Breaking Masks

by Dabeagle & Josh Aterovis


Chapter 14


Morning sunlight streamed through the curtains and across my face. Specifically, over my eyes, and the eyelids weren’t doing a great job of blocking the light and letting me go back to sleep. I groaned. Jesus, I need thicker curtains. An insistent rapping came from the living room and I pulled my pillow over my face. If possible, the rapping got worse. I rolled out of bed and stomped to the front door and to the source of my irritation. I then had a thought. What if it was Jake? I couldn’t open the door looking like this!

I darted back to the bathroom and quickly dampened my hair, running a comb through it while the rapping grew more intense. I squirted toothpaste on the brush and made a few quick swipes before rinsing. I couldn’t give him dragon breath for his first kiss of the day.

I headed back for the door, realized I was clad only in boxer-briefs, and decided to go with it. Who knows, maybe I can make his jaw drop again. I opened the door to find a smiling Nick, with two cups of coffee.

“Damn, I am bringing you coffee more often!”

“Christ, Nick—I thought you were Jake!” I said, turning away from him as I felt the hot flush of embarrassment spread across my face like a wildfire. I headed to my bedroom for pants.

“I don’t care if you call me Phyllis so long as you answer the door like that. Want to be my houseboy?”

“Har, har, very funny, Nick.” I emerged from the bedroom with a pair of jeans and the polo from the night before. Nick smirked at me and handed me a coffee cup.

“You’re grumpy in the morning,” Nick observed as he sat on my couch.

“I didn’t get much sleep last night,” I mumbled while I sipped my coffee. Nick’s eyebrows shot up, and I mentally scolded myself for my choice in words.

“Wow! Jake moves fast. You guys knocking boots already?”

“Nick, you can be so sweet. Why do you choose to be an asshole?” I glared at him over my coffee cup.

“Oh, well, I’m sorry. I just thought…”

“No, that’s not what happened.” I sipped my coffee while Nick waited, properly chastised. I knew now he would wait until I spoke, if nothing else because he didn’t want to piss me off anymore. I took a few sips and savored the hot liquid before meeting Nick’s gaze.

“The suspense is killing me,” he muttered before sipping his coffee.

“Why? You’ve been kissed before, what’s the big deal?”

“Because, dude! It’s your first time! It’s the kiss all others will be judged by, and somehow found lacking! It’s total magic.” He was almost whining. I giggled.

“It wasn’t magic at all. I’ve imagined kissing plenty of other guys, Jake among them of course. But I really wasn’t prepared for this.” I furrowed my brow. “I don’t think anything really could have prepared me.”


I nodded as I thought back to ‘the kiss’ as it would forever be known in my head. Some people describe such things as ‘electric’ or some equally clumsy term. Magic didn’t really cover it either. I don’t think anything really matches up to the heights to which love can bring you.

“Nick, he was so gentle and loving…I was so worried I wouldn’t do it right…Nick, I’m in love.”

“Love? Are you sure about that? You haven’t known Jake all that long.” Nick’s face was set in a slight frown.

“I feel so wonderful when I’m around him. He makes colors seem brighter and jokes funnier.” I gave Nick a meaningful look. “There is nothing on this earth sexier than Jacob Sheridan.”

“Wow. I guess red is his color?”

“I couldn’t sleep last night.” I got up and went to the window looking down on the sparse foot traffic below. “How could I? Not after he was here, not after he has become this…beautiful thing in my life. No, I couldn’t sleep. I studied the street in case he changed his mind. I don’t know if I am ready for everything, but I know when it happens…no magic could ever match it.”

“That was…almost poetry.”

I looked at Nick. “That’s what he does to me. My God! I am so sappy! How am I supposed to do anything knowing Jake is out there? Do you have any idea how hard it was to let him leave? I wanted him to stay. I really did. I was still a little bit scared...I don’t know what to do in bed. I’m still afraid I’ll disappoint him somehow.”

“I think you’d have to work really hard to disappoint Jake at all.”

“I’m still scared.”

“Yeah, love will do that to you. My Jake was like that, but I’m thankful he still loves me anyway.”

“Oh God,” I moaned while I stretched and decided it was time to change the subject. “What’ve you got planned today?”

“I was thinking of inviting Steve to dinner. I would like you to stay here though, since you and Jake seem to think of dinner as fashion rather than food.”

