This is Chapter 1 of For Nicky. This male/female contemporary romance is available on ALL platforms for FREE (Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, ARe, Nook) Amazon– getbook.at/NickyAmzn
I was 6 years old and I was sitting in my usual spot in the principal’s office at Torey Hope Elementary School in Torey Hope, Illinois. My principal, Mr. Jones, had given me his usual speech about being disappointed in my behavior. He shook his head and gave a heavy sigh as he made yet another call to my parents. As we waited, he continued to work on some paperwork. The paperwork probably had to do with my behavior. My student file was likely thicker than most of the older students and I was only in first grade. Mr. Jones wasn’t an unfair man; I knew that the boy I’d gotten in a fight with was getting punished too. That only brought me a tiny bit of satisfaction.
I was sitting in the big red leather chair. I always sat in the big red leather chair. The big red leather chair was sort of “mine” and I was here enough to have the right to claim it. My parents were on their way for yet another meeting about my behavior. I had gotten in trouble for fighting. Again. My lip got busted in the process, but the kid who had been making fun of my brother got what was coming to him. I hated when people were mean to my brother or when they thought he was so stupid he couldn’t understand that they were making fun of him. Today, and a lot of days, it was over one simple word. “Retard.” God, how I hate that word. I hate the way it sounds, the way it is used to degrade, the way it hurts. Mostly, I hate the way my brother flinches when he hears that word.
My mom and dad understood where my anger was coming from, but they didn’t condone the fighting. They knew I was just sticking up for my brother in the only way I knew how, but they weren’t okay with it. I knew there would be consequences at home and I was okay with that. I would take the punishment a thousand times over, and, if it meant getting in trouble every day or being labeled a bully for dealing with the kids who hurt my brother, then I’d do it. This wasn’t for me. This was for him. For my brother. For Nicky.
“Nathaniel, this is the second fight you’ve been in this week and it’s only Wednesday. I know you want to protect Nicky from the bullies, but you’ve got to stop fighting others. You want to protect Nick, but you’re just as bad as the people who make fun of him.” My mom looked weary as she and my dad gave me the same old speech. At this rate, I’d never see a video game again for as long as I lived. I hadn’t watched TV shows I wanted to watch in over a year. My room had basically nothing but a bed. It didn’t matter, I wouldn’t stop threatening and fighting the kids who made fun of my brother until they learned their lesson. I didn’t care how much trouble I got in. It was for Nicky.
Nate Present day
I was about five years old the first time I realized that Nicky and I were different. There wasn’t one defining instance that brought me to this realization; it was more a series of instances that led me to become aware that Nicky was not only not like me, but he was also not like other kids. My parents had always treated us the same, never favoring one over the other or coddling Nicky more than me.
Nicky and I are twins. Identical twins. We were born in November and we will turn 25 on our next birthday. I was born 2 minutes before Nicky. Nicky’s full name is Nicholas Edward Morgan. But he’s always been Nick or Nicky, especially with close friends and family. My given name is Nathaniel Joseph Morgan, but I usually go by Nathan or Nate.
When I started noticing that Nick and I were different, I asked my mom about it. She explained that Nick had been deprived of oxygen due to his umbilical cord being twisted. Since birth, he’s always been smaller than me. He struggles with speech sometimes. He has trouble thinking of certain words he wants to use. However, when he’s excited, he talks a mile a minute. He moves a bit more slowly and awkwardly than most; he has a slight limp. But, these challenges have never slowed Nick down. Learning was always harder for him, but he would eventually grasp most things; it just took him longer. He’s always done the same things I’ve done. We played all sorts of sports while growing up. I was always better than Nicky; I was usually better than most of the other players too. Even though I had him on the skill front, Nick always had more heart and gumption than me. He always had to fight that much harder to reach goals, and he worked hard, never giving up.
