I'd like to thank TalonRider for his hard and perceptive work
throughout editing this chapter. Thank you!
I'd also like to thank Dargon and Librent for their exceptional skill and sound suggestions when beta reading this chapter. Thanks guys!
And finally I'd like to thank Jamie de Valen. His kind words and wise advice really makes this story shine. Thanks!
‘I have to break up with Torri.’
I peered down into the bowl of cereal, watching as the little beige flakes floated in the milk. Moving my hand, I slowly stirred the contents once more with my spoon. My stomach growled, warning that I should either eat the sugary flakes, or get them out of my sight. The spoon clanged against the porcelain as I straightened in my chair and pushed the white bowl across the table, away from me. I wasn’t hungry.
“Emily, could you bring the washing downstairs, please?” Mum’s sudden, loud cry startled me, causing my eyes to dart over to where she stood in the kitchen. Raising the cup to her lips, she took a quick sip of her morning coffee. Glancing in my direction, she noticed me staring at her. “Are you ok, Kieran?”
‘I have to break up with Torri,’ I once again repeated to myself in the silence of my mind. I’d awoken that morning with that lone thought inside my head, and during the course of showering and getting dressed, it was the only thing I could think about. After the events of the day before, the day I’d spent with Jordan, breaking up with Torri made perfect sense to me.
I jumped and lifted my head, finding Mum standing opposite me across the table, her eyebrows frowning in concern. I focused on her grey eyes, an attribute she spared Emily, but passed down to me. Amusingly, neither of us had Mum’s dirty blonde hair, which she currently wore just past her shoulders, in a way similar to that of my sister. I couldn’t see much of myself in either of my parents, but our friends and family insisted with a passion that we looked alike, so who was I to argue?
“Kieran, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I’m just a little tired.” My eyes dropped to the bowl.
I could feel her studying me. “I thought you had your football exam this morning… Weren’t you looking forward to it?”
“I am.” I feigned a yawn. “Just tired.”
Truth be told, I was fine physically, but mentally I was a mess. Kicking a football around for two-or-so hours was the last thing I wanted to do with everything else going on, but it was part of my grade in P.E., so I had little choice. On the plus side, taking a moment to glance out of the kitchen window once Mum had wandered off to get ready for work, it appeared to be the beginnings of a nice day outside.
“Hey Kieran.” Emily entered into the room and greeted me with a grin before realising she spoke too soon. “Is something wrong?”
A small, weak smile was forced on my lips. “I’m fine. Just a little tired.”
She paused and then continued through to the kitchen. “Oh, okay.”
Unlike Mum who bought my poor explanation, Emily knew I was lying. She always knew. Of course it didn’t help that it was the second morning in a row I’d used that same excuse. But after the events of the past few days, I really didn’t give a damn. There were plenty of things I could’ve told her if she confronted me later in the day.
I sat at the table for a further minute before I cleared away my bowl and headed upstairs to get my school bag and football kit, deciding to head to the school to do something, anything that’d let my mind rest more. Five minutes later, with the time nearing eight o’clock, I gently closed the front door behind me, walked down the garden path and made my way to school.
I shifted my weight onto my left foot, sinking my studded boots into the soft grass of the school field as I pulled back my right leg. Putting all my strength behind the kick, my foot swung down hard and smacked the ball. A smile painted my face at the satisfying sound of leather slapping leather as the white ball screamed through the air.
Michael, the boy in goal, stood no chance. The ball flew past his head and smashed into the top right corner of the net.
“Bloody hell!” Michael Lane shot me a surprised look, marked with a tinge of anger. “Take it a little easier, huh?”
“Shut up, Mike!” Nathan’s light-hearted remark had me turning around and grinning at the boy as he jogged over to me.
Watching him pull a numbered bib over his head, he closed the distance between us. “Hey, how’s it going, Nathan?”
“It’s all good.” He came to stop next to me, flicking his head to the side to resettle his black hair. “How are you?”
Nathan Melbourne was another member in my close group of friends. He was around my height, maybe an inch or so shorter and had a slightly slimmer build, somewhat similar to Jordan’s. His medium length black hair always had me envious, particularly of how little maintenance it needed to look great. Like me his eyes were a shade of grey, but had a greenish tinge to them. All in all he was quite an attractive guy.
Nathan was also part of the same football team that Jim and I played for, where he played centre midfield. He was very good at it too; his physical attributes helped him be quick and agile on the pitch, something we’d relied on many times during matches.
“I’m good thanks, Nathan.”
“You’re here early.” He shot me a curious look.
“Yeah, I wanted to get an early start.”
His lips turned up in a grin. “And kill Mike in the process?”
I winked. “Well I am getting assessed today… I need to show them my best.” I swung my right foot, mimicking the kick I just took.
Nathan looked over towards the source of the sound. Turning his head, the little gold stud in his left earlobe flashed at me in the bright morning sunlight. Personally I thought that his earring added to his cute appearance, something that Torri had mentioned a few times, always causing the poor boy to blush furiously.
