Archive | December, 2012

Semester of Thursdays: Chapter 14

28 Dec

Remember, if you’re tired of reading this online and waiting for chapters to trickle in every Friday, you can purchase a digital copy on Amazon or Smashwords for only $2.99!

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CHAPTER 14

Our inevitable conversation had started out the same as every other Thursday.  I had been given a reprieve last week; I wasn’t as lucky today.  Lena had invited me out, but not to a bar.  One of the fraternities was having a social and she was begging me to escort her.

“Who all is going to be at the party?”

“Everyone unless you decide to turn down the invitation.  Then it will be everyone but you.”

“Like who everyone, exactly?”  I tried to keep my question nonchalant.

“Does it matter?”

“No, not really.”

The dawning of a very dangerous realization sparked in her blue eyes.  “It does to you.”

“No, it doesn’t,” I argued feebly, knowing it did.

“The question is: why does it matter to you?”

“Like I said—”

“It never has before now,” she mused, working through the mystery.

“And it still doesn’t.”

“You could always come to the party and see for yourself,” she suggested.

“Why on earth would I want to do that?”

“Because I may forget someone vital when I give you my report on the guest list tomorrow.  And then you may get angry with me and decide to end our friendship.  I can’t allow that to happen.”

“Lena, I was simply being polite in asking, trying to show some interest in your social life.”

“Meredith, you’re never polite and you don’t care about my social life.”

“Thanks,” I stood from our couch too quickly, revealing my earnestness to escape.  I made it up four steps when something clicked in Lena’s scattered mind.

“It’s him isn’t it?  You want to know if he’s going to be there tonight.”

I grimaced at my hand on the banister, frozen in my tracks.  Of course she would figure it out.  “I don’t know who you’re talking about,” I lied, the statement weak to my own ears.

“You’ve got some sort of thing for Remington.”  Her voice was mystified—and perilous.

“I do not have a thing for anyone but my boyfriend.”

Like usual, she ignored me.  “I thought you two had been getting cozy in your last few private conversations.”

“We were not cozy,” I said sternly, immediately defensive.  I was a loyal girlfriend not the type of girl who got cozy with other men, no matter how sexy they were.  “He is rude and inconsiderate and… and… impolite.”

“That may be, but he is really, really, really hot,” she said, as if that factor excused his lack of manners and courtesy.

“I fail to see how that makes his behavior acceptable.”

“People can do whatever they want when they look like that.”

“Commit murder?” I shot back.

“Automatic pardon from the President himself.”

“If that’s the case then maybe I should contract him out to take care of a certain roommate problem I’ve been dealing with for five years.”

Lena grinned, unworried.  “He’d get away clean.”

“All because he’s sexy, right?” Very, very, very sexy.  She hummed the confirmation I didn’t need.  “You’re shallow.”

“And you’re too deep.”

I stuck my tongue out at my best friend; it was an immature but slightly better alternative to slapping her—although not nearly as gratifying.

“So are you coming to the party?  To answer the question you wanted to ask earlier but danced around, I highly doubt Remington will be there.”

Slapping her was looking better and better.

“I guess I can make an appearance.”  She was well aware that she had me in a catch twenty-two.  If I didn’t accept then she would immediately think the reason stemmed from the lack of Remington’s presence.  If I did accept then I would be expected to show up and play nice.

“Excellent!  Oh, Mer, I almost forgot.”

“What?”

“It’s a costume party.”

My stomach dropped.  She may have forgotten, but the lapse in memory had been deliberate.  “A… costume party?” I repeated, cringing against the memory of the last time Lena had gone out in costume.

“Yes!”

“You remember what happened on Halloween, right?”

The thought sent shivers down her spine.  “Come on, it’s not that kind of costume party!”

Thank God.  “What’s the theme?”

“80’s prom!” she squealed excitedly, believing I was going to play along.

Prom was an experience I never wanted to relive—much like Halloween.  “I don’t have a dress.”  Or a desire to wear one.

“Problem solved.  I picked one up for you at Goodwill earlier.  By the way, you owe me five bucks.”

“Lena?” I asked, rightfully suspicious.  “When did you buy the dress?”  Besides classes, my roommate had been at the apartment the entire day.

She gave me a sheepish smile.  “Honestly?”

“No, I want you to lie to me.  Of course honestly!”

“Last week,” she confessed.

I pinched the bridge of my nose, secretly hoping the budding migraine would get worse so I could cop out of the party plans.

“I’ll give you money for the dress but I’m not going to wear it.”

“Mer, you can’t go to a theme party without dressing up!”  Her indignation was hilarious.

“I either come or I dress up.  Which is going to be?”   At this point she was lucky I was giving her a choice.

“You make no sense.”

“I make perfect sense.  A or B?” I pushed.

“I should say B and let you get all dressed up in the taffeta and spandex creation I found for you just to see if you’d go through with it.”

“But you won’t.”  Sometimes I knew her better than I knew myself.

“I can’t promise they’ll let you in if you don’t come in costume.”

“I’ll take my chances.”

***

My best friend had been right about one thing; I was the only one at the party without a costume.  That is until Alec arrived.  Of course the focus of Lena’s interest had come in character—replete with powder blue tuxedo and matching top hat.  But his best friend, the one who wasn’t supposed to show up, looked unabashedly under-dressed.

They found their way to us across the crowded, taffeta-cluttered room.

Remington scowled at me.  At this point his sour moods were comforting.  I wouldn’t know what to do with him if he was polite.

“Where were you last week?” His tone was accusing, immediately raising my hackles.

“I had a rough week at work and was too tired by the time I got home.”  I hadn’t made the conscious decision to answer him; it had just slipped out as a result of manners painstakingly instilled by my mother.

“Oh, okay.”  He seemed placated by my answer.  “That’s what Lena had said.”

“If you already knew then why did you ask me?”

He shrugged.  “I’m not sure.”

“Why does it matter to you anyway?’

“Because I missed you.”

He. Missed. Me?  My mind repeated the words slowly, attempting to register the odd sentence.  He missed me?

“You… you did?” I stuttered.