Once I noticed Nicky was different than me, I also started noticing that a lot of people treated him differently. Kids and adults both would talk to him like he was dumb or they assumed he couldn’t do things so they didn’t even give him a chance. It was around this time that I started sticking up for him and being extra protective. He was my “little brother” and I wouldn’t stand for anyone treating him poorly just because he was different. The worst was when kids made fun of him. They would laugh at how he talked or laugh at him if he missed a goal in soccer or got an answer wrong or they’d mimic his gait. One of the things that set me off quicker than anything was when they called him retard or retarded. I got used to getting in fights protecting my brother and as the bullies got worse, the fights got worse too. The years we were in class together were the easiest because I could keep a better eye on things. The years we ended up separated in different classes were the hardest on both of us. As we grew up, we ran in different social circles, but we were still the best of friends. In high school, my parents decided that Nick would be better off in a trade school setting. So Nick started attending a community trade school, Torey Hope Education Center, where he learned life and job skills in the morning and social skills in the afternoon. This school was perfect for Nick because he got to continue attending there even after graduation. He landed a job at a local grocery store sacking groceries and stocking shelves. Nicky is a great employee; he takes his job seriously and follows instructions to a T. In the afternoon he went to the community center. Nick loved to tell me about his friends and activities at the center. He enjoyed playing ping pong and air hockey with his friends. The center didn’t let the kids just sit and play video games or watch TV so he got his video gaming fun in with me. He had chores at the center. He despised washing dishes because his hands got wrinkly in the water, but he adored bagging up and taking out the trash. He said it made him feel like the trash truck we used to watch pick up trash up and down our street when we were little kids. His favorite part of the center recently became the library. The center hired a new librarian and she is now Nicky’s favorite person. Her name is Miss Elizabeth. He loves when she reads to the group and helps them pick out books. To hear Nick tell it, Miss Elizabeth walks on water.
While Nick was doing what was best for him and his future, I was doing the normal high school and college thing. I enjoyed high school, except for the assholes I still felt the need to keep away from Nicky. I did well in most classes and I was good in whatever activity or sport I chose to do. I had a few really good friends who accepted Nick and never made fun of him. They knew he was part of my life and they never excluded him. That was really important to me. Luckily, since Nicky was in classes at the center, there weren’t as many fights at school once I hit high school. Outside of school was a different story. It sort of became a joke that if I was ever seen WITHOUT a black eye, a busted lip, or bloodied knuckles it would make history. I got in only a few fights in high school, all of them because I’d catch someone making fun of my brother or calling him names when they thought I couldn’t hear. Most of my fights in high school were on the basketball courts where I’d go to play pretty much daily. Guys who knew Nick or me well never pushed things, but the assholes who would make fun of Nick, or any other person with disabilities, always got what was coming to them. No one should be able to get away with hurting someone else.
Nick and I didn’t spend all our time together, but he always came first for me. The only friends I let in were the ones who understood and respected that. I dated on and off through high school, but never got very serious with any one girl. I did the usual homecoming dances and proms, and a lot of big group dates. I didn’t party or get drunk much, it just wasn’t my thing. Looking back, I think I didn’t get too serious with a girl because I thought it would maybe confuse Nick or make him sad that he didn’t have that. Girls were fun, but I was usually too busy fighting or looking for a potential fight or threatening the kids who made fun of Nick, to be too serious with the girls. I mean, I had my fair share of making out and the usual rounding bases, but it never surpassed that. I think I was just too preoccupied with protecting Nicky to let things go beyond just having some fun. I would venture a guess, in retrospect, that the reason I skipped partying is because I knew Mom and Dad had enough on their plates with my fighting without having to add me partying and drinking to the mix.
My parents worked hard for us. My mom stayed at home to care for us and the house. We lived in a gorgeous older home on a quiet, shaded street. Dad always made sure it was painted and looked nice on the outside. Our home wasn’t always the same color, Mom and Dad both liked to change it up, but I mostly remember it being a darker green with white trim. I loved the front porch, it wrapped all the way around the front and sides of the house and had beautiful columns. It was a great porch to sit on and play on and Dad always decked it out festively for Christmas. The front yard had a large oak tree on one side which offered great shade in the summer and was gorgeous in the fall. There was also a weeping willow tree on the other side. Nick and I spent many days outside playing in our fort under the willow tree. Mom kept the bushes and flower gardens in the front looking beautiful. She always planted colorful flowers in the beds and around the oak tree and the mailbox.
Inside of our house was definitely lived in but it was clean and comfortable and always looked nice. The kitchen was in the back of the house, with a back door leading to a fairly good size backyard where we’d have bar-be-ques in the summer and build snowmen in the winter. For years, our backyard boasted a huge maple tree that had a hollow spot toward the bottom. You can bet that Nick and I made use of that hollow as another “hidey hole” as Nick referred to it. Sadly, that tree got hit by lightning a few years back and had to be cut down. Mom loved her backyard and spent a lot of time out there. She had a swing under a little canopy where she would sit and read while she watched us play. There was a small hill that afforded Nicky and I a place to race our remote control cars in the warm weather and a place to sled in the snow. After I moved out, Mom and Dad installed a fountain and a pond where they have some large goldfish. Nicky enjoys watching and feeding the fish.
