Luanne quickly found Will in the lobby of the theatre after the play ended. He was waiting patiently as he watched all the students and patrons file out of the doors. He had a devious look in his eye, a look that made Luanne sick to her stomach with guilt.
"Where are the other two?" He asked as she neared.
"They're right behind me," she answered, slightly offended he didn't even bother to say hello.
"Good," he smiled at her. "Did you write that book review I asked for?"
Luanne smiled and nodded.
"Get me alone with Laila tonight and it will be published in Monday's paper."
Her face sank when she heard this. She had worked so hard on that review but she now believed that if she got Will what he wanted, he would publish that piece even if it was absolute garbage. She winced as she heard Laila's laugh coming from behind her. The girl was so naïve yet, Luanne had to admit, incredibly kind. Laila had been receptive to her attempts at reconciliation, something Luanne hadn't been expecting. Laila shouldn't want to talk to her or even look at her after the scene Luanne had caused. She felt almost friendly toward her roommate now, felt a certain bond. She knew they could be friends - something Luanne had forced at first but now deeply desired. She could see the connection between Laila and Piper and longed for the same thing.
In Birmingham, she had no friends. As a child she had been teased relentlessly about her weight and her appearance. She isolated herself from everyone, even after she transferred schools at the beginning of her freshman year. Her excuse was always her school work, her extra-curricular activities. She would lie to her parents, who were always worried about her, and say that she was going to a friend's house after school. Most days, she would spend time in the library or binging on coffee cake and mochas at Starbucks.
But now, she had an opportunity to start over, to form some real connections with people. She knew her overly-organized lifestyle wasn't the right way to attract friends, but she also knew no other way to live. She was completely torn between what she had been working towards and what she had always wanted.
She looked up at Will who was glaring at her, clearly waiting for an affirmative response. She nodded her head quickly and turned to greet her roommates.
"Are we ready?" She heard Will say.
Laila and Piper both smiled, clearly amused by something that had been said earlier. Laila glanced at Luanne and she forced her cheeks to raise into a smile. This would be fine, she thought to herself. There was nothing wrong with getting ahead in life.
Luanne tagged along behind the other three as they walked to the restaurant. She smiled politely when Laila and Piper tried to include her in their conversation, glared at Will when he ignored her. The knot in her stomach grew as they reached their destination. She knew enough about Will to guess that if she didn't deliver, he was capable of making her life a living hell. She almost felt sick to her stomach with the idea that Laila and Piper would find out what they had been up to.
"Hey?" She looked up and saw that Laila had been waiting for her at the door. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. Just not feeling that great," Luanne said honestly.
"Do you want to skip dinner? Piper and I can take you home," Laila offered, a concerned and disappointed look on her face.
"No, I'll be fine. Let's go inside." Luanne forced a smile and walked past her roommate who was holding the door for her. Just then she realized what she had to do and she let her smile fade as she reached the table, quickly taking a seat beside Piper. Laila sat down across from her, her eyes filled with worry for her roommate. Luanne picked up a menu to hide behind.
"So, Will," Piper said, nudging Luanne's leg under the table. "What do you do for fun, besides attending school plays?"
"I'm the editor of the Yale Daily News. That takes up a lot of time," Will smiled at her.
"Really?" Piper beamed at the information. "Luanne wants to be a writer."
Finally Luanne looked up and smiled at the group. Will was grinning at her. "I know," he said slowly. "She brought her portfolio by my office the other day and I was so impressed, I gave her an assignment."
"Really?" Laila practically squealed. "Luanne, why didn't you tell us?"
"It hasn't been published yet," she glanced sternly at Will who was still smiling.
"I'm sure it will be great," he said almost reassuringly.
"Is that how you two know each other then?"
Both Will and Luanne's head snapped towards Laila who was glancing between the two eagerly.
"Yes," Will finally answered.
Luanne nodded in agreement but was saved by the waitress from saying anything further on the topic. The four of them ordered and Luanne made sure to keep quiet. Piper and Laila kept trying to include her in the conversation, something which made Luanne's deception feel that much worse, and eventually she excused herself to the restroom.
"You can do this," she told her reflection as she stood at the vanity. "The newspaper is worth it." She dabbed her face with a wet paper towel and rubbed the thin skin under her eyes, reassuring herself again and again that she was making the right decision.
She walked slowly back to the table and made sure to trip over her own feet when she was within view.
"Luanne, are you sure you're feeling alright?" Laila gave her a concerned look as Luanne supported herself on the edge of the table.
"Actually, I think I need to go home."
"Well, we'll go with you." Laila started to stand up.
Luanne knew that was going to happen and she glanced at Will before speaking. "You've already ordered, I can make it home on my own."
"Don't be ridiculous," Piper chimed in. "We'll just tell them that we need to leave. I'm sure they haven't started making our food yet."
"I don't want to inconvenience anyone," Luanne said as pathetically as she could.
"I tell you what," Will spoke up. "Laila and I will stay here and ask for the food to go. Piper can take you home and you can have it in the morning."
"Is that okay?" Luanne asked hesitantly, looking at Piper.
"That's fine with me," Piper said, glancing at Laila.
Laila nodded and smiled at Luanne. "You should really get home and get some rest. We'll be right behind you."
Luanne gave Laila a small smile and waited for Piper to collect her things. She glanced back only once to see Will smiling at her blonde roommate and Laila gesturing for the waitress.
A/N: Okay, so I know this chapter is a little short and a little slow...so that's why I'm posting again on Friday :) Thank you all for reading! Much Love ~ Pink