“Remind me again why I like you?” Nick just smiled and sipped his coffee.

* * *

I put it off as long as I reasonably could. I put away the laundry from the day before, which I had carefully hidden in the bedroom closet. I cleaned the kitchen, erasing any remaining evidence of the tryst in chicken sauce. Dishes dried and put away, threadbare carpet vacuumed…I just couldn’t avoid it any longer. I was honestly surprised they hadn’t called yet.

I imagined Charlie bugging out and my dad restraining himself from calling to set a good example for Charlie. I smiled a bit at that. It really was a cute picture of a caring family. I fished out my phone card and called home.

“Hello?” Sheridan, Dad’s ‘significant other’, answered. I always call him that ‘cause I tell him he’s too old to be someone’s ‘boyfriend’. He’s actually pretty cool, a couple of years younger than Dad. It was funny how they met. Sheridan was a delivery man for a local bakery and my dad was making the most obvious stares. I kinda, sorta clued Sheridan in and he finally stayed for a cup of coffee with dad. Next thing we know, we added a new member to the family.

“Hi! Can I speak to the lady of the house?” I asked in my best telemarketer voice.

“Sure, hold on.”

There were some sounds in the background, feet moving and my dad picked up.


“That’s great, Dad. I asked Sheridan for the lady of the house and he gets you instead of Charlie.” I laughed into the phone.

“Oh yeah? He’ll get his, or rather he won’t be getting any!” Dad yelled for Sheridan to hear. I giggled.

“Okay brat, tell me all about the date and Mr. Wonderful.”

“First, his name is Jake, and that’s not to imply he’s not wonderful ‘cause he is.”

“Okay, well, does Jake have a last name?”

“Yeah, it’s Sheridan. Jake Sheridan. Sounds like he’d fit right in, doesn’t he?”

“Cute. Tell me more about him and your date.”

“Well, Jake is about four inches taller than I am...”

“Isn’t everyone?” Dad snorted.

“You want to hear this or not?”

“Okay, okay. I’m sorry. Go on, please.”

I made him wait a second or two before I started again. “He has blue eyes, real sky blue eyes. His hair is dark blond, some lighter streaks where the sun bleached it a little. It’s not really long, but it does fall in his eyes sometimes…”

“Okay! I get the picture. He’s a beauty. How was dinner?”

“Um, it all tasted good. I followed the cooking instructions just fine,” I dissembled.

“So what happened? Did he like it?”

“Yeah! He thought it was really good.” Dad remained silent for a few moments, and I imagined I could hear the wheels turning in his head.

“There is something here you aren’t saying. I just know it. Something you mentioned last night…” He sounded as if he were trying to remember something.

“Well, no, not really.”


“Okay, alright. I dumped dinner on the kitchen floor.”

“How…” he chuckled, “How did you manage that?”

I sighed deeply. This would be told at family gatherings for the rest of my life, I was sure.

“The table cloth snagged on my belt, and I pulled it all clean off the table. Made a total mess.”

“Oh, Kody…I’m sorry, Son. It sounded like it was going really well up to then.” I was somewhat mollified that he had stopped giggling and turned serious.

“It kind of worked out,” I said with a smile.

“How’s that?”

“Well, I was cleaning it up and he came over to help and slipped in the sauce and…sort of fell on me.”

“Fell…on you?”

“Yeah, like, whole body kind of thing. We were giggling and then….he kissed me.”

“On the kitchen floor?”

“Uh huh.”

“Lying on the remains of dinner?”

“Yep. Right there.”


“It was beautiful. In fact, I’d say it was perfect.”

“Kody, that’s great. He better be good to you ‘cause I’ll get on a plane and—” Dad started to gear up but I jumped in to defend Jake.

“Dad, Jake isn’t like that. He’s really sensitive and…well, sometimes I feel like I’m the one with the strength, you know?”

“You have a ton of strength. I just want you to be happy.”

“I am. He’s made me so, so happy.”

“I’m glad. Charlie was really worried things wouldn’t work out, but if you dumped dinner and ruined his clothes and still got a kiss out of it, I guess it all worked out.”

“Yeah, it sure did.” I smiled at the thought.

“So, did you stay in your ruined clothes all night?” Dad asked lightly. My senses, however, were on high alert. He was fishing for something, and if I wasn’t careful I’d be in a ton of shit.

“No, we changed…” I said slowly.

