Three Roads Chapter 62: G.Y.R.A.D.
* So this chapter includes two people I had the great pleasure of meeting in Australia. I'm poking fun at them here, but it's all out of love J
Paul Zamora looked out of the window of his office enjoying the bright Sunny day that hadn't been seen in almost a week in Sunnydale. There were other things he was enjoying this time of year. For one, he had yet to assign any papers, so his office time was mostly spent waiting for students to come by and chat and ask the few questions they might have had. His office, being on the ground floor of the Psychology building, made it a prime spot for scoping out students as they walked to and from class. For the past three summers, that had been the motivating reason why Dr. Paul Zamora had agreed to teach summer school, that and the fact that the hotter weather gave students the chance to show off more skin.
He felt like he was being watched and he quickly turned around to his office door to see a student that he immediately recognized staring back at him, "Brian, what brings you by?"
"You know my name?"
"I know all of my student's names. Have a seat."
"Thanks...um," Brian laughed the all too familiar laugh he gave when he was uncomfortable. Dr. Zamora was looking at him waiting to hear what he had to say, but Brian still could not get over how good looking he was, "I just came by to say sorry I was late the first day of class."
The professor laughed, in part to break the tension, but also because he knew it was more than that, he'd been down this road before, "Don't worry about it. It's all forgotten."
"Good, I hate starting off on the wrong foot."
"You're not a Psychology major are you?"
"So you're just taking my class for fun?"
"Yeah, I've always been interested in psychology, and I had a free space in my schedule so I thought I'd take an intro class."
"Is that ok?"
"Of course," the professor nodded, "I welcome all students. Since you're not a psychology major, feel free to stop by anytime if you need any additional help...or even just to chat."
Brian smiled, "Will do. I have to go...got a match today in about an hour."
"I play a little tennis."
"Are you any good?"
"I am for an old guy."
"You're not old, old is like sixty...you're not sixty are you?"
"Do I look sixty to you?"
"Good, cause I'm only thirty seven."
"Not bad...we should play some time."
"You'd probably kick my ass."
Paul laughed, "Now I can't back down. You're on."
"Ok," Brian smiled, "I really have to go now."
"Good luck with your match and, really, stop by anytime."
"How many people do we have on the list for the G.Y.R.A.D.?" Richard asked leaning over Joey, who was typing on the computer.
"The list how many people are on the list?"
"I don't know...it's hard for me to think when I can smell your cologne. It smells good." Joey said.
"You're such a horn dog."
Joey shrugged, "What can you do?"
Bliss looked confused, "What's a...what did you say?"
"A G.Y.R.A.D. It stands for get your roommate a date. Except we're doing it queer style...and it doesn't have to be your roommate."
"Oh my God, that sounds like so much fun!"
"Haven't you seen the flyers around campus?" Richard asked
"You hung up the fliers right?"
"Yes," Joey rolled his eyes, "because I'm a slave to you and this institution."
"Nobody looks at the fliers anyway." Bliss said dismissively.
"Bullshit," Richard countered, "then why does your sorority hang up fliers and posters for all their events?"
"Because the nerds read them. And we really just want as many guys there as possible so all the girls can get free drinks. Don't worry, I'll put the word out for ya."
"Right...damn only seven people have signed up." Richard said disappointed, "and three of them came in together. Why aren't you on this list?"
Joey scoffed, "Um, because I am not a single man."
"You and Chase have made it official?" Bliss said giggling.
"No, but it's the principle of the matter. I am actively dating someone, so I am off the market. Why don't you put yourself on there, you are single."
Richard glared at his co worker, "You took way too much enjoyment in saying that."
"The truth hurts."
"Don't worry. I'll find you some single queers to participate." Bliss smiled confidently.
"Let's hope so or I might have to put myself in."
"Right..."Bliss said thinking of an idea, but keeping it to herself for now, "I'm sure it'll work out."
