The Lonely Hearts Club
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"You can't really have a club with one person."
I laughed. "Well, I know that, but. . ."
"So how about adding another member?"
I looked at her in shock. "What?"
"Penny!" Diane wiped away her tears and looked genuinely happy. "Do you really think the next thing I want to do is date again? I'm so done, too. I just need to figure out what's next for me. Not me and Ryan. ME."
A surge of excitement rippled through me. "that's exactly what I've been thinking!"
"You have to let me in. I know I have to earn your trust back, and I will. But for now, can you at least consider forgiving me?"
She reached her hand out to me. I didn't even hesitate.
Now, there were two of us.
WHEN I LEFT MY DINNER WITH Diane, I felt truly happy and hopeful for the first time in weeks. Having a partner in crime, especially one who was also going through a breakup, was exactly what I needed,
I reached for my phone and saw that I had three texts. the first two were from Tracy:
Has she started crying yet? if she does start sobbing, take a picture for me! And the third was from Nate:
I'm going to keep txting you until you reply.
I ignored Nate and called Tracy.
"Spill it," she answered.
I tried to fill her in, but she wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise. She kept making fun of Diane, which started to frustrate me.
"Tracy, stop it." My voice started to rise. "You know, this has been hard on her. Imagine what she's going through. She feels lost --"
"Oh, please," Tracy interrupted. "Do you hear yourself? Next thing you know, you're going to be inviting her to eat lunch with us."
Tracy sighed. "Are you kidding me? Please tell me this is a joke."
"Tracy." I spoke slowly, choosing my words carefully. "Everybody is being really mean to her. Consider it an act of charity."
"I already gave at the office," Tracy deadpanned.
"Please. For me?" I didn't even try to hide the desperation in my voice.
"Fine, But you owe me."
I got off the phone with her before she had a chance to change her mind.
"You do realize that I am going to kill you for this?" Tracy reminded me for the fourteenth time as we headed to lunch the next day.
"Just please give her a chance," I begged.
"Highly unlikely. I don't know -- call me crazy, Pen, but I'm just not very excited about watching my best friend get used."
"I know what I'm doing." I headed toward a small table in the corner In case there was any hair-pulling or biting. I told Morgan and Kara it was better for them to eat elsewhere today; I didn't want to make them an accessory to any violence that ensued.
"Yeah, I think you said the same thing at the start of the summer."
I froze in place.
Tracy grabbed my hand. "I'm so sorry, Pen -- that was an awful thing to say."
I tried to shake the thought from my mind. This was going to be hard enough without having to think about. . . him.
"Just please, Tracy. For me. Be nice."
Tracy sat down and didn't say a word.
"Hey, guys." Diane sat down at our table. "thanks so much for having me!"
Tracy forced out a smile.
"Oh!" Diane set a small cardboard box on the table. "And as a thank-you . . . cupcakes!" Diane placed two fancy cupcakes on the table,
"thanks." I grabbed the bigger one and started licking the pink frosting. I glared at Tracy.
Diane beamed, probably because that was the first positive thing Tracy had ever said to her. "You know, Penny, after last night, I feel so much better. Swearing off boys was the best decision ever. the Club is going to be awesome."
Tracy looked between us. "What club?"
"Um, you see . . ." this wasn't going to be good. "You know how I pretty much declared that all guys are scum?"
Tracy rolled her eyes. "Yeah."
"Well, I decided I'm not dating anymore."
"Penny --" Tracy interrupted,
"Tracy, can you just hear me out?" My patience was wearing thin. "I tried to tell you the other day, but you kept interrupting me."
Tracy closed her mouth and leaned back in her chair.
"I'm done dating. At least while I'm still here at this school and have to deal with these idiots. So I started calling myself the Lonely Hearts Club,"
Tracy looked confused, "Is that a Beatles reference?"
"Yes, and if you ever listened to any of the music I've given you, you'd know that. ANYWAYS, I'm serious. I'm not dating anymore. And Diane's decided to join my ban,"
Diane turned to Tracy "You should join, too, Tracy. it could be fun."
Tracy looked at Diane with contempt. "Do you think I'm so pathetic I can't get a date?"
"Hey, that's not why --" I tried to interrupt.
"No, that's not what I meant. I, . ." Diane looked hurt.
Tracy glared at Diane. "Right -- how long is your membership going to last? Like you could exist without being fawned over by the entire male population."
"Tracy, please " I said. "the Club is important to me."
Tracy groaned. "Be serious. Penny!"