Chapter 20- Renewed Drive
After a couple of days of R&R, the boys rest up with Alex making his presence known. Much like how Josh envisioned his version of Alex in his comatose dream, he is a corny joke kind of guy. Only unlike his dream, he and Alex become great friends fast.
“So, man, ya girl got a girl she could introduce me to?” Alex asks one afternoon while the four of them grill out in the backyard.
“Well, you know she might, and I’ll ask, but when I head up there tomorrow morning. I need to make it a solo trip, but I will ask, I promise.” Josh responds, sitting between Alex and Justin.
James works the grill to find a new passion for cooking. Unlike before with technology, he’s replaced it with food and mixology, creating mixed drinks for his mother and friends when they have their get-together the previous night.
“Hey, steaks are sizzling, boys! How do ya want them?” He calls out behind the smoke from the grill.
“Medium…” Justin replies swiftly.
“Same!” Alexander calls out, cupping his hands over his lips.
“Medium-Well!” Josh yells, giving James a thumbs up.
James returns his full attention to the steaks and array of mixed vegetables wrapped in tin foil with the orders called out.
Time goes by kidding around with each other and talk about new plans when the phone rings. It’s a surprise for Josh and Justin when Alexander tells them it’s Tygan Automotive on the caller ID.
“Hello?” Justin answers after taking the phone from Alex.
“Justin, my boy, it’s good to hear your voice. Feeling better, I hope.” Mr. Tygan greets him.
Unsure of what to do or say, Justin simply goes along with the conversation in a casual manner.
“Yes, we’re both doing better. What’s up, sir?”
Not one to beat around the bush, Mr. Tygan gets down to business quickly.
“Good to hear. Listen, I’ve been going back and forth with your supervisor. If you both still want your jobs back, you can have them. You’re needed on Monday at eight o’clock at the downtown dealership. I got the settlement for the main location from the insurance company; so, it’ll take some time to rebuild. I like the work you boys do for us, but if you aren’t interested in coming back, we’re going to have to replace you.” Mr. Tygan explains, keeping his tone professional but friendly.
Justin’s nearly forgotten about their jobs, and he places his hand over the speaker to address the issue with Josh.
“Hey, Mr. Tygan, wants to know if we still want our jobs. What do you want me to tell him for you?” Justin whispers over to Josh, who is stunned that they still have a job.
“Yeah, I mean, we’re good for a while, but we can still at least work the summer vacation.” He tells Justin to answer Mr. Tygan.
Justin removes his hand and begins to explain things to Mr. Tygan.
“Yeah, we need our jobs, sir, and thank you. We will be there Monday morning!”
Delighted to have his two best detailers return to work soon, Mr. Tygan’s voice changes to one of excitement combined with gratefulness.
“Can’t wait, boys. Everyone has noticed the difference between when you’re here and when you’re not. Oh yeah, one more thing Simon quit the other day, so bring your friend you asked about to work. He just needs to fill out the application, and he’s hired.”
That’s something Justin isn’t expecting at all, but out of instinct, he thanks his boss and wraps up the call.
“I’ll let him know; thank you, sir! See you soon and have a good day.” Justin ends the call and drops the phone on the wooden table.
“Hey James, Mr. Tygan said you could work with us if you want to!” Justin yells, which surprises Josh and James, but what he wasn’t expecting is the response James gives back.
“Thanks but no thanks, I think I’m gonna find a restaurant job. Ya know here lately, all I wanna do is cook dawg!”
Unexpectedly Alex offers up a second option with him taking the spot when he asks about the job.
“If you don’t mind, what is the job, and if it’s easy, I’ll apply. I don’t know much about cars, but I can learn.”
Before Justin can open his mouth to explain, Josh takes the chance to break down exactly how simple their jobs are at the dealership.
“It’s simple; we detail cars inside and outside. Wash, scrub, and prep trade-ins for the lot after they come from the repair area. Since James ain’t interested, yeah, we’ll put in a good word for you.”
