“Hey, hey—you're the new girl, right?”
Grantaire, clutching her cafeteria tray and hoping to find an empty table, or at least one occupied by a few people as inclined to keep to themselves as she is, looks up in surprise at being addressed. The girl in front of her is one of the ones that walk around school in pink jackets, stitched over with the word Amies in big swooping cursive on the back. She's got hair fussed up into a fearsome dome and she's wearing pedal pushers, the kind Grantaire's father always frowns over when he sees girls in them. “I am,” she says, a little belatedly, and holds out her hand to shake.
“Great, I thought you looked familiar—you live down the street from Bahorel. I'm Courfeyrac, some people call me Frenchy, you don't need to know the reasons for that yet. Do you have somewhere to sit for lunch, new girl?”
Courfeyrac isn't the sort of girl Grantaire's father would want her to talk to, not now when she's supposed to be starting fresh, but hers is the friendliest face she's seen all day. “I don't. And I'm S—”
“No first names, that's the rules,” says Courfeyrac, never taking her hands off her tray but somehow managing to shepherd Grantaire nonetheless, in the direction of the sea of pink at one of the far tables. “We're shrugging off the rules of men. Also four of us are called Mary Jane, we gave up on it.”
“Then I'm Grantaire.” That's always the name she's felt more comfortable with, anyway. “Or R, if you want.”
“R, I like that. Everyone will like that. Come on, meet the Amies,” she says, and Grantaire, since she doesn't seem to have much choice, follows her the rest of the way to the table out in the courtyard outside the cafeteria.
The table is ringed around with cigarette smoke, up close, and she catches the end of a bout of laughter as she arrives at the table, which trickles off when everyone sees that Courfeyrac brought her along. “Who's this?” someone asks, just sharp and unimpressed enough to put Grantaire's hackles up, and Grantaire turns to face her.
Whoever she is, she's beautiful, Monroe but tougher, Monroe with Elvis's curl of lip. Grantaire has to catch her breath before she shifts her tray to one hand again and offers her hand to shake. She's denied, the girl looking away from her to take a drag from her cigarette. “I'm Grantaire. I'm told you don't do first names.”
“She's the new one in my neighborhood,” says the one boy at the table—he must be Bahorel, he looks a little familiar, and she doesn't know why he's sitting there wearing a pink jacket with the feminine form of the word “friends” on it, but he is, unconcerned and with a big smile for Grantaire. “I know you. Never saw you at the pool, kept expecting you to show up.”
“Shift over,” says Courfeyrac, elbowing one of the other girls, and the table shifts around, some kind of well-practiced dance leaving seats for Courfeyrac and Grantaire next to each other somewhere in the middle of the table. “And Enjolras, be polite to guests.”
Enjolras must be Marilyn, because she's the one who gives Courfeyrac a look somewhere between disdain and exasperation and takes another drag off her cigarette. “Look at her, think we want a square in the Amies? Look at that cardigan.”
It's a soft green, the only thing Grantaire is wearing that she actually likes, but she frowns down at her tray anyway. She probably does seem square, to these girls, and she doesn't know how to defend herself without sounding petulant.
“Leave her be, Enjolras,” says one of the other girls, and Grantaire darts a quick look at her. She's black, to Grantaire's initial surprise (and not the only one at the table either, she notes after a moment's look around), tall and thin with cat's-eye sunglasses set with rhinestones and a deep, calming voice. “Nice to meet you, Grantaire. I'm Combeferre. You want a smoke?”
“Um, thanks, but I don't.” The thick smell of it always reminds her too much of her mother, but she isn't going to say that to a bunch of strangers who are mostly looking at her like she's some kind of circus freak even though at least one girl at the table is dressed more square than she is, poodle on her skirt and pink scarf around her neck and socks perfectly turned down.
Another girl leans forward confidingly across the table. “I keep telling them, it can't be good for you to inhale that much smoke. That's what people die of in house fires, you know.”
“You just say that because Bossuet set your bangs on fire last time you tried,” says Courfeyrac, and then all of them laugh like it's some kind of inside joke, leaving Grantaire to stare down at her tray.
“How are you enjoying Musain so far, R?” Bahorel asks from across the table, maybe noticing how awkward Grantaire feels. “My mother keeps talking about sending a casserole over to you and your father, if you want one.”
Grantaire knows how to be a hostess, by now, so she smiles her best smile. “I'm sure he'd love that, but only if you let me make you something in return, to be neighborly.”
“If you saw how much Ma cooks, you would not be saying that.”
“Are you enjoying the new pool in the neighborhood?” asks the girl who doesn't smoke. “Bahorel had us all there for a party one time this summer.” Her smile grows impish. “Well, maybe we broke in after hours. But it was nice.”
Grantaire finally manages to take a bite of her cole slaw. It tastes off in that way that cafeteria food always does, and she tries not to make a face. “I didn't go to the pool much. I spent most of the summer at the beach.”
Courfeyrac wiggles her eyebrows at her. “Oh, the beach? There's only two reasons people go to the beach instead of the pool, and you don't look like you were tanning.”
“There was just … a boy.”
“A special boy?” says Courfeyrac, elbowing her in the side.
Enjolras, at the head of the table, snorts. “There's no such thing.”
Montparnasse wasn't really special, not in the way they mean. Grantaire doesn't want to be steadies, didn't even much mind when they said goodbye on the last sunny day of summer. He was good to have for a while, though to get her out of the house, to give her someone to talk about in conversations just like this. “Not special. Not even particularly nice. But I liked him.”
The one with the pink scarf nods very seriously, like she understands that in the face of the blank looks Grantaire is getting from everyone else. “The beach is better than the pool anyway, just think how that chlorine smells.”
“Ignore Prouvaire, she reads too much Edna St. Vincent Millay, it gives her ideas,” says Bahorel, and tiny feminine Prouvaire hits him on the back of the head so hard he almost knocks his forehead into the table.
“Who's the guy, anyway?” asks a girl who leans all over the girl who doesn't smoke, a big genial smile on her face. “Does he go to Musain? Is there a reunion in store?”
Grantaire shrugs. “Montparnasse said he goes to Lake Forest.”
That gets a reaction, enough that Montparnasse must have a reputation beyond Lake Forest or that he must have told her a lie or two to make himself seem like he's from the better side of town. “He doesn't,” says Combeferre, deadpan and taking another drag from her cigarette, which has burned almost all the way down. “He goes here. So maybe you should prepare yourself to run into him.”
“We could find him right now,” says Enjolras, with a cat-that-caught-the-canary expression that makes Grantaire want to get up and run. “Reunite you with your summer love, would you like that?”
“I said he wasn't that special,” Grantaire snaps, and stands up. “If you'll excuse me, I don't think I'm welcome here.”
One or two of them call after her, sounding sorry, but Grantaire takes her tray and finds a quieter corner to sit in for the rest of lunch. When she looks back over, Courfeyrac is watching her like she's worried, and Enjolras is applying lipstick with almost military movements, like it's armor, not like Marilyn at all.
Grantaire looks away. It's not the kind of crowd she should be involved with anyway.
Grantaire looks up, exhausted at the end of a long day, her arms piled down with books even on the first day of school, and finds herself staring at the most self-possessed high school student she's ever seen. After all day at school, she doesn't have a hair out of place, a smudge on her pristine white shoes, or a wrinkle in her skirt. “I'm Grantaire.”
“Oh.” She purses her lips like that's somehow displeasing to her. “I saw you sitting with the Amies, but you didn't look that comfortable with them. I see you've adopted how they name themselves, though.”
“I liked it better even before I met them, and I don't think I'll be spending much time with them.”
“That might be better.” She bites her lip. “You look like a nice girl, Grantaire. And the Amies … well, they've got a bit of a reputation for being fast. I mean, with Bahorel around all the time, obviously they would have that reputation. Everyone expected him to be tapped by Patron-Minette after his sophomore year, all the boys in that crowd always are, but he stuck with them.” She shakes her head. “Anyway, I'm Floréal, and I wanted to tell you that cheerleading tryouts are next week, I always encourage new girls to try out.”
Grantaire looks down at herself. She's little and scrubby and messy-haired, nothing like the girls with their big smiles and the pins on their immaculate cardigans that set them off as part of the squad. She's athletic, but that never seemed to matter much with the cheerleaders at her old school. “Thanks, but I don't think I'm exactly the cheerleading type.”
“Can you do a split?”
“I think so.”
“Then you're the cheerleading type.” Floréal frowns, and even that manages to be self-possessed. “Even if you do join the Amies, you're welcome with us. Don't let anyone make you choose.”
“Thanks. But at the moment I don't intend to do either.”
To her surprise, Floréal laughs. “I like you. I'll be after you, you know, if you don't try out. And maybe I'll call you about the beginning-of-school party.” With that, she's off, hair twitching perfectly behind her, a boy seamlessly appearing at her side to take her books from her as she starts off down the sidewalk.
When Grantaire reaches the school gate, Enjolras is leaning against it, smoking. Grantaire isn't going to speak to her, isn't, but Enjolras says, so quiet and so biting, “I didn't think you were the type to go out for cheerleading. You're more square than I thought.”
“And I'm sure you think you're cool,” Grantaire says, trying not to clench her fists, “smoking at school and dressing like that and saying you won't get called by your first name, but I don't know what difference you think you're making, Marilyn.”
“And you're not making any difference at all, Gidget.” Enjolras blows a disdainful ring of smoke. “So you go home to your hot cocoa and your math textbook.”
Grantaire waits to be officially disinvited from the lunch table, told not to talk to the rest of the Amies, but that's all she gets. She hasn't got anything to say to it, though, so she pulls her cardigan tight around her shoulders and starts walking.
Montparnasse drops his lunch bag when he sees her, like it's another summer day and he's going to run at her and tackle her into the sand, and Grantaire has a relieved second to remember laughing on the beach in the sun, the hot sand burning her shoulders before he seems to remember that his friends are around and stops to run a comb through his already immaculate hair. “Hey, R. Thought you said you were going to Immaculata.”
“Dad got in a fight with the Mother Superior.” Grantaire shrugs, like it wasn't a source of shouting in her house for almost a week before she found herself enrolled at Musain for her senior year. “It was stupid. And now I'm here. Funny that you are too, Mr. Lake Forest Academy.” And in three days she's learned enough to know she never should have believed him when he said that.
Montparnasse's friends bray like so many donkeys at that, clapping each other on the back like it's some sort of great joke to lie to a girl. “Yeah, isn't life funny like that,” Montparnasse says, totally unashamed. “Didn't think you'd look so square outside your swimming suit, R.”
“Didn't think you looked like such a greasemonkey outside yours.” She raises her eyebrows at him. “You want to talk to me in private, Montparnasse, or are you just going to stand there?”
“Nah, I think I'm good.” He winks at her. “I'll see you around, R. There are some cool chicks at Musain, maybe you'll be with them.”
She's not sure if that's a dig saying she's not first on his priority list or if it's some kind of twisted good wishes, like he wants her to be a “cool chick” too. He probably means the Amies, though, and despite how friendly some of them are, when she can't avoid them, Grantaire still thinks of Enjolras and gets a bad taste in her mouth. “Coolest chick in school, that's me,” she says, with enough sarcasm that his friends bray again. “At least I didn't lie about going to school with the rich kids.”
“It just spices things up a little, figuring everything out,” he says, unconcerned. “You got somewhere to eat lunch, R?”
Grantaire gestures to the patch of wall she'd been aiming for when she saw him. “Right there unless I'm not allowed with all your guys around.”
Montparnasse makes a gesture that's probably supposed to make him look generous, waving her over to the table his friends are at. “Come fight for space over here.”
Her father would be appalled if she said yes, the only girl at a table of rough boys, but her father won't know, and Grantaire doesn't precisely have a lot of other friends at Musain, at least not ones she's sure of. His friends don't look appealing, either, but at least she knows Montparnasse. “I shouldn't have to fight, I'm a lady,” she says, and goes to join them.
It's not the best lunch conversation she's ever had. Montparnasse is a little boring, when he isn't her thrilling beach romance, too busy posturing for his friends to be very interesting for her, and his friends spend too much of the meal elbowing each other and whispering. She hears the words “put out” at least four times and she tries to smile all the more for it even if it's humiliating.
At the end of lunch, Bahorel comes out in the courtyard, looking over his shoulder and then blinking in surprise when he sees Grantaire's defiant cardigan in the middle of all the leather jackets. “Hey, it's R, right? Courfeyrac was looking for you earlier.”
“How is Frenchy?” one of the assorted leather-jacketed boys says, with a raise of the eyebrows.
Bahorel raises his right back, tugging on the lapels of his pink jacket like he wants to remind them he's wearing it. Sometime, Grantaire wants to ask him why he's with the Amies instead of the boys. “Not any more interested than she was last year, greaseball. Nice try. R, want me to walk you to class?”
Grantaire looks around at the table, Montparnasse sitting next to her with his arm almost around her shoulders, his friends all sitting around like so many wolves, waiting to pounce if he gives the okay. She doesn't really want to go to class with one of them, even Montparnasse. Some things should stay in the summer. “Sure. Thank you.”
Bahorel even takes her books, making one or two of the boys hoot. “Where are you going?”
“Cool. Language of love, and all.” He smiles. “And you've got it with Enjolras!”
