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Episode No. 20 - Reconciliation

written by Erika Hart

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About this story

Published: 30 Nov 1997 | Size: 82 KB (15470 words) | Language: english | Rating: PG-13
Average: 3.1/5   3.1/5 (20 votes)

based on stories and characters created by Winnie Holzman

Brian Krakow stood in awe as Angela Chase got into Jordan Catalano's car and rode away. He had basically just poured out his everlasting love for her, and she had left him standing alone in the empty road. How could she be so cold? Of course the point of the letter he'd written to her on Jordan's behalf had been to bring the two back together, but Brian just hadn't ever imagined the impact it would have on him. He'd loved her all his life and she'd never given him a second glance. Had he actually expected her to come running to him? Probably not, but he'd dreamed.

Just then a car pulled up and Angela's little sister Danielle got out. The car drove off and Danielle started toward her front door. But then she turned and walked toward Brian.

"Hi Brian," she said, trying her hardest to flirt with him. Brian still didn't understand what had just happened with Angela. He nodded at Danielle and began to ride off on his bike.

"So Brian, I just came from that new pizza place downtown. You know, the one that just opened by school. So anyways, they have like, really good pizza there. Do you wanna go sometime?" Danielle was always pestering him to hang out with her. Brian wondered why she didn't have friends of her own.

"What? I mean, no. Look, I should go now." Brian circled around on his bike a few times and looked off in the direction Angela had gone only moments earlier. Clearly he was in no rush to go anywhere.

"Okay, well maybe we can go to a movie or the arcade or something. Don't you just love that new game they have? It's like, totally cool." Danielle ran her fingers through her long light brown hair and then wrapped them around her body. She stood with her legs crossed and her head tilted to the side. God, she was trying to act like Angela. She looked at Brian hopefully.

"Look Danielle. You're like, 9 years old-"

"I'm not 9; I'm almost 11," she interrupted. "I'll be 11 in less than 3 months. 2 months and 23 days to be exact."

"Like I care!" Brian rudely shot back at her. "Anyways, you're like, my little sister. You just don't do things like that with your little sister. Besides, I have more important things to worry about."

"Oh, like what? Angela?" Danielle asked, teasing him.

"For your information, yes, okay? Why don't you go play with your Barbies?" Why did kids have to be so annoying? Why did Brian always have to be the one stuck dealing with them?

"Fine then. And for your information, I don't play with Barbies. Barbies are for kids." Danielle abruptly turned and headed home. "Why does Angela get all the attention?" she muttered softly from her lips as she opened the door.

* * *

Angela and Jordan embraced one another, their mouths pressing repeatedly against each other and their tongues intertwined. It was just like the old days. Only it wasn't. Something weighed heavily in Angela's stomach, and she felt herself pushing away from Jordan's warm body. She sat back and looked around Jordan's red classic Mustang convertible. The top was up and all the windows were steamed. She stared at the steam on the side window and slowly began drawing circles in it with her index finger. She was trying to come up with the right words with which to confront Jordan.

"Jordan? Who wrote that letter you gave me?" Angela mused out loud.

"Why? Who do you think wrote it?" he asked defensively. Now it was his turn to look away at the window.

"Well, Ricky told me Brian wrote it. And I just asked him, and it didn't sound like he denied it. And I just though that-"

"Well, yeah. He kinda wrote it. But only because, like, I asked him to."

Angela's eyes started to water, and her lips pouted in that little quiver that they always did before she began to cry. "Do you think that makes it okay?" she asked between her gasps for air.

"Well, like, I guess, kinda, I mean, not exactly. It's just that, I was telling that kid- Brain?- that I felt so bad, and he told me that I should tell you that. But like, when I've tried to tell you I was sorry, and how I feel about you, I like, couldn't find the right words. And what he told me, was like, exactly how I felt. So like, they were my words, in his words. You know what I mean?" Angela sat motionless in her seat. "I just wanted you to know how I felt. I guess you still don't." Angela still didn't respond. "His words just sounded so much better than mine ever could."

Angela turned and faced Jordan. She stared deep into his eyes. "Why don't you let me be the judge of that?"

Jordan hesitated, unsure of what she wanted from him. "I don't know why I did that. It just happened. I was lonely, and you wouldn't sleep with me, and she was just, like, there." There. He'd said it.

"So it's still that? Sex? If you can't have me, then you'll just have someone else? That's a real great excuse for an apology. So if I don't have sex with you now, you'll just go do it again?" Angela couldn't believe he was telling her this. She slumped back in her seat and wrapped her arms around her chest. He wasn't sorry at all.

"No, I didn't say .............. that's not what I meant. I meant, I like you. A lot. You're like that Shakespeare woman. You're not perfect. You're real. You have flaws." There. Now he'd said it.

"Thanks. That makes me feel real good. So if I have all these flaws, why do you want to be with me?" Why was she here? Why did she think he'd changed?

"That's not what I ............. I mean, I really do like you. You're smart, and you're pretty." Angela blushed. "And you're, like, special."

"How?"

"You're not like the other girls. You don't care about boys. Or what they think about you. You don't think about them all the time, and don't chase after them, and don't do everything they want. You're just, you." Oh, God, was he wrong. But Angela liked that he though that. She was glad he didn't realize the time she'd spent obsessing over him. She was glad he liked her.

"I was wrong," he continued. "even if it is 'expected', it shouldn't be. I admit it, I expected it. I shouldn't have. I did that with her because I thought that's what people did. I mean, people do do it. But not like, all people. So then I wondered why there had to be this separation of people who did do it and people who didn't do it. I wondered why there had to be this line, you know? The one you can never cross. And then I thought, why does someone have to do it just because they've done it before? And I realized that they didn't. They could, like, stop. Wait. So I think I can be one of those people. I could just, like, stop. So just so you feel better, I don't want to sleep with you."

Angela stared speechlessly. She remembered only months earlier when he'd told her he wasn't interested in her, and how he'd said it to try to make her feel better, just like this time, and she'd been so hurt. But it was different this time. The corners of her mouth began to creep upwards, and she knew that Jordan had meant every word of that letter. How could she be mad at him? She loved him. And now that she knew he felt at least remotely the same, she couldn't resist him. She had dreamt about being with him for months; how could she pass him up? She really believed he meant it about waiting. Although she didn't know if he was physically capable of it. But it made her feel safe to know that he'd try. Oh, God, why wasn't she ready yet? Why couldn't she just be ready, like everyone else? But she wasn't like everyone else. That's what mattered. She was Angela Chase. And he liked her.

"Did I say something wrong?" was Jordan's only guess at her silence.

"No, no," she cried through her tears. "You said everything right. But I hope you mean it, because I can't keep doing this. I can only be bent so many times before I break." She laughed at her own corny metaphor. She couldn't believe she'd actually said that.

He laughed, too, a bit of a delayed reaction. "I won't let you break." A big smile broke out across his face as he reached to brush Angela's fading red hair out of her face. She met his hand with hers, and they embraced once again.

* * *

Angela and Jordan walked down the school corridor holding hands. Angela thought about how far they'd come since he wouldn't be seen in public with her only weeks earlier. Their relationship had existed only in the boiler room during her Geometry reviews. She couldn't believe they'd actually survived these last few weeks. And them, the most unlikely couple. Her, an inexperienced, shy, 15 year old sophomore, and him, an mature, experienced, popular 17 year old who had been held back twice. They came from two separate worlds. She smiled. Jordan stopped and turned to her. He looked so intent, Angela thought he might propose.

"I have to, like, do some stuff. So I'll see you in English, okay?" How did he have this power over her? Why could he always stump her with misleading facial expressions? Angela laughed to herself. He almost sounded like he was asking for her permission.

"Okay," she cautiously replied. What else had he wanted her to say? 'No, please don't leave me here alone. I can't live without you'?

"So, okay." He still seemed unsure of what he wanted. He turned to leave, then turned back. He looked at her questioningly. Then he leaned over and gave her a peck on the lips. He swiftly walked off down the hall and disappeared between the hoards of rowdy students.