"God!" Toby yelled as he hit his thigh with his hand, his extreme annoyance showed clearly on his face. He took a few extra seconds between points before getting in the ready position to receive serve. He thought about chucking his racquet as another service return went into the net. He looked at his coach and put his hands up in the air.
"You're going to lose." He mumbled to himself as he picked up a few balls scattered around the court. And that's exactly what happened ten minutes later. He forced a smile and, like always said, "Good match." to his opponent before plopping down on the bench.
Coach Williams had moved on to watch Kyle and his partner compete in the doubles, and Brian was currently on court, so Toby was left by himself, which made him grateful. He was tempted to pack his belongings and go shower and leave the team to their own devices, but he knew the coach would rip him a new one if he did that.
"That doesn't look like the face of a winner!"
Toby turned around to see Bliss smiling from behind the fence and he didn't know if seeing her was a good or bad thing, "That's cause this is the second time in a row I`ve lost."
"That sucks. But there's nothing like a pint of ice cream to make all the pain go away. We should go."
Toby smiled, "I can't leave until everybody's finished and that'll probably not be for at least another hour or so."
"I can go find something to do on campus till then."
"Alright, I guess."
"Yay! Is it cool if I ask Brian to come with us too?"
"Ok, and by the time I come back here, I want that frown turned upside down."
An hour and a half later, after having showered and changed, Toby was ready to let go of his loss as he walked into the ice cream parlor with Bliss and Brian.
"I want the biggest fucking cup of ice cream they have." Toby said.
"So do I, but I say that all the time." Bliss smiled.
"Hey stranger!" Toby smiled, reaching over the counter to give Tim a hug.
"I know, it's been a few weeks. How are you?"
"Eh, I lost a tennis match, so I came to eat away the depression."
Brian stepped from behind Toby, "I won, so I'll buy."
"Do I know you?" Brian said jokingly.
"I know I know. It's been forever, but really I forgot we were friends."
"You know what, so did I."
After serving the ice cream and asking Jon, as nicely as he could if he could take a break, Tim joined his three friends at the table, "So what's new?"
"Nothing, I just thought it'd be nice to get some ice cream despite it being the middle of February." Bliss said.
Brian nodded, "Ice cream is good any time of year."
Toby pointed his spoon at Tim, "So loverboy what are you doing for Valentine's Day?"
"Working. I'd be alone otherwise so I figured I might as well be dateless and have no one to love and get paid for it."
Bliss waved her hand dismissively, "Oh stop it, you're a hottie. Valentine's day is two days from now. That's plenty of time to find someone."
"Who's yours?" Toby asked her.
"That doesn't count."
"Why not?! Your Valentine's doesn't have to be someone you're in love with, just someone you love."
"Bullshit." Toby said, "anything else is lame."
"Luckily you won't be alone on Valentine's." Bliss smiled.
"You're dating someone and you didn't call me?" Tim said surprised.
"Is it Richard?" Brian blurted out.
The table went silent for the second and Toby stared at him for a second before responding, "Are you fuckin crazy?"
"Sorry, it just came out. I don't know what happened."
"No, it's not Richard," Bliss cut in, "remember how you said that if you hadn't found someone by Valentine's day I could set you up with someone?"
"Oh God." Toby moaned.
"Well, I am going to set you up on Valentine's Day."
"Well they need more people for the G.Y.R.A.D..."
"Hell no. It's bad enough letting someone set me up on a date, since no one seems to think I'm sufficiently capable of doing it on my own, but to do it in a random luck of the draw kind of way, why not just go outside and yell I'm single in the middle of the street."
"If you're going to do that, would you mind holding a sign advertising for the ice cream parlor? Tim laughed.
"Ha ha very funny."
"Seriously, Toby, it'll be fun, they need people, and what's the worst that could happen?"
"Uh, my date could not show up and I'll end up spending Valentine's day alone on top of feeling like shit."
"Maybe I should do it." Brian said.
