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    Ethan
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Noah and Jordan - 28. Chapter Twenty-Eight

*** NOAH ***

In the darkness I search for light.
Locked in despair, I struggle to be free.
I am caged, desperate and scared.
I look for strength, for I cannot falter.
I have to say goodbye.
But, I don’t know how.

“Jordan … I … I …” Breathe, Noah. Breathe. “I can’t … I can’t do this … it’s not fair to you … I think … I think we should … I think we should break up …” I say with sorrow in my heart.

“What do you mean we should break up?” he asks nervously.

“We shouldn’t be together … you deserve someone so much better … someone …” The words are too heavy. They drain the life out of me. This is much harder than I thought it would be.

“I deserve to be with you, Noah. I WANT to be with you,” he says holding onto my hand. “Is this because of the video or our fight?”

“No …”

“Then I … Is it because of something Sebastian said? Is he behind this?” I can hear the urgency in his voice.

“This is my decision, Jordan,” I say.

“Then why?” he asks, pleading to me for an answer. “Look at me, Noah.”

Because life isn’t fair. Because Im weak.

“Because I can’t be the boyfriend you deserve.” I can’t hold them back any longer. Tears are now running down my face. I lift my head to look at his beautiful face. “You are the most amazing man I’ve ever met … and you deserve someone just as amazing … someone who can be there for you … someone who can make you happy …”

“YOU make me happy. Every day. Every minute we’re together.”

“I just can’t hold you back anymore … it’s not fair …”

This is because of your mom. Did she say something to you?” he asks.

“She’ll never accept you or me. She’s not like your mom. It’s pointless …”

“How do you know that?” he asks. “She could change her mind.”

“Because, I know she won’t.” Now the floodgates have opened. “She never will. She’d rather die …”

“What?” he asks confused.

“She’d rather be dead than have a gay son … that’s how much she …” I can’t finish the sentence.

“Oh, Noah,” Jordan says holding onto my hands tightly, “I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine how awful that must feel. But she’s wrong …” he pauses for a second. “You say I deserve better? No. YOU deserve better. YOU are the amazing man. YOU are the one with the gigantic heart. YOU deserve a better family. They don’t deserve you.”

“They’re all I have …”

I know. And I can wait. I can wait for however long it takes.”

“I can’t ask you to do that, Jordan. Time won’t change anything.”

So, this is what defeat feels like.



*** JORDAN ***

A piece of me is slipping away.
A void is growing in my heart.
Emptiness is seeping into my soul.
From within, I am crumbling.
My world slowly disintegrating.

I cannot let him go.

“I thought you said you loved me,” I say to him.

He looks up at me again, tears in his eyes. “I do. With all of my heart.”

“Then how can you do this?” I ask deflated.

“I’m saying goodbye BECAUSE I love you, BECAUSE I want you to be happy.”

“You fight for the people you love,” I say. “You don’t abandon them.”

“But you don’t drag them along either,” he says wiping a tear from his eyes as he answers. “The entire time we’ve been together I’ve been selfish. I’ve wanted this relationship to work on my terms. I never gave you the support that you needed and —”

“That’s not true,” I say cutting him off. “You’ve always been there for me.”

“Have I? The gay bar … the gay club … coming out … I’m holding you back. You have so much potential, Jordan. You can do anything. But if you’re with me … I … I’ll just continue to hold you down. And I can’t do that. For once in this relationship, I need to stop being selfish. I need to put you and your happiness first. And even though this is killing me inside ... that means letting you go.”

I shake my head. “No, I don’t accept any of that. You say you don’t want to be selfish, right? Well, that’s exactly what you’re being right now. YOU are taking away MY choice. Don’t I get a say in any of this? Don’t I get to choose what I want?”

“You do —” he starts to say.

“Then I choose YOU! I always choose you,” I practically yell. “You’re underestimating just how much you’ve helped me these past few months. I’m only here now BECAUSE of you. I’m only comfortable as a gay man BECAUSE of you. Without you … I … who knows where I would be. I’d be lost. But all of this … everything that’s happened in the past few months … that’s because of you. You’re not holding me back, Noah. You’re helping me grow. If you want me to be happy then you’ll stay! If we stick together, we can do this Noah. I will always be there for you even if your family isn’t.”

“I just can’t let them go,” he says.

“You can’t let go of people who don’t accept who you are?” I ask.

“It’s not just my mom … I’ll lose everyone … my brother … my sister … my nephews and nieces. I’ll never get to see them grow up … I … I can’t …”

“But you’re willing to let me go?” I ask with a bit of anger in my voice. “Don’t I mean anything to you?”

He bites his lip and turns his head away. “You mean the world to me.”

“Then choose us.”

“I can’t, Jordan. I understand you’re angry. I get that. But one day you’ll come to resent me … resent this relationship … and I don’t want that to ever happen.”

I’m losing him, but I don’t know how to make him stay. I place my hand on his face and move in towards him. I lean forward and kiss him. I kiss him with all of my soul, with everything I have within me. He doesn’t break away. He kisses me back with the same passion. He eventually ends the kiss and lowers his head.

“Are you telling me you didn’t feel something there, feel something worth fighting for?” I ask him.

“I … ah …” He has nothing to say. He won’t look at me. “You know how I feel about you. I will always love you. But I’ve made up my mind.”

So, there is no convincing you, is there?” I ask, defeated.

“No.”

“You’re just going to cut me out of your life? Throw me away like I don’t matter?” I can’t help but feel angry. I know where he is coming from, but I want him to try harder for us.

He looks up at me, his eyes a dark red. “You’ll always matter.”

“So, this really is goodbye then?”

He nods his head in silence.

I let go of his hands. The energy in me is draining away. I somehow force myself to get off of the floor. My head is spinning. I feel as if I am free falling. Plunging headfirst into the ground.

“I’ll take my stuff and move out,” Noah says. “I’ll stay with Jenn for a while.”

“This is your house,” I say.

“It’s also yours. I’m the one who asked you to move in. I can’t ask you to leave now. Where would you even go?” he asks.

“I um … I’ll figure it out … I … I guess that’s not really your problem anymore … you don’t have to worry about me.”

