The Lonely Hearts Club
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Kara blushed. "Well, you said I could come back when I was ready.. .,"
Tracy's eyes got wide, "of course! Welcome to the dark side!" She laughed. "I guess we should probably move the other table over to make room."
Sure enough, Teresa Finer and Jessica Chambers asked to join us. Soon our table was packed with people talking about Homecoming, Teresa mentioned that her date was forty-five minutes late picking her up and the "fancy dinner" that Jessica's date had promised her ended up being a Burger King drive-thru, Kara's date spent the evening hitting on another girl.
"You guys were right." Kara shook her head and played with her apple stem.
"It's not about wrong or right -- it's about being with people who appreciate you " Diane said. "I'm really glad you're here, Kara."
Kara smiled and took a bite of her apple.
"So basically, I had the best dates there," Tracy said.
While Diane, Jessica, and Jen discussed basketball plans for the weekend, I couldn't help but be impressed by how Diane showed absolutely no hesitation in discussing her big change. there wasn't any remorse or regret -- she knew she was making the right decision, even if she didn't end up making the team.
It seemed like we had a team of our own now.
IT GOT TO THE POINT WHERE I had no idea how many girls would be meeting at my house on Saturday night. Sure, a lot of them had said they were coming. According to Tracy, Mike's girlfriend, Michelle, had even dumped him just so she could attend. He, in turn, was getting his own ride to school. I felt torn -- I didn't want Mikes heart to be broken, but if Michelle was going to dump him over something like the Club, odds were that the relationship wasn't a keeper anyway.
"Is everything all right, kiddo?" Dad asked me, right before all the girls arrived. Morn had gone out without him since he was getting over a cold. "if you're worried that I'm going to get in your way, don't worry about a thing. I've got my tea and paper and I'll keep quiet in my room."
"I'm fine, Dad. I'm just a little worried about how many people are showing up tonight."
"Penny Lane, your mother and I are so proud of you, so don't worry about how many people show up. Marisa Klein was in for her cleaning today, and she was telling me what a hit you and your Beatles Club are at school."
"Dad, I keep --"
"I know, I know." He threw his hands up. "I'm still proud of you, kiddo."
the doorbell rang and I headed over to open the door. "You just go upstairs and feel better," I called after him as he headed toward the stairs.
Tracy and Diane were the first to arrive.
"tonight is going to be so much fun!" Diane said.
I looked past them and saw a stream of cars pulling up. Jen and Amy brought Jessica Chambers and Teresa Finer with them. Maria Gonzales and Cyndi Alexander parked behind them in Maria's truck.
"Hey, guys -- come on in."
We headed downstairs and the doorbell rang again -- Hilary Jacobs, Christine Murphy, Meg Ross, and Karen Brown.
then again -- Jackie Memmott and Marisa Klein, with seniors Erin Fitzgerald and Laura Jaworski.
And again -- Mike's now ex-girlfriend, Michelle, Eileen Vodak, and Annette Ryan -- the freshmen contingent.
And again -- Morgan and Kara, with Paula Goldberg rounding everything out.
I got to the basement and couldn't believe that there were over twenty girls from McKinley sitting there -- freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
Everybody was staring at me. it hit me. they were expecting me to say something. I'd thought we'd just watch a movie or something and eat pizza.
"All right, Penny!" Hilary shouted and started applauding. the whole room erupted. What had I started? I turned around expecting to see that some celebrity had walked into the room.
"Shhhh! Let Penny speak.'"
Who said that? I had no idea what people were expecting. I opened my mouth and prayed for the best.
"Thanks, thanks for coming. Um, I'm a little surprised by the turnout. I'm not sure what everybody came here expecting, but. . ."
I looked at Diane and Tracy for help, and they were smiling at me. I could tell that they had faith in me. I wished I did.
"I really don't know why everybody decided to come this evening. I guess all I can tell you is why I'm here -- well, except for the fact that I live here." Everybody laughed as I took a deep breath, "To be honest, I'm just tired of it all. the games . .. guys .. , everything. I doubt that there is a single girl among us who hasn't obsessed about whether that guy is going to call, or if we're going to have a date to go to a party. And because of the pressure to go to this and that with a guy we settle for someone who isn't worth our time.
"And then when we do find someone we think is special, we forget about our friends." I tried not to look at Diane. "Or we change something about ourselves to please a guy instead of doing what makes us happy or what we know is right.
"Why do we do this? Why do we even bother?"
I felt my nerves subside as I saw every girl in the room nodding in agreement.
"I know some people will think that I'm being pessimistic -- but seriously, let's examine the male population of McKinley, shall we?" Laughter filled the room. "It's not like we have a huge wealth of decent guys to choose from!"