I hope that teenagers, like myself, read this entrancing novel and find themselves falling in...
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It was no surprise to me how flustered Alexandria became an hour before the party was scheduled to start. Although I reminded her that there would only be a few people, most likely no more than ten, she refused to calm down, spending longer than I’d noticed earlier in the bathroom. Seeing this girl nervous—or any form of real emotion, for that matter—was an unusual and memorable sight. Alex thrashed with the door closed for makeup and hairbrushes, cleaning her teeth and fumbling with old pieces
of jewelry I had acquired from past friends and acquaintances. Her clothes, notwithstanding, were ordinary and a normal getup I’d expect from Alex; dark, almost black skinny jeans containing various rips in a fashionable design, a solid black T-shirt advertising a heavy metal band I didn’t recognize; low-rise, dull-colored shoes; and a snap-on bracelet she found on the coffee table after asking if she could wear it. Her nails were painted black, she had on dark purple lipstick, and the violet highlight in one strand of her long hair was clearly visible now. Dark eyeliner shadowed under her eyes, looking as if she was recovering from lack of sleep, and her face was lightly powdered to cover any blemishes. Apart from Alexandria’s bony, skeletal body and partially cracked lips (that were still noticeable even under the lipstick) she appeared quite normal and acted almost like the average, insecure teenager, at least for one particular night.
I, on the other hand, dressed casually and didn’t bother fixing myself up nicely; I was going to a party, not a date. The apartment was a little messy, but it wasn’t of my concern. I waited patiently by the door, Alex finishing up in the bathroom, keys in hand and whistling merrily. My mood had shot up higher than they normally were for one of Brad’s parties, and I honestly couldn’t wait to introduce Alexandria to Peter. It seemed, in some small, unobservant way, that a lode of tension had been released between Alexandria and me, which brought somewhat of a relieving joy to me.
“You shouldn’t be so nervous,” I commented, smiling at Alex as she approached me. “Quite frankly, I haven’t had the opportunity to see you like this.”
She raised her eyebrows, smoothing her hair with the tips of her fingers. “Like what?”
I chortled. “Showing any emotion whatsoever for this long.”
Alex glared at me, crossing her arms. “That’s not very nice,” she said.
I cocked an eyebrow of my own. “Oh? Were you expecting me to be even friendlier because you spoke a few kind words earlier?” My tone was humorous, but she caught the actual meaning behind my words.
Alex scowled at me, pushing aside out the door, leaving me trudging behind. I didn’t hold back my wide grin as I held the passenger door open for her. Alex brushed carelessly past, not glancing at me at all. I gently closed the door and made my way to the other side of the car, getting in to see her sitting as far away from me as possible, a sullen stare reflecting from her purple eyes.
I switched the engine on, flipping the heater on and letting the vehicle warm up before driving off. The windows were blurred with mystified fog under the cloudy sky, my breath visible as it wafted in front of me. After the heat rolled throughout the car at a comfortable level, I loosened the collar of my jacket and twisted to look at Alexandria.
“You really are beautiful,” I murmured seriously. “Don’t be mad at me.”
Her face softened, then, and a look of unfathomable disbelief crossed over her formally angry expression. “What did you call me?” she asked, eyes widening subtly. Questionable suspicion lingered in her shocked tone, and I wondered if she thought she had heard me incorrectly.
But what I said was true. I hadn’t really observed much before, but once I got past her skeletal features, she was a very pretty girl. Her violet eyes matched the lavender strand in her luster, black hair. My heart thumped painfully at her bewilderment; had no one ever complimented her appearance in the past?
I merely smiled warmly, my eyes destroying any chances of deceiving. By my look, I convinced Alex that her hearing was good. “Why does that surprise you?” I asked lightly.
She looked quickly away, back out the window. “No one’s ever called me that before,” she mumbled almost too softly for me to understand, and her voice implied the conversation was over.
