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After The Santa Barbara Tournament
After we got home I went straight to bed.
The next few days were a complete blur. I was suspended for the next 4 games and from going to school for 5 days, and no practice. Well, for just the 5 days. Once I can go back to school, I can practice, but I won’t be able to play for the next 4 games. I didn’t argue. It gave me time to think and I didn’t want to speak to Nicole.
She sent me a dozen texts and tried to call me a few times. I didn’t answer or respond.
I needed to be alone.
On Christmas, mom had Emily over, we opened presents and had a low key dinner.
Mom, Emily and I traveled up to my grandma’s house on Thursday.
The house was packed with my Aunt and Uncle Shauna and Dave Graceson. I wasn’t named after my uncle Dave, it’s just a pure coincidence. My cousin Jessica and I slept on the couches while her parents took one bedroom and my mother and Emily took the other bedroom. And of course my grandma Maisie slept in her own bedroom.
Grandma Maisie was quick to pull me into a hug and catch my cheeks between her fingers. Why is that grandma’s always have to pinch cheeks?
Jess was happy as ever to see me. She told me all about her basketball season and how they were killing it. Not only was she the top scorer, but also leading in assists.
She asked me all about how my season was going.
“I’ve been watching all the news broadcastings of your games and keeping up with the highlights. You’ve been killing it!” she says. “I’ve been meaning to ask you about Nicole! She’s trans and she’s playing with the boys? I wish I was as brave as her in coming out to the public like that.”
“You mean, no one knows you’re transgender?” I ask.
She shakes her head no. “After what happened at my old school, I don’t think I can go through with that all over again.”
“But doesn’t keeping all those secrets bottled up inside make you sick?” I ask.
“Yeah, but it’s a lot better than all the bullying I got when I came out at my old school. People can be so mean sometimes. Do people pick on Nicole at all?”
“Well, at first they did… But not really anymore.” Although, now that everyone knows that she’s Kevin… Who knows what’s going to happen when winter break ends.
“I wish I went to your school. I mean, San Marcos isn’t bad. People are starting to warm up to the LGBT community, but not really the T part just yet.”
“You have a lot of friends there, don’t you?” I ask her.
“Yeah, I’ve made lots of friends since we moved,” she says.
“Would they still be your friend if they found out about your secrets?” I ask.
She ponders the question for a few minutes. “Yeah. I think so. At least my closest friends would be, like this boy named Kevin who lives next door. He’s so sweet.”
What are the odds that her best friend is named Kevin? I can’t help but laugh at the coincidence.
“What?” She stares at me as if I’m crazy.
“It’s nothing, it’s just my best friend’s name was Kevin.”
“Was?” she asks.
I pause for a moment to consider whether I should tell her or not, but I decide what could it hurt. I explain to her how I found out that Nicole was Kevin and how she lied to me for the entire school year.
“She probably didn’t feel comfortable letting people know her dead name.”
“Dead name?” I ask.
“Yeah, the name she was assigned when everyone believed she was a boy,” she says. “You don’t know what it’s like to know deep down that you’re a girl even though the rest of the world sees you as a boy. And on top of that, you have to live with a boy’s name attached to you. And every time someone uses it, it reminds you that to them you’re not a girl. And most people use it as a weapon to hurt you.”
After a moment of silence, she continues. “I can imagine that she desperately wants to forget the name Kevin because that’s not who she is anymore.”
“You’re right,” I sigh.
“I know,” she laughs.
“When did you get so wise?” I ask.
“It kind of comes with the territory.”
“I still don’t get why should couldn’t have told me. I mean, I just thought she trusted me enough to tell me the truth. It’s not like I didn’t know she was transgender.”
“I can’t really speak for Nicole. I just know how nerve racking it can be to let someone in. Sometimes you trust the wrong people and they end up hurting you.”
“Are you sure you’re only a freshman in high school? You sound a lot more mature.”
“Ha, that’s because most freshman can be total children.”
My mom, Aunt Shauna, and grandma Maisie all work to prepare dinner while my Uncle Dave grills chicken. It doesn’t take long before everything’s ready.
As we sit around the dinner table, Uncle Dave asks me about basketball. “Everything was going great. We won our first few games and had an undefeated record until last Saturday. We played against Santa Barbara and…” My mind screams at me in anger about all the shit that went down that game.
“Brett and Dave ended up getting into another fight. Both got ejected and suspended for 2 games,” my mother says.
“We ended up losing our first game,” I tell them.
“Ehhh, it happens. Siblings fight, Abby and I fought all the time,” Uncle Dave says.
“Ha, I could get you two to spend 5 minutes in the same room together without bickering,” Grandma Maisie says.
“Sarah and I never fought,” Jessica says.
An awkward silence took over the room at the mention of Sarah. “We all miss Sarah, sweety,” Aunt Shauna says.
“Then how come we never talk about her?” Jess asks. I can tell she’s upset. Even though Sarah died over a year ago, it still stings as if it were yesterday.
“Now’s not a good time, honey,” Uncle Dave says.
“When is a good time?” she asks as she stands up. “You guys fight all the time, but you never actually talk about what happened! I’m sick of pretending she doesn’t exist.”
“No one’s forgotten about Sarah, honey,” Aunt Abby says.
“It sure feels like it,” Jess says as she gets up from the table and rushes out the backdoor.
I quickly get up and follow her out. She’s sitting on the steps of the back patio crying.
“Hey,” I say to her.
I sit down next to her and we just sit there for a few minutes in silence.
“Do you ever miss your brothers?” she asks.
“All the time. I even miss Brett sometimes. As much as we fight, he’s still my brother. It’s okay to miss Sarah. She was an amazing person.”
She leans her head against my shoulder. I wrap my arm around her. Her problems make mine seem so trivial.
I wish things could go back to when they were much simpler. Sitting on Grandma Maisie’s porch and looking out in the woods we used to play in brings back memories of the good times. “Remember when the 5 off us used to explore the woods and pretend we were going out on adventures?” I ask her.
“Ha, yeah. We’d pretend to be Jedi or elves in a hunting party. You and Brett would always fight on who’s the leader,” she laughs. “Oh and that time Zach tried to climb that giant tree and fell, breaking his arm.”
“Yeah, and then we had to carry him back while he cried like a little baby. He screamed bloody murder. ‘I’m dying!’ .” We share a good laugh. “But somehow Sarah always knew how to calm him down. Those were the good ole days”
“Why did we have to grow up?” she asks.
“Thanks, Dave! I needed this.”
“Anytime Jess, anytime.”
As we walked back in they were watching the news when a breaking story came on the air. “Breaking news, several planes have incurred engine failures in the middle of their flights. We have reports of at least 10 flights having mid-air engine failures. At least three of those planes have crashed. And others are still in the air.”
My phone goes off. It’s Zach! I quickly answer it. “Dave! I don’t have a whole lot of time… I just.. I love you, man.”
“Zach! What’s going on?”
“I don’t know, the plane… It lost power… I’m scared, Dave.”
“Is dad with you?” I ask.
“Yeah… He’s on the phone with Brett.”
I hear a lot of commotion in the background. I put the phone on speaker. I hear people screaming.
“Dave! One of the engines just caught fire! I… I think we’re going down.”
“Honey!” my mom says into the phone.
“Yes, baby. I’m right here.”
“I love you, mom!”
“I love you too, just stay on the phone.” Tears fall from my mother’s eyes as we all realize the severity of the situation. “Just talk to us.”
‘We’re looking at a live video of flight #859 Denver to Chicago as it descends. It looks like the left wing engine has caught on fire. The captain has reported that there are 89 souls aboard and that they are losing altitude and won’t make it to the closest airport. They’re going to have to make a crash landing,’ the reporter says.
“Dave! Dad says he loves you and he’s sorry. He wishes he could have been a better father.”
“Tell him it’s alright. Everything is going to be okay.”
I watch helplessly as their plane falls from the sky.
What about Zatar, the golden hero? He’ll save them! I just know it. It can’t end like this.
“Dave… I don’t think you’ll be able to watch my games after all.”
“Don’t say that! You’re going to make it through this.”
The plane descends closer and closer to the ground as I can do nothing more than try to comfort my little brother. Where is he? Where’s the hero that’s supposed to save them?
The commercial airline crashes hard into the ground and quickly becomes engulfed in flames.
“Zach! Zach, talk to me!” The phone goes blank. Our connection is lost. I hear my mother cry out as she drops to her knees. Emily rushes over to her.
The phone slips from my fingers and skids across the floor.
Everything feels so surreal. As if it’s all just one big nightmare.
Like I will wake up tomorrow and everything will be back to normal.
My world is fallen apart and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Why did it have to be Zach and my dad on that plane?
Fuck… My dad… I never forgave him.
He told me he was proud of me. That’s all I ever wanted when I was a kid. To make him proud. And all he wanted was for me to forgive him.
I should have just told him I loved him. I should have forgiven him at the tournament.
This can’t end like this.
It just can’t.
Arms wrap around my waist and pull me into an embrace. Nicole… I open my eyes to see Jessica’s tear filled face.
She more than anyone knows what it’s like to lose a sibling. I hold onto her.
If I could only erase the past and change all the things that went wrong. I would’ve fixed our family. I would have stayed and helped my dad through whatever hell he was going through. I would have stayed with Zach and Brett. I would have never blamed Kevin for the things that happened. I would have told him to become herself. I would have loved her. We could have been happy.
I used to think I was strong, but after it, all went wrong… I don’t know anymore.
