A/N: I think I wrote this about a year ago… Most of the chapters are written, I just have to revise a few things. Enjoy!
Letters and Lies
I hope everything is well with you? I heard that your younger sister broke her arm. How is she fairing?
Last night I happened to see your girlfriend out with that senior Will Griggs at the Bone Yard. Is everything ok between the two of you?
I folded the letter and tucked it into my notebook, a frown on my face. She'd seen Nina out with someone else last night? Nina had told me she'd had homework. Just like the last few times I'd asked her out.
"Hey Ben! What's up?" Speak of the devil. "Nothing, Nina. Just found out what you were doing last night's all. Excuse me." I shoved my hands in my pockets and stormed off, embarrassed. What was her problem? If I wasn't good enough she should've just said so.
"Hey! Hey! Ben, come on. Don't be that way. What are you talking about?" She ran up to stop me and put a hand on my shoulder. I could see her purple nails out of the corner of my eye. "Just leave me alone," I said. "I get it."
I began to walk again, but she wouldn't leave me alone. She grabbed at my book bag and it fell of my shoulder, causing my notebook to fall. Papers fell out, including my letter.
"Oh! Sorry I didn't me- oh." She bent down to help me pick up my things and snatched at my letter. Her blue eyes narrowed as she skimmed it. "Is this what this is all about?" she accused, shaking the letter for emphasis. "Your stalker says I'm cheating and you automatically think it's true? You believe the word of someone you don't even know over mine?"
"The signs are there Nina! You're always avoiding me anyway!"
"I've been busy!" she gathered up the rest of my things and thrust them at me. "'You're always busy'," I hissed. "Yeah. Busy with golden boy Will Griggs."
"I can't believe this. We're just friends!" she whispered because people were staring to stare. "You're the one who-"
"Is it because I don't match up to your standards anymore? Is that what this is all about Nina; finding a better boy toy that fits your new look? Is scrawny little loser too last season for you, princess?" I pushed past her back to my locker and threw everything back into it, slammed it shut then grabbed the letter from her. Her eyes were wet with tears. "Ben, I- that's not true. You know I'd never… It's these damn letters! You've got this damn fantasy stuck in your head that this person is some sort of god or-"
"Just stop, Nina. I don't care anymore." I walked away.
"Grow up Ben! At least I'm not some freak who hides behind creepy letters!"
I stopped and turned back around and stared her down for a moment. She chewed on her bottom lip. She looked pretty in her white dress and green chucks; like the old Nina. I couldn't believe she'd do this to me.
"At least she's honest with me." I said.
She shook her head, her brown curls bouncing a little. "She only says what she knows you want to hear."
"You think I wanted to hear that? Don't talk about thinks you don't know!" I shouted and ran out the door.
"Just be careful…" I heard her say.
I sat down on the side of the school building and sighed. Who could I trust? Who was being truthful with me? Nina who I'd known since 7th grade, the crazy girl who taught me it was ok to speak up? My first friend? My first love? She'd always been there for me. No matter how many other guys she'd had fleeting crushes on, she'd always made me feel important somehow.
Then when we started to date, I'd thought everything was perfect. I thought she was through messing around… She'd never lied to me before… Never… Or had she? Had she always had a second agenda?
Or was she right; was it the letters I'd been getting? Had those words turned me again Nina?
I looked up at the sky; clear blue, like Nina's eyes. I wished I knew. But there was one thing I was sure of. I wasn't getting the full story, from either of them. And I wasn't going to decide anything until I had it.
But what should I do? Write a letter back to her? (Something I'd never done.) Or follow Nina around, hiding in the bushes to make sure she really wasn't being dishonest with me?
The late bell for last period rang and I groaned. Why did life hate me…
That night I received two e-mails. One from Nina, the other from an unknown address. I checked Nina's first, wanting to apologize for earlier.
Subject: i'm sorry
listen, i'm sorry about this afternoon. can we just forget it and have lunch sunday or something? i really miss just hanging out with you. lets just go back to the way things were- life before other guys and your letters. we really need to talk.
i love you, Ben.
I wrote back and said that it sounded like a good idea, even though I was still unsure. I clicked on the other email.
A friend of mine heard yours and Nina's argument at school, and I'm terribly sorry. I'm the cause of it, and I take full responsibility. I didn't mean to suggest that she was being dishonest, only that you'd been growing apart and I was concerned.
Nina did have a point though. It's not fair to you for me to keep doing this. Why not have dinner with me tomorrow? I'd love for us to become friends.
Tell you what; I'll make reservations for us at the Garden Terrace for 7:00. I'll tell you everything you want to know.
The next day I woke up at noon and groaned because I knew I'd missed breakfast. I climbed out of bed and grabbed a black 'Meat is Murder' tee and a pair of jeans. Nina called all of them "Emo pants" because of the cut, but said she liked the way they looked anyway.
I was never sure if she was making fun of me or paying me a compliment, but either way they were the only kind that didn't fall off my hips every time I breathed.
I ran a hand through my so-black-it-could-only-have-come-from-a-bottle hair trying to get it to behave, but it just fell in my eyes again, which pissed me off because my eyes were the only thing I liked about my face. They were an interesting color, somewhere between blue and green.
