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Chapter 10 - Gregory

Everybody knew that the principle was a wuss. So it wasn’t a big surprise to find that Niall was still at school and still allowed to play in the on-coming game. I shake my head at the message it sends to the students. It drove home what mom had said back then, that jocks will get away with anything without any consequences. While any other student would have to suffer the consequences of their actions. However, Nance’s destroyed stuff was replaced with new ones the next week, which was the only good thing that came out of this. That and the fact that somehow everybody knew that Nance had somehow managed to gain Taylor’s protection. This meant nobody messed with her.

I look around the cafeteria nervously; I haven’t seen or heard anything from Nance all day. “What is Greg?” I don’t need to look around to know Taylor was the one that spoke. I was about to speak up when the double doors opened and Nance walked in, fiddling nervously with her bag strap as she lined up in the queue. Much to my surprise Rafael got up and waved her over. “Come sit over here Tesoro.” The unfamiliar endearment had me looking at Taylor in question. He just shrugged and smiled warmly as Nance hesitantly took a seat beside Rafael. Much to Veronica’s chagrin.

“Really Greg” Taylor tried to reassure me that Rafael was harmless. I snorted, there is no way Rafael DiNozzo was harmless. In fact he had left a trail of broken hearts all the way from kindergarten till now. So there is no way Rafael is harmless. To make matters worse, I know that Nance has a crush on Rafael. I rolled my eyes as Taylor gave me his version of the puppy eyes. I pushed him lightly, making him smile brightly at me since he knew he was in the clear. The funny thing was my heart skipped a beat whenever he smiled like that.

I grumbled under my breath about idiotic guys. Taylor laughed as he leaned back against my hands as I kept pushing him; he was being a slowpoke today. He pouted before smiling turning to face me. “You know you love me.” My eyes widened as I felt heat creep up from my neck to the top of my head. The most embarrassing thing of all was that Taylor - Bad Boy Taylor Thompson cooed at me. Freaking cooed at me, like I was some little kid. He even cupped my cheeks and rubbed his nose with mine. I was saved from more embarrassment by Joel, my teammate calling it was time for practice. With one last rub Taylor let me go and made a shooing motion.

“I will wait for you to finish practice. Rafael is in detention once again, and we were carpooling today.” Nodding at him once I grabbed my bag and rushed after Joel. Our first game of the season was coming up and I needed to work on my serve. And today was serve day, so as we dashed through the school towards the gym I ignored Joel’s questioning face in favour of being on time. As usual, training was bone breaking hard, but in the end I had improved my serve and I was dead tired. “I believe coach is possessed by the devil.” Joel groaned tiredly as we dragged our sore bodies from the gym to the car park. I chuckled a little “Don’t let him hear that. He will somehow make training even more intense.” Joel’s eyes widened comically before looking around to make sure the coach didn’t hear him. With one last salute Joel took off to his car and with a honk he was off.

I was dumping my stuff in the back of my car when two hands gripped my shoulders and started massaging them. Groaning at the relief that flooded my body, I melted into the kneading hands. “You should really consider becoming a masseur.” Taylor chuckled as he pressed a little harder at a very stubborn tense bundle, it refused to budge no matter how hard he pressed and coaxed the muscle. A good thing too, if he managed it, I would have been a puddle on the floor. I stiffened when I felt his lips brush against the shell of my ear “I really don’t want to leave you like this but Rafa really needs to go home.”

I watched him wink at me before hopping in his car. Rafael looked a little worse for wear but that’s what detention does to you. Or so I have heard. “Can we go now Greg?” My eyes snap to the side, seeing Nance stand there wiggling on her feet. Ever since the locker joke incident she has been going to school with the bus, saying she didn’t want to bother anyone. I scoffed at that and said she could come with me if she paid for gas every now and again. Her friends were worried about her; I was approached by them several times during this week with questions about her. I told them she just needed some time to work through it. I wasn’t really surprised she didn’t tell them her parents had an alcohol problem. That was a tale she guarded like mad. She didn’t want anyone to know about how or why she ended up with mom and dad.

Back home a surprise awaited us; Nance’s friends had decided that she needed cheering up. Smiling weakly, she led them to her room. I on the other hand asked if there were any objections to me taking a soak in the tub for my sore muscles. Hearing none, I make my way upstairs grabbing a towel and went to the bathroom. After a good long soak in the hot and bubbly water I was feeling a lot better. I just forgot that Nance had friends over and walked out in nothing but a towel and into one of her friends. She squeaked while turning beet red before she paled as most of my scars were visible. Saying nothing I continued my trek to my room where I donned a pair of sweats and a long sleeved shirt. Nance’s friends kept stealing glances my way, making me feel very self-conscious. It reminded me once again that I was ugly. It reminded me nobody would want someone as damaged and scared as me. No matter what Taylor said about liking me, I knew for sure he would find someone else. Someone who wouldn’t be scared or defiled as me.

