A Tale of the Technician Ch. 07byFinalStand©
*Don't fear the waves, fear the undertow*
(One more from Shawhollow)
(Emily isn't an idiot so trust her enough to uphold her end of the friendships she's forged.)
(Two Weeks Later)
School has a pattern; first is the uncertainty of taking something new and deciding if you are going to drop the course before the deadline. Then the boredom sets in as you get the hang of what you think you are doing. Finally comes the abject terror that you've committed yourself to a course you hate/can't complete. We were all on the cusp of Stage Three.
You could say everyone in the house was a bit stressed about school; when you added in the hormones of the young and things got down right anxious. We dealt with this in a number of ways. We divided up kitchen duty, times for our study groups, and who needed rides to work. For that one day, that Thursday, I was pretty sure we had it all under control.
Barney, Betsy, and I are in one corner of the living room doing our history thing while Jesse and his boyfriend Derrick have the other. Mark and Jamie are playing with the X-box, Gina is at work, and Emily and Amber are studying in the kitchen when the doorbell rings. Since none of us are expecting company we look around the room to see who would stop what they are doing to answer the call.
Barney losses the battle of wills, sighs and trots to the door. He opens it and stammers something which translates over from Awkward Man-speak as 'hot woman at door'.
"May I come in," a hauntingly familiar and frightening voice asks. She doesn't wait for Barney to answer opting to push past him and enter the entry hall.
I am staring at Mercedes and three thoughts rush through my head; how does she know where we live, what's her plan, and can I reach Jamie before she erupts?
"Hey Craig," she purrs at the same time that Emily skips down the hallway with a big smile on her face.
"Mercedes!" she squeals as she runs up and hugs the newcomer. I would admonish Emily if I wasn't racing to catch Jamie as she comes off the floor.
"Bitch!" Jamie screams as she thrashes in my bear hug. Since I am holding her arms pinned to her chest she kicks out instead.
"Please," Emily pleads to Jamie. "We've made up and Mercedes is very sorry about what happened."
"That's right," Mercedes smiles mischievously. "I was very bad and I'd like to apologize to both you and Craig."
"Oh, to hell you say!" Jamie thunders. "I'm not forgiving shit because you haven't changed, you cunt."
"I accept your apology," I tell Mercedes, taking a different tact.
"Craig, you can't believe this shit?" Jamie gawks as she turns to see if I'd drunk the Kool-Aid.
"I'm cool with it if Emily is," I soothe Jamie as I back out of the living room toward the bedrooms.
"You are a bitch," Jamie screams at Mercedes as we exit the room. Once we are in our bedroom and the door is shut I put Jamie down and she promptly slaps me.
"Don't you ever do that to me again," she snaps.
"Listen Jamie, it is better to have her and Emily where we can keep an eye on them than have her telling Emily that we aren't really her friends," I explain. I also fail to promise her that I wouldn't remove her from an awkward situation when needed.
Jamie vibrates with poorly contained energy, her gaze toward me alternating between impressed and furious. When smoke starts boiling out of her ears I take action. I grab Jamie and kiss her violently, crushing her to me. I give her a little room after a minute.
"Sex! Now!" Jamie demands.
"Later," I assuage her, "we have company."
"RRRRR" Jamie responds accompanied with some heavy breathing. My eyes gravitate to her braless breasts, a move that Jamie catches.
"You are hopeless," she says as she rolls her eyes, but I can tell I've temporarily defused her wrath.
I take Jamie's hand and lead her back to the main room. The conversation subsides when we return.
"So, are we okay?" Mercedes asks sweetly.
"Sure," I respond. Jamie glares at Mercedes but keeps the peace and resumes her place with the X-box. Emily looks at me nervously so I give her a wink and a smile only belatedly catching Mercedes taking in the whole exchange.
I rejoin my study group and we get back to business. I catch Betsy tossing me a questioning look but I indicate that it is a story that takes more than one breath so she lets it lie. Emily and Mercedes go back to their room to 'study' while Amber comes over to the sofa and sits down next to me very platonic-like.
I end up being the one to take Betsy home, stopping on the way to pick up Gina from work. Gina is her warm friendly self as she gets into the back seat of my car, hugging me and almost hugging Betsy who barely recoils in time. Once again Betsy gives me this curious look.
"I have a bunch more girls as friends than actual girlfriends," I try to explain.