Tim nodded, "Why not? I think it's a good idea. I'd do it in a heartbeat if I wasn't still barred from setting foot on campus."
"It's not on campus." Brian said.
"Still, it's sponsored by an organization on campus. Plus, I already agreed to work."
"So will you do it?" Bliss pleaded.
"No." Toby said firmly.
"Will you at least think about it?"
"I guess...but it'll probably no. And who knows, I may find someone between now and then."
Toby got home a little later that night to see his two friends cuddled together on the coach.
"Hey." they both nodded towards Toby.
"Did you two motherfuckers talk to Bliss to try and get me into that QSA dating thing?"
Eric immediately looked at Cooper, "What did you do?"
"Nothing! I don't even know what he's talking about."
"You don't know about the get your roommate a date event that the QSA is doing for Valentine's Day?"
"Yeah, Richard's been talking about it, but I didn't try and set you up though that would have been a good idea. Your dick is probably all shriveled up and dead from non-use."
"Ignore him," Eric said, "Are you going to do it?"
"No! I did agree to let her set me up, but not on some random thing. I thought she might have had something specific in mind."
"What's the worst that could happen?"
"That's what people say when they can't think of anything legitimate to say." Toby said, walking to his room. He closed the door, deciding that he wanted to put on some Erykah Badu, put headphones over his ears and fall asleep. There was a white teddy bear sitting on his bed that was holding a red heart shaped pillow that said Happy Valentine's Day. He picked up the bear and read the card attached. To Toby, it read, from your lover Kyle. Toby wasn't fooled for a second, "Assholes!" he yelled at the top of his lungs and it was followed immediately by laughter from his roommates. He settled down and felt relaxed right away as the music started.
He glanced over at the bear and found himself thinking how nice it would have been if Kyle, or anyone for that matter, had given it to him. He quickly sent a text message to Bliss before losing his nerve
"Fine I'll do it." he wrote.
"So lay it on me, what have you got under her sleeve." Richard said early the next morning as he sat across from Dr. Taylor.
"A no confidence vote."
"What do you mean?"
"I was expecting something more...like the President hires hookers or something."
She laughed, "This isn't about embarrassing anyone. This is about forcing someone to take action."
"A no confidence doesn`t get him fired does it?"
"Not at all. Only the Board of Trustees has the authority to do that and that is a very long and complicated process. A no confidence vote is basically a call to action. By the teacher's union and the students."
"Students?" Richard asked.
"Yes, I'm planning to do both. I actually have a meeting with the teachers who meet every couple of months with their union in a few weeks and I was hoping you'd be willing to talk to the board members of the student government about getting something started."
"Oh...uh yeah sure. What do you want me to say?"
"Well, I don't want to force you to do anything..."
"No, no. It's just I need to make sure I have solid material to go in with or Lucas will eat me for lunch."
"What if the teachers don't want to go for it?"
"I don't think that will be an issue, but even if they do, I still have the students to count on." She said patting Richard's hands.
"When do you have time to see students?"
"You mean for counseling?"
"Yeah, you seem like a very busy woman."
"I am a very busy woman. But I meet with students all the time and not always in a counseling capacity."
"You think my job is easy?"
"No!" Richard said immediately, "it's not why I was asking. I try to never say anyone's job is easy, because you really never know until you do it. I've learned that this year by working for the student government."
"Speaking of which, are you going to run again?"
"I was sort of thinking about it. I'm a little behind on the game, but I still could if I wanted to."
"Was that a yes or a no?"
He smiled, "It's an I don't know."
"Keep me posted."
"It's a nice day isn't it?"
"Uhhh...I guess." Eric said to his mother as he concentrated on the road ahead of him.
"What classes are missing you today?"
"Class. I only have one today, normally I work most of the day and usually have lunch with Cooper."
"Is that sarcasm?"
"No," Carol said, "if I didn't mean it, I wouldn't have said anything...How long have you and Cooper been together?"