“Yes,” he admitted to the bottle in his hand.  “There were women crawling around everywhere.  No one seems to bother me when you’re around.”  Except for me, I wanted to point out.  “Eventually I had to leave.”

“But not before subjecting them to the evil eye.”

His brows shot up, and I realized my mistake.

“You checked up on me?”

“Lena volunteered the information,” after a bit of coercion.

“Would you have asked if she hadn’t?”
“No.” Yes.  “Is that why you hang out with me, because I’m harmless?”

“What do you mean?” he asked, turning toward me, giving me an odd look.

“When every woman in the room wants you it has to be intimidating.”

“It’s not,” he said carefully.

“No?”  If our roles were reversed I would be incredibly intimidated.  Thankfully, most men didn’t notice me, especially when I was with Lena.  “Well that’s a relief.  Why not?  Weren’t you even the least bit interested in them?”  I held my breath as I waited for him to answer.

“No.  I wasn’t interested in the women who were at the bar last week.”

“Oh.”  The relief that coursed through my veins terrified me.

“Meredith?”

The way he said my name made my heart race inside my chest.  My face flushed; I prayed that he wouldn’t notice.  “Yeah?” I answered breathlessly.

“I don’t find you harmless.”  He studied me carefully.

The “prom queen,” sporting a sequined mermaid dress and plastic tiara, walked between us.  She stuck her chest out as she offered Remington a look of blatant interest; he ignored her.

“You didn’t dress up,” he added after the interruption.

“Neither did you,” I snapped, breaking past the daze his words had created.

“Alec bought me a matching suit.”

“And you passed up the opportunity to wear that ensemble?  I can’t believe it.”

“What’s the point in getting dressed up for prom when I didn’t have a date?”  His mouth pulled into a half smile.  “Did Lena have something for you as well?”

“Of course.  She bought the thing last week.  I only found out about the party today.”

“Alec is wearing his Halloween costume from five years ago.”

Our best friends were dancing to White Snake, holding tightly to one another.  When the song ended they made their way to the rose-encrusted backdrop for a prom photo.  Alec wrapped his arms around Lena and they both grinned toward the flash.  All that was missing was a corsage and boutonniere.

“They look like they’re having a lot of fun.”

“Not just them.  Everyone else seems to be enjoying themselves.”
“I’m sure you would be having just as much fun if you had given in and worn the tux.”  The thought was hilarious.  Never in a million years could I envision Remington dressing up and letting loose at a frat party.

“I’m still glad I didn’t.”

“Me too.”

“How was spring break?”

“What?  A normal, polite conversation?”  The surprising observation popped out before I could stop it.  What had brought this on?  I thought he winced but the movement around his eyes was too slight to be sure.  “What brought this on?”
“I’m not sure.”  He looked as if I had asked him a harder question than I had.

“I’m impressed.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”  He shifted his weight from his left to right leg.

Since he was being temporarily polite I decided to play along.   “Spring Break.  Huh.  It was what I imagine being the lone chaperone on a trip to Disneyland with thirty kindergartners would be like.  How was yours?”

“Uneventful.”

Remington and I stood in companionable silence for some time before either of us spoke again.  It was nice, comfortable—different.  Typically there was a raw tension between us.  Perhaps it was the lack of tension that allowed him to stand beside me for such a long time.  None of our other conversations had lasted as long as tonight’s.  It was… nice.

A girl I recognized from the shop came through the hallway, two men serving as a bracelet on each arm.

“That makes me sick.”  My statement pierced the easy stillness between us.

“What?”

“That girl who just walked in; the one escorted by two pledges.”
“You have a thing against red-heads?”

“No, but I do have a problem with people who don’t take their relationship seriously.”

His brows furrowed as he accepted the heat behind my statement.

“Is she married?” He leaned around a gangly guy who had come to stand in front of us, checking for a ring.

“Does she have to be for it to matter?”  I winced at the condescending note in my voice.  To most people it didn’t matter, even if they were married.

“No, not really.”

“Those guys crawl all over her, trying to get her to cheat on her boyfriend—which she probably will end up doing.  But she doesn’t realize the ramifications.”

“How much it will hurt him?” he assumed aloud.

“That, and how demeaning it will be for her.  Say she really likes one of those two.  She cheats and eventually breaks it off with her current boyfriend to be with the new guy,” I said, setting up the scenario.

He played along.  “Okay.”

“Can the new guy ever really trust her?  If she was willing to cheat for him what’s to stop her from cheating on him?”
Remington was silent for a moment.  His next sentence stunned me completely.  “You really do love your boyfriend.”

It wasn’t a question, rather a statement of fact.

“What does that have to do with anything?”  My own mind hadn’t been going in that direction; I had simply been speaking solely of a hypothetical situation.

Remington ignored my question.  “He’s a very lucky man.  Unfortunately for the rest of us, very few people share your opinions on this particular subject.”

“Do you?”  I wasn’t sure why his answer mattered, but it did.  Men rarely shared the same opinions on relationships as women.  But I wanted him to agree with me on this—I needed him to.

My breath caught in my throat as he turned, subjecting me to the full force of his stare.  But he didn’t answer me.  He didn’t smile or show any emotion on his beautiful face.  He turned away wordlessly, leaving me annoyed.  We had been having our first semi-civil conversation, and he had gone and ruined it with his aggravating stares.

“You do realize how incredibly rude you are, right?”  I said more to the empty bottle in my hand than him.  After all, the brown glass was more likely to respond and was a thousand times more polite.

“Yes,” he whispered.

“Okay.”

“It hasn’t stopped you from engaging me in conversation.”

He had me there.  I should have been avoiding him like an STD, but I wasn’t.  Why was that?

“Why do you suppose that is?” I asked.  Maybe he had an answer because it eluded me.

“I’m trying to figure that out.”

“Do you try to be profound or does it just slip out?” I asked angrily.  Remington hadn’t left yet, but I could feel that the end of my night with him drawing near.  It was almost as if a vortex was dragging him toward the doorway.  I stifled the realization that I wasn’t ready for tonight to be over.

“I don’t know what you mean,” he said innocently.

