Nico's Secret Valentine

by Rob Warr

Part 2

The dance

Monday started out badly for Nico. First of all, he overslept and had to rush to get ready for school, then when he stepped out the door, he realized he'd left his backpack in his room. Rushing back upstairs, he tripped on the last step, and went ass-over-teakettle onto the hall carpet.

Grumbling and rubbing his rug-burned elbow, he rolled his eyes to Heaven and beseeched God to give him a break. Finally shouldering his backpack, he rushed back downstairs, just in time to see the first drops of rain start to fall.

"Mommmm," Nico yelled as he stepped back inside, "it's raining, can I get a ride?"

"Yes dear, let me grab my keys," his mom said easily, "text Kyle and have him wait for us at his house, and I'll pick him up on the way."

Kyle was waiting in the open garage of their home not far away, and Mrs. Salvatore pulled in far enough for him to get in without actually getting wet.

"Morning Kyle," Mrs. Salvatore said pleasantly.

"Morning Mrs. S," Kyle said cheerfully, "thanks for the ride. I wasn't looking forward to sitting around in wet drawers all day," he laughed.

"You're welcome," Mrs. Salvatore said, "so...tonight is the dance, huh?"

"Yes," Kyle said grinning, "my mom is gonna pick Nico up around 6:30."

"Should I feed him, or is there food there?"

"There will be snacks, not sure what kind exactly, but he might want to eat a sandwich or something."

"Hey, I'm right here," Nico groused, "you're talking about me like I'm absent."

"Sorry, eat a sandwich Nico," Kyle chuckled.

Mrs. Salvatore just rolled her eyes. Nico was in one of his moods this morning, but she knew if anyone could snap him out of it, it would be Kyle.

"Have a good day," Mrs. Salvatore said as she dropped them off in front of the school, and they took off running to avoid getting any wetter than necessary.

Inside, they split up to go to their lockers, but looked forward to being reunited in second period English class. However, Nico was sort of glad to get away from Kyle for a bit. He was feeling a little grouchy and didn't really want to deal with Kyle's effervesant personality right now. He still had a lot to think about, the least of which was the party, less than twelve hours from now.

In first period math class, Nico stared at the blackboard as his instructor, Mr. Ballard, worked a few sample problems for the class, but Nico's mind wasn't on math at the moment. And if that wasn't bad enough, suddenly Mr. Ballard singled Nico out and asked him to come to the blackboard and work a problen using the technique he'd just explained.

Fortunately for Nico, he was a good student, and having done his homework, he was able to work the problem without too much difficulty, even if he did get the sign wrong at the end.

"Oh yeah," Nico said, adding a negative to the final answer.

"Very good Nico," Mr. Ballard said, but watch for negative and positive, that makes a big difference. On a test, you would only get half credit, which I feel is more than fair."

Nico paid more attention after that, but he was glad when math class was finally over. Since there was no need to go back to his locker, Nico headed for second period English where he met up with Kyle outside the door.

"Hey, how was math?" Kyle asked cheerfully.

"Fine, but whoever thought first period was the best time for math is whack," Nico grumbled.

"Yeah, I guess so. I'm glad I have American History that hour, but that's bad enough."

"Hey guys," they were suddenly interrupted by a cute young girl named Betsy, "are you guys going to the dance tonight?"

"Yeah," Kyle answered for both of them, "should be fun."

"You both have to promise to save me a dance," she giggled.

"Sure, we'll put you on our list," Kyle chuckled, "we're sooo popular."

"Don't forget now. Well, see you later boys," she said heading off once again.

Kyle stared after her, thinking what a cute girl she was, and kind of sexy too, if you liked girls like that.

"Come on, the bell's gonna ring any minute," Nico said heading that way.

They took their seats midway in the third row, dug out their text books, and soon the teacher, Ms. Dempsy, appeared displaying her usual cheerful demeanor. She was one of the younger teachers, and sort of plain looking. She chose to wear slacks or jeans as opposed to dresses, and wore a minimum of makeup, and her hair was cut short. There were rumors that she was a lesbian and had a wife, but as long as she kept her private life private, no one really pressed the issue.

