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Day Two Hundred and Twenty-two.

“Nick, I’d like you to meet Avery.”

Now was one of those times when my father’s wise words would come in handy: Grin and bear it. I smiled as pleasantly as possible as I shook hands with the attractive female in front of me. I had nothing against attractive females, of course - but I didn’t want to be here. Why was I here? This was self-imposed torture.

It was Friday night in LA, and I was going on a blind date. A blind triple date, in fact, because Selena and Miley were accompanying me in order to make things extra awkward. Miley brought Justin, who looked even more like a prick up-close than in pictures, and Selena brought David, one of her cast-mates.

On the bright side, I liked David. I’d met him a few times before, and I was pretty sure that he was on my side. “Selena made me come,” he’d whispered to me a few moments earlier, “She wanted to bring Demi as her date, but Miley said it would be better if she brought a guy. I think they’re trying to… I don’t know, make you jealous? I don’t understand why I’m here, this whole thing is fucked up, why are your ex-girlfriends getting you a date?”

I patted his shoulder and assured him that the same questions were plaguing my mind.

Why did I agree to this? Simple. After much contemplation and six episodes of season three of The Office, I realized that lying to Rainie about dating Pep wasn’t going to work. I could never force myself to act lovey-dovey around her, and even if I could, I would have to buy Pep a fucking Coca Cola factory just to make up for it. Afterwards, everything would be so awkward that I would have to relocate to the Stamford Branch like Jim - in other words, I’d never be able to see Pep again. It wasn’t worth it, and I wouldn’t do it. It was like forcing myself to eat something I didn’t want to eat, and then getting sick afterwards because I couldn’t keep it down. It was like dating bulimia.

Nonetheless, I did like the idea of making Rainie jealous. It was a sick game that we were playing, but if this was the only way to get through to her, then I was sold. So, against my better judgment, I gave Miley a call and told her I was ready to go on a blind date. In all fairness, I told her that I would not go alone, so she would have to come with me. Miley said she wouldn’t be a third wheel, and I agreed that it would be somewhat uncomfortable, and that’s when she came up with the idea of inviting the entire world to come with us.

“Nice to meet you,” I spoke to the brunette as we shook hands. (Side-note: why was she a brunette? Did I not specifically ask for a girl with black hair?)

She smiled pleasantly, and I was pretty sure her life was complete upon having met me. I can make people’s days like that.

“Avery’s one of my backup dancers,” Miley announced, her head popping up between us. “We’re really close. She’s so sweet, Nick, ask her to tell you the story about the fire alarm.”

That’s just great, Miley. Way to make this blind date not awkward at all.

I blinked, unimpressed, shifting my gaze back to Avery to say monotonously, “Tell me the story about the fire alarm.”

She laughed. I supposed she had a sense of humour. My memory was blurry, but hadn’t I asked for a girl without one? Miley and Selena had failed me. What was that dumb list for if they didn’t even use it in selecting my match?

“It was really stupid-”

“It was not stupid,” Miley interrupted with a loud guffaw. “A few weeks ago, Avery was at home and the smoke alarms went off. She has three dogs and a cat, and her whole house filled with smoke, and she kept making trips back inside to rescue all her pets.”

“And then it turned out-”

“Someone had left the stove on, right? Ha!” Miley interrupted once more, resting her elbow on Avery’s shoulder. “Anyway, I was like, oh my God Ave, my ex-boyfriend Nick loves dogs, I’m sure he’d appreciate that story.”

Both girls nodded vigorously and stared eagerly into my eyes, waiting for my reaction. David, Selena and Justin trained their eyes to me as well. Crickets chirped in the background. Dead silence.

that was why Avery was my soulmate?

Fuck being polite. I wasn’t going to respond to that story at all. That was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. First of all, everyone loves dogs. If that was the only criteria we were basing this on, then Avery could be compatible with anyone. Secondly, why was it necessary for Miley to refer to me as her ex-boyfriend in front her current boyfriend and my potential new girlfriend? Third, was this girl insane!? If your house fills up with smoke, you get the hell out. Open a few windows and if your pets are smart, everything will work out. Second and third trips are what firefighters are for, babe.

