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  1. This story is worth reading for Quent alone. What a brilliant lead character. The mystery itself is well-paced, wrapping up its various threads along the way and not leaving too many loose ends for the final chapters. Highly recommend!
  2. dearpeter

    Chapter 11

    To be fair, Harry *did* say it to Alex's face in Chapter 9. I'm not necessarily planning to take the story in a new direction, but you're about to find out a lot more about how Harry and Alex interact with their individual worlds, and how much Alex's online persona matches with reality. Without giving anything away, those interactions will lead to perhaps the most important moment of the story so far. Again, breadcrumbs...
  3. dearpeter

    Chapter 11

    George has good intentions, drpaladin. Does he have good parenting skills and an ability/desire to change his lifestyle, though? re: Alex's bullying, I've been leaving breadcrumbs along the way. The way he spoke of his project partner in Chapter 9, the fact that he never talks about his friends, the way he latched onto Harry so quickly and so completely, the way he spends his weekends with adults like Christopher instead of kids his own age. It all leads into one of the key themes of the story, that maintaining a cool/popular online persona is a double-edged sword. It impresses people who don't know you, but it gives predators something to hold over you, and it creates the illusion that you 'have it all'. Where I'm from, it actually seems really common for online creators to be bullied at school, especially at all-boys schools. Boys who can dance are sissies, boys with a decent falsetto are gay, even a guy like Tom Daley has been upfront about his negative school experiences. Any kid who's well-known for doing something a bit different seems to cop it. In Alex's case, he's popular online, but not 'Hollywood' popular. He's not popular for a particular talent, either. A singer with a broken nose is still a singer. A dancer with a broken nose can still dance. If you're popular for being pretty, you're only ever one bad accident or malicious act from having it taken away, and people like Shaun prey on that vulnerability. Anyway, I'm rambling. For all the character building I've done, Alex is still just a pretty face with fucked up parents at this point. Now you're gonna start finding out who he is beyond the front door.
  4. dearpeter

    Chapter 11

    Harry's batting .667 with people finding out his sexuality so far. His mother still loves him, Alex's mother now hates him, and George doesn't seem too bothered. Will he accept those odds and take the risk to tell his friends? There's two questions at play here, as well. It's one thing to be gay, but it's another to be hiding your relationship with a kid who's very popular on social media. Thirty years ago, popular kids like Alex were unattainable Hollywood stars, but now they could literally just live around the corner. What's gonna happen when the girls find out *who* Harry's boyfriend is? Final note: You think Harry's terrible at regulating his emotions? Wait til you see how terrible he is with his hormones...
  5. dearpeter

    Chapter 11

    I think Harry and Bridget definitely have an interesting conversation ahead of them, wienerdog. Harry's a sensitive boy with two female best friends, and we already know how terrible he is at masking his emotions. I don't think either of his friends are going to be surprised when they learn the truth. As for Alex's next move, you have an interesting theory... Also, Riverdale. I've never actually watched it, but I know it's wildly popular with teenagers. Just something about the idea of modern teenagers with old-fashioned names really hinders my ability to suspend disbelief and enjoy a show like that. I know the source material is the Archie comics from the 1940s, so the character names make sense, but how am I supposed to take a 21st century teenager who calls himself 'Jughead' seriously? Imagine if I named Harry 'Jughead' ffs
  6. dearpeter

