|Nod and Smile
Author: Nikkithedead PM
Small and perpetually confused, the life of Seth Rogers is made all the more difficult when Kyle, his best friend with whom he's been in love for several years, catches the eye of a cute girl named Casey Carter.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Romance - Chapters: 22 - Words: 48,739 - Reviews: 84 - Favs: 14 - Follows: 14 - Updated: 10-16-12 - Published: 04-14-12 - id: 3013616
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter 18: Pick My Body Up Off the Floor
Character: Kyle Barnes
I roll the basketball around in my hands for a moment before I throw it. The ball hits the rim of the net and bounces back off, smacking me in the forehead.
"Dude, are you alright?" Asks some guy as I stumble backwards, holding my head in pain. I nod at him, and wait for the black stars to stop obscuring my vision. "Here's your ball back," The guy says, then goes off to do whatever it is he was doing before I bludgeoned myself in the head.
I rub my forehead, and step back up to the game. My 30 seconds are up and I didn't score once. What a waste of three tokens.
With my head pounding, I toss the basketball into the bin with the others, and make my way over to the dining area. I slump down in a booth, put my head in my hands and just revel in my utter lack of game.
Ricstar was a stupid place to come right now. I've been here so many times with Seth, why the hell did I think coming here would be a good distraction? Everything here just makes me think about him. Everything.
Across from my booth, there's the wall of LED lights that Seth loves to stare at. From here I've got a good view of the prize counter, with the ginormous stuffed Psyduck that Seth asks about practically every time we come here. It's like he thinks that if he annoys the guy behind the counter enough, he'll lower the number of tickets you need to buy it. Next to that are the washrooms, where I carved mine and Seth's names into one of the stalls three years ago.
I feel crappy, so I get up and go over to the counter where you order food. Food will fix things, definitely.
"Hey there," The red-haired girl behind the counter, Theresa, greets me. "Where's your friend today?"
Man, Ricstar was such a stupid place to come right now. I honestly would have been better off just going to Seth's house.
"Seth couldn't make it today," I tell Theresa, looking over the menu as I try and decide what I want. There's pizza, which is Seth's favourite, or the double cheeseburger he sometimes gets because it comes with fries. Seth loves the fries here, and the pizza doesn't come with them. He has a huge internal struggle over it every time.
"Is everything alright?" Theresa asks.
"Yeah everything's fine," I say, probably a lot harsher then she deserves. It's not her fault, I have no right to take it out on her. The truth is, I don't even know if Seth could've come with me today, because I didn't ask. Because I'm a coward, and when things go wrong instead of dealing with them I just try and avoid and ignore them until they go away.
I wind up getting chicken fingers and fries. I take my food back to my table and crash down into my seat. I eat my food slowly, but I barely even taste it.
I think about Seth, and the way things have been between us since we started dating. They haven't been wrong, exactly... Not really... they're just not what I expected.
Seth and I have been seeing each other for almost three weeks now, but it feels like a lot longer. If someone'd asked me, I wouldn't even know how to tell them what the problem is. Wouldn't know how to start, or where to go or what to say. It's not something I can pinpoint or zero in on and say "well that's it, right there." I've tried, I swear I have... I just can't.
That makes me nervous. Because if I can't identify the problem, how do I fix it?
I can't, is the answer.
Maybe that's the problem, the fact that I don't know what the problem is. But then if that is the problem, then I do know what the problem is... so that can't be the problem.
Oh god, my heart hurts.
I think that's a… what's Seth call them? Catch 22's? Yeah, that's a Catch-22, he says they're called, because of some book about war. He's told me about it about 50 times, but it sounds so complicated I can never remember anything he said. Seth loves those things. I wish I could tell him about this one.
I wish I could tell Seth about any of this.
That has to be the worst part about this whole thing, how it's changed things between us. I used to be able to talk to him about anything. Anything I was feeling or thinking. Now... now it's different. Maybe because he's not my best friend anymore, he's my boyfriend.
Seth never wants to talk anymore, anyways.
I guess, if I'm being totally honest with myself—something I hate doing—it really is all my fault. Just like with Casey. Even the part of the problem that Seth's causing, that's my fault too.
We were together for about a week when we slept together. It was Seth's idea, sort of. We were kissing and he just...
I'm… I'm pretty sure I wasn't very good. I was nervous, and I didn't know what I was doing... It probably could have gone better. Afterwards when we were lying there, Seth looked at me and asked me what I was thinking about. I told him "nothing," which of course was a big fat lie. I don't even remember what I'd been thinking about now, I just remember that I hadn't wanted to tell Seth about it. And that can't be good.
We haven't slept together again. I tell myself it's not for any reason, it's just because we haven't really had another opportunity. But that's... not it. Truth is, I just... I haven't really wanted to, y'know... do it, again.
But Seth does want to do it again. And other stuff, too. And I'm... I'm just not ready for that. Any of that. And the truth is—and god do I hate admitting the truth so much—I don't really think I was ready the first time, either.
I wanted to be ready, I did, really. And I want to be ready for everything else too. I want to so badly it hurts. But I'm not, and the more time Seth and spend together now, the more I realize it.
Everything just feels so different. I want time to get used to it, to figure out how I'm feeling and what's going on inside my head. All of this stuff that I've been repressing and running from for years is suddenly out in the open (well, open to Seth) and it's hard to shake the instinct to run from it. To hide, and lie because it's safe and easy.
