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Chapter Five:
"An Angel In The Flesh"

It was a level of anxiety that I haven't felt since my 8th birthday. I remember it like it was yesterday. I wanted a brand new 10-speed bike more than anything in the WORLD! And two weeks before my birthday, my friend Damien told me that he was in the bike shop with his parents, and he actually saw my mom buying the bike that I wanted. Bright red, too! Just the color I asked for. And I had to wait two whole WEEKS to get it!!! We're talking fourteen days...which, in '8 year old' time is like a prison sentence of fifty YEARS...until I was able to legally get my hands on that bike! I twitched and fidgeted for what felt like FOREVER!!! And by the time I was three days away from my birthday, I was nearly catatonic with anticipation! I was seriously just a few hours short of curling up in a corner and drawing crazy symbols on the walls of a padded room by the time she actually gave it to me. NEVER...not once in my whole LIFE, have I been sooooo anxious to get my hands on something that I wanted sooooo badly!!!

At least...not until now....

My heart felt as though it was tightly wrapped in a thin cage of aluminum wire...beating harder and harder in an attempt to break out of it. I didn't have a single quiet moment where I didn't start daydreaming about it. The unimaginably dreamy moment that I might actually have 'Jesse-101' cross my vision in real LIFE. I mean...what if I see him? Really SEE him??? Oh God...what do I do? What do I say? They were all questions that I had tackled before...but now that I told Lori that I was actually going to go along with her to the mall...this time with the INTENTION of tracking down this magnificent boy LEAST introducing myself to him...she'll NEVER let me back out of it! Not now! She'll drug me and shove me in the trunk of her sister's car before she lets me worm out of this one. So...I'm kinda locked into this particular plan of action! know, I WANNA go! But this whole thing just seemed so much more 'credible' and 'fun' when it was just a fantasy of mine! Having to actually do it for REAL makes this a LOT scarier than I thought it would be! And as much as I wish I could go out there and do it right NOW...I also have a majority of my common sense pulling back on me and asking me if I'm just completely fucking crazy for even AGREEING to this!!!

My mom thought I was going berserk the way I was tapping on things around the house. Tapping with pens, tapping with pencils, tapping with my silverware, tapping with my fingers, tapping with frozen fish sticks, tapping my damn near drove her crazy! And eventually she asked me what the hell was the matter. It's kinda hard to explain without saying, 'Mom, I'm gay' I had to keep my mouth shut. Still though...tapping on things was the only way for me to distract this nervous jitter inside of me, and keep it from puddling in the center of my stomach, where it was sure to make me sick as a DOG if I let it fester there.

I sat at my computer this morning, went to Jesse's YouTube account...and I just kinda stared at the homepage. And I mean...really just stared at it. Just the little info stuff he put on there, and the comments left by his many 'groupies' and fans, and the number of subscribers that had popped up overnight. And I clicked to look at his collection of videos again and just...sighhhh....he's so....I mean, like...he's so incredible, you know? Like...when he face is so bright and so cheerful when he smiles. And when he's like a 'total' laugh. You know? It's not one of those laughs that somebody holds back or tries to cover up in order to not be too loud. Jesse's laughs really come from the bottom of his heart. And it's so contagious too! He CAN'T smile without me smiling along with him. He just has this charismatic presence that really sucks you in and keeps you totally entertained while he's talking. I can't turn away from him when he's on. His little carefully edited jump cuts and witty dialogue, and his breakaways to random pics and just...makes me wiggle inside to see him at 'work', you know?

Ugh! God! I feel so silly sometimes! Like I'm just being a total DORK about all this! Some weirdo fan that has just lost all sense of reality and fallen into this strange voyeuristic habit of watching some gay teen online that I don't have a snowball's chance in HELL with! But...I can't HELP it! Something about Jesse excites me beyond anything that I've ever known before. And the closer I get to actually combining this virtual 'wet dream' of mine with actual reality....the more I realize that I'm truly falling in love with somebody that I don't even KNOW!

And that, to me....sounds completely bananas!

I got up and went to lunch with Lori and her sister that morning. We had a three day weekend for some kind of 'teacher thing' that I didn't quite understand...but didn't question at all. Just so long as it got me out of the slow and agonizing torture of school. And yet, I can't say that having fun with my best friends helped the time to go by any faster. I mean...all I could think about was this coming Saturday and how long it was taking this busted 'time elevator' to get me there. In fact, my whole life just seemed to be one long and stressful waiting period for the moment when I went to that mall and got my chance to stare my obsession in the face. I mean...what else matters right now? Honestly?

Every time Lori so much as made eye contact with me, she gave me an evil smirk and reminded me of the countdown. "Six more days, Tristan..."

