The sound of metal against leather echos in the dim cave as I sheathe my sword once more. It pains me to have to take life from such a beautiful creature, but the choice wasn’t a difficult one, as the dragon had been terrorizing the village at the foot of the hill for weeks, maybe months. I rest my hand on the muzzle of the large beast, feeling nothing other than the soft fur between my fingertips. I exit the cave with only a few minor singes to my attire. The smell of burning fabric enters my nose as I make my way through the forest in the direction of the village. Less than an hour later, I see the horse stables, signaling my return to the cluster of cozy cottages. As I enter the village with my sword at my side, people hurry to get out of my way. While I am in no way, shape, or form the least bit threatening to any innocent being, I do have to admit that my appearance may be a bit intimidating to the villagers. Not long after I return, I am entering my cottage at the far end of the village. I walk over to my bed, opening the chest at the foot. I remove my sword from my hip and lay it inside of the large wooden chest. I close the chest and go to lay down on my bed. As soon as I close my eyes I feel the exhaustion creeping over me.
I decide this is a good place to end the game. I shut off my laptop and put it into my bag. My homework is all done, so I change into my pajamas and climb into bed.
Morning comes, and I regret staying up so late playing my game. But what can I say? I just love playing video games. I hop out of bed and head to my closet to find an outfit for the day. I throw on some jeans and a random t-shirt, seeing as I’m going to be covering it with a sweatshirt anyway. I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth and do my hair, pulling it back into a loose ponytail. Once I’m finished in the bathroom, I head downstairs to the kitchen to make myself a quick breakfast. Grabbing the bread out of the top cupboard, I find the toaster and put two slices in. While I’m waiting, I find the jam in the fridge. I set out a plate and jump up on the counter to wait for the glorious ding that means food. A few minutes of sitting on the counter with my head resting against the cabinets with closed eyes later, I hear the ding and quickly hop off of the counter. I flinch at the ground shock that comes with the landing, but I brush it off and grab my toast out of the toaster.
Ready for school and breakfast finished, I grab my backpack and go sit out on the front steps. I wait for my ride which is late as always. My phone buzzes and I take it out of my pocket to see who texted me.
Almost there loser. Luca, aka my ride. My late ride.
Late. Again. I text him back.
And stop texting and driving.
Red light. I’m not dumb.
Okay not completely dumb.
Yeah whatever. You coming or what?
Calm down I’m here.
Luca and I have been best friends since third grade when he stole my peanut butter cookies and I kicked him in the shin. Best of friends. He pulls up in his black Chevy Silverado and I hop in the passenger’s side. “Seven minutes late.” I tell him. “Just like always.” he smirks. “And just like always I’ll keep telling you to stop. Being. Late.” I give him puppy dog eyes. “Please.” I throw in a pouty lip. “And just like always I’ll say ‘sure thing, sweetheart,’ and I’ll continue on being late. Just. Like. Always.” he says, tapping my nose. I huff as he puts the car into drive and pulls out of my driveway.
We get to school ten minutes early so Luca and I hang out at the front of the building. A few minutes later we’re joined by Josh, another one of our friends. “Wassup man.” Josh says, going to Luca for that weird handshake guys do. “Hey Josh.” Luca says in return. “And hello to you, M’lady.” Josh says while curtseying the worst curtsey I’ve ever seen in my life. “Hi Josh.” I say back. “Y’know you guys really would make the best couple, don’t you think?” Josh says out of nowhere. “Great way to start a conversation dude.” Luca says to him, giving him a look that says ‘shut up before I punch you.’ “I’m serious! I mean, you guys know everything about each other, you’re always hanging out, and you can’t tell me you haven’t had sex at least once.” I snort when this comes out of his mouth. “You,” I say, standing up and putting my finger to his chest, “are hilarious. I think Luca and I better head to class. Don’t wanna be late. Right Luca?” I give him a look that says ‘come on.’ “Right. See ya Josh.” he stands up and walks in my direction. “Late? Really guys? The bell doesn’t ring for four more minutes.” he says, calling our bluff. “Early is on time, on time is late.” I say, trying to make him stop talking. “Yeah, yeah. Whatever. You just know I’m right. I’ll see you later!” he shouts as we walk further and further away. Luca and I look at each other before we burst out laughing. “Do you think he’ll ever stop? He asks me. “I truly doubt it.” I respond, sighing as we enter out first block.
