Augie didn't like parties, because he never knew anyone at them. But Chloe knew this, and always dragged him along anyways.
He awkwardly sat in the corner of the room, watching a group of boys play video games while a bunch of girls played Gay Chicken. Some kids were over by the food. Augie was not interested in any of them.
He felt a prod at his side, and turned to see Chloe beaming at him. Her blond hair stuck out in different directions.
"Augie!" she exclaimed again, happily. "Guess who's here?"
"Um," said Augie.
Augie blinked at her. Who was Leslie?
Chloe pulled at something behind her, and a girl with red flyaway hair seemed to appear out of nowhere. She blushed when she saw Augie.
"Um," said Augie.
Chloe giggled. "I'll just leave you two lovebirds at it, then!" She squealed and scampered off.
Augie looked at Leslie again. Her cheeks were redder than her hair.
"Hi," Augie said awkwardly.
"Hi," Leslie said awkwardly.
"Um," said Augie for a third time. "Chloe told you that I was single, didn't she?"
Augie sighed and leaned against the wall. "Figures," he muttered under his breath.
"I'll," said Leslie. "I'll just go then."
She left. Augie exhaled again. At least the video game music wasn't too loud. Or else it would have been even more uncomfortable yelling over the music. Augie didn't like yelling.
He was too lost in thought that he wasn't paying attention when a boy walked by and tripped over one of his legs. Delayed, Augie pulled his knees in and said, "Sorry!"
The boy got up. At first, Augie thought he'd be angry, but the boy merely smiled.
"It's okay," he said. And then, still smiling, he walked off.
x x x
"Hey, hey, Augie!" Chloe came up to him in the hallway. Augie turned to his friend.
"Hi Chloe," he said.
Chloe grinned, but then it was quickly replaced by an expression of curiosity. "What's with you and Leslie today?" she asked.
"You and Leslie!"
"Who's… oh!" he said, remembering the weekend's events. "Leslie. Um. Nothing?"
"What do you mean? I thought you'd get together or something!"
Augie shook his head. Why would Chloe think that?
"But she likes you!" Chloe pouted. "And you've never dated anybody in high school!"
"Um," said Augie. "Sorry?"
"You should be!"
Chloe frowned this time. She stopped in the hallway and placed her hands on her hips. Her eyes scanned Augie up and down, like he was a very strange and confusing bug. Augie didn't think he was very strange or confusing at all.
"You know," Chloe said finally. "I've always wondered why you've been single for the past two years of high school."
"Oh." Augie didn't know what to say.
A grin spread across Chloe's face. "Then that means I can set you up with someone!"
"You really don't have to, Chloe—"
"Just think about it," said Chloe, ignoring him—or perhaps she really hadn't heard him at all. "We're going to go out to find your perfect soul mate! In high school, at least." She giggled. "It will be so romantic!"
"I think you've been hanging out with your girlfriend too much," Augie said seriously.
Chloe just grinned. "Well I'll help you learn the feeling!" She grabbed Augie's hand and squeezed it. "Better get to class before you're late!"
She skipped off down the hallway. Augie stared after her and shook his head. Chloe's plans never worked.
He was turning around to get to study hall, when he bumped into someone. He opened his mouth to apologize—but when he saw the person's face, he stopped.
"You!" he exclaimed.
The boy he had bumped into looked amused. "Me," he said. "You're Augie, right?"
"Yeah—how do you know my name?" asked Augie.
The boy smiled. It was familiar. "Chloe's friend. It's hard to ignore her, so it's hard to ignore you."
"I suppose," said Augie.
"I'm Nash," said the boy. "And I should get to Spanish."
"Oh. Well." Augie nodded awkwardly. "Okay."
Nash left. Augie couldn't help feeling a little bit lost, even though he hadn't been found in the first place.
x x x
Fifth period was Augie's least favorite class. Because during fifth period, he had gym.
Chloe was in his gym class. So were a lot of girls. Fortunately, Augie discovered on Tuesday that Nash was also in his gym class. He figured it was because once you met or knew someone, you couldn't help but notice them everywhere because you hadn't known them before. But now he had someone to look for. And he found him.
