Spring was in the air. Birds sang their sweet song to each other, leaves appeared on the trees, and the world sprang to life again after the cold, harsh winter. Flowers bloomed, and it was as if a new dawn had come upon the world.
It seemed that way to everyone except Sandi Griffin, that is.
Sandi was sitting in her room, gazing out on the joyful springtime scene through her window, and only one thought ran though her head. She was irritated. Irritated beyond belief. She couldn’t remember a time when she’d been this annoyed, not even all those times when Quinn had tried to seize control of the Fashion Club, or when her brothers had caused her to get fat. Plus, she knew exactly why she was feeling this way.
She was in love.
It had all started a few days ago.
Sandi was in the living room, flicking through the latest issue of Val, when she heard the doorbell ring. She got up and answered it, and to her surprise, it was one of those idiot boys who followed Quinn around. Joey, she thought.
“Um, is Quinn here?” He seemed a little nervous.
Sandi’s eyes narrowed. She wondered what he wanted with Quinn. “Come in.”
Joey walked into the living room, and sat down on the couch. Sandi sat next to him. “Where’s Quinn?”
“She’s not here,” said Sandi. “But you can tell me what you want with her.” This had to be interesting.
“Oh,” said Joey. “Well, we’ve decided that Quinn’s never going to go out with us, so we’re going to tell her we’re over her.”
Sandi frowned. “That’s it?” She had figured it would be interesting.
“Er, yeah,” said Joey. “That was about it.”
“Well, said Sandi, “at least you’ve decided to drop Quinn. Maybe now you could direct your attentions to someone more deserving of them.”
“Like you?” said Joey eagerly.
Sandi raised an eyebrow. “Why not?”
“Oh! Um, I didn’t mean anything by it,” said Joey, quickly. “I think I’d definitely be good at paying attention to you. Could I get you a soda? Do you want your pillow fluffed? I could drive you somewhere?”
Sandi looked at Joey’s clowning around, and couldn’t help but smile. He was being kind of goofy. but it was actually kind of endearing.
Joey grinned. “Think I’d be good at it?”
Sandi tried to wipe the grin from her face, but failed “Oh yes. I could definitely go for that.”
A little emboldened by Sandi’s reaction, Joey looked at her smiling face. “So, um, do you have a boyfriend?”
“What?” Sandi frowned.
Joey gulped a little. “Sorry. Just curious.” He was back to looking nervous again.
Sandi gave him a look. “You really don’t like Quinn any more?” she asked.
Joey shrugged. “Not really.” He looked at her for a moment, and Sandi found herself looking back. They both realized what they were doing and looked away. There was an awkward silence until Joey glanced at his watch. “Man, I promised my Mom I’d be home by now. Gotta go.”
“Okay,” said Sandi, finding herself smiling again, for some reason.
He looked at her after he got up. “You know,” he said. “You’re really pretty when you smile.”
And then he left.
Sandi sighed and hunched down in front of her bedroom window. That last comment had torn it. She’d received compliments from guys before, but this one had been different. Joey had been so sweet and unassuming, plus she didn’t actually think he’d been trying to impress her. He’d just been goofing off, and she’d found that rather amusing. Then of course, after he’d made her laugh, he’d paid her a compliment. What made this one different from all the other legions of compliments she regularly received was that he hadn’t been saying it with an ulterior motive. He’d genuinely thought she was pretty when she smiled.
Sandi got up and walked over to her mirror. She was wearing her usual expression, the slightly snotty one that Helen Morgendorffer had claimed caused wrinkles round her eyes. She looked closely at the sides of her eyes. No wrinkles just yet. She decided to try something, and smiled at the mirror. Joey was right. She did look pretty that way.
Sandi shook herself. What was she thinking? Was she actually considering the opinion of a guy on her appearance? That was a definite Fashion Club don’t. If Stacy or Tiffany had ever done something like that, Sandi would have come down on them so fast, they wouldn’t have time to think. Not that either of them did much of that, anyway. Sandi gazed back at herself in the mirror. She was worried that she was going soft, and in her position, that could be fatal. Not literally fatal, of course. Fatal to her position in the Fashion Club. Any sign of weakness, and you lose control. That’s what her mother had said.
A tortured yowl came from outside the door. It sounded like Fluffy. Sandi frowned, and walked to her bedroom door, and flung it open. Her two brothers had poor Fluffy pinned down and looked like they were trying to burn him with a magnifying glass.
Sandi fixed them with the most evil look she could muster. “Leave him alone, you little brats! I told you before what I’d do if you hurt him!”
Sam and Chris stared at each other, then reluctantly let Fluffy go. He ran up to Sandi, and began nuzzling her leg. Sandi fixed both of them with another sinister look, and went back inside her bedroom. She sat down on her bed, and smiled to herself. No, she definitely wasn’t going soft. Except around Fluffy, but he deserved it.
“Did they hurt you? Aww.” Sandi tickled Fluffy’s belly, and he purred contentedly. “Let Mommy make it all better.”
Jeffy Caldwell was in love. He thought that he’d felt that way about Quinn Morgendorffer, but now he realized that there were other women out there that definitely merited his attention.
It had all started when Joey, Jamie, and himself had been talking,
They finally realized that perhaps Quinn was never going to go out with any of them. After all, she’d dated them one at a time recently, and each of the dates had ended disastrously. Well, actually, Jeffy’s date had been pretty fun, but from a dating standpoint, abandoning your girlfriend to go squirrel chasing was not a good idea.
So, Joey, Jamie, and Jeffy concluded that their long pursuit of Quinn was perhaps at an end, and they should do something to mark this. Jeffy suggested that they find Quinn, and tell her that they were over her. (At least that was the way he remembered it - honestly, he couldn’t remember who had come up with the plan) The others agreed that this was a good plan, as it left it open for Quinn to beg them to stay. None of them actually thought that this would happen, but there was always hope, right?
Jamie had heard that she was at the mall, so he headed off there, while Joey had heard she was at Sandi’s, so he went there. Jeffy figured she was probably at home, so he made his way there. He had a vague suspicion that Jamie was not going to go along with the plan, and instead confess his love, figuring that she would have no other suitors at this point. Jeffy wasn’t worried, though. This was Jamie, after all.
He arrived at the Morgendorffer house, and rang the doorbell. There was no answer. Jeffy thought this was odd, as there was usually someone home. As he was waiting, he wondered if maybe one of them was home, but in some terrible danger. So, he thought that if he rushed in and saved them, she’d be eternally grateful. So, he tried the door, and found it was open.
He went inside, and wandered around. The house did seem to be empty. Then, he heard a yell of “Dammit!” from upstairs. It didn’t sound like Quinn, but Jeffy rushed to the rescue. Or so he thought. He rushed upstairs, prepared to save whoever it was from a fate worse than death.
A very wet, and naked Helen Morgendorffer was standing on the landing, rubbing her toe. She screamed in fear, and then realized exactly who it was at the door. “Jeffy?” she asked, straightening up.
“Oh my God, I’m sorry!” Jeffy was stunned. “I heard a scream...I thought someone was in trouble! I was looking for Quinn, and I heard a scream, and...” He tailed off.
Helen calmed down a bit, and then realized that Jeffy was very obviously staring at her naked form. She grabbed a towel, ran into her room, and slammed the door behind her. She came out a few minutes later, fully dressed. Jeffy was still standing there, still in shock. “I’m sorry I screamed, Jeffy,” she said. “I just stubbed my toe on the banister. But it was very sweet of you to come rushing to my aid. Just try and ring the doorbell first.”
“Quinn’s not here at the moment. But I’ll tell her you called.” She looked a tad embarrassed. “And it might be better if you didn’t tell anyone exactly what happened today, all right?”
“Right.” Jeffy was still in a daze, as he left the Morgendorffer house.
Jeffy sighed contentedly. He was in his bedroom now, lying on his bed, looking at the ceiling. He realized now that he’d been wasting his time with Quinn when there were so many other women out there worthy of his attention.
Helen Morgendorffer was one such woman, and now that Jeffy had gazed on her astounding beauty for himself, he was going to try and woo her. He’d never been attracted to an older woman before, but she was different. Okay, so he had been attracted to older women before, but he was seventeen. Practically all women were older than him. That wasn’t the point, though. Mrs. Morgendorffer was quite a good bit older. He didn’t know exactly how old she was, and he didn’t think Quinn was going to be willing to tell him. It didn’t matter though. He’d find a way. He thought about her again, and smiled longingly, adjusting his position on his bed.
The next night, the Fashion Club was holding a meeting at Sandi’s house. Sandi was feeling a touch distracted. She couldn’t get the thought of Joey out of her head, and it was bothering her. She kept thinking of his grin, and she had to admit to herself that he was pretty cute. She dismissed the thoughts from her head, and tried to refocus on the meeting. Quinn was blathering on about something that had happened to her the previous day.
“And then Jamie came up to me, and said something about being over me, and I was like “Okay”, and he seemed kind of confused. I said that I thought it was a good idea for the three of them to find someone else to follow around, and he looked really lost, and muttered something about this not being the way things were supposed to go, and left. Weird, huh?”
“Yeah,” said Tiffany.
“Guys are weird,” said Stacy.
“I know,” said Sandi absent-mindedly. “You never know what they’re thinking, and...” She tailed off, realizing that the others were staring at her. “What?” she snapped. “Why are you staring?”