I don’t think I can pick up the pieces of my broken heart.
I don’t remember how the rest of the weekend went. I don’t even remember going to sleep that night. Ever since Zach and my dad died, I’ve felt numb.
I know it’s only been a couple of days, but it feels like an eternity went by. Nicole sent me at least 20 text messages and tried calling me half a dozen times, but I just can’t talk to her right now. Coach has tried calling me as well along with most of my teammates.
I just don’t want to talk to anyone right now.
I don’t even know what I would say.
School started back up today, but I couldn’t pull myself back together enough to attend. Besides, I’m still suspended for 5 days so I won’t be able to go until next Wednesday.
I just can’t stop thinking about Zach. What was he going to say to me? He wanted to say something.
Why couldn’t he have just come with us to grandma Maisie’s?
He’d still be here if had.
The next basketball game is this Friday. Not that I can play, since I’ve been suspended for 2 games.
I don’t know if I’ll go watch. Basketball just seems so trivial right now.
I don’t even remember why I played in the first place.
No… I do know why. It was my parents who talked us into sports. Both my mom and dad played basketball in high school. My dad was always the one who pushed us. He’d never told us if we did a good job. Just constantly telling us where we could improve. I just wanted to make him proud.
To prove to him how good I could be.
It all seems so pointless now.
I hear a knock at the front door. Through the thin walls, I can hear my mother answer it. “Hi, is Dave there?” It’s Nicole! I recognize her voice anywhere.
“I’m sorry Nicole, he doesn’t want to be disturbed right now. I’ll let him know you stopped by.”
“Thank you. How are you holding up? I saw what happened on the news. It feels like it was literally yesterday we had dinner with Zach.”
“It’s been hard, but we’re both holding on. Thank you for asking.”
“If there’s anything I can do, please just let me know.”
“That’s awfully kind of you, Nicole. But we’re hanging in there. I’ll let Dave know you stopped by.”
“Okay, thank you.”
I hear the sound of the door closing.
The sound of my mom crying echoes through the walls.
I hear her footsteps followed by a knock on my door. “Dave, sweety.”
She opens the door. “How are you doing, honey?”
I look up at her as she walks into my room and sits down on the edge of my bed. “I don’t know. I don’t really feel like talking about it.”
“That’s fine. Nicole just stopped by. She’s worried about you.”
“I don’t want to talk to her.”
“I know, sweetheart. But you really should hear her out.”
I look up at her. “Why? She lied to me. I thought I knew her, but I didn’t even know she was really Kevin.”
“I’m sure she had her reasons. I also got off of the phone from your father’s parents. They’re planning on having the funeral on Sunday. Visitation will be Saturday night.”
“Down in Santa Barbara,”
“What’s Brett going to do? Is he going to move in with us?”
“No, I talked with him earlier, he’s going to stay at a friends house for the rest of the year.”
It’s Friday and I still haven’t gone to school. My mom somehow managed to pull herself together long enough to go to work. I don’t know how she does it.
I look at the clock as it just turns 3:30 PM. I’ve been in bed all day.
I hear someone knock at the door.
I don’t even care.
They’re persistent. They won’t stop knocking.
It feels like someone turned up the volume on earth’s gravity. I feel so heavy. It takes everything I’ve got just to get out of bed.
It’s a struggle just to make my way to the door.
As I open it, the light of the sun blinds me.
Bright blue eyes with strands of dark brown hair covering one side of her face while the other side is buzzed. Steampunk style. Her creamy caramel skin looks as smooth as ever.
“Dave, I’m so sorry. For everything.” Her eyes fill with water as she stands before me in black sweets and a sleeveless white t. “Please, just talk to me.”
“I need some time, Nicole.”
“Please, Dave! No one else on the team will even talk to me. I miss you. I just…” Her eyes fall to the ground as tears roll down her cheeks. “I just don’t want to lose you.”
After a brief silence, she looks back up at me. “Will you at least come to our game tonight. I know you’re still suspended, but that doesn’t mean you can’t watch us.”
“I don’t know… Zach and my father’s funeral is this weekend.” She looks as if she’s going to shatter. A feeling I know all too well.
“It is? Would you care if I came? I mean, obviously, I can drive myself.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. It’s just… With Brett and all, you probably shouldn’t come.”
“You’re right… Are you going to come back to school?” she asks. “The winter formal is next weekend. Even if you don’t want to come with me, you should still go.”
“I’ll have to go back to school eventually, I’m just not ready right now.”
“I understand…” she says. “Just please take care of yourself. You look so… “
“Thanks for stopping by, Nicole. Good luck with the game tonight.” I shut the door without letting her finish. My heart is too heavy, I can’t take anymore. I place my head against the door. I can still feel her presence just outside the door. I can feel her pain. I don’t know why, but whenever we’re close like this, it’s like there’s some kind of connection between us.
And when she’s gone, it’s like there’s a hole in my chest. Of course these days it feels like there’s nothing left to feel. I feel so heavy and yet I feel like my heart has been ripped out of my chest.
Finally, she leaves and I can breathe.
I lean my back against the door and slide down to the floor. I bury my face in my arms and let the tears fall.
Why can’t I just let her in?
I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
Eventually, I pull myself out only to collapse back in my bed.
Smoke fills the air as the fire burns. A world in flames. Ashes fall like rain. Screams pierce through the air like blades.
Two men are strapped to cross, fire surrounds them as shouts of agony escape their lips.
Zach! Dad! Their burning!
“This is your fault!” I turn around and see Nicole. Only she’s changed. She’s got horns growing out of her head. Her eyes burn with fury. Her body is ablaze. “You could have saved them. You could have saved me!”
“Where were you! Why didn’t you save us?” she screams at me.
“How? How could I have saved you?” I shout back. “I don’t have the power. I’m… I’m only human.”
She drops to her knees and reaches out to me. “Speak your name and claim your power before it’s too late.”
Suddenly she bursts into flames with screams of anguish as the demon with horns ablaze tears through the fire. His eyes full of hate and terror spills from his mouth as his talon clawed fingers reach out and take hold of my arm. Searing, burning, pain courses through me. My blood boils as fire courses through my veins.
I inhale a lung full of air as I shoot up from my bed. Drenched in sweat, my heart beating with fury. My arm! It looks as if someone burned my skin. Like a hand.
That can’t be right. It was only a dream. Or was it?
I look at the clock and it reads 6:50 PM. The game starts in ten minutes!
I grab a fresh pair of clothes and toss them on. Along with a sweatshirt to hide my arm and rush out the door.
I fire up the moped and peel out of the driveway. It takes me all of 10 minutes to get to the gym.
At the Game
I pull the hoodie over my head as I sneak into the gym. The game has already started. Nicole’s in at the shooting guard position and Jason’s taking up point. He dribbles up the court, calling out wing.
The team gets into position. Austin sets a perfect pick for Jeremy while Finn hardly even gets in the way of Nicole’s man. Jason dishes it to Jeremy who pulls up. His shot misses. The other team gets the rebound and pushes it up the court.
Northgate carves up our defense and gains the lead, putting the first points on the board.
Finn shouts something at Nicole as they rush back on offense. I can only imagine what kind of vulgar obscenity came out of his mouth.
As Jason gets the inbound pass, he drives it up and passes it to Jeremy. Nicole’s open, but instead Jeremy drives it in the lane and loses control of the ball. A Northgate player grabs it and passes it down to their point guard. He takes advantage of the situation by rushing past Jason and putting it in for another two points.
This goes on for the rest of the game. They’re tearing each other apart. No one passes the ball to Nicole. Coach is screaming at them to run the plays, but instead, they continue to dig themselves into a deeper and deeper hole.
It’s hard to watch.
Going into the fourth quarter, they’re down by twenty. A lot of the fans have started to leave. Coach benches most of the starters, including Nicole. I can tell she’s given up and on the verge of tears.
Part of me wishes I could be there to comfort her. The other part of me just wants to walk away. I do the only thing I can do and leave.
My mom is home by the time I get back. She looks up at me with surprise as I walk in the door. “Did you go to the game?”
“Yeah, it wasn’t pretty.”
“Of course not, they’re missing their leader,” she says.
“Mom, I can’t… I just… It doesn’t feel right anymore.”
She walks up to me and takes my face in her hands. “Of course it doesn’t. It’ll take time before it feels right. Your grandfather died when I was your age. It felt like… Well, it felt like it feels now. As if the world is ending.”
“Did it ever get any better?”
“Yes, as time past. It did get better. The hole my father left was never completely filled, but the sting of his death became bearable,” she says. “Time heals all wounds. You just have to endure the pain.”
Down at Santa Barbara for the Funeral
Emily drove mom and I back down to Santa Barbara Saturday morning. It was so strange driving back after the tournament. The memories of the last time I spoke with both Zach and my dad are fresh in my mind.
The sun was blocked out by clouds as if they owned the sky, which only added to my despair. It’s as if the outside world mirrored the hopelessness that I’m drowning in.
Once we arrived back at Santa Barbara, we checked into the hotel and then went out to our old home.
The house was packed with people. I see the kid Zach was with at the game. What was his name… Don? Yeah, that’s it! Don Goldsmith.
He spots me as we make our way up to the house. “I’m sorry, man. I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
“Thanks, it’s good to know Zach had friends. I just wish I could have been there for him.”
“Yeah, I know whatcha mean,” he says as his gaze turns to my mom. “You must be Zach’s escorts in london mom. I’m Don.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Don. Any friend of Zach’s is a friend of mine.”
