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Chapter 7 - take it or leave it

Jun. 25th, 2006 09:04 pm Chapter 7

Two weeks later, school was out for Spring Break. I hadn’t seen Jeff since the day we went to Taco Bell together, and hadn’t even spoken to him on the phone in at least the past week. We never did get around to the shopping trip we had talked about. I ran her errands on my own, and hoped that Jeff had gotten everything taken care of on his end, as well.
When I got home from school that Friday, I decided to try to give Jeff a call. His phone rang twice before he answered it. “Hey! Haven’t heard from you in a while!” I exclaimed, excited by the fact that Jeff had actually answered his phone.
“Yeah, I know. Sorry. That geology class has been kicking my ass… and I’ve been working a lot and running around getting ready for our trip,” Jeff explained.
“Yeah, it’s okay,” I replied. “I’ve been pretty busy, myself… So, are you ready for Sunday?” I asked.
“Yeah, I think so. I’m gonna pack tonight I think,” Jeff told me. Every time Jeff went on a trip, it was a ritual for him to pack at least two days ahead of time. He liked to have his suitcase completely ready to go on the day that he left, so that he didn’t have to run at the last minute trying to make sure that everything was in order.
“Oh, cool. So you don’t have to work tonight, then?” I asked.
“Yeah, I do… I got stuck on 3rd shift tonight… 11:00pm to 7:00am,” he answered.
“Oh, geeze… that sounds like fun,” I joked. “Do you want to take a break from packing and go grab some dinner with me?” I offered.
“Yeah, I guess,” Jeff replied. “What time?”
“I don’t know… I could come over now and help you pack. I don’t really have anything to do. I’m not gonna pack until tomorrow night… I still have some laundry to do,” I said.
“If you want to…” Jeff offered, not sounding too excited at the idea.
“Alright!” I said, excitedly. “I’ll be there in about half an hour! Love you! Bye!”
“See ya,” Jeff called back before we both hung up.
I walked into Jeff’s house to find him sprawled out in the living room, his suitcase wide open in the middle of the floor and his clothes spread all over the place. “How’s the packing coming?” I asked.
“Pretty good,” Jeff replied. “Except Carmen keeps getting in my way,” he added, motioning towards the dog a bit agitatedly.
I looked over to where Jeff had pointed and noticed that Carmen was lying down inside of Jeff’s empty suitcase. “Aww!” I replied. “She’s just trying to help.” I walked over, picked the little dog up out of the suitcase, and sat down on the floor next to Jeff. I played with Carmen while the two of us caught up on the past week.
“So that geology class is getting pretty tough?” I asked.
“Ugh. Yeah, it is,” Jeff replied. “The most work I’ve ever done for any class in my life.”
“How did Brandon make it into that class?” I asked, curiously. “I thought it was an advanced class or something.”
“Yeah, I dunno,” Jeff said, seemingly trying to avoid my question.
“Isn’t he a sophomore?” I asked.
“Yep,” Jeff said, focusing intently on folding the shirts he was about to pack in his suitcase.
Realizing that Jeff wasn’t about to get into a conversation about Brandon, I decided just to help him pack instead. I grabbed the pile of shorts that was on the floor next to me and starting folding them. “Are you bringing all of these?” I asked.
“Yeah, I think so,” Jeff replied.
“I don’t think I’ve seen half of these!” I teased.
“Yeah,” Jeff said with a laugh, “I’ve been shopping.”
“I noticed,” I commented, grabbing a shirt from the bottom of the pile that Jeff was working on. I held the long sleeved, rainbow-striped, button-up shirt up for Jeff to see. “Is this new?” I asked.
“Yep,” Jeff said with a huge grin on his face.
“Rainbow?” I asked, with a disgusted expression on my face. “Isn’t that a little… gay?” I asked, playfully throwing the shirt at Jeff.
“Maybe. But so what?” Jeff asked, sounding a bit defensive. “I needed a new dress shirt, and it was on clearance… only $7! And I like it,” he said, indignantly.
“Hmm… okay,” I said. “You can wear it with that rainbow wrist band that’s on your nightstand… and that ring in the bathroom, you know, the one with the purple triangle on it?” I teased.
“Oh whatever,” Jeff said. “I told you, those are Brandon’s. He keeps forgetting to take them home. Thanks for reminding me. I’ll have to bring them over to him before we leave.”
“Excuses, excuses,” I joked, turning my attention back to folding the pile of shorts that was next to me. “At least you’re not homophobic anymore,” I added.
