Today I was trying to download the latest version of Word for Mac but my internet is too slow! I gave up after 8 hours and several attempts. I will go to the library tomorrow or Starbucks. Edits will commence on chapter 16 to the end to morrow, due Monday. Basically, I suck. I suck at grammar and I suck at verb tense. I'm sorry. If I were a better writer this would take so freakin' long!
BUT….. I have a cover! Names Can Never hurt Me
What if sexuality wasn’t a definable thing and labels merely got in the way?
Nick Jones can’t remember a time when he wasn’t part of the in crowd. Everywhere he goes, he stands out as the best looking guy in the room, and women practically fall into bed with him. Then, after kissing Corey on a dare led much more and on many occasions, Nick’s “screw anything” reputation escalated, but he didn’t care.
When Nick meets RC at the restaurant where he works, it throws his whole life out of whack. Overweight, always sweaty, gay, and hairy like a bear, RC lives up to his dubbed nickname “scruffy dude.” He seems Nick’s complete opposite, but Nick can’t get him out of his head.
Because of peer-pressure and his fears about defining his sexuality, Nick struggles with stepping out of his comfort zone and caring about someone different than himself. If he’s lucky, somewhere between arrogance and ignorance, Nick might find out what it means to be an adult, but if he’s wrong, he could lose everything.
This book is about labels and "defining" oneself. It contains abuse on some levels and it may make you scream at on turn and cry in another. I don't know. You all will have to let me know. No release date until edits are finished. I'll let you know.
Excerpt. Prologue and chapter 1. these are slightly more polished than my previous posts.
Prologue: Last Year
It was last year’s party at Mary-Louise’s house that got me thinking all the wrong thoughts. She threw a kegger on Saint Patrick’s Day and I guess I should have known better than to tempt fate by overindulging and letting my eyes wander. I would have been better off numbing my brain and sticking to what everyone else did and what everyone else thought, but I’m me so of course I couldn’t conform. Except fantasizing about Corey Parrish, more precisely his luscious mouth, was not what everyone else did! At least not the people I knew. The guys I hung around with normally ignored him, while the girls flocked to his side for advice on outfits or hair. Whatever. I didn’t care about any of that. But I also shouldn’t have cared—or wondered—so much about the flavor of his lip-gloss. Damn!
So, like I said, it was last year and I was multi-tasking: drinking green beer and thinking at the same time. At the beginning of the night nothing else mattered except the booze and contemplating which girl might take me home. I scanned the packed living room of Mary-Louise’s house and couldn’t help but chuckle. It’s always the same. No matter how many “frat” parties I went to, the girls stood around giggling while the guys got slammed.
“Says the guy who’s out of Budweiser.” I tipped back my plastic cup and swallowed the last drop of beer as I mumbled about the irony before meandering through the house to the keg in the crowded kitchen.
Mary-Louise was a pastor’s kid determined to sow some wild oats. She was nice enough to throw parties practically every weekend, but not nice enough to spread her legs for me—yet. That was fine, I didn’t care. Someone else would. At least she hadn’t slapped me for trying to get her into bed with me four times. I’d met her at the local community college when we were freshman. In the following four years, while I took classes on and off at the same local school, Mary-Louise did two years there, transferred to a four-year college, and graduated with a bachelor’s in business. By now—were I a dedicated, forward-thinking student like my friend—I’d have a degree too. Instead, I had loads of casual acquaintances who liked to throw parties, and lots of time to get drunk instead of figure out my future.
I just didn’t know what I wanted to do.
Life after high school pretty much sucked. I wasn’t expecting that. I’d been popular back then, and I guessed I still was, but life’s more difficult now. I had bills to pay, and I didn’t know what career path to choose. Luckily, I still lived with my folks, and they didn’t ask for rent. They’d made a deal with me, that as long as I paid my car insurance and maintained a three point four GPA (when I was actually taking classes that was,) I was free to stay at home. But how many years would they tolerate a slacker son? I didn’t know. And really, the list of “I didn’t know” was longer than the list of shit I was sure of. It’s depressing if I thought about it.
