Hello everybody. My name is August Paul and this is my first Nifty submission. Any and all feedback is welcome at augustpaul9211@gmail.com. I'm really excited to hear what you guys think about Collin and Dominic!



Never Be The Same

Chapter 1

It was days like these that made me wish that the Toronto District School Board invested in school buses more like their American counterparts did. Then I wouldn't have to sit next to smelly people who more often than not had complete disregard for personal space. Then again, personal space was a luxury given the circumstances. Toronto was a city with millions of people served by a somewhat efficient public transportation system. On the TTC, efficiency was measured by the maximum amount of people you could fit onto a single bus at any given time, comfort be damned. Hell I was lucky to be able to find a seat most mornings.

Thankfully, the ride to school only involved transferring buses once, and the second bus was usually less packed, the passengers consisting mostly of my fellow students at St. Gregory Catholic School, easily identified by the navy shirts and grey slacks. Instead of ungodly body odor, instead the air was filled with the stench of cheap cologne that all the guys wore. That, at least, was bearable.

I found myself idly listening to the gossip being exchanged by the students on the bus. Every day there was a story. So on so cheated on what's her name, X got wasted and threw up at somebody's party, Joe got into a fight with Rob's brother-cousin-nephew—you catch my drift. All these punctuated by a pregnancy every now and then. Yes, sometimes I'm surprised that all of this happens at a school of God as well.

Of course, I was never mentioned. At this point I was leading a relatively normal, drama free life, and I wasn't about to change anytime soon. You rarely heard my name thrown around in the mix. No stories about Collin Connor ever floated around the school. My efforts at the school newspaper, a smattering of student organizations, and the media club rarely made an impact. Of course, if everyone found out that I was gay, I was sure that they would find that highly interesting. Fortunately for me, that was something I managed to keep under wraps.

In the looks department, there was definitely some to be desired. In no way was I even close to being considered in the running for hottest junior. My auburn hair, pale, freckled skin, and thin but sinewy 5'11" frame attracted few. The last girl who had a crush on me was an overweight freshman unfortunately named Gladys who still wore her hair in pig tails. To my regret, I had given her my number because she wanted some help with an essay. Before I knew what was happening, I opened a picture message from her which further reinforced my sexual orientation and more importantly, made me throw up a little in my mouth

Being gay at St. Greg was surprisingly not so difficult, especially when you're the kind that manages to fly under the radar like me. As far as I knew, nobody really knew or cared about who I had the hots for. Hell, most of the guys were groping each other at any given moment anyways so it's not like I had to worry about being too touchy-feely with anybody. It's as absurd to me as anybody, but they can't seem to keep their hands off of each other. I do admit that I get a secret pleasure on the rare occasions that one of them gets playful with me, like the time when Michael DiOro stroked my arm while sitting next to me in chemistry. Little did he know what thoughts were running through my mind.

St.Greg, as it was more commonly referred to, boasted a population of about 1000 students, and as far as I knew, I was the only gay guy there. The student body might not be so large, but sometimes I surprise myself when somehow I know things about anybody there without directly knowing them. I owe that to my best friend Alyssa, who despite being relatively low-key was a closet gossip girl who knew exactly what was going on with anybody at any given time. Speaking of which, there she was waiting for me by the front of the school.

"Hi Collin!" she yelled before walking over to me and wrapping me in a hug, as was our routine morning ritual.

"Hey there Lys, missed you," I replied, still enveloped in our hug.

As you could probably tell, Alyssa and I had a very affectionate relationship to the point of almost being silly. She was the only person I knew who I could totally relax with and be myself. We had only known each other for about a year after meeting in our first English class where I asked about something she was scribbling down on a scrap piece of paper.

"It's nothing, just some words I had swirling around in my head," she had said, blushing slightly.

After reading the poem, I knew that she and I would get along real well. I was a writer as well, and good writers recognize good writers, and she was definitely good.

Alyssa, at first glance, was a demure beauty, simple and sweet. Her straight blonde hair was usually pushed back with a headband, sometimes accompanied by a bow. Her amber eyes were always bright and warm, as was her smile, which I'm sure could charm even the coldest of hearts.

