Friday Night Fights (The Four-Sided Version)*
*As opposed to Chapter Three of Meet The Sisters, which was the “MTS Version.”
Meanwhile, in the backseat of Quatre’s armored limousine, Gretchen turned toward the window and made like the scenery deserved her attention more than Quatre did. Quatre, sensing that she was upset, tried to find the words that wouldn’t send her into a spout of fury. Sighing, he placed a hand on her leg. Gretchen stiffened.
“Gretchen—” Quatre began.
Gretchen opened her mouth to speak but decided at the last minute not to say anything. She continued to look out the window at Gracia passing them by. She felt like she didn’t know what to say anymore.
The truth was, she had gotten over being mad at him. He probably knew it, as shrewd as he was. The hard thing was, now that her anger had passed, what was there for her to say? It had been obvious, the injustice of it all. And it was clear too how it all hurt her feelings. So she sat silently, waiting for Quatre to find his words.
After a few minutes, he did.
“Gretchen,” Quatre began again, “I think things have been complicated by our different economic backgrounds, but…” He sighed. “I don’t put much stock in how much money you have. You mean more to me than that.” Now he touched her hand. “Please, Gretchen, forgive me. I…”
Gretchen whirled on him. “I’ll bet, I’ll just bet, that you didn’t give that over-scarred snot the riot act after I left.”
“I’ll admit that I didn’t, but there wasn’t much that could be said after that,” Quatre explained. “You did a pretty good job of expressing yourself.”
Gretchen chuckled, then laughed a little. “Well, you can thank my older sister Jess for that one. She always taught me to speak my mind.”
He touched her face. “It’s an admirable trait. Sometimes I…I think that I should practice the same forthrightness myself.”
Gretchen considered that a moment, then patted his hand. “Quatre, if you went around telling people off, then people wouldn’t like you so much. Did you ever think of that? Not to mention,” she added, “that you’re more subtle than I am. It’s a part of your charm.”
The car stopped as Quatre blushed a little. He and Gretchen got out of the car and walked into the Sakura Center. They veered right to go to the performing arts wing of the Center. Gretchen waved to a Japanese girl Quatre knew as Megami Takumi and she waved back. He followed her to the doorway to an empty dance room. Gretchen paused and turned to him.
“So um…I guess I’ll see you later,” Gretchen said.
“Of course,” Quatre agreed.
A moment passed, an awkward moment. Gretchen opened her mouth when someone said:
“She wants you to kiss her.”
The voice made them turn around. The speaker was the girl Gretchen had noticed a few days before when she was mad at Quatre. Her blue eyes were twinkling with amusement, and she had a duffel bag slung over her shoulder.
“Heh.” Gretchen laughed in embarrassment. “Well, I guess I’m transparent then.” She frowned at the girl. “I don’t think we’ve officially met.” She held out a hand. “I’m Gretchen Thomas.”
“Crystilline Yuy,” the girl said. “You can call me Crys.” She regarded Quatre with a smile. “Mr. Winner.”
Gretchen shook her head. “There’s no need to be formal. Call him Quatre.” She turned to her boyfriend and kissed him gently. “I’ll see you later. Now run along or you’ll be late.”
“Yes, mother,” Quatre said, and waved goodbye as he left.
“He’s so sweet,” Gretchen said aloud, mostly to herself.
“Yeah,” Crys agreed. “It’s a shame that all boys aren’t like that.” As Gretchen frowned at her again, Crys added, “You’re really lucky, you know.”
“I suppose I am,” Gretchen remarked, feeling a bit odd. Was Crys envious of her? She couldn’t tell. Maybe she was just stating the obvious. After all, Quatre was a sweet and generous young man, and any girl would be lucky to have him as a boyfriend. And since she was that girl, therefore she was lucky.
Gretchen didn’t have time to press the matter further, for her first students started to arrive. After all, it was nothing.
* * *
Meanwhile, as Gretchen readied herself for class, Crys walked down the hallway to the room where the dance teachers kept their belongings. She placed her bag in her designated locker and looked at herself in the mirror.
She wasn’t bad-looking, no. She had been called pretty and even beautiful. Her darkening hair had gotten no lighter than the dark blonde it had been for several years, and her blue eyes were wide-set and depthless. She had good bone structure, her face was perfectly proportioned, not to mention she had a lithe frame, but something still felt wrong. It wasn’t that she was dating a guy that was not much above a scoundrel, but something else. The fact didn’t bother her; it was the reason why. The man that she wanted belonged to another.
