Cordelia followed Anson up the stairs, grabbing his arm when they stopped in front of a closed door with a music festival poster taped to it. “There’s something I need to tell you.” She looked towards the floor, cheeks reddening.
“What is it?” He lifted her chin with his finger. “After last night, is there anything you think you can’t tell me?”
“Lots of stuff. This is personal, and I’m sure you’ve already figured it out, but well… you’re the first boy… I’ve never been in a boy’s room before, other than my dad’s, and that’s a totally different thing. I don’t think about him the way I’m currently thinking about you.”
“God, I hope not.” He smiled down at her “Unless you’re thinking about me building some shelving or something. That seems like a single dad kind of chore.”
“Hmmm…” Cordelia’s eyes unfocused as a picture of Anson shirtlessly hammering formed in her head. “Yeah, that’s not how I picture my dad either.”
“Ready?” He gestured toward the door. Cordelia took a deep breath and nodded. He opened the door a crack and peeked inside to make sure the floor was clear underwear. He pushed the door open so Cordelia could walk through. She stepped in and spun around.
“It’s just a room.” He crossed his arms over his chest, more anxious than he’d expected.
“No, it’s not. This is where I get to learn about you.” She looked at the posters and pictures and stuff lying around the room. She should be happy about this moment. But instead, she just felt overwhelmed. Cordelia flopped onto the edge of Anson’s unmade bed, her face buried in her hands. “How did this even happen?”
Anson sat beside her, shooting back until his back was pressed against the wall. He took her arm and pulled her back into his lap and let her curl up against him. He was never sure what to do when people cried, so, he brushed his fingers along her back and waited for her to stop. “What do you mean how did this happen?”
“I’ve lost my best friend and gained a boyfriend. In just a couple days. I have all these conflicting emotions. I’m ridiculously happy and incredibly sad. Then there’s that healthy sprinkling of guilt. Can’t forget that, now can we?” She wiped her eyes with the corner of her sleeve. “Can I ask you a question without you getting mad?”
“Ask away.” He played with the zipper of her sweater.
“What made you even look at me? With all those other girls as options?” Embarrassed she wanted to know, she pulled at his hoodie. Suddenly aware that how snug it was on her body. Anson’s hands spotted moving. He inhaled deeply.
“You found the one question that could actually made me angry.” His voice was firm.
“I just… I guess I’m not used to guys paying any attention to me. Let alone choosing me. So, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.”
“That’s part of the reason. The fact that you are so cute without spending all this time on make up.” He slipped the sweater off her arms and tossed it to the floor, taking away her distraction. “But it’s more than that. You make me laugh. You make me think. You’re so lost in thought all the time. And there’s this thing you do with your lip when you’re thinking…” He stopped talking and pulled her into a kiss. “Hey, wasn’t this supposed to be mindless making out?”
“Right, I forgot.” She wiped away her tears and turned to face him. She took all those emotions and redirected them into physicality. For a while, they just kissed, learning what the other person liked. For Cordelia that meant learning what she liked. Every touch was new. She was surprised at the salty taste of his skin. At the shiver that ran through her spine when Anson’s teeth grazed her bottom lip. His hands ran up her legs and under the fabric of her t-shirt. She stiffened as his fingers touched her bare skin and she pulled his hands away.
“I just… god I’m so embarrassed.” She lowered her eyes, then looked back up at his face. “This is all new for me. Danni wasn’t lying. Until yesterday, I’d never even held hands with a boy. So, I’m not entirely comfortable with someone’s hands up my shirt. Does that make me totally lame?”
“Yup. Totally lame.” He put his hands behind his head and leaned back, smiling goofily. “We should just end things now. You wanna give me Danni’s number?”
Cordelia swatted him in the chest. “Jerk.”
“Look, Cordelia.” Anson brushed her hair behind her ear. “Can I be straight with you?” She nodded, not saying anything. “Do I think it’s weird that you’re fifteen and you’ve never held hands with a boy? Yeah. I think it’s weird, but not because of you. Because I can’t believe no one thought to ask you out. I actually don’t believe that’s true. I’m certain other people were interested in you. But you have such a shield around you that it scares people away.”
“That’s not true.” Cordelia sat up, her hands resting on his chest for balance. “No one has ever shown any interest in me.”
“You just didn’t notice. Or it was hiding behind Danni. I’ve seen other people look at you since I got here. I’m not the only one.” He pressed a finger to her lips when she started to speak. “But I don’t care that this is all new to you. You’re beautiful. And that’s all the parts of you- your face, your body, your smarts. All of it.”
