Conflicted Affection

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The next day after school, we planned to go eat dinner with Ryland's family and some of his friends.

We get dressed in our best casual clothing and head towards his house, which is only a few blocks away.

We knock on the door and a fair skinned woman opens the door. "Hey! I'm Annabelle, but your mother knows me of course." She smiles.

Inside it was loud, with shouting, loud talking, and the sound of running.

"They are quite loud in there. It never ends," She chuckles, "Come in! I'll try my best to calm them down." She smiles warmly.

We all walk in and I can hear whispers from Annabelle scolding whoever was being so loud.

She sees us walk in and stops abruptly, "Well," She begins, "This is my husband, Andrew," She points to the tall man I saw that time I was sick, "My new little girl, Maybelle," She points to a little girl, "And these boys are Sean, Max, and this is Lela." She points to Ryland's friends from school.

I soon notice a dog barking, "You have a dog?" Alexa asks.

"Yes, but she is in her kennel now because she gets too excited. Her name is Violet." Annabelle says.

"Pretty name!" Alexa says.

"Ryland picked it when he was eight years old!" Annabelle says, smiling.

Soon enough, I hear footsteps coming from the inside of the kitchen and Ryland pops into view, wearing his usual casual but good looking clothing, "Ryland!" Alexa smiles, jumping to him. Ryland picks her up and holds her as she hugs him close.

"I was only gone for one day!" He says, laughing.

"It's too long!" Alexa says.

Everyone in the room either smiles or laughs at that comment, even Max who is always angry or simply emotionless.

"That's Dillan," Ryland says pointing to me, "That's his mom, Amelia," he says gesturing to my mom, "and this little one right here is Alexa." He says, looking at Alexa. Alexa blushes and looks down.

Sean walks up to me, "Hi! I know we never really talked much, but I hope we can know each other more soon." He smiles. He is always outgoing and smiley, as well as giggly, and he always tells jokes. Unlike his girlfriend, Lela, who is always nervous, never really talks, and only smiles when Sean was around.

"Thanks! It's really good to actually meet you and your friends. Plus its good to finally learn more about Ryland."

"I'm sure we will get along. I get along with everyone. That may sound kinda douchey but it's true!" Then he comes close to me and whispers, "You may want to steer away from Max though, he can get violent." He jokes.

Sean clearly didn't whisper quiet enough, or Max just knows everything or is trying to scare Sean, but Max shoots him a glare and a scoff.

All Sean does, though, is giggle. Honestly, even if it isn't geared towards me, I am afraid Max would charge towards me and kill me.

The only person I was ever truly scared of in school was Max and, well, Michael.

Max slowly walks up to me, and my heart races but I try my best not to show any fear.

"Hey, I'm Max but I suppose you know me." He says with a cold tone.

"Yeah, I have heard of you." I chuckle nervously.

He comes to me and says, "Sean seems nice but he's just a little pussy." I see his wide grin as he moves away.

He don't realize Sean was behind him until Sean pushes him down gently in a playful way as he giggles. But Max doesn't find this funny and jumps up to slap him, but Sean ducks, still smiling and giggling.

Before they could continue and before Max could really hurt him, Ryland's dad says with a stern and almost loud voice, "Stop it boys!"

Instantly, they stop, with Sean still left grinning and Max looking like he wants to kill someone. Max pushes by me, almost hitting me as he runs outside, probably to get some fresh air.

Max has always been like this, sometimes leaving school early so he wouldn't get suspended for fighting or talking back to a teacher a little too aggressively.

Once, he threatened to kill someone who wouldn't leave him alone. The teacher didn't hear, but half of the students did, but didn't dare tell the teacher in fear of what Max would do to them.

Sean was always the one to never be scared of him and laughed at his anger, which only made Max even angrier. He is often caught in arguments or fights in school with Sean, but that's not a surprise. Sean takes nothing seriously, never did really ever since he showed up at school.

Sean makes everyone's day, but can also ruin it. He never knows when the joke goes too far or when not to attempt a joke. He only knows to stop when someone runs out crying. But, he never did that with Max, yet Max never cried. He teased him no matter what regardless.

Sean continues to giggle, but calms down after he receives a glare from Annabelle, "What?" Is how he responds, a slight smile still remaining.

Lela leans over to him, whispering for him to stop, as indicated by reading her lips.

Sean's smile fades away, and Annabelle speaks, "Sorry about that." She chuckles.

"It's ok. I understand kids can get crazy." My mom jokes.

