My feet pounded against the treadmill. I was running pretty fast for a guy with a busted knee. Rock music was blasting through the speakers on the TV and I was just kind of in the zone.
Malibu had forced me to go to a therapist, and the first thing she told me was that I should start walking and running again. Odd medical advice, honestly. I had always been told not to put any weight on a broken bone. Oh well, running was fun for me. And I looked good doing it, too. I had even put a mirror up so I could watch myself while running.
Since the local gym was always crowded and I couldn’t run for two minutes without my personal space being invaded, it was a great alternative. Who was that good looking fella in the mirror? Was he running too? Damn, I would tap that. And I wasn’t even gay.
“Dang, Noir, you’re lookin’ good for a thirty year old,” I panted, smiling at myself. “Why, thank you, Noir, I couldn’t have said it-”
“What the hell are you doing?”
Malibu’s voice cut through to me and I jumped almost two feet off the treadmill. Losing my footing, I went rolling down and the treadmill shoved me off. I flew off and tumbled backwards. Malibu cracked up, offering me a hand up.I rocked back and forth, trying not to let my knee go out beneath me. Good lord, that HURT.
“I was having a good time admiring myself, thank you very much,” I moaned as I rubbed my backside. Malibu just snickered.
“You’re so stuck up.” I winked at her and crossed my arms.
“But I have a reason to be.” Malibu just laughed and rolled her eyes, going back to sit at her little desk area.
She had crafted a small little table out of some crates and and an old broken foldout table, and was using it as her drawing place. It was interesting to see some of the stuff she drew; she was amazing at it, too. Malibu scratched her head and looked at me with a somewhat confused expression. I just smiled and looked back down at my hands.
Throwing my shirt over my shoulder, I nodded at Malibu. “Wanna hit the laundromat after I shower?”
She looked up from her paper. “Only if we can grab some food, too.”
I just laughed and shook my head, leaning out of the bathroom door.
“Wouldn’t have asked if we weren’t,” I half laughed. I had to slam the door shut before her pencil hit me in the face.
“You need a haircut!” she yelled from behind the door. I just popped my head out again. Malibu was sitting at her drawing table, her arms crossed and a pouty look on her face. I just smirked.
“No, I don’t,” I snickered as I shut the door again.
Poke. “Don’t.” Slam.
Unbuttoning my shorts, I laughed to myself. I didn’t need a haircut. My hair was just the right length- long enough to dangle in my face but short enough that it was out of my face. Another thing hit the door.
“I’ve already got you an appointment with one of Rouge’s girlfriends,” Malibu said matter-of-factly from the living room. Sighing, I wrapped the towel around my waist and left the bathroom.
“Do I look like I need a haircut?” Malibu just smirked and she quickly glanced down.
“You need it more than you need that towel.”
Malibu slid her hand in mine and there was an added spring to her step.
“So where are we going to eat?”
“Where do you want to go?”
“I dunnoooo,” she chirped.
“We could try that new place!”
“The salad bar place?”
“Yeah! I know you love anything green, so why don’t we try that out?” Malibu smiled at me, batting her eyelashes. I smiled back and shook my head.
“You know me all too well.” Smiling, I looked down at the ground and swung my arm back and forth; Malibu giggled and reciprocated. She was so freaking cute. How did she do it? She giggled and started talking again, scratching her head with her free hand.
“This one time, my mom’s dog popped our inflatable pool.”
“Oh no,” I snickered. She laughed and shook her head.
“Caillie and I were still in the pool and she bit it and, like, this tidal wave with me and my sister hit my dog. He hated water until the day he died,” Malibu laughed, her face turning red. “And I don’t mean he hated it as in he avoids it, I mean he hated it as in whenever it rains he’d try to attack it.”
“I’m just trying to imagine that and all I’m seeing is you and your sister in a pool, and suddenly, you’re just sitting there in deflated hopes and dreams,” I laughed. Malibu let out a little screech of laughter and covered her mouth with her hands. We both started laughing even more. Once we got to the restaurant, we continued exchanging funny stories from our childhoods, talking about our families. As it turned out, she had a half sister named Caillie; her, her mom, and her step-dad all lived in Apple Plains. Coincidentally, that’s where my first football game out of state happened. I smiled and took a bite of my salad, staring at Malibu.
“Did you ever go to any high school football games?”
“I went to, like, one,” she chuckled. “Waaay back in freshman year.”
“Who was playing?”
“Some losers from out of town,” she snorted. “They thought they were all cool with their poop brown uniforms and hair gel. I remember that game because I spent almost the whole time making out with my boyfriend at the time under the benches.”
Brown uniforms? My eyes went wider and I started chewing slower. “Do you remember what the name of the team was?”