Quinn’s nose crinkled up a little, that way it always did when she was annoyed. “Sorry, Sandi, but you seemed a little distracted.”
“Yeah,” said Tiffany.
“Quinn’s right,” said Stacy.
“Oh,” said Sandi, surprised that everyone was in agreement on this. “Um, sorry, it won’t happen again.”
The other three members of the Fashion Club looked at each other in mild surprise. “Are you all right, Sandi?” asked Stacy.
“Of course, Stacy. Now, on to turtlenecks.” Sandi picked up Waif quickly, hoping no-one picked up on her weird mood.
After the meeting was over, and Stacy and Tiffany had left, Sandi put away the various magazines and catalogues. Quinn came up to her. “Sandi?”
“Um, I just wanted to make sure that everything was okay.” She paused. “I mean, you did seem pretty out of it at the meeting at some points. Is there anything you need to talk about?”
Sandi stood, and looked Quinn in the eyes. She could see the worry and genuine concern in them, and she considered talking to Quinn about this. After all, Quinn had nursed her back to her optimal weight following that whole fat incident. She could trust Quinn not to tell anyone about her weakness, right? Except that Sandi had not exactly been the greatest friend in the world. Why the hell should Quinn help her?
Her mother’s words kept ringing in her ear, though. “Friends are just enemies who aren’t trying to screw you at the moment.”
Sandi was confident this was just a temporary weakness. It would go away in time. No point risking confiding in someone just yet. “I’m fine, Quinn,” she said with all the sincerity she could muster.
“Okay,” said Quinn doubtfully. “I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”
After she had shown Quinn out, Sandi went back to her room, and flopped down on her bed. Fluffy leapt into her lap, purring in anticipation. Sandi sighed, and began scratching his head. “Fluffy, what should I do? I’ve never felt like this before.”
“Meow,” said Fluffy.
Fluffy was a great listener, but his advice left a lot to be desired.
The next day at school, Sandi walked in through the front doors, making her usual spectacular entrance. She openly loved the buzz she got from walking into the school every day, and knowing that she was the best dressed and most stunning person there (except Quinn, said an annoying little voice in her head). And everyone knew it. Sandi felt pretty good about herself. She was confident that her temporary brush with weakness over the weekend was over. She was back in control, and no-one could change that.
At that moment, Joey and his two friends walked past. Joey, no doubt feeling pretty confident after his talk with her a few days ago, said “Hi”, and smiled at in her greeting.
Sandi found herself smiling back. Normally she would have been incensed that a guy dared to be so familiar with her without express permission, but instead she found herself smiling back. She felt kind of funny and lightheaded, and she felt an astounding urge to follow him and talk to him. The she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, and found that she had what could only be described as a goofy grin on her face. She quickly fixed her normal expression on her face, and rushed off to find the others, hoping no-one had seen that.
Jeffy was deep in thought, when he realized that Joey was speaking to him.
“...really pretty, you know?”
Jeffy shook himself out of his reverie and turned to him. “What?”
“Where were you, man?” asked Joey. “I was talking about Sandi Griffin.”
“What about her?”
“Well, I think she likes me.”
“No way,” put in Jamie. “She doesn’t date guys like us.”
“Shut up, dumbass. You’re just pissed cause Quinn didn’t beg you to stay.” Joey looked glum for a moment. “You’re right, I’m probably just imagining it, cause I miss Quinn.”
“Yeah,” said Jamie sadly. “So what are we going to do now? Find someone else to follow?”
“I don’t need to,” said Jeffy dreamily. “I’ve found the ideal woman for me. Even Quinn doesn’t compare.”
“Who?” said Joey suspiciously.
“Wouldn’t you like to know. Anyway she’s too much woman for you.”
“What makes you think you have a chance then, cause I’m more man than you are.”
“Are not!” Jeffy glared at Joey.
“Am too!” Joey glared back even harder.
Jamie sighed heavily. “I don’t think any woman can compare to Quinn. I’m going to throw myself into my football career.” He trudged off sadly.
Joey and Jeffy looked at each other for a moment, then to Jamie. “Football season’s over, dude.”
“Ah crap.” Jamie paused, and then continued down the corridor.
Jeffy turned back and resumed walking down the corridor. He’d been thinking about Helen (he’d begun thinking of her as Helen now) all weekend, and trying to think up ways to woo her. The usual stuff that they did with Quinn wouldn’t work (not that it had ever worked with Quinn). He had to think about something in a more mature vein. The only problem was that he didn’t have a clue what to do. He didn’t think offering to get her soda, or running her to the mall was going to work. Jeffy sighed. This was going to take a lot of work.
Sandi finally caught up with Tiffany in the Ladies’ Bathroom. Tiffany was of course admiring herself in the mirror.
“Tiffany, dear, where are Stacy and Quinn?”
“I don’t know,” drawled Tiffany.
Sandi frowned. Never around when you needed them. She looked at Tiffany, thoughtfully. Maybe Tiffany could help. Plus, even if she couldn’t, there was no way she’d ever remember the conversation. “Tiffany, can I ask you a question?”
Tiffany stared at her for a moment. “Those shoes do make your feet look kind of fat.”
“What?!” Sandi glared at Tiffany.
“You asked,” said Tiffany, in a confused tone.
“No, that wasn’t what I wanted to ask. Look, have you ever found yourself out of control?”
Tiffany thought for a long moment. Then she thought some more. Then she opened her mouth, and paused in thought. Finally she looked at Sandi and said “What?”
Sandi sighed. “Tiffany, have you ever found yourself acting stupid over a guy? ‘Cause I am, and it’s weird, and...”
“No.” Tiffany looked at Sandi, and frowned. “My therapist said it’s important for me to sort out reality from fantasy.” She stared a bit more at Sandi. “This seems like it’s fantasy. If I wait for a moment, you’ll vanish. They always do.”
Sandi looked around nervously. “Okay. Um. Maybe you should just forget we talked about this.”
“Forget about what?” Tiffany looked lost.
Sandi threw her arms up in the air. “Never mind.” She walked out of the bathroom. She should have known better. Tiffany was sweet, but her advice was even less useful than Fluffy’s. Plus these shoes did not make her feet look fat. She needed to talk to someone about this, but she didn’t know who. Her mother? No, she’d just berate her for acting this way over a guy. Her father and brothers were right out, for obvious reasons. Tiffany was clearly not all there. Stacy wouldn’t know what do, except panic.
That left Quinn. Sandi thought about this. Quinn had been in this situation before, with that rude and geeky tutor, so she would have some experience. Of course, she did remember the time that Quinn had threatened to show everyone the pictures of her in the braces. (She’d chewed her brothers out for that). She couldn’t be sure that Quinn wouldn’t use this against her at some point in the future.
An annoying voice in the back of Sandi’s head pointed out that Quinn had only been doing that because Sandi had been threatening her. Then the voice pointed out that Quinn had helped back to being thin, and would probably help her with this too. Sandi ignored that annoying voice, and tried to decide what to do. Quinn was her friend, wasn’t she? Wouldn’t she help her? Sandi sighed. After all the stuff she’d pulled on Quinn, she really didn’t know. Life sucked.
Eventually she decided. She was just going to avoid Joey at school. That way she wouldn’t have any more depressing lapses in reason, and she wouldn’t see him at all while she was out of school. Problem solved, right?
Sandi folded her arms in satisfaction. This was why she was president of the Fashion Club. No-one else had such great ideas.
After school was over, Jeffy extricated himself from the other two, and made his way to the mall. He picked up the nicest looking bouquet he could find, momentarily balked at the price, steeled himself and paid for it. By cunning research, he had managed to figure out where Helen worked. (Well, looking it up in the phone book, that is). He had a plan. He was going to ply her with amazing gifts, anonymously at first, then, when she was sufficiently intrigued with her mysterious admirer, reveal himself, and let her fall into his arms. It couldn’t fail.
Jeffy was kind of upset about Mr. Morgendorffer. He seemed like a cool guy, and Jeffy really hated to take his stunning wife from him. But all was fair in love and war, right?
He arrived at the offices of Vitale, Davis, Horowitz, Riordan, Schrecter, Schrecter, and Schrecter, and stared up at the sign, idly wondering why Morgendorffer wasn’t on there. After all, there was no doubt in his mind that she was the greatest lawyer there. He walked inside, explained to the desk clerk that he had a delivery for Mrs. Morgendorffer, and made his way upstairs. As he knocked on the door, he suddenly realized that he should have left them there for her. This way, she might realize who was behind this too soon, and his plan would be ruined.
Before he could move, the door swung open. To his relief, it wasn’t Helen. Instead, it was an attractive blonde woman. As soon as she saw the flowers her eyes lit up. “Flowers? For me? This is so sweet. Even my own kids don’t get me flowers these days.”
Jeffy frowned. “They’re for Hel...Mrs. Morgendorffer.”
The blonde lady’s face fell. “Oh,” she said flatly. “Who shall I say they’re from?”
“Um.” Jeffy thought fast. “I don’t know. He...er...wanted to remain a secret.”
“That’s so romantic,” said the woman sadly. “I wish someone would do that for me.”
“Marianne?” It was Helen. “Who’s out there?”
“Coming, Helen,” said Marianne. She took the flowers and walked back into the office, closing the door behind her.
