It’s happening again. The way Kennedy’s eyeballing me makes me feel like I—like I’m—
All I can do to protest the attention is return it. I tried ignoring her.
That went well.
So, I look. More like glower. I hate glowering, but I have to look grumpy otherwise my look has no effect. Or worse: the wrong effect. Smiling is bad.
The look I deflect is closer to ogling. Kennedy doesn’t understand subtle. She’s been sniffing around me since she got here. Doggies are adorable—mostly, until they start humping your leg.
Like we don’t have enough problems without…
Who knew I’d play the doormat so literally? Practice makes perfect. I might get a decent night’s sleep sometime after the apocalypse. Until then I’ve got a nice comfy carpet to curl up on.
Being nice stinks!
I could sleep in my bed—the bed I gave up because I’m too darned nice—if I wanted to—
It’s not that she’s unattractive. She is. Very.
What I want to know is how she knows I’m—uh…not interested, ’cause I’m not—but the sort of a sort who could be interested if she wasn’t so—
Kennedy stares at me expectantly.
I’ve been dreading this so much you’d think I’d have a plan.
Some plan. I fib, “Kennedy, you’re nice and all.” Ad lib. “And pretty.” Play glib. “Believe me, I’m flattered, but I’m—” Vacant. Flustered. Scrambling. “—with someone.”
Buffy picks the moment I spring my whopper to slip past us in the hallway. I implore her with my eyes.
“I thought she had the hots for the gutter punk in the basement.”
I’m missing something. ‘Gutter punk’?
Like some oversized parrot, I burble, “She was, but that’s over.”
Kennedy regards me from her perch above me on the bed. She looks comfy.
I’m really not. The falsehood I perpetuated sits like an icy stone in my belly. I can’t help it. I’m not ready for this. I may never be ready for every shared decision to mean strife and concession.
“Why don’t you go be with her?” she says, her expression filled with sympathy. “I get why you wouldn’t want them to know. Don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with me.”
“I shouldn’t,” I reply. Does my desperation show? “Buffy looked exhausted.”
“So?” Kennedy says decisively. “You should go.”
See? This is why I hate fibbing. I didn’t sleep a wink. I couldn’t. I was stuck. If the girls had seen me…
And I didn’t want to bother—
I sip. Oww. Coffee scalds my tongue.
I considered the roof. Snoopy had the right idea: much better on the doghouse than in it.
Why I’m even in—
Well, I s’pose there was the fibbing, which I really didn’t do because…
Was what I did do really all that bad?
Hope Buffy won’t think I’m acting strangely—with the stick-to-it-iveness and the— Strange. Fruit Loops for lunch? Really?
I’m not strange.
Kennedy strolls into the kitchen. “Sleep well?” she asks, her performance pregnant with winks and nudges.
Buffy glances up from her bowl of colorful sugar-saturate. Her consequent ‘yes’ is just as leading as Kennedy’s question.
I sip at my cup, trying for nonchalant, but achieving chalant—as chalant as I get without spewing coffee.
I could shake my head. Slash my throat with a forefinger. I could—
No. I can’t.
Kennedy lingers in eye-corner view. Various girls mill around, adding to the complication.
Or maybe they’re subtracting? Maybe Kennedy’s waiting—?
I’m so, so skewed.
I lie, wallowing in the snugness of Buffy’s bed, wondering if I’m the reason she isn’t here.
I lie, wondering how I got away with this. Kennedy believed me.
I used the truth to insinuate myself here. The floor was hard.
I should’ve said ‘no,’ but I’m too much of a wuss for that.
I used the truth to support my lie. Buffy felt sympathy.
I lie, worrying I might be the reason she isn’t here. Am I really all that awful?
I lie, wallowing in the guilt relief brings, wondering how I could possibly feel better. I am awful.
I sit on the back stoop bathed in sunlight. It’s hard to believe that things are as bad as they seem. There’s no sign of it now. Birds sing. Everything’s beautiful, lush and green.
The door opens. Boards creak under gawky feet. My alone time’s over.
“What’s with you and Kennedy?” Dawn asks, settling beside me. She searches my face. “I thought maybe you’d—”
“You know,” she says with adolescent entendre.
“I don’t,” I reply. She believes I should move on. “I’m not.”
“I think she’s nice,” Dawn informs me. “A little intense, but who here isn’t?”
“You can stop.”
“Huh?” I look up from my laptop at Anya.
Who knows? “What?”
“Kennedy knows you’re single,” Anya explains. “Nice one, by the way: using Buffy as an excuse. That reminds me of the time—”
I butt in, “She knows?” A ‘yes’ forms on Anya’s lips. I keep butting. “How do you know she knows?”
“Well, because I do,” Anya says. “I think you hurt her feelings.”
“Oh.” Some explanation. Guess she thinks it’s obvious. “Does Buffy know?”
“I’m not sure. She’s kinda self-involved. There’s a big bad evil thing that wants us all dead.”
Rona lunges. Kennedy evades, sending her sprawling flat on her back. Rona giggles. Soon both girls are laughing.
It’s good to see them having fun.
Xander asks, “You doing alright?” startling me as I turn from the window.
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
His expression softens. He knows I’m fibbing.
That’s been a problem lately.
I’m not fine. I worry that I made a mistake. I may’ve I judged Kennedy too harshly. I wonder whether she’ll forgive me.
I worry about what Buffy knows. She’s grown more distant. I wonder whether that’s my fault.
Mostly I worry none of this will matter.