Chapter 36: InsensitiveMature

Narrator: Crystal Jennings

 

I swished the fragrant mouthwash through my mouth, and handed Joshua the bottle. And as I continued to push it around every corner of my teeth and tongue, I watched CJ put down the phone with a sad look on his face. Clearly, he didn't enjoy lying to his parents.

Greg entered the room and handed Cameron a blank CD case.

Joshua looked to Greg. "Are you using the guest bed tonight, or leaving with your ride?"

I spat out the mouthwash, into the kitchen sink, "That's a recipe for awk--"

"I'll take the bed CJ's not actually using," said Greg. "It would be rude for me to expect Crystal to drive me back to my dorm residence. Is everything cleaned up?"

"Did you clean the bathroom?" Joshua asked him.

"Yes, I picked up every discarded joint and condom."

"And the air seems clean?"

"Clean enough," Greg said. "Your folks won't notice."

"Brent's in pursuit, isn't he?" CJ asked.

Greg nodded, "Is he fighting a losing battle?"

"I... I hope so," CJ said doubtfully.

"It'll be nice not having him around," said Juliet from the entrance to the kitchen where she'd just entered.

"If Lawrence dies, then I don't even think we'll have her around..." CJ said sadly.

"Junior, please... don't think like that," said Juliet.

"Then what, Juls, you want me to walk around pretending everything is perfectly a-okay?"

"Yes, damn it, I do!" she shouted. "Otherwise, you're going to blame yourself unnecessarily."

"Look, I knew perfectly well that he'd cause trouble one way or another, and I think that's partly why I invited him..." CJ said regretfully.

"Brent wasn't the one who spiked the punch," I put in. "That was a lie."

Juliet leaned her head out of the kitchen and hollered into the living room, where music was still playing, "Michelle, Sharon, get your grubby hands off Penny so she can leave! Let the woman leave! She has a bloody curfew, you eejits!"

"Has Ashley already left?" I asked.

Juliet nodded, "You'll have to make amends some other time." She turned to CJ, "Why aren't you leaving with Penny?"

He looked away, keeping silent. I imagined he was hoping Juliet would assume it had something to do with Penny rejecting him early in the night.

"Oh, please, she's closer to you, as a friend, than any of us!"

"Juliet, I need time to... let my affections fade. I-it's... wierd. Even though I know it won't work out, even though I don't want to even try, even though I'm not single anymore... her touch is too overwhelming. If she touched me just once on that bus ride, I'd probably go to tears..." he paused, looking to me for some sort of understanding. "I just think some time apart is the best way to salvage that friendship. And I certainly don't like feeling the same way towards two different people."

"Well, the buses will stop running soon. Are you leaving with us?" Juliet asked, referring to Michelle and the rest of their friends that I didn't recall the names of.

"No," he said.

"Well, there's not a spare bed in your house, is there, Joshua?" Juliet paused, "Why's everyone looking at me funny? Am I missing something?"

I looked down, as Juliet turned her gaze from CJ to me and then back to CJ.

"It's not what you think," CJ said.

I had nothing to say. I just stood there, not wanting to be judged.

"You of all people, woah... umm, that's... err... surprising and fast."

"Look, Juls, I'm not jumping into bed with her like Brent tried to," he stated. "I'm just spending the night... innocently."

That wasn't quite what I wanted to hear, especially so sincerely. My left hand was in my pocket, tracing the metal edge of a handcuff.

"You know it never works like that," Juliet cautioned him. "You're going to be two teenagers off the opposite sex sharing a bed together, and that's surely going to lead to something, whether you intend for it to or not. Are you really going to knowingly put yourself into that situation?"

CJ was clenching his fists just a little bit at his sides.

Juliet pointed at me, "She won't be the one fighting temptation, we know the way she looks at you. It's your fight and yours alone! If you ask me, I'd place twenty bucks on temptation."

I kept silent, knowing it was late and most of us were more intoxicated than we were used to.

Greg interrupted, "Fine, I put twenty bucks on preacher's kid."

I gaped, and then stuttered, but said nothing discernible.

"Please, let's not be casting bets on anyone's virginity," Joshua told them. "Or lack there of."

"C'mon, Joshy-boy," Juliet teased, "how'd you bet?"

Greg grinned, "I'm curious, Joshua. How would you bet?"

He looked away, out the window. We waited in awkward silence, a silence that seemed to repeat Greg's question over and over. And then finally, Joshua's lips moved, "Temptation, fifty bucks."

I seethed.

"Personal experience is a bitch, ain't it?" Greg said to Joshua and then laughed.

"Fuck you," I blurted. "All of you!" I turned towards the door and Juliet moved out of the way with a shocked look on her face. "C'mon, CJ..."

His footsteps behind me were all that kept the tears from falling as we went to get our coats.

The End

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