Disclaimer: 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.
I'm going to let you know this up front, don't get caught up in the beginning of the story. This story is as much a reflection of life as it can and should be. Sometimes relationships work out, sometimes they don't. The Chase and Riley story is just a precursor to a much larger plot. I'm telling you this because I don't want you rooting for something that very well may or may not happen. I'm not going to base my writing on readers' expectations. Sorry.
"He who stumbles is not always drunk"
Thanksgiving weekend really flew by. Thankfully, it would now be just a distant memory. I was finally over Riley's showdown at the movies and what had happened afterwards. Instead of being angry, I was strangely calm, more grateful than anything.
Because of Riley, the issue of my sexuality had been forced to the forefront with Mike, and it was all for the best. Instead of losing a friend as I'd expected, I'd gained a confidante.
Mike and I had had a really good time at breakfast. We both exchanged information that cemented our friendship in ways I couldn't even fathom before. Not only that, since then, we'd had at least five hours of conversation, mostly over the phone, but all very intense.
On Sunday afternoon, Mike stopped by after dinner. He and my dad got along really well, and by the end of the evening he had my mother eating out of the palm of his hands.
Sadly, I had to suffer through an excruciatingly long NBA pre-season game. Damn!!!! I really can't say that I paid attention. How could I, when basketball was never one of my interests? I just sat there in the living room on the couch with "the boys" and continued to read a novel, purposely ignoring all of the excitement.
What made the whole evening even more interesting was the fact that Mike and my dad were rooting for opposing teams, and whenever one of their teams scored, there would be a fierce, but toned down insult contest. I couldn't help but smile to myself thinking of the relaxed atmosphere of comfort the two shared. One would have never thought that they'd just met that afternoon.
Here it was, another Friday, another day of school. I'd already run into Mike quite a few times during the day, and each time he'd seemed more and more excited.
The overall air on campus that afternoon was supercharged. Mark Matenchuk's party was that night, and his parties were rumoured to be all the rage.
Like Mike and I, Mark was a senior. He'd transferred to the school in the middle of our junior year and was instantly popular. The girls loved him. The boys, well, most of them, envied him. Me? I was indifferent. Truth was I never even noticed him until recently.
He wasn't really into sports, but his popularity was very much on par with Mike's. I was not very familiar with Mike when I first met him, and Mark was very much the same. Now, however, both were definitely on my radar.
Mark was a little on the tall side, standing at about 6'1", just an inch taller than me. To the average onlooker, he was the antithesis of Mike. Where Mike was fair, he was dark...very dark, adding immensely to the air of mystery that seemed to shroud him. Where Mike kept his hair fairly long, Mark kept his short and spiked. Where Mike's eyes were light and welcoming, Mark's were dark and brooding. In a word, he was sexy, in a very dangerous sort of way, or so it seemed, at least to me.
Mark and I had never spoken before, so I was rather surprised when I was extended the invitation to his party. Mike, on the other hand, just shrugged his invitation aside like an everyday occurrence, which to him, I guess it was.
I wasn't exactly sure if Mark himself had invited me, or if I was simply invited as an extension of Mike's clique. Whatever the reason, truthfully, it didn't matter. I was never one to care about status. I saw it all as fickle. Besides, after I finish high school, would it really matter which parties I was invited to or which friends I hung out with? I seriously doubted it.
My reason for going was simple: Mike wanted me to. I'd be lying if I said I didn't consider the absolute agony of having to suffer through an evening of seeing him all "snatched up" with Melissa, off in some corner making out as if it were their last night together. Normally, it wouldn't have been worth the sacrifice. Mike, however, wanted me to go, and that was reason enough for me not to disappoint him, especially after he'd proved that he accepted me for who I was.
Add to the mix a bunch of drunken teenagers, loud music, and what I was sure to be my miserable mood, and I, at least could understand why I didn't much feel the mood to party. However, for Mike's sake, I'd fake it.
"So, you excited?" Mike asked, uncharacteristically bouncing on the balls of his feet.
I laughed quietly rolling my eyes at his exuberance.
"You know, for a guy who doesn't really like Mark Matenchuk, you're sure excited about his party."
"HOW COULD YOU NOT BE EXCITED!!! I'm gonna get drunk off my ass!" His enthusiasm was catching.
