Chapter 8 : Progress
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For the past few weeks she had been making awkward conversation with Darren, who was making awkward conversation back. Throughout that time, Anna seemed to find it funny, being that, apparently, Darren was the smoothest of the smooth.
I cried excitedly and grabbed my best friend in a hug. I was so proud of her
“And I hear you’ve been making progress, too.” Connie was undoubtably referring not to me speaking with Greg (which I still couldn’t work up the courage to do, despite Anna’s help,) but the fact that Anna was helping me, and that we were becoming friends.
I nodded. For the first time in years, my deadly sin - envy - didn’t consume my almost every thought. It seemed to be that being friends with Anna cancelled out some of that hatred that was almost always channelled towards her.
And in honour of our progress, Anna had called a ‘fun weekend.’ And I had a feeling it was nothing like the ‘fun weekends’ that me and Connie had. (Meaning, I was pretty sure there would be little nail-painting and hair-doing.)
Just as Connie finished telling me all about her conversation with Darren (which, in itself was not thrilling - but the fact that she had the conversation is,) Anna bounced buoyantly into the room.
“Hello, you lot!” I cringed as she flung her bag across the dorm and narrowly missed the full-length mirror in the corner. She bounced along the wooden floorboards before jumping and landing on her bed. “So . . . Connie.”
I saw Connie blush immediately. We all knew what was going to go on next.
“I heard you and Darren had some nice conversation today.” Anna smirked.
Connie shrugged in response but couldn’t keep the huge smile off her face. “Yeah.”
“So . . . It sounds like he really likes you.”
Connie shrugged excitedly. She was so adorable when she was shy like that.
“You two should definitely hook up this weekend,” Anna suggested, winking.
At that, Connie shook her head. “Oh, no. That’s - that’s - no. I mean, we haven’t even had a first date yet . . .”
“Who says you have to?” Oh, boy. Anna and her corruption.
Anna put up her hands in surrender. Well, at least she’s not pushing Connie into anything she doesn’t want.
“But . . . I don’t know . . . It could be fun.”
It was eleven o’clock at night and all I wanted was to be able to sleep. But I couldn’t. Connie was still sitting on the cushioned window-ledge, exchanging letters with her ‘lover.’ Otherwise known as Darren.
She squealed. Connie had been relatively quiet the entire time, so the excited squeal got me curious. “What?” I asked, wondering what wonderful thing could have happened.
“Come here! Come here!” I got up and rushed to her side. “Oh! I could just kill Anna!” Well, she certainly didn’t sound like she wanted to.
So . . . I’m excited for this weekend. Some things in particular.
It certainly sounded like he and Anna had spoken.
“Wow. Do you think she said something to him?” I asked, slightly jealous in the steps Connie was taking in love, while my last boyfriend had been months ago, and the boy who allegedly liked me was no longer speaking with me.
“Definitely. She couldn’t keep her mouth shut if her life depended on it,” Connie pointed out.
“So . . . What are you going to do?” I asked, the jealously clearing up as the excitement built. The more I enjoyed my own life, it seemed, the more I could enjoy the good fortune in others.
“I don’t know.” Connie sighed. “I don’t know.”
It was Friday night. Connie and I had taken Anna hostage. She’d tried to take us mud-sliding in what was thundering, pouring rain.
Me and Connie pretty much told Anna we’d bury her in the mud and not dig her out if she tried that.
So, we compromised.
Well, actually, we didn’t.
Connie and I - as I mentioned earlier - had Anna in our clutches, and we were engaging her in a common girly pastime.
“Guys, I swear-”
“Anna, be quiet or we’ll do this by force,” I warned. I twirled my wand threateningly between my fingers.
“Fine,” Anna grumbled. “But we’re sneaking down to the kitchens and finding stuff to gorge on afterwards.” She quickly explained an item that had been left temporarily in her possession - a Marauders Map? - and how it would enable us to get there and back, undetected.
So, Anna sat (impatiently) as Connie did her makeup and I curled her hair. We didn’t let her face the mirror.
It was hilarious to see Anna all made up like that, especially as she lounged about in sweatpants.
Though, I did have to admit (with a twinge of jealousy) that she looked quite gorgeous. When we finally allowed her to see herself in a mirror, she screamed.
“Bloody hell! What did you do to me?” she clutched at her face. “I look . . . I look . . . Actually, I don’t look half bad.”
She ran her fingers through her loose ringlets, and inspected the very pores of her face. “I rather like this.”
She smiled at herself and twirled so that her hair fanned out. Then, she stopped. “If either of you tell a soul it’ll be on your lives.”
“Won’t tell,” Connie promised.
I zipped my lips and threw away the key.
“Good. Now, for food.”
It was nearly midnight, but the common room was still fairly full, as it was a Friday. On our way out the portrait hole, we encountered Darren.
Connie drifted towards him, and Anna casually walked past her.
Then, she turned back around and came to stroll next to me again. “I told her to have fun - we’d come back with goodies.”
Anna . . . She's rather good at this 'fun' thing.
Once we were in the corridor, she pulled out this blank sheet of parchment, said quietly, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” Anna tapped the parchment and a living, breathing (well, it was moving, at least) map appeared.
“So . . . Any luck with Greg?” Anna asked as we travelled quietly through previously-unknown-to-me secret passageways.
I shook my head. “I haven’t had the courage to go up to him, and he won’t go up to me.” I pouted.
“Well, we’re going to change that.”
And, with that cryptic statement, she hopped out of the passageway, tickled a portrait of a pear, and burst into the kitchens. Within five minutes, we were leaving with brownies, pasties, cookies and three bottles of butterbeer. (Anna had tried to bargain some Firewhiskey out of the house elves, but I told her that Connie and I didn’t drink.)