“Pshh, no. That was a fun game, though. Of the limited time I spent actually watching it, I got to see someone start disco dancing because he got a goal.”
Half smiling, I set my fork on my plate and covered my mouth. Malibu looked at me, with a ‘what’ expression. I just smiled and shook my head.
“That was me.” Malibu laughed. I smiled even wider. “No, I’m serious. I just remembered that the disco dance was something I did exclusively for almost two months.” Malibu’s jaw dropped and so did her fork, and she busted out laughing.
“I can’t believe YOU’RE disco guy! We all loved you!” Malibu laughed. I couldn’t believe it. We could have known each other so long ago if she hadn’t been under the bleachers macking on some guy! That thought alone was so creepy to me. It was like we were meant to meet each other. Smirking, I ran my hands through my hair and leaned back.
She started telling me a story about something that had to do with her friends and her back then. I watched her as she animatedly filled me in on every detail of her teenage life.
Malibu was gorgeous. Everything she did filled me with a happiness I hadn’t known before; the way she exaggerated her hand movements when she told her stories, how her eyes told even more than her words- it made me want to do girly things. Malibu made me feel like everything I did was relevant, and that I could do anything I wanted to.
“Shiloh!” a voice called out. My eyes went wide and I stared straight forward. “Weird running into you here!”
Malibu jumped up from her chair and threw her arms around his neck. He hugged her and smiled, shaking his head. Sandwisp looked at me and smiled, and I got up and hugged her.
“God, I hate that nickname,” she laughed as she rustled my hair. I rolled my eyes up at her.
“How you guys been dealing with the babyyy?” Malibu smiled, running a hand through her hair.
“Oh, Berry, I’m exhausted,” Lakian sighed as he sat down at our table. Sandwisp stared at him with huge eyes and scoffed.
“Pregnant women are hard to live with! Heyyy, Shiloh,” Lakian said as he offered a fist. We fist bumped and Malibu got up to hug Sandwisp. Lak leaned forward, his hands clasped together, and nodded at me.
“I tell ya, taking care of kids is way scarier than it seems.”
“Oh trust me, I know.”
“There’s just so much to do, you know? We have to move because our old house is way too small for a family. So we’re house hunting, and on top of that, I have to go to work and worry about my wife who’s being stranded at home. Her classes, too- Berry, we live a busy schedule. I can’t wait for this kid to be born.”
“We decided on Halcyon if it’s a boy and Bramble if it’s a girl,” Sandwisp smiled warmly as she sat down. Lakian laughed and tapped her nose, and they turned to us right as Malibu was sliding back into her seat. “So are you two, ah, a thing yet?”
I looked at Malibu and she stared back with bright eyes, then laughed and averted her eyes. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Ah, come on! You’re out on a date!”
“It’s not a date,” Malibu denied quickly, laughing awkwardly. I leaned back in my chair and ran my fingers through my hair, shaking my head.
“We’re just friends.”
Malibu tapped my foot with hers and smiled at me as Lakian and Sandwisp laughed at each other. “Whatever you saaay.”
“So what brings you two out of the house?” Malibu changed the subject really fast. Lakian started talking in one of his long monologues about how they were going out for their ‘weekly grocery trip’ and really just needed a break from the pregnancy stuff going on. He had recently started going to work again to help their income, because Sandwisp hadn’t gotten a whole lot of photography opportunities lately. She worked part time at the Hard Candy salon with her husband and Malibu, but her main source of income was from her job as a wedding photographer. Sandwisp’s sudden laugh snapped me out of my thoughts and I smiled.
“I think you both need a haircut,” she giggled as she looked at me and Lakian. Lak grunted and Malibu ruffled his hair.
“Let’s go get them!”
“I don’t need a haircut,” I scoffed. They both just laughed and basically dragged us out of the restaurant, pulling us toward a nearby hair place. “Hey! What about our laundry?”
“Oh, don’t be such a worrywart!” Malibu laughed as she hit my chest. “It’ll be fiiine. Lighten up a little!”
As it turned out, ‘lightening up a little’ got both me and Lakian heads of much shorter hair and a deal which I’ll leave between us four.
I wasn’t comfortable with either.
I pressed my lips against Malibu’s and smirked, pushing her down on the bed. Her hands roamed my chest as I-
“Party rock is in the house tonight, everybody just have a good tiiiime.” My phone started buzzing in my back pocket and I groaned.
“Just ignore it,” I mumbled as I went back to Malibu. She giggled. After a while my phone shut off. Malibu pulled her shirt off and I smirked, doing the same. Leaning down, I planted my lips against her neck, her shoulder, her collarbone, all the way down to her stomach. Goosebumps rose on her skin-
“Party rock is in the house tonight, everybody just have a good tiiiiime.” I growled and glared at the bed. Malibu laughed.
