Consequences – Chapter 3

Just because I was kind of popular now didn’t mean I magically started to like parties. They were still loud and overbearing, but I did have to admit, the best kinds of parties were the smaller ones.

Sydney had taken to becoming a popular girl kind of well. From what I’d learned of her, she was kind of like me; she started out as a bit of a nobody and climbed the social ladder by accident. That said, it was a good idea to keep the Student Council closer together, and Nicole was loving the spirit. 

I sat in an armchair sipping a Pepsi, observing the rest of them. I couldn’t figure out if the Council were good friends that knew each other long before they all got elected, or if they all just pretended to be good friends with each other. Those had to be the only two options, right?

Nicole sat between Sydney and Rick, joking and laughing with them. It was weird, but I felt like I was on the other side of the world to her. Like she was just that far away. Neither of them even looked like they would be her friends. Sydney had a sweet round face, black hair to match Nicole’s, and an almost nervous-looking smile. Rick was tall and flamboyant, the type of guy that would make you think he was gay and involved in theater from one look. He was involved in theater, but I didn’t know if he was gay or not. 

I sure hoped he was. Nicole was laughing and putting her hand on his leg and thanks to the small size of Sydney’s loveseat, the three were very close together, their bodies up against each other. I wasn’t really worried about Sydney making a move, but… well, Rick was different.

I turned my attention to the floor, where Eugene was enthusiastically telling a story to Daniela. They were the reps for Advertisement and School Spirit, respectively, and from his bro-y attitude, it was clear they should have switched roles. The guy was putting on his broiest and most macho voice on to try to impress Daniela with a story of something that happened in his sophomore year. If I was a betting man, I would have said he was trying to hit on her, but hey, maybe he was just the most stereotypically Student Council-esque person there. 

Better than me. All I was doing was sitting and people-watching. I wasn’t really part of the party… I was just kind of looking into it from the outside.

Oh, dear God. I was becoming Paul.

“Having fun?” Megan asked me, walking up next to the chair I was sitting on.

I shook my head. “Huh?”

She gave me a smile. “Scoot over,” she gently suggested.

“It’s not that big a chair,” I countered.

“I’m not that big a girl,” she replied. I did my best to move over and she sat next to me. “You don’t really like parties, do you?”

“I mainly go for her,” I replied honestly, gesturing towards Nicole. We both looked at her. She was guffawing at one of stupid Rick’s stupid jokes, grabbing his leg affectionately as she did. I scoffed and looked away.

“What?” Megan asked obliviously, cluing in that I was upset but not getting why. “You could have told her no if you really didn’t want to come.”

“No, it’s not that,” I sighed, then got up, walking towards the kitchen. Megan quickly followed. Surprisingly, Jarrod was in there, rummaging through the cooler for drinks. The ninth grader was clearly thrilled to be at the party with the big kids. The rep for school dances, Dave, was with him, taking on the role of his big brother.

“That’s the beer,” he told him simply. “Just don’t go crazy with it. I’d only have one if I were you.”

He and Jarrod wandered off shortly after, leaving the kitchen alone, save for Megan and myself. Megan looked at me expectantly, and I sighed and leaned against the counter.

“I hate the way she looks at other guys,” I told her honestly. “Every time I see her even being friendly with another boy, it’s like, she could be doing something with him. The possibility is there, and it just kills me.”

Megan did her best to follow along, leaning against the opposite counter. “…Is the open relationship even a thing you both agreed to, or is it just a thing she said? Because if-”

“Neither, it’s complicated,” I answered. “She said she couldn’t do a relationship unless it was open, so we both made sacrifices. I don’t like it that much, but I’d rather be with her than not, and hey, maybe someday I’d like to go back to having casual sex or something.”

Hearing the last few words, Megan’s gaze grew stern and she looked at me with purpose. I could only blush and shrug, and after a few seconds, she only said one thing.

“Maybe you shouldn’t.”

We sat in silence for a while, and eventually, I felt like something needed to be said. “Yeah, maybe,” I conceded. Not liking the silence, I reached into the cooler and grabbed a beer. “Just having the one,” I gently told her before opening it.

“I didn’t say anything about that,” she said gently. I sipped my beer for about a minute, and we watched one or two people come in and out of the kitchen, noting our awkward silence and quickly leaving, with the exception of Jarrod, who came in twice more, each time for another beer.

“He’s going to be trouble tonight,” Megan softly said, trying to make small talk. I was avoiding small talk with her, and she definitely noticed. After a while, I saw her move out of my field of vision, and eventually, I felt her hand in mine. “You know why I feel the way I do about intercourse.”

“Of course I do,” I immediately replied. “But what the hell can I even say in response to that? I’m still going to have sex. I’m almost definitely going to have sex with more than just Nicole in the rest of my life, and it’s even more likely she’s going to fuck another guy. Maybe even tonight, she’ll fuck Rick or something. Just to fuckin’ piss me off.” I took a giant swig of my beer.

“Rick’s gay, Adam.”

“Neat,” I spat back, then paused. “Do you know for sure?”

She gently laughed. “Yeah.”

“Huh.” I paused, then shook my head. “Doesn’t change anything. She grabs his leg when she laughs at his jokes. No one does that.”

“We’re holding hands right now,” Megan reminded me. “Maybe their relationship is like ours. Did you ever think to, y’know, ask her?”

I deflated slightly. “I didn’t want to cause a fight.”

She laughed. “Yeah, so instead you just let yourself get angry by assuming stuff and keeping it to yourself.”

“Alright, whatever,” I dismissed. “How do you deal with being celibate, anyway? I wish I didn’t have any urges. Shit would be way easier.”

She smiled, but it was a sad smile. “Um, I do have urges…” she started uneasily. “They just bring back bad memories, so I don’t indulge them. It just sort of hurts when I have them. It’s like… forget it, it’s hard to explain.”

“It’s like loving chocolate, like it’s the best thing in the world,” I found myself saying. “You eat it every day, and you enjoy it every day. And then one day, you get an allergy to chocolate. You still want to eat it, but eating it just hurts. It’s not like you don’t want it as badly, or even more badly, but you just can’t bring yourself to actually eat it. It hurts too much.”

“Wow…” Megan said, forming a smile. “That was deep, Adam. I was wrong, you do get it. Did you just think that up now?”

I stared forward, thinking to myself. “No, just something I heard once,” I mumbled, almost to myself. Realizing I was about to start crying, I blinked the tears away and cleared my throat. “You’re right, I need to stop assuming and then just sitting on that.”

“The beer didn’t help your thoughts either, I bet,” she offered gently.

I laughed. “I just drank this. It hasn’t even hit me yet,” I noted. “I’m, uh, sorry.”

“For what?”

I gave a sad single laugh. “All of first year?”

“Don’t worry about it. I didn’t mean to make this all about me. I’m okay now, I’m drama-free. It’s you and Nicole who need to talk.”

I looked at the can in my hands for a few seconds, then got off the counter and threw it away. “I guess we do.”

“Just remember – she’s allowed to have guy friends. You’re allowed to have girl friends too, you know,” she told me. “But she needs to remember how you feel, and you need to remember how she feels. And any other girl you may or may not have intercourse with.”

“‘Intercourse,’” I jokingly repeated. 

“Oh hush,” Megan said with a smile. 

“Anyway, don’t tell Carson about this. He’ll either call me whipped or he’ll take my side too much and hate Nicole for it, and both of those options suck,” I told her, with her nodding understandingly. We may have said more, but heard a commotion from the living room and walked over to investigate. We were greeted by the sight of several of the senior members keeping in their laughter while Jarrod babbled away.

“No, I’m serious!” he insisted, a slight slur growing in his voice. “You guys are, like, the first ever family I even had. Like, my parents are nice to me and everything, but they just don’t get me, you know? And, like, you guys just invited me, to your… to your fuckin’ party! I don’t even like saying the f-word. You know, fuck. But like, you know, it feels right with you guys. It feels fuckin’ right!”

Nicole saw me come into the room and shot me a knowing look with a dry, sarcastic smile. She got up and started to walk towards me, but Jarrod saw her first.

“And Nicole – if I can call you Nicole -” he began, grabbing her wrist to stop her.

“What the fuck else would you call me?” Nicole asked with a confused laugh, clearly not loving the fact that Jarrod had grabbed her.

“I just love how confident you are, like I wish I was – no, I’m gonna be that confident this year! You just watch me, I’m gonna be the best grade nine rep Student Council has ever had!”

Nicole looked at Megan and myself. “Good luck, you got stiff competition,” she told him, not looking away from us.

