Choose

Summary: Arthur and the gang face relationship issues when they struggle between specific choices. In Part One, Francine must choose to keep dating Arthur, her distant boyfriend of two years who would rather hang with the guys than see how she’s doing, or to dump him and see what else is out there.

Chapter Two
Francine was running laps with her team when the boys’ team showed up for their laps. Raymond was among them, his workout gear still flashing the logo from the Hornets. He ran with the top pack of the boys’ team, his stride long and graceful. Girls giggled as they watched him, studying his athletic form and wondering whether or not he had a date. Francine was simply impressed with his ability, a feeling that didn’t change when they all took to the field for their cooldown stretches. Raymond was definitely top-notch material, and she knew the boys’ season would improve with a gifted athlete like him on their team.

After practice, Francine sat in the gym waiting for her father to come pick her up. She tried texting Arthur to see what he was doing that night, but so far he hadn’t responded. Francine was looking through a message from Muffy when she heard a bag land beside her. She looked up to see Raymond running a towel through his wet hair.

“The locker rooms here are in pretty good shape. All of the showers actually work back there,” Raymond commented, sinking onto the section of bleacher right behind Francine, “I did some research before coming here, and your team is doing really well. If it weren’t for a few bad calls, you’d be having an undefeated season right now.”

“Yeah, it was pretty close,” Francine agreed, surprised that he’d looked into the girls’ teams as well as the boys’.

Raymond laughed, “It was almost a tragedy, in my opinion, but I see that you girls are a pretty tight group. The lady Hornets aren’t as lucky. They had to forfeit a game earlier this year because three players injured themselves in an all-out brawl during a practice game. You girls play like a well-oiled machine, and it shows. The guys here could learn a lot from you all, especially you. You should make captain when you’re a junior,” Raymond said.

Now it was Francine’s turn to laugh, “Me, a captain as a junior? That’s, like, never happened before in the history of any team here. All captains are seniors, no exceptions.”

Raymond shrugged, “Maybe you could be that exception.”

Francine’s phone buzzed. She checked the message and saw that her father was waiting for her in the parking lot. Francine grabbed her bags and waved to Raymond, who nodded back and watched her leave the gym.

On the way home, Arthur finally got back to Francine, but it was only to brag about winning thirty cards in a tournament match with the guys. He said nothing else, so Francine left the message unanswered. Instead she texted her mom to ask about dinner, and she responded with a picture of the ingredients for one of Francine’s favorite dishes, making the girl smile.

“You must know about dinner,” Oliver grinned. Francine nodded and slipped her phone into her bag. Oliver nodded, “Yeah, your mom wanted to reward you. And Catherine is coming over with her fiancé for dinner. You should invite Arthur.”

“He’s busy,” Francine said. She felt like it was a lie, but she knew from his text that it wasn’t. If he did show up, he’d try to engage Catherine’s fiancé in conversation about the card game, a conversation Bill would find tedious and annoying. Bill and Catherine met at college, and Francine had no idea what she saw in someone so serious and stuck-up. Francine guessed he was rich, but she really didn’t know. She and Bill never talked even at these gatherings, which took place about twice a month.

Once home, Francine took care of some homework while Laverne and Catherine finished preparing dinner. Oliver and Bill set the table and retrieved drinks, so everything was done when Francine emerged from her room. She took her usual seat, which put her between her father and sister, and she waited patiently for her serving to arrive.

Once dinner was started, Oliver and Bill began to discuss what they always discussed, public business. Bill was a marketing major who went to work for Elwood City to help them get some things together. Because Oliver worked for the city’s sanitation department, they always talked about what had happened since their last visit.

This left Catherine and Laverne to discuss what they always did, Catherine’s wedding. Though they hadn’t decided a date despite being engaged for two years, Catherine already had every detail of the wedding planned. Her college BFF, Beverly, was going to be the maid of honor, and Francine would be a bridesmaid along with Sally, Penelope, and Cecelia, more of Catherine’s college friends. The wedding would be in winter with the colors of white and baby blue, and the reception would be held at a ballroom downtown. Francine could practically shoot a movie with what her sister had discussed, but she decided to focus on the delicious dinner instead of everyone’s conversations.

These were the moments when Francine missed Arthur the most. She felt lonely lately because she couldn’t talk to anyone. Muffy had a whole group of snobby friends, and Francine’s teammates didn’t really mingle outside of sporting events. Arthur and his friends were Francine’s only resource, but their behavior made her want to reject the whole group. She was so tired of that stupid card game, and she couldn’t wait for them to finally get over the silly fad.

“Francine, do you want seconds?” Laverne questioned. Francine passed her suddenly empty plate to her mother, who dipped out a second portion. Francine normally wouldn’t go for seconds, but she couldn’t remember her first plate and she didn’t feel full. The second portion seemed to fill her up, but it bothered Francine to be eating more. She had to maintain her weight for her sport. So, instead of seeking Arthur out online, she went up to the roof for a workout. She left her phone in her room, expecting Arthur to at least text her to see what was up.

When she returned an hour later, Francine didn’t have a single message. She turned off her phone and threw it in her purse with contempt.

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