Lunch period finally arrived and the boys met up again in the cafeteria and grabbed a tray. As they moved through the line, they talked about everything but the party, but it was heavy on both boys' minds.

They sat at their usual table, and soon were joined by their regular group of friends, including a couple of girls. They were both fairly popular, but it was Kyle's outgoing and friendly personality and sense of humor that attracted others. Those were the very same traits that had attracted Nico from the start, but of course over the years, as he'd gotten to know Kyle better, he'd found there were many more facets to his personality. For instance, his empathy for others. Kyle was the kind of kid who'd go out of his way to offer a kind word or help out anyone who needed it. Although he might come across at first as loud and brash, inside he had a heart of gold, and anyone who took the time to get to know him was better for having done so.

The dance was the topic of interest at the table that day, but Nico had little to say about it, wondering once again if he was making the right decision by going. However, any misgivings he had about attending were quickly overcome by his need to find out who his mystery admirer might be.

The rest of the day passed slowly, and in every class Nico couldn't help but look around and see if he could spot anyone who seemed to be staring at him, or acting out of the ordinary. Whoever it was that had a crush on him had to be in one of his classes, he reasoned, but who? There were dozens of candidates, but none of them rang a bell. There was this one girl, Carol, who seemed especially friendly, but then she was friendly to everyone, so Nico quickly dismissed her.

He was still pondering who his mystery admirer might be when the bell rang and it was time for 5th period PE. He headed to his locker then, dumped his books, then walked down to Kyle's locker to meet up with him. Kyle was just closing his locker door, and after spinning the dial on his locker, he turned to Nico.

"Hey, ready for some exercise?" Kyle asked cheerfully.

"I guess, I wonder what coach will have us doing today. I don't want to wear myself out before the dance," Nico teased, "I'm sure I'll be asked to dance a lot," he added sarcastically.

"You never know, you are kind of cute," Kyle said smiling, "if I was a girl, well...I'd sure want to dance with you," he added blushing, which was not something he did often.

"Thanks, I think," Nico teased, but in fact he felt it was a very nice thing for Kyle to say.

In PE, they headed to their gym lockers and quickly changed into their gym clothes, navy blue shorts and plain white tees. As they laced on their shoes, Nico couldn't help but look around at the other boys, wondering if there was any chance his mystery admirer was among this group of half naked boys. Sighing, he stood and followed Kyle out to the gym floor where the coach was waiting for everyone to assemble.

"Listen up guys," Coach said once he was sure everyone was present, "I have some interviews to do for an assistant,'re on your own today. I'm appointing Kyle Arnold and Bill Thomas as team captains, and I want you to split up and play some b-ball. But first, fifteen minutes of warmup exercises. Any questions? No? Okay, and men, please don't disappoint me. I'm trusting you to behave.

"Yes coach!" everyone chanted at once, glad to be given the chance to just have some fun for a change.

"I choose Nico, Kyle said once it was time to start picking teammates.

"Big surprise," someone snickered, and everyone laughed.

"Tommy," Bill Kingsley said then, ignoring the comment.

And so on and so forth, and to his surprise, the boy who had made the joke about Nico was chosen by Kyle for his team. His name was Ricky, and he actually liked Nico and Kyle, he was just one of those kids who was always joking around.

The game was relaxed, and no one really got aggressive. There were no elbow jabs, no name calling, and no one hit the floor, which wasn't always the case.

Near the end of the period, Coach came out and blew his whistle, thanked the boys for being such good sports, and told them to hit the showers, that he had one more interview to conduct.

"That was fun," Nico admitted, "but I'm so sweaty now."

"Yeah, wash the sweat off, but if I was you, I'd take another shower before you get dressed for the dance. That's what I'm gonna do."

"Yeah, I guess I will too," Nico decided, starting to feel anxious again now that Kyle had brought up the dance.

"Not nervous are you?" Kyle chuckled as they dug out their towels and stuff for the shower.

"Nah, of course not," Nico lied, "what's to be nervous about? It's just a dumb old dance."

"It'll be fun, you'll see," Kyle said cheerfully.