Alexander sticks out his hand for a handshake to confirm the deal. Justin doesn’t pay any mind to the changes. Unlike before, he would’ve been angry that the trio isn’t together.
The surprises don’t stop there as Robert, Justin’s cousin, drops in unannounced. He’s been waiting for the boys to get home to finish up with plans about their night jobs. When it was discovered the boys were out of commission, things changed.
“Hey, guys, got a minute, alone?” Robert asks, nudging for them to get rid of Alex.
Josh doesn’t waste time breaking down using code to talk about the subject at hand.
“Crew get tired of low waters on the barge?”
Roberts signals yes with a single nod.
“The water dropped too low, so they went ahead and shipped without any news orders. They’re gone, so anything else needing to be shipped is done.” He replies with his hands in his pockets to sign an official end to their deal.
Justin taps his fingers on the edge of his seat, unsure of how to reply. He remains silent, but James calls out from the grill.
“Good seeing ya, Robert; come back by for some food sometime!”
Again, Robert nods a single time then takes the clue to leave. A silent sigh of relief between the two boys is shared through their eyes when they look at each other. Alex seems confused and blurts out the first thing that pops into his mind.
“Do you guys deal drugs or something?”
They all get a good laugh and kill the notion in a flash.
“Nah, we used to ship things to a supplier, and the business went belly up. Nothing to worry about.” Josh tells him, smacking his hand off the table.
Shortly after Robert leaves, everything is said and done. The steaks are pulled from the grill and served.
James stands and waits to get the initial reactions. He’s thrilled when the only sounds from his friends are the ones of satisfaction and low growls of appreciation.
“Hell yes! That’s what I’m talking about; I think I found my calling!” James teases, throwing his hands in the air with the sweet sound of victory in his voice.
His reaction gives Alex, Josh, and Justin, a robust chuckle. James begins to stomp and dance in place as his personality changes from the silent one; always proceed with caution. He’s now a goofy, fun-loving care-free moron looking to get a laugh.
In the middle of his dance, the phone rings again. Josh recognizes the number being from Teays Valley. He’s undecided if he should pick it up or not.
“Dude, it’s ya, woman, pick it up!” Justin says to him.
It’s near the final ring before the answering machine picks up. Josh snatches the phone in the nick of time.
“Ms. Cline, hi, any new news on Josh?” Nikki begins before Josh can say anything at all.
His eyes shut, and his heart pounds. He prepares to finally speak to Nikki for the first time since the night of their blowup.
“Hi, baby, it’s me…”
A tremor in her breath leaves Nikki’s speechless when she hears his voice. Her world is turned right side out when he calls her baby.
“You’re home, oh my God, I’m on my way! I have to see you. I am so…”
Josh cuts her off in the middle of her ramble.
“I’m coming up there tomorrow, we need to talk, but yes, I am home. I can’t wait to see you. I just want to say I’m sorry. I’ll see you soon, okay.”
Broken-hearted Nikki sits there with nothing to say but only breaths into the phone.
“I’ll be up in the morning. We need to talk. You may or may not wanna hear this, but I love you, Nikki, bye baby doll.”
He ends the call, places the phone back on the table, and then covers his face with his hands rubbing them back and forth.
Out of nowhere, Alex offers some advice.
“Hey, I know I’m new here, but relax, man, you can do this thing. You’re obviously crazy about this chick, so man-up and grow a set of balls.”
His comments force a collective gasp from James and Justin. They sit straight up in their chairs with their eyes locked on Josh, prepared for him to blow up on Alex.
“Yeah, you’re right, but this just ain’t any ‘chick’ bub. This is ‘THE’ chick that I don’t want to kick her out the door, you know. I can’t force her to give up part of her freedom just for me.” Josh explains, still calm.
It becomes apparent that the other two fades away into the background, with Alexander and Josh talking back and forth at this point. Justin can’t believe how peaceful Josh’s demeanor becomes as compared to the past.
