The Difficulty of Growing Up

Chapter 5

The past few weeks were a total blur but Carl spent the time alone adjusting to this new aspect in his life. Not anything drastic, talked to Blake over the walkie talkie about twice a week, just bugging him over stupid homework assignments or some other random reasons and he just stared at the tonsils a lot. Just thinking. About Blake, school, how insane he is to think of Blake like this, which lead him to think of Blake again. Carl Foutley used to never obsess over anyone but he is totally smitten with Blake Gripling now and it wasn’t going to vanish at all. Maybe it was time that he should tell Hoodsey about this… He needed a friend by him.

It was now the day before his thirteenth birthday and he was pretty excited to say the least. He didn't show it at all in front of Blake though, He just shrugged at him when he was approached about it. Invitations were spreading like wildfire through the entire seventh and eighth grade, everyone was really excited to go. Probably because it was held at Gripling's giant household. Blake was trying to get Carl to crack, which he was really, really bad at. Carl just raised an eyebrow at him and frowned a bit. That didn't stop him at all though.

"Come on, Carl." Blake said in a teasing manner. "I know you're essentially ecstatic, I can sense it."

"How so, Gripling?" Carl asked in his most aloof tone ever.

"Because I just can. Everyone is talking about your soiree, getting enthusiastic. Even Hoodsey."

"That doesn't mean I am." Carl rolled his eyes. "Nothing has changed my opinion about my birthday. I just simply don’t care."

They stood in front of Blake's locker as he put his stuff away for the day. "Carl, my friend, It's not that merciless!" Blake exasperated, turning to him. Blake rubbed the back of his head and shrugged. "Age is just a number. It doesn't mean you are going to transform into a teenager over night with all kinds of pure angst or anything of the sort."

"It just happens." Carl said trying not to look at Blake he ended up just staring at his shoes. "You can't control it. Things change and people feel differently about stuff. That's it." He should know, He's been living with it and Blake Gripling had no idea.

"One cannot live in the past, like you so desperately wish to." Blake said with wisdom as he closed and locked his locker. "I shall see you tomorrow morning. I have tennis lessons to attend in an hour. If homework doesn't infest my evening, I shall ring you via walkie talkie."

"Later." Carl said quietly as he watched the boy walk away and out the school doors. Carl stayed in the hallway for a minute before he wandered over to the front of the school waiting for Hoodsey to come out. He was talking to one of the teachers about a project that was due next week. This gave Carl time to think up a way to approach the new topic he has held secret for a month and a half. He needed to tell Hoodsey before Blake eventually found out. Maybe he could ease into it instead of just going straight out and blurting it. He didn't want to scare him off even though he knew that wouldn't happen. They have been friends for far too long to just drop their friendship down the toilet.

"Hey, you waited." Hoodsey's voice interjected his thoughts. Carl turned around and grinned at his friend.

"Of course." Carl said.

"What's eatin ya?" Hoodsey asked, seeing that Carl was distracted.

"Nothing." Carl said normally as he shoved his hands deep into his pockets. "I'm just thinking about some stuff, Hoods. My Birthday is tomorrow and the thing is, I'm actually excited."

"I thought you weren't." Hoodsey said in confusion as they started walking off the school grounds. "You haven't seemed excited since this planning started. It's really nice of Blake to do this for you."

"I don't want to blow my cover." Carl shrugged. "Blake and I have a bet, I told you."

Hoodsey snickered. "You're gonna fail so hard, Carl!"

"Thanks for the vote of confidence." Carl said sarcastically with a small smile.

"It's just that parties at the Gripling's have a reputation, you know. I know that Blake hasn't thrown that many but still… AND it's all for you, Carl. You are the guest of honor here. Think of the presents! And the cake! Not the cheap overly sweet kind you have every year, it's the good stuff!" Carl laughed and shook his head. "I'm serious, Carl! Not enjoying yourself is going to be impossible!"

"No presents. I told Blake to include that in the invite… and we’ll see." Carl said. This tension was killing him and he was the only one feeling it. He had to wait until they were at least inside his room to start saying anything. "I'm just happy he didn't theme it…"

"That would have been hilarious." Hoodsey stated. "Friday the thirteenth. Now that is the perfect date to bring in a thirteenth birthday, you are so lucky!"

