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Complicate Me(4)

By:M. Robinson

He chuckled. “You will and Lucas over there is going to use you to play with his di—”

“Shut your hole!” I yelled, my fists clenching at my sides.

He cunningly grinned. “You’re too easy, Lucas.” He threw the magazine back in the cubby and put his arm around Alex, tugging her closer to him and kissing the top of her head. “One day you won’t be our Half-Pint. Let’s keep you just the way you are for as long as we can, huh?”

She looked up at him with complete adoration and love. “I’ll always be your Half-Pint,” she whispered, nestling in close to his chest.

I nodded.

She took the words right out of my mouth.

We spent the rest of the summer riding our bikes and getting into trouble. My thirteenth birthday was a few days ago and I hated making a big deal out of it. I wasn’t much for being the center of attention, unless I was on a wave, riding it on my surfboard. The adrenaline in my system beat out the anxiety of being watched in my mind. I was definitely an adrenaline junkie, but I hopelessly tried to keep it on lock down. Alex wanted to do everything I did and there was no telling her she couldn’t do it. She swore that was my personality, not hers.

But the truth was, we were one and the same.

She waited until we were alone to hand me my gift. Since our parents were the closest to each other, she was constantly staying late. Sometimes they even stayed overnight from drinking too much and shooting the shit. I had bunk beds in my room, I slept on the bottom and the top was hers. She always wanted to sleep on the bottom, but I wouldn’t let her. I knew the beds were sturdy and nothing would happen, but I still couldn’t get over the fear that if it broke it would crush her.

And I’d never let anything happen to her.

As I rode my bike, I remembered the look on her face when I opened my present. She sat on my bed with her legs crossed and the nervousness oozing off of her. It was a picture of her holding up my surfboard, dressed in my board shorts and gray Quicksilver t-shirt I’d given her. She posed in a funny yet adorable way. When I smiled and raised my eyes to her she said, “It’s so you don’t have to look at them magazines anymore.”

“Come on, Half-Pint, pedal faster like we taught you,” Austin shouted from a distance, taking me away from my thoughts. It didn’t matter how fast she pedaled, she would never be able to catch up to us. Her legs were much shorter than ours.

Again, she was just a girl.

“I am!” she yelled back, out of breath.

I peered behind me and saw her still far behind, so I decided to stop and wait for her on the side of the street. A bright orange flower by my foot caught my attention.

I reached down and tore it from the ground.

She halted right beside me, panting. “It doesn’t matter how fast I pedal, I can’t catch up with you boys,” she sadly whispered, bowing her head. I knew it took a lot for her to admit that and I hated seeing her look so defeated.

It wasn’t in her nature.

I placed the flower under her nose and her eyes brightened, quickly replacing the sadness. Gazing up at me with joy for something so minuscule. She grinned and grabbed the flower from my fingers, tucking it behind her ear.

Right then and there, I learned that it was all about the little things when it came to her.

“Come on.” I nodded toward her feet.

She took another exaggerated breath and started to pedal down the road with me alongside her. We rode in comfortable silence for a few minutes, going a lot slower now and I started getting a bit bored. I let go of my handlebars and balanced on the bike with my arms out to my sides to maintain my stability. I leaned my body to the side to hold my bike in place, as we were taking a curve.

“Show off,” she teased.

I smiled, she was partially right. I always tried to impress her, when you’re that young you don’t understand the reasons behind it. You just do it. By the time we made it down to the river the guys were already in the water, horsing around. I helped her off her bike and securely placed it next to mine, locking them together around a tree. I grabbed her hand and she followed close behind me.

The woods were murky and muggy. It rained that morning and left a humid atmosphere in its wake. They weren't too far from where we had parked the bikes, but you needed to be careful where you stepped. I knew Alex would tread where I had, without even having to tell her to do so, it was always that way between us. When we were older, I realized that we had this unspoken bond that neither of us understood or talked about and it was only then that I wished we had.

