Come on, Jeremy, he thought. You can do this.
Jeremy was standing outside the drama room, hands stuffed into his pockets. Despite that action, they were still shaking. He still wasn't sure of himself, or even of what exactly he was looking for right now. All he knew was that he wanted to talk to a certain girl that was most certainly inside that room right now.
School didn't feel so bad anymore. After a week spent in the hospital, today had been his first day back. He felt nervous, but it was nothing compared to what he had been feeling for the last few months. It was different, and he thought he felt okay with that, but it was still scary.
Michael had come to pick him up in his PT Cruiser, like usual. At least, before the incident, it was usual for them. The energy in the car was different.
Jeremy wasn't entirely sure what had transpired between them after he woke up in the hospital. Michael had started out in the typical hospital visitor fashion, worrying over every irregular beep, fluffing Jeremy's pillow whenever he asked and even when he didn't, and all in all doing everything he wanted. Then there were a couple days where Michael didn't visit. Although Jeremy's heart sank, he knew Michael was entitled to it and that it was deserved. After all, it had been Jeremy in that bathroom, not the Squip. Before he left the hospital, however, Michael swung by and they had a discussion about that previously unspoken awkwardness between them.
The energy in the car was still different, though. Something had changed between them, but Jeremy felt that it was for the better. Somehow, a deeper friendship and connection than their one of twelve years had formed, although he was sure that was possible simply because of the base on which it was built.
So instead of sitting in a reserved silence, they slipped into easy conversation, up until the next bump in the road.
Rich's driveway was way too steep.
That was another change. Jeremy wasn't entirely sure how he and Rich had ended up sharing a hospital room, some strange twist of fate he supposed, but he was thankful for it. The real Rich Goranski wasn't as much of a dick as the Squipped one. He was still a bit of a dick, but a more friendly one. Jeremy had learned a lot about the other boy over the past week, and he really wasn't that bad. Surprisingly, Rich was a book nerd.
The two of them and Michael had started talking, and Jeremy felt that they were all beginning to become friends. So Michael picked Rich up as well.
Then, when they got to school, classes were different. Of course, Jeremy had always known that some of the others shared classes with him, especially since they had practically shoved it in his face all the time, but now he had people he could talk to besides Michael. Who, all on his own, was great, but couldn't fill the gap during classes they didn't have together.
Rich and Michael were in his first period. Jake and Chloe were in his second. Brooke and Jenna were in his third. Miraculously, they were all in his fourth, except for Christine.
Lunch was when he really noticed it. Jeremy and Michael had entered the cafeteria, beelining towards their usual table in the corner. They were almost there, too, when a hand blocked his path.
Jake. He invited them to sit down with them. Jeremy had never realized how close the most popular guy in school always sat to them in the room.
Lunch was quite the new experience. At moments, it still felt uneasy between different members of the group. Jeremy knew they weren't all just immediately best friends now, but this was a start. Brooke and Chloe were both a bit more reserved at first, but soon joined Jenna in a conversation with Jeremy, and then everyone got into a conversation about Christine.
She seemed to be a topic that let them cast their worries aside. Jeremy suspected that maybe it was simply because of who Christine was. She always seemed to be a beacon of light in a room full of teenagers who mingled with the dark.
Really, though, the others lost all inhibitions in pursuit of getting Jeremy to talk to her. They knew that something had happened between them all, but also that there was something unresolved between him and her.
Jeremy still wasn't sure what that was, but he let his new friends' encouragement wash over him and push him through the door.
"Hey," Jeremy began. "So—"
"I still remember how it felt," Christine cut him off before looking over at him from her chair in the front row.
"What?" Jeremy asked. He scratched his head nervously.
"It was like you said," Christine replied, almost unsurely. "Like I'd never have to...not know...anything again. Who did yours look like?"
"Keanu Reeves," Jeremy answered. He smiled a bit to match Christine's amusement. "Yours?"
"Hillary Clinton," She admitted, a lopsided grin forming. "It's embarrassing..."
"Actually, that one's pretty good," Jeremy responded. Of course Christine's Squip was Hillary Clinton. Although that sort of sucked since it was still a Squip. Not a great image for the woman.
Christine hadn't finished her sentence. "...to find out, deep down, I just want things to be easy."
"Yeah, but...who wants things to be hard?" Jeremy reassured her. Christine had nothing to be ashamed of — he had wanted all she had, and more, and look where that got everyone. "Look, I ruined the play. I almost destroyed the school, maybe all human civilization. I know that the last thing I deserve is another shot. But I...uh..."
"Just say what's on your mind, Jeremy," And she smiled at him, again, and suddenly everything was quiet.
"Lunch? Just the two of us," Jeremy shoved his hands deeper into his pockets.
"Yeah, Jeremy, I'd like that."
"You know, we never actually talked to each other much before the whole Squip thing," Jeremy mused, sipping at his slurpee. "I think this is a good start."
They were sitting in the Menlo Park Mall, mostly people-watching. Christine sometimes rambled about musicals, or they both made comments on particularly interesting and random shoppers, but right now there was a comfortable silence between them that he had just broken.
Jeremy smiled when he spotted a large group of teenagers walking towards them, six of them in fact. They all slid into seats next to him and Christine.
"Hey, Jeremy, how's your date going?" Rich teased with a grin on his face. Jeremy hit him lightly on the arm.
"Come on, dude, you know she's not my girlfriend," Jeremy reminded with a smile. "I'm just starting to have real conversations with her, give it a rest."
The group broke out into chatter in various combinations. Jeremy was content to sit back for a moment and watch his friends. He didn't know what the future had in hold for him, or any of them. None of them did.
Hell, he didn't even know exactly what he felt about Christine, or any of the others, but he was okay with that. Someday, he'd figure it out, but, for now, he was simply happy that when he spoke, he felt listened to, and he felt worthy of it.
Jeremy knew he'd be fine.