Oh Radio, Tell Me Everything You Know

by Cy-kun


Chapter 6


         The weirdest things fly through your mind when your life is ending.


          When I was a kid, my dad used to sing this little dirty joke rhyme to me. Back then it cracked me the fuck up, every time. To a five year old it was the funniest thing ever. My mom used to get pissed at him for doing it, saying that I was gonna pick up enough of “that garbage” when I started riding the bus to school and that I didn't need to get it here too. My dad would always promise never to do it again, then turn and give me a little grin and a wink the second she left the room, which of course just made me start laughing all over again. As I stood there in the middle of the freshman hall, staring at the spot where seconds -or was it minutes now? Hours? -ago Owen was standing right in front of me, the first line of that stupid rhyme kept running through my head on a loop.


          'Here I sit, broken hearted....'


          And I was. Broken hearted, not sitting. At least, I thought I was. I'd never had my heart broken before but if the tightness in my throat, the burning in my eyes, the lead weight in my chest and the fucking black hole in my body that was sucking my stomach into my bowels WASN'T because my heart was broken, then I definitely never wanted to experience a real one.


          Owen left, no, Owen RAN, and it hurt. Hurt worse than anything. Worse than the locker, worse than the scrunchie, worse than picturing the look on my dads face when he finds out that I'm gay. Worse than all the beatings I'd ever gotten all rolled into one. The one thing that I wanted, the only thing I ever hoped for and thought I could actually get, was gone. And it fucking HURT.


          I ended up skipping class.


          Not that I made a decision to or anything, it just happened. I didn't even realize I'd moved from where I was when Owen ran away until I looked down and saw the floor moving under my feet. And even then I only noticed it absently. I was lost. I was -another word I've never had to use before now- in a fugue. I did things, like walking, but I didn't remember doing them.


          All I remembered was what I thought.


          How could something so perfect go so bad? I mean, everything leading up to me talking to Owen was classic romance. We met out of nowhere, he made me feel like I'd never felt before, I finally found him, the fucking crowd even parted and there was light shining down on him for fucks sake! Every song and every movie ever made told me that the only way that was supposed to end was with the boy getting the boy!


          Jennifer Aniston and Taylor Swift are fucking LIARS!


          And WHY did he run away anyway? That first look in his eyes, the one when he saw me for the first time, that HAD to be recognition. He saw me and he knew who I was. But...did he know who I was because he recognized my voice or....did he recognize ME? THAT thought made my heart freeze with dread. Oh my god....did he know who I was? Did he know I was THAT Andy? The outcast fag boy that tried to molest Jarred Walters in the showers? Is that why he ran away from me the second he saw me? Because the boy he was talking to turned out to be the biggest loser in the school and he didn't want anyone to know he was actually friends with him?


          Even as I thought it, part of me screamed that it was impossible. Not him knowing who I was, but him reacting like that because of it. Everything that I knew about people, all my 15 years of life experience, told me that Owen was a nice person. A GOOD person. He wouldn't just freak out and run away because someone he knew turned out to be the most hated kid in school.


          But then there was the other part of me, the part that knew that good things don't happen to me. The part that also had 15 years of experience, most of it bad, to draw on. THAT part told me that of course Owen reacted like that when he found out who I was. Anyone would. I'm Andy. Everyone who isn't Cheryl or related to me hates me. Why would Owen be any different?


          Both parts fought violently with each other as I walked around the school. At one point my defenses tried to speak up and I had the sudden thought that walking around the now empty halls in a daze while Jarred and friends still wanted to kick my ass was probably a Bad Idea. The parts of me that were fighting quickly shouted it down. I mean, really, what could Jarred do to me that was worse than what just happened? Hell, maybe getting my ass kicked would even get my mind off it for a few minutes.


          I doubted it.


          I have no idea how long I walked the halls, but at some point I was dragged out of my daze and back into reality by the weird, hard-soft things that I kept bumping into. I stopped and tried to blink the image of Owen's face right before he ran away out of my eyes. Oh. People. That's what those things are. And they're kinda giving me weird looks. Oh, right. Walking the halls and crying. Kinda weird. I ducked my head so my hair hid my face better. There.


          Not really sure how much that helped. And, if we're being honest here, I didn't give a shit. It was habit more than anything that made me try to hide. I didn't care if people knew I was crying, which was a pretty damn unique experience for me. Kind of freeing, in a weird way. I probably would have taken a few seconds to enjoy it if it wasn't for, you know, the whole broken heart thing.


          At some point I started to head back to my locker. I'd just skipped 8th period and today my last class was a study hall so if there was any part of me that was still able to think anything other than “you're never gonna talk to Owen ever again, you unlovable loser” -in various ways- I probably would have been going back there to pack up my bag so I could go straight from the library to the bus. But there was no way I was able to think that far ahead so it was probably just habit again. A class was over, people were in the halls, so I should probably go to my locker.


          Or maybe I just wanted to tape the slits shut, lock myself in and suffocate to death. Either/or really.


          Not even the Cheryl voice could come up with a good reason why I shouldn't.


          A dark part of me was wondering if that would ever be possible as I turned the corner to the hallway my locker was on. Are lockers airtight? Could they be MADE to be airtight? And what kind of tape would be best? Where would I get. . .”


          And that was when I saw Owen.


          I was about a foot away from my locker and he was walking towards me coming from the opposite direction. I know, duh right? His head was down and he wasn't really looking at anything but his steps were fast and sure and he looked like he new where he was going. My throat closed up and I couldn't breathe. Is life really this cruel? I go WEEKS without seeing him and then on the day, the FUCKING DAY, that I find him and he ran away from me I just randomly start running into him. And why is he even out of the freshman halls anyway? What the fuck, life?


          Then, about three seconds after I noticed him, he raised his head and like metal to a magnet his eyes immediately found mine and my heart stopped.


          And so did Owen. He froze in the middle of the hall and his amazing hazel eyes widened in surprise. I tensed. My defenses started shouting at me that this was my last chance! That I needed to run towards him and grab him and lock him up somewhere and never let him go. Every other voice in my head stopped what it was doing, groaned and started throwing things at it. They didn't need to bother. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't move. I was frozen by his eyes. I couldn't even blink. All I could do was stand there like an idiot and wait for him to run away again.


          And for a second, he looked like he was going to.


          He was about ten feet in front of me, close enough for me to see his body tense up when our eyes met. His steps faltered after he stopped, like his body stopped moving before his feet did, and his shoulders started to move like he was about to turn around.


          But he didn't.


