The Difficulty of Growing Up

Chapter 3

Just a few minutes ago he was trying to figure out how he could be friends with Blake Gripling, now he is falling off his bed and thinking about his smile… What?

"Snap out of it, ol' boy…" He muttered to himself. "You're just tired." He climbed back onto his bed and covered his eyes with his arm.

He slept with little success. Dreamless, as usual but he spent most of the night begging himself to go to sleep…

"Breakfast is ready!" Lois called from downstairs. "Up, Up!"

Carl groaned to himself, rubbing his eyes. He felt like he had taken the worst nap of his life. He sat up and took a deep breath. He got out of bed and started to make his way to the bathroom. He slammed right into his sister in the process. Ginger groaned and leaned up against the wall. Ginger was never a morning person.

"Wha.." Ginger said and she looked at Carl who was sitting on the floor. "What happened to you? You look terrible."

"Uhnno" Carl groaned as he got up from the floor. "Didin sleep well, I suppose.."

He then walked right into the bathroom where he looked at his reflection. He was slightly pale, His eyes were puffy and bloodshot, and it seemed his face aged twenty years. He did look terrible. He shook his head at himself and got in the shower, hoping he could wash away at least some of the restlessness. After a quick shower, his color has returned to normal and he felt alright. He kept his mind off the situation by inspecting his reflection and making himself look at least a bit more presentable. He actually did care about how he looked every day. He brushed his teeth and combed his hair as usual.

"CARL! Get goin'!" Lois called. Almost right after, there was an abrupt bang on the door.

"Come on, Carl.." Ginger said from the other side. "I've been waiting forever."

"Yeah, yeah. I'm almost done. Let me rinse!" Carl said with a full mouth of paste.

Carl spit, rinsed his mouth out, and did one last inspection. He still looked tired but at least he didn't look sickly anymore. He opened the door and waltzed out in a towel.

"You better hurry, Carl." Ginger said before she walked into the bathroom. "Mom isn't in the best mood this morning."

"Thanks for the update, Sis." Carl replied as he slammed his door behind him. He already knew his mom was irritated this morning by his slow pace. He quickly got dressed and grabbed his stuff before heading out of his bedroom. Making his way down the stairs his mom was cleaning up everyone's dishes except his, still full with food. His stomach cringed at the sight.

"About time." Lois said noticing his presence. She sat down next to him when he sat at his plate. She looked at him concerned. Carl tried to eat his toast but it didn't settle. Lois studied his mannerisms and took a deep breath. "Okay… Did something happen at the Gripling's last night?" Carl simply shook his head. "Now before you say anything… You should know that I'm always here for you whenever you just wanna talk… So is Dave, of course. You don't need to keep things hidden if you feel like you don't. My mom senses are going crazy right about now" Lois said putting a hand on his shoulder. "I'm doin' the best I can here, but you gotta let me in sometime, ya know?…"

Carl stared at her he felt himself pale up a bit. He wanted so much to talk about this sudden change of pace in his life. All this confusion was so strong he felt sick. He nodded and made his best attempt to smile like normal. "I know Mom, Thanks." Carl said as his picked up his plate, getting rid of the food and putting the plate in the sink. "Can you give me a ride this morning? I'm kinda too late to walk."

Ginger has her own car as of last summer so she didn't need to rely on anybody for a ride anywhere. Lois sighed looking at her son. "Sure thing kiddo.. I gotta do some shopping anyway."

They walked out the house and got inside the car. The ride was quiet and he was dreading class. Blake will be looking forward to conversation and lunch. Maybe this will go away when he sees him. Or when they talk. Or he could ask Hoodsey to slap some sense into him… The car stopped in front of the school. He dared to look out the window and outside the door there was Hoodsey and Blake talking. He gulped and bit the inside of his cheek. He gave his mom a hug and bid her a good day as he got out of the car and hitched his bag over his shoulder. As the car pulled out, he shoved his hands into his pockets and slowly made his way to the front of school. In a matter of moments, Hoodsey noticed him and he walked up to meet him. He wasn't looking happy like he usually does.

"You know, you could have told me you weren't walking today…" Hoodsey said quietly. "I got a ride with Gripling though." He looked up at Carl when he didn't respond. "Woah, Carl. Are you feeling alright?" Hoodsey exclaimed. "You look really bad."

