Chapter Fifteen: A Toast To Friendship?
Natalia had been studying with Marissa for only three days, and she could see that the girl needed no help. Marissa wasn't as helpless as she had portrayed herself.
All Natalia had to do was explain how to do the ice table and do an example with her. The rest Marissa was fine with. Natalia couldn't help but feel as though her time was being wasted. Clearly Marissa had understood the concepts. So then why is she still asking me to come? Natalia thought with irritation.
She was sitting at the dining table of Marissa's large house. There was an impressive crystal chandelier hanging directly above both of the girls. Natalia watched as the prisms of light bounced off the walls. She had spent an hour and a half already. She needed time to prepare herself for her own exams.
Natalia didn't know how many times she had glanced at the watch. She was hoping for time to pass by faster. When the time for her to go finally came, Natalia was relieved.
“So, will you come by tomorrow?” Marissa asked, as Natalia put on her shoes. Dallas was outside waiting for her. Natalia thought about it for a moment. “I don't think I can. I have a lot to review, myself.” She told Marissa. “Oh, okay.” Marissa said, leaving it at that.
Natalia was happy that she was off the hook. She got into the car cheerfully, as Dallas drove her home.
Dallas hadn't quite understood why Natalia had agreed to help Marissa. Had it been him, he wouldn't have helped the person responsible for humiliating him.
Maybe she overlooked that part, he thought to himself. Or maybe...she doesn't know. That had been a very strong possibility. Dallas didn't know whether Natalia's friends had told her why Raine had decided to go out with her. I'm sure as hell not going to be the one to tell her, he hoped.
Natalia was in her room studying. She had finished her second exam the afternoon before. She only had her chemistry and biology exams left.
Dallas was sitting in the living room watching television. His training practice had been earlier in the day, the coach had told all of them that the cuts would be announced at the end of the week. The first two weeks had brought so many cuts, that there were hardly more than two hundred and fifty players left. All Dallas had to do was out play them until he was one of the last five players standing...in March.
“How much time left?” Dawn asked. Natalia glanced at the library clock. They only had half an hour before the biology exam. It was a Wednesday afternoon, Natalia and her friends were sitting at their usual table in the library. “Thirty minutes.” Taylor replied.
Natalia, Dawn, Taylor, and Christian, all had biology exams. It was Natalia's last exam. Dawn and Taylor had been in the first period class for the subject, luckily exams were held at the same time. Natalia felt comforted by the fact she wasn't alone in studying for the test.
Natalia could feel herself becoming nervous. What if she hadn't concentrated on the right topics? What if she forgot the Kreb's cycle? What if she forgot everything?
Natalia took a few deep calming breaths. Panicking wasn't going to help her. It never helped to panic.
Natalia started to run through the notes she had made to prepare for the exam.
“Hi Natalia.” Came a voice. Natalia turned around to see Marissa. Natalia was less than thrilled. “Hi.” She said dryly. “I just wanted to thank you for helping me study.” Marissa told her. “Your welcome.” Natalia said before turning back to her notes. But Marissa didn't leave. “I wanted to ask if maybe you could join me for dinner on Friday?” Marissa asked her. Natalia was stunned. Before she could answer, Marissa spoke once more. “You don't have to answer right now. I'll call you tomorrow. Just think about it and ask your parents. It'll be my way of saying thank you.” Marissa said before leaving.
Natalia turned to face her friends. Dawn's mouth was hanging open. Bracing herself, Natalia spoke. “I'm not going.” “Why not?” Danw asked, looking contrite. “Because, it's not like we're friends. I didn't really help her, she pretty much knew everything.” Natalia retorted. “So it doesn't matter! Marissa is asking you to go to dinner with her! You should go!” Dawn told her. The guys looked annoyed. Natalia couldn't blame them.
“Look, how about I think about it? Besides, I'm not one to go out. It's so unlike me.” She told Dawn. “And we really need to study right now...so just forget it.” Natalia told her friend.
At that moment Clara walked in. She had just finished one of her exams. “Hey, what's going on?” She asked, noticing the looks on both Dawn and Natalia's faces. “Natalia got asked to go to dinner with Marissa.” Dawn blurted out, before Natalia could stop her. “What! You're going to go right?” Clara asked excitedly. Natalia sighed. “No, we're not even friends. It doesn't make any sense to go.” Natalia told the both of them.