We make our way into the house. There’s a lot of people I don’t recognize and some that I do.
A lot of people have brought a dish to pass around. “David,” I turn around to see my grandmother Aimee walking up to me. My dad’s mother. She’s got tears in her eyes as she pulls me in for a hug. “It’s been way too long since I’ve seen you, my dear. I love you so much.”
“I love you too, grandma.”
She grabs my arms and looks me over. “Boy have you grown. Look at you, you’re almost a spitting image of Tim when he was your age.”
She looks past me and her smile disappears. “Abby…”
“Aimee…” my mother says quite sternly.
“It’s sad how things turned out between you and Tim… I can’t say it was for the best.”
“I wanted more than anything for things to work out, but… some things can’t be fixed,” my mother says.
“Dave! My god, you’ve grown! Not as much as Brett, but still. Look at you,” My grandpa says.
“It’s good to see you, Grandpa Ryan.” He pulls me into a hug. I’ve always loved being around the man. He’s always so cheerful, the complete opposite of my dad. My Aunt Susan was a lot like him before she passed away.
“I saw you play in that tournament. You played like a champion!”
“But, I got ejected against Santa Barbara which made us lose…”
“It happens. Siblings will fight. You never met my older brother Luke. He could be a downright asshole sometimes. We fought like crazy. Even in the middle of school. He’s the reason we almost got expelled,” he laughs.
He looks up and sees my mom. “Abby! How are you holding up?”
“I’m doing okay, how about you?” she asks.
“You know me, I’m just going to keep on, keeping on despite it all.”
“It still amazes me how you can stay so positive after all that’s happened,” my mother says.
“Because I know that even after their bodies have deceased, they’re still here.” He points to his chest and then his head. “They’ll always be here, in our hearts and minds with all the good memories and the bad. It’s okay to mourn for their death, but you also have to celebrate their life. Take the good and the bad.”
“Huhh, I needed to hear that, thank you, Ryan.”
I give my grandparents another hug before slipping off. I head upstairs to find my old room. Opening up the door it feels like I went back in time. My room’s exactly the same as I left it.
Posters of all the greatest basketball players lined the walls. My desk still sits in the corner with a stack of papers on it. I plop a squat on the bed and take it all in.
“I figured it was you.” I look up to see Brett in the doorway.
“Can we just not do this today,” I ask.
“Don’t worry… I don’t really see the point anymore…” he says as he walks in and takes a seat at my desk.
“You know… I was up at Grandma Maisie’s last weekend before it all went to shit… Jessica and I were sitting on the back patio reminiscing about the good ole days in the backwoods. Especially the time when Zach fell from that tree and broke his arm,” I say.
“Ha, and we had to carry his blubbering ass all the way back to the house,” Brett laughs.
I look up at him. “When did things go so wrong?”
“I don’t know… Maybe that’s how things are supposed to be,” he says.
“If that’s the case, then why the fuck are we here?”
“Ha, do you honestly think I know?”
“Brett… I’m sorry for leaving you guys… I just…”
“Don’t! What’s done is done… And, I shouldn’t have been such an ass last weekend. I was just… I was so angry with you and Kevin…”
“What’s done is done… right?”
He laughs. “I guess so… Hey, what are you doing tonight?”
“Fuck if I know.”
“Want to stay here tonight, crack open a bottle of booze and drink our sorrows away?”
“Why the fuck not?”
“Honey?” I hear my mom call out as she climbs the stairs. She walks in, sees Brett and loses herself as tears start to fall.
“Mom,” he says as he stands up and pulls her into a hug.
“I’ve missed you so much.”
“I’ve missed you too, mom.”
Is Brett actually crying? I don’t think I’ve ever seen him shed a tear.
She grabs his shoulders and looks into his eyes. “If you need anything, anything at all, please don’t be afraid to ask.”
“It’s all good, mom. I think I’ll be alright.”
“Why don’t you both come downstairs and get something to eat.”
“Alright, we’re coming,” I tell her.
After we eat, a lot of people I don’t know come up to me and try to console me or whatever. Like they have any idea of what I’m going through. Uncle Dave, Aunt Shauna, Jess, and Grandma Maisie show up.
Brett, Jess, and I sneak out the back door for some fresh air.
“You know, I really didn’t mean anything by the things I said to Kevin,” Brett says as he opens up the shed.
“She goes by Nicole now,” I state.
“Right… I just wanted to say I’m sorry…” He says.
“You should probably tell her that,” I tell him.
“Right. I would have never picked Kevin for a…”
“For a what?” Jess asks. “A girl?”
“Right…” he says. “I’m sorry Jess.”
He pulls out a bottle of whiskey hidden away.
“Dad might have thrown out all his booze after he got sober, but luckily I managed to snag a few of them.”
“I thought you would have drunk it all by now,” I say to him.
“It definitely wasn’t for the lack of effort.” He pops open the bottle and takes a swig before handing it to me.
I take a pull and offer it to Jess.
She looks at the both of us and shrugs, grabbing the bottle she takes a sip and immediately goes into a coughing fit. “Gross!”
“The more you drink the better it tastes,” Brett says, taking the bottle from Jess. Then he turns to me. “So, how is Ke… Nicole doing?”
“I don’t know… We haven’t really been speaking to each other. Or at least I haven’t really been speaking to her.”
“Why not?” He asks. “I thought you two were like a thing or something.”
“Well, first of all, she never told me the truth about the fact that she was Kevin before she transitioned. And after Zach and dad died, I just needed space.”
“Well, I’m sure he… She’s probably just afraid of how you’d react. You did kind of blame him for everything. And of course, we treated like shit after he… she came out. Which I really regret,” he says.
“Never thought you’d be the one to be the voice of reason.”
“Neither did I.”
“You should talk to her,” Jess says.
“I’m surprised she isn’t here,” Brett says. “Zach was just as much her friend as she was ours, well she obviously favored you out of all of us.”
“I told her not to come.”
“Yo Brett! You in there?” Arthur Johnson pops his head in the shed. Behind him are Chris Smith, Shaun Goodman, Steven Ban and the rest of the team.
“Hey, guys,” Brett says as he takes another pull and hands me the bottle. “Thanks for coming.”
“We couldn’t leave a fellow teammate like this,” Arthur says as they all give Brett their condolences.
“Dave, it’s been a long time,” Chris says. “Sorry about Zach and your dad. Also about the game, last weekend. I would have rather played against you at your best.”
“It’s all good, what’s done is done.” Brett laughs at my choice of words. I take a pull and hand Chris the bottle. “We’ll get another chance to face off at the State title.”
“For sure,” he says.
Steven comes up to me and offers his hand. I take it and embrace him. “I’m sorry man, I know what you guys are going through.”
“I appreciate it, man.” I remember going to the funeral service when his dad died during his service in the military.
“I got to say it’s a little weird having drinks with the team that just kicked my ass.”
They all laugh. “Maybe if you weren’t busy getting ejected, you might have won,” Arthur says.
“It’s funny nothing’s really changed between the two of you,” Chris says. “Remember the time you guys went to blows during practice in middle school? Coach had you both running stairs for the rest of practice.”
“Ha, yeah and the next day they were thick as thieves,” Arthur says.
“That’s how they always are,” Jess says. “Whenever we were at grandma’s house together, she’d have to give them their own separate rooms or else they’d be up all night bickering.”
“Yeah, I’d always end up getting stuck with Zach. That kid would snore louder than anyone I knew,” I add.
“Ha, yeah you could hear him through the walls,” Brett says.
The bottle gets passed around some more until it reaches me again.
“Man, you guys remember when we all got detention for that massive food fight back in middle school?” Brett asks.
“Yeah, you were the one who started it,” I add.
“Because you wouldn’t share. You took the last chicken basket,” he retorts.
“Then you tried to chuck your applesauce at me and missed, hitting that douchebag Jason Bosman.”
“Yeah! I remember that!” Arthur says. “He didn’t even know who hit him. He just whipped his pudding and nailed Kevin. Kevin chucked his applesauce at him, spraying half the other table with it. After that, everyone started throwing food at each other.”
“It was an all-out war,” Chris adds. “By the way, how is Kevin doing?”
“She goes by Nicole now,” Brett says.
“That’s fucking weird,” Arthur says.
“Not really, if you spent more than a day with her, you’d know without a doubt that she was always supposed to be a girl,” I add. “I didn’t even know she was Kevin until you assholes pointed it out.”
“I said I was sorry,” Brett says.
“It’s cool, I’m just a little fucked up right now.” I take another pull and hand the bottle to Jess, she takes a sip and hands it to Brett.
“Yeah… You and me both,” Brett says.
“Hey, when you see Kev… I mean Nicole next, can you tell her we’re sorry for… Being straight up assholes to her,” Arthur says. “After she came out, we treated her like shit.”
“Yeah, I think she’d appreciate that.”
Eventually, everyone left, but Brett and I. I told my mom I was going to stay. She and Emily went back to the hotel. But she did feel a little skeptical about leaving Brett and me by ourselves. I assured her that we were going to be alright. Grandma and Grandpa Marshall also left for their hotel along with the Graceson’s. Aunt Shauna and Uncle Dave were pretty angry when they smelt the alcohol on Jess’s breathe, but Grandma Maisie told them to relax. She told them, after all, we’ve been through, a couple of drinks couldn’t do any do any more harm.
Brett and I stayed out on the patio with another bottle of liquor. Sharing stories about the three of us getting into all sorts of trouble growing up.
