Being More Social – Chapter 18

I was going to have a stroke before I was 40, I swear to God. I’d like to say that I was calmly sitting behind Megan, stroking her back and reassuring her it would all be okay after she informed me of her pregnancy, but unfortunately, no such thing happened. Within microseconds I was up and pacing the cramped hallway in a frantic manner.

“You don’t- how? Why? No way. This isn’t true, you’re lying.” I breathily spat out.

This only made Megan’s sobbing harder, the first thing that sobered me since she told me the news. After looking her over I tried to understand that this was her suffering, not mine. As I tried to conduct a few deep breaths for myself, I tried to remind myself that this had nothing to do to me, and my role was to support her. My hand outstretched, aiming for her shoulder, I steeled myself to be her guardian in this crisis.

Before that happened, I shot right up. What the fuck was I thinking? Of course this had to do with me. It was probably… I was most likely… Oh god… I was a…

“Who’s the father?!” I demanded in a panicked voice, grabbing her head and yanking it up so her eyes could meet mine.

She stared deeply into my eyes with a look that was a third incredulity, a third sadness, and a third anger. “I don’t know!!” she practically shrieked at me.

Oops. Right. How the hell would she know? I needed to calm down. I steadied myself by leaning against the wall and slinking down to meet her, still conducting those deep breaths. Eventually I built up the bravery (or nerve, I suppose) to put my arm around her.

“I’m sorry.” I softly said.

Megan attempted to shove me off, her crying never faltering. She was entirely inconsolable. I sighed, knowing the prudent course – I sat in silence for a good twenty minutes, missing my bus and brushing off one confused sophomore who found us at one point, but mostly just sitting awkwardly, stroking her back, listening to her cry the entire way. The crying got quieter and quieter over time, although the ferocity of it never stopped. She just lost the energy to make noise. Eventually she was making frantic pant noises, her body shaking with every one, when I got the courage to speak again.

“How long have you known?” I asked her.

“I-I… I…” she attempted to speak through her uncontrolled soundless sobs.

I continued stroking her back. “It’s okay. Take all the time you need.”

“T-today.” she managed. “I-I don’t know how l-long I… I’ve been preg…nant for.”

That sounded about right. I frankly knew absolutely nothing about how these sorts of tests went down, and I should have known better, but I had to ask. “Was it a medical test or something?”

“N-not really.” she answered shakily. “I w-was talking to the school nurse and I told her everything.”

“Everything?!” I asked urgently.

I could swear I heard a chuckle amongst her chokes and cries. “Not names.” she reassured me. “I told her I could never, although she w-wasn’t happy.”

Go figure. A hidden sex circle is running amok in Hazelwood and adults aren’t sitting idly by when they find out it happens.

“I was t-there to get tested.” she told me. “To make sure I’m c-clean. She recommended the pregnancy test too.” she sniffled,trying to turn off the invisible waterworks at this point.

I nodded, trying to hide my internal panic. STDs. I never fucking thought of that. God knows who Nicole has banged in the past. Or if May never banged anyone else on the side. Hell, or even…

“Wait, how many? Y’know…” I gestured outward.

Megan shuddered. “Sixteen.”

Damn. Sixteen times, huh? She got around. “Sixteen times, really? Well, we know quite a few of those are with me, and Carson pro-”

“Sixteen guys.”

Silence hung through the air as I stared, mouth agape, at a frightened Megan who didn’t dare look back at me. “Sixteen guys?”

“I know, I know.” Megan uneasily remarked.

“I don’t even know sixteen guys! God knows how many guys have a chance to be involved in some shit now! I really hope you don’t have an STD, because thi-”

“You’re not helping!” Megan sharply interjected.

I shut my mouth and looked straight forward. “You’re right.” That wasn’t easy for me to say. “I’m sorry.”

I sighed and the silence returned. I had learned to loathe its presence, and decided to get rid of it while I had the ability. “So, are you going to tell your parents?”

“I can’t. No way. It’s out of the question.” Megan immediately and quickly replied.

I gave a low chuckle. “That was fast.”

“Adam, I was raised a John Miles Baptist. Both of my parents are incredibly… y’know… ‘by the book.’ They would murder me.”

Well, thanks, John Miles, for making our lives that much more complicated. And speaking of hypothetical murder…

“So then what’s the plan?” I asked grimly. “Are you going to have the child, raise it? Or…”

“I can’t. I’m not having this child. I’m just… I can’t.” Megan spat out, the convulsions of her crying returning to her.

“Not having it at all? So you’re not even putting it up for adoption? So that means…”

Megan buried her head into her knees and violently shook her head yes. I can’t imagine how much Mr. Miles would have approved of abortion, but personal morals aside, I could hardly blame Megan. I was scared as shit of this whole thing. Chills were running up my whole body, so much so that my blood was running cold. I was one wrong word away from having one of my full-on panic attacks. It was difficult to even ask her the questions I was asking, and I’m sure I was visibly shaking as much as her.

The small voice of Megan took me away from my inner hell. “What…” she began uneasily, then brought her head up. “What would you choose to do if this were your child?”

That just about did it. In a hysterical fashion, I flashed a smile that constantly twitched as I breathed out slowly and painfully. “There’s…” I choked out. “There’s a good chance it is mine, isn’t it?”

I couldn’t take it anymore. Like Megan, my head hit my knees and I was full-out crying. I didn’t want this. I wanted this whole thing to go away. I wanted nothing more at this moment than to just run away from Megan and never return. My whole body was uncomfortably shaking, so much so that every movement my body made almost took the wind out of me. It was my turn to be inconsolable, and based on Megan’s hesitantly placed hand on my back, I think she understood.

Everything raced through my mind. My parents, my future, my deadbeat child I would most assuredly never raise properly, and Nicole’s gaze. I couldn’t escape its path. I knew she would be disappointed in me, I just fucking knew it. It terrified me. This whole thing terrified me. I needed to switch this situation off, to wake up from this dream.

“Adam!” Megan said with force, tapping my back.

I just realized I was screaming. Full-on screaming into my knees. I was terrified. I wasn’t okay. None of this was okay.

“It’s okay.” Megan reassured me as I brought my head up. “We… we have a lifeline here. I don’t want to do it but…” she grimaced. “we don’t have a choice.”

My teeth stopped chattering enough for me to form coherent words. “I think… In… in r-regards to your question…”

“Yeah?” she asked, weirdly interested in what I would do.

I could feel tears fill my eyes. “I couldn’t tell you what to do, Megan. If this ever happened to me, I could never look you in the eyes and tell you what to do. I’m sorry, it just seems so wrong. I would leave it up to the…” the last word hung in my throat like vomit. “…mother.”

Megan and I had the exact same instinct as we pulled each other into a frantic hug as we both nuzzled into the other’s shoulders. So it was decided then, Megan would have an abortion. What a fucking dirty word. It was her son. It was probably our son.It was sickening, the whole situation was sickening. As I tried to regain control over my breathing, I murmured a silent prayer i thanks that this happened with Megan and not May. The last thing I wanted was to have a reason to be trapped with her, especially if the reason was a chapter of life I was just not ready for.

Megan’s hand clung to my other shoulder, clawing at it as she attempted to nuzzle further in. “I’m so sorry, Adam.” she breathed. “I love you so much.”

Don’t say it.

“I love you too.”

Fuck.

She slowly brought up her head and I followed suit. “Thank you so much for being there for me,” she began. “You’re so kind and sweet and I don’t know what I would do without you.”

My eye twitched. I tried to remain eye contact with her, but I ended up scoffing and looking down at the floor.

“What?” Megan innocently asked.

Well, every fucking thing was happening today. I may as well let today be ‘truth hurts’ day. National holiday or something, why the fuck not?

“Megan… I haven’t been good for you at all.” I began. Tears began coming back, letting me know that I was going to have to fight to get through what I wanted to say. “You were thirteen when we first… did stuff. Like, fucking thirteen. And all because I made you feel like you needed to have sex with me to get me. I made you act all submissive for me, I made you my sex toy, all because it made me enjoy it. I feel… I feel like…” I sighed and faced the floor.

“I feel like I turned you into a slut who gets off on being used.” I told her gravely. “And now here you are, fifteen guys later. One of those guys is Carson, who likes to use girls too. And you’re pregnant, and you’re unsure if you have an STD, and… and your relationship with your brother is ruined, and you keep doing things that damage you, and…” I shut my eyes tight to extract any tears then opened them again. “I can’t help but feel like your life would be so much better if you never met me. I’m not good for you. I’ve been a shitty boyfriend and a worse friend.”

Megan said nothing and looked to the floor. We both said nothing for a bit. Hello silence my old friend.

“When I say I love you, I don’t mean as a lover.” Megan said slowly. It was a new tone for Megan. Authority. It almost scared me. I looked up at her face to see a facial expression I never saw before. It was seriousness, but not anger, like if she were in Debate Club or something.

“But that doesn’t mean there’s no connection there. I love you, and I can see it in your eyes. You love me. That’s why you say it.” She paused for effect. “You curse yourself every time you say it. I can see that in your eyes too.”

I looked at her in shock, and she gave a small, low laugh.