Off the kitchen was a door to the basement. Before I went to college, the basement was sort of just used as storage and Nick and I would play down there sometimes. I lived down there during college. Through the kitchen was the dining room. We had a big oak table where all of our meals were eaten. The breakfast nook and table in the kitchen weren’t big enough for a family meal. Luckily, we had two bathrooms. Mom and Dad mostly used the one downstairs which was attached to their room and Nick and I used the upstairs one. Our rooms were upstairs. Nick and I were always used to being together so, even when Mom and Dad gave us our own rooms and let us pick out the paint colors for them, we usually ended up sleeping in one room. Nick had a twin bed in his room, but he usually slept in my room on the futon bed while I slept on my own twin bed. Our bathroom just had a stool, a sink, and a shower, but that’s pretty much all boys need. I loved our house and I loved growing up there. It was comfortable and homey and safe. I knew there was no one there that I had to protect Nicky from. I could relax and let my guard down. Even now, as a grown man, I feel safest and most relaxed in my parents’ home and I spend a lot of time there.
When we got older, Mom volunteered at our school. She now works part time at the community center, but in a capacity where Nick can still be on his own even with Mom there. She’s there, but not smothering him. Mom works as a clerical assistant at the center. She helps with record keeping and general office duties. I know she always has a smile for visitors or new families who come into the center. My mom has a gentle yet efficient way about her that lets people know she cares while still letting them know not to give her any grief.
My dad is a teacher; he teaches middle school English Language Arts at Torey Hope Middle School. His teaching salary was just never enough to raise his family, so he spent his summers painting houses to make extra money. Dad loved teaching, but he also loved painting. He was always painting house exteriors or interiors or barns. It was like he couldn’t just sit around during his breaks and summer, he had to be busy. He continuously had little projects going on. My Uncle Dale, Dad’s brother, owned the local hobby shop and I think Dad pretty much kept him in business. Dad was constantly tinkering with the vehicles, plumbing, electricity, organizing the garage, etc. if he wasn’t painting someone’s silo or living room or house. If I wasn’t busy with school or sports I always joined Dad painting throughout the summers. It wasn’t hard, kept me somewhat in shape, and gave me a chance to hang with my dad (who, even though I was in high school and wouldn’t admit it, was pretty cool). I still help Dad paint if I’m not busy coaching or helping Uncle Dale at the hobby shop.
Anyway, my attitude about partying and drinking didn’t really change much when I got to college. I decided to attend the local college in town so I could live at home; Mom turned our basement into the perfect bachelor pad. She set it up just like a normal dorm room. They got a bunk bed so that Nicky could sleep over sometimes. Dad, years ago, had installed a little shower, sink, and toilet down in the basement during one of his winter projects, so Mom had him rig up a shower curtain hoop and she decorated the little bathroom in greens and blues. She went all out and even got me a shower caddy like all the college kids who were living in dorms. Mom had a heyday decorating, I think she actually researched to find pictures of actual dorm rooms so that mine would look similar. Dad rigged up internet and cable, and I set up my video game system down there. It was really a great set up. I was home with Nicky, but I could come and go as I pleased and had some privacy for homework and studying and the occasional date.
I got an academic scholarship to the local college so it was perfect. I also got academic and sports scholarships to bigger, further away colleges, but it never felt right leaving Nicky. My high school counselor had required all of us to take these little tests to tell us what career we should pursue. Mine said I should be a counselor, so that’s what I got a degree in. I never really planned to use the degree, but it made my parents happy that I got one. I was perfectly happy painting with my dad, coaching basketball and track, and helping my uncle at his hobby shop when he needed me.
I did get a lot more adventurous in college with the girls. Girls weren’t lining up to date me, but I could always tell there were plenty interested. I guess I’m not bad looking. I know I’m not like one of the hunks in those romance novels ladies read (yeah, yeah….ok, so I’ve snuck a look at a page here and there in the ones Mom leaves laying around), but I’d say I’m averagely attractive. I’m about 6’2” and I weigh about 200 lbs. Since I’ve always played or coached sports, run track, or painted with my dad, I’m pretty fit. I don’t have huge bulky muscles, but my 6-pack is decent and I’m not embarrassed to be in a sleeveless shirt or go without one. I have what I’d call run-of-the-mill dirty blond hair that I keep fairly short letting it go just slightly longer in the front for that messy look. My eyes are blue (not “piercing ice blue” like in those novels, sorry, just plain blue). Nick is the spitting image of me, only slightly shorter and he weighs a little less. He has always just seemed more fragile than me.
