The laughter of two first graders chasing each other around their school playground filled the air. Carla chased the little boy with gray eyes, her best friend since before pre-k with a hand full or worms. He squealed and tried to hide from her behind the giant oak tree in the center of the yard but she snuck up behind him and tackled him. She dropped her worms in the process but did succeed in tickling him until tears rand down his face.
“Okay, okay stop! Please! I can’t breathe!” the little boy gasped as he tried to return some of the air he’d lost to his lungs. Carla moved off him, sitting back with a wide grin on his face while he moved to sitting position. He gave her a brilliant smile of his own but this one held mischief and Carla barely had time to move before he jumped on her in a revenge tickle attack.
After Carla too had tears running down her face and was begging for mercy he sat smugly back and rested against the side of the tree. Carla sat up too, wiping tears from her eyes as she giggled and snuggled in beside him, resting her head on his shoulder. After a moment a group of little boys rounded the tree, their eyes widening maliciously as they saw them.
Rather than make fun of them like they were a couple they zeroed in on Carla. When she was little her brown hair had been thin and wispy and her green eyes large, making her face appear owl like. The other kids teased her for it, “hooting” whenever she came near and the only friend she had was one she’d none since before she could walk. The son of her mother’s best friend.
As the boys moved closer, the teases and taunts already sitting upon their lips she cowered and gripped the little gray eyed boy’s arm tightly. He glared, his eyes narrowed and full of hate. The clear leader of the pack stepped forward. A squinty eyed, scrawny carrot top named Arnold.
“Hoo! Hoo!” he cried batting his arms like an owl. His friends laughed behind him, egging him on. “Looks like our little owl is all dirty! Filthy owl! Disgusting owl! Ugly bug eyed owl!” he screeched running around batting his arms like crazy. His friends laughed and joined in on the taunts. Carla looked at her yellow sun dress to see it was indeed covered in dirt stains from playing. Tears started to run silently down her face.
Her friend stood up, his little body silhouetted to her against the midday sun. Arnold stopped running to stare curiously. The little gray eyed boy walked over to Arnold and gave him a push until he fell on his butt. His friends gasped and moved back, making no move to help their fallen leader.
“If you ever tease or hurt Carla again,” the little boy searched for a tough enough threat. Then he remembered something he’d seen on TV recently and repeated that. “I will end you,” he spat out through gritted teeth. “No more heartbeat,” he emphasized in a menacing tone. Arnold’s eyes widened in fear.
He didn’t know exactly what Ridian meant by “ending him” but he knew he would not like it. He crab walked back some before leaping to his feet and running away, immediately followed by his cronies. Ridian smirked and sat back down next to Carla who was staring at him in open mouthed shock. After a moment she broke into a face splitting grin and hugged him.
“You’re my hero!” she shouted. Her friend blushed deeply but hugged her tightly back. When they pulled away he laced his fingers with hers, something he’d seen his dad do to his mom whenever she was sad. It always made her smile.
“I promise I will never let anyone hurt you,” he said with a grin. Carla nodded still smiling and then they stood up, running towards the swings, their hands still tightly clutched together.
Carla woke with a sigh, her eyes blinking at the Sunday morning light. She remembered her dream. Man I’ve been having that dream a lot lately, she thought sleepily. She didn’t know the little boys name since she never said it and no one else seemed to either. Well I can just add it to the list of weird things that have happened this week. She was of course referring to Ridian’s little speech after the game and his declaration of “wait for me”. Words that didn’t match up with his distant behavior for the rest of the week.
Peter on the other hand was acting like Carla and him were best friends, and sometimes more. He’d taken to walking her from class to class which she realized she shared a lot of with him. He sat with her, Sam and Ridian at lunch which earned her curious looks from Sam and knowing smirks from Chris who’d joined them too. Ridian just looked like he was deep in thought.
Chris and Sam were now certified fuck buddies although they weren’t very open about the romantic aspect of their relationship. The only reason Carla knew was because she had wheedled it out of Sam when she’d explained everything to her Thursday morning. As Carla brushed her teeth she thought back to the funny memory.
“Spill, now,“. Carla’s back tensed up at the sound of Sam’s voice. It hadn’t even been five minutes since she’d entered the school building and she was already being interrogated. She sighed turning around to face Sam who was smirking next to her locker, her brown eyes light and sparkling with expectation.
The hall around them was deserted because it was an entire hour before school. Carla had hoped to miss Sam by coming early but apparently Sam was smarter than she’d thought and had anticipated her plan. Carla sighed and began to talk, starting with the scene in the library with Ridian, all the way through the game and ending with the whole “Wait for me” line on her doorstep.
Sam was quiet the whole time and the entire story took maybe twenty minutes max. Students had started to come but it was still pretty barren where they were. When Carla finished she held her breath for Sam’s reaction and bit her lip nervously. Sam nodded her head once, deep in thought. Then she spoke.
“So basically,” she began shifting her weight to one foot and placing her right hand on her jutting hip while gesturing with the other; an unconscious habit she did whenever she was talking through a problem.
“Ridian is sending you hella mixed signals. He has the potential to be hot and steamy which you can see by the affect being in close proximity has on you. This is good because sparks are good in any relationship. Yet at the same time he is not making any clear moves, although he was obviously jealous of Peter which reinforces the hypothesis that he likes you but is holding himself back for some reason,“. Carla nodded in agreement. Sam shifted again.