“I’m not the simpleton you take me for, Adam. I notice things. You cringe because you think that love has the connotation of a lover. But it doesn’t. Look me in the eyes. Think of everything we’ve done.”

Not knowing why, I stared deeply into her beautiful, doe-like, brown eyes.

“I love you.” she said, slowly and meaningfully.

“I love you too.” I feebly managed.

“But… we’re not lovers, are we?” she asked me seriously.

I shook my head no. “I don’t think we are.”

She bit her bottom lip. “Okay.” Gathering her strength, she stood up. “Then I’m definitely getting that abortion.”

I have no clue what was going through Megan’s mind. In the space of about a minute, she changed. She was no longer the shy, sweet little girl. Even her playful aura was not as contrasting to her shyness as this. She had something she was craving for a long time now – authority and boldness, the kind that could make her respected. How unfortunate that if this last, she had to get her inner authoritative attitude this way. Secretly, I had hoped she’d go back to the old Megan tomorrow, that this event had no consequences.

But that was stupid of me. Consequences were very real. They were abundant, and they were not over.

 

***

 

“…And out of nowhere, you want to hang out?” Paul asked me, concluding his point.

“Yeah, so what?” I asked.

He shrugged, putting his car into park. “I just feel like it’s not just hanging out. Is there something specific you need to ask me?”

“No.” I told him truthfully. “I just figured since you’re moving away soon this will be the only opportunity I get.” Okay, that part was a lie. I just wanted to get away from anyone who had intimate knowledge of anything that happened within the past month, but still wanted to hang out with someone. Knowledge-hungry yet clueless Paul seemed like the best option at this point.

“Ah.” He grinned at me. “So you heard about Peterson University, huh?”

“Yeah, I heard. Congrats!” I had to force my enthusiasm.

“Thanks.” He opened the car and got out. “I’m excited. Psychology. Understand people. Change the world. All that jazz.”

I followed him out and sized up his house. It wasn’t bad. It seemed like he came from a decently affluent background. “Nice place.”

“Oh, you think so?” he asked coyly as he practically danced his way to the front door. “Crazy enough, it has an inside too!”

This was going to be a long day. I went inside and kicked my shoes off, noting the house’ ‘urban rich kid’ house smell. “Will your parents mind that I’m staying over?”

“Even if they did, they won’t get to meet you.” Paul told me. “You said you had to be back at the school for 6:30, right?”

It was Wednesday. Karate started at 7:00 and like hell Nicole was willing to drive her prized possession to Paul’s place. In fact, ‘like hell’ were her words exactly.

“My dads aren’t home until 7:00 at the earliest. Sorry if you wanted to meet them or anything.”

“Nah, it’s okay. I came here to hang out with you, not your… dads.” I felt guilty with the way I handled the last word, but either Paul didn’t notice or ignored me.

Paul gave me finger guns and grinned. “Sweet. Okay, in that case I have only a few hours to show you everything you’ve been missing. First up, Skyrim. Follow me.” He thundered down the stairs to his basement.

“You seem to be in a really good mood.” I called after him, walking down the stairs behind him only to realize he was nowhere in sight.

A can of something came at me out of nowhere. I barely caught it. I looked at the can to discover it was Coke. “My performance piece is done.” Paul announced, coming out of the darkness back into the room with another can in his hand.

“How’d you do?” I asked.

“I have no freaking clue.” He grinned. “But it’s over.” He walked past me to a couch setup with a fairly big TV and a games console. Popping in a disc while I sat down, Paul sighed contentedly.

I figured now was the time to address a point I remembered from Salvador some time ago, since he seemed unlikely to let anything get him down now. “Do you just not care about living up to your potential in drama class?”

“Been talking to Salvador, have you?” Paul asked back immediately. He turned back to my face, no doubt showing that I had been taken off guard, and raised his eyebrows twice at me before breaking into another smile.

“What gave it away?” I asked.

“He asked the exact same question not too long ago. Something some people might call ‘too harsh.’ Luckily Salvador knows I can take it.” He sat down next to me and handed me a controller. “Start a new game.”

“So what, you just don’t care about not doing well in that class?” I asked him a little incredulously.

“Ouch.” he chuckled. “Sounds like you’ve only been talking to him. Salvador and I both know that I’m the best actor in the class. Not to toot my own horn, but one of the best in the school.”

“Except for Nicole.” I countered.

“Nicole can do better impressions, but she doesn’t quite have the heart for it. She’s a little too hesitant.” Paul said, almost to himself, cracking open his can and taking a swig. My primary reaction was to scoff, but for some reason I thought about it. It wasn’t really in Paul to lie. It kind of made sense for him to be a better actor than her given the weaknesses she had shown me time and time again.

“So when Salvador complains that I’m not living up to my potential, he’s not upset that I’m doing badly…”

“He’s upset that you’re performing at everyone else’s level when you could be the class star.” I concluded.

“Bingo.” Paul remarked between sips. “I had to work my butt off given how terrible I was in grade 9, but that doesn’t mean I have to live up to his standards just because I can. It won’t benefit him when I’m gone, it’s just Salvador nosing his way into people’s personal lives, as usual.” He took a long sip before continuing. “Which he will continue to deny until his dying day.”

“What?”

“He says this, he always says it…” Paul cleared his throat and put on his best Salvador voice. “I hope to be someone you can talk to, but not your friend. I am not your friend, I am your teacher. Having an intuition for people’s inner workings doesn’t make me their friend.”

“He said that?” I asked.

“Exactly like that when I called him out.” Paul nodded.

“What did you call him out for? I asked, half-watching the opening cutscene of the game.

“You probably know I was with Brianne Lynne last year.” Paul started, then waited for my nod before continuing. “Salvador has a habit of playing favorites. He babies some students for no reason other than the fact that he likes ‘em. He babied the shit out of Brianne, and I called him out for it.”

“Then what did he say?” I asked.

“I just told you.” Paul told me with a smirk.

“Right, right…” I trailed off.

“Some intuition anyways if he can’t even figure out when students don’t want to lead. I think he’s also upset at me for not going above-and-beyond because my year has no leaders. Neither does next year’s class, by the way. Since you brought her up, I can tell you Nicole breezes through the class and her mind is always somewhere else. She acts like drama is her spare class.”

Ah yes. The mythical spare class. That was our name for the optional elective in grade 12. Since you only needed so many completed classes to graduate, some students opted to take one less class and use the time to complete homework from other classes or just straight-up sleep in or something.

“The only actor in my year who really seems to give a crap is myself, and why should I have to lead everyone when drama isn’t my future? It wouldn’t grind my gears so much if he didn’t treat it like it was an obligation. I can act, it doesn’t mean I want to rally everyone else.” Paul continued.

“Is that why you were so upset that day I saw you talking about the performance with… Was her name Lauren?” I asked.

Paul took a sharp inhale and laughed to himself. “Ooh, Lauren. Yeah. That was a thing.”

“Did you have a fight?”

“Not a fight, no…” He scratched the back of his head. “It’s just that she doesn’t dedicate herself to her performance like I do. This year we were asked to put on our own play. Write it, direct it, make the set, the whole thing. The unit is called One Acts, and it’s a shit-ton of work.”

“Sounds like it.” I commented.

“Lauren didn’t really know what she was in for and because I couldn’t work with most of the cats in our class, I went with her for the duo piece I wrote.” Paul continued. “In fact, no one in the class can apparently write either. My piece was the only one that ended up passing Salvador’s quality check, everyone else got a pre-written script.”

“Nice job.” I interjected.

“Thanks. So I find out that her performing style is wooden. Like, super wooden. By the way, here’s where you just to choose your character.” He pointed to the screen. “Make it whatever you want, apart from your race it really doesn’t matter. So she can’t act, she can’t memorize a script, and she maybe makes it to half of the rehearsals. She jeopardizes my play, so I figure, enh, if Salvador wants me to take initiative, I will. I march into his office and demand a switch of cast. I take steps to ensure my play goes down smoothly and well, and he says no.” He scratched his head again. “Like… that’s just hypocritical. And no disrespect to Lauren. Just like I have no obligation to live up to his standards, she doesn’t have any obligation to live up to mine.”

I nodded. “That’s good of you.” I lamely commented out loud. “Is this good? Is it bad to pick an Imperial?”

“Nah, that’s actually smart if you’re new to the game. The Imperial ability comes in handy a lot.” he commented with the same lame tone to his voice. “At any rate, I did the best with what I was given, but I whipped Lauren hard to get it. I imagine she hates me now.”

“Do you hate her?” I asked.

“Nah, of course not. Hating someone because they hate you is childish. Let’s take you, for example. I would imagine May doesn-”

“I…” I interrupted loudly, holding up a hand. “…wouldn’t go there.”

“Ooh, is there a-”

“I’m serious. Please. Someday I might tell you, but for now… another topic please.” I pleaded with the most serious voice I could muster.

“Uh, yeah. Of course. I’m sorry.” Paul replied genuinely. He got points for that. “I’ll tell you what. Want me to whip up something for us? I thought I got some frozen pizzas upstairs.” He got up out of his seat, regaining his smile.

