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    Jwolf
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The English Year - 26. Hall Pass

"I could have changed my life for you..."

Growing up in church, I had always heard about the seven deadly sins. I knew what they were, could recite them from memory, both forwards and backwards, and if asked, I could give a brief description of each one, and why it was precisely so dangerous.

But I had never felt one. I had never been consumed enough by a single emotion to consider that feeling to be deadly in any way. That is, until the night that I was banging my hand against Dominick’s chest, asking him why he had fucked Mike over, and feeling myself slipping passed anger into a state of wrath.

“What were you thinking?” I screamed as I pounded against his chest, not hitting him, necessarily, but knocking against him as he stood there and took it. He knew better than to make any sudden movements or provoke me in any way. I was in a frenzy, and he could tell.

“Corbin, Corbin,” he repeated over and over as my words were replaced with incoherent heaves. I could feel a mixture of tears and snot running down my face as if someone had died, and I knew it wasn’t because I was sad, it was because I was angry.

Rage.

“Corbin,” Dom exclaimed as my hits against his chest got slower, and he had a chance to grab my wrist and stop me from beating against him. “Corbin, I know you’re mad, but you have to calm down.”

I glared at him. Telling someone who’s in a rage to calm down is pretty much the worst thing that one can do. It’s like pouring hot oil onto an open flame and hoping for the best. I looked at Dom and seethed when he told me to calm down.

“Just listen to me. Listen! For one second, would you please?” at that point, I was done. I was done yelling at him. I was done wanting to draw blood… to kill him. I was at an impasse with my own emotions, and there was nothing I could do. I was exhausted. I was indifferent, and they say that the opposite of love isn’t hate… it’s indifference.

I looked at Dom wondering what it was he thought he could say to keep me from feeling as angry as I felt. Once you pass that level of rage, there are no degrees of anger. There are no shades of wrath. Red is the only color in your eye at that point. Once you cross over, it’s over. And there’s nothing that can be said to pull you back.

And so I stared at him blankly, wondering just how he planned to try.

“The brothers wanted blood. Your friend pissed off a lot of people; and there needed to be sent a clear and concise message.”

I swallowed, and my saliva tasted hot to my tongue. My fingers trembled as I raised my hand to point to Dominick.

“There was nothing I could do to help your friend,” he said slowly. “He’s banned from the house from this point on anyway. I just made a call that would ensure the enforcement of that ban.”

I didn’t even know where to begin. Had I been clear of mind, I would have dressed him down like a child in a schoolyard, and he never would have forgotten me. But in that moment, with my blood boiling over inside my veins, I didn’t even have the words to say what I felt. Instead, I looked at Dom with daggers in my eyes.

If looks could kill, I would have been arrested for murder in the first degree in that very instant.

Wrath.

“I’m sorry it came down to that,” Dom justified. “But you know how little tolerance we can have for fights that happen within our house.”

I looked at Dom and blinked for the first time in minutes. I felt the heat escape my face, and thought surely there was steam rising from my own skin.

I let him finish what he was saying. He took a deep breath, looked at me, and waited for a response. I didn’t give him one right away; instead, I continued to glare at him, boring holes through his face with my eyes, until the tension in his lofted room could be cut with the underside of a butter knife.

“I know that you did this to get back at me for some unknown reason, Dom,” I said, my voice eerily calm. My hands may have been shaking, but every bit of energy in my body was spent keeping my voice from wavering past a low, steady tambour. “I know that you think you were doing this house a favor, protecting the walls you were elected to protect, and I understand that. But what you’ve done instead, Dominick Slavin, is ruin a man’s life. You ruined his life to spite me, and no matter what I’ve done to you, no matter how I’ve wronged you or jeopardized this joke of a fraternity, you will have to live with the fact that you ruined someone’s life for the rest of yours. Good luck living with that.”

I turned to leave Dom’s room, but before I exited, without so much as looking back at him, I delivered a bone chilling threat that even I would have cowered at had I not been the one delivering it.

“I think it goes without saying that I’ll get you back for this. Shore up your walls, Dominick.”

There was nothing left for me to do at that point. I couldn’t fight Dom right then and there. Following any of my instincts in that moment would have surely led to a suspension, removal from the university, and possible arrest.

And so in a rare moment of self-control, I retreated, aware that I needed a plan before I struck back. I was beyond the level of angry any of my current ammunition could avenge, and so I made the choice to leave Dom to ponder what he’d done, dwell on the choices he had made in putting Mike in lockdown, and bide my time until I could strike him back with something worthy of his crime.

Lucky for Dominick, I didn’t have much time to ponder my retaliation that week, as every day leading up to the Thanksgiving break got more and more hectic. On Tuesday, I had a group meeting with my advertising group, as well as a group project, and the most stressful chorus rehearsal up until that point. On Wednesday, I had to finalize the deck for my presentation. My theater adviser also called me in to his office to see if I would be auditioning for the spring musical again that year. He sat around talking about The Secret Garden for half an hour while I watched the clock, waiting for a good stopping point to leave. After that, I had about three hours worth of homework for my accounting class that I had to wade through in the depths of the library.

I had an accounting quiz on Thursday that I couldn’t believe I’d even passed, let alone got a B on, and then I went straight to my advertising class where my group and I presented our mock campaign pitch for Robitussin. A twenty minute presentation may as well be a key note speech to college students, and although we did a pretty decent job, I was sweating bullets the entire time.

Most of the school celebrated the end of the grueling week by going out on Thursday night, but I had a paper due for my theater appreciation class that was proving to be much more time consuming a course than was advertised.

I finished the paper around midnight, and everyone at my house who wasn’t studying was already drunk. I didn’t have the wherewithal or the patience to join a raucous party that night, and to be honest, I still wasn’t totally sold on the brothers of Chi Beta and their recent actions, and so I hung out in my room, loaded my bootleg copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and went to bed.

At about three in the morning, I heard my door open, and saw a crack of light fill my room. Mister was asleep next to my pillow, and I turned to see who had come in.

“What’s going on?” I mumbled, shielding my face from the penetrating light.

“Oh, sorry, Corbin. I think I got turned around.”

I recognized the voice as David’s. I sat up to watch him stand in my room, making no attempt to back track and close the door.

“Okay,” I mumbled. “What were you looking for?”

“I guess everyone left the Beiruit room?” It was half question, half statement. Of course they’d left, I thought looking at my phone and trying to hide my mid-morning boner and slight annoyance from the freshman.

“David, it’s three a.m. Everyone’s probably asleep.”

“Yeah, I bet everyone went to sleep.” I shook my head, still baffled that he wasn’t leaving my room, but instead just standing there and repeating after me like a dazed clown.

“What are you doing?” he asked. My eyes finally adjusted to the new light that was in my room, and I could feel the swell of my dick going down. I stretched and yawned, hoping that would be a clue, but it wasn’t. David continued to stand there.

“Well, I was sleeping. Before that I was watching Harry Potter, and before that I was studying. David, bud. It’s three a.m.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry I bothered you.” I watched him stand there and fumble with his pocket. I squinted for a second, trying to figure out what he had adjusted and why he felt like I, at three in the morning, would be interested in it.

“Do you need something, David?” I asked, sitting up and planting my feet on the ground.

“No, I don’t. I just… I was supposed to smoke out with Jackson, but I don’t know where he went. And I can’t smoke out in my room in the dorms ‘cause my counselor would flip his shit. And Kent is asleep in the TV room downstairs. So I guess I was looking for an empty room I could light up before I go to bed.”

Of all the rooms, I thought. Why would he assume he could smoke up in mine? Had he smoked in my room before? I’d never noticed it, but then again, weed smokers were great about covering their tracks. But I had a cat. You can’t smoke pot in front of a cat, I thought, my mind swirling as I struggled to wake up and understand what was going on.

“Oh, David. Sorry, but I don’t smoke man, or else I’d totally let you light up. Plus it’s late… early… its three a.m. and…”

“I get it, man,” David said, taking his first step backwards towards the door. I didn’t know what else to say to him. “Sorry to bother you.”

Something in his voice made me feel bad. I felt like I’d closed the door on a wounded puppy, and yet it wasn’t my responsibility to let him hang out and light up.

And then, as I watched David retreat back into the light, I had a moment of clarity.

“Wait,” I said, rubbing my eyes. “Since I’m already awake, you may as well hang out for a little bit.”

I heard my cat meow softly as she readjusted on my now vacant pillow. I watched a smile creep onto David’s face as he closed my door behind himself and crossed over to my window. I stood up to meet him, in just my boxer briefs, and realized that in comparison to him, I was pretty much naked.

“Let me put on some pants,” I mumbled.

“You don’t… if you don’t want to,” he mumbled back. “Can I open this?”

I had two windows in my room: one above the head of my bed, and the other on the same wall across the room. The one closest to my bed had an air conditioning unit in it, and the other didn’t. David was halfway through opening the one that didn’t when he asked me the question.

I didn’t reply, but simply gave him a nod and pulled a pair of athletic shorts over my boxer briefs.

His swiftness in setting up shop next to my window made me think that David had done this kind of thing before, maybe not in my bedroom, but definitely in someone’s. He quickly identified a source of ventilation, pulled out his piece and packed it with freshly ground weed, and like a pro, lit up and blew out into the dark blue night.

I pulled up next to him and stood across the window, leaning on the wall, and watching the moonlight catch his face. He motioned his piece towards me, and I shook my head softly. I’d smoked approximately four times at that point in college, and each time I’d been drunk beyond comprehension. I didn’t do it casually; I didn’t like it enough to.

“Thanks, though.”

“Thanks for letting me smoke in here,” he said. I nodded at him, wondering how I would go about extracting the information I wanted out of him. “You used to hang out a lot more.”

Another half question. He was great about phrasing things in a way that seemed like a question, but really weren’t.

“Yeah, I did. And then the distractions of being a junior kicked in.”

“What kind of distractions?”

I looked into his eyes as they reflected the light. They almost seemed navy blue in the darkness, as deep as wells, and genuinely inquisitive. Freshmen were usually genuinely inquisitive.

“Boys,” I shrugged honestly.

