“Ok, I’ve got Trivial Pursuit, Taboo, Pictionary…Monopoly…umm…Scrabble?”
They’d finished watching movies and were now trying to decide on what game to play. After the talk, things had gone back to normal much to Veronica’s surprise. She thought he was going to suggest…well she felt stupid now because he hadn’t. He’d offered to finish the movie and then got his food back out and devoured it. She kept waiting for him to make some kind of offer, to hint at something physical, but it never happened.
So here they were, trying to figure out what game to play, per Nick’s request. She was confused, but greatly relieved. She hadn’t been sure if after what had happened, if he was expecting it to keep happening, Veronica wasn’t sure what she‘d say if he asked.
“Mmm, how bout Scrabble? I love that game.”
“I haven’t played in a while, and I usually don’t win. Kev doesn’t like to play it with me; he takes it way TOO seriously.”
“Let me guess, you like to make up words and swear they’re real,” Veronica grinned.
“They are real!”
“Uh huh, right Carter,” she laughed, pulling the box out. “Why don’t you get it set up and I’ll get us some snacks ok?”
Veronica handed him the box and then headed into the kitchen, getting some glasses and filling them with ice and then some pop. She quickly filled some bowls with some chips and crackers, rummaging around her cabinets; she found a couple boxes of Pop Tarts and grabbed a couple packages. After gathering up everything, she brought it into the next room, and after a several trips, sat, getting her tray ready.
“Ohhh, Cheese Nips!”
“They’re just as good, even better actually, not as heavy.”
“Whatever, nips are the best man.”
“You do like Doritos right?” Veronica groaned, rolling her eyes as she offered him the bowl.
“All is forgiven,” Nick winked, taking the bowl and grabbing a chip, popping it in his mouth, crunching loudly.
“Lucky me,” she sighed.
“Pop tarts too!”
“I love pop tarts.”
“Mmm me too, they’re the staple of my diet.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?”
Nick grinned, shoving his hand into the silver bag, grabbing a handful of tiles and arranging them on his tray.
Veronica followed suit, watching him carefully as she popped a couple of crackers in her mouth before taking a drink of her pop. She couldn’t stop watching him, couldn’t stop thinking what’d happened.
“You can go ahead…”
“Where were you just then?” Nick asked, his head cocked to the side.
“N-nowhere…” she mumbled, looking the tiles over.
He stared at her for a moment before taking a drink of his pop.
Veronica cleared her throat and tried to focus on the game. She studied the tiles and then formed a word.
“Hope, eight points,” she muttered, jotting the points down.
Nick looked down at his tray, grabbing a few tiles and making a word off Veronica’s.
“We should’ve set some ground rules before we started,” Veronica sighed.
“What? Boob is a word!”
Shaking her head, she shoved a handful of Cheez It’s into her mouth, jotting his points down.
About an hour later, Veronica added up the points, grinning.
“Well Nick, it looks like you won.”
“Huh? No way!”
“It’s true, look,” she handed him the pad of paper.
“Wow, I never win. Are you sure this is right? You didn’t…let me win did you?”
She rolled her eyes, “You won fair and square ok?”
“Man, wait till I tell Kevin, he won’t believe it. Can I keep this piece of paper?”
“It’s yours,” she chuckled.
Nick tore the piece of paper off and shoved it in his pants pocket.
“Well, I’m gonna head to bed,” Veronica announced, gathering up the empty bowl and plates, bringing them into the kitchen.
Nick followed her in with the glasses, “Ok.”
Smiling she headed back into the living room, gathering up the game. “Have a good night.”
“Wait, why don’t you stay with me?”
She looked at him, “Stay?”
“Yeah, we’ll sleep on the couch.”
“Nothing has to happen, just ya know, we can chill or whatever.”
“I dunno Nick.”
“C’mon, besides, you owe me some cuddle time anyway,” he winked.
“I do do I?”
“Absolutely, and I’m a good cuddler, or so I’ve been told.”
Veronica chuckled, looking away. She wanted to, but she was scared, not that she thought he’d force her to do anything, but that she would end up hoping that he would.
“Ok ok, let me just go get changed first,” she sighed, turning and heading to her room
“Cool, I’ll get the bed ready.”
She stumbled a bit, looking at him over her shoulder, “Yeah, you do that.”