Jarrod just laughed like she told a joke. “And the kiss, like – what was up with that? Like, actually, I think that was my first kiss ever!”

Nicole’s jaw dropped and her eyes bugged out of their head as she whipped back to look at Jarrod. “No!!” she nearly shouted in disbelief.

A few of the senior students laughed. “Come on, Nicole, don’t be mean,” Dave chided her. 

Jarrod either didn’t clue in or didn’t care. “Yeah, and like, I was wondering, do all of the new students get a kiss, or like…” he trailed off. 

Nicole, challenging him, just looked at him, and eventually shrugged. “Or like what?” she asked.

“You know, was it just me?” he asked, testing the limits of his confidence. 

“Oh yeah, dude. Just you. To be honest, I’ve never even thought of kissing a guy before you,” she replied, breaking herself free of his grasp. “But hey, may as well start now.” She sauntered over to me and gave me a kiss on the lips in front of everyone, earning a few cheers from Rick and Sydney, and a joking ‘boo’ from Eugene and a ‘yuck’ from Daniela.

She broke the kiss and her eyes fluttered open in that way they did after every kiss from me. This time, though, she didn’t smile meaningfully. “Save me,” she whispered, gesturing behind her with her eyes. 

I thought quickly. “Hey Nicole, you’re the smartest, prettiest, most wonderful girl I’ve met since working on the council. How would you like to be boyfriend and girlfriend?” I asked in a slightly louder more purposeful voice than usual.

“Wow, Adam!” she replied, giving me the same tone. “A monogamous relationship, just for me? Why, I think I’ll take it! Let’s make it official starting right now!” She kissed me again, this time earning a joking chorus of ‘boos’ from the room. Even Megan joined in, with a smile on her face.

The rest of the Council knew she would have rather died than be in a monogamous relationship, myself included. But, importantly, Jarrod didn’t, although judging from the smile fading from his face, this was probably the dumbest way to go about it. Hell, he probably knew we were in a relationship since the first meeting, and if he was smart, he’d know this show was basically Nicole telling him to leave her alone or something. Still, at least he wouldn’t bother her, and he got some kind of closure from this… that was at least something.

***

“Urngh, fuck…” I groaned, finishing my set. Even though it was mid-October, I only just caught up with where I was at the end of the school year. Being away from the gym all summer long made me regress a bit, even if I was still going to Nicole’s karate class. Exhaling with determination, I started another set when I heard the door open from behind me. 

“…And this is the Student Council VP’s personal office, you can find him here whenever he wants to avoid me,” the joking tone of Nicole greeted my ears.

“This is the weights room,” Mr. Scott’s voice quickly rebutted. “More advanced gym classes are held here, and this is where the boxing club will meet after school on certain days.”

“On other days, students that have earned the school’s trust will spend time to work out, like Adam over here,” Nicole finished his thought.

I put down the barbell and looked around to see Mr. Scott and Nicole standing in the doorway with a girl I didn’t recognize. She had brown skin, silky black hair, pronounced features, and shy yet confident brown eyes. “Oh, hello Mr. Scott,” I greeted him.

“Good to see you, Adam,” he replied. “We’re just showing our new exchange student here around. Adam, this is Zelda. Zelda, Adam.”

“Hey, Zelda,” I replied warmly, walking over to them. Zelda? Was ‘Zelda’ a common name over in India or wherever she was from? 

“Hi, Adam,” she replied with shyness yet just as much warmth.

I turned to Nicole. “‘Earned the school’s trust?’ I thought anyone could work out in here.”

Nicole gave me a muted smile. “Nope. I just put in a good word with you with the gym teachers and asked the Boxing Club their days off. You’re welcome.” She gave me a hug. “Good to see you, dummy. How’s training?”

“It’s fine. To be honest, I only know my machines so I probably couldn’t show, uh, Zelda here all of the machines in the room. I don’t know how half of them work.”

“Oh, we’re just showing her all of the rooms. She just came here from Denmark so I wanted to come along with Mr. Scott and sorta be a student rep.”

My face betrayed me, showing my confusion. “Denmark?” I asked quizzically.

Most people would know why someone would be confused, but they’d be tasteful and subtle about it, but not Nicole. Unmoved, she quickly replied, “Yeah, Denmark has brown people now if you can believe it, Adam,” with a slight tone of disapproval.

Scott turned to her, alarm clear on his face, though it dissipated when Zelda began to laugh. I blushed deeply, and began to mumble, “No, I just meant… I was just surprised we’re doing an exchange program at all.”

“Most schools try to do it once in a while,” Mr. Scott replied. “Anyway, we should keep moving on.”

“Actually, Adam, do you mind swapping in for me? I have a few things I wanted to take care of before next period.” She turned to Zelda. “I’d love to keep spending time with you but everything keeps pulling me in every direction, you know what I mean?”

Zelda smiled reassuringly at her. “I know exactly what you mean,” she replied gently. 

“Plus, Adam’s a ball of fun,” Nicole added playfully, then looked towards Mr. Scott. “And I’m sure Mr. Scott has had enough of me by now.”

Mr. Scott smiled at Nicole. “Nicole, every school needs someone with even half the school spirit you do,” he replied kindly. “But if you are needed elsewhere, and Adam has the time…”

“Uh…” I stumbled. “I mean, I do, sure, but I did just work out, so I’m probably kinda sweaty and smelly…”

“You smell fine to me,” Zelda said with a smile, as if it were a normal thing to just say to someone you just met.

A smile broke out on Nicole’s face. “I like her. She’s bold,” she replied, then started to head off, giving me a wink from behind Zelda and Mr. Scott. “Thanks Adam, I owe ya one!”

Mr. Scott didn’t waste any time. “So Adam is the Student Council Vice President this year,” he began. “He’s an upstanding student that gets good grades and has a good reputation around the school.”

“Well, that depends on who you ask,” I joked. “Thank you, Mr. Scott.” I grabbed a towel from a nearby machine and dried my face and neck as best as I could, then grabbed my bag as we all started down the hallway towards some other classrooms. 

“So what grade are you in?” I asked Zelda, trying my best to be friendly between classrooms.

“Ah…” she simply started. “I have to remember what it means to your education system.”

“Oh, it’s different there?”

“Yes, in my country I would say that I’m in first G or that I’m starting gymnasium,” she answered. “But I think here you would say grade ten? I’m fifteen, so maybe that answers your question.”

She had the most interesting accent. She definitely had a European flair to her voice – I could only guess her accent was mostly Danish – but she also spoke so articulately, and she had some kind of… Middle Eastern in there? Was that racist? “Oh, cool,” I replied, nodding along. “I’m fifteen too, also in grade ten. We have a gymnasium, but…”

She laughed. “It means something different there,” she noted lightly. 

“Were you born in Denmark?”

She gave me a look like I was joking, then abruptly stopped. “Oh, right, you don’t know my full name,” she murmured. “My last name is Sattari. My family is Persian.”

“Persian?” I asked. “Sorry, I don’t know where Persia is on the map.”

“You probably do,” she reassured me. “You might know it better as Iran.”

I chuckled nervously. “Okay, I’ve heard of Iran, but I’m not even sure I could point it out on a map,” I admitted honestly.

Zelda shot me a smile. “Maybe sometime we could pull out a map and I can show it to you,” she suggested.

I could only chuckle some more, albeit nervously. Girls in my grade were usually kind of  boring, with Nicole being the outlier. Girls were always shy or talked about things I didn’t care about, and I remember when I was in middle school, I had to imagine they were more interesting or would be more complicated once you got to know them. This girl was just immediately interesting somehow. Maybe it was the confidence with which she spoke – even Nicole with her sarcasm sometimes sounded like she was defending herself. With Zelda, it was like everything was a matter of fact, and not even a condescending one. She just felt like… an adult. Like what you’d hope you’d want to be when you were older, and yet, at my age, here she was.

We toured a few more classrooms and she kept up her energy as introduction after introduction was made. Finally, curiosity got the better of me. “So, is Zelda an Iranian name?”

“Can you do me a favor?” she asked me as we walked. “Say ‘Persian’ instead.”

“Oh, am I being racist?” I immediately asked.

Zelda laughed. “No, no you’re not,” she giggled. “I just like ‘Persian’ better. It’s the word I use. It sounds better.”

“Okay, so is your name…” I paused jokingly. “…Persian?”

She smiled. “No, my parents were just big fans of Nintendo and thought it was a nice name.”

“Wow, I didn’t-” I began saying, then quickly cut myself off.