“When was I homophobic?” Jeff asked.
“As long as I’ve known you…?” I answered, sounding a little confused. “Don’t you remember how you used to make fun of Travis when we were in Florida?”
“Ohh… Travis. That little queer!” Jeff joked, remembering his favorite target.
“See?” I said with a laugh. “Homophobic!”
“Yeah well. Not anymore. Now I just like making fun of Travis,” Jeff laughed. “Brandon’s broken me of any homophobia I might have had.”
“Yeah, that and hanging out at The Corner all the time,” I added.
“True,” Jeff agreed.
“Speaking of The Corner… I still haven’t been there!” I pointed out. “We should go sometime!” I suggested.
“They have really good drinks,” Jeff offered. “You’d probably like them.”
“Geeze, I’m hungry,” I said, folding the last pair of shorts and laying them inside Jeff’s suitcase.
“Yeah, me too,” Jeff said. “We can go eat as soon as I finish folding these shirts.”
“Good,” I said. “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know… we’ll see,” Jeff replied.
I helped Jeff fold the rest of the shirts that were in the living room, paying special attention to his new rainbow dress shirt. I folded it as neatly as possible, laid it on top of the rest of them and looked at Jeff with a grin. We both laughed, and then stood up to get ready to go out for dinner.
Jeff picked Carmen up from where she was sitting on the couch and locked her in her cage (there was nobody else home to watch her, and Carmen tended to make a mess when she was left home all by herself). He went into his room and grabbed Brandon’s rainbow wrist band, and then into the bathroom to pick up the ring Brandon had left there. Jeff walked back into the living room wearing both of them. “Geeze!” I exclaimed. “You should put on that new shirt of yours and make it official!” I joked.
“What? You don’t like my new jewelry?” Jeff teased, walking over to give me a big hug.
“I love ‘em,” I teased back as I pulled on my shoes. “You’re wearing those out to dinner?” I asked.
“Yep! Don’t worry… I’ll fit right in where we’re going,” he said.
I gave Jeff an odd looked and then asked “where are we going?”
“Surprise,” Jeff said, opening the front door and ushering me outside. We both sat down in Jeff’s car. Jeff pulled out of his driveway and headed towards the highway.
“Okay really… where are we going?” I asked, very confused. Most of the restaurants in the area were just down the road from Jeff’s house. We rarely ventured past the main road when we went out.
“Down town,” Jeff replied. “Don’t worry.”
“Alright…” I said slowly.
“It’s somewhere you want to go, trust me,” Jeff assured me.
About ten minutes later we pulled into the parking lot of a building that I didn’t recognize. As we walked up to the door, though, I noticed a small sign. “Ohhh… so this is The Corner?” I asked.
“Yep! Told ya I’d fit in,” Jeff joked, flashing Brandon’s jewelry in my face.
“Oh geeze,” I said with a laugh. “I didn’t know they served food here,” I commented.
“Yeah,” Jeff replied. “They’ve got really good salads and sandwiches. And you have to try one of their smoothies! They’re so good!” he told me.
“Alright,” I said, looking up at the huge menu that was hanging from the ceiling. “But you’ll have to help me… I have no idea what to order!”
“Don’t worry. I’ve got it,” Jeff said, walking up to the counter to order.
“Hey Jeff!” the girl behind the counter greeted him.
“Hey Jenna. How’ve you been?” he asked. It was obvious that the two of them knew each other. “I haven’t seen you here in a while.”
“Yeah, I know,” Jenna replied. “I haven’t been working as much lately. Who’ve you got with you?” she asked, looking over towards me.
“Oh, that’s my friend, Anna,” Jeff answered. “She’s never been here before. I’ve gotta get her something good!” he told Jenna.
“Hmm… What are you thinking about getting?” Jenna asked.
“I think we’ll have two Asian chicken salads, a strawberry-banana smoothie for me, and an apple-grape smoothie for Anna,” Jeff said, looking back to make eye contact with me. “Sound good?” he asked.
“This is your place,” I replied. “You know what’s good!”
“It’ll probably be about 10 minutes,” Jenna said, handing Jeff his change. “I’ll bring it out to you.”
“Alright,” Jeff replied, turning back towards me. “Let’s sit down.” He led me over to a small booth tucked back in the corner of the dark room. Right next to us was a table where four guys were sitting and talking loudly.
