bed again right away, then yes, fine, keep dating.”
“Good.” He leans forward plants a gentle kiss on her lips. “Cause I really like you, Quinn. I’ve wanted to date you for a really long time. I don’t want to lose you when I’ve finally got you.”
Quinn places a hand on his face and smiles at him, gripping her leg with her other hand to press down the guilt. She’s starting to think that she’s a terrible person.