Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
The bell signifying the end of the last class of the day rang promptly at three fifteen. Mr. Feeny dismissed the class and best friends Cory and Shawn gathered their books, pens and notebooks, quickly shoving them into their respective book sacks.
“I’d have to say that yesterday was the worst Valentine’s Day’s I’ve ever had since Topanga and I started going together,” Cory complained dolefully, standing near his desk in front of Shawn’s.
They slung their backpacks over their shoulders and were the last to file out of the room behind their classmates who had been a little more than anxious to be gone. Cory hung back to allow Shawn to go through the doorway before him.
“Well, it was actually one of my best,” Shawn stated as they strolled over to his locker. “Even though those girls made me look like an idiot in front of my girlfriend.”
Cory turned his head as they walked and saw Topanga leaving Feeny’s classroom. She didn’t even look in his direction as she passed. He sighed despondently and turned to Shawn.
“Well, at least you had a girlfriend for Valentine’s Day.”
Shawn finished removing his books from his locker, replacing a few that he’d had in his book sack. “What do you mean had?” he asked with a frown. “Angela and I are still together.”
It was Cory’s turn to frown. “Um, didn’t you tell her that you just wanted to be friends?” He gave a casual shrug. “I could be wrong, but that doesn’t sound like you two are still together.”
Shawn slammed his locker shut and turned to his friend. “What I said was, I wanted to change our relationship because I thought that we needed to be friends before we could fall in love,” he corrected him. “It’s not the same thing.”
Cory’s face expressed his skepticism. “Same difference. Frankly, I don’t get what all the fuss is about, Shawnie,” he stated, throwing out his hands. “You’re already in love with Angela. And not just because she’s pretty, and you think she’s hot. You and Angela connected on a much deeper level. But you let those girls make you doubt your own feelings.”
“Well, maybe I did,” Shawn conceded. “But you’ve got to admit, they had made some good points about me, Cor.” He lowered his eyes. “Maybe I’m not boyfriend material after all.”
“Or maybe they were jealous that you weren’t boyfriend material for them,” his friend suggested, nodding wisely.
Shawn looked up at that, a quizzical look in his eyes. “Well, if you really thought that, why didn’t you say anything last night?”
Cory leaned back against the row of locker doors, crossing his legs at the ankle. “I’m saying something now. Listen Shawn, when I fell in love with Topanga, we weren’t friends. I mean we knew each other from when we were kids, but we didn’t become friends until after we started dating. That’s when we started to get to know each other.”
Shawn’s blue eyes widened as he stared at Cory. “S-So you’re saying that I screwed up again?” he demanded, his voice rising at the end. “A-Are you saying that Angela thinks I broke up with her?”
“Come on, Shawnie.” He looked around the quickly emptying hallway. “Do you see her around here? Don’t you two usually meet up after class and go to Chubbie’s after school?”
Thunderstruck by Cory’s logic, Shawn nodded slowly. He was starting to feel a little numb. “Yeah, we do,” he replied. Cory was right. Angela must have left the room as soon as the bell rang. He hadn’t even seen her go, and they sat next to each other on the back row.
Mulling over this new information, he absently slipped the books he’d taken from his locker into his bag. “She probably went straight ahead to Chubbie’s to wait for me there,” he concluded hopefully. “You know—to give you and me a bit of time together, Cor.” The worried look on his face abated somewhat. “That’s all it is. She knows how upset you are over Topanga standing you up last night. Angela’s really good about giving me my space, too.”
Cory gazed at him speculatively. Shawn sounded more like he was attempting to convince himself than anything else. He kept his thoughts to himself. “You’re probably right, Shawnie,” he agreed lightly. “So…you going to Chubbie’s or what?”
“Well, yeah. I mean, I know Angela’s going to be waiting for me.” Although his response was swift, his voice lacked conviction. Suddenly, he brightened. “Why don’t you tag along, Cor? Angela won’t mind.” If she’s there, he thought anxiously, and if she wasn’t, Cory and I can drown our sorrows in colas and pass the time talking about how stupid we are.
Cory thumped him on the back, drawing Shawn’s attention away from his unsettling thoughts. “Sure. Let’s go.”
Shawn smiled wanly and hoisted his back pack onto his shoulder. “After you.”
The two friends left John Adam’s High School headed for their after school hang out, Chubbie’s Famous Hamburgers. Unbeknown to them, both were hoping the same thing: that Angela was there and waiting for Shawn. They would soon discover that they were only partly right.