"Ha! That is EXACTLY what I need. An evening with my friend drunk off his ass. I absolutely cannot wait!" For a moment I considered that maybe my sarcasm would ruin Mike's mood, but thankfully, it didn't.
Instead he looked at me a moment, deep in thought. Finally he spoke, his face serious, a study in contradiction to his mood just moments before. His words were solemn; soft, but firm, spoken with an air of confidence that left nothing to be argued. "Best friend." It was enough to stun me, leaving me speechless and momentarily confused.
It took a moment to process what he'd just said; my face was a realistic portrait of the emotions I felt. I could only think of one word, not the most expressive, but thankfully effective.
"Best friend," he replied again, matter-of-fact, like I should have known what he was talking about.
Shaking my head slowly, "I don't get it...I'm sort of confused."
We shuffled to my left, pushed to the side by the throng of students making their way through the halls, whom before now were unnoticed. There we stood, now flush against the lockers lining the wall, for the moment locked in an intense gaze that was most likely inappropriate for the moment, not to mention our location.
I shook myself back to the present. School was done for the day. I fleetingly wondered why I wasn't at my locker, preparing for a hasty retreat to my car.
"I'm your best friend." Mike said with enormous conviction, bordering on audacity, looking me straight in the eyes, silently daring me to refute him.
I was again lost for words, embarrassed at the recurrence of yet another example of my retarded thought process. I couldn't even think straight, again lost in the crystal pools of his blue eyes.
One word kept coming to mind, but it seemed that my mind was incapable of deciphering its meaning. I decided to just spit it out, hoping that maybe it would somehow add clarity to an already muddled situation.
Mike didn't flinch, his response a clear indication that he knew exactly what I was trying to say.
"No. Me." It was as clear as day, but said almost in a whisper. The noise of our peers had long ago disappeared.
I didn't know how to respond. I didn't even know if I could.
Truth was, as of late, Mike had been more of a best friend to me than Rick, and I'm sure Rick could say the same of Melissa. However, I was brought up to believe that best friends were forever; that no matter what, outside of direct betrayal, a best friend would always be exactly that: a best friend.
I was unsure if I was ready to let go of that ideal...not just yet, anyway.
"Mike, you know Rick is my best friend. What are you getting at?"
He smiled gently, his beautiful expression now masked with an almost peace-like grace.
"You're my best friend, Chase, even if I'm not yours. I tell you everything, and I'll keep telling you everything. What I have is yours if you need it, ok? That's all I'm saying."
With that being said, he stepped around me and walked off, refusing to give me the opportunity of response. I was left standing there, facing away from his retreating back, urging myself not to turn around, refusing to give in to the almost overwhelming compulsion to follow him.
I was amazed at the beauty of what he'd just said. It was almost romantic, an outpouring of his heart in the context of friendship.
"I'll pick you up tonight. Nine o'clock. Be ready," he must have tossed over his shoulder. I wasn't sure if he'd turned around, but I found myself smiling. It was the sound of his voice.
At nine o'clock sharp I was down in the sitting room waiting for Mike to arrive. My parents had gone out an hour before for their usual date night.
I heard Mike's horn outside in the driveway. It was time. So, with one more casual look in the mirror I headed out.
Approaching the car, I expected to see three people, so I was a little surprised that it was only Mike and Rick. Jumping in the back seat I was quick to pacify my curiosity.
"Not coming," Rick threw over his shoulder, turning in the front seat to look at me.
"What do you mean, `not coming'? You two have a fight or something, Mike?"
Mike looked at me through the rear-view mirror. Even with the little light afforded by the streetlamp and the bulb above the garage, he was stunning. My breath momentarily caught as our eyes locked.
I looked away, mildly annoyed that Mike had that affect on me.
"Nope. No fight." That was all he said. I waited for him to continue, but nothing.
"So what's the deal then?" I ventured, almost apprehensive to ask.
It was Rick. Looking back into the rear-view I saw that Mike was still focused on me. I smiled gently, but genuine, unwilling to offer him anything that wasn't real.
One thing was certain: I may not have been excited about the party before, but now I was definitely enthused about the prospect of hanging out with Mike and Rick...alone, no Melissa in sight.
