Chapter 74

“Two more rolls ought to do it.” Stella stood up and stretched, her spine letting out a series of pops that sounded as though she’d stepped on bubble wrap. Beneath her feet was thick plastic sheeting that now covered the floor of their living room. One could scarcely even make out the carpet suffocating beneath the spill-resistant protection. That was exactly as it should be, because conversations with experienced partiers had educated them on the fact that without adequate carpet coverage, their security deposit was as good as gone.

“Thank goodness, I’m about sick of this,” Violet complained from the other side. “You’re a real peach for helping out with this crap, Camille. If I was in your place I might have made up an excuse to duck out after the first five minutes.”

“It’s not so bad,” Camille said from her spot at the opposite end of the room. She was nearly done fastening the plastic to the ground so tightly that it wouldn’t move even when tread upon by dozens of careless youths. “Sort of nice to break up the routine.”

“We appreciate it. Tell you what, on party night you have permission to cut the line to the keg as often as desired. Anyone gives you lip and I’ll handle it personally,” Stella offered.

“Thank you. I’m not sure if I’m going to come or not.”

“Not this again,” Violet spat. “We barely get to hang out anymore with us all being on separate teams. We didn’t even get to spend Halloween together. There is no way you’re ditching our freaking party.”

“Besides, I’ve heard through the grapevine that your team will be coming. Alllll of them.” Stella managed to pronounce the word “them” in a way that sounded suspiciously like “him.”

Camille reddened and turned her attention back to the plastic. “I see them all the time.”

“But you don’t see them in social situations. Ones with alcohol provided to the under-aged and small rooms for ducking away from the crowd. Who knows what kinds of team-building activities could happen is such a socially lubricated scenario?” Violet pointed out.

“I don’t think that would be very appropriate in the long term,” Camille said, hands still working even though the plastic had been attached for nearly a minute.

“It wouldn’t be appropriate in the short-term, either, but who gives a shit?” Stella asked. “This isn’t a professional team you’re spending the rest of your life with. These go until the end of the year, and that’s assuming the profs don’t pull some weird fastball and change them up to screw with us. A relationship can last much longer, and you won’t get more of an opportunity to start one than while you two are still teamed up.”

Camille considered denying her crush; however, at this point it didn’t seem like it would do any good. The girls were clearly aware of her feelings and trying to help. She was already a bad liar; there was no chance she could play things off.

“A friendship will last much longer than most relationships,” Camille said in her usual muted tones.

“Friendships can end, too. At least with a relationship you know you went for it,” Violet replied. “Plus, there are occasions when a relationship can lead back into a friendship. Thomas and I are all the closer for having dated, even after we didn’t work out.”

“That might be a bad example, I’m pretty sure he still carries the old torch for you,” Stella interjected.

“Nah, he just has a special fondness for me,” Violet said. Neither Stella nor Camille were sure if she was playing dumb or if she really didn’t notice the way Thomas’s eyes would linger on her when he thought no one else was looking. It’s possible not even Violet herself knew whether she was lying to them or herself. Regardless, nobody pressed the issue, instead turning the attention back to its original target.

“Look, Camille, we’re just trying to say that Vince has been single since the end of last semester. Now, while I don’t really get down on that whole overly-good-guy vibe, even I can see the boy is nice-looking,” Stella said. “Sooner or later some girl who does dig on that will come along, and then he’ll be off the market once more.”

“That’s okay,” Camille said reflexively. “It’s probably better that way.”

“Better for who?” Violet asked. “For him, because he’ll probably be settling for a girl not nearly as great as you? For you, because the guy you’ve been blushing over since last year will be out of your reach? The only clear winner I see in that equation is whatever chick manages to snap him up.”

“Vince wouldn’t settle. Whoever he ends up with will be the right girl for him.”

“And if the right girl is you?”

“It isn’t,” Camille said simply. She couldn’t explain to them just how amazing he really was, how he had been acting like a Hero since he was a boy. Camille couldn’t think of a way to make them understand that he was the kind of person who made the world better just by moving through it. Any girl he picked should be like him: she should be someone that lit up everything in her path with hope and light. She knew she wasn’t the right girl for him, because she could never measure up.

“Big talk,” Stella said. “I saw your face last year. I paid attention every time he pulled Sasha in for a tender kiss, or even just referenced having a girlfriend. I know it ripped you up inside seeing him with another girl.”

“I got over it,” Camille lied.

“Stella is just trying to point out that you seem to be setting yourself up for more pain if you don’t at least try.”

“I appreciate the advice, I really do. I just don’t see it happening, and I’m happier with things the way they are.”

“Have it your way,” Stella said, picking up another roll of plastic wrap.

“I guess we can’t force you. You are still going to come to the party. That much we can demand.”

“I do miss seeing you two, even with the relationship badgering.” Camille gave them a small smile to show her comment was meant in good fun.

“Well then, we’ll leave it be for now. I do want you to think about how you’ll react if he makes a move for you,” Violet advised. “Even if you prefer that things stay platonic, not even Vince is dense enough to fail to realize what an amazing girl he has right on his team.”

“I’ll come up with a plan,” Camille said. She would, too, however it would be a plan that also involved unicorns from outer space flying spaceships made of candy. After all, if she was going to plan for a ridiculous scenario, she may as well make it a fun one.