Being More Social – Chapter 5

Eventfulness, as my father had predicted, usually just ended up meaning trouble for me, so I was glad to find out that after a very event-filled October, November went by as eventlessly as it could. Thanks to Nicole’s talk with me, there was no bad tension whenever I was around May, which was good since drama class necessitated that you need to be ready to act with anyone at the drop of a hat without any tension being present.

Megan and I began texting, more frequently than with Nicole or with May. Then again, that was mostly her doing, with her usually starting the conversation and keeping it going. She made no effort to hide her crush on me, and I needed to be careful not to be rude, but also to not lead her on.

As for Nicole and I, we did what we did best, and most often. Telling each other secrets, screwing, and playing video games, with her naturally beating me every time we tried anything remotely close to competitive. If ever I needed a reason for why I didn’t play video games, she was gracious enough to give me that reason. She never talked to me about any talks her parents had with her, though, which made me wonder if all of my courage on Halloween night was in vain. Her parents seemed sincere when they said they would talk to her.

As December rolled around, I got to be better friends with Carson, which was cool. While he was really confident, he wasn’t above being friendly, you just had to know him well enough. In early December, on the first weekend, I got to hang out with him for the first time at his place. Dad drove me, and he didn’t say anything to the effect, but I got the impression that we was glad to find out I was hanging out with more than just girls.

“Hey, buddy! C’mon in.” Carson welcomed me as I entered the house. It wasn’t late enough into December that the snow was sticking, but I still had to wear clunky boots that I was all too glad to be rid of.

“What’s up?” He asked me as he led me into the living room, then plopped down on one of the couches. I joined him, falling down on the adjacent couch.

“Not a lot.” I answered him. “Just finished that y-intercept thing we were given on Thursday.”

He buried his face in his hands. “Aw, shit.” he said aloud. “That was a thing.”

I laughed as his dad rounded the corner. “Oh, hi!” he remarked to Carson. “I didn’t know you’d be having company.”

“Oh yeah, sorry.” Carson said as he stood up. “Dad, this is Adam Watson. He’s in my math class. Adam, George Carter, my dad.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Carter.” I said as I stood up and shook his hand. Well, I say ‘shook his hand,’ but the exchange was more like him just grabbing my hand and crushing it.

“Mr. Carter is my father.” He said cheerfully. “Call me George.”

I nodded and sat back down as his dad began to putz around the kitchen. “Is your mom home?” I asked Carson.

Carson shifted in his seat. “Uh, my parents are kinda…” He began, and trailed off, mashing his index fingers together, expecting me to finish for myself.

“Oh, sorry.” I said. He waved it off like it was no big deal, but obviously didn’t want to talk about it any longer. “So what do you wanna do?” I asked, trying to shift the topic.

He shrugged, and eyed something on the couch, reaching to hold it up. It was an Xbox controller.

Son of a bitch, I was the only one who didn’t play video games in the whole county, wasn’t I? I sighed, shaking my head, but gave in.

“What, don’t like gaming?” Carson asked me.

“I dunno. I only play with one person, and she beats me every time.” I said. As soon as it registered that I said ‘she’, Carson broke into a grin.

“You get beat by a girl? Oh buddy, that’s rough. I need to teach you how to play, so you can kick her ass.”

I grinned back. “I’m cool with learning.” Carson tossed me a controller and booted up his console.

“Still,” he added, “It’s pretty sweet that you could find a girlfriend that’ll play video games with you.”

“Oh, she’s not my girlfriend.” I protested. He shot me a sly smile.

“Oh, so you two just fuck, huh? I hear that. That’s my go-to option with girls too.”

I wanted to protest, but realized I couldn’t. That’s what Nicole and I do, I reasoned with myself. I didn’t want to straight-up lie to a new friend, so I kept my mouth shut as Carson continued.

“I mean, as long as you’re not hurting anyone, and the girl knows it’s just sex, it can’t do any harm. Just don’t go too far, you’ll end up like my cousin.”

“What does your cousin do?” I asked, basically just to kill time, as Carson booted up a shooter game.

“He likes to take girls out and use them. He’s not above cheating or anything like that either. Like, I’m cool with just having sex with girls, but there’s a line, and you need to respect them too.”

I nodded. “Does he go to our school?”

“Who, Craig? Oh, hell no. He’d get ground to a pulp by the goody two-shoes students of our school. They wouldn’t stand what he does for a second. Nah, he lives a few states over, like most of my family. He’s actually kind of a sad story. Like, he’s a jerk and all, but no one ever shows him any sympathy or tries to know his good side or anything. I haven’t heard from him in a while, but I feel like once he gets a solid friend, he’ll clean up his act. He could totally be a good guy, but doesn’t know how, you get me?”

I nodded again as Carson continued. “Point is, don’t be a jerk. It’s the rules I live by. I mean, if you get offended by something I do that isn’t mean, sucks to be you for being oversensitive, but, like, MY definition of a jerk.”

If Carson was anything, it was self-defined. He appeared to never get affected by the world around him. That was probably the source of his confidence.

“Well, do you have any flings right now?” I asked, half curiosity, half keeping the conversation going. He paused the game and looked at me for a second, apparently in thought.

“Nah… Actually, I was thinking that maybe it’s time to buckle down. Y’know, make the commitment. See if relationships are all they’re cracked up to be.”

“Oh yeah?” I asked him.

He nodded. “But I can’t just go looking for relationships. You do that, and you end up a sap. Between flings, I started hanging out with this one girl, and she seems pretty cool. we haven’t fucked or anything, but… I dunno. It’s kinda different with her. It’s cool to just hang around her, rather than just meet and fuck. So I asked her out.”

“Dude, way to go!” I said, congratulating him. “Who is it, do I know her?”

