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Awkwardness Ensues

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    As far as Star Butterfly had been aware, it was a perfectly normal morning, warranting a perfectly normal neighborly drop-in.

    It was not within her knowledge that her best friend and hallmate, Marco Diaz, had a girl over.

    “Out of milk. Need milk,” Star Butterfly groaned groggily, letting herself into Marco’s apartment and closing the door with a thud.

    “Uh--hello…” came an unfamiliar voice in the room. A girl who was most certainly not Star's second-longest-running best friend cocked an eyebrow and smiled unsurely, as if she didn’t know Marco well enough to know if this stranger was friend or foe. Her tone was doubtful but from the look on her face she seemed mostly bewildered, for good reason.

    Star’s head jerked up, her sleepy mind not processing the image in front of her clearly until she noticed the girl’s sandy blonde hair, the signature turquoise streak jumping out at anyone who looked. “Hiiii! Jackie, right?” Star’s face lit up with a grin.

    The girl, Jackie, made a noise of agreement. “And--and you are?”

    “I-I’m Star.” She pointed at the door. “I live across the hall.” Her tone turned mischievous. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

    “Really?” Jackie said, Star nodding along eagerly, “I haven’t heard a thing about you.” Both girls looked expectantly at Marco, who stood awkwardly in the kitchen stirring a bowl of chocolate chip pancake mix--Star’s favorite. At the intensity of their stares he simply ducked his head and stirred more frantically, obviously uncomfortable and not caring whether the batter slopped out of the bowl.

    “Marco…” Jackie prompted when he didn’t look up, “why haven’t I heard a thing about this woman who lives across the hall and comes into your apartment in the morning”--she chuckled nervously--“in her pajamas?”

    Indeed, Star was wearing nothing but a tank top and pajama bottoms, though for her credit she did have a fluffy blue blanket wrapped around her shoulders. It reminded Jackie of a large, eccentric caterpillar.

    Marco began to sweat. “, she’s heard about you because we’re, you know, involved, and--and you haven’t heard about her because…” he trailed off. The air that had felt heavy the moment Star walked in hung low and seemed to sap him of ideas; she had half a mind to say they were strangers. “I never kissed her, I swear!” he exclaimed finally, voice cracking and expression pleading.

    “In Marco’s defense, it wasn’t for lack of trying,” Janna interjected, laying out blueberries on a plate and acting as if Star tromping into their apartment demanding dairy products was no occurrence out of the ordinary. Which, of course, it wasn’t. Star shot her a look and Marco, dear, sweet Marco, let out a noise of exasperation that honest-to-God sounded to Star like a dying killer whale.

    “ Thank you , Janna,” Marco said, an edge to his voice.

    “You’re welcome, Marco,” Janna returned. It didn’t show on her face but everybody knew she loved riling people up.

    “Look, I-I’m just saying, um, w--Star is one of our many neighbors, you know,” he said, attempting an offhanded tone while the girl in question raised an eyebrow, “and in our building, neighbors come and go.” He made a gesture with his hands resembling swatting a fly. “Uh, it’s very casual. No dress code or…” Jackie nodded slowly, urging him on. He changed tact. “In fact, some mornings I’ll just mosey down to the third floor in my pajamas and have cereal with Mrs. Skullnick.” He barked out an anxious laugh, going along nicely with the dying marine animal theme.

    “Really?” Janna remarked knowingly, ignoring Star’s increasingly frantic motions. “I’ve never once been invited to have cereal with Mrs. Skullnick.”

    “She doesn’t like you,” Marco retorted cuttingly. Of course, it was common knowledge to all in the building that Mrs. Skullnick didn’t really like anyone , but Jackie didn’t have to know that.

    The anxious boy turned back to his girlfriend. “Well--um, you have a tournament to go to and I have to get in the shower and Star has clothes to put on, so…”

    He ushered her discreetly to the door. “Well, it was very nice meeting you.” Jackie’s voice was sweet but tested (through no fault of her own) as she grabbed her skateboard.

    “Nice to finally meet you too,” Star replied, smiling.

    “And I’ll see you tonight?” Jackie reminded Marco.  

    “Alright, bye-bye.” Jackie finally swept out the door. Marco, leaning against it, brought his hands together and let out a breath of air, biting his lip. After a beat of silence Janna looked down, once again engrossed in preparing breakfast now that the action was over, and Star stood awkwardly, bowl of cereal in hand.

    “So, that’s Jackie, huh?” Star broke the silence first.

    Marco crossed the room and obediently opened the fridge, handing her the jug of milk and silently agreeing with Star to never speak of this encounter again.