Danni rubbed her eyes and rolled onto her back, the sunlight warm on her skin. She reached for her pillow, and found nothing but hard, dry wood. For a second, sleep muddled her thoughts. She looked around for her friends but saw the inside of the lifeguard tower. The events of the previous night came flooding back. The feelings of anger that had subsided in sleep rushed back. She looked at her watch: 7:30. Too early to go back to the campsite. And she was still waiting for an apology.
She climbed down to the sand, relishing the feel of the cold grit between her toes. Wishing she was still wearing her bathing suit, she sat at the edge of the water, feet submerged. Waiting. She kept glancing over her shoulder; sure Cordelia would appear at any moment. That she would apologize and admit Anson had come to his senses.
“After all,” she mumbled to herself “who throws away a lifetime of friendship over a guy they hardly know.”
Cordelia was reliable, and trust-worthy, and a little boring. Those were the qualities Danni liked about her. The qualities that made her a useful friend. So she waited. It was an hour later when a head of shining blond hair appear on the path. Not Cordelia, but Rayne. At least it was someone. Coming to tell her that they wanted her back and they were sorry for the way they acted. Danni remained seated, making Rayne come to her.
“Danni.” Her British accent stronger than normal. She remained standing, looking down at Danni. Her voice was an odd combination of hopeful and cold. Danni felt unsettled for the first time that morning. “So…”
“Yeah, so.” Danni wrapped her arms around her knees, looking out onto the water.
“I’m not sure exactly what to say here. So, I’m just going to say it.” She cleared her throat. “Everyone is waiting. If you’re ready to apologize for your behaviour last night, let’s go make things better. If not, I’ll head back, everyone will leave, and you, Caleb, and I will drive back together.” She jammed her hands into the back pockets of her shorts. Raising herself up and down on her toes, she waited for Danni’s response.
Danni simply spun her finger in a circle and pointed at the path, indicating Rayne should just turn around. From the corner of her eye, Danni saw her friend pause mid-bounce.
“Jesus Christ, Danni.” Rayne shook her head, spun around, and left.
***** ***** *****
Cordelia waited, perched on the edge of the picnic table, watching the curve in the path, waiting for Danni. They would talk and both would apologize. And she’d back burner things with Anson until Danni got used to the idea.
Then Rayne appeared, walking at a brisk pace, face pinched. Cordelia’s heart sank. Her eyes immediately wet, she pulled the sunglasses from the top of her head.
“So, she’s not coming then?” Caleb asked.
Rayne shook her head, so angry she was afraid to speak. She threw herself onto the bench of the picnic table. Cordelia placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Danni can be infuriating at times. We all know that.” Caleb directed his statement to everyone. “She’ll come around. She’s just used to getting her own way. We’re her closest friends. She’ll come around.”
“What am I going to do without her?” Cordelia mumbled as she pushed herself into a standing position and headed for the washroom. Anson began to go after her, but stopped when he felt a hand on his arm.
“You’re new. You don’t get to try to fix my sister. This is my job.” He looked up into a pair of eye identical to Cordelia’s. Bianca paused to give her sister a few seconds to compose herself and then followed after her.
“Fuck.” Kyle muttered as she wiped her forehead. “What the hell do we do now?”
“We wait.” Blaine shrugged. “We wait and see if Danni comes around. If not, then we panic and start the struggle of choosing sides.”
“What sides?” Caleb interjected “There’s only one side here, and it’s not Danni’s. She’s my sister and I support this message.”
“Hopefully it won’t come to that.” Rayne was starting to calm down. “Caleb and I have the ride home with her. We’ll talk some sense into her.”
“I think this must be some kind record guys. I’ve destroyed years of friendship in a less than a week.” Anson shook his head “Yay me…” He sighed, flopping down onto a tree stump and rubbing his temples.
“It’s like some kind of super power.” Zack punched him the arm.
“There must be some kind of special society for people like you.” Rayne giggled. “With medals and everything.”
They were still giggling when Bianca and Cordelia returned.
“So what do you think, Cord?” Kyle threw an arm around her friend’s shoulders. “Should we make Anson some kind of cape to go along with his friendship destroying superpowers?” They all waited to see how Cordi would react.
