Mar 26, 2017
Sometimes I really don’t know what to feel about Nick. After he rushed out to stop me leaving again at the train station, I really did get kind of a crush on him. I admitted this to Pearly – she was only a kid, right, what could it hurt? She never even left Kurain. Aunt Morgan was so protective, she’d probably never even let her meet Nick.
I never told Pearly that Nick felt the same way, but I guess I never properly explained he didn’t either (a girl can dream, right?) I certainly didn’t get that she thought we were officially a couple. Until it was too late.
I know what he feels though, he just sees me like a sister, or a cousin, or something. Mostly I’m sure he likes having me around to look after him, and get evidence and stuff, but I worry I’m also an annoyance, getting framed for murder and kidnapped all the time. A lot of the time, I tell myself the same, he’s just like a little brother to me, and since I’ve never had a real brother, how do I know everything I felt was not what you feel for your brother?
I think Nick was okay with saving me the other day. I was sure grateful to him, but it was embarrassing to tell him how grateful. How am I supposed to admit he’s basically all I thought of the entire time without sounding stupid? But I’m assuming it’s back to business as usual with our friendship, which is why I’m jamming my finger on his doorbell this Sunday after that Engarde fiasco.
I punch it a few more times, but I can’t hear a bell. The entire apartment complex he lives in is decrepit, so maybe it’s out of batteries? I start ramming my fists against the door. “NIIIIIIIICK!!!!!!!!!” The lazy guy is probably still asleep.
After a lot more times bashing the door, I’m ready to give up. Maybe he went out early or something. But I thought he agreed…
Then without warning the door lurches open and I get a sudden eyeful of some pretty hot abs and a lot more skin than I expected. I’m forced to freeze momentarily and wonder vaguely what this great body is doing in Nick’s apartment. Then my brain catches up. It is Nick. I must have dragged him out of bed, because he’s standing there in only his boxers, like he isn’t usually when I see him. It’s one of those weird times when I forget he’s my little brother.
I manage to move my gaze up, way up, to his face.
“It’s only 7am!!! Why are you HERE?!?” he yells. He’s pretending to be mad, but his eyes are kind.
“You’ve forgotten?” I yell back. “You agreed! I’d come every Sunday morning so we can watch Nickel Samurai together!”
Nick’s eyes bug. “You still want to watch Nickel Samurai – after that?”
“Of course! The Nickel Samurai is the Nickel Samurai – not Matt Engarde!”
Poor Nick winces at the name.
“You’ll love it!” I encourage. “The motto is: For Great Justice!”
Nick’s face relents. “Okay,” he agrees. “I’ll just go get dressed.” He stumbles off toward his room.
I follow him into his apartment. Nick’s place is a dump. There’s piles of dust in corners where he thinks no-one will look. Half the furniture is unmatched and probably came off a roadside garbage collection. There’s old law magazines and screwed up newspaper lying around. Disturbingly enough, the ‘Comics’ sections seem well-read, but the ‘Legal’ and ‘Business’ supplements are pristine and almost untouched.
I collect all the non-Law newspaper pieces and throw them in the recycling. Some people just aren’t very good at looking after themselves. I consider starting on the dust, but if Nick’s left to his own devices, we’ll probably starve too.
I trail to the kitchen and fling open the fridge, but it’s really disappointing – a dead lettuce, milk past the expiry date, and about four bags of carrots. Did he really expect to eat nothing but carrots? Doesn’t Nick know food is important?
The cupboards are just as empty, nothing but a few instant noodles and store-brand potato crisps which taste like salt.
I climb up the flight of shelves to investigate the top one, but there’s just dusty tins of cheap, boring foods, like corn cuts, and tomato pieces, and, what’s this? A 10m package of Budget Dried Kelp [Full of vitamins!] I gag to myself. It’s worse than Kurain.
Nick finally emerges, in his regular weekend clothes.
“Nick, there’s nothing in here but carrots!” I scold.
“Oh, carrots were on sale this week,” counters Nick. “They’re not bad with a little soy sauce…” He gives up as I grimace in disgust.
We end up resorting to the cheap instant coffee for breakfast. It’s like silt, but it perks Nick up, and I’m confident I can convince him to take us out for burgers after. I make a mental note to ‘borrow’ some better coffee sachets for Nick next time we pass by the up-market café, and drag him over to the TV. It’s almost 8am!
I think Nick must secretly like me coming over, because he seemed to make a big effort to look interested in the TV show. He visibly winced every time I screamed the Nickel Samurai motto, but I’m sure I’ll succeed in giving him proper tastes in entertainment eventually.
The credits were almost rolling, when my phone rang.
“Has Mr. Nick proposed to you yet?” she breathed excitedly.