Angela descended the old wooden stairs leading down into Chubbie’s small dining room. Once at the bottom, she looked around and spied the person she’d come to meet. Affixing a smile upon her lips, she quickly crossed the beaten up wooden floor, her low healed granny boots tapping gently on the wide boards, and slid into a low booth at the room’s far end.
Her companion looked up swiftly. “Hey,” Ted Brazelton, John Adams High’s star wide receiver, said in greeting. He was a good looking black guy with short wavy hair, caramel-colored skin and a line of light fuzz over his upper lip that he proudly called a mustache. “Thanks for coming, Angela.”
She sat her full book bag down beside her and laid her hands down on the table “So what the big emergency, Ted?” she asked abruptly. “I was surprised to see you waiting for me at my locker right before lunch period.”
“I was surprised to see you alone for once.” Ted shoved two French fries into his mouth. “Hunter actually let you out of his sight for a change.”
Angela propped her chin on the palm of her hand and narrowed her dark eyes at critical tone of the comment. “Shawn and I don’t have to be together all the time to be together,” she countered. “But you didn’t ask me to meet you here to talk about Shawn or our relationship, did you?”
Astonishingly enough, Ted pushed his half-full fry basket on the side. “No, I didn’t.” He accepted the mild chiding with good grace. “I really need the advice of a female. I don’t have any sisters, and I could never go to my Mom about a thing like this,” he said, shuddering at the thought. “And I couldn’t trust telling this to any other girl. It would be all over the school by noon tomorrow.”
She frowned thoughtfully. “Speaking of being all over the school, we need to make this as quick as possible,” she suggested, twirling one of her spiraling curls between her fingers. “It might be better if Shawn didn’t know that I met you here.” Ever since Shawn had found out that she was seeing Ted after he’d discovered that she was the “purse girl” with whom he had fallen in love after finding a purse filled with her things that she’d borrowed from a friend and which she’d ended up losing, he’d displayed an absolute and unreasonable dislike for the popular football jock. His being co-captain of the football team only further served to irritate her current boyfriend. Because of this, Angela preferred that her meeting with him not get back to Shawn, and if they were together too long someone was bound to get the wrong idea and take it back to him who would then overreact like he always did when he felt threatened. She’d found out about that part of his character within days of their second successful attempt at dating.
Ted raised an eyebrow and automatically reached over to get a fry. “Trouble between you two?” he inquired curiously around the fry in his mouth. “I thought you guys were supposed to be soul mates or somethin’?”
Angela sighed. “It’s no big deal. Just something Shawn’s going through right now,” she said evasively. She looked at Ted expectantly. “So—what’s so important that you needed my advice?”
“Well, after you broke up with me to go out with Hunter, I asked Tabitha Johnson to go out with me. You’re a friend of hers, right?” Ted paused and waited for her to give his inquiry an obligatory acknowledgement.
Hiding her impatience, Angela nodded and settled in while Ted went on to explain his dilemma with his new girlfriend.
A half hour later, Shawn bounded down the same stairs that Angela had on her way to meet Ted in Chubbie’s dining room cellar. He was in a hurry to see if she was there or not. When he got to the bottom landing, his eyes immediately located and zeroed in on Angela. A small smile began to raise the corners of his mouth. He started down the remaining few stairs only to come to an abrupt halt when his focus widened, and he realized with shock that she wasn’t alone.
Cory careened into the back of him. “Hey! Why’d you stop like that?” he asked sharply, gazing at Shawn in surprise. Then following the direction of his friend’s gaze, he stifled a groan. Wonderful! More drama.
Shawn’s eyes blazed with sparks of blue flames shooting from their depths as Angela reached across the table to lay her hand on Ted’s larger one. Before Cory could pull him back, he quickly strode over to their table; the same one at which Angela and Ted been sitting when he’d interrupted their date nearly three months ago to plead with her to go out with him again.
“Hey, Angela.” He stopped beside their table. He noted with grim satisfaction that their heads whipped around at the unexpected sound of his voice.
“Shawn!” Angela exclaimed. She looked surprised, but he couldn’t detect any guilt or unease in her expression. “What’re you doing here?”
“Oh, coming to meet you, honey,” he replied smoothly. The false note of sweetness failed to completely cover the underlying edge in his tone. His eyes traveled from hers to the hand lying so intimately over Ted’s.