“It’s okay. Just answer it.”
“No, it’s alright. They’ll go away.” Malibu smiled and rolled her eyes. I leaned back up and kissed her. Somewhere in the middle of our tongue exchange my phone turned off. Smirking, I kissed her chest, her stomach, a little lower, and reached for the zipper of her pants. Right as I was pulling them down, my phone went off again. “Party rock is in the-“
“I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMETHING!”
“It’s Xanthi,” Carmine said. I sighed.
“What about her?”
“I, uhh.. Can you come over and talk to her?” I sighed, rolling off Malibu, and pinched the bridge of my nose.
“Just give her the phone.” There was muffled talking and yelling on the other end. Malibu pulled her shirt down and ran her fingers through her hair, sitting up next to me.
“Hey, ‘Zay. What’s up?”
“C-can you come over? Please?” Her voice sounded so fragile and like she was on the verge of tears that I found myself immediately relenting. Malibu gave me a worried look and I shook my head.
“‘Zay, calm down, it’s okay. I’ll be over in a few.”
I clicked my phone off and Malibu sat cross-legged across from me, furrowing her eyebrows. I just shrugged.
“I have just the thing.”
We got ourselves ready to go and out the door in under five minutes, Malibu with a big case of some sort of makeup under her arm and me with my car keys and a jacket. It had to be, what, eleven o’clock at night? Twelve? Oh, what did it matter.
I knocked on the door and someone immediately pulled it open. Smiling at Carmine, he sighed with relief and hugged me briefly.
“You don’t know how good it is to see you.”
“Missed you too, bro,” I smirked, throwing my jacket on the couch as I bolted up the stairs. Malibu stayed downstairs, talking to Carmine. It sounded like she had a big plan with that case of hers. Good; we might need a girl’s advice on this. I gently tapped on Xanthi’s door and was greeted with a loud thud.
“It’s Shiloh, ‘Zay.”
Her door swung open and she flew into my chest, squeezing me with one of her killer hugs. My arms wrapped around her and squeezed her back, and she let out a small sob. I just petted her hair and kissed the top of her head, reassuring her with quiet words as I always had when she was growing up. She pulled away after a while, wiping at her eyes.
“S-sorry, Lo-lo, I just, I really needed-“
“There’s nothing to apologize for. What happened?” I quietly inquired as we went back into her room. She shook her head.
“I- I don’t really know. I’ve just always thought I was into boys until Papaya and then we started dating and everything was so happy! Everything was so happy and I’ve never even seen you that happy, Lo-lo, and I could have sworn we were in love and then she just tells me today I was just an experiment? I was a fudging experiment. And she doesn’t even want to be my friend anymore, and I just- I don’t know what I did wrong!”
Xanthi burst into tears as she tried to coherently finish her thoughts. Wait- she had been dating Papaya? For how long? I reached out and rubbed her shoulder, letting her calm down a little.
“Xanthi, I know it sucks, but I love you, okay? It’s not the end of the world-“
“It IS the end of the world! MY world, Shiloh! She was everything I was living for and-” She started crying again. I went to rub her shoulder again but she pushed me away.
“Xanthi, I was with Rena for almost ten years. She dumped me on my ass just like Papaya. You’ll be fine-“
“No, I won’t! I want her back, Shiloh! I can’t function without her!”
“Boy troubles?” Malibu said timidly as she poked her head in through the door. Oh, come on, now was definitely not the time. I shook my head at Malibu but she came in anyway and booted me out of the way.
“Girl troubles,” Xanthi muttered tearfully as she crossed her arms and looked away. Malibu chuckled and shook her head.
“God, I hated teenage relationships. What happened?”
Xanthi filled her in on everything that had happened and I sat there, shocked. Were they actually bonding? Was Xanthi actually opening up to someone other than me? What the hell? Malibu was actually saying things that helped, too. Like, things my mom probably would have said. Things any mom would have said in that situation. There are some things a guy just can’t relate to, I guess. But Malibu had her laughing and cheered up within ten minutes, which was faster than I ever would have been able to do. Xanthi smiled and hugged her, wiping at her eyes. I smiled along with them.
“Thanks, Malibu. You’re just as sensitive as Lo-lo,” she laughed. I scoffed and Malibu giggled.
“Guess that’s why we go so well together. Come on, I brought some of my favorite nail polish over. I always paint my nails when I’m upset, so it might help you too!”
Xanthi giggled and jumped right up, bounding after Malibu down the stairs. I just stared after them in awe.
I knew some amazing people.