Following his stare, I turned and saw Jim heading over towards us. “Kieran. Nathan.”
Closing the distance between us, I knocked my fists with his. “Jim.”
He scanned the school field with his dark eyes. “Where’s Gray?”
Mr. Gray was our P.E. Teacher. We’d known him since we joined the school four years before, so we’d become accustomed to the ways of the tall, gangly man just as he came to know each of us. Fortunately he was a decent guy so we really didn’t have a lot to worry about with him. Although he did like to push us hard sometimes, especially those of us who played for a football team outside of school.
“I saw him before I came out of the changing rooms.” Nathan jogged on the spot. “He said he’d be here at nine, with the examiner.”
Jim looked over at me, a smirk growing on his face. “I wonder if it’s that Torri look-a-like from last time… you must remember her, Kier.”
I immediately knew who he was talking about. During the previous year, when the year above us were having their exams, the P.E. examiner was this young woman, who I assumed to be in her late twenties, and looked quite a lot like Torri. Of course, looking like Torri meant that she got quite a bit of attention from the boys she was assessing.
“Yeah, I remember her… It’s possible she’ll come back…” I waved my hand towards Mike in the goal, where he stood doing kick-ups with a ball. “Michael!”
Nathan watched as Michael dropped the ball and kicked it over to me. “I guess we’ll know soon enough…”
We didn’t have long to wait, as around five minutes later, Gray along with Miss Morris aka, Torri look-a-like, and the rest of the boys getting assessed for football, made their way out of the sports wing of the school and headed across the field over to where we were warming up next to the pitch. As the school was located near to the town’s main park, we were quite fortunate to have a large field at the back of the school. We’d always used it for the outdoor P.E. lessons, but in the summer, it was also a great place to hang around and kick a ball about during our lunch break.
Once Gray had arrived, he promptly had us standing in a line facing him as he proceeded to explain what we were going to do, and how we were going to be assessed. We already knew what was happening, thanks to having practised the entire test a few times during the past couple of weeks, but he went over it again, ensuring we all knew our role.
“One goal each?” Jim’s eyebrows arched. “Is that it?”
Gray’s eyes focused on Jim. “Yes… well, Michael will be in goal, so it’ll take a while.”
Jim straightened. “Right, so it’d be a piece of pi…”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say Jimi.” Michael flashed him a smirk.
Jim stared him down. “I’ll get you back for that, Bitch.”
“Easy boy,” I patted his shoulder as Nathan and I let out a giggle. “We have an assessment to ace.”
“Yeah, then I’ll get the clown.”
I shrugged. “Do whatever you want, but the A grades come first.”
“Chill, Kier, we’ll get them.” Jim stretched his arms and yawned, clearly confident that we had nothing to worry about. I was inclined to agree with him, seeing as the three of us were part of a football team, and a good one at that, we could easily handle whatever Miss Morris threw at us.
Gray laughed, “You guys sure you’re ready?”
“I was born ready.” Apparently Jim had nothing to hold back.
“Good, then let’s go.”
The whole exam took about two hours, in which time Miss Morris watched each of us perform and scribbled down certain notes depending on how we did. I found it quite amusing whenever one of the guys would score as they’d instantly look over at her, making sure she’d noticed. Even so, most of the time the guys didn’t need an excuse to peek over their shoulders and steal a glance in her direction. I’m sure the whole ordeal would’ve impressed Jordan.
In fact, I did a lot of thinking about Jordan that morning as I dribbled the ball up and down the grassy pitch. Something had gone off inside my head and it suddenly dawned on me that Jordan was available, like really available. He was gay and single; there for the taking, but even though this was the case, someone stopped me from doing anything about it. Torri.
‘I have to break up with Torri.’
Running with the ball towards the goal, I looked up to my left, seeing Nathan jogging up the pitch. I needed him inside the box. I slowed my pace and pointed to the box, calling out his name, or rather, the name that occupied my thoughts.
Nathan slowed his pace and looked about. I frowned and pointed to the box again, “Nathan!”
Quickly moving into a sprint, Nathan advanced into the box. With a precise and forceful kick, I sent the ball over to him. He was in a perfect position and it was the perfect cross. Timing his movement, he received and controlled the ball, before powering it straight towards the goal. Michael hesitated too long, and by the time he dived to reach for the ball, it was already in the back of the net. Goal.
Throwing up his arms in triumph, Nathan spun around and flashed me a grin as I headed over to him. Once I reached him I threw an arm over his shoulders. “Great shot!”
“Thanks! But it was a good cross from you.” Nathan laughed. “And you know, my name’s Nathan, not Jordan.”
I frowned. “What?”
“You called me Jordan…”
“What? When?” I was quickly becoming confused.
He shook his head and pulled away, jogging over to the centre spot for kick-off. “Don’t worry about it. Just remember I’m the better looking one.”