“Where?” he asked in a leading tone.

“In a phone booth, just like Superman, Dad.”

“There’s no need to get snotty.”

“Dad, I got kissed, not laid,” I sighed.

“Okay, fine, blame your dad for caring!”

“Yeah, my dear old dad!” I giggled.

“Oh, you’ll pay for that one. I guess I can take this computer right back to the store.”

“No, no! Don’t do that! I could really use it for school!” I turned from giggly to whiny in under a second.

“I’ll try to remember that, if my Alzheimer’s isn’t too bad. Who are you again?”


“Love you, boy. Here’s Charlie before he wets his pants.”

The phone rustled as it changed hands and Charlie burst on the line. He’d obviously been right next to the phone listening.

“He kissed you?” he asked excitedly.

“Yeah, he really did.” I smiled to myself at his enthusiasm.

“Aww, man! Yes! That’s awesome! Was it worth it all, Kody? All that stressing and worrying?”

“Totally, Charlie. He’s so sweet. He doesn’t mind that I turn into a klutz around him. You should see him in red. He looks good in blue, but red makes him so, so sexy!”

“If he can take you being klutzy, man, you are all set. Grab onto him and never let go!”

“I have absolutely no intention of letting him go anywhere!”

“What’s this about dropping dinner on the floor?” I rolled my eyes and retold the story for him, which ended not in his giggles but in a heartfelt sigh. “Kody, that is just about the most romantic thing ever. Things like that never happen for real. He’s really special.”

“Yeah, I know. I’ve been trying to tell you guys that since school started.” I laughed.

“Does he live on campus?”

“Yeah, the Mohawk dorm. His friend Erin is the RA there. She’s pretty cool too.”

“What’s his phone number?”

“I don’t know. Why do you want his number?”

“So I can make sure he’ll be good to you, of course!”

“Even if I had it, forget it!”

“Kody, how am I supposed to protect you if you won’t tell me what I need to know? Okay, fine, be that way.” He sighed. “So listen, I want a picture.”

“Charlie, I don’t have a camera.”


“They take pictures, remember?”

“Go to the mall. They have those cheesy things that take three for five bucks. I just want some pictures!”

“Why is this so important?” I was starting to like the idea, though. I wouldn’t mind having some pictures myself.

“I want to rub it in Andy’s face that you got someone better! Plus, I want to know what my brother-in-law looks like.”

“Charlie, I don’t think you need to rub it in Andy’s face,” I scolded him.

“Yes I do. That was fuckin’ wrong what he did.”

I sighed. Andy was the last time I got shot down big time. He was blond and kind of small like a woodland elf or something. I adored him, did anything he asked right down to gophering for the band he was sort of managing. They needed a venue to play in for a kind of a concert. I told them to see my dad. Above everything else he’s a soft touch when it comes to me or Charlie. He knew I really wanted Andy, but he also knew there was no way to tell me Andy was in love with someone else, so he agreed.

Things were going well. Andy looked wonderful, and I was hoping to have a really good talk with him after the show and tell him how I felt. What I didn’t realize was that everyone could see how I felt, and Andy decided to tell everyone that he didn’t love me like I did him—in front of the whole place, right before a song he learned to sing for me, I guess. I wasn’t there for the song. I was upstairs with my heart breaking. I thought at the time it was all over.

Andy broke my heart and embarrassed me. Some people snickered the next day, which only added to my feeling like a loser. I couldn’t bring myself to face Andy or the band after that, though Charlie was pretty vocal on my behalf and had a couple unexplained cuts and bruises shortly thereafter. Some big brother I am. He goes and defends whatever honor I had.

I felt differently now, of course. Jake had validated me and made me feel as though I could find some happiness, could fall in love and not be afraid. I understood what Andy thought he was doing, but I still can’t forgive the way he did it, or the looks I got afterward. Sometimes, when I am at my lowest points, I feel like I’m worth no more than those looks implied I was. In Jake’s arms, Fort Knox can’t match what I am worth.

“I’m gonna get going, Charlie. I love you man.”

“I love you too.”

* * *

I avoided work that day. I knew they would be itching to hear about every detail but for now, I just wanted to see Jake. I walked up the street, kicking myself for not having gotten his phone number. If he kept it on the tip of his tongue, or in his tonsils I would have found it! I weaved through the foot traffic and crossed the street to avoid the Morning Rush’s windows. I walked on to the quiet campus where some students milled about and others walked along on errands.