"I KNOW! Stop reminding me, already! I'm a trembling wreck of a human being as it is." I told her.

"Hehehe, oh knock it off. You know you want to go."

"I DO! I wanna go so bad that my TEETH ache! My FINGERNAILS itch! And my heart is pounding so hard that I swear to God, I bruised a rib." I said, slightly aggravated. "I just...I'm worried, you know? I'm, like...stuck between the day coming too soon and the day not coming soon enough. And I don't know what to do with myself!"

"Well, buck up, buddy! Because we're gonna need your help when we put the potato sack over his head and kidnap him from the mall." She giggled. "Consider it an early birthday present. We'll even bring an extra sack, just in case Artie's with him."

It got a halfhearted chuckle out of me, but it didn't really help much. And before I even knew what I was doing, I started tapping on the lunch tray in front of me with my fingertips. She instantly took a hold of my wrist and lifted it away from the plastic surface.

"So help me God, Tristan...if you start that damn 'tapping' thing of yours again, I'm gonna strangle the living SHIT out of you! I really can't handle that today." She said, and was quick to finish eating so she could get her sister and get the heck out of that place before I started my little 'subliminal symphony' all over again. I don't think a pinch of puppy love has ever shaken me to the very core like this before. Arrrgh! Why couldn't Jesse 'JUST' be some cute boy on a computer screen! If he turns out to be a cool person on top of it, I don't think my heart is going to be able to take it. Hell, it might actually jump out of my throat and decide to follow HIM home from the mall instead of me.

Anyway, the three of us spent a little bit of time together, but Michelle had to bring something to their mom at work, and Lori had leftover homework that she hadn't even started on yet. So our day off was kinda cut short. Just as well, though. I wasn't really in too much of a festive mood. Not a BAD mood, just.....sighhhh...preoccuppied. Lori and her sister were giving me a ride home, when Lori asked me if I was gonna do some more 'Jesse research' on his site this week before the big meeting. Just so I wouldn't be stuck without anything intelligent to say. Somehow, I don't think all the studying in the world is gonna prevent that particular disaster from taking place. Besides, I knew everything about him by heart. I doubt I could find something new. Not that I'm not gonna check anyway. What can I say? I'm addicted.

" know, I just wanna go home, and lay on my bed for a while, and just...'exist' in complete silence for a while." I told her.

"Ha! Sucks to be you, then!" She cackled.

"Why do you say that?"

"Scotty Lynch, babe. You promised him you'd hang out today, remember? Three day weekend?"

I instantly felt my stomach tighten up with frustration, and I slapped my palm against my forehead. "Arrrghhh!!! NO!!! I DID tell him that, didn't I? Ugh! Lori...why did I say that?"

"Because you're secretly in love with the little cutie and want him to pound that sweet and tender hole of yours once he gets 'long' enough to make it hurt! Hehehe!" She teased, and Michelle erupted in laughter, just as I cringed and kicked the back of her seat.

" are such a NASTY little bitch! Jesus!" I giggled. "I really don't have enough energy to deal with Scotty Lynch today. I mean it. Can't we just drive around until it's past his bedtime or something?"

"Ohhhh, no, Tristan. You go back and take your medicine like the 'half-man' you are. Besides, I'm not gonna help you break that little boy's heart. He's sweet."

"Right. So are those poisonous berries that grow in old lady Agatha's backyard. If you ask me, the poison would be less painful."

"Come on, Tristan. How bad can it be? So what? You go over there, and you spend some time with somebody that thinks the WORLD Of you. You could do a lot worse, ya know? Don't be mean." Michelle added from the driver's seat, and Lori instantly took her side. Great. NOW I'm being double teamed. And by two GIRLS on top of it. Which is more like being QUADRUPLE teamed!

"Fine. Fine! Ok! If he comes over, I'll go. I'll even be...'friendly', or whatever. You happy now?" They both nodded, happy to have bullied me once again against my will. They're getting really GOOD at this kinda thing. I wonder if this is what it's like to be married. "Maybe I'll get lucky. I know...maybe Scotty will forget or something. He's got friends of his own. They probably wanna spend time with him too, right?" I said, and Lori and Michelle looked at one another. "Right?" I asked again, and they both burst out laughing. Sighhh....friends. Whatever.

They both protested when I asked them to go around back and drop me off in the alley instead of my front door. But after enough whining and whimpering they decided it was better to cave in than to have a full blown tantrum on their hands. If I can deter Scotty from coming over for just TEN would have totally been worth it. I got out of the car, and kept my head down...just in case he was looking for it to pop up over the fence. And everything was going good as I practically whispered goodbye and walked up to my back door. Then Michelle fucking HONKED the horn loud as hell! And I heard them laughing their asses off as I jumped and rushed inside! BITCHES!!! Ugh!

