Chris took a deep breath, opening his eyes slowly. "Okay, I guess I'll just say it as bluntly as I can. Zachary, why do you think we're friends? I mean, we're not, seriously. All I remember about you from camp when we were kids was you pushing me into a twelve-foot lake.... When I couldn't swim."
"Wrong!" A boxing glove came around and punched Chris hard in the face.
"Mouse!" I yelled, "Not so hard!" I helped Chris stand up. To my relief, his nose wasn't broken.
"Well, that's what would happen if he said it that way." Mouse said, preparing to hit Chris again.
"Enough of this stupid training." I snapped, "This is ridiculous!"
Chris nodded and said groggily, "I second that thought."
Mouse rolled her eyes, I think she just likes hitting Chris. "You're just a coward, Chris!"
"I'm aware of that." Chris said flatly.
I sighed, "You know she's right, Chris. You can't say it that way."
"Now you guys are just ganging up on me!" Chris said, "That's not cool!"
All three of us started talking at once. Chill, Chris! Seriously, guys! That's not fair. Stop attacking me! Geez, Chris, just clam it, if you would. Mouse.... What?
"Hey, kids!" Mom said cheerily, coming in with a plate of cookies. My mom is such a classic mom, seriously. "I made cookies!"
Chris and Mouse perked up, "Cookies?" They said in unison, glaring at each other and diving for the cookies.
I rolled my eyes, "You pigs!" I said, annoyed. Mom laughed as they attacked the cookies. I took one and sat down on my bed. Mom joined me as Chris and Mouse killed each other over the cookies.
Mom studied my face, "You don't want more?"
I laughed, "Leave them for the kids."
Mom laughed again, "Ah, my girl. You grow up fast."
"Unlike some." I gestured to Chris and Mouse. Mouse had gotten the last cookie, pushing Chris over like some little kid. "Angie! Mouse pushed me!"
Wow, Chris. "Oh, the baby's crying." I said.
Mom watched as I comforted Chris, clearly impressed. "Well, well. Looks like someone has learned to take my job."
I shrugged, "He's gonna die in collage." I whispered.
"I know." Mom mouthed, taking the empty cookie plate and leaving the room.
Mouse laughed and patted Chris on the back (well, a really hard pat). "Chris, you suck at confessing stuff to people right."
"And you suck at using proper grammar." Chris said, smiling at his clever comeback.
I shook my head at them, "It's true, Chris. If you can't learn to confess, then Zachary will forever think of you as a friend and Jesse will never love you back."
Chris looked at me in disbelief, "Angie, you never tell your crush that you like them."
"Why not? Harold did." I said quietly.
"Well, Harold's different." Chris said. I raised an eyebrow at him and he continued, "Harold.... well, he doesn't have dating experience."
"And you do?" Mouse smirked.
Chris paused and shook his head, "No, I don't personally, but I've helped Angie, I've read books..."
"Dude, you have dating books?" Mouse snorted, "What kind? Dating for desperate homo-"
"Mouse." I said firmly. She snickered and Chris rolled his eyes.
"In short, the point of 'crushes' is that you never tell them you like them!" Chris said.
"You're never gonna get a date, are you?" Mouse said. Chris gritted his teeth, but controlled himself and didn't say anything.
I spoke up, "Why shouldn't you tell Jesse how you feel?"
Chris was silent and Mouse said quietly, "'Cuz he'd puke all over him if he tried."
"Mouse, go play with the cat." I said firmly.
Mouse looked at me stupidly, "Why?"
"Mouse, go play with the cat." I said again, gesturing to the door.
Mouse made an 'oh' face and left the room. I smiled at Chris and opened my mouth to say something, but Chris said, "Why now? Why should I? Why? Do you even know how hard that would be? He's not gonna love me back. He never will."
I closed my mouth and thought this over. He was kind of right. "Well," I said, pursing my lips and then smiling. "that doesn't mean you shouldn't try."
Chris almost peed himself, I swear. Mouse and I pushed him out into the hall and hid behind the wall.
Jamie and Jesse were standing nearby, talking. Harold came up to them, grinning stupidly. He dropped his pencil on the floor, "Oops!" He said, grinning as if he thought he was so clever, "I better pick up my pencil!" What the hell was he doing? Harold started blabbering, he seemed to want attention, which was new for him.
Chris's face paled and he turned around, "Ange, I can't do this!"
"Sure you can! Go get 'em, Buddy Boy!" I said, giving my brother a little push.
Chris swallowed, slowly approaching Jamie, Jesse, and Harold. "Um.... Hey, Jesse." He said meekly. He got all of their attention, "Oh, hey." Jesse said uncertainly. When Jamie saw Chris, she smiled and turned Harold and herself around.
"What?" Harold said stupidly. Jamie shushed him and they discretely watched Chris and Jesse.
Chris walked up to Jesse very slowly. "Uh, hello." He said shakily.
Jesse eyed him, "Um, are you okay?" That seemed to be all he ever said to Chris.
Chris swallowed again and nodded, "Hey, Jesse...." He said. Jesse raised an eyebrow and nodded for him to get on with it.
Chris smiled lamely. "Um, t-there's something.... I need to tell you." He took a few more cautious steps toward Jesse.
Jesse nodded again as Harold and Jamie watched. Jamie had an anxious look on her face and Harold just looked confused.
