I stared at the key in my hand. The damn key. If I had known how much trouble this stupid key would cause me, I would never have given it to Megan. Even though people were shouting at each other around me, it all felt like static, like nothing could be heard over the deafening ringing in my ear. I stared straight ahead, unable to leave my own head, as much as others were trying to bring me out of it.
Was this always going to happen? Was it my fault? Still staring straight forward, I thought back, trying to think of everything that happened this week, the last week before Christmas break. The week where everything went to hell.
Probably one of the most difficult days for any of us. Even getting up in the mornings was difficult, and that went double for me. I was definitely starting to get overwhelmed trying to balance Student Council, classes, homework, working out, karate, sometimes yearbook team, and making time for both my girlfriend, friends, and I guess friends with benefits.
And boy, was Sabrina ever not letting me forget that I needed to make time for her, if her texts were any indication.
hey, do u have the key yet???
“The key” was basically our code word at this point. She wasn’t asking about the key, she was asking about something else. I chewed my lip and began typing my response.
Nope, we’ll just have to use the hall again.
“The hall” was also clearly another such word. A placeholder. To be honest, the hall was actually kind of exciting in its own right, but I would have plenty of time to think about that later.
I looked up from my phone, reminding myself that Mr. Kovacs didn’t love people using cell phones in his class. I was already told that if he saw me using it again, he’d take it away. I didn’t really care – I could live without my phone for twenty minutes, and plus, I was kinda untouchable in this school. I was the Student Council VP.
I looked to my left and sighed. Megan and Zelda were sitting next to each other, whispering and giggling. They were getting along so damn well now. It was great, and I was happy for both of them, but I… come on. I was Zelda’s friend. I was the one she was talking to during history class. Was I that replaceable? I can accept that nothing sexual or even romantic was happening, but… I still wanted to be her friend.
I looked back at Mr. Kovacs’ desk. He was nose-deep in his book. Students were whispering all around the room. It seemed like as good a time as any to butt in.
“Hey, Megan,” I began. Megan didn’t notice, so I sighed and repeated, “Hey, Megan.”
Megan turned to face me, a genuine smile fading from her face. “Hey Adam,” she replied.
“Do you know… what question three means? We don’t even have aqueducts.” It was lame, but I didn’t just want to intrude in the conversation to take the key away.
“Um…” She turned back to her desk and took out her book from her bag. It was in her bag, unopened. Jeez. “Questionnnn… threeeeee…” she murmured. “Oh. Um… yeah. I think it’s asking about modern versions of aqueducts. So, you know, pipes and stuff.”
Zelda nodded. “That’s what I wrote down, too,” she chimed in, offering me a smile. It almost hurt more that when I interrupted, Zelda was happy to speak to me. Where was that enthusiasm when I wasn’t already talking to her?
I nodded sagely, writing some notes down. “Ohh, totally. That makes a lot of sense, actually.” I turned back to them. “Seems like studying is going well.”
“Yeah!” Zelda immediately agreed. “Honestly, you two have helped me out so much.”
I shrugged. “Hey, I didn’t do anything. This was all Megan.”
“Hey, no!” Zelda protested. “Adam, you were the one that welcomed me into this class. I’m grateful to both of you. You’re both special to me.”
Yeah, were we? I sure wasn’t feeling special, Zelda.
Megan smiled, looking back and forth between us. “It’s so cool, she agreed.
“What is?” I asked.
“Just… this,” she replied, gesturing to us.
I snapped my fingers. “Oh, by the way, are you good to give back the keys soon?” I asked, as if I just remembered. “Nicole’s been asking me about that.”
Megan looked at me weirdly. “She said I had a week.”
“Yeah, but she’s still asking me, in case you two were planning on giving it back early.”
“Oh.” She turned to Zelda, their eyes communicating. She turned back. “I think we’re both planning on studying right up until the break,” she confirmed to me. “Every day.”
I feigned coolness, shrugging. “Cool, I’ll tell her,” I replied. “Sorry she’s hounding you. After that, will you two find a new place, or will we see you at lunch again?”
Megan cheekily smiled at me. “Yeah, see? It’s a bummer when one of us isn’t there at lunch, isn’t it, Adam?” she asked with a chuckle. Zelda joined in, smiling.
I raised my hands in a comedic way. “Alright, ya got me,” I conceded.
“I think…” Zelda cut in, waiting for confirmation from Megan. “We’re planning on shifting studying to after school. That way we can all still hang out at lunch.”
My smile turned genuine. That was fine by me, and I didn’t care if Zelda did it with all the boys – I definitely missed flirting with her. No matter what she did with others, it felt like what we had was special. I guess this was what Nicole was getting at.
Shortly after ,the bell rang. After a quick goodbye, Megan went to her locker, though Zelda told her to set up without her. I didn’t think much of it until I saw Zelda looking at me intently as I got up from my desk.
“I’m sorry if it feels like I’ve been ignoring you, Adam,” she told me sincerely.
“Ignoring me? What?” I asked, pretending to know nothing.
Zelda couldn’t hold back laughter. “Wow, you’re the worst liar on the planet,” she guffawed.
“You have lunch with Megan, have you seen her lie?” I asked, rolling my eyes. I got up from my desk, sighing. “I guess… I mean, whatever.”
“Not ‘whatever,’” Zelda insisted. “I really enjoy getting to spend lunch time with Megan, but I can understand if we’re leaving you out of the… what’s the word in English?”
I stared at her for a few seconds. “I don’t even know,” I admitted. “But I get what you’re saying. Uh… thanks.”
“No, no need to thank me!” Zelda insisted. “I’m sorry. Can I give you a hug?”
I cracked a smile, and readily accepted. Our bodies met in a meaningful embrace. She smelled like some kind of exotic flower, and her words carried such weight. I was glad she clearly wanted to be my friend, and I was really hoping she wanted to be more.
I tapped on the stairs’ handrail nervously. I had been coming to the hall a fair amount during Spanish class, but the more often I had asked to go to the bathroom during Spanish class and just gone to the hall instead, the more likely it was I was going to get caught.
Clearly, that thought hadn’t occurred to Sabrina, because she practically skipped down the hallway, not a single worry on her face. “Hey,” she greeted me.
“Hey,” I replied, my worry clearly showing.
“What’s wrong?” she asked innocently, walking up beside me.
I looked around in both directions. No one ever came to the back stairwell, but even still, it was a publicly accessible place. Sabrina and I were referring to it as The Hall; the place we met up during Spanish class since we wouldn’t get the key for a while. As far as Ms. Luciano knew, we had both gone to the bathroom, five minutes apart.
“We’re going to get caught,” I told her. “Ms. Luciano’s going to find out.”
Sabrina smiled at me. “It’s not like she leaves the classroom during her own class,” she pointed out. “All she can do is suspect.” Confidently, she moved in for a kiss, which I gladly returned.
Sabrina was getting more confident and bold with time. It was sweet, and also, it was pretty sexy. I loved when a girl showed initiative and made the first move. It was probably why I fell so hard for Nicole. Plus, if I knew a girl wanted me, it made me more confident to take things a little further.
And I was happy to do just that. As soon as her lips were on mine, I slipped my hands down her hips and grabbed her by the ass, pulling her forward. She moaned in anticipation, kissing me with need and fervor, moving her body against mine.
She loved feeling me grow hard against her. Her kisses and moans, needy and desperate, made me want to take her right then and there in the hallway. We hadn’t gotten that far, though she had suggested once or twice…
She broke the kiss. “How about today?” she asked. “You don’t even have to return the favor. Just let me…” She giggled, looking around. “Suck your cock.”
I couldn’t help but smile. She loved being this naughty girl, offering to blow a guy in the school hallways. A big part of me really wanted to let her do it, but I shook my head. “You know the rules,” I told her.
She pouted. “The rules you made,” she sulked. “If we’re just going to kiss and not do anything else unil after the New Year, I’m going to go crazy!”
“You could always find another guy,” I told her with a wink.
She winked back. “I don’t want any other guy but you.”
I chuckled. God, what a red flag. I’d need to address that someday. “I tried asking for the keys again today, but they said they’re going to use it for the whole week.”
She groaned, though that could have been because my lips latched onto her neck and I started grinding against her. “Don’t you… outrank her?” she panted. “You should just… ungh… tell her that… fuck… that you need the keys. Don’t even… fuck… don’t even ask her.”