So I didn’t think—I drank!
I filled my cup with beer and watched the crowd chant as one guy stuck his head under the keg nozzle and another guy opened it full blast. “Idiots,” I mused. Not that I was all that different; I realized I was an idiot.
I turned toward that oh-so-familiar voice behind me. “Hey, Dawn,” I said with a slight lift of my chin. “What’s up?”
Dawn, my ex-girlfriend, grinned and looked at her perky little friend before answering. Her long brown curls bounced around her face and reminded me of the time I’d watched her go down on me and all I could see was that lovely hair spread like a blanket over my pelvis. That had been sexy as hell. “Well,” Dawn said, “Chrissy and I were wondering if you’d take on a little dare?”
I leaned on the doorframe next to me. I was curious enough to listen because they were a precocious pair. I took a swig of my newly filled cup. “Oh yeah? What kind of dare?” Not that it mattered. If I did them a favor, maybe they’d be willing to do me a little favor later—possibly together, naked, and with whipped cream. Besides, I liked a challenge every now and again; it kept life interesting.
They giggled and—yes—I rolled my eyes. Girls.
I surmised it was Chissy’s turn to talk for the two of them because she smiled and got a devilish look in her eyes. “You see Nick, Dawn, and I dared Corey Parrish to kiss a straight guy. He said he would if we could find someone up to the task who was sober enough to remember it happened, yet cute enough not to be desperate.” Chrissy blushed deeply and ducked her face against Dawn’s shoulder. She acted embarrassed, but I didn’t buy it for a second. She was a hussy if ever I‘d known one. She held Dawn’s hand and nibbled her bare shoulder playfully, but I knew for a fact they both liked dick.
Corey? My stomach quivered. I’d just been thinking about Corey.
Corey Parrish was hot as fucking fuck, and the thought of his mouth did things to me I was trying to not dwell on. Something in the way he talked made me picture kissing him and biting his lower lip until it bled. Shit. To make matters worse, Corey was openly gay. Did I really need to get mixed up in Dawn’s and Chrissy’s little dare with a gay guy?
I took a swig of my beer and casually tucked my fingers into the front pocket of my jeans. If I remained calm, they’d never know I was about to puke. (From nervousness, not excessive drinking.) “What’s in this for Corey? Don’t you think it’s a cruel joke allowing him to kiss me and get nothing in return?”
“He wants my brother’s cell number. I said I’d give it to him if he did something for me,” Dawn replied.
Blackmail? Yeah, that was Dawn’s MO. Still, I played dumb. “How is me kissing Corey something for you?” I swallowed more of my beer.
Dawn smiled wickedly. “I think it’s hot.”
“Hot?” I lifted one eyebrow.
Chrissy agreed, “Oh yeah! Two guys kissing is so hot.”
Two guys kissing is hot? Fuck yeah! I totally agreed. Only last week I’d been browsing online, clicking different shared-links on Facebook, when before I knew it I was pulling one off over a picture of two guys kissing, extending their tongues into each other’s mouths. It was a black and white photograph; one guy had facial hair and the other didn’t. As I’d stared at it, I began fantasizing about Corey right there in my bedroom. That was a first for me, thinking about another guy like that. I’d wanted to kiss Corey from the first time I saw him at Mary-Louise’s New Year’s Eve party, but jerking off over it hadn’t happen until last week. It had shocked the shit out of me mostly because, as I said before, Corey’s gay. I’m not. I dated girls all the time. I had sex with girls all the time. Just because I was attracted to Corey didn’t make me gay. Bisexual maybe, but certainly not gay.
Suddenly, my mouth was answering, “So, all I gotta do is kiss him?” Shit, I’d just agreed to it! That’d teach me to daydream in the middle of a conversation.