Jeffy walked out, smiling. His plan was working. Soon, everything would fall into place.
Sandi was starting to have more and more doubts about her plans. It had been three days now, and she’d been dutifully avoiding Joey at school. According to her amazing plan, she was supposed to be over him by now, right?
Wrong. In fact, things had been getting worse and worse. She’d found herself missing him like crazy, wanting to go and talk to him, and things like that. It was inconceivable, but she was actually pining over a guy! This would not do at all.
It was the middle of a Fashion Club meeting, and Sandi was doing an awful job of chairing it. She kept drifting off in the middle of sentences, forgetting the topic, and generally not being able to concentrate on fashion at all. She knew that the others had noticed, but they were too polite to say anything. Sandi sighed to herself. The Fashion Club wasn’t what it used to be, anyway. Her formerly rigid control of the club had slipped rather dramatically in the last few months. Ever since the whole fat incident, Stacy and Tiffany had gained a backbone. Well, Stacy had gained a backbone, and Tiffany had probably just thought growing a backbone was in season this year. Deep down, Sandi sensed that the Fashion Club was not going to last much longer, and that scared her. The last thing she wanted to do was show even more weakness before that happened.
She shook herself back to reality, and realized that Quinn was talking. “And my parents are being so gross!”
“How?” asked Stacy.
“Well, my Mom keeps going on about how she keeps getting all these mysterious presents, and she thinks it’s my Dad trying to put some spice back into their marriage, and he isn’t telling, but they’ve been acting like horny teenagers and it really grosses me out!”
“Eww,” said Tiffany. “People that age should keep it to themselves.”
“Yeah. Right, Sandi?” Stacy turned to Sandi.
Stacy looked at the others, then back to Sandi. “Well, we were just talking about Quinn’s parents and how they keep making out, and...”
“Stacy, I don’t want to hear about that,” said Sandi.
“Well, I’m sure everyone’s parents do that sort of thing once in a while,” said Quinn. “I just wish mine would stop it for the time being.”
Sandi thought about that. Now that she really thought about it, she couldn’t actually remember her parents ever being close, or even acting like they were in love around her. No wonder she didn’t want to go ask her mother’s advice about this.
She cleared her throat, and tried to steer the conversation back onto a more fashion-related note.
The next day at school was even worse for Sandi. She didn’t see Joey, except at classes, and she did her best to ignore him there. But everywhere she went, all she saw was couples, happy together.
Well, not exactly happy. That idiot Kevin, and his bimbo girlfriend were arguing about something or another. Kevin seemed to be trying to justify some insane act of cheating, and Brittany wasn’t exactly buying it.
All the other couples she saw seemed to be happy. Jodie Landon and her boyfriend, Quinn’s sister and her girlfriend (Sandi wasn’t buying that whole Tom Sloane thing, no matter what Quinn said). Even Kevin and Brittany made up (and made out) by the end of the day.
Sandi walked out of school, and sighed heavily to herself. She needed someone to talk to, and she didn’t know who.
She went home, and walked silently up to her room, ignoring her bratty siblings. She sat at her nightstand, and thought for a long while. Finally, she got up, went to her CD collection, and picked out a Tori Amos CD. The Fashion Club weren’t supposed to have such unpopular music, but Sandi had heard her once before when she was channel surfing, and the music had spoken to her.
As the song played, Sandi lay on her bed, stroking Fluffy’s back. The music seemed so lonely and heartfelt. Sandi felt like there was something missing from her life. Maybe she needed someone who just wanted to be with her because of who she was, not because of her popularity. Maybe...
Sandi didn’t know who she could go to, though. As she lay there, the CD began its third track:
“Excuse me, can I be you for a while...”
Sandi smiled. She had an idea.
Jeffy watched with glee as the delivery boy knocked on the Morgendorffer house. Quinn’s sister answered the door, and it looked like she made some smart-ass comment to the boy, and shut the door. Jeffy thought about it. Actually, Quinn’s sister was pretty attractive too. Maybe it ran in the family. He hoped she’d pass on the chocolates without eating them.
He saw someone coming, and ducked down behind the bushes on the other side of the street. He hoped it wasn’t Quinn. He didn’t want to have to explain why exactly he was sitting in some bushes across the street from her house.
It wasn’t Quinn. It was Sandi Griffin. Jeffy frowned. He hadn’t thought Quinn was home tonight. So why was Sandi going over there? He shrugged. It didn’t matter. The time was coming when he was going to reveal himself.
Sandi steeled herself, and rang the doorbell. This was probably a hugely dumb idea, but she didn’t have a whole lot of options left. Quinn’s sister answered the door. Sandi frowned. She didn’t want to have to deal with her tonight.
“Quinn’s not here,” said Quinn’s sister.
“I know that,” snapped Sandi. “I’m not here to talk to Quinn.”
“Well,” said Quinn’s sister, “I’m honored that you’ve decided to ask me to be your new vice-president. I’m sure you won’t regret this.”
“Like that would ever happen.”
“In that case, you must be here for the fashion deprogramming. I’ve been wanting to try it out for a while.”
Sandi fixed Quinn’s sister with a glare. “Is your mother home?”
The glare didn’t seem to faze her, but she did seem surprised. “Mom? Yeah...why?”
“I need to talk to her.”
Quinn’s sister’s eyebrows went up in surprise. “Okay.” She showed Sandi in, and moved to go upstairs. “Mom,” she said on her way up. “You have a visitor.”
Sandi walked into the living room. Helen Morgendorffer was sitting on the couch, legal briefs surrounding her, and an open box of chocolates by her side. She swallowed the chocolate she was eating, and turned around. Her eyes went wide when she saw who it was.
“I’m sorry, but Quinn’s not here, Sandi,” she said.
“I know,” said Sandi, trying to sound as polite as she could.
Helen frowned in confusion. “Oh. Can I help you with something, then?
Sandi suddenly felt a little unsure of herself. Maybe this hadn’t been such a great idea after all. “Um. I need your help with something.”
“Me?” Helen cocked her head. “Isn’t it something that your own mother could help you with?” Sandi could hear a note of tension in Helen’s voice. She knew what the relationship between those two was like.
This had been a mistake. “I’m sorry. I should...sorry to bother...” Sandi was stumbling over her words. She turned to leave.
“Sandi, wait.” Helen’s voice had an element of worry in it. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have been so harsh. Please sit down.”
Sandi sat on the couch. She still felt a little unsure about this, but she had to talk to someone.
Helen packed up her legal stuff, and lifted up the chocolate box. “Chocolate?” Seeing Sandi’s frown, she put the box down again. “No, of course not. Silly of me.” She leaned forward. “Now what’s wrong? And why did you come here?”
“I have a problem. There’s this guy...”
“Ah,” said Helen.
“And he’s so funny, and sweet, and...he’s not popular, not really, but I can’t stop thinking about him, and even if I try, I can’t get him out of my head.” Sandi lowered her head. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Well,” said Helen, a small smile on her face. “It sounds like you have a crush on him.”
“I thought so,” said Sandi miserably.
“Well, now what’s wrong with that?”
“Because...” Sandi paused to think. “I’m the president of the Fashion Club, and I have to show an example, and this is totally against the by-laws, and stuff. The others would just...”
Helen cut in. “Sandi, what’s the real reason?”
Sandi’s head fell again. “Because...I...I feel kind of...not in control when he’s around, and...I don’t like feeling vulnerable.” The last sentence came out as more of a whisper. “My mother says that if you feel vulnerable, people will just eat you alive, and I don’t want people to see me like that.”
“Oh, Sandi.” Helen crossed her arms. “Your mother...” She seemed to want to say something else, but stifled it. “Your mother...” She paused. “You know, Sandi, falling in love isn’t all bad. I mean, this is a new thing for you, I can tell.”
“Yes,” said Sandi unhappily. “And I’m thinking...maybe it’s something I want. Something...I’ve been missing.”
Helen smiled. “I know. I mean, the first time I thought I was in love...well it turned out that he wasn’t....I mean, stunt drivers are so...” She paused again. “Well, that’s not important. What is important is that these things can be wonderful if you let them.”
“I just...” Sandi tailed off.
“You’re scared, I know. Don’t try to control your feelings. Just let them happen. You know, it‘s a lot nicer if you actually date people you like, not just popular kids.” Helen looked at Sandi. “Why did you come to me?”
Sandi looked at her. “My parents never really seem...you know.”
Helen looked like she was trying not say anything more. “But why not Quinn?”
“Well...” Sandi looked a little embarrassed. “I thought she’d use it against me. And she said that you and Mr. Morgendorffer both seemed so much in love with each other these days, and I figured you must know something about this.”
“Sandi.” Helen looked stern. “We both know Quinn a lot better than that. You know she considers you her best friend? She’d only do something like that if someone did it to her first.”
“I know.” Sandi felt terrible inside. She should have trusted Quinn a lot more than this.
“But I am glad you came to me.” Helen leaned forward. “If I can give you two pieces of advice, it’s this. If you like this boy, tell him. I’m sure he likes you too. Plus, go to Quinn. My knowledge of teen dating is probably a little out of date.”
Sandi smiled. “Okay. Thanks.” She looked at Helen. “Um. You and Mr. Morgendorffer, er, like, when did you know?”
