Somewhere I Belong

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Chapter 29: Trenton, North Carolina - March 27, 2008

“Morning, Daddy!” I called, emerging from my room. He waved at me from the dining room table, his coffee in one hand and the paper in the other. Walking into the kitchen, I pulled out the brown paper bag from the cupboard and headed back into the dining room. I set it on the table before heading to the living room to get my back pack.

“What’s that?” He asked, pointing at the bag.

“Mint chocolate chip cookies. I made a batch for Cory’s birthday. They are his favorite.” I replied, making sure my economics and chemistry homework were in my bag. I zipped up the big pocket and tossed it on my back.

“Well, that’s nice of you. I’m surprised Mitch doesn’t get mad that you do that.” I rolled my eyes.

“It’s Mike and you know that. He’s fine with it. He knows Cory and I are just friends. I wish you would be nicer to him. He’s a good guy.” It was Dad’s turn to roll his eyes as he closed the paper, setting it on the table.

“They say the same thing about serial killers before they get caught. I just think he’s a shady kid. Something about him rubs me the wrong way.” He took a sip of his coffee. “What kind of boy asks a girl out after giving their father attitude?”

“He didn’t give you attitude. It’s just the kind of person he is. He sees things differently than other people. That’s what makes him so unique.”

“No. That’s what makes him a dick. Abz, I wish you would rethink this whole boyfriend thing. Can’t you wait until you’re thirty to date? It would work a lot better for me I think.” I shot him a look, picking up the cookie bag.

“Dad, Mike’s my boyfriend. You’re gonna have to like him at some point.”

“Yeah. Sure. Right after you two get married.” He muttered. I walked over and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

“Stop it. I left some cookies in your lunch pal. Mike’s coming home with me tonight. Be nice to him or I’ll sick Grams on you.”

“I will. Have a good day at school.” He called as I headed for the front door. I could see Cory’s jeep waiting for me out front, Mike sitting in the passenger seat. Walking out on to the porch, I jogged down the steps and over to the car. Popping open the back-passenger side door, I climbed it.

“Hey, boys.” I said, smiling up at them. Cory’s reflection grinned at me from the rear-view mirror. Mike lifted his hand in a sign of acknowledgement, his nose buried into his cell phone. I couldn’t see what he was doing but I could hear the sound of his keyboard as he typed away to someone.

“Hey, babe.” He said, not looking up. I turned back to Cory who turned to face me.

“Hey, Abz.”

“Happy birthday! I made these for you.” I held the bag up for him. He grinned, taking it from me. He opened it, his face lighting up with excitement as he pulled a cookie from inside.

“Awesome! I haven’t had these in years! Thanks.” He winked at me before rolling up the bag again. Mike put his phone away, turning to look at me. He glanced from the bag to Cory before me.

“You made him cookies?” He asked as Cory started driving towards the school.

“Yeah. My mother used to make them every year for our Christmas party and Cory loved them. So, I found the recipe and made them last night. Do you want one? He can share.” I offered. Mike shook his head.

“No, I’m fine. I just think it’s a little odd you made your friend cookies for his birthday.” He shrugged, turning forward again. Cory flashed me a look of annoyance in the mirror.

“It’s not a big deal. I made a huge batch of them. They weren’t just for him. I made some for Dad and Grams too. Mom’s recipe makes a lot.” I replied. “Are you still coming over tonight?”

“Yeah.” Mike grumbled. Cory pulled into the parking lot of the school. Collecting our things, we climbed out of the jeep. I moved to walk towards the school but Mike grabbed my hand. “Can I talk to you?”

“Sure.” I turned to Cory who was waiting. “I’ll see you in homeroom.” He hesitated before nodding, heading for the front door. “What’s wrong?” Mike peeked over the roof of the jeep, watching Cory as he headed inside. Once he was out of view, he sighed a sigh of what seemed to be relief.

“Nothing. I just wanted some you and me time before school. I feel like every time we try to hang out lately, Cory is there.”

“Well, he is my best friend, Mike. He’s going to be a part of my life.” I replied, a slight headache beginning to form in my temple. This was the second time this week he had brought up Cory being around a lot. And like today, I had to explain to him that Cory was my friend. Of course, he was going to be around.

“I know. I just think that there’s something more there than Cory is letting on.” I raised an eyebrow, looking at him confused.

“What do you mean?” I questioned.

“I’ve noticed it for a while now. The way Cory looks at you. The way he acts towards you. How he’s always hanging around you. I think he has feelings for you.” I scoffed, shaking my head.