I approached Mohawk dormitory with a spring in my step and a smile curling my mouth as I thought of seeing Jake. I opened the door to see a squat girl with black hair sitting on the corner of the on-duty desk. She was talking to Roy, who was looking…shy? What was he up to?

“Hi Roy.” I waved to him as I walked towards the elevator.

“Hi, Kody,” he said distractedly, his full attention on the girl in front of him.

“Excuse me, are you a resident here?” the girl questioned.

“He’s okay, Jen. He’s Jake’s boyfriend.” I started slightly at Roy’s rumbling explanation.

“Oh, you mean the Jake Erin’s always talking about?” She smiled. I tried to smile back, but I felt weird. Roy was explaining to someone my status, one that Jake hadn’t really said I had achieved yet. What if Jake just wanted to be friends? What if he didn’t want to date me, like, be a boyfriend? Suddenly I was filled with self doubt, and loathed it.

“You’re ok with gays, Roy?” Jen asked him.

“Um, yeah. Jake’s a good guy. He’s my friend. He likes Kody, so he’s my friend too.” Amazing. He made things sound so simple.

“Points in your favor, Roy.” She smiled at him. Would this elevator ever get here?

“Yeah?” Roy smiled. The doors slid open as she smiled at him. From the looks of things, Roy had made another friend. I just hoped for his sake she wasn’t a lesbian.

The elevator creaked and groaned to the third floor, and I was happy to be off of it. Next time I was taking the stairs. I found Jake’s room. Two stars on the door read ‘Jacob’ and ‘Foster’. I wondered if he had a cute roommate. He’d never mentioned what his roommate was like. I felt a stab of jealousy. Some other guy was sharing a room with Jake—my Jake.

I knocked on the door and waited, letting my jealousy evaporate under the glare of my self doubt. Jake had never said we were a couple. If he has something going on with this guy then I could just butt out. No need to be the boy on the side or anything. The door swung open to reveal Jackhammer Face from the party. He didn’t look pleased in his boxers and tee shirt, which showed that he was indeed a strapping, if ugly, specimen. At least all thoughts of Jake fooling with him left my head, replaced by thoughts of my imminent death.

“What?” he grumbled.

Okay. So it didn’t look like he recognized me.

“Um, is Jake here?” I managed. My heart beat violently and thoughts of flight filled my head.

“You his…boyfriend?” The word hung in the air—not quite soiled, but not quite clean either.

“Yeah, that’s him Foster,” Jake’s voice sounded from my right.

I turned towards the sound of his voice to see his smiling face, fresh from a shower it would seem from the damp hair. That wasn’t the only thing I noted. His blue eyes were sparkling, contrasting against his tan skin—a lot of tanned skin. He was only wearing shower sandals and jeans, with a towel draped over his arm. Droplets of water beaded here and there on his taut skin, smooth flesh that seemed flawless in my eyes. His chest was defined, there were definitely muscles there, but a bodybuilder he wasn’t. His stomach, while not your typical fantasy six pack, was flat and thoroughly inviting, sending my mind off in a million naughty flights of fancy. A small line of hair marched rigidly down from his belly button only to disappear under the waistline of his jeans.

“Kody?” Jake waved a hand in front of me, breaking into my thoughts of grabbing onto him and pressing myself against his warm flesh, just to know what it would feel like.

“You’re….yeah...hi...good morning...” I stammered, blushing to my roots but unable to tear my eyes from their feast. His long arms dropped back to his side—strong arms with visible but not bulging muscle. I looked up into his face to see a blushing grin and resisted once more the urge to step into his embrace.

“Jesus,” Foster muttered as he turned away from the door.

“Just let me get some clothes on. Come on in.” Jake smiled at me and turned his smooth, strong back to me. Wide shoulders tapered down into a trim waist with small blond hairs dotting the tanned skin. I followed blindly.

“You guys aren’t going to make out or anything, are you?” Foster grumbled.

“After the eyeful I got last night, Foster, we could do a lot more and still not be anywhere near as gross as you two were,” Jake snapped. Obviously, there was a bone of contention here. Foster declined to argue the point, simply rolling his ugly frame back into bed and pulling the covers up over his head.

