"The future is for those who believe in the beauty of their dreams"

One Life

by Ryan Keith

Part 2 -- Change

Tyler woke up not knowing where he was. He wanted to sleep, but his alarm clock wouldn't let him. He knew that the orientation was going to start in thirty minutes. He had never had a hangover, nor had he even been drunk before. Feeling somewhat proud of what he had done the night before, he cursed himself for not buying any Advil.

The sound of the doorknob turning made him bolt upright in his bed. For a fraction of a second he thought his father was going to walk through, and was relieved to see a boy about three-quarters his own height, who had weird sparkles around his eyes and the craziest spikes on his head. The boy looked at him awkwardly, and then walked in carrying two suitcases. The cases were almost larger than the kid.

"Hey, guy, you must by my roommate. Nice to meet you." Tyler had a drowsy, morning voice, and hoped he was using the right words. The guy looked him over before walking towards him.

"You have, like, a hangover, don't you? Great, I have a depressed loner for a roommate. Come on, what else can go wrong?"

Tyler began to notice some things about the boy. He wore a shirt that was definitely too tight for him. The pants were tight; not like they were too small for him, but like he wanted them that tight. Something about his voice seemed... feminine. Tyler could have sworn that the guy was gay.

"I didn't mean to end up with a hangover. I hung out with some friends and just chilled. What's it to you?" Tyler said with an edge.

The kid stepped back like Tyler was about to attack him. "Okay, honey, don't stress yourself. I was just kidding. Oh well, I really can't complain. You're pretty cute. Who knows, maybe we can get to... ah... know each other?" Tyler didn't like the way that sounded, and suddenly felt exposed as the boy seemed to uncover and undress him with his eyes.

"Um, sorry for asking, but are you..." Tyler couldn't ask it. He was too embarrassed.

The boy didn't let him finish, anyways. "Gay? Yes. Is that a problem, sir?"

Tyler immediately shook his head.

"Good, now get your cute ass up and help me with my stuff. I think I broke a nail."

The guy walked out before Tyler could complain. Reluctantly, he got up and started towards the elevator, wearing the clothes he had slept in. Several girls whistled at him. He hated being harassed like that; girls teasing him, pretending that he was worth something. That really played with his mind.

Shit, I didn't even get his name. Ugh, I can't believe he's my roommate. When Jaylin and Dave find out, they'll surely think I'm gay too. I'll get the shit beaten out of me!

He decided not to worry about it right then. Princess Sparkles was waiting for his help.


"Come on, buddy, get up." Jaylin nudged his roommate for the millionth time. "Shit, Dave, you're like my brother. You shouldn't get smashed the night before a day like today. We have a shitload to do, man."

His roommate groaned, before mumbling, "Come back next year. My head's pounding. I'm skipping the orientation. Just tell me later what I need to know. Thanks, dude."

Before Jaylin could complain, his roommate fell back into his slumber and began to snore lightly. Jaylin considered dumping water on Dave, but didn't want to clean it up afterwards.

Waiting for the elevator, he wondered what the day held for him. After the hour-long orientation, there would be several activities with the residence frosh leaders. He hoped to have as much fun as he had had the night before. This time he was going to make sure Tyler joined in.

As the elevator opened, he was surprised to find Tyler looking rather worn out, and a guy who couldn't be older than seventeen standing beside him in a bright pink, very tight shirt.

"Oh, hello, my pretty! Come in! I'm sure there's enough room for us to, uh, fit," the boy said, his eyes teasing.

Jaylin didn't know whether to feel revolted, or angry. He walked in and turned towards Tyler.

"Hey, Ty, did you sleep okay?" he asked.

Tyler's face suddenly brightened at the mention of his name. Jaylin sensed that a wave of comfort had washed over Tyler.

"Yeah, I did, thanks. I guess I passed out, huh? Did you take me back to my room?" Tyler blushed a bit.

Jaylin decided to take advantage of the situation. "Yup, and I even tucked you in as you confessed your undying love for me," he teased.

Horror stuck Tyler's face as he desperately looked around. Jaylin mentally kicked himself for making Tyler uncomfortable.

"I was kidding, buddy. Don't worry. Sorry," Jaylin said apologetically. "Honestly, you were the perfect drunk last night, I swear." Jaylin swore at himself again, but Tyler began to look a bit more relaxed.

A loud clearing of the throat made the two of them turn to the short kid. "Aren't you going to introduce us, Tyler?" the boy asked in a demanding tone.

"Yeah, sorry, Jem. Jayse, this is my roommate, Jeremy, but he prefers Jem. Jem, this is a friend of mine, Jaylin."

As much as he didn't want to, Jaylin stuck out his hand to offer his greeting. Jem took it quickly and held it tenderly; his fingers seeming to caress Jaylin's hand. Jaylin felt like he was shaking hands with a squid.

He pulled his hand away fast when Jem looked at him seductively. He figured the guy was gay. He already had the women to deal with and now he might have to fight off this guy.

Jem smiled seductively again and whispered, "Tease," before Jaylin turned to Tyler.

Tyler had an apologetic look, which Jaylin immediately waved off with his hand. Tyler smiled, and that seemed to settle Jaylin's stomach.