Augie was about to run across the gym to perhaps say hello to Nash, and maybe even engage in conversation—but Chloe, faster than Augie, caught him first.
"Hi Augie," she said with a mischievous glint in her eye.
Augie looked at her. He contemplated telling her that he would really love to talk to her but there was someone else he'd rather talk to right now. But then he realized how rude that would sound. So he didn't.
"Hi Chloe," he said patiently. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Nash laughing at something one of the other boys said.
"Don't you think Kayla is pretty?" asked Chloe eagerly.
Who was Kayla? Augie glanced at the gaggle of giggling girls standing by the wall. "Sure," he said.
"Great!" Chloe's face brightened up. "Come on, you should meet her, she's really nice—"
A whistle sounded, cutting them up. "Line up!" screeched their gym teacher, silencing all other conversations.
Gratefully, Augie ran over to join the other boys.
Their gym teacher called roll, and then divided them into badminton teams. They had an odd number, though, and predictably, Augie was the only one left.
Under most circumstances, if not all, Augie would have joined Chloe's and another one of her only-friend girlfriends' (though she did only have one actual girlfriend-girlfriend) team. But today was different, because Augie was looking for Nash. He found him with a boy in a green shirt.
"I'll join them," he said to the gym teacher, pointing at Nash and the other boy. The gym teacher nodded.
Augie ignored Chloe's bemused face.
Nash looked surprised when Augie approached him, but not at all displeased. "You," he said, in that same amused tone.
Augie couldn't help grinning. "Me," he said.
"Are you guys any good at badminton?" asked the other boy.
Both Nash and Augie shook their heads.
"We'll be the greatest losers ever," said Nash.
"Rah-rah," said Augie.
Nash turned to Augie. He was smiling.
x x x
(They actually weren't the ultimate losers. They were second best (at losing, at least). Augie probably could have gotten that last shot, but Nash didn't mind too much when he missed. Which was good, because Augie had been too busy staring at Nash to pay any attention to the game.)
x x x
"What do you think of Brittany?" asked Chloe.
"Oh. Um." Augie shrugged. "She's. Er. She's nice?" He had no idea who Brittany was.
"Think she's cute?" Chloe grinned. "I do."
"Chloe, you have a girlfriend," said Augie very practically, feeling extremely out of character. "And um. She has nice hair?"
"Just because I'm not single doesn't mean I can't look at other people." Chloe stuck her tongue out at him. "And I didn't know you went for blonds!" She clapped her hands excitedly.
Augie frowned at this. Actually, he preferred brown hair.
"Well anyways. Excellent!" Chloe swatter her hands at Augie enthusiastically. "I should ask her what she thinks of you! Though you could probably do that yourself!" She grinned once more and winked, and then ran off.
Augie blinked after her, extremely confused. Then he walked into AP Bio. He'd probably figure out who Brittany was later.
In AP Bio, they were assigned to do a lab. Augie was startled to hear "Augie and Brittany" being called up for their fruit flies. And then he looked to the side, where his blond-haired female lab partner was going up to the front of the classroom to get their supplies.
x x x
It turned out that Nash and Augie didn't have any other classes together, though Augie often saw him in the halls. However, Augie was too shy to say hi to Nash in the halls, in case Nash gave him a strange look and didn't recognize him, or laughed at him, too embarrassed to be seen with a loser like Augie. So he was very, very surprised when Nash came up to him as Augie was leaving English class.
"Hey!" said Nash. "You're going in this direction, right?"
Still stunned, Augie nodded.
"Great." Nash looked relieved. "I thought I saw you the other day going this way—I wasn't sure, though, so I wanted to make sure."
Augie opened his mouth. His throat was dry. He quickly swallowed. "You saw me?" he asked, and then realized how pathetic he sounded.
Nash hadn't seemed to hear the eager tone in his voice, though. "Yeah," he said. "I had Creative Writing—and I'm assuming you had English? Which was why we were in the same hallway?"
He looked at Augie. Augie suddenly realized that the question wasn't rhetorical, and that he was supposed to answer.
"Um," he said. He nodded.
Nash chuckled. "You're not a man of many words, are you?"
Blushing, Augie ducked his head down. "No," he mumbled.
But Nash just laughed. "That's all right," he said.