“Uh, yeah, that would be great!” I replied, trying to regain my composure. At least he was polite about it. As I watched him disappear up the stairs, I put down the controller and checked my phone.I hadn’t checked it since school – as a matter of fact, I was dreading it, ever since Monday. Sure enough, that dread stared me straight in the face as the glow of the screen hit my eyes.

Im having the abortion, everything is planned

I sighed, never taking my eyes away from the text. Megan. I suppose I should have been grateful this was the only time I would be texted something like this, given how much trouble I got into. But still, I couldn’t take my eyes away. I was looking over every word, judging, thinking, overthinking. Still, I suppose I had to respond with something.

I’m sorry. Is there anything I need to do?

Sent. Wait, shit.

Or anything I can do for you?

The dreaded double text. Still, I would have rather come across as clingy than a guy who didn’t care about my own friend. And… my own child. Shit, that still shook me something fierce. I was only 14, fuck, Megan was barely 14 and we already brought a child into the world.

And now we were taking it out of the world.

No. I dont want to talk about it

That was fair enough by all accounts, but it sure as hell didn’t make me feel better about anything. All I could do was stare at my phone and think about Megan, how she must have been feeling.

“Okay, it’s in!” Paul announced as he paraded down the stairs. “All I had was classic pepperoni and cheese. That sound okay?”

“Uh, yeah.” I shouted back as I shoved my phone into my pocket and stifled a sniffle. “Yeah, that’s okay!”

“Cool, what’s up in the world of the Dovahkiin?” Paul asked, taking a gander at the TV screen. “Ah. Nothing, huh?”

“Sorry, I was texting someone.” I meekly replied.

“Hey, no worries.” he replied, sitting back down. “Pizza will be twenty minutes. Someone I know?”

“Um-”

“Trick question. I know everyone at school.” Paul replied smugly.

“I…” I didn’t really want to tell him Megan. I knew myself well enough to know that if I told him truthfully, I would be telling him the whole truth before long, and just as it was wiser to let the dead rest in peace, it was wiser to let Paul remain clueless. “Nicole.”

He sat up. “Nicole? So, you two are remaining in contact, huh?”

Oh shit. ‘Nicole’ was the first name that came to mind, and by the looks of things, that decision backfired badly.

“Uh, yeah.” I mumbled. “We’re all good now. Besties.”

“Huh.” he sat back, eyeing the TV, bother written all over his face.

“What’s up?” Speaking of Salvador, this was a clear-as-day status shift in action. As long as the spotlight was not on me, I was fully content to milk this.

“Hm?” He looked over at me in slight confusion. “What?”

“Well… there’s something there, right?” I asked him. “You reacted weirdly.”

“I don’t think I did.” he dismissed me.

“You don’t have to think you did, you still did.” I boldly pointed out. “Did you and her have a fight?”

“Nah, nothing like that.” he clarified.

“So there is something!” I retaliated.

He grinned. “No there isn’t, you little snoop.”

“Come on…” I egged him on. “You wouldn’t have said something like that if there wasn’t anything.”

“Are you using my own tactics against me?” His grin wasn’t fading.

“Is it working?” I grinned back.

Paul laughed into his hands. “Not bad, not bad.” he admitted.

My eyes gleamed. “Is it too private for me to know? Like, is it something bad?” Bam, the double bluff. Make it sound bad so he’s forced to clarify that’s it’s not… by spilling the beans.

He laughed to himself. “You’re not going to let this go until I tell you, are you?”

“Nope!” I wanted to know. Ever since hearing it from Nicole’s end, and then seeing it time and time again, I was dying to know Paul’s side of the story. Hell, I was 110% ready to hear Paul tell me about that time he did this one thing that abused her trust and like a candle in the windowsill being blown out forever, she was never able to trust him again. Nicole seemed hard on the outside, but especially given her past with Jeff Love and now Phil, it seemed like something that could easily have happened.

“Fine, but it’s really nothing. Hell, it’s lame.”

“I live for lame. I’m craving something lame at this point.” I honestly admitted. “With all the shit that’s gone on in the past little bit, I would love something lame.”

Paul grinned. “Teenage drama?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe.”

He adjusted in his seat. “Well, it’s stupid, but…” he chuckled, almost nervously, to himself. It was clear that Paul was usually on the receiving end of the gossip train, not the giving train. I couldn’t tell whether he was enjoying this rare opportunity to be on the other side, or hating it. Or somewhere between the two.

“Again, it sounds stupid at first until I explain myself. I have a crush on Nicole.”

“That’s it?” I asked out of reflex.

“Right? On the surface it seems so stupid. But it’s bigger than anything I’ve ever felt. I like to think I’m a guy who doesn’t feel much. Like, if life were a sitcom, I’m that comic relief character everyone appreciates but no one actually focuses on. And I’m actually really content with that. But occasionally I like to try to be my own ‘main character’ for once, especially with things I feel passionate about. I feel passionate about solving people’s problems. So, I’m taking psych at Peterson. That kind of thing.”

“So you did something involving Nicole and it backfired?” I guessed. That must have been it.

He chuckled, this time with a twinge of sadness to it. “I kind of wish that was the case. Then at least I could have some closure out of it. Nah, it was just some point in grade ten – she was the shy nobody at that point. Too scared to open her mouth and make something of herself. Like, this was before Jeff and everything. I got it bad for her early – Bri always hated her too. I think she knew I knew she was special.”

“So Brianne broke up with you over Nicole?”

“Oh hell no. We broke up because we were bad for each other, but that’s another story entirely. Anyways, so she was obviously going for Jeff, but he didn’t even know who she was yet. I stupidly think to myself, ‘hey, there’s a chance.’ And even if there weren’t, I always play for the long-term goal. Suppose I try to connect with her, and it goes nowhere, despite me slowly trying to warm up to her after two years. At least I got a good friend out of that. It’s how I got anything and everything remotely close to a girlfriend. Most importantly, there was barely any drama out of it.”

I half-smiled. No drama, huh? I should have been taking notes. It was kind of sweet of Paul to have that outlook – it wasn’t exactly Ghandi, but at least he was being respectful. After a freshman year full of assholes, it was sadly refreshing.

“And with Nicole, I… it… You ever been in love, Adam?”

The question came out of absolutely nowhere, taking me off-guard completely. “Wuh, me?”

Paul looked around the room. “Is there anyone else in here?” He stared at me intently and asked me more slowly, drawing out every word. “Have you ever been in love? And I don’t mean loving someone. I mean being in love.”

I opened my mouth, then shut it, looking away from Paul in thought. I thought for a long time about every interaction I had with Nicole, then everything I ever said and did with Megan. Hell, even as much as it left a bitter taste in my mouth, May popped into my head as I wondered the question. Everything before freshman year seemed irrelevant as I looked over the three unique situations.

“I don’t think I have.”

Paul nodded, a small smile forming on his lips. “Good answer. As many times as I’ve been involved in some kind of romantic situation, I don’t think I could say I’ve been in love more than once.”

“Nicole?”

“You know it.” he admitted. “I don’t know what it was about her. It was there when I first saw her. It was there when I first talked to her, in my usual me fashion – just randomly striking up a conversation in the hallway.”

“It just didn’t go anywhere?”

“That’s the fucking worst part, excuse my French. It was immediately somewhere. Our chemistry was electric, she really enjoyed my spontaneous nature and she made me laugh. I usually only laugh out of politeness. If social standards didn’t exist, I would barely ever laugh at people’s jokes.” He paused for a bit. “She was… she was a dream. Like, that type of person you only ever read about in stories. I figure she was my one chance, you know? I never felt anything like that around anyone, even since.”

“Then why does she…?” I trailed off, gesturing with my hands. I didn’t want to outright say that she disliked him, but it was clear that she did.

Paul only shrugged. “It’s not like we talked often, maybe like once a week, but there was clearly some kind of something, even if her heart was set for Jeff. We still had potential to be something, until one day.” He snapped his fingers. “Instantly. Just like a switch, she stopped looking me in the eye, stopped talking to me, and any conversation I brought up with her was treated with this cold tone and small sentences. One day, she just decided to hate my guts.” He paused again, shrugging once more in a drawn-out manner. “Now, I’m a bit of an overthinker…”

Yeah, in the same sense that Michael Jackson was a bit of a pop star.

“…and I can’t not keep revisiting sophomore year now. Grade 10. What did I say, what did I do? It had to have been something I did. It was too drastic not to have been. I would give anything to rewrite time, to maybe say things differently, anything to avoid accidentally driving her away in the way I did.” He put his elbows on his knees and buried his head in his hands. “Like, anytime I even see a picture of her on Facebook in passing or something, I just… I stop and stare at it. I can’t help it. I think way too long. What’s she thinking right now? How’s she feeling? I wanted to be there for her so badly when she lost Mitch. She needed someone so badly. But the one time I got the courage to go up to her, sure enough, emotional walls ahoy. I didn’t want to make things worse so I backed off, but I…” I felt his mouth go dry. “I dunno.”

I felt guilty as sin knowing just how close Nicole and I were. “I’m sorry.” I slowly and awkwardly said.

“It’s cool, man. It’s not your fault at all. It’s just…” He stared straight ahead. “It kills me knowing it was once a thing. Like, our friendship was so alive. I would kill just to have even that. She could be with any guy in the world but me, fine. I just want to be friends with her.”

