Chapter Five – Enigma and Indifference
She had done her part.
She had welcomed people she didn’t even know and had not seen until that day. She had smiled, socialized, and talked to total strangers that pretended they were long-time close family friends that went way back, when in fact, she had know idea where all these ‘guests’ sprouted from. She mingled, just as she was expected to do. She had put on a mask and struggled wearing it for the rest of the night just because she needed to project the perfect image of a Charles-Carlson heiress.
She was the center of a perfect charade and she did her part stunningly.
She had done her part and she wanted it to be over, at least for the night.
Even though she absolutely loathed having these celebrations – gatherings most would say – she knew she had to do it. Well, it wasn’t as if the night was totally abhorring. Just a while ago, she had shared a moment with her father she knew she would treasure all her life and that in itself made all the pretending and fake smiles worth it. Her parents truly loved and understood her and interacting with a bunch of hypocrites on the night of her sixteenth birthday was a small price to pay for all the love she had been showered with through all the years.
Never did she expect her father to give her the present she had just received. She had no idea, after all these years, that her parents still remembered. She never even thought they paid her any attention all those times she bugged her parents about going back to that suburban area that has captured her young heart. And she understood why they seemed to ignore her innocent pleas back then. It had been a very tough time for all of them and preoccupied would be an understatement to describe her parents’ state of mind.
Now, she knew for sure that they didn’t deliberately ignore her. They just had to set their priorities straight and her innocent requests to seek out a playmate and lounge under an old oak tree weren’t at the top of the list. Not to mention, with the fragility of their situation at that point in time, she knew her parents were unsure what the consequences of such simple actions would lead to.
She felt the rough sand on her bare feet as she walked closer towards the ocean. She hated wearing those high-heeled ‘things’ as much as she hated pretending to enjoy a gathering of stuck-up wealthy ‘family friends’. Leaving both of those behind, now she can truly take pleasure in celebrating her birthday. She appreciated the fact that her parents chose a hotel quite near the ocean shore to formally celebrate a new year in her life. Her parents probably anticipated her need to be alone after the gathering, and what was more relaxing than being blessed with the presence of the sea at night while gazing at the vast horizon?
She didn’t care what others may perceive of her looks at that instant, with her elegant black gown that lacked the final touch of a pair of footwear on her feet endowed with perfectly pedicured toes. All she knew was that the sound of the ocean waves turning hypnotized her and she felt the need to be nearer the shore.
The moment she finally sat down on a comfortable place to enjoy the enchanting sight that beheld her, she instantly felt another presence nearby. At first, she ignored the unexpected company, in hopes that whoever or whatever it was would eventually leave her to her serenity. After awhile she realized that instead of leaving, she felt the other presence seemingly coming near her. She frowned both in disappointment and confusion. Couldn’t she at least get the night to herself without any unwanted being trying to bug her?
She turned around to look and at that instant, whatever annoyance there was seeping through her blood suddenly vanished. She sat awestruck as she gazed at a gorgeous raven-haired beauty. She realized that not only did the feelings of annoyance leave her, but so did her ability to think properly like a normal person.
Did the heavenly being before her just speak?
Lei saw the other girl’s mouth move. She heard the words uttered. But what she couldn’t get past was the fact that such an angel just happened to look straight back at her and… talk to her.
Before she could even say anything in response – that is if she could – she felt rather than saw the other girl with enchanting black hair sit beside her and stare at the ocean, like she just did moments ago. It was riveting to have this goddess from who knows where just talk to her and sit beside her as if they’ve been friends for a long time.
Looking at the black-haired girl, Lei tried to seek out a distant memory of her in the recesses of her mind. She came out blank however. She probably was also a guest to her party but surely, she would have recognized her, right?
“I know you don’t really know me.”
Lei realized that the other girl was speaking again and this time, she ceased whatever fantasies were trying to invade her head and focused all her attention on the girl with hair as black as the night sky.
“I just came over to greet you a happy birthday.”
“I…ummmm…” Lei wanted to smack her head on something really hard. The chance to strike up a conversation and she was coming out as a total idiot.
The other girl laughed softly and Lei noticed how breathtaking this simple sight truly was. Contagious too, since she had also started laughing along.
When the laughter subsided, the other girl spoke once more.
“You don’t really need to say anything. And I’m sorry for invading your personal space. I just want to really talk to you and when the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t help not passing it up.”
“You can invade my personal space anytime,” Lei blurted out before she could stop herself and when she realized what she had just said, began blushing profusely. That moment she wanted nothing more than to drown herself in the ocean and never resurface. She was too embarrassed to say anything more after realizing the innuendo behind those few words. Plus, she was probably blushing like a soon-to-explode ripe tomato.