Helen sat back and thought about it. “You know, I don’t think it was an all-at-once thing. It was more of a gradual realization, I think. ‘Course, I was stoned out of my mind most of the time back then, and...” She suddenly realized who she was talking to, and put her hand over her mouth. “Um, Sandi, maybe you should forget that part.”
“I’d be glad to,” said Sandi with complete honesty.
Helen glanced at her for a moment. “How did your parents get together, by the way? I’ve always wondered about that.”
Sandi tried to remember her parents ever mentioning anything about that, or anything about their past together. “I don’t know,” she finally admitted. “They never mention it. In fact, they never talk to each other much at all. I mean, I’m sure they...love each other, but you would never know it from looking at them.”
“No,” said Helen.
Sandi stood up. “I’d better be going. Um, thanks for...you know.”
“You’re welcome, Sandi. I admit, I was a little surprised that you showed up here for this, but I’m glad I could help.”
Sandi turned to leave, and as she was walking to the door, she turned. “Um, if anyone...”
“This never happened.”
“Thanks.” Sandi smiled and left.
Sandi reached her house, went to her bedroom, and flopped down onto the bed. She felt a lot better about things. Who knew Quinn’s Mom was so knowledgeable about such things? Sandi had been taking a risk by going there, but she was confident it had paid off. Fluffy meowed in expectation, and Sandi held her arms out, allowing him to jump up into them. Normally, she would have gone ballistic over the cat hairs, but Fluffy, dear Fluffy, was special.
Plus, she was happy. She knew what she had to do now. First, though, she had to pluck up the courage to tell Quinn, and enlist her help. She thought about it, but eventually decided not to tell Stacy and Tiffany. The less people that knew about this, the better. That way, if anything did go wrong, it would be easier to cover it up. She thought about calling Quinn, but decided against it. This was the sort of thing that needed to be done in person. That way, she could make sure there was no-one else on the other end of the phone, and keep things under control.
Fluffy purred contentedly, and Sandi smiled and held him closer.
The next day after school was over, Sandi made sure that Stacy and Tiffany were gone before she found Quinn.
“Quinn, I need to, like, talk to you.”
“Go ahead, Sandi.”
Sandi’s eyes darted around. “Not here,” she said quickly. “Somewhere more...private.”
“Like where?” Quinn looked confused.
“Like my room.” Sandi leaned in close to her. “I have something to tell you. Something...” She glanced around her again. “...Important.”
“Okay,” said Quinn doubtfully. “I’ll see you there, then. Just let me go home first.”
“Sure. Just be quick, all right? I’m bursting to tell you.”
“Right,” said Quinn, and she rushed off, glancing at Sandi oddly.
Sandi set off for home, passing Joey on the way. He smiled and said hi. She rewarded him with a smile of her own.
She was surprised at how nice it felt.
Jeffy stopped by the flower place in the mall, and picked up a bouquet. Nothing too extravagant, just enough to make his point. He was ready. He’d been sending gifts now for a couple of days, and he figured that that was enough to intrigue her sufficiently. Now he was going to go to her house and make his declaration of love.
He walked to the Morgendorffer house, and thought about the past few days. He’d been spending a fair amount of money on this, but he’d suddenly found that he had a lot more money since he’d stopped following Quinn about. Besides, this was worth it.
He reached the door and rang the bell. Quinn’s sister answered it. “Hello, Joey, Jamie, or Jeffy. Quinn’s not here.”
“I’m not here to see Quinn.”
Quinn’s sister frowned. “That’s funny. No-one seems to be these days. I guess my unpopularity really is contagious. Whoever knew ten year olds could be prophetic?”
“Is your mom here?”
“Yeah. Um, come in.”
She led him in, and walked upstairs, calling into the living room as she did so. “Mom, visitor.”
Jeffy walked into the living room. Helen was there, flicking through some folders. She looked up, glanced back down, and then looked up more quickly. She had an odd expression on her face. “Well, hello, Jeffy. Quinn’s not here, I’m afraid. She had to go over to Sandi’s. She seemed kind of nervous, actually.”
“I’m not here to see Sandi,” said Jeffy.
Helen frowned. “Then why are you here?”
Jeffy took a deep breath. “I’m here to see you.” He stuck out the flowers. “These are for you.”
Helen took them. “Well, that’s very sweet of you, Jeffy.” She looked at him. “Is this going where I think it’s going?”
“You know how you’ve been getting all those gifts at work, and at home, and stuff?”
“Yes.” Helen looked like she saw where this was going.
“That was me!” Jeffy said that with a touch of pride. He figured she’d crumble into his arms any time now.
Helen looked like she was thinking pretty hard. Her face hardened, and she got up. “Excuse me, Jeffy.” She walked into the kitchen. Jeffy could still hear her.
“Jake, you told me you bought those gifts.”
“Now, honey, I didn’t actually say I bought them. I just didn’t actually deny it.”
“Well, you sure seemed happy to accept the rewards!”
Jeffy sat down on the couch and listened to the argument. This wasn’t exactly how he’d pictured the evening going.
Sandi sat on her bed, waiting for Quinn to arrive. She heard the front door open, and heard Quinn exchange some small talk with her mother and fend off the advances of her two brothers. Then she heard her come upstairs. There was a knock on the door, and Quinn came in. She looked a little nervous for some reason.
“Quinn, I’m so glad you’re here. I have to tell you...”
Quinn held up her hand. “It’s okay, Sandi, I already know. God, I should have seen this coming. I mean, I really am that cute.” She sat on the bed. “Sandi, I’ve thought about this, but I’m just not that way inclined. I know it must be terrible for you, but I’m sure we can find you a nice popular girl, and you’ll be just as happy. Well, probably not quite as happy, because, I mean, there aren’t any girls as pretty as me, but you know...”
Sandi was lost. “Quinn, what are you talking about?”
“What you had to tell me.”
Sandi shook her head. “Look, Quinn. I’m not sure what you’re talking about, but what I have to tell you doesn’t go any further than this room. Understand?”
“Sure.” Now it was Quinn’s turn to look lost.
“There’s this guy...”
Sandi took a deep breath. “And I like him.”
“Ohhh.” Quinn leant forward. “You mean, you like like him?”
“Yes,” said Sandi quietly.
“You?” Quinn’s tone was incredulous.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing!” said Quinn quickly. “I...just...well, I didn’t think...never mind.”
“Me neither,” said Sandi. “It’s weird, and I don’t know what to do, and your mom said...”
“You talked to my Mom about this?” asked Quinn incredulously.
“This just keeps getting weirder and weirder,” muttered Quinn.
“I know,” said Sandi. “Um, Quinn?”
Sandi’s tone was hesitant, and she found herself feeling extremely nervous. “I need your...help.” There. She said it.
“Me?” asked Quinn. “Oh, Sandi, I’d love to help you!”
Sandi smiled a little.
“So, who’s the guy?” Quinn grinned in anticipation.
“Joey? The Joey who used to follow me around Joey?” Quinn sounded shocked. “I always figured you’d pick someone more...”
“Me too,” said Sandi.
“Well, he is cute,” said Quinn, with a smile.
Sandi looked at her, suddenly worried. If she still thought he was cute, maybe she would try to take him from her, just to spite her. If Sandi was being totally honest with herself, Quinn had much better luck with guys than she did. She caught herself. That was stupid. She had to trust Quinn. Quinn wasn’t going to do that, and Sandi knew it.
“I know.” Sandi took her hands. “Listen, Quinn. You have to tell me what to say and stuff. I know you have more experience with this.”
“I don’t know,” said Quinn, a little hesitantly. “The only time I really did anything like that, it didn’t end really well for me.”
“Okay,” said Quinn after a long pause.
Sandi looked at her. “One more thing. No-one else can know about this.”
Sandi looked at her. “I have my position to think of. If this goes badly, I can lose standing in the school.”
“Sandi, I don’t think...” Sandi glared at Quinn. “Okay, okay. I’ll do it your way.”
“Good,” said Sandi. She felt as if everything was working out for her.
The next day, Sandi and Quinn were standing in the girls’ bathroom, and Sandi was wondering if Quinn actually knew what she was talking about.
“Let me get this straight. You think that I should find Joey, tell him how I feel, and then ask him if he wants to go out some time?”
“Yes,” said Quinn eagerly.
“No way, Quinn. I’m president of the Fashion Club.” Sandi drew herself up. “Boys should come to me.”
“Sandi, this is different. You really like, Joey, right?”
Sandi slumped down again. “Yes.”
“Then just tell him.”
“But what if he doesn’t like me?”
Quinn put her hands on her hips. “Don’t be ridiculous, Sandi. Look at you. What’s not to like?”
There was an uncomfortable silence. Sandi knew the answer to that question. Quinn just didn’t want to say it. Sandi was a bitch, to put it frankly, and deep down, she knew it. But this was going to be different. She wasn’t going to act like that here. This was too important.
Sandi cleared her throat. “Okay, let’s go to my house, and we try to figure something out for tomorrow that won’t involve me getting humiliated.”
“Okay.” The two girls left the restroom, and made their way to the front entrance. As they were doing so, they passed Joey, Jeffy, and Jamie. Jeffy seemed lost in his thoughts, Jamie avoided Quinn’s gaze, and Joey smiled. At Sandi.
Quinn frowned at this. As they went through the doors, she muttered something Sandi couldn’t quite make out. But it sounded like “...I, chopped liver?”
