As the last bell rang, and the school day was over, Gill caught up with me.
"Hey, Nikki, what's with you and that new kid? Are you two dating?" He asked. He didn't look angry, just hurt; I wondered when he'd ever get over me.
"No, we're not dating. We're just good friends." I told him honestly, trying to get to my locker so I could meet Sam.
"Well, the way you two were holding hands after third hour didn't seem to fit the 'Just Friends' description," Gill muttered.
I realized that he was right, even though I hated the sickening truth of it. However, I wasn't going to let that deter me. Sam and I knew where we stood, and that was really the only thing that mattered.
"Look, Gill, I give you my strongest word that we're not dating. I've never even thought of him like that. He's my neighbor, we started talking, and we're just good friends, alright? Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a doctor's appointment and I can't be late." I lied. He turned around and skulked away in the other direction. When I finally reached my locker, Sam was waiting for me.
"Sorry," I said. "I got a little caught up in the hallway back there," I told him.
Sam shrugged it off. "I'm sorry about lunch earlier. I didn't realize the two of you didn't get along very well," Sam told me.
"Yeah, I'm sorry too. Is she your girlfriend? You two would be cute together," I mentioned offhand, lying through my teeth. Sam blushed, and shook his head.
"Amber seemed really surprised when you apologized to her today. She told me that when you used to hang out with your other friends, you would never apologize for anything. She says you've changed a lot."
"First of all, they aren't my friends anymore. Second, she's absolutely right. I would never have apologized for anything. Third, I have changed a lot. You ready to go?" I asked, changing the subject and slamming my locker shut. I hadn't realized it, but I was still holding onto a lot of anger, and it was obvious now. Sam raised his eyebrows at me, but he didn't say anything.
We walked for the door, and as we were leaving, my phone began vibrating in my pocket. I took it out and answered without looking at my caller ID. I'd thought it might be my mom. I was very wrong.
"Oh, hey, good. You answered your phone. Listen, so, Gill tells me you're dating that new boy. Sam is his name, right?" Lucy chattered.
"His name is Sam, and we most definitely are NOT dating." I told her, glaring at a tree.
"Whatever, listen. You should sit with us at lunch tomorrow, because we all really need to say something to you. It's important." Lucy explained.
"Let me think about that for a moment. No. I don't want anything to do with you guys, alright? I've changed, I'm not like you anymore. Get over it, and leave me alone." I hung up my phone before Lucy could reply to me.
"Lucy?" Sam asked. I nodded. "She thinks we're dating?" He laughed, but his eyes had a strange gleam in them. I thought on that for a moment, but dropped it when he went on. "I've been getting that question a lot today as well. Walking home together probably isn't helping any," he laughed again.
"I don't really care... People can think whatever they want to think. All that matters is that we know where we stand," I established. Sam nodded his agreement. "Gill thinks we're dating too. He confronted me about it before we met up at my locker. He seems really bothered by it," I announced rather smugly.
"That poor guy. You know, he's wrapped around your finger. He's putty in your hands."
"Yeah, well, I'm done with him. I want nothing to do with him, and he's just going to have to wake up and realize that, and move on," I declared firmly. I wanted to change the topic off of myself, though. "So, you're really going back home on Friday?" I asked.
He nodded grimly. "Look, I'm really sorry about your mother. And you were right last night, I should've listened and not been so focused on myself. I'm not the only one with a messed up life."
"Yeah, I'm sorry too."
"Are you coming back to Manhattan, when... After..." I wasn't sure how to finish that question gently.
"I have to. Dad lives here, and I'm still a minor for the next two years. I could legally move out next year, but I don't want to do that, because I know I wouldn't be able to support myself," he told me. I nodded.
The walk home took a little longer than it normally would have because Sam set the pace, and it was a little slower than I normally go. I invited him into my apartment, and we had a snack.
"Do you want to see my new artwork? I've been really busy, and I started with oil paints. I actually like it a lot better than acrylic painting. It's smoother, and it looks nicer." I told him. He nodded, and I led him to my room. With a start, I realized that this was the first time he's used my front door and not my window.
Once we were in my room, I showed him my latest project. It was a light house on a pier, and it was just growing dark over the ocean. A wave, the crest white with sea foam, was in the process of crashing onto the rocks below the light house, and a beam of light reflected off the choppy surface of the waves. It was one of my favorites so far, and I was very happy with it. In the back, the sun was sinking below the horizon, tinging the sky with a golden peach color, and the smooth surface of the water was red with the sun's dimming light.
There was a blank square of plain canvas right in the middle of the ocean, because I was still undecided if I should put a boat there or not. I asked Sam what he thought, and he told me I should keep the waters clear.
We talked for an hour just about stuff that we did over the two months we hadn't spoken; I had a lot less to share than he did, because I hadn't done anything exciting. Meanwhile, he'd met new people, made other friends--but he said I was still his number one, and I blushed. He told me he'd written a lot of poetry, but he wouldn't share it with me, which made me mad. I shared my paintings with him, but his excuse was that his poetry wasn't as good as my painting, and I said that was bull [insert word of choice here].
Finally, I suggested that we should watch a movie, but I didn't have any popcorn. He said that was fine, he would run over to his house and grab some. He needed to check in with his dad anyway. Meanwhile, I popped the movie in the DVD player and got it ready. We were going to watch Finding Neverland, which was one of my favorites.
He came back over, the lights were turned off, and the movie began.