you, loving me
love story continues! Ooops,
sorry for that typo, but there will be plenty of ambiguities in this chapter! :
What follows is a work of fiction. The story revolves around teenage gay males and includes sexual and other contents that may be offensive to some. If you think this might be the case, or if you are under the legal age in the area where you live, please do not read any further. Any resemblances to persons, names, or places are unintentional and mere coincidence. Please respect my efforts in writing this, and do not copy or reproduce any part of the story without my permission.
It is a
mask I wear,
So solid and so safe
Like an armour and a sword;
For I am invincible,
I am fearless and I am brave.
But inside, somewhere
You know deep inside,
A face is clouding,
Howling, thundering, moaning,
A child is crying.
I sat restlessly on the chair, feeling my stomach grind and grumble. I could almost taste my lunch and stomach acid as they flowed back up my throat, but I swallowed hard and suppressed them. I felt sick, nervy, like I was about to faint.
One by one, duos went on stage and performed their act. The success behind good acting was to immerse yourself in the character for those moments on stage; to be that person, to talk like that person, to think and live like that person, and all the while forget and abandon every single trace of yourself. It was like putting on an invisible mask that belonged to someone else in order to make yourself believable and accepted by the watching world beyond the stage. To assume a role, do a delicate act of puppetry, dancing to the tunes of the surroundings in order to fit in, in order not to stand out. I did that every single day.
What other people were saying sounded like muffled voices in the distance. I was in no mood to admire other people's performances, and instead divided my time between glancing nervously at the script in my hands, and gazing out the window. It started to hail, and round pebbles of ice fell on the grass field, almost instantly covering the green with patches of cold white. I shivered at the sight, and rubbed my hands together to keep warm. The aula was never a place the school thought needed heating, since it was so large and empty, and rarely used, except for the occasional drama sessions, like today's.
During that session of detention last week Leo and I had more or less finalised the bit we were going to `dramatise' for English. It was definitely fun working with him, and time together with him was precious. At least for me. I wasn't sure what he felt about the whole experience. He could be serious and playful at the same time, and sometimes for no apparent reason at all he'd just look at me and flash a grin. I never did figure out what he was grinning at, or what made him feel so happy, but the grin seemed natural and genuine enough, and was always pleasant to look at. As was the rest of him.
Admittedly a couple of times I lost myself in his beauty. Which was terribly embarrassing, since once or twice Leo had to wave his hands in front of my eyes to stop me from staring. I studied his face closely, using those precious moments when he was looking down and reading or writing to trace every centimetre of his smooth features...the soft beauty spots on his face and neck, the cheeks that carried a natural rouge... the strands of gold that dangled above his forehead and traced down the back of his neck...the full and round rosy lips that beckoned to be touched and kissed...the thin light brown eyebrows spread smoothly above his eyes; eyes so blue and so clear like the waters off of an unpopulated and unpolluted isle that I could make out my own reflection in them. I felt I was sitting next to a beautiful angel who had descended from the heavens to deliver me from my sorrows.
There were other little things I noticed about him that made me feel more and more at ease around him. Like the way he would cock his head sideways a little whenever he was lost in deep thought...or the way he would unconsciously touch the tip of his nose whenever he was confused. And his tongue had a peculiar habit of licking the corner of his lips whenever he was fully concentrated. Little things, but I guess when you were sitting close to someone for a while you would notice them. And I felt close to Leo.
you're shivering." Leo's voice took me back to the real world. "Nervous?"
"Yeah, a little," I said weakly. Actually I meant a lot. I smiled nervously.
"Aww," he awwed in a way you would when you see something cute or sweet, like a little puppy. "Don't worry, Dave. It's only going to be a couple of minutes, and then we'll be done!" He winked at me and nudged me on my shoulder. I admired his confidence, and the split second his hand touched my shoulder. The monotonous exchange of words continued on stage. I breathed out deeply, and saw whiffs of white vapour escape in front of me. It was that cold.