“HEY JEFF!” one of the guys called out just as the two of us were sitting down. He was good looking, I thought, though he was obviously gay. Average height with deeply tanned skin and blond frosted hair, he looked like he was about the same age as Jeff and me.
“Who’s that?” I asked my boyfriend.
“His name’s TJ” Jeff replied, turning his attention away from me. “Teej!” Jeff exclaimed, standing up to give his friend a hug. “How’ve you been?” he asked.
“Good, good!” TJ replied, turning back towards the other three guys sitting at his table. “Have you met my friends?” he asked.
“No!” Jeff exclaimed. “Introduce me!”
“This is my EX boyfriend, Matt,” TJ started, putting a strong emphasis on the word “ex”.
“Ex?” Jeff asked. “I thought you guys just got together a couple weeks ago!” he exclaimed.
“Yeah, yeah… we’re just friends now, though,” TJ explained. “And this is Alan and Dominic,” TJ continued, motioning towards the other two guys at the table. Alan and Dominic were sitting next to each other, holding hands and looking pretty cozy.
“Are they together?” Jeff mouthed to TJ, not wanting to ask the question out loud. TJ nodded his head ‘yes’ in response.
“And who’s this?” TJ asked, looking towards me.
“Oh,” Jeff replied. “That’s Anna,” he explained, sitting back down. He placed his hands on the table, and I set her hands on top of his. I could tell that Jeff was a little bit uncomfortable. He almost pulled his hands away from mine, but after a bit of fidgeting he left them where they were.
“Aww!” TJ exclaimed. “Are you guys like, best friends or something?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Jeff replied, looking towards me.
“We’re a little more than that!” I piped up.
“What do you mean?” TJ asked, sounding confused.
“I’m his girlfriend,” I explained.
Jeff let out a nervous laugh, followed by a sigh of relief when he noticed Jenna walking towards us with our salads and smoothies. “Here you guys go!” Jenna said, setting the food down in front of us. “Enjoy!”
“Thanks, Jenna,” Jeff replied, turning his attention towards his salad. “Trust me, you’re gonna love it,” he told me.
“It looks really delicious!” I said as I unwrapped my straw so that I could try my apple-grape smoothie. “Mmm! This is sooo good!” I exclaimed after sucking down about a fourth of the drink. “Nice choice!”
“I knew you’d like it,” Jeff said. “Do you want to try some of mine?” he offered, pushing his strawberry-banana smoothie towards me. I took a sip and then smiled. “Good?” Jeff asked.
“Yeah!” I replied. “Now I’ve gotta try this salad,” I said, picking up my fork and shoveling a huge bite into my mouth. “Oh my gosh! Jeff! This is great! You should have taken me here forever ago!” I teased.
Jeff laughed. “Well, I’m glad you like it,” he commented, turning his focus towards finishing the food in front of him. “But we’ve gotta get back to my house pretty soon. I want to get some more packing done before I have to go to work. I was thinking we could pop in a movie in the living room while I work on getting stuff together.”
“Alright, sounds good,” I replied, still eating my salad. “What movie were you thinking?” I asked.
“Mary Poppins?” Jeff offered, with a big grin on his face.
“Again?” I teased. Jeff had a tendency to obsess over one movie for a few weeks. Right now, that movie was Mary Poppins. He had bought it on sale about a month ago and hadn’t stopped watching it since. “Didn’t you say you just watched it last night?” I asked.
“And the night before that, and the night before that…” Jeff joked.
“Geeze!” I exclaimed. “How can you watch it that many times and not get bored?”
“Because it’s a great movie!” he answered. “I thought you liked it!”
“I do,” I replied. “I don’t care if we watch it. I haven’t seen it in a while, anyway.”
“Good,” Jeff said, still smiling as he shoveled the last bite of salad into his mouth. We finished up our dinner and then brought our dishes up to Jenna at the counter.
“Leaving already?” Jenna asked.
“Yeah,” Jeff replied. “I’ve got some stuff to do before I go to work tonight,” he explained.
“Aww, alright,” Jenna said. “I’m working a few days next week, though. You should come in and hang out!”
“Actually, we’re leaving for Florida on Sunday,” Jeff explained.
“Ohhh!!!” Jenna replied. “Well, have fun! And stop by when you get back! It was nice to meet you, Anna!”
“Nice to meet you, too,” I replied before Jeff and I turned towards the exit. We got into Jeff’s car and started the ride home. I was unusually quiet, and Jeff decided to break the silence.
“You okay?” he asked.
“I dunno,” I replied. “I didn’t really like it there,” I explained.
