Authors: Melody Carlson
Tags: #General Fiction, #(¯`'•.¸//(*_*)\\¸.•'´¯)
“Thanks.” DJ stood up to look at it. Okay, it was a little too pink and glitzy for her taste, but it did look professional.
“Hey, I meant to ask you guys,” Eliza said. “Did you get your prom dresses yesterday?”
Taylor glanced uneasily at DJ.
“You didn’t go shopping?” Eliza’s tone had an accusing edge to it. “What is wrong with you two?”
“Actually it’s taken care of,” Taylor assured her.
“Taken care of?”
DJ screwed the top back onto the glitter jar. “Yes, no need to worry. It’s all under control.”
“How is that possible?” Eliza placed her hands on her hips. “Please, tell me you’re not ordering them online. You know how bad that could be.”
“No, nothing like that,” Taylor said quickly.
“Come on, you guys, just tell me,” she pleaded. “I can’t stand the suspense.”
Taylor looked at DJ and DJ just shrugged.
“Well, it’s not like it’s some state secret,” Taylor said. “Dylan offered to help us with our dresses.”
“Dylan Marceau is designing your prom dresses?” Of course, she said this so loudly that everyone else in the room heard it.
“Yeah, it’s not that big of a deal,” DJ told her.
“Original Marceau gowns aren’t a big deal?”
“You have a designer gown too,” DJ pointed out.
Eliza nodded. “Yes…but I plan to be prom queen. I need a special gown.”
Taylor laughed. “So the rest of us should go slumming just to make you look better?”
Eliza glanced to see if everyone was watching her now. “No, of course not. Everyone should look their best.” She made what looked like a forced smile. “I think it’s lovely that all three of us will be wearing designer gowns.”
But as the other girls looked on, curiously studying Taylor and DJ and Eliza, it suddenly felt like the three of them were in some kind of snooty elitist club. And DJ wished she knew the secret handshake to get herself kicked out.
TIME FOR A NEW SHOW OF HANDS
Harry announced to their lunch table on Monday. He did this a couple of times a week, and DJ was getting a little tired of it. “Who still hasn’t received their college admissions letter?”
Several sheepishly stuck up their hands.
“Hey your hand’s not up,” Harry said to Lane.
Lane made a poker face like he usually did. He’d been wait-listed since February and was not very pleased about it. “My letter from Yale finally came.”
“And?” Harry waited.
“Accepted.” Lane grinned as they exchanged a high five.
“Congrats, man,” said Harry. “Just too bad you had to settle for Yale.”
Lane laughed. “That’s what I’d expect from someone who couldn’t strive for anything better than Princeton.”
Then, as usual, the argument over which Ivy League school was superior began to broil.
Even Kriti got involved, claiming that Harry and Lane were both wrong. “Harvard beats them both out.” She punched Josh in the arm. “Right?”
“Absolutely,” he said with good humor. “Everybody knows that Harvard rocks.”
“Come on,” Lane urged Eliza, “you’re a Yale girl. Help me defend our school.”
“Wait a minute,” Harry corrected him. “Eliza hasn’t been accepted at Yale yet, has she?”
Eliza looked slightly embarrassed. She too had been wait-listed, although she’d been boasting that it was just a matter of time. “So, when did you say your letter came, Lane?”
Her mouth twisted. “Well, mine might’ve been sent to Louisville.”
“Have you called home to see?”
She shrugged. “They’ll let me know.” Then she turned to DJ. “Hey, you applied to Yale too. Have you heard anything?”
DJ rolled her eyes. “No, and I’m not holding my breath. I only did it for Grandmother’s sake, plus I was a late applicant so I don’t expect to hear anytime soon.” She glanced at Conner, then grinned. “Besides, I already got accepted to Wesleyan U. And they even offered a small athletic scholarship package.”
Lane waved his hand dismissively. “Well, that figures. They have to bribe students to come to
Conner frowned, but didn’t engage. His parents were Wesleyan U alumni and he’d been sold on the small Middletown university for years. To be honest, Conner was the main reason that DJ had even considered this school in the first place. But after some investigation, DJ thought a small college would be perfect for someone like her. To her relief, the bell rang and the disagreement ended.
As DJ headed for class, she tried not to feel irked at her friends’ “lighthearted banter,” as Harry called it. Still, it bugged her. Why couldn’t they discuss something without turning it
into a major competition? Not that she didn’t like competition when it came to sports, where the rules were clear-cut and the victory was the result of skill and hard work, but when people fought over subjective things like fashion or colleges or even prom queen…well, it seemed a little crazy.
DJ was just rounding the corner toward the Social Studies department when she noticed Casey emerging from the restroom. Her face was flushed and it looked like she’d been crying. DJ realized that both Casey and Seth had been absent from the lunch table.
“Case?” DJ approached her with hesitation. “You okay?”