“…think Iran even had Nintendo?” Zelda guessed.

Not knowing whether to look guilty or neutral, I nodded.

“See, that’s racist,” she joked with no tone of judgment or anger as we walked. “I don’t play many games myself, mainly because my friends in Denmark don’t.” We walked in silence for a bit before she added jokingly, “Denmark has Nintendo too.”

“Wow, what a shocker,” I replied sarcastically, practically forgetting that Mr. Scott was walking with us at this point. “Well hey, if we ever hang out with that map, maybe I can show you a few video games I like.”

“I think I’d like that,” she replied with a smile. Her voice was so gentle and kind, yet so articulate and powerful. She had the exact kind of voice that people would think had the power to hypnotize. I didn’t know if she was flirting with me, or if it was just… wishful thinking. Was this what Nicole felt with every guy she wanted to have sex with? It was emotionally exhausting.

***

“Las… tortugas,” Sabrina said aloud as we finished writing our sentences. “That’s all the questions, right?”

I looked over my book. That’s questions 1, 3, 4, 5, 6a and 6c, right?”

“Oh, oops,” she remarked. “We even did 6b.”

“Just means we’re such good students,” I joked, stretching. 

“Ha, I guess we are,” Sabrina said in a small voice. It was like a particularly stiff wind could blow her over. If I thought Megan was shy last year, she was nothing compared to Sabrina. That just made the fact she could tell me about what she saw all the more impressive. “So did you hear about the new exchange student?”

“Zelda?” I asked, and Sabrina nodded. “I actually got to show her around.”

“You did?” Sabrina asked with wonder in her eyes. “Why you?”

“The perks of being Student Council VP,” I replied with a joking cockiness to my voice. “Plus, Nicole was showing her around and needed to get stuff done.”

“Oh, cool. Nicole’s cool.” Sabrina’s legs shifted in her seat. “I still feel kind of silly for causing drama and talking about that thing I saw.”

I groaned. I knew Sabrina was being kind, but she brought this up every conversation, and the last thing I wanted was to remember the visual of Nicole kissing some other guy. “I told you, it’s cool, and I think it was brave of you to say it,” I replied, saying this sentence for maybe the third time. “I would do the same thing in your situation.”

“Do you think she was, like, setting you up with the exchange student?” she asked out of the blue.

“What??” I asked in a louder voice. Most of the students studying in our Spanish class looked over at us, so Sabrina and I just dove our noses into our textbooks until they were looking away again. “Um… probably not. Just because we’re open doesn’t mean it’s like a… game. It’s just how she jokes around,” I added, returning to whispering.

“Maybe you should go for it,” Sabrina replied playfully. “Especially if the open thing doesn’t make you feel good, maybe you’d feel better if, like, the playing field was even. I bet you had good luck with girls before you and Nicole started dating.” She was smiling at me like we were sharing an inside joke.

Did she know about me and Megan? Or May? Either way… “I dunno about that,” I replied uneasily.

She decided to shrug and leave it at that. A few minutes and a few nervous mini-speeches from Mrs. Luciano later, class was finished, and I was walking to English with Jason in tow.

“Why weren’t you with us at lunch, man?” he asked, catching up to me. 

“Oh, I’m not there a lot,” I answered. “I was just in the gym working out today. This year I don’t have a lot of time after school.”

“Soooo… how do you eat lunch?” he asked, scratching his head.

“Apparently, stealthily,” I joked. “I was eating it during the first few minutes of Spanish. Luciano doesn’t mind.”

“Huh.” He kept walking alongside me. “Well, still, you gotta make time for your friends, right? They miss you.”

“Yeah, I still just need to adjust to the new year,” I replied, almost dismissively. Jason didn’t know my friends more than I did. Just because he saw them more in the last two-ish weeks didn’t mean shit. Plus, I was seeing them this weekend anyway, but I was nearly positive that Jason wasn’t invited, and I didn’t want to rub that in. “It’s hard keeping up with everything. I got class, council, I do karate, I gotta keep up with my friends plus my girlfriend…”

“She seems like a tough bitch to get a leash on,” Jason said with a nervous laugh. When he saw the look I gave him, his smile vanished. “Sorry. I was joking. I didn’t even mean it.”

“She’s definitely Council President material,” I acknowledged. “If anything, I’m the guy with the leash on.”

“Yeah…” he trailed off. “Can I ask something?”

“Go ahead.”

“So Carson said she’s the school slut.”

Here we go, I thought to myself.

“So like, how does it feel to be the guy that… tamed her? I dunno, like does it feel weird she used to sleep with a lot of guys and now she doesn’t?”

I could only laugh. Hey, if Jason was going to be part of the friend group now, he at least had a right to know. “She actually still does,” I said bluntly. “Sleep with guys, I mean. We’re, uh, in an open relationship.”

“Oh, wow…” He thought to himself for a moment. “Do you like it?”

“No,” I freely admitted. Fuck it, Jason could know that too. Better him than one of my closer friends that had history with Nicole anyway. “No I don’t.”

“…So why do you do it?”

“Long story short, Nicole hates being tied down, and wouldn’t have been in a relationship with anyone unless it was open. I love her so much that even though I don’t like it, I’m willing to look past it. And, like, even now, the benefits outweigh the downsides.” I stopped where I was. “Don’t tell the others please, they know Nicole too and I don’t want it to, like, look bad on her.”

“Your secret’s safe with me, dude,” Jason promised, then we kept walking. “I kinda know where you’re coming from, actually. Like, me and Athena are definitely not open, we’re faithful to each ot- I mean…”

“I know what you mean,” I mumbled.

“Cool – but there’s definitely something similar there. Like, Athena, she’s an older girl. And dating an older girl can come with a lot of…”

For the rest of the walk, Jason talked about his relationship. He mentioned the fact that Athena was older than him about three more times.

***

“So now you’re skipping lunch just to work out?” Nicole asked me with a disapproving tone. “Are you just trying to disobey what I said?”

“Disobey?” I repeated with a smile as we walked. “Are you my girlfriend or my mother?”

“I could be both if you got over yourself and finally called me ‘mommy’ when we fucked,” she joked. I had a sneaking suspicion she brought it up so often because she wasn’t actually joking. “I told you, you have to eat lunch. You’re also missing out on seeing your friends.”

“They don’t miss me,” I replied quietly.

“We both know you’re talking out of your ass there, squirt,” she quickly rebutted. “If it’s too much, you can just work out after school and just not come to yearbook meetings with me.”

“This is the first one I’m going to, yearbook clearly isn’t the problem,” I pointed out.

She shook her head. “You’re just too busy. Ease up a lil’. You’re gonna give yourself a hernia or an ulcer or something.” With that, we arrived in the yearbook room.

She called it the yearbook room, but really it was just a computer lab in the math hallway. At about six of the computers, various students were working on various pictures and adding subtitles to them. In the middle of the room stood an authoritative figure, a tall fat black girl, looking cross at Nicole.

“Nicole…” she started disapprovingly, tapping her watch a few times.

“Oh, did you get a new watch? I don’t get why. Looks just like your old one,” Nicole joked dismissively. The girl rolled her eyes, then set them on me.

“Oh, hi,” I said politely. “I’m Adam, I just came here with Nicole.”

“I’m afraid we’re not taking any more applications for the yearbook team,” the girl replied, watching Nicole putting her stuff down.

“Nah, he’s just with me,” Nicole replied casually. “I’m his ride home, so he’s going to chill in here if that’s okay. Think of it as me babysitting him.” She winked at me, then casually joined the group.

“Okay, just don’t distract any of the yearbook team if that’s okay,” the girl replied, walking towards a table with a bunch of chairs around it, then abruptly turning around. “My name’s Jennifer.”

This was getting to be too many names. It was going to be impossible to remember them all. “Nice to meet you!” I replied diligently, watching her turn away and sit down at the table with Nicole. The two of them were clearly the head honchos, and immediately started some kind of meeting about the bigger design choices of the year’s yearbook. 

I heard the smallest voice saying, “Oh, hey,” and turned to see Sabrina Saigeon waving timidly at me. I quickly walked over and sat down next to her, smiling.

“Hey! I didn’t know you were in yearbook,” I said casually.

“Really? I thought I said that, but yeah, I am,” she whispered back. “We shouldn’t talk too loud. Those two get really mad when we’re not doing our work.”

“Which one’s the leader?” I asked, and the both of us peeked over the computers at the little meeting. Jennfer was shoving her finger in Nicole’s face and Nicole was holding her arms up indignantly, all while grinning.