Dawn’s eyes went wide. “You’ll do it?” she exclaimed with delight.
Suddenly, I had to talk myself down off a ledge. Calm down, Nick, it’s only a kiss. “Yeah, it’s just a kiss, right? No big.” I tried passing off nervous exhilaration as nonchalance.
“Seriously? You are so cool, Nick!” Chrissy squealed. “I knew you wouldn’t care. You’re so open-minded.”
And apparently they bought it. If only I remained this calm as I kissed him.
I grinned. “Yeah, anything to make the two of you happy and horny.” I licked my lips and lifted my eyebrows twice. They didn’t need to know I was into it because Corey was their pawn, not me.
I followed them into the other room to where Corey lounged on the couch chitchatting with some girl I didn’t know. Corey talked to every girl, and although I tended to be overly verbose, I wasn’t surprised there were a few ladies I hadn’t seen before. Mary-Louise invited everyone to her parties, and I was in no way jealous of Corey’s congeniality or charm. I had plenty of my own.
He was wearing a tight green T-shirt with a V-neck, which allowed his chest hair to curl over the edge of the fabric. The word “alluring” came to mind like one of those dialogue tags in a cartoon, and I questioned my agreement to do this. I’d have to be extra careful kissing him, because if I started fingering the hairs on his chest like I was itching to do, these girls might start rumors. I didn’t need “gay” rumors squelching my frequent, no-strings-attached sex life. No way, José!
“So Corey, we found someone,” Chrissy announced proudly, bouncing on the balls of her feet. Chrissy tended to have more energy than a seven-year-old after a two-pound bag of skittles. She always bounced.
Corey looked up and smiled. Fuck me. My stomach fluttered. “Wow,” he replied. “I’ll say you did!” He licked his top teeth with the tip of his tongue and batted his eyes, showing off his green-glitter eye makeup, which did not ease my apprehension over kissing him. He was fucking adorable, and I knew it.
Corey asked flirtatiously, “I recognize you. Nick, right? I saw you at the New Year’s Eve party making out with Laney. Why do you want to kiss me?”
Knowing he’d noticed me back on New Year’s did not help my trepidation. Plus—want? He thinks I want to kiss him? “I thought it was a game,” I interjected, making sure I kept my voice low and casual. “They want to play with you, and you want Andrew’s number.”
Corey’s pleased expression disappeared, but I wasn’t going to change my orientation to coax it back. “True,” he relented. “Okay, it’s a game, but you’re conceding to it. Why? What do you get?”
Now was the test. Could I portray arrogance and not overdo it to the point of absurdity? I hoped so; I surely had experience. I slid my palm over the T-shirt clinging to my muscular chest (oh yeah, I was cut,) and replied, “I get to add another name to the list of those who want me.”
“God knows I want you,” Chrissy said from the side. Perfect timing.
I tilted my head in her direction and grinned. “Thanks babe.” I winked for emphasis. “You’ll get your turn.”
“Oh, someone is sure of himself.” Corey shooed the girl next to him away and patted the cushion. “Come here, honey. Let me see what you got.”
“Here, hold this.” I handed my beer to Dawn and sat next to Corey. The prospect of kissing this guy shot sparks of tingling desire through me, but I had to play it cool. No way was I getting hard and giving the girls the wrong impression. This was a game. I wasn’t gay.
I questioned Chrissy with a look. “Am I kissing him or is he kissing me?”
Before she could answer, Corey took hold of my chin and turned my head to face him. He planted his lips firmly on mine and lingered before pulling back with a sigh. “Nice. You willing to take it further?” Corey asked, teasing my lips with a swift flick of his tongue. His pale blue eyes were firebrands.
Helplessly, I nodded and leaned in. All my nervous energy from before transformed into a surge of adrenaline. I had to have more of that mouth.