“Fine,” Casey snapped.
“I’m late for class.” Then Casey took off in the other direction.
DJ’s best guess was that Casey and Seth had gotten into a fight. And she actually hoped that was the case. In fact, DJ wouldn’t feel the least bit disappointed if they broke up completely. Oh, Casey would pout for a while, but in the long run, it would be for the best. DJ shot up a silent prayer for Casey as she took her seat in history. And she continued to pray for her off and on throughout the day.
After school was out and she was driving Taylor and Rhiannon home, DJ queried whether they’d seen Casey that afternoon.
“Why?” Taylor probed. “Is something wrong?
“What happened?” Rhiannon asked.
“She’d been crying. And when I tried to talk with her, she blew me off. But it was obvious she was upset.”
“Do you think something happened with Seth?” Taylor asked.
“That’s my guess.” DJ sighed. “I just wish she’d talk to me.”
“She’s been shutting me down too,” Rhiannon admitted. “Especially if I say one word that sounds negative about Seth.”
“And she won’t even give me the time of day” Taylor told them. “But that’s nothing new.”
“Probably because you know more about Seth than most people,” DJ said as she turned into the Carter House driveway to drop them off.
“Aren’t you getting out?” Taylor asked as she reached for her bag.
“No, I need to run to the bank and then to the Mockingbird Gallery.”
“Oh, yeah,” Rhiannon said. “The painting.”
“Yeah. I’ll see you later. Don’t mention it to my grandmother, okay?” DJ had already told them it was meant to be a Mother’s Day surprise.
They waved, and DJ drove back to town. She quickly took care of the banking business, then went and purchased the painting. She was just heading back toward home when she noticed Casey walking by herself on a side street. Whispering another quick prayer, DJ slowly pulled up alongside Casey, rolled down the window, and asked her if she wanted to get some coffee.
Casey simply shrugged and continued walking.
“Come on,” DJ urged. “My treat.”
“Are you going to stalk me if I don’t?”
DJ laughed. “Yeah, I think so.”
Casey got into the car, and DJ drove them over to McHenry’s. While Casey sat down at a table in a quiet corner, DJ ordered them both a mocha with extra whipped cream. She silently
prayed as she carried the drinks to the table.
Please, God, help me to say the right words. Don’t let this turn into a fight. Please!
“Here you go.” She set the mocha in front of Casey. “Just the way you like it. At least the way you used to like it.”
Casey barely nodded, and her eyes remained on the coffee. “Yeah…some things don’t change.”
DJ sat down and took in a slow breath. “Casey I know that I’m a great one for putting my foot in my mouth. And I’m sure I’ve done all kinds of things to offend you. But I’m really sorry okay? I still really love you. And I wish you still thought of me as your friend.”
Casey was still looking down, but her chin was trembling. She reached for a napkin and blotted her cheeks.
“See, I did it again, didn’t I?” DJ shook her head. “I guess I should just keep my mouth shut, huh?”
Casey didn’t respond. She just continued to look down, occasionally blotting the tears that kept streaming down her face.
Meanwhile, DJ prayed. She didn’t know what else to do.
Finally, after what felt like an hour, Casey looked up with watery eyes. “It’s not your fault, DJ,” she said in a husky voice.
“Do you want to talk?”
Casey let out a ragged sigh, then nodded, but she didn’t say a word.
“Does it have to do with Seth?”
She nodded again.
“Did you guys break up?”
“But it’s probably just a matter of time.”
“Is it mutual?”
Casey bit her lip, then shook her head no.
DJ’s patience was wearing thin. She didn’t want to play Twenty Questions. On the other hand, she didn’t want to alienate Casey either. Not when it seemed like she really needed a friend.
“I told Seth something today…” Casey’s voice was so quiet, DJ could barely hear her. “Something he didn’t want to hear.”
DJ felt a flutter of hope. Maybe Casey was the one who wanted to break up. Maybe that had made Seth mad. “And?”
“And he was furious. Totally unreasonable.”
“Uh-huh?” DJ nodded like she was following this.
“It’s such a mess, DJ. I don’t know what to do.”
“I’d like to help you, Casey, really I would. But you’re going to have to tell me more. Was Seth mad because you tried to break up?”
“No.” She shook her head. “That’s not it.”
A jolt of panic hit DJ. “Casey,” she said, “is it…are you…Remember what you told me in Palm Beach? Are you pregnant?”
Casey looked down again. But DJ knew she was right. And as unreasonable as it was, DJ felt mad. Why had Casey allowed herself to get into this place? Why had she been so stupid? And why had she pushed everyone away? And what was she going to do now? All these questions made DJ’s head hurt.
“I tried to believe that I wasn’t pregnant,” Casey admitted. “I guess I was kind of in denial. But it just seemed so impossible. I really convinced myself that I wasn’t.”
“Do you know for sure that you are?”
