Chapter Five

"I have no idea what I'm doing."

"This is a relatively simple concept, Melanie."

"Well, we can't all be math geniuses, can we?" I sigh, staring down at my math book. Carson points at the problem and starts explaining it again. "Okay, I need a break. My brain can't handle it."

I flop back on my bed, dreading having to finish my homework. "Seriously, what kind of a teacher gives homework right after break ends?"

"We've been back for a week and a half." Carson leans against the headboard, smiling down at me. "You'll get it. Sometime."

"Don't be an ass." I roll onto my side to face her. "Maybe you should just do my work for me. You are super amazingly awesome at math."

"Not gonna happen. You know that." She brushes a piece of hair out of her face. Recently, Carson has been over at my house all the time. She mostly helps me with homework because she's a genius at absolutely everything, but we just hang out a lot too.

"Yeah, I know. Worth a try." She rolls her eyes. "Anyway, what are you doing this weekend?"

"I work after school on Friday, but other than that, I'm free. How come?"

"I was wondering if you would like to go on a little adventure with me." She raises one eyebrow, giving me a strange look.

"Adventure as in?"

"As in you'll see on Saturday if you agree to come."

"Will you be taking me out into the woods to murder me?"

"Something like that. I swear to god you will have the time of your life."

"Alright, I was going to agree anyway. I'll go with you." I grin, punching my fist into the air. "Someone seems excited."

"I am! You'll have a really great time. I'll come over to your place and pick you up Saturday."

Her expression changes to something that I can't read. "No, that's okay. I'll just come over to your place. Save you the trouble."

"No, seriously, it'll be fine. I can get you."

She nods slightly, the strange look not leaving her face. "Yeah. Okay, um, I guess I'll text you my address later."

I nod as well. "Sounds like a plan. You don't need to bring anything but yourself and probably some warm clothes. I'll be borrowing Dane's truck, so don't expect my car."

"Alright. Um, are you ready to try this problem again?" I groan, but sit up and get back to work.

Late the next afternoon, I pull up to the building that Carson said to. It looks... Shady here. I check the text to make sure this is the right apartment building. Apparently so.

I call Carson to let her know that I'm here. She picks up almost immediately. "Hey, Mel."

"Hi. I'm outside."

"Oh, okay. I'll be right out there." She hangs up and a few moments later I see her rushing down the stairs and over to the truck.

She's wearing her letterman jacket and black jeans, along with her torn old Converse. Carson slides into the passenger seat, throwing me a quick smile.

"Hey. So, do I get to know where we're going now?"

"Yeah- hey, what happened to your face?" I ask as I take a closer look at her. There's a dark bruise across her cheek that absolutely wasn't there when I saw her yesterday at the coffee shop.

"Oh, uh... I was playing some basketball yesterday after work and the ball hit my face. No biggie."

I nod slightly, still looking at her with a worried look in my eye. She smiles again, and I return it.

Finally, I start the truck and start driving to our destination. I reach over with one hand and switch the radio on.

"It's kind of a long drive. And we are going into the woods. But don't worry, it's not so I can reveal my true nature as an axe murderer."

Carson laughs quietly, looking out the window at the passing forest. "I'm not worried. I trust you not to murder me."

"I'm glad." We sit quietly, just listening to music and watching the landscape pass. After about an hour of driving, I pull into a gas station.

"Let's run in and grab some snacks. I'll explain a little bit when we get in there." We walk into the little store and I go to grab some snacks for myself.

I meet back up with Carson at the drink cooler, where she's grabbing a can of iced tea. "Okay, so my brother and I used to come out here all the time. Not the gas station, but where we're going. And something really cool is happening tonight."

Carson nods slowly. "I still have no idea what you're planning. I'm excited, though," she says as we walk to the counter.

"Good." We put our stuff on the counter and the cashier lady rings us up. "I'm excited too. Other than Jason, I've never been here with anyone else."

