Laying around watching Harry Potter with Adam wound up being one of the best things I could’ve done. I’ve never really seen a movie like it. I’ve never really seen many good movies at all! Part of it is living in a small sheltered town, another is I would always rather read. But I guess I’m changing, because wow!
“Alright.” Adam sighed as the credits began to roll. “Have enough energy to watch the second one?”
“Adam,” I laughed, pushing the pizza box in front of me further away. “I have to do my homework.”
“I thought you said it could be another day late.” He shrugged with a sigh.
“I still have to get it started.” I explained, shooting him a strange look.
“I should probably be pushing you to do it, shouldn’t I?” He asked, clicking off the T.V.
“I don’t know.” I replied as our eye’s connected.
“Alright, well do most of your homework.” He decided to use the strongest voice he could gather. “Actually! Before you do that, tell me about your trip to the bridge! I can’t have you just wandering San Francisco with kids I don’t know.”
“Oh, okay.” I nodded, but could tell he only wanted to hear the story before I locked myself away for the rest of the night. “I was supposed to go with my friend Ky, but his dog ate his couch I think.”
“Hate to see that happen.” Adam shook his head.
“So I wound up going with my other friend Dizzy.” Adam made a face at the name but kept it to himself. “And we took the two busses down to it, and just kind of talked on the bridge.”
“You guys just talked the whole time?” He asked with a tilted head.
“And listened to music.” I nodded my head. “We listened to Blue, no, Green uh, um, Day!Yeah, Green Day!”
“You didn’t know Green Day before today?” Adam sighed.
“I, no.” I confessed as he shook his head.
“Well did you like them?” He investigated, slightly leaning forward.
“I don’t know, maybe a little bit.” I answered, not able to fully make a decision on it.
“Go do your homework.” He teased as he heard my thoughts. “And come back with better music tastes when you’re done.”
“I’ll see what I can do.” I played along before standing up and heading up the stairs to my room.
“Oh Artie,” Adam called out, slightly turning around. “I’m glad you enjoyed your first day here.”
“Me too.” I nodded, slipping away before he could stall any longer.
I’m pretty sure he’s treating me more like a roommate than a child in his care! But I guess I don’t really care. Besides, it’s kind of nice to be able to live so, relaxed. I’m mature enough to get my work done when it needs to be, and I know if I start to slip Adam might actually take control. Right now, I actually kind of want to impress him with my grades. Just a small thank you for him to shove in my grandparent’s faces should the time ever present itself!
When I finally reemerged from my bedroom I found Adam playing video games and drinking a few beers. He really was just a giant man child! I’d never hung out with someone who had been drinking before, but it wasn’t that big of a difference. Besides, I don’t think he was drunk or anything, just a little, wobbly.
“That’s bullshit!” He shouted at the T.V. in frustration. “Did you see that? I was shooting him first!”
“Sure.” I nodded my head, glancing up from the book in my lap.
“Hey Einstein.” He teased, looking over to me. “You’ve been doing homework for the past two hours, you don’t want to just sit back for a little while?”
“I am sitting back.” I replied, shooting him a confused look.
“That’s relaxing for you?” He asked as I nodded my head. “Alright then.” He sighed, pushing an unopened can of beer to me. “I’m not going to do this often, but since it’s your first full day here, if you want to try a beer you can.”
“I don’t know.” I shook my head, looking down at the small yellow can.
“You don’t have to.” He quickly clarified. “I just know when I was your age I was curious. I’d rather you try it in our house than out of it.”
“Oh, okay.” I nodded my head. “Does it taste like soda?”
“I guess.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Kind of more, wheaty I guess. I don’t know, beer is hard to describe.”
“Oh,” I exhaled, grabbing the cold can and playing with it in my hand. With a brave hand I cracked it open and took a long look at it. I guess I am curious! And what harm is there in a sip or two? He said it’d be okay. As I tilted the can back into my mouth, I got what tasted like backwash!
“Uck!” I exclaimed, putting the can back down on the table. “That tastes like dirty sock water!”
Adam let out a big laugh as he carefully watched my reaction. “Yeah, I figured you wouldn’t like it.”
“Then why’d you tell me to try it!” I yelped, trying my hardest to get the taste off my tongue as his laughter echoed through the house.
“Figured I’d take the chance of ruining it for you early. Now I know I don’t have to worry about you drinking.” He shrugged, looking back to the T.V.
“I don’t think you ever had to worry about me drinking.” I sighed, looking back down at the pages in front of me.
“No?” He pressured, trying to get a good read on me. “You don’t want to rebel now that you’re free? Not that I want you to or anything.” He quickly clarified.
“Not really.” I shook my head. “I just want to see the city. Oh! That reminds me.” I excitedly let out as he looked back over to me. “I’m going surfing Saturday.”
“Surfing?” He quickly repeated in a loud voice. “Isn’t that, a bit, dangerous?”
“I don’t know, we didn’t have surfing in North Texas.” I teased drawing an eye roll from him. “I’m going with Ky and apparently he is really good, and I don’t know, I trust him.”
“Alright.” Adam nodded his head. “Just text me, and be careful I guess.”
“I will.” I quickly replied. “You don’t surf or anything like that?”
“I don’t have time.” He said, quickly looking over then back to the screen. “Well, I guess I do, but I’m so tired after work. I got to sleep in today for you, but tomorrow morning I’ll be out before you wake up. That’s okay, right?”
“Yeah.” I accepted in a nod. “Mom was the same way. What time do you wake up?”
“Four.” He answered as I felt my eyebrows rise in shock. “I get into work a little before five and start helping to prepare everything, then we close at about one, and I’m exhausted the rest of the day.”
“Do you like it?” I suddenly asked with curious eyes.