I came in, looked all around, listened for any awkward noises...and then I went into my room and closed the door. Thank God. Peace and solitude at last. I stretched out on my bed, and kinda pushed my sneakers off with my feet. My pillow never felt so inviting. And as soon as I was comfortable, I let out a long sigh of relief. Yes...this is it. This is exactly what I needed.

And then...


Right on my bedroom window. Grrrrr....FUCK!!!!

I got up, and sure enough, there was little Scotty Lynch. He was sitting on his bike and looking up into my window as though I was secretly holding the greatest collection of Willy Wonka chocolate ever made! I opened the window, trying not to look too disgusted, and his smile was so bright that it almost blinded me. "Hey! You're back! I was worried you were gonna be gone the whole day!" He beamed.

"Evidently not." I said. "How did you know I was home?"

"I saw Lori's sister's car go into the alley. I know how you sometimes like to come in the back way instead of the front way sometimes. So I made sure to check both, just in case." Note to self...ask Lori to drop me off at the corner next time. I'd seriously consider digging a tunnel under the house if I thought it could get me in and out without being seen. " still wanna hang, man? I cleaned my room for you! It looks awesome!"

You know...I could have simply said no. I could have made up an excuse. I could have just slammed the window shut and ignored him until he went away. But...arrrrgh...those hopeful blue eyes of his just broke me down in a matter of seconds. There was something so...innocent about him wanting to spend time with me that I just couldn't be heartless enough to turn him down. Like I said...I don't HATE him. Really, I don't. I just happen to be fully aware of the fact that being nice to him will officially mean opening that magical door to a flood of puppy love that I was really NOT prepared to deal with. Scotty can be an 'all or nothing' kinda guy. He's either leaving me alone, or he's humping my leg 140 times a day. That boy needs a middle ground.

"Yeah. Sure. Just...give me a second, k?"

Scotty smiled so wide, I thought he was gonna hurt himself. Seriously. It took Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson HOURS of make up work to design a smile that big. "Cool! I'll, um...well, like...I'll just wait here then." And he smiled again as I gave him a bit of a weird look and closed my window again. What a spaz, geez.

Scotty's house is less than a two minute walk away...and I think he fit about an hour's worth of chatter into that short amount of time. On and on and on. I barely caught half of it. And by the time I fully understood one topic of conversation, he was already two or three topics ahead of me. Scotty put his bike in his basement, and then ran back up the steps to let me into the house. He squeezed past me to put his key in the lock, and he smiled at me again as he got close enough to make contact. I kinda looked away from him to keep him from thinking that we were having a 'moment' there, but it didn't dim his smile a bit. He opened the door, and I suddenly felt as though I was practically laying down in the center of a giant spider's web.

I have to admit....even though the first ten minutes was a bit awkward, filled with random giggles and uncomfortable really wasn't all THAT bad. There, I said it. Of course, I'm sure that he was basically breaking blood vessels to 'impress' me somehow, but it was all coming from this really sweet place in the center of his heart. And what can I say? It's contagious. It was kinda flattering to have him 'show off' for me.

We played video games for a while, and he has obviously had a lot more practice under his belt than I did. But he made sure to not beat me by TOO much, giving me a few freebies along the way. I may not have really been paying attention before, but....yeah...he really DOES like me. Ugh, how am I EVER gonna deal with THAT little problem! Hopefully I can just dodge him until some other boy comes along and sweeps him off of his feet. Someone, you know...a bit 'younger'. Should be perfect for him.

At one point, the distractions of video games faded, and Scotty was anxiously looking for something else to entertain me with. I think he could tell that I wouldn't be sticking around for much longer which almost put him in a state of subtle emotional panic. He was looking around his room for more stuff to show me, as if I hadn't already seen it all before. Anything to hold me hostage for just a LITTLE bit longer. "Ummm...ummm...did you see the shoes I bought? Aren't they killer sneaks? I really wanna get the 'blanks', you know? The ones that you can design yourself? Those would be awesome! If you want, I could make you a pair too! I'll make 'em extra neat, know...they're for you." He said, and when I looked at him, his gaze shot down to his feet so fast that I swore I heard it actually hit the floor. "So...I mean, you's no big deal or anything. But I'd totally, that for you. You know, if you're into that kinda thing." I smiled, feeling well 'buttered' from his burst of affection.An amused by his quick attempt to hide it again. "You know, whatever. I don't care. Just saying."

"Hehehe, thanks, Scotty. That would be sweet. Maybe. Ok?" I certainly didn't want to lead him on, but I didn't wanna keep my hand in his face all day either. Not after he had been such a gracious host for the past two hours. "I didn't know you were into the whole shoe designing thing. That's new."