“PEARLY!!!!” I hiss. Nick is chewing idly on a salt-flavoured crisp, staring at the cobwebs on the ceiling. I’m sure proposal is the last thing on his mind.
“Don’t worry, Mystic Maya, I have everything arranged! I have booked a room for you two tonight at the Gatewater Imperial!”
“Pearly, no, we’re not yet..” Nick snaps his attention back in my direction. Uh oh. “I’m just going to the bathroom,” I lie to him.
I ring Gatewater Imperial to try and clear this up, and they tell me that yes, there’s a reservation tonight for ‘Phoenix Fey and Maya Fey’. We can still cancel, but only with a huge cancellation fee. None of my charming offers manage to reduce the fee, but I do convince them they ‘made an error’ when they were recording Nick’s surname. Good thing too, I really wouldn’t want to have to explain that one.
I’ll have to tell Nick though. I won’t mention the ‘engagement’ misunderstanding. I put on my biggest grin to hide my trepidation.
“Pearly thought she’d give us a lovely surprise, by treating us to a stay in a luxury hotel,” I begin.
“What.” Nick suddenly shifts to one of those faces he’s making in court. The one where you know he’s trying to come up with a reason to shout ‘Objection!'
“She booked tonight for us at the Gatewater Imperial.”
“Ring and cancel,” he mutters immediately.
“I already tried. The cancellation fee is the same price as the price to stay the night. Rip off, huh…”
“And Pearls isn’t paying for this, is she?” questions Nick, his colour paling.
“I doubt it, no,” I confirm.
Poor Nick seems very worried. He’s tearing those geeky spikes out of his head. (I try and tell myself it’s not cute.)
“Come on, Nick, it’ll be fun! We can just, um,” I fail to think of a scheme to raise more money.
I know Nick’ll get over it. He can never stay mad around me for long.
The bellboy (far younger than the creepy guy who gave me the phone) leads us into something labelled a ‘Honeymoon Suite.’ I hope Nick doesn’t notice through his shock over the bill.
There’s exactly one double bed. Nick’s eyes kind of bug out in horror. He kind of gets all awkward, and makes some cutting remark over the quality of the artwork on the wall.
“Oh, you’re no fun. If we’re paying for it we should enjoy ourselves,” I suggest. “I think the room is nice.”
Nick’s face relaxes in agreement. He roams, obviously searching for something to complement in the décor, and pokes the vase. “Well I guess it’s quite a nice… flower.” He doesn’t seem to know what it is.
“Don’t you know what a rose looks like, Nick?”
“Y..yeah, of course…”
I know better than to suggest we visit the in-hotel restaurant, and the prices on the room service are so immense, even I can agree the food can’t possibly be worth it. So we decide to watch one of the movies screened on the hotel’s TV channel. As luck would have it, Samurai Summer is being screened. I still haven’t forced Nick to watch it, so it’s a golden opportunity!
We sit on the bed. Neither of us seems game to get in it, or change out of our daytime clothes. But I’m soon drawn into the movie, even if it is the millionth time I’ve seen it, and over an hour passes as Nick seems to be following along to the screen and my comments. I again turn to speak to him during a pivotal scene.
But Nick seems to have dozed off; his head’s drooped, he’s snoring gently, I poke him and he drools slightly. Definitely the real deal and not just an act. It seems I still haven’t managed to make him acquire taste for the ‘Samurai Romance’ genre. Maybe he’s just not cultured enough.
I resist the temptation to cuddle up to oblivious Nick, and concentrate on the TV, but the movie draws to a close. As the credits boringly roll, I carefully arrange myself on my side of the bed, taking care not to touch Nick, who’s draped inelegantly over the entire other half.
I’ve had my eyes closed for a while, and keep drifting off, when an earthquake rocks the bed. Several pieces of Nick crush me, but it seems he’s just rolled over without waking up.
I’m slipping into a kind of dream, when I’m disturbed again. I crack open my eyes. Nick’s kind of twitching, and muttering in his sleep. “Ob.. Objection,” he slurs. I guess he dreams he’s in court?
I close my eyes again for a while, but there’s a disturbance vibration as if Nick is flailing. “No… no..” he mutters, as I open my eyes to observe. Some kind of nightmare?
“NOOOOOOO! MAYAAAAA!!!!” he suddenly screams. His eyes lurch open. Since I’m right next to him, they meet mine, and he grabs me and crushes me to him, so tight I can hardly breathe.
“Maya! You’re alive!” he chokes. It’s pretty much the most affectionate embrace I’ve ever had.
“I could never, ever have forgiven myself if something had happened to you!” There’s practically tears in his eyes. I’m quite overcome.
“It’s okay,” I manage as I hug him back. “I’m right here now.”
We cuddle together, close our eyes, and return to sleep. Neither of us have any more nightmares.