Through All the Dust
Chapter Seventy-Two: Two Birds with One Stone
When I was fourteen, I'd been invited to a party by a girl named Shannon. She went by Shay, a nickname I couldn't quite comprehend the origin of. We'd met in math class; I was notoriously terrible in the subject. Shay, on the other hand, was always the first to raise her hand with a solution to every problem. So, naturally, I gravitated her way. Ty was the math whiz and without him in the same room, I figured I was doom to fail.
She'd found me amusing at first, I think. She was always commenting my wit; confusing my cynicism with sarcasm. One day she'd invited me out to lunch with her. Given that she typically hung around with a particularly popular crowd, I'd been nothing short of suspicious. But I'd agreed anyway, after a long conversation with Marge about what I believed was a blossoming friendship.
Marge had told me that every girl needed, at least, one true girlfriend. There were some things, after all, that you just couldn't discuss with your boy of a best friend.
So, hesitantly, I'd gone to lunch. She'd picked a small cafe just around the corner from our high school, it was expensive and the portions were small, but the food was decent enough.
"So," she'd breathed over a cappuccino, "didn't your parents, like, die or something?"
I remember being totally dismantled by the casual tone.
"Uh..." I cringed internally. "Yeah."
"That's crazy," she half-laughed. "I can't imagine what I'd do if my parents died."
I just remember staring at her. There were no words to offer; we certainly weren't close enough to start trading my war stories. So, I just stared.
She smiled, "We should be friends."
I narrowed my eyes.
"I kind of collect broken people," she smirked. "It's, like, a hobby or whatever."
With a scowl, I replied simply, "I'm not broken."
"Right," she laughed. "You're just totally a hermit on purpose."
I was going to tell her that I also wasn't a hermit but the denial thing was already getting old. I didn't really care what she thought; especially if she really wanted to be my friend. Lord knows I didn't have any.
"You're friends with Tyler Brody, though," she grinned from behind her Styrofoam cup. "Right?"
"Yeah," I replied simply, trying to comatose the wasps in my stomach with a bite of a Panini.
"How close are you two?" she asked me curiously.
I hesitated, taking my time to chew the bread, still a little caught up in the collection of broken pieces thing, "He's my best friend."
"But are you his?" she asked rudely.
With a nod, I muttered, "Uh-huh."
"But you're not dating?"
"No," I grunted. "Why, are you looking to date him?"
She smiled smugly, "Maybe."
It dawned on me all in an instant. There was no real interest in me, it was all a ploy. That's all it ever was with women, wasn't it? A ploy to reach some other end? I was instantly reminded why I'd always clung to Tyler and not to others. At least when Tyler was shady, he was fairly open about it. He never hid his bullshit from me--and because of that, I trusted him wholely.
"He would never date you," I informed her, wrapping my sandwich into its paper and stuffing it into my black Misfits messenger bag.
She pursed her perfectly lined lips, "And why's that?"
"Because you're pretentious to start," I shrugged, downing the last of my coffee. "And because I'd never allow it."
"Allow it," she scoffed, amused.
I smiled at her, causing her immediate discomfort.
"I'm gonna go," I half-laughed. "Thanks for...whatever this was."
She was true to her word, though. She'd tried to collect me--despite the way I'd spoken to her. So, when she invited me to a party, I went.
Tyler had come along with me, partly for socialisation and partly for moral support. He was suspicious of Shay, with good reason. But I'd insisted that I give it a go. Clearly she could handle some sass, and that's what I was all about.
But when I got there, everyone was staring. I knew right away that I didn't belong. Tyler, however, was being greeted by everyone. Everyone knew who he was, everyone wanted to really know him. He stayed by my side, holding my hand to reassure me we wouldn't get seperated in the crowd. I fucking hated crowds.
"Blair!" Shay shrieked when she finally caught sight of me.
She barrelled toward me, taking me into her arms. I stiffened.
"And you've brought Tyler!" she grinned, stepping back from me to wiggle her brows at Ty.
He didn't really seem to notice at all.
"Is there a place I can smoke?" I asked her uncomfortably.
She grimaced, "Oh, right. I forgot you were a smoker..."
I swallowed down my nervousness.
"The back door's through the kitchen," she said, pointing over her shoulder.
"Thanks," I grumbled, turning to Ty.
He'd noticed her glances this time, though. It was clear that I was on my own.
I walked quickly through the kitchen and out the back, where there were a few people scattered around. Lighting my cigarette quickly, I sank into the shadows. I'd finished my cigarette far too quickly as everyone else had slowly trickled indoors. Alone and in the silence, I lit a second...and then a third. I cursed myself for coming to this place at all.
What had I been thinking? This wasn't my life; this wasn't my thing. This wasn't where I belonged.
As I lit my fourth cigarette, I decided I'd find Tyler upon my return indoors and we'd hit the road. I'd given it an effort, and for that I could feel satisfied with myself.
But distinct and catty voices caught me off guard. I stepped further into the darkness next to the house, turning my back to cloak the ember of my cigarette in my shadow.
"Can you believe she actually showed up?" a girl howled.
My anxiety told me they were talking about me.
My reason told me that I was paranoid.
"I know," another girl cackled. "How lame is she?"
"Hey, she brought Tyler though," a third girl interjected. "So we can't hate her too much."
Anxiety wins again!
The first girl whined, "But she's so weird!"
"Oh my god, I know! Like do you own any colour but black? Stupid goth girl."
