Katherine glared at us from outside the booth. She bristled with fury. “Abigail,” Katherine snarled, “we need to talk. Now.”
I gaped at her. I felt like a dominatrix was yelling at me for stealing cookies from the jar, except I was also having ingrained flashbacks to Katherine hounding us when deadlines were approaching at work. I looked to Megan for help, but Megan wasn’t there.
“You are a royal bitch,” Katherine spat at me. “Emma, I thought you had better taste.”
The insults didn’t register to me, but Megan’s absence did. “Where’s Megan?” I panicked. If no one was with her then who would know if Mr. Salvatore was nabbing her?
“In the bathroom,” Katherine snapped. “Checking her blood sugar. Or maybe just crying her eyes out in private.”
“What?!” I shifted Emma out of my lap and stood. Concern for my best friend eclipsed pretty much everything else. I’d be a wreck when Katherine’s anger caught up to me, but until then… I stepped up to Katherine. “What the hell did you do?”
“Me? Me?!” Katherine’s eyes widened in outraged fury. She stepped forward, pushing me back against the table. “You’re the one whose call made her give that stupid excuse and run off crying! What did you say to her?”
I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment. My mind was reeling – Katherine’s anger was catching up. But Megan had sounded fine on the phone. “I… uh… I asked if she’d be okay with staying here late because I was kind of hitting it off with Emma,” I said. Which, in retrospect, might not have been exactly what I’d said – but I’d meant to, and Megan has known me for long enough that she usually knows what I mean when I accidentally blurt out something else entirely.
“Oh, no,” Emma gasped. “I thought it was Fumiko!”
I looked at Emma in surprise, then at Katherine, and then back at Emma again. “What?” I insisted.
Emma clambered out of the booth. “I’m going to check on Megan,” she said hastily as she squirmed past Katherine, who grudgingly let her go. I watched Emma disappear into the crowd and started to follow, but Katherine put out an arm and blocked me.
“Okay, seriously,” I said. “What the hell?”
Katherine glared at me like I was a particularly loathsome bug. “Megan has had a stupid crush on you for years,” she said. Her voice dripped with caustic derision. “And you just decided to come out to her by ‘hitting it off’ with another woman.”
I gawked at Katherine. “But… Megan’s straight,” I said in confusion. “She dates boys.” I knew she did. I knew she did in explicit detail. “She’s not a lesbian!” I protested.
Katherine sneered. “I’m not saying she is,” she said. “I’m saying she’s bi.” Katherine snapped her fingers at me. “Try to keep up, Abigail.”
I shook my head. “No,” I said. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Katherine crossed her arms and stepped forward again, crowding me against the table. “I’m her best friend,” Katherine declared. “I know Megan is bi. I know she has a thing for you. And God only knows why.”
I blinked my eyes. They seemed to be all watery and blurry. No, Katherine couldn’t be right. Megan couldn’t be… she couldn’t have a… She was my best friend. How could I not know something as big as this? Katherine had to be wrong. “But Megan is my best friend,” I protested in hurt confusion.
Katherine glared at me with the kind of hate I think most people reserve for baby-eating cannibals, ex-spouses, and pushy telemarketers. “I’m not saying she isn’t,” Katherine said. “I’m saying I’m hers.” Katherine’s lips twisted in a scowl, like she’d tasted something rotten. “You know, she’s always going on to me about how fun and clever you are, but you’re actually pretty damn slow, aren’t you? She must be wearing some really rosy glasses to have it so bad for a shit like you.”
I recoiled. “But… no.” Then, more forcefully: “No! She can’t have a crush on me. She’s been trying to hook me up with other people for almost as long as she’s known me!”
“Oh, of course,” Katherine agreed. “It’s almost as if she were trying to get you to commit to a sexuality without coming out and making you go ape-shit like her family did. Or maybe she thought she could get over you if you got off the market. Or maybe she just stupidly wants you to be happy because she stupidly thinks she’s in love with you, and the one thing she wants is to be loved back so she thinks that’ll do it for you, too.”
I stared. I knew Megan had fallen out with her family, but she’d never said why. I hadn’t pushed her on it, either. “But….”
“No,” Katherine snapped. “We’re done. You need to leave, or so help me I will have you thrown out. The only good thing about this is that she’s gotten to see what a callous bitch you are. Maybe she’ll realize she’s better off with people who care about her.”
“I care,” I protested – but it came out as a whisper.
Katherine laughed; a short, hateful bark. “You never even noticed,” she accused. “So stop pretending to give a shit now.” Katherine stepped aside and pointed at the doors across the dance floor from us.
“Go,” Katherine commanded. “Before I have Bob physically stuff your worthless carcass in a dumpster.”
I was barely holding back tears. “Don’t let Megan leave,” I whispered in surrender. “Mr. Salvatore is after her. You know what he is.”
Katherine stared at me. Then her sneer returned. “Fuck you,” she said. “I’ve been keeping Megan safe from Salvatore and his ilk for two years. Why would I need your help now?”
I nodded. She wouldn’t. I turned and followed Katherine’s pointing finger. I wasn’t paying attention, but I didn’t run into anyone. Maybe the crowd parted around me – people silently shifting to let the pariah pass. I’d felt like they’d been staring at me all night, but now I didn’t care.
I deserved the shame.
So I didn’t protest, and I didn’t look. I just hobbled out on my injured foot, and prayed Megan would be okay, and ignored the tears silently streaking my face.