When Cole got home from seeing Kolby, he called Nicky. She was surprised to hear from him, but she agreed to meet him at their spot by the stream.
Nicky was already there when Cole walked up with Duke. He stopped and looked at her. She looked as cute as ever, although maybe a little sad or nervous. This would be the first time they has really spoken since they broke up. He might be driving a nail in their friendship coffin. He hoped not.
He cleared his throat and she jumped. She had been deep in thought, no doubt probably worried about the ensuing conversation. “Uh sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“It’s okay,” she said. When she saw Duke she jumped up and squealed, “Oh, you brought Duke!” She began to affectionately pet the big dog who ate up the attention.
“Yeah,” said Cole uncomfortably, “I figured he needed some exercise.”
“How’s work?” she asked when they sat down.
“It’s good,” he said and went on to tell her about his test and interning.
“I always knew you would do well. I’m – uh – sorry about you and Laney,” she said, looking genuinely distressed.
Cole’s brow wrinkled in confusion. That’s not what he expected. “You are? Why?”
“I know that you cared a lot about each other,” she explained, “Now, I understand why you weren’t at Prom with her, but still…”
“You saw them?” asked Cole softly.
“Yeah,” she said, her tone apologetic. “I fully intended to tell you, but I decided to go to her first – to give her a piece of my mind.”
“But, why didn’t you ever tell me?”
Nicky winced a little before replying. “She made some good points about you and me. She also said she was in love with you, and that you loved her too. I did threaten her though.” She let out a small chuff. “I told her if she even so much looked at Ryker – I would tell you. But she didn’t. She was all over you. I guess she did feel bad.”
Cole was shocked that she had confronted Laney. “You took up for me?” he asked.
Nicky got quiet for a second. “Cole…of course I did,” she said finally, “I care about you, very much. I always will.” She looked down and continued, her voice soft, “I’m really sorry about what happened between us. Things were just moving too fast – and it scared me. I wasn’t ready. I should have been honest with you, but I thought you would hate me.”
“What? What are you talking about Nicky?”
Nicky looked up, then quickly looked back down. Cole could swear she had tears in her eyes. “I was afraid to have sex,” she whispered, “I wasn’t ready. But, it didn’t mean I didn’t like you – like a boyfriend,” her last words barely audible.
Cole’s head was spinning. “Wait, you mean, the whole brother thing – was a lie?” he said slowly trying to wrap his head around her words.
“Yes,” she said so softly he almost didn’t hear her.
Cole didn’t know how he felt about what she just revealed. She should have told him then, he would have understood. No wonder she confronted Laney. Now he was pretty sure she did put the pictures on his locker. Damn!
“Nicky, you should have told me then,” said Cole. He shook his head slowly before continuing. “But now, I don’t think we . . .”
Her head shot up and she interrupted him. “No! Cole….I didn’t mean that I wanted to … I’m dating Mason now,” she added as if that explained everything.
Cole breathed a sigh of relief. Now it seemed maybe she didn’t do it at all. “You don’t want…?” he said, unable to say the rest.
She looked at him with tears in her eyes. “No,” she said softly, shaking her head, “You like Laney. She gave you what you wanted – what I wasn’t ready for.”
Cole felt like an ass. “Nicky…no…” he said, frantically trying to find the right words to make it okay.
“Stop it!” she said, interrupting him. “I’m over it. I am, was, happy for you. Laney really does care about you and I’m really sorry you guys broke up.”
Yep. Wrong again, he thought. He tried to smile. “So, you and Mason, huh? I wondered when I saw him hitting on you.”
Nicky relaxed. “Well we have been dating. I went to the prom with him, and he’s really sweet, but not sure how much we have in common.”
Cole sighed gathering courage. It was time to let her know what was really on his mind, since it seemed like they were doing true confessions. “So Nicky, someone taped pictures of Laney and Ryker kissing on my locker with a note inside. Do you have any idea who might have done that?”
“Wait…” she said and cocked her head, “you called me here to ask me about pictures? I thought…ohhh…..”
Cole could tell the minute she figured it out, as her expression changed. Her shoulder’s slumped and her face crumpled, and he thought she was going to cry. But she didn’t.”You thought I did it!”
Nicky took a deep breath and continued. “I guess I can see why you thought that, Cole. I was going to tell you,” she said in earnest, “just like I said, because when I saw you two together, and it was like nothing had happened, it made me so angry. But I left it alone after my conversation with Laney.” She took a deep breath and blew it out. “So someone really put pictures on your locker? That’s awful.”