Angela crossed her legs and tilted her head to the side as she leaned against the lockers. She smiled and realized how lucky she really was.

Her smile quickly evaporated when she caught sight of Sharon Cherski and Rayanne Graff. She stood up straight and turned slightly. She eyed them out of the corners of her eyes. Rayanne averted her eyes and ran her fingers through her crimped dark blonde hair. Then she looked to Angela for some sort of reaction. Angela looked at Sharon.

Sharon stood by Rayanne looking dismayed. The corners of her mouth tilted downward and she looked at Angela for some sign of recognition. Angela turned and headed for class. Sharon left Rayanne and pushed her way through the hall towards Angela.

"Hey," Brian Krakow said as he approached Rayanne. She looked at him annoyed. That was all she needed.

"What do you want Krakow?" she snapped. She pulled out her flask of whiskey and took a swig. Just the right thing to start off the day.

"Why do I always have to want something?" Brian asked exasperated. "You know, you really shouldn't be doing that at school. You could, like, get in big trouble."

"Oooh, I'm really scared. So why don't you just can it? All I need is another person mad at me." Actually, she didn't care one way or the other what Brian thought of her.

"I'm not mad at you! Why should I be mad at you?! I mean, sure, what you did to Angela and all, but she hates me anyways, so why should I care what you did to her?"

"Krakow, did you ever wonder why everyone's so mean to you?"

"What do you mean?"

"It's because you just don't know when to shut up." Rayanne took another swig and threw the bottle back into her bag. She walked off down the hall without saying another word or giving Brian another look.

"Angela! Angela!" Sharon called.

"I have to go to class."

"We both know you never go to that class. I need to talk to you." Sharon grabbed Angela's arm and tugged her into the girl's bathroom. They pushed and shoved past the girls washing their hands, smoking, and applying make-up. They made it to the window on the far side. Angela leaned against the window seat and looked out the window.

"So, you and Rayanne are like, friends now?" She was angry with Sharon for betraying her oldest friend.

"So what now? Like, you're good enough to be friends with her, but I'm not?" Sharon asked jokingly.

"Rayanne Graff is not my friend. Why is she yours? You know what she did to me. How could you side with her?" Angela was actually more hurt than angry that Sharon would turn against her.

"I'm not siding with her. I just, well, I think she deserves another chance." Why couldn't Sharon be supportive? But then, Sharon had had sex. Girls who'd had sex had to stick together. Just like girls who hadn't had sex had to stick together. But Angela felt like she was the only one who hadn't had sex. She felt so alone.

Despite her feelings of loneliness, Angela was angered by Sharon's last comment. "Why?!? What she did to me was horrible! I would never do something like that!" The veins in Angela's neck were beginning to bulge outward. She calmed down a little and muttered under her breath, "Not when it, like, clearly meant so much to that person."

"Angela, I like, totally agree that was she did was just about the worst thing a person could do, but we all make mistakes. Some bigger than others. Rayanne's always been a good friend to you. You shouldn't let one little incident ruin all that." Sharon just didn't get it.

"Little incident?" Funny Sharon's choice of words. "This is my life we're talking about! I like, loved Jordan Catalano! And she betrayed me! How can you forgive something like that? Even if it was in my power to forgive, how could I forget?" She wanted to forget. God, how she wanted to forget.

"Angela?" Sharon's mouth twitched on the side, the way it did right before she always said something really meaningful. "She didn't betray you by herself. I saw you with Jordan this morning. I hate to say it, but it seems like you've forgiven him. And he's just a guy. A guy who treated you like trash and cheated on you." Just a guy!?! He was THE guy. And at least he had a reason for doing it.

"That is SO not the same thing," Angela snapped back. How could Sharon compare the two? "Jordan was just lonely. He only did it because I wouldn't sleep with him, and he like, needed someone." Okay, so it was a really dumb reason. One she herself had not accepted only the night before, and here she was defending it. "And besides, I know Jordan really likes me. He told me. He told me he would wait for me." Sharon frowned and gave Angela a disapproving look. "What?!?" screeched Angela.

"Angela, do you really expect him to wait? Jordan Catalano?" Oh, Sharon thought she knew it all.

"Yes! For your information, I do believe him. He's never lied to me. He wouldn't lie. But Rayanne! Has she ever been truthful about anything? It was just like you told me. She'd use me and then dump me just like she's done before. She didn't even have a reason. She just did it because that's what she does. She hurts people. God, I should have seen it coming!" Where were these words coming from? Angela couldn't believe what she was hearing herself say about her best friend of late. She knew she was hurt, but where did all this anger come from? She turned toward the wall and tried to hold back her tears. They were on the verge of overflowing out of her eyes.

Sharon stepped closer and put her arms around Angela. She waited for Angela to catch her breath and then resumed the conversation. "I was wrong Angela. There are a lot of things not to like about Rayanne Graff, and this is certainly on the top of the list, but she's a good person. She tries hard. She just doesn't have any self control. It was the same with the drugs, that night she almost died. She didn't know how to say no. She needs you Angela. She needs you to teach her. You need her too."

"Why should I care what she does with the rest of her life?" Angela weeped. "Why do I need her?"

"I can't tell you that, Angela. That's something you need to figure out on your own. I'll let you think about it." Sharon gave Angela one last sympathetic look and backed her way out of the bathroom. Angela looked around. Most of the girls had already gone to class. There were two girls standing in the corner smoking. They were whispering and pointing at her and snickering to themselves. But she didn't care.

Angela left the bathroom and headed toward her locker. She began wondering why she didn't care about those girls in the bathroom. Why did some people have such an impact on her and others have none? She stood leaning beside her open locker, remembering how much fun Rayanne used to be. Why did she have to do things like this?

Ricky slowly approached Angela, yet he still managed to surprise her. He looked at her for some indication of what he should say. The only look she gave him was one of pure confusion. He knew there was nothing he could say. He leaned back next to her and allowed her to lean her head against his shoulder. They stood there in silence, neither knowing how to break it. Then Angela spoke.

"Ricky? Why did I forgive Jordan?"

Ricky looked at her, shocked that she didn't realize. "Well, because you love him."

She nodded. "Why?"

That was a bit harder for Ricky to answer. "You just do. How can we really know why we love anyone? Maybe it's because he's gorgeous. Maybe it's because he makes you happy, and feel special. Maybe it's because you know he loves you. I wish I knew what it felt like to have someone love me like that." Poor Ricky. He was always helping people with their problems, and nobody knew how to help him. Angela hugged him. She loved him. She wished she could give him somebody who loved him like she loved Jordan Catalano.

"I love you Ricky."

"I know you do."

"And Rayanne? Do I love her?" Here was the real question.

Ricky looked at her intently. He knew the answer. But he didn't know if she was ready to hear it. "You used to."

Angela nodded again. She closed her locker and headed for class. She looked back at Ricky, still standing helplessly in the abandoned hallway. She smiled in thanks.

* * *

The restaurant was a frenzy of painters and movers and electricians. Graham Chase and Hallie Lowenthal stood in the middle of it all. It was only days away from the opening of their new restaurant. Sure the investors had only agreed to go ahead a few days earlier, but Hallie liked to move fast. The second they had signed, she was on the phone, ordering furniture, looking for employees, and such. She didn't waste a second. Graham, on the other hand, was much more laid back. He didn't understand what the big rush was. But he wasn't about to tell that to Hallie. She'd probably bite his head off. Sometimes he laughed at the fact that they'd actually done it. That he had.

He had just signed up for a cooking class, one he didn't even want to be enrolled in. Little did he know that he would soon be teaching the class, and he especially couldn't believe he'd be opening a restaurant with one of his students. What a chain of events! He looked at Hallie and laughed.

"What?" She asked suspiciously.

"Nothing. Nothing," he replied defensively.

"Oh, come on. I know that laugh. You still can't believe we did it, can you?" How did she always know what he was thinking?