“She's insane.” Dawn muttered. “I know. Who says no to dinner, especially when Marissa asks? Maybe she wants to be friends with you?” Clara said shaking her head. “Right, she's had four years. Why would she try now?” Natalia asked. Before either of her friends could answer, Natalia spoke. “It was a rhetorical question. So let's forget this and get back to studying.” She said, silencing them.
Dallas was breathing hard. He had been running for a long time. Standing with the rest of the guys, he waited for the coach to speak.
“Alright men, you have all shown great heart and skill during this past week, but unfortunately only five of you will be getting a place on the team. This week's cuts have been the hardest to make...since we've whittled you down to the cream of the crop.” The coach started.
Dallas held his breath as the coach started announcing the names that had been cut. “Last but not least, I'm sorry to say that Owen...you have been cut.”
Dallas could feel the colour draining from his face. His knees week. It was like his surroundings were fading away.
“Beep! Beep!” Dallas woke up with a start. He was drenched in a cold sweat. Sitting up, he breathed in deeply. Some nights, his nerves took the best of him...even his dreams had started to reflect how tense he was.
He wasn't as nervous about practice as he was about another matter. The meeting he had with his father. It was on Friday.
Natalia got ready very quickly. She had been bombarded by Clara and Dawn to accept the dinner invitation. She wasn't exactly thrilled when Marissa had called, and she had agreed.
Sometimes her friends could be so pushy. They had phoned her nonstop, trying to convince her. At last she had given in. Natalia sorely wished she could do something similar to them. They had pushed her into promising to tell them everything that happened at dinner.
She looked at herself in the mirror. She was wearing a royal purple pleated dress. Underneath it she had on black tights. She had no idea why she had even bothered to dress up. She had let her hair down, and was just putting the finishing touches to her eyes with the eyeliner.
Natalia wasn't sure she wanted to go, still when the door bell rang, Natalia rushed downstairs grabbing her coat on the way and left with Marissa.
Dallas sat across from his father. His nerves had slightly subsided when he had found out that he was still in the running for one of the spots on the soccer team.
Dallas looked at his father, the older man had wisps of grey hair amidst his blonde hair. His ice blue eyes were piercing through Dallas, as though analyzing him.
Dallas shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “How are your studies going, son?” His father asked him. “I'm doing fine. I just have the semester off for the training camp.” He told his father. They had been sitting for half an hour already. To him it seemed much too long. They were waiting for their dinner, they had finished their appetizers a little while ago.
“And how is the training camp going?” His father asked. Dallas sighed. This is going to be a long night, Dallas thought. “It's been going well so far. I'm really hoping to get in to the final five.” He told the elder man.
“You're mother is glad you decided to give soccer another shot.” His father informed him. Don't tell me; and you're not happy about it at all, Dallas thought darkly. “But I think,” His father started. Just like clockwork, Dallas nearly laughed at how predictable his father was. “That after this...if it doesn't work out...either complete your studies or join the family business.” His father told him.
Natalia sat across from Marissa for dinner. She had not thought that the girl sitting across from her, had already gotten her driver's license. I must be the only senior without one, Natalia thought with a little embaressment.
“Natalia, I'm glad you decided to come. I honestly thought you were going to say no.” Marissa said, with a laugh. Natalia just smiled. They were waiting for their dinner.
“I just wanted to thank you for helping me. The tips you gave me were really useful.” Marissa told her. “Your welcome.” Was all that Natalia could muster up.
Soon enough their dinner arrived. Marissa kept the converstaion going by asking Natalia what music she preferred. In turn Natalia became comfortable enough to ask Marissa similar questions. Soon enough Natalia was enjoying herself.
Dallas found himself looking around while his father answered a business call. It was funny how many calls he got even when he was at his workplace. Dallas' father owned a chain of restaurants and hotels. In fact they were sitting in one of the restaurants he owned.
Dallas turned the other way and began looking around. To his surprise, he saw Natalia sitting at a table. With Marissa? Dallas wondered. He hadn't thought that Natalia would accept the dinner invitation., but the two of them seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Dallas knew Natalia hadn't seen him. She was laughing at something the other girl had said. He turned back to face his father, as he ended the call.
Natalia was surprised to have learned that Marissa had similar intrests as her.
Natalia was walking back to her table from the bathroom. She had left once they had ordered desserts. As she approched she noticed the desserts had already arrived. Marissa had not started. She appeared to have waited for her.
