I walk into the church and slide in next to Heather, Jon's girlfriend. It's been two weeks since the backseat conversation and I still find myself checking to make sure I'm breathing. I have managed for three years to contain, hide, and run away from my feelings for Brent, and in one moment jeopardized being exposed. I especially didn't want him to find out and feel obligated to talk to me about our feelings- yuck!
Heather glances up at me as I slide my purse under the pew. That's when I see it: a smile pulling just slightly at the corners of her lips. Unbelievable! I request one vow of secrecy and he can't even… She grabs my forearm and squeezes it, letting her smile fully blossom. "What?" I ask, trying to unclench my teeth.
"Nothing. It's nothing. I mean…" she's rambling, so clearly he's told her everything, "It's, well, it's just, it's just SO perfect!" The way she enunciates her T at the end of the word makes me want to crawl under the pew--no-- crawl inside my purse, under the pew.
But instead, chalking it up to the thing that killed the cat, I turn my head ever so slightly to the left and, feigning disinterest, ask,"Perfect?"
"I'm sorry. Jonathan told me." She hangs her head in mock shame for a second, then grabs my forearm with that joker-faced grin again.
I look at her grip on my arm, wondering why I've never understood the female need for physical touch in moments such as this. I look at her teeth staring at me in their pearly whiteness. "And what? I'm not gonna do anything…it was a mistake saying anything to Jon."
"No, it's not a mistake! He can drop some hints, see what's going on on the other side. Oh my gosh! We could double date!" she is squeaking now. Between the touch and the squeaking I'm really not sure I was supposed to be born with a uterus. "Kels, this is perfect! Why didn't you say something earlier?"
I glance over at Brent, merely 20 yards away. "Because I didn't want to make a scene."
But it was apparently too late.
* * *
Sunday evenings have meant bible study for me for nearly as long as I can remember, but I don't remember feeling the compulsion to put on perfume and lip gloss before. However, like I have so many times before, I decide to throw my hair in yet another pony tail, and leave on the jeans and tshirt I'm currently wearing. I don't want to appear to be trying to get attention, especially since at least two others know.
I jam my red Escort into park and tumble out into the parking lot. I throw my red parka over my shoulders and jog towards the door. January has just given way to February and in Missouri that means it is still frigid. Blasting cold air in with me, I walk through the basement door into the church. Several others are already there playing ping pong or sitting on the ratty couch talking. I throw my coat in the corner, continually averting my eyes from the guy in the back corner. I can't believe I used to think he was a jerk. I almost wish I could remember what it felt like to not know him, to not constantly think about him, to not shake with excitement every day when I received an email from him. Almost.
Kali couldn't believe he was still emailing me everyday. "He totally is into you. Guys don't just do that," she had told me a few months ago. But I had responded that he was just a great friend; he wouldn't want anything to get in the way of that.
"Hey, Kels." I turn to find that overly sized smile again. Heather just wasn't going to let this go. "Anything new?"
"No," I say, half statement, half question. "Why?"
"Well, I probably shouldn't tell you this but," she's touching my arm again, "Jon told me the other night that Brent came over to his house. And Brent said, 'Jon, if you were me and I knew what you know, would you want to know?' Confusing, right? But basically I think he figured out that Jon knows something. So anyway, Jon said, 'Yeah.' And then Brent said, 'Okay.'"
My stomach is in my throat, "And then what?"
"Well, and then Brent turned around and went right back home."
"Yeah. So I think he likes you."
I will never understand how girls interpret things.
At that moment Lee, our leader, hollers at us to grab a seat at the table. My mind is complete mush as I make my way to the metal chair closest to me.
"Hey, when we're done tonight I want to talk to you real quick before you leave. Okay?" I look up into his brown eyes, and my heart is beating faster than the little drummer boy.
"Okay." He grabs his guitar and walks to the head of the table.
I crumble into my chair. I don't hear a single word that is sung or spoken. All I hear is Stupid, stupid, stupid! Why did you let anyone know?! He hates you now. Now he thinks you're like all the other girls that can't think of anything else but what boys they like. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
I foggily hear the last "Amen," and make a beeline for Heather. I pin her against the wall in a far corner and relay the "conversation" that I'd had with Brent.
"Okay, did he say he wanted to talk with you, or that he wanted to talk with you? Or did he want to TALK with you?"
"I don't know! I don't know!" I've never been a nail biter but in this moment wish that I had a bad, nervous habit I could rely on to distract me. "Heather, he know! He knows. And it's all because Jon knows. I'm so stupid!"
"Kels, calm down. He's probably gonna tell you he feels the same way."
"Yeah. Right. Because that's how my life works. No! He's going to say, 'Well Kels, it's been real fun, but I found out you like me or whatever, and I just don't feel that way, and so that makes our friendship really awkward now. We probably shouldn't hang out or talk anymore.' THAT is what he's going to say!"
Heather grabs my shoulders, and in her calmest voice says, "Probably not."
Probably!? I want more than probably right now, lady! "Maybe he forgot?" I suggest. "I think I'm just gonna head out. If it's that important we can talk some other time."
"Whatever. You'd be fine talking to him, but go ahead."
I give her one last look, attempting to come across confident, but look more like a kitten that's been scared up a tree. I wave at a few other people and then, grabbing my coat, walk briskly for the door. I'm inches from my escape, my hand is on the chilly doorknob…
"Kels, you really need to get going or can we have that talk?"