"What? No, well, I guess." Graham looked at her with disbelief. This woman really could do anything.

"I told you. You just had to trust me." She jumped out of her seat and her face lit up. "Oh, I almost forgot! You have to see this!" She tugged his arm and led him into the kitchen. Graham stared once again in disbelief.

"Well, what do you think?!?" she squealed. "I hope you like them." Graham was speechless. "I know, I know. We talked about keeping them plain and simple, but I just couldn't resist. So?" She looked at him expectantly.

"Hallie, they're beautiful. I mean, where did you even come up with the idea?" Graham picked one up and began to leaf through it. His eyes grew wider with every turn of the page.

"Well, I was just looking through this book of sample menus, and I got the idea. Pretty neat, huh?" Neat hardly described them. The cover was black and silver with the Chase family sitting around their table eating dinner. Inside, beside each item was a picture of the meal, and there were scattered pictures of the girls growing up throughout their years.

"Where did you?" Graham couldn't believe the things this woman was capable of. He looked at her beaming face and then back at his family.

"I got them from Patty. I made her promise not to tell you. I wanted it to be a surprise." And indeed it was. Graham couldn't have been more proud. His life was finally all coming together.

Graham and Hallie looked at each other, both speechless. The stared into each other's eyes and face. Slowly she moved closer and closer, until her lips brushed his. Soon they were lost in each other. Thoughts drifted in and out of their heads. Graham thought about how grateful he was for this woman, for the restaurant, for his family........... Suddenly he pulled back. He looked at Hallie confused.

"I'm sorry. I-"

"No, no. Don't be sorry. It was completely inappropriate. I never should have, I mean. We can't." She looked at him for confirmation.

"No, we can't. Patty-"

"Right. You love Patty. I know that. I just, oh.... Oh, I have to get back to the office. Wrap things up here, will you?" She turned to leave, but waited for his reply.

"Sure." Although he wasn't. Of anything anymore. Of what had just happened. Of what they had done. Of what it meant. He watched as she quickly left the kitchen and then the restaurant. He sat down to gather his thoughts. Was this what he wanted?

* * *

The doorbell rang at the Chases'. "I'll get it!" yelled Danielle as she came bellowing down the stairs. She swung open the door expectantly, and there stood Brian Krakow. "Oh, it's you. Angela's upstairs." She tossed her hair as she spun around and headed back upstairs. Patty Chase walked out from the kitchen and lit up at the sight of their visitor.

"Oh, hi Brian. Angela!!" she called upward. "Brian's here to see you. So Brian, how is everything going?" It was of those questions that you just don't really want an answer to.

"Well, if you must know, I've been pretty upset lately. You see, this thing happened like, at school, and now I wish I could just like, undo the whole thing-"

"What do you want, Brian?" Angela stood in the middle of the stairs and glared down at Brian. Now was not the time.

"Well, I'll just leave you two alone," said Patty, relieved to miss the rest of Brian's saga. She retreated upstairs to her bedroom and shut the door.

"I just think you should know that, well, do you know what you're doing to me?" Not even Brian always knew the right words to use.

"To you? Brian, look what you did to me! That's just like you. Always making everything about yourself. Why can't you ever think of someone else?" Brian was physically incapable of understanding other people.

"Me? How about you? You probably think I wrote that letter because I thought it would be funny to mess with your life. You think I have nothing better to do? Well, for your information, I did it for you. I thought it would make you happy. And it did, at least for awhile. You're the one who signed Jordan Catalano up to be tutored in the first place. You wanted someone to help him. Well that's what I did. I helped him. I'm sorry if it took more help than you had hoped. But I did it because I didn't want you to be unhappy."

"Why would you, Brian Krakow, care if I was happy or not? That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard." Angela had been lied to so much recently that she had become a pro at picking them out.

"Because. Because I'm in love with you." Brian couldn't believe he'd actually said it. He quickly looked away. Angela couldn't believe it either. Could Brian actually be serious.

"What?"

"You heard me."

"How could you love me Brian? What about me could you possibly think you love?" How could anyone love her? Look how she treated people.

"I don't know. I just do. I always have. You're so pretty, and funny, and ....... Look, I just do. Okay? And I wish you would just give me a chance. What do you see in Jordan Catalano? Sure he's like, gorgeous, and......... everything, but how can you like, have a conversation with him?" Why was he doing this to himself. He should just go hole up in a cave or something. He couldn't do anything right.

"Brian, you just don't get it. You'll find someone, sometime. You just have to treat her right. You can't use her like you did Delia Fisher. You have to make her feel special." Jordan made her feel special.

"That's what I've been trying to do." He said it so quietly she could barely hear him. She didn't know what to say to him.

"Brian, I'm sorry. It's just, well, I've known you all my life. You're like a brother." She smiled, hoping it would make him feel better. But that was the dumbest thing he'd ever heard. How could she feel that way about him? He looked down at his shoes. He'd had his shoes all his life, but he didn't think of them as his brother. They were special to him. Angela was special. Brian turned and walked out without even replying. Angela stood at her post on the stairs, wishing she knew how to make him feel better. Wishing he didn't feel that way about her.

Upstairs Patty and Graham lay in bed watching TV. Lately they hardly spoke. It wasn't even comfortable silence. Graham seemed so distant, and Patty couldn't help but suspect that Hallie Lowenthal was at the root of the problem. The phone rang and Patty answered it. It was Hallie. She put on her happiest face and handed the phone over to Graham.

"Hi Hallie............. What? That's ridiculous!................ Yes, I know too, but that doesn't mean- .............. no, really, I don't think that's the answer. We just have to................. Yes, I know you. So if your mind's made up................ Well, why don't you just think about it a little longer ................. Yes, I have too, and I really don't see how ............ okay........... okay............ Talk to you soon. Bye." He handed the phone back to Patty, who looked at him with confusion.

"Hmm."

"Hmm? That's it? What was that all about?" He didn't think he was getting off that easy did he?

"Patty, I have to tell you something." Patty breathed a deep sigh and slumped back against her pillow. She knew what was coming.

"Today at the restaurant," Here it comes. "Hallie, well, she kissed me."

"Oh Graham, how could you? Think of the girls. What will they do if-"

"Patty, please. Nothing happened. She kissed me and I stopped her. That's it." He looked at his wife's untrusting face. "Honestly."

"I knew it. I knew the first minute I saw her. And now you're denying it. How could you?" She turned on her side and began to weep softly. Graham put his arm around her and tried to comfort her.

"Patty, that's it. I told her no. I love you. You know that." Patty turned back and looked at his eyes. They looked honest. "Really?"

"Of course. You're my wife. You're the one I chose to make my life with. You." She believed him. She hated herself for doing so, since he was probably lying out his teeth.

"Then what was that all about on the phone?" This better be good.

"I was starting to tell you. Hallie wants out of the restaurant."

"What?!?" Patty sat straight up on the bed. "How could she? Right when you were about to open. What an awful-"

"Not OUT, just, well, silent. She'll continue the business end of it, but she doesn't want to ever be there, at least not when I'm there. She said she felt really bad about today and wouldn't be able to handle the guilt of being there with me. She said she'll stay with it until we're on our feet and I can buy her out."

"What? She doesn't have to do that. It was her idea-"

"I know. That's what I tried to tell her. But you know how stubborn she can be." They both laughed. They knew. Patty snuggled up against Graham and kissed him. This time he didn't pull back. He embraced her.

* * *

"Quiet! Quiet backstage please!" yelled Mr. Katimski. It was dress rehearsal for Our Town. Rayanne Graff played the lead of Emily. Angela helped paint the set. These last couple of weeks had been hell. She'd had a lot of time to think, and she still didn't know what to do. She had pretty much avoided Rayanne by sticking close to Ricky, who was the stage manager. But Ricky was also spending a lot of time with Cory. Angela knew how much Ricky liked him; she could only pray that Cory would come around.