I need to get out of here. I need some air. I know I should take some of my stuff now … but I can’t. I just need to leave. But before I do, I turn back and look at Noah. His head is buried in his lap.

“We could have been happy together,” I whisper before closing the door.



*** NOAH ***

My eyes are sore. My body aches. I didn’t sleep at all last night. I spent the entire time lying in bed crying. I just kept looking at the empty spot next to me wishing he were here, wishing I hadn’t pushed him away. But I had to. I had no choice. Hes gone and I have to move on. I have to live with my decision. But I feel lethargic. I have no energy to get up, no energy to face the world.

Aside from thinking about Jordan, I kept replaying the conversation I had with Sebastian on Monday night. It was partly that talk that made me finally decide to break it off …


--- The Previous Monday ---

“Noah you know exactly what I mean. You called me here because of Jordan,” Sebastian says.

“This has nothing to do with him. As I said, I called you here because I want to makes things right with you.”

“I know the two of you are dating.”

“Sebastian, I told you before

He cuts me off. “Save it, Noah. I know you two are together. It’s pretty obvious. You’re always at his games. Then I heard you two are living together. And if that wasn’t enough, I saw the two of you together at a gay bar a few weeks ago. He’s your boyfriend. I know.”

Interesting. He says he saw us at a gay bar … not a gay club. Why not just admit where he actually saw us? Regardless, there is no point in denying it anymore. He knows the truth.

“Fine, you’re right. Were together. But we’re not out publicly.”

“I was surprised when I figured it out. I knew you liked him, but I never got that vibe from him. My gaydar didn’t pick that one up. Anyway, what has he done now?”

Jordan hasn’t done anything,” I say. I’m not going to bring up the video. “As I said, this is about us, not him.”

“How come you haven’t told anyone?” he asks.

“Our choice. Perhaps the same reason why you haven’t told anyone about you,” I say. I want to remind him that we have leverage against him as well.

“But I have! I came out to my family about two weeks ago,” Sebastian says.

“Oh. And how did it go?” I know he was concerned about telling his family.

“They were surprised. My mom was devastated, but she seems to be coming around slowly. We still talk which is good. My dad, though, won’t talk to me. He pretty much told me he wants nothing to do with me. I’m no longer allowed to go back home. And my younger brother also wants nothing to do with me.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Even though I hate Sebastian, I’m not happy to hear his family has rejected him. I don’t wish that on anyone.

“I’m not surprised,” he says. “I knew it was a risk. My dad thinks there’s only one definition of who a man should be. Hes the one who got me into sports, and going to the gym, because he wanted me to be manly. Well, it’s also where I started noticing other men, so I guess that didn’t work out as planned! In my father’s eyes being gay doesn’t make you a man. And my brother agrees. So, they can screw themselves.”

“I thought you’re close to your brother,” I say. Sebastian told me how his younger brother was his best friend growing up.

“I thought so too. Out of everyone, his reaction surprised me the most. I didn’t expect that from him at all. But, what can you do?”

“Maybe, like your mom, they just need time and will come around too.”

“They won’t. It’s over. Neither my dad nor my brother will be part of my life anymore.”

“How can you say that so casually?” I ask.

“I say it casually because I have to. I don’t have a choice, do I? I can’t make anyone love me, or accept who I am. I knew this was a strong possibility before coming out. And I decided it was worth the risk. I’m at peace with my decision.”

“What made you decide to come out?”

“I feel like I'm starting a new chapter in my life. This is my last year of school. I got a job offer in Europe, so I’m actually moving in May. And I just want to start fresh. I don’t want to hide, and to be honest, I don’t care what other people think anymore.

So, I guess I don’t have that leverage to out him.

“That’s really good. I wish you the best of luck.”

“Thanks. What about you? Do your parents know? I remember you telling me they’re super religious.”

“They are. And no, they don’t know. I’m hoping to keep it that way for a while,” I say. That’s my subtle nudge towards the video.

“You’re in a relationship now. You’re going to have to tell them eventually,” he says.

“I’ll figure that you. But about keeping it secret —”

He cuts me off before I can finish my sentence. “And is Jordan okay to wait?”

“That’s something we’ll figure out together,” I say. I don’t want to talk to him about my relationship with Jordan.

“Look, I know you don’t trust me – and you have good reason not to – but I’m trying to be a friend. I know how scared you are of losing your family. I remember. I had to be okay with the idea of one day losing my parents and my brother. Is that something you can live with?”

He’s right. I don’t trust him. But he knows what I’m going through.

“I honestly don’t know …”

“Christmas, birthdays, everything. It’s done. I’ll never walk back into my parent’s house again,” he says.

“But your mom … she still loves you.”

“She does. But my dad made it clear, I’m not welcome. My brother is getting married next year. I was supposed to be his best man. Not anymore. He told me I’m no longer invited. I knew if I told them the truth, I risked losing everything. As I said, I knew I would be okay. But getting disinvited from my brother’s wedding … even I wasn’t prepared for how much that would hurt. If that happened to you, is that something you can be okay with?”

Would I be okay with it? Everything he just said is my worst nightmare; being rejected by my family. I don’t know if I would be okay.

“I don’t know …”

“I know it’s not an easy question, trust me, I’ve thought about it a lot these past few years. But you have to know the answer because it’s not just you. You’re with Jordan. And I don’t see how you can be with him and not tell your parents. You can’t have it all.”

“I know.” Hes right. I can’t have it both ways. I know that.

“I don’t know if Jordan is ready to come out, or how he feels. He might want to stay in the closet or he might even say he’ll wait for you. But for how long? He can’t wait forever. You can’t ask him to wait forever. There will come a time when he will resent you.”

“Jordan wouldn’t —”

“Yes, he will. You can’t hold him back. It’s not fair to hold him back.”

“I’m not trying to …” I know what Sebastian is trying to do. I need to get him out of my head. But it’s not working.

“If you can’t let go of your family, then eventually, you’ll have to let go of Jordan. And trust me on this, the longer you wait, the harder it will be to breakup with Jordan. Sometimes it’s best to just rip the bandage off in one quick motion. It will hurt like hell for a bit, but then it will be over.”

I need to get control of this conversation.

“Thank you, Sebastian, I appreciate your concern. And I trust in the meantime as I figure all of this out, that you won’t say anything to anyone.”