Miley and Avery burst into laughter. Selena and David exchanged a worried glance; they were probably able to realize just how unimpressed I was. Justin stood around like he was waiting for something exciting to happen. Brainless schlep.

I had a feeling that tonight, we were going to separate into groups. Miley would spend the entire time talking up Avery and the two would giggle with their thousands of inside jokes. Justin would stand there; he’d always just be standing there. David and Selena would watch me and whisper about how horribly this was going. And I… well, maybe I could get in some sort of threesome with David and Selena. They were the best ones, anyway.

Eventually, Miley linked her arm with Justin’s and led us into the restaurant. Selena and David held the door open for Avery and I, making sure to follow at a safe distance behind. This was just great. A Nick J couple sandwich. Pep would die laughing when I told her.

Avery leaned towards me as we walked to the back of the restaurant, murmuring in my ear, “I actually have two dogs and a bird. No cats.”

I eyed her with interest. She winked at me. Huh. Maybe she wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe her brown hair wasn’t that terrible, either. I mean, the other two girls I dated had brown hair… it didn’t work out, but Avery wasn’t supposed to be a permanent thing, anyway.

We sat in a large circular booth. On my right was Avery, who was huddling close to Miley for comfort. On my left was Selena, whom I was favouring at the moment because I’d barely heard her say two words since we arrived. I’d always liked that about her. She could be vocal when circumstances called for it, but most of the time, she liked to keep her mouth shut. I understood her completely. It was probably one of the reasons we didn’t work out. Neither of us was very outgoing, and eventually we found ourselves trapped.

There was a prolonged silence in which we each scanned the menu. I hoped no one ordered something that would take forever to cook. I wanted to get in and get out. Didn’t I already mention that this was my new motto?

“Mm… I’ll have an iced tea. What do you want, Justy?” asked Miley, the self-proclaimed table-organizer.

“Coke,” he said, offering the waitress a smile.

Bitch stole my beverage preference. If I were him, I would’ve slapped Miley across the face for calling me Justy. When we dated, Miley used to break out the Nicky every once in a while, and it made me want to-

“Diet Coke, Nicky?” Miley asked.

Like I was saying, it made me want to legally change my name to Penis.

“Yes,” I grumbled. Just once, I needed to live a little when it came to drinks. Wouldn’t she be surprised when I ordered a Sprite?

Avery giggled quietly. As Miley took care of David and Selena, Avery cleared her throat and questioned loudly, “So do you prefer Nick or Nicholas?”

Ha. I actually kind of liked her.

“Mr. Jonas will be fine,” I joked. “’Sir’ for short.”

She smiled. She had a nice smile. And her eyes were brown, which was pleasant and not scary at all.

The rest of the meal passed as expected. Miley dominated the conversation, Justin sat there and let her baby him, and David and Selena sometimes had their own quiet discussions. Avery continued to pass me snide comments under her breath, and as time passed, she grew on me.

She wasn’t perfect, however. She had a salad for dinner. Girls who have salads for dinner are self-conscious. To her credit, from what I could tell, she had a great body - possibly from all the dancing, or possibly from all the salads. Neither one is really my thing, so I could only assume that we had very little in common.

I had to admit that Miley's behaviour wasn’t terrible, though. Every time I expected her to launch into an embarrassing and inappropriate story of our young relationship, she said something embarrassing and inappropriate about her relationship with Justin - sorry, Justy. That was fine. I could deal with that.

“Let’s do something after dinner,” Miley announced. “There aren’t any good movies out, and Justy and I got kicked out of laser tag last week for - remember that?” Justin nodded as Miley hunched over with giggles. She turned to the rest of us, explaining, “We were fooling around on this ramp thing for like, half an hour, and the manager came and said we had to get out because there were little children.”

Like I said: embarrassing and inappropriate. If Justin had showed any sign of humiliation, I would have felt sorry for him. But he just sat there, and my resentment grew.

“Bowling!” David exclaimed. “I’ve always wanted to bowl with a Jonas.”

With my arms folded on the table in front of me, I snorted with laughter, giving him a sideways glance. “That’s an odd thing to say.”

