This story is 100% mine. It speaks to relationships between two young men, so if stuff like that offends you (I can't imagine why it would if you're reading this on nifty), then leave. The situations are based on my experiences, but know that the names have all been changed and the situations have all been modified. If you like my work, I'd like to hear from you... Even if you don't like it, but please try not to be mean. Please respect my work. Don't try to pass it off as your own. Don't post it anywhere else without my written permission...That's about all I can think that I need to write. I hope you enjoy.

 

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Chapter 4

Mike


I was sitting at the table where Rick had left me. I had just finished reading Riley's letter and my emotions were in free fall. I felt angry, surprised, angry, happy, angry, hurt and angry, all at once.

Before I realized what was happening, my vision blurred and gravity procured the march of tears down my cheeks. Just as I was reaching up to wipe them the bell rang signaling the start of homeroom.

The clatter of students leaving the cafeteria droned on, but all my focus was on the letter held tightly in my grasp. Oblivious to everything, I was analyzing it; everything he wrote, and everything he might have been thinking when he wrote it.

I was a people watcher, and for once, I felt that those countless hours of studying Riley were paying off. Reading the letter was as if he were there speaking to me. In my mind's eye I could see the flicker of emotions cross his face as he penned the words I now held in my hand. I could almost feel his pain, but at the same time, his confusion was evident, and that's what angered me most. He was asking me to come back to him, and even now he was refusing to make a true and complete commitment to me.

I was angry that he saw talking to Rick as a compromise to my need to be more open.

Don't get me wrong, I recognized how much effort it took to talk openly about being in love with another guy, and I tried my best to look at this whole situation from his point of view.

However, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't let go of the pain I felt that day; listening to him say what he had said to me with so little regard for how his words would affect me.

Yes, I was overjoyed that he'd made the first move. I was, in some sadistic way, very content in the knowledge that I wasn't the only one shedding tears, but somehow I didn't feel that that excused the hurt he'd caused me.

There was an internal battle raging in my consciousness at that moment, and that battle was creating casualties of confusion. One part- my heart- wanted me to simply ignore all the implicit and almost subliminal messages of Riley's letter. It kept telling me that it didn't matter that Riley wasn't promising commitment. It pleaded with me to ignore the idea that he seemed to need to qualify his feelings for me.

My heart was asking me to recognize that he was a black man, locked in a world that taught you that you couldn't be black and gay. My heart was dictating that I should understand his fears, which I did, and as such, I should be able to forgive him and move on.

However, there was the other part of me, fighting just as hard. That other side presented arguments of logic; better thought out arguments- my head.

It pleaded with me to not get carried away by an idea again, and for a second, this confused me.

I found that I needed to analyze the possibilities and the implications of such a possibility. Was I carried away by an idea in the beginning, and if that were the case, what was that idea?

Then it came to me- an epiphany in the form of a question.

Was I truly in love with Riley, or was it more the idea of what Riley represented?

I didn't have to think that hard. I already knew the answer. I was always in love with Riley, the person. I may have been caught up in Riley, the idea, but only in the beginning.

For a very short period of time he represented a forbidden fruit of sorts; but only in the beginning. Almost instantly, I got over that and who I ended up falling for was Riley, the person. His ability to relax me in any situation; his charm; his thuggish innocence and basic naivety; every quirky personality trait I found endearing in some way.

I can't begin to describe how quickly these thoughts were passing through my head, but when I looked up at the clock, I saw that only two minutes had passed since the bell had rung.

Looking around, I saw that the cafeteria was almost empty.

On the other hand, I knew I loved hanging out with him, but under the same token I also loved hanging out with Rick. What did that mean? I know I loved talking to him, but I also needed to consider that I often had to censure which topics we talked about. I loved politics and nature, and both were topics that Riley absolutely despised. I often found myself wanting to talk about deeper topics, but Riley was more a comedian. Where I found myself a thinker, he was a joker. I had always considered this a good thing, but suddenly I wasn't so sure.

Maybe I was too quick to remunerate myself. Was I certain that I wasn't in love with Riley, the idea?

Where were these thoughts coming from all of a sudden? Looking down at the letter, almost crumpled in my hands, I thought this was what I wanted.