“Ah,” he nodded, taking in a deep breath of smoke and exhaling outside my window. “Like that boy that punched out that other kid last weekend?”

“Yep, just like that,” I replied. I decided to play ignorant. “I didn’t realize people were still talking about it.”

“They were. They aren’t anymore.”

“What were they saying?”

“Some guys didn’t even know who the two guys fighting were. Didn’t even think any of them went to school here. I guess when I was there, they were trying to figure out the link between them. Finally decided it was you.”

I nodded. Maybe I did need a smoke after all, I thought. I’d decided to invite David in order to chat with him about his fellow freshmen, not listen to intel regarding me and the house gossip mill.

“Yeah, well,” I shrugged nonchalantly, not letting on that the wheels in my head were spinning. “I’m usually the link in these situations.”

“You know what’s funny? Whenever you come up in conversation, the guys in your class defend you all the time. No matter what. And I can tell sometimes they don’t agree with you, but they don’t let the seniors talk shit. It’s loyal.”

I nodded. I didn’t realize that the seniors talked so much shit that David had noticed a pattern with my class and their loyalty, but that’s how we were. Pledge brothers always stuck up for each other, even when it didn’t feel like they were, or even when it wasn’t in their best interest. I nodded again, and decided that was the perfect segue to start in on David.

“Yeah, pledge brothers are loyal like that,” I replied. I took a long, shallow breath, and met David’s eyes again. “Any thought as to who might be in your pledge class?”

It was an assumption that he’d go Chi Beta, but seeing as how he spent most of his time at our house, and felt comfortable enough with us to come into my room and light up at three in the morning, it was a pretty reasonable assumption. Later in life, I’d learn how to assume the sale and realize I’d been doing it for years already.

“Well, yeah, I guess,” he said. “It’s all anyone can talk about these days. Who’s going to pledge where, and with who.”

“It makes brothers pretty edgy this time of the year,” I conceded. “But we just like to make sure that we’re building the best pledge class possible. One that we can trust; and one that will trust each other.”

He turned his head to look at me. I might have played that card a little too soon, but I couldn’t tell just by reading his face.

“What do you mean?”

Now was my chance. Now was my opportunity to see just how tied in to the rest of the class Lee really was. And so I finessed my answer, hoping that David would get my point without me having to spell it out.

“It’s just that… If you look at my class, you’ve got me, Brian, Hutch, Austin and Roberto. Thick as thieves. Like you said, we’d defend each other to the death if we had to. But that’s only half the class, you know? And I love the other guys. I love Ben and Sam and Patel… and maybe not so much Abel and Kirbs, but I still respect them and would fight for them if I had to. But what we try to do, what we want year in and year out is a class like us five, where we have each other’s backs no matter what; and we have the house’s back no matter what. And the other guys look good on paper, but sometimes they feel like dead weight. And in pledgeship especially, we carried a lot of those guys to the end. I dunno, I just… sometimes I feel like it would be better to have less guys in a class that are closer, tighter, and more trustworthy than to have a big class chock-full of guys that are acquaintances at best. Does that make sense?”

David nodded. I continued.

“Honestly, you won’t see it until you’re in it, but one guy can ruin the whole bunch. I’m not saying that to be negative, but it’s getting to that point where promises are being made. Just be thoughtful about each person you see standing there through pledgeship with you.”

“What do you mean ruin?”

“I mean that in pledgeship, and in the house afterwards really, you’ll have to rely on the guys that you pledge with. I mean, think about it. Hutch and those guys could throw me under the bus whenever they want. They could side with the seniors, let them vote me right out of here for something stupid and petty. They could totally do that, and I could do the same to them. But we know each other, and we love each other more than anything, and we know that if push came to shove, we’d go down together. Make sure that you can say the same about all the guys that you pledge with.”

I turned away nonchalantly.

“Are you referring to anyone in particular? That I should be thinking about?”

And that was the crux. Of course I was, but I couldn’t say it. I needed him to get it on his own.

“Look, I absolutely wouldn’t tell you not to trust a fellow freshman that you were rushing with, especially at this point. You know everyone that’s interested in Chi Beta, and you know what certain people are capable of. If there’s someone you think wouldn’t live up to what brotherhood is about, you would know it.”

And then I went in for the kill.

“And I’m sure that if you really felt like that person wasn’t right for your class, the brothers would want to hear it. We take ya’lls opinions very seriously when we’re putting our classes together. Like I said, we’d rather have five strong than a bunch of guys that don’t have each other’s backs, you know?”

I watched David’s eyes as they comprehended exactly what I was saying, and prayed that I had laid the seed in there thick enough.

“Your bowl looks about cashed,” I said softly. “Maybe we call it a night, and do this again after break sometime.”

“Yeah,” he replied, putting his weed back in its bag and hitting the smoked out embers outside my window. “I’d be down for that.”

I watched David Marcosi leave my room, wondering if my little speech had been effective enough. He was stoned for most of it, so there was that. But I knew that I’d planted a seed in there, and judging by his mistrust of Lee earlier in the semester when he confessed to me that Lee might be trying to screw his way into a bid, I knew that David’s mind would eventually connect the dots.

I packed my things the next morning, making more room for books than clothes in my suitcase. I had left an entire wardrobe worth of clothes in Texas, and so I stuck with the true necessities, boarded Hutch’s car, and rode with him to the Charlottesville airport for my flight.

It was one of the rare times that Hutch and I had booked the same flight to DFW, and so we got the chance to talk all throughout the trip. In the mood I was in, I would have rather put my head phones on, ordered a cocktail, and gone to bed. But he was there, and we’d booked tickets next to each other on our cramped Delta plane, and so after an hour drive to the airport, sitting at the terminal in silence, boarding, and ordering a whiskey seven, I finally had to strike up a conversation with my pledge brother.

“What’s been going on with you?” Hutch asked after we’d exhausted all possible small talk up until that point. I popped a piece of chewing gum in my mouth, stretched out, and tried not to knee the back of the seat in front of me.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean with the fight this weekend, and Mike… how are you holding up?” he sounded genuinely concerned, and it reminded me of what David Marcosi had said the night before.

“I umm… I don’t know. I’m livid with Dom, of course,” I replied, turning and looking at Hutch, ignoring the safety warning that the flight crew recited.

“I can understand that.”

“I mean, I get it, the kid hit someone in our house. That’s bad form, and normally, I’d be all about him doing something big. But Mike was my guest, and if Dom wanted to punish someone, he should have come for me.” For the first time in week, I voiced how I felt out loud.

“I think he’s tried to come for you, but you snap back every time.”

“I know that I was in the wrong this time, and fine or probation, I would have taken it. It’s when he tries to knock me down for no reason that I fly off the handle.”

I knew what Hutch was thinking: Dom had plenty of reasons to go for the jugular. But that was still up for debate, and I’d won those past battles. I did truly believe that if Dom had come to me with a fair punishment this time around, I would have complied. But he didn’t. He went for the jugular, and he almost ruined Mike’s future in the process.

“All I’m saying about that is this. Mike deserved a lifetime ban from the house, maybe. But he didn’t deserve to get his sergeant called and have his ass thrown in lockdown. I mean, did Dom even think that phone call through? They could have kicked Mike out of VMI for something like that.” I shook my head. “I just think it was excessive, and unnecessary. And to do so without even consulting me… I just… I don’t know.”

Hutch could tell that I was boiling over. I took a sip out of my little clear plastic cup and looked over at him. He gave me a shrug, and I knew instantly he was on Dom’s side in the whole thing.

“Look, Corbin,” he started after I cut my eyes at him. “We gave you the chance… Dom gave you the chance to deal with the situation. Instead of taking Mike home, you brought him to your room and then you two carried on all night long like nothing had happened.”

I swallowed. That was valid. But what did they want me to do? Send Mike home, drunk and heated? Who knows what would have happened between Clifton Hill and Lexington. Seven miles is a long way when you’re amped, angry, and drunk.

“I think what Dom did was excessive, yes. But I don’t think any lesser action would have gotten his point across the way that he wanted.”

My face softened. Hutch might have been right about that. Looking at my track record, why would Dom take a half-measure when I’d proven that I couldn’t be bested by half-measures. He went for the jugular because I’d forced his hand by showing time and time again that I was above punishment.

And it was right then on that flight that I faced the hard fact that it was my fault that Mike was on lockdown for six months. Sure he delivered the punch, and I could blame him for it all damn day. And sure Dom made the call, and I could loathe him for it until he graduated and left. And sure Pete had provoked the entire situation, and I could be annoyed at him for his yo-yo behavior until the cows came home, but at the end of the day, I had pushed Pete to the limit, I had escalated my relationship with Mike, and I had been the one that made Dom feel like he had no other option but to go nuclear on me.

And even as Hutch and I caught up for the rest of the flight, I had to swallow that truth deep down in my stomach like a bitter little pill.

By the time my mom picked me up from the airport, I was drunk and in no mood for family time. I made a few phone calls, but most of my good friends weren’t coming home until Sunday. I knew a couple of guys in Dallas that I could have gone to see, but by the time we got to Colleyville, I had started to sober up, which meant I was starting to hangover.

I feigned exhaustion to my parents and siblings and spent most of the night in my room, which was still embarrassingly decorated with tennis trophies and the tacky blue and white block lettering that my high school insisted on putting on everything. What possessed me to frame my letter jacket and freshman year tennis racket, I thought, as I climbed into bed and tried my best to empty my mind until dinner.

I fell asleep right after a tight and tepid dinner of explaining how classes were going to my family, and avoiding the judgmental questions about my fraternity that I knew would come at some point that week.

An hour or so into my nap, I was woken up by my phone vibrating under my ear.

“Hello?” I croaked, answering it without even looking at who had called.

“You could sound a little happier to hear from me,” Mike said on the other line. I sat up and smiled.

“I didn’t know it was you, killer,” I smiled into the phone. “But I am happy to hear from you.”

“Oh yeah? How happy?”

“Should I get my webcam out?” I asked naughtily.

“The Captain might not like walking in on his son webcamming another guy. Although, the fact that you’re a Founder might make him even more upset.”