I was still confused by the whole thing, unable to recall when I’d called him Jordan. Though with about a half-hour to go before the end of the exam, I shrugged my shoulders and headed back over to the right wing where I pondered my situation some more.
Around twenty minutes later I found myself entering the changing rooms. The exam was over, and while I didn’t know how well I’d performed, I was confident that I’d done quite well. Jim and Nathan also appeared to be quite pleased with what they’d demonstrated, so at least we could all relax for the rest of the day without any worries or regrets.
Walking past Gray’s office, I headed for the benches where we’d left our clothes. I’d never understood the whole ‘homoerotic’ nature surrounding changing rooms. To me they were cold, dark and smelly places that made me want to get in and get out as quickly as possible. So unless Jordan was standing next to me, sometimes there wasn’t even something nice to look at. Forcing myself to ignore the musky stench of sweat and Lynx deodorant, I continued through and came to a stop near where my bag was on one of the benches.
Wasting no time, I kicked off my boots and tugged at the hem of my shirt as I began to get undressed. Seconds later I was joined by the other guys as they too started to get out of the damp and messy clothes.
“So what film did you guys end up seeing yesterday?” I looked down at Nathan, my eyes catching a brief glance of his smooth bare chest.
He pulled on a light pink t-shirt. “We didn’t go… everyone else was busy so it’d have only been Brandon and me.”
“How cute.” Jim mused, taking a seat and untying his boots.
Nathan flipped him the finger, and turned to me. “We’re all going today anyway.”
I pulled on my jeans. “Oh? Who’s going?”
“Didn’t Torri text you?” Nathan raised an eyebrow.
I reached into my pocket, retrieving my phone. “Crap, it was on silent. I have two texts and three missed calls.”
“Naughty boy.” Jim lightly slapped my ass with his shirt.
“Hey, quit it!” I sidestepped to avoid another swat, before facing Nathan. “So what’s happening?”
“Well, she texted me last night.” Nathan dangled his phone on a little lanyard. “It seems like we’re planning to go and catch a film later today. She’s bringing Kelly and Hannah.”
“I hope Hannah started getting ready last night.” Jim sighed, “it takes her so long to get ready.”
I laughed. “True, so what are we seeing?”
“It better not be that vampire crap,” Jim growled, “it’s not a guy movie.”
“Hey, don’t hate.” Nathan frowned, “it isn’t all that bad.”
I looked at him, “you read the books?”
“Yeah, I started after I watched the first fil…”
“Enough!” Jim cut him off. “Talk about this girly stuff when I’m gone.”
I shook my head and focused on Nathan again. “So what are we seeing?”
He looked down at Jim, watching as he pulled off his boots. “The girls want to see Toy Story Three.”
“Jeez.” Jim dropped his boot bag to the floor. “Isn’t there anything normal on?”
“I dunno.” I shot Nathan a questioning look. “Is there?”
He returned my query with a shrug. “No idea.”
I zipped up my bag and lifted it up, slinging it over my right shoulder, “Well I’ll give Torri a call later, so I’ll find out from her.”
Jim sat there staring at me. “Where you heading now? Home?”
“Yes.” I straightened my shirt. “I need to shower and get something to eat. What time were we going to go?”
“Around two, I think.” Nathan pushed a foot into one of his black trainers.
“Okay, sounds good.” I watched them for a second, before I said a brief goodbye, knowing that I’d see them both later.
Turning on the cold, white tiles of the floor, I made for the exit. Stepping out of the changing rooms I immediately took in a breath of air, but grimaced when the general smell of school reached my nostrils. At least it was several steps above the retch of where I’d just escaped. Taking a quick glance around the empty corridor, I began to head to my left and towards the exit when my phone started to ring.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone. I checked the display finding that it was Torri’s number. I cleared my throat and answered.
“Hey Kieran.” Torri’s usual upbeat voice entered my ear.
“How did the exam go?”
“I think it went good,” I replied, walking past the reception and pushing open the main doors, allowing me to step out into the bright morning sun.
“Good, I’m glad to hear it.” She paused. “Was your phone switched off earlier? I tried to call…”
“Uhm, sorry, I put it on silent last night.” I’d actually put it on silent shortly after I’d returned home from Jordan’s house. I didn’t want anything to remove the euphoria I felt from the afternoon I’d spent with him, namely a call from Torri.
“It’s ok. Just wanted to wish you good luck.”
I frowned, trying to keep Jordan out of my thoughts. “Thanks.”
“Anyway, I haven’t got any exams today, so I was wondering if you wanted to come over.” Her voice sounded hopeful, understandable given we hadn’t spent much time with each other during the past few days with all the exams going on.
“Well I’m just heading home, I’m a bit sweaty and hungry so I’m gonna take a shower and get something to eat.” The mention of food had my hollow stomach rumbling.