We’re halfway through the day when I get a text. I search through my bag to locate the source of the notification. Finally, I find my phone and check to see who the text is from. Alyssa, Josh’s girlfriend. ‘Why would she be texting me?’ I wonder. I open up my messaging app to see what she could want.
So Josh tells me you and Luca.. you know.
Dang it, Josh.
Well you know Josh. Got a
few screws loose up there.
Definitely, but is it true?
Are you guys a thing?
Absolutely not. He’s my best friend.
Yeah but can guys and girls really be
that close without something going on?
Well, you do you girl. I couldn’t do it.
Couldn’t do what?
Have a relationship like that without,
you know, sex or anything.
It’s not really that difficult..
You’re telling me you’ve never had the urge
to kiss Luca? To do anything with that body?
Uh, no not really. I mean I like cuddling
with him, but that’s pretty much it.
You’re weird. Josh and I will
meet up with you guys later.
I turn my phone off and put it back in my bag. “Autumn. Autumn?” a voice calls my name. “Yes?” I snap back to reality to and realize the class was going over the test review and Mrs. Wright had asked me a question. “Question seven on the review.” she glares at me. “Uh…” I scramble to find the question on the review. “4Fe + 3O2 → 2Fe2O?” I read off the chemical equation I had put down last night when I was trying not to fall asleep. “Correct. It would be nice of you to be present in class, Autumn.” Mrs. Wright says before turning back to the whiteboard behind her and writing down my answer. “Sorry…” I say as I sink into my chair and try to hide the embarrassment on my face.
The bell could not have rung soon enough. The sound signaling the end of the school day came to an end as I head to where Luca had parked the car this morning. It’s nice out, so I throw my things in the back of the truck and hoist myself up to join them. I sit in the back of the truck on my phone for a few minutes before I hear a loud thud. I lift my head and scan around the parking lot for the source of the sound. My head jerks to the left as I hear the noise again.
There is a kid being thrown against one of the cars. The poor kid is already bloodied and clearly weak, showing no signs of trying to defend himself. I try to focus in on who the kid is, attempting to identify the blood covered face. I immediately jump up and out of the truck upon realizing who the victim is. Luca. Probably the fastest I’ve ever run in my entire life, I quickly make my way over to see what is going on. I get over just as a much-larger-than-Luca guy is bringing his fist up to punch Luca in the face, but before he has the chance I grab his arm and pull it behind his back. “What the hell is going on?” I ask frantically. I look to a nearby spectator, “Go get security.” He just stands there for a moment before I repeat myself, more stern this time, “Now!” The guy tries to move his arm out of my grasp, but there is no way I’m letting him go. I’ve been in boxing practically my whole life, so I know how to handle myself.
Less than five minutes later the school security guard is outside putting Luca’s attacker in handcuffs. I walk with Luca to the school nurse, neither of us saying a word the way there. It takes about twenty minutes before he comes back out with the blood washed away and bandages all over his face, holding an ice pack to his right eye. “Okay. What is God’s name was all of that?” I ask him, a mix of concern and anger in my voice. Luca stares blankly at the wall for a second, then snaps his eyes back to me. “He was harassing some girl…” he says quietly, “I wasn’t just gonna let him.” I look at Luca with concern and pride before wrapping my arms around him and resting my head on his chest. He wraps his free arm around me before letting out a faint laugh and saying, “Not completely dumb.” At that I back away and smack him lightly in the chest. “Ah!” he flinches. “Sorry!” I say quickly, reality settling into my mind. “C’mon, let’s go. I’m driving.” I say to him before starting to walk back to the parking lot. “Oh, Lord. Just put me back in the fight!” he exaggeratingly calls out as I turn around to stick my tongue out at him. He jogs to catch up with me and we walk back to his truck together.