Before she closed her locker, she dug a picture she had hidden under an old pair of ballet slippers. It was of a dark-haired male and a blonde male with innocent, guileless blue eyes. The affection that existed in her heart was not that of insanity or vice; it was quiet, like the graceful step of a dancer, and would run deep and unnoticed and not acted upon. Unless things changed.
From the looks of things, change was not a’-coming.
* * *
Later on that day, Gretchen was in the courtyard of the Center sitting under a tree for lunch. She didn’t feel like eating much. She really just wanted peace from noise and clamor before she had to tackle her prepubescent classes.
The truth was, she hadn’t been thinking well all day. Something was nagging her.
Well, she knew why her thoughts were scattered: Orlando.
Their argument that morning had been the fault of them both. She had been crabby and he had been defensive. She should have expected it. After all, she’d basically put the two together. She nudged Orlando to meet a new person and he couldn’t help it if he was having a good time. And in being his friend, she would support him. It was the way of things. It had to be, or there would be no honor among friends.
Standing, she resolved to seek him out and apologize.
She exited the Center and headed toward the Merrell Enterprises building when someone called out her name:
The familiar voice made her stop. Had she been imagining it?
Whirling, she saw Orlando walking toward her and Chris following behind, his attention on a double bacon cheeseburger. Gretchen’s eyebrows furrowed.
“Orlando!?” she exclaimed. “What’s going on?”
Chris replied for him, through beef, veggies, bread, and condiments. “The worrisome bloke wanted to apologize to you for this morning.” Orlando sighed and turned to Chris. “What? That’s what you said.”
“I wanted to tell her, Chris,” Orlando told him.
“Well, it moved things along, didn’t it?”
Orlando shook his head as Gretchen laughed.
“It’s okay, Orlando. I…I forgive you.” She chuckled. “It’s funny, really. I was just coming to see you.”
Orlando grinned at her. “Great minds must think alike.”
“Indeed,” broke in Chris. “Now can we sit down somewhere? I can’t eat on the run. I’m starting to dribble hamburger juice all over myself.”
Gretchen led them into the courtyard despite the fact that only employees were supposed to use it. No one really obeyed that rule anyway. Chris sat down under the tree Gretchen had occupied. Orlando sat down and Gretchen sat in the middle.
“So how did things go with you and Quatre?” Orlando asked.
“We made up,” Gretchen replied, running her hand along the grass. She looked at him. “I really don’t begrudge you for your relationship with Johanna. I’m sure…it’s unique to your characters.”
Chris snorted and nearly choked. “Oh yeah—unique to character—that’s a good way of putting it.”
Gretchen shoved him. “Put the rest of that in your mouth before your life ends right here.” She addressed Orlando. “I hope things turn out good for you, you know. I can’t have you hanging around me being some kind of odd wheel.”
“I am not accompanying you and Quatre on some date to the opera,” Orlando told her. “That would be way too awkward.”
“Good. I guess I can give your seat to Chris.”
Chris choked. “Like hell,” he coughed, as Gretchen slapped his back.
“Well, I suppose I can count out inviting you on one of my dates with Johanna.”
Chris snickered and gulped down his drink. “Can you imagine that? It would turn into a ménage a trois.” He paused. “Hey, when you guys do that, can you give me call?” Gretchen looked at him, openmouthed. “I’ve always loved Gretchen’s ass.” To prove his point, he pinched it, earning a slap from Gretchen. “Feisty,” he noted. “I love that about you.”
“I hope you love your testicles more,” Gretchen chirped, making Orlando laugh. Chris pleaded for his genitalia until one of the secretaries came outside and told them that they were making too much noise. Laughing, Orlando and Chris bid her goodbye, leaving Gretchen to soak up the silence with a satisfied smile.
It had been a good day.
* * *
They resumed their usual Friday game night at Gretchen and Samantha’s apartment. Before Orlando arrived with Johanna, Samantha and Melanie made refreshments in the kitchen while Chris and Gretchen were clearing the living room of breakables. Samantha stood at the sink, washing her hands of tortilla chip salt when she heard Melanie sigh.
Samantha turned to her. “You have been huffing and puffing all night. What’s up with you?”
