Chapter 15:

Small Talk


Seventh period, Rayner and his friends picked their seats together in the back of the classroom. Ken and Ari picked out the two seats in the back left corner of the room. Following suit, Rayner sat in front of Ari while Blake sat in front of Ken.

As the four students relaxed in their seats and began to chat, casually, Rebecca walked over to the desk in front of Rayner and planted her hand on his desk. She had a small piece of paper folded in her hand as she did this.

Rayner turned to face Rebecca and asked, "Hey, what is it?" His tone was relaxed, which was a first when speaking with Rebecca. Ever since he learned about her shyness, Rayner’s been comfortable around her. "Do you need something, Rebecca?"

"You forgot something in our last class together," Rebecca replied, sliding the folded piece of paper to him.

"I don't know what this is," Rayner admitted, baffled as to what was on the paper.

"It's yours, so just take it!" Rebecca sounded irritable as she spoke with Rayner. Despite this, she eagerly sat down in the seat in front of his. She said nothing more however, and left Rayner to mingle with his friends yet again.

"Yikes," Ken groaned. "Ice Queen in the building..."

"It's fine," stated Rayner. "Rebecca’s not as scary as everyone believes."

Ken shrugged. "Well, if you're saying that then I'll take your word for it." He remained skeptical despite his words.

Rayner then unfolded the paper that Rebecca handed him to see what it was. His eyes widened as he discovered that Rebecca had written her phone number on the paper with a note asking Rayner to save it for her.

Rayner then looked up at Rebecca, although it was just her back, and said, "Thank you, Rebecca. It means a lot that you gave-I mean... returned this to me." He tried to go along with Rebecca’s story and not seem suspicious. She wanted Rayner to save her number discreetly and he respected her wish. He tucked the paper inside of his pocket and pulled out his phone. As he did, he put in Rebecca’s number and sent her a text to let her know that he saved her number.

Suddenly, Ken excitedly said to Rayner, "Yo, let's exchange numbers!"

Startled, Rayner turned around to face Ken and went, "Huh? I'm not doing anything..." He freaked out and thought that Ken saw him saving Rebecca’s number. Realizing that he misunderstood as Ken shot back at a puzzled expression, he blushed. Rayner then bowed his head in apology. "I'm sorry. I misheard you."

"It's cool, dude. Thats another unneeded apology." Ken pulled out his phone and continued. "What's your number, Rayner? I'll save it right now."

Rayner waited as he saw Ari pulling her phone out to do the same thing as Ken. He then told them both his phone number and felt a warm feeling in his chest as he realized that he just exchanged his phone number with three of his friends that day.

I have a lot of my friend's phone numbers now, thought Rayner. Rebecca is my friend, right? I still have some doubts on my relationship with her... No, I shouldn't think like that. Things have been going well in life lately, so I should try to be optimistic. He then glanced at Blake briefly. I'll try to be more like Blake... in a select amount of ways. He thought of Blake's playful nature and of how often she teases him. That was an aspect of her personality that he did not want to emulate.

Blake noticed Rayner staring at her and looked back at him with a smug smile. "Can't keep your eyes off me?" Blake asked, jokingly.

Rayner quickly averted his gaze and looked off to the side. "That's not it..." he declared in a flustered response. "I was just uh..." He couldn't find the words to explain himself.

"It's okay " Blake assured. "I don't mind if you do, Rayner." She then smiled at him with her usual playful demeanor. "I grant you a free pass."

"Thanks," Rayner said in jest, following up with Blake's joke. "Is it a one time use or can I use it multiple times?"

After a moment of pondering, Blake replied with, "Multiple. It's a lifelong pass but it's only valid if I'm in a modest disposition." She giggled to herself.

Rayner let out a slight chuckle as well. Although it was mainly just to hide his embarrassment. 

Ken and Ari smiled at each other after witnessing Rayner’s response to Blake's teasing.

"So he does understand jokes," commented Ari. Her face looked relieved by that fact.

"Yeah," confirmed Ken. "We were worried about that, not gonna lie." He had on a very wide smile as he spoke.

Rayner looked back at his friends, puzzled. He then realized that this was one of few times where Rayner had acknowledged Blake's teasing and made a playful rebuttal. But he couldn't blame Ken and Ari for thinking what they did about him. 