My cock begged to be set free. My jeans were in serious danger of ripping, and I resolved that if it really did break through my pants, it deserved to fuck her. “I’ll try,” I promised, kissing and sucking on her neck, no doubt leaving several marks, all while I ground up against her. She was grinding back. Our rhythms were becoming one. It was like we were having sex, but with less feeling and several annoying layers of cloth in the way.
“I need you… inside me…” she panted. “Fuck. Fuck me. When you get that key back, we’re having sex. I want you inside me. As soon as possible.”
I moan-laughed. “If you insist,” I told her, moving my hand up to cup her small breast through her shirt. After a little maneuvering, I got my hand inside her shirt and was caressing and squeezing her breast, using one of my fingers to play with her nipple.
Sabrina was gasping and lightly moaning. “Just once. Please. I want you in my mouth. I want my mouth to be filled with you. I need to suck a dick, Adam. I want you to cum in my mouth.”
I kept playing with her breast in response, wishing I wasn’t so nervous. I really wanted it too. It was just too risky. I knew we’d just be going back to class hot and bothered, but we couldn’t risk it.
And the reason why we couldn’t risk it came about a minute later. Luckily, it was during a point where we weren’t making too much noise, but we heard distinctive footsteps come from the floor below.
With lightning speed, I pulled my hand out of her shirt, the both of us looking into each others’ eyes in panic. Thinking as fast as I could, I whispered, “Turn around, head in your hands. Pretend you’re crying.”
She complied immediately and I started rubbing her back. We could have run instead, but if it was a teacher, they would have heard sudden running footsteps. Eventually, I saw the head of Mr. Graves, my old math teacher, looking at us as he ascended up the stairs.
“Do you have a reason to be here?” he swiftly and sternly asked. Hazelwood did away with physical hall passes, but missing class for any reason was still a pretty serious thing.
I bit my lip. “She ran out of class, some kind of…” I lowered my voice to a whisper. “…Anxiety thing.” I shrugged, my voice returning to normal. “I’m just here to help her out.”
“Hmm,” Graves simply replied. “Which class should you be in now?”
“Spanish, Luciano,” I diligently replied. “We’ll only be a few minutes. She just doesn’t want to return… like this.”
“I see,” he replied, the sternness never leaving his face. “Well…” He gestured with his head to the upper floor, where the classrooms were. “When you can.”
I nodded, giving him that promise, which seemed to satisfy him. With nothing more than a sigh, he continued up the stairs.
As soon as he was gone, Sabrina’s head re-emerged from her hands, but I immediately pushed her head back down. “No,” I whisper-ordered, leaning in. “Do it for a few more seconds. You never know.”
She complied again, waiting a full fifteen seconds before coming back up. She rubbed the back of her head. “That hurt,” she complained.
A smile spread across her face. “I’d rather you grab my hair another way,” she said suggestively.
I scoff-laughed. “Definitely not today,” I told her. “We were so lucky we weren’t making noise when that happened. We should get back to class.”
Sabrina didn’t disagree. We said little more, knowing full well we were going to be texting a lot tonight, and that we were going to see each other in this stairwell tomorrow.
Today was my turn to get to the classroom last, so I waited three minutes after Sabrina left, then started making the trip back myself. When I got back, Ms. Luciano seemed to barely notice, although someone who did notice was Jason.
I wasn’t too worried, since he seemed to take it well that I was in an open relationship, but his expression seemed meaningful when his eyes gestured towards Sabrina, then back to me, then gave an over-the-top gesture as if to say, “What’s going on?”
All I could think to do was shrug playfully.
Nicole strutted back and forth across Room 203 like she was queen of the world. “And that goes double for next year,” she informed us. “We didn’t secure that music budget for nothing. And you know how it is with budgets – use it or lose it. We have a banger of a jazz section – these dumb middle schools are practically begging for us to tour them!”
Daniela’s hand shot into the air. Nicole pointed to her, telling her, “Dani, go.”
“So, uh, not to be rude, but do middle schoolers even like jazz? Maybe we should send over some people that know music that they’d actually like,” Daniela pointed out.
Nicole continued pacing back and forth around the room. “Mm, definitely something to consider,” she replied thoughtfully, not missing a beat, as if the question came from Nicole herself. “But! We need to remember that, first of all, we’re not doing this to promote jazz. We’re doing this to show off that the students of Hazelwood can make some damn good music. Plus, go ahead and tell me how we can make Wrecking Ball or, I dunno, Roar, using a woodwind and brass section.”
“Doing Wrecking Ball would be so stupid. Miley Cyrus is actually going crazy,” Sydney said to herself.
“Yes, Ms. Ross, we understand the idea of a woman actually being independent is scary to you,” Nicole dryly inserted.
“Anyway, we’ve got a few things the kids are into. Or, at least, what our music teachers think the kids are into.”
“The Family Guy theme?” Daniela guessed.
“The Simpsons theme too,” Nicole replied. “But I don’t disagree. I think the choir was considering doing Royals next year, maybe we can bump it up to th- finally!”
All eyes followed Nicole’s to the entrance of the room where Sabrina stood, very nervously. She made eye contact with me then turned pink, immediately looking down to the floor.
“Everyone, since this is our last meeting of the year, I wanted to make sure we got a team picture together before Christmas,” Nicole continued.
“We’re doing pictures today?” Rick protested. “Ugh. I look like a mess.”
“Then we’re capturing your true essence,” Nicole quipped back. “Where d’you want us, Sab?”
“Um…” Sabrina was back to her usual timid self. “I dunno… wherever you want to be, I guess.”
Nicole stared at her for a few seconds before rolling her eyes. “Yeah, okay. Um…” She turned back and looked at the wall behind her. “If we move this desk, this could probably be a good spot. Sabrina, you brought the good camera, right?”
“Good. Lemme see it. I’ll need to adjust the aperture.”
Nicole didn’t wait a second longer before walking up to Sabrina and snatching the camera. Sabrina turned pink, her eyes fluttering to me before looking awkwardly at the wall.
“You will be…” Nicole trailed off, focused on the camera. “…in charge of maneuvering everyone. Making sure they’re in the right place.” She handed the camera back to Sabrina and gave her a challenging smile. “Strong voice. Be bold. Be mean if you have to.” She walked back to the center of the room. “Where do you want us, photographer?”
Sabrina seemingly accepted her fate. “Okay, we need to move that desk,” she began, pointing to the same desk Nicole singled out.
“Great idea,” Nicole said flatly. “Couldn’t have thought of a better one myself.” She grabbed one end of the desk and used her superhuman strength to actually lift it an inch or so off the ground, carrying it to the side all by herself. She really could do anything.
“And the rest of you… go to where the desk was. Two rows. Tallest people in the back.” Sabrina’s voice wasn’t exactly that of a drill sergeant, but nevertheless we moved, likely fearing Nicole’s retribution if we didn’t. She ordered a few of us to move around, though the most hilarious part came when she had to move me.
“Um…” She turned pink yet again. “Th-the VP… what’s – what’s your name again?”
I couldn’t help but chuckle, and heard Nicole mumble “oh boy” to my left. Sabrina wasn’t exactly Megan, so maybe some of the Council couldn’t tell she was lying, but at least half the Council knew we fooled around by now, if not more. “Adam.”
“A-Adam, I need you to come in closer,” Sabrina said shakily. She was so confident one-on-one with me… it was so interesting to see the old side of her.
“Yeah, come in closer, Adam,” Nicole said to my left with a smirk on her face. Without anyone being able to see, her hand came around to my butt and yanked me in, her hand remaining on my ass. “Unless you’re scared of me.”
I smiled back at her, and winked. Sabrina coughed uncomfortably.
It wasn’t my best day. Nothing particularly bad happened to me that morning, but it was just one of those days where I woke up and felt more anxious. I was a lot better with my anxiety this year, but I still had off days, and clearly, so did Carson.
All throughout lunch, he was moving back and forth, fidgeting with his hands instead of eating his food. Eventually, he sighed. “Where the fuck is Megan?”
“Tutoring Zelda,” I replied, feeling his pain. “As always.”
“Yeah, well, that doesn’t need to be an everyday kinda thing,” he spat annoyedly. “How are they not running out of things to study? She’s teaching more than… what’s his name?”
“Yeah, she’s teaching more than Kovacs at this point.”