Quinn turned to her. “He likes you okay.”
“Well, of course he does. Look at me.”
“No, I mean, I think he like likes you.”
“Really?” Sandi looked at Quinn. “I always thought he liked you.”
“He never looked at me in that way, Sandi. He likes you.”
Sandi smiled. She knew that Quinn wouldn’t have stolen him from her. She was glad she’d trusted Quinn.
Quinn smiled back. “All we have to do now is figure out something to get you two together.”
Sandi frowned in thought, and they made their way home.
After taking his leave from the other two, Jeffy walked in the direction of downtown Lawndale. He shook his head. Joey was stuck on that Sandi chick, even if he didn’t want to admit it. He’d mentioned it to Joey, and all Joey had been able to say was: “No I’m not, dumbass!”
Which was pretty conclusive proof in Jeffy’s eyes.
Jamie had been acting weird as well. He’d decided that since the football season was over, and he had no Quinn to chase around, he had to find something else to devote himself to. He’d spent the last few days trying to think of something he could cling to, with little success. Apparently, he’d tried to tell Mr. DeMartino that he wanted to concentrate on his studies, and Mr. D had laughed at him. Then he’d tried to join each of the clubs and societies in the school. The last Jeffy had heard, he was trying out for the Chess Club. That was bound to be interesting.
Jeffy grinned. He had that best pursuit to devote himself to, easily. The incomparable, wondrous Helen Morgendorffer. Jeffy frowned a little as he remembered the previous night. It hadn’t really gone the way he had planned. For a start, the arguing had gone on much longer than he’d expected, and eventually, he’d decided to make a strategic withdrawal, bumping into Quinn’s sister on the way. All she had had to say was: “Don’t worry, it’ll get worse. I’m sure they’ll be all over each other in a few minutes.”
Jeffy hadn’t wanted to think about that.
He reached the law offices, and went inside. He got to the door of Helen’s office, and knocked. The blonde lady - Marianne, he remembered - answered the door.
“Oh, it’s you again,” she said. “Got anything more to deliver today?”
“No,” said Jeffy. “I’m here to see Mrs. Morgendorffer. Can I come in?”
“I suppose,” said Marianne. “Um, this anonymous admirer of yours - he doesn’t have any friends, does he? You know, because there’s a lot of really attractive divorced people out there...” She waved her hand. “Never mind,” she said sadly. “Come in.”
Jeffy walked inside. Helen looked up as he came in, and reacted with some surprise. “Jeffy! Um, Marianne, could you excuse us? But stay close, okay? You know, um, in case I need you.”
“Sure,” said Marianne, seeming a little confused. She left, giving them both a glance as she did so.
“Jeffy...take a seat.”
Jeffy took the proffered seat. He smiled at Helen, in what he thought was a devilishly charming manner. Helen smiled back, in a more reserved manner.
“Now, Jeffy. I’m sorry that you left last night in such a hurried way. I didn’t really get a chance to talk to you.” She looked kind of nervous.
“That’s okay. There’s going to be lots of time for talking now.” Jeffy smiled harder.
Helen frowned a little. “Well, Jeffy, first of all, I’m really grateful for all the lovely gifts you’ve been bringing me...” She laughed a little nervously. “I can’t imagine why. Well, actually, I can...”
“Great!” said Jeffy enthusiastically.
Helen pressed on: “Jeffy, I know that there was that little incident back at my house, but even so...”
“They’re tokens!” said Jeffy proudly.
“Tokens! Of my love for you!”
Helen’s eyes grew wide. “Love? Well, Jeffy, don’t you think I’m a little old for you? I mean, I’m almost...” She paused. “Well, I’m older than forty. But not too much older,” she added quickly.
“I don’t care about that!” said Jeffy. “I mean, you’re really hot, and stuff. I’ve seen what you’ve got under that business...”
“Yes, yes,” said Helen quickly. “I thought we were going to forget that.” She looked at him, smiling in a slightly off-kilter way. “I’m already married, remember? You know, this is partially my fault. I suppose I should stay dressed, even when there isn’t anyone else in the house.”
“I’m glad you didn’t!” Jeffy caught himself. “Er, I didn’t mean it that way!”
Helen laughed - nervously, and it seemed a little forced. “Of course not. Did I mention that I’m married?”
“Yeah,” said Jeffy. “But I can steal you away from him, can’t I? I mean, Mr. Morgendorffer’s a cool guy, but I’d be so much better for you. So, how about it?”
Helen looked at him for a long while, then smiled. “Jeffy, this crush of yours is very sweet. Weird, but sweet. You should set your sights on a girl who’s more approachable, though. Now, I really have to get back to work. Marianne will show you out.”
Marianne came back in (awfully quickly, though - almost as if she‘d been listening through the door), and showed Jeffy the door. As he was walking down the stairs, Jeffy frowned to himself. That hadn’t gone the way he had wanted it to either. He must be doing something wrong. As he reached street level, he was mulling through things in his mind. He didn’t know what else to do. He could continue all the gift buying, but that didn’t seem to be working.
He knew - he could form a better case for himself. Reasons why she should pick him over Mr. Morgendorffer. He had to be careful though. He didn’t want to bombard her to the level that she thought he was a stalker. His intentions were pure. For one horrible moment, he thought that this was never going to work out, but he immediately suppressed it. He had to be optimistic.
At Sandi’s house, Quinn and Sandi were sitting on the bed, trying to come up with ways to get her and Joey together.
“I don’t know, Quinn,” said Sandi hesitantly. “I mean, what about my reputation. I can’t be seen to be chasing after boys. I’m...”
“Yes, yes,” said Quinn. “We’ve been over all that. Sandi, you have to decide what’s more important to you.”
“Well, what would you do?” Sandi looked at her. “I mean, he isn’t the most popular boy in the school. If people see me with him, it could adversely affect my popularity. I mean, he’s popular, but he isn’t that popular.”
“Sandi, if I’ve learned one thing over the last year,” said Quinn sadly. “It’s that you can’t pick who you like. I mean, David...”
“That geeky tutor?”
“Yes.” Quinn leaned forward. “I mean, I was willing to date him, even though he wasn’t popular, and at that time, I didn’t care what you guys thought.”
“Well,” said Sandi. “It’s nice to know our opinions matter so much to you.”
Quinn’s eyes momentarily flashed with anger, but she didn’t say anything. Instead, she got up and began to walk to the door.
Sandi got up. “Wait, Quinn, where are you going?”
“Sandi, it’s obvious you don’t need my help. So I’m going.”
“No, wait!” Sandi put a hand on Quinn’s shoulder. “I...need you. You’re the only person I know that can help me with this. Please?”
Quinn frowned, and then sat back down. “Okay.” She looked at Sandi. “But you have to accept that sometimes you can’t base everything on popularity. Are you ready to do that?”
Sandi thought for a long time. Finally, she said: “Yes. I think so.”
Quinn nodded. “Okay, then. So, I think the only course of action is to find Joey and tell him how you feel, and then go from there. Unless you have a better idea?”
Sandi shrugged. “No.”
“Okay, then. So when?”
The following morning, Sandi looked at herself in the mirror. She looked stunning. She had labored for a while on the choice of ensemble, and she thought that she looked amazing, even by her own standards. There wasn’t a guy alive who could resist her today.
At least, that was what she hoped.
She sat back down on the bed, and took a handful of deep breaths. It wouldn’t do to get too worked up about this. Then she might sweat, and that would be very unbecoming. This was a new area for her, and she was nervous as hell. What if he didn’t like her back? Oh, she knew he had to at least find her sexy - everyone would, the way she looked. But she was looking for...what? Something deeper than just a surface liking? That was a first for her. Sandi sighed. She was scared to death that something might go wrong. There were so many “what ifs” in this scenario that could go wrong. But in the end, it all boiled down to the same one, over and over again
What if he didn’t like her back?
Sandi sighed. Fluffy sensed her mood, and nuzzled up against her side. She smiled, and scratched him behind the ears. He loved that. After a few minutes, she drew herself up, and took a deep breath. Time to go.
Throughout the school day, Sandi sat, waiting for the day to end, for the chance to go up to Joey, and explain how things were. On one hand, she was dreading it, but on the other, she was looking forward to it in a weird way, wondering what would happen. How he would react. What would happen after that. She bided her time, and waited impatiently.
After school was over, she said her goodbyes to the others. Quinn, sensitive to her needs, had arranged to get Stacy and Tiffany out of the way by arranging an impromptu shopping trip. Stacy and Tiffany had seemed strangely keen to go on a shopping trip without her, and she knew why. Obviously, they didn’t enjoy their time with her that much. Sandi sighed. The end of the Fashion Club was definitely coming. She tried not to dwell on that now. There were more important things to do.
She saw Joey and his two friends over by the main entrance. The blonde one was leaving, and the redhead seemed to be on the verge of leaving too. He was saying something about “Big plans for tonight,” but not actually saying what they were. Sandi felt he was bluffing. She’d seen hundreds of guys do the same to their friends, to make himself seem more macho. Anyway, this was working out nicely for her. She’d been worried about how she was going to separate the three of them, but they seemed to have taken care of that for her rather nicely.
As the redhead left, only Joey was left. He made his way out of the front door. Sandi decided to make her move. She walked quickly up to him, and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around, and immediately got a surprised look on his face.