“I did a home pregnancy test this weekend. I did it three times just to be sure.” She blew her nose on the napkin. “Two pink stripes each time.”
DJ blinked. “Two pink stripes?”
“On the test strips…it means I’m pregnant.”
“Oh…Casey…” DJ reached across the table and put her hand over Casey’s. “That’s got to be so hard.”
She nodded and sniffed. “And when I told Seth…well, he hasn’t been sympathetic. He acts like it’s all my fault.”
“Your fault? Like you
to get pregnant?” DJ tried to keep her voice calm. “What about Seth? Shouldn’t he take some responsibility?”
Casey didn’t answer.
“I mean, you told me about this in Palm Beach…about how he pressured you…and how he didn’t even use anything—”
“That wasn’t the only time we had sex.”
DJ wasn’t sure how to respond. She wasn’t even sure how much she wanted to hear. And yet she knew Casey needed to talk—needed a friend. And so DJ just nodded and pretended to understand, when all she really wanted to do was to shake Casey and say things like, “I told you so.” Thankfully, she didn’t.
“Anyway, Seth says it’s my fault, and that it’s up to the girl to keep this from happening, and—”
“That’s ridiculous, Casey. It obviously takes two people to make a baby. How can you go around blaming just one?”
“But Seth said I should’ve been using birth control.”
DJ took in a slow breath. “So…are you saying you guys never used
Casey looked down. “Not exactly…” she mumbled.
“Oh.” DJ didn’t know what to say. Really, all this was so outside of her comfort zone. She could hardly believe they were sitting in McHenry’s talking about having sex and being pregnant. What happened to the days when they would sit here and talk about soccer or the latest movie?
“We’d been drinking,” Casey admitted. “I know it was stupid. And I just didn’t realize it was going to go that far.”
DJ wanted to point out that Casey, under the influence, wasn’t terribly sensible. But she didn’t want to shut her down.
“Later on we used protection.” Casey wadded her tear-soaked napkin into a tight little ball and picked up a fresh one. “Obviously, it was too late.”
“So how far along do you think you are?”
“My best guess is that it happened the night of the Rockabilly dance.”
DJ pressed her lips together tightly. She was
going to say anything that remotely sounded like “I told you so.”
“I know what you’re thinking, DJ.”
She looked evenly at Casey. “What?”
“That I’m an idiot.”
“No.” DJ firmly shook her head. “You’re not an idiot. But you are in a tough spot, Case. What do you plan to do?”
Casey blotted fresh tears. “I—I don’t know. Seth wants me to get an abortion. In fact, he’s insisting I get an abortion.”
“Insisting?” DJ felt indignant. How dare he?
“Yeah, he says it’s the only option. He wants to pay for it. And he told me not to tell anyone that I’m pregnant either.”
“Have you told anyone?”
“Just you. Even then I tried to take it back.”
“Seth really doesn’t want anyone to know, DJ. His parents will freak if they find out.”
“They’ll freak too.” She locked eyes with DJ. “You’re the only one besides Seth and me that knows. You have to promise me you won’t tell anyone.”
DJ just nodded.
“Of course. It’s your secret, Casey. And, if it makes you feel any better, I never told anyone what you told me in Palm Beach either.”
“I know. I could tell.”
“And it’s not easy.” DJ looked down at her barely touched mocha. “Especially when you’re acting all weird and pushing everyone away from you like we’re the enemy.”
“It was just easier that way. I was afraid that if I actually talked to you—or even Rhiannon—I might spill the beans.” She held up her hands in a hopeless gesture. “Like I just did.”
“It must be lonely…keeping all that to yourself.”
“You have no idea.”
“But you shouldn’t isolate yourself, Casey. Don’t forget, you have friends. I’m your friend. You know that, don’t you?”
“And you can’t do this alone.”
Casey sat up straighter now. “But, besides you, DJ, I don’t want anyone to know. Don’t forget you promised.”
“But shouldn’t you see a doctor?”
DJ shrugged. “I don’t know. It just seems like the normal thing to—”
“Nothing about this feels normal to me.”
“I’m just not ready for that yet.” Her jaw grew firm, and DJ could hear the warning in her voice.
“Okay…” DJ took a sip of her lukewarm mocha.
Casey’s expression softened. “But I do appreciate your friendship. And I appreciate you keeping this quiet.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
“How do you feel?”
Casey wrapped her hands around her coffee cup and creased her brow. “I don’t know…I mean, besides depressed and confused and slightly suicidal—”
“Suicidal?” DJ gasped.
“Maybe that’s an overstatement.”
“But you are depressed?”
“Wouldn’t you be if you were in my shoes?”
DJ wanted to say that she would never be in Casey’s shoes, but knew that was heartless. “Actually, when I asked how you felt, I didn’t mean emotionally exactly…I meant how do you feel about…about…the baby?”