The Difficulty of Growing Up

Chapter 9

Carl took his English textbook out of his back pack and placed it in front of him on his desk. The cover was cracked open where the envelope was. By the look of it, it had to be at least three pages full of Blake's words. Whether they were apologetic or not was something Carl did not know for certain. He could hope they were, right? He has that right... He has the right to torch the letter unopened but he had no need to do so anymore. He wanted nothing more than to hold Blake close to him and never let go whether he felt the same or not. He delicately took the letter out of the textbook and ran his finger over his written name, admiring the perfect penmanship. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath as he mentally wished for it to be a good letter. If it wasn't then he wouldn't know what to do with himself. He flipped it over and rested his hand over the loosely sealed envelope and ripped it open quickly as if it were a band aid. It was opened now, he had no reason not to read it. The expensive stationary peaked up at him as he stared down at it a little frightened. Carl knew he was definitely overreacting... He has been doing that a lot because of this boy... He gulped it down as he uncovered the symmetrically folded paper. Why did he have to be so perfect? Carl sighed and banged his head against his wooden desk. He was ready to read it but why is he stalling so much? He was afraid to be hurt, he had to remind himself. "Come on, Foutley..." He spoke to himself out loud. "It's not going to kill you... Just unfold it and read it!" Shutting his eyes he unfolded the rather thick letter, not peaking until it was completely flat on the desk in front of him. Looking down at it, he saw it was upside down and he grinned at himself before flipping it into the correct position and laying his eyes on the well written words before him...

My Dearest Carl,

I feel a bit embarrassed as I start this letter, because I am afraid you may interpret my words in a way they weren't meant to, different to what I really would like to express; so I beg of you to read it with a great deal of care and attention...I hope you can forgive me and I hope you'll read this letter till the end. I just want apologize, to say that I've made a big mistake pushing you away like I did. This is me, Blake Gripling, 'spilling my guts' out to you fully. No holding back. No hesitation. I want you to know this: I have nurtured this huge affection for you for a very long time now and my greatest happiness would be to share this feeling, this joy with you. I know you must be feeling a bit cross towards me and I can understand your reasons all too well. I know the extent of my mistake and I have even tried to put myself in your shoes, I understand the depressing and uneasy situation I've put you in, by being childish and insecure. But I have trust in your generous heart, I trust your pure soul and I sincerely hope that you give me another chance, one last chance for me to make you feel happy and very much loved because you truly are. I do love you, I was such a fool to not reciprocate. I spoke without thinking and I know that is no excuse as to how I acted. Forgive me.

Let me tell you about the first time I met you, you remember it right? I had just been promoted up to the second grade after my first week of school started. I had apparently been declared as 'advanced' by the school psychologist. I was playing with some action figures during recess... alone. Everyone was talking about me and I was feeling embarrassed about it. I could hear their conversations. 'He is so young and short. How is he that smart to skip two grades?' 'He's just a kindergartener.' 'So this little shrimp is Courtney's brother?' … Gossip is a brutal thing. You were the first one to talk to me directly. You and Hoodsey were observing that eyeball of yours you found in the dump that summer. You just grossed everyone out bringing it for show and tell. I found it fascinating. You caught me staring at it. "Gripling... Right?" you asked. I nodded, you smiled. "Wanna help give this baby a name? It's about time to give it one." I felt accepted. I smiled and came over to your area. I looked over it, observing each characteristic. Until one name spoke to me, "Feldman. If you ask me." After looking at it for a few seconds you agreed. That was that. The bell rang and we went about our day. It wasn't until third grade we started feuding. I forget the argument that started it all. No clue at all as to what it was about but our acquaintanceship broke and deemed us sworn enemies... until this year, of course. I had admired you from the beginning. The humiliation and slight torture made no effect on that. No matter how I had acted.

You are this amazing and wonderful being and I suppose I sometimes feel undeserving of your presence, hence the reason I sometimes 'shove you off' as you would say. You have always intimidated me slightly because you are such a good person. Who am I to hold you? I am just an inferior preteen who spent most of his eleven and three-quarter years plotting against you and trying his hardest to make life as difficult for you as he could... I do trust you understand my motives for doing so... Revenge, yes but I just wanted you to accept me once more. Now you have for some unknown explanation. I suppose what I am trying to get at here is why do you love me, Carl? I don't mean to question you but more like try and understand what you see in me. You wouldn't know this but my perception of myself is not all that great. I do not see what I have to offer someone as brilliant as you. Especially since I have denied you my full attention all because of my family. It was unpleasant having to present those terms to you. You have a large heart and this is only crushing it, I can see it. That is why I jumped to ending things between us temporarily. You deserve to be loved unconditionally and yet you still chose me and my conditions. It makes me feel grateful and unworthy at the same time. This is everything I have wanted for years but I feel off sometimes. It's not what you want to hear but it's the truth. But as bad as my outlook of myself may be, I feel your kind spirit rub off on me... I am a better person with you around me. For once I like who I am ever since we started viewing each other in a friendlier light. I am learning how to love myself with you around. That is important, Very important indeed. Thank you for being around me, Carl.