    Chapter 11

    Sunday night was a very good night in the Delaney household. It started the moment Harry disconnected his video call, when he received a link to Alex’s cloud drive. He immediately opened the link and found a folder labeled ‘Alex Fashion’, which contained every catalog image Alex had ever posed for. Despite Alex’s unquestionable beauty, and the presence of a few shirtless board-shorted images, it was mostly stuff Harry had seen before. Nothing that really set his heart racing. So he hit the back arrow and opened the next folder. This one was labeled ‘Alex Private’. Holy shit. This time Harry hit the jackpot. Am I dreaming? This is incredible. Harry feasted his eyes on dozens of Speedo-clad images of Alex, none of which had ever been posted on social media. Most were taken in Christopher’s studio, modeling various colours and patterns of swimwear, along with athletic shorts that left little to the imagination. Harry scrolled through dozens of images of pink, red, and green swimsuits, before landing on a black and white striped pair that took his breath away. How did I never know about these? Harry began tracing his fingers over the laptop screen, imagining he was caressing the folds in the Lycra fabric. He then double-clicked to zoom in, admiring the exquisite detail as the swimsuit struggled to contain Alex’s generous proportions. Come on, control yourself. Harry reluctantly let go of his growing erection and double-clicked to zoom out. However, he was soon set off again by just one more glance at Alex’s perfect chest and abs. Nope, this isn’t working. Conceding the battle, he glanced at his bedroom door and checked that it was still locked, before hastily standing up and pulling him t-shirt over his head. His jeans were dispensed with almost as quickly, leaving him clad in just his socks and boxer-briefs. That’s better. He sat back down and made himself comfortable against the pillows, before spending more time intimately familiarizing himself with the image. Finally, he saw all there was to see and clicked the back arrow, moving onto a folder labeled ‘Test Images’. It was absolutely worth the wait. Oh. My. God. Harry’s jaw fell slack as he scanned the treasure trove of Speedo-clad images, all of which were taken on Christopher’s pool deck. Alex was wearing the same powder blue Speedo that he’d worn on the day they first met, and if Harry had to guess, these images were probably even taken on that exact day. Harry’s fingers began to trace the laptop screen again, caressing the fold in the fabric where Alex’s penis stretched towards his left hip. His left hand began to trace a similar path on his own body, caressing the straining hardness that stretched the front of his boxer briefs. Eventually he moved to free his hard cock, as he locked eyes with the digital image of his boyfriend. He loved the way Alex’s eyes sparkled, and the hint of a smirk that showed he knew just how fucking sexy he looked. I wonder if there’s more photo shoots like this? The thought of arrowing back and continuing his search briefly entered Harry’s mind, but something about that little smirk drew him back in. He remembered how those lips felt, plundering his own just metres from that very pool deck. He remembered the feeling of skin on skin, as Alex pinned him and gave him the friction they both so desperately sought. Fuck. Harry was now trying to recreate that friction, as he squeezed and stroked his erection without lubricant. He thought about opening his bedside drawer, about taking out the lubricant that his mother had supplied, but time was now in very short supply. Oh Alex. He was rocketing toward a climax and not even a nuclear bomb could stop him. Oh Alex… Harry’s hand was now a mere blur, piloted by memories of Alex’s hard cock against his own. The burning shaft that completely overwhelmed his own every time they connected, yet somehow still loved his smaller proportions as its equal. Oh Alex… Harry was now right on the edge, lubrication long forgotten as pre-cum flowed freely. His senses were now overwhelmed, remembering the hint of morning toothpaste on Alex’s breath, the feeling of his fingers threading through still-damp hair, the sound of barely-restrained cries as they moved in a timeless rhythm… Oh Alex… Oh Alex… He was totally consumed, lost in a place where everyday worries no longer mattered. All he could think of was Alex’s taste, Alex’s smell, the feel of Alex’s heavy arousal overpowering his own… Almost there! …and that sexy little smirk on the computer screen. I LOVE YOU!! It was the final conscious thought that