“So did you have a good time?” asked Karine. “You were pretty wasted when we dragged your ass home.” She passed her cigarette to Nick.
“Yeah, it was cool,” smiled Nick, taking a drag. “Thanks for coming with me.” He passed the cigarette to Terry, who took a drag and passed it back to Karine.
Terry supposed it was weird that he and Nick always bummed their cigarettes off Karine. He had to assume she found it annoying, if only because of the cost. Then again, no one ever offered him any gas money when they went out, so he was entitled to the occasional cigarette outside of school.
“So did you guys hook up?” Karine went on.
“You guys were with me the whole time; you know exactly what I did!”
“You should’ve hooked up,” said Terry. “If only in like, the bathroom or whatever.”
“Gross!” said Nick in disgust.
“Oh, stop being such a princess,” scoffed Terry.
“At least tell us you got that guy’s number!” said Karine.
“Yeah, but I’m not gonna call,” shrugged Nick.
“God, you’re so picky!” lamented Terry
“Not really, I got a lot of numbers, and there’s one guy I think I’m gonna call.”
“Well hallelujah!” laughed Terry.
Nick smiled happily and took another drag of the cigarette. Once they were done they went back inside and threw their coats in Nick’s locker, then walked Karine to the theatre for her next class. They passed by the Munch Box and all the guys were there, no doubt playing their dumb game, as usual.
“Hey Terry!” Vani called out.
Terry nodded to Vani and then glared at Jay. “Fuck you, Harris,” he sneered.
“Yeah, fuck you!” spat Karine. “I never even liked you, Harris!”
Vani seemed pretty upset and looked at Jay accusingly. “Everything bad in the world is your fault!” he hollered.
“Shut the fuck up,” Jay sighed, more worried about what Karine thought about him at this particular moment. She never even liked him? What had compelled her to say that all of a sudden? He’d thought they were all friends again, eating lunch together again and stuff. Why did Karine hate him now?
Cerise and Cassie walked by a minute later and also shot death rays in their direction. What the fuck?
“What did you do this time?” whined Vani. “Seriously, why are we back on the hate list?”
“You just always fuck everything up!” hissed Willy.
“Fuck all of you!” Jay exclaimed, jumping up from the table. They all accused him of losing motor control and this time it was true. He was seriously pissed off! Fuck the guys for always blaming him for everything. And fuck Terry Trebijerksy and fuck Cerise too, for suddenly deciding she hated him again and fuck Cassie for hating him and fuck Karine! Fuck Karine for never liking him! Fuck them all!
Theatre was actually fun again. Everyone agreed the play still sucked but they were having fun with it, all exaggerating their characters and almost making it a farce. Hugh and Fred loved what Cerise was doing with Bernice, making her snarky and sarcastic and highly sexualized and it was now an exciting role for her to play. She could fully escape during rehearsals; pretend she was really someone else and not worry at all about her own stupid life.
The only person who didn’t seem to think everything was great was Karine, and Cerise knew it was because she was no longer the star of the show. Except she still was of course, but her character couldn’t be funny or outrageous, she had to play her scenes straight, or at least that’s what Fred and Hugh told her to do. She was cooperating and was still having a good time, or was at least pretending to, but Cerise could tell she was a bit annoyed by how much attention Cerise was now getting. Every day someone would praise her for a choice she’d made or a new line she’d improvised, but no one praised Karine anymore, and it was obviously getting to her.
Oh well, too bad, so sad. Cerise didn’t feel bad for Karine at all. She still had three times as many lines as anyone else, she was still the headliner and she still got the majority of rehearsal time. Cerise still spent most of her class time in the wings or in the audience.
“You know it’s ‘cause of you that this play doesn’t suck so bad anymore,” said Tom in a whisper, sitting next to Cerise in the wings.
“What are you talking about? It’s you and Cassie who are making it hilarious,” Cerise whispered back.
“I dunno. I think you switching on Bernice was a turning point. Everyone’s having more fun now.”
“Well, at least I am,” Cerise smiled.
“I wanted to tell you something…”
“What is it?” Cerise asked in concern. Tom seemed hesitant, shameful even.
“Parisses Squares, we’ve been rehearsing without you.”
“Well I figured when I stopped being invited to rehearsals it wasn’t ‘cause you guys all like, quit the band or whatever.”
“It’s just that you were in a funk for a while,” Tom shrugged.
“I know, Tom, it’s ok. It’s not your fault. I totally have been in a funk.”
“But you’re better now, right?”
“Yeah, I think I am,” she smiled.
“Ok, so you wanna come to this Saturday’s rehearsal?”
“So I haven’t been kicked out?”
“If you still want in, you’re still in.”
She nodded and smiled.
“So I was also thinking something else,” he went on, and Cerise knew immediately he was going to ask her out. She hoped she was wrong. “You know how you’re not going out with anyone anymore and how I’m not either and,” he went on.
“Yeah, it’s good that way, isn’t it?” she interrupted. “I’m really enjoying singlehood these days. Sometimes it’s good to be alone so you can know who you are or whatever.”
He smiled sadly and nodded, obviously having gotten the hint. She smiled back, glad to have dodged that bullet.