The girls squealed in delight, but I ignored them as Corey’s hot mouth connected with mine again. Corey curled his fingers into my neck and pulled me closer. He parted his lips, and I slipped my tongue inside his mouth, taking control of the kiss and causing Corey to moan. This was so fucking good. As our tongues clashed, and I felt a deep need to fuck like I’d never felt before.
This was way different than kissing girls, I thought. It was seriously intense, for one thing, and for another, when I kissed girls, I often felt it in my toes, but I had never felt like my groin was catching fire. Not that that meant I would react the same with any guy I kissed, but Corey surely did a number on my dick.
I turned him on the sofa and leaned in, pushing him against the back of the couch. He whimpered and moved his hand down my neck and onto my chest. His warm palm rested over my pectoral muscle, and it made me want to flex for him, but I didn’t. As soon as I thought about it, he pinched my nipple and those tingles I felt all over my skin intensified. My body was humming in ways I hadn’t expected, and I conjured up thoughts of doing things I didn’t expect. Instinctively, I moved my leg over Corey’s knee and angled my hips a smidgeon. Oh God, I need friction. I gripped his shoulder with one hand as I held the side of his neck with the other, but man-oh-man did I want to touch myself or rub against his leg a little. Anything.
Corey felt unbelievably good against me.
As if it was the most natural thing in the world, I slid my fingers into the short hair behind Corey’s ear and that was when someone commented, “Jeez, you were right. Nick’ll fuck anything.” The sound of an unfamiliar female voice behind me uttering such a toxic comment squelched my unexpected hunger, but I controlled my resentment. It was far better to ignore the comment and pretend it hadn’t happened than cause a scene and draw unwanted attention to the fact that I was hard as hell and seconds from dry-humping Corey’s leg. If I was cool about it, maybe Corey and I could slip off somewhere.
I slowed my pace, kissing him gently, and pulled back as if nothing were amiss. The heady look in Corey’s eyes stroked my ego, so I winked at him before facing the gathering throng of horny women.
Three eager girls sat side-by-side on the coffee table in front of the couch: Dawn, Chrissy, and a red-haired girl I didn’t know. A few more stood behind them. It seemed a lot of girls liked watching two guys kiss. Hmm. “Well? Hot enough for you?” I asked, knowing exactly what they’d say.
“Oh yeah,” Dawn moaned, placing her hand on Chrissy’s thigh, caressing her skin and running her fingers up the inside of Chrissy’s leg.
Chrissy cooed quietly, and spread her legs. “Yes… hot.” She swallowed hard and closed her eyes. Her reaction kind of made me think of reaching up her dress, but Dawn beat me to it. Dawn’s hand disappeared under the fabric as she kissed her friend—her girlfriend—and felt her up.
Hypocrite, I sneered. It was okay to judge me and say I’d “fuck anything,” but Dawn was doing the exact same thing. I knew personally just how she liked to fuck, and how often, because she’d been my first way back in high school.
My attention was drawn back to Corey when he sighed. He was still recovering from my kiss. I shook my head and scoffed, “Women! I’m outta here.”
I had to leave. Watching the two of them kiss after I’d just made-out with Corey made my need to come stronger than ever. I dashed upstairs to find the bathroom. No sooner had I locked the door and unzipped my jeans when I heard a quiet knock. “Shit!” I hissed. “It’s occupied,” I called.
“Nick?” Corey whispered.
I did up my zipper and opened the door a few inches. “Corey, now’s not the time to—”
Corey pushed his way inside the bathroom. He closed the door behind him and said, “I’m sorry, but I wanted to catch you before you finished.”
“Save it,” Corey insisted, holding up a hand. “There’s a garage out back. Meet me behind it in fifteen minutes, and I’ll take care of your little… problem.” He made his insinuation clear by boldly palming my erection. “Unless you think allowing me to suck you off is a little too open-minded.”
I couldn’t answer. In fact, if he touched me a second longer, I was going to come in my pants. Having someone else rub my dick felt so amazing. Sure, girls did it, but rarely without my insistence. Corey, however, seemed to know what I needed without prompting. All I could do was close my eyes and groan.
