Luke went right to the backyard when he reached the school the next morning. It was the place he and Noah would meet up every morning before school. It was their daily routine now. The five minutes they had together were precious to them, and neither of them wanted to miss it at any cost. Sometimes they would even meet after school if Noah wasn’t busy; sometimes during the lunch break. They would both eat their lunches under the shade of a tree and just talk about different things. Luke cherished such moments, so did Noah.
Nearing their meeting place, Luke perked up seeing Noah was already there. The brunette was resting his back against the tree, but stood up straight watching Luke, and broke into a huge grin as well.
“Good morning, Noah!” Luke said and ran right into Noah’s arms to get his usual morning kiss. He wasn’t left disappointed, because as soon as he filled himself in his arms, Noah captured Luke’s lips with his own, and began to kiss him feverishly.
Noah smiled into the kiss, tasting something really sweet on Luke’s tongue. He broke apart moaning in pleasure, “Mmm what did you have this morning? You taste so sweet.”
“Don’t I always?” Luke teasingly asked.
Noah licked his lips, now savouring that sweet flavour in his mouth as well. “Of course, you do my sweetheart.” He pulled Luke’s body closer to his and held his guy possessively tight around him. “But I want to know what stopped me today from tasting the original you.”
Luke felt warm with all the attention Noah was giving him. “It’s chocolate. Gust offered me some on the way to school and I couldn’t resist.”
Noah’s grip around Luke’s waist loosened, and a sting of jealousy went through him. “Gust?”
“Yeah, my dad’s car broke down, so he drove me here to school for today. He is a saviour; if it hadn’t been him, I wouldn’t have ever gotten here on time to meet you.”
Although he tried to push it away, the memory of Gust and Luke at the movie theatre together kept coming back to Noah’s mind. He managed to give a crooked smile to Luke and changed the subject, “Are you prepared for today’s test?”
“Prepared to ace it all” Luke plainly lied.
“Good!” Noah was amazed. He hadn’t expected Luke to be that excited for the test, but he guessed he must have under-estimated Luke after all. “It’s really good that you have studied, because Mrs. Brooks has set the paper for the test very hard.”
“What? Mrs. Brooks has set the paper for the test?” Now Luke was starting to freak out. Mrs. Brooks was the history teacher for whose class Noah was appointed to substitute, and she was known for her merciless attitude towards her students ... now he was sure he was going to flunk.
“Yes. I tried to talk her out of it, but she wouldn’t budge.” Noah shrugged. “Anyhow, you are prepared for it, so I have no worries anymore.”
“You were worried for me...?” Luke felt good hearing that.
“Yes, I mean we have something special between us.” Noah smiled one-sidedly as he brushed Luke’s hair that fell over his forehead. “I care for you.”
Luke blushed, but soon the fear of test was back. “Um... Noah? Will the test be very hard?”
“Not really, if you have read through all the chapters. The questions are just a bit deep, you know.”
“Like what?” Luke tried his luck.
Noah began innocently, “Like you know ...” but before he could blurt a few questions out loud, he got wary, “Hey! Are you trying to get the questions out of me? If so, no way you are getting any help here.”
“No.” Luke forced an amused smile. “Why would I do that?” Noah looked at him suspiciously for a moment, and Luke avoided his gaze.
“Luke, you did study for the test, right?”
Luke stared at Noah for some time, considering on coming clean, but chickened out and just gave a nod. Not that Noah really believed him; he instead feared that Luke had not taken this test very seriously. And of course, what he was afraid of was correct; Luke hadn’t studied much for this test.
Gust wondered why Luke ran out of the car so quickly. There was still time before school started, so there was no need to hurry. But even before Gust could park, the blond was out of the car and gone in seconds.
He shook his head as he exited the car, remembering how weird Luke was acting these days. Luke was totally careless about things happening in school. His mind would always be in la-la land, and Gust didn’t know why. He decided he would talk to Luke about it, maybe Luke would tell him what was going on.