With Love,

Blake S. Gripling

Carl read and reread the letter about six different times before he sighed of total relief. However, he did not know about how Blake viewed himself... but it's getting better, right? Carl sighed out loud as his head reeled back to life. This was a lot to take in all at once... Why would Blake question his feelings? Hadn't he made the reasons clear? To Carl, Blake was perfect. His imperfections made him even more perfect. Carl got up from his desk and plopped down onto his bed, suddenly feeling extremely tired.

He does sound depressed... This made Carl feel really bad about this whole thing. Maybe he needs some space to work on himself and get it together. This thought made Carl even sadder. How could you just regress into a friendship when you feel so strongly about them? It won't be forever but it seems like it would be the best thing to do, for Blake's sake. Never would he have thought about giving Blake up... but it was for his own good. Carl fell asleep with that thought, leading into situational dreams concerning the entire thing. When Carl woke up that morning, He was surprisingly calm but he felt a little sad because of what was to come. He had to find a way to get Blake alone today. They needed to talk about this and hopefully he would listen. He actually met up with Hoodsey this morning. As they walked side by side, Hoodsey could sense something off about Carl...

"Are you doing alright, Carl?" Hoodsey asked.

"Not exactly.. I'm better than I what I was… But..." Carl paused trying to think of how to explain what has to be done. When he stopped talking Hoodsey was looking at him like he was waiting for a punchline to a joke.

"But what?" He asked after a few moments. Carl looked at him with a saddened but knowing expression. He didn't tell anyone about the letter. He totally forgot about it until last night.

"Blake wrote back yesterday..." Carl said quietly. Hoodsey shifted his backpack on his shoulder.

"...What did it say?"

"He loves me back..." Carl said with a small smile but it faded quickly. Hoodsey smiled at him, looking relieved.

"That’s good!" Hoodsey said. Carl shrugged uneasily and Hoodsey frowned a little. "Right? That's what you wanted?"

"Yeah... but he questioned me, asking me why I loved him... Then he proceeds to explain how he sees himself... I-I think he's depressed, Hoods."

Hoodsey frowned and looked down at the ground. Carl did the same thing, walking in silence for a moment. "What kind of things did he say about himself?"

Carl thought for a second, pulling bits and pieces of the letter from his memory. "He is inferior and undeserving... unworthy... he doesn't see what he has to offer since he has conditions to our relationship..."

"Um... Talk to him about it... If it seems like he is depressed, then maybe a relationship isn't something he needs right now... He needs a friend. He needs you but not all of you." Hoodsey said in an uncertain tone. "He might need to work on loving himself before he can..."

"...Before he can love me..." Carl finished, feeling the sting of that sentence. Hoodsey patted his back in support before they continued to approach the school grounds a head of them.

"It's going to be okay, Carl... Whatever happens, we will still be friends with him and help him through whatever he is going through."

Carl looked at Hoodsey with an almost pained expression. "That is going to be near impossible... Do you know how hard it would be going from boyfriend to just friends? Especially when you truly feel things for that person?"

"No... But either way, He still needs you. A true friend and a positive person in his life." Hoodsey said as they approached the school stoop. Carl stopped as he saw the black limo coming towards them. Soon Blake stepped out and talked to Winston through the open door. Carl sent Hoodsey inside the school. He just smiled at him reassuringly and disappeared into the crowd. When Winston drove off, Carl nervously approached Blake just as he turned around to go inside. Blake frowned but looked Carl in the eyes.

"Good Morning, Carl." Blake muttered. Carl smiled a little at him.

"Morning, Blake.. Uh.. Can we talk?"

"Of course. But when? Lunch period?"

"I was thinking more of like right now." Carl said Blake looked at him, confused. The first bell rang and everyone filed inside the building. Carl placed a hand on Blake's shoulder and pushed him towards the opposite direction. Blake held himself back a bit.

"We have classes to go to, Carl!"