Natalia sat down. “Well it was really fun tonight.” Marissa said, as they both tucked into their food. Natalia had asked for a peice of chocolate cake, while Marissa had ordered a peice of apple pie.
“We should do it again sometime.” Marissa said. “Yea, sure.” Natalia said. “There was actually something I was meaning to apologise to you about.” Marissa started. At once Natalia looked up. “What?” She asked. “I'm really sorry about the whole thing with Raine.” Marissa said. Natalia was confused. “It was really stupid of Raine to have done that to you.” Marissa continued. “He misunderstood me one day, you know when we were doing the PSA's last year...and he took it to a whole new level. I just wanted to apologize for it...he must have thought it was my idea or something.” Marissa explained.
Natalia had gone cold. Raine had completely humiliated her so that Marissa could have a laugh.
It was then a waiter came. He was holding two glasses that held red liquid in them. As he placed them and left, Natalia was baffled.
“What is that?” She asked, dreading the answer. “It's red wine. I thought we could toast to our new friendship.” Marissa said coolly. “How did you get it...we're both underage.” Natalia whispered. “Oh, don't worry...I know the guy who operates this place.” Marissa said. Natalia was not comforted.
Dallas sat across from his father, who had been explaning how well the business had been running.
His attention turned to Natalia. She looked distressed. Dallas squinted slightly to see what she was staring at. There was a red liquid in her glass. She seemed to be squirming.
As he turned back to face his father, his father's cell phone rang. Perfect timing, Dallas thought. “You know, Dad. This has been great. We should have dinner again, sometime.” Dallas said. “Alright, I'm sorry about the phone calls. Good luck then, son. Your mother wanted me to tell you she sends her love.” His father said, getting up.
Dallas stood. His father awkwardly embraced him. As he let go, the older Owen answered his phone; sitting back at the table.
Dallas, on the other hand, grabbed his jacket and walked quickly to where he was needed.
“Natalia, don't worry, you're not going to get in trouble; if that's what you're worried about.” Marissa pressed.
It wasn't just the trouble she was worried about. Natalia didn't like alcohol. Not only had she never drank any, but she wasn't comfortable starting now. Her parents were not going to be happy, when they found out. She desperately hoped that someone they knew would show up, so she could excuse herself.
“Come on, Natalia. It's just a toast. I thought maybe it would be the perfect beggining to our friendship.” Marissa said, lifting her glass. Natalia half heartedly lifted her own. “To friendship.” Marissa said, before clinking her glass with Natalia's.
Natalia watched as Marissa sipped some of the wine. Marissa waited for her. Natalia took a deep breath. Moving the glass closer to her lips. They were almost touching the glass, when somebody snatched it from her.
Natalia turned to to look at who had saved from drinking wine for the first time. It was Dallas. Natalia breathed a sigh of relief.
“I don't think your parents are going to like you drinking this stuff. Aren't you two underage?” Dallas asked, calmly. Marissa said nothing, she stared at him coldly. “We're just having dinner as friends.” Marissa told him, ice laced her tone. Natalia felt like sinking into her chair, she was only too happy to have been stopped.
“It would be much appreciated if you and Raine would stay the hell away from Natalia.” Dallas said. Natalia was shocked to hear the steel in his dark tone. Even Marissa looked stunned.
Dallas looked at Natalia. “Come on, I'm taking you home.” Natalia obliged. She grabbed her jacket, and without any word, let Dallas lead her out of the restaurant. His hand firmly holding hers.
Dallas led Natalia out of the restaurant. “Have you been following me?” Dallas stopped to look at Natalia. She looked as though she was deep in thought. “Nope, I was meeting my father for dinner tonight.” He told her. The lights outside the restaurant gave her face a soft glow, he noticed.
When she looked a little confused, Dallas sighed. “He owns a chain of restaurants...remember?” He told her, gesturing to the sign outside. It read 'Rachel's Garden', his father had named it after Dallas' mother. “Oh, right...I remeber...vaugely...” She muttered.
They started to walk again. “You know...I should be furious with you.” She told him. Dallas looked at her. “But your not, becuase you know Derek would have killed you...had it been him.” Dallas told her, knowingly.
Natalia laughed at that. “Thank you...for saving me...” She told him. Dallas was quiet. Instead of answering, he pulled her closer to him.
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