“Cole…” said a familiar female voice from behind him.
Cole jumped, quickly putting distance between him and Laney and turned to face Nicky. The hurt look on her face said it all. He immediately felt guilty for not going to her earlier. “There you are. I was looking for you. Did you talk to Kolby?” The white lie tasted ugly in his mouth.
Laney stood up. “If ya’ll excuse me. It was nice chatting with you Cole,” she purred, “See you around school. Good luck with your venture.” Then she looked up at Nicky. “Later Nichole,” she added.
“What venture? What were you two talking about?” asked Nicky.
We wouldn’t have been talking at all if you would have stayed with me, thought Cole angrily. “Nothing,” said Cole trying to control his tone. “Please, sit down and talk to me.”
When Nicky sat down, he continued. “What’s wrong with you? Even Berto noticed. You won’t even let me put my arm around you anymore. Ever since that night at Noah’s, I’ve been trying to give you space, but you just keep withdrawing more and more. It’s been four months Nicky! If you don’t trust me by now, I don’t know how else I can prove to you I won’t push you. I really like you. I want to hold you close, to kiss you again.”
Nicky started to cry.
Fuck. Then a thought occurred to him. She had gone to find Kolby. What if she preferred girls? That made sense. “Oh my god. Nicky, are you…do you like girls…” he asked whispering the last word, “is that why you wanted to go talk to Kolby and don’t want to be with me?”
Nicky’s head shot up. “Oh Cole…do you mean am I a lesbian? No….” Then she looked really sad. “If only it were that easy. I’m not gay,” she said quietly, shaking her head. She took a deep breath and blew it out slowly before continuing in little more than a whisper. “When we were at Noah’s, I was fully intending to give myself to you. I knew that’s what you wanted and why we went upstairs. But I got scared. It would forever change things between us and I didn’t want that to happen.” She stopped and looked at her hands and tears fell silently. “Besides, it felt wrong.”
“Wrong?” Cole was furious. “So you fucking strung me along?” he asked, his voice rising with each word. Nicky flinched at his use of profanity, but he didn’t stop. The alcohol gave him courage to say what he should have said two months ago when things were getting worse between them instead of better. Plus, his brief moment with Laney made him feel desired, and Nicky didn’t – not anymore. And now she says it felt wrong to be with him?
“You didn’t want me, but made me think I did something to hurt you, that I did something wrong? Nicky. I….” Cole stopped. Was he going to say love? Obviously she didn’t want to be with him anymore, so he couldn’t voice the words that felt right. Then he looked around and saw that he had attracted attention with their argument. “I’m done,” he ground out, and got up to leave. She could find her own damn way home.
“No…Cole…don’t,” she pleaded.
Nicky was crying harder…shit. Well, how did she think she just made him feel? Instead of feeling sorry for her, he got even madder. “Stop it Nicky,” he said through clenched teeth, “everyone is looking.”
When she realized he was right, she got up and ran towards the stairs to go inside the house. Cole just stood there for a second not sure what to do. Fuck, he thought and let out a frustrated breath. He should just let her go, but he couldn’t. He began to feel remorseful for his sharp words. So, instead of leaving, he went after her. Surely they could work this out. He hoped.
He knocked on the bathroom door where he could hear her sobbing. “Nicky, I’m sorry. Let me in, please.”
“Go away,” came the voice from the other side of the door.
He wasn’t surprised she told him to leave, but he couldn’t. “Not going Nicky. We need to talk so let me in!” Cole heard the lock turn and breathed a sigh of relief. He walked through the unlocked door and gently closed and locked it behind him.
Nicky turned her back to him when he came in. “You don’t have to be sorry,” she said between sobs, “It’s me.”
Cole was still angry, but tried to temper it. “Let me be sure I understand. You don’t want to go out with me anymore?”
She slowly shook her no.
“Then why are YOU crying?”
She looked at his reflection in the mirror before answering. “Because . . . I love you . . . like a . . . brother,” her voice cracked on the last word and she started to cry again.
Cole was speechless. He stood there with his mouth open trying to sort out what she just told him. A brother? He felt like he had been punched in the gut. Then the pieces began to fall into place. He knew he probably loved Nicky, because it hurt so damn much that she was rejecting him. He would do anything for her. That’s why he stuck around so long. But did he also love her – like a sister? Not at all. He knew immediately it wasn’t like a sister. The thought of kissing his sister grossed him out, but the thought of kissing Nicky, it warmed him. But, if that’s how she thought about him, it was no wonder she distanced herself from him physically. Still, he was confused how she could have been so passionate with him one minute and then cold the next. It just didn’t make sense. He had ruined their friendship by pushing her to have sex with him, but he didn’t push…or did he?
“Cole? Do you hate me now?” Nicky asked so softly he almost didn’t hear her.
He looked at her and was heartbroken, close to tears himself. “No Nicky, I could never hate you. Truth is, I love you too….like a really special friend…I never wanted to hurt you or make you uncomfortable. I just wish you would have told me four months ago.”
“I, um, only realized what it was today. When I saw you and Laney together, the way she was flirting with you, I knew I couldn’t give you what you needed and she can. That’s when Kolby helped me realize…the…uh…brother thing.”
Wrong Nicky, thought Cole, You did give me what I needed. All I needed was you with me. And you liked being with me, hanging out, kissing me….before I messed up by pushing you for more. But now it was too late. He had hurt her. Exactly what his dad told him not to do.
“Come here,” said Cole, holding out his arms. She fell into his embrace and he held her while she cried it out. It wrenched his gut. “It’s okay Nicky,” he whispered into her hair and he felt her shiver. “We can go back to being best friends.”
When she had pulled herself together, she pushed away from Cole and took a deep breath and let it out. “Why don’t you see if Laney wants to go to Noah’s with you,” she said softly, “I will get a ride home with Kolby. I really need to get out of here.”
Kolby. It made sense. Kolby was safe. He wasn’t. “Nicky…” he started to protest but she interrupted him.
“It’s okay. I promise,” she said softly and looked away. “You looked at Laney the same way she was looking at you. Maybe you two will hit it off. Go on now. I’m fine,” she said and sniffed as tears began to well up in her eyes again.
“Nicky…you’re not. I can’t just leave you. Are you sure this is what you want? Because I don’t.”
“Yes, I just need to be alone for a little while. Cole, you know that we have been over for a couple of months. I just had to sort it out. I’m sorry I hurt you, I didn’t mean to.”
“Why don’t you stay. We can still have a good time, as friends.”
“Dammit Cole! Go!”
She never swore, so he knew she wasn’t going to give it up. “Fine. I’ll go find Kolby.”
“Thank you,” she said and he could see some of the tension leaving her body.
Before he left he turned to her one more time.”Nicky….I do love you, you know that, right?” he asked and softly kissed her on the cheek.
“Stop making me cry and go get Kolby.”
Cole groaned and slowly blew out a breath. Why was it so hard to walk away from her? Maybe because he felt guilty for hurting her. And, he did love her, as a very good friend, if not more. But he had to accept there was nothing he could do to change how she felt, and nothing would ever come of their relationship except friendship, unless that was also ruined. With an empty feeling inside, he turned and walked away from her to find Kolby.