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My throat burned. My chest, congested with phlegm and garbage. My forehead, warm with a slight fever. I can't remember the last time that I felt so gross.
But once Cody left the bathroom, I decided that I wanted to go to the sink and wash up a little before attempting to go back out to the carnival and be around people again. hat wasn't going to be a very easy thing to do. I looked terrible. I felt like some kind of germ ridden monster, and my boyfriend is out there somewhere with some hottie who CAME here with the intentions of making a very obvious offer for him to 'slut around' on me. And I wasn't quite sure what to do about that.
I hated him. I hated Sean so MUCH! But I also hated myself for letting him get away with it. I know it sounds crazy, but...he's got a point. If Ryan and I are so happy, then it shouldn't matter, right? Ryan told me to trust him and...and I DO! We've come so far since that day after school...just a couple of horny young boys wrestling on my bedroom floor. We've grown up a lot. Been through good times and bad. We have a real history together. We've dealt with the same problems, and faced the same enemies, side by side. Through it all...we always come out on top. Love always wins. I feel like I should have more faith in our ability to overcome the bullshit that gets thrown our way.
Then comes Sean. Sean and his super gay 'any boy, any place, any time' approach, and all the trust and love that Ryan and I spent years building together...it's like it all got erased. Just because Sean was cute.
Do you have any IDEA how much that hurts???
Maybe there's a bunch of people out there who don't understand it...but having someone that's meant so much to you for so long just...give his heart away to somebody else? It's the kind of pain that makes suicide preferable to having to live with it for one more day. It's the complete absence of light in your life. The realization that, even though you gave your ALL...it just wasn't enough. It forces you to admit that your love doesn't matter in the end, and it gives a peek at a future where anything and everything that you hold dear to your heart, can be instantly snatched away from you. All it takes is a pretty face and an inviting smile...and the future you were hoping to build with that person is gone forever.
Every time Ryan smiles at Sean...that's what I feel inside. It's not jealousy. It's defeat that lingers in my deepest emotions. It's a corrosive acid that eats away at everything I am while I try desperately to hold on to a life and a love that...let's be honest...just decided one day that it didn't want me anymore.
Conflicted. That's what I was. I looked at myself in the mirror...my nose red from blowing it so much, my skin pale...cold and clammy...my hair looking oily and stringy. Even when I fought the urge to cough, my scratchy throat forced me to do so anyway. I stared into my own eyes, and I knew right away that I was never going to compete with Sean in the 'gorgeous looks' department. Hell, even if I wasn't sick, I'd have a hard time matching up. I just need to go out there and engage Ryan on a level that belonged to us exclusively.
That...same old boring level that we've been sharing for as long as we've been together.
Sighhhh....why do I feel like a part of that sad old married couple that falls apart when a hot new secretary goes to work for my spouse? Get it together, Randy. Breathe. People fucking *HATE* angst!!! Everything should be wrapped up in 20 minutes and solved already, no matter HOW I feel. Maybe I'm just being an asshole. I'll force myself to make everything right again. I'll FORCE it. God forbid if Ryan gets bothered with me taking time to figure things out. It'll push him into Sean's arms that much faster.
Once I figured that the coast was clear, and that I was looking about as handsome as I could look with a one thousand degree fever, I went back out to the carnival to see if I could find my favorite strawberry blond and keep him by my side. You know...without making him sick, that is.
I kept my head down as I waded through the scattered crowd of people. And yet, some of them could tell I was sick anyway. Mother's carefully guided their children out of my path, teenagers looked at me to see what was wrong. It's almost like a wild herd being alerted to the presence of a predator. It's just an instinct, I think. God, I think if I have one more cough drop, I'm going to fall over dead. It's not doing much to help anyway.
I didn't know exactly where to look for everybody, but the park wasn't really all that big. After a few minutes of wandering, I saw Ryan, Cody, and Sean, standing by a couple of the gaming booths.
Don't cough. Don't cough. Don't sniffle either. I'm fine. Totally fine.
Ryan's eyes seemed to be scanning the area, and when he saw me, he immediately started walking in my direction. "Randy? Dude, what happened? Where'd you go? Are you alright?"
"Yeah." I said with a nonchalant shrug.
Sean gave me the most snobbish little frown. "Sure, we can all tell by looking at you that you must be feeling great."
I ignored the sarcasm.
Ryan took a hold of my hand. "We came back down from twirly swing and you were gone. I thought that maybe you got sick."
Sean said, "We were worried that you might be throwing up in a garbage can somewhere..." But before he could finish, Cody stepped directly in front of him, making sure to step on his foot in the process.
"Oops, sorry." Cody said before getting pushed off of him. "I was trying to hide the GIANT poop stain on your shirt. If anything was gonna make Randy sick, that would be it."