“I know you don’t think highly of me.”

“I never said that!”

“I’m not dumb Noah, I know you don’t. I know I acted like a jerk. It’s just that I’m not used to people saying no to me. I usually get what I want. I hate losing, and I know I can get way too competitive. But deep down I am a good person.”

That’s debatable. Good people don’t blackmail others. “I never said you weren’t one.”

“As for your secret, I won’t tell anyone. I’m not a fan of Jordan, I'll admit that. But I think coming out should be a personal choice, and I would never take that away from someone. If I ever came across something that could potentially out you, I would keep it to myself. But then again, in exchange for my friendship I would expect something in return,” he says.

And there it is. He practically just confirmed he’s behind the video and the threat. So, he won’t out someone, but he’ll blackmail them? How does that make any sense? And what exactly does he want in return? I hope to God he doesn’t say sex. He still can’t be angry about that night.

“And what would you want in return?” I ask.

He looks at me with this intensity. He’s thinking. “Oh, not much. Just that my friends get what they’ve rightfully earned. That’s about it.”

Team captain. It all comes down to that. I’m relieved he doesn’t want to have sex. I was never going to agree to that. But I also hate him for making me take away something that Jordan rightfully earned.

“I’ll see what I can do,” I say.

“Right. Anyway, I have to run. You have my number if you ever want to talk. You can trust me, Noah. I won’t hurt you,” he says.

You already have.

--- Present Day ---

I’m brought back to the present by the sound of my phone ringing. It’s Jenn. She called last night to see how my talk went with Jordan. She knew we were meeting, but I didn’t tell her I was going to end it all. I messaged her back that I’d call her in the morning. Clearly, she beat me to it. Im not looking forward to this conversation.

“Hey, Jenn.”

“Hey, Noah. How’s it going?”

“It’s okay.”

“How did it go last night? Tired from all the makeup sex?”

No point in delaying the inevitable. “Um … not so great … I broke up with Jordan.”

“You what!” she screams. “Why? Hang on, I’m coming right over, don’t you move a muscle!”

I guess I won’t be getting out of bed then.

Jenn is over here within minutes. She must have run at the speed of light. She demands to know the whole story. I tell her everything. My meeting with Sebastian (she seems to think this is all his fault), and what made me come to my decision.

“And so, I realized that I was being unfair to Jordan. I can’t drag him along. And as much as it kills me, I have to let him go.”

“So, you’re picking your family over him?” she asks.

“I have to,” I say.

“No, you don’t. Look, I know you love them, but they should love you for who you are.”

“After I met with Sebastian, my brother called. He wanted to know how our mom’s trip went. But also, because my nephew and niece said they missed me. So, we FaceTimed for a while. You should have seen them. They’re so adorable, and they’re growing up so fast! I still remember when my nephew was born. That was a year before I came here. My brother still lived at home. And I took so much care of the little guy. I’d play with him every day. I couldn’t wait to get home from school to see him. He would hold my finger as he started to learn how to walk. I remember when he first said my name and how cute he sounded. I love those children. And I would do anything for them. I can’t imagine not seeing them again. I don’t know what I would do. I know I talk about my mom and my dad … but honestly, Jenn … it’s them … my nephew and niece that I worry about the most. Not getting to see them grow up, their birthdays, graduation … weddings. I just … I can’t. It would kill me.

“I understand, Noah, I do. I know you love them. But your brother seems like a pretty cool guy. You don’t know how he’ll react,” she says.

“No, I don’t. But Sebastian didn’t think his brother would cut him off.

“Sebastian could also by lying,” she says.

“Why would he lie?” I ask.

“To get you to break up with Jordan. Because he’s sick in the head! Does he even have a brother?”

“He does,” I say. “I doubt he’s lying. I know hes messed up, but it felt like he was telling the truth.”

So, what does this mean for you? You’ll live a lie the rest of your life? You’ll go back home, date girls, get married and have lots of kids so your mom is happy?”

“It’s what I’m meant to do.”

“You’re meant to be happy, Noah! What about your happiness?”

“I can learn to be happy.”

“Noah, you shouldn’t have to learn to be happy, you should BE happy. You can’t change who you are. You can’t just date girls again. Do you not remember what it was like with Stacey?

“I can try.”

“Don’t you hear how wrong that sounds? That’s not natural; it’s not the way its supposed to be. Jordan loves you and you love him.”

“I do.”

“Hes your soulmate. You may never meet someone like him again,” she says.

I know.

“But you’ll throw it away just for your parents and your family?

“Jenn, you know it’s not that simple.”

“Noah, unfortunately it is that simple. Look, I wish you all the happiness in the world, but I know you, and I know one day you will come to regret this decision.”

“I know I will. But it’s just something I’ll have to learn to live with for the rest of my life.”



*** JORDAN ***

I’ve never felt so lost in my life. Never so unsure of my destiny. What do I do without Noah? How do I pick up the pieces and move on? I’ve spent the last few days lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. After I left Noah’s place, I went to a bar to have a drink. Then another. And another. I’m not sure how many I had or when I passed out. All I remember is waking up in Aiden’s bed with a massive hangover. Aiden kept calling me that night to find out where I was. The bartender answered my phone and told him, so Aiden came and brought me back to his place. He’s been sleeping on the sofa ever since.

“Hey, get up, come eat something,” Aiden says to me.

“I’m not in the mood, you go ahead.”

“You need to eat something. Let’s go.”

“I’m fine, trust me.” I say. How I wish I had my small, cramped, little dorm room right now. I want to run away and hide, curl up into a ball and not face the world.

“I’m not taking no for an answer. If you don’t get up then I’ll bring food to you in bed, and force it down your throat. I'm dead serious.”

“Please, Aiden just leave me be.”

“Sorry dude, nice Aiden is now vacation. I gave you a few days to stay in bed and be sad. Now, you’re getting out of bed whether you like it or not. You know I can be just as stubborn as you.”

“Fine, I’ll come.” I should get out of bed.

I have to say, Aiden has been absolutely amazing. He didn’t go to work the next day. He stayed and we talked for hours. He didn’t have any answers, but just having him there helped. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without him. He’s really been there for me in my time of need.

