"I was just saying hi to a pretty girl," Nick answered Jordan's hostile question with a dazzling smile, "Nothing wrong with that." Both Jordan and Ryan continued to stare intensely at Nick, who seemed to either not notice their dislike of him, or he didn't care. As if to prove his point, Nick wrapped one of his arms around my shoulders, pulling me into his side for a sort of awkward hug. He smelled strongly of some expensive-smelling cologne, and I resisted the urge to cough. I was extremely uncomfortable being so close to some guy that I didn't know, and I was just about to pull away when I saw Ryan lift his fist.
I didn't have time to do anything or tell him to calm down before Nick was on the ground holding his jaw. "Don't fucking touch her." Ryan said his voice quiet for once but still somehow intimidating. If the punch hadn't gotten his point across, his voice certainly would have. Jordan, who was usually grinning or making hilarious faces, was still glaring pointedly at the place where Nick sat on the sidewalk.
He didn't seem at all surprised that he had gotten punched. In fact, he was grinning as if that was what he had wanted the entire time. Okay, I was thoroughly confused. Obviously, the three knew each other from before then and they weren't on the friendliest of terms. That was about all I knew, and before I could ask anyone what the hell was going on Jordan held on of my hands and Ryan took the other. They were leading me back the way we had came, back towards the car.
None of us said a word the entire time back to the car. Both of the boys seemed tense, an effect from the run-in with Nick I assumed, and I was still too baffled to say anything. When we arrived at the car, Jordan got in, slamming the door shut behind him with more force that was really necessary. So, he was still mad. Ryan got into the driver's seat, his jaw clenched tightly and his blue eyes narrowed. He was still mad too. I got in the passenger seat, fiddling with my hands in my lap. I picked at my chipping nail polish, a matte purple color that had at one point looked good. My many bracelets jingled as they hit each other on my wrists. Once all of the polish was peeled from my thumbnail, I moved onto my index finger and repeated the motion; something I did often when in uncomfortable situations like being stuck in a car with two boys who were angry about something I didn't know about.
I'm sure I would have continued with my nervous habit the entire ride home, but Ryan removed one hand from the steering wheel and laid it on top of mine. His hands were rough and warm, but the weight of his hand against mine was calming and was comforting enough to stop my fidgeting.
I looked over at him and he was still looking intently to the road as he drove, but his hard expression had now softened and he didn't look like he was about to rip someone's head off. I flipped my hand over so that my palm was touching Ryan's and interlaced our fingers. I noticed how his knuckles were coarse and scarred, probably from being in several fights. If the incident with Nick was any indication, the boy was quick with his fists.
"Puppy, will you sleep over tonight?" Jordan asked from the back, his voice now devoid of its previous hardness, back to the usual brightness it usually held.
"Why would I want to do that when I have my own room free of you?" I asked teasingly.
Jordan stuck his bottom lip out in a pout, "Aww, Puppy. I thought you loved me." The look on the twenty-one year old's face was just too adorable, he only had to look at me with his hazel eyes widened for a few minutes before I gave in. "Yay! Sleepover!"
After that, I asked Ryan to stop at a grocery store so that I could pick up a few things for Riley. He nodded and continued driving, still not taking his hand from mine. Once we arrived in front of a building, we all got out of the car and walked inside. I walked up and down several aisles until I found one with crackers and cookies on the shelves. I peered at the boxes and bags lining the aisle until I found a box marked Goldfish. I grabbed it and continued meandering through the aisles. I stopped again when I found a section filled with different types of juice. Once I'd found one marked Kool-Aid, I picked it up and headed towards the checkout.
On the way, I noticed that Ryan and Jordan hadn't been with me since I'd entered the store. I walked around for a little while, looking for them. I didn't have to look for very long, I heard a loud laugh immediately followed by a crash and another laugh. I knew that that had to be them. I followed the direction of the sound until I saw Jordan. His back was to me and he was running down the aisle pushing a cart in front of him. Upon closer inspection, I saw a familiar boy with long dark hair and bright blue eyes sitting in the cart, his legs pressed tightly to his chest because there wasn't much room for him in the metal cart. Jordan ran down the aisle until he reached the middle, then he would give the cart a final push before letting it go. The car, with Ryan in it, would keep going even though the person pushing it had stopped, and then the cart would crash into the display at the end of the aisle.
Whatever the display had been promoting now littered the tiled floor, and the only indication as to what had happened was the overturned shopping cart and two hysterically laughing boys. I rolled my eyes at their immature behavior, something that had become somewhat of a regular thing now, but I couldn't help but crack a small smile. No matter where we were or what we were doing, those two always managed to have fun.
I had never had much in the way of friends, preferring to be in small groups as opposed to large ones. Through high school I had only had three or four people that I was ever close to. Towards the end of senior year, and maybe even a little before, my friends had drifted apart from me and I found that we talked less and less. I guessed that they had never actually liked me, that they were just too nice to make me sit alone, and that they were just waiting for an opportunity to dump me. I wasn't really surprised, I wasn't like them. The group I had hung out with were they quiet people who were super smart and good. The only thing that I had in common with them was that I got uncomfortable around too many people.
Unlike them, I didn't pass up parties to study. I passed them up because I didn't like that type of thing. I didn't read much unless I had to, and when I did I usually didn't understand what I was reading. I barely passed my classes, getting C's or low B's in everything except for art which I automatically got in A in because the teacher believed that everyone was good at art. The people I called my friends were comfortable with other people like them, and I just didn't fit the bill. So after graduation, they never tried to keep in contact. Not that I really put in much effort either. I had just accepted the fact that I would never talk to them again, and that was how they wanted it.
My point to that little speech was that I didn't have any friends and I had thought that I was okay with that. But I was wrong. I desperately wanted to have friends and I needed to have fun, and in that moment I decided that I needed those boys.