Karl pushed another log into the little wood-burning stove as they all took turns in the bathroom brushing their teeth and putting on pajamas. Cerise climbed into her sleeping bag, which was next to Jay’s. At first she was glad he hadn’t suggested zipping their bags together to make one big bag, though a second later she sort of wished he had because when Karine walked by in a white camisole which didn’t leave much to the imagination, Jay’s gaze followed her. He was always going to be obsessed with her, wasn’t he? But he was her boyfriend now! He’d never be with Karine and he might as well accept that! Cerise asked herself why she was even going out with him when it was so obvious he was into Karine. Then she instantly felt ashamed, wondering if this was how Terry had always felt about her obvious feelings for Jay. She was such a shitty girlfriend, no matter who she was dating.
Seriously, all her relationships were terrible. She could never make it work with Terry, she’d been horrible to Tom and now she was being shitty to Jay even though she really liked him! Or did she? Of course she did! She was glad she was finally with him and she couldn’t stand the idea of him being with Karine. But maybe that was it. Karine seemed to get off on the idea that Jay liked her and she sometimes acted like she didn’t want anyone else to have him but was Cerise any better? Did she only want Jay because he didn’t want her? Did she only want to “win” over Karine?
“You know, I agree with Vani,” Sarah whispered to Cassie. “It would have been fun if Terry came. And if Nick came too.”
“I know, they’re both so hot,” agreed Cassie.
“Nick is still single, right?”
“Why are you asking, aren’t you still with Paul?”
“Yeah, of course,” insisted Sarah, still whispering.
“Where is Paul anyway?” asked Cerise.
“He had to do family stuff this week,” explained Sarah.
“Ok, so I have dibs on Nick,” giggled Cassie.
“Nick is a dweeb,” said Vani. “He’s a stupid jock.”
“Terry’s a stupid jock and you love him,” pointed out Karl.
Cerise wanted to say that Terry wasn’t stupid but she decided to stay quiet on the issue. Jay probably wouldn’t want her to defend her ex, especially considering all the animosity between them.
Suddenly Karine crawled out of her sleeping bag and crept downstairs. The front door was heard opening and closing.
“God, what a bitch. If she’s not the centre of attention she just leaves? Whatever,” grumbled Cassie.
Cerise got up and went downstairs. As she put on her coat and boots she heard the girls asking each other what Cerise was up to. Vani suggested she was about to initiate a snowball fight with Karine, which elicited giggles and a grumbled plea from Karl for everyone to shut up and go to sleep.
“You’re such an old man,” laughed Sarah.
Cerise hauled open the thick wooden door and stepped outside into the chill air. It was super dark out and Cerise took a moment to let her eyes adjust. She saw Karine sitting nearby on a big rock and she joined her.
“Come to bitch me out?” asked Karine.
Cerise had assumed Karine would be smoking but she was just looking up at the stars. “Why would I bitch you out?”
“Do you at least know why those two hate me so much?”
“Yeah, I do,” sighed Cerise.
“So? Gonna let me in on the fucking secret or what? Is it because I kissed Jay? ‘Cause I was just fucking drunk.”
“Well Karine, it’s more that they just kinda put everything together.” Cerise huffed and watched her breath swirl up into the black sky.
“What are you talking about?”
“They blame you for their break-ups with Jay.”
“Well, you told Sarah to dump Jay because of me. Right?
“Well yeah but I was doing it for you!”
“Were you?” Cerise asked sceptically. Before Karine could answer she went on. “Let’s say I buy that. What about in high school? Why did you dump Steven and then like, go to prom with Jay and then ditch him?”
“Oh god, seriously? You’re bringing up high school shit? That was a bunch of shit that had nothing to do with Jay. It was about me and Steven and Erica.”
“Did you know Jay was supposed to go with me?”
Karine squinted and shuffled her feet in the snow. “Weren’t you with Terry?”
“We’d broken up.”
“Like I can keep track of you guys’ ups and downs,” Karine chuckled bitterly.
“Ok but like… why did you get Cassie to dump Jay?”
“I didn’t even!”
“Karine.” Cerise lifted a brow and waited for Karine to look at her.
Karine finally looked up and sighed. “Ok, maybe I nudged her… in the sense of telling her that he was gonna dump her. Which is not a total lie.”
“Except that it is.”
“He wasn’t even happy with her!”
“But he would have been happy with you?”
“Like I’d want Jay!” Karine scoffed. “No offense.”
Cerise laughed in disbelief. “Then why break them up? And why kiss him at Halloween?”
“Oh fuck,” grumbled Karine, obviously embarrassed. “So maybe I had like a little baby crush on him.”