Angela and Ricky sat offstage watching the dress rehearsal. She had to admit, Rayanne was good. She felt bad for Rayanne. Ricky had been her friend first, and he was only on slightly better terms with her than Angela was. She had no one. But did she deserve anyone?

"Ricky?" The two turned around and saw Cory standing there. "I need you on the other side." Ricky looked at Angela. Angela motioned for him to go. He followed Cory to the other side of the stage, where he showed him the broken chair. Ricky was calm. He called the props manager over and told him to get a hammer and nails. Then he looked at Cory.

"I like your new shoes." Cory was always painting his shoes in colorful patterns and designs. Cory looked down at them and then smiled at Ricky. Ricky blushed and looked back at the shoes.

"You want me to do yours?" Ricky had been waiting for him to ask. But he didn't want to sound too eager. He looked at his own shoes. They were patent leather. Not exactly suitable.

"Well, I have this other pair. At home. Those would look really great." Cory looked at him slightly confused. Then he looked at Mr. Katimski.

"Oh, you mean at Mr. Katimski's house? Well, maybe I could come over some time and do them. I have this new color I've been meaning to try out." Ricky brightened at the thought. Could it actually be?

"Yeah, that would be really nice. I mean, I'd have to ask Mr. Katimski, but I'm sure it would be okay. You remember where he lives, right?" Cory nodded. Ricky blushed again.

"Mr. Vasquez, could I please have a word with you?" The two boys turned to see Principal Foster staring them in the face. Was something wrong? Ricky looked helplessly at Cory. Cory looked at the principal and walked away. Ricky was left alone with him.

"Okay, good job everyone." Mr. Katimski rubbed his hands together and gleamed with joy. "I think we're finally ready. Remember, 5 o'clock sharp tomorrow. Don't be late!"

Angela walked hesitantly over to Rayanne. When Rayanne saw Angela coming, she turned to see if there was anyone around. She was alone. Angela was coming to see her. She tilted her head and looked shyly at Angela out of the side of her eyes. She didn't know what to expect.

"So, you're really good. In the play I mean." Angela didn't know what she was trying to say. Rayanne blushed slightly and tried to hide her smile.

"Thanks. You know I couldn't do it without you." Rayanne had always secretly wanted to be like Angela. Emily was Angela. Finally Rayanne was getting to be Angela. Of course, some might say that this was also Rayanne's motivation behind sleeping with Jordan Catalano.

"I've been thinking about what you did Rayanne." Thinking about it was an understatement. It was like, the center of her existence these last couple of weeks.

"I've been thinking about it too. I already told you how bad I feel. It ruined my whole life. Look at me! I have no friends." Rayanne frowned as she considered the truthfulness of that statement. "Well, there's Sharon, but she's, like-"

"I know," smiled Angela knowingly. "I know. But what I've been thinking is, well, I know why Jordan did it. But you? How could you do it? How could you do that to me?" Angela had thought about this forever. She just couldn't come up with a logical reason.

Rayanne turned away. She didn't know how to answer that. "Look, I don't want to get into some big discussion, okay?"

"No! No, it's not okay. I have to know. I have to know why you threw away our friendship like that. I have to know what makes you like you are."

"I don't know what you want to hear. There's not like, some big, logical reason. It just happened. And I don't know what you think made Jordan do it. Do you think he was like, depressed because you wouldn't sleep with him, and went running to the first person who would? It's not like that. It had nothing to do with you. It just happened. You just don't understand."

"Why!?! Because I haven't had sex? Like this is what people do once they have sex? Sleep with anyone they feel like. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard." Angela sighed and turned around. This obviously wasn't going anywhere. What had she hoped to accomplish anyways?

"No," Rayanne whispered. "Not because you haven't had sex. Because you have like, a perfect life."

"You call this perfect!?!" Angela snapped back at her. The nerve this girl had!

"You did. And that's why you don't understand when people mess up. I always mess up." Rayanne looked down at her hands. They were shaking. She wanted so desperately for Angela to forgive her. But how could she? She knew what she'd done. She had to live with it every day.

Angela looked at Rayanne's face. She could tell how sorry Rayanne was. But how could she forgive a thing like this. She thought back to her conversation with Ricky. She knew how to forgive it. But did she want to? She'd already forgiven Jordan. If she forgave Rayanne, that would be like saying the whole thing was okay. She wanted to hold on to her anger. She wasn't ready to let go. Angela didn't know what more there was to say between them. She turned and started to walk away.

"Angela!" Rayanne called after her.

Angela looked back and saw Rayanne standing there in confusion. She was waiting for a response from Angela. Angela managed a small smile and continued on her way. Rayanne smiled too. It was a start.

Angela crossed the stage and went to gather her books. She saw Ricky and Mr. Katimski talking with the principal. Mr. Katimski looked like he was about to cry. He was nodding in silence, not his usual bubbly self. Angela looked at Ricky. He seemed confused and worried. He looked like he did when he'd told her the truth about Rayanne and Jordan. She knew this couldn't be good. She edged closer to them. Trying to overhear. She heard something about a meeting in the principal's office first thing tomorrow. The principal walked off and Mr. Katimski ran off the other direction. Angela approached Ricky cautiously.

"Ricky? What was that all about?" Ricky burst out crying and Angela gave him a big hug. She didn't understand what had just happened. He sniffled a little and dried his tears.

"He found out about me staying at Mr. Katimski's. We have to have a meeting, the three of us, tomorrow in his office. He'll probably fire Mr. Katimski, and he'll make me go live in some shelter. Angela, I really don't want to stay in a shelter." He started crying again. Angela gave him another hug and tried to think of the right words.

"Oh Ricky, I'm so sorry. I'm sure everything will work out okay." Ricky pulled back and stared at her. He looked crazy. Like he had this awful premonition about a violent crime or something. Angela was scared.

"No, not this time. It won't be okay this time." He ran off before Angela could say anything or stop him. She was left there all alone, thoughts running a mile a minute through her head. He was right. Something bad was definitely going to happen.

* * *

Patty in stood in the kitchen with Graham, smelling the sweet aromas of his nightly masterpiece. She leaned over as Graham held up the stirring spoon for her to taste. She ate the tidbits of food and marveled at the skill of her husband. She leaned forward and kissed him.

The doorbell rang at the Chases' home, and this time it was Angela who came bellowing down the stairs. But she was too late. He mother was already out of the kitchen and answering the door. Much to both of their surprises, Sharon Cherski stood outside holding a chaffing dish.

"Here, my mother told me to return this to you and thank you for letting her borrow it again. Angela, can I talk to you?"

"Sure, if you want." Angela said nonchalantly. She came the rest of the way down the stairs and plopped on the couch. Sharon smiled and handed the dish over to Patty, then took a seat beside Angela. Angela was looking at the wall.

"So, Rayanne tells me you spoke to her today." Oh, so that's what this was going to be about. Angela squirmed in her seat and folded her arms across her body.

"Yeah. No big deal. We're still not friends." And as far as she was concerned, they might never be.

"I know. I didn't mean for you to go and make up with her right away or anything. I just wanted to thank you for giving her a chance. So?" Sharon scrunched her nose up in a look of anticipation. "Do you feel any better?"

Angela spoke without moving an inch. "No. I still hate her."

"Angela, you don't hate her. She was your friend. Your best friend." Sharon looked down, jealous. Before Rayanne, that had been her title.

Angela moved to one side, folded her leg under her body, then sat back down on it. She turned to face Sharon. "I can't forgive her Sharon. I just can't. She's just......." Angela's hands were waving through the air trying to find the right words.

"She's Rayanne," Sharon offered. Angela nodded. "You knew who she was when you became friend's with her. You still know. But friend's look past flaws. They forgive mistakes and try hard the next time not to make the same ones again. Angela, you know Rayanne's sorry." Angela nodded, her eyes filling with tears. "You know she still loves you." Angela nodded again, and this time the tears flowed out of the corners of her eyes. "You know she wouldn't do it again." No nod this time. Did she know it? She didn't think she did. "Well, I know it. I'm your oldest friend Angela, even if we're not best friends anymore." Sharon paused and looked down again. Angela leaned over and put her head in Sharon's lap. Sharon continued, "Trust me Angela. She's learned her lesson. She won't do it again."

