What the hell. What the hell. I'm fucking my best friend. What the hell.
And he likes me. Oh shit. Because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this is just sex. For me. Just really good sex. Oh dear God, all of my friends are going to kill me.
I open my eyes. It's dark, but I can see the shadows and lights of the cars outside playing on my ceiling. I'm such a horrible person.
And the thing I like about being around Tom - and especially about having sex with him - is that when I'm around him, I don't feel guilty. Nothing is my fault. And that's more addicting than any sex. Because when I'm not with him, everything is my fault. And, oh God, suddenly I don't want to think about that.
Joey. Pushing out the thought from my mind that it's my fault he's in the hospital - which it is - I try to examine my feelings about him. Somehow, I feel like I can trust him. He makes me feel good about myself, and I like him a lot. The way he moves, the way he looks, the way he talks, the way he treats me. And I know I can help him.
Suddenly, my mind flashes to a snapshot of him on top of me, drunk. Even though I recoil from the image at first, I morbidly start to analyze it. It's clear that he's not reasoning properly, but there's only one way I can describe the look in his eye. Love.
Now here's the real question, before I let myself think about that too much. Is this image a memory or something I imagined?
This is crazy. I can tell that I'm bordering the irrational and I need someone to bounce my thoughts off of. The natural choice of confidants is between Jamie and Tom, but neither of those are a remote possibility right now. I need a female, someone that I can trust. And the closest thing to that is Isobel. Never mind all the problems with that plan.
It's ten at night. She's probably home. Her parents keep her on a tight schedule. But I don't have her number.
But her house is within walking distance. I throw on a coat and skip out the door.
Ten minutes later, I’m standing on her doorstep, seriously rethinking the logic behind this plan. But before I can do anything about it, the door swings open. It’s Isobel.
“Rhea?” She sounds a little shocked. And there’s something else in her voice that I can’t quite place.
“Hi. Can I talk to you?”
“Of course. Come in.”
We head up the stairs to her room. It’s so different than mine. The walls are baby blue, the floor is clean, and she has wispy white curtains that blow in the breeze from the open windows. I realize I’ve never been in another girl’s room. Not since Aaliyah moved. Suddenly I feel empty. Aaliyah would never have let me get into this. What was I thinking?
“So… you have something to talk to me about?”
Abruptly, my stomach starts squirming, but I’m in it now.
“Yes… yes, I do, but you have to promise you won’t say anything about it to anyone. Not to anyone, Isobel.”
She nods slowly. I have the odd feeling that she knows something that I don’t, but she lets me continue.
“Tom and I are really good friends, right? And so… well I wasn’t thinking a couple days ago when I had to talk to him in private to pull a favour, and I pulled him into the janitors’ closet. I mean, that looks bad, right? And it completely wasn’t what I meant to do at all, but we ended up kissing. And… stuff… but that’s not the worst part.”
I look up at her. She nods for me to continue, but there’s a dangerous look in her eye. I mean, I’m about to explain to her that I had sex with her best friend’s boyfriend, right? What did I expect?
Sinking down onto her bed, I explain myself. “I slept with him, Iso. No, I didn’t sleep with him. I seduced him and he went with it.”
Her face is tight, and I know she’s torn between her two friendships. Between hating me for what I’m doing to Chrissy, and forgiving me because she sees how upset I am. But now I can’t stop talking.
“Thing is, Iso, is I’m in love with Joey. And today I made a joke with Tom, I said ‘So are we a couple now?’. I meant it to be humorous, but he took it seriously. He said ‘Maybe. We’ll have to see.’ I swear to God, Iso, I didn’t mean for this to happen. Please help me. Tell me how to fix this!” I’m just about crying now.
She looks at me with a weird mixture of sympathy and coldness in her eyes.
“I knew already. Elijah figured it out and told me.” I open my mouth to protest, but she keeps talking. “I know you didn’t mean for it to happen, Rhea. That story couldn’t have been anything but the truth. But that was still horrible of you to do that in the first place.”
And that actually makes me cry. For the first time since Mum and I moved away from my dad. For the first time since I swore I had to be strong for both my mum and myself, that I couldn’t be weak anymore and let emotions take control of me. A fine mess I've made out of that one.
Isobel turns away from me. She goes into the adjoining bathroom and shuts the door. I know she’s considering telling Chrissy what I just said, even though she just promised me she wouldn’t.
A buzzing noise emanates from her bedside table. Out of habit, I look over at her phone. It’s from Chrissy, I don’t open it, but the message is short enough to show on the message alert.
I am going to get rid of the baby– I have to!
Oh shit.Chrissy’s pregnant? Somehow, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she hasn’t told Tom. And this makes me feel ten times worse, if that were possible.
But a second after that, I’m back in survival mode. I have a new plan. It’s horrible, but so help me God, I’ll use it if I have to.
Iso comes back from the bathroom and sits down beside me.
“You have to stop this. He’s not yours, Rhea. And I know you and Chrissy aren’t very good friends, but you have to think of her –”
I cut her off. “I know, Iso. I know. Check your messages; your phone went off while you were in the toilet.”
She picks up her phone and reads it. She looks back at me, and her eyes widen. She knows I know.
“Why were you going through my phone?? You little bitch!”
Tiredly, I say, “I didn’t touch your phone, Isobel. The text was up on the new message alert.”
She’s mildly placated because she knows that's true - the new message alert was still open when she picked up the phone - but she's still pissed as hell. I let her calm down a bit before I speak again.
“Isobel, I’m not going to touch Tom again. And just to prove I’m not trying to break them up, I won’t speak to him either, unless he and Chrissy break up over this. You’re right, what I did was horrible, and I’m going to make amends. But you still can’t tell Chrissy. It would destroy her.”
She opens her mouth to protest, but I talk right through her.
“No, Isobel, you can’t tell Chrissy. But if she does find out from you or Elijah, I’m telling Tom about their baby. What I did wasn’t right, but it’s just as bad to keep Tom from knowing about his baby. It’s just as much his as it is hers, and he has a right to have some say in its life. Maybe finding out about it will make him a bit more responsible." I take a deep breath.
"I’m sure your parents want me gone now. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I slip down her stairs and shut the front door quietly behind me.
And with that, I have only two friends left. Jamie and Joey. I can’t trust Isobel any longer, but after this blows over there’s some hope we can be friends again. A pity. I really liked her. I don't think Chrissy ever truly my friend, which was a shame. Tom and I’s relationship, whatever that was, is probably shot to hell now. And even if he and Chrissy break up, I’m not sleeping with him again. I have to face the real world without an anaesthetic now. And Elijah is plenty nice, but Isobel wouldn’t trust me around him. Never mind what he probably thinks of me now.
I open my front door, exhausted. Making my way to my room, I listen for my mother’s breathing. It’s there, but quiet. She’s probably sleeping. Good.
I crash on my bed. As I stare at the wall, I suddenly realize – I can see Joey tomorrow!
So that’s my side of this mess. And nobody else is on it.