Being More Social – Chapter 19

I had always tied the normalization of seeing things growing to the end of the school year. I felt like it was fitting to feel freed from the shackles of school just as everything started growing again. It was summer’s saving grace to me. Or at least late spring’s.

A week to exams. I felt like I may as well have blinked and second semester flew by. If I was any more ignorant, I would have presumed this was what it was like to grow old, on a much smaller scale. It wasn’t that time was getting faster – I was just less able to grab it as it flew by. Plus, having stimulating classes definitely helped. I could remember any of Salvador’s classes way more vividly than any of Mr. Brock’s classes. Then again, gym classes may as well have blended together. I guess a better example would have been history classes, and bless Mr. Anton’s heart, he certainly tried to make history interesting.

Spanish and geography classes were two great examples of things I tried to block out of my mind for incredibly different reasons. When it came to Spanish classes… I felt a weird sense of vulnerability. Before high school I never really got anything below a 70, and now, I just wanted to pretend Spanish class didn’t exist. Even though my parents were decently accepting of it, I didn’t even like looking them in the eye when they brought it up. I was glad that it would be over soon.

On the other side sat geography class, where the one who didn’t dare look people in the eye was the teacher, of all people. Mr. MacDonald was a good actor, I’ll give him that – there was barely any difference to his attitude after he got caught, unless he was speaking to me. He got quieter and would look down at the floor more often, and every time I couldn’t help but look at Megan, who got uncomfortable and looked at the floor herself. I really needed to stop doing that. If not for Megan’s sake, to make sure no one suspected anything. For all the class knew, we had a threesome and I was the only one that was proud of it or something. I shudder to think.

It was a testament to my personal growth to have seen where I was at this point of the year. A crowded gym, the day of the Student Council election. I was the only junior on stage, and apparently the only junior in the history of Hazelwood to be on this stage twice in my first year, and yet, I wasn’t nearly as nervous the second time. I could have said that I had gotten a better grip on my anxiety, but I knew too well that the true reason I was faring better this time was sitting right next to me.

“This is boring.” Nicole dryly complained as she stretched, students filing into the gym, waiting for Mr. Scott to make an appearance. “How’re you holding up? Gonna start crying again?”

“Fuck off.” I retaliated as she grinned. “So, what happens if you get in but the other guy gets in for VP? Who’s even running this year anyway?” I looked around me, hoping the other chairs would offer some explanation.

Nicole shook her head. “Not how it works. If I get in, you’re in. Whoever the president picks as VP runs with them.”

“Oh, cool.” I mumbled, mostly to myself. “So it’s like an actual presidential race.”

“Kinda, except it’s about two years shorter, doesn’t use attack ads and the Canadians haven’t found a way to butcher it yet.”

I had no clue how the Canadians handled politics. Frankly, it took her saying this to remind me they knew what politics were. “So who’s the VP running against me?” I knew Jeff Swanson, the ‘current president,’ was running against Nicole, but even though it was a little late, it may have been wise to have some working knowledge of the competition.

“Matt Schneider.” Nicole absent-mindedly, looking at her nails. As soon as she felt my gaze fixate on her, she looked back at me and gave me an all-too-innocent smile. “Play nice.”

My head went back to look around, eventually finding Matt. He was sitting next to Jeff, drumming on his thighs in anticipation. As soon as he saw me, his gaze fixed on mine just as mine fixed on him. Surprisingly, there was no malice in his gaze, but no warmth either. His eyebrows moved up to acknowledge me, then he looked away in another direction.

“Is he making you uncomfortable?” Nicole asked.

“No, no, he’s fine. I’m fine.” I assured her a little too quickly.

“Be honest.” Nicole told me sternly, still not looking me in the eye. “He already kicked the shit out of you once. I don’t want it to happen to you again.”

My heart stopped. She knew. I mean, of course she knew, but she knew. Did she know before she beat him up? Did she know instantly? This wasn’t the freaking time to have a curveball thrown in my face.

“How long did you-” I began to say, getting cut off by Mr. Scott clearing his throat at the podium microphone. As he continued with his usual greeting, Nicole gave me a sideways smile.

“Good afternoon, staff and students. This is Mr. Scott speaking.” Classic. “Today, as you all know, is the day we elect next year’s student council. The student council has always been an important part of young ambitious students wishing to…”

“This is stupid.” Nicole angrily grumbled as Scott continued.

“Huh?” I asked.

“I said this is stupid.” Nicole repeated herself. “It’s always been the duty of the acting president to make the introductory remark. Phil shouldn’t have even been removed in the first place, now they’re just trying to rub out his entire role as if it never happened.”

I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy in how Nicole talked about Phil, knowing what I knew. Would she have spoke so highly of him if she weren’t… No. Can’t think about that. Not today. I didn’t want my nerves to get the better of me, not twice in a fucking row.

“Do you think he did it?” I asked. Brilliant. That was sure to change the topic.

Nicole gave me another sly smile. “That’s irrelevant to the whole thing, squirt.” she softly told me. “I’d like to think bureaucracy exists for a reason. When we start finding exceptions, it becomes harder and harder to put that genie back in the bottle. Enter Scott, parading around, enjoying what should have been Phil’s democratically earned responsibility.”

I turned my attention to Scott, who was making some speech about student empowerment. “Well it’s a good thing he won’t be doing this two years in a row then, huh?” I asked her, trying to make her feel better.

“Yeah, hopefully.” Nicole retorted. I went back to listening to Scott’s speech, before Nicole cut in again. “That said, if there was one president this had to happen to, at least it’s Phil.” She turned to me. “Do me a favor, hotshot. If you have any good memories of the guy, burn them.” She turned back. “He’s a vile, cruel, evil person.” She looked down at her knees. “Evil.”

I looked down at my own knees too. Nicole blamed herself for this, at least partially. I was sure of that. I was all too knowing of what she was saying, and why she was saying it. I wanted to tell her.

I know about you and him.

Such a simple sentence. If I said it right, I wouldn’t need to elaborate. She wouldn’t cover up talking about the stupid dating period they had. She’d know that I know. It would be out in the open. We could work it out together. We could work him out of our lives. All I needed to do was say it. Say it.

Say it.

“I know-” I managed before my nerves acted up. Shit. Almost had it. On the inside, I could feel myself trembling, and my throat closed up. So close yet so fucking far.

Nicole chuckled. “No, trust me, squirt. You don’t. If you think you’ve seen his bad side, you probably saw his good side from a bad angle. The man is pure evil.” She turned to face me. “Look into my eyes. Tell me you’ll stay away from him.”

A rush of adrenaline surged through me. “Will you?” I asked her.

I expected Nicole to be taken aback, but she just looked at me, readying her answer in her head. As she opened her mouth to speak, the voice of Mr. Scott announced, “Nicole Baker!” Nicole gave me a small smile and stood up, walking away.

Any weakness or even potential weakness evaporated as she swayed up to the podium to a surprising amount of cheering from the crowd. It was absolutely insane how Nicole had the entire student body wrapped around her little finger.

“Well, well, well…” she began, surveying the crowd. “This has been a moment I’ve been looking forward to all year. Do I even need a speech?”

Her question was met with a cheer of “NO!” from the crowd.

“Well, tough. I brought one anyway.” Nicole retorted, pulling a piece of paper from her pocket. “Now, I could tell you all why I’d make a good president by promising you stuff, but I think going over what I’ve already done would be a pretty good indicator. So, did you all enjoy the Tight n’ Bright dance? Y’know, the one with an actual DJ?”

I giggled to myself. I stayed home from that one because the name sounded nauseating enough, and Nicole stayed behind with me. Not that anyone in the crowd knew that, especially given their cheers.

“You’re welcome.” Nicole winked. “Music kids, did you appreciate the funding increase this year? You were finally able to tour around the middle schools this year. Do you want that again next year?”

More cheers came from the audience, some louder than others for obvious reasons.

“And hey, how about some promises for next year? Like a new microwave for the cafeteria, and actual mirrors for the washrooms instead of that fake plastic shi-” she stifled a grin and glanced at Mr. Scott. “…stuff?”

More cheers. I looked over at Mr. Scott, who was trying his best to hide how much he didn’t approve of this situation.

“I’ll see to it that the next year we have is our best yet. It’ll be a privilege working for the best student body in the world. Are you ready to whip this school into shape?”

Students cheered in agreeance.

“Are you ready to become the best school in the state?”

They were really getting revved up now. The cheering in the gym was borderline unbearable.

“Then get out there and vote for your new president! I can’t do it alone. Ductus exemplo!”

Ductus exemplo, the school’s motto. Something like ‘lead by example’ in Latin. Why did school mottos always have to be in dead languages?

Grinning at the crowd one last time, Nicole took her seat and beamed at me, the cheering still almost deafening as Scott tried to quiet it down.

“Not bad.” I commented, giving her a golf clap.

“Not bad? I fucking nailed it.” Nicole replied. It was true – it wasn’t even her words, but how she said them. Nicole could give a speech to the National Association of Paraplegics and still get them out of their seats. As Scott quieted down the crowd, he introduced Jeff Swanson, who walked slowly by us.

“Don’t bother.” he told Nicole. “You’re in way over your head. You need to be more than a popular slut to be a president, Nicole.”

