An old man sat at a dining room table, reading a book. He had the same intense blue eyes that Sam had, with a graying mop of curls on his head. He was tanned, and his muscles bulged from under the sleeves of his black Tee. He was the kind of man one would see ripping apart giants in a movie.
Sam cleared his throat and announced, "Dad, we have a visitor. This is Nikki. She lives next door."
Sam's dad looked up from his book and smiled at me. His eyes were bright, and he had a lot of smile lines. I instantly liked him.
"Hello, Nikki. I'm Alex, Sam's dad." He reached across the table and shook my head. His palms were rough and calloused, like he might have worked a lot with his hands. He looked at Sam as if to say, Is this your new girlfriend? Sam shook his head and looked at the table, hiding his grin.
"Don't visitors usually come through the door?" Alex joked.
"Doors are too predictable," I replied. His face beamed. He nodded aprovingly.
"Ah, a girl with a sense of humor... That's a rare thing these days." He said to Sam, who laughed.
"Well, we only came in to get some popcorn." Sam turned and went to one of the cupboards taking a bag of popcorn and placing it in the microwave. "Nikki, do you want anything else," he added.
"A glass of water would be great, please."
"Help yourself. Cups are up there, and you'll have to use the tap until our fridge gets hooked up." He turned to Alex, who was cleaning underneath his fingertips with a pocket knife.
I got down a cup and turned on the faucet. Behind me, I heard low murmuring, though it was hard to hear over the running water and the microwave.
What I caught of their conversation sounded like,
"Sam, is this the girl you got in a fight over?" He didn't sound angry, just concerned.
"I didn't get in a fight over her, it was to protect her. The guy hit her; I couldn't let him get away with it." Sam replied.
"I told you to lie low, no more fights. You can't throw a punch every time you see a pretty damsel in distress. It's great that you care so much, but..." He let the sentence drop with a sigh. "Just tell me one thing: Did you get him good?"
I couldn't hear his mumbled reply, but Alex seemed to approve because he said, "That's my boy. But seriously, no more fights."
I realized my glass was running over, and I shut the faucet off and took a large drink before they could notice anything was up.
When I turned around, Alex had returned to his reading, and Sam was grabbing the popcorn out of the microwave. I tried to pretend I hadn't heard anything, and followed Sam back out onto the fire escape.
We were sitting down again with a bag of popcorn between us. I was a little cold after being inside, but I ignored it-- it was kind of hard though with just a thin spaghetti strapped tank top.
"Thank God tomorrow is Saturday, right?" I remarked. "I don't know what I'd do without the weekends. I'm supposed to have my friend Lucy over tomorrow afternoon, but I think I might cancel." I pulled out my phone to tell her I was canceling, but I forgot about that when I read my new message.
"What's wrong," Sam asked me. I just stared at the message, not responding.
"'I can't believe you! You really hurt Gill's feelings today. He was only trying to talk to you and you yelled at him. Then your little friend came along and beat Gill nearly senseless. His nose is broken, by the way. God, Nikki, you're such a drama queen.' And that's the edited version." I let him read the real message, and his face turned grim.
"Who sent that?" He asked. He looked like he wanted to throw something.
"She's not important. Forget about it."
I replied to Lucy, saying "You can forget about coming over tomorrow. I would've lied and told you I was busy, but frankly, I just don't want anything to do with you. Thanks for being such a poor friend."
Why would you lie about Gill hitting you? He'd never do that! You're just pathetic. Oh, and it's okay about tomorrow. I don't hang out with liars. Lucy sent back.
I could have said some pretty nasty things back to her, but instead I just turned off my phone, sick of Lucy's drama. Sam and I sighed in unison.
"You know Sam, you kind of came at a really bleak point in my life. My parents are divorcing, my ex boyfriend is an abusive jerk, and my closest friend, or so I thought, is taking his side.
"Right now, God, I feel so helpless. A month ago, I was Cheer Captain. I was just another one of those Barbie girls. I feel like I'm waking up from a bad dream or something-- like I'm realizing just all the stupid things I've done for the first time..." I declared glumly, thinking back to how much I'd changed over the last month or so. "I was just like Lucy a couple of days ago. I can't believe myself. I'm so ashamed."
"Really? Because mean isn't your color. At least, it's not very flattering on you." Sam replied. His voice held no emotion.
"Thanks for coming when you did, though," I continued, not acknowledging that I'd heard him. "It's nice to know there's decent people in the world like you."
We sat in silence for a while, munching on popcorn and gazing at the city below us. I loved being up here. It made me feel like a god watching over the city, sitting in a peaceful little bubble... I wondered what Sam was thinking about next to me, but I didn't want to disrupt the silence. It was nice, not having to fill every second with mindless babble. I never got that with my friends.
"I have another question," Sam murmured. "You and Gill, you two never... you know... " He wouldn't look at me.
"Sam, that's none of your business." I retorted, looking into my window... I wasn't angry, I was just kind of sick of talking about Gill... I sighed. "No, we never did anything like that... You're not very observant." I held up my ring finger, showing him my Purity ring. I never took the thing off, no matter how much Gill may have pressured me.
"Oh. I'm sorry, that was too far... I was just curious." he grumbled.
I rested my head on his shoulder and snuggled a little closer. I was pretty close, and his skin was hot. He looked down at me with an affectionate smile. "Are you cold?"
"A little," I answered. He draped his arm around my shoulder. "You know, it's kind of strange. I've only known you for twenty-four hours, and already, you're like my best friend. I've never made a new friend quite so easily," I told him matter-of-factly. It was true, though.
I've never been so trusting, and with good reason. In my school, there's only two types of people. Killers and victims. There is no in-between. Unless you want to be a victim of their cruel jabs and jeers, you better join them in picking on others. You can only get anywhere if you step on others to get there. If you trust the wrong people with certain things, it'll be everywhere, and you'll never hear the end of it. That's just the way it was.
I closed my eyes and hummed one of my favorite songs. I liked hanging out with Sam. I didn't have to pretend at anything. It was an honest relationship, and that was rare.