“I dunno. I mean, she’s not in any of my classes, so I dunno if you know her. May Stevens.”

Oh, fuck. You have got to be kidding me. A knot the size of Texas began to form in my stomach. May? Really? When did he even get the chance to meet her?

“Yeah, I know May.” I said, trying as hard as I could to have my voice not reflect my jealousy. “I didn’t know you knew her.”

“Yeah, it’s the weirdest thing.” Carson answered with enthusiasm. “I didn’t even know she existed before the Halloween dance. But there she was, all alone in the hallway yet gorgeous as fuck. So I asked her to dance, and boom! Suddenly we’re hanging out, and we find out we have a lot in common. So I asked her out, and she said yes. You ask me, it’s in the bag.”

If I thought the knot in my stomach was big before, it was huge now. Carson was the one who danced with May at the dance. Carson was the one who she was hanging out with now, not me. It’s true, I wasn’t as good-looking as Carson, not nearly as confident, but… But my feelings were so much truer. It wasn’t fair, dammit! It just wasn’t fair! She was about to kiss me, for God’s sake. How could she drop me so easily, like I was nothing, and start hanging out with another guy like that?

He noted my silence and asked, “What about you? You still just boning the girl or have you got your eye on someone?”

I really didn’t want to hear his voice right about now. “I’m not boning anyone.” I said firmly.

“Aw, buddy.” He said, with genuine sympathy. I suddenly hated how he called me buddy. I suddenly hated the sound of his voice. I wanted to go home. This was ten times worse than the Halloween dance. True, I didn’t own May, but at the same time I also wasn’t aware I meant just that little to her. I wanted to throw up.

Turning my anger towards the game, I resolved to annihilate Carson, which is just what I did. Despite barely knowing the controls for the game, I managed to kill his character in a duel match over and over. At first he was taking it easy on me, since I was a beginner, but before long he realized how badly he was losing and stepped up his game. Nevertheless, by the time the timed duel game was over, I had won by a ludicrous amount, something like 11-4.

“Dude…” he began, genuinely shocked. “Where the hell did that come from?” I shrugged. “I think you got something here, buddy! Maybe you can kick that girl’s ass, you’ll just have to play this game with her.” He laughed, and despite not really wanting to, I joined in laughing with him.

“Well, that was fun. Hey, you like Marvel movies?” he asked, standing up with a lot of energy, moving upstairs. He added, “I swear, I have the biggest collection on the planet.”

Ugh. I hated to admit this to myself. I genuinely hated to. Carson was a nice guy. He won fair and square, and try as I might to find traits to make him an asshole in my mind, he was a good friend. The only thing that changed was he had a date with May. I could just try to make him seem like a jerk, make May try to break up with him, but then I’d be no better than that Craig guy he was talking about.

I needed to follow Nicole’s advice, and shake it off. So May liked him. Maybe she won’t like him forever, and if she does, I just need to be happy for her. Carson was a good catch, and I had to respect her decisions. For now, though, I had to get her out of my mind, and focus on my time hanging out with Carson.

Regaining my thought, I yelled up the stairs, “You could even say the biggest Marvel movie collection in the… universe.”

His head popped up from behind the staircase banister. “Heyo!” He called with a smile on his face, then quickly disappeared again. I followed him up the stairs. I didn’t even really like Marvel movies, but hey, I thought I didn’t like video games either.

***

The first sticking snowfall happened the very next day, a Sunday. Now I was an indoors kind of guy, if my shyness and awkwardness wasn’t enough of an indicator, but I loved the winter. It was the one time of year where I would go outside and just enjoy nature, often for hours at a time, much to the displeasure of my worrying mother.

On that Sunday morning, you couldn’t even tell what time of day it was by looking at the sky. The sky was painted various shades of grey and light grey, peppered with little perfectly-fluffy snowflakes dancing their way down from the heavens. There was a light breeze – not too cold, not too breezy, just right. I inhaled and exhaled. God, I loved winter.

The ground was just the right amount of white. It was covered, but not too covered. I could walk easily, making little footprints as I did so, without it feeling like a chore. The brisk air had its own kind of smell which I just loved. As I walked down my driveway, I threw up my arms and took in the feeling. Winter was here.

As I neared the end of my driveway, a spot of black amidst the grey and white caught my eye, lingering in the foggy grey of the horizon. I turned to face the black and squinted. It was exiting from the second house from mine, had long black hair, and was very underdressed for the weather. It was Nicole.

Odd, I thought, as I took out my phone. I didn’t recall Nicole saying anything about going for a walk, and we’ve been texting all morning. She seemed her normal chipper self, just talking about how much she hated winter (something we frequently debated) and how she was content with staying indoors all weekend. I wonder, what changed?

It was probably because she was dressed only in a sweater at most, but Nicole looked different than she normally does. Maybe that’s why she hated winter… Instead of her normal swagger, she had her shoulders caved in, her head down, her arms folded, and carried what looked like a single flower in her arms. She began to walk down the street, in the opposite direction of my house. She hadn’t seen me.

It was easier to talk myself down from jealousy with her than with May, but I wondered if she was on some kind of date. Phil, maybe? A real flower certainly wasn’t an easy thing to get a hold of in summer, especially where I lived.

I looked back to my phone, wondering if I should text her, but then remembered she told me everything. Whatever this was, I guess she thought it wasn’t important that I know. I briefly considered just going back inside, leaving my curiosity to fester, but it was too late as I started walking to her.

It wasn’t easy. As I mentioned, there was a slight breeze, and I was downwind of her. However, she looked uncomfortable. Cold. I mean, go figure, she should have at least worn a coat, especially in a snowfall like this. I tried to catch up to her so I could give her my coat. She sure needed it more than I did. However, for someone who appeared to be uncomfortable in the cold, she sure walked quickly, and seemed to match my pace no matter how fast I walked. Did she know I was behind her?