Nicole was unmoved. “Flectere si nequeo superos, acheronta movebo.” She told him, in what I presume was more Latin. He rolled his eyes and walked to the podium, readying his speech, as Nicole turned back to me. My eyes never left attempting burning a hole in the back of Jeff’s head. What was it about these situations that made everyone so awful?

“So, you prepared this time?” Nicole winked at me.

“Yeah, I think so.” I nodded, turning back to her. “It’s basically just why I think I’d be a good VP, right?”

“Yup! No script required. I made sure of it.”

“Hey, I’m decent with a script. I just forgot about it the first time.” I defended myself.

“And you’re telling me you wouldn’t have forgot about it this time too?” Nicole playfully prodded me.

“Fuck off,” I chuckled. I didn’t want Nicole to see me sweat, but on the inside, I was definitely nervous. We sat, not talking, as Jeff finished his speech and got an applause, though it wasn’t nearly as big as Nicole’s. I started breathing deeply to prepare for my inevitable time in the spotlight.

“And of course,” Mr. Scott began, taking back the microphone, “behind every good president is a good vice president that helps them manage the council. This year, we have Matt Schneider running alongside Jeff Swanson…”

A polite round of applause rang through the crowd.

“…and Adam Watson running alongside Nicole Baker.”

The applause for me may as well have not existed. Instead a sea of murmurs and concerned whispers crashed ashore of the stage, darkening my face with the knowledge of an impending squall.

I have a tendency to go all Jack Kerouac when I’m worried, and Nicole didn’t have to hear my inner poet to understand the lack of applause concerned me.

“Don’t worry, hotshot.” she assured me, grabbing my hand and squeezing it. “They’re just confused that such a lil’ one is running.” She let go of my hand and ruffled my hair. “You’re gonna do great. The people love you. Don’t worry.”

“Correction, the people love you. I’m just drifting along.” I grumbled back to her, then smiled. “And every day you give people a new reason to love you.”

Nicole rolled her eyes. “I didn’t sign you up as my VP just to ride the Cheesy Express, dude.” she lamely commented. In the background, Matt walked past us up to the podium, readying his speech. “And you’ve done a good job this year. Fucking own it. If I want you as my VP, I don’t want you to always think you’re riding my coattails. You might start doing it.”

“I’ll pull my weight.” I promised. I wasn’t ready to say I had done a great job – my duties were small at best and the drama spotlight was centered on me a little too often to be comfortable this year.

“I sure hope so.” she said, smiling. “You ready to go?”

“I think so.” I replied thoughtfully. “You mind if I ask for some silence? I just need to… like, y’know, ready myself.”

Nicole nodded and faced the front again, giving me the time and space I needed. I wasn’t exactly zen, but I definitely could put the time ‘alone’ to good enough use that by the time Scott called my name, I could walk up to the podium without having a panic attack. On the way there, Matt mouthed, ‘good luck’ to me, which I just gave a nod in return.

Hello crowds my old friend. I could picture the crowd the last time I ran as I readied myself and cleared my throat.

“Um…” I began nervously. “Hi.” I chuckled and shook my head, smiling on the outside but hating myself on the inside. “M-many of you remember me from this past year. Megan Schneider and I were happy to serve you all as your grade nine reps. This coming year, I’m hoping to put these skills to work and double down…” I took a breath. I felt like I was dying. “…double down on the amount of work I’ll put in for this school. Like this year, I’ll be making sure I listen to the whole student body when Student Council makes their decisions.  Being on Student Council was a great opportunity this past year and if you elect Nicole and I to lead the Student Council this year, not only will Nicole shape the school into the best it can possibly be, but I’ll personally see to the fact that all of you will have your voices heard. Every single person at this school matters and Student Council should reflect that. Let’s make this coming year the best it can possibly be. Thank you.”

The crowd gave a sadly modest applause as I went back to my seat and Mr. Scott took over again. As soon as all eyes were off me, I curled into my chair.

“I blew it.” I mumbled into my knees.

Nicole’s hand was supportively rubbing my back. “You had a rough start, but at least the ideas were there.” she said soothingly. “For what it’s worth I’m still proud of you.”

That was why I was willing to fight so hard for her. I looked up at her and smiled, wondering how I had such good luck to have her in my life. Feeling more confident, I surveyed the crowd as Mr. Scott made his closing remarks.

My smile faded as my eyes locked with another pair near the gym doors. The door was ajar, and leaning against the doorway, arms akimbo, leaned the near-silhouette of a tall senior, hair red and eyes blue. There was the beginning of a small smile on his face, though his eyes were cold and practically pierced my soul. He just stared me down, unmoving, telling me exactly what was on his mind with his eyes.

Maybe it wasn’t good luck for Nicole to be in my life. Maybe I was just the placeholder. Maybe fighting for her was pointless. But I was young and stupid, and nothing could stop me from trying.

 

***

 

“…In Revere’s case, the news went all the way to Ashby by nine o’clock, but William Dawes’ announcement that the British were coming was so underwhelming that Waltham, one of the main towns he visited, had so few of their men fight that morning that until recently, many historians thought the town was mostly made up of loyalists. It turns out, Dawes was just so terrible at communication that almost nobody in Waltham knew that the British were coming.” Mr. Anton’s arms started flailing around as he got excited. “Come on, Dawes! If you’re not going to rev up the patriots, just send someone else!” He mimed riding a horse across the classroom. “Hey. I guess the British are coming. Anyway, I should leave.” He mimed riding away then stopped the mime routine giving us all an incredulous look.

Mr. Anton was freaking weird. His way of making history interactive definitely made us all pay attention to the lesson, but maybe not for the reasons he had hoped. Either that or he was playing us all like fiddles.

Being used to silence following his points with perhaps a few giggles mixed in, he continued. “One of the reasons why Revere’s ride was so crucial t-”

Suddenly, the PA system crackled, practically making Mr. Anton jump at the sudden intrusion. “Good afternoon staff and students, this is Mr. Scott speaking…” began the drone over the PA.

I held my breath. It was happening. We all voted right after the assembly in our first-period classes, and now the votes had been counted. The results of the election. I wasn’t quite shaking in my boots, but a lot was riding on this.

I blinked in realization. A lot was riding on this. If Nicole didn’t win, we wouldn’t be working together on the council, which meant less was at stake. If she didn’t win, there was a possibility that we could have an open discussion about him. We could finally get this out in the open, and, fingers crossed, behind us. All of a sudden, I didn’t know where my allegiances lied.

“We have the results of the Student Council election that happened today, starting with the treasurer…” Mr. Scott went on. Well, this was going to take a bit. There were about 12 students in all, 13 this year since Megan and I got on together. There were about eight roles Scott had to go through before he got to us, which, lucky for me, left me plenty of time to overthink.

Name after name flew through the classroom to moderate polite clapping. Some names I knew, some I didn’t. “And your president this coming year will be…”

Of course he paused. Of course he freaking paused. At this point I wasn’t even hoping for one result or another, I just wanted to know.

“Nicole Baker!” he announced. “This also means your acting vice president this coming year will be Adam Watson.” A few students cheered for me and the guy next to me politely patted me on the back. I looked over to see it was Baseball Kid. I didn’t even know he was in this class.

“Thanks.” I politely replied to everyone, nodding. I guess that was that. It wasn’t exactly a twist to see that the team with the super-popular Nicole on it had won, but there was enough of a chance she wouldn’t win to make it interesting.

A chance that was fully caused by me, I thought bitterly to myself.

“All new council members please meet in the principal’s office immediately following these announcements. Thank you and have a good day.” Mr. Scott concluded.

“Well, it looks like we have a politician in the room.” Mr. Anton stated, acknowledging me.

“He was on the council all year.” a student pointed out from the peanut gallery.

I know that Mr. Anton had a bad habit of actually responding to people that chirped him and I didn’t want to stick around for that cringefest. I stood up, excusing myself from the room before anything could ensue, making my way to the principal’s office quickly and somewhat nervously.

By the time I had gotten there, almost everyone had already showed up, including Nicole who was sporting the most smug grin I had ever seen in her life. When I got there, she winked at me in acknowledgement. I couldn’t help but chuckle.

The students were a veritable soup of different cliques I could identify on sight – mostly people who at least looked like they could have been popular, though there was the occasional other demographic. A guy who looked like he never left a library in his life, a girl who was permanently stuck in the goth phase, a guy who may as well have carried around a neon sign saying ‘Theater Kid,’ among other things. A few seconds after I got there, a tall blond boy came in behind me, and then there were ten. Mr. Scott asked Blond Boy to close the door behind him and cleared his throat.

“Good afternoon, students.” This is Mr. Scott speaking. “Congratulations to all of you for making the senior student council. In this meeting, we’ll be going over all of the responsibilities and expectations you will be expected to uphold as part of this council.” He turned to Nicole. “And how easy it is to go too far and do damage to the student body.”

“You’re, uh, makin’ some solid eye contact with me there, Mr. Scott.” Nicole replied back, cool as a cucumber yet still visibly weirded out. “Anything I should know?”

“Just trying to make sure I look at everyone, Nicole.” Mr. Scott replied a little too cheerfully. “So, first off, the Treasurer’s duties…”

 

***

 

“And boom goes the dynamite.” Carson announced smugly as he threw his controller in the air in celebration. “Maybe you should take a break from climbing the corporate ladder and learn how to fire a gun.”

“I’m assuming that means ‘congratulations’ in your language.” I shot back.

“It means ‘good for you, buddy, but I dunno why you do this to yourself.’” Carson replied. “It looks like student council shit is one big headache after another.”