Riley finally wanted me back.

 I was so deep in thought that I wasn't aware of him until after he was sitting down and talking to me, and even then, I just looked at him.

"You alright, bud?"  

I must have appeared confused...and I was, but not about this stranger. I didn't know who this boy was, but all of a sudden he was there, looking at me in a way that let me know that my vulnerabilities were exposed.

It didn't bode well that I was sitting at a table with tears running down my cheeks...alone. 

I snapped back to the present and realized that I was staring. With that realization came mild embarrassment.

Oddly though, he was staring back! 

His eyes seemed so expressive, so alive. They truly seemed to be a window into his soul. In them I saw concern, wonder and something else I just couldn't place.

His eyesbrows began to furrow and a puzzled expression graced his face.

"Dude...you're starting to freak me out...are- you- all- right?"

He was stressing every syllable, but I noticed that each one was heavily layered with unmistakable concern.

I shook my head gently from side to side, transfixed by not only his looks, but also by his apparent compassion.

"Umm...I'm ... I..." I shook my head. "I'm alright, thanks. I just got some...interesting news, is all."

I prayed he wouldn't ask me to explain. 

"Well, you know the bell just rang...so maybe we should look at heading to class...You sure you're alright?"  He looked at me again. His concern deepened. "Anything I can do to help?"

I couldn't help but smile. He was really being...well...sweet! I was also thankful that he saw fit not to mention the tears still cascading down my face.

I took a deep breath. "Yeah, I'm fine." I quickly attempted to change the topic. "What's your name, by the way?"

He smiled uncomfortably it seemed, and his face contorted in a way that seemed to shake off the embarrassment of not having introduced himself.

"It's Mike.  Mike Stevens." He tilted his chin upwards, "What's yours?"

"It's Chase."

His right eye brow rose slightly and I saw the beginnings of a smirk.

"Just Chase?"

Again, I couldn't help but smile. He exuded a natural charm that I found irresistible.

"Chase Thomas.     Ah, look...thanks a lot for your concern. I really appreciate it."

I sat there looking at everything but him. I wasn't sure what I was waiting on, but I felt that I needed to stick around. I felt my right leg begin to bounce, and right on cue, the absurdness of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks. I was sitting at a table with a virtual stranger, tears drying on my face, waiting for something that I wasn't sure about.

Sighing, I said, "I guess we better go." 

I glanced over at the clock.

"Homeroom's almost over."

Smiling at him one last time, I got up, prepared for a hasty retreat and determined to find out as much I could about him later on.  When I reached the cafeteria door, I stopped briefly and turned my head to take one final glance at him. I didn't realize he was so close behind me. It was too late. Having stopped abruptly, he walked straight into me. Worse still, having turned my head along with the sudden stop, his face mashed into my right check before he was able to stop himself.

 "Oh god. I'm... I'm so sorry!" I quickly stammered out.

 I was beyond embarrassed. When I looked up at him, expecting to see an angry expression, I was surprised to see him smiling. My heart melted.

 "It's alright..." and shaking his head with an evil grin, "Later Chase." 

 

Oh shit!  He remembered my name! Why did this shock me? I did just tell it to him.

With that, he was gone.

*************************************

 

 

 

"Why are we here?" Rick asked me as we sat on one of the empty bleachers in the school's gym. "I didn't know we were allowed to watch practices."

"Patience, my friend... You'll see soon enough." I replied.

I took a glance at my watch: 4:05pm. The basketball team had been practicing for nearly an hour now. Practice was about to end. Scanning the players as they rushed from one end of the court to the other, I spotted the reason for our visit.

In a hushed tone and pointing as discretely as I could, I asked, "You see that guy over there...the tall blonde...curls...cute face? He just got the ball."

Rick followed my finger. 

"Do you mean Mike?   Number 53?"

 

"Yeah, do you know him?"

"Of course! Well, I know of him. Who doesn't?" Rick asked almost indignantly.

Obviously, I didn't.

Oblivious to me, Rick went on, "He's the damn captain of the team...not to mention that he's also on the swim team AND the debate team."

I must have looked...I'm not sure. I didn't know which emotion was more dominant at that moment: elation, disappointment, excitement?

