Pairing/Characters: Jade West, Beck/Jade (everyone)
Summary: She doesn’t think she looks different; she doesn’t feel like she’s changed. She doesn’t know what did. Post "The Worst
Rating: pg-13 (language, sexual content)
Word Count: 16,700
Disclaimer: I do not own anything. Title from Matt Nathanson's We'll Recover.
Author's Note: Tons of thanks to both ohdelighted for reading over the first part and assuring me it didn't suck, and violetbloods for listening to me spew feelings and answering my random questions. Any mistakes are my own.
The world tilts.
Jade doesn’t go to school the next day.
Her mother pesters her in the morning, rolling her eyes, huffing and throwing the blinds open. She feels Jade’s forehead and tells her she doesn’t have a fever. Jade just glares, says, “I’m not going.”
Her mother gives up.
“I can’t deal with you today,” she says, pressing her lips into a thin line and reaching behind her to pat the bun at the nap of her neck. She can never “deal with” Jade. Her voice is steady and low, but Jade hears the annoyance rounding out her vowels. “I have to go to work. Don’t set the house on fire.”
Jade rolls her eyes and turns over, pulling the sheets up as she hears the door shut.
She tries to sleep most of the day, but she keeps getting woken up by stupid birds chirping like it’s fucking spring and the sun leaking in through a slit where she didn’t close the curtains all the way after her mother opened them. Jade relents and rolls out of bed, grabbing a pint of coffee ice cream out of the freezer. She flips through the channels. “Stupid. Dumb. Moronic. Mom Jeans,” she says, talk shows and soap operas flashing across the screen. She ends up putting her dvd of The Scissoring on after trying to figure which ladies from The View haven’t had sex in the last year—she decides all of them. With no one to mock for cringing, Jade doesn’t enjoy the movie as much as she usually does.
She cuts up a vase of fresh flowers on the kitchen table, a copy of Romeo and Juliet, and one of her father’s ties. Jade keeps glancing at the clock and thinking about how if she had gone to school she’d be in Sikowitz’s class, and then eating lunch, and then on her way to rehearsal. It’s weird; she feels like she’s missing out on shit she normally wouldn’t care about, as though the clock moves slower at her house and is warping her brain.
She wonders what Beck’s doing, clenches her fist, her fingernails digging into her palm. He’s probably got a mob of girls around him and they’re probably telling him how they always knew he was too good for her and that he deserved better. He’s probably agreeing. She thinks he might be making out with a perky blonde or Vega or something, and Jade wants to scream but she can’t. Everything hurts, a physical ache that’s pissing her off. She pulls a blanket around her shoulders, because the ice cream made her cold, and tries not to shiver; her bones feel brittle.
She ignores the texts she gets from Cat, partly because they don’t make any sense or are just a series of hehehehe over and over again. She’s even gets one from Tori, which she promptly deletes without even reading.
She’s standing in front of the microwave, tossing a piece of popcorn into her mouth, wondering if she could figure out a way to give someone (Tori, Sinjin, Trina, she’s not picky) radiation poisoning when the doorbell rings. Jade ignores it, but then it rings again, and then she hears Tori and Cat calling her name. She’s going to murder Cat for telling Tori where she lives.
Jade contemplates not answering, but then they get louder and she figures they’re annoyingly persistent, so she better get it over with before she goes deaf.
She sets the bag of popcorn on the kitchen table and wipes her hands on a washcloth because they’re a little greasy from the butter, which is gross, and goes to the front door, yanking it open. “What do you want?”
“Hi Jade.” Tori looks surprised; Jade doesn’t care to know why.
“Hi,” Cat says, her voice squeaking.
Jade glares at them and crosses her arms.
“Cat and I were wondering if uh,” Tori hesitates and bites her lip, like she’s really regretting this decision. Jade thinks, good. “Wondering if you wanted to hang out or something? We could get FroYo?”
“I love FroYo! One time my brother--”
Jade cuts her off. “Shut up.”
“So?” Tori asks and raises her eyebrows, hope etched on her face.
Jade thinks about it, but she’s not hungry and she can picture of bunch of ganks from school pretending to eat their yogurt while whispering to each other about her. “No.”
She goes to shut the door but Tori reaches out, throwing her arm between the door and the doorjamb. Jade thinks about slamming the door on Tori’s arm but stops because her parents will kill her if there’s blood on the rug. “What?”
“Can we come in?”
“But you love when I come to your house!” Cat says. She frowns and scrunches her eyebrows together. “I missed you at school today.”
Jade stares at them; Tori moves her arm out of the way, defeated; Cat blinks rapidly, her eyes tearing up.
“Fine,” Jade says, shoving the door open and walking into the living room where the menu for The Scissoring is still looping.
She sits down on the couch and Cat flops down next to her. “This movie is so scary.”
Jade ignores her. “Are you going to stand there forever or sit down?” she asks, looking at Tori, who’s just shifting her weight from foot to foot, looking around the room like she’s never seen a house before.