James can’t believe that Alex fits into the group so quickly.
“Forget that idea, man, look. You need to get ahold of yourself and handle this thing. You guys have been good friends to get to know so far in just a few days. I’m thankful most people don’t like my style, and I ain’t about to let you go down without a fight, bruh.”
“I appreciate it, but in a way, I am trying to be prepared for the worst. She can be a handful at times, bub. She can put it back on me.”
All three boys taunt and tease Josh for a few minutes with sexual noises and gestures. When their fun ends, Josh gets up from his chair to go over to the edge of the deck to turn the garden hose on his friends.
“Make fun of me, will ya!” He calls out, blindsiding James with a jet stream of ice-cold water. They head off in different directions while Josh laughs as a man possessed.
The rest of the day is spent outside drying out from the water assault. A pitcher of sweet iced tea and various chips sit on the table while the boys romp around the yard until Scarlett arrives to spend the evening with James at the movies while Justin takes off to visit Hilary.
A bored sensation between Josh and Alex forces them to drive Andy’s car down to Cruise Avenue, where they spend time until they return home to crash.
An early alarm brings Josh from his light sleep. On his way to the front door, he bumps into Momma C, who’s waiting for him in the living room.
“Remember the party starts at one o’clock sharp. Good luck, kid; need any advice before you go?” She says with him stopped by the door.
“I’m nervous if that’s anything… I uh, I don’t know what will happen, but I’m ready either way. I can’t ask her to give up her life just to please me, momma. It’s not right or fair to do that to her.”
She hooks her hand onto her robe, so she can get to her feet to address Josh eye to eye.
“Now you sound like a young man. I wish you the best of luck, but don’t hurt her; she’s been through enough like you. Be safe and give her one of these for me.”
She pulls Josh in to give him a mother’s hug for comfort and listens as he takes in a deep breath to help ease his rattled nerves.
Once his sunglasses are slipped over his eyes, Josh takes his leave for the car. Momma C stands in the doorway to watch as he backs out in his Probe.
“Be safe…” She mutters before she shuts the door, prepares breakfast, and packs items up for the welcome home party.
Nearly an hour goes by after Josh leaves and arrives in the small community of Teays Valley.
While he pulls up to the corner of North Newsome Street, he’s unprepared to see Nikki keeping watch for his car from her bedroom window. She hears his car pull up and runs outside to get her hands around his shoulders.
“You’re here; you’re finally here!” She screams with tears of joy.
“Sounds like you might’ve missed me just a bit.” Josh teases with his arms firmly embraced around Nikki’s waist.
They twist together a bit while still holding each other. They’re oblivious that Nikki’s parents watch from the doorway.
They’re on their way out of town for the weekend.
Once the young couple lets the other go, they walk back to the house where Nikki’s parents lay down some ground rules.
“Remember what we discussed, young lady. No messing around, or there will be consequences!” Her father reminds them both with a keen eye locked on Josh.
“I would never disrespect your wishes or your home, sir. I wouldn’t disrespect your daughter either.” Josh relays as he puts his hand out to show respect to her father and his wishes.
“I hope so, young man, now we’ve always liked you, just don’t go and ruin that. I’d like to see you come back again for the holidays.” He replies, accepting the handshake.
With a nod, her parents are off on their weekend getaway.
Nikki has every intention to break her parents’ rules put in place. She has an angelic smirk glued on her face. She stands with her lover on the stoop and waits as her parents pull away to go inside to talk.
Once they’re inside with the door shut and locked, Nikki shoves Josh into her room located just left of the front door. He lands on the floor, where she climbs on his lap, working her way down for a kiss.
“What are you doing?” Josh questions her intentions when he stops her before the kiss.
“Well… I…I’ve missed you, that’s what, and well, since you’re here, I plan to take advantage of you if you must know!” She informs, pushing his wrists to the floor to use her position to her benefit.
Josh utilizes his strength and picks her up straight into the air, where she plants her long legs around his hips that sends the wrong signal.