“After one session she probably taught more than Kovacs did,” I admitted. “Yesterday, I talked to them – they said they’d be having lunch with us again after this week.”
Carson gave a laugh of derision. “So, next year,” he concluded. “What a fuckin’ stupid thing to waste your time on. Studying for history. Zelda’s a smart girl, she can catch up real quick.”
“To be honest, Carson,” I gingerly started. “I think they’re just enjoying being friends and talking in a more quiet environment. I mean, on my most anxious days, the caf is kind of overwhelming for me t-”
“Yeah, fuck that, nobody cares,” Carson grumpily cut in. “They were happy to hang out with us before, and now that she got, what was it, one bad grade, she’s throwing her and Megan’s whole lunchtime away? No. Just no.”
Jason and Athena just sat, quietly eating their food. Eventually, Athena thought to cut into the silence. “You miss her, don’t you?”
Carson shrugged. “She’s a part of the team. She’s been a part of this since, like, grade nine. You don’t just throw that shit away for studying.” He jutted a finger out towards me. “Or Student Council bullshit.”
“Carson,” Jason inserted, “Maybe this kind of thing is important to her. I mean, you don’t know her. Maybe-”
“Wait, I don’t know my own friend?!” Carson interrupted. “You’d better have been talking about fuckin’ Zelda, because I know more about Megan now than you ever will, dude.”
Jason sat in baffled silence. His eyes flickered to me, and I shrugged. “I wouldn’t,” I simply told him. “Just let it be.”
“Just let it fuckin’ be,” Carson agreed.
Normally, when a friend and I crossed paths in the hallway, we’d just politely wave to each other and move on. After lunch, when Zelda and I were walking in opposite directions, that was exactly what happened, but this particular time, I hesitated.
Zelda’s smile was friendly and she even gave me a “Hey Adam” as she walked by. I waved back, then stopped in my tracks and turned around, watching her leave. I stared at her for a few seconds, then, against my better judgment, walked back up to her.
“Yo, Zelda,” I said casually, keeping pace with her.
She smiled at me. “How was lunch?”
“Uh…” I mulled it over. “Carson’s not… taking it well.”
For some reason, that was enough to make Zelda stop abruptly. “Not… taking what well?” she asked in a very serious tone.
Seemed like an over-dramatic response, but whatever. “Like, the fact you two are gone at lunch,” I explained. “He misses Megan, and he likes you too. As a friend.”
“Oh,” she replied simply, going back to walking. “Well, what can we do? You need to study in school, right?”
“Carson doesn’t think so. He doesn’t even pay attention in class.” We shared a laugh. “I think I’m just glad that you two will be back. He’s not the only one who misses you.”
“Adammm!” Zelda replied, putting an arm around me and giving me a side-hug. “You are so sweet! I’ve missed you too.”
Her touch felt so good on me. Feeling her hand on my shoulder and her absolute lack of shame having an arm around me as we walked in the public hallways filled me with confidence. “I mean, I definitely get it,” I admitted. “There’s nothing like getting to spend time with a friend when it’s, like, not in a group, right?”
“You know, I feel the exact same way,” she agreed, going up to her locker and taking her hand off my shoulder. “To me, that’s really the best way to talk to someone.”
“Yeah. Uh…” I started fidgeting around. “I mean, her, if you ever wanted, you know… I would totally like to hang out with you too sometime. You know, we could go take a hike together or even just hang out at one of our houses… if you wanted… we could even see a movie or something.”
Zelda turned away from her locker, smirking at me. “I don’t know about a movie,” she told me. “If we’re watching a movie, then we can’t actually talk to each other, can we? That sounds like what you’d do on a date more than anything.”
I said nothing. I couldn’t even think so. I decided to go for broke, my silence speaking volumes. I looked at her, away from her, anywhere I could, while the message sank in.
“Wait. You’re with Nicole right now, aren’t you?”
I shrugged. “It’s an open relationship.”
She paused. “So… you can go on dates with anyone you want?”
“I think so,” I laughed. “I mean, yes. I can.”
She opened her mouth a few times, but nothing came out. Eventually, she stopped and moved her mouth to the side. “I… don’t know, Adam. This feels too close to cheating for me to be-”
“It wouldn’t be cheating,” I insisted. “I can text Nicole again and-”
“I trust you,” she soothed me. “I, uh… ha.” She looked like she wanted to say something, but was holding back for some reason. “Why don’t we… think about that? Maybe in the meantime, we can hang out, just us two. But it’s not dating or anything. Is that okay?”
“Uh, sure!” That was fine by me. Odds were, even getting to hang out with her one-on-one was a sign of good things to come. “I think I’m free on the weekend. I just can’t drive, though I think I know someone who does.”
“Oh, wow,” Zelda breathed. “This is all really sudden. I think we should maybe hold off until at least after classes end.”
“Classes… do end on Friday,” I pointed out.
She smiled. “Always so persistent,” she said. “I just mean a little bit after. I want to have a bit of time to myself. Okay?”
Maybe I actually misjudged this. “Okay,” I admitted, feeling a little stupid. “Uh… see you in history tomorrow?”
“See you then,” Zelda practically laughed.
“Cool. Great. I’m, uh, sorry,” I replied quickly.
“Hey, no, no being sorry,” Zelda soothed. “I’m going to enjoy getting to hang out with you, Adam. It’s just a stressful time for me right now.”
“Okay, yeah,” I admitted, my face getting hot, my body already turning to leave. “Anyway, see you tomorrow!”
All things considered, Zelda was being really nice to me. Plus, she said she wanted to hang out with me. She didn’t even say no to going on dates with me, just that she wanted to hang out with me first. So why did I feel like such an idiot…?
Whatever. I walked away, mentally noting that I needed to ask Nicole if going on dates with other people was okay.
It was the boldest Sabrina and I had ever gotten in the hallway. Full-on fucking in the hallways was a no-go, and I had no confidence in my abilities to quickly put my junk away if it was out, but we managed to find a workaround.
Sabrina grunted and moaned, shoving her chest into my face. She had the cutest little tits, her nipples standing out straight, proud, and excited. She seemed a little bit embarrassed of her “flat” chest, but I actually kind of liked it. I was so used to Nicole’s endowments that having her small, sensitive boobs in my face was actually really sexy in its own way.
Nicole’s theory of “the smaller the chest, the more sensitive” seemed to be proving true. Maybe it was because Sabrina was also trying to rub herself under her dress, but she was getting really into our motions, practically shoving my face into her chest. She was definitely appreciating my experience, and my technique. Every time my tongue rolled around her swollen nipples, they’d try to hit a slightly different area, covering every inch of her, making her lightly moan into the hallway.
“Wow… f-fuck, Adam, this is so good,” she moaned. “I c-can’t wait until we get that key back. I want to… I want you to… ungh…”
She definitely was used to getting what she wanted. Even if it wasn’t a direct request, she’d bring up the key every time we met up now. Part of me couldn’t blame her; we both knew that at our first opportunity, we would be fucking in that room. We’d play it safe, we’d lock the doors, and we’d try to minimize noise and make it as stealthy as possible, but I was going to be inside Sabrina. I was going to rock her world. We were going to go into a forgotten room in the school and fuck like wild animals.
For now, we were happy to tease each other, though both of us were getting tired of teasing. I was painfully hard and throbbing in my pants. I could hear how wet Sabrina was from her rubbing herself. Shooing her hand away, I started grinding up against her and put my mouth to her ear.
“Tell me how badly you want me inside you,” I ordered, my hips practically moving on their own.
“I want you so badly, Adam,” she breathed back into my ear. “I want to feel your huge perfect cock inside me. I want to take all of it. I want you to fuck me every day and make me your little s-slut.”
We kept grinding against each other, simultaneously loving the feel of our bodies against each other and wishing we could melt our clothes away and finally be as close to each other as we wanted. As we did, though, we heard telltale footsteps, this time coming from upstairs, and broke away from each other, making it look like we were having a really serious conversation.
I wasn’t expecting to see any person in particular, but I sure wasn’t expecting to see Jason. “Oh, uh, hey,” I clumsily said. “We’re just having a conversation here.”
Jason didn’t say anything to start. He just looked at the two of us for a bit, and then just said, “Uh-huh.”
That was enough to set the anxious Sabrina off. “Actually, we should probably get back,” she practically squeaked, then started to hurriedly walk back. “See you there!”
