Chapter 18: Fight Club

Danny made me swear not to tell April, and I agreed on the condition that he tell April himself before the week was up. When April asked me a follow up on Danny, I told her that it was something he needed to tell her himself, and that was that.

So Danny was rich. He was so worried that people would treat him differently that he only told the guys. He didn't buy outrageous nice things because he didn't want anyone finding out he was had loads of green. He hated having money, hated the lifestyle of the rich and famous and hated the uptight, stuff shirt nature of his world, which is why he ran away from his parent's stuffy museum of a house. He lives with Jonah and the boys because they are his dearest friends in the world.

I sure thought about him in a different way, but not enough to treat him any differently. He was still Drama Dan to me. I was more worried about the Cat. If Danny hid it and treated it like it was a big deal, than she would think it was a big deal. But I let it go, deciding that their problems weren't mine. I had enough stuff to deal with, which brings me to my next subject. And what a subject it is.

After a day or so of not seeing much of Jonah, it began to bother me that Jonah hadn't been very shocked to find out about Ryder and I. He never said another word about the issue. In fact, he barely acted like anything was wrong at all, in the little that I saw of him during that week. He wouldn't talk as much, but that was beginning to be the norm for us. I hated that I was losing my best friend slowly and painfully over time, and right in front of my eyes.

So I set out to remedy our relationship. There had to be something I could do.

"Jonah?" I said, leaning on the frame of the bathroom doorway as Jonah was brushing his teeth, getting ready for bed. "How you doing?"

Jonah spat, then kept brushing a little more vigorously.

"I'm doing good," he spoke through his brush, paying attention only to his teeth in the mirror and not me.

I felt as if I was greeting an acquaintance with this small talk we were doing.

"Are you okay?" I asked. There. That was a bit more direct.

"I'm fine."

"Are you mad at me about Ryder?"

"No," he said plainly.

That didn't sound very convincing to me. I need more closure than that. "I thought you'd be upset."

"No."

Oh, this was bad. Jonah had to be really upset to be acting this quiet. I bit my lip.

"Aren't you going to say anything?" I insisted. "I know you aren't exactly happy with me."

Jonah shrugged.

"I'm not your parent, Jonnie. You can date who you want to date."

I sighed. This was going nowhere fast.

"Jonah, can't we talk about this?"

"I'm not mad," he insisted. "You know where I stand, so just let it go. I was just trying to look out for you, that's all."

"Why?" I asked snottily before I could stop myself. "You don't care about me."

"I do care about you, Jon," Jonah said sincerely, taking my hand. "A lot… I'd do anything for you, you know that…"

I felt his smooth hand over mine, and nearly fainted. Oh, it was so wonderful, something I had waited so long to feel. Words I had waited so long to hear. They were too good to be true.

In fact, they were.

It pained me like a cheese grater over my heart to pull my hand out of Jonah's. Tears welled and streamed down freely.

Of all the cruel things to pull…

"Don't," I cried, stepping away in such furious anger. "I know what you're doing. Honestly, Jonah, I thought you were a man of more virtue than that. UGH!"

For some reason quoted Shakespeare? But oh, I was too pissed to question it. I stormed off in my rage, knowing I would become violent if I faced him a moment longer. Trent opened his door to the noise, crossed his arms and leaned on his doorframe to observe the fireworks. Sean and Danny peered around the hall corner to do the same. I ignored them, far too upset to stop now.

"Jonnie…" Jonah called after me. "I'm sorry, you misunderstood…"

"You know how I feel about you, Jonah!" I turned around to say. "Why would you do that to me? Are you seriously resorting to hitting on me just to break me and Ryder up? I can't BELIEVE YOU!"

Now Ryder came out of his room too, looking ready to throw down, but waiting for a better excuse. He observed carefully from afar.

"I'm sorry, Jonnie," Jonah said in genuine sorrow, his voice dropping several notches in volume and not meeting eyes with anyone. "That's not… I—I didn't think… We used to do that stuff all the time when we talked serious and it didn't matter… back before you got a thing for me."

When I thought about it, I realized Jonah was absolutely right. This was Jonah I was talking to. Sweet, non-conniving Jonah. He would never do something like that to me. I had misinterpreted something he had always done. He wasn't the one that had changed, I had.

"Oh my gosh," I said, hanging my head, embarrassment quite evident in my low tone. "I'm so sorry... I thought…"

"Jonnie," Jonah shook his head and scrunched his brow the way he would when we talked serious. "You know... I always wished I could like you the way you like me. You're an awesome girl, and I just didn't get how I could think so highly of you, but… not… like you like that. I really tried, I did, but when you don't feel it, you don't feel it, you know? Now, whenever I look at you, I just feel so bad about it…"

As he trailed off, I felt the sting of more tears against my bottom eyelids. His words digested slowly. When I saw the look in his eyes, it finally registered, and it hit me like a knife in the stomach.

"Wow," I said at length. "You really don't like me…"

He didn't like me, and he never would nor could. I had been holding on to the smidgen of a hope that maybe, just maybe, he might change his mind about me. No. It would never happen. I comprehended it fully now, and that hopeful part of my was now dying a screaming death inside of me.

Jonah shook his head, looking ready to shed a few tears himself.

"I'm so sorry, Jon," he breathed, his voice cracking.

I sniffed, still in shock.

"I'm sorry too."

Then I dove into the sanctity of my room, turning off my light and getting into bed so that everyone would think that I had just gone to sleep. I flung my face into my pillow so no one could hear my crying.