I tried not to watch Jake as he dug for a shirt in his closet. Instead, I glanced about the room. Jake’s side was fairly neat, with a few books and CD’s on shelves and a computer on his desk. Foster’s side had empty beer bottles and his computer was on with a screen saver of some big-tittied broad. My mind kept wandering back to Jake, however, completely entranced by the physical side of him that I had never seen—but hoped to see more of. What would it feel like to touch his skin? Would it be as soft and smooth as it looked? Would it yield slightly to the touch, warm and supple?

He shrugged on a black button up shirt and I watched as the skin of his upper body disappeared from view, one agonizing button at a time. Jake favored me with another smile before digging for socks in a drawer. I felt silly, standing and watching him dress, but then I could also see myself years from now doing the same thing and enjoying it just as much. Jesus, I am so weird!

We stepped into the hallway a few minutes later, Jake regrettably dressed and my heartbeat returning to normal—or as close to it as I ever got with Jake around.

“I’m so glad you came over. I slept really late today. I never sleep this late,” Jake said as we walked to the elevator.

“I couldn’t sleep last night either.” I avoided his gaze. He probably thought I sat up with a hard on all night considering the way I kept staring at him this morning.

“Well, I got back here and got an eyeful of Foster pounding his girlfriend.” Jake shivered to accentuate the horror of the situation. Wow! He walked in on that and lived to tell the tale? And to think, I was worried Jake might have a thing going with his roommate!

“So what did you do?”

“I went down to the club on campus and ran into Erin. She thinks you’re cute.” He smiled at me. The elevator reached the lobby, and we stepped out where Roy was still trying to make conversation with Jen. I tried to sneak, but Jake blew that out of the water by calling out a hello to Roy.

I felt sorry for him. The look on his face was lost. I think Jen had discovered he wasn’t much of a conversationalist. As bad as I felt, I wanted time with Jake and willed him to keep moving for the door. I guess he couldn’t hear me.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend, Roy?” Jake said to him.

“Oh, yeah, this is Jen. Jen this is my friend Jake, the gay guy.” I winced inside as Roy made introductions. Jen looked over at me, practically a wallflower at this point.

“Looks like you found him. I can see why you were looking.” Jen smiled at Jake. Everyone thinks Jake is cute. I just hope he keeps thinking I am. I merely nodded at her and they engaged in a brief conversation, mostly about Erin and the bragging she did about her friends this term. Erin really cared for Jake, I realized, since she seemed to mention him to others so often.

At last, I was able to take Jake by the hand and lead him from the building before Roy invited himself along. I may be mistaken, but I think Jen looked wistfully at us as we left.

“Kody, what’s your rush?” Jake asked playfully.

“Ulterior motives, of course! I want you all to myself.”

“Okay, well, you got it mister.” He grinned at me. “What do you want to do?”

Ask if I’m your boyfriend, I thought to myself. Unfortunately, like the lion, I lacked the courage.

“We could go to the mall? Take the bus?”

“Sounds good. You know which bus to take?”

“Yep,” I replied confidently.

“Well, sounds like you got it planned out. How about some coffee first?”

“Sure, there’s a Dunkin Donuts up the street.”

“But I wanted to go to the Morning Rush.” Jake pouted a bit.

“Well…If it’s what you want.” I knew they would tease me there and I wanted to enjoy my time with Jake without that, but if it was what he wanted, then we’d do it.

“Is there a reason you...don’t want me in there?”

“No. Why?”

“Kody, you are the world’s worst liar, you know that?” He laughed at me, a nervous sound.

“Okay, okay. They will make fun of me, tease me ‘cause we’re...together. They’ll ask me if we’re boyfriends and all that. That’s all.” That and I don’t know what we are, exactly.

“So? Tell ‘em yeah, he’s my boyfriend, hands off!” He laughed again, heartily, confidently.

“So...we’re boyfriends?” I asked. This was too good to be true. I just had to ask and make sure I’d heard what he said correctly.

“Well, don’t want to,” Jake said, stopping in mid-stride to look at me. Was he actually worried that I’d say no to him?

“Of course I want to,” I whispered. “I just didn’t know if you...if you wanted to. I mean if you wanted me to”

Jake leaned in and put his forehead on mine and smiled at me. “You worry too much. You’re really cute when you do it, but you worry too much. It’s not just my choice what we are or what we do. If we’re going to do this, it’s together, fifty-fifty. Okay?”

I nodded dumbly, feeling like a moron.