“I haven't seen her in it.” And she notices Enjolras, she can't help it even if she doesn't like her very much.
“Well, you know, she cuts class. She already speaks French. Me, I'm in auto shop.”
Grantaire keeps her eyes on the floor while she walks as they get into the building, because she doesn't know if she wants to see the reactions to her walking in with Bahorel. “Why don't you hang with Patron-Minette, then? They're the auto shop boys, right?”
“They aren't my kind of people.” When she glances at Bahorel, he's frowning. “I'm not one to say who you should go out with or not, but there was kind of a schism when Enjolras took over the Amies. Used to be, the Amies were the girls for Patron-Minette, that's just how it was, but Enjolras doesn't think any of the girls should be expected to be someone's girl just because they're a certain way. I agreed. So that's why I don't hang with them.”
“I'm not going out with any of them. Montparnasse just said hello. That's all.” She looks down again, laughs. “It's hard imagining Enjolras being anyone's girl.”
“She isn't.” Bahorel stops walking. “Here's the French classroom. I think she's coming today, if you want someone to sit with.”
Grantaire smiles tightly, because she doesn't want to be impolite and saying that she doesn't think Enjolras wants her around sounds way too much like asking for reassurance. “Thanks for walking me.”
Bahorel hands her books back. “Enjolras may lead the Amies, but we all get a vote. Sit with us if you want to. You're welcome as far as a lot of us are concerned. Cheerleading tryouts or no cheerleading tryouts.”
Before Grantaire can ask how he heard about Floréal's invitation, the French teacher appears at the classroom door to glower at her for dawdling, and she apologizes, ducks her head, and comes into the classroom to sit in a neutral seat, ignoring Enjolras sitting in the back with her lipstick so red it's like a beacon.
As it turns out, Grantaire is the highest jumper, the biggest splitter, everything physical easy enough for her that she feels a little smug. She's the worst at the spirit, though, Floréal wincing every time she attempts to get out the stupid rhymes they're all supposed to repeat with their biggest smiles on.
Prouvaire, to her surprise, is at tryouts as well, and some assorted Amies are in the stands to cheer her on. She's good, and she spends the whole time smiling like there's some kind of joke no one else is in on. “It's good to see you again,” Prouvaire says when they're allowed a moment to get themselves a drink before the next round of tryouts. “We've been hoping to see you at lunch.”
“I don't think all of you have.” Enjolras isn't sitting in the stands. She probably doesn't have use for cheerleaders even when it's one of her friends trying out.
“She's not bad, you know? She wasn't nice to you, but she's not bad.”
Grantaire doesn't know quite how to respond, because she could say that Enjolras is probably never nice, and she thinks she wouldn't be wrong, but it's also, somehow, not the problem. Maybe the problem is just that Enjolras's disdain is hard to ignore the way she's always ignored it from other people. “Not the cheerleader type, I guess.”
“No, not really. But I am.” Prouvaire's nose wrinkles up when she smiles. “Or at least I'm seeing if I am. Courfeyrac reminded me it's my senior year, and if I don't try it now I probably won't have the chance again.”
“R, Jo—Prouvaire, time to get back to it,” says Floréal, jogging over to them. It's surprising, how fond her smile at Prouvaire is, how easily she corrects herself even though she clearly thinks the affectation is ridiculous. “Ready?”
Grantaire is, with more to think over now than she had before, and she does her best to spend the rest of the afternoon concentrating on the tryouts, trying for some of Prouvaire's energy and trying to quietly help her when she missteps or can't jump quite high enough.
“The list will be posted tomorrow,” Floréal tells everyone at the end of the afternoon, bestowing a smile on all of them. “Thank you all for coming out!”
Everyone scatters, but Prouvaire remains with her arm in Grantaire's, tugging her over to the bleachers where a few Amies wait—Courfeyrac, non-smoking Joly, and the one they call Bossuet even though her last name is Lesgle when they call it in roll in English class. Someone's walking away, someone with that impossible gold hair and a pink jacket, but Grantaire doesn't know what to make of that, so she focuses on Prouvaire's inexorable progress across the field to her friends.
“You two are great,” says Joly, bouncing to stand up and pulling Bossuet with her. “Was it everything you dreamed, Prouvaire?”
“Oh, and more. Wasn't R great?”
Grantaire shrugs. “I'm a dancer, that's all. It's not too different from cheering, except you have to yell in rhythm.”
“Well, you did great,” says Courfeyrac, and looks at Grantaire with a thoughtful frown for a second. “I'm having a sleepover at my house on Friday night, I live in a nice enough part of town that it shouldn't be an issue, as long as you don't tell any family Bahorel will be there. You want to come?”
It's probably petty to keep pointedly mentioning that the leader of the Amies doesn't like her. “I'll check with my dad,” she says.
“Great!” That's Prouvaire, the world her secret joke again. “I only live a street away from you and Bahorel, I'll walk you home and introduce myself, parents love me, it's the real reason I'm in the Amies, they wouldn't get away with half so much shit as they do without me.”
“Come on, we love you,” says Courfeyrac, kissing Prouvaire messily on the cheek. “For your innocent little face and everything else.”
“Good, then it's settled,” says Prouvaire. “Come on, R, let's change before we go home and see if we can get you allowed to come to the sleepover. Courfeyrac throws the best, she's got such a nice room and her mother always makes something delicious.”
Grantaire hasn't said yes, not properly, but Prouvaire, she is coming to realize, is a very quiet force of nature, and she doesn't see much reason to say no. If she's not wanted, it will just be a bad night, and there's always the chance her father will say no anyway.
Grantaire tries to look interested in the picture in the magazine, where there's a girl with her hair all fluffed up into elaborate curls. “Sure.”
“Don't let her bend your ear,” says Joly, half in Bossuet's lap as they try to look at the same picture in a different magazine. “She's just making you her victim because we've all heard it a hundred times.”
Bossuet clutches her hand to her chest and flutters her lashes. “Beauty school will be so much better than regular school, I can't wait to leave you all behind and go style glamorous celebrities.”
“Up yours, I'm just preparing for the day Enjolras is the first woman president of the United States and she needs her hair tinted.”
Enjolras has half of Courfeyrac's bed, all sprawled out in a man's shirt that barely covers her up, probably Bahorel's from the size. She's not reading a frivolous magazine, like the rest of them, but something called The Second Sex that looks like it's been read so many times it's falling apart. Combeferre, a pen in her hand, is reading over her shoulder, frowning and underlining something every once in a while, never asking Enjolras to turn the page faster or slower. “You don't think I'll have more important things to think about than my hair, if I'm president?”
“But I won't have more important things to think about than your hair.”
It has the feeling of a well-worn and affectionate discussion, but every single conversation that's happened since Grantaire walked through the door has felt like that. The Amies have known each other forever, it seems, and it shows in how easy they are with each other, all the things that go assumed and unspoken. “You really think we'll see a woman in Washington this century?” she asks, not expecting an answer.
“I think we have to make sure we will,” says Enjolras, sitting up a little and frowning. “What kind of progress have we made since women got the vote? Not a lot, not enough. Nothing has made enough progress. Even if I can't do it, someone needs to, and soon.”
“Fine words, but it's not like there aren't any women who want to be president. It's just that no one will let them.” Grantaire looks down at her lap. “So you try, and people will think you're ridiculous, and what good can you do then?”
“More than if I sit at home and don't say anything at all.” There's color rising up in Enjolras's cheeks, and everyone else has fallen silent. “Maybe the next person wouldn't be considered ridiculous. Or maybe it would work, because people would listen to what I'm saying and not what my clothes are like.”
“You think very highly of people. There are more people like Patron-Minette than there are people like you and your little enlightened group in this world.”
Courfeyrac clears her throat, and her voice is desperately bright when she speaks. “R, have you ever thought about wearing earrings? I think you'd look pretty.”
“No, never did. My dad wouldn't approve.” And it's easier to erase something he disapproves of when the evidence isn't there in her ears.
“You still care what he thinks?” Joly says, looking up from the magazine she and Bossuet have been continuing to stare at. “You're sixteen, he can't stop you getting your ears pierced if you want.”
“She's probably afraid of a little blood,” says Enjolras.
Grantaire knows she's being needled, that's the hell of it. She knows Enjolras is trying to goad her into something, to see if she can make her stretch or crack or respond in some other way that pleases Enjolras. That doesn't stop her sitting up straight and saying, unwise and too fast, “I'm not afraid. And you're right, I can do it if I want. Courfeyrac, you're planning to go to beauty school, you want to do my ears?”
Courfeyrac bites her lip, looking back and forth between Grantaire and Enjolras with her eyebrows drawn together. “Are you sure, R? I can do it, but if you maybe want some time to think it over ...”
“I don't want time to think it over. It's fine.”
Everyone else has stopped even pretending that they're paying attention to their own conversations, even Feuilly, who mostly keeps to herself from what Grantaire has seen and who has spent most of the evening trying to fix Courfeyrac's radio. Combeferre is the one to speak up, though, with a quelling hand on Enjolras's shoulder. “You can do it some other night, if you like.”
“But how many chances will I have before Courfeyrac is the famous stylist to the president and doesn't have time for little old me?” She makes sure Enjolras is watching her, makes sure Enjolras knows this is her idea, and gets a short nod back, like maybe Enjolras understands she hasn't won this first round even if she hasn't lost it either. “Courfeyrac? I warn you, I might cry, pain has never been my strong suit.”
“Don't worry, I'll be gentle as anything.” Courfeyrac still doesn't look pleased, but she doesn't ask Grantaire again if she's sure, just stands up. “Give me a minute, I need some ice for your earlobes and a clean needle. Are you going to faint if you bleed a little?”
Grantaire hopes she doesn't make a face at that, but judging by Joly's upset little noise and the barest twitch of expression from Enjolras, she does. “Blood, lovely. I'd better look great with earrings.”
“You will,” says Bossuet, too loud and too cheerful for the moment. “And if you don't like it, piercings can heal over pretty quick.”
“I'll be as gentle as I can, and it only bleeds a little.”
“Unless something goes horribly wrong,” says Combeferre, with a smile that seems like it has a joke behind it.
“You think you're real funny,” says Courfeyrac, to everyone more than to Combeferre, since there are snickers all across the room, and leaves the bedroom, probably in search of ice and a needle.
Conversation is slow to start up again, and Grantaire knows that's her fault, knows that she's interrupted their easy rhythm, the intermittent discussions of how long it's going to take Bahorel to sneak in through the bedroom window this time, since he can't come through the front door or leave home before his mother goes to bed, since no one would approve of him spending the night with a bunch of girls. Enjolras is quiet again, going back to her book, but Combeferre doesn't, just folds over a page before Enjolras can turn it and then rolls over so she can talk quietly to Feuilly about how the radio repairs are going.
It takes Courfeyrac five minutes to return and poke her head in the bedroom door. “Hey, R, come on into the bathroom, would you? I asked Mom about the needle and she said to be careful not to get blood on the rug.”
Grantaire stands up. “Sure.” She doesn't want the reminder of the blood, but Enjolras looks up from her book so she keeps herself as neutral as possible. She always likes the look of earrings, she reminds herself of that several times as she follows Courfeyrac down the hall to the bathroom.
Courfeyrac seats her on a stool in front of the mirror and then frowns at her. “You don't have to do this because of Enjolras. She won't look at you different afterwards, she won't care. She wanted to get a rise out of you.”
“Just do it, Courfeyrac. Call it practice. You're leaving for beauty school pretty soon, right?”
“Convinced my parents to let me drop out in time to catch the round of classes starting in November,” says Courfeyrac, beaming as she picks up a slick piece of ice and presses it against Grantaire's left earlobe. “Hold that there, sweetie—great, thanks. I'm sad to be leaving the rest of you guys behind at school, but Combeferre and Enjolras said they'd help me study for my GED and sometimes it feels like if I sit through another biology lecture I'm going to scream. Besides, why should I wait? I already know what I want to do.”
“That's great. Too bad you're leaving, though. I don't … I don't know many people, you know?”
Courfeyrac gives her a complicated, crumple-faced kind of look. “R, you avoid me, it was chance I managed to catch you to invite you to this. Well, chance and Prouvaire. The rest of them, they're happy to have you at lunch without me, you know that, right? Or sit with the cheerleaders, if you want. And I'll still see you, because I'm not leaving my Amies.”
“Enjolras doesn't like me. And what she says goes.”
“Take the ice away?” Grantaire does. “This is going to hurt a little. No, she doesn't. Enjolras gets restless, this town's been too small for her since she was eight years old.”
Grantaire hisses at the moment of sharp pain and closes her eyes so she doesn't see the blood. “And what has that got to do with me?”
“Slap the ice back on that, I'll numb the other one. Mom gave me some of her plain studs, said that's best while it's healing, so hoops don't get tugged or anything, I should have thought of that. It has to do with you because I wished you on her, probably.”
“She doesn't resent Floréal, who's happy enough here even if I doubt she'll stay forever. She doesn't really respect the set of girls with their pearls and their cardigans who are going to get married after graduation and never think about leaving this town again. I'm not saying she's right, I'm just saying that's true.”
“And I look like that?”
Courfeyrac's fingers are gentle against her other ear, holding the ice there. Grantaire keeps her eyes closed. “It took me a while convincing her beauty school wasn't me giving in to that, even though she knows I've liked styling hair and all that forever,” she says after a minute, the conversation veering away. “Enjolras, she expects a lot of people.”