"This is a little bit more important." Carl said holding Blake's shoulders so he couldn't move from him. "Let's go to my house... Everyone is working, the house is empty for the day. We won't be alone for a long time and we need to talk A.S.A.P." Blake was silent but then looked around swiftly. He huffed and rolled his eyes, nodding in cooperation. Carl looked around to see if there was a teacher watching, seeing that there wasn't the pair took off towards Carl's house. When they were out of school grounds, they walked in silence side by side. Until Blake looked up at Carl and cleared his throat loudly.

"What's so important, Foutley?"

"Three things." Carl said sternly. "The situation, the letter, and... you... Most importantly, you."

Carl looked down at Blake who was avoiding his gaze and playing with the bottom of his jacket. "Why me?"

"Because I am concerned about some stuff, Blake..."

"There is nothing to be concerned about. I am perfectly fine."

"Right and I am the prince of monkey land."

"And that doesn't surprise me one bit, your highness."

Carl rolled his eyes and grinned down at the rather tired looking blonde. He had bags under his eyes and he didn't have that rosy color in his cheeks like he normally did. He wasn't at all okay.

"Why would you lie to me when it is extremely clear that you are not fine?" Carl said feeling a little bit of guilt brewing in his stomach. "You look sick actually... Have you not been sleeping well?"

"I haven't been sleeping at all, if you must know." Blake replied honestly. "I can't."

As they approached the Foutley household. All the cars were gone just as Carl said. Carl took his house key out of his pocket and unlocked the front door but immediately locking it behind him after the two of them entered in quickly. Now they were alone. Now they could talk.

"You can't sleep?" Carl asked as he took both of their bags and tossed them up the staircase. They sat down at the dinner table and Carl served some orange juice. Blake shook his head, looking uneasy.

"This whole thing has sort of messed up my nerves a bit. I can't relax."

"How do you feel about the situation?" Carl asked with concern. Blake sipped his orange juice and Carl spotted a pink tint grow on his cheeks.

"I-I... Carl, I am so very sorry about doing that to you... I truly did not intend to hurt you at all."

"You have been forgiven, your letter was really sweet but I am concerned about you. You don't have good self-esteem." Carl stated. "You can talk to me, Blakey."

Blake sighed. "True, I do not have love for myself... at least not as much as I should."

"And I don't see why not... You... You are remarkable, caring. You are totally different from what you were as a kid.. You amaze me and you don't have to try.."

Blake pursed his lips closed and diverted his gaze down at his glass. "Why?"

"Don't ask me..." Carl smirked. "You're the one doing it.." Blake glared at him as a red blush crept across his nose and cheeks, making Carl's smirk wider. Blake sniffed and blinked rapidly making Carl retract his smirk and took grasp of Blake's hand, surprising him. "Don't cry.. Just tell me what's going on with you... Talking helps a lot!"

"Just... It's us! I love you... so much it hurts ...and it scares me... I sometimes don't understand why on earth you chose me? Me of all people, Carl! After what I had done to you in the past? I didn't know I would feel this way when I actually had you but I do! I don't deserve you.." Blake huffed, pulling his hand away from Carl's grip as tears scrolled down his pale cheeks, he quickly swept them away. Something seemed off about what he just said. Carl raised an eyebrow at him.

"...Why do you sound... guilty?" Carl asked softly, his heart racing and his mind reeling. Blake gazed over at him with wide eyes, unblinking.

"Because I am... I suppose. If that is what this feeling is. I have been absolutely haunted with this feeling for weeks now."

"I don't understand. What are you saying? Everything has been great up until a few days ago." Carl asked as he watched Blake play with his hands, clearly nervous. "I don't recall you doing anything so bad..."

"Because you didn't witness it but I did it, none the less."

"Did what?" Carl questioned with a small laugh. "It can't have been that bad if I didn't know about it! I always find out." Blake just shook his head silently, Carl bit the inside of his cheek out of irritation but this needed to be done. They needed to get past this. "Just tell me, please... If it involves me, I. Want. To. Know." Carl said strictly. He was feeling a little scared, what was he asking for? Blake took in a deep breath.

"I-If you must know... Our last year of grade school... I-I was seeking revenge against you... Th-The opportunity presented itself when you were gambled off to that.. odd.. Polly girl..." Blake tried to explain. "S-so... climbed a telephone pole and snapped photos of you enjoying yourself with Polly and presented them to Noelle explaining.. that you had essentially..erm.. chose...Polly over her... It was around the time you had showed up to school with that diamond ring on your finger..." Blake cleared his throat and looked away from Carl all together. Carl was a little confused but he could finally piece together the empty slots leading to the end of the first round of his relationship with Noelle. How did he know about Polly anyway?... Carl felt a little bit of anger lick at him but he cared for the troubled blonde more. Noelle had clearly gotten over the entire ordeal, Carl was aware of some of it given the cryptic, detail lacking explanation Noelle gave when she slipped into the house the night his mother got engaged.. Carl just reached out and grabbed Blake's hand. He looked at Carl with shock written all over his expression, Carl just smiled at him. "W-What... I don't understand..."