“I love it.” He laughed as a genuine smile crossed his face. “It’s my business with my best friend. Everything I do, I do for me and her and not some CEO in a suit. It’s a good feeling.” I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised by that answer. So far Adams been kind of, well, lazy. But now I see how he actually operates. He works hard and relaxes harder!
“Can I, well maybe, maybe I can help on the weekends.” I offered, drawing a surprised look from him.
“If you’re worried about money, don’t be.” He tried to clarify. “I know it might be a little, well, annoying at first. But don’t be ashamed to ask me for stuff, I want you to enjoy high school, you know?”
“Thank you.” I exhaled, completely surprised by his answer. “But I still want to help, and if you pay me every now and then, I won’t complain.”
“Okay.” He nodded his head. “We’ll give you a weekend or two to settle in, but maybe you can start swinging by the shop at nine or ten on your days off to help out.”
“I can do that.” I agreed as I slowly rose to my feet.
“But I won’t be cool Uncle Adam there.” He warned looking over to me. “I-I’ll have to be your boss.”
“Okay.” I couldn’t help but laugh as I tried my hardest to imagine it.
“Don’t laugh.” He reprimanded looking back at the T.V. “I can be scary when I want to be.”
“Sure.” I teased, taking my first chance to really push his buttons.
“Hopefully you never see that side.” He tried to warn me. “Behave in school and get good grades or else,”
“Or else you’ll make me watch more Harry Potter on a school night?” I asked, heading into the bathroom to brush my teeth.
“That’s it! Go to bed!” He jokingly yelped from the couch.
“Oh no,” I fake complained. “I wasn’t just getting ready for bed or anything.”
“You’re on thin ice Arthur Uriah Price.” He teased, but as I heard my middle name I couldn’t help but look back at him.
“How’d you know that?” I dug with curious eyes.
“Besides the fact that I had to write your name out a million times on custody forms?” He asked as I nodded my head. “Sarah also had that name picked out since we were kids.”
“No she didn’t.” I dismissed, figuring he was still playing around.
“I’m being serious.” He insisted. “Arthur means brave and Uriah means God is my light.” He shrugged. “She had it picked out long before you came along.”
As I heard those words another question popped into my head. I went to ask it but froze as his attention went back to his game on T.V. “Are, were, were you around when she was pregnant?”
“Yeah.” He answered without turning around. “I was kicked out a few months before she gave birth to you. It was the perfect threat for her and punishment for me.”
“Oh, I, sorry.” I forced out, not knowing what else to say.
“Don’t be, it was the best thing to ever happen to me.” He explained with a smile. “Sixteen and set free in San Francisco.”
“Sixteen?” I repeated before catching myself.
“I’ll save that story for another day.” He dismissed as I quickly worked out his age in my head.
“You’re thirty-one!” I exclaimed from within the bathroom.
“Good night Arthur!” He shouted back, finished with story time.
I don’t know what it was about that conversation, but for the first time since my mother passed I fell asleep without even so much as a frown hitting my face. I know this isn’t the most normal life, but I could get used to it. Adam’s not perfect by any means, but he’s trying his hardest. And in his first two days he’s done way more for me than my grandparents had in their three!
The next morning I woke up to an empty house, but found a box of cereal, pop tarts and ten dollars on the kitchen table with a note.
“Have fun at school today. I left you lunch in the fridge, but if you don’t like turkey there’s ten dollars you can use for lunch. If you go sightseeing after school just let me know.
I grabbed some pop tarts and the sandwich Adam made me before throwing my backpack over my shoulder and heading for the door. Living this close to school, it’s kind of cool. I don’t have to worry about being late, or the long boring ride there. I just walk through the park, turn a corner and poof! I’m there!
Walking into the school I began to feel like every other kid there. Well, until I got lost in the halls that is! Soon enough I was entering random hallways in hopes of stumbling on my homeroom.
“Artie!” I hear Charlotte call out from further down the hallway. “Where are you going?”
“I uh, I don’t know.” I confessed with a forced smile as she quickly caught up to me.
“How long have you been wandering the hallways?” She giggled, taking a long look at me.
“Like five minutes, maybe ten.” I shrugged, still trying to get my bearings.
“Here.” Charlotte sighed, handing me her cell phone. “Add your number and next time just text me, or Ky, but probably not Dizzy.”
“Why not?” I asked, remembering the story book evening we had spent together.
“You want to get wrapped up in his chaos first thing in the morning?” She asked locking eyes with me.
“No.” I shook my head. “He was really nice when we went to the bridge yesterday though.”
“You went to the bridge with Dizzy?” She asked, freezing in her tracks.
“Yeah, it was fun.” I shrugged. “He was really cool.”
“Oh, I just, I thought you were going to go with Ky.” She explained, finally beginning to walk again.
“His mom wouldn’t let him.” I replied. “Why? Should I have waited?”
“No.” She shook her head, still thinking it over. “You just realize what you’re playing around with, right?”
“Not fully.” I nervously laughed.
“Going to the bridge alone with Dizzy, you could give him the wrong idea.” She tried to warn. “You could make him think you like him, which kinda sucks for Ky who already kind of likes you.”
“I don’t like either of them like that though.” I tried to clarify. “I made sure to say that to Dizzy.”
“Why?” She asked with a cautious look. “How did it come up?”
“Just, naturally.” I replied. “Do you know something I don’t?”
“Not necessarily.” She forced a smile. “Just trying to make sure world war 3 doesn’t break out between them, but if you don’t have feelings for either of them its fine.”
“And if I did?” I asked. “Not that I would.”
“Of course not.” She played along, but I could tell she knew what I meant. “But if you did catch feelings for either of them, you’d have to make sure to let the other down lightly. The last thing we want is Ky and Dizzy fighting, last time they didn’t talk to one another for two months!”