“That still doesn't explain me. Or why you wished me on her in the first place. I'm doing a great job of actually earning her dislike now that we've really met, but she disliked me before that. Is it all just the cardigan?”
“You should ask her this, not me.” Courfeyrac sighs. “Numb enough?” Grantaire nods. “Prepare yourself again, then.” She doesn't speak again until the needle is in Grantaire's ear and Grantaire is gritting her teeth against the pain. “Enjolras's natural state is disliking people. She has to decide she likes them, not the other way around. And you looking so square didn't exactly predispose her. There, you're done, I just have to put the earrings in.”
Grantaire opens her eyes and watches Courfeyrac as she bustles around. There's a little blood, but not much, and the memory of the pain is fading easily away. “She seems to be all about women's rights, shouldn't she be happy to let me wear a cardigan if I want to?”
“I would love to be there if you want to try that out on her,” says Courfeyrac, sliding first one earring in and then the other. It's a little tender, but not bad. “Keep those clean, okay? Let me know if they start feeling bad. Or Combeferre, she's going to be a doctor. Girls like that, girls like you look if you'll forgive me for that, they're what everyone wants us to be. And maybe that's not bad, but Enjolras has never once in her life wanted to be what anyone else wants her to be. She doesn't understand people who do. How do those look?”
Grantaire scrutinizes herself in the mirror. It's easier than trying to think of what to say about Enjolras, anyway. It's different, seeing the little silver studs in her ears, a hint of glimmer. Her father will notice, and he won't be pleased, he'll ask her if she's spending time with fast girls or with boys and only be mollified when she talks about cheerleading, but she likes them despite that. Or maybe because of that. Enjolras isn't the only person who resents people's expectations. “You never said why you picked me out at lunch that first day,” she finally says.
“You looked lonely.” It's a simple statement, and should be a humiliating one, but Grantaire finds that she appreciates the honesty of it. “Come on, let's go show you off to everyone, a few more weeks and I'll give you a pair of hoops, see how square you look then.”
Grantaire lets Courfeyrac pull her out of the bathroom and back down the hall, where she finds Bahorel sprawled inelegantly on the floor in front of the open window, laughing so hard he's crying with his hand stuffed in his mouth so he won't make noise while everyone else giggles, probably at his entrance. “R, you have to hear how he got through the window,” says Joly, warm and happy, gesturing her over. “And don't you look nice? Great job, Courfeyrac.”
The evening moves easily on from there, Grantaire unable to keep to herself under the force of all the jokes Joly and Bossuet keep whispering in her direction based off other people's conversation. It's the best evening she's had in a long time, to her own surprise, despite the lingering soreness in her ears. Enjolras ignores her, but Grantaire doesn't try to draw her out, and the truce is good enough, for now.
“Up yours,” says Grantaire, loud enough that one of the younger girls in the hallway gives her a scandalized look. “And hands off, I hear you're bad news at this school.”
“Doesn't that make spending time with me all the more fun?” His grin is as charming as ever when he tugs on a lock of her hair. “Like the earrings, very chic, must have been Courfeyrac's work. I hear you're practically an Amie these days, that's a hard line to straddle, with the cheerleading.”
“You hear a lot, it sounds like. And Prouvaire doesn't seem to have any worries about it. And don't talk about me straddling anything.”
Montparnasse laughs loud enough to attract attention, probably on purpose. “I miss you, R, you're always fun to talk to. The Amies, you know, they've always been Patron-Minette's girls. I'd be happy to carry on that fine tradition.”
Grantaire shrugs off his arm. “I told you this summer, and you agreed: we're not going to go steady.”
“Maybe I changed my mind now that I know you're more than a summer fling, and now that I know a uniform might be involved.”
“Seriously, Montparnasse, up yours.” She elbows him in the side when he goes to put his arm around her again. “Stop it.”
“We had good times, right?”
“I think she told you to stop,” says a sharp, familiar voice behind them.
Enjolras, when Grantaire turns to face her, looks like some kind of avenging angel, if angels wore lipstick. She's squared up for a fight, like she's ready to throw a punch at Montparnasse for Grantaire's sake when she doesn't even like Grantaire. “It's fine,” she says, because she doesn't like the looks of Montparnasse's growing sneer. “He was just leaving. Weren't you?”
“Were you leaving, Montparnasse?” says Enjolras, hands on her hips. It makes Grantaire think of the comics store she used to pass on her way to school before she moved, the superheroes posing in the window. “Or were you planning to stay and bother Gidget here some more?”
“Depends. Are you offering your company?”
“Leave it, come on,” says Grantaire, looking between them. Montparnasse is still amused, but Enjolras looks like she's squaring off for a fight. She doesn't have much faith that Montparnasse would win. “Enjolras, he's just an ass, he's not hurting anything.”
“You said no. That's the end of it.”
Montparnasse is still smiling easily, but he's not putting his hands near Grantaire anymore. “I wasn't doing anything. Just talking about cheerleading. Aren't you going to congratulate her on making the squad?”
Enjolras's smile is like plastic. “Prouvaire is excited to work with you, Grantaire. Congratulations. Now, Montparnasse, shouldn't you be in auto shop?”
“Excuse you, I don't live in the auto shop.” He makes a show of stretching and then squinting at one of the clock on the hall wall, there to remind them all that they're late. “I guess I could be on my way, though. I'll catch you later, Grantaire. Make sure to show me that uniform.”
“Up yours,” says Grantaire again, at a loss for anything else, and makes sure she's between he and Enjolras as he strolls away, because she wouldn't put it past Enjolras to go after him. Enjolras doesn't disappear as soon as he does, so Grantaire turns to her when Montparnasse is out of sight, and more importantly out of earshot. “What was that all about?” she asks. It's all she can think of to say.
Some of the danger has gone out of Enjolras's stance now, but she's still frowning, one eyebrow raised. “What do you think? He was bothering you. I don't think you're the type to play coy and really want him to be doing that.”
“I didn't. But I've known Montparnasse a little while now, I could have made him go away eventually, and you don't even like me, what do you care? Do you defend every girl some boy bothers? Or am I a special case?”
Enjolras's lips thin with every question, until she's white around the mouth. “I was trying to help.”
“That doesn't answer any of my questions, thanks.”
“My friends like you. That matters to me,” Enjolras says, snapping the words out, and then she turns on her heel and disappears down the hall, going in the opposite direction than Montparnasse went.
The halls have cleared, in the middle of everything, when Grantaire feels like everything should have stopped. At least she can be glad that the whole school wasn't watching them during that, because she has no idea how she's supposed to respond to any of it.
Grantaire shakes her head. “I doubt my father will let me out for it.”
Courfeyrac rolls her eyes. “Would anyone's? I'm sleeping at Enjolras's, Enjolras and Combeferre are sleeping at mine, Joly and Bossuet are sleeping at eachother's … I'm sure you get it. Please? I want you there.”
“I'm not an Amie.”
“Not everyone at the party is going to be, I just said that. Invite Floréal or some of the other cheerleaders if you want.”
Grantaire raises her eyebrows. “You want cheerleaders at your party?”
“I want you at my party, and you're a cheerleader, so obviously. So is Prouvaire, come to that. And I don't mind the cheerleaders, I might have done it myself except I was always so occupied all the time. And they would have been mad if I made it to the squad and then left for beauty school, so it all worked out for the best anyway!”
“I'll think about it.” It's all she can promise at the moment, and Courfeyrac nods like she understands that. “Was Enjolras the one to tell you Montparnasse and I … it wasn't a fight, not really.”
Courfeyrac sighs. “She was. Don't think she was saying bad things about you, she wasn't, she was just telling me, and if she was annoyed, it was at Montparnasse. Don't let Enjolras decide you about the party either, she's coming but I'm hoping there will be enough people you won't have to talk to her all night if you don't want to.”
“Or if she doesn't want to.”
“If she would just talk to you she would like you. And you would like her, probably.”
“Worry about beauty school, Courfeyrac, it doesn't matter to me if Enjolras and I can giggle together at sleepovers or not.”
Courfeyrac frowns at her, but she doesn't say anything to that, not directly. “Well, come to the park if you want to see me off, nine by the pond.”
“I'll see if I can manage it,” says Grantaire, and splits off to go change for practice before Floréal scolds her for being late.
She and Prouvaire are next to each other in the line-up, and it helps, having someone she knows there in a sea of girls who seem to think Prouvaire is something dangerous and that Grantaire is too, just for associating with her. Floréal, at least, doesn't seem to care, correcting them both just as firmly as she corrects any of the others but with a little wink for Grantaire when Grantaire makes a point of doing a split in perfect form halfway through the afternoon when they're taking a break.
Floréal catches her after practice, when they're all changing to go home and Grantaire is exhausted and sore and just a little bit smug that Floréal mentioned putting her on top of the pyramid by the end of the season. “You're settling in well,” she says, fixing her ponytail so it sits perfectly again. “Are you enjoying yourself?”
“I think so.” Grantaire tries to straighten her hair as well, but it doesn't do much good. “There's a party in the park on Friday night, if you want to come. It's for Courfeyrac, she said I could invite people if I wanted. So, consider yourself invited.”
Floréal tilts her head, considering as she looks at herself in the mirror. “A big group?”
“I think so. The girls and Patron-Minette and whoever else comes, seems like.”
“Hmm.” Floréal turns to her. “Spend the night at mine? We'll go to the party, my parents trust me, and you'll have somewhere to sleep after.”
“Really?” Grantaire winces at the surprise in her own voice. “I mean, I'll have to ask my dad, but I think I'd like that.”
“Don't worry, I'm every parent's favorite, just let him meet me for a few seconds and I'll win him over.” Floréal eyes Grantaire's hair in the mirror. “Maybe I'll fix that up a little before we go to the party.”
It's something else about her she needs to change, apparently, and Grantaire wants to resent it, but Floréal is smiling at her just the way Courfeyrac was smiling at her before she pierced her ears, like it isn't that Grantaire is all wrong, just that they want to make sure she's all right. “No scissors and no bleach, my dad really would kill me,” she says, as casual as she can be, and she's rewarded by Floréal laughing and ruffling her hair before she leads the way out of the locker room.
Floréal is, with a certain amount of defiance, dressed just like she's going to school, socks turned down and skirt perfectly pleated, like some girl from a commercial. Grantaire looks sloppier, but she always does, and she's buttoned her cardigan up tight against the night's chill.
When they get to the main part of the park, there are two dozen people at the least milling around, a sea of pink and black jackets among everyone else. Courfeyrac is in the center of it all, and she squeals and waves at Grantaire when she sees her but doesn't make a move to disengage from her conversation with Combeferre and Feuilly.
“R, you came!” That's Bahorel, a bottle clutched in his hand and a grin on his face, his pink jacket standing out since he's the tallest boy there and most of the others are Patron-Minette. He winks at Floréal and offers Grantaire his bottle. “Want a drink?”
It's not a test from him the way it would be from some of the other Amies, so Grantaire takes the bottle and takes a quick sip. It's bitter and fizzy, not like the wine her father has let her sip at weddings and special occasions, and she takes another drink mostly to prove that she can. “Thanks. Want it back?”
“Don't worry about it, there's plenty. And you should chug it, if you're going to drink it! Otherwise you get air bubbles, that's what makes you throw up.” He claps her on the shoulder and then smiles, wide and honest, at Floréal. “Do you want one too? I can go get you one.”
Floréal arches her eyebrows. “Aren't you all supposed to be all about gender equality? Chivalry doesn't seem like part of that.”
“And if you got me one you'd be succumbing to stereotypes too,” he says, with great cheer. “Guess we'll have to go get some together. R, you coming?”
“No, you go ahead,” she says, bemused, and nods at Floréal when Floréal gives her a curious sideways look. She's going to be more comfortable if she stays at the edge of the party instead of cutting through the middle of it, and she trusts Floréal to find her again before she leaves. “I'll just be here working on this.”
“I'll come back soon,” says Floréal, Bahorel nodding seriously along with her, and then they disappear into the crowd, easy to track from Bahorel's height and just how much Floréal stands out.
Grantaire skirts around the edge of the party, finding a picnic bench that's only occupied by someone from Patron-Minette and an unfamiliar girl kissing at one end. Neither of them so much as looks up when Grantaire sits down, so she figures she's safe enough, and settles in to watch the party happen.
Most of the Amies are in the center of everything. Courfeyrac especially is, of course, whirling from person to person, making big dramatic gestures at her hair, but others too. Joly and Bossuet seem to be holding court on another picnic table, acting something out, and Bahorel and Floréal are laughing by the refreshment table. She doesn't see Enjolras right away, which is odd when Courfeyrac is one of her best friends and she stands out in a crowd, but she catches sight of her when some of the crowd around the radio disappears. She's wearing read tonight, clashing with the pink, and she's paying more attention to the radio than to the boy in the leather jacket trying to talk to her.
Grantaire looks away when Enjolras looks up, back out at the crowd, and catches Courfeyrac's eye. This time, when Courfeyrac waves her over, she goes, even if she'd rather keep to her safe picnic table and nurse Bahorel's beer. “Quite a party,” she says when she gets close enough.
Courfeyrac greets her with her arms around Grantaire's neck and a sloppy kiss on her cheek. “You came!”
