The Difficulty of Growing Up

Chapter 8

It has officially been one month since Carl and Blake had secretly gotten together. Hoodsey was filled in on what was going on but no one else knew, not even Carl's family. They acted like total pals during school and when going on friendly outings but when they could fit it in their schedules, they took time to spend time together in the privacy of their own rooms, That's when it felt like doing this was all worth it. It had been a rule not to show any kind of PDA at all, for Blake's reputations sake. Carl had sadly grown accustomed to keep his distance even though he really didn't want to. He would give anything to hold his hand while walking to class. He wanted to show the world how much he truly cared for Blake. They fought about the situation only once when they had been only a week in. The stress had gotten to Carl, minding his own actions trying not to stare too long or too much during classes. Trying not to flirt at all during their morning chats in the hallway. He was feeling worse than he had in the beginning of it all, to say the least. Numerous times, Hoodsey gave the same advice every time he saw his best friend in distress… "Just dump him, Carl."

"I can't!" Carl said as he kicked the tree in his backyard out of frustration. "For the millionth time, I just can't! I care about him too much to just dump him like… like…"

"A bag of trash." Hoodsey finished. Blake had brushed Carl off this afternoon, Carl didn't like that one bit. Usually Blake jumps at the chance to be with Carl… but now he was so… cold. What did he do?

"Yeah." Carl said somberly. He sat himself down on the ground beneath the tree, bringing his knees into his chest. He was depressed and he knew it but at the same time he was happy to call Blake Gripling his, even if he had him in secret. He still had what he longed for.

"This isn't normal, Carl." Hoodsey said quietly as he sat in front of Carl, putting a hand on his shoulder. He diverted his gaze away from Hoodsey and just retracted into his thoughts. "It irks me to see you like this all day."

"You don't understand…" Carl muttered, resting his head on his knees.

"I understand that after you got what you wanted, it wasn't as you expected it to be. You're not happy. This might ruin your life if it continues. Maybe you two can pick it up after high school when he is able to be with you."

"…Negative. He will hate me. I'm not going to lose him, Hoods." Carl said sternly. "I can't lose him. It's not an option."

"Okay… I think I have an idea." Hoodsey said quickly. "Remember when you stole the pig heart so you could save the pinkie's life? Remember?" Carl looked up at Hoodsey, clearly confused but nodded as he remembered the past events. "Well, I had an ulterior motive while helping you.. I left Macie notes in her locker before class. It was part of the plan but… I actually do kinda like Macie… A lot!"

"I remember." Carl said bleakly but smiled at the confession. "So your saying I could leave him notes in his locker?"

"Notes… Letters… Poems - It can't hurt." Hoodsey shrugged.

Carl thought for a minute and smirked at his best friend. "You know sometimes… I love that mind of yours!"

Hoodsey smiled. "Who knows… maybe he would reciprocate."

Carl rolled his eyes with a grin as he played with the sleeve of his jacket. He would like to exchange love letters with Blake in between their meetings. At least he could have a way to read into Blake's mind even for a moment or two. It could make a nice outlet for the suffering. What should he write to Blake in the first letter? Should be something mushy… or a harmless flirt. Poems are lame, Carl sucked at rhymes. Haikus aren't that bad though. So much he could pour onto paper but where to start? Carl sighed at the thought.

"So you still like Macie?" Carl asked, trying to pry into his friend's thoughts. Hoodsey nodded and smiled lightly.

"Yeah… But I think I’m going to wait until we are in the same school to ask her out."

"She'll be a senior then, right?" Carl asked slightly worried.

"I think so." Hoodsey said softly. "I’m not afraid of my sister anymore since the three of them kind of drifted apart a little. They aren't exactly joined at the hips anymore. Right now I think she is dating some kind of artsy painter, but they aren't committed from what I hear."

"She's never really the committing type." Carl said as he thought back to his eavesdropping days.

"Yeah but I don't know how to explain it, Carl." Hoodsey said. "Something sparked between us at that dance. We almost kissed too! …Until Dodie started rushing over to us, I had to get out of there you know, She would have seen through my disguise in a second."

Carl nodded in understanding. He understood the spark very well. He had that spark every time he got to be alone with Blake. They didn't do much from the usual hang out and catch up with each other, Tell jokes and laugh, They did some minor dares including retrieving random things from either Carl's mom's or sister's rooms or if they were at Blake's place, hide common things from Courtney or Winston to kill boredom. He did recall handful of times they had make out sessions resulting in cuddling and falling asleep together after long conversations in between. Carl was comfortable with that. He just wished it happened more often. They saw each other without Hoodsey around maybe three times that month. He was thinking they could make it every Sunday so they could have every weekend together but either way he cherished their time together whenever they could make time for it. Maybe he could break up Macie and the Art dude so Hoodsey could get a say in before next year. It was a stretch but he wanted his best friend to be happy…

"Are you sure you want to wait, Hoods?" Carl asked with that cunning smirk of his. Hoodsey looked at him with caution written all over his expression. He knew something was being thought up.

"…Why?" Hoodsey asked with a slight frown.

"I dunno… What if you get your chance a little early? Like… say… at our Christmas party?"

"What are you thinking, Carl? I know that look!" Hoodsey panicked slightly.

"What if we did some spying on the art kid and catch him cheating or something of that nature?"

"No.. Carl I don't think so… She doesn't like him enough to really care about that stuff. It probably won't make a difference. I would rather wait until she gets bored of him or something. I don't really want her mad at me before I get a chance."

Carl rolled his eyes and smiled, leaning his back against the tree. "Okay, No problem. It was just a thought. Think on it though."

"Sure, yeah." Hoodsey said plainly as he played with a dead leaf at his feet.

"I’m pretty sure that since they aren't that committed. You could still talk to her at our Christmas party, Get a moment or two with her… if she didn't bring him that is."