“I’ll be sure to take my Founder jersey off then,” I chuckled.

“God, it’s good to hear your voice,” Mike said, as if we hadn’t talked in months. It had been less than week since he’d heard it, but then I figured, he hadn’t been talking to anyone that week. When you spend so much time alone, things concentrate in your head. You lose track of timing, and days feel like weeks.

“How’s home? Anything planned?”

“It’s good. I crashed as soon as I got home because I didn’t want to have a conversation with my parents. The Captain is going to flip when he finds out I was boned for the third straight year,” Mike said. I could hear him stretching over his bed, and in my mind I could see his muscles tightening and relaxing as he held the phone up to his ear. “I’m not going to tell him until after we go to the Ravens game on Sunday. “

“Good plan.” I made a mental note to watch the Ravens game that Sunday so that I’d have something impressive to say about Flacco or Rice the next time Mike and I talked.

“Listen, I’ve been thinking about this whole lockdown thing,” Mike said after another minute of mildly flirtatious small talk. I sat up and drew my knee in to my chest.

“What about it?”

“It’s gonna suck,” Mike replied nonchalantly. “For me and for you, I guess.”

I swallowed. It was a thought that I had spent the entire week not letting get any traction in my brain. It was a thought that had lingered on the periphery of my mind, but I had been disciplined in not letting it penetrate any part of my subconscious. But here Mike was, bringing it up and forcing it into my head.

“Yeah,” was all that I could get out.

“I was just wondering if you planned on… um… I mean, I’m not gonna see you for six months.” I could almost picture Mike’s face as he spoke. I could almost see the anguish in his eyes. Mike was usually so straight forward. For the two years that I’d known and pursued him, he’d always spoken his mind with little or no hesitation. The fact that he hesitated over the phone… it was sign of how far the two of us had come in as many years.

“Mike, honestly, I hadn’t even thought about that,” I answered truthfully. To think it would have made it real, and I would have had to make a decision. Mike and I both feared that we knew what that decision would be.

“Look, I won’t be mad if you go out and do stuff with other guys, I promise,” Mike said quickly. I tried to cut him off, but I didn’t have the words. “I can’t ask you not to, and so I won’t.”

“But you would ask me not to if you could?” I asked. There was a long pause. I waited for the other shoe to drop.

“Asking you to wait for me would be admitting that this is… that I am…”

“And we both know that you’re not,” I finished for him. I closed my eyes and again waited for the other shoe to hit the floor.

“Corbin, I love you, and that’s all I know. But I can’t promise you anything without changing my entire life. And I’m not ready to do that, and so I don’t want to ask you to put yours on hold.”

I tried my best to understand where he was coming from. He’d been home for a day, if that, and already he was running back into the same picket fence protected closet that had frustrated me to no end at the start of the year. I understood it, but I didn’t like it. And what I didn’t like most was that there was nothing I could do to change it.

“I get it,” I said, trying to sound as understanding as possible. My heart sank as low as a heart can go as I realized that Mike and I wouldn’t survive this six month sentence. He was the one on lockdown, and yet I was the one who felt stuck.

“When I got home today, I wished that I didn’t have to come back here. I wished that VMI had kicked me out for punching that British kid in the face. I wished that The Captain had kicked me out of his house, and cut me off, and all those things that you fear will happen if you live the life you want and not the life that they expect you to live. I wished that I had nowhere to go and that I had called you and that maybe we had driven to Texas together… I don’t know. It sounds crazy, but I wished that everything else went away and that you were all that I was left with.”

A tear ran down my face, stinging my skin like acid as it fell. Mike’s voice sounded so final in the way that six months seemed like an eternity back then. In truth, Mike and I weren’t that different. My parents had the same expectations for me, only I chose not to live up to them when it counted. I had no plans of moving back to Colleyville after graduation, or inheriting any money from my dad, or following in the family business. I could be who I was in the world I created and let my parents live with their naïve expectations because I didn’t expect anything from them in return. I didn’t want to break their hearts, no, but I didn’t need their approval either.

Mike chose to do things the opposite way and practice the life that he needed to live in order to stay in Captain Loggerman’s good graces. I knew that his dad had played a hand in getting him into VMI to begin with, and I knew that there were years of service awaiting Mike on the other side, and I knew that when all was said and done, Mike’s trust fund was contingent on him doing what his dad expected.

Two guys, two very similar situations, and two completely different outcomes.

And sitting there in my bed, I let Mike’s outcome slap me in the face.

“Well if we had driven to Texas together, you would miss the Raven’s game,” I tried to steer the conversation to a lighter tone. I didn’t feel like anything else needed to be said. Mike and I had reached an unspoken agreement, and that was that.

He wouldn’t be mad at me if I stepped out and hooked up with someone. How noble, I thought. And I would try my best not to, because I knew that if and when I did, if and when someone came along and I was drunk enough and flirtatious enough, I would justify it based on this unspoken conversation we’d just had. And I would do it. And I would tell myself that Mike wasn’t mad at me, that he couldn’t be mad at me, but I would still feel guilty about it, and I would ask myself why I couldn’t wait six months for him.

That was the cycle. That was what would happen, and I knew it. And so I didn’t say anything else about it, and instead changed the subject to Ravens football and Thanksgiving food.

I was in a mood the rest of the week. I felt like I had been broken up with, but I couldn’t explain that to anyone because what would I have said?

That my non-boyfriend had given me a hall pass because he was stuck in lockdown for six months? That I was the reason he was in trouble at all? That the only person I wanted to use that hall pass on wasn’t speaking to me because my non-boyfriend had punched him in the face?

I couldn’t tell that story, and so I spent my Thanksgiving holiday swallowing that story, studying like a crazy person, and making myself sick over things I couldn’t control.

The week in and of itself was highly uneventful. On Thursday, my mom started cooking at six in the morning, we had a portion of my dad’s family come over for an early lunch, and then at two in the afternoon, we schlepped across town to Arlington for our annual Crowley Family Cowboy’s Game. When it seemed like I couldn’t take any more family time whatsoever, my sister suggested that we play Monopoly that night.

I was saved by my brother saying that he had plans with some of his friends from Texas Tech, and so I feigned a headache and escaped to my room. I love my family, I really do. But by the third day of being home, I was so tired of them that I would have wanted to be anywhere else. It was the mixture of us having nothing to do but sit and look at each other, coupled with the fact that my brain was working overtime with what was happening at school, plus the fact that even though I’d come out to my sisters and brother during my sophomore year, they still couldn’t really relate to everything that I was going through. And so when I was home in Colleyville, I felt alone. And I counted down the minutes until I was back on a flight back east.

And then it happened. On Thursday night, still stuffed from the turkey and stuffing sandwich I’d made myself for dinner, I walked up to my room, plopped on my bed and checked my messages. I had two, both from Dakota.

To Corbin: You’re home for break, right? What are you doing Friday night? A good friend of mine is having a house party in Dallas and you should totally come.

I read the message, and my first question was ‘Why?’

Why the fuck did Dakota think I would go to her friend’s house party when it was her picture with Pete that had started half the drama that I was currently in. She was a nice girl, and I didn’t hate her, but come the fuck on, I thought. There was nothing there for me.

And then I thought that maybe Pete would be there, in which case I would steer clear of Dallas altogether. I know that we had talked and started inching down that road of reconciliation, but that road was long and we’d barely made one step.

I pulled up the second message and it was more straightforward than the first.

To Corbin: No is not an answer. Pete’s not coming, so put on your dancing shoes. You’re coming to this party.

I put my phone down. That assuaged one of my anxieties, but I still had little to no desire to see Dakota and spend all night wondering exactly how far that kiss that had been sent to me via text message had really gone.

Later that night, after making up my mind that I was not going to the party under any circumstances, I felt my phone vibrate under me, and assuming it was one of my friends asking what I was up to that night in town, I answered it without looking at the call screen.

“You’re not getting out of coming to see me,” I heard on the other line.

“Dakota,” I replied, trying not to sound too surprised.

“I mean it Corbin; I’ve heard his side of everything, and now I want to hear yours.”

“Can’t I just tell you my side now?”

“Really? You’re saying that you’d rather stay at home on a Friday night with your parents playing Mahjong and asking you the dreaded ‘What do you plan on doing after graduation’ question? Come on. We’ve got booze; we’ve got weed if you’re into that, and we’ve got boys coming… gay and straight, because I know you like a challenge. We can bash Pete together until we’re both white girl wasted and then we can hit the clubs.”

I sighed. I really didn’t have anything better to do, and to be honest, even a night out with Dakota sounded better than staying home and playing Monopoly.

“The fact that you haven’t answered means you don’t have anything else going on, and therefore I expect to see you here tomorrow night, ten-ish. Dress sexy. I’ll text you the address.”

And with that, she hung up. I put down my phone, conceding that I had no choice, and thought about what I would wear. One full day and three full meals featuring leftover turkey later, I got dressed in my tightest jeans, a black button front shirt that I’d had since my sophomore year of high school, black combat boots, and aviator sunglasses. I hopped in my brother’s car that I had to promise to wash before I left in order to borrow it, and drove down Highway 121 to Uptown Dallas.

I exited Fitzhugh, and followed the directions I’d printed off of Mapquest through a pretty ritzy part of town. The address that Dakota had given me led to an apartment complex right off of Blackburn Ave, right in the heart of Uptown.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I parked my car, adjusted my sunglasses—useless in every way as the sun had long set—and climbed the staircase to the apartment number that Dakota had texted me when I told her I was parking.

I was understandably nervous. I hadn’t seen Dakota in a couple months, and since then, my relationship with our one mutual friend, our only common thread, had all but deteriorated. But then again, I told myself, Pete and I had started down the process of making amends the weekend before, so maybe it wouldn’t be so awkward.

I didn’t have much time to dwell on what awaited me inside Dakota’s friend’s apartment, as I walked to the door marked 1002. I knocked, and not a second later, the door answered, and Dakota, dressed in a little black dress, black sheer tights, and sparkly silver stilettos opened the door and gave me a big hug.

“You’re here!” she exclaimed, pulling me in to the apartment that had the faint smell of smoke masked by a cheap Bath & Body Works apple cinnamon scented candle.

