“Noah! Babe, what are you doing here?” he asked with a big grin and hugged me. I hugged him back, but mostly from stunned surprise.
“My brother lives here,” I said, pointing to Ian, who quickly held his hand out for Victor. They shook, and Victor gushed at Ian.
“I was thinking about rushing this frat! But, oh my God, what a great surprise to see you, Noah!”
Nichelle called out to a friend, and she and Ian wandered away while Victor moved beside me.
“I'm surprised to see you, too,” I said with a little grin. “I thought you were going back to your parents’ house?”
“Well, at the end of the summer they dropped the big bombshell that they were getting a divorce and had been working out the details while I helped my grandparents move. So my old home was gone – they got apartments. My friends were all going away for school, so I had no real reason to go home. My grandparents told me to try and enroll in the basic courses here, and I figured it would be too late, but I got a lot of good classes so...here I am!”
“Yeah,” I said with a fading smile. “Here you are.”
He hesitated. “I should have told you. But it's an hour away and...I thought we were kind of clear it was a summer thing...?”
“Wh-oh, yeah, no. I get it,” I said, waving him off, but thinking – would it have killed you to just say your plans had changed? That didn't mean we were married and would start a long distance relationship.
He leaned in a little closer. “I missed you, though.” He moved his lips by my ear. “I haven't had any decent dick since I saw you last.” He paused, his breath crossing my ear. “Want to come back to my dorm later?”
I cleared my throat, which he probably didn't hear, and said, “Uh, yeah. Sure. Find me later.”
He grinned and pecked my cheek, and I awkwardly turned my head toward him and kissed air, as he'd pulled back. Grinning, he said he'd find me and bounced off into the crowd.
I walked idly over to a picnic table and sat down on the tabletop, feet on the bench, intending to turn over the whole experience of seeing Victor unexpectedly, when Chloe stepped between my knees and put her arms around my shoulders and her lips by my ear.
“Some douche won't leave me alone, and I told him you're my boyfriend to get him to back off, so don't puke because a girl is hugging you and sticking her tongue in your ear, okay?”
I chuckled and put a hand behind her as she moved to sit beside me, and I let my arm hang across her shoulders.
“Found a winner, huh?”
“Uh. Fucking college parties,” she said with a grunt. “Some of these man-babies can't take no for an answer, which makes me have to beg nice gay boys like you to help a girl out.”
“Glad to help, as long as we're not going to have to prove anything by having sex on the table or something.”
She laughed. “Of course not! I don't do things like that unless I record it for my Only Fans!”
I widened my eyes.
“What? You think I can afford this college? Well, I can – if I'm willing to step in mayo and other condiments on camera. People are weird. Did you know there was a girl that made a fortune farting in jars and sending them off to weirdos who wanted to inhale her damn farts? I mean, I'm all for making a buck, but Jesus H Christ!”
I burst out laughing. “Was any of that true?”
“Fart girl is. Or was. She was eating weird shit to give her weird smelling farts and fucked up her digestive system. It's true! Fucking Google it!” she said, laughing with me. We continued to chat and pulled our phones out to share stuff, then swapped handles, since we liked each other’s company. Eventually she stood up and stretched.
“Okay. I'm going to go hunting for some decent dick. Thanks, fake boyfriend,” she said, miming a blowjob and rolling her eyes. I burst out in giggles and stood to go find the bathroom. Of the few rooms Ian had showed me, the bathroom hadn't been one of them. After a bit I found one, waited in line and finally got to empty my bladder. Back out in the milling masses, I was just turning my thoughts back to running into Victor when someone put their hand in mine. I turned in surprise to see Victor's grinning face.
“C'mon,” he said, tilting his head. He led me through the frat and out the front door, then laced his fingers with mine and started to run, pulling me behind him. For a moment it felt like summer again – the air rushing past us, just the right temperature, holding hands as we ran someplace to fuck. We crossed a grassy area, then a parking lot and some concrete walkways, before we came to his dorm building and went up to the third floor.
We opened the door, and he was already pulling at my clothes. I was startled by a voice in the room.
“Christ, Vic! Again? Twenty minutes and then I'll be back!” The guy was getting up from a single bed pushed against the wall.
“Thanks,” Victor said breathlessly as his roommate left, closing the door with a bang. Sex with Victor was always like this. Rushed. Breathless. This was a little different, because it was the first time in a bed, but we felt pressure because his roomie would be back – or maybe that was just me. Regardless, there was no more than kissing and fumbling for foreplay, then he was sliding a condom onto my erection and lubing me up.