Augie felt like his insides were bubbling with happiness.
x x x
Augie knew that Chloe wasn't stupid. She was just extremely simple-minded, and not perceptive at all.
"How about Regan? She thinks you're cute. Or maybe Hannah. I hear she's nice."
"Hannah is a lesbian," Augie stated.
Chloe rolled her eyes. "Whatever," she said. "What about—"
"Chloe, I have to go to study hall," Augie interrupted. He felt a little pang in his chest. Study hall meant no gym, which meant no Nash. For forty-five minutes, anyways. Augie could look forward to the break between ninth and ten period every day, at least.
Chloe just pouted at him. "Tell me first: Is there someone you like now?"
Wanting to spend a lot of time with Nash wasn't liking him.
"No," said Augie.
x x x
"You're lucky you're not in APUSH," said Nash, flicking a stray lock of brown hair from his eyes. "I mean, the class is really interesting and all—but I have to stay up to like, three on Wednesday and Friday nights, studying because of my stupid job! There are just way too many projects and exams!"
"And DBQs?" supplied Augie.
"And DBQs!" Nash flung his arms out. Augie wasn't sure if it was in annoyance or excitement. "Way too many!"
Nash was an interesting character. Augie had come to learn about him over the past couple of weeks. Nash liked school, but hated busywork. He was smart, but put in minimal effort. He worked at the local Starbucks. He was on the school newspaper. He was terrible at sports (Augie had firsthand experience with this), but loved watching college football. He was nice and talkative, but not too loud, which Augie always liked. Noise really wasn't Augie's thing.
But Nash's voice didn't count as noise. Augie was pretty sure he had never heard a noise so nice before.
x x x
Chloe pulled Augie aside from his conversation with Nash. At first Augie thought that she'd (finally) be wondering who Nash was.
"See Ophelia? She thinks you're simply adorable," said Chloe, pointing to a brown-haired girl from her group of friends.
Augie glanced at her. Ophelia looked shocked that they were staring at her. Chloe was probably exaggerating and had fished the word "adorable" out of poor Ophelia. Augie wouldn't put it past Chloe. She probably did the same thing for the other girls, too.
"Um." That should really be Augie's catchphrase. "Tell her I said thanks?"
Chloe sighed exasperatedly. "God, Augie," she said. "Why aren't you like the other boys who want to get into every girl's pants?"
"Because. Er." Augie shrugged. "That's why you love me?"
Chloe rolled her eyes and sighed again, though she was wearing a smile now. It wasn't as nice as Nash's. "Yes, Augie, I do love you. And that's why I don't want you to have a boring love life. Or lack thereof."
"It's all right," Augie insisted.
Chloe gave him a look, and left.
Angue nearly jumped; he had forgotten Nash was still standing there.
"Oh, just Chloe," he said. "You know how she is."
Nash chuckled. "Yes I do."
"Yeah. She wants me to have a 'love life.'" Augie smiled sheepishly.
"I take it you don't have one?" said Nash.
"Good." Nash smiled. "Me neither."
x x x
The next three girls Chloe asked Augie about were all brown-haired. Maybe Chloe wasn't as dense as he had thought she was. He had denied them all, though. Romance just wasn't his strong suit.
Chloe also told him that the girls had also described him as "cute."
"I don't know what that means," Augie said to Nash on his walk from English to history. "Is that supposed to be a good thing?"
Nash shrugged. "I dunno. I'm not a girl. You are cute, though."
Augie expected him to add something, like "in a little kid way" or "for an animal." But when nothing came, Augie blushed, very belatedly.
"Thanks," he said awkwardly. "Um. You're not so bad yourself."
Nash smiled. "You don't have to say that," he told him.
Augie turned even redder. "I know! I mean—I really think you are! I mean. You're not so bad. Looking. At all. Really." His face felt like it was on fire.
But Nash went on smiling. Had he even turned pink? "I appreciate it," he said, his tone completely sincere.
x x x
Over the next week, Chloe was trying harder than ever to make Augie have a love life. But out of the handful of girls that she had picked out for him, he didn't feel attracted to any of them. (Mostly because each time he saw or heard of them, he would ask himself, Would I rather spend time with her than Nash? The answer was always no.)
