The Impossible Vastness Of Us
Biting her lip, Eloise nodded. “The bulimia rumor was partly my fault. I told her about the way you acted over our leftovers. But she came up with the bulimia thing on her own.”
“I bet she did,” I murmured.
Eloise studied her peach-painted toenails for a while. “I haven’t meant to be a bitch to you.” She looked up warily. “I just... I don’t think we have a lot in common.”
As much as I wanted in with the “in” crowd, I couldn’t deny she had a point. “I guess we don’t.”
She nodded, seeming to relax knowing that I agreed with her. “Daddy’s really mad at me right now. He doesn’t get mad at me a lot. He asked me to look out for you at school and found out that I didn’t.”
“I don’t need you to look out for me.”
“Yes, but I imagine it’s not really fun sitting alone during lunch.”
I didn’t reply because it wasn’t.
“I love my father,” Eloise said abruptly. “He’s one of my best friends. I don’t like disappointing him.”
I’d kind of worked that out for myself, and in my secret heart of hearts I was jealous as hell.
“Tomorrow at school things will change. You’ll sit with us at lunch, walk with us in the hall.” She looked off in the distance, her shoulders hunched to her ears. “We can’t force friendship, but we can certainly be civil to one another.”
She was so proper, so constrained. It occurred to me that her demeanor was a defensive strategy. It hid her emotions. It hid her vulnerabilities. It was a different kind of defense from my own, but a defense nonetheless, and I found that it was a small piece of common ground between us.
So I replied, “That works for me. Thanks.”
Eloise looked back at me, apparently surprised by my response as her face softened with questions and curiosity. But the look was fleeting and just like that the warmth was zapped from her hazel eyes, the cold distance crystallizing in them once more.
“Well—” she stood up “—I’m off to Finn’s. I’ll see you later.”
“Bye.” I watched her leave, more confused than ever. Like her father, I couldn’t figure Eloise out. As much as I’d been convinced she and Theo would be the villains in this chapter of my life, now I wasn’t one hundred percent sure that was true.
No matter my confusion, the apprehension I’d been carrying around with me for the past week was draining from me.
Tomorrow at school I was to make my first appearance with the “in” crowd. I had a lot to overcome, what with the rehab and bulimia rumors, but those would be so much easier to get past while walking at the side of the most popular juniors at Tobias Rochester High.
I smiled, my shoulders melting into the lounge chair. I was on my way to making my way back up to the top again.
CHAPTER 6 (#u2e87e5b1-71a8-500a-9100-9d4ffe3b0fe2)
WHATEVER I WAS expecting the next morning, the usual awkward, tense silence between Eloise and me wasn’t it. Yet awkward, tense silence was what I got.
I’m not going to lie—I had a moment of panic as we slid into the town car, thinking yesterday’s encounter had been a dream and I was back to being persona non grata with her.
Thankfully, as Gil pulled out of the drive, Eloise spoke.
“When we arrive at school you’ll walk in with me.”
I looked at her. She wasn’t looking at me. She was staring forlornly out the window.
Maybe if she’d been pissed off about the fact that she had to give me the time of day, I would have enjoyed the situation more. As it was, the wary look on her face not only confused me but it almost made me want to cut her some slack and tell her to forget about helping me. If it were any other rich princess I’d say Eloise was bothered by the fact that she had to associate with a lowly peasant such as myself, but somehow I knew that wasn’t what was bothering her.
It was something deeper.
Something more troubling.
And that confused the hell out of me.
It also made me a little uneasy.
“Okay,” I said softly.
My tone made her look at me and just like that the forlorn expression she’d been wearing was wiped away. The cold distance was back.
“You’ll be okay.” Her words were kind, but her tone was empty.
“Yeah.” I nodded and looked out the other window. “I always am.”
We were silent the rest of the way to school and I knew for sure then that Eloise may be welcoming me into her group for the sake of appearances, but I was still an outsider to her.
Gil gave me a bolstering smile when he saw that Eloise was waiting for me to get out of the car. I wished him a good day and followed my new “friend” through the school gates. Walking at her side, I immediately drew stares from our fellow students. Confusion seemed to be the most popular expression among them.
I knew by the unsurprised looks on Bryce’s and Charlotte’s faces that Eloise had already forewarned them about me. Bryce gave me this cool little chin nod of acknowledgment, while Charlotte full-out beamed at me.
Her warm welcome soothed me a little. “Hey.” I smiled back, doing my best not to feel like a total fish out of water as we stood by Eloise’s locker.
“Do you need to go to your locker?” Eloise asked, but she was putting books in hers so I didn’t know who she was talking to.
“She means you.” Bryce sighed as if I was an idiot.
I ignored her. “Yeah, I do.”
Eloise slammed her locker door shut. “Well, let’s go, then.”
Wow. She really meant it when she said we would hang out in the halls. I led the way, Eloise at my side, while Bryce and Charlotte chatted behind us. They were gossiping about some girl called Katherine who had “so obviously been coming on to Finn” at Bryce’s party that Saturday night.
I glanced at Eloise for a reaction to this. I saw a flash of something that looked an awful lot like jealousy cross her eyes before she turned to stone.
“She is so delusional. As if Finn would ever go for her,” Bryce said.
“She’s a senior. And she’s very pretty,” Eloise suddenly murmured.
Was that insecurity I heard?
“Uh, not as pretty as you,” Charlotte defended her friend heatedly.