Author’s Note - Bah, this chapter was kicking my ass. ~Dayne (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Chapter 14 – The B-word
I’m in the middle of my early morning errand when I get a text for Cory’s roommate.
hes acting all weird and emo fix it
I briefly wonder what exactly Romero thinks I can do, but I figure I might as well get details.
he wont get out of bed and is skipping class again
how is this any different from your average college freshman
just check on him hes creeping me out
I relent and message Romero that I’m on my way.
* * *
I doze for a bit after my roommates leave for whatever they have going on.
I climbed into bed when I got back from the locker complex yesterday. I couldn’t find the motivation to get back up, so I stayed under my blanket. When Romero asked if I wanted to get dinner, I lied and said I ate already. Pretty much the same thing I told him about lunch earlier.
The sound of the bedroom door closing wakes me back up. For all I know, it’s someone here to steal shit, but I still can’t be bothered to roll over to look. However, it’s Preston’s voice I hear before the covers are lifted and a warm body slips into bed with me. The width of the bed forces him to snuggle against my back, but he puts his arm around me and hugs me closer.
“Hey, big guy.” As if validating my misery, his presence sends another wave of it crashing over me.
“You know you have to get up eventually.”
“Why bother? I’m benched for this week’s game and they have me on modified conditioning.”
“Your shoulders and legs are that bad?”
“No. They just don’t want to risk a worse injury,” I tell him.
“So, have you talked to your guy yet?”
“I ran into him after I saw the trainer. Kept insisting that he wanted to talk, but I begged off.”
“Why’d you do that?”
“Scared of what he’d say.”
“What could he possibly say?”
“I don’t know,” I admit. “That I’m getting too serious for a friends-with-benefits thing.”
“The fact that he wants to talk is a good sign.”
“Or it could just be my wishful thinking.”
Preston seems like he’s about the protest this, but my phone cuts him off.
* * *
Before I can get on Cory’s case for being so goddamn pessimistic, his phone rings from its place on the charger. Efrain’s name appears on the screen. I grab it and swipe to answer the call before he can reject it. Cory glares at me when I pass it to him.
“Hey,” he says and rolls back over. I snuggle back up to his back, mostly so I can hear Efrain’s voice. It’s so deep and rich that I’m pretty sure he could talk me to climax. I’ll have to ask Cory if he’s tried it when he’s done being gloomy.
“Hey, man. I’m sorry I got you benched.”
“S’okay. I at least enjoyed it.”
“Cory, I promise to go easy next time,” he says and Cory smiles a little but says nothing in response.
The silence stretches a little too long, and I’m afraid that they’re not going to fix anything. I’m about to intervene when Efrain speaks up.
“Listen. I really need to talk to you. I know you want some space and all that, but…” he trails off with a frustrated sigh. I hear Cory swallow as if trying to hold something in. Yeah, it’s time for me to step in.
I pull the phone from Cory’s grasp. He protests and tries to take it back, but I roll over and hit the speaker.
“Hey, Efrain, you there?”
“Yeah,” he says warily. “Who’s this?”
“Goddammit, Preston, gimme the fucking phone.”
“Aha, the attack twink.”
“Attack twink? I think I like the sound of that.”
“I got a pissy text from my roommate yesterday afternoon. Thank you, by the way.”
“I still want to kick him.”
“Get in line, my man,” he laughs. “If it makes you feel any better, his best friend slapped him hard enough to bust his lip open.”
“Ooooooh! That does make me feel better!”
“Is Cory still there?”
“He is, but you two are acting like idiots and need fucking help.” Both make equal sounds of indignation. I march on before they can mount a protest. “I agree that you need to talk, but Mr. Man over here is trying to skip class for the second day in a row, which I fully intend to fix.”
“Excuse me?” Cory squawks.
“We’re all going to class, and you’re both going to practice.” Cory starts to object, but I cut him off. “You will go to conditioning, whether you like it or not. Or do you really want to be benched for a second game?”
He exhales slowly. “No.”
“That’s what I thought.” Cory narrows his eyes at me, but says nothing. “Now, as for you two. Efrain, Cory will take you home after practice today. You will talk then.”
“Fair enough,” Efrain responds evenly.
“Alright, now that that’s settled, we need to let you go. Someone’s roommate informed me that he’s been skipping meals, too.”
“Fuck,” Efrain says miserably. “Cory, I…”
“Don’t worry about him, I’ve got the situation in hand. Say ‘see ya,’ guys.” There’s a slight pause before Efrain complies and Cory follows. I hang up the phone.