"I might actually do that… It can't hurt right?" Hoodsey said perking up a little.

"I don't think so. Your just one of her friend's brother... Seems normal to me."

"Yeah…Yeah! I'll do it!" Hoodsey said slightly cheerfully. "But I won't reveal my false Identity just yet… It might shock her too much. I don't wanna weird her out."

Carl looked at Hoodsey like he had gone crazy. "False Identity? What? Are you superman or something?!"

"Oh… Yeah didn't tell you. I had to give her a fake name when she asked who I was." Hoodsey said meekly. "Burl Forkenshtock. That is one lie that I won't forget."

Carl laughed a little. He wasn't going to ask how he came up with that name but it was practically genius. "Yeah, don't do that yet. Just get to know her a bit more than her love of frogs." Hoodsey nodded with a small grin. "Come on, I think my mom made some bread pudding last night." Carl said getting up after feeling his stomach grumble silently.

"Awesome!" Hoodsey smiled and followed Carl to their kitchen through the back door. Carl opened the fridge and the pair instantly started raiding it, eating anything they could.

"What did I tell you guys about eating in front of the open fridge?" Lois asked sternly as she found the two familiar beings hoarding in front of the fridge.

"But Mom! We are growing boys!" Carl said with a mouth full of leftover turkey from the night before.

"I'll let it slide this time, move over. I need to make a sandwich for Dave." She budged her way in to grab a few condiments and lunch meat. "He has been in the garage all day cleaning it up and finding things for Thanksgiving… maybe you boys could help?"

"Sure." The two said in unison.

"Maybe the cardboard boxes have new mold." Carl said thoughtfully remembering last year's boxes were nearly covered on the outside, such a marvelous sight indeed. He sure would like to have more mold samples for his extensive collection.

"Sweet!" Hoodsey exclaimed as Lois sighed in slight disgust. The two of them rushed to the garage. They found Dave sweeping the concrete floor humming to himself. Carl grabbed the dustpan and held it in front of the ready dirt pile. Dave smiled and swept it into the pan.

"Need any help?" Carl asked as he dumped the dirt into the trash bin.

"Of course!" Dave said happily. "I was just about to start bringing down boxes. We really should put the labels on the side rather than the top."

"Or do both!" Hoodsey suggested. "That way, at either angle… no one could get confused."

"Logical enough." Dave chuckled as he set up the ladder and started climbing. Hoodsey held the ladder in place for Dave as he started to pluck the brown boxes down from the high shelf. Carl grabbed the boxes as he brought them down, looking at the labels and setting them to the side in an organized manner.

"Hey Dad." Carl said getting his attention. "Are you skilled in writing at all?"

"Hmm… I think you're barking up the wrong tree here, son." Dave said as he grabbed another box for Carl. "Your sister is the writer in the family."

"Yeah, I know." Carl mumbled as he grabbed the box and set it with the Christmas decorations near the wall. "She isn't home and I sort of need a man's perspective. We have a writing assignment at school…" Carl looked at Hoodsey who nodded in agreement. "Uh… on capturing a set mood. Lucky me, I was assigned.. uh.. 'Infatuation'. I would like to capture it in a man's point of view since a women's point of view is so typical. It can be in any form of writing, it just needs to ooze emotion."

Dave thought for a minute. "That's a very imaginative assignment. I commend your teacher, Carl!"

"Yeah, Ms. Zorski is awesome." Carl said with a smile. Hoodsey snorted to himself but Dave didn't hear.

"My advice would be to just imagine something you adore and write what comes to mind… Then work those things into something. Work it into your gross outs. That's manly enough I suppose."

"Brainstorming." Hoodsey said. Carl was probably going to do that anyway because that just his usual creativity.

"Yeah, brainstorm." Dave said handing down another box. Carl looked down at the label reading 'THANKSGIVING'.

"We got one, Dad. The last one should be the next one down." Carl said as he went to put the box next to the garage doorway. "I guess I should ask… How would you write to mom, if you had to?"

Dave had the last box in his hands but he just held it there as he thought to himself. " 'All that we have, always felt missing before, Though I love you today, tomorrow it will be more. Our love is life, we are the strongest tree, which will always grow forever, like you and me.'" Dave recited out loud. Carl grinned at Dave as he handed the box down to Carl.

"Is that a poem?" Hoodsey asked as he handed an Easter box up to him.

"It's part of one, yes." Dave said as he took the box and put it back on the top shelf. "I had a thing for poetry back in med school. I had a few books full of poetry I read for fun. I think infatuation or love is pretty diverse depending on who it comes from. We are all different people, right? So just look into your personality and make it yours."

"That sounds so easy." Carl said with a sigh, handing up another box.

"Ah.. But it's harder than you could imagine." Dave said with a grin, taking the box up and putting it away. "But when the inspiration hits you… boom, it flows."

"Alright." Carl said in understanding. At this moment Lois came in through the door with a plate full of sandwiches and a tray with four cups of hot tea.

"Looks like you got both of the boxes down. Thank you!" Lois said as the group came to claim their lunches.

"No problem, dear." Dave said, planting a kiss on Lois's cheek before grabbing his sandwich and tea. "We still have a few boxes to put back."

"Keep the Christmas stuff out though." Lois reminded him as she picked up a sandwich.

"As usual, Honey." Dave said before eating. Carl grabbed a sandwich and handed it to Hoodsey before pick up his own. After Lunch, they all finished up in the garage and brought the Thanksgiving stuff inside to start the decorating. At this time, Ginger had come back home and helped decorate the house with Dave and Lois. Carl and Hoodsey opted out and headed back upstairs to hang out before Hoodsey's curfew. Carl turned on the radio and plopped in a CD he had just bought himself last week.

"So when are you going to start writing?" Hoodsey asked. Carl rolled his eyes at him as he sat down on the second beanbag next to Hoodsey.

