Damage Control

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Wrinkling Foreheads

“Hey Mal, thanks for meeting me on such short notice.” Cole breathed as he slumped down onto the bench beside me. He appeared to be out of breath and disheveled as he tossed his phone and backpack onto the table in front of us.

I couldn’t help but stare at him as he got himself together. He was wearing a baby blue polo shirt along with a pair of black pants. His hair was slicked back with gel, and sat neatly on his head. Despite me being a fan of Cole’s hairstyle for the past few years, for some reason, as I looked back at it now, I realized I preferred it more when a guy’s hair messily laid on his head. It seemed more effortless and natural, which indirectly translates to the person being more attractive.

‘Funny you say that now.’.. a tiny voice spoke in the back of my mind.

“Of course, what problems did you need help on?” I answered, as I put an end to the silent debate going on inside my head. Pulling out my calculus notebook, I flipped the pages over to my notes before glancing up at Cole.

His blue eyes glistened in the sunlight as he sheepishly smiled at me, “Honestly, I barely understood anything from this chapter.” He confessed as my eyes widened. Glancing over at my phone, I saw that we had about twenty five minutes until the lunch period ended.

“Cole, we have a quiz today.” I slowly stated as he scratched his forehead.

“I know, I know, but I was hoping you could just give me a brief overview of the chapter, and hopefully I’ll be able to figure out at least some of the quiz problems.” He stared down at me with puppy eyes, and I couldn’t help but let out a smile as I shook my head at him.

“You’re insane. But yes, I’ll do my best to help.” I said as I pulled out my pencil and calculator. Before I could zip up my backpack, a pink note caught my eye as I pulled it out. Unwrapping it, I let out an audible laugh, as two movie tickets stared back at me. Underneath the tickets, was a handwritten note by Easton himself, ′they were in the side pocket of my jacket, sorry’.

Only Easton would be the type of person to forget where he had placed our movie tickets. I could already envision him trying to defend his actions, but miserably failing. Holding back another laugh, I shoved the note back into my backpack, before turning to meet Cole’s eyes. I felt tiny under his gaze as he silently stared at me without saying anything. I could feel my body heating up as I broke eye contact and pulled my notebook towards him, hoping that calculus would calm my racing heart.

“Okay, do you want to begin with implicit differentiation?” I asked, as I kept my gaze firmly on the numbers and letters in front of me. I didn’t know why, but for some reason, Cole’s gaze made me feel odd. Typically, I would fawn internally if Cole was staring at me, but something felt different. I still had feelings for him, but it didn’t seem as intense.

I guess Easton’s plan was working after all.

“Yes, please.” Cole responded, as I nodded my head, and began lecturing him. Twenty five minutes flew by, and before I knew it, Cole and I were walking down the hallway, towards our math class.

“Remember, just try to complete as many steps as you can. Partial credit is better than no credit.” I advised Cole as I shoved my calculator back into my backpack. Before I could walk any farther, I was stopped by Cole, and engulfed into his arms. I could barely make sense of what was happening, and before I could even say anything, Cole pulled back and smiled at me.

“Thank you so much for helping, Mal. You’re a great person.” Cole said as I pushed my hair out of my face, and smiled at him. Before I could answer, my gaze was met with a familiar one. I couldn’t help it when my smile widened as we looked at one another across from the hallway. I wanted to go over to him and poke at him about getting us kicked out of the movies because of his carelessness, but before I could say my goodbyes to Cole, Easton stiffly nodded his head at me in greeting before shutting his locker. His usual smile wasn’t on his face, and he wore a poker face as he headed into class without saying a word.

Confusion hit me like a bus, as I tried my best to focus on what Cole was saying. Everything he was saying was glazing over in my mind, as I replayed the last interaction in my head. Was Easton mad at me? It was unusual for him to just walk away without even saying a word to me. I tried my best to not jump to any conclusions as I followed Cole into our classroom.

Heading over to my usual seat in front of Easton, I kept my gaze firmly on him, but his eyes were focused downward on his phone as he mindlessly scrolled through social media. Setting my backpack down, I turned around in my seat and tapped my fingers on his desk.