“Never mind.  You know, I think you like being mysterious, it’s part of your charm.”  And it was really, really annoying.  For countless nights, I had stayed awake, trying to figure him out—an infuriatingly impossible task.

He raised his eyebrows and his mouth tilted at the corner.  “Meredith, you think I’m charming?”

“Definitely not what I meant.” He was the opposite of charming.

He shrugged and crossed his arms across his muscular chest.  “Your words, not mine.  Hmmm… Charming, mysterious, and profound.  Quite a combination don’t you think?”

“Deadly.”

He chuckled.  “No wonder you want to spend so much time around me.”

Wait a second.  Was he flirting with me?  No.  There had to be some other explanation. Remington did not flirt.  And for good reason; if he put his mind to it he could get what he wanted.

“Hey!  Aren’t you Holden’s girlfriend?”
The two boys who interrupted us didn’t look familiar.  They were young, freshman or sophomores—frat pledges most likely.  The fact that they were dressed according to theme wasn’t surprising; however, both of them wore spandex dresses complete with footballesque shoulder pads and enough makeup to make a drag queen cringe.

“Yeah.”

“Cory, I told you it was Holden’s girlfriend.”

“She has a name,” Remington growled from behind me, his bad humor returned.

I glared at my neighbor.  He smiled meanly at the boys and completely ignored me.

“Mary, right?” The blonde one snickered.

“It’s Meredith, actually,” I corrected through clenched teeth, hoping to avoid that conversation again.

“Mary, we’ll see you later.  Tell your boyfriend Tommy and Corey said hi.”

Couldn’t anyone see that I was considerably more than just Holden’s girlfriend, Lena’s sidekick or the Virgin Mary?

The muscle in Remington’s ticked as he watched them stumble through the hallway.

“You’re going to run away now, aren’t you?” I whispered.

He didn’t look at me when he responded.  “Yes.”

He disappeared with along with his fading confirmation.

One of the questions Remington had asked me stuck in my mind.  Why did I continually engage him in conversation when, except for tonight, he was appallingly rude?  The answer was right in front of me like an epiphany.  Maybe I hung around with him because I was in no danger from him despite his movie-star good looks.  After all, he wasn’t a nice person so I didn’t have to worry about falling for him.

Remington was the one who was harmless.  Well, not exactly harmless; he could be a deadly threat if he had the inclination.  But I had known him for this long and he hadn’t even attempted to make a move on me.  Not that he would have even considered the idea.  Someone like him would never be interested in a girl like me.

He deserved someone like Lena.  Even though he had denied the fact, I knew I was harmless which, in turn, meant he was harmless.

Typically, intelligent human beings avoided unpleasant situation, but I planned on continuing our non-relationship of sharp silences, sharper glares, and angry exits.  He made me feel relaxed and friendly in comparison—an unfamiliar but pleasant feeling.

* * *

Giving Back

26 Dec

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I hope each of you had a blessed & safe Christmas filled with family, food & fun!

In an effort to give back this holiday season (and to start the New Year right), 100% of the royalties earned in January 2013 from BOTH of my books (Semester of Thursdays & The Mirrors at Barnard Hall) will be donated to this mission trip to the Hadassah Treatment Center in South Africa!

So if you’re planning to buy a copy (or even if you weren’t planning on buying a copy), how about you wait and make your purchase on January 1st? eBooks start at only $2.99!

If you’ve already read one/both of my books (THANK YOU!), remember, you can give a copy as a gift to a friend/family member you think might enjoy the story.  THEY get a book and the mission trip gets FUNDING!

EVERYONE WINS!!!

Happy reading, writing, & giving

-Jenny

NOW AVAILABLE: Semester of Thursdays

21 Dec

Today’s chapter marks the halfway point of Book #1 in Semester of Thursdays!

In publishing news: To celebrate the holidays, Semester of Thursdays is NOW AVAILABLE for only $2.99 on Kindle and/or Smashwords!

AND I have great news for Frostburg Staters: “LIKE” the Semester Facebook page and leave a comment saying “Go Bobcats!” (or something equally Frostburgian) to receive a $1.00 OFF code via SMASHWORDS!

Happy reading, writing, and wrapping!

-Jenny

Cover 1

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CHAPTER 13

“How was your night?”  I asked, more curious than I would admit aloud.  For all of my complaining about Lena dragging me out on Thursdays I was sorry I had missed out on the night.

“It was mildly entertaining.”

“Only mildly?”

“Yeah.”

I waited for all the seedy details.  When she looked like she was going to speak again I found myself leaning forward in my chair.

“Sometimes I surprise myself.”

“What do you mean?”

“I know people think I’m some sort of out-of-control hussy who sleeps with everyone.”

“That’s not entirely true,” I offered.  Of course I could only speak for myself.

She shrugged, indifferent.  “What can I say?  I’m fickle.”

A snort slipped out before I had time to stifle the rude noise.  “Congratulations, Lena.  You have just made the understatement of the century.”

“Okay then.  What would you call it?” she challenged.

Was it possible to describe my best friend without sounding callous or spiteful?

“I would tell you but my mother would be appalled at the words I’d be forced to use.”

She grinned, impishly.  “Anyway, I’d agree with people’s opinions most of the time.  Then, out of nowhere I surprise myself.”

“Do you know how many men I could have gone home with last night?”

Yes, I did.  It would include the entire male population at every Frostburg bar within a five-mile radius.

“I don’t think I learned to count that high.”

“Funny, Mer.  Regardless, the point is that I didn’t.  I had no desire to.” Her voice was softer now, thoughtful.  She sounded in awe of this revelation.

“Why do you think that is?”  I had a vague theory building.

“No tequila?”

“Smart choice.  Common occurrence?”  In the past a tequila-riddled night ultimately ended with an accident.

Lena pondered the question for enough time to make me believe her response.  “Could become a habit.”

“I wonder…”

“What?”

“Could this change in behavior be more than the result of a low blood alcohol level?”

“Where are you going with this, Mer?” She scowled at me, predicting my theory.

“Could it be a who?”

Lena considered my question seriously as though the thought hadn’t even crossed her mind.  And it probably hadn’t.  She wasn’t the kind of woman easily swayed by another human being.  The idea that she could change—would be willing to change—for someone else would be foreign to her.

