The Side-Effects of Happiness


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Chapter One



It’s a smotheringly-hot, fall, Monday morning in mid-September and all I can hear is the violent beeping of the smoke alarm from downstairs. Even after a year of Mom leaving, Dad still burns absolutely any meal he tries to make. I watched him burn pasta once. The man was an utter disaster.

I usually would make my own meals now, I needed to learn before he killed me with burnt and/or undercooked chicken. He really liked trying to cook chicken for some reason, he failed every single time and right now, I can’t tell if it was bacon or chicken setting off the smoke alarm.

“Shiloh!” Yells Dad from downstairs.

“I’m up!” I shout back, still laid out in my bed with the covers half-assedly kicked off of me. It was hot. Lately, it’s been getting to the point that I was almost sure that summer would never end.

I couldn’t wait until summer returned, I was already sick of getting up early and spending my days away from home and working till close at the cafe in town.  I like summers, sleeping until noon, and going to work at five. Those are the days. I don’t work as much in the summer as well, all the new employees are hired then and it is just so much more appealing to exist in the summertime.

Thankfully, senior year hasn’t kicked my ass yet.

“Shiloh! You’re going to be late! Hurry up!” Dad calls up again and I realize I started dozing off again.

“Coming!” I toss myself from my bed and my blanket rolls off with me, crumpling by my feet, nearly tripping me.

I throw on a pair of baggy jeans over the boxers that I slept in and slide a blank, creamy-yellow t-shirt on, grabbing my favorite hoodie, a pinkish/red sweatshirt with white cuffs and a white stripe down the seam on both sleeves and a little cartoon ghost in the center of the chest. I drape it over my arm and throw my bag on my shoulder before I dash down the stairs.

“Breakfast?” My father asks as I hit the bottom, leaning into the hallway from the kitchen.

“I’m good, I’ll get something on the way.” I smile before heading to the door.

“Love ya, kid!” My dad calls after me.

“Love you too, Dad.” I sigh and promptly grab my car keys and I’m off to another torturous day at Fannin County High.

I end up stopping at my work, Vice and Virtue Cafe, for a breakfast sandwich. My coworker, Bruno, gave it to me for free.

I think he may be into me, I have a feeling he’s gay but, I don’t know for sure yet, I’m just waiting until he comes out to ask him on a date.

He has this dark skin that isn’t common in the tiny town of Blue Ridge, Georgia. There’s probably only about six darker skinned kids in my grade, there’s a few in lower grades also but, still not many.

Thankfully, everybody is okay with them and there’s not much racism from the residents other than the very elderly people that reside within the nursing home at the edge of town.

Bruno was quite a handsome guy nonetheless… And he gives me free stuff.

What’s more to love?!

A lot, I know.

After Bruno being an adorable sweetheart, I make it to school, three minutes late.

“Damn it! Damn it!” I curse under my breath as I fumble to get my things from my locker. I was late more often than I probably should be so, this wasn’t my first time fumbling with my damned books.

There are still a few people in the hallways as I kick my locker door shut and spin around, crashing directly into the quarterback of the football team, Nolan Price. He looks at me with huge, golden, honey eyes, like a deer caught in headlights.

“Sorry.” He says, ducking his head as he turns and quickly dashes in the opposite direction. I stand, kind of shocked for a second, as I watch him disappear. Nolan is definitely hot. There is not a single person denying it, especially all the girls fawning over him.

That soft, almost scared look on his face, that was something that nearly stopped my heart. He didn’t look like that tough, manly jock that I knew he was.

Slowly, I regain my composure and head to class, letting that little moment play a few times in my head.

Nolan was one of the dark skinned few that are in my grade. He was Egyptian and probably had the best skin in all of the school, utterly flawless other than the two little moles at the very corner of his lips. Honestly, he looked like he was fake, kind of like he was photoshopped into real life. He’s like a more tangible version of Andy Biersack.

I just don’t really understand the encounter with him in the slightest. He turned and practically bolted the other direction! I mean, why was he even going that way?

I was quite caught up in my little somewhat-daydream to notice my friend, Frankie, rambling to me about something before I’m even sitting down.