“Thanks, Brett… I needed this,” I tell him.
“So did I, these last couple of years I’ve been so angry. Half the time I don’t even know why.” He takes another pull from the bottle. “When dad called while they were on that plane. Everything that made me so angry, just… It all just faded away.”
He looks up at me with eyes full of tears. “I should have been on that plane… I should have been with them. I was just so angry. Angry at you and Kev… Nicole for leaving. Angry at dad for pushing you guys away. Instead of going with them to our grandparents, I skipped out.”
I grab the bottle from him and took a big swig from it. “I’m glad you weren’t on that plane. You would have died with them. Then I would be here drinking by myself.”
I hand him the bottle.
“Ha, yeah… Wouldn’t want that,” he says taking a long pull from it.
The Funeral on Sunday
It down poured for the funeral. The ceremony was held at the school auditorium. I was asked to speak, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t find the strength to speak about them in front of all these strangers.
It was a closed casket. The bodies were too far gone. Practically incinerated by the crash.
I just wish I could see them one more time. To tell my father that I forgive him. I can’t believe they’re gone. It’s not fair.
I just wish I could have saved them. Why couldn’t I have the power to save them?
Her words… The mysterious woman in my dreams. Her words ring through my mind. “Speak your name and claim your power.”
I have spoken my name. Many times over! Why don’t I have that power?
After the funeral, we stayed and visited for a little bit before saying our goodbyes.
“So, is everything good between us?” I ask Brett.
“Yeah… but come time for the championship, don’t expect me to be your friend,” he says.
“Friends today, enemies tomorrow,” I laugh.
“Even though we’re siblings, we’ll always be rivals,” he says jokingly.
“I guess, I’ll see you at the state finals.”
“You better be there.”
The drive home is a long one.
“So are you going to talk Nicole when we get back?” my mom asks.
“Eventually, I just… I just need time to process this all. Besides, it’s just so hard to get over the fact that she lied to me.”
“Honey, after all, that’s happened I’m surprised you still can’t forgive her,” my mom asks.
“You didn’t necessarily make it easy for her to tell the truth, did you?” Emily asks.
Thinking back, she’s right. Every chance I got, I bashed Kevin. Even though most of the time my teammates were the ones to bring it up, I was the one that should’ve stopped it, but I just added to the fire. No wonder she never told me the truth. And I told her I would never hurt her and yet here I am being the one causing her pain.
It’s not like I had no part in how things ended in Santa Barbara, and yet Kevin or Nicole was the one who was willing to forget the past and move forward.
She was my best friend, why couldn’t I move forward?
I need time to think this over.
I actually managed to get out of bed and go for a run Monday morning. Afterward, I went down to the basketball court and shot around. It just didn’t feel the same.
The reason why I worked so hard had been shattered.
How do I find the strength to play without a reason why?
Nicole hasn’t texted or called since Friday.
Tuesday was more of the same. The team has their second game since Santa Barbara tonight. I’m not sure I can go and watch them destroy themselves. It’s too hard to watch.
As Wednesday finally arrived, it felt weird to go to school, after all, that’s happened, but walking through the doors was almost refreshing.
People started to whisper as soon as they see me. A few came up to me and gave me their condolences. Everyone heard what happened on the news.
And now all eyes followed me as I made my way to class. All I want to do is go home and bury myself in the darkness of my room.
The bell rang, but I wasn’t in a hurry to get to class.
Instead, I made my way into the bathroom. Looking at myself in the mirror for the first time in what felt like forever, Nicole was right, I do look like shit. I don’t even recognize myself.
I splash water on my face, desperately trying to wake myself up from this nightmare.
If we all die at the end, what’s the point in even trying?
I feel like nothing I do will make a difference.
The second bell rings. I should just go home. Just walk out right now and retreat back to the safety of my room.
What am I saying? The old me wouldn’t have given up this easily.
How far have I fallen?
I’ve got to wake up! Come on Dave, pull yourself out of this bottomless pit before you die down there. Zach would be so disappointed in me if he saw me like this.
I need to move forward and let go of the past.
I put myself back together and then make my way to class. The entire room goes silent as I step in. My gaze falls on Nicole as she looks up at me. I can see the pain in her eyes.
The seat next to her was left vacant, my seat. “It’s nice to have you back, Dave,” Emily says. “Why don’t you take a seat.”
I give her a nod and sit down next to Nicole.
The air between us is thick with tension.
I want to say something to her, but I don’t know what.
I don’t know whether I should apologize or forgive her.
I’m lost in my own conscience. I feel like I’m drowning in my thoughts. The entire class I can’t stop thinking about her. About what we had together. The history we shared. The cracks in my heart bleed for her and yet I can’t find the words to say that will make all of the pain go away.
I guess it’s better to say nothing at all.
I don’t think the pain will ever go away no matter what I say.
These thoughts spiral out of control until I feel sick to my stomach. When the bell finally rings, I rush out the door. I head to the office and tell them I’m feeling sick. I head home for the day and hide in the darkness of my room, burying my face in my pillow.
Why does life hurt like this?
God, I’m losing my mind.
I try to fight through the pain, but no matter what I do it won’t disappear.
I hear a knock at the door. I look at the clock and it reads 3:30 PM. Oh, god. It’s Nicole…
I should speak to her. She deserves that much.
Opening the door, I’m surprised to see Anna’s face.
“Hey, how are you feeling?” she asks.
“You don’t look fine. We’re all worried sick about you, especially Nicole.”
“How is she?” I ask.
“She feels awful about what happened. She tried so many times to tell you the truth. And now the team treats her like crap. She needs you, Dave.”
“I don’t know what I can do, Anna. I can’t even save myself.”
“Come to the dance with her.”
“I don’t know if I can…”
“Just think about it, okay? She’ll be there waiting for you.” With that, Anna walks away.
Her words bounce around in my head. She needs you…
It’s as if the dream I had is on the verge of coming real. Her words whisper in the recess of my mind. ‘Where were you! Why didn’t you save us?’
Is this what I’m supposed to do?
How can I save her when I need saving?
These thoughts are too heavy, I just want to bury my head in the bed.
I just want to be a better person, but the pain is killing me inside.
The world around me is falling and I so close to breaking.
I just need to rest and maybe I can find the strength to fight tomorrow.
The morning doesn’t feel any different.
I turn off the alarm and go back to sleep. Everything feels so heavy underneath the problems that continue to stack up.
No matter how much I try to hide, I can escape it all.
I just have to hold on and fight.
But how do you fight, when you have no fight left in you?
My mind goes back to what Zach was trying to tell me before he died…
The regret I feel for not being able to forgive my dad before he died, it’s drowning in my head.
I gotta stop driving myself crazy, dragging myself down. Zach and Dad are dead. No matter how much time I spend thinking about them, they’re not coming back. Even though I keep holding on to the pieces they’ve left behind, they’ll always be here in my mind, even if they’re no longer here on this Earth.
For all I know, I could join them any minute. I can’t let the words in my head stay there. I need to speak them to the people that need to hear them. I can’t let the regret I feel for the things I never said continue to spread.
I need to move forward. That’s what they’d want. Besides, if I don’t make it to practice today, I won’t be able to play in the game tomorrow night. That’s the rules. And they need me. We’re on a 3 game losing streak.
I just have to keep moving forward.
Looking at the clock, I’m already going to miss first period.
It’s time to move on.
Getting up, I pull myself together and make my way to class.
After I check in with the office, I rush to my locker. The halls are empty with everyone being in class. Not going to lie, it’s kind of nice not having everyone stare at me whisper behind my back.
Of course, as soon as I step into class all eyes are back on me. The room erupts with whispers as I take my seat. Class drags on as thoughts continue to take over my mind.
As lunch rolls around, I don’t feel hungry, so I head out to the gym and put on some gym clothes. I head upstairs and hit the track.
The thoughts run through my head as I jog around the track.
Fuck, I’m so weak.
The last couple of weeks have taken a toll on my body.
After a mile, I have to stop and rest.
Fuck, that was such a struggle. If dad could see me now. He’d be disgusted.
I should get a workout in. Get some of my strength back.
Heading down to the gym, I take it easy with the weights. Just focusing on my form. It’s been too long since my muscles went through a good workout. The pain actually feels kind of good. Reminds me I’m still alive.
I hear the bell ring. I don’t even care about showering or changing. What’s the point? I’m going to practice later anyways… I’m late for my next class, but seriously… Who really gives a shit?
The rest of school takes forever to go by, but eventually, the last bell rang.
As I walk into the gym for practice. The whole teams there huddled up with Coach Brooks. They all stop what they’re doing and look up. I see Nicole off in the corner of the group.
“Welcome back, Dave. You have our condolences for the lost of your brother and father,” coach says.
“Now let’s have a good practice, we have a tough game tomorrow. Now let’s get warmed up with full court layups.”
As we break off and get into two separate lines at each end of the court. I quickly grab Nicole. She looks surprised. “Can we talk after practice?”
“Really? Yeah!” I can see a light flicker in her verdant green eyes. They’ve changed again.
I follow Nicole to the back of one of the lines. For the first time in a long time, I feel hope.
Although practice, for the most part, was a bit of a struggle. I couldn’t hit a shot to save my Escort in dubai life and I feel so sluggish. I was put on the B team while on suspension.
I’m just not the same.
I can’t help but notice how the rest of the team has pretty much outcasted Nicole. They’re all probably pissed off about finding out that she was once Kevin.
