I’m in the midst of working on a revision of Thirteen for an agent, which has left me with a few blanks that need filling in. This is a scene I wrote over the weekend to try to fill one of those gaps.
I closed the door in Renee’s face, but she opened it back up. We glared at each until she said, “You’re a coward, Wavy Quinn.”
In sixth grade I was too old to fall for that trick. I was still too old. I flipped her off and reached for the door knob, but Renee held her ground.
“You say you’re done with Kellen, but then you’re not even brave enough to go on a date with anyone else. And you can pretend that you’re not ready or whatever, but the truth is, you’re not brave enough.” She said it all in a low voice, so I knew Joshua was still in the front room, waiting for me to go on a date I was sure I’d never agreed to.
“Pot calling kettle,” I said.
“That is such bullshit. Show me one time I was a coward about love.”
She thought she was bulletproof. She thought recklessness was the same thing as bravery. I stepped past her into the hall and walked toward the kitchen. Renee came after me.
In the front room, we passed Joshua, who looked confused. Not a Kellen kind of confused, where he was always worried he’d misunderstood or done or said something wrong. A pretty college boy kind of confused, where he thought someone else had made a mistake.
I stopped in front of the fridge and Renee was under such a head of steam that she bumped into my back when I did.
“You can’t just walk away from this. You can’t spend your whole life pining for someone who doesn’t even want you.”
I ignored that. It wasn’t anything I could bear to think about.
The napkin with Darrin’s phone number was right where Renee had put it. At the party, she took it from him with a smile and said, “Yeah, I’d love to go out.” Two weeks later it was still stuck to the fridge. She hadn’t called him. He wasn’t her type. He was a custodian and he wasn’t pretty. Not like Joshua. The other reason he wasn’t her type: he was too nice. Not enough drama. Not enough heartbreak.
I jerked the napkin off the fridge, sending the magnet flying. When I pinned the napkin to Renee’s chest with my forefinger, she made a surprised little O with her mouth.
“Coward,” I said.
“Fine. You go out with Joshua and I’ll call Darrin. Deal?”
“And you have to try, Wavy. You can’t just sit there like stone until he gives up. You have to try like it’s a real date or it doesn’t count.” Renee knew me.
I passed Joshua on the way back to my room to get my purse.
“Is there a problem?” he said.
I didn’t bother to answer. He was the problem. I’d be done with him soon enough. I came back with my purse and stood in front of him. He was going to have take me as I was, in the clothes I wore to work and with my hair a little greasy.
“Ready,” I said.
We walked out past Renee, who gave me a suspicious look. She could suspect whatever she wanted, as long as she kept her half of the deal.
While Joshua drove, I looked at him out of the corner of my eye. Renee said he was “gorgeous.” She talked about him like he was a statue. David standing naked in a museum in Italy. I thought he was boring. Like a mannequin in a store. Better to look at a blank wall than to look at him. I also didn’t understand why he didn’t shave. Everything else about him was neat — hair, hands, clothes–and then the whiskers.
He took me to a nice restaurant, I guess because that’s what people do on dates. I’d taken Kellen to a restaurant before, but it was how I knew we were here on the strength of Joshua’s ego. I never would have agreed to go out to eat with someone who was basically a stranger. Never.
But there I was, sitting across from him, with a menu open, watching him talk. That was how it felt, too. A silent movie, his mouth opening and closing, his teeth neat and white, but no sound coming out. I could only focus on some of the things he said. The rest of me was too busy cataloging the ways in which he wasn’t Kellen.
“So, what are you thinking of having?” Joshua said.
“I’m not that hungry.”
He laughed. “Girls always say that.”
I could imagine Renee saying that. On dates, she ordered salads and then came home starving and ate a whole pizza by herself.
At least I liked the restaurant. Aunt Brenda had taken me there before. They had good teriyaki chicken with ginger and pineapple, and they put your leftovers in nice to-go containers. Not crappy Styrofoam boxes. They made it pretty when you took it away.
After I closed my menu the waiter came. I gave him my big smile, to make him pay attention, so that he would look at my menu when I tapped it. You really don’t have to talk much in everyday life. If you’re careful, if you learn the tricks to make people watch. That way you can save your words for important things. Sometimes just “yes” or “no.” Or “ranch” when the waiter wants to know what dressing I want on my salad. Which I didn’t want. I shook my head.
“No dressing?” the waiter said.
Then Joshua ordered and the waiter left us alone.
“So, Wavy,” Joshua said. His teeth really were perfect. He probably had braces when he was younger. “I think your name is so cool. Kind of hippy, but not like Moon Unit or something like that.”
It was a good thing I didn’t talk much, because what was I supposed to say to that? I’m glad you like my name. The man I love gave it to me. That probably wasn’t good date conversation. That was just me being impossible. Aunt Brenda said that about me. So did Renee some days. You’re impossible! I agreed. Most days I was impossible. Like a unicorn.
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