“Whoa, Frankie, slow down.” I hush her and she glares at me.

“Or you could listen to me in the first place.” She starts and I hold my hands up defensively. I probably should have listened because she is seemingly in a bad mood and I don’t want to deal with her yelling at me.

“I’m sorry, I was thinking, what do you want to tell me about.” I lean back in my chair, Frankie groans at me.

“Nolan rejected me.” She hisses and I give her a sigh.

“What for?” Frankie gets rejected often, I’m not sure if it’s her punk-style or because she’s an asshole. Don’t get me wrong, I love her to death but, unless you’re as close as I am to her, you’ll hate her. She doesn’t know how to socialize with people.

I don’t really blame her much, her parents died and she was tossed around in the foster system and she was selectively mute until she entered high school. Her adoptive family really did fix her up. She’s a beautiful girl too and she’s also got that “adorable Asian” thing going for her, she just doesn’t really know how to use it.

“He said I’m not his type and that that he wasn’t willing to give it a shot, ‘not even if you paid me would I date someone such as you’ he said! Can you believe that!?” She slams a palm on her desk and I frown at her.

“Listen, that was an awful thing to say but, I know how you are. Did you beg him?”

She’s too forward and she pushes and pushes (it could be seen as harassment) until they have to be mean to her.

“...Maybe.” She avoids my hard gaze, which is always a yes.

“How much?”

She shrugs and finally meets my eyes. “I like him a lot.”

“He’s not for you, honey.” I pat her arm as she bites her lip.

This may explain the encounter with him in the halls. He probably feels pretty goddamn awful. Nolan is no asshole, he’s sweet to all the girls that flock to him. I know that Frankie can be a bit pushy, too pushy at times.

We didn’t talk for nearly four months after she tried to get me to date her. She said that I had to at least give it a try because I couldn’t just say no and proceeded to threaten suicide if I didn’t take her out. She’s kind of learned her lesson on that one and doesn’t do that anymore. From what I know, at least.

“I know.” She breathes and before she can start up again, class is beginning.

It’s a lecture on something to do with grammar and punctuation because ninety percent of the people in all of Blue Ridge barely know how use either of those correctly. I taught myself after taking an interest in writing and reading.

I let myself think of anything but the spiel about how the English language works.

My mind lands on the fact that I am hopelessly queer and only I seem to notice this.

Occasionally I think that I’m completely transparent in my attraction to boys but, still, nobody has seemed to catch onto that yet. Sometimes I even think that if I were caught making out with a guy that people would still assume that I am totally straight.

On the topic of my gayness, it comes to mind how undeniably attractive Nolan Price is. He has nice black hair that he seems to like to keep hidden under a backwards snapback. One thing about him that will never add up in my thick head is the way that his entire being is so smooth but so jagged and rough at the same time, it just doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

I really like his eyes, they’re sharp and bright even though they’re brown. Most of the time they look like pure gold. Well, more like honey with flakes of pure gold in them. He also seems to always be smiling with them, you know? It’s like when you can tell that somebody is truly happy when they’re beaming and you can see it in their eyes. His eyes always look like that.

Oh, and that smile he does, it’s cute, one side pulls up a little higher than the other and it shows his teeth a little bit, they’re brilliantly white. His eyes crinkle up and when he laughs or smiles too big, they practically close.

But, Nolan is the quarterback of the football team. Even if by some miracle he was gay, he wouldn’t chose me and I doubt he’d be willing to come out in high school because that’s the kind of thing that’ll get your ass kicked.

We may have rid racism from our tiny community but homophobia is one thing people like to hold on to. Felix Armon committed suicide in eighth grade after he came out. It didn’t change a thing and not a damned day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about Felix. That poor kid didn’t do anything wrong and people decided to treat him like he was a monster. The people around me are the reason that he’s dead.

My train of thought is derailed when the teacher, Mr. Addison calls me out to come show the class how to write a proper sentence.

I already feel drained and frustrated beyond belief and first period isn’t even over yet.