“It’s hard to say…” Sabrina said slowly. “I think Jennifer is the head of yearbook team, but Nicole acts just as leader-y as Jennifer.”

“Yeah, that sounds right,” I admitted. “I bet Jennifer can be scary.”

“Nicole is scarier,” Sabrina replied instantly.

I chuckled. “I guess I’m used to it,” I replied. “Should I let you work?”

“Yeah, but… you can keep sitting next to me… if you want,” Sabrina managed. “You can use the, you know, computer.”

I chuckled. “Thanks,” I replied, a little louder than I should have. I saw Jennifer looking at me seriously out of the corner of my eye. I shuddered as I booted up the computer.

***

“Boom. Headshot,” Carson said confidently in a bad Australian accent as he sniped me. “You’re losing, buddy.”

“I’m taking it easy on you so that you don’t get your ass kicked by both of your best friends every time you play,” I replied bitterly, trying my best to focus on the game. I heard Megan giggle beside me. 

“Ooh, so you’re a best friend now?” Carson challenged me. “Crazy how I only ever see my best friend like twice a week.”

“That would be crazy,” I agreed. “Even crazier how you forget we’re in homeroom together.”

“Oh, come on, that doesn’t count. Classes don’t count,” he rebutted. “But maybe you’re so wrapped up in your own little world that you think that’s the same as hanging out.”

“Better than being so wrapped up in my little world that I think I’m irresistible when I haven’t gotten a girl to say ‘yes’ to me since the school year began,” I replied roughly, trying to one-up him and completely failing.

“My goodness,” Megan mumbled in disgust, no doubt rolling her eyes. “You can practically smell the testosterone.”

“Sorry, I just have so much of it,” Carson smugly replied. “Hey buddy, bet you wish you could borrow some so you could finally stand up to your girlfriend, huh?” He made a whipping sound and mimed it with a free hand. My God, he could even take a hand off the controller and still be beating me. 

“I had sex last week,” I angrily replied. “How’s your love life doing?”

“Adam,” Megan chided me.

“You’re seriously taking his side?!” I fired back.

“No, I think you’re both being idiots, but if Carson doesn’t want to rush into having intercourse-”

“Woah, who said I don’t?!” Carson interrupted. Hilariously, Megan’s comment seemed to be the first thing that actually got under his skin. 

“-then leave him be,” Megan finished, as if Carson never interrupted. Shortly after she finished, the match ended. No one needed to look at the screen to know who won. Carson was smugly grinning at me, and so, in turn, I passed the controller to Megan.

“Waste him,” I instructed her.

“With pleasure,” she replied, taking the controller. I watched as the match unfolded, and in a deliciously short amount of time, Carson’s controller was thrown into the couch cushions.

“Fuck,” he spat. “I should be getting better by now. Why the fuck aren’t I getting better?”

“Because I’m getting better too,” Megan replied softly. “You played well.”

“Yeah but you can’t get better. You’re a god at Halo,” Carson replied bitterly.

“Goddess,” she corrected him smugly. “And speaking of, are we ever going to invite Nicole out with us sometime? I think it’s in the Bro Code to invite the boys’ significant others to these things too, right?”

“Fuck no it ain’t, what Bro Code are you reading?” Carson immediately shouted.

“Yeah no, that’s definitely not in the Bro Code,” I replied at the same time as Carson. “I mean, I wouldn’t be against it, I bet she’d be a lot of fun to be around.”

“Mmh,” Carson replied indignantly. “Can I speak freely here?”

“When don’t you?” Megan and I replied at the same time.

“Ha, nice. Anyway, It’s kinda uncool that, y’know, she’s all like, ‘oh, sure I’ll be in a relationship with you, but only if you let me fuck other guys.’ I dunno, she-”

“Carson,” Megan cut in. “You aren’t in their relationship, and you do not get to judge. This could be a very touchy subject for Adam, and it’s kind of personal anyway.”

“Sure, but, Adam, do you get to do whatever you want too?”

“This is a very personal question,” Megan advised me. “You don’t have to say anything.”

“It’s cool,” I soothed her, facing Carson. “I get to, yeah. Maybe someday I will. I guess I’m just more traditional than her, but it doesn’t mean I’m not happy in the relationship.”

“Well, you’re not happy with it being an open one,” Carson said like it’s a fact. 

I feigned defiance. “I never said that, you can’t just presume I’m unhappy with it just because it’s new,” I told him.

“I’m not presuming, Jason told me,” Carson replied, taking a handful of chips from the bowl next to them and eating them. With a full mouth, he replied, “Dude’s got loose lips.”

“I’ll need to remember that for the future,” I replied annoyedly. “I was kind of hoping that I could avoid this subject with you two altogether-”

“Why?” Carson asked.

“So let’s drop it,” Megan said at the same time.

“Whatever, it’s out in the open now,” I admitted. “You both clearly have your ideas of what and who Nicole is, and I just don’t wanna drag my drama into your lives.”

“Never stopped you before,” Carson quipped. Megan moved her mouth to the side but said nothing.

“…You know, why is it we never hear this shit from you, man?” I replied, my voice gaining some heat. “What is this, the Adam Show? Why can’t I just have my life without you sticking your nose in it?”

“You’re the one that kept bringing it up,” he reasoned. “And you’re kind of a magnet for drama, dude. The least we can do is enjoy it.”

“I’m going to the washroom,” Megan announced, getting up and leaving.

We both watched her leave, and once she was in the washroom, I turned to Carson. “Am I a magnet?”

“Let me put it this way: we both fucked Megan.”

“This had better be good,” I warned him.

“Just listen, just listen. We both fucked Megan, right? When I fucked her, it was just casual fun and we stopped after a bit. When you did it, you had this whole fake relationship, and Nicole had to get involved, and her brother beat the shit out of you in a parking lot. Can you spot the difference?”

“So what, it’s my fault all that shit happened?” I asked, confused and a little hurt.

“I’m just saying, something about how it happened caused a lot of drama and I somehow avoided it. I’m not some fuckin’ wizard or something, buddy. Maybe I handled it with more grace, or maybe you’re just cursed.”

“So what, I should just lay low?”

“Honestly?” He paused. “Maybe you should just embrace it. Nicole and you are open, and you don’t like it. Maybe you should fuck another girl. Not Megan though, she’s kinda sacred at this point.”

“Yeah, I got that Megan’s not an option, thanks,” I spat. “‘Sacred?’ Weird way to put it, dude.”

“You know what I mean. Anyway, maybe if you just play by her rules, you’ll find out that it’s not so bad. Or, maybe she’ll get jealous and you’ll have more ammo for your next fight about the openness to your shit.” He smiled at me meaningfully, like I knew he was right.

My mouth moved to one side. “I did get some advice similar to that recently,” I admitted. 

“Bam!” Carson replied, then his look quickly turned to confusion. “Wait, who?”

“Some girl in my Spanish class,” I replied.

“She got a name?” 

“Believe it or not, she does,” I replied. “Sabrina. She’s on the yearbook team with Nicole. She saw her, uh… kissing another guy, so she told me thinking I should have a right to know. I’ve been open about it with her ever since.”

“Woah, a good morals girl,” Carson replied, nodding. “You should go for her.”

I lowered my eyelids. “Yeah, the good morals girls are the first ones to want to be your side chick.”

“Some are!” he argued. “But she was the first one to say you should go after other girls, right?”

I thought for a second. “Right…” I said slowly.

“She wants you,” Carson replied, 100% sure. “No girl tells you to hook up with girls unless she secretly wants to be one of them. Otherwise, she’d get nothing out of telling you. You gotta think about these things, buddy.” He tapped on his temple a few times, looking at me intently.

“Alright, so what do you get out of this?” I snapped.

“You get less pissy,” he admitted. “And maybe once you feel better, you’ll have more time for us. It’s way less fun when it’s just me and Megan. She wins every time.”

“Still doesn’t make sense,” I admitted. “Why are you acting like your word is law when, no offence, you have stopped having casual sex yourself? Whether it’s intentional or not, it doesn’t exactly make me believe I should listen to you.”

Carson looked off towards the washroom, making sure Megan wasn’t coming back, then leaned in close. “I’ve had sex with like three girls since we got back to school, buddy,” he admitted in a whisper.

“What?!” I whisper-shouted. “Why haven’t you-”

“Because Megan gets all uncomfy when sex is brought up, and to be honest, even as a friend, her opinion means more to me than, like, most people’s,” he said with a shrug. “I just don’t want her to think bad of me is all. And even without that, I’d just rather she has a good time with us.”