It was removed like a shot to the accompaniment of a slightly self-conscious giggle.
“Could I speak to you a minute?” Shawn asked abruptly. He folded his lips as he waited for her answer.
She turned her head and glanced at Ted who quickly rose. “Hey Hunter, you can take my place,” he offered affably. He picked up his red and gold letterman’s jacket from the ledge of the booth. Holding it between his hands, he said simply to Angela, “See you around.” Yet the covert look he gave her, meant to convey his unspoken gratitude for her assistance, was intercepted by Shawn and wholly misinterpreted. His lips tightened even further with annoyance.
Ted turned to go, but Cory was standing in his way. “Matthews,” he said with a curt nod and stood waiting for him to move.
“Brazelton,” Cory responded cordially enough, but he deliberately took his time moving out of Ted's path. He turned his head to make sure that the other guy was leaving. While Cory was watching Ted climb the stairs to exit on the first floor level, Shawn slid into the seat facing a silent but calm Angela. Fuming blue eyes met untroubled dark brown for an extended moment until Shawn broke the contact by casting a quick glance up at his friend.
“Cory, would you mind?” Shawn asked. Cory turned back to face them. “I need to talk to Angela. Alone.”
“Sure.” He glanced at both of his friends then indicated the ordering window with a jerk of his thumb. “I’m going to get a burger. Um, you guys want anything?”
“No,” Shawn said shortly. He was studying Angela with unwavering intensity.
She met Cory’s anxious eyes placidly. “Nothing for me, Cory.” She smiled her thanks.
They waited until Cory had walked away. Someone changed the jukebox’s music, and loud strains of old school rock ‘n roll blared through its speakers.
Angela smiled at Shawn who didn’t respond. “I didn’t know we were still going to meet here after last night,” she commented.
“Why wouldn’t we?” Shawn asked belligerently.
“Well, you said that you just wanted to be friends, and I thought—”
“That’s not what I said,” he interjected abruptly. Thoroughly frustrated, he raked his hand threw his hair. “Why is everyone saying that that’s what I said? All I said was that I thought we needed to be friends before we could fall in love.”
Angela frowned. “It’s the same thing, Shawn.”
More annoyed than he’d felt he’d ever been in his life, Shawn sucked in his breath sharply. “So the fact that you thought that we were friends now instead of boyfriend and girlfriend gave you an excuse to accept a date with Ted, Angela?”
Angela cast her eyes heavenward. “Shawn, you’re overreacting!”
He leaned forward, his face intent. His black leather jacket creaked a little as he moved. “How am I overreacting? You were sitting here, holding hands with an old boyfriend, and I’m overreacting, Angela?” he asked angrily. “For all I know, you’ve been waiting for something like this to happen so that you could go back to your little two week plan. Maybe just being with me is too boring for you!”
This kind of accusation coming as it did from the John Adams High reigning king of dating was as ironic as it was absurd. Employing every ounce of restraint available, Angela resisted the urge to roll her eyes and sighed instead, trying to summon up the patience necessary to deal with Shawn when he was being unreasonable.
“Shawn, if you’ll just let me explain—”
“What’s there to explain?” Shawn asked huffily. He flung out his hand. “I could see for myself what was going on. It’s obvious to me that you want to see other people.”
Angela drew in her breath. “Shawn, that’s not true. But you’re the one who said that you wanted to change our relationship,” she stated indisputably. “You’re the one who let those jealous cats influence you.”
Shawn stared at her. “I don’t believe this!” He was utterly flabbergasted. “Angela, you were here with another guy, and suddenly, it’s my fault?” He bristled, pointing to himself incredulously.
“No!” Angela closed her eyes and tried to hold onto her temper. He was twisting every thing she said. “I mean, I did meet him here, that’s true. But Ted and I—”
Shawn didn’t give her a chance to finish. Just hearing her utter the words ‘Ted and I’ increased his annoyance tenfold.
“How would you feel if you’d found me here with-with Dana Pruitt, for instance?” he inquired rashly, without thinking the statement through, or paying any heed to its possbile implication. He was too intent on making a point to see the slippery slope just ahead. “What if I’d asked her out? Huh?" Two could play this game, he thought triumphantly. "How would that make you feel?”
A heartfelt groan came from the table behind them. Yet neither combatant heard it; both were too engrossed in the developing drama to notice.