I heard Ryder talking to Jonah outside my door.

"Well, go on, take care of it," he commanded Jonah.

"Naw, man," Jonah's voice muttered. "I've done enough. I think she needs you."

I was surprised to hear that. Jonah told the others to go back to sleep and one by one I heard their doors close. But I didn't hear where Ryder had gone off too, or if he was still outside my door. I didn't care—I didn't want to see anyone right now anyway. I had made a fool of myself in front of everyone, accusing Jonah of something I had known better of. I hoped Ryder would just let me be. All I needed was some time alone and I would be okay… That's how I did it way back when my old cheating boyfriend had screwed me over. I turned out fine by myself.

After about ten minutes of silence, I let my tense muscles chill out. I heard Ryder brushing his teeth for bed in the bathroom, and relaxed. He probably was letting me have my space like I wanted and would talk to me tomorrow.

As soon as that thought crossed my mind, though, my door opened. Light streamed in, silhouetting Ryder's shadow onto the floor. My back was to him, so I had enough time to close my eyes and properly fake sleep.

He didn't say a word. He just closed the door after himself, and walked to my bed where I was. I was afraid of what he would do or say, so I just played dead and kept still. But he simply laid down on top of the covers and put his arm around me like a security blanket. He held me close to his stomach, through the blankets and the comforter that parted us. I felt his warm breath on the crook of my neck, and the rise and fall of his stomach against my back.

When I couldn't hold my running nose anymore, I succumbed to the unavoidable sniffing.

Damn. Now he knew for sure that I was awake. Now I had to talk. Slowly, Ryder peered over my ear to look at my face, and gently put his fingers under my eyelids and wiped the wet away. Then he just held me again, around my middle. And that was it. I had never felt so comforted. So appreciative of someone, even by just their presence. The few tears that came next were of pure gratefulness to Ryder- For his silence, for his understanding, for his love. I put my arm on top of his and that's where we stayed… For the rest of the night.

~RR~

In the morning, I was a new Jonnie. I felt as if a weight was lifted off my back and replaced with a permanent natural high. I woke up next to Ryder softly snoring and I could help but pretend like he belonged here.

After a while, I was really hungry, so I gently slid out from under his arm as to not wake him. That's when his hand suddenly whipped up and grabbed my wrist.

"Trust me," he mumbled into his pillow, his eyes still closed in sleep. "You don't want to go out there today."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Stay," he pleaded. "I'm cold."

"Well, I'm hungry," I insisted, pulling his fingers off. "I'll bring you back something." He muttered something incoherent, to a tone closest to: "Don't say I didn't warn you…" What Ryder was talking about was Fight Club Day.

Fight Club Day was Trent's favorite day in the world. It's the day where he would invite a bunch of his guy friends and watch boxing and wrestling and girls in tiny outfits on DVD, and fight with his friends all day long, then afterward, watch the movie Fight Club. You could participate if you were willing to have permanent scars, if not, then you got the hell out of their way, which is just what I proposed to do.

I saw that Jonah, Trent, and Sean were on the main couch, while random men I had never met before in my life were scattered all around the living room in front of the TV. Danny had probably already left to save himself. Every once in a while the boys would wince in unison, or cheer, or yell and call a fighter a bad name.

"Block it, idiot!"

"Look at that loser!"

"Get up, you bum!"

One had to go through the living room to get to the kitchen, so I carefully planned my route through the screaming battlefield.

I was sure to smile at Jonah as I passed, letting him know we were cool, and that I was alright. He nodded at me in understanding.

"Whoa, dude," one guy whispered to Trent, noticing me passing by and pointing in shock. "Who's that?"

The other boys echoed his confusion. I chose not to respond to their ignorance. "That's Jonnie," Trent replied passively. "The girl."

"Oh, that's the girl, dude?" another said as I finally made it into the kitchen. "She's hot! You didn't say she was hot!"

I snickered as I popped some bread into their toaster and waited for it to magically transform into toast.

"She's not hot, she's Jonnie," Trent shot back as if I wasn't there listening. "She's practically a guy with boobs. She's even got a guy name."

"Have you nailed her yet?" the guy went on. Trent shrugged without much interest, paying attention to the match again. "Hey, can I?"

Both Jonah and Sean smacked the guy at that comment. I pretended I didn't hear that and got to work buttering the toast while it was still hot.

"Shut up and watch the rounds, Travis," Jonah ordered. Travis smacked him back and soon they were rolling around on the floor.

Boys. They are so secure with each other when it comes to sports.

When I turned around, I saw Ryder, standing with the rest of the boys, his hands in the pockets of his pajamas and observing the match with the rest of them.

"Trent," he said with a smile. "I got ten bucks on Mayweather."

"No way, De La Hoya's going to wipe the floor with him. You're on."

I frowned. I thought Ryder was going to stay put in my room. If I gave him food in front of all those guys, I'd be making toast all day for the rest of them. I had to clue him into this problem somehow.

When I managed to catch his eye, I motioned with my head toward the hall and mouthed: "my room". When he didn't get it, I resorted to vigorous pointing.

"WHAT'S THAT, BABE?!" he said loudly, from the other side of the room, making every head turn to pay attention. "You said want to go back to your room? Is that sooo…!? Yeah, hold on, I'll be right there…!"

All the boys started to catcall immaturely. Even Jonah was shouting a condemning: "Oooo…!"

I tried to hide my shameful laugh enough to fake some good annoyance. Ryder simply smiled cleverly at me, while the boys shook him and teased us both.

Ryder was so lame.


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