"It was a year just a few weeks ago." Eric said fidgeting in his seat. He was half glad that he was having this conversation with his mother, but he was also apprehensive about where it was going.
"What did you guys do for your anniversary?"
"Just a simple dinner at home that we made together." He paused before continuing, not sure if he should add it in, "Cooper thought we should wait until our 18 month anniversary to do something...he thought it was inappropriate to plan something when everything was up in the air for you."
"That's no reason not to have an anniversary." She said bluntly.
"Honestly, I'm glad he decided that. It would have been too much. I don't know how I'm supposed to act about your cancer."
"React however you want. I'll still have cancer."
"I hate it when you do that," Eric said looking at his mother as he came to a stoplight, "you're acting so casual about it and saying these things that you obviously think are funny that are not!"
"Just trying to keep the mood light. It's cancer, that's depressing enough do I need to make everything else doom and gloom? I want positive people around me and you're pretty much all I've got, so if you can't share a laugh with me and try to make the best of the situation, then you might as well turn the car around and take me back to my apartment, cause life wouldn't be worth living then anyway."
"Fine, I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry. I'm just saying that if this is the end... I certainly want to enjoy my last months or years, or whatever it is, seeing my son smile."
"Hopefully it`s decades." Eric said.
"So what should we expect? I don't know much about chemotherapy."
"My doctor says everyone reacts differently to it. Some people get sick while they're having it. For some it's a couple hours before they start feeling nauseous, and for some people it's a day or two. There will almost certainly be some vomiting, but if it's what it takes to make me better..."
"Are you nervous?"
She paused, "If I tell you these things, I want to know that you're not going to worry yourself sick."
"You don't want me to be worried that you have cancer?"
"You know what I mean." Carol said.
"I'm a little nervous. I have no idea what to expect. The doctors have tried their best, but...yeah. But I'm staying positive, I'm praying, and the rest is out of my hands."
"Hey, how is she?" Cooper said immediately after answering his phone.
"She's asleep," Eric said, "She was just really quiet in the car. She said she felt really nauseous."
"That's normal right?"
"Yeah I guess. It's what the doctor said."
"Are you still at the house?"
"Yeah. She said before the chemo that she didn't want me to stay, but like I feel weird leaving her now, especially with Jamie, I don't know if he's going to be scared."
"Yeah. I mean if she's going to be throwing up...honestly, I don't really want to stay, I don't' want to hear my mother throwing up. I think I might freak out."
"I don't know." Cooper said not knowing what to say.
"Can chemo patients stay by themselves? I don't even know and I didn't think to ask the doctor." Eric said.
"I say go with whatever is going to let you sleep easier at night."
"That's not helpful."
"I wasn't trying to be funny, I was serious. If you feel you should stay with her, then you should. If you don't think it's necessary, then come back."
"I don't know what to do."
"Ok...you're picking Jamie up from school anyway right?"
"Yeah, just today."
"Why not just let him stay over here for a few days?"
"Uhh...how's that gonna work? We have school and work?"
"Most of the day he's at school," Cooper explained, "Don't schools have daycare or something?"
"It`s probably super expensive. Why is this so hard?"
"Ok, here's what we'll do. Just bring him here, he'll stay for a few days, and if we can't figure anything else, I can always get off of work early. The head of the Sociology Department loves me, so it won't be hard to arrange."
"But what about getting him to school in the morning? It's almost an hour drive from our place one way, and to think we have to do it twice a day."
"Just come home and we'll figure it out."
"Alright, he's out of school in about half an hour, I'll be there in a bit."
Several hours later, long after both Jamie and Toby had gone to bed, Eric and Cooper were sitting at the kitchen table hashing things out.
"So I called my dad and he said they'll put the money for a car in my account first thing in the morning. I told them what's going on and they're cool with it, they've been wondering when I was gonna ask anyway. So, if worst comes to worst at least now I can go buy a car and help you take Jamie back and forth to school. I don't know shit about cars though."
"And none of our friends do either."