At this point, I felt too awkward and anxious to say anything, so I let silence hang as I waited for Paul to inevitably add on to his thought.

“And soon, I’ll be off. I suppose Peterson isn’t exactly that far away, but it’s enough of a location change to signify a new chapter in my life, you know? That means letting go of the past, and I’m dreading letting go of her.” His hands covered his eyes. “I’m not ready to let go of her, dude. I’m just not. And the worst part of it is, she’ll be on my mind every day and yet at the same time she’ll never think about me again. Ever. I’ll be a good riddance for her for… for what I only know as no reason. I’ll be insignificant to her, the one most important person in the world to me. I just need to move on and forget about her. I know that’s what my future will be. Sometimes I even think that I’m forgetting about her, but then I see another picture of her or something that reminds me of her, and bam, it’s right back to square one.” He sighed deeply. “She’s that kind of girl that can make anything remind you of her. People with cameras, student council, shy girls, girls with long hair… Hell, even Ford cars.” He chuckled out loud, albeit sadly.

“Is karate with her ever difficult?” I asked him, if nothing else to leave Paul alone with his thoughts. I never identified with him more than this moment, and going by how I knew myself, I didn’t want him to think too hard about what he just said.

Paul didn’t respond for a bit. “Sometimes.” he admitted. “I’m sure you’ve seen, she goes from ‘silent but deadly’ to ‘spitting poison’ when she’s at karate. She kinda changed. She never really used to be competitive, but at this point she’ll cut you out of her life if you even know something she doesn’t.”

“That doesn’t sound like something that would mix with your personality.” I pointed out.

Paul slowly smiled. “It really doesn’t.” he admitted. “But I think at this point I just fell for her so hard that anything that becomes her becomes beautiful. I never used to be into girls with long hair. Now it’s all I can look for in a girl. I don’t like the competitiveness, but I don’t hate her for being competitive, I think I just began to hate myself for not liking it. Does that make sense?”

“It makes too much sense.” I admitted.

“Either way, all I am to her is an inconvenience. And for now, for the next month, that’s all I will be. Then summer hits, and I won’t be anything at all.” He got up and stretched. “It’s all for the better. Ask Brianne, I’m a bad boyfriend.”

For some reason, I didn’t need to ask how. I both knew how he was and why I could look past it just from what he told me. All I did was nod.

“Bleh. Talk about your mood draggers, huh?” Paul interjected awkwardly. “I’m gonna go check up on the pizza. If it’s done, we eat, then we finish a quest. Then I’ll drive you to the school. Sound bueno?”

“Bueno.” I repeated. As he started to waltz away, I added, “Thank for having me over. I appreciate it.”

Paul turned around and smiled. “So do I.”

 

***

 

There was only so long I could putz around the weight room on Thursday afternoon before I had to conclude that Nicole was late. I huffed. I hated wasting time like this, especially since I had to get into a mood to get pumped enough to lift. Being denied the satisfaction of actually going through with it really pent me up.

Eventually I was so pent up that I exited the room to go look for her. She didn’t indicate at lunchtime that she was going to cancel, and it was Nicole – she didn’t forget things. She had to be held up somewhere.

She wasn’t in the main hall, or anywhere near the arts hallway (she hung out in the photography room a fair bit). The next stop was the school paper’s office, on floor three near the student council office.

As I approached the ‘T’ hallway near where I could find both rooms, I heard a voice – no, voices. I peered around the corner and sure enough, one of the two voices was Nicole’s, her eyes preoccupied staring a hole through Phil Love’s skull. I kept myself hidden around the corner as I kept peering around to watch the drama unfold.

“Do you seriously expect me to believe that?” Phil icily demanded, his tone so low and cold he sounded like a biblical monster.

“It’s common practice for human beings to believe the truth.” Nicole spat back. “That’s why they call it the fucking truth.”

“Don’t you dare give me that.” Phil growled. “You knew. From the second I come out of that office, you tell me I’m fucking finished. Before we were told, before the vote even fucking happened, you drop that bomb on me. And you tell me that’s your fucking intuition?”

“What else was it, you numbskull?!” Nicole yelled in his face. “What, you think the vote was rigged? These were highschoolers. Scott could have told them you burned down the very school they were sitting in and their peabrains would have still made them go, ‘Oh mah Gawd! Phiyil burnt dahwn the skewl! We’d betta get riyid of hiyim!’”

“You’re so quick to forget you are one of those highschoolers.” Phil shoved a finger in her face.

Nicole quickly swatted it down. “Yeah, but the second you were accused it was game over. Of course everyone was going to turn on you. No one had anything to gain by voting to keep you. Welcome to politics, Philly boy. Do you want to still live in high school dreamland with the idiots, or since you’re graduating, would you like to step into the real world?”

“You have no respect for your council. Or for the school. Why the fuck are you even applying for president next year? You have nothing but contempt for them!” Phil shouted, his face getting red.

“Well, I dunno…” Nicole replied coyly, folding her arms. “I figured it’s better to have contempt for them than to sexually assault them, wouldn’t you agree?”

That was the last straw for Phil. In one swift motion he pulled back his fist and swung right at Nicole’s face in a fit of spontaneous fury. Nicole quickly and deftly leaned out of the way, then once Phil was good and off balance from swinging too far without hitting anything, grabbed his wrist. Stepping in with what I understood was a ‘front stance’ from karate, she twisted his wrist forward and brought her other hand across his arm further up, hitting what I’m guessing was a nerve cluster with the side of her hand. Phil was helpless, falling to his knee and bending his back now that Nicole had him by the arm in an awkward and uncomfortable position for him. She had such a good grip that any time he tried shifting a foot or straightening his back, she just applied a little more pressure and kept him in the position. Looks like if you stay at karate long enough maybe you can actually defend yourself from Student Council thugs.

Phil was utterly defeated. All he could move was his neck and amid his struggles and gasps of pain, he was very vocal about how displeased he was to be in his predicament. That was, until he clapped eyes on me. At that moment, he froze. Nicole hadn’t seen me, at least yet, but Phil had no doubt seen me. I should have pulled back, but I was frozen in fear.

His eyes flared. I could see a mix of confusion, a little fear, and pure anger in them. I couldn’t tell if any of those were at me, or at his situation, but I sure as hell didn’t want to find out. And yet, I was caught ,and he would give up my position any second now.

“So, are you going to be a good boy?” Nicole taunted Phil in a sing-song voice, still holding him down. “That means no hitting. Say whatever the fuck you want, but take another swing and this will start to become a familiar scenario.”

Phil never broke his gaze from mine. “Sure,” he told her. She released him and he fell to the floor, quickly picking himself back up so he could stare back at her. Was he willing to forgive me? Did he want me to watch? Did he want to continue this conversation at all costs? I didn’t get it. What was his end goal here? The look he gave me told me he knew what he was doing, but that may just have been his inner politician.

“Great. Well if you only want me to use words, listen to mine very carefully.” Phil told her with a tone that could cut rocks. “You’ve always shied away from this question. Answer it like the man you pretend to be, right here, right now: Do you think I did it?”

“Did what?” Nicole asked cautiously.

“Do you think I sexually assaulted May?”

Nicole leaned forward, giving him such an intense stare that I half-expected his head to explode. “Hell yes I do.” she told him, enunciating every word.

Phil instinctively grabbed Nicole’s shirt in a threatening manner, which Nicole immediately pushed aside with one hand. “Don’t touch me,” she told him sourly.

“You little bitch.” he almost whispered, his voice carrying the texture of boiling lava.

“Fight me. We already know I’ll win.” Nicole smugly retorted. “Of course you fucking did it. We both know you did. There’s no one else here, why can’t you admit it like the man you pretend to be?”

Oh shit, things were getting serious. I bet Phil thought about looking back at me, but knew better. I couldn’t see his face given the angle, all I knew is that he wasn’t saying anything.

“Okay then, big boy.” Nicole continued. “Prove it. Look me in the eyes and tell me you didn’t. This is your chance.”

“Huh?”

“If you didn’t, tell me. I know when people lie, Love. Tell me, just tell me, that you didn’t do it. I dare you.” Nicole challenged him, stepping closer to them, eliminating the remaining space between them. Even though Phil was a tall guy, it seemed as though Nicole was a foot taller than him in this moment.

“I didn’t d-do it.”

Phil’s performance didn’t exactly rival DiCaprio. I couldn’t tell whether he was nervous but still remaining truthful, or caught in his lie. Then again, that wasn’t up to me – at this point, the judge, jury and executioner was Nicole.

“Didn’t do what, Phil?”

“I didn’t rape May.”

The tension hung thick in the air, almost plentiful enough to outweigh the malice. Nicole stared him in the eyes for what seemed like forever. Eventually she started nodding slowly, and I saw Phil’s shoulders relax as he sighed.

“Phil” she asked him innocently.

“Yeah?”

Nicole grabbed him by the collar. “You’re despicable.” she snarled in his face, letting him go forcefully. He took a few steps before finding his footing.