Corey took his hand away and snickered. “Meet you out back.” And he was gone.
I regrouped and contemplated his proposal. He said he’d suck me off. Would Corey want me to reciprocate? I’d never sucked a dick before. Corey was the first boy I’d ever kissed. Or ever wanted to kiss. Did it matter? Would people think I was gay? Did that matter? It was just sex, right? I wasn’t dating Corey. I wasn’t getting emotional about it. It was just sex. Two guys getting off. No big deal.
I once heard a saying that over-analyzation leads to paralyzation. I don’t even know if those are real words. Needless to say, I left the bathroom in a hurry.
Finding Corey behind the garage wasn’t a problem. I slipped out of the house without too much hassle. I got stopped a couple times, but by now, most people at the party were drunk, and they weren’t paying attention to where others were going and whom they were with. I walked out the front door and headed around the side of the house after pretending to puke on the lawn, the classic excuse to leave a party.
Corey grabbed me as soon as I drew near and pushed me up against the side of the building. His kiss was urgent and his hands greedy. He was a little rough, and I liked it. It was nice not having to take charge for once. It felt liberating. Corey kissed me for a minute or two before sinking to his knees. A warm rush surged through my extremities as I looked down at him; his eyes glinted in the faint light. Corey unzipped my jeans and freed my rigid cock. Oh fuck, that’s hot!
Corey’s tongue made me shiver. Corey’s hands made me weak. But it was the suction of Corey’s throat that made me tremble like never before. I rested my hand on Corey’s head and gently encouraged his bobbing motion. I even felt daring enough to thrust my hips forward and force myself down Corey’s throat. And Corey didn’t mind! Girls hated to be forced to take more of me in. Not that I’m a porn-star material, but I’m not small by any means. Being with a guy was a refreshing change of pace. Corey sucked wildly and it didn’t take me long to feel close.
“Corey,” I whispered, leaning my head back on the brick wall. His wet friction was unlike anything I’d ever felt. “Corey,” I whispered again more urgently. “I’m gonna… come.” I tugged on Corey’s hair, but he didn’t let up. Seconds later, I emptied into his throat and Corey didn’t pull back. He kept licking and swallowing until I was finished, and only then did he get off his knees and kiss me.
The taste was strong, salty… different.
Corey tasted like… me, and to my surprise I liked it.
Tentatively, I reached between us and touched Corey. I felt the same hardness in his pants I’d recently had in mine. I knew what Corey wanted, what he needed, but suddenly there were voices close by, and I shoved Corey away and did up my zipper before anyone had a chance to see what was going on.
“Let’s go back inside,” Corey suggested.
I thought about it. “Nah, I think I’m going home. My parents told me not to be out too late.”
“Okay. Can I give you my number? Maybe we can hook up sometime?”
We exchanged phone numbers, and I said good-bye without another glance.
At home, before I found sleep, I thought about his kiss and our actions by the garage. Corey was really sexy, and the things we’d done tonight had felt so fucking good, but what would people think? Was it worth a good lay to be labeled “gay?” I didn’t really care about Corey, even if he was hot. It was about sex. And if it was just sex, then going out with girls and hooking up with girls was much less complicated.
I grabbed my phone and texted Chrissy: Hey. Go to the movies with me next Friday?
A few minutes later she texted back: Of course!!!
I grinned in the quiet of my room and placed my phone on the nightstand. Chrissy was hot and easy. I knew I’d end up fucking her Friday night.
Nah, I’m not gay.
Chapter 1: Now
I broke up with Chrissy through a text. I knew it was insensitive, but it was the third time in fourteen months we’d split, and I wasn’t up for the obligatory “date” just to give her the boot. That would have been pointless. Chrissy knew we weren’t made for one another; we’d only ever had sex. Not that I was complaining about that, but pretending to be a couple was plain stupid. Besides, during those few times we had been apart, I had dated four other girls as well as hooking up with Corey, and I had seen Chrissy out with several other guys. I knew she’d be fine with it.