I get up and make my way to the kitchen.

“Once you’re done eating, you’re going to school, he says.

“I honestly don’t feel like it man.” I missed all of my classes on Wednesday and Thursday.

“Dude, you only have a week left of classes. You need to go. You don’t want to fall behind just before exams. Plus, it will be good to get out of the apartment, and focus on something else. A change of scenery will help clear your head.”

“And what good will that do?”

“Jordan, it’ll help, trust me."

“I can get the notes from someone else.”

“Jordan,” Aiden says seriously, I’m not taking no for an answer. Now go shower, shave and change your clothes. You really stink, buddy.”

“I hate you …” I say.

“I know. Now go!”

After some convincing, Aiden manages to get me out of the house. I wasn’t planning on going. I just have no energy for anything. But he’s right. I can’t just stay like this forever. I have to move on with my life, no matter how much I don’t want to. Plus, he’s right, I can’t fall behind. Exams are just around the corner.

As for the lecture, I barely pay attention. I can’t. I still can’t stop thinking about Noah, about that night. About just how much I miss him. Over the past few days I’ve gone through every emotion possible, denial, anger, depression. Now, I just feel incomplete.

The moment I step out of the classroom I notice her. Jenn is leaning against a wall. She sees me too. I start to walk off as she calls my name. She’s called and texted me several times over the past few days, but I haven’t returned her messages. I wasn’t ready. Even now I’m not ready. But I shouldn’t run away. This is not her fault. I stop and turn around.

“Hi,” I say as she joins me.

“Hey, Jordan. How are you?”

“I’m okay.”

“That’s good to hear. But you may want to tell your face that. You look like crap.”

I can’t help but laugh. The comment breaks the ice between us. “Thanks. It’s been a bit of a rough week if you didn’t know.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I tried to call you.”

“I know … and I’m sorry … I just … I wasn’t ready.”

“I get it. I’ll leave if you’re still not ready.”

“No, that’s okay. You clearly went out of your way to find me, I say.

“I knew you had class today so I thought I would try. Do you have time to sit and talk?” she asks while gesturing towards a nearby bench.

I look at my watch. I have time. But do I feel like talking to her? I look back up at Jenn. Again, none of this is her fault. I shouldn’t be rude to her.

“I have time.”

“So, how are you feeling?” she asks when we sit down.

“To be honest, I don’t know what word to use. At first, I was just surprised. I didn’t see it coming. I kept thinking about what I could have done differently. Then I was angry … then depressed … then angry again … and now I just feel … I just feel empty I guess.”

“You know there are toys you can put up there for that,” she says with a smile. “Sorry, I know that was way too soon.”

“It’s okay.” It was kind of funny.

“I tried to convince him to change his mind.”

“And?” I don’t know why I ask. I already know the answer.

“Nothing. He won’t budge.”

“He can be really stubborn,” I say.

“I know, but we still love him.”

“We do.”

So, what are you going to do?”

“What can I do? I tried, you tried. We both failed. I don’t see what else either one of us can do.”

But you have to do something. This can’t be the end. You two are meant to be together,” she says.

“That’s what I thought. And as much as I want to fight for him Jenn, I’m not sure I should.”

“What? What do you mean? Of course you should! Don’t you want to be with him?”

“With all my heart.”

“All the more reason to fight for him!” she says rather loudly.

“No. I have to respect his feelings. I can’t be that guy that makes him choose between being with me, or being with his family. I’ve thought about this a lot. If I’m the reason he loses his family, then he’ll never forgive me for that, he will resent me for the rest of his life. And even on a personal level, I don’t think I could live with myself, knowing I’m the reason he lost something he really cares for.”

“But he wouldn’t lose them because of you, he’d lose them because they are arrogant and stupid!”

“I know. But do you think Noah will see it that way?”

She pauses before answering. “I’m not sure.”

“As much as I don’t want to, I have to respect his decision.”

So, it’s over?”

“I think so.

“I’ll talk to him again. I’ll find a way to convince him,” she says. “This can’t be it.”

“You’re a good friend, Jenn. I’m glad he still has you. I know you’ll look after him.”

“I will. But clearly, I’m not a good friend. I failed him, and I failed you.”

“Hey, it’s not your fault, Jenn. I know you tried. And that’s all I can ask of you. In the end, this was Noah’s decision.”

So, what does this mean for you then in terms of your future?” she asks.

“It means I’m taking a long-ass break, and plan on being single for a long time. I need to figure out what to do with my life.”

“Do you think you’ll go back to dating girls or find another boyfriend?”

“I honestly don’t know, Jenn.”

“Well, we could always try round two?” she says with a laugh. “Sorry, I know this isn’t the time to joke.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I say with a smile.

“Life’s a bitch.”

“Tell me about it.”

“But seriously, I hope through all of this that we can still be friends …”

I can help but laugh. “Oh, Jenn.”

“What’s so funny? I’m serious!” she says.

“I know you are! I just find it a bit ironic. When I broke up with you for Noah you didn’t want to talk to me. Yet here we are after Noah breaks up with me, and we’re chatting like old friends. I never expected this.”

“You’re right, its a weird situation. But I mean it. I know it’s complicated with Noah, but I don’t want to lose you as a friend. I really enjoy having you in my life. Youre a good guy, even though you dumped me.”

“Thank you. You’re not so bad yourself.”

That makes her smile.



*** NOAH ***

Studying is usually easy for me. It’s what I do. Yet, I’ve been sitting here for hours staring at the textbook in front of me, rereading the same page over and over again. Nothing is sinking in. It’s been like this for days. I can’t concentrate. I can’t move on. Exams started the other day. My first was a disaster. I’d be surprised if I passed. I’m barely getting any sleep. I can’t stand being in that bed anymore. All I do is just look at the empty spot beside me. Last night I tried sleeping on the floor, but that didn’t help either. Everything about that apartment reminds me of him. I spend most of my time away from there.

Right now I’m sitting in a coffee shop trying to study. I’m waiting for Jenn. She was supposed to be here half an hour ago. She has notes from one of the classes I missed. Of course she’s late.

“Hey, Noah!” I look up to find a strange guy at my table. “How are you?”

