No one’s POV
Veronica and Nikolas laid back, enjoying the last remaining minutes to their lunch break. The temperature was just perfect to be outside. It was cold and warm at the same time, the sun warming them up through the clouds.
They’d originally been three, but Lucas had suddenly remembered he hadn’t finished the paper he had due for next class.
“Oh it’s not the first time he’s ‘broken up’ with me.” Veronica said using air quotes. “It’s just the first time he’s gone running to you.”
Nikolas snorted. “And you’re not worried?”
“Nah, the guy can try, but he’s stuck with me.” Veronica smirked. She kicked some snow at Nikolas. “You’ve been kind of silent…what are you thinking about?”
“I’m trying to think of a place to go…I mean I think I’ve found a place that has a cool special next week, but it feels kind of out of place to just-”
Veronica cut him off. “What do you mean a place to go? You planning on heading somewhere?”
Nikolas hesitated before answering. “Yeah somewhere in town. With Sal.” He didn’t even need to look at his cousin to know what face she was making.
“Oh…I see.” The teasing smile was clear in her voice.
“Don’t even.” Niko snapped. “This is a friendly outing. Don’t you think this whole assuming things is getting old?”
Veronica hopped off the stairs, scooping up a snowball and throwing it at Niko’s head.
“Pardon me! Don’t know where my mind was, assuming such completely out of the realm of possibility things.” Veronica said.
Nikolas got up with a scowl.
“Either way,” Veronica said, deciding not to push him any further. “I think it’s a fantastic idea! What with Salandra’s birthday being next week. But you knew that right?”
“Her birthday is next week?”
“See I knew you didn’t know that, but you didn’t need to be some blatant about it. It’s a little insulting you know.”
“Ha, well that works out nicely.” He said, completely ignoring her comment as he brushed out the last bits of snow from his hair. “Do you know what day it is?”
“Yeah obviously but it’s going to cos-” Veronica began.
“What day is it?”
She sighed inwardly as her younger cousin looked up at her with eyes eager for the answer. She couldn’t really put a price on the information now could she?
The sound of the blue-haired girl’s surprise faintly echoed through the busy corridors of students opening and closing their lockers.
“What?” She stared, wide disbelieving eyes at the bandana wearing boy. She didn’t trust her own ears to have heard correctly.
Niko couldn’t possibly have just asked her out right?
And then she remembered the conversation she’d had with Zac just barely a day ago.
But how would Zac have even-
“I just wanted to know if you wanted to hang out next week. There’s this arcade downtown with a special.” Nikolas said and she found herself getting distracted by his eyes again.
A hang out, that was clearly not a date.
Oh but did it really matter what it was? This boy made her weak in the knees with just a look at times, so whether it was a date or not she was most definitely not going to pass up the chance to spend time with him.
Even if it did slightly annoy her that Zac might have somehow orchestrated this. Or in other words, that Niko didn’t come up with this himself.
“Oh, but yeah, I didn’t think of that. It is your birthday, so if you already have something planned-” Nikolas started, actually looking a little nervous.
“No! No. I had nothing planned.” Zac really be involved or not, Nikolas actually seemed to want to, and that her more than happy. A few months ago, she couldn’t help but feel like her presence was a burden to him at times. “I’d love to.”
With the sun just beginning to set over Ridgevalley’s river, the two teens made their way into the arcade.
Nikolas and Salandra took off their coats, hanging them up as they were greeted with a wave of chatter and electronic beeping. The two grinned, casting a look around.
The place wasn’t as full as you could’ve expected with the promotion they were advertising for the week. But the day had been sharp, cold and slippery and most had decided to stay home on a Thursday evening.
The teens eyed the various prizes displayed in the back, from cheap gum to fancy microphones.
“Hey look an eight ball. I’m aiming for that.” Nikolas said as he paid the machine near the door for the arcade coins. He grabbed the coins that tumbled out as Salandra moved forwards to pay for her own. He stopped her. “Come on Sal, it’s your birthday.” He said, dropping half of the huge batch of coins in her hands.
She couldn’t find the words to protest.
“I’m going to own that one.” Nikolas smirked pointing to a game in the corner. Salandra cast a look around. She didn’t play video games much, but all of them looked like they had the potential to be fun.
“I want to try that one first.”