I shrugged simply and pulled out the driveway, flicking on my favorite music in preparation for the twenty-minute drive to Brad’s party. Silence fell between us for the majority of the ride, but I didn’t mind; it was nice to dwell in the sounds of the music and my own thoughts for a while. Alexandria had changed her position, sitting normally in the cushioned seat and closer than what she had been only moments ago, but still a considerable distance especially for being in a small vehicle.
It wasn’t long until the too large house of Brad came into view, sifting down the narrow dirt road towards the home. A small line of cars was placed outside the house, no more than fifteen people expected to be there. Peter’s motorcycle (how could he stand the freezing air?) was already parked near the front. Brad’s house had a big, underground garage with a concrete ramp sloping downward for entrance. The exterior was made of solid bricks that were cracked in some areas, shaped partially like a triangle, and one whole side of the house was square-built with a large chimney and a second roof for support. It was a two-storey, ideal place for a gathering of teens. The multiple fridges were usually stuffed with beer and whiskey—his dad being a major alcoholic—and the house was free of parents for the night. I parallel-parked in the best space I could find closest to the entrance, shutting the engine off immediately.
“If you get cold while we’re in there,” I said, looking at Alexandria, who was coatless. “Let me know, and you can have my jacket. Better yet…”
I observed the distance between the car and the house; it was short considering, but I didn’t want to risk any ignorance from her. I got out and shrugged out of my jacket, handing it to her as I opened her door. She gladly accepted it, the air chilling and rich, throwing it tightly around her.
Just as I began to walk, a skinny hand clamped down on my shoulder. Alexandria was staring at me with edgy, unconfident eyes. “Blake,” she said uneasily. “I don’t know about this.”
Momentarily confused that she was touching me, I looked back at her with a calming gaze. “What is it, Alex?”
“I’m not good with….people. I don’t think I can do this.”
Sympathy rather than annoyance came over me. I reached up and placed my hand on her outstretched arm, squeezing it encouragingly. “Hey, there’s nothing to worry about,” I assured. “I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
Then, a response I had never dreamed to hear from Alex slipped from her lips: “What if they don’t like me?”
I gaped slightly before closing my jaw again, stunned. Is that what she was worrying about? I thought. It almost sounded childish, a teenaged girl fretting over other people liking her while going to a party, but it tugged movingly at my chest. I smiled at her brightly. “People who don’t like you aren’t worth your time. Besides,” I paused, releasing her firm grip off my shoulder and letting her fingers slip away from between mine. “I like you; and I have confidence that they will, too.”
Those words seemed to calm her significantly, and Alexandria almost smiled at me in return. Together, we strolled up the slanted hill to the wildly built house, pounding music reaching our eardrums.
Alex was walking fairly close to me, so I only needed to tilt my head and say, “There’s someone I want you to meet.”
She returned my glance sideways, an edginess creeping onto her countenance. “You…want to introduce me…to someone else?” she repeated, again in disbelief.
“Of course I do; he’s my best friend.” I flashed a grin. “You’ll love him.”
She didn’t look convinced, but kept following me. We reached the door, and stepped inside to the warm, inviting atmosphere of loud music and chattering guests. I couldn’t see Brad, but several of my friends caught my eye; Daniel, James, Gerald, Rachel, Melanie, and Steven. Peter was standing in a far corner to the left, surrounded by five different girls I did not know. I made my way over to him, Alex flowing suit, and fought through a bundled group of seven.
On my way over there, however, several pairs of eyes were on me and Alex. Daniel nudged James, and both stared curiously at us. A few of my friends from Language nearly gaped as they saw me with the mysterious girl, and I noticed Brad appearing in the eyes of people, watching me as well. He wasn’t just going to watch and whisper, though, and confronted me instantly.
“Yo, Blake!” he exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear. “I’m glad you could make it.” His spiky hair was a mess tonight, and it looked like he just got back from the pool out back, damp but wearing dry clothes.
