It didn’t take long for Samantha to talk herself into seriously considering applying to military academies, at least the Air Force and Naval Academies. After researching both schools, she decided to go ahead with the applications. She had already given Renee an indication of her thinking. Now she wanted to inform Dwayne.
I had been wrapped up in my research for a few days, and I hadn’t noticed I’d only seen Dwayne in the classes we shared. Once I made my decision, I looked for him at lunch. He wasn’t in the lunchroom, which struck me as odd. When I finished my lunch, I had time so I checked out the front lawn.
Dwayne and Renee were sitting on the grass under one of the trees. They didn’t notice me until I walked up and said, “Hi, you two. I missed you at lunch today.”
They both snapped their heads around as if I had startled them. Then they scrambled to their feet. Dwayne kept his eyes on the ground as he said, “Um. Hi, we were just felt like enjoying the nice weather…” He trailed off for a moment. Then he added, “We haven’t seen much of you since the meeting with Ashworth.” He still hadn’t looked me in the eye.
Okay, what was going on? I hadn’t done something, had I?
Renee looked at her watch. “Hey, you’ll have to excuse me. I need to go in. … See you later.” She Hurried off before I could even say, “Later.”
Alright, this was strange. I turned my attention back to Dwayne. “Did I interrupt something?”
He glanced at his watch. “You Know what? I need to get inside too. Talk to you later.” He turned around and walked away. He hadn’t yet looked me in the eye.
I reached for his sleeve but stopped without touching him. I didn’t like the feeling I was getting. They were both obviously avoiding me, but why? Renee had been my best friend for the past three years, and this wasn’t like her. I stood there feeling numb. When I heard the class change bell, I shook my head and hurried inside.
After school I made a point of finding Dwayne on his way out. I had no trouble catching up with him, but he still was unwilling to look at me. I got in front of him and forced him to stop. “Dwayne, please … tell me what’s going on.”
He appeared pained. “What’s to tell? You’ve been occupied but life goes on.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Alarm bells were going off in my head.
He hung his head, another bad sign. I lifted his chin up. He spoke in a monotone. “Let’s get out of traffic so we can have some privacy.”
I wondered why we needed privacy, but I followed him off the walkway to a big tree far enough away that the kids rushing out the front entrance wouldn’t hear us. As if it were an omen I heard a clap of thunder, and when I looked up I could see threatening looking clouds towering in the west. I stopped and turned to face him. “Alright, we have privacy. Spill.”
He started to hang his head again, but he stopped and looked me in the eye. “Remember when we first decided to play our pranks. It disturbed me that you took over without waiting to get a consensus.”
“The group needed a leader, and I was the one who started it. It was my project.”
He nodded. “Yes it was. I think that was the problem.”
He gave me a look which I can only describe as dead serious. “Yes, you’re a control freak.”
That was a shock. My first thought was to deny it outright, but I hesitated.
He continued, “You took control our group very smoothly, but it was very clear that you weren’t about to let anybody else lead it.”
“Why should I let someone else take over what I had started? Wait a minute, you wanted to run the group? Is that it?” I paused. He started to object, but I pressed on. “So, it became a competition between two control freaks. You resented when I made it clear I was in charge.”
“Actually, Renee resented it too. We’ve been talking quite a bit since then. We both felt it should be more democratic. We came up with some good ideas, but you had to be the one who approved them. And then there was your one-sided decision to confess to Ashworth. …”
“I noticed that you and Renee joined me when I went to Principal Ashworth. I told you I would try to keep you out of it. I didn’t force you. Were you unhappy with the outcome?”
“Of course not, but …”
At that instant something clicked. I wasn’t getting the whole story. I focused on his eyes. “Alright, what aren’t you telling me?”
“You and I didn’t really have anything going. I mean, we only had one date, the Homecoming Dance …”—Here it came—“Renee and I … We’ve been spending a lot of time together, and … Well, we’ve made a connection.”
I gasped. That was it, and I hadn’t seen it coming. He was right; we really weren’t dating, but this announcement felt like he was twisting a knife in my stomach. I hadn’t realized how attached to him I had become, and here he was telling me had fallen for my best friend. Tears filled my eyes and I turned away from him.
He touched my arm and said, “I’m sorry.”
I turned back to him and snarled, “You’re sorry? You made me think we had something and then you not only …” I couldn’t continue. Tears streaming down my face, I spun around and ran.
Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled, ominously near.