Ryland lets Alexa down and Maybelle begins talking to her.

Soon, everyone parts ways with my mom and both of Ryland's parents going into the living room to talk, Sean and Lela staying in the kitchen, and me and Ryland awkwardly standing around until he decides to give me a tour of the house.

The house wasn't anything special, but it was gorgeous and neat nonetheless. The floors are a dark brown wood and the walls were either white or beige throughout the house.

Then, we go upstairs. Ryland's room is painted the color of cotton and just as organized as the rest of the house. His bed had a baby blue cover and he had those skinny, long windows that lets sunlight beam through the room, even with the baby blue curtains that matched his bed.

His walls are bare except for some art pieces. I pay attention particularly to one sketch of a strange, but beautiful man with no hair on his head and his hand balled into a fist to hold his chin onto.

Ryland speaks up, "Lela sketched that. It caught my eye too, so she let me have it."

"It's beautiful." I say, still staring at it.

"I know. She's pretty talented, she just doesn't show it often."

I look back around his room. The neatness doesn't surprise me. He is always the most organized person in school. He even got an award in middle school for being the neatest, in writing as well as with his items. Even if everyone in class seemed to hate him, everyone didn't mind congratulating him on his school supplies or how he set up his books. He even dressed nice, mainly in plain clothes, but they were never ruined and always looked new.

"Did your mom make you clean or was it already like this?" I question, genuinely curious.

"It was already pretty clean but my mom made me go back over it to make sure." He chuckles, "Why do you ask?"

"Well, I was just wondering if your room was always like this or not."

"Its pretty much always like this. I can't stand being stuck in a dirty room, it just makes me sad and stressed. Plus, organizing relaxes me."

"You're a pretty interesting guy, Ryland." I say, yet my mind told me I was being weird. But I don't want to take it back because it's true.

Ryland looks at me for a little bit before saying, "Thank you, no one has ever said that." He chuckles.

"It's true. I mean, no one ever really explains why they are so neat. Most neat people in my opinion are boring, at least those I have met, but not you."

I can see Ryland smiling while he looks down at his bed before going to sit down, "Thank you." He says shyly.

I sit down in front of him, "How was your day today?"

"It was actually pretty good. I woke up in a good mood and nothing really ruined my day, not even Sean being a little insensitive as always."

"I mean, if you're used to it it would probably have less of an effect on you after a while."

"I suppose, but sometimes when he does it with me or Maybelle it bothers me." Ryland says, furrowing his brow a little bit.

"Yeah, I understand. If anyone was like that with Alexa I would beat them until they couldn't move."

"You really love her, don't you?" Ryland asks.

"Absolutely, she's my best friend. We were best friends from the first time we talked."

"I guess Maybelle and her would bond over that being adopted thing. I'm close to Maybelle and she was recently adopted by my parents. We couldn't find her family, and they recently told us they died, but Maybelle didn't know because they left her somewhere and she just ran wherever she could, scared and alone."

"How long was she like that?"

"Probably a year until we found her and we tried for years to find her family until we found out they died a couple days ago in a car crash. The orphanage assumed they were trying to run away because they knew we were trying to find them."

"I'm glad she has a good family now. I remember when Alexa would cry every night because she didn't understand why her family left her. I didn't really know what to tell her, so I just stayed in the room with her, talking to her about her magical land she had until she fell asleep. I was really tired that day, but I didn't want to fall asleep and leave her there alone because she was always scared of being alone, especially in the dark. That's what they told us at the orphanage."

"She seems to have a good family now too, especially a good brother. You're actually a pretty good guy, Dillan." He says, returning a compliment for the one that I gave him earlier.

"Thank you. But, sometimes wanting to be normal ruins that." I say, smiling at him, but inside I feel sad, remembering how I treated Ryland. I can't hold in my sadness, though, and my smile faded quickly.

"It's ok, I get it, I really do." Ryland says.

I feel the urge to hug him, I always do really, ever since I felt a new sense of attraction to him. Even after we continuously bullied him. Even when Michael could only find one word to use constantly, it still broke Ryland down.

The look on his face hurt me every day, yet all I could do was stand there, frozen, watching him be beaten emotionally.

"Dillan.." Ryland speaks, bringing me back to reality, "Dillan, are you ok?"

"Yeah," I lie. My heart and stomach had sinks down and I feel embarrassed. How dare I?! All I cared about was me!

"Dillan?" Ryland asks again, but all I do is sit there frozen.

Then, I watch him lean in close and hug me.

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