This a moment between Cal and his brother Brendan that got taken out of What Love Means.
We left the house to get away from worrying about the bee. I’d thought he’d suggest go-karting or mud wrestling or whatever sports people did, but we ended up just walking around the neighborhood. We didn’t talk much at first, but there was fresh air and the sun shining down on us, so I think we both felt better.
We likely meandered for hours, until it got darker. It was still and quiet. All the fancy homes had their lights on, so the neighborhood looked warm and cozy.
Brendan eventually loosened up. I didn’t want to destroy that as we headed back to the house. I cast about for something to talk about. We had nothing in common but the bee. “Wanna help me with my trig homework?” I joked.
He shook his head. “I don’t know anything about your fancy math problems, but I can help you with your Max problems.”
I looked at him in shock. “What? What are you talking about?”
Brendan grinned. “Oh man, you are so guilty.”
“No, no, I just.” I cleared my throat. “What are you referring to?”
“Mostly April,” he admitted. Brendan wasn’t supposed to have social messaging apps on his phone, but I didn’t call him on it, or on finding the time to gossip with April. “She said Max is— am I allowed to say pissed off in front of you?”
“Max is pissed off at me?” he sky was grey and it was a little chilly, but it beat the warmer but somehow more frigid stillness of home.
“I didn’t say that.”
“How do you know it’s my fault?”
He stared at me smugly. “It so is.”
“Maybe,” I admitted. “I don’t know what to do about it though.” He ran somewhat hot and cold with me. No, he generally seemed to want me, it just sometimes annoyed him that he felt that way.
“I could help.”
I smiled at Brendan but said, “No, I don’t think so.”
“I know you like him.”
“What?” Oh god, how the hell did he know that? How obvious were we? Everybody in Max’s life knew, that was pretty clear. I’d been able to handle that perhaps because I didn’t need to say anything and I could kind of ignore it. Actually telling people in my life and having them know. That was a different story. Wasn’t it?
The panic rising swiftly stopped suddenly. “He’s a good friend,” Brendan explained. “He’s a lot better than your other friends. You like him better than them too.”
“I’m not comparing,” I tried.
“They’re boring.” Brendan summed up simply.
“Max is too exciting then.” That was entirely true. It didn’t stop the wanting though, maybe was even part of why I liked him. We had been so similar once. Our friendship was comforting, easy. Now I didn’t know what to expect. It was different, but maybe not bad.
“So what? You should apologize, you need one exciting friend in your life.”
“Words don’t go so well for us.” We certainly knew enough of them, just not the right way to use them.
“Then show him in a different way,” Brendan said like it was easy. Perhaps it was.
“Wait, wait. When did you become smarter than me?” I asked Brendan.
“Always, I just didn’t want you to feel bad.”
“I guess I’ll have to become good at sports then.”
He scoffed. “Yeah right.”
“Race you to the house,” I said and took off.