Thirty Two

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Aden
I stand in front of the mirror. My hair is being unusually unruly today. Normally I wouldn't even care, but April is coming back to school today and I'm feeling especially self conscious.

I run my finger through my hair again. I tried to gel it but that had ended horribly. Now my  my hair was half wet and it's time to leave.

My phone buzzes telling me that time has run out. I grab my hoodie and head out.

I pull up to school and the first thing I see is Jamal's car. The three sibling are hanging out around it. Their laughing about something Keith said and Jamal's arm is draped lazily over April's shoulder.

It's like things are back to the way they were at the beginning of the year. That doesn't exactly make me feel good.

At the beginning of the year I was getting beat up by both brothers and April was just another pretty girl who I knew would never talk to me. At the beginning of year I was alone.

I don't want to go back to that time.

I park my car and get out. With a confident stride I walk over to Jamal's car. This is another thing that would have been impossible  at the start of the year but I know what I want and I'm not running.

April sees me first. Her smile brightens and my heart skips a beat. She's so beautiful. I smile back. 

"Aden." She says happy to see me.

April pulls away from Jamal and walks over to me. I look down at her big brown eyes.  I never noticed how beautiful  brown eyes could be until I met April.

"You look nice today." I say.

"I do?"

"Yeah, but you always do, so I guess that isn't a big deal for you."

April eyes widen but then narrow. She smiles and then playfully shoves me in the arm.

"Very funny Aden." April says.

She thinks I'm joking with her, but I'm not. The first step towards moving this relationship forward is making her understand how I feel.

I didn't have much experience with relationships but I knew she would never look at me that way if I didn't make it clear that I could be more than a friend.

"I'm not jo-"

"Yo Aden." Jamal said walking over to us.

I look over at him and try to keep the irritation off my face. He smiles at me.

"How you doing?" Jamal asked leaning one arm on April's shoulder. I look at it and then back at him. It's really getting hard to keep a straight face.

"Good." I say flatly. I look back at April. "We should get going to class."

I reach down and take her hand. I pull her over to my side. I turn to leave.

"Hold on guys what the rush?" Jamal ask grabbing on to my backpack.

I grit my teeth and jerk away. I'm about to say something when I catch sight of April face. She's looking back and forth between me and her brother.

I sigh. If I don't play nice then it will look like I'm the rude one.

"We really should be getting to class." I say in a calm tone.

"Alright, I'll let you go, but first I wanted to ask you a question. How good are you with robots?" Jamal said.

My brow furrows as I try to figure out what game he's playing at. Jamal just smiles innocently back at me.

"Yeah, I'm pretty decent." I say.

Pretty much anything that involves mathematic comes easy to me. I could formulate code and foundational design in my sleep, but I didn't see why that would be of any importance to Jamal. 

"Well those rich fvckers from Annbrook High are hosting a robo feast. You use to go there didn't you?" Jamal asked.

"Yeah."

"Well the point is that we usually end up crashing it. Keith and I build a robot and make a few bucks off the over privilege pricks who underestimate two kids from the ghetto.  Keith has practice schedule is pretty tight this year so I was wondering if you maybe wanted to help."

I stare at Jamal. Honestly, I didn't see that one coming. Jamal asking me to hang out with him and build robots? Sounds like a trap if you ask me.

"That would be so cool." April said.

I look at her and she's smiling brightly. Crap, she wants this to happen.

"You guys could totally build something better than any of them could." April said.

"My thoughts exactly. You could even come to cheer us on. Be our cheerleader on the sidelines." Jamal said looking at April.

April laughed. "Do those things even have cheerleader?"

"You could be the first."

The warning bell rings.

"We have to get to class." I say still holding April's hand.

"Okay I won't hold you back, just think about it and tell me what you decide before the end of the week." Jamal says looking at me.

I can think of a thousand other things I'd rather do than spend time with Jamal but April really seemed to like the ideal.

April and I walk to class together.  I try to think of a lie I could come up with so I don't have to work with Jamal.

"Aden you don't have to do it if you don't want to." April says as we take our seats.

"Hmm?"

"I can tell by the way you act that you still aren't comfortable around my brother and that's totally understand. It would be nice if you to got along but after all that happened I understand if you don't want to forgive him just yet. I could understand if your hesitant to be around him."

"April, I'm not afraid of your brother."

"I didn't say that."

But that's what you were thinking.

April still saw me as the weak guy who needed protecting. She wouldn't respect me until I showed her that I could handle her brothers. Whether or not she said it no girl liked a guy who was easily pushed around.

I sigh internally. Looks like the first real step towards making April like me was to get her to stop seeing me as the victim. I needed her to see me as a man and for that I was willing to take on her brother.

There was no doubt in my mind that this was a trap set up by Jamal but I would just have to out smart him.

" Alright, I'll do it but if we win I want you to to come somewhere with me afterwards." I say.

"Where?"

"It's a surprise, but don't tell anyone."

April smiled."Okay, but why not?"

I lean in and smile at her. Our eyes lock and I can't help but think of that one dream I had. "Because I want you all to myself."

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