Warning: PG-13 because there’s a lot of suggestive subtext in here, also some heavy twisted thoughts
Also um, this was kind of a TOUGH NUT OF A CHAPTER TO WRITE but uh, yeah anyway you’ll see.
It’s like clockwork.
1 2 3 4 5 wake up.
Hear the non-existent birds chirping.
Remember your mom is dead.
I flipped around on the bed, listening to the faint sounds of Ridgevalley snoring.
I couldn’t wait for today.
Where did I go wrong?
My mind is a mess in the morning. I have to spend most of it sifting through my thoughts, taping some to the wall and throwing the rest out the window. I suppose the filtering depends on what I want to do that day.
I need to purge all the negative thoughts for today. Nikolas is coming over.
The last week….has it been a week already? Or has it been two…Maybe it was yesterday at this point, it sure feels like it was yesterday.
My hand gripped a lock of my hair as I closed my eyes in an attempt to chase the image away.
She’s dead now. My worst fear ended up coming true. I made my peace with it.
So why won’t it stop haunting me?
I plucked the thought from the air and disassembled it. I flicked away the tragic part and kept the part where Nikolas was there for me. I hugged it and smiled.
He’s so sweet and caring – a big change.
Because let’s be honest, he hasn’t always been like this. Actually for the longest time he was kind of a jerk. People told me so repeatedly, and well…I could see it myself.
He treated me like I was some dumb air head clinging to him like a lost puppy. Which I suppose…I can’t entirely blame him. Acting stupid seemed like the better solution then.
Truthfully, I can’t quite remember my motivations anymore. Why did I care if others were easily insulted by my words? Being stupid made them feel better…
Ha, they’re the ones who were stupid, for swallowing up my act.
Stupid stupid little sheep, you don’t deserve my kindness.
I want things to change.
I don’t know, but something has to. Is it me? Is it him? Is it them? I don’t know. Maybe I just need to wait. Wait for my brain to calm down.
I rolled over. I wonder what I should wear today. I can work on changing that first.
They told me he was dense you know. That he hadn’t gotten to ‘romance’ yet. Maybe they were right, maybe they weren’t, but I played it safe. He’d rejected so many girls, I thought…
If I can be his friend first, he won’t reject me.
Gah whatever happened in the past, no matter all my doubts and all the people who told me it wouldn’t happen, I can’t get the image out of my head.
He didn’t reject me.
On the contrary, I swear he smiled and blushed. He looked smitten I’m sure of it. Seduced. Wooed. Whatever term is appropriate.
My patience has won out. He’s finally come to see me. To like me.
And I suppose a suitable punishment for not seeing me before would be to ignore him now, but I’ve waited for this day for too long.
For this specific day.
I rolled off my bed and skipped to my dresser.
“Blue looks good on you.”
Didn’t he say that once? I’m sure he did, I remember it. Maybe this is too blue.
I pulled at my shirt, wondering if it was too small.
I don’t want to be friends though.
I passed my hand through my hair, smiling at my reflection. I like how I look.
Maybe this is too much, but hey you know what they say…
Go big or go home.
I’m done befriending Nikolas. I’m done beating around the bush. It’s time to make my intentions abundantly clear.
And if he doesn’t respond to them?
I faltered momentarily. “Stupid, we have overwhelming evidence. We’re irresistible. Niko and I are star crossed lovers. We both constantly reject advances from others…why? Because we’re meant for each other.”
Giving my hair another brush, I went downstairs, giddy at the idea of starting my day. Uncle Chase was up already – as he always was at this hour.
“Good morning Salandra,” He said from his spot at the coffee machine. He glanced back to give me a smile and his eyes lingered on my outfit. “Oh you’re all…dolled up this morning. What’s the occasion?” He asked.
“I’m pretty aren’t I?” I said, flashing a coy smile. “Nikolas is coming over.” I added, walking over to the fridge with light steps.