“Can we do something that’s not competitive?” Selena asked. “I hate playing games with Nick.”

Huh. The quietest couple had suddenly become the loudest, and I wasn’t sure I approved.

“Thanks,” I muttered sarcastically.

“It’s just… you always win. And if you don’t, you’re whiny about it.”

That’s not true. In my defence, Selena is a petite, non-athletic girl. Anyone would be whiny if they lost a physical game against her.

Wait a second, weren’t these girls supposed to be talking me up in front of my blind date?

“I’m sure I’ll manage to suffer a loss,” I said dryly. Under my breath, I muttered, “But I won’t need to, ‘cause I’ll win.”

David heard. “Oh, it’s on.”

While the rest of the table discussed possible bowling locations, I looked at Avery. She seemed content enough, and that was a good sign. “Are you a bowler?” I asked her.

She pretended to tug on her nonexistent collar. “’Fraid not. I think I was about five the last time I went bowling. I used one of those children’s aids; you know, it’s like a giant slide that you position according to where you want the ball to go, and then you roll the ball down.”

I shook my head at her. “That’s unacceptable, Avery.”

She couldn’t hide her smile. Her cheeks glowed a little bit. I knew it. Frankly, I couldn’t care less if she knew how to bowl - I just wanted the opportunity to say her name out loud. The great thing about girls is that they’re totally predictable. If a guy uses their name upon meeting them, it shows that he’s genuinely interested in her. They’re completely taken by stuff like this. I was right, wasn’t I? Avery’s smiling face proved it. Thanks, yahoo!

Just to be a jerk and make her not completely fall in love with me, I added, “It’ll be that much easier to kick your ass, then.”

Apparently Selena had overheard the last few words, because she exclaimed for everyone to hear, “What did I tell you? He’s way too competitive! He’s already strategizing!”

Avery ignored Selena, granting me a sly grin. “I’d like to see you try. Bring it on, sucker.”

Now there was spirit. This girl had a Pep-like quality about her that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but I knew it was there. She was lucky, because that quality enticed me to pay for her dinner. (It also reminded me that Pep still owed me ten bucks from that lunch we had several months ago. Then again, I kissed her without her consent to make Rainie jealous, so I supposed it was fair to call it even).

Either way, Avery got a free dinner, I looked like a gentleman, and in her LA apartment, Rainie was sitting at home alone while Jesse got tanked with the guys.

I felt good about that.

As it turned out, David Henrie was stiff competition. In fact, so was Avery. It made me nervous. If she was this competitive over a game of bowling, how competitive was she, for example, in an intellectual conversation? Could she rival me in a battle of wits? If so, how long would it take for her to realize that all I wanted was to parade around with her in front of Rainie? I was beginning to think that she was smart. Smart girls scare me; I like to stay away from them.

Case in point: Miley Cyrus, my girlfriend of over a year. Generally nice girl, very caring, cheery disposition, kind of (really) nosey, spontaneous. Not smart. She decided to help Avery win in any way she could. As she sat on Justy Wusty’s lap, she shouted loudly every time I was about to bowl, “DON’TMESSUP!”

The good thing is that I know Miley very well, and I expected this. It did not affect my game.

I was staring at Miley on Justy’s lap with distaste as I heard David laughing obnoxiously. Avery was up. With only two pins remaining just left of centre, aiming was important. She analyzed her next move before picking up a ball with both hands, spreading her legs, and throwing it granny-style down the lane.

“Oh, you cheat!” I exclaimed, forgetting all about Miley and Justy. M and J. MJ. Musty. (Again, I’ll leave the abbreviations to Kevin).

Her jaw dropped at my accusation. The ball hit one of two pins. “How was that cheating?” she demanded, hands on her hips.

I sauntered towards her to point out what she’d done wrong. “That’s not how you throw a bowling ball. If you’re going to bowl, you have to do it right. And if you want to brag about how you beat me, you better do it right.”

“That’s what she said.”

Oh, I knew all about ‘that’s what she said’. The Office had consumed my life, thanks to Pep.

I faked a laugh as I picked up a bowling ball. “Funny. Now, this is how you hold a ball.”

“That’s what she said,” Avery repeated.