He glanced her way and caught sight of a certain someone before he spotted the game she was talking about. He scowled for a split second, but the person hadn’t noticed him yet…and it would probably be rude and ruin the trip if he went looking for trouble. So he decided to forget what he’d seen.
“The claw? That’s not really…a game?” Nikolas said. “And you can’t get tickets from that you know.”
“I know that, but I’ve never tried one before and we’re here to have fun right?” Salandra said, not halting in her march towards the machine. “Not just to get a prize.”
“Well yeah…but it’s a nice bonus. But hey! Your birthday.” Nikolas shrugged and followed her.
“…you know it’s a one-player game right?”
“I’m here to witness your victory…or your failure.” Nikolas smirked.
Salandra plopped a few coins in the machine and grabbed the joystick.
“Well it is my first time so it wouldn’t be surprising if I didn’t catch anything.” She half-mumbled.
“No of course not…” Nikolas said, leaning forwards to stare closely, and purposefully stressing Salandra out. She tried to gauge where to drop the claw and just as she was about to press the button… “Careful!” Nikolas exclaimed and she stepped back instantly, letting go of the controls. “Wow you jumped! Haha I was just teasing.” He said, and even though he was laughing at her expense she simply shook her head with a smile and went back to the machine.
“Look! Look! I got one! Ha!” She exclaimed as the claw whirred upwards, a little bunny now trapped in it. Salandra wanted to fist pump and laugh in his face for even suggesting she’d fail.
“Impressive.” He said a little mockingly, but she paid no heed to it. She picked up the bunny and gave it to Nikolas not really having much want or reason to keep it.
Before a confused Nikolas holding a bunny could comment, she’d spotted her next target.
“Claw machine mastered, next up…” She dramatically gestured at the machine right in front of her. “That one.”
Nikolas set the bunny aside. “Dance dance revolution.” He did a relatively bad impression of the robot. “Yeah I got some moves for dance dance revolution.”
Salandra chuckled and made her way over, plopping a coin in and Nikolas did the same.
“I’ve played this a few times already, so I’m not a complete novice at this one.” Sal said, testing out the arrows.
“I am.” Nikolas casually said, trying to touch all the arrows at once. “My sister always hogged the ones my cousins had.”
The two started to play a few songs, both needing two or three warm up ones before they actually started scoring points.
They easily whizzed by a good dozen songs, with Salandra winning the majority.
“How come you keep getting perfects and they keep booing me?” Nikolas asked, mistiming his double step again.
“They’re not always booing you.”
“This mat must be defective.” Nikolas frowned.
“Sure.” Salandra chuckled.
“No I swear! I bet you I’m just not heavy enough…”
“Niko!” Salandra exclaimed.
“Did it work? Did I get the double?” He asked from his upside down position.
She couldn’t stop giggling long enough to answer him. “That’s not how you play dance dance revolution!” She said, lightly pushing at his legs and making him flip back.
“It could be though.”
The two gathered up their tickets, visiting nearly every single game and replaying the ones with high records until they’d emptied their stock of coins and gathered enough of tickets for a prize.
More specifically, the 8-ball Nikolas had spotted earlier. They’d been joking about what they’d ask it to reveal and now there really wasn’t any doubt that it would be their chosen prize.
Nikolas triumphantly marched towards the prize counter, slapping the impressive amount of tickets down on it, announcing the prize he wanted. He wasn’t the only one.
Venkat, the person Nikolas had so successfully managed to ignore, had decided to do the same.
The employee looked at them both, unsure of who came first and of who to serve.
The two boys slowly turned to glare at each other, as if they’d just fully acknowledged the other’s presence even though they’d been in the same room for the last two hours. Both had been trying not to get into an unpleasant situation, both for the sake of the people they came with.
But now those reasons had been completely forgotten as they each glared a I was here first, the 8-ball’s mine.
Venkat’s reason for previously behaving, his girlfriend, rested her head in her hand and shook it slowly with a sigh.
“Here we go again.” She said to no one in particular. “I really can’t take him out in public.”
“No sense in letting a squabble ruin a day.” Salandra commented, and the other girl nodded in agreement.
“Especially not for something so trivial.” She added as the tension between the boys grew palpable.
