“Nikki?” Monty asked Nikolas, gently taking his hand. “I need to talk to you.”
Nikolas looked steadily at him. “All right,” he finally said, getting up and following Monty to a more secluded corner of the courtyard, away from his friends, who were all catcalling and whistling, shouting teasingly precautionary warnings at the couple.
Monty sat down and Nikolas joined him. “Look,” Monty began. He sighed. “I don’t really know how to say this.”
“Is this about the voice message you left me a couple of days ago?” Nikolas prompted gently.
“Well,” Monty ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah.”
“Oh. All right, then.”
Nikolas shifted so that he was facing Monty. He took Monty’s hand and ran his thumb across his knuckles. “Look, I’ve been thinking about it for a while, too. I love you, you know that, but I feel like it’s not working.” He looked steadily into Monty’s eyes with his own black ones.
“You have the most beautiful eyes, did you know that?” Monty asked wryly, putting his free hand to Nikolas’ face. “That’s what I told you the day I asked you out. And now, we’re breaking up. Doesn’t it feel weird, being single again? It took me a while to realize this, too. It’s just not working. There’re no super sparks, no chemistry.”
“It still hurts, though,” Nikolas said quietly, eyes falling half closed. “Even though there’s no passion. No tears. It’s just an empty feeling. A void that has to be filled.” He leaned in, closer to Monty. “I’ll miss you, you know,” he whispered, gently touching his lips to Monty’s own. Monty kissed back for a second and then they broke apart.
“So that’s it, then?” Monty asked, tucking a strand of Nikolas’ hair behind his ear.
“I guess so,” Nikolas said, letting go of Monty’s hand. He stood up, and brushed his bangs out of his face. “We’re single again,” he observed with a wry smile.
Monty stood up next to him and wrapped an arm around his waist, only to drop it again. “Sorry,” he said with chagrin. “That was just habit.”
“That’s okay,” Nikolas said sweetly, standing on tip toe to kiss him on the cheek, only to dart away like a black-clad minnow, leaving Monty to look after him in bewilderment.
Leonard was walking with Sara, Theo and Henna when Marianne ran up and wrapped her arm possessively around Leonard’s. Leonard winced.
“Marianne, hi,” Henna greeted politely.
“Why have you been avoiding me?” Marianne asked with an angry pout on her face. “I called you 24 times and you never picked up!”
“I’m sorry,” Leonard said. “I was busy.”
“Doing what?” Marianne asked suspiciously. “Are you cheating on me?”
“Not yet,” Theo muttered underneath his breath. Sara and Henna both smothered their sniggers.
“What was that?” Marianne asked, whipping her head around to look at Theo, braided hair whacking Leonard rather painfully in the face.
“Nothing!” Theo held his hands up defensively.
“It didn’t sound like nothing!” she said, hysteria rising in her voice.
“It really was nothing,” Sara tried to reason. It didn’t work.
“You’re cheating on me, aren’t you?” Marianne shrilled, clutching Leonard’s arm painfully tight. “You’re cheating on me with that other girl!” She flung a finger at Henna.
Henna held her hands up defensively. “Hey, now,” she protested. “I have a boyfriend.”
“Really? How did we not know?” Sara asked. “Is it Garrick?”
“Yeah,” Henna said with a fond smile on his face. “He’s really sweet, but we’re not big on the whole smooching in public thing.”
“Just like I hate it when people hang onto my arm,” Leonard said pointedly. Marianne released his arm and crossed her arms and glared at him.
“Then…it’s that short-haired girl, isn’t?” she demanded.
“Isn’t Adelaide going out with the principal cellist?” Theo questioned, confused.
“Yeah, and she’s not my type,” Leonard said bluntly.
“Then…” Marianne was grasping at straws now. She was rapidly running out of plausible names.
“Look, Marianne, I’m not cheating on you. Christ, you’re possibly the most clingy, insecure girlfriend I’ve ever had,” Leonard muttered.
“Marianne…” Leonard sighed. “Can you…”
“Yeah?” Marianne looked eagerly at him.
“…Leave me alone? For, I don’t know, forever?” His friends looked at him, eyes wide.
“What?” Marianne’s eyes widened and filled with tears. “Are you—are you breaking—up—with me?” Her voice cracked on the last word.
“Um…yeah?” Leonard shoved his hands in his pockets and shrugged apologetically.
Marianne whimpered. “But—you—“
“Right, yeah, I promised,” Leonard said awkwardly. He scratched the back of his head. “Well, I’m kind of retracting that promise. Sorry.”
Marianne let out a dismayed wail and ran away, sobbing.
Leonard, Sara, Theo and Henna all stopped walking and watched Marianne’s retreating figure.
“Well,” Sara said after a minute. “That was unexpected.”