          He stayed where he was, totally still, just looking at me with a surprised look that was slowly melting into panic. And then, like it had never been there, the panic was gone. His jaw clenched, his eyes narrowed slightly and he stood a little taller. I barely had time to think that he looked like he was about to walk onto the front lines of a battlefield before he started stalking towards me with a determined stride. He got closer and closer and I was fucked up enough that for a second I thought he was gonna take a swing at me, but in the time it took me to think how stupid I was to think that he'd almost reached me. But instead of taking those last few steps that would being him right in front of me he looked away and started walking towards his left.


          Right up to my locker.


          He stopped in front of it, reached inside the pocket of his loose jeans, took out a small piece of paper and slipped it through the slits in the top of my locker. Then, without ever looking back at me, he turned around and walked back the way he came. I followed him with my eyes until he turned the corner, then I blinked, slowly.


          Did....did that actually happen?


          No, really, that's a legit, not even a little bit rhetorical question. I mean, it's pretty obvious that I'm not exactly stable here. There have been a bunch of times, mostly in the last few weeks, where I wouldn't have been surprised to suddenly wake up in a padded room strapped to a bed. Maybe Owen walking away was what finally made me snap? Maybe I've, um, whatever the medical word is for completely losing my shit and I'm having Owen shaped hallucinations? If so, that was a pretty crappy hallucination.


          Or maybe it actually happened and there's something sitting in your locker RIGHT NOW from OWEN and you're standing in the middle of the hall like an idiot.


          The thought barely had time to form before I was running to my locker and fumbling it open. My hands were shaking with anxiety and fear. Anxiety that there really might not be anything there and fear about what would be on it if there was. Dammit! This thing won't fucking open! Ok, deep breaths. Slow down. Put the combination in carefully. God why couldn't I be one of the people who left their locker open?! Finally, after about a million years, I got the combination in and threw my locker open.


          Sitting on the top shelf was a piece of paper.


          My heart started pounding again, faster than before, and I reached a shaky hand into the locker and picked it up. This could either be a lifeline that would save me from drowning or a weight that would pull me under. I was so scared to read it, but I needed to. I needed to know.


          It was blank on the side that was facing me except for the light blue lines that identified it as notebook paper. It was part of a single sheet, the corner, torn off and the light was hitting it just right so I could see that there were words written on the other side, but not what they were.


          Ok Andy, this is it. You can do this. Turn it over.


          I did.


          My breath caught in my throat as I read the message. It was short, written in small, neat handwriting.


          It was a phone number. And then, 'please call me at 4. I'm sorry. -Owen.'




          Lifeline. Grabbed.






          Except sometimes lifelines are really just weights in disguise.


          It took me about a minute, a wonderful, glorious minute where my whole body felt like it was made of calm and peace and smiles that I couldn't stop, before what I was actually holding in my hand hit me.


          It was a phone number.


          To a phone I'd never called.


          Sometimes, the hatred that life has for me is so thick in the air you'd need a blowtorch to cut it.


          Now it was almost four and I'd been pacing back and forth in my room since I got home and I still had no idea what I was gonna do. I mean, I WANTED to call. But....calling into Owen's show was way different that calling a number left in my locker. Was it his cell number? His home number? Who would pick up? If it's him, what do I even say? And what the hell does “I'm sorry” mean? Sorry for what? For running away? Because you don't wanna talk to me anymore? Is he just having me call up because he's nice enough to want to at least tell me that he's not my friend anymore instead of just ignoring me and hoping I get the hint? Why didn't he just say something to me when he was RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF ME!? And how did he even know where my locker was?!


          And why do I have to call HIM!?


          He knows my number, for fucks sake! He recognizes it every time it pops up on his caller ID at the radio station! Why is all the pressure on me? Why can't he just call me, or at least wait until I call into his show?


          Would you have called in tonight?


          Um......no, probably not.


          Maybe he's not stupid and thought of that too?


          …..shut up. The rest are still good points though!


          I reached the end of my room and immediately turned around to continue my pacing as the thoughts rushed through my head. Every time I walked towards my bed my eyes were locked on my clock.




          Can I even call?




          What do I say?




          Why did he run?




          Oh my god I'm gonna throw up.








          You can do this. You can do this. You have to, Andy. Youcandothisyoucandothisyoucandothisyoucan-




          Ten numbers. Come on, it's just ten numbers. This isn't hard for 99.99999% of the world so it can't be that hard for you. Just. Do. It.




          I can't! I can't call! It's just....too much. I'm too nervous. I can't dial the numbers, I can't think of anything to say, I just can't do it!




          What if he's waiting for me to call though? What if he really IS sorry for running away and he just wants to apologize?




          Oh god! Maybe he thinks I don't wanna talk to HIM! But, but, no! So very much the opposite! I just.....






          Trembling, sweating, I swallowed a big giant lump of terror and dialed the number.


          I didn't even have time to pussy out and hang up, it was answered almost before the first ring.


          “Andy, I'm SO SORRY!” It was Owen. A huge, massive chunk of my nervous fear just vaporized when I heard his voice. It was actually him. Not his mom or a brother or a sister or a babysitter. Him. Thank fucking god. I closed my eyes and let out a shaky, relieved breath.


          Then what he said actually registered and my eyes shot open.


          He was sorry? And he sounded.....freaked out, really. I immediately felt guilty for not calling at four. Way to go Andy, you really suck at this. But, the guilt was followed by even more relief. That didn't sound like a bad, I-never-wanna-talk-to-you-again-and-I-feel-bad-about-it sorry. It was more like.....he was actually sorry for running. Which, really, just started replacing the relief with confusion. Thankfully, he was still talking so I didn't have to try and figure out which one of the thousand questions running through my head I should start with.


          “I shouldn't have ran like that. It was...stupid and dumb and incredibly fifth grade and I'm sorry.” He sounded a lot like me when I'm kicking my ass over doing something idiotic and I had the sudden urge to try and comfort him. It sucks feeling that way. But....I had no idea what to say. How do you comfort someone when you don't even know what the problem is? Hell, how do you even comfort someone at ALL, you socially awkward mess?


          Of course after asking that, when I could actually use some advice, the stupid voices were silent.


          “Are you....mad?” he asked hesitantly.


          Mad? No, of course not. But how do I let him know? Oh. Right. Words. “No.” I said softly. My voice was slightly scratchy, so I swallowed and tried again, just to make sure he heard me. “No. I'm not mad.”


          I heard him let out a long, semi-relieved breath. “Are you sure?” he said after a few seconds. “Because I wouldn't blame you. That was a crappy thing to do.”


          I smiled, more than a little giddily. Owen didn't hate me. He felt bad about running. Not that him feeling bad made me feel good! But, he wasn't gonna abandon me. And that made me happy. But I was still confused. If he didn't hate me, then why did he run?


          “I'm sure.” I said, then added hesitantly. “But.....why did you run away?”


