This is sort of part of the story, but of no real consequence just yet. It's just in case anybody remembers that Max walked away, and Rodney followed him, and got curious.
Thirteen - Extra
I didn’t respond. ‘Go away,” I thought silently, hoping that whoever it was – I hadn’t looked up, nor had I placed his voice – would do just that. I’d run away, yes, from the table for a reason.
I had tried to keep the tears that were prickling at the back of my eyes from spilling over, but when I felt the first touch of moisture, I’d left. I’d run away; excused myself and fled to the ground where I’d be just one face in the crowds.
I didn’t want to be reminded of John! I didn’t want to be reminded of how I’d screwed myself over! I’d made a mistake, and I was paying the price, wasn’t I? I didn’t need to be told!
Of course, Lani hadn’t been asking about the failed love life – she’d been asking about sport. About the basketball I’d never get to play.
Because of John.
“Hey, dude, are you alright?” I felt a slight shift in the air as he sat down next to me.
My head still in my hands, I tried to turn away, only to have him put his arm around my shoulder. Momentarily surprised, I lifted my gaze, and greeted Rodney’s.
I let out an ‘o’. Why was he there? It’s not that I disliked him, but he was the one guy I’d hate to be caught crying by. He was so, I don’t know, composed, and I didn’t want him to see me like that. “Oh, gosh, hey, I-I’m sorr-sorry I-” I re-buried my burning face in my hands.
“Why are you apologizing?” his voice was gentle, and genuinely curious.
“I-it’s just, I’m a mess. And I really need to get a grip.” I mumbled, still too embarrassed.
I’m stubborn, generally, but something in his voice made me obey. “Look at me.” His eyes locked onto mine, he continued, “Good. Now say what you were going to.”
“Nothing,” I started to shake my head, but faltered under the look he was giving me. “I just, do you think I’m a loser?”
“Stupid question,” I laughed mirthlessly, “You do, don’t you? I’m being a total crybaby right now and-”
“What are you on about?”
“Um. Aren’t you going to tell me to get over it? To be a man, or something?”
His response…threw me off somewhat. “Oh.”
“No, I wasn’t. And I’m sorry that you think that.” His voice had become hard all at once, which temporarily made me forget.
He stood up. “I’m not very good at this, but I’m trying, kay? I’m sorry.”
Why did he-was that- was that hurt in his voice? “Wait!” I attempted to scramble to my feet but collapsed right back to the ground. “Ouch.”
“Are you fine?”
“Yes,” this time I was the one to look at him. “but you’re not.”
“It’s no biggie. I just got upset over nothing. It’s you we’re worried-”
He looked at me questioningly, but complied.
“Why did you just say that?”
“Well, ‘cause you are the one we’re worried about.” His attempt to play dumb was pretty good, down to the scratching of his head, but something just wasn’t right.
I went along nevertheless. “I meant with the whole you’re not good at this thing.”
“Well,” he shrugged, “I’m not.”
“What’s bothering you?” He opened his mouth to protest, but I didn’t let him. “Don’t say nothing.”
He shrugged again, averting his gaze.
“Why do you think you’re not good at consoling people?” I tried again. “I mean, you did come here to console, right? Comfort…that. You know.”
“Because I’m not.” He replied simply.
“Who told you that?”
He didn’t reply.
“Whoever it is is nuts, alright?”
“It’s true,” he said again, his voice two tones softer. “It’s like I never know what the right thing is, to say, and I don’t seem to understand people.”
“Really? I disagree.”
“It is true!” he insisted. “That’s why Ryan-” he stopped.
Aha. We were getting somewhere. “It’s why Ryan, what?”
“Nothing.” He fell silent, but just when I was starting to consider that maybe I’d pushed him a little too hard, he started again. “Just, he always assumes that I’ll look down on him if he has some crisis, so he’ll tell Nick his problems, but not me.”