“I poured you this,” she said, handing me a red Solo cup and closing the door behind us. The apartment was clean, and decorated simply. Dakota led me into the living room, where the hostess had set up a flip cup table with a piece of plywood and two craft stands that we’d used in shop class a million times to paint on. I appreciated the attempt to up the class factor by throwing a black plastic tablecloth over the wood to match the black tarp they’d laid down under the craft stands to catch any stray beer.

I sipped the contents of the cup I’d been handed and tasted the mixture of mild beer and strong apple cider.

“Be careful, it’s deadly,” Dakota warned as she led me into the room where about ten people were lined up on either side of the makeshift table. I scanned the room and quickly took it in before I exhaled. The apartment was set up in such a way that from the living room you could see the dining room, but you had to turn a complete corner in order to get to the kitchen.

I didn’t realize that right away, and so I let Dakota introduce me to Karen, her friend from SMU who worked for a non-profit in Plano, Garth, her friend from SMU who had moved to DC with her and was also home for the holidays, and the rest of the crew that was lining up to play another round of Flip Cup Survivor.

I was being welcomed on to one team, filling my cup, and getting ready to take my place in the middle when I looked up and finally saw him. He came around the corner from the kitchen, and I caught my breath as he turned and saw me.

It was like catching a familiar face at an orgy the way that Pete and I both stopped in our tracks when we saw each other. I assumed, by his expression, that Dakota hadn’t told him I was coming to the party either.

And yet there I stood, upset with myself for not realizing that this was a cheap sitcom ploy by a meddling friend in order to get Pete and I in the same place.

I looked to my left at Dakota who purposefully avoided my gaze.

“Corbin, are you ready?” Garth asked, nudging me from the left. I snapped back into reality and realized everyone was squaring off with their partner across the table. I slowly pulled my solo cup to the one in front of me, and a second later, the chaos of the game began.

I wasn’t sure what to do. There was no way I could stay at that apartment with Pete staring me down, and yet I couldn’t just run and leave. My mind raced a million miles a second, wondering what I had gotten myself into. And then, before I could even form a cohesive thought, I felt Garth nudge me and scream that it was my turn.

I chugged the contents of my cup, brought the cup to the table, and attempted, with shaking fingers, to flip it over. I was normally really good at the game, but then again, I normally wasn’t playing across the room from someone I was in a bitter feud with.

Why had I fallen for such a thinly veiled set-up? I thought as I missed another shot at flipping the cup. What did Dakota have to gain by bringing Pete and me together? What was the angle? The questions circulated faster and faster as my concentration on flipping that god-damned Solo cup slipped further and further away.

“Come on, we thought you were in a fraternity!” one of the guys on my team shouted. I took a deep breath, looked at my cup and flipped it one more time. It landed on its lip first, before Dakota cheated, grabbed the cup and set it firmly on the other side. The game continued to race around me as the other team slaughtered us.

There was no denying who the weakest link on our team was, and so when it came down for us to vote someone off, it was unanimous that I had to leave the table.

Which left me standing in the middle of the room, knowing no one but Dakota, who was busy flipping her team towards a comeback, and Pete, who had gone from staring me down to avoiding me altogether.

I wanted to leave, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t just walk out without saying anything to Dakota. I didn’t have an explanation of why I desperately wanted out other than the fact that Pete was there and I couldn’t handle it. I wanted a way out, but there was none, and so I slipped past Pete into the kitchen to refill my drink.

I’d like to think that if I’d been on my home turf, I would have been able to stand my ground. I would have known what to say, I would have had a quip ready, a glance in my back pocket, a way to turn this awkward situation into my advantage.

But I wasn’t on my home turf. Pete had the home court advantage on that one, and I didn’t know what to do. Feeling ambushed, I took a deep breath, filled my glass to the brim, turned around and came face to face with Dakota.

“What is he doing here? You said he wasn’t going to be here?”

“I know, and I lied, and I’m sorry. Follow me,” she said, turning before I had a chance to respond. I was her guest, I was there because of her, and so as much as I didn’t want to, I followed her into a bedroom across the living room from where we were. I walked right in to the room behind Dakota to see Pete standing by the hostess’ dresser drawer.

“What is he doing here?” Pete echoed exactly what I had said. There was only a slight agitation in his voice, a definite step up from the last time we’d run into each other at a party. Progress, I thought, but far from where we’d been, and far from where we needed to be in order to coexist in such a small space.

“Okay, so I know this is a set up, and I get it. It’s a stupid romantic comedy set up, but listen. You two boys need to sit down and talk this out. Pete, you’re miserable this week. No one wants to hang around you; I’m tired of getting phone calls and texts messages from you explaining what a jackass Corbin has been to you. Sort it out. Corbin, I’m sure you’re just as annoying to your friends and family as well, so… that’s why you’re here.”

“I’m leaving,” I said softly, turning to walk away.

“No, you aren’t,” Dakota replied.

“How are you going to stop me? Thanks for the invite, but I can’t do this right now. I said what I needed to say last weekend to him, so….”

“Last I checked, you’ve been drinking,” Dakota smiled, pulling my half empty cup out of my hands. “So unless you plan on taking a cab all the way back to Colleyville, you’ll stay here and you’ll talk to Pete until you sober up. That should be in what, an hour? Better make it worth it.”

I shook my head slowly. A cab didn’t sound like such a bad idea. I wondered how much money I had in my bank account, and the fact that I had to calculate meant I didn’t have enough for the ride. And so I sighed, resigning to the fact that I was going to have to talk to Pete, again.

“Now, Pete you said that after you guys talked last weekend you can see yourself forgiving him, so that’s where I need you to start,” Dakota inched towards the door. When she was at arm’s length away from me, she handed me back my cup.

“Since you’re staying, you can keep drinking this,” she said, her eyes wide and deliberate, as if she was enjoying this entire set up. I knew exactly what her angle was, but I was powerless to deny it, so I took the cup and gulped down a much needed sip of liquor.

The door clicked shut with just Pete and me inside some girl’s bedroom that I didn’t know, looking at each other in awkward silence. Our eyes met for a brief second before Pete dropped his head and looked at his fingers.

“What do you want, Pete?” I asked, my voice low and calm. There was absolutely no level of aggression in my tone, as I was purely asking. Simply asking. “What do you want?”

“What do you mean?” he shifted defensively.

“Out of this? Of our friendship, or whatever it is. What do you want?” I looked at him, and for the first time since we met, I let him see all the way in. “You know what I want from you, and as much as I want it, and I want you, I can live without you if that’s what you want. I can try my best to live without you. I can be friends, if that’s what you want, and I can try my best to be okay with that. But what is it that you want from me? Is it friendship? Is it me? What do you want?”

I saw the tear form in his eye like I was watching something out of a movie. The romantic in me wanted him to lean over and kiss me right then and there, but the pragmatic, the realistic side of me knew that another kiss between Pete and I was miles away.

“I want coffee,” he replied, looking up from his hands to meet my eyes. “I want someone to walk to chorus with and to tell about my day. I want someone to hang out with when I need to study or who can get me in to an exclusive party when I don’t. I want to be able to say that the kid who is universally loved on campus is a friend of mine.” Pete took in a deep breath. “I see how fiercely loyal you are with your fraternity and with the things you care about, and I would love a fraction of that loyalty. You’re a good guy, Corbin, and if I were into guys like that, you’d be at the top of the list.”

I swallowed, and thought about where I’d heard that phrase used against me before. But I didn’t flinch. I didn’t show how hurtful such a flattering phrase could be.

“Look, when we were friends, that was the most fun I’d ever had in this country, and I’d like to go back to that, if you’ll allow me.”

“Is that it?” I asked, knowing that I was unsatisfied by the answer. Of course that’s what he wanted. It was what I wanted on the surface as well. We’d proven that we could do friends very well, and that we could do enemies just as easily. What we hadn’t proven was that we could do the gray area. What if I started dating someone? I thought. Would Pete get just as jealous as he had with Mike? Was I allowed to ask him that, or would I revert back to being the crazy guy with an uncontrollable crush?

“Is that not enough?” he asked slowly, making eye contact and penetrating my soul with his. The truth was, at that point, I would take anything just to be able to hang out with Pete again without turning an angry shade of red. I would do anything to be able to talk to him, take him to a party, without it turning into a passive aggressive fight. And for that to happen, I decided in that moment, for that to be possible, I needed to know the truth.

“Why are you so jealous of Mike?” I asked, point blank. I had to know. If Pete and I had any chance of repairing anything, I needed to hear him say why my relationship with Mike bothered him so greatly.

I’d heard the speech about his dad, and I got it. I send mixed signals. But there was something about Mike that made Pete go from being a mildly confusing, sexually ambiguous crushworthy guy, into a jealous non-boyfriend who unfairly villianized me for receiving love from another man.

“I’m not.”

“Don’t lie. If we’re going to get coffee, and if we’re going to walk to chorus, and if I’m going to spend the rest of this… this… English year with you pretending that I don’t want to reach over and grab your hand every time we’re walking in step together, I need to know why you got so jealous of him. I like you, and you know that, but you’ve been clear that it’s unrequited, and I’m willing… I want to stay friends with you, I really do. But I have to know what it is that bothers you so much about Mike?”

Pete looked at me and blinked as if I’d asked him the meaning of life itself. I wasn’t asking to be manipulative. I wasn’t trying to force Pete into a corner, into telling me how he really felt. If he wanted to let down his walls and allow himself to want me back, he would have. He had when we kissed, and now those walls were right back up. But if we were going to go back in time, in order for us not to fall into the same trap we’d fallen into this semester, I needed to know where we stood, and Mike was a very real part of our standing.

“I can’t answer that,” Pete said. I sighed. “No, I just… I don’t know what it is. I guess I just don’t like the guy. And I don’t like him for you.”

“So if I’d started dating anyone else this past semester, none of this would have happened?”

“You started dating someone who punched me in the face,” Pete replied. “So, you tell me. Would any of the other guys you’ve been with at OD have done that?”