I couldn't help but smirk. "So you gonna drive, or are we just gonna sit here?"
Without taking his eyes off of me, Mike rejoined with, "I have no problem with just sitting here. I kind of like the view."
I was a bit surprised at the casual tone of what he said, but at the same time not really. I mean, it wasn't like our playful flirting wasn't general knowledge in our group, something that only heightened the tension between Melissa and myself. However, for some reason, I just didn't expect it tonight...at least not in front of Rick. I immediately felt flushed, embarrassed as if Rick was now privy to some perverted secret that Mike and I alone should have shared.
I realized almost instantly that I was being silly.
"Well I do, so move, BITCH!!!"
No matter what, I thought to myself, you had to give Rick credit for getting the ball rolling. I laughed, well, more like guffawed. Crossing my eyes, I stuck my tongue out at Mike, blowing him an air raspberry.
He simply smiled. I couldn't see the whole of his face, but his expressive eyes told a beautiful story. I could see the smile in them; the stunning, blue spheres shinning brightly, radiating his contentment.
Putting the car into reverse, then forward, we were off.
Arriving at the party was an adventure all on its own. Cars lined both sides of the narrow street, their owners unconcerned with parking laws. Thankfully, we didn't mind walking, so we were able to secure a legal parking spot about two blocks away.
Even from where we parked the music was very much audible.
As I stepped out of the car, the crisp, early autumn air flooded my system, both shocking and exciting me.
Upon closing the car door I was able to get my first full vision of Mike. In a word, he was stunning.
I'd always thought that he had an exceptional knack for putting himself together, but he surpassed anything I'd seen of him before, or could have expected.
His hair looked wet, with big, crisp curls that lightly framed his angular face. With the product, whatever it was in it, it looked almost light brown instead of its usual blond, but no less beautiful. One would have expected stiff curls, but from the reaction of his hair to the gentle wind, it was obvious that it was anything but hard.
He wore a baby-blue, almost skin tight shirt that accentuated every muscle, every indentation and curve of his nicely toned upper body, drawing attention to a physique that was the envy of every swimmer. His jeans appeared stone washed, something that I was almost certain was unfashionable, but on him was they were impeccable. A white belt, matching the loafers on his feet further accessorized the low rise look, as its big, shiny buckle drew attention to a very full basket.
The most distinguishing feature about his look, though, was around his neck. He was wearing a white, coral choker that was just an inch from being too tight.
The combination of the shirt, his eyes, the pants, his physique and the choker were enough to leave me breathless.
Everything else disappeared. I stood there staring at him in a way that left me grateful that I no longer needed to hide any secrets from him. I prayed that it would not be visible in the dim light provided by the streetlamps, but my desire for him was quite palpable, and judging by the tightness in my pants, almost obscene.
I wanted him without question, and not just a piece of him; I wanted everything, body and soul. I wanted his heart, and I wanted it all for myself.
As I stood there mesmerized by his beauty, he stood there – staring at me. Neither of us moved. I was captivated by the mere sight before me; everything about him stunning me to speechlessness. I may have been reading too much into it, but the look in his eyes gave me room to dream. Could he have been thinking thoughts similar to mine?
In the periphery of my mind I heard an obnoxious sound, much like a hacking cough. It wasn't enough to distract me from the vision of beauty standing before me. I just couldn't tear my eyes away.
Time held no meaning to me, and obviously neither to him. We were both lost, two souls searching for something yet to be defined in the midst of everything else.
I felt someone pushing me forward and to the side. It did nothing to distract my gaze. It was not until Rick stepped in front of me, gently pushing me a few steps backward that I was finally able to snap out of the trance-like state.
Even then, the only thing that registered was that I was being pushed away from Mike. My eyes, however, refused to give up. I found myself awkwardly, and almost as if by reflex, twisting my neck in an attempt to get just one more glimpse of him.
"Chase, snap out of it. Chase. CHASE, CALM THE FUCK DOWN!" The vehemence of Rick's voice quickly got my attention. I looked at him, immediately embarrassed by my reaction to Mike. I switched my gaze, allowing my eyes to seek out Mike yet again. I looked at him, even more embarrassed at what I saw to be a blatant betrayal of a personal oath to keep my feelings for him under wraps.