"Yeah. Kinda." His confidence started to blossom, and he hopped off of his bed. "Wanna SEE some??? I did two pairs already!" I didn't have to say a word. Scotty ran to the closet and threw the door open as he grabbed some shoes and raced back to the bed with them. He sat so close to me that our legs were touching at first, and then he blushed. "Hehehe, sorry." And he scooted away from me a bit. "See? I don't like these so much, because they were my first pair that I ever did, like, for real. I usually just draw little designs and stuff on paper. But I got the paints and all, and it turned out alright, I guess. But the second pair? MUCH better! See? I'm getting awesome now!" He said, turning and modeling his artwork for me. Hehehe, I don't think I had ever seen him so PROUD before. It was kinda cute in a way. "Wait, here...look at this side. This side's better. I'm gonna get another pair of blanks when I get enough allowance together. The NEXT ones are gonna be fuckin' SWEET!"

"These are pretty damn good, Scotty. What do your friends say when you wear them to school?" I asked.

He gave me the strangest look. "Wear them to...WHAT??? Dude, what are you TALKING about? I'm not gonna wear these outside! These are old-school, fool!" He said, almost offended that I would make such a wild assumption. "If somebody stepped on my shoes I'd have to, like, SHANK them or something! These are works of ART, man! These are my babies!"

"Hahaha, well damn...if you say so." I told him. "I really like these. You're really talented with the colors and all. Did you airbrush these?" I was looking at the design when I asked him, and there was a short silence. I looked up, and Scotty was staring dreamily at me, his mouth half opened as though he were unable to speak. "Scotty?"

"Huh?" He replied. Maybe I should take it easy on the compliments. "Yeah!" He blurted out. "I mean...yeah. I've got my airbrusher thingy and stuff out in the garage. My mom says I have to do it with the door wide open though so I don't inhale the fumes. And I have to keep it the hell away from her car." He paused again, swallowing hard and taking another breath. One thing about young love, it can truly make you feel like the most wonderful thing walking this planet sometimes. " also use some regular paint too. So I can do it by hand. And uhhh...and uhhh..." He blushed again and tried to keep from looking me in the eye."...Get the details right. So...yeah." He trailed off and for a split second there...I felt really lucky to be so adored by such a sweetheart. He brushed back some of his brass blond locks and sorta stared off into space for a moment while he tried to regain his composure. Then...I actually felt the air in the room suddenly tighten and thicken with tension as Scotty contemplated saying...'something sweet' to me. And my eyes widened a bit as I tried desperately to think of a way to stop him. "Uh...Tristan...?"

"So how much do one of these blank thingies cost?" I said, hopefully dodging far enough to keep any major confessions from escaping those trembling lips.

I don't know if he chickened out or what, but he embraced the change of subject. "They're almost as much as a video game, but that's because the guy at the store gives me a discount. Eventually, I wanna have a whole closet full of 'em. That would" He said, staring at me again. "At least...I think it would be cool." Okaaaay, I should be getting out of here. I'm definitely dangling a piece of meat in front of a hungry puppy here. But, just as I was getting ready to make my excuse to go home, Scotty sensed something changing and worked to block it. "HEY! Did you see that they're re-doing that park over by the elementary school? Cool, right?"

"Yeah. It'll be...big." I said. "So, I should really be..."

" want something to drink? I've got a bunch of those '10 for 10' sodas from the grocery store!"

"No thanks. I'm not thirsty. Actually, I was just getting ready to say..."

"You wanna hear a joke?" Did he just say 'hear a joke'? "You like 'Harry Potter', right? This one is a 'Harry Potter' joke."

"I...sighhh, fine. What is it?"

"What did Harry say to Hermoine after their first class together?"

"I dunno, what?"

"He said, ''ve already got the whipped cream, all you need now is the NUTS, bitch!'"

I think it took a couple of seconds for me to even...allow that to sink in fully. And then I looked at Scotty, who was already breaking out into this huge boyish grin. And as the utter ridiculousness of what he just said seeped more and more into my mind, I started to giggle to myself. He didn't follow that up with an explanation, or anything. And finally, I was like, "Hehehe...WHAT THE...???" And Scotty started to crack up, which only made me laugh out loud. "SCOTTY!!! That doesn't even make any fucking SENSE!!!"

Which tickled him to no end. "Hahaha! I *KNOW* it doesn't!"

"Then why the hell did you SAY it??? Hahahaha!"

"Because...I needed a joke."

"....WHAT??? Hahaha!!!" I said, and fell back as we both started giggling uncontrollably. "That makes even LESS sense!"

