60 Bitter Patter

I didn’t really pay attention as Lee Ann whispered to our friends at the breakfast table. It was obvious she was telling them something about me, but whether it was to laugh at me, tell everybody to lay off me, or plan a date for me, I just didn’t really care. I had decided that I was going to do only what I needed to do to get by just now. Eat because I needed food to survive, study because I needed to get decent grades, and sew to get money. Rehearsal might be a problem, but I had more than two days before I had to worry about that.

The first thing I had to deal with after breakfast was Geoff, in Organic Chemistry.

“Good morning, Marsha!” he trilled as usual as sat in the seat next to mine.

“Look Geoff,” I snapped. “I’m not in a good mood today, so please don’t talk to me.” The fact that he habitually called me, ‘Marsha,’ rather than ‘Marsh’ didn’t help. He was surprised, of course, but what was the point? He couldn’t imagine what I was going through, still being male. Why did he get to be a guy when I couldn’t? So obviously, nothing he said was going to matter.

His eyes widened, and he sort of leaned away from me, but he didn’t say anything, but through the lecture he looked over at me every so often when he thought I wouldn’t notice. I noticed. I started feeling a bit guilty, but couldn’t bring myself to do anything about it.

I managed to get through the lecture without biting anybody else’s head off, and headed to Spanish class, but as I left the lecture hall, I saw Vicky. She didn’t notice me, as she was talking to a guy I didn’t know. Figures, I thought. Her new boyfriend is also a pre-med student. Couldn’t she at least have the decency not to speak to my replacement in front of me? I turned away from them and started walking out of the building, but she suddenly called my name.

“Marsh!” she yelled from behind me. “Do you have a second?” Reluctantly, I stopped and turned around. Automatically, I sized up my rival as I approached them. Of course, technically we weren’t rivals, since I had been disqualified from the contest.

“Marsh, this is Seth Groner,” she said, indicating him. “Seth, this is my friend, Marsha Steen.” So I was Marsha, now, huh?

The bastard put out his hand and I had to shake it. “Nice to meet you, Marsha.” Then he turned to Vicky and added, “Great running into you, Vicky. I’ll see you in class.”

“See you!” she called after him as he left. Then she turned back to me and saw the question in my eyes. “Seth is in my art class. I had no idea he was also taking Orgo. Do you have a minute?”

“I… sort of have to get to my Spanish class,” I muttered, but I was curious, so I made no effort to leave.

“I’ll walk with you, then. Marsh,” she started as we started walking. “I didn’t want to do this over the phone. Marsh, I’m really sorry.”

I sighed. “It’s not your fault, Vicky. I’ve lost. Fine. You’re not interested and you’re moving on. I can understand that. I just… Oh, I don’t know. I just don’t think I can stand seeing you and your new boyfriend together just now.”

“Seth is not my ‘new boyfriend’ and neither is Kevin. Seth is just a friend, and Kevin… is just a guy who asked me out. I have no idea how far things are going to go between us.”

I shrugged. “It’s really none of my business, I guess.”

“Of course it’s your business, Marsh! We’re still friends, right? And… I really do still hope you can change back. I’d much rather be going with you. I just…”

“You don’t believe it’s going to happen, right?”

She looked away from me. When she turned back, there were the beginnings of tears in her eyes. “I just don’t see a way, Marsh. You were so confident when we met at the Grill; I sort of hoped you had some extra information. I didn’t really believe it, but I wanted to, you know?”

It took me a moment to respond from the dark place my heart had gone. “It’s all so easy for you,” I finally said, bitterly. “Lose one boyfriend, and there’s always another available. But what about me? I’m not even attracted to girls any more – what exactly am I supposed to do?”

“Oh, Marsh, I don’t know. You have no idea how sorry I am. I wish… but that’s not going to help. I hope you’ll still talk to me. I couldn’t bear not having you in my life any more, even if we can’t…”

I sighed once again. I could feel tears welling up in my own eyes and I didn’t want them to come out, but it all hurt so much! “It’s not so easy for me, Vix. But yeah, I don’t want to lose you, either. Even…” I took a deep breath and got myself mostly under control. After all, as an actor, I’m supposed to be in control of my emotions, right? “We’ll keep talking, Vix. I don’t know how much I can stand to hear about you and… well, any guy you’re seeing, but we’ll find something to talk about. OK?”