Leo's words were reassuring, though it still didn't remove the bout of stage fright I was having, and which I had before appearing in front of a crowd. I looked down at the scrawl on the pieces of paper I held in my hands that by now had become worn out and crumpled with my touch. I had pretty much memorised the lines, and what I had to do, and also knew well what Leo had to say and do. It should be pretty straightforward. If only life were that simple and all scripted out on a piece of paper. But life was unpredictable, and anything could happen. And that, the surprises, the unexpected twists and turns, made life worth living.
Applause ripped through the empty aula, pulling me away from my thoughts. Half-heartedly I clapped too, so that it didn't look like I was not paying attention or being rude. I felt my heart sink, and my nervousness rise, as any moment now we would be expected to go on stage. This was it...this was the moment everyone had been waiting for, and the moment Leo and David were going to put on a show.
"So, next couple. Leo and David, are you two ready?" Mr Young asked and looked in our direction. We had become `a couple'. It sounded strange, somewhat uneasy, but perhaps I was again reading too much into what were simply words. "Whenever you're ready. I'm really looking forward to this!" He said that with such a strange sense of enthusiasm and anticipation, which made me feel all the more pressured. I sort of held my neck down in an attempt to prevent me being spotted, but then realised it was pointless. My heart thumped, and I ran my hand through my hair, leaving it on the back of my neck out of nervousness.
Leo stood up and turned to look down at me: "So, this is it! Our big break together!" His face was full of life and energy, his smile full of warmth and encouragement. "Come on!" I still sat glued to the seat, but he grabbed my arm and pulled me up. I felt myself fill with a strange warmth as his fingers clasped around my arm.
We shuffled past the sitting crowd, and I glanced at those fortunate enough to be sitting, while inside wishing that I could trade places with them. I trailed behind Leo, as he opened the path and led the way. We disappeared behind the curtains and took a little flight of stairs that lead to the raised stage. As if my knees had gone weak I almost tripped and fell head over heels at Leo's feet. Quickly I steadied myself and felt a flash of warmth all over my body as I silently hoped nobody had noticed the embarrassing moment.
Suddenly he turned around to face me, looking at me intensely in the eyes, and resting both his hands on my shoulders on either side. "We're going to be great together. Don't you doubt that, Dave!" Under the weight of his hands I felt like streams of confidence and encouragement were passing from him into my body. And for a few moments everything went quiet as the world stood still. It was just Leo and me, in this darkened place behind the curtains, his hands on my shoulders, his eyes staring into mine...
When everything started moving again, we were on stage, under the bright spotlights shining on us and the watchful eyes of the world beneath our feet. There were tables on stage, and we arranged them in a line close to the edge of the podium. Fortunately there was also a big green grass mat left behind from a previous production, and we spread it across the tables to cover them. The idea was to recreate a scene in the trenches. In our act we wanted to sit on stage floor, with our feet dangling over the edge of the stage, encircled by the tables which were our make-believe trench wall. That way we would be close to the audience, in a position that was natural, thus believable as well. We sat close to one another. He sat on my left, and I sat on his right.
And we began.
"When this is all over, nobody is ever going to remember what happened here," I said. My character, Stephen, was a timid teen who, like so many around his age, had been drafted into the war effort. He was a hopeless romantic, a poetic dreamer, and he saw things in life and the world that many others did not see. I looked at the audience, and was not as afraid as I thought I would be. Experience has taught me that it helped to calm the stage nerves if you looked beyond people, and not at them.
"Nobody will ever know how it was here. How it really was," Leo, or Tom rather in the act, said with a certain sadness in his voice. "Who can imagine what it is like to see your friend blown to bits? Who can bear the sounds of constant machine guns firing?" Tom was a character with many faces. Sometimes he could be cheerful, free and act like there's not a worry in the world, and at other times he could sink into this strange melancholic mood, and nobody could know what he was thinking about.