It's a unique thing to be deep inside someone, so far you can't get any more of yourself in. Victor never had problems with me going in – it was when we were done and it was time to pull out that it hurt, or so he said. The thought was gone as he started moving, wrapping his legs around my waist and using his legs to pull me deeper into him. I let him work himself on my dick for a minute, just enjoying the feel of him. When he started to whine a little I started moving, pushing in and slowly picking up my pace.
“Finally some good dick,” he grunted.
“Been getting laid without me, college boy?” I asked, mildly – and unjustifiably – jealous someone had been with him.
“Amateurs,” he snorted. “They don't know what to do with it - God! Noah,” he groaned.
His legs were limiting my movement, so I pulled at his knees, unwrapping his legs, and then grabbed his ankles, pulled his legs apart, and slammed into him quickly, hips thrusting, hoping the roommate wouldn't come back in while I was jackhammering Victor.
“I'm close,” I groaned.
“Oh shit,” he said, grabbing his dick and jerking madly. I gasped and slammed forward, my muscles locking as I emptied into the condom. He forced his legs back down, wrapping them back around me and grinding on my erection.
“Don't move! Don't move! I'm close.” His voice was heated, feverish. Moments later he grunted and let out a small keening breath as his body spasmed. I slumped a bit, still taking deeper than normal breaths as I came down from my orgasm.
“Oh shit, Noah,” he said softly. “Why couldn't you live closer?”
I pushed back and slid from him, and he gasped as I did. Weird. I'd figure it'd be uncomfortable going in.
“You could have texted,” I pointed out as I dropped down beside him.
His hand rose up in the dimness of the room, and I felt it hit the mattress. “I know. But there was all this...stuff. Like, my grandparents ended up moving into one of those assisted living things, not a condo. My grandpa said he was leaving pots on the stove and forgetting about them and stuff. Then I went home, or thought I was, but the parents had already sold the damn house and had my stuff in storage.” He sighed. “We had this dinner where they said they had been unhappy for a long time and had stayed together out of mutual love and responsibility for me and I can stay at either of their apartments when I go home from school and...honestly, it was just overwhelming.”
“Yeah, I can get that,” I said, running a finger up his thigh. “But then you fucked a few guys. I mean, not like we were dating, but you were sort of close. Would have been nice.”
He turned and propped his head up on his hand. “Would it? If I called for you to drive an hour each way to give me some good dick? I'm decent in bed, but Noah...don't you think you want a little more?”
“Like what?” I asked, tracing my fingertips aimlessly on his hip.
“Like...dates. Cuddles. Making out in a rainstorm, or sex on a beach somewhere?” He sighed. “We're pretty good friends with benefits, but I know I'm not sparking anything deep inside you, and I think you know what from you gets deep inside me.”
I snorted. It kind of sucked, lying here naked after being intimate, but maybe it wasn't as intimate as I thought. Maybe it was just sex. Just getting off. He was right – Victor hadn't left me a mess at the end of the summer. I hadn't been confused and hurting like I had the summer before with Marc.
“So are you just here for tonight?” Victor asked, as he got up and grabbed a cloth to clean up with and tossing me another.
“Yeah. Brother invited me up under false pretenses. He's in love, I guess.” I said, tossing the cloth aside.
Victor climbed back into bed and pulled his underwear up before leaning over awkwardly and finding my underwear – which I knew because he slapped me in the face with them.
“Put these on before my roommate gets back, so we don't scare the poor straight boy,” he said with a snicker.
“He seems tired of your whoring,” I teased.
“He's jealous,” Victor said with a snort. “So. Have anyone on the hook at school? Prospects?”
I rolled my eyes as the door opened and Victor’s roommate crossed the room and settled onto his bed. “This guy on the football team is stalking me. I told him no, but he's not listening.”
He was quiet for a moment. “Well. Persistence can be sexy.”
“It's totally not,” I said. Talk quickly tailed off, and before I knew it I was waking up to the sound of Victor snoring lightly. I slipped out of bed and used the light coming in from under the doorway to find my jeans and pull them up. Checking my phone, I was a little surprised to see it was three in the morning. I had a few texts from Ian. Essentially he'd wanted to know where I was and then warned me not to come to his room because he was taking Nichelle back for sexy times.
I should show her that text – save her some trouble.
I glanced at Victor and then picked my shirt up from the floor and found my shoes before slipping into the hallway. I pulled my shirt on, stepped into my shoes, and made my way back to the fraternity – which took a long time, since I didn't really know where I was. Eventually it dawned on me to use my GPS, and I discovered I'd probably been walking in circles.