As they walked off the elevator, Jem ran off on his own to meet up with some people. He ran over to a couple of girls that Jaylin had seen the day before. The girls immediately took him in and began giggling as they looked towards Jaylin and Tyler.

"Sorry about him, Jayse. I just met him this morning and just finished helping him bring in his stuff. I don't know how I'll survive," Tyler said wearingly.

Feeling like it was the right thing to do, Jaylin gripped Tyler's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "Don't worry, buddy. Just jump up a floor and come to Dave or me whenever you need to get away from him." Again, Jaylin's stomach became unsettled as the two girls and Jem looked towards him and literally licked their lips.

"Okay, thanks. I don't think Princess Sparkles will be leaving me alone much. I might drop by real often."

"No problem, buddy. Our room is always open. I have an extra sleeping bag, so feel free to crash in our room whenever you feel like it. Dave and I won't mind."

Princess Sparkles? Haha, that's golden.

They walked into the large cafeteria, which had hundreds of seats. Several tables that held Danishes and croissants filled a corner of the room. Jaylin and Tyler looked at each other and smiled as their stomachs grumbled, and they headed for those tables. Clusters of girls seemed to be following them. Jaylin smiled, knowing half the followers were eyeing Tyler. He was glad to have someone better looking than him by his side; he hated the attention. Tyler seemed unaware of the women gathering close to him.


Tyler had thought he wouldn't last an hour in that room, but the fact that Jaylin was with him made the orientation enjoyable. Several times, Jaylin commented or joked about something, sending both of them into fits of laughter and causing the frosh leaders to look at them. Thinking he was going to be scolded, Tyler looked embarrassed. He was relieved when he saw the frosh bosses smiling and shaking their heads like they were saying, "Good job guys!" Tyler kept reminding himself that he wasn't at his high school. These people were all peers.

Tyler waited outside for Jaylin and Dave. Several groups of people were scattered around the residence grounds. Jaylin had gone up to get Dave. These activities required groups of three, and Tyler felt it was right to include Dave. As much as Tyler would have liked to have Jaylin alone by his side the whole day, he didn't think it was right to ignore Dave. Jaylin had been a bit hesitant in going up, thinking that Dave would rather sleep.

Tyler noticed several women glancing his way. He felt a bit threatened; they probably were cursing him right now for stealing the whole morning with Jaylin. A bit too many times that morning girls had approached him and Jaylin. Some girls even talked to him.

They probably wanted to just use me to get closer to Jaylin.

"Hey, baby," an effeminate voice said.

Tyler cringed before turning towards his short, flamboyant roommate.

"Jem, how've you been, guy?" Tyler said cautiously.

"Oh, don't give me that! You've stolen Jaylin all morning, and that's all you have to say?" With a tiny wave of the hand, he continued, "I guess I'll forgive you. These games need groups of three. I guess it'll be me, you and Jaylin. I don't take no for an answer. I'm gonna make him grovel at my feet."

Tyler already didn't like Jem. In fact, he found him dangerous. He was going to have to warn Jaylin. He found some joy in telling Jem what the game plan was.

"Sorry, Jem, we have a team of three already. Oh, there they are! Hey... Dave, Jaylin... over here."

Tyler thought he heard Jem curse. As Jem turned towards the guys Tyler was calling to, he immediately grabbed Tyler's arm.

"What are you..." Tyler began.

"Who is that god?" Jem demanded.

"Who?" Tyler asked in surprise.

He turned and saw that Jem was pointing at Dave. Tyler had to agree. Dave was definitely good looking. He had the surfer boy look. But something about his attitude put Tyler off. He liked modest, nice guys like Jaylin, although the possibility of the two of them getting together was zero to none. Unless Tyler went for a sex change, he wasn't going to attract Jaylin. He had to admit, Jaylin's girlfriend was gorgeous. He suddenly realized his mind was wandering again.

"That's Jaylin's roommate, Dave," Tyler said with some pride. He didn't know why he was proud. He supposed he was a bit happy to be associated with Dave and Jaylin. "Sorry, Jem, I gotta go."

Without another word Tyler took off towards the two friends. He thought he heard Jem calling after him with a definite whine.

As Tyler ran up to Dave and Jaylin, Dave had a serious look on his face, his Oakley glasses hiding his eyes. Jaylin was his usual self.
"You behind this rouse, punk?" Dave asked abruptly.

Stopping dead in his tracks, Tyler suddenly was afraid. Dave's tone was the same as Tyler's father's.

"What?" Tyler almost screamed.

"This asshole woke me up saying we have to play these stupid games," Dave said with irritation. "Said it was your idea. If these games are boring, your ass is mine, Ty."

Tyler was lost for words. He hadn't expected any of this. He had though that Dave would want to be involved in the games. A sudden notion of running away tempted Tyler.

"Okay, buddy, you know you wanted to come down," Jaylin said in defense. "Quit bitching like a girl and suck it up some." Jaylin smacked Dave's back pretty hard, causing him to stumble.

Dave cursed under his breath.

"Sorry, Dave," Tyler said slowly, "I didn't mean for... I thought maybe... I don't know..." Tyler felt his feet backing up slowly.

As he turned to run, a hand grabbed his arm hard, pulling him around. Tyler let out a sudden yell before shielding himself. Whoever had grabbed him suddenly let go and Tyler stumbled to the ground.