"You know, Tom, the `funniest' thing happened the other day," I said, as I looked at Leo, and then turned to face the audience. By this time I had become calm, and the nervousness from before had somehow miraculous disappeared. Leo's touch on my shoulders before, and the fact that he sat so close to me did wonders. "We were just sitting around and a shrapnel bomb fell right next to us. I was lucky and only got a few bruises, but when the smoke cleared I had to clear up the mess." At this point the character was so distraught and he begins to break down, and I showed that by starting to stammer and stutter. "And th—ere in t—t—the mud was Fred, h—his sto—mach ope—en and int—est—estines gushing... I—I—" I started to sob, playacting of course, and covered my faced with my hands, heaving my shoulders a bit to add to the dramatic effect.
"It's OK, Stephen, it's alright," Leo said, as he placed an arm around me. This was perhaps my favourite part during all the rehearsing we did together before. And again, like before, as his arm closed in around my neck and rested on my shoulders I felt this strange sense of warmth rise inside and on my cheeks. "It's OK to cry. It's OK to cry."
With my face still buried in my hands and head facing down, I said between sobs and sniffs: "No—it's not OK. We're soldiers! We're men! We're supposed to be tough! We're supposed to be strong!" Those words came out harshly, like they were supposed to, just before my character then breaks down again: "—but we're not men...we—we're just boys! Just boys..."
"Stephen, it's alright. I feel your pain," Leo said, as he tightened the arm he had around me. I felt myself shiver a little from the intimate contact between us, even though there were layers of clothes between his smooth skin and mine. The crowd below seemed to be silent as far as I could heard. "It's OK to cry. Sometimes you just need to let it all out. Especially in this craziness we're in."
"How long do you think this will go on?" I said, as I raised my head again, turning to look at Leo, and brushed the `tears' away from my eyes with my hand. For a split moment as I looked up I could see the crowd below were completely mesmorised by our performance on stage. A surge of confidence rushed inside of me. It wasn't so bad, after all.
"I'm not sure, Stephen," Leo said hushedly, "I'm not sure. It could be days, it could be years, like it's already been. Who knows." He withdrew his hand again, and I felt the weight lift from my shoulder, while the effects of the intimate contact between us still lingered inside, expressed on the outside in the form of uncontrollable slight shivers now and then. They weren't shivers out of fear or out of the cold...more like shivers from a warmth I never felt before, a warmth which made my body react strangely because it was all foreign and all new. "It's not up to us to decide. We're just pawns, while the politicians and generals pull the strings." Leo gestured like he was a puppet master with his hands in front of his chest. That was some comical impromptu improv! I tried to contain this surge of laughter which could have easily burst out and ruined the whole scene by biting the inside of my bottom lip. Below I heard a few giggles.
"You know what the worst feeling is, Tom?" I said firmly as Tom by now had gathered himself together from the previous bout of tear shedding, while I had gathered myself from the uncontrollable urge to laugh, "We could just die at any moment, like for those friends we've had to see die in front of our eyes." I shook my head in a show of disbelief at how surreal the thought was. I raised my hand to clutch the side of my face to express the agony and pain Stephen feared and felt that death could come any time.
"We're all going to die someday, Stephen," Leo said as-a-matter-of-factly, and looked at me with his assuring and encouraging gaze, "But we can choose. Do we want to die full of regrets, or do we want to die living every moment to the fullest?" Suddenly he lifted his right arm and placed it on my left thigh. I gasped a bit and my body leaned back a little from an automated reflex triggered by the totally unexpected touch. What was he doing?! Again he was making up moves we didn't plan. Leo just kept on looking at me intensely, and his lips gestured me to continue with the lines.
I tried not
to feel his hand on my thigh, even though it was difficult since, like so many
times before, his touch, however subtle or unintended, seemed to able to send
little shock waves or perhaps even streams of `Leo-energy' into my body. I just
looked into the silent audience beneath our feet and tried to continue as
steadily as I could: "I'd like to live life without regrets. There's so much
beauty in the world, so much to see and touch, so much that can touch you. And
I feel like there's still a lot I've not experienced yet."
