I know that this is probably the wrong thing to think, but Ariel held a special place in my heart for such a long period of time. It just might push me over the edge if her and John started going steady. Particularly considering that he would lie to her to get what he wants, as he previously has done. These poisonous thoughts were haunting me, forcing me to succumb to my baser nature.
“Yeah, I don’t know if I’m comfortable with you dating her yet, honestly. Nothing against you man, I just…”
“I get it,” John mumbled, clearly a bit disappointed. I suppose this was suppose to be a lay up for support and I instead came across as someone who would be against them. I was unsure if my haste got the better of me, but John left without another word.
The only thing I could think to do was go to Ariel. It wasn’t romantic, I had already made my choice clear. She just was the first person I could think to go to with something like this. I told her that someone was interested in her and asked me for my blessing. I knew she was quick witted, but it surprised me how fast she caught on that it was John.
“So it would honestly bother you that much if we got together?” She questioned.
“I mean, we were a couple for awhile. I know it’s being very selfish considering I already moved on. But this is John. He’s my best friend, you know?”
Ariel looked suspiciously intrigued. I can see how this might translate for a high school girl, so I knew that I had to quickly clear the air before things progressed.
“If I’m not mistaken, Erich, I think you still have something for me,” she said with a grin. I was backed into a corner with my actions and couldn’t actively determine what exactly I was trying to accomplish.
What I did know was that I had to go see Lisa before things got too complicated. I stood and went to leave when she caught me by the arm. Things were only going to get much harder to face if I stayed and attempted to explain to her, so I placed my hand on her arm and she knew that I was not prepared to stay.
“Erich,” she whispered, “I will never tempt you to be unfaithful. Just consider what we could become before you go through your high school years again.”
The only way to respond was to sigh and leave. Anything else would be leading her on.
As I saw Lisa that day, I figured to avoid a lot of the drama coming back to bite me, I should be upfront with her about what’s going on. I can only imagine the fallout of she heard this from John or Ariel. As we sat down in her room as we usually did, I told her about what John asked and what I said. I then explained my interacting with Ariel, which seemed to shock Lisa.
“I mean, you can’t be trying to pull anything on me, I suppose,” she said, looking a bit relieved. “I mean, you wouldn’t be here telling me about it.”
A bit of relief washed over me. I know that I should be acting older, but honestly having this much drama in my life was never something I experienced.
“I’m not that clever,” I said, chuckling as I leaned on her. “I just don’t know how I’d feel about John dating her after what happened. I mean, it’s not like he has done anything in this time line.”
“Whatever you need, I’ll understand. Just please be honest with me and we’ll figure it out together.”
“You know why I’m so into you, Erich?”
“Why is that?”
“You’re like dating a mature older guy without the baggage from society. I feel like you’re so interesting on a level that high school kids just aren’t experienced enough to understand.”
I felt myself floating on a cloud. In my years of struggling through college I had never really found someone who appreciated me for the person I had become. Back in high school I was a bit immature, as most people are. Without putting much thought into things, I grabbed her hand and smiled.
“Is this the part where I tell you that you’re more interesting that the college girls I dated?” Lisa blushed, clearly being blind sided by my quip.
“You have dating experience in college?”
“Ouch. Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“No, I just- it’s a bit jarring to hear about is all. I don’t know how something like this could compare.”
“I don’t compare. Sometimes you have to take things one step at a time and see where they go. Now come on, your code has so many bugs I’m beginning to think you’re purposely writing them in there.”
The night flew by as we cuddled by the computer. I’ve never considered myself a teacher, but when you have someone as interested and willing to work as Lisa, it’s not difficult to become one. All I know is that this was going to be something she excelled in for a long time.
Upon arriving at school the next day, I could sense something was off. John wasn’t at his locker as he usually was before classes. It was something normally I’d assume was him avoiding me for everything that had happened the last few days, but this felt different. Almost as if he wanted me to notice his absence and actively seek to make things right. I decided to not let things linger, so I went off to find him.
Soon after I set out, I found him. He was quite close to Ariel as the held hands by her locker. I quickly hid in order to make sure I wasn’t seen. It was a bit foolish of me to actually believe that I had any say in whether or not they got together.
Ariel was being overly affectionate to him, as if she knew I would be watching. Her eyes cleverly scanned the halls and once they weren’t able to find me, she put some distance between the two of them. If I were a younger, more vain man I’d assume she was simply using my friend in order to drive a wedge into my side about things. She was well aware about my feelings involving John, so if she could use that she would. That said, I wanted to believe that Ariel found genuine happiness with him, despite how I feel. I know John was hurting, so in some way I was glad.
After awhile, I left for class. I made it seem like I was simply turning the corner, missing seeing them by a few feet. Ariel must have spotted me because she started laughing quite loudly. I didn’t play along, I just left. This was a game of cat and mouse, and I couldn’t get caught up in it.
Lisa and I ate our lunch together that day. Ariel and John were sitting at a table she knew I’d be facing.
“I think John and Ariel are dating,” I finally said to Lisa.
“Is that something that bothers you?”
“To be honest, not as much as I thought it would. But I get a slight suspicion that Ariel is trying to use John to get me riled up. I did tell her that I was uncomfortable with John dating her, so she might use that against me.”
“Please, Erich. You sound paranoid. Especially for someone as old as you.” I chuckled. In some way I suppose I wanted my fantasies to be real. It gave me a feeling of being desired which was never a bad thing.
“Alright, that’s fair. I’ll just go with the flow.”
“Good. Now stop being so glum, it makes your eyes look droopy.”
Soon enough, John was walking to his late class without Ariel. I decided to try and talk to him and clear the air.
“How’s it going, Erich.”
“I just wanted to say that I’m sorry if I came across to you as selfish. I feel happy that you guys are dating.” John’s eyes lit up at that statement, as if this was something he was waiting for. Yet I could sense a bitter tone in his expressions.
“Don’t mention it, man. I’m just glad you came to me about this.”
Something was off about him, but I couldn’t exactly place my finger on it. He sped off before I noticed a note was dropped from his pocket. I opened it and it had a time and place. This had something fishy about it, so I decided to pocket it and tell Lisa.
Later that night, we showed up at the spot but hid in the bushes. It honestly felt like something exciting since we were trying to solve a mystery by using hidden surveillance. Granted, there was also the aura of stalking thick in the air. My curiosity pushed that way down. Lisa was very thankful I included her instead of coming alone. I knew she would be worried about me, so I wanted to keep her involved.
After awhile, a figure appeared. She was clearly wearing seductive clothing and there wasn’t much to be left to the imagination. After a moment of looking, it was Ariel. John was no where to be seen.
She paced a moment, clearly anxious about the nature of the meeting. Lisa gave me a stern look, as if this was somehow my doing. I shrugged in a way that might convey my own surprise at this clear turn of events. I knew that the note could have been dropped without John knowing, but then why wouldn’t he ask her about it later?
I turned to Lisa and said to stay and watch. This had to be something I did alone. She agreed but told me to watch where my eyes were going. Such an innocent request. I kissed her in compliance before leaving my spot and revealing my presence.
She turned with a knowing smirk, but attempted to feign surprise. As she approached, it became clear that the answers I was seeking would be revealed tonight.