“Oh? Ohhhhh,” I spotted Chase physically processing what I’d just said. “Well try to be responsible, I won’t be back home before supper.”
I rolled my eyes, pulling out my bowl of cereal. “I’m sixteen.”
“Exactly.” My uncle settled at the counter to drink his coffee. “If you need to call me-”
“Uncle please.” I scoffed.
“As your guardian, I have to make sure you’ll be alright. Maybe I shouldn’t go to work today.” He said thoughtfully taking a few sips.
“Uncle!” I feigned being surprised and insulted. Insinuating Nikolas would ever take advantage of me…goodness. “We’re just going to study for the catch up tests.” I insisted, innocently.
My uncle snorted. “Maybe you should cover up a little more, you might distract him.” He said, with a clear sharp message.
I suppose that was my cue to act shy and head back up to my room to change.
“That happens to be the intention.” I chose to say instead.
My uncle held a look with me.
“There’s nothing to worry about uncle. Nikolas is so far from that, that it’s a little painful.” I laughed, stepping away and leaving my bowl behind. I’m not hungry after all.
“I’ll still try and leave work earlier today.” My uncle stated.
“Do whatever you want.” I said, leaving the kitchen to go gather my books.
I checked the time again.
One more time.
I glanced back outside through the window.
He’s not there. Where is he?
Chase had left at 7:30am, and I’d been waiting anxiously for Nikolas to arrive since.
I’d taken a shower at 8am, remembering I hadn’t from the excitement. By 9am, my legs had gotten extra shaved, my armpits were layered with enough deodorant to last a week, and the room stunk of the perfume I’d sprayed on myself.
I sighed heavily. “Niko….where are you?”
I dragged my feet over to the chair and slumped on it.
I looked at my hand, wondering if I should paint my nails for fun. I’ve never been one to paint my nails though. I always find that so ugly on other girls. It makes the fingers pop out too much. Hands are prettier as clean canvases.
I don’t even have nail polish.
I shouldn’t be but I am.
Just a little.
I crossed my arms over the chair and pouted. I got excited for nothing. Clearly HE wasn’t as excited as I was. There was hesitation in his voice too, on the phone, maybe he didn’t want to see me.
Which would be incredibly INCONSIDERATE.
“Whatever!” I shouted at the window. “Don’t come at all why don’t you. I don’t care.”
I raked my nails against the window – a cruel sound ricocheting off. “I. Don’t. Care.”
I slumped back on my chair.
“I guess I should’ve specified a time. That was really stupid of me. But I did tell him I was awake starting at 5 am. I let him choose the time. He really is a jerk.” I grumbled hugging my knees.
I’m still at the same spot. It’s been who knows how many hours, but I’ve accepted my fate. I’ll just stay here and wait for the entire day.
It’s not like I have anything better to do.
I perked up suddenly, as I spotted movement outside. I recognized that red hair instantly. He’s here!
I sped for the door without a second thought.
“Nikolas!” I exclaimed rushing forwards to tackle him with a hug.
The joy of seeing his face completely dissipated the anger and disappointment that had been festering.
He’s worth the wait.
He always is.
I squeezed as tight as I could, as it felt like my world was tilting upside down.
He just does that to me I guess.
We hit the ground harshly, and I felt Nikolas’ body jerk under the shock. It’s only when I opened my eyes that I realized we’d gone from vertical to horizontal.
“Oops, sorry Niko.” I giggled.
“Ugh, in the stairs Sal? Really?” Nikolas groaned as he attempted to move a bit. My weight held him still.
“I couldn’t contain myself, I was just so excited to see you! I didn’t expect you to get here so late. Were you held up?” I asked, leaning on his chest. Nikolas has such an athletic build. You can’t see it that well, since he doesn’t tend to wear tight fitting shirts and he’s a tall boy, but I can feel the results of that morning jog right now.
“No I wasn’t – Can I get up before we keep talking?” He asked, making a weak attempt to move again.
