Veronica started her Friday with a duffle bag in her car trunk and a frozen chicken bake in her backpack. She was going to spend her weekend dog sitting for her aunt and didn't feel like making herself a sandwich. Sue her. When lunch time rolled around, however, she was stopped in her path to Mrs. Flemming's classroom and microwave by a grinning Jason Dean.
“Can I help you?” She asked when he stepped directly in front of her. He was starting to shoot up in height, but they still met at eye level. Ha!
“Do I look like I need help?” Okay, fair. A careful examination of her friend yielded that this is not his I-have-a-joy-buzzer-up-my-sleeve smirk and was more likely his I-have-a-surprise-for-my-friends smile.
“No, you look like you're trying to get me to agree to something.”
“Now what would give you that idea?” She gave him a look. “More importantly, are you on your way to Pauline's classroom?”
Veronica tugged the chicken bake out of her backpack. She waved it like a hall pass. His brows furrowed apprehensively at how it flopped. Apparently it was already defrosting a little. “Defrosting lunch.”
His expression turned horrified. “Has that been in your backpack all day?”
“Don't eat that.” He deadpanned.
“Than what am I supposed to eat? I am not buying a school lunch.”
“I'm glad you asked.” The grin returned as he held up a plastic bag. “Right this way.”
He led her to the cafeteria and they snaked through the tables to one barricaded by various books, a My Little Pony Backpack, and a fluffy pink sweater. When Martha spotted them, she waved and cleared off the table.
“You found Ronnie!” She cheered, “Do we get to see the surprise, now?”
He laughed, radiating warmth and fondness. Veronica and Martha agreed that it was way better than the broken, fake laughs he used to have and they shared a smile. Veronica's phone buzzed and she saw a text, “I'm so proud of my boy!”
JD set the bag onto the table, but didn't open it yet. “This morning my internet friend finally convinced me to get Seven Eleven sushi,” He began to untie the knot on the bag, “And I didn't want to do this alone, so...” He opened the bag and sorted through its contents. First, he passed a small, plastic container to Martha.
“Is this why you wanted to know about my food allergies,” Martha asked as she accepted the box.
“Correct! You get cucumber and rolled egg. No shellfish, so you're good.” He punctuated his statement by passing her a pair of chopsticks.
Next he set the other two boxes in front of Veronica. “You don't have allergies, so I'll let you pick. You can go with eel or California rolls.”
“Well, guess if you spent money on this, I can't refuse.” Veronica dropped the chicken bake into her backpack and selected the California roll.
“I'd throw that away, if I were you,” he said as his eyes followed her motions, “But at least I've saved your lunch.” He passed Veronica some chopsticks, pulled the last box towards him, and pulled out three plastic plates. “Looks like I'll be giving a personal account of how good or bad Patch Man's favorite is. Oh! And neither of you have to feel obligated to share or try what you don't want, but if you wanted to taste some of mine, or want me to try yours, just ask.”
They dove into their gas-station sushi for a bit before Veronica asked, “Wait, where is your lunch, Martha?”
“Martha looked up from her food and gave a quick glance to the popular kids' table. “Oh, I...forgot it. Lucky for Jay-Jay, right?”
JD hummed a tune that made Martha giggle and Veronica face-palm. Her friends were total movie dorks.
Later that day, Veronica happened to be holding Martha's phone to take a picture of her notes when it buzzed. Some contact named “Mackie Nut” sent the message, “Thanks for... you know. (eyes emoji)”
Veronica tasked. Her friend should know better than to give her nosy friend an unlocked phone.
She made a point to ignore the contact photo and instead scrolled to the last few messages.
Mackie Nut : curse you! Martha lunches are too blessed to purge.
Me : That's the idea! c;
Mackie Nut : >:(
Mackie Nut : :0
Me : :'(
Mackie Nut : :/
Mackie Nut : fine.
Mackie Nut : You win.