“Uh, yeah, see you…” I mumbled, watching Sabrina leave and Jason approach.
Jason watched her leave, then turned back to face me. He gestured towards Sabrina. “Are you two…?” he trailed off.
I remained unmoved. “Are we…” I parroted, waiting for him to finish.
“Okay, look… don’t play dumb. You two are, like, doing stuff in the hallways during class, right?” he asked.
I looked him dead in the eye and shrugged. “I mean, we’re doing whatever people think we’re doing, I guess,” I countered.
“You know, so many guys in this school would kill for the relationship you have,” he started. “The one you have with Nicole. It really does seem great, and she really does seem like a good person.”
I nodded. “Yeah, she is.”
“So I don’t get why you would throw it all away just to have some fun like that,” he added, heat growing in his tone.
“Okay, hold on,” I cut in. “Nicole and I are open. She, Sabrina and I have even been in the same car before talking about expectations. There’s nothing to read into here.”
“So if I asked Nicole-”
“Yes. And you absolutely can. She’ll be annoyed, but you absolutely can,” I confirmed.
Jason shook his head, leaning against the opposite handrail. “That’s such a shame,” he admitted.
“Wait, a shame?”
“Well, yeah. She – Nicole – thinks that’s the best thing to do, but even she can’t see how fucked up that can be for a relationship.”
I squinted in confusion. “Are… are you saying that you know my relationship with Nicole better than either Nicole or myself?”
“I guess I’m saying you two are cheating without even knowing it,” he told me. “And that’s going to seriously screw things up. Later on, it’s going to cause a lot of fights and you two are probably going to break up over it. Wouldn’t you prefer to keep things simple and actually love each other?”
My look was slowly approaching incredulity. How in the fuck was Jason under the impression he had any authority here? “Uh, dude, no offense, it sounds like you don’t know anything about open relationships,” I told him.
“I wouldn’t want to,” he countered. “You told me yourself that you didn’t like it.”
“It wasn’t for me, yeah, but it took some getting used to,” I admitted. “I’m actually pretty at peace with it now.”
“See, that’s just you wanting things to work out with Nicole, so you make compromises,” he continued. “But neither of you are actually happy.”
“Dude, how often do you even speak to Nicole?!” I asked, my tone losing its cool. “What the hell makes you think you can just talk to me like this?”
“I’m trying to help you, man,” Jason coolly replied. “I’m just saying, if this was happening to me, I’d want someone to say this to me.”
“I’m not you. And as much as you can’t see anything other than ‘older girl’ when you see the two of them, Nicole is nothing like Athena,” I told him.
“Hey, don’t talk about her,” Jason said suddenly, like I had crossed a line.
I gestured at him. “So you can talk about Nicole but I can’t talk about Athena?”
“Well, you’re okay with Nicole fucking any guy she wants. I actually want to protect Athena. So, yeah, it’s different,” Jason told me.
Rage bubbled up from inside me. I needed to walk away, and walk away now. “Dude, you are so out of line,” I told him ominously, starting to walk up the steps. “if you’re lucky, I’ll forget this whole conversation ever happened. Don’t ever fucking talk to me about this again. We have our own lives. Fucking butt out dude, holy shit.”
“You’re hurting Sabrina too,” Jason called from the hallway.
“You need to shut the fuck up,” I warned him. “Don’t talk to me during English today. And don’t ever talk to me about either of them again.” I stormed up the rest of the stairs, and back to Spanish class. What the fuck was that? Who the hell did Jason think he was? Why the fuck did he feel the need to insert himself in this? God damn, what an asshole.
I had cooled down a bit from that bullshit episode on Tuesday, but that didn’t mean I was happy to see Jason at lunch. Without Megan and Zelda there, lunchtime was basically dealing with Carson being pissy, Jason being awkwardly upset, and Athena being… present, I guess.
As a result, lunchtime was noticeably silent. The whole group exchanged maybe seven sentences total across the whole break, and while that may sound like a lot, it’s surprisingly few when the rest is silence.
It seemed like whatever was making everyone upset at each other wasn’t just limited to events happening to me. When the bell rang, not only did Carson take off immediately without so much as a “see ya,” but Jason also left with only one half-hearted “goodbye” to Athena. The kind of “goodbye” dramatic people say to people to let them know they’re upset at them.
Athena huffed as she watched Jason leave. I didn’t really know Athena that well, but thanks to the fact that we didn’t immediately get up and leave, we were the only two left at the lunch table, so I felt obliged to say something.
“Is everything okay?”
Athena’s eyes trailed up from the table to meet mine, and she gave a non-energetic smile. “I guess,” she told me. “I’m not happy with Jason about something right now, and I don’t think he’s taking it that well.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I told her, nodding along. “Anything you want to talk about?”
She shrugged. “Honestly, I don’t think it would help me or you if I did talk about it,” she admitted. “It would just be gossip, you know?”
I scoffed, looking down. “You’re more mature than anyone at the table,” I admitted.
“Well, right now, the table is just you and me,” she pointed out. When I looked back up to protest, she laughed a melodic, enthusiastic laugh. “Gotcha.”
“I mean…” I stumbled.
She shrugged. “I get it. Gossip is fun. But I don’t want to make things worse than they are, especially knowing you and Jason aren’t exactly doing great right now.”
“Now how would a non-gossip like you know a thing like that?” I teased, putting my lunch away yet not moving up from the table.
She shrugged yet again. “I pick and choose what I gossip about,” she teased back. “For what it’s worth, Jason is in the wrong.”
“No shit,” I replied with a scoff.
“It may seem obvious to you, but remember that you only have your side of the story,” she pointed out. “I only heard Jason’s pro-Jason side, and even then, it was clear he was out of line.”
“He just… came up to me, and I’m, like, in an open relationship, and he just assumes I was doing stuff with this girl, like, we were just in the hallway-”
“He heard her moaning. You’re going to go farther here if you don’t lie,” Athena added, a cheeky smile on her face.
I wanted to reply immediately and double down, but I paused, watching her face, watching her smile grow larger. I breathed a few times, and just quietly said, “Okay.”
Athena laughed her melodic laugh again. “Jason judged you, but I won’t,” she told me. “As long as Nicole knows, and Sabrina knows… who cares?”
“Well, Jason does,” I replied sourly.
“Jason has… a lot of trust issues,” Athena admitted. “He doesn’t like me having guy friends, for instance. It took a lot of convincing for him to even be okay with me having lunch with you and Carson, especially after Megan stopped coming.”
“Trust issues. I already said that,” Athena replied. “He made a list of the boys in my grade I was allowed to talk to-”
“He made a list of the boys in your grade you’re allowed to talk to?!” I asked, surprised.
She shrugged. “I think the guy has probably had bad relationships in the past. Or no relationships. I’m not happy with it either, but y’know, I’m working that out with him. I’m probably not an angel myself.”
Wow. Jason was… really immature. “So… wouldn’t he even get angry at…?” I gestured back and forth between myself and her.
She nodded. “Definitely. Without a doubt. I’d appreciate you not telling him we talked,” she replied, then shrugged. “He’s a nice boyfriend, but no one is perfect, right? He’s really sweet to me, but also kind of over-protective. He gets mad whenever I even talk to boys I’m in group projects with. He hates when anyone else brings me up.”
I always saw that as a quirk, or even a joke, but now that she said it, that was totally correct. Jason got upset whenever anyone else brought her up in any way. “That’s not healthy.”
“Yeah, but like I said, I’m working on it,” she told me. “Plus it’s not nice that he just told you how to live your life too.”
It was my turn to shrug. “I don’t think open relationships are a thing people see that much. So, like, it sucks, but I should probably be surprised people are as accepting as they are about it.”
“That’s a very mature way to look at it.”
“Yeah well, more mature than Jason.”
“Now now,” she teased. “He has his good moments. This just isn’t one of them.” She stood up, putting her bag on her back, and gave me a smile. “I’m glad I finally got to actually talk to you. I wanted to for a while.”
“Sounds like it’s something we won’t get to do often,” I observed.
“I’m not great at making friends anyway, I’m used to it,” she told me.
Yeah, and that was probably because she was forbidden from making friends with half of the school’s population. That was so fucked up. “Well, do you want my number?” I offered. “We could text and stuff. It was cool to talk to you too.”
“Sure,” Athena replied with a smile, taking out her phone. I smiled back.