“Hey, it has its perks.”

“Like what?” Carson got up, starting to make his way to the kitchen before he pointed at me. “And don’t just say something like, ‘I get to help the students.’”

I chuckled, looking down. “I’m sure if you weren’t taken you’d love working under Nicole as much as I do.”

A huge grin broke out on Carson’s face. “You got me good.” he replied. “Yeah, a’ight. So you’re just there to be a birdwatcher?”

“Well, there’s also the cheesy helping people out stuff too.” I replied, shrugging.

“Buddy.” Carson shook his head, walking over to the fridge, pulling out a drink.

“What? Someone has to do it.”

“I just don’t see the point. Other than the Nicole thing, totally valid.” He resumed his sitting on his gaming throne. “Oh, and plus, I’m not taken.”

“No?” I had to try hard to hide my tone of glee. Carson was a friend, and I wanted to stay far away from May, plain and simple.

Carson shook his head. The good news was he was back to his emotionless primal self – no more deflation and ennui. “Nah. It was never gonna work out. It turns out…” He sighed annoyedly. “…that she’s switching schools in the new year.”

“Oh snap!” I replied, carrying on the conversation. “Sorry about your luck.”

“Sorry about hers. She says she’s getting bullied too much and she wanted a fresh start.” he shrugged. “Shit happens, right? If it ain’t meant to be, it ain’t meant to be.”

“Yeah.” I mumbled absentmindedly. Bullying, huh? Was it too egocentric of me to think she was referring to me? I mean, I saw a couple times where people called her a skank or some stupid shit in the hallways, but we did have that huge fight not too long ago. And it was so like May to play the victim card in the face of absolutely everything.

Although… I mean, fuck, she was some kind of hypocrite about it, but she was sexually assaulted. Or at least Nicole was sure she was. And if Nicole was sure of something, odds were it was true. Maybe she didn’t want to outright say, “I’m switching schools because this one reminds me of the time I got raped.” Go figure.

I hoped she wasn’t talking about me. She was despicable, hell, my worst enemy. But I knew why I wanted to switch to Hazelwood and get away from the people in my life in the first place, and there was a phrase that came to mind when thinking of May in the same situation – ‘I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.’ Part of me felt relieved she was, without a doubt, gone and not a problem anymore. But at the same time, I didn’t want to perpetuate that which made me suffer. Last thing I wanted to be was Pierce. I wanted to forget my past, but I didn’t want to become my past in the attempt to move on from it.

“Yo, Adam. Wake up.” Carson’s voice broke me out of my trance.

“Wuh? Sorry.” I shuffled uncomfortably.

“You cool?”

“Yeah, just… stress from exams and shit.” I rubbed my eyes.

Carson’s smile got wider. “Hey man, that’s why you’re here, right? I’m ordering a pizza. Pick the next map.”

My smile followed suit. “Deal.” I replied as Carson got up. Even though my smile disappeared as he left to get the phone, I still felt better knowing I was surrounded by friends. After all, if I allowed these things to keep making me question myself, I wouldn’t have been moving on from the past at all.

 

***

 

I wasn’t really sure what Megan thought she would get from us spending lunchtime together but it was as awkward as I expected it would be. Once we knew that everything was, cough cough, ‘sorted out,’ we made a pact to never bring it up again.

And yet here we were. Barely making eye contact, let alone talking, eating our lunch practically in solitude despite being few feet away from each other. This hallways used to be occupied by May, but she was barely to be seen these days. Apart from her teachers, practically no one ever saw her. Not that I would ever ask the teachers or anything – I wanted to never see her again, and I wasn’t about to complain when I got just what I wanted.

In one respect, at least. In another, I wish I could have just turned time back. I wish I had never asked Megan out to the dance. I wish I never got close to her. She could have grown up to be innocent and pure like she would have had I not intervened. I regretted a lot of things with Megan – our relationship, our sex… our fucking child. It was a nightmare that it happened and another that she got rid of it so readily, though I was never going to admit that to her. It’s not like I was ready to raise a child either. I just… I was so scared. I was asked for an answer and I legitimately had none. It was one of those situations where you weren’t mentally prepared to do anything but close your eyes and pretend it’s a bad dream.

“Are you thinking about it?” Megan asked quietly. I could only nod in response, to which she sighed. “Me too.”

“We said we wouldn’t talk about it though.” I pointed out. “Don’t we want it to just… go away?”

“I don’t feel like it’s going to.” Megan replied sadly. I scoffed then shuffled over, putting my arm around her and squeezing supportively. We were somewhat more comfortable with silence at this point. It wasn’t really a big bad villain replacing what we wanted to say to each other now, it was more like a mutual understanding that we were exhausted. Everything we could have said to each other, we already knew and just made us spend our energy. It was like Salvador said, the silence was more beautiful than any of the ugly truths we had to regurgitate.

But inevitably someone had to speak. “So how are you going forward?” I asked her. “Like, all things considered.”

Megan looked down at the floor for a long time, processing her response before she began. “Sex is awful.” Simple and to the point I suppose. “I thought I was having fun with it, I thought that good things were coming from it. But I got lost along the way, you know? I rushed in too quickly and I didn’t know what I was in for. I wish I never had sex in the first place. I wish I could turn back the clock.”

I nodded. “I feel the same way.”

Megan looked at me with uncharacteristic boldness and shook her head. “No you don’t. You didn’t reduce yourself to a toy for someone you thought you liked. You didn’t sell yourself as sex fuel for dozens of people just to prove to yourself that you were desirable. And you didn’t have to make the decision to kill your child.”

I hung my head. “Y-you’re right.” I admitted in a tiny voice. “I’m sorry.”

“I forgive you.” Megan replied with a surprisingly strong voice.

“What I meant was that I regret all of the bad that’s happened here.” I tried to explain. “Like with you, and Nicole, and May, there was just a bunch of bullshit that didn’t need to happen, and I hate it. I hate that the only time we were in a relationship, it was built out of lies. You deserve more than that, because you’re really special and important.”

“Thanks.” Megan nodded, not visibly affected by my attempts to make her feel better about herself. “Where are you going from here?”

“I wanna find out what love is.” I replied. “Like, real, actual love. You know? I think there may be something with… I mean…”

“Nicole?” Megan guessed, a small smile appearing on her face. When I nodded, the smile became bigger. “I thought so. Go for it, Adam. I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

“What about you?” I asked. “You never really answered me. What are you going to do now? If you can’t turn back the clock, how are you going forward?”

Megan cleared her throat nervously. “I didn’t tell him everything, but I spoke with my pastor on Sunday about the whole thing. He sat me down and talked with me, it was actually really nice.”

“Good.” I smiled.

“And I think even though this whole experience brought me away from God’s guiding light in the moment, now I’m more understanding than ever about what I need to do.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m going to take a vow of abstinence.”

Woah, that was a bit of a leap. I mean, granted, I wasn’t exactly the one in Megan’s shoes here, but it did seem a bit drastic. I mean, there were some truly awful experiences in sex I had to deal with, but I can’t think of a time where I thought I would never have sex again. That said, I guess Megan had her own values, even if those values were being dictated by a third party in the sky.

Would that actually solve anything though? I mean, what happened happened. If she was just going to pretend sex was only a force for evil, fine. But I doubt given we had little chemistry at the start if Megan and I would have even ended up friends without sex. Nicole too. Sex has its good moments, mostly in the moments themselves I guess, but I wasn’t about to just write them off as bad, period. I think people did the same thing with sugar in the olden days, and I wasn’t ready to live life like a Puritan.

“Go ahead, I’ve heard it a million times.” Megan chuckled.

“Huh?”

“I can see it on your face. You’re not sure if you think I’m doing the right thing.” Megan guessed.

“I mean… yeah.” I admitted.

“Are you religious?” she asked, interestingly for the first time.

“I don’t think I’m an atheist, but I’m not ready to say I believe in anything that strongly. I guess I’m agnostic.” I said thoughtfully.

“That makes sense.” she replied softly. “I know what I’m saying doesn’t make a lot of sense, but this means a lot to me. It’s how I live. I can’t ask you to understand, but-”

“I will support you.” I interrupted.

She smiled warmly. “Thank you.” she said appreciatively, moving in for a hug.

I hugged her back, trying to hide my inner demon who cursed his luck knowing the last time I had with Megan was genuinely the last time I would get to have with Megan. I guess it was just a part of growing up, though; letting go of things that ought to be let go. Besides, with new doors closing came new windows opening, and while this Christian girl had gotten on her knees for me for the last time, I had something, someone, better who I would get to see in a mere few hours.

 

***

 

Tuesday afternoon meant weight training for Nicole and myself, and I couldn’t do anything without my coach. After the incident two weeks ago, I wasn’t ready to take any kind of chances with the implications of an empty weights room. As soon as I had changed and noticed I was coming back to an empty room, I was instantly in the hallway looking for Nicole.

If she was at it again, I didn’t know if I had the strength to resist letting my presence be known. I didn’t know how strong I would be at all in that situation, in fact. I was just praying it was something else.

I felt a surge of relief wash through me as I approached the main hallway, my first target destination. A few students were still mulling around, waiting for their buses or something, but they weren’t of any interest to me nearly as much as the black-haired beauty locked in conversation with that flamboyant guy I saw before. Chris, I think his name was.

