Chapter 56: Rika’s Interlude (Part 2)
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“Let me help you with that,” Nora said, grabbing the other end of the folding table. 

I nodded my thanks to her, and together the two of us maneuvered it to rest against the wall. She wiped the sweat from her forehead, some of the shimmering drops falling to the carpeted floor. Her stamina was impressive, considering the size of the venue the school had rented out and how she had been moving around numerous tables and the like for the past hour. It was a good thing she had offered her help last weekend because it wasn’t an exaggeration to say that without her we certainly wouldn’t have finished setting up in time for the dance tonight. 

Glancing to the side, I could see Chloe still hard at work setting up the streamers with the rest of the student council. I owed a lot to her too since she had taken it upon herself to make sure that the venue got decorated. And that was difficult enough considering the rest of them, bar Marcus, proved to be incompetent with any kind of decorating. Thankfully, the two of them were working together and the decorations adorning the dining room and dance floor were coming together. 

“That should do it for the tables. Thanks for your help.”

“Hey, no sweat.” Nora grinned, smacking a hand against her flexed bicep. “I told you last weekend I’d help you set up the venue too.”

“You did, but your phone call was a little out of the blue.”

“Well, I had just gotten off the phone with him and he was all upset about you giving him the cold shoulder, so I kind of figured it was a two birds one stone kind of deal, you know? I’d help you out, and you’d be freed up to get back on speaking terms.”

I did understand where she was coming from. She was looking out for her ‘boyfriend,’ something I could respect. And, to be fair, it wasn’t like I had wanted to ignore him in the first place. I did because it was easier than admitting the truth. It wasn’t fair to him that I ruined chance after chance. The mall, the fair, our secret meeting, the fireworks show, the courtyard, Valentine’s Day, every single opportunity slipped through my fingers and each passing day made it more difficult to bring up. Had I been braver and told him the truth, he may have found it in himself to forgive me. We might have even ended up going out if that happened. 

But now… I was glad we were talking again, yet the more selfish part of me wished I had kept avoiding him until the distance between us became insurmountable. I’d rather that than him wind up hating me. 

“We’re going on a date tomorrow. I’m going to confess to him again and ask him to go out with me for real.”

My heart skipped a beat. “That’s exciting. I’m happy for you.”

A frown marred her features, before she forced her face into a more neutral expression. “You’re not, but I appreciate you trying. Anyway, I’m not telling you to brag. I’m telling you because I owe you one for what you did for me on Valentine’s Day.” Nora sighed, placing her arms behind her head. “If you’ve got something to tell him, make sure you tell him at the dance tonight.”

“I’ll consider it.”

“Can’t ask for more than that. Seriously though, why did you give me your chocolate on Valentine’s Day? I thought I was screwed because I messed my batch up, but you totally saved my ass.”

There was nothing I could do except shrug my shoulders and feel silly for having about as much of an idea as she did. It was likely a mix of ego and fairness all rolled into one. I didn’t want her confession to go awry because she was thrown off from not having the chocolate she had been working on for weeks; I also had no doubts that he would come to me first and reciprocate my feelings even after I told him what I’d done. 

“Well, it doesn’t matter,” Nora said. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

What else could I say without sounding like a grade-A bitch? I hated how everything turned out, and if I could do it all over again I wouldn’t help you? That really was pushing the limits of ugly jealousy. 

I think she realized that about me too. 

“I’m off. See you tonight.”

I waved goodbye to her as Chloe walked up beside me. She glanced between the two of us before settling on leveling her gaze at me. “What were you talking about?”

“Eh, Nora was just giving me some friendly advice.”

“It didn’t look all that friendly from our perspective.” She motioned over her shoulder to the student council who had decided to take a break now that all the streamers were hung up. “It looked strained.”

I gasped, grabbing her around the shoulder and spinning her around. “I can’t believe you’d accuse me of lying. My best friend turning her back on me? For shame.”

“You’re so dramatic all the time.” Chloe brushed off the shoulder where I had grabbed her, which I wasn’t sure if I should take offense to or not. “What’s next on the agenda?”

“There’s not much left now. We’ll have to set up the tables, and put out the food when it gets here. That won’t be until later, though.”

“That’s a relief. I’m going to go rest in the dining area for a little bit.”

“You’re really not going?”

Chloe went rigid like a stop-motion doll. “I’m not.”

“Because of–”

“Amelia and Ethan have nothing to do with it. I already knew from the start this was how it was going to end.”

“They’re not dating. They’re just going to the dance together.”

She seemed to consider that. “They will. It’s clear from how he looks at her when he thinks nobody else is watching. I think he’s always liked her and just couldn’t admit it because of what he went through.”

That was callous if she wasn’t mistaken. All Ethan ended up doing by not telling her that he liked her was hurting Amelia and everybody else who had a crush on him. Although I had no place to comment on that since it would make me a hypocrite. I guess me and Ethan were the same in that regard.

“But Chloe…”

“It’s fine. Even though it didn’t go my way, I tried my best, so I have nothing to regret.”

“Alright, then I’ll come over to your place tonight. We’ll hang out and do whatever two single ladies do on a Saturday night. Probably binge on ice cream and watch soap operas or something.”

Peals of laughter burst forth from her, a stark contrast to her glassy eyes. “You really are dramatic, but you can’t. You spent so much time setting this all up. You can’t miss it. Besides, you’ve got something important to do here.”

What did she know? Studying her impassive face revealed nothing, and despite being my best friend, Chloe was often a mystery to me. Was she talking about the same thing Nora had been harping on? Whatever those two had gotten into their heads was out of the question. I had multiple shots, and I squandered them. There wasn’t anything left for me to do. 

My best friend disagreed. “He needs to know. Don’t let somebody else let it slip, or he’ll never trust you again. Tell him by the end of the night.”

I whimpered. “I can’t. The timing isn't right.”

She shrugged, her braids swaying side from side. “There’s never going to be a good time, Rika. You need to tell him. Afterward, you can blame me, hate me even, if you want to. And then, when you’re done with all that, come over and we’ll binge on ice cream and soap operas.”