Love wasn’t easy, especially when it was for your former bully.
How can you love someone who once made your life a living hell. How can you look at someone with hearts in your eyes, when once they were the individuals trying to give you a black eye?!
Matthew couldn’t understand himself, how could he possibly have a crush on Juniper and on Finn at the same time?
They were no way even close to each other. Juniper Goodman had flowing long blonde hair, such soft features, she spent her time smiling and telling everyone nice words. She was so graceful and so utterly beautiful to him. Finn Hagbart on the other hand was rather lanky, had short honey brown hair, and was rather arrogant. He had stopped giving Matthew a hard time after Christmas, however he was still terrorizing the life of others that weren’t him. Even so, Matthew would gaze at Finn, at his hazel eyes, the faint freckles adorning his nose, at his smile. A ‘true smile’ was so rare from Finn Hagbart but whenever he did Matthew felt like he was going to get a heart attack, it would give Finn such a stunning look, in a sense of an almost innocent beauty.
Juniper turning around, giving an unplanned hair flip.
Finn with an arrogant smile and a bloody lip after a fight.
Matthew wondered how such polar opposites could acquire the same reaction from him.
These all were late night thoughts from Matthew as he laid down on his bed. All his brothers were already fast asleep, yet here he was feeling like he was going crazy.
What was he going to do?
Morning arrived, seemingly too early for Matthew who had stayed up late. Mind a mess.
He hurriedly changed into clean clothes, accidentally putting on his shirt backwards, a problem that took more time to fix than necessary. He rushed to the dining room where all his brothers were currently sitting down, munching on scrambled eggs and toast.
He sat down on his chair and started stuffing the food in his mouth.
“Hey Matthew, I’m going to be making a cake, perhaps today after school you could drop it off at the Hagbart's?”, came his mother’s voice from the kitchen.
Matthew looked up and swallowed a mouthful of food.
Simon seated further on at the table laughed “Going to see your boyfriend?” he said with a laugh as some of the other Buckley brothers joined in.
It was a mere joke however it managed to turn his cheeks pink. He thanked his brothers who were too busy laughing or doing something else that no one noticed.
On the other hand, his brothers while usually in dreamland had however noticed the change in Finn. He had started to be nicer to them, not stealing their food, not pushing them off the bus seats, not giving them the usual hard glare and was pretty much leaving them well off alone.
They had then noticed Finn stopping to chat with Matthew, not to punch him, judge him, or lodge him in a trashcan somewhere, but to chat. They noticed the friendly conversation and the smile radiating from Finn Hagbart and knew that they were safe, whatever Matthew had done worked.
At school most of the day went uneventfully however he finally got to see Finn during Mrs.Honeywell’s class.
Said boy had his arms crossed and was staring lazily at the whiteboard of the class. Paying mild attention to what was being taught by Mrs.Honeywell. Matthew spared several glances at him, trying his best not to be obvious.
How could Finn be so cool?
Matthew was sure that if he sat down like that, he would just end up looking awkward, or that the teacher would call him out. Not that Mrs.Honeywell ever called Finn out, she knew about the situation Finn was in and decided to let him off easy. Either for the better or for worse.
After Mrs.Honeywell finished explaining to the class and they all got to work did he finally say a word directed to Finn.
“Hey Finn, can I pass by your house after school?”
Finn turned to look at him, clear curiosity embedded in his expression.
“Sure, it’s fine by me”
Matthew arrived home on the bus, accompanied by all his brothers. About an hour later his mom called him out to the kitchen:
“Hey Matthew, the cake is ready” she said patting the cake carrier container lightly. She had baked one of her best chocolate cakes, adorned with cream frosting and cherries.
“Wow mom that looks amazing”
“Thanks, honey” she said smiling down at him, as she ruffled his hair.
Matthew got a ride from her neighbor Monica in her black van, he was holding the container with the cake close to him, highly unnecessary since Monica was going painfully slow.
“Are we almost there yet?” he asked out of exasperation, highly knowing they were 5 blocks away.
“Shut your trap, I’m trying to concentrate” she barked back.
