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The Last Friday—
“Dude, you’re only depressed because the last three girls have turned you down,” snorts James. Jackson glares over at him.
“You’re a heartless jerk, you know that? I mean, I come out to you and this is what I get?” Jackson snaps, a slight whine to his tone. Charlie and I look between the two of them; our eyes are flitting back and forth like we’re watching the Wimbledon. James stares him down with dark “stoic eyes – vocab sponsored by Charlie (she’s a writer – or wants to be – and is upping her vocabulary words).
“You know I’m right,” James says. Charlie and I exchange a glance.
“You guys!” Jackson’s eyes are wide and I’m sure he’s thinking of ways to kill us all right now. Charlie stands up from the stoop in front of James’ apartment building and goes over to Jackson.
“Jackson,” she starts, light brown eyes steady and voice calm. “You know we’re here for you.”
Suck up. I let out a melodramatic sigh.
“Yeah, we got your back Jack. You wanna date dudes? Go right ahead,” I say. James shoots me a look. Thing is, I never disagree with him. It’s always been Charlie and Jackson, Malia and James.
“Now that that’s over. Ice cream?” I raise an eyebrow at where Jackson is gushing to Charlie about how supportive and blah, blah, blah… James gets up and heads back inside. I blink. Someone’s moody.
“I can’t believe he’s acting like such a baby,” Charlie mutters, her eyes on the door James disappeared behind.
“Yeah, none of us has ever missed out on a Friday Night,” Jackson agrees.
“Ever,” she finishes.
I purse my lips. “That’s for damn sure.”
That was almost nine months ago.
Jackson’s dating jock-football-star Mark Johnson who thinks it’s cool he has the same initials as Michael Jackson. Charlie resorted to writing dark poetry ever since her manuscript was turned down. Also, she’s turned goth.
James? We haven’t spoken since first semester science when he asked me if Alessandra Garcia was single. They are now “dating”, or whatever.
And moi? I’ve watched as a ten-year friendship has gone down the drain. I can’t help but think it’s also my fault. If I had just agreed with James that night…
I miss our Friday Nights.
I miss being able to vent out about life over a bowl of Rocky Road or Vanilla gelato.
I miss my friends.
I feel like I should tell Mark that I don’t…feel it anymore. I paste on a sparkly white smile as Mark saunters over to me and drapes an arm along my shoulders. Guilt suddenly washes over me. Mark has always been there for me with a gentle smile. He flicks his dark hair out of his eyes.
“Hey you.” He leans forward to press his lips to my cheek. “How are you?” he whispers, but doesn’t give me a chance before he’s kissing me. I let out a sigh. Why was I giving this up again? Oh yeah. Charlie. I’d seen her the other day with these hot tattoos lacing her arms. Not to mention the intense look she’d given me. I force myself to retrieve my tongue from slipping down Mark’s throat.
“Mark…” I trail off reluctantly.
“Mhm?” He pulls away minutely, staring into my eyes thoughtfully.
“I…I can’t do this anymore,” I manage to mumble. He blinks. I pull away from him as other students start to head our way.
I swallow, damn emotions. But the lump in my throat is surprisingly not as big as I imagined.
“We…we’re not working out anymore,” I say carefully, avoiding his eyes and taking his hand to stroke it. “It’s been great, Mark, but I just…I’ve been thinking a lot lately and, well…” I break off, my eyes slowly moving from our clasped hands to his face. My gaze gives me away as I hastily glance over his shoulder. Charlie. She’s writing in a notebook, just sitting on the school’s steps.
“Stevenson?” he guesses. Not an ounce of surprise. Had I been staring at her too openly? I panic.
“I-I-I…well.” I scratch the back of my head and dare a glance up at Mark. He’s laughing. Wait, whaa..?
“You’re such a guy, Jackie,” he sniggers; the corners of his eyes crinkle up the way they do when he’s wildly amused.
“Charlie’s a nice girl,” he adds after a moment. Then he ducks in to give me another peck on the cheek.
“I’ll see you around, Jackson!” he calls over his shoulder at me.