"Probably tonight… It's not like I’m going to start writing with you here. This is a personal matter."

Hoodsey laughed a little. "What if you need help with rhyming?"

"I won't. Stop teasing me, will you? It was your idea in the first place." Carl said as he threw a paper ball at his friend, hiding the small blush of embarrassment he felt grow on his cheeks. Hoodsey laughed and threw it right back.

"I gotta make fun of you sometimes, Carl."

"Riiiight. Because life would be soo dull if you didn't." Carl said clearly drenching the statement in sarcasm.

"You know it." Hoodsey agreed as he took out his rubber band ball out from his hoodie pocket.

"So what are you going to talk to Macie about?"

"I don't know yet, I still have a few weeks to figure it out. Are you going to still give Blake his tonsils for his birthday? It's like this first week of December right?"

"Yeah, I am. His birthday is December fifth. I think he is going to send out his invitations Monday after school. I also got him something else."

"Oh yeah? What is it?" Hoodsey asked as he tossed his new rubber band ball up in the air and catching skillfully catching it as it came back down to him.

"I got him a new bike." Carl said nonchalantly. Hoodsey raised his eyebrows at him in slight surprise.

"Wow. That's really generous, Carl." Hoodsey said tossing the ball upwards once more.

"I know… But it's only fair." Carl shrugged as he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. He seemed to have gone through another growth spurt recently. "He got me two presents for my birthday so after observing his belongings, I saw his bike is a bit worn out. A new one seemed like a good present, so I saved my allowance for a month and placed it on lay away until the day of his party."

"Can't go wrong with that. Maybe he could come with us when the eerie-con comes to town in March. We usually ride our bikes to there for that."

Carl nodded thoughtfully. "That sounds pretty good, Hoods. I almost forgot about that."

"How could you forget it? It's like… we have been going every year."

"I know." Carl said with a grin. "I forget things sometimes. You know that."

"What would you do without me?" Hoodsey asked.

"Be bored with life." Carl laughed. There was a knock on the door.

"Identify yourself." The pair said in unison.

"It's Dodie." She popped her head in the door. "Mom sent me to pick you up, Hoodsey. She wants you home now. Dinner is going to be ready really soon."

"Alright. I'll be down." Hoodsey groaned. He hated it when his mom sent his sister to pick him up. She waved to Carl and closed the door gently. "I'll see you later, Carl… and good luck with the ‘assignment’."

"Later." Carl replied as he got up to leave. Hoodsey showed himself out leaving Carl alone in his room with his thoughts. He got up, grabbed his binder and sat at his desk flipping to a fresh sheet of lined paper. He stared at it for a while, pen in hand. How should he start…? Knowing Blake, he is a sucker for proper English but Carl was no Shakespeare. He had a pretty large vocabulary but nothing like Blake's. He tapped the pen a few times as he thought to himself. He didn't wanna write anything too mushy but well explained. He looked out the window, noticing the sun setting. The clouds burning a bright pink, like Blake's blushing face he has seen too many times. He smirked as he recalled the night of the peace treaty signing. The night this all started. He thought about it and started scribbling. He kept this up past bed time as total inspiration flowed onto the paper. He would mess up every now and then, resulting in crumbled up paper being tossed over his shoulder but after being hit with total fatigue he rubbed his eyes and stretched. Picking up the two parts of his finished work he reread it over…

Dear Blake,

You wanna know what I first noticed about you? … That smile of yours accompanied by a small light pink blush. That's what stuck in my mind. I actually fell off my bed thinking about it. Granted, I didn't know what was going on at the moment, I thought I was going crazy. The second was your total gracefulness. You hold yourself very well, it makes me stop and stare every time. Your ever so common sighs reaches my ears like the sweetest melody and rings through my memory until it happens again. You maybe a little embarrassed by that habit of yours, but I look forward to it every time we chat. It distresses me a little to know I can't speak my feelings to you out loud but I am more than happy to write them down for you until we are able to freely state, whenever that may be. You are my favorite secret.

I miss you every night. I can safely say that you are my last thought before I go to sleep and my first thought when I wake up. I have said this before and I will say it again… You drive me insane… but I really wouldn't have it any other way, I'm not ashamed of it. I know you're not either but we will get through this together, if you let it.

I ask you to do one thing. Reply to me. Exchange thoughts with me. I would like to understand you on another level. Whatever is bugging you, write it down. I can help. I will do the same. This will help us fill in the gaps in our relationship. You are never a bother to me.

Yours truly,

Carl Foutley

He grinned a little, clearly pleased with his work. Not bad for a beginner. Not too mushy but soft enough to touch emotionally. He folded up the letter and placed it inside an envelope he had in his desk drawer. On the front of the envelope he wrote 'To: Blake' Once it was sealed he placed it in his backpack and crawled into bed, happily passing out towards a dream-filled slumber.

That Monday, Carl got up early and headed to school, toast in hand since he didn't give his mom a chance to make something. He had to get there before Blake and plant the envelope in his locker. He gobbled the toast down, practically power walking block after block toward the school. In a matter of twenty minutes he made his way down the hallways just as the doors opened. Locating Blake's locker he grinned to himself and slid the note into one of the locker slots and looking through it to see if the note landed safely incidentally spotting a picture of the two of them plastered in the back, almost completely hidden. Carl smiled at it and made his way out the school and sitting on the empty stoop. He yawned and closed his eyes for a bit. He nearly fell asleep as he was but felt someone watching him. He opened his eyes to find two big brown eyes staring at him about three inches away from his face. Not reacting, he took a deep breath and smiled.

"Good morning, Noelle." He greeted as he straightened himself up.

"Morning." she repeated as she sat on the lower level next to him. "Trying to reach nirvana this morning, are you not?"