“Oh, right. I just didn’t expect your house to--”
“To what?” Jade snaps, even though she knows how the sentence is probably supposed to end. I just didn’t expect your house to look normal or I just didn’t expect your house to be nice or I just didn’t expect your house to not look like a medieval torture chamber.
“Nothing,” Tori says as she finally slumps into a chair. Jade rolls her eyes. “So...how are you doing? Since...”
“Fine.” Jade is not going to lie down on the couch and tell Tori how she’s feeling like Tori’s her therapist. And even if she did want to talk about things, which she definitely doesn’t--want to or need to--Tori is pretty much the last person she’d pick.
Last time was different, this time it feels different. She feels different, and she doesn’t know if it’s pride, fear of getting hurt again or just her instincts, but she’s not going to go grovel and she’s not going to buy him a stupid dog. Not this time. It feels hopeless. And it feels like he took a fork and used it to hollow out her heart, scraping slowly and leaving scars that no one can see, so they’re not even useful.
“You’re fine?” Tori asks, not even bothering to hide her skepticism.
“I said I’m fine!”
“Shhhh,” Cat says, clamping her hands over her ears and closing her eyes.
Tori backs off after that, and if Jade was less annoyed by the fact that Tori is in her house, she’d probably be grateful. They watch The Scissoring and this time Jade gets to mock Cat and Tori for cringing and yelping whenever the music picks up or there’s a splatter of blood. It’s kind of nice.
Jade still feels like there’s some disease running through her veins, twisting and turning and seeping into her bones, but it’s becoming this constant pain that she doesn’t have to think about all the time, that still hurts but doesn’t make her want to reach her hand into her chest and pull out her heart for being so stupid.
When they finally leave Jade whispers to Cat, “How’s Beck?”
“He’s fine,” Cat says. Jade tries not to say anything, just blinks and lets her nails dig painfully into her palms and her teeth into her tongue.
The next day she goes to school because she can’t avoid it forever and because she’s not going to let people think she’s weak. Girls stare at her when she walks by and she can sense their gaze boring into her back when she’s at her locker, probing and questioning. She narrows her eyes at them when she turns around, sees the fear sink in and feels a little better.
No one comes up and asks her how she’s doing or what happened; no one comes up to her at all. She likes it that way because people are stupid, but she feels a pang of loneliness. She doesn’t feel smaller, but the halls feel larger.
When she rounds the corner she sees him, hands stuffed in his pockets as he nods along to something Robbie’s saying. She wants to see if he looks as bad as she feels, but she turns on her heels and goes the other way, hand grasping the strap of her bag as she pushes by anyone who didn’t learn to walk when they were a toddler. Because apparently they have to watch their feet as they take each step, excruciatingly slow, so they don’t fall on their asses.
Jade shoves open the door to the girls’s bathroom, kicks at the door of each of the stalls and screams, “Get out!” at some girl who’s washing her hands. Jade turns on a faucet, curls her fingers around the edge of the sink and breathes, closing her eyes. Everything goes black and she leans back on her heels to feel steadier, her grip on the sink tightening.
Sometime yesterday it stopped feeling real, like it had just been a bad dream that she couldn’t grasp anymore. She has to remind herself that it happened, that he didn’t come after her, that he didn’t open the door, that she had kept looking over her shoulder as she walked away and he hadn’t been there.
Jade feels like it’s hitting her all over again, some stark realization that her heart is broken and it’s not going to fix itself just because she hopes it does. He didn’t fall off the face of the earth, even though there’s a part of her that wishes he had because now she’s going to have to see him. She’s going to have to deal with it.
She feels like she’s going to vomit.
Instead she inhales, opens her eyes and lets them readjust to the blinding fluorescence of the bathroom, shuts off the faucet and smooths down her hair, tucking a strand behind her ear. Jade thinks she looks paler than usual, her eyes sunken in and her lips dry, like if she bit down they’d start bleeding. She gently sweeps her fingertips under her eyes, over the bone there, wonders if she should have applied more concealer this morning. Jade puts some chapstick on and stares at herself for another second.
She doesn’t think she looks different; she doesn’t feel like she’s changed.
She doesn’t know what did.
In Sikowitz’s class Beck sits on the opposite side of the room and Jade doesn’t look at him. She doesn’t pay attention as Sikowitz rambles about something that happened to his mother--she swears sometimes he’s worse than Cat talking about her brother--and then let’s two girls do their scene, which from what Jade catches is horribly boring. Then Sikowitz starts talking about acting with your hands and Jade would rather have her hand sawed off.
It is the longest class of her entire life, and she has to keep actively remembering not to look to the right. When the bell rings she makes an effort to get up slowly, to throw her bag over her shoulder and to not bolt out of the room like she wants to. Her entire day becomes about acting normal, about keeping up appearances. She’s Jade West and she’s fine.
