Rush – Chapter 3
The other guys we were with all seemed pretty cool and chill. They didn't mind me tagging along, although all of them were kinda surprised that Russell invited me; I don't know why. We got to the karaoke place, and while the others were at the counter waiting for a room to be assigned to us, Kristel hooked her left arm to my right and tugged.
“Join me outside for a light?”
“Uh, sorry I don't smoke...”
“You don't have to. I just want some company.”
“Okay, sure.” So we went outside. We were both silent for a while, enjoying the cool night breeze, watching the traffic go by.
“I didn't figure you for a smoker.”
“I'll take that as a compliment,” she smiled, and took a drag. “I'm not a chain smoker or anything, I just smoke once in a while, usually when I'm drinking, stressed, or happy. I'm really glad Russell invited you.”
“Yeah, I figured I might as well practice socializing with strangers for the summer outing...”
“All right! You're coming then. We'll have so much fun.”
“Yup, I hope so. I'm glad Russell invited me too. I don't mind meeting new people, I guess I'm just a really shy person at first, but I warm up to anyone who's smart or cool.”
“You do know that he likes you right?”
My heart skipped. What do I say to that? I didn't even say that I'm gay, and I'm really not out to many people. But I guess my silence said it all.
“It's okay, you don't have to say anything. It's really cute though, Chi was telling everyone how Russell was flirting with you when they were setting up your computer. He was blushing really hard, like, his face was really dark red, I thought he was gonna have a heart attack. But he never denied it.”
I'm pretty sure I was blushing really hard as well. “Well... I don't know what he saw in me. I'm pretty average.” I guess I haven't really described myself to you, aside that I'm 27 years old and 5'8”. My body is what you might say lean. I work out at home, you know, push ups here, sit ups there. I want to go to the gym but I don't wanna go alone, so I just exercise at home. While my pecs are starting to have definition and form, my abs are flat. No six pack, but flat. I'm working on it. I'm a bit on the hairy side. I have an average patch of hair on my chest, light dusting of hair on my arms and legs, but my pubes are really wild, so I trim them once in a while. I tried shaving it once, but when it grew back it was so itchy, I never did it again. I admit, I was cute when I was in grade school, but like 99% of kids are cute during that age, so...
“You're cute you know, don't sell yourself too short. Plus Russell likes guys who's taller than him. I have to tell you something though...”
I got nervous because she suddenly looked serious. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to continue, because Russell came out of the door.
“Hey guys, we got a room. Let the singing begin!” He seemed pretty happy, it was infectious.
“I'll tell you later,” she whispered to me. I just nodded.
“What are you guys talking about?”
“Oh nothing, just getting to know each other.” Kristel smiled at me, hooked her arms to both of us, and then we went inside.
When we got in, everyone was already seated, one of the guys already has a death grip on the microphone, and scrolling through the song book. The others were telling their orders to the waiter.
“I'll have a light beer please.” I said.
“I'll have the same,” Russell and Kristel said at the same time.
“First round of drink's on me, as a thank you for adopting me.” I said to everyone. They hooted and cheered to that. “Welcome to Acquire,” they all said, and we all clinked beer bottles.
It was a pretty chill moment. I can't believe I was enjoying myself among strangers, even if I was just listening to them singing.
“Aren't you gonna sing?” I asked Russell after a while. This one guy we were with was singing Total Eclipse of the Heart with Kristel.
“Nah, I actually don't sing either. I just wanted to be with these guys.”
“Thanks again for inviting me.” I smiled at him. I was pretty light-headed at this point, I think I've had 3 bottles.
Chi must have been listening in on us (Chi was to my left, Russell to my right. Kristel finished singing and sat on Russell's right), because he suddenly talked to us.
“You know Albert, Russell doesn't usually invite anyone to our mini gatherings.”
“Shut up Chi!”
“Actually, let me rephrase that. Russell has NEVER invited anyone to our mini gatherings.” He really emphasized the never.
“Oh my God.” Russell covered his face with his hands. He seemed to be blushing again, or it could be the beer.
“What? It's true. He gets embarrassed easily.”
“I wouldn't be embarrassed if you don't embarrass me!”
“C'mon man, you're like a little brother to me. That's what brothers do.” I learned later on that Chi was my age, and Russell was 22. He then mussed Russell's hair.
“Albert, sing one song with me, please?” Kristel looked at me with doe eyes.
“No really, I don't sing. I have a horrible voice.”
“No you don't! C'mon just one song. I'll even let you pick the song.” I really didn't want to sing. But I guess the beers helped me loosen up a bit.
“Ugh, fine, let me check what they have here...” I browsed through the song book, looking for songs that I know. Fortunately they have some Glee songs. Yeah, I used to be a Gleek. I really liked season 1 and 2, but it was all downhill from there, but I still make it a point to watch because they still have pretty good renditions of different songs.
“Oh, here's one. How about Give Your Heart A Break?” I asked Kristel.
“Oh my God I love that song! Awesome choice!” She high-fived me. I was still nervous but pretty excited as well. Russell looked sad though. The other guys handed us the mics. I didn't want to stand up so we remained seated, Russell still between me and Kristel.
The day I first met you
You told me you'd never fall in love
But now that I get you
I know fear is what it really was
Now here we are, so close
Yet so far, haven't I passed the test?