"No, not really. Just resting until Hoodsey and Blake show up."

"It is unusual to see you here before me." She stated as she got into her meditating pose, taking several deep breaths. "But I do not mind the company, let's try to keep conversation to a minimum."

"Sure." Carl said. He wasn't going to talk much anyway. He returned to his own thoughts, closing his eyes. He rested his head in his hands, feeling the cool wind blow past him. He had accidentally fallen asleep like that, his mind entertaining him with near life like situations making him forget where he was. He was just staring at a tree blow in the wind watching leaves fall and dance around his legs until suddenly he had fallen into nothingness at a vast speed. Carl awoke startled, heart pounding at the false fall. He looked around him, lots of other students showed up and were talking to their friends before the bell rang. Noelle was still there but she was staring at him with a sly grin. Hoodsey was sitting next to him now giving him a knowing grin. He had cleared up that they weren't walking together to school last night.

"You had reached nirvana but fell out of it." She stated. "Nice place to be, yes?"

"Till you drop, yeah." Though he was pretty sure he was just dreaming. He looked up and spotted the Gripling limo in the distance. Excusing himself, he got up and headed inside the school to hide and watch Blake from a distance. He ducked out of sight in the hallway away from Blake's locker glancing out every few moments. When Blake walked in the school, He looked a little bit down. Carl carefully watched him as he placed his combination, popping the lock and once he opened the locker door the envelope toppled out and landing on his shoes. Carl watched eagerly as he picked it up off the ground looking around to see if anyone was watching him. Carl ducked out but watched as Blake placed the envelope in his backpack and setting out to homeroom. Carl felt his heart race with nervousness as he picked up his bag, heading toward his own locker down the hall. He placed his combination, opening the locker. He went to go pick up his math book but there was a folded up piece of paper on top of it. Carl felt confused as he picked it up, opening it up out of curiosity.

Carl –

We never had that dance at your party, you know. Maybe we could hang out sometime before vacation to make up for it? I would really like to get to know you more.

Always,

Heather Tilly

Heather Tilly? One of the twins. Carl felt his face burn slightly as he roughly pocketed the note and headed to homeroom before the bell rang. When he walked in, Blake had his face shoved inside a text book not noticing his presence at all. Grinning to himself, Carl easily drifted off into a daydream.

The day was normal. Blake blushed every so often during lunch but hadn't said a word all day. He grumbled in agreement when asked something, Blake Gripling never 'grumbled' or 'mumbled' anything. He was clearly impacted by the letter or something was wrong at home. At the end of the day, Carl trapped Blake at his locker.

"So, Blake." He said smoothly. "Wanna come hang out at my place today? It's been a while since you, me, and Hoods hung out."

"Oh… uhm… I really can't today, Carl…" Blake said rapidly glancing from Carl to his binder he was holding. "… Perhaps we could… reschedule?"

"Blake…" Carl said slowly. This is the third time he has swept him off this month. "Is there something going on with you?" Blake just huffed and hid his face in his locker. Carl could see he was blushing as he tried to look like he was searching for something in the back of his locker. Carl just stood there and stared at him. He couldn't help but feel a little panicky. Blake looked over at him in a sideways glance, gulped and passed him a folded slip of paper as he closed and locked his locker. Carl hid it in his pocket quickly before anyone saw anything. Blake hoisted his bag on his shoulder and gave Carl a distressed look.

"I shall see you at a later convenience, Carl." He walked around him and out the school. Carl frowned at the door as it closed behind Blake, him not looking back once. Had Blake rethought everything and distancing himself from him? Carl walked down the hallway as the last few students filed out the opposite way. He took the note out of his pocket and stared at it, still folded. He felt in his pocket and took out the crumpled, long forgotten note he had found this morning. He absent-mindedly tossed it in the trashcan and opened Blake's neatly folded paper.

Meet me in my treehouse at 5pm. This is dire and I must speak to you about this privately.

P.S. I rather enjoyed that letter this morning. I shall reply as soon as I can.

B.S.G

Carl panicked a little. What was this about? Is this the reason why he has been distant? He folded the piece of paper and slid it back into his pocket. Leaning backward into the wall of a deserted hallway he retracted to his thoughts. At least his letter was enjoyable. He sure hoped that this wasn't going to be the end of it though. If something was this serious, Blake might just call it off. Carl had just gotten comfortable, He though Blake had too until all the avoiding happened last week. Blake hadn't called at all. Maybe this will explain his behavior. One thing was for sure… Carl wasn't going to give up easily. He pounded his fist into the brick wall before making his way back home where he locked himself in his room skipping dinner. He wasn't hungry. Actually this whole situation made him a little sick. He counted down the minutes, just staring at the clock and at the picture he had next to his bed. Blake's smile took the edge off of the unbearable anticipation but it was still very much there. Carl plopped down on his bed and stared at the ceiling for a while. He couldn't stop thinking and analyzing the numerous times they had spent together. Where had he gone wrong? Did he somehow offend Blake? Had they gone too far too fast? He wished he knew.

At about 4:30pm, Carl hopped on his bike and pedaled his way through the back entrance of the Gripling property. He climbed up the tree and waited for Blake to show up, his heart pounding with nervousness. He had never been so scared in his life. He sat himself on the sofa and leaned into his knees, keeping himself from shaking. He looked at his watch every few seconds, feeling as if time stood still but sure enough it was just ticking by really slow. This anticipation was killing him. Surely enough at exactly 5pm, Blake had climbed his way up and when he spotted Carl he just stood and stared at him like a deer caught in headlights.

"So… Blakey-boy… What's all this about exactly?" Carl said as he felt the tension in the room thicken with each second. Blake shifted his weight from one foot to the other, automatically sighing in response. Carl stood up and stared at him, moving closer to him. Blake quickly walked past him and headed for the mini fridge in the far corner at the other side of the room. This made Carl's blood boil in anger but he tried keeping calm.