As he activated the car’s central lock and turned to walk inside, he saw a familiar girl walking towards him. He stopped in fear, watching the look on Candes’ face as she neared him. He didn’t know what it was, but he knew for sure it was going to be bad.
“Hi Candes, what’s up? You don’t look very well.”
Candes crumpled her nose. “Morning sickness... I hate it. I wish it would just stop.” She grumbled. “Hate being pregnant...”
“Heyy, it’s not that bad. I mean every woman goes through that stage.” Gust shrugged.
She narrowed her eyes at him and frowned, “You would never understand. It’s me who has to carry this damn baby.”
“Watch what you say!” Gust angrily said. He looked around to check if anyone could hear them, and talked in a hushed irritated voice, “You are not the only one who is facing troubles with this baby.”
“Right!” She sardonically gave a laugh. “You are the one who is risking keeping this baby, huh? You don’t know anything, Gust! It won’t be you who has to go through all the humiliation after my pregnant belly starts to show, and people start talking behind my back. They’ll be calling me names, but no one will point at you and say ‘this man is responsible for it as well.’”
“You think this is easy for me?” Gust looked at her in disbelief. “I am suffering too, Miss McGraw... not just you! Be thankful I took responsibility of this shitty thing that happened between us. It was a horrible mistake! If I wanted, I could have totally withdrawn myself out of it and showed no interest in what you would do. But damn, I care about you.” He said catching Candes by her arm angrily, which she shoved away immediately.
“Seriously Gust? Are you going to give me a count of all the favours you are doing for me?” She took a breathing pause, trying to recover from the hurt that her ex just gave her, “In that case, thank you, Mr. Rivera. I owe you big time. You are great; I should kiss your feet for what you have done for me and my baby. Is that what you want?”
Gust threw his head back at the impossible-to-handle mood of hers and tried to calm his nerves, “I don’t want you to praise me or something. But if you can’t appreciate what I’m doing for you, at least don’t sound so ungrateful. Hell! I don’t want to fight on this fine morning, not with you. I plan to keep you happy.”
Candes warmed after hearing that, and looked down. She was reminded of the golden days when they used to be together. Gust would always be the nice, supporting guy like he was being now. And same as now, Candes wouldn’t be able to remain angry with him for too long, and would usually just kiss him ending their fight. She wished she could kiss him this time as well.
“What are you thinking about Candy?” Gust looked at her downcast face. “Please tell me.”
“I can’t do this alone.” She sighed exasperatedly.
Gust didn’t understand. He furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. “What do you mean you can’t do this alone?” he asked. “If you are trying to say that I should start acting like responsible father, I already am. I have a job now, and I ...”
“It’s not about that.” Candes cut him off and pursed her lips, struggling with how to say this.
“Then what is it about?” Gust asked. “Please tell me.”
“I want you ... how do I say this... damn.” Candes struggled to get the words out. “Look, now that I am single, it’s difficult for me to face the world. But if we are seen as a couple, it wouldn’t matter to anyone.”
“So ...You want us to be a couple again?” Gust asked, looking at her with a strange expression on his face.
“Basically ... yes!”
“WOW! You must be walking in your sleep or something, because if you had been awake you wouldn’t be talking stupid like that.” Gust was scowling at her suggestion.
“I am wide awake, Gust!” Candes snapped.
“Ok, so you must have lost it because last time I checked I was gay, and you damn well knew about it. So why all this shit now?”
“It’s better this way, Gust, for each one of us.” She explained.
“I don’t think so.” Gust frowned and looked away.
Candes held him by his arm and made him face her. “Gust, if you care even a bit about me and this baby, you will do as I say. Otherwise...” Candes swallowed the lump forming in her throat and looked sharply at Gust through her watery eyes as she threatened, “I know what I have to do. I will help you get rid of this baby as well as me.”
Gust saw the anger in her eyes and he damn well knew what she was talking about. “Shut up, Candy! You are blackmailing me here.” He pointed it out.