“They do this a lot?” I provoked, shocked by the idea.
“Oh no, no.” She answered, stopping so we could continue our conversation without entering the room. “Not over boys. Dizzy usually dates girls anyway. But they still fight about other stuff, they’re both, stupid.”
“Stupid in a good way?” I hopefully asked.
“Stupid in every possible way.” She teased drawing a laugh from me. “But you don’t seem to be like that.”
“Like what?” I asked with a tilted head.
“Like, a dumb boy.” She shrugged. “You just don’t seem, I don’t know, overly…”
“I’m not threatening.” I sighed, having been told it a million times before. “I know, I know.”
“It’s not a bad thing.” She quickly tried to encourage. “I prefer it to the other two. So, if you ever want to hang out or talk, just text me.”
“Oh,” I exhaled, realizing how friendly she was trying to be. “Thank you.”
“Anytime.” She smiled leading us inside. I think deep down she feels the same thing as me when we talk. Nothing romantic, just like, like we’re the same person. I guess we’re just both quiet observers, eager to share our findings with one another.
“Hey!” Dizzy shouted as we walked into the room. I noticed Ky look to him then away, caught off guard by how eager he was to see us. “Look who’s late today.”
“Don’t even start with them.” Mrs. Mowry warned from the front of the room.
Charlotte made a smug face to him before taking her seat. “Besides, we still have another few minutes, and I found Artie lost in hall, no help from either of you.”
“You should’ve just texted me.” Ky offered as I sat between he and Charlotte.
“That’s what I told him.” Charlotte complained as she scrolled through her phone.
“I have to learn the way to homeroom sooner or later.” I shrugged, looking down at my bag.
“Fair enough.” Ky forced a smile. “Either way, I have a great trip to the bridge planned for us after school.”
As I looked back up I noticed Dizzy shooting me a concerned look. “I uh,” He began. “I actually took him to the bridge yesterday.”
Charlotte’s head popped up the second she heard the conversation starting. “What?” Ky asked, looking over to me.
“Dizzy was trying to convince me to go with you while you were on the phone,” I began, trying my hardest to put it as nicely as possible. “and I guess he just sold it really well. I’m sorry, I didn’t think it was too big,”
“It’s not.” He interrupted, doing his best to hide how disappointed he was.
“It’s a big city.” Dizzy tried to encourage.
“Yeah.” Ky nodded. “Maybe we can go see the painted ladies right outside of school.”
“He uh,” Dizzy began but looked over to me to finish the sentence.
“That works.” I quickly nodded my head.
“It doesn’t.” Dizzy sighed. “You’ve seen them a bunch already. You live right near them.” He finished, remembering how little I knew about San Francisco.
“You know where he lives?” Ky asked, shooting him a cautious look.
“Well yeah, I wasn’t going to set him free in San Francisco.” Dizzy shrugged. “Sorry, I didn’t realize that,”
“It’s fine.” Ky insisted through a strong tone.
“We still have surfing Saturday.” I offered, finally looking over to him.
“You’re actually down to go do that?” He asked in surprise.
“Well, yeah.” I nodded my head. “As long as I don’t get hurt.”
“You won’t.” He shook his head as a smile finally began on his face.
Before either of us could say anything else Mrs. Mowry began homeroom. This time instead of asking about our weekend plans she asked about our classes yesterday. She wanted to know what classes we were having trouble in, or what lessons we liked. It was nice to start the day with an open conversation. To just sit back and hear people talk about things they enjoyed.
“Why don’t I take you to see the painted ladies?” Dizzy teased as we stepped out of homeroom. “I prefer this house near them, this slim white one with all the stairs in front,” He began, describing my own home.
“Stop.” I laughed along. “Don’t be a jerk.”
“Jerk? Ohhh.” He continued to instigate. “Artie’s breaking out the big boy language.”
As our laughter filled the air I noticed Ky grow quiet. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to stop talking to Dizzy because Ky might have a crush on me. Ky’s nice and kind, but I can’t stick to his side because he welcomed me here, right? We can still become close friends if he wants, he’ll just have to deal with a little competition.
“Okay, now this classroom I know.” I excitedly explained, heading towards the large kitchen.
“Do you?” Charlotte teased as they took the opposite turn.
“Wait, what?” I asked, freezing in my tracks.
“Nice one Artie.” Dizzy giggled with a growing smile.
“Cut him some slack.” Ky defended, patiently waiting for me. “We only have cooking every other day. It gets interchanged with a computer science class, and every now and again gym class.” He explained with a smile.
“Oh.” I exhaled, carefully following them.
“You must really like cooking.” Ky teased, noticing the sudden change in my attitude.
“I’m just not that good with computers.” I shamefully admitted.
“That’s alright, I’m sure you’re a fast learner.” He tried to comfort. “Plus it’s programming, so it’s a little different from actually using a computer.”
“Yeah, everyone knows how to use a computer. No one knows how to program anything.” Dizzy chimed in. “You’ll be just as clueless as the rest of them.”
I nodded as my fears began to calm down. “We even got to make a computer game for one project. They were crappy, but they worked.” Ky explained.
“Crappy? Mine could’ve been game of the year in 1964.” Dizzy proudly held his head. “And you can take that to the bank.” I couldn’t help but laugh as he got his usual wind of goofy energy. “I still have it saved if you want to see it.”
I went to say yes, but as I saw Ky watching shook my head. “I’ll pass.” I smiled. “I don’t even want to imagine what it looked like.”
“Messy.” Ky teased as he realized I was looking right at him. “If you want, I can ask Mrs. Mack if we can sit together. You know, so I can help catch you up.”