Phil actually started laughing. It began with a small, throaty chuckle, and evolved into a full-out laugh. “Yeah. Great. Sure, whatever. Believe what you want, Nicole. I may be despicable and all, but hey, what’s up with you?”

“The fuck are you talking about?” Nicole angrily spat back at him.

“Hmm… what am I talking about?” Phil replied in gleeful mock thought. “You told me that I was going to get booted, but I seem to recall you did something else in that hallway. What did you do?”

“Phi-”

“You kissed me.”

I was worried my gasp was loud enough to hear? She did what?! Why?

“You kissed me.” Phil practically shouted, making sure he was heard. By me.

My attention turned to Nicole, whose gaze could’ve set ice on fire.

Still, Phil continued. “We don’t exactly need you to look me in the eyes and tell me to both know that you did, do we? So do you really believe me, or are you just trying to cast me as the rapist bad guy so you can try to get over me and move on with your life? I can’t imagine how disappointed Adam would be in you if y-”

“Leave him out of this.” Nicole’s voice stood firm, but she broke eye contact with him, now staring at the floor.

“Great, good point. This would just break his widdle heart, wouldn’t it?” He took Nicole’s chin with his index finger and moved it upward. “Knowing about us.”

My stomach was churning. I didn’t know how much of this I could take. I could feel another panic attack coming on, and yet I couldn’t afford to give my cover. Certainly not now. Phil played me like a fucking fiddle.

“You still did it.” Nicole stood firm. “You still assaulted her. My actions don’t… my actions don’t change that.”

“Mmm, so what do your actions mean?” Phil asked wickedly, grabbing the back of her head and kissing her passionately.

Nicole quickly broke away. “We can’t. I can’t, not anymore. I can’t do it to him.” She started to pace towards the opposite end of the hallway.

“Why? Why?” Phil shouted after her, his curiosity fully invested at this point. Taking advantage of Nicole facing the other way, he whirled around to look at me, his face full of fascination. Grinning, he turned back around. “Could it be that someone broke through your icy shell? Nicole Baker, professional girlfriend?”

“You’re just jealous it’s not you, you fucking asshole.” Nicole spat back. At this point, all I could do was hear them. I couldn’t look at Nicole anymore. I stopped peering around the corner. Instead, I just faced the wall in front of me.

This wasn’t fucking happening.

“No, but speaking of jealousy, imagine if he knew you couldn’t resist me.” Phil piped up.

“I fucking can.”

“Prove it.”

I shook as I listened to a brief rustling of clothes and the sounds of a heavy makeout session. It was absolutely abhorrent and disgusting. I never wanted to kiss another human being ever again. Eventually, after a minute or so, the noises died down.

“You lose.” Phil announced gleefully.

“So… so what?” Nicole argued, noticeably panting. “In a month it won’t matter. You’ll be out of this school forever. Maybe… maybe I’ll fucking do it. Hell, imagine if I ask him out. The precious boyfriend you wanted to be for so long, scooped up by a lowly freshman.”

“‘Lowly’ is fucking right. Have fun with him. How long do you think it’ll last? I’m betting you won’t even last the summer with him. You may buy into the charm of it for a bit but sooner or later the real Nicole will poke through and you’ll get bored of him, and just toss him aside. You’ll just spend the whole time thinking about someone else anyway.”

“You fucking wish.”

“And that someone is me. And you know what? If I could never be your boyfriend anyway, this is better than Christmas. I’m super happy to be the guy that’s always on your mind instead. It means I fucking win.”

“I’ll forget about you.” Nicole argued.

“But in the meantime, you won’t want to. Besides, when will you truly get over me? One year, two? Who cares? By then you’ll probably have gotten so deranged that you’ll start playing in traffic or something, maybe slit your wrists like you’re always talking of doing.” He paused for effect. “Maybe even overdose.”

Phil stretched out the last word and in a flash I realized the significance of that word to her. He couldn’t have done that intentionally to her. He wouldn’t have. That would have been inhuman.

Instantly I heard Nicole start to cry. “You’re a monster.” she feebly whimpered.

“But…” Phil continued as if she didn’t say anything. “I can’t imagine that’ll happen anytime soon. You don’t have the stones for it. Have fun leading the council, I hope you and Adam have a blast working with each other. God knows you won’t be able to look him in the eyes knowing what you’ve done to him. And hell, if he ever found out, he would be absolutely crushed. He wouldn’t be able to work with you ever again. Sure would make your presidency a difficult one seeing as you already wrote him in as your VP. That’s why you’re never going to tell him about this, right pet?”

Nicole sniffled. “Yes, sir.”

“That’s a good girl. And you know what? I want to go out on a good note, I like that guy. Well… I kinda like that guy. So if he ever asks…”

“I tell him you didn’t do it, sir.” Nicole, doing her best to end her crying, had completely submitted to this guy. Here she was, the most powerful girl I ever knew, and this motherfucker had her wrapped around his little finger, at her expense. I didn’t think it was possible… he was more evil than his brother. He spent this entire year conditioning her, and managed to play me from the moment he saw I was eavesdropping. Phil won. I was the loser. Why the fuck was I even trying?

“Good girl.” Phil said smugly. “Now today my pet said some very naughty things. I think she needs to be reminded of her place.”

Something happened and I heard Nicole gasp. At first I thought it was in pain but it was worse. She was gasping in sensual pleasure.

“Adam’s… waiting for me, sir. He’ll get suspicious if I’m not there soon…” Nicole murmured.

“Ah, he can wait a little longer, can’t he?” Phil asked rhetorically.

“Sir, ple-”

“You’re confusing a question with an order. Get on your knees, slut.” Phil hissed.

My heart beat in my chest. Come on, Nicole. Stand up to him. Beat the shit out of him. You can stand up to him, why the fuck are you doing this?! I’ll forgive you. I’ll forgive all. We can still be together, just cut him out of your life. Stand up to him. Please!

“Yes sir.” Nicole answered in a husky tone.

I raked my hands over my face as I heard a zipper being undone. Some clothes rustled, followed by Nicole’s signature involuntary moan. As soon as I heard the distinct sounds of a blowjob echoing through the hallway, I couldn’t take it anymore. As soundlessly as I could, I rushed down the hallway and bolted for the weights room.

I didn’t get it. It didn’t make sense. She hated Phil. Phil mistreated her. I finally worked my way up with her and earned her trust, and now Phil had to ruin absolutely everything for me. I felt so useless, so worthless… so fucking beta.

If I told her about it, she wouldn’t be able to cope. Fuck, her being able to trust me this much was already brave of her, I knew that. And if I just kept it to myself, I wouldn’t be able to live with it. Well done, Phil. Well fucking done.

I sat down on the bench, clutching my head. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how Nicole felt, or what she did. Was he blackmailing her? It seemed like she was genuinely enjoying being his… his pet. I gagged at the thought. Then why? Was she addicted to him? Why? Why would she even get addicted to such an abusive user w-

A thought. A vivid, fresh thought entered my head. This Monday, in the very halls of this school. Something I had said to Megan.

I feel like I turned you into a slut who gets off on being used.

Phil was me. Phil was another version of me who, upon discovering the devil in the mirror staring back at him, had laughed instead of recoiled like I had. Both of us had used a girl as their plaything at the girl’s own expense and caused their life to become a living hell. The only difference was that I couldn’t bear it and Phil was milking it.

I thought of crying, but I was too tired, too shocked. I couldn’t cry. Should I just give up on Nicole? Even though I cursed myself for thinking such a thing, what other option was there?

Be Paul. That’s exactly what would have fucking happened if I did that. I would have lived a life of regret knowing I had lost that which was so valuable to me. Paul was right, Nicole was a once-in-a-lifetime girl. And she meant too much to me. Hey Paul: I had my answer now – I fell in love, once. And once was all I needed.

I knew exactly what to do. I knew exactly what to say to Nicole as soon as she walked through the door. I breathed a silent prayer that I hung out with Paul yesterday – he inadvertently gave me the perfect advice.

A couple minutes later, Nicole walked through the door to the gym. “Yo!” she called to me as if she hadn’t just been blowing a dude.

“Finally! What took you so long?” I asked incredulously, beaming at her, being happy and casual, and using every drama class I took as well as every fiber of my being to not let anything show.

I would say nothing and let this whole thing pass. I would let Phil have his month, because he would never get to have her again, and I would make sure Nicole would want for nothing else afterwards. I was playing for the long-term goal.

 

***

 

I was still breathing heavily when we had reached Nicole’s place. “Told you you were pushing yourself too hard,” Nicole commented, looking me over as she put the car into park. “Is something up?”

Nicole knew as well as I did that I used working out at this point to get rid of my stress, and thanks in no small part to her, it was practically overflowing. “Exam stress.” I simply answered her, shrugging.

She shrugged back. “Just study a bit. You’re probably just stressing yourself out – it’s easier than you think.”

“And how long did you study when you were in grade nine?” I asked her.

She smugly smirked back at me in answer. Of course, she didn’t study at all. How stupid of me.

“You suck,” I humorously commented as we exited the car.

She turned around and winked at me. “Only for the special few.” she retaliated.

It was becoming harder by the minute to hide my pain from her. I’m sure my eyes gave her a scowl as my smile continued, the sounds of her submissive efforts in the hallway just a few hours earlier still fresh in my mind.

