I placed a hand on John’s shoulder, smiling a bit.
“John. Of course you have my support. I know that things have been tough for us all lately. I’ll be with you no matter what you decide to do.”
John’s face seemed to express intense relief with splashes of joy. I could tell this was something he was very anxious to come to me about, so I’m glad I was able to help him feel better about.
“Erich, you’re the best. I know how tough it can be,” John said, placing his hand on my shoulder. I was a bit confused at his assertion that this was going to be tough. At this point I was happy that there was a chance for John to be with someone the way I was with Lisa. It meant I wouldn’t have to feel like he was a third wheel when I invited him to places and I could spend more time with him.
After parting ways with John, I ran into Ariel on her way from class. She gave me a look that told me far more than I wanted to know.
“How are things with you and Lisa?” She asked while leaning into the wall. I could tell she was doing her best to win me back, but this was a shamelessly obvious attempt. I suppose everyone copes in different ways.
“Great, actually,” I responded. “I feel like she keeps me challenged mentally and still finds ways to make me laugh.”
“Either you’re a simple minded college graduate or she’s way ahead of her time. Either way, you’re both pretty lucky.”
“I’m sure your luck is about to come. Just follow your instincts!”
I felt like if I could get John to step it up and make his move soon, she might stop being so openly into me. I did feel a bit off about Ariel being with someone else. When we broke up in my time, I didn’t pay her much attention. The mixture of shame and disgust kept me from doing that. This would be an entirely different situation.
Later, I ended up over at Lisa’s for a nice session of coding and gaming. There’s something to be said about teaching something you’re passionate about and relaxing with retro games. Well, retro for me anyways.
To calm my anxiety, I explained to Lisa that John would be looking to pursue Ariel. She told me that he would really make a good boyfriend for her because he genuinely wants her to be happy. I was a bit worried that he may just be enthralled with her looks, but the fact that he came to me about things shows his desire to be pure.
“Maybe we can go on a double date,” Lisa mentioned while we continued playing our game.
“You think that would be a good idea? I don’t want John to feel insecure about Ariel and myself.”
“That’s why I’ll be there, Erich. No one will doubt that we’re together. Trust me.”
She pulled my arm and gave me a sensual kiss. It took me almost entirely by surprise and I was a bit turned on thinking about how aggressive she was treating me. Of course, I was in a far different place than Lisa sexually, so I forced myself to realize how innocently a high school freshman would view these things. I mean, I haven’t been much further than making out and I am a full grown man about to start a job. Well, was about to start.
Lisa looked at me with a hard blush forming on her face. I can’t profess to be a mind reader, but I could tell she was really starting to get into my physically.
“Have you ever done it?”
“You know… sex.”
Dear god, I feared this day would come. What is the morality of a mentally older man getting with an underage girl? I suppose nothing legally would bind me, but just the thought of it gave me enough creeps to forbid the idea from even formulating.
“No, I haven’t. But I do know it’s nothing to rush. Trust me, you’ll know what you’re ready.”
She gave a small sigh, and looked me in the eyes. I could tell she was a bit overzealous to push the boundaries of our relationship. Perhaps she was feeling the pressure of Ariel’s advances and wanted to create a bond that Ariel never could.
“Erich,” she muttered with a coy bit of lewdness. “Thanks.”
We ended up cuddling a bit. I could tell she was intent on seeing how far I would take things, but the pedophilia vibe kept me from doing anything overly risque. I’m probably trekking new moral grounds here. One could say I’m a pioneer of moral complexities. What an honor.
The next day, John seemed to be a bit more gregarious than usual. Clearly things had developed with Ariel, and I had to find out what exactly happened.
“Erich!” he exclaimed upon seeing me. “You’ll never guess what happened.”
“Probably not. Better avoid the part where I take wild stabs in the dark and just spill the news.”
“I asked Ariel if she would consider going out with me. At first, she seemed conflicted, but admitted it would probably be fun!”
Interesting. Something was definitely a bit off here. I’m a bit worried at what Ariel is capable of doing to John considering her continued interest in me. That said, I’m not about to pretend I’m an expert on high school dating. I feel like bringing my fears to the table right now would only serve to make me look like I was insecure about his success. Instead I matched his enthusiasm and cheered with him.
“I knew you had it in you, buddy,” I said. “It just took a bit, but you’re finally going to date Ariel!”