"I don't know if that's enough," cried Angela.

"I know. I know." Sharon ran her fingers through Angela's hair. She remembered months ago when Angela had first dyed it. That was one of the first things Sharon hadn't liked about Rayanne. That she would convince Angela to dye her beautiful light brown hair a blinding shade of bright red. But it had grown on her over the months. She was accustomed to it now. She was accustomed to Rayanne.

"So Angela-"

"I don't want to talk about it anymore Sharon." Angela sat back up and turned away again.

"Angela, you need to resolve this-"

"I will! But not now. I have too much else to worry about right now." Angela's thought drifted back to this afternoon's events.

"Like what? Is Brian Krakow still bothering you. Geez, he just doesn't know when to give it a rest." Sharon really had it in for Brian Krakow. She thought he was the most self centered, egotistical guy on the planet.

"Not Brian," Angela said without even breathing. "Ricky." Sharon waited for Angela to explain, but she didn't say any more.

"Ricky? What happened to Ricky?" What was she talking about.

"The principal found out he was living at Katimski's, and now they're both in trouble. There's a meeting tomorrow morning in his office. Mr. Katimski will probably be fired, and Ricky will have to live in a shelter. God, I'm so worried about him. He seemed really upset about it. I don't know what he might do. I really don't want him living on the streets again. I'm sorry, I have to go now." Angela got up and walked to her bedroom, leaving Sharon speechless on the couch.

"Oh, Graham, did you hear that?" Patty asked, coming out of her hiding place. She was always eavesdropping on Angela. That was the only way she could ever find anything out about her daughter's life.

"Hear what Patty?" Graham was hard at work on his soufflé.

"The principal found out about Ricky living at Mr. Katimski's apartment. Oh, that poor boy. He never gets a fair chance. Angela said he'll go back to living on the streets. We can't let that happen Graham." She looked at him for support.

"What can we do Patty? We already tried to help him. It's not our problem."

"I know, I just feel so bad. Maybe we should have let him stay here longer." Patty knew that wasn't the solution, but it was the only thing she could think of.

Graham put down his spoon and walked over to his wife. He wrapped his arms around her and told her they'd done all they could. Patty knew he was right. But she wanted so desperately to help. To help anybody. She didn't know how to help Angela. She'd spoken to both Rayanne and Jordan about the incident, but as far as Angela was concerned, her mother was completely ignorant of the whole situation. Patty couldn't even tell her she knew without betraying her trust. But it was her mothering instinct that urged her to help someone.

* * *

"This is a very serious offense," Principal Foster scolded both Ricky and Mr. Katimski. They both looked down at their hands. They knew what was coming.

"But Ricky had nowhere to live. I couldn't have him sleeping in the streets," interjected Mr. Katimski. He knew Principal Foster wouldn't accept that.

"That's not an acceptable excuse, Mr. Katimski," Principal Foster predictably replied. "We can't have our students living with our teachers. Especially in your particular case. The fact that your well, your special life style. What would the parents think if this got out? It would be a huge scandal. I just can't take that risk." Mr. Katimski nodded knowingly. "So what are we to do about this situation? I've made some calls, and Mr. Katimski, you will no longer be teaching here at Liberty."

"You can't do that! It's not his fault!" protested Ricky. He didn't want to see Mr. Katimski go. Mr. Katimski had been the onlt teacher to ever really care about him. He didn't want anything to change.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Vasquez, but I've made my decision. Mr. Katimski, today will be your last day here. I'm going to allow you to stay on with the play until it closes on Sunday, but that's it. You may go now." Mr. Katimski looked sympathetically at Ricky. There was nothing he could do now. He stood up and left the office, his head hanging below his shoulders. "Now Mr. Vasquez, this is not your fault. You didn't know any better. Mr. Katimski is the adult; he never should have allowed this to happen. I've talked to guidance and they're arranging a shelter for you to stay in.

"I don't want to live in a shelter! I had a home!"

"You were in a very unstable situation, and I can't allow it to go on. Now you will stay in the shelter, that is, if you don't want me to involve social services and the police." Ricky sat quietly in his seat. "Now then. I've arranged for you to go pick up your things from Mr. Katimski's today. You will then be escorted to the shelter, where you will to stay until further arrangements are made. Is that clear, Mr. Vasquez." Ricky nodded helplessly. Principal Foster picked up the phone to call over to guidance.

Just then there was a loud knock at the door and Patty Chase walked in, her usual huge smile stretched across her face.

"Hello, sorry to disturb you-"

"Mrs. Chase, as you can see, I'm in the middle of a very important meeting. You will kindly wait outside until I have a chance to see you." He waited expectantly for her to leave, but she only walked closer to his desk.

"No, I don't think you understand. I've come to get Ricky. You see, he was staying with us until recently. I've come to ask him to come back." Ricky looked up surprised at Mrs. Chase. He had left their home because she had been uncomfortable with him staying there. Was she serious? What had changed her mind?

"Well, thank you Mrs. Chase, but I've already made arrangements for Mr. Vasquez. If you'll please excuse us now." He turned back to Ricky, but Patty wasn't going anywhere just yet.

"I know all about your arrangements," Patty said in a harsh tone. "You'd have this fine young man living in a shelter with hundreds of troubled teens. He doesn't belong there. He belongs with people who love him. Now I have a roof for him to live under and a warm bed for him to sleep in, home cooked nutritious meals, and most importantly, people who love him. With your permission, I'd like Ricky to live with us." She was just trying to sound nice. She didn't care if she had his permission or not.

"Mrs. Chase! Even if I thought that was an appropriate solution, I don't have the authority to turn this boy over to your custody. Now I told you, I have everything under control." He glared powerfully at Patty, but she wasn't intimidated. Not this time. She had learned from Angela the last time that she had been in this office that she had to pick her battles in life. This was one. Poor Ricky sat there not even knowing what was happening, let alone what to do.

"Well, that's just not acceptable," Patty retorted. "What makes you think you could keep Ricky imprisoned in a shelter even if you could get him there in the first place? What's to stop him from running away again? That's why we're in this situation in the first place. Now I'm only going to say this once more. Ricky, go to class. When school's out, ride the bus home with Angela." Ricky nodded appreciatively. He got up and started to walk out.

"Mr. Vasquez, we're not through here. Sit back down."

"Ricky, you go ahead. I'll handle this." Patty nodded towards Ricky to assure him everything was okay. He smiled and closed the door behind him.

"Mrs. Chase, who do you think you are? Coming in here and-"

"I'm a parent. And a damn good one. If you think I'll have my daughter's good friend living in the streets so that you can avoid a scandal, you've got another thing coming. None of us know where his legal guardians are, including him, so as far as we're concerned he's homeless. Now I am fully aware that that means social services will have to be called, and I am fully prepared to petition to them to be his foster home. I'm sure they will opt for that over a homeless shelter. Now, I'm hoping you will be sensible and not push things any further, but if you decide to do so, you know where to find him. Now good day." Patty smiled and walked out of the principal's office, leaving Principal Foster speechless.

Patty walked out into the hall, leaned back against the wall, and let out a loud sigh. She hoped she knew what she was doing. Ricky walked up to her.

"Did you mean that, that I could stay with you? Because if you don't-"

"Oh, Ricky. I'm so sorry. This is all my fault." She gave him a big hug. "You never should have had to leave in the first place. You stay with us as long as you want, okay?" She let go and smiled at Ricky. He smiled and nodded. Then he gave her a big hug back and buried his head in her shoulder.

"Oh, Ricky," Patty laughed. "It'll all be okay. You'll see. Now you better get to class before you're late." He pulled back and smiled once more at her gleaming face before disappearing into the crowd. Patty smiled to herself. This was the right thing to do.