She’s at her locker switching out her books and finally letting herself breathe when she feels someone standing too close. She thinks it’s probably Cat or Tori, but when she turns her head it’s Beck. She feels anger bubble under her skin because she can’t be sad, not here and not now. She slams her locker shut. “What do you want?”
His face hardens and he shifts away from her. “I just wanted to make sure things weren’t going to be awkward between us.”
Jade almost laughs in his face. She drawls, “Sure, it’s fine, what could be awkward about this?” before looking around and seeing that people are stopping and pretending to be doing something other than listening.
Beck sighs, runs his hand through his hair and says, “I’m not gonna fight with you. I just...I don’t know.”
Jade presses her lips into a thin line, feels her shoulders tense and makes an effort to relax them, to keep from doing something she’ll regret later because she hates regrets. “I’m fine, you’re fine, it’s fine. Whatever.”
She feels like the word “fine” has lost all its meaning over the last two days as she keeps using it to fill blanks when she doesn’t know what else to say, lets it occupy silences that make her skin crawl. Beck just looks at her, exhaustion on his face. Jade didn’t realize she was such a fucking exhausting person.
She walks away first because she’d rather be the one who leaves instead of the one who gets left.
Sinjin walks up to her, well not walks, more like hobbles up to her, and Jade’s busy trying to breathe normally so she forgets to yell at him. He says, “Beck didn’t deserve you.”
She wants to scream, she wants to tell him to go away and to mind his own fucking business. But there’s something nice about hearing him say that when she knows everyone else in the entire school is telling Beck the opposite. She moves away a few steps though, because he’s Sinjin and because he smells like rotting eggs.
He seems to take her silence as some sort of affirmation that she actually wants him there, because he doesn’t continue down the hallway. “We could go out.”
Jade laughs harshly before she can think about it, low and hollow in her chest. She thinks about saying yes because then she’d win, then she’d be going out with someone else before Beck. But it’s Sinjin, and Beck would probably just laugh good-naturedly, give Sinjin a friendly pat on the back and continue saying good riddance to her. It wouldn’t do her any good to go from Beck to Sinjin. She’d be laughed at and pitied and that’s just not acceptable. People don’t feel bad for Jade, and people don’t laugh at her unless they want a black eye.
Besides, she doesn’t even like Sinjin.
“No.” The words are sharper than she intended, but she can’t bring herself to care.
“Maybe in a few weeks when you’re not on the rebound?” Sinjin asks, hope filling his voice as he nods his head.
“No.” Now Jade’s annoyed. “Leave me alone.”
Sinjin just shrugs and limps back the way he came. The hallway is practically empty and no one is watching her, so she slides down the wall, sitting down on the floor, which is probably disgusting, and rests her head in her hands. Fuck him, she thinks. Because she’s tired, too. She’s tired of feeling like she’s going to collapse if she makes one wrong move, tired of feeling like she’s lost everything. Because Andre and Robbie haven’t spoken to her at all, Cat just keeps pouting at her and trying to tell her about the time her brother got hit in the head by an ex-girlfriend with a baseball bat--“and if he could still be my brother after that, then you’re gonna be okay,!”--and Tori has sent her so many text messages about how she’s going to be there for Jade when Jade’s ready to talk that Jade is seriously considering getting a new phone number.
And she knows it’d be worse if everyone was like Tori, if everyone was worried and bothering her with their friendship when they’re not even friends. She knows there’s no way she’d be happy right now, no way she’d be anything but wazzed off and sad. But she didn’t expect to be tired.
Tired of what, exactly, she doesn’t know. Tired of her father being an asshole, tired of her mother telling her she’s never going to get anywhere in life with that attitude, tired of them both prying into her business but not even asking about Beck, not even asking how she’s doing, even if she wouldn’t respond anyway. She’s tired of being tired.
Jade looks up when she hears footsteps and voices coming closer, and then a group of cheerleaders come prancing down the hallway, giggling. She thinks it must be about something stupid like nail polish or passing a math test. They slow down when they see her, and one of them says, “Heard Beck dumped you. About time.”
Jade pulls a pair of scissors from her bag and stands up, pointing them at the girls. “Say that one more time and your ratty old hair is going to be on the floor.”
Another one says, “Calm down.” Then they’re hurrying away, pressed even closer together.
“I hope you break your arms!”
Time passes. Thing gets easier.
Jade doesn’t really believe time heals all wounds, but she’s not wounded. She stops wanting to rip all of the hair off Beck’s head, she stops looking like a ghost, and while the pain is still there it’s not as rippling, it’s like a bee sting, sharp and intense until the pain lessens, and now it’s just itchy and annoying. This is not to say she doesn’t get pleasure out of staring daggers at girls who try to flirt with him across the room until their faces turn red and they walk away, afraid of getting stabbed in the stomach with scissors.
Beck never says anything to her about it, so she figures he either doesn’t notice, or more likely, he doesn’t care. Which makes her think, on her bad days, that he’s secretly boning someone like Vega and she just doesn’t know about it, so she’s doing him a favor by narrowing her eyes at those girls and trying to set them on fire. She doesn’t want to do him any favors. But whatever, she doesn’t know how to stop being annoyed by stupid, thin, pretty, blonde bitches.
