I hardly get scared. Hardly.
So what was I doing scurrying off like I've seen the most frightening creature in the world?
"Why does he have to be here?" I muttered irritatingly and frustratingly to myself, weaving my way against an ocean of people at the carnival to be distant from mentioned 'he' as far as my legs and feet could get me as possible.
It's not that Nathan was frightening. As a matter of fact, he's gorgeous. Me running in Road Runner velocity away from him with the aim of avoiding him was all because of what happened last night. When he unexpectedly kissed me at Holly's summer kick-off party. Unexpected indeed because we were squabbling (which we actually do on a normal basis) and then next thing I knew his lips were on mine. Of course he was drunk, there's no way Nathan would kiss me. The guy hates me like Loki hates Thor. But still, I was sober enough to remember it—every second of that kiss, all the light and heavy strokes, the electricity that sparked in every vein of my body. Maybe Nathan doesn't remember, being wasted and all that, but who knows?
I wasn't even supposed to be at that party. My best friend Jill only forced me.
Speaking of the devil, she was calling me.
I picked it up, stopping by the Grand Carousel. I kept my back bent a little forward to hide my outline just in case Nathan caught sight of me and then followed me. "Hello?"
"Where the hell are you?" Jill sounded peeved. Reasonable because I was just with her by the cotton candy stall before I dashed off. "One second and you disappeared?"
"I…uh…" I stalled, trying to think quickly of an alibi. Unfortunately, my mind decided not to function at that moment, so I just told her the truth. "I saw Nathan and I panicked! I'm sorry. Maybe I should just go home. You're with Liam, anyway. You certainly don't need my company."
Liam was the reason Jill was at Holly's party for. They clarified their relationship there, and are now officially girlfriend/boyfriend.
I hung up. No buts, Jill. By hook or by crook, I will not let Nathan see me.
I turned to head for the carnival entrance, my head dangling low from faint misery. I mean I still wanted to ride the Roller Coaster, the Condor, the Ghost Train, and then play some games; I was eyeing the pig plushie to give to my little sister. But here I was, going home already after just being here for like what, 15 minutes only? All because of that stupid Nathan.
And that stupid kiss.
"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you…"
What the… Before I knew it my hands were being tied behind my back by toy cuffs. It was all so fast I didn't have time to resist.
"What—what are you doing, Kent?" I asked, deeply puzzled.
Kent was my classmate in junior year. The nerve of him to grin cunningly at me first before transferring to my back and began carefully pushing me forward. "You are being arrested, Laura."
"WHAT?! What the hell for? Let me go!" I screamed. "Let me go, Kent!" But that didn't come out fruitful, so I turned to the people passing by. "This guy's nuts! Help me! Help me, please!"
Ah, but the people just snubbed my pleading, and all I heard Kent muttered was, "Mission accomplished." I didn't even think that reply was for me.
Anyway, I stopped struggling because I finally realized there's no way Kent would let me go. Nor would the people pay attention to me and hopefully help me out. We arrived at the jail booth called 'Kiss For Freedom' in barely two minutes. He removed my cuffs and then tucked me inside the empty jail. I noted how some girls by the front of the booth were begging to be detained. Like fan girls of a popular pretty boy band during a concert, imploring to their throat's content to marry them even they though they're like what, 12 years old?
But going back to these girls begging for imprisonment, I was like, what the hell is wrong with y'all?! Brows furrowed and mouth hung open to complete the stumped effect.
Then again, what would I give just to have them in my shoes right now?
I was about to ask Kent the million questions flooding in my head when a familiar face entered my line of vision.
The walking disgusting, green-haired mold.
He was smiling the slyest smile he could muster, arms crossed over his chest. That expression of his' clearly implied to me he was the reason why I was here. I glared at him in a sinister way for a response. Sadly though, it didn't create that much impact on him. Actually, I don't think it created any impact at all.
"Look who we got here?" he said, the sly smile never leaving his gorgeous face.
I suddenly remembered Jill mentioning to me that Nathan and his friends were pondering over putting up a booth of their own in the town carnival. I didn't know they have fully decided to go on with it. And this was it? This stupid 'Kiss For Freedom' booth? So lame. So high school.
Then again, we are in high school.
"Just tell me how I can get out of here," I snapped. "How much do I have to pay?" I reached for my pocket. I don't know how much I have in here, but surely bailing myself out wouldn't cost that much, right?
Nathan sniggered. "This booth is not called Kiss For Freedom for nothing, Laura. If it's not self-explanatory enough, you need a kiss to be freed."
My nerves went bananas at that. I didn't like where this was going. Nevertheless, I tried not to show the discomfort. "That's it?"
"Yeah, but—" Of course, there's a 'but'. "—the kiss will only come from the booth operators. Kent, Carl, and…me."
