-Little White Lie
Enjoy the ride, he did. For the next couple of hours, the only thing Nix was aware of was the young genius he was holding in his arms. Nix must have drifted off a couple of times, because the next thing he knew, the bus was pulling into the parking lot of his school. He cursed silently, as his escape from everything was coming to an end.
As the bus driver applied the parking brake, Mrs. Hannegan addressed the students, thanking them for being well-behaved. She finished speaking and the students started moving, eager to get off the bus and return home.
Nix was not as eager as his classmates. He had rather enjoyed the feeling of holding Spencer in his arms. He did not want to relinquish his hold because that would force Nix back to reality—back to everything he had ran from. He did not want to deal with the emotions that were running rampant through his body. He did not want to deal with his failing relationship with Ellasyn, especially since it seemed he could not do well in the dating world, and he most certainly did not want to want to deal with the feelings he was developing for the precious brunette male in his arms.
Although every fiber in his being screamed against it, Nix nudged Spencer awake. The young genius blinked the sleep out of his eyes and looked around curiously, trying to get his bearings.
“We’re back at the high school,” Nix told him.
“Really?” Spencer looked around. “That didn’t take any time at all.”
Spencer also did not wish to be out of Nix’s hold. He enjoyed the protective shield Nix had enveloped him in, and Spencer knew that the moment he was off the bus he would be thrust back into the pitiful reality of his pathetic life.
“No time at all,” Nix echoed.
Soon the two boys were among the only ones on the bus, and neither of them realized it until Dexter turned back around to face them.
“Nix, man, what’re you doing? If you miss Max’s swim meet, you’ll never hear the end of it!”
“I guess asking you not to tell my dearest brother I forgot about his meet is out of the question?”
“Depends on whether or not you’re nice to me, Phoenix,” Dexter replied.
“I’m always nice to you, Dexter; I dunno what you’re talking about.”
Dexter rolled his eyes and stepped off the bus. Nix sighed and reluctantly let go of Spencer. He put on his letterman jacket, reveling in the smell of Spencer and the warmth from Spencer’s body, and folded up Reese’s blanket.
“You should know, Spencer, that I’m not planning on treating you any differently since we’re not rooming together any more—regardless of any threat Dexter or Riley make.”
The two boys stood up.
“As much as I would like to delude myself into thinking you’ll keep that promise, Nix, I understand if you don’t.”
Spencer side-stepped around Nix and walked off the bus. Nix watched him go. There was a knock on one of the windows beside of Nix, causing the boy to jump in surprise. He looked over. It was Riley.
“Are you coming?” the blond mouthed.
Nix sighed and forced himself to walk off the bus. He quickly caught up with his friends. Across the parking lot, Nix could see Parker loading his and Kendall’s suitcases into his vehicle.
“What was that all about?” Riley asked, not even trying to hide his annoyance.
“What do you mean?”
“You and Rawlins.”
Nix shrugged. He did not know what to say in response to that.
Riley sighed and rolled his eyes.
“Whatever, man. We’d better hurry up and get to the pool.”
Parker and Kendall rejoined the other four.
“We ready ta go an’ watch mini-Nix kick some prestigious St. Xavier ass?” Parker asked, wrapping his arm around Kendall protectively.
“I’d like to hear you call Max ‘mini-Nix’,” Nix laughed.
“Oh, by the way, Nix, your bags are in Riley’s jeep,” Kendall said over her shoulder.
“Don’t mention it,” she replied as the group began walking toward the pool doors.
“Hey, uh, Riley, Dexter, can I talk to you guys for a second?”
The two boys fell back. Parker and the girls shot Nix a curious look but Nix shook his head. Understanding what Nix meant, they walked on.
“If I asked you two one serious question, would you guys lie to me?”
Dexter and Riley exchanged looks.
“If it’s about Rawlins, probably,” Riley replied.
Dexter rolled his eyes.
“Don’t listen to him, Nix. You’re our best friend. We’ll answer any question you’ve got to the best of our abilities.”
“What was your promise to Connor?”
Dexter’s eyes widened. Riley sighed.
“You had to ask that question?”
Nix shrugged in response to the blond’s question. Dexter and Riley exchanged another glance.
“In a nut shell?” Dexter asked.
“To prevent history from repeating itself,” Dexter answered.