But she was adamant. “So be it. But I will not compromise for my dignity.”
Gust went numb. What was he supposed to do? He didn’t know... through this all, just one name was stuck on his mind – Joe ... what about Joe? Joe, who was his boyfriend now, who he had started to develop some strange, yet desired feelings for already, the one who was his angel of love ...
“Joe... What about him?” He asked, looking faintly at her knowing already, what she would say, and realized suddenly he didn’t want to hear what she had to say.
But the words were spoken out, “Break up with him... I don’t care.” And these words hit him hard. He closed his eyes and remembered all the memories he had shared with Joe. Candes was talking shit but he didn’t listen to it. He was engrossed in replaying all the moments of him with his boyfriend. How could he lose him just like that?
Suddenly, the scenes playing behind his eyelids started to slowly fade away, and so did his happiness and hope.
“Dude, chill out! It’s just a test anyway. Why are you sweating over it so much?” Casey asked, chewing on his drawing pencil. It was art period, and as usual the trio – Luke, Casey and Tracey – sat together working on their artwork.
Luke couldn’t concentrate on his drawing. He had taken his history book with him to class, and was trying to do last minute cramming for the test. He looked up and shot an angry glare at Casey, “If I flunk this time, Mrs. Brooks will kill me. Not to mention, I won’t get any credits, and no credits means giving up on my future plans.”
“You are going extremes here, man!” Casey said, “How can anyone attending the art lecture ever flunk in any of their tests? Look at me; I never got an F in any test ... it’s usually D minus but not lower than that.”
“Oh please Casey!” Tracey sarcastically chuckled. “Don’t get Luke to study the way you do for tests.”
“Why not?” He looked puzzled at his girlfriend who rolled her eyes at him as response, and went back to her work.
“Luke, if you want a solution to your problem, then you need to listen to the expert.”
Luke was intrigued. He wanted to hear how Casey manages to get satisfactory grades without studying at all. So he listened to him intently.
“Right! Mr. Expert, go on; guide him to the path of success.” Tracey giggled and looked away, avoiding the glare coming from her boyfriend.
“So Luke, as I said, art is a saviour to us - if you can’t form words to answer your questions, draw them.” Casey was grinning wide with pride.
Luke pondered about what his friend told him and looked at Tracey for further elaboration. She kind of knew that it would be hard for Luke to understand her boyfriend’s “deep” thoughts, so she was all set to explain it to him.
“What he means is, draw some stupid drawings instead of answering the questions. If the teach is chilled out, she will laugh at them, otherwise you will get detention.” She explained.
“Which is very rare.” Casey finished her sentence. “I mean, it never happened to me. Every teacher found it cute and at least gave me a passing grade.”
“Casey dear, they just pitied you, nothing else.” Tracey said with an amused smile.
Casey shrugged. “Who cares? You get passing grades; that’s what’s important. Also, to justify your drawings, you can write out some relevant or irrelevant things. This way, it would fulfil the need for writing as well.”
“He has a point.” Luke agreed with him.
Tracey shook her head in disbelief. “Luke? I never thought you’d ever agree with him.”
“Neither did I. But it seems that this might get me through the test easily.”
“Thank you.” Casey bowed his head and gave a ‘aha! Beat that’ challenging look at Tracey.
Luke looked around the hushed classroom. Everyone was silently working on their test. His eyes fell on Noah, who happened to be watching him. Noah raised his eyebrows at him, and Luke quickly turned his eyes back to his paper.
‘Fuck! I am not able to answer a single question. Guess I have to do it Casey’s way ...’
Mercedes, who sat behind Luke, was sweating through the test. Although she knew all of the questions, she couldn’t remember all the dates. Her eyes averted to the front, noticing Luke was busy writing. She was surprised because usually Luke would be edgy looking here and there, sweating out his anxiousness and biting his pen throughout the test. Instead, he seemed calm.
