Never been nerdy, p.17
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       Never Been Nerdy, p.17

           C.M. Kars
 
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  We leave the viewpoint without anything else said between us. Another agonizing ten minutes pass by in silence until I realize I forgot to say the most important thing.

  “Dean,” I say, calling him back because his giant steps propel him at a much faster speed than the rest of us. When he turns his big body around to fully look at me, Kal and Pongo whip around to look at me, too. “I...I want you to really believe me this time, okay?”

  “What are you going on about?”

  I walk forward, Potter prancing between us, going to see his brothers with enough enthusiasm that it’s like he’s missed them for three days.

  “Please believe me, alright? I’m really incredibly sorry for what I did to you. For how they treated you, for how I set up the whole thing in the caf, with them pantsing you and stealing your clothes. I’m sorry.”

  My throat’s all tight, and I don’t think I’ve been this emotional ever in my entire life.

  Everything’s changing, and I’m losing every ounce of protection I’ve surrounded myself with.

  “Apology not accepted,” he says with the total authority of a judge delivering a life sentence.

  Well, what did you think would happen? Getting forgiveness is never that easy.

  Chapter 18

  “Okay...” I say, trying to fill the awkward silence. It’s not really awkward just strained to the max.

  Dean moves his shoulders, pops his neck from side to side. He used to do that a lot when he was pissed off or annoyed. Still does, looks like.

  “I was over it, you know? Everyone saw me in my tightie whities before they were cool, and quite a few girls made comments on the size of my package, plus my lack of upper body strength,” Dean mumbles.

  I have an insane urge to run at him and force him to hug me, but that’s crazy talk. Maybe now, after this, I can move on, I can repair burned bridges. I can just deal with what my life’s become.

  “Do you even know what that does to teen dude’s confidence? Jesus, Kat, the only thing a teen dude is good for is dick size and mine was put into question. Gave me a fucking complex. I couldn’t be with a girl for a year after that! All because you were feeling shitty. Goddamn it, I was really trying. Really fucking trying to be the better person, to shut my piehole and deal with you because you’re the one that noodled my head.”

  “I know...” I say softly.

  Dean turns around and starts walking away from me. Potter tries to run after, and so I don’t strangle him, I run to keep up. Damn, that big bastard can walk far and fast when he wants to.

  Dean’s totally mumbling to himself, and I hear a lot of swearing and insults headed both my way and his. “Fucking idiot, what were you thinking letting her drive you to the hospital? Stupid fucking ego, trying to get her to remember you, all big and shit, acting like Thor so she’d see what she missed! Ha! You stupid idiot...”

  “Dean, please...”

  “Please, WHAT!” I hate that he’s so mad, but there’s no reason to run away from him now. I’m the one that put myself out there, and he has every right to tear me down.

  “What is it going to take to get rid of you?” he asks. “You wanna fuck? Hurry up, we’re going to go back to my place.”

  Vagina: activated and ready. Locked and loaded. Port open.

  I snort at the running thoughts in my head. Dean’s eyes get huge and he pops his mouth open, showing off his teeth. He reminds me of a maddened wolf.

  “I wasn’t laughing at you! I swear!” I say, palms out in I-come-in-peace. Now, I can’t stop laughing, practically cackling, until tears stream down my face and I’m sure I’ve got a six-pack after that.

  “What is so fucking funny, Kat?” Dean almost roars, but his body doesn’t say threat, it says cowering animal in a corner.

  That’s when I stop laughing, because I can’t imagine what it felt like having everyone at school laugh at him, almost-naked in the caf, all because of me. I never saw the end result of all my devious planning; I guess I was trying to save face, or maybe I thought if I didn’t see it, if I wasn’t there, it would be like I didn’t actually do anything.

  Yeah, right.

  I move forward, boots crunching against the gravel. “I’m sorry. I’ll say it however many times you want me to, I promise,” I tell him, keeping the only smallest amount of inches between us. I want nothing more than to hold him as close as possible, without all our coats and clothes and canine buddies.

  He won’t let me do that, though, that’s a place to be earned.

