The Angel,The Devil,The Nerd

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Chapter 33 - Explanations

CHAPTER 33 - EXPLANATIONS

NATALIE'S POV

Once out of class, I started walking towards the cafeteria, pretty fast even, because with Eric we agreed that while we can't sit together at lunch, not without attracting attention anyway, we could at least be quick and then meet in the gym, beneath the bleachers, so yeah, I was pretty determined on ditching Aisha pretty soon once I'd satisfied my rambling stomach.

But ... just as I was halfway to my destination, I heard someone calling me. Turning around, I spotted Kyle running to me, which made me bite my lips in anxiety. Now, how do I face him? I haven't seen him since Friday, when I so mindlessly ditched him and he even saw me all wrapped up in his nemesis' arms ... how can I look at him like nothing happened?

In these weeks we've gotten so close, and while now I realize that my feelings for him kept shrinking (in favor of Eric, in case you were doubting), I feel like we could be good friends, because once gone past the blushing and everything when being around him, I truly felt that we were becoming friends. And now?

I was truly happy when he asked me out, it was the realization of a dream I'd been harping on since freshman year, even though part of me was conflicted, but ... then Eric appeared at my door and we kissed and ... well, you know the rest.

"Hey ..." I greeted awkwardly once he'd reached me.

Kyle gave me a small smile, not as bright as his normally are and quite embarrassed even, in fact he grazed the back of his neck, looking around before repeating: "Hey, Nat ..."

I tried to smile at him, but all that reigned between us was a very awkward silence, interrupted, better said, breached only by a few kids swarming around us as they headed towards the cafeteria. When Kyle glanced behind me, towards that same place, he cracked a light smirk.

"I guess I'll make it quick, because your boyfriend doesn't seem too happy ..." He commented, ironic and a bit sassy, so I turned around and, obviously, spotted Eric by the entrance of the cafeteria, watching us with a face that might have not been a real scowl, but surely he wasn't happy about it either.

Part of me wondered why, I mean, Kyle and I were just talking, well, about to start talking, possibly to explain everything, but the other soon reminded me that, one, my boyfriend was never in the best terms with the boy in front of me, two, Eric knows I've had a crush on Kyle for a long time, so ... well, I guess it's easily resumed in one word: jealousy.

I'll admit, inside, part of me giggled at the thought of Eric being jealous of me. The other scowled, though, taking it as a sign he didn't trust me.

When we locked gazes, Eric hinted behind me, like silently asking what was it all about. I couldn't really explain from afar and neither did I really know what Kyle wanted to tell me, so I just shrugged. My boyfriend clenched his jaw and stormed off into the cafeteria. Turning to Kyle, I sighed. I guess we'll have our first couple fight later in the gym.

Kyle didn't smile, just gave me a sympathetic attempt at a smile. Actually, he looked different from the usual, kind of flustered and ... troubled. This time I was able to give him a reassuring smile that he picked up, so the tension faded a little and in the end he sighed. "Ok, uh ... I wanted to ... well, settle things between us, I mean ... on Friday, we ..."

"I'm sorry." I blurted out, interrupting him, and he chuckled lightly, shaking his head, but I continued, even if I didn't really know where those words were coming from and with what courage: "I'm sorry. It happened all so fast. I wish I had an explanation, but I ... well, don't. It just happened and it might not be kind to say, but ... well, yeah, in that moment I forgot about everything, so even our date, because ..." I bit my lips, fidgeting with my hands, as I tried hard not to blush at the thought of Eric and I making out by his car, so openly, where everybody could see us and maybe even my mother did.

I cleared my throat, trying not to give away the silly smile wanting to erupt as I thought of my boyfriend. Yeah, cheesy, I know. "It's just that I ..."

"You don't have to justify anything, Nat." Kyle cut me off, a bit aggravated, but still keeping something of his lovely attitude. "You like him. It's clear. Since everything with that tale started I knew it was something like a race against time, because you'd soon realize and ... well, I tried to win, but of course, I couldn't."

I blinked my eyes, confused, and he half smiled. "Nat, that he ... liked you, I knew that already. I've always known. And, to be honest, I feared your being alone with him because I knew that sooner or later you'd come to realize."

"Realize ... what?" I stupidly asked and he gave me a more full smile.

"That you like him too, of course. It's too clear. Just by looking into your eyes. Even now. I can see that when you think about him, even while trying to keep it, you smile, and that means you truly like him and I'd be selfish to try to ruin all of this." He concluded, then sighed, passing a hand over his face. I didn't really know what to reply.

That I like Eric, well, that's an undeniable truth by now. That it was sure that we'd end up together, well, back then I would have said never ever, but now ... like I said, I feel like Eric and I were simply meant to be together. So how can I reply without restating the obvious?

After a moment of silence, I inhaled deeply and reached for his hand. "We're still friends, right?" I asked, almost needy. Because beyond everything, there's still that nice friendship we've been building in this weeks and I really wouldn't want to lose it. Kyle gave me a small, kind of sad smile and looked around for a moment, but then nodded and I did my best to smile fully, so he mirrored it.