This was definitely the most awkward Spanish class of my life, and with Ms. Luciano teaching, the bar was high. Anytime I looked to my left, I’d see a visibly agitated-looking Jason. Anytime I looked to my right, I’d see Sabrina, blushing and occasionally shifting in her seat. After yesterday’s fiasco, I told her firmly over text that we would not be going out into the hallway, and that was final. After a few attempts at protesting, she accepted her fate, and tried as hard as the rest of us to pay attention to class.
As was the case with a lot of Spanish classes, the first half was a lesson Ms. Luciano nervously and shakily delivered on how to do a certain thing in Spanish, with the second half being a work period. I worked with Sabrina 90% of the time anyway, and with the other 10% that was Jason definitely not an option at the moment, Sabrina and I didn’t even need to ask each other, and just shifted our desks together.
“You all set to work?” I asked her, opening the textbook.
“Do you think you could get the key back tomorrow?” she asked back, as if I didn’t say anything.
I sighed. She had such a one-track mind. I mean, I got it, even sitting next to Sabrina and breathing in her scent made me hard. I definitely wanted to take her as much as she wanted to be taken; I just didn’t want to go through the headache of getting the key. “It’s hard to get it back before Friday,” I told her, and slipped a stealthy hand onto her leg. “We’ll just have to be patient.” I started rubbing my hand back and forth on her leg. She whimpered in response, and I throbbed.
This was both so exciting and the worst thing ever. At least we had something to look forward to, but that was little comfort when we just wanted to fuck each others’ brains out now. Unfortunately, we just flew a little too close to the sun when we got caught by…
I looked to my left again. Jason was working solo on his Spanish, but he still looked visibly pissed. I couldn’t help but wonder, was he mainly pissed at me or Athena? Was it all the same thing to him? It was hard to say. One thing I knew: I needed to keep this stuff behind closed doors as best as I could. It was clear most people would, at best, act like Jason, and at worst, get me expelled if they were teachers or something. I couldn’t trust anyone else to be cool with open relationships. Like Jason himself, I was starting to get issues with trusting people.
Nicole held the punching bag in her hand as the students lined up to hit it. “One-two,” Nicole instructed the person ahead of me. “One-two.”
The person ahead of me punched the bag twice in a half-hearted way, with no meaning behind it. Nicole paused. “We’ll work on it,” she told them. “Next!”
I moved ahead in line and readied myself. I was trying to put more effort into karate. It felt like I was getting results, and I really wanted to impress the dojo, the Senseis, and above all, Nicole herself. I put my hands in front of myself and got ready to hit.
“Okay, pause,” Nicole instructed. “See how you’re holding your hands up? It’s too squished. Look at your shoulders. They’re raised and stiff. You’re not ready to attack, you’re limiting yourself.” She put down the bag and held up her hands in this exaggerated way where her arms were all squished in. “This is you.” She lowered her shoulders and let her arms relax slightly, but still held her hands in front of her face. “This is what you need to be. Okay?”
Nicole insisted that in the dojo, she wouldn’t treat me any differently than any other student, but I didn’t think that was true. I honestly thought she was more strict with me than any other students, but she just refused to admit to it. I mean, even by caring, I was already worlds above the guy that went before me. Why couldn’t she see that?
Nicole picked up the bag again and readied herself. I prepared my hands, got ready to punch, and-
Sensei Sparrow’s voice rang through the dojo. It was time to line up and go home. With a huff of frustration, I jogged back to the line where we did our traditional bowing ritual to end the session. After that, people began to scatter, and I walked up to Nicole, who was putting stuff into her gym bag.
“It was going to be a great punch,” I complained.
Nicole turned around from her gym bag, punching bag in hand. “Alright then, show me,” she replied nonchalantly.
“Wha-” I sputtered, but quickly accepted Nicole’s reality as my reality. I raised my hands, but tried to keep my shoulders relaxed, and hit the bag with one punch, then a second, feeling the force going through my hands.
A small, cheeky smile grew on Nicole’s face. “Alright, not bad,” she replied calmly.
“Not bad?” I pressed.
“You were better after you relaxed your shoulders, so good job on that,” she continued.
“You didn’t even let me punch when my shoulders were raised ,so how can you know?” I asked.
“I’m going up for black belt next year. It’s my job to know,” she replied simply. “Good to go?”
“I think so,” I admitted, jogging off to grab my own bag, then meeting her at the front of the dojo. The two of us bowed to it then began to exit the place.
“So,” I began as we walked to the car. “Now that you’ve had a bit to think about it, any advice about the Jason thing?”
“Well, number one, no hallway stuff,” Nicole sternly replied. “If a teacher catches you, that blows up everything for everyone. Including me. Even behind the school is better. At least it’s not in the school walls.”
“Yeah, well… sucks to be you,” Nicole finished with a laugh. “But seriously, nah. I’ll even drive ya if need be. No more hallway stuff. Unless it’s with me, and I start it, in which case, it’s hot and awesome.”
“You’re such a hypocrite,” I laughed as I got in the car.
She quickly followed, both in laughter and into the car. “You knew what you were getting into,” she told me. “Anyway, second of all, definitely keep expecting that. People, even people that think they’re open-minded, get irrationally upset with open relationships.”
“But why?” I asked. “I wasn’t hurting Jason. And Jason was so sure I’m hurting you.”
“Ah yes, the pure older-girl girlfriend needs to be protected,” she replied, nodding as she started the car. “He’d fit perfectly in ComTech class.
Communications technology. Video editing and media. “Wait, why?”
She turned to me and grinned. “Because he’s a projector,” she replied, holding up a fist.
I sighed and bumped it, chuckling to myself.
“I’m serious. It’s just projection. Monogamy is baked into people, and people think it’s not just the norm, but the only way you can live unless something is wrong with you. So, when they see people in open relationships…”
“…They think something is wrong with them?” I concluded.
“Bingo. They think they’re cheaters lying to themselves. After all, true open relationships don’t exist, don’t ya know. So even if two people are happily in one, that doesn’t fit into their worldview. So they have to pretend those people only think they’re happy with it. And the more people believe that, the more people conform to only doing monogamous relationships, the more being open is weird if anyone does that. It’s a self-sustaining cycle.”
I scratched my head. “My head hurts.”
“Is that because of this, or because I hit you on the head during karate?”
“Both,” I laughed.
“You shoulda done the proper defense. But yeah, people aren’t ready for that kind of conversation. I’ve had to accept it. Even you were weird about it.”
“Oh, 100%,” I admitted. “If I ever had to have a second girlfriend, God forbid, I’d probably just be back to not being open.”
Nicole nodded. “Definitely you would. But you seem to be taking to it really well.”
“Yeah, it took some getting used to, but… I dunno. It’s clear you care about me.”
Nicole went up to a red light and smiled at me. She pulled me in by the collar of my gi and kissed me right on the lips, quickly yet passionately. “Well put, hotshot.”
“Wow, that really got you, huh?” I asked, still reeling from the kiss.
She winked at me. “Trusting me is like the hottest thing you can do,” she answered. “You’re getting really good at that. And at communicating things.”
I snapped my fingers. “Oh, right. Speaking of communicating, and of open relationships… Where are we at with dates?”
“Uh, my weekend is open, I think.”
“No, like… what if… I were to, hypothetically, ask someone out on like, a date date?”
“Oh. Uh… wow. You’ve really gotten into this open thing,” she chuckled in surprise. “So, are you planning on having a second girlfriend, or… what?”
“I didn’t plan that far ahead,” I admitted. “I just wanted to… mayyyybe ask someone out on a date.”
“And you already asked them and you’re feeling bad about it in case you went too far and hurt me,” Nicole guessed. “But you figure ‘better late than never’ so you’re communicating with me now.”
“Can you stop being psychic for one minute?” I jokingly barked at her.
“But, spot on, right?”
“Spot on,” I confirmed.
“I mean… I guess I kinda share how you feel about wanting to be the girlfriend girlfriend, you know?” she replied. “Green light, but I don’t think, especially in high school, any kind of ‘I have two girlfriends and they’re equally my girlfriend’ thing will work without complications. That’s not me saying no, but it’s me saying ‘be careful,’ and every time you ignore me, bad shit happens.”
“Yeah, I don’t think it’ll even get to that,” I replied. “I guess I just don’t know what all my feelings are, I just know I want to find out.”