“I did. I brought Floréal, since you said it was okay.”
“I saw her over by the beverages. Here, stay here for a few minutes, you take art, right? Feuilly and I are dreaming about going to Italy and she keeps talking about boring art things instead of the cafes and the men, you can keep each other occupied.”
Feuilly usually isn't the most talkative person, but tonight she's in a good mood or the beer has loosened her tongue, and she talks to Grantaire about art for ten minutes, while Courfeyrac drifts away to talk to someone else and Grantaire lets her guard down as she keeps drinking her beer, finishing it faster than she thought she would. When Feuilly sees someone across the crowd she wants to talk to, Grantaire retires to the side again, but the easiest path through the crowd puts her near the radio.
Enjolras is alone, still listening intently, and they're close enough that Grantaire has to speak to her. “I'd expected you to be in the middle of the party, not tuning the radio.”
“And I didn't expect you to be here at all,” Enjolras says, and looks at her briefly before she looks away again, back out at the crowd.
“Do you want me to deal with the radio for a while? It's Courfeyrac's party, she's one of your best friends, you should be with her, shouldn't you?”
“Combeferre and I are staying with her tonight. I'm fine.” Enjolras sighs after a moment of freezing stiffness and flicks her eyes out in Courfeyrac's direction, which is more than enough to tell Grantaire that she's under orders to be polite. “I like listening to the radio. And Lamarque is on soon.”
“Lamarque.” Grantaire tries to place the name, because if Enjolras is making an effort, she can do the same. “The lady DJ?”
“Yes. There aren't enough, but she's got the best taste, the best shows.” Enjolras actually smiles, and Grantaire blinks at how surprisingly wide it is. “I want to host radio.”
“I thought you wanted to be president?”
The smile disappears. “Who's to say I can't be both?”
“I don't think anyone would dare. I was just asking.”
“You were just saying you don't think I can do it.”
Grantaire almost wants to make a scene and say that no, she doesn't, but there's no reason to hate her for being realistic, but this is Courfeyrac's party. “Why radio?” she asks instead, trying to get back to safer waters.
“Because you can talk to everyone,” says Enjolras, and goes back to fiddling with the dial, conversation over, not that Grantaire can complain. It's as polite as Enjolras gets with her, and she doesn't want to be Enjolras's best friend. Really, other than Prouvaire and maybe Bahorel, Grantaire doesn't expect she'll be speaking to any of the Amies at all once Courfeyrac leaves. “Because sometimes talking to people does more good than ruling them,” she finally adds, when Grantaire thinks she isn't going to say anything more at all. “Celebrity changes minds, sometimes.”
“I guess I'll have to wait and see where to tune my dial.”
“You make fun of presidency, but not this?”
Grantaire shrugs. “It seems more likely, that's all.”
It's the wrong thing to say, and Enjolras's frown makes that abundantly clear. “Should it matter if it's possible, if it's something I want to do and care about doing?”
“You care more about the radio.”
Enjolras looks sharply away and doesn't answer. It isn't even an ominous silence, like she might be about to say something. It's just quiet, Enjolras done with the conversation and probably with Grantaire as well, just as she always is.
Floréal finds her before Enjolras says anything or Grantaire can think of how to excuse herself without looking like she's fleeing with her tail between her legs. “R, I want to introduce you to a few people, if you aren't busy.” She looks pointedly at Grantaire and then at Enjolras, whose entire focus is engaged on the radio. “As I see you aren't. Come on. And you said you had to collect some leaves for a biology project, right? Two birds, one stone, we should find you some, where better to get leaves than the park?”
“Of course, a party is just the right place for homework,” says Enjolras, acid and just quiet enough that she could be pretending to keep it to herself.
“You stay out of it, unless you're going to be of use,” says Floréal, a frown on her face, and takes Grantaire's arm. “Come on, we'll get you another beer and we'll go introduce you around, you don't meet enough people.”
Grantaire objects as lightly as she can, saying that she's met plenty of people, half of them thanks to Floréal, and Floréal doesn't ask any questions about what got Enjolras's panties in a twist and why Grantaire is skirting around the edge of the party as much as she can. Instead, she drags Grantaire along in her wake and introduces her to what seems like everyone at the party who isn't wearing a jacket, most of whom are underclassmen who aspire to be Amies or Patron-Minette some day, but some are just friends of Courfeyrac's from class or people who heard about the party. Grantaire spends a few minutes chatting with a pair of juniors who talk about being Amies next year like they want it more than anything before Bahorel comes with beer for her and Floréal, handing them each one while holding on to a third and toasting as they get them open.
“Floréal said you wanted to collect some leaves?” he asks, shouting over the sound of the music. Enjolras has turned the radio up, and between songs Grantaire has started hearing a woman's voice, something syrupy and low.
“Want is a strong word, but I have to, for biology class. You don't have to help if you don't want to.”
“Nonsense. I'm a great scavenger, you should always have me along for this kind of thing, I'm very useful. And I'll steer you away from the places that have more used balloons than leaves.”
Grantaire makes a face when she realizes just what kind of balloons he means, and she's glad Floréal seems just as unimpressed with the thought. “Thanks, I think.”
“You will be thanking me for real,” he says, and nods over to an opening in the trees. “Come on, let's go while mostly no one is looking, otherwise they're going to think a lot of things about you ladies that may or may not be true but definitely shouldn't be gossiped about.”
Floréal laughs, falling into step with Bahorel as he starts walking and leaving Grantaire to scramble behind them. “I think I like you.”
“I definitely like you, R has good taste in people, why wouldn't I like you?” He grins at Grantaire over his shoulder. “Come on, keep up.”
Bahorel is, as she probably should have expected, a fairly terrible woods guide, and Floréal isn't much better. They're cheerful company while Grantaire finds her leaves on her own, though, and that's worth more than she thought it might be, as the two of them talk about school and people Grantaire mostly doesn't know, occasionally throwing in a question for Grantaire as she squints wondering if something is cedar or spruce. “I don't even know where you're from, that's how mysterious you are,” Floréal says to her at one point, when Grantaire is a few feet up a beech tree trying to get to the lowest branch. “I should have asked that on the first day.”
“New York,” says Grantaire, clutching on to the trunk and really hoping she can get down without tumbling onto the ground. “The city, I mean. Brooklyn. My father wanted to get somewhere out of the city, somewhere a little safer, you know.”
“No shit,” says Bahorel. “You're from the city? Everyone wants to go there.”
“I sure want to go back, some days. The restaurants aren't as good here.”
“And you probably miss your friends,” says Floréal.
It's a test, but it's a kind one, and with only the two of them there Grantaire doesn't really mind shrugging that question off. She knows it's telling, but they won't spread it around, if she's guessed anything about them at all. “It's not so bad. I'm not going to college, but I'm going back to the city as soon as I can afford to.” She reaches the leaf she wants and pulls it off. “There. Bahorel, can you help me down? Otherwise I'm going to flash my skivvies to both of you, and I don't care too much about dignity, but I care enough to want to avoid that, anyway.”
Bahorel, without so much as commenting, wraps his arms around her thighs and takes her weight so she can let go of the tree and he can drop her to the ground. Floréal, when she straightens up and stows the beech leaf with her other leaves in her purse, is looking at Bahorel with her lips pursed and a thoughtful expression. “We could always use a boy or two on cheerleading,” she says, when she catches them looking. “For the lifts. Since you quit football after freshman year, I know your schedule is free. You may not earn a letter for it, but you get to spend your afternoons with a bunch of pretty girls. There are worse things.”
Bahorel laughs. “I spend most of my life these days with pretty girls and that isn't likely to change right now, but I'll keep it in mind. I have a knack for it, I guess.” Someone at the party, less than ten yards away, startles them all with a loud laugh. “We should get back before we're missed, Courfeyrac would never forgive me for wandering off with her guests in the dark. Do you have enough leaves, R?”
“Yes, from what I can tell in the dark. I'll have to press them between books at your house, Floréal.”
“That's fine. Will they be okay until we leave?”
“Should be. And if they're not, I don't really care that much about my biology grade.”
The noise and the laughter get louder as they draw close to the party again, maybe because everyone is another beer in—and maybe, Grantaire discovers when she can see it through the trees, because Enjolras is holding court with a few of her friends, making elaborate innocent gestures like Joly is trying to seduce her, Montparnasse off to the side laughing when he hadn't been there at all when Grantaire left, she's sure. Enjolras isn't usually so animated, and Grantaire watches in fascination without grasping for the conversation until Floréal's hand finds her elbow and clenches tight and she hears “—dare to touch me! I'm Doris Day, after all, I don't drink or swear or have my ears pierced, and I certainly don't let boys chase after me! Is that right, Montparnasse?”
It's Montparnasse laughing that does it, unfreezes Grantaire enough that she wrenches her arm out of Floréal's, escapes Bahorel's reach, and ducks into the party boiling with rage just as Montparnasse says “Sounds like her to a T if you ask me.”
“She clearly did,” Grantaire says, loud enough that everyone knows she's there, that she heard it. Floréal's beside her a second later, Bahorel coming up behind her, but she doesn't turn to see what they look like because what's important is Montparnasse, unrepentant and grinning, Enjolras, chin high and not backing down, and Courfeyrac, standing behind them and looking stricken. She almost stops for Courfeyrac's sake, but Courfeyrac didn't stop whatever this was. “I know you don't like me, but you don't need to tell the whole party.”
“R,” says Courfeyrac, eyes wide, “I'm so sorry—”
“Is she?” Grantaire swallows and waits, but Enjolras still doesn't move, just stands there like a queen. “You know, Enjolras, for someone who talks a lot about women having the chance to do what they want to do, you don't seem to care much about what I want to do.”
“Come on, Grantaire, we're leaving,” says Floréal, and Grantaire is glad, because she doesn't know what else to say, with most of the party watching them now in varying states of pity and glee and worry, only the sound of the radio breaking up the moment.
Bahorel is frowning at the crowd, and Grantaire can't bear how very sorry he looks when he looks at her. “I'll walk you to your car if you want.”
“It's fine. Enjoy the rest of the party.” Grantaire squares her shoulders and looks back at Courfeyrac. “Good luck at beauty school.”
Courfeyrac says something as she's walking away, and Grantaire thinks she hears Prouvaire too, but Floréal's arm is around her shoulder as she turns and Bahorel is stepping between them and the crowd, saying something low that gets people talking again as they walk away.
“They're just—” Floréal starts almost as soon as they're out of earshot, voice low and vicious.
“Leave it,” says Grantaire, and speeds up. When Floréal catches up to her, she doesn't bring it up again, but she scowls the whole way home.
Grantaire looks up at her father standing in her bedroom doorway, looking annoyed at having to bring the phone to her. “I'm not home.”
“I just told her you're home.”
“I'm not home.” Grantaire goes back to her math homework, because even that is preferable to listening to Courfeyrac apologize for the night before.
She can feel her father's disapproval from the doorway, and then him considering asking her what's wrong, if there was a fight. She wouldn't tell him, but sometimes it would be nice if he asked. “Fine. I can't have dinner before seven, I have a call with work.”
“That's fine. I'll have it ready.”
He disappears from her doorway without another word, and Grantaire only stares at her math for another few minutes before she gives up and goes into the drawer where she keeps her money. There isn't enough of it. She wants nothing in the world more than to go back to New York, to leave Musain and the Amies and just find a job and an apartment and not worry if anyone cares about her ears or whether she smokes, but she can't afford to get there on her own. She'll have to find a job, if she wants to get out.
“I might apply to work at the Burger Palace,” she says at dinner, trying her best to smile and look earnest when her father frowns at her. “A job looks good, like I'm responsible, right? That would be good for colleges.”
“You could file at my office, if you're worried about that.” Unpaid, no doubt, and that's not what Grantaire wants.
“It would look so much better if I did it on my own, though. Of course I'll do some filing for you if you want, but I just thought it would be good.”
He sighs, looks down at his plate, and up at her again. “As long as dinner is still on the table on time at night and all your homework and chores get done, do what you want.”
It's all the permission Grantaire needs, or really wants, and she lets the rest of dinner go past in silence.
Today, she cares about it, because people will be looking. Floréal will, because she hasn't mentioned it but she was attentive for the rest of the sleepover and unusually affectionate saying goodbye. Bahorel will, because he tried knocking on her door after her father went out on Sunday afternoon and stayed there for five minutes while she pretended she wasn't home. Montparnasse might, and some of the other Amies might, and they're the ones who make her check her cardigan one more time before she picks up her books and goes into school.
She barely makes first bell, by design, so it isn't until lunch that anyone manages to track her down. To her surprise, it isn't Floréal, or Bahorel, or maybe Combeferre on a mission from Courfeyrac. It's Joly and Bossuet, who sit down on either side of her in the library, where she retreated, and then proceed to stare at her in unnerving silence. “I don't want to talk,” she says.
“Then we'll talk,” says Bossuet.
“We'll say that Enjolras should have apologized to you, first thing.”
“We mean she never should have done it, no matter if she was trying to provoke Montparnasse or not.”
“And that not everyone was laughing, or liked what she was doing.”
“So we're sorry for not stopping her.”
Grantaire sighs. “I don't know what you expect me to say. I'm not going back to that lunch table as long as she doesn't want me there. I don't enjoy searching out humiliation.”