When Tyler finally found his bearings, he looked around and nearly cried. People were staring at him; Dave with a look he couldn't describe. He couldn't bring himself to look at Jaylin. Slowly, Tyler got up, looking at the ground.

"Sorry," Tyler whispered before walking away.

"What the hell was that about?" Dave said in wonder as he watched Tyler walk away. He turned to Jaylin, who wore the same surprised look as his own.

"I don't know, but maybe he thought you were angry about waking up. I don't think he had many friends at his high school. This might be a new thing for him."
"Oh shit, you think?" Dave asked with worry. "Damn, I didn't realize. Shit, man, we gotta go after him."

Jaylin grabbed Dave's arm as he started to walk off. "Wait... there's more."

"What?" Dave was annoyed, anxious to go after Tyler.

"The way Tyler suddenly screamed..." Jaylin began. He released his grip on his friend's arm and continued, "When I first saw Tyler, he was with his dad. His dad grabbed him the same way you did just a while ago. I think you might have made some memories resurface."

Jaylin knew that Dave hadn't meant to upset Tyler, and that was confirmed when Dave's face sagged into a horror-stricken look.

"Fuck, man, I didn't mean it, honest. Shit, I gotta fix this. The dude doesn't need to be scared here. Let's go and..."

Dave didn't have time to finish. A sharp voice had cut him off.

"What did you do to Tyler, you asshole?"

Jaylin and Dave turned and were surprised to see several girls looking angrily at them.

"Asshole, she asked you a fucking question," another girl began. "If you hurt him, you fucker, I'll make you pay. Who the fuck do you think you are, pretty boy?"

The voices began to rise and Jaylin found himself looking helplessly at Dave. Dave looked a bit amused.

"Looks like the Tyler fucking fan club," Dave mocked a bit too loud.

Another wave of voices engulfed them as they were slowly being overwhelmed.

"Go after Ty. I'll catch up later after dealing with... this," Dave said with an impulsive smile.

Jaylin grinned before ducking. A lone sandal flew over him as he looked back with surprise.

Holy shit, these women are vicious.

Jaylin snuck away, leaving Dave cornered. He knew Dave was going to be okay.

Another sandal flew and nailed Dave right in the face. Dave snapped and started yelling at the girls. The girls found his anger encouraging and began to escalate their voices.

Shit, I hope he's gonna be okay. I shouldn't worry. He can handle himself.

It didn't take Jaylin long to find Tyler, after seeing him run in the direction of the Foundation Pond, a large pond with a few trees along one side. There was a side road that curved around it, but overall it was out in the open. From his window Jaylin had a perfect view of the pond and was quite fond of it. He was glad to see that Tyler must like it, too. He saw Tyler sitting on a large rock looking out intently at the rippling water.

He slowly walked up behind Tyler and gazed out at the scenery Tyler seemed so taken with. Jaylin's breath was taken away. He watched the ducks swimming peacefully in the calm water as a lone leaf danced in the breeze, unaware of the water below it. He felt calm looking at the pond. He felt at ease, but he was worried about Tyler.

"Quite a view, ain't it?" Jaylin began.

Jaylin caught Tyler as the startled boy jumped up. "Sorry about that, buddy. Didn't mean to scare you."

Jaylin though maybe Tyler would run again, but instead, he sat back down on the rock.

"You know, Dave wasn't angry with you," Jaylin said, after taking a seat beside Tyler. "There's something you need to know about friends. They tease and taunt each other every day for the rest of their lives. Dave was just giving you a hard time because, well, that's how he is. I guess he feels comfortable enough around you to show you who he really is. You don't need to be afraid, Ty."

Jaylin smiled when he noticed his words seemed to have some effect. Tyler looked thoughtfully at him as he continued, "You should see how he is around women. Up front he acts like a gentleman, but honestly he just wants to get into their pants. He's really a carefree wild guy. He likes you a lot, he told me so. He was just kidding with you. Got it?"

Tyler smiled. A bit tightly, but still a smile.

Jaylin didn't want to say any more. He knew how embarrassed Tyler must have been feeling at that moment. He didn't want to push it too far. However, there was one thing he wanted to make clear.

"I like you a lot too, buddy. Let me tell you, nothing will ever make me hurt you. You're too nice to hurt. I don't know `bout Dave, but if you have any problems, come to me. I'll take care of you. I don't know what it was like in your old school, but you don't have to be scared here. You start off fresh in university. Let it go man, you're among friends now."

"You promise?"

"What?" Jaylin asked

Tyler didn't respond, but somehow Jaylin knew he was where he wanted to be.

"Man, nothing you do will ever make me hurt you. Maybe if you go postal I'll have to deck you, but never will I hurt you because of who you are." Jaylin didn't know what had made him say that, but somehow he knew they were the right words.

"I promise."

He turned to Tyler and thought he saw him wipe something away from his eye. Tyler didn't look at him anymore, but he knew he had made a connection.

Jaylin's father had taught him the importance of friendship, and he had always valued his friends, although he didn't show it all the time. He had never had a best friend, other than Sam, but she was different. He felt that in Dave, he had found his best friend, but with Tyler there was something more. He couldn't describe it. It was weird; he already knew the three of them were going to become inseparable.