“Now that’s what I’m saying! Damn baby, take me!” She moans into his ear, clutched to his body.
Frustration becomes his strength that forces him to drop Nikki on her bed and take a couple of steps away from her.
“Shut up and listen, please, and don’t get the wrong idea. A few weeks ago, I’d been all for this, but we got to talk. Baby, I can’t wait.”
“Then get over it and come here! I spent two weeks worrying myself sick over you. Now that you’re right here in front of me, I want my baby boy!”
Their fight is about to increase in intensity in a rush when Josh makes his next statement.
“Am I still your baby boy? From what I gathered, the last time we saw each other, you left me, remember that?”
“What the fuck does that mean? You best choose your next words carefully!” Nikki says, sitting on the bed.
With his eyes shut, Josh brings up the night of their fight. The night that the boys nearly suffocated from poisonous gas.
“You left me, remember that? How about you calling me a liar. You think that felt good, huh? You nearly crushed me that night to where I wanted to drink again, but I didn’t. I haven’t because I promised you and I chose you!”
Nikki’s left discombobulated seeing him this upset. Something she’s never seen is Josh become vulnerable with his emotions.
She extends her arm out, wanting to bring him in close.
“You think I wasn’t hurt that night too? I nearly wrecked. I couldn’t tell you how many times from crying my eyes out. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. You’re all I thought about, and the next day I felt so bad because my gut told me you didn’t drink. I was too embarrassed to admit I was wrong. I called to talk, but then Ms. Cline answered and told me what had happened, and my heart dropped. You think I wanted my last words to you to be mean or that I hated you? Hell no! I love you, Josh! I’ll always love you.” She pours her heart out with her hand, still waiting for Josh.
“I know we’re still young but is this worth the hassle, honestly? I mean, I think about you as soon as I wake up, and you’re my last thought at night when I pass out. I love you, Nikki, and I don’t mean as I love you like in a high school movie.”
Josh sniffles trying to conceal the pain that surrounds his heart.
Nikki sits there torn to pieces on the inside. What she heard shatters her spirit. The man she loves with all her heart the same way he loves her just said he wasn’t sure about their feelings for each other.
“How dare you! Shut the hell up, you prick. How could you say that? You drove up here to be a dickhead! I gave you my heart and soul and even my virginity, and this is how you want to end it?” She argues, ready to unload a heavy attack on Josh to help ease the pain in her body.
“I don’t want to, but we’re only seventeen and still in high school. I don’t, no I can’t, take you away from the experiences like football games and time with your friends and everything else. I’m not a selfish person! All I know is how I feel, but I can’t ruin your life being almost an hour away and barely get time on the weekends.” Josh counters back to have Nikki understand his position.
Nikki sits on her bed while Josh stands there. The other waits for the next move to be decided. Their hearts are crushed, bruises stain their souls, their eyes overwhelmed by the pain of staring at each other.
“I guess I’ll go then…” Josh mentions breaking the extended silence in the bedroom.
Nikki gets to her feet, blowing by Josh to block his exit. Her arms and legs are locked in place to make sure he can’t escape without her fighting for the survival of their relationship.
“I’ll be damned if you leave me now! From the moment I saw you that night in K.C. while Justin raced, I knew I wanted to be with you! I waited for my time. I am not giving up on us that easily. Besides, we have like one year left in high school, and then we can move in together if we both go to MSU in Huntington. Ever thought about that fact, you moron?”
Her idea does make sense and something he never considered.
With the unexpected move of his hand, it glides smoothly along Nikki’s cheek. A cheap move that he knows she can’t resist. Once he sees that she’s about to melt like butter, he hurries to the side, taking her up in his arms.
“I don’t want to lose you! I can’t ask you to put your life on hold just for me.” Josh whispers in her ear.
“I can have both worlds, you know, there are five days to the week, and I get two to spend with you. Two days, we can make the most of our time together, and there are other things we can do too, you know. You are my world, and I mean it. I love you, Joshua Bradshaw, like no other.” She tells him in a soft-spoken voice while he carries her over to the bed.
