A week had passed since anyone had spoken to Cid. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. Billy tried to talk to him, for all the good it did.
The only thing on earth Cid wanted to do was paint. Maybe sketch, but either way he wanted to be away from everyone and not have to talk. Lord how he hated to talk. His words were always misconstrued, twisted, or taken out of context. Why the hell should he try anymore?
Today was especially awkward. He could feel Billy’s eyes on him and it made him more and more uncomfortable.
He had to remind himself that not everyone was the jerk wad who’d cheated on him right out in the open, but he had a very hard time telling him the daily affirmation. For all he knew Billy was worse. No one could be better, that just wasn’t possible, was it?
As the professor prattled on about a particular composition, Cid doodled in his notebook. He loved to write and draw ever since he was a tot. As a grade schooler his notebooks would be half works of art and half notes. How he ever passed he didn’t know.
Cid rolled his eyes and knew the voice. It was Billy of course.
“What’d I do wrong?” Billy asked. His face looked so innocent and yet for all Cid knew he was a letch in disguise who had the act down solid. He was a young man and in college; young men were turned into assholes. Just ask his ex.
“Chill.” Was all the reply he could muster. He didn’t like to get in trouble in class believe it or not. He honestly just wanted to be left alone.
“Is it a fucking crime to ask you out for coffee?” Billy grumbled.
Half of Cid wanted to react with a ‘hell yeah it is’ but he actually felt a twinge of regret for a second. Was the possible anymore? Was he being too mean to this kid?
“No. It isn’t.” Cid responded, his tone a little softer. Maybe, just possibly this kid wasn’t a wolf in sheep’s clothing after all. He truthfully looked to be on the verge of tears.
“Try being a human once, it might take hold.” Billy spat back at him and turned to watch the professor.
Ouch! I didn’t think he had that in him. Maybe I’ve been too cold?
After digging deep inside himself and sketching out another elaborate ‘B’ in his notebook, Cid shut his eyes for a moment and ran his fingers through his hair. The beanie he always wore was warm, it usually was, but it was his ‘look’ just as the boots and ripped up clothing were. He wanted to be the badass so nobody would approach him.
Now the one that wanted to that seemed human he was shoving away faster than anything.
Fine. Fine. Whatever. It’s coffee, Cid. Chillax you moron.
“Billy?” he whispered.
At first he was ignored and he saw the young man quickly swipe at his face.
Jesus. I got to him that badly?
“Hey…I’ll goto coffee.” He figured being direct would be better than pussyfooting around. He hated that worse than most anything.
The sweet, beardless face turned in his direction.
“You mean it?”
“Absolutely. Café or…?”
“Didn’t you say you had your own?”
Crap. Yeah, he did say that. Oh what the hell huh? In for a penny, right? He could always report him to the dean and get him on the security list if he caused trouble.
Cid felt a stab of anger. How sad was it that he had to already think that far ahead to have someone arrested and a restraining order used?
“Yeah, I do.” He said. “There? About 3?”
“I’ve got class then. About 4?”
That wasn’t too late for coffee, not in college. Hell, Cid was going to be up until about 1 am again just catching up on homework.
“Deal.” He agreed and gave Billy a faint smile.
“Cool. Write down your room, I’ll find it.”
With his nerves mostly in check, Cid wrote down his dorm number and ripped it from his notebook. But he couldn’t bring himself to pass along the info just yet.
“Wait, what’s yours?”
Billy knitted his brows. “Why?”
“I’ve…had some issues. It’s only fair. Besides, I might want to see your room too.”
Either that was a flirt of a threat, Cid couldn’t decide which. But it seemed to work.
“Here.” Billy handed him a slip of paper. “I’d like to show you.”
Was he for real? His hand was shaking. Am I that scary?
“Thanks.” He let out a breath and passed his number to Billy. “Back atcha.”
That beautiful, brilliant smile was back and Cid could tell this kid was for real.
“I can’t wait.” Billy beamed.
For the first time in forever, Cid had to admit; neither could he.
* * * *
At four on the dot, a knock was heard on Cid’s door. He actually snuck a quick look in the mirror and made sure his hair and beanie looked good. He’d trimmed his goatee that morning so he knew he looked pretty hot.
Wait, what? This wasn’t a date. This was coffee.
Cid opened the door and saw Billy with his backpack missing. It was so big that not having it caught his eye first thing.
“Oh wow, I bet your back and shoulders feel better, huh?”
Billy cocked a brow. “Oh! Right, yeah.” He snickered. “I swear I feel like a camel with it on. Carrying my life on my shoulders. They’re taking a real beating.”
They paused and Billy shifted his weight back and forth. “Um, aren’t you going to invite me in?”
Cid had to stifle a laugh. What was this, the 1950’s? Who was this polite anymore?
“Come on in, kiddo. I need you to tell me which coffee you want.”
With a spring in his step, Billy joined him and perused the selections of coffees. He chose a dark blue pouch from the back and handed it to Cid.
Cid nodded and looked at the type. French Roast.
Of course it’d have to be French.
“Coming right up. I like Colombian myself.”