Joly's frown is surprisingly fierce. “Enjolras is sitting on her own today. Like I said, we aren't happy with her.”
“You don't have to shun your friend just for my sake.”
“We're just mad at her,” says Bossuet, her frown matching Joly's. “She'll be back with us again soon, we're mostly just proving a point.”
“And if we know Combeferre at all she's already caved, because Enjolras is really pathetic when we're mad at her.”
“Great. Good to know.” Grantaire looks down at her lap. “Anything else you wanted to say to me?”
“The cardigan's really neat,” Bossuet offers.
They've got to know it's a statement. Grantaire doesn't really feel like confirming that it is. “Thanks.”
“And maybe talk to Courfeyrac, we can give you her number if you want, if you don't have it already. She wants to apologize, talk to you.”
Grantaire pretends to find a wrinkle in her skirt and smooths it out. “I never figured out … maybe I don't want to know. Why did she start doing that? How long did it go on?”
“It was maybe a minute,” says Joly. “Everyone had just barely started paying attention when you showed up. But Montparnasse was bothering her, he does that sometimes, I don't know what he was saying.”
“I was near enough to hear she said something about if he wanted someone biddable he should have stuck with you, and he said he didn't know what she meant, and then … well, you saw. Or heard, at least.”
“Yes, I did.” Grantaire doesn't want to be thought of as biddable even if she is, these days, does what her father asks, goes where Floréal or Courfeyrac tells her. She's not sure if it makes it worse or better that Enjolras was just telling the truth. “Thanks for talking to me.”
Joly and Bossuet exchange an unhappy look over her head. “Do you want some company for lunch?” Joly asks after a second.
“If she wanted company she probably wouldn't be hiding in the back of the library.”
Joly keeps frowning, this time looking at Grantaire instead of Bossuet. “You can come sit with us any time you want, you know. And if you don't want to be around Enjolras, and I can't blame you for that, then we'll move tables. And I bet Bahorel or Prouvaire would too, Prouvaire is angry, Floréal talked to her.”
“I don't want ...” Grantaire shakes her head. “Do what you want, I'll do what I want, it doesn't matter anyway. Not like I had any illusions about being Enjolras's friend before.”
“All the rest of us want to be your friend. She'll come around.”
Joly still looks worried, like she wants to stay, but Bossuet stands up and pulls her to her feet as well, smiling at Grantaire and not seeming like it's forced at all. “Enjolras is hard on people. The rest of us are much nicer. And we want to be friends with you.”
“I'll keep it in mind,” Grantaire says, and Bossuet nods before she tows Joly out of the library.
Grantaire, waiting on a bench with a sketch from art class that she's unsatisfied with, looks up at Enjolras, who's standing over her with her arms crossed and a scowl on her face. “Apology accepted, whatever, leave me alone.”
Enjolras blinks, brought up short. “I haven't apologized yet.”
“Were you going to?”
“Then accepted, and leave me alone.”
Enjolras is standing with the sun behind her, so it's hard to tell her expression, but she sounds like she's clenching her teeth when she answers. “The other Amies have made it clear that my behavior was unacceptable, which it was, and they wanted me to make it better, so you'll speak to them again. Will you do that?”
Grantaire wishes she'd taken Floréal up on her offer of a ride home after practice, but she's waiting for her father instead, and there's no way of escaping yet. “I spoke to Joly and Bossuet earlier today, Bahorel tracked me down before last period, and Prouvaire said hello in practice. I'll call Courfeyrac soon, probably.”
Enjolras sighs, looking away and then back again. “Don't be like that, be mad if you want but they didn't have anything to do with it. Bahorel was with you, even.”
“Has it occurred to you that maybe I'm more humiliated than mad?” Grantaire knows her cheeks are probably pink, and she hopes it looks like it's the sun on her face rather than embarrassment and temper that's doing it. “You talked about me, you made fun of me, in front of a whole party. And I didn't hear it all, so I don't know if it was all true, but it doesn't really matter, does it? People listen.”
“I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said it, even if Montparnasse was being … well, Montparnasse.”
“No, you shouldn't have. And it's not very nice knowing you're thinking it, either.” Grantaire closes her eyes. “You don't have to like me. But I make my own choices, and if I'm a virgin, or if my ears aren't pierced, or if I wear sweaters instead of leather, that's me. I'll change when I want to change.”
Enjolras doesn't answer right away, and Grantaire doesn't open her eyes. “What are you drawing?”
“None of your business.” It feels a little shameful and a little good to be as rude to Enjolras as Enjolras has been to her, but Grantaire still opens her eyes to gauge Enjolras's reaction. She's frowning down at the sketch in Grantaire's lap, a copy of a painting pre-approved by the teacher because all the boys and some of the girls would pick nudes if the teacher let them choose their own. “You don't have to pretend to be interested.”
“I'm trying to find something interesting about you!”
Enjolras winces as soon as she said it, but Grantaire just looks away again. She knows Enjolras's opinion on her already. “You apologized. I don't know why you're still sitting here.”
“I want to make it better, not just apologize. You may not be my friend, but my friends like you, and you aren't spending time with them because of me. It's up to me to make it up to them.”
“Maybe you should have thought of that before,” says Grantaire, and stands up. “Thanks for the apology.”
“Do you need a ride home? I have a car, I've been fixing it up. It's a good ride, better than the auto shop boys can manage.”
“You do everything, don't you? Radio, cars, politics. And no, my dad would kill me if he knew I was getting in strange cars when he's on his way.”
Enjolras is silent again, and Grantaire imagines she's swallowing down everything she wants to say about girls who wait for their fathers to pick them up from school. “Okay. Please talk to Courfeyrac. She threatened to give her jacket back, and she loves the Amies more than anything.”
Grantaire nods. Courfeyrac doesn't deserve to be shut out. Most of the Amies don't, if she's being honest. She's been the subject of gossip before, and no doubt will be again, and she doesn't like being laughed at but no one does. “I don't think I'll be joining your lunch table any time soon, but she didn't do anything wrong.”
“She'll be happy to hear from you,” says Enjolras, and walks off, hands in the pockets of her jacket, looking thoughtful.
The next day, though, she sits in the cafeteria for lunch, and she isn't quite surprised when Joly, Bossuet, and Bahorel all join her. Floréal has a table full of cheerleaders, and she frowns at Grantaire when she sees she isn't coming over to them, but she nods sharply when she sees she has company, and Grantaire does her best to smile back at her before she tries to figure out how to say hi to everyone without them bringing up the weekend.
“Anyone who says anything about it can go back to the Amies,” she finally settles on, because maybe being blunt about it will help. The Amies, or the rest of them anyway, are at their usual table. Enjolras is with them, sitting next to Combeferre, waving her arms around while she talks about something, all lit up and excited. If she's feeling contrite she isn't showing it very well.
“Great,” says Joly, elbowing Bahorel in the ribs before he can do more than open his mouth. “I'll tell you how Courfeyrac is doing in beauty school, because she accidentally dyed her hair pink and it's really funny.”
“We're not sure how that happened in her first week of beauty school, but she's very determined never to do it again,” says Bossuet. “Also asking to practice on people, fair warning.”
“I don't think my hair is light enough to turn pink, and I don't want to go blonde like Marilyn over there.” Enjolras is leaning forward now, explaining something to Feuilly, happier than she's ever been around Grantaire. She's mesmerizing with a smile on her face, less like a pinup and more like some old painting, one of the masters she's always having to copy.
“She may not be blonde for long, Courfeyrac is mad at her and now she knows how to do the pink thing,” says Bahorel with a grin.
“Oh, come on, that would be a shame, she was awful but her hair is too nice to ruin. I have to admit that.”
Conversation is a little easier after that, and Grantaire feels like she can breathe for the first time in days. Bahorel talks about the auto shop, and Joly talks about all the colleges she's applying to, hoping to be a doctor someday, and Bossuet complains that her econ teacher keeps making passes and Enjolras and Combeferre are going to murder him if he keeps at it. Grantaire doesn't talk much, but it's a nice lunch, maybe more comfortable than she's had since she started at Musain.
“Again tomorrow?” Bahorel asks, and it's not that hard to nod. All she has to do is ignore the fact that they'll want to start sitting with Enjolras again eventually.
Courfeyrac pats the scarf she's wearing on her head. “I think I'm starting to kind of like it, but I'll fix it pretty soon. Nobody wants a beautician who can't tint her own hair.” She frowns. “I'm sorry to track you down, R, but I wanted to say hello, and I wanted to apologize.”
“Everyone is apologizing. It's fine.”
“I hated leaving things with you on a bad note, and I could just smack Enjolras for doing that. And Montparnasse, come to that.” Courfeyrac fidgets a little. “Can I hug you? It's what Mom always does when I'm—well, you look like you could use one.”
It seems silly to say no, when Courfeyrac looks so upset, so Grantaire nods and then she's enfolded in a strong, warm hug like she hasn't been in long enough that she can't remember exactly who it was that last hugged her. She holds on a little until Courfeyrac seems satisfied and pulls away, smiling again, tentatively. “Thanks,” says Grantaire. It seems like the thing to say.
“Cool, okay. Are you coming inside?”
Grantaire looks between Courfeyrac and the door. “Yes? I'm applying for a job.”
“Oh, I thought maybe … it's where a lot of the Amies hang after school, especially this time of year. Best place around with air conditioning.”
Mostly, Grantaire wants to turn around and walk in the opposite direction. She can file at her dad's office and hope that maybe one of the bosses will take pity and pay her for taking a memo once in a while, or she can beg at one of the other shops that isn't really hiring, though she may have to quit cheerleading for any of them. Courfeyrac looks so hopeful, though, and chances are Joly or Bossuet or Bahorel will be there, and Enjolras should know to leave her be by now. “I can only stop in for a few minutes, Dad's expecting me at home, but I can say hello.”
The Burger Palace isn't very busy on a sunny afternoon, so seeing the Amies is almost immediate. All of them are watching Enjolras with rapt attention while she slams her palm against the table, and Grantaire catches her saying “—just because of the crime of being a woman—and not even a white woman, for some of us, and if we can make people notice, that's the end of it.”
“Did you get started without me?” Courfeyrac calls from the door, leading Grantaire up to the counter. “Hold on, let me order and then you can start again, I don't want to miss this one, it sounds good.”
Combeferre, sitting to Enjolras's right, smiles at her brighter than Grantaire has seen her smile before. “It is good. One of the state reps—was it Tholomyès, Enjolras?” Enjolras nods. “Good, I thought so, he said women need to go back in the home, that there isn't a war on to necessitate them having jobs and he doesn't understand why they would want to be out anyway. We're going to ruin his life.” She looks past Courfeyrac and nods at Grantaire. “Grantaire, good to see you. Are you here to join us?”
“I'm here to apply for a job, but I told Courfeyrac I can stay for a few minutes.” She looks at Enjolras. “If you don't mind.”
Enjolras just watches her for long enough that she thinks whatever truce they had is over, and then she nods. “May as well.”
That's as much invitation as Grantaire needs or wants, so she nods and follows Courfeyrac up to the counter, where the bored-looking woman behind the counter asks her name and her phone number and tells her she'll call about the job without sounding very excited about it before taking Courfeyrac's order for a milkshake.
The table of Amies is still talking about the state rep, but Enjolras hasn't started speaking again. She's watching the rest of them instead, gaze resting on each of them in turn like she's taking notes on what they're saying and what they're not saying. Enjolras in the Burger Palace is a different creature to the one in school, and Grantaire tries to avoid being obvious about how much she's looking as she goes to sit down at the end of the table, Courfeyrac coming a minute later with a brilliantly pink milkshake. “Strawberry flavoring never really tastes like strawberries, but it's delicious, and it matches my hair,” she says, sitting down next to Grantaire and smiling up at the head of the table. “Okay, Enjolras, Combeferre, keep going, tell me how we're going to ruin his life.”
Enjolras smiles, satisfied. “My pleasure.”
Grantaire sits back and listens for the next ten minutes while Enjolras talks, with interjections from Combeferre with facts and from Courfeyrac when Enjolras gets too impassioned and stops talking about anything concrete. Grantaire watches everyone more than she listens to what Enjolras is saying, though she's guilty of watching Enjolras the most. At school, she's mostly silent and disgusted with everything around her except her friends. At the party, she was bored, there on sufferance. Here, Grantaire can see why her friends like her so much, why she's the leader of the Amies.
To her surprise, when Enjolras has finished talking about it and everyone else is talking about sending letters and getting the word out, Enjolras turns to face Grantaire and raises her eyebrows. “What did you think?”
Grantaire looks down at the table and keeps her voice quiet, because she doesn't want the whole table getting involved. “You probably don't want to know.”
“I do. If you're sitting here, your opinion matters.” Enjolras sounds like saying it leaves a bad taste in her mouth, which at least puts Grantaire on even ground. “So what do you think?”
“I think I remember when he got elected, his district was close to mine, and he won by a landslide. Everyone loved him. Loves him. No one's going to vote against him just because he's staying true to form.”
“They might not know,” says Courfeyrac, looking between the two of them, wary and ready to jump in at any moment. “R, do you want a sip of my milkshake?”
“No thanks.” She looks at the clock over the bar. “I should go home anyway. My dad's expecting dinner on the table when he gets home from work.”
