Cordelia could feel the warm skein of sweat building on her skin as they hit the one hour mark of dancing. Fyvie stood on a raised platform behind his equipment, mixing songs as the audience bounced in rhythm. She closed her eyes and released the tension of the week with every jump. When she felt hands rest on her shoulders, she opened her eyes to Bianca’s glowing face.
“You know what, my sister?” Bianca’s grin was the biggest Cordelia had seen in a long time.
“You’re handling all this crap like a champ. You are a cool girl.”
“I guess so.” Cordelia’s lips curled into a shy smile.
“No guessing. This is a definite. If we’d come here a couple weeks ago, would you have danced with us?”
“And isn’t this way more fun than sitting on the sidelines?”
“If I was sitting over there, I’d be making out with Anson.”
“This week you would be.” Bianca smirked and nodded behind Cordelia. “It looks like you might be doing that soon if you want.” Turning, the twins watched Anson weave through the crowd with bottles of water. As he closed the gap, he handed one to each of the girls.
“You look really hot.”
“I know; it’s like a million degrees in here. Thanks.” She smiled at him.
“That’s not what I meant.” He pressed his lips close to her ear to be heard over the music.
“Oh.” Her cheeks redden, still not used to this kind of attention. She took a long drink from the bottle. “Well, it’s still hot as crap in here.” The music changed as the DJ began to spin her favourite song. Her back against Anson’s chest, she began to shimmy her hips to the beat. Halfway through the song, she felt Anson’s breath against her ear again.
“How into this song are you?”
“I love this song.” She tilted her face back to look up at him over her shoulder. “Why?”
“Would you be totally against taking a break?” He watched her eyebrows crimp and pulled her hips back into him. Her eyes widened as he pressed against her.
She patted her sister on the arm, “We’ll be back.”
“Take your time.” Bianca grinned. “If you see the other guys, send them out here to play with us.” Laughing, she bounced in between Kyle and Rayne. Cordelia held Anson’s hand as he led the way through the crowd and out the side door to the smoking area.
“You better not have brought me out here for a cigarette.” She joked, throwing her hands onto her hips. “Are you a dirty, dirty smoker?”
“Are you implying that I would bring you out here for something else? What could you possibly mean, Ms. Morgan?” He stopped not far from the doors, feigning confusion.
“Well…” She moved through crowds huddled under the warmth of heat lamps towards the dark back corner, making him follow her. She hopped up into the edge of one of the empty picnic tables and leaned back on her hands. “Since I won’t date a smoker, I was thinking something a little different.”
“A picnic?” He grinned.
“Yes. A picnic is exactly what I meant.” Reaching her legs forward, she hooked her feet behind his thighs and pulled him closer.
“Are you propositioning me?” He resisted the pull. “Would my sweet, shy girl do that?” She jerked her legs harder, making him stumble forward. Catching himself with his hands on the tabletop, he stops barely an inch from her face. Their warm breath fogged in the cool night air.
“Damn right. Sweet and shy doesn’t mean I don’t know what I want.” Her voice was low. Somewhere in the back of her head, she heard Danni’s voice, the old voice, the one telling her that someday she was going to meet the guy that was right for her, and the shyness would melt away. “I guess Danni isn’t a total headcase.” She mumbled.
“What’s that?” He pulled back a fraction of an inch.
“Danni used to tell me that with the right people, I won’t care about all the stupid stuff that makes me anxious and nervous.” She ran a hand up his arm. “Like with my friends.”
“I don’t make you nervous?” He smiled at her warmly.
“Only in the really good way.” She edged her face forward until her lips just brush against his. Playfully light at first, then a little harder. A small closed lip kiss. Teasing him. A growl rumbled in his chest and he pushed forward to catch her lips with his own. She wound her arms up around his shoulders, shifting her body against his. As his teeth caught her bottom lip, she felt an involuntary moan slide from her throat.
Anson’s lips trailed along her jawline and down her throat. Throwing her head back, Cordelia felt an unfamiliar rush of blood. She and Anson had kissed, but little more. But now she was starting to understand what her friends talked about when they said they wanted more. She wanted him to touch her. She wanted to touch him.
As the cool night air hit the skin exposed by Anson pushing her shirt off her shoulder, his fingers trailing down her chest, she took a deep breath and pulled back. “Anson.” The word was little more than a breath, but he understood.
“Too far?” His breathing shallow. His face flushed.
“Too public.” She looked over his shoulder to the throng of people mingling just beyond the shadows. Her legs loosened from around his waist and slid to dangle from the edge of the picnic table.
“We should go back inside.” He brushed a finger along her cheek as he pushed back a mass of curls. “Have I mentioned how much I love your hair?” His fingers twisted through the strands. The gentle tug against her scalp propelled her towards him. Her lips met his again. Her choice. The skin of his cheek was gently rough beneath her palm. She felt his breath intake as her hand slipped behind his neck and pulled him to her with lip bruising force.
“Cordi, please.” Anson stopped them this time, taking a big step back. The rush of air between them did little to cool the heat of her skin. Her fingers ran along the edge of her bottom lip, feeling the slight swell. She smiled to absentmindedly. Then the smile faltered and fell from her lips. “What’s wrong?” He hooked a finger under her chin.