“So do you want to be my boyfriend?” Jake asked softly.

“Yeah, more than anything,” I muttered, unable to meet his eyes.

“I want that too. Now that we’ve settled that, weren’t we on our way somewhere?” He grinned at me again and my worries evaporated. I needed my head examined.

“I have to get a picture of you!” Jake’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “It’s for my brother, not that I don’t want one too, but he wants to see what you look like.” I decided I could tell him about Andy at a later date—much later.

“Can I have my coffee first?” Jake flashed me those beautiful blue eyes.

“Okay, but if they make fun of me, you’ll pay for it.” I took his hand and dragged him forward.

We entered the shop and found the place deserted. No customers, no workers—it was like a ghost town.

“Hello?” I said. I walked in a little farther and looked towards the managers’ office. The chair was empty. I walked to the back door and poked my head out, still seeing no one.

“Where is everyone?” Jake wondered aloud and I shrugged my shoulders in response. Having no one in the store was freaky and somewhat disturbing.

The storage room door suddenly opened and Max stepped out, flushed and breathing heavily. She brushed her hair from her face, and I figured she was rearranging stock. Then I heard the unmistakable sound of a zipper going up floating from the closing door.

Max blushed very hard, covered her mouth with one hand, and giggled as she moved towards the counter. I looked at her in amazement and she giggled again.

“Did you need something, Kody?” she asked.

“I just stopped in to get Jake some coffee,” I said nodding towards the aforementioned Jake. She nodded, handed me a cup, and shooed me away from the counter, all the while acting as if nothing had happened. I handed the cup to Jake, who went about filling it quickly.

“Hey Max, are you coming back?” Mike asked as he poked his head out of the store room. I burst out laughing and Max pushed us toward the door. This is unbelievable!

“Go! You can’t talk about this! Go!” she hissed, but as I looked at her face, I could only see the tongue stud popping in and out on her tongue, and I laughed all the more while she pushed me out the front door. Marla was just outside, coming back from her break, I’d assume.

“What’s so funny?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Max giggled.

“Are you gonna finish this?” Mike called out.

Oh God, I think I’m gonna pee my pants!

* * *

We climbed aboard the bus, but not until after we stood outside laughing like we were stoned or something. Mike isn’t attractive, at least not to me, and I don’t like thinking about what straight people do in their bedrooms (or not in their bedrooms in this case), but this was just too much.

The bus trundled towards the mall. Jake had happily consumed his coffee and was more awake. We sat towards the back, side by side with his hand covering mine. The bus wasn’t very crowded so there was no real worry about anyone giving us a hard time, but the affection brought a special closeness to the ride.

Jake told me more about his home town and his friends like Killian and Killian’s ex-boyfriend Asher. He told me all about Killian’s detective work and his mentor, a retired policeman. Killian sounded like quite the guy, I was beginning to wonder how I could possibly measure up to that.

“So, you and Killian were never a couple?” I asked.

“No. I wanted to be, but then I left for California with my mom. When we moved back I was still hoping ‘cause he was my first love, and that’s always special, you know?”


“Killian was my first kiss, my first make out…he was a lot of firsts for me.”

“Do you still love him?”

“Of course I do. I’ll always love him. He’s my best friend.” Jake chuckled. “Don’t you still love your first?”

I squirmed a bit in my seat. “Well, um, yeah, you could say that.”

“Well, come on! I just told you all these details about me! Give!” He poked me in the ribs and I squirmed some more.

“Cut it out! Nerd,” I muttered.

“Kody, come on. Who was your first? What was his name?”

“His name?” I looked down on my hands.

“Yeah, who was he? How do I stack up?”

“Well...” I fidgeted.

“What?” Jake was waiting for me to grade his kissing versus my first. God, I felt like such a loser.

“Last night was my first kiss, Jake.” I sighed and looked up into his eyes, those sunny-day, sky-blue eyes. “I’m a Okay?” I looked back down at my hands. One of his strong, tanned hands crossed into my field of vision and fell gently over my folded hands.

“So I guess no matter what happens between you and me, you’ll always remember me then, huh?” His words were quiet, almost solemn.

“Nope, I don’t want to even think about that.” I couldn’t yet voice my concern that I wouldn’t be enough to hold onto him. The last thing he’d want is some clingy drama queen.

“I feel so good though, that you chose me to be your first!” he said as he squeezed my hands.

