It was growing dark when I stormed into my room. My mother had only just finished explaining to me that she was divorcing my dad. My throat was sore from yelling at her, and my face was sticky from the salty tears that'd dried there.
I slid open my window and froze when I saw Sam and the boy who told Sam all about my bad reputation the day we met. I'd already forgotten his name.
"Oh, hey, Nikki. Would you like to join us? We're just--"
"No thanks." I was about to slide my window shut, when Sam stood up and stopped me.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I lied, not wanting to say anything in front of his friend.
"No, Nikki, you're not. What's wrong?" He pressed.
"You didn't hear it all?"
"We chose not to listen." The boy looked away when I glanced at him.
"Look, I don't want to talk about it right now. I think I'll just go for a walk or something."
"We'll come with you. We're looking for something to do anyways."
"Sam, I don't think your getting the hint," his friend said quietly.
"Nah, I got it. I'm just choosing to ignore it."
"And that's making this really uncomfortable. Good night," I said. But his hand was still keeping my window open, and I couldn't close it without shutting it on his fingers. Frankly, I wasn't feeling that mean.
He stared pointedly at me, and as I shifted and the light fell across his face, I gasped. "Sam! Did Gill do that to you?" His eye was completely black and blue, and his lip was split in the corner. "It doesn't hurt too much, does it? Do you need any ice?"
"Pffft! Nikki, I'm not the one who needs help right now."
"I don't need help, from you or anyone else!"
"I didn't mean it like that. I'm just saying that I'm fine," he tried to explain.
Without closing my window, I stormed back out into the living room.
"Where are you going, Nikki? It's dark, I don't want you out too late!" My mom said. I pushed past her and walked out the front door as if I'd never heard her.
Downstairs in the cool night air, I thought I was finally alone. To my great surprise, however, Sam and his friend turned around the corner out of the alley, nearly scaring me out of my skin.
"What do you want?" I snapped.
"To go for a walk, maybe grab a coffee."
"I told you, I don't need you guys to come with me."
"I never said we were going with you. I said we wanted to go for a walk and grab a coffee. Would you like to join us?"
"Are you guys going that way?" I pointed, and Sam nodded. "Fine."
"Have you two met before?" It was obvious that the answer was no, because a deep awkward silence followed his question. "James, this is Nikki, Nikki, this is James."
I nodded and he said, "It's good to officially meet you."
"What do you mean, 'officially?'"
"Well, everyone at school knows who you are, but I've never really spoken to you. It's not because I didn't want to speak to you, though; every guy wants to speak to you. But your crowd and my crowd don't generally mix, so--"
"I don't have a 'crowd' as you put it."
"Yeah, no, I'm sorry. It really sucks that your friends have been treating you so badly, and I'm going to stop right here. I'm really sorry, I don't normally talk to girls as pretty as you. Not that I think you're pretty, though I'm not saying that you're not, because you are, but I'm just not interested in that way, and I--"
"Don't have to explain any further. I got it," I told him. A mixture of amusement and embarrassment colored my cheeks.
"Well," said Sam loudly, rubbing his hands together, "now that we've all been properly introduced, let's go get coffee."
"Wait, Sam, I don't have my money on me. I'm not going to make you pay for a second coffee, when I still haven't paid you back for the first."
"Nikki, you're not making me pay for anything. I'm doing it of my own free will."
"Need to relax, and let it go."
"Sam's right, Nikki. Just let him buy you a coffee and be done with it," James said. "I've learned that there is no arguing with this man."