She thought for a moment. “Hmm, ok. How about you shower and then head over here? I’ll fix us something for lunch.”
A small smile worked its way on my lips. “Oh? You wouldn’t happen to have any mor…”
“If you want your meatballs I’ll make some,” She giggled softly.
I grinned. Torri’s mum made some of the best meatballs I’d ever tasted, complete with a delicious creamy and peppery sauce. I loved it. “Not if it’s too much trouble.”
“It isn’t, we have some here.”
“Good, and thanks.” My stomach groaned again, apparently satisfied with the menu.
“No problem, how long will you be?”
I quickened my pace as I approached the park, “About half an hour… give or take a few minutes.”
“Ok, I’ll see you soon then. Bye”
Hanging up the phone, and feeling the grin on my lips, I started to think about my situation again and about Torri. While I didn’t want her as a girlfriend I couldn’t dismiss that she was a great person. I knew breaking up with her would be no easy task because of that. She was my best friend and meant a lot to me… but I couldn’t go on thinking ‘what if’… I couldn’t go on pretending to be straight. I had to be me.
Pulling back from the kiss I broke eye contact and stared down at the dining table. “You’ve made a feast!”
Standing in the dining room of Torri’s house, with the midday sunlight streaming through the rear windows, I looked at the plentiful amount of food she’d made for us. We each had a plate of the meatballs, which sat atop a base of spaghetti, and was then covered in the creamy sauce. Next to each plate was a small bowl of green salad, complete with a few cherry tomatoes. Finally, to drink were two cans of Pepsi and two glasses with ice. The sides of my lips turned up; it really did look great.
“You’re a growing boy,” Torri flashed me a smile. “It’s your favourite too so eat up.”
I moved to step around her but she stopped me and inhaled, before looking up at me.
“You smell nice, what are you wearing?”
“Just some new shower gel Dad picked up.” I recalled the unfamiliar blue bottle I’d noticed in the shower I’d had fifteen-minutes earlier.
Torri leant closer and sniffed again. “Mmm, I like it.”
“Thanks.” I gave her a grin and walked around the table, taking a seat. “So, what’s this about going to see a film later?”
“I just thought it’d be nice for all of us to go catch a film. Since we’ve been on study leave we haven’t been together. Well, all of us at the same time.”
“Makes sense, it’s a good idea.”
I looked down at my food, steam rising from the plate, and reached for the Pepsi. Cracking open the tab, I lifted it to the glass and tipped the can sideways. As I began to pour the fizzy liquid I suddenly stopped when I took a closer look at the glass I was using, or rather the plastic cup. My eyes instantly caught sight of the colourful decals printed onto its side, only they had faded a great amount, leaving only a yellowish outline of where they used to be. The cup itself had also aged many years, with frequent visits to the dishwasher having left the tale-tale signs of abrasion on its surface.
“Isn’t this…” My voice trailed off as I stared at the half-filled cup.
“Yes.” Torri’s smile was heard through her words.
I shook my head, “I can’t believe you still have it.”
A soft laugh escaped her lips. “Of course I still have it.”
The cup I held was part of a present I’d given to Torri on her fifth birthday. It was one of those lunchbox sets painted in the pink livery of a Disney princess, one who Torri liked at the time. I remembered how I fought with my mum, wanting to instead get Torri a present that was a little more ‘useful’, like an Action Man figure or something to that degree. In the end it didn’t matter, Torri was more than pleased with what I’d gotten for her.
I looked up at Torri, sharing a smile with her, recalling all the years we’d been together as best friends. How we’d gone from little toddlers to the young adults we were becoming. We were there to congratulate each other’s successes, and there to support our setbacks, but throughout it all, every moment we’d shared together was infused with fun and joy.
‘I have to break up with Torri.’
My lips trembled as I struggled to hold the smile. “Thanks for making this.”
“It’s no problem.” She grinned, picking up a fork. “Now start eating while it’s still hot.”
Grateful that I could drop the happy expression from my face, I picked up my cutlery and speared one of the meatballs. Lifting it to my lips I popped it in my mouth and bit down, I let my eyes roll in ecstasy. “Mmmm.”
“Tastes good, huh?”
I finished chewing and swallowed. “They’re great!”
We continued to make small talk while we ate, simply enjoying hanging out with each other. As confusing as everything was for me, it was still reassuring to have Torri around, to know she was close by. I wished I could have gone to her with my dilemma and asked her what I should do, but she was part of the problem.
Sitting there across the table as the time neared one o’clock I tried to remember the exact moment of when Torri and I became boyfriend and girlfriend. We’d always been close as friends, but over time it seemed to change. We didn’t mind being close to each other physically, but once I entered puberty it didn’t take long for her close presence to have an effect on me. It all started with a few small touches here and there, a kiss on the cheek every so often, and before I knew it, we were together. It just seemed like a natural progression. I never questioned why I was dating her, I just was.