She left my question unanswered and moved to the next subject.

“Someone asked about you last night.”

My heart thumped against my t-shirt.  I decided to ask the question even though I already had a good idea the name of the person she was referring to.  But why would Remington have asked about me?

“Who?”

Lena’s answer mattered more than it should have.  “Remington.”

His name, the confirmation it represented, sent shivers down my spine.  The last time I had spoken to Alec’s best friend he had left before our conversation could lead anywhere concrete.  Oh wait, that had happened every week.

“Remington asked about me?” I repeated what I thought she had said.

“Yeah.”

“What did he say?”

“He just asked where my babysitter was.  Thanks for that, by the way.”

“It was probably because he couldn’t remember my name,” I explained.

She chewed her lip as she mentally replayed her conversation with the stunning man.  Her silence was infuriating.

“Lena,” I prompted.

“No, I don’t think that was why.”

“You’re not going to convince me otherwise,” I said stubbornly, crossing my arms against an odd, unwelcome feeling building in my chest.

“Okay.”  Lena moved to leave the room, but I stopped her.  Had that been the extent of their conversation?

“Did he say anything else?”  Had his face given anything away?  Had he been friendly for once or was he still the rude man from a few weeks earlier?  Had he smiled?

Lena raised her eyebrow but let my eagerness slide.  “Not really. He left soon after, said he had a test in the morning or something.  Although…”

She was baiting me.  What’s worse was that biting was inevitable.

“Although what?”

“He did look awfully lonely sitting at your table all by himself.”

“I don’t care.”  Had I said that aloud to convince my friend or myself?  “He doesn’t like me anyway.”

“He likes you more than the other girls last night.”

So much for feigning indifference, Meredith.  “Why?  What happened?”

“Some girl walked up to him with a drink in her hand, one she had bought for him.  He just stared blankly at her until she ran away.”

Poor girl.  Even now I could picture the disdain that would have tainted his stare.  I almost laughed… almost.  I must be stronger than the nameless girl; Remington had been the one to run from me.

“He didn’t say a word or even try to be cordial.”

“So basically nothing has changed.”

“Nope.  And she wasn’t the only one he’d had to fend off.  Women were swarming over him like ants on candy.  Alec thought it was hilarious.  So, anyway, Remington must really like you.”

I highly doubted that.  Remington didn’t try to be cordial to me either, not really.

When I didn’t say anything she continued.  “You’re the only one he will talk to besides Alec and me.  And he’s only said a total of three words to me.”

“He hasn’t said much more to me.”

“Maybe…”

“There’s more isn’t there?”  What wasn’t she telling me?

“Nope.”

“You’re a horrible liar.”

“Remington is just too much work.”  She shook her head with a thoughtful smile.

“I’ve never heard you turn away from a challenge.”  Would she get bored with her easy victory, change her mind, and decide to pursue Alec’s best friend?

I studied her with an unnatural intensity, waiting for some change in her demeanor.  She only shrugged and returned to her room, still seemingly indifferent, leaving me alone with my errant thoughts.

 * * *

It’s hard to believe next week’s chapter will be after Christmas… where as 2012 gone!?

Big Cover Reveal

17 Dec

I’m excited to reveal the eBook cover from my second book, Semester of Thursdays.  What do you think?

Stay tuned for details on the official release date!

-Jenny

Cover 1

Semester of Thursdays: Chapter 12

14 Dec

* * *

CHAPTER 12

“You are coming to Spring Break this year,” Lena announced from the cushion beside me.  We had ordered pizza again only this time my roommate had blessedly decided to keep her clothes on.  The same boy from the last episode had showed up, pie in hand and a grin on his youthful face.  Unfortunately for him, his only tip this time had been a crisp five-dollar bill.

“What gave you that idea?”

“It’s not an idea; it’s a statement of fact,” she corrected. “Even if I have to tie you up and throw you in the trunk I’ll get you there.”

“As much as I would love to go somewhere exotic for a week, I really can’t.”

“Yes, you can,” she insisted.

“Some of us work.”

“You’re the boss.”

“What does that have to do with this?”  If anything, being the boss made it harder to leave.  The salon was my child; no good would come from leaving her unattended for an entire week.
“It means you can take a week off whenever you want to.”

“Lena, you know appointments are scheduled over a month in advance.”

She sighed, exasperated by my constant attempts to ruin the plans she had meticulously created in the distorted corners of her mind.  “I suppose it’s a good thing your staff is willing to cover for you.”

I twisted to face her, eyeing my best friend warily.  “What are you talking about?”

“I’ve done pre-conversation research.”

“What kind of research, Lena?”

“Nothing too in-depth,” she said unapologetically.  “I just talked to your people.  They practically begged me to take you away.”
“No doubt,” I muttered, feeling betrayed.

“In the end all of you will be showering me with gratitude.”

“No doubt,” I repeated.

“Come on.  You haven’t taken a vacation since you opened the place two years ago.  What good is success if you can’t enjoy it?”

“Where are you planning to go?”  Her face brightened at my inquiry.  “Not that I’m in any way considering the idea,” I added as a disclaimer.
“Florida.”

“Sensible.  I’m impressed.”  Last year she had gone to Costa Rica, the year before that Cabo San Lucas.  Luckily, my fledgling business had provided the perfect excuses back then.

She shrugged.  “It’s cheaper.”

“Doubly sensible.”  I was doubly impressed.  “Where in Florida?”  If she said a place where retired people made up 98% of the population then I would be worried that aliens had stolen my friend’s brain.

“Daytona Beach.”

“Who is going?”  My questions were getting her hopes up, but I was genuinely curious.  Before she brought it up the thought of joining her hadn’t even crossed my mind.   But now that the seed had been planted I couldn’t help but calculate the feasibility.

“A few girls and me—and you.”

“No guys?”

“Why bring our guys when we can find some down there—complete with killer tans and different area codes.”

“Why indeed?”  What had I been thinking?  Oh wait, I know.  I had been thinking that Lena had really liked Alec.  Silly me.

“No worries.  You’re forgiven if you come.”