Entering her house had become a familiar scenario to me, and I guess I could at the very least take comfort in the fact that any sex she was having with God knows how many other guys was not in her bed where we spent so much time. Since Nicole’s parents, upon hearing someone else was home, always assumed it was me, I knew Nicole wasn’t bringing any other trophy boys home.

“Hi mommy, hi daddy!” Nicole announced in her dichotomously childish voice alongside her mature posture.

“Hello, dear! Do you have Adam with you?” Mrs. Baker’s voice called from the kitchen. Her voice carried no malice but Nicole still looked at me, rolling her eyes at her mother’s words.

“Yes!” Nicole shouted back with annoyance. “Is that a problem?”

They gave n response as Nicole kicked off her shoes and went into the kitchen. Meekly, I followed, giving a polite wave to the Bakers as Nicole bolted upstairs. It was kind of odd… If anything, the Bakers have been more polite to us than ever, and Nicole was just getting more and more dismissive. Still, I didn’t want to make things more awkward than they already were, besides, her parents didn’t seem at all upset.

By the time I went upstairs, Nicole was already in her room, sitting on her bed with a piece of paper on her lap.

“Whatcha doing?” I asked her.

She didn’t look up. “Nine-letter word for nonsense. Ends with a ‘k.’”

“Um…”

“Poppycock, thanks.” she absent-mindedly mumbled, scribbling something down. She then threw the piece of paper across the room. “I go through three crossword puzzles a day.”

“Why am I not surprised?” I quipped.

“So, what do you wanna do?” she asked, sprawling out on the bed.

I trudged over to the other side of the bed and flopped down on top of it. “Anything that doesn’t require physical movement.” I mumbled into her pillow. “I’m so exhausted.”

“So no sex, huh?” Nicole asked with a giggle.

“…Okay wait, hold on.” I replied, pushing myself up so I could sit down on the bed.

Nicole chuckled.”Thought so. But sure, tell you what. Are you in the mood?”

“…Is this a trick question?” I asked.

Nicole giggled again, purring as she sat up and crawled over to me. “You know, there are ways that we can help… satisfy you…” she cooed, tracing a finger along my body as she eyed me up and down. “But, you’ll need to do something for me.” She gave me a small smile and reached for the back of my head, pulling me in for a kiss. “What do you say, hotshot? Are you up for it?”

I smiled at her suspiciously. “What is it that I’m agreeing to?” I asked her slowly.

Nicole giggled maliciously. “That much you’ll have to find out on your own. But what do you say, squirt?”

One part of me wanted to figure this out. Something was definitely fishy. But the other part of me knew Nicole’s boobs were strategically placed right in my face, and that I missed her. Plus, especially given… recent events… I wanted to remind herself (as well as myself) that she was mine.

I leaned forward and kissed her myself. “I say yes.” I replied, kissing her again and again. My hands went to her neck, massaging both sides as my kisses gained momentum, my passion building. I love you, Nicole. Without a doubt, I love you. I want you to be my lover, and whatever stupid gimmicks you set up for me would be easy to conquer if it meant more time spent with you.

Eventually she broke off the kisses and smiled at me naughtily. “Good boy.” she purred, hopping back on the bed. “Well, first off, I’m a little hungry. Get me a bag of chips downstairs.”

I laughed. “Really?” I asked her. “That’s what I’m doing? Being your little servant?”

Nicole smiled innocently. “Consider this your trial period, my little politician. You wanna be my VP? Let’s see if you’ve got what it takes.”

I chuckled. “I hate you,” I joked, walking out of the room. I practically floated down the stairs, a smile on my face as I thought not only of how much I enjoyed being around Nicole, but the promise of what was to come.

“I said, can we help you?” came a voice, snapped me out of my daydream. Mrs. Baker stared expectantly at me.

“Uh, sorry.” I mumbled. “Nicole sent me down to get a bag of chips for her.”

“Not for the both of you?” Mrs. Baker quizzed me. “Cabinet next to the fridge. Bottom shelf.”

“Thanks.” I smiled politely at her as I opened the cabinet and grabbed a bag, rushing back up the stairs.

“My queen, may I come in?” I teased as I walked in, holding the bag.

“Mmm, queen, huh? Maybe I like that.” Nicole teased, winking, sitting unmoving on the bed. “Drop the bag next to me.”

I did as I was told, a sly smile on my face. Nicole eyed the bag and frowned. “What, no bowl? What, do I look like a savage? If you really appreciated your queen, you wouldn’t make her eat out of the bag.”

The sex had better give me five million orgasms for this. Shaking my head, I went back downstairs.

“Me again.” I called out, making Mrs. Baker lower the newspaper she was reading. “Could you show me where the bowls are?”

“Remember last time you got a bowl? Same place.” Mrs. Baker told me, moving the newspaper back up. Well, no help there. I looked through a couple drawers before finally finding a bowl, then brought it back upstairs.

“Your bowl, Your Highness.” I announced, playing along.

“Well, look at you.” Nicole remarked as she saw me come in. “And you’re only slightly later than I thought you would be.”

My eyes narrowed. I got on the bed, kneeling as I approached Nicole.

“You’re having fun with this, aren’t you?” I asked her in a voice barely above a whisper. “Watching the boy you can’t get off your mind, doing your bidding.”

As soon as I mentioned that I was on Nicole’s mind, the smug look was wiped clean off her face. I smiled in victory, taking advantage of the opportunity and kissing her.

“You’re lucky I worship you like I do. I wouldn’t do this for just anyone.” I stole a few kisses, moving down to her neck. “Or is that the point?” I asked between kisses. “You just like it when I show my favorite girl how much she means to me.” My kisses became longer and longer, and before long, I was using my teeth,making her give a soft ‘ooh’ with every kiss/bite.

After a few more, Nicole pushed me off of her. “Oh, Adam.” she shook her head slowly, looking me in the eye and smiling. “How can I believe you? How can I believe that you call me your ‘favorite girl…’”

My heart sunk. Looks like I hadn’t won her over as thoroughly as I thought.

“…if you brought me something this salty and didn’t even get me anything to drink?” she finished, a gleam in her eye. “Water will do fine.”

I had no clue what was saltier, the chips or me in that moment. So, that’s how she wanted to play it, huh? “When I come back, I’ll make those kisses look like child’s play.” I warned her, getting off the bed.

“Do it, I dare you.” Nicole flirted back, never moving as I left.

The third time I entered the kitchen, Mrs. Baker’s eye followed me, one eyebrow lowered. “She’s just having fun with you at this point, isn’t she?”

“That would be my guess.” I replied exasperatedly. “Cups?”

“Glasses are in that cabinet.” Mrs. Baker said, pointing. “Why are you doing it then? You’re only encouraging her behavior.”

“Yeah, but I like her behavior.” I answered, taking a glass and filling it from the tap.

Mrs. Baker chuckled. “You’re trying really hard to make her fall for you, aren’t you?”

I blushed. “Is it that obvious?”

“Hey, you’ve got my support.” Mrs. Baker replied casually, taking me off guard. I blinked rapidly as the water overflowed in the glass.

“What did you say?”

“I said you have my support.” she repeated. “Duncan’s too. You can be a spineless little worm of a man, but you respect her. If Nicole’s going to marry any of the mansluts she parades through this house, I’d prefer it be the one who doesn’t treat her like property.”

“Property?” I asked uneasily.

Mr. Baker put down his book. “If homicide were legal in this country, half of your school would have gone missing by now.” he gruffly said. “I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that so many boys taught our little girl that her only value is sexual, or how she just kept encouraging it.”

I would have judged Mr. Baker a bit for that first response, but if murder were legal, Phil would be six feet under by now.

“Since you’ve proven you care more about her than sex, of course we’re going to put up with you.” Mrs. Baker added. “You always act like we have it out for you.”

“I’m big on first impressions.” I shrugged, dumping out some of the water. They didn’t respond to that, so I went back upstairs. I needed to stop skipping leg day – going up and down the stairs this much was taking a toll on me. It helped that I was still fatigued.

“Water, mistress.” I teased as I walked in, only to see Nicole drinking from her mint water bottle.

“You took too long,” she simply said, putting down the bottle. “Then I remembered I had my water in my backpack.” She looked me up and down. “Wow, you look tired. Maybe you should drink that water yourself.”

“Oh my god, you little…” I replied with a smoldering tone. Looking at the water, I decided to give her the satisfaction and drink it down. “That had better be the last fucking thing.”

“Well, now that you’re holding a dirty dish, wouldn’t the polite thing be to put it in the kitchen sink? Dishes don’t wash themselves, you know.” Nicole coyly stated. “And while you’re at it, could you take my trash out?”

I gazed at her trash can, full of used post-it notes and candy wrappers and things. I sighed. “You’re so lucky I adore you.” I grumbled.

“I know I am.” Nicole tenderly added.

Aw, for fuck’s sakes, don’t. I really didn’t want to like Nicole right now, but that little add-on made my heart fucking melt. I gave her a smile as I picked up her trash can. “So, what do I…”

“Just take it downstairs. In the kitchen there’s a drawer full of plastic bags. The garbage can is outside.”

