K.C. backed away from the door frame and belly-flopped onto my bed. “Well, I, for one, am pretty excited to see the look on his face when he sees you.” She leaned her head on her hand, giving me a teasing grin.
“And why is that?” I muttered as I walked to my bedside table to reset my clock.
“Because you look great. I have no idea what happened between the two of you, but he won’t be able to ignore you. No rumor or prank will keep the guys away, and Jared will probably be sulking that he treated you so badly.” K.C. wiggled her eyebrows.
I don’t know what she meant about me “looking great”. As far as I knew, I looked the same as I always had. I stood at 5’7”, blondish hair falling to the middle of my back, and dark blue eyes. Gym workouts made me want to gag, but I had continued my running to keep in shape for cross-country. The only difference was my skin tone. After traveling this summer and being in the sun so much, I was pretty tanned. In time, though, that would disappear, and I’d be pale again.
“Oh, he never had a problem ignoring me. I wish he would.” I sucked in a breath through my teeth and smiled. “I had such an awesome year. The people I met and the places I saw! It all gave me a lot of perspective. I have a plan, and I’m not letting Jared Trent get in my way.”
I sat down on the bed and let out a sigh.
K.C. grabbed my hand. “No worries, babe. This shit has to come to a head eventually. After all, we graduate in nine months.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the foreplay between you and Jared,” K. C. chirped, straight-faced as she hopped off the bed and into my closet. “It can’t go on forever,” she called out.
“Excuse me?” Foreplay was a sex word, and my stomach flip-flopped at the thought of “Jared” and “sex” in the same sentence.
“Ms. Brandt, don’t tell me this hasn’t crossed your mind.” K.C. poked her head out of the closet, using a Southern accent as she pinched her eyebrows together and placed her hand over her heart. She held one of my dresses up to her frame as she examined herself in the full-sized mirror that hung on the back of my closet door.
Foreplay? I spun the word around in my head trying to figure out what she was talking about until it finally clicked.
“You think his treatment of me is foreplay?!” I almost yelled at her. “Yes. It was foreplay when he told the whole school I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome and everyone made farting noises as I walked down the hall freshman year.” My sarcastic tone failed to cover up my anger. How could she think all this was foreplay? “And yes, it was completely erotic the way he had the grocery store deliver a case of yeast infection cream to Math class sophomore year. But what really got me hot and ready to bend over for him was when he plastered brochures for genital wart treatments on my locker, which is completely outrageous for someone to have an STD without having sex!” All of the resentment I had let go of this year was now back with a vengeance. I hadn’t forgiven or forgotten anything.
Blinking long and hard, I took a mental vacation back to France. Port Salut cheese, French bread, bonbons…I snorted when I realized that maybe it wasn’t France but the food that I had really loved.
K.C. stared at me, wide-eyed. “Uh, no, Tate. I don’t think he is engaging in sexual foreplay. I think he really does hate you. What I’m saying is, isn’t it about time you fought back? Played the game? If he pushes you, push back. I tried to let her words sink in, but she continued, “Tate, guys aren’t mean to attractive girls for no reason at all. In fact, most teenage guys’ energy is for the sole purpose of getting laid. They don’t want to diminish their options, so they are rarely mad at any girl……unless she’s betrayed him, of course,” she mused.
I knew K.C. was right to an extent. There had to be a reason for why Jared acted the way he did. I’d wracked my brain a thousand times trying to figure it out. He was cold to most people, but he was downright cruel to me.
I stood up and continued the task of hanging up clothes, my scarves draped over my shoulder. “Well, I haven’t betrayed Jared. I’ve told you a hundred times, we were friends for years, he went away for a few weeks the summer before freshman year, and when he came back, he was different. He didn’t want to have anything to do with me.”
“Well, you won’t know anything until you engage. Like before you left for France. You pushed back that night, and that’s what you need to keep doing.” K.C. shot out advice like I hadn’t thought about it for the past year. My anger got away from me the night of Tori Beckman’s party, but no good was going to come from me sinking to Jared’s level again.
“Look,” I evened out my voice in an effort to appear calm. There was no way I was getting sucked into any more drama with this guy, damn it. “We’re going to have an amazing year. I’m hoping Jared has forgotten all about me. If he has, then we can both peacefully ignore each other until graduation. If he hasn’t, then I’ll do what I think is best. I’ve got bigger things on my mind anyway. He and that asshat Madoc can poke and prod all they want. I’m done giving them my attention. They are not taking my senior year.” I stopped to look at her.
K.C. looked thoughtful. “Okay,” she offered complacently.
“Yes, I said ‘okay’.” She let the discussion go. My shoulders relaxed. She wanted me to be David to Jared’s Goliath, and I just wanted to focus on getting into Columbia and winning the Science Fair in the spring.