“So all those times I accused you of not being good with girls…” I trailed off.

He grinned. “Yeah, I held my fuckin’ tongue,” he confirmed. “Hardest shit I ever had to do. Don’t make me keep doing it.”

“You’re a way better friend to Megan than I ever gave you credit for,” I admitted softly. Internally I realized that this meant something bigger: he was understanding Megan’s feelings and making sure he didn’t bring up sex. I wasn’t doing anything like that. I was a worse friend to Megan than the guy most of the school would have called a sexist. 

“Yeah, well, she’s a good kid,” he said with a nod. “So, you got two people saying you should just go for it. Are you gonna do it?”

Before I could answer, Megan came back into the room. “I dunno,” I finally answered.

“Megan, tell Adam he needs to do it,” Carson playfully ordered her.

“Do what?” she asked.

“Who cares, just say it.”

Megan shrugged and turned to me. “Do it, Adam,” she told me jokingly.

“Oh wow, now I’m convinced,” I joked back. 

***

“Ichi, ni, san!” Sensei Sparrow barked, with all of us punching with each count. I winced, and my final punch came out slower than my first two. “Come on, Adam, don’t lose focus now!” 

My eyes were stinging. The sweat was going down my forehead and into my eyes. I wanted nothing more than to wipe my face with my hands, but that would mean moving my hands from the punches I was currently doing, and the Sensei would have none of that. Compared to karate, school was lax and didn’t care about rules. Here, they were strict.

“Ichi, ni, san!” she counted in Japanese, with all of us punching with each count. “Nicky, count.”

“Ichi, ni, san!” Nicole immediately called out with authority in her voice. With Paul now gone, she was the one Sensei Sparrow was focusing on the most to become the dojo’s next black belt. The grading would be next summer, and according to Nicole, the week of testing was apparently hell.

“Nicky, watch those hips!” Sensei yelled. She mimicked Nicole’s punches. “What is this?” she asked, gesturing towards her hips. She then did the action again, emphasizing the hip movements more. “Do it again.”

“Ichi, ni, san!” Nicole commanded. All of us kept up, punching thrice. “Ichi, ni, san!”

“Yame!” Sensei Sparrow called out. That meant ‘stop.’ “Good job, everyone. Line up.”

Getting my yellow belt over the summer felt good. Whenever we did the line-up now, I would go in the middle of the line instead of right at the end. My progress was showing; I was making my way up the line. 

Once all of the students were in the line, we did the ritual of bowing to the dojo and our instructors and were free to go. Once we were in the hallway, Nicole snapped her fingers. “Oh, right,” she said, clearly remembering something. “Did you get that text from Sydney? About the Council thing?”

“A text from Sydney?” I asked. “Uh, no, what was it?”

“Hang on, let me find it,” she replied, turning on her phone and digging through her messages. Other students were filing out, leaving the place emptier and emptier. The dojo was in a recreation center which was open for another hour, so there wasn’t any rush for students to immediately leave; it wasn’t like Sensei Sparrow herself had to lock up.

I waited for a few minutes before eventually putting on my shoes and huffing, “Well, maybe we can find this out tonight, I can visit for a -”

“No, hold on,” Nicole commanded. “I’ve almost found it.”

The Senseis (the black belts), who were always the last to leave, were leaving at this point, mumbling their goodbyes to us as they passed by. Eventually, Sensei Sparrow herself left, giving a cheerful goodbye to myself and ‘Nicky.’

I looked around, annoyed. “Nicole, can this wait?” I eventually whined. “We’re the only ones left.”

It was like those last few words triggered an evil spell. At once, Nicole shut off her phone and began to slowly grin mischievously at me. “I know,” she purred. 

Even though I trusted her intentions, I felt the color drain from my face. “There was no message, was there?” I asked. 

“Nope,” she laughed. “I’m kinda surprised you didn’t figure it out before.”

I laughed with a confused expression. “So what, was this a prank, or-”

I didn’t get to finish the sentence before I was up against the wall with Nicole kissing and grinding on me. She got like this sometimes, especially after a long bout of physical activity. Something about a good workout seemed to excite her.

Our tongues explored each others’ mouths and our hands roamed all over each others’ bodies. Nicole would suck and nibble on my lower lip every chance she got, and giggle into the kiss when she heard me moan or felt me shudder. Eventually, she broke off the kiss. “Our gis are heavy,” she told me. “We need to lose them. Washroom?”

“Are we taking the men’s or the women’s?” I asked.

“There’s a – just follow me,” she said in a hurry, walking off and practically dragging me along with her. It turned out there was a single-stalled washroom in the middle for handicapped people and people that needed to change their kids or something.

“Huh,” I mumbled as I walked in, shutting the door behind me and locking it. 

Nicole’s top was already off, though it was placed neatly on the little changing table. “Why the fuck are you clothes still on? What’re you waiting for, permission?” she nearly barked.

“I can’t tell if you’re scarier in class or out of it,” I joked, starting to take off my shirt. It was maybe half off before Nicole tackled me again, her shirt completely off. With my chest exposed, I felt the warmth of her skin on mine, her hard nipples poking against my chest. She practically whined with need, grinding up against me.

“You’re going to get your gi pants wet,” I moaned, prompting her to grunt and get off of me, ditching her pants quickly. I did my best to follow suit, and soon we were both in our underwear in front of each other.

I expected her to tackle me for a third time, but instead, she just stared at me, and slowly traced lines over my body as she got closer. “What’s your inspiration?” she asked, looking over my body. “You’re taking such good care of yourself all of a sudden.”

“All of a sudden? I’ve been doing this for a whole year,” I told her. “I think you were the one to tell me to do it.”

She smiled at me. “Aw, I’m your inspiration?”

I smiled back. “Kind of, yeah.”

Her smile got bigger and she went in for a slower, more meaningful kiss. We were us, so the ‘slow’ part didn’t last long. Before we knew it, we were grinding up against each other again, this time with her against the wall, and two thin layers of fabric between my rock-hard cock and her wet waiting pussy.

My mouth was busy making their mark on her neck. Nicole went back and forth on whether she liked visible marks, but…

“Fuck yes! Oh my fuck, yes, right there.”

…It was safe to say today was a pro-hickey day for her.

“Oh!” she moaned, practically jolting with each nibble I gave her. “Fuck, Adam, you’re the best. I love feeling your lips on me.”

I took my lips off of her. “If you keep moaning like that, we’re going to get caught.”

Her eyes were glazed over. She wasn’t paying attention. “They’d be so jealous of us,” she moaned, going in for another kiss, then quickly shifting my mouth to her nipples.

I loved sucking on her nipples. Her breasts were absolutely perfect – the perfect size, the perfect shape, and even her nipples were the ideal shape and size for sucking playfully. Her nipples got noticeably hard and swollen, so they were fun to flick with my tongue and even graze with my teeth when they got aroused. 

“Ooh, fuck, Adam…” she moaned, feeling my tongue on her. “You’re so good at this. Fuck!”

I was in heaven. The feeling of her nipples in my mouth, her eager motions, how saturated she was as she ground against me, it was all just heaven. Nicole was always so hungry for me, so needy when she got horny. I loved it. I loved being close to her. I loved her.

“Fuuuuck…” she moaned, unable to resist temptation, sticking a hand inside her underwear and rubbing her engorged clit. “Fuck, Adam, I love feeling her mouth on me. You’re so talented. Fuck, I love you so much…”

Even if this was the only situation I got to hear her say it, it still made my heart swell. “I love you too,” I moaned, taking my mouth off of her nipple just long enough to say it. “Did you want to-?”

“Yes. Fuck yes,” she moaned, turning around and hooking her thumbs into her underwear, throwing them down to the floor. She put her hands against the wall and arched her back, giving me a perfect view of her wonderful, aroused, saturated, unshaven pussy.

I sighed in contentment as I took my cock out and began to align it with her pussy. I gave her one last look, teasing her, a look she eagerly returned.

A knock at the washroom door nearly made us both jump. “Jesus,” Nicole whispered to herself. “Occupied!”

“Well, hurry up,” a gruff voice came from outside the door. “I have to clean up in there. I want you out quick as you can.”

Nicole groaned in utter dissatisfaction. The groan lasted a good seven seconds. She looked back at me, then at the door, then back at me, and slowly lifted her underwear back up. “We don’t know if he’ll just stand outside,” she reasoned to me in a whisper.

“Then how do we get out without him knowing?” I asked in sudden panic.