"Tough time sleeping." Carl muttered.

"Was it because of last night?" He asked. Carl shrugged slightly when he noticed Blake walking up to them. "Hey Carl… Are you feeling alright?" Blake asked, slightly concerned with his appearance. "You don't look well."

Carl felt his face heat up a little. Was it THAT noticeable? He sighed to himself and slapped on a fake smile. "Just fine, Blakey-boy." Carl said walking passed him. "Race ya to homeroom!" Carl started running into the building when the first bell rang with Hoodsey and Blake at his tail. Carl jumped inside the classroom and cheered. "One point, Carl! Maybe next time, guys." Hoodsey and Blake were at the door trying to catch their breath.

"Very entertaining, boys but if you don't mind taking a seat. I'd like to get started with the announcements." Mr. Kindred said loudly before the late bell rang out through the hallways. Carl smirked at the teacher and took his usual seat. Blake and Hoodsey took the seats next to him and the teacher started talking about some clubs or something.

Carl couldn't focus on classes or anything he just tried to study Blake's mannerisms as close as he could without getting noticed. Once in their third class, Blake caught him looking at him and Blake blushed wildly and Carl shrugged at him as if he wanted something. Blake just shook his head and continued on his class work. Carl sighed in relief, putting his head in hands and rubbed his eyes. He made it to lunch without another incident. He was insanely hungry since he had passed on breakfast so he had a very loaded plate when he sat down with Hoodsey and Blake. He started wildly gobbling down the food in front of him. Blake watched him in awe and slight disgust. Hoodsey just grinned as he ate, seeing he was practically back to normal. Blake cleared his throat. "So – uh – How was summer vacation?"

"Pretty good, my family went camping at a different site this year. We always go on a camping trip during the summer before my sister go to summer camp." Hoodsey said while he ate.

"How about you, Blake?" Carl asked right out. "I'm interested to hear about your summer since I hadn't seen a sight of you during vacation."

Blake grinned a little. "Well, my family went to Australia the entire time. We would usually go to Paris or Hawaii. The change was rather refreshing, Courtney didn't like it much though."

"Nice." Carl chuckled to himself. "Mine was boring. Petty pranks on my sister. Weeding yards for extra cash. I beat a few video games and expanded my alien zombie movie collection"

"Your pranks… petty?" Blake asked. "That doesn't seem to go together."

"I had no inspiration." Carl explained. "Frogs in the bed… Green dye in her shampoo… Blah, blah, blah. It was all out of boredom."

"Yeah, I see what you mean." Hoodsey said slowly nodding his head. Blake finished his food and pushed it to the side. Hoodsey got up.

"Bathroom." He stated as he walked away, leaving Blake alone with Carl.

"Are you mad at me or something?" Blake asked.

Carl raised an eyebrow at him. "Why would I be mad at you?"

"You're just acting strange today." Blake shrugged. "Like this morning and… in class today."

Carl sighed and adverted his gaze away from Blake, keeping himself from blushing. Carl was getting tired of this sudden embarrassment today.

"I don't know. I just didn't sleep well last night." He stated. "Hence the reason I wasn't looking well this morning. I'm not mad at you."

Blake relaxed a little. "E-everything is okay?" he stammered.

Carl looked at Blake and grinned his trademark grin. "Yeah."

Blake blushed slightly at Carl's grin, same as last night. Carl didn't need much more proof than that but maybe he could poke fun at the boy.

"Everything alright, Blakey-boy?" Carl asked slyly. "You're looking flustered." This made Blake redden up more, he cleared his throat politely. Carl felt a slight bit of cockiness with Blake's reactions. This was interesting to him.

"Yeah, E-everything is perfectly fine." He said straightening himself up a little. "Why wouldn't it be?" Blake smiled a little and this made Carl grin genuinely, Why does this happen? This happened last night. This thought made Carl blush a little. Carl took in a deep breath and got ready to do something he thought he would never do…

"Wanna come over to my place after school?" Carl asked. Blake's eyes got wide. What is going through his mind?

"Wha… Huh?" Blake asked dumbly.

