Love Him

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3

After that kiss, it was like the relationship I had with Josh opened new doors. We were texting very often and we hung out every day. People thought we were dating. I was hanging out more with his friends and he was hanging out more with my friends. We were nearing exam period. This one day, the official presentation of the play happened in the morning. All morning. I scored a spot in the back of the auditorium next to Joshua. He and all of his friends were on my right, while Mariah and some of my friends were on my left. The play went really well and the fifteen minute intermission they gave us was very organized.

Finally, it was past noon when it ended. The auditorium was buzzing with noise as people got up and stretched. People started to leave but then a mic on stage made a noise and our principal’s clear voice sounded out. “Everyone,” Mr. Hans said. “Please take a seat and give me your attention for one moment please. I have something to say, I’ll let you guys go right after.” People reluctantly started to sit back down. After waiting a little while for everyone to settle and the auditorium to quiet down, Mr. Hans spoke again. “So, I would like to start off by thanking Mrs. Rufer for organizing this event. It was wonderful in all honesty. All students who took part in the play, or helping in the play, did a wonderful job.” People started to clap again, giving one more round of applause for the success of the play.

Mr. Hans clapped, a big smile spread across his face, before he continued to speak. “Alright so, aside from the amazing play we just saw, you all know that you have classes to attend in the afternoon.” People groaned. “I know,” Mr. Hans said. He seemed amused. “But, because of how fun this morning was, I know you all are giddy. Too giddy to go to class and stay focused. Plus, you guys have your exams very soon. That’s why, I’m gonna let you guys go home to study and call it a day.” People started to get excited. I knew I was. “Seriously guys, study. And there are helpful resources here if you choose to stay in the school for the afternoon.” People were already getting loud before he dismissed us.

Finally, I was out of the auditorium and heading towards the foyer where the entrance was, with Josh by my side. We reached the foyer, which was crowded and buzzing with people. I took a seat on one of the large window ledges by Josh. We sat close together and waited for our friends to find us through the crowd. Josh gently nudged his shoulder against mine. “What’d you think of the play?” he asked me over the noise.

I smiled. “Not bad at all. It really showed how well Mrs. Rufer prepped for it.”

Josh nodded. “True, true.”

“You?” I asked. “What did you think?”

“Also the same. That it wasn’t bad at all. The two main characters were my favourite.”

“I also-” I never got to finish my sentence since that was when our friends decided to pop up.

Mariah put her arms around me. “There you are!”

“What’s up?” Nick stood by Josh.

“What are you up to?” Meena asked me.

I shrugged. “I don’t know.” I looked around at my friends. “Are you guys going home?”

Meena shook her head and looked at Abby and Preena. “Um, no. We’re actually gonna be in the library, probably till like, the library closes or till their parents come to get them.”

I nodded. “Oh.”

“What about you?”

“Um, I don’t know. I might just go home.”

We all ended up going upstairs to our lockers. Josh and Nick accompanied me to my locker. I started to take my bag out. “Oh, so you’re really leaving?” Josh asked.

“I mean, I guess. I don’t see what else I could do here. Are you guys staying?”

Nick shrugged. Josh said, “Yeah. I gotta wait for the school bus. So I have to hang around here.”

“Why not to take the city bus?”

Josh sighed. “Reasons, trust me.”

Okay... I looked at Nick. He shrugged. “I guess I’ll stick around with this one,” he said, nodding his head towards Josh.

“You could hang out with us,” Josh suggested.

“Till 3:30?”

Josh nodded. “Yeah.”

“What would you guys wanna do?” Nick asked.

“Well, first I say we eat lunch, then we figure out a plan, but-” Josh looked at me. “Tell me you’ll stay.”

Sigh. Well, since he asked nicely... “Alright.” So, I ate in the caf with them, my friends joining us. My friends ended up leaving to go to the library except for Mariah, who stayed behind. Nick wanted to go out. He was still hungry. So we went to a nearby Subways. He finished the sandwich in literally five minutes. Right after, Mariah suggested we went to a nearby park. So we did. It was empty and we had the whole area to ourselves. I knew everyone at school had probably gone to McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, or home. It was so hot - obviously, since we were in May - and I was starting to regret my choice of wardrobe.

We played around the park like little kids, going up and down the slides, going on the monkey bars and seesaw. At one point, Josh announced, “Hey, Lance just texted me and wants to chill with us but he doesn’t know where to find this park.” Ugh. I really disliked Lance. All he ever did was talk shit about everybody and then deny it and try to act fake in front of your face. Gosh, why was Josh friends with him?

