Love Him

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“So, you weren’t gonna tell me where you went?” Despite all the noise, I managed to hear Mariah’s voice. My eyes found her and I left Joshua’s side to go speak to her.

I smiled. “Hey. Nah, we just hung out.”

Mariah raised her eyebrow. “A secret hangout?”

What? “Yeah right.”

“Well, I mean, you didn’t answer any of my texts.”

“Oh, you texted me?” I checked my phone. Three texts from Mariah. About ten minutes ago.


“Oh, well...” I looked at her. “My bad. What did you need?”

She shrugged. “Nothing. Nick finished basketball early and wanted to know where Josh was.”

“Why didn’t he text Josh?” Ha, I already knew the answer.

“He did. He looked around the school and didn’t see you guys.”

No wonder. My mind went back to my alone time with Joshua in our secret spot by the auditorium. Ha. Oh, our secret spot... Was I supposed to tell Mariah about this spot? Was I supposed to tell anyone about this spot? I started to speak, not even sure what I was gonna say. “I don’t-”

“Okay everyone!” Save! My head turned around in sync with Mariah’s as Ms. Banji captivated our attention. Other people started to turn around too. “Come on, quiet down guys! I need your attention!” It didn’t take too long for everyone to quiet down. Ms. Banji was that type of teacher who knew how to take control of a class and everyone was smart enough not to try to push her to her limits. At the same time, she was also chill. I watched her speak. “So, today we’re gonna be doing an activity in groups, as you can see from how the desks are set up. Don’t worry too much about the seating. Just sit as close to your assigned spots as possible. So, the people in your groups should be the people you normally sit around.”

We took a few minutes to set up and get seating and groups right. It went pretty well other than some people who tried to sit with their friends, but of course Ms. Banji caught on. Josh was in my group, sitting across from me a couple desks down. Popular, player, Kevin, scored a seat next to me. Just like he wanted, I would bet. Three of his friends were in our group. He eyed me with his cool, brown eyes and smiled.

Ugh. It took everything in me not to roll my eyes at that very moment. What was with him in thinking that we were still cool? Especially after the events from last year. We almost dated, well, officially - but he was not only talking shit about my new close friend that year, he was also entertaining her over text and leading her on. The same way he led other girls on. So, of course I ended it. But, for some dumb reason, he was still stuck on my ass even though the latest girl he had been leading on - a girl from our class named Alicia - was literally obsessed with him and did anything he wanted despite the fact that he treated her like shit. So what did he want with me?

Rather than returning the half-assed cocky smile, I looked at Josh. He had his eyes on me. I smiled. He returned a grin and I lowered my eyes, all of a sudden feeling shy and vulnerable due to what had happened literally a few minutes ago. Oh my gosh Carm, stop thinking about that! Ms. Banji gained everybody’s focus again as she explained the goal of the assignment she expected us to complete in groups. “In your groups, I want you guys to come up with a model bus that can fit as many passengers as possible. Remember, we’re talking about a city bus, and the location is India. I need a drawing of the modeled bus and your detailed group explanation on separate sheets of paper. I’ll let you start today and have you guys finish tomorrow in our last period class.”

As we were given the green light, everybody started right away. In my group, this one girl, Kat, contributed to most of the ideas. Including some of Kevin’s friends. I was extremely quiet, like usual, kind of. I hated big-ass groups like these because most of the time, not all ideas got to properly circulate around the group. And that brought problems and conflict. Which was exactly what happened in my group.

Kevin gave out lots of ideas. Of course, all his loyal friends agreed on everything he said and they listened to Kat cause she was smart. Josh was also boiling with ideas, but no one would listen. He didn’t give up though and kept trying to get his ideas to be heard. “Guys, I’m telling you, if we added benches to our bus model instead of regular seats, there’d be more room for passengers to sit.”

Kevin was the first to shut down the idea. “This guy said benches.” He laughed. His friends/loyal followers laughed too. He looked at Josh. “No. We’re not doing that.”

The sparkle in Josh’s eyes immediately disappeared. “Why not?”

Kevin leaned forward. ”Benches? Are you dumb or retarded?”

Josh leaned forward too, his anger apparent. “Are you retarded?”

Kevin laughed and shook his head. “No. That’s you.”

Josh’s eyes flashed. “How about actually letting me explain my ideas?”

Kevin shook his head again. “No. We’ve heard enough. It’s not important.”