If she did, she wasn’t letting anything on. As she kept walking further and further, it dawned on me how far we were from our houses. We were at least a good ten minutes away, and I just took it on blind faith that I would catch up. A part of my mind wanted me to turn back, to leave her be, and maybe just ask her later. However, I was nothing if not the curious type, and pressed on.

Nothing in this situation makes sense, I thought to myself. She could have taken the car, she should have worn a coat, it’s the middle of a snowfall, she didn’t tell me anything, and she had a flower. A multitude of possibilities brewed in my mind. I wondered if perhaps she was in a relationship, but her boyfriend didn’t condone cheating, but she couldn’t help herself…

No, that was absurd. Nicole didn’t like to be tied down, she said that. Of course, that is what she would say if she was hiding something, isn’t it… ? But she didn’t seem like the type. Nor the type to go behind someone’s back. Maybe there was more to her than what met the eye? Well, of course there was, but still.

Nicole kept up her pace until she was practically on the ass end of town, then suddenly stopped. When she did, so did my heart. I don’t know why, since I normally felt really comfortable around Nicole, but I suddenly felt really nervous. I don’t know what came over me, but I hid behind a bush, just in time to see her whirl around.

She scanned the area for a few seconds, before she seemingly deuced no one was around and turned back, then turning sharply left, more determination in her walk. I slowly got up and followed her, just to see her enter a gated area. I didn’t recognize this part of town, and the sudden fog forming around this part of town was preventing me from identifying the gated area. I kept my distance from her. Whatever this was, my nervousness now turned to worry, for her. If she was meeting a guy, a gated area this sketchy was not the proper way to do it. She was going to end up hurt. I could just feel it.

As I entered the gated area myself, I looked around for clues. Unfortunately, the snowfall hit this place first and all I saw was snow and more snow. I kept my distance, following her, still searching for something that could identify this place when I found it. In the snow, sticking straight up, was a grey block. I reached forward and dusted it off, making sure not to make too much noise. As I dusted it off, it dawned on me where I was. The grey block was stone, cold, and very grave. As a matter of fact, it WAS a grave.

We were in a graveyard. I didn’t know what to think. A boy was meeting her in a graveyard? That couldn’t be it… As I saw that she was leaving my vision, I made sure to keep up, not willing to let her out of my sight at this point.

Okay, so she wasn’t seeing a boy. But the only other reason she would come to a graveyard with a flower was… Oh no. Oh God, no. That wasn’t it. That couldn’t be it. Right? Couldn’t be.

On cue, Nicole stopped dead in her tracks in front of one particular grave, and reached forward. With her bare hand, she dusted the epitaph, wiping the snow away from her hand right after, and got on her knees.

“Hey.” she managed, in a quiet voice. I swear, I couldn’t recognize her voice. It was shaky and lacked all of her confidence, all of her boldness, any bit of Nicole I could find. She reached up and petted the tombstone a few more times, before she burst out crying.

This wasn’t a bunch of little sobs. Nicole was full-out bawling, her voice almost yelling as she cried. I wanted to go forward, land a hand on her shoulder, tell her everything was going to be okay, but I couldn’t bring myself to it. This was too much for me to register, too sudden. Nicole was crying. Shit, she was more than crying, she went from fine to inconsolable.

Amongst her tears, I could hear her try to make words, but they all collapsed into whines, whimpers, and sad yelling. Her arms landed on her knees to control her, but after a while they gave out and her head hit her knees. She couldn’t lift herself up, she was crying too hard.

She began murmuring again, this time making more of an effort to speak. Muffled by how she was speaking into her jeans, I just barely heard “I miss you,” before she collapsed into another fit of crying. She began pawing at the tombstone with her hands, as if it might magically bring the mystery person back, before she lifted her head up and embraced the stone with her full body. Her cries became even louder, even more pained.

In a sense, I was right. I was expecting to see Nicole end up getting hurt, and here she was, more hurt than I’d ever seen her. I wanted to go forward, to say something, but what could I have possibly said? I had no idea how to deal with this, how to deal with her. She had always helped me when I was feeling down, but this was something else. Something I don’t think anybody could have fixed.

Who was it, though? She apparently talked to her brother about video games, and both of her parents were alive. Was it a grandparent? A friend? I dared to take a few steps closer, as I glanced at the epitaph she had brushed off. ‘Mitchell Baker’ was what it said.

Her brother? But she just talked to him recently! Nicole told me that herself!

My curiosity was my undoing. Noticing that someone was close, Nicole whirled her head around to face me. Her beautiful blue eyes were red, puffy, and squinted, filled with tears. Many lines were streamed down from her eyes, and in the time it took me to register the fact that she was looking at me, another made its way down her face. Her normal sassy smile was twisted into a scowl I never thought I’d see on her face.

I thought she’d begin slowly, gently. I thought she’d understand. I thought she’d do anything but what she did next. “What the fuck are you doing here?” she barked, her voice raspy and thick.

“I…” I began, not knowing how to proceed. “I’m… sorry.”

“You’re fucking sorry?!” She spat. “You fucking followed me out here, didn’t you? I thought I would have a little time to my fucking self, but no, your needy ass just follows me! Well, guess what? I don’t fucking care this time. Get away from me. I don’t want to see you. I don’t want to see you for a long fucking while. Just go the fuck away!”

The shock of her sudden meanness paralyzed me for a second. As she finished, she burst into a fresh batch of tears. My brain didn’t know how to react to those words, but instead became numb. Not knowing what to do, I put my hand on her shoulder sympathetically, remembering that I wanted to help. She quickly brushed it off.