"Hey, what's up?" I felt the heat of my face and could practically see the almost obvious blush it signified.
To say that Rick looked annoyed would be an understatement. His eyes were hard, and his jaw set. For a moment, he just stared at me, not saying anything.
At that moment it didn't matter, as my eyes as if upset were already seeking another glimpse of Mike.
"Hey Mike, if it's ok with you, we'll catch up with you at the party. I need to talk to Chase for a second."
Rick's voice was cold, instantly chilling me with the realization that he was angry, his eyes never leaving my face.
Mike's voice was a whisper, barely audible, "I'll wait. No problem."
"No, I don't think you should."
I was surprised at Rick. I'd never seen this side of him before, at least never directed at me.
"OK. That's cool. I'll catch up with you guys inside." He smiled shyly at me before turning towards the booming music a couple of blocks down. I couldn't help but watch him walk away, my eyes instantly focused on his tight, athletic ass.
Twice, before reaching the end of the first block he looked back. Twice he found my eyes plastered to him. Twice, I noticed him blush.
Again, I'd forgotten about Rick.
"Chase, what are you doing?"
His voice was calm. The ice no longer there, but neither was there warmth.
"What do you mean?" I was genuinely confused, which didn't surprise me seeing as images of Mike were still dominating my conscious thought processes.
"Don't fuck with me, Chase. What the fuck are – you – doing?" His face was a study in restrained anger, his left hand forming a makeshift visor over his eyes; his thumb and index finger pressing against each temple, slowly massaging away his frustrations.
I couldn't help the immediate surge of anger, or was it annoyance, that roared to life within me.
"Why the FUCK are you cursing at me? Am I cursing at you?" My voice was loud. My words were clipped. I felt my nostrils flare. It was definitely angry.
"Because I know you realize what you're doing. You've been doing it for weeks, and I'm tired of pretending that I don't see it. Mike is with Melissa, Chase. He's with MUH-LIS-SA! Yet you talk to him every-fucking-day with little regard for his relationship. I know that you say you two are playing, but shit Chase, to flirt in front of the boy's girlfriend? Where the fuck do you get off? Do you think Melissa's stupid? Do you think she doesn't know what's going on? WAKE THE FUCK UP!"
All the anger drained out of me, only to be replaced with a mixture of both fear and shame.
"What do you mean by `she knows what's going on?' She knows what?" My voice was quiet. I swallowed hard, waiting for his response.
"She knows that you're after HER man. Everyone in our group knows."
"How?" This one word softer yet.
"How could they not? You've practically been throwing yourself at him for weeks now."
I didn't respond. I had nothing to say.
"And you know what's worse?"
I just looked at him.
"ANSWER ME, DAMMIT!"
The cold look returned to Rick's face. "He's just as fucking guilty."
"Guilty of what?" Even though I already knew what Rick was talking about, I couldn't help but ask. The apprehension intensified. Excitement quickly displaced the fear, but the shame remained.
"Chase, you're not dense. You're acting it, but I know you're well aware of what's been going on. That's what's pissing me off. Melissa's MY friend, Chase, and I'm not going to just stand back and watch you hurt her."
Without realizing it, Rick had cut me deeply just then. His words hurt more than they probably should have.
"So, what am I?"
"What?" It was evident by his voice that he had no idea of what he'd said.
"If she's your friend, what am I?" My words were slow, precise and enunciated. My eyes were locked on his. It was as if I needed to be looking into him when he answered.
"Chase, you know you're my friend."
"Funny. I always thought I was your best friend. Now I'm just a friend." I couldn't help the almost involuntary huff that escaped my mouth, neither could I hold back the disappointed smile.
"You've changed, Chase. I feel like I barely know you now. You spend practically every waking moment with Mike. When was the last time we hung out?"
He waited for me to respond, but I couldn't. Truth be told, I really couldn't remember.
"Exactly! Do you know why?" Again he didn't allow me an opportunity to respond, "...because you're always with Mike."
I'd suddenly had enough. I'd allowed Rick to go on with his self-righteous bullshit for long enough. My defences kicked and, in no seconds flat I was angry, actually livid. One word came to mind, one word only – hypocrite!
