Chapter three

Bay and I are really hitting it off. She still eats lunch in Mr. Luther’s room, so Chucky and I talk in the cafeteria, until one day I just wanted to be around her and saw Chucky in science instead.

Her humor is sarcastic and witty, so whenever I tell her about my sister, she says one simple line that makes me wish I actually said that to Crystal. We talk about whatever’s on our mind. She doesn’t have any secrets and neither do I. Well, I leave Gabriella in the shadows. Other than that, Bay knows everything about me.

She rounds off another joke and that’s when I ask her out. Forget Gabriella, she’s a million miles away right now. And she has Carson. Bay stuns me by saying yes.

“So. I heard Abduction is coming out this week. Wanna see it?” Bay suggests it like the only reason she wants to see it is because of Taylor Lautner.

Friday is family night. Well, I don’t want to watch a movie my father picks. It’s always an old black-and-white picture that none of us likes. I’m sure the action flick Bay wants to see is much more interesting than To Kill a Mockingbird.

“I’ll meet you there at six.” Bay makes everything too easy.

During algebra I have no problem writing to Gabriella that I’ll be going on my first date soon. Though I wish the first date was with her, I’m just happy to have someone new to hang out with after school. A few days ago she informed me that she and Carson were still strong and wishes me luck in finding someone. Looks like luck rubs off through paper.

 

I’m nervous for tonight. Gabriella and I went to movies all the time, but platonically and it was innocent Disney films. And our mothers went. I anxiously wait at the front and out comes Bay, wearing the simplest thing I’ve seen her in: regular gray t-shirt and boot-cut jeans. I can smell some kind of girly scent coming off her, like fresh flowers and pomegranate. It’s odd, but I like it.

“Shall we?” She holds out her hand and I hesitantly take it. We find a spot in the middle of the theater and wait for people to come spilling in, but all I see are teenage girls squealing over Lautner’s abs and willing him to be shirtless. Why did I agree to this movie?

Bay, too, is on the edge of her seat, staring at him. I sit back and don’t mind. There’s no pressure on me now to make a move. I try to catch up with the screen but I find it too complex. My mind takes turns wandering from Gabriella to Bay, investigating who I like more.

They’re both girls.No, duh,I think. They look different but they’re basically the same. Gabriella is smart and Bay is a bookworm. Gabriella is classic, orderly, and Bay is eccentric and unusual. The things she says makes me laugh while Gabriella makes me smile. But I’ve known Gabriella much longer, since we were born, actually. And it didn’t take long to settle in, but then again, Bay lured me the day we met. Why is this so confusing?

Bay glances at me to see if I’m watching. Basically I’m just staring ahead.

“Having fun?” she whispers, her hand squeezing my knee.

“Uh…” I glance down. Why am I disgusted right now? I slightly push away from her. “Sure.”Breathe, I tell myself. My throat closes up. Panic rises in my chest.

One thing I failed to mention. I get very uncomfortable when people get close to me. Like, throw me off a bridge into Antarctica water right now and let me freeze over uncomfortable. Bay must’ve realizes because her hand leaves my leg and asks, “What’s wrong?”

“Too close,” I murmur. She knows what I mean.

“Right. Sorry.” Bay leans back into her chair.

“Look, I didn’t mean to…”

“It’s alright. I won’t do it again.” She doesn’t look pissed, but she’s not happy, either.

The night finally draws to a close and I’m anxious to disappear into bed. Bay lives six blocks over and she plans on walking home after we’re at my house. I don’t know what to say. The porch light glows on her pale face, bringing a warm and friendly expression.

“This was fun. You know, minus the last twenty minutes of it.” Bay still smiles, letting me know that she’s not too badly affected by what happened.

“Yeah!” I exclaim too brightly. “See you Monday.”

Bay’s blue eyes sparkles when she looks right at me. Oh no. She wants a kiss. What am I going to do?

Crystal opens the door. “Get inside, twerp. Gabriella called you.”

Both excited but tense that Bay heard it, I see her face is crestfallen.

“Gabriella? Is she like, a cousin, I hope?” Bay is definitely disappointed and upset.

“She’s my friend from Clovis. I didn’t feel like I needed to bring her up,” I trail, hoping Bay will get the message and leave me alone.

“Oh. Well, bye, Charlie.” And Bay vanishes in the dark. Should I have walked her home? But then I wouldn’t have had my escape.

Crystal pulls me in the door. I glare at her expectantly, and she realizes. “Right, here’s the phone.” Crystal prances up the stairs and shuts her door.

“Gabriella?”

Instantly her voice breaks down. “Charlie, it’s so awful!” Her sobs is the worst sound in the world. I can feel my eyes getting hot too. “Carson and I had a bad fight.”

“What’d he do?” I say softly, knowing full well everything is always Carson’s fault and never Gabriella’s.

“Girls keep flirting with him, and so after school I confronted him, and he started talking about how close you and I were, so why can’t he be close to the girls, and I shouldn’t be jealous because the girls mean nothing to him, they’re just his friends, and I’m the only one he cares about.”