          Owen sighed. “I....” He paused, and even over the phone I could hear him swallow. “This is gonna sound really dumb but....um, I'm kinda shy, in person.” he said sheepishly. 


          “What?” I blurted out. I wanted to laugh. Shy? HE was shy? If you ever needed proof that the universe runs on irony....


          “Yeah.” he let out a self conscious chuckle. “I'm actually kinda really shy in person. Turning around and seeing you there sorta freaked me out a bit. I don't think I could ever walk up to someone out of nowhere like you did and-”


          This time I couldn't help it, I burst out laughing. It was just....too fucking ridiculous! He was shy and implying that I'm NOT? Oh my god! It's just.....come on! How can anyone not laugh at that? “I-I'm sorry.” I managed. “I swear I'm not laughing at you! I just.....” I shook my head, even though he couldn't see, and tried to get myself back under control. Thoughts of Owen thinking that I was making fun of him for being shy made it pretty easy. “I'm sorry.” I said again. “But, god, I'm TERRIFIED to make phone calls! I almost gave myself a heart attack trying to call you today. And walking up to you? Jesus! It almost killed me! I never would have been able to if-” I cut myself off there. How the hell do I finish that sentence without telling him....things?


          He was silent for a few seconds, and I was scared that he was waiting for me to finish, but before I could start freaking out about what to say, he spoke. “Phone calls?” he sounded amused and relieved and, oh my god, the teasing lilt was back.


          “Y-yeah.” I said, and then it was my turn to laugh self consciously. “Phone calls.”


          Owen laughed. It was a beautiful laugh, the most beautiful one yet. Not even the tiniest bit mocking, just....delighted. “That's too cu-” he paused, kinda choking on the last word. “That's actually really awesome.” he said after a second or two of silence. “I thought you'd think I was weird or something. You know, for being shy.”


          “Never.” I said softly. I winced slightly at how completely swoony I sounded but, well, wasn't letting him know how I felt eventually gonna be part of this master plan? Maybe with a few more accidental comments like that I'd be ready to actually tell him.....sometime in the next fifty years. I held back a groan. This was gonna be a lot harder than I thought. But, there was one thing that was scratching at the back of my mind. Something that had been bothering me ever since it happened. Something I needed to know. “Um, can I ask you something?”


          Why is it those words always sound so ominous?


          I'm guessing I wasn't the only one to think so because when Owen answered all the teasing and laughing was gone and in it's place was slight, but noticeable, trepidation. “Ok.”


          “How did you know where my locker was?” And since I was gonna ask that I might as well ask this too. “And...did you know who I was before I said my name?”


          He didn't answer at first, and I started to regret asking. God, I'd spent all day worrying about him never wanting to talk to me again and the second I find out that everything's still ok with us I ask something like that. What if it's something embarrassing and he doesn't wanna talk about it? What if he's seen you before and knows who you are and doesn't wanna embarrass you by letting you know he knows? I actually started wishing I could go back to being too awkward and stuttery to ask questions. I was actually opening my mouth to take it back when Owen started to talk.


          “I....” he croaked, his voice sounding strained and horse. He started breathing heavily in short, panicked breaths, and as horrible as this is gonna make me sound that's what made me stop myself from telling him he didn't need to answer. He sounded like he was three seconds away from a full on panic attack but I couldn't let him off the hook, no matter how much it hurt knowing I'd made him feel like this. There was a part of me that knew whatever was coming was important, and I needed to hear it.


          After about a minute the breathing slowed, not much, but enough for him to say something. “Please.” he pleaded in a small, heartbreaking voice. “Please promise you won't hate me.”


          I blinked. How am I supposed to promise something like that? Incredibly easily actually. “I promise.” I put all the sincerity I had into it. Me hate Owen? Maybe I could have before last Monday, but now? Never.


          “Ok.” he said shakily, then took a deep breath. “Ok.” I heard a sound like maybe he was licking his lips, or swallowing, or both. Any other time that probably would have sparked off a million fantasies and an uncomfortable, embarrassing tightness in my underwear, but all I did was hold my breath and listen. “I...I've maybe, um, sorta been.....stalking you.... a bit, since the first week of school.”


          Can your heart pound it's way through your chest and stop beating at the same time? Because if it can, mine's doing it. My mouth dried up so much I was sure I could taste sand, my hands started to shake, and breathing? Yeah, breathing definitely wasn't gonna be happening anytime soon. My brain wasn't much better. The Cheryl voice was taking laps around my head, laughing gleefully as it's fists pumped in victory. My defenses were yelling that now was my chance and I needed to go in for the kill. My usual inner voice, the one that likes to yell at me and call me names, was standing off in the corner wondering what the hell was going on. Even through all that, my body trying to die, my mind trying to drown me in it's loud psychoticness, there was one thing that drowned everything out. The only thing that I could say and the only thing I needed to know.


          “Why?” I asked, quietly, hopefully.


          Owen let out a short, shaky, slightly manic laugh. “Because....god I can't believe I'm actually saying this, you're....fuck Andy you're really hot!” he blurted out. He made a tiny, strangled, choking sound, like he really couldn't believe he'd actually said that but before I could even try to recover from the insanity THAT caused in my head he continued, the words pouring out of him. “But it's not just that. It's.....god, do you have any idea what it's like? I was just, walking down a hall completely lost trying to read that stupid, indecipherable schedule and I look up and you're just...there. Almost right in front of me. With that amazing hair and one of your long sleeve shirts and the way you hugged your books to your chest like that it was just.....” he trailed off. “And then you lifted your head, and the hair fell away from your face and, I swear I couldn't even breathe. You were just so-so-so, beautiful! And lost. And you had this look on your face like someone just kicked your puppy and I had to actually hold onto the wall to keep from running over and giving you a hug and never letting you go. You looked like you needed someone and, god, I wanted to BE that someone in the worst way.”


          Oh my god, I think I actually remember that day. I don't remember Owen, but if it's the day I'm thinking of it would have been the third day of school, the day I ran into Jarred and his pack for the first time this year. Up until then he'd completely ignored me and like an idiot I'd gotten complacent over the summer and wasn't watching out and he caught me by surprise, coming up behind me and knocking my books out of my hands. While I was struggling to pick them back up while everyone laughed at me, Simon picked up my schedule and tore it up, then sprinkled the tiny ripped pieces all over my head. It was only the third day of school and I didn't have it memorized yet and I was too shy to go to the office and ask for another one so, yeah, I could definitely see me having a lost, kicked puppy look. And Owen saw me that day? Wow. I didn't know whether to be embarrassed that he saw me at a low point (yeah last Monday was WAY lower than that but he didn't actually SEE me then, you know?) or giddy and ecstatic that he wanted to hug me.


