It was always so incredibly sweet how Tyler always smiled at me when I was walking to class. I mean, he smiles all the time, actually...and it’s really cute...but sometimes it’s almost like he does it just for me, you know? Like...filling up my sexy Tyler gas tank up so I have enough juice to get me through the rest of my morning. And how adorable is that? Because, without him...sometimes I just feel like the loneliest person in the world. It’s almost scary, how lost I feel. You know how, when you’re a little kid, and you get separated from your mom in a busy shopping mall for the first time? Yeah...it’s a lot like that. You don’t know what to do or where to go or how to even scream out for help. It just makes you want to stand there in the center of the crowd and start crying until somebody else walks up to you and asks where your mommy is.
That’s exactly the kind of insecure panic I feel in my heart whenever I know that Tyler’s getting ready to leave me for any length of time. I really do feel it. And it’s not like I want to, because it’s ridiculous and irrational and I know that it’s not real...but it wraps itself around my tummy and squeezes me as hard as it can anyway. Squeezes me until I can hardly breathe at all. But then...
My sweet sweet angel flashes me that stunning smile of his, and I begin to soar so high above the clouds that even when I begin to fall...I know he’ll be back in my life in time to catch me before I crash and bounce and splatter all over the place. He always catches me. I take comfort in that.
“Feels kinda different, doesn’t it?” He said. “Being back here. I mean, it’s only been a week, but...I thought it was fun.”
Feeling myself get all warm and flushed for no reason, I tried to keep my voice from trembling as I smiled back at him and said, “Yeah. Me too.” I only peeked at him for a few seconds. He’s too gorgeous for me to find a way to help myself. But then I looked away and said, “A whole lot of fun.”
“We should find out when our next day off is so we can make plans.” Aw, geez...Tyler Jordan wants to make ‘plans’ with me! That’s never going to stop knocking my whole world off balance, you know that?
“My mom and dad always keep a days off schedule on the fridge with a banana magnet.” I said, causing Tyler to giggle to himself. “What? It is a banana magnet. Hehehe, it looks like a banana.”
“Yeah, I figured, Ariel. It’s just...” Tyler sighed, looking me in the eye until my blush turned super red and I was forced to pull myself away from the intense tractor beam that his Summer sky blue eyes always seemed to trap me with. “...You are just too cute for words sometimes, that’s all.”
Dang...I wish he had the words. Then again, maybe it’s a good thing that he doesn’t. My heart might literally explode if he told me something too cool for me to handle right now. “Thank you.” It was all I could think of to say. I mean, even if I was really good with words, they would all fall of the back of my mental truck the second that Tyler and his pretty smile got involved. “You too. Ummm, I mean, you are too. And...stuff. Hehehe!” Did my giggle sound a bit too girly? It sounded a little high pitched to me. I was nervous. Give me a chance to get in line here, k?
He made me so dizzy sometimes. An overdose of teen boy pheromones mixed an infatuated flurry of endorphin laced fireworks...like a bucket of ‘pop rocks’ in my stomach. Hehehe, everything about my unfathomably lovable angel just tickles, you know? It tickles me all day long, and it’s hard to keep from smiling whenever he crosses my messed up mind.
But then...there’s that other side of it all...
It was brief, and maybe I was reading too much into it...but it happened again. Tyler’s smile sort of began to fade again, and it wasn’t as super special as it was just a few seconds ago. He took his eyes off of me for a second or two, and when I turned my head slightly to peek to the right of us...I saw Matt and Sam walking down the hall together. Normally, I wouldn’t think much about it...seeing as they were always like an extended part of our little self made family like Ryan and Randy were, even if we barely all hung out together anymore. But now that I’m starting to pay more attention to things than I did before...it was getting to be more and more obvious that something about seeing them together was seriously rubbing Tyler the wrong way. I mean, not like in a mean way...but, there was more going on with those three than he was willing to tell me about. I probably would have stayed blind to the whole thing if it didn’t happen so much, but it does. And when I shyly brushed my hair back to look over at Sam and Matt walking past us...they were kind of looking back at Tyler the same way. Almost like...my sweetie was giving them bad vibes too. Which seems almost impossible to me. How could Tyler ever possibly have any kind of lingering friction with anybody in this school? It simply doesn’t make sense.
I heard the bell ring, and Tyler focused his attention back on me again. “We’ve gotta get to class, don’t we?” He said, his smile returning to its full brilliance right in front of me. Which was cute...but it didn’t ease my nerves any.
Awwww, baby...what’s wrong?
I felt a cold shower of sadness start to creep into my demeanor, and as we started walking the rest of the way to my first period class, I just sort of got quiet and tried to hide my concern from Tyler as best as I could. I don’t know...maybe I’m being a big dork about this whole thing...but I wish I knew what was going on between the three of them.