“Are you good with computers?” I asked with a smile.
“Him?” Dizzy asked, but before he could say anything Charlotte squeezed between us.
“He’s great.” She interrupted, shooting Dizzy a side eye.
“Yeah.” He encouraged, reluctantly taking the hint.
“Alright.” I accepted as we stepped into a room with rows of P.C.s.
“I’ll switch seats with him.” Dizzy suddenly offered. “Even if I have to sit with kids I don’t know.”
“Really?” I asked, stunned by his offer.
“Sure.” He nodded, shooting Ky a smile.
“Thanks Dizz.” Ky remarked, leading me towards Mrs. Mack.
I know it wasn’t much, but that moment, that’s what has me so intrigued by Dizzy Armstrong. One moment he looks like he’s gearing up for battle, the next, he’s trying his hardest to be the best friend he can be. I just hope they both realize I’m not interested! Well, I think!
Our teacher was a small nice woman with a soft Spanish accent. She apologized a million times for the work I needed to catch up on, but promised if I worked hard enough she’d do her best to pass me. She was all for switching my new seat with Dizzy’s. Especially when his new seat was closer to the front of the room! Still, he wasn’t too far from us, just a row ahead and slightly over.
“Okay,” Mrs. Mack began. “Open Java and start typing…” She lectured instantly losing me. Ky tried his hardest to help me, but before I knew it the program and most of Dizzy’s folders were open!
“There you go.” Ky whispered, dragging a white box full of another language to the center of the screen. “Just follow along and you’ll be fine.”
I nodded but found my eyes constantly drifting to one of the folders in the background. When I was sure Ky wasn’t looking I moved the boxes around so I could fully see his files. I couldn’t help but giggle at the way he labeled them.
“That day the bus broke down on the way to school.”
“That day I lost my gym clothes.”
“That day Katniss woke me up.”
I guess it’s not the worst way to organize things, but geez, he really is this crazy. I turned and flashed him a smile, eager to ask him about his little system. Instead he made a funny face before pretending to fall asleep.
“Mr. Armstrong,” Mrs. Mack called out. “is there something you’d like to share with the class?”
“Hurry it up.” He shrugged. “I’m getting bored over here!”
“Dizzy!” She warned in a strict voice. “Perhaps you could go around assisting others if you’re done.”
“Fine.” He groaned, standing up and walking over to us. He leaned in to say something before hitting a few buttons on the keyboard, making almost everything close. “Snoop.” He teased.
“How’d you do that?” I asked, shooting him an amazed look.
“I’ve got skills.” He proudly smiled.
“Well go take your skills somewhere else. I can help Artie, go help, like, Charlotte.” Ky interrupted, looking up at him.
“Come on Ky, new kid has a lot to learn and only a few weeks to learn it.” Dizzy explained, suddenly turning combative once more. “Let’s be real, you’re not good with computers, while me, I, I’m pretty damn great.”
“You’re not that good. You just, type faster than me.” Ky tried to defend but Dizzy shot him a smug smile.
“Open your life.” Dizzy shrugged, opening yet another folder. Ky did as Dizzy had dared and before I knew it a small design pulsed on the screen.
“See.” Ky proudly showed.
“That’s awesome.” I tried to support. “You made that using this program?”
“Sure.” He smirked as Dizzy opened his. A similar design popped up on his but was smaller and faster.
“That’s not better than mine!” Ky happily defended. “I knew it!”
“Yeah, yeah,” Dizzy sighed, pushing himself off the desk. “I’ll leave him to you, but no snooping in my stuff.” He teased me as he turned around.
“Sorry about that,” Ky nervously laughed. “he can get a little competitive sometimes.”
“I can see that.” I nodded, remembering Charlotte’s words from this morning.
“Anyway, so Java is like a language, kind of like math,” Ky began to explain, trying his hardest to impress me. Every now and again he would lose me, but for the most part he was a good teacher. He had a nice patient way about himself. He gave me as much time as I needed, and didn’t even get mad when I messed up!
As class wound down I began to feel better about the whole thing. Maybe the homework won’t be so bad after all! Ky’s a really good teacher, and Dizzy doesn’t seem half bad either!
As we started to save and close everything I noticed something sitting in the folder Dizzy had left open.
“Life- first attempt, kind of shaky.”
“Life- getting better, still not there yet.”
“Life- you’re wasting your time.”
“Life- you’re a genius Dizz!”
With an eager hand I quickly opened it to find the same design as before. I couldn’t help but smile at how goofy he was. If this is his genius then…I froze, as the pattern began to explode out. It quickly expanded and engulfed the screen, moving in ways the ones they showed me before could only dream of.
I don’t understand. He threw his bet with Ky? Did he notice Ky getting defensive? Did he let off the gas because he thinks Ky has dibs? Does he just not actually like me?
“Come on!” Charlotte shouted from near the door as Ky and Dizzy stood by.
I quickly closed all the windows before catching up with everyone. “We have to run ahead before we’re late.” Ky motioned. “But if you need help on any of your homework just text me.”
“Okay.” I smiled to him, before looking over to Dizzy. “You’re a genius.” I cryptically spoke as he tilted his head.
“Thank you?” He cautiously let out as it connected in his head. “Don’t mention it.”
“Yeah?” I teased with a growing smile.
“Some things are just better left unsaid.” He shrugged. “Now come on Ky, we don’t wanna be late.”
“What was that about?” Charlotte dug as they turned the corner. “I’ve never seen Dizzy rush to class in my life.”
“Nothing.” I blushed with a smile.
“Come on.” She pressured. “I won’t tell them a thing.”
“Dizzy threw a competition to teach me.” I quickly caved, eager to get her opinion. “They were debating who was the better teacher, and,”
“Who was?” She interrupted with a confused look.