"Go on... I'm listening." Carl said softly.

"I-I Carl... I demolished your relationship with Noelle! I broke her down, you should be angry right now."

"I am... a little. I won’t lie." Carl said with a shrug. "She didn't deserve it but truth be told, I don't like her any more..." Blake's trembling ceased. He hesitated but smiled over at Carl and held the hand on top of his. "Noelle and I have been done for ages.. I love you."

"I love you too..." Blake said softly, his voice trembling a little. Carl smiled, not paying attention to the hot blush creeping across his face.

"Is that all that's bothering you?" Carl asked. It seemed that it took forever to get that out of him. Blake shrugged in response.

"That would be most of it."

"Okay then, I gotta ask you something serious." Carl said matter-of-factly. Blake cocked his head to the side a little.

"Alright then. Ask away." Carl caressed Blake's hand slowly as he composed enough courage to ask. Blake just looked at him with raised eyebrows wadding in the anticipation. When Carl didn't say anything for a few moments, Blake got a little antsy. "Um... Carl, The wait is sort of slaying me over here... No rush but.. Can you just verbalize what is on your mind?"

Carl smiled nervously and sighed. "Okay, Blake... Are you.. um.. have you felt sadder than usual about yourself recently... uh.. Before I blurted out the 'L' word the other day..?" Blake frowned in thought for a moment. "Like.. have you felt depressed?"

"Not anything from the usual." Blake stated with a small shrug. "Happy about you, though I know deep down you are too good for me. I would assume that is kind of like being depressed."

Carl furrowed his eyebrows, the fact that he kept saying that he was too good was starting to annoy him. "Do you have anything you like about yourself at all?"

"Not necessarily, no." Blake said in a low tone of voice. "What are you getting at? …If I may ask." Carl felt a familiar pain in his chest as he thought about what he has to do. He has been thinking about it all morning. "Why do you have a rather pained expression on your face?"

"You don't love yourself at all?" Carl asked once more unbelieving. Blake looked at Carl, searching his face.

"To be honest, I was never taught how to do that... Unlike my sister, she loves herself way too much but she is like that naturally." Blake said with a small laugh. "I just simply do not know how to. I look at my faults and I attempt to improve upon them. Do understand that as a child I was criticized never praised... urged to do better, I might say."

"I praise you now." Carl stated quietly.

"I just simply see it as a compliment, which makes me happy. I'm accepted by you. That is all I desire."

Carl gave him a small smile. "I want you to actually learn to like yourself, Blake. You probably never thought you have a big heart but... You do and you have a lot of love inside of you waiting to come out..." Carl said his eyes not leaving Blake's gaze. "But in order for it to come out... you have to learn to love yourself... How can you love another without feeling love for yourself?"

Blake thought for yet another moment and eventually nodded and shrugged at the same time. "I suppose you have a valid point..." Blake slowly smirked at Carl. "Turning into quiet a Shakespeare in your words, kind sir... Rubbing off on you am I?"

"It would seem so." Carl answered with a small grin.

"How could one resist the charm in a lovers words?" Blake acted almost dramatically, placing a kiss on Carl's hand. Carl smirked to himself as he observed Blake. He seemed happy but it didn't match the situation, was he trying to deny it?

"But alas you are not hearing the words being spoken." Carl answered rolling his eyes. "How can one love another without loving themselves first?"

"Maybe it is something we could work on." Blake sighed going back to regular dialog. "It is important, yes?"

"Almost crucial." Carl said with a raised eyebrow. "It's very necessary for me, personally... And for good reason too."

"I agree... It will not be easy for me that is certain."

"It's okay... I will support you and so will Hoodsey. But there is one thing to it..." Carl hesitated. Blake looked at him questioningly. "Don't freak out... but in order for you to focus on yourself, we need to not be together..."

"Y-you – wait... You are... dumping me?" Blake sputtered, clearly taken aback. "W-we just made up! I don't understand..."

"It's not the end! No.. Just a break!"

"You said you love me, Carl..." Blake said taking his hand away from Carl's grasp once more.

"I do love you! I swear." Carl said freaking out a little, He knew he wouldn't be able to do this right. Blake is going to end up hating him... Great! Carl thought sarcastically. "It's necessary. It won't be forever.. As soon as you figure yourself out, we will be back together in no time, Blake. Promise!"

Blake crossed his arms tightly in front of him. "I just have to work on myself...?"