The other girl giggled girlishly and Lei noticed that she also had some hints of red on her cheeks.
“I mean, ummm, it’s okay that you’re here. I could probably enjoy the extra company,” Lei said hurriedly trying to salvage whatever good impression vibes she may have left.
The other girl nodded and looked at the horizon once more, before speaking up, “The ocean’s very beautiful. Holding your party near here is a very good idea.”
“My parents thought of it. They probably knew I’d want to relax the night away after trying to smile at everyone and socialize to people I barely even know,” then she realized that the girl was probably one of those ‘guests’ to her gathering and she quickly said, “Not that I didn’t enjoy it!”
The other girl giggled again and then smiled as she faced Lei. “I get it. I hate those kinds of parties too.”
“So you’re one of the guests?” The girl nodded. “How come I didn’t –?”
“I came in late. Plus you were too busy trying to dodge all those people you barely even knew to even notice me,” the girl smirked.
It was Lei’s turn to giggle. “Sorry. I’m just not comfortable with people trying to get on my good side by complimenting on my looks when I know all they thought of was my surname, hence the dodging.”
The other girl’s smile turned into a huge grin.
“You’re just like what they say you are.”
“Brave. Different. Mysteriously interesting.”
“Wow. I didn’t know people talk about me that way,” Lei scoffed and looked back at the ocean.
“Of course you do. That’s why you act the way you do. You respect your parents by socializing in some elitist party but once it’s over, you don’t give a damn. You are who you are. I like it.”
Upon hearing this, Lei turned back to look at the other girl’s face and instantly found herself getting lost in depths of green. That was how it was when she heard the raven-haired goddess speaking once more.
“I like you.”
The average GSA meeting for the past two or three years since Julia had been active ranged from only about 10 to at most 20 people who truly showed their interest in what the group stood for. It had been a normal routine for her to inter-act with all the regulars and those who occasionally came up to accompany some of their friends. The GSA at Wright Duncan may not be one of the most active school organizations, but they had their own share of activities and supporters.
This afternoon, however, was nothing like the ordinary. The usually silent room at the back of the bookstore was now very much jam-packed with students of all years that seemed to have suddenly grown an interest in becoming more accepting of fellow schoolmates without prejudice on sexual orientation. It would have been a very pleasant change had Julia not known better. Most of the students present for the GSA meeting were only there because of Lei CC – if not to check out what she’d look like or how she was going to act like in a typical GSA meeting but to ogle a little more and in closer proximity. But well, Julia knew the moment she had asked the wealthy Charles-Carlson daughter to be a part of the school organization that these kinds of reactions from students in school should already be expected. Besides, even though most of the students around didn’t care much for the group, the fact that they cared about Lei enough to be present was good indication that they’d also care enough to participate in future activities that surely, Lei would advocate.
She felt a tap on her shoulder that shook her out her thoughts and felt the presence that casually pulled a chair and sat near her. With this, Julia smiled knowing immediately who this familiar presence would be.
Julia’s smile grew wider as she turned to look at one of her closest friends and also one of the most active members of the GSA. She assessed her friend’s new hairstyle – now dyed red with streaks of purple – and the ever present black eye shadow. Her friend’s lips were now pursed in a smirk and no matter how much Sven acted like the tough, indifferent girl with her all-black outfit and her constantly narrowed eyes, the girl could never really hide how beautiful her smile really was.
“So, how was your day?”
“Oh, you know, the usual.”
“Skipping classes and smoking at the alley.”
Julia laughed as Sven just slid further into her seat and now looked at the huge number of people present inside the room.
“Well, I’ll have you know, my pretty punk friend, that I did attend a few classes. Those that matter anyway… English Lit, for instance,” the bottle redhead spoke up while seemingly assessing the crowd. “And by the way, I can’t believe how everyone just fit in here. I used to think this room was very cozy but now, it just looks cramped.”
“Well, what can I say? The GSA is in demand this year.”
Sven scoffed. “No, the group isn’t. But she certainly is,” and with that, she pointed at the approaching brunette who certainly grabbed everyone’s attention the minute she came in.
Julia stood up as Lei neared her and they both shared brief smiles before the brunette turned to sit beside the other presence – Sven – who now looked plainly … bored. Seeing this, Lei turned her attention towards the girl with obviously dyed red hair and presented a hand in greeting.
Sven just looked indifferently at the brunette’s face and then her hand, and just when she was about to either scoff once more or simply shrug off the little introduction, she felt a sharp slap on the backside of her head.
“Owww!” the bottle redhead looked back at her real redheaded friend with a scowl, “What’d you do that for?!”