Brian Krakow stood at his locker wondering which books he needed for class. He looked through his array of books, notebooks, calculators, pens and pencils scattered throughout his locker. Brian looked at all the other kids, wondering if this was what their lockers looked like. Just then, Jordan Catalano and Angela Chase rounded the corner hand in hand. They stopped in a corner and kissed. It seemed to Brian like they'd been pressed against one another for an eternity before they finally parted and went their separate ways. Angela walked back the way they had come, and Jordan headed straight for Brian. He walked down the hall looking at the ground, like he always did. His hands hung by his sides, swinging slightly with each step he took. He walked right up to Brian and stopped.

"So, Brain? About tutoring today? I like, can't make it. I have this practice for my band. Did you hear we got back together?" He waited for a response. Brian looked confused. Did Jordan think he cared? "Anyways, we got a new name and all. We're Residue. So, can we just like, not meet today?"

"Yeah, fine, whatever. I have, like tons of Calculus work to do anyways. So, whatever." As far as Brian was concerned, he didn't need any more reminders of the events of late. Why was he still tutoring Jordan anyways?

Jordan walked off down the hall without another remark. It was like Brian didn't even exist. Brian wondered why Jordan Catalano ended up with Angela and he didn't. Maybe it was because he studied so much. Did Jordan Catalano even study at all. He doubted it. But what could he do about it? He was carrying a triple major and studying for the upcoming Calculus AP exam. He couldn't afford not to study. Brian closed his eyes and sighed, resolved with the fact that he would never find a girl.

Brian shut his locker and turned around. He looked up an down the hall. Everywhere he looked, it seemed like he saw couples holding hands or kissing. Just then he saw Delia Fisher standing alone by her locker. He slowly walked over to her and said hello. She looked at him, annoyed that he just couldn't take a hint.

"What do you want Krakow?" The sight of him made her want to throw up. Why did he think she was still interested in him?

"So, I was wondering if you were like, going to the play tonight." He looked at her hopefully.

"Yeah, so?" What did he want now?

"Well, since I'm going, and you're going, I was wondering if, like, you wanted to, like, go together. Or something."

"I'm going with Ricky."

"Oh, well, maybe we could all like, go together, or something."

"Look Brian. You hurt me. A lot. I would really appreciate if you would, like, not talk to me anymore." She looked like she was going to cry.

"Look, I told you I was sorry. I really want to make it up to you-"

"What are you doing Krakow?" interrupted Sharon Cherski as she stepped between him and Delia. "Can't you just leave her alone? You had your chance, and you, like, blew it. Now go find someone else to bother." Sharon was always there when Delia needed her most.

"Fine! I was just trying to be nice. I guess that's not even legal anymore." Sharon gave him a look a disgust, and Delia wouldn't even face him. He sighed a disgruntled sigh and walked off down the hall.

"I can't believe him! What nerve! He really doesn't take a hint, does he?" They both laughed.

Delia looked up at Sharon through her tears, her long curly hair falling in her wet eyes. "Thanks."

Sharon smiled. "Come on. Let's go find a happier place to be." They walked off down the hall, trying to avoid the hoards of rushing students.

* * *

"So what are you going to do?" Ricky asked Angela. He was reapplying his mascara. It was so hard to see clearly in those dirty bathroom mirrors. Why didn't they ever clean them? The pushing and shoving girls were no help either. He was being rocked around so much it was hard to keep a steady hand.

"I don't know. I've thought about it so much. And the thing is, I'm still hurt. And mad."

"Well of course. Why shouldn't you be?" Ricky paused to examine her reaction.

"I know, but I feel like somehow I caused it. And so it's as much my fault as it is theirs." Why hadn't she just slept with him when she had the chance?

"Angela, you can't think that way. It's your right not to have sex. And it's their right to react however they want to that. You can't be responsible. But you did forgive Jordan."

"I know that too. And I think I figured out why. Rayanne was supposed to be my best friend. She was supposed to care about me. But Jordan Catalano was just, like, this guy I had a crush on. And I was lucky enough for him to pay attention to me. So he had no commitment to me. He could do whatever he wanted. Rayanne was supposed to be considerate of my feelings. She was supposed to care how I felt."

"She still does. Why else would it hurt her so much to see you this unhappy. I know how you think everything should be, but it's just not always so. Rayanne has this way of not thinking about what she does. It's not that she doesn't care, she just doesn't think. And believe me, she's hurting too." Ricky was always right. He knew so much. Maybe Rayanne was right. The more problems you have, the more you knew. But Angela still didn't want to give in.

Just then Sharon and Delia walked into the bathroom. They were talking about Brian Krakow, and Delia looked like she'd been crying. What had Brian done now?

Sharon went into on of the stalls, and Delia walked up to Ricky. She wiped her eyes dry and tried to smile. "Hi Ricky," she said in her high pitched bubbly voice. Angela walked over to the sink to wash her hands, leaving the two relatively alone. "So, are we still going to the play together tonight.?"

"Oh, yeah. But it looks like I'm staying with the Chases now. So if you come over at say, 4:45, we could come here together. You could wait backstage with me before the play starts. You know I have to stay back there during the play, right?" She tried to hide her frown. She hadn't realized. Ricky caught her dismay and tried to cheer her up. "But you could sit with Angela and her family. And then you could come to the cast party or pizza or something afterward with us. If you want."

"That would be great," Delia replied, brightening up a little. Sharon came out of her stall and went to wash her hands. "Oh, I have to go now. But I'll see you then, okay?"

"Yeah, bye." Ricky watched as she backed her way out of the bathroom. She waved to him and blushed. Just as they were leaving, Rayanne Graff blew into the bathroom like a tornado. She walked right up to Angela and sat down on the sink, crossing her legs and resting her bag on her lap.

"Hey. How's it going?" Did she think everything was okay between them? Angela gave her a blank stare. Rayanne instantly knew that yesterday's talk had accomplished nothing. She brushed the bleached strip of hair out of her face and back toward her crimped ponytail. She looked at the floor, waiting for Angela to speak.

Angela said nothing. She stared at Rayanne through the mirror. She wasn't going to say anything. She reached for a paper towel and started to dry her hands. When she was done, she tossed the paper towel into the half full trash can and turned to leave.

"Angela?" Rayanne asked sheepishly "You're still coming to the play tonight, right?" Rayanne looked so fragile that she might break if Angela said no. The truth was, Angela didn't know if she could handle it.

"Oh, Rayanne, I don't know," she said very cautiously. She needed to be very careful of what she was about to tell her. "I'm supposed to go hear Jordan's band practice tonight, and I have that Geometry test to be studying for. You know how badly I did on the last one." Rayanne smiled. She knew. That was when Jordan and Angela first started going out and she missed every single review session. But still, Rayanne wanted her to be there for opening night.

"But you worked on the play," Rayanne pleaded. "Don't you want to see how it turns out?"

"I've been there every day. I've seen it." Angela frowned. Now that Rayanne wanted her to go so badly, she really didn't want to go. She didn't want to give her the satisfaction.

"Angela, don't let me stand in the way of something you care about. Not again." Angela thought about what that really meant. Rayanne was right; Angela shouldn't let her get in the way. But she did. Angela looked into Rayanne's eyes, searching for some familiar sign, but she found none. She looked back helplessly at Ricky standing by the mirror. He couldn't help her this time. She solemnly walked out of the bathroom.

Rayanne watched her go. She jumped down off the sink and sauntered over to Ricky. He looked at her sympathetically.

"She's still mad at me, huh?" She looked down at the ground ahsamed. She didn't need Ricky to tell her the answer to that.

"Give her time. Give her time." Ricky gave Rayanne a big hug. It was the first one he'd given her in a long time. Rayanne glowed inside. There was only one thing that could have made her happier right then.