"Come over. To my house. After school." Carl said slowly in a low tone of voice to make sure he was heard.

"You're not going to trap me again are you?" Blake asked cautiously, remembering the fake play date incident from years ago. Carl snorted and laughed at the remark.

"Do I have to remind you of the peace treaty we signed last night?" He asked. Blake shook his head. "I gotta give you the new transmission coordinates for communication reasons. We got new walkie talkies before summer started. I haven't memorized it yet so you need to come over and get them, maybe hang out and possibly start planning a prank."

Blake sat up tall with a proud smirk. "Alright, how about I have Winston drive us to your house?"

"Sounds like a plan." Carl said with a grin. Hoodsey came back and sat back down, instantly noticed Carl getting along with Blake.

"What's up?" Hoodsey asked. Blake blinked at Hoodsey.

"Nothing, really." Blake said quietly. "But if you'll excuse me.. I'm going to wash up before class. I shall see you both soon." Blake got up, grabbed his stuff and left the lunchroom.

"Did I miss something? …What happened?" Hoodsey asked. Carl was picking at the crumbs on his tray. "…Carl?"

"Nothing happened, Hoods." Carl assured. "I just invited him over to my place."

Hoodsey looked at him a little confused. "You.. What? I don't understand."

"We need to hang out more. Get him used to us."

"Carl! I have a doctor's appointment after school!" Hoodsey exclaimed.

"Bummer… Come on hoods.. We should get to class." Carl said as he got up and dumped his tray in the garbage.

"Oh, come on, Carl. Don't ignore me." Hoodsey said following him.

"I'm not." Carl said as he shoved his hands back in his pockets, walking out of the lunch room. "I said it was a bummer… I didn't know you had plans." They walked into class right before the bell rang. Carl didn't bother studying Blake any further but he often caught himself going through possible scenarios in his head the rest of the day. At the end of the day before he was to meet up with Blake, he pulled Hoodsey aside into an empty classroom.

"Hit me." Carl demanded.

"What?" Hoodsey asked. "Are you okay?"

"Nope." Carl stated. "I can't concentrate. Punch me, slap me do something."

"You need to calm down a bit, Carl." Hoodsey said slowly and he gave him a bottle of water from his bag. "What's going on with you today?"

"Complicated." Carl stated before he took a long drink from the bottle.

"So, something is going on with you…" Hoodsey said cautiously.

"I don't know…" Carl said and sudden panic hit him. "I'm letting him into my house willingly! What if he snatches my eyeball when I’m in the bathroom… or if I turn my back for something and he throws it out the window!? And then there's this thing with him acting strange…"

"He's not going to do anything." Hoodsey said. "You don't have to let him in your room if you're that worried. Want me to come over after my appointment?"

Carl shrugged before taking another sip feeling strangely calm after the minor break down. "…I think I'm okay now. I just need to go with the flow and hope he will get used to being friendly..." Carl said before giving the water back to Hoodsey. "Thanks Hoods."

"Talking makes everything a little more bearable, Carl." He replied as he took the water from Carl. "So, No problem. Really." They left the room and walked out to the front of the school. Almost everyone was gone, Blake and Winston were sitting in front of the limo. Blake looking quite discouraged.

"Hey Blake!" Carl called. "How you doing, Winston?" Blake lit up immediately.

"I'm doing rather well, Master Carl. Thanks." Winston smiled down at him.

"I thought you guys weren't coming." Blake admitted when they came up to him.

"Actually, Hoodsey won't be joining us today, Blake." Carl said as he shoved his hands in his pockets once again.

"Doctor's appointment." Hoodsey stated, as if on que there was loud blaring horn coming from the car behind the limo. It was Mrs. Bishop. "Gotta go. See ya." Hoodsey ran to the car and hopped in, the car speeding off immediately.

"Oh." Blake said slightly surprised.

"It's going to be just us, is that okay?" Carl asked Blake as Winston opened the door for the pair.

"That's perfectly fine." Blake said getting in the back of the limo.

"Thanks for the lift, Winston." Carl said before he got in.

"No problem, Sir." Winston said with a knowing smile before closing the door behind them. Moments later, the limo pulled out and sped out towards the Foutley residence.

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