"Of course," she says with a straight face. "It is none of my business anyway."
"Wow," Gina snickers, "she's so hot for you."
"I am not," insists Betsy. "He's not my type."
"No she's not (hot for me)," I add, then, "I'm not?"
"No, you are not and if he's so hot why are you sharing him with all those other roommates of his?" Betsy asks Gina. Gina chuckles.
"I'm not sleeping with Craig. He's Mark's best friend and I'm with Mark. So, what is your excuse?" Gina replies.
"I prefer a prospective boyfriend to have more morals," Betsy informs us. Gina and I exchange looks by way of the rearview mirror.
"What do you mean Betsy?" I inquire. "I've always been nice to you."
"Craig, you sleep with every girl you meet," Betsy explains. Okay...
"What makes you think that?" I have to ask causing Betsy to sigh patiently.
"How many women have you slept with, if you haven't lost count?" she says with a heavy dose of condescension.
"Three," I fire off immediately. I remind myself that Betsy alienates almost everyone she knows in a matter of months.
"Do you seriously expect me to believe that?" Betsy replies.
"Craig," Gina questions me playfully, "how many girls have hit on you?" I have to think about that.
"A few," I prevaricate. Gina snorts.
"Mark says that you get all kinds of play at those football parties," she grins.
"Having some sluts rub up against him hardly makes Craig more appealing," Betsy counters.
"One; they are not sluts. Two; it was all harmless fun," I grumble.
"If you say so," she sniffs a rebuff.
"Betsy, do I bother you?" I inquire. She gave me a serious once over.
"No, you behave yourself around me and you are pretty smart for a jock," she admits.
"I feel the same way about you Betsy. You may keep looking at my crotch but you are discrete about it," I tease her. I expect some sort of snappy denial so when she turns and looks out the window without comment I am a bit floored.
"Betsy, I'm sorry. That was uncalled for," I apologize after a moment.
"Okay," is her clipped reply.
"That's good," I tell her. "After all, if you dumped me it would ruin my reputation as a man-whore."
"Well," groans Betsy, "we can't have that." Shortly after that we drop Betsy off and Gina has joined me in the front seat, Gina smiles at me and says,
"You like her."
"Sure I like her but I wish she'd notice that Barney existed. He is so into her and I think he could put up with her crap if they ever got into a relationship," I respond.
"That's very nice of you. I'm sure she'd sleep with you if you went after her," Gina comments.
"I think we both know I don't want to sleep with every woman I find attractive," I reply.
"Don't I know it," she sighs playfully. Getting back is fun to say the least. I really need some quality time with Jamie. Between Mercedes and Betsy I am getting too wound up.
Of course, coming through the door Barney 'manhandles' me into the kitchen.
"Craig, I called Betsy and asked her out on a date," he blubbers.
"Well, good for you," I smile and pat him on the back.
"She said yes ... what am I going to do?" he continues to stutter.
"I imagine you'll pick out a nice place to eat and a movie you think she'll like to see," I suggest.
"Ummm ... okay, right," Barney nods.
"Barney, relax; this is not the end of the world. Take it one step at a time," but I have a feeling Barney isn't really listening anymore.
The thankful thing is everyone else has crashed out so I clean up and creep into my bedroom, hoping for a little comfort. I am about to pad over to Jamie's bed when I see her in mine. As I slip under the covers she moves over ... and I know I've made a mistake.
"Yes," she whispers back. "Emily and the whore are getting busy so Jamie said I could crash here." I remain silent. "Yes," Amber snickers, "she is the dark psychic girl," and by she I know she means Jamie.
"This doesn't change anything between us right?" I say quietly.
"No," she answers, then, "Is that your thumb between my legs or are you not hard yet?" I shift around to clarify the matter to her. "Oh fuck, Craig," she hisses, "you are hard as a rock. If you are going to fuck me at least me get my underwear out of the way."
"Do you want to fuck?" I all but beg urgently.
"Wouldn't you rather we cuddle instead?" she tests me. The short, truthful answer is 'no, but would you at least let me get the K-Y under the bed and beat off first', but that's not how I respond. I snuggle up, wrap an arm around her waist and pull her tight. Amber presses her head against my neck and takes a deep breath.
"Good night," Amber breathes into me. I resolve to somehow will my erection to obedience and I am making some headway, no pun intended, when I hear a woman go off in a very passionate and vocal orgasmic explosion. It has to be Mercedes, the bitch, and because love obviously abhors a vacuum Mark and Gina begin getting busy on the other side of the wall. Now I know what Jesse had gone through last semester.