entered Harry’s mind, as his eyes rolled back in his head and his body began to seize. He was incapable of speech, of any critical thought, of anything other than fulfilling his carnal desire as he shot streaks of pearly white cum all the way up to his neck. … … Holy fuck. Harry slowly floated back down to earth, as fluid began to cool on his chest and abs. He had no idea how long he lay there, basking in the afterglow of an unforgettable orgasm, but eventually his breathing evened out and his heart rate began to slow. Damn, now I want a cigarette. He eventually regained his bearings, and looked down at the godforsaken mess. He’d never seen so much cum in one place, not even before the tongue bath he’d received during his first and only night in Alex’s bed. God, what a night. He thought briefly of the connection they’d shared that night, but it soon became a double-edged sword. Reality began to set in as he realized he had no idea when he’d get to kiss or touch or share another night of intense lovemaking with his boyfriend. In the meantime, all he could do was satisfy himself with that sexy smirk on the computer screen. And hope to God that was enough. * * * * * “Good morning.” “Hey.” Alex was staring at his phone when George entered the kitchen the next morning. He’d just received a ‘good morning’ text from Harry. “What are you smiling at?” “Nothing.” George merely shook his head, as he made a beeline for the coffee machine. He looked like he could use about three cups. “What are you doing up so early?” “I had swimming training.” “Oh, of course.” George looked embarrassed to have forgotten. “How did it go?” “Good.” Alex’s phone buzzed again. He looked down and began typing a reply. “When’s your next meet?” “Friday week.” “Okay.” Alex kept his eyes down, still typing. “Maybe I’ll come along.” “Huh?” Alex’s head snapped up. His attempt to contain his surprise wasn’t successful. “What? It’ll be nice to see you compete.” “Do you even know where the pool is?” “Ha ha, very funny.” Alex was only half-joking. “Seriously though, it’s been ages since I’ve seen you in the pool.” “I know.” This time Alex was deadly serious. They stood in silence for a moment. “If you don’t want me to come, I won’t.” “No, you’re more than welcome.” Alex hoped his father couldn’t read his uncertainty. “I just… wasn’t expecting it.” Alex put his phone back in his pocket and he loaded his dirty glass into the dishwasher. “Anyway, I should probably get ready for school.” “You should.” Alex stuffed the rest of his banana in his mouth and exited, leaving George to stare at the too-slow coffee machine in silence. * * * * * “Hey, fag.” Alex was hurrying through the school courtyard later that morning when he ran into a brick wall. A brick wall named Shaun Morrison. “Fuck off, Shaun.” “Excuse me?” Alex tried to step around the burly footballer but his path was blocked. “Is that any way to speak to your group buddy?” “Fuck. Off.” “Did you finish that assignment?” “No.” Shaun grabbed a fistful of Alex’s blazer. “Stop fucking me around, Wyatt.” “Get your hands off me!” Alex tried to shove the heavier boy off, but mostly just pushed himself backwards. “Where is it? It’d better have my name on it.” “It’s in my backpack.” “Get it out.” “No.” Shaun advanced again. “It’s on a USB, dickhead.” “Prove it.” “How?” Shaun stopped dead, trying to think of an answer. He was too stupid to come up with one. He instead shoved Alex into a bank of lockers. “Motherfucker!” “You got something to say, pretty boy?” Shaun was now hovering over Alex, using his five-inch height advantage to full effect. “Go on.” “Fuck off.” Shaun took another step forward, but this time Alex ducked out of the way. “You think you’re hot shit, don’t you? Running your little fan page with all your little fan girls.” Shaun regarded Alex with disgust. “How do you think they’d like you with a broken nose?” “Probably still better than they like you.” Shaun made a growling noise and made another lunge, but any further exchanges were interrupted by the final school bell. The few remaining students in the courtyard began to hurry inside. “If you even think about telling Mr. Armitage, I will fucking end you. Got it?” “Whatever.” “See you in class, bitch.” Shaun turned and walked away, leaving Alex to straighten his blazer and tie. Alex scanned his surrounds looking for witnesses, but even if any classmates had seen what happened, he doubted they’d want to testify against the six-foot-five football captain. He now had to decide whether he’d fight this battle alone. * * * * * “Who are you texting?” Chelsea and Bridget approached