“You put your fingers through the holes-”

“That’s what-”

“-and you curl them around to get a good grip.”

“-she said.”

On our next date, we were going to watch The Office together.

“You only need one hand,” I instructed her. “Two hands make things complicated.”

She snorted with laughter. “You’re killing me here, Nick.”

“Focus. If you’re not playing correctly, it means nothing to me when I win,” I said with a straight face. It was true. The greatest part of winning is knowing that everyone else tried their hardest.

I was in the process of teaching Avery to aim the ball by pointing her feet in the right direction when Miley shouted from Justy’s lap, “Hey, could you hurry it up down there? Some of us want to get home before sunrise!”

Avery chuckled quietly while I bit my lip and rolled my eyes in annoyance. I cocked my head towards her, using my teacher-voice to instruct her to, “Blow me.”

I admit that I regretted saying it right away. It’s inappropriate to say these kinds of things in front of your new potential girlfriend, and even more so in front of your ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend. It’s just not proper etiquette. My mother would not be pleased.

Still, I was pretty sure it was equally bad, if not worse for Miley to reply snarkily, “Been there, done that!”

Holy mother of God. Was that entirely necessary? Justin and Selena wore matching expressions of shock while David had to turn around to keep from laughing at whatever expression I wore on my face. Miley felt little or no shame, and I turned around without looking at Avery. Shoot me in the face.

I cleared my throat. “And then… you let go and hope for the best.” To be honest, I couldn’t remember where we’d left off in our lesson, and I felt uncomfortable being next to her all of a sudden. “Like this,” I added. It was my turn, anyway, so I gave her an example of the correct technique.

She smiled. “Alright. I think I got it.”

I’d only hit five pins on the left, so I picked up another ball and handed it to her. “Give it a try.”

“It’s your turn.”

Grinning, I answered, “I’ll sacrifice a turn for you.”

She shrugged and held the ball the way I’d taught her. She got in position and I thought it would be nice to give her a last-minute recap, so I began, “Now, remember to line up your feet and really think about-”

She sent the ball reaming down the lane without waiting for me to finish. I shook my head at her. “What a waste. Now I have to fix the damage myself.”

Just as the words came out of my mouth, the ball smacked into the pins and knocked all five down. Spare. Avery winked at me.

I had to admit, I was beginning to fear that wink.

When we all parted ways, Selena kissed me on the cheek like it was the natural thing to do. Miley hugged me and took the opportunity to whisper, “So what’d you think? Huh? Isn’t she cute? I knew you’d love her.” I shook hands with David and ignored Justy entirely. The group walked ahead while I hung back with Avery. With a smile, I held out my arms for a hug. Hey, I can be personable when I want to be.

“It was good to meet you,” I said with a smile.

“Yeah,” she agreed as we pulled away. I could tell that she was wrestling with her next words. Finally, she decided to blurt out, “I have to be honest - I really wasn’t looking forward to this.”

Huh. Interesting.

She glanced at her shoes before meeting my eyes. “I thought you’d just think I was like… another fame-hungry… wanna-be or something. Also, I’ve met my share of celebrities, and some of them are real jerks, so I just assumed… well, anyway. You surprised me.”

Funny. I wondered if she was referring to Miley.

I nodded, unsure of how to respond. “That’s a good thing.”

She imitated my nodding. Uncreative. I subtracted points from her. “It is.”

I’m not going to lie: it had been a while since I'd been on a date. When I dated, it was because I liked that girl and I planned on developing a relationship with her. When you’re not looking for a relationship but you want - no, need - to see that girl again, it’s difficult to think of a way to ask for her number.

“Do you mind if I ask for your number?” I inquired.

Oh hey, look at that. Wasn’t hard at all.

She looked like she just found out she was cured of cancer. “Sure!” she exclaimed.

I’m amazing. And dazzling.

I dug my phone out of my pocket and we exchanged numbers. It took me an extra long time to set hers up and I looked like a technologically-impaired moron, but it was because my contacts were full and I had to decide who to delete to fit Avery in. In the end, it was a no-brainer: Kevin, obviously. What did I need his number

“I’ll call you,” I promised her, taking a step backwards. This was an awkward ending to the night, but it had to be done. Miley, Selena and the other two were waiting for Avery in a crowd, and it was sketching me out.

