C2 Chapter 2
I was greeted by the stench of cannabis as I approached what looked like a mini burn fire. A spot so well hidden from public eyes, whoever found the place was definitely a genius. Loud music was playing as I strolled past Zack and Mia lying on a mat away from the burn fire. The rumors were true after all. They were dating. I noticed a bunch of other kids in pairs of opposite sexes. This should be good.
“Bones my man” Erick said as he hugged me “glad to see you’re not grounded anymore” Abby looked pleased to see me. Her wide smile gave it away.
“Well technically, I still kinda am” I told him. His eyes lit with what looked like surprise.
“Wait you mean to tell me that Ryan Stitcher snuck out of the house?” he asked.
“No of course not”
“Oh here I was thinking you suddenly grew enormous balls over night” he said laughingly.
“I need to reevaluate this friendship, you keep getting me into trouble” I scowled at him.
“Ah what are friends for?” he asked
“The exact opposite” I simply put.
We sat on a log, same one as Jackson and Abby. Erick by my left and Abby to my right. Yes, they had to put me in between them or maybe I just sat too soon. I think the latter was more likely. She bumped me with her shoulder. “Heard you’re ready to pounce on Bella hun?” she said with a goofy, almost one sided smile. I just smiled back at her.
Then I whispered to Erick, “why do you have to tell your girlfriend everything?” he pretended not to hear me. Erick tells Abby almost everything about me. There was one time at the end of freshman year. I had this humongous boil on my left scrotum, which of course I regretted mentioning to Erick because, he told Abby. Abby on the other hand, being Abby, casually asked me how my balls were doing during lunch. I looked over at Erick and he had guilt written all over his face. Luckily for me, one of the many good things about Abby is that she was quite keen on the confidentially of our trio. If something like that ever got out in school, it would haunt me till I kill myself.
By the way, I was wrong, Erick didn’t pretend not to hear me, he did and said “I’m building a support team for the precarious quest you’re about to embark on.” Explaining as to why he leaked the little information I shared with him over text to his girlfriend.
All I could mutter was “Jesus”.
“Ryan what’s up?” Jackson said. I totally forgot that he was sitting beside Abby. I was even more surprised that he knew my real name, I’m not sure he has ever called me anything other than ‘Bones.’ I leaned forward looking past Abby to see him. A paled skinned Spartan, bulging biceps, blonde hair, blue intense eyes staring at me.
“Uhm, yeah…” I managed to start speaking “I’m good, how are you?”
“I am terrific. I don’t usually see the lots of you around these parts.” He said, askingly.
Lots of me? Then it clicked “yeah, my movement is… very restricted.”
“Oh” he said then took a sip from the red disposable in his hand. Abby got up from beside me and went to sit beside Erick.
“You look different” she said accessing my outfit “you even smell different”. Erick just looked at me, flashing me with one of those his mischievous smiles.
“Different how?” I asked “good or bad?”
“Good, I’m actually digging the ripped jeans” she said. I thanked her. She scooted closer to Erick closing whatever gap there was between them. She wrapped her hands around him and rested her head on his shoulder. She kissed his neck. Then he murmured to her words I didn’t quite catch and what followed next, were kisses. I turned away when it got too intense. Jackson still sipped from his cup, seemingly unbothered by the events unfolding before him. It felt never ending.
“We need to get you a girlfriend fast, Bones” she said once was done lip locking with Erick. She probably noticed how uncomfortable it made me feel. To her maybe if I had a girlfriend, we’d probably be on a mat here doing the same thing. I won’t even have the time to bother about whether or not she was kissing Erick. Having a girlfriend might not totally be a bad idea. For a brief moment, I did imagine what it would look like. Going on dates, hanging out, making out, wearing matching tees. It seemed nice. The thoughts of girlfriends brought Bella to my memory. I realized I had not seen her since I arrived.
“Um, where’s Bella?” I asked
“Wooh” Abby teased and I may have smiled a bit.
“Yeah that’s the bad news” Erick said answering my question “she was around here somewhere, and the next thing I knew, she vanished”
“You were meant to keep an eye on her” I said. Half shouting and half pissed but fully disappointed.
“I’m not your watchdog” he said rather calmly “and maybe it’s a good thing”
“Enlighten me on how it is a good thing that the very reason I may have come here today is gone”
“Well, you can rehearse what you plan to say to her with me” he smiled “just imagine I’m her”
It almost made me laugh, the thought, but I suppressed it. “No,” I said “I just came here for nothing” I insisted.
“Um, hold that thought” Abby said “maybe you didn’t come here for nothing after all” I looked up at Abby and she gestured towards an approaching figure. It was her, Bella, she was back. The wave of confidence I had been feeling deserted me. I watched her and everything seemed slower. Her glistening brunette hair that curled on the sides of her neck, down her shoulders and back. The grey top she wore revealed her flat belly and the arch of her hips. I just watched in awe. There probably wasn’t anything that extraordinary about Bella. I mean she wasn’t the most beautiful girl in Wood Valley High. There were a number of girls who are arguably hotter than Isabella Stevens. But it didn’t matter, she was extraordinary to me mostly because I was head over heels in love with her.