“…Jordan?” Torri ended her question and resumed eating, her eyes watching me closely, expecting an answer.
I raised my eyebrows. “Sorry, what did you say?”
She swallowed. “How’s he doing?”
“He’s great.” I smiled as thoughts of the blue-eyed boy surfaced in my mind. “He had his trampolining exam yesterday, he thought it went ok, but you know what he’s like on the trampoline.”
“Oh he’s very good at that.” Torri sipped some of her drink. “He’s good at acting too, well, you both are.”
“Yeah, he’s pretty amazing.”
As quick as Jordan had appeared in our conversation he was once again put aside in equal haste. I tightened my jaw and breathed slowly, trying to calm myself. The last thing I needed was to react odd around Torri and have her start to suspect something was up. Instead I tried to file my feelings at the back of my mind where they wouldn’t disturb me.
We finished eating our food shortly after and went about cleaning up. As we were going to meet the others at the cinema just before two, we had enough time not to rush, so we took things slower and continued to chat about whatever was happening, namely Torri’s plans for the Prom. The Prom was just ten days away, one day after we’d finished our last exam. As expected, I was going to take Torri and we’d go as a couple. The other guys had also found someone to take with them, all except Jordan.
“I think he’s going to go with Stephen.” Torri explained after I asked her what she thought. “They don’t have to be dating. Jim isn’t dating Abby, he’s just taking her as a friend.”
“And sleeping with her.” I commented, pointing out Jim’s carefree attitude with women.
“Yeah, probably.” Torri laughed, bringing a smile to my face, a smile that soon faded when I thought about the Prom and about Jordan.
Five minutes later found us both standing at the door and ready to go. Torri took a quick inspection of my clothing. “Are you good to go like that?”
“Yeah, I think I’m good.” I cocked my head. “Do I look alright?”
“You look great.” Her brown eyes flashed at me as she stepped forwards and kissed me lightly on the lips. Pulling back, she headed to the door and stepped out. “Come on, let’s go.”
The local leisure park was an interesting place. Relatively new in construction, it offered a multitude of things to do and a vast amount of places to eat. In terms of things to keep us amused, we had the cinema, a bowling alley, a swimming pool, and a gym. As for dining, there were the usual fast-food establishments, but there were also several restaurants specialising in various cuisines. Mexican, Indian, Italian… there was something for everyone.
The leisure park was located right near to town, so a simple bus ride into the centre, coupled with a ten-minute walk allowed us to be right outside the cinema. Upon arriving in front the decent sized multiplex we immediately caught sight of the rest of the group and headed over.
“Hey guys!” I called out, taking everyone in.
Jim and Nathan were over to one side, laughing at something, what I assumed to be a video on Nathan’s phone. They acknowledged us briefly by nodding their heads before glancing down at the display again. Next to them stood Brandon, trying to catch a glimpse at what they were watching by peering over their shoulders. Letting go of Brandon’s arm and heading towards us was Hannah Clark.
Dressed in a small pair of denim shorts and a white tank top, she was well suited for the burning heat of the midday sun. Her medium length dark brown hair waved in the gentle breeze as she walked up to Torri and hugged her.
“Torri!” Her voice was a loud squeal.
Torri giggled and smiled. “Hey Hannah.”
The two girls embraced for a moment, briefly caught up with each other, before Hannah turned her attention to me. “Don’t you look gorgeous today, Kieran?” Hannah was the loudest person of our group and had the least amount of reservations when behaving in public. Her dominating, tomboyish aspect aside, she was fiercely loyal of all of us, always ready to jump to our need or defend our name when we weren’t around.
“He looks gorgeous every day.” Torri agreed with Hannah’s observation.
“How’s things, Hannah?” I focused on the pair of oversized sunglasses shielding her eyes.
Placing a hand on her hip, she shifted her weight onto her left foot. “I’m fine thank you, Kieran. It’s just very hot today.” Reaching up to remove her glasses she continued. “How are you?”
“I’m good,” I replied, before shifting my attention to the girl walking up behind Hannah.
Torri noticed her too and greeted the grinning girl. “Hey Kelly.”
Kelly Jennings was beautiful. Blonde hair and blue eyes; she was the dream of many guys, and I’m sure the envy of more than a few girls too. Wearing a pink t-shirt and a light blue pair of jeans she stepped forward and gave Torri a hug. While nowhere near as brash as Hannah, Kelly still had quite a streak of confidence in her.
Pulling apart, Kelly wandered over to me, her arms extended. “Hi Kieran.”
“Hi Kelly.” I returned her hug, noticing how her smaller stature was similar to Torri. Glancing over her shoulder, I caught sight of the guys. Brandon’s eyes briefly met mine and gave me a wink, forcing my lips into a smile. Kelly and Brandon had briefly dated about a year earlier, but it didn’t last longer than a few weeks. Instead they’d become very close friends, more akin to a brother and sister kind of relationship, with Brandon always watching out for her and vice versa.
