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The sunset was beaming from what seemed like the edge of the ocean. The Ferris wheel, prepared for the impending darkness of the night, was already spinning with its bright and colorful dancing lights.
The ocean and ambient sounds coming from the carnival rides set the pier’s tone as people went about their business. Kids were screaming, some were crying, and still others were laughing. There were tourists posing for pictures everywhere. And a few frisky couples walked toward the edge of the pier and along the shore.
As the night began to fall, Matt found himself on a bus heading west from Hollywood, swiping the screen of his phone back and forth just a few minutes after answering a text message. He was somewhat anxious but still resolved. Fortunately for him, what used to be Route 66 was surprisingly not congested that afternoon. The bus went on for the next half hour or so, with stops in between, as it took on and dropped off riders along the way.
When he got to the pier, he waited a bit, expecting a phone call. He took the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of what surrounded him. He placed both of his hands in his jacket pockets and felt the cool breeze hit him, as if it were a sign of encouragement coming from the ocean. He continued walking and found himself smirking at the fortune teller Zoltar machine he saw along the way.
His phone rang and he quickly answered. “Jul… Oh, hey, Brad.”
His Call of Duty buddy and longtime friend Brad called to remind him about their game later that night and wished him luck with what he was about to do.
“Hey, Matt, don’t forget the war begins at 9:30. We need you to beat that douche Steve and his gang,” Brad told Matt.
“For sure, man, I’ll be there,” Matt replied.
“So, you’re meeting Jules now, huh?” Brad asked.
“How’s it going with her?”
“Well, what we have is getting old. I’ll have to see after this,” he told Brad. While his body was unsure of what would happen, he seemed resolved with what he was about to do and shrugged off the fast beating of his heart.
“I don’t have a good feeling about her, but oh well good luck, man,” Brad said in return.
“I just want to get this over with. If it leads to that, then good. If not, then I guess it’s good too,” Matt answered.
“Alright, man. I’ll see you later,” Brad replied.
“Alright, later dude.”
The fast beating of his heart sure was a familiar feeling for him. Often, when he made a decision in that state, he was not certain of how things would end up. But this time, he saw himself cornered, mustering every will to go against the feelings he was accustomed to.
Matt started to take notice of his own repression. In this instance, it had become clear to him. He either got to stay in a friendship he no longer wanted to be a part of or he took a risk. For him, he was close to having nothing left to lose.
Twenty-five minutes quickly went by. The anxiousness turned to impatience. “Screw it,” Matt told himself. He decided to walk and leave the pier without knowing that Julie had just reached the boardwalk after a long search for parking with Lisa.
Julie walked with her eyes fixed on her phone, wondering whether Steve was going to answer the text message she had just sent. “Is he already here? Have you messaged him?” Lisa asked with a smile on her face.
“I haven’t yet, but he should be here. He’d better be. He’s buying us dinner.” The two girls looked at each other and laughed.
“Where are you meeting him again? Are you sure about this?” replied Lisa.
“Like I said, don’t worry. I’m sure he’ll be fine with you tagging along. I got this. He’s a fool who always gives it away.”
Midway through the pier, she noticed Matt walking away from the edge toward their direction on their right-hand side. Then with a subtle yet audible voice, she called out, “Hey, Matt!”
Matt took a quick glimpse and decided to continue walking. As he passed them, he shook his head as if there was some regret or a lesson learned.
Julie, looking a little confused, went after Matt, walking faster than everyone else on the pier.
“Hey, Matt, I’m here.”
Matt’s walk came to a halt. “What do you mean ‘you’re’ here? Don’t you mean ‘we’re’ here? It’s just like that one time you agreed it would be just the two of us. You agreed this would be a date,” Matt told Julie. “You’re almost half an hour late too… But you know what, it doesn’t even matter,” Matt said, returning to his walk.
“I’m sorry, Matt. I got held up a bit and Lisa just happened to be coming here as well.”
Matt stopped walking and turned around again. This time, he decided to compose himself. He then spoke calmly but with firmness, “Look, Julie, we’ve been like this for three weeks now. I’m guessing the only reason I went along is because we have the same class and I didn’t want it to be awkward between us. I’d rather you had told me straight, and I wouldn’t have even asked you again. But you’d always laugh it off…”
“But, Matt, you don’t understand—”
“I came here to tell you that I’m serious about getting to know you,” Matt continued. “But if you want to obsess over Steve, like always, then just go be with him. I’m not even sure we’re friends. But you know what, not being friends is for the best. I don’t want to see you anymore. In fact, I don’t want anything to do with you.” Matt said and continued to walk.
Julie’s jaw dropped. Lisa was wide eyed. She had been standing close behind and heard the whole thing. Both girls stood in shock, witnessing something they weren’t used to.
They never thought he would get to that point. Matt is one quiet and reserved dude, but as of late, he seemed to be going through some sort of transition—a transition that involved a confrontation with other students at the college they both attended.
Julie caught up with Matt and said, “Matt… Matt, I really appreciate all the help and everything. And I laughed every time you asked because—”
“Please, you don’t appreciate anything at all and you laugh because you think I can’t be taken seriously. I can see why you get all the help you say you get. It’s just like you would always say, ‘only a fool gives it away’.”
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