As I’m writing a simple sentence out on the board a voice calls my name from somewhere nearby. “Hey, Shiloh.”

I turn and notice Nolan’s friend, Jasper White, staring at me. “Yeah?”

“Are you coming to the game tonight?” He asks and I give a shrug.

“Dunno, probably not… Why do you ask?” I say as I finish scrawling the sentence out.

“Uh, you come sometimes, just wondering. I wanted to know if you wanted to come out with us when it’s over?” He offers and honestly, it feels pretty good to be recognized.

“I’ll let you know. Maybe I will go after all.” I smile at him before returning to my seat.

Jasper wasn’t very attractive. He was kind of tan, but it was more from being outside too much. He kind of looked like a toasted marshmallow color. He’s really tall and kind of round, I couldn’t tell if it was all muscle or fat but either way, the man was an utter machine. He was slightly dopey looking though, if I was being honest.

He’s a nice guy.

I was probably going to go anyway just to look at the boys. I liked picking out the features I liked most on guys. I also had a thing for jocks that I just couldn’t deny.

Nolan is probably my dream guy, having a little bit of everything I look for in a person. I don’t really talk to him but, I’ve listened to him talk to other before, as he sits pretty close to me in chemistry.

“You should bring me.” Whispers Frankie.

“If you hadn’t just been rejected by Nolan, then maybe I would,” I give a glance her way and she shoots me a death glare so hard that I almost believe that she could kill me with it. “Sorry, bud.”

The bell rings, signalling the end of first period and everybody hurries from the room, practically running from the nightmare that was English class.

I slowly shuffle out of the room, followed by Frankie, yammering on and on about me bringing her tonight. I never bring anybody so nobody can call me out on my excessive staring.

“Forget it Frankie. I’m not bringing you. It’s a guys thing anyway!” I sigh as she grabs my shirt to slow me down.

“What? Are you guys going to compare dick sizes or something? I want to come!” She whines as I go fantastically red.

“No, Frankie! That’s final, it’s a guys only thing!”

“Why do you hate me?” She groans as we reach our chemistry class.

“You are so overdramatic. It’s literally one night, Frankie. He rejected you, give it up, please.” I huff and she punches my shoulder and spats out a hardy ‘fuck you’ my way before stomping to her seat.

And now for roughly forty minutes, I must suffer, sitting far too close to the attractive man that is Nolan Price.

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Chapter Two



Chemistry felt like it took hours. Every single glance from Nolan sent a pulse up my spine and shocked my skin.

He looked at me more than I would appreciate. How can I concentrate like this?

I’m self conscious enough without those beautiful eyes on my body.

The rest of our school day is uneventful except for Frankie being pissed at me. She’ll probably send me some angry messages and possibly a call or two, just to make sure I know that I’m an asshole. She won’t yell at me like that in school because she and I know that rumors spread fast around Blue Ridge. Everybody knows everything (except that I’m gay) around here.

The basic rule is that if you want one person to know, everybody will know within a day.

Gossip spreads faster around here than scurvy on an old pirate ship.

I also miss Felix a lot because that rule never applied to him. Anything we said to each other, stayed that way.

That’s why he was my first love (and first kiss) and that’s why he was my best friend. He was the only person I could trust with my soul, other than my internet friends of course. I trusted the internet far more than anybody in my real life.

I mean, my best friend was a guy named Ronan Montgomery from east California. The literal opposite side of the country. We’d never met but he was, and still is my best friend.

Driving home, I stop and get myself food from McDonald’s, since I don’t eat the school lunches. I’m always starving after school and usually Dad would give me money to buy something on my way home. He started giving me the money after one too many burnt dishes when I got home.

I didn’t have work today either so, my only plans for this evening were to go to the game and then join the team for some kind of adventure after. It was exciting to me, as I don’t get invited to nearly anything. Not anything I would enjoy at least.

I know just about everybody so, I’m invited to parties and that stuff all the time, but I’m never asked to hang out with a group of people.

By the time I get back to my house, I’ve gotten so lost in all the possible things that could happen tonight that I’m startled by my Dad’s voice from the kitchen.