Angela didn’t answer for a long moment. After studying his face, she tilted her head, her eyes narrowing dangerously. “Well, since you and I are only friends now, is that something that you think you want to pursue?” she asked coolly. She folded her arms and waited for his answer.
Somehow even Shawn sensed that the mood at the table had changed slightly. The momentary victory he’d experienced just a second ago slipped away as though it had never even existed. Suddenly, he felt confused and unsure of his footing.
Angela impatiently cleared her throat to reclaim his attention as he sat floundering.
“What?” He gazed at her rather blankly.
Angela’s chin went up. “I asked you if dating Dana was something that you thought you wanted to do.”
Shawn’s eyes grew wary. “Of course not!” he exclaimed decisively. “W-What would make you think that?”
Angela unfurled her arms and spread her hands. “Well, if a couple of hours with your old girlfriends can make you doubt yourself and your feelings, I don’t think it’s that great a leap in logic to assume that you might feel like your missing out. I also find it interesting that out of the three of them you singled out Dana Pruitt.” She met his eyes unflinchingly.
Shawn bit his lip. He reached across the table to take her hand, but she pulled it away and laid both in her lap. He swallowed hard.
“Angela, honey, I-I only brought up Dana as an example,” he said hastily, gesticulating wildly with his hands as he was wont to do when upset. “You know, like-like you and Ted.”
Angela shook her head. “No, not like me and Ted, Shawn. Ted isn’t sucking on sour grapes like those girls are and wishing that he was you. Ted didn’t kidnap me or make me doubt our relationship in a little under two hours,” she argued, her voice growing hard. “Ted asked me to meet him here purely as a friend so that I could give him some advice about something he wanted to do for his new girlfriend.”
“Okay, so I was wrong,” Shawn conceded with visible relief. When Angela turned to the side, grabbing her book sack that resided on bench next to her, and slid it onto her shoulder, his heart started pounding as he realized what that signified. She quickly slid out of the booth and stood gazing down into his boyishly handsome but presently stunned face.
Shawn looked up at her, feeling a little dazed by the situation's rapid deterioration.
“L-Look, Angela, I-I know you’re mad,” he stuttered in his haste to speak, “and-and you have every—”
“Those girls got to you a little too easily, Shawn. I think you have some unresolved issues to work through,” she said icily.
Shawn stared up at her aghast at what was happening. “Angela—”
“I think you need to explore your feelings and figure out what you want,” she went on, just as though he hadn’t spoken. “When you do, give me a call.” He searched her pretty face for a sign of softening but found none. “Maybe I’ll be waiting, and maybe I won’t,” she declared, her voice quietly resolute before she spun around and swiftly walked away.
When she got near the stairs, Shawn finally found his voice. “Angela! I-wait!” She didn’t stop but hurried up the stairs, her half boots thundering on the steps as she ran up them.
He jumped up quickly, rushing over to the cellar exit only to be intercepted by Cory who put out his arms, catching Shawn by the shoulders.
“Cory, let me go!” Shawn struggled against him. “You don’t understand. Angela just broke up with me!”
Shawn stopped fighting. “You did?” he asked, surprised.
“I was sitting at the table behind you, Shawnie,” Cory explained. “You were just too preoccupied to notice.”
Shawn pushed his hair out of his face. “Yeah, I was.” Piercing blue eyes bored into Cory’s brown. “Then you know that Angela broke up with me! She thinks I want to date Dana Pruitt!” He grabbed at Cory in a panic. “I don’t want to date Dana. I love Angela.”
“Well then, why did you tell her that you wanted to be friends last night?” Cory asked with exasperation.
For a minute Shawn couldn’t think of an adequate answer. His mind was blank. Why had he done that? he asked himself. He wasn’t even sure anymore. Angela had been more than understanding about the whole fiasco and hadn’t blamed him at all. Why hadn’t he just shut his mouth and gone with her?
“Well?” his best friend asked insistently.
Suddenly, the reason why he’d risked his and Angela’s growing relationship became murky and unclear.
“I don’t know, alright!” Shawn practically shouted at him. Then he realized that they were attracting attention, and he tore himself from Cory's grasp before heading back to the table where he threw himself into the booth. “All I could think about was everything those girls were saying about me. I guess maybe I said I wanted us to friends because I-I wanted to make sure that I didn’t hurt her, Cory.”