On the way back to the common room, no longer distracted by food or arguing my morals with Anna, I remembered what she’d said. “Anna . . . Please tell me that you’re not channeling the devil and his plan that may have something to do with Greg.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Anna insisted. “ . . . I am.”
“Anna! No! Please don’t!” I cried, tugging on her arms. “No! Don’t!”
“Don’t worry,” she insisted. “I know how to go about this sort of thing.”
Why do I seriously doubt that?
“Anna, you haven’t really had any experience in matchmaking-”
“I got Connie and Darren together, didn’t I?”
“They’re not together yet,” I pointed out.
Don’t go counting your chickens before they’re hatched.
But, I was dismayed to see that she was right. Again. Like she always seemed to be. When we arrived back in the common room, Connie was leaning shyly against the wall, holding Darren’s hand, and he had just kissed her cheek.
Anna nodded, looking pleased. “Alright. Well, not exactly what I was going for, but good enough.” She turned to me, smirking. “Now, it’s time for you.”
She grabbed my wrist, and began to pull me up towards the dormitory. She dumped our stash of snacks on her bed before shoving me down on mine. “Okay. Now, tell me why you won’t talk to Greg.”
“Well, it’s just a little awkward ever since-”
“No! Not good enough! Be confident!”
I wanted to smack her. “Not everyone was born with an infinite amount of confidence like you,” I pointed out. We’d gotten along pretty well that night, but, as always, things were starting to crumble. And we were always both at fault.
“I wasn’t born like this either. Took years of cultivation.”
“Well, it looks like I need even more years.” I sat, crossing my arms and legs.
Anna took a deep breath. “Okay. Okay. My bad. I’ll try to be more understanding.”
Woah. Talk about a change of the winds.
“Okay. Right. Sorry. Now, tell me about the awkwardness.”
I sighed. Connie gave me a comforting nod. “Well, ever since he told me he liked me, and that he missed me being me, tt’s been awkward. I mean, I think I like him, as well. But, I don’t know . . . And I just want him to be my friend again.”
Anna nodded sagely. “Alright, here’s what we’re going to do.”
A half hour later, we were heading down into the common room. I was in 'training' apparently. Anna had me in a pair of her borrowed sweatpants and one of the old t-shirts I wore to bed. I felt extremely uncomfortable, but Anna told me that this was a ‘confidence-building excercise.’
Okay, Bria. Breath. You know what to do.
Oh, shit I do not know what to do!
Greg had walked up to me! That was not the way the plan was supposed to go!
I looked frantically towards Anna for advice. She had that ‘just roll with it’ look on. Well, for her information, I didn’t know how to ‘just roll with it.’
I stood, frozen for a second. Then, I exhaled slowly. “Yeah?”
“Can I talk to you?” Greg was ringing his hands and looking down at his feet. The fact that he was uncomfortable as well made me feel a bit better.
He pulled me over to a corner of the common room far from most people. He was looking all shy and sweet, and had a hand awkwardly on my shoulder.
. . . I think I really like him.
“Listen, Bria. I just wanted to apologize for . . . What I said a couple months ago . . .”
No! Don’t apologize!
“I didn’t mean to make things awkward. If it makes you feel any better . . . I don’t anymore.”
No . . . That makes me feel worse.
“And I really miss hanging out with you. I want to be your friend again.”
I knew that I was nodding. That I was accepting a hug from Greg, and that he was my friend again.
I remember walking towards Anna and Connie, devastated. All that confidence and excitement I had built up for nothing.
“Bria? What’s wrong?” Connie asked. Anna stood back, looking a little scared by the situation. I think it was really just emotions that scared that girl in general.
“He doesn’t like me anyone,” I said simply, shrugging, and staring blandly at one of the bright scarlet walls. “I didn’t even get a chance to use the plan. He just came up to me, told me he didn’t like me like that anymore, and that he wanted to be friends again.”
“That’s fantastic!” Connie cried excitedly.
But I shook my head. “No. Because I think I like him.”
“Greg! I swear to God! If you don’t stop tickling me, I’m going to . . .”
“What?” Greg smiled, digging his fingers into my sides. “What are you going to do?”
But I couldn’t think of anything.
I was surprised how quickly things turned back to normal with me and Greg.
Actually, they turned better than normal. Though I was far from a bundle of confidence, some of Anna’s self-worship was rubbing off on me. I no longer hated myself, or others for having what I didn’t.
I learned to take pride in my average, dirty blond hair. And I learned to not feel guilt every time I had a bite of food that I knew would go straight to that little pouch at the bottom of my stomach.
It seemed to mean good things for me and Greg’s friendship. He even told me how happy he was to see that I was not as concerned with my faults as before.
I simply smiled when he told me that.
I was happier than I had been in years. I got to sleep in an extra half-an-hour or so each morning. I’d cut down my beauty regime quite a bit. And in return for Anna helping me, I taught her how to put make-up on.
It was something I knew she never did; however, I was surprised to learn she didn’t even know how to.
“Just in case,” I told her one day, handing her a case with a few beautification items.
“Sure.” Anna took the case and tossed it into her trunk, looking derisively at me the whole time.
However, I didn’t tell her a month later, when I found her in the bathroom, playing with the make-up. I watched (unbeknownst to her) as she applied black mascara, poking herself in the eye multiple times, and clumsily rimmed her eyes in matching eyeliner.
I think my favorite moment was when she pulled out the tube of fire-engine red lipstick.
It almost looked good, too. I was quite proud of how she had cultivated her skills.
I kept that little secret of hers, and backed out of the room. She never knew I was there. But it was something I kept in the back of my mind for whenever I needed a laugh.
It seemed to be that we were helping each other, and that was something I could live with.
A/N: Next chapter is the last!
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