She watched Mr. Mayer from the corner of her eyes, and assumed he was too engrossed into some other work to look at her. Taking the advantage of the situation, Mercedes quietly shifted in her seat to get a quick look at Luke’s test. It seemed filled up with words and ... ‘drawings?’
‘Do we have to draw as well?’She was horrified, oblivious to this information. She thought she must have missed something in the class when Mr. Mayer might have mentioned it. She was starting to freak out now.
Watching more of Luke’s test paper, she got such a clear view of it, that she could read it a bit. She guessed he was answering the question where it was asked to describe US Capitalism. Reading a glimpse of it, ‘In 1776, the United States of America was formed, and since Renaissance it began. The United States of America was formed in retaliation to the ruler of Britain imposing too many taxes and laws on the existing thirteen colonies. Before then, everyone was under tyrant rule of British King Charles XVI.’
‘Seriously?’ Mercedes’ mind stopped to wonder. She thought for few more minutes fighting with her thoughts, knowing it mustn’t be appropriate... or was it?
She shook her head and got back to her paper. After some time, as curiosity took over her, she urged another look at Luke’s paper. This time he was drawing something - A man standing at his doorstep ... with a gun? - Mercedes scratched her head, and continued watching – and that man was screaming at people ‘Stay off my property, you kids!’
Mr. Mayer coughed suddenly and Mercedes squirmed, seeing that he was looking at her. She immediately got back to her paper, feigning the act of busily writing. Her interest would go high up to the sky for taking another peek of Luke’s paper, but she held herself from doing so, and somehow finished the test. She checked her watch and saw that it was almost time for the last bell to ring, and their exam to end.
She looked at Luke’s paper once more. Again, he was drawing something ... a panda – scratch that – a cute panda, writing beside it – ‘This panda will cry if I get bad grades. (Just keep that in mind and do it for the panda, please?)’
Mercedes bobbed her head in disbelief. She figured out by now, Luke didn’t take this test seriously. A bubble of laughter was about to form in her throat when suddenly Mr. Mayer’s alarming voice came, “Mercedes, it would be good if you look at your own paper.”
She blushed and apologized, “I am sorry Sir; I am done anyway.”
Luke sceptically peeked at her over his shoulders and got wary. He covered his paper so Mercedes couldn’t copy from it. Mercedes looked at the back of his head and an amused smile formed on her face.
The bell rang and everyone submitted their test papers, ready to leave. When Luke was almost out of the room, Noah came up behind him and caught him by his arm.
Luke swivelled, and fell over Noah’s muscular body. Since he was the last one to leave the room, no one was around to see them. “What?” Luke asked with a happy grin.
“How did the test go for you?”
“Um... good.” Luke lied. He actually hoped Noah would be there to save his ass If he failed.
“Really?” Noah asked.
Luke raised his right eyebrow in question, “Is that hard to believe?”
“No! I mean I did see how deeply you were concentrating throughout the test, and I want you to know how proud I feel about you.”
“You do?” Luke said biting the inside of his cheek, feeling guilty.
Noah nodded and gave him a quick kiss. But little did they know that someone was watching. “Oh my god!” A gasp was heard, and they both froze in their places.
Today was awful for Gust. He couldn’t concentrate on anything he was doing. Even at practice, he had no interest in the game. His mind kept drifting over to somewhere else. The coach noticed this change in him and asked him what was going on, but Gust just said that he wasn’t feeling well today. How could he tell him what he was going through?
Right now he was at his locker getting his backpack so he could leave for home. But as he turned, he came face to face with Joe and grimaced. “Joe! What are you doing here after school?” Gust asked, being in an edgy mood.
“You said you had to go to practice before, so I waited for you to finish.” Joe said smiling.
Gust felt worse now. He had avoided Joe for the whole day. When Joe had come up just before he was about to go to practice, Gust had impulsively ignored him, saying he had no time now, and had just sprinted off to the gym area.
