They survived finals and winter break was already here. Nick was struggling with going home. He didn’t want to face Val.
“So stay here Nick. Who says you have to go home?” reasoned Ben.
“I need to tell her it’s over,” he said running a hand through his hair.
“Dude, I think she got the hint two months ago. Even her Facebook status is single. Stay here with me and chill. If the parents want to see you, they can come here. They have a car, we don’t. It’s too damn far to take a bus and too expensive to fly. And speaking of money, I think I am going to get a part-time job, so I can’t go home. Problem solved.”
Nick’s face lit up. “Hey, that’s a great idea! Then I have a real excuse. Plus my savings are running dry anyway. So, I’ve been meaning to ask you…”
“I don’t have money to loan you man. I’m getting a job. Didn’t that register? And I am not asking my parents for money. Screw ‘em. We will be okay.”
“No. I don’t want money. Rachael and I have been talking. You have a friggin’ green thumb so we thought maybe….”
“No, no-no-no-no-no,” said Ben shaking his head, “I don’t like where this is headed Nick…the answer is NO!”
“Hear me out Ben. Just a couple of plants is all. You could grow them in the apartment…”
“Dude, what part of ‘No’ do you not understand?”
“No one will know Ben. We can grow our own and save a ton of money. If I get a job I can buy seeds. We can even sell the extra and then neither of us will have to keep working. It will be well worth the initial investment.”
“Uh, Nick, its illegal.”
“We aren’t going to become drug dealers. We are growing for our own use….”
“Your use,” scowled Ben pointing a finger at his friend.
“Okay, me and Rach’s use,” conceded Nick, “and maybe Austin can buy the extra from us. That’s all. I know Sofia taught you all about gardening. You can make it work. You just need a light and a couple of pots. We can stick it in the closet. I promise you, no one will ever know except Austin and Rachael.”
Ben sighed and put his head in his hands. “And his friends and Emma,” he said.
“They won’t say anything. Come on,” begged Nick, “You like growing shit.”
Against his better judgement, Ben heard himself saying, “Fuck Nick. You buy it and I will grow it for you. The things I do in the name of friendship. God, I need to have my head examined. You owe me big time. But I will only do this on one condition, you will get a job and stay during the break. You don’t need to see ‘miss high and mighty’ and I am not doing this alone.”
Nick jumped and and wrapped Ben in a hug at the same time the door opened and Emma walked in. Before Ben could shove Nick off of him Emma said, “Ohhh what’s this? A little male bondin’? Or are you hittin’ on Nick now insteada chasin’ skirts Ben?”
“No Emma,” replied Ben smirking, “For your information, I just convinced this dickhead here that he could stay through the winter break instead of going home. He was so happy he gave me a manly hug.” He winked at Emma and added, “I have some more manly moves I would be happy to demonstrate for you in the bedroom.”
Emma rolled her eyes at Ben. “Now who’s the dickhead,” she said. Ben couldn’t help but laugh at the way she said dickhead, drawing it out to sound like dick-hay-ud.
Emma squinted her eyes at him when he laughed, “I just came by to see if you guys wanted to go out tonight with me an’ Rachael to the festival. It’s the romance festival. I hope you two can keep your hands off each other.”
Nick and Ben looked at each other and high-fived. Emma sighed and rolled her eyes. “I guess that’s a yes in caveman. I don’t know why I put up with you two and Heaven only knows what Rach sees in you Nick. Although, you are less obnoxious than your friend here.”
Nick posed for Emma much to Ben’s amusement and replied, “You mean other than my good looks and winning personality?”
Emma made a show of looking him up and down. She laughed, “I guess you have a point. See you boys, and I do mean boys, in a coupla hours.”
Emma stopped at the door and looked at Ben. He thought he saw a little hint of sadness there before she smirked and said, “Too bad dick-hay-ud there doesn’t have the personality part.” She pointed at Ben and looked him in the eye, “Don’t you get any ideas just because it’s the romance festival. We are goin’ for the food and shoppin’.”
Evidently Nick saw it too. After the door closed he turned to Ben. Imitating Emma’s voice he said “Dick-hay-ud, don’t ewe git any ideas.” He laughed and changed his voice back. “She likes you in spite of your bullshit. If you stop chasing her you just might catch her.”
Ben felt a pang of guilt. He really did like Emma and would never do anything to hurt her. Maybe he wouldn’t goad her anymore about not sleeping with him. Or not. It was way too much fun. And if they ever did sleep together, then he wouldn’t be able to be friends with her and he really wanted to stay friends with Emma.
His phone rang and he looked at the picture that flashed on the screen. Naomi. Damn, she probably wants to go to the festival too. He would just have to lie. He wasn’t ditching Nick and the girls.
He had been with Naomi several times since he kissed her goodbye in her apartment. His one and done had turned into more than he wanted and three weeks in he was starting to get that familiar panicky feeling. Maybe it was time to cut Naomi loose but he didn’t want it to be via phone.
“Ben, did you forget about the festival? It’s tonight.”
“I can’t make it. Nick and I have some things to get done at the apartment.”
“Are you chickening out Ben Murdock?” she teased.
“Maybe a little. I will call you tomorrow. We can meet for lunch.”
“Fine. See you tomorrow,” she said and hung up without waiting for a response.