People start talking to her again. Andre says he’s really sorry about how the breakup went down.
“Well thank you for all of your support,” Jade says, her tone sharp and sarcastic.
Andre shakes his head, amused. “No, really, it sucks.”
“Like how you didn’t talk to me for a week.”
He looks away then, his mouth turning down at the corners, guilty. “I think I hear Tori calling--”
“I know you’re Beck’s friend first. It’s fine.” Jade thinks about that dumb word again, fine, as if it actually tells anyone anything. It’s just used to make people feel better about asking how someone is or some shit they did, even if they don’t deserve to feel better. She crosses her arms and rolls her eyes.
Andre finally grows some balls and looks at her again. “I’m sorry.”
She can tell he means it, and that makes her feel a little better, knowing he feels bad about being an asshole.
And after that everything gets better, because he doesn’t ignore her existence, and Robbie follows his lead, even if Jade kind of wishes Robbie would just continue pretending she doesn’t exist. Cat and Tori start inviting her to their sleepovers at Tori’s house, which she obviously never agrees to go to because a) It’s at Tori’s house b) she’s not sure she could stand them for an entire night without wanting to stick her head into a food processor and c) they’re only inviting her because they feel bad that she has nothing else to do.
But Jade has stuff to do. She’s writing a play, getting all her homework done on time, sharpening her scissors and scaring her little brother so he sleeps with the lights on.
The only time she’s ever around Beck is in the morning or at lunch on the days she decides she can stand to be around everyone. And even then they don’t really talk unless she’s making fun of him; every now and then he tries to say something to her, but she ignores him. Jade thinks that as far as ex-girlfriend’s go, this makes her a great one, especially after he humiliated her in front of all the people she tolerates and a bunch of strangers.
She could be worse if she wanted to be.
But times passes. Things gets easier.
Jade has a favorite barista. He’s got short dark hair, really green eyes and a lopsided smile. His nametag says Garrett, which Jade thinks is a really stupid name for such a pretty looking boy. Her favorite thing about him is that he makes the best coffee. If she could marry any cup of coffee, it would be the one that Garrett makes her after school when her feet start to drag and she wants to murder anybody who even dares to look at her.
“The usual?” he asks. He doesn’t start making it, just in case she wants something else, even though she never does.
“Yes.” She rolls her eyes and crosses her arms. Jade would start tapping her foot impatiently, but it’s too much effort when the afternoon sun is attempting to blind her through the window and there’s an old lady loudly trying to show pictures of her grandkids to someone behind her in line.
“This is Steve, he’s two,” the old woman says.
Jade spins around. “Listen Grandmother, not everyone cares about your stupid grandkids. They’ll probably grow up and fail out of school and come to stay with you in the nursing home. Which is probably for the best since the four year old doesn’t know who to use a bathroom yet.”
The woman’s mouth falls open and her eyes widen in shock. “Young Lady--”
“Shut up!” Jade screams. She turns back around and taps her fingers against the counter. She really hates old people.
“You’re very talkative today,” Garrett says, pressing a button on some machine that probably has a purpose, but Jade has no idea what.
“I’m a people person,” she says seriously.
He laughs under his breath before looking at her, smiling. “No I like it. You wouldn’t believe how many assholes I have to deal with every day.”
“I believe it.”
He laughs again, and Jade doesn’t know what to think about that, but she’s really starting to get impatient. Garrett puts a cup of coffee on the counter and calls someone’s name and it isn’t Jade’s. She glares at him. A blonde woman with a mother's bob comes by to grab it, smiling and leaving a big tip on the counter. Jade thinks that’s rude; it just makes everyone else look bad when they don’t tip at all. And Jade definitely isn’t going to tip today because she can feel her life slipping by as she stands here, listening to the old woman whispering about how Jade’s parents didn’t raise her right--not that Jade ever tips anyway.
“Here you go.” Garrett slides her coffee across the counter.
“Finally.” She wraps her palm around the cup, relishes the warmth and the way she feels more like herself just by holding it. She’s completely serious when she says she would marry coffee if she could. She thinks it completes her or some shit.
She turns to go because the old woman smells like baby powder and she might have to yell at her again if she calls Jade a gank one more time, but then Garrett calls her name. “What?”
“Do you want to go out some time?”
Jade stops abruptly and some of her coffee splashes onto the lid. “What?” she repeats, spinning around to look at him. She didn’t think this guy was an idiot, but she may have to reevaluate.
“Do you want to go out with me?” He says slowly, as though she’s the idiot here.
Jade raises an eyebrow. “Why?”
“Because you make me laugh and you haven’t been in here with that guy in over a month.”
“Are you stalking me?” Jade asks. She hopes the wrinkled old bat, who is clearly listening to this conversation, gives him a hard time when she orders. Because this is unprofessional and stupid and Jade doesn’t know whether she wants to stomp out without answering or slap him or say yes because she’s single and she’s not really used to it yet.