I’d be lying if those words didn’t sting just a little. I mean, Ariel was my first girlfriend and we had only split due to John’s actions. I think a combination of those feelings caused me to feel just a bit off. Lisa would surely know how to cheer me up, so I went off to find her.
Lo and behold, she was congratulating her new friend on some good news by her locker. Ariel really moves fast. I was unsure of her intentions at the moment, but Lisa waved me over.
“Did John tell you?” Ariel asked, intently studying my reaction. Lisa clung onto me before I could answer and kissed me sweetly.
“Yeah he did. I hope you two build a great relationship!” I said. I knew both of these girls were trying to read me like a book because my reaction to all of this was paramount for all the players. This was a game of hearts and feelings, and I was the epicenter for everyone else. I’d have to navigate carefully or end up sinking more than my own ship.
“I suggested we celebrate with a little double date action,” Lisa eagerly announced. I wearily rubbed my head and smirked.
“Wonderful. I suggest the burger joint down the road. It’s only going to be here until…” I trailed off, realizing that a lot of the towns changes have yet to come. I wonder what me coming back has done to change that fate. Perhaps I met someone back when I was in high school that had a relative looking to expand their restaurants and made a sly remark about Chinese food? There were so many endless possibilities that I could be messing with. I guess it’s already too late to change anything already done.
“Well? What does it become?” Ariel chimed in, breaking my chain of thought. Lisa looks a bit surprised.
“You know about Erich’s… situation?”
“Of course. He explained it to me when he started to act differently.”
“Interesting. Erich never told me you knew.” Lisa gave me the stink eye after this, but I figured that it couldn’t mean I was totally screwed. It was just a small detail I didn’t remember to tell her.
“Sorry, I forgot that you knew, Ariel. John was the first one I told and you three are the only ones I am willing to convince. Anyone else will think I’m either pretentious or lying.”
“Well, what does it become?” Lisa asked, clearly making herself much more comfortable with my proximity.
“In my time, it becomes a Chinese food place. I don’t know if that fate will come to pass again since this time is changing because of my actions. I mean, you two didn’t even know of each other in high school in my day.” The two looked at each other with a puzzled curiosity before giggling a bit. Ariel was always in tune with what I was thinking, and that worried me.
“Let’s just meet up after school and walk over there!” Ariel suggested, once more paying attention to my face.
“Sounds like a date,” Lisa replied. Before I could open my mouth, we were off down the hall.
Before we turned to go to our separate classes, Lisa stopped me and whispered, “Is there anything else? I don’t like being out of the loop.”
“Don’t worry. I don’t intentionally leave information out. I’m just a bit forgetful these days.”
“Alright. I trust you. I’ll see you after class.” With a quick kiss, she was off. I could feel my heart lifting me off the ground as I turned down the other way.
The date went off without a hitch, really. We all met up and enjoyed our time. Ariel wasn’t giving off any weird vibes and John was a total gentleman with her. Lisa was toned down on the affection, likely realizing that she didn’t feel too keen on the public display of affection.
As we began to walk home, we decided to split. John took off, clearly still buzzing with energy. Lisa and I hugged deeply before she left for her house and I mine. Ariel seemed to wander off in a different direction. She mentioned having some other chores.
When I was about halfway home, Ariel suddenly caught up behind me.
“Hey, do you mind walking me back to my place? I saw some creepy guys and it just doesn’t feel right.”
Well, this can’t be good. Either there’s truly some shady figures out in our neighborhood that I’d likely be powerless to stop, or Ariel is trying to lead me into a situation I’d likely want to avoid. I trust my own instincts more than I do Ariel against some stalkers.
“Alright, I don’t mind.”
The walk itself didn’t seem to emit any sort of dark vibes. We ended up chatting about the various jokes from that night. It seemed like the time it took went by so quickly, because we ended up in front of her home.
“My parents are gone for the weekend, do you mind coming inside to check for anything unusual?” This was egregiously forward. I knew that if I left now, things might still be alright. I’d just tell Lisa that I walked her home and nothing happened. Leaving her to her fate would be much worse, yes? I had this chance to avoid any sort of misunderstandings or tricky situations.
Yet I couldn’t.
“Alright, I’ll give it a quick walk through.”
Taking myself towards that house, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of finality. This would change everything about what I was. I guess there’s no avoiding some fates.