"I've spent a lot my free time with Mike. I won't even argue that point with you, because we both know that it's true, but what about you, Rick?"
I mentally applauded my acting skills, proud of the even tone of my voice. It held no trace of the contempt I felt at that moment.
"Mike has basketball practice four afternoons a week, and when he's in basketball practice, I'm all alone. What about you? When I'm by myself, where are you?"
Fuck giving him a chance to reply, I'd heard enough already!
"You're with MUH-LIS-SA! I spend all my time with Mike? Guess what? You spend ALL yours with Melissa. I can't even begin to describe how many times I've called you and gotten a busy fucking signal because you're on the phone, and don't even try to fucking deny it. At least I have call waiting. Never once, Rick, not once have you called me in the past two weeks. Both times that we've talked, I'VE CALLED YOU! You really wanna talk about friendship?"
He started to say something, but I was far from finished.
"No, I'm not done. You wanna talk about me flirting with Mike? I won't even deny that, because again, it's true. I'll admit, maybe it's not the most sensitive thing to do in front of the bitch, but why should I give a fuck about sensitivity after the things she's said to me, and about me? Do you think I haven't heard from the other guys the mean things she's said? And you know what hurts? The guys said that you were ALWAYS right there, and never ONCE did you try to defend me. NEVER FUCKING ONCE!
"Why should I give a shit about hurting a bitch like her? Say what you want about me, Rick, but I'll tell you this, I'm anything BUT a relationship-wrecker. I've never once made a serious attempt to get Mike, and I never would! Not as long as he's in that relationship. YOU of all people, I thought would have understood that. Instead, you're worse than the rest. You out right accuse me..."
"I never once said that you're trying to break them up, Chase. Don't put words in my mouth." I was amazed at how calm he sounded.
"You never directly said it, but the implications of what you DID say are quite obvious."
"If the cap fits, then wear it, Chase."
In that moment, I was convinced that my friendship with Rick would never be the same. We could argue from now until eternity, but it wouldn't accomplish anything. If there was anyone I'd expected to understand what I was feeling for Mike, and how I was handling that situation, it was Rick. He didn't, not because he couldn't, but because he simply refused to. He didn't care to.
Mike was right. Rick was now Melissa's best friend. So did that make him right about him and I? Were we now best friends?
I looked at Rick. His gaze matched mine. His eyes were fiery, blazing with an anger I had never before seen in him.
"You know what, this shit's not even worth it." I turned and started to walk away, only to be stopped by Rick's next tirade.
"You! Chase...ARGHHHH!!!" he screamed out in frustration. "Someone needed to tell you what the fuck you're doing, and as your BEST FRIEND-"
"You're not my best friend." My words were calm and to the point. This was it for me as far as Rick was concerned. He'd chosen his side – Melissa – so now, I would officially choose mine – Mike.
"Whatever you say. But as your BEST FRIEND" he again placed undue emphasis on the word "it falls on me. You're one selfish son of a bitch. All you care about is you, Chase. What about Melissa, huh!
"This isn't like with Riley, Chase. Mike is actually straight. HE HAS A FUCKING GIRL FRIEND, FOR PETE'S SAKE! Leave – him – ALONE!"
I couldn't stop my eyes from narrowing. I saw red. Rick's words seemed like a threat, and I couldn't stop the barrage of hateful thoughts that ran through my head. I wanted to punch the shit out of him.
I inhaled deeply.
I may not have been able to stop my thoughts and desires. What I could do, however, was stop myself from acting on those thoughts. I definitely COULD walk away from this situation.
I turned around and continued my trek to the house. My heart hurt. It felt very much like I'd just lost my brother, my confidante, my best friend.
I stopped, but didn't turn around. I didn't say anything. I didn't feel as though I needed to.
" I AM your best friend, regardless of what you say. I love you more than I love any other person in this world, and if that love requires that I be harsh, then so be it."
He didn't say anything else. I resumed my walk, my heart much less broken. I could still feel the sting from his words, but what stung even more was that so many of them were true.
I WAS selfish. It was true. I didn't care about Melissa, AT ALL, only Mike. I passively pursued him from the moment he approached me at that table, and I could no longer run from that truth.