          “I-” I started, but he didn't hear me. He barely even paused and I guess he was a bit like me this way, once he started in on something that was hard to talk about, he couldn't stop.


          “After that I started following you around. I didn't know I was out of the freshman hall when I saw you so I looked for you there first but when I realized that you weren't there I started walking around the other halls until I'd see you, then I'd just....follow you.” He sounded so embarrassed as he admitted that that I had another overwhelming urge to comfort him.




          “I wanted to talk to you so bad.” he cut me off again. “Every time I'd see you I told myself that next time I'd just go up and say hi and that's all I needed to do, but I never did. I chickened out every time. So, eventually I gave up and just followed you.” he let out a tiny laugh. “You have no idea how many times I've been late to class this year.”


          He paused for a second, and I decided to try again. “I-”


          “The worst days though,-” -No luck this time- “-were the ones where people would....do things to you. Every time someone said something that made you hide your face or pushed you into the wall or knocked your books out of your hand I wanted to beat them SO bad. But even more than that I wanted to just go over and...put my arm around you, or talk to you, or SOMETHING to make you feel better. I HATED myself on those days, because I was too stupid and shy to do it.”


          He took another deep breath. “Owen-”


          “Please let me finish.” he begged. Oh. Maybe he had heard me before. I was about to say 'ok', but I guess he didn't want to give me a chance to say anything else because he didn't wait before going on. “And then, about a month ago, I was walking by your locker on my way to lunch and I saw you, but you were laughing, LAUGHING, and.....I'd never seen you laugh before. You looked....” he paused. “You looked great. And then I noticed the girl standing next to you. You looked so comfortable with her. I'd never seen you talk to anybody before but you talked to her like you'd known her your whole life and......I felt so stupid. I mean, I never really thought about it because I never actually thought I'd ever get the balls to talk to you but, seeing you with that girl, it made me think about it. About if you could really be g-....if you could ever like me.” he said sadly. “And then she touched your arm and you just smiled and as beautiful as your smile was, it hurt so much because it was because of her, not me.” he sighed. “After that, I stopped looking for you.”


          “Then a week later, someone, well you I guess now, called into my show and, I dunno, for the first time since I stopped following you I stopped obsessing over you too. I have no idea why, maybe because you were the first person to call, maybe because you seemed like you didn't know what to say and it reminded me of....um, you, maybe because you liked Taylor Swift and Avril and didn't laugh at me for liking them, I dunno. But the next day at school I barely thought about trying to follow you, the first you I mean, and I really hoped you would call again. And you did. I was happy, but so were you, and THAT made me even happier. Then you laughed. God Andy, that laugh was the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard, I couldn't even breathe for a few seconds.”


          I suddenly remembered a weird silence during our second conversation and him saying that he got 'distracted' and, oh god, that was because of ME? I think this is the first time I've ever blushed from happiness.


          “You know, I probably should have known then that you were -you. When you laughed all I could think about was seeing you laugh that day but I pushed that out of my head because I wanted to focus on you, not you. God this isn't making any sense.” he let out an annoyed breath. “Anyway, every time we talked after that I just felt like we were getting closer and closer and I started really liking you. But, I was worried too. I didn't want to like you too much and then find out you had a girlfriend or weren't into, you know, guys, but I was too nervous to ask you or flirt with you more than the little bit that I was doing-” He was FLIRTING with me? Wow, way to miss that Andy. “-so I kinda got frustrated with myself.” he paused again. “And then came  Monday.”


          I felt my face heat up more, this time mostly from embarrassment, but with a bit of pleasure thrown in too.


          “You sounded horrible, crying like that, and I was so worried that something terrible happened to you and when you told me you had a bad day something kinda clicked and it was like, this is what I could never do when the other you was getting picked on in school. This was my chance to make someone I liked feel better and there was no way I was gonna screw it up.....and then the only thing I can think of is to play that dumb song.” he laughed wryly. “After I started playing it I could have kicked myself but then I got back and heard you laughing and you sounded.....happy.”


          He DID hear the laughing! Oh god. This blush is all embarrassment.


          “I felt really good. I felt like things were different with you. And then the rest of the night felt like we really connected, you know? Like, there was a chance that you could like me the way I was starting to like you. And that felt even better.”


          I thought about thinking something almost exactly like that during our call and I can't even describe how it felt to know, KNOW, that we were both feeling it. I felt.....full, with some wonderful feeling that I couldn't name and I was sure that it was about to explode out of my chest. I wanted so badly to tell him, to let him know that I definitely knew what he was talking about, but he never stopped talking.


          “Every day we talked this week I felt it more and more and I was seriously thinking about just taking a chance and TELLING you...and then you found me.” He paused, and I could hear him do that lip licking and/or swallowing thing again and this time it did make me stiffen up a bit. “The second you started talking I knew it was you, radio you I mean. No one else could be that awkward and adorable at the same time.” his voice got slightly teasing again, I don't think he even realized he was doing it, and, yep, more embarrassed blushing. And maybe slightly tighter pants. “But then I turned around....”


          He paused and I heard him take another deep breath. This would have been the perfect time to interrupt him and tell him how I felt. But I choked. Not because I was too scared though. I know! Trust me, no one's more shocked than me. But because I really, really wanted to know what he was gonna say next.


          “And it was you.” he said like he still couldn't believe it. “Right there. Looking right at me. At first I thought maybe radio you was behind in person you but then you said that you were Andy and.......I kinda panicked.” he sounded embarrassed and annoyed as he said that.


          “A big part of it was the shyness, but it was also because it was happening AGAIN. I finally find a boy I like, really like, and this time I think he likes me back, and it turns out to be the SAME straight boy that I was obsessed with before! I wanted to scream. But instead I ran away. And then I was sitting in science replaying everything in my head, every conversation and every moment where we got closer and I started to feel really bad.” He sighed. “You were a friend. And I treated you like crap. Even if I wanted more and even if realizing that it wasn't gonna happen really, really hurt, I shouldn't have ran away. So I wrote the note and ran out the second the bell rang and, well, you were there for the rest. But before you say anything I just want you to know that I still wanna be friends. You're really cool and fun to talk to and don't wanna lose a friend....I mean, if you still wanna be friends after all this. I won't be weird or hit on you or anything, I swear! Just.....” he sighed again, a sad, tired sigh. “Please don't hate me.”


          I didn't even know where to start.