“Yeah…” I trail off, my eyes memorizing his broad shoulders, his endearing walk, and his…well, everything. There’s a part of me that wishes I hadn’t done that. I’m still thinking about the time Mark had opened up to me and showed me the scars. Just the thought of him shirtless had—
What was this? I pick the sticky note off my red convertible.
Friday Night. Be there, Jackson, please?
Somehow a smile starts spreading across my face. Friday Nights. I guess I’ve missed a few…hundred.
I crumple up the note from Malia and hop into Baby Red with my shades down.
Hey, maybe even Charlie will be there.
Beating faster than a hummingbird’s—
I scratch out the whole line over again. There’s a crease in my forehead as I try writing something actually worth reading. After many failed attempts, I feel like I know exactly how a one-hit wonder feels like. I wrote one poem, a sonnet about a guy. It was perfect. Then I tried again. The second one wasn’t as…well, I’ll tell you: it definitely doesn’t deserve a Caldecott. I run a hand through my long, dark blue-black hair, staring at it as it slips through my fingers. I’m sure you can see my brown roots by now. I sigh, throwing my notepad aside.
“What’s going on with you?”
That uncaring voice. I used to love to hear it, I’d wait in anticipation for the sound to reach my ears. Now I wish I were a million miles away. I slowly look up. Demir. His chocolate toned skin looks so smooth; his expression is almost bored.
“Dem,” I say quietly.
He nods silently before plopping down beside me. He was a mistake. A party date gone wrong.
“How’s it goin’?” he asks again. I frown. I can tell he’s forcing conversation. How charming, three words in and he’s already antagonizing me.
“It’s…going.” I manage. He turns his dark eyes to me.
“Mhm.” I glance down at my hands. I picture strangling him. Or at least punching his too perfect face.
I freeze. It’s been a week. A week of no returned smiles. A week of the cold shoulder. But it’s felt like a hundred years.
He’s suddenly in my face. I catch my breath.
“I still care about you…about us.”
That’s when I realize I don’t care. My heart isn’t hammering in my ears, I don’t feel it squeeze painfully in my chest, and I can still breathe just fine.
“Well I don’t, Demir.” And I’m not sorry. I get up stiffly, snatching up my notebook and stalking into the school. This stupid notebook. Full of failed attempts. All because of the stupid Herman brothers. If they had just looked at my writing, just a few pages…My eyes are suddenly drawn to the paper in my hands. How did she…? I stop in the middle of the hallway. A few seniors snap mean comments at me as they swerve around. But I don’t care. I’m making a run for the math room. And I don’t even have class.
I miss Friday Night.
What about you?
I’m skipping. Taking time to think. Or, not to think, really. I have Nora with me. She’s distracting me in the best way. We’re parked at the gas station in my Honda.
“James…” she murmurs, her hands slipping through my hair. I don’t say a thing. I just do what I always do. What she wants. I kiss her. I kiss her neck, her chest, and her lips. She does all the talking that I don’t want to do. Then I make a mistake.
I open my eyes.
Of course I’ll see her.
She’s always a few minutes late to class on Mondays. And all because she has to deal with her feuding older brothers - Rex and Rave, a pair of 18 year-old twins - while also trying to talk her younger sister Melanie into eating breakfast. Then of course there’s the screaming baby brother flinging scrambled eggs around. I hate that I know. I hate myself for caring.
But if I hate the idea so much, then why do I park right where I know she runs by to make the late bell?
Maybe it’s just ‘cause I wanna see her.
Maybe it’s because I really do care.
Nora notices my hesitation. “James?” she moans, pulling back from unbuttoning my shirt. My eyes flicker back to her.
“Hm?” I sigh.
“Why’d you stop?” A sly smile pulls at the corners of her lips before I cover it with my own mouth.
“Sorry,” I whisper.
I’m not though, and I can’t help but think that I’m apologizing to the wrong person for all the wrong reasons.
When I get to my locker, right as the lunch bell rings, I’m caught up in a daze. Open locker. Dump backpack contents. Pick out pen. Grab notebook. And textbook off the top shelf. Pre-calc is next. Close locker.