Salandra walked over and cut into the boys’ silent glare contest, leaning over the counter to talk to the employee who hadn’t done much of anything from wait for the teens to decide who would go first.
“You have an extra one right?” She asked, pointing at the 8-ball through the glass.
“Yeah sure.” He said, pulling out another one from the box.
“Problem solved.” She said smiling at Niko and Venkat, who both eased slightly. If only all problems were this easy to solve.
Venkat’s girlfriend ended up mouthing a thanks to Salandra before the two left.
It was way past supper time when the two teens started the walk back home.
The walk went by quickly as they tested the 8-ball with any kind of question they could come up with and got the weirdest of answers. Soon the toy had been put away and Salandra’s large house came into view.
“Well there you go!” Nikolas said as they walked onto her front yard.
Salandra looked up at the tall expensive home in which her uncle had probably bought a small cake for her birthday. Her eyes drifted back to Niko, who had his arms stretched out as if he were presenting her the world.
“Happy birthday!” He said with a grin and she smiled back. “I hope you had fun, even though I didn’t get you anything.”
Had fun? The day had been an absolute blast. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d laughed so much in the span of just a few hours. She felt giddy and thankful, and she wished it didn’t need to end so soon.
With a smile on his face and his arms stretched out in what almost seemed in a welcome way, Salandra couldn’t help but compare the situation to just a few months ago. Back then, if she were to be completely honest, her crush had been mostly a pretty face with a knack for getting into trouble and adventure.
Now she truly felt like they were connecting – and even if that was just as friends it still made her incredibly happy.
Salandra stepped forwards in between the welcoming arms and wrapped her own around Niko’s neck.
She’d acted on impulse, but she’d been at a loss of words to show her thanks for the day.
Nikolas was more shocked than anything else. He hadn’t quite expected the sudden hug, or her hair suddenly in his face.
He didn’t respond back, but Salandra had retreated back too quickly for him to anyways.
“Thank you. It was fun.” She managed to say as she felt her cheeks start warm up. Before it became obvious that she was blushing from just a hug, she rushed up the stairs to her home and retreated inside.
She hid, peeking through the curtains as Nikolas stood, his arms still a little outstretched before they dropped to his side. He glanced around, his eyes lingering on her front door, before he started to make his way home.
Maybe it was just the crushing girl inside her, but she swore she spotted a smile before he turned away.
“See? What did I tell you?” Zac slouched on the locker beside mine and I sighed, but not from anger. Zac wasn’t that annoying anymore, no…he was verging more on pitiful at times. That’s if I had to put a term to it.
“Nothing interesting probably.” I said, fingering my locker as I wondered if I had the time to study some math real quick during break.
“He asked you out didn’t he?” Zac said, the smirk clear in his voice as he leaned forwards.
“We had a friendly outing.” I replied.
“I told you!” He said victoriously.
I shook my head at him. “You said it’d be a date.”
“That’s not exactly-”
“No, no you specified that word. Sorry Zac, no deal.” I said with a half-hearted apologetic shrug.
“He still took you out, not my fault he didn’t understand it was supposed to be a date!” Zac almost exclaimed. “And I did make it happen, just like I warned you.” He added, reminding me of the conversation he’d made a point of having just a day before Niko surprised me.
“I thought you were someone who kept her word.” Zac said, wading into dangerous territory. But in a way he was right…this was the consequence of my selfish deal.
“You’ll get what I got if it’s that important to you. You’ll get a friendly outing. I’m free on Sunday at one pm if you want to hang out as friends.” I said, putting heavy weight on the key words.
“I’ll take what I can get.” Zac said with a triumphant smile.
As he was heading off, he turned around to tell me one more thing before saluting me. “I’d sharpen your skates by Sunday if I were you!”
I hope he doesn’t actually believe this is me leading him on.
I can feel it…this is going to be a mistake isn’t it?
I heard the soft thud of someone’s footsteps stop behind me.
“Tut tut, it’s the beginning of the end for you.” The girl tsked behind me as she watched Zac disappear in the corridors.
“Dawn?” I turned around, recognizing the girl from summer camp and Zac’s ex. We’d only talked once or twice in school. She hung out with the seniors mostly.
“I thought you knew better than to fall for this playboy’s tricks. He’ll drop you like this,” She snapped her fingers two centimeters from my nose. “once you’ve fallen for him. Believe me, he’s not worth it.”