Melanie threw the dish towel that she had been holding in her hand aside and turned to face her friend. “Girl, I’m just tripping about Orlando,” she admitted.
Samantha smirked. “Oh what? You like him, too?”
Pause. Melanie tilted her head as Samantha’s words sunk in. Samantha’s smile faded and she looked sheepish.
“Oops,” she muttered.
Melanie grabbed Samantha and pulled her to the sink where Gretchen and Chris couldn’t hear her. “Don’t try to play it off. Tell me what the hell you meant, Sam.” Samantha’s eyes traveled downward. “Am I going to have to beat it out of you?”
“God, no,” Samantha assured her hurriedly. She glanced into the living room where Chris and Gretchen were picking music. They were otherwise occupied, so Samantha lowered her voice. “Look, Mel—I think Gretchen likes Orlando or something.”
Melanie burst out laughing.
Samantha’s face went slack. “Um, is there something I’m missing here?”
“Girl, if you missed this one, then you’re an idiot.” Melanie strode to the refrigerator for more beer, but Samantha grabbed her arm and pulled her back.
“Are you saying,” Samantha began, looking into Melanie’s amused brown eyes, “that Orlando likes Gretchen?” Melanie only smirked, and Samantha exhaled. “Damn. We’ve got a huge problem here.”
“Duh, girl. About time you noticed.” Melanie went back to the refrigerator for the drinks as a knock sounded upon the door. Samantha raised an eyebrow at the sound of Johanna and Orlando’s entrance.
“Well, here we go,” Samantha said meaningfully, and picked up the bowl of chips and salsa. Melanie watched her as she sauntered into the living room with a big huge grin to her face as Chris blasted “Poison.”
“Hey Sam,” Orlando greeted her.
“Orlando,” Samantha greeted back, her voice coming out in a chirp and tapering off to a purr. All were shocked when she leaned in and kissed him on the lips. Granted, it was a melodramatic kiss of jest, and Samantha didn’t mean to stir things up as she did…well, perhaps she did mean to. Gretchen looked shocked. Johanna set her teeth and grinned at Samantha when she came up for air.
“Well, huh…damn,” muttered Orlando as he recovered. “Quite the greeting there, Sam.”
“That’s what I said,” Chris said to Gretchen in an undertone. Meanwhile, Orlando moved to the couch and Melanie appeared with the drinks.
It’s driving me out of my mind
That’s why it’s hard for me to find
Can’t get it out of my head
Samantha looked to Johanna. “Now I know why you’re so attracted to him! He’s a great kisser.” She offered the bowl. “Salsa? I made it myself. Pretty damn good, I say.”-
That girl is
Johanna looked at her with barely veiled dislike. “Sure. Why not?”
Never trust a big butt and a smile
That girl is
Chris took a swig of beer and nudged Gretchen. “I have never seen a girl so ready to hit someone in my life.”
Gretchen looked to Johanna, who was chewing gingerly for fear of being poisoned. Samantha grinned at her, then turned to Melanie, grabbed a beer, and gulped down half. Melanie’s eyebrows cocked, and Gretchen frowned. Samantha downed the rest of it, then turned around to face Orlando and Johanna.
“You know what? I feel a little adventurous tonight,” Samantha declared. She glanced to the empty bottle. “Let’s play a little game…” She looked at Johanna pointedly. “Of Truth or Dare.”
“Bloody hell,” muttered Chris, and stepped forward to place his hand on Samantha’s shoulder. “Sam, come on. I think Twister might be more fun.”
Samantha snorted. “Safe, you mean. Well, not entirely considering what happened that one week.” She turned to her friends. “Alright. Who wants to play ‘Truth or Dare’?”
Melanie, Gretchen, and Samantha raised their hands. Reluctantly, Orlando raised his. He received a look from Johanna for that decision. Chris bit down on his lip and prayed to the powers that be that something wouldn’t break out tonight.
It’s driving me out of my mind
That’s why it’s hard for me to find
Can’t get it out of my head
That girl is
“Get in a circle on the floor, everyone,” Samantha called. Everyone obeyed, though some were reluctant. Johanna complained about her skirt and Chris joked that it was not much cloth anyway so that meant less damage. Johanna didn’t like that comment but said nothing. Samantha placed her empty beer bottle on the carpet pointing in a random direction. She grinned at everyone. Gretchen still felt a little confusion. She wondered what Samantha was up to but didn’t want to know.