“How goes it, Brad?” I replied, bumping his fist. “Glad I could come.”
“Who’s your friend?” he asked more politely, looking up and down Alex. She gave him a reproving look and inched closer to me; I almost laughed, she reminded me of a shy child clinging to a father at an unfamiliar place, except much bigger and not quite so innocent-looking with her glare.
“This is Alexandria,” I introduced, using my hands. “Alex, this is Brad, one of my close friends and the host of this…’small gathering.’”
Brad nodded at each word, smirking when I had said small gathering in a mocking tone. “Nice to meet you.” Brad popped his hand out.
She declined his handshake, but nodded once. “Hi,” she said.
My smile tightened; please Alex, try to loosen up, I begged inwardly.
“You go to our school?” Brad asked her.
She opened her mouth, probably about to say something rude, but I cut her off. “Obviously,” I answered sarcastically. “You see her in the hallways all the time, right?”
“Okay, bro, just trying to make conversation. Where’s she from?”
I didn’t know how to reply to that one, so Alex simply said, “I go to school in another State. Blake’s just an old friend of mine I came down to visit.”
“Parents even rented her an apartment room for the week,” I joined in, wondering why she was doing this. I was caught off guard by Alex once again, and I didn’t know if it would ever stop. Not twenty-four hours ago I was under the impression she hated me,, and now she’s at a party with me lying to my friends so I wouldn’t look bad. How ironic.
“Moss never talked about you before,” Brad said, jabbing my side with his elbow. “Where’d you two meet?”
Before either of us could reply, a tall girl with bouncy brown hair approached Brad. “Hey, boo!” she said enthusiastically. “Come get a drink with me and a couple friends?”
Brad smiled proudly and said, “Sorry; gotta go. I’ll catch you guys later. Closet’s empty if you need it!” He winked at me, trotting off happily with the random girl. I rolled my eyes, pulling Alex gently by the arm towards Peter.
“That wasn’t who I wanted you to meet,” I confirmed, chuckling. “But he’s a great guy once you get to know him.” I bet Daniel and everyone else would already know about Alexandria before the night was over, knowing Brad’s loud mouth.
Alex didn’t comment, staying quiet and lost in her own thoughts. It bothered me to wonder what she was thinking, but I let it go and closed in on Pete.
“So, this is the famous Alexandria,” Peter said cheerfully the moment we approached. The girls around him scattered off, and it was just the three of us.
I shared his contagious grin, placing an encouraging hand on Alex’s back. “Sure is,” I said. “You know my main man needed to meet her more than anything.”
“Hey, that’s what we do.” He smiled more boldly. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Alexandria! My name’s Peter.” He stuck out a welcoming hand.
This time, Alex accepted it, shaking it with as amiable of an expression as she could allow. “Hi, Peter,” she said. “You already know my name, but it’s nice to meet you, too.”
“Hard not to know, considering Blake hasn’t shut up about you since yesterday morning. Went through the entire weekend.” He chimed in laughter, and I joined in.
“It’s impossible to believe I just met her five days ago,” I reminisced a little more quietly, shaking my head.
“Yeah, I heard it’s been quite the adventure lately.” Pete looked from me to Alex as he spoke. “Well, let’s not make her feel uncomfortable. How about we sit down and have a beer?” He snickered.
“I don’t drink,” Alex refused politely.
“And you know I don’t,” I said shortly. “But you can have some while we find a spot to relax and talk.”
“I might have one,” he debated. “But I don’t drink much, myself. Ah, let’s go find a couch or something.”
The three of us planted ourselves on one of Brad’s leather and unoccupied sofas, drifting mildly away from the large crowd. We sat in a sort of triangle, Peter pulling up a stool and Alex and I sitting on the couch. I couldn’t ignore the dozen curious eyes staring at me around the room, some trying not to be obvious, others carrying on half-hearted conversations.
