Hurdles

Our relationship. It wasn't sonnet inspiring, the story of it won't make thousands want to listen. But it was complicated and it was special to us. It was certainly more than I bargained for from just seeing a boy with a football helmet across the room.

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16. Sixteen

See you on Monday. 

When he said see you on Monday, I kind of figured he was just saying it as a quirky, charismatic kind of thing to say and I thought he'd call me to hang out today but he doesn't. I at least thought he'd call me today and explain what yesterday was all about but he doesn't even message me like he would normally. I just hear nothing from him. Last night I was in the happiest mood. I was wondering whether we were together now, I was happy because he actually liked me back, it was just the best feeling in the world and now I feel the complete opposite. Did he get home and regret? Did he realise that once he actually kissed me it wasn't all that and he's now he's completely put off me?

I used to live by the philosophy of just having everything out in the open and that version of me would just ask him what's going on, but that philosophy was a lot easier to believe in before I had to actually use it. I don't even know who to talk to. I can't really talk to my friends back home because they won't really understand the whole thing and I can't talk to the other guys because it'd be too awkward. So I just wait until I see him at school on Monday and hope for the best. Maybe he was just confused, maybe when he sees me in person he'll explain. 

But I get there and I see all of them sat at our table in the morning waiting for the first bell and I sit next to Harry as usual and the worst thing happens. He just smiles at me politely like he used to when we first knew each other and says "Hi" before turning back around to Dan. 

I'm shocked. I'm actually stunned. I would have been more okay with him ignoring me completely, at least then even if it meant he hated kissing me he would be at least acknowledging the whole thing. But instead, he's acting like it never happened and he's not even talking to me like normal.

I don't really know how to react to it. I just go through the day like normal with all of them but I'm on edge the whole time for Harry to talk to me. I'm so nervous I don't realise I'm angry until he responds to something I say in a conversation all of us are having at lunch. It's just a little thing, just an agreement, nothing out of the ordinary but that's when I realise I'm furious. Not only is he acting like nothing ever happened, but he's also completely okay with the fact that he's doing that, like he's all innocent. After that I don't talk for the rest of the day to try and make a point. 

He has the nerve to message me that night and I hope that it's an apology or an explanation or something and I'd still be mad but I would forgive him. But no. It's: 

You were quiet today

Me. I was the quiet one? Really? I reply: 

Oh 

He replies: 

And you're still being quiet now

I reply: 

Okay 

He calls me then and I don't answer because I'm so annoyed. I have never been angry with a boy before, I'm not generally much of an angry person but I cannot believe he thinks he can get away with everything. Kissing me, acting like it never happened, and acting like he never act like it never happened. He calls again and then stops and I think he's given up but instead there's a knock on my bedroom door and my mum pokes her head round, smiling. 

"Harry's here to see you." she says. I just give her a blank look and she leaves looking a little more confused, letting Harry in. He just stands there at the end of my bed, hovering awkwardly. I carry on reading my text book, not giving him one word or one look. 

"Hi." he says eventually. I stay quiet. He pauses before speaking up again. "Alice?" 

I stay quiet. He made me wait all day yesterday and I'm still waiting for a proper explanation. I can make him wait too.

"Hey." he says again. "Are you gonna talk to me?"

I stay quiet and he sighs.

"Alright, what's wrong with you?" he demands and my eyes go directly to his and he looks so shocked I know I must look angry. 

"What's wrong with me?" I demand. "Me? Really? I'm the problem?" 

"You kind of are. You're the one with the attitude." he frowns. "And I don't get it."

I breathe out slowly, looking up at the ceiling. "I'm honestly about thirty seconds away from losing my shit, so you need to get out."

"I haven't done anything wrong!" he protests and I laugh, holding my head in my hands.

"I actually can't believe you're being this stupid." I raise my eyebrows at him. 

"I actually can't believe you're being this bitchy!" he says and my stomach drops because I'm so furious with him. 