As if on cue, the vein in my lower right eye twitched. Especially with the smirk he produced when he announced himself. Had he matched that up with jazz hands and glinting eyes, I would have chucked my sneakers at his head. "Care to remind me what the hell you are holding me in for? What am I doing here?"
But before Nathan could answer, our attentions were distracted. The girls at the frontage of the booth screamed louder, pleading to Kent, not to mention Carl who just arrived with a box of pizza and cans of soda, to choose them to be jailed, extending their skinny wrists to be cuffed. I get where they're coming from. Who wouldn't want to be kissed by three of the hottest guys in town? Still, this very scene brought me back to my question before.
Because I would trade anything—ANYTHING!—just to not be here.
"Calm down, ladies," Carl appeased. "I told you we're on a break…"
But I missed the rest of what he said. I swung my vicious gaze back to Nathan, nose flaring up and ears blazing dark red in fury. "You're on a break? You're on a goddamn break?! Then I shouldn't be here in the first place! Let me out, you Grisly Gremlin, or I swear if I'd get my hands on you, I'm going to kill you."
Nathan didn't look threatened. Even with the daggers, sharp and shiny, I was throwing his way. Ah, if only that were literal.
"We surely weren't on a break yet when Kent caught you," he explained nonchalantly. Curses at him for being nonchalant.
"Really?!" I said in a challenging tone. "If I don't know any better, detaining me in this stupid booth is just your scheme to—"
"To what?" he interrupted, still cool and collected. "To keep you in because I noticed you were avoiding me?"
"I'm not avoiding you," I denied, although I didn't feel so confident with that response.
"Then why aren't you answering my calls?"
"I didn't even know you were calling!" Actually, I did. This morning. Flipping 18 calls! Not one flipping answered. All flipping slipped to the missed call log.
"Sure you did." Then Nathan turned around, heading towards Kent and Carl.
"Hey, where are you going?" I yelled at him through the wooden bars that made up the jail. "Let me out!"
"I'm not going anywhere, love," he winked at me. The son of a bitch winked at me! "I'll be here until you're ready to be kissed."
Was that a challenge? Well, then, challenge accepted!
"Not happening, love." I borrowed the word, making it sound as severely scathing as possible.
Hours went by, and within those hours I called Jill, seeking for her help. However, to no avail. "Rules are rules, Laura," she had said. "If that is the rule they go by, then you have no choice but to adhere to it. Besides, it's not like you haven't kissed Nathan before—"
"I did not kiss him!" God, why do I always have to correct her on that fact? "He was the one who kissed me!"
"Whatever." Even from here I could see the deadpan on her face when she said that. "The point is you two have done this before, so just get on with it. Okay? Look, I have to go. The roller coaster is about to start."
She hung up. The vein in my lower right eye twitched even more. My best friend and her boyfriend are having fun, while I was here stuck, bored, hungry, and…uh-oh…
"Hey, proboscis monkey!" Okay, that wasn't a nice name to call someone. But you've got to admit, that was funny. Have you seen that animal? Freaking funny-looking.
"Did you just-" Nathan looked scandalized as he turned to me and ambled to my direction. But I was in no mood to confirm the mammal I just compared him with. Besides, I bet he doesn't even know what a proboscis monkey looks like.
"I need to go to the toilet," I cut in, pressing my legs together as if that would hold the urine that was about to pop out from my bladder.
He chuckled. "Right. That won't work with me, love."
"No, I'm not trying to fool you. I really need to go to the toilet now."
My face must have written serious all over because he flipping believed me. He let me out, but made sure to hold my arm as tight as he could so there'd be no room for escape.
We made it to the Porta Potties and thank God one was empty. As I took a leak, I thought about a strategy to get away from Nathan, to take flight from this whole predicament of getting jailed and only a kiss will free me away. Right, the last picture painted in my head turned out to be a little fairytale-ish. But I brushed it off. It cannot be classified as a fairytale if Nathan is there.
Then a brilliant idea suddenly came to me.
I zipped my pants up, unlocked the door and slightly opened it up. "Hey, Nathan, do you happen to have tissue paper?"
"What? Why?" I peered through the tiny crack of the door. Nathan's back was on me.
"Uhm…" How do you say 'I'm going expel my crap' without sounding to be gross? "I realized that this turned out to be more than just peeing…"
"You've got to be kidding me!" he said. Even though I couldn't see his face, I bet it was etching of sheer incredulity.
"I wish I was," I sighed dramatically. "The cheese from the tacos I had hours ago must have been spoilt." I was making up a story. I didn't have tacos. I had a hotdog sandwich with chili con carne and chopped pickles on top.
Oh, my. My stomach grumbled. Now I was hungrier. Now I have a better reason to escape. Damn, this idea must work!
"Fine," Nathan groaned. As he began to walk off, I made a tiny victory dance inside the Porta Potty.
Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah.