As I got closer I got to hear their conversation, one I’m sure Nicole had heard a lot by now.

“I always knew you’d be a star.” Chris beamed excitedly at her. “I’m really happy that you won the presidency. Congratulations, sweetheart.”

“Thanks.” Nicole flatly said, looking at her nails.

“So, uh… Have you thought about what you’re going to be doing next year? I mean, the president is a tough j-”

“Look, Chris.” Nicole interrupted in a clearly annoyed tone. “I really just don’t care. I’m busy, okay? I get what you’re trying to… y’know… like, I get it, but I just don’t care. Can’t you just let me live my life without breathing down my neck, please? It’s weird how often you keep doing this, and it’s always in front of other students.”

“I, uh…” Chris stumbled, caught off-guard. “I’m… sorry. I mean, this is the first time we’ve spoken in weeks and I just wanted to say that I’m happy for you and stuff…”

“Great. Got it. Could y-” she cut herself off as she saw me enter her field of view. “Oh hey Adam. Sorry I got held up.” She gave Chris some kind of look.

“Uh, no, it’s cool.” I replied, looking at Chris, then back to her. “Am I interrupting something, or…?”

Nicole shrugged. “Nah, it’s fine. We were just having a conversat-”

While she was talking, a student that practically had to drag his knuckles on the ground was walking by us. At the sight of Chris, he sneered. “Faggot,” he mumbled under his breath. Nicole immediately stopped her sentence and stared at the assailant, who barely broke his stride.

“Whoa, hold on, that wasn’t cool.” I said out loud, noting that no one was saying anything. “Can we do something about that? That wasn’t kind…”

Nicole’s eyes went from the disappearing boy to Chris, then to myself. “Not really.” she dismissed me. “I’m going to the gym. I’ll meet you there, huh?” She started walking away before I could even say anything.

Nicole was acting strange, to say the least. It wasn’t like her to just dismiss these kinds of actions. She was like Batman, minus the suit and the penis. She wasn’t being much of a Silent Protector right now, though. “Um, are you okay?” I hesitantly asked Chris.

Chris’ eyes were locked on Nicole as she walked away from us. He chewed his lip and lazily let his gaze fall to mine. “Yeah, I’m fine.” he acknowledged me. “Once you get past the first few times it happens, you get used to it. Most of the people here are good folks.” He looked back at Nicole.

Choo choo, all aboard the Awkward Train to Tension City. “Uh, right.” I stumbled. “Mind if I go after her?”

Chris shrugged. “I’m not your dad.” he replied flatly.

I awkwardly stuck out an arm. “Adam Watson.” I told him.

“My name is Chris. I’ll be graduating in a few days, but it’s still nice to meet you.” he told me, shaking my dad.

“Yeah, cool. See you around!” I said, waving as I turned to walk away. It didn’t seem right to just leave it without at least trying to be kind, especially since Nicole was so unmoving. Lord knows what could have made her so stiff in the moment, but luckily, I was catching up to her so I could ask.

By the time I did, however, she was already in the weights room. “Yeah, sorry about that.” she preemptively told me.

“Why didn’t you stop that guy?” I asked.

“I’ll report him later.” she waved me off, doing some stretches. “There was nothing I could do in the moment that would have stopped his kind of behavior.”

“You still could have at least said something. You’re the president.” I retorted.

Nicole gave me a look. “Dude, we go to one of the best high schools in the country for this kind of thing.” she told me. “Normally, people like Chris get beaten up for stupid shit like that. People are just dicks. That’s the long and short of it.”

I shivered. “It doesn’t feel right.”

“When you’re in politics, you gotta pick your battles. As stupid as it sounds, going after everyone who does the wrong thing makes everyone in school hate you.”

“Why?”

She shrugged. “People start seeing you as a snitch or something. It’s weird. People are really defensive, it’s why we always like to feel like we’re better than others.”

I smiled to myself. “You, for example?”

She smiled back. “I don’t have to think. I know I’m better than others. President, baby.” She shot two thumbs at herself.

“Someday I may be president too, you’d better watch your back.”

She laughed in pity. “Yeah, when will that be? 2016? How many years do you think it’ll take before you can hold your own in front of a crowd?”

“In the September election I got the most applause of the whole day!”

“You also had to be carried away on a stretcher.”

“I’ve stood up to people more powerful than myself, including you.”

“And those same people have, more often than not, put you in your place.”

“I stuck with you after you told me it could never happen.”

Nicole stopped. “What?”

“Like, you know, us. You told me it could… like, nothing would… you know?”

She stopped stretching and walked over to me. “Adam… what do you think is happening here?”

Uh oh. That did not sound good. “Um…” I began, nailing it right out the gate. “Well, I just thought that since we were having sex again, it…” I couldn’t find words and Nicole just stared at me, waiting for more. Since I couldn’t find any words to describe myself further, I slowly and tentatively reached forward and grabbed her hand, caressing it slowly with my thumb as I looked up at her.

Nicole was staring at the hand, a flurry of different feelings flying across her face, even though I wouldn’t have been able to identify a single one of them. Eventually, she pulled her hand back. “This sounds like a conversation for later.” she flatly said.

“Who else is in the room? This is a conversation for right now.” I told her, surprising myself with my rash nature.

Nicole chuckled in slight anger, looking to the floor. She started to pace around, keeping one hand to her chin as she formulated her following words in her mind.

“Do you… do you remember when I kissed Phil?” she slowly brought up.

She was going to do it. She was going to tell me. We were finally going to work it out. I needed to play it cool though – I didn’t want her realizing that I already knew. “Y-yes…” I managed, simultaneously putting on a fake concerned voice and hiding my real concerned voice.

“Well, it’s kind of like that. I told you that I didn’t know my own feelings.”

Fuck.

“And it’s kind of like that.” she concluded.

This was killing me. Now I had to move on from the topic like it was nothing. “Okay, so then there’s something?”

“Squirt, you’re killing me.” Nicole complained, raking her hands over her face. “I don’t know. I know you want for there to be some cute Disney storybook happily-ever-after, but I’m… I just don’t know. I’m not comfortable.”

“Is there someone else?”

Nicole stopped mid-pace. “What?”

“Is there someone else?” I asked, just as flatly as before.

Nicole stared at me for the longest time, then resumed her pacing. She paced to the end of the room, sighed at the wall, then paced back, looking at me. She tore her eyes away and started pacing again.

“I guess if I was going to say ‘no,’ I would have done it immediately, wouldn’t I?” she asked with a dry throat.

“Yeah.” I replied, an adrenaline fire happening in the pit of my stomach.

“Um…” she began uneasily. “It’s…” she sighed. “It’s not like there’s a single ‘someone else.’ It’s weird. I’m so used now to being casual, that even the idea of being with someone, being tied down, makes me want to push that person away. So many people this year have asked me if we’re dating. I almost feel like that’s more of the reason why we stopped having sex than looking out for your well being.” She laughed softly to herself. “I just… I just don’t know if I can do it. I feel so secure being casual.”

“Let’s start here, just for the record: do you have feelings for me?” I asked slowly, almost fearfully.

She slumped down on a nearby training bench near me, facing away. I walked over to her and put my hands on her shoulders.

“Yeah. I do.”

Her voice was dry as parchment, her delivery slow and small. But the light shining through such a dim announcement was the feeling behind it, a soft wind that went through my entire being and lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders.

“And if you were to date anyone…” I began, almost worried I was pushing my luck.

“It would be you.” Her left hand went to her right shoulder, grabbing my hand and squeezing it. “I want to date you. I just… don’t want to date you.” Her hand returned to her lap and she let out an angry groan. “It’s complicated.”

“I don’t want to date you.” I told her, making her whirl around with a confused expression. My stern face turned into a smile. “I want to be in a relationship with you.”

“Don’t fucking do that.” She warned me with no hint of humor on her face. “I’m being very open right now.”

“Right, sorry.” I stepped back, chastised.

“What about you?” she asked in a small voice. “Are your feelings for me real? Like, would you actually date me?”

“I would, and I would treasure every moment we spent together.” I answered honestly.

“I’m not sure if I could be tied down though.” she explained slowly.

“Huh?”

“Like, if we were to date. Would you be okay with… with an open relationship?”

I wanted to say that didn’t bother me but I would be lying, as evident in the grimace on my face. “What, would I not be enough for you?”

“It’s not that. I’m just… “ She hung her head. “Look, I have no excuse. I love sex, and I love sex with a lot of different guys. Alright?”

“Could you learn to be with just one? I mean, you said if you dated one guy, it would be-”

“If I could, we’d be dating and exclusive already.” she waved me off. “So, no, I can’t.”

“Is that why you and Phil have your thing?”

I wish I actually asked that. I wish she could hear me say it. Unfortunately it was only wishful thinking – I just sighed and walked away,pouting to myself in the corner.

“Adam, listen.” Nicole followed me, walking up to my back, grabbing my shoulders supportively. “Normally I wouldn’t even go for a freshman.”

“Oh, so what?” I barked, turning around, forcing her out of her supportive grab. “Are you expecting me to be grateful for sinking to my level? It doesn’t do a lot of fucking good when you freely admit we can’t be a couple. But hey, I should feel proud. Since I’m a low-down pathetic freshman and you still look at me as if I’m your equal. What’s with you – hell, what’s with everyone and categorizing people by their ages? What if I am your equal? Does that fucking frighten you or something? Not that it matters, since you want every dick in the immediate area inside you. God knows feelings and shit aren’t good enough for you.” I turned back around after unleashing weeks, or maybe months, or pent up anger over bullshit that didn’t even have to exist.