“Of course!” I replied with a grin, setting my chin on my hand.
“That implies you getting off of me.” Nikolas grunted.
“Right, right,” I mumbled rolling off and letting Nikolas get up.
I sat glumly for a few seconds before noticing an outstretched hand. He was offering to help me get up. The smile returned huge on my face as I grasped it.
His back probably hurts from the fall, but he’s still being nice to me!
He makes my dark moods dissipate almost instantly, I thought as I looked up at him. He looks wonderful from this angle.
There are few angles he doesn’t look good in.
“A backpack?” I questioned, hopping to my feet. “Are you staying for the night?” I added with a sly chuckle.
Nikolas frowned. “No, it’s my school books.”
I blinked. Oh right, I used studying as an excuse. “I know silly, I’m just teasing you. Come on let’s go inside!”
I led him to the dining table we rarely used.
“You can just set up on the table there.” I said. “I’ll just get my books, I set them down here.” I said, bending down to pick them up. I resisted the urge to look back.
Is he looking?
He’d set his backpack down when I joined him.
He glanced up and around. “Your air conditioning is running pretty high. Aren’t you cold?” Nikolas asked.
Butterflies brought a shy smile to my face. And here I thought he hadn’t noticed what I was wearing.
I skipped over, leaning my arm on his shoulder to give him a close-up of my bare forearm.
“Nope, no goosebumps see?” I said, gesturing at my arm.
“Yeah, ok?” Nikolas frowned, pushing my arm off. I didn’t push, merely giving him one of my trademark smiles. “So what subject do you want to start with?” He asked, slumping down into his chair.
“Any, I don’t care.”
“Which one gives you the most trouble?” He asked, pulling out his books.
“Chemistry, currently.” I sighed, looking at the profile of his face. Have I ever mentioned how I love his little upturned nose?
“Ok! We can start there.” He said with a smile, grabbing his chemistry textbook.
I rolled my eyes. “Ugh, you’re so dense.”
“Nothing.” I dragged my chair closer to his own, before grabbing his arm and hugging it.
“Sal what’s wrong?” He asked, inching away from me.
“Nothing.” I clung a little tighter.
“You’re not acting yourself….is everything okay? I’m sorry, I didn’t ask how you were doing.”
I scoffed silently. “This is about as myself as it gets Niko.”
“You seem off.”
“Maybe. I do feel a little off.” I said absentmindedly, my hand slowly trailing down his arm. “Maybe a little broken. In some parts.”
“It’ll get better Sallie.”
“You don’t know that Niko, so don’t pretend you do.” I snapped, my hand gripped his.
He pulled his hand away from mine. “I know no one’s ever stayed depressed over the loss of life for the rest of their lives. Though I guess there might be some extreme-”
“Do I look depressed to you?” I asked shocked.
“Gah, I didn’t mean -”
“Maybe I am. It’s kind of fuzzy most days. Since she’s died sometimes I lose track of time…not this morning though. I was painfully aware of every minute.” I explained with a smile. My eyes feel empty though.
Can he see it?
“Well studying will get your mind off it!” He exclaimed, lightening the mood with his energy.
I have other ideas to get my mind off the death of my mother, but we can try this for now.
“Look at all the progress we made! Crazy!” I exclaimed, pushing the books as far away from me as possible.
“Well…progress is a relative term here.” Nikolas said, closing his own book.
“Are you calling me stupid?”
“I’m just saying that we’ve basically done nothing.” He clarified.
I pffed at him. “Not true we completed three questions. THREE NIKO.” I flicked my hair. “You can’t call that nothing.”
“We’ve been studying for two hours, so yes I can call that nothing. You spent most of it dying on your books.”
“Ugh, it gets boring really fast. I don’t like studying.” I said, sprawling on the table.
Nikolas scoffed. “Yeah no shit.” He sighed, settling back into his chair. “This is why I don’t like helping others study. Nobody’s ever motivated.”
