12 – Falling
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We all stepped out of the bus and were herded into the roller skating rink. Ryan held the door open for us as we stepped inside. I breathed in the cool air-conditioned air, it did feel very nice, especially in contrast to the Washington autumn temperature. We rented our skates and sat down on the benches to put them on.

“Ah,” I yelled out, I immediately began slipping as soon as I stood up. I finally managed to catch my balance in an awkward position, making sure not to move an inch so that I wouldn’t fall down.

“You don’t know how to skate?” Ryan asked as he gently rolled up next to me. “Here, come on. Hold onto me.”

“O-Okay,” I stuttered out as I grabbed onto his bare arm, his body covered only by a t-shirt. I slightly leaned onto him, my heart pounding as I felt his strength. His muscles were solid and nice to hold onto, and I smiled as I looked up at his face. “Don’t let go of me.”

“Of course I won’t,” he said, flashing a lopsided grin at me. “It’s so cute how you’re grabbing onto my arm like that.”

“I just don’t want to fall,” I complained, as I grabbed onto his arm with even more strength.

“Jeez, you’re going to rip my arm off at this rate,” he said, gently laughing. “Fine, fine, hold on tight.”

“Oh my God, you two,” Jasmine squealed as she rolled up to us with Zoe. “That’s adorable, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, that is cute,” Zoe said, chuckling. “You’re like clutching onto him, Julie.”

“I’m just scared of falling,” I said, trying to defend myself. “What else am I meant to do?”

“I don’t know,” Jasmine said sarcastically, shrugging. “You can hold onto the railings, rent one of those skate mates, or ask one of us girls to grab onto you. There’s a lot of options.”

“Well, I don’t like any of them,” I said.

“Of course, you can continue to stay stuck onto Ryan’s arm,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“This place is so, what do you call it?” Zoe said, looking around the building. “Retro. Yeah, that’s the word.”

I looked around. The vibe of the place was certainly retro, a big disco ball spun around in the middle of the rink and the music was hits from the 1970s. The place was mostly empty too, there were only a few other people skating around the rink and they were mostly couples.

“Zoe and I will skate for a little bit, some couple’s time, you know,” Jasmine said, winking. “Have fun skating, you two.” Jasmine rolled over to Zoe, starting to move about the rink, leaving me alone with Ryan.

“So, you should probably teach me how to skate without falling down, huh?” I said, looking up at Ryan.

“Oh yeah, I should,” Ryan said. “Here, let’s go somewhere in the rink that’s mostly empty.”


“Okay, first you have to get in the right position,” Ryan said, coaching me. “Put your feet about shoulder width apart, bend your knees, and squat slightly.”

“Okay,” I said nervously, letting go of Ryan. “Shoulder width, bent knees, squat.” I managed to stand still without falling down, an accomplishment in my books.

“Okay, now you can start moving forwards. Keep your feet in a V position, and slowly push off with one foot and glide with the other.”

I did what he said, and slowly began to move forwards. “I’m doing it!” I yelled out excitedly. Ryan stood in front of me smiling, skating backward to make sure I was alright. It was going well until I suddenly slipped on nothing, falling over forwards. I ended up falling straight into him, and we both tumbled onto the floor together. We were both on the ground, my face buried in his chest.

“Shit, are you two okay?” Thomas asked, having reached us first.

“Yeah, it hurts a little but I think Ryan took the brunt of it,” I said.

“Ow, that hurts a little,” he said. “But yeah, I’m fine.”

“You two can get off each other now, by the way,” Thomas said.

“I’m not sure if Julie wants to get off,” Ryan said, tousling my hair with his hand as he sat up. I just realized that I was stuck onto him, my arms wrapped around his torso.

“No, I mean, I,” I was lost for words as I quickly separated myself from him. “It’s just because of the position we fell in.”

“Sure,” Thomas said, extending one arm out to each of us. “Here, you two get back up.”

I grabbed onto his hand with mine and got up, careful to assume proper form so as not to fall down again.

“Ryan, what are you doing to poor Julie,” Alex said, their hand reaching over their mouth as they laughed. By that time, the rest of the club had reached us, looking a little concerned but relieved we were alright.

“I was just trying to teach her to rollerskate,” he said. “Nothing going on between us otherwise.”

“Totally,” Jasmine said, rolling her eyes. She was holding Zoe’s hand as they stood together. “That’s the biggest lie I’ve ever heard.”

