The next rehearsal wasn’t going to be until Sunday, and I didn’t think I should let the issue with Naomi and Jack fester, so after dinner, I spent about half an hour reading everything I could on Facebook about them and their relationships with Marsha. Neither seemed to be all that close to her; she and Naomi had spoken from time to time about Alvin’s plays, and I couldn’t find any evidence that Marsha and Jack had communicated at all – at least via Facebook. I presumed that this meant that they were just acquaintances rather than friends, which made things easier.
I debated apologizing over the phone; surely an involved conversation wouldn’t really be needed? In the end, however, I felt that a face-to-face apology would work better, and I really did need to be able to speak with them in person at the next rehearsal. At least I was going to need to be able to speak with Naomi; with Jo not needed for Act II, she and I would be the only girls in the cast present, and would naturally have been expected to chat. Of course, as soon as I came to that conclusion, I had to smile at myself. It was getting way too easy to think of myself as a girl.
Naomi’s dorm room was only a few minutes walk from mine. I spent the walk prepping myself and psyching myself up for what might be a tense confrontation. Alvin had been pretty angry with me; I had to assume that anger had come from Jack and Naomi, so I was a bit afraid of the kind of reaction I was going to get.
Naomi took about ten seconds to answer the door, and seemed surprised to see me. Even as she said, “Marsh?” I could tell from her mussed hair and the way she was tucking her t-shirt into her jeans that she had not been expecting any visitors.
“Marsh?” Jack echoed, coming to the door behind her. The two of them exchanged glances and then fixed me with a not particularly friendly gaze.
Embarrassed slightly by what I had evidently interrupted, I stammered out the apology I had planned to offer smoothly. “I- I- I’m really sorry, guys. I acted l-like a jerk at rehearsals this w-week.” I caught myself, took a breath and continue under their impassive stares. “I guess I was really nervous about this role. I hadn’t… I mean, I’ve never quite done a role like…”
They looked at each other again and back at me. Then Jack chuckled, “It’s OK, Marsh. Alvin already called us. I take it he kind of smacked you down?”
“Yeah,” I answered, relieved. “He really came down hard on me. And he was right. I was a bit… no, a lot preoccupied and I…” I sighed. “Anyway, I’m really sorry, and I promise at least not to ignore you like that again.”
“You do that,” Naomi said. She wasn’t quite smiling, but at least she didn’t look hostile. “As Alvin always says, we have to work as a team.”
“Yeah.” I had said my piece, had it accepted, and now I wasn’t sure what else to say. “Um… you guys are obviously… busy… and I don’t really want to get in your way…”
They shared yet another look, this time definitely amused at my discomfort.
“So… I’ll just go… and I’ll see you at rehearsal!”
Even as I stepped back out of Naomi’s room and closed the door, I could hear them laugh, which only made me turn redder. I was a bit surprised at my reaction. My primary thought was envy; envy at what Jack and Naomi had been doing or possibly were on the verge of doing, as I couldn’t do anything similar just now. But somehow, that wasn’t what I was actually feeling. Why should I have been embarrassed? A couple of weeks ago, I don’t think I would have been. Apologetic, sure. But not embarrassed. It was as though I wasn’t completely in control, as though my body was trying to react in ways of its own, ways that didn’t match my own inclinations.
Before going to bed that night, I practiced needle-threading again. It was starting to come pretty easily to me, including the one-handed loop tie. There was a second garment that just needed a button replaced, so I tackled that one. A couple of minutes later, I was pleased to see that I had managed to do a repair without any further coaching. Unfortunately, none of the others required any button work, so I was sort of stuck. I made a mental note to deliver the two completed garments to their owners the next day after classes.
By lunch the next day, things were definitely feeling as though they were falling into a rhythm. Thanks to Facebook, I figured that I could now identify pretty much all of the students who regularly ate with Marsha and her roommates. At least, I didn’t have to worry about being too obviously ignorant in casual conversation. I was a bit surprised then, to see that a newcomer had joined the group. He was sitting next to a fairly animated Chandra and nodding patiently to her comments. There was something familiar about him from the back, but I couldn’t tell any more that. until I had circled the table to sit in the empty seat next to Lee Ann roughly opposite the two of them. Then I did recognize him.