There's a murmur of goodbyes around the table, Bahorel smiling warmly and Joly and Bossuet waving in unison. Courfeyrac doesn't look happy, but she doesn't move to stop her either. Instead, it's Enjolras who stands up, meeting her eyes. “I'll drive you, if you want. You can tell me what you think will work.”
Grantaire wants to say that he's the kind of man her father has dinner parties with, that they all look out for each other and she expects that they always will, that Tholomyès has just said what hundreds of politicians probably think every day, but she doesn't want the argument right now. She shakes her head instead. “Thanks, but it's not a very long walk back home. Right, Bahorel?”
“Right,” he says, though he sounds hesitant about it. “I was going to stay a little longer, but I can walk you if you want.”
“You're all still meeting, right?” Combeferre is the one to nod. “Then I'll just go home. I'll see you all at school. Courfeyrac, we'll talk soon.”
Enjolras is still watching her as she leaves, trying not to make it look like she's running, but she doesn't speak again and doesn't make a move to stop her, so Grantaire waves at everyone one last time and shuts the door behind her.
“What's a pretty girl like you sitting all by her lonesome on the bleachers for?”
Grantaire hasn't spoken to Montparnasse since Courfeyrac's party, hasn't even really seen him, but his voice is still familiar, and she turns her paper over before she looks up to find him on the grass in front of her, not wearing his leather jacket for once, just some kind of track suit. “What are you doing out on the field?”
“You didn't hear? I'm running for a letter this year. My old man said he'd buy me new wheels if I did, and I figure, senior year, time to make varsity.” Montparnasse grins at her, eyebrows up. “Drawing me?”
“No, and I wouldn't show you if I was. I'm still mad at you, I hear you had something to do with what Enjolras was saying the other night.” She puts her hands on her hips, because she can talk to Montparnasse, anyway, even if she can't always talk to the Amies. “What was that about, anyway? I could expect it from Enjolras, but you?”
Montparnasse doesn't seem ashamed, but that was one of the things she liked best about him over the summer, that he could say and do anything without being embarrassed or unhappy about it. “You're telling me you haven't been playing good little girl since you transferred here? You were a lot more fun before, R.”
“I'm keeping my head down till I can get out. You make your own life difficult, that's fine. I don't need a reputation, not with my dad watching like a hawk. I was lucky this summer.”
Floréal is coming out onto the grass, and she stops and waves when she sees Grantaire in the stands. She's far enough away that Grantaire can't see her frown, but she knows she is.
“Still boring,” says Montparnasse, but he sounds bored now, not like he's having fun.
Grantaire snaps her notebook shut. “I don't care if you find me boring or not, then, I guess. You and Enjolras, you can … you can be as cruel as you like, and I don't care. If you want to be friends again, do it different. I'm leaving in June, I'm not going to wait around for you to stop it.”
He laughs, but she doesn't want to listen to whatever he says next. She comes down the bleachers instead, and by the time she's done saying hello to Floréal and storing her notebook somewhere safe, he's gone.
She isn't having lunch with the Amies (mostly she's having it with the cheerleaders, who don't seem to know what to do with her, and sometimes with Joly and Bossuet and Bahorel, who never complain about avoiding Enjolras for a few lunches a week), but they're still at the Burger Palace most afternoons, and Grantaire serves them and talks to Courfeyrac, who's getting on a lot better in beauty school now that her hair isn't pink anymore.
Grantaire and Enjolras are at a stalemate. She doesn't talk to Enjolras and Enjolras doesn't talk to her, at meetings or at lunch or in French class.
When she goes on a break at the Palace, a notebook clutched in her hands, she isn't expecting to run into Enjolras smoking outside the back door. Judging by the look on Enjolras's face, she isn't expecting to run into Grantaire either.
“I'm just on break,” Grantaire says, but she refuses to turn and walk away. “Don't mind me.”
“I won't.” Enjolras must know how harsh that sounds, because she takes a drag from her cigarette and then, on the exhale, says “Sorry.”
Grantaire sits down, back to the building, and glances up at her. “No, you aren't.”
She can feel Enjolras looking at her, but she ignores it to flip to a blank page in her notebook and start drawing. It's a copy of a painting she remembers seeing in the Met this time, and it's not an exact copy but no one besides her will know that.
“You're an artist,” Enjolras says sometime after she's dropped the end of her cigarette and ground it beneath her shoe. For once, she sounds honestly interested. “I saw you drawing that time and thought it was for class, but you're doing it in your free time.”
Grantaire doesn't look up. “I like to draw, that's all. Doesn't matter.”
“Why doesn't it?”
“I'm not O'Keefe or Kahlo, what am I going to do, draw for a living?”
“Would you like to?”
Now Grantaire has to look up, and there Enjolras is, staring at her like Grantaire is suddenly a fascinating puzzle. Like this makes her interesting for the first time. Grantaire hates it. “Marilyn, you dream about being a president and a radio host and a mechanic. I just want to get back home. Probably I'll do the same thing there I'm doing here at the Burger Palace, and that's fine.”
“Home. New York? I think Courfeyrac mentioned.”
“Yes. Brooklyn.” She looks back at the sketch in her lap. “I'll get back there, do what it takes. The rest doesn't matter so much.”
“But you like it.” Like it's that simple.
“And I don't need to make a living off it. So I'll waitress, and I'll pay for a class sometimes when the rent doesn't clear me out, maybe.” She puts a few angry lines on the page. They're the wrong lines, but they're something. “The places, the people, those matter to me. I like drawing, but that doesn't matter as much.”
Enjolras is quiet for long enough that Grantaire finally looks up at her again. Enjolras isn't looking back, just staring out into the lot behind the Burger Palace, frowning like she's looking at something else. The White House, maybe, or some restaurant where Grantaire is fifty and waiting tables, listening to a DJ on the radio she knew once. “Why shouldn't you have it? All of it?”
Grantaire closes her sketchbook and stands up. “Because there's always going to be girls like you who look at me and see someone boring and I can't argue with all of them. My break's over.”
At least Enjolras doesn't try to say anything to that.
Grantaire, busy fixing her hair after practice, raises her eyebrows at Floréal. “The last party I went to went so well.”
“Don't be like that.” Floréal reaches over and smooths her hair down a little. “You can come with me and some of the girls, or you can go with a boy if you'd rather. It's not a Patron-Minette kind of event, it won't be like the party.”
“I'll talk to my father.”
Floréal is the only person she knows here who wouldn't make fun of her for that, at least a little, and she's grateful for it. “Do that.” Floréal eyes herself in the mirror, straightening her collar. “Bahorel asked me. Is that going to bother you?”
Grantaire turns away from the mirror to look at her, even though Floréal isn't looking back. “No. I like Bahorel, but that's it. He's never made a move, and even if he did, I wouldn't want to go steady.”
“And if he asked me, the Amies are probably fine with it.” Floréal grins at her own reflection and then turns away, grabbing Grantaire's arm and leading her out of the bathroom. “Well, then. I might have a date to the dance. We'll just have to find you one to convince you to go.”
“The only boys I know are Bahorel and Montparnasse.”
“You'd be pretty popular if you could talk Montparnasse into dancing.”
Grantaire shakes her head and laughs. “Don't start, I don't want to go out with Montparnasse any more than I do with Bahorel or any other boy in this school. If you want, I'll go with your friends, but that's enough for me.”
“We'll see. You're the new girl, I bet a few boys would be willing. If you're interested, you can just tell me, I can arrange it.”
Grantaire believes her. Floréal knows everything that happens at Musain High, and seems to arrange half of it. If Grantaire said she wanted to go to the dance with Montparnasse, he would be asking before the end of the week. “I'll think about it.”
“Good,” says Floréal. “Now, is your dad coming to get you, or do you want a ride home?”
“Try again,” Grantaire tells her drawing of Joly, which she's been working on since lunch.
Montparnasse, standing above her while she sits on a bench waiting for it to be time to go to the Burger Palace, sighs and sits down next to her, stealing her pencil while he goes. She shuts her sketchbook. “There's a big dance coming up on Friday, maybe you heard.”
Grantaire twists until she can look at him. “Really? We've known we aren't anything real since summer, you want to ask me to some dance? Especially after the last party we were both at.”
“Call it an apology. I like you, R. Maybe we're not steadies, but I know you're a good dancer, and there's even a competition. Maybe we'll win it.”
Grantaire wants to say no. She knows she'll go to the dance, because Floréal wants her to, but she'd rather spend the night with Floréal and Bahorel and Prouvaire, and whichever other Amies happen to show up. She doubts Enjolras will, but Enjolras has been steering clear of her since their last conversation, and Grantaire still isn't sitting with them at lunch. “You come to my house to get me and pretend like you're respectable for my dad, and if you get fresh you know what I can do to you.”
Montparnasse laughs. “Understood. Want me to carry your books to work?”
Grantaire stands up. “No. It's not a long walk, and you've probably got some greasy car to be under.”
He probably wants to say something about that, and maybe he would if his friends were around, but he leaves it and Grantaire gathers her things to start the walk to the Burger Palace. Her dad doesn't like the schedule, but she's starting to make a little money, tucking it away, and if she keeps working until graduation, she might just have enough.
The Amies are at the Burger Palace when she comes, and Grantaire gives them all a tight smile before she ducks behind the counter to put on her uniform and get to work.
Courfeyrac, of course, is her first customer. She's sporting a different look every week now, and this week she's as blonde as Enjolras, with her hair dressed up high. “Are you going to the dance on Friday? One of the boys I know invited me so I can be back with all my friends.”
Grantaire smiles at her. “I'll be happy to see you. I'm going, yes. Montparnasse asked me.”
Courfeyrac can't hide her shock, and it makes Grantaire wince. Nobody is going to like it much, and she's not sure it's smart, but it's done now. “Are you … I was going to ask if you wanted to get ready with the Amies. I could do your hair.”
“I wish you could, but I think Floréal claimed me first.” She looks past Courfeyrac to the table of Amies, who are all sinking into their serious conversations. They keep talking about Tholomyès, and meddling in state politics. “Did you want to order something?”
“Strawberry milkshake,” says Courfeyrac, still frowning. “Come sit with us on your break, if you want.”
“Thanks. Maybe I will. And if not, I'll see you on Friday at the dance. I bet you'll look nifty.”
“I always look nifty.” Courfeyrac sniffs the words out, but she looks worried the whole time she waits for her milkshake.
Grantaire mostly ignores both of them while her father postures and tells Montparnasse to have her back early, and while Montparnasse grins and looks just as charming as she knows he's capable of.
“I get the Gidget thing,” he says when they're finally in the car, her father watching from the doorstep.
“Does that mean you'll stop?”
Montparnasse laughs and hits the gas. “Not in a million years.”
The gym is already crowded when they get to the school. Grantaire catches sight of Floréal and Bahorel standing by the punch, Bahorel without his jacket for once, and Prouvaire is in the middle of the floor with a boy she doesn't know, twirling around in a bright yellow dress.
“Come on, Gidget, let's dance,” says Montparnasse almost as soon as they're inside, grabbing her hand. “Show them how it's done in New York City.”
Grantaire likes dancing. She especially likes it a lot more than trying to make conversation with classmates who still don't seem to know what to do with her, so she follows Montparnasse out onto the floor and picks up the rhythm, falling into sync with him and dancing two songs straight through before she admits she wants punch.
Enjolras is almost the first person Grantaire sees as she leaves the floor. She's wearing black, a skirt too tight to do much dancing in, and has her elbow firmly in the side of some boy Grantaire doesn't recognize, one who's sagging in a way Grantaire identifies as drunkenness. “Enjolras,” she says, polite as she can, because Montparnasse is slowing down. “I wasn't expecting to see you tonight.”
“Courfeyrac asked.” Enjolras shoots a frown to her side. “And provided me with the brother of one of the beauty school girls to bring me.”
“Seems like a charmer.” Grantaire looks from Montparnasse to Enjolras and then around at the crowd. It's rare she sees Enjolras without a crowd of Amies around her. Enjolras looks like she wants to be anywhere else, and Grantaire may not like her all that much, but she doesn't want her stuck alone with some boy she hardly knows, so she turns to the date and tucks her hair behind her ears. “Marilyn here doesn't like dancing. Want to do one while my date gets me some punch?”
Enjolras gives her a sharp look and Montparnasse laughs like it's shocked out of him, but the drunk date leers at her and moves from leaning all over Enjolras to come over to her, so Grantaire is calling it a triumph. “Sure, honey.”
It's not a good dance—Grantaire can't do much but try to twist away from his hands—but by the time it's over, Enjolras has disappeared across the room and Montparnasse has punch for them. “Nothing in this, right?” she asks when he hands over her cup and Enjolras's date stumbles off to look for her.
Montparnasse winks. “Not in yours, but just say the word and we can fix it.”
Grantaire knows her dad is going to be awake and waiting when she gets home. She shakes her head. “No, I'm happy with just the punch.” She sniffs it. Happy maybe isn't the right word, but she'll stick with it.
“Fine, fine, ruin my fun. I want to go talk to some of Patron-Minette. You with me?”
Grantaire shakes her head. “I'll find someone else, thanks.”
“Your loss.” Montparnasse struts off like he has all the time in the world, and Grantaire looks for a familiar face.
Floréal and Bahorel find her first, and Grantaire dances with Bahorel for a song after she finishes her punch and then finds herself with Joly and Bossuet, who are whispering over a letter from a friend of Joly's who's in college in Boston and who compliment her dancing and ask to learn a few moves.