"They have a point, Raynie," claimed Blake. "You normally go silent whenever I tease you. But it seems that you've changed every since our lovely weekend together." Blake winked to get a rise out of Rayner. What she said was indeed true, but she said it implying that something intimate had happened between them.

Not only did she get a reaction out of Rayner, but she had seemed to get all sorts of reactions from the entire group. Rayner had blushed immensely at her wording. Ken looked at Rayner with a satisfied look, approving of his romantic day with Blake. Ari looked at Blake, dying to know more about their weekend together. Rayner even noted that Rebecca seemed to have been taken aback after hearing Blake's statement. She ended up coughing in her seat and slammed a hand against a book on her desk. She must have been shocked but Rayner wasn't sure of her exact reaction since her back was still turned.

Instantly, both Ken and Ari shouted, "Tell us everything that happened!" Their eyes glowed with curious amazement.

Rayner even checked his phone as he saw that Rebecca had sent him a text message reading, "Explain..."

Rayner turned to Blake with a mortified expression and screamed, "Blake, you can't just say that and then wink at me so... flirtatiously!"

Rayner blushed even more as Mr. Brian had asked Rayner to please quiet down as he spoke louder than he meant to. Rayner apologized and then looked back at Blake.

Blake silently and smugly smiled back at Rayner as she loved seeing his flustered face time and time again.

Interrupting Blake's bliss, a voice called out to her from two rows down.

"Is Kingsman giving you trouble, Blake?" As Blake turned to the source of the voice, she saw that it was Will speaking to her.

"No, he's fine," Blake replied with a genuine smile. She then looked at two other students that sat near Will. To his right was Paula and behind him was Miranda. She noticed that Paula was trying to pull Will’s attention away. Blake focused on listening to what Paula was saying because she was curious as to what kind of topics they would discuss. 

"Come now, Will," Paula said. Her voice sounded peculiar, Blake thought. It sounded loving in a way, but also somehow commanding with a hint of belittlement. "Pay no mind to her right now. We were discussing more important matters, weren't we?"

Will paused, as he was staring at Blake  until finally letting out a sigh. Slowly, he turned his head and returned his attention to Paula.

As Blake was focusing on Will at that moment, she also had an eye on Miranda. Miranda had been leaning back in her chair, cross armed the whole time. Blake couldn't tell if she was part of the conversation with the classmates in front of her as she didn't seem to react to their conversation. However as Will began to speak with Paula again, Miranda leaned forward to join in their conversation. Blake decided not to eavesdrop any further and returned her attention to her friends to her left side.

Blake turned back to Rayner and said, "Got you good this time." Her face was as playful as ever. "You even interrupted class today." She giggled, leaving Rayner to his embarrassment.

"Teasing Rayner comes so naturally to you, doesn't it?" Ari asked.

"Well I mean..." Blake paused to think of what to say. She looked up at the ceiling with a finger to her chin as she pondered to herself. As she found her response, she smiled back at Ari, excitedly and said, "He just makes it so easy, you know?"

"Oof." Ari looked back at Rayner, apologetically. "You gotta stop walking into her traps, Rayner. I feel for you though, man."

Blake turned to Rayner as well and said, "Maybe you will stop falling for my tricks one day, Raynie. But until then, you're at my mercy."

Rayner looked back at Blake with a distraught look in his eyes. "I wish I could read your mind," he sighed. "Cause at least then I'd be able to know when you weren't being serious. And you wouldn't be able to tease me so easily anymore."

"Read my mind?" Blake questioned, repeating after Rayner. "Well... that would be interesting," she commented. "I've read stories about people who are so close together that they know each other's thoughts like the back of their hands. It's an interesting concept that's mostly depicted in works of fiction and other forms of media. However, I do believe that it is possible to know the thoughts of your significant other or even a close friend or family member in real life as well. Though mostly in short burts, and often in response to an extreme incident. But I doubt that someone could read another person's mind at all times."

Blake continued to prattle on about this topic for some time, voicing her theories aloud in front of her friends. Her words eventually began to fly over everyone's head one after another. First Ken and Ari had stopped paying attention. Rayner continued to listen to Blake until he noticed a text from Rebecca, asking him what Blake was going on about. Rayner texted her that Blake was just rambling to herself and to ignore her for now. He decided to take his own advice and turned back around to the other two. 