“Only if it’s purple.” Cordelia laughed, hugging her friend before heading towards Anson. “What do you think about purple?” She rested her elbows on his shoulders.
Anson looked up, kissed her chin, and grinned. “Sounds perfect, but what I really want to know is if I’m getting some tights in this deal.”
“I hate to be the spoil sport,” Greg interjected through their laughter. “But, we had better head out if we want to make it back in time to actually do some homework today.”
“By homework, do you mean in time to watch your show?” Bianca elbowed her boyfriend in the ribs.
“Yes. Yes, I do.” Greg smiled sheepishly “I assume Cordi and Anson are with us? Blaine’s letting us take his car.”
“Zack and Blaine are with me and all the friggin gear.” Kyle gestured towards her jam packed car.
“And Rayne and I will deal with Danni.” Caleb rubbed his hands over his eyes. “Should be a great ride home.” He flashed a sarcastic, toothy grin.
***** ***** *****
Danni was getting very bored, sitting there on the beach, listening to happy families play. She knew better than to hope that they were all sitting around thinking maybe they were wrong, but she did it anyway. She made a sand castle. Tried skipping rocks. Anything to make the time go faster. She had almost resolved to walk back to the campsite, reception be damned, when Caleb walked up beside her.
“We’re ready to go. Cordelia packed your stuff for you.” He held his hand out and helped Danni into a standing position. Silently, she followed him back to the truck and climbed in beside Rayne, who was seated in the middle. She said nothing to Danni, just continued flipping through her magazine as if she were alone. When Caleb climbed into the driver’s seat she turned to him and smiled.
It felt like someone had driven a hot poker straight into Danni’s guts. She had disagreed with her friends before, but never had they shut her out so thoroughly. It felt worse in the light of day. Leaning her forehead against the window, she looked out at the speeding terrain. Could they actually be right? Why else would they be so certain?
Danni looked over at Rayne and Caleb, thinking she would say something to them. Approach the topic to get a better idea of their feelings. Then she saw their hands. Fingers intertwined, resting on Rayne’s lap. Not even trying to hide it. With quiet smiles just touching their lips. For a fleeting moment, it occurred to Danni that she should be happy for them. For her brother who had always been single. But that moment was overrun by her anger.
Here she was, drowning in the loss of her best friend and the guy she knew she was meant to be with. Slapped in the face by the rest of her friends. And there they sat, grinning, happy, apparently dating. Danni turned back to the window, fuming.
“Fucking figures.” She grumbled, crossing her arms in front of her. She’d known how Rayne felt about Caleb, but she hadn’t realized her brother felt the same way.
“What, Danni?” The exasperation on Caleb’s voice palpable
“Never mind.” She muttered.
“No, no. Please tell me what fucking figures.” He released Rayne’s hand and took the wheel with both hands, knuckles whitening as he tightened his grip.
“You two. I’m going through something really hard right now and you’re all happy and lovey.” Rayne opened her mouth to respond, but Danni just kept talking, “And since when are you even interested in each other? Is this just convenient? Everyone else is paired up, so might as well make Danni feel as lonely as possible being the only single one. Or wait, maybe we can make her the beard for the gay guy. She doesn’t deserve any better. Doesn’t deserve our sympathy. We’ll side with the new guy we hardly even know.”
“Jesus Christ, Danniella! If Mom and Dad wouldn’t kill me, I would drop you right here and make you walk the rest of the way. We are not siding with Anson.” He paused for a second. “But we are siding with Cordelia. She’s finally coming out of her shell and you can’t be happy for her. You were unequivocally, totally, one hundred percent in the wrong last night. You are being a terrible friend.”
“That is such bullshit! You don’t care about Cordi. Apparently, all you care about is where you’re getting your next trick.” She leaned towards him as the words spewed from my mouth. Her face was thrown to the side as Rayne’s palm connected with her cheek.
“Bitch.” Rayne inhaled, her voice barely above a whisper. “You pretend you’re everyone’s friend. That you have our best interest at heart. Until we disagree with you, and then you basically call me a whore. You’ve been teasing me about Caleb for weeks. You knew I was interested in him, but obviously, your only concern is yourself. I don’t know why none of us noticed this before. You are a selfish, selfish person Danni.”