I have no idea who this is. He looks familiar though. “I’m fine …” I say rather confused.

“You have no idea who I am, do you?”

“I’m sorry, I’m drawing a blank. I know I’ve seen you before, but I can’t remember where.” He sort of looks like someone I know.

“It’s me, Carter, from English class last semester.”

“Of course!” And then I have my light bulb moment. I catch myself before I call him the ‘pretentious brat’. “I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you. You look completely different.”

His hair is different, his clothes, he isn’t wearing glasses. He looks like a completely different person.

“Yeah, I know. I thought a bit of change would be nice. How have you been?”

“Good, good … just busy with school and all. You?”

“Same. Just counting down the days until it’s all over,” he says. “I kind of miss that English class.”

“Yeah, it was an interesting class.”

“I liked debating you; you really know your stuff. How’s Jordan, by the way?” he asks.

“Um, okay I guess. I don’t really see him much anymore,” I say.

“Oh, that’s a shame. It seemed like you two were good friends. You know, I actually wished Jordan had been my partner. You just got to him before I could.”

What is he trying to say? “Yeah, it was great working with him.”

“Hey.” A guy comes and wraps an arm around Carter's waist. “Sorry I’m late.”

“No worries. I ran into an old classmate. This is Noah from my English class. And Noah, this is my boyfriend, Mateo.”

“Nice to meet you,” he says to me.

“Nice to meet you too,” I say.

“I’ll let you get back to studying,” Carter says. “It was nice running into you. Bye!”

“Take care.”

That was … interesting. I had no idea hes gay! And it sounds like he liked Jordan too. Without even thinking about it I pull out my phone and start to type a message to Jordan.

“You will not believe who I just ran into …”

As I type I realize what I’m doing. This isn’t a good idea. I stare at the screen for a few minutes. I really want to hit the send button. It’s been so long since I’ve spoken to him. But I delete the message and put my phone away.

Every so often I look over at Carter and Mateo. They look happy, sitting in a booth together. No one even seems to notice them or care. They are lost in their own world. And the world is letting them be. I can’t help but be jealous. I could have had that, but I decided to chase it away. I’m lost in thought when Jenn finally arrives.

“Hey, Noah!”

“About time!” I say to her annoyed.

“I’m just a few minutes late,” she says casually.

“You’re an hour late,” I snap back at her.

“What’s gotten into you?” she asks.

“Nothing. Do you have the notes?”

“Yes. Here, take them,” she says passing them to me.

“Thank you.”

Ugh, this girl. As she takes her stuff out of her bag, she moves all of my books to the side. Then she takes out her pen and starts tapping it on the table annoyingly.

“Can you stop?” I ask her.

“What?”

“The pen! It’s irritating.”

“Fine. Geez, someone is in a mood.”

I ignore her and go back to her really messy notes.

“So, you won’t believe who I just saw outside!”

“Jenn, I don’t care; I’m trying to study.”

“What is up with you today?” she asks.

“What? I’m just trying to study.”

“You’re being a real prick, you know that, right?”

“I’m a prick? You’re the one who shows up late, is loud, and won’t stop talking!”

“All right, I don’t know what’s going on with you today, but I’m going to go sit over there. Once you’re done having your little hissy fit, call me back,” she says getting up. She starts to grab her binder and papers.

“Wait, you’re right. My mood is so off today. I’m sorry.”

“What’s going on with you?” she asks sitting back down.

“I’m not getting enough sleep. I’m just really stressed out about exams. None of this stuff is sticking in my head.”

“I’ve seen you stressed out before, but you don’t usually act like this. This is about Jordan, isn’t it?

Yes. This is a lot harder than I thought it would be.” I tell her about the pretentious brat (I should stop calling him that) and his boyfriend. “I’m jealous. Looking at them it just hurts more, you know? Just before you came, I pulled out my phone and I was going to text Jordan to tell him about seeing the brat … but then I realized what I was doing and … I just miss him.”

“You still have time to fix this,” she says. “It’s not too late.”

“He probably hates me now,” I say.

“He doesn’t, Noah. He loves you.”

“I know. Anyway, let’s just get back to work. We have a lot to do.”

Jenn is barely silent for even a minute. “Oh, I forgot to tell you who I met outside!”

It was someone dressed up in a giant Elmo costume. Why? I really don’t know.



*** JORDAN ***

I’ve never been a nerd, but these past few days I’ve devoted myself, devoted my life, to my studies. Every night I stay at home and study. I don’t go out. I don’t socialize. I just read. Studying helps. It keeps my mind focused. It keeps me occupied. It’s a much needed distraction. Plus, I need to focus on what’s important, and this is important. If I ever want to get into med school, I need to step up my academic activities. And because of my dedication to studying, so far, my exams are going very well.

Aiden is surprised by my commitment. He’s proud, but says I should take at least some breaks and go out. So far, I have refused. But tonight, I take his advice. My volleyball team is getting together at a pub to celebrate the season and Im going to join them. Now, I know Sebastian will be there. Do I want to see him? No. But I’m not going to let him stop me. I’m not going to let him dictate my life. But, just in case, as an extra layer of protection, I’m taking Aiden with me.

“You’re wearing sweatpants?” Aiden says with a look of disbelief.

“Yeah … what’s wrong with sweatpants?”

“What isn’t wrong with sweatpants? Dude, go change. Put on something decent.”

“These are clean!”

“I said decent, and by the looks of it, they aren’t clean. Don’t dress like a bum. And that means no hoodies!”

I don’t dress like a bum. I usually dress quite nicely I’d say. “But it’s cold, I can take

“No hoodies!”

Fine … but I don’t have much else that’s clean,” I say. “My stuff is still at Noah’s place.”

“Right, sorry, forgot about that. Here, take something from me. These jeans should fit … and here, take this shirt.”

“Is everything you own super tight?” I ask once I’m dressed. And I thought I wore skinny jeans!

“It’s called fitted, and it looks good! Not everything is supposed to be baggy. You don’t always have to look like a bum you know.”

“I don’t dress like a bum!

“Sure buddy.”

“Sure buddy,” I mutter under my breath. “Stupid Aiden.”

“Hey! I heard that.”

“You were meant to!