"Ginger ale?" Blake asked quietly, holding a can out to him.

"What? No thanks, Blake. You need to tell me something so spit it out all ready." Carl growled in slight annoyance. Blake closed the fridge and bit his lip nervously as he walked towards Carl taking his hand, walking him to the sofa, and sitting down next to him.

"Okay… Carl… I believe my sister knows.. about us…" Blake said not looking up at Carl, but down at his hands. The first thing Carl thought of was Ginger. What if Ginger had blabbed? Carl sighed somewhat relieved knowing what the problem is. Though, he personally didn’t see the big deal in it but he could see that it made Blake nervous.

"Uh… Okay. What should we do?" Carl asked quietly. Blake looked up and let his eyes roam around the room looking for solutions. He sighed and Carl watched him pale up in a matter of seconds. He was probably thinking about the worst solution ever…

"We could break it off… for a while… Until Courtney has no interest." Blake said in a near whisper, Carl felt his heart drop. Blake looked at him and softened his expression immediately. "I just don't want this spreading like a wild fire, you know how my sister is. It's not forever… Carl?"

"I can't let that happen. You are jumping to the worst solution ever." Carl stated. "How about we just try to lay low for a month or two. We hang out with the company of Hoodsey. Never alone. I hate the thought of that but I am not going to let you go. And plus, your sister should know what could happen to you and your family if she tells. I don't think she would want to give up everything again."

"Carl… It is for the best-" Carl started to panic.

"No, Blake. It's not. I can't- ILOVEYOU."

A moment later, He had just realized what he had blurted out. He instantly felt his body heat up and his heart pounding like crazy but he didn't feel sorry for what he had said. Blake was looking up at him with wide eyes, his cheeks turning red. "W-Wha-… C-Carl?"

He looked away from Blake and shifted uneasily in his seat. The tension in the room had broken but the silence was so loud. Carl didn't know how that had come up. He never knew he would be the first one to say the 'L' word. It just came out. Carl looked over at Blake and he was still red-faced but he had a small smile gracing his lips making his expression as soft as he ever seen it. He looked angelic. At this moment, He knew he wanted to keep him forever and protect him from everything. Blake eased his way closer to Carl as though he was trying not to startle him. He placed a hand on Carl's cheek and moved his face so he was looking directly at Blake's large crystal blue eyes.

"You mean that?" Blake asked his voice quivering ever so slightly. Carl gulped dryly and nodded placing his own hand on top of the hand on his face, moving it to his lips placing a light kiss on it not looking away from Blake's stare. "Say it again." Blake demanded before the kiss took place. Carl looked up at the ceiling and closed his eyes, feeling his heart pound as though it was trying to escape his chest. He opened his eyes and stared at Blake, whom was looking at him rather eagerly.

"I… Love you, Blake." Carl repeated softly in fear his voice would crack. Blake smirked and moved his hand down to the back of Carl's neck instantly crashing his lips against Carl's, making the most passionate kiss imaginable. Carl instinctively grabbed Blake by the waist, pulling him on top of him as he slid down further into the sofa. Carl bit down lightly on Blake's bottom lip making him whimper before grazing his tongue across it for entry. Blake let him in gladly without hesitation. Blake ran his hands through Carl's hair and giving it a slight tug in the back making Carl moan lightly. Blake released his lips as he trailed kisses down and across to Carl's neck, this was new. Carl caught his breath from the furiously passionate make out session, feeling Blake kiss and nibble on his neck. Carl blushed madly as he noticed how good it felt until he started to feel extremely light headed. He looked down at the passionate blonde still doing his work, He was sure he was going to be leaving with a mad hickey on his neck from him. Carl nudged his head towards Blake's making him cut contact, He placed a kiss on Blake's lips. Signifying that it was enough. Blake looked up at Carl and offered him a slightly guilty look.

"Sorry about that, Carl." Blake said as he cozied up to Carl's chest. "I got a little carried away."

"It's alright. Really. Just don't leave me, okay?" Carl said as he held Blake tightly.

"I won't… But I can confirm that this would most likely be our last meeting for a while." Blake said sadly.

"I can understand that." Carl sighed. "I'm not happy about it but I'll survive."

"My father started asking about girls." Blake said randomly after a few moments of silence. Carl chuckled a little.

"Parents do that." Carl stated. "It's normal."

"I might have to start dating them in high school to cover myself."

"Blakey. Don't worry about that stuff yet… We will cross that bridge when we get there."

"Okay… I just can't help but worry." Blake said looking up at Carl. The sun had started to set, making the room dim. Carl ran a hand through Blake's golden locks and he smiled down at him reassuringly. "Whenever we possibly do get there… I want you to have a girlfriend as well. Before I do."

Carl frowned at him but turned that into small smile in a second. "Whatever you say, Blakey-boy… Let it be." That seemed to calm Blake down because he didn't talk until Carl shifted underneath him.

"It's near curfew for you, Carl." Blake grumbled.

"I don't care." Carl stated. "If I get grounded then it would give me a reason to not surprise you with visits."

"Always so positive." Blake said as he lifted himself up off of his chest, much to Carl's dismay. "But you shan't get in trouble. I don't like it."

"Yes sir…" Carl groaned sarcastically as he sat up in the sofa with Blake smirking at him. He stood up and stretched obviously stalling.

"Must I kick you out?" Blake warned, crossing his arms out in front of him in disapproval.

"Now Blake, ol' boy…. You wouldn't do that to me, would you?" Carl said in a false shocked tone. He was waiting for something to be said before he left. "Especially now, you wouldn't leave me hanging out to dry, Right?" Carl put an arm around Blake's shoulders. "I mean I did sort of spill my guts out here… and then some."

