Everett

His skin was itching terribly. Nothing was good on television. Tino didn't have any good books to read. All of the food in the kitchen (chips and soda) did nothing to stimulate his appetite. Looking out of the window wasn't fun. He couldn't force himself to take a nap. Everett supposed he had the beginnings of Cabin Fever.

He'd been holed up in Tino's apartment for the better part of a week and had yet to see anyone else. Sure, he'd called his family and told them he was in town, but he supposed they didn't expect him to come and visit because his call was met with less enthusiasm than he'd thought. Dealing with them fell lower on his list of priorities. He missed his friends. Hanging around with Tino had been great; a taste of the old times, but Everett missed the rest of them as well: Chris and his quiet wisdom that seemed beyond his years, Kelsey and her snappish attitude that provided for great laughs, Kevin and his loud, boisterous antics. His Hollywood entourage was nowhere near as dynamic as those three and Tino. And then there was Sage.

Thinking of her caused another bout of itchiness to crawl across his skin, though he suspected it had nothing to do with Cabin Fever and more to do with the burn of shame. How could he have been so stupid? He could only imagine the pain she felt with his abrupt quit of Maryland. True, he'd ached for her, but he'd made the conscious decision to leave; he knew what he was facing. He'd given her virtually no warning, and she was left to wonder where he'd gone and why. For all she knew, he could've died. Bout of itchiness number three. He was glad to hear that she was doing well now, however.

Everett sighed and began bouncing the cabinet door to the junk food stash. He had to get out. He had to leave. He had to do something, see someone. In past years, he'd always been able to connect well with Chris. Maybe he'd go on over there. Grabbing his jacket and the extra key from Tino's coat stand, he left the apartment for Chris's house.

Stepping into the sunshine, Everett felt mildly more relaxed. He'd always had trouble staying indoors; after the passage of some time, he felt the four walls begin to close in on him. It was probably just an extension of his personality. Everett Joseph was not a content man sitting in a box. As he flipped his black shades over his eyes and pulled on a baseball cap to deter stares, he silently marveled at the novelty of using the Metro for the first time in years. He couldn't believe he'd gotten sentimental over the damn train. It's the small things that remind you of home, he thought and felt himself begin to get used to the idea of Maryland as "home" again.

Roughly an hour later, as he stood outside the door of Chris's home he began to doubt the reasoning behind paying the visit. Tino had told him that the rest of the crew didn't really harbor and goodwill towards him. What did he expect to accomplish with this visit? Well, I'm here now. Hesitantly, he raised his fist and knocked on the door.

"Just a minute," he heard a female voice ring from inside and was momentarily stunned before he remembered that Chris had married Kelsey. Kelsey: Sage's best friend. A wave of nervous energy rolled over him. Kelsey had always been more vocal about what she liked and what she didn't like than Sage had been. Where Sage had been the one to mediate conflicts and make sure everyone around her was comfortable, Kelsey knew how to stir things up. Whenever Sage was at a loss for words, Kelsey filled in for her. He had only just begun to think of the tongue lashing he would get from her when the door swung open.

He remembered Kelsey as being short and girlish, but the woman standing in front of him bore little resemblance to the Kelsey of six years ago. She'd cut her hair so that it framed her frosted brown face in chin-length ebony silk. After having the baby, he supposed she'd taken losing weight very seriously and had not only lost the weight she'd gained because of the baby, but had cut herself a very distinct Cola-bottle figure. Time had been good to her.

"Hey…Kelsey," he smiled a bit tentatively.

Her jaw dropped as her hazel eyes widened in recognition and then narrowed at him in acute anger. She looked up and down at him, scowling with contempt before turning abruptly and slamming the door in his face. Well that was less than what I― shit.

The door had swung open again, and Kelsey leaned almost casually against the doorframe.

"I don't know why I'm going to waste words on you, you asshole, but I'm going to, because I know Sage isn't. And I don't know what I can say that can make you truly understand how much you put my best friend through these past years. It's sickening to think that you would show up at my door, smiling in my face, expecting to be invited in…like we know each other. 'Cause Everett, I don't know you. Your ass hightailed it out of here without sayin' shit to nobody and you expect to show up out of the blue and everything to be cool?"

"I didn't expect―"

"And I didn't say you could talk yet. You left Sage destroyed, damn near crazy wondering what she'd done to chase you away from her while you were out in Hollywood partying your ass off. I hope you didn't come back here expecting to see her? Talk to her? I hope you didn't; you've already fucked with her head enough. Poor thing thought you loved her―"

"Kelsey, you know I love Sage more than anything."

"Bull. Shit. Nigga, you love yourself more than anything―"

And Everett knew her level of anger was at its peak because Kelsey always spoke properly, seldom cursed and never used "nigga."

"―how dare you say you loved her. Do you know what the fuck you did to her? If you loved her so much, you wouldn't have hurt her like that. Not to speak of how you treated your 'friends.' Everett, don't nobody matter to you but your damn self. And it's your damn self you were thinking about that made you come to my doorstep today. I know you didn't think you'd get back in good with Chris and I…see if we couldn't soften Sage up for you…whatever you were thinking."

He allowed his head to hang a bit lower.

"Uh huh…that's what I thought. You aint shit."

"Kelsey, baby, what's going on? Who is that?" Everett heard Chris's voice and his footsteps coming closer.