“It’s true. I’m very smart.” She traced the lines on his palm with her thumb. “But I like to learn new things.” She leaned forward and kissed him gently. “Wanna be my tutor?” Instead of answering, Anson wrapped his arms around her and pulled her deeper into the kiss.
***** ***** *****
Danni ran to the entrance of the park, watching Cordelia’s back as she walked away. Waiting for her to turn around and come back. When she rounded the corner without so much as a glance, Danni returned to her swing. Sure that her friend would be back.
She kept waiting, but after ten minutes, she’d had enough and left the park. Looking back to the direction Cordelia has disappeared, she saw Greg’s car passing through the intersection. Anson clearly visible through the passenger window. Renewed anger flared in her stomach. Stupid Anson. What was he thinking? How could he think he wanted Cordelia over her? When he finally realized that Cordelia was too boring and inexperienced for him, they’d break up and everything would go back to normal. This was the only thing holding her together. This certainty.
She walked up the steps to her house, still lost in thought. Pushing through the front door, she tripped over a pile of camping gear. Looking down, she saw that the only items still there were hers. Everything else had been put away. Frustration brought tears to her eyes. Caleb had never taken someone else’s side over hers. Even when they fought, he’d forget about it within the hour and things would go back to normal. Grabbing her bags, she stomped towards the stairs.
“Sweetie? Is that you?” Her mother’s voice floated out of the kitchen.
“Yeah.” Danni continued up the stairs.
“How was your camping trip?” She walked into the room, rubbing lotion into her hands. “I didn’t expect you back until tomorrow.”
“It was fine.”
“Are you alright, Honey?”
“I’m just tired. We didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.” Danni composed her face and turned to face her mother. “I’m just going to go take a nap.”
“You look like crap. Were you drinking?” Her mother’s lips pinched.
“Mom, please, just let me go take a nap. You can reprimand me later.” She turned to head back up the stairs, mumbling to herself. “When my life doesn’t feel like it’s falling apart.”
“Enough with the attitude, young lady.” Her mother stopped at the bottom of the stairs, hands on her hips.
“Sorry, Mom.” Danni leaned against the banister, “I had a fight with Cordelia. I’m upset.”
“I’m sure you guys will work everything out.” She stepped up the stairs and wrapped her arms around her daughter. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“No. Can I just go to my room?”
“Sure. Did you want me to bring you something to eat?”
“That’s okay. I’ll come down when I wake up.” Danni turned and walked away. As she walked by Caleb’s closed door, she could hear music. Tossing her stuff into her bedroom, she turned and walked back to his room. Lifting her fist, she paused for a moment before knocking.
“Come in.” His replied automatically.
Danni pushed the door open slowly. “Even me?”
Caleb’s eyes flicked to her and back to the video game in front of him. His thumbs flew across the buttons. He didn’t answer. She took a seat on the edge of his bed, waiting for him to say something. After a few very long minutes, she broke the uncomfortable silence.
“How long are you going to be mad at me?” Danni felt herself getting angry again.
“Did you apologize to Cordelia?”
“When are you going to?”
“After she apologizes to me first.”
“Then you have your answer, don’t you.” He didn’t even bother to look up away from the screen.
“I don’t… I don’t understand why you are still so mad at me.” She pulled at her fingers nervously.
“You’re acting like a spoiled brat, Danni.”
“You’ve never been this mad at me before.”
“You’ve never acted like this before.” Caleb finally hit the pause button and tossed the controller on the floor. “You said that the only reason you’re friends with Cordelia is because she lets you be in charge all the time. You literally said those words.”
“That’s not it. It’s just that… that’s the way things have always been. There is a hierarchy in friendship. Cordelia has a place. So do I. Changing the order, changes everything. I like things the way they are.”
“Danni,” Caleb sighed, “That is exactly what I’m talking about. You’re telling Cordelia to know her place.”
Danni shrugged. “What’s wrong with that?”
“What happened when you guys talked?” Caleb picked at a callus on his thumb.
“Nothing. She’s so brainwashed by Anson. She’s just doing what he wants her to do. She’s replaced me with him.”
“In a day? Your honour roll smart friend has been brainwashed in a day?”
“Obviously! Why else would she have gone behind my back and betrayed me?” Danni crossed her arms over her chest and walked over to the window. “She didn’t come to that decision on her own. She’s so excited that a guy’s finally interested in her that she doesn’t care about me.”
“Danni!” Caleb slammed his hand into the side of the mattress.
“Well it’s true, isn’t it!?” She turned to him “No boy has ever been interested in her. So, she jumps at the first one who does.”
“Get out of my room, Danni. I have never been this angry with you. Get out. Now.” He pointed at the door and turned back to his game. Danni stomped out of the room, tears streaming down her face.