4 of 183

Day 4—Stupid Bonding Activities

            It took them a while to realize because they were on opposite sides of the classroom, but they also had Creative Writing together. The teacher, Mr. Stone, was very fond of pairing absolute strangers together at the beginning of the year for their first project under the assumption that they would eventually overcome their differences and awkwardness and become friends.

            As luck would have it, Nikolas and Leonard were paired together under the excuse that Leonard needed to experience what it was like being a normal teenager and Nikolas needed to make more friends. Later, Nikolas would tell Leonard that that reason was complete bullshit and that Stone really just based things on appearance. It, however, was a great class to do homework in.

            Now they were sitting next to each other with the handout for their joint project sitting in front of them, absentmindedly tapping their pencils against the desk. They couldn’t figure out what to say.

                        Step one: Introduce yourself.

          “But we already know each other,” Nikolas groused. Leonard held out his hand. Nikolas stared at it. “What,” he finally asked in a flat tone.

            “Shake hands with me,” the other boy said. Nikolas grasped his hand. “Hi,” he said, grinning cheekily. “I’m Leonard Astor, but you can call me Lenny.”

            Nikolas awkwardly shook his hand and tried to retract it, but Lenny wouldn’t let go. “But you know my name,” he protested.

            “I’m sorry, what was it again?” That damn cheeky smile. Nikolas frowned. Fine. Play by the rules.

            “I’m Nikolas, but my friends all call me Nikki.”

            “Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Leonard asked in a patronizing tone.

            “No, it was not.” Their hands parted.

            Your hand is warm.

                        Step two: Say something nice.

            “Your hand is warm,” Nikolas blurted, caught off guard. He looked away, blushing. Leonard raised his eyebrows. He could feel it lingering, too. The reluctant warmth of Nikolas’ hand. He would never tell him, though. He’d liked the way his hand seemed to fit with his, though.

            “Thank you? Your…piercings are cool?” Leonard suggested. Nikolas’ hand subconciously flew up to his ear, finger counting the three piercings on his right ear, which matched his left.

            “Thank you,” he replied, surprisingly easily for someone who had been so unwilling to participate in the project.

                        Step three: Say something honest.

            They paused, unwilling to say something that would potentially offend the other.

                        Before you ask, no, “Your shirt is black” does NOT count.

            “Uhh…you—“

            “You look like an onion.”

            “What?”

            “It’s true!” Nikolas’ hands traced the shape in the air. “See, your faux-hawk is the point, and then the hair sort of curves”—his fingers made a ridiculous wave motion—“And then it makes the bulb-ish shape. Get it?”

            “No.”

            Nikolas’ looked around at his classmates. “Uh…Hey! Ishaq!” A heavily built boy who was chatting with a small blonde girl turned his head.

            “Yeah?”

            “Does his head look like an onion?” Nikolas pointed at Leonard.

            “Um…” Ishaq squinted. “Kind of. I mean—it’s the faux-hawk.”

            “Ha!” Nikolas exclaimed triumphantly.

            “Sorry, man,” Ishaq apologized. “Never argue with an art geek anyway,” he advised. “They always think they’re right, even if you try to argue otherwise.”

            “I’ll…keep that in mind,” Leonard said. Ishaq turned back to the blonde girl, and Leonard turned back to Nikolas. “Okay, then…you look like an emo punk.”

            “I pride myself on my individualistic punk-emo-ness,” Nikolas bragged jokingly. He glanced at the clock. “It’s almost time to go.”

            “How do you know?” Leonard asked.

            “After three years, you think you would have memorized the bell schedule,” Nikolas said. “And people are packing up.”

            “True,” Leonard agreed.

            They left the classroom on better terms.

            Both still remembered the other’s hand.

[Next chapter ==>]

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