It was a valid question, and yet it was also a simple cop out. I didn’t believe for a second that this whole thing stemmed from Pete simply ‘not liking’ Mike. There was more to it than that. There had already been way more to it than that. Sure Mike’s abrasiveness towards the Brit might have added to it, but the fact that Pete, still to that day, couldn’t admit that he was gay, let alone had feelings for me, meant there was way more underlying our problems than one Mike Loggerman.

And yet that night, at that party, it was enough to give me enough hope that Pete and I would somehow make our friendship work. I wasn’t delusional in thinking we’d be the exact same as we had been at the beginning. But any progress would be good progress. I missed him, and to deny that would have been futile.

And yet part of me sat there thinking that even if we went back, even if we started talking again and hanging out and going to chorus together, I had survived without him once. I wasn’t as desperate for his attention as I had been. I wasn’t as hurt by his refusal to come out to me as I had been in the past. I had moved on once, and proven to myself that I was capable of living a life that didn’t include the Brit.

And so when he said that the only reason he didn’t get along with Mike was because he didn’t like Mike, when he didn’t admit that his animosity towards the guy that was fucking me might have something to do with the fact that Pete wasn’t fucking me, when I gave him the chance to admit that he had some feelings, any sort of feelings, and he didn’t, the sting was there, but not nearly as strong as it had been before.

And so I decided not to press it. I decided to take Pete’s words at surface value. It was the first step in us getting back to what we had been, and so I decided to let it go.

We continued to talk for a couple of minutes before deciding to summon Dakota and tell her that we had kissed and made up. He told about his family, and how the trip to and from England was too long and tiring to take for just a week back home. Besides, he got along very well with Dakota’s parents and her brother to the point that they insisted he spend Thanksgiving with them.

“So my friend-tervention worked, then?” Dakota asked, swinging the door after Pete texted her that we were done. “I really didn’t think this was going to work.”

“Will you just let us out, please?” Pete asked.

“Of course, of course,” Dakota slurred, decidedly drunker than she had been twenty minutes ago. “But first I need proof that you two aren’t just pretending to be friends again so that you can go back to the party.”

“How in the fuck do we prove that?” I asked, raising an eyebrow and not really trusting Dakota’s manipulations.

“I need to see a solid hug.”

“Dakota, come on,” Pete started to protest.

“Seriously, you don’t want to hug me?” I asked, turning to him and spreading my arms. I raised my eyebrows and gave him a look. He smiled at me and for a second, everything seemed to disappear.

We rejoined the party, and it was a completely different vibe than it had been when I arrived. In the half hour that Pete and I had been in relationship counseling, the rest of the crew had doubled in drunkenness. I’m sure the game of flip cup plus whatever shooters they’d taken while we were gone were to blame. Either way, when I made my way back into the party room, my only goal was to get as drunk as everyone else.

Pete and I immediately took a shot of Goldschlager in the kitchen before being summoned to come play chandeliers. I watched as Dakota and her co-hostess, Karen, popped endless bottles of J. Roget champagne and filled the cups on the table.

“We’re playing chandeliers with champagne?” I marveled.

“It is the holidays, isn’t it?” Dakota said with a wicked smile. I watched as the girls prepared the table, filling every solo cup to the pour line and then filling one trump cup in the middle to the brim. I cringed at the idea of having to chug that much champagne, and the hangover that was sure to settle in tomorrow.

But there was nothing I could do besides take my spot on the table and play the game.

“Come stand over here,” Garth motioned for me from across the table. “I heard you were good at this game… I think I want to see for myself.”

He had a flirtatious look in his eyes, one that in normal circumstances I would have been giving to someone I thought was cute at the party. But my mind had been so far removed from flirting, what with Mike on lockdown and Pete’s and my infantile reconciliation. I hadn’t thought about catching anyone’s eye.

And then it hit me. Pete wanted to pretend that it didn’t bother him so much that I hooked up with other guys as it bothered him that I had been hooking up with Mike. He wanted to pretend like it was the guy on the other line that he didn’t like, not the idea of me being with somebody that wasn’t him.

And so, sensing Garth’s intentions towards flirting with me, I decided to put what Pete had said to the test.

“Really? Who told you I was so good at chandeliers?” I asked with a tilted smile. Garth cut his eyes towards Pete. “He said that, did he? What else did he tell you I was good at?”

I smiled wickedly, picked up the cup of vodka and apple cider that I had been nursing, and walked over to where Garth stood.

“That was pretty much it,” he said, his voice barely carrying to my ears. I smiled at him, and then coyly brought my cup up to my lips.

“Well, you should know that I’m good at a lot of things, not just drinking games.”

I knew that Pete couldn’t tell what I’d whispered to Garth, but as I lifted my eyes to survey the room, I could tell that he had seen me cross around the table. Knowing that he was watching, I put my hand on the small of Garth’s back and decided to go for broke.

“Like what?” Garth asked matching my level of flirtatiousness.

“You might just have to stick around later and find out,” I bit my bottom lip and then blatantly cut my eyes all the way down Garth’s body, and then back up to meet his.

“Alright, are we ready to get started?” Pete asked, his voice booming over everyone’s small talk. I smiled inside, not wanting to expose my plan. It was a test that barely needed to be administered. Pete had given himself away a million times, but that night, veiled under his lame excuse as to why he had been bothered by Mike, he failed the test rather miserably.

As fun as flirting with Garth during that game of chandeliers was, I had no intention of doing anything with him. It was enough to see Pete steal looks at us as we whispered in each other’s ears. If that’s what I needed to do to get Pete to realize he was full of shit, it was what I would do.

The rest of the night slowly fell into a blur as the shots kept flowing, the bottles kept popping, and Garth made sure to keep a full mixed drink of something or other in my hands at all times.

“Are you trying to get me drunk?” I asked after he handed me another cider and cinnamon schnapps.

“I just want you to enjoy yourself,” he said with a wicked smile before leaning over, wrapping his arm around, and letting me fall into him with all of my body weight.

I was sure that people had intentions of going out after the party, but the booze was so plentiful, and we were all having genuine fun, that eventually one o’clock rolled around, and the idea of going out disappeared without anyone really mentioning it.

“Where’s Pete?” I asked Garth as I looked around and realized that people were falling off and beginning to either cab home or pass out.

“I think he’s asleep on Karen’s bed,” Garth replied, scooting in close to me on the couch. We’d been talking about D.C. and how when I turned 21, I needed to come visit him and Dakota and go to a bottomless brunch. At first I thought he meant that people didn’t wear pants to brunch in D.C., and then he clarified.

“I should probably find him and make sure he’s okay,” I said, making to stand. I knew that I had been flirting with Garth all night long, and I also knew that I needed an exit strategy before any lines were crossed. Finding Pete was my excuse to leave Garth for the time being.

“He’s fine,” Garth said, scooting in a little closer and blocking me from standing. “What were we talking about?”

“Breakfast with no pants,” I replied absentmindedly.

“I could go for something with no pants… right… about.. now,” Garth whispered. He leaned in close to my face, using the back of the couch for leverage. I leaned back, moving my face away from his, hoping he would get the idea.

“I’m sorry,” I said quickly. I caught Garth’s eye and shrugged. He gave me a quizzical look, and I sighed, knowing that I had given him the go ahead all night, and now that we were finally somewhat alone, drunk, and sitting on a couch in a dimly lit apartment, I was pulling the plug.

“I’m sort of seeing someone,” I explained, my voice soft, and my neck still arched backwards away from Garth’s lips.

“Sort of, or seeing?” Garth asked, finally pulling away and sitting back on the couch.

“Sort of,” I replied. How could I even begin to explain the complexity of my relationship with Mike, let alone all of the drama with Pete, to a guy who had been chasing vodka shots with champagne all night long.

“It’s complicated…”

“…Is a button on Facebook,” Garth challenged, leaning back in to my space. “I graduated Magna Cum Laude at SMU. I can handle complicated.”

“Well I can’t,” I responded, this time pushing him back with my hands.

“Were you using me to make him jealous?” Garth asked, reading the situation perfectly. “Because you were in to me all night long, and as soon as he goes to bed, what?”

“Look, I’m sorry if you got the wrong impression.” My voice was weak and barely genuine. I wasn’t sorry at all, and we both knew it. “I led you on, and that was wrong. But I’m seeing someone. He lives in Maryland, and I’m not in the business of making out on people’s couches who I’ve just barely met.”

“So you went from sort of to seeing someone. Which is it, Corbin?”

“I’ll tell you which it isn’t,” I smiled, losing my last bit of will to remain polite. I stood up and walked towards the two bedrooms on the other side of the apartment. I opened the one to the left, where Pete and I had been barricaded, and peaked in. Dakota was under the cover, her black dress pulling at her shoulders, and Pete was over the cover, facing away from her, and snoring softly. Looking at them laying there reminded me of my sister and I and what we would look like after a rager. I swallowed and suddenly felt guilty about assuming the worst out of those two. In that moment, they didn’t even look capable of kissing each other, let alone fucking.

I swallowed, realizing that I had made a mistake. The whole thing since Mike, and Pete’s picture, and lying to him about my involvement with the VMee, and everything had been one huge mistake.

“Hey, killer,” I heard Pete mumble as he shifted in the bed. I heard him rustle and move to the side as he tried to figure out what I was doing in the doorway. “You’re letting the light in.”

“I’m sorry,” I replied, my words soft and slurred. “I was just looking for a place to crash before I… I’m in no position to drive home.”

“Come here, then,” Pete said as if it was an every day request. ‘Come lay next to me like we’ve done a hundred times. No big deal.’

I hesitated, and even in the dark stillness of the bedroom, Pete felt me pause.

“Oh, come on. I’m not going to bite you. Grab that blanket.” With that, Pete scooted into the middle of the bed, just next to where Dakota was hogging the comforter. I took the throw blanket that had been covering Pete’s feet and unfolded it on to him. A second later, I climbed in under it and scooted as close to him as I could without physically touching him.

“You aren’t sleeping with Garth?” Pete whispered, surprising me by talking in the first place. He’d looked so peacefully asleep when I opened the door, I wasn’t sure if he’d been faking it or if I’d actually woken him up.