Gosh. What an asshole! Could I just pay somebody to slap the smug look off his face? I watched Josh try to tell the others about his idea but they all sided with Kevin. Like always, Kevin had everyone under his wing. Cowards. While Kevin was the center of attention, I leaned forward. “Josh, tell me about your idea.” I really did wanna hear about it.

Josh explained his idea to me in detail and I had to admit that it wasn’t half bad. Kevin finished wowing everybody with his “amazing ideas” - oh, please - and he turned to me. “What about you, Carm?” Carm? He had lost the right to call me that a while ago. “You haven’t said a word yet. What do you think?”

All eyes were on me. I glanced at Joshua. “I like Josh’s idea.”

Kevin raised a surprised eyebrow. “The benches?”

I nodded. “Yeah. Seats take up more room on a bus, which doesn’t allow much space for that many people to stand. Especially on a crowded bus. With benches, less room is taken up and more people get to sit, but there’ll also be room for those who need to stand.”

Kevin nodded, really seeming to take this into consideration. Kat spoke up. “But, I’m kinda worried about the safety hazards here. Wouldn’t it be more dangerous transporting a bus full of passengers on benches? Cause, imagine there’s a road accident, wouldn’t the impact hit stronger?”

She had a point. “True, but... how are regular city busses any safer when there aren’t any seat belts either way?”

“Mmm.” Kat shrugged and nodded.

Kevin grinned at me. “So, benches?”

I nodded. “Yeah?”

“Alright.” He looked around at everybody. “I like her idea.”

“Uh, well, Josh’s idea.” I glanced at Josh. He seemed to have reached the highest point of annoyance.

Kevin looked around at the people in our group. “So, benches. What do you guys think?” Of course, his friends agreed right away.

Kat shrugged. “Hmm, I guess we could work with the idea.”

Kevin smiled. “Great.”

“Wait, hold on.” We all looked at Josh. He was glaring directly at Kevin. “So, when I mentioned the benches, you made fun of me. But now that Carmen mentions it, you wanna use it?”

Kevin eyed Josh evenly. “Because, Carmen, elaborated on her ideas.”

"My ideas.”


“You wouldn’t even let me talk about it.”

“Okay, well we’re using it now, so are you happy?”


Kevin shook his head and chuckled. “You see how much of a retard this guy is?” he asked his friends. They laughed, basically supporting his statement.

“A retard?” Josh asked. His eyes were dark. ”I’m a retard?”

Kevin nodded. “Yeah.” He seemed amused.

Josh suddenly jumped up from his chair and started pacing back and forth. Oh, no. Kat tried to be the mediator. “Guys, chill.” She looked at Josh. “Come on. Sit down. Let’s work on this.”

Josh didn’t listen. “No!” He pointed at Kevin. “I can’t work with this guy! Like, he’s sooo dumb!”

Kevin smiled. “Oh, really?”

Josh stared at him. “Yeah.”

“Ooo, I’m so offended!” Kevin replied sarcastically.

I could see the anger welling up in Josh. “Ha ha, you’re so fuckin’ funny.”

Kevin laughed. What. An. Asshole. I watched Josh pace back and forth. He was taking deep breaths in and running his hand through his brown hair. His face was completely red, which always happened when he got embarrassed or super angry. I kept my eyes on him, praying that he wouldn’t do anything stupid. Especially knowing how short his temper was.

I remembered how bad it used to be when we were younger, back in elementary. He would have these episodes of complete rage where he would flip desks over, scream, and get into fights. As he got older, it wasn’t as bad since he learned how to control his anger. But now, as I looked at him, I wondered if his anger would reach that point again. Especially since Kevin had used the word, “retard.”

Gosh, why did he have to use that word? “Retard” was thrown around so loosely among teenagers. But didn’t they realize that the word “retard” was a harsher way of describing someone with a mental illness and could be very offensive to many? That word could hit someone close to home. Like Josh. I couldn’t believe all the stuff he went through and was still currently going through. All the weight of troubling events that happened in his life that he had to carry on his shoulders. And no one knew a damn thing about it.

That was why, ignorant assholes like Kevin spoke to him like this and threw out hurtful words like it didn’t mean anything. I tried to think of something to say but Ms. Banji beat me to it by coming over to our group. She had a smile on her face. “Hey guys. How’s it going over here?”