“Now we can talk better,” Pete said, his eyes sweeping across our faces, his body leaned toward us. His hair was untidy, ruffled oddly in some places, but stylish. He wore his usual hat atop his head, but it was weird to see him outside of school without his guitar.
“How long were the two of you planning on staying?” he asked me, attempting small talk.
I glanced feverishly at Alex, noticing how she sat awkwardly and closer than her boundary allowed. “I don’t know, really,” I replied. “Until she’s ready to leave, I guess.”
Pete smiled. “Does he take care of you a lot, Alexandria?” He looked at her patiently.
She paused. “A little,” she said, the faint sarcasm tangible in her tone. “Only when I’m breathing.”
Peter burst into laughter, and I mechanically chimed in. “You probably crows the hell out of her,” he told me, clamping a hand on my shoulder. “Do you ever give her some space?”
“She’s just being ridiculous,” I muttered, shaking my head, but my grin gave me away. “I only look out for her when she needs it.”
“Dang, five days and you’re already acting like her overprotective father.”
I punched him in the chest, forcing him back with a short chuckle. Alex sat quietly throughout all this, watching both of us keenly. “Shut up!”
“Just messing around,” he scoffed. “Don’t get all defensive on me. I know you care, and she does, too.”
I smirked a little but didn’t comment. Alex flicked a strand of her hair back.
“So, tell me more about this situation,” Pete said, eyes and expression growing serious.
“What do you mean?” I asked. I crossed my ankles and clasped my hands together on my lap.
“I mean,” he began. “What are you going to do? Is she just gonna stay there, jobless and all, for the rest of her life or until you magically get enough money to support her?” His eyes drifted to Alex several times as he spoke. “And what about school? Or clothes? Does she have any plans?”
I took in all his questions, but didn’t know how to answer most of them. I looked at Alex, who was staring at me with a peculiar expression, hands resting on her legs. I supposed we still hadn’t worked out all the details—I was just beginning to get her to speak to me, much less work all that out.
“I….don’t know how to answer those,” I admitted sheepishly. Then, another idea came to me, and I was insanely curious about it myself. “Why don’t you ask Alex?”
Pete’s eyes fell on her, but she didn’t return his look this time. She was entering her shy mode again, I thought. I could never keep up with her mood swings and confusing stages.
“What do you plan on doing, Alexandria?” Peter asked amiably, eyebrows rose in anticipation.
She didn’t reply. I had expected as much. Her eyes dropped to the floor and she shook her head slowly, shoulders lifting and lowering slightly. That was the best answer he was going to get.
“Look, Pete,” I started. “We haven’t really gotten past all the gritty details yet. We’re still trying to work through the friend process.”
Peter was about to reply, before the most annoying and dreadful voice I wanted to hear filled my eardrums.
It was Ricky, the burly, bullheaded senior that sought out to annoy everyone at all costs. I might be the same age as him, but he was twice my size and extremely arrogant. His hair was bowl-shaped and his sneer snobbish, but that didn’t stop him from scorning on most of the student body. He sulked up to the three of us, his equally muscular friend Thomas with him.
“Who the hell invited you?” Peter snapped, glaring over at Ricky.
“I was just about to ask the same thing,” I growled. “What do you want?”
His cocky grin wouldn’t fade. “No one invited me, you gay pop singer,” he spat at Pete. “Go back to your Justin Beiber fan club, would ya?”
Pete stood up instantly, but I grabbed his shoulder roughly. “Not here, bro,” I told him in a hard tone. “Ricky, what do you want?” I asked again.
“Just coming to check up on my old buddy.” He sneered, and Thomas cracked his knuckles playfully. “Remember the money you owe me for my taillight?”
One day during school, I was backing out of the driveway, Ricky’s horrible Honda right behind me. He happened to back out the same time I did, and we rammed into each other before either of us could notice. Since then, he has been hoarding me about paying him for the damage.