Mariah turned her attention to Josh. “Well, where is he? Is he close by?”

“He’s passing by the pizza place that’s near Subways.”

“Okay. I’ll go get him. Tell him to stay there.”

“Okay.” Josh started typing on his phone. I went on the swings. Mariah returned very quickly with Lance.

“Yo, what’s poppin’ guys?” Lance said. Uck. Right away, he went over to Josh and Nick.

Mariah joined me at the swings. “”Oh my gosh!” she exclaimed. “The seat is burning hot!”

I laughed. “I feel you.” It was so hot. Mainly because of how much the sun was beaming down on us.

After about two minutes of swinging, Josh said, “Hey, you guys wanna do something?”

I started to slow down my swinging. “How about truth or dare?” Lance suggested.

“Yeah,” Nick piped up.

I nodded. “Okay.” Josh and Mariah were also okay with it. So me and Mariah got off the swings. We walked through the sand over to a bench on the pavement that held my backpack. I opened it up and was grateful to find a lime green cami that I had remembered to bring in case of weather like this. I told everybody I was going to change first.

“Want me to come with you?” Josh teased.

I laughed. “Uh-huh.”

“Perve,” Lance said.

Mariah came with me. The one Porta-Potty that was placed in the middle of the large park had a jammed door so we went behind some trees and bushes. I felt liberated once I changed out of my sweaty long sleeved shirt. The boys were waiting for us at the top of a little hill. We joined them on the grass, under trees that shaded us. Josh was laid out on his side next to me. “Y’all ready for some truth or dare?” Lance asked.

Mariah was hesitant. “Uh, can we keep it, um, PG-13?” Gosh, she was so prude. I chuckled. Of course, no one actually followed the PG rule. My first dare by Josh was to go up to this random lady sitting at a picnic table and make conversation with her. I did, which surprised him since I happened to be very introverted at times. The dares I got at the beginning were not bad at all. To be safe, Mariah stuck to truths. The boys went hard on the dares, trying to outdo each other.

Finally, Joshua chose his first truth. Lance said, “Okay Joshua. Tell us the truth... do you like anyone?”

Joshua’s face got slightly red and he avoided eye contact. “Well... yeah,” he said softly.

“Ooo!” Lance said. “You think she might be wifey material?”

The embarrassment on Joshua’s face was so apparent. “I think so.” Surprisingly, he sounded more confident than unsure.

“You gonna ask her to be your girlfriend?” Nick asked, a corny look on his face.

Josh finally looked at his buddies. “Alright, I answered the one truth question, that’s enough.”

Lance nudged Nick. “That means yes!” he whispered loudly. Wait, were they talking about me? Was I the girl? Josh did like me after all, from what I knew. Did he tell them too? If so, who else knew?

“Wait,” Mariah said. “I wanna know who this girl is. You can’t leave us hanging.”

“Yeah,” Nick agreed. So, maybe he didn’t know it was me.

Josh shook his head. “Naw, let’s move on.” Luckily, we did and Josh was off the hot seat. My dares started to get crazier. The boys wanted me to use any pole in the park as a stripper pole, pretend I was having phone sex, and give Josh a lap dance. Of course, those were all way out of my comfort zone, so I passed. At that moment, I was branded a party pooper. But, I convinced myself that it was all to save Josh from embarrassment. By that I meant... well, if I had done all of those dares, I was sure someone’s little eggplant might have made surface right at that moment. Now, imagine that! You’re welcome Josh for saving your ass. Well... your boner. Ha! Okay, let me stop.

We kept playing for a while, although we moved our location to the sand where we hung in different positions on a large spiderweb thingy. I wasn’t sure how kids played on those things, but we just climbed it and sat on the ropes. I was super uncomfortable on the rough-ass ropes and trying not to fall through the holes. The boys seemed comfortable. Mostly Nick, since he was like a natural born spider. Not Lance. He kept moving. And since he was slightly overweight, we could definitely feel every single movement. “Stop moving!” I complained.

At one point though we all managed to settle down. The game went on and at some point, Josh checked his phone for the time. “It’s almost 3:20,” he said. “The busses come soon.”

" Alright let’s do two more truth or dares and then we’ll leave,” Lance said. Everybody agreed. The last truth or dare went to Joshua. And he chose dare. Lance grinned. “Alright, good choice.” He licked his lips. “I dare you... to kiss Carm.” Whoa.