Sandi thought he was probably wondering why exactly she was talking to him.
“Sandi?” He was looking scared now. “What do you want?”
“To talk.” She glanced around. “Not here, though. It’s too much in the open. Follow me.”
Joey followed her across the school ground, terrified look still on his face. They reached a secluded spot behind the sports hall. Sandi turned to him. He looked as though he thought she was going to bite.
“Um. I’ve decided that I am going to allow you...” No, that was too commanding. She’d better be a little warmer.
“I have decided that it would be okay for you to...” No, that still seemed a little she was doing this under pressure (which in a way she was).
“I would like for you to ask me...” Still a little cold. Damn. This was hard.
“I think we should...” Think? Wow, that was romantic!
“What?” asked Joey, the look of fear replaced by one of complete confusion.
Oh, screw it. “Look, I...like you.”
Joey went wide-eyed. “You? You...like me?”
“Yes,” said Sandi.
“Yes,” said Sandi, a little irritably. “I already said that.”
“Oh! Sorry,” said Joey. “It’s just a major surprise.”
“I know,” muttered Sandi.
“Wow! This is so cool. I always thought you were totally hot, but I didn’t think that you thought that way about me. I‘ve liked you for a while, you know. But I didn’t think I had a chance.” He grinned. “Wait until I tell the guys!”
“No!” said Sandi, a little more sharply than she’d intended. “I mean, I’m not ready for that yet.” She looked at Joey. “Later.”
He nodded. “Okay. So, what do we do now?”
“Well, I think you should take me out for dinner to celebrate this.”
“Yeah, sure!” He perked up. “So, tonight?”
“Pick me up at eight. And keep it quiet, all right?”
“Sure!” Joey beamed. There was an uncomfortable pause as they tried to figure out exactly how this conversation should end. Suddenly Joey leaned forward, and kissed Sandi lightly on the lips. Sandi felt like a small jolt of electricity had run through her, and she shivered slightly. He drew back suddenly. “I’ll, um, see you at eight, okay?” Seeing Sandi’s nod, he ran off.
Sandi leant against the wall. That kiss had been...well, she’d been kissed before, but this had been different. Not just some guy trying to get into her pants. This had been...tender. Sandi smiled. She’d liked it.
After she arrived home, her mother noticed the grin on her face. “Sandi, what’s with the giant grin? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile that widely.”
Sandi opened her mouth, ready to tell her mother all about what had been going on, and the wonderful new feelings she was feeling right now, and about how happy she was, she could just burst...
“Don’t smile so widely, you’ll get wrinkles around the side of your mouth.” And with that, her mother walked into the living room.
Sandi deflated a little, but she was used to this type of behavior from her mother. She rushed upstairs, and immediately called Quinn, hoping that she would be home from the shopping trip already.
Quinn’s voice came on the phone. “Hello?”
“Quinn, it’s me.”
“Sandi! How did it go?”
“Wonderful. We’re going out to dinner tonight.”
“Sandi, that’s great! I’m so happy for you.” She paused. “I can’t wait to tell Stacy and Tiffany.”
“No, don’t tell them.”
“What?” Quinn sounded confused. “Why?”
“Just in case...you know, anything goes bad. I don’t want them to think any less of me.”
“They wouldn’t do that, Sandi.”
Sandi’s voice went firmer. “Quinn, are you going to do as I say?”
“Okay.” Her voice sounded resigned, then it perked up. “So what are you going to wear?”
Sandi grinned and began to tell Quinn her plans.
Jeffy walked round to the Morgendorffer house, and wondered what exactly he was going to do. He knew that he had to change his approach. So he’d prepared a detailed list of reasons exactly why he’d be better for Helen than Mr. Morgendorffer, and he was going to present it to her tonight.
He reached the front door, and rang the bell. After a few seconds, Helen came to the door. She frowned when she saw him. “Jeffy, is this about me?”
She sighed. “I tried to tell you back in my office, Jeffy, this isn’t going to happen...”
Mr. Morgendorffer appeared behind her. “Jeffy, my man! What brings you here? Come on in.”
Jeffy slipped in past Helen, who scowled.
When they got to the living room, Mr. Morgendorffer turned to Jeffy. “Now what brings you here. Quinn? She’s a fine catch, isn’t she? Now...”
Jeffy cut in. “Actually, Mr. Morgendorffer...” He decided he had to be firm. “I’ve come to steal your wife from you.”
Mr. Morgendorffer paused for a second. He didn’t seem to know what to say. Finally, he said: “Why?”
“Because she’s amazingly hot, and I’m madly in love with her!”
Mr. Morgendorffer thought about that. “Well, that’s quite a good reason. Hey, wait a second! She’s my wife!”
“Not for long!” said Jeffy, in a determined voice.
“Please be quiet,” said Helen despairingly. “Jeffy, I’ve told you before...”
“I invite you into my house, and this is how you repay me!” said Mr. Morgendorffer indignantly. “You can‘t trust anyone these days!”
“I’ve prepared a list of why I think I’d be better for Helen...can I call you Helen?”
“No,” she said firmly.
“Oh. Well, maybe I can when we’re married?”
“That’s not going to happen, pal!” Mr. Morgendorffer stared at him. “She’s my wife, and...”
“At least he buys me presents,” muttered Helen.
“I heard that!”
Jeffy smiled in triumph.
Helen leaned over to Jeffy. “Jeffy, this still isn’t going to...”
Mr. Morgendorffer cut in: “Well, let’s hear this list!”
Jeffy pulled it from his pocket and cleared his throat. “Number one: I’m younger.”
“Okay, you win that one.”
“Number two: due to my lesser age, I could easily defend her in time of crisis.”
“Hold on.” Mr. Morgendorffer stood up. “Are you saying I couldn’t defend her in a fight?”
“Jake, sit down!”
Jeffy stood up too. “I’d be better at it!”
“No you wouldn’t!”
“Yeah!” Jeffy tried to stare him down. “I’ll prove it. I’ll fight you for her!”
Helen threw her arms up. “Oh, I give up. I’m going to work on some case files.” She walked upstairs.
“Deal!” said Mr. Morgendorffer.
They both looked at each other.
“Actually,” said Mr. Morgendorffer, “I’m not that good at fighting.”
“So what do we do?”
Mr. Morgendorffer glanced around the room. “The only game we seem to have is Scrabble.”
Jeffy was great at Scrabble. “I’ll play you at Scrabble for her!”
“Deal!” Mr. Morgendorffer pulled out the table, and they began to set up the board.
Sandi sat back in her chair, and nervously looked around. They were at Chez Pierre, where Joey (to her delight) had decided to take her. Sandi had been enjoying the dinner, and letting Joey talk for a while, trying to enjoy his tales of the football squad, and his hilarious antics with Jeffy and Jamie.
Eventually, though, she was getting tired of not being the center of attention, and she was also a little worried that someone she knew might spot her. She knew that everyone she had gone to had told her that she needed to forget about her popularity for a change, but she wasn’t finding it easy to do so.
Then Joey asked her what she liked to do in her spare time, and she responded with fascinating details (to her) about Waif, fashion, and her constant battles to help the fashionably challenged. Joey seemed genuinely interested, which pleased her. Usually guys only listened to her because they wanted to date her, or wanted something else from her. Now there was a guy listening to her, because he actually seemed interested in what she had to say, and for Sandi, that was a new experience. She thought back to most of her previous dates. She had never really dated a guy she liked before. All the previous guys had been for show, or because of their popularity, or because she knew they would buy her things she wanted. The more Sandi thought about it, it seemed like she only ever dated guys to get things from them. The guys usually wanted something in return, but if there was one thing Sandi Griffin was not, it was easy. She knew how to keep guys at bay, trailing them along with promises of future dates, and the like. Her mother had given her plenty of advice on that topic. But she had no idea how to act when she was with a guy she really liked, and who seemed to like her back. Sandi was going to have to go by her instincts on this one.
“Hey,” Joey said suddenly. “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure,” said Sandi.
“What’s Sandi short for?” He looked nervous. “I mean, you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”
“No, that’s okay.” Sandi looked a little self-conscious. “Alexandra.”
“I know it’s a geeky name, but...”
“I like it,” said Joey. He smiled suddenly.
Sandi smiled back, more warmly this time.
Their main course arrived, and Joey tucked in to his steak with gusto. Sandi looked over her salad, and noticed something. She called the waitress over.
Sandi pointed to her plate. “Excuse me, but I’m quite sure I asked for fat-free dressing on my salad, and that does not seem to be fat-free to me.”
“Well, I’m sorry, ma’am. I’ll get you a replacement right away.”
“See that you do so. I’m sure that all the other patrons won’t mind waiting, while you correct your horrible faux-pas.”
Sandi waved her hand. “Well, hurry up, then.”
The waitress scurried away. Sandi saw that Joey was staring at her. “What?”
Sandi adjusted her seat. “Now, where was I?”
As Joey reminded her, Sandi glanced over at the door briefly. She couldn’t believe it. It was Stacy! She hadn’t mentioned anything about a date tonight. This was going to ruin everything! She turned to Joey quickly. “Quick, go to the bathroom, and don’t let anyone see you!”
“Just do it!” She leaned in closer. “Stay in there for about 15 minutes. I’m going to leave, and after that time, you can leave too.”