She stood up straight. “Oh fuck,” she replied in realization. “Um… hmm…” She thought to herself for a second. “Get dressed. I have an idea.” The both of us quickly found our clothes and got dressed, then Nicole turned to me and whispered again. “When I nod for you and open the door, run out towards the dojo. Turn the corner if you can. Just be out of eyeshot of this washroom. Got it?”

I nodded, though I wasn’t sure how I was just going to outsmart a janitor standing right there. Just as I wondered if this was a suicide mission, Nicole shouted.

“Um, hey, are you still there?”

We waited. Nicole frowned, then unlocked and opened the door, peering outside. “God damn it,” she cursed. “Come on.”

The janitor had moved on. “I was going to pretend I was out of toilet paper and ask him to get me some,” she explained.

“How would he get it to you? Wouldn’t that mean opening the door?” I asked.

“I dunno, part of the plan was going to be improvised,” she argued. “Believe it or not, I don’t have perfect plans in my head for every single little event.”

“Could’ve fooled me,” I replied with a smile. We started to walk out, and as we did, the janitor passed us. He didn’t say anything, but he did shoot Nicole a look. 

We quickly found ourselves back in Nicole’s Ford Focus, stuck between laughing at the thrill of nearly getting caught and groaning in disappointment. “Fuck,” Nicole cursed. “Someday we’re going to fuck in there. I swear to God, someday.” Without looking at me, she turned on the car and began to drive.

“Hey, I never doubted you,” I laughed. “The way you were looking in there, it was like you were going to either fuck me or, like, eat me by the end of the night.” I let a pause settle in between my thoughts. “It’s actually really interesting how you’re basically the same person when you do karate and when you want to have sex. Like, there’s still this commanding presence, and you could still kill me in either headspace, but I dunno, it’s like you get into this ‘Nicole mode’ both times. I dunno, it’s neat.”

Nicole still wasn’t replying, and was focusing on the road. “Most people don’t really do that,” I continued. “They either are the same with everything they do, or they have like seventeen billion different personalities they show to everyone. Like, I think I’m in the ‘seventeen billion’ camp. I’ve tried to deny it for a while, but I think I’m completely different depending on who I’m talking to, you know?”

Sometimes Nicole would say less after karate, but this was unusual. “You know?” I repeated. I waited for about five seconds, then ten, then twenty. Eventually, I shifted into my seat. Did I say something mean? 

Whole minutes passed. Nicole kept on driving, until suddenly, she flipped on her blinker to the right when there was no exit. I watched, puzzled and slightly worried, as Nicole pulled over to the side of the road and put the emergency lights on, putting the car in park and just sitting there.

“What’s up?” I asked, trying to keep my tone as casual as possible. 

Nicole just stared straight forward. She didn’t say anything. She barely moved.

“Nicole,” I called out. No response. “Nicole!” 

Her gaze never shifted. She just stared out at the road with the blankest of expressions. 

Enough time passed that I decided to do something. Wordlessly, I extended my arm forwards and touched her shoulder. She didn’t react to it at all. Worrying that she was genuinely not okay, I didn’t want to shake her or poke her somewhere more sensitive, but every few seconds, I reached forward and awkwardly stroked her shoulder, having never seen this before and not quite knowing what to do. 

After maybe another whole minute, Nicole started moving. It almost startled me after such a prolonged movement of no movement, but suddenly, her gaze shifted downward and she gripped the sides of the steering wheel.

“Nicole?”

Her head tilted downward and then she stopped again. I thought maybe she’d freeze again but just as I wondered if I should touch her shoulder again, she started shaking.

Shaking, like she was cold or scared for her life or something. This wasn’t stillness. This didn’t seem like nothing. I was getting worried.

“Nicole. Hey, Nicole. Are you okay? You’re scaring me,” I told her assertively. “You look like you’re not okay. Can I hug you? I want to hug you. I think you need a hug. I hope that’s okay. I care about you. I l-” I caught myself, even while going in to hold her. Nicole kind of shied away from me telling her I loved her outside of sex. She always rolled her eyes at it. If she wasn’t okay, using the l-word was probably not the smartest move.

So instead, awkwardly across the car seats, I held her, not knowing how much time passed before her shaking began to subside. Eventually, she became still again and she took a few deep breaths. I was almost jump-scared when I felt her hand tapping on my back, probably telling me to let go of her.

I let go and looked at her. She was looking at me with something between a blank expression and a muted smile. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“Not much, what’s going on with you?” she weakly joked.

“Nicole…”

“Sorry, it was just one of my moods. I get them from time to time,” she said. 

“Was it something I said?” I asked. 

She shook her head. “This just happens sometimes,” she answered.

“I never saw it happen before,” I told her seriously. 

“Yeah, it usually happens when I’m alone,” she replied, almost annoyed. “This is new.”

“I feel like it’s something I said,” I repeated.

“I would tell you if it was,” she said. “I would tell you that. Don’t you trust me to be honest like that?”

My mouth moved to the side of my face. “Yeah, I guess so,” I replied, unconvinced.

“Anyway, sorry,” she quickly added, putting the car back into drive and continuing our way home. “You were saying?”

I almost chuckled in pure shock. “Nicole, I don’t remember,” I told her. “Do you expect me to pretend like nothing happened, like that was normal?”

Even while driving, she looked at me sternly. “Yes,” she simply said.

“I’m not gonna do that,” I replied. “How long have you been getting these ‘moods’ for?”

“Two hours, two decades. The fuck does it matter?” she snapped.

“It scared me,” I replied honestly. “What triggers it?”

“No, we’re not doing that,” Nicole replied, her voice beginning to quiver. “Fuck no. I’m already forced to talk to one fucking shrink every week. Like hell I’m gonna let my own goddamn boyfriend talk to me like one too.” She paused. “‘What’s triggering it?’” she mocked my question. “The hell would it even solve if you did know?”

“I’d know not to do it in the future,” I replied weakly, my voice equally quivering. 

She coincidentally went up to a red light just as I said that. Immediately she turned to me and gave me a sad smile. “Okay, that was sweet,” she admitted. “I’m sorry. I just hate talking about it. It’s not something other people do, it’s just… look, it’s just an extra demon I gotta fight. But I’m fighting it, okay? For you, and for me, and for everyone that has to deal with me.”

I let a silence pass between us. “Did you want me to come over tonight?” I offered.

“No, when I get like this I just want to be alone, if that’s okay,” she breathed. “I need my space. I need to process this, or else it’s just gonna keep happening. Okay?”

I didn’t reply. After a few seconds, she sighed. “Hey squirt, don’t you feel like this relationship is all about me sometimes?” she asked rhetorically. “I need time to myself, so maybe that means focusing on you a little more. Play some video games. Study, if that’ll make you happy. I know you don’t wanna, but think about texting some cute girl. I’ll be there for you tomorrow, even if you need to focus on that. It would make me really happy if instead of worrying about me when I need space, you use that time to think about someone who should be more important to you.”

She drove for a little while longer. Eventually, she arrived at my place, and when she put the car into park, she undid her seatbelt, leaned over, and gave me a kiss on the cheek. “Can you do that? For me?”

“Would it help?” I asked.

“Yes. Genuinely, yes. Knowing you do more than just care about me and worry about me, fuck yes. I want you to care about yourself and do what makes you feel good too. It would make me happier.” She paused. “It might even make me more stable down the line, and that would be cool, right?”

“You’re just saying that.”

“I’m saying it might. I’m not gonna pretend I know everything going on, but I’d rather the, uh… the ‘bad’ parts of my life aren’t, like, consuming you. It’s taking a lot of me to even be this vulnerable, so quit being a brat about it, okay?” She punctuated her last question with an unserious smile.

I smiled back, albeit weakly. “I’ll try. This is new for me,” I admitted.

“The best thing you can do for me is not treat me like a freak or a zoo animal or a fragile little doll whenever I slip up,” she told me earnestly. “Today I just happened to slip up. That’s all. I’m still the same Nicole you care about, right?”

“Right.” I leaned over and kissed her, holding her face as I did. “See you tomorrow?”

“Count on it, hotshot,” she said with a smile. I returned it as I got out of her car and waved her off, watching her drive away. As soon as she was gone, so was my smile. It wasn’t like I couldn’t worry about her. Of course I was going to worry about her.

What could I do? Snitch about this to the school counselor? Tell Salvador? Ask my parents? Drop it like she asked me to? Nothing seemed like the right answer, and I sure wasn’t qualified to know what was the right one. 