“Why? You’ve probably kissed a lot of guys.”

Jake grew quiet, his hand slowly tightening until I forced myself to break his grasp. He didn’t seem to notice. His eyes looked faraway, deep in contemplation, before returning to me suddenly.

“Yeah, I’ve kissed a lot of guys. I…” He hesitated and then placed his hand back over mine. “I felt a lot for Killian when we kissed. Your first is like that.” He sighed.

“I’m not Killian.”

“I know that. I’m not trying to compare you, kissing you is nothing like kissing him. His kiss was special because it was the first one. Yours was special because of strongly I feel for you.”

“You do?” Could it really be that I could keep this one?

“Yeah! I have been interested plenty of times, and sometimes I got shot down like that teacher I told you about. Sometimes, like with Killian there was timing and...other factors. But you, I just want to...I really want this to work. You’re interested, so am I, and I...I don’t want to mess it up.”

I decided we needed a little levity, this was entirely too serious, even though my heart swelled at his statement.

“Want to hear something funny?” He smiled at me and nodded. “When I went to your room and saw you shared with someone I got all jealous that they were with you. I wondered if you might, you know, have a cute roommate, and maybe had something going there.”

“With Foster?” Jake’s jaw dropped, and I smiled, nodding. He tried to hold it back, but the laughter poured out of him, and I joined him, giggling mindlessly at my silly jealous streak.

“I know, silly right?”

“What? You mean you don’t think I’m cute enough to get Foster?”

“I think...I think you’re cute enough for me to worry about it!”

“Hmm...” Jake rolled his eyes to the roof of the bus, appearing to think it over. “Foster isn’t really my type.”

“No?” I asked, giggling.

“No, definitely not. And I don’t think he could make a decent cup of coffee anyway.”

“The truth comes out!” I threw my arms up dramatically. “You only want me for my coffee.”

“Am I that transparent?” Jake asked in a stage whisper.

It was on the tip of my tongue to say ‘I love you’, and I mean it was a near thing. But after just a few days? He’d think I was crazy—a clinger. No, I’d be patient. I just smiled instead and took his hand for the remainder of the ride.

* * *

Shopping with Jake was so much fun I didn’t want it to end. We went from store to store and tried on all sorts of clothes. We even tried on suits, and we looked good, if I do say so myself. We went to Macy’s and JC Penny and Old Navy. We tried stuff on at American Eagle and Abercrombie & Fitch, as well as Filene’s. Jake was made for fine clothes. They just accentuated his natural physique. I liked silk on him best, and made a mental note to purchase some for him for Christmas. It would be kind of a gift for him that was also for me.

We tried on shoes, and walked through housewares looking at cooking stuff. I looked at this electronic wedding register where you could make a record of what you needed as a wedding gift. I wondered if we’d ever have need of such a thing. He sidled up to me, and I kept him from seeing the machine as we walked away from the store and back into the mall. I wouldn’t want him to clue in on my silly thoughts, but it stayed in the back of my mind, though.

We went into the pet store and looked at the puppies and small furry creatures. I told him I’d always liked dogs, and about the beagle we had at home. He asked more about my family and we sat down to have an Orange Julius while I filled him in on Charlie and the many loves he’s had. I probably sounded like a pathetic loser describing how Charlie was such a charmer, but I was a little more comfortable about it now.

“You know, that stuff doesn’t really matter,” Jake said, as if he could read my mind.

“What stuff?”

“Like how fast you lose your virginity. Everyone is different. Everyone develops in their own way and in their own time.”

“I know. I just wanted some of that feeling, you know? I always made bad choices. Like Andy.” I sighed.

“Who’s Andy?”

I filled him on the whole sordid story of Andy and the band, and how my piss-poor-self-esteem took another hit. I hadn’t put myself out there for anyone after Andy. I was too afraid.

“So why did you take the risk on me? Did I look easy?” Jake smiled at me.

“No!” I stuck my tongue out at him. “Just too fucking cute for words, asshole.”

“Well, you’re the cutest coffee boy I’ve ever seen.”


“What? I can’t tell my boyfriend he’s cute but he can tell me?”

“Jake, everyone thinks you’re cute—straights, gays, stray animals. Jesus! I think I saw a Honda get boned up in the parking lot!”

“Kody, that’s so not fair. I can’t control what anyone else thinks, but you are damn cute, and I know I’m not the only one that thinks so. Besides, maybe the Honda wanted you.”