In the end, we headed to the cafeteria together, conscious that Aisha was probably sending us the worst curses for having left her alone for so long.

***

ERIC'S POV

I was by my locker, putting, well, pretty much throwing, my books in there, ready to leave. I was already aggravated because after lunch Natalie and I fought. Our meeting in the gym was meant to be just one of those few moments we can snatch to be together, but we ended up spoiling everything by fighting.

Just because I saw her with that jerk today and I asked for explanations when we met, she said he just wanted to settle things and they were still friends, but I couldn't believe it. That idiot does nothing without a profit, so I couldn't believe all he wanted was to be her friends.

She started complaining about me having to trust her, because that's the very first basis of a sane relationship, and I said I do trust her, I just don't trust him, she argued that that didn't make any sense, because they were just friends and ... well, long story short, we fought, and she's been ignoring my texts since then. She even made a show of her going home with her friend, that girl, Aisha, indirectly telling me that for now she didn't want to see me.

So yeah, I was pretty aggravated and had no will of adding reasons to get more riled up, but my nerves got more tense when I felt somebody behind my locker's door and I already knew who it was.

I could sense his presence even without seeing him, I swear, but his was a bad move because there was nobody left in the hall and sure as Hell there wasn't Natalie to stop me this time.

"What do you want?" I hissed as I closed my locker, only to be face to face with my half-brother, who was leaning on a locker nearby, arms crossed, looking pretty stressed, differently from his usual cheery mask.

"Just to talk." Kyle replied, voice sort of defeated, but I wasn't buying it. He can fool everybody, but not me, I know him too well to fall for his stupid tricks, so his fake defeated voice didn't impress me.

"Why would I want to talk to you?" I asked back, pulling my backpack over my shoulders and moving away from him, but he followed me.

"Eric, seriously. I just want to talk." Kyle continued, following me like a lost puppy as I walked towards the exit, decided to catch up on my girlfriend and try to make up. Sure, it still irks me that to her it's so natural to be friends with someone she's been crushing on for so long and that had almost dated, but I hate it when she's cross with me and we can't just have such a long fight after only four days of relationship.

I just grunted in response to Kyle, so he sighed, clearly frustrated, which is a first, because he's normally very controlled in everything. "We need to settle things once for all." At that, I stopped in my tracks and turned to him, arching an eyebrow.

"What is it, Romano? This is the day of the settling things? Why? You finally came face to face with your dirty conscience?" I scoffed and he rolled his eyes. There was really nobody left in the hall, and I bet almost nobody in the school as well, it almost felt like one of those western movies with villain and hero dueling.

Crossing his arms over his chest, Kyle sighed. Well, I guess I should listen. He looked pretty different from his usual smug and puffed up. So I gestured for him to go on and he inhaled deeply.

"I talked to Nat today and ..."

"I know." I cut him off, my jaw already clenching, just as my fists. "You're the reason for our fighting." It was useless to hide our relationship. He saw us kissing just on Friday and today when he faced Natalie they glanced at me that was waiting for her to reach the cafeteria, so he obviously knows we're a couple.

I expected a smirk or something, but he didn't budge, just shook his head and let out those words I've never thought I'd hear from him: "I'm sorry." Wow. Sure, he does apologize, but to me ... nah. We are worse than cat and dog. Always fighting whenever we come in contact. Actually, it was a pure miracle we were still talking and not wrestling right now.

"Nat and I are friends." He stated, which already irked me, but I let him continue: "While I initially got closer to her only because I knew it'd unnerve you, in these weeks I ... I came to care about her and I like our friendship, so I don't want to spoil it. For once I feel like I can have a real friendship that doesn't revolve around parties and crap like that and I intend on cherishing it."

I remained there, arms crossed over my chest as he paused. "Why are you telling me this?" Better said, why are you so badly trying to make me want to punch you? Because him close to my Natalie, even if only as a friend sounds too suspicious to be just what he says.

Not that I think he might want to take her away from me, well, maybe that too, but overall, it's about him wanting to play her off against me, so that we'll break up and I'll come out as the jerk while he'll be the hero that saved her.

Kyle sighed, rolling his eyes. "Because you're her boyfriend. And I'm her friend. Which means we have to get along. For her."

I arched an eyebrow at him. Get along. We never have and never will. We simply can't stand each other. We hate each other's guts and for a good reason too. So how could we get along? Even if for Natalie.

"Think about it. If we don't get along, she'll be torn between choosing between us and ..."

"Choosing between us? I think she already did, didn't she?" I cut him off with a quite pleased smirk. Yes, I'm quite proud for having won her heart, well, her closeness at least, against him.

Kyle rolled his eyes. "I'm being serious, Eric. She'll want us to get along."

"We can't just settle years of hatred with a simple talk." I argued. We've been accumulating so much hatred and despise towards the other that it'd be impossible to think we could ever really get along.

My half-brother sighed, rolling his eyes, just as he does when things don't go the way he wants them to ... such a spoiled brat he is. "But we could work on it. For her."