Blake answered with a bright pink blush as he realized what was going on. "Good night, Carl."

Carl frowned as he felt the burn of rejection hit him right in the face. That was cold… He had to say it first. Now Blake had control over the relationship. Curse him… He left himself vulnerable. He wanted to be cold, so be it. "Just like that, huh?" Carl retracted his arm and walked to the exit as he felt anger enthrall him. "Fine… Later, Gripling…. Much." He didn't mean for that to sound bitter but it did. Reflecting how he felt. He climbed down the tree and ran off on his bike without a second look, pedaling as fast as he could. His eyes were burning as he slammed his bike down in the garage, running up to his room without saying anything to anyone, locking the door behind him... Did Blake not feel the same? Had he, Carl Foutley, Been made into an epic fool? He turned around to look at himself in his mirror. There… plain as day… Blake's purple love bite clashed against his tanned skin. He frowned at it. How the hell was he going to hide this?


Blake just stared at the exit of the treehouse as Carl had left. 'Later, Gripling… Much…' Carl's clearly hurt voice echoed in the silence. What had he done? Did he just push Carl away in the worst way imaginable? Regret slowly poisoned his body. Why couldn't he just say it? Drat! He had waited for that opportunity for years and he just shoved him off. He is such a fool… He just destroyed everything in a matter of seconds. He fell to his knees as his legs felt numb underneath him. He wanted to call Carl back but he had been long gone. He had to make it up to him… an envelope fell out of his jacket's pocket and onto the floor in front of him. He stared at it, remembering how he found it this morning. He was supposed to reply back. He picked it up and held it gently in his slightly shaking grip. He had to make it better. Without thinking, He picked himself up and ran into the house, straight to his room. A fire crackling in his fireplace had greeted him with comfortable warmth, but he failed to notice it. He was cold inside due to his past actions. He sat himself at his desk, laid out Carl's letter and pulled out a sheet of stationary. He instantly began writing furiously as if his life depended on it.

That all that night, Carl hadn't slept. He just stared out his window. He was much too angry… too hurt… He got up, forced himself to take a shower and get ready for school before anyone was even up and ready. He wrapped his scarf around his neck before pulling on his jacket. He grabbed his backpack and stormed out towards school. He was determined to avoid Blake Gripling and see right past him during classes. He didn't exist. He walked into the school building and headed straight for the boy's bathroom where Hoodsey soon joined him.

"Hey Carl… Why'd you need this again?" Hoodsey said as he held out a white jar to him. His mother's concealer/ foundation make up. Just like he asked for the night before. Carl didn't say a word as he grabbed the jar from his best friend, taking off his scarf in the process revealing the bright purple mark right on his neck. Hoodsey's eyes grew wide.

"Whoa! Where did you get that?!" Hoodsey blurted out. Carl just glared over at him as if it was a stupid question. When Hoodsey realized the cause and his eyes to grow wide, dropping his jaw. "You didn't… Did you?"

Carl crinkled his nose in near disgust – not entirely true but the thought made his stomach churn at that particular moment, remembering the events that took place last night. "No. Of course not. Why would you just jump to that?" He continued to open and apply the make up to his neck. The spot was really sensitive, it almost made him wince. Hoodsey leaned against the sink and sighed in relief. Carl frowned at him while he dabbed the make up in attempt to blend it but it wasn't completely covered. He continued to dab on more.

"What's with the sour mood?" Hoodsey questioned calmly.

"…We had a fight." Carl said shortly.

"After that?" Hoodsey blurted out once again motioning to the mark.

"What’s with the fifty questions routine?" Carl snapped as he blended the make up once more, the hickey now covered.

"Sorry… Here…" Hoodsey pulled out a compact and dabbed the powder on top of the covered area. "You don't want it to come off."

"Thanks." Carl muttered. "I’m sorry for snapping."

"No problem." Hoodsey said snapping the compact closed and shoved both items back in his backpack. "Once again… You're lucky my mom has the same skin tone as you… let’s get to class... I assume you don't wanna be near Blake."

"Affirmative… Let’s go." Carl said picking up his stuff and they headed out of the restroom, straight to the classroom. He didn't need to go to his locker until after lunch. He and Hoodsey sat at the back of the room and pulled out magazines for the both of them to pass time until homeroom began. Blake sat at his usual seat up front where Carl and Hoodsey would be normally. Carl glared at the back of Blake's head when he wasn't staring at the same page of the magazine for twenty minutes already. When the first bell rang he rushed past Blake and went to his first class period. He tried to think about what he was going to do when lunch period came around. Just ignore him… That's the best he could think of so that's what he did. Hoodsey, Carl and Blake sat in their usual spot but it was awkwardly silent. Hoodsey did his best to start conversation. Blake gave one word answers and Carl grumbled as he pushed his corn around his tray or held a full conversation with Hoodsey totally bypassing Blake. Not once did he look at him. He didn't want to. Every time he did his stomach dropped like a rock. Carl had enough and decided to leave the table, not even clearing his tray. He just picked up his things and left the lunch room. He stomped off to his locker to grab his books for his next class. When he opened it he was staring a monogrammed envelope in the face, addressed to him. His heart jumped up to his throat as he instantly knew who had placed it there. He didn't want to touch it. He just sneered at it as he shoved it inside his book he slammed his locker shut and stormed off to class. Being the only person in the classroom, he stared at the text book in front of him, angrily tapping his pen on it. He fought with himself as he considered opening it but quickly decided against it as people started to file in. He spent the class period just staring at the book with the exception of answering questions in class. Ms. Zorski especially interested in him today. Low and behold - He was held back at the end of class. She looked up at him sympathetically.

"Is everything okay, Carl?" She asked softly. "You were quite distracted today."

"Yep, peachy." He said shortly. She softened her expression even more than usual. "I'm fine, Ms. Z. Just a bad day."