The closer we drew to the river, the louder it became. The trees finally cleared off and all that was left was a field of water with trees surrounding it. It smelled awful and part of me doubted that Alex would actually go into the river. I knew better than to ask her, though.

“I know what you’re thinking, Lucas Ryder, and I’m going to punch you.”

I spun around, meeting her deep glare. “It’s not gonna hurt even if you do.”

She punched me anyway.

“Come on, you slowpokes, hurry it up already,” Austin called out from the tire swing, hanging off of it like a monkey.

Dylan and Jacob were already in the river rough housing, seeing who could hold the other under water the longest and gasping once they came up for air. I took off my shirt and shorts, throwing them onto a tree branch by the water. I wore my black one-piece bathing suit while the boys were wearing swim trunks with no shirts on. I wanted to wear that too, but my mom was adamant that I needed to wear what little girls wore. I hated my bathing suit but they never paid me any mind that I wasn’t dressed like them.

I heard Lucas take off from behind me, jumping head first into the river. I knew that there were alligators swimming among them, and I silently prayed they couldn’t smell my fear. Lucas came up from under the water and whipped his hair back away from his face with a sudden jolt of his neck. He swam closer to the bank waiting for me.

“Did you know gators only come out into the open when they feel threatened? Otherwise they scurry away from the chaos and noise,” Lucas said out loud for all of us to hear, but truly it was just for me.

I smirked and tottered through the grass, my feet sinking to the bottom of the river. Lucas swam in a bit and jerked his head to the side. It was a silent agreement for me to hang off his back. I smiled and swam up behind him, putting my arms around his neck and my legs around his torso. He paddled us out to the rest of the boys and we stayed like that for the entire day.


School was back in full swing and my birthday was a few days away. I was about to be eleven. It was my last year in elementary school — one more year and I would finally be back in the same school with my boys. They were in seventh grade and Austin in sixth. Their bodies started to fill out and they ate more than ever. Our parents constantly complained about how they couldn’t keep them fed. Lucas’s mom started stocking the pantry with peanut butter, Ritz crackers, and raisins. I loved them individually, but he would pile it all together on a cracker and eat it. I swear the boy lived off of it. Pizza Rolls, Hot Pockets, Pop Tarts and Sunny D were also some of their favorites. Drinking milk by the gallons became a thing of the norm, always chugging it right from the cartons, much to our mothers’ disapproval. I had watched them get slapped so many times on the back of the head that I started to do it, too. Their voices started to change and began getting deeper which made it hard for me to recognize who I talked to from day to day.

There were also girls that started to hang out with them and I hated that, too. It was probably what I hated the most about them growing up and being so good looking. The older we got, the more the girls flocked around them. In my mind, they weren’t anyone else’s, especially some stupid girls. They were mine and I didn’t want to share them. I expressed my possessive feelings to them often and they always laughed me off and reassured me that I fussed over nothing.

All the girls looked completely different from me. They wore makeup, dresses, and their hair was always down and blowing in the wind. They appeared to be Barbies, looking like the girls that I had seen in their magazines. I would catch all of their wandering eyes anytime one of those girls stepped foot around us.

Even Lucas.

And I definitely hated that more than anything. “Hey, Luke,” some big boobed blonde said, walking toward us on the beach.

We were sitting near my parents’ restaurant, and she wore the tiniest bikini I had ever seen. I subconsciously glared down at my worn out t-shirt that happened to be two sizes too big on me, and my jean shorts that went down past my knees. I begged my mom for months to let me buy a few pairs, even though they were technically boy cargo shorts. I didn’t own any girl clothes. I loathed them as much as I did those stupid girls.

“Lucas, my name’s Lucas, not Luke,” he replied, as I peeked up through my lashes.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she flirted, sitting beside him on the sand.

I played with the sand out in front of me, piling handfuls of it on top of each other, pretending that I wasn’t listening to every word they were saying.

“Are you ready for Mr. Smith’s test tomorrow?”

He shrugged, watching me from the corner of his eyes.

“Oh! Well, I’m ready for it. Maybe I could help you. I wouldn’t mind. I’m very good with numbers.”