Carl shrugged. He honestly didn't think it was that big of a deal, He always loved Friday the thirteenth though so it was pretty cool. "Actually… Wouldn't that make you unlucky? Since its Friday the thirteenth and all?" Hoodsey asked with thought.

"Nah." Carl said as he kicked a rock into some random yard. "I embrace all superstitions. They are great because nothing really happens. Remember when we tried to do all common superstitions in one day? It was awesome and we only had a little bit of bad luck!"

"Carl, I got attacked by bees that day."

"You ran away unharmed." Carl said waving a hand at him.

"You broke your mom's foot bath AND you smashed the television set!"

"I got her a new bath the day after, and it was better!" Carl exclaimed. "It was fun, Hoods! At least to me it was. We should do it again."

"Not this year, Carl." Hoodsey said shaking his head. "I don't wanna be condemned to yard work for a month or some kind of groundment like that." They turned into the Foutley property.

"Aw come on, Hoods!" Carl said in a begging manner.

"Nope. Not doing it, Carl!" Hoodsey said as they walked inside the house and started upstairs running past Lois in the process.

"Hey mom." Carl greeted.

"Hey, Mrs. Foutley." Hoodsey followed.

They went inside Carl's room after he disabled the alarms like usual. Hoodsey got himself settled and started reading his reading assignment. Carl plopped himself on the floor in front of Hoodsey and started staring into space trying to figure out a way to bring up this topic.

"Carl, are you okay?" Hoodsey asked waving a hand out in front of Carl's face. "Earth to Carl!" Carl swiped Hoodsey's hand away and Hoodsey raised an eyebrow at him. "You do that a lot now." Hoodsey said. "What's going on with you? Really? You just zone out and get this weird look on your face."

Carl pursed his lips closed and took in a deep breath. "Okay.. Hoods, I gotta talk to you about something major."

Hoodsey closed his book and set it aside. "Carl… What's wrong?"

"Nothing is wrong."

"Well obviously there is."

"Just… be quiet for a minute, Hoods." Carl sighed. "I don't know how to exactly say something like this even though we have been through this conversation like… twice now. But, this is totally different from Noelle…"

"Is this about Blake?" Hoodsey interrupted.

"…What?... Uhm.." Carl asked. He didn’t fully comprehend what his best friend asked because he had his mind on what he was going to explain, only to find out that he was beaten to it first. He was pretty surprised to say the least.

"It's okay Carl… Really…" Hoodsey said calmly.

"What are you talking about?" Carl asked, slightly panicking inside.

"Carl… I see the way you look at Blake everyday and the way you talk to him and.. Jeeze… You blush like really badly now. You are almost as bad as he is. I get it and its okay."

Carl was just staring at his best friend, speechless. Until he registered what just happened. Carl felt his face heat up so badly that his eyes stung. He turned his head away, fairly embarrassed. If it was that obvious then Blake must know as well. Damn it… "I don't know what to say…" Carl muttered as he played with his fingernails.

"You don't have to explain yourself." Hoodsey said placing a hand on Carl's shoulder. "Its okay, Carl. You don't have to be embarrassed about it, sure it's a little weird but I am okay with it."

"I'm embarrassed because I have unknowingly made myself obvious." Carl sneered. "He must know about it now."

"Not really…" Hoodsey said. "He is actually pretty dense for a smart kid. He hasn't noticed anything different. I think he is too busy trying to keep his feelings away from you just the same as you're doing." Carl relaxed slightly but he barely believed him. He has lost track of how often he has blushed because it was now an everyday occurrence. Does the entire school and their mother know? "So when are you going to tell him?" Hoodsey asked as he picked up his book.

"I... uh…uhm…" Carl stammered and then he fell back into his thoughts. He never once thought about actually trying to go after him.

"Well, he should know… Who knows what could happen? You might end up in a relationship…"

Carl looked at Hoodsey and down at the floor. He really never thought about having an actual relationship with Blake Gripling. He tried to think about it for a minute. He could see himself with him very well… being happy together… Holding hands… Kissing… "Aw man…" Carl groaned as he covered his face in embarrassment, shaking himself out of his thoughts. "I dunno, Hoods… When it happens, it happens… It took me a while to come to you about it, I can't really say I'm ready to face him."