At first, I think he was talking to me but, I’m quickly mistaken when I hear a lady’s voice reply. “I don’t know, Edgar. What if your son comes home early?”

“He has work tonight, don't worry.” I lean into the kitchen after hearing this and the woman notices me immediately, jumping.

She’s tall and blonde with long hair, just above her ass with massive, grey-green eyes and a pointed nose. She looks like a stuck up bitch. Her clothes are too small and bright and I just don’t like her.

“What-...?” I start and my father now jumps in surprise, just as the lady had not long before.

“Shiloh! You’re home early!”

“I don’t have work tonight,” I answer stiffly. “Who is that?” I run my eyes over her again. She not attractive at all.

“This is Ellen. She’s somebody I’ve been on a few dates with.” He gives me an innocent smile that doesn’t crack my anger in the slightest.

“What about Mom?” I ask him.

“You know that she isn’t coming back, Shiloh-“

“You’re still married to her! You haven’t even gotten the divorce papers so much as signed, Dad!” Ellen looked like this was news to her.

“Your mother is sending them.” He frowns at me in a way that tells me to leave.

“When? Have you spoken to her? It’s barely been a year and you’re already dating again?” I interrogate him like he interrogated me when I came home drunk last year from a party at one of Nolan’s friends houses. That was just after Mom moved out.

“None of this is your business, Shiloh! I can date when I’m ready!” He turns to the woman, calming himself slightly. He doesn’t look at her the way he looked at Mom. “I’m sorry, Ellen. How about we go out tomorrow? I don’t want you to witness our argument.”

“She doesn't have to, I’m going out anyway.” I turn and storm in the opposite direction. I was fuming and knew I had no right to be so upset, but I was.

I want my mom to come back, I want her to be here and not that bitch. I know that’s not fair to call her a bitch but, I can’t help it. She looks rude and fake and my dad wants her to be my new mom. He probably just wanted to bang her if anything. That was probably worse in my book.

Once I reach my computer, I sit at my desk and message Ronan on Tumblr.

Hey, Ro, U online??


Imma rant anyway

My dad has some bimbo in our kitchen

I think they were gonna fuck

We got in an argument

Idk what to do I want my mom back, not her. She looks like a complete bitch. Like

A massive whore


As if she fucked the whole football team in high school and now she’s banging her coworkers

Hurry up and come online ;(

Ronan is my place to vent. He listens, when he’s online that is. If I had a phone, this would be a lot easier.

I’m just broke and need to save up a little more before I can afford one. I mean, I wasn’t even allowed to have one until last year and yet, Dad still one buy one for me

My computer beeps, signalling a new message.

Im here, hold up

Gotta read

Okay, shit I’m sorry man

Was she really that ugly???

Like, if you’re that ugly

Y’all should just

Give up

On breathing

Just my O

Just your o???


Utype like a dumbass

But ily

And I mean, it may just be the gayness in me but


She ugly af

And then Ronan changes the topic to get my mind off this by sending me terrible memes. Most of them are the kind of memes that I love too and that just makes me feel so much better. He’s my best friend for a reason.






Lmao, calm down queerios

Show me this man

If he’s that hot, you gotta show my bi ass


Send the god

Nolan the GOD

Send him


Send him

Hurry up

I laugh at him and tell him to hold on while I stalk Nolan’s Facebook for something good. Listen, I’m not that lame that I use Facebook. I just stalk people on it.

That sounded a bit creepy. By ‘stalk’ I mean, I find pictures of the cute jocks and send them to Ronan so we can ‘fanboy’ over them together.

I find a few cute ones on his page and save them all and send them to Ronan.





But like fr

Look at that man

He’s beautiful

I’m drooling over him like

All the time





I do not understand???






R I G H T?!

I’m in love

Look at that fucking man



But he a straightie

He’s a quarterback *HEARTEYES*

I don’t have emojis pls help

I wanna heart eyes him forever

We talk until I have to leave. I’m grateful for him, he’s keeping me sane.

Without Ronan, I’d probably have lost it by now. I would most likely be downstairs in the middle of a heated screaming match with my dad that would lead to me storming out of the house and made me so angry that I couldn’t have enjoyed staring at Nolan for hours.

