Chapter 54: The Sidekick and the Spring Fling (Part 1)
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The sunlight crept in through my window, piercing the darkness and stirring me from what little sleep I had managed to get. My eyes remained shut, but the rays turned everything from black to a vivid red for me. It was no use trying to go back to bed, so I swung my legs over the side of the bed, kicking them all the while I regretted never finding the other curtain. My head pounded, and I could barely make out the blur of my alarm clock informing me that it was 11:30 AM.

My feet hit the floorboards. I took a few stutter steps, eventually able to straighten myself up into something more presentable; a toddler would’ve been envious of how well I was walking. Rubbing my forehead, I figured this must be what it was like to wake up with a hangover. Not that I was the expert or anything since I’d only ever had a sip from my mom’s beer, but it couldn’t be much worse. If it was, then I wouldn’t be touching that stuff with a ten-foot pole.

The stairs were an entirely different beast to tackle. I basically had to slide down them, though, once that was accomplished, it was smoother sailing. I headed over to the fridge, passing my sister at the dining room table. For once, she wasn’t hunched over a pile of school work. Instead, she was playing a board game involving dice with Ethan.

“Get out of my house,” I mumbled, pouring myself a glass of water. “It’s too early for your nonsense.”

“Hey, don’t be that way. I’m not the one who told you to hang out with Josh all night.”

He wasn’t wrong. For some reason, I had decided it was in my best interest to take Josh up on his offer of a backstage pass. His bandmates ended up being pretty cool people, and I found myself getting caught up in their pace pretty easily. To the point where I embarrassed myself trying to rap over one of their jam sessions. The lead singer, Caitlin, accepted my enthusiasm for what it was, and we sang into the wee hours of the morning. 

Something to the tune of seven in the morning if I remember right.

Collapsing into one of the chairs at the table, I placed my cup down. Mom would kill me later for not using a coaster, but I was too exhausted to bother. “It was a good show.”

Ethan nodded, moving one of his pieces forward on the game board. “It was. Hard to believe they had that much energy left after the play.”

“They’ve got a lot of passion.”

Bonnie rolled her eyes and then rolled the dice. “Unlike you. The most exciting thing you did yesterday was have Nora shove her tongue down your throat, and she was supposed to be passed out.” She shook her head in disapproval. “No respect for the classics.”

Color spread across my face, and I had to turn away. My pride as an older brother was on the line here but no comeback came to mind. I was still lacking a response when Bonnie and Ethan high-fived, laughing at my expense. My mouth blurted out what was on the top of my head. 

“At least I have a girlfriend.”

My sister stared at me blankly. Ethan was much harsher. “Only took you seventeen years.”

“And her confessing to your dense face,” Bonnie tacked on helpfully.

“You both suck.” I groaned into my hand. “I’m going on a date, so don’t wait up.”

“We won’t,” they said at the same time.

Stupid sister. Stupid best friend. If they got along so well, why didn’t they just marry each other already? And that was wrong. And gross. Shaking away such a disturbing thought, I returned to my bedroom, shutting the door behind me. I unplugged my phone from the charger on my desk and scrolled through my contacts until I found Nora.

The phone rang once, twice, and on the third dial, she answered. “Hello?”

“Hey, you busy today?”

I am. Rika needs some help setting up for the dance next week.

“Oh.” I was sure disappointment leaked into my voice.

C’mon, don’t be like that. We can do what you have planned next weekend.

“What about the dance?”

That’s Saturday, so we’ll just plan for Sunday. Staying up late won’t kill us, and I’ve heard you don’t go to bed until six in the morning anyway.”

“Ethan snitched?” I asked.

I could almost see her nodding her head. “Without anyone even asking him to.”

“I never liked that guy.”

Her laughter rang out from the other end. “I’ll call you tonight to bitch about how annoying Rika was.

“Sounds like a plan to me.”

Head’s up, she’ll be hanging out with us on Monday. I’ll drag her kicking and screaming if I have to.”

“I’ve been trying to talk to her. She’s ignoring me.”

Like I said, kicking and screaming if necessary.

I smiled at just how weird she was. “Right. Well, I’ll let you go, so you can get ready.”

Later.”

“Bye.”

My phone beeped, informing me that the call had ended. I set it on my desk and flung myself on top of the covers on my bed, staring at the ceiling. The ceiling fan spun hypnotically above me, nearly tempting me into the clutches of sleep. I held strong, knowing I couldn’t let down my guard with Ethan here. That’d be far too dangerous. There was no chance I was going to be shipped off to the mall again with another weird girl.

My hand stretched toward the fan, and I pretended to grasp my fingers around it. It’d be nice if Nora was able to convince Rika to hang out with everyone again. It was clear to everyone except her how stressed she was; she was as white as a ghost yet refused to take care of herself and ask for some help. Thankfully, Nora somehow managed to worm her way into setting up. Although it wouldn’t take all the burden off of her, it was a start. 

It would’ve been nice if she had started with me. In hindsight, I knew I wasn’t in the right either. I shouldn’t have cornered her in the student council office like I did. Anyone would be bound to get defensive that way. I just wanted to make sure she didn’t overexert herself.

Flipping on my side, I pulled the covers halfway over my torso, figuring it would be fine to close my eyes if I set an alarm for half an hour. I was sure seeing her on Monday would be awkward, but I could deal with some awkwardness if it meant we were on speaking terms again. That was all I really wanted. 

Thanks to everyone for the continued support! On a related note, the participation in the last poll was way more than I could have ever imagined. The results are super close now too, so if you want to, and still haven't, head back to the last chapter and cast your vote. I will see you all on Wednesday!

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