Stepping back, I smiled at the two girls who were Torri’s closest girl friends, but more importantly, part of our group. Looking past them, I saw the guys heading over, indicating that we were all there and ready to enter the cinema. “Ok, are we good to go in?”
Kelly brushed away some hair from her face. “In a minute, we’re just waiting on Jordan and Stephen.”
“Jordan?!” An electric rush shot through my body. “Jordan’s coming?”
“Yeah, he should be here any second…” She replied, her eyes scanning the leisure park.
Kelly’s revelation had my body surging in an uncontrollable jolt. The feeling was familiar to a time two years before, where after touching an electric fence found myself being propelled me a few feet to land on my bottom. I quickly pushed my trembling hands into my pockets, giving my friends a subtle glance to see if my reaction had been obvious to anyone else.
To my relief they hadn’t seemed to notice. I turned, facing away from the cinema as I too searched for the boy, my mind reeling from the sudden and unexpected turn of events.
“There they are!” Brandon’s exclamation caused me to stare in his direction, watching him point down the parade of buildings.
Following his line of sight, my gaze came to rest upon the two boys heading our way. My heart quickened when my eyes settled on Jordan’s unique form. A lovely light blue shirt covered his top and a pair of jeans clung to his slender waist. My eyes scrolled down his body, noticing the jeans were rolled up at the bottom, displaying his smooth calves to the world. Lower still, and moving in a blinding white blur were his immaculate trainers.
A feeling of contentment pulsed in my chest. Jordan was so perfect. Even watching him do the most mundane task was like an Oscar-winning performance to me. He moved his body with a graceful fluidity; reinforced and kept taut by his self-assurance and natural confidence. It all combined to create the ultimate package, an ideal match to me.
Once the guys had quickly greeted him along with Stephen, he glanced over at me, a smile growing on his face as he walked over.
I beamed at the boy. “Hi, Jordan.”
He flicked his head to the left, resettling his soft, black hair. “Hey, Kieran.”
“What are you doing here?” My voice betrayed the excitement and hint of nervousness I was feeling.
“Torri sent me a text, why?” With a smile he reached out and gently poked my chest with his index finger, “don’t you want me here?”
I wanted to wrap my arms around him and hold him close. “You can stay.”
“Good.” He turned and moved to stand beside me, walking in front of the slight breeze blowing towards me. The gentle gust caught his scent and entered my nose as I inhaled, leaving me feeling intoxicated and my head feeling light.
Seeing that everyone had finally arrived, we formed a small circle and began to name the different films that were on and when they were playing. After a short discussion we eventually settled on one that we all seemed satisfied with. Entering the cinema and queuing up for the tickets, I’d all but ignored everyone else and stuck close to Jordan. The boy who’d occupied my thoughts for what seemed like forever was there in the flesh and within arm’s reach. It was magical.
Once we had our tickets, we all headed in different directions getting things to eat and drink during the film. While I usually took in something to eat, having Jordan appear out of the blue was anything but usual. Wanting to make the most out of the opportunity, I chose to head off with him towards a counter that sold sweets.
“I want a bag of cherries.” He explained in his heavenly voice.
It took me a few seconds to process what he’d said, struggling to concentrate in his presence. “Cherries?”
“Yeah, cherries.” His blue eyes shone at me and his right eyebrow dipped slightly when he saw I didn’t understand. “You know those soft, chewy cherries? I fancy some of them.”
“Oh…cherries.” My mind was still drawing blanks.
His gentle laugh tickled my ears. “Yes, Kieran.”
Minutes later, once Jordan had found and paid for the packet of sweets he wanted, we wandered over to where the others were lining up to enter the screen. Jim ushered us to hurry when the people at the front of the queue began to file into the theatre. Quickening our pace, we merged with the others, got our tickets checked, and went through the double doors that led to our screen.
Getting our seats was a real mess. Fortunately the theatre was relatively empty when we entered. Unfortunately this also meant we had too much choice of where to sit. Jim, who’d seemingly taken the role of ‘team leader’, decided to step in and choose our seats for us; the back row. None of us had any objections so we traipsed up the stairs, only to reach a second conundrum when we reached the back row. With the eight of us standing on the stairs, blocking anyone else from sitting on the higher levels, Jim once again assumed control and told us where to sit, but unlike earlier, no one was pleased with his choices.
Stephen found the entire situation hilarious, letting out his shrill of a laugh and clutching his belly. In a rare occurrence I found myself agreeing with the boy and giggling too, shaking my head at the madness of the scene.
Finally, after another couple of minutes, everyone seemed to decide on a good seating plan. I had no idea where I was sitting by that point, but by following Torri’s instructions, I trailed behind her down the aisle and sat down next to her. I shifted in my seat, making myself comfortable when someone else pulled down the seat next to me.
“Heya Kieran.” Looking to my right, my eyes widened when Jordan plopped down with a soft thud.