“You’re only pathetic when you invent drama for no reason like you’re doing now, you jackass.” Nicole huffed back, losing her sympathetic tone. “No wonder I’m never emotional with you anymore.”

“No no no.” I replied back. “You’re never emotional with me because you’re getting bored of me. I can’t help but feel like you see me as convenient, and when the convenience wanes you go looking for someone else. Maybe that’s why you want to be casual – you can’t handle committing to one person.”

“Of course I can’t commit to one person, you nimrod! I practically just said that!” Nicole all but shouted. “Do you want to actually listen before you rebut my points? God, no wonder your speech was trash.”

“You knew what you were signing up for!” I protested. “I’m sorry that not everyone can be perfect and loved by everyone like you.”

“Would it have killed you to just write and rehearse something? God forbid, commit to the position you applied for? The position you got because of me?”

“The position you practically foisted upon me?”

“I didn’t hear any complaints!”

“I can’t complain to you, you just pretend any criticism of you is fake because you’re perfect little Nicole Baker and everyone is wrapped around your finger! How do you think you’d do in the real world?”

“A lot better than some pipsqueak who can’t talk to more than two people at the same time without having a heart attack. But hey, you almost ruined fuckin’ Megan’s life so there’s that. I guess you can be bold.”

My eye twitched. “Leave her the fuck out of this.” I snarled.

“Why, don’t think it should be addressed? Well I do. If you’re turning unknowing girls into nubile sluts in their spare time I can’t imagine you’re too good for the student body.”

I chuckled smugly. “Yeah, like you and Phil and that hallway blowjob are any different.”

My heart practically stopped. This time it was real. I just said that. What’s more, I just said it in possibly the worst possible situation. Nicole just stood there, her expression slowly becoming more horrified, her mouth slowly inhaling sharply as she had to re-learn how to breathe. Before I could blink, she had me pinned to the floor.

Pain hit me like a wave. Nicole was surprisingly heavy on top of me, although I guess that would be expected since she was trying to leave me with no escape. An inferno blazed through her eyes as she looked at me as if I was the murderer of her parents. “What did you see?” she all but whispered.

“N-Nicole, you’re hurting me…”

She grabbed my collar and hoisted me up, still sitting on me. I instinctively coughed. “What did you fucking see?” she repeated.

I held back tears. “Fucking everything, Nicole. Even the part where Phil mentioned me. How could you do this?”

Nicole stared in my eyes for a good ten seconds before letting go of my collar, allowing me to collapse to the floor. “Shit.” she muttered in disgust, getting off of me and pacing back and forth through the room. “Well, are you fucking happy?” she yelled, weirdly seemingly not at me. She paced a little more and turned to look at me. “I don’t think it would have worked out between us anyways, squirt.” she said with a surprisingly weak voice. “I’m sorry.”

The words crushed me. “Nicole, wait.”

She was already out of the weights room. “Come on, Nicole!” I protested further. “You can’t leave it here!” I chased after her, finding her walking calmly down the hallway.

“Hold the line,” she was singing to herself. “Love isn’t always on time…”

“You can’t just leave me like this!” I protested again, catching up to her.

“And yet here I am, walking away.” Nicole flatly responded as if nothing happened, not even looking back at me. “Aren’t I such an enigma?”

“This isn’t fair! This is… There’s gotta be a way! Stop walking!”

“You are not helping your case, Adam.” Nicole responded coolly. “Every word you expel is just making me more sure I made the right call.”

I stopped trying to catch up with her. That’s what did it. Knowing that nothing I could do could get her back. She was sure she made the right call. I guess Phil knew it all along – mentioning this would mean the ending of us.

“Phil said this would happen. Remember?” I said weakly, not even caring anymore. If I lost her, I at least wanted to speak my mind. “What the hell was even your plan once this started? Were you never going to tell me?”

“Yup.” Nicole replied, not breaking her stride.

“What a fucking relationship that would have been.” I chuckled in misery. “Maybe you two should get together. He cares about you so damn much.”

“No one does, squirt.” Nicole replied, her voice getting more echoey as the space between us grew.

“I fucking did. Do.” I responded angrily.

Nicole turned around and looked into my eyes for a brief period of time. “Adam.” she called out.

“Yeah?” I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but I couldn’t help it.

“Go to Scott’s office tomorrow and tell him you’re going to resign as VP. Ask him to give the position to someone else. Tell him you can’t handle the responsibilities. I don’t want him to call me in. I’d like this to be the last time I look at you. There’s a bus that arrives late at the school in about ten minutes, that’ll get you close to home, take it. I’m going home right now and I don’t want to give you anything more than I already have. Got it?”

Fucking hell. If Megan was right about there being a God, what a fucking cruel bastard. I couldn’t even bear to look at Nicole any longer before sighing and walking away.

I didn’t get it. Things seemed so… okay. Hell, things seemed like they were working out. Nicole and I were heading towards that Disney happy ending she mentioned. Then, all of a sudden, everything went to shit. I trudged towards the weights room, every word weighing me down, ringing in my ears. Nicole and I were nothing. And it was all Phil’s fault.

Fuck, was it even his fault? If I never brought it up Nicole and I would have been fine. If I worded things better we would have been fine. If I had just been someone… anyone… different, I bet we could have worked through this. But because I was fucking me, I fucked things up. How fucking typical. This was somehow worse than Paul. I was painfully aware of how it was me that fucked everything up. I think I would have been more okay with not knowing. And now Nicole was gone. Everything we were, every moment we shared. Gone. In a fucking instant too. We went from ‘it would be you’ to ‘never again’ in world record time.

I didn’t take that stupid bus. I didn’t have the energy. I knew I could call mom and she would have picked me up at like five anyway. I just sat on the training bench and stared at the floor, mulling over… life. It didn’t seem as full as it did a short time ago.

Thoughts passed through me. Thoughts I wasn’t so proud of. I’m sure to anyone else it would have been silly, to daydream or even fantasize about your own death, just because of some girl. To me, in the moment, it just… made so much sense. Not enough that I was going to do something, but it was like… In that moment, if I had a button in front of me, a button that could have ended my life, I would have pressed it. No fucking hesitation. I would’ve liked to see if there was an afterlife so I could see Nicole. How she would react. If she would care then.

Eventually I sighed and got up, recognizing how unhealthy those thoughts were. I couldn’t just stay in one room. If I were going to wait a long time, I needed to clear my head, get some new scenery in.

Hallway after hallway I wandered, no destination or goal. Thought after thought passing through my head – some optimistic, some pensive, most, fucking depressing.

I couldn’t cry. I was too exhausted emotionally to cry. I couldn’t even bear it. I just wanted to hide in my room and wait for death to take me. Starvation or something. I was too much of a pussy to kill myself, but I could definitely understand the want in that moment. It made sense.

I was taken out of my thoughts by voices approaching me. Someone else was in the school. I stopped and listened, hearing a male deep voice. My eye twitched. Phil’s voice. Great. He was the last fucking person I wanted to talk to right now.

Still, his voice got closer, and I was smack-dab in the middle of a long hallway. I couldn’t risk running back the way I came without taking too long and getting caught by a guy I had zero interest in talking to. I looked around desperately, nothing but lockers around me. I shrugged – it’s not like I could sink any lower today – and quick as I could, soundlessly stowed myself away in one of the empty ones.

“…music budget. Which is why you’ve got to be aware of every single event the school hosts.” Phil said as his voice became clearly audible. “And don’t let your council push you around either. Be firm.”

He was giving advice. But to whom? Nicole said she was going home immediately.

“Okay, thanks.” Nicole’s emotionless voice met my ears.

I guess I didn’t consider the possibility of her lying.

“Speaking of, did you take care of the VP?” Phil asked, a hint of smugness tinting his voice.

“Yes.” No feelings, no emotion, just a flat tone.

Phil chuckled. “Great.” he said to himself. “Was it hard to bring it up?”

“Not really. He’s really easy to manipulate. I just worked him up, then he got himself angry and brought it up. I saw my opportunity and did the deed there.”

“You’re a miracle worker, pet.” Phil told her. “Did it hurt? All your chemistry, all your past?”

“No, it didn’t hurt. Boys come and boys go. Eventually you just learn to not expect anything different. You’re going.”

“And I’m going to miss you more than anyone.” Phil told her. I heard a kissing sound and tried to focus on not throwing up.

“He’ll go to Scott tomorrow, on my orders, and resign right there.”

“Revenge is sweet.” Phil basked in his glory. Their voices weren’t getting farther, they must have stopped for some reason.

“Not quite revenge.” Nicole told him, as flatly as ever. “I have a gut feeling he voted to keep you on the council. Out of everyone you asked me to ‘punish,’ I think he’s the most innocent.”

“Oh.” Phil replied, almost pensively. “Well, you should have let me know before. I wouldn’t have been so harsh with him.”

I could practically hear Nicole shrug.”What’s done is done. Neither of us will need to worry about him again.”

“I don’t get you.” Phil said slowly to her. “One day you’re convinced you two will get married and the next you turn on him all because I tell you to.”

“I do anything my Master says.”

“Oh, come on. There’s more.”

“Do I have to tell you?”

“Yes.”

“I claim the one-time right of silence.”