Mackie Nut : Thanks for...you know. (eyes emoji)
Veronica quickly switched back to the camera app and snapped the last few photos of her notes before passing the phone back and whispering that she had a new message. Martha thanked her and quickly began tapping at her phone.
Across the room, JD caught her eye and he gave her a warning look. She shook her head and made the motion of locking her lips and tossing the key. He nodded back. While she had her suspicions, the unspoken warning to trust their friend rang loud and clear. She would let it go for now, but there was no way she would not worry. She didn't want her friend to get hurt the same way she had been.
After class, the three of them walked to the parking lot. Normally, they'd all carpool. Today, though, JD was driving Martha home and Veronica was hitting the freeway. She didn't want to hit traffic. Especially with how specific her aunt was with directions of taking care of the old dog.
“Are you sure you don't want us to come?” Martha asked once more, “You said there's no internet and you're going to be alone.”
“Martha, I would love for you to join me, but you're not putting up with allergies or giving up internet for me.” They had this argument every time Veronica agreed to house sit.
“I don't have allergies,” JD reminded her and Veronica refused to make eye contact because she knew he would do that stupid eyebrow waggle. Martha's snort confirmed it.
“My aunt hasn't met you yet and she has a no-strangers policy.” She continued before he could add anything, “And I am not letting you go back and change into your “first impression” outfit. She doesn't even that...you-know-who and I were... She thinks that she was just a friend.”
“Ohhhhh,” He dragged out the word, “It’s that aunt.”
“Yep. Hey, she's cool in all other areas, so don't even start scheming.”
“You say no, but...” There was that other grin.
Thankfully, Martha placed a hand on his shoulder and shook her head. “Don't. This is the same woman that nursed a sick bird back to health and who jumped through many hoops to get a home for a stray cat from another country.”
JD begrudgingly sighed. “At least send pictures of her pets,” he muttered.
“Will do! I mean, I still have to prove that Mary wears diapers and show you her silly dog smile.”
“I said pets. I know you've talked about her cat, too.”
Veronica sighed and Martha giggled, “Yes, yes. I'll snap a few shots of Delilah.”
“You better. And give her some scratches for me.”
Martha pulled out her phone and, knowing her, began to change her ring tone for JD based on her sudden revelation. “Give scratches from me too! Oh! And give the doggo belly rubs while you're at it!”
“You got it.” Veronica made finger guns at Martha, then smirked and turned to JD, “She's changing your ring tone to ‘Can't Hug Every Cat,’ by the way.”
JD gave a sage nod. “I fully support this development. I am, indeed, a cat person.”
Veronica rolled her eyes, “You would be. You know that cats are narcissistic, selfish assholes, right?”
There was a shuffling as Martha navigated her phone out of the contacts page and to the camera mode.
JD grinned and hummed, “I know. That's why they are the best. They don't love unconditionally or put up with your shit when they don't want to.”
“Figures. Dogs are the number one companion for a reason.”
“Easy training and marketing?”
“Love and commitment! Not to mention, you can walk dogs and socialize. Cats sleep unless you give them something to eat or annoy them into playing.”
“You just don't know how to play with cats!”
“Maybe you don't know how to appreciate dogs,” Veronica quipped, “You can't say that they're stupid when they are known for being able to learn.”
“What? Tricks? Yeah, it's pretty smart to be conditioned to bark on command. But cats are smart enough to choose not to obey. Have you ever seen a cat work for a treat other than as a compromise to come out of tight spaces?”
“And you are too smart to believe those reasons to be a dog person. Where is that PowerPoint you promised last time?”
In place of a retort, Veronica screamed in exasperation and stomped into her hand-me-down minivan with a slam of her door. Satisfied, JD turned on his heels and slid into the busted old Chevy Cavalier that he had revived from the dead and lovingly named “Voldemort.”
“Both are cool,” Martha piped up as she ended the video she was recording on her phone, “And I won't fight either of you on this, but reptiles hold a special place in my heart.” She gave one last glance to Veronica's car before gingerly taking her seat and buckling up.