The front door to the frat was unlocked, but few lights were on. I walked through the downstairs rooms, thinking maybe I'd crash on a couch for a few hours, but they were filled with people – even the deck out back where they'd been grilling was a rough bed for more than a couple people. In the end I went to my car, got the first cup of coffee from a chain, and started back home. I slept for a few hours at home, but was up earlier than I'd planned due to some banging noises outside. I got up, went to the bathroom and decided to bring Bruno his breakfast early. I pulled on a tee shirt and shorts for the sake of modesty and crossed the lawn, the dew cool and damp on my bare feet.
“Morning, buddy,” I said to Bruno, putting his dish down. He wagged and gave me some wet kisses, seeming to find my right ear of special interest, before finally turning to his food.
I jumped at the sound of a large thud behind me. I turned and saw my neighbor – Bruno's negligent owner – pushing a box onto the bed of his truck, which was loaded. Must have been the sounds I was hearing, I supposed. He lifted the tired tailgate and slammed it into place before walking over to the driver's side. I turned away from him and back to Bruno.
The guy never said much, and I didn't expect him to say anything now. I heard a cigarette lighter being flicked a few times in the still morning and then assumed he'd gotten his cancer stick lit. Then a door opened with a squeak, and then maybe the scariest sound I'd ever heard before – the racking of a gun.
I turned as he let a plume of smoke rise from the corner of his mouth, squinting against the smoke from the cigarette.
“Dog would be dead ten times over already,” he remarked, his sentence having no real beginning, middle or end.
I stood up and turned to face him. “He should be treated better.” Sweat trickled down the middle of my back, and it felt like the world thermostat had just gone up about twenty degrees – my dad should be along any second to bitch.
He took a few steps to the back of the truck, revealing the gun in his hand – some kind with a long barrel – I know little about gun types.
“Never wanted the damn thing. My uncle's dog. He got sick, and I got stuck with it.” The tip of the cigarette glowed brightly, and then he pulled it from his mouth, blew out a plume of smoke and coughed lightly. He repeated the ritual – glowing tip, plume of smoke, cough – then he tossed the cigarette to the ground and squashed it with the toe of his boot. He inhaled through his nose, snot bubbling and then he spat a big, nasty wad on the gravel.
He took a step and lifted the barrel of the gun. “Have to hit the road, so...move aside.”
My eyes widened without thought. “What? No!” My heart pounded, my thoughts scrambled, and my guts felt like they were suddenly full of cold water.
The guy sighed and resettled his Yankee's hat. “Kid. You have to do more than feed it. There's vet bills and cleaning up shit and chewing on things – it's just a fucking dog. Go find some chick to get all dramatic about, and let me get this over with.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “I don't understand people like you. Animals get scared like we do, they feel pain like we do – and you want to act like you're so much better?”
He lifted the barrel and pointed it toward me. “Just fucking move.”
“No!” I shouted, squatting down and pushing Bruno behind me. Of course, Bruno didn't understand and was trying to wiggle around everywhere, like this was a game.
“What is going – oh, my God! I'm calling the police! Put that down right now! That's my son!” my mother said, running across the yard in her pajamas and completely forgetting to follow through on her threat to call the cops.
“Jesus Christ,” the guy muttered and lowered the barrel.
“He was going to kill Bruno,” I said to my mother.
“Get away from the dog!” she said as she got closer.
I frowned. “Hell, no.” My heart was racing already, sweat was tricking down my back, and now I was worried I'd have to fight my mother off while also standing between Rambo and Bruno.
“Noah! Get away from the dog!” my mother hissed.
“Listen to your mom, kid.”
“You shut up!” she snapped while glaring at me. “You never listen! This man is pointing a gun, and you're being defiant! Move!”
I looked at her with a mix of revulsion and shock. “No!”
“I don't have time for this,” the guy said, and the gun made another ominous sound. “You want it, it's all yours. I have places to be.”
My mother was staring at me, fat tears welling in her eyes as the door of the truck slammed shut. The engine turned over, and there was a loud grinding noise as it slid into gear, then the truck chugged to the end of the ratty drive, the brakes squeaked as it stopped, then it chugged away. All the while tears tracked down my mother's face as she stared at me, defiant with Bruno behind – and around – my feet.
“Why is it always a fight with you?” she asked, her voice like a whisper.
“Because you never even pretend I might be right, because it would mean you're wrong.”
“If I have to trade a dog for my son, I make that trade every time,” she said, her teeth gritted.
“But it wasn't a choice,” I said, shivering uncontrollably. “And the choice wasn't yours to make.” I knelt down and unhooked Bruno from the line that kept him by his little doghouse and started walking to the house.
“Don't you dare take that filthy dog in – in my house!” my mother said, her voice catching.
I looked back at her. “I just faced down an asshole with a gun for him. What are you going to do? Ground me?” I turned and went inside, passing my father who was just coming into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. “You better go out and take care of Mom,” I said. “She's going to be in one of her moods.”