“What? I thought you said the food was really good! What happened to ‘you should have taken me here forever ago!’?” he teased.
“Yeah, the food was fine. But the rest of it was weird.”
“What was weird about it?” Jeff asked. “Too many gay guys for you?” he joked.
“No, it’s not that…” I replied. “You know I don’t have a problem with gay people.”
“Well then, what is it?”
“It’s just… well… you kept calling me your ‘friend’. Almost like you were ashamed of me… like you didn’t want anybody to know that I was your girlfriend…” I explained.
Tonight had not been the first time Jeff had introduced me to somebody as his “friend” rather than his “girlfriend”, but in the past I had always found it in myself not to be bothered by it. I was starting to get sick and tired, though, of feeling like Jeff didn’t really want to be my boyfriend. I couldn’t understand why he had such a hard time owning up to his relationship with me. It made me wonder what could possibly be wrong with me… Did Jeff suddenly find me unattractive? Was he embarrassed to admit to people that he was dating me? Or was he trying to hide something from somebody else? Was there some reason why he would want people to be under the impression that he was single? Tonight I decided just to come straight out with it and ask him.
“Oh, come on, Anna. You know it’s not like that,” Jeff said, sounding frustrated.
“Well what is it, then?” I asked. “You introduced me to Jenna as ‘your friend’. TJ asked if we were ‘best friends’, and you said ‘yeah’. What was that all about?”
“I don’t know,” Jeff replied. “Don’t worry about it. I love you. You know that.”
“Okay…” I said, letting out a big sigh. “But I don’t think I really want to go back there ever again…”
“Okay then,” Jeff said. The rest of the ride home was silent.
When they pulled into the Bradley’s driveway, I asked “do you still feel like watching Mary Poppins?”
“I guess so,” Jeff answered, stepping out of the car and walking towards the house. We parted ways as we walked through the door – Jeff, to his bedroom to grab the movie, and me, towards the laundry room to let Carmen out of her cage.
“I think we’re here alone,” Jeff teased, putting his arm around me as I was standing in the living room holding the dog.
“Ooo… great,” I joked back. “Sounds like its time for a romantic night of packing and watching a children’s movie.”
“Whatever,” Jeff replied with a laugh, walking over to pop in the DVD. He started the movie and then sat down on the floor behind his suitcase.
“What else do you have left to pack?” I asked.
“Hmm…” Jeff ran through the list in his head. “Underwear, bathing suit, shower stuff, razor… I think that’s it,” he replied.
“Oh, bringing your own razor this time?” I joked, remembering how, during our first trip together, Jeff had forgotten to bring a razor. He ended up borrowing one Stephanie. The two of us girls had teased him for the rest of the trip about the pink razor and raspberry-scented shaving gel he’d used.
“Yeah,” he replied. “I don’t have Steph to borrow from this year!” The two of us laughed.
“Have you talked to Stephanie lately?” I asked. Although Stephanie was one of my closest friends while we were in Florida, it seemed that after we came back, Stephanie stayed more in touch with Jeff than she did me.
“Yeah, she was out here last weekend,” Jeff replied.
“She was?” I asked, sounding confused.
“Yeah… you know how she is. She just shows up and then makes me let her spend the night,” he explained.
“Oh…” AInna said. “You guys could have called me… I would have liked to come hang out with Steph. I haven’t seen her in forever.”
“Sorry,” Jeff said. “It was really late… she showed up at, like, 11:00 and then made me take her out for food, and then we just came back and went to sleep and I had to work in the morning, and she left while I was gone,” he explained.
“Oh. Weird,” I replied. “I wonder why she never calls me when she comes out this way. She’s not mad at me, is she?” I asked.
“Not that I know of…” Jeff answered. “Don’t worry about it. Steph’s just weird. I really wish she’d stop coming out here. I don’t answer my phone anymore when she calls.”
“Well, why don’t you just not let her in when she comes over here, then?” I asked, sounding a bit angry.
“Right, Anna… like I’m just gonna tell her to turn around and drive home after she drove an hour out here.”
“Well?” I said. “It’s rude enough of her to just show up without telling you and then expect you to let her spend the night. Why not just be rude back? I would…”
“Maybe I will next time,” Jeff replied. “But shh!!! You’re missing the movie. I thought you wanted to watch this!” he pointed out.
“Alright, alright…” I said, scooting closer to Jeff and resting my head on his shoulder. “Let’s watch the movie.”

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