Youth

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Chapter 63

“Baby, make sure you get a size 5 in women’s. I think my feet shrunk,” Stephanie tugs on Aaron’s letterman jacket and kisses his cheek.

Aaron kisses her back tenderly, “Alright, go sit with the girls, I’ll bring them over,” She nods enthusiastically, her blonde ponytail bouncing around lively and turns to walk away.

“Dude, how do you do it?” Adrian asks in amazement, leaning his head on his hand, “I can’t keep a relationship for shit.”

“You stick with one girl and only one girl,” Aaron shrugs, “its not that hard. If you actually love her then you’ll just want to be with her. Not anyone else.” He takes their shoes off the counter and now it’s Adrian and I’s turn.

“I lost all my money to you, so you’re paying,” He says, shoving my shoulder towards the register.

“You lost all your cash, you still got a card,” I step aside and he groans as he walks by me, I give him a little pat on the back and say, “Nice try.”

“You’re so lucky I didn’t leave my platinum card at home,” Adrian grumbles, practically throwing my shoes at me. I can’t help but laugh and Aaron and Levi join in. “Hey,” Adrian grabs all of our attention and says, “Do me a favor and kiss my ass.”

His smile is genuine as he puts on his shoes, “I’m gonna sweep the floor with you dweebs.”

“Oh, you wish,” Mason dismisses Adrian’s comment, “Everyone knows I’m the pro-bowler in all of Chicago,” He grabs his recently polished bowling ball from his bag and starts wiping it off with a cloth.

“Fine, we’re placing a bet. Person who’s team bowls the highest score gets free dinner at any restaurant of their choosing,” Adrian puts his hand in between the both of them, waiting for Mason to shake it.

“And pays for all expenses the winning team needs paid, for a week of their choosing,” Mason adds, raising an eyebrow at his condition.

“Deal,” Adrian looks down at his hand, urging Mason to shake it. In a matter of seconds, Mason’s hand meets Adrian’s.

Sage finishes putting on her bowling shoes and stands up, “Now, it’s time to pick teams. We have to have an equal number. There’s eight of us all together and two team captains so you have six to choose from boys, make the right decision.”

Aaron grabs both of their wrists and pulls them in between them, “Rock, paper, scissors, best two out of three. Winner picks first,” The intensity to figure out who goes first is always the worst part of the game, “Ready?” Aaron is still holding onto their wrists, “Go!”

He lets go and the two of them start their rock, paper, scissors war.

“Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!” They say intensely as they throw out their signs. In the span of 10 seconds Mason has won one and Adrian has won one. They’re struggling to get the third one out though.

Finally, after another 5 or so seconds of them battling, Adrian won the first pick.

“I choose Levi,” He says quickly, like his mind was already made.

“Lukas,” Mason says almost as fast as Adrian had. I walk and stand next to him and after two minutes, our teams our decided.

Me, Mason, Sage, and Aaron against Adrian, Levi, Stephanie, and Madeline.

“We only have this lane for two hours so let’s speed up this process,” Maddie says as we’re putting our names into the system.

“Do you guys want anything? Soda? Food?” Sage asks, taking her card out of her purse.

“Yeah, just order two large pepperoni pizzas, mozzarella sticks, chicken strips, a large pitcher of Sprite and onion rings,” Adrian says, looking down at his phone. When she doesn’t respond, he looks up at her and she’s staring him down like he’s insane. He sighs and subtly rolls his eyes, “Take my card, you don’t need to pay for all of that,” He takes his card from his pocket and hands it to her, “Make sure you tell them to include tons of ranch, you can never get enough ranch.”

I watch Sage as she walks away and sit down next to Adrian.

“Looks like they didn’t invite Amelia,” I say discreetly, looking around to make sure nobody heard.

Adrian looks over at Stephanie and Maddie who look like they’re having a really intense conversation, “No, Steph did invite her. I guess she’s just a no-show,” Adrian’s face shows a certain amount of concern as he stares in their direction, “What do you think they’re talking about?” Adrian’s eyeing Madeleine’s body language or maybe just her body, I can’t tell. I take a look and I can see she looks tense, like Stephanie is telling her something that’s making her upset.

I shrug a little, “Probably nothing. You know, Maddie has been acting different since New York.”

“Has she really?” Adrian’s attention is drawn away by Sage who taps on his shoulder to give him back his card. She sits on his lap and he smiles, knowing he’s still got the green light with her.

“Yeah, you haven’t noticed?” Adrian shakes his head, distracted by Sage and I look at Madeline again. This time she’s looking at me too and I can really tell, something’s up with her.