"Well when you do… I'm sure he would be extremely happy."

"I don't even know how to start a relationship like this…"

"I would assume it would be the same as with a girl… except.. Well… you know…" Hoodsey said but faltered at the end. Carl wasn't even near as close as to even think about intimate stuff. He understood the aspect of that stuff but he hasn't even came close to being with anyone in that way.

Carl stared at his best friend and shook his head. "Not going there, Hoodsey. I haven't been with anyone like that and I can't even to begin to comprehend that sort of thought." Hoodsey nodded, understanding. "It's just.. I really like him. I am still battling with the confusion a little bit. I just don't have much to offer him… I truly think I am going insane sometimes. Maybe in the next few years we could possibly have something, I dunno… This isn't how I thought things would be. Sometimes, I'm angry with myself for making things difficult but sometimes, I'm happy with myself like I like feeling these things. It's not going away anytime soon."

"Blake has been dealing with this for a lot longer than you have. I'm pretty sure he has ways of getting through this confusing stuff."

"I don’t even know how he is feeling things like this, he is like two years younger than us!" Carl exclaimed.

Hoodsey shrugged while reading page after page of the reading assignment. "He is pretty advanced and more mature than normal guys in his age range. He is in our grade for a reason." Carl sighed and banged his head against his bed. "The way I see it, Carl, is that you either keep this to yourself for all eternity or you tell him and hope for the best. You like him a lot and it's not fair to like someone and hold it in without any relief.. It's just going to bubble up inside of you until you actually do go insane. That's no way to live."

"I know! I know…" Carl groaned. He finally stood up and turned on the radio, He started to pace like he has been doing since the start of this situation but he stopped when he saw Hoodsey look up at him. Carl walked to his bed and took down Blake's tonsils and sat down staring at them intensely.

"Maybe I should give these babies back…" Carl contemplated out loud, totally out of the blue.

"What? Carl, No!" Hoodsey said closing his book, throwing it aside and crawled to the end of the bed looking at the jar. "It's like Blake said. We found them fair and square! I know you don't want to give them back."

"All I do is stare at them now… Holding them has no purpose." Carl stated. "It's getting pathetic. I'm getting so mushy I am actually making myself sick."

Hoodsey shook his head slightly at his best friend. "Carl, if you give those back it's not going to make this situation disappear. It might make it worse, who knows…"

"It might but I know for a fact that Blake Gripling was devastated when we stole these little gems right from underneath him like several times in the past. I feel sort of bad about it now…"

"That's ancient history, Carl…" Hoodsey said as he scratched his head lightly through his hood. "I mean… if you didn't grab them they might have been thrown out or something. He didn't know they saved his tonsils until you showed him. Plus, he has owned them before… You just bought them back when the Griplings went broke."

Hoodsey made a valid point but still Carl's mind was made up now. He was going to give them back to their rightful owner. Just when should he though? ASAP? Or give it to him in another two months for his birthday? That should do. Blake would be thrilled to get his tonsils for his birthday.

"The perfect birthday present, don't cha think?" Carl said in a proud manner.

"You're something else, Carl…" Hoodsey said sinking back into the beanbag chair. "But I guess you will do what you need to, huh?"

"He would be pleased." Carl continued, answering his own question.

Hoodsey sighed. "To say the least, Carl... If you feel the need to please Gripling, anyway."

Carl grinned at Hoodsey and just shook his head, He wouldn't understand this anyway, but it was nice having his best friend on his side. It makes you feel less lonely. Carl placed the jar next to him as he dug into his studies, like usual Hoodsey and Carl just did their school work completely content with how things are. He was thankful that is buddy wasn’t fazed by much but then again, Hoodsey knew him better than anybody and he proved that fact. They ate dinner and right after homework was completed, Hoodsey went home with Dodie. This left Carl alone for the rest of the night but that was okay, He was hoping Blake would call soon but he never did. Carl just shrugged it off and went to bed around midnight. Tomorrow was going to be big.


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