I think that is the only thing that can derail my head from being gay, fighting with anybody at all.

Normally, it’s when I fight with Dad, not as much Frankie anymore because of how often it does happen.

I remember we had a screaming match in the middle of the county fair once. That was intense.

I think that was the last time that arguing with her bothered me.

I think a little bit about how terrible my life would be without Ronan as I change into my favorite flannel, it was yellow with thick black plaid and skinnier, light pink lines of plaid as well. I match it with some ripped, acid-washed jeans and throw my ghost jacket over my arm. I brought that just about everywhere. It was somewhat a safety blanket to me. My brother gave it to me before he moved to California when I was starting my freshman year.

It used to be so huge on me and thankfully, it fits perfectly now.

I was thinking of going up to spend a week or two up in California with him and meet Ronan in person.

I kick on my baby-blue vans, shoving my iPod in my pocket with a set of headphones along with my wallet and keys. I jog down to the bottom of the stairs and realize that my dad had left the house. I frown and hurry into the kitchen to write a note to my dad.


Going to the game, then out with some friends.

Promise not to come home drunk but don’t promise to be home before midnight ~

Don’t wait up,


I’m then ready to leave and speed off to meet with the team.

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Chapter Three



I never understood sports or how they worked. I played basketball for a couple years but, still didn’t know how it worked. I know you throw the ball in the net and don’t let the other team get it but, that’s all I know.

It’s confusing to watch football. I was just watching Nolan and a few of his other teammates play because they’re hot. Colton Westford was a handsome boy and Preston Gat was gorgeous too and he had probably the biggest ass I’ve ever seen. I think he would come out as gay after he had been married to some lady for six years and had four kids.

All of them were cute in their own ways, I just had a preference for Colton or Preston. Nolan wasn’t a preference, he was was my ideal.

Jasper noticed me in the stands and waved at me a few times and pointed me out to Nolan, Colton and another guy named Logan. Nolan looked at me more than my body could normally handle. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

I had a feeling tonight wouldn’t end well if I didn’t figure out a way to calm my stressed heart.

After a several hour long game, it ends at 8:36pm with a victory from our team. As they cheered, I cheered with them and Nolan watched me cheer with a huge grin on his face.

I don’t quite know how to react other than to stare back with a smile that is not nearly as amazing as his.

He waves me over as the stands start to clear and my heart is beating so hard that it feels like it’s slamming into my ribs. I try to stroll over as casually as possible but, my heart is pounding so hard that I think they might be able to hear it.

Jasper slings an arm around my shoulders, hugging me into his side and ruffling my already messy hair. “Look at this kid! He must be our lucky charm or somthin’! We always win when he’s around!” He cheers. “Right, Nolan?” He gives a shove to Nolan’s shoulder, whose face is bright red and he’s all sweaty and panting.

“Must be!” He laughs and he looks me in the eyes for a split second before turning to look at Colton. “We should shower and head out.”

“You comin’ Shi?” Jasper gives me a light jab in the ribs.

“Uh, yeah! Yeah, I guess I am.” I nod and Nolan’s head jerks my way.

“Jasper invited you?” His voice is full of surprise.

“Yeah, he said it would be cool if I joined. If you don’t want-“

“No, no, that’s not what I meant, I just didn’t know.” He dismisses.

“Okay, Colt, Loge, and Pres can come in my car, are you okay with driving Nolan? He doesn’t have a car.” Says Jasper and Nolan looks at him with big eyes.

“If it’s okay with Nolan.” I look his way, he’s taller than me by quite a bit and I have to tip my head to look up at him.

“Uh… Yeah, that’s fine with me,” He nods meekly, giving Jasper a very unsavory glare. “I’ll meet you at your car.”

“It’s the-“

“Mint green, nineteen-fifty-seven Ford Thunderbird… I know.” He nods, giving me a light smile. At that, I’m actually shocked and even step back slightly. I would question him about this at some later point.

They all heard into the changing rooms and I make my way to my car. I actually do not expect for Nolan to meet me at my car. What I do expect is for me to be left sitting here all night.