Her text response: K.
It was shorter than I expected. Way shorter. Some part of me had hoped for something along the lines of “Oh, really? Are you sure? I’m gonna miss your huge dick. Please don’t break up with me, you big stud.” But that was just wishful thinking on my part. It was my fantasy, not reality. In reality, Chrissy gave me a one-letter reply: K.
I pocketed my phone and headed down the steps. My hard-working mother, meticulous and self-sacrificing, was in the kitchen washing dishes much like she’d done every morning of my existence. I yawned and wandered over to the cabinet and took out a glass.
“It’s about time, sleepyhead,” my mom said. She was normally talkative and full of energy in the morning. I, on the contrary, was not.
I looked her way and smiled groggily. “Good morning.” Two words were all I could muster.
She dried her hands and walked up behind me. I felt her head on my back and her arms encircle my middle. This was the way she hugged me every morning if I was pouring juice or standing by the toaster. On rare occasions, I would turn around and hug her properly like a normal son, but mostly she hugged me from behind. She wasn’t bothered by the method as long as “the hug” was had first thing. I kind of liked the affection, even if I wasn’t a kid anymore. She released me and commented, “Morning was about three hours ago, Nicky, now it’s afternoon.”
“What?” A jolt of panic prompted me to stop pouring my juice and whirl around to find the clock. A quarter of ten. My terror defused, I grumbled, “No it’s not. I still have fifteen minutes to get to work. That signifies it’s still morning.”
She patted my back and resumed washing the dishes. Of course, she couldn’t allow the silence to linger long. Mom had a hard time doing that. “For a person who got up at four thirty,” she explained, “to get your father off to work, who has done three loads of laundry and ironed six shirts and four pair of pants, it’s the afternoon. One of these days you’ll realize how cushy your life is, mister. It must be nice having an extra-long weekend ahead of you. Will the family see your face, or will you sleep through it all?”
I swallowed a mouthful of juice and set the glass down. “Mom, I know I live like a king. That’s why I’ll never leave.” I joked. Truly, I did know how good I had it. It was the one thing I had going on that I didn’t want to change. “And yes you’ll see me this weekend. You asked me to take off Monday, so I put in for it weeks ago. And it’s not my fault my normal Saturday off this month falls on the same weekend.” I chuckled and continued, “The boss was actually a little peeved about that. It was funny.”
My mother didn’t see the humor. “But you were off yesterday. Working three days a week must be nice.” She dried a dish and put it away, la-dee-da. She often ribbed me about the comfort I enjoyed, except it was never done maliciously. I secretly thought she was jealous.
I instinctively defended myself. “Hey, Sunday we’re closed because the owner is a Christian. Don’t mock his religion, Mom. The schedule has been like this since I started. Why are you busting my chops about it now?” I wasn’t sure where the conversation was leading, and I wasn’t overly enthused about asking, but when she remained silent, I asked, “Mom, what are you getting at?”
She shrugged apathetically, which bothered me because she rarely hesitated to share her opinion. If she was holding back now, it was probably because she knew I wouldn’t like what she had to say.
“Mom?” I pressed.
She finally explained, “You sleep all day. You go to work, barely. I mean, I know you work almost forty hours a week now, and I’m glad, but we hardly ever see you.” Then she sighed. Sighing was never a good sign. “When you come home, you go out with that girl.” Her emphasis on the word “girl” made the conversation gel.
“Chrissy and I broke up,” I told her. It was a knee-jerk reaction. The comment popped out on its own. She didn’t deserve agonizing over Chrissy and me if we weren’t a couple.
Her chin lifted and her shoulders relaxed. “Oh… well, I’m sorry about that, but I’m sort of glad. She wasn’t really… right for you.”