However, on occasions usually reserved for me, her eyes glinted with a haughtiness that could only come from someone who had less than innocent thoughts on her mind. Sure, she played the good-girl role very well, but Alyssa always got what she wanted, and she wasn't afraid to push things in the direction they needed to be pushed. And though she rarely acted on it, she was just as boy crazy as I was.

In a different world we would make the perfect couple. People sometimes assumed that we were dating, which of course we would shoot down. But the idea lingers, as they all do, and we just stopped caring after a while. Better they thought we were dating than knowing that I'd much rather be on the receiving end of Joseph Carvalho's affections.

"Are you walking home with me today?" she asked. We walked home any day when I didn't have something going on after school.

"Nope. Mary asked me to finish the write-up on No-Smoking Week later because she has to go see a dermatologist."

"Her parents finally caved, huh," Alyssa said dryly.

"Yeah, and thank God for it too. I swear I don't know how she wasn't oozing over the textbooks she uses." Hey, I'm a nice guy but the truth is the truth.

Mary Garcia was afflicted by the worst case of acne in the sophomore class, maybe even the entire school. Her parents refused to take her to a specialist because they were sure that it would pass, but when the stains from her face towels stopped coming off, they decided that it was time to take action. Good for her too, I must have been the only person to see that if you looked past the acne that there was a somewhat pretty girl there too. Insanely smart too; Mary tested # 3 in Canada for the National Math Aptitude test we all had to take last year. Acne or not, that girl was going places.

"Well that sucks. I guess me and Ashley will just have to walk the same path as the soccer jocks alone then," she said, grinning evilly.

"Yeah and maybe this time you'll work up the courage and actually have a conversation with Marco today. It's been what, a month since you've been in the same class and all you've done is say hi to him every other day?" I shot back, giving her an equally evil grin. "I can't be you're only boyfriend forever, soon the guys will lose interest." I winked.

Her jaw dropped with indignation as she slapped my arm.

"You ass. Nobody can know how easy I can be. I am a good Catholic girl, and I will not stoop so low. Leave that to Rosie and her huge tits," she said with an air of superiority and a thick layer of sarcasm. I knew that if Alyssa's dad wasn't such a scary hulking beast of a man that she would allow herself to give into her fantasies.

We were walking through school at this point with only ten minutes to get to our lockers. St. Greg, thankfully, was a small square building with two floors and an atrium down the middle, so you were never too far from where you needed to be. The student body, however, was increasing every year, and you could feel it getting crowded at times.

"See you at lunch?" I asked Alyssa as we reached my locker.

"Yeah, we could have gone to my house but Mom didn't make anything last night."

"That's a shame; I love how your mom cooks."

"She knows. She keeps asking for you to come over so she can feel validated about herself. It's pathetic really," she said as she rolled her eyes.

"Hey, don't talk about my second mom like that." I wagged my finger in her face.

"Whatever, but yes, I will see you at lunch," she said, eyes still rolling, before she left.

It was a B day, so unfortunately I had Canadian history for first period. True to the cliché, Mr. Chiapetta was as boring as history teachers get. You'd figure that by now history teachers would have figured out that teaching history was just not fascinating when all they do is dictate the textbook to us. One can only take so much lecturing more than twice a week.

The period came and went, uneventfully I might add. Geography came right afterwards, the details of which I'll spare. Of course, I would end up with the two most uninteresting subjects back to back until lunchtime. That's about 3 hours of trying to stay awake listening to old men talk about things you don't care about.

Though I did fairly well in school, I was hardly what you would consider an academic. Studying for me consisted of cramming the night before an exam or staying up past midnight to finish a paper. I like to think that my best work comes when I'm under pressure. In reality, I was probably just really lazy.

After another unbearably long morning, it was finally lunch time. I found Alyssa waiting for me by the doors to the cafeteria along with two of my other friends, Catelyn Cambria, a curvy girl with curly brown hair and Bianca Vasile, who was thinner with straight sandy hair.

"Hello ladies," I greeted them with an exaggerated suaveness.