Nick watched as she went into her room and let out a sigh of relief, he was glad he’d convinced her to stay. Walking over, he took the cushions off the couch and pulled the bed out, getting she sheets and blankets organized before grabbing the pillows Veronica had let him borrow and tossing them on. He heard the door open and turned to see Veronica making her way out and over.
“Oh wait, I gotta brush my teeth, hang on,” she turned, hurrying into the bathroom.
She was nervous, he could tell. Nick knew she was worried that he was going to try something, that he was expecting something to happen, and while he wanted a repeat of the night before, he knew that the circumstances were different now. Last night had been great, but it couldn’t happen again unless he knew for sure that it’s what she wanted, that she wouldn’t run from it in the morning or downplay it. When and if that time ever happened, he’d be more than willing. Until then, he’d take what he could get, even if that meant having her in the same bed and just holding her.
“Ok, all set, minty fresh,” she grinned.
“Well that means I gotta now,” Nick sighed dramatically, reaching into his bag and grabbing his toothbrush holder.
“Aww, you poor baby.”
“Mmmhmm, you know it,” He made his way past her and into the bathroom.
Veronica walked over to the bed, sitting on the edge. Just last night she’d been here, she’d been with him in a not so innocent way. It seemed like it was years ago, like it’d all been just a dream, but it wasn‘t.
“Alright, better.” Nick said suddenly as he made his way back over, pulling the covers back and slipping under. “C’mon, get in.”
She took a breath and stood, making her way around the other side of the bed, quickly slipping under the covers, scooting as far to the edge as she could.
Nick looked over at her, an eyebrow raised, “You ok?”
He laughed, sliding down lying on his back, “So…tell me about your parents’ divorce, what brought it on?”
Letting out a breath, she slid under the covers, lying down as well.
“My Dad, he’s very insecure. He always thought that my Mom was cheating on him, he’d had a bad first marriage and his first wife did end up cheating on him. So naturally when him and my Mom got married, he eventually started thinking she was cheating on him too.”
“Yeah, it just…each year it got worse and worse. My Mom left a couple times too, which was hard cause I was only like, five or six ya know? Dad is big on control you know? So he’d try to control all of us and he did for the longest. My oldest brother, Paul, well he ended up kicking him out and then Bryan, but once Bryan got to a certain point, he wouldn’t take it anymore. He stood up for himself. After he went to college, it was just me and Mom. It was hard sometimes, to see Mom so unhappy, what could I do you know? I was in high school, I had no idea what would happen. The only thing that I could think of was to be around at all times. I couldn’t go anywhere, but I was always hesitant to go to friends houses for what I’d find when I got home. They‘d fight, man could they fight. It was mostly my Dad, he could be so…so…mean sometimes Nick. I can see it clearly in my head. I used to make myself sick from worrying so much, literally. I never knew what to expect, none of us did. What kind of mood would he be in when he came home from work? What would set him off?”
He let out a breath, closing his eyes, “That really sucks.”
“Yeah it does, my high school experience wasn’t great. My junior prom was a mess. I couldn’t enjoy it properly cause I was worried about Mom. When I got home I found out that they’d had another fight and well…anyway, by the time I had my senior ball, they were already separated so that had worked out better than the prom in that sense. Overall…well that’s a different story entirely.”
“Separated…when did that happen?”
“February of 98. They had one last big fight and…it’s a long story. Let’s just say in the end, my Dad moved out of the house and eventually moved to Georgia. Mom and I stayed in the house until I graduated and then we moved to an apartment.”
“Wow, it happened fast huh?”
“Real fast. They separated in February of 98 and got officially divorced in the same year. It was weird to say the least.”
“And…how did you deal with it?”
“I wrote a lot. I was hurt and angry with my Dad, angry that he would do all of it to my Mom, to our family. Eventually I dealt with it, not that I had a choice and I kind of distanced myself from it. It makes it easy to talk about it when you do.”
“What about now? How are you dealing with it now?”
Veronica shrugged, “The best I can. I have nightmares sometimes, where I’m back home and they’re fighting and I get that nervous sick feeling in my stomach. I wake up and have to remind myself that it’s over. Sometimes though, it’s really bad, and it hangs on for the whole day. I try to forget about it, but it’s always there.”
He looked over at her, “What about you and your Dad? How’s your relationship now?”
