The Lonely Hearts Club
Page 23

 Elizabeth Eulberg

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I nodded sympathetically thoughts of my embarrassing, disastrous evening with Nate started to flood back to me.
"I remember that I was so sure of Ryan, that we would be together forever. Everything was so romantic, so perfect, and then . . I freaked out. We aren't talking a few nerves -- I completely lost it. We didn't even get that far -- most of our clothes were still on -- but I just started crying. Ryan immediately sat up and turned the lights on. He looked so concerned, which made me feel worse.
"I still don't understand what happened. I guess I panicked. We spent that night just lying together, him holding me as I cried. After that night, things were different between us. I think Ryan was worried that he'd done something wrong, so he never tried going that far again. We were both so embarrassed that neither one of us ever talked about it. We hardly did anything the last couple months we dated. that's why it's been so easy for us to stay friends, because that's what we ended up being, in the end . . . just friends."
Diane looked sad for a moment, then looked up at me and smiled weakly. "Everybody wants to know what happened, why did the perfect couple break up? I think that evening was the beginning of the end for us. Not because we were going to have sex, but because I think we both realized that we were forcing ourselves to be something that neither of us wanted."
Diane looked at me and shrugged. "I'm tired of doing things for other people or because it's expected of me, I'm not going to do it any longer."
"Good for you."
Diane smiled at me. "there's something else I want you to know."
I leaned forward, wondering what could possibly come next,
"After football season, I'm. quitting cheerleading."
this might have been even more of a surprise than the news about her and Ryan. "Really?"
"Yep, and I'm trying out for the basketball team. I'm doing this for me." Her face lit up and I could tell that she meant every word.
"Oh, Diane." I was practically speechless.
My head raced with all the information from the evening -- this was only our first official meeting and already so many of us were changing and so many secrets had been revealed.
I was sure that over time only more would come out.
Maybe even a few secrets of my own.
Chapter sixteen
OUR FIRST OFFICIALS CLUB OUTING was the following Saturday, to go Homecoming dress shopping together. I was extra excited because Rita was home from Northwestern and was going to be the excursion's honorary member.
But first we had to survive dinner with my parents on Friday night.
"Oh, it's so good to have my babies home," Mom kept saying.
I tried to ignore her, surveying the menu at our family's favorite restaurant, the Wilderness. (I never understood what was so wild about a family restaurant attached to a shopping center.) the waiter came over to take our order, and I looked down so Rita could be the first one to order. She was always a lot braver with our parents than I was.
"Yes, I'll have the filet mignon with the garlic mashed potatoes!' she said, looking directly at Mom, daring her.
"Rita . . ." Mom said with deep disapproval.
Rita took her napkin off her plate and put it on her lap. "Mother, young girls need their protein. Penny, what are you having?" the waiter looked over at me, obviously confused. I just smiled as I ordered a cheeseburger -- medium rare.
Mom started in, her big brown eyes, exactly like mine, narrowing as she locked in on Rita. "Rita . . Penny Lane ..." Oh, great, I was in trouble, too. "You know how we respect your decision to eat what you like, but I would really like for you to just try to understand where your father and I are coming from."
"See, Mom, I know where you're coming from." Rita made a grand gesture as she held out her hands. "I know what Paul would do in a situation like this, but I am not Paul McCartney. I'm Rita Bloom, and I choose meat. Lois of meat."
While most people become vegetarian for health or ethical reasons, Mom and Dad had done it simply because Paul McCartney led them there.
Sensing the tension at the table, Dad turned to me. "So, Penny Lane, what plans do you have with your big sister this weekend?"
I was about ready to tell him about the shopping trip when Rita interrupted with "I'm so excited because I get to meet Penny's club."
"You've joined a club, honey! that's great," Mom said as she took a sip of her water.
"Yes, what kind of club, kiddo?" Dad leaned in, interested.
"Well, urn, it's not really an official club." I threw daggers at Rita with my eyes. this was so humiliating. What was I supposed to say? See, Mom and Dad I'm sick of boys because your best friend's son was an ass so I decided to have my friends join together and forget about boys entirely.
"Penny started it. It's called the Lonely Hearts Club," Rita chimed in.
"Oh, oh, Penny Lane, that's so, so wonderful!" Mom put her hand up to her chest, thrilled that I'd named something after the Beatles, although she had no idea what the Club stood for. I could've started a club called the Yellow Submariners that went out in the ocean and clubbed baby seals and they still would've been proud.
"Kiddo, it's so great you're taking an interest in your heritage. Goo goo g'joob.'" Dad beamed.
My heritage? My great-grandfather on my fathers side was from England, true, but nowhere near Liverpool. And Mom's family was from Germany.