I grimaced.  “There are conditions to your forgiveness?”

“Always,” she admitted unabashedly.

A commercial for Progressive Insurance came and went before I said anything more.  “I still don’t know, Lena.”  The thought alone of the migraine brought about by the required preparation was daunting.  There were appointments to be re-scheduled, duties to be delegated, contingency plans to be drawn…

“When is it?”

“This coming week.”

“Lena, you can’t be serious!  Couldn’t you have told me sooner?”  Next week?  Impossible.

“If I had told you any sooner you’d have too much time to think of an excuse.  I have to be strategic when it comes to you.”

“I don’t need an excuse.  All I have to do is say no.”

“Pleaseee?  You know this is my last spring break and it may be the last time we have the opportunity to go on vacation together.  You should say yes for me.”

I groaned and held my aching head in my hands.

“Pretty please?”

Was there any other kind of please with Lena?

“Possibly,” I conceded.  It would be a miracle if I could rearrange my schedule and finish everything else in time to go with her.

“Great!  You owe me two-hundred bucks for the hotel whenever you get a chance.”

Was I that easy to predict?  “You know I’m too old for spring break, right?”

“That’s not true, Mer!  You’re the same age as me!”  I raised my eyebrow in an effort to mentally communicate what I had been implying.  “Are you saying I’m too old?  I’m still in college so I deserve a spring break.  Fortunately they don’t make age a qualifying factor for the event.  I’m going to go on spring break till I’m at least forty.”

“That’s because you’re a teacher.”  She would still be rocking a tiny pink bikini, making the eighteen-year-olds jealous of her killer body for years to come.

“So?”

“Spring break is built in to your eight-month work schedule.”

She grinned.  “Yeah, I chose a great profession.”

I couldn’t argue with that.

 

***

 

Eight girls in 2 separate vehicles with two very different GPS units did not make for a smooth drive to Florida.  No one thought to check the settings menus to see if the devices were set to shortest time or shortest distance until we hit Savannah.  The two faceless voices fought about exits and routes for thirteen hours.  Even a week later, if I heard that annoying electronic voice say “recalculating” one more time I was going to go postal.

As anticipated, I had been cast in the role of mother hen for the week.  I had been responsible for collecting my chicks at the end of five messy nights and obtaining vital hotel details, phone numbers, and license plate numbers of the random men who picked up one of the weaker ones.  Some of the girls had refused to listen to the statistics of STDs and rape—all of which I had made more drastic as the week had progressed.  None of them had noticed or heeded my dire warnings.

Each night I had explained why video cameras at spring break didn’t make a person famous in a way she wanted to be remembered.  Several of the girls had left Florida with some heavy regrets and in need of a heavier dose of penicillin.

Except for Lena, which had been a pleasant surprise. My best friend had spent most of her time worrying that I wasn’t having a good vacation as I voluntarily taxied a perpetually over-filled car back to our hotel.

But I couldn’t complain about everything.  When morning rolled around we awoke to six cloudless days of eighty-degree weather.  I devoured three phenomenal books and returned to Maryland with what I considered a fantastic tan—Lena had even admitted that I was “darker pale.”  And our hotel had been ideal.  It had boasted three pools and a miniature golf course surrounded by a lazy river—where I had spent most of my free time, drifting with the sluggish current.

Never mind the fact that the ride home had taken an extra three hours; coordinating bathroom breaks and other vital needs of eight women had been impossible.

We had been back for nearly a week and another Thursday upon us.  Lena had left to troll the bars for men and she hadn’t bothered to extend an invitation.  My salon had barely survived without me—a result of little advanced warning and hasty planning.  She owed me for enduring the sixteen-hour trip twice.  The least I deserved was to be left in peace for a night.

“Hey, honey,” I greeted after the third ring.  Over the break there had been very little free time to talk with Holden.  He had either been busy at work or it had been too loud to hear my phone over the pulsing music and incessant giggles.

“Hey, Mer.  Have you recovered from Spring Break?”  He had been jealous when I had told him we were going to the beach for the week.  He lived in Jacksonville but rarely had time to enjoy the close proximity to the ocean because of his hectic work schedule.

“Not really,” I whined.  “I’m lucky the salon didn’t spontaneously combust in my absence.”

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“One of Chelsea’s loyal customers had Charlie cut and style her hair yesterday because Chelsea had the day off.  When Chelsea stopped in she threw a fit.  If you could have heard the shouting you would have thought world war three had been declared.  Luckily, she waited until the woman left and took the issue to the break room in order to avoid a scene.

“She has since apologized for over-reacting, but I’m getting sick of her catty behavior and diva antics.  I should have fired her months ago but she’s too good to hand over to the competition.  Besides Charlie, Chelsea is my most requested stylist.  And then there’s the fact that I haaaaate firing people.”

“Wow, Mer.  You’re in a rare mood today.”

I smiled, feeling better already.  I had wanted to tell Lena but she had left before I had the chance to calm down enough to relate the story.  “Sorry, I just needed to vent.”

“Don’t you usually do that with Lena or one of your other girlfriends?”  Holden’s voice was distracted.  Rowdy laughter bellowed through the receiver.

“Usually, but she’s out.  It’s Thursday, remember?”

“So that means I get subjected to it?”

Was he joking?  It was a rare occasion for me to whine to him about my life.  Surely enduring a two-minute rant every once and a while was acceptable, even expected.

“Yeah, you do.” I hoped he heard the warning in my tone.  I was still pretty fired up over work and needed sympathy, not more crap.

“I don’t know what you want me to do, Mer.”

“To do?  You don’t need… I don’t expect you to do anything!  I just wanted someone to listen.”

“Okay, I did that.”  Ungratefully.
“Sure,” I ground out, more annoyed.

“Are you finished with your venting or whatever?”

“Yeah, whatever.”  Inside I was seething.  If Lena had been around I would have needed a post-venting venting session.

“Great!” he said absentmindedly.  “We’re getting ready to head out so I’ll talk to you later.”

I couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye before I pressed END with enough force to turn off my phone.