“Shawnie, that’s admirable, but you’re a guy.” After rescuing his barely touched burger and drink from the nearby table, Cory sat down where Angela had been seated. “And therefore, a card carrying member of the idiot breed. You’re practically programmed and predestined to hurt Angela in someway without even trying,” he informed him, his tone matter-of-fact. He grabbed the ketchup bottle, upended it and slathered his burger with its contents.
Shawn studied his friend's disgusting project with fascinated eyes.
“So next time, just relax and enjoy the quiet before the storm," Cory advised him helpfully. "Because ironically enough, while you were innocently laying the groundwork necessary not to hurt Angela, you unintentionally accomplished just that last night.”
Shawn’s heavy eyebrows snapped together. “What do you mean?”
“Hurting Angela. I think you did hurt her,” Cory said, clarifying his meaning. He returned the red plastic container to its resting place near the wall. “She doesn’t give much away, but I saw the look on her face when you said you wanted to change your relationship to just being friends.”
“I didn’t see anything.” This was news to him, but perhaps he’d been too wrapped up in trying to make amends to the other girls and preoccupied with his own feelings to notice Angela’s. What Cory had said about Angela was true though. She was intensely proud and would have tried to hide her hurt from him. “W-What did you see?”
“Um, she looked crushed to me, but maybe I noticed because I’m a little more sensitive after everything that’s happened between Topanga and me lately.” Cory dropped his eyes from the stunned expression Shawn’s face. “Has Angela ever told you how she feels about you?”
Shawn shook his head. “But I know she really likes me.” He had trouble controlling the blush that rose to stain his cheeks. “I-uh-I can tell.”
Cory grinned with understanding. He reached across the table and gave Shawn a congratulatory thump on the shoulder. “Have you told her that you love her?”
“Not-not in so many words,” he hedged. “I-I was too scared to tell her.”
“Maybe she’s afraid to tell you, too,” Cory speculated, “but I think Angela might be in love with you, and if you love her, I think now is the time to say it.”
Shawn pondered his words. “I don’t know, Cory.” He was clearly uncertain and didn’t know what to do. “It might be too soon. I never said anything because I didn’t want to scare her away.” He shrugged half-heartedly. “And after everything those girls said last night and now this today, I’m kinda confused. This is brand new territory for me.”
Cory sighed. He had to help Shawn; he deserved happiness after all the personal upheavals he’d suffered through in his eighteen years. Cory only wished his situation could be righted as easily.
“It’ll be alright, buddy,” he reassured him. “But I gotta tell you, you’ve really let those girls do a job on you. Shawn, my boy, I’m afraid those girls pulled a ‘First Wives Club' on ya.”
“Huh?” Shawn blinked at him in bewilderment.
“Remember the movie ‘The First Wives Club’ when the first wives of these three men who’d been treated badly by their husbands got even with each of them, generally making each man pay for all the wrong he had done them?”
Shawn nodded. He had a vague recollection of the movie Cory was referring to.
“I kinda remember hearing about it when it came out, but it’s a chick flick, man,” Shawn said with distaste, made evident by the curl of his lip. His voice also clearly questioned Cory’s assumption that he’d know anything about a movie like that. He even went as far as raising an inquiring eyebrow at Cory’s singular familiarity with such a female oriented movie.
Cory blushed. “I know. It’s one of my Mom’s favorite movies,” he offered reluctantly, appearing just a bit self-conscious under Shawn’s mocking stare. “Anyway,” he cleared his throat and returned to the subject at hand, “that’s what those girls attempted to do to you, Shawnie. They formed a ‘First Girlfriends’ Club’ just like those three women in the movie and decided to make you pay for the ‘wrongs’ you did to them.”
Shawn hung his head in his hands. “Even if that’s true, I can’t really blame them,” Shawn disagreed, his voice kind of muffled. “They were right. Cor, I’m-I’m not very good boyfriend material.”
Cory snorted. “Are you kidding me?” he scoffed. “You weren’t having these doubts until those girls brainwashed you last night.” He slammed his hand on the table for emphasis. “Those girls are jealous of what you and Angela have. Anyone could see that.” Shawn raised his head and appeared to be listening intently, so he continued, adding, “They resent the fact that you were actually going to keep your Valentine’s Day date with Angela when you didn’t with them.”
An alerted expression enlivened Shawn’s features.
Encouraged by his audience’s attentiveness, Cory went on. “Case in point: Didn’t you tell me that even though you told them you loved or cared about Angela it quickly became a case of ‘didn’t you care about me'?" he asked, unkindly mimicking them in an unflattering, high-pitched voice.