“Look, I don’t know what I have to say to convince all of you that nothing’s going on,” Ryan said, sighing.

“Doubt it,” Zoe said, laughing together with Jasmine.

“We should get back to skating though, we’re holding up a part of the rink for other people,” Thomas said.

“Yeah, we should,” Alex said. “Good luck, you two.”


“So, maybe we should talk?” I asked. I had finally gotten the hang of skating, and Ryan and I had been going around the rink a couple of times in silence before I spoke up.

“Sure, about what?” he asked, tilting his head to the side.

“I don’t know, anything,” I said. “How are you?”

“Good, of course,” he said. “The GSA is going well, everybody seems happy, and most importantly I’m with you.”

“Thanks,” I said, blushing. I didn’t know how Ryan had the confidence to just come out and say these things. “I’m having a good time with you too.”

“That’s what I was hoping for,” he said, winking. With a burst of speed, he skated in front of me and turned around to skate backward. He also squatted a lot more, so that we were almost at eye level. “Here, so we can talk easier.”

“One,” I said, laughing. “You did not have to show off like that. Two, I am not that short.”

“Yes you are,” Ryan said. “You’re tiny.”

“Maybe you’re just massive,” I said.

“Hey, I’m a football player, I have to be big,” he said. “Meanwhile, you have no excuse for being that short.”

“I’m a girl, that’s my excuse,” I said, laughing.

“You know what,” he said, pausing for a second. “Fair enough.”

“Okay, let’s stop now,” I said. We had made more than a couple of rounds around the rink, and I was starting to get pretty tired. “Wait, how do you stop again?”

“You have to put one foot behind the other and drag to a stop,” he said. I tried to do that but started to fall over. Suddenly I felt Ryan’s arms wrap around me and lift me up, and we slowly slid to a stop. “You almost fell over there.”

“Yeah, I did,” I said, laughing. Ryan let me back down on the ground, also laughing. “Thanks for saving me there.”

“Of course,” he said, smiling. “Couldn’t let you fall down yet again.”

“Hey, the first time was a mistake.”

“Yeah, you’re fine,” he said. “I know you’re not used to much exercise.”

“No,” I said. “I actually had perfect grades in P.E., believe it or not.”

“Yeah, of course,” Ryan said, nodding. “You have perfect grades in everything.”

“Hey, I have to go to a good college,” I said. “Although my lack of extracurriculars does screw things over.”

“All I have is an extracurricular,” Ryan said, rubbing the back of his head. “I’m trying to go to a Division 1 school with football, but I’m not sure if I’m good enough.”

“I’m sure you are,” I said. “That game-winning play the other day was so good.”

“That was mostly luck,” Ryan said, laughing. “But thanks. I hope a scout saw that and wrote down Ryan Morgan.”

“Hey, it did have skill to it, if it were me I would’ve dropped the ball,” I said. I awkwardly walked my way over to the bench and sat down, Ryan sitting next to me. I took off the skates and set them on the floor.

“If it were you, you would’ve never made it on the football team in the first place,” Ryan said, laughing.

“Hey, are you both done?” Alex said, walking up to us and taking a sip of pop. Thomas walked up next to them, drinking some water. “Hope I’m not disturbing a moment.”

“No, you’re good,” I said. Despite my words, I was a little disappointed to lose one on one time with Ryan.

“We’re done too,” Jasmine said, walking up to us with Zoe. “God, I’m hungry.”

“We should get something to eat,” Ryan said, getting up and stretching. “Look, I know a good burger place near school.”

“Ryan, we are not taking them to The Burger Shack,” I said, laughing.

“Why not?” he asked, genuinely looking confused.

“It’s too far and we should get something less greasy, just my opinion,” I said, shrugging.

“How about Italian?” Zoe asked. “There’s a place near here that’s pretty good. Pasta, pizza, the whole thing.”

“Does that sound good, everyone?” Jasmine asked. “I’ve been there a few times too and it’s really good.”

“I mean, not as good as The Burger Shack, but I’m up for it,” Ryan said.

“Oh my God, shut up about The Burger Shack,” I said, lightly punching him on the arm.

“Never,” he said, laughing as he looked down at me.


“Look at how fancy this place looks, Ryan,” I said, looking around the small Italian restaurant. “You couldn’t have taken me here instead of, I don’t know, The Burger Shack?”