"Maybe you like younger girls. Or older girls," Chloe mused.
Augie nearly hit himself with his palm.
"No!" he said. "I don't like any girls!"
Chloe's eyes glowed. "You're gay?"
"No!" Augie quickly covered her mouth up in case anyone heard. But it was true. He wasn't particularly attracted to guys or girls. All he knew was that girls were weird, boys were… well, boys. Chloe was psycho and Nash was nice. And sure, Nash was a boy. But he was also Nash.
Chloe's face fell. "Darn," she said. "Anyways. We need to speed things up."
"Why? What for? Why do you care so much?" Augie asked irritably. He made to shove past her in the hallway.
Augie realized after a moment that it was one of hurt. Had he hurt her? He didn't mean to.
"Well I'm sorry," she said, her voice sounding fairly stuffy. "I just wanted to help."
Augie felt guilty. "I know, Chloe," he said. "Um. Maybe, I dunno. I'm sorry." He shuffled his feet. Chloe always meant well. He just never appreciated it enough. "How can I make it up to you?"
"You'll make it up to me?" Chloe positively squealed. "Oh, I don't know, Augie—but really—if you insist—"
She sprinted down the hallway. Augie felt like he had made a mistake.
x x x
Augie had never gone to anyone's house before except for Chloe's, and any house she dragged him along to for a party.
So when Nash invited him over to his house, he didn't know what to expect.
Nash actually lived in an apartment: a very nice one, at that. The walls were blue. Augie thought they suited him.
"Do you like video games?" asked Nash as Augie looked around. Either Augie was imagining it, or Nash sounded very nervous.
"Sure." Augie shrugged. He didn't dislike them.
Together, they discovered that Augie was oddly talented at Rock Band even though he had never touched a drumset in his entire life. Nash could only play bass. Augie had laughed very loudly when he watched Nash try playing on the guitar setting.
Nash's parents came home at around four o'clock. "Who's this?" his mom asked, looking at Augie.
Nash smiled. "Augie. My friend."
Augie was stunned. But then he realized that it probably made sense. They had, after all, become friends.
x x x
"So," said Chloe, hoisting up her books from her locker. "Remember when you were being a jerk you said you'd make it up to me?"
"Uh huh." Augie didn't like being called a jerk. But he supposed that it was true.
"I know exactly how!" said Chloe excitedly, as they started walking down the hallway. "You see, Daisy told me the other day that she thought you were cute—"
Augie wasn't surprised. Nash had said that he was cute, so it was probably true anyways.
"—and that you were shy and stuff, but she thought it was completely adorable!" Chloe looked absolutely giddy.
Augie blinked. "Uh."
"You should go on a date with her!" Chloe said eagerly. "In fact, I'm setting it up for you! You'll be at the Starbucks right next to AMC—"
"Wait, you already talked to her about this?"
Chloe flushed a deep pink. "I just want you to be happy, okay Augie?" she said. "Anyways, local Starbucks, Friday, six pm sharp."
"Okay." Briefly, Augie wondered why he was agreeing to this. Then he remembered Chloe's guilt trip.
He had been wrong all along. Chloe was an evil mastermind-genius deep down on the inside.
"Great!" she said as they approached the locker rooms. She quickly turned left to the girls' side, but accidentally bumped into someone coming out of the boys' room. "Whoops! Sorry Nash!"
Or maybe she wasn't.
x x x
Augie didn't mention his date to Nash. He didn't know why. At five fifty-nine, he entered the coffee shop. In the back, he saw a brown-haired girl staring at him expectantly. So this was Daisy.
"Hi," he said, sitting in the chair across from her.
She smiled shyly. "Hi Augie."
It suddenly occurred to Augie that this was the local Starbucks, the same local Starbucks Nsah worked at. He looked around, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. Wasn't his shift this hour?
"Who are you looking for?" Daisy asked curiously.
"Oh." Augie quickly looked back at her. "No one," he lied. "Was wondering when the waiter would come to take our orders."
"They don't take our orders." Daisy giggled. "Just go up to the counter and order yourself."
"Right. Knew that." Augie gritted his teeth. He was going to go through this date, with his dignity intact or not.