their lunch table and found Harry engrossed in his phone. They couldn’t see his screen, but whatever was on it was making Harry smile. “Is it your secret lover?” “Huh?” Harry looked up, momentarily panicked. He smashed the ‘lock’ button and stuffed his phone out of sight. The girls promptly took a seat on either side of him. “Tell us who it was.” “Yeah, who’s got you all smiley?” They pressed in closer, making Harry feel claustrophobic. He looked left and right, considering an escape route, but decided that would just create more questions. “It was nobody.” “We know you’re lying, Harry.” “Yeah, you’re a terrible liar.” They waited for Harry to try again. “Come on, tell us.” “There’s nothing to tell.” “Who was it?” “Nobody. Just… a friend.” “You have other friends now?” “Are you cheating on us?” Harry shook his head and looked down. He was still uncomfortable with the attention. The girls eventually gave up and took out their lunches. Celery sticks for Chelsea, an apple for Bridget. “How was your weekend, anyway?” “Good.” “Did you watch Tiger King like we told you to?” “No, I was busy.” “Doing what?” The girls were expectant again, instinctively knowing it was linked to Harry’s text messages. “Well?” “Are you gonna tell us or not?” “There’s nothing to tell.” “What were you doing, then?” “Just… schoolwork.” Harry began to stand up, but Bridget pulled him down. “Don’t go.” Harry reluctantly sat down again, while both girls shared a look of concern behind his back. “You know we’re just teasing you, Harry.” “We love you.” Bridget nodded to Chelsea, then swiftly changed the subject. “Did you guys see Riverdale last night?” “No.” “No.” “Well…” * * * * * “Excuse me, sir.” Mr. Armitage watched Alex walk toward the front of the classroom, USB stick in hand. All of Alex’s classmates had already filed out, leaving a small stack of hard-copy assignments on the teacher’s desk. “What can I do for you, Mr. Wyatt?” “Do you have a minute to talk?” “Sure. What do you need?” “Uh, I was wanting to talk to you about our last group assignment.” At that moment, Alex saw movement in his peripheral vision. Shaun Morrison was hovering menacingly outside the doorway. “You mean the one that’s due today?” “Yes.” “Did you need an extension?” “No.” Alex looked at the doorway again. Shaun was still hovering. “What did you need, then?” This time the teacher’s eyes followed as Alex looked toward the doorway. However, Mr. Armitage couldn’t see Shaun from his seated position. “Alex?” “Sorry.” Alex made his decision. “I was just wondering if I could email mine and Shaun’s group assignment to you.” “Sure.” Mr. Armitage looked to the doorway again, but couldn’t see anything amiss. “Just make sure it’s in my inbox by the end of the day.” “Yes, sir.” Alex waited around, almost hoping the teacher would ask more question. “Is that all, Mr. Wyatt?” “Uh… yes, sir.” Alex hesitated briefly, then turned and exited the classrom. When he arrived in the hallway, Shaun Morrison was nowhere to be found. * * * * * “Harry, wait up.” Harry was walking down the hallway to his final period History class when Bridget called out. She caught up to him, then dragged him by the wrist into an empty alcove. “What are you doing?” Bridget ignored Harry’s question, looking around to make sure they were alone. “We’re gonna be late for class!” “No we’re not.” Finally satisfied that they were alone, Bridget turned back to Harry. “Tell me what’s going on.” “How do you mean?” Harry knew exactly what she meant. “You spent all of last week moping around, then you ran away from the lunch table on Friday. Now you’re getting all giggly over secret text messages—” “It’s not what you think—” “I don’t even know what to think right now.” Bridget held eye contact with Harry, who predictably looked away first. Finally, she just decided to rip the band aid off. “Are you dating someone?” Harry went wide-eyed and immediately looked up. How much had Bridget figured out? “You don’t have to answer if you don’t want.” Harry’s silence was all the answer Bridget needed. They held eye contact, as Harry struggled with whether to tell her the truth. The silence was eventually broken by the school bell. “We should get to class.” Harry offered a small nod, then turned to walk away. Bridget reached out and grabbed his wrist again. “Harry?” She waited for Harry to make eye contact. “You know you can tell me about anything, right?” “I know.” “Just… remember that, okay?” Harry nodded again. Finally, Bridget let go of Harry’s wrist followed back into the hallway. They walked side-by-side the rest of the way to class.
  7. dearpeter