They found open shower heads, side by side, and after hanging up their towels, they started the water. Both boys were experts at looking without getting caugh when it came to the showers at school, but this time their looking was mostly confined to each other.

Kyle was thinking much the same thing Nico had thought about him, that he had a nice body, and was pretty sexy looking. Of course, he'd known that for a long time, and his heart swelled with pride knowing that Nico was his best pal.

They made it a quick shower, not even bothering to wash their hair since they'd be showering later, and quickly dried off and got dressed. They didn't share last period, so reluctantly they split up in the hallway and went off to their lockers, then their separate classes.

When the final bell rang that day, Nico headed to his locker, and gathered up the things he'd need for that night's homework. By the time he'd finished, Kyle had showed up, and together they walked out of the building.

It had stopped raining but the sky remained grey and the temperature was cooler than it had been the day before. They walked along, side by side, talking companionably, but surprisingly the dance didn't come up till they'd reached Nico's house.

"Are you excited about the dance?" Kyle asked as they approached Nico's middle class two story home.

"Yeah, I guess. I still think it's lame though."

"Nah, it will be fun, trust me," Kyle said grinning.

"You coming in or what?" Nico said as they finally reached the door.

"Nah, I'm gonna head on home and do my homework. One less thing to worry about," Kyle said surprising Nico.

"Oh, well, okay," Nico said, surprised by Kyle's words. For as long as he could remember Kyle had always stopped in for an after school snack before heading on home, "see ya later then."

"Yeah, 6:30, okay?"

"Yeah, I'll be ready."

Mrs. Salvatore seemed as surprised as Nico that Kyle hadn't come in for his snack, but she attributed it to his excitement about the party. She could tell he was looking forward to it, more so than Nico, and she had to wonder if there was some special reason, or perhaps a special person responsible for his excitement.

Nico settled for fruit for his snack, and after eating, he excused himself to his room to finish what little homework he had. He didn't bother to change since he'd be showering again later, so after toeing off his shoes he sat at his desk and immersed himself in his studies.

As before, the homework took his mind off the party and the mystery admirer, but once he'd finished, he was right back at square one. He glanced nervously at the clock, and noted it was only 4:30. Two hours to go, and he didn't dare shower too early, for in his present condition he'd probably get all sweaty just worrying about things.

Instead, he went to his closet and started going through his clothes, trying to decide what to wear. He had several pair of nice Dockers, blue, black, and tan, but he decided to find a shirt first to see which color went better with his choice.

After trying on a half dozen shirts, he finally settled on a light blue Izod pullover. Tan was out, but he decided blue or black pants would look good, so he tried each on before making his decision. He finally decided the blue Dockers looked best on him, accentuated his butt nicely, and felt more comfortable.

Socks were easy, navy blue, and he'd wear his navy blue Hey Dudes to complete the outfit. Since it might be cool out after dark, he found a navy blue hoodie to go with the ensemble and decided he'd done a good job. Just to be sure though, he called his mom into his room to look over his choices.

"Oh honey, you have a real eye for fashion. I think you've made some very good choices. When you get dressed I want to take a few pictures of both you and Kyle, so be sure to tell him to come in when they come to pick you up."

"Okay, thanks mom. I'm kinda hungry, I guess I should eat something before I go."

"How about a roast beef sandwich? The roast just came out of the oven, and it's so tender you can cut it with a fork."

"Sounds good," Nico said eagerly, "I'll be down in a minute."

By the time Nico had finished his sandwich, his dad was home, and after visiting with him a bit, he went upstairs to take his shower and get dressed.

He took a long hot shower this time, paying special attention to his hair, shampooing it twice and using conditioner. When he was finally squeaky clean, he turned off the shower and thoroughly dried off and gelled and styled his hair.

Once he was dressed, he touched up his hair, and after slipping on his shoes, he went downstairs to wait for Kyle.

"Oh honey, you look so handsome," Mrs. Salvatore said grabbing her phone, "I have to get a picture of you."

Nico posed for the picture, giving his mom his best smile, even though inside he was quaking in anticipation of what the evening would bring.

At 6:25, the front door opened and Kyle came bursting in, dressed in tan dockers and a bright red shirt with white piping. His hair was neatly styled and Nico thought he looked even cuter than usual.