Julia ignored the scowl and glare aimed her way though and turned to Lei who now sported an amused look on her face, “I apologize for my friend’s pigheaded rudeness. Oftentimes I wonder if the word ‘polite’ is even included in her vocabulary.”
“Hey! I could be polite!” Sven interrupted and immediately took the brunette’s proffered hand. “Sven…” she said with a hearty shake.
“Whatever, Sven. You were totally going to scoff at Lei just a while ago.”
“No, I wasn’t.” And to the brunette, “Don’t believe Julia. I am a totally nice person… well, except to bitches anyway. You’re not a bitch are you?” With this, she gave an assessing glare with matching narrowed eyes that just made it absolutely impossible for Lei not to laugh.
“No, I assure you that I am not a bitch, although a few rumors could mislead you,“ said the ‘heiress’ after her laughter fit.
“Good. I’m not one for rumors anyway.”
“Since you two have been properly acquainted,” Julia said as she looked at Lei and gave a sincere smile, “I think it’s time to say that I’m really glad you decided to come, Lei.”
“Don’t worry about it. I was thinking of joining the GSA even before you approached me anyway. But, are the meetings really always this crowded?”
It was Sven, “No, they’re just all here wanting to stare at you.”
“What, Julia? It’s true! They’re all just here coz of Miss CC here… not really coz they wanna be a part of the GSA.”
Lei sighed, “Figures…”
Sven looked at the brunette, “Well, I bet you expected that already, didn’t you?”
Julia shot her dye-haired friend a glare and then turned to the brunette, “I’m sorry for Sven’s rudeness… again.” Another glare. “But I hope you don’t put it against the other students for coming here just to see you, or stare at you, for that matter,” now looking pointedly at the other students who didn’t even have the right manners to conceal their plaintive ogling.
“No, no that’s okay. Let’s just hope that at the end of the month, they’ll be coming here for the actual meetings and not for other things,” with this the brunette gave another one of her infamous smiles and Sven just looked at her with raised eyebrows.
“You’re quite the optimist aren’t you?”
“I prefer to be called the realistic idealist.”
And a grin broke its way into the Sven’s face, “You’re cool. I like you.”
“You’re pretty cool yourself. Like the hair, by the way.”
And Sven’s grin just grew wider.
“When I said I’m not nice to bitches, I meant I absolutely cannot tolerate them,” Sven declared in a totally nonchalant way that seemed like she didn’t care whether anyone heard her or not. Apparently, someone did.
“Are you saying I’m a bitch?”
With an indifferent gaze, the bottle redhead turned to look at the brunette head cheerleader a distance away from her at the other end of the circle that everyone made the moment the GSA meeting started several minutes ago, “I never mentioned any names…but thanks for acknowledging it anyway.”
Not surprisingly enough, at least for Sven and Julia anyway, the head cheerleader graced the GSA meeting with her presence for the first time since forever and she came with GSA regular and student body favorite Kristen Sanders who just happened to also be her best friend. Why Diane happened to have such a sweet girl for a best friend, and managed to maintain their friendship for the longest time, was beyond Sven but she knew already that this was going to happen. Activities including Lei CC just happened to be the “in” thing lately and whoever to head with the flow but the head cheerleader herself? Although, for the self-proclaimed nonconformist, it was nonetheless annoying.
Especially when the bitch was making it sound as if she’d been a part of the GSA from the very beginning…which never happened.
“So, you are calling me a bitch?” Barely concealed shock grazed the head cheerleader’s face.
Sven just couldn’t keep the eye roll from coming when she realized just how stupidly clueless the brunette was being. Maybe she’s better off being blonde. But just then, Sven looked at Kristen and realized that Kristen is blonde but she wasn’t that stupid.
And then she realized another thing.
Sven, before deciding to put all those chemicals on her head and before discovering the wonders of hair dye, used to be blonde. Platinum blonde to be exact.
Okay, so maybe the dumb blonde thing wasn’t as true as it was clichéd. But still, Sven knew for sure that if anyone was the embodiment of pathetically stupid right at that moment, for her it was none other than Diane Briggs.
Before Sven could give any form of response to that however, Julia already stood up and yanked her friend from where she was seated. This surprised the bottle redhead but Julia either didn’t see this or just didn’t care.
The real redhead turned to Kristen who was watching everything from where she was seated beside her best friend. “Sven and I are going to talk for a while. Do you mind taking over the meeting while we’re gone, Kristen?”
“No, of course not. Go ahead.”
Without another word to anyone, Julia practically pulled her friend and dragged her to the area outside the bookshop. Once out of anyone’s earshot, a fuming Julia turned to Sven and lashed out, “What the hell is wrong with you?!”