“No.” And he laughs. Again.
Jade bites her lip, tilts her head. Garrett doesn’t look like Beck, doesn’t really remind her of him in any way, and he does make a mean cup of coffee. When she sees him all she thinks is she’d really like a vat of caffeine poured down her throat. Nothing else. He’s cute, but he’s not, not what Jade really wants. And that scares her because she doesn’t want to not want anyone else forever. She thinks maybe she should say yes, just because.
But then she thinks about it not working out because Garrett’s her barista, which basically means he holds her ability to function in his hands. She doesn’t want to spend every day worrying that he spit in her coffee. She says, “I’ll have to think about it.”
“Okay.” One side of his face turns up and Jade leaves.
She’s going to be so pissed tomorrow if her coffee tastes like crap.
She’s shoving her books into her locker when Beck walks up to her. She glances at him and takes a deep breath. For a second she thinks maybe he knows about Garrett, like maybe Garrett is his friend now and they talked about it and Beck is going to say something. There’s a part of her that hopes he’s jealous even though Beck has never been jealous a day in his life.
Also, Jade knows that the chances of him knowing a barista asked her out are slim to none.
“Hey,” Beck says, as though they’re friends.
“Hey,” Jade repeats, shaking her head in a mixture of confusion and annoyance.
Beck sighs, a smile tucked into the corner of his mouth. “You were great in Sikowitz’s class today.”
Jade feels her mouth go dry. She looks at Beck, really looks at him for the first time since they broke up, and notices how different he is. His shoulders look tense, his eyes are lighter and he’s standing at an awkward distance from her. For the first time Jade wonders what’s going on with him outside of all the girls who keep throwing themselves in his face.
“Thanks,” she says slowly, pressing her lips together and shutting her locker softly. Jade wants to be okay with him, wants to be able to talk to him like she used to, but she doesn’t trust it.
“I just want us to be friends.” He leans back against the lockers and shoves his hands into the pockets of his jeans.
He doesn’t seem nervous, and it makes Jade angry. She doesn’t think Beck should feel comfortable talking to her now, not after everything. It’s not fair when her heart is hammering in her chest. But she’s not going to let him know that. “Okay? And what do you want me to do about it?”
Beck looks down and Jade can tell he’s smiling, some of his hair falling in his face.
“What?” she snaps, crossing her arms over her chest.
“I miss talking to you.”
His words hit her like a ton of bricks, knocking the air out of her lungs. She is very careful to note that he doesn’t say he misses her, but misses talking to her. Jade feels like he planned this conversation so she wouldn’t get the wrong idea, and it makes her feel like she’s important to him in a way she hasn’t felt since he didn’t open the door.
She says, “Congratulations.”
“You’re going to make this difficult aren’t you?”
“Make what difficult, Beck? I’m not psychic, you know.”
“I know,” he says, looking at her, his lips pressed together into a thin line, but Jade can tell he’s trying not to smile. He takes a step closer so they’re standing at a normal distance. “I want us to be friends. It’d make life easier.”
“I don’t want life to be easier.” She leaves off especially for you.
“Because where’s the fun in that.” Beck rolls his eyes. Jade watches him closely as he inhales, knows the look on his face as he steals himself to say something important. “I’m sorry for the way everything went down.”
“Good.” Jade can feel her resolve to be a gank soften. “You were an asshole.”
Beck opens his mouth like he’s about to protest, but then thinks better of it, running a hand through his hair. “So, we good?”
Jade thinks about just saying yes so he’ll leave her alone, but Beck knows her well enough to know when she’s being sincere and when she’s not. She’s a great actress, but apparently when it comes to him she has a tell that he figured out forever ago. Jade shifts her weight, weighs the decision in her head. She missed him, too. Probably more than he missed her.
“Okay,” she says, drawing her bottom lip between her teeth.
He looks at her for a minute, carefully, and Jade doesn’t look away even though she wants to. She wants to turn around and leave as fast as possible, she wants to go home and curl up in a blanket and watch a gory movie and cut up everything she can find. But she stays put, even as her stomach tightens.
Finally Beck says, “Okay.”
Jade doesn’t know why she does it, maybe because he’s being nice to her again or because she’s been standing still for too long and her knees are starting to buckle, but she asks, “Why are you doing this?”
He shrugs. “You’re my friend,” he pauses, eyes flitting from her face to the wall, “I like you.”
They’re putting on The Crucible and auditions are next week. As Tori signs her name on the form she says, “I don’t know if I’d rather be Abigail or Mary.”
Jade bites her lip, looks at Cat and Andre, and raises her eyebrows. They both look just as amused as she does. Andre’s the one who speaks up. “Really?”
“Yeah!” Tori’s mouth melts into a frown as she watches their skeptical faces. “What is it?”