Ryan looked me in the eye. It was like he could always peer into my heart, unrestricted, when he looked into my eyes. So I tried to casually look away. I said, "I just...I got thirsty. I went to one of the drinking fountains and walked around for a bit...that's pretty much it. I'm dizzy enough without the twirly swing anyway. Heh...."
"You sure? Randy, hon, you really don't look so good." Ouch. Come on, Ryan...don't make this worse.
"Totally. I'm alright. This is just a stupid bug or something. I'll be fine in a few hours, I just need to let the medicine do its job. That's all. Promise." He was still looking at me, and I started walking forward with him while trying to distract him so he'd drop it. "What happened to Ty and Ariel? I thought you would have caught up to them by now."
"They left." Ryan said.
"Left? What do you mean, they left?"
He shrugged, "I don't know. They just decided to check out on us. Didn't even want a ride. Tyler said they'd take the bus."
I thought that was weird...until I thought about it some more. "So...they left together, did they?"
Hehehe, Ryan's smirk matched my own, and he said, "Nahhhh! No way. Hehehe, I know what you're thinking."
"It's possible." I said, raising my eyebrows. "I think they may have other plans for this week. Hehehe!"
"Get outta here."
"Well, they were late this morning."
Ryan said, "Now that you mention it...Tyler's 'I overslept' excuse did sound a lot like bullshit to me. But I didn't say anything." He narrowed his eyes for a moment, and grinned, "You don't think that they're, like...'certified' yet, do you?"
"Hehehe, did you just say 'certified'?"
"Well, you know what I mean!" Ryan giggled. "You think Ariel burned his V-card?"
"I wouldn't be surprised. They have been together for a while now. Ariel seems to giggle with a bit more joy than he did before."
Ryan thought about it for a second, but shook it off. "I don't know, dude. I can't picture it. Ariel's always been such an innocent little puppy dog."
"So were we, at one time."
"Hehehe, if you say so." Ryan gently butted me with his shoulder and we snickered about the idea of Ariel and Tyler pumping and sweating and grinding away in some dark room somewhere. Which...now that I think about it...would be pretty hot. I just got so used to Ariel being too shy to ask for a carton of milk in the school cafeteria that I couldn't imagine him being sexual in that way. You know....like all the way sexual.
It wasn't until Ryan and I changed subjects and kept giggling with one another that I realized that Sean and Cody were walking a few steps behind us, obviously not speaking to one another. Suddenly, I remembered what it was like for me and Ryan to instantly be sucked away from the rest of reality and left to inhabit a world of our own making. A world just for me and the boy I loved. We never needed an invitation or a specific motivating factor to separate us from the others, it was something that just happened. Something that took hold of us. I had forgotten how good it felt to know that I was undeniably compatible with another human being. It was something that I felt from the moment he walked into my history class that one Spring morning. Something that I should have been appreciating with every breath since.
I can honestly say that things got to be a little bit better from then on. I was still as sick as a baby with a belly full of bleach, but...when Ryan reached for my hand, I didn't pull away. This was good. Really good.
I will have to admit to taking a much stronger dislike to Sean than I ever had before. I could see why Cody hated him so much, and why he took every opportunity to let him know that whenever they were together. Sean was a shameless flirt. Not even in a harmless way. I just don't think he cared one way or another about me loathing him for it. Brazen and blatant without remorse. Like shooting at a glass bottle with a machine gun, figuring...'I'm just going to keep firing and I'll hit something eventually!' Even though Ryan was positioned, lovingly, at my side the whole time, I was becoming increasingly disgusted with the carefree disrespect of it all. Did he NOT see me standing right, fucking, there???
Every now and there, my eyes would connect with Cody's, and it looked like he was SO ready for me to totally unleash on the blond brat for being an asshole. But I didn't. I figured that I should be spending more time and energy focused on loving Ryan, instead of fighting Sean. He wants to separate us. He wants me to get all agitated and angry so I look like some kind of psycho with a chip on my shoulder. I'm not taking the bait. Not today.
Ryan loves me even when I'm sick and looking like I belong to the army of the walking dead. I've got a boyfriend who really, truly, loves me. What's HE got? A pretty face and a front row seat to the 'Ryan and Randy' show. He'll just have to deal with it, shady intentions and all.
Cody, on the other hand, wasn't going to be so sweet about it all.
"My God, this place is full of yummy boy treats." Sean smiled. "Ryan, are you seeing this? Check out the light green shirt, blond hair, 3 O'clock. OOH! And his friend's got dimples. I'm a sucker for dimples."
Cody grumbled, "You're a sucker for any guy willing to stand still long enough for you to hump his leg."
"Just like in school, NOBODY'S talking to you, Cody!"
"Says the person who actually had to talk to me to tell me that..." Cody scoffed.
"You know what? I don't even know why you're here." Sean said. "I'm getting so tired of having to even acknowledge you for politeness sake."