That Saturday she was back in Tom’s basement, singing a new song Tom had written. It wasn’t really working and she wondered if it was her fault. Maybe she’d been apart from the band for too long. Maybe they’d outgrown her, or maybe they’d never really needed her in the first place.
“Sorry guys, I know I’m sucking,” she apologized after a set.
“Yeah, no offense but that was shit,” confirmed Jeff, proving himself to be just as much of a charmer as ever.
“It wasn’t so bad. We just need to re-find our groove,” said Tom.
Jeff sighed deeply and pointed out that their groove had been fine without Cerise.
“Come on, let’s not fight. We all agreed we wanted Cerise back,” said Tom. “In fact it was your suggestion, Jeff, so don’t be an asshole.”
Cerise looked at Jeff quizzically and he shrugged. Lloyd suggested they take a break and said he’d be upstairs taking a dump. Cerise chuckled in amusement, remembering all the oversharing and debauchery of their little tour through Ontario last summer.
Tom went to get them all some water and Bernie sat on a couch. Jeff coughed deliberately and Bernie rolled his eyes, walking upstairs while groaning with displeasure.
“What was that all about?” asked Cerise, like she didn’t know.
“You ok?” asked Jeff.
“What do you mean? Yeah, I’m fine.”
“I can make you finer.” He wiggled his eyebrows.
“Oh god, are you gonna ask me out again?”
“Well fuck, you don’t have to act like it’s the worst thing ever!”
“Is that the only reason I was invited back here? You don’t even want me in the band, do you? You just want me on your dick.”
“What’s wrong with my dick?”
“God, it’s probably crawling with herpes!” Cerise groaned in disgust.
“I’ll have you know my dick is STD free.”
“You know, I’m not gonna wait around for you forever!”
“So don’t! I’m not asking you to!” said Cerise in exasperation.
“Well fuck you!”
“Seriously? You’re gonna be an asshole to me now just because I don’t wanna be with you?” And much to Cerise’s mortification the tears came down in a quiet stream. Jesus Christ, she hated when she acted like such a girl. How would anyone ever respect her if she always broke into tears at the smallest sign of trouble?
“Uh, geez,” said Jeff sheepishly. “You ok?”
“What the fuck did you do?” asked Tom, coming downstairs and rushing to Cerise’s side.
“Nothing, I’m fine,” insisted Cerise, wiping her eyes and trying to act cool.
“Oh come on,” said Bernie. “I mean, I’m really sorry to resort to quoting Tom Hanks and everything but seriously Cerise, there is no crying in baseball! Or bands. No crying in bands. I mean, there’s lots of yelling and trashing hotel rooms but crying? Come on!”
“You’re right,” said Cerise, forcing out a laugh. “This is ridiculous. I’m fine, ok, everything’s fine.”
“Maybe you should apologize for whatever you did, Jeff,” said Tom pointedly.
“What’s going on?” asked Lloyd as he came downstairs. “Why’s Cerise all puffy?”
“I asked her out, she said no, so I got pissed and she started crying,” said Jeff with a shrug.
“You can’t fucking ask her out!” yelled Tom. “We agreed none of us would ask her out!”
“I didn’t agree to shit,” said Bernie. “But like, I’m not into you that way so it’s all good,” he smiled at Cerise.
“I’d do you,” said Lloyd with a grin.
Cerise recognized that they were trying to lighten the mood and it might have worked if Tom hadn’t lost his shit. He yelled at Jeff some more and Jeff yelled back and they even pushed each other!
“God, stop it!” Cerise exclaimed. “What the fuck, you guys?!”
“Seriously, this is bullshit,” said Bernie. “No offense Cerise, but you shouldn’t be here. This just isn’t gonna work.”
“God, Bernie, it’s not Cerise’s fault if Jeff’s being a dick!” said Tom.
“No, Bernie’s right,” said Cerise. “This isn’t working and it’s cause I’m here.” She was trying with all her might not to cry again.
“It can work fine!” insisted Tom. “Cerise, just stay.”
“You just wanna fuck her!” said Jeff.
“So do you!” said Tom.
“I’m not gonna fuck either of you!” Cerise yelled. “God, I’m so sick of this shit! I’m sick of both of you. I’m sick of the wrong people wanting me and the right people not!”
“I told you Cerise, you can’t have me,” snickered Bernie.
“God, shut the fuck up, Bernie!” spat Tom. “And fuck you, Cerise. Seriously. It must be such a fucking tough life when so many people care about you!”
He’d never been so mean to her before. She wanted to be angry at his outburst but she supposed she had it coming. She’d been pretty dismissive of him in the past and perhaps hadn’t fully considered his feelings when she’d rejected him.
They all stood there, looking at one another. Finally Cerise gathered her things and walked upstairs without a word.
“Well fucking good riddance,” grumbled Jeff.
“Shut up,” snarled Tom.
“She’s tearing us apart, man! Tearing us apart!” joked Bernie, as Lloyd laughed.
She heard someone climbing the stairs behind her, probably Tom, but she rushed up to the main floor and put on her boots as quickly as she could. He stood in the doorway, watching her as she put on her coat. “It’s ok, Tom,” she said.He nodded and she left.