“I was never going to sleep with Garth,” I whispered back, shifting ever so slightly to make myself more comfortable.

“I know,” Pete responded, yawning into my ear and resting his strong hand against my shoulder.

“I’m glad we’re friends again,” he whispered softly into my ear, grabbing my shoulder, and slowly stretching so that our bodies were slightly pressed against each other.

With that one touch, that one sentence, that one hand on my right shoulder, his body grazing mine, everything I’d decided, everything I’d ever known became hazy. I felt like a moth circling a flame, with no hope for escape, knowing that there was nothing but a scorching end to the torture. I was hypnotized by Pete, drawn in by him when he wanted, let go by him when it suited. And yet, knowing all of this, aware that I was falling back into a trap I had worked so hard to climb my way out of, I lay there next to him, and let his hand rest on my shoulder.

I woke with a start a few hours later, my mind still swirling from all of the drinking I’d done before. Pete had somehow managed to put his entire arm around my chest and had pulled me into a strong cuddle that I wasn’t sure he was even aware of. At some point in the night, his chest had rested against my back, and our breathing had synced.

It took me a second to remember where I was, but as soon as I heard the low roar of Pete’s snore, I knew where I was.

And I knew I needed to get out of there as soon as possible.

Without waking him, I slid out from under his arm, gingerly moving out from under the blanket that we had shared. Too many times Pete and I had slept together, and he’d woken up early and crept out of my room. It was my turn to do the disappearing act.

I tip toed into the living room, which was beyond trashed by the rager that we’d had last night, and looked around for my shoes. I saw Garth sleeping in the fetus position on the couch perched in the center of the room, and suddenly everything that had happened the night before came roaring back into my brain like a tidal wave.

I didn’t even put my shoes on in the house. Instead, I grabbed my Chucks, sprinted for the door, and let myself out into the cold morning air before anyone had a chance to stop me.

I didn’t look back at the apartment until I was in the safety of my car, waiting for the windows to defrost, and the heater to warm up before I hit the road.

I can’t begin to explain how I felt that morning. As I drove home, thinking about everything that had transpired, from the romantic comedy set-up that Dakota had thrust upon me, to Pete putting his arm around me and making me feel complete again for the first time in ages, every confusing thought I had led to another confusing thought.

Part of me was relieved that we’d worked things out, or begun to at least. I knew that we had a long ways to go before our friendship could be even called that again, but we’d taken the first step, and for that I was thankful.

Another part of me was upset with myself. How could I have let myself get sucked right back in to Pete’s orbit so easily? He hadn’t given me a solid reason for his jealousy, and so as far as I was concerned on the return trip, nothing much had really changed. What if I went back to Mike? What if, after his lockdown, we started up just where we’d left off? Where would that leave Pete and me? Or better yet, what if someone entirely knew came along? Would Pete be just as jealous of another guy as he’d been with Mike? The fact that he didn’t see his jealousy as a reason for our downfall meant that there was every bit of a chance that we could fall apart again.

But then again, I thought, we’d been through it before. We were older and wiser now, and between the two of us, we’d be able to control those emotions that had slipped out of our control early on. I knew I was capable of being around Pete without turning into a pathetic school girl, and I assumed that if we did rekindle our friendship, he’d be capable of seeing me with a guy and not lose his shit.

And as much as I wanted to believe that, the rush of feelings that came soaring back into my mind last night made it perfectly clear that I was either overestimating my resolve or underestimating Pete’s hold on me.

And for that, I was angry with myself for letting him do that to me.

And then there was Mike. There was Mike and his hall pass that he’d given me. He’d essentially given me free reign while he was on lockdown to what I wanted. And I thought I would be capable of not needing or wanting to do anything. I had flirted with Garth and shut him down without feeling an ounce of bitterness about it. I could wait for Mike if I had to. But what I couldn’t feel was the guilt that came with knowing that while I was on this hall pass with Mike, I would be falling back in love with the one guy Mike couldn’t stand.

His hall pass covered hooking up, sex with guys that happened to come my way. His hall pass, I was pretty sure, didn’t cover sleeping in the same bed as Pete and loving every second of it.

And even if it did, even if Mike could get past the fact that nothing had happened and that it was just sleeping, I didn’t know if I could live with the guilt every time I hung out with Pete, longed for Pete, and thought about Mike sitting there by himself in lockdown waiting for me to wait for him until he got out.

It was the Sophie’s Choice of Sophie’s Choices, and I had no idea what I was going to do.

I took a long, hot shower when I got home and made it downstairs just in time to hitch a ride with my parents to Saturday morning brunch at the country club, where my hangover was assuaged by the one bloody mary my parents would turn a blind eye to. After brunch, my sister drove us to the shops in Southlake where we walked around, ate frozen yogurt and made the ill-fated decision to go watch Twilight that night.

Later that evening while my sister was getting ready for the movies, I sat down on my bed, and while riddled with every feeling known to man, I pulled out my phone, and decided that I needed to do something I’d been putting off all day long.

“Hey babe,” Mike answered the phone after the second ring.

“Hey,” I replied, trying my best to sound breezy. “What are you up to?”

“Not much really. I went to the races with my dad this morning and we’re calling it an early night so that we can tailgate the Ravens tomorrow.”

“When do you drive back to Lex?”

“Crack of dawn Monday,” he said. “What about you?”

“I fly out tomorrow morning, and then driving down to Clifton right away.”

“Oh man,” Mike replied. “That’s brutal.”

“Yeah,” I said, not looking forward to the daylong trip that would be followed by a mandatory chapter meeting in which we would plan out every detail of the last two weeks of informal rush. “I have meetings and shit tomorrow night, so… it’s early to bed, early to rise for me tonight.”

“Well, I will think of you sir while I’m watching Joe Flacco kick the shit out of the Patriots.”

I smiled to myself and wondered if I actually needed to do this. There had to be a way that I could survive the next six months without breaking Mike’s heart and mine, by proxy. But the guilt I’d felt that morning, the feeling I’d felt lying in Pete’s arms, the wondering about what could have been from a kiss from Garth… I couldn’t live with those feelings for six months. It would kill me, and it wouldn’t be fair to either of us.

“Mike, I need to talk to you about something,” I said, my voice lowering into a solemn and serious tone.

“I’ve dated enough girls to know that that sentence is never good.”

“Mike… I….”

“Just say it.” I could hear the slow burn in his voice as he realized what was going on.

“Mike, come on.”

“Just say what you need to get off your chest, Corbin. Say it so that I can tell you that you’re wrong. Say it so that I can convince you that you’re making a mistake,” I heard a hiccup in his voice, and my heart sank lower than it ever had in my entire life.

Here I was about to tell the one guy who’d been able to pull me out of a slump caused by a completely different guy that I couldn’t be with him anymore. Here I was about to tell Mike Loggerman that I didn’t know if I could feel the way I’d felt last night for the next six months and survive it.

“Mike.” A tear scorched the side of my cheek, and I quickly brushed it away. “Mike, I’m sorry.”

“Remember when I said that you’d break my heart one day,” Mike said slowly, his voice low and soft. I could tell he was holding back a flood of emotion, and every passing second got harder for me to deal with. “I never thought for a second that you actually would.”

And then Mike said something that hit me like thousand pound weight. His next words felt like a knife straight through the heart.

“Mike…” I tried to stop him from turning the screw and making me feel even guiltier than I already did. I knew it had to be done, I knew that we could go on pretending for any amount of time, but that eventually this conversation would have to happen.

And then everything I thought I knew came crashing down around me.

“Mike, I’m sorry,” I repeated pathetically. I heard him sigh on the other line of the phone. I collapsed back onto my bed, under the weight of the heart I’d broken on the other line.

And then with eight simple words, eight monosyllable words, everything I knew, everything I’d decided in the last twenty-four hours came crashing down around me.

“Corbin…” Mike began, his voice pained beyond recognition. “I could have changed my life for you.”

His words echoed in my brain, burning every nerve ending in my mind, scorching every feeling I’d felt for any boy that wasn’t Mike Loggerman.

Half of me thought I was making the biggest mistake of my life. The other half hoped that I wasn’t.

 

               

Hi All! Thanks for your patience with this chapter. I hope it lives up to the wait! I can't wait to hear what you think, so feel free to leave questions, comments, and reviews, and join in on the lively discussion in the message boards. Until next time!

Copyright © 2016 Jwolf; All Rights Reserved.
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OH SHIT NO. Why is it always a little too late with Mike? Why didn't he tell Corbin this before ? Why say it afterwards 'I could have' - then it becomes more like a punishment for breaking up with him. Is Mike that cruel ? Bitter revenge for a situation he created by being a coward about coming out.

And what mistake is Corbin going to make? Will he tell Mike that he'll wait for him if he changes his life ? That's bull shit. If Mike means it, he'll go straight to his dad telling him he's in love with a guy and wants to come out. In that case he'll have to leave the VM and the lock down no longer applies. He can then see Corbin as much as he wants. All Corbin needs to do to call him on this, would be to say that if Mike is ready to do this, then there is no need to break up.

The problem comes if Mike says "I'll come out if you'll wait for me until I'm done with the military" - but that's not for years yet. And if he says wait for me these six months and you'll get me eventually, but we have to keep it a secret while I'm still serving. that's even more bull shit.

So I'm guessing the mistake will be to go through with breaking things off with Mike. To take his words to mean that he destroyed their chances and Mike wouldn't take him back now (I could have = but now I won't). All Corbin has to do is say: "Well, Mike if you had told me that when I called, we wouldn't have had this conversation about breaking up. So I guess I broke your heart as much as you just broke mine. Such a shame and I'm sorry."

And Peter can fuck off back home to England and take fucking Dakota with him. Stupid bitch.

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Mike! Oh mike, dunno wether to slap him or what. That comment about changing his life? Why say it then and not earlier? I guess the next thing that comes out of Corbin's mouth is going to make or break. Pete, in still not siding with him yet, he hasn't won me over enough yet. Having got that rant off my chest, brilliant writing as per usual. I love this series !!!

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Ha, Timothy's review was almost another chapter to this story. But everything he said! Mike frustrated me endlessly I literally groaned at the end. Another great chapter! Antsy for more.