When he was about seven or eight steps away, that's when I fully opened the door and snuck out. But Nathan must have suspiciously realized that I was on to something he halted and wheeled around, zeroing in exactly at the cubicle I was using.
Needless to say, me, on the verge of a breakout was clearly not the spectacle he desired to see. So forget the tissue paper, he darted after me.
Perfect. Just perfect.
In return, I ran and ran away from him. What I didn't get though during that chase was how he could not catch me considering that he's a member of the school soccer team. He has a pair of long, muscular legs—natural contraptions built to outrun a short-framed dorky nincompoop like me without any hassle at all.
In five minutes I got tired from all the running, so I stopped. I swiveled to where Nathan was, halted at a spot a few feet away from me.
It's unfair that I was the only one madly huffing and puffing for oxygen.
"Tired, love?" he sarcastically remarked, one corner of his mouth tipped upward to form a striking-but-nonetheless-irritating smirk.
Tired? Try exhausted!
"Yeah." I rolled my eyes. "Is there any way we can work this out without…without that kiss?"
Nathan fell silent, contemplating. It's strange that he hasn't gone near me yet. He was still standing a few feet away from me. "Answer my question and I'll let you go."
The deal seemed to be a little dubious. But who was I to complain? A question is way better than being jailed again and only a kiss will bail me out. "Okay."
"Why are you avoiding me?"
"I told you I am not you avoiding you."
"Then why didn't you answer my calls this morning?"
"You weren't calling me!"
Didn't we have this conversation before?
"I don't believe you." Nathan started to walk closer now, slowly. Funny how that didn't scare me. "Was it because of our kiss last night?"
I forced a laugh to come out of my mouth. "What? That kiss even meant nothing. You were smashed. I mean if I weren't within your reach, it wouldn't have been me."
Nathan's eyes went dark. He was now standing in front of me. "I don't normally kiss girls when I get drunk, Laura."
"Right. Well then, you must have mistaken me for someone." I took a step back, building a gap between our bodies.
But Nathan wrecked that gap by moving forward. "I remembered saying your name."
Yeah, he did. Five times actually if my memory serves me right.
Deeming I had no way out of this, I finally laid out the truth. "Fine. I am avoiding you. Because I don't know what to say to you. I don't even know what to feel! I was supposed to get angry! You stole my first kiss! And you were the last person I thought of who will give me that! But when you did, I actually enjoyed it! And I hated that I enjoyed it because you were drunk, you won't remember it the next day, you will deny it from everyone who witnessed it, and so I will never have that kiss again!"
I was trying to catch my breath. I just didn't know if it was still from my pursuit to flee from Plankton moments ago or from the raging speech I just had.
His reaction though was totally not what I had expected.
He kissed me.
When he let go, I was more out of breath than before. I swear, this guy is trying to kill me.
"Have I ever told you you look ridiculously cute when you're angry?" he said.
I furrowed my eyebrows. What in the world is Jerkface saying? And what the heck his arms were doing, wrapped firmly around my waist?
But the biggest question was, why wasn't I struggling to free myself from his hold?
He added, "but you're insanely stunning when you're not."
He leaned in again for another kiss but I covered his mouth with my hand.
"Uh, what just happened?" I asked, dumbfounded.
Nathan rolled his eyes. "You assumed all the wrong things about our kiss last night. I'm proving everything right to you now. Yeah, I was hammered but I didn't forget. In fact, that kiss was the first thing I remembered when I woke up this morning. But knowing you, you'd imagine the worst. That's why I have been trying to call you…to let you know that it meant something to me. But you weren't picking up, so I had to map out a plan to get a hold of you. I swear I didn't want to take the route of having you captured at our booth, but you left me with no choice."
I let out a measly puff, finally absorbing the sense of the things he's saying. Come to think of it, his plan to get a hold of me was actually…kinda…romantic. Don't you think?
"Laura," Nathan cupped my face, "I may have been drunk last night, and I've played nothing but a role of a world-class prick to you for the last 3 years, but I truly meant that kiss. God, I didn't even know how badly I wanted it when I actually did it to you last night."
His words thawed my brain. And perhaps the rest of my organs, too, I felt like I melted into a puddle of glop. Who knew Dipstick could speak of such sweet nothings?
I finally found the words to say to him. "Are you saying you want to kiss me badly right now?"
"I wanted to kiss you badly the moment I woke up."
I grinned like an idiot. "Really?"
"Really." He nodded, and then muttered, "despite the harsh names you call me with…"
I narrowed my eyes at him. "Well, if you don't fancy pissing me off all the time, Gonzo, I wouldn't be throwing these names to you."
Weirdly, he only exchanged my reply with an amused look. "Any names are fine with me, love, as long as they come from you."
Wait. No foul, clever retort? No insulting, witty comeback?
"Okay, talk is over," I said as I grabbed a fistful of his shirt. A kiss he wants? Then a kiss he gets.