 * * *

Chapter 13 goes up next Friday morning!  If you’re enjoying the story, tell a friend 🙂

Semester of Thursdays: Chapter 11

7 Dec

If you didn’t get the update this week, I’m currently working with my artist on the cover for Semester of Thursdays!  If you’re reading, I’d love to hear thoughts on what you imagine the image should be!

-Jenny
* * *

 

CHAPTER 11

It had been a bad week.  The shop had been busy and one of my staff had come down with the stomach flu so I’d had to pull three double-shifts.  And to make things worse I had made a catastrophic mistake last Sunday before Holden had flown back to Jacksonville.

“Mer, what’s wrong with you?”

I groaned, too tired to sleep but wanting nothing more than the oblivion it offered.  The weight of my actions was breaking me in half.  The burden was nearly too much; I had to tell someone.  For all her faults, Lena was a loyal friend; she could keep my secret.

If I was honest with myself I could admit that her keeping the secret wasn’t the issue.  I really wanted to avoid strong Lena’s opinions.  Since the humiliating display last Thursday she hadn’t been Holden’s biggest fan.  It tore me apart to choose between turning her more against him or confessing my sin.

“Are you sick or something?” she pressed when I didn’t immediately answer.

“No, I’m not sick.”  At least not in the way she meant.

“Well, if you are you had better not be contagious.  I have too many things to do that can’t happen if I’m puking my guts out.”

“I’m not contagious.”

“Then why have you been moping around all week and avoiding me like a leper?”

Because if I hadn’t avoided her she would have asked too many questions.  So much for my plan working.

“Lena, I did a bad thing last weekend.”

“What?” She plopped beside me on my bed, immediately switching from a germ-a-phobe to caring-friend.

“I looked at his phone.”

“Whose?”

“Holden’s.”

“Oh, no,” she whispered, realizing the ramifications of my actions.

“Oh, yes.”

“What did you see?”

“A lot of what I shouldn’t have,” I confessed.

“Like?”

“Well, he got a call from someone named Eileen.”

“Okay…” she awaited the scandalous part.

“And it was at one in the morning on Sunday.  I asked who it was when his phone rang, and he told me it was Joel.  Then after I saw who it really was I asked about her.”

The two of us had been up late watching a Will Ferrell marathon.

“Who is she?”

“He said she works with him.  But none of my employees call me that late unless it’s an emergency.”

“Of course not.”
“We were watching Talladega Nights and he was texting until three that morning, barely paying attention to me even though I was right beside him.  He wouldn’t have noticed if I had left the room.  If it was a problem with work he would have called her back, right?”  I knew the answer; I just needed to know someone agreed with me.  Justification went a long way in these situations.

“Right.”

“When he went to the bathroom I looked at their texts.  This Eileen girl wanted to know when he would be home and when she would get to see him again.”  And if he worked with her she would see him Monday morning.

There were other parts to the conversation, inappropriate words exchanged, that I could never share with Lena.

“Mer, I’m so sorry.”

“What do I do?”  And how was I supposed to get rid of the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach?
“You need to tell him what you saw.”

“How can I?” I asked, more shrilly than I had intended.  “He’s going to think I’m psychotic.”

“Maybe not.  But you need to give him a chance to explain.”

“But—”

“It’s only going to get worse if you allow it to rot in your brain.”

The pity in her eyes was unbearably frustrating.  I couldn’t use pity to make the situation any better.

“Okay.”  I knew all along that this would be the advice she would offer.  What I had needed was the push.  Otherwise the words written by that faceless girl would twist in my brain until I lost it completely.

“Call him now, before you loose your nerve.”

“Okay.”

Even as the phone rang I prayed it would go to his voicemail.  If he didn’t answer then it wasn’t as if I hadn’t tried.

Coward.

“Hello?”

My heart pounded, marking the silent seconds like a metronome.  “Hi.”

“What’s up, Mer?” Holden said lightly.  The buzz in the background meant he was in the shop at work.
“I have a question.”

“Shoot.”

“Don’t get mad though.”  The disclaimer really was pointless; he was going to get angry regardless.  It just set the tone for the conversation so Holden was prepared for what was coming.  He knew something was wrong immediately.

“Okay….”

“Promise?”

“Mer, what is it?”

“Well, this weekend I looked at your phone.”

A spot of silence punctuated my sentence.

“You did what?”

I straightened and prepared for the impending argument.  “I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway.”

“Why would you… How often do you do that?” Holden asked, his voice cold.

“This was the first and last time.”  I couldn’t handle the knowledge.

“I can’t believe you would invade my privacy like that.  I would never do that to you.”

No, he wouldn’t.  But I would never give him cause for concern that would drive him to go to such measures.  And if he ever did he wouldn’t find anything even remotely inappropriate from some random guy.  I did not make a habit of giving out my number to people who didn’t absolutely need it.

“I know. But that doesn’t change the fact that I did it.  Anyway, I read some pretty suggestive text messages from your ‘co-worker.’”  It was important for him to hear the quotation marks in my voice.

“Which one?  If Jerry said anything you can just disregard—”

“It wasn’t Jerry.”  And he knew it.

“Then who?”

“Eileen.”  It was hard to keep my even tone as I said her name. Angry tears blinded me.  Thankfully we were having this conversation over the phone.  I couldn’t face him in my current state.

“Oh come on, Mer.  We were just joking around.”

Joking around?  Seriously?  “It was inappropriate.”

“No, you looking at my private stuff was inappropriate.”

“I would never say those things to someone who wasn’t my boyfriend,” I pointed out.  And even then I wouldn’t have used that type of language. “You humiliated me.”  Again.  This time it had been a less public embarrassment, but the result had been the same.

He heaved a sigh.  “She was the one who was inappropriate, not me.  Tell me one thing I said that was wrong.”

Even though the electronic conversation had played in my mind over and over this week I couldn’t think of the specifics right now.  Besides, specifics didn’t matter.  “The whole conversation shouldn’t have happened.”

“Come on.  You took it out of context.  If you ever go through my things again this is over.  How can I trust you when you are constantly going behind my back?”

“Constantly?”

“Once is too many times.”

“I don’t know,” I whispered, more humiliated at being “that girl”—the one who examines her boyfriend’s phone and questions his every word.

