“Well hello there.”
Amanda was slightly taken back by the man sitting in Nick’s kitchen. He had tattoos and a pierced eyebrow, black nail polish. He was nothing like Nick at all, and here she was standing in nothing but Nick’s t-shirt.
“Hi…..” Amanda said nervously, walking to the cabinet to get a glass for her juice.
“You must be Amanda. Am I right?” he said, lowering his sunglasses to look at her. She blushed.
“Good guess.” she shrugged.
“I’ve heard a lot about you from Nick…..he talks about you all the time. You two datin’?”
Amanda felt angry that this strange looking guy was inquiring about her relationship status. She whirled around and he was no longer at the table, he was at the kitchen sink.
“The name is Alex, but I like to be called AJ….or Jay for short.” he said, holding out his hand.
She didn’t shake it.
“I don’t bite you know. Not unless you want me to.” he smirked. Amanda wasn’t sure how she should react, she opened her mouth as Nick shuffled into the room, his hair sticking up at all angles.
“Morning, Princess.” AJ said. Nick grunted, his eyes still droopy. Amanda giggled, sipping her juice.
“Comffee?” Nick mumbled.
“Already made, champ.”
It was interesting to watch Nick make his coffee half asleep, he poured it and added milk and sugar, stopping to scratch his chest. Amanda looked with her head tilted slightly.
“Here we observe the Carter in his native environment….watch carefully, boys and girls. Don’t get too close. The Carter can be quite tempermental.” AJ said, doing his best Steve Irwin impression.
“Fuck off, Jay.” Nick muttered, raising his middle finger.
Amanda laughed and they all sat at the table together.
“Are we human now?” she asked after Nick finished his coffee.
“Thanks for the commentary, Steve.” Nick said, rolling his eyes at AJ.
“You love it.”
“I can bring you back to Sarah’s if you like after breakfast.” Nick added.
“That’s fine. So this is your roommate?” Amanda asked, watching AJ clean up his food. Nick set his second cup down and smiled, flattening his unruly hair.
“Yeah, this is AJ. He’s….uh…..well, unique.” he explained. As he looked at her his mind went back to last night. What were the two of them now? Were they together? So many questions left unanswered.
“He’s…..definitely something.” Amanda said, looking at AJ.
“You kids behave yourselves now. I am off to work.” he teased, picking up his car keys.
“Nice meeting you, Jay.”
“Likewise.” AJ said with a smirk. Amanda heard him leave and Nick started making breakfast.
Nick dropped Amanda off afterwards and spent the day thinking. He wondered what everything meant, his heart was lost. He was so lost he didn’t hear AJ come home that afternoon…..he sat on the beach out back, throwing stones into the water.
“Hey, kid. What’s eating you?”
“Shit, Jay. Don’t scare me like that!” Nick said after he jumped in surprise.
“You wanna talk about it?” AJ asked.
The two of them sat down, looking at the waves. Nick liked being out here more than anything, listening to the ocean.
“How do you know when you’re in love?” he whispered. AJ leaned back, rubbing at his chin.
“Can’t say I have ever been in love. I would imagine it’s something you just feel, like you’re complete. Without the other person you feel empty.” he replied. Nick nodded….thinking again. He thought back to when Amanda had left for New Jersey, he had certainly felt empty then..he felt empty now. He felt safe with her near him.
“If you’re in love with someone, should you tell them?” Nick asked as the two of them headed into the house.
“Of course you should tell her. It’s Amanda, isn’t it?” AJ laughed as Nick blushed a little.
“I am just afraid she won’t love me back.” he said.
“Just tell her, what is the worst that could happen? Always be honest with how you feel.”
“Can I be honest with you, AJ?” Nick asked.
“Your Steve Irwin impression this morning sucked.”
Nick spent Sunday after work getting together the perfect way to tell Amanda how he felt. He wrote a note and stuck it in her locker with a flower, not signing his name. He had planned to have her meet him by the willow tree where they met, to confess everything.
“What’s Carter doing by Amanda’s locker?” Lance asked from down the hall, watching.
“Looks like he put a flower in there.” Joey said. The two of them opened it and Lance took out the note. His expression turned sour and he punched the locker, crinkling the paper.
“What the hell does he think he’s doing?” he demanded.
“Well, he did kiss her at prom…….” Joey said meekly.
“HE WHAT?” Lance practically shouted.
“Looks like he wants to steal her from you bro.”
“I don’t think so. Watch this.”
Lance wrote his own note signing his name and threw Nick’s in the garbage. He closed the locker, snickering.
“Two can play at that game. If he thinks he’s getting her, he has another thing coming. Nobody messes with MY girl.”
Nick stood under the willow tree, nervously playing with his shirt. He had his guitar waiting nearby, propped against the tree trunk. He’d carved a heart into the trunk, and his plan was all laid out….all he had to do was wait.
“You spoil me, you know that?”
Nick heard Amanda and Lance nearby, she was on her aunt’s porch across the street.
“I take that you got my note then.” he smirked.
“Of course. You’re so sweet,” she said, kissing him. They parted and Lance looked in his direction, winking. Nick ducked behind the tree, his heart beating fast.
Nick felt like he’d been dunked into cold water. There was no way he could tell her now…not now, not ever.
Amanda would never love him back.
He picked up the guitar and ran.