I knew my mom. What she was saying without saying it was that Chrissy was a tramp. I knew that. When she came over all we did was make-out in my room before dinner, then she’d make small talk with my family while groping me under the table. She was even hornier than Dawn, come to think of it. It wasn’t that Chrissy didn’t know how to respect my parents; she was simply tactless.
“You don’t have to worry, Mom. I’m not seeing her anymore.” I sincerely hoped not. I had meant it the other times we’d broken up, but somehow that itch just kept showing up and Chrissy knew how to scratch it.
“Oh, good.” Mom was pleased. I enjoyed hearing the perkiness return to her voice. “Chrissy took up a lot of your time,” she said. “Whatever happened to your friend Corey? He hasn’t been around in ages.”
Of course she liked Corey. He was super social. Plus, he knew decorum. Around the parents, Corey put on a straight face even if he dressed outrageously. He didn’t flirt, he didn’t grope me, and he certainly didn’t kiss me in front of them. We looked like buds. And Corey really was my friend. We talked… sometimes. Most of our long conversations were at the dinner table when my mom invited him to stay. It was those evenings with my family that I learned about his sister’s drug problem and about him growing up on a farm in Carroll County. Over dinner, I learned about his family and upbringing and things he wanted to accomplish in life. But when we were out, it was all fucking and grunting and very few words besides “harder,” “deeper,” and “don’t stop.”
Oddly, I felt a pang of longing. Hearing his name out of the blue reminded me I missed him. The few times we’d hooked up in the past year had been sensational, but they never lasted. Corey wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. He was up front with that stipulation, and I was fine with it since I was straight most of the time. Besides, I had Chrissy to fall back on.
“Um, Corey moved to D.C.,” I explained. I grabbed a pot out of the cabinet and put some water on for ramen noodles—my staple of life.
“Oh,” she responded sadly. “I’m sorry, dear. He seemed like such a nice boy. You don’t have too many guy friends over. I guess I was glad to see you had at least one. And he was such a good-looking boy, too.”
Good looking? What did that have to do with anything? I ignored that particular comment. “I have friends, Mom. Paul at work is pretty cool.” I tried to be upbeat about not having male friends, but really, that fact nagged me all the time. I basically didn’t talk with anyone outside work.
“Well, maybe you could invite Paul to dinner sometime.”
She was all cheery and optimistic, and I hated squelching her bliss. “Mom, guys don’t have dinner with their buddies’ families. It’s just not done. I’m not in high school.”
“Well, all I’m saying is if you ever decide to bring over a buddy to watch sports with your dad or something, he will be welcome to stay for dinner.”
“Watch sports?” I arched an eyebrow. Something fishy was going on in Denmark, and I was starting to figure it out. “You just want me in the living room so you can watch what I’m doing.”
“No…,” she tried to say but relented. “Okay, yes. I didn’t like you and Chrissy up in your room doing who knows what with the door closed. It’s just not a good example for your little sister. At least with Corey, I knew you weren’t having sex on the bed I’d just made.”
I nearly choked. “Mom!” I coughed a few times expelling juice from my lungs.
“Sorry for being so blunt, but that girl wasn’t quiet. I heard you a few times when I came home with groceries.”
The thought of my mom hearing me have sex was just gross, but I was relieved she had fixated on Chrissy. My shock, and near-death experience from choking, was from her slight inference to me having sex with Corey on my bed. Because that had happened. “Mom,” I tried explaining again when my hacking-up-a-lung attack subsided, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for you to hear that. It won’t happen again.” And I meant it.
“Good,” she replied. “I think we need to implement the ‘no friends in the room’ rule anyway. Jennifer’s talking about boys on the phone with her friends. If she brings one over, I can’t let her take him to her room.”
“Jenn’s dating?” That was a shock. It made me feel old for some reason.
“Not yet, but soon. She is going to be sixteen. We should be happy she hasn’t pressed the issue sooner.”