          Owen likes me. Like, LIKES ME likes me! I could.....actually die from happiness right now. But he's known me since the first week of school? Well, not KNOWN I guess but, still! How many times during the year was I in the same hall as him, never knowing it? How many times could I have randomly turned around and he'd just....BE there? Would I have even noticed him? I don't know. Maybe? And should I feel weird about basically being stalked for half the year? No. Definitely not. That was a million different kinds of flattering. Confusing, because, why the hell me, you know? But flattering that Owen would notice me. But.....grrrrr Cheryl! Dammit it would be her, wouldn't it? She had to make me laugh and get all grabby when OWEN was looking at me. And....obvious logic jump (and I'm kind of proud I can still DO logic with all this emotional overload) he thinks she's my GIRLFRIEND? And that I DON'T like him?


          I had a sudden flashback to the first night I called his show. How he answered and I couldn't force myself to say anything because I was a shy, awkward mess and how he let out that little, disappointed sigh. How I could almost see him deflate through the phone and deep down inside in a place that I didn't even know I had I must have known that, at that moment, I was the only person in the world who had the power to fix what was wrong. And here I was again. In the exact same position. Except this time, it wasn't buried deep inside me. I knew how to fix what was wrong. I wanted to fix it.


          So. Maybe I know where to start after all.


          “Owen.” I shivered a bit. God this is the first time I'm saying his name after knowing he likes me! It feels so different! Shit, focus Andy! “I....” I struggled to figure out what to say. I mean, I knew what I wanted to say, but how do I say it? I've never told anyone I like them before. Maybe I just need to not think about it. Maybe I'll take Cheryl's advice, just this once, and do what feels natural.


          “I almost came in my pants the first time I heard your voice.”


          Note to self: NEVER LISTEN TO CHERYL AGAIN.


          I heard a tiny gasp come through the phone and decided just to get the rest out before I got too humiliated to form words. “I-I mean,” I sighed and closed my eyes. “I like your voice. And, I like listening to you. But, I like...y-you. More. You're nice. Better than that, you're nice to ME. That's.....that doesn't happen. Ever. You probably never heard of me but, um, I'm kinda....uh, known, in school. And not in a good way. No one really likes me. No one ever tries to. But you did. And....you don't know what that's meant to me the last three weeks. You really have no idea. And, me being straight?” I couldn't help the quivery laugh that forced its way out of my throat. “God, I am SO gay for you. It's not even funny.”


          I couldn't force my eyes open after that. Which was probably just making my nervousness worse because I couldn't see that my room was still empty so I imagined that Owen was standing right in front of me, staring at me with those hazel eyes. It made my face heat up and my palms start to sweat and even though I KNEW he liked me, I still thought he'd reject me. Although maybe I wouldn't exactly blame him after that cumming in my pants line. Or the 'I'm so gay for you' one. God, Andy is it really so freaking hard to say “I'm not straight and I like you”?


          I held my breath and waited.


          The silence seemed to drag on forever, so long that I actually started hearing the loud 'tick-tick-tick' of a second hand fill the room even though my clock is digital. I could feel my face starting to turn red, not from embarrassment or pleasure this time, just from lack of air. I stopped holding my breath and sucked down a big gulp right as Owen started to talk.


          “That girl.....wasn't your girlfriend?” he asked. He sounded confused and hopeful and surprised all at the same time.


          “N-” I choked on the air I was breathing in, coughed, then tried again. “No way! That was Cheryl. She's my best friend. And sometimes she thinks I'm her pet and gets touchy, but no. Never.” And then, just to be clear since he seemed to be hung up on Cheryl so much that he missed my embarrassingly lame confession. “Not in a million years. There's no way. I'd date Fred the janitor before I'd date Cheryl.” I winced slightly at that last one. God, does he think I have the hots for the janitor now? Ok, wow, out of all the stupid thoughts I've ever had that was probably the stupidest. I need to get my calm back.


          “And....you like me?” he asked hesitantly, like he was afraid that I might change my mind or he misheard or something. The uncertainty helped get my head in order. Owen being uncertain or nervous still seemed wrong to me, even more when it was about something as important as this. Usually people only get one chance to tell their crush that they like them and make a good impression. I was apparently gonna get two. And I didn't wanna sound like a loser the second time.


          I took a second to steady myself, swallowed nervously, and answered. “Yes.” I said calmly. Or as calm as I could be anyway. “I like you Owen. I like you a lot.” And then because I can only suppress myself for so long I blurted out. “THAT way, I mean. Like, like like. Because I'm gay. And like boys. And you.”


          There was another short silence that lasted just long enough for me to wanna track down Jarred and beg him to beat me into unconsciousness for saying something so incredibly stupid before I heard it. It was a soft laugh. A totally and 100% Owen laugh. My chest felt like it was going to explode -in a good way- and as usual the smile was on my face before I realized my mouth was moving. I let myself fall back on my bed and sighed happily. “God that makes me...” he giggled. Freaking GIGGLED! Oh god how amazing is THAT sound? “I'm so happy. I never.....” he laughed again. “What are you doing tomorrow?” he asked eagerly.


          Hm, oh, let's see what does Andy usually do on Saturday's? “Nothing.” I answered. Too swoony and happy to think about why he might be asking.


          “Great. Do you wanna hang out?” he asked. “Maybe go to the mall, or the movies? Have lunch?”


          It took me a second for the question to register, I was too busy replaying the sound of that giggle over in my head, but when it did I shot up, back ramrod straight, and perched at the edge of my bed. Oh. My. God. Is he..... “D-do you mean, like, a date?” I asked.


          “Yes.” Owen said with that heart filling teasing lilt. “Just like a date.”


          I started to hyperventilate. Just a little. This was REALLY happening, wasn't it? This was Owen. Radio Owen. MY Owen. Who LIKES ME. Asking me out on a DATE! An actual, real life, two-people-who-like-each-other-going-somewhere-together date! And I was one of the two people! And OWEN was the other one! This....can't be real.....can it? Oh god I hope it is. Or if it's not and it's a dream or a hallucination I hope I never wake up. Maybe I should pinch myself, just find out.


          “Ow!” Damn that hurt. But that means it's real! And I just said that out loud. Shit! “I mean yes! Yes! God yes!” I laughed giddily and tried not to imagine just how red my face was right then.


          “Awesome.” Owen said happily. And maybe just a tiny bit relieved. Or maybe not since I can't believe he'd actually think I'd say no. But the happiness was definitely there. I couldn't stop giggling softly to myself. God, I'D made him that happy. Just by saying yes to a date. Who the hell ever thought ANYONE would be happy about going on a date -oh my god, does this mean we're DATING?! More giggles- with me? “Hey, are you ok?” he asked, sounding all amused and teasing.


          I managed to get the giggling under control -with the last tiny bit of three weeks ago Andy wondering where the hell my dignity went- but the happy grin that was about to split my face in half wasn't going anywhere. “Yeah. Yeah I'm fine. It's just, no ones ever asked me out on a date before.” And doesn't that just make me sound like a big loser.