The night goes a lot faster than she's expecting, and she's more glad than anything that she only sees Montparnasse a few more times and Enjolras hardly at all until she checks the clock and realizes she only has twenty minutes to get home for curfew.
“I need to go,” she tells Courfeyrac, who's sporting a hairdo worthy of Marie Antoinette, and looks around for Montparnasse. She finds him leaning against the wall with some of his friends, all of them looking a little worse for wear and none of them with a date anywhere near them. “We've got to go.”
Montparnasse laughs, and the way he sways when he stands up makes her wonder just how much punch he's had, and just how much booze he put in it. “I didn't think you were taking that seriously!”
Grantaire grits her teeth. “My dad takes it seriously, so I'm going to. Are we going?”
“Come on, R, another few songs. We can dance again!”
“It's a ten minute drive home, and we have to get all the way across the gym. We've got to go.”
He might say yes, or she hopes he would say yes, except one of his friends picks that moment to laugh. “Are you going to listen to Tammy, or are you going to stay here? Party hasn't even started yet.”
“Just hold on ten minutes, R,” Montparnasse says, and turns around to deliver some kind of argument to his friends.
Grantaire doesn't care. She doesn't want to listen. She walks away instead, skirts around the gym and goes out the doors. She'll be late if she walks, but her dad might be impressed that she left because Montparnasse was being an idiot, and the worst he'll do is watch her like a hawk and tell her maybe she should quit at the Burger Palace.
She stops in the parking lot, presses her palms to her face to hold back frustrated tears, and almost jumps out of her skin when Enjolras approaches from the side. “Don't start,” she says, and then she notices how Enjolras looks, steaming mad, hair in a mess, lipstick smudged. “Are you okay?”
“Just my date. He's recovering in the backseat of his car. Good thing we drove separate.” Enjolras straightens up as she speaks, goes back to being her usual self, except for the mess she's in. “What about you? Montparnasse get fresh?”
“He got drunk, and I'm going to be late for curfew even if I start walking right now. So excuse me, I'm going home. You can tease me about—”
“I wasn't teasing,” says Enjolras. “I'll drive you home. I was just waiting for everyone else to be ready to go, they'll wait if I'm not here while I get you home.”
Grantaire wants to say no, can't imagine what she and Enjolras will talk about in ten minutes, but maybe it will be okay. Enjolras owes her a little, for taking her date off her hands for a song, and Enjolras is the kind of person who remembers things like that, and pays attention to them. “Thanks.”
Enjolras's car is old and noisy, but she smiles to herself when she puts it in gear, and Grantaire can't blame her. If she had a car she'd fixed up to drive, she would be proud of it too.
“Left out of the school,” Grantaire says when they're backing out of the parking space, and Enjolras nods.
“You enjoy dancing,” says Enjolras after half the drive has been almost silent, interrupted only by Grantaire telling her where to turn.
Grantaire sighs and leans back against the seat. “What, that's boring too? Girls who dance aren't serious enough, they don't want—”
“No. No, it's … you looked happy, doing it. That's all I wanted to say. You concentrate when you're drawing, and you smile when you're dancing. Bossuet said you taught her a few moves and she didn't even step on her feet.”
Grantaire has no idea what to say to that. “Is this part of your quest to find me interesting again?”
They slow down a little, and Grantaire looks out the window because she doesn't want to know what Enjolras looks like right now. “I deserved that,” Enjolras finally says. “I'm glad you had fun, other than Montparnasse making trouble at the end.”
“I'm sorry you didn't. Your date got fresh?”
“And then some.” Enjolras sounds angry again. “I'm going to talk to Courfeyrac about it.” Grantaire glances over to find Enjolras looking back. “Speaking of Courfeyrac ...”
Grantaire looks back out the window. “I'm talking to her, you don't have to worry about that anymore.”
“No. I just wanted to make sure you knew, the Amies and some of our friends are meeting up at my house for a party next week. You're invited. For the evening or to stay the night, if you want, the Amies do that. Bahorel included. My parents don't care, but I thought you might want warning.”
“I don't mind Bahorel, as long as my dad doesn't know. But I'm not an Amie. Left at the sign, and I'm about halfway down the street.”
Enjolras doesn't seem to have anything to say to that, and the rest of the drive home is quiet, just the engine rumbling and Enjolras tapping her fingers on the steering wheel to make noise.
“This one, on the right,” says Grantaire, when they get there, and tries not to make her relief too obvious when Enjolras pulls over. “Thank you for the ride. It's not a bad walk, but dad will be counting every minute, and you got me here on time.”
“You're welcome.” Enjolras puts her hand on Grantaire's arm before Grantaire can open the car door. “I mean it. You're invited to the party, and to stay over, jacket or no jacket.”
“Thanks. I'll think about it.” She brushes off Enjolras's hand and turns to face her. “Sorry you had a bad night. I hope he wakes up with a headache.”
Enjolras actually smiles at that, and it's a little bitter, but it's a smile, so it's a surprise. “So do I.”
The porch light is on, and Grantaire only has two minutes to get through the door before her father comes out to see if she's necking with Montparnasse only to find her with Enjolras instead. “Thank you again. I owe you.”
“I owed you for saving me from Teddy. Don't worry about it.”
Grantaire nods, because there's nothing else she can think of to say, and gets out of the car.
Her father is waiting inside, and she tells him she caught a ride home with a friend because Montparnasse wanted to stay and pretends she doesn't see how relieved he is.
Combeferre is the one to answer the door, and she smiles when she sees Grantaire, with the overnight bag she debated back and forth about bringing for longer than she wants to admit. At least her dad said yes, when she said Enjolras is the one who drove her home from the dance. “Grantaire, hello, we were wondering if you were coming.”
“I figured it couldn't hurt.”
“Well, it's good you're here. Someone needs to get Bahorel away from the record player, he has terrible taste.”
Just like that, she's ushered down to the party. The basement is mostly bare, just a record player and not quite enough chairs to hold everyone and snacks and booze on a table in a corner. Grantaire drops her bag in what looks like a pile of others and gets herself a cup of wine just for something to do with her hands.
Most of the people there are the Amies, and most of Patron-Minette, Montparnasse included, but there are some she doesn't know either, doesn't recognize. There's a waitress who works days at the Burger Palace, and a few guys from the gas station she's seen going through with her father. Maybe former Amies or members of Patron-Minette, and all of them look up and then back at their conversations when Grantaire comes in, disinterested in her.
Courfeyrac beams when she sees her, though, and waves Grantaire over to where she's sitting on the floor with Joly and Prouvaire, the three of them laughing at something. Grantaire goes. Montparnasse is sitting on his own, but she doesn't really want to talk to him.
“Prouvaire is trying to convince me to join cheerleading,” says Joly. “I think she would convince Courfeyrac only beauty school doesn't have a squad.”
Cheerleading is easy to talk about. Grantaire is still awful at the pep part of it, and Floréal despairs of her, but she's good at the acrobatics and the rhythm of it, so she and Prouvaire talk about it until Feuilly comes over, and then they all talk about how good-looking the new biology teacher is.
It's Enjolras's party, but Enjolras isn't doing much, just standing in a corner, sometimes talking to someone who drifts by, frowning. She was quiet at school, too, in a distracted kind of way rather than the focused angry quiet Grantaire is used to, and when Prouvaire and Joly drift off, Grantaire leans forward, interrupting Courfeyrac starting to tell Feuilly about a new dye technique. “Is Enjolras okay? I thought she'd be having a better time, at her own party.”
Courfeyrac frowns. “I don't know. She won't say. She had to take the car to get gas yesterday afternoon and she's been upset ever since.”
“Don't ask me,” says Feuilly. “I thought she would cancel the party, but it seems to be okay.”
There's the faint sound of a bell, and Courfeyrac jumps to her feet. “My turn to get the door. I'll see you both in a few.”
Grantaire wants to ask a little more, especially because she can't be the only one who saw how tense Enjolras got when the bell rang, but she asks Feuilly about art class instead, since it's the only class they share and they don't sit together, so she doesn't know much about what Feuilly is doing.
When Courfeyrac gets downstairs, she looks upset, and there are three people following her, more of the crew Grantaire doesn't recognize but who everyone else seems to, calling out their names and starting to talk.
Courfeyrac goes over to Enjolras, though, and Grantaire tries not to make it too obvious she's staring while Courfeyrac puts her hand on Enjolras's arm, asks something quiet. Enjolras shrugs her off, and when Courfeyrac tries to say something else she shakes her head, says something angry, and walks over to find a different free section of wall.
Grantaire takes a sip of her wine and tries not to frown at how sour it is. She thinks she'd like being tipsy, if she could get over the taste. “Is there … is there something we should do? I don't know her well enough to know if she gets like this sometimes.”
“Not really.” Feuilly frowns. “But if she won't talk to Courfeyrac, I don't know who she'll talk to. There isn't anything we can do about it right now, though. Tell me what you think about the latest art assignment.”
Enjolras isn't her business, so Grantaire goes back to talking art class with Feuilly, and then the upcoming Homecoming game with Prouvaire and Montparnasse, who actually might earn his letter jacket, and wouldn't that be a trip.
People are talking, though. Grantaire isn't near the conversations, but there's whispering, and people look at Enjolras, and every time they do she gets a little more tense and her fingers twitch like maybe she wants to go for a cigarette.
“Come on, let's just ask her,” says one of the men she doesn't know, one of the ones Courfeyrac let in, and it's just loud enough that no one can pretend they didn't hear. “Is it true you're knocked up, Angel? Heard your date to the dance got you to—”
“You stop that right now,” says Combeferre, standing up from her conversation with Bossuet and a girl Grantaire doesn't know.
“It's fine.” That's Enjolras, pushing herself off the wall, and Grantaire is used to seeing her angry and frustrated, but this is worse. Enjolras is calm, all of a sudden, and she really shouldn't be. “Guess everyone's curious, right? Question is what business it is of yours.”
“We'd help you out,” someone says, and it takes Grantaire a second to realize it's Montparnasse, more serious than she's ever heard him. “If you were.”
Enjolras goes white, all at once, and Grantaire thinks of how her dad looked when he caught her climbing through the window of their Brooklyn apartment two hours past curfew and how two days later he said he had an office transfer. “Get out.”
“Did we touch a nerve, Angel? Come on.”
“I said out. Party is over, I want everyone out of my basement.”
Courfeyrac is the only person to move. “Enjolras ...”
“You can go upstairs. My Amies can, if you're staying the night. Everyone else get out of my house.”
Montparnasse is the first one to stand up, and he claps the one who keeps calling Enjolras “Angel” on the shoulder. “Come on, you can see what we've been doing with my ride this year. Way more fun than this party.”
It isn't immediate, but everyone seems to realize Enjolras is serious, from the way she's standing there with her fists clenched, just waiting for someone to say something. Bahorel gets up and starts ushering people away, saying it's fine, they can all meet up again some other time, and the rest of the Amies all get on their feet, grabbing overnight bags and encouraging other guests in front of them.
Grantaire stays mostly because she has no idea what she's supposed to do, if she's supposed to go home or go upstairs, and she's the last person down there by accident when Enjolras lets out a shrill, frustrated noise and picks up a pillow and throws it at the wall so hard dust comes out.
“Should I go?” she asks, and Enjolras spins around. She puts her hands in the air.
“Gidget. Here to sympathize and pity me and tell me I should really be careful?”
“Your friends—the Amies. They're just worried. And it's none of anyone else's business.”
Enjolras snorts and starts cleaning up snacks, back turned to Grantaire again. “So why are you down here making it yours? Just because I've got a reputation for being fast, everyone jumps to the conclusion. Stupid Angel, she thought maybe the Amies could be more than a crop of girls the auto shop boys could pick between, thought maybe she could get out of this town and make a difference, but she should know better, she should know she'll just end up pregnant and stuck here like some sort of—”
“I know you aren't pregnant, at least not by him,” Grantaire says, too loud. “It was only a week ago, you wouldn't know, and anyway, you wouldn't have done it with him. You took me home.”
“Not by him. But maybe someone else? You just … I don't know how you play it so safe, you don't make trouble, you wear your skirts and you smile at the Burger Palace, and you stand there and you say nothing I'm working for will happen when nothing you do right now matters. There's worse things I could do than have sex with some boy, but nobody believes it, even if we pretend we're so progressive, with our cars and our music.”
Enjolras isn't done. “And I'd rather be me than you, when all's said and done, rumors and no rumors. At least I'm living, and you're stuck in your ivory tower, asking your father for permission to do everything, and you'll keep on living like this, and that's the saddest thing I can think of doing.”
“I'm not a virgin,” Grantaire says, and it's the first thing she's said that snaps Enjolras out of her anger. She even turns around. Grantaire doesn't know what to say next, but she keeps going anyway. She's stuck in this conversation now. “You keep talking like I am, like I don't understand it, but I do. I'm doing what I have to do till I can get out. Call it sad, but it's what I'm doing.”
Enjolras's eyes are bright, and after a second, she turns back to the table of snacks and dashes at her eyes. Grantaire pretends she doesn't see it. “I don't know how you can. Don't you want to scream?”