Carson mentioned me? I never thought he’d know my name.

Gabriella keeps rambling. Gabriella never rambles. “And all I wanted was one night where no one would go up to him and say a one-liner right when I’m standing there, clearly attached to Carson, and I had it. I pulled him away from our table and we fought next to the bathroom. And a boy came out of the door and whew, there was a smell coming from there. So we moved outside and that’s when he called his mom and I was alone.”

“Wow. I’m sorry, Gabriella.” She’s right, how Carson should stop these advancing girls, but she needs to let go a bit. To me.

“I would’ve written about this, but I thought it’d be easier to just say it.”

Words are better spoken than written. So I don’t have to repeat those gut-wrenching sobs again. “You’ll be okay. Carson will be a good boy again on Monday, and you’ll have forgotten it by then. You always do.”

Gabriella sniffles. “Thanks, Charlie.” She pauses. “I have to go. Goodnight.”

How I hope to never hear her cry again.

 

My family wakes me in my room. “Happy birthday!” they all sing.

“Ugh,” I grumble into my pillow. My hand is clutching something. The frame. Immediately I push it aside, hoping no one sees it.

“We have chocolate pancakes ready for you.” Mom yanks my blanket away and cold air hits my body.

“Fine, I’ll get up.”

I stumble through the hall and pass by six family portraits, all of me smiling widely. But one. One was taken a month after we moved, and my expression’s sad. Crystal, despite hating this place too, grins like a Teen Vogue model. I must’ve been thinking about Gabriella.

Blueberries and pancake batter floats around the kitchen. On the table is one medium sized box and I know exactly what it is.

“Open it,” my father orders.

Of course, it’s the wonderful Nikon. Sleek, black, and very expensive.

“You can try it at the park. They just opened up a new pathway.” Mom plops three pancakes on my favorite orange striped plate and fills a cup with milk.

“I will. Thanks, guys.”

“You’re welcome, Charles.” I don’t even look at the man.

Once I’ve scarf down the breakfast, I turn the pedals on my bike to the park, the Nikon slung over my shoulder in a protective bag. I just drop the bike- there really isn’t much crime rate here- and head for that new path. I’m frustrated that nothing is even worth a shot on the outside. I step onto the dirt and peer further in the unknown forest.

Green. Everywhere is green. Sparkling. Glittering. Lush. Fresh. Have I found a parallel world? Several large gray stones scatter through the place, and one big tree stands alone in the middle. Suddenly I’m glad the sidewalk didn’t open to this. It’s pure, not a trace of human, all untouched like the desert we passed through to get here.

I feel magic. I don’t even think about Gabriella, or Bay, or Chucky for any matter. All I do is let the camera take over me, fill me with excitement on all these great pictures I’m taking. When I notice the battery is half run down, I rest on a rock and lay back.

The clouds are slowly chugging their way through the sky. Pipsqueaks emit from around me, chirps bounce off the trees and into my ears. I can’t hear industrial life, and my breathing is barely there. Am I even alive now? I’m so calm.

I just lay there. Forget the world, forget girls, I’m alone. Maybe this is what I’ve been needing for a long time now. To clear my head. A bright ray shines down on me, and as I look beyond the canopy of this forest, I see it breaking through a heavy cloud. Heaven.

For several hours I ignore everything. This is a pit stop. Something will come up and I’ll have to get moving again. But now I’m going to enjoy what I have and live it.

 

Dinner is raviolis, but Crystal doesn’t complain this time. I’m about to scoop up a bite when my father drops another bomb, the exact same as four months ago.

Crystal just about jumps up. “Again? Seriously! I was just making new friends, and I got on varsity volleyball!”

“Honey, season’s over.” My father is so damn indifferent.

“Not playoffs. I can’t believe you’re doing this to me!” She doesn’t get up. Not yet. “East or west?”

My parents look at each other. “East.”

“God, why not just move to another continent altogether!” Now Crystal leaves to sprint up the stairs and slams her door very loudly.

East? That’s even more miles away from Gabriella. When will I ever see her again? I pull together my best Crystal face by scrunching up my nose and making my eyes go furious, but it probably looks like a fail, and I run up to my room and repeat her.

Moving? Why would my father tell me this on my fourteenth birthday? Especially after I’ve found an amazing place to breathe. I trap myself under my blanket and wait for sleep to come. Right when I’m about to doze off, Mom appears. I can smell lemon soap seeping next to me.

“I’m sorry, Charlie. He shouldn’t have said that tonight. I told him to wait for a few weeks.”

“When are we going?”

“First semester ends. We decided to give you more time with your friends.”

I flinch. I don’t know about Bay, or Chucky, if they’re considered friends to me anymore. Mrs. Juntz keeps separating Chucky and me during labs, and it’s a bit more awkward with Bay now in Mr. Luther’s class.

“Oh” is all I can say.

“Goodnight, Charlie.” The light evaporates from the crack in the door and my eyes slides shut.

The only thing that reiterate in my head is, when will I ever see her again?

The End

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