"Alright, I believe you." She said patting his shoulder. "If you ever need to talk to someone, my door is always open.

"Sure thing. See you tomorrow!" He said as he rushed out of the classroom to get to his last class for the day which passed by in no time. The envelope taunted him from his backpack as he tried to focus on his geography work. This is just madness… Why not just open it and read what it says? The contents might hurt him more. He frowned at the thought and mentally smacked himself for being such a wimp. This just sucked, big time. How could one person make Carl feel this bad? As the bell rang he met up with Hoodsey at his locker so they could walk home together. Hoodsey sighed loudly as he closed and locked the locker door.

"I had to comfort Blake when you left lunch period." He said as they walked down the hall. "I don't know what happened between you two but this has to stop sooner rather than later, Carl."

Carl rolled his eyes inwardly as he shoved his hands into his pockets. "It's not like I enjoy this, Hoods…"

They exited the school and started heading toward Carl's house in silence. Hoodsey looked over at Carl as though he had something on the tip of his tongue he really wanted to say. Carl frowned at him as he kicked a stray rock with a great amount of force, making it airborne.

"What?" Carl spat out. Hoodsey crossed his arms out in front of him.

"It's just… Carl, I have never seen you like this before. I'm a little worried here." Hoodsey muttered. Carl now felt the need to explain the situation. Carl sighed and face-palmed himself.

"I know, Hoods." Carl muttered. "But I haven't exactly been hurt this bad before."

Hoodsey gave Carl a sympathetic look. Carl was starting to feel pity emit from him, making Carl feel a little sorry for Blake for some odd reason.

"Stop feeling bad, Hoods." Carl said suddenly. "It's throwing me off."

"Carl…" Hoodsey said softly. "You're already off for one… And two… If you're hurt then let's talk about it! You're my best friend… I don't like seeing you like this…"

"I get it." Carl said in a flat tone. They turned into Carl's property, entered the house, and headed straight for Carl's room. Once they were inside Carl locked the door and turned on the music just in case he had eavesdroppers. "I'll talk about it…"

Hoodsey sat down on his beanbag chair patiently. Carl ran through the situation in his head wondering where to start. "The main problem is I basically blurted out… my… uh.. love for him… accidentally… out of panic…" Hoodsey stared up at him with a shocked expression. Carl started to pace, he didn't want to look at Hoodsey, he didn't want to feel the sympathy. "After this happened…" He motioned to his neck. "He basically shoved me away. I don't get it! I’m not at all sorry for what I said but after what happened… I am starting to regret it. How did he get to be so good at being so… emotionless?"

"Well…" Hoodsey started slowly. "That doesn't seem like him… I always thought he would be the first to spill the beans…"

"No kidding… This is a huge mess… Why did I have to say it? Really!"

"Now, stop beating yourself up…" Hoodsey said as he watched Carl pace beside him. "He obviously feels bad about it, Carl…" Carl snorted inwardly feeling another surge of bitterness course through his being. "I’m serious… He was almost in tears when you left lunch and I am pretty sure he spent the next period in the boys bathroom crying since he wasn't in class…"

"Honestly… He deserves to feel bad about it." Carl said bitterly. "You just don't do that to a person you care about. He could have at least said something."

"I… agree. To an extent, He shouldn't have left you hanging like that." Hoodsey said as he played with his hoodie string. "But look at it from his point of view… Maybe he's just scared, Carl…"

"And I'm not?" Carl stopped in his tracks and sat on the floor. "Ugh! This is so hard, Hoods!"

"You both are on different levels. His is just a little more… strict."

Love sucks… Carl felt his eyes burn as he hid his head in his hands. He felt like he was at square one again. Lost and confused. Why was life so complicated? "I would do anything to be a kid again…" Carl muttered as the CD finished, leaving the room silent. This was the exact thing he was afraid of in the first place before his birthday came around. For the first time since this situation happened, Tears were threatening to fall. Hoodsey saw this and just simply placed an arm around Carl, doing his level best to comfort his best friend. Pain wracked and rattled madly in his chest.

"It’s okay to be upset." Hoodsey said comfortingly. How could this kind of pain exist? He mentally begged for it to stop. Carl hastily rubbed his eyes as they felt like they were holding his weight in tears. Carl just breathed deeply in silence trying to keep himself composed. Rejection never took this kind of blow on Carl before but you could assume that being denied love was far worse than being denied a shrunken head or a complete larynx to keep his eyeball company.

"This just sucks…" Carl sniffed emptily as he had fully calmed down. He was exhausted from this rollercoaster ride. The pain stayed steadily rattling through his body but his heart just pounded slowly in his chest. Hoodsey held out his water bottle but Carl shook his head. "Thanks, Hoods."

"Don't sweat it, Carl…" Hoodsey said in an understanding tone. "That's what best friends are for, right?" Carl forced a smile towards him, Hoodsey clapped his hand on Carl's shoulder reassuringly. "Don't give up right yet, Carl… It's not the end… He will come around."

Carl looked at him, brows furrowed. Not the end yet. Usually Hoodsey says to dump him. Carl seriously considered it too. 'I'll survive.' He remembered saying again and again to keep Blake at bay. It's true he will survive but if this type of situation becomes repetitive then he wouldn't be so sure about it.

"Sure hope so…" Carl muttered. "And soon." Hoodsey gave him a sheepish look. "Don't feel bad for me, Hoods… I really don't want you to."

"I don't feel bad for you… I just hate that you're going through this…" Hoodsey said honestly. Just then there was a sudden car horn blaring outside the house, Hoodsey's face automatically fell.

"Hoodsey!" Lois called from the bottom of the staircase. Hoodsey looked at Carl, He just shook his head at him.

"Its fine, Hoods." Carl said. "I need some time alone anyway."