“I said go away!!” she yelled in my face, the tears still flowing. She didn’t care about her volume at this point, letting every word sting as hard as it could. “Don’t fucking touch me! You’re such a little shit! You wouldn’t even be anyone without me! I help you, even though you’re a complete dick to every girl you meet, and this is how you fucking repay me?! You just follow me around town, without even texting me first, just to catch the poor little fucking girl crying? Well I don’t fucking need you. I don’t ever need you. I don’t want to see you again. I fucking HATE you Adam, you hear me?”

I had to take a step back to compose myself. Hate. Nicole said she hates me. The words before stung, but this one was a switchblade to the heart. Trying to make sure she didn’t mean that, I cleared my throat and spoke. “You don-”

“No. Not a word.” she threatened me. “Not a fucking word. Don’t you dare. Just turn around and fuck off. Fuck off for good. I don’t ever wanna see your ugly fucking ass again in my life. Just stay away. Now go.”

I stayed in place, mostly because my body wasn’t listening to my brain.

“GO!” she yelled with the force of a hydrogen bomb. Scared at this point, I found my legs turning me away as I walked away, every sound in my life muted except that of Nicole hysterically crying behind me. I turned around to face her. She was lying on the ground, almost in the fetal position, looking like she couldn’t even work her own muscles anymore. I thought about turning around and helping her, but as her gaze met me, most likely checking to see if I was leaving, she noted I was looking at her. “GO!!” she half-yelled, half-pleaded as she began bawling again. I sighed internally and made for home.

***

My mom and dad were actually worried that I had tripped or caught a chill outside. They could tell my mood was severely dampened, but I did not want to talk about it whatsoever. I didn’t want to talk to anyone.

The least of which, Megan, as my phone buzzed and I checked my screen to discover she had texted me for the third time that day. I also had an unchecked message from Carson, but I didn’t care. I didn’t want to communicate with other human beings. I wanted to rewind time, to make everything better. Yet, part of me just wanted to die. I wouldn’t dare go through with it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how much I wanted everything to just end. The thought turned into a daydream of me dying, and how everyone in my life would react, until it got to Nicole. At that point, the daydream faded and I was knocked back into reality.

I hadn’t shed a single tear. I was sadder than I normally was when I cried, but I had no tears. Was I angry at Nicole? I had no answer. I was mad at hell at what happened, and it quickly turned into being mad at myself. I was such an idiot. I should have called out to her, or not followed her. Or something. I was just shitty, that was the only explanation I could muster. I was just a shitty person. Nicole all but said it herself.

I had no clue how long I laid in my room. Seconds, minutes, hours. I just sat there, eyes wide open yet in some kind of sleep, as a yell up the stairs woke me.

“Adam!” It was my mom.

“I don’t want any lunch, mom.” I called back, knowing that was her excuse to get me to come downstairs.

There was a brief pause. “Lunch was three hours ago, sweetie.” Oh, shit. Seriously? “I called up but I got no answer.”

God damn, I was a mess. By the time I had returned from the walk, it was barely 11:30, and my family was in the habit of eating lunch late. I looked at my alarm clock. 4:23. Jesus Christ. But wait, if it wasn’t lunch…

“Then what do you need?” I called down to mom.

“There’s a knock at the door. I think it’s for you.” Mom called back up. Nicole, I presume. Half of me, I guess the selfish half, didn’t even want to answer the door. I just wanted her to freeze her ass off in the cold. It was what she deserved after what she said. But the other half, apparently the half that controls my actions as opposed to my thoughts, stood me up and had me walking down the stairs before I realized I was doing so.

“You okay, sweetie?” mom’s concerned voice asked me as I came slowly, almost in a robot-like manner down the stairs.

“Yeah.” I answered with no emotion, not even realizing I was speaking. She frowned, concerned for me, and went off towards the kitchen.

I neared the front door of the house and opened it to see just who I was expecting. She still had nothing more than her sweatshirt on, and her teeth were chattering. Her eyes had fully recovered and there was no evidence of crying on her face, but her mouth still held the same devastated expression that I thought didn’t exist just yesterday.

We stared at each other for a few seconds, her teeth making the only audible sound before she piped up. “I-it’s n-not getting any w-warmer out here.” She chuckled, even though it was a nervous, sad chuckle, to herself.

My expression had not changed. I wasn’t happy to see her. I was half-tempted to just close the door on her right there, but finally I gave in and stepped to the side, inviting her in. She all-too-eagerly stepped in, breathing into her hands to warm them as she did so.

“Thanks.” she said softly as I closed the door. I said nothing, and just looked at her. She looked back at me, her eyes containing more sadness and even a little more fear than I remember her normal eyes holding.

“I’m sor-” she began, before a voice from the living room cut her off.

“Who is it?” dad asked, his voice ringing across the house.

I sighed internally. This was not the time I wanted to do this. “It’s Nicole.” I replied, trying my best to sound cheerful about it, rather than annoyed. Nicole, of course, noticed my hidden tone, and her expression turned even more sad.

Mom popped out of the living room, and it was only then that I realized I never even mentioned Nicole to her.

“It’s very nice to meet you, Nicole.” she piped up, smiling. “I’m afraid we’re not the spontaneous type, but… Make yourself at home!”

Nicole gave mom a half-smile. “Adam hasn’t mentioned me once, has he?”

“Not a word.” Mom replied instantly, as if it was shameful.

“Good. You had me worried for a second.” Nicole winked at mom, kicked off her boots with one solid swing, then entered the house like nothing was wrong. When she left earshot, mom whispered, “How do you know her?”

“Student council.” Nicole answered her from the next room over, making mom jump. I was glad to see Nicole’s psychic ability wasn’t just limited to me – mom’s whisper was so quiet I could barely hear it, let alone Nicole.