Nicole snapped her fingers with her free hand. “Preach it. Who’s the lucky girl, anyway? Sab?”
“Nah, Sabrina isn’t my type for actual dating, I think,” I replied. “It’s, uh, Zelda.”
“Sorry, Zelda?” Nicole asked with surprise.
“Uh, yeah,” I mumbled.
“And she said yes?” she continued, equally surprised.
“Well, not a yes, but not a no either. She basically told me she wanted to hang out with me and see where it goes,” I admitted. “I think she’s scared by the ‘open relationship might be cheating’ thing too.”
Nicole bit her lip. “Yeah, maybe,” she replied disinterestedly. “Uh, hey Adam, maybe don’t get your hopes up too much. Zelda may be a cool friend, but I wouldn’t put too much stock in trying anything more than that.”
I paused. “You were the one who thought I would be cute with her,” I recalled.
She nodded. “And sometimes I’m wrong,” she added. “I’m not saying don’t try, but y’know, it may not work out. That’s all.”
I stared at Nicole for a bit, knowing if I tried to press her for info, she’d refuse. “Well, if I manage to get a date with Zelda, I get to say I told you so, deal?”
Nicole laughed, taking her free hand and rubbing it up and down my leg. “Deal.”
It started off pretty normal and calmly, at least, as normally and calmly as a pssed-off Carson would allow.
“Like, she’s not even texting me back as much anymore,” he continued in a hushed whisper, as the rest of the students worked around us. “I thought Megan was one of the guys, man. Turns out, she makes one female friend, and wham. She’s probably going to the mall with Zelda and painting her nails and shit. Girl stuff. No boys allowed.”
“Sleepovers, getting drunk together, talking about boys?” I replied back with a smile, thinking about the 80s movie Carson was living in.
“Yeah, well, she’d better be talki- You know. She’d better hang out with us again soon.” Carson blushed a little and turned back to his work.
I digested what he said. Oh, my God. This was huge. “Sorry, were you going to say, ‘she’d better be talking about me?” I replied with a grin.
Carson turned pinker. “No,” he spat. “I was just saying… whatever. I say a lot of bullshit. You know that.”
“Carson, do you have feelings f-”
Carson’s hand shot in the air. “Sigorsky, can you tell Adam to stop talking? I’m trying to get my work done here.”
The class went dead silent. Sigorsky’s face made it clear he thought he’d been pranked, until he saw the seriousness on Carson’s face. Sigorsky turned to me and hastily said, “Uh, Adam, try not to distract other students, especially other students that decided today they were going to start caring about their work.” He couldn’t resist letting that one slide in there, and crazily enough, the normally hotheaded Carson didn’t pipe up, just shoving his face in his textbook.
I was floored. Well, good for Carson. Good for Carson.
If I thought Carson didn’t talk much yesterday, he said absolutely nothing today, and Jason didn’t fare much better either. Without the other two talking, Athena didn’t want to talk, presumably not to risk the ire of Jason, and I wasn’t planning on talking to any of the three of them, each for a different reason. Carson would tear my head off, Athena I’d get in trouble for coughing too close to her around Jason, and I just did not want to even associate with Jason himself right now. Part of me wanted to oust him from the group, but I was only now getting along with Athena, and I knew that asking Jason to go but Athena to stay would unleash the mother of all storms.
I frowned, thinking to myself as I ate. Our friend group was entirely fragmented. Megan was happier hanging out with someone else, Carson clearly wasn’t himself without that validation, and Jason… forget about it. As I ate, I whipped out my phone and texted Athena.
Can you hang around after lunch to talk?
Athena looked at her phone a few seconds later. It was a miracle Jason didn’t ask to look through her messages first. Athena and I talked a little bit the night before – not too much, and nothing but small talk, but given her situation, I felt like it meant a lot to her. Quickly, her response appeared on my phone.
That was good enough for me. Our group of four ate in silence until the bell rang, at which time Carson in classic Carson fashion got up and immediately left. I wasn’t unhappy to see him go – he clearly did not like being vulnerable, and the few times I cleared my throat during lunch, he thought I was going to start talking and gave me a death glare to pre-emptively get me to shut up. Him being gone lifted one of two weights from the table.
“Well,” Jason said awkwardly, getting up. “Should we go?”
“Um, you go ahead,” Athena replied. “I have a few things I want to check before class.”
Jason’s eyes moved back and forth between Athena and myself. Without even looking at him, I knew he was looking at me and knew what that meant. I stood up and began to tuck my things back into my bag, and that seemed to be good enough for Jason, who quietly left after observing me packing my stuff away.
“Gimme a bit,” I replied, miming setting up my bag for a full ten seconds after Jason left. “Just in case.”
“Yeah,” Athena replied. “Sorry about that.”
“I’m more sorry for you. You deal with this shit every day?”
She sighed. “No, he’s just feeling more insecure these days I guess,” she replied. “I dunno. He has his better weeks. This is not a good week for him.”
“Which makes it a worse week for you,” I concluded.
“Did you ask me to stay behind to talk about my relationship?” she asked.
“No, but maybe I should, this shit isn’t fair to you,” I insisted.
“I’ll deal with it, don’t worry,” she insisted. “What’s up?”
“Well… okay, it’s kind of about that, but in a bigger picture way. Have you noticed that our whole friend group is kind of falling apart?”
She didn’t say anything for a bit. “Just because of Jason and Carson?” she asked.
“It’s that, it’s Megan hanging out more and more with one friend instead of all of them, it’s Carson having – I think he has a crush on Megan so this is hitting him hard, and yes, it’s Jason getting weirdly defensive. I mean, he hasn’t treated me the same since he saw me with sabrina. He’s not even with Sabrina.”
“I think he wants to see you two as very similar people,” Athena replied calmly. “I know it’s silly, but he sees him as a shy but cool guy with an older girl, and he sees you as… well, a cool guy with an older girl.”
“I’m not coo-”
“Shut it,” she replied, smiling after. “So he sees you doing something he wouldn’t, and he feels like he needs to set the record straight. It’s like if he woke up one day and found out he was doing that.”
“But that’s dumb!” I protested.
“Adam, who hasn’t done something dumb in high school?” she challenged me. “You don’t exactly have the best reputation from last year, you know.”
“So you are a gossip,” I playfully accused.
“Everyone’s a hypocrite sometimes,” she laughed. “Also, Jason knows that reputation too. I bet Sabrina does. It affects everything. People still see me as this dumb bitch because I failed a grade.”
“I don’t,” I promised.
“I mean, I don’t even care if you do,” she laughed. “I kinda am. I try not to be a bitch, but I’m not smart. You guys talk about maths and words and stuff and I don’t get half of it.”
“You talk as smart as the rest of us,” I insisted.
“Well, who knows? Anyways, he’s trying to do what he would do. I would stand up for you more, but we’re still working through our own stuff, and plus, if I take your side instead of his, especially when he sees you as a threat…”
“He sees every guy as a threat, Adam. Taken, younger, even teachers. It doesn’t matter. That list is basically just full of a bunch of awkward ugly guys that don’t know how to talk to girls. Or gay guys, but like, the non-chamaratic ones. Chasmatic. Charamatic.”
I was silent for a bit. “Break up with him.”
She didn’t say anything, then eventually sighed. “I’m working through it my own way. This is just a bad week.”
“You’re not allowed to disagree with him if the other opinion is a man. That’s fucked up.”
Athena laughed. “Yeah, though weirdly, he doesn’t care that I’m bi.”
“I guess he just doesn’t want it to be another man, I don’t know. Either way, that’s fucked up.”
“I’m allowed to disagree. He just doesn’t like it when I do. But I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself.”
I chuckled. “I need to lay off. I hear that exact sentence way too much.”
“It might be a sign, yeah,” she admitted. “Just give Jason time. Give Megan time, too. In January, she’ll be back. I bet if you leave it all alone, the problem will sort itself out.”
I was silent, which Athena took as a hint. “And,” she continued emphatically, “I I bet if you try to intrude, you’ll make it all worse.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I dismissed. “I’ll see. Thanks for talking to me, I appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome,” she told me, standing up. “I’ll text you, okay?”
“Okay,” I replied, smiling at her. My smile faded as she left. It was nice getting her opinion, but it didn’t really solve anything. My friend group was falling apart before my eyes, and I was being told to do nothing about it? Fuck that.