Kevin started to answer but Ms. Banji’s eyes fell on Josh. She frowned. “What’s going on over here? Everything okay Josh?”

Josh abruptly stopped pacing and threw his hands up in the air. “I can’t work with him.”

Ms. Banji leaned forward, confused. “Who?”

Josh pointed at Kevin accusingly. ”Him!"

Kevin shook his head and rolled his eyes. “Miss, I didn’t even do anything.”

Josh glared at him. “Oh really? Tell her about how you’re being completely unfair and not listening to any of my ideas.”

Kat shook her head. “Oh boy.”

Ms. Banji’s eyes widened as she laughed. “Oh my gosh, guys!” She looked at Josh. “Josh! Why are you so mad? Sit down and relax.” She looked around at all of us. “I think what your group needs to work on is communication. I’m sure you all have great ideas. Write them down and you can later try to incorporate one idea from each person. Okay?” She laughed again. “Talk it out guys. Don’t be mad at each other.” She walked away laughing and went up to another group. Clearly this was just pure humor to her. Yup, teachers were so useful.

Luckily though, Josh did take a seat and calm down. We managed to get through the class without another argument breaking out. Everything was somewhat peachy other than the few unnecessary side comments Kevin felt the need to keep making every once in awhile. But Josh did a good job ignoring him. When either boys spoke, they directed their attention to the whole group except one another. Alright, not exactly peachy, but definitely more manageable. *

“So, you mean to tell me that your biggest crush ever so far has been Christopher from grade six?” Josh asked in disbelief.

I nodded. “Yup. Roughly around that time.” I was back at the same spot by the auditorium with Joshua again. This time, it was quiet and there was no music or play practice. It was just the sound of our voices. I felt at ease and the events from the previous day weren’t even troubling me. Instead of sitting by the stairs though, I sat cross legged on the floor in front of Josh.

It was amusing seeing the surprised look on his face as he now knew who my biggest crush had been. “Did he know?”

I shrugged. “Kinda.”

“Did he feel the same way?”

I nodded. “Yeah. He was with Sharron at the time and apparently they broke up because of me. I remember him asking me out.”

“So you guys dated?”

“No. I wasn’t ready for all that.” And Chris was a major player. I definitely was not tryna have my heart broken. Especially not that young at twelve years old. My crush on him was still kinda existent but that was a secret. And anyway, after eighth grade, Chris switched high schools. So it wasn’t like I had much of a chance with him this year.

“Huh.” Josh raised an eyebrow. “So I see you attract assholes then.”

I frowned. “What? How is Chris an asshole?” Well, he kinda was at times if I were to be completely honest with myself.

Josh looked at me like he thought I was kidding. “The guy’s the biggest player ever! The amount of girls he strung along.”

True. Chris wasn’t the best looking dude, but he was a very likeable, popular, light skin with game and confidence. Maybe his confidence came from football. I observed Josh’s annoyed face. I now remembered where his irritation came from. He and Chris used to get into physical fights all the time, Chris always winning. And Chris stole many of Josh’s female crushes. Still, they had some sort of friendship in between the rivalry. Chris was even the first one to introduce Josh to what vaping was like in the boys’ bathroom. Wait. My mind went somewhere else. What did Josh mean when he said I attract assholes? “What other so-called assholes do I attract?” I asked.


I smiled. This was funny. “Why do you say that?”

“Did you see how he agreed with you on everything yesterday? He must like you.”

I laughed. “No. I already sorta had a thing with him last year. Didn’t work out and now he’s just being... Kevin.”

Josh raised a stunned eyebrow. “You had a thing with that asshole?” I nodded, amused. Josh threw his hands up. “I rest my case.”

I laughed. “What about you? Who was your biggest crush?”

Josh got all timid. “Uh, I’d say Sharron.”

I knew that. Joshua’s lasting obsession on that girl was real. Too real. Too bad he never got to date her even though she basically led him on for years. “What about Liliana?” I asked purposely.

Josh looked me directly in the face, his gray eyes completely serious. It was kinda scary. “I told you. I don’t like her anymore.”

I pressed for more information, deciding to be bold. “Okay, well, why so suddenly? Did something happen?”

Josh shrugged and sighed. “Nothing bad. She just told me that she didn’t like me in that way. We facetimed for hours this one night and she told me that she viewed me as a really close friend. Nothing more.”

“Oh.” I lowered my eyes.