“Nothing.” She mumbled. He waited, saying nothing. Finally, she caved. “I just wonder… never mind, it’s stupid.” He continued to wait. “Do you think that some of what Danni said is true?”
“How so?” He climbed up on the table beside her.
“Well, I’m out here with you. Making out in public. On a table. In a nightclub of all places.” He started to say something, but she lifted a finger to his lips. There was a lot more she wanted to say. Needed to say. And no one else would let her just say it. “Part of me feels like she’s not wrong. I’ve turned my back on my oldest friend. I’m letting the fact that a guy has finally paid some attention to me change the way I behave. If you hadn’t come into the picture, I’d probably be curled up at home watching a movie with Danni or reading a book.”
“Is that where you’d rather be?” His tone was even, but distant. “Would you rather I went away? If you feel like I’m making you do anything you don’t want to do, I will leave. If I ever make you feel that way, you have to tell me, because I never want to be that guy.”
“It’s not that. I haven’t felt pressured into anything.” She reached over and took his hand, intertwining their fingers. She thought about the comfort she felt when he stood behind her, an arm casually wrapped around her shoulders. His chin resting on her head. The rumble of his laughter through her back. “This feels comfortable with you. It’s easy in a way I never knew existed. I would never have predicted it, but I definitely don’t want it to end.”
“Then why all the anxiety?” He squeezed her fingers.
“I don’t want the option of a night curled up watching a movie with my best friend to be gone. I don’t want this to be the only thing I’m about now. Like being Danni’s friend was all I was before. I don’t just want to be Anson’s girlfriend. Am I becoming a completely different person? I look at us and wonder what happened to that terribly shy girl who did nothing without guidance from here her best friend. I want my changes to be my choice, not to please you.”
“You know I didn’t know that side of you, so this,” He brushed his hand down her arm, “is the only girl I know. These aren’t changes. This is Cordelia and I never want you to make a decision based solely on what you think I want. You tried out for the paper today. You didn’t even mention it. Did Danni tell you to do that?”
“Not at all. She talked me out of it at the end of last year.”
“Then you did that on your own. It had nothing to do with me at all.”
“You were the catalyst that started it, but I want to believe that it’s not all about you. I think it might have happened even if you hadn’t moved here.”
“From the little that I did see of that other girl, you kind of let Danni run the show.” He nodded.
“And I’m not doing the same thing with you?”
“Babe, if you were, we wouldn’t be talking right now.” The corner of his lip hitched up with a sly smile.
“We’d be making out, macho man?”
“We wouldn’t be together. I like girls with some damn pride.” He cradled her face in his hands. “Understand?”
Leaning forward, she kissed him gently. “I need to pee.” She jumped off the table and held out a hand for him. Back inside the club, she turned down the short hallway to the bathrooms. “I’ll meet you back at the table.”
“Yes, you will.” He kissed her hard before turning back to the club.
At the bathroom sink, she washed her hands, nose wrinkling against the off-putting smell of cheap bulk soap. She into the mirror, touching her lips again. Happy.
“You think you’re pretty hot shit now, don’t you?” A voice startled her out of her reverie.
Taking a deep breath, she turned to face the girl standing by the entrance. “What do you want, Robyn?” Cordelia held her shoulders square, but her insides were shaking.
“What exactly do you think you’re doing with Anson?”
“Um, dating him. You should understand, you date… oh wait. What you do isn’t exactly dating is it?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Robyn took a step towards her. Involuntarily, Cordelia stepped back, feeling the edge of the counter pressing into her back. Her eyes shifted towards the door, wondering how the bathroom could be so empty, when she’d waited in line just to get in.
“Guys want one thing from you, Robyn. They flash you a pretty smile and you spread your legs for days.”
“Are you calling me a slut?”
“Sleeping around doesn’t make you a slut.” Cordelia crossed her arms over her chest. “You only bang the guys that can do something for you. You’re a user, Robyn, and that’s what makes you a whore.” The words felt venomous. Dirty. She wished she could take them back. She hated treating anyone this way, but she couldn’t show weakness to this girl.
“And you were being a good little girl on the picnic table out there, weren’t you?” Flipping her phone towards Cordelia, she revealed a grainy picture of Cordelia and Anson wrapped around each other. “You’re not easy, right? First guy that pays attention to you and you’re throwing it away. What does that make you?”
“Shut your damn mouth!” The shaking stopped and Cordelia stepped away from the counter. This time it was Robyn’s turn to step back. “What Anson and I do together is none of your damn business.”
“He just feels sorry for you. Who wouldn’t? I mean look at you.” Robyn’s face wrinkled in disgust. “Dating someone hot doesn’t make you less fat.” Cordelia inhaled sharply, but didn’t reply. “He’ll get tired of you as soon as he’s done his good deed. Or sooner if Danni gets the job done.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
Robyn shrugged, a self-satisfied smirk on her face as she nonchalantly inspected her nails. “Let’s just say, the longer I keep you here, the shorter your ‘relationship’ with Anson will be.” Cordelia shoved her out of the way with her shoulder and burst from the washroom into the dimly lit hallway. Allowing her eyes a second to adjust, she wove through mingling crowds of students towards her table, searching for Anson’s curls above the other heads.