Rick quickly picked up on the change in my demeanor.

"Why, what's up? ...W-a-i-t..." looking almost puzzled, "How do you know Mike?"

 

I slumped back in the chair sighing heavily and thought about our earlier meeting. I looked at Rick, then back at the players on the court. I closed my eyes, reminiscing on the friendly conversation I had had earlier. I turned back to face Rick, tuning out the thunder of feet beating against the wooden floor.

"After you left me this morning with Riley's letter--" Rick cut me off.

"I've been meaning to ask you about that. What did he say?"

"A whole load of crap. Basically, he wants us to get back together...sorta, at least... He also wants me to call him."

"Are you going to?"

"Am I going to what?"

"I don't know...call him? Get back with him? Whichever..."

I took a while to think about it. I didn't want to say `yes', but truthfully, I wasn't sure that I wanted to say `no' either. I could feel Rick looking at me expectantly, patiently awaiting my answer. I let him wait.

I focused my attention back on Mike. He had just gotten the ball, and I watched as he gracefully dribbled down the court towards the west basket.  He looked left for a moment, scanning his team, preparing to make a pass. I watched and his eyes quickly glanced into the stands. He saw me. Our eyes locked for a split second before he released the ball, sending it spinning out of bounds. His face flushed almost in surprise. I could only imagine how he must have felt throwing away that pass.

"Earth to Chase. Look homie, forget about white boy right now...you gonna call him or not?"

"Call who?" I heard myself ask, still locked in my trance,  "Oh...I don't plan on it." I deadpanned.

Just then the coach's bellowing voice echoed throughout the gym.

"STEVENS!   WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT!"

Mike's blush deepened. Glancing at me a second longer, he turned his gaze to the coach.

"Sorry, Coach. I got a bit-- distracted."

Coach seemed indignant. "Distracted? You're getting distracted?... NOW?   WHAT THE HELL IS DISTRACTING YOU!  We have one more week before the tournament and you're getting ... DISTRACTED!..." The man seemed almost resigned to whatever annoyance he was feeling. Sighing loudly, I watched him deflate. "I want five laps...NOW!" flicking his left hand, "Everyone else, hit the showers."

As the other players moved almost solemnly toward the locker room, Mike began his laps; head held low. I watched him, unashamed of my blatant staring. He looked so...shy... no, ...sexy. I didn't know much about him, but shy just didn't seem like his personality type... `sexy' however, definitely fit somewhere.

His oversized basketball jersey loosely draped his upper body, giving me just enough of a view to admire his athletic tone. He was much more `built' than me, and far more toned. His pecs., which were visibly protruding were glazed by a thin layer of sweat as he jogged the perimeter of the court.   I could see the muscles bouncing gently in time with his curls. I was momentarily dazzled when I saw him gently shake the stray hairs away from his forehead. Damn he was beautiful!

"EARTH TO CHASE...EARTH TO CHASE!"

I turned my head briefly, aware that Rick was looking at me with a puzzled expression.

"What's up with you, dude?...Ever since we got here, it's like you're damn in lo..."

A realization seemed to hit him.

"Hold up! Why did you say we were here again?"

"I didn't say." I stated simply, turning my focus back to Mike who was approaching our area. I looked at Rick, my eyes pleading with him to let the issue drop for the moment. Thankfully, he did.

As Mike approached, he looked up into the stands, his eyes meeting mine, and then slowly focusing on Rick. He looked back where "Coach" was supposed to be and seeing that the old man had left, he stopped jogging and made his way towards us. He looked tired.

Rick looked at me. I quickly returned his glance.  My heart skipped a beat, as I heard the thump of Mike's approach, but I was determined to appear cool.

"Hey Chase, what's up?"

His voice sounded so warm and very familiar.

He was now standing in front of me. Our eyes met. It was as if I were watching him in slow motion.  I saw a glow muster in his cheeks.  He looked away, as if trying to muster support from the now empty stadium. He looked at Rick and I saw him nod.

"Nothing much...Just...figured I'd watch you guys practice for a bit. I realized today that I've never really seen you guys play."

I had hoped to sound matter of fact, but an incredulous expression appeared on his face. I guess I couldn't blame him. Basketball was big in our school; even bigger than hockey, so almost everyone went to the games. I didn't.