"Such a loser," said Catelyn, rolling her eyes before giving me a quick hug.

"You know, if you tried a little harder people might actually think you were interested in us," said Bianca, who smelled like citrus.

"I would, but you smell like a fruit stand. Is this the latest scent from Bath and Body Works?"

"You bet. Florida Orange Blossom," she said, flipping her hair back dramatically.

Bianca's sister worked at Bath and Body Works, so she got to try out practically everything in the store. To be quite honest, it was becoming a little of an obsession with her.

"Right, I bet the boys just go absolutely nuts over the smell of orange juice," I stated rather dryly.

"Actually, Delvecchio did mention that it smelled rather fruity in chemistry today. Bianca was a little quieter in class after that," said Catelyn, suppressing a giggle.

"See Collin, it does work!" said Bianca indignantly.

"Hate to break it to ya, but fruity usually doesn't correlate with hot, sexy, or even desirable. Now, for a guy like Delvecchio, I'd recommend the scent of freshly mowed grass."

Mike Delvecchio was the object of Bianca's affection and the only thing that she liked more than her scent experimentation. He was one of the players on the soccer team, and a very good one at that. On the few times that we decided to watch a game, he would be one of the lead scorers. Also, he was very much attractive, with curly brown hair that fell to his shoulders, a 6'0" athletic frame and brown eyes framed by thick eyebrows. He was also the only person I had known Bianca to be speechless around, a fact that we would never let her forget.

"Speaking of which, there he is," said Alyssa, staring in the direction of what we referred to as the "Goomba Table". There was Mike Delvecchio, surrounded by the usual mix of soccer and hockey players with all the pretty (and desperately trying to be pretty) girls. There was definitely excitement at that table, borne from exaggerated discussion of the latest social event, club outing, or just a random kegger at somebody's house. We'd hear about it eventually, because god knows none of them shut up about it until the whole school knew.

Last I heard, Joe Montoya had once again got so piss drunk that on the morning after Jessica Blanca's last party, he was found fully naked in the basement. This would normally be a scandal that would set the whole school a buzz, but Joe Montoya had had so many drunken fiascos that it would be unusual for him to not make a fool of himself at any party. Joe was pleasant enough to be around, if you could tolerate his chronic zoning out and incoherent, slurred ramblings. I had the pleasure of sitting beside him once in an English class last semester, and by the time class was over he was drooling all over my notebook that I had to throw it away afterwards.

The lunch line was thankfully short by the time we got there as we had missed the initial rush once class had let out. My stomach was rumbling thinking about the large, greasy slice of cheese pizza I was about to experience. I must have been dazed by hunger because by the time my brain processed stepping on something slippery, I was falling backwards.

I waited for the impact, but instead I was caught by a strong pair of arms that lifted me up to my feet. My mind still reeling from the fall, I began to analyze what exactly caused it. My leather shoes were stained red. Ketchup, of course. I was just saved from a tomato-induced concussion. I turned to face my savior, only to fall into another daze.

I knew who he was, but all I could process at the moment were the golden-amber color of his eyes and the long eyelashes that accented them. I had never seen them up-close like this before, and I wondered how I could have gone so long without noticing how hypnotizing they were.

"Hey, Collin, you okay?" he asked, his deep voice tinged with concern.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm totally fine." Yeah, not really. "Thanks Dominic, I don't think I'll be having anymore ketchup today," I replied, summoning up whatever confidence I had to not make this more awkward than it already was. Obviously, it wasn't enough.

"Who knew ketchup could be such a bitch, eh?"

"Yeah, I mean, whoever decided that it belonged on the floor definitely doesn't realize that there are kids starving in Ethiopia who would probably kill just to lick some ketchup off of the floor." What? What the hell was I talking about?

"Hah, that's a good one. Didn't know you were a funny kid Connor," he said before patting me on the shoulder. If I wasn't dazed before, I definitely was now. How I was able to amuse someone like Dominic Di Carlo was bemusing to say the least, especially when I hadn't really spoken to him in a while.