If I can’t forgive her, how can I expect them to? I still can’t believe I somehow managed to make amends with Brett. If I can do that, then I should be able to not only forgive her, but apologize for the way I treated her and made her feel uncomfortable for being who she is.
Once practice finally ended, I pull Nicole aside.
“Are you finally going to forgive me?” she says. I can’t decipher the look on her face nor the tone of her voice. I’m not sure if she’s annoyed or hopeful.
“Yeah, that and I also need to apologize.”
“Apologize?” Now it’s easy to tell she’s confused.
“I was… I was an asshole, straight up.” I take a deep breath before I explain. “I never really gave you a chance to tell me the truth. The way I bashed on you… Well, the way I bashed on Kevin. I just know now that I never made it so you felt comfortable enough to tell me the truth.”
I take her hands in mine. “I also realize now that Kevin was never the real you. Nicole was always you. Kevin was just a mask you were forced to wear.”
Her eyes began to water, but before the tears have a chance to fall she wraps around as she buries her head in my chest. I pull her close to me as I run a hand through her hair.
I don’t know how to explain it…
But having her in my arms once again just feels right. It’s as if the rest of the world and all it’s problems just melted away.
I just want to hold onto this feeling that takes over me when I’m with her.
I feel almost complete. Like I’ve finally found that part of my soul I’ve been missing this whole time.
As we finally pull apart, I look into her eyes to see if she felt it too.
Her expression matches the way I feel and now I know it was just me.
“Please tell me you felt that too?”
Her eyes squint as if she’s trying to find a word to explain it. “Happy?”
I ponder for a second. “Is that what that feels like?”
“I think so… It feels like forever since I felt it.”
“Yeah, no kidding,” I laugh.
“So does this mean we’re…” Her finger motions between the two of us.
“I hoping so. After just losing my brother and my dad, I don’t really want to lose anyone else. Especially…”
Before I can even finish my sentence her lips are on mine. There it is again. That feeling. It’s like a mix between a bucket of cold water being splashed on you and a rush of electricity. Can’t decide between which one so we’re going to go with both.
Finally our lips part. We’re both panting for air.
“Let me guess, it was your mom and Emily that finally talked some sense into you?” she smiles.
“My cousin also had a hand in it. And believe it or not, so did Brett.”
“What? Brett? No way…”
“Yeah, we actually bonded over drinks, it’s a long story.”
She gives me that look. “I don’t know… I guess we’re both just tired of fighting. The irony of it all is that’s what Zach always wanted.” Ahhh, why did I have to bring Zach up again? Those horrible, drowning feelings are taking over once more. I don’t want Nicole to see me like this.
She locks her fingers in between mine. Just her touch makes my blood heat up. How does she have this much power over me?
“So does this mean you’re going to the winter formal with me on Saturday?” She looks up at me with those hopeful eyes. How can I say no to her? But I can’t… It’s just too soon.
I don’t even really want to play basketball anymore. I don’t even know if I can.
“I can’t, it’s just… It’s too soon. I still haven’t gotten over Zach and my dad’s death. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go.”
“I don’t want to go if you’re not going. It wouldn’t be fun without you.”
“Oh don’t do that… You’d still have a good time with Anna and Jess. Please still go.”
“What’s the point without you?” she asks.
“Because I don’t want you sitting at home by yourself when you should be having fun. At the very least it’d make Anna happy.”
“I’ll think about it.” She grabs my hand and looks down at my arm. “What happened to your arm? It looks almost like it’s burnt, but it looks like a handprint.”
I yank my hand away. “It’s nothing.”
There’s no way she’d understand. How could a dream give me a burn mark?
“We should probably get going?”
I hold out my other hand and she takes it in hers as we make our way outside.
“Are you serious?” I look up as Finn stares at us in disbelief. “How can you forgive him after he lied to us all? I thought Kevin was our enemy?”
“First of all, her name’s not Kevin, it’s Nicole. Secondly, does she wear a Santa Barbara Don Jersey or a Miramonte Matador Jersey?”
“You’re seriously going to take his side over ours?” he asks. “He lied to us about who he is.”
“She didn’t have to tell us in the first place. The past is the past. If I’ve learned anything in the last couple of weeks, it’s that life’s too short to hold grudges. Believe me, you’re going to regret the hate you give.”
Nicole gave my hand a gentle squeeze and without another word being said, we left.
Once we get to Nicole’s BMW, she turns to me and looks into my eyes. “Thank you, Dave. I never met to hurt you. Even back in Santa Barbara. I know we both said some things we didn’t mean. I just..”
“You don’t have to explain anything. I get it. How about we just start over?”
She gives me a smile that can put the most beautiful sunrise to shame. “Yeah, I’d like that. Is there no chance I can convince you to come to the dance?”
“I don’t know. My mom needs me right now. I just don’t think going to place crowded with people and loud noises is good for me right now.”
“Fair enough. Can we hang out on Sunday?”
As I get lost in her eyes, I pull her close. We lean in and our lips connect. Her tongue dives into the depths of my mouth as her hands enclose around my back.
For a moment we get lost in each other’s touch. As if the earth stood still, we entered our own space in time. A world of our own. I just wish it could last a little longer. But alas, all good things must come to end.
As we pull apart, our eyes stay connected.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I tell her.
“Ha, of course.”
“Just don’t lose yourself in the pain, Dave. I know how easy it can be to drown in it all.”
“I won’t, besides… I’ll have you to rescue me if I do, won’t I?”
She gives me that intoxicating smile. “Always.”
I could lose myself in her eyes, but at last, she finally breaks away and gets in her car. She gives me one last smile before she takes off.
It feels like my happiness goes with her and the Earth continued to spin again. It feels like the weight of all my problems fell back on my shoulders now that she’s gone.
As I walk into my home, I find my mother asleep in Emily’s lap on the couch. Emily’s also asleep with her arm wrapped on my mother’s shoulder.
I sneak past them and take a quick shower before I pass out.
It was a restless night. For some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about what Zach said at the restaurant. The thing about Dad having a baby with Nicole’s older sister. I have a half-sister I’ve never met before.
Does she even know I exist?
Have they told her about me? Has Brett seen her?
Surely if Zach’s seen her, then Brett has too. And if she’s seen the both of them, she probably knows I exist. Although, she’s probably only 2 or 3 years old right now. I doubt she has a clue what’s going on.
I pull myself out of bed and I throw on dress clothes because it’s game day and even though I’m not allowed to play, I still have to sit on the bench. I grab breakfast, but I’m not that hungry. I force it down. My mom’s already left for work and so did Emily. I don’t know how she does it. How she finds the strength to carry on like that. It can’t be easy. Here I was thinking I’d be the one who’d be taking care of her, but she’s so much stronger than I am.
As I enter school, I still collect people’s stares. They all act as if I’m made of glass.
As I open my locker, I hear my name being called. Looking over my shoulder I see Donny on his way over. “Dude, long time no talk!”
“I know, I’m sorry Donny. I…”
“No need to explain. I know. Hey about Kev… Nicole. I feel bad about how the team has been treating her, myself included. It was stupid.”
“Don’t tell me that, tell her that.”
“I plan on it. I just… You’re my best friend. She’s your girl. I should have stood up for her, but I didn’t.”
Speaking of Nicole, I see her making her way over to us.
“Here’s your chance. There she is.”
As she walks up to us, I pull her in for a kiss. The warmth of her lips brings me back to life.
“It’s good to see you too,” she laughs.
“Nicole, I’m sorry for the way everyone’s been treating you, I should’ve stood up for you but I didn’t.”
“It’s all good, Donny. The past is the past, right Dave?”
“Exactly.” I take her hand in mine and we make our way to class.
“Anyways, so everyone’s going to Jeremy’s after the dance. Huge party. You guys are coming right?” Donny asks.
“Dave’s not going to the dance,” she says.
“What!? Why?” Donny asks.
“I’m going to stay home with my mom. She needs me.”
“Oh… Yeah, okay.”
For once, Donny doesn’t even argue.
“Well, I got to get to class. I’ll see ya all at lunch.”
I pull Nicole aside and look into those beautiful eyes of hers. Green again. She’s wearing a tie, a sweater vest, with a short sleeve white collared shirt. And of course charcoal grey slack shorts with knee-high black socks. For being so steampunk, she makes formal wear looks sexy as hell. “I was thinking. Now that the cats out of the bag, can I finally come over to your house this Sunday?”
Her face turns a shade hot rosy pink. “Yeah! Definitely. I’ve wanted to have you over for so long.”
“Yeah, me too!” We both share a laugh. “I was also wondering if it would be possible to see my dad’s kid?”
Her eyes go wide. “Bridget?”
“That’s her name?”
She smiles. “Yeah, and of course you can see her.”
I pull her in for one more quick kiss before we head off to class. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Dave.”
She pushes me against the locker a starts tucking in my shirt and then straightens up my tie. She gives me a playful smile. “There, that’s better.”
We walk into English hand in hand. Of course, that gives everyone something to talk about, but I could give two shits.
Emily looks up at me from her desk. “Hey, Dave. Can I see you after class?”
“Sure, is it about my absences?” I ask her.
“It’s nothing serious, there’s no need to worry.”
Nicole and I exchange looks as we take our seats.
Even though I’m not worried about what Emily has to say, it still takes up room in my mind. Is it about my mother? Or my grades? They can’t be good since I’ve missed several days of class.
Eventually class ends. I tell Nicole I’ll meet up with her at lunch before she heads off.