"Yes. I'm still yours." Carl sighed slightly. "I would never leave you without a good reason."

"I guess it would be a good thing... You need to get a girl to go out with you as soon as you can then since this obviously won't happen overnight..."

Carl looked at Blake as though he had sprouted a second head. "Blake..."

"I’m serious... I won't do anything but maybe go out with a girl to the movies or something to satisfy my father. You dating girls will keep you out of suspicion range with Courtney." Blake said thoughtfully. "Two birds one stone, yes?"

"I-I guess... But I do believe that won't really stop your sister. I am pretty sure she is familiar with the concept of 'beards'.. If she isn't then I am sure Miranda will be happy to fill her in." Carl explained. "That plan might just fall through. Just saying." He wasn't going to tell him that Ginger knows about him and his feelings. He would go into a riot for sure.

"Just go along with it then." Blake said airily.

"One of these days, you are going to have to actually talk to your parents about this." Carl said in a low voice.

"Eventually, I will. It's not like you came out to your parents yet."

"Correct, but I'm not exactly afraid to either." Carl said swiftly as he got up from his seat. "How about I fix us some lunch?"

Blake nodded. "I am quite famished... Excuse me, but I am going to go use the rest room."

"Take your time, we can eat up in my room. We still can't leave the house for another three hours and I could use your help on our geometry assignment that is due tomorrow."

"All right. I shall meet you upstairs in your quarters." Blake said before leaving the room.

When Blake got to the bathroom he quickly locked himself in and sat down on the floor. What had just happened? This was so incredibly strange. Blake let his eyes wander around the clean room, observing the surroundings. At least this isn't the worst thing that could happen. They would be back together in no time.

"Let’s see... What are some of my good qualities..." Blake muttered to himself. "I am skilled in painting and writing. My last work of art really set my emotions into play. I am incredibly proud of that one... I didn't know it was possible for me to love someone like I do Carl..." Blake smiled as he thought about him. Those piercing green eyes never fail to look into his soul with just one glance, they were unbelievably captivating. Also, that devilish smirk of his made him weak every time he got caught in it. Carl Foutley has always been Blake's kryptonite, no matter how much he had denied it to himself in the past.. Carl. Foutley... Carl. Foutley... That name has been attached to him since his first memory. How hard will it be to hold back when they are together? It might be the hardest thing he has to do. It might also get awkward because of it but it won't be permanent. One thing was definite, it did not feel like Carl had broken up with him at all but to satisfy him, he gave Carl his word about working on himself for the mean time. Who knows, maybe he will learn a thing or two about himself in the process. He certainly hoped that would be the case. Blake just pushed the brake up away to the back of his mind, not wanting to be burdened with it right now. He thought back to the moment when his relationship had grown past a normal platonic friendship, what a surprise that was. He was well aware of his feelings toward the orange haired boy since the beginning of the sixth grade. He probably harbored those feelings well before then but that was when he definitely started to notice it. He remembered the confusing war that went on inside his mind as he watched Carl Foutley from afar, even sometimes avoiding him all together until Carl noticed and started picking on him even more until he got use to him once more. That was when they started arguing. Sometimes the arguments turned slightly physical. Those to which he lost all of the time since Carl was always taller and stronger than he. The many times Carl had pinned him to the ground tortured Blake inside and out since he was not yet accepting the fact that he had feelings for the older boy. At that time, He could not even process how he had developed said feelings for someone whom relentlessly tormented him throughout his childhood.

Blake got up off the floor and turned on the faucet just in case Carl was outside the door. He looked at himself in the mirror. He examined his perfectly groomed hair. Ten minutes each morning. He had no need to get highlights put in his hair unlike his sister. He looked at his complexion, almost flawless. He learned how to use concealer properly for the little bit of acne that started showing up last month. He wondered if Carl struggled with acne yet. His large bright blue eyes were lined with long, straight lashes. He had grown a bit since the last time he noticed himself, but of course Carl was always maybe a few centimeters taller than him. He kept his slender figure precisely how he liked it, He had evened out nicely since he was a kid of seven years. He was growing to be a striking young man. "I might say, like what I see. This is a start." He stated proudly to himself. He never dissected his reflection up until now, he always looked at himself superficially whilst grooming himself for the day. He smiled to himself as he marked this as a start of his relationship with himself.

Carl sighed loudly, that was really close… He almost lost him for good. Thankfully, it bounced back nicely. Carl got out some sandwich condiments and started forming chicken breast sandwiches, sliced diagonally with fruit salad on the side. He filled the tray completing it with two tall glasses of ice cold apple juice and carried it up the stairs into his room. Blake was still in the bathroom so Carl just spread his work out in front of him. He started eating his lunch as he looked over the paperwork. Blake eventually walked in, closing the door behind him. Carl smiled up at him before he sat down in the beanbag chair next to him.