Maybe that was a sign that I should cut my hair.
I ran downstairs and into the kitchen. It was old; still stuck in the 60s or 70s, much like the rest of the house.
Three years ago when mom had died, Dad couldn't take the memories anymore so we'd moved and bought this house from some family who'd moved to New York. They'd never bothered to redecorate, and neither had we.
"Hey dad? Is Kat home yet?"
My dad looked over the top of his paper at me. "She's still at Lillie's. They spent the whole night gluing pink rhinestones on her cast to make it pretty. Are you ever going to stop wearing black?"
I sat down and munched on a cold piece of toast. "Probably not. Hey, um, is it ok if I go out tonight? You don't need me to help with Kat or make you dinner or anything?"
He put the paper down completely and grinned. "You got a date tonight, son?"
"Er, well, sorta…"
He laughed and reached across the table to slap my shoulder. "That's my boy. You taking Nina any were special?"
"Is the Garden Terrace special?" I asked. He gave a long whistle. "You must've been saving up for this date, Ben!" He smiled. "You're being quite the gentleman. She's one lucky girl!"
I grinned sheepishly. "Yeah, well. You know…"
I grabbed another piece of toast and stood up. "I'm going out for a bit. You need anything?"
He shook his head. "Nah, but could you pick up your sister sometime before next century? I swear that girl'd live with the Frobes if we let her."
"Sure Dad," I slipped on an old pair of Vans and grabbed my keys.
"I think you making dinner would be a great idea."
I stopped at a Florist shop on my way to pick up Kat. I knew she'd be thrilled with a teddy bear and some carnations.
The bells on the door jingled when I opened it, and the elderly lady behind the counter smiled at me. "Anything I can help you with, sweetie?" she asked.
"No ma'am, thanks though." She threw her arms up with pretend exasperation. "You young people never need any help! Why, what's the point of my being here if no one ever needs me?"
I assumed she was talking about me and mister tall, dark, and determined who was staring intently at the roses.
"So you don't get robbed blind?" I suggested. She laughed good-naturedly. "Well, if you two young men can bear the thought of a little dependency, you know where to find me."
I smiled and picked up a "Get well soon" bear off the shelf. Eyeing the carnations, I picked up a dozen pink ones.
On my way to the cashier, I stopped by the roses. Maybe I should get some for Nina? If I kept them cool with plenty of water they'd keep till Sunday night wouldn't they? I fingered the soft petal of a red one thoughtfully.
"Beautiful, aren't they?" the man that'd been looking at them before asked me. "Yeah," I said. "But I don't know what to get."
He turned sideways and studied my profile for a moment. "For a girlfriend?"
I picked up a white rose and stared at the thorns. "Uh, yeah. It's sort of an apology gift…"
He picked up a blood red rose. "A dozen may be over dramatic, but one would be simple, yet romantic." He handed it to me, his hand lightly brushing my knuckles. He gave a small smile.
"Thanks," I said. He was older than me, probably mid 20s, but he looked so professional. He wore a black silk shirt and black slacks with dress shoes meticulously shinned to perfection. He had a handsome face, but somehow he looked almost… torn. His eyes seemed to darken when he looked at me.
I wondered what he was looking at roses for. Maybe he was having relationship problems as well?
Kat babbled away in the car on the way home about what she and Lillie had done. She'd loved her gift, proclaiming me the "best brother in the world" even if I did "forget that her new favorite color now was pink and white, not just pink."
I was nervous as hell about tonight. Should I have gotten her flowers as well? What if everything went wrong? What if Nina was right? Or worse… she was right about Nina?
"Hey, Bennie?" Kat asked.
"You missed the turn."
That night, after I'd made spaghetti for Dad and Kat, I changed into a dress suit that I only had because of my 2nd cousins wedding from last year. Luckily it still fit perfectly. I tried my best to comb my hair out of my eyes, but to no avail. Taking a deep breath, I looked at my reflection with as much bravery as I could muster. "You can do this Ben. Just don't say anything stupid."
I ran down the stairs at forty minutes after six. "I'm gonna be late," I grumbled.
I ran out to the garage and took Dad's Mustang without asking. I was sure he wouldn't mind. Besides, I wanted to make a good impression.
At the Garden Terrace the Maitre D' stared at me skeptically. "Your name, sir?" I glared. Was it really my fault she'd picked a place so fancy and high class? He acted as if he'd never seen anyone below the age of 18 in his life. Though taking a look at the customers, it probably wasn't too far from the truth.
"I don't suppose 'Henderson table for two' are the magic words?" I asked sarcastically. He lifted a brow. "Yes. Right this way, sir."
He led me past tables full of stuffy looking CEO's and company presidents and mafia bosses to a little candle lit table near the back.
The man I'd met early was sitting there. I turned to the waiter. "Um, sorry but there must be a mistake-" But he'd already left. Bastard.
I looked back at the man. "Sorry. I'm here waiting for someone. They must have mixed up the reservations or something."
He smiled up at me. "No, there's no mistake. My name is Damien Henderson. Won't you have a seat, Benjamin?" He indicated to the table, and I saw he'd placed a single red rose there.
End Chapter One
A/N: Ah, my poor Ben. Whatever has he gotten himself into?