“Oh sorry, if that was difficult for you.” I said, with a self-deprecating sigh.
“That’s not what I meant-”
“Truth is, studying was just an excuse.” I cut him off, changing the mood.
“Yes, to get you here. I just wanted to spend some time with you.”
“You could’ve just asked to hang out. We could’ve done a LOT better things with our time.” Nikolas snorted.
“Yeah I know, I’ve been thinking about them for two hours.” I confessed. Watching you from the corners of my vision as you tried to explain some abstract stuff I didn’t really care for. I much prefer looking at how your hair reflects the light, and the way your eyes travel a page.
“Oh? Any cool ideas?” He asked. Does this boy have no perverse thoughts whatsoever? I really have to spell it out for him don’t I?
“Oh a good couple of cool ideas.” I said, lightly tapping his nose with a sultry smile.
Nikolas raised his eyebrow at me, before tapping my own nose. I blinked in surprise. “Nope,” He said. “That’s not nearly as fun as it looked like it was for you.”
I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing. “You’re such a dork Niko, it’s charming.”
Nikolas pulled away, pushing his chair away from the table. “Ok so, if we’re done with studying, do you have any board games in this mansion?”
I pouted. Why was he making this so hard? “Don’t you think I’m charming too?”
Nikolas looked at me for a long moment before sighing. “Sal what are you trying to get at here? What is this?”
I let out a sad sigh. “…nothing,” I mumbled, rubbing my arms. It really is cold. A thought struck me, this is still salvageable. Niko can’t play dense forever. “I have an idea! We don’t have a lot of electronics, but we do have a radio!”
“What are we going to do with a radio?” He asked with a grumble as he followed me into our living room.
“Dance of course!” I exclaimed, flicking the radio on.
“I’m not really up for dancing, how about we-”
“Pssh, come on! I remember that date to spy on your sister! You’re not as bad as you claimed.” I teased.
Nikolas caught on the word like I’d hoped he would. “Date?”
He’d straightened, looking down at me from his nose, as if I’d pushed a little too far, as if I was touching places he wasn’t happy about.
I reached over and grabbed his crossed arms to force him down from his high and mighty position.
“Yes. Date. Don’t you remember? You looked so handsome that day.” I said, my hand reaching up to play with his hoodie strings. With an unhappy expression that did little to reduce my attraction to him, he plucked my hands from his shirt.
“How long have we known each other Niko?” I asked, taking a step back to dance to the music a bit.
“Since middle school.” He replied in a stiff voice.
“But you’ve never really known me have you? I’m kind of mean.” I said, jumping onto my couch.
Nikolas sighed, finally letting go of his closed stance. “No Sal, you’re-”
“I know, people tell me you’re nice, so kind, so sweet, but I’m laughing inside you know. Because I know the truth, I’m just putting up an act. To save them, but now…I just can’t quite remember why I want to spare them from who I really am.” I thought out loud.
My eyes connected with his – he was trying to understand what I’d told him. And I wanted him to – while I didn’t at the same time. I danced my way over to him. “And that…is someone far from nice.”
Nikolas shook his head. “That’s not true.” God it’s painful how sweet – no how ignorant he is.
“See? I even have you fooled! I’m quite despicable you know.” I said with a fake smile, twirling in a circle.
Nikolas grabbed my arm to force me to be still. “No, you’re not despicable, you’re just…selfish that’s all.” He said with a hesitant shrug. “Just a wee bit, being selfish isn’t altogether that bad, depends on how you act on it-”
I laughed and sprung myself on him.
“This is why I love you Nikolas.” I said, delivering the line smoothly if I had to say so myself. Zac would be proud I’m sure.
“Ack please don’t.” Nikolas’ reaction could’ve been better.
“No it’s true. I love you. Love love love love,” I said, keeping my arms around his neck. “I’ve loved you since middle school and it’s taken me forever to say it, but here it is. I love a dense dork who I know feels the same way.”