"Are we cool?" Jaylin asked after another moment.

Tyler turned to him with a boyish smile. "Yeah, we're cool."

"Hell no, you ain't off the hook that easy."

The two boys turned to the third leg, Dave, who had a distinct bruise on his face. His right eye twitched like he was seriously angry. Thinking back to the girls, Jaylin stifled a laugh. He turned to Tyler and gave him a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder.

Dave jumped up on the rock and sat with his back against Tyler's back.

"Listen, dude, if you're gonna hang around with me, you got to understand that there's a lot of shit that comes out of my mouth. I didn't mean one bit what I said back there, I was just fucking around with you."

"Yeah, I know. I was being stupid. Sorry, Dave," Tyler whispered.

"There you go again, you punk," Dave spat. Jaylin wondered if Dave knew what he was doing, but decided to give his roommate a chance. There is a first for everything. This was an approach that seemed interesting.

"You need confidence in yourself. Yo, Stafford," Dave said turning to Jaylin, "do you work out?"
Jaylin gave his friend an odd look. "What do you think, dumbass? I didn't get this body from eating Big Macs," he said with a hint of humor. If
Tyler was going to understand friendly bantering, he had to be exposed to it as much as possible.

"Great. I used to work out a lot, but I got lazy. Starting today, we're all going to the gym at least four times a week," Dave announced.

"Four times! You're shitting me, right? I've never even been," Tyler said in surprise.

"Well, we're gonna get you in shape. You're good looking, but too skinny. We need to put some muscle on you. That way you'll attract three times the women you already do."

Tyler looked as if he couldn't believe Dave's words, but Jaylin had to agree, Tyler was the best looking of the three of them, but could look even better if he tried.

"Is that alright with you, dude?" Dave asked Jaylin.

"Yeah, sure, not a prob," Jaylin said. He used to go to the gym six times a week, but he wasn't going to scare Tyler with that number.

"But why?" Tyler asked. "I'm not interested in attracting women the way you and Jayse do."

Dave turned to Tyler with a sly grin. "Dude, attracting the women is just part of it. It's to build your confidence. We're going to make you more proud of yourself, and give you a stronger backbone. You need more confidence, and this is how we're gonna do it. No complaints, cause I'm hauling your ass to that gym if I have to."

Jaylin had to admit it was a good idea. Dave went on about the schedule they were going to follow and nearly laughed his ass off each time Tyler's face went paler.


Tyler's body was often sore. Never in his life had he worked so hard. His father had been hard on him, but no one had ever pulled him through the work Dave and Jaylin had been forcing him to do. Already in his seventh week at university, Tyler slowly was becoming accustomed to the new life, and he loved it. As Dave had promised, Tyler was becoming more confident.

Tyler didn't realize how smart he actually was. Dave and Jaylin were impressed that Tyler was in the university's accredited and well-known space engineering major. His accomplishments in high school academics were shocking to Dave. In fact, Dave had actually saved him money by making him aware of scholarships for academics. After Tyler met with the academic supervisors, they reviewed his case and were shocked to find that he hadn't been offered a scholarship. They figured it was an error on their end, and offered him a full twenty-thousand-dollar scholarship. Tyler cried when he found out, and decided to give his mother back the money she had given him for school, and keep his share in his own savings. His tuition and residence fees were a bit over eight thousand, but there was plenty left to put into an account Jaylin had helped him set up. Tyler was seeing changes in his life and in himself that he would never have expected. He was grateful to Jaylin and Dave.

For Tyler there was a downside to university life, though. The women wouldn't leave him alone. It took a long time for Jaylin and Dave to convince him that the cluster of women who always seemed to follow them around was a miniature fan club. Doing as he was instructed, Tyler waved at the group of women one day, and was convinced, when they shrieked and excitedly pinched one another.

He didn't want that attention. He wanted Jaylin, but he knew that was impossible. He was content with just having Jaylin close to him, but each day it seemed harder for him to accept Jaylin as only a friend. He fought to keep his feelings at bay. The women weren't the only problem. There was his roommate Jem. Several times Jem eyed Jaylin and Dave when he brought them over. Dave seemed to enjoy the attention, but Jaylin seemed to get annoyed. He tried to talk to Jem about it, but Jem said he was being too paranoid. Tyler began using his room only for sleeping. He went to his classes, met up with Jaylin and Dave for lunch, went to more classes, then met up with the two friends again for their workout. They always went to dinner together, and occasionally one of them would have a friend join their table.

Having friends was also a new thing for Tyler. He hadn't known how easy making friends could be. Already he was the most popular person in his engineering class. Everyone liked him, and he didn't seem to have any enemies. He saw that a few were reluctant in talking with him, but after introducing himself and talking a bit with them, they seemed to open up. His professors loved him, and he loved learning from them. According to Dave, if he kept his marks up, he would qualify for more scholarships. Tyler was going to look into that. There were a bunch of scholarships that the university had that almost no one registered for. He could easily pay tuition and fees for his four years with the help of the scholarships and working during the summers. He couldn't wait to tell his mother. He would tell his father, but he knew his father wouldn't care.