——— 

A hot stuffy bar full of friends, people milling about, laughing and drinking. Flowing beer. It’s not a bad way to spend a Friday night and distract myself. It was a good idea to get out of the house. Plus, I always like hanging out with my volleyball crew. Surprisingly, Sebastian is not here. I thought he would be, seeing how he is the out-going captain, and this team was his pride and joy. But I guess hes moved on. Trust me, I’m not disappointed.

“Thanks for dragging me out tonight,” I say to Aiden.

“Anytime my man,” he says patting me on the shoulder. “It’s good to have a change of scenery once in a while.”

“It is. I’m having fun tonight.”

“Jordan!” Liam, one of my teammates who wanted me to run for captain, says running up to me.

“Hey man, what’s up?” I ask.

“Did you see Sebastian yet?” Liam asks.

“I haven’t. I didn’t even know he was here,” I say.

“So, you don’t know!” Liam says excited.

“I don’t know what?” I ask confused.

“Sebastian brought a date.”

“Okay, and?” What’s the big deal with that?

“It’s a dude!”

“Oh, that’s interesting.” I feign surprise for the sake of my friend (he really is excited). But I’m not surprised at all. It sort of makes sense. It’s probably the last time he’s going to see these guys so might as well go out with a bang.

“I know, right? He’s telling everyone he’s been gay for years, and he finally decided to come out to the team before he leaves for Europe. I totally did not see that coming! I’ll be back, going to see what others are saying.” And without even pausing Liam darts back into the crowd.

“Well, that’s an interesting turn of events,” Aiden says.

“It is. Good for him. I’m glad he’s comfortable enough to come out to everyone.”

“Yeah, after ruining things for you.

“We don’t know what he said to Noah,” I say. I don’t know why Im defending Sebastian.

“Well, from what I’ve heard from you, it probably wasn’t good.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve put Sebastian behind me now. I just want to forget about him and move on.”

I notice Sebastian and his date a couple of times throughout the evening. They are really close to each other, holding hands, being affectionate, really acting like a new couple. I can tell Sebastian is enjoying this, the freedom of being who he truly is for everyone to see. There is barely a moment I don’t notice a smile on his face. No one, as far as I can tell, is openly repulsed by him. Though I catch snippets of conversations as I walk by. I hear one teammate ask if Sebastian had been checking them out this entire time, and how the thought makes him feel uncomfortable. So, I guess, not everyone is okay with Sebastian being gay.

For most of the night Aiden is beside me as we make our way through the crowd, talking to people. I’m not trying to avoid Sebastian, but it seems like we continue to move in different directions; our paths never cross. It’s only when Aiden takes off to use the washroom that I notice Sebastian is standing right beside me.

“Hey, Jordan,” Sebastian says to me.

“Hi, Sebastian.”

“How’s it going?”

“Good, you?” I might as well be civil.

“I’m okay.”

“You’re the talk of the party tonight,” I say.

“I know.”

“Everyone seems to be okay with your news.”

“Yeah, it appears that way.”

“We have good teammates. Where is your better half anyway?”

“Oh, he went to grab drinks. What about you? Where’s Noah?”

“I don’t know. You helped chase him off, remember?” I can’t help but taking at least one shot at him.

“Oh. I didn’t know you two broke up. I’m sorry to hear that.

I bet he is. “Thanks.”

“But it looks like it didn’t take you long to rebound. The new guys cute,” he says.

“He’s just a friend,” I say.

“That’s too bad. And wait, how did I chase off Noah? Did he say that I said something?”

No, he didn’t. It’s fine, I didn’t mean anything by it,” I say. I’d rather not get into a fight with him tonight.

“If it's easier for you to blame me then sure, go ahead, blame me,” he says. “But I think you know I’m not the reason you two broke up.”

“You were never on our side either,” I say. “I never understood why you were so against me. We used to be friends.”

“I was never against you,” he says.

“It’s over, Sebastian, you won, you can drop the act.”

Fine. I don’t like to lose and I saw you as a threat.”

“And because you couldn’t be with Noah, you didn’t want me to be with him either?” I ask.

“Do you really think I care that much who you or Noah end up with?”

“Yeah, enough to blackmail us with that video.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he says with a straight face.

I can’t help but laugh. It’s not funny, but I don’t know how else to react. “Oh, Sebastian. There is no point to all of this. It was good knowing you. Best of luck in the future.” And I wish I never see your stupid face again.

“You too, man.”

Aiden arrives just as Sebastian leaves. “What did he want? Do I need to go and throw some punches?”

“No, no punches needed. But I could use a drink. Something much stronger this time preferably!”


*** NOAH ***

I stare at my phone and the name on the screen: Jordan Young. It’s the first message I’ve received since that awful night. It’s a rather simple message.

“Hi, Noah. Hope you’re okay and your exams are going well. I was just wondering if I could come by tonight to pick up the rest of my stuff?”

Most of his stuff is still here. He did need some books and school papers. He asked Jenn if she could grab those for him. He told her to let me know he would get the rest later. I guess now is later.

There are so many things I want to type back to him. To ask him how he’s doing. Ask if he is okay. To tell him just how much I miss him. But I don’t. I simply text back “sure”.

He starts typing something back. Those dreaded dots on the screen! Oh, how I hate them. Hurry up! Im dying here!

“Great. Does six work for you?”

“That’s fine,” I type back.

“See you then.”

See you then.

Shit. My heart is already racing. I don’t know if I can face him alone. I text Jenn.

“Can you drop by around 5:30 tonight? Jordan’s coming to pick up his stuff. I’ll need your support.”

——— 

For once in her life Jenn arrives on time.

“So, how are you feeling about seeing Jordan again?” she asks.

“I’m not going to be here when he comes.”

She starts to shake her head. “Dude, no. You can’t do that. You can’t run.

“I don’t know if he wants to see me.”

“Did he ask you not to be here?”

“No.”

“Then you need to stay!”

“I can’t face him, Jenn. I feel guilty for all of this, for starting all of this in the first place. For forcing him to move in here … and then making him move out. And I know if I see him again … I … it’s just going to be too hard.”

“Normally I’d make a penis joke, but I’ll refrain. Again, Noah this is another sign you shouldn’t do this. This could be your last chance to fix this. Take it!”