Well, okay then. Wordlessly, I took her trash can and, balancing it out with the glass, went for hopefully the final trek downstairs.

“She wasn’t done with me.” I announced, letting my displeasure with the situation be known. “Plastic bags?”

“Next to the sink.” Mrs. Baker replied. I walked over to the sink, put the glass inside, and looked over the contents of the trash.

Normally, going over someone’s personal notes, even their trashed ones, would seem kind of rude, but I couldn’t resist. Something stood out to me – a big ol’ post-it note that read ‘PASSWORD LIST.’ I picked it up and read it over, and sure enough, there was a list of everything, from Nicole’s Facebook password to her Tumblr, to her DeviantA- really, DeviantArt? Well, whatever, you make sacrifices for the people you love. Each password was different.

“Damn, I just found her password list.” I commented out loud. “Shouldn’t she have shredded this or something?”

Mrs. Baker gazed over to me. “Most likely, although when she trashes one list, that means she’s made new passwords for everything.”

“You know a surprising amount about this.” I commented, getting a plastic bag.

“I do it too. Everyone in the family does. We store our passwords to everything somewhere. But we all change them every few months, to prevent anyone getting access.”

“That’s intense.” I replied.

“We’re used to it. It’s thanks to Duncan – he’s a software engineer. He’s used to things like this.”

Woah, a software engineer? Not bad, amigo. Good to know if her parents want us to marry, I’ll be marrying into a well-off family. I took the bag and threw it out, taking Nicole’s trash can back up the stairs.

A little bit down the hallway, I stopped. Turning slowly to face a particular doorway, I thought to myself about the conversation. So, the Baker family stored their passwords to everything, huh?

Looking around to make sure Nicole didn’t spot me, I put the can down and made a slight detour, opening the door to Mitch’s room. The drawings, musty smell, and dust greeted me. It looks like I was right to suspect he would have the password written down somewhere, hopefully, at least. But if they changed them every so often…

My eyes travelled to his desk. This time though, I looked below decks. It was a long shot, but…

Aha! The trash can wasn’t empty. Excitedly, I looked through it. It was fairly full, and it was everything one would expect… Pencil shavings, wrappers… a suspicious amount of slightly stiff tissues… gross.

Near the bottom though, I had reached paydirt. ‘PASSWORD LIST.’ I couldn’t believe my luck. I glanced over it… Facebook, YouTube, DeviantA- oh for fuck sakes. Well, now I knew who to blame for that. Near the bottom, there was a crude drawing, unmistakably his cryptex. I had found it. The clue I needed. Below it sat a simple phrase – ‘The sum of life.’

The fuck did that mean? It was like Nicole’s crosswords – ‘Seven letters, means the sum of life.’ I whipped out my phone and googled the phrase, then ‘word meaning sum of life,’ and sure enough, nothing conclusive. I huffed. I had a clue fall right into my lap and I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Thanks, Mitch. I sure hope there wasn’t an afterlife – if there was, he’d probably be up there beaming and laughing his smug little ass off right now.

Still, I stuffed the note into my pocket. Either it was going to be important later, or I would make it important. Gingerly, I put the trash back in his trash can and hastily covered my tracks, making my way towards Nicole’s room – I didn’t want her to get suspicious.

Her door, weirdly enough was closed. “Um…” I found myself mumbling aloud, before knocking. “Can I come in?”

“You can.” came a voice behind the door. It was Nicole, but it was tainted with… something. Something I couldn’t identify. Once I had opened the door, however, I realized that the something was lust.

Nicole was wearing just her underwear (complete with a bra, unfortunately), sprawled all over her bed in a provocative position. “Mmm, hello there.” she purred. “Why don’t you put down the trash can and join me?”

I would have joined her in an active volcano. With speed that surprised me, I practically threw the trash can back into its position and was about to get onto the bed with Nicole when she pushed me off. I fell into a chair that she no doubt strategically placed there for this very occasion.

Eyeing my confused expression she cracked a lazy smile. “Not yet,” she told me in a sensual voice. “It’s been a long time since I sent you a picture, hasn’t it?”

I went from being uneasy to liking where this was going in the space of a lightning strike. “Yes it has.” I replied, my smile growing.

“How rude of me.” Nicole commented to no one in particular, standing up. “I know how much you like those pictures.”

As much as I hated to admit it (it made me feel creepy or whatever), I did spend a lot of alone time with her pictures. I never would have admitted it to her, but I missed getting them.

Nicole looked at me, only opening her eyes slightly, and gave a slow giggle as if she was drunk. She was definitely enjoying this. “You look so shocked, Adam.” she told me in a low, quiet voice. “It kind of reminds me of when we first met.”

I certainly wasn’t expecting this, and this combined with how unsure I was of her after… after today, must have been showing on my face.

“Remember what else happened when we first met?” She asked me teasingly, reaching behind her. I heard a clasp undo, although her hands just remained behind her back and her smile got wider. “We got in the car and I knew I’d have fun with you. And in return, you had fun with these.” Her hands came back to her front, and with that, her bra came off, peeling off of her amazing D cup breasts. “Remember?” she asked again, kneading them in front of me.

“I do remember.” I answered quietly, feeling my mouth going dry.

“Good.” she almost moaned, playing it up. She really didn’t need to – the sight of her caressing her amazing breasts in front of me was hypnotizing enough. She already had me rock hard, and I felt like a great load more of teasing was in store.

“Take out your phone, Adam.” she demanded, giving another small smile.

My mouth fell slightly open in shock. “Really?” I asked.

“Don’t you think it’ll be more fun if you’re the one to take them?” Nicole asked, sauntering over to me until her mouth was an inch away from my ear. “Since you were such a good little servant, I’ll even let you tell me which poses to take.” she whispered as her boobs dangled in my face.

She kissed me softly and backed up. “What are you waiting for?” she asked me.

This was too good to pass up. Practically fumbling at my pocket, I pulled out my phone and opened the camera app as Nicole stood in front of me, absent-mindedly holding her boobs.

“You’re the photographer here, aren’t you?” I asked her, smiling at her. “Show off your figure.”

“Giving me creative control, huh? A man after my own heart.” Nicole snickered. “Alright then hotshot, how about this?”

I looked into the phone’s screen as she struck pose after pose, with each one earning my silent approval as she heard the camera shutter sound play. She started off innocently enough, but I could tell she was excited by this too. Starting off coyly, she was covering her breasts but sticking her hips out, enjoying the rise she got out of me. Every time my eyes flared, she gave a little giggle and made a more provocative pose.

My cock wasn’t showing any signs of going down soon, and at this point my lust for her was making me dizzy. It was about time I took some control.

“Hands down, Nicole.” I ordered.

She gave me a slight smirk and she raised her eyebrows, slowly lowering her hands, allowing me full access to photograph her beautiful breasts. I was still in awe – for their size, her boobs were remarkably vibrant, staying just perky enough to be realistic and believable, not to mention downright sexy. Her nipples were a telltale sign she was enjoying and lamenting this teasing as much as I was – they stuck out a noticeable amount, begging to be played with.

“Arch your back. Show those beauties off.” I ordered, my voice thick with desire for her.

“Do you like this, Adam?” Nicole asked me teasingly as she brought one leg behind the other and pushed her boobs out. The camera shutter let her know the answer. “Or maybe do you like this instead?” She switched legs, putting the other one behind as she bent her back a little, grabbing her tits from both sides and mashing them together, keeping herself just upright enough so I could see her beautiful nipples.

I snapped a picture then lowered the phone. “Did I say you could move?”

Nicole laughed a deep, throaty laugh. “No you didn’t, sir.”

Bleh. That word left a bad taste in my mouth. “My name isn’t sir, Nicole.”

The smile slightly left Nicole’s face, as she stared into my eyes. I couldn’t tell if she was upset or just wanted to roleplay something a little more serious, but her body language told me we weren’t stopping anytime soon. “You didn’t, Adam.”

“Good.” I told her. “Now, lose the panties.”

“Yes, Adam.” she obeyed, slowly taking off her panties and showing me them briefly before tossing them to the side. Her pussy was now in view, covered by a thin layer of hair and clearly glistening. She was enjoying this. Scratch that, she was loving this. She wanted me as much as I wanted her.

“Turn around. Advertise yourself.” I ordered.

“Yes, Adam.” she submissively responded, showing me her ass. I focused on her tits so much I forgot what a great ass she had, curvy in all the right places and enough to make you do a double-take. And here she was spreading it for me as she leaned forward.

“Like this, Adam?” she moaned.

“Just like that, Nicole.” I answered, snapping a few more pictures.

She turned around and winked at me. “Am I being a good girl?”

I chuckled. “Yes, but I think I have enough pictures to satisfy me.”

Nicole turned around, smiling hungrily at me. “Aw, does that mean we’re done here?” she asked innocently.

“Not on your life.” I told her confidently, standing up and putting my phone away. “Turn around and bend over the bed.”

At that, Nicole raised one pointed finger and opened her mouth, hesitating to speak. “Point of order.” she finally said.

“Shoot.” I replied.

“Feel free to drive, but the light isn’t exactly green down there.” she explained.