"Alright… If you’re sure…" Hoodsey said as he got up and grabbed his bag. The car horn blared once more. "I’m just a call away, Carl."

"Thanks… Now get going before the police arrest your mom for disturbing the peace."

Hoodsey laughed and let himself out. Carl spread himself out on the floor of his bedroom, not having the energy to get up and lay on his bed. His mind was finally quiet. Such dramatics that can happen in a 24 hour time frame. No thank you. Carl wasn't even mad anymore… He wasn't anything… He felt nothing except slight contempt but with a moment's pass, that too fell out. He fell asleep like that, just totally emotionally drained.


Blake just sat in his treehouse at his work desk all day in silence as he thought about everything. He couldn’t even find the strength to paint his feelings. He completely deserved Carl’s cold shoulder act. He was too upset at the situation to stay in school past lunch period. He had Winston get him claiming sudden illness, which wasn’t entirely a lie. He couldn’t bare seeing Carl in class. How much pain he had caused him. All he does is cause pain to others, especially Carl. More so in the past years but that was what he was aiming for. He sorely regretted it all now. No matter how much he tried to reason with himself that those actions were for the best, deep down he was terribly remorseful. All the hurt feelings had just now overflowed his soul.

Blake groaned to himself and pulled at his hair trying to not think of all the wrong he had brought Carl Foutley as the memories of his past ran through his mind like a vivid movie. How could he be so idiotic?! In the past, he should have just been the better man and not have retaliated like he did. He should have known that revenge never brought any good to either party. Basking in Carl’s momentary anguish was horrible. He was horrible. How on earth could Carl ever be so smitten with him, this atrocious person he has grown to be? He doesn’t deserve such a partner. Sure, in the past, Carl was just as rotten but he had been nothing but good to him in these past few months. All he is supplying is a massive heartache at every turn. He really has nothing good to give and it’s not fair at all. All this internal torment was driving him into madness, Blake was sure of it. If he was feeling this bad, he couldn’t even fathom what he was doing to Carl’s mental stability. This pushing away and pulling him back in, just to push him away again. Blake did warn Carl about the fact that he could be stable enough for comfort. He was just stringing Carl around in circles. Blake has never felt so poisonous as he did now.

“Master Blake, sir?” His intercom at his desk rang out, startling him out of his hours of despair. His heart pounded in freight at the loud sound.

Blake took a deep breath before pressing the button to respond, “Yes, Carmen?”

“Dinner is to be served soon. Are you well enough to join the family or should I prepare a helping for you?”

“I would rather take my dinner in my treehouse. I am far too busy with my studies at the moment.”

“Alright, sir. Sorry for the intrusion.”

“Not a problem. Send my regrets to Mother and Father.”

“Will do, sir. Your meal will be sent to you momentarily.”

“Thank you, Carmen.” Blake dismissed with a small frown. He sighed deeply and placed a finger to his temple as he sunk further into his troubling thoughts. It would be a prayer answered if Carl ever wanted to be around him again after this.


Carl was eventually woken up with a few big bangs at his door. His head pounded painfully as he sat up, dazed. Eventually he got up, rubbing his eyes as he opened the door coming face to face with his mother.

"Sup, Momster?" He asked with a yawn.

"Dinner…. your favorite. We miss you at the dinner table, kiddo." Lois said with concern. Carl felt his stomach growl angrily in hunger.

"I'll be right down." Carl said.

"Are you doing okay?" Lois asked as he walked past her towards the bathroom.

"Yeah. Why?"

"I’m just worried about ya." Lois said leaning against the wall. "Haven't seen you much at all these past few days. My mother intuition is nagging at me like crazy…"

"We will talk later, Lola." Carl said with a small smile. "I’m kinda starving. I’m going to wash up then I will be right down."

"We'll be waiting." She said softly as she headed down the staircase. Carl's smile fell as he turned to go into the bathroom. He washed up and in a matter of seconds he slunk his way down the staircase where everyone was in the dining room conversing quietly. He stood at the bottom step as he listened into his family's conversation.

"I'm actually worried about him… Am I doing something wrong here?" Lois whispered in total concern. Carl got a weird feeling of guilt as he heard his mother say that.

"Mom, I don't think you should have anything to worry about. He is a teenager now." Ginger said optimistically. "Should I remind you how I was at thirteen? There’s a lot to deal with at that age."

"I suppose its okay…" Lois sighed. "Where is he? His plate is getting cold… CAR-"

Carl walked in right then with that same smile he gave his mom not too long ago, he sat down in the vacant spot at the table automatically attacking the food right in front of him. Everyone stared at him for a second before returning to their plates and conversation that wasn't about him. Carl didn't pay attention, he was way too hungry to talk. After he downed his second helping, he started to feel normal again.

"Wow…" Lois said after he had cleaned his plate. "I haven't seen you eat like that before… and that's saying something! You still up for dessert?"

"Lay it on me, Lola!" Carl said with a grateful smile. Lois smiled back and handed out the prepared slices of raspberry cheesecake. As dessert was being devoured he filled his family in on things that were going on in school (nothing too personal). He felt happy to be with his family after he had secluded himself from them for the past few days. He even laughed a little while washing the dishes with Dave. When everyone had gone to bed he was in his room sitting at his desk and staring out the window. The half-moon glowed down on him as he built up his thoughts once more, as he does.

Was he still depressed about the situation? He couldn't tell. Carl tried to think about Blake and everything that had gone on between them. He felt his stomach churned as he remembered how Blake shunned him... But he still had butterflies as he remembered the spark. That exciting chemistry was truly intoxicating as he pulled it from his memory. Carl smiled at it as he felt the giddy mood arise from not that long ago. Carl realized he really did love Blake Gripling... even if Blake refused to admit his feelings. Carl's face scrunched at that unappealing notion but then something nagged at his short term memory. The letter...



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