“I told you I’d pay you back whenever I can, you fatheaded moron. Now get the hell out of this party.”
Brad was watching the whole thing from afar, looking tense and unsure. A few eyes were already looking in our direction, but it looked pretty harmless right now.
“I’m not gonna wait any longer, fagot,” Ricky warned. “You replace my headlight by tomorrow, or I will beat the shit out of you.”
His threat was intimidating, but it only fueled my rage. I caught a glimpse of Alexandria behind me, who looked frightened and confused. She edged herself to the end of the sofa.
“I won’t have it by tomorrow,” I said coldly. “My money’s tight right now, so you’re just gonna have to wait.” Peter was standing right next to me; fists clenched, but didn’t say anything.
“I think Ricky said tomorrow,” Thomas chimed in, fixing his eyes to look scary.
“Shut up,” Pete snapped again. “This doesn’t involve you, Thomas, so stay the hell out of it.”
“Oh, it does now,” he replied angrily, and stepped forward. Ricky stopped him with an outstretched hand, but his face was also venomous. “Easy, dude,” he said. “The gay musician isn’t worth it.”
“Stop insulting my friend,” I growled. “Or I will beat the life outta you, Ricky.”
“That so?” he challenged. “Tell ya what; you get me my money by the end of this week, and I’ll let it all slide. How’s that?”
“He doesn’t have your DAMN MONEY!” Peter yelled, stepping closer. Veins bulged out of his neck, his face hot with anger. I hadn’t seen him this mad in a long time, and it was pretty intense. Every eye was looking at us now.
Daniel was about to walk over there, but James and Brad stopped him. “Let them handle this, man,” I heard Brad whisper.
“You yell at me one more time, little fagot, and I’ll—”
This time Pete had to hold me back. I lunged at Ricky, but strong hands gripped my arms at the same time, making me unable to get much closer. “You shut your little smart mouth about Peter!” I spat in his, pulse beating my insides. I could feel my heart rate speed up as adrenaline coursed through my bloodstream, the tendons in my arms pounding.
That was enough for Daniel. He scurried over to the scene, muscles flexing, and halted between me and Ricky. “Hey ladies, break it up,” he said, holding out both hands. The room was dead silent now as all eyes focused in, teens holding beers in their hands, completely oblivious to them.
“Stay outta this, pretty boy,” Ricky muttered, controlling his temper. “Let Mom and Dad talk about this.”
“Funny how you’re calling yourself a girl in this,” Dan commented, but stepped back. “I won’t let you guys kill each other.”
“Then tell him to shut up,” Pete hissed, glowering.
“Man, you guys are letting a couple of pussy insults heat you up this bad,” Daniel said. “Get over yourselves, all right?”
“I don’t care how stupid the insults are!” I snapped. “He can’t just walk into someone else’s party acting like he owns everything, and then come over here, insult my friend, threaten me, and walk away.” My glare never left Ricky each word I spoke, and he matched my scowl.
Again I looked back at Alex, and she was almost whimpering in the corner, looking concerned and terrified at the same time.
“Maybe we should just talk about this more,” Thomas jumped in, looking uneasily at Ricky.
“Shut up!” he said. “Leave this up to me.”
“Listen,” I said through clenched teeth. “I don’t have a lot of money right now, but if you give me some more time, I’ll pay you back.” I paused, calming my steaming mind. “You’re making such a big deal about this, dude.”
Suddenly Brad came into view, stepping into the scene. “Hey, guys, hey!” he said, flashing a smile and holding up a glass of champagne. “Let’s take it easy and have a drink, huh?” I could tell he was trying to ease the tension, but it was mostly just getting on my nerves.
Without hesitating, Ricky swiped the glass from Brad’s hand, gulped down the alcohol, and smashed the glass on the ground. Brad cowered at the act and backed up. I heard a girl giggle somewhere in the room.
“That won’t work, queer face,” Ricky said to me. “I need it by tomorrow, and I won’t settle for anything else.”