“Well obviously it was big enough to fuck with his head. And fuck with his life. And fuck with Cassie and Sarah.”
“I dunno,” Karine sniffled, probably from the cold. Cerise highly doubted she was crying. “Maybe I was jealous. Maybe I was sick of always going out with the same type of guy.”
“What type?” asked Cerise with genuine curiosity.
“You know, all like popular or whatever. And maybe… maybe I wanted to be with someone I trusted. ‘Cause maybe sometimes… I think about the asshole, you know, Andrew, and what he did to me. And maybe I think about how I feel safe with Jay.”
Cerise felt like such an ass, not only because of what Karine had gone through but because a part of her doubted Karine’s sincerity. She was so manipulative, was it possible she was just using her rape as an excuse for her shitty behaviour? Cerise supposed Karine’s story made sense. Jay was definitely non-threatening.
“Well,” Cerise sighed. “I get that. But it was still a shitty thing to do to Sarah and Cassie.”
“So what am I supposed to do about it?!” Karine threw her arms up in exasperation.
“Seriously? It’s not a tough code to crack, Karine. You just have to apologize.”
“Oh my god, seriously?” Karine seemed horrified.
“Would it be so bad?”
“God, what would I say? How would I explain?”
“Just tell the truth! Everything you just told me,” said Cerise. “Assuming it’s true,” she added after a beat.
Karine gave her a sidelong glance and smirked. “I’m not gonna tell those bitches about what happened with the asshole.”
“Never show weakness, Cerise. Not to your enemies and not even to your friends. And definitely not to friends who turn into enemies.”
“They’re only friends who turned to enemies because of what you did!”
“Still. If you give people information they can use against you, like you’re just asking for it to backfire.”
Cerise had to admit she at least somewhat agreed with that statement but she didn’t want to encourage Karine. “You don’t have to tell them everything. Just like the part about how you were jealous. It’ll make them feel good and they’ll get over their damage.”
“Oh my god! Are you serious? I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction!”
“Well you have to do something!” Cerise insisted. “’Cause right now they’re just feeding off each other’s hate. If you tell them about what happened with the asshole, and how Jay made you feel safe, they’d have to be sympathetic. They can’t hate you after that.”
“So you’re saying I could use it. I could use it to make them see my side.”
“Oh my god, you’re talking like a politician, Karine.”
Karine stared at Cerise and tried to think of a retort. Maybe the Cherry was right; maybe she was too manipulative, too conniving. She always considered everything in terms of who was on top. But true friendship wasn’t like that. Terry was her only real friend, wasn’t he? And it had always been that way. With Erica and even Christina there had always been head-games. There was always someone winning and someone losing and now she was doing that again with Sarah and Cassie. Cerise was right: it was her fault. She was the bad guy.
“You know, when I broke up Cassie and Jay, it was ‘cause I was gonna go for him.”
“Yeah,” Cerise prompted.
“But then I didn’t.”
“’Cause of you. I knew you’d be crushed. I really did see how much it hurt you when Sarah got with him. I wasn’t even into Jay then so it’s not like I broke them up for myself. Anyway, that’s why I ultimately didn’t go for him. ‘Cause of you. ‘Cause our friendship is more important to me.”
“Really?” asked Cerise, somewhat sceptically.
God, fuck her for being suspicious! But she was right to be. Karine hadn’t even planned on saying all that, it had just come out. The real reason she didn’t go for Jay was because she was too much of a coward and she didn’t want to ruin her reputation. But somehow she didn’t say that just now. When she’d opened her mouth, this lie came out; a lie designed to get Cerise on her side. She couldn’t even help it. Karine started to give some serious thought to going into politics, but Cerise interrupted her reverie by saying she was relieved.
“That I’m not into Jay?”
“I guess it doesn’t matter if you are or aren’t. ‘Cause he’s into you. I dunno, Karine, it’s so weird being with him.”
“I think maybe it’s too late for us. Like we’ve been friends for so long, maybe we can’t be a couple.”
Karine certainly hoped this wasn’t a universal truth because then her relationship with Terry would never materialize. But if he was her one real friend, should she even think about jeopardizing that for the possibility of something more? But how could she not? She’d never be able to find a guy she cared about as much as Terry. Was she supposed to live her entire life going out with guys who couldn’t measure up?
“You know what I mean?” Cerise asked.
“Oh right, yeah. But don’t you think that’s a good thing? That you were already friends? You already know each other, you don’t have to go through the awkward getting-to-know-you stuff.”
“But that’s just it, it’s super awkward!”