But, he comes out wearing a short-sleeve, black, space-themed, button down shirt with black skinny jeans and a mint green pair of vans that matched my blue ones.

“Hey, Shiloh.” He stands awkwardly nearby.

“Hey, listen, Nolan, if you don’t want to me to come or anything, I won’t.” I offer and he shakes his head.

“No, I’m really sorry if it came off like that, I just… I don’t really know who you are and all, I just wasn’t expecting it and it took me off guard. Plus, I didn’t know if you brought your friend with you…” He mumbles, shifting self consciously.

“I wouldn’t bring her, she must’ve given you a lot of trouble to prompt a response such as the one you gave,” I say and he looks up with alarm. “I know you aren’t that kind of guy.”

“Listen, I-... I didn’t mean, I…” He frowns as he comes up with nothing. “I’m so sorry.”

“I get it, Frankie is… a lot to handle. She’s done it to me to. I normally wouldn’t bring her out in public with me anyway,” I smile. “When I do, it usually doesn’t end very well.”

“Okay, I just feel so bad about it, I really shouldn’t have said what I said.”

“It’s fine, I really do get it…” We both awkwardly stare down at the ground for a moment before I look up at him. “Hop in, tell me where we’re going and I’ll get us there.”

He then gives me that stupid little grin he does and looks at me for a moment before making his way to the passenger seat. I could faint.

I slide into the driver’s seat, glancing towards Nolan who looks away from me just as I turn in his direction. I physically can’t handle spending a whole night with him.

“We were planning on going to the carnival but… We can go wherever you want.” He offers quietly.

“The carnival sounds good, as long as that’s where you want to go.” I say to him.

“Yeah, that’s cool with me.” He nods, staring at his hands in his lap.

He was so shy. I never thought of him as shy. He was always so outgoing. I guess it’s just weird for him to hang around with some weird, closeted gay kid that he’s never even said more than one word to before this evening.

He’s really beautiful.

It’s quiet as we drive and I can feel that it’s horribly tense. “You can put on some music if you want. I have an aux cord.”

“Did you put the radio in yourself?” He asks as he picks up the cord.

“I built the car with my dad,” I say. “Rebuilt, actually.”

“Seriously!?” He beams. “You must know a lot about cars then?”

“Not really, I just know how things work? Like, I mean, I can rebuild an entire car just by looking at the parts but I can barely tell you what kind it is.” I laugh and he joins.

“Well, I still don’t even know what an oil change is, which sucks since I can’t fix my own car and can’t afford to pay somebody to do it,” He chuckles. “That’s why I don’t have a car.”

“Do you have all the parts?” I ask as he scrolls through his playlist for some kind of music.

He shrugs. “Possibly? I have no idea.”

“I can fix it for you.” I offer and my heart pounds. What have I done? What have I gotten myself into?


“I can fix it if you show me all the stuff wrong with it.” I glance his way and he’s smiling down at his hands. I want to kiss him so badly right now. He’s absolutely wonderful.

“You don’t have to.” He answers.

“I would love to, Nolan.” I’m going to have a heart attack is more like it.

He giggles awkwardly. “Okay, thanks, I really appreciate it.” He says quietly.


He presses play on something then and some trippy-sounding song begins. “Do you like Vampire Weekend?” He mumbles.

“Never heard them but, I’m always up for new stuff.” I grin and catch him doing the same out of the corner of my eye.

“I like them a lot so, I hope you do too.”

We let silence fall between us and I turn the music up. It wasn’t that bad. It was like mellow, dance music? If that’s even what it could be called.

“Just let me know if you don’t like something.” He informs quietly.

“I’ll listen to anything but country or rap.” I chuckle and hear a soft one from him as well.

“We have that in common.”

“Good, I don’t think I could hang out with you if not.” I joke and we both laugh. It’s so nice to be here right now.

We sadly reach the carnival quickly and our silent moments alone are interrupted by his friends cheering and rushing us to join them.