“Psst, what’s with the broody mood?” I asked, getting straight to the point. His eyes remained glued on his phone for a good ten seconds before he glanced up at me. I couldn’t read his emotions, as he stared at me briefly before answering.

“Nothing, I’m just tired today.” He shortly responded. I watched as he gave me a forced smile, before turning back to his phone. I didn’t say anything as I continued staring at him. I didn’t believe a word he was saying, and was getting ready to press him more, but was interrupted by the final bell ringing.

Turning back around in my seat, I pulled out my materials as I tried to keep my mind from overthinking. Easton probably was actually telling the truth about being tired, but I couldn’t help but feel like something else was bothering him. Pushing aside the influx of thoughts threatening to flood my mind, I focused my attention ahead where Mrs. Lewis was giving instructions regarding the quiz.

As I scribbled my name on the paper, I tried my best to put my energy onto the jumbles of letters and numbers on my paper. As I finished up the last of the problems, and returned back to my seat after turning it in, I couldn’t help but ask myself; why did I care so much that Easton was indirectly ignoring me?

Later that day ~

A soft tuned hummed from my laptop speakers as I mindlessly typed out my essay. It wasn’t due for a few weeks, but I had completed my homework for the day and was bored out of my mind. could hear my phone buzzing from my bedside table, and I quickly grabbed it before the caller could turn off.

“Hey stranger haven’t heard from you in a while.” Sebastian’s cheery voice greeted as I sat up on my bed. I rolled my eyes at his greeting as I shut my laptop off.

“We hung out during English today.” I pointed out. There was a long pause before Sebastian cleared his throat.

“Anyways,” I snorted into the phone but I didn’t say anything as I allowed him to elaborate. “I was calling to let you know there is going to be a celebratory party after tomorrow’s game at my place.” He said as I laid back on my bed and crossed my legs over one another.

“How are you so sure it’ll be celebratory?” I asked, raising an eyebrow at his cockiness. It was typical Sebastian behavior to exude confidence, but it was entertaining trying to mess with him.

“Mi amor, when have we ever lost a game?” Sebastian cockily said, causing me to roll my eyes. he wasn’t wrong, but the whole team needed to be humbled.

“Have you invited Michelle to the party yet?” I asked, switching the subject over to something I had been meaning to ask him. I noticed that he and Michelle had been spending a lot more time together. They used to mindlessly flirt with one another in between classes or at lunch, but recently I’ve spotted them together more often.

“That’s actually also why I called you. I want to ask her out, but I’m not sure if I’m reading into this the wrong way.” He said, letting out a loud sigh. Michelle had always been the one person to make Sebastian’s confident exterior crack. Each time she came around, his face turned a shade brighter, and despite him playing it cool, it was obvious she made him nervous.

“Seb, I’ve watched the two of you interact. Believe me, she likes you. She’d be a fool to say no.” I encouraged. It was a rare sight to see Sebastian of all people be nervous, but it was cute in a way.

“I hope so. I know it sounds cliche, but she’s not like the others.” He softly said. I physically restrained myself from letting out an ‘aww’ knowing that it’d automatically make him hang up. Humming in response to his statement, I gave him more words of encouragement before he switched the subject, “Anyways, what have you been up to? Where’s that boy toy of yours?” Sebastian asked as I let out a snort.

“Which one?” I suggestively asked as he laughed loudly into the phone.

“Gross Mal. You know who I’m talking about. Don’t think I haven’t noticed how close you two have gotten recently.” Sebastian said suggestively as I let out a small sigh. Although Sebastian was one of my best friends, I never built up the courage to tell him about Cole. He was also close to Sienna and I didn’t want to put him in a tough position. Sebastian didn’t know the true reason why Easton and I began hanging out, and even though sometimes I get the urge to confess to him, I have to stop myself for the sake of mine and Sienna’s friendship.

“We hang out here and there. I still can’t stand the guy” I casually said, warding off any assumptions Sebastian may have about us. After calculus, I didn’t see Easton all day since he had soccer practice. He was probably home by now, but I couldn’t gather the courage to open my curtains and peek into his room.