Despite seeing her in her normal cheery mood, I barely wanted to follow her. I still wanted to be alone in my room with the door slammed shut. I felt sorry for her, and it was clear I caught her at a bad moment, but she hurt me.

I still followed her, of course, worried what kind of bold introduction she would make to my father. As I caught up to her, she was already in the living room, and had already made eye contact with my dad.

“Ah, you must be Timothy Watson.” she smiled at him.

Dad gave me a glance. “I’m Adam’s father, if that’s what you mean.” he answered her, outstretching a hand. “You’re Nicole, right?”

Nicole nodded enthusiastically. After sinking back into the sofa, dad eyed me and exclaimed, “She’s heeeeeeere!” It was probably another dated reference.

And of course, it was stupid of me to assume Nicole wouldn’t catch on to it. “Ah, I loved Poltergeist. Perhaps one of my favorite Spielberg movies. It’s interesting how light in his movies always signifies evil, don’t you think? It was a real transition from movie conventions. Maybe that’s why they consider the ’80s the second Golden Age of cinema.”

Dad said nothing for the longest time. He just stared at her with an incredulous look on his face. Finally, he turned back to me and ordered, “Keep her.”

Nicole just giggled at the comment. I hated to admit, she was cute as hell when she giggled. Despite this, even when she turned back to me and gave me a smile, I just stared at her.

“So did Adam really give you my name?” Dad asked, not aware of the tension between us. “He doesn’t talk about us much.”

“Nope.” Nicole answered simply, her eyes still fixed on mine, before she turned around to face him again. “You just look like a Timothy.”

Dad was at a loss for words, for the second time in a few months. It was a record for him. “Right…” he finally managed. “Okay then, what’s Adam’s mom’s name?”

Nicole blinked twice. “She looks like a Marcia.” she said in a thoughtful voice.

Dad’s eyes widened. “Adam, ask her how I die.”

Even when freaked out, dad’s sense of humor never dwindled. Nicole just laughed at him and looked around eventually seeing the staircase in the hallway leading upstairs. She emitted an audible ‘ah’ and made for the staircase.

Dad pulled me by the arm to him as I was about to follow her. “Vampire or siren?” he asked me in a whisper, with no humorous undertone to his voice.

“Don’t whisper around her!” mom hissed, running up to us. “She’ll hear you!

My parents were nuts. As easily as I could, I slipped from dad’s grasp and followed Nicole upstairs, to my room.

“I think I freaked your dad out.” Nicole remarked as she threw a shirt of mine into the hamper. I looked around the room. The floor was clean, the bed was made, and all of my laundry was in the hamper.

“So how’d you get his name? And mom’s.” I asked, before hastily adding, “And don’t just say grade 11.”

“Your family leaves their bills on the kitchen table. I saw it on my way to greet him.” She answered me, smiling slightly. As soon as she saw that I wasn’t smiling back, her smile faded and she sighed.

“I’m sorry.” she said slowly as she advanced towards me. “I didn’t mean what I said. Any of it.”

I didn’t smile, I didn’t react, I didn’t do anything besides stand and give her a death stare that would make Luigi jealous.

“I was upset.” she protested. “Really upset. I’m not good to talk to when I’m… there.”

I remained unmoved, as Nicole sighed loudly. “I was a gigantic jerk. I get it.”

I nodded. “Want the full story?” She asked me.

“Sure.” I said, sitting down on the edge of my bed and inviting her to do the same.

She breathed in and out a few times before beginning. “My brother died in August. Like, this August. He was between jobs, like he always was. ‘High-school drop-out’ never looks good on a résumé, y’know…” She emitted a single chuckle, and smiled while looking at the floor. “He sometimes stayed at our place. It’s the room across from mine. It’s now pretty much a study… Anyways, he was between jobs, and he figured the best thing was to get out of the house and live on his own for a while. With strangers, on the streets, just something to get him motivated, or something like that.”

Her smile was gone at this point, and she was beginning to lean over the bed. I caught her with my one arm, and her arms grabbed at it, pawing their way up my arm until her hands were clutching at my sweater in some kind of embrace. I hugged her back.

“After about four days, we wondered if he got the job or made it to the outside world or something, because, y’know, he wasn’t back. We were actually kinda happy for him in the beginning. But after two weeks, we weren’t happy… It wasn’t like him to just… walk out of our lives.”

Her voice was just above a whisper at this point. “He was so damn chatty.” she remarked, although what should have been humor in her voice was just sadness. “Sometimes he’d come back home every two days just to talk about all of the stuff he did, all of the people he met, all of the parties he went to, all of the sunrises he saw… Then just leave, like that. Always off on another adventure. So after twenty-one days passed, we called out to the neighborhood, his friends, then even the police. No one even heard from him, until we heard from one distant friend that he was traveling, but would be home soon. There was even going to be a party for him when he came back by his friends. Mommy, daddy and I were so happy…”

Her clutch on my chest got tighter. “A few days later, we heard he was back. Mommy wanted to go see him immediately, but we wanted him to have his party first. So we waited for one more day, but in the morning…” Her voice was beginning to get clouded up from the onset of tears. “In the morning, we received a phone call. It was for my parents… They needed to identify someone at the park where Mitchell had his party. Our tone had shifted from happy to worried, but it never crossed our minds that it could be him. We thought it was someone we knew at the party… They only needed dad, but we all went. I stayed in the car, hoping that Mitch would be there, that he was helping them. That would have been so like him.”

