Chapter 16 – Bad Taste in the Mouth

 

Leaning back in her chair, Anson’s arm thrown across the back, Cordelia stared at the peanut butter marshmallow square sitting on the corner of her tray. She hated those squares, but Danni loved them. Out of habit, she’d grabbed one, like she always did every Friday, so Danni could snack on it during her crappy afternoon, math class. Now she was stuck with a dessert she didn’t like, sitting on her tray, mocking her broken friendship.

“Mmmm, peanut buttery goodness.” Caleb leaned forward and snagged the plastic wrapped snack. “Can I steal this?” He grinned slyly at Cordelia. “It’s not like you even like them.”

“Coloured marshmallows taste like perfume. It’s too weird to eat.” She smiled and leaned into Anson.

“If you don’t like them, why would buy one?” Anson pulled at the end of her ponytail.

“I, um…” Cordelia searched for an answer that wouldn’t swing them back to the awkward conversation topic of the week. She just wanted to go one day without talking about the situation with Danni. “It’s because of that thing that everything seems to be about.”

“Bah, it’s cause she knows I love them.” Caleb grinned around a cheekful of sweets. “What are we doing this weekend?”

“Fyvie’s playing at Butcher’s, tonight.” Bianca crunched a piece of celery between her teeth. “I vote dancing.”

“I could totally dance!” Kyle agreed.

“I won’t be doing any dancing, but Fyvie’s pretty decent.” Anson grabbed a fry off Zack’s plate. “You in?” He turned to Cordelia.

“For sure! I need something to take my mind off this week.” She tossed the remnants of her tray into the trash can, shaking off her melancholy.

“You want to go to a club?” Bianca raised an eyebrow.

“It’s a time of new things. I’m sure I’ve got some moves in here…” Cordelia shimmied “somewhere.”

“It’s in our genes.” Bianca grinned widely.

Cordelia smiled at her sister. As much as she missed Danni, she couldn’t help feeling that her friend had been partially responsible for allowing her to hide behind her shyness. Making her feel like her place was always in the background. And she’d been doing it, without even realizing it. And Cordelia had allowed her to do it.

Cordelia knew that part of that had been her own fault. It hadn’t all been Danni. She’d even tried to encourage Cordelia to do little things, like dress differently and wear make up. It had just been so much easier to stay in the shadow of her very exuberant friends than to open herself up to rejection. But now, that shadow felt heavy. Maybe Anson was the catalyst. Maybe it was losing Danni. Maybe it was the anger she hadn’t realized had been slowly simmering for months.

Reaching over, she wrapped her fingers through Anson’s as they exited the cafeteria. “I’m swinging by the newspaper room. Walk with me?”

“This way.” Bianca pointed and they turned down the hallway way from their lockers. When they reached the small room that passed as the newspaper office in their tiny school.

“Hi, Kevin.” Cordelia poked her head in the open door.

“Cordelia?” The editor looked up at her in surprise. “What’s up?”

“I just wanted to drop off an article. For you to consider. Maybe. You know. If you need something. Or whatever.” She pulled put a piece of paper that had been tucked into her textbook for almost a month.

“Sure.” Kevin took the page from her, his eyes quickly scanning the page. “I’ll take a look and get back to you if we can use it.”

“That’s great.” Cordelia smiled.

“Maybe we’ll use all this new interest in you to get people to read the paper.” He grinned.

“I was unaware we were writing a gossip mag.” Cordelia smirked at him.

“Whatever gets people to read, right?” He shook the article at her. “Jokes aside. I can honestly say I never expected you to show interest in a byline. I’ll read it and get back to you next week?”

“Things change, Kevin.” She shrugged. “And who knows, maybe you’ll hate it.” She grinned and slipped out of the room. The smile fell from her face as soon as she re-entered the hallway. “Holy shit.”

“What?” Everyone stopped talking and turned towards her. Unable to speak, she just pointed to the end of the hall. Eight heads turned to follow her gaze. Mouths dropped in unison.

“Is everyone else seeing what I’m seeing?” Kyle rubbed her eyes.

“Did hell actually freeze over while we were eating?” Rayne crossed her arms over her chest.

“My sister! What the hell is wrong with her?” Caleb’s hands landed uncharacteristically on his hips. “I cannot even. I cannot!” Rayne placed her hand on his back to try to calm him down.

“Right there with you, buddy.” Cordelia stared at Danni’s glowing face as she laughingly bumped Robyn with her hip. Gone was the frumpy, ragged looking girl that Danni had spiralling into over the last five days. She was back to her gregarious self.

“Try not to let it bother you.” Anson’s arms slid around Cordelia’s shoulders and pulled her back against his chest.

“How can I not? We’ve hated Robyn for as long as I can remember, and now, this…” She waved a hand towards the pair at the end of the hall. Danni chose that moment to look towards them. Nodded her head. Her mouth pulling up into a smirk on one side. Robyn stopped her and ran a finger along the lower ridge of Danni’s lip, adjusting a smear of lip gloss. Her eyes glowed.