"You're telling me you don't see anything wrong with what you did on Sunday compared to how you acted today?" 

"What? That's what you're so angry about?" he laughs but it's an angry kind of laugh. "I held your hand, I kissed you, it was your birthday-"

"You don't just do that when it's someone's birthday!" I shout. "You know that, you're just making up pathetic excuses!"

"You're the one being pathetic." he says, giving me a hard look. "I don't know how it works in England but here, I can kiss you without it meaning anything. I kind of felt something for you because we were spending so much time together, I kissed you, I got it out of my system, we move on."

That's the first time I feel properly hurt. "You just wanted to get it out of your system?" 

"Yes." he says, his voice cold. "And if you actually feel something for me then that's your problem, not mine."

He walks out then and within five minutes I went from being angry with him to being completely humiliated. I know what he said was wrong, I know he was wrong, you don't just kiss somebody to get it out of your system but at the same time, I feel embarrassed. Somehow he's turned this on me. I'm so upset and the first thing I think of is to call Dan and I know I shouldn't talk to Dan about it because he's Harry's friend too but right now I don't know who else would make me feel better. 

"Hello little Alice!" he says cheerily as ever when he picks up. "You good?" 

"Uh, yeah." I say even though I'm not. 

"Woah woah woah, are you crying?" 

"A little." I say, crying more now that he's noticed. I don't even know why I've called him, now I feel too shy to actually tell him. I feel like it's just a bitchy move even though that's not my intention. 

"Who's made you cry?" he asks and I cry even more at how caring he's being.

"You're not going to like hearing this." I tell him and then sigh, wiping my eyes. "You know what, it's all good, I'm just being stupid. Never mind."

"No, I do mind." he says. "Tell me."

"No, I shouldn't have called you in the first place, you're not the person to talk to about this, it's not fair."

"Alice, I swear to god if you don't tell me." he says and I laugh but then choke up even more. He sighs, sounding serious again. "Alice, tell me."

"It was Harry." I say and he pauses for a long time. This is when I feel like loyalty's going to kick in for him and he's going to accuse me of being the crazy bitch and stick up for Harry and I'm going to be left with no friends. 

"Harry?" he says at last, sounding confused. "What did Harry do?" 

"I get if you think I'm the crazy girl and you're gonna stick up for him, I know you are-"

"Don't be so sure, tell me what he did." he interrupts me. The more I explain, the better I feel about telling Dan and the less embarrassed I feel. It's clear I did nothing wrong, at least to me. I hope Dan thinks the same thing and it's hard to tell because he's just quiet the whole time. At the end he speaks up and I'm pleasantly surprised. "What a dick!"

"You think so?" I sigh, relieved. "I mean, I don't want you to turn against your friend-"

"I want to turn against my friend!" he exclaims. "He's being ridiculous, don't listen to him, what he did is not okay."

"I just don't understand why he's acting like that." I say. "It makes no sense, one day he's the nicest person I've ever met, the next he's acting like this."

"I mean he does have..." he trails off and then sighs. "I don't know, he just has other things in his life too that might be why he's acting like this, but it's no excuse."

"What other things though?" I frown. "He's always acted fine."

"I know, I know. It's not really that he has other things, but you know, just things everyone has. He's probably stressed about one thing or another." he says. "It's no excuse though."

We talk for a little longer until I realise that talking isn't really changing anything or making me feel better anymore so I just thank Dan before going. I am sad about this more than angry now. I just wish the whole thing hadn't happened, I wish we'd have left it at just walking around a museum and going to look at the sunset every now and then because I miss having this perfect image of him in my head.

The next day at school, I don't go and sit with them in the morning. Dan still does and I'm not annoyed because I don't expect him to be mad at the rest of the boys, I don't even really expect him to be mad with Harry even though I am kind of glad he is.