“You want to be Abigail?” Jade asks, smirking. She knows Tori’s a good actress, and even if she thinks (knows) she’s a thousand times better, Tori has gotten a majority of the roles she’s auditioned for, but the idea of Tori playing Abigail, the girl who ruthlessly destroys the lives of people just because she wants some dude’s wife to get hanged? Jade can’t wrap her head around it.
“M-Maybe?” Tori stutters. Her voice raises an octave. “You don’t think I can play Abigail?”
“My brother went to therapy with a girl named Gail! She was crazy!” Cat twirls a piece of red hair around her finger; it’s brighter than usual because she dyed it last night--and decided to text Jade about it twenty times. She tilts her head and thinks for a moment. “I don’t think you could be that crazy, Tori.”
“Why not? I’m a risk-taker! Remember?”
“Nah, I’m sure you could do it if you tried,” Andre says, reaching out and patting Tori on the arm before stepping back and standing oddly close to Jade. Jade’s noticed him doing that a lot lately. He’s been texting her more than he ever has before, too. It’s weird. “I could help you rehearse after school?”
“Seriously?” Jade asks. “Why don’t you just play Mary?”
“Because I can be Abigail!” Tori’s tone is the equivalent of a child stomping their foot. She places her hands on her hips before she continues. “I’ll do it just to prove you wrong.”
“I’ll do it just to prove you wrong,” Jade mocks in her southern belle, Tori voice.
Jade only keeps doing it because of how strongly Tori reacts, and she doesn’t disappoint this time. Tori’s eyebrows scrunch together, her cheeks start to turn pink, and she swings her arms down up and down for emphasis. “I don’t talk like that!”
Jade just grins, tilting her head to the right and crossing her arms in triumph.
“Beck! Robbie!” Tori calls as they’re walking down the hall, waving them over frantically.
“Hey guys,” Robbie says.
“What’s up?” Beck asks, glancing in Jade’s direction.
Tori pouts before she starts speaking; Jade rolls her eyes as hard as she can without them disconnecting from their sockets. “Do you think I would be a good Abigail?”
Beck chokes back a smirk and Robbie look at the bulletin board, squinting dramatically as if there’s something really interesting on the sign-up sheet. Tori’s frown deepens and Jade can’t help but grin. She likes this play more and more every second.
Rex drawls, “Your sugars too sweet for that sugar.”
If Jade wasn’t so happy about everyone taking a stance against Vega, she’d probably throw the dumb puppet down the hall.
“You’d make a good Mary,” Beck offers.
Jade says, “That’s what we’ve been saying.” Now that everybody agrees with her she’s over this conversation. Unless people are going to start insulting Tori, there’s really no point anymore. Besides, Cat offered to buy her coffee if she drove her to Toys R Us, and Jade is definitely up for torturing little children.
“Fine,” Tori huffs. She crosses her arms and leans against the lockers behind her. “But I’m still auditioning for both roles.”
“I’m sure you’d make a great Abigail,” Andre says.
Jade groans. She doesn’t want them to get back to kissing Tori’s ass all the time just because she’s nice and likes to help people and works really hard at everything until she succeeds. Andre bumps her lightly with his shoulder and Jade snaps her head to look at him, confused as to whether he bobbled or did it on purpose. She’s starting to feel like she’s going to suffocate from claustrophobia.
She sees Beck glance at them out of the corner of her eye, lips pressed into a thin line before he looks away and asks Tori what time she signed up to audition.
Jade sighs, reaches out and grabs Cat’s wrist so they can leave.
When she pushes open the doors to the coffee shop, Cat squeezing a green stuffed meerkat beside her, Jade notices that the afternoon crowd has come and gone already and there’s a lull. She spots Garrett working at the counter and hesitates, thinks about turning around and driving to another Skybucks, but she doesn’t want to deal with Cat asking questions and she’s almost out of gas. Besides, Jade doesn’t run away from awkward situations.
She approaches the counter and rolls her eyes when Cat brushes her toy against her cheek, sighing contently.
Garrett nods at her, his eyes brightening. “The usual?”
“Yeah,” Jade says.
“I’ve always wanted to have a usual,” Cat says, grinning.
“Money.” Jade holds her hand out and waits while Cat rummages through her bag. When Cat hands her a five dollar bill Jade says, “I’m keeping the change.”
“Okay. Thanks for driving me, Jade.” Cat’s starting to bounce on her feet. “What should I name my meerkat? It’s so funny because it’s a meerkat and I’m Cat.” She giggles.
“I don’t care what you name it and stop bouncing,” Jade huffs, reaching out and pressing her palm on Cat’s shoulder, attempting to calm her down.
Garret hands Jade her coffee, smiling as he takes Cat’s money. “Have you thought any more about my offer?”
Jade thinks he’s really dumb if he’s going to bring that up with Cat standing right there, and since he asked her out he shouldn’t be asking again. If she wanted to say yes she’d bring it up. “No.”
“It’d be really fun,” he says, taking the change out of the cash register and handing it back to her.