Dominic Di Carlo was one of the hockey stars at St. Greg. I had never seen him play, but from what I heard, he was one of the reasons our team kept winning game after game. He was also one of the more attractive members on the team. He was tall, I'd say around 6'2", long limbed with a slender build that filled out nicely. He wasn't crazy ripped, but just by looking at him you could tell that he was strong and physically fit. His head was shaved short which emphasized his angular face and prominent jaw. He had creamy white skin, unusual for his Italian heritage, but nonetheless something that added to his allure. And there were those eyes, so bright and expressive, I felt like I knew a lot about him and yet knew nothing about him.

"NEXT!" I heard, which promptly woke me from my daze. In my encounter with Dominic I hadn't noticed that the line had moved well ahead of me.

"You better move before everyone behind me decides to bulldoze right by you. Hungry people ain't no joke," he teased, grinning widely. I noticed that when he smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkled.

I was flushing red by then and rushed to the cafeteria window.

"Took you long enough," said Ms. Gullusci, the head of the kitchen at St. Greg.

"Sorry miss, somebody thought the floor was a hotdog back there," I offered, weakly. Ms. Gullusci was an intimidating woman, and I was easily intimidated.

"Well whaddaya want?" Good, we didn't have to rehash it.

"Just a cheese pizza and a coke, please, ma'am."

Without saying a word, she set my tray up and handed it to me. She glared at me, which she usually did, but this time it seemed like she was pretty annoyed.

"I'll have what he's having," I heard Dominic say beside me. After being grilled by Ms. Gullusci, I almost forgot he was there.

"How cute." Somehow, I don't think she found it cute at all.

"I didn't know you liked cheese pizza," I ventured in a pathetic attempt at making conversation. I mean, I didn't know anything about him at all let alone what kind of pizza he liked.

"Well, let's just say I don't really feel like making my own decisions today." He winked at me.

Completely flustered, I made a what I'm sure came across as weird grin at him, picked up my tray and searched the cafeteria for my friends, who I had just realized had disappeared from the line during my little fiasco with Dominic.

I found them sitting at our usual table with a few of our other friends, already half way through their lunch.

"Have a nice fall?" asked Bianca, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

"Shut up. Thanks for leaving me there, when I could have possibly hit my head on the floor and got a concussion or something," I said indignantly. It was true, without Dominic to catch me I could have been on my way to West Regional Hospital on the next ambulance.

"Well you didn't, instead you found yourself a prince charming to save you. I'd call you Snow White, but your gingerness only leaves room to call you Rose Red. Not to mention you're blushing like crazy," added Catelyn, barely able to contain her laughter. I hate it when people point out that I'm blushing, only because it makes me blush even more. And with my pale skin, it was obvious.

"Yeah right, Dominic Di Carlo, my prince charming? Not even in my wildest dreams." It was true. Dominic Di Carlo was not somebody I even considered a possibility of being remotely interested in me. He was nice to look at, and he didn't act like the other morons he played with on the hockey team, but still, that was all there was to him as far as I was concerned.

"It is nice to dream though. Take a look at Bianca over here, she's been dreaming about Del Vecchio forever. Notice that whenever she talks about him her chest pops out even more than usual," Alyssa chimed in, thankfully deflecting attention away from me to prevent further discussion about my little fall.

True to be told, Bianca was just sitting there absentmindedly twirling a lock of her hair with her fingers.

"The princess is definitely in her castle right now," I said dryly to no response. I decided I'd let her indulge in her fantasies a little bit more.

Lunchtime was always a fun part of the day, mostly because it was the only time where everyone could be together at the same time for an extended period of time, which always led to interesting conversations, especially when the table consisted mostly of chatty high school girls, though one would argue if there was any other type.

"I think I'm breaking up with Steve," I overheard my friend Kristen saying. "He's just not as fun as he used to be when we first started dating."

"You've been dating him for a month, Kristen. Don't tell me you're already tired of the way he fucks you," another girl named Vanessa shot back.

"I get bored easily, it's not my fault. And if we're being perfectly honest here he's not the biggest fish in the sea either."