“Dizzy and Ky,”
“Wait.” She cut off once more. “Ky thought he was better than Dizzy at computers?”
“Well yeah, why? You said he was good before class. Is he not?” I asked as a grin spread on her face.
“Dizzy’s pretty magical behind the computers screen. Aside from graffiti all he does is sit at home and learn. He claims it helps him plan out his art work, but I still don’t understand what that means.” She shook her head. “I just figured you were better with Ky.”
“So then why’d he throw the competition?” I prodded, as a million questions entered my mind.
“Don’t know.” She shrugged. “Guess he’s respecting Ky’s dibs.”
“I’m not gay.” I insisted once more.
“Maybe not.” She agreed. “But you like the attention Ky has been giving you, and, I don’t know, you have sort of a thing with Dizzy.”
“No I don’t,” I tried to argue.
“No?” She asked. “ So you two just randomly smile at each other because?”
“It’s an inside joke.” I lied, but knew she saw right through it.
“It’s alright.” She tried to comfort. “You have two guys fighting over you, the least you could do is enjoy it.”
“I just don’t want to hurt them.” I shook my head.
“Then don’t.” She shrugged. “If they fall for you with no signs, that’s on them. But I bet you wind up with Dizzy.”
“Will not.” I argued, suddenly thinking of Ky. Don’t get me wrong, Dizzy’s cool, but Ky. He’s just brave and calm. He brings a level of comfort with him. One that...wait! Why am I thinking of this? They’re just friends! That’s it!
“We’ll see.” She shrugged, looking me up and down. “Want to go to the coffee house near the mall on Sunday?” I shot her a weird look at the sudden change of conversation. “The boys fighting for you takes up all your time, and I don’t know, I like talking to you.”
“I like talking to you too.” I quickly smiled. “I, I’ll ok see you at the coffee shop.”
“Good.” She nodded her head as we reached the class room. “But just to be clear, I don’t like you any more than a friend.”
“Charlotte!” I let out in shock. “That was kind of harsh.”
“Hey, everyone I know seems to be falling for you. I’m just making sure your ego doesn’t inflate too much!” She teased through laughter.
“You’re sure this doesn’t happen often?” I asked as she walked into the classroom.
“Never to me.” She complained in a laugh. “But you, you have that country boy charm those two idiots want.”
“I don’t know what that means.” I replied as a blush overtook my face.
“The way you talk, come on.” She pressured, taking a long look at me.
“What’s wrong with how I talk?” I asked, beginning to grow conscious of the way the words rolled off my tongue.
“Nothing’s wrong with it.” She tried to clarify. “You just talk slow with kind of a twang to it, and those yes sir’s and mam’s.”
“So they like me because I talk different?” I asked, not quite understanding her point.
She let out a deep sigh and stared into my eyes. “You’re just as clueless as them.” She shook her head. “To them your accent, it’s something different. It’s something we don’t have a lot of around here. You’re different, and to them that’s exciting, just like to you were exciting because we’re different.”
“Yeah, but I’m not falling for everyone I meet.” I defended, still trying to wrap my mind around it.
“You’re also a lot more repressed than us.” She shrugged. “Besides, I guess I’m kind of simplifying it. It’s not like they heard your voice and freaked out. You’re just, you’ve got a good style going for you.”
“Thought you didn’t like me like that?” I teased with a growing grin.
“I don’t.” She tried to fight off a blush. “It’s just, you’re kind of cute Artie Price. Those blank shirts and slim jeans with boots. It’s almost like you’re wearing them ironically, then I remember you’re from a different world.”
This time it was my turn to blush. “Thank you Charlotte, I-I think you’re very pretty too.”
“Pretty?” She repeated. “Oh Artie, if you are straight we have to work on that.”
“I am straight.” I insisted for what felt like the hundredth time. “And why? You really want to be called hot?”
“Pretty’s just way too, gentle.” She shook her head as class began. “We’ll work on it Sunday.”
“Sure.” I groaned, looking straight ahead.
I guess I understand what she means by something different. After all, I’ve been enjoying San Francisco so much because of that! But still, that doesn’t mean Dizzy and Ky need to fight to the death over me. Even if I do enjoy all the attention!
As class droned on Charlotte did her best to sneak a conversation. It started with the small things she noticed throughout her day, and quickly turned into analyzing everything in the room around us. She’s just extremely perceptive I guess. It seems like she notices anything and everything going on around her. In a lot of ways I want her to teach me, but at the same time, learning that much about people so quickly? It seems like a death sentence!
When class finally came to an end and we prepared for lunch I noticed her delaying at her locker. Pretty soon I realized she wasn’t even doing anything! She was just standing there staring at a much bigger guy down the hall. As I took a good look at him I quickly realized why I wasn’t her type. I’m not sure massive is even how to describe him! How the hell is he in high school?! His arm is like, five of mine!
“You think he’s pretty?” I couldn’t help but tease, making sure to use the forbidden word from before.
“Artie!” She quietly gasped. “Just, give me a minute to get ready.”
“Come on.” I provoked with a grin. “I spilt my guts.”
“No you haven’t. You just keep insisting you’re straight.” She rolled her eyes.
“Alright fine, I-I will if you spill yours.” I bravely confessed as our eyes connected.
“Fine.” She caved, relieved to get it all off her chest. “His name is Brian and he’s the captain of the football team.”
“Yeah?” I asked, slowly taking a few steps back.
“What are you doing?” She stared me down as I started to grow closer. “Artie!” She forced out as her eyes bulged.
Normally I would be scared shitless to talk to random people, but this is for Charlotte. I want her to know I have her back, and I hope in return I can know she has mine.
“Hey you’re Brian right?” I bravely asked feeling nerves began to beat in my chest.
