Laying in bed with the music from my alarm attempting to sing me awake, I thought through my date, if it could be called that, with Emma. Was she truly wanting to date, or was she merely wanting a new friend? I always heard that being hit by a girl was a good thing, but she threatened instead of actually landing a blow. We sat next to one another but never touched. Then there was her first choice of movies. Was she trying to establish an emotional bond with her favorite movie, or was she trying to put me off by watching something that would make her cry? She let me know that she wasn’t generally into guys, but she obviously wanted me to stay longer. Why did girls strive to be confusing?
I forced myself to get out of bed even though the sun was not yet up. When I started my business, I was planning on having a flexible schedule and ignoring clocks ticking away in my head. Now I had continuous clients whom I couldn’t refuse for need of money which meant I constantly needed to watch the time. Honestly though, I didn’t feel like I was on a timer when I was with any of my clients. Each one thus far was a unique, interesting person who truly needed a friend. The time between clients was often a horrible waiting game, especially on school days. I was more than ready for high school to finally be over, so I could balance work and a social life better. Perhaps I would even have time to figure out what is between Emma and I then.
“Focus. Replying to clients,” I told myself. All I could think of was pink hair, bright eyes that slightly tilted toward her nose, and a mischievous grin which left me wondering what was coming next. Even when she was crying, Emma was completely cute. I wondered briefly how she got those tiny shorts over her cast, and then decided that wasn’t safe territory. Thinking of a girl I wasn’t dating struggling to dress wasn’t proper, but the image would not leave my mind. I kept rechecking what I typed in response to clients while triple checking my schedule. Magic existed whenever guys weren’t looking, and girls used it to poof clothes on and off. That’s all there was to it, save that my mind had Emma poofing into clothing that wasn’t suited to concentration. “Working. Emma’s just a friend. She didn’t say she wanted anything else.” I spoke the words, but part of me hoped that she was considering more.
I kept working as well as I could for a while, but gave up when mother asked if I’d be joining her and father for breakfast. Even a cold shower wasn’t helping my head to clear today, but speaking with my parents over breakfast definitely pushed certain thoughts out, despite speaking of Emma. “What did you think of Emma when you met her in person, James?” I couldn’t tell if mother was hoping things went poorly or not. “She was quite delightful. A very talented gamer. We’re suppose to hang out again sometime.” Mother seemed pleased by the response. “Just be sure to balance work and your friend. Are you going to invite her over here next?” Father was studying his book this morning too fervently. He must have talked with mother about Emma, hopefully wanting mother to give her a chance. “Well, I have work that needs finished this morning, so I’m going to leave you to it today.” She kissed father’s head as she walked off.
“Son, we’ve never had the sex talk. Your mother thinks we should, since you’re going on dates now. I believe boys know plenty by your age, so just pretend we had the talk and be safe. I’m certain you know how I feel about responsibility.” I was stunned. “Umm.. Yes. Thank you.” That was certainly not what I expected. “What did you and Emma end up playing yesterday?” I told him about the video games and how they went. “Wow. She actually beat you? I’m impressed.” I smiled. “I was as well. I couldn’t believe it when her friend took us both on and won.” Father truly seemed shocked by this news. “At the same time?” I nodded. “Yep. Absolute best I’ve ever seen at a first-person shooter, but Emma says she knows someone better.” He mouthed the word “wow” in an exaggerated fashion. “I am to understand the date went well then?” I shrugged and replied, “Honestly, I have no clue what to think. I like her. She’s great. I’m just at a complete loss as to how she feels.” Father nodded. “Sounds typical to me. I still can’t tell you what is going through your mother’s head at times.”
I was beyond pleased that father chose to talk about my actual date rather than having an awkward discussion about sex with me, though I still opted to leave for school early today. Jarod was still getting ready when I showed up at his house. “Hey, man. I can’t believe you’re here already.” I smiled and told him, “Someone is suppose to have utterly amazing intel for me on Regina’s evil schemes.” He looked a bit nervous, especially when he chucked and said, “Well, umm.. you see.. Laura is interested in me!” His smile was ear-to-ear, but his eyes made me think of a cartoon rabbit in a trap. “Ok.. and… what happened?” He hesitated more, and then blurted out, “I-kinda-told-Regina-that-we’d-go-as-a-double-date-with-you-and-her.” Great. I was just attempting to sort out how Emma felt about me, and my best friend set me up with a girl he calls “the devil” for a dance that I wanted to avoid. “You do understand that work takes priority over going to the dance, and I very well may have a client that night.”