I was now the one to blush.

Clarity seemed to suddenly hit Rick.  He was still beside me. He began shaking his head from side to side, slightly; a light bulb appearing to have gone off.  He eyed Mike and then me.

I turned to look at Rick.

"Hey Rick...ummmm, do you think you could give me a minute here with Mike. I need to tell him something. I'll meet you outside OK?"

As I said this, I narrowed my eyes, looking deeply into Rick's, almost daring him to refuse. He smiled, flicked his eyebrows and then nodded to Mike. 

Smiling, he simply said, "Later dudes!"

Both Mike and I watched him walk away. Neither of us said anything, waiting for...what?

I was alone with him! My heart began beating faster and I felt dizzy. I wasn't sure if there was anything that I needed to say to him, but I was certain of what I wanted to say. I was only unsure if I could actually say it.

I turned to face him. Raising my eyes to meet his I saw that he was already squaring me. I smiled shyly; again thankful that my complexion was enough to hide any evidence of a blush.

"Look, I know that you have to get showered and changed and all that, so I won't keep you. I just wanted to thank you for looking out for me this morning. I... I really appreciated it... So...thanks, I guess."

Mike smiled.

His eyes narrowed as he looked at me; searching my eyes for answers to questions he had yet to ask. I immediately felt paralyzed. I was looking at an angel. My eyes met his bluish grays and almost instantly, they locked. I noticed his deeply chiseled face, smooth, straight nose and dimpled chin. I saw his nicely framed eyebrows arch, as he silently questioned me. I saw his lips. Soft, pink, and full...slightly parted and wet-looking...

I didn't look away. Silently, I willed my eyes to bare my soul. I wanted him to know me. I wanted him to see the person I really am. All of me. I wanted him to see the pain of my past and the uncertainty of my future. I wanted him to see...what? ... better yet, why?

I was suddenly unsure of myself. What were my intentions? 

Breaking the trance, Mike was the first to speak, "No problem, dude. That's what friends do, right?"

Damn, he was cute!  My eyelids scrunched. 

"Yeah, it is...but we're not exactly friends... yet. The first time we talked was just this morning...remember?"

His face contorted into a puzzled expression. He was thinking. Very briefly his face lit up. It was so fast that I wasn't sure if it had actually happened.

He opened his mouth to speak, calculating every word before it left his lips. His eyes squinted.

"So, umm, this morning the first time you noticed me, right?"

"Yup." 

I marveled at my eloquence.

"But..." still speaking deliberately, "if that was your first time...how did you know that I was on the team?"

The look on my face must have been classic dork. All of a sudden I heard him chuckle. He was still looking at me, and I knew I had to answer.

To make matters worse, an imperative was pushing us. His teammates would soon begin filing out of the changing room and our privacy would be taken away, not to mention that Rick was waiting, I'm sure impatiently, for me outside.

"Well, after you left this morning, I sort of...looked you up." I said bowing my head.

"What did you say, dude?" He sounded more amused than angry. I felt my courage level begin to rise.

"Well, during lunch I looked you up in the year book. I found out that you had a class with my friend Megan, and I asked about you."

 I said all of this while looking down; my eyes focused on his feet. I was afraid to meet his gaze. After a moment's silence, I went on with my explanation.

"She told me that you were on the team and that you guys were practicing every day this week for some kind of tournament, or something. So, I thought I'd stop by and thank you...you know...for this morning..."

I finally built up the courage to look up. He was staring at me, seemingly amused...smiling. He seemed pleased.

Suddenly, I had a moment of mental panic. This was all happening too fast. Just last night I was lying on my bed listening to music and crying about my lost relationship with Riley; now here I was, almost bordering on obsessive.

All in the space of a few hours I'd not only met someone who succeeded in capturing my interest, but I had also sought him out, crashed his practice, and was contemplating him in ways that I shouldn't have been. It was all too soon for me.

I guess my silence lasted a moment too long. I saw his smile begin to waiver.

"What's wrong? You alright?"

Again I was touched by his sensitivity and compassion. He seemed like such a kind soul, again worrying about me. I also began to see possibilities through his actions. Maybe, just maybe he was like me gay.