The bottle redhead was taken aback by such an abrasive behavior, by Julia nonetheless, but her mild shock immediately turned to anger. “NOTHING is wrong with me! What’s wrong is THAT over there…” pointing back to the bookstore, “…and Diane the cheer-fuckin’-leader taking over the meeting like she knows what she’s talking about! She’s never been to any meeting before. She’s never even set foot in the bookstore before now, and then suddenly she pops up and goes all queen bee on us! What the fuck?!”
“She was just trying to help, Sven. And isn’t it a good thing that she’s willing to be a part of the group now? We need all the support we can get,” Julia said, taking back a little control on her emotions. She noted that lashing out on Sven and getting them both angered wasn’t such a good idea.
Hearing this only made Sven scoff and she realized she was hearing this from Julia, of all people, “You can’t possibly be THAT naïve, Jules. We all know she’s just there because of Lei.”
“So is everybody else. But I don’t see you calling them bitches.”
“Well, not everybody’s a bitch either and most possibly the hugest hypocrite that’s ever existed.”
Julia sighed, “How do you know that when you’re not even friends? And the fact that one of the kindest people we know, which is Kristen, has been friends with her and stuck with her for a very long time should say something about Diane’s personality. Maybe she’s not so much the bitch you make her out to be.”
“And maybe, Kristen’s just too kind to lose a friend. Ever think of that?”
“Yes, but I also think that right now, Diane’s willing to be a part of the GSA and maybe we should all give her a chance.”
An eyeroll. “Whatever.”
“What’s your beef with her anyway? I don’t see you getting this worked up with all the other cheerleaders. And I also refuse to think that you’ve turned judgmental all of a sudden.”
Hearing this, Sven turned to her friend with eyes wide open, “I’m not judgmental! It’s just… she’s…” A huge dramatic sigh, “Fine! Fine! I’ll give the bi- HER a chance. But I don’t have to like her, okay?”
Smiling at the pout that now sported her friend’s face, Julia headed back inside the bookstore to where the meeting was being held, knowing that Sven was just trailing behind.
The GSA meeting went on without any further interruption after Sven and Julia came back from their brief conversation. Sven kept all the snide remarks to herself and settled with her usual indifferent looks along with a stray roll of the eye here and there. Despite the silence though, it was still very much obvious that Sven was pissed.
“So, it’s settled then. We’ll have some sort of acquaintance party,” Julia said with a smile as she looked at everyone around the room, particularly at her silent friend.
Diane clapped her hands in excitement as she announced, “And we’re going to make this THE party of the year…or at least until Halloween comes. People are going to talk about this party for weeks.”
The redheaded leader of the group beamed. “Great! So now we just have to figure out where to hold the event.”
“We could opt for somewhere on campus. Get an approval from the admin.,” Kristen said. “But frankly, I don’t vouch for it.”
“Neither do I,” Diane stated. “I mean come on, we’re talking party of the year here.”
“We could have it at my place.”
Everyone looked at Lei the moment those words had been uttered.
“I mean, seriously, it’s big enough to accommodate everyone who wants to go. Plus, I won’t mind.”
Despite the huge temptation of the idea of holding the first major GSA event for the year at the CC heiress’s place, Julia still wanted to make sure that they weren’t really imposing on the girl. “Are you sure? I mean, I believe you’ve probably just been here a few weeks to say the most. And you’re just starting you’re senior year here now. We really don’t want to impose.”
“Yes!” Diane interrupted. “Maybe it’s too much.”
“No, no, of course not. I won’t suggest it if I really didn’t want to. Besides, I’d be very happy to help out the group any way I can.”
There was no mistaking the excited buzz that emanated around the room. Seemed like everyone was starting to find the idea of a GSA acquaintance party at Lei’s house to be the most interesting thing there is.
The brunette grinned. She’d already been considering volunteering her house ever since the moment they started discussing having an acquaintance party. It was no doubt that the mere thought of having the party at her own place would make the event a huge success.
And at that moment, Kristen looked on and wondered at the enigma that was Leila Charles-Carlson.
End of Chapter Five.
Coming soon on Of Tears And Broken Hearts:
Kristen sighed. There was no point getting all worked up over a friendship which probably never even meant as much to the other girl as it did for her.
Although, she still wondered and asked about a lot of things like where Leila was, what she looked like now, how she was doing.
“It’s just… I don’t even know what’s actually happening.” The blonde looked down and then to the can of root beer she was holding.
“I’m not getting you.”
“I’m not getting myself either. But…but maybe I’m just over-analyzing things…”
“Over-analyzing what? What things?” Diane was genuinely confused now.
A few seconds after, realization, then shock replaced the confusion in Lei and all she was able to do was plop down on the couch without looking away at what was happening before her.