I want to go slow. I want be able to adjust, to take my time. I mean, I haven't even been able to say "it" once yet. I tried a few times, first when Seth was around and later alone in my room, looking at myself in the mirror... I couldn't do it. I can barely think it.
The problem is... Seth's had time. A lot of time. Years, to realize who he is and his feelings for me. He's been waiting for me, for years. He's ready, completely ready and I think he sort of expects me to be ready with him. It's like he's put me on a mountain bike and sent me speeding down a hill, and I'm just holding on for dear life, desperately wishing I could stop, and go slower and maybe get some training wheels.
It's all my fault. Even if it's Seth's who's being a little too aggressive, it's still my fault. If I hadn't been such a moron, and a coward, I would have realized my feelings for him and his for me years ago. And then we could have taken things slow together. Adjusted, taken time to get comfortable... but it's been so long, there's no chance of that now.
I ruined everything.
Wednesday at lunch I stand in line in the cafeteria, trying to decide what to buy. I wrinkle my nose, looking with distaste from one grody dish to another. This is all Jimmy Howlett's fault. I can't get what he said about the cafeteria food giving you herpes out of my head. Stupid Jimmy Howlett, fucking all my shit up. I hate that guy.
"Oh, hi Kyle..."
I snap my head up, and see Casey Carter standing behind me in line. "Casey—hi."
"You getting some food?" She asks.
"Considering it," I say. The line moves up, and we silently move along with it. This is the first time we've spoken since I broke up with her. She smiles at me, one of those shy unsure ones she used to give me when we first started seeing each other. I realize that I've missed her, a lot. I open my mouth to ask her how she's been, but the lunch lady interrupts.
"Are either of you gonna order something?" She snaps, glaring at me and Casey.
Casey's cheeks turn red. "Sorry," she says, not meeting the lunch ladies eyes. "Um, can I have the lasagna?" She has this way of asking like she thinks maybe the lunch lady will say "no."
Lunch lady turns her beady eyes to me. "I'm good," I say. She huffs, as though offended I don't want any of her slop, and then gets Casey her lasagna.
"Thank you," Casey says, taking the styrofoam plate and smiling.
I grab a turkey sandwich and a diet pepsi from the refrigerator, and then Casey and I go over to the cash to pay. At the last moment I grab a big cookie from the basket by the cash, and get that too.
"Do you wanna eat together?" I ask, after we pay. Casey looks surprised. "I mean, unless that's weird..."
"No, I'd like that," Casey says, smiling.
Casey and I take a seat at a table close to the back of the cafeteria, where only a few others are sitting.
I tap my fingers on the table and look at her. Suddenly I've got no idea what to say. "So... um... how've you been?" I ask.
Casey shrugs. "Okay," She tells me. She doesn't elaborate. "You?"
"Fine," I say reflexively. "I've been fine."
Casey smiles at me. "That's good," She says, sounding so genuinely pleased for me that I wish I hadn't lied. But I guess that's how things are between me and Casey. She's genuine, and I'm a lying, attempted-two-timing bastard. "How's Seth?"
I stare open-mouthed at her for a moment, as the thoughts in my head race and stumble over each other in confusion. There's no way Casey could know, I think. It's impossible—I didn't tell her, and there's no way in hell Seth did—she doesn't know—does she? She can't.
Then it dawns on me; she's asking because Seth and I are friends. Right, duh. I almost smack myself in the forehead.
"Seth's... fine too," I tell her. There's no mistaking the hollowness in my voice.
Casey raises her eyebrows at me, and I look away. Stupid, I'm so stupid. For someone who's spent so much of their time lying to everyone—my best friend, my girlfriend, me—I'm really fucking bad at it.
"Are you sure?" Casey asks. I don't respond. "Did something... happen, between you two?"
My head snaps up, and I must look absolutely horrified because Casey immediately starts correcting herself. "Or didn't happen, I mean—I'm just asking, not implying," She babbles, which only serves to increase my does-she-know-or-not panic. "I mean—I don't mean—"
"Everything's fine," I cut in. "Really... it's just... I mean..." I shake my head, at a loss for words. I'm so sick of lying. But I'm sick of the truth, too.
Casey nods. "Okay..." She says quietly.
I put my head in my hands. "Things have just been... weird, with us, lately... different."
Casey answers slowly, carefully, like she's afraid if she speaks too fast or says the wrong thing she'll spook me, and then I'll run away and hide in a tree somewhere. She's probably right. Except for the tree thing.
"Well... just remember that whatever happened with you guys—" I give her a look, and she breaks off. "Or didn't happen," She adds quickly, "Just remember that you and Seth have been friends for years. He's your best friend, and I know he's the most important person in the world too you. Whatever's going on... it's not worth throwing that away for." She smiles at me, and reaches across the table and squeezes my hand. "Whatever's going on, whatever it is... you two'll get through it.
I swallow, not sure what to say. She sounds so sure about it, me and Seth. Sure that we'll work it out, and that everything will be alright. I don't know if I am, or if her advice really helps... but somehow I feel better anyways. For a moment, I consider telling her the truth, about everything. Seth, and being confused, and then not being confused... About sleeping with him even though I wasn't ready, feeling rushed and panicky and like I destroyed everything we had between us. The whole deal.
Instead I smile at her, and squeeze her hand back. "I've missed you, Case," I tell her. "A lot."
At least that's one thing I don't have to lie to her about.