Samantha told them that she would spin the bottle first, and whoever it landed on had their pick between Truth or Dare. That person would spin the bottle and the process would be repeated.
Samantha spun the bottle. It landed on Chris.
“Aw hell! I didn’t even want to play this,” he declared. Samantha gave him a look. “Fine, fine.” Pause. “Truth.”
Samantha’s grin turned evil. “Hm. Good choice.” She considered a moment. “Alright, answer this question truthfully. When did you lose your virginity?”
Chris looked relieved. He’d expected to be asked something atrocious. “Well, that’s easy. I was sixteen, in New York City. It was an older girl named Anne.” He sighed, remembering the experience. “Dear Anne. Dear, sweet, talented Anne. She had skills, I tell you. Those hands… That mouth…”
Samantha raised a hand. “We really don’t wanna know. Spin the bottle.”
Chris spun the bottle and it landed on Melanie. Melanie met Chris’s smirk with a defiant look. She crossed her arms over her chest as Chris asked, “Truth or dare?”
She tilted her head in insolence. “Dare.”
“Well, well, well—a brazen lass.” Chris stopped to think of something horrible. “I dare you to go out on the balcony and yell to the first guy that you see that you’ll be his love slave.”
Melanie, being a devout feminist and African-American, was shocked. She knew he was joking, but the thought of renouncing her womanhood to a mere stranger?
Huffing, she stormed to the sliding glass doors, flung them apart, and stalked outside into the balmy night. She yelled at a man with his girlfriend, “Hey you! You want a love slave?”
The guy answered in the affirmative, and his girlfriend slapped him and stalked off. Gretchen and Samantha giggled. Melanie refused the guy’s number and came back inside, glaring at Chris.
“It’s all fun and games, love,” he told her.
Melanie commented that it too would be fun and games if her foot ended up his ass.
“Perhaps we should spin the bottle,” Chris mumbled, uncomfortable with the image of Melanie’s foot in his derriere.
The bottle pointed to Orlando next.
“Alright, Bloom,” Melanie said. “Pick your poison.”
Orlando’s eyes stared at her intensely. He was obviously ready for anything. “Dare,” he picked.
“Oh shit,” muttered Chris. Melanie nudged him and he went to his beer bottle. –
In that moment, Samantha and Melanie shared a look that could only indicate calculation. Gretchen saw it but didn’t know what it meant. Johanna saw it, too, and figured that Melanie was going to have Orlando do something off the wall, like streak the hallway naked or something. That seemed their kind of thing.
She was so wrong.
“I dare you to kiss Gretchen.”
The room went stone-cold silent for a seemingly long instant. Gretchen’s mouth dropped open. Chris nearly choked on his beer. Johanna looked reproachfully to Orlando, who had been trying to laugh it off. The song had changed, and Samantha felt a chill go down her back.
Close your eyes
Give me your hand, darling
Do you feel my heart beating?
Do you understand?
Do you feel the same?
Or am I only dreaming
Is this burning an eternal flame?
“Eerie,” murmured Samantha.
“Well?” Melanie prompted. “The quicker you do it, the faster you can pick another scapegoat.”
Wordlessly, Gretchen rose to her knees from her spot, watching Orlando do the same. They came together over the bottle, but not too close, trying hard not to break it by stumbling upon it.
It was an odd moment for Gretchen. She felt outside of herself as Orlando’s brown eyes stared into hers, and when his mouth fell onto hers. A part of her protested. Another man’s kiss was not supposed to make her feel like this. But for the two seconds that she was enveloped in the embrace, she felt different, like a different woman.
And weak. Dammit, she was fucking lightheaded. What was wrong with her?
As soon as Orlando pulled away, Gretchen’s eyes fluttered open. His eyes were intense, and a fleeting thought passed through her mind, making her even more dizzy.
Say my name
Sun shines through the rain
Of all life so lonely
Now come and ease the pain
I don’t want to lose this feeling
A moment later, she collapsed to the ground, to the eternal black.
“Poison” performed by Bell Biv Devoe. Written by Ellot Straite.
“Eternal Flame” performed by the Bangles. Written by Billy Steinberg, Susanna Hoffs, and Tom Kelly. I don’t have the Bangles’ version but the Atomic Kitten version, but they’re the same.