She paused for a second to catch her breath before continuing. “Even in the car, I could hear mom screaming by the sight. I looked out the window to see her crying like crazy into dad’s shoulder, with dad just standing there, holding a hand over his mouth. I’d never seen dad crying before, and… and I…”

She couldn’t finish her sentence amidst her new tears, but she tried anyway. “I ran over to see what the commotion was, trying to push the idea aside, and when I got there… It was fucking Mitch, but it didn’t look anything like him. His skin was just white, his lips were blue, he looked like shit, and I…” She got that far before bursting into tears, crying right into my sweater.

She looked up at me, as if I was there with her. “We later found out it was a heroin overdose. Fucking heroin. I didn’t even know Mitch DID heroin. That wasn’t Mitch. It couldn’t have been.” She looked at me for a few more seconds before the tears came back.

“I refused to admit it for the first bit. Like Mitch was still out there, and would walk in the door any second…” she trailed off, only to start a more violent series of crying. “It’s not fair, god dammit! Mitch didn’t deserve it! He was the sweetest fucking guy I knew! I just want him back, God fucking dammit. I just want him back!!”

She pounded the bed with her fist. Not knowing any words for her, I just pulled her in close. She responded by pulling me as tight against her and crying for as long as she could.

All of the anger I felt for Nicole was gone now. I knew only that i had to hold her, and make sure she was okay. It was no longer about me, and silently, I forgave her. I had no clue how long we were there, with me holding her, and her bawling away, occasionally coming up for air. Eventually, her sobs died down, and before long, we were just hugging, with her remaining still in my arms, clinging to me as if her life depended on it. Me, I didn’t dare move, in case it might affect Nicole. So we just lay there, for an eternity in of itself, with her unmoving and with a giant wet spot on my sweater.

Eventually, she lifted her head. Her eyes were red, but she was smiling. “Thanks.” she said, slipping off of me. Now lying on the bed, she turned to me and added, “And I really didn’t mean all of those things I said. I was just… I just…” Her eyes began to tear up again as she finished. “I miss him so much.”

“I understand.” I said, no longer mad at her in any way. Even if I was mad, I understood how vulnerable Nicole was at this point. I wasn’t about to upset her in this state.

Her eyes travelled down to my sweater as she frowned a little. “Oh fuck, did I cause that?” She asked as she gestured towards my sweater.

“What, this?” I asked, pointing to the wet spot. “It’s nothing, don’t worry.” I turned my body so I was looking up at the ceiling instead of her.

“Oh, come on.” She said, getting up off of the bed. “On your feet, squirt.” I got up, and she took my shirt by its hem, lifting it over my head. My t-shirt peeled off with it. Now shirtless, I smiled at Nicole.

“Feel better about it now?” I sarcastically asked her.

She laughed slightly and pushed me down onto the bed, immediately snuggling up to me after doing so. We remained there for a little bit of time before she broke the silence.

“Adam?” she all but whispered.

“Yeah?” I answered.

“Thank you for being my friend.” Nicole said, getting even quieter. I didn’t reply, so she nuzzled back into me and lay there.

At first I thought I was imagining it, but before long I was sure I felt her kissing at my neck. I shifted to allow her access, and her hands roamed my naked chest in turn, eventually landing between my legs before my hand came up and stopped her.

“Nicole, are you sure you want to? Like this?” I asked her. It would have been stupid of me to ask her in any other situation, but right now she was vulnerable, and emotional. I wanted to make sure that she had a clear head doing this.

She lifted her eyes (which were rapidly losing their redness) to meet mine, bit her lip, and nodded. I could see in her eyes that she was being truthful, not rash, and nodded myself, going in for a kiss. Our mouths didn’t open immediately – for a bit, we just enjoyed the feeling of having each other on our lips, savoring the moment, before Nicole slowly opened her mouth when the time felt right. After a bit, our tongues were exploring each other in the most intimate way. This went on for a bit until Nicole made the next move and got up on top of me, taking her top off.

It was stupid of me to assume she would wear a bra, but at the same time, I wondered how she survived in this weather. Here she was, with more of a shy expression than anything else this time, her erect nipples (probably this time from the cold) staring me in the face. I warmly smiled at her and she smiled back, as I took one in each hand and began to lightly caress them.

I gave in to my lust after a few minutes of this as I grabbed her back and pulled her down to me, wrapping my mouth around her left nipple and giving a good hard suck. Nicole moaned in appreciation as she began to grind her crotch on mine. I was already hard from her efforts and began to push back into her.

I used every trick in the book, sucking and licking her nipples as Nicole pushed back into me, driven by lust yet sensuously moaning my name repeatedly. Before long, Nicole couldn’t take it anymore.

Smiling, she reached for my pants as she began to undo my button. Even so, her eyes were fixed on mine and I could only smile in response as I felt my pants lower past my ankles and my fully erect cock spring forth. Nicole grinned and immediately began to stoke it, occasionally looking into my eyes for approval as her hands sent waves of pleasure rippling through my body.

Before long, my hips got into it without my knowing, bucking to meet her motions. She smiled at me, lowering her mouth to the base of my dick. She outstretched her tongue and licked her way up the base of my dick, lowering her mouth onto it as her tongue reached the head. With determined effort, her lips wrapped around my shaft and she began pumping me into her mouth, before she stopped with her lips still wrapped around me, breathed deeply through her nose a few times, then went deeper than she had ever gotten.

The sensations overwhelmed me as I felt my cock sliding into her throat. She began slowly and I could tell she had a little bit of difficulty, but before long she got into the groove of it and my cock was sliding effortlessly down her throat over and over. She was no longer able to use her tongue, but it felt amazing nonetheless.