          “Good.” Owen said, sounding extremely satisfied.




          “Yep.” he said happily. “That means I get to be the first.”


           I started to giggle again, but then a horrible thought cut it off. “Um. H-have you...?” I couldn't even say the words.


          Thankfully Owen didn't need me to. “No.” he answered immediately. “You're my first too.”


          I had a short flashback to our first conversation where I stupidly and embarrassingly blurted out “I'm your first?” but I was too relieved to be self conscious about it. “Good.” I said.


          “Good?” Owen asked teasingly.


          “Good.” I said firmly.


          “Good.” he said softly, all traces of teasing gone, and I suddenly got that this was just as important to him as it was to me. The thought of Owen dating anyone else before me, let alone doing.....other things, was enough to make me wanna throw up. Sounds possessive and needy? Well I don't care. And neither does Owen because at that moment I knew he felt the exact same way. If not more so.


          We sat in a comfortable silence that somehow said more than any words could right then for about a minute before an important question popped into my head. “So, how are we gonna do this...date?” God I loved saying that word! “Where are we gonna go? How are we gonna get there?” I'd never thought about it before but suddenly being fifteen and not having a license really, really sucked.


          “Hmmm.” Owen said thoughtfully. “Where do you live?”


          “Um, Caladan Drive.”


          “Really?” he sounded delighted. “Wow, I live on Serenity. That's like less than ten minutes away. Do you have a bike?”


          He lives THAT close to me? Cheryl lives on the next street over. Damn how have I never met him before? Oh, yeah, I'm a shut in with no social life. Wait, what did he ask? “Huh? Oh! Um, yeah.” It's one of those BMX bikes that you can do tricks and stuff on. My dad got it for me for my birthday a few years ago when he accidentally thought I was cool.


          “Great. I'll give you my address and you can ride over and my mom can drive us to the mall. Everything is right there so we can decide what we wanna do when we get there.” he said. “Um, if you want to, I mean.” he added after a few seconds, like he just realized he should probably ask instead of just deciding. Not that I cared. I'd be perfectly happy doing anything as long as it was with him.


          “That sounds awesome.” I said, getting giddy again at the thought of going out -going out! I can actually say that! Me and Owen are going out!- with him tomorrow.


          “Sooooo, wanna know what time to come over?” Owen asked teasingly. I blinked and, oh crap, I'd kinda been staring off into space for a bit there huh? The goofy smile faded slightly as I blushed for the seven thousandth time tonight.


          “Y-yeah.” I said. “What time?”


          “Is eleven ok? Or is that too early? If it's too early that's fine. You can come over later. Or earlier if that's too late.” He rambled and I giggled softly. “Sorry.” he said sheepishly. “I might be a little excited. I never thought I'd actually be going on a date with you. Either of you.” he added with a laugh.


          “Eleven is good.” I said. “And....I'm excited too.” I added shyly.


          “Great! I can't wait. It'll be-” he was cut off by someone yelling in the background. “Hold on.” he growled. “My mom's calling me.”


          “Kay.” I said and I heard a rustle that was probably him moving the phone away from his head.


          “What?” he yelled. I didn't hear any answering yell but he was only quiet for a few seconds. “Awwww come on! Can't I do it later?” A pause. “Mom, I'm on the phone! Why can't I just do it after?” Another pause. “You know I-” he stopped, probably being cut off mid argument by a parent who knew he had a good argument and didn't wanna listen to it. I wasn't exactly unfamiliar with that. “Fine!” Owen huffed. Then there was a slight rustling again. “Sorry.” he said sullenly. “My mom's making me do my homework before I go to the station. I gotta go.”


          My heart sank a bit. I didn't want him to go. I wanted to stay on the phone and talk right up until he had to leave. And isn't THAT a thought I never thought I'd have. But, I understood. One of the crappiest things about not being eighteen yet is having to listen to your parents when they're being annoying. “I wish you didn't.” I said sadly. Yeah, way to be understanding Andy. Haven't even gone on your first date yet and you're already making him feel guilty. “But it's ok!” I added quickly. “Parents suck sometimes.”


          “Yeah.” he grumbled. “Sometimes more than sometimes. You'll call in, right?”


          I smiled to myself. “Of course.” I said. Ok, I need to practice my flirting, so let's give it a try. “I wouldn't miss it. Calling I mean. And-the show too! I listen to it everyday.” Which he knows because you call every day, idiot. God I can be such a loser sometimes. “I'll call.” I added, hoping he'd just forget everything else I said.


          And because he was Owen, he did. “Great. I'll talk to you later then.” His voice got lower and somehow even sexier. “Bye Andy.”


          I shivered. “B-bye. Owen.”


          He hung up.


          With a happy sigh I collapsed back on my bed with my arms spread out and a dazed smile on my face. Tonight.....was the best night of my life. The best. And the best part about the whole thing? Tomorrow’s gonna be even better, and I don't think that's ever happened. I don't think I've ever had a great day and then KNOWN that the next day was gonna be even better. At least not since I started school. Life.....was really, really awesome right now. I was giddy and happy and I have a date with Owen! 


           Oh. My. God.


          I have a DATE with OWEN. TOMORROW.


          And that's when the panic started.


          God, what the HELL do I know about going on a date?! What am I gonna say? I can't even flirt! Am I supposed to flirt? Do people flirt on first dates? Oh god! What if he wants to touch me or hold hands or KISS me! What do I do? Will I even be able to? Or will I lock up and freak out and run away? What should I wear? What do people wear to malls? Just, normal clothes, right? But wait, we're going to a restaurant too right? Can I wear normal clothes to a restaurant? What if it's a fancy place? Do they have fancy places in malls? Or does he mean, like, the food court or something? I..I...I...


          I'm so unprepared for this date.


          By this point I was sitting up on my bed, clutching my phone to my chest in a death grip and hyperventilating. Why the hell didn't I think of any of this before I said yes? Why the HELL-


          I jumped as my door flew open and slammed into the wall.


          “I'm using your desk.” A scowling, backpack wearing Cheryl growled as she shoved my door closed. She stalked across my room, shrugged her backpack off her shoulders and flung herself into my desk chair after it crashed to the floor. “Can you believe this crap?” she complained. She spun around angrily in the chair -and yeah, I guess angry spinning is possible- and didn't wait for me to answer. “It's my parents anniversary and the KICK ME out of the house for a few hours so they can have 'alone time'.” she planted her feet down to stop her spinning and gave a disgusted shudder. “That's so GROSS! Who does that, seriously? And right when I'm in the middle of my homework too!” She scowled at her bag and gave it a hard kick. “I swear to god Andy if I go back there and the house smells like ANYTHING other than disinfectant and shame I'm gonna throw up.” She let out an annoyed snort. “At least they did it before I got to English so you can help me.”