Jade thinks he makes an effort to touch her hand and that frustrates her even more. She’s not going to go on a date with some asshole who won’t stop pestering her about it when she clearly doesn’t want to go. All she wants is coffee. “No.”
“What’d be really fun?” Cat asks, batting her eyelashes at Garrett, her voice raising a few octaves as she starts giggling again.
“I asked Jade out,” Garret says, not even bothering to look at Jade even though her entire face is screaming stop it at him. Cat has no idea how to keep her mouth shut, and apparently neither does Jade’s least favorite barista.
“Oh.” Cat bites her lip and looks at Jade. “Are you going to go?”
“No.” Jade repeats, trying not to scream.
“No?” Garrett asks, “Why not.”
“None of your business.”
“Is it because of Beck?” Cat asks. Jade swears she is going to cut that stupid meerkat up the first chance she gets. Coffee was not worth all of this, and she’d give a limb for coffee.
“Is Beck the boyfriend?”
“Ex-boyfriend,” Cat whispers, bringing one hand up to block her mouth from Jade as though Jade won’t be able to hear her.
“Cat, why don’t you wait in the Car?” Jade says, narrowing her eyes as Cat’s pupils go wide with fear. She backs away, hugging her stuffed animal tightly to her chest.
“Ex-boyfriend?” Garrett leans against the counter, places his elbow on it and rests his chin in his hands as though Jade’s about to tell him a fascinating story.
She grabs her coffee and takes a sip. She hates how good it is. “Yes. And it’s none of your business. I said I didn’t want to go out with you, so I’m not going to go out with you. I don’t owe you a reason. You didn’t have to be an asshole about it. And now I have to drive an extra ten minutes to get coffee every day.”
She turns and begins marching away but stops to add, “You smile like a stroke victim,” before she leaves, making an effort to slam the door shut behind her.
On the ride to Cat’s house Cat repeats, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m really sorry, Jade. I’m sorry.”
“Shut up.” Jade knows Cat didn’t mean to cause a problem and that the dumb barista couldn’t take a hint, but she’s still pissed that he’s a creature who exists, and that he made really good coffee.
She finishes the coffee Cat bought her because it’s damn good, even though it makes her feel sick.
“Do you want to keep my meerkat for the night? He might make you feel better.” Jade can tell Cat’s looking at her when she pulls into Cat’s driveway.
“No,” she snaps, putting the car in park and unlocking Cat’s door. “Thanks.”
“Okay, bye.” Cat opens her door and skips up her porch, turning around to wave at Jade, who’s already at the end of the driveway--she doesn’t do that thing where she waits to make sure Cat can get into her house like people’s parents do when they drop someone off. Jade doesn’t have the patience for it and it’s not like they live in Alaska. Cat won’t freeze to death if she’s locked out.
Jade rolls her eyes and waves back.
Burrito in hand, Jade is ready to sit down, eat and complain about how Sikowitz actually hit her on the head with a tropical fruit, but then she sees that Beck’s the only person at the table. She stops, takes a deep breath and looks around to see if anyone else is on their way, Andre or Cat or even Tori. Nobody. Jade tightens her grip on her bag and walks over, sliding onto the bench across from him.
It feels weird.
“Hey,” she says, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear and slipping her bag off her shoulder.
“Hey.” Beck doesn’t seem phased by her, just takes a sip of his soda and asks, “What’s up?”
“I have a headache because Sikowitz is crazy .” Jade flips open the container with her burrito and looks at it cautiously. She already wishes she had gotten chicken nuggets instead. She decides not to start eating until she gauges how this conversation is going to go--she could go make Festus trade her the burrito for chicken nuggets if she needs an out. He always says he doesn’t do that, but she has her ways.
Beck says, “It can’t be worse than that time he accidentally kicked Robbie in the nuts.”
Jade laughs. “That was a great day.”
“Do you know what you’re going to do for the emotion walk?”
Jade thinks about saying something cutting about jealousy or anger, but instead she says, “Sympathy. Surprise everyone.”
Beck smiles, and Jade picks up her burrito. “That’s a good one. I wanted to try fear again but I’m not sure I could sell it.”
“Because you’ve so tough,” Jade responds, rolling her eyes. “The fact that nothing scares you disgusts me.”
“I know.” He nods. “But it’s secretly you’re favorite thing about me.”
Jade scoffs, “Sure.”
“Hey guys,” Andre says, sitting down next to her.
“Hey,” Beck says, and Jade swears his eyes flit between her and Andre, but she shakes it off. “What emotion are you going to show with body language?”
Andre pops a fry in his mouth and thinks before answering, “I don’t know man, maybe conflicted or confused, something starting with a C. What are you guys doing?”
Jade takes a bite of her burrito as Beck explains that he wants to figure out how to show fear if he’s never felt it before. There’s something about his posture that’s changed since Andre sat down, but she can’t put her finger on it. She wonders if they had a fight, but then thinks the sun probably just moved or his butt is hurting.
“And what about you?” Andre asks her, his lips are barely upturned but his eyes are bright.