"'s like, any time that you need a joke really fast, and you can't think of one...just pick a movie, and two characters, and use that as the punchline. That way, you always have a joke ready." He said.

"A joke that makes NO goddamn sense whatsoever!"

"Yeah...but it made you laugh. And that's the whole point, isn't it?" He shrugged, and I guess he had a point there. I had to literally hold my stomach. The more I thought about it, the harder it was to stop laughing. It was just so damn SILLY for him to do that. The giggles kept coming back, I couldn't shake them, no matter how hard I tried. I didn't even notice Scotty staring at me again. "You have an awesome laugh." He said softly. But then he looked away and pretended as though he didn't say it at all.

That bit of hilarity bought him another fifteen minutes of company while I tried to shake the absurdity of his 'joke' from my mind. But eventually, I did have to go. So I attempted to make another escape. "I should probably get going, dude."

"You wanna WRESTLE?" Hahaha, WHAT??? Where the hell did THAT come from?

"" I said. He actually looked like he was getting ready to seriously, like, 'jump' on me. I'm a little frail for wrestling, I have to admit. If I'm gonna get all sweaty and tired with another boy, it's gonna be for a WHOLE other reason than playful wrestling.

"You sure? I bet I can pin you." He said, and started to shove me a little bit.

"Ok, so...I'm gonna go now, Scotty." I told him, and got up from the bed before his infatuation spilled over any more than it already was. Geez, how did I not notice this major crush before? That's CRAZY! I always just thought he was know...annoying before. But I think he really, REALLY, has a serious thing for me. Ugh, damn you Lori...I HATE it when you're right about stuff! "So...I'll see you soon, ok?"

"'re really gonna go?" He asked. My God, I felt like I had just snatched some poor kid's lollipop away.

"Yeah...I've mom's gonna be home soon, so..."

"Ok." He sulked a bit. "It was so cool that you came over today, Tristan. I kinda know...that you were gonna totally bail on me."

Riiiiiight. "What? Psh, no way. Not me." I said. "So...yeah, later."

"WAIT! I'll walk you back home!" He said putting his shoes on and wiggling his cute little butt in the air.

"Aww, Scotty...really, you don't have to do that..."

"But I WANT to! Really. Anything for my buds, T-Diddy!"

Arrrgh!!! "You know...not to be weird or anything, but can you, like...NOT call me 'T-Diddy'? Seriously."

He stood up with a grin. "What should I call you, then?"

" could always call me Tristan, you know? My name?" I told him.

"Oh...hehehe, ok." He blushed. "Sorry."

"No, it's cool. It's just, you parents kinda did the whole 'baby name' book thing before I was born, and I've sorta grown 'attached' to it after 15 seems like kind of a waste not to use it."

"Hehehe, you're funny." He giggled, and then walked past me to leave his bedroom as though he hadn't heard me at all. "C'mon!" I don't know if I solved anything or not, but if it keeps him from calling me 'T-Diddy' for just a few weeks, it will have been worth it.

We walked back to my house together, and I think he shoved even MORE chatter into that time frame than he did the first time. It was getting dark, but his giddy behavior provided enough sunshine brightness for both of us. He was like, "So yeah, I'm gonna join the basketball team or something. Because everybody keeps telling me, 'Oh Scotty, you're so awesome! You should definitely join the team so we can win, like, EVERY game.' Well, I don't know about EVERY game! But I think I could prolly be team captain or something. You should totally come and watch me play. Or maybe...we can just go together. Just me and you. And we can play one on one. I'm not doing nothin' this weekend, how about you?" My GOD, that boy can talk! STOP already! I'm impressed, I'm impressed!

"Sorry, man. I've got plans for this weekend. So..."

"How about NEXT weekend? OR...I mean you can just come over after school tomorrow if you want. Do you like Spongebob?" He asked, hopefully.

We had such a decent time together, and he seemed so happy...I didn't want to taint his special day with a subtle rejection. So I just got to my door, turned to him and said, "I had a good time today, Scotty. Thanks." I think he forgot about the hanging out question all together, and just swooned with a smile. He inhaled deeply, his little chest swelling up with pride...and didn't breathe again until he spoke.

"Cool. too....Tristan." He blushed again as he bashfully bit his bottom lip.

He stood there for a second, kinda rocking back and forth on his heels. And finally I just said, "Well...later."

"K. Bye." He smiled, and then got the 'hint' and started to walk back to his house. But he couldn't get more than a step or two away before he was looking over his shoulder and waving at me again. Hehehe, he's adorable, you know that? He's like....that puppy that just ripped up the entire house while you were away, and you WANNA be mad, but he's sitting in the middle of this mess looking all sad and sweet about it. Who knows...maybe I AM kinda hard on him from time to time. I should give him a break. He's not so bad. Just...a bit too intense sometimes.