I nearly snorted out the coke I had just sipped after that. Kristen was one of those girls that was very sexually liberated and wasn't afraid to...express herself. The weird thing was is that I went to elementary school with her, and back then she was this reserved, shy girl who didn't say much. Her parents did get divorced right before high school started, so I'm assuming her neo-slutiness had something to do with it. Not being a psychologist, I'm pretty sure it's more complicated than that.

"Anyways..." Catelyn interjected, addressing our group within a group, "semi-formal's coming up soon, like three weeks soon. We have to start planning this thing."

Jesus, time does fly. It was already mid-October, of my grade 11 year none the less where shit like semi-formal and junior prom rears their ugly heads and demand that you spend an exorbitant amount of time and money just preparing for them. Leave it to Catelyn, ever the master planner, to get us on track prematurely.

"I'm assuming you've already got this planned out so why do we even need to worry?" I asked.

"Look, I can get us the limo, the hotel room, maybe even the booze. That's not what I'm worried about. What I am worried about is who we're going to be going with," she said pointedly. I guess this is something she expected us to know by now. I hadn't really thought about it.

"Hmm, considering pretty much every guy at this school is straight I'm pretty much out of options."

"Well you could always go with whichever of us can't find a date by then," offered Bianca.

"That definitely makes me feel better." Honestly, it didn't but what could I do? I was a victim of circumstance.

"We'll just go together like we did in grade 9 for that dance Collin," Alyssa said.

"No, don't worry about me. You should try and find a date since you're the one that actually has a chance of getting one. I'd feel bad if I screwed you out of that. "

"Yeah well I'm gonna have a hard time finding a guy that has the balls to deal with my dad so there's that. He already has a reputation around here from when my sister was still here. People still remember last year's prom when he came in the middle of the dance and dragged her home after he yelled at her date for not asking his permission first."

"Well if you find somebody this time, I strongly encourage you to get him to ask permission from your dad this time around," I said.

"But what are you going to do? What if every girl at this table finds a date by then? You'd be left out, and that's no fun." Catelyn prodded. She had a point.

I sighed. "Well I guess I'm going to have to suck it up like I always do. And no, I am not even considering Chris Roberts. He's frutier than any of Bianca's perfumes."

Chris Roberts was the only openly gay guy in our grade, and it showed very much. He was co-captain of the drama club and dressed in the most flamboyant fashions whenever we had a casual day. Needless to say, he was not my type. Also, I wasn't about to entertain the thought of coming out at semi-formal. That would be a fiasco I was going to avoid.

An unbidden fantasy crept into my mind. An image of me walking into a beautiful hall dressed in a crisp black suit, my arm hooked with another guy's arm. I look to my right at my escort. The amber eyes and bright smile of Dominic DiCarlo look back at me. He leans in, closes his eyes, and...


A French fry had just connected with the middle of my eyebrows.

"What the hell?" I exclaimed.

"I just said that Chris Roberts wasn't even an option because he was going with Jenny Capa, his lesbian friend. You were lost in space," said Bianca. "And screw you, my perfumes smell fantastic."

"Awesome. Great." Not really.

The lunch bell rang and it was time to go to class. As everyone gathered their trays, Alyssa and I drifted away from the crowd.

"Collin, everything's gonna work out fine. I'm sure one of the girls is gonna be free to go with you to semi," she said thoughtfully.

"I know, it's just that for once I'd like to be going with somebody who I actually liked. Hell I'd settle for just someone to make out with in the limo. It sucks missing out on things like these because I'm pretty much the only gay guy around."

"I wish I could help, or be a boy. Then it would all work out." Knowing her, she meant it too. But she couldn't help me. Nobody could.

"Nah, I like you being a girl. You being a boy would just complicate things," I said, trying to lighten up the conversation. "Anyways, I'll say bye to you after school, `kay?"

"Ok, try not to be miserable today," she said before she walked away.

I stood there dumping my tray out when I saw Dominic leaving the cafeteria. He was laughing about something, and it was a breathtaking sight. His eyes crinkled up at the corners as he smiled. And then he turned the corner, leaving me with a memory that I was sure would haunt me for the rest of the day.