“Well, let me know when you figure it out.”

When I put the phone down Lena came back into the room and sat at my cluttered desk; she had probably eavesdropped on the entire exchange from the safety of the dark hallway.

“How did it go?” she asked unnecessarily.  Her voice was just a bit too shrill to be unaware.
“Not so good,” I said miserably.

“What did he say?”

“He said I misread the meanings, took the messages out of context.”

Lena’ face turned the same shade of red as the Alabama T-shirt she wore.  “They shouldn’t have been there in the first place!”

“That’s what I said.”

She groaned loudly.  “Then what?”

“Then he asked how he was supposed to trust me when I did something like this.”

“When you did… Mer, he’s turning this around on you!”

“Yeah, I know.”  I was willing to take some of the blame.  After all, I did invade his privacy.

“I’ve never known you to allow someone to do that to you.”

Once again, Meredith Westbrook was a spineless pushover.  “I shouldn’t have looked.”

“But you needed to, don’t you see that?”

“No.  If I hadn’t looked then…” I could still be blissfully unaware.

“This could have been going on the whole time and you would never have known.”

“What could have been going on?” I asked angrily.  “If he read some of our messages he could take them the wrong way too.”

She got up and walked to the door.  Just before she left she turned to me.

“You know that if you have to justify his behavior then it’s not right.  If you feel the need to look there’s usually something more going on.”  The pity was back again.

“I know,” I whispered to the empty room.

***

“Ugh!  I have nothing to wear tonight!” The shout blaring from Lena’s room cut through my haze of despair.

My eyes rolled at the distress in her voice.  “Nothing” consisted of a closet that could fit no more hangers, drawers that wouldn’t close, and two plastic bins filled to capacity beneath her bed.  A person risked her life every time she entered the confines of the time bomb lovingly referred to as Lena’s lair.

“I thought you went shopping Tuesday and bought an outfit specifically for tonight.”

Although I wasn’t sure where she had stored her purchase.  Pretty soon she would be asking me if she could rent some space in my own bare closet.
“I did?”

“Yes, you did.  You asked me to go and then refused to speak to me after I told you ‘No’”.

“Oh, yeah.  What did I buy again?”

“That purple thing.”  She had called it a dress, but I was still skeptical.

“Oh, yeah.  Now I remember.”

“Why don’t you wear that?”

“Because there’s a department-store conspiracy.”

Nothing was ever simple with Lena.  “Sure there is.”

The stomping grew progressively louder until she appeared at my doorway.  “Seriously, Mer.  They do something with the lighting and mirrors and some hocus pocus with the aroma therapy to get you high.  Then, when you try on the overpriced garments, you think they make you look like Heidi Klum.”

In her matching Body by Victoria undergarments Lena did look like the supermodel so I couldn’t see what the problem was.  I had never felt like Heidi Klum in any of the stores I had ever been in; maybe I wasn’t shopping with her enough.

“Little do you know, when you get back and actually plan on wearing the dress, you’ve gained twenty pounds during the car ride home and have lost the tan you’ve paid for religiously.”

“So you think it looks bad today?  Is that what you’re saying?”  I had a hard time believing that; Lena looked good in everything, every day.

“Bad?” she sneered.  “That does not even come close to the disaster I charged on my MasterCard Tuesday.”

“The mall doesn’t close for another couple of hours.  Just return it and get something else.”  Sometimes she couldn’t see the obvious solutions.  That was what I was for: obvious solutions.

“I took off the tags.”

“Why would you do that without trying it on?”

“I did try it on!  Haven’t you been listening to me?”
“Again,” I countered.  “Why didn’t you try it on again?”

“Because it was flawless two days ago.”

I lifted my eyes to heaven, praying for patience.  More than likely the dress was still just as flawless.  “Go put it on and let me see.”

And just like a petulant two-year-old, Lena crossed her arms and jutted out her chin.  “No,” she pouted.

“I could always come in there and make you if you want to do this the hard way,” I threatened.

Just as I was about to make good on my promise my phone rang.  It was Holden.  We had only exchanged a handful of tense words in the days since I had confessed my gravest sin.

“Hello?”  I hated how weak and unsure my voice sounded.  After five years together I shouldn’t have been unsure.
“Hey.  How are you?”

“Fine.”  I said hesitantly, gauging his mood.

“I’m sorry about this past weekend.”
“You… you are?”  Where had this change of attitude come from?

“Yeah, and I want to make it up to you.”

What was going on?  Usually I was the one who caved and ended up offering the apology even when it wasn’t my fault.  As a matter of fact, I had been planning on calling him tomorrow.  This was a pleasant, astounding change.

“Okay…”

“I’m coming home Saturday!” he said, excited.

“You are?”  My tone matched his.

“Yep.  I’ll be in Frostburg by four.”

“Couldn’t you get a flight tomorrow?”  The sooner I could see Holden the better I would feel about the entire situation.  I needed to watch his face and gauge his sincerity.  Words were too easy to say and emotions were too easy to mimic over the phone.

“No, have to work late Friday so I can leave Saturday.”  The frustration broke his voice.

“That’s okay.  It’s great news.  I’m excited to see you.”

“Me too.  I’ve gotta get back to work now though.  Love ya, Mer.”

“I love you too.”

And just like that we crossed from the murky waters of relationship limbo into the calm, open sea of confidence.

“So, what’s the deal?”  Lena asked from the hallway.

“Holden will be home Saturday.”

“Just like that?”

Her flippant tone rankled.  “Just like what?”

“You forgive him.”

I shrugged.  “That’s what you do when you love someone.”

Lena stuck out her tongue but allowed a smile.  “Does this mean we’re going out tonight?”

“What does this situation have to do with me going out?”

“We can celebrate?” She offered.

I had been miserable all week but now felt oddly buoyant.  I had to work in the morning but all of the sudden the energy that had eluded me during the past four days found me with full force.  Sleeping was now the last thing on my mind.

“Okay,” I agreed with a grin.

“Oh, come on, Mer,” Lena whined.

“Lena, did you hear me?”
“Hear you what?”

“I’m coming.”