The rest of the week was a series of mild panic attacks, strung together by thoughts of Jesse and I sharing an epic kiss on the beach at sunrise. At least, that's how MY overly romantic mind saw it. More dreams, more jitters, more 'tapping'. And poor little Scotty came riding his bike past my house every single day, just to smile and say hello. One afternoon he tried to do some crazy bike trick in front of me and nearly cracked his skull open. I REALLY did not wanna be responsible for him damn near KILLING himself just to look cool for my benefit. But knowing what I know now, he hardly seemed like the pest he was before.

Wow...where did THAT come from? Since when did I build up a Scotty Lynch tolerance? Weird.

Tuesday and Wednesday were a very long blur. So unimportant to me, I could hardly see a reason to have been conscious that whole time.

By Thursday, Lori and Michelle had completely abandoned any hopes of 'calming me down'. A 'Mission: Impossible' offensive that I, myself, had abandoned last Saturday. Also, Scotty emailed me a 9 second YouTube video of Justin Bieber getting punched in the face for some reason.

Friday brought on a whole new level of hysteria, as I realized in the middle of my Social Studies class that I'd be in a shopping mall looking for the boy of my dreams in less than 24 hours. I sat there, paralyzed, for five minutes straight. And my nerves only seemed to get tighter and tighter from there on out. Oh, and Scotty 'felt me' up when he saw me coming home. Just in the middle of a conversation, he touched my stomach and told me he liked it that my stomach was kinda soft. Then he asked me to feel his. And...left shortly afterwards. I think me touching him at all had some kind of 'effect' on him. Ewwww...Scotty boner!

And then...the main event.

The sound of my alarm, the warm spray of a thorough shower, the agonizing process of picking out a 'cute' outfit...and the honking of Michelle's horn outside.

Sighhh...this is it, isn't it? God, help me.

Crawling into the backseat of Michelle's car seemed to bring with it a certain feeling of destiny. He's gonna be there today. Like...I just KNOW he is. And the fact that I just...wasn't even remotely prepared like I should have been for an event like this was already starting to depress me. My silence must have triggered something in the girls up front, because while they usually nag me about getting excited and not worrying about anything...this time they seemed to be really concerned. My face must have been totally white with fear. Michelle even offered to turn the car around if I really wasn't up to it. Tempting. Soooo very tempting. But why give in to the fear again? So I can go home and watch him in a little electronic box, and ache over him for another week? Maybe a month this time? Maybe longer. I's not like it's gonna get any easier, right?

"No. It's ok. I'm gonna go through with it. Let's just do this." I said. Lori looked back at me, trying to read my eyes for any sign that I might just be saying that for their benefit. "I'm SERIOUS! I wanna...I wanna see him. If he's there. So just...keep talking. I'm just being a weirdo, that's all." I said, and lowered my eyes again as I tried to meditate on things for the rest of our car trip.

I can remember the numbness I felt in my palms as we turned into the mall parking lot. A numbness that spread to my legs as Michelle found a parking spot and turned off the engine. Was it excitement I felt? Or was it blinding fear? Or maybe it was just good old fashioned confusion as my emotions traveled back and forth from one extreme to the other so fast that I couldn't really get a grip on either one. And yet, I found myself getting out of that backseat and courageously walking forward anyway. I kept telling myself that it's GOTTA be today. I've GOTTA do it. I've just...I've gotta take this chance, or I'm gonna end up regretting it forever. I just know it. And every time I repeated it in my head, I took another 'left, right, left' step into battle. God, help me...I can't believe I'm doing this.

The second we walked in, the Saturday afternoon pop music surrounded us, echoing off of the cavernous walls of indoor retail. The place was full and thriving as usual for a weekend, and I instantly felt my heart stop. Like...literally 'stop'. I had to fight to not turn right back around and leave again. That's when Lori put her arm around my slim waist, and her head on my shoulder. She giggled, "Omigod,'re trembling. That is soooo CUTE!"

"What? Shut up!" I said.

"Michelle, touch Tristan. Feel this. It's like one of those massage chair thingies." She said, and Michelle reached out a hand to touch my chest.

"STOP THAT!!!" I said, pushing them off of me. "And I am NOT...trembling. I'm...vibrating with anxiety. SLIGHTLY."

"Hehehe, well then...we'd better go find your prince then, huh?" Lori grinned.

"Well...I mean, wait...we don't have to, like...HUNT HIM DOWN or anything." I said, a nervous shiver tightening up my stomach muscles from the idea. "Why don't you guys just...'shop' or something. I'll just...hang around for a bit and see what happens."