“And to use any means necessary,” Riley added.
Nix did not need either of them tell him what means they had thought was necessary, but he did wonder what part of ‘history’ Riley had alluded to.
“You have to understand, Nix, that there are aspects of Spencer that you’re not aware of,” Dexter said, reading the confusion on Nix’s face.
“Well than make me aware of them! I’m tired of being oblivious!”
The other two laughed.
“You tired of being oblivious?!”
Nix narrowed his eyes at his taller friend’s retort.
“Yes, Preston, I’m tired of being oblivious. As hard as it is to believe, it’s true.”
The lethal look Nix sent Dexter sobered up Dexter and Riley’s laughter. Riley sighed.
“You probably won’t like what we have to say, Nix,” Riley warned him.
“I barely ever do.”
Riley inclined his head.
“Rawlins has a way of screwing people over,” Dexter said.
“As you guys have told me before,” Nix interrupted impatiently.
“We have,” Dexter agreed, “but stop interrupting, would you?”
Nix flashed Dexter an innocent smile.
“Anyway, Rawlins’s never been the big man on the totem pole. He’s never had the right clothes or the cool look to fit in with anyone, but back when we were freshmen, he found his place in Connor’s group. It was a bit of a surprise to all of us. Rawlins went from being nothing to being halfway something. It got to the point that you didn’t see Connor without either Reese or Rawlins. The weird thing was that you never saw Connor with both of them.”
“No one questioned Connor’s motives. No one questioned why he took such an interest in an outsider.”
“But he did,” Riley took over.
The boys had reached the doors to the pool by then and followed Parker and the girls to the bleachers.
“That was all fine and dandy. My sister was happy. Connor was happy. Hell, Rawlins was probably even happy. That party, though, changed everything.”
“What happened at that party that broke Reese and Connor up?” Nix questioned as he and Dexter took a seat behind the other three.
“Remember that Connor had disappeared? Well, Dexter and I had no clue where to even start to look for him, and then we ran into Elliot. He told us he thought Connor was in the south wing of the mansion. You know, looking back on it, we should’ve realized something was off ‘cause pretty much the only thing in the south wing is a library and some bedrooms,” Riley said, turning around to face Nix as he spoke. “So anyway, Dex and I…”
Riley trailed off.
“Well?” Nix asked impatiently as the seconds passed by and Riley had not continued his story.
Dexter, confused as much as Nix, lowered his eyebrows at Riley.
“Who is the one person you don’t want to see on at a swim meet—or in general, Dexter?”
Dexter narrowed his eyes.
“You know who. Why the hell is that important?”
“You might not want to turn around then.”
Dexter, ignoring Riley, glanced over his shoulder. He immediately wished he had not.
It was Trudy, the girl who he had dated a while ago and had subsequently experienced a rocky break up with. She looked just as pretty as she always had, Dexter reluctantly admitted to himself; she was wearing a knee length blue skirt with a pink turtleneck.
She was not alone. Dean, clad in khaki pants and a red name brand t-shirt, sat with his right arm draped lazily around Liyah’s shoulders, who was wearing a pair of skinny jeans and Dean’s basketball hoodie. Sitting on a row of bleaches below the other three were Hagan in a set of black warm-ups, Zeke in faded jeans and a black leather blazer, and none other than Spencer Rawlins.
“Holy Hell!” Dexter exclaimed, turning back around to face Riley.
His outburst caused Ember, Kendall, and Parker to turn around out of curiosity.
“Dexter, wha—is that who I think that is?”
“If you think that’s Rawlins sitting on the other side of that Aldrin boy, then yes, Kendi. That is indeed who you think that is.”
“When did they…?” Ember trailed off. Her attention moved to Nix, and her eyes narrowed.
“What? You think I knew he was fraternizing with those people? Get off your high horse, Vincent! I wasn’t even aware my own brother was hanging with them!”
Ember dropped her jaw, obviously offended.
“Well, you were sleeping with him!”
“Sleeping with him?!” Nix repeated. “What do you mean by that?”
“Dexter told me what he walked in on the other morning.”
“What are you insinuating?”
Ember raised her eyebrows.
“I think you know.”
“Oh, you’re a great one to talk! I dated you, if you remember!”