“So, you wanted to see me?” I ask.
“Yeah, I just wanted to ask you something.” She pauses for a moment. “Your mother and I have been seeing each other for some time now. I know you both have been through a lot and things have been difficult lately. But your mother means the world to me.”
“I just wanted to ask you how you think she’d feel if I asked her to move in together? I also wanted to know how’d you feel about it.”
The question takes me completely off guard. Did not expect that at all. “I… ah… I’m definitely more than okay with it and I think she needs you right now. I love the idea of you moving in.”
“Really? That’s great! I was going to ask her tonight. Is that too soon?”
“Ummm, I think that would be great. You two are good together. Besides, I think you’re a really good person and that’s what my mother needs right now.” Those luscious lips of hers slowly curl into a genuine smile. My words must have struck a cord because I thought I saw a tear roll down her cheek before I’m wrapped in her arms with those soft mountains of flesh against my chest. Boobs so big that you can literally drown in them if you’re not careful
Desperately, I try to get the thought of that pair of titties out of my head before I get a boner. That wouldn’t be awkward at all.
“Well I should get to class, you should ask her when you’re alone together. She’ll probably want time to think about it. Then she’ll come to me and ask me how I feel about it. I’ll tell her pretty much what I told you.”
“You are the best, Dave. I’m going to make her so happy!”
“That’s why I like you. You make my mom happy. I’ll see ya later, Miss Crandell.”
“Bye, Dave. Thanks again.”
The first thing I do is look for Nicole. She’s got to be here somewhere! There she is. With Anna and Jess, casually making their way down the hall. The minute she sees me her face lights up. “Hey!” she says.
“Hey,” I add in a big Dave smile that makes her bite down on that lower lip of hers.
Without even realizing it, I take her hand in mind.
“Soooo,” Anna says. “Tomorrow? Are we all going as a pair of cute couples?”
“No…” Nicole says. “Dave can’t come.”
“Ahhhh! Dave…” Anna moans. “You’ve got to come!”
As we enter the cafeteria, people stop and look as if they all see a ghost or something.
“This is exactly the kind of thing I wanted to avoid,” I sigh.
“Maybe you should make another public service announcement,” Anna suggests.
Anna and Nicole fill up a plate as I debate if I’m even hungry enough to eat, while Jess grabs a table. Nicole looks at me with a sense of worry. “Aren’t you going to get something to eat?”
“I don’t know if I’m hungry.”
“You’ve got to eat, Dave. How about we split lunch?”
“Okay, that sounds good.”
After she fills up a plate for the both of us, we grab drinks and head over to the table where Jess is sitting.
She digs in while I sit and watch her eat. She looks at me. “Well? Aren’t you going to eat.”
“I don’t know, I’m just not hungry.”
“Come on, Dave. Please? For me?” She holds up a peace of chicken to my mouth. I look into her eyes. Beautiful eyes. My mouth opens without a second thought as she places the crispy chicken between my lips. I take it in my mouth and bite down. The salty seasoning takes over my tastebuds. Eventually, I swallow it down the hatch.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” she asks.
“No… I guess not.”
“You two are so adorable!” Anna practically sings.
We both laugh.
“Jess I’m so hungry, will you feed me! Ouh! Maybe tonight, we can cover your private parts in whip cream and I’ll lick them clean!” Anna says in such a sultry voice. Jess immediately breaks out in a blush.
Nicole looks at me with those lively eyes. “Do you want me to cover my cock in whip cream for you to lick clean?”
I can’t help but smile. She sure knows how to bring out the sun in my shit storm of a life.
“Maybe if you make it chocolate syrup instead.”
Nicole smirks. “Deal!”
She playfully feeds me for the rest of lunch. As the bell rings, we kiss before going our separate ways.
Why is it when I’m with her everything else fades away, but when she’s gone…
Pain is all I feel.
They lose Friday night’s game
I meet up with coach as the rest of the team gets ready in the locker room. “How is everything going?” she asks me.
“I wish I could let you play, the team needs you. Honestly, I totally understand why you did what you did. I have brothers of my own. I also understand what you’re going through.” She places her hand on my shoulder. “When my father past away, it felt like the world was ending. So if you need someone to talk to, I’ll be here.”
“I appreciate that coach.”
“I just wish we could get the team to stop fighting each other. We’d easily win if they’d use the same animosity against their opponent that they display with each other.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.”
“Maybe, if someone were to call a players meeting. Maybe something like a lock-in, where you all could hash out your problems, we could all move past this,” she suggests.
“That is a good idea. We also have our rival game against Clayton Valley Charter coming up in two weeks. It helps to have a common enemy when you’re trying to unite a team.”
“It sure does. Well, I think it’s time to get the team ready.”
I follow coach Brooks into the locker room where everyone’s waiting.
Coach goes over the game plan. She tries her best to motivate the team, but I see it in their eyes. They’re already defeated.
You have no hope of winning the game on the court when you’re losing the battle from within.
I know that more than anyone.
Finn of all people leads the team out. When Finn’s the leader we truly are hopeless.
Watching the game from the bench just plain sucks. It’s hard to stand by while they bicker with each other. It’s not just with Nicole. Finn’s yelling at Jason. Jeremy’s arguing with Austin. No one’s passing the ball to Nicole. It’s a straight up circus out there.
It’s not surprising to see us trailing by 15 points at the half time.
In the locker room at half time, they’re all arguing with each other. It’s just a shit show.
By the end of the game, they lost by almost 40 points.
Only two more games…
Even if and when I come back, we’ll never hope to win if they continue to fight and bicker like children.
I wait up for Nicole, she looks frustrated as she comes out of the gym. “Cheer up. It wasn’t your fault we lost,” I tell her.
“It doesn’t really make me feel any better.”
“I know… There’s not a lot that will make you feel better after a loss like that.”
“Hey, honey.” I look up to see Kev… Nicole’s mother walks up to us. Her brown hair is cut into a short dixy cut. She looks as beautiful as ever. Poised to kill. Always professional and courteous.
“Hi, Mrs. Will… Ah…” I totally forgot she doesn’t go by Williams ever since the divorce.
“Dave, I’ve known you since you were a kid. It’s safe to say you can call me Elizabeth. Or Liz for short. But for your information, it’s Easley now.”
“Okay, Mrs. Easley, thank you for letting me know.”
She smiles. “Some things never change. You’ve always been so polite and respectful, even as a boy. It’s good to see you, Dave. I’m glad you and Nicole are back together.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Easley.”
“I’m sorry to hear about your brother and… “ Her eyes narrow. “Your dad… If there’s anything you need to hesitate to ask.”
I can understand how she feels about my dad after what happened with her daughter, Nicole’s sister Eliza. It’s only natural to dislike the man who knocked up your daughter, especially when he’s old enough to be her dad.
“Even though your dad and I didn’t see eye to eye. He’s still your dad and it’s never easy to lose a father,” she says.
“Hi, Elizabeth,” my mom says as she walks up.
“Hi, Abby. How are you holding up?”
She takes in a breath of air and slowly releases it. “I’m hanging in there.”
My mom puts on a strong front, but I know deep down she’s struggling. I know like me, she blames herself for Zach’s death.
There were so many things we could have done differently that would have changed the outcome. You’d go crazy just thinking about it.
“Well, I should get going,” Elizabeth says, she turns to Nicole. “Are you coming home tonight?”
Nicole looks over at me before turning back to her mother. “Yeah, I’m coming home after this.”
“Okay, I’ll see you there.” She turns to us. “You both have a good night. If you need anything, and I mean anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
“Thank you, Liz. We appreciate that.”
Liz gives her daughter a quick peck on the cheek before leaving.
My mother looks at me. “Honey, Emily has invited me out to dinner. I don’t have to go if you want me to stay home. We can easily just put on a movie and stay in.”
“Mom, it’s okay. Go out with Emily and have a good time. You need it. Tomorrow we’ll watch a movie.”
“Okay, if you’re sure, I’ll be home later tonight.” Out of the corner of my eye, I see Emily walk up.
“You two have a good time,” I tell them.
My mom pulls me into a hug and gives me a kiss on my forehead. “I love you.”
“I love you too, mom.”
I turn to Emily. “Make so you get this young lady home by no later than 10 PM.”
She laughs. “Yes, sir!”
She gives me a wink before they take off.
“What was that all about?” she asks.
“Emily’s going to ask my mom to move in.”
“Really!? So this means you’re going to have two moms?”
“I guess so.”
I pull her close and she buries her face in my chest.
After a moment of taking each other in. I pull her chin up to me and press my lips against hers. Her hand slinks down to my hip as my fingers trace circles around her cheek. After a moment of connection, we finally break apart. She looks up at me with those beautiful eyes full of life.
“I guess, I should get going,” she says.
“Yeah, I’ll walk you out.”
“I’d love that,” she says. I offer her my hand and she locks her fingers between mine. We make our way out to the parking lot.
I pull her into another kiss once we reach her car. “I wish you were going to the dance.”
“I’m so sorry, I wish I could be there with you, but my mom really needs me right now.” Deep down I know that isn’t the whole truth. I just… I feel so guilty. I shouldn’t be going to a dance. I shouldn’t be happy at all right now. My brother’s dead. He’ll never be able to go to another dance or feel happy ever again.
Why should I feel happy when I’ve lost him? It doesn’t feel Dubai Escorts right.
She wraps her arms around me and presses her head against my chest. “Don’t lose yourself in the pain,” she whispers to me.
