Just a Kiss
I spent Saturday crashing at Aaron's place, reluctantly confessing my feelings to the whole gang. I sighed in defeat as I remembered their reactions.
"Hell's yeah!" Aaron fist pumped the air by his side and extended a hand toward Mark. I whacked them both when I saw Mark reluctantly hand over a twenty.
"What the hell! You guys made a bet?" I shouted at the treachery, which was responded to with sheepish looks and shrugs. I glowered while thinking I needed better friends.
"Like OMG, you like just made the discovery of the century!" Lei did her best valley girl impersonation, then rolled her eyes and stuffed a cheese cracker in her mouth. Aaron and Mark chuckled while Vic nearly choked on a mouthful of tuna sandwich. We were all gathered in Aaron's kitchen, pigging out and laughing at me, apparently.
"But I actually like Ryan Bernhard!" I exclaimed, still mulling over my dilemma and wondering why my friends weren't.
Tina giggled, turning to me with raised eyebrows. "Jadey, even I knew that."
"Well, it's news to me." I grumbled, annoyed by their indifference to my scary-ass epiphany. "Why are you all cool with this? Shouldn't there be some yelling, crying, and a conclusion in which you guys tell that though you all love and support me, society won't do the same so I should think hard about it?"
They all stared at me with incredulity sprawled on their faced.
"Bit melodramatic, aren't you?" Vic held back a smirk.
"It's 2012, man." Mark added with a scoff.
"What movie did you see that in?" Aaron laughed. Lei and Tina just giggled and popped some granola into a tub of Greek yogurt. Their unsympathetic responses made me feel exasperated.
"As blind as you all think I am, I was surprised when I realized, okay?" I muttered in defeat.
"Oh, Jayden, all teasing aside, we love you." Leila's voice rang with truth and her dark eyes softened.
"Dude, despite the crap we give you, we get that this is hard for you." Mark patted my back gently.
"It's just that we've known about your feelings for Bernhard for a while and we want you to be happy." Victor looked serious while everyone nodded in agreement. I felt a strong urge to hug them all.
"Thanks, you're the best." I smiled, feeling my throat tighten up thanks to their kind words, then I frowned when I recalled Ryan and Lauren. "But Ryan was either messing with me or I was just a passing fancy."
"There's no friggin way you're a passing fancy!" Aaron claimed with a snort.
"Have you seen the way that kid looks at you?" Mark aimed his potato chip at me, as if to drive the point home.
"The only reason we're giving Bernhard a chance is because we know how much he loves you, which means he can't be all bad," Tina grinned, "plus, he's hot."
"Stop drowning yourself in denial." Lei gave me a light shove.
"I'm not… I saw him making out with Lauren yesterday." I squeezed out through clenched teeth, feeling a familiar pain in my gut. Immediately, cries of fury erupted around me.
"Want us to beat him up?"
"You deserve better!"
"Even if he does love you, the dude has no self-control."
"You don't need a guy who can't keep it in his pants."
I burst out laughing at their display of loyalty, feeling a weight lift off my shoulders. "No need to beat him up. You guys really are the best."
Aaron smiled, "And I was looking forward to it."
I smiled at the memory even as I felt a prick of pain at my continuous effort to stop thinking about Ryan. It's okay. The art project is pretty much over, I won't have to see him that much… and then time will help me get over it.
I spent all of Sunday morning cooped up in my room finishing up the oil painting of Ryan. My mind was blank and I didn't even look at the painting afterwards. Now that it has dried, I was going to bring it to the art classroom and put all this behind me.
I sped up with renewed determination. And walked straight into Ryan. Damn it! I turned to run and was cut off by Ryan's tall frame. Damn him and his basketball moves.
"Jayden, why have you been you avoiding me?" Ryan sounded hurt and I cringed inside.
"I'm not. I've just been busy." I looked down at his feet, trying to ignore my own guilt. Why the hell should I feel guilty?
"You obviously are!" He jerked my face up to meet his and his gray eyes bored into mine. I couldn't swat his hand away because I was carrying a canvas in one arm and my books in another. "What's wrong?" He demanded in a low hushed voice.
The tenderness in his expression tugged at my heart and I felt the urge to hug him. On the other hand, the irrational side of me want to fling my books at his head and scream. 'You are a cheating bastard, that's what's wrong!"
Instead, I took a step back and mumbled, "Nothing. I've got to get to class." I marched past him before he could say anything else.
I sighed and squeezed my eyes shut as I rounded the art room. Sigh. I felt relieved… but why didn't he try to follow me? I banged my head against the wall to knock some sense into me.
"Ouch!" But this is for the best. I ignored the dull ache in my chest, and skull, and proceeded to place my canvas by Mrs. Nelson's desk.
Just then, I heard the PA system go on with a click. Weird. I wonder if it's a last minute assembly?
"Testing, testing." I froze at Ryan's booming voice. What the hell? No. Way. He wouldn't… The color drained from my face as I realized that Ryan most definitely would. I dropped my books and sprinted toward the Public Address room. "Jayden L. Bates, please stop avoiding me. If you don't come to see me soon, I'll say the L word, and it's not going to be the one that's in your name."