    Chapter 10

    No problem, KayDeeMac! Writing this story is just as much of a diversion as reading it George most definitely has some difficult decisions ahead of him. Is he ready to be the father that Alex needs? Glad you enjoyed the scene with Harry and Jill, as well. I've never lived through such an experience, but hopefully I captured the cringeworthiness of it all!
  8. dearpeter

    Chapter 10

    Thanks again for the kind words, Talo! I'm certainly playing the long game with certain plot lines, dropping breadcrumbs that won't make sense until multiple chapters later, so hopefully you continue to enjoy
  9. dearpeter

    Chapter 10

    You've got a pretty good read on the George/Jennifer dynamic, drpaladin. I think George has just taken it for granted that his son will be raised properly, and now he has to figure out what sacrifices he's willing to make to address Jennifer's shortcomings. I'm hoping that Jennifer comes across as more than just a generic homophobe, as well. She's a control freak and completely image-obsessed, but she does have an internal logic to her. Even if it's a shitty logic. On the flipside, it sounds like Jill's coming across as intended. She's the exact kind of mother that Harry needs.
  10. dearpeter

    Chapter 10

    Jennifer's had a long time to come up with a plausible explanation, yes. How long before George picks the same holes in her story that you've picked? Also, it's funny you mention the locality. I was deliberately vague about physical descriptions and localities at the start, but the story's evolved well beyond that now. For the record, I'm Australian, and the story is set in Sydney. Dunno what the emancipation laws are here, and if Alex's parents behave, hopefully I won't need to find out! I'm curious to know which phrases made you think it was British, as well. I thought I was doing a pretty good job of keeping it vaguely American!
  11. dearpeter

    Chapter 10

    The boys are in love and, at least in Harry's case, starting to think about how to physically express that love. How do Harry's awakening desires align with the separation that the boys are about to face, though? Stay tuned...
  12. dearpeter

    Chapter 10

    I did enjoy writing that final conversation, Brayon. I think it's important to explore who the boys are as a couple, without just leaping from crisis to crisis. Regarding Alex's parents, neither of them is perfect. I don't necessarily want Jennifer to come across as a generic homophobe, as I haven't yet laid out any reasons why she'd be that way. Don't necessarily want George to come across as a saviour, either. For all his calmness, his career path has basically forced him to become an absentee father. Can he adjust to his new role? Does he even want to? More importantly, does *Alex* want him to? Some interesting days ahead...
  13. dearpeter

    Chapter 9

    Hi again, Talo! To answer your first question, I think a good story is a good story. I certainly don't watch films with uninteresting plots simply because they're LGBT. Much like great science fiction is a reflection of/commentary on reality, great LGBT stories contain relatable characters and universal truths. It's not for me to say whether I'm telling a story of that quality, but I'm certainly trying to tell a story that reflects some of the best elements that I enjoy in other people's work. As for your second point... if characters always did the smart thing and took the right opportunity at the right moment, stories wouldn't be very dramatic, would they? Rightly or wrongly, Alex's previous social media formula was working for him. Will it even occur to him to change the formula to accommodate Harry? Would the usually-timid Harry demand such a change of Alex? Maybe something could happen that takes the choice out of their hands entirely...
  14. dearpeter

