School started the following week, leaving Kaden with barely enough time to unpack his school supplies and clothing. I wasn't particularly looking forward to my sophmore year, but I'd be with Kaden, cast-free. Though I still had a bulky black brace and crutch, it was a significant improvement to walk on my own.
"Senior year, huh? You're so close getting out of this place!" I exclaimed as I greeted him at our new set of lockers.
"Ugh, not close enough! I'll miss you a lot... But not enough to want to stay," he winked.
I punched him in the shoulder, watching the flow of new faces emerge from the open doors.
"They look kind of young, don't they...?"
"Considering half of them are taller than you-"
"Shush," I cut him off with a giggle. "You know, I can tell you've been hanging around Drostan, lately. You're starting to pick up his humor."
A hint of red colored his pale cheeks and he turned away with a pout. "Yeah, whatever..."
We leaned close together against my pea green locker, laughing together while observing the crowds, when a freckled boy with messy brown hair approached us. We straightened up, startled by the forward gesture.
"Ah, oh, sorry, didn't mean to interrupt. This is just my locker, I think..."
I smiled slightly. "Oh, of course, yeah. Don't worry about it."
We scooted over to continue our conversation when the loud jangling of his locker drew my attention away again. He shook the latch under his lock while adjusting his glasses and squinting at the small slip of paper in his hand.
"Need help with that...?"
He ran a hand through his hair and looked to the side, bashfully. "Ah-um, yeah, I can't seem to get the combo to work, sorry..."
"Sometimes you have to shake the locks a bit. They can be kind of tricky," I smiled as I read the combo and fiddled with the lock. It popped open after a few attempts. "There you go."
He laughed nervously under his breath and adjusted his polo. "Thanks a lot, I don't know what I would have done if you weren't here. Thanks again, um-"
"Trixie. Nice to meet you," I waved and he nodded shyly.
"Ah, yeah, and I'm Kaden," he gave a half-smile from behind me.
"R-Randy. I guess I'll see you guys around then."
Our gazes followed the hurried path he took down the hall.
"Interesting one, he is." Kaden laughed.
"Just nervous, I guess. I'll see you in music."
Kaden and I were lucky enough to share a couple extra-curriculars this semester even though we weren't in the same lunch wave. I'd rather spend my free time with him, but at least I'd see him more often.
Sophmore year began much like the first. I sat through monotonous introductions as I filled my folder with various handouts I'd never read. By 5th period, my bag gained 20 lbs in paper packets, syllabuses, and new textbooks. My shoulders were already aching from the weight – At least I'd have a chance to replenish my strength at lunch.
As I entered the crowded cafeteria, I looked around for some familiar faces among the sea of students. Neither Kaylee nor Addi would be in the same wave this semester, and I was beginning to worry that I'd have to sit by myself or a intrude on a group of friends that I wasn't too close with. I decided to sit at an empty table in case any other friends came along.
With my peanut butter jelly sandwich in hand, I scrolled through tumblr on my phone, glancing up every now and then to watch the incoming students. Just a few moments later, I spotted Randy, the freshman from earlier, clutching his lunch tray with shaky hands as his eyes darted around the room. I waited for him to make a move, but he stood stiff in the center of the room like a frightened animal. When his eyes landed on me, his face lit up. Feeling a tinge of pity for him, I motioned at my table with a small smile. He took an eager step forward, but suddenly a group of chattering girls stormed my table, occupying every available seat. My attention immediately shifted to them, and I'd nearly forgotten about Randy until I spotted him at an empty table a few feet away, his back hunched over his food as he pushed it around his plate with a fork. I sighed inwardly, feeling a tinge of guilt.
Maybe I'll sit with him tomorrow...
Randy sat in the same spot the next day, watching us over his shoulder every now and then.
"Why does that kid keep staring at us?"
"He probably thinks you're hot, Meg," one giggled.
"Ah, I kind of said I'd sit with him before... I feel bad that he's sitting all alone. How about I see you guys tomorrow?"
"Oh, Trixie, the saint... You're too nice! Someone is gonna take advantage of that kindness one day."
"Yeah, yeah," I brushed her off with a flip of my hair as I moved from my table to his.
He gave a startled jump as I sat across from him, his face bright red. I was beginning to worry that he had a crush on me.
"Uh, hi, Randy. Sorry about yesterday. I'd invite you to sit with us, but I don't think you'd like sitting with a bunch of girls anyway."
"Oh, I'd love to- I mean... Not like there's enough space anyway, so..."
I smiled awkwardly. It was apparent to me that he wasn't much of a talker. In a way, he reminded me of Kaden who used to eat his lunch alone every day. Though I sat with Kaden for a drastically different reason, I hoped that I could boost his confidence a little.