A shadow of emotion crossed Ember’s Spanish face, indicating that she did indeed remember.
“That means just as much as a dog in a horse race! How do I know you didn’t date me just to cover up your sexuality?”
Nix narrowed his eyes.
“I didn’t, Ember. Besides, in case you’ve forgotten, I’m currently dating Ella.”
“As a matter of fact, Nix, I had forgotten. You never bring her around us. Have you even spoken to her since the night before we left?”
Nix opened his mouth to reply but immediately closed it. He knew Ember was right.
“My straight sexuality has nothing to do with this, Ember. I didn’t know Spencer was friends with them.”
Ember opened her mouth to disagree with him, but Dexter cut her off.
“OK, I believe you. You didn’t know, Nix. I mean, it won’t be the first time Rawlins has pulled the wool over our eyes.”
Nix sighed, sending a quick glance over his shoulder at the younger boy. His eyes met Hagan’s instead and immediately narrowed. He still remembered the event in the parking lot before he left. Hagan’s reaction was not the same as Nix’s was, however, which surprised Nix. Instead of trying to intimidate Nix the way he had in the parking lot, Hagan’s expression was guarded and, unless Nix was greatly mistaken, regretful.
Nix did not have time to ponder that, though, because the bleachers erupted in cheers as the swim teams emerged from the locker rooms. He turned back around to see his younger brother adjust his speedo and almost trip over his own feet as he looked out across the crowd. A smile tugged at his younger brother’s lips and a blush tickled his cheeks.
A couple of seconds later, Max’s eyes swept down to meet Nix’s. Nix wrinkled his eyebrows in curiosity. The blush on Max’s cheeks got darker, but he sent his older brother a cheeky grin and looked away.
Dexter elbowed Nix.
“What’s up with your brother?”
“Your guess is as good as mine. No correction—your guess is probably better than mine.”
A few of hours later, Spencer found himself sitting in a back booth at the ice cream parlor Nix had taken him to so many months ago. Artie was at his right while Zeke was at his left. Trudy, Hagan, and Liyah sat in front of him while Dean had pulled up a chair at the head of the table.
“Which one of you lost the bet and is treating us all to ice cream?” Artie asked Dean and Hagan.
Dean rolled his eyes at Artie.
“You think I would lose a bet with Hagan?”
“It’s been known to happen,” Artie replied.
Dean laughed. “Not when Hagan’s lover’s swimming.”
Spencer felt Hagan knee Dean under the table. He looked up to see Hagan shoot a lethal glare at Dean.
“Shut up, Clermont. Maybe I should make you bet on a cheerleading competition.”
“Wouldn’t work,” Dean replied with a smirk. “With all those pretty girls, you’d also—wait, never mind. Good point, Dawson.”
Hagan’s eyes narrowed more at Dean. Dean raised his eyebrows in satisfaction.
“Anyone ever tell you you’re not very funny?”
“You do all the time,” Dean said.
“I’m sure I’m not the only one who does.”
Before Dean could respond, Ellasyn came up to the table and pulled out her tablet. She looked around the table, her expression transforming into a disgusted one when her gaze rested on Spencer.
“Good afternoon. My name is Ellasyn, and I’ll be your waitress,” she greeted them. “Can I get you guys started with something to drink?”
She looked to Artie first.
“I’ll take a Coke.”
She nodded and wrote it down before looking to Dean.
Ellasyn wrote down Dean’s order and continued around the table, reaching Zeke.
“I’ll just have a water.”
Ellasyn wrote down his order and looked to Spencer.
“7-Up again, Rawlins?” she spat his name.
Spencer was taken aback. He nodded awkwardly, and she hurried away from the table, leaving a tense atmosphere in her wake.
Everyone’s attention immediately snapped to Spencer.
“What’s her deal with you?” Dean asked.
“Yeah, she just treated you like the plague,” Zeke added.
“No, worse than the plague—she treated you like a leper.”
Spencer tried to shrug off Zeke and Dean’s comments, but even he knew he failed.
“She goes to my school,” he replied verbally.
He kept his eyes trained on the table and wished the subject would change. It did not.
“Isn’t she dating Max’s brother, Nix?” Trudy asked, looking pointedly at Hagan.
Hagan sent Trudy a glare, but he nodded. Spencer was oblivious to this exchange. He had found the etching on the table top oddly intriguing.