“I think you are the first person I've met that can hold a convincing argument for why snakes are both cute and badass.” JD agreed. “And no one really has to take sides. Ronnie just refuses to admit that I'm right.”
Damage to the engine be damned, Veronica turned her key twice so that her van would roar at the hot-head. JD's rumbling laugh was the last thing she heard before she drove off.
She was on the freeway for about twenty minutes when she got the call. She smiled at the contact name “Jason Jimmy Dean” before answering and putting it on speaker.
“So, things might have been said in the heat of the moment and I said most of it out of jest. Ow! Okay, none of what I said was meant to harm you. I only intended to get a rise out of you.”
Veronica let out a small, snort-like laugh that made her nose whistle slightly. “It's okay. Hell hath no fury like a cat-person scorned,” She joked.
“ Don't start up again, either of you! ” Martha shouted in the background
“Correction,” JD chuckled, “Hell hath no fury like a Martha scorned.”
“ Darn right it don't! ”
“So,” JD continued, “It goes without saying that movie night this week is out, but are we still okay for next week? Or should I stay out of the picture for a while?”
“Movie night is still on,” Veronica chuckled, “But I'm picking the movie, you're on snack detail, and Martha is in charge of the drinks and the movie setup.” (Knowing Martha, this would entail a pillow fort and transforming her room into an impromptu movie theater.
“Aww! Why can't I pick the movie? ”
“Because we've seen Princess Bride two weeks in a row and neither of you can be trusted with breaking that streak.”
“Hey, my movie choices add plenty to the evening.”
“Only when they're not memes or in English,”
“You take that back! Miyazaki films are art that have to be appreciated in their original language.”
“Ohhhh noooo, I'm going through a tunnel,” Veronica said in as flat a voice as possible.
“You're still driving and won't be going near a tunnel for at least fifteen minutes.”
“ My cousin is right. You two are vlogging gold. ”
“Veronica, we're being documented!” JD whined
“ We're being documented is officially my new yearbook quote. ”
The three of them laughed.
“Seriously, though, Veronica,” JD started, “If you need anything while you're there, just call and we'll be over in a heartbeat.”
“Hell, I can come over as soon as your aunt leaves and bring Martha and some DVDs. I just dug up the entirety of Invader Zim and Over the Garden Wall , but those will do in a pinch.”
“You just want to see the damn cat.”
“Oh no, you're going through a tunnel.”
Veronica kept the call running for the rest of the drive and let them slip into an easy conversation. At some point, Martha unearthed some other cartoon and she could hear it playing in the background. She couldn't offer much at that point, but it was nice background noise to the mundane stop-and-go traffic she'd found herself in.
When she arrived at her aunt's house, she was walked through the routine, shown the food and snacks her aunt had stocked up on, thanked for agreeing to dog-sit, hugged, and said goodbye to. At that point, she was hungry and exhausted, so she grabbed the first thing she saw, threw it in the microwave, and dug through her backpack for something to read. To her surprise, there was a tiny pink laptop peppered with stickers and a flash drive that, when plugged in, was named “The good stuff.” How Martha managed to obtain that many musicals and funny videos and cram them into a flash drive was a mystery. How she had slipped the laptop in her backpack was surprisingly less of a puzzle. How she had come to have such great friends was a riddle she'd never solve.
When had she become such a sap? She wasn't sure, but in her head she could hear JD attest that it was sometime around when she started preferring dogs to cats.
Shaking her head, Veronica clicked the first musical that caught her interest and kicked back. It was going to be a good weekend.
There will be a chapter 2, this is just a not to myself.
It was not going to be such a great weekend after all. It was going to be the weekend Veronica would die. Her head was killing her, the world was spinning, and it wasn't even a hangover. She thought her cold was over, how had it turned into the plague?
(Rest of chapter will come when I finish it.)