“Tough, use it some other time. Tell me, pet, or I get rough. Not the kind you enjoy.”

There was silence for a long time, then some rustling of some sort. “Mitch spoke to me again.”

“Another dream?”

“Yeah. He told me he didn’t think Adam would be good for me. Said he would cause me unnecessary headaches. Then today, the fight happens. I get that I orchestrated it, but… just the fact that it was so easy for him to go along with it, you know? Mitch just has a feel for these things.”

“Yeah, good ol’ Adam’s got a screw loose.” Phil acknowledged. “I mean, I’m talking to an unhinged slut that thinks her fucking brother talks to her after like a year of death, so all things in perspective.”

“I do literally everything you want. Allow me this one fucking thing.” Nicole growled.

“Tone.”

“Sorry, sir.”

Silence followed for a little bit. “Damn, has it been raining?” Phil asked nonchalantly.

“Um, I guess.” I heard their voices get a little farther.

The window. They were looking out the window near where I came in, meaning they were looking away from me. I have no clue what motivated me to leave the locker right there. Maybe with all the shit that happened I didn’t even care. Maybe it was my ‘fight or flight’ instincts. Either way, I soundlessly opened the door to the locker and crawled out.

I looked at Nicole and Phil, seeing only the back of Phil and Nicole’s hair hiding her like a bashful silhouette. On the ground sat a coffee lid.

No, not a coffee lid. Her camera cover. This was too perfect. While in the locker, I wasn’t just listening – I was too emotionally tired for that. I was fucking planning. And the cover would be perfect. As they pointed out the window talking about the parking lot or some shit, I crept up behind them, knowing how preciously small my allotted time was. I couldn’t screw this up. I couldn’t afford to.

Gingerly, I slowly extended my hand, never daring to breathe as one wrong foot movement could have ruined this. My nerves were shot, my hands shaking like I was at the Parkinson’s ward. Somehow, I managed to get a grip on the camera cover and lift it without anyone noticing. Quickly, I pulled it back and made for the nearby staircase as quickly as I could. Maybe this was all in vain, but for what it was worth, I had a plan.

As I ran back to the weights room I had a revelation. Maybe Megan was onto something. I had a weird surge of gratefulness in me. If there was a god, they were listening to me. Everything was too perfect. Evil made a plan and the forces of good kept planting seeds that would blossom into my response. The decision not to take the bus, the walk, the locker, the coincidental way Phil and Nicole were there, the fucking camera lid… God knew. I know, it sounded stupid when I actually said it to myself, but it was like a test. And I was going to make sure I passed.

Nicole fucking loved her camera. She wouldn’t be able to cope without having it, which meant every part of it. And if she couldn’t find her cover, she’d look for it. And where was she earlier today? The weights room.

The waiting was the worst part. I placed the camera lid in the center of the room, shut off the lights and waited near the door, where she wouldn’t be able to see me. The minutes passed by painfully slowly – ten? Twenty? Thirty?! I couldn’t say. I was just relieved when the door finally opened and the lights flickered on. I held my breath to make sure I didn’t give myself away.

“Yup.” came the lazy cold tone of Nicole as she walked towards the center of the room and picked up the lid. Just as she bent over, I walked to the door and shut it, making al oud band which pracitcally made Nicole jump.

“Jesus fucking christ!” she shouted, looking up in a panic. As her eyes registered that it was me, her face moulded into one of pure confusion.

I folded my arms. “Did he buy it?” I simply asked.

Nicole just stared at me, heavily breathing as she processed the implications of what I said. I was expecting a lot of reactions, but not her bursting into tears and running for me. She hastily grabbed me, refusing to let go.

“I- it- I c-” she tried to form sentences, but they just kept devolving into sobs. I was in shock, but eventually I snapped to attention and started stroking the back of her head.

“Y-you knew?” she eventually managed.

This wasn’t a good life lesson, but I knew telling the truth got me into trouble in the first place, so I decided a lie was safest. “From the moment you brought up being casual.” I answered her. “I pretended to get all worked up, gave Phil what he needed, and took your lens cap.”

“Holy shit.” Nicole said, sniffling, looking down at the floor. “Salvador’s getting better at this. Your performance was fucking flawless.” she looked up at me with red puffy eyes and gave a sad smile. “Why couldn’t you do something that good for your election speech?”

I laughed sympathetically but she devolved back into crying fits. “He made me.” she managed between gasps. “I’m so sorry, Adam. I couldn’t say no.”

“It’s okay.” I soothed her.

“No it’s not. Don’t fucking lie.”she told me, desperately sobbing. “I meant nothing. I didn’t mean any of what I said.”

“Even the wanting to be casual thing?” I asked.

She didn’t respond. She just shook her head as she cried some more. Crap. Well, I guess I couldn’t win it all.

“So…” I kept going awkwardly. “What happens now? Fuck, what happened then?”

Nicole kept attempting to explain, collapsing into a fit of sniffles, before finally finding the ability to speak. “Phil asked – demanded me to do some things to the council for impeaching him.”

“Even though he did what they think he did?”

Nicole gave me a look. “You don’t know that.”

“You seemed pretty sure. You told him to his face.”

She shuddered at the remembrance that I was there that day. “Right, yeah. So this was what I had to do with you. Create an argument that would result in the ultimatum of you resigning. Since you didn’t come to that conclusion yourself, I had to demand it of you.”

“You were willing to never speak to me again just to fulfill a request for some guy you hate?” I asked incredulously.

“I wasn’t going to never speak to you again, dumbass. I would have tried to make up over the summer. I can’t… I have the weirdest relationship with Phil on the fucking planet. I can’t say no to him. I just can’t.”

“Is he blackmailing you?” I asked.

She shook her head. “Nothing like that. It’s more like a personal thing. Like I can’t deal with refusing him.”

“Sounds like he’s gaslighting you or some shit.” Gaslighting. I heard it recently from Jenna, couldn’t remember when she told me – the act of making your partner believe they’re mentally ill or couldn’t survive in the real world without you or something.

Nicole didn’t respond. She just looked to the floor.

“So, let me ask again, what happens now?”

She shrugged. “I did what he asked of me. I guess I can’t control it if you choose not to get upset and didn’t resign. I could just tell Phil that your reaction wasn’t what I expected.”

“I’d prefer if you told him to fuck off.” I lamely commented.

She smiled, although her eyes were still red. “Just a few more days of patience. Then he’ll be gone.”

“Then…?” I asked hopefully.

“Then what?”

“Nicole…” I began exasperatedly. “I want to be the only guy in the world for you. I wan-”

“Stop.”

I obeyed, stopping in the middle of my sentence as Nicole started pacing the room.

“Look, you empty-skulled little doofus, I’m going to lay this on the line in the best way I can. You need to stop pretending you can change me, or own me, or something. If you truly want to be with me, you have to accept me for me. And you know what? I’m uncomfortable with any relationship that’s monogamous. It’s not the person, it’s the relationship itself. I will literally never be in a relationship like that. Being tied down scares me. It scares me, Adam. Every time you ask me to be tied down, I get more uncomfortable with being with you in general. I know what you want, but if that’s what you want, I’m not the girl you want. It’s like Heisenberg’s principle. We can be together, and you can be in a monogamous relationship, but you can’t have both at the same time, even in theory.”

Oh cool, thanks. That comparison helped me understand things completely.

“I’m uncomfortable with being monogamous. It won’t happen. I can accept that you’re uncomfortable with being in an open relationship. By your decision, that will never happen. I accept this because I don’t want you to be uncomfortable. But when you keep asking me to change, you’re not offering me the same respect. Do you understand?”

“Yes.” I admitted.

“Good. Thank you.” She collapsed on one of the nearby training benches. “I’m still open to the stuff we’ve been doing, though.”

“What, like sex?”

She smiled, her eyes closed. “You would jump to that. I was thinking cuddling, but yeah, sex too.”

“I mean, it’s okay if you don’t want to-”

“Oh hush.” She opened her eyes lazily and got up slowly, walking over to me. Slowly, she smiled as her hands moved up to cup my face.

“Hey.” I stated shyly.

“Hi there.” she giggled back, before slowly advancing and giving me a long, albeit hesitant kiss. “Missed me?” she asked as she pulled back.

“I always miss you when you’re not around.” I replied.

“Cute. And subservient.” she laughed. “A man after my own heart.”

“Did you miss me?” I asked.

She nodded. “Of course I did, hotshot. And I missed this.” Teasingly, she ran her hand up my leg, brushing my cock through my jeans with her fingertips. “I bet you missed this too.”

Nicole was so very spontaneous. It was always so hard to keep up with her. One moment she’s asking we never speak again, then crying, then trying to seduce me. I mean, I could complain about it, but it was working. Nicole was the picture of seduction. She knew exactly every movement that would get me going – every movement of her hips, every delicate touch of her fingers, every little smile she made when she knew she was working me up, everything was perfect.

“I really have missed this…” I breathily admitted.

“I know, hotshot.” she purred, moving in and gently kissing my neck. “What do you say we try it somewhere new?”

“Here?” I asked incredulously. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve done it in worse places around the school.

“It’s been too long, don’t you think?” Nicole complained, almost with a moan in her traditional sexy fashion. “It’s been a long day. I want the stress fucked out of me. Can you handle it?”

Could she? I was certainly down. “What do you want me to do?” I almost involuntarily said. She was still rubbing my dick despite it being at full mast, knowing exactly where and when to apply pressure.