Matthew stared out the windows of the car remembering their nights of elving. The main adrenaline of it all, the running, hiding, leaving gifts on the door steps like rogue Santa elves. It was great, plus it had been the first time he had noticed the other side of Finn Hagbart.
Not the arrogant bully in school, but someone who cared for others, a different side of him. He had seemed human to Matthew, someone approachable, a strong difference from his usual facade of a bully, which was cold and overbearing.
The car slowed to a halt as Matthew got out, carrying the cake.
“I’ll only be here for 10 minutes so you better move it!”, cried Monica from behind the wheel.
“Okay, okay” Matthew muttered as he closed the door of the van.
He started walking towards Finn’s house. The house was rather run-down, he could visibly see several planks of rotten wood, and the white paint was in the process of peeling. He walked towards the door and knocked on the old screen door.
Several seconds passed, and Matthew was wondering whether to knock again when the inside door opened. Finn appeared as he opened up the screen door and invited Matthew in as he shook his head seeing the cake.
“You really are such a birdie aren't you?”
Matthew laughed, as he followed Finn into the house.
The table was clean and Matthew saw that the once bare lamp he had noticed in one of their elving missions now had a lampshade on top. The dirty floor seemed cleaner than usual, had Finn cleaned up knowing he was coming over?
Maybe I’m just overthinking.
He sat down on one of the chairs, and placed the cake on the table.
“I’m taking care of little Francie, I was about to make her a sandwich” Finn mentioned as he entered the kitchen.
“How often do you guys eat sandwiches?”
“So often, I think I’m going to turn into a sandwich. Sometimes dad brings takeout food, but it's too expensive….Francie!!” he called out, “Look at what Matthew brought!”
The little girl walked in from the next room, skipping, her hair in pigtails, looking awfully bright in this lackluster place. Her eyes widened as she saw the chocolate cake in the middle of the table.
She ran forward as Matthew handed the container over to her.
She said a soft thank you, as she walked to the living room holding the cake and a fork.
“Don’t eat it all!” Finn shouted after her retreating figure.
Matthew found it ironic, he didn’t think Francie could finish off that cake all by herself, but who knew.
“I was helping her with her homework” Finn said as he rested against the counter.
“I didn’t know you did homework”
“I don't, her’s is real easy though”
“You really care about her don’t you?”
“Of course I do, since…. “ Finn turned away not meeting his eyes, “well I have more responsibilities, I worry about her. Since I’m the oldest my father places me in charge of her. Not that I need him to tell me.”
Matthew was sure Finn didn’t know he knew, but his mom had told him about it. Finn’s mother had left them during one Christmas, she suddenly disappeared, left her kids behind and moved somewhere else. No one knew where she went, maybe the stress of being a mother had gotten to her, maybe she regretted it. No one knew why but she was gone.
“I think you’re doing a great job” Matthew complimented him, “she has you and her sisters, Everything should be alright”
Finn looked at him with a look of faint admiration which he didn’t show often.
“Maid Marion, you really know what to say when it’s needed don’t you?” Finn told him with a smile.
“I suppose I do”, the silence was cut off as a loud honk was heard from outside.
“-Oh that must be Monica, I should go before I miss my ride” Matthew said quickly standing up from the chair.
He walked towards the door, Finn after him.
The door was still ajar, as the screen door was closed. He opened it as he stepped on outside, Finn however grabbed his wrist. Surprised, Matthew turned back to look at him.
Finn stood inside the doorway as he stared at him.
“What is it?”
“Can you be quiet for a second?” Finn asked with a smile and to Matthew’s surprise Finn leaned in and kissed him on the lips. It was just a quick kiss, but it made Matthew’s stomach fill with butterflies.
“Let’s just say when someone makes Francie happy, you earn points from me”
“I...I guess I...I’ll”
“Be going?” Finn asked with a smile.
“Bye Matthew, watch out for that step”
Matthew quickly noticed, as he had almost fallen down the said step.
“Th-thanks Bye Finn” he replied, trying to pay attention to the floor, nothing would make him look more like an idiot than if he fell and landed on a pile of snow somewhere.
Finn chuckled as he closed the door.
Matthew really isn’t all that bad.