Oh god, kill me now.
He continued in distressed baritone. "Talk to me, I miss you. Don't ignore me…"
My body burned with embarrassment and exertion as I burst into the PA room and rushed to the Off button.
"What the hell are you doing?" I bellowed and whirled around to face Ryan, my mind a swirling pool of bewilderment, anger, and mortification.
"You're finally looking at me." Ryan took a step toward me and smiled. My eyes widened in disbelief.
"Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you?"
"I panicked. I didn't know what else to do."
"Almost anything else would have been better!" I massaged my temples, wondering at the repercussions of this idiot's actions. The pain in my head was interrupted by said idiot pulling me into his warm embrace.
"Sorry." Ryan murmured into my hair and I felt my cheeks heat up. My arms instinctively moved to wrap themselves around him when I remembered our situation.
I quickly shoved him away. "You made it sound like we had a relationship over the PA!"
"I didn't say 'I love you', now did I?" He shrugged like he thought he was in the right. I growled at his arrogance.
"It was obvious!" I yelled. My voice softened in embarrassment. "From the tone…"
"Well, at least now the whole school will know you're mine." Ryan shrugged again with a lilt at the corner of his mouth. He looked so goddamn triumphant. Why was he so annoying?
"I am NOT yours. Did you even stop to think of the consequences?"
"No. I only thought about losing you." He crossed his arms, looking unapologetic.
My suppressed frustration bubbled to the suface. "Stop saying that shit! Stop saying you love me, you cheater!" Mortified, I felt tears stinging my eyes.
"Wha-?" He looked genuinely confused as he grabbed my wrist. "I do love you!"
"Why… why are you crying?" He pulled within whispering distance from me.
"You are!" I heard a smiled in his voice and felt a flush of anger.
"Cause I'm pissed off!" I rubbed at my eyes furiously, annoyed at my leaking eyes.
"So why are you pissed off?" He prodded gently, gingerly pulling my hand away from my face.
My anger melted away and I felt stupid and tired. I leaned my forehead against his strong chest. "You suck." I could feel the rumbling vibrations coming from his chest as he chuckled seductively.
Cough, cough. I jerked away from Ryan and turned to the authoritative sound.
Mrs. Taegel, our principal, was standing at the entrance with her arms crossed, a half-amused half-irritated look stamped across her features.
"Sorry for the interruption." Her usually kind voice was dripping with sarcasm. I stared down at my hands sheepishly, desperate to hide my blush and shame. "Mr. Bernhard, what do you think you're doing?"
"Mrs. Taegel, he was just-" I was cut off by a curt shake of her head.
"Is your name Mr. Bernhard?" She cast me an icy stare. "Return to class Mr. Bates." I opened my mouth to protest but Ryan gave my butt a pat and grinned. I felt a mixture of worry and indignation as I left the room.
Ryan was waiting for me by the lockers at the end of fourth period. His demeanor was relaxed and carefree as he leaned against my locker. It's a wonder that he can irk me just by standing still but, alas, that is the power of Ryan Bernhard.
"So what did she say?" I asked, a combination of impatience and uneasiness evident in my furrowed eyebrows.
"I got off with a lecture on the proper use of school property and two weeks in detention, starting tomorrow." He flashed me a coltish grin that gave his face a playful glow. Was he trying to be cute?
"That's it? Aren't you lucky."
"As I was leaving her office she smiled and wished me good luck." The impish smile widened. "What do you think she means?" Great. Even the principal condones our almost-relationship. I blushed, wondering where I could find a hole to crawl into.
"She's probably a fan of the basketball team." I shut my locker and headed toward parking lot with Ryan right behind me.
"Right. So what were you going to say back there?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"I don't remember." I retorted with a stubborn lift of my chin. I pushed the Lauren incident out of my mind. It's not like we're dating… yet; what right do I have to be mad over a stupid kiss? Right?
"Fine." Ryan sounded exasperated. "Give me a kiss?"
"What? Why the hell should I?" I asked, incredulous as to why that would be the solution to anything.
"I've got detention for two weeks! I'll have to miss our drives and basketball practice."
"You're heartless." Ryan pouted but continued to walk beside me.
"I see." I scowled at the pavement before me.
"One kiss won't kill you." He muttered.
"It might, seeing as I'm heartless." I said, fully aware that I wasn't making any logical sense.
"It's just a kiss!" I stopped in my tracks. The memory of Lauren and Ryan entwined in a kiss flared up and I could feel my anger spike once again. Yeah, of course. Just a freaking kiss.
I grabbed Ryan by the scruff of his blue shirt and planted a big one on him, ignoring his surprised expression. I took the time to suck on his lower lip and run my hand through his lustrous blond hair. I released him, smiling victoriously when I noticed the glaze over his silver gray eyes. I stalked home leaving Ryan standing on the sidewalk, dumbfounded.
Take that 'just a kiss'.