          She bent down and reached for her bag, but then stopped and looked at me for the first time since she barged in. I dunno if it was the wide, panic filled eyes, the shaking leg or the short, rapid breaths but she must have seen something that gave her a hint that I was less than at my best here because her pissed off scowl melted into a pissed off look of concern. Cheryl's face is really good for adding anger to any emotion. “Dude, what's wrong with you?” she asked.


          My eyes focused on her like she was water in a desert and I swallowed down a ball of hysteria. “Help!” I squeaked.


          The pissed off faded a bit as the concern grew. “Andy, what's wrong? You look like you're completely freaking out.”


          Really!? YOU THINK?! “I-I-I-....IhaveadatewithOwen!” I blurted out.


          Cheryl just.....stared. Right at me. It was a kind of wary stare too, like I'd just told her I wanted to eat her skin and she was wondering exactly how serious I was. Then, almost like I could see it happening, her eyes widened and she made whatever mental leap she needed to go from “what the fuck?” to “oh my god!”


          “Oh my god.” she whispered, sounding almost awed. “You really just said what it sounded like you said, didn't you?”


          I nodded rapidly, wondering when the hell we were gonna get to the “helping Andy not have a stroke” part of the conversation.


          A slow grin spread across her face. “That's fucking great!” she exclaimed happily and jumped up out of my chair. She walked across the room, yanked me -roughly- off the bed and gave me a crushing hug. “I'm so happy for you!”


          Not even the embarrassment of being hurt by a hug from a girl whose head barely went past my nose could stop my panic. I stood stiffly in her arms, tense and maybe even shaking a bit, for a few seconds before she seemed to realize that something was wrong and took a step back.


          “What is it?” she asked, frowning. “Is having a date with Owen a bad thing?” she asked slowly and cautiously, like she was maybe gonna hit me if I said yes.


          “Yes! I mean no! I mean.....” I pushed past her and started pacing around my room. How could I ever start to explain why and how much this was freaking me out? I couldn't. That's how. I stopped pacing, spun back to face Cheryl and frustratedly shoved my hair off my face. “Help!” I begged again.


          “Ok.” she said calmly. “But maybe you should tell me what you need help with. Unless you want me to just randomly start helping you with things. And if I get to choose, we're definitely starting with the whole pacey, freaking out thing.”


          I glared at her. Do not hit Cheryl, Andy. She's a girl. You shouldn't hit girls. Especially girls who can literally kill you with one finger. Just take a deep breath. Ok that didn't help. Let's make that fifteen deep breaths. Ok. Better. Now. Let's try this without the anger.


          “Ok.” I started as calmly as I could with my heart still trying to pound its way out of my chest. “So, I was walking through the freshman halls after lunch.....”


          I tried to get the whole story out as quickly as I could. Maybe I should have just started with what was really bothering me, but I thought that maybe something that happened before we agreed to the date would help her give me better advice. Or something. I dunno. Maybe I just really wanted to talk to someone about it.


          I kept glancing at the clock as I talked, getting more and more annoyed as the minutes slowly moved closer to 6:00 and Owen's show. I wanted to get this all out and done with before then because even though I was completely losing my shit about tomorrow, I still really, REALLY wanted to talk to Owen tonight. Except, rushing through telling a story kinda just jumbles your words together and you end up having to repeat yourself, not to mention the insanely annoying question interruptions, so I probably just made the whole thing take longer. It was a half hour before I finally got to the point.


          “....and so we're going out tomorrow and I don't know what to do!” I finished my latest run on sentence and took a big gulp of air. “I don't know how to act, I don't know what to wear, I don't know what to say, I don't know ANYTHING about dates! So, help!”


          Cheryl just stared at me. “And you think I do?” she asked incredulously.


          “You've been on dates before!” I yelled. “I haven't!”


          “Yeah. Three. Not exactly an expert here.” she said.


          “You've been on more dates with-” I lowered my voice.  “-GAY GUYS than I have!” I whisper-yelled. I almost regretted bring up the Brandon date. So far she hadn't talked about it and I was more than happy to pretend it never happened but I needed her to admit that she had more experience than me and freaking help me!


          “Just the one!”


          “Still more than me!” I growled in frustration.


          Cheryl threw up her hands in a way that would look way too dramatic on anyone else but on her seemed to fit. “Fine! What do you want me to do?”


          Finally! “Tell me what to wear, what to say, how to act. Anything!”


          She looked at me like I was nuts for a few seconds, then sighed and walked over to my closet. “Fine. Let's see what you have in here.” she opened the door and started rifling through my clothes. “You know, you're the only person in the world who would get EXACTLY what they want and still find a way to freak out about it.”


          I sighed sadly. “Yeah. I know.” But if she'd just help me then it could turn back into a good thing. I didn't say that though. One of the first things I'd learned about life is not to start up an argument with Cheryl when she's doing what I want anyway.


          “You have nothing in here but long sleeve shirts, jeans and cargo pants.” she turned around and crossed her arms. “What, exactly, do you expect me to do with that?”


          I let out a frustrated breath. “I don't know! Don't I have a outfit that, I dunno, makes me look good or something? Like, a shirt that-” God I can't even believe I'm saying this “-brings out my eyes or something?”


          She cocked an eyebrow. “How the hell should I know?”


          “Grrr! You're a girl! You're supposed to know these things!”


          “You're gay! You're supposed to know them too!”


          “Shhhh!” I hissed and glanced back at my door like my parents were gonna come barging in the second the word was said aloud. “Don't yell that!”


          She looked like she wanted to throw something at me while still somehow seeming apologetic. “Fine. Sorry. But I still don't know what the hell you should wear.”


          “Cheryl!” I whined and, yeah, maybe there were puppy eyes. “Please!”


          “Goddammit! Fine!” she turned back to my closet and started violently rummaging through my clothes. “Here.” she said after a few minutes. “These.” She threw a shirt and a pair of pants at me. I dropped the shirt and didn't even try to catch the pants. “You have the most boring clothes ever by the way.”


          “Thanks.” I grumbled and picked them up.


          The shirt was dark blue, long sleeved of course, and I hadn't worn it in over a year. I tried to remember why since it was a pretty nice shirt, but I couldn't remember. The pants were an older pair of black cargo pants that were about a size smaller than I usually wear, which means they probably fit like they were supposed to. I like loose pants, so what? I thought maybe they'd look good, but if I knew what looked good I wouldn't be a mess over this so, yeah. “You sure?” I asked.


          She shrugged. “Change and find out.”


          I blinked. “Here?”


          “No. In the driveway.” she drawled. “Of course here.”