"Oh Kyle, you look so handsome," Mrs. Salvatore gushed, "both you boys do. You are certainly going to turn some heads tonight."

"I have to agree with my wife, you guys look like a million bucks," Mr. Salvatore chuckled, "ladies, watch out."

"Okay, I know you guys want to get moving, but let me get a picture of you two together," Mrs. Salvatore said grabbing her phone again.

After posing for a couple pictures, the boys were finally out the door and into the car. Kyle's mom gave Nico an appraising look and whistled, then told him how handsome he looked.

"You boys are going to be the hit of the party," she predicted.

"Of course, Mrs. S, we always are," Kyle joked.

The party was being held in the cafeteria at the middle school the boys attended, and so the ride only took a few minutes. Mrs. Arnold pulled into the line of cars waiting to drop kids off, and as they waited for their turn, she firmed up their plans for later.

"Since you don't know what time the party is over, just call me when you're ready to come home. It's only five minutes away."

"Okay, thanks mom," Kyle said pulling his jacket up around him and checking once again to make sure the item he'd put in his pocket was still there.

"Thanks for bringing us, Mrs. Arnold," Nico said politely.

"You're welcome dear. Well, here we go boys, knock em dead," she said as she pulled up to the drop off point.

"K mom, bye," Kyle said opening the door and stepping out, followed quickly by Nico.

At the front doors, a volunteer parent welcomed the boys, handed them a heart-shaped sucker and directed them to the cafeteria.

"I'm not supposed to accept candy from a stranger," Kyle teased, "but you look safe enough."

The woman just laughed and offered to take it back, but Kyle held it to him possessively, giggling as he led Nico down the hall to the cafeteria.

"Wow, they did a really good job," Kyle said as they pushed through the doors into the cafeteria. There were streamers and balloons, hearts and flowers, and the lights were toned down from the harsh glow the boys were used to.

At the far side of the room, a number of tables had been set up and they held a variety of snacks, including cupcakes and cookies adorned with red icing and hearts. A huge bowl of red punch sat in the middle of one table, and on either end of it, a tub filled with ice and assorted bottled drinks.

A high school boy named Ted was acting DJ, and the music was lively and appealing to kids their age. Several chaperones were stationed around the room, but most looked bored, and probably didn't expect much action.

There were at least two dozen kids there so far, with more arriving by the minute, and a few were even dancing in the area designated for that activity.

"Come on, let's mingle and see who's here," Kyle suggested, grabbing Nico by the sleeve.

"Okay, let me hang up my hoodie first," Nico said, nodding toward the coat racks some one had obligingly set up by the door.

"Oh, too," Kyle said, checking his pocket once more.

After hanging up their jackets, the two wandered around, saying hello to pretty much everyone, and taking time to visit with a few of their friends. Not surprisingly, the girls outnumbered the boys, but there was still a good number of them there, most dressed up as Kyle and Nico were, but a few in jeans and tees. The school hadn't imposed a dress code for the dance, other than no shorts or sweats, so jeans were deemed okay.

As they wandered about, Nico chekced out the faces of each person they came into contact with, but no one seemed to be acting suspicious or paying him any special attention. In fact, Kyle seemed to be the only one there who gave him more than a passing glance. It was very confusing and annoying. Was the card a joke? Then he remembered what the card had said.

He checked his phone, still only 7:00, he still had another hour till the mystery person would appear at the punch bowl. Again, he wondered how he'd get shed of Kyle long enough to meet his secret admirer, but finally decided he'd just have to play it by ear when the time came.

The place began to fill up after that, and as promised, Kyle danced with Betsy, the girl who had approached them earlier at school. Nico tried to hide out when it came his turn, but she was like a bloodhound when it came to tracking him down, and he was forced to make good on his promise as well.

He had to admit though, it was actually kind of fun, and he was relieved to see that he was no worse a dancer than most of his peers. He was surprised at the number of boys on the dance floor, and he began to relax and enjoy himself once he saw he wasn't the only awkward dancer on the floor.