“Can I help you?” He asked turning to me before taking a step back.
“I was told to ask you about the football team.” I lied, having no plan further than that.
“Oh,” He nodded his head. “you’re new around here?”
“Yeah, from Texas.” I replied, amazed that he had actually started a conversation.
“Awesome, that’s a huge football state.” He accepted, looking me up and down once more. “Ida B. doesn’t have a team, so we have to share with the other public schools around here. What are you, a sophomore?” He asked as I nodded my head. “Well the seasons over anyway, so why don’t you spend the summer bulking up, and then we can talk.”
“Okay.” I accepted, trying my hardest to ignore the shot to my pride. “She’ll make sure I get into shape.” I motioned towards Charlotte, trying to bring her into the conversation any way I could.
“Girlfriend who likes football, that must be pretty nice.” He remarked, grabbing his bag from the floor.
“Oh no, she’s not my girlfriend, I’m just,”
“It’s all good brother.” He encouraged beginning to walk away. “I’ll see you around kid, add some muscle and we may make a receiver out of you yet.”
“Yeah.” I sighed as Charlotte quickly walked up behind me.
“Well, what’d he say?” She quickly demanded.
“Nothing.” I shook my head. “He just told me to put on weight then come talk to him in the fall.”
She shot me a weird look as she quickly figured out my approach. “And when you pointed to me?” She asked but I stayed quiet. “Oh.” She quietly exhaled.
“He didn’t say anything bad, he just,” Before I could finish the sentence she leaned forward and laid a soft kiss on my cheek.
“Thank you Artie.” She said as my face began to blush.
“But I didn’t even,”
“It doesn’t matter.” She interrupted once more. “Not even Dizzy or Ky would have done that for me. You’re new here and you still tried to wingman for me.”
“Of course, you’ve been showing me around and making sure I feel welcomed.” I nervously explained. “I’ve got your back.”
“And I have yours.” She happily agreed as we began to walk towards the cafeteria. “But, you still owe that secret of yours.”
I swayed my head and looked over to her. “Promise you won’t tell?” I asked as she nodded her head. “I-I fell asleep on Dizzy’s shoulder on the way back from the bridge.”
“Oh Artie.” She sighed with a shake of her head. “No wonder he’s got it so bad for you.”
“He doesn’t, I mean, I just, I told him I was straight.” I stuttered, not knowing what else to say.
“You say that a lot.” She teased, thinking it over. “Ky can never know about that, got it?”
“I know.” I agreed in a sigh.
As she looked me up and down I saw a devious plan entering her mind. “If you were gay, and I’m not saying you are, who do you prefer, Dizzy or Ky?”
“I just met them both.” I quickly spoke, thinking of the best excuse possible.
“That wasn’t the question.” She teased with hungry eyes.
“Honestly?” I asked as she quickly nodded her head. “I have no idea.”
She let out a sigh and connected eyes with me. “I still say Dizzy.”
“Charlotte!” I yelped as we entered the cafeteria.
She tried her hardest to stifle her laughter, but the closer we got to the lunch table the harder she laughed. “Alright,” She finally exhaled. “I’m going to go buy lunch. Don’t scare him off Dizzy.”
“No promises.” Dizzy smirked. As she began to turn away she quickly raised her eyebrows then let them fall back down.
“Where’s Ky?” I forced out, trying my hardest to ignore Charlotte’s silent encouragement.
“Buying lunch.” Dizzy shrugged, finally looking up at me.
“So I hear you’re pretty good at computers.” I teased, but instantly saw his eyes fall back down. “Why’d you throw your little bet with Ky?”
“Just figured it meant more to him than me.” He sighed, poking his food around. “Can we not talk about this?”
“Okay.” I slowly nodded. “But for the record, I think that’s pretty awesome of you.”
A soft smile began on his face but he quickly fought it off. “Excited to go surfing tomorrow?”
“Yeah.” I eagerly let out, surprising us both. “I’ve never been in the ocean before either, so it’ll be a whole new experience. Are you coming?”
“I’m not that good a surfer.” He shook his head. “Besides, I think Ky was hoping he could show you the ropes one on one.”
“Are you just saying you’re not a good surfer?” I teased, but got a quick roll of the eyes back. “Oh come on Dizzy, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” He sighed, pushing apart his food a little bit more.
“Okay, I-if you need to talk, well, I’m around.” I offered finally drawing his gaze back up. “I know I haven’t known you for long, but I, I like goofy energetic Dizzy.”
“Even if he might get you in trouble?” He hesitantly asked.
“Even if he gets me in trouble.” I agreed, finally drawing a smile from him.
“What if he gets you in trouble from watching Game of Thrones?” Dizzy asked with a growing smile. “Because ever since we made our deal I’ve been ripping through the books.”
“Oh yeah?” I asked, relieved to see his mood picking up. “What book are you on?”
“I’m halfway through the second.” He proudly answered.
“That’s cute.” I teased, trying my hardest to look unimpressed.
“Oh yeah?” He giggled. “And what book are you on?”
“Book three.” I answered as our eyes met. “Book two is so, two days ago.”
“Is that so?” He asked in a giggle.
“Yup.” I happily nodded. “If we’re lucky I think I can convince my uncle to let us watch the show at my place.”
“Is he cool?” Dizzy prodded almost surprised by the offer.
“You have no idea.” I smiled. Dizzy went to say something but quickly shut his mouth as he noticed Ky approaching from the lunch line.
“Hey Artie.” Ky smiled as he stepped into hearing range. “How was math?”
“As fun as math can be.” I shrugged. “Charlotte kept me entertained.”
“Well if you ever need help in math, I’m pretty good at that too.” He happily offered.