Nicole laughed a deep, throaty laugh and nuzzled my neck affectionately. “You?” she asked innocently. “I don’t know, Adam. It seems that you’ve been doing a lot for me lately. Are you sure there isn’t anything I can do for you?”

Playfully, her eyes flickered down to my pants, then back up again. “Anything at all?” she insisted. She lightly kissed my cheek and let her lips trail all the way down to my neck.

“Hey.” she piped up. “Want an ego boost?”

I could only nod.

“I thought about you a lot lately. I hooked up with Brian this past week and I imagined it was you inside me. I guess this is kind of like the loyalty you wanted, isn’t it?”

I could only chuckle, albeit nervously.

“Sometimes I think about you when I masturbate too. And I masturbate a lot, Adam.” She was getting lower and lower as she kept talking. “And it feels really good. But nothing could feel as good as having this inside me.” She unzipped my pants and gently pulled them down along with my underwear, releasing my throbbing rod. Every movement of hers catered to me, every motion deliberately planned to make me shudder with anticipation.

She held my cock in her hands, moving her fingers along the shaft. “Such a beautiful cock you have.” she purred, looking me over. “Have I ever told you how much I like it?”

“Actions speak louder than words.” I heftily told her, smiling slightly.

She nodded. “So they do.” She lightly kissed the head of my dick, taking a painfully long amount of time in doing so. “And what action were you thinking in particular?”

“I think you know.” I mumbled, my hand falling to the wall to support me as every nerve ending tickled, every inch of me wanted more.

“Mmm… I’m not sure I do. I think I want you to tell me exactly what you want me to do.” Nicole insisted, lightly dragging the tip of her tongue across the head of my dick after she finished talking.

I chuckled internally. “Take every inch of me.” I ordered. “Remind me how talented your mouth is. Give me the best blowjob you can.”

“That’s all?” she winked at me. “This’ll be a piece of cake. No voices you want me to imitate or anything?”

“Hell no. You’re by far the most attractive girl to me.” I told her in a quiet voice. She smiled, bit her lower lip and looked to the floor.

“You’re cute.” she told me quietly, before giving the head of my cock a lick. The little licks continued, going along the shaft, evolving until they involved her lips, then her whole mouth. Before long, she was using her whole mouth expertly on me, taking a large amount of my dick in her mouth and working it using everything she had.

But she knew I asked for more. Taking one last breath through her nose, she sunk in further, taking the rest of my dick in her mouth as she began to deepthroat. She barely even flinched – moving slowly at first to get accustomed to the new visitor, but soon, deepthroating me with absolutely no issue, taking my whole dick like a pro.

I groaned and leaned my head back. “Nicole, you’re as amazing as ever. Holy shit. I fucking missed you.” I babbled like a cicada on Adderall. Nicole said nothing (go figure given the situation) and continued her work, her head bobbing as my dick sld down her throat time and time again.

Eventually she had to work my dick back into her mouth, if nothing else for her own well-being, but she never gave up. Her attention was still fully devoted to the cock in front of her, even though she now was undoing her jeans button and slipping her left hand inside so she could enjoy herself too.

I cleared my throat. “Hey, you know, if you want to have some fun too, we could skip the foreplay.”

She took my dick out of her mouth and grinned at me, wiping the saliva away from her mouth. “Anything you had in mind?”

Answering the question herself, she got up, taking her shirt off while playfully wiggling her cute little ass at me. Feeling playful myself, I gave it a little smack.

“Ouch!” she said childishly. Taking off her bra, she surveyed the room, her eyes finally landing on the training bench. “What do you think? Up for the challenge?”

Taking off my own shirt, I looked it up and down and laughed. “How would it work?”

“I get on the bench, support myself with my arms, you take me from behind.” she replied as if it were obvious, bending over and placing her hands on the bench to demonstrate.

Oh. I was thinking of something way more complicated. “Yeah, sure, why not?” I grinned, fully removing my pants as she did the same. Both of us only had our shoes and socks on as she assumed the position and I sauntered up behind her.

She wiggled her butt playfully as I observed the poetry sprawled out before me. “Enjoying the view?” she teased.

I teased back by slapping her ass, decently hard, making her stumble a bit. “Well then.” she replied with a laugh. “Now hurry the fuck up, handsome. You promised me we’d skip the foreplay, don’t keep me waiting.”

She didn’t need to tell me for me to see she was eager. With her ass presented high in the air for me, I could see the glistening wetness of her pussy lips. I had to smile at the sight – she looked too beautiful to be human. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was – Nicole had curves you could only dream of, a slutty eagerness that any teenager would kill for, and wanted me just as much. The hungry lust in her eyes confirmed just that.

I lined my cock up with her pussy, rubbing it against her entrance. Nicole, in turn, took a sharp inhale and groaned softly. “Do you want this?” I asked, loving the way she admitted she did but also making a habit of always asking consent.

“I want nothing more, Adam. Take me. Have fun with me.” Nicole moaned. Who was I to argue? I grabbed her hips and pushed my way in, savoring the velvety sensation of being inside her. It had a familiarity at this point – kind of like I felt safe, I felt right, inside her. I sighed in pleasure.

“What, is that it?” Nicole asked over her shoulder.

“Smartass.” I quipped, slapping her ass again before picking up the pace and beginning to fuck her.

“Oh God…” she groaned as she hung her head and enjoyed the sensations that came flooding into her. Each thrust of mine made her exhale, each push making her give a small groan. Eventually as we got into a good rhythm, she started pushing her hips back into me.

“I said I wanted the stress fucked out of me.” Nicole panted. “Fuck me like you mean it. Didn’t you say you missed this?”

I chuckled in disbelief, renewing my grip on her hips as I doubled my efforts, slamming her onto my dick over and over.

There we go.” Nicole panted in satisfaction. “That’s what I’m talking about. God, you’re so good at this… fuck I missed this, Adam…”

“Do you like this?” I asked her. “You like getting fucked by me?”

“Yes!” Nicole replied without hesitation.

“You like when I get rough?” I started slamming into her faster to prove my point.

“Yes!” Nicole shouted, a little louder.

“You want more?”

“Give me all you got, Adam.” Nicole moaned, her breaths getting shorter as the pleasure started to override her. I knew Nicole well enough to understand the pleasure was overriding her and she would start moaning and say whatever now, and I wanted to have a little fun with it. Grabbing her long hair, I hoisted her head up and leaned in towards her now elevated head.

“Do you want more of me?” I asked.

“Yes, Adam. Yes.” she panted.

“Is it me you want to be with? So you can get fucked like this every time?”

“Yes, fuck it, yes!” she repeated.

“I bet you even have feelings for me, don’t you?” I pushed my luck.

“I fucking doooo…” Nicole moaned softly.

“Wouldn’t you just love that? To parade me around, and get fucked by your boyfriend every day?”

“I want that, Adam, I do.” Nicole was far gone at this point. I knew she would say anything, but it was so satisfying to hear her say it.

“You want me as your boyfriend then?”

“I really do, Adam.” Nicole all but whined.

“Say it then, baby. Say it.” I half-begged half-ordered her.

“I want you to be my boyfriend, Adam. I want to be with you.” she told me.

I loved hearing that. It made my heart fucking soar. With a grin I pumped into her harder, making her almost shout her moans of pleasure as she and I both approached orgasm. Granted, it was way harder to actually have a simultaneous orgasm than porn or anything makes it look, but I got to have a lot of practice with Nicole by this point and I knew exactly how to bide my time while still pleasing her and delay her orgasm while rapidly approaching mine. I just had to listen carefully for her telltale signs and time it well. I was glad I was with a girl who could climax from penetration, otherwise god knows how I would have figured this all out, but I was getting pretty good at knowing when her orgasm would strike, and I wanted to make sure she got as much out of this as possible.

With avid concentration, I fucked Nicole thoroughly and her orgasm hit right on target, just as I practically let out a roar and let loose a torrent of cum inside her. Both of us stayed mashed together for a good ten seconds, feeling the pulsating pleasure flow through us before we slowly picked our rhythm back up to milk out the last few drops of pleasure before sensitivity took over. Once it did, I slowly pulled out and Nicole collapsed on the bench, completely spent.

“I think… we should probably… wipe this down…” she panted, making me laugh.

“Yeah, no kidding.” I replied, out of breath myself. “Do you think we’ll get caught?”

“No, but just to be safe we shouldn’t stay here for too long.” Nicole commented. “Just in case, who knows. Want a ride home or do you wanna come over for a bit?” She got up gingerly and looked for her clothes.

“Oh, so you’re willing to give me a ride now?” I teased.

“Oh fuck off.” she retorted. “Don’t guilt-trip me for that. That’s not fair.”

There was a kernel of truth to that, even though the situation was complicated as fuck. I wanted to ask her more questions about it, but I knew that this wasn’t the time, nor the place.

Though, I wasn’t really sure if there was a proper time or place for that topic. I saw what happened when I brought it up the first time, and planned or not, I did not want that event to repeat itself.

 

***

 

“I don’t think so,” Nicole protested, her mouth full of food. “The biggest issue the thirteen colonies had was the lack of representation in Parliament. It wasn’t just the taxation, that’s what everyone thinks of when they hear ‘no taxation without representation.’ All I’m saying is that if we had a clear understanding of the British Constitution and both sides quit making up their own rules, maybe we could have spared a bunch of lives.”