An hour later Lena and I were back at Bowery Street Pub.  All the hype from the week earlier had died down.  The majority of students had returned to their standard haunts.  When we got to the bar our normal table in the corner was empty.  The sight should have thrilled me.  Most of the time no one bothered me at that table.  But there was usually one other person enjoying invisibility with me.

Lena’s shoulders slumped slightly when she didn’t see Alec—or his best friend.

One of the men who had been holding up the bar approached us.

“Hey, Lena,” he said, smiling at her and ignoring me.

This was the first week since I had met Alec that he hadn’t been where we were before we knew we were going there.  Come to think of it, Lena’s phone had been suspiciously silent all week.

Had I been too preoccupied with my own unsteady relationship to see that she may have needed me?  Were she and Alec still together?  He seemed to make her happy; that was all that mattered to Lena.  Well, that and the fact that he hadn’t bored her yet.

Lena turned to the intruder and flashed her beautiful grin, effectively concealing her disappointment.  “Hey Garrett,” she welcomed.

I felt even less like making polite conversation than usual—not that I was going to be included in the exchange.  So I slinked to my corner spot to people-watch.

Ten uninteresting minutes later I was bored out of my mind.  The faces surrounding me were vaguely familiar; everyone tended to revolve around the same spots from week to week like assigned seating in a classroom.

Each time the door opened to admit another guest my heart quickened.  I tried not to think of why that was.  After all, my boyfriend was in Jacksonville working until Saturday.

Another young man waited by the bar, leaning casually toward me.  I looked up and our eyes connected unintentionally—at least on my part.  My face flushed.  The stranger looked pointedly at the empty table in front of me then turned back to the bar, his intentions clear.

I prayed Lena would come over and save me from a pointless conversation with the guy.  But my friend was still by the door, waiting patiently for Garrett to finish whatever titillating story he was telling her.
The door opened again, and my heart stopped.  Remington stomped in, drawing the gazes of everyone in the bar.  He ran his hands through his dark hair to dislodge the wet flakes.  Lena twisted to smile at the newcomer, and a pang of jealousy settled into my gut.

Wait. Jealousy?  No, that couldn’t have been it.

Remington nodded to her then saw me sitting at our table.

Our table?  Why did my subconscious categorized Remington and me as a unit?  He left Lena to her conversation and came to take his customary seat beside me just as he had the first time we had met.

When Alec didn’t follow through the entrance, I eyed Remington suspiciously.  “How did you know we were going to be here?”  The question slipped out as an accusation.

He leaned back in his seat, surprised that I had initiated a conversation this early in the evening.  “I didn’t,” he confessed.

“Liar.”

“Can’t we show up at the same bar without having one another be the reason for our presence?”

“You tell me.  You’re the one who sought me out,” I pointed out.

“Sought you out?” he repeated.  “Is that what you’ve been doing when you’ve joined me at my table the past few weeks?”

“That’s not what I meant.”  Definitely not.

“What did you mean, Meredith?”

What had I meant?  My head spun as I tried to remember what my purpose had been.  “We were just here first.”

He arched his eyebrows in confusion.  “And that means I’m expected to avoid the place?  I was here before you last week and I didn’t try to run you off.”

Last week was not a topic I wanted to discuss.

“Fine.  You can stay.”  Not that I had possessed the authority to make him leave in the first place.

“Thanks,” he drolled.

“But it’s a big bar…”  I looked meaningfully at each empty table around us then turned toward him, my eyebrow raised in silent command.

He scowled, knowing exactly what I had meant.  “I don’t know anyone else here.”

“Where’s Alec?”

Remington shrugged.  “He’s not coming out tonight.”

As if that explained anything.  “Well, you’re not going to meet anyone new when you’re shutting yourself off in a corner.”

He gave me an odd look, his expression unreadable.  I turned away before he did.

“Weren’t you telling me just a few weeks ago that a bar was not a good place to meet people?”

Had I said that?  My brain was a bit too muddled to remember.  “I didn’t expect you to listen.”

“Oh, well.  I don’t feel very sociable anyway.”

A bubble of laughter escaped before I could rein it in.  Remington never felt sociable.  “So, you came to a bar on the busiest night of the week, sought me out, and are not feeling sociable?  You’re talking to me.”

“Something I should probably not be doing,” he confessed to the table.

“No?”

He looked at me; a wrinkle formed between his eyebrows.  “No,” he said harshly.

Instead of explaining, Remington got up and escaped through the back door.

“What did you say to him this time?”  Lena suddenly asked from beside me.

“I have no idea.”  Maybe there was something about my face that offended him from week to week.

“But he just got here.”

“Yeah, I know.”  He hadn’t even bought a drink.

“What do you two even talk about?” she asked, ignoring the fact that I hadn’t turned to look at her.

The wide back door pulsed with tension.  What had just happened?  He had left, but this time there had been something different behind his exit.

“Nothing.  That’s just it,” I said, frustrated.  “Our conversations start out civil then, inevitably, just when I feel like he’s going to say something nice, he just walks away.”

“Without a word?” Lena scoffed.

“Yes!”  Without a word or a second thought.  “You can’t imagine how frustrating it is.  He’s so condescending most of the time.”

“I know you complained about him but you whine about everything.”

My arms crossed protectively over my chest.  “I do not.”

She chewed on her lip.  “Alec said he was difficult and stubborn most days.  Next time he comes to talk to you, do you want me to save you?” she asked seriously.

Did I want that?  No.  That was easy—too easy.  “No.”

“I’m so glad Alec isn’t like that.”

“So am I, for your sake.”

 * * *

Remember, you don’t have to brave the cold to visit us next week for Chapter 12!

Mission to Africa

5 Dec

218829_1352206693.2684My little sister, Danielle, is currently raising money to fund a four-month mission trip to South Africa.  She is volunteering as a counsellor at a new inpatient substance abuse treatment center for women just outside of Johannesburg called The Hadassah Treatment Center.  I urge you to read more about the center and her previous trip to South Africa.  If you feel compelled to donate in this season of giving, know that every little bit helps.  Also, if you could share her story, the exposure will surely help her reach her goal.

 

Happy reading, writing, and giving.

-Jenny