I get to English after all of them and it's more tense than I even imagined it would be. All of the boys go quiet as soon as I walk in and look up at me. I'm guessing all of them know now and I'm back to feeling embarrassed. I kind of feel like the stupid kid who doesn't know what she's doing when it comes to boys and read too much into a kiss. I try and remind myself that I have no reason to be embarrassed but it's hard when they're all acting like this. I go sit on the other side of the room and I share a look with Dan. He looks like he feels guilty but I shake my head, letting him know I get why he's sitting with them. It's silent and Mr Jackson lets out a low whistle. 

"What's happened with you guys?" he asks. 

"Nothing's happened." Harry says, looking down at his notebook with a sulky look on his face. 

Dan laughs kind of bitterly, shaking his head and Harry shoots a look at him. 

"What?" he asks. 

"Nothing's happened." Dan quotes him. "You're funny."

"Oh you're on her side?" Harry raises an eyebrow. 

"Guys, not here." Sir interrupts. "I don't know what's going on, but class is about to start so you need to wait until you're out of school to discuss it."

"There's nothing to discuss." Harry mutters.

"Harry." Sir warns. "Leave it."

"Or admit you're being a little bitch and we can move on." Dan says to him and Harry sighs heavily, looking up at him. 

"What's your problem?" he asks. 

"My problem is you completely messed Alice around when she didn't deserve it!" he exclaims. "She's our friend, you shouldn't be so okay with upsetting her. Especially since you clearly see her as more than your friend."

"Jesus christ." Harry mutters, turning back to his book and scribbling in it like he's trying to move the whole thing on.

"You're just being ignorant because you know you were wrong." Dan says and Mr Jackson crosses his arms. 

"Both of you, enough." he says. "Alice isn't saying anything, you two don't need to comment either."

They're both silent for the rest of the lesson. All the boys are. In fact, the whole class is because they're so surprised. Also, for the whole of the lesson, there's at least one person staring at me whether they're intrigued or just trying to make me uncomfortable or glaring. I can't escape the feeling that I'm being viewed as some intruder who not only got straight into the popular group but also made them fight which never happens and people are especially mad about that because they're the football team and you just don't mess with the football team I guess. 

"Dan." I go up to him after class once the others have left. Surprisingly he smiles at me, ruffling my hair. 

"Hey little Alice. What's up?" 

I frown at him. "You're in a remarkably better mood."

"Well I'm not angry with you am I?" he laughs and I laugh a little too but I feel down about the whole thing.

"Speaking of which." I say. "You don't have to fight with him if you don't want to. I feel bad, you guys shouldn't not be friends because of whatever he's done to me."

"But I'm mad about it." he shrugs. "You don't treat friends like that."

He has to go to practice then and I'm about to leave too when Mr Jackson asks me to stay behind. I look at him apologetically. 

"I'm sorry." I say. "I'm not all that sure of what's going on."

"Well what I picked up is that Harry's been mean to you and Dan isn't happy about it." he says and I laugh a weak laugh, nodding. 

"That's about it."

He sighs, smiling the kind of smile that says 'I get where you're coming from but you're not actually right' and I hate that kind of smile. 

"Look, I know Harry seems like the most care free of them all, but I know he's the one who has the most stress as well."

"See, people keep saying that but I don't get it." I frown. "What gives him so much stress that he hasn't talked to me about? He never evens seem stressed."

"I know he doesn't and it's..." he sighs. "He's a very happy guy but also it's just the way he is. I've taught him for a long time actually, I taught him back in middle school too and he just lets things pile up every now and then and if he snaps, you've got to be a bit tolerant."

"Thanks sir, but I'd be more tolerant if he'd stop being such an asshole about the whole thing and just talked to me about it." I say and he laughs, nodding. 

"Understandable." he says. "But just keep what I said in mind."

However much I don't want to be tolerant of Harry in any way, I'm not so mad that I forget that before the argument I was about to start really caring for him so even if I don't really understand him properly yet, maybe I should try to. 

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