“Mostly only around you.” Grantaire dares a step forward. “I don't think you're pregnant, Marilyn. Probably none of the Amies do, at least seriously. You want to get out of here too bad. And I know how boys talk, he probably just said you'd done it because you left him in his car and he couldn't admit it.”
“They always do.” Enjolras turns around again. Her face is blotchy, and Grantaire would offer her a handkerchief if she thought she wouldn't get laughed out of the room for it. “Thanks. I shouldn't have yelled.”
Grantaire shrugs. “I would yell too.” She looks at her bag, the only one left in the corner. “I should go. It's still early enough I can just say I didn't feel like staying the night.”
Enjolras looks startled. “I didn't ask you to leave. You're invited to stay the night, so you can stay. If you want to, after I … I was cruel. If you don't want to stay, you don't need to.”
“If you're sure. And if you don't think I'll get in the way. Your friends are worried.”
“Stay.” Enjolras clears her throat. “I want you to.”
“So I'll stay.” Grantaire walks over to her bag and picks it up. “Maybe we can go upstairs and tell everyone you're okay and not pregnant, and they'll help you clean up and we can eat some more of the snacks, because they're good.”
“We can … okay. We'll do that,” says Enjolras, and starts up the stairs.
Grantaire keeps quiet for the rest of the night, once they're all upstairs and Enjolras has been fussed over. Courfeyrac does Enjolras's hair and Bahorel makes everyone laugh. Grantaire mostly thinks about Enjolras standing there trying not to cry over people thinking she sleeps around when Grantaire is willing to bet she's hardly been with anyone at all, and how stupid it is that nobody thinks that about Grantaire when she has. Enjolras is a lot braver than she is, definitely, and Grantaire isn't ready to be like her, or even to believe half of what comes into her mouth, but she could stand to at least try to be braver.
Grantaire can't blame Floréal for asking. Everyone's been wondering, exchanging whispers, and Grantaire joined the Amies to close ranks at lunch, making sure no one not wearing a pink jacket talked to her. They know it doesn't stop the gossip, but Enjolras actually smiled at them at the end of lunch, so it helped, anyway. “No.”
“Okay.” Grantaire blinks and looks up at her. “What, you thought I wouldn't believe you? If you say Enjolras isn't pregnant, Enjolras isn't pregnant. I'll pass the word around.”
Floréal leans into her shoulder. “You were there when the rumor started, right? You could tell me about it.”
“Not much. Prouvaire or Bahorel could tell you more.”
“You're acting funny today. Did something happen at the party?”
“Besides that? Not really.” Grantaire shrugs and leans into Floréal as well. “I talked with Enjolras a little, after she got mad at everyone. That's really all.”
“If you're sure.” Floréal stands up and shakes her skirt a little so the pleats fall right. “I'll get you home. You've got to have some kind of gossip from the party, everyone's talking about it.”
“Honestly, it didn't last that long.” Grantaire picks up her sketchbook with the rest of the books. She's been trying to draw Enjolras again. It's going a little better—she doesn't look like Monroe, anyway. Enjolras would probably appreciate that. Grantaire isn't planning to show her. “She threw everyone out less than an hour after I got there.”
“Tell me about that. I only saw Enjolras that mad once, we were sophomores and some senior with a letter jacket thought she was free for the taking.” Floréal grins and starts walking, expecting Grantaire to fall into step with her. Grantaire does. “She broke his wrist and got suspended for two weeks. That's when the Amies got their eyes on her.”
“It's hard to imagine Enjolras not being an Amie,” Grantaire admits. “She probably wouldn't say it, but she's the leader. Everyone keeps saying that they weren't always like this, but it's even harder to imagine that.”
Floréal walks a few more steps. “Enjolras never really wanted to be an Amie, I don't think. Not seriously, anyway. Well, we all did, all do, sometimes. They get away with things we can't. Most of us just decide the reputation that comes with isn't worth it.”
“But Enjolras and her friends did?”
“I don't know, I wasn't really friends with them even then. I guess they decided it was worth the reputations to get a little more freedom. I honestly didn't think Joly or Prouvaire would take the jackets, but they did.” A few more steps. They're almost to Floréal's car. “Are you planning to?”
“I don't know. Are they going to offer Gidget a jacket?”
“So don't be Gidget. Not that I think you are anyway.” Floréal stops next to her car and finally turns to face Grantaire, frowning while she does. “Look at them, Grantaire. All of them. Courfeyrac does hair and pierces ears for fun, Prouvaire joined cheerleading, Combeferre is the best student in this school. Do you think they'd care?”
“Get in the car.” Grantaire opens the passenger door and slides into the seat before Floréal speaks again. “I don't know what Enjolras's problem with you is, but she's not the only Amie. Ask her if you care what she thinks, or just wait until Courfeyrac offers you a jacket. You know she's going to.”
“Would you take it?”
Floréal starts the car. “I'm not you, Grantaire. Now, I wanted to talk to you about the routine we were learning today, and see if I can make you actually smile to prove to myself that you could do it on the field if you really tried.”
Grantaire smiles on reflex, since Floréal is trying, and avoids thinking about Enjolras as much as she can for the rest of the day.
“If you're here to glare at me, I'd just like to point out that I was out here first today.”
“I'm not here for a cigarette. Or to glare.” To Grantaire's surprise, Enjolras crouches down next to her, peering at Grantaire's sketchbook and then making an interested noise. “That's Combeferre. She looks lovely. Have you shown it to her?”
“No.” Grantaire flips the sketchbook shut. She's lucky she gave up on drawing Enjolras for the moment a few pages back. “It's not good enough, it's just a doodle. What are you here for, then?”
Enjolras is quiet for a few seconds while she frowns. It's not an angry frown, more the one she does in the Burger Palace while she's talking politics and one of her friends brings up a point she hasn't considered. “To thank you. Or apologize. I'm not sure which.”
“You really don't need to. Either one.”
“You said that the last time I tried to apologize, but we both know you were lying.”
Grantaire leans back against the cool concrete of the building. “Well, last time I was mad at you. This time I'm not. I would have yelled too, if people were saying that about me.”
“You didn't yell when I was talking about you. When you should have, maybe.”
“Wouldn't have done me any good, Marilyn.”
Enjolras makes a frustrated noise and messes up her hair running her fingers through it. “It would have. I was terrible to you, and I don't have an excuse. It just seemed so easy for you to be what everyone wants us to be—”
“I'm not what everyone wants us to be,” Grantaire says, annoyed now. “Nowhere close. Floréal is, maybe Courfeyrac or Prouvaire or Joly, but I'm not. I'm plain and I'm boring, you've said so yourself enough times.”
“I'm sorry for that.” Enjolras moves from her crouch to actually sit down. “I never said you were plain, but … I know you're not everything they want us to be. But you seemed like it, for a while, and I get so angry at what people expect from me.”
“Believe me, I know.” Grantaire shifts until she can face Enjolras. She doesn't really want to, but the conversation seems to call for it. “I don't understand you any more than you understand me. Most people, we just pretend as much as we can until we have the option of going where we want to be, but you don't do it.”
“I would say 'why should I,' but I know why I should. I just can't do it. I wouldn't want to if I could, but I've never been able to do it.”
Grantaire can't imagine being Enjolras. It would exhaust her, the weight of everyone else's attention and opinions. Then again, she's got those anyway. Musain isn't a big school. “Sometimes I'm jealous of that. Mostly when you're insulting me. Usually, I'd rather just keep my head down until I can leave.” Her father has started asking about college or vocational school lately, and she's going to have to do something about that soon. She'd like to be Enjolras for that, with some of her fire. “Maybe it's not brave, but it's what I do.”
Enjolras doesn't have anything to say to that for a while, long enough that Grantaire starts to wonder if she should go back to work. “You're brave,” she finally says, and that's nothing that Grantaire was ever expecting Enjolras to say to her. “It's just a different kind of it. You know how to do what you need to to get out, and I know how not to. Maybe we would both be better off if we could swap some.”
“I don't really think we can.”
“I suppose not.” Enjolras shifts, looking at Grantaire and then away again, quickly. “I did want to thank you for the other night. You helped, and I haven't been that nice to you.”
“You gave me a ride home from the dance.” Grantaire shrugs. “We're even.”
Enjolras doesn't like that, judging from the sudden frown. “Please let me thank you.”
“Fine. You're welcome.” She looks at her lap. “Is that good enough? You shouldn't feel guilty, or anything like that. You needed someone there, and you weren't going to let your friends help, so I stepped in. I'm just glad it helped.”
“I don't understand you,” Enjolras says, quieter than she's ever said it before, and then Enjolras's hand is on her chin, tilting her head until they're facing each other again, and Enjolras is close, close enough Grantaire can see the way her lipstick is smudged a little from drinking her milkshake, and then Enjolras kisses her.
Grantaire has kissed boys before—a few back in Brooklyn, Montparnasse here. Sometimes it's polite and sometimes it's a lot more than that. Their lips are usually rough, and sometimes it's too wet, like they've been drooling to get past holding her hand. Enjolras is different. She may be harsh, but her mouth is soft, and there's almost no pressure at all. Grantaire can hear her breath shaking out of her mouth when she pulls away, just a second later, while Grantaire is still too surprised to know what to think.
The door outside opens then, and Grantaire almost tips over with how fast she moves away from Enjolras.
“Break's over, Grantaire,” says the manager, a motherly woman who has far more patience than she should with the amount of teenagers in her diner. “Coming in?”
“Of course.” Grantaire jumps up and dumps her sketchbook in her lap. Enjolras is the one to hand it up to her, looking as wide-eyed and surprised as Grantaire feels, which isn't fair, since Enjolras was the one who kissed her in the first place. “Sorry, got distracted talking to Enjolras.”
She just smiles. “I figured, everyone's late from break sometimes. Come on, then. There's a table that needs a check, and the early diners will be here soon.”
Grantaire only takes one more look at Enjolras before she goes inside. She's sitting against the building, staring up at Grantaire wild-eyed, and her lipstick is just smudged enough that Grantaire wipes her hand across her mouth before she opens the door.
Grantaire has been waiting for something like this all day. Enjolras didn't mention it at school, even though they sat at the same lunch table, and no one else seems to know, or at least they're doing a good job of pretending they don't. If anyone knows, Courfeyrac might. “Sure. My dad won't be home for a few more hours, I just might have to start cooking if you stay for too long.”
“I have to be home for dinner too.” Courfeyrac steps around her and Grantaire shuts the door. “But I brought you something. Everyone decided you should have it.”
A jacket. It can't be anything else, and she doesn't know how they're passed on, but she's willing to bet this is hers. “Come into the kitchen, it's the closest place with chairs.” And the neatest room in the house. She and her dad don't tend to sit in the living room, so she lets it get dusty sometimes.
Courfeyrac follows her down the hall and sits down at the table when Grantaire shows her into the kitchen and goes to the fridge to get them both some soda. “You know what this is,” she says when Grantaire sits down. “And like I said, everyone decided you should have it, especially after Enjolras's party. We've been waiting for it to be finished and I said I would be the one to give it to you because you wouldn't want any fuss.”
Everyone, of course, means Enjolras said yes too. Grantaire doesn't know what she's supposed to say to that. Did Enjolras want to kiss her then too, or was that a split-second decision yesterday? Does she want to kiss her again? “Thank you.” Courfeyrac pushes the package across the table and opens it up. There it is, the jacket in perfect pink, the scrawling cursive Amies across the back of it. Hers, better than some boys letter jacket could ever be. She swallows. “Really, thank you.”
“So? Try it on!”
Grantaire stands up and takes off her cardigan before she puts the jacket on, straightening it until it sits right on her shoulders. “What do you think?”
Courfeyrac beams. “Take me to a mirror, we'll see.”
That's not an answer, but Grantaire leads the way to the bathroom and stands back far enough that she can see more of herself in the mirror on the medicine cabinet. She mostly just looks like herself, wearing an Amies jacket, still plain Grantaire with her plain hairdo and her stud earrings she hasn't traded out yet and her white blouse and her navy skirt. It might be her imagination, but she looks a little more resolute, like she made a decision just putting the jacket on. Maybe she did.
She meets her own eyes in the mirror. “Courfeyrac,” she says, thinking it through while she says it, “would you like to do my hair?”
Enjolras is at the end of the table, quieter than everyone else, and Grantaire looks over at her when everyone else has settled down. “What do you think, Marilyn? A little less Gidget?”
“You were accepted into the Amies on your own merits.” Enjolras is frowning, but not like Grantaire said something wrong. She's thinking again. “Come on, sit down.”
To Grantaire's surprise, Enjolras moves down on the bench and lets Grantaire have her space on the end, so they're sitting pressed up against each other at the table while the conversation starts again, back to normal now that they aren't making a fuss. Grantaire makes sure to keep it to a whisper when she talks. Feuilly is across the table, and she's not paying attention. “You don't like it? I thought you'd be glad I'm a little less square now.”
“Doesn't matter to me. I thought I made it clear the other day.” Enjolras fumbles under the table until she can grab Grantaire's hand and squeeze it tight. Grantaire squeezes back, so hard it must make her knuckles white. She doesn't know what this is, if they're going to be steadies or whatever they can be, but she knows she made her mind up about a lot more than a jacket yesterday, and it seems like Enjolras feels the same. “You're the one that I want.”
If anyone else at the table notices that both of them eat their whole meals with one hand, they don't mention it.