Asher almost dropped the phone when he saw Michael’s name on his cell phone. It was too early for a social call. Worried that something was wrong, Asher slid the pad of his thumb across the touchscreen to answer the call before it stopped ringing.
“Hello?” Asher’s voice was tentative and gravely from the early morning hour.
There was such a long pause after Asher picked up, he thought Michael might have already hung up. “Hey Asher…” Michael hesitated after he said Asher’s name. The sound of his name spoken from such a sexy voice had Asher’s pulse racing.
Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Asher tried to keep his mischievous body under control. The last thing he needed was to pop a boner just from hearing Michael’s deep rich voice. When it came to Michael Waters, Asher felt himself teetering on the edge of a very steep cliff.
“It’s early,” Asher muttered the obvious.
“I know it’s early, I’m sorry…” Silence again! Asher wanted to demand that Michael tell him why he was calling, but before he could say anything, Michael started to speak. “Do you want to go biking with me?”
“Right now?” Asher chuckled as a huge smile lit up his face.
“Yes, right now.”
Asher glanced out at the lavender sky. The first rays of light would be reaching the horizon any minute. It was too far to ride all the way across town. By the time Asher got to Michael’s apartment, he would be too exhausted to join him on a ride. The bus or subway would be a better choice, but since it was Saturday both of them would be running on their weekend schedule. Mentally calculating how long it would take him to get uptown, Michael interrupted his thoughts. “The weather is absolutely perfect and if we go right now, we can get a couple of miles in before it gets too hot.”
It made sense. Asher always took his morning run before the summer temperatures started to soar. “Okay, give me an hour to make it uptown--” The sound of a car horn blared from the streets below. It also echoed in the phone. Asher stopped. Walking over to the open kitchen window, Asher stuck his head out and noticed Michael sitting on his bike on the sidewalk below. The man was right outside of Asher’s building.
Michael looked up and smiled. All of the air rushed out of Asher’s lungs when his heart skipped a beat. The man had a knack for showing up at the most unexpected moments.
“There’s no need to go uptown. Isn’t there a park a couple of blocks away from here?” Michael asked, his voice still echoing through the phone and from the sidewalk below.
Asher chuckled to himself. Regaining his composure, he told Michael, “Yeah, Onyx Park is a few minutes away.”
“Great, get your ass in gear and get down here,” Michael demanded before ending the call.
Pulling on a light t-shirt and a pair of gym shorts, Asher tried to keep his hands from trembling. Not only was he excited to see Michael again, he was thrilled that the guy had continued to seek Asher out. “Stop it, Ash,” He berated himself, “Don’t fall into that cliché of every gay guy falling in love with the straight, unavailable friend; it only leads to heartbreak. Michael’s just looking for a friend.”
With his gloves and helmet both in place, Asher lifted his bike off the rake that suspended it in the air, out of the way. The minutes ticked by. He moved as fast as he could since he didn’t want to keep Michael waiting.
The bike was too heavy to take the stairs two at a time. It forced Asher to slow down and cautiously navigate each step, one at a time. Balancing the top tube on his shoulder made it easier. Asher silently said a prayer when he didn’t come across any of his neighbors in the narrow stairwell. On a good day it was a tight squeeze; toss in a full sized bicycle and now passing anyone would be next to impossible.
“It took you long enough. Did you have to apply your make-up first?” Michael playfully teased.
Asher relaxed once he realized that Michael was joking. “Me? Look at you. Are you worried about messing up that pretty boy hair of yours since I can tell that you did not wear that helmet on your head for the ride over here?”
Michael looked at the gray dome dangling from the handlebars of his bike and frowned. “Dude, you’re really going to make me wear this stupid thing?”
Training as a sport therapist, Asher had seen firsthand the severity of head injuries that can result from bicycle accidents. The last thing he wanted was to see Michael get hurt.
“Come on big guy, put it on,” Asher insisted. “The city might have passed that ‘helmet optional law’ last year, but your brain is too important to risk for the sake of looking cool."
Reluctantly, Michael slicked his dark brown locks away from his forehead to keep them out of his eyes as he put his helmet on. He adjusted the strap under his chin then stuck out his tongue at Asher. “Better?”
Asher smiled at his accomplishment. “Yes, much better.”