"I was starting to think you snuck out the window or something." Carl laughed.

"I considered it." Blake said with a small grin. "But I just simply cannot leave you behind in geometry now can I?"

"I hope not! Especially since I made you lunch in return."

Blake released a small chuckle before picking up a half a sandwich. "Without further ado, how may I help you?"

Carl wasn't really having trouble but it was something to keep Blake around without it being weird. What to say? "Uhm... Surface area of rectangular prisms... The book work is filled with it and I just can't get it right."

Blake's eyebrows shot up in surprise. Carl slapped on a small smile. Surface area of anything was simple but it was the first thing that came to his mind. Carl mentally slapped himself up side the back of his head. Blake ran a hand through his blonde locks, Carl shifted uneasily trying not to stare. Was Blake doing that on purpose?

"Okay... Um. It's as simple as all the other surface area formulas. The only thing that is different is the number of sides. Rectangular prisms have two ends and four sides as you can see here in the book." Blake explained easily. "The opposite sides have the same area, so find that answer first; Length times Height times two sides... Then find the area of the adjacent sides..." Carl zoned out and let his mind wander since he knew all this already. He looked over at Blake who was doing an example problem, explanations just going in one ear out the other. He really didn't want to be deemed single. If it was appropriate, Carl would just kiss him right now. Blake was glowing right now whereas minutes ago he was gray with restlessness. Was Blake happy not being with Carl? No one can glow on command. He instantly pushed that thought out of his head. He might just be happy that Carl isn't ignoring him anymore.

"Carl?" Blake's voice impatiently pierced his thoughts. "I am asking you to try a problem like I showed you. Did you even listen to me?"

"I always listen to you." Carl said taking the notebook from Blake's hands. "Your voice has a sweet tone to it."

Blake rolled his eyes and handed him a pen. "Just do the problem, loverboy." Carl gave him a smirk before solving the problem, pretending to struggle a little but he solved it correctly. Blake looked over it, shrugged, and tossed the notebook down. "You got it... without flaw."

"Thank you for clearing it up for me." Carl smiled, Blake let out a small laugh before pulling out his own books. They worked silently for about an hour, Carl completed his work load and Blake was reading his assigned chapters for his literature class, taking notes as he reads. Carl flipped through one of his text books without purpose. Sitting in silence was starting to feel irritating. Holding back was definitely not something Carl was used to doing now a days. He ached for the closeness the two of them had achieved seeing that it had to be cut short, leaving Carl feel rather empty and unsatisfied.

"Carl?" Blake asked in a cautious tone with widened eyes. "Whatever are you staring at?" Carl noticed his view was geared towards Blake's lower half of his face

"Nothing I was just thinking..." Carl smiled turning his attention to his text book noticing it was his history book. The class that barely gives out homework. He shut the book and closed his eyes.

"Are you doing alright? If you don't mind me asking, of course... You are looking rather blue."

"Nothing from what the situation would allow me, Gripling." Carl said.

"Well that's rather cryptic." Blake said putting his book down, searching Carl's face for any more tell-tale explanations. None was found. "Maybe you should be the one to start talking now? Since there is obviously something that is eating at you... rather painfully by the looks of it."

"It's nothing to be concerned about, I'm just adjusting my behavior."

"Oh?" Blake asked raising an eyebrow as he set his book and notes down on the floor beside him. "Why?"

"You do realize what had happened downstairs, right?" Carl inquired seriously.

"Of course." Blake said amusingly rolling his eyes and simply waving his hand as though shooing the fact away as he said it. "We broke up! As a matter of speaking anyway. I am not daft, Carl."

"Are you trying to tease me?" Carl narrowed his eyes suspiciously at Blake.

"Oh, I'm just making fun, Foutley." Blake smiled. "Lighten up a bit, will you?"

Carl threw a nearby pillow at Blake, hitting him in the face. "How's that for lightening up?"

"Swift thinking, Ol' Chap. But you made a grave mistake..." Blake said as he held the pillow in both of his hands.

"Oh yeah?" Carl questioned innocently. Blake looked at Carl with that smug expression of his, something Carl was used to seeing as a kid when the two of them exchanged insults day by day.

"Yes, you see... It seems like you have given me a weapon!" With that, Blake swiftly swung the pillow at Carl with much force whom had no more around him, Blake swung at him repeatedly as he retreated on his bed to get his other bigger pillow. Soon the pillow fight was in full swing until Carl had lunged over at Blake, pinning him on top of the long forgotten homework assignments hitting him in the face without protection since Carl had taken his weapon seconds ago before straddling him so he couldn't kick Carl off.