My face was blanker than a sheet of paper. I blinked twice in confusion.

“Ever heard of the term, on the rag?” she went on.

Two more blinks.

“I’m on my period, knucklehead.” she spat out.

“Oh, okay.” I replied. Right. Periods. They were a thing. Um… how was I supposed to proceed? Was it unsanitary, or was it unsafe? Would it be an act of kindness to ask Nicole if we could anyway, or would it be insulting? Or would it be insulting to not ask i-

“So I’d prefer if we didn’t full-on fuck, if that’s okay.” she continued. Well, that answered that conundrum. Her serious expression turned into a smile. “But, if you’ll sit back down on the chair, I’ll give you the next best thing.”

I smiled back and undid my pants, sliding them past my knees. “I was hoping you would say that.” Kicking off my pants, Nicole pulled my shirt over my head. Now we were both naked, save for my socks, and Nicole and I shared a long, passionate kiss. Our tongues fought for dominance as we melted into each other’s bodies, getting out our pent-up hormones and sharing our excitement for what was to come. This was why I fought so hard for her, this was why I was willing to put up with so much shit. She made everything worth it.

“Now sit down.” she told me. “Let me take care of you.” I did as I was told and sat back down, as Nicole followed me, getting down on her knees. Gently, she grabbed my cokc in her hands and started to rub it slowly and teasingly.

“Mm, I haven’t done this in a while, have I?” she asked me in a seductive voice. “Did you miss it?” She gave a slow lick from the base all the way to the tip. My cock was practically jumping in her hands. All of this teasing was going to give me blue balls for sure, but I knew the payment was worth it.

Nicole smiled. “I know you have,” she murmured to herself, using her expert hands to make quick work of me. Every touch was light and delicate enough to make me crave more, to make me want her like a wild animal. She could tell the temptation was getting too much to bear as she licked once, twice, then took me into her mouth.

The initial sensation was like electricity of euphoria travelling through my whole body. The blissful heaven of being inside her mouth made me sigh out loud as Nicole’s head slowly started bobbing. Her skills were as amazing as ever – every movement of her mouth, every skillful swipe of her tongue, the way her teeth made for no discomfort, every part of the experience was downright blow-you-away brilliant.

“Oh my god, Nicole…” I moaned out loud. “This is the best…”

She took her mouth off of me for a second. “Don’t you mean I’m the best?” Nicole asked me. Not waiting for the answer, she dove back in, savoring my taste as she worked her mouth to make sure I was getting as much out of this as possible.

The unfortunate side effect to getting a blowjob from such an amazing performer as her was a less-than-impressive stamina. “N-Nicole…” I warned her.

She released my cock from her mouth and let her hand take over in perfect timing. “So soon? My poor baby must be soooo pent up…” Still jacking me off, she smiled devilishly. “Well, what do you say we try something new?” She picked up the pace, pumping me for all her worth as she stared me down intently. I couldn’t stare back – I could only stare at the ceiling with my mouth open as I felt the load boiling. This would be a big one.

I felt a tingling sensation in my balls as the load began. “N-Nicole!” I tried to give her a full warning, but the one word was all I could muster as my orchestra hit a crescendo. The first rope fired out of my cock and amazingly, I saw Nicole aim it straight at her face as she stuck her tongue out. She was giving herself a fucking facial! The sight added to the pleasure I was receiving from her efforts and with groan after groan, and shot after shot, my balls emptied themselves right onto her face.

“Holy crap.” Nicole commented dryly as the loads began to subside. “You haven’t jacked off in a while, have you?” I didn’t like to admit it, but I hadn’t. What with the news I got from Megan, I was kind of scared to do anything except with Nicole. She made me feel safe, loved. Maybe Salvador was onto something.

As I caught my breath, to tease me further, Nicole licked off most of what was around her mouth, but eventually we had ridden down from the high of our pent-up hormones and I found her a towel. Without even needing many words, we decided to dress and play a few rounds of Left 4 Dead 2 which, partially thanks to my own ineptitude at the game, ended up with the both of us spooning.

“You have an ungodly amount of hair.” I remarked, looking her over.

She looked back at me. “Did you just notice or something?” she asked me.

“It just makes spooning difficult. I’m going to choke one of these days and you’re going to feel super guilty.”

Nicole softly chuckled. “I’ll give you a nice funeral, squirt.” she told me, spinning back around so we could face each other. She gently kissed me on the nose.

I looked down. I couldn’t look her in the eye. I wasn’t ready to. I so badly wanted to build up the courage to talk to her about Phil, to talk her out of it, or even just tell her it was okay, but I just couldn’t. Number one, it wasn’t okay, and I didn’t want to lie to her. Number two, I knew that as soon as I brought it up, she would feel guilty and then push me away. Goodbye, any chance of being with her. Three, for some strange reason I felt like I couldn’t convince her. It was clear Nicole didn’t like her being attracted to Phil any more than I did. She just… couldn’t resist. The fact that she didn’t like it must have made that worse. Even if she promised me she would never go back to him, that was with a sober mind. God knows how he managed to have such a grip over her, but I knew I didn’t witness the last time those two would do something sexual together.

“I think it’s about time I get going.” I let her know, beginning to get up.

Nicole let loose an unattractive groan. “I don’t want you to.” she whined.

“I don’t want to either.” I lied, kissing her nose right back. “I just have studying to do. Not all of us are born with eidetic memories, you know.”

“I don’t have an eidetic memory.” Nicole argued. “I’m just smart.”

Let’s Groove, artist, album and year.”

“Earth, Wind & Fire, Raise, 1981. That doesn’t count, ‘80s jams are my… my jam.”

“Nailed it.” I laughed, getting off the bed. “I’ll text you when I’m home, okay?”

“Yeah, I wanna know you made it home safe.” Nicole sarcastically fired back. “A bear could eat you or some shit. There’s like a hundred meters between our houses. If you didn’t get home safely, I don’t think you deserved to leave the house in the first place.”

“Love you too.” I joked, then blushed. Even in joke form, it still felt weird telling Nicole I loved her, especially since I knew she wasn’t going to say it back.

As I looked back at Nicole, I saw the awkwardness wasn’t lost on her either. She was looking at the floor beneath me, back at her TV, anywhere but in my eyes. “Yeah, text me when you get home.” she softly added.

I took that as my hint and finally left her room, going down the stairs in time to see her parents putting a note in a jar. As I entered the kitchen, I recognized the jar as the ‘Disappointment Jar’ I saw before.

“Not staying for dinner?” Mrs. Baker asked me.

“No, I hope that’s okay. I should be getting home.” I said, a tad hastily, walking out of the kitchen.

“Are you wondering what’s in the jar?” she asked, making me stop mid-walk.

I spun around. There was only one note in the jar, the one that was freshly added. “Yes,” I admitted. “But I imagine it has something to do with me, and I’m too scared to ask what it is.” Silence filled the room, so I continued. “Because I’m a wuss.”

Mr. Baker gave a single chuckle, never taking his eyes off of his book. “At least you’re honest about it.”

“Adam, what happened to our agreement? I thought you were going to be different. I think you’ve forgotten how easily we can hear what goes on upstairs.” Mrs. Baker said with the same tone as a scolding mother would give her own son.

I cringed. I was afraid of that. “I didn’t think it would happen either.” I told her. “Things just sorta… evolved.”

“Listen to me.” Mrs. Baker told me. “When you tell us you’ll be doing something and we start to open up to you, that’s because we trust you. It doesn’t help when you go behind our backs and do something else.”

“We can’t trust you if you do that.” Mr. Baker added.

“We’d rather you told us you were having sex again.” she concluded.

“Really?” I asked.

“Really. If you’re going to, just tell us. Like we said earlier, we’ve just accepted that you’re going to be around more often. And since you make Nicole a little happier around the home, we appreciate that.”

Mr. Baker put down his book, a rare move for him. “Ever since last August, things have been tough around the house.” he told me. “But Nicole got hit the hardest. We haven’t seen any real improvement in her mood until you.”

“And we are grateful for that. It shows you actually care about her.” Mrs. Baker continued. “We trust you with her feelings. Just know that Nicole won’t do this for just anyone.”

I stared at her for a few seconds. “Meaning what?” I asked, gathering that she had a point to this she was getting to.

“If you break our little girl’s heart… we won’t forgive you.” Mrs. Baker simply stated.

“She’s vulnerable.” Mr. Baker added.

“And we know there will be some low points in your little… relationship or whatever you two have. But if you send her home crying… if you two break up badly or she can’t look you in the eye or you make her life worse in any way, you won’t be welcome back in this house. You can count on that.”

Internally I let loose an angry roar. This complicated everything from Phil tenfold. Twentyfold. I wanted so badly to have the talk with Nicole about this. Up until now I let it slide because I valued her feelings more than mine. Now I lost the opportunity. Even if she was just upset at herself… Even if she would be okay in a month… Even the best-case scenario looked bleak now that her parents decided to stick their noses in. Now I had to bottle everything up, as always, and not tell anyone. Not Salvador (God knows what complications would arise from that), not my parents (that would require way too much backstory), not Paul, not Megan, not Carson… This was a problem. This was a big problem.

“No problem.” I told them.

__________________________

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