“No one’s going to be expecting that,” Andre says.
Jade almost jumps when his knee bumps into hers. She’s really glad she wasn’t eating because she’s sure she’d be choking right now if she had been. Jade thinks Andre’s been acting really weird lately, but she also thinks Beck’s been acting weird, so maybe it’s just her. Everything has been changing so much she doesn’t really know how to adjust. Maybe this is just them adjusting.
“Yeah I know, because I’m such a terrible and selfish person.” Jade steals one of Andre’s fries and bites off the end. She wishes she had gotten fries to go with her burrito. “I mostly just want to see everyone looking stupid, with their mouths open like fish, when I finish impressing them.”
Beck and Andre laugh and Jade feels happier than she has in a long time. Andre says, “Nah, I believe in you so I’ll be playing it cool.”
“If you’re going to start spewing that ‘I believe in you’ stuff I am going to leave,” Jade says, dropping her voice when she quotes him. “I’m not Vega, I don’t need to be told I’m awesome constantly. Trust me, I know.”
“We know you know,” Beck says.
Jade bites back the smile attempting to hijack her face.
She’s by her locker, shoving books into her bag, acutely aware that the cast list for The Crucible goes up in five minutes. Jade swears she will literally break everyone’s legs if she doesn’t get a good role in the play that has the most female parts that the school has put on in over a year. Starting with Tori, who’s probably Mary and Elizabeth and Abigail. Jade’s grown tired of looking at understudy next to her name since Tori showed up and wowed everyone with her naivety and okay, Jade can admit in her head that Tori’s kind of talented, even if she’d never say it out loud.
“Hey Jade?” Andre comes up to her and seems more fidgety and nervous than she’s ever seen him.
“You’re not going to throw up on me are you?” she asks, disgusted at the thought.
“What?” Confusion flashes over Andre’s face and Jade thinks that if he can pull that off in Sikowitz’s class during the emotion walk Sikowitz won’t have much criticism. “No, no I’m not gonna puke on you. Can I ask you something?”
“Sure?” Jade raises an eyebrow. She has no idea what this is going to be about or why Andre would ever want to ask her for advice.
He doesn’t ask for advice. “What are you doing Friday night?”
Jade’s entire body goes cold, but she doesn’t want to jump to conclusions. “Why?”
“I was thinking we could get dinner and then see a movie.” While Andre looks like he might actually puke, he relaxes a little when the words come out of his mouth, but his shoulders are still tense and he keeps messing with his hands.
“Did I get dropped into a romantic comedy? Is this a nightmare?” Jade mumbles.
“Nothing,” she says, unsure what to do. Jade thought Andre and Tori had a weird thing going on, and she doesn’t know how to respond in a way that won’t fuck up everything. “Andre, look, I like you.”
“But?” Andre doesn’t look upset, but his face falls.
“But I don’t like you.” It was bad enough losing a great cup of coffee, but at least she can find that every few blocks, she doesn’t actually like that many people and losing Andre would suck.
“Nah, it’s cool,” he says.
Jade sighs in relief, glancing at the clock. “You wanna go check the cast list?”
“Yeah. Let’s go.” He walks a little farther away from her than usual, although Jade’s not sure if she means farther than he has over the past few days or farther than he did before that.
She wants to say something else, but she doesn’t know how. She doesn’t want to apologize because she’s not really sorry, but she also doesn’t want Andre to feel bad. Her instinct is to say you’re not going to act weird around me now, right? or I can’t believe you actually asked me out accompanied with a laugh. She thinks that’d probably be rude, and normally she wouldn’t mind being rude, but it’s Andre, so she shuts up.
When they get to bulletin board outside the black box theater there’s a bunch of people already scouring the list for their names. Jade pushes past them. “Move.”
Tori gets the part of Abigail and Jade lets out a harsh laugh because Of fucking course. She’s Elizabeth Proctor and the irony of Beck playing John Proctor doesn’t escape her, even if the situation is all wrong. Jade turns around and lets Andre look himself because that’s half the fun, the adrenaline that pounds through you as your eyes scan over the list. Besides, she already knows he got a part, Giles Corey. Everyone she tolerates got a part and Jade’s glad because she won’t have to hear Robbie bitching about it for two months.
“Congratulations,” Andre says, moving his hand up like he’s ready for a high five.
“I don’t do that.”
She sighs and pulls her bag more comfortably onto her shoulder. “Congratulations.” They start walking towards the parking lot and she can’t hold it in any longer. “Can you believe Tori gets to be Abigail?”
“She’s really good, Jade.”
Jade huffs, “Whatever.”
“Can you believe you’re Elizabeth?” Andre asks. Jade looks at him and sees the taunting smile on his face.
“Yeah. I’d totally be smart enough to get knocked up so I wouldn’t be hanged. That’s what a real witch would do.”
Andre laughs and Jade grins, glad that he’s a better person than the slimeball at Skybucks. She’s not surprised, Andre’s always been pretty great.