* * *
“Did you put these here?” I point to the pile of clear plastic cubes sitting in the middle of my desk blotter.
“No, they were there when I got here,” he answers. “What are they anyway?”
“I don’t know.” I pick a couple up and toss one to him. They’re cut to look like ice cubes, but have faces drawn on each of the six sides in what appears to be black permanent marker.
“Kinda interesting,” he says. “They’re all mean faces.” I look at the cubes in my hand. Sure enough, each side has a different type, which is repeated on the six sides of the other cubes.
“Almost like dice,” I say and stack the curious little things in front of my computer monitor.
* * *
I’m pretty miffed at Preston for this morning, but I guess it’s for the best. I suppose the sooner I get this over with, the sooner I can work on getting myself straight.
Efrain means a lot to me, but he’s never indicated that he feels the same way. I’ve been too afraid of ruining what we do have to ask for more. I did a good job of pretending to be okay with our existing arrangement, but the night before last made it harder to hide how I felt. Just sleeping with him isn’t going to be enough. If that means we can’t be together at all, then so be it.
True to Preston’s arrangement, Efrain meets me outside of the locker complex to walk with me to my truck.
“Preston is an interesting guy,” he ventures.
“He is,” I respond.
“You guys seem close.”
We continue our walk in silence until we reach the truck and climb in. I start up the engine and pull out on to the road.
“What are you thinking about?” he asks.
I’m thinking about how ironic it is that our relationship begins and ends with me driving him home from practice, but I can’t exactly tell him this, so I give a noncommittal shrug.
“Hey, Cory, how do you feel about what we’re doing?”
“I can’t really say.”
“I suppose not,” he says with a sigh. He’s silent for a bit, and I assume he’s letting the whole matter go. But, then he speaks again. “We’re not going to get anywhere unless one of us drops the poker face.”
“I’m too chicken-shit to say anything, and you’re too chicken-shit to say anything, so nobody says anything, and we’re stuck with nothing. Right?” He seems to take my silence as agreement and presses forward. “Dude, I’ve been after you for a long time. This is the first time I’ve been in this situation, but I’m pretty sure that gives me the right to give a damn about you.”
“I never said you weren’t allowed to care,” I say. “But, I didn’t want to force you.”
“You’re not forcing me.” He rests his elbow on his side of the center console and his fingers brush against my hand. When I don’t move away, he lays his hand on top of mine. “Indie said some really shitty things that I wish you hadn’t heard. If it means anything, I don’t think those things about you.”
His words mean a lot, but I can’t find the right things to say in response. Instead, I turn my hand palm up and our fingers lace together. He squeezes my hand. I steal a quick glance at him and he smiles. We don’t let go of each other until I pull into his driveway.
“Mind coming in with me to continue this?”
“Not at all.” I smile, I mean really smile, for the first time in two days.
Once on the other side of the door, Efrain pulls me into his arms. He and I hold each other in the foyer.
“You know, there’s one thing that Indie said that I liked.” He says after a while. My whole body goes cold and I pull away. Efrain takes my face in his hands and kisses me gently. “Boyfriend.”
“He called you my boyfriend.” He kisses me again and I melt.
“I gotta say, I rather like the sound of that,” I say and kiss him back. His arms come up around my waist and the gentle kissing gives way to something more intense and need-filled.
“If I’d known it would make you this deliriously happy,” Efrain says when we finally come up for air. “I would have called you the b-word sooner.”
“You mean bitch?” I joke as my mouth moves down to the sensitive spot just below his jaw. “Preston calls me bitch all the time and it doesn’t make me happy.”
“I meant boyfriend.”
“I know.” My low voice breathes across his ear and a hum of pleasure rises from his chest. “I just wanted to make you say it again.”
“I’ll say it as much as you want,” he tells me. “Fuck, I know it’s only been two days, but I missed you.”
“I missed you, too.”
“So, how ‘bout we go make up for missed time?”
* * *
they made up. u can prob go home w/o getting ur ass kicked
I get Laurel’s text just as I’m about to enter the office. I’m not really happy about the development, but I guess if it smooths things over with Efrain, then whatever.
As I approach my desk, there’s another offering left on the desk blotter. This time, it’s a small goofy looking snowman with buckteeth and some twigs coming out the top of his head like hair.
I’m still trying to puzzle out what this thing is when Mike comes in.
“Olaf! I fucking love Olaf!”
“Is that what this is?”
“Didn’t you see Frozen?”
“I avoid Disney movies on principle.”
“God, you’re no fun,” he complains.
I put “Olaf,” or whoever the fuck he is, next to my pile of angry ice cubes.
“I’m plenty of fun.”