"Politeness sake? Hehehe, PLEASE, sweetheart...don't do me any favors."
"I'm so SICK of you!" Sean growled.
"Sick? Ooh, I hope it's Syphilis! Please, God, let it be Syphilis!" Cody snarled back at him.
Ryan attempted to jump in so we could keep the peace. "Come on, you guys. This is getting serious now. I mean, we all came here to have FUN, right?"
Sean and Cody maintained a frustrated moment of eye contact, but decided to back down. Well, at least back down from actual, visible, conflict. It's not like they were going to kiss and make up any time soon. Then...
Only 60 seconds later, Cody said, "Hey, Sean? There's a guy under 50 working the hot dog booth. Have you blown him yet? I think you might have missed one."
"You know what, FUCK you, Cody!"
"Been there. Done that. Used the novelty 'I Fucked Sean' t-shirt to wipe my ASS!" Cody smirked.
Seeing as those two were quickly letting their close proximity escalate into another fight, Ryan and I decided to make a brief escape from their turbulent warzone. I said, "LOOK, Ryan! Freshly popped caramel popcorn! You want some?"
I was going to use my eyes to signal him and let him know the plan to hop out of this heated situation before it got any worse, but I think he was looking for an excuse to get away from this rumbling volcano just as badly as I was. "Sounds like a GREAT idea! C'mon, let's go!" He said. Making sure to separate us by telling Sean and Cody, "We'll be right back, ok? Then maybe we'll try a couple of these booth games. Cool? Let's go, Randy."
We left before they had a chance to answer, but I clearly heard Sean say, "Now look what you did, you jackass. Do you have to ruin everything that you're a part of?"
"In this case, I'm GLAD that I did it. If you're not going to have any class or conscience of your own, then I'm going to keep smashing your bad karma in your face every chance that I get."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"It means that Ryan and Randy can go get some goddamn popcorn without your sinister 'whore-cloud' hovering over them every second of the day, you fucking dimwitted sociopath!"
"I HATE you SO much!!!"
Ryan and I sort of hurried away from them, with Ryan whispering, "YIKES! If we don't keep those two away from sharp objects, we're gonna end up with a deadly 'incident' on our hands, aren't we?"
"I'd like to say that I was optimistic..." I told him. "...But you're probably right. Hehehe, I just want to be far enough away to enjoy the carnage without becoming a casualty of it."
"Randy..." Ryan giggled. I know, I know...I shouldn't be cheering on this kind of pointless arguing, but if it keeps Sean's claws out of my boyfriend's back, then I welcome Cody's expert protection with open arms.
I smiled at Ryan and he smiled back at me. We could faintly hear them trying to piss each other off behind us and shared a laugh as we went over to get ourselves a snack.
"Two, please." Ryan said to he vendor, and reached into his pocket to pay for it, refusing any help from me at all. It's not like the popcorn cost a lot, but the gesture itself was priceless. The vendor gave us two bags and Ryan poured some of his popcorn in my bag until it started to spill over. "You need your strength, young man. Hehehe!" He said, which caused me to give him a playfully offended look.
I reached in, and the popcorn was so warm. Almost hot. The caramel still sticky from being freshly added to the mixture. I swear, it melted in my mouth like warm jelly, and my eyes rolled back as Ryan and I celebrated the wordless thrill of it all. "Omigod...that's SO good!" I moaned, and Ryan giggled in response.
"I KNOW, right? Why can't this guy be out here year round?" We both crunched away at the tasty treat for a few seconds, peeking back over every now and then to make sure that Sean and Cody hadn't started biting and clawing at one another badly enough to get us kicked out of there. For a moment, I had almost forgotten my stuffy head and burning throat. Ryan had a way of making me feel beautiful no matter what was going on with my insecurities. But when he finished chewing a handful of popcorn, he looked me in the eye and said, in the softest voice, "I know why you came out here today."
I wiped a few crumbs from my lips. "What do you mean? This was the plan, right? It's Spring Break. Of course I was going to come. You invited me to come, remember?"
"That's not what I mean." He said. "Randy...when I asked you if you'd be ok with Sean tagging along with us, you said it was cool."
"It is cool. I'm ok with it. You said he was your friend, so..."
"Don't. Ok? Just..." Ryan sighed to himself, and said, "Look, you're sick. Really really sick. But more than that, I can tell that you've got a real problem with Sean being here. Admit it."
"I really want to be fair about this, Ryan..."
"Admit it. Come on." He insisted.
I wish he hadn't blindsided me with the question, but only because it didn't give me enough time to avoid the question. "I know we keep going around and around with this, but that boy is up to no good, Ryan. It's so easy for me to see that. Why can't you?"
"I already told you, babe. I'm not going anywhere. Not ever."