“Rajiv!” I exclaimed, surprised.
It was as if a wind had blown the clouds from his visage on to Chandra’s, because she scowled at me even as he looked up and smiled. “Hey! Um, Marcy, right?”
“Marsha, actually,” I corrected him, remembering just in time that I wasn’t supposed to know him very well.
“How do you two know each other?” Chandra asked, a not particularly pleased expression on her face.
He laughed. “I saw Marsha struggling with a suitcase after break and offered to carry it for her. But she was afraid of me, or something.” As I sat down, a bit embarrassed, he added, “I take it she’s a friend of yours?”
“Um… sort of. I mean she’s Lee Ann’s roommate.”
When Rajiv looked away from me, I leaned over to Lee Ann and whispered, “what’s going on?”
“Parental interference,” she whispered back, and shook her head when I looked about to ask more.
I wasn’t really sure what to think about the news that Rajiv and Chandra were apparently a couple, or might be one, depending on what ‘parental interference’ meant. Did that mean that their parents were interfering with an established relationship? Trying to create one? I thought that she was going to get the better of such an arrangement, as I knew him to be a good guy, while all I really knew about her was that she had lied to me about Lee Ann – but that was hardly something I could mention.
“So,” Lee Ann said aloud to Chandra. “I take it you guys have plans for tonight?”
The two of them looked at each other before he shrugged, “I figure we’re just going to take in a movie.”
“OK, in case we pick the same movie, we’ll just make sure to stay out of your way then. Right, Marsh?”
Surprised, I just nodded. I’d had no idea that she and I were going to do something tonight together. It made sense, given that her boyfriend didn’t go to Piques, and Marsha didn’t even have a boyfriend; it must have been an ongoing arrangement she and Marsha had had, as we hadn’t discussed it. As a matter of fact, I’d sort of avoided thinking about the weekend altogether, given my hiatus from dating because of the whole “Marsha” charade. It was ironic then, that my first weekend evening out was apparently going to be spent with the girl I’d be dreaming of before the break, if not quite in the fashion I had expected.
My bio lab that afternoon was a bit trickier than Monday’s had been, since we were now studying the axial skeleton, from the skull on down, and the bone names were mostly unfamiliar to me. Ron started to read the description from the lab notes, “The cribriform plate of the ethmoid bone is received into the ethmoidal notch of the frontal bone…” and we sort of goggled at each other. Then he switched into a bad German accent to read the next section, “…and the christa galli serves as an attachment for the falx cerebri” which I thought was hilarious.
I wouldn’t have laughed of course, not in a lab full of other serious students, if he hadn’t continued with the line from The Court Jester, “the vessel with the pestle has the pellet with the poison; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true,” at which point I lost it.
That brought on dirty looks from those near us, so we forced ourselves to be serious as we started to record our observations of the skeletons. But he managed to make me laugh – and yes, even giggle – several more times by catching me off guard, raising his eyebrows and whispering things like “… gonna poison the potion on the cribriform plate…” I think I had noticed him in the lab before, but had never spoken with him, so hadn’t realized that he had this sense of humor that worked well with mine. Of course, as Marshall, I wouldn’t have giggled. Definitely not.
We managed to get through the lab with a few minutes to spare, and checked out with the lab TA a bit early. As we were leaving he suddenly asked, “Do you have plans for the weekend?”
I looked at him sharply, but he seemed to be pretty casual – at least he didn’t act as though he was hitting on me. I told myself that Marsha probably would have mentioned it to Lee Ann if the two of them had been flirting, and answered neutrally, “My roommate and I are going to be hanging out.”
“Ok, that’s cool,” he answered, which didn’t really answer my question. Maybe I was just being paranoid; I was so averse to any hint of actual flirtation with boys that I was probably seeing it where it didn’t exist. On the other hand, I had already decided that Marsha was attractive enough that it would be more than reasonable for somebody to come on to me; I was going to have to figure out a good way to deflect advances. Eventually, they were certainly going to come.