“Yeah!” Shawn cried. “It became all about them and not about protecting Angela like they said.”
Cory snorted. “Shawnie, if those girls were really only trying to protect Angela, why were they harping on that? What do they care if you cared about them or not since they’ve already established in their own minds that you’re a dog?” Shawn’s eyes narrowed as he thought back to last night. He was obviously viewing the circumstances of his “trial” in a vastly different light. Every nuance of conversation had taken on new meaning under Cory’s reasoning.
Cory pressed his advantage. “The answer is simple really,” he announced, sitting back against the hard wood of the booth’s bench. “They were jealous and envious.”
Shawn’s eyes widened as long overdue comprehension dawned on him. “Yeah!”
“When Angela wouldn’t believe them about you, they obviously hatched a plan devised to wreck your romantic evening with her. I bet even they never imagined just how successful they would be,” Cory postulated irately. He was thoroughly disgusted with the way those girls had set up his friend. Moreover, he had no doubts that their motives had been less than altruistic. “Not only did they happen to mess up last night, but they used your insecurity and fears about hurting Angela who they could see you were in love with against you. They must have been on cloud nine when you told Angela you wanted to be friends, and when she asked you where you wanted the friendship to go, you wouldn’t even say anything. All because you were afraid of making a promise to her that you couldn’t keep.” Winded, Cory made one more point before resting his case. “They accomplished more than they could have hoped for!”
Shawn stared at Cory aghast. “Those scheming, conniving little witches!” He exclaimed angrily. “Oh man, Cor. They got me good!”
Cory nodded sagely. “I don’t want to rub salt into the wound there, but Angela told you," he informed Shawn gently. "Women can read other women, Shawnie. She knew what they were doing all along, but you didn’t listen.”
Shawn didn't even attempt to argue with him. How could he? Being a normal, stubborn male, he hated being the recipient of an "I told you so" lecture; nevertheless, he'd been hoodwinked and with a vengeance.
“Yeah," he agreed, sighing, "They used Angela’s name to bait me into the trap because they knew that I would show up to be with her.” Then reality of the scheme and its ramifications occurred to him; the knowledge that those girls' allegations were now suspect led him to the alternate conclusion that perhaps he wasn’t as hopeless as a boyfriend as he'd previously believed. That thought cheered Shawn up immeasurably, but only for as long as it took him to realize that it didn’t matter because he didn’t have a girlfriend anymore.
Shawn groaned. “Cory, why didn’t you say something?” he demanded plaintively. “I let those—those girls get inside my head, and now I’ve messed up my relationship with Angela.”
“Calm down! It’s going to be alright.”
“Yeah, right.” Shawn passed a hand over his face. “You know I don’t know anything about being in a serious relationship," he muttered pessimistically. "I gave those harpies the benefit of the doubt. I really thought they were being sincere!”
Cory shrugged and inclined his head. “They were: sincerely resentful of the fact that you were treating Angela better than you ever treated them.” He held up a hand in concession. “I’m not saying that the way you treated them was right, but you’ve clearly grown past that because of what you feel for Angela.” He shrugged again and bit into his burger. “And they didn’t like it.”
“How can you eat after what’s happened?” Shawn grumbled irritably, eyeing Cory’s burger with revulsion.
Cory sighed. “I’m still a growing boy, and I’m hungry. I was too busy eavesdropping on you guys before to really do it justice. You have to admit it’s a fascinating study in a conversation gone horribly wrong.” He broke off a large piece of his burger and raised his eyebrows in inquiry. “You want a piece?”
Shawn was gazing down at his hands morosely. He hunched his shoulders but didn’t look up. “Why not?”
Cory handed him half of his burger. The two munched in silence until the sandwich was gone. Cory pushed his drink across the table. Shawn drank half, and Cory finished the rest.
“So what’s your next step?” He wiped his mouth and tossed his crumpled napkin down onto his plate.
“I don’t know,” Shawn mumbled. “I mean, Angela and I have only been together a little over three months, and I’ve already screwed things up.” His eyes were troubled. “She’s convinced herself that I want to start dating Dana again. Why would she get all freaked out about her?”
“Well, you did mention asking her out on a date.” Shawn opened his mouth to correct him and he rushed on hastily to amend his statement. “Hypothetically speaking.”
Only somewhat mollified, Shawn settled down to ponder his own question. After a moment, when no answer was forthcoming from Shawn, Cory answered it for him.