  I hesitantly move even closer, wrap my arms around his waist. He’s still like an iceberg, unmoving and unyielding. It’s when he speaks that I die and get sent straight to Hell.

  “Everyone laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Guys I thought were my friends didn’t say anything. They just stood there,” Dean says, voice rough. I tighten my hold on him and squeeze my eyes shut, but I need to hear this.

  “And I didn’t think you’d do it. I knew you were pissed off at me, I knew you wanted to break things off, but I knew I could be better, I could do better. I was such a stupid kid. It’s a miracle I turned out as well-adjusted as I am.”

  A quick smile spreads across my face then falls away. “What can I do to make it up to you? Please, I’ll do anything.”

  I lean back and stare up at Dean’s beautiful, sweet face. His jaw is set, and that muscle is ticking time off at the edges. His green eyes are dangerous and humiliated with bad memories that I put there.

  He stares at me, eyes bouncing off my nose to eyes to mouth to eyes and doing it all over again. “I want you to stay away from me. I never want to see you again.”

  I let go like I’ve been burned, and step away from him. I give Potter over to Dean, and turn on my heel to leave. You’re doing the right thing, you’re doing the right thing.

  “Wait!” Dean calls me back, running after me; the dogs bark as if they’re trying to get me to stop, too. “Shit, Kat. Just gimme a second. This is a lot to process. And I don’t know why you look so gorgeous and it scrambles my brain and now I’m rambling,” he half-grins down at me, coming to stand before me.

  “I’ll leave you alone if that’s what you want. I said I’d do anything. I meant it.”

  All three dogs leap around my legs and end up bumping me closer to Dean. Wait, I’ve seen this sort of thing before, in an animated movie.

  “I want to try something,” he says, and gently presses a kiss to my mouth. “Shit. Well, I guess we’re going to have to stay friends,” he shrugs, and I have no idea what was just decided.

  “Friends?”

  “Yeah, don’t you have dude-bro friends? Although, let’s face it, I’m going to be the greatest of them all,” he says and flexes.

  “You can come meet the guys, if you want. I’ll set something up; I haven’t seen the assholes in a couple of months.”

  Dean frowns. “How come a couple of months?”

  “Well, I have this thing called a very demanding job and I put in crazy hours to get as many promotions before I’m 30 as I can.”

  Dean nods as if this makes some sort of deluded sense. It’s my turn to frown, now.

  “Will Sera be there? Besides you, she’s gonna be the only one I’ll know.”

  “Yeah. I mean... yeah, she’ll be there.” Whatever it takes. It’s easy talking with Dean, it’s easy to make the words come out, easy to talk about my parents in a way I never discussed with the boys.

  Dean nods, then looks to the sky. “Race you to the top?” he yells over his shoulder as he sprints away from me, leaving me totally confused. I wait another two seconds before I go off sprinting after him.

  I’m twenty-five years old and I’m running after a grown man for kicks.

  Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.

  ***

  My phone buzzes and I stare hard down at the Caller ID.

  The only time I received a call from him was when he was grovelling and begging me to set the whole shebang up at Tripoli all those weeks ago. Ah, how t
ime flies.

  “MacLaine,” I say. I’m half-scared he’s going to threaten to kill me because of all those awful shit things I said to Sera, and half-elated because Sera’s stubborn and maybe Hunter wants to know what’s got her in hysterics.

  “Hey, Katie. How are you?” he asks, and the whole friendly greeting thing has thrown me off. MacLaine and I aren’t really friends. I see him from time to time when he’s with Sera, usually when they mack out and my vagina wakes up and wants a piece of that with any guy available, but that’s about it.

  We don’t relate on a personal level. The guy’s a Dad and me being on his list of priorities is not only not in the cards.

  “Gooooooooddddd. You?” Yup, totally just waiting for the bomb to drop.

  “I was wondering if you could meet me at Rockland today, say around two-ish? I’ll buy you coffee, or whatever you like to eat or drink.”

  “I never say no to free coffee but can I ask what this is about?” It’s not like he’s actually going to tell you he’s going to kill you over the phone, DiNovro.