I blame myself, really I do. I am so busy getting the story from Emily on how she and Mercedes have hooked back up – Mercedes had come crying to her full of remorse (yeah right) that I forget the other emotional train wreck in my life. Sometimes I think Emily is way too nice a person. An apology led to a coffee, to a walk in the park, to heavy petting at Mercedes' apartment to having sex here at our place.
Barney borrows my car for his date; so far so good. He chose one of the nicest places to eat near campus; even better. Had he remembered his wallet things would have worked out, but he didn't, so Betsy ends up paying for their meals. Betsy asks that she drive back to our place to get his wallet, but Barney insists that he drive and of course he is pulled over.
That is when Barney apparently losses the ability for coherent speech so he ends up going to the police station with a DUI. Betsy is smart enough to call me to come bail him out; I bring Jamie along to take my car and would have brought her in but she decides Barney was humiliated enough. Jesse is good enough to let me use his car for the pick-up.
At the station I meet a fuming Betsy and a friendly officer. After a bit of 'shop talk' about the team's chances next season he agrees to have Barney ROR'ed and he gets to show up to court on Monday to clear this up. The ride back to Betsy's dorm is done in tomb-like silence. At least Barney has enough dignity not to sob.
"Betsy, I'm sorry," Barney mumbles once we stop to drop Betsy off.
"Okay," she says curtly then gets out. I can't bare Barney's heartsick look.
"I'll be right back," I tell Barney. I jump out of the car and race to catch up with Betsy. I find her in front of the elevator.
"Betsy I'm ... Listen, I know Barney can do better. Please give him another shot," I plead.
"Are you serious?" she snaps. I nod and to her credit she takes a moment to think it over. She steps into me, puts a hand to the back of my head and draws me down into a kiss. Tentative at first then our tongues began to dart back and forth.
"Okay," she relents once we break our kiss, "but now we are even for the research paper."
"Huh? You came back and helped me with the English paper. You don't owe me anything," I respond.
"Craig, I would have been lost without your help and I'm smart enough to know it. You would have finished your English assignment with or without me," Betsy relates.
"Why the kiss then?" I have to ask.
"I wanted to see what all the fuss was about," she states.
"I ... well ... how was it?" I inquire.
"I'm going out with Barney again, am I not?" she smiles. Now I can't decide if that's a good thing or not. Barney is my buddy and I want him to go on a date because his lady wants to spend time with him, not because she feels she owes me something. I guess I have to be satisfied with the hope that this time the real Barney will shine through and impress Betsy with the good guy I know him to be.
Barney and I get back without exchanging a word. I have a grand total of a year and a half dating experience and I have never experienced anything like this. Barney is even worse off in the girl-thing than me, so he is of no help. When we get home no one acts out of the ordinary.
"Barney, Betsy called and she wants you to call her when you got in," Jamie says nonchalantly.
Barney looks at me fearfully for an explanation like I'm some guru.
"Call her," I advise. Like a man walking to the gallows Barney walks over to the phone in the kitchen. The gang (Mark, Gina, Jamie, and Amber) are watching the TV and aren't likely to cut down on the noise. I figure Jesse and Derrick have already headed out for the night.
I head to the bathroom; see the door is somewhat ajar so I stroll on in. I catch Derrick drying off and our eyes lock.
"I need to use the toilet," I inform him. Derrick secures the towel around his waist before walking past me on the way back to Jesse's room. He smacks my ass as he does so.
"Don't you be play'en now," I tease him which is clearly the last thing he expects me to say. "I know you're someone's bitch."
Derrick gives me another look then laughs out loud.
"I'm going to tell Jesse you said that," he chuckles.
"What; that you are playing around, or that you're his bitch," I grin.
"Maybe I'll tell him you hit on me," he suggests.
"He'll never believe it," I reply. He looks for the punch line and I deliver. "He knows I'm far too afraid of Jamie to ever piss her off by pissing Jesse off that much."
"Ha," he laughs again. "I believe it. Jesse's told me about the scars she's left on your back. I'd be afraid of her too."
"I'll tell her you said that. It will make her night," I snicker. Derrick heads his way and I relieve myself. I pass Barney on the way back to the living room; he looks somewhat beyond stunned.