I cleared my throat. “Hey, Jordan.”
He flashed me one of his uplifting smiles, before turning to focus on Stephen as he sat on his other side. Torri chose that moment to take hold of my hand. I faced her, seeing a grin painted on her lips, my mind reminding me that I was there with my girlfriend. I returned her grin with one of my own, causing her to lean over and kiss me gently. I didn’t even close my eyes. It didn’t feel right. Torri pulled back and our kiss ended.
Having Jordan in such close proximity to Torri, especially after the afternoon Torri and I’d spent together, really messed things up. The war inside my head began to rage once again, a nauseous feeling growing in my stomach.
Once they’d both settled in their seats I looked straight ahead, my eyes focusing on the screen. I wanted to disappear. To have my seat suddenly eject me out of the cinema or to let the ground fall through, swallowing me into darkness. Torri was on my left, Jordan on my right, and I was in hell.
Ten minutes later, the movie began to roll, the darker lighting giving me the opportunity to sink deeper into my seat…
After it’d felt like I’d been watching the movie for three days, Jordan nudged my arm softly. Turning to face him I noticed he was handing out his bag of cherries to me. He moved the bag towards me, allowing me to reach in and take one. I looked down at his hands holding the bag, wishing how I had my fingers laced with his and not Torri’s.
Reaching out, I dipped my hand in and retrieved one of the soft sweets. “Thanks.”
Jordan winked back, the left side of his face momentarily illuminated from the screen, before he faced ahead again. I stared at him for a few seconds.
‘He’s gay and single.’
Something in the movie caused Torri to jump, making her tug on my hand. I turned away from Jordan and looked at her, squeezing her hand in reassurance before I once again focused on the screen, instantly regretting the act of reflex.
It would’ve been so easy to have let go of her hand and take Jordan’s instead. On my left, Torri was happy in her world with Kieran as her boyfriend, a world I wanted no part of, and on my right was Jordan, simply content with his small bag of cherries. I wanted to scream about how wrong the picture was. Torri didn’t really have me as a boyfriend, and what Jordan needed more than anything was sitting right next to him, not a bag of sweets.
I was at a crossroad, torn between two worlds and two very different lives. I knew which one I wanted to follow, which person I wanted to go with, but I was being pulled apart by a searing pain inside my heart. A pain that extinguished the passion I felt on my right, and scorned any courage I had on my left, leaving me to drift alone in a cold emptiness.
Ninety minutes of torture ensued. And I was drained. Emotionally, mentally and physically drained.
I was still in a daze even when the houselights came on, my brain attempting to restart itself. I was eventually pushed out of my bubble by a squeeze on my hand from Torri. “It was a good film.”
“The film…” She gestured to the screen. “I enjoyed it.”
I looked at the screen and then back to her. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to laugh hysterically or cry my eyes out. “Yeah, it was good.”
Not wanting to hang around to see the end credits, we gradually made our way out of the theatre, walking behind the torrent of people ahead of us, before entering into the foyer. The brighter daylight blinded us for a few seconds until we adjusted and then made for the outer doors.
“We should do this again sometime!” Stephen laughed.
‘Over my dead body,’ was the only thought I had at the boy’s suggestion.
Stepping outside the cinema I was relieved to find it had cooled down some, with the sun’s boiling rays being obscured by some scattered clouds overhead. Turning towards the others as they exited through the automatic doors, I quickly became aware of the smiles and grins on all their faces, or more accurately, the lack of such an expression on my own face.
After a brief debate about our thoughts on the film, we decided to head separate ways. Jordan was going over to Stephen’s house, I was going to go with Torri, and the others were going to hang around town for a while. It really didn’t matter to me, I just wanted to escape the situation I was in, and if that meant spending the afternoon with Torri, so be it. I simply couldn’t handle both Jordan and Torri in the same space.
Luckily, Torri had no intentions of hanging around longer than necessary, and began to say goodbye to the group. I followed, excusing myself from every person individually, but saving the Jordan until last. Saying my goodbyes to him, I let my gaze rest on his light blue eyes. They seemed to penetrate through my head and cleanse my mind in a comforting warmth, almost allowing me to forget about everything, and for an instant I did.
“Come on Kieran.” Torri’s voice resonated in my head. “Let’s go.”
“Yeah.” I broke my stare and walked after her. “Let’s go.”
Returning to Torri’s house that afternoon was completely different to how it was earlier that morning. Something had definitely changed, and I’d suspected sitting through the movie sandwiched between Torri and Jordan was the main cause. Even crashing on the sofa in her bedroom I wanted to close my eyes and escape.
Seeing how I was laid out, Torri headed over, snuggled up to me, and started to watch TV. I didn’t care. Instead I continued to lay next to her, closing my eyes and imagining I was in a different place. A place without Torri, without Jordan, just myself and silence. A place where I could rest.