"So, how do you like high school so far?"
"I-It's alright. A bit overwhelming," he ran a hand through his mop of hair. "But I like it, I guess."
"I thought that at first, too. Don't worry, it'll get better," I laughed quietly as I tapped his shoulder.
He blushed again and I slowly retracted my hand, regretting the action. We proceeded to eat our lunch in silence, but several minutes later, he piped up as if he'd been formulating a response this whole time.
"So, Kaden... How comes he's not at lunch with you?" he lifted his head, staring intently at me.
"Oh, he's in 1st lunch, not 2nd, sadly."
He nodded slowly. "I see."
"So, how long have you known him for?"
I was surprised by his sudden talkativeness.
"I just met him last year when I got into high school. Oh, that's right... It'll be our anniversary fairly soon," I mumbled the last part to myself.
Randy squinted as his lips curled into a fake smile. "That's nice."
I figured talk about my boyfriend wasn't the best conversation topic, so I dropped it immediately.
I didn't see Randy for the rest of the week, and I hoped it was because he'd found other friends to sit with. Somehow, I didn't think I'd be so lucky to be rid of him that quickly.
"So, how are you liking your new teachers so far?" Kaden asked as I walked home with him.
"It's going fine so far. But my English teacher, Mrs. Lamar, is a mean one."
"Lamar?! Ugh, I had her my freshman year. Total witch, right?"
"Definitely," I laughed with him. "By the way, found any lunchmates?"
"No, and I don't really want any. I do my homework then. How about you?"
"Kaylee and Addi aren't there, but I found a few friends. Oh yeah, and I sat with that Randy kid once since he sits by himself..."
"Well, that's nice of you, I guess... He is kind of awkward, so maybe some kids will sit with him if you do."
I leaned against his shoulder, thinking about the anniversary I had mentioned before.
"So, I was thinking... October 17th... You remembered right?"
I glared at him and he snickered under his breath. "I know, I know! I didn't forget, I was just teasing you. And I'm pretty sure it's on a weekend this year, so we'll have to do something big."
"Yeah... I can't wait," I sighed dreamily.
He kissed my forehead gently as we parted ways, and I waved goodbye, already formulating ideas. Kaylee and Addi would be staying the night, so I figured they might have something cute and cheesy in mind.
"So, Kaylee... When are you gonna tell Trixie about that cute guy who texted you from the swim team?" Addi winked at the both of us as they unrolled their sleeping bags in my room.
"Another one?" I sighed.
"Oh, hush, both of you! We just texted... nothing more than that."
"Maybe if they were strictly text messages."
Kaylee threw a pillow at Addi and smacked her repeatedly as I laughed from afar.
"Don't you shame me! Besides, Trixie is the one we want to talk about, tonight."
They pulled away from each other and turned to me with eager eyes.
"So, how long have you been with Kaden, again?"
"A little over ten months now," I replied quietly as I combed through my frizzy hair.
"Ooh, the big one year soon, huh? Planning anything?"
"We haven't really decided on anything. I was actually wondering if you guys had any ideas."
They glanced to each other, biting their lips. "Wow, I never thought Trixie of all people would beat us to it..."
The comb tangled in my hair as I stopped mid-stroke. "Beat you to what?"
"No need to be shy about it," Kaylee giggled. "I'm sure it'll be a wild night."
I blushed suddenly. "You don't think that... No, we're not planning to do that sort of thing!"
"There's nothing to be ashamed of, it's totally natural for two people in love! You'll know when you're ready, but you don't want to disappoint him either. I mean, he's mentioned it before, hasn't he?"
I shook my head, staring at the floor, shyly.
"Then don't sweat it! He probably just doesn't want to push you."
They giggled again, but I remained silent, contemplating the idea. I was much too young to engage in such activities. Kaden wouldn't expect me to give myself away so soon, would he? The idea of letting him down upset me, though.
"I-I wouldn't even know what to do... What if I got-!"
"Don't you ever pay attention in health class, Trix?! Sheesh, you're even more innocent than I thought. You'll have to be careful of course."
We didn't speak about Kaden for the rest of the night, but I couldn't stop myself from thinking about what they'd said. The idea that Kaden might have been keeping silent for my sake made me extremely nervous – especially since it sounded just like him. I'd been an immense burden to him to these last few months, so I was certain it was one of the reasons why he still wanted me. As I drifted off to sleep to the sound of their incessant chatting, I wondered if the disappointment would hurt more.
(A/N: I'm so sorry I haven't posted in forever, guys! I've been so busy with school and it's really slowed down my writing. I promise you this story will be finished! But I don't think I'll be able to keep up consistent updates, I'm terribly sorry... but yes, it will be finished. Thanks so much if you are still reading. I really appreciate the support! 3)