Anson turned Cordelia to face him, brushing his thumb against her cheek. “Ignore them.” He pulled her into a deep kiss, one hand on her face, the other pressing into the small of her back, moulding their bodies together. Pulling away, he looked directly at Danni and Robyn, who were standing together at the end of the hall. “I know that probably doesn’t make me the better person, but I really don’t care.” He whispered in her ear.

“Do it again.” She smiled at him and raised up on her tiptoes to kiss him back.

 

In class, Cordelia tried to pay attention, but just couldn’t find her focus. Her thoughts kept drifting to Danni and Robyn. Picturing the two of them together, laughing like old friends. It made her so angry. Danni had looked so pathetic all week that Cordelia had started to wonder if they weren’t doing more damage than good with this freeze out. Everyone had told her to stay strong. To give Danni. To stop letting her be right. That Danni needed to understand that there were consequences for bad behaviour, otherwise, she’d just do it again. But Cordelia had seen Danni’s spark fade, and she’d started to doubt.

Finally, she couldn’t stand it anymore. She pulled her phone from her bag and for the first time ever, broke the school rule and sent a message during class: “What the hell are you doing?” Taking a deep breath, she hit send before she could talk herself out of it. She twirled her pencil around her fingers as she waited.

Standing at her locker after class, jamming books into her backpack, her pocket vibrated frantically as a series of text messages arrived in quick succession.

You’re one to talk.

A boy gives you a pity bone and you change your whole personality.

You’re the one who decided not to be my friend. To throw away years of friendship for your ego.

You gave up the right to have any say in who I can be friends with.

Go fuck yourself, Mousey.

Cordelia read the messages, her hands shaking. She stared at the screen, typing in letters, then deleting them, then typing again, then deleting. Finally, she jammed the phone into her pocket without sending anything and marched down the hall to her sister’s locker.

“I am furious. Furious.” She slumped back into the bank of lockers. “Can we just get out of here?”

“What’s up?” Bianca sorted through the textbooks at the bottom of her locker.

“I’ll tell you after we leave.”

“So there’s no chance I’ll go rip her out of her desk and beat her to death?”

“No, so I don’t do it.”

“Let’s go. This sounds like a milkshake kind of moment.” She grabbed her sister’s hand and headed toward the exit.

 

Cordelia poured her banana milkshake from the frosty metal container into a tall glass. Absentmindedly, she licked at the runaway ice cream. Bianca pushed a plate of fries between them. They sat in silence for a few more minutes. Staring across the table at brown curls identical to the ones she straightened every day, Bianca let Cordelia dictate the pace of her conversation. Cordelia eventually leaned back and pulled her phone from her pocket. After pushing a few buttons, she wordlessly slid the phone across the table, a string of text messages open on the screen. Bianca read the words quickly. Then more slowly. Then again.

“I will murder her.” Her voice was low.

“Don’t, Bianca.” Cordelia took a deep breath. “Just don’t.”

“How can you continue to defend her, Cords?” Bianca pushed her hair back

“I’m not. I just…” Cordelia stopped, taking a long drink from her milkshake. “I’m just so tired of being angry. There’s a reason I don’t let a lot of people in. I’ve never dealt with the loss of a friend before. I’ve never felt this kind of hatred. It’s too hard.”

“What about Robyn? That’s a pretty big hate.”

“Yeah, but it’s not real. In the end she means nothing to me. If I never saw her again, it would make zero impact on my life. Danni… well Danni meant everything.” Cordelia jammed a french fry angrily into a dish of honey garlic sauce.

“Everything?” Bianca raised a playful eyebrow. “So I’m chopped liver?”

“You’re my twin. You can’t give me up. Even if you want to. I can’t look in a mirror without seeing you.” Cordelia stuck out her tongue “But you know what I mean. If things hadn’t blown up, Danni would still be more important than Anson. You don’t just get over that kind of friendship? What would you do if it was you and Rayne?”

Bianca watched her thoughtfully, popping a fry in her mouth. “I don’t know, Cords. I hadn’t thought of it that way. If Rayne had done this to me, I don’t know if I could just let it go. But for me, this thing with Danni isn’t simply that’s she’d done something I don’t lie, it’s…” She paused to think of the right word. “Betrayal. She’s betrayed my most important person. I can’t forgive that.”

Cordelia sighed, leaning back into the plush seat of the booth. They sat silently, eating more fries.

“You didn’t write her back.” Bianca broke the silence as she spooned milkshake from the frosty container.

“I didn’t know what to say.” Cordelia shrugged. “Go cunt-punch yourself felt a little melodramatic.”

Bianca choked on her drink before giggling. “Cords! Jesus.”

“Apparently, anger gets my creative juices flowing.” Cordelia spooned milkshake into her mouth.

“Creative. Crude. Po-tay-to. Po-tah-to.” Bianca laughed harder “You’re my favourite sister.”

“I’m your only sister, dumbass.” Cordelia smirked. “Now back to the text messages. What should I say?”

“I think you were right. Don’t respond at all.”

Cordelia’s forehead wrinkled. “That’s pretty much the opposite of what I thought you would say.”

Bianca tossed some money on the table, pushed herself out of the booth, and held out her hand to her sister. “Whatever she thinks, she’s the one making this choice. Not you. Don’t give her any ammo to make her think she’s right.”

 

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