“Maybe not on the same level as I do, not yet, but I’m patient. I’ve been patient for years.” I said with a confident smile.
Patience is a virtue.
Nikolas grimaced. “Salandra! No. Now’s really not the time-”
I reached up and cupped his face between my hands, effectively shutting him up.
“I can wait, it’s okay. Just knowing you’re on the way to feeling the same way is enough for now. I’ll wait as long as it takes. Nikolas you make me so happy, and you’re always there for me. When I’m at your side, it’s so easy to think clear.” I confessed, getting lost in his sharp eyes.
“No I meant, you’re not thinking straight. You’re still grieving-”
“Still grieving!? Didn’t you hear what I said?” My grip tightened on his face and he pulled my arms away. “These aren’t feelings I spontaneously developed when my mom died. It wasn’t some kind of revelation of oh I love him. NO! This is something I’ve been dealing with for years now. You can ask your sister or any one of your friends. It’s painfully obvious to them. I had to say it to your face, and even then you don’t believe me.” I said, as I watched him step away from me.
“You can’t deny it. I know you like me too. See? I specified. You like me. But I love you. I do understand the difference, but you can’t say you don’t like me.” I stubbornly added.
“I never did. And I do, just not…like that?” He said with an apologetic shrug. Please, I’m not buying that.
“So you’re asexual then is that it?”
“Ok clearly you didn’t listen to me when you asked me what that meant, and also just because I’m not reflecting your feelings doesn’t mean I don’t or will never like anyone that way.” He groaned.
“Do you? Is there another girl in your life?” I asked, jumping into his space again. “Or maybe it’s a boy? Huh, you’re gay aren’t you. And irony would say it’s for Zac.”
“Okay that’s twice now, that you’re jumping to me being gay as a logical conclusion.” Nikolas rolled his eyes.
“And remember the first time?” Because I do. A lot. “It was after you came to me to tell me you thought I was beautiful. I’m not the only one who’s loved you since middle school.”
“That was a dare. From Elvis.”
“You can’t explain away your feelings.” I countered.
“I was ten.” Nikolas snorted. “I didn’t have feelings.”
“So was I, but I still knew you were the one.”
“Arg! Sal, you can’t force me to have feelings for you.” He said, starting to grow impatient.
“I’m not, I’m just trying to make you realize it’s not one sided. Or else you wouldn’t have been there for me like you were. I felt it, through those hugs and the kiss,-”
“Wait, wait, kiss?”
“No you can’t deny that. Remember? When I kissed you on the cheek? I saw you smile.” I said, smiling fondly at the memory.
“Wait a minute, your whole speech is riding on that?”
“Well didn’t you?” I asked with a glare.
“Ok yeah, I did smile, but how does that suddenly support this theory of yours? I was pleased that I’d managed to cheer you up.” He asked, confused.
“Yes, and that’s love Niko! Wanting the other to be happy. Being happy when you make them happy. That’s love.”
Nikolas made a show of growing frustrated, before locking me down with stern stare. “I’m gonna say this once Salandra. So listen carefully and listen well.”
“I reject your feelings. I don’t like you romantically. I like you as a friend and only a friend.”
Look at that Salandra, you messed up. He wasn’t ready just yet. You jumped on a hint, when you should’ve waited longer. Shows you what greed will get you.
“I shouldn’t have pressured you. I got greedy. I should’ve waited a little longer.” I stated, more to myself.
“No. If I do date, it’s not going to be with someone who analyzes every action I make to twist it into a favorable view for them.”
“I won’t, I’ll stop.” I insisted. “I’ll be dense like you and only register facts that are plainly shoved in my face.” I said with an innocent smile.
Nikolas’ stare hardened. “I’m not dense Salandra.”
“It took you this long to figure it out.” I continued with the same smile.
“I was hoping I wasn’t right.” He admitted.
My smile froze. “Lies.”