“You’re forgetting about the Townshend Acts, young lady.” Mr. Baker argued back. “The Patriots understood that the people had rights that no government could violate. ‘It is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.’”

“I’m forgetting no such thing.” Nicole fired back at her dad. “The British had a conflicting viewpoint with the patriots. This is what I’m saying. It’s been well established since the Revolution of 1688 that the Parliament held supreme authority in the empire, at least according to England. Nothing they could do was unconstitutional. Was it right? Of course it wasn’t. And FYI, the prevention of non-intrusive trade arguably did more damage than any taxation measures. If you wanted to be a blacksmith in the Thirteen Colonies, you had to jump through hoops just to make and sell your own freaking products.”

“I don’t think trading restrictions were as important as you’re making them out to be.” Mr. Baker replied.

“Well, that’s fine. It’s okay to be wrong.” Nicole sarcastically quipped, staring her dad down as she drank from her glass of water passive-aggressively.

“Is dinner always like this?” I asked Mrs. Baker. I feel like Nicole would have a field day in Mr. Anton’s class. I didn’t even know how we got here. Things started off with an innocent discussion about movies, and then somehow they got to talking about some playwright named Moliere, then boom, the Revolution. I mean hey, why not. It’s not like I wanted to ever leave history class.

“Not always.” Mrs. Baker dryly responded. “When Nicole gets an idea in her head, it’s hard to convince her otherwise.”

“Why are you trying to convince me though? I’m right!” Nicole protested. This was one hell of an introduction to dinner at the Baker household. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted this to become a more regular thing or not, but hey, whatever made them more comfortable with me, I guess.

“Do you want me to get the dishes?” I offered.

“Don’t be stupid, you’re the guest.” Nicole snapped at me, standing up and gathering the plates near her.

“Nicole! Don’t be rude!” Mrs. Baker barked.

“Nah, he’s a big boy. He can handle it.” Nicole retorted, winking at me as she walked away with the plates.

“Is she like this with you often?” Mr. Baker asked me, almost surveying me like he needed to know how mad at Nicole he should have been.

“Nah, we just like kidding around with each other.” I diplomatically answered. “I don’t mind, really.”

“Wow, can you believe this guy?” Nicole asked the table, reaching in front of me to grab my plate. “Can you say, ‘whipped?’”

“Nicole!” Mrs. Baker interjected.

“I’m just horsing around, mom. Relax. Besides, who cares who’s more dominant with us two? Do you not care about female empowerment, mommy? Are you saying I should be completely subservient to him?”

I never really asked what that word meant, but I could figure it out. “You should at least show him some respect while he’s having dinner under our roof for the first time.” Mr. Baker ordered.

“Enh, doesn’t seem that celebratory.” Nicole remarked, going around to the other end of the table. “Besides, he’s eaten here a lot of times before, just not dinner.” She gave me a wink that only I could see, making me blush and look to the floor.

“You’re not eating chips in the bed again, are you? You know how that makes your father’s chores ten times harder.” Mrs. Baker complained.

“Vacuuming is harder anyway.” Nicole replied, making Mrs. Baker open her mouth in objection. “Relax, relax. Yeah, I kicked that habit.” She bounced over to Mr. Baker and kissed him on the head. “Love you, daddy.”

Mr. Baker rolled his eyes in response.

I figured it was my turn to say something. “Well, hey, thanks for having me over for dinner. I appreciate it, and everything was delicious.”

“Were the potatoes delicious?” Nicole piped up. “Because three guesses who made those tasty bitches.”

Ignoring Nicole, Mrs. Baker half-smiled at me. “You’re welcome, Adam.” she told me. “And we’re glad you could enjoy yourself. We try to make those small moments in life happier.”

“Trifles make the sum of life.” Mr. Baker added.

“Yeah, this’ll be a moment you’ll treasure forever.” Nicole’s voice rang dryly from the kitchen.

I stood up from the table. “I should probably get going soon though, my family was expecting me back home a bit ago.”

“You could have texted them if you were smarter.” Nicole’s voice rang again.

“Well, we hope you enjoyed yourself. I suppose we’ll be seeing you sometime soon.” Mrs. Baker acknowledged me.

“Have a good night.” Mr. Baker added, already nose deep in a book. I excused myself from the table, got up and went for my shoes in the foyer.

“So, how was it? Dinner with the Bakers, yay or nay?” Nicole asked, walking up behind me.

“Yay.” I smiled at her. “I had a good time, thanks.”

“Let’s hope so. It’s only gonna get more chaotic from here.” she responded, looking behind her. “You got everything? Your phone, backpack…”

I rifled through my pockets. “Yeah, I think I got…” My brow furrowed as I felt a piece of paper in my pocket. Was this a receipt for something? I pulled it out and looked at it. By this point Nicole had already walked back to the kitchen so I didn’t feel conscious or anything when I realize it was the password list I nicked from Mitch’s room.

No wonder this guy had to write his passwords down. Ia5cD77PbitB. That was his Facebook password. I bet even in heaven he couldn’t remember that. My eyes gazed down to the bottom of the page where the cryptex sat, mocking me.

‘The sum of life.’

I winced in confusion. Deja vu. Did I hear that phrase recently? Like, really recently? I could swear that…

In a flash, I remembered and practically bolted back for the dining room.

“Forget something?” Mrs. Baker asked.

“Uh, yeah, just left something upstairs.” I lied, walking casually to the stairs. “Hey, Mr. Baker, what was that thing you said earlier? Something about the sum of life?”

Mr. Baker lifted his head. “Trifles make the sum of life?”

“Yeah, that!” I practically shouted like a madman before regaining my composure. “It just sounds like a good phrase. Is it like a family motto or something?”

He shook his head. “It’s line from David Copperfield.”

I grinned. David Copperfield. Charles Dickens. Ladies and gentlemen, we had a winner. “Ah, cool.” I nonchalantly replied as I made my way up the stairs. After quickly turning around to make sure I wasn’t being followed, I burst into Mitch’s room and started moving the books to his bed until I saw the cryptex.

Mitchell Baker, you have met your match. Gleefully, I took the cryptex and carefully moved it to the bed. Trifles. That was the combination. Carefully, I set every letter and gently pulled on the sides of the cryptex.

Then I pulled slightly harder. Then my heart sank. Nothing? How could it not work? It was perfect! Sighing to myself, I put the cryptex on the bed and sat down. Fuck. I thought I had this. It didn’t make any sense. Either way, Nicole or someone would be upstairs soon so I had to dispose of the evidence.

I sighed again as I stood up and grabbed the cryptex. I stared at the word spelled before me and a thought entered my head. Slowly, I moved around the tumblers and heard a click.

My first thought was, ‘Wow, I’m a dumbass.’ T-r-i-f-l-e-s. Not ‘trifels.’ My second thought was pure excitement. I carefully moved the cryptex over to the desk and pulled. It came apart easily, revealing a compartment.

The compartment had a small green-hide book and a piece of paper inside. Instinctively, I grabbed the book and thumbed through it, and as I saw the first page, I grinned. Mitchell, you little devil, you. Page after page had a different girl, complete with every time and place they ‘did it.’ I can see that when it came to hormones, Nicole was no outlier. Shannon, Lily, Diana, just to name a few… Not bad, amigo. Not bad.

A noise from downstairs made me jump. I was taken back into reality, remembering that I was not supposed to be here. In the heat of a fight-of-flight moment, sometimes people do very stupid things, and I suppose that’s why I took the piece of paper and stuffed it in my pocket before putting the book back in the cryptex and shutting it. Hastily, I stuffed the cryptex back in the bookshelf and put the books back on to hide it.

After putting the room back in its natural order, I turned off the light, shut the door behind me and got the hell out of there. My mind was a-buzzing with the possibilities of that piece of paper. Was it a schematic? A confession? God forbid, a suicide note? The rest of my time at the Baker residence was practically a blur as I left. I was polite enough to make sure no one suspected anything, although I was less careful with my parents when I got back home, going upstairs within three-ish sentences.

By the time I got upstairs, my hands were almost shaking. To me, Mitch wasn’t even really dead – more like a person who lived somewhere else. A person I was only getting to know. And soon, I would know something about him even Nicole didn’t. And I would get to be the first to share it with her. I’m sure she wouldn’t be upset with me knowing I figured out the combination and got his note. I slammed the door behind me and carefully took out the note, unfolding it and beginning to read it. As I read more and more, my skin went paler and paler, and I wondered if perhaps it was more foolish of me than anything to have pried into their business.

 

Dear Nicole,

 

    If you’re reading this then I’ve finally grown the balls to do what I should have done a long time ago. I always wanted you to be the strong individual you could be, but you’ve made it clear that as long as I’m in the picture this will never happen. I don’t want to be too harsh with you, but I feel like at this point, enough is enough. ‘Growing’ means more than living in another person’s shadow, and you simply aren’t growing. The way you obsess over me… You don’t know this, but mom and dad have had talks with me about it. This can’t continue. It’s not healthy. As of the moment you read this note, I will stop coming home, and I wish you could have found out in some way other than a pathetic little note on your bed, but I know that if I were to tell you in person you’d grab onto me and never let go. At some point you have to grow up. This will be the last communication you have with me. I’m planning to leave the country soon, and any contact you attempt to make with me will be futile. So don’t try. Goodbye.

 

    Mitch

__________________________

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