“Is there anything you’re not good at?” I teased at the confident teen next to me.
“Writing essays.” He said with an exaggerated grimace.
I couldn’t help but laugh and lean back in my seat. “Well if you tutor me in math I’ll tutor you in English.”
“Deal.” He happily accepted. “I was also thinking I could show you the wharf on Sunday.”
“I can’t.” I shook my head as Dizzy cautiously watched us both. “I’m going for coffee with Charlotte.”
“You don’t drink coffee.” Dizzy sniffed out as he connected eyes with me then quickly looked away.
“Why wouldn’t he drink coffee?” Ky asked, trying to force eye contact.
“Just can tell.” Dizzy shrugged but grew quiet once more.
“I don’t drink coffee,” I confirmed with a smile. “but I do drink tea.”
I saw a joke rise in Dizzy’s eyes, but he bit his tongue. “Maybe I can tag along with you guys.” Ky offered.
“Tag along where?” Charlotte asked as she reached the table.
“The coffee shop on,”
“Absolutely not!” She interrupted before he could finish. “You two hog Artie all day, and we have stuff to discuss.”
“Sure you do.” Ky rolled his eyes.
“We do.” I confirmed with a nod of my head. Charlotte and I shared a smile as both Ky and Dizzy watched on in confusion.
“So what?” Dizzy began. “You two are going to be best friends?”
“You two have one another, maybe I need someone.” Charlotte replied, knowing it would get under their skin.
“Seems fair to me.” I egged on with a smile. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see the wharf.”
“Sometime next week?” Ky asked as a combination of surprise and excitement filled his eyes.
“Sure.” I agreed before trailing off and looking into his eyes. Just like yesterday a calming silence filled the air.
“So then maybe we could go to the zoo as a group?” Dizzy asked, interrupting the moment.
“And do what?” Charlotte asked, shooting him a blank stare.
“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “Just, just see animals and enjoy our day.”
“What are you five?” Ky shook his head. “Pass.”
“I’ll go with you.” I accepted as his eyes began to fall to the table. “I’ve never been to a zoo before.”
“I’ll take you next week.” Dizzy happily announced. “You’re going to love it.”
I noticed Ky shoot him a serious look as he heard those words. Something’s going on between them. I know Charlotte said they’re both competitive, but I’m not some trophy to be won! And I’ve already told them both I’m not gay, so whatever happens from here, it’s on them!
The rest of lunch saw the same pattern happening. Dizzy would stay quiet but eventually speak up when he noticed Ky and I growing closer. Just like before he walked the line of competition and friend, and I could tell it was starting to bother Ky. I swear, if they don’t cut it out soon me and Charlotte are just going to sit by ourselves for lunch!
Luckily for me my next few classes were separated amongst the three. I would spend some time with Dizzy, then with Ky, and end the day with Charlotte. I’ve never really had a best friend before, but I imagine they sort of feel like what me and Charlotte are starting to build. It feels like anything we say sparks a big conversation. Most people think I’m weird, but not her. She’s not afraid to jump into the same rabbit holes as me. To explore ideas people simplify.
On our way out Charlotte made sure to walk me home with no assistance from the guys. Nothing against them, but Charlotte and I just can’t handle their passive aggression towards one another.
“How about that moment you and Ky had at lunch?” She made sure to tease as we walked through the large park.
“It wasn’t a moment.” I lied, keeping my eyes straight ahead.
“You know I won’t judge you if you admit you kinda like them both.” She offered with a smile. “No one around here will.”
“I don’t understand why this has to be a whole big thing.” I grumbled, still refusing to look at her.
“Those two idiots made it into a thing, don’t shoot the messenger.” She defended taking a seat on one of the benches.
“What are you doing?” I sighed, slowing my pace enough so not to leave her.
“Drawing the line.” She crossed her arms. “I’m not going to force you to take a stand on your sexuality, but I am going to force you to take a stand on this situation. You either sit them both down tomorrow and tell them you’re not interested romantically, or…” She trailed off.
“Or what?” I asked with a shake of my head. “I ask one out?”
“No, you start seriously considering which one you want to date.” She answered with a straight face. “I’m sorry Artie, but they’re going to fight and fight and fight until they have their answer. Yesterday you said you don’t want to lead them on, so it’s time to put your money where your mouth is.”
“It’s only my second day here.” I complained, finally connecting eyes with her. “This, it’s a lot all at once.”
“I know, and I’m sorry.” She apologized making sure to give me as genuine a look as possible. “But if you’re actually straight telling them to relax shouldn’t be a problem for you.”
“Okay, then that’s what I’ll do.” I stubbornly insisted.
“Okay.” She nodded, standing up and joining me.
“That easy?” I asked, shooting her a skeptical look.
“Yup.” She smiled. “I’ll help you sit them both down and break the news.” She explained but as she grew closer I knew she saw the hesitation in my eyes. “Unless you don’t want to.”
“For someone who’s not trying to make me take a stand, you sure are looking for a stand.” I complained, looking back down.
“I’m just trying to help you realize what you actually want.” She supported, bucking me with her shoulder. “It’s not a bad thing to see where a relationship with one of them goes. I don’t think it makes you gay either. Just, curious.”
I nodded and exhaled a deep breath as I heard those words. The truth is I am curious. I always have been. But after years and years of bible thumpers for teachers you learn to push it away. But now there aren’t people forcing their faith on me. There’s no one to shame me for sharing a moment with Ky or Dizzy. No one to make me feel like my emotions are wrong.
“Maybe I want to ride it out.” I mumbled in a low voice.
Before I knew it she wrapped her arms around me and pulled me close. “I’ll be here the whole time.” She promised as she let me go.
“But isn’t this weird for you,” I began, taking a long look at her. “you just met me, and those are your best friends.”