As I came home and said hi to my parents, I thought about what she said. Maybe I didn’t have to worry. She said that if I did, it would make things worse. Or at least, she kind of said that. Maybe allowing her to figure this kind of stuff out herself was a kind of trusting her. Like, I was trusting her to make the right decisions for herself, and being worried and getting involved was just not trusting her enough to make her own decisions, like I had to help make those decisions with her.

I really was thinking way too much about her. When was the last time I thought just of myself? I thought about the past week. A lot of people said a lot of things. Megan, Sabrina, Nicole, Jason, Carson… 

Carson. He gave me that advice. He told me to just go for it. Sabrina kind of did too. I pulled up my phone and looked at my texts. I missed two messages from Sabrina, and both gave me a little smile. She was like that person I was talking about in the car, the kind that had seventeen billion different versions of herself. She was totally different over text, and I actually kind of liked it. She was lively and almost envelope-pushing, totally contrasted to her real-life self, but like, in a fun way. Both versions of her were fun. Maybe…

Thinking of her, and of Carson, and even of Nicole, I began typing a text to her.

Hey! You’re really chill, and I should hang out with you more. 🙂 Did you want to do lunch together tomorrow?

***

Sabrina and I met in that little hallway by the cafeteria. It was out of the way enough that you could eat your lunch in peace away from the loud bombastic atmosphere of the caf, and small and tucked-away enough that most kids didn’t bother using it. 

“I sat here once or twice,” Sabrina admitted timidly as we sat on the floor together. “Mostly in grade nine, when I didn’t know anyone.”

“Oh, am I taking you away from your friend group?” I asked nervously.

“Ha, no, it’s okay,” she replied, taking out her lunch. “I actually don’t really have a friend group now…”

“What? Why not?” I asked, feeling my phone buzz. I took it out and looked at the message, seeing it was from Carson, asking me where I was and what I was doing. No doubt, he wanted me to sit with them at lunch, but hey, I was a busy guy. I smiled to myself as I typed a message back to him.

I’m only doing what you asked me to do. Will explain later. 😉

I put my phone away and looked at Sabrina, who lowered her face slightly. “You weren’t paying attention, were you?” she asked.

“Oh, sorry,” I replied. “People keep trying to reach me. They get angry when I don’t reply.”

She nodded. “Council stuff? Or no, wait, girlfriend stuff?”

“He wishes he was my girlfriend,” I joked.

“…Huh? Who does?” she asked. 

“”Um, yeah, never mind. No, just a friend. My girlfriend just wants space right now, actually.”

“Oh, did you two have a fight?” she asked.

“No, we’re just complicated.”

Her brow furrowed. “When girlfriends say they want space, most of them mean they’re angry at their boyfriends. That’s what that means.”

I digested her words slowly. “Well, Nicole isn’t most girlfriends,” I admitted slowly. “I trust her.”

“Okay,” she conceded. “Anyway, yeah, long story short, most of my friends kinda dropped me to be in their own little popular girl group,” she replied honestly. “We were friends in middle school, but, I guess they were too cool for me when we came here.”

“That sucks, I’m sorry,” I replied. “Anyone I know?”

“I don’t think so. They’re in our grade, but, none of them are in Council or anything. People like Taylor Wise, Morgan Jones, Sadie Washington…”

I scratched my head. “There’s a Morgan in my English class. Maybe Taylor’s dad or uncle or something is a Sensei at my dojo?” I said unsurely. 

“What’s that?”

“Like, a teacher at my karate school. Anyway, yeah, I don’t know them.”

“I thought I did,” Sabrina replied sadly. “I guess I wasn’t enough like them. Or maybe they grew and I just stayed the same.”

“Well, they’re missing out,” I replied with a smile.

She smiled back. “You’re sweet,” she replied, scooting a little closer to me. “What about you? I’m sure I’m taking you away from your Council group.”

“Nope, most of them don’t have lunch with the juniors,” I replied. “They all have senior lunch.”

“And your girlfriend?” 

“Same thing, senior lunch.”

“Huh.” She paused. “So what’s the deal with you and her, anyway? If I can, you know…”

I chuckled. “You seem really curious about it.”

“Well, I’ve just never heard… I didn’t know you could do that. So like, she can kiss or do stuff with any boy she wants, and there’s like, no drama?”

“Well, there always is with her,” I replied, then thinking about what Carson said to me. “And me. I’m kind of a drama magnet too.”

I was expecting any response except for the one I got. I could practically see Sabrina’s eyes sparkle as she mumbled, “Woah, that’s cool.” She blushed and looked away for a bit, then looked back at me. “So you two kind of, like, rise above the drama? Like, yeah it happens, but you stay together anyway?”

“Um, yeah, I guess! That’s one way of looking at it,” I admitted.

“That’s so cool. And she’s allowed to kiss other boys, and… and you’re allowed to kiss other girls?”

“I’m allowed to, yeah,” I admitted. Did we have to talk about my relationship out here in the open like this? I looked around, almost nervous if someone was going to hear in on us. I had a bad history with this hallway and listening third-parties.

“Okay, so if you say it like that, you definitely haven’t, like…” She blushed again and looked down at the floor.

“Are you asking if I’ve ever kissed another girl while with Nicole?” I asked, helping her along.

“Well, yeah,” she mumbled. “This sounds cool. Like, every student kind of wants that, you know? To have someone you care about but you can just do whatever, with anyone. It sounds like you have the life most students, especially most boys, want.”

“You’d think,” I replied, nodding, then looked at her. I don’t know what made me decide to, but I felt I needed to lie. “Anyway, I did it with a few girls so far if you have to know, but like, I didn’t go crazy or anything.”

Sabrina’s look turned puzzled. She paused for a moment and finally cleared her throat. “Are you lying?”

I was completely caught off guard. “Lying?” I repeated.

“I think you are,” she said sincerely. “It’s okay if you haven’t done anything. I think I’m more impressed with the truth than anything. If you’re trying to impress me.” She gave a nervous smile to the floor.

Wow, strike one against me for undervaluing her. “Okay, fine. No, I haven’t. I’m not even sure if I want to. I mean, I guess if the right girl came along…” I happened to look right at Sabrina right as she looked up from the floor. I could tell both of us blushed and looked away. My cock betrayed me, getting hard in my pants. I quickly put my lunch pail on top of my crotch and made it look like I was getting another piece of food to eat. “You know, even casual stuff needs to have a connection. Even when you’re not in a relationship, you wouldn’t just kiss anyone…”

Sabrina laughed. “I think my old friend group would disagree. They’d go to school dances and sneak in alcohol and grind on the closest boy they could find,” she said. “One time, Taylor and Morgan had a competition to see who could kiss the most boys in one night.”

“Wow.” Maybe what Nicole and I had wasn’t ‘novel’ as much as it was just ‘honest about teen hormones.’ But wait, if that was Sabrina’s friend group history, then…

“Wait, so the idea of kissing multiple boys isn’t new to you,” I noted. “Did you used to do these competitions too?”

I didn’t think Sabrina could turn pinker, and yet, she proved me wrong. “I did at one or two parties,” she confessed. “But I couldn’t do it. It was just too scary. I think I’d rather do it, if I was going to do it, with someone who, like, knew what they wanted and communicated it well.”

“Oh yeah?” I asked shyly. I couldn’t remember the last time I had butterflies like this. I even knew that I didn’t see a long-term future or whatever with Sabrina, so why did this conversation have such an effect on me?

“Yeah,” she shyly mumbled. “And, uh, maybe you should find someone to do it with soon too. You know, so you won’t have to lie anymore.”

My cock throbbed in my pants. Did Sabrina know what she was doing? It sure seemed like it. And yet, at the same time, she seemed like this shy, out-of-touch girl. At least she seemed to value openness. All I had to do was ask if she was suggesting something, and she’d either say no, or go all, ‘well if you want,’ and then…

And then…

I opened my mouth to ask, and the end-of-lunch bell rang. Sabrina looked up at the ceiling and smiled. “Wow, time flies,” she murmured. “You’re so interesting, Adam. You’re really cool.”

My mouth was still open from getting ready to ask. “Uh, yeah, you’re cool too, Sabrina,” I admitted. “Did you want to have lunch another time? I’d really like to hang out with you again.”

“Yeah, if you’d like that, I’d like that too,” she softly told me, getting up and grabbing her bag. She waved to me and ran off, blush clearly still evident on her face.

Was this as obvious as I thought it was, or was I a moron? I felt like I was reliving grade nine all over again. I guess I was about to find out. And plus, even if things did blow up, I could always come home to Nicole.