"Fuck, you think Bliss knows someone?"
"Probably, but that'd be weird going with someone you didn't know to buy a car. Just pick something you like."
Cooper smiled, "I don't think it works that way. I'm buying a used car anyway. They always say that as soon as you drive a new car off the lot, it depreciates in value by half."
"I don't know the authorities on cars."
"I'll ask Kevin!"
Eric looked at him strangely, "I didn't know Kevin knew anything about cars."
"I don't know if he does, but he's straight, so that's a start."
Eric could hear sniffling and turned towards the kitchen door. Jamie came through a few seconds later, rubbing his eyes and he was crying a little bit, "What's wrong?"
"I don't feel good."
They both walked over to him. Cooper bent down on one knee, "What hurts buddy?"
"My tummy hurts."
"Do you have to..." Cooper didn't get a chance to finish the sentence as vomit projectiled out of Jamie's mouth and landed on Cooper's shirt and sweat pants.
"Oh my God," Eric yelled jumping back, "he threw up!"
"Uh, I know, I'm wearing it."
Jamie was crying louder now, "I don't feel good!"
"Yeah, let's get you cleaned up." Eric said taking Jamie by the shoulder, taking great care in not stepping in the vomit on the floor or to touch any of it on Jamie's shirt.
"Then I guess I'm cleaning myself up!" Cooper yelled after them.
"I never knew so much puke could be in one little body." Cooper said the next morning at the breakfast table. Eric felt much the same way and nodded. Toby looked into his cereal bowl and moved it away from him, "Well that ruins breakfast."
"Sorry," Cooper said, "I feel bad for the little guy. And I'm so glad you decided to bring him here instead of leaving him at your mom's. There's no way she could have taken care of him. They'd both be throwing up at the same time."
"Could you not make jokes about that." Eric stared, before getting up from the table.
Toby waited until Eric was out of ear shot, "If looks could kill..."
"Fuck. I didn't even mean it as a joke. It's true, she wouldn't have been able to do it."
"What's gonna happen today with him?"
"I'm gonna stay with him."
Cooper was a little hurt by Toby's reaction, "You don't think I can take care of a kid for a few hours?"
"I've never thought about it, but that's not why I said that. I just assumed Eric would be staying."
"No. It's easier for me to miss class since I know all the sociology professors and he missed class yesterday to take his mom."
"You're jumping head first into this. The car, missing school and work..."
"I'd hope he do it for me. And really, he needs the help. If she doesn't get better..."
"Are you ready to go?" Eric asked, emerging from the hallway.
"Yeah, just let me grab my backpack." Toby said.
"I'll call you later just to make sure everything is ok."
"Alright...sorry about earlier. I didn't mean to be insensitive.
"You're Cooper, you always mean to be insensitive."
"Uh, what does that mean?"
Toby came out of the room in time to hear Eric say, "Nothing, I have to go."
"So you're really going to do the G.Y.R.A.D. thing tomorrow?" Eric asked as he and Toby walked into the house in the late afternoon.
"Yeah. If nothing else it'll be nice to have a date on my birthday."
"Wow, twenty two. Can you believe that?"
"No," Toby said shaking his head, "I don't think twenty-two is old, but it sounds old. I remember being like oh yeah I'm seventeen or I'm eighteen and even though that was only a couple of years ago, it seems much longer than that."
"I know. It's crazy for me to think that I'll be a college graduate in a few months. I still vividly remember my first day."
"And meeting me?" Toby smiled.
"And meeting you."
"So you did go talk to your advisor?" Toby asked.
"Yep. It'll happen in May. When do you graduate?"
"Well, even though I only lost a semester, I didn't take enough classes the first couple semester to graduate in four years anyway, so I'll probably graduate next May. I'm thinking of taking one or two classes this summer just to lessen the load. But it works out anyway cause I want to play on the team one more year."
"Good idea. The house is pretty quiet."
"Yeah, maybe Jamie's asleep."