I had hated Melissa from the very beginning, and that had reflected in my demeanor towards her. My feelings for her were baseless, other than the fact that she had Mike firmly within her grasp.
Rick was right.
As I walked the now one-and-a-half blocks to the house, my emotions warred, each fighting not only for recognition, but demanding reconciliation.
I entertained many thoughts of revenge. Revenge against Rick, and revenge against Melissa. For some reason, I couldn't escape the thought that she'd had something to do with the conversation between us. The anger was definitely all ours, but what about his defence of her? To me, it seemed as if he'd set her up on a pedestal like some blameless demigod?
I laughed sarcastically to myself. How could I think of revenge against Rick when he was only acting as a friend? Of course, he could have packaged his message much nicer, but still, he really was only telling me what I needed to hear.
I stopped in my tracks. I turned, surprised to find Rick walking just a few steps behind me. His head hung low, his chin almost resting on his chest. His steps were slow, almost calculated; hands in his pockets, elbows out.
"Rick." It came out just two shakes louder than a whisper.
He looked up but didn't say anything.
"I love you, and thanks." I allowed myself a small smile, but I'm not sure my face cooperated.
Rick smiled gently, the upturn of his lips barely visible. "I love you too, Chase. Always."
I walked the two steps separating us. I hugged him, holding on for dear life. I didn't care if anyone saw us. I didn't care about the many ways people could interpret that hug. I didn't care about anything at that moment, other than Rick.
"Best friends?" I murmured in his right ear, my chin coming to rest on his left shoulder.
"For life, Baby."
Walking through the doors of Mark's house was an experience all on its own. The house was simply stunning. It was rumoured that Mark's family was wealthy, but I'd never once assumed this kind of money.
Forest Hill was well known as one of Central Toronto's more affluent neighbourhoods, so the size of his house was no shocker. The real surprise was in the décor.
Even though I'd never told anyone, I had a passion for art, and I knew enough to recognize that the house featured modern style interior design: a clean, streamlined look, with neutral palettes and sleek, smooth finishes.
The décor was not the only thing that caught my attention, but also the people. It seemed that the house was packed almost to capacity, and considering the formidable size of the place, that said a lot.
It appeared that everyone from our school was in attendance, and many others whom I'd never seen a day in my life. To top it all off, the music was loud, far too loud in my opinion, although quite hip.
"What the fuck!" I mouthed to Rick. He just smiled at me, casually looking around, seemingly un-phased by anything he saw.
That's another thing I could always say about Rick: he wasn't one who was easily impressed. I used to think that considering his relatively impoverished background, certain things would excite him, but surprisingly, very little did.
We started wading our way through the crowd; me in front with Rick's right hand casually touching my right shoulder.
The smell of alcohol and sweat was almost stifling, but thankfully what appeared to be a good ventilation system, combined with the open French, patio doors helped take care of the possible stench.
My first order of business was to find Mike. I felt that we'd left him unfairly to himself. If I were to be truly honest, I just wanted to see him again. I wanted him next to me. I stopped my trek, figuring that I ought to at least consult Rick as to my intention. I turned slightly, using my right hand to grasp his, pulling him gently towards me. I knew that it would be a pain trying to be heard above the music, so I motioned him towards the patio doors leading outside. He followed.
The few minutes it had taken to walk the two blocks to the house, appreciate the décor, and wade through the crowd saw a slight temperature drop that left the air even cooler than before.
Not only was it refreshing to be away from the throng of teenagers, and possibly even college kids, but the yard was beautiful. It didn't surprise me to see an outdoor pool, a pool house, and a glass-encased workout center, all serving as hubs for the spattering of even more people. I couldn't help but wonder exactly how many people were actually present.
I took a moment to take in the view, and then quickly I turned to Rick. Again, he had a blasé look about him.
"I was thinking that we should probably find Mike."
"Why?" he asked, shrugging his shoulders, and shaking his head. I was thankful that even though the music was loud, it was much easier to hear out there.
"Well, we did ask him for a moment and left him to party on his own. Maybe he's looking for us." I tried desperately to keep my tone casual, but judging from the way Rick was rolling his eyes, I wasn't at all successful.
"Yeah, right, Chase. I guess you're forgetting exactly how popular homeboy is."