She honestly felt bad for him. He was surprised he had any friends left. He felt so bad he couldn’t even look at her when he spoke. “I’m sorry I thought it might have been you. I thought it had to be you, Kolby and Nemo or even Dannie. If it helps, I asked them first. But now, I have no idea who would have done that or why. It doesn’t make any sense. Especially three weeks after prom.”
“They waited three weeks?” she said and sat back on the bench thinking.
“Yes. I had no idea. Nobody said anything and Laney certainly wasn’t going to tell me.”
“Wait,” said Nicky, “are Ryker and Laney dating now? Maybe he did it.”
“The pictures were of them. He couldn’t have taken them. Well, unless someone gave them to him. But he and Laney aren’t seeing each other, from what I can tell anyway. None of us are seeing anyone else.”
“Who would know that she hadn’t told you, and would want to be sure you knew? Who would Laney confide in?”
They both looked at each other with big smiles as the realization hit them both at the same time. “Mia,” they both said in unison.
Cole dug his phone out of his pocket and called Dannie.
“Who are you calling?”
“Dannie,” he said and put the phone on speaker so they both could hear.
“Hi Cole,” said Dannie sweetly and Nicky looked at him with raised eyebrows.
“What?” he mouthed back to her.
Nicky just shook her head.
“Hi Dannie,” he said, “I’m sitting here with Nicky. We have you on speaker. We think we know who the Locker Rat is.”
Dannie’s tinkly laugh sounded over the speaker. “Ohhh….do tell. Who is our Locker Rat?”
It was Nicky’s turn to mouth something to Cole. “Locker Rat?” she mouthed grinning.
Cole just shrugged and Nicky rolled her eyes. “We think it’s Mia,” said Cole. “She was there taking pictures. She was also dateless. She was probably jealous of Laney getting attention from Ryker and upset because of Berto being there with Zahara. She and Laney are friends so she wouldn’t want Laney to know she told me. And, ummm, shit, now that I think about it, she’s been coming on to me, a lot. I think she figured someone else, probably Nicky, would tell me. When that didn’t happen, she put the pictures there to ensure I knew and break us up. I’m sure I would have eventually found out. But, shit.”
“I’m sorry Cole,” said both girls in stereo, making him laugh.
“Okay guys,” said Nicky, “Laney needs to know her supposed BFF is no friend, much less a BFF. So someone needs to tell her.”
“I used to date Ryker, so she wouldn’t believe me,” said Dannie softly.
“She won’t believe me either, I sorta threatened her,” said Nicky sheepishly.
Dannie’s laugh sounded over the speaker again. “I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that. So Cole, you know what this means right? You have to tell Laney. I know you have unresolved feelings for her, but her best friend broke you guys up so she could go after you. I think she deserves to know. And maybe it will give you two a chance to talk.”
Cole cringed and groaned out loud. How did things get so screwed up? “Shouldn’t we know for sure? I have already wrongly accused three people. How can we find out for sure?” Cole groaned while waiting on answer. “Crap, I have a dinner date with Mia that I need to cancel.”
“You what?” sounded in stereo. This time Nicky and Dannie laughed. Cole didn’t know what was so funny.
“That can work in our favor,” said Nicky, “Cole can tell her he invited me and Mason to go with them on their ‘date’ and I will manage to get her phone and look at her pictures. You know she will want to take a selfie with Cole and show it to all of us. And if she doesn’t, Cole can suggest it.”
Cole’s eyes got wide. “Uh – girls – I’m…” they totally ignored him.
“Crap,” said Dannie, cutting off Cole, “I want to go too! Ohhh, I know…when you find the evidence on her phone, make a big deal and show Cole so you have witnesses. I have to figure out how to be there. Dang.”
“Yes,” said Nicky excitedly, “you totally have to be there. It’s gonna be so awesome.”
Cole felt like he wasn’t even there. He should have just handed Nicky the phone and asked them what to do when they were through.
“Okay guys….how am I going to be there?” asked Dannie.
“Can you go with Zahara?” asked Nicky and giggled before continuing, “That would piss Mia off royally since she’s dating Berto. You two can go together and just be at the next table.” Nicky’s shoulders slumped. “Oh wait! I can’t go with Cole and Mia. I am supposedly the one that did it. She will be suspicious. No. I will just go with you and Zahara. Girls night out!”
Cole put his head in his hand and groaned inwardly.
“Yessssss!” squealed Dannie, “Okay it’s a plan!”
What just happened? thought Cole as he disconnected the call.