"But where's Cooper?" Eric said to himself. He and Toby walked through the hallway to Cooper's room. The door was open only a little bit. Eric poked his head through. Both Jamie and Cooper were asleep on the bed; Cooper on his back and Jamie on his side. Jamie's head was on Cooper's chest and Eric immediately thought of a father and son as he watched them sleep.
"I really want to take a picture of that."
"They look cute." Toby acknowledged. After a few seconds of standing around, Toby asked, "Are you just going to stand here and watch them?"
"Yeah. I think I need to see this."
"Please tell me that we have an even number of people for the G.Y.R.A.D. tonight?" Richard asked.
"We do." Joey sang.
"What the hell was that?"
"You can't sing and what are you happy about?"
"It's Valentine's Day and I'm not single." Joey said in his normal voice, "The only shitty thing today is I'm at work."
"Just a few days ago you said you and Chase weren't a couple."
"We're not, but if I want I have someone to go out with tonight. That makes me not single."
"Right. Are you guys going out tonight?"
"We're hanging out at his apartment. Probably order a pizza or something."
"I know, but if we go out in public on Valentine's Day he'll probably have a stroke."
Richard took the list off the desk of the people who had signed up to participate in the G.Y.R.A.D. and quickly scanned the list. Joey watched him carefully, already knowing what was going to happen. He had already decided he was going to pretend like it wasn't a big deal.
"Brian and Toby signed up?"
"Brian came by yesterday and Bliss called me to see if there was any space for Toby, cause he agreed to do it. She swore he agreed."
"And you let them?"
"Yeah, this is the United States of America."
Richard gave him a nasty look, "Hey," Joey continued, "I'm just the helpless receptionist. I try not to get involved in your unnecessarily complicated love life. I'm just trying to make it in the world."
"I'm about to put everyone into pairs, so if anyone comes by to ask if it's too late to sign up, it is."
"Got ya boss."
Richard sat down, trying to decide the best way to pair the individuals. This was more for fun, than seriously trying to play matchmaker, so he didn't think it would be all that bad to randomly put two people together. He scanned the list again and realized he recognized more names than he didn't, so he first matched some of the names he didn't know with those he did. His mind wasn't really on the task at hand. He was upset that Brian had obviously decided to move on so quickly, but he was surprised that Toby had agreed to participate; it didn't seem like him. And what should he do with them? A nasty thought came into his mind and he decided to have a little fun and go with it.
Toby was nervous as he approached Dorothy's. He'd been there multiple times, mostly with Cooper and Eric, but this was different. He was by himself and he'd be having dinner with a stranger. He tried to think of the last time he went out on a date with someone he didn't know. He hadn't, this was completely new territory for him. He walked in and was immediately greeted by a waiter.
"How can I help you?"
"I'm here for the Sunnydale University G.Y.R.A.D."
"Ah, you're at table 12. Your date is already here."
"Follow me please."
Toby nervously rubbed his hands together while following the waiter. He saw the number twelve placard sitting on the table and he could see the back of his date. Toby stupidly thought he had nice hair and was glad that there was at least going to be one positive thing about tonight.
"There you are sir."
Toby made eye contact with his date and they both looked at their waiter, "Is this a joke?"
"Yeah really." Brian said.
"No, I don't think so."
"Can you please check the list again, this has to be a mistake," Toby said, already regretting that he agreed to do this, "there's no way we were set up for tonight."
"Ok, give me just a moment." The waiter said as he ran off.
"I knew this was a mistake." Toby said sitting down.
"It has to be."
"If this is real, I'm leaving."
"So am I. It'd be too weird to stay here."
The waiter returned, "There's no mistake. You guys are both booked for table twelve and everyone else is accounted for."
"Is Richard Channing here?" Toby asked the waiter.
"Is he the leader of the QSA? If so he just walked in, he's sitting over there."
Brian and Toby followed the waiter's outstretched finger to see Richard already looking at them. He raised his wine glass towards them.