I kiss her head as I embrace her. “I love you, Nicole.”
She looks up at me with those verdant eyes. “I love you too, Dave. I guess I’ll see you on Sunday?”
“Yeah, totally. Just text me.”
We kiss one last time before she leaves.
After I get home, I grab a bite to eat and head straight to bed.
The next morning, mom’s in the kitchen cooking breakfast. “So? How was dinner?” I ask.
“It was wonderful, it really was.”
She looks up at me from the griddle. “Dave, Emily asked if we could move in together. I wanted to ask what you think about it.”
“Mom, I think it’s a great idea. She seems to make you really happy, which makes me happy.”
She looks at me before a smile slowly appears on her face. “I’m so glad you’re okay with it.”
“She asked me the other day about how I would feel if she asked you about moving in.”
“She did? How thoughtful of her.” She looks down at the griddle as the biggest smile appears on her face.
I love seeing her like this.
After we have breakfast, I go out for a run. Then I spend most of the day trying to catch up on all of the homework I’ve accrued from missing class.
My mom knocks on the door, telling me dinner’s ready.
“I’ve invited Emily over, I hope you don’t mind. I know you wanted to spend tonight just between the two of us.”
“Mom, that’s totally fine. She’s going to be living with us. Might as well get used to it now.”
She gives me a smile before walking out.
Emily’s sitting at the table after they have finished dishing up everyone’s plate. “Hey, Dave. I’m surprised you’re not at the dance.”
“I didn’t know the dance was tonight,” my mother says. As we dig in.
“Yeah, I just didn’t feel ready.”
“That’s okay, sweetie. I completely understand. Did Nicole end up going?”
“Yeah, I wanted her to still go and have fun.”
“She probably won’t have as much fun without you,” Emily says.
“I know. I wish I could go. I just… I don’t know,” I sigh.
“You feel like you shouldn’t feel happiness because of your dad and Zach?” my mom asks.
“Dave, I’m your mother and I feel the same way. Losing Zach was devastating. And moving on from that loss is going to be hard. Feeling guilty about being happy without Zach here is only natural. But Zach wouldn’t want you to miss out on the joys that life brings to us.”
“Honey, go to the dance. Be with Nicole. It’s what Zach would have wanted. It’s your responsibility to live the life Zach can no longer have.”
Just then my phone goes off. I got a text from Anna. She sent me a picture of Nicole sitting by herself on the bleachers at the dance. She looks beautiful. Her text reads, ‘Your girl is missing you right now… Why aren’t you here? Also, Finn is a giant asshole!’
“Go to the dance, honey,” my mom says.
I nod and rush to my room, grabbing whatever I can to form a moderately acceptable form of formal wear. I quickly brush my teeth and run out the door after I thank my mother and Emily.
I drive my moped as fast as it’ll go on my way to school.
As I rush inside, my mind is racing on what I’ll say to her.
Just then, an idea flashes through my mind. I know exactly what to do. Walking into the dance, I pay for a ticket and make my way to the DJ. I spot her sitting by herself. She looks as if she’s on the verge of tears. I can’t stand seeing her like this. How could I be so stupid? How could I ever hurt her?
I request a song that I know will touch her heart. As the current song comes to an end, I watch Nicole as she gets up and is about to leave right before the song White Flag by The Blades starts to play.
She turns around and her eyes dart around the gym until they fall onto mine. Her jaw drops as I make my way over to her. I hold out my hand to her. “May I have this dance?”
She doesn’t say a word, just nods and takes my hand.
I lead her out to the dance floor and she places her hands on my shoulders as I wrap my arms around her waist. “You’re so beautiful.”
Even in the dark, I can see her cheeks turn a rosy pink. Her sleeveless black dress fits her body perfectly as it comes down just past the middle of her thigh. And of course, she’s wearing converse with it. “I can’t believe you came! Why?”
“Because, Nicole, we’re only human. Who knows how many sunsets we have left. I don’t want to ruin my life by spending another moment without you.”
I clear my throat and lean in close to her ear and whisper, “Nicole, you’re not just my best friend. I’m in love with you.”
I lip sync as the lead singer starts the chorus. ‘I wave my white flag and completely surrender myself to you.’
A single tear falls from her gorgeous eyes as she pulls me down to her and presses her lips against mine. I pull her tightly against me, I never want this moment to end.
We danced for a while, lost in each other. Our bodies flowed with the ebb of the beat. We were in sync with each other. Moving as one.
As the night carried on, I eventually grabbed her hand and lead her out of there. As we made our way to the parking lot, she looks up at me with curiosity.
“You know, we have a score to settle.”
That beautiful face of hers is once again lit up with an intoxicating smile. “Is that so?”
“Yeah, I’m still determined to win.”
“You can definitely try, but going up against will only end in defeat.”
“Bring it on!” I laugh. “There’s a basketball court by my house, why don’t we go change and meet up there.”
“Ha, the funny thing is that I don’t have a car… I rode here with Anna and Jess.”
“You can ride with me on my moped, I guess.”
“Can we just go to your house and I’ll just wear your clothes?”
“Yeah, I can’t lie, I do like the idea of you wearing my clothes.”
She smiles. “Me too.”
I give Nicole the helmet and she gets on behind me and wraps her arms around my stomach. I can feel her head against my back. I start her up, my moped is a she if you were wondering. Edna. That’s her name. It doesn’t take us long to get to my house. My mom and Emily are sitting on the couch watching a movie.
“Hey, oh my. You look so adorable, Nicole!” My mom says, getting up. She pulls her into a hug. “You are so beautiful.”
“Thanks, Ms. Graceson.”
“I can’t argue, you look drop dead gorgeous in that dress!” Emily says.
“Thank you, Ms. Crandell.”
“Well, we’re going to go down to the basketball court for a little bit,” I tell them. “After we get changed of course.”
“Okay sweetie,” my mom says.
“Surprised you two aren’t going to some party or something,” Emily says.
“Well, we have a score to settle,” Nicole says as she smirks at me.
“To each, their own I guess,” Emily says.
I grab Nicole’s hand and lead her into my room. As soon as the door shuts I push her up against it and kiss her. My thumb strokes her soft cheek as my tongue twirls around hers. She traces her fingers up my arm, sending tingles down my spine. “God, I just want to love you for the rest of my life,” I whisper to her.
“That sounds perfect to me,” she moans as she looks up to me with blue eyes this time. How did I notice them at the dance?
“Now, let’s change into something more comfortable,” I say as I start pulling off my tie and button up shirt.
Nicole turns around. “Mind unzipping me?”
“Yeah, it’d be my pleasure.” My fingers trace the muscles of her exposed shoulder blade as my other hand pulls down the zipper to her dress. She gives me the turn around sign.
“What? It’s not like I’ve never seen you naked before.”
“Huh, you’re right. It’s just… This was the first time I’ve worn a dress in front of anyone. Anna and Jess helped me pick it out. I wanted to look beautiful for you. This was long before the Santa Barbara drama and the… Well, when things were much simpler.”
“You are beautiful.”
She runs her hand up her other arm in a nervous manner. “Most of the time I don’t feel that way. Finn really got to me before you showed up. He’s such an asshole.”
“What did he do?”
“Just the typical Finn shit… It doesn’t matter. You have no idea how glad I am that you came.”
I take her face in my hands and press my lips against hers. My hands trace down her body and I slowly pull down her dress, revealing her magnificent body. It’s a work of art.
She instinctively tries to cover up her chest, but I pull her hands away. “You are so beautiful. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”
She looks up at me with teary eyes that truly make them look like the ocean. With my thumb, I slowly wipe them away. She leans into my hand and presses her lips against it as her hand traces the back of mine.
My fingers trace that delicate chin of hers and I pull her eyes up to mine. “From now on, you are mine and I am yours.”
Once again those luscious lips are against mine. My fingers run down her back as she places her hands on my hips.
After we break apart, I look into those beautiful sapphire eyes. “Now, let’s get dress and go down to the court so I can finally beat you.”
She laughs so loud it makes me laugh. “You wish.”
She walks over to my closet in one hell of a sexy thong I didn’t notice before and grabs a pair of shorts and a shirt. I quickly get dress and grab my basketball and we make our way over to the court.
The outdoor court is lit up with lights and completely empty.
“Let me get a quick warm up in,” I tell her.
I finally feel like I’m getting my groove back after a few shots.
“You can shoot for ball,” she says.
I pull up at the three-point line and sink it.
She tosses me the ball and I check to her.
After she checks it back, I pull up catching her totally by surprise. By the time she reacts, the balls left my hands and drops in the basket.
“So that’s how it’s going to be?” she laughs as she tosses me back the ball.
“Yep, 2 to 0.” I check her the ball, this time she D’s up before passing it back.
After a few pump fakes, I drive it to the right, quickly spin back to the left and step back creating space between us for a quick pull up.
Nothing but net.
“3 to 0.”
“Feels like you haven’t missed a beat.” She tosses me back the ball.
“I’ve just never been this motivated to win,” I laugh, checking it in.
After she passes me the ball back, I dash into the lane and power it to the basket for a layup, but she picks my pocket before I can get it off.
“Don’t think it’s going to be that easy,” she laughs as she moves her index finger back and forth to gesture it’s not going to happen.
I give her a big ole Dave smile. I see a blush appear on her face, but she crosses me over and drives it to the basket. As I’m about to block the ball, she switches hands and brings it up on the opposite side of the basket, bouncing it off the backboard and in.