    Chapter 10

    The sun was low in the sky by the time Alex emerged from his bedroom. He’d been left alone by his parents for most of the afternoon, giving him a chance to setup new social media accounts and message his online friends to tell them he’d been ‘hacked’. A few influential accounts had already offered to promote him, posting Instagram Stories about the ‘hacking’ and encouraging their followers to support Alex. As a result, he already had 1,000 new followers. Walking toward the kitchen, he began to pick up the sound of raised voices. They were coming from his parents’ wing of the house. He decided to bypass the kitchen and crept towards his parents’ bedroom. “It’s full of half-naked men!” “So? There’s just as many half-naked women.” “You’d know.” “That is so beside the point.” Alex stayed close to the wall, keeping his footsteps as George continued. “Where’d you get this ‘pedophile’ idea, anyway?” “Excuse me?” “I’ve never seen you moderate Alex’s social media before. What gave you the idea that he’s being groomed?” “I never said he was being ‘groomed’.” “You said pedophiles are sending him private messages.” “They are. They have been for years!” “How do you know that?” “Because I’ve seen the messages.” “How?” “Is it really that important, George?” George paused and regrouped. “What makes you think they’re pedophiles?” “Because of the things they say to him.” “Like what?” Jennifer didn’t immediately respond. “I’d really rather not get into it.” Alex grimaced, remembering the messages his mother was talking about. It had been confronting to receive nude requests as a young teenager, but as he’d grown older, he viewed them as little more than an occupational hazard. “Okay, let’s say I take your word for it. Has Alex been responding to their messages?” “No.” “And have any of these people been stalking him offline?” “Not to my knowledge.” “Okay.” George paused. “I have another question for you, then. If this has been going on for years, why are you only just deleting his accounts now? And why did you take the nuclear option instead of just blocking these so-called ‘pedophiles’?” Jennifer didn’t respond. Alex crept closer, straining to hear her words. “Are you going to answer the question?” Still no response. Alex crept another step closer. “So you have nothing to say to that?” “I don’t have to explain myself to you.” The tone of Jennifer’s voice put Alex on high alert This argument could boil over at any moment. “You know it looks like you deleted the accounts out of spite, right?” “I don’t care.” “It looks like you’re punishing him for being gay.” “That’s not what happened.” “It looks like—” “No George, stop.” Alex’s fight-or-flight instincts were now kicking in. “You can’t just come in here and start criticizing my parenting decisions—” “Ruining our son’s career prospects isn’t a ‘parenting decision’, Jennifer.” “When was the last time you even MADE a parenting decision, George?” Alex’s jaw dropped. He was now torn between his want for safe ground and his need to hear the rest of the argument. “Regardless of what you think of me, Jennifer, you should have at least called before making a major parenting decision like this.” “If I did, would you have picked up?” “For something like this, absolutely.” There was more to George’s response than Alex could interpret. “And even if I couldn’t, I shouldn’t have to learn about your ‘parenting decisions’ from a fucking STRANGER.” The room went silent as George waited for Jennifer’s response. It wasn’t immediately forthcoming. “Don’t you have anything to say for yourself?” “I don’t have to justify myself to you, George.” “You should at least justify yourself to Alex, then.” “I already have.” “That’s not what he told me.” “Then he’s lying.” Jennifer’s next words were conveyed with a quiet defiance. “Everything I did, I did to protect him.” “It sounds like the only thing he needed protecting from was YOU.” Alex scrambled for cover as the bedroom door slammed. He ducked around a corner and watched George stomp past with heavy footsteps, and listened as they continued out of sight and all the way to the front door. After one last check that the coast was clear, Alex made a mad dash down the same hallway and all the way back to his silent bedroom. Once there, he quietly closed the door and sunk all the way to the carpeted floor. Suddenly, rebuilding his online profile felt like the least of his worries. * * * * * Across town, Harry had some big worries of his own. He