“No, you.”

“No, I’ll bet it was you.”

“I don’t think so, Surfer Boy.”

“I do, Coffee Boy.”

I looked into his eyes, his smiling face, and just smiled back. I am so lucky. We walked the mall some more, checking out music and movies in one store, and then I spent forever in the video game store. I know I was wearing him thin then, but I am such a game junkie! He tolerated it with a smile, but I figured I had to be pushing my luck at that point. I spotted one of those booths where you put in a dollar or two and it turns out a couple of pictures, so I grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the machine.

“You really want to do this? It’s kind of corny.”

“Come on! Quit trying to be so masculine. Besides, my brother wants a picture of you.”

“Couldn’t you just describe me?” Jake continued as I fished in my pocket for cash.

“I did, that’s why he wants the picture.” Jake just laughed. I knew he had to know he looks good, but I wonder if he knows just how good? Or maybe it was just me.

We climbed into the booth and it started to talk to us, corny stuff mostly, but we mugged for the camera and saw our pictures on the screen in front of us. It waited for you to approve the shot before printing it. The last one was one of us kissing, and I swear it was all Jake’s doing. We were having so much fun, I fed the machine more money and we did it again.

* * *

On the way home, we decided to get some food, and stopped at the Chinese place I’d gone to a few nights before. We chatted idly, with small touches clearly showing affection to anyone who wasn’t blind. I suppose we looked like any new couple, come to think of it. There it was again—that ‘L’ word. I kept finding it creeping into my thoughts when it came to Jake, but did I really know what that was?

We carried our food back to my apartment, stopping for a movie at Deja View before stepping into the dark lobby of my building.

“Don’t you pay enough in a month to allow for a new light bulb?”

“More importantly, why isn’t my boyfriend trying to grope me in the dark?” I quipped back. I heard him speedup like he was chasing me and then his fingers dug into my side as I ran up the stairs, giggling, with him right behind me. Music poured out of Nick’s apartment, and I told Jake about Nick having Steve over for dinner and not wanting us anywhere near.

After getting settled on the couch and finding something to drink, we put the DVD in and relaxed with our food. A funny thing happened though, something I hadn’t expected because it was so, I dunno, domestic. Once the food was gone and we were leaning back on the couch, his arm slipped over my shoulders. I leaned into him, curling my legs up onto the couch and lying on his shoulder. Our sides were touching, and he stroked my back lightly while we watched the movie. This seemed to be so completely natural that it never occurred to me until much later that it was a comfortably intimate act that I could willingly repeat for the rest of my life.

I was dozing happily, the crappy movie long forgotten in my utter hedonistic enjoyment of Jake’s warmth, when he stretched under me.

“I guess I better get back to the dorm. I have classes tomorrow.” Jake yawned.

“Can’t you stay?” I asked slowly.

“Oh...” Jake looked slightly embarrassed and I felt silly.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to put you on the spot,” I said as I sat up. He grabbed my shoulder and gave me a quick kiss before drawing away to look me in the eye.

“You didn’t. It’s just, I want to do things right and not rush know.”

“I didn’t mean stay for sex,” I said quietly while looking down at my hands.

“Kody, listen to me, please?” I glanced up at him and found I couldn’t look away from him.

“I’ve made a lot of mistakes. You don’t know everything there is to know and I just—I want to take it slow. I want you, God knows I do. I like that we have so much more than sex in common. It feels kind of like when Killian and I first met, and we still love each other you know? I want us to last and...I’m just afraid of making a mistake.”

“I want you too,” I whispered. “I just want you to stay with me. We spent all day together without having sex, can’t we sleep and do that too?”

“I dunno.” He smiled. “You’re a lot to resist.”

“I just felt so comfortable here on the couch with you...I guess I’m just being dumb.”

He took a deep breath. “No, you’re not. I’m just afraid, okay?”

“Okay,” I sighed.

I walked him to the door, where we lingered in a kiss. Well, we lingered in several kisses truth be told, and then...I was closing the door behind him. I sighed deeply and laid my head against the wood of the door, heart racing and my breathing shallow. I knew realistically that waiting a little while was the right thing to do. I was still afraid I’d do something wrong in the bedroom, something so comical I’d never live it down. But Jake was the first boy I ever kissed, and right then, I knew I wanted him to be the last boy I ever kissed.

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