"I don't know how much longer she's going to prattle on for," stated Rayner. "Let's change topics and let her rejoin us in a bit."

"Sounds good," agreed Ari.

"I've got something I want to talk about," declared Ken. Both Rayner and Ari let him have the spotlight and waited for him to continue. To which he then suddenly pointed a finger at Rayner. "You," he said, abruptly. 

Rayner looked back at Ken, perplexed. "M-me?" He had wondered if he had done something that offended Ken somehow.

Ken pulled his finger back towards his face and continued. "Yes, you. As of late, I've realized that I value my friendship with you almost as much as I do with Ari. For that reason, I shall not delay granting you a nickname that I shall forever call you by."

Rayner relaxed, realizing that despite Ken's grandeur acting, he was only being dramatic jokingly. "Is that all? You startled me for a minute there. I don't really mind what you call me, Ken. Just Rayner is fine by me."

Ken shook his head. "No, I decided that I would give all of my closest friends nicknames. It just won't do if I make an exception for you."

"If that's what you wish..." Rayner gave in, seeing that Ken wouldn't relent. "Blake's taken a liking to calling me Raynie. She started using it after hearing my mom call me that."

"That's cute," commented Ari. "I like that."

"I'm not looking for cute," argued Ken. "I don't look at Rayner and think cute. He's a behemoth and any name I call him by should imply the same."

"You're pondering this matter quite thoroughly," Rayner voiced.

Ken didn't respond. Instead, he kept thinking aloud about what he should call Rayner. "I could keep it simple and call you Ray, but that just feels like it's missing some oomph to it."

Ari patted Rayner’s arm from behind him and said, "Looks like Ken's the one lost in his own thoughts now."

Rayner let out a slight chuckle. "It would appear so." He smiled as he looked at both Blake and Ken rambling to themselves.

As Rayner and Ari were waiting for Ken to come up with Rayner’s nickname, they heard Blake call out to them. "Hey," she started to ask, "what's going on with Ken?"

"He's using whatever brain power he has in him to come up with a nickname for Rayner," replied Ari.

Blake's eyes lit up as her face showed an expression of curiosity and excitement. "Ooh, I can't wait to hear what he comes up with."

"Right," agreed Rayner, feeling somewhat nervous about this situation.

"Rayner Kingsman," Ken said, aloud once more. "Kingsman. King. What does a king do? A king rules with power. Or rather, reigns supreme." Ken glanced back at Rayner and his face glowed as he found the perfect nickname. "That's it!" Ken exclaimed. "From this day forward, I shall call you Rayn."

Ari smiled at Ken and then looked back at Rayner. "I couldn't have thought of anything better," she commented. "I will also call you Rayn from now on. Fits you perfectly. "

Rayner got another text from Rebecca reading, "It's not bad. For something that Kenneth came up with. I think I'll use it too. It will be a faster way to refer to you."

Rayner couldn't help but blush over this, even after admitting to himself that it wasn't such a big deal.

Blake noticed Rayner’s elation and said, "Good for you, Raynie. You must feel more connected to Ari and Ken now."

"Actually, I do," Rayner claimed. "You don't want to use the same nickname as them, Blake?"

"No," Blake replied, in a genuine tone. "Raynie feels more endearing in my opinion."

Rayner let out a small laugh. "Call me whatever you like. I don't mind what you call me as long as I get to spend time with you." He turned to face Blake, Ken, and Ari altogether. "I think I've been without friends for too long. So maybe... if you guys don't mind, I'd like it if you kept inviting me to see you every now and then." He even texted Rebecca and let her know that she can message him anytime she wants.

"Did you think that we planned otherwise?" Ari asked, smugly.

"You finally let us get ahold of you," commented Ken. "And now that you're im our clutches, we're not letting go of you anytime soon. You're going to start seeing us so much that you'll get sick of us."

"I doubt it will come to that," stated Rayner.

Ken and Ari smirked at one another after hearing Rayner's statement. Blake flashed a wide grin at Rayner, making him feel somewhat awkward. Rayner asked Ken and Ari if they had anything else they wanted to talk about to try and change the topic of their conversations about himself to something else. Rayner enjoyed class that day, surrounded by his closest friends. They all shared joy and laughter for the remainder of the period.