“She wasn’t at the swim meet with him,” Liyah noted.
“She was probably at work,” Dean pointed out.
Liyah shook her head.
“It’s four thirty; the shift change is at three. She wasn’t working this morning.”
“That just screams trouble in paradise,” Artie said with a glint.
“Don’t even, man,” Hagan snapped.
Artie looked at Hagan sharply.
“That’s Max’s brother,” Hagan said, trying to explain more to Artie than just the face value of his words.
Artie understood what Hagan meant. He threw up his hands in surrender.
“For the record, Hagan, if it was anyone else, I’d ignore that request.”
Hagan nodded and drummed his fingers on the table. He tried to conceal the relief on his face.
“Speaking of which, we’re going to need to talk about that later,” Artie continued.
“Yeah, I know.”
“Just as long as that’s clear.”
Further conversation was halted with the arrival of their drinks. Ellasyn gently placed everyone’s respective drinks in front of them except for Spencer, who she all but spilled in his lap.
Ignoring Spencer, Ellasyn pulled back out her pen and tablet.
“So what kind of ice cream are we getting?”
She followed the same pattern she had the first time, starting with Artie.
“I’ll have the Tropical Polar Bear Experience,” he said.
She nodded and looked to Dean.
“And you?” Ellasyn asked Liyah.
She traveled around the table arriving at Spencer last. She tapped her pen impatiently as if she would rather be anywhere else in the world.
Spencer opened his mouth to order.
“He’ll have the same thing Dean ordered,” Artie said, much to Ellasyn’s visible relief.
Spencer’s eyes snapped to Artie as Ellasyn hurried away from the table.
“Hope you didn’t mind me ordering for you, Spencer,” Artie said lazily.
Spencer sensed his reaction was being weighed by not only Artie but everyone else at the table. He swallowed nervously and shook his head.
A smirk tugged at the corner of Artie’s lips, and Spencer was not sure what to make of it. Out of the corner of his eye, Spencer saw a satisfied expression on Hagan’s face—a complete one eighty from his earlier look of scorn.
“So, Spencer,” Liyah called his attention to her, “Max’s brother and his friends seemed intrigued by your presence at the game.”
Spencer grabbed his straw and began nervously stirring his lemon-lime flavored soda.
“I’m not much of one to attend school functions,” he replied, hoping that was the end of that conversation.
He should have known by then that it was a vain hope.
“And they surely noticed,” Liyah replied.
Spencer shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant, as Liyah looked over at Trudy.
“You know, Trudy, he couldn’t keep his eyes off you.”
Trudy’s face tightened.
“So?” she attempted to sound annoyed. Spencer heard the strained hurt beneath her voice.
“So,” Liyah drew out the vowel, “his girlfriend was in a bathing suit, and yet he couldn’t keep his eyes off you.”
Trudy tapped her long fingers on the tabletop. Spencer looked from Trudy to Liyah and back again, trying to figure out who they were talking about. Zeke noticed this, elbowed him, and whispered into his ear.
“They’re talking about Dexter Preston.”
Spencer looked over at Zeke sharply.
“Dexter and Trudy used to date. It ended pretty rocky between them.”
Spencer nodded his head and bit his lips together. He was curious to know more, but was cautious to overstep his boundaries. Zeke did not say anything more on the subject. Instead, the bell above the door jingled and drew everyone’s attention to the new customers.
“Speak of the devil’s friend,” Zeke muttered.
Spencer looked to his right, his heart skipping a beat. None other than Nix Willows was standing in the entrance. He was dressed in different clothes than he had been earlier. He now donned a pair of faded blue jeans, a black undershirt, and a casually buttoned up red shirt. In his hands were a bouquet of flowers and a balloon. He attempted to look nonchalant, but Spencer detected Nix was looking forward to getting whatever it was he was doing over with.
A random waitress walked up to Nix. He said something to her, and she pointed him to Ellasyn, instructing her coworker to take her break. Ellasyn took one look at Nix and immediately ran to him, throwing her arms around his neck happily. Spencer thought he saw a flash of disgust on Nix’s face, but Nix wrapped one arm around his girlfriend so Spencer could have been mistaken.