* * *

Angela sat quietly in the loft Tino had found for Jordan Catalano's band to play in. She listened intently as the members of Residue performed their nightly rehearsal. She wasn't much interested in the tuning, playing, and arguing of the band members. She was there for only one reason. To watch Jordan Catalano. She leaned back on the couch and crossed her legs. It was not to say that they weren't good, they just weren't original at all. She had heard it all a thousand times before.

Angela tuned out the loud grinding music and began to think about her life. Where had it gone wrong? What had she done? She knew she wasn't supposed to blame these kinds of events on herself, but she did anyways. Ricky was right; Rayanne had been a damn good friend to her all these months. She thought back to the night they had tried to sneak into Let's Bolt. When those guys had hit on them and almost raped Rayanne. And when she'd overdosed at her own party and had almost died. She was always getting herself into those situations. What would she do without Ricky and Angela there to help her?

No. Angela could not allow herself to stay friends with Rayanne out of fear of what she might do to herself without her. That wouldn't be fair to herself. But still, the concept nagged at her. She worried about Rayanne still. Oh, God, why couldn't she just not care? Why did Rayanne still matter to her? She just wouldn't think about it anymore. She would ignore the inevitable.

Angela looked around the loft for something else to clog her mind with. It was pretty bare. Aside from the practice stage, the loft consisted of a ragged old couch, a hammock off in the corner, a couple of chairs, a small table with a lamp and phone resting on it, and a bar on the far side. Nothing of much interest. She turned back to the band and tried to concentrate on them.

Jordan stood on the left side strumming his guitar. The drummer and bass player, however, were not playing. They were once again arguing over Tino's absence. He had never been there when Angela had been. She wondered why he couldn't even show up to his own band's rehearsal. Why would they keep him in the band if he was such a flake, she wondered. Why wouldn't they just kick him out and form their own band. They had tried once before. When they were still Frozen Embryos and Tino had quit. And Rayanne Graff had joined on as the lead singer. God was that a nightmare! Angela guessed they just needed Tino, for some reason. Maybe it was because he was the best they could find, and they were just willing to take what they could get from him. Or maybe it was because he was their friend, and they decided to give him a second chance. She couldn't think about it anymore; Rayanne Graff had managed her way back into her stream of thought.

Maybe that was why Rayanne joined the band in the first place. Maybe she wanted to get close to Jordan so she could steal him from Angela. Maybe the whole "it just happened" line had been a big lie. It didn't matter anymore. Nothing really mattered. Yeah, Angela finally had Jordan Catalano. Really had him. But for how long would it last? A year if they were lucky? Was she willing to just take what she could get? Yeah, she was. Because she was still naive enough to believe that she had enough love for the two of them. She thought if she could love him enough while she had him, he would really fall in love with her. Maybe she was right.

Angela looked back at Jordan. How could she not love him? He was so...... him. His band members were nearly killing each other by this time, but he seemed completely unaware. He was lost in his music. She couldn't even hear what he was playing, but she knew it was beautiful. She could tell by how delicately he stroked the guitar strings, and the way his lips moved softly to his inaudible tone. He lived for the moment. He wasn't worried about the band, or practice, or even her. Just his music. Just then.

Suddenly he stopped and looked up at Angela. Their eyes locked and he smiled at her. She didn't move. He slowly lifted his guitar strap over his shoulder and leaned his guitar against the stool he'd been sitting on. He walked over to her and stopped in front of her, looking down from above.

Angela didn't lift her eyes. Instead, she looked down at his shoes. They were old, worn boots, and the laces were nearly worn through at parts. Sometimes she wondered why he didn't just buy new clothing when the old was worn out. She guessed they must have some special meaning to him, that he was willing to live with their flaws.

"Look, I don't think Tino's gonna show again, and these guys are about ready to cause a real scene. What do you say we just get out of here?"

Angela finally looked up at him, realizing that he cared more about her than about his band. "Okay," she agreed, without thinking.

They got in his car and drove off. Angela wondered where they were going. But it didn't really matter. As long as she was with him. But she wasn't with him. Not fully. Her mind was still racing. She looked over at him. He looked so intent on the road, but she thought he was probably thinking about band practice. She was finally starting to understand his thoughts. She thought back on the scene at the loft. Everything that happened. She pictured the loft in her head again. Nothing new. Same as before. But as she closed her eyes and scanned the room, one thing stood out. The hammock.

Why would 4 guys choose to furnish their seldomly used loft with a hammock? And what was a hammock, really? Why were they so attractive? Why did people always migrate to them when one was present. Was it maybe just the idea of a not so common place to rest one's body?

No, there was something more. Something much deeper. What was a hammock? It was this thing, made of string, that people sat on. At any time the strings could break and you could just fall through; it was very unsturdy. Always rocking back and forth, almost hard to balance on. But for some reason it felt safe. Once you were on, past the shaky part, you felt so safe. Like there was nothing that could disturb you. It was something you counted on, something to hold you up and not let you fall. You put all your trust into a bunch of strings interweaved and held up at two ends. You let yourself lay vulnerable to its whim, not even realizing the power it had over you. It wasn't safe at all. But people never thought of the concept of falling off when sitting down on one. It just wasn't something you prepared for. And falling is like, this really embarrassing thing. Especially if a lot of people are around watching. But if you did fall off of one, you just got up and got back on it. You didn't hate it for embarrassing you. You didn't hold it against it and vow never to sit on one again. You just gave it another chance. Without even thinking about it.

"Jordan, take me to school." That was it. No explanation.

"What? Why? I thought we......" he trailed off, confused by her sudden change of mood.

"Never mind. I just have something I have to take care of." She wasn't about to explain it to him. It was something she had to do on her own.

"Okay."

They drove in silence the rest of the way to school. Angela could tell Jordan was still confused by her request, but he would find out soon enough. She needed this to be her decision. No more being swayed by other people's opinions. She needed just a little bit longer to be sure she was doing the right thing.

* * *

Patty Chase sat with her family watching her daughter's school play. It was almost over and the actors were about ready to take their bows. She looked around at her family. Her loving husband, Graham. She felt so bad for how suspicious she'd been lately. She just didn't know how to be supportive. But she was getting better. She tried not to question his every move, constantly worrying if she was losing him. If anything, she knew he loved her dearly. He'd proven that so many times these last few months. And she was so proud of him, of all that he'd accomplished. He was opening his very own restaurant in only a few more days! Patty took Grahams hand in hers and squeezed it lovingly. He looked at her in confusion. She gave him a reassuring smile, and he went back to watching the play.

Beside Graham was their youngest daughter, Danielle. She'd been growing up so fast recently, and Patty felt like she'd been missing it entirely. She thought about how recently it seemed that she'd brought Danielle into this world, and how soon it seemed that she'd be grown up. Where did the time go? Patty vowed to herself to spend more time with Danielle and be sure not to lose touch like she felt she had with Angela.

Patty turned her head and looked at her oldest daughter. Angela felt like such a stranger to her. Everything had changed so quickly. New hair color, new friends, new life, and Patty wasn't included in any of it. She felt for Angela. She knew what she'd been through these last couple of weeks, but just didn't know how to help. But she was proud of Angela, too. For fending for herself and managing to be stronger than she herself would have been. For being lucky enough to have friends that helped her through the stuff that she herself couldn't.

Delia Fisher sat beside Angela. Patty had never met Delia until this night, but she seemed like a nice enough girl. Very happy and bubbly. Apparently she was a friend of Ricky's, whom he had invited to the play tonight. Patty was so worried about Ricky. She couldn't imagine what it would be like to be in his shoes. But she was sure she'd done the right thing earlier that day. That she'd helped where she could. And she had faith that all Ricky needed was a little love and sense of belonging. She could give that to him.

Patty looked at Brian Krakow sitting alone two rows in front of them. Patty had know Brian since he was five years old. He was her neighbor and, with his parents away so often, almost like the son she'd never had. She felt so bad for poor Brian. She knew how he felt about Angela. And she knew how Angela felt about him. She could only hope that Brian would be lucky enough to find someone he deserved.