His father called him once. He asked Tyler whether he was okay there, or if he felt like giving up. Tyler felt angry that his father would ask him such a thing, and flatly told him he had no intention of dropping out. He though he heard his father grumble something before hanging up. That was the last call he got from him.

Tyler walked into the laundry room and felt his body tingle as he stared at a topless Jaylin. Tyler didn't mind just looking. For a moment he let his eyes feast on the sight in front of him. Jaylin was sitting on top of a dryer, concentrating on a textbook. He was wearing the really cool glasses that he used when he didn't feel like wearing his contacts. Tyler liked the glasses. They made Jaylin look more sophisticated, more professional, and really hot. They were frameless titanium glasses that were more wide than tall. They made him look like the scholar he was.

After enjoying the eye candy for a while, Tyler made his presence known. Dropping his laundry basket in front of Jaylin, he planted his fists on his hips and waited for Jaylin to acknowledge him, which didn't take long. He knew Jaylin had seen him when he noticed his studious look turn into a smile.

"So, not even a hello? Is that where our friendship is at?" Tyler joked casually. He'd finally gotten the hang of friendly bantering. It was fun; he couldn't believe he hadn't understood it at first.

"I knew it was you. Our friendship is much deeper than that; we don't need words anymore," Jaylin said smoothly.

"Ohh," Tyler said sarcastically, jumping up onto a dryer beside Jaylin, "didn't know you were a poet. You might wanna change majors."

Jaylin turned and gave him a challenging look. "Hey, I am a poet. You should check out some of my work."

"Sure you are, buddy."

Tyler turned to Jaylin when there was no reply. He found Jaylin's broad smile so bright he had to wonder what was going on.

"What?" Tyler said defensively.

"You used my word. Buddy. Only I use that," Jaylin grinned.

"Yeah, well, I'm adopting it."
For a moment they just looked at each other, both enjoying the company.
Tyler's stomach started to act up again. He was falling for Jaylin. He knew he was, and he knew it was wrong. Yet there was no way to stop it unless he stopped seeing him, and that would destroy Tyler.

Pulling his laptop out of nowhere, Jaylin opened up the screen and browsed through his files.

"What are you looking at?" Tyler asked.

"You don't believe I'm a poet, do you? I see it in your eyes. Well, I'm gonna prove it to you," Jaylin said, placing the laptop on Tyler's lap. "Check that one out."

Tyler felt a rush. He felt his stomach tighten even more. The prospect of reading Jaylin's work was enticing. Almost as if he was looking into Jaylin's heart. Tyler had written some poetry, but he would never share it with anyone. He wondered if Jaylin also wrote his feelings.

Reading the words carefully, Tyler felt a wave of something wash over him. Each word was simple but descriptive. Words he never knew could go so well together. After he had read it once, he read it over again. He understood its meaning.

"It's... amazing," Tyler said slowly. He turned to see Jaylin blushing and looking away. "Geez, guy, this is... Wow! It's really well written. I understand it somewhat, I think, but..."

"It's about someone who wants to be seen for who he is, not what people want to see him as. He's concealed behind an illusion created by the people around him, and he just wants to be seen," Jaylin said sadly.

Tyler couldn't understand why his heart was pounding. He wanted to reach out to Jaylin and stroke his cheek. He thought there was something about Jaylin that Jaylin wanted seen. At the moment, he seemed so vulnerable, and Tyler wanted to comfort him.

"This is amazing, Jayse," Tyler said with difficulty. "Did you ever think of publishing it?"

The look on Jaylin's face was priceless. "God, no! No one has ever read this, not even Sam."

Tyler had heard quite a bit about Sam. He knew all about her, but after all these weeks had still never met her. He looked forward to when Jaylin would let him and Dave meet her. She lived in Tundra Residence, which was at the other side of campus so it was quite a trip. He felt happy knowing that Jaylin had shared something with him that he couldn't share with his girlfriend.

"Wow, thanks, guy. I mean, I'm touched you shared this with me, but why not Sam? Isn't she your g-girlfriend?" Tyler said with some difficulty.

Jaylin gave Tyler a pained look.

"Listen, Tyler. There's something about Sam and me... we... how should I say this?" Tyler sat silently while Jaylin tried to sort out his words. He had never seen Jaylin so tied up over something. It wasn't the usual Jaylin. "I... we..."

A sudden ring halted Jaylin's voice and seemed to scare the living daylight out of both of them. Jaylin's wash was done.

Letting out a sigh, Jaylin jumped off and headed for the washer.

Swallowing, Tyler spoke up, "What were you saying?"

Jaylin turned to him and paused. "Nothing, buddy. Don't worry about it."

Tyler didn't want to push the subject. Instead, he got up and started on his load as they began to talk about other things. Schoolwork, sports, but not the poem.

As Tyler fumbled with the laundry basket in his arms, he thought he heard voices coming from his room. He slowly opened the door and suddenly wished he had knocked first.

Jem's groaning and his calling out of Tyler's name caused Tyler to turn crimson as he entered the room. Seeing Jem pleasuring himself, Tyler turned around, embarrassed at catching his roommate in the act.

"Oh, sorry, honey, this is a bit embarrassing," his roommate giggled as he covered himself. "Well, now that that's kinda out in the open, is there any, uh... favor... I can do for you?" Jem cooed from his bed.