I flash a sheepish smile and a shrug of the shoulders when I spot a nasty looking Mr. Timer. I’m not even 10 minutes late. I drop my things lightly on my desk before dropping myself, in a much more heavily manner, into my seat. I lean forward with my elbows on my knees and close my eyes. Only until I hear others cracking open their textbooks and the wave of mumbled protests.
I flip open the cover before even looking for the page. I don’t know why I do it, but I always do. And, wait, what’s – a sticky note? Do I have someone else’s book or what..?
How’s life? Never mind. That’s such a trivial question. And I know you don’t care. I’ve seen you lately. Friday Night.
The writer doesn’t even need to sign it. I know this handwriting. All sloppy and leaning to the right.
And the only other person in the whole school who knows my locker combination.
I sit on his stoop. His mom told me he was out. Stupid James. I miss him. Jackson and Charlie are having an awkward post break up conversation. Not with each other, though. Charlie told me about Demir. I’d seen her around school. He really hurt her bad. She just didn’t realize how bad he was treating her until she came face to face with the bastard himself.
Jackson on the other hand, is finally realizing that his sexuality doesn’t completely circulate around guys. Girls are a totally viable option. And the way he’s staring at Charlie, it’s rather obvious. I’m surprised they’re not—
I speak too soon, sometimes.
Jackson has Charlie up against a light post. I sigh. How classy. It’s 7:30pm. James is late. I look around, avoiding the couple making out a few yards away from me.
I slowly look up. Aw, and the Prince of Darkness arrives.
He sits down besides me quietly, his hair falling into his eyes. He looks exhausted.
“What’s up?” I ask, somewhat reluctantly. Why should I even bother acknowledging his despondent ass?
“Oh, that’s up.” I smirk a little. He doesn’t. I start to frown.
“Break-ups are a messy thing,” he mutters.
I nod hesitantly. “Mhm…I know all about that.” I say with half-hearted sarcasm, my eyes flickering to the couple still making out. Jesus, it’s like they’re conjoined at the mouth.
“They’re together?” Finally some emotion in his voice.
I half smile to myself. “Apparently.”
Charlie breaks it off for a quick moment to speak. “Hey, we’re going to head out – oh hi James.” She smiles before Jackson gets her attention again. Less than 10 seconds later, they’re off running into the sunset…Literally. I make a face.
“So much for my plan.” I say, propping my elbows behind me and leaning back.
“You tried,” James shrugs. We’re both watching Charlie and Jackson stumble off. It’s as though they’re both drunk.
“Well now it’s just you and me, Jamie,” I say, smiling faintly.
“I guess so. Still wanna go out to get ice cream?” he asks, raising an eyebrow. I meet his gaze.
He shrugs. “If you want it to be.”
I nod thoughtfully, half smiling. “So, clarify for me: You – James Maverick – are asking me – Malia Charles – on a date?”
He rolls his eyes, but at least he’s smiling now. “God, okay, yes, I am asking you out.”
“Is that a yes?”
I pause, making him wait. “Um…pretty much.”
“Cool.” He looks away for a second before turning back again, his dark eyes getting that sparkle back in them. “Are you paying?”
“Why…” I narrow my eyes.
I blow out a breath that sends my bangs flying up for a split second. “I’m paying.” I say after a minute of silence. Then suddenly his lips are pressed against my cheek.
I stare after him as he jumps up from the steps and starts to walk away, his hands in his pockets.
“You coming?” he calls over his shoulder. I smile and shake my head.
“Can we officially call this the new Friday Night?” he asks me after we’ve walked a few blocks without any words between us.
I laugh, the action finally feeling natural again, and bump my shoulder against his. “If you want it to be.”
He grins. “Yeah?”
“To New Friday Nights,” he murmurs.
I turn towards him. “What? I don’t think I heard-”
He kisses me. Right there in the middle of the sidewalk. And surprisingly…I like it. A lot.
To New Friday Nights, definitely.