Pete and I exchanged quick looks, and turned back to Ricky. “Won’t happen,” I confirmed. “You’re gonna have to deal with it.”
Ricky tightened his fists, looking ready to charge. “Do you not understand what I’m trying to tell you?” he said murderously. “If you don’t, I’ll beat you and Justin Beiber within an inch of your lives.”
“We don’t have to take this crap,” Pete muttered under his breath to me. “If we both go at him, we can take him down before Thomas knows what’s going on, and I bet Daniel will back us up id he’s kicking our asses too hard.”
I didn’t answer him, but kept staring at Ricky. “I’m only going to say this one last time,” I informed him. “I’m not gonna have your money by tomorrow, so get over it.”
A smug grin popped on Ricky’s face. “Fine, have it your way.” His eyes flickered over to Alexandria. “Hey, is that your girlfriend?”
My heart immediately began to hammer out of bitter anger. “None of your business, Ricky, and stop talking about her.”
He laughed openly. “Hey, you!” he called. “What’s your name, beautiful?”
Peter had to use all his might to stop me from ringing my hands around his thick neck. “I said, stop talking to her!”
“She won’t even look at me,” he sneered. “Creepy little chick, isn’t she? Stupid little Goth piece of shit.”
The strongest, most infusing shock of liquid hate flashed inside my body faster than I could blink. A single glance at Alexandria revealed a small tear running down her cheek, a look if anguished hurt on her face.
I was completely out of control. Daniel and Peter instantly appeared in front of me, but that’s all I remembered before they were easily pushed aside, and my fist slammed into Ricky’s nose faster than I could’ve dreamed possible. A splutter of blood oozed from the nostrils, every muscle in my right arm tensed as I used everything I had into that one punch.
Ricky stumbled and almost lost balance, Thomas stood there like a log, bewildered. It didn’t take long for Peter to throw himself at Thomas, but I was already on Ricky again, fists flying in every direction. Ricky dodged one of my blows and grabbed my arm, twisting it around my back, a searing pain stinging up to my shoulder. I ignored the pain and swung my foot under his feet, causing him to topple over. Just as I plummeted after him, he used the strength of his upper body to throw me to the side, and I went rolling into someone. We both fell.
I was blasting every cuss word and insult I knew at that worthless excuse for a human being as I stood back up and charged. Peter had Thomas pinned down, but not for long; they switched out of positions multiple times, wrestling on the carpet. Everyone else gaped in shock and amusement.
Ricky pulled back his own fist and hit directly on my stomach, and I woofed out a breath of air, the wind knocked from under me. Using this to his advantage, Ricky stood up and pushed my face into the floor, rhythmically beginning to punch the back of my head over and over again. Each thump felt like a stone collapsing on my head, the pain screaming at me in agony.
Unsure of how I did it, I managed to swing Ricky off me and stick him in the jaw, making him oof! In surprise. Head banged up and stomach bruised, I swung my fist one last time, this time randomly on his forehead, and he stepped back.
“Blake, knock em down! He won’t stop!” Peter yelled, blood trickling down the top of his head. Thomas was sprawled on the ground, moaning, and his own spill of blood on his face. Pete was panting heavily, looking ready to pass out.
I wasn’t about to be beat. Ricky was running at me again, and I sidestepped away. I countered with a solid punch to the cheek, but Ricky reacted faster; he knocked me in the head and sent me tumbling back to the floor, a astonished gasp from the spectators. I was momentarily blinded by the pain; my head aching like it had been split in half. I didn’t know how much longer I could take. I lay vulnerably for a moment, stars spinning across my head, vision fading in and out. I wanted to get up, wanted to crawl to my feet and destroy Ricky, but my legs just wouldn’t move.
I heard Peter yell something, and say my name, but I couldn’t make out what it was. Lights were swirling around the room like a playful children’s scene, and a bunch of thumping was going on somewhere….or was that my head? I couldn’t tell.