***

“I’m sorry, what?” I asked, furious.

Nicole shrugged, trying to balance embarrassment and nonchalance. “I told you, I just don’t feel like having sex today,” she said.

“No no no,” I asserted, getting up off her bed. “That’s not the issue and you know it. What’s the part you said after?”

Nicole sighed. “I said that I didn’t want to have sex today because I’ve already had sex today.”

“With who?”

“I’m sorry, did we agree that I had to ask permission and give names before I had sex with anyone else or something?” Nicole asked with anger in her tone. “At the beginning of this relationship-”

“You said-”

Hold on, no. I’m laying groundwork here. At the beginning of our relationship, we agreed it would be open, and that’s how I am. No open, no Nicole. I told you later on that I would be having sex with other guys. That’s just how I am. If you didn’t like it, that would be fine, but we couldn’t be boyfriend and girlfriend. Have I missed anything?”

“You missed how I’m barely even your boyfriend if we don’t get to fuck in, what, two to three weeks, and you just go have sex with some guy, and don’t even tell me about it right before you come over. I have to find out whether you even want to have sex with me, your own boyfriend, or if you already got some dick that day.”

“What are you talking about?” Nicole exploded. “Did you want me to pre-announce every guy I sleep with?” She over-exaggeratedly mimed thinking about it. “Hmm, hah, oh wait, that’s right, you asked for the literal exact opposite. You asked never to know about any of the guys that I fuck. You-”

“Well I’m finding out about all of them anyway!!” I shouted, throwing up my hands. There’s this guy, there’s Rodney-”

Nicole scoff-laughed. “Yeah. Two guys. Sure, that’s all of them, dude.”

“How many then?!”

“Do you want them in alphabetical order or in order of sexual performance?”

“Fuck you,” I spat. “You know this shit hurts me.”

“Then break up with me,” she yelled back. “I told you what I’ll be like, and you told me you’d deal with it. And this is you, not dealing with it at all.”

“I’m asking for – I’m asking for some courtesy,” I said gingerly, lowering my tone. “If we haven’t had sex in weeks-”

“Which isn’t even true, I blew you like a week ago,” she argued.

“Oh that doesn’t count, I’m talking like full sex, penetration,” I replied quickly. “If we haven’t had full home run sex in weeks, then maybe go to me first.”

“‘Go to me first’ sounds like monogamy until proven satisfied,” she joked with a straight face. 

“Being boyfriend and girlfriend is all about supporting each other,” I countered. “And don’t play dumb. You wouldn’t be in a relationship with me and you’d never let us be anything more than friends if you didn’t agree. Isn’t sexual satisfaction part of that?”

Nicole paused. “I think you and I just have different ideas of what sex isand what it means to us,” she quietly replied. “And we’ll have to acknowledge that.”

“What, so relationships don’t have any special-ness or, like, what’s the thing where some things have more value than others…”

“Hierarchy.”

“Thanks – hierarchy when it comes to sex? You’re acting like sex and love are two entirely different things.”

“They can be! You had sex with me before you loved me.”

“Yeah, but love enhances the sex, Nicole, you can’t deny that, and…” I got quiet. “I feel like I’m being sexually replaced here. When we got together, we agreed that other guys would never ensure you were sexually unavailable to me.”

Nicole stood up. “Listen. If we did agree to that, this is where I’d back down and apologize, but, this is really important: I never agreed to that. You never even brought it up. This is just how you’re justifying it to yourself now.”

“Okay, well… I’m suggesting it now,” I argued. 

“I’ll have to think about it,” Nicole replied. “Sorry, but I can’t make any hard answers now.”

“Who was it?” I repeated.

“Would it make you feel better or worse if you knew?” Nicole asked. “I know the answer, and I bet you do too.”

I remained silent. “What if the tables were turned? Like, hey, I’ve been talking to this girl lately. Really cute girl.” I emphasized the adjective ‘cute.’ “Her name’s Sabrina. Maybe if you’re going to be unavailable, I should just go to her and see if she wants to fuck me too.”

Nicole’s expression went from stone-faced to baffled. “…Yes!!” she shouted, returning to fight mode. “Yes you should! This is what I’ve been saying the whole time! You even have a solution lined up, and you’re whining to me?”

“Fuck this,” I groaned, hitting the wall with my hand.

“Hey, stop that, no need to hit things,” Nicole barked.

“Yeah, keep telling me what to do while fucking other guys behind-”

“Don’t you dare say ‘behind your back.’ I’ve been communicative,” Nicole told me icily.

“It doesn’t feel like it though,” I admitted. “It makes me feel bad.”

Nicole stared at me for a bit. “Okay, look, compromise. I will tell you whenever I have anything lined up, but will never tell you who. You agree to never try to find out who if I do that. If you find out even one name – and I will catch you if you do – I reserve the right to never tell you again. I will keep in mind how this is making you feel and do my best to be with you first. I do like having sex with you, Adam, but it’s the sex itself that’s too different to us.”

“What, the sex we have?”

“No, just the very… act. The concept. I feel like this isn’t working.” She collapsed on the bed again. “We have a lot of highs and lows in this relationship. It’s stressing me out.”

“Yeah, me too,” I admitted, then paused. “Do you want to break up with me?”

“Want? No. Should we? I dunno. Maybe we can make this work, maybe we can’t,” she told me honestly.

I processed what she said. “I’d rather we stay together.”

“Well me too, obvi,” she replied. “I’m sorry that the way I have sex, and the way I talk about it, hurts your feelings. I never want to hurt you.”

“I’m sorry that I’m so… I mean…”

“You don’t have to apologize too, squirt,” she told me in a voice just above a whisper. “I’d rather you be able to articulate what you’re apologizing for anyway. We can make this a Nicole Says Sorry day today.” We both sat on the bed and eventually her head found its way on my shoulder. We didn’t speak for a while, until I heard Nicole’s dry voice. “Is Sabrina the one from yearbook?”

“Yeah,” I admitted.

“Good call. She’s cute.” She paused. “Be careful about the drama. It follows us everywhere.”

“Yeah, tell me about it,” I chuckled. “Sometimes I wish you were jealous.”

“All times I wish you weren’t,” she replied, then took her head off my shoulder. “I guess that’s just one of the many ways we both make sacrifices, huh?”

I smiled at her and we slowly kissed. “I love you,” I told her. “I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

“Yeah, I wasn’t exactly keeping my voice low either,” she replied. “Talking to mommy and daddy later will be fun. I’m sorry too.”

“So…”

“I’m definitely not up for sex,” she admitted. 

“I can do something for you if you-”

She shook her head. “I won’t do anything with anyone until after we have sex though. Like, full, complete, dumb sports metaphor sex. Promise.”

“Okay. Thanks,” I told her, putting my head on her shoulder.

“Mario Kart?” she asked, kissing the top of my head.

“Sure,” I said with a smile. As soon as she went to set up the console, my smile faded. A part of me was screaming at me that this wasn’t working, but another part of me was yelling that this needed fixing, not throwing away, and walking away would be the biggest mistake I ever made. All I could do for now was smile and wait, bide my time, and see if the future made anything clearer.

____________________________

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5 thoughts on “Consequences – Chapter 3

  1. ” A part of me was screaming at me that this wasn’t working, but another part of me was yelling that this needed fixing, not throwing away, and walking away would be the biggest mistake I ever made.”

    Perhaps the ‘key sentence’ of the whole story so far, and right at the end of the chapter. Getting very interesting though I do find it a little difficult to keep the girls’ names attached to the right lady. I can’t help feeling I shold know more about Sydney, for instance.

    Anway, very much enjoying this sequel: please do keep going.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When reading Mutual Benefits, I didn’t realize Morgan and Taylor were in the same school as Adam and Nicole. That was a “Huh.” moment for me. I enjoyed the name drops as someone who’s read all your work to this point.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Welp, after a hiatus from your work I decided to check out how the website was doing and was pleasantly surprised to not only see a major work started, but a sequel to Being More Social. Only if you want was a nice addition but It’s been a while and I think you made a good call continuing the series, even though my heart is telling me that leaving the story how it was after chapter 20 would’ve been a cliffhanger for the ages. I actually enjoyed not knowing what would happen next but I’m definitely not complaining about this continued series. Anyway I was skeptical reading the first part of Chapter One of Consequences but after finishing the third chapter I think you have a lot to work with, with how you’ve set up the story, and I like the direction you’re taking with it. Hope you’re doing well and have a good one

    Liked by 1 person

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