“Okay, did it taste good or not?” Ryan asked, looking offended at me.

“I guess it did taste pretty good,” I said, tilting my head to the side.

“Exactly, no complaining then,” Ryan said, nodding and looking proud of himself.

“Couple’s spat going on?” Thomas asked, turning around. He had been right in front of us and apparently heard our entire conversation.

“No,” I said, blushing deeply. “Not you too, Thomas.”

“Hey, look,” he said, shrugging. “I’ve got to take the opportunity to tease you two along with the rest of the club.”

“It is pretty fun,” Jasmine said, laughing as she stepped up from behind us. “You can’t blame us.”

Thankfully right then, a waiter stepped up to welcome us in. I’d reached my limit of teasing for the day, as I had already spent the entire day with my cheeks burning red. We took our seats, me being squashed in the middle between Ryan and Thomas. Zoe, Jasmine, and Alex took the other side.

“First GSA hangout,” Jasmine said excitedly. “I’d say we make a toast, but I’m not old enough.”

“All of us aren’t old enough,” Thomas said, leaning forwards. “Drinking age is way too high here.”

“We can always make a toast with water,” Ryan said, raising the glass of water the waiter just set on our table a few moments ago.

“Hell yeah,” Jasmine said, flashing a bright smile and raising her own glass. “Let’s do it.”

“To the GSA!” I said, raising mine.

“To the GSA!” everyone else repeated. We clinked our glasses together before simultaneously taking a large gulp of water. We all laughed after, at the ridiculousness of it all.

“God, thanks for being blackmailed, Julie,” Zoe said. “I mean, I guess it must’ve been scary for you but we have such a nice community here now.”

“No, it’s fine,” I said, taking a bite of the complimentary bread. “I’m kind of glad this all happened.”

“See, Alex,” Ryan said, rolling his eyes. “My blackmail wasn’t so bad after all.”

“Seriously?” Alex asked, looking dumbfounded. “The ends don’t justify the means, Ryan.”

“I know, I know,” he said, laughing. “I’m just glad the end ended up being alright. Now we all have Julie as part of the club.”

“Here are your menus,” the waiter said, interrupting us. “I’ll be back in a few minutes when you all are ready to order.”

“Look, I’m getting us the pizza here,” Jasmine said. “I need you all to try it out.”

“The pizza is not that good,” Zoe said, rolling her eyes. “Like, it’s okay but nothing special.”

“But it is,” Jasmine said exasperatedly. “Look, we’ll have them try it out and see their opinions on it.”

“I’ll get the fettuccine alfredo,” I said, looking at the menu. I always tended to get the fettuccine alfredo, it was just the most appealing to me.

“Spaghetti for me,” Ryan said, closing his menu and putting it on the side of the table.

“That’s so stereotypical,” Alex said. “Spaghetti of all things.”

“Need to load up on the carbs for these muscles,” Ryan said, flexing.

“God,” Alex said, laughing. “Whatever, Ryan.”

”I’ll take the chicken tenders,” Thomas said.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Alex said, holding up a hand. “No way you’re ordering chicken tenders at an Italian restaurant.”

“What can I say, I’m a picky eater,” Thomas responded.

“Damn, and I thought Ryan was bad with the spaghetti,” Alex said, sighing.

“Okay, then what are you going to get,” Thomas said, crossing his arms. “Since you’re apparently the ruler of Italian food.”

“The most sophisticated choice, of course,” they said, puffing up their chest. “The shrimp scampi pasta.”

“Ew,” Jasmine said. “Shrimp are like sea cockroaches.”

“What?” Alex said, genuinely looking offended. “You did not just say that.”

“I mean, she’s not wrong,” Zoe said. “Shrimps feed on sea garbage and they belong to the same phylum. It’s not a bad comparison.”

“Whatever, shrimps taste good,” Alex said. “None of you are going to stop me from eating shrimp, even if they are sea cockroaches or whatever.”

“I’ll just eat more of the pizza if that’s alright,” Jasmine said.

“That’s fine, the rest of us will just take a slice each to see how it tastes,” I said.

“Great,” she responded, smiling. “It tastes so good, you all will love it.”

“I’ll take the chicken parmigiana,” Zoe said. “That should be it for the orders, right?

“Yeah, I think that’s everyone,” I said, looking around the table. Everyone nodded, just in time as the waiter came back.