As if sensing my spiralling mood, Lo seated himself on my lap babbling away to Coby. The only one who could lift my mood when I was like this was Lo. From a very young age he had proven to be very sensitive to my or Nance’s darker moods. I wrapped my arms around his small frame and pressed my face in his hair, inhaling his calming scent. Later when Lo was put to bed, Nance surprised me by crawling in my bed curled up into a ball. Wrapping my arms around her I murmured soothingly in her hair “You’re fine Nance. You’re my sister and nothing in the world will change that.” She made a tired noise before her breathing evened out.

****

I was tense, nervous and restless. Today was our first game of the season and we wanted to win. I didn’t care about fact that our opponents were second string players, who had won several competitions. Coach tried to give us a pep talk, but gave up halfway seeing as nobody was really listening. Most were complaining about the fact we were gonna lose anyway so why bother? I glared at Frank, the one who was complaining the most. “Shut up already Frank! Your bitching isn’t helping!” I startled them all so much that they are all quiet and staring at me. “So what if they are second string? So what they have won competitions we didn’t enter? That shouldn’t matter! If it did you shouldn’t be on the team! This whole thing is so we can build up our experience and see if we can function as a team when the pressure is on! Do you feel satisfied when you lose not giving it your all? I don’t! I hate myself for not giving it my all! Okay, I agree it sucks to lose, but if you give it your all you might find out that they are not all that tough. You might find out that our level of play and theirs isn’t much different.” After I checked if I tied my shoelaces right, my knee protectors were on the right way, I grabbed my bag and went into the hall.

As predicted we lost from the second string team, but not by much. We lost by five points, which still sore but most acted as if we had won the whole thing. It did a wonderful thing to our mood; even Frank was a little happier, smiled a little more. By the end of the competition, we were in the bottom half of the top ten. Something that had never happened to our school’s volleyball teams history. It drove us all to do even better at our next competition and maybe, just maybe become second string. Before all that we were going to celebrate our current spot in the ranking. We had moved two spots up in the rankings. Our celebration took us to our house, which surprised us all. Dad had said we could hold a celebration at our house since our house was in the central part of town. Since it was the weekend Lo and Nance were allowed to take part in it and Lo made everybody laugh with his random babbling or his observation of things in life. Nance was a little more closed off but laughed every once in a while at some random joke her neighbour told her.

“So...” Joel came to sit beside me near the bonfire. “Are you going to tell me why you and Taylor Thompson seem to be endlessly flirting with each other? And don’t tell me it’s that stupid project we had to do for Mr. Rush’ class. That’s bull! You and I know it!” I chuckled as his words came out slurred and he rolled the r in mister and Rush. He glared at me over the rim of his beer bottle before taking a swig and pointing a finger at me eyes wide. “You is in love with him!” I coughed back a laugh as I noticed his speaking ability seemed to deteriorate the more beer he drank. He rose up, nearly knocking himself off his feet with the quickness of the movement. Therefore he nearly tumbled head first into the bonfire if I hadn’t caught him.

“You c-cannnnn tellll m-mee.” He slurred, looking like a kicked puppy as he grabbed my shoulders for support. Somehow I couldn’t find it in me to deny or ignore his conclusion. So I gently set him back down, a safe distance from the bonfire and sighed. The worst thing was that he was looking at me expectantly. “Fine. I think I MIGHT be in love with him.” His whole face changed so quickly, I thought that I might have imagined the kicked puppy look. I need to be very careful around him with these kinds of things. His ability to adapt is freaking scaring me. He seemed thoughtful for a minute before blurting his thoughts, “So what now?”

I ask myself that question every day.

The morning after the celebration was safe to say, horrible. Most of us had hangovers like nobody’s business. Some people woke up in unexpected places (Frank woke up in my parents bathroom, nobody knew how he ended there), but most were too tired to complain. I wasn’t too surprised to seeing Syl sitting at the breakfast table besides Lo. “Good morning Syl.” I managed to grumble making him laugh.

“You look a lot like fratello does when he hangs out too much with Rafa.” I winch as the fridge closes with a loud bang as I pour some orange juice. “I am sure your fratello had a good time then.” “What is a fratello? Some kind of snack?” Joel walked in looking pretty well put together and sober. I swallowed my Advil “Fratello is Italian for older brother.” Dad walked in holding plates with the ultimate hangover cure; omelettes filled with his secret ingredient and a few pieces of toast. Well mom calls it the ultimate hangover cure and she knows what she’s talking about if you believe grandma and grandpa. “Who is your older brother then? You look familiar.” He managed to swallow his food before talking, much to everyone’s relief.

“My fratello is Taylor Thompson!”

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