She exhaled in relief. “OK. Um… you want to go to a movie or something together tonight? Just to be together?”

I nodded. “Sure. Now I really have to get to class. I can…” I had been about to say, I can pick you up, but that seemed phony, now. Guys picked girls up. Girls didn’t… “Why don’t we meet tonight? I’ll give you a call, OK?”

“OK. Great. I’ll talk to you later. Bye”

Well. At least one of us was feeling better. I survived the rest of the morning classes with no real surprises and then had to face my friends for lunch. Terry and Lee Ann positioned themselves on either side of me, as if to protect me, I guess. I didn’t really spend much time looking at them, but I could feel them exchanging glances over my head. Or maybe that’s not exactly fair – Lee Ann wasn’t that much taller than I was.

It was Terry who leaned in first. “How are you feeling, Marsh?”

I shrugged, and then felt guilty about it. One part of me could tell that she was genuinely trying to help, and that part starting kicking the other part that just didn’t really wanted to talk at all. After yet another sigh, I forced myself to say, “I feel horrible. I feel as if everything I care about is now out of reach, and nothing really matters. I feel like I just want to curl up in bed and stay there for the rest of my life.”

Terry leaned in and spoke softly. “That’s terrible. What happened?”

I spread my hands. “I can’t really explain. I just thought everything was going to be all right.”

“It will be, Marsh,” Lee Ann put in. “You’ll see. You’re strong. There will be other chances. And we’re here for you.”

“Other chances,” I muttered. “Right.”

“Hey, what’s wrong with Marsh?” one of the boys suddenly asked, but Lee Ann glared at him and he backed off.

Lee Ann looked at Terry and me. “Look, why don’t we hold off on talking until we get back to the room. This sounds like too serious a talk to have at lunch in front of everybody.”

“I have a lab after lunch,” I protested.

“Then let’s eat quickly. We should really talk this out as soon as possible.” I saw Terry nod, so it was two against one. I pretty much just picked at my food; somehow, I didn’t have much of an appetite. Then I had to put up with my roommates escorting me back to our room, sitting me down, and demanding answers.

“This is worse than I thought, Marsh. I’ve never seen you like this, even before House Parties weekend last year. You need to talk to us. Have you given any thought to what I said this morning? Have you decided yet what you’re going to do?” Lee Ann

“I’m just going to grit my teeth and keep going, I guess,” I told them. “I don’t see what else I can do.”

“You can let us pamper you, is what you can do,” Terry suggested. “Why don’t the three of us go on an ice cream and party binge tonight?”

“I thought you had…” Lee Ann started, but Terry cut her off.

“I’m going to cancel,” Terry shot back.

“Guys, I really appreciate this,” I said. “But I made arrangements to hang out with Vicky tonight.”

Lee Ann stared at me. “Vicky? But wasn’t she sort of part of the problem?”

“No, it’s really all right. We… talked this morning, and we’re OK.” At least, I hope so, I thought. Our relationship is even more complicated than ever.

“I don’t know, Marsh. If she was able to affect you that much…”

“It’s not that – we just used to be really close, and–”

“Do I know this girl?” Terry suddenly asked.

“I… don’t think so,” I told her. “I think she and I stopped talking before I met you.”

“So this is a girl you knew before coming to Piques.”

Uh Oh. Terry’s comment made one thing obvious – she had met Marsha early last year, and would probably have known any really close friends she had had. In the original timeline, I had met Vicky last school year. Now I either had to tell a lie that might sound like the truth, or a partial truth and have it sound like a lie, or tell the full truth and have my roommates reject and fear me. There didn’t seem to be any good answers, here.


  1. Harri says:

    Comments sent by email. Lots of little niggly things but nothing major.

    How about she met Vicky, wasn’t that close, but got close over the summer?!

  2. von says:

    Did I miss it, or did he ask Vicki about her interim boyfriends? After she broke up with Marshall and before she found him again?

  3. Russ says:

    No such conversation has happened yet.

  4. Hoopla says:

    This is probably one of my least favorite pieces out of the whole thing, I love almost all of the others. I understand what you are trying to convey and can’t really see another way to do so. But as a whole it doesn’t sit very well – to me anyway.

  5. April says:

    “Guys, I really appreciate this,” I said. “But I made arrangements to hang out with Vicky tonight. <– missing a quote

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