"Everything okay?" I question.
"Betsy asked if we could try again tomorrow night. I said yes," he mumbles.
"Good for you," I tell him as I put a hand on his shoulder and turn him around. "Jesse and Derrick are getting dressed."
That is code for gay guys doing stuff that us straight guys might not want to wrap our minds around – being confident heterosexuals and all. For all I know they are really getting dressed for a night on the town, but letting Barney stumble in on them probably isn't wise. We return to the living room, Barney takes the recliner and I start to lay out on the sofa. Before I can get comfortable, Jamie and Amber get off the floor and settle in on either side of me – just like old times.
I'm in second semester Advanced Biology when I get a text from the Coach to contact him ASAP. I muddle through the rest of the class and give him a call in the hallway, or I start to.
"Hey Craig! Congrats," an upperclassman I barely know says as he comes up and slaps me on the back. I think his name is Tony or Tom.
"Huh?" I wonder.
"Lawrence Morgan announced he's going into the NFL draft," he grins. Oh hell, I was supposed to have this responsibility until year after next.
"Thanks, but I think I should see what the Coach has to say about that," I respond. I hope my smile doesn't come across as too feeble.
I toy with the idea of blowing of Organic Chemistry but I think the Coach will understand that I put a high premium on my course load. Besides, I'm not going to blow off Eleanor and Barney. I call the man and give him my decision. He understands and asks me to come around to his office before lunch because there are things we need to discuss. I can't tell if that is good news or not.
I arrive at the Coach's office without too much drama. He is on the phone, but waves me to a seat. My Father has been out of the picture for some time so I'm a bit thin on male role models, but in the short time I've known him I think I could do worse than Coach. He does his best to tell you the right thing to do and makes you feel small if you don't do it without saying a word.
"Craig, I'm prepared to bring in a rising senior out of Fresno State to take the top spot as quarterback," he begins without preamble. "It is not a rebuke of you or your style, but I want you to get a bit more experience before saddling you with team leadership. You may still end up with the top slot. I'm keeping the team's options open; okay?"
"Absolutely," I nod. I'm neither elated for dodging the burden nor deflated for missing the limelight for another year. I was promised the lead position for my junior and senior years so I'm not really missing anything. "I still want the quarterback slot if I can get it," I add.
"I know you do Craig," Coach grins. "I also want you to know something. You were right and I was wrong."
That catches me off-guard. What can he be referring to?
"Mark Quantrill; I know you encouraged him to come here and try out for the team. You were so impressive at All-State I under-estimated his talent. He's become a real asset and it proves I was right about you; you read your players well. I'll tell you something else."
"Morgan isn't going to last three years in the NFL. He has a fantastic arm but he doesn't play well with others. There is also the fact that this conference has some of the worst secondaries in the nation. Morgan is going to learn what it is like when he goes up against the professionals. I think he is going to have a rude awakening."
"He still has the best arm I've ever seen," I counter.
"One of the differences between the two of you is you both have good arms – his is better – but you have a better head for the game. You know what your people can and can't do which makes you a far deadlier opponent. Besides, you should see our defensemen flinch every time you take a hit. I've never seen a defense care so much for the guy on the other side."
By that he means someone on the offense. There is always a rivalry between offense and defense. Whenever one side succeeds in a scrimmage, the other side gets yelled at. It is the way of things. Sometimes we forgot we are on the same team so I make a point of hanging out with the other half of the team when I am on the bench. It is a technique I had learned in high school. After all, you can't win a game if you can't stop the other team from scoring.
The phone rings and Coach answers it. He says a few words before catching my eye.
"Get out of here Dawkins, but I am going to need some of your time next week. We have some recruits coming by the University and I want you to meet them," Coach tells me. The phone rings and I'm dismissed to get back to the scholastic duties.
It is right at nine o'clock in the evening when the doorbell goes off once more. It has not been a great day. I became top quarterback and lost the slot all in a few hours. The Organic Chemistry lab was brutal and Eleanor took particular pleasure in torturing me for reasons unknown. It has also gotten a lot more crowded at our place.
Miracle of miracles, Betsy is spending time with Barney though I have to keep pulling him aside and remind him to grow a spine and stand up to Betsy. Bowing to her every whim is the surest way in my mind for her to go elsewhere. It is not a matter of domination; if you don't challenge her she loses all respect for you – it is that simple.