Carson laughs softly. "Well, I feel honored."

I pay for our snacks and we make our way back to the truck. One there, we start driving again. "Okay, it's only about fifteen minutes further."

The fifteen minutes pass quickly, and we're pulling onto a dirt road leading into the trees. "Huh, I'm not so sure that I believe you when you say you're not killing me. This is super shady."

"Just wait." Another minute of driving, and we're stopped at the end of the road. "Okay. Now we have to walk a bit. I have some stuff in the back of the truck."

We get out and I grab the bags from the truck bed. Carson takes one of them, and I lead her through the trees. We come to a clearing in the woods, full of soft grass.

"The snow always misses it here, which is why we're good to go even in January. Okay, put the bag down."

Carson complies and I set about getting the blankets from the bags and laying them out. "Okay, there's going to be a meteor shower tonight. And it's always super clear here and there's like, no light pollution and we can see the stars perfectly."

I set the last blanket down before looking up at Carson. She's staring at me with an expression that I can't place.

"Wait, so we're in the middle of the woods so we can lie in a clearing and watch the stars?"

"Well... Yeah," I say quietly, suddenly worried that maybe she won't like this after all. "I mean, we can go back if you don't want to stay. It's not a big deal or anything."

Carson takes a step closer to me and gently lays her hands on my shoulders. "This is so great. Mel, this is seriously the nicest thing that anyone's ever done for me. Oh my god, you're insane."

"You don't hate it?" I look up at her to see the bright smile on her face.

Carson shakes her head quickly. "No, absolutely not. This is terrific. Did I ever mention to you how much I like astronomy? It's so fascinating."

A smile slowly spreads across my face as well. "You haven't, but of course you do because you're a dork like that. I just thought that since there would be the meteor shower and all, it would be a fun trip."

"Fun. This is more than fun. What time is the meteor shower supposed to start? I can't believe that I didn't know there was going to be one tonight."

Carson's rambling makes my smile grow. Her hands are still on my shoulders, and I'm pretty sure she's closer than before.

"We have a while to go before start. Here, let's sit down." She nods and we quickly sit next to each other. "Jason and I would spend entire weekends here sometimes. My parents hated it."

Carson doesn't reply, just lays back with a small smile on her face. I lay next to her and we watch as the sun sets.

We quietly lay next to each other on the blankets as the first few stars start to appear. Carson finally breaks the silence.

"Thank you."

"You don't have to thank me."

"I mean thank you for being my friend."

"You still don't have to thank me." I glance over at her to find that she's already looking at me, still smiling.

"But I will."

I nod and turn my face back up to the sky. "Look. It's starting."

We watch the sky in silence. When the breeze picks up slightly and the chilly air makes us shiver, we pull a blanket over ourselves.

Even when we can't see anymore meteors, we stay quietly staring up at the night sky. Before I can suggest getting up and heading back home, I'm slipping off into sleep.

In the morning, I wake with Carson's jacket neatly folded and tucked under my head to serve as a pillow. I smile softly at the scent of coffee from the jacket.

Glancing over my shoulder, I find Carson still sleeping peacefully. From the looks of the sky, it's just about dawn. We have plenty of time before we'll be forced to rejoin civilization.

I turn around so I'm facing Carson. "Let's not make a habit out of falling asleep in the middle of the woods, Melanie. We're lucky it was a warm night."

Car's voice startles me slightly. "Hey. I thought you were asleep." She opens her eyes and shakes her head.

"No. I usually wake up early."

"I can see that. Anyway, I didn't mean to fall asleep. Honestly though, I don't regret it."

Carson sits up, a soft smile forming on her lips. "I don't either, really. Still, I don't think we should make this a habit. How did you sleep?"

"Pretty good, actually. How about you? Were you cold?" I ask, glancing at the jacket still under my head. I note that Carson is wearing a dark grey, long-sleeved top.

"I wasn't. Like I said, it was a warm night. And I slept better than I usually do. Which is kind of odd."