“Yeah,” She swayed her head. “but you remind me of myself, and sometimes I wish I had someone to push me. Kinda like the way you pushed me when you spoke to Brian.”
I nodded my head and looked over to her as we stood outside of my house. “This stays between us?”
“Of course.” She accepted with a smile. “So does the Brian thing.”
“Deal.” I accepted as I felt our bond strengthen.
“Oh, and I change my vote.” She announced as she began to walk back towards the school. “You’re totally going to choose Ky.”
I shook my head and ran up the big staircase before unlocking the door and slipping inside. I let out a big breath as I shut it and dropped my backpack to the floor.
“Long day?” Adam asked from the couch.
“Something like that.” I sighed, picking the bag up and heading up to my room.
“You okay?” he poked as concern entered his face.
“Yeah.” I quickly nodded. I went to walk towards the bathroom but as I saw movement come from the kitchen nearly jumped out of my skin.
“Oh. My. God!” A female voice shouted as she walked out of the kitchen. “Adam! He looks just like you when you first got here!”
First got here? Who is this? And how has she known him for that long? “Artie,” Adam began. “this is my best friend Lindsay Rite. Lindsay, this is my nephew Arthur.”
“You look just like him.” She shook her head as she walked over and extended a hand.
“Thank you?” I softly let out, not knowing whether it was a compliment or not.
“Wait! Say something else.” She excitedly shouted and we shook hands.
“This is getting a little weird ma’am.” I uncomfortable forced out.
“You get used to it.” Adam sighed from the couch.
“Oh! He has that accent you lost.” She whined. “This is crazy! It’s like I stepped into a time machine!”
“Pull it back Linds.” Adam instructed from the couch.
“Sorry, I just, wow.” Lindsay shook her head taking another long look at me. “I know you said there’s some resemblance, but I didn’t expect this! And drop the Ma’am! It’s just Lindsay to you!”
“It’s that close?” I asked, caught off guard by her reaction. I know you can tell we’re related, hell, I saw it myself when I first met him! But the idea I look just like him at fifteen, that’s kind of crazy.
“No.” Adam shook his head, but Lindsay quietly nodded, contradicting him.
“So I hear you’re going to be joining us at the shop in a few weeks?” She asked, walking back towards the kitchen.
“Yeah,” I nodded following after her. “Just on the weekends and all.”
“Good, we could use a cute face behind the register.” She teased with a smile. I watched carefully as she began to cut up some vegetables. “You can help if you want.” She offered noticing me watching her.
“Okay.” I accepted, putting my bag back down and walking over.
“Are you okay with cutting things?” She asked as I stood next to her.
“I used to do it back home.” I answered, switching positions with her.
“That’s awfully sweet of you.” She encouraged with a growing smile. “Adam was a train wreck when he first got here.”
“Stop.” Adam interrupted from the living room.
“He was.” She confirmed, but didn’t dare to go any further.“So what are you like?”
I shrugged thinking over the question I had been asked so much these past few days. “Quiet.” I answered, still not knowing what to say.
“So then looks are the only thing you and Adam have in common?” She asked in a laugh. “You don’t like movies, video games or traveling like he does?”
“I really just started seeing good movies, so I don’t know.” I shrugged. “And I guess I like traveling. This is my first time.”
“And you’re enjoying it?” She checked, glancing over to me as I carefully chopped carrots.
“I think so.” I nodded my head.
“Adam said you saw the bridge yesterday, how was that?”
“Awesome.” I answered, but as I tried to reflect back on the site all I could see was Dizzy laying back first against the fence. “You could see everything from there.”
“Mhm.” She hummed with a smile. “And then you have Surfing tomorrow.”
“He told you about that too?” I asked looking up at her.
“We tell each other everything.” She explained without thinking about it. Everything? So are they like dating or something? I know Adam said he wasn’t gay, but I thought that was a lie. I mean I say I’m not, and well, I don’t know, look at my school life! “Didn’t expect him to bring home a new friend from Texas though.”
“I don’t think either of us did.” I confessed, keeping my eyes down.
“Well I think it’ll be good for him.” She decided in a confident nod. “And if you’re like him, it’ll be good for you too.”
I grew quiet at those words, not in a bad way or anything. It’s all just a lot at once. First the whole Charlotte show down in the park and now this? It’s like the universe didn’t just flip my world upside down, but started shaking it too!
Yet still, dinner was nice. Lindsay was a welcomed wrinkle into our house. When Adam and I grew quiet she made sure to keep the conversation flowing. She was so different, and yet so similar. It was like her and Adam just understood one another. As though they connected on another level I wasn’t even aware of! They’re totally dating! I mean they have to be! Right?
When she finally left the house fell quiet again. I resumed my normal spot in the corner of the couch reading a book, while Adam quickly picked his video games back up.
“You like her?” He suddenly asked, interrupting the silence.
“She was cool.” I nodded, not even looking up from my book.
“So it’s cool if she’s here every now and then?” He checked, looking over to me.
“Yup.” I confirmed, not putting too much thought into it. “It’s not like you have to ask. If she’s your girlfriend then,”
“She’s not my girlfriend.” He quickly interrupted before looking back at the T.V. “We’re just close is all.”
I glanced over to him and noticed a red blush had filled his cheeks. “How do you know one another?”
“That’s a story for another day.” He shot down, refusing to make eye contact.
As I looked down to my book and pretended to read, I couldn’t help but watch him closely. Okay, if they’re so close, why’s he being so weird? And if they are dating, why lie about it? I don’t understand why he’s so secretive and weird about stuff. I understand his past may be a sensitive subject, but I’ve come from the same place. I understand what he’s gone through. He doesn’t need to be alone, and neither do I.