“My offer still stands” Erick said interrupting my day dream “cause I think you could use a couple of ace up your sleeves, should you black out like in fifth…”
“Fifth grade I know” I cut him off “thanks for the vote of confidence Erick” I said “this walk, I will walk alone.” I stood up feeling slightly annoyed and I intended to channel it.
“All the best” Abby said and I watched Jackson raise his cup towards me as if he was making a toast, wishing me luck. Jackson; ever the silent observer.
“I wish you luck” Erick yelled as I started walking towards Bella.
She sat in the sand, her thighs to her breasts, her arms wrapped around her legs and her chin atop her knees. She probably heard my clumsy footsteps because she turned to my direction in one swift neck motion. Her eyes locked with mine, and I felt strength abandon my legs as they began to quiver though thankfully, it wasn’t visible. I managed push forward despite the overwhelming pressure stemming from a fear of a 99.5% rejection rate. I wasn’t about to abort the mission before its embrayonic stage even begun. Don’t mess this up… don’t be a creep… don’t mess this up… don’t be a creep. I recited the words like a mantra in my mind repeatedly as I reached her.
“Hi” I said trying to fashion a relatively expressionless face to mask my fright. But It probably came out I lot worse than I had hoped. She looked at me. And said “Hi” unwrapping her arms from her legs, her face looked like a giant question mark. “Ryan?” she added with a tilt of her head when she got tired of waiting for me to speak.
“Yes,” I answered “may I?” I gestured to her side. I was amazed and also impressed by how calm I seemed externally. Because I was panicking on the inside, my heart throbbed like someone who was dropped head first from Mount Everest and then caught midway through the fall abruptly.
She nodded then I sat beside her “I guess you don’t remember me, we took algebra together” I told her.
“Actually I do, from fifth grade you gave me flowers. Then If I remember correctly you were struggling for words. Almost similar to what just happened now.” She said.
That day in fifth grade, I wrote this little poem for Bella, I planned to tell her how much I liked her. I was so nervous, too busy trying to control my bladder that I misplaced the poem. But on the bright side, I still got to give her the flowers which I stole from my mother’s garden. It was almost a mission well accomplished until I had a panic attack right after giving her the flowers. I just stared at her big eye balls and flowing red hair, struggling for words that seemed to have stapled themselves to my throat. I eventually resorted to running away.
“Yeah I did” I said trying my best to mask my embarrassment.
“But now that I think of it” she said “it seemed like you had an asthmatic attack or something then you bolted.”
“Yeah I did that too… I was terrible” I said wishing the sand was quick so it could swallow me whole and spare me the mortification.
“Nah, I don’t think you were terrible, it was actually cute. I kept the flowers until they wilted then I had to throw them away. I remember feeling a bit sad”
“Thank you” I said as a smile grew on my face. Then there was an awkward silence. I thought of what to say to spark a conversation. The best I came up with; “why are you sitting all by yourself here away from the main attraction?” I asked, gesturing towards the mini burn fire.
She sighed, “I just wanted to be alone, I wanted to think” oh great so now I’m intruding I thought.
“Sorry I think my presence ruined that… I should go” I said, not meaning it.
“No, please stay, I think I could use the company”
“Okay” I said suppressing my smile as I threw internal back flips in jubilation.
“I could use a drag too.” She added. She reached into her bag and from it she retrieved a neatly rolled wrap of weed. I watched quietly as she placed it between her pink lips. She lit it with a really fancy lighter and then puffed thick clouds of smoke into the air. She looked up at me, “want one?” she asked.
“No thanks” I declined.
“Okay” she simply said.
“So you come here often?” I asked and she puffed again.
“Not really, I just came out here to let out some negative energy” she held the blunt between her thumb and index. “Being by the water calms me” she tapped it and the ash which took the shape and form of where cannabis once was fell to the sand. I thought of what to say briefly. Then I did this thing I learnt where you essentially just rephrase what the person said to keep the conversation going.
“Yeah the scenery is very calming” I said.
She suddenly started frowning. Maybe it was what I said. I wondered if she somehow figured out what I did there. “That asshole” she muttered and I was relieved. ‘That’ meaning I was not the asshole. But who’s the asshole? “I don’t know why I put up with him.” She took a long drag. The roll was now half consumed and I knew exactly who the asshole was. I wasn’t sure what to say to her though. So I said nothing. She glanced at me, perhaps thinking that I had no idea what she was rambling about. “Blake, my boyfriend, well, now ex… we broke up I believe you know him?”
I knew now it was time to say something. “Yes I know him” I answered.
She smiled, “how could I even ask you that, of course you know him. He hasn’t been kind to you.” I nodded lightly. “Come with me” she said as she stood, strapped on her backpack and stretched her hands towards me. I took it.