Jarod’s shoulders slumped as he replied, “Can’t you take the night off and give her this one dance? What if Regina gets upset and convinces Laura they need a girl night?” I sighed. “Don’t you want to hear how my date with Emma went?” His toothy grin preceded him saying, “How was she? Did you and her.. you know..” Perhaps I shouldn’t have felt bad about how I was thinking of Emma earlier. Everyone else seemed to consider far more. “You know a guy and girl can be just friends.” Jarod’s expression was incredulous. “First you say that you’re telling me about a date, and now you’re saying that you’re just friends. I want details. Was she hot?” I rolled my eyes. “Yes, Emma is gorgeous. Stunning even. I just have no idea what I am to her.”
As we walked to school, I told Jarod about what Emma and I did together. He sat listening for a while and then gave me a pat on the back. “Sorry, man. That sucks. What can you expect from dating a lesbian though.” I took a moment trying to follow from where he was coming. “What!? Why are you saying sorry?” He grabbed my shoulders and turned me to face him. “Dude, I am your friend. That’s why I have to tell you that you got buried in the friend zone.” I felt his assessment was a bit premature. “I see that you’re in denial, but let’s look at the facts. She was open with you. Girls will lie to a guy to get their interest. She wasn’t interested in touching you. Then the choice of movie. Seriously, a girl is not going to risk ruining her makeup on a first date if she’s interested in getting nasty with the guy.” I was suddenly feeling a bit depressed, although I gladly would be Emma’s friend. Jarod wasn’t there. Maybe he was being too critical.
“Whatever the case, I bet she could kick your butt at Modern Warfare 3. We’ll have to all play together sometime.” He nodded. “I’m cool with that. I really want to see if that friend of hers is as good as you claim. I can’t believe you were beaten so bad by a girl. I bet she plays Skyrim with a name like ‘TheTinyDragon.’ You might well have stumbled into the goldmine of gamer chicks.” I tried acting optimistic about it, but part of me felt crushed at the idea of being stuck in “the friend zone” already with Emma, and I really needed to find a way out of going to Prom now. Yes, I owed Regina for the painting, but I couldn’t feel too bad about it when she painted it to get something out of me.
We arrived at school and split up to head to our lockers. “Hey, James. How are you today?” The way Regina touched my shoulder as she said this to me emphasized what Jarod had told me about my spot with Emma. “I’m okay. Could be worse.” She smiled and asked, “What’s troubling you? Anything I can do to help?” I wanted to tell her she could let me off the hook about Prom, but I knew that wouldn’t go over well. Instead, I said, “Just was a long weekend. How was yours?” She stood by me and prattled on about Prom and her plans for it, mentioning several times how happy she was to be doubling with Jarod and Laura. Supposedly, she found them to be quite the cute couple. “James? What’s wrong?” she asked as she took in my face.
As she talked, I had realized that Regina was probably the one person who loathed the “friend zone” more than anyone else I knew. Mother was right about how hard the girl worked for my attention. Regina knew me so very well. She didn’t just know my favorite colors, books, games, and other trivia. Regina could often tell at a glance how I was feeling. She was very calculating and, perhaps, cruel to rivals, but she also persevered in the pursuit of something she wanted despite the fact that I never gave her a chance. I smiled and rested my hand on her shoulder. “Regina, I’m sorry that I don’t often pay enough attention. Prom sounds like it’ll be absolutely splendid. Care to give me a lift home after practice, so you can tell me more about it?” She walked away beaming when I went to homeroom.
Tonight I had a simple job of helping Wendy Wright rearrange her furniture and clean in preparation for some Spring party she had planned for the following day. The ride home would make my day less rushed, and Regina would feel happy about spending a little time together. I truly needed to figure things out with Regina before going out on dates with other girls, so I didn’t hurt her anymore. If she was truly the devil, Jarod wouldn’t accept her help in his own relationship, and I didn’t want her feeling like I felt today ever again. I knew Emma couldn’t help not being attracted to me, assuming Jarod was right, but I could figure out how I felt about Regina and talk with her instead of keeping her on an emotional roller coaster. Hopefully, I could think things through while cleaning for Wendy, so I could finally give Regina a straight answer on what she was to me.