When will you realize
Baby, I'm not like the rest
Kristel and I were looking at each other occasionally, but I can see Russell as well. He was just looking at the TV screen, and seemed to be in deep thought.
Don't wanna break your heart
Wanna give your heart a break
I know you're scared it's wrong
Like you might make a mistake
There's just one life to live
And there's no time to wait, to wait
So let me give your heart a break
Give your heart a break
Let me give your heart a break
Your heart a break
Oh, yeah yeah
We were pretty into the song now. I'm feeling happy from the beer, and Kristel is such a nice person. Not to mention that Russell was sitting beside me. I felt like I was singing to him. I wanted to kiss him so bad.
On Sunday, you went home alone
There were tears in your eyes
I called your cell phone, my love
But you did not reply
The world is ours, if you want it
We can take it, if you just take my hand
There's no turning back now
Baby, try to understand
Suddenly, Russell stood up and left the room. I was about to stand up to go after him, but Kristel stopped me.
“I'll go after him. Stay here.”
I felt pretty bad, although I didn't know what was happening. We were just singing.
“Look Albert, there are some things you have to know about Russell,” Chi told me, and he looked serious as well. He looks really wasted.
“What about him?”
“He'll probably kill me for telling you this, but when he was in college, his first boyfriend was a total jerk to him.” Well, I guess there's no more question about Russell's sexuality. I was too nervous to be happy about this revelation though. “He told us that they were pretty happy at first, but he was afraid of having sex with a guy, so mostly they just made out. I guess it wasn't enough for his boyfriend later on, because he almost raped Russell.”
“I know. We were pretty shook up when he told us that. I mean, Russell's the kindest, most gentle person I know. I can't imagine anyone doing that to him.”
“What happened next?”
“I think he punched the guy or pushed him, and somehow the guy 'woke up' as if he was in a trance. He wasn't even drunk. The guy apologized but Russell was really traumatized by that event. He ended it right then, and he never had a boyfriend ever since. I guess the song you guys were singing brought back those memories.”
“Fuck. Who knows about this? Does Kristel know?”
“Yeah she does. He was pretty open about it to us. Sometime ago, we were asking him if he was dating any girl. That's when he came out to us. So then we asked, 'are you dating any guy then?' and that's when he told us about the jerk.”
I remained silent, internalizing everything that Chi has been telling me. “Look Albert, I know that he likes you. And I think you like him too. I only saw you two for like 5 minutes during that time we moved you to 33, but he never smiled that much before. And I guess I have no right to judge you or speak for you, but you seemed pretty happy that time too. You even stuttered a bit when I first introduced you guys, remember? He told us that he's moved on from what happened to him, but you know, it's like glass when it breaks. You can put it together with glue and stuff, but the cracks will always be there, no matter how small the crack.”
My heart ached for Russell. Now that I know some of his history, I want to take care of him even more now.
“I don't really know you that much, but please, if you'll go after him, please be nice to him okay? He's our little brother, and we don't want to see him unhappy.”
I couldn't speak. I think I would have cried have I not been drunk. So I just nodded.
“Should I look for them?” I asked Chi.
“Go ahead, we'll stay here.”
That's when I remembered that there were other people. Everyone was listening to our conversation. They all looked really sad. I guess they all know what happened to Russell.
I got up and went outside, not really sure where to look for them. I was just walking around, and that's when I saw them through the window, where Kristel and I were earlier.
“Hey guys,” I greeted them. Russell's eyes were red, as if he just finished crying. What surprised me though was that he was smoking. Kristel whispered something to Russell, and he nodded. Then she approached me.
“Hey, uhm, I think you guys need to talk. I'll go back inside.” I just nodded. I felt pretty nervous, because to be honest, I don't know what I should talk about with him. Should I tell him that Chi told me his past? I put my hands inside my pockets then approached him.
“Hey, are you okay? I didn't mean to...” I started, but he interrupted me.
“It's not your fault, really. Just remembered some bad memories.”
“Will you be okay?”
“You guys surprise me with your smoking.”
“Ha. Yeah, Kristel told me. I don't smoke as much as her, and even then she doesn't smoke that much. Just a stress reliever I guess...”
“It's cool...” Not really, I don't like smoking, nor smokers, nor second-hand smoke. Maybe I can convince him to stop totally someday.
“Uhm, do you wanna go back inside? It's getting pretty cold out here.” It was almost midnight. We've been here for almost 6 hours now. Thank God it's a Friday.
“Actually I might go home now, I'm pretty tired.” My face fell a bit, but yeah, I was tired too.
“Where do you live? Do you want me to go with you?” I asked.
“That's nice, but I actually live pretty close here, just a few minutes walk.”
“Well then all the more reason for me to go with you, if you don't mind.”
“How will you get home?” He looked at me, and he looked really concerned.
“I'll just grab a taxi.”
“Are you sure
“Yeah totally, don't worry about me.”
“Okay then. Let's go inside and grab our stuff.” He smiled at me, although it wasn't as bright as I was used to. I wanted to punch that jerk that did this to him.
We went back inside and said our goodbyes to everyone. I thanked them again for having me. Chi gave me a look that said, remember what we talked about. I gave him a curt nod.
And then we strolled into the night.
Okay, I cheated a bit by padding my story with a song lyric, so sue me! Hahaha. Anyway, I hope this is long enough for you guys. Plus I wrote two chapters in one day! Don't be greedy! I love hearing from readers! Let me know what you think by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to donate to Nifty!