“Spill it.” Marie plopped down on the empty seat next to Irene for the ride back. The tournament was a bust. The basketball team had headed immediately for the losers bracket, and then to the bottom of the losers bracket, making each game a bit more doleful than the last. Even the presence of the pep band could not pep the team—or its crowds—to much in the way of enthusiasm, much less winning a game.
Marie was the only other female saxophone and normally would have been her partner in crime for the trip, but she was preoccupied with brokering a peace accord between Karen and her now ex-Jason and she herself had recently taken up with different Jason, this one a tuba player, so had been running with the brass crowd. With Irene hanging out with the drummers, they hadn’t crossed paths much during the trip, but Marie had a keen eye and a good ear for gossip and Eddie’s constant hovering near Irene had not gone unnoted.
“What do you know?” Irene asked her, searching for dirt.
“Do you want to know the wild, unsubstantiated rumor; the one I heard and believe, or the facts I, myself have observed.” She spoke in a low voice, conscious of the people around them. Marie could ferret out the secrets, but she also knew how to keep them to herself.
“Must I choose?” Irene grinned. The two of them had been friends since junior high and knew each other’s ways.
“Good point.” Marie agreed. “Let’s start with the wild rumor. You, Irene Johansen, snuck into Alex’s room and engaged in various forms of congress with all four drummers staying there.”
“Ugh.” Irene protested. “Not Alex’s room. Stefan ended up in Alex’s room, no way would there be congress of any kind happening there. Not even general passage of legislation.” Stefan was the lumpy and slow male cymbal player.
“Ah, so there would be with Alex.” Marie pushed a bit, curious. She didn’t really understand Irene and Alex. They always seemed like friends who were on the verge of fighting. But something also seemed to indicate they were on the verge of—well not love, exactly. Maybe a physical consummation of some sort? Both kept their feelings confined, so even Marie’s best reconnaissance had left her with confusing data.
Irene made a face, thinking of Alex and various forms congress. “Not going to happen. Who starts those rumors, anyway? Let’s move on to what you do believe.”
“I heard that Eddie has a thing for you.”
“And that’s what I heard.” Marie said.
Irene sighed. Marie was holding out.
“Let’s move on to what you’ve observed.” Irene said, deflecting the request.
Marie gave her a look. “I’ve noticed that Eddie has never been more than 10 feet from you this entire trip.” she counted one on her finger. “I’ve noticed that even right now he is not more than 10 feet from you.” She counted two while Irene leaned past Marie to scan the bus. Eddie was sitting one seat behind and across the aisle. He and Alex were working out a complex rhythm, softly beating their drumsticks on their legs.”
“I’m willing to bet,” Marie continued, counting off another finger, “that he looks over to check on you before I hit one.” She began counting down, ”Five. Four, Three, Two.”
Dammit. Right as Marie hit the number two, Eddie looked up, caught Irene looking at him and smiled at her. Irene smiled back and ducked down again.
“Furthermore,” Marie counted off her last finger “I’ve noticed how much you’ve been flirting with him this weekend.”
“I have not.” Irene protested. She had hardly talked to him, since they had the conversation on the way there about joining drum corps for marching band.
Marie fixed her best stare on Irene. “Please, lady. I know you. The hair flipping has amped up, plus, I haven’t been too far away to see the sideways glances you favor and the cheery waves you’ve been dispersing all weekend.”
Irene rolled her eyes, caught.
“What I want to know,” Marie leaned closer. “is do you like him?”
Irene sighed, and kicked the back of her seat a few times, thinking. “Maybe?”
“He’s a drummer,” Marie countered “You have to give me more than a maybe.” Marie and Irene had fought back against the drummers through most of the marching band season. They didn’t like the drummers’ attitudes, their inflated egos and their bossiness. The two of them had done a pretty good job making themselves pains in the asses of the entire percussion section. Irene’s feelings had changed a bit as the months had passed, mostly paved by Alex. Marie wasn’t really convinced drummers were okay. Her head had been turned by the shiny volume of the brass section, working her way from trumpet to trombone to now tuba.
Irene thought a bit. “I don’t not like him.” she said slowly, “but I’m not sure if I like him because he likes me, or because I like him. I don’t really know him very well.”
Marie squinted one eye and observed her. “So we need to shrink the group a bit, I think.”
“What do you mean?
“I mean, your group is too big, he can’t get a word in edgewise. You should have a few people, like no more than five, over to your house and see what he does.”
“I don’t know,” Irene hedged. “Maybe I want to find out if he likes me.”
“Oh he likes you.” Marie said, glancing over her shoulder and catching Eddie peering past Alex again.