  “Ah, I don’t want to get into it right now. So you can meet me, then?” I look over at Dean who’s preparing us lunch after he destroyed me in our race to the top of the mountain. There’s a baguette in the oven and he’s staring down at the lit thing waiting for the perfect amount of crunchiness - his words not mine.

  “Yeah, can I bring a friend?”

  Hunter clears his throat. This whole thing sounds crazy sketchy, and I’m really starting to think he’s planning my death but couldn’t think of a way to lure me to the X marks the spot.

  “I’d rather you wouldn’t. It’ll only take an hour, or two, tops. Can you meet me on the l’Acadie entrance side?”

  I frown. “Sure. I’ll meet you there at two.”

  “Thanks a lot, Katie. I’ll see you then.”

  I hang up and turn to Dean, following my nose. Goddamn it, this guy knows how to cook!

  He’s got spicy eggplants planted in the just-from-the-oven baguette sliced down the middle. Provolone follows, and hunks of roast beef and ham followed by a sliver of crunchy lettuce and tomato. He tops it all off with cracked pepper and my taste buds go into overdrive; I start salivating.

  “So I’m going to leave after this amazing sandwich you’ve made me then I’ll come back with donuts, okay? I mean, if you still want me here. That was presumptuous, sorry.”

  Dean grins and waves the knife at me, then repeats the process on the second sandwich. “Who says any of these if for you? You think I got to this size eating one sandwich? Well, don’t look so crestfallen, I did make you one. My dad would sock me one if he saw me treating a lady like that. Pfffftt, he’d roll over in his grave.”

  “Wh-what?” I choke out, I’m sure I didn’t hear that. He’s joking. He’s going to start laughing now. But Dean’s face is impassive, as his grin drops off his face.

  “Yeah, he died a couple of years after high school. Heart attack.”

  “Dean, I’m sorry,” I say, feeling my heart beat hard in my chest, reminding me it’s still there, healthy and all. Shit, who helped him through that?

  “It was quick and clean, I guess. Just a lot of shit left unanswered, you know?”

  I shake my head; I don’t know. I’ve got both my parents.

  Dean jerks his chin towards the island, and I seat myself at a stool where he’s placed a plate in front of me. “Bon appétit!” He takes a massive bite out of his sandwich and stares at me while he chews.

  “I wanted to ask him what the secret to being successful in life was, how the hell do I get a loan without being fucked over, how do I do anything by myself? My mom didn’t do any of that, and I was eighteen at the time, trying to get everything right. It was a tough.”

  “I don’t remember him very well. I may have seen him once or twice at graduation, but tha was it. From what I do remember, he was always cracking jokes.”

  “Yeah, he was.” Dean nods, looking straight at me but somewhere far, far away. “He loved making Mom laugh. And sometimes the way he’d look at her while she did screwed with my head. My parents were happy together, really happy, the kind of thing you see in Nicholas Sparks movies.”

  “Who?”

  Dean’s eyes get big and his mouth pops open. “You’re supposed to know who that is. The writer dude who wrote The Notebook?”

  I raise an eyebrow. “How the hell do you know about The Notebook?”

  Dean scoffs. “Please, every dude who ever had a girlfriend knows about that movie. Then gets reamed out for not being the perfect Ryan Gosling. Trust me, I know The Notebook.”

  “Well, I never saw it. I like my chick flicks featuring the great yet every sexy Leonardo Di Caprio.”

  Dean pulls a face. “If you make me watch Titanic, you’re going to sit through the extended version of The Lord of the Rings plus Braveheart, so choose wisely.”

  I cringe. I never got the whole loving the hobbit and evil weird Gollum guy. The only saving grace in that series was that I can watch Viggo Mortensen swing a sword all day, everyday.

  “Alright, fine. We won’t go there.”

  “Everything okay with your buddy?”

  I nod, chewing on the deliciousness that is a sandwich made by Dean Carter. Shit, he’s going to make me fat, I just know it. “Yeah, I gotta meet him at Rockland for a bit, then we can hang if you want.”

  Dean nods absently. “The Habs are playing, so if you don’t wanna watch that, uh, well, the door’s staying locked.”

  “Nah, I like watching the games. I just don’t root for the Habs anymore.”