I sit up as well, stretching my arms up over my head. "That is kinda weird. Anyway, since it's still early we don't have to leave yet. We could take a walk."

"Sounds nice. We should probably get this stuff into the truck, though." I nod and stand to start shoving the blankets back into the bags. I pick up Carson's jacket and hold it out to her, but she encourages me to keep it, saying something about not wanting me to be cold. So I put it on, smiling as the strong coffee scent envelops me. Once that's done, we make the short trip back to Dane's truck and leave the bags in the back.

We head back to the clearing and quickly find a small trail leading deeper into the woods. We follow it, a comfortable silence falling over us.

We come across a small creek when I break the silence. "Shit! I forgot my camera back home. Dammit, I knew I forgot something."

Carson hums softly. "I'm sorry. Maybe we could come back another time. I'll remind you to bring it."

I nod slightly, feeling my face flush at her words. She wants there to be another time. "Alright. Sounds like a plan."

Carson smiles at me, proceeding to step onto a rock that's not completely submerged by the water. After a moment, she holds her hand out to me to help me on as well.

I take her hand, feeling my face flush once again. Something about Carson turns me into a blushing mess. She pulls me onto the rock beside her and once I'm safely on, she steps onto the next one.

We cross the creek, Carson keeping a tight grip on my hand to make sure I don't slip in. We make it quickly to the other side, and to my slight disappointment, Carson drops my hand.

"So... We have our first game this Tuesday. Against Capital High."

"Ugh, I despise Capital. They think they're better than everyone else. You'll crush them." I roll my eyes when she mentions the school. "Do you have to travel there or is it a home game?"

"Home."

"I'll be there to cheer you on," I say, smiling slightly.

Carson stares down at the forest floor, but I can see the blush that creeps up on her face. "Thank you, Mel."

"Of course. I'm excited to see you play. I gotta see if you're really as good as you claim to be," I joke, pushing her shoulder lightly.

Carson laughs, stumbling slightly off the path. "Alright, you jerk. I'll be watching out for you. Don't worry, I'm just as good as I say."

"Sure you are," I say as Carson rejoins me on the path. We walk along quietly for about ten more minutes, enjoying the cool January air.

Eventually, we decide to turn back and head to the truck. We make it there and I get into the driver's seat, Carson talking the passengers seat.

On the drive home, Car pulls out her dorky little flip-phone, reading something. "Hey, Mel, would you mind taking me home then dropping me off at the coffee shop? My boss just said that he needs some help around there. The guy who was scheduled to work called in sick."

"Yeah, no big deal. By the way, I'm sorry for letting us fall asleep in the middle of the woods."

"You're good. Like I said, I had a nice time."

We don't say much on the ride back. The radio plays softly, and the quiet is comfortable. Finally, we pull into the town and make our way to Carson's apartment complex.

I pull up to the curb outside of the building. "Thank you, Mel. I'll be back in a minute, I just gotta get changed."

She heads up the stairs and disappears while I wait in the truck. I pull out my phone and text Hart.

'lil bean- Meteor shower w/ Carson was amazing

I roll my eyes at the name Hart entered for me. What an asshole.

My heart- Ooh did you guys get it on in the woods? wink wink

'lil bean- No, you dick. We did fall asleep in the woods though. Oops?

My heart- aww, did you cuddle?

'lil bean- Nope. We're back in town now. I'm gonna drop Carson off at work. She got called in.

My heart- okay. Talk to you later, Mellie

I shove my phone back in my pocket. Carson comes out of her apartment and is in the truck in just a few minutes.

She's wearing a black button up with the coffee shop logo on it and black jeans, along with her glasses.

"Hey. Did you put on your glasses just to look cute for me?"

"My contacts were bugging my eyes. Sometimes I wish that I could actually, like, see without help." She huffs softly, bucking her seatbelt.