"No thank you," Tyler said with disgust. He put down his laundry basket, grabbed his bag, and ran out the door as Jem giggled again.

Does the guy have any decency? Oh my God, I feel violated. Why the hell did he have to be screaming out my name? Tyler fumed in frustration as a girl who seemed familiar unexpectedly stopped him.

"Hey, hon, is Jem in that room?" The girl asked.

"Yeah, but...uh, he's sleeping," Tyler lied.

"Well, fuck, I knocked like fifty times and the fucker didn't answer me." She ran to the door and banged it hard. "You little shit, I want my fifty bucks. Now! I'll tell Mom, you little fucker!"

Tyler was shocked at the girl's profanity. She was obviously older than he was. A bill slid under the door and the girl reached down to retrieve it. Smiling, she made her way back to Tyler.

"Thanks, hon. I got my money back from my bitch brother because of you. What's your name?"

It suddenly hit Tyler. This was Jem's elder sister!

"No problem, the name is Tyler."

"Oh... you're the cutie my brother was talking about. Wow, you are pretty hot. Be careful, boy, my brother is a freak. If he does anything scary, you let me know. I'm just up a floor, okay? My name is Lindsey, by the way. Nice to meet you." She walked away, leaving a rather shocked Tyler.


Jaylin walked out of the café with his bottle of water and noticed a boy he knew quite well sitting on a bench. He quickly made his way towards the boy and plopped himself down, causing Tyler to jump, and himself to laugh before gripping his friend's shoulder.

"Sorry about that, man. Didn't mean to make you shit yourself." Jaylin laughed but quickly fell quiet after glancing at his silent friend. "Hey, buddy, you okay? Someone giving you problems?"

"It's... no, it's nothing. Just still can't study in my room."

"Oh, sweet. Well, I found this awesome place about two minutes from here. Dave's there right now. Why not join us? Sam's gonna join us, too. She called me just now and she wants to meet up."

Tyler suddenly seemed to brighten up. "Does that mean I can finally meet the mystery girl? For a while there I thought maybe you just took her out of a fashion magazine."

Grimacing at a sudden thought, Jaylin tried to explain something. "Ty, you need to understand something. Sam and me, we're not really going out... anymore. I... I really can't explain it... it's just... "

"Dude, don't worry about it," Tyler said caringly.

"You know you just said `dude', right? You biting off Dave now?" Jaylin said with an impish grin.

Smiling, Tyler began packing his stuff.

"Hey, Tyler, Jayse... over here, dudes," Dave called out to the two.

Jaylin smiled happily as Tyler took in the architecture of the building. He remembered he had been the same when he first found the building. The interior of the building was white and glass. Every wall was white, even the stairs. The rails and guardrails were glass. It looked futuristic. It was one of the newer buildings and had wireless Internet all through it. Jaylin had fallen in love when he had first walked in. Dave soon found it as well, and they had agreed it was their new study area. It was really close to their residence, hidden behind a cluster of trees. Surprisingly, it was usually fairly empty, except during lecture times. There was a large lounge on the fifth floor that overlooked all other floors. It was open and clean, a perfect study area for Jaylin and Dave. He wondered if Tyler would feel the same.

Jaylin was surprised to see Sam already sitting with Dave.

"Hey, baby," Sam called out, "you finally decided to show up, eh?"

"Yeah, and I kinda picked up some loose baggage," Jaylin joked, indicating Tyler.

Tyler just chuckled and rolled his eyes before introducing himself. "Hey, you must be Sam. Jaylin has told us so much about you. Nice to meet you. I'm Tyler."
Jaylin turned to Dave and both shared the same smile.
Tyler had come a long way; he was able to talk easily with new people. It had only taken a few weeks.

Sam reached out and grabbed Tyler, pulling him close in a hug. "Oh, I've heard so much about you, too. Jayse here talks non-stop about you." After a moment she blushed and added, "And you, Dave."

Jaylin took a random seat. "How did you guys find each other?"

"I have a good eye, and I know a lady when I see one," Dave said smoothly. "I saw her and approached her and told her you'd be around shortly. I was the perfect gentleman."

"I'm sure you were, buddy," Jaylin mocked.

"He was. Don't be so hard on your friends, Jayse," Sam scolded.

"Yeah, Jaylin, don't be so hard on your friends," Dave mimicked.

The friendly banter continued with everyone's participation. In no time, Sam was well liked by both Dave and Tyler.

"Anyways," Sam said, suddenly turning to Jaylin, "did you give my idea some thought?"

As if knowing this was going to be brought up again, a flustered Jaylin sighed before replying, "I already told you, I won't do it, Sam, I... "

"But you're meant to do it!" Sam argued, "Please... It would mean so much to me."

Equally persistent, Jaylin again refused.

Tyler and Dave looked at each other dumbfounded.

Sam turned to them with pleading eyes. "Can you guys help me convince the big baby to go into my show?"

"What show?" Tyler and Dave asked simultaneously.

Sam explained Frosh Idol, a university fundraiser loosely based on the already-famous `American Idol'. The competition included a fashion run of clothes made by forth-year fashion design students; a swimwear run, and the choice of either singing a song or doing a dance. To Jaylin, it sounded more like a beauty pageant. He sat back with a scowl on his face, still refusing to participate.