Toby turned back to the waiter, "Thanks. We're fine." He paused until the waiter left the table, "He did this on purpose."
"Yeah. You think he's still mad at me?"
"I don't give a shit, I'm about to go kick his ass."
"Here comes trouble!" Richard said loudly enough that Toby and Brian both heard what he said even though they were several feet from the table.
"Get up." Toby said.
"Why are you going to hit me?"
"No, but we need to go outside and talk so that all the other people here don't see me cause a scene. You don't want me to cause a scene do you?"
"No." Even though Richard was slightly tipsy, he still had enough sense to know when Toby was genuinely pissed off. He knew if he didn't get up, Toby would try to physically make him.
"Are you drunk?" Toby asked Richard once they were outside of the restaurant.
"Good, It'll keep me from having to repeat myself. I don't know what's happening between you and Brian, but don't put me in your shit. I haven't done anything to you for you to play around with me. And for the record, you're an asshole. Why would you do this on my birthday?"
"Brian could you excuse us for a minute?"
"No, I'm leaving. I don't want to hear what you have to say because I'm sure I've heard it. You shouldn't put me in your shit and you should know by now that if you have a problem with me, you should come to me and talk so it doesn't get blown out of proportion. Aren't you tired of this with us? Jesus, Richard."
"What's wrong?!" Bliss said as she and Melinda worriedly ran up the guys.
"Nothing, I'm leaving." Toby said.
"No, why. What happened?"
Brian finally spoke, "Richard purposely matched us up for the G.Y.R.A.D."
"Oooh, is there about to be a fight?" Melinda said, "cause if there is I need to leave. I can't be seen around any violence."
"No, there is going to be no fighting! Toby, don't leave. I'm sure not everyone has arrived for the G.Y.R.A.D. so we can just switch some people around so that you'll have someone to have dinner with and so will Brian, right Richard?"
"Yeah, I'll go talk to the waiter."
"Are you calm enough not to ruin someone else's evening?" Melinda asked eyeing Toby carefully.
"Yeah, I'm fine. He just pisses me off more than anyone else in the fucking universe sometimes."
Bliss was rubbing Toby's shoulder, "Ok, calm down, go to your happy place."
"This evening has gotten off to a great start." Brian said, "It's kind of ruined the evening."
"You'll be fine once you see another hot gay boy across from you." Bliss smiled.
"Ok, it's done," Richard said, "you guys both have dates, that aren't each other."
"Thank you." Brian smiled, but Toby walked right by him into the restaurant.
"Is this about him saying he didn't have feelings for you anymore?" Bliss asked.
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Nick, nice to meet you." They shook hands.
Toby smiled, "An accent, where from?"
"Where do you think I'm from?"
Nick shook his head, "Everyone always says that. I'm from Australia."
"The land down under."
"Do you know anything about Australia?"
"Uh...not really. Just that the crocodile hunter is Australian."
"Of course, the crocodile hunter." They both laughed.
"How long you been in the U.S.?"
"This is actually my first semester here."
"How long are you staying?"
"I don't know. I'd love to go travel around during the summer and then stay for the fall semester. But we'll see."
"Are you traveling by yourself?"
"No, two friends, one of them is over there."
"So..." Brian said trying to think of something to say, "uh...do you like the US so far."
Ian sighed, "It's ok."
"It's ok? That's your impression of the US?"
Ian laughed, "Sorry, I'm really bad at small talk. I'm trying to get better, but it's just hard to talk about stuff like that."
"Ok...what do you like to talk about."
"Well, my friends always make fun of me but I love Gwyneth Paltrow."
Brian laughed, "I never realized anyone could have strong positive feelings for her."
"She's great and has so many great movies."
"I wouldn't know, I probably haven't seen most of them."
"You don't know what you're missing. Shakespeare In Love is fantastic, so is A Perfect Murder. Stop me or I'll just go on and on."
"Didn't she name her baby something weird?"