The game is going well for Adrian’s team. We’re trailing behind with only 90 points. Mason’s been bowling a perfect game, Aaron and me aren’t doing terrible but Sage isn’t pulling her weight.

Madeline seems distant too, she just rolls the ball and sits back down. She practically never looks up from her phone the entire game.

It’s my turn and we’re in the 7th frame of the 2nd game. I get up to the line with my ball in hand and roll the ball for what seems like the 100th time. It speeds down the lane and every single pin falls, landing me with a turkey. I turn around, give Mason and Sage a high-five, and sit down.

“You’re doing really good,” Amelia’s voice is all of a sudden ringing in my ears and I nearly scream at the sound of it. I turn and see her standing with her purse slung over her shoulder, a small smile on her face.

“Amelia! You came!” Stephanie hops off Aaron’s lap and engulfs Amelia in a hug.

“Yeah, sorry I’m late. I had to help my Aunt cook dinner for her boss.”

“Actually, it’s great you came. You can take my spot,” Madeline kicks off her bowling shoes and slips her vans on, “I gotta go, I’ll see you guys later.”

She walks out of the bowling alley without another word and we all watch with puzzled looks. Why is she being so weird all of a sudden?

Amelia, though, doesn’t pay any mind and slips the shoes on. The second it’s Madeline’s turn, she goes up, takes a ball, and bowls a relatively perfect game.

Literally, she was the advantage the other team needed but we still have a close game. All we need is two more strikes and we win the dinner and all of our wanted expenses paid.

“C’mon Mason, you got this,” I encourage him by patting his back and he takes a deep breath, nodding slowly. He takes his ball off the rack and approaches the line. He rolls the ball and in a split second, he gets a strike.

We all cheer and Mason high fives all of us.

“We need one more. Sage, you really suck ass but please, this one time, get a strike,” I plead with her and she laughs as she grabs her ball.

“Do you really not think I can do this?” She scoffs, “I can get a strike with my eyes closed,” and just like that, she covers her eyes with one hand, swings the ball back, and releases it on the lane. The ball rolls and rolls and then hits the pins smack dab in the middle. Forcing a strike upon the pins.

We all jump up from our seats and I grab Sage in a tight hug.

“Oh my gosh, you don’t suck! You don’t suck!”

“I think that’s the first time anyone’s ever told me that,” We all laugh and Adrian grabs Sage by the waist.

“Who knew beating me could be so hot,” They start making out fiercely and I walk a short distance away to give them their ‘privacy.’

Amelia approaches me, her pastel blue floral dress reminding me of the summer before tenth grade.

“Hey, you did really well. I guess I have to pay for some kind of expenses?”

“You won’t be paying for me, one of the guys most likely will be,” She nods and tucks her curled hair behind her ear, “Look, I don’t know why you’re trying to infiltrate my life again but I’m just letting you know now that I can’t do it. You’re too much for me to handle Mel, way too much.”

“Ok,” She looks back at everyone who’s laughing and talking, not even realizing we’re a little ways away, talking, “I’m not trying to infiltrate anything. I’m just trying to get back to normal. I already told you everything I went through in Alaska. It was hard, I suffered a lot and I just thought that coming back to Chicago would give me some sense of security.”

“Maybe it will but just not with my friends, not with my school, not with anything I’m associated with. I don’t want to be around you Amelia. You screwed me up in the head, you made me think I wasn’t good enough. I started self-harming because of you. Everything you did had a negative effect on me Amelia. But you didn’t care, I was just collateral damage in your own fucked up game.”

“I already told you what happened Lukas, it was just the rainbow party and the frat party. That was it.”

“Right,” I bite my lip, “I’m not stupid like you think I am. Adrian told me everything you did. Everything.”

“You’d believe someone like Adrian? Rather than a girl you loved for years?” Amelia crosses her arms defensively but I can see the concern and hurt drop from her eyes instantly, they’ve transitioned to spiteful and angry, “You think you know everything but obviously Adrian never told you about what he and I did.”

Amelia raises one perfectly sculpted eyebrow at me, “Funny how he was at the rainbow party and particularly enjoyed when my color was smudging the others.”

“Adrian would never do that,” My eyes dart over to him and he’s minding his own business, making out with Sage.

“Alright, don’t believe me. I’ve seen photos of Adrian and your little lover on Insta too. You better make sure those two stay apart or they might do what we did,” She gasps with a small smile tugging at the corner of her lips, “Or maybe they already have.”

Thoughts swirl throughout my head and I don’t know what to believe. Have Bo and Adrian done anything before? I mean, would she even do anything like that? She hasn’t even kissed me yet. But knowing Adrian he’s probably tried something.

I need to get to the bottom of this.

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