"Hey! Ow! TRUCE! TRUCE!" Blake yelled with each hit. "I SURRENDER! MERCY!"

Carl pinned him down even more by blocking his arm flailing movements with the pillow he was using. Carl just smiled down at him. "Mercy, huh? That word is nowhere in my vocabulary, Gripling. Carl Foutley doesn't show mercy to anyone. You should know by now!" Blake struggled against the pillow holding his arms in place with no use he gave up and glared up at Carl who loomed over him with a smirk plastered on his face. "That's right, you can't squirm your way out. Oh no, what are you to do?"

"Truce?" Blake asked as he squirmed uneasily. Carl just looked down at him clearly amused.

"Hey, that sounds familiar." Carl teased. "We've been down the road of truce many a time, all of which deemed temporary since you keep attacking me."

"Correct but you always throw the first shot." Blake countered. Carl just chuckled as Blake tried to free himself to no avail. Something stirred in Carl that he hasn't felt in a few weeks.

"Struggle as you may, Blakey-boy." Carl growled into Blake's ear as he played with the boys’ hair. "There is no use, you can't get away without my consent."

"So you are just going to hold me here forever?" Blake asked in a smart tone trying his best to keep a smug look plastered on his face.

"If I feel like it..." Carl laughed.

"Oh, misery is mine..."

"Well if that's the case, I think I might!" Carl smirked, continuing to play with Blake's soft locks. He might as well since he has him in his control.

"Carl..." Blake whined quietly. The sound of Blake whining set a certain satisfaction in Carl. That usually meant he won. Blake huffed irritably in defeat.

"What is it?" Carl asked. "Feeling uncomfortable?"

"A bit." Blake admitted as his cheeks grew pinker and pinker with each second. Carl just smirked even more, if possible.

"That is kinda the point."

Blake muttered something under his breath which Carl couldn't hear but quickly replaced it with, "Please, Carl?"

"Oh, what is this?" Carl asked in mock astonishment. "Blake Gripling begging for release."

"Yes, Carl. Now if you could be so kind... Please let up... You know sometimes I think you have a sadistic streak in you somewhere."

Carl just chuckled and shook his head at Blake's comment. "Only with you because you make it so easy. Does that make you slightly masochistic as well, I wonder? ..Oh well.." Carl shrugged in amusement. "Why didn't you ask in the first place? That would have been much less humiliating for you." Carl took the pillow off Blake and threw it to the side the first thing Blake does is place his hands firmly on Carl's hips to prevent him from leaving for a millisecond before moving him off to the side and scooting a few feet away from where Carl was. "Blake?"

"Excuse that..." Blake said quickly looking almost shocked at himself. Carl understood that for the most part since Blake had never really been grabby before.

Carl laughed a little as he sat on his knees. "Then I guess I'm not the only one who needs to adjust their behavior." Carl scooted closer to Blake to move off of the paperwork that scattered the floor. Blake shrugged, embarrassed. Carl offered him a small smile. He found it satisfying that he wasn't the only one trying to contain his behavior. Blake placed a hand on Carl's which attracted Carl's attention. Quickly turning his head to face him, Blake slowly moved a piece of Carl's hair out of his face offering him a soft smile. At that moment, Carl practically melted inside. This was impossible. How can he push him away from what is comfortable for them? Carl found himself moving closer to Blake's face as though it was some kind of magnet. Without stopping himself, he placed a light kiss on Blake's warm lips. Fulfilling what he has been wanting to do for the past hour. He couldn't find the will power to move away as his heart pounded against his chest. Carl laced his fingers with Blake's. This was so unfair, He was only hurting himself with this because after they pull away he is going to have to start again on pushing Blake away which he really didn't want to, He was happy. He was supposed to distance himself from Blake for Blake's own good. It was just too impossible. Blake snaked his free hand around Carl's neck, pulling him closer but Carl pushed against it breaking from the kiss. Blake looked at him with an almost guilty expression. Carl's emotions clawed at him as he pulled his hand away from Blake's. He really wanted to stay that way and be happy but he couldn't. At that moment, he felt... scattered.

"I'm sorry." Carl croaked when he found his voice, Blake bit his lip momentarily but then quickly smiled at Carl.

"No, that was completely my fault." Blake said nervously. "I didn't pay attention where I put my hand, I didn't exactly stop either..."

Carl shrugged as he moved away to collect the papers from the floor, the door suddenly opened revealing a rather passive looking Hoodsey, who had two manila folders in his arms. Carl nearly had a heart attack then and there.