"It aint nobody; some bullshit artist who thinks we're friends," she said coldly.

"Kelsey, it aint even like that," Everett began and then stopped when he saw Chris's face. Sage had been like a sister to Chris as much as she had been to Kelsey. Back in the day, if Everett hadn't been there for Sage, Chris would take his place. It didn't seem like much had changed along that front; right now, Chris was looking at him as if he'd like nothing more than to give him a couple of black eyes…and then some.

"What are you doing here, man?" Chris asked.

"Save us all some time and just leave," Kelsey added.

Everett stood outside of door for a few moments and said nothing; there was nothing he could say.

"Yeah, alright," he nodded and the door slammed in his face yet again.

He let a heavy sigh escape as he ambled down their doorsteps and rubbed his hands over his creased forehead. What had he expected? Kelsey's words and the way they both looked at him with disgust, like he was a cockroach crawling across a toothbrush, had made him realize just how much damage he'd done and doubt that he could undo it. As he shuffled down the street back to the bus stop, he almost bumped into a young woman making her way up the sidewalk in the opposite direction.

"My bad," he mumbled and looked up briefly.

His head snapped back up. What was supposed to be a brief glance had turned into a gaze that could've lasted for an hour for all he knew. He could never forget those eyes. His mind traveled back to when they first met, at a small party in the common lounge of he and Tino's dorm. She'd been visiting Kelsey from her school, which wasn't far away, and he'd been instantly captured by her. Her laughter seemed to fill the room as she sat joking with her friends, getting up to dance occasionally. He thought she looked almost magical with her long, long hair in riotous curls swinging around her body. And her eyes…dark and wide, shining and liquid; somehow he knew the secrets that lay behind those eyes could hold him entranced for ages. Almost too intimidated by her aura, Everett nudged Tino and asked for her information.

Tino had burst out in laughter. "You want to talk to Sage?"

"What?"

"Sage aint one to be messed with."

"I aint gonna mess with her man, I just want to talk to her."

"I'm telling you, she aint like them girls you been talkin' to up here."

"I can see that, man. But what's up with a hook up?"

"You don't get hooked up with Sage."

But she'd already walked over to them. "Hey, Tino…you talkin about me behind my back?" she asked, sparing Everett a look.

"Never that. I was just telling my boy Everett here that he'd never have a chance with you."

Sage laughed and Everett felt his stomach flop over. He shot Tino an angry glance, but she'd opened her mouth to speak again.

"I think I can speak for myself Tino, why don't you let me tell Everett he doesn't have a chance with me myself," she winked at him. "There's a corner over there that looks like it's missing you."

"Alright, little mama, don't let him try anything with you."

"Oh, Tino, never that."

Everett stared at the way her lips moved; they looked so soft and inviting, especially with the gloss she'd put on that gave them a faint shine. When she turned to address him, however, he snapped to attention.

"So you're Everett Joseph," she said with an arched eyebrow, crossing her arms under her chest.

Mistaking her tone for one bordering on admiration, he smiled a smooth smile and tilted his chin in prideful self-affirmation. "Yeah, that's me."

"I expected you to be taller. You look more boyish than I would've thought too," she smirked. "Makes me wonder if everything I've heard about you is true."

He opened his mouth to tell her that she could find out truth from rumor if she gave him her number, but she'd begun to speak once again.

"And you want to talk to me, huh?" she looked at him flirtatiously from under her lashes.

He thought he had her in the bag. "If you let me. You will, won't you?"

"I don't really think I'm your type."

"And what's my type?"

"Easy."

"If you give me your number, you can be the driving force behind reforming me."

"What makes you think you're worth my time?"

That question had stumped him for a fair few seconds. He'd never encountered a girl that didn't think he was God's gift before. His approach would have to be a little bit different.

"Nothing. A girl like you: beautiful, quick-witted, patient enough to waste words on a guy like me, is priceless. A guy like me probably isn't worth your time. I'll let you decide that, though…here's my number," and he wrote it down. "You can call it whenever you want to…if you want to."

She'd smiled at him as she slid the tiny piece of paper into her pocket and winked, "don't wait up."

Of course, he had waited. He'd hung out in Kelsey's room at every available chance waiting for Sage to come visit again…until Kelsey kicked him out. Finally, three weeks later, when he'd almost given up hope, she'd called him. And that phone call had been it; he hadn't let her get away.

Now, walking down the street back from Chris and Kelsey's place, he was face to face with the grown up version of that sassy young girl of ten years ago. If time had been good for Kelsey, it had been absolutely amazing for Sage. She'd gone from looking like an angel to looking like a woman on top of the world; a woman with everything in the palm of her hand. Her self-confidence seemed to radiate off of her, giving her the same glow she'd had when they first met. She'd lost all traces of baby fat from her face, leaving her regal bone structure to frame her eyes and allow her lips to pout more sensuously than they ever had before. And her body…Sage had gained weight in all of the right places. Those eyes, though, they didn't dance like they used to. They didn't seem quite as wide. They didn't shine so wondrously; they glinted with a sharp focus. It was this more than anything that reminded him that she wasn't his Sage.

"My Sage," he whispered, but she showed no recognition and stared at him blankly before walking past. He stood looking at where she'd just stood as if in a trance before gathering his wits about him and turning around to see her enter Chris and Kelsey's. He couldn't waste this chance.