By 7:30, Nico had danced with three different girls, and Kyle four. Kyle was always popular, no matter what the occasion, and it was no secret that a number of girls thought he was cute. Nico didn't know how he felt about that. Was he going to eventually lose Kyle to some girl? He frowned at the thought of some doe-eyed girl taking up all his best pal's time, and he almost wished he liked girls that way himself, so he wouldn't be left out.

"Hey," Kyle said, finally taking a break, "I saw you out there bro, nice moves."

"Thanks, you too. You seem to be popular with the girls tonight," Nico observed.

"Yeah, they love me. You know why?"

"Uh, cause you're cute, and a nice guy?"

"Yeah, well...that too, but it's because I know how to treat them. I don't lead them on, but I treat them nice, and give them hope," he chuckled.

"Hope?" Nico laughed, "boy, you are so full of it."

"Yeah, full of charm," Kyle said, then pulling out his phone, he scrunched up his mouth and added, "7:45, man, the time has flown by."

Just then a girl named Tina approached the two, and Nico figured she was going to drag Kyle back to the dance floor, but to his surprise she was there for him. He knew Tina from American History and English class, but it wasn't like they'd ever really talked that much. Still, he figured he was fair game when it came to these girls, and he accepted his fate willingly. Anyway, it would help pass the time till his rendezvous at the punch bowl. Little did Nico know that Tina was part of the little drama that was about to unfold.

Tina was about two inches shorter than Nico, and very small, but she was wiry and energetic, and actually a very good dancer. Nico seemed to remember that she participated in gymnastics, and he supposed that attributed to her skill as a dancer. Still, as good as she was, Nico was able to keep up with her and was actually feeling quite good about his own moves.

The dance ended, and when the next one started, Tina insisted it was her favorite song, and begged Nico to dance this one with her as well. Nico glanced at the big clock on the wall, saw it was 7:50, and decided he had time for one more dance.

The song ended and Tina seemed satisfied to let Nico go, which was a good thing, since it was almost 8:00. But before he headed to the punch bowl, Nico decided to visit the bathroom first. The bathrooms were located just down the hall from the cafeteria, and on the way out the door he glanced at the snack table and punch bowl, but at the moment, no one was there except one of the chaperones.

He pushed open the door to the boys' room and was surprised to find he was alone. He peed quickly and washed his hands, then splashed some water on his face and thought about what was about to go down. His heart was thumping in his chest and butterflies filled his tummy as he contemplated how his life might change once he'd discovered the identity of his secret admirer.

He was tempted to forget the whole thing and run all the way home, but he knew that wouldn't solve anything in the end. Besides, he was actually a little excited to know that someone had those kinds of feelings about him.

He dried his hands and pulled out his phone, 7:59. One minute, and if he hurried he'd arrive just on time. Steeling himself for what was to come, Nico marched out of the bathroom, up the hall, and into the busy, noisy cafeteria.

The snack table and punch bowl were at the far end of the room, and at first he couldn't see through the group of kids who seemed to be gathered just in front of it.

Then, as if they were expecting him, the throng of kids parted, leaving an aisle between them, and there standing next to the punch bowl wearing a white carnation was Nico's sercret admirer.

Smiling to himself, Nico closed the gap and stopped in front of his secret admirer, "So, it's you," Nico laughed, "is this for real, or just one of your jokes?"

"Oh, it's real all right," Kyle said, "I've felt this way for a long time now, and...I'm hoping you feel the same way too."

"I don't know what to say," Nico managed to choke out, "I've always loved you, but feelings have changed, gotten stronger. I guess what I'm tryin to say is: I'm in love with you now."

"And I'm in love with you," Kyle said offering his hand.

Nico looked down at Kyle's hand for a heartbeat, then took it in his and squeezed it gently, oblivious to the dozens of kids gathered around watching them.

"Nico Salvatore, will you be my Valentine?" Kyle said, his voice choked with emotion.

"Yes," Nico whispered, wiping tears from his eyes.

PDA's were strictly prohibited at McKinley Middle School, but after all, this was an extracurricular activity, and the chaperone's were grinning as widely as the other kids as the couple kissed for the first time.

Then, with Kyle leading Nico to the dance floor, the couple danced their first dance together as the room broke into applause.

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