He nodded. “Okay. Um, I had a really nice time...”
He rushed to the bathroom, as stealthily as he could muster. Sandi waited until a few minutes had passed, then got up, and made her way to the door. As expected, Stacy, now at her table, spotted her. “Sandi?”
“Hello, Stacy. I wasn’t expecting to see you here tonight.”
“Well, Danny here asked me out when we were in the mall last night! Isn’t that great?” She sounded pleased with herself.
“I wonder why Quinn didn’t tell me,” said Sandi.
“I guess she forgot.” Stacy looked at Sandi. “I didn’t know you had a date here tonight.”
“I was here with my family.” Sandi knew she was a convincing liar. She’d had lots of practice.
“I didn’t see them...”
“Stacy, they obviously passed you when you came in.”
“Of course, Sandi. I’m sorry.” She didn’t sound particularly sorry.
“Well, enjoy your date, Stacy.” Sandi walked out of the restaurant, cursing silently to herself. That had ruined everything. Why hadn’t Quinn told her about that?
She reached her house, and went to her room, grabbing the phone immediately. Fluffy meowed plaintively, sensing that something was wrong. She dialed Quinn’s number and got her on the phone. “Hello?”
“Sandi?” Quinn sounded really stressed. “God! Listen, you would not believe what is going on downstairs. Jeffy came over, and him and my Dad...”
“Quinn, are you trying to ruin my reputation?”
“Why didn’t you tell me that Stacy had a date at Chez Pierre?”
There was a pause. Then: “Oh, yeah. I forgot. It didn’t seem important.”
“I was going to Chez Pierre! What if she’d seen me and Joey?”
Another pause. “Sandi, you didn’t tell me that’s where you were going. I didn’t know.”
Sandi suddenly realized that she was right. She hadn’t told her. All she had said was that they were going out. “Oh.”
“Sandi, I’m sorry that it was a problem for you, but I didn’t know.”
Sandi sobered down a bit. “Quinn...I...”
“Sandi, you can’t keep this a secret for ever, you know.”
Sandi hung up the phone without saying goodbye. What the hell was wrong with her? Why couldn’t she just have enjoyed the date without all this having to mess it up? She knew deep down that Quinn was right, but she didn’t know what do about it.
She put her head in her arms and sighed heavily. Things suddenly seemed a lot more complicated all of a sudden. She would have to find Joey tomorrow and apologize to him. If he still wanted to talk to her, that was.
Sandi tried to cheer herself up. Why wouldn’t he want to talk to her? He would understand that as one of the most popular girls in the school, she had certain appearances to uphold, and he wouldn’t mind. Right?
Sandi didn’t foresee getting a lot of sleep that night.
At the Morgendorffer house, the Scrabble game was nearing its conclusion. Jeffy was looking to be the eventual winner. Mr. Morgendorffer was looking at the board, a thoughtful look on his face. “I don’t think ‘zebu’ is a word,” he said finally.
“It is,” said Joey proudly. Someone had beaten him once by using that exact word, and he’d been looking for a chance to use it ever since. He didn’t have a clue what it meant, but it was a real word.
Jeffy heard a sound behind him. He turned. It was Quinn’s sister, and her boyfriend. “What are they doing?” asked her boyfriend.
“Playing Scrabble to determine who gets to marry my Mom,” said Quinn’s sister.
“Have I ever told you that you have a warped sense of humor?”
“Why joke, when reality is this bizarre?” she said, as they walked up the stairs. Jeffy turned back to the table. Mr. Morgendorffer was counting up the score for ‘Zebu’.
“Don’t forget it’s on a Triple Word score,” pointed out Jeffy.
Mr. Morgendorffer gritted his teeth. “I know that.” He yelped in horror as he tallied up the scores. “You win!”
“Yes!” Jeffy punched the air in triumph. Helen came in to see what the fuss was about.
“Jeffy, are you still here?”
“Helen,” said Mr. Morgendorffer with an air of despair. “We played Scrabble for you, and I lost!”
“What?” Helen put her hands on her hips in annoyance. “You gambled me away with Scrabble? Oh, Jake, this really does top everything you’ve done in the past!”
“Oh God!” Mr. Morgendorffer put his hands over his eyes. “I’ll have to go back to living alone! Everyone always rejects me! This is all your fault, Dad!” he screamed, waving his fist at the air.
“You could live in the shed,” suggested Jeffy, wanting to be a gracious winner.
Helen seemed to be getting agitated. “No, he can’t!
“Helen, please let me live in the shed,” begged Mr. Morgendorffer. “I’ll be quiet, I swear!”
Helen turned to Jeffy. “Jeffy, I think it’s time you went home. It’s late.”
“When do I move in?” asked Jeffy.
“You are not moving in, Jeffy, for the last time.”
“Well, I don’t have a place of my own,” said Jeffy, confused. “I don’t think my Mom would like you living there. But I could always ask her.”
Helen escorted him to the door. “Goodnight, Jeffy.”
The door closed behind him. Jeffy made his way home, thinking. Once again, things had not gone his way. He began to wonder for the first time, if perhaps things were not going to work out between him and Helen. He shook his head. That was a depressing thought. He would have to have a long talk with her about that, after he gave her a couple of days to get over having Mr. Morgendorffer move out. A dark thought rose up in his heart, just like the one he had had leaving her office that day, but he didn’t listen to it.
The next day, walking to school, Sandi felt very unsure of herself. She knew what she was going to do. She was going to find Joey, and explain what she had to do to him. She felt confident he would understand her position. Plus, she had to find Quinn. She would explain that she had been very caught up in the events of last night, and that she had not meant to blame Quinn for all that had happened. She knew Quinn would accept her explanation.
So why did she feel so nervous about everything?
She reached the school, and went inside. She saw Quinn, Stacy and Tiffany by the lockers.
“Oh my God!” said Stacy excitedly. “It was so great, and he said that he really liked it, and he said he’d definitely call.”
“That’s great,” drawled Tiffany.
Quinn noticed Sandi coming up. “Hi, Sandi. How are you today?”
“Fine,” said Sandi distractedly. “Um, Quinn? Can we go somewhere, and, like, talk?”
“Sure,” said Quinn.
Sandi noticed Stacy and Tiffany’s bemused expressions. “Fashion emergency. It’s too embarrassing to talk about in public.”
“Oh, that’s terrible,” said Stacy without much emotion.
“Yeah,” said Tiffany, in an equally emotionless way.
Sandi ignored them, and led Quinn away and into the girls’ bathroom. “Quinn, I want to explain...”
“It’s okay, Sandi,” said Quinn. “You had a lot on your mind. You don’t have to explain.”
Sandi sighed in relief. “Okay.”
“I mean, we all have. You should have seen what was going on at my house last night. Jeffy was playing my Dad at Scrabble for my Mom.”
“What?” said Sandi incredulously.
Quinn shook her hand. “Never mind. You should probably go find Joey.”
“Yeah. Um.” Sandi looked sheepish. “Thanks, Quinn.”
Quinn smiled. “No problem. Just remember what I told you last night.”
“You can’t keep this a secret forever, if you want it to go anywhere.”
Sandi looked at her for a second, then left.
Sandi caught up with Joey after school. She dragged him behind the sports hall again.
“Joey, I want to explain about last night...”
“Oh,” said Joey. “I am kinda confused.”
“Well,” began Sandi, “I have a position in this school...”
“The Fashion Club.”
“Yes.” She continued: “And as President of that club, I have certain responsibilities. Some of those duties include only dating people who have the appropriate amount of popularity...”
Joey scratched his head. “I don’t understand. Are you saying you don’t want to date me now?”
“No! I’m just saying that because of my popularity, and your relative lack of the same, we should be careful...” Sandi stopped. That probably wasn’t the best thing to say right now.
“You want to keep this a secret forever?”
“No!” At least she didn’t think so. She had to come clean, eventually. Right?
“Why do we have to meet in secret then, and date in secret as well?”
“That’s only temporary.”
“For how long?”
Sandi was getting a little annoyed now. “Look, I don’t think you understand what a catch I am. There are a lot of people in this school that would beg to date me.”
“I know, but...”
“Well, think about that, then,” said Sandi haughtily, and stormed off. She felt he needed to learn a lesson. He had to respect that she had duties to uphold, and that they had to come first. He would come around, eventually.
Then why did she feel so bad inside?
She reached her house, and walked into the dining room. Her father was chasing around after Sam and Chris, who seemed to have pulled off another stupid stunt. Her mother was sitting at the table, drinking some coffee, and perusing some papers. Sandi sat down beside her.
Her mother looked up. “Hello, Sandi. What’s wrong? You look a little down.”
“Nothing, really.” She looked at her mother. “Mother?”
“Um, can I ask you something?”
“Sure. Make it quick, though. I have to go over these by tomorrow.”
Sandi took a deep breath. “Do you think...if there’s a guy you really like, that maybe it’s okay to date him if he isn’t exactly...” She tailed off.
Her mother looked at her. “Sandi, I thought I’d taught you about that. Never settle for anything less than the best, in boys or anything else. You’re capable of the very, very best in life, Sandi. Remember that.” She went back to her papers.