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Pete really is playing a game. I'm not gay, but you can't be with anyone else. Mike is in a bind and can't express his true feelings. And Corbin is stuck

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On 10/16/2014 10:05 AM, Timothy M. said:
OH SHIT NO. Why is it always a little too late with Mike? Why didn't he tell Corbin this before ? Why say it afterwards 'I could have' - then it becomes more like a punishment for breaking up with him. Is Mike that cruel ? Bitter revenge for a situation he created by being a coward about coming out.

And what mistake is Corbin going to make? Will he tell Mike that he'll wait for him if he changes his life ? That's bull shit. If Mike means it, he'll go straight to his dad telling him he's in love with a guy and wants to come out. In that case he'll have to leave the VM and the lock down no longer applies. He can then see Corbin as much as he wants. All Corbin needs to do to call him on this, would be to say that if Mike is ready to do this, then there is no need to break up.

The problem comes if Mike says "I'll come out if you'll wait for me until I'm done with the military" - but that's not for years yet. And if he says wait for me these six months and you'll get me eventually, but we have to keep it a secret while I'm still serving. that's even more bull shit.

So I'm guessing the mistake will be to go through with breaking things off with Mike. To take his words to mean that he destroyed their chances and Mike wouldn't take him back now (I could have = but now I won't). All Corbin has to do is say: "Well, Mike if you had told me that when I called, we wouldn't have had this conversation about breaking up. So I guess I broke your heart as much as you just broke mine. Such a shame and I'm sorry."

And Peter can fuck off back home to England and take fucking Dakota with him. Stupid bitch.

I love this review. I think you've hit on that there's so many ways this story could progress... I'm interested to see what you think as more of the narrative unfolds. I'm digging the passion you had to this chapter. Wow... thanks for such a strong reaction! More to come :)
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On 10/16/2014 10:19 AM, SteveH said:
Mike! Oh mike, dunno wether to slap him or what. That comment about changing his life? Why say it then and not earlier? I guess the next thing that comes out of Corbin's mouth is going to make or break. Pete, in still not siding with him yet, he hasn't won me over enough yet. Having got that rant off my chest, brilliant writing as per usual. I love this series !!!
I think Mike is definitely stuck between a rock and hard place and Corbin knows that... can't wait to share Corbin's reaction to their 'break up' moving forward. Remember... Mike gave Corbin an out, and Corbs is the one that chose not to take it... more to come...
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On 10/16/2014 10:19 AM, SteveH said:
Mike! Oh mike, dunno wether to slap him or what. That comment about changing his life? Why say it then and not earlier? I guess the next thing that comes out of Corbin's mouth is going to make or break. Pete, in still not siding with him yet, he hasn't won me over enough yet. Having got that rant off my chest, brilliant writing as per usual. I love this series !!!
I think Mike is definitely stuck between a rock and hard place and Corbin knows that... can't wait to share Corbin's reaction to their 'break up' moving forward. You're 100 percent right that what Corbin does next is pivotal for him and Mike... it has to be, right?
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On 10/16/2014 11:49 AM, secretsides said:
AH, HELL!!!
Thanks for the review:) Love the reaction.
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On 10/16/2014 12:19 PM, Defiance19 said:
Ha, Timothy's review was almost another chapter to this story. But everything he said! Mike frustrated me endlessly I literally groaned at the end. Another great chapter! Antsy for more.
Thanks for the feedback defiance! These three guys definitely don't make it easy on themselves, or the reader, or on me as the author! More to come...
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On 10/16/2014 12:32 PM, Quiet man said:
Pete really is playing a game. I'm not gay, but you can't be with anyone else. Mike is in a bind and can't express his true feelings. And Corbin is stuck
I think you've described it perfectly between these three guys. Corbin is definitely stuck, and that's not a place he likes to be... trust me. Thanks so much for the review!
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One of a FEW stories I look forward to reading. Another great chapter. The whole "could have" line is a slap to the face. I honestly think Corbin should end up alone and happy with his growth. He don't need no man.

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Wow! Thanks for this chapter. Another fix for me! Yeah! I love your writing and I ended up reading half the last chapter again just to get located in the story, but also re-reading your chapters is as good as a first read. I will have to do that again with this story, I think, when you finish it.

As always a very satisfying read. You take us so well through all the twists and turns of Corbin's world. It's complicated as he says. And it doesn't ever seem to come unravelled. Just when one thinks there's some light at the end of the tunnel one is whammed from another direction. Mike's final words to him are such a wham! Wow! I wish someone said that to me. God, Corbin, you can't let this man go. He's going to be there for you when the Englishman goes home and forgets all about you! I hate that English guy. I hate him for the hold he has over Corbin and that Corbin melts in his hands. He sleeps next to the guy, does nothing all night, and is a goo-ball in the morning over him. Huh!? Come on Corbin! Wish there was some cure for starry-eyed lovers which we could give Corbin to wake him up from this trance.

Mike is no longer just about the sex. I have to say this. He and Corbs have a fantastic thing going in bed and out. But Mike has turned another corner and he's there for Corbs. He's doing this shitty lockdown because of Corbin and I wonder if Corbin really in the depths of his mind and being really, really appreciates that. I know he's admitted to it, but he hasn't gone to the depths to look at what it really means. This half-assed Englishman steps in again and Corbin can't think straight any more. Damn! I'm so fussed up over this! I want to shake him.

Will this Englishman ever ever come up to scratch? Personally I think Corbin is chasing some stupid dream that has lodged in his brain and caused a major short-circuit that he can't see what he's letting go. Mike's given him permission to play the field while he's locked away but Corbin can't let go of this damned Englishman and he's the problem. So what Corbin's doing now is totally choosing this half-relationship with this stupid Englishman over Mike, the beloved, loyal, totally willing beautiful man that is going to change his life for Corbin. I can't believe it. Are you trying to prove that love is blind?

Just reading through the reviews. Hey, Timothy M, fantastic review. I concur whole-heartedly.

As you can see, I get so caught up in these guys and their story. You make it so real. Great job. Can't wait for the next posting. You rock, Jwolf man!

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On 10/16/2014 03:46 PM, PeeAnt said:
One of a FEW stories I look forward to reading. Another great chapter. The whole "could have" line is a slap to the face. I honestly think Corbin should end up alone and happy with his growth. He don't need no man.
Have you met Corbin? Alone and happy don't go together in his mind... that would make things simpler though, wouldn't it. Thanks for the review!
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On 10/16/2014 08:41 PM, Jaro_423 said:
Wow! Thanks for this chapter. Another fix for me! Yeah! I love your writing and I ended up reading half the last chapter again just to get located in the story, but also re-reading your chapters is as good as a first read. I will have to do that again with this story, I think, when you finish it.

As always a very satisfying read. You take us so well through all the twists and turns of Corbin's world. It's complicated as he says. And it doesn't ever seem to come unravelled. Just when one thinks there's some light at the end of the tunnel one is whammed from another direction. Mike's final words to him are such a wham! Wow! I wish someone said that to me. God, Corbin, you can't let this man go. He's going to be there for you when the Englishman goes home and forgets all about you! I hate that English guy. I hate him for the hold he has over Corbin and that Corbin melts in his hands. He sleeps next to the guy, does nothing all night, and is a goo-ball in the morning over him. Huh!? Come on Corbin! Wish there was some cure for starry-eyed lovers which we could give Corbin to wake him up from this trance.

Mike is no longer just about the sex. I have to say this. He and Corbs have a fantastic thing going in bed and out. But Mike has turned another corner and he's there for Corbs. He's doing this shitty lockdown because of Corbin and I wonder if Corbin really in the depths of his mind and being really, really appreciates that. I know he's admitted to it, but he hasn't gone to the depths to look at what it really means. This half-assed Englishman steps in again and Corbin can't think straight any more. Damn! I'm so fussed up over this! I want to shake him.

Will this Englishman ever ever come up to scratch? Personally I think Corbin is chasing some stupid dream that has lodged in his brain and caused a major short-circuit that he can't see what he's letting go. Mike's given him permission to play the field while he's locked away but Corbin can't let go of this damned Englishman and he's the problem. So what Corbin's doing now is totally choosing this half-relationship with this stupid Englishman over Mike, the beloved, loyal, totally willing beautiful man that is going to change his life for Corbin. I can't believe it. Are you trying to prove that love is blind?

Just reading through the reviews. Hey, Timothy M, fantastic review. I concur whole-heartedly.

As you can see, I get so caught up in these guys and their story. You make it so real. Great job. Can't wait for the next posting. You rock, Jwolf man!

Jaro, thanks so much for this review. So thought out, so thorough. Honestly, responses like this is why folks like me keep writing. It's amazing to hear that our characters and our narratives have an effect on people, so thank you so much for taking the time to do that. I'm not going to tease anything with regards to your questions, just know that this story is far from over. Can't wait to see how you feel as more of the story unfolds :) Thanks again!
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Interesting chapter. We now know Corbin doesn't like gay guys. He only wants the 'straight' ones. Mike gets closer, Corbin abandons him. Pete push/ pulls him away, Corbin runs after him. Garth offers his affection, Corbs shuts him down. Absolutely fascinating! I met a few Corbin's while bar tending at gay bars. It's so sad. I feel bad for him and even more for the Cadet who is so damned genuine.

Great job and thank you for sharing this story. This chapter rocks!

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So... you basically took the "gay for you" thrope and twisted it inside out. Awesome!

 

I wonder if we will hear again from Mike... I think his love for Corbin is quite cute :P

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On 10/17/2014 11:44 AM, Cole Matthews said:
Interesting chapter. We now know Corbin doesn't like gay guys. He only wants the 'straight' ones. Mike gets closer, Corbin abandons him. Pete push/ pulls him away, Corbin runs after him. Garth offers his affection, Corbs shuts him down. Absolutely fascinating! I met a few Corbin's while bar tending at gay bars. It's so sad. I feel bad for him and even more for the Cadet who is so damned genuine.

Great job and thank you for sharing this story. This chapter rocks!