"Apple. But that's a cute name it's nice and...crisp."
"It's silly." Brian laughed.
"So where exactly in Australia are you from?" Toby asked.
"No way! The Australian Open is there?"
"Of course, I'm a huge tennis fan."
"Do you play?"
"Not really, I suck, but I love to watch both the men and women."
"I love Rafael Nadal."
"So do I! You know who I don't get all the love about? Novak Djokovic."
"No no," Toby laughed, "don't say that, he's hot."
"It's like one of my dreams to go all four of the grand slams."
"Have you ever been out of the country before?"
"No," Toby sulked, "but I'd love to. Australia is at the top of the list."
"It should be, it's a great place."
Toby was thoroughly enjoying himself, "So tell me something interesting about Melbourne."
"The stores are a little different."
"What do you mean?"
"You know how here you have a cart that you just push around the store?"
"It's different in Melbourne. There's a cart, but it's like on a track that you take around the store. There's like a little...basket in the back where you put all your items. It sort of looks like a bike, but you don't actually ride it or anything."
"Are you serious?"
"Yeah, it's kind of cool. It's like something unique to Melbourne."
"Wow, that is unique. It'd be cool to see."
"So I know this is small talk, but what do you like to do for fun." Brian asked.
"Well, I really enjoy going to plays and going to like...I guess cultural events. It's just always really interesting to be reminded that people do things differently."
Brian nodded, "I agree. It's been great living here in the U.S. for a while. I miss being in Norway, but I also feel like I have a life here too."
"One of the places I really want to visit in New York. Whenever I think about the U.S. I think of New York. I'd live there if given the opportunity."
"You haven't been to any of the QSA meetings have you?"
"I didn't think so," Brian laughed, "I was pretty sure I'd remember an Australian guy."
"And I was going to say I think I'd remember someone with a Norwegian accent."
"How'd you hear about the G.Y.R.A.D.?"
"This girl named Bliss..."
"I know her!"
Ian laughed, "It seems like everyone knows Bliss."
"Wait, did you say you have birds in your attic?" Toby asked sure he'd heard Nick wrong.
"No, they're there on purpose."
"They're called kookaburras. They're these birds that sound like a person laughing. Anyway, their numbers were starting to drop, so the government started this program asking people to let the kookaburras build nests in their attics."
"Doesn't it get noisy?"
"Yeah, but they're so cute and they taste really good."
"You eat them?!"
"Only some of them cause then that'd defeat the whole purpose of the program."
"Favorite food?" Brian asked.
"Cinnamon." Ian said immediately.
"Ha ha very funny."
"No really, I could eat cinnamon on anything. You'd be surprised at how many foods taste better when you sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on them."
Brian felt someone touch his shoulder and he turned to see Bliss, Melinda, Toby, and Nick standing near the table.
"Sorry to interrupt," Bliss started, "but the four of us are going to go somewhere a little more casual, do you guys want to go." They both nodded.
"Where are we going?" Toby asked as they exited.
"Let's go to the ice cream place, maybe Tim will give us free ice cream." Bliss suggested.
"It's too damn cold for ice cream!" Melinda yelled.
"They have other things."
"How's the ride situation gonna work out?" Brian asked, "I had someone drop me off."
"You can go with me...are you cool driving too?" Bliss asked Toby.
"Yep, whoever wants to go with me."
"I'll go with you." Nick said.
"Ok, everyone else with me." Bliss said smiling.
"This should be fun." Nick said.
"How far do we have to drive?"
"Like five minutes it's really close."
"I don't want to ask in front of everyone," Nick began, "but uh I really enjoyed dinner tonight, would you be interested in going out on a date? You'd have to drive obviously and pick the place since I don't know that much about the area, but I'm still asking." Nick laughed.
Toby smiled. Nick was only eighteen and Toby could only think of negative things associated with dating an eighteen year old, but he decided to live in the moment, "I'd love to go out on a real date with you."