He was my best friend.


2. Six Years Later

"Please," Dask begged.

"Why can't you?" I asked.

"I just...come on, Jo. Be a friend."

I rolled my eyes.  "You know I'm your friend. Doing this for you would prove nothing."

We were sitting on a small couch in my bedroom, flicking through channels on the television showing Saturday cartoons. We'd started talking about the upcoming school dance and he wanted me to call a girl, Clara, from school for him, to sound out whether she liked him.

"Come on, Jo," he tried again, trying to appeal to my better side.

"What?" I faked ignorance. He needed to grow a pair and do this for himself. I can't be calling up girls, sounding them out to see if they like him. What's the point in that? If you ask someone out and they say no, that's a pretty good indicator right there they don't want a bar of what you've got to offer.

Dask needn't have worried himself anyway, because all the girls in our year liked what he had to offer. He was sweet, caring, kind, a good listener, a loyal friend and he had a growth spurt over the school break. Not to mention they'd always thought he was cute. Most of them had a crush on him, he was just oblivious to it all.

"Fine, give it here," he said, sounding defeated. He held out his hand, waiting for me to place the cordless house phone into it.

Calling her for him would have been easy enough for me to do, but I realised not too long ago that caving in to Dask was becoming a bad habit of mine. Even my older brother noticed over the school break and said something to me about it. I knew how difficult this was for him, considering how shy and socially awkward he could be, but I was becoming unsettled by my lack of being able to say no to him, I felt like I needed to try it out sometimes.

"What do I get if I give it?" I teased, waggling my eyebrows and holding the phone away from him.

"What?" he asked, frustrated.

It was so much fun to mess with Dask. I've learned over the years just how to confuse him and push his buttons. He's like an open book to me, most of the time. I knew there was only so much he could take though, and we were just about there.

"What are you prepared to do to get the phone?" I asked, standing up on top of the couch, my hand with the phone in it held up away from him, above my head.

He looked up at my smirking face, his own marred with stress and stood up, going for the door. I knew then, he'd had enough. I sprang off the seat, caught him by the elbow, and quickly pressed the phone into his hand. "Here," I said.

He looked down at the cordless device and seemed like he was contemplating what to do next.

"Just call her," I said.

He looked up at me with his soft blue eyes and I could see the nervousness in them. "You're so annoying," he accused, his voice barely a whisper.

"Tell me something I don't know," I replied gruffly, and sat back down on the couch with a huff.

I felt annoyed as I watched Dask prepare himself to call Clara DeVries. She was a sweet, funny girl and probably one of the smartest in our grade. They shared a couple of classes and seemed to take a liking to each other lately. Sometimes, after school, I'd see them waiting by the school bus stop together, chatting and laughing.

He cleared his throat and stood up straighter as his face took on a look of concentration, like he was trying to get into some sort of zone. He sighed, then dialed her number.

I had mixed feelings about what was taking place, because I was somewhat proud of him for manning up and calling her, but I was still irritated this was taking up so much of our weekend. Granted, it had just been a small conversation, and what would probably be a short phone call to Clara, but it annoyed me how important it seemed to be to Dask, and we couldn't move on to other things until he did something about it. Mind you, it was an endearing sight, seeing him get all nervous. I watched him, with a small smile on my face.

He looked over at me, as he waited for her to pick up the phone. "What?" he asked.

I shook my head at him and my smile got bigger.



"You're so annoying!" Dask looked exasperated.

"We covered that already."

"What?" I heard Clara's voice speak on the phone, from where I sat on the couch.

Dask's eyes went wide. "Uh...um...that wasn't meant for you. Clara? It's Dask. I wasn't talking to you. I was talking to Jo. I was trying to call you to talk to you. I just, Jo..." He looked over at me, seemingly unsure how to go on.

"Is being annoying,' I heard Clara cut in, 'as per usual."

I could actually hear the smile in her voice.

"No!" he said quickly. "I mean, he's not that annoying," he recovered, his eyes flickered over to me.

Clara was silent on the other end of the phone before she said, "Everyone knows how annoying Jo can be, Dask."

Dask expelled a breath and asked hesitantly, "Do you, um, do you like Jo?"

I glared at him. What was he doing? Clara was silent in what I can only imagine to be shock or surprise. Surely she knew he liked her? Not me. I barely spoke to her, why would I like her?  This is why I should have just given in and called her for him!

"What?" Clara asked.

"Give me the phone, Dask," I said.

"No, I just..." he started, no doubt trying to think of some way to smooth things over.

I snatched the phone off him, determined to set things right. I knew the guy practically inside out. What had I expected?

"Dask wants to know if you'll go out with him!" I shouted down the phone.

"What? Jo! Give me the phone!" he said, panicked.

We struggled over the phone. I slapped his hands away. It was useless really, for him anyway. Until he jumped on me! Yes, he jumped on me! Who'd have thought? I fell over onto the bed and he fell on top of me. He was trying to reach for the phone and nearly had it in his hand when I elbowed him in the side and snatched the phone away.

"Oomph!" he gasped. He fell off the bed, flat onto the floor and landed on his butt, hard. "Ouch!" He looked up at me.

My eyes clouded over with worry. Just then, he grabbed onto my ankle and tripped me over.

"Ow!" I yelled.

In the background, I could hear the faint voice of Clara. "What's going on guys? Dask? Jo?"

Dask rolled on top of me, crawled up the length of my body and reached for the phone in my hand, which was now extended above my head.

Dask's body on mine seemed to be touching all of my most ticklish spots, the whole situation struck me as funny and my body began to shake with laughter.

Dask eyed me warily before he finally grabbed the phone from my hand and made to get off me, but I grabbed him in a bear hug and trapped him against my side.

"Clara?" he managed to breathe into the phone.

"Yes Dask," I heard her answer.

"I just wanted to say 'hi' and, yeah, see how you're going." He nodded his head. "Don't listen to Jo."

"It's okay Dask. The answer is yes, I'll go out with you," she replied.

"What?" Dask asked, clearly flabbergasted.

"I said yes. You don't have to be embarrassed," she said.

I snatched the phone. "Dask has to go now. Bye." I hung up on her.

Dask's eyes were wide, his mouth open. "Why'd you do that for?" he asked.

I really didn't know. Not then anyway.

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