He went up to the counter and ordered a cappuccino and a chocolate cookie. He stayed at the counter as long as he could, hopefully stalling the date. Maybe if he spent more time here, it would make the rest of the half an hour feel less painfully awkward.
He glanced around for Nash again. But Nash was nowhere to be seen. Disappointment flooded Augie's heart. It would be nice to see him around, even if Augie was on a date with some girl he hardly knew. The date he hadn't told Nash about. But Nash would probably forgive him, anyways.
When he went back to his seat, Daisy's smile brightened. Augie's heart sank. He really wasn't interested in her at all.
"Um," he said. "So. What did Chloe say about me?"
"Oh, not that much," Daisy said airily. "You're shy, not great with conversation. It's okay, though." She giggled. Her voice was too high.
"Ah," said Augie. "Well um. She didn't tell you that I liked you, did she?"
"You like me?" Daisy's eyes widened.
"No! No no no!" Augie waved his hands frantically.
Daisy's expression hardened. "You don't like me?"
But when Daisy's face didn't change, Augie realized that he had said the wrong thing. "No, I mean—I mean, I don't like you like that but that's because I barely know you and—"
"So why did you agree to go on a date with me?"
" 'Cause I…" Augie shrugged helplessly. This date was turning out to be a disaster.
Daisy pursed her lips. "Okay then."
They sat there for a few awkward moments.
Augie quickly got up from his seat.
"Bathroom," he said, pointing over his shoulder, toward the back of the restaurant. Daisy's eyebrows flew up. "I just gotta… go… men's restroom… yeah…"
He hurried away.
He breathed a sigh of relief as he got further and further away from the table. He just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. Hopefully Daisy would understand.
He opened the first door on the left, not paying attention to the sign on the outside. Unfortunately, someone was coming out at the same time, and they collided inside, the door slamming them into the darkness. Augie fell onto his butt, and felt the other person land on top of him with a small "oof!"
Augie lifted his head a little and made out a broom in the corner. This was not the bathroom.
"Ow," he said, feeling his throbbing head.
A surprised voice said, "Augie?"
Augie couldn't' believe it. He blinked furiously, trying to see the face in front of him. "Nash?"
"Yeah!" Nash's hands adjusted a little so that they were now on either side of Augie's torso.
"What are you doing here?" said Augie.
"I was just getting stuff from back here to work." Nash sounded bewildered. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, um," Augie stammered. "I'm on a date. But it's kind of going badly?"
"Is it?" Nash sounded amused.
"Yeah." Augie couldn't help chuckling himself. "I never know what to say to girls."
"Neither do I."
They lay there for quite a while. Augie was starting to get sore, but didn't say anything. It was nice, having Nash physically close to him. Even though they were in a storage closet.
"We should probably get out," said Nash. Augie could feel his words being blow into his face.
Augie hitched his breath. "Yeah," he said.
Neither one of them moved.
"You know." Nash bit his lip. Or at least, as far as Augie could see. "You really are cute."
Augie was suddenly aware of how close their faces were.
"I mean, I don't blame those girls for liking you," said Nash.
"Yeah," said Augie, though he doubted most of the girls really liked him anyways.
"I've never had a girlfriend before," said Nash.
Nash licked his lips and looked into Augie's eyes. From what Augie could tell, he was smiling.
"Yeah," he said, and then he leaned in to close the distance.
x x x
"You could have told me earlier!" Chloe complained loudly. "You could have just said, 'My name is August Fonda and I have a major boner for Nash Weltz—'"
"I do not!" said Augie, blushing furiously.
Nash smirked. "You don't?"
"No! I mean." Augie blushed even harder. "I do like you and all, Nash, but I don't think we'll be able to take our relationship to the 'next level' yet—"
" 'Next level.'" Chloe snorted. "Tell me when you turn twelve, okay, Augie?"
Augie pouted at her. She rolled her eyes and looked away. "That's not going to work on me, and you know it," she said, starting to walk ahead of them. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a girlfriend to tend to. Oy! Vange!"
She ran off.
Augie pouted at Nash instead. Nash glanced at him.
"That's not going to work on me either," he said, grinning, and pinching one of Augie's cheeks. Augie let out an indignant squeak, but Nash just laughed. "Even when you do that, you're still adorable."