“How dare …”
“Danni, shut up.” Caleb’s voice was stony. Danni had only heard this tone twice before, neither of which had been directed at her. She knew that this was the wrong time to push him. In this mood, he would likely ignore his instincts and leave her on the side of the road. So, she bit her lip and leaned against the passenger door. Caleb reached across Rayne to flip on the stereo. He adjusted the volume until conversation was no longer possible.
An hour later, Caleb pulled the truck over at a roadside gas station. “I need to take a piss and get something to drink.” He got out of the truck. Rayne slid out the driver’s side after him. Danni stared out the window as the pump hummed while the truck was filled.
When her brother disappeared into the main building, Danni considered sliding behind the wheel and taking off. The punishment she would suffer later couldn’t be any worse than another hour of being stonewalled by the most important person in her life. He was her brother. It was his job to take her side, whether or not he agreed with her. He was supposed to take care of her. She crossed her arms over her chest and slumped back against the seat. She watched as Caleb and Rayne walked back to the truck, hand in hand, faces plastered with smiles, laughing at something. Their happiness reminded her how angry she was. A solid hour in the truck without a word and now they were laughing like nothing was wrong.
They slid through the driver’s side door, Rayne’s smile faltering when she saw Danni’s expression. Caleb reached over and slid a bottle of Pepsi into the cup holder in front of his sister and threw a bag of licorice into her lap. She opened the bag and started eating one without a word. Rayne sighed and bit into her apple.
Caleb put the truck in gear and pulled back onto the highway. He slid his hand onto Rayne’s knee, his thumb tracing distracted patterns. He felt torn. Danni was his sister. Part of him felt guilty for not supporting her. But the bigger part of him couldn’t figure out what she was thinking. He hated the way she was acting. Hated it. He glanced at her and found her eyes focused on his hand. Her expression one of betrayal.
“Danni,” He took a deep breath to calm down. “Do you want to try to talk about what’s going on?”
She didn’t answer.
“Danni,” Rayne’s voice was soft. “You are one of my closest friends. It hurts that you are this angry.”
“It hurts?” Danni raised her eyebrows “It hurts you? How on earth does it hurt you?”
“We’ve been friends since I moved here. You were one of my very first friends. And now, you won’t even talk to me about what’s upsetting you.”
“You know what’s upsetting me.”
“I don’t, Danni. I really don’t.” Rayne insisted. “I do not understand why you are this upset.”
Caleb’s hand slipped from Rayne’s thigh. “Why are you so mad at everyone?”
“Because no one defended me.” She mumbled around a mouthful of candy “Not one of you tried to come to my defence last night. You all sided with someone we hardly know.”
“Danni, I’ve already said we weren’t siding with Anson. We were siding with Cordelia.” Caleb exhaled an exasperated breath. “And I tried to talk to you last night, but you refused to listen.”
“You both let me think that he wanted me. You both knew and said nothing!”
“Again, we’ve already explained that.” Rayne pinched the bridge of her nose. “I was caught up in your excitement. I only figured it out like ten minutes before you did. Sure it was a bit of a surprise, but it’s Cordi. This is the first time she’s really liked a boy. And he likes her. I’m happy for her. She never takes chances like this. You barely know him. She’s your best friend. You should be the happiest for her.”
“I tried to get you to back down when we were doing dishes. Before this all came out in the open, but you were so wrapped up in your own ego you wouldn’t listen.” Caleb gripped the wheel. “Danni, you are blowing this out of proportion.”
“No, I’m not. If Cordelia was really such a good friend, she would have fallen in line and done what I told her. Like she always does.” Danni twisted open the pop bottle and took a long drink. “Why do you think she’s my best friend? Because she talks back to me and makes up her own mind? Don’t be ridiculous.” Rayne and Caleb both looked at her with wide, shocked eyes.
“I cannot believe you just said that, Danni. Like actually cannot believe you let those words pass you lips.” Rayne shook her head.
“Who the hell are you?” Caleb sighed. “I can’t talk to you right now, Danni. I just can’t.” He didn’t even need to turn on the stereo this time. The remainder of the trip was filled with a stony, uncomfortable silence. As they pulled into their driveway, they saw Cordelia sitting on the steps, chin in hands, waiting.