just didn’t yet realize yet. “Hey.” Harry looked up from his laptop and saw Jill standing in the doorway. She had an opaque shopping bag clutched in her right hand. “Hey, I didn’t realize you were home.” “Yeah, just got back.” Jill walked into the bedroom and took a seat at the foot of Harry’s bed. Harry put his laptop down and focused on her, or more specifically, on the shopping bag. A sense of dread was slowly mounting within him. “What do you have there?” “I, uh, picked up something for you at the chemist.” Harry’s sense of dread increased as Jill reached into the bag… Oh God, this isn’t happening. …and took out a box of condoms. Kill me now. Harry wanted to die. No method of death could be more painful than this living moment. “After our discussion this morning, I thought you might need these.” Jill avoided eye contact as she handed the box over. She then reached into the bag again and handed over a tube of lubricant. Harry immediately stuffed both items under his pillow, as if removing them from sight could erase the memory. “I, uh, assume you know how to use them.” “Yes.” “Good.” Kill. Me. Now. Jill was now looking at Harry, seeking eye contact. Harry looked up briefly, long enough to turn an even deeper shade of crimson, before looking back down at his bedspread. “Did you have any questions about the rules we discussed?” “About Alex sleeping over?” “Yes.” “No.” Harry began picking at a loose thread. “I mean, I don’t think it’s fair, but I guess that doesn’t matter.” “We can’t interfere in his parents’ decisions.” Jill ignored the fact that she’d already driven to Alex’s house to do just that. “I understand why Alex did what he did, but it still was wrong for him to run away in the middle of the night. George had every right to punish him.” “It’s not like Alex could call—” “I know, I know.” Again, Jill was sympathetic. “But as I said, we can’t interfere.” “Whatever.” Harry shook his head, but let the matter drop. Jill watched her son continue to pick at the loose thread, carefully considering her next words. “Alex seems like a nice boy.” A smile briefly tugged at Harry’s lips. “He obviously cares a lot about you.” “He does.” Harry nodded, still smiling. “Just… be careful, okay?” The smile disappeared. “How do you mean?” “I know you two have been… experimenting.” Oh God. Harry practically folded in on himself, attempting to disappear inside his hoodie. “I’m not stupid, Harry. I have ears.” Please, just end this pain. Harry now pulled the hoodie’s strings, reducing him to a mere pair of eyeballs inside a cotton prison. “Speaking of, I might need to buy you a new mattress. Especially if sleepovers become a regular thing.” KILL. ME. “Please stop.” “Okay.” Jill was now chuckling to herself, drawing sadistic pleasure from Harry’s embarrassment. “Do you have questions about anything else?” “No.” “If you need more ‘supplies’, just ask.” Jill laughed again. She simply couldn’t help herself. “Can we PLEASE not talk about this anymore?” “Okay.” Jill patted Harry on the leg, then stood up. She sought out eye contact one more time. “I really am happy for you, Harry. You deserve a nice boy like Alex.” “Thanks.” Harry relaxed his grip and allowed his face to partially re-emerge. “Anyway, I’m gonna make a start on dinner.” “What are we having?” “Tacos.” “Cool.” Harry nodded, then retrieved his laptop and turned attention back to his schoolwork. Meanwhile, Jill paused in the doorway, marveling at the boy who suddenly looked so grown up. Though he was horribly embarrassed right now, she could still feel the happiness that radiated from him as he basked in the warmth of his first love. All she could now was hope and pray that it didn’t end in heartbreak. * * * * * Long after the last taco had been devoured, Harry’s phone buzzed with an Instagram notification. ‘Alex Wyatt (@AlexWyattOfficial) has requested to follow you.’ A huge grin broke out on his face as he unlocked his phone and immediately accepted. A moment later, his phone starting ringing. “Hey there, Alex Wyatt Official.” “Hey!” Alex’s laughter was sincere, in spite of the joke’s stupidity. “How’s it going?” “Good.” Harry quickly got up and closed the bedroom door. “How about you?” “Good.” Alex seemed relaxed. A fact that genuinely pleased Harry as he sat back down on his bed. “I see you’re back up and running on Insta.” “I am. Already got a thousand new followers, as well.” “That was quick.” “Yeah.” Alex nodded. “A couple of my friends offered to do shout-outs, so that was cool.” “Nice.” Harry leaned back against his pillows, trying to get comfortable. “Have things settled down at your place?” “Not really. My parents had a pretty big domestic earlier.” “About us?” “Yeah.” Alex noted the concern in Harry’s voice. “You don’t have to be worried or anything. My dad’s still on our side.” “Well that’s something.” Harry didn’t look all that relieved. “I take it your mom’s still being an asshole?” “Yeah.” “I wish she was more like your mom.” “Trust me, you don’t.” Harry let out a slight chuckle, though it was mostly mirthless. “Why? What happened?” “Hold on.” Harry rolled to the side and grabbed the condom box from his bedside drawer. He held it in front of the camera for Alex to see. “Are those—” “Yep.” Alex’s laughter was a lot more genuine than Harry’s. “She bought them for you?” “Uh-huh.” “When?” “This afternoon.” “Wow.” Harry put the box away as his cheeks burnt a fiery red. “She tried to do the whole ‘birds and bees’ talk and everything.” “Jesus!” Alex was practically clutching his sides now. The absurdity of Harry’s experience was the exact distraction he needed. “I take it she, uh, heard us this morning?” “Apparently, yes.” “It sounds like she’s cool with it, at least.” “I guess.” Alex got serious again, processing the new information “It sucks that I can’t sleep over any time soon.” “Wait, what?” Harry froze. “I thought you were only grounded for a week?” “I am.” Alex’s expression didn’t fit the words. “I can’t see my mom letting me stay over any time soon, though.” “Well that sucks.” Grim reality set in. The thought of not feeling Alex’s touch for days or even weeks on end began to weigh on Harry’s mind. Regardless, Alex tried to be optimistic. “We’ll figure out something.” “Hopefully.” They sat in awkward silence until Harry not-so-subtly changed the subject. “What else is going on, anyway?” “Not much.” Alex was happy to play along with the distraction. “Just been working on rebuilding my Instagram.” “Are you gonna upload all your old photos?” “Dunno yet. Maybe.” “You should.” “Why?” “So I can look at them all again.” Alex laughed, but soon realized Harry was deadly serious. “You know all my old modeling pics are saved in a cloud folder, right?” “Really?” “Yep.” “Can you link me to it?” “Why?” Alex’s voice took on a teasing tone. “You wanna check out my body?” “Absolutely.” Alex laughed again at Harry’s utter shamelessness. “Okay, I’ll send you the link.” “Thank you.” Alex looked off-camera toward his laptop. “Anyway, I should probably get going. Still gotta type up this assignment.” “About the World War One artists?” “Yeah. It’s due tomorrow” “Fair enough.” Neither boy seemed in any hurry hang up first. “I really should go.” “You should.” Harry began to giggle as Alex still made no move. Alex looked between his school assignment and Harry’s smirking face. “Stop judging me.” “What? I didn’t say anything.” “You didn’t have to.” Alex looked at his laptop screen again. “Okay, I’m really going this time.” “Sure you are.” “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” “Uh-huh.” Another moment of silence, but this time Alex’s mood really did seem to shift. “I really do need to get this done.” “Okay.” Harry decided to stop screwing around. “I’ll hang up first then.” “I love you.” The words hit Harry like a sucker punch. He stared down the barrel of his phone camera, dumbfounded. “Harry, did you hear me?” “Yeah.” He still wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to hearing the words. “I love you.” “I love you, too.” They locked eyes down the camera barrel. As always, Harry broke eye contact first. “Okay, I’m going now.” “Okay.” Alex reached for his phone. “Wait, don’t forget to send me that link.” “I won’t.” Alex gave Harry a sly wink. “Who knows? I might even slip a surprise or two in there.” “Okay…” Harry couldn’t even begin to imagine what the ‘surprise’ might be. “Anyway, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” “Okay.” “Love you.” “Love you, too.” “Goodnight.” Alex blew a soft kiss to the camera and then hung up, leaving Harry to wonder what he’d done to deserve such an amazing boyfriend.
  15. dearpeter

    Chapter 9

    It's fair to say Jennifer lost the battle, but hasn't yet given up on the war. She is, unfortunately, a woman who's used to getting her own way and having things exactly how she wants them. I guess we'll just have to wait and see if she grows from this.
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