Sandi walked upstairs to her bedroom, and lay on the bed. That hadn’t really helped at all. Sandi knew her mother was trying to help, in her own way, but sometimes, she didn’t want her life to turn out exactly how her mother’s had. There didn’t seem to be a lot of affection, or true friendship in her life, and Sandi didn’t know if she wanted to sacrifice all those things for material rewards. Why had her Mom married her Dad all those years ago? Had they been in love? Sandi couldn’t see it. Was she destined for a life like that?
The Fashion Club had been the be-all and end-all of her life for the past few years, and it wasn’t going to last much longer. Sandi hoped that she would still have friends once it did. She was sure that Quinn would stay her friend. She had helped a great deal over this, and Sandi felt a little ashamed that she had thought Quinn would have used this against her, but she had honestly wondered if Quinn ever wanted revenge for all those terrible things she had done. She hoped that Quinn would forgive her, and still want to be her friend after the Fashion Club broke up.
Which brought her to another problem. Joey. She had to do something, and she didn’t know what. In retrospect, she had been a bit of a bitch to him this afternoon, and had made some rather unrealistic demands. But she always did that.
She sighed. Quinn had been right. She couldn’t keep this a secret forever, and it wasn’t fair of her to assume that Joey would be willing to put up with that. So what was she to do? Was she willing to partially sacrifice her popularity to be with Joey? Could she stop acting like such a bitch when he raised concerns about things? Was she going to be like her mother when she reached that age? Would Joey even want that? What was she going to do?
Deep down, Sandi knew the answer.
It was nearing five o’clock when Jeffy reached the law offices. He had stopped by and bought yet another large bunch of flowers. He knew he had planned to leave a few days until he made his next visit, but he just could not wait. There was a depressing thought bubbling in his heart, and he wanted to make sure he was wrong.
He reached the door to her office, and knocked. Marianne opened the door, and showed him in. Helen was sitting behind her desk, a gentle expression on her face. “I thought you might call. Can you excuse us, Marianne?”
After she left, Helen invited him to sit down. Then she smiled benignly at him. “Jeffy, I wanted to talk to you. I shouldn’t have just thrown you out of the house last night. I should have taken the time to talk to you.”
Jeffy felt low inside. He thought he knew where this conversation was going. “This isn’t going to work out, is it?”
Helen shook her head. “I’m sorry, Jeffy. But I have to let you down.” She smiled at him. “This has been really flattering for me, I have to tell you. And you’ve probably made Jake realize that he needs to be a bit more romantic with me, and I’m grateful for that. But you have to let this go, okay?”
“Where did Mr. Morgendorffer go?”
“He went to live in the shed. I’ll have to remind him tonight that he doesn’t have to do that.”
Jeffy looked desolate. None of this had worked out the way he had planned.
“Jeffy, you’re a very sweet boy. I’m sure that you’ll have no trouble at all finding a girl for yourself, who’ll be wonderful.”
“They won’t be as beautiful as you,” said Jeffy sadly.
Helen smiled at him again, that sweet smile of hers. “Jeffy, you don’t know how flattering that was for a woman my age. It’s not true, but it was very nice of you to say so. But you have to forget about this. You’ll laugh about this one day, believe me.”
Jeffy tried to smile, but it didn’t quite come out right. He got up. “I suppose I’d better go.”
“Goodbye, Jeffy. Things will work out for you, I know it.”
Jeffy walked out of the office sadly. Marianne was waiting out there for her cue to come in. Jeffy looked down at the flowers he was carrying, then suddenly handed them to her. “I think you’re attractive,” he said. “More people should buy you flowers.”
She smiled at him, and walked back into the office. Jeffy sighed, and walked out of the building, and home.
It was morning. Sandi was on her way to school, a tight knot around her stomach. She knew what she had to do, and she was not looking forward to it. She had spent most of the night soul-searching, and she had not liked what she had found.
She took a deep breath, and stepped up her pace. She had to get this over with. Lawndale High approached. She walked in the front door, and immediately made a bee-line for Joey. She found him at one of the water fountains, and asked him to follow her.
After they reached the back of the sports hall, she stopped, and leant up against the wall, trying to summon up the strength to do what she needed to do.
Joey noticed she seemed to be in a funny mood. “Are you all right?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“Is there...something I can do? Cause...”
“No,” she said quickly. “It’s not anything to do with you. It has to do with me.”
“I don’t understand.”
Sandi took a deep breath. “This isn’t going to work,” she said quickly.
‘I’ve been thinking about this,” said Sandi, forcing the words out quickly, before she could lose her nerve. “This won’t work, and we both know it.”
Joey was silent.
“I thought so. You think so too.” Sandi closed her eyes, and lowered her head. “It’s me. I’m obsessed with my popularity, and I know it’s stupid but it’s the only thing I have and I’m not ready to give it up just yet.” The words were spilling out of her now. “I can’t date you, even though I really really like you, because you’re not popular enough, and it would have to be in secret, and that isn’t fair to you. Plus I know I can be a bitch sometimes if I don’t get my way, and I know that’s stupid too, but it’s going to take time to change, and that isn’t fair to you too.” Sandi was being really honest now, more honest than she perhaps ever had been, and she wanted to say all this before she clammed up again. “So I’m not ready for a relationship now. Maybe later, but not now. Do you see?”
Joey nodded slowly. “Yeah. I do.”
“I’m...sorry,” said Sandi. “It’s all me. I can’t do this, not yet. I’m not ready.”
“Okay,” said Joey sadly.
Sandi raised her head, and looked into Joey’s eyes. “Maybe...we could do this sometime in the future?”
“That would be cool,” said Joey, smiling at her.
Sandi smiled back, and wrapped her arms around Joey’s neck, and kissed him, more deeply this time. She leant into the kiss, and held on a little more tightly than she meant to. Eventually, she let go, and Joey looked her in the eyes. “I better go,” he said, finally.
Sandi nodded, and watched him leave. She pulled out her compact, and checked her reflection. Her eyes seemed red and puffy. She decided she had better stay here until they got better.
Plus, she just wanted to be alone for a while.
Jeffy wandered through the hallways after school was over, a morose look on his face. The day had passed in a kind of blur, and he hadn’t really noticed any of it. He almost stumbled into Joey, who had a similar expression. “Watch it, dumbass!”
“Sorry,” mumbled Joey.
“Hey, I’m sorry, man,” said Jeffy. “I’m in a sucky mood.”
“Hey, me too. You want to talk about it?”
“Not really,” said Jeffy. “You?”
“Nah, me neither.”
Jamie wandered up. “It’s no good,” he whined. “I can’t think of anything to devote myself to.”
The three of them looked at themselves for a few seconds. Finally, Jeffy spoke up: “Want to come to my house, and play video games?”
The other two looked at each other, then said: “Yeah, why not?”
They wandered off. “I totally rock at video games anyway,” bragged Jeffy.
“You don’t,” said Jamie. “You suck!”
“No, you suck, moron!”
“You both suck,” said Joey confidently. “I rock.”
Arguing amiably, they walked out of the front doors.
“And that concludes the report on new swimsuit styles,” said Stacy.
“That was great,” said Tiffany laconically.
“Really,” said Quinn.
“It was all right,” said Sandi. “Anyway, we’ll take this up more at the next meeting.”
Stacy and Tiffany packed up their things, and headed out the door. As Quinn was leaving, Sandi put a hand on her shoulder gently, and Quinn turned to her. Seeing the look in Sandi’s eyes, she turned to the others. “Guys, I’ll catch you tomorrow.”
The others filed out, and Quinn turned to Sandi. “So what happened?”
“I broke it off with Joey.”
Sandi sat on the bed. “Quinn...I did some thinking...” She laughed. “I know how that sounds. But I did, and I figured something out.”
“What?” Quinn sat down beside her.
“I’m...not ready for anything like that just yet. You don’t have to be nice to me, I know it’s true.”
Quinn didn’t say anything, and Sandi took that as her cue to continue. “But I just wanted to say...” She tailed off.
Quinn looked up. “What?”
Silently, Sandi put her arms around Quinn, and hugged her. They held each other for a few minutes, and then let go. “Thank you,” said Sandi quietly.
“You’re my best friend, Sandi. No problem.” Quinn stood up. “Well, I’d better be going.”
Sandi smiled at her. “Okay. Um, wait.” Her expression went a little anxious.
Quinn stopped. “Yes?”
“Quinn, if...anything ever happened to the Fashion Club...”
“We’d still be friends, right?”
Quinn smiled. “Of course, Sandi.”
“You really mean that?”
Quinn laid her arms on Sandi’s shoulders. “Of course, Sandi, you know that. I said you were my best friend, and I meant it.” Her tone was sincere. Sandi showed her down to the door, and Quinn gave her a last, quick smile, and left.
Sandi went back up to her room, lay down on her bed, and stretched her arms out in front of her. Fluffy jumped up in her waiting arms, and she flipped over onto her back, Fluffy in her arms. As he lay out on top of her, Sandi tickled his belly.
As Fluffy purred in contentment, Sandi smiled to herself. “Everything’s going to be all right, Fluffy,” she whispered, deep in thought. She thought about her friends. She thought about the people that had helped her. She thought about what she had learned. But most of all, she thought about the future. “One day, Fluffy,” she said, almost to herself. “One day...”
Thanks to my wife.
Thanks to my beta-readers - Roger Moore, Brother Grimace, THM, Thea-Zara, MMan, and Lawndale Stalker.
Thanks to MTV.