Hey Cole! Thanks for the review. I think it's a little more complicated than Corbin just tossing off gay guys, but you might be on to something. Remember towards the beginning of the series when he says he's a magnet for men with barriers... Something of a pattern, I guess. Glad you're enjoying the story and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!
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On 10/17/2014 01:35 PM, ghanbrews said:
So... you basically took the "gay for you" thrope and twisted it inside out. Awesome!

 

I wonder if we will hear again from Mike... I think his love for Corbin is quite cute :P

We'll definitely hear from Mike again... count on that! It's interesting to see the two different views on Mike in the feedback... some people hate him for what he said, and others find him... cute :) I love the reactions I'm reading so far... thanks so much for chiming in! Can't wait to see what you think after the next installment.
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ok... here it comes: I think what Mike did was unfair... He knew what was coming all along and was always clear about not being gay and not ever being able to have a proper relationship with Corbin. To throw such a bomb is huge - live changing for Corbin even. What it does is, that it'll haunt him for a long time... Mike is playing the victim, and I hate that. Why won't he come clear and comes out to set a sign, that he's worth the wait... Everything else would be bullshit...

 

And the Brit too... I mean we all propably know how hard it actually is to come out, but it's so much easier if you have someone holding your hand. And also why is he sending these mixed signals all the time???

If I was straight and had a guy falling for me I really like as a friend, I'd never let him sleep in the same bed as me. If the Brit is unsure of his feelings for Corbin, why not tell him???

 

BUT - there wouldn't be much of a story left to tell then ;)

 

I was meeting a friend last night and came home around midnight. I had to get up really early this morning. So stupid me, checking for an updated even though I knew I would read the chapter and have a really short night. And it was totally worth it =)

 

So here is what I think is gonna happen soon: The Brit and Corbin will fall into the "best bud" pattern again. They'll meet up to study, have coffee, get drunk together and party. Maybe the Brit will even hook up with a girl here and there, but I am so positive that they'll screw up eventually and start making out or even hook up at some point. And I can't wait for that.

 

Maybe I'm all wrong, but hey...we'll see :)

 

Thanks for the chapter. As always I enjoyed every second of it.

 

Have a great weekend :)

 

pfox

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On 10/18/2014 08:35 AM, pfox25 said:
ok... here it comes: I think what Mike did was unfair... He knew what was coming all along and was always clear about not being gay and not ever being able to have a proper relationship with Corbin. To throw such a bomb is huge - live changing for Corbin even. What it does is, that it'll haunt him for a long time... Mike is playing the victim, and I hate that. Why won't he come clear and comes out to set a sign, that he's worth the wait... Everything else would be bullshit...

 

And the Brit too... I mean we all propably know how hard it actually is to come out, but it's so much easier if you have someone holding your hand. And also why is he sending these mixed signals all the time???

If I was straight and had a guy falling for me I really like as a friend, I'd never let him sleep in the same bed as me. If the Brit is unsure of his feelings for Corbin, why not tell him???

 

BUT - there wouldn't be much of a story left to tell then ;)

 

I was meeting a friend last night and came home around midnight. I had to get up really early this morning. So stupid me, checking for an updated even though I knew I would read the chapter and have a really short night. And it was totally worth it =)

 

So here is what I think is gonna happen soon: The Brit and Corbin will fall into the "best bud" pattern again. They'll meet up to study, have coffee, get drunk together and party. Maybe the Brit will even hook up with a girl here and there, but I am so positive that they'll screw up eventually and start making out or even hook up at some point. And I can't wait for that.

 

Maybe I'm all wrong, but hey...we'll see :)

 

Thanks for the chapter. As always I enjoyed every second of it.

 

Have a great weekend :)

 

pfox

Hey. Thanks for the review! Awesome feedback, and very astute. I think you're spot on about Mike being unfair in what he said, and look for him to get called out on it in the next chapter... as for your other predictions, well, we'll just have to wait and see if you're right about any of that. Thanks again! More to come.
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'And Peter can fuck off back home to England and take fucking Dakota with him. Stupid bitch.' Omg, was I cracking up when I read this line from Timothy! Too fucking funny!! :D

 

Ok, so...better late than never! I'm sorry I'm so late again, Jon!! :(

 

But what a chapter to read! Holy hell! I honestly don't know who to root for, if anyone. On one hand, I'm thrilled that Corbin and Pete are friends again (or at least working towards that). On the other hand, as Corbin said, he's just gonna get all wrapped up in his feelings for Pete all over again and then where will he be? Nowhere. Was Pete even jealous when Corbs was flirting with Garth? It seemed like he was at first...but then he told Corbin he knew he wouldn't sleep with Garth. So he knew that Corbin was doing that just to make him jealous? Pete has some hold on Corbin, so much so, that Corbin broke up with Mike just to be able to be with Pete and hang out with him w/o feeling guilty like he was cheating on Mike.

 

Hall pass or no hall pass, I think Mike would have been jealous if he found out Corbs was screwing around even though Mike gave him the ok. I do agree with all the other reviewers when they say what Mike said at the end was a cheap shot. What did he expect Corbin to do after he said that? Like, oh wow, Mike, well then if that's the case, forget what I said. We're still together. Come on, Mike. You couldn't have told Corbin that at some earlier point in time? Don't tell me you just thought of that now.

 

I do like Mike, don't get me wrong. I didn't like him at the beginning b/c he was treating Corbin like shit and using him. I liked Pete and how easy his new relationship with Corbin was (just as friends of course and mixed signals and all). But with each chapter, I started liking Mike more and more. I really think his feelings for Corbin are genuine. But he has an uphill battle if he is going to be true to himself; it won't be easy telling his father and what will happen to him as a VMEE? I just don't know. Maybe Corbs should just take a break from boys for the time being. lol

 

You know, I was just thinking, Corbin was pretty lucky Garth (btdubs - LOVE that name! I had the BIGGEST crush on a boy named Garth in high school), didn't blow a gasket when he shot him down and gave him blue balls. :P

 

Damn, Jon, I don't know what to think about any of this! lol But I do know that I can't wait for the next chapter!! Maybe I'll even be able to read it the week you post it! :D

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On 10/25/2014 01:53 PM, Lisa said:
'And Peter can fuck off back home to England and take fucking Dakota with him. Stupid bitch.' Omg, was I cracking up when I read this line from Timothy! Too fucking funny!! :D

 

Ok, so...better late than never! I'm sorry I'm so late again, Jon!! :(

 

But what a chapter to read! Holy hell! I honestly don't know who to root for, if anyone. On one hand, I'm thrilled that Corbin and Pete are friends again (or at least working towards that). On the other hand, as Corbin said, he's just gonna get all wrapped up in his feelings for Pete all over again and then where will he be? Nowhere. Was Pete even jealous when Corbs was flirting with Garth? It seemed like he was at first...but then he told Corbin he knew he wouldn't sleep with Garth. So he knew that Corbin was doing that just to make him jealous? Pete has some hold on Corbin, so much so, that Corbin broke up with Mike just to be able to be with Pete and hang out with him w/o feeling guilty like he was cheating on Mike.

 

Hall pass or no hall pass, I think Mike would have been jealous if he found out Corbs was screwing around even though Mike gave him the ok. I do agree with all the other reviewers when they say what Mike said at the end was a cheap shot. What did he expect Corbin to do after he said that? Like, oh wow, Mike, well then if that's the case, forget what I said. We're still together. Come on, Mike. You couldn't have told Corbin that at some earlier point in time? Don't tell me you just thought of that now.

 

I do like Mike, don't get me wrong. I didn't like him at the beginning b/c he was treating Corbin like shit and using him. I liked Pete and how easy his new relationship with Corbin was (just as friends of course and mixed signals and all). But with each chapter, I started liking Mike more and more. I really think his feelings for Corbin are genuine. But he has an uphill battle if he is going to be true to himself; it won't be easy telling his father and what will happen to him as a VMEE? I just don't know. Maybe Corbs should just take a break from boys for the time being. lol

 

You know, I was just thinking, Corbin was pretty lucky Garth (btdubs - LOVE that name! I had the BIGGEST crush on a boy named Garth in high school), didn't blow a gasket when he shot him down and gave him blue balls. :P

 

Damn, Jon, I don't know what to think about any of this! lol But I do know that I can't wait for the next chapter!! Maybe I'll even be able to read it the week you post it! :D

Lisa! Loved the review, as usual. Thanks so much for taking the time to send this! I loved your assessment of the Mike/Corbin relationship. They've definitely grown together over the course of this story so far... and it resonates. I'll go ahead and tease that this isn't the last we see of Mike (some other posters were wondering...) Also, you always pick up the nuances of what the characters say to each other. Look for Pete to have some very calculated words moving forward... more so than his 'i know' in bed about Garth... more to come very soon. I just took a break from writing to respond to this :)
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OKAY. So. I just finished binged-reading and so fck it, this is going to be a long one.

 

before Chapter 21, I was shipping Corbin and Pete. Corbin and Pete were my endgame.

 

I was frustrated that you had made it harder, having the readers slowly fall in love with Mike, and making things hard for my endgame to BE endgame.

 

but Chapter 21 came. And Mike swept me off my fckin feet. I can’t believe how fast I went from ❤️❤️Peter❤️❤️ To $%*%! Peter!! 😡😡

 

and Chapter 21 to this chapter has had me wanting Mike more than ever to win Corbin’s second-guessing heart.

 

Peter was great. But Mike.

 

Mike is breaking my gddamned heart. 🥺🥺🥺😭😭😭

 

Fck Corbin and his indecisiveness 😭😭😭

 

GHAD I LOVE THIS STORY SO MUCH IT’S FRUSTRATING 

 

My favorite chapters have been 21-24 so far! 

 

And this chapter is breaking. my. FCKIN. heart.

 

I was so happy with the kiss between Corbin and Pete but damn.

 

If The Cadet ends up broken-hearted then I don’t think I’d be able to bear it. 🥺🥺😭

 

I love him so much 🥺

 

You’re such an awesome writer and fck it.

 

You know how to frustrate us so baaaad 😂😂

 

This has been AMAZING so far, and I can NOT wait to see how sht will unfold next.

 

#KUDOS

#PROTECCTHECADET

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