Sorry for the delay.


My face froze, my mouth hanging open. It lasted for a mere split second. Tris was already giving me encouraging pats on the back. I looked at Isola out of the corner of my eye. She didn't seem to mind anything that was taking place; rather, she looked...fascinated. Her gaze was sewn to the wrinkles around Tris' smirk, his sparkling green eyes. He was a devil when it came to charming people out of their pants. When he wanted to.

"Daniel!" Tris repeated.

Dad came out of the kitchen, drying his hands on his sweater. The smile on his face frightened me. He took Isola's backpack and threw it beside the door, grabbed her hand and pulled her to the sofa. "You like watching film?"

I searched Tris' expression. The whole situation was out of my grasp. He took my hand and kissed my forehead before sitting me beside Isola. She looked curiously at Dad who was putting a The Lion King into the VHS. I felt my heart sink into my stomach and my cheeks blush. I pushed myself deep into the sofa.

Tris had already disappeared in the balcony diagonally across the room, and Dad soon followed him, sitting on the floor of the balcony and stealing cigarettes from Tris who was already shirtless in his white and blue lounger. Dad's fingers were fumbling with the button of Tris' faded blue jeans. He always bought jeans with a hue of yellow.

My face scrunched at the sight. On the TV screen the figures were dancing and singing and beside me sat Isola.

Isola, Isola, Isola.

My heart thumped and my mind screamed. She was right there beside me.

I didn't really know why I was thinking that way. It was more the thought of a girl sitting beside me. Or rather, a person that wasn't family but that I still cared about. I cared about what she thought of me. I was deep in thoughts, but Isola made her presence known when she carefully let her fingers rest on mine. She wasn't looking at me. The TV was singing Hakuna Matata and my body was tingling with both warmth and cold cords pulling inside. Suddenly my skin became very sensitive and the rough texture of the old sofa beneath me felt very harsh under my hand. Isola's hand...Isola's hand was soft. A little moist and soft and her flesh pink. I snorted a smile and looked at her. She looked back this time and smiled too.

After that we did everything together. We held hands when nobody saw in school, she ate with us, we studied on the floor of my room and she frolicked in my bed when she didn't want to study anymore.

"Aryan," she said softly, lying on her back in my bed and staring at the light green ceiling as if in trance.

"Hm." I didn't look up from my biology book.

"I forgot." Her nails made scrunching sounds as she bit them.

"Hm."

She turned to her side and snatched the book from me. "You're always so slow and boring."

I snatched the book back and frowned. We were quiet for a while as I read the same sentence over and over.

"Sorry."

"Mhm."

"I wanna hug." She reached out to me without much energy in her naked arms, her fingers stifling through my hair. It fired an unexpected shiver down my spine which sent her giggling. I slapped the back of my neck to stop it. She sat up and I jumped up on the bed and threw myself at her. Her breasts weren't big. She still wasn't a woman, but she was nevertheless soft. Except for the few bones sticking out at uncomfortable places. She had very sharp elbows. I let my head rest on her shoulder and she held it close, leaning hers on mine. My palms were sweaty so I didn't quite dare to let them touch her back.

We hadn't kissed yet, no matter how much Dad and Tris asked or left us alone. We just locked ourselves between my green walls and spoke of nothing and everything. She said how she was and I said how I was in the same matter. We thirsted to know more about each other and to express ourselves.

She was my first real friend. The first one I had spoken to about more than things that happened at the moment. The first one who made me put my fantasy world aside and see reality. She wasn't someone who could fit in my dream; she was too tall to look good beside me, she wasn't as modest as girls were in my daydreams and she was too loud and talked too much. She...actually was someone. She wasn't just a girl. She was Isola. Isola with the burnt almond hair and sky eyes and the skin that was almost as pale as mine. Isola who spoke too much and got bored too easily and couldn't calm down. Isola who was mine and mine alone. I could do things to her. Things that I only did to girls in my fantasy. The best of all was that she wouldn't slap my hand away or try to stop me. Our faces wrinkled when we tried so suppress embarrassed laughters. We tangled loose from each other and she tried to kiss me but missed and pecked my nose. I closed my eyes in surprise. We looked at each other for a long time.

"I have to go home now."

"Yeah, okay." I sat there as she got up and collected her books from the floor. She stopped in the doorway, urging me to follow.

"Aryan," Dad pulled my attention to the kitchen when we came into the living room. "Is Isola leaving already?"

I nodded.

"Could you go buy milk?" His tricks were so cheap. I didn't really feel like going out, but I fought my sneakers on and went to the kitchen under Dad's protests about walking indoors with shoes. He handed me money and creased his lips in disappointment. I looked at him as if nothing was wrong.

Isola waited patiently at the door, as patiently as she was capable of, that is.

Dad looked like someone out of a picture, standing before the sink and tapping up water, with the harsh daylight behind him floating in through the thin curtain and making his hair shine in even blonder shades. His bare feet squirmed against the black and white checkered tiles under his jean legs and he smelled of shampoo and chlorine and Dad and the awful cologne Tris had bought him for some stupid anniversary they celebrated every month. The silence brought me a strange sense of tranquility.

I held her hand all the way. It was strange holding a girl's hand. When Dad held my hand, he held it from the other side. This was just...uncomfortable.

The ground felt so close. I could really sense the asphalt beneath my feet and as we walked up the street with all it's ups and downs. We were both looking at our growing shadows that also held hands, one of them with a giant backpack peeking from over her shoulder and the other with a mushed plastic bag in his fist. The sun was sinking.

I didn't quite dare to get too close to her house, so I told her goodbye a block away.

"My Mom wants to meet you! She wants to invite you over for dinner." Isola beamed at me, looking light; she couldn't stand still. I bit my lip. And continued to bite until I had bought the milk and gotten home and flopped on the sofa with my head against Tris' arm.

It was scary to think about; meeting Isola's Mom.

And then, one day, she said she wanted to sleep over. It had been six weeks of her coming over and us running around in the afternoon sun because we had nothing better to do than to buy groceries and slide down the banisters in the metro station. My pants suffered because of that. I was having holes on my ass all of a sudden, so Dad decided we should buy me new jeans. We bought my first pair of designer jeans. A stone washed, dark blue pair of Levi's. It was hard to take them off at night. I wanted to wear them in bed, but Tris would probably wake me up in the morning. He would rub my back until I woke up. I always sleep on my stomach and keep my fist in front of my face as if I would stick my thumb in my mouth any minute.

Suddenly, school wasn't the daydreaming palace anymore. I slept much less and it looked dusty under the bed. And I didn't fantasize until I fell asleep in Tris' arms on the balcony anymore. I had gotten heavy. His lounger creaked when we both sat on it although I was still half his size.

But Isola was going to sleep over. I panicked, thought I should meet with her Mom first. At the same time, a kittenish sensation flared in my stomach and I giggled for nothing. A girl. In my room at night.

Isola was going to sleep over.