It kind of hits me now that I’m with them that this is weird. I’ve never spoken to them, well, not much at least. I’ve had a few conversations with Logan and Jasper before since they’re in most of my classes but, none of them except for myself and Nolan acknowledges how weird this all is.

Nolan and I have passed glances of ‘what the hell is this?’ back and forth during moments as they grab me and sling their arms around my shoulders. They act like I’m one of them.

I don’t hate it but, my heart is fucking hammering in my chest as the thought of them knowing I’m gay runs in my head.

What if they know and what if they say something?

Every time the question rams it’s way to the front of my mind it knocks the air from my lungs.

“Hey, Logan, I’ll give you three bucks if you can knock over all the cups in one try.” Says Colton as we stand around the stall with that stupid ball game with the weighted cups.

“Anybody can do that if they try hard enough.” I say jokingly and Nolan turns to look at me with a smile.

“You obviously haven’t met Logan then. Kid can play ball like a professional but couldn’t hit a fifty-foot beach ball with a log.” Nolan teases softly.

“Shut it, Price!” He calls.

“Ooh, using last names now? I’m so scared!” He gives Logan a shove on the back of the shoulder.

“Shut up, asshole! You’re gonna throw me off!” He groans, turning to look at Nolan.


“I will throw it at your head!” He threateningly holds it above his own.

“I’ll give you ten for that!” Colton cheers and without hesitation, Logan heaves it at Nolan.

I swat it away from him before it can leave a mark on that lovely face. I have impressive hand-eye coordination for somebody that has never played a sport in their life.

Nolan looks at me with surprise and I return the look.

“Ten bucks!” Shouts Logan as Colton starts to make excuses against it.

“You were quick.” Says Nolan and I nod.

“I play- uh… I play a lot of video games.” I blush violently, looking down. I sound so stupid.

“Me too, I mean, I play sports too and don’t have that quick of a reflex. That was really impressive.” He says and gives me a friendly punch on my upper shoulder.

“Thank you.” I chuckle and bring my head back up to look at him.

He yawns, covering his mouth before bringing his hand up and raking it through his hair. He has these perfect curls that almost look fake and they bounce as they fall free of his long, skinny fingers.

It’s hard not to stare. He’s smiling and looks so wonderful with the lights from all the attractions around us, glowing against his skin.

“Hey, let’s go you two!” We both start at Preston’s voice calling for us.

Nolan’s eyes meet mine and we both break into laughter before dashing back to meet the rest of the group.

“Sorry!” He chuckles as he throws an arm around Jasper’s shoulder, slamming against him.

“If you keep doing that shit, we’re gonna leave ya’ behind!” He jokes and Nolan punches him in the arm.

“Don’t be rude!” He giggles, happily swinging my way and grabbing me by the shirtsleeve, yanking me to his side. He places his other arm around my shoulder this time and grins at me. “Can’t leave you out, can we?”

“Guess not.” I can tell my whole face is red but his is just as bright.

I like Nolan.

I like him a lot.

He drops his arm from Jasper’s shoulder once we reach another pointless game station and they all start making bets. He keeps his other arm around me and leans close to my ear. “Let’s go have real fun, this sucks.”

“You wanna sneak away?”

“Yeah! It would be more fun anyway,” He grins at me. “If you want to, that is?”

“Sure,” I start to grin back. “Let’s go have real fun.”

He drops his arm and we slowly start to break from the other three. Once we’re far enough back that they wouldn’t notice us running off, Nolan grabs my wrist and yanks me around.

“Whoa! Rip my arm off why don’t ya’!” I laugh as he pulls me after him.

“Sorry! Don’t know my own strength!” He turns and gives me this knee-weakening, heartbreaking smile that just about kills me.

He slows once we get to a safe distance and I instantly double over, panting like a dog. Nolan covers his laughter with a hand. “Looks like you need to exercise more.” He pats my back.

“Thanks.” I glance up with a smile at him, half-laughing but, mostly choking on air.

“No need to thank me, just stating the obvious.” He teases and gives me a gentle shove as I start to stand, almost knocking me over accidentally.

“Hey!” I shove him back but he catches my hands before they can grab his shoulders.

