No Jokes

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Weeks pass in quick succession,
fast and slow and
altogether too overwhelmingly
for me to keep up with.
They're weeks spent in
nearly the same way as
the first part of
the school year -
me and Nat and Seth,
just the three of us,
as it's always been.

But something crucial
has started to leave
our little group, I think.
My best friend
and boyfriend are
getting along worse
and worse as
time progresses on,
to the point where Natalia
wouldn't even speak to Seth
one day for what seemed
to be no reason at all.
Seth keeps suggesting that
he and I go off
and do our own thing
without her, and
not wanting to upset
the fragile balance of
our three-way friendship
any more than it
already has been,
I let him drag me off
to do whatever without her
more times than not.

Natalia has stopped
texting me as often now,
and sometimes won't even
look me in the eye
when she does talk to me.
She and Seth are
skittish around each other,
as if they're skirting an issue
that had come up before,
and could very well
come back up again.
I don't understand
what's going on
any more, but it's
more than a little sad
what we've come to
in such a short time.
Sure, Nat and Seth have
never been the closest,
but even this is
unexpected and out
of the ordinary.

I can't believe that
nothing is wrong, no matter
how often they tell me
that same lie, over and over.
It's just not possible -
there has to be
something they're
not telling me.

My whole family has
heard that I'm dating Seth now,
no doubt thanks to
Eunice and her inability
to keep her mouth shut.
My parents were a little
wary at first, but
after being reminded that
Eunice started dating when
she was younger than me,
and that I probably don't
have such a bad judge
of character as she does,
they dropped the issue.
My dad still gives me
weird looks when I
bring Seth up in
conversation, though.

It's not until
sometime in March that
Mom decides that she
needs to meet my
‘mystery man,’ as
she's taken to calling him
for whatever reason.
“No daughter of mine
is going to date a boy
I don't have a chance
to approve of,”
she tells me one night
as we're making dinner.
“Tell him to come over
for supper tomorrow night.”

So that's how it happens that
Seth knocks on our door
one March evening, wrapped
in a coat and blanketed in
an expression of worry.
'What do I do?’
he mouths at me
as he unlaced his sneakers
and hangs his coat on
the hallway coat rack.
When I frown at him,
he elaborates aloud,
“To get them
to like me, I mean.
I don't want to make
a bad first impression.”

“Just be yourself,”
I tell him as we
make our way into
the living room.
“They're not that bad -
they just want to
make sure you're not
some kind of druggie
or weirdo or whatever.
You know,
like Tyler.”

Seth covers his mouth
dramatically with a hand,
as if he's offended.
“How dare they compare
me to Tyler the pothead?
You did tell them that
it was Natalia who
dated him, and not you,
didn't you?”

It's the first time
he's mentioned Natalia
in such a teasing way in
quite a while, even if
it was only in passing.
I manage a small laugh,
but I'm too caught off guard
for anything more.
I guess he misconstrues
my reaction, because he
reaches down to
squeeze my hand
after a moment.
“Don't worry,”
he tries to assure me,
“I'm nervous, too.”

Unlike Seth, I've been
nervous for weeks now -
but I don't say anything
to him about that.
With a small nod,
I lead him on towards
the dining room, where the
rest of my family is
getting ready to start dinner.

It doesn't go
too badly at first.
After introductions, Mom
dishes out food for everyone
and Seth has the grace to
compliment her cooking,
which makes her happy.
He and Dad get into a
conversation about soccer,
which I hadn't even known
my dad was a fan of,
and Thias joins in
before long, looking
almost reluctant.

Only Euni doesn't seem
very swayed by my
boyfriend's nice behavior.
Her eyes are narrowed
nearly the whole time;
it reminds me of when
she tried to warn me
off Seth back in January,
the weird expression she'd
had when talking about it.
He tries to talk to her
at one point, probably
just trying to be polite
since I know he doesn't
like her at all -
but she just shrugs
and pokes at her food
with a disinterested air.
He doesn't try again
after that.

Later in the evening,
after he's gone, I
pull her aside to
ask her what's wrong.
Euni usually has some
sort of quirky response
to questions like this, even if she
doesn't especially like them.
This sullen behavior
is out of the ordinary
and definitely worries me.

But “I'm fine,”
is all she says to me.
Nothing more, not even
a silly attempt to reassure me.
No jokes, no teasing or
strange, unforeseen responses.
Something has to be
going on with her -
there's no two
ways about it.
And now that I think back,
she's been acting strangely
for quite a while.
I just wonder how I
hadn't realized it sooner.

I guess the knowledge
that for the first time, Euni
won't be coming to me
for help with whatever
is going on worries me
a bit, because
for the first time
in a long while, I
find myself texting Natalia,
asking if she knows anything.
Her reply is short,
as if she doesn't want to
talk right now, and
doesn't help me much.
I think someone
at school set her off.
What does that
even mean?

But surprisingly,
my phone vibrates again
a couple minutes later,
just when I'm about to
give up and go to bed.
This time, it's a
call, rather than a text -
and of course,
it's from Nat.
she says when I
pick up the line, sounding
out of breath like
she'd just been running.
“Sorry about your sis,
I don't know what's
been up with her.
But we don't have
school tomorrow -
do you want to
go shopping or something?”


So I have a long weekend coming up because of Labor Day, so maybe if I get my ass in gear and finish some of the mountain of homework I've accumulated, there will be a few more updates in the next few days ;) We'll see. I'm trying to find time to write but I always either forget or fall asleep before I can get to it, haha.

If you guys liked this chapter, I'd love if you would vote and leave me some feedback!! It'd be much appreciated <3

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