"No way. We split up LAST time, and you ended up turning into a basket case on us. We're sticking right here by your side. Besides...knowing you, you'll just run to the nearest bathroom and HIDE until it's time for us to go."

Dammit!!! How does she know me so well! I desperately need to start keeping secrets from this girl. "I just don't think that we should go on a full blown pursuit for him the second we walk in the door, that's all."

"C'mon, we've been through this already. It's getting repetitive and frustrating now. You're BORING your 2 girl audience here! Now stand up straight, take a deep breath, and let's just see if he happened to come to the mall today. I mean, he talks about it in plenty of his videos, so he obviously shops here often right? It's Saturday, the sun is shining...odds are he's either here already, or he will be soon. So quit wasting time and let's FIND him." Lori demanded. I gave her a bit of a helpless 'whiny' face, but before I could open my mouth to give her another excuse, she said, "Unh unh! Shut it! Don't say it! Face forward, mister!" And she literally grabbed both of my shoulders and turned me around to march me further into the center of the mall. I pouted a little, my bottom lip poked out ever so slightly, but I was secretly grateful that Lori was still pushing me to do this. I would have chickened out if I was all on my own.

I've come this far...too late to turn back now.

Our search started in a few of the hip clothing shops, then we checked the music stores, then the video game spot. There were a LOT of cute boys running around in packs of three or more that day...and some of them were definitely worth a double take. But they weren't Jesse. Not even close. I remembered that he liked to, I remember him saying my name too. That's just...he's just...

Ahem, anyway...

So I made sure to check the bookstores too. There were two of them, one on the bottom level, and one on the upper level next to the food court. But no sign of him at all. No sign of Artie either. I made sure to keep an eye out for him too, just in case. I never told Lori about our previous 'meeting', because she probably would have socked me in the eye for letting him get away. But I had to assume that if they were there, they'd be together. But as time went on, I went from the conflict of being both excited and the conflict of being both disappointed and relieved. It's a battle that I can't seem to win, no matter what's going on.

After an hour and a half, my pulse began to return to normal, and Lori and Michelle gave up the hardcore search for an occasional peek or two while looking for shoes. I'll have to admit to looking twice at every blond head of hair that I caught in my peripheral...but despite the small firecracker burst of hope...the thrill was quickly vanquished by the sight a boyish smile that wasn't Jesse's. One hundred and fifty let downs in a single afternoon is a bit much, even for me. I said, the tempting comfort of normality rushed in and kept me sane.

Lori and Michelle had gotten themselves a few items, accessories mostly, and all three of us were talking cheerfully as we started taking the escalator down to the lower level again. "I can't BELIEVE you, Tristan..." Michelle said with a smirk.


"How could you tell that girl that the skirt made her look fat???"

"I didn't SAY that! She asked me if they made her look fat and I said, 'a little'. A little does not mean fat."

"She's a GIRL! You're a cute boy! There's no such THING as a 'little fat', Tristan! God!" Lori giggled, shaking her head.

"WHAT??? Jesus, was I just supposed to LIE?" I said.

"YES!!!" The both said in unison.

And Michelle added, "Totally clueless. No wonder you don't like girls."

"Gee, I'm really missing out." I said. "An entire species of overly emotional, indecisive, chatterboxes, who expect every man on the planet to read their minds and get mad at you when you can't. I'd rather cuddle up to a rabid wolverine. At least I'd get away with less scars." That particular comment got an extremely harsh PINCH in the arm from Lori, causing me to yelp in pain as she grinned at me. "Stop! That's gonna leave a bruise now! Hehehe!"

"God, you're so delicate." She said, but it almost fell upon deaf ears. In fact, every sound in that shopping mall seemed to suddenly tune itself out. Becoming unimportant. Unreal. Unsatisfying. Not once my eyes began to focus.

My smile instantly got smaller, while my eyes got infinitely wider. Never had I seen the world slow down so if time itself wanted me to 'see'. To behold, bear witness, and have a moment to reflect. An unrecognizable moment of true I was right. I really wasn't ready. SO not ready.

We were standing still, going down one escalator to the first floor. And coming up the other escalator towards us...were two boys that...I mean they just....

They just...

I think I caught sight of Artie's amazing blue eyes first. I mean...this was my second time seeing him so maybe my brain was prepared to have him cross my vision again. But then...there was the boy right next to him. With a smile that I remembered from my very own dreams. And locks of blond that I had always imagined, but never had any real comparison for the true color itself. Even though he was right there, I think my mind blurred him from my vision at first. He seemed...too surreal to be true. It wasn't until the two of them shared a laugh together that I recognized the angelic sound of him. There were people in front of me on that escalator...and people behind me. There were people in front of him on his escalator...and people behind him. And without being able to move either forward or backward on our own...the slow and steady motion of both staircases brought us closer and closer into contact with one another for the first time.