"He's captain of the basketball team, Chase. Do you really think he's alone?" He had the nerve to smirk at me, but he did have a point.
"Ok. So what do you suggest we do?"
"Well, why don't we go find a drink and socialize a little?" He tilted his head, using it to point behind him towards the main house.
I sighed, "Ok." I couldn't hide my disappointment. Rick, for his part simply patted me on the shoulder and walked away, leading me towards the den of inebriation and iniquity.
Walking up to the patio door I was again accosted by an unfamiliarity that I should have instantly recognized: Mark.
For his part, he looked amazing. I mentally chided myself for expecting anything less. I mean, for the boy to be able to throw what seemed to be the party of the school year, but in reality was just another one of his immense social gatherings, was only one indication that he definitely had the resources. Tonight, those resources rendered him flawless.
Stumbling into me, I felt his hands, both of them, first bumping my shoulders back a bit, as he had seemingly lost his balance, and then smoothly and slowly caressing my chest as his body was pressed tightly into mine, almost with enough force to push me back.
I looked at the bundle of drunkenness in my arms, my hands now supporting his shoulders. His eyes met mine, and for a moment I couldn't exactly explain what I felt.
It was far from the electric shock that I often felt when Mike touched me, but it was definitely something worth noting.
His dark eyes seemed to be searching me. I wondered for a moment what he saw. I shook myself out of the reverie, gently standing Mark up.
I looked over to see Rick watching me, his expression one of bemusement.
"You alright there, buddy?" I asked, doubting his ability to hear me over the roar of the music.
"I am now," he slurred, looking at me intensely through half lidded eyes, as if trying to recognize my face. His intrusive presence in my personal space invoked a sudden flare of heat that was most unwelcome at the moment.
I decided to ignore what I thought I may have seen.
I made to walk away, making it a full two steps before I felt my right hand snag in what I instantly knew to be Mark's firm grip.
I stopped, turning slightly to look at him. Rick, for his part, must have assumed that I was right behind him, because he kept on walking. Turning back towards the doors, I watched Rick's back as he was swallowed by the pulsing throng of gyrating bodies.
"Why are you running away so quickly? I think you should stay and chat a little." I was amazed at how clear Mark's words were, now devoid of the slur from just moments before.
Without much thought I said the first thing that came to mind. "You don't seem so drunk now."
I kept my eyes focused on his, refusing to shy away, confused as to why his eyes were now so focused on mine.
"Because I'm not." I could barely hear his voice above the music. I inclined my ear closer to him, motioning with my index finger and an uplifted shoulder that I hadn't quite heard him.
He motioned with his head, indicating a spot by the pool, close to where I was standing only moments before with Rick. He walked away, his hand still holding mine, dragging me behind him.
When we were sufficiently away to be heard, I decided to go for broke and repeat what I had said earlier.
"You don't seem so drunk now."
He smiled slowly, his lips curving in the most delicious way, eventually reaching his eyes. "I know. I'm not drunk."
His words were slow and deliberate – intense.
"But didn't you just stumble into me?"
"I sure did." He offered nothing else.
"If you're not drunk, then how do you explain that?" I had a nagging feeling that I was being even more dense than usual, and that the answer should have been obvious.
"I did it on purpose."
This confused me even more.
The smile, which had never left his face, broadened.
"I wanted to touch you." He shrugged most nonchalantly.
I decided to take a moment and think this situation through before I acted. The first thing I acknowledged was the absurdity of it all. Here was arguably the most popular boy in school overtly flirting with me, a person he was in no way affiliated with. I quickly concluded that this could be a trick, maybe a sick attempt at entertainment.
I looked around, expecting to see his friends off somewhere laughing their asses off at my expense. I saw no one even remotely paying attention to our conversation.
He must have sensed my unease.
"You're Mike's friend, Chase, right?"
"Yeah, and you're Mark." I wasn't into games.
"I saw that Mike actually did as he was told for once and invited you."
My confusion must have again been evident. I seemed to have been confused a lot as of late.
"What? Mike didn't tell you that I extended a personal invitation?" he huffed, rolling his eyes and shaking his head, "Why doesn't that surprise me?"
"Why would you invite me? You don't even know me." I chastised myself for being so blunt. I resolved to think longer before speaking.
