People milled about, finding seats and putting baggage into the overhead compartments.  Ethan felt a tug on his sleeve.

            “Dude, have you got a second?”  Alex asked him in a soft voice.

            “Sure, what’s up?”

            Alexander Rothrock looked from side to side, and then nodded to indicate Ethan should walk further down the aisle, away from their friends.

            “Excuse me… pardon me… sorry, sorry… excuse me, sorry about that… oops, pardon me…”  Ethan navigated through the other passengers gingerly, as if trying to avoid touching anyone.  Eventually, he and Alex were standing by the bathroom door, out of the way of everyone else.

            “So, what’s up?” Ethan asked again.

            Alex blushed and shrugged his shoulders.  “I have something to ask you.  And it’s not about the Mile High Club.”  He nodded towards the door.

            “What?”  Ethan glanced at the door and then back at his friend.  “I don’t get it.”

            “Never mind, bad joke.  I just meant that I have something to ask you, but it’s nothing weird.  Well, it’s a little weird.  I mean, I can’t believe I’m going to ask…”

            “Slow down, Alex.” 

            “Sorry.  I guess I’m rambling.  Anyway, I wanted to ask you about Genevieve.”

            “Are you finally going to ask her out?” Ethan said frankly.

            “Whoa!”  Alex’s blush deepened.  “I mean, don’t just blurt that out like that!  But yes, I was going to ask you if it would be okay.  It’s weird, because we’ve been friends forever, and she’s your sister, but yeah, I want to know if it’s okay.”

            Ethan appraised him carefully, not speaking for a moment.

            “Why now?”

            “What do you mean?”

            “You had a crush on her through most of high school.  You dated other people, and so did she, but there was plenty of opportunity.  Why now?”

            “You knew about that?”  Alex spluttered.

            “Of course I knew.  I know everything.  There’s a reason I’m the quiet one of the group, I get to hear and see everything.”

            “I guess.  I didn’t realize you were that observant.”

            “That’s the other thing about being the quiet one, Alex.  I keep secrets really well.  You don’t have to worry about anyone finding out.  When you’re ready, feel free to talk to Evie.  It would be great to have one of my best friends dating my sister.  Better you than some random jerk.  I appreciate you asking.”

            “Right, thanks.  Wow.”  Alex took a deep breath.  “That wasn’t so bad.”

            “You still didn’t answer me.  Why now?”

            “Oh.  That’s stupid.  I feel like a kid saying this.  I noticed that Eve had a crush on Neal, like back when we were in the eleventh grade and she was in tenth.  Just the way she would look at him sometimes.  I didn’t want to be second prize, since he didn’t notice her at all.  Now, we’re all adults, we go to different schools, all that stuff is behind us.”

            “It’s not a competition anymore.”

            “Well, more like I can compete on my own terms.  I’m the captain of my school’s hockey team, I get good grades, I’m not in Neal’s shadow.  Maybe she’ll see me for me.”

            Ethan paused for a moment again.

            “I hope it works out for the best.”

Main Storyline