I wish there was some way to make Roland feel better but Johnson said he’d have to figure out a way to feel better on his own.
It’s Nela. They don’t spend time doing stuff like they used to. I think they are both being strange but Johnson said to keep my nose out of it, they were both experiencing what he calls growing pains. He can call it whatever he wants to but it is still strange. And maybe a little stupid too. Or maybe I am being stupid for not understanding. But I mostly do understand. I just don’t know why they have to act like they are acting.
It is hard to see them hurting. It is harder to see them hurting and not try and do something about it. That’s what I’m supposed to do, help those that are hurting. When I said that to Johnson he made that noise that makes him sound like he has a stuffy nose and told me to knock it off, that sometimes hurting is what helps you to figure things out.
Maybe he is right. I guess it is like consequences. If there are no consequences you keep doing things that will cause trouble instead of learning how to do things so that they don’t cause trouble. All I know for sure is they make me tired with all their strangeness.
“Here, let me get that before you hurt yourself,” Roland told Georgie as she juggled bags of dried fruit that needed to be taken back to their rooms and hidden.
Georgie looked at Roland like he’d fallen on his head recently. “You are acting strange. You came out here in weather that you know makes your legs ache, on a trail that is bumpy which is only going to make you ache worse. And you’re going to get hung up on the exposed roots. You’ve never bothered about me carrying stuff before so don’t start now. Go on back inside, I can do this.”
“I’m not helpless,” he snapped.
“Of course you aren’t helpless. And you’re even stronger than you used to be. Those exercises that you used to do with Ne …”
“I don’t want to talk about that. I’m going to take these in. And don’t you stay out too much longer either. The dark is coming earlier and you don’t have a coat on.”
Georgie shook her head as she watched Roland bounce down a trail he would never have attempted a few months ago. She started to go after him to make sure he didn’t tip over but a voice from behind her changed her mind.
“Let him go. He just needs to work off some frustrations and prove himself.”
Accepting the counsel of Johnson’s words Georgie went back to peeling apples from the feral trees around Pickering and slicing them to go on the drying trays. “Why do they have to make it so hard on each other? Why do they have to stop being friends? It’s senseless.”
Johnson began emptying his jacket pockets of fruit that he’d foraged. “Because they weren’t just friends. They were more than friends and now they aren’t. That takes some adjustment.”
“You mean sex complicates things.”
“Sure as hell does brat so I hope you aren’t … aw hell. I …”
“It’s OK Johnson. I know what you mean. And no, I’m not interested in having sex with anyone. Not even to try and make them feel better.”
“I didn’t mean … You know I always end up with my foot in my mouth around you.”
George shook her head. “Johnson. Stop. You’re getting that weird look on your face that you do every time sex comes up. I’m ok. I know what happened to me isn’t the way things are supposed to be. But that is the way it happened and that’s not going to change so I might as well accept it. And even if I might wonder what the right way is supposed to be like I’m not going to go find out at the possible expense of my friendship with Roland. He and I weren’t the ones having sex and it already made things more difficult between us than it should be. It makes it seem that maybe sex is just more trouble than it’s worth.”
Giving Georgie an amazed look Johnson said, “You have the damnedest way of looking at things.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s too hard to explain in a few sentences so I’m not even going to try. I’d more than likely just wind up with both feet in my mouth instead of just one.”
“OK, fine, then can you at least explain why Nela is upset if Roland is giving her the space she asked for? Is it really that big a deal that Roland did so much better than her on the aptitude test?”
“You just answered your own question Kiddo. Nela was on her way to officer training school before she stepped on that land mine. Plus she’s older than you lot. Maybe not a lot but enough that it should make a difference. And she’s got a lot more life experience and schooling too. Having a sixteen year old boy show her up like that hurt her pride.”
“He didn’t do it on purpose. Roland is just smart. Besides Nela is smart too. It is one of the things that Roland liked the most; he could talk to her about things he couldn’t talk about to anyone else. Her scores were higher than everyone else’s but yours and you went to college. Why is she focusing just on Roland’s score? Shouldn’t she be mad at you too?”
“It … look Kid, sometimes something comes along and makes a fear you have bigger. For whatever reason this thing between Nela and Roland …”
“You mean the sex.”
Wincing Johnson said, “Yeah, that’s definitely part of it.”
“Ok. You don’t need to finish. I get it.”
“Oh you do do you? Just all of a sudden.”
Georgie nodded confidently. “Yeah. It gave them both ideas. Only now they understand they were wrong. Being wrong has messed with their self-image. More reminders of being wrong just messes with it more. Now they’re trying to figure out how to go forward and every stupid little thing makes them wonder if they can or if maybe they should have stuck with the way things were. Plus they feel bad because they do still like each other but they don’t know how to be together now with the way things are. They also wonder even if they move forward, will what comes in the future be as good as what they had in the past which all-in-all makes them even more moody and cranky on top of missing having sex.”
“Uh … well … yeah.” Then Johnson grinned. “Just don’t explain it that way to them. They won’t appreciate it. They … er …”
“Are too moody and cranky to listen?”
“Pretty much Kid. Pretty much.”
“I sure hope they get over it soon. There is too much other stuff we need to do and it is going to take everyone working together to get it done.”