“But, I don’t know. I think I liked her mainly because we went to last year’s Jamaica trip together and we really got to know each other for a week. We spent a lot of time together on those five days.”

I nodded in understanding. “Yeah, I get that. I can’t blame you for trying.”

“Yeah...” I felt Josh’s eyes on me. “But that’s over now Carmen. It doesn’t even matter. I meant it when I said I like you now.”

“Yeah...” But, right after your previous crush just turned you down? I didn’t have the courage to say that. “All of this just happened so recently. How could you be so sure you like me?”

“Carm, we’ve been spending a lot of time together. You’re so bright, funny, sweet, and overall fun. Plus, we have a lot of chemistry and a great connection. Can you disagree?”

I smiled. “Well, I guess not,” I said timidly.

And, that was when wrong timing came and the bell rang. Looking unfazed, Josh hopped quickly to his feet. He extended his arms out at me. “Come here,” he said softly. He smoothly helped me up to my feet and then gently welcomed me into a warm hug. He was more gentle than usual, and it kinda make me feel like he was up to something. As I gently started to pull away, he continued to lean forward to close the space between us. I looked up slowly into his face to see what he was up to. His soft gray eyes were gazing down at me. Oh, crap. We were standing so close to each other. “A kiss?” His voice came out really soft.

And how did you get out of a situation like this? Well, it was very hard to. Eh, it was Josh though. So, why not? I nodded. “Yeah,” I barely whispered. I stood there obliviously while Josh smiled and lightly cupped my face in his warm hands. He leaned down slowly until I felt his moist lips press against mine. It was soft and gentle. I stood there letting it happen, my eyes half open and my arms positioned loosely at my sides. The kiss felt like it lasted a couple seconds, when in reality, it was literally only two seconds. As Josh slowly pulled away, his soft eyes stayed on me. I could still feel the pressure and wetness of his lips on mine as though they were still there. The thing that stood out though? The overpowering smell of his axe perfume. Yup, a guy who took care of his body. Maybe a little too well...

His fingers lingered on my cheek for a little moment longer as he said, “Was that okay?”

I nodded, not able to look away from his sincere eyes. Ha, dramatic much? “Yeah,” I said softly.

“That was great.” He smiled.

I smiled too. “Really?” We headed to class. “Any tips on how I could improve?”

“Um...” Josh shrugged.

I glanced at him as we walked. “Be honest.”

“Okay.” He gave a little chuckle. “A little tip, maybe close your eyes next time cause it kinda adds more - I don’t know, romance.”

I nodded. “Okay.” Got it. I looked at him sideways. “So, um, what are we?” I had to ask.

Josh seemed taken aback but still answered casually. “What do you mean? Friends. Like always.”

I nodded again. Mm-hm. So friends who kissed. Yup, got it. Pretty clearly. “Alright.” We headed upstairs to our second floor math class.

In the empty stairwell, Josh stopped me. He leaned close to me. “Come on. One more. I wanna kiss you again.” He was already leaning closer to my face so I said yeah. He cupped my face in his hands and kissed me a little longer. I remembered to close my eyes. As the kiss ended, Josh smiled and said, “That was really good. Your lips are so soft.” I smiled. Seemed like that was all I could do. The official bell for class to start rang. “Shit,” Josh said. We sped to math class. Mr. Broomer hated late arrivals. Nearing our class, Josh stopped me and said, “Alright, I’ll grab my books and go in first. That way, it’ll break the ice. He’ll go easy on you.”

I agreed. I watched him go into class. I heard Mr. Broomer’s voice say, “Oh, Josh! Nice of you to join us. Were you taking a shit?”

Oh my gosh. I could hear the class laughing. Mr. Broomer was the only teacher to talk like that. I made my appearance seconds later. My entry was barely noticed as all eyes were on Joshua’s red face. After I took my assigned seat behind Joshua, Mr. Broomer’s eyes fell on me. “Hey Carm.”

I smiled. “Hey sir.” Yup, Mr. Broomer liked me. I was one of his good students. So was Joshua but I guess Josh was more easy to pick on. I licked my lips. This made me think of how Josh’s lips had just been on mine. So, had I just licked his lips? What a question. Sounded like something dumb one of my friends would say. I managed to focus all of math class. I wasn’t focussed on Josh, my heartbeat was normal, and I just felt fine like any other day. Ha, not really much of a teen romance story there. *

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