The crazy thing is, I didn’t even want that. To be without them seemed worse than how things were. I needed both of them, yet I wanted their roles to be reversed. I wanted Torri as my friend and Jordan as my boyfriend. It seemed simple enough, but I knew putting my wish into action wouldn’t be without consequence.
‘Who do you want?’
I wanted Jordan. I’d always wanted him, but I had Torri. I knew I needed to tell her, that I had to end it, but I was scared. I didn’t want to lose her, yet by coming out as gay, telling her that I no longer wanted to be her boyfriend, how was the outcome going to be anything but dire?
My mind churned through all the possibilities, all the questions raised, and all the outcomes as I lay next to Torri. The nauseous feeling had returned to my stomach and my hands had started to get warm and clammy. I’d worked myself up into such a state I could even feel myself trembling, I just wasn’t sure if it was out of fear, or anticipation.
I had to tell Torri, and I had to tell her straight away, right then, right at that moment. My mouth instantly became dry, my lips opening and closing several times, but not a sound was made. I had to do it. If there was even the slightest chance that Jordan was waiting at the other end of the tunnel then I had to take it.
I mustered up everything I could, my mind flicking from memory to memory, images flashing before my eyes, building in speed and strength until I inhaled deeply, sealing my fate.
“Torri…” My voice was weak, uncertain and full of dread.
“I’m…” My throat swelled and I struggled to think. “I’m…”
“I’m sick.” The words left my mouth before my brain could catch up. “Uhm, I mean I have a headache.”
Torri shifted on the sofa and faced me. “Wow, you don’t look good, Kier.” Reaching up she placed a hand on my forehead. “Yeah, you’re warm and you’re shaking… maybe you’re coming down with something.”
I closed my eyes, cursed silently to myself, and for the second time that day just wished I’d suddenly disappear. Every thought inside my head abandoned me in that instant. I was a lost cause.
“Kieran?” Her voice sounded distant.
Torri’s brow knitted, “Maybe you have a cold…”
“Yeah…” I opened my eyes and focused on her, before pulling away. “Yeah, I think I should go home and rest.” As if to sweeten the deal added, “I don’t want you to get ill too.”
Still frowning, she moved off the sofa and allowed me to stand. “Okay… Do you want me to call Emily to pick you up?”
“No.” My voice quivered and then I coughed, covering up the weak and vulnerable boy inside. “I’ll walk… fresh air…”
Torri led me down the stairs, taking hold of my arm, ensuring that I didn’t fall. My mind was a barren land, incapable of facilitating any new thoughts and extinguishing those that remained. We finally made it to the door, where I stepped into my trainers and made myself ready to leave.
“Are you sure you’ll be ok?” Torri asked as I opened the front door.
Turning around I focused on her face and nodded. “I’ll be ok.” After letting her eyes scan my body again, deciding that I’d be able to make the trip home safely, she moved forward to kiss me, but I quickly stepped back. “I’m ill.”
Ignoring my remark, she leant towards me and lightly kissed my cheek, “I hope you feel better tomorrow.”
“Thanks. Bye, Torri.” I slowly turned to face the door.
Making my way down her front path, I emerged onto the street. I couldn’t believe I was walking away from Torri after having come so close to telling her how I felt. It was on the tip of my tongue, but instead of the truth, I bid her goodbye. She watched me walk away for a few seconds, until I heard the sound of her door close, leaving me alone. Tears began to well up in my eyes… why couldn’t I do something so simple? All I had to do was tell her, but instead I did nothing.
Everything was rapidly becoming a disaster. I didn’t want to hurt Torri, yet I knew that by telling her the truth it’s what I’d end up doing. It was unfair, incredibly unfair that by being honest I could end up losing the one person who meant the most to me, but if I told her nothing then what chance did I have at living a happy future? Like a young boy playing with a ball inside a house, I knew something was going to get broken, and I knew I was the one kicking the ball.
A new wave of tension flowed up my back and pressed down on my shoulders. Who was I doing this for? Was it for Torri, Jordan, or me? Jordan had said that Stephen wasn’t his type. Was I? A feeling of panic gripped my stomach. Jordan was available, but what if he wasn’t available to me? What if I broke up with Torri and Jordan was still out of reach? Was breaking up with Torri worth the risk, worth even the slightest chance that Jordan and I could be together?
I’d been walking for about minute when I came to a stop, my head hung low and my gaze was stuck on the pavement at my feet. A wave of helplessness washed over me and a sob escaped my lips. Fresh tears entered my eyes, blurring my vision of the world before they dripped off my lashes and fell to the ground. They splashed on the hot concrete surface, heated by the burning sun. I watched as the small salty droplets evaporated in an instant, leaving no mark or residue on the pavement; as if they’d never existed.
A single whisper escaped my lips, forcing more tears to run down the front of my face, pool at my chin and drop to the ground.
you for reading this chapter of Kieran.
I hope you enjoyed it.
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