“Jenn, I’ve made up my mind.”

“Then at least be here when he comes. You owe him that much. You say you feel guilty, then don’t run away.”

“You don’t know how much I want to see him … to touch his skin … I … I just can’t be around him.”

I think you’re making a mistake, but okay. What do you need from me?”

“To give him back his rent money for April. He didn’t live here so I don’t feel right keeping it.”

“Okay. Will do.”

“And just say … just say goodbye.”

“This may be the last time you see him for a long, long time. Are you sure you don’t want to be the one to say it?”

“I’m sure.”


*** JORDAN ***

It’s weird being back here again, walking down this hallway. This place looks the same, but it doesn’t feel the same. It no longer feels like home. As for how I feel, well, that’s a complicated question. I’m nervous, but also excited to see Noah. I haven’t seen him in three weeks now. I miss the feel of his skin. I miss the taste of his lips. I miss the scent of his body. But overall, I just miss him. I miss talking to him. Laughing with him. Just being with him. Even though I know it won’t happen, part of me is hoping that he has changed his mind. That spending time apart has made him realize just how much he wants to be with me.

But that hope is crushed the moment the door opens, and a different emotion takes over: disappointment.

“He’s not here,” I say to Jenn.

“No, he just left. I’m sorry.

It’s not your fault.” He didn’t even have the decency to see me off one last time.

“I tried talking to him, but ...” she says.

“Thanks for trying.”

“Do you need any help?” she asks.

“No, I should be okay. Aiden is waiting downstairs. He’ll help me take stuff down.”

Aiden insisted on coming. He figured this wouldn’t be easy for me, and that I might need his support. He’s right. I do need his help. Now, he also decided to wait downstairs to give Noah and me time to talk alone. But I guess that’s not needed. I call him to come up. We pack my stuff in no time. He starts to carry everything downstairs.

“When do you leave for home?” Jenn asks me.

“Tomorrow. And you?” I didn’t see a reason to stay here. Aiden is going back too. His co-op placement is almost over.

“I’m here for a few more days. Then I’m off to my parents place.”

“And then Europe. How long are you gone for again?”

A month.”

“Luck you,” I say.

“Yeah, but I’ll be stuck with my parents the entire time!”

“Better than no vacation,” I point out.

“True. Oh, here, Noah wanted me to give you this,” she says handing over an envelope.

“What is it?” I look inside to find money.

“It’s the rent you paid for April. Noah asked to give it back.”

I fold up the envelope and put it in my pocket. “Thank you for being here tonight.”

“Don’t mention it. Do you want a moment alone?”

“Yeah, that’d be nice. Thank you.”

“If you need anything I’ll be downstairs.”

“Thanks.”

“I know I said this before, but I have to say it again. Please keep in touch. I’m only a text message away if you ever need anything.” She gives me a hug. She may put up a tough act, but she is a softy at heart. She’s a good person.

I walk through the apartment, looking at the familiar, yet strange place. This was home for a while. But not long enough. I still remember when Noah asked me to move in while at the airport. I was going home. We kissed in front of everyone and didn’t care. It was such a fantastic moment, one I will never forget. I also remember subsequently fighting over it, and then just showing up at his doorstep in January. Now here I am, almost the end of April, moving out. And he’s not even here to say goodbye.

This could have been home. It could have worked.

“Goodbye, Noah,” I say out loud to the empty apartment.

“Hi, Jordan.”

I turn around towards the door.

“Noah …”

Did Noah make the right decision? Leave your thoughts below.

On a side note -- I've discovered my chapters are WAY longer than most other authors.
I was going to divide this chapter into two, to make it more manageable -

But I left it, because I like the flow.
Let me know if you guys are okay with long chapters -

Or if I should break them into two.
(most of the rest are about this length)
I'm surprised I even managed to get this all done in three days!

Copyright © 2018 Ethan; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments



Have to be honest... I read the entire chapter hopping it would get fast to the end. 

Edited by Tonyr
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Disappointment doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about this turn of events. Noah will never have a happy life. Simple as that. 

Living a lie for his family sounds like a slow lonely death. 

 

Also, who sent the video if Sabastian didn’t. His discussion with Jordan sounded like he had put all the cards on the table. Even though he’s a scumbag, it rang true to me. 

Im thinking the pretentious brat might have something to do with sending it?  Maybe?  He said he wanted Jordan for a partner for the English class. Hmmmm.....  Shows up rubbing Noah’s nose in his new romance. Just a thought...

 

Also, I look forward to longer chapters. More satisfying. 

 

Thanks for all you do. 

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The only two who have any sense about them are Jenn and Aiden. It's time to put a fork in this one...as in it's done. 

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Personally, I like longer chapters, but the story should dictate how long it is. 

On another note, many of us have gone through this. I thought I could fake it and be happy until I finally figured out that it wasn't possible to live a lie and be happy. I finally came out at 26, and was surprised at how accepting my very Catholic family was. But living the lie just makes you miserable, and ends up making everyone around you miserable as well. 

Edited by Scotrik1
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@Ethan Like others have said, I wouldn’t worry about chapter length. A chapter is done when it’s done, and will be the the length that it is. With a good story (like yours) the readers will stick it out no matter the length. (And there are readers like me who want longer chapters and more often.) So, do your thing. It’s been working so far. 

 

As for this chapter...sigh...Noah, Noah, Noah. At first I wanted to throttle some sense into him. But then I realized 1) I’m a pacifist, 2) this is the process he needs to go through. He needs to come to terms with being gay, coming out, and find peace with whatever consequence that results. And while I kept hoping Noah would snap out of it, if he decides to stay with Jordan and stay closeted, he will always default to resenting and blaming Jordan for all the discomfort that the closet brings. Noah is smart enough to have figured this out, and had enough foresight to break things off with Jordan.  It was agonizing to read, but I get it. 

 

Now Noah just has to realize that the benefits of staying closeted and having his family probably don’t outweigh the cost of a broken heart, lonliness, misery and emotional distance from said family because of fear of them “finding out”.  Maybe Noah got to this realization at the end of the chapter (hoping!) but I have a feeling that won’t be the case. Maybe Noah will go home, and after it being super obvious to his family that something is wrong, his siblings will stage an “intervention” and extract the truth out of him. And maybe It turns out his siblings aren’t rabidly homophobic like his mom, and maybe they’ll give Noah enough support that he can come out knowing that he has some family that has his back. He may lose his mom (and dad?) in the short-run, but maybe his siblings can help turn them around.