“Because I knew it would end badly.” He continued, avoiding my gaze.
No no, you can’t. You can’t say you’ve suspected all this time. “Liar.” That’s not fair. That’s mean.
“I just don’t like you that way, never have, never will.” He said, delivering the final blow.
“Don’t say never.” I mumbled, dropping to the ground. Nikolas passed his hand through his hair, in visible pain before he dropped to my level.
“Sal don’t be like that. Can’t you take my word for it? You’re just making it worse by trying to force it.”
“What should I do? What can I do to get you to like me? Who do I have to be?” I asked, looking up at him.
“No, don’t try to change yourself.”
“Nikolas I just wanted you to like me.”
“So you want to kiss me too? I daydream about being in your arms.” I said in a small voice.
He grimaced. “Not like that.”
“It’s not fair. I waited an eternity. For this.”
“I wish you hadn’t.”
“If you weren’t dense why didn’t you reject me earlier?”
“I was afraid, of hurting you. Or well of sounding stupid.”
I looked at him with pleading eyes.
“Can I hug you? As a friend?” I specified. “I need a hug right now.”
He hesitated before nodding. “Yeah of course.”
I didn’t need anything else, I rushed over and curled up on his lap before he could change his mind, clinging to his warmth.
“Who is your type of girl?” I asked him, after he’d hesitantly wrapped his arms around me. “You know, in case I’ve met her already.”
“Don’t go there Sal. Don’t do that to yourself.”
“So there IS someone! Who? As a friend tell me.” I insisted.
“As a friend, there’s no one.” He sighed.
“Not even Zac?”
“Where is that even coming from?”
“You two have just been way too close for my liking.”
“Don’t tell me you actually felt jealous?” Nikolas snorted.
“That the boy I like gets close to the boy who kept harassing me? It’s easier to imagine he’s your secret gay lover.” I stated.
“I still want to be your friend Sal,” Nikolas said, carefully releasing himself from the hug. “So just take the time you need to deal with this. And call me when you’re ready, if you feel like it.”
“What? Nonsense, I’m ready now. I’m over it.” I said, resisting the urge to grab onto him. Thankfully, my words stopped him from moving further away.
“I mean I still like you, but being rejected doesn’t mean I have to stop being friends with you. And who knows maybe I can convince you otherwise…” I added with a sly little smile.
Nikolas just looked disappointed. “Salandra, come on, what did we just talk about?”
“Right right, of course, I was just teasing. I didn’t actually mean it. I know you’d never in a million years like someone selfish like me.”
“You’re twisting my words again.” He noticed.
“Yeah I am. Makes you seem bad, and makes me feel better.”
Niko’s face saddened and it made me angry. “Your mom’s death really hit you hard didn’t it?”
“If I went back to being an innocent little air head, acting stupid for everyone else’s benefit, would you like me better then? Would you feel like, oh this is an attractive Sallie? Do you prefer someone who always looks beat down?” I asked, sharply.
“I want to be – no I am someone who confronts things head on and wins. I shouldn’t take no for an answer.” I declared. I reached up to cup his face again, determined, certain, that this wasn’t the way things had been supposed to unfold. “I refuse your rejection Nikolas Whitelight.” I declared, leaning towards him.
He really isn’t that dense then, if he caught on to what I was going to do.
“Ok I’m going to head out now.” He stated. “I highly suggest you take a nap and think about what we talked. Call me when you’ve thought it through logically and with lots of common sense.” He added, before getting up.
I grabbed onto his hand from my spot on the floor. “Just a kiss? Confirm that you really don’t like me. You won’t know really unless we kiss.” I attempted.
“You know who else thought that? Elaine.” He snapped, and I let go of his hand.
I watched him leave. I heard him grab his books. I heard the door close.
I slumped on the rough carpet, lamenting over what had happened. I had hoped for so much more.
I just want a distraction, why is that such a difficult thing to obtain?
But it’s alright.
Because I haven’t lost yet.