“Make yours first…I can wait.” Billy offered.
“But you’re the guest, right? I mean, that’s what my foster folks always told me. What little company we had we always had to wait.”
“Uh yeah, then do mine first if you want. I don’t really care about the coffee, Cid.”
The hair on Cid’s neck stood up as he turned to start making the beverage. He turned to face his guest.
“Oh? Just what the hell do you care about?” he asked in a direct, gruff tone.Billy backed away.
“Geez, dude. Just to talk, okay? Get to know you better. Holy fuck, is that such a crime?”
No, it wasn’t and Cid knew that, but his nerves were clearly getting the best of him.
“No.” he mumbled.
They waited in complete silence for a few minutes while the coffee brewed. Cid eyed his guest and saw that his posture was slumped, and he had one foot turned in the direction of the door; like he’d run given the chance.
“If you want me to leave, just say it.” Billy stammered. “You’re being this badass bully and I’m sick of it already. If you don’t like me at all just say so and we’ll never speak again.”
Wow, what could he say to that? He could reveal why he was this way or he could keep doing what he’d been. Covering.
“Don’t leave, okay? The coffee is done. If you want to stay, then do.”
He wouldn’t beg anyone, ever. He wouldn’t even say ‘please’.
Billy nodded and reached for a mug. After he put in his cream and sugar, he held the mug close to his face and drank the beverage quickly.
“Then be nicer to me. I haven’t done a damn thing wrong.”
No, he hadn’t. Shit, this was not going well.
“I’m sorry.” Cid uttered and locked eyes with the young man. “I don’t say that very often, so know it means a lot.”
He turned and started to make his own brew.
“Can we start over?” Billy asked in an innocent tone. “Friends?”
It was a tempting offer, one Cid knew he needed but wasn’t sure he wanted. He had friends back in his hometown, he just saw them rarely anymore. Someone brand new? This was pushing it, but if he didn’t, he already guessed at how much he’d hurt the guy.
“Friends.” He agreed and held out his hand for Billy to shake.
“Awesome.” Billy smiled. “Great coffee by the way. Where do you get it? I’ve never seen this brand.”
“Back home. I buy up a ton of it when I go back on break or my friends send me some to tide me over when I’m broke, which is now.” He laughed a little and the tension in the room dissipated.
“Oh man, don’t I know it. My folks are shelling out big bucks for me to be here; but I think it’s all worth it. I get to meet new friends like you and pursue my love of business at the same time.”
Cid nodded. “So what got you to major in business?” he couldn’t fathom a subject so dull.
“I love it. I love the whole business world, building your own business, running it, having great people work for you.”
“So, an entrepreneur?” Cid guessed.
“Mostly. I wanna get my feet wet first and think of what they haven’t yet.”
That sounded kinda cool.
“So, what about you?” Billy asked.
“Art major.” Cid answered. "Painting mostly, some sketching too.”
Billy grinned. “Very cool! I barely do stick figures. I did my best work on the computer, but that was just playing around.” He looked around the room. “Are these all yours?”
There were paintings strewn around the small dorm room, tucked behind the bed, propped up on the windowsill, and perched above the dresser.
“Every one of them.”
“Oil mostly. Some acrylic.” Cid glanced around and pointed to a work proper up behind his bed. “That one is my favorite. At least this week.”
Billy walked over to the artwork. It was a landscape scene, with trees full in their autumn color splendor with a mountain in the background. The sky was clear blue and there was a lake lapping at the base of the trees.
“Wow. That is really beautiful!” he started to reach his hand out, but pulled it away at the last second. “Sorry, it just looks so real. Like you want to jump in there and camp out.”
That sounded pretty appealing actually, though Cid just liked to prop up his easel and paint outside.
“I’ve never been camping.” He admitted.
Billy’s eyes widened. “Never? Oh, you’re missing out. The smell of the pines, the clean air, the scenery. Plus cooking on an open fire and watching the stars at night while sitting at a fire. You feel like the whole world is just you and your friends. The forest sounds lull you to sleep or the crackle of a fire while roasting marshmallows. Ahhh, I miss it. You should really go sometime.”
The way that his new friend described it made Cid want to go. He’d chosen the right major for sure if he could be this persuasive and evocative in all his dealings. He took a big swig of coffee when he discovered his throat was dry.
“Yeah. Maybe by summertime?” Billy sounded like he was asking a question, but Cid had no desire to answer.
“We’ll see I guess.” He shrugged.
“Yeah. I hope we will.” Billy spoke softly, his blue eyes firmly on Cid.
The rest of the afternoon got better as they discussed paintings and problem professors. Cid was actually not anxious for Billy to leave.
“See you in class, Cid.”
Billy reached out his hand and Cid assumed it was for another handshake, but he found himself pulled into a side hug; albeit a clumsy one. Human contact.
He backed away first and patted Billy’s shoulder. “Have a good night.”
“Yeah, you too.” Billy pursed his lips and turned to leave.
Cid shut the door slowly and let out a long sigh of relief. His mind was filled with visions and thoughts that he didn’t want to let himself think about ever again.