“F-E-A-R has two meanings: ‘Forget Everything and Run,’or ‘Face Everything and Rise.’ The choice is yours.” -Zig Ziglar
“I like you...”
In that moment Mitch was faced with a choice which he could never have prepared for. He could either push away the first friend he has ever made and avoid inevitable heartbreak, or he could hold that friend close until he was abandoned. Both options would be painful, but he needed to choose the one that would hurt less in the long run.
As Mitch clenched his fist, a memory came to him. It was a memory from the day after Tom had left him and his mother. What was it his mother had said? ‘It’s better to have loved and lost then to have never loved at all.’ Was that true?
“Mitch?” Jonas called out to the older boy as he shook the other’s shoulder. “Mitch, are you okay? I didn’t break you, did I?”
The time to choose was now.
Mitch slowly looked Jonas in the eye. “Do you really like me?” He asked cautiously.
“Yeah, of course!” Jonas answered with a smile.
Jonas though for a minute before speaking again. “Well, you don’t ignore me like the other kids, the pranks you play on Neil are funny, you show me weird bugs you find, and you even came to the arcade with me. You’re the first real friend I’ve ever had,” He supplied.
Mitch suddenly felt warm inside. “Are we... friends?” He asked.
“Yep, at least we can be. You know, if you want to be,” Jonas added sheepishly as he rubbed the back of his neck.
“Fuck yeah!” Mitch yelled immediately as he pumped his fist into the air. Jonas laughed and Mitch found himself joining in as he sat back down. Eventually their laughter faded and they sat together for a while in silence.
“So, what do friends do?” Mitch pondered.
Jonas shrugged. “I don’t know. I think they just hang out like we did today.”
“Oh,” Mitch paused and looked up at the sky. Why was his heart beating so fast? Why were his palms so sweaty? Jonas said they were friends, so why was he so nervous? “Do you... wanna do this again sometime?” Mitch inquired.
“Of course!” Jonas replied with a dazzling smile that blew Mitch away. “But I don’t think that they will let you into the arcade again. We’ll have to find some other place to hang out,” Jonas decided.
“Okay, but were?” Mitch asked.
“I have an idea!” Jonas declared, but before he could finish he looked down at his phone and stood up suddenly. “Oh no, I’m late for dinner! Meet me by the woods behind the school tomorrow, and l’ll show you!” Jonas called over his shoulder as he skateboarded away.
Mitch watched him go and sighed. He needed to get home to I he wanted to get to his room before Gary got off his shift.
During the his bike ride home, Mitch found himself thinking about Jonas and how the other boy made him feel. Was this really what friendship was? He didn’t think that it would be this warm.
His mother was waiting for him when he got home. “Mitch, sweetie, where’ve ya been. I was startin’ ta worry!” Henrietta questioned as she rushed over to him and pulled him into a hug.
He hugged her back then beamed up at her. “Mom, guess what!”
“What?” Henrietta inquired.
“I made a friend!” Mitch boasted.
“Oh, Mitchy! That’s fantastic! See, I told ya someone would come along and see what a swell kid ya are,” Henrietta nodded. “Now tell me all about ya new friend!”
And Mitch did. He told his mother every last detail about Jonas and she listened with a smile the whole time. Mitch kept on talking until Gary burst through the front door.
“Go to ya room, Mitch.” Henrietta ordered.
Mitch didn’t have to be told twice. He slid into his room and locked the door right as he heard Gary march into the kitchen and start yelling at his mom about dinner. Mitch pulled buddy into his arms, curled up onto his bed, and tried to think about Jonas instead of his abusive stepfather.