          “In front of you?! No way!”


          She rolled her eyes. “You have boxers on, right?”


          “Of course!” I did blush a little bit though, suddenly really glad this wasn't one of the days where I hadn't worn any. Not that I do that a lot! It's just.....sometimes I don't like wearing them.


          “So? I've seen you in a bathing suit before. It's the same thing.” she said with a tiny smirk.


          “No it's not!” I glared at her. “And I'm not undressing in front of you.” I started to turn and walk to the bathroom -which I really should have done like nine sentences ago- but then remembered that I'd have to walk down the hall past the TV room and I really didn't want my parents to see me changing clothes in the middle of the day and getting curious. “Turn around.” I ordered. Which sounds as about as impressive as you'd think coming from me.


          Cheryl rolled her eyes again, but turned around. I changed really fast, not taking my eyes off her back for more than a second or two. I didn't trust her not to turn around. Especially when she was kinda annoyed at me. I finished, and then remembered why I didn't wear the shirt anymore.


          “Um, Cheryl?”


          She turned around her eyebrows shot up. “Wow. You look....pretty good.” I probably should have been insulted by the surprised look on her face, but it melted into a smirk before I could. “I'm pretty good at this crap.” she said smugly.


          I rolled my eyes and tugged at the shirt. “It's kinda....clingy.”


          Cheryl snorted. “Only you would think that's clingy.”


          I opened my mouth to argue, but the suddenly very-disturbing-while-the-real-one-is-also-in-the-room Cheryl voice decided to speak up, 'hey, you asked her for advice because you don't know shit about this crap. Maybe you should listen?' I frowned, but couldn't really come up with an argument to that so I turned towards the only mirror in my room, the one on the back of my closet door.


          Ok, fine, maybe the shirt wasn't exactly 'clingy' but it was definitely tighter than I was used to. Like I said, I like kinda baggy clothes. I'm not exactly the biggest person in school and they make me look more....normal sized, and less like a skinny loser who's easy to beat up. But hiding wasn't really the goal on a date. I wanted to look good for Owen. And if wearing this shirt did that then I'd try to suffer through it for a day. At least it had sleeves so I wouldn't feel totally exposed.


          “Ok.” I said reluctantly. “Maybe you're right.”


          Cheryl grinned. “Of course I am. Now change before you get them all wrinkled.”


          I rolled my eyes again. “Ok mom.”


          She flipped me off but turned around without waiting for me to ask. I changed back even faster than before and placed the clothes carefully on my bed like they were fragile glass. “What about the rest?”


          She turned back around. “What rest?”


          “The rest! What do I say? How do I act?-”


          “Should you put out?” she added teasingly.


          “Shou-what?” I yelped. “Oh god I never even....do you think he'll want me to? I can't! I.....do you think he'll hate me if I don't?” I groaned and buried my face in my hands. “This is too complicated.” I mumbled.


          I felt a pair of hands on my shoulders and jumped in surprise. I lifted my head and found a very serious pair of Cheryl eyes looking right at me. “Ok. I can tell you're seriously freaking out here so I'm not even gonna mention how stupid everything you just said was. And I'm definitely not gonna point out how you sound like an insecure twelve year old girl-”


          “If you're gonna make fun of me just fuck off.” I looked away and blushed when I said it though. She wasn't exactly wrong.


          “-but what I am gonna do,” she completely ignored me. “is give you the best advice you're ever gonna get, ok?”


          I looked back at her hopefully and nodded.


          “Be. Yourself.” she said forcefully.


          I deflated a bit. I actually expected good advice. How stupid of me. I sighed. “Cheryl-”


          “No. I'm serious Andy.” she said and gave me a little shake. I frowned and tried to back away but her grip tightened and I couldn't move. Ow. “Owen likes you. You like him. Just get through your awkward, stuttery shit and then be the Andy we all know and love.”


          I couldn't help snorting at that. “'We all?'”


          “Fine. The Andy I know and love then.” she said. “The one that made me shoot turkey out of my nose at Thanksgiving three years ago because of how funny he is. The one who let me dress him up in sparring gear and kick his ass when I was stressed out about that tournament because he knew it would make me feel better. The one who stayed at the hospital with me all night when my dad got in his car wreck. Because THAT'S the Andy Owen likes and THAT'S the Andy that deserves to be happy.”


          I stared into Cheryl's eyes, more serious than I'd seen in a long time, and tried to swallow around the lump in my throat.


          I really didn't expect things to get this....deep, I guess. It's weird, but Cheryl's been in my life so long sometimes I forget how well we really know each other. Everyone knows what's wrong with me, but she's the only one who knows the few things that are right. Even when I forget them, she's there to remind me. So, maybe I could trust her on this, even if I usually see being 'me' as the cause of all my problems. Maybe this time it could be the thing that solves them.


          “Ok.” I said softly. “I'll try.”


          She looked in my eyes for a few seconds, probably trying to see if I was serious or not, then smiled. “Good.” Then she abruptly let me go, spun around and walked back to her bookbag. She reached down, rummaged through it and came up with a notebook. “Now,” she said. “since you made me do girl shit like picking out an outfit for you, you can make it up to me by doing my English.” she walked back and thrust the notebook at me. “Get to it.” she snapped.


          I let out a loud, tension relieving laugh, suddenly feeling a lot better. I opened my mouth to respond, but before I could I caught a glimpse of my clock. 6:06. I closed my mouth and grinned. “Sorry. I'd love to but Owen's show is on and I promised I'd call him.” I tossed the book back at her, ducked the swing she took at me with it when she caught it, and hopped onto my bed, grabbing my phone with a smirk.


          “Fine.” she mock grumbled. “Call your little boyfriend. But you're doing this when you hang up.” she held up the notebook threateningly.


          My smirk turned into a real smile. “Sure.” I said. “And....thank you.”


          She smiled back. “Anytime.” she said seriously. We looked at each other for a few seconds. It was one of those moments of total understanding. Where I knew exactly how much she cared about me and she knew exactly how much I appreciated everything she did for me. Then it passed and she made a shooing motion with her free hand. “Go. Call.” she said with a grin. “I'll just be over here not even listening in at all.” Her grin turned wicked and I knew she'd be listening to every word, probably even sneaking close enough with her scary ass karate ninja skills to hear Owen through my speaker.


          I laughed and flipped her off, then turned on the radio. Owen was just finishing up introing a song and I forgot all about Cheryl. This was the first time I'd be calling in knowing how Owen felt about me. It felt different. Almost like a mini-pre date. I grinned to myself. 'First Date' by Blink 182 was definitely a good choice for tonight's song.


          Still grinning, and feeling the same nervous, giddy anticipation that I'd felt before, I dialed my Owen.