After school on Thursdays was a blissfully free time. No Council, no yearbook, no karate, just whatever I wanted to do. Hitting the gym at lunchtime was getting increasingly difficult, especially with the friend group falling apart as it was, so I decided to make the best of my time and go after school on Thursday, with the plan to take the late bus or something.
I loved how well equipped the Spartacus room was. Aside from having a cool name, it was also getting equipment all the time. It may have been older equipment some gyms were recycling, but still, Hazelwood got a “new” shoulder press machine, and I was making sure I used it well.
As I did my third set, I heard the door open. Even while straining, I took a look at the doors to see Jason coming in. I wasn’t the guy’s biggest fan at the moment, but I still wanted to at least be friendly. “Yo,” I told him. “Did you want to try out some of this equipment? I can teach you how to use it.”
He marched right up to the machine as I got up, then, out of nowhere, clocked me right in the face. I yelled, grabbing my nose. “What the fuck?!” I asked.
“You stay the fuck away from Athena,” he warned me through gritted teeth.
“Holy shit you psycho, I was talking to her to try to make things better in the group,” I yelled at him. My vision was clouded with tears – he got me right in the nose. “She was happy to talk to me. As friends. Friends. People get to have friends.”
“I know what you want,” Jason growled.
“Yeah – I want you to get the fuck away from me,” I shouted. “That’s what I want. Dude, I’ve barely said a word to Athena all year. She approached me – she approached me – telling me that how you acted around me and Sabrina was out of line. And it fuckin’ was. Sabrina, and Nicole, and myself, we all have an understanding. We all talk to each other, and I know you have no fucking clue what this word means – we all trust each other.”
“Fuck off with your games,” Jason replied, walking a circle around me. “You got a reputation for saying anything to get any girl, and starting off pretending like you just want to be her friend.”
“So why don’t we just cut the bullshit right now?!” he continued. “I don’t want you talking to Athena. I already deleted your number from her phone. Never text her again.”
“You are fucked,” I nearly laughed. “She deserves way better than you.”
White-hot rage shot from Jason’s eyes. I only realized then that given Jason thought I was trying to win over his girl, ‘she deserves better than you’ was not the thing to say to calm him down. Using what little karate skills I had to help me out, I tried to keep my distance from Jason, shouting at him the whole time to stop. It was basically him trying to hit me, and me using basic kicks to force him to keep his distance, all the while shouting, “Stop!” over and over.
“God dammit, I don’t wanna sleep with Athena!” I yelled. “Holy shit. I talked to her twice, what is your deal?!”
“What’s yours?!” he demanded, stopping for only a second. “You and Nicole have a great thing going, and-”
“And what, I’m the one who messed everything up? News flash, she fucked other guys too. She-”
“Yeah so she’s a cheater too!” he roared. “Why can’t you see that this shit is fucking both of you over?!”
“Grow up, you idiot!” I yelled back. “People can have lifestyles that aren’t exactly yours! That doesn’t mean you just accuse them of fucking everyone they see, and it sure doesn’t give you the right to punch them right in their fucking face!!” I rubbed my nose. “Do you know how seriously Hazelwood takes fights? I can get you expelled real fuckin’ easily.” I paused. “Hell, I will. Next chance I get, I’m taking this right to Mr. Scott. You’re a shitty friend, a psycho creep, and the world’s worst fucking boyfriend.”
“You ruined May Stevens’ life!” he yelled, with a beat of silence going between us. “You made her have to change schools for her own safety, you’re probably the guy that impregnated Megan and made her have to have an abortion, and we’ve seen how religious she is, she definitely considers that murder.”
I breathed heavily, not saying anything.
“Is Nicole doing alright, right now? Is she happy? Is she stable?”
I could only keep breathing.
“Why the fuck do you think Sabrina is going to be any different? Why the fuck do you think I wouldn’t want that for Athena?” He and I both paused. “Name me one girl, one fucking girl, you can say you’re close friends with that you never had sex with.”
Jason laughed. “It’s the most obvious thing in the world you have a crush on Zelda. You’ve been trying to get into her pants since you met her. Are you even close friends with her? Once she found an actual friendship, she dropped you like a hot potato.”
“Okay then, Athena.”
“Cool, awesome. So my girlfriend is the first ever girl you’ve tried to make friends with where you’re not also trying to have sex with her. That’s what you’re telling me right now.”
Fuck. Why couldn’t I think of a single other female friend I had? There had to be at least one. Just say one.
“Jenna, Carson’s sister,” I replied, ignoring my actual adversarial history with her. “Never had sex with her. Knew her for a whole year. Dude, you’re making up this scenario in your head. It’s not real. I make friends with girls a lot. I have sex with some of them, but I always try-”
“Did you try with May? Or Megan?”
“Okay asshole,” I replied, walking up to him and getting in his face. “You think you’re some angel? When I was with Megan, I encouraged her to get friends. I helped her make friends with Carson. Yeah, we made some mistakes together, but you know what I didn’t do? I didn’t write a list of the boys she was allowed to talk to like a psycho, manipulative, creep.” With each of those last three words, I jutted my finger into his chest.
I walked around the room. “Why do you think I say Arthena deserves better? Does she deserve me? Fuck no, probably not, but I also don’t care, because I don’t want to date her, and I don’t want to fuck her. But you? You want to own her, you want to control her. No wonder seeing me and Nicole frightens the living shit out of you – you see a girl free in her own relationship, and I bet that fucking-” I got right up in his face. “-terrifies you.”
“Your breath stinks,” Jason replied quietly.
“Cry about it,” I replied, going back to pacing.
“So Athena told you about that, huh? I bet she was stretching the truth there. See, we-”
“Don’t care,” I interrupted him. “You lost my sympathy when you came into this room and punched me in the fucking face before asking me anything. You can’t even conceive of a guy wanting to be around Athena for anything more than wanting to fuck her. That’s…” Huh. I was invoking Jenna after all. “…the most controlling, sexist shit I can imagine. But then you punch any guy that wants to talk to your girlfriend?” I got up in his face again. “Does that make you feel like a tough guy? Does that make you feel cool? You feel like the big, bad boyfriend Athena’s sooo proud of?” I remained there for a bit before making a point to breathe directly into his face. “Fuck you.”
I went off to gether my stuff, as Jason sighed. “Well, whatever dude, what did you two even talk about?”
“I wanted to talk to her about how our friend group is splitting apart. I wanted to save it. I wanted to patch things up with you, somehow, some way. But I really don’t anymore.” I went for the door, then paused. “You know, I actually felt bad about this – I heard about the list thing, and I actually told her to break up with you. Not because I wanted to swoop in or whatever, but because that sounded awful. And even though you’ve been a prick, I kinda regretted saying it. Now, I don’t, and every time I see her, alone or with you, I’ll be sure to say it again and again.”
“If you go to the principal, I’ll say you hit me back,” he said as I opened the door. “You’re right, this school takes fights seriously. They won’t trust your word that you didn’t also hit me.”
I sighed. Salvador would know that I wouldn’t hit him back. He lived through that once. But Salvador wasn’t Scott, and if I brought it up, I could easily see Scott swinging the hammer on me. “I’m not surprised you’d say that,” I weakly said, noting how much of a scumbag Jason was for, even now, making that kind of threat. “Fine. But Athena will break up with you. Maybe not today, but soon. And you’ll deserve every bit of heartbreak when that happens.”
I walked out of the gym as Jason replied, “Better than you and Nicole!” So eager to have the last word. I really needed to stop getting into one-sided fights.
My nose had pretty much recovered. Thank God, Jason couldn’t punch for shit. If I had gotten him back, he’d have to drink through a straw or some shit, but then Scott would definitely have expelled me, so, whatever.
Still, the shock was with me. No one could tell from the outside that I was hit, even psychic Nicole, even though we spent hours together the night before, playing Mario Kart, eating pizza, and of course, fucking each other’s brains out.
I had so much pent-up rage that night, I practically hate-fucked Nicole. It was enough for her to playfully ask if she did nothing wrong, but she seemed to buy it when I cracked a smile, told her I was trying something new, and left it at that. Unfortunately, ‘something new’ made her talk about pegging again, so I had to quickly deflate that conversation.
I sighed, shaking my head free of the Thursday night memories. It was harder than ever to focus on history class. The good news was, thanks to the few conversations we had recently, Zelda was more keen on involving me in the conversation, and for a change, the three of us studied together.