So, back to those girls in college. Once I was in college, the fights slowed down a bit more. Don’t get me wrong, I was always on the lookout for a shit-for-brains that might try hurting Nicky or one of his friends, and I hadn’t grown out of threatening people to keep them in line, but I wasn’t constantly sporting bruises anymore. So, I guess it made sense that I had more time for the girls. I didn’t head to college planning to lose my virginity, but I’d also not planned to keep it as long as I had either. In college, I still didn’t find my heart going pitter-patter over any girl (does that shit even happen in real life?) but I definitely had fun with them. I remember my first time. Her name was Katie or Krissy or something like that. We had gone to a football game my freshman year. We headed back to her dorm, but she told me to pull over first. After some hot and heavy making out in her daddy’s BMW we ended up in the backseat. Katie/Krissy promised no strings attached and I found out that burying myself in a pretty girl is a great way to get rid of stress and tension. After that first time, sex became my go to stress reliever. Kissing is great, and I love a girl’s body, but sex was never an emotional experience for me. I enjoyed it physically, but kept myself completely detached emotionally. I was always able to stay friends with the girls I hooked up with, with the exception of a few who got pissed that I didn’t want to be their boyfriend, but I was never emotionally invested in taking a relationship any further than a few romps in the sack. I always let the girls know this up front; it wasn’t like I was just using them, but I had no intention of going beyond something mutually satisfying for both of us. I enjoyed sex, but it was just something I did to feel good, it wasn’t something I did to “share something” with another person. In a way, this bothered me because I grew up in a very loving home with parents who were obviously still very into each other; on the other hand, I think I was so used to being angry and pissed off and fighting that the detached feeling was fairly normal for me. Also, in retrospect, I think that I was fearful of letting any girl in; it would mean letting down my guard and I was much more comfortable with my walls up, in constant ready position to fight or defend my brother.
So, I graduated college with a degree in school counseling, but I had no desire to use it. I told my parents as much, and they seemed to understand and support me, even though I got the feeling that they thought I should have attempted a counseling job. I got a small apartment about five minutes from Mom and Dad and Nick. I made sure it was a two-bedroom so Nicky could stay whenever he wanted. I had a little breakfast nook in my kitchen where I put a small table and chairs. I didn’t cook a lot beyond pizza, toast, cereal, and eggs so my small kitchen wasn’t much of a problem for me. Mom always complained that I didn’t have any space, but I never felt deprived.
Nicky spent 2-3 nights a week with me and often brought a friend to play video games. Nicky liked things to stay consistent, so we tried to stick to a schedule. He didn’t always deal well with change. We kept a few changes of clothes and pajamas at my place, but mostly, he just brought an overnight bag if he was going to stay over.
Nicky walked or rode his bike places. He and my parents were just not okay with him driving. It made him nervous so he was perfectly content with his own feet or two wheels or someone else driving him around. Nick loved my Jeep. It was the usual red and black that most people think of when they hear Jeep. I could take the top down or leave it up. Nick loved when I left the top down.
I loved the nights when Nicky stayed over. We’d drive his friend home after pizza, pop, and video games. Then we’d just hang out and talk. I loved listening to Nick tell stories of his day at work or the community center. The first time I heard the name Miss Elizabeth was the first time Nicky brought a book to my apartment and told me he wanted to practice reading it to me. He said that Miss Elizabeth, the new librarian at the center, had helped him pick it out and she was excited to hear him read some of it to her, so he had to practice. I helped him read it and we settled on a part that he could rehearse and read to her. Nick wasn’t that poor of a reader, he just did better with some practice so that his fluency could improve. After that, I heard “Miss Elizabeth” multiple times each visit. It wasn’t like a normal guy in his mid-twenties would be talking about a girl. He didn’t talk about her body or anything in a crass way. Nick thought she was “pretty and nice and smart and she has good books and she’s my friend.” Nicky didn’t really comprehend attraction to the opposite sex past that during that point in his life. Part of me wondered if he would ever meet someone and fall in love.
When I asked Mom about Miss Elizabeth she went on and on about how gorgeous she is. Mom told me she’s super sweet and quiet and I must meet her. Mom isn’t known for her subtlety, I got the idea that she had had a few daydreams about me dating this girl. Actually, I get the idea that Mom would be thrilled if I just seriously dated any girl. I’m pretty sure she has some inkling of my “dating” tendencies and she was NOT fond of my practices. Nicky wanted so badly to introduce me to his friend, Miss Elizabeth, as well. I couldn’t tell who was more infatuated with Miss Elizabeth, Mom or Nicky. So, I decided to meet this Miss Elizabeth soon. For Nicky.