 

So, yah, still pulling for the HEA even though things looks kind of bleak right now. 

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I can't think of anything to say that expresses how I feel about Noah without using a cuss word! It would almost kill me to have to be Jenn and be supportive cause I would want to go off at him big time! Gonna stop now before I can't help myself. Also, 'flow' is always best 😃

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The length of your chapters are fine to this reader.

Even though I don’t agree with the choice Noah made, I understand and respect him for making it.  

His family already knows (or highly suspects) about his homosexuality, in my opinion;  Even that bitch mother of his-Mama always knows, right?   That woman won’t face it tho, unless she catches Noah with a dick in his mouth or up his ass.

 I honestly don’t know what to make of where things should go between the guys because sometimes love isn’t enough to stay together.

Sebastian is a mystery, how could he think that Noah or Jordan would trust him knowing all the things he did to them?  While I am curious to understand what makes him tick, I am a-okay if this is the last we see of him in the story.

This was a bittersweet chapter....more bitter than sweet.

 

Edited by FanLit
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I have reread some chapters and found what I had overlooked before: That only his mother's side is so religious, his father's family is not. So there is hope for Noah yet even if his mother won't come round. At least not without a wake-up call ringing from this planet to the next, and even then I would not keep my breath. 

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Wow - a lot of great comments. I honestly don't know where to even start! I'll get to everyone but first I just have to say this:

 

20 hours ago, Parker Owens said:

There is no right or wrong decision; if Noah's mom spoke her mind truly, then Noah would very likely be cut off. His fears are justified. He loves Jordan, but their love will pull and twist and torque out of all shape as he tries to reconcile that love to losing the family he grew up with. Noah simply cannot hate them enough to let them go - that's not realistic. But neither is it realistic for Noah to give up Jordan without his heart breaking into a zillion little pieces.

 

And so he chose one heartbreak over another, as so many of us have done.

 

This is the tragedy of their lives, and I am not at all sure there is any redemption for it. At least Jordan has given himself the chance to move forward and find something like happiness. Noah may never find such fulfillment, living a hollowed out life.

 

A very sad chapter.

 

I don't think all of this could have been summed up better. You really did this perfectly. Unfortunately, it really is the tragedy of their lives, and sometimes ours too. 

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19 hours ago, cocoon said:

Noah's decision to live a life his mother wants him to have isn't a decision that a smart, intelligent guy could logically make. He should know that he can't just change his sexual orientation and be truly happy in a life where he plays a role for the people that are closest to him. Maybe he can pretend a couple of years - being unhappy all that time. In the end he will make himself, his wife and his children miserable and end up hating his mother. 

You make a number of excellent points. On this, I'll only say, when we are driven by fear, often we make irrational decisions. Noah is, by all accounts, a very smart guy. He just needs to use his brain. 

 

18 hours ago, Geoffrey257 said:

I'm also not sure how he can still respect the wishes of those who would have conditional love for him. Yes, he loves his family, but if his family doesn't love him back (that is, if his whole family would disown him and not just his mom) why hang on to them? Is his reason quantity over quality (whole family with conditional love vs Jordan's unconditional love)?

It's hard to answer this question. A few reasons. Noah has grown up very sheltered, in a way, largely driven by his family. And so they are his world, in many ways. And in the end, I think all he wants is to be accepted. He also feels indebted to them, for all that they have done, and in a sense he feels he owes them something. He will put his happiness on the line for them. In return, all he wants is to be loved. We all want that, I'd argue. We want to be loved by those we love. Rejection is not something we can always handle. And so even if that love comes with strings attached, we sometimes are too afraid to let that go. That has to be the worst answer ever. Sorry. 

 

17 hours ago, Fitzhugh said:

Also, who sent the video if Sabastian didn’t. His discussion with Jordan sounded like he had put all the cards on the table. 

Oh, sorry, that would be Sebastian. His comment to Noah, if I ever came in possession of something that would out you, that's basically as close as he comes to admitting it was him. He lies to Jordan about not having the video. 

 

@donaldbirwin @CscottyCA

As for the next chapter, yes Noah does come back. Why? Has he learned his error, or is there another reason? Or does he need to go back and figure out what he wants Chapter 29 will have the answer! 

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16 hours ago, Scotrik1 said:

On another note, many of us have gone through this. I thought I could fake it and be happy until I finally figured out that it wasn't possible to live a lie and be happy. I finally came out at 26, and was surprised at how accepting my very Catholic family was. But living the lie just makes you miserable, and ends up making everyone around you miserable as well. 

I really am glad it worked out for you in the end. Maybe it will work out for Noah too?

 

Wow a lot of threats of violence here. Note to self don't piss off @travlbug @Canuk @CscottyCA (though the last one says he is a pacifist ....)

@Buz Let it all out, man. Better than resorting to violence 😁

 

12 hours ago, FanLit said:

Sebastian is a mystery, how could he think that Noah or Jordan would trust him knowing all the things he did to them?  While I am curious to understand what makes him tick, I am a-okay if this is the last we see of him in the story.

Maybe one day, when I write the "Coach Basil Chesterfield's Adventures on his Couch" I'll have a whole section explaining Sebastian.  

 

 

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And finally -- thank you so, so much for all of the comments. I truly do appreciate it all of the support, and seeing just how engaged so many people are with this novel. 

 

I usually check my account semi-frequently, but today I just had an absolutely awful day at work. One of those where you just want to say "Screw it all, I'm done." (unfortunately I can't do that because I have bills to pay!) So, coming home, logging on and seeing all of these comments was truly amazing. It made my day. 

 

And as for chapter length, and timing of updates -- it seems like there is wide consensus -- short chapters -- and radically infrequent updates that make absolutely no sense. Got it. Will do. 🙃

 

Thanks!

@mayday @Tonyr @spyke @bubby1234 @ColumbusGuy @kichaku @empresslovesreading @Fae Briona @mfa607

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