  Dean almost chokes on his food. “What? How could you?” He looks wounded. “The blood in my veins is bleu, blanc et rouge!”

  I shake my head at his theatrics, a tiny smile on my face. “I just gave up on the hope of getting a 25th cup. The game’s changed, we don’t dominate anymore.”

  “Sacrilege! Kill the witch! Kill the witch!” Dean says, pointing at me. “No, but, really? Who do you root for? Please don’t tell me the Leafs.”

  I grin and savor the look on his face that’s going to come when I tell him. “Boston Bruins.”

  Dean’s mouth pops open and the food comes out of his mouth to plop on the floor. Potter, Kal and Pongo make a grab for it; I’m not sure who wins.

  “Well, that was the shortest relationship I ever had. You can leave now.”

  “Dean!”

  He grabs another bite and chews, contemplative. “This is a huge hurdle in our relationship, and that is no joke. The Bruins?! Couldn’t have been a team that’s less... evil?”

  I laugh, hurrying to cover up my mouth in case I do the whole spitting out food thing like him. “We both know the Bruins are the better the team.”

  “I don’t believe that is something that I know or do not know...” he answers, only to get a confused look on his face. “Do you need a ride to Rockland?”

  I shake my head. “I’ll take the bus, thank you, though.”

  Dean waves that suggestion away. “Nah, I’ll drive you. It’ll take me three minutes to go there and three to come back.”

  I frown. “Are you sure?”

  “Yeah, of course. Here, finish up your sandwich. These buggers will Dyson crumbs if you leave any behind.”

  Dean was right, it took three minutes to drop me off at the front entrance where Hunter was waiting for me. I wave bye to Dean, and make my way over to MacLaine, unsure of how to proceed.

  Protocol with any of my guy friends is to kiss both cheeks and hug. With Hunter I’m not sure; he’s always been stand-offish, reserved and scary as fuck.

  I settle for a wave. “Hey, Hunter.”

  He smiles at me without any teeth. He looks tired and strung tight at the same time. Now my stomach’s turning and I’m looking for a quick getaway if I even get wind that I’m going to be kidnapped and ditched somewhere seedy for the raccoons to feast on.

  “Hey. Look, I know this is weird, but you’re the only person I can ask to help me with this.


  “Oh!” It all makes sense now. “You want me to help you pick out something for Sera?” I mean, shopping for Christmas is a bit early, but whatever. Sure beats having to sacrifice a virgin to get a parking spot on Christmas Eve like I always do. Maybe I’ll get something for Dean, too.

  Hunter mumbles something and then tilts his head to the front doors. We walk inside without saying anything and the whole thing is I know nothing about this guy other than he’s a diabetic and he professes to love my maybe-ex-best friend. Oh, yeah and he has a nephew who thinks Hunter’s his Dad. Soap opera anyone?

  “I don’t know what happened between you and Sera, but I need you to give her a call.”

  Okay... here we go.

  I nod, because really, I do need to give her a call and promise to supply her with chocolate and books and coffee for the rest of her life. I need to promise a chunk of the moon to her or something. It needs to be grandiose and crazy big. I’ll buy her a portion of the Harry Potter Wizarding World – hell, I’ll buy her all the wands she wants!

  “I was being stupid. I’ll fix it, MacLaine. She really upset?” I ask in a tiny voice. I hate it when I sound like that, reminds me of being a stupid kid.

  Hunter shrugs, but looks preoccupied. “She hasn’t told me anything. You know how she is, keeps everything on the inside until I find her crying alone on the couch and she tells me nothing’s wrong.”

  “How come you think it’s me? It could be something you did!”

  Shit, being petty much?

  Hunter gives me a grim smile then continues looking straight ahead. Where the hell are we going? A kid pops into my shoulder hard enough to swing me around. He gives me the nod when he sees my front and I’m 100% sure he’s checking out my ass when I turn forward again. Little shit’s balls haven’t even dropped down yet but he thinks he likes my tatas and ass.

  “You think I would do anything wrong after what happened? No, it’s not me. Unless she wants to call it quits and all of this is for nothing.”

 
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