Laughing at his roommate's expense, Dave encouraged Jaylin, "Come on, dude. You're totally a babe magnet. Plus, it's for charity, right? Come on, don't be such a grinch."

Tyler seemed to see the idea as a pleasant one. "Dave's right, guy. Why not do it?"

"'Cause I don't wanna!" Jaylin said in a childish tone.

Sighing to herself, Sam spoke up, "Fine, be a big baby." Turning to the other two, she warmly asked, "What about you two? You're both good looking... especially you, Tyler. Why not join?"

"Right! And embarrass myself?" Dave said. "I can surf, but no way in hell can I sing or dance. It's gonna be an empty house if I sign up."

Pouting, Sam gave up. "Fine, you guys are all the same!"

Tyler seemed to be pondering something. Thinking he had found the perfect substitute, Jaylin spoke up, "Tyler will do it, Sam."

"Really!" Sam said excitingly.

"Wait, I didn't agree on..." Tyler began.

"You were thinking about it, buddy. I saw it. You want to do it, right?" Jaylin insisted.

"Well, I was just thinking it might help me boost my confidence a bit. But I've never done anything like that before. I... "

Grabbing both his hands, Sam smiled deeply, her eyes glittering. "You'll be perfect. Your voice is heavenly. I take you'll do singing?"

"Hey, I didn't agree to..." Tyler said defensively.

"I heard him singing `Perfect' by Simple Plan in the laundry room, and it was amazing," Dave commented.

"But I still haven't..."

"I have that song on my laptop without the vocal. Sam, help me set up the speakers? You can hear him sing."

The sudden movement of everyone ended what Tyler was trying to say, and he found himself getting nervous. He hadn't agreed to anything, but he didn't think it was right to stop it now. With a nod of his head, he decided to give it a shot.

I've come this far. I won't let them down. Tyler boosted his own morale while Dave, Sam and Jaylin added the final adjustments to the sound system Sam had handy. She was in the fine arts program and was doing audio-visual. For some odd reason, she had her equipment in her van and had no problem bringing it up.

Tyler looked around and blushed, because they had attracted a crowd. It wasn't much of a stage, but it sure looked like one. With the equipment Sam had set up, and Jaylin's laptop, it looked like some kind of show was about to start. Dave was attracting more people, telling them it was a rehearsal for a university-based show. That caused people to take seats in front of the makeshift stage. Even the security guards stood around, interested in seeing what was going to happen. It shocked Tyler how easy-going people were at his university. He liked it.

Within moments, Tyler was on the stage looking at the small crowd gathered in front of him. There were well over fifty observers. Wide eyed, Tyler wondered how he had managed to get up on stage; everything in the last half hour had been a blur. Lights suddenly blinded him. Sam adjusted the lights to focus them on Tyler's feet, and gave him two thumbs up.

Dave's booming voice caught everyone's attention. "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a special preview of University Idol, brought to you by student body coordinator Samantha La'chapelle. We introduce to you Foundation Residence's own University Idol, Tyler!"

A roar erupted from the crowd, causing Tyler's heart to skip. He felt such a great rush that his nervousness was suddenly gone. He smiled and raised his hand to acknowledge the crowd that seemed to roar louder.

Taking the crowd's yelling as a signal, Jaylin pressed a button on his laptop, starting the music.

It suddenly hit Tyler what he would be singing. "Perfect" was a song he liked very much. It included everything he had ever wanted to tell his father. Staring at the floor, Tyler waited for the cue to start singing. As he looked up, he pictured his father in the crowd and sang out,

Hey Dad, look at me,

Think back and talk to me,

Did I grow up according to plan?

Tyler looked around the miniature stage and realized those people were there to see him. That thought boosted his need to sing.

And do you think I'm wasting my time,

Doin' things I wanna do.

But it hurts when you disapprove all along.

He saw Jaylin smiling at him, a look of wonder filling his face. Tyler couldn't imagine a man as handsome as Jaylin. Knowing he was singing his heart in front of him motivated Tyler to give it his all.

And now I try hard to make it,

I just wanna make you proud.

I'm never gonna be good enough for you.

Can't pretend that I'm all right,

And you can't change me.

Cause we lost it all,

Nothing lasts forever,

I'm sorry, I can't be perfect,

Now it's just too late,

And we can't go back,

I'm sorry, I can't be perfect.

Tyler bobbed his head his to the beat of the song, his emotions at their peak as he felt the effect of the song hit him. Everything felt so right at that moment. No longer nervous or scared, he sang from his soul:

I try not to think,

About the pain I feel inside,

Did you know you used to be my hero?

All the days you spent with me,

Now seem so far away,

And it feels like you don't care anymore.

And now I try hard to make it,

I just want to make you proud.

Memories flooded Tyler's mind. Visions of his life rippled though his words. His father; the man who had destroyed his childhood.

Mr. Morton, his face fuming, stared at his son and watched him tremble in his chair. Tyler had been picked on at school and had gotten into a fight.

"So, you didn't even fight back?" he asked in an angry voice. His disappointment was clearly noted by young Tyler. The ride home from Tyler's high school had been dead quiet, but inside the walls of their home, his father's fury was evident.

