Tina nearly choked on her french fry. "You're going to Mexico? With Craig? That's incredible! Are you sure about this?"
Angela regarded her waifish friend across the plastic yellow table. Was that a look of concern? Jealousy? She knew Tina thought Craig was a bore, even though she continued to sleep with him up until that fateful day when she had introduced him to Angela and the two of them spent that evening drinking beers at the Chimichanga Cabana in the light of the setting sun. Who knows, maybe Tina and Craig were still sleeping together, although Craig liked to tell Angela that he preferred to be with her. Angela had kept the poor, charming sap at arm's length, and the two had not even really come close to getting romantic despite the obvious physical attraction they held for each other.
But now the spring semester was almost over and things were coming to a head as Craig doggedly held on to that scrap of hope that Angela would actually go to Mexico with him once finals were over. She couldn't really remember at what point she had said yes, but at any rate it seemed a sure thing at this point. Somehow Craig had managed early on to recognize her need for danger, excitement, adventure, and a rather spontaneous trip to an exotic foreign country with a good-looking stranger fit the bill perfectly.
Angela took a deep bite out of her Pig Mac sandwich as she nodded at Tina's last few unanswered questions. Still chewing, she gulped down a few sips of chocolate milkshake. "I like Craig," she said, "I don't know what you have against him. He's funny and he's probably the best guy to go to Mexico with since he was just there on spring break and because he seems harmless enough...well, mostly harmless at least." With that she plowed into the remaining half of her sandwich, as if she was trying to finish it off in one bite.
Tina disregarded the feeding frenzy going on across from her and stuck to the subject at hand. "You know if I thought this guy was bad news I never would have introduced you to him. But in the end he's a null, he's really not worth all this attention. I thought maybe you'd have some fun with him for a while and then move on to something better. Going to Mexico, though, that's serious! I mean that's almost like a honeymoon, and you two aren't even married." Tina straightened in her seat and pointed an accusing Chicknugget at Angela. "You two didn't run off and get hitched when I wasn't looking, did you?"
"Well, actually," started Angela, coyly. "No. But he did promise to buy me flowers just as soon as he won the lottery. I like a man with a goal." She studied Tina's rather serious countenance and began to wonder if Tina wasn't hiding some secrets about Craig that she wasn't ready to share just yet. Naaah, it was jealousy through and through, no doubt about it. Angela convinced herself that somewhere in the depths of her subconscious mind Tina was outraged that she wasn't the one asked to go to Mexico.
"I hope you're not thinking I don't want you to go just because I'm jealous or something," said Tina. "Actually, Craig had asked me to go even before I introduced you two, but in all honesty I could not think of a more boring excursion. I mean, he looks nice, but once you poke through all the puffery it's rather unbearable to spend more than four or five hours at a time with him. Two weeks in Mexico with Craig Blevins! That's sounds to me more like a medieval jail sentence than a fun trip."
Whatever real doubt had been present in Angela's mind was by now thoroughly erased. She would definitely go to Mexico with Craig, if only for the sheer pleasure of seeing her friend squirm. And by going she would get to the bottom of just who Craig was, and who Tina was, and maybe by some stroke of luck she would find out a little bit more about who she was. Hell, it beat just sitting around all day looking out the window. Not that she had ever done that, really. The question she should be putting to herself was if spending such a huge amount of time with Craig was better than spending time with her true love: her books, her notes, her seemingly endless (and endlessly fascinating) self-imposed research projects. For nine months she had been at the mercy of professors stacking her plate high with busy work, first year assignments that seemed designed to weed out the best and brightest of the freshman class by thoroughly insulting their intelligence. Almost from the start of her college experience she had looked forward to the summer months ahead when she would be able to enjoy the luxury of reading about and thinking about whatever she wanted.
Somehow her priorities shifted a little bit that fateful day when Tina dragged her to the cheap tex-mex restaurant just off-campus and threw her together with Craig, only to quickly excuse herself (a very pressing engagement, she had said) while Angela and Craig were left to sink or swim in the awkward sea of coerced social interaction. Not that Craig had exhibited any difficulty in quickly adjusting to the situation and making stupid jokes until Angela's ice broke. And it had been much too easy to keep drinking ice cold beer on the patio with the hot sun's rays beating across them from the late afternoon sky. With Craig Angela didn't feel the desperation to have a good time that she did with Tina. With her friend it was always more, more, more, party till you drop, that kind of thing. She realized now that what she liked about Craig was the fact that he knew how to have fun in a laid back casual way that didn't seem nearly so stressful. On the other hand, an evening with Tina was guaranteed to be interesting, if nothing else.
Across from her Tina was nervously sopping up the last of her fries in a bright red glob of ketchup piled in the corner of her styrofoam plate. "Well, I guess your mind's made up, but I think you're gonna regret it. Don't say I didn't warn you." She threw the crumpled napkins and wax paper debris from their meal onto the tray and stood up, ready to move on to bigger and better things. "Hey the Phi Delts are having a big all-school party tonight. Do you wanna go? I hear Robert Earl Keen is playing, and he's gooood. C'mon, I've got a bottle of Gold Tequila in my car; we can do shots on the way."
Angela smiled. Once again her friend had read her mind perfectly.
Chapter 26 was first written November 27, 2001
It was last edited December 30, 2001