“Look, Shawnie, it’s not that hard to figure out. Angela and Topanga are best friends.”
“So?” he asked, not getting where Topanga came into this mess.
“Think, Shawnie.” Cory tapped his temple. “Topanga knows the history of your relationships with all three of those girls.” He began to tick them off on his fingers. “Let’s examine them. First, you have Libby what’s-her-name who out of the three was the least important. Not to be mean, but you met her on a blind date when I went over to Missy Robinson’s house that time. She immediately started hitting on you.”
Shawn thought back to that night. “Yeah! Hey, that’s right.” Shawn’s detail sluggish memory had been sufficiently jogged. “She came onto me. She started sucking on my ear.” He held out his palms and shrugged. “Hey, I’m a guy. What was I supposed to do?”
“Exactly.” Cory grinned at him, but cleared his throat quickly, sobering in order to return to his trial-like summation. “Remember she persuaded you to go upstairs while Missy and I stayed in the basement.”
“And I what I don’t remember is making Libby any promises. She lied on me, counting on the fact that I wouldn’t remember!” He squinted thoughtfully and then grinned sheepishly. “She was a good kisser though,” he admitted candidly.
“But that’s not the point,” Cory admonished him. “Stay focused, Shawnie. You’re entire relationship with Angela may be at stake.”
“Sorry.” Shawn nodded and quickly sobered, giving Cory the respect his efforts to help him deserved.
Cory nodded, satisfied. “Next, we have Jennifer Bassett.”
An involuntarily shudder shook Shawn’s thin frame. That had been the only the second relationship he’d ever been involved in. He’d officially christened it “the relationship from hell”. Not all the sexy, red sports cars, blond hair and long legs in the world could make that association anything other than a miserable and nerve wracking aberration on his part.
“Do we have to re-live my temporary insanity in dating that crazy girl?” he asked Cory, begging for a ‘no’.
“Well, I agree that you weren’t thinking with your head that time, that’s for sure,” Cory said ironically. “But yes,” he added affirmatively, “I’m afraid we do, Shawnie,”
A deep sigh escaped Shawn. “Okay. Let’s get that nightmare over with.”
Cory nodded sympathetically. He had even less love for the egotistical and vindictive Jennifer Bassett. She’d almost succeeded in coming in between him and his best friend all because Cory had called her out for breaking up with Shawn the first time for no apparent reason.
Presently, he only said, "Jennifer Bassett broke up with you and then only started dating you again to get back at me for talking about her to you. She broke up with you a second time when you decided that you didn’t want to be manipulated into choosing between her and your friends,” Cory said, listing the damaging evidence against the absent but complicit ex-girlfriend. “So whatever plans you made with her for Valentine’s Day were nullified when she broke up with you, Shawnie. You’re not to blame for the demise of that so-called relationship.”
Shawn nodded enthusiastically, impressed with Cory’s analysis so far.
“Now on to Dana Pruitt.”
Some of Shawn’s growing complacency evaporated with the mention of Dana, and he even had the grace to look a little shamefaced. Of the three ex-girlfriends, only his relationship with her had had substance.
“Here’s where the problem lies, Shawnie,” Cory proclaimed, almost reading his mind. “You did have a real relationship with Dana. Your first serious one, in fact, even if it didn’t last all that long.”
“Yeah, I cared about Dana, Cor. Out of those three girls, she’s really the only one who has a legitimate beef with me.” He looked down at his hands as they fidgeted with things on the table. “But even though I cared about her, it wasn’t deep enough on my part to sustain the kind of commitment she wanted. And so one day,” he began slowly, “I just stopped calling. I admit that I should have handled that better.”
Cory inclined his head, conceding that point, but he resolutely steer the conversation back to its subject matter and from veering off course. “Well, that brings us back to the question of why Angela had such a problem with you mentioning going out with Dana.” Shawn looked upset. Cory held up a hand to prevent an outburst. “I know, I know. You only used her as an example to explain how you felt about seeing Angela with Ted.”
“Angela has nothing to be jealous of,” Shawn assured him, meeting Cory’s inquiring gaze head-on. “Besides, I never mentioned anything about my relationship with Dana to Angela. I might not be experienced in relationships, but I know a little something about women; and I’m not that stupid.”