"They were bigger than me. There were four of them and only one of me. The teacher wasn't..."

"You don't blame the fucking teacher!" his father roared as he backhanded Tyler with his fists, knocking him out of the chair.

"You're a pussy! My father used to beat me to toughen me up. Maybe I should do that to you," he said with an ominous tone. "As you are now, you're a fucking pansyass. Is that what you want to be, boy? A fucking fag?" he yelled.

Tyler picked himself off the floor, refusing to show his father his tears.

"Oh, you're angry now?" Again Tyler's father knocked his son to the floor with his fists. "Is that all you can take? Why don't you cry? Cry so I can beat your fag ass some more. Are you a fag, boy? Answer me!"

"Fuck you...I'm not a fucking fag...Why the..."
Tyler didn't get a chance to finish. His father's boot in his gut silenced him and he curled forward. He felt like emptying his stomach of all the food he had ever eaten.

"You listen to me, and you listen good," his father spat furiously, "If I find out you are a fag, I will kill you... You hear me? You tell your mother any of this and I'll kill you. You straighten up, or you won't survive in this world. I'm doing you a fucking favor. You should be grateful."

His father left him alone on the kitchen floor. Blood was on the tip of Tyler's tongue. He slowly made his way to his room and closed the door quietly. He crawled under his blankets and cried. He refused to show his father his tears. He planned on one day being free of his father, free from the hell that bound and trapped him.

Each tear Tyler shed on stage was due to a horrible memory of his father. Years of abuse, anguish, and loneliness were expressed in the words of the song:

I'm never gonna be good enough for you.

Can't stand another fight,

And nothing's alright,

Cause we lost it all,

Nothing lasts forever.

I'm sorry, I can't be perfect.

Now it's just too late,

And we can't go back.

I'm sorry, I can't be perfect.

Tyler sang like he was speaking to his father at that very moment:

Nothing's gonna change the things that you said.

And nothing's gonna make this right again!

Please don't turn your back,

I can't believe it's hard just to talk to you,

But you don't understand.

Tyler's tears became tears of joy, not sadness. No longer was he going to be sad because of his father. He realized he had control of his life, no longer having to fear his father. Never again.

Cause we lost it all,

Nothing lasts forever.

I'm sorry, I can't be perfect.

Now it's just too late,

And we can't go back.

I'm sorry, I can't be perfect.

Cause we lost it all,

Nothing lasts forever,

I'm sorry, I can't be perfect.

Now it's just too late,

and we can't go back.

I'm sorry, I can't be perfect...

For a moment Tyler held his eyes shut, and slowly lowered the microphone. Hearing nothing, he felt anxious. Opening his eyes, he watched as the crowd just stared at him. Finally aware of the tears, he brushed them away quickly and swallowed hard, uneasy about his singing. Seeing that nothing was going to happen, Tyler bowed and smiled before walking off the stage. He had never felt so embarrassed. He felt like running. All the confidence he had built up was gone, but he was content. He had tried, and he had no regrets.

He was shocked a second later when a sudden roar made him lose his train of thought. He looked at the crowd and they were all looking at him and cheering. Taking that as his cue, Tyler returned to the miniature stage that had held his debut. The cheering didn't stop, and he felt a wave of indescribable joy. People liked him. He turned to Dave, who was clapping his hands proudly. Sam was wiping tears from her eyes but still smiling. And Jaylin... Jaylin just stared at him with a sad expression. Tyler felt a sense of accomplishment looking at his friends. He was going to do the show.

Jaylin was proud. He clapped his hands hard. Tyler had come a long way and he was proud for him. When he had first met him, Tyler had been shy and needed encouragement to talk. He had been right about Tyler; he had turned out to be a remarkable person. A real diamond in the rough. Tyler had so much to offer, and Jaylin knew Tyler would become an important person to him. A true friend, like Dave, but more; someone close, like Sam, but more. Monsters probed Jaylin's mind, causing much conflict inside a boy who looked so strong. He was seeking someone who he could confide in. There were so many people who went to him with their problems, and in him they found comfort. Yet there was no one who could do the same for Jaylin.

To the audience in the miniature stadium, that song had been sung so powerfully that it had brought tears to many eyes. Jaylin understood the sorrow behind Tyler's tears. Tyler had sung the song as if he were singing it to his father. Jaylin knew that had changed the boy, and that was good.

© 2004 Ryan Keith

Yay! Chap 2 is out! Did you like it?? Really?? That's great!!! Hehe, sorry, I'm kinda in a happy mood tonight. I'm happy to get this out, I know a lot of you have been waiting for this. Well here it is! Next chap should be around shortly. I think I'm going to release a chap every week. So be happy^^

E-mail is Ryan_Kayden@yahoo.ca

Special thanks to Aaron and his crew for doing a fantastic job with editing and providing a home for my work. If you're reading this at another site, please note that www.themailcrew.com has my other story. That's a great site for guys in high school, and I recommend you guys check it out^^. Great stories there by other authors, too.

NOTE: The "Perfect" lyrics were taken from one of a number of Internet sites that have posted varying versions of the lyrics. Hopefully the most accurate version was chosen. "Perfect" was recorded by Simple Plan in 2003 and released by Lava Records.

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