“C’mon, let’s get riding before you find something else wrong with me.”
Asher glanced at Michael as he stared straight ahead, waiting for the light at the crosswalk to change. His shorts and shirt were similar to what Asher was wearing and were just as fresh and clean, too. Asher wasn’t sure how Michael got downtown this morning, but the guy definitely didn’t ride all the way here.
At this time of morning, the park was fairly empty, but it wouldn’t be long before the basketball and tennis courts both filled up. As the sun rose, parents slowly ventured out with their newly awakened little ones to enjoy the crisp cooler air. On their third lap around the park, Asher smiled at Mrs. Nguyen speed walking with a group of friends. The elderly woman winked at him as she quickly swooshed by.
The park came to life. It was one of Asher’s favorite spots in Onyx Hill. There was always so much going on in this little park that it really had a true feeling of community.
A gentle breeze blew through the mature trees that surrounded the bike trail that wove through the park. The pavement was wide enough for two bikers to ride comfortably side by side and still leave room for an occasional pedestrian.
“How about one more lap and then we go over to Mack’s Diner for some lunch?” Asher suggested.
Michael nodded his head. Asher noticed his dark brown hair looked almost black as the wet locks curled around the back of Michael’s helmet. They both displayed a wide sweat mark down the center of their backs. Nearing a long flat stretch, Michael’s pace slowed until Asher realized Michael wasn’t with him anymore. Turning around and pedaling back, he found Michael had climbed off his bike and was kneeling down on the pavement, tying his shoe.
The tight muscles in Michael’s thighs flexed as he shifted his weight to the other leg to re-tie that shoestring, too. Asher was so lost in the sight of Michael’s body that he never saw the shirtless young man jogging up behind them. The guy quickly sidestepped around Michael, but instead of continuing on his way along the path, he looped back around and ran a tight circle around Asher and Michael for a second look. A thick sheen of perspiration covered the man’s suntanned chest.
The new guy grinned as his eyes darted between Asher and the subject of his attentive gaze. Michael looked up from the ground and frowned.
“What the fuck are you looking at?” Michael growled, loud enough to frighten an elderly couple strolling through the park, hand in hand.
“Mike, calm down!” Asher tried to quickly defuse the situation.
Deep red flushed across the guy’s face as Michael glared at him. The man stumbled as he moved further away from Michael’s elevating shouts.
“No, I want to know what the hell HE thinks he’s looking at.” Michael demanded.
The new guy rolled his eyes and muttered, “Whatever,” under his breath before turning and continuing in the direction he was heading before stopping to flirt.
“He was looking at me, okay? That guy was checking me out,” Asher blurted out without considering the consequences.
“What does he--”
“Because I’m gay!” Asher cut Michael off.
The sounds that normally filled the park were suddenly gone. The birds stopped chirping, no children laughing or murmurs of conversation…nothing…just silence.
Asher waited for Michael’s reaction. He didn’t have to wait long as Michael’s dark eyes furrowed and became hooded and hard to read.
“Do you know that guy?” Michael demanded, hiking his thumb over his shoulder in the direction the man had run.
“No, but he saw me admiring your body and it’s not that hard to figure out--”
“Shit! That dude thinks I’m fucking gay, too?” The fear that flashed across Michael’s face was unmistakable. “I’m not gay!”
Asher rolled his eyes and shook his head, “I wouldn’t be too worried about that. You give off straight guy vibes that are very crystal clear.”
“Are you attracted to me? Is that the only reason you were nice to me?” Michael took a step back. Their confrontation drew curious stares from several bystanders.
Rage had Asher’s blood boiling. “Seriously dude, you’re the one who kept coming around me. I’m not the kind of person to take advantage of someone, no matter who they are. If that’s what you think of me, then you obviously don’t know the first god damn thing about me.”
Asher turned to leave, but Michael’s words stopped him. “Then why? Why did you go out of your way to help me?”
“I don’t know,” Asher growled, “But I can see now that it was a mistake.”
“Go home, Michael.” Asher climbed on his bike and rode away without another word.
Wow, I bet you didn't see that one coming.....Should I hide now? You guys aren't going to throw rocks at me are you?
I promise this is not the end of the story, there is still lots more to come.