“Hades,” I said after a bit. “So, Jupiter.”
Megan shook her head. “Jupiter is the God of the sky and lightning,” she replied. “The Roman version of Hades is definitely Pluto.”
Zelda snickered. “Maybe you should get Megan to tutor you too,” she teased me.
“Oh, so I got one thing wrong. Sue me,” I replied with a joking tone. “Although, speaking of…”
“Yeah,” Megan replied with a nod. “So, we are going to study today as well, it turns out. But, at the end of lunch, I’ll be happy to give you the key.”
My eyebrow lowered as I pulled out my phone from my pocket and re-read the last text from Sabrina.
im busy after scholl, can we just do this lunch pls??
I sighed, looking back up at Megan. “And I don’t suppose if I say I would really appreciate having that room at lunch…”
Megan shook her head. “No dice. I texted Nicole, and she said that thing you two are doing in there can wait until after school.”
My eyebrows lowered in thought. Wow. Nicole was that ready to lie for me? What a champion. Nevertheless, I growled in acceptance. “Well, fine,” I said with a pout.
Zelda giggled. “A-dam!” she laughed. “It’s not the end of the world. Plus, in January, we’re going to go right back to all hanging out at lunch. You, me, Megan, Carson, and… those other two. What were their names?”
Oh boy. Yeah, about that, Zelda… how in the heck was I going to break this news to her? For now, all I could do was smile and nod, suddenly very grateful we were going to get a two-week break after school ended today.
Snow pelted the windows of the cafeteria. Of course there had to be unexpected heavy snow in the final day of school. If only the snow came a few hours sooner…
“Oh right, you like snow,” Carson observed in an awkward tone.
I looked back to him from the window. It was just us two today. Carson was expecting Megan to not be there, but Jason and Athena being gone struck him as odd. It definitely was expected on my end, but I sure as hell was not about to tell him why.
I glanced sorrowfully at my phone. Megan had not replied to my text message, and it was ten minutes until the end of lunch. For sure, Sabrina and I had no chance.
“Where are the other two, anyway?” Carson asked. “Do you know?”
I had my guesses. “No idea,” I replied swiftly.
“Ugh,” Carson grunted. “You know, it’s even weirder now with it just being the two of us. I like you, buddy, but man, just doing things in pairs can suck sometimes, especially when you were expecting more, you know?”
“You should write an essay on threesomes,” I joked.
“If I could write an essay worth a fuck, and this school would be okay with it, I would,” he replied. “That’s actually on my bucket list this year.”
“You, Megan, and whom?” I joked.
“Hey,” he replied seriously. “Look, seriously, can you forget that shit ever happened? Please.”
I stared at him for a bit. “Yeah, alright, sorry.”
“Thanks,” he replied, going back to his food. “Just… y’know.”
“But speaking of her,” I added, going back to my phone. “She was supposed to return the key to me by the end of lunch. She’s cutting it close here.”
“Do you have any classes with her after lunch?” Carson asked.
“So what’s the plan?”
I sighed. “I should probably go to Room 203 and talk to her, yeah.”
“Right?” he agreed. “Tell ya what, I’ll go with you. I wanna talk to them anyways. I’m going crazy just sitting here by myself.”
“By yourself,” I repeated, gesturing to me.
“You know what I mean,” he replied, holding out a hand.
I knew what he meant. I had to suppress a smile. He was thinking about Megan.
Without much more prompting, the two of us were soon off, arriving at Room 203 before long. I went to knock on the door when Carson put his hand on my shoulder.
“Wait,” he told me, trying badly to hide a smile. “Aren’t you kinda curious?”
“Curious?” I asked.
“You know, how they talk when we’re not around,” he embellished.
I laughed, keeping my voice down. “You mean listening in?”
“Fuck yeah I do,” he laughed back. “What do ya say, you go first, then me?”
I rolled my eyes. “You’re such a dweeb,” I commented, but still, went in to put my ear against the door.
“Yeah, but you’re doin’ it,” Carson replied gleefully.
It took me a fair bit to register what I was hearing. It was faint, and barely noticeable – certainly not words. It was just sounds. The smile faded from my face as my denial built up more and more, then got broken down piece by piece. My brain tried to link what I was hearing to another possibility, any other possibility, but no such possibility existed.
It was the sound of two people making out.
I wasn’t sure why, but my knees got weak as I listened. I felt my heart lowering in my chest, like it was suddenly turning to stone or filling with lead. I was starting to connect the dots, every single dot, in my mind.
“What?” Carson asked with a single chuckle. I was too in shock to say anything back. “What?” he repeated emphatically, his facial expression falling. Without another word, he opened the door and barged in. I followed, if only to stop him, and, sure enough, witnessed a very scared couple of girls only then pulling away from each other.
For the first second or so, all anyone could do was breathe. Me in worry, Carson in anger, and Megan in pure fear.
Megan was the first to speak. “I – I’m – this isn’-” She paused, and then quickly buried her face in her hands and ran past us, running outside of the room. Unfortunately, that meant it was Carson’s turn to speak.
“Are you fucking serious?!” he roared, with a new emotion I’d never heard from Carson’s voice before – hurt. “We go for weeks, weeks, missing our friend, wanting her to come back and treat us like friends again, and all this fucking time, she wasn’t even helping out a fellow student – she was just dyking out the whole time?!”
The word had an instant effect on Zelda. She went from shocked to furious in the space of a second. “Ex-cuse me?!” she all but shrieked, in a new voice for Zelda too. “Is that how you’re going to react to your friend being forcefully outed, this kind of… of bigotry?!”
I was standing in a daze. It was all making sense. Zelda was a lesbian. It was why she reacted how she did to learning Nicole and I were together, then learning we were open. She had a crush on Nicole. She then must have gone for broke during that Student Council meeting and asked Nicole out…
…Wait, no, Nicole was confused as to why Zelda was even upset…
Oh. Oh. Zelda must have asked in some way if Nicole was bi. Nicole, being Nicole, said no, and Zelda was upset, and left, and when Nicole found out… she even said it wasn’t her place to say, but it wasn’t a big deal.
Megan said it too. She, of course, figured it out, and I guess, things happened between her and Zelda. Nicole was so shocked that Zelda would say yes to me asking her out. Holy shit. It all fell into place.
But… Megan? Megan Schneider?! I couldn’t believe it. Megan was bi. Definitely in the closet too, if her reaction was anything to go by. Maybe she was like that before Zelda, and maybe finding it out about her made her want to… experiment or something. And now we just outed her. And we, or at least Carson, definitely alienated her new fuck buddy, or…
Or her new girlfriend. I swallowed.
I came back to reality to see and hear Carson and Zelda, locked in a huge shouting match. I looked desperately from one to another, trying to get back into the conversation, but I couldn’t pick out more than a few words at a time from either side. Eventually, Zelda caught my gaze, and with a bitter expression, walked back to the table and picked something up.
She stomped over to me and grabbed my hand making me hold it out, using her other hand to place something into it. “Here, since you want it so badly,” she told me, poison and hurt reflected in her words. “Hope this was worth it.”
I looked down. It was cold, jagged, and hurtful. The key. I stared straight ahead, the week flashing back in my mind as Carson and Zelda continued to yell at each other before Zelda grabbed her things and stormed out, with Carson in tow.
I did it. I finally got the key to Room 203. All it cost was the complete and total destruction of my entire friend group.
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2 thoughts on “Consequences – Chapter 8”
This is by far one of your best written works to date – its perfect. Your decision to put the end the at the start was a great one – I was very anxious throughout the whole thing, waiting for it happen. And everytime I thought it was going to happen, my adrenaline started pumping in anticipation. The pacing was perfect.
The foreshadowing was great – I feel dumb for not thinking more about the Zelda mystery because it feels obvious in retrospect. You managed to lineup everything perfectly.
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This one was long and quite a doozy. I love your experimentation with formatting, makes it more fresh and exciting. My one complaint is that sometimes the dialogue felt a little drawn out but that’s just me. Zelda and Megan spending so much time together in 203 made it pretty obvious what was going on, kinda wish you had more scenes involving them leading up to the reveal to throw us off. Also, Jason is becoming quite the psycho huh? Seems a lot like another disgruntled character who also happened to sock Adam. Anyway you got a lot of storylines going on, I hope you keep track. Good luck, hope you’re doing well, and looking forward to chapter 9.
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