“Alright, I’ll meet up with you in the cafeteria at lunch, k? Do you want me to grab you anything?” He asked. “Like a soda or a fruit punch or something?”
“No thank you. I’m ok.” I mumbled softly. There was a part of me that almost wanted to ask him what he was feeling, right then and there...but I turned chicken and decided not to. “I’ll see you then, I guess.”
It was so sad that I couldn’t kiss him or just...lan forward into his arms and rest my head on his chest as his embrace warmed me up from head to toe. But a quick glance and a few heartfelt words was all that we had to work with right now. It was hardly enough...but what else could I do?
“Ok...” Tyler said, giving me a slightly suspicious sideways look. “...Ariel, is there something…?”
“I’ve gotta go.” I said, cutting him off and hoisting my backpack further up on my drooping shoulders. “Get to your class, k?”
“I will.” He said, and I forced myself to turn away from him so that I could go to class and not worry about exposing whatever kind of flopsy feeling I was dealing with at that moment. Mostly out of the fear that he’d figure it out before I did. I don’t want to insult him or make any kind of accusations...
...But even though my heart kept trying to dodge that particular barrage of bullets at the moment, I was beginning to wonder if maybe those bothersome little hints and red flags were beginning to show themselves...telling me something that I really didn’t want to hear.
I sat down at my desk, attempting to pay attention as my teacher tried to go over the lesson for the day, but there was something within me that just couldn’t stop wiggling in my chair. I was feeling all antsy and anxious, but I was still doing my best to shield myself away from the full blown attack that my worst thoughts were battering me with at that moment. I felt as if I didn’t have any distraction. No defense. No doubt in my mind that I was definitely being kept in the dark about something significant. And it hurt. It probably shouldn’t have...but it did.
What am I supposed to do with dumb ol’ emotions of mine?
I doubt that I absorbed much of anything in my first period class, and even less in my second...but while I squirmed and I shuffled and I tapped my pencil on the surface of my desk until my teacher finally looked up and asked me to stop disrupting the class...I couldn’t help but to think that maybe Tyler had some kind of ‘history’ with Matt and Sam that he was keeping secret from me. And the more I thought about what that secret might be, the more I began to dread using enough brain power to ever possibly accept it.
I’m still Tyler’s very first boyfriend, right? I mean, I know that he’s mine, but...he said that I was his very first love too. I’m not making that up. There’s no way that I could ever forget hearing him say those words to me that day. He promised. Remember?
My angel wouldn’t lie to me, would he?
As I got through to my next class, my brain began to get all yucky and gummed up with thoughts of somebody else being able to run their hands along the smoothness of Tyler’s soft skin. Touching the silky locks of his bright blond hair. Kissing his sweet lips. Those are MY lips! They were meant for me!
I got the worst ache ever in my stomach. My eyes began to scrunch up a little bit, and I felt like I just wanted to lie down on the floor and curl up in a tight little ball until the pain went away.
I don’t think Tyler would do that to me. I won’t believe it. He’s my boyfriend. He lives for me, and I live for him. Right? Nobody else belongs in a little clubhouse built for two. Nobody.
Echoes of Tyler telling me how much he loved me, and that he’d never do anything to hurt me, just kept repeating themselves over and over in my head. Visions of him looking at those other boys and practically shying away from them altogether. Not even speaking a word to them. Even at the carnival over Spring Break, I could tell that something was wrong. I just refused to let myself believe it, is all. But now I don’t think I can help it.
What ‘mistakes’ was Tyler talking about before? What did he mean when he said that he was in a weird place emotionally? Or that he didn’t regret it, but he wished he could take it back? Why did I let this linger for so long?
First love is just hard to hopscotch around, I guess.
When lunchtime came around, I went back to my locker and put most of my books inside...but I wasn’t quite sure that I wanted to see Tyler right away. I mean...I DID...but I didn’t. You know? I felt like I had a lot of stuff to work out in my brain first. Otherwise, I’m going to see him again, and he’s going to smile at me, or lightly touch my hand, and I’m going to lose all of my common sense all over again. I’m just going to end up putting this off until much much later, and it’s not like the question is going to be any easier to ask next week than it is today.
As I looked across the hall and saw Matt and Sam undoing their combination lock and gazing into each other’s eyes with a flirtatious smile...I became fully aware of just how beautiful they both were. Blond and slim and ‘cool’ according to most people who walked by them and took a few seconds to say hi. Nobody says hi to me when I’m at my locker. I’m not blond. I’m not cool. The most I could ever hope to get is a few people pointing their fingers and snickering, ‘Omigod! That’s the kid that tossed the AV overhead projector down the hallway steps!’
Why wouldn’t Tyler want to be with one of them instead? I bet they don’t get all awkward and quiet every time he’s around, or blush to the point of nearly passing out whenever he gives them a compliment.
How much more awesome could I be for Tyler if I was one of them instead?