“Peter on the other hand is sexy, witty, sexy-it needed to be said twice- and is very obvious with the fact that he likes you. This is apparent with his little display of hot and steamy up in the bleachers and his flushed reaction afterward which meant that he was obviously turned on by what I’m going to assume was your deer in head lights look,“. Carla looked taken aback and Sam just gave her a look.
“Don’t argue with me, everyones seen it. It’s like your default when hot boys get near you. I suppose they find it cute, or something,“. Slightly offended Carla frowned but Sam continued on.
“So you have a choice between someone who sounds like he’d fuck you into a wheelchair if he had the opportunity but can also make you laugh and feel comfy;like netflixing comfy,” Carla gave Sam a look at her bluntness snorting at the “fuck you into a wheelchair” comment.
“Or you can go with the sweetheart who apparently really cares about you, wants to protect you, can also make you laugh in pleasurable banter and has the potential to get you into a ‘jump my bones’ mood,“. Carla laughed out loud this time at Sam’s word choice, which she ignored.
“So who do I pick?” Carla asked. Sam tapped her chin in thought.
“I would choose Peter hands down since he seems ready for it anytime and did I mention how sexy that boy is? Mmmm!” Sam licked her lips causing Carla’s eyes to widen in amusement. “But it seems like you have the potential to enjoy something really special with Ridian. I wouldn’t just throw that away. But it seems like anything that happens with him, is going to need a first move from you,“. Sam tapped Carla’s chest once with her index finger.
Carla ducked her head before leaning back on her locker and banging her head on it in frustration. Sam watched her in grim amusement.
“That’s just it. I’m not a forward person. And I have no idea who to choose!” she groaned in frustration sliding down to sitting position and burying her head in her knees. Sam sank down in a squat by her side and patted her shoulder.
“Poor, poor Carla. Doesn’t know which hottie to make her fuck buddy,“. Carla lifted her head in a glare to Sam who had a fake look of exaggerated pity on her face. Carla gave her a pinch that caused her to wince in pain.
“Ouch!” Sam cried rubbing her arm. Carla rolled her eyes.
“Don’t talk to me about fuck buddies until you fess up about Chris,” she stated bluntly. Sam immediately blushed her eyes wide.
“I-i-i d-don’t know w-what you’re t-talking about,” Sam protested immediately. Carla stared blankly at her.
“Your face looks like a fucking tomato and you just stuttered. I think it’s apparent you can’t lie for shit so either fess up or don’t. I honestly don’t care. Chris is nice,” Carla finished standing to her feet. Guess he’s not gay, she thought slightly disappointed. She’d always wanted a G.B.F.
“Okay,” Sam admitted. “But we are NOT fuck buddies!” She protested. Carla raised an eyebrows. “Well we may fuck but we ARE in an actual relationship so it’s fine,“. Carla smiled and nudged Sam’s shoulder.
“Nice. Good catch babe,” Sam blinked at Carla’s sudden affection in surprise. Just then the ten minute warning bell rang and they said their goodbyes, hurrying off to class.
Carla giggled softly at the memory before gasping in pain as she reached for her shirt. She lifted up her pajama to inspect the wound she’d gotten from her mother Wednesday. When her mother saw she’d been dropped off by Ridian she’d flown into rage about being scene as a bad parent because her daughter was a whore.
She’d then grabbed a fire poker from the fireplace and heated it to molten level before branding a ‘W’ on Carla’s side for whore. After her mother left for a late work dinner Carla had patched it up with aloe cream to reduce irritation and scaring after she’d cleaned it. She’d forgotten about the little white patch after it’d scabbed by Friday and hurt whenever she stretched too far.
She got dressed more carefully in an oversized gray Imagine Dragons hoody and black leggings under jean shorts. She slipped her combat boots with red plaid inner lining on before grabbing her bag and heading to work, her hair in a sloppy bun atop her head that had loose strands framing her face.
“Carla Broche, will you do me the pleasure of joining me on a date?“. Carla froze mid stroke. When she’d gotten to work Mitch had been acting really jittery and strange from the moment he’d nearly spilled her mug of coffee down the front of her sweater when he’d handed it to her.
She’d just thought he had something on his mind and never one to pry, went on with her daily work of cleaning, feeding and walking the animals. She was just finishing up brushing Danny’s soft fur into velvety perfection when she’d heard Mitch walk back in. She’d given him a smile turning back to Danny and then he’d blurted out the question.
Slowly she continued to brush Danny hoping she’d misheard. When she finished she put him back in his cage with a pat and a smile as he curled up into a ball for sleep. Then she’d slowly risen to her feet and turned around to see a nervous looking Mitch standing behind her holding a bouquet of red roses. She gulped.
“Ummm, me?“she asked. She wanted to smack herself. What a stupid a question. Of course he was talking to her. He only laughed a little seeming to calm down a bit.
“I’ve thought you were beautiful since the day you walked through my door asking for volunteer work. My feelings quickly turned deeper when I saw how you treated the animals with such affection and other people as well. I soon realized you were beautiful inside and out and I wanted your joking confessions of loving me over coffee to become real,“. Carla’s eyes widened at his speech. She’d never even realized how he felt.
Mitch coughed awkwardly tugging at his collar and shifting on his feet. His blue eyes were full of raw emotion and hope as they locked with Carla’s green ones.
“So will you give me a chance?” he asked her slowly. Carla blushed, flustered and confused on what to do. Suddenly Carla’s body began moving on its own accord. She stepped forward taking the roses slowly from his hand and sniffing them gently with a smile. Mitch smiled at her. She took a deep breath.
“I don’t see why not,“.