“Maybe that’s just ‘cause… well… no offense but both you guys are pretty awkward just like, on your own. I guess together it’s like double the awkward, double the pain.”
“You’re right,” nodded Cerise. “Terry and I worked because he was outgoing, so he balanced out my shyness. But neither Jay or I know what we’re doing. Like, all we’ve ever done is kiss ‘cause neither of us knows how to make a move!”
“Oh my god,” Karine giggled into her hands. “You guys are such losers.”
“I know,” Cerise laughed as well. “We’re seriously fucking hopeless!”
“So just take control, Cerise. I know you don’t drink, but maybe start. If you guys are both tipsy you’ll lose your inhibitions and you can get down. Wait ‘till you get home though, there’s no private space here.”
Cerise laughed. “Oh god, but that’s just it. I don’t want to lose my inhibitions. ‘Cause like, well, you know how you were saying you felt safe with Jay? You trusted him?”
“Well I don’t.”
“You don’t trust him?”
“I don’t. I don’t trust that he returns my feelings. Not that I even know my feelings right now. But I’ve been crushing on him for two years and he only started giving a shit two seconds ago and I don’t even know why. I guess I don’t trust his motives.”
“Shit, I thought I was paranoid. You’re just fucking crazy!”
“Shut up! Seriously, Karine. What should I do?”
“My previous advice stands. Get fucking drunk, bitch. You’re too uptight. For real.”
Cerise sighed. “Ok whatever. Let’s go to sleep. It’s fucking freezing out here. Tomorrow you can apologize to the girls. You’ve got all night to think of some lie to tell them.”
Both girls giggled as they walked back inside.
Jay was rudely woken up by a pillow in his face. He jumped up and attacked Willy and they wrestled around for a bit. “What’s for breakfast?” he asked as he wiped the sleep from his eyes.
“We already ate, loser,” said Karl with disdain. “Fuck, you can sleep through anything.”
“We’re going skating. Wanna come?” asked Cerise.
“Meh, I can’t skate,” he shrugged, pouring himself a bowl of cereal.
“Speak up! I can’t hear you!” Vani suddenly exclaimed.
Jay turned to see that Vani was trying to eavesdrop on Karine as she was speaking to Cassie and Sarah.
“You’re not meant to hear, you moron!” Karine yelled.
“No, no, go ahead Vani, come here. Everyone might as well hear this,” said Cassie smugly.
Was it Jay’s imagination or did Karine’s cheeks turn red?. She cleared her throat and spoke. “I was just telling Cassie that I deliberately broke her up with Jay.”
Jay dropped the spoon in his hand and it crashed to the ground. Everyone stared at him and then turned back to Karine.
“Um, ‘cause like, I didn’t think Cassie and Jay were suited to each other. And I know that was a shitty thing to do, and I’m sorry. And I broke up Sarah and Jay too.”
“Why?” asked Vani, saving Jay from having to ask.
“The same reason you guys wanted to break up Sarah and Jay. ‘Cause it was hurting Karl. And it was hurting Cerise. I mean, look at them, they’re finally a couple and that’s how it should be. They’re perfect for each other.”
Cerise didn’t seem particularly impressed by that statement. She looked a little disbelieving, actually. Jay wasn’t sure what to think either.
Karine went on. “So like yeah.”
“What the fuck, seriously?” said Cassie. “Cerise never told me she was into Jay. I had every right to go out with him!”
“Well I’m sorry!” said Karine. “I made a mistake, ok? I talked to Jay and I thought he was gonna break up with you. I was wrong. But I just thought that he should be with Cerise. And it turns out I was right!”
Cassie didn’t look convinced but Sarah seemed a little relieved. She accepted the apology and picked up her skates, telling the girls they could keep talking about it at the lake.
Before Jay knew it the girls were gone and he was staring into a soggy bowl of cereal.
“Well, fuck, Jay. I guess you and Cherry, Cherry, quite contrary were just meant to be!” chuckled Vani.
“Fuck that shit!” growled Willy.
Vani went on. “You know, you’re quickly setting a record. She’s your third girlfriend. Second that you had any legitimate claim to. You’re way ahead of me. If my non-homosexual man-love for Terry wasn’t so pure I’d be jealous. But since my non-homosexual man-love for Terry is so pure I feel no jealousy. Only the desire for violence.” With that he opened a window, gathered up a snowball from the windowsill and threw it at Jay.
The snow splattered on the fridge and Karl freaked out, telling them to act civilized. Vani ran downstairs and they all followed, putting on their gear. Once outside the snow fight continued and Willy promptly went berserk, pushing Jay in the snow and piling snow on his face.