"Well, it is pretty nice to be able to see. But, as I've said, you look terrific in those." I reach over and push the glasses further up her nose, grinning at the instant blush on her cheeks.

We drive over to the coffee shop, making it there fairly quickly. "Alright, thank you a ton. Don't worry about picking me up or anything."

"Well, how're you gonna get home? I'd be happy to give you a ride home."

"No, you'll be home by then. I'll just walk." Carson gives me a reassuring smile.

I roll my eyes, reaching over to place a hand on her shoulder. "Carson, seriously. I just need to drop Dane's car off and go home for a bit, but you know I'll probably end up here anyway. You're my friend, and I'd feel bad if you had to walk."

Carson doesn't reply for a moment, opting instead to bite her lower lip. Finally, she relents. "Alright, alright. Thank you. I do really need to go now though."

"Okay," I say, drawing my hand away from her shoulder. "I'll see you in a little bit." Carson gets out of the truck, giving me a slight wave before disappearing inside.

I drive over to Dane's house and park the truck in the driveway. I go up to the door and ring the doorbell. Dane's mom answers and I give her the keys back.

After about five minutes of Mama Blake loving, I grab the bags from the back of Dane's truck and put them in mine, which I left here over the weekend.

I get in my car and head home. Both of my parents are out at work already. I head inside and take a quick shower. After, I tie my hair up in a messy bun and quickly get dressed. It's then that I realize that I stole Carson's jacket.

Shrugging, I put it back on. If she wants it back, I'll give it back. But, as the familiar scent of coffee and Carson's soap wraps around me, I really don't want to give it back.

I head downstairs and grab a yogurt before grabbing my keys from the counter and heading back outside.

I drive to the coffee shop after sending Carson a quick text to let her know I'm coming. Once there, I head inside. There's a few people spread out across the store, but it's not terribly busy.

"Mel, hey. Want your usual?" I nod, walking up to the counter. "Alrighty, just a moment." She grabs a cup and spends a moment writing something before turning to make my drink.

"Thank you," I smile, taking the coffee from her. I take a sip before looking at today's coffee cup message.

For clarification, I think you're prettier than the stars.

"Such a smooth talker." I laugh.

"You know it. By the way, has my jacket been stolen?" She asks, glancing down at her jacket that I'm wearing.

I shrug, running my fingers along the end of the sleeve. "Well, if you want it back I'll give it back. It really is comfortable, though."

Carson smiles softly, leaning her elbows on the counter. She rests her chin on her hand, a curl of hair falling into her face. "I know. You keep it. It looks good on you, Mel."

"Awesome. Thanks, Car." She nods, and we stand there quietly. I study her face, taking a small sip of my coffee. "Hey, what's your middle name?"

Her cheery expression drops and is instantly replaced with something I can't place. "Oh my god, no. Don't make me tell you."

I chuckle at her words. "C'mon, I honestly doubt it could be that bad. Unless your middle name is like, pickle or something."

"What's your middle name?" Carson crosses her arms over her chest, obviously making up her mind not to tell me.

"Rosa."

"Of course you have a really nice middle name that sounds great. Ugh, I hate my middle name so much."

"Jeez, just tell me. I know that it's not nearly as bad as you think."

Carson stays silent for a few moments before signing softly. "Caitlyn."

I stare at her, confused as to why she looks like the name pains her. "Okay, I like it. Why do you think it's so terrible?"

"'Cause. Do I look like a Caitlyn to you?"

"Well, no, but it's just your middle name. You look like a Carson to me."

She stands there, her arms not crossed anymore. She meets my gaze, and her pout is finally broken as she smiles a small bit. "Fine. Doesn't mean that I don't despise my middle name, though."

"Yeah, whatever." I roll my eyes, unable to stop the smile forming on my face. For the rest of the afternoon, I hang out with Carson in the coffee shop. We talk about silly little things and we laugh together, and I tease her more than once about her hatred for her middle name.

Which, by the way, I love.