“You know what’s annoying?” I said, swatting her hand away. “People constantly deciding who’s worth what as if that could be decided by one person.” I spat out. I straightened in surprise at my small outburst. I wasn’t trying to defend Zac that’s for sure… “I know you’re right about Zac though… but I did give my word.” I ended up saying in what I hoped was a nicer tone.
At least Zac didn’t decide on something date-like as in a movie. He had the decency to actually pick something friends would do: ice-skating. I’m starting to hope that maybe he’s getting the message. That maybe we could be friends…I really wouldn’t mind having more friends.
We went to a small frozen lake by the end of the river. There wasn’t anyone else…which isn’t surprising. Pretty sure they all went to the arena downtown to skate. Plus the weather is kind of gloomy for outdoor activities. Zac didn’t show any sign of backing down from this though.
We tied up our skates way too tightly. My uncle sometimes takes me skating. It’s on his list of activities he has to do with me I’m sure.
“How’d your hang out go with Niko?” Zac said, putting on his other skate. “Did he…you know, do anything?”
“We were two friends hanging out – like we’re going to do.” I specified.
“That must’ve been disappointing.” Zac said, gauging my reaction.
“This event suddenly got boring.”
“Ever skate before?” Zac changed subjects, extending his hand to help me up. I ignored it and got up on my own.
I hopped onto the ice, my skates making a satisfying chip sound. I skated around the lake, enjoying the fresh air and the stillness of the place. Winter was gorgeous this way.
“So the Queen can indeed skate.” Zac noticed, testing his skates on the ice. I grimaced at the nickname. And then he did something pretty stupid if you ask me.
He started speeding off to the other side of the lake, trying to break at the end, but only managing a wide turn.
“What are you doing?” I asked in amusement.
“I used to be able brake-” He said, trying again and nearly unbalancing himself.
I laughed. “At this point you’re going to fall.”
“Oh and the lady can do better?”
“Well I can’t brake…but I can touch my toes!” I said with a grin, demonstrating.
“I can skate backwards.” Zac announced, flipping around and skating along side me.
“You look a bit wobbly there.” I said.
“Nah, that’s just how it looks when you skate backwards.”
“Are you sure?” I asked, poking his knee.
I didn’t actually expect him to stumble from just that!
His skates suddenly criss-crossed out of control and I reached out to help him keep his balance.
We started to spin in a circle very slowly, our balance held only by our arms.
“Whew! Close one!” Zac let out a breath.
“I told you.”
“Good thing you were there to save me.” He said, and I might’ve blinked and missed it, but I think he winked at me. I resisted a groan.
And then our slow spin suddenly grew larger, throwing us both off balance.
Zac held onto my hands, and we ended up bumping heads in an attempt not to fall.
“Ouch.” I muttered as Zac laughed.
“Oops.” He smirked. I narrowed my eyes at our hands. If he hadn’t been holding onto them my head wouldn’t be pounding right now and he says a very unconvincing oops?
“We seem to be in a predicament. If we let go we’ll just end up falling.” He said, commenting on our precarious pyramid balance.
I looked into his eyes and saw genuine flirty amusement, and there wasn’t any more doubt now that mister hadn’t fully understood it yet.
“Zac. You know there will never ever be anything between us right?” Maybe not the best moment…but I might actually have a higher chance of him listening. “This is just a game you’re playing?”
“If that’s how you want to see it.” He said with that same smile, our foreheads still pressed together. I sure hope he doesn’t have a case of head lice.
“Zac, I like someone else. Plus, you are aware of your really bad womanizer reputation right?”
“Maybe you’ll be the one to change me.” He purred, and I pushed him away then, regaining my balance easily, him not so much.
“I need to know that you understand! It’ll never happen! I’m not interested in you that way – and before you ask, I could be interested in being your friend. But nothing more.” I stated. He didn’t reply. “Tell me you understand. Tell me you realize that no matter what, it’s not going to happen.”
He scowled. For a brief second he had a look of pure frustration – as if I really was just a game that he couldn’t beat.
“Of course I do your highness.” He said with a clumsy attempt at a half-bow on skates. “Now, let’s not waste this friendly outing on pointless things.”
Well I guess…this is a step forwards?