Suddenly a loud sound filled Patty Chase's ears, and she looked around to see the entire audience clapping, cheering, and standing in ovation. She quickly joined in, but her previous thoughts re-invaded her head. She took one last look at her family and smiled. She was lucky. She was happy.

The actors returned backstage, and the audience began to leave their seats. Those that stayed milled around, mingling with each other and waiting for the actors to emerge. Brian Krakow walked up and stood unwelcomed among the Chase family. No one spoke to him. Angela kissed her mother and told her she'd be back shortly. Patty was so overwhelmed with joy that she didn't even care where Angela was going. Silence again. Finally Delia Fisher broke the silence.

"Hi Brian," she said, slightly blushing. He looked at her in awe, confused at why she was speaking to him.

"Hi," he said, unsure of what else to say.

"Look, Brian. You know you hurt me." Oh, God. He couldn't take it any more. How many times did he have to say he was sorry? "And I know you're sorry." Oh, so what did she want? "But I'm over that now. So I just wanted to tell you, I want to be friends."

Brian's face lit up. "Oh, so do you....... I mean, can we......."

"Friends Brian. Just friends." Brian's face drooped again, but just a little. At this point he would take any friends he could get. Delia smiled at him. Her smile always managed to brighten his mood.

"But Brian? I just think you need to be more considerate of people's feelings. I mean, if a girl likes you? And you like her? Be nice. Tell her how you feel. But if you don't like her? Still be nice. Tell her how you feel. You can't pretend you like her until a better one comes around. You have to decide. Okay?" Delia looked at him for a reaction. He looked down at his hands. She knew he understood. She took his hands in hers, and he looked up at her. She looked into his sad eyes. She had to let him take it from here. She let his hands go and went off to find Ricky.

Brian looked around at the stranglers still waiting around. He looked for anyone he knew. Then he saw Danielle. She was still sitting in her seat, looking impatient. He walked over and sat down next to her.

"Hey."

"What do you want?" She didn't even look at him.

"Nothing. Well, I was wondering if, like, you wanted to go get something to eat. Or something." Danielle wasn't so bad. And besides, she liked him.

"No. I mean, not with you." She still didn't look at him.

Brian's head dropped a little, and he realized he had blown it with her, too. He got up to leave.

"Well, I mean. Only if you really want to." Danielle peered at him out of the corner of her eye. She was just checking to see if he was serious. This was the guy she liked, how could she pass him up? "Because I wouldn't want to go if you were only going because I was, like, the only person left." Brian looked back at her and she looked back away. He smiled and sat back down beside her.

"Danielle, I asked you because I meant it. I wouldn't ask if I didn't mean it." Now he looked at her for a reaction.

"Oh," she said nonchalantly. "Well, it that case, okay!" With the final word her face lit up like a candle. Brian smiled back at her as she took his hand in hers.

Ricky stood backstage returning props to their table. Cory approached him and stopped, unsure of what to say.

"Hey. Good show."

Ricky turned and saw Cory standing there. "Thanks." It was uncomfortable for both of them.

"So, I'm sorry to hear about what happened. I hope I didn't-"

"Oh, no. Don't worry about it. It's not your fault. I just wish Mr. Katimski didn't have to go."

"Yeah, me too." They both looked down in silence. "So, do you still want me to paint your shoes?"

Ricky looked up at him. He had forgotten all about that. His face brightened. "Yeah. That would be nice."

"Ricky?" Ricky turned to see Delia Fisher standing there unsure of herself.

"Oh, Delia. Hi." Ricky looked back and forth between his two visitors uncomfortably.

"So? Are we still going to the cast party? Or pizza, or whatever?" Delia looked like she had just gone through a painful ordeal and really needed to be cheered up. Ricky wanted to help her, but also wanted to get closer to Cory. He didn't know what to do.

"Yeah, sure. Delia? Do you know Cory?" The two looked at each other. They performed the ritual greetings and then both looked at Ricky.

"So, Ricky. I guess I'll see you there." Cory reached out his hand for Ricky. Ricky grasped it and they shook. Cory walked away and called back over his shoulders, "Don't forget. I owe you a new coat of paint on those shoes." They both smiled and laughed as Cory disappeared. Ricky knew that there was definitely the possibility of a relationship, of some sort, lurking between the two.

"Ricky?" His attention snapped back to Delia. "Can I help with something?" Ricky smiled, glad he had Delia as a friend, but sad that he couldn't like her in the way he knew she liked him.

All the actors emerged from backstage and were instantly greeted by family, friends, and bouquets of flowers. Rayanne watched her cast mates go through the ordeal and searched desperately for someone she knew. There was no one. Even Ricky wasn't there, although she knew he was still backstage. She wandered through the few remaining audience members, but couldn't find anyone. She wished her mom had come tonight instead of tomorrow night. She was so lonely. Rayanne walked back to the stage and sat in one of the chairs. She thought about her life.

What had she done that would cause her, Rayanne Graff, to have no friends? She didn't have to think about it. She knew. She would have given anything to take back that night, but she knew she couldn't. She wished she could just hide in her apartment for the rest of her life, not deal with reality. But this damn play. This damn play kept her right smack in the middle of reality. There was no avoiding it. Well, this was her life. She'd created it, now she had to exist in it. She closed her eyes and remembered the times she and Angela had had together. They hadn't known each other for long, but she was the best friend she'd ever had. And she'd ruined it. And there was nothing she could do about it. She might as well be dead.

Just then Rayanne felt a warm hand on he shoulder. She gasped, unsure of who it could be. Please don't let it be Brian Krakow. That's all she needed. Slowly Rayanne opened her eyes and turned her head. Standing above her was Angela Chase. Her face was lit up like it had been so many times before, and she was holding a single red rose. Rayanne stared at her in awe.

"You were wonderful," Angela said, as her eyes began to fill with tears. "Better than in any of the rehearsals." Rayanne was speechless. She'd been sure Angela wouldn't come, just like she hadn't come to hear her sing with Jordan Catalano's band.

"Angelica?"

"Wait. I need to say this." Angela paused to wipe her eyes dry. "I can't do this Rayanne. I can't hate you. I want to. I want to so much." Rayanne looked down ashamed. "I've thought about this every day. And I've tried to come up with one good reason not to hate you. And finally, I found it. You're my friend Rayanne. And you did something terrible to me. And I can't ever forget that. But you're still my friend. And that's what friendship's about, right?" Rayanne nodded, unsure of what she was agreeing to. "Forgiving. Giving second chances. Because, if you think about it? Friendships are so unstable. But that's just it. You don't think about it. You just leap right in. And when you find a friend? A real friend? You feel so safe. Even though you're not. So when something happens? Something like this? The reason it hurts so much is because you weren't prepared. But you can't prepare yourself. You can't just not trust a friend. Or you don't have a friendship at all. So you trust a friend. And you count on them. And you let them support you. And you hope they don't let you fall. But if they do? You have to just pick yourself back up, because you can't just sit there on the ground with everyone laughing at you. So you pick yourself back up. And you get back on. Because sooner or later you'll always fall again. But if you have a friend? A real friend? Whose been through it all with you before and stuck it out? You'll always have someone to help you back up. So you don't have to do it all alone."

Rayanne stared at her. She had absolutely no idea what Angela had just said, but she thought it was supposed to good. She stood up and looked at Angela for a clue to what she'd just said.

"I love you Rayanne. So there's only one thing I can do now." Angela handed Rayanne the rose. She took it cautiously, still unsure of what this all meant. Angela leaned over and hugged her. She wrapped her arms around Rayanne's entire body, pulling tighter with every passing moment. Rayanne took the clue and pressed her own arms against Angela's back. The two stood there silently for a moment.

"I missed you," Rayanne cried, tears flowing freely from her eyes.

"I missed you, too."

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“I cannot bring myself to eat a well-balanced meal in front of my mother.”

Angela Chase, Episode 1: "My So-Called Life (Pilot)"