"I....." Chris said, looking like he was about to collapse on the spot. "I..... I lo...." Chris took a deep breath and said, squeezing his eyes shut, "I think I love you, Jesse."
Chris opened his eyes and Jesse's face fell. He blinked.
Jesse and Harold said at the same time, "What?"
Chris looked around at them, as if he couldn't himself believe what he had just said. His face instantly flushing, Chris made a stressed whimpering sound and spun on his heels, running as fast as he could.
"Chris!" I whispered as he ran by, but he didn't hear me. Crap.
As Mouse and I ran after him, I heard Harold say to Jamie, "What? I don't get it."
Jamie sighed heavily, probably shaking her head or rolling her eyes or something.
Mouse and I searched for Chris throughout the school. Damn, where is that kid?
Finally, I saw my kid brother, sitting with his back to the lockers closest to the wall.
"Chris," I called out, my voice echoing through the empty hallway.
He turned his head to look at me, but said nothing. I walked over to him, "Come on, buddy. We need to get to class."
Chris stared blankly into my eyes, no particular expression covering his face. "I told him...." He said hollowly, "I broke the rule. You're not supposed to tell."
I smiled warmly, "Well, maybe he will learn to love you, almost everyone does." I said, hating to encourage the unlikely, but hating more to have to see my brother's sweet face so sad.
Chris stared at me with that blank look, "But I broke the rule...."
"Screw rules," Mouse said, practically appearing out of nowhere. We both spun around, a
"I never pay them any mind." Mouse grinned, but in a nice way, not teasing like usual. We blinked at her and she continued, "Why always go by the rules when breaking them is so much more fun? Sometimes easier, too." She kind of had a point, I thought.
Chris looked up at Mouse with those big, unbearably sad, blue-green eyes. He whimpered and Mouse said, patting his shoulder and pretending to be close to tears. "You did the right thing, Chris."
Chris sighed, "Did I?" He said dramatically, standing up to walk to class.
"You know he just wants you to feel sorry for him, right?" Mouse said to me. I nodded. Yeah, I knew that, but I was just a sucker for those big, sad puppy-dog eyes.
"He's sensitive, he gets his feelings hurt easily."
Mouse gasped, "No kidding?"
I quickly walked to the French room, hoping I wouldn't be too late. Jesse and Jamie are in my French class, a lot of my friends are. From my desk, I glanced over at Jesse, he looked confused and deep in thought. He was probably still thinking about what Chris had just said to him moments ago. I guess if you're a high school guy, it's not every day that another guy confesses his love to you. I turned to glance at Chris, who had his head down in his desk, sitting in the emo corner of the room. When he adjusted his position, I could see that his cheeks were as red as the inside of a red velvet cake.
Alice mouthed to me, What happened?
I'll tell you at recess. I mouthed back and she nodded.
I met Alice at "our tree". My friends and I kind of had a tree that we called "ours" because we always met their at recess last year.
"So, what happened? Chris looked like he'd seen a ghost ever since French." Alice said, a concerned look on her face. Ah, sweet Alice, always worrying about Chris. Well, as if I don't worry about him enough already....
"He told Jesse." I said shortly, looking up at Alice. She saw the worry in my eyes but, as if to make sure we were on the same page, said, "Told him what....?"
I looked her in the eyes and she nodded. "Oh, he told Jesse...."
I nodded back. Even though I delivered the information so indirectly, Alice still understood. Friends sometimes just know these things.
"Wow," Alice said, laughing a little. "I didn't think you'd be able to convince him to tell."
I laughed lightly, "I know, but I did and now he's losing it."
Alice shrugged and said quietly, "Chris seems to 'lose it' quite often."
I laughed, "That's my baby brother."
Alice smiled, "Should we go find him?" I nodded.
Chris was sitting under a tree near our playground. "Nice hiding place." I congratulated him.
He looked up and I saw a flicker of a grin, which he fought back. "I wasn't going to climb it, that would be dangerous."
"Thank you for not climbing it." Alice said, sounding like Mom.
Chris nodded lamely and sighed, "Oh, god, he's gonna hate me!"
I bent down so I could be at Chris's eye level. "He's not gonna hate you." We can only hope, I have no idea what Jesse is like. I actually don't even know what Chris sees in him.
"Come on, you don't need him...." I said stupidly, standing up. Chris sighed.
"Hey, Alice, do you wanna come over today? We can...." I leaned over a little closer to Chris, even though I was 'addressing Alice'. "Play Singstar and we can.... play Ponies..."
Chris snorted, "Oh, come on, Ange! I'm way too old for My Little Ponies." Sure you are, buddy.
"Maybe we could even...." I paused dramatically, "Make yogurt."
Alice and I grinned as Chris's eyes drew wide. Yogurt. That did it.
Chris groaned. "How do you always do that, Angie?"
I smirked, patting Chris on the back, "I know you, Chris. I know how to cheer up my baby brother."
Chris pouted. "I'm not a baby."
"Oh, sure, Pony Boy." Mouse said as she and Leo joined us.
I laughed and Chris said, "Care to join us today after school? Mister So-Called Womanizer? Evil in human form?"
Mouse nodded eagerly and Leo nodded after pouting for a moment.
"So called?" I heard Leo mumble as we walked into the school.