"Who says I don't know you?" His right eyebrow rose slightly and the ever present smile was instantly transformed into a very adorable smirk.
I was lost for words.
"Um..." So articulate. I couldn't think of anything else to say. How should I respond to such a question?
"Don't worry, Chase. I definitely know you." I was quickly becoming uncomfortable with the tone of his voice and the connotation of his words. As both of these registered with me, I was also suddenly aware of his proximity to me. He was standing far too close for my liking.
"Let's see. I think we go to the same school?" He opened both of his hands and slightly shook his head, looking at me as if to say it should have been obvious.
"But I guess you're confused because we've never spoken, which I say is pretty weird considering the size of our school. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were trying to avoid speaking to me... but...thankfully I do know better."
I wasn't sure how I was feeling about his arrogance, or was it simply confidence.
"Do you?" I decided in that moment to play this one by ear.
"Oh, I do." His smile relaxed even more, reflecting the calm confidence in his voice.
"So why haven't we spoken before, then?" I asked.
"We don't run in the same circles. Besides, we never had as much in common."
"We have something in common now?" I asked.
"Let's say it's more like someone."
This puzzled me. As far as I was aware, I knew no one who was associated with Mark.
I didn't say anything, allowing the obviousness of his answer to sink into my indisputably thick skull. Why wouldn't they know each other? Mark, the popular socialite, and Mike, captain of the basketball team, which by extension meant the popular athlete.
"Anyway...You look hot tonight." His smile was back, this time cocky.
I just stared at him, trying to figure out his angle. I decided to just ask.
"What are you getting at?"
For the first time since we'd been alone his smile faltered.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, where do you think you get off?" I found myself mildly annoyed at his temerity. As far as I knew, he knew NOTHING about me, but in the space of ten minutes, not only did he cop a feel on my chest, but he'd also made two comments so far, that were very blatant with sexual innuendo.
I didn't give him a chance to answer me, instead choosing to go on. "You don't know anything about me. As far as anyone's concerned I could be a homophobic asshole, but yet you not only openly flirt with me, you also copped a feel!"
For some reason, the more I thought about his actions, the angrier I became. I practically shouted the last few words.
Mark held up both of his hands in a sign of surrender, and took a step back. The look on his face was almost fearful, but not quite.
"Take a breath there, Hulk. Let's see... you're right. I don't know you, but I do know of you." I started to say something, but he quickly shook his head, holding up his index finger and wagging it. "My time to talk, Shorty." This I found hilarious, considering that he had no more than an inch over me.
I obediently held my tongue.
"As I was saying, I may not know you personally, but I know of you. Secondly, about the possibility of you being homophobic, call me silly, but this IS Canada, and from what I saw at the movies, you're definitely not homophobic. In fact, if I were to take an educated guess... I'd say quite the opposite."
I was left standing there, speechless. I wasn't sure what to say, or even if I wanted to say anything for that matter. I decided not to. I started to walk away, heading for the patio doors in an attempt to rejoin Rick, or find Mike.
"Wait! Chase, I didn't say that to offend you. I'm just telling you why I was being so audacious. Please, I'm sorry."
I stopped, but didn't say anything.
"Look, can we start over...please?"
I turned around, but didn't move forward. "Maybe. But another night, Ok? Right now, I just wanna find my friends."
For a moment Mark looked dejected, almost to the point of making me reconsider. I decided to hold firm. He looked into my eyes, and I saw the slow smile begin to form on his face.
"Ok. Come on. I'll help you look."
Ok, so another chapter finally behind me. I can't begin to tell everyone how excited I am. The next chapter is the big 10, a milestone of sorts for me. I've finally plotted out the end of the story, and I think it's only fair that I let you guys know that if everything goes according to plan, there will be three more chapters and an epilogue. I can't promise that, but I do say that as it stands at the moment, that's the plan. I really did put a lot of work into this chapter, and I really hope that it translated that way to you readers. Thanks to Gardner, Stuart, and Baruch for all the work you've put into editing this piece. Thanks so so much. I'd also like to dedicate this story to Raymond across the Atlantic. Please continue to read.
I'll try to post chapter 10 as quickly as possible, but again I ask that you understand that I'm a graduate student, and as it stands, school has to come first. Until the next chapter...