"Yeah," he said and sighed a little, "Beyond all this craziness is a whole lot more. Our beloved families, our dear friends, green fields on a summer's day, memories of carefree days of play as a child, the sound of the calm sea, the smell of wood roasting in a fireplace." He paused a little, titled his ways sideways as if he were trying to picture all those things he just mentioned and indulge in them, then with a smile on his face continued: "Those are the things that makes all this worthwhile, Stephen." Throughout his monologue his hand moved on my thigh in a soft stroking movement. Even through my jeans it was as if I could still feel his vibrations penetrate into my body. The sensations were unbelievable, like nothing I felt before, and to be honest I felt a little scared at the foreignness of it all. I clenched my hardened jaws...and truth be told, they were not the only bits of my body that had hardened from the effects of Leo's hand on my thigh.
For a few dramatic moments we sat on stage silently, both of us looking at our feet which dangled and swung loosely off of the edge. I could hear whispers, as one or two restless people asked the one sitting next to them whether this was the end. But the best was still to come. Leo and I had agreed that it was best to add this `moment of silence' to allow the audience feel as if they were a part of the subtle simmering feelings that were about to develop, and about to be expressed.
"You know, Tom," I said softly while I turned to look in his direction, "It's nice to just sit and talk to you like this. In all this chaos, it feels like a bit of heaven. It's as if for a few moments I'm back in the comfort and warmth of home again."
"I know the feeling, Stephen. You've grown close to me since the day we met, much closer than any of the others." He was really into the role. His voice, body gestures and eye contact took on an act I've never seen before in him. "I don't know how to put it. I feel like you're more than just a friend, like there's something there between us that's more than just friendship. I—I—I—I," he stuttered a number of times, and it seemed like his eyes were moist, glistening with tears. Wow, Leo could really act! "I don't know how to describe it..."
My played with my hands and had my eyes looking down, thinking that my character would probably be very embarrassed to say what he was about to say. "I know. I feel the same. I've never had such strong feelings about anyone before, and I can't put a word to those feelings..."
"It's like all my life I've been lonely, and longing for someone to share things with..." Leo began...
"...and that longing has now been answered...whenever we're together," and I finished the sentence off. It was a beautiful line, with beautiful interaction between the characters that showed how on many levels their hearts and minds connected.
"There seems to be so much I want to say to you, but at the same time all I need is just be next to you and say nothing," That was perhaps the highlight sentence of the entire book, and Leo uttered those powerful words with such emotion that it convinced even me. Momentarily I lost myself in that passionate declaration, and in his eyes. The cold draught in the aula seemed to have been warmed up by our words. Simple words which pierced the air and hearts of the people below.
A few seconds of silence went by before I could shake myself away from that intense moment lost in the act and my dreams. My mind searched and finally found the line that followed: "I know, Tom. I feel what you feel."
He looked at me, and looked at his dangling feet that swung softly over the edge of the stage, and turned to looked at me again. As he did that, his whole body inched a bit closer. "Do you think it's possible that we're in..." He trailed off dramatically, like in the book, where the character dare not mention the word, and where the word is avoided like the plague, even though the effects of it, and the intense feelings that it evokes, are forever present.
"I don't know, Tom. This is all very confusing, and I wish I could know." I looked down at my fingers which fidgeted nervously on my lap. The character I was playing suited me well which was largely the reason why Leo and I decided I would be perfect for the part. I could identify with him, with his wavering nervousness, his introvertedness, his uncertainties about himself and his own feelings. "I wish someone could tell me what I'm feeling, and what it is that makes me feel this way, especially whenever I see you, or when I'm around you..."
"Stephen..." he spoke my name ever so softly as if he was afraid that it would shatter the air around us. "I..." The chapter stopped dead there, and we had decided to leave it at that as well. Sort of a moment of suspense to keep the audience dangling and wondering what would happen next, as the author originally intended as well.
All of a sudden he spontaneously shifted his legs onto the stage, turned to me and leaned over. His arms closed in around my body. He leaned over and hugged me... he hugged me! I froze. His head closed in from the right, our cheeks were so close they were almost touching. My mind went into a state of shock, and I was completely lost for words. My breathing stopped. My heart sunk. "Just play along with me," Leo whispered in my ear, "Trust me."