I decided to take the plunge. If nothing else, we could be friends.

Truth was, as conflicted as I was by my seemingly erratic emotions, I knew that the last thing I needed was another relationship possibility. Besides, I still had Riley to consider, and I needed to figure out where we stood; even more so, where I wanted us to stand. He had just placed the ball essentially in my court and I needed to make a move.

I looked at Mike.

"I'm good...sorry, I guess I just spaced out...See, um...I was wondering if you'd want to hang sometime...like a movie or something...my treat."

My heart began beating faster and my palms began to feel moist.  I was suddenly embarrassed about the implications of what I'd just asked. He took a deep breath, about to say something... I assumed he was about to reject me and then laugh in my face. I cut him off, quickly.

"Look, I was just thinking that...you know...you seemed cool this morning. You could have just left and gone on to homeroom...but you didn't, you know, and I'm just grateful. I need people like that in my life, and let's face it..." I felt mischievous. I could feel an evil glint surfacing... "I could use the extra popularity."

A slow grin spread across his face. He cocked his head.   I couldn't help but to smile.

"Ok. That sounds cool."

Just then, the changing room doors opened and two guys from the team walked onto the court towards the exit doors. They were standing side by side, busily chatting. I looked at Mike, and then at the guys. Mike looked at the guys and then returned his eyes. Suddenly it wasn't just a stare anymore.  I felt something... deeper???.... but quickly locked that feeling away and pushed it far from me.

"Look, I'd better go shower up. When did you want to?"

I smiled.

"Well, whenever." I shrugged.

His answer both surprised and thrilled me.

"Well, tell you what. Why don't we chill tomorrow at lunch? You can eat with me and my boys."

"Umm..." 

I could feel myself getting nervous. I was by no means a shy person, but truth is, I never do well in new social situations; especially ones involving multiple strangers at the same time. I tried to think about an excuse so that I could beg off.

"I'm not so sure. To be honest, I don't do well in those kinds of situations."

I looked at him. He just smiled kindly, and again, I couldn't help but smile back.

"That's cool. Tell you what...In the mornings, right before the bell rings, I'm usually in the caf just chilling out before classes. How about then? It's just me, one or two friends, and my girl." Almost as if it were an afterthought, "You could bring your boy." His head tilted towards the gym doors, letting me know that he was referring to Rick.

Almost as quickly as he'd said it, I'd caught it...his girl? Well, I guess that answered my question. What did I expect, anyway?

I mulled everything over in my head. I was admittedly disappointed, but it all seemed like an alright idea, and I could see no harm in what he was suggesting. Besides, I'm sure Rick would love the opportunity to hang with a few of the ball players.

"Ok. I'll see you then... Tomorrow."

Again for some reason I was apprehensive, or maybe just overly cautious. I mean, it did seem as if he was interested in at least hanging out, but at the same time, I wasn't sure how he saw me. Maybe to him I was just a nerdy boy he was going to help out by spending a few minutes with; or just a token black guy for his posse. But he did invite me to lunch with he and his friends...and his girl.

As we parted, I couldn't help but smile to myself. I wouldn't over analyze this situation.

"See you in the morning, dude." I heard him say over my shoulder.

I looked back.

"Later."

Ok, so that's it for Chapter 4. I will say that this chapter took a lot to write. This story was first started about a year ago, and was posted on a few other sites. I didn't like the direction the story was headed, and because of personal issues I had stopped writing, right about at this point. I just started writing again, and reworked these four chapters. I also changed the direction that the story was headed. I've come to learn that characters have a mind of their own, and at some point they begin to dictate the direction of the story. They tell me when their dialogue's not tight enough, and when I'm not being true to the idea of who they are. I hope that as I continue to write, I'll be able to do them justice. Just to let you all know, sort of like a reminder, I really should have been writing my final project, but I haven't been able to. It's like the characters are calling for me in ways that they didn't before. I do need to focus on that though, but hopefully, it won't take too long before chapter 5 is posted. Please, if you're enjoying the story, don't forget to write me up and let me know. I'm writing with from my heart, and allowing my head to edit the work. Let me know if you think it works. Haven00@gmail.com