Out of nowhere, a pair of strong hands cuffed around my throat and squeezed tightly. That jarred my conciseness somehow, and I saw that Ricky was trying to strangle me. I clamped my hands around his bulgy arms and pushed, but they wouldn’t move. His grip tightened, and I could feel my oxygen supply suffocating under his hands. I gasped for breath, face turning tomato red, but I was helpless. A vein pulsed and throbbed out of my forehead, my muscles turned white with strain and tension. I continued to struggle and push under the heavy man, but to no avail; soon I wouldn’t be able to breathe at all.
Ricky was over me, biting his lip and spewing slobber down his chin as he pressed harder, venomous hatred and determination in his eyes. His knuckles cracked and popped under his own strain, his lips coloring pale; a small drop of blood whelped on his lip, his teeth cutting a small gash into them. I kicked and pushed with all my might, but Ricky was stronger. Alexandria flashed din my head, and a new wave of strength came over me, and I managed to loosen his firm hold.
Ricky growled in frustration as I gradually opened his hands, every muscle in my arms threatening to explode. The thumping in my head grew louder and louder, and my face was almost purple now. I slowly pushed away his hands, but he wasn’t about to give up; soon it was a tug-of-war as both of us used all our effort to outmatch the other. Vigorously urging my body forward and focusing on who I was defending, my side of the rope was starting to win. I surged forward, getting closer and closer to throwing this beat off of me.
I heard Peter shout my name again, and saw him scurrying snaillike on the floor over to me. He looked bruised up and worn out, but altogether fine. I couldn’t see Thomas, but I knew he had to be banged up badly himself. I was just about to overpower Ricky, moments away from tossing him off me, when at the very last second….
The sound of glass shattering echoed in the room. One second, Ricky was standing there, a blank look now on his face, his arms going limb. The next, he clumsily tipped over to one side and fell flaccidly to the floor, totally unconscious. And then Peter was standing there, a broken beer bottle in one hand, eyes wide and out of breath.
We looked at each other, utterly flabbergasted, of what had happened. There was not a stir or whisper in the room, all souls silent and watching. Even Alexandria was staring jaw-dropped and wide-eyed at the scene.
“Great party, Brad,” Pete finally said, still gasping a little but forming a grin. “Just make sure none of the guests insult my friends next time, all right?” He looked down at me and offered his hand. “You good, bro?”
I took it and he hoisted me up, shrugging off the dirt. “I’m good, bro. You good?”
“As good as ever.” He let out a shaky laugh, but winced as the pain in his head continued. “Just a couple of moist rags and a good night’s sleep, and we’ll be fine.”
I grinned back at him, exhilarated by the experience. “Hey, we made a good team; as always.”
“All day, any time,” he agreed, and we bumped fists.
I looked over at Alexandria, who was still frozen in horror and dumbfounded incomprehension, and smiled. “I believe I need to take you home.”
The car ride was completely silent, and we had left the moment I cleaned up all the blood and dirty wounds on my body. Alexandria didn’t speak at all.
“I’m sorry you had to see al that,” I apologized. “Ricky will be fine, once he wakes up, I promise.”
She didn’t answer, or even look at me, until we got back to the apartment. We walked into the living room in silence, and I instantly went to the kitchen. I cooked us both a few hot dogs and a batch of fries, Alexandria watching me patiently at the table. I set her plate in front of her, and we ate quietly. Once finished, I stood up the same time she did.
“Are you going to take a shower now?” I asked.
She simply nodded, looked at me strangely for a second, and then walked off. She paused halfway down the hall, turned in her heel, and looked at me again. I stared back, standing weirdly beside the table, prepared to wash dishes.
“Blake?” she said.
Alex approached me slowly, taking shy steps, and wrapped her arms tightly around my waist, pressing her cheek against my chest. “Thanks for keeping your promise.”