I frowned, studying him for a long moment. It's suspicious, to say the least. If I didn't know him, I might even think he works for my stepfather. "Why are you so convinced we have to? You can be friends with her without getting along with me." I argued and he sighed, cursing.

"Jeez, you're impossible!" He accused and I smirked, knowing his temper was already flaring. For once, it was me to cause that in him, not vice versa.

Kyle gritted his teeth, glancing around, I bet to calm himself down. In the end, he dropped his arms and looked straight into my eyes as he spoke: "She is important to me, okay? I want our friendship to be real and to last. I really want to be a close friend of hers and to be that, I can't be fighting every two seconds with her boyfriend. Even if their relationship is a secret."

I furrowed my eyebrows together and he sighed, while I was actually expecting him to grin wickedly. Wow, now he was starting to confuse me for real. He was so different from the usual.

"Of course it's secret. Even an idiot would realize it. I mean, you guys act like you barely know each other and yet you send each other such meaningful looks ... people who don't know you might fall for the trick, but I know you like my pockets and I'm starting to know her too, so it's pretty easy."

I looked at him in disbelief, wanting to argue that he doesn't know me at all. He doesn't know a fucking shit about me and what I've had to endure in my crappy life, but I kept it.

Kyle clenched his jaw. "Listen, I know you don't trust me. And I don't either. You don't like me and neither do I like you." He sighed. "But we should at least try. For her sake. I bet she'd be glad to see us getting along."

"Again, you can be her friend without bothering me." I argued, already tired of this. "As long as you don't try to take her away from me or play her off against me, I'm perfectly fine with you being friends with her, after all, that's what she wants too."

Yeah, we fought about it and I don't really like the idea, but I can't just decide who she can be friends with or not, can I? Sure, I don't like the idea of my girlfriend hanging around a boy she's had a crush on for so long, but ... well, I trust her, and I know she wouldn't cheat on me. She's right in this, we've just started, if I don't trust her now, then when will I?

Kyle sighed, clearly frustrated. I was getting tired of all this scene, I just wanted to walked off, step in my car and reach my girlfriend to make up with her.

"It's not just that, okay?" He commented and I tilted my head to the side, now curious. "It's ... during this weekend, I've been thinking, and I came to the conclusion that all of our fight was stupid and useless." He gritted his teeth. "For God's sakes, we're brothers, Eric!"

"Half." I pointed out. "We're only half-brothers."

He rolled his eyes. "Still. We are brothers. We should get along."

I looked at him in disbelief. For years he only does his best to be my enemy and now all of a sudden he wants us to be friends? Seriously, if I didn't know him, I'd think he works for my stepfather. "And you realize that only now?" I asked in disbelief. "It's a little late, don't you think? Besides, didn't your precious father forbid you to frequent me?"

"He never did." Kyle pointed out and I frowned.

"What?"

He sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Dad never forbid me to frequent you. If anything, he encouraged me to be your friend. He kept asking about this teammate of mine, saying I should invite him over, because he looked like a good friend and everything. I asked why and, after much pressure, dad finally spilled the truth about you and me being both his sons."

I snorted. That man is not my father. I have no father. If anything, uncle Sam is a father figure, but in truth, I don't have a father, never had. Considering my biological one abandoned me to raise his other child and that the one that was supposed to replace him has been making my life a living Hell since day one, no, I have no father.

And, actually, no mother. Since she laughed at her husband's drowning me for fun, she stopped being my mother. And if I stick there, it's just because I have to. If I could have chosen, I would have left that Hell years ago.

Kyle rolled his eyes when I snorted, once more crossing his arms. "He told me the truth and suggested we be friends, but ... well, honestly, I was jealous. Because my father all of a sudden seemed so interested in another kid, like I wasn't enough."

Spoiled brat. A poor boy needing his father's attention because he couldn't live otherwise. While I've only had people barely considering me a human being.

"So I started hating you, because dad kept asking me about you, wanting me to have you come over and I was convinced it was to tell you the truth and welcome you in our family, but I ..."

"You didn't want competition in daddy's love. Poor little boy. A brother would have split the unconditional affection daddy had for you, huh? You couldn't stand it." I scoffed and he glared at me but I held my ground.

I've never needed his friendship, why would I want it now? And as for our father asking about me ... sense of guilt, definitely. He left me and mom when I was barely two, because he found out his secretary had given birth to a child just five months I was born and he preferred them to us. Well, at least that's the explanation mom gave me when, at five years old, asked why did everyone have a father while I didn't.

Kyle gritted his teeth, his fists clenching, but in the end, he sighed, slumping his shoulders. "You know what? You're right. I was a spoiled brat." I blinked my eyes, confused. Did I seriously hear what I think I did? Did he seriously said I was right? Seriously? Wow. The world must have come to an end.

Kyle sighed once more. "If not brothers, we should at least try to be friends."

"Why?"

He inhaled deeply, his eyes now showing something like ... pain. "Because our father is dying, Eric. And as a last wish, he wants us to be unite."


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