Wednesday. Nicholas is waiting for Senai a bit down the street from the gas station. The other had said he’d close up and then he’d treat the younger to a late dinner. It had been a day like any other Wednesday, nothing really happened these days, he had stayed the evening shift even though he wouldn’t get payed for it. He watched as the lights in the store were turned off, one by one. He didn’t notice the bright blue hair stopping by his elbow. He didn’t notice the person in blue hair until the other suddenly lit a cigarette. The light from the fire and the momentary heat blasting up his side made him jump and squeak in a very unmanly way. Saul snickered and put away the Zippo. Nicholas held a hand over his chest as if it would help his rabbit heart calm down. “What now?!” He gasped. He felt like two days was too short for a new visit from flower jacket and he actually wanted to voice this to the boyish man standing beside him. But he could only frown and hope all his thoughts would magically transfer to him. Including those regarding how he felt about the elder bright colored boy. But sadly, it seemed like it didn’t work. Saul only shrugged and nodded in the direction of the door being pushed open. Senai walked out with his face down in his phone.
“Thought I’d pay a visit” he said. He dragged his syllables like they were heavy on his tongue. As if he was too tired to finish the words properly.
Nicholas stood straight and felt a sting of jealousy as he saw Senai look up from his phone and smile brightly at Saul. Saul just waved. Nicholas turned around and started walking. He heard the two talk behind him. He made sure not to turn around and see if Senai would follow him. He really wished he didn’t care. He really wished Senai wasn’t so close with his drug dealer. Nicholas had imagined that he felt like this because he cared about Senai’s wellbeing and that being close with someone of that type could lead to trouble. But lately he feared he was simply jealous. “Hey” Senai’s arm caught Nicholas’s neck and held him back.
“Saul said he’ll pay for dinner if he can join” Senai said, face leaned close to Nicholas’s. Red curls laying down on the thin frames of Nicholas’s glasses. Nicholas felt the presence of Saul on his other side, the smell of cigarettesmoke creeping in the air around them.
“Whatever” he mumbled. He heard Saul laugh harshly beside him, a quick exhale and a slow inhale, smoke billows into the sky. Senai seemed pleased to not have to be the one paying anymore. He hooked his arm with Nicholas’s and pulled him along down the road. Saul walked along casually, a bit too close, and Nicholas caught his gaze multiple times on their trip back to town. When he did, Saul didn’t immediately look away. He lingered. One eyebrow hovering away from the other, almost lifted. Head slightly cocked. Nicholas didn’t want to be the one to look away first as he got the feeling the other was observing him, looking for weaknesses. He felt as if he looked fearlessly back at the older, maybe he’d miss the sore points showing off the back of his neck, maybe he wouldn’t figure him out that quickly. Saul looked away after a couple of seconds, still too long, still lingering. And minutes later he’d be caught starting again.
Senai talked the entire trip. He seemed very pleased with the three of them hanging out and he made this clear. He mentioned something about missing out when he went to school and that he now, with the two of them, kind of hoped he could experience that group feeling all young nowadays gave off. Saul made closed mouth noises from time to time to assure Senai that he was listening. Nicholas’s head was spinning. He was glad Senai held on to him, keeping him on foot. He felt off. The dark around them made it all a little surreal. A little far away and difficult to touch. The tips of his ears buzzed. He wondered, thought back to the beginning of the year, what brought him to this moment, to this part in his life where his only friend was a mental drug addict who forced him to hang out with said drug addicts, a drug dealer. It didn’t help at all that he could swear he could catch a glimpse of a pistols handle sticking out from the back of Saul’s jeans. The air was hard to breathe. The light from the town appeared. Saul lit another cigarette. Senai pointed at the only windows in the wall of a building that faced the road and the grey of the sea between shadowing trees. A family restaurant. Saul suddenly seemed reluctant, but only for a split second. Nicholas noted this with delight and encouraged Senai’s proposition. They entered.
It was only in the warm yellow light of the restaurant that Nicolas realized he had been freezing. The wind blowing through the trees outside was cold, winter or summer didn’t matter, the air from the mountains was always cold. He shuddered in the sudden intrusion of warmth over his face and neck. Senai greeted the waitress approaching them with a smile that would have any girl weak at the knees. This time was no exception. The waitress was small with tiny hands and eyes that looked like she was about to cry. She blushed visibly and smiled at the ground for a seconds before standing straight and sputtering out “T… table for three?!”