Once their eyes meet again, Nikki uses her arms to pull Josh down to her with success, this time as a kiss happens.
Their heated passion commences all over again with a fresh start. It reaches a point where Nikki reaches for the tail end of Josh’s shirt, but before she’s able to rip it from his torso, he stops her.
“I promised your dad we wouldn’t…
Nikki places a finger over his lips.
“I don’t care! I want you right here right now!” She whispers into his ear softly, to be seductive.
“We don’t have protection, and we’re not about to risk anything happening.” Josh urges with the images of his dreams that flood his memory all over again.
Nikki disregards his words when she snatches his shirt again, ripping it upwards, then runs her hands down his slightly toned sun-kissed chest and stomach.
“I have it placed under my pillow. Don’t worry. I came prepared for today!” She whispers.
Josh desperately battles his sexual instincts for control over the situation. Nikki ups the ante when she stands up to remove her shirt, exposing the fact she’s wearing a blue satin bra.
He tries to keep his mind focused in a deep breath, but his urges want to take command.
“Still think I’m taking no for an answer?” Nikki mentions when she unbuttons her shorts, sliding out of them to the sight of an orange pair of silky bikini style panties.
The seductive war between mind and hormones ends after Nikki puts Josh’s hands over her breast, followed by a kiss.
A roll onto her back, Nikki gives him a seductive devilish smile as she realizes he’s about to give in to her demand. To his surprise, she reaches up underneath her pillow to pull out protection tossing it up to him.
“I told you, no, wasn’t on my mind today. So, I came prepared this time!” She tells him with a quick move to unsnap her bra just before she reaches out to help Josh out of his jeans and boxers.
“Can’t argue with that…” He mutters when he gives in after he removes her panties. He pushes her legs open and slides between them.
Nikki places the condom on Josh then places his stiffness right in position for him to shove inside as she tremors when he doesn’t take time to warm up to her body.
Her arms go around his neck to bring him to her to kiss while she moans in pure ecstasy as her body swells in excitement.
“Uh…Yes…God yes, babycakes…” She stammers between thrusts feeling him about to reach his point of no return.
One final thrust sends him into expending everything seconds before Nikki’s body tightens in her orgasm.
After their bodies finish, Josh collapses off to the side, short of breath.
“I could kill you. I promised your dad we wouldn’t do this!” Josh reminds her when he pulls her close to his body.
“I don’t care as he’ll ever find out anyway. Besides, it was worth it!” She says, kissing him on the cheek.
“Hey Josh, I have something I read not long ago, and I think it fits you. You are a raging sea imprisoned within a raindrop. I mean, you have all this stuff you’ve gone through, but you kept your humanity intact. I look in your eyes, and I see a whole other universe.” She says to him softly.
Once they cool down, it dawns on him that they need to get dressed and make an appearance in a few hours at the welcome home party.
“Oh damn, hey wanna ride with me to Uncle Timmy’s? They’re throwing a party for us. If you don’t wanna ride with me, then you can follow me in your car.” Josh explains with his head relaxed on the mattress.
“I’ll ride with you baby, just don’t drive like a crazy person!”
They get dressed, and for the first time in years, a burden isn’t added to the weight of Josh’s shoulders. Now he can feel a bit of the weight shift to where he feels happy. It’s a sensation he feels in the pit of his stomach every time Nikki smiles at him.
Through all the fights, letdowns, and disappointments, he can begin to undo the damage with a new path in life. Though the dreams may have been the result of him nearly dying, he looks to the Heavens above to be thankful to have a new lease of life and a second chance to make better choices.
“Ready to go?” He asks Nikki.
“I’ve never been more ready in my life,” Nikki replies, taking his hand to lead the way out to his car as they head back to party together.
The last of the mental fog from it all vanishes, and for the first time since he woke up, Josh can just enjoy the moment right then and there.