“Oh sure you can’t, I-” Sebastian began to say, but I was distracted by the tapping on my bedroom window. I could feel my heart drop to my stomach as I looked over at my curtains that were now moving. Yelling a quick goodbye into the phone, I slowly got off my bed and walked backwards to the door of my bedroom. If someone was trying to break into my house, I was headed right out the door.

I was not cut out to be a heroine.

Just as my hand touched the door knob, a familiar voice let out a loud grunt, “God, why is your window so hard to pull open?” Easton’s voice said as he climbed into my room. My mouth was ajar as I watched him break into my house so effortlessly. Something about how easily he had done that didn’t seem too comforting.

“You should really lock that.” He huffed out as he stood in front of my window with his hands on his hips. He was dressed in a pair of basketball shorts that fell right above his knees and an old soccer jersey.

“Did you just break into my house?” I asked him as I stood still in front of my door. He didn’t say anything, but let out a sheepish smile as he slumped down onto my bed.Slowly edging over to my bed, I took a seat on the opposite corner of the bed and just watched Easton. He seemed to be in a much better mood than earlier, and was back to normal.

“Sooo.” I drawled as he glanced over at me. He hadn’t said anything after sitting down on my bed, and was just comfortably laying on my mattress.

“Sooo.” He mimicked as I rolled my eyes at him. Getting comfortable on my bed, I rested my head on my elbow before looking over at him. He was fiddling around with the stuffed bear on my bed, and was oblivious to the confusion on my face. I wanted to know what had caused the 180 in his attitude.

“What brings you here?” I asked him, pulling open my laptop again. I could feel my phone buzzing beside me, but I ignored it as I waited for Easton to answer.

“Can’t a guy just come over for some company?” He answered, with fake exasperation in his voice. Rolling my eyes at him, I pulled my teddy bear out of his grasp, and ignored the look of betrayal on his face as I placed it back in it’s usual spot.

“Why were you so quiet at school today?” I finally asked. I had tried not to think about Easton’s behavior for the remainder of the day, but it was constantly prodding on my mind. It didn’t register in my mind until I had gotten home later today, but I couldn’t help but wonder if Easton had reacted the way he did because I had been Cole.

I know the reason why Easton and I began hanging out in the first place was to help me get over Cole, and maybe Easton had gotten the wrong idea seeing the two of us after lunch today?

“I didn’t get much sleep last night.” Easton answered, mimicking his response from earlier in the day. I scrunched my nose and stared at him suspiciously, but he kept his gaze firmly on my ceiling as he tossed my stuffed animal in the air.

“You sure it wasn’t because of Cole?” I blurted out, as the stuffed animal fell onto the bed beside me. I watched Easton closely as he turned on his side to look at me. His expression didn’t give anything away, but I could see from his eyes that my statement was true.

Guess that confirms my suspicion from earlier.

“Slightly that, but I was also exhausted..you wore me out last night.” Easton joked, winking at me. My heart slightly skipped a beat at the first part of his statement, and I wanted him to elaborate, but it was obvious Easton was avoiding the subject.

Rolling my eyes at him, I dropped the subject and instead shoved his shoulder at his comment about me ‘wearing him out’. I watched in amusement as he dramatically fell back on the bed and began to rub his shoulder as he groaned in mock pain.

“You’re always so mean. No wonder you have those creases forming on your forehead.” Easton jabbed as my mouth dropped open.

There’s no way he went there.

“Take that back.” I said in a low voice as I kept my gaze firmly on his. Easton slowly shook his head and kept his eyes locked onto mine. It didn’t look like he was going to back down.

Was that a challenge?

Nodding my head at him, I stood up from the bed and walked over to my bedside table. I could feel Easton watching me, but I played it cool as I fiddled with my bedside lamp. As soon as Easton glanced away, I grabbed my pillow and swung it right on his face.

I could see the shock on his face as I dropped the pillow. Slapping my hand over my mouth, I tried to conceal my laughter as Easton pushed his now messy hair out of his face.

“Run.” Was all he said, before I dashed out of my room, Easton hot on my heels.

Hey guys!

I hope you all enjoyed this chapter!

Thanks for reading, always wear a mask, and stay safe out there!

Love you all!

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