We laugh and awkwardly hold hands, trying to shove each other over, swiping at one another’s legs with our feet.

I manage to get his leg out from under him but, he trips me with it and takes me down with him. I land on him and he groans at the weight. I roll off of him quickly and sit up, Nolan follows suit and we chuckle at our stupid antics.

“What the hell just happened?” He asks and I snort at him.

“You started it!”

“Oh my god you snort when you laugh!” He cheers excitedly. “That was adorable.” He pinches my cheek like an aunt.

I swat his fingers away. “Ew, stop that.” The smile on my face shows that I don’t mind as much as my voice entails.

“You love it.” He smirks as he stands and offers a hand up.

“No way.” I roll my eyes playfully and gladly accept his offer, he tugs me up with little effort.

“You’re so light.” He comments.

“You’re just superhuman,” I joke and promptly become distracted, pointing towards a game stall. “Giant stuffed bear! Look at it!” I call. Nolan turns in the direction that I’m pointing, behind him. He lets out a high-pitched, excited squeal. “I want it.” I grasp his sleeve and pull him in the direction of the stupid game.

We get to it and hear a man in a stereotypical announcer voice calling out what the game was. “Get three balls in the middle cup and win the grand prize!” We hear as I step up, Nolan close behind.

“I’d love to try.” I say.

“Three dollars for three balls, seven dollars for twelve and twelve dollars for a basket of twenty four.” He explains.

“I’ll take three.” I pull the money from my wallet and hand it to him. He places three of the balls on the counter in front of me.

I take three shots and miss every time. I slap down another three dollars and get them all into separate bottles and win a small stuffed snake.

“Here,” I hand it to Nolan. “Keep it.”

He laughs and tucks it in his front pocket. “Thanks.”

I hand the guy another three dollars and win a slightly bigger stuffed mouse. “Have another.” I say, holding it out to Nolan who gladly takes it.

“Thanks, just what I’ve always wanted.” He hugs it against his chest.

“Give me twenty four.” I say, handing the man twelve dollars.

He gives me a bin with twenty four. I can hear Nolan tittering away behind me. I start tossing them and missing spectacularly. I win Nolan a few more stupid small plushies.

I only have three left and still haven’t gotten it close to the center.

I admit, when I first heard the man, I thought this was going to be impossibly easy. I was proven incorrect.

I sigh and give three more tosses that end up missing, unsurprisingly. Actually, I get one in the middle and that was enough of a victory for me

“I want to try.” Nolan steps up, holding a hand out to the man with three dollars between his fingers.

The man smiles widely and hands him three. “Good luck.” I say, doubting his efforts.

He steps a bit closer to the counter and holds a hand up almost as if he were throwing a basketball and not a ping-pong ball.

He gets it in the center bottle incredibly easily. The center bottle may be taller than the others, but the hole at the top was much smaller than the other bottles, making it almost impossible to win.

“Two more to go.” I joke and he glances at me, giving me a coy smirk before proceeding to get them both in perfectly.

“Winner!” Cheers the man and I gape at Nolan, open mouthed.

The man pulls the massive, six-foot-tall bear down and drops it on the counter. Nolan beams at him and pulls it to himself for a second before extending it in my direction. “Here!” He tries to put it in my hands.


“It’s for you.” He persists.

“No, you paid for that, it’s yours.” I frown at him.

“No I didn’t! You won remember!? You sunk that shot perfectly!” He proceeds to wink at me and my entire body malfunctions before he slams the stuffed animal to my chest. I instinctively wrap my arms around it and press my face to it.

“Thank you so much.” I mumble against the bear and he gives this genuine smile that I’ve never seen before. It is the real life version of Jay Gatsby’s smile in ‘The Great Gatsby’ and I swear it actually kills me.

“Of course,” He says. “Let’s put it in your car and then go on rides!”

“I like your thinking, Nolan.”

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Chapter Four

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Chapter Five

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Chapter Six

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Chapter Seven

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Chapter Eight

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Chapter Nine

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Chapter Ten

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Chapter Eleven

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Chapter Twelve

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Chapter Thirteen

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