"I heard him SAY it! Ok?" I blurted out. "I heard him."
I think Ryan was a bit surprised to hear it. His facial expression changed for a moment, but he stepped closer to me with even more determination than before. "It doesn't matter what he said or what he thinks he can have. I'm taken. I'm SO taken. I'm not going to cheat on my boyfriend just because some guy smiles at me."
"Cute guy. You hear that? Not just a guy, but a cute guy."
"Hehehe, Randy, listen to yourself." He said. "Do you really think that I've been sticking around all this time just because I thought you were cute? Don't you get it? I care about you in so many ways that it would be pointless to count them all. I love the way you laugh, I love the way you cry, I love the way you stumble along through a carnival while drowsy off of cough medicine. I love all of it. You're not just my boyfriend, you're a living, breathing, part of me. I'm not concerned with what some other guy wants. Too bad for him. What's important to me is what we share. You and me, together. Sean can't ruin that. I saw his head turn from one boy to another so many times since we've been here today that I doubt he'd see any reason to put forth the effort. He's a nice guy and all, but...no thank you. I know what I want. I've always known."
I grunted softly. "I'd just feel a lot better if he wasn't around you so much. That's all."
"Then I need you to tell me that. Ok?" He said. "I mean...I get that you wanted me to have fun today and that you dragged yourself out here with the hope of keeping an eye on me. I get it. But if you really had a problem with this whole arrangement, you could have just told me and you could be in your pajamas watching TV right now. You know?"
I was feeling a little embarrassed at the moment, but can't deny that it brought me some comfort to know that he was still on my side. "I'm sorry if it seems like I don't trust you. That wasn't what this was about."
"Hehehe, yes it was. You totally 'zombie walked' over to my house to make sure some random hottie knew to keep his hands to himself. Which...was noble. Stupid, but noble." He elbowed me slightly in the ribs.
"I didn't want to ruin your fun during the start of your break either..."
"The only way you could ruin my fun is if you weren't having any fun of your own. K? I know you were thinking about me. That's what makes us special. And that's what is going to keep us special. There's no time for being selfish when I'm so goofy over you." He smiled at me, and said, "Listen...if you want to leave right now then we're out of here. All of us. We can come back another day. Or...we don't have to come back at all. Sean can find his own fun this week. I promised that you and I were going to spend some time together this week, and that's exactly what we're going to do. So what do you want? What's the plan?" I hesitated with an answer, and Ryan told me, "DON'T be noble, Randy. Be honest. If you want to call it a day, let's call it a day. I can jump ahead on some homework, you can get enough rest to keep from dropping dead where you stand, and we can put Sean and Cody on opposite sides of town where they belong before this turn this carnival into a micro Godzilla movie. It'll be fine."
I continued to stammer, but...I honestly felt like shit. It was getting to the point where even turning my head made me dizzy enough to almost lose balance. So, I came clean and told him, "I'm sorry, hon. But I really don't want to be here today."
"Done!" He smiled. "We'll finish our popcorn, you'll feel faint and fall into my arms, and then I'll take my pretty damsel in distress home like a good boyfriend should. Deal? Hehehe!"
"I swear...I'm never babysitting a house full of germ infested kids ever again."
"Sounds like a good idea." He said, then looked over to see Sean and Cody taking shots at one another again. "Speaking of babysitting..."
Sean was still using napkins to scrub away at the chocolate shake stain on the front of his shirt, with Cody taunting him the whole time. Sean was like, "I can't believe that little gnome ruined my shirt like this. This is going to take at least two washes to get this out."
Cody said, "That's weird. I just sorta figured that you were used to having boys making a big mess all over your chest! Or do they just pull out and deposit it onto your back?" He gave Sean a smug grin. "Ya get it? That's a jizz joke! 'Cause you're a total WHORE! Hehehe!"
Sean pushed him back a step or two but Cody never got offended by much of anything. "I can remember a time when you seemed to love that about me, asshole."
"Yeah, well I'm sure there was a time when I loved breastfeeding from my mother's tits, but...same as with you, I outgrew it pretty quickly."
Ryan and I looked at one another and giggled quietly to ourselves. Ryan said, "Wow. Can you believe those two used to DATE?"
"No. Not at all. I don't think I even want to."
"Hehehe, you'd better take a good look, Randy. That's gonna be US a few years from now! Just you and me, trading insults and duking it out in a crowd full of strangers."
"Oh GOD, I hope not! Shoot me now..."
Ryan tilted his head back and emptied the last few crumbs of his popcorn bag into his mouth. Then he said, "Alright, babe. Let's blow this joint and get you back to bed."
He started to walk back to where our friends were standing, but I gripped his arm first. I had the urge to look around to see if anyone was listening...but I fought it. It shouldn't matter.
"I love you, Ryan."
With a smirk, he said, "I love you more..."