She eventually gingerly removed my cock from her throat but kept it in her mouth as her tongue got involved, swirling around the head. Her left hand came up from her side and started stroking me, adding to the pleasure I was feeling. I was panting hard now – her actions made me ready to blow my load any second now, and she knew it. Her tongue moved in circular motions around the head and her lips gently yet sensuously messaged my shaft as my panting got louder and louder, eventually becoming replaced by soft moans. I could feel her smile as I managed to choke out, “Nicole… I’m…”

I never got to finish my sentence. Immediately, I began to spurt, and this time, I noted that my load was nearly double what I had given her the first time she blew me. Nicole noticed too, no doubt, as she struggled to keep up with what I was giving her. Nevertheless, she kept up her pace, and eventually, after puffing up her cheeks with my delivery, was able to swallow the whole load. Even so, she slowly, sensitively kept her lips on my shaft until she sensed that my bliss was starting to fade. Then, with a soft noise, she took her lips off of my and looked me right in the eye.

Still panting slightly, I managed to choke out, “I didn’t know you could deepthroat!”

She raised her hands and waved them about in a ‘jazzhands’ motion. “Tada!” She remarked sarcastically, before smacking her lips a few times and grimacing. “You got any water?”

I laughed to myself. “Water’s on the dresser, mint gum is in the drawer.”

She smiled. “You know me too well, Squirt.” She got up and opened the dresser.

“I wish.” I said without thinking, then grimaced as I wondered how she would take that. However, as she turned around, she just gave me a slight smile as she popped the gum in her mouth.

After she was satisfied, she put the bottle down and spat the gum out in my garbage, and seductively crawled back up to me.

“It’s time to return the favor.” I told her in the deepest and most seductive voice I could muster.

She smiled devilishly at me. “I think I like the sound of that, hotshot.” she said as I took her by the shoulders and put her down on the bed so she was lying down, facing me. Like her, I started to undo her pants, although I wasn’t quite as experienced as her, so I had to keep my eyes on her pants as she undid them. She assisted me in taking them off, then I took off her socks one by one as she took off her own panties, leaving herself open, exposed, for my viewing pleasure.

I grinned at what I saw, before positioning my mouth at her love tunnel. I gave her a slow, sensual lick up her slit right up to her oversized clit before she moaned and stopped me, taking my face in her hands.

“Mmm-mmm.” she shook her head no as she brought my face up, forcing me to travel up the bed. Finally, when my face was just about level with hers, she let go of me, only to grab my dick, which was hard despite having just cum, with both hands and aimed it at her pussy, opening her eyes fully to look into mine.

I was shocked. “Nicole… are you sure?” I asked her seriously. “You’re really vulnerable right now. I don’t want to hurt you.”

She slowly smiled. “That’s why I want you to do it, Adam.” she whispered at me, taking one hand off my cock and caressing my cheek with it.

“You promise you want this? Right here? With me?” I don’t know if it was nervousness, self-doubt or just wanting to make sure she wasn’t hurt, but I had to ask again. Nicole only nodded as she pulled my dick towards her.

Believing her, I didn’t dare look anywhere other than into her eyes as I pushed myself into her. I felt a velvety tight sensation on my dick as I entered her. Nicole’s eyes scrunched up for only a second in a brief flash of pain before her mouth made an all-too-familiar ‘o’ shape and she moaned.

“Oooooh my God Adam…”

I gave her a few seconds to adjust before slowly beginning to pump myself into her. I went in slow, small strokes at first, but quickly evolved into slow, long strokes, eventually picking up the pace.

“Adam… Adam… Adam Watson, you’re fucking awesome.” Nicole panted, trying to keep it quiet (presumably for my parents) as I picked up the pace and began drilling her as opposed to pushing myself into her. The sounds my my skin hitting Nicole’s filled the room as my lust commanded me to take one of her beautiful tits into my mouth. I slowed myself down enough to be able to take her into my mouth without any mishap, and she moaned deeply in appreciation.

“Fuck, god damn it Adam, yes, fuuuuck…” Nicole kept up her moaning as I kept going. She grabbed my side to support herself as I continued to slam into her repeatedly. Thanks to Nicole’s earlier efforts, I was able to last a lot longer, and as a result, before I was even close, I heard and saw the telltale signs of Nicole’s orgasm approaching. I briefly wondered to myself if I was supposed to double the efforts like my oral attempts on her when she was close, before throwing caution to the wind and going faster.

Nicole wrapped her legs around me and moaned rhythmically, her moans getting cut off by her own gasps every time I re-entered into her. I tried to make my thrusts as deep as possible, pulling myself out as much as I could before re-entering into her amazing pussy. Nicole’s moans became more high-pitched and she was a mess of words and sounds, seemingly not even able to make a coherent sentence as her orgasm got closer and closer.

Finally, her legs clamped down hard against my back, signaling her orgasm. Her face was seemingly frozen in orgasmic bliss as I made one final thrust into her and stayed there, knowing how she liked it. Even so, slowly and sensuously, I got the courage to take her nipple into my mouth again and trace lines over her areola with my tongue.

Nicole sighed deeply, presumably a sign that I was doing the right thing. Right in the middle of her orgasm, she regained the power to speak, and what she said next shocked me.

“Adam… I love you.”

Wait, what? My tongue temporarily stopped as I registered what she said. She loved me? Nicole loved me? I wasn’t expecting her to say that whatsoever. I thought she said she was no-strings-attached. Not knowing what to make of the situation, I just figured for now I would focus on her orgasm, and so, continued to service her nipple.

Before long, her legs softened, easing their hold on me, and Nicole basically became a limp pile of flesh on the bed. Slowly, I loosened and stopped my tongue’s dance on her areola and looked into her eyes, smiling.

Her eyes had a sparkle to them. It was frankly a magical sight to see. She wasn’t full-out grinning, but I could tell that Nicole was happy, happier than I had seen her in a long time. I pulled myself forward and kissed her on the lips, which she returned with gentle passion. Our mouths never parted, but we didn’t feel like there was any need to. I felt like I was in sync with Nicole, like we were one instead of two people lying on my bed.