"Homework delivery." Hoodsey stated as he dropped the folders down at the doorway before entering the room. "You didn't miss much. So what’s up?"

Carl picked up the folders and closed the door. "Nothing, just did what I needed to do... How did you get in?"

"Spare key under the mat. Duh… Everything okay?" Hoodsey asked as he sat in the beanbag across from Blake.

"Everything will be okay." Blake said as he took his folder from Carl. "But we are broken up for now."

That nearly killed Carl hearing that, for some reason he didn't believe that would be the case especially from what had just happened a minute ago. Then something popped up in his mind... Friends with benefits... Carl grimaced at himself for a second. That thought made him feel uncertain. That wouldn't change anything...

"Wow...” Hoodsey muttered. "A-are you okay?" Blake just simply smiled and nodded. Hoodsey looked at Carl and shrugged. If Hoodsey would have walked in a few seconds earlier he definitely wouldn't have believed it for a second. Blake smiled over at him and Carl smiled back as he gathered the papers that were still scattered around the floor. Hoodsey got up and placed a CD in the stereo system, the silence was probably too much. He couldn't blame him, Carl was also feeling the pressure from the sudden silence. He felt confused if anything. That was definitely the word of the year... Confusion...

"We should go to my place." Blake announced out of the blue.

"Why?" Hoodsey and Carl asked in unison.

"One: Change of scenery.. And Two: Father has been picking at me every day to bring you two over. He wants to meet you. So since I am growing tired of hearing it day in and day out, we should move this little get together to my quarters." Blake said literally counting on his fingers. "Excuse me, Gents." He got up and left the room.

"Totally random." Hoodsey stated as the door closed. "I wish you told me you were playing hooky. You haven't ditched since.. Elementary school! What happened to turning over a new leaf, Carl?"

"I didn't know what I was doing until I started talking to him." Carl shrugged. "It was the best way to get him alone to talk as much as we did."

"You really broke up with him?" Hoodsey asked not believing it. "He seems happy... or something. Not like someone who just got dumped."

"Yeah." Carl muttered. "I let him down as easily as I could. I told him that he needed to work on himself before being with me... But this mood he is in right now has me just as stumped as you."

"Was he depressed?" Hoodsey asked.

"I'm not sure... It seemed like it but he acted like it was normal. He described it so easily."

"That's conflicting." Hoodsey said. "...I ran into Macie today after school got out."

"How was it? What did you say?" Carl asked in a hushed tone.

"I just said Hi... I was too nervous to talk much. She is so pretty, Carl..." Hoodsey said with a sigh. Carl smiled and cringed a little at the fact he could feel the mush ooze out of Hoodsey's words. "She asked me about the Christmas party. If I was going, you know. I said yeah, of course... But I didn't have the nerve to ask her to go with me... Well, after that she just smiled at me and said she would see me there."

"You're getting there." Carl said encouragingly. "At least you know you can somewhat talk to her outside of your disguise."

Hoodsey smiled. "She is so pretty..."

"...You just said that..." Carl laughed.

"Sorry, I just can't get over it."

"You are purely smitten, my friend." Carl said as he shoved the papers into his binders, putting them in his back pack. Hoodsey just nodded with a wide grin. Blake walked back in putting his cell phone in his pocket.

"Winston will arrive in approximately five minutes." Blake said as he gathered the pile of papers Carl stacked for him. Looking through them, He hummed softly with each flip of a page. Blake did seem pretty happy given the current circumstances. After everything was accounted for, he put the papers in his backpack. Carl was almost bothered by how happy he was when Carl was having a hard time with everything. If only he could peer into Blake's mind to see what he is thinking about. That would make things a little more understandable. Carl pushed his backpack away from him not wanting anything else to do with it. He wondered how long it would take for Blake to get himself straightened out. Patience.. That was something Carl was just going to have to get use to since that's all that life keeps on handing him. Why was his confidence being wavered? Carl sighed to himself before Blake's cell phone rang which he quickly answered.

"Yes?" Blake asked into the phone. "Of course... We shall be right down momentarily.. Yes I know..." Blake sighed and rolled his eyes to himself. "...We shall talk about it later, Winston... Yes I know you worry but now is not the time.. Sounds good to me. See you in a moment, Thank you!" Blake loudly clapped the phone shut as he sighed in an irritated manner, grabbing his bag. "Well then, Winston is outside waiting." Hoodsey and Blake followed Carl out the house before locking it up. Winston was of course waiting with the door open smiling at the trio as they entered the backseat. Seconds after the door closed, they were off towards the Gripling household.

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