“Wow, well we used to be close, really close actually. After the divorce, that all changed. He moved and when we do talk, you know how it goes. He swears everyone is against him and it’s just different, which sucks. I miss him, I miss how things used to be, but I know it’ll never go back to how it was, too much has happened. I’ve seen him do and say too many things for me to ever have this…idyllic idea of him anymore. I’m twenty four and I’ve seen things that I’d never wish on my worst enemy.”
“Yeah, I know how that is. I’ve seen sides of my parents I never knew existed, it kind of ruins that image you have of them.”
“Isn’t that scary? They’re supposed to be the ones that support you, the ones you look up to. They’re not supposed to hurt you, to make you feel bad about yourself.”
“And he did didn’t he? Still does,” Nick said softly.
She sighed, “Yeah he still does. It’s sick cause he knows just what to say or do to make me feel so…so horrible.”
“It’s not intentional I know, and I’m not making excuses for him. I know he thinks he’s doing right by saying what he does, but he’s not doing right.”
“Yeah, my parents are like that too, so are the fans. Fans…it’s weird, they can make me feel so great, so good, and then they can also make me feel so bad, like…like there’s something wrong with me cause I don‘t look like everyone else, cause I don‘t always say the right thing, cause I don‘t look a certain way. To top it all off, my parents, more so my mom, always has to get these little digs in.”
Veronica looked over at him for a moment before looking away, “Can you guess what my favorite part of you is?”
Nick frowned, looking over at her again, “Huh?”
“Guess what physical feature of you is my favorite.”
He blinked, “Uhh, I have no idea.” However, he knew what she wouldn’t say. He looked over as she suddenly scooted closer to him, sliding her hand under the sheet. His eyes widen and he stilled as her hand met his thigh, slowly moving upward. He shifted when her hand slid up and over, stopping on his stomach. He stared at her, “Veronica?”
“Not what you were expecting huh?”
Nick pushed the covers down to reveal her hand resting on his stomach, “My stomach?” It didn’t make sense, it wasn’t what he‘d been expecting. Of all the places, he knew she wouldn’t pick his stomach, and yet, she had.
She shrugged, “Cause I know what it feels like to be constantly attacked about your weight. Never thin enough, always too big. My Dad always used to harp on me about my weight. He used to tell me repeatedly that guys don’t like chubby girls and I always hear his voice in my head when I eat dinner or whatever. There was this girl who used to be a friend of mine who was always bigger, heavier than me. Dad always used to say that each year I got bigger; I was where she was at the year before. Now, whenever I get dressed or look in the mirror at myself, I cringe. Even now after all this time, I can‘t make it stop, I can‘t erase the words from my mind. It‘s hard to care, to want to look nice when you figure no one else sees you as nice looking anyway. I‘ve always thought, it wouldn‘t matter what I wore, I was always too big for it to make a difference.”
Nick let out a breath, trying to tamp down the anger that was suddenly starting to rise.
“I know what fans say, or what they’re saying and I always thought it was mean. Unless you know what it feels like first hand to be constantly ridiculed about your weight, you have no idea how damaging and painful it is. It screws with your self-esteem and your self worth. I-I’ve always liked you no matter how much you weighed. How much you weigh doesn’t matter to me, never has and never will. If you want the truth I kinda prefer you slightly…chubby, more to hug in my humble opinion.”
The lump in his throat threatened to get bigger and he had to swallow hard to fight back the tears and screamed to be released. No one ever seemed to understand what it felt like, how much it hurt to be teased and taunted, no one except her. Reaching out, he lifted her head so she was looking at him, “Thank you.”
Veronica blushed, looking away, “It’s ok, I can’t believe I told you that. My friends always laugh at me when I tell them. You probably think I’m a freak or something, me and my whole…thing with your stomach and all.”
“It’s ok, you can say it.”
“Veronica…I don’t think you’re a freak.”
“Yeah well, I feel like one.”
“You’re not. Look at me.”
Slowly she lifted her eyes to his again.
She smiled suddenly, “You’re welcome.”
It was then he knew she was more like him then he ever realized, than he’d ever know. Leaning in he kissed her gently, holding her tightly. Slowly he pulled away.
“Let’s get some sleep ok?”
She nodded, “Yeah.”
She rolled to her side and scooted back against him. Nick draped his arm across her waist and closed her eyes, finally feeling at peace for the first in in a long time.