I can feel the tension between Brando and Nick. I bet everyone in the airport can feel a drop in the atmosphere as the two of them make eye contact. I don’t know the full story between them so I’m not going to jump straight into hating Nick just because Brando doesn’t like him. I can make my own judgments.
He’s handsome. His hair is cut short so that his tidy stubble blends in with his sideburns. He doesn’t have a line on his forehead or dark circles under his eyes. He scratches the side of his mouth and his hands look smooth. It makes me wonder if he’s ever worked a day in his life – there are no signs of stress or hardship. I would have thought he was a Ken doll with black hair if I didn’t know any better.
Nick is how I would picture a model after photoshop has smoothed out the flaws, while Brando seems to wear his shamelessly. Don’t get me wrong, Brando is extremely handsome himself, he’s just the opposite to the man standing before me. I could never have seen them as friends to begin with as Nick seems too… proper. He’s who I would have picked as a close friend judging on looks alone, not Brando.
But I met Brando first and there’s something so much more appealing about him. While I’m sure Nick and I would have been great friends, I can imagine we would be too much alike that our egos would clash. One of us would have to be the best. I don’t think Brando thinks like that. He doesn’t look at someone and think he needs to be better than them. That must be freeing.
I hold my hand out and Nick takes it. He shakes it firmly and grabs a little too tight. Our eyes remain connected throughout the handshake. It’s just a handshake but I learned from my father that a handshake can mean so much more. What Nick just did was assert his dominance. Before he can let go, I shake back a little harder, then slip my hand away from his, our eyes still firmly on one another.
‘Daxten, unusual name,’ Nick says with a false smile. He isn’t interested in getting to know me, I can tell by the way he’s trying to stop himself from looking at Brando. He stands on his tip-toes and moves his head robotically. ‘Your father must have been feeling a little creative when he named you. Not something I’d call my son. My dog, maybe…’
‘My mom gave me my name and I’m glad she did,’ I reply. I don’t appreciate the back-handed comment.
‘I like it too,’ Brando says, ‘much better than Dick… Nick, sorry. Nick.’ He says his name harshly with an emphasis on the ‘ick’ part. He looks up at me and gives me a knowing look. I suppress a laugh and I smile back.
I need to make a comeback. ‘My father doesn’t care about names, but he does care about character, what we do with our names. I’m sure your name isn’t a reflection of your character, Nick.’
Brando snorts. ‘Oh, it is.’
Nick laughs. He can force his mouth to laugh but he can’t conceal the temper rising in his eyes. He will have to do better than that.
‘I guess you’re right, Daxten. Names are not what we should be focusing on. I do believe we have to prove our character… prove ourselves with our actions to cement our place in this world. Fight for what we want, what we deserve.’
‘How Napoleon of you.’
The woman’s voice on the announcement system stops Nick from replying. ‘Call for Flight 143, we are now boarding first class passengers. First class passengers only at this time please.’
I look down at my passport and ticket.
‘Ah, she’s calling your name,’ Nick says once his eyes spot my ticket. There’s glee in his voice. I look to the gate and see barely anyone in the line. ‘You should probably run before they start boarding the rest of us.’