Wha—t—wh—at—what was he doing?! None of this was in the script. And none of this was how we had rehearsed it. This was not meant to be!
"Dave, put your arms around me," he whispered softly in my ear again, and by this time his chin had rested itself on my right shoulder. "Just play along. Let's make this convincing."
I trembled faintly, and could have fainted there and then. I felt cold sweat moisten my palms, as my mouth ran dry. My feet stopped dangling back and forth. I stole a glance at the audience below, and there were plenty of surprised faces. One guy had his mouth wide open. But there were satisfied faces too, faces with fulfilled expressions as if they had just seen drama that outdid their expectations. A couple of eyes didn't look dry. Mr Young looked on, his attention completely captured by our presence on stage, nodded in a show of encouragement and support, and smiled back at me. All of this happened in a matter of micro-seconds.
An image of how stupid I looked right there on stage flashed in my mind. I must have looked like a dead, numb mannequin frozen in fear while Leo, with all his usual air of liveliness and warmth, had his arms around me, as if trying to soften me up and breathe life into my stiffness.
Then, as my breath recovered their normal rhythm a strong, mesmerising scent overpowered my doubts and fears. It struck me, hard. Leo was as close to me as we had ever been, and his fragrance lingered in the air, teasing my nostrils and numb mind. I felt his fingers move up and down on my back slightly. The movements were so subtle, and only ever so slightly, but I felt them. I could almost feel the warmth of his cheeks warm up mine. A few strands of his hair tickled my face and neck. His hair was so close to my nostrils I could smell the fragrant shampoo (or was it gel?) he used. The scent of Alpine pines lifted me to a new high, and nothing else seemed to matter; not the people watching below, not the judgemental faces or thoughts that flashed across my forever self-conscious mind, not the fear itself that I feared most...
Slowly, slowly, slowly I lifted my arms and prepared to close them around Leo's body. It felt like time had decelerated. I closed my eyes and my arms closed in around him. I felt a slight shudder as the inside of my arms came into contact with his clothes, and then brush against the contours of his body. My fingers locked together as they found themselves behind Leo's back.
"Great, Dave," Leo whispered softly and encouragingly, "Now we show them how great we can be together!" I almost didn't hear him, as I was drifting, dreaming, drowning in the moment... simply drifting, dreaming, drowning.
A roar of applause echoed in the aula. I opened my eyes the way you would from a deep, sweet sleep, woke unwillingly from my enchanted dream, and realised that it was all over. Leo quickly released me from his arms, leaving me so abruptly that I almost lost my balance. He scrambled to his feet and bowed, his face teeming with triumph at our big break together. I sat there lost and wondering what to do for a second, and then just as quickly sprang to my feet, and took a deep bow.
I felt an unprecedented sense of achievement and pride in what we had managed to do together. It filled and bloated my chest, and felt like an ecstatic high, a high that even overpowered the emotions that music evoked in me. And Leo was there throughout to give me support. He was the one who assured me that we could do this together. He was the one who patted my shoulders and encouraged me throughout. Perhaps he too was the one who was responsible for this strange sense of ecstasy and mixture of other feelings I had never felt before.
The applause continued, and was accompanied by the occasional high-pitched whistling. Leo's hand suddenly reached for mine, and held it tightly. It was a firm and certain grip, not like the subtle brushes or touches before. Wrapped in the warmth of his fingers my hand began to thaw from its normal cold touch, as the slight trembling stopped. Looking in my direction he bowed again, and taking his cue I did the same.
There we stood, two actors on an empty stage, with spotlights shining on us, and the world at our feet, basking in the warm applause and approval of a receptive audience. What started out as timid and uncertain seemed to be blossoming fully in the warmth shown by the world beneath our feet.
"See, Dave," he said, turning to me with a wide smile on his face and winking, "I told you it'd all end in a couple of minutes."
He was right. It only lasted a couple of minutes, but...but didn't we just begin?
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