We restated our orders to the waiter, and we talked until our orders came. We definitely took up a lot of the restaurant's atmosphere, as we got a lot louder than I expected. Still, it was fun, and I enjoyed the time I had with everyone. Eventually, our food came, and the waiter struggled not to drop the plates.

“See, this does not look anything like a cockroach,” Alex said, holding up a shrimp with their fork. “It looks like delicious seafood.”

“Have you ever seen a shrimp before it’s been cooked?” Zoe asked, teasingly elbowing Alex in the ribs. “It looks like a big disgusting cockroach. Big, dirty, and eating waste off the sea floor.”

“Okay, maybe we should cut out the cockroach talk,” Alex said, looking unappetizingly at the piece of shrimp. “I don’t want to think about that.”

We all laughed, before continuing on with the meal. We did talk a little but it definitely quieted down a lot as we were all munching on our food.

“Damn, that was good,” Ryan said. He leaned back in his seat before speaking more. “Of course, not as good as The Burger Shack.”

“I swear, you’re saying this just to irritate me, Ryan,” I said, glaring at him. “This place was miles better than The Burger Shack.”

“You see when you compare the price-to-taste ratio,” he said, moving his hands around trying to explain what he was talking about. “The Burger Shack is in fact the best restaurant in the world.”

“Ryan’s trolling,” Alex said, facepalming. “Just ignore him.”

“They hated Jesus because he told them the truth,” Ryan said, shaking his head from side to side.

“Ryan, what are you saying?” I asked, laughing. “You’re such a dork.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Julie,” Alex said, sighing. “Give up on him, he’s lost. You can find a better partner.”

“Hey, she’s mine,” he said, hugging me from the side. My heart jumped at that moment, extremely embarrassed yet happy. I blushed and looked down to hide it.

“Ooh,” Jasmine said, putting a hand over her mouth. “Getting protective, are we.”

“Are you all ready to pay?” the waiter said, walking up to us with a bill in his hands.

“Do you Dutch pay here?” Jasmine said, looking at the bill. “If we can split it six ways that would be nice.”

“Yes, we can split the bill for you,” the waiter said, nodding.

I patted my pocket and realized the only thing I had was my phone. "Ugh, I didn't bring my card" I lamented.

“I’ll cover for her,” Ryan said, much to the delight of the group.

“Okay, then split the bill six ways but give two to Ryan please.”

“Okay, I’ll be right back with your bill,” the waiter said.


“Today was super fun,” Jasmine said, stretching. “I really love this club.”

“Which is why you have to thank me for bringing us all together,” Ryan said, giving a thumbs up.

“Yes, thank you for blackmailing poor Julie,” Jasmine said sarcastically, rolling her eyes.

“That’s the spirit,” Ryan said.

“Oh, I forgot to ask,” Jasmine said excitedly. “What did you all think of the pizza?”

“It was okay,” Thomas said. “Nothing special.”

“Look, I’m not taking opinions from someone who orders chicken tenders at an Italian restaurant,” Alex said, shaking their head. “I thought it was really good. A solid step up from Pizza Hut, for sure.”

“I thought it was good,“ Ryan said, nodding.

“Same here,” I said, raising my hand. “I definitely enjoyed it.”

“See, Zoe,” Jasmine said, elbowing her. “I told you it was good.”

“I never said it wasn’t good,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I said it wasn’t anything special, which it isn’t. It’s just an above-average pizza.”

“Here we are,” Ryan said.

We arrived at the bus station, where there were several buses arriving and leaving in the next few minutes. We talked about the merits of the pizza as one by one everyone left for their homes, until it was just Ryan and I left. We sat on opposite ends of the bus stop bench but slowly inched closer together as we talked. Before I knew it, we were right next to each other. We turned to face each other, and with our faces close, I could see every detail of him. His brown eyes almost sparkled in the moonlight, and his similarly-colored hair was slightly messy in a way I found very attractive. Now that it was night, a gust of wind hit me from the side, making me shiver a little. I could see him right in front of me, only a few inches separating us. I moved my head back in surprise as I suddenly heard the squeak of a bus stopping right next to us.

“Oh, here’s my bus, I’ll see you later, Julie,” he said, before turning around and hopping on his bus.

I waved goodbye, and he also waved out the window of the bus as he took a seat. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed though, what if that bus arrived just a minute later?