“Trust me, Mike. There’s nothing there. We’re just friends.” Mike sighed, grabbing both my hands.

“I hope you’re right. I would hate to lose you. That’s all. I trust you. It’s him I don’t trust.”

“Well, you should. Cory would never do anything to hurt you or me. He’s our friend. C’mon. We’re going to be late for school.” I gave him a quick kiss before pulling him towards the school. Everyone was filing into the front doors and up the hallway leading to the senior lockers. Mike dropped me off at mine, giving me a lingering kiss as he did. I promised to see him later at lunch so we could eat alone for once. Mike and I have been together for a little over a year now. We started dating after the first night we hung out and have been together ever since. I loved him with every piece of my heart, falling hard and fast for him. He was like this eccentric personality that was different than the rest of the boys around here. He was sweet, caring, passionate and creative. Lately though, he’s been very suspicious of my friendship with Cory. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the growing stress of finals coming up or college applications giving us all a hassle but he has been questioning every move Cory makes. It was starting to make my patience grow thin and I was worried if he didn’t trust me enough. I knew enough to not bring it up unless he asked but it was beginning to become an everyday event lately.

Grabbing my things, I headed to homeroom. Cory was sitting at his desk in the far-right corner, his attention on homework he should have done last night instead of this morning. I shook my head, sitting in the seat in front of him. “What are you doing?”

“English. Any chance you have it done?” He asked. I nodded, pulling it out of my binder. I handed it to him and he copied the answers down. “So, what was that about?”

“What?”

“You and Mike.” He handed the paper back, shoving his into his book. I shrugged.

“Nothing big. Just wanted to know about you and me.”

“Again?” He asked. “What is with him lately? Does he think we are going to run off together? Cause believe me when I say I can’t afford to do that right now.” We both laughed.

“I know. I haven’t a clue what’s going on with him lately. I’m going to talk to him tonight about it though. So, I kinda need you to not come over later.”

“Really? It’s my birthday. We had plans.” He frowned.

“I know. I’m really sorry. But I need to work this out with him first. Come over tomorrow and I’ll make a huge dinner for you and everyone. Cake included.”

“Abz, you shouldn’t have to change your plans with me because your boyfriend thinks something is up between us.”

“It’s not that simple, Cory. It’s not like I can just blow him off. He’s my boyfriend.”

“And I’m your best friend. Since we’ve been ten years old.” He replied. “Pretty sure I out rank him on this one.”

“There is no ranking system. Why do I feel like I’m the rope in a game of tug of war? This is ridiculous.” I shook my head, rubbing my hands on my face.

“He’s trying to control you. You see that right? Cause the rest of us can. Including your father.”

“How do you know that?” I snapped.

“Cause he told me so. He’s worried about you and so am I. Mike was a nice guy in the beginning but something about him is off now. You can’t do anything without checking with him first. You’re going to be 18 years old, Abby. The only person you need permission from is yourself.” He replied. “He’s trying to put a wedge between us because he knows that I won’t let him treat you like shit.”

“He isn’t treating me like shit. You’re over reacting. This is my relationship and I would appreciate it if you and my father would keep your damn noses out of it. It is my life and I’m the one that makes the decisions in it. Mike is my boyfriend and that’s that. You’re gonna have to get used to sharing me with him because it’s not changing.” The bell rang and everyone stood to head for the door. I scooped up my stuff and followed the group.

“Abby, wait.” Cory called, following behind me. I left the room and started up the hallway. Grabbing my arm, he pulled me to a stop. “Just listen to me, okay? I don’t want to see you get hurt. You would tell me if he was mistreating you, right?” I sighed.

“Of course I would, Cory. I’m not stupid. You’d be the first person I told so you could beat the shit out of him. I’m just worried that he thinks something is going on between us when there isn’t. I don’t want my first real relationship to end because of our friendship.”

“Well, Mike just needs to see that we’re just friends and that we have a right to hang out as much as anyone else.”

“I know. I just think for now we should take some time apart, okay? I need to spend some quality time with just him. I’ll still see you at school. I just think after school, him and I should be reconnecting by ourselves.” Cory’s face hardened. “Cory, this isn’t good-bye. It’s just a few days apart.”

“Right. Whatever. Happy birthday to me.” He brushed by me, heading towards his first class. I watched him go, frowning. I apparently can’t keep any of the men in my life happy lately.

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