I suddenly felt a poke at my ribs as Lori grabbed my arm and quietly squealed to herself, catching a glimpse of him at last, and somehow making the whole experience that much more real. Please don't embarrass me Lori! PLEASE! Just...stand still! Don't move! Just...just...let him pass. Let him pass.

I began to shake violently on the inside, but tried to remain calm on the surface. And as the two boys were smiling and having a quiet conversation about...'whatever'...Artie's eyes met mine briefly, and he looked away. Then...I could have sworn...that Artie tugged on his friends' shirt in order to tell him to 'take a look'. I didn't know if I could really trust my own eyes, or my perception of anything real at that particular moment. the other boy lightly brushed some of his golden silk out of his eyes, and attempted to take a subtle glance in my direction...I felt so weak that I almost whispered his name aloud.

My mind was in shock. My heart buzzing with the sensation of a thousand school boy crushes rolled into one...and then tripled. Had it not been for that handrail, I would have fallen backwards for sure. Jesse. THE Jesse. My Jesse.

I had never seen much more of him than from the shoulders up. Seeing his whole body at once was an entirely fresh experience. So slim, and with the softest looking skin and hair. Eyes so blue that you felt like you were lost in a freefall when you saw them in person. He was my height too, almost exactly. Those kissable lips....oh wow. He's real. Can you believe it? He's really real. He was unimaginably gorgeous, and with both him AND Artie looking my way at was too much for me to handle. Just...too much. I almost wanted to CRY.

The two escalators reached a point where we were close enough to reach out and literally touch one another. And Jesse looked as if he was blushing a little bit for getting caught. He elbow nudged Artie and looked away from me....but it was only a second or two before he peeked back. And this time...he smiled.

I could feel the moment passing. The escalators now beginning to push us 'apart' instead of together. And Lori gave me a shove to get me to speak. I opened my mouth to say 'hi'...but all I got was silent air. Dead space. A bashful greeting of such simplicity, and yet caught in the back of my throat where no human being would ever be able to hear it. And then...the moment left us. And my whole world felt like it was growing colder again from the increasing distance between us.

I couldn't help but to look back over my shoulder at him as he kept rising slowly up to the upper level. And as I did, both Jesse and Artie peeked back at me. And as soon as our eyes met, Jesse turned red and gave Artie a little shove as they both started giggling with each other. My heart raced, and I nearly lost my equilibrium, depending solely on a pair of weakened knees to help me remain standing. And Lori and Michelle both screeched as they pulled on both of my arms, quietly shrieking, "THERE HE IS! OMIGOD! TRISTAN!" But I could barely hear them at all. My heart was beating too hard, like a bass drum in my ears.

We reached the bottom of the escalator, and got off...leaving me to look up to the 2nd floor to see if I could catch just another glimpse of him. Somewhere. Anywhere. But I couldn't see him. Was that what I was looking for? Was that my moment? If so...why do I still feel so unsatisfied? Why do I suddenly want so much more of the one thing on this Earth that terrifies me this way?

And that's when...the sights and sounds from the rest of the world began to come back into focus. And I heard Lori tell me, "Dude!!!! What are you waiting for??? Get up there!"

"Get up...wait...WHAT???"

"GO!!! You've gotta go GET him! Go go go!" She said.

" want me to...?" I could barely put a sentence together. I could barely BREATHE!

And Lori was like, "Omigod, he's soooo beautiful! If you don't go up there and ask him out, *I* will! I would LOVE to have that boy's babies!" She was like, "Jesus, Tristan...I think him and Artie SMILED at you! Did you see that???"

"Yeah..." I said. "...Well, I mean, I think so. They could have been smiling at anybody. I mean, they were already smiling about something else anyway. They just happened to look, kinda, sorta, in my direction before it faded away."

"Yeah, ok, that has GOT to sound as much 'bullshit' to you as it sounds to us. I'm not even gonna pretend that you're that stupid." Lori said, and I looked up again...wondering. Can I do it? Should I do it? What if I never get another chance?

What if this is the only chance I've got?

Thanks so much for all of the amazing emails that I've gotten about this story so far! And don't worry, hehehe, 'fun times' are coming! Thanks a TON! And let me know what you think about Chapter 4 at or just stop on by the website at and say hello! :) Seezya soon!

And big thanks to openly gay/bi teens like Trayce Shaw, Carlkr, AbsolutelyPossibly, SomeoneToShoutFor, and many more...who are MORE than just cool, funny, boys that are 'pretty to look at' on YouTube...but are honestly reaching out with an attempt to make a difference! Even if you guys never read this...I thank you!