“Fuck off!” Jay sputtered, trying to push the whale away.
“Seriously, relax Willy, I think he’s dead,” said Karl with a laugh.
“How can you say Jay has a legitimate claim to Cerise?! I fucking put dibs on her!” yelled Willy.
“Oh shut the fuck up,” said Jay, finally managing to crawl away. His entire body was soaked and he was freezing.
“The kid has a point though. He did put dibs,” said Karl.
“That’s fucking retarded!” said Jay. “If anyone had dibs on Cerise I did! Unspoken dibs!”
“Unspoken dibs?” shrieked Willy. “Are those like, magical fairy dibs?”
“I mega have dibs! I’m the one who met her first. I’m better friends with her than any of you. I introduced her to all you guys and she only hung out with you guys ‘cause of me.”
“Valid points all,” nodded Vani.
“I called fucking dibs!” insisted Willy. “I called it! I fucking called it!”
“Well what the fuck are you gonna do about it?!” asked Jay haughtily, getting mighty tired of this bullshit.
“You have to break up with her.”
“Fuck you,” scoffed Jay.
“There’s no such thing as unspoken dibs,” Willy huffed. “The whole concept is retarded. I bet you think you have unspoken dibs on every chick we ever met.”
“Like we’ve even met that many,” said Karl with an eye-roll.
“Whatever, Willy,” Jay sighed. “You can have dibs on all the chicks we’ve ever met besides Cerise.”
“Yeah. Happy now?”
“Yeah fine,” Willy nodded smugly. “So then I have dibs on Karine.”
Both Karl and Vani burst into laughter. “He’s got you there!”
“Fuck you! You know I didn’t mean Karine! I way have dibs on her!”
“Unspoken dibs apparently,” Willy cackled.
“Yeah, unspoken dibs,” Jay said. “You all know I’ve been into her since Sec 1! It’s just fucking understood that I have dibs on her!”
“The issue is moot since she’d never go out with either of you,” said Karl.
“She might,” said Jay.
“Nope,” smiled Karl.
“Whatever!” Jay exclaimed. “It doesn’t matter. I have dibs on Karine. That’s final!”
“You’re such a piece of shit!” Willy screamed. “You say one thing and then when I follow your rules you go against yourself. You’re such a fucking ass.”
“It’s true, Jay,” Karl nodded. “You’re being a major prick.”
“Truth is being told,” Vani agreed.
“Unless you fucking agree that I have dibs on Karine, and by me having dibs on Karine I mean you can never, ever date her, then you’re fucking expulsed!” yelled Willy.
“Whoa! Les moteurs!” said Vani in awe.
“You can’t just expulse me, you lard-turd. It has to be a group decision.”
“Well as much as it pains me to do so, I have to side with Willy,” said Karl. “The boy has logic in his corner.”
“Yeah,” nodded Vani. “I gotta admit the lard-turd is in the right.”
Jay stared at his so-called friends in disbelief. “You can’t be serious! I have to give up dibs on Karine? That’s not fair!”
“Actually, it’s way beyond fair,” said Willy. “But since I’m such a reasonable man, I’ll make you a deal. You can choose. You can choose either Cerise or Karine. You can have dibs on one but not both.”
“Ho, ho, ho,” Vani chuckled. “It just keeps getting better.”
Jay stared at Willy. “But I’m already with Cerise.”
“Then I guess your choice is made.”
“No! I want Karine!” he exclaimed without thinking.
“Ok. You choose Karine. That means you have to break up with Cerise.”
They all stared at him smugly.
“You guys know how I feel about Karine… she’s everything.”
“So it’s Karine then?” asked Willy. “Ok, break up with Cerise.”
“This is stupid! Even if I broke up with her it’s not like she’d go out with you!”
“Then fucking choose Cerise and forget about Karine, who will never go out with you.”
“Seriously, Jay,” said Karl. “This isn’t exactly Sophie’s choice. You already have Cerise. And we all know you have no chance with Karine. Giving Willy dibs on her is like giving him an invisible coin. He can’t actually buy anything with it.”
Jay couldn’t believe this. Would they really expulse him if he refused to choose? It was retarded! Why couldn’t he have both Karine and Cerise? Neither of them would ever go for Willy so it was stupid of him to wish for it. Whereas Jay really had a chance with Karine. She’d totally flirted with him this summer, he knew she had. He couldn’t give her up. And things weren’t exactly awesome with Cerise anyway.
“Just think about it, Jay,” advised Willy. “It’s either Cerise or it’s Karine.”
Vani grinned. “Panties, panties, panties, panties!”