Senai nodded with a quick glance back at his party of two. He must have missed her reaction completely, or he was used to it, or he didn’t care, because he then passed her without a single regard and walked in the direction of her tiny pointing hand. A table by the window.
The restaurant wasn’t filled but it wasn’t empty. Nicholas had been there before, not this late though. The whole feeling of the restaurant seemed different from when he’d been here. It had been cold and shabby, food had been good but it had been that kind of place where you still thought it was bad, only based on ones surroundings as you ate. Afterhours it was lit with candles, the rooms seemed larger and the food not only tasted but also smelled good. The windows were steamed and the outside was blurred. Nothing to see anyway. Saul told them to order whatever:
“It’s not going to be a second time”
If he only knew.
Nicholas decided to do just so, he ordered on top of the menu, minding the prices and choosing the most expensive, and making sure he’d at least enjoy the food if not the company. Senai ordered a salad and a milkshake. Saul just said a random number when the waiter came and ate what he was given. To begin with the two older boys talked idly. Senai talking and Saul actively listening while commenting once in a while. Nicholas payed no attention. Then he heard a name slip from Senai’s mouth and saw a flinch in Saul’s posture and he was suddenly overly aware of their conversation.
“Still living there then”
“Until they kick me out”
Senai sighed like he’d heard it before.
“You know they won’t, you know grandma’s too nice, she would never allow you to live anywhere else”
“But still she can’t stand me” Saul’s smile was crooked and, to Nicholas’s surprise, kind of sad.
Senai shook his head.
“She loves you like her own, I just think she doesn’t like you always questioning it”
“Last time it was the working hours and the time before that it was eating habits”
“At least she gives you a roof over your head”
“I’m living on the sofa” Saul laughed.
“And she throws me out on the balcony every time Jasper brings home people, like she’s afraid I’ll poison them too”
“The only poisoning you’re up to is that darn smoking”
“And then it’s also that thing I do where I maintain others addictions and makes money on people’s weaknesses”
“Fancy work description”
“You’re one of my clients”
This shut Senai up and gave Nicholas an entrance into the conversation.
“Sorry…” he said and put down his utensils, two plates out of three rinsed empty.
“But, when you say Jasper do you mean Jasper Barker?”
Saul looked up at him with lidded eyes.
“Oh, I just… well… no, I didn’t know you knew each other”
Saul threw Senai a meaningful glance and looked back at Nicholas, elbow hitched up on the table and knees falling to the side so that he was facing him with his whole body.
“We’re kind of cousins, why? Do you know him?”
Nicholas saw Saul’s flower jacket strain over the place in his jeans where the pistol was pushed down.
“I… we, he’s friends with a… friend…”
“Dude…” he said. His free hand resting on his leg.
“He’s like twelve, should you really get involved?”
Nicholas heard the mocking in his voice, like sour, thick oil slipping through people’s safety net. Nicholas was used to it, from people, he wasn’t exactly bothered. But he worried.
“Well… I’m not, with him I mean, I’ve just… met him, I guess, once…” Nicholas searches for words. Searched for footing. Searched for Senai’s eyes. He looked back. He looked sorry, but a tiny movement of his head tried to tell Nicholas not to be frightened. “This is how he is” it said.
“Taylor” Nicholas said.
“You know him?”
Saul’s neck stretched out, back, and he brought up his hand to scratch the back of his head.
“Yeah, I know him”
Another meaningful gaze towards Senai, this time accompanied with a raised eyebrow and a smile that looked like he was joking about something dirty.
“Jaspers Person” he said with a rash P.
“Only know him through balcony doors but I guess I can say I’ve met him”
“Yeah well…” Nicholas now wished he’d shut up.
“I’m acquainted with Taylor, our parents worked down at the station, he used to come in after school to wait for his dad” Nicholas looked at the third plate and wished he hadn’t ordered it.
“I talked to him a little…”
Saul smiled that smile again.
“Well…” Nicholas thought hard of an answer that wouldn’t end up with Saul calling him out on being a pedophile.
“We were in a similar situation, waiting for our parents working late, we just… kept each other company”
Saul’s teeth showed.
“It was five years ago, I was still in school!” Nicholas exclaimed.
“Sure” Saul said. Hands up in a defensive position.
“Whatever you say man”, another meaningful gaze to Senai. But Senai was looking at Nicholas. Dark grey eyes through red curls. Nicholas met his. It was barely a second but Nicholas could’ve sworn:
Senai looked terrified.