Cory gazed at him benevolently just as though he was a backward but well-meaning child. For all his experience with the opposite sex, Shawn was still a novice when it came to jealous women because of his limited experience with relationships. Then thinking about his own current dilemma with Topanga, Cory instantly felt less smug. However, he pushed his own troubles to the side and concentrated solely on helping his friend.
“Maybe that’s the crux of the problem, Shawnie. You’re going to have to explain what happened to your relationship with Dana. That even though you did care for her, it wasn’t that deep for you in the first place. Make her understand that there are no leftover feelings for Dana.”
Looking thoughtful, Shawn nodded slowly.
Cory sat back and fiddled with his empty cup, watching the light from overhead reflect in its textured amber glass as he pondered Shawn’s situation. “Besides, you’ve got to know that Topanga has probably given Angela the scoop on these girls. If not the others, then certainly Dana,” he pointed out, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “My guess is Angela’s probably known about her since you two started going out together.”
Shawn looked at him sharply. “Has Topanga said anything to you?” he asked urgently. “Anything that would make you think that?”
Cory smirked. “Of course not. But they’re girls, Shawn. That’s what they do; they gossip about us,” he said dryly.
Shawn threw up his hands in defeat. “Then I’m toast with Angela. She'll never believe that I don't have residual feelings for Dana after talking to Topanga.” He slumped down in the booth. “And with Topanga being down on men right now,” he favored Cory with a hard stare, “we’re both probably being roasted over a spit of hot coals as I speak!”
“Yeah, probably,” Cory agreed without hesitation, much to Shawn’s dismay.
Shawn glared at him. “Well, you’re the relationship expert. Help me out here.”
Cory ran his hands over the smooth, shellacked surface of the thick wooden table, his expression somber. “Considering the state of my relationship, Shawnie, I wouldn’t exactly call myself an expert.”
“Yeah, well. You may be right, but you know more than I do at this point,” Shawn murmured, and propped an elbow on the table. His fingers threaded through his thick brown hair. “In fact, you’re a genius compared to me. I haven’t even done anything. I didn’t kiss another girl, and I still got dumped.”
Cory gazed at Shawn with compassion as he studied his defeated expression. “Look, your situation isn’t as bad as mine. I heard Angela telling you to call her when you decided what you wanted. At least she’s still willing, for now, to take you back. Just don’t wait too long, Shawnie.”
“I’m not going to wait at all. I don’t want to be just friends with her. What happened today and everything you’ve said has shown me that I really do love Angela. I loved her when she was just the purse girl, and in the last three months, I’ve grown to know her so much better.” His gaze was earnest. “I’m really crazy about her, Cor.”
There was so much more to their relationship than even he’d realized before the other night. It was certainly deeper than any he’d ever had before. He and Angela talked more than they made out. He’d never experienced that with any girl before. Not even Dana. Yet on the other hand, it wasn’t like they didn’t make out plenty because they did. Angela was so pretty, and she fit in his arms like she was made for them. He adored her lips, and Shawn anticipated being close to her because she always had this heavenly scent that just made him want to bury his face in her fragrant hair and neck. He found himself having to keep a really tight rein on his emotions—and his hands—because he didn’t want Angela to think that he was just out for what he could get.
“I really am in love with her,” he repeated softly, mostly to himself.
“I know.” Cory smiled. “I’ve seen you two together. Shawnie’s really in love at last.”
“Yeah, ain’t that a kick in the head.” He returned Cory’s smile with a lopsided one of his own, but his was a little self-mocking. “I told you yesterday that I was afraid I would screw up Valentine’s Day, but I never imagined just how spectacular a screw up it would be." He shook his head unable to believe the magnitude of the mess he was in. "Man, I’ve made mistakes before, but I’ve really outdone myself with this one.”
Cory waved a dismissive hand.
“Buck up, Shawnie. Give Angela a call, and see if she’ll talk to you,” Cory suggested. He began to slide out from underneath the table. He had homework to do, and he needed to get home. “I need you two on my side. I’ve got a lot more work to do if I’m going to get Topanga back, and I need all the reinforcements I can get. Not only that, but if my girlfriend’s best friend is soured on guys, too, that isn’t going to help me anymore than it’ll help you.”
Shawn pondered the wisdom of Cory’s words and firmly announced that he was on it. Although he was nervous—just the thought of calling Angela and having her shoot him down made his heart hurt— he would phone her that night and hope for the best. He would see if he couldn’t mend the fences he’d damaged the previous night and this afternoon. It was worth a try, and Angela was definitely worth the effort.