Eventually, our lips parted and we just lay there, with me still in her, in top of her, softening inside her. I gently pulled myself out and placed myself next to her, laying on my side so I could still take in her beautiful face, still framed by her impossibly non-messed hair.

“Even my hair’s a mess.” I remarked. “I didn’t know being in grade 11 protects your hair.”

She chuckled. “There’s a lot of perks to being a junior, Junior. You’ll see in two years.”

“I guess I will.” I replied, not knowing anything else to say. I gave a few seconds pause before I figured, what the hell, it was bound to come up sooner of later.

“So you love me, huh?”

“What? She asked me, turning on to her side so she could face me. There was genuine confusion in her face.

“When I was inside you. You said you loved me.” I explained, not knowing what to make of her reaction.

“Did I?” she asked me, more in a curious way than a challenging way. Her brow was fully furrowed.

“Yeah…” I replied, as if it were obvious. “You said it, clear as day. ‘I love you.'”

“Nope, I don’t think I did.” She replied, half in refusal, half in disinterest.

She definitely did, I heard it. Is it possible she herself didn’t know she had said it? Her tone didn’t really sell the point that she didn’t hear it, it was more like she was giving me a subtle hint that she wanted me to just drop the subject. I mulled it over before deciding that I would, though I was confused why she would want me to.

“Okay, I guess I was mistaken. Sorry about that!”

“No worries, squirt.” she replied, stretching. “We all hear crazy things sometimes.”

I kept wondering to myself before I reached a conclusion. She was emotionally vulnerable right now. Of course she would tell me she loved me, she was still in an emotional state after telling me about her dead brother. She would reach out to anyone if she could after revealing something like that. She just needed someone TO love, and I was happy being that someone if it meant making her happy. It was at that point that I realized just how much the girl meant to me. I had always appreciated her, but this was more. I truly wanted to make her happy. I still had that crush on May, but friends can love friends. I knew that love was a strong word, too strong for teens to understand, some say, but I wondered if I loved Nicole. I was starting to suspect I did.

I stole one last look at Nicole, who was still stretching right next to me (there wasn’t much room for the two of us on my single bed) before rolling over onto my other side so I could check the time. 6:47pm.

“What time is it?” I heard Nicole ask from behind me. I rolled back over to discover that once again she was fully dressed, checking her phone.

“Oh come ON!” I said, almost frustrated at this point. “That was literally a few seconds! You can’t be that fast at doing that!!”

“C’mon, step it up!” she replied in a cartoonish voice. “You’re too sloo-ooow~!” She grinned at me for a few seconds before that grin disappeared.

“That’s reference to something, isn’t it?” I asked her, getting up off the bed to get my own clothes on.

“God damn, I have a lot to teach you.” she replied, sighing to herself.

“It’s 6:47.” I told her, getting my shirt over my head.

“Mmm.” she grunted, annoyed. “I probably have to get home.” She got up from the bed lazily and walked over to me, joining me just as I was fully clothed.

She gave me a peck on the cheek. “Thanks for putting up with me, Adam.” she said genuinely. “I was a real asshole today.”

I smiled at her. “It’s perfectly fine, Nicole.” I took her hand in mine. “May I walk you to the door?”

“I thought you’d never ask, Sir Watson.” she replied in a well-executed British accent. She led the way, opening the door and walking down the stairs, her hand in mine. Before leaving, she decided to find my parents and bid them goodbye.

She found my dad in the living room in front of the TV, which was no surprise. “Hey, dad.” I waved to him as we entered, Nicole’s hand now out of mine. “Nicole here just wanted to say goodbye.”

“Alrighty!” Dad responded, then looked at Nicole. “Goodbye, Nicole. It was nice to finally meet you.”

Nicole looked dad in the eye, then put one hand to her forehead, pointing another at Dad. “You just finished watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” she told him. “I sense that you really enjoy Bueller’s character.”

Dad’s expression fell. “Adam, how’s she doing that?!” He asked me desperately.

Nicole stumbled around, feigning dizziness (I could tell it was fake, but I don’t think dad could) and faced dad again. She smiled sweetly. “Hey there, Mr. Watson! I just wanted to say goodbye. It was nice knowing you!”

Dad sputtered for a second, before managing to say, “Y-yes. Nice to meet you too. Goodbye.”

Nicole’s goodbye to mom was a lot more normal, just consisting of a wave and a “Goodbye, Mrs. Watson!” as we approached the exit via the kitchen.

Once we were in the back room, Nicole started laughing and I joined in. “You’re going to give my poor dad a heart attack.” I told her.

Nicole shrugged. “I was just messin’ with him.” she said flatly.

“So, how’d you do that one?” I asked her.

“Jeez, you just wanna know all my secrets, don’t you, hotshot?” She asked me, grinning. “I could see the TV with my peripherals. The VHS case was on top of the TV. I didn’t know people used used VHS tapes anymore. Your dad is old.”

“Don’t tell him that.” I said. We shared another laugh, and then went silent, just staring each other in the eyes.

“So, um…” Nicole awkwardly stated. “Bye, I guess. Text me later?”

“You can count on that.” I said, and smiled warmly. Nicole nodded and smiled, before her smile turned sassy.

“Let’s hope you remember.” She told me. It was a little weak, but I guess Nicole’s sassiness needed to recharge after sex. Nevertheless, I gave her a little wink as she got on her boots and left, with me waving goodbye to her until she was out of view.

I sighed to myself. Someday, we were going to have to deal with what she had said to me while I was inside of her. Especially since I wasn’t exactly done with the other two girls who had suddenly come into my life.

_______________

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