“Hey.” Came a voice from in front of me as I was trying to erase enough of my personal shame to peel my eyes up off of the floor and look straight ahead instead. Normally, seeing Randy was a pleasurable experience...but not so much today.
“Hey, Randy.” I said softly.
He stopped for a moment, and he tried to look me in the eye, but I wouldn’t let him. My eyes always give me away. “Soooo...what’s up? Are you coming to join us for lunch, or what?” He asked, and I sadly shrugged one of my shoulders. I still wasn’t quite sure that I was ready to do that just yet. I know that Randy could easily read my emotions any time he wanted to, but I was starting to think that maybe I actually wanted him to, this time. Randy and Ryan have known Tyler for longer than I have. If it wasn’t for them, we probably never would have met at all. But the only thing scaring me more than asking the question...was the idea that Randy might actually give me an answer. One that I really wasn’t looking forward to. “So wait are we waiting for? C’mon. Let’s go.” It was sweet of him to give me an obvious exit out of feeling this way, but I could tell that he was just trying to seem normal for my sake.
It was then that I heard some happy little giggles from across the hall...and I saw Sam tickling Matt’s side with his fingers, causing him to jerk away from him and give him a playful shove. They looked so happy together. Blissfully so. And for some reason, that just made me feel dumb. I don’t know...I just...I worry, you know? I worry about ever being good enough when it comes to stuff like this.
“Ariel, let’s just get out of here. I’m sure Tyler’s going to start fidgeting something awful if another few minutes pass us by and he doesn’t see you there.” He said. “We should at least be standing in line before he sends out a full blown search party. Hehehe...”
“Randy?” I know that I was shaking, and I know that I might be setting myself up for a whole world of hurt...but anything would be better than this emptiness that I’m feeling now. Anything. “If I asked you a question...do you promise to tell me the truth?”
“Dude, the lunch line is going to be super long if we don’t get started. You know they grab all the cool stuff first.”
“I’m serious.” I told him, just as Matt and Sam walked away together from their locker to go grab a lunch of their own. “I mean...am I missing something here?” Randy looked like he was trying to avoid the question, but I couldn’t help but to tell him that I didn’t feel right.
“Don’t feel right? I’m sure everything is fine.” He says, and yeah...he went into his usual speech about how I’m just nervous, and these things take time, and I just have to give me and Tyler a chance to work the kinks out...but I just didn’t want to hear that right now. I didn’t. I love Tyler with all my heart, Lord knows I do...but I don’t know if I’ll be able to survive getting my heart broken twice. I don’t think I’ll be able to take it. And even though Randy was doing his absolute best to calm me down and soothe my soul...it wasn’t as convincing as it usually is. I could tell.
“You’re not being honest with me...are you?” I asked him. Randy looked away from me this time, and I just knew that it wasn’t the truth. Not the whole truth, anyways. “You know something that I don’t. Don’t you?” It hurt for me to push so hard for an answer...but I couldn’t stand not knowing. Not anymore. “Please don’t tell me a fib, Randy. Not you. Ok?” I pleaded. “What’s going on with Tyler? And why does he seem to get all shaky whenever Matt and Sam are around? What happened?”
All Randy would tell me was, “You should really be asking Tyler about all of this stuff. He’s the one you need to talk to...”
Arrrgghhh!!! “I can’t DO that, Randy! You know I can’t!” The longer this whole thing dragged out, the more it hurt me inside. It was like this building pressure, squeezing my heart until it was almost too much of a chore to have it beat at all. “I promise that, whatever you tell me, I won’t be mad, k? I just...I feel like Tyler’s never gonna talk to me about this, and I just wanna know what happened.” Then...I surrendered myself to the darkest possibility of all. “...Was Tyler...was he ever together with one of them? Like...before? I just want to know.”
“Please...Don’t ask me that.” Randy said. But his eyes gave it away.
“Does this have anything to do with that day when we were all at the arcade together that one time? When Sam was worried that he had lost his boyfriend?” I asked, trying to hold myself together. “Was it Matt? Do you think Tyler had a crush on Matt? Do you think they, like...kissed or anything?”
Randy did his best to butter me up and try to give me some of my confidence back, or whatever...but inside, I felt like my entire reality was collapsing in on itself. It was almost too much for me to take. What’s worse is...I felt like I was being so unfair to my angel to have the audacity to think that I would be the first person to be swept away by his enchanting beauty and irresistible charm.
Stupid me. I should have known better.
Randy said, “If anything happened there, then it probably didn’t mean anything.”
But I just mumbled back, “If it didn’t mean anything, then why didn’t he just come right out and tell me?”
“Come on...we’ll get something to munch on, you and Tyler can talk, and it’ll help to put some of your worries to rest. Ok?” He said, taking my hand and pulling me forward from my leaning position. “Everything is gonna work out fine. You’ll see. Have a little faith.”
I wish I could, Randy...
I just don’t know where I’m going to get it from.
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