“I guess. Wow, Jenn dating. Weird.”
“I know,” Mom agreed. “Anyway, have a good day at work, dear. If you’ll excuse me, I have to get ready for Zumba.” She kissed my cheek and left the room.
“Bye, Mom. See you after my shift.” I called after her, still standing at the stove stirring my noodles.
After adding the flavor packet, I drained the juice, poured the noodles in a bowl and sat down to eat. I had five minutes until I had to be at work.
My phone buzzed. It was a text from Mary-Louise. Hey, I’m throwing a party this weekend. It might be one of the last few. My schedule changed, and I’ll have less time for fun. I guess I have to be a grown-up now.
I grinned. She had moved to Arlington, Virginia after she graduated. Not that Arlington was all that far away—less than two hours south wasn’t bad—but I hadn’t seen her in months. Some of the regular crowd had driven down a few times, but it hadn’t interested me. It was a lot of money in gas just to drink and get laid. I could do that right here. But then again, she was my friend.
I texted: Nah, I’ll pass. I work a lot too.
It wasn’t a lie. Since I had gotten the job at Papa’s Pizzeria, I worked full-time, and that included most weekends. It was the first full-time job I’d held for longer than two months. My mom had even told me she was proud of me when I hit the ninety-day mark and had gotten a raise. So far, it had been seven months of employment for the Nickster! Oh, yeah! I was so stoked.
Mary-Louise texted back: We will miss you! :^( How are things with Chrissy? Still seeing her?
No. Broke up this morning.
Sorry. :^( She wasn’t right for you anyway.
I know. I think I knew that the other couple times we broke up too, but being with her was easier than being alone. IDK. I paused a second. Some thoughts had swirled around my foggy brain on occasion, and this seemed like as good a time as any to ask. Can I ask you a question? I pressed send. I had to know. We’d been friends for years, and she was the only one of our usual crowd I hadn’t slept with. I needed to know why. Because now that Chrissy was history, maybe M-L would be interested in a little tête-à-tête.
Shoot, she shot back.
I’ve known you for years. Why is it we never hooked up?
Mary-Louise took a long time responding, unusually long. So much time that I had finished my noodles, thrown on a work shirt, and was in my car before I received a reply. She wrote: I really thought you knew, especially since you were close friends with Corey. I’m a lesbian, Nick. I was dating Shawna my senior year. I’m sorry if that freaks you out. I hope not. You’ve always been so non-judgmental.
“Shawna?” I questioned out loud. I pulled into the parking lot at work. I was baffled. I had fooled around with Shawna a couple of times and never known she was a lesbian. Fuck me!
Before getting out of the car, I texted a response: No, I didn’t know. And yes, it’s fine. It doesn’t bother me if you’re gay. At least it explains why you never went out with me when everyone else was taking a turn. I hope you’re happy.
I am, thanks. What about you and Corey? Anything ever happen with him?
Corey. Why does it keep coming back to him? I texted: He moved to D.C., and I haven’t seen him since New Year’s. But I think he’s fine.
Too bad. You two made a cute couple.
“We weren’t a couple,” I complained out loud as if she could hear me. Now she was just agitating me. I’m not gay, M-L! I tended to shorten her name in text to initials. Mary-Louise was just too long. And even when we spoke, I sometimes shortened it, and she didn’t mind.
Oh! No, of course not. I’m sorry. I just thought you and Corey had a thing going. I’m sorry if I was wrong. Please don’t be mad.
No, I’m not. Just frustrated. I do miss Corey, but it’s not ’cause I’m gay for him.
Okay. I believe you. Listen, I gotta go. But I hope you find someone better for you than Chrissy. She’s so trashy. You deserve more!
Oh God, no!
I locked my car and walked into work feeling glum. Why had M-L thought I was gay? Did I look gay? I thought not! Breaking up with Chrissy was a good thing. But missing Corey… I shook away the feelings bubbling up concerning him. Denial was best.
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