“Why?” Gust asked, meaning to ask him why he was being so nice to him, when all Gust was trying to do was hurt him. If he hurt Joe enough, Joe would break up with him, and then it would be easier at least for Joe, when he finally found out about Candes.
“Because my dear boyfriend, I didn’t get to see you much today, and I kind of missed you.” Joe said and stole a quick kiss. “And there’s something I have for you.”
Joe retrieved a blue box that he was hiding behind him, and handed it to Gust. “What is this?” Gust drew his brows closer as he observed the box.
“Open it and see for yourself.”
Gust smiled slightly, eyeing Joe for some time. “Okay.” He said in low whisper, and began to unwrap it. Opening the box, he took out a majestic looking silver wrist watch. It shined in the bright lights of the school lobby, and Gust’s eyes were captured by its striking appearance. “WOW!”
“Just for you, Gust.” Joe lovingly smiled.
“But why Joe? It must have cost you a lot, I can’t keep it.” Gust shook his head and was about to put it back in the box and return it to Joe, but Joe grasped his hand stopping him.
“It’s a way for me to show you how much you mean to me.” Joe’s eyes expressed sincerity as he talked. “Please don’t say no and break my heart.”
The childish pout on Joe’s face left Gust in awe and he giggled. “Alright, but I didn’t get anything for you.”
“No need.” Joe waved his hands to cut him off. “I didn’t get this for you to make you feel obligated to get me something in return.”
“Yeah, but still ...”
“Shut up and kiss me instead.” Joe said, and Gust couldn’t keep his lips apart from Joe’s anymore. They kissed for some time and then broke apart.
“Thank you.” Gust said gratefully, looking at the precious gift.
“Don’t mention it baby.” Joe said, “Hey, look on the back of it; I had something engraved for you.” He grinned ear to ear.
Gust flipped the watch and saw the words, ‘You own my heart’. He ran his fingers over them softly, taking them in. He was reminded of what Candes had asked him to do, and looked up at Joe with tears stinging his eyes. Gust pulled his boyfriend in a hearty embrace and closed his eyes, mesmerized with the alluring smell of his boyfriend’s aftershave.
‘I can’t do it. I can’t break his heart like that. He will be devastated. And I need him; damn I have fallen in love with him. I can’t be without him anymore... I will tell Candy, whether she likes it or not.’
Gust’s mind was taken over by his heart, and he had made his choice. It was Joe all the way; he was not ready to lose him. He held him closer to his body and dug his face in his nape, kissing it with utter love.
Candes angrily hung up on Gust. She couldn’t take it anymore. When she had called him, she had expected to hear that he had broken up with his boyfriend and was ready to come back to her, but all she got to hear is how much he loved that asshole, and how he can’t afford to lose him.
She held her head in her hands, placing her elbows on the table.
“Alright, I am all yours now.” Matt came to her table and sat in front of her. They were in Java and he had just finished his afternoon shift. “So what happened? Did you tell Gust what you wanted?”
“He doesn’t want to leave Joe. He is ready to give up on me, but he can’t lose him.” Candes fumed.
Hearing it, Matt was angered too. “I don’t know what that fucking bastard has done to my innocent little brother. I used to be so proud of him, and now I don’t even recognise him anymore.”
“I want my Gust back.” Candes pleaded, almost near to breaking down.
Matt soothingly held her arm and nodded, “We will get our Gust back.” He assured. “Our plan didn’t work this time, so what? Plan B would work out.”
“What’s Plan B?” Candes asked sounding intrigued.
“Let’s just say, if we aren’t able to keep Gust away from Joe, why not try it the other way around?” Matt asked, smiling wickedly. Candes wasn’t sure what this was all about, but she knew Matt was planning something extreme this time.
--- TBC ---
I posted a new story named "Eight Days" yesterday. Please do read it and let me know what you think. Here's the link : http://www.gayauthors.org/story/sidlove/eightdays-letthecountdownbegin