“The dog? What the-” His words were cut off by my mother’s wordless scream from outside, and he took off. The noise cut through the cocoon I was in, whatever had let me get through that scene, and I started to shiver even more. Bruno was jumping and sniffing, so I got him to the bathroom and tried to give him a bath, but he kind of wasn't having it. It was frustrating, but gave me something to focus on. I finally dried him off – mostly – and went back to my room. My dad was waiting for me.
“Noah, this has gone too far this time,” he said.
I stared at him while Bruno jumped up on my bed and laid down, stretching.
“That man had a gun-”
“I know,” I said softly. “I was there.”
He closed his eyes for a moment. “Look. I know you and your mother have always clashed, but this...the dog can't stay in the house.”
I bit back the responses swirling in my head. “Why?”
“Because at the end of the day we decided not to go with family pets. We decided that the expenses and the extra time a pet would take up were better spent in other ways.”
“Like forcing your kids to be sick against their will?” I asked.
He tilted his head to one side. “Every parent makes decisions they feel are for the best that their kids may not agree with. When you have kids-”
He raised an eyebrow.
“I've decided that the expense and extra time that raising kids would take up can be spent in better ways.” I paused. “Isn't that what you said?”
He shifted on his feet. “Well, when it's your home and you pay the mortgage, then you get to decide that – and all the positives and negatives those decisions come with.”
“Well,” I said, swallowing and moving to my bed where I started to stroke Bruno's ears. “Before she decides to enforce that, maybe she should remember I stood between Bruno and a guy with a gun.”
The room was quiet except for my heart beating in my ears.
My father placed a hand on my shoulder. “Believe me, we know what you did. Maybe in a little while, when we don't feel so scared, we'll be proud of you. But right now all I or your mom can think is how close we might have come to losing you. So do me a favor...just don't push things right now. Everyone needs a breath. Okay?”
I nodded, and he patted my shoulder before leaving, closing the door behind him. I started to shake a little then, though I couldn't really explain why. I let out a shuddering breath and climbed into bed.
“Move over, Bruno. You get the other side.”
Instead of moving he laid there while I picked the sheets up and kind of rolled him out of my way. In pictures it always looks comfortable to have a dog nestled up to you, but he had his claws pointed at me, and he snored. I didn't know dogs could snore. I ended up drifting off to sleep for a few hours and felt really tired when Bruno stepped on me to get off the bed. I was awake really quick when he started crying and then squatted to pee on the floor.
I got up and ran him to the back door and then got stuff to clean my floor up. I tried to hurry – it was still warm! Eww! I had to make it fast before Bruno got distracted and took off. As I put the wet materials in the kitchen garbage my mother asked me to take it out so it wouldn't stink in the kitchen. I ran the bag out and was surprised to see Bruno sniffing around his old doghouse. I wonder what was going through his head?
I called to him on my way back, and he came trotting over, happy as could be. I rubbed his face and told him he needed to learn to ask to go outside for potty time. We went back inside, and my mother was leaning against the counter.
“I saw your brother's clothes hanging up in the back of your car,” she said.
I paused for a second, trying to remember why I'd have my brother's clothes in my car before the last day clicked for me. Ian's issues seemed ridiculous after today.
“Yeah. He joined a frat and didn't know how to tell you. We forgot about the clothes.”
She pursed her lips slightly. “You knew before you went out? This frat?”
I shook my head. “No. He's found someone he likes.” I paused and looked up at her. “Not sure if he's afraid you won't approve or what exactly. Probably...just didn't want to deal with you. Not yet.”
“You poor kids. How did you grow up with such a villain in your lives?” she asked quietly.
I tilted my head. “I don't think you're a villain. I just don't think you listen.”
Her gaze rose to meet mine, but she remained quiet.
“I wonder, though, if he waited to actually date until he was an hour away from you.”
She looked away from me, and I left the room, urging Bruno to follow me. I heard one of the cars leave later, and my dad came in to sit with me for a bit. I don't really remember what we talked about – if anything. I just kept turning that over – my mother was no villain. She was overbearing at times, didn't admit to many mistakes, but she showed up. I thought about what my dad had said earlier, about how I didn't pay the mortgage and make the rules. Did she feel bad saying no, or was she just glad to say no and move on? But it was never over with just no; there were always feelings to deal with. I think for the longest time we'd been taught that whatever my mother said, went. Now Ian was partially out of her control. I was actively pushing back, and who knew what she was going to be in for with Sandy, who seemed to have more push back in her than Ian and myself together.
Ian called that night, and we talked. He said mom had showed up with the clothes, and they'd had a talk. She wasn't thrilled, and neither was he, but at least there hadn't been a war. Who knows, maybe things would change. They always did.