“Ooo! This is good!” Nick rubbed his hands together excitedly.

My eyes went to Josh. He was all red but he was cheesin’ so hard. He looked at me. “May I?”

I smiled inside. It wouldn’t be the first time. I tried to play it cool. “Sure.” I got off the web and stepped down on the sand. Joshua did the same. We walked up to each other until we were standing a feet apart.

Josh chuckled nervously. “You, uh, you ready?” he said quietly.

I smiled. “Yeah.” Josh stepped forward and kissed me. It was quick but smooth.

“Yessss!” Nick shouted.

“My boy!” Lance said. Them hyping Josh up made him turn more red. I looked up just in time to see Lance and Nick slapping hands. “I told you we got you bro!” Lance said. Nick winked at Josh. Wait. Was all of this planned? I looked around at all of them. Before I even had a chance to process it all, Josh said that we should head back to school. So we did.

As we walked behind the boys, Mariah nudged me and kept her voice low. “I can’t believe you really just kissed Josh! I didn’t think you were gonna do it.”

I shrugged, feeling slightly uncomfortable. “Yeah, well... it was a dare.”

“Uh-huh.” Mariah wasn’t convinced. “You guys really like each other huh?” She looked at me. “Tell me!” she urged.

I sighed. “I - I don’t know. He’s my friend.”

She rolled her eyes. “Friends don’t kiss.”

“What I mean is, we have a really good friendship. And... that friendship is at a great place. Why put a label over it and ruin the whole thing?”

Mariah lowered her eyes and nodded. She was silent for a couple of steps. Then she said, “So, that’s as far as that one kiss goes?” I hesitated but ended up nodding. Gosh, I was hiding a lot from her and I felt so bad about it. “Hm,” she said. “If you do happen to go for him one day, just know, I support.” She smiled. “You guys do have great chemistry.” I smiled too. Why couldn’t I just tell her the truth? Cause I always had to keep everything such a big secret. Even from a good friend like Mariah. Nice going Carm. We made it to school and the boys boarded the school bus. I headed home right after. *

Later that afternoon, at around seven, right after I took a shower, I got a call from Josh. “Not gonna lie,” he said. “When we got to kiss during Truth or Dare today, I highkey got excited.”

I had to laugh. He was so cute. “Yeah, well, it wasn’t bad for me either. Although, I’m sure your friends knew what they were doing when they gave you that dare.”

Josh chuckled. “Ha! Yeah...”

Quick silence. I spoke my mind. “You told them everything?”

“Well, yeah, of course. They’re my buddies. I tell them everything. The same way you probably tell Mariah and your other close friends everything.”

I chuckled. Nah. I wasn’t like any regular girl. “I don’t, actually.”

“Really?” Josh sounded genuinely surprised.

“Yeah.”

“You don’t trust them, or... ?”

“Nah, not even that. I’m just a keep-my-business-to-myself typa gal.”

“Hm. I could’ve figured.” I laughed. What was that supposed to mean? “So, was this all supposed to be a secret?” he asked.

I hesitated. “Um... not really, I guess. I mean, we’re friends, and that’s pretty apparent...”

Josh quickly interrupted. “Is that what you see me as? A friend?”

I was confused. “Uh, yeah?”

“Okay, but I mean, we kiss and stuff.”

“Yeah but there’s no actual title and you said we were friends.”

Josh sighed on the other end. “Look,” he said. I sat up on my bed, making my ears attentive to whatever it was he had to say. It sounded important. I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss a single word. “I really want you to be my girlfriend Carm. But, the problem is, I’m not allowed to date. You remember I told you about how I live with my uncle?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Well, life there has been crazy since me and my brothers moved in. My uncle and his wife are crazy strict. I feel like a prisoner living with them. I can’t do shit! That includes dating. I can’t even try, cause they’d find out. They literally keep tabs on everywhere I go.”

“Wow.” Who would’ve thought?

“And, I’m not even telling you this to fish for sympathy, it’s just so you’ll understand.”

“No, I get it.”

“Yeah, so,” he sighed. “The situation between us is that I like you a lot and, I don’t know... even though we can’t have a labeled relationship out in the open, I still see you as more than a friend...”

I smiled. “Well, I guess we could just work with the situation how it is and go with the flow.”

“Go with the flow. I like that. I knew this would go perfectly. You always know the right thing to say Carm.” I was flattered. Too bad I didn’t always know the right thing to do. *

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