After a few seconds of intimacy, Ellasyn led Nix to the table across from the both Spencer was sitting at. Spencer vaguely noticed that everyone at his table had stopped talking and were watching the exchange between Nix and Ellasyn.
“I’m sorry I didn’t call, Ella,” Nix was saying, completely oblivious that he had an audience.
Spencer noted Nix did not sound sorry.
“I was dead beat tired when we got to the hotel room like every night. I just didn’t have time to call,” he falsely explained. Spencer did not know why Nix’s little white lie caused butterflies flutter in his own stomach.
“That’s quite OK, Nixie,” Ellasyn purred, rubbing her hand seductively along his arm.
Nix pulled his arm back from her touch.
“Please don’t call me that, Ella,” Nix requested.
Ellasyn cocked her head to the side. Spencer could not see her face, but he knew she was a little hurt by Nix’s request. Nix cringed.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized, his voice not matching his words. “It’s just that my mom calls me that, and it’s just weird to hear it used in a romantic way.”
He offered Ellasyn a fake smile. She laughed.
“Yeah, I guess that would be weird,” she agreed.
“Hey, Ella, sorry dear, but your order’s up,” one of the waitresses interrupted Nix and Ellasyn.
Nix stood up from the table.
“That’s fine. I need to get going anyway,” he said. “I’m heading over to Dexter’s for a game of b-ball. Text me when you get off work; I might still be at Dex’s but you could come over or something.”
Spencer knew Nix was forcing himself to say those words. He could read it on Nix’s face and hear it in Nix’s voice. Spencer’s mind flashed back to the time he and Nix had gotten ice cream together. Nix had done everything to thwart Ellasyn’s advances. It seemed Nix was still doing that as he was dating her.
Ellasyn, unlike Spencer, thought Nix was being sincere.
“I’ll see you then, sweetie.”
Before Nix could respond, Ellasyn’s lips touched his briefly, and she walked off. Nix stared after her for a couple of seconds before his eyes accidentally flashed to Spencer’s. Surprise flickered beneath his emerald eyes before it gave way to something Spencer would almost call desire. It felt like hours as Spencer stared into Nix’s eyes, but in reality, it was probably no longer than a few seconds. A younger girl accidentally bumped into Nix, causing the dark haired boy to break eye contact with Spencer. He accepted the girl’s apology before walking out of the parlor.
The second after Nix walked out, Ellasyn appeared with their orders. She gingerly sat down everyone’s ice creams, with the exception of Spencer’s whose she all but threw at, and walked off.
“Well, that sounded like trouble in paradise,” Artie commented.
Everyone knew he was referring to the scene that had taken place between Nix and Ellasyn. He had not specifically said it to anyone in particular, but Spencer had the sneaking suspicion that Artie was once again gauging his reaction. Spencer’s suspicion increased once every pair of eyes at the table turned to him. Although he wanted nothing more than to buckle under the pressure, he tried to meet each pair of eyes—with the exception of Hagan’s, whose was the most unfriendly gaze—and tried to convey his feeling of confusion.
“So what do you know about those two lovebirds?” Artie asked.
“Not as much as you guys assume I would.”
Surprise danced across Artie’s fair features.
“Nix didn’t speak of her much while we were on our trip,” Spencer went on to explain.
“He didn’t appear to want to be here a couple minutes ago,” Artie commented.
Spencer realized he was not the only one who noticed Nix’s dislike for his visit.
“Could you not sound so happy about that?” Hagan snapped out of the blue.
Spencer looked over at the dark haired boy. Hagan’s unusual eyes were boring straight into Artie, and his expression was lethal. Spencer was surprised to say the least.
“Just because you’re in love with—”
“Don’t you dare!” Hagan cut Artie off. His blue-green eyes darted briefly to Spencer.
“Doesn’t mean that I can’t be happy for her distress,” Artie finished as though Hagan had never interrupted him.
Spencer had the sneaking suspicion that Artie had planned to say something different.
“You’re still mad at her for making you out to be a fool?” Dean asked.
Artie shrugged; a response that Dean took as affirmative.
“It’s not like it matters, you know.”
Artie rolled his eyes but did not further reply. The conversation was changed to trivial things Spencer did not particularly care for. He just listened to his friends—that word brought a smile to his face—talk and enjoyed his ice cream.
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