"She's not even cool enough to be goth," one of them giggled. "She's just some loser freak. What Tyler sees in her, I'll never understand."
"Oh my god, I know right?"
My eyes began to well. It wasn't like these were new notions I'd never heard before...But I was wildly humiliated. It was different when they'd say this shit behind my back and I'd still have the upper hand. I didn't typically associate with any of them, so it appeared to them as if I didn't care.
But I'd been stupid enough to fall for this shit. I felt so stupid. So, so stupid.
"We have to be nice," one of them groaned. "Shay said so."
"Only until she fucks Tyler," another noted. "Then we can go back to our normal lives and Blair can...do whatever it is she does."
"What do orphan weirdos do?"
They cackled and cackled. They reminded me a lot of witches around a cauldron. I felt so small.
"Hey," I heard Tyler's voice break through their cattiness. "Have you guys seen Blair?"
"Peterson?" one of the girls asked coyly. "I didn't even know she was here!"
With one shot at sanctuary, I took a deep breath and stepped into the light. As I tore toward Tyler, I ignored the stunned looks on each bitch's face as I passed them. I was sure to toss my still lit cigarette into one of their red cups on my way by.
"Can we go home please?" I asked Tyler quietly as I pulled him inside.
He eyed me nervously, "Sure."
We didn't speak of it until we were halfway home. I was too belittled to use my big girl words. Tyler walked with his arm around my shoulders.
"Are you okay to be my only friend ever?" I asked him with a hint of a smirk.
"Obviously," he laughed, pulling me in to kiss my cheek affectionately.
"Those girls are fucking heathens," I told him.
He nodded, "I know. Which is why I was surprised you even wanted to go to their shitty party."
"Never again," I sighed, sinking into Tyler as we walked. "I'm done with women."
"Me too," he grinned. "You're the only one for me, Blair Peterson."
I gnawed at my bottom lip, holding Brian's hand as we both stared up at a screen. Apparently, somewhere in the grey haze, was our baby. It had taken some time to get back to California and in for an ultrasound. But we'd both swung a day away from our lives to be together and invested in the growing baby in my belly, which was starting to look just a little swollen.
Under the November sun, we'd strolled lazily out of our bed and into the car. I'd tossed my hair up, unable to find any energy to present myself as an actual human. I was set to fly out that same night, Brian the next morning. I'd already tired of the time apart, but there wasn't much to be done about it. In just three short weeks, I'd be home. Just in time for Christmas.
"Would you like to know the sex?"
Brian and I looked at each other sharply. My heart began to beat wildly within its cage.
"I'm that fucking far along?" I choked.
Brian laughed, "Sorry about my wife. She was raised in a prison."
The doctor laughed, "It's fine. My husband was also raised in a prison."
"Sorry," I grumbled with rosy cheeks.
"B?" Brian asked quietly, coaxing me to give an answer.
I shrugged subtly, "Sure..."
It made no difference to me if the thing came out a boy, a girl, or a god damn zebra. It was the same about of stress, the same amount of love. It changed nothing.
"Well," she breathed, leaning closer to the screen, "looks to be a boy! Congratulations!"
Brian was in all his glory. A grin spread from one ear to the other and his grip on my hand tightened with a vengeance.
If there was anything else to the appointment, I couldn't tell you. I was off on a cloud, envisioning my life raising my boy. He'd have my eyes and Brian's colour--no, Brian's eyes and my colour. Wait...maybe just Brian's. He'd definitely have Brian's high cheek bones and my pouty lips. There was no way around that.
We were gifted a picture of our little peanut and it had been worked out that we'd basically gotten hitched and pregnant all in one day. Good work, Haners!
As I climbed into Brian's car, clutching the picture in my hand, I had the strangest urge.
"Bri?" I hummed.
He glanced over at me as he roared the car to life.
"Can I call Lauren quick?" I asked with a smile. "Before we go?"
"I'll do you one better," he smirked. "Let's go see that blonde wench."
I lit up, "Really?"
I'd assumed that my short time in Cali would be basically eaten up entirely my wife obligation. Don't get me wrong; I would have been perfectly content spending my afternoon with Brian. But my heart was torn; I missed Lauren so god damn much while I was away. It felt a bit like a lovesick girl crush gone bad--but I didn't care.
We drove the short trip to Lauren's and I didn't bother waiting for Brian as I sprinted from the car to her front door. I knocked furiously, the ultrasound picture still in my clutches.
As she pulled open the door, she smiled in surprised, "Hey!"
"Guess what," I beamed right away.
She laughed, glancing behind my shoulder at Brian as he climbed the driveway, "What?"
"What was your number one wish for the baby?" I grinned.
Her brows a fell a little, "That it be...healthy?"
"Forget the moral bullshit," I laughed. "What's your dream?"
"That it be a boy," she smirked. "So that Owen can have a bestie!"
I grinned mischieviously.
Her face rotated quickly through absense, to confusion, to realization.
"No," she gasped.
I nodded furiously, "It's a fucking boy!"
"Are you shitting me?" she managed, glancing to Brian for confirmation.
I assumed he gave it to her because she was shrieking within seconds.
"Get in here!" she instructed us both quickly. "Owen needs some godparent love and I need details!"
Brian followed me into my best friend's house and as she shut the door behind us, I was glad I hadn't sworn off all women.
But Lauren wasn't really a woman; she was hardly even human.
She was exactly what I'd always needed--the one close girlfriend Marge had always sworn I'd require. She was worth the wait.
Awww, a boy!