“Miley said you hated phones,” Avery pointed out.

You know, if there was one thing for which Miley deserved credit, it was that she remembered everything I had ever told her. She knew me almost as well as I knew her, and most of the time she used this to my disadvantage. Nonetheless, at times like these, it was for the best.

“That’s true,” I agreed. “Is it impersonal to text?”

“I’ll accept it,” Avery answered with a smile.

I let out a breath as I replied, “Perfect.” Avery glowed, and it wasn’t until I was half a block away that I figured out why - when I exhaled, it sounded like I was saying ‘ya’. More like ‘hh-ya’, but close enough. When you pieced it together with my last word to Avery, the phrase came out as, “Ya perfect”. Otherwise translated as you’re perfect.

It was nice that she thought I thought so highly of her, but I felt bad that I would eventually have to shred her hopes into millions of little pieces as Rainie declared herself as belonging to me and we skipped off into the sunset, leaving Avery behind.

Still, I did not feel as bad as I did when I kissed Pep. Because this was bearable, I would have to grin and bear it… and so would Avery, unbeknownst to her.

If I have it my way, my children will never be introduced to the ‘grin and bear it’ rule.

Chapter End Notes:
You know what’s awesome? A few days ago, I saw a picture on oceanup of Miley and Justin at the bowling alley, and she was sitting on his lap just how I pictured it when I wrote this scene beforehand. I love when that happens.

Also! Can I just take a moment to tell you about the most intense 24 hours of life. I need to share this with you because I have never been more proud, and in my mind, no one has ever accomplished more in a day… so don’t try to tell me otherwise.

Okay. Friday I wake up at 10:00. Do my readings for my tutorial. Go to my tutorial. Go back home (it’s 12:30). Clean the bathroom. Clean my bedroom. Work out. Shower. Do my laundry. Start my essay which I had been trying to do all week but of course procrastinated until this point. My housemate interrupts me for a chat, so I work extra hard to catch up on the time I missed. I eat dinner at 5:30, in two and a half hours I’ve written five pages which is like a huge deal. My housemates want me to come out for Tequila Night, I tell them no because I have to work on my essay. I confine myself to my room. I’m up to eight pages by 7:00. It’s my turn to clean the kitchen and common room, so I clean. My housemates invite our friends over to play drunk Cranium. Since I’ve been so productive, I decide to play for a while (by the way, my idiot housemate accidentally bought Cranium in FRENCH, so yeah, we played drunken FRENCH Cranium). At 11, I realize I’m a little more tipsy than I planned to be, but I still want to continue writing my essay because I’ve been so productive. My friends encourage me to go out with them. I say no. They tell me to get my coat cuz we’re going. I say okay. I go to the bar, dance and schmooze until 1:45. I still really want to finish my essay. I leave the bar alone and run home without a coat. It’s 2:00. I take another shower to wake myself up. I continue to write my essay and I’m up to 12 pages by 5 am. My essay is finished. I go to bed. I wake up at 9, clean up the mess we made the night before, and wake up my housemates because we’re having tons of people over for brunch. My friends laugh at me because I’m way too high-strung for someone who got 4 hours of sleep and is still partially drunk. They leave at 3 pm. I reread my essay and correct all of my drunken mistakes. It rains outside, I think it’s a good idea, so I go for a walk in the rain. I am soaked. I come back in, take my third shower because I’m dripping wet, watch three episodes of Arrested Development and go to bed.

Then I woke up today and felt the need to share this story with you. I wrote an entire essay in ONE day! AND I cleaned my entire house AND I had a decent night out with friends AND I attended my class AND I exercised. What college student does all of those things in ONE day?! Wow. Also, I’m stoked on life because that was my second last essay of the year. One due next Monday alongside a quiz, and then I’m DONE SCHOOL minus finals in April. WOooo!

In other much more important news, thank you all so much for all the reviews last chapter. My heart is bursting with love for all of you. Bursting! If I haven't replied to your review yet, have no fear! I plan to catch up on everything I missed for the past few days right after I edit my essay!
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