We arrive at Luca’s house not too long after leaving the school parking lot. Luca’s parents don’t get home until late because of work. His mom is an EMT at the local hospital, and his dad is a lawyer with his own law firm a little ways out. I texted Josh and Alyssa to let them know that we wouldn’t be able to meet up with them today, saying that I’d tell them why some other time. In the meantime, I had Luca hang out on the couch in the living room as I made us something to eat. He complained for a bit about my refusal to let him help, saying, “I’m fine! I got punched in the face a few times, it’s not like my ribs are broken.” To which I said, “No. Sit. I’ll make something to eat. You just watch Mickey Mouse or something.” That last sentence earning a snort from Luca. The main reason Luca may have wanted to assist me in the kitchen is because I don’t know what I’m doing. I know I can’t cook. Luca knows I can’t cook. Everyone knows I can’t cook. Yet, here I am. Standing in front of the open fridge, looking for something to make that won’t end in a house fire. I decide the contents of the fridge hold too much possibility of danger, so I move over to the pantry and pull out some cans of soup. What could go wrong with soup, right? I find a pot big enough to hold the contents of the soup cans. Pouring the soup into the pot, I set the stove top to medium heat and place the pot onto the stove. In a few minutes, the soup starts to bubble and I grab a spoon to stir it. After a little bit of stirring, I set the spoon down and go to find bowls. Apparently, turning my back was a very bad idea, as I turn around to see the soup starting to boil over the edges of the pot. “Shoot!” I shout as I reach to shut off the stove and move the pot. As I lift the pot to move it over, some of the soup spills over and lands on my wrist, burning it. I quickly set the pot down and move to the sink to run my wrist under the cold water. As I hold my wrist through the water in defeat, I hear snickering coming from the entryway to the kitchen. I turn to see a bruised Luca leaning against the doorframe, snickering at my mess attempt of cooking. “Shut up.” I mumble. I feel arms wrap around me and Luca rest his head on top of mine as he quietly asks, “Pizza?” I let out a small laugh and respond, “Pizza.”
We order pizza and put on a movie, and since it’s my turn to pick, I picked The Princess and the Frog, my favorite Disney movie. Last time Luca picked some sappy romance movie and we spent the whole time making fun of how cheesy everything was. “The Princess and the Frog? Doesn’t this have romance in it?” Luca gives me a funny look. “Well, yeah. But Tiana is a strong woman of color that works hard to achieve her dreams. That’s why I like it so much. Also the songs. The songs are great.” I respond with a big grin on my face. “Okay… Whatever you say, dork.” he says, returning his attention to the TV. “Shhh! It’s starting.” I say. “It’s literally just previews.” he says. “SHH!” I say again, louder this time to show I was serious.
About a quarter way into the movie, pizza arrives and Luca and I rock, paper, scissors it to see who has to go get it. Luca lost, and very obviously displays his dissatisfaction with this outcome by groaning and dragging his feet the entire way to the door. Being the excellent actor that he is, he opens the door and greets the pizza delivery girl with a smile. He signs for the pizza and gives a sigh of relief when he closes the door, pressing his back to it. “Have fun?” I say with a grin as I rest my chin on the arm of the couch and look at him. “So much.” he says sarcastically. “I think she was flirting with me.” he adds. “Oof.” I exclaim at that. “What did you say?” I say. “I just laughed. What else do you expect from an anxious introvert?” he asks. I laugh and sit up to make room on the couch. “C’mon. I’m starving.” I say and pat the couch next to me. He comes over and sets the large cheese pizza in between the two of us and we play the movie again.
By the time the movie is over and we’ve finished the pizza, the sun has set and it’s time for me to head home. Seeing as we took Luca’s truck, he’ll have to take me home, and I’m not sure about him driving with that black eye. “I could take the truck home and come pick you up tomorrow?” I raise the end of the sentence in a form of asking if that’s a good plan. “You’re hilarious Autumn. I’m taking you home. And I’m taking my truck home.” he says. “But your eye! I really don’t want you to drive with that. Especially not at night!” I try to convince him not to drive, but he won’t budge. “Nope. Grab your bag, let’s go.” he says, grabbing his car keys before I can stop him. “Mule.” I mumble, grabbing my backpack. “What was that?” Luca called from outside the door. “Nothing!” I called back. “That’s what I thought.” he said as I joined him outside, heading over to the passenger’s side of his truck.