“Okay, nice move. I see how it is,” I tease her, tossing her back the rebound.
She checks it in. Once the ball lands in her fingers, she drives it to the left, before crossing it over and spinning back to the left. She steps back, giving her enough space to pull up and bank it off the backboard into the net.
“Banks open,” she says as I grab the rebound and pass it to her.
“Make that 2 to 3,” she says, checking it back to me. After I pass it back, she pulls up, but I’m ready this time. I get a finger on it and hustle over for the rebound.
Once I take it back, I stutter step acting like I’m going to cross over before driving it passed her and taking it in for the easy layup.
“What was the score again?” I ask jokingly.
“Just you wait, once I get the ball back, I’m not going to give you another chance.”
“You mean if you get the ball back. I don’t intend to turn it over.”
She gives me a wide smile. “It doesn’t matter what you intend, all that matters is what will happen. And the only thing that’s going to happen is me winning.”
I pump fake after I check the ball in. This sends her flying in the air trying to block my fake shot as I dribble past her for an easy layup. “What were you saying about winning?”
“The game isn’t over yet,” she says passing me the ball. This time she gets up close and personal, placing her hand on my hip and her face only inches away from mine.
Right then and there, I lean in and kiss her. She’s so surprised by the gesture, she just gives in. The ball drops from my hands as they wrap around her waist and pull her into me. Her arms journey up my body and wrap around my shoulders. We make out for what feels like hours. Finally, she pulls away. “I’m waving my white flag, you win this game. I just want to surrender to you. My anal virginity is yours.”
I pull her in for another kiss. We head back to my house. I pull her into my room and press my lips against hers as my hands slowly pull down her shorts. She kicks them off along with her shoes. I pick her up and bring her to the bed. She looks up at me with those sky blue eyes. “Please be gentle.”
“Don’t worry, I will take it slow.” I pull the shirt over her head revealing her perfectly firm but supple breasts. I bury my face in them as she wraps her hand in my hair. My tongue does circles around her areola as my fingers sink beneath the hem of her thong and slowly pull it off that amazing ass of hers. I slip it off her legs along with her socks. Then I strip myself completely naked. I kiss down her gorgeous caramel legs before flipping her on her stomach. She’s bent over my bed, with her knees planted on the ground. There’s that ass I’ve fantasized over for so long.
My hands take in those round cheeks of hers, spreading that ass wide open revealing her little tight star. I bury my face in the crack of her ass, tracing my tongue up and down it. When I finally meet her butthole, my tongue runs circles around it.
She moans so loud, I know my mom and Emily heard her, but I don’t care. I press the tip of my tongue against her tight little arse. Fuck, it’s so tight. That doesn’t stop me. I keep pushing forward until it finally sinks in. Another moan escapes those beautiful lips of hers.
My hands squeeze and knead her ass as I slowly move my tongue further inside her. I slip my hand down between her thighs and wrap my fingers around her rock hard cock. As I slowly start to stroke her shaft, I start fucking her ass with my tongue.
The sound of her moans makes my dick stir. Her own cock twitches in my hand as my tongue plunges to the depths of her ass. She tastes so good. Her musky sweat stench asshole was pure candy to me. My tongue popped free of her asshole and slid down to give her balls some loving while my nose took in some more of that sweet smell of her asshole.
I sucked on my finger, getting it nice and wet before I circled it around her little rosebud. She wiggles her booty for me as I press my digit against her tight tied up balloon hole. Ever so slowly, I push the tip of my finger past her sphincter eliciting a groan from her lips.
My other hand grips her ass cheek, giving it a good shake as I watch her upper thigh and ass jiggle. I press more of my finger down to the knuckle inside her. Slowly I start to slide it in and out, watching her tight little hole stretch out and concave back in with my finger. Her little fuckhole is just so tight.
I slip another finger in, making her tense up a bit. My fingers start to slither further inside her, discovering the depths of her virgin asshole.
Finally, a third digit joins in causing her to grab a hold of the sheets as she takes a deep breath. Gently I start to finger fuck her asshole.
I spit on my other hand and rub my saliva all over my cock, getting it nice and wet. With three fingers deep inside her ass, it’s nice and ready for the next step, my dick.
I pull them out as she moans into the sheets. Then I grab her cheeks and spread them as I spit onto that intoxicating little brown eye. I grab my dick with one hand while my other keeps her ass spread open. Slowly I rub the head of my cock around her tight little butthole, spreading around my spit.
Before she has time to even tense up, I press the tip of my dick against her asshole and swiftly push it inside her. She grunts hard as she bites down on my sheets. “Take a breathe and relax, baby. The worst part is over,” I assure her as I reach down and rub her back to comfort her.
Holy fuck it’s so tight! It’s like having a boa constrictor wrapped around my dick. I keep it there for a few seconds, letting her ass adjust before I slowly push forward. Fuck… I’ve never felt anything like this! It’s nice and hot. Oh… shit!
The walls of her ass feel like their squeezing the life out of my cock as I try to slowly push it deeper inside her. She’s panting as she holds onto the sheets for dear life.
I lean down and kiss her shoulder. “Just relax. Breathe, babe. Just breathe. I love you so much.”
“Urgh, fuck! I love you too! Your dick is so big. Please, go a little slower!” she gasps. “It hurts!”
“Anything for you,” I whisper in her ear as I press my lips against the skin of her neck. I slowly pull my dick out a little before I gyrate my hips gradually forward. I continue to carefully drive my dick inside her, little by little. “Come on, let’s lay down on the bed. I want to make love to you.”
I wrap my arm around her stomach. Keeping my dick lodged halfway up her ass, I help her climb up onto the bed. She rests her head on my pillow, while I wrap my arm underneath it sliding it up her arm. My hand runs up her wrist as my fingers trace the back of her hand before interlocking with hers. I pull her onto her side so we’re spooning and I grab inside the knee of her right leg and pull it up, spreading her ass a little more.
Ever so gracefully, I start rolling my hips into her, plunging my dick a little deeper into her ass. She moans out loud. My fingers rake up her thigh and grip her hip as I pull out and impel my dick back into her butt.
Her breathes become heavy. I move my head over on top of her shoulder, placing my lips just above her ear while I slowly dig my dick out of her ass just to propel it deeper down into the abyss of her bowels. My cock must have hit that prostate of hers because a moan of pure pleasure escapes her lips. She reaches back and runs her fingers through my hair.
“Wow, that felt so good. Keep fucking me just like that,” she gasps.
“Anything for you,” I whisper into her ear as my hand slinks down her rock hard stomach to find her even harder cock. My fingers wrap around it and slowly I start stroking her dick as it leaks out precum. My hips press into her, sinking my cock further up her ass causing more sounds of lustful bliss leave her lips.
She leans back and connects her lips with mine, while I massage her prostate with my dick. Every thrust and prod of my cock brings out an array of moans, grunts, and groans. Music to my ears. I continue to jerk off her big fat cock while I poke her prostate.
She looks up at me. “Fuck me harder. I’m so close!”
I roll her onto her stomach with my cock still lodged up her ass. I take both of her hands in mine as I slowly pick up the pace. Thrusting harder and harder into her ass. She moaning louder and louder as I pummel her ass. I kiss her shoulder while I start to pound her. “Urgh…Urrrggghh! Fuck me! Urgh… Fuck…”
I can feel my orgasm on its way. I pump a few more times into her before I lunge my dick balls deep inside her and explode, painting the walls of her ass with a load of cum. She lets out a scream of pure pleasure as her ass tightens around my dick, I can feel her own cock start to pulse as she erupts all over my bed. Slowly, I continue to gyrate my hips while I unload the last of my seed inside her. I can feel her own cock spew a few more ropes of cum out.
As our orgasms subside, she turns to me, looking at me with those baby blue eyes. “That was fucking amazing,” she pants.
“You’re telling me! Fuck… I’ve never felt something so tight before. Your ass is heaven.”
She rolls over to face me, causing my dick to pop free of her ass. “I can see why you love having my dick up your ass so much, I can’t believe how good it felt.”
“I can see why you love having your dick inside my ass so much. We’ve got to do this more often.”
“Agreed, maybe we can take turns.”
“Yeah, I like that idea.” She leans up and kisses me as I pull her close.
“Nicole, I’m so sorry, I should’ve just gone with you to the dance from the beginning. I just felt… Guilty. It just felt too soon after Zach and my father’s death. I thought that I don’t deserve happiness because they would never get to feel it again.”
She looks up into my eyes. “I believe that’s even more of a reason to feel happiness. Because Zach and your dad died, it’s your burden to live a full and satisfying life. You have to for them and because of them.”
I lean in and kiss her. “You’re right.”
“I know. Now kiss me some more.”
Wrapping my hand around the back of her neck, I bring her close as our lips connect. Our tongues crash into each other’s as we become lost in the other’s mouth.
I pull back for a moment. “Say, I’ve been meaning to ask. What did Zach whisper to you that day we ate dinner together?”
“Ha well, he told me that I need to tell you the truth,” she says. “He said you’d understand.”
“I’m sorry for everything I said about you. Well… About the old you.”
“Don’t sweat it. The past is the past.”
“I know, but I should’ve never been angry with you in the first place. It was never your fault.”
“I wasn’t totally blameless either.”
“Let’s just promise each other to always be honest with each other. No more secrets,” I say.
“Deal, no more secrets.”
Once again our lips touch as we pull each other close into the other’s embrace. After getting lost in each other’s kiss, I turn off the lights and pull out the covers. I pull
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