I apologize for the long delay in releasing this chapter. I needed time to find inspiration and figure out where to take the story next. I hope you enjoy this chapter.
“Natalie, uh, hi. How can I help you?”
“Um, you can help me by not trying to stand between me and Jeremy. How ‘bout that?” the girl spat out, looking as if she was ready to snatch some weaves.
Alex was of course aware of what Natalie was talking about, but he was still taken aback by her bluntness. For a moment, he just stood there, not knowing what to say. Was it possible that she was so delusional that she thought anything could actually happen between her and Jeremy? She knew very well her friend was gay, so why was she acting like that?
“What? I’m not coming between you,” Alex said, automatically going into defense mode.
“Oh really? Then I guess it’s just a coincidence that Jeremy told me we need to stop our relationship just after he met you,” Natalie raised her well-groomed eyebrows.
“Your relationship?” Alex looked at her as if she’d just grown another head. He realized the girl was clearly deluding herself and he shouldn’t have to explain himself since he did nothing wrong. “You do realize it’s all an act? I’m sorry, but he’s never gonna be interested in you that way because he’s gay.”
“I know how I feel about him and I know how he feels for me. Maybe he hasn’t totally figured it out yet, but he will. He just needs some time,” she shook her head. “Why else would he pick me to be his ‘pretend’ girlfriend?” she added, using air quotes.
Alex fought hard not to roll his eyes and slap the girl to her senses.
“Because you’re his best friend?! How long have you two been friends? Since high school?” He asked, and Natalie nodded. “Don’t you think if he was interested he would’ve made a move on you by now? Instead, he came out to you, trusting you with his secret. Because you’re his best friend. How do you not get that?”
“You’re the one who doesn’t get it,” Natalie was adamant. “But I don’t expect you to.”
“I don’t get it?”
“No, you don’t. Honey, I’ve known Jeremy for years. You met him, what, two weeks ago?” she asked condescendingly.
“Actually, we met ten years ago, so that would be before he met you,” Alex nodded.
“Then where were you all this time? I was there for him, not you.”
“And you still can be, if you’d just come to your senses. Just because he’s not into you, doesn’t mean he doesn’t need his best friend.”
“And let me guess, he’s into you?”
“Well, I think so,” Alex said, pondering the question for a moment. “I hope so.”
He knew Jeremy felt something for him, something more than friendship. They both felt it even during their first encounter at the summer camp all those years ago. It took them a long time to finally admit it to each other.
Still, Alex realized the other guy was just too anxious to start anything before he came out to his family. If they were to give it a go, they would do it properly and openly, with no hiding.
“I knew it,” Natalie shook her head in disapproval. “I knew that was your secret agenda all along.”
“Honey,” Alex said, repeating the way she called him a minute ago, “there’s nothing secret about it. Jeremy knows how I feel, I told him as much. And he told me how he felt. That doesn’t mean he can’t have a boyfriend and a best friend at the same time.”
Natalie stood in front of Alex, grinding her teeth and looking everywhere but at his face. Her thumb moved nervously across the screen of the phone she held, as if trying to wipe a particularly stubborn smudge. Finally, she looked him straight in the eyes.
“You really are something!” she hissed and turned around, going for the front door.
When she walked out and slammed the door, leaving him alone, Alex didn’t know whether to laugh hysterically or scream in despair. How could someone be so thick?! Natalie was probably not a bad person, otherwise Jeremy wouldn’t have been friends with her for so long, but she clearly had it bad for the guy - so bad that she refused to listen to reason. Alex hoped that at least some of what he just told her would get through to her. Maybe she just needs some time to figure things out and come to her senses. She certainly didn’t seem like a stupid person.
“Wow, is she for real?!” a whisper suddenly pulled him out of his reverie.
Alex turned around and saw his sister peeking out from behind the wall that led to the dining room, her eyes wide open as if she just saw naked Harry Styles - one of her biggest crushes at the moment.
“You eavesdropped on us?!”
“Bitch please, of course I did! What did you expect? I knew it was gonna be something juicy, I just didn’t know how much!” Liz smirked, linking arms with her big brother and pulling him up the stairs. A few moments later, they were in Alex’s room, sitting on his bed.
“Did mom hear any of it?” Alex asked.
“No, she was busy in the kitchen making dinner. We’re having cheese and ham rolls, by the way.”
“So, that’s Natalie, huh?” Liz asked, grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
“Yup. Jeremy’s best friend and former beard. Lovely girl, right?” Alex rolled his eyes. “Want me to give her your number so you two girls can go shopping together?”
“Not if you wanna live to see another day,” Liz pointed a finger at him. “So what are you gonna do about her? Other than tell Jeremy, obviously.”
“Really? Isn’t that a little… tattle-tale?”
“Umm not if she’s acting like a psycho!”
“Is that what you do with your friends? You tell each other everything no matter how awkward?” Alex asked.
“Of course!” Liz immediately shot back, but then went quiet for a moment. “Well, maybe not to each other’s faces. And maybe we get drunk a bit first, that always helps.”
Alex laughed in amusement.
Alex sat on the bed, looking curiously all around him, inspecting his surroundings. He had just realized he’d never been to Jeremy’s room before. They would always meet downstairs, in the bakery, out in the city, or like last time, in Alex’s house.
He had told Jeremy that Natalie came to see him, and now he was here to tell him all about it in person. He didn’t want to do it over the phone, and besides, he just really wanted to see Jeremy again.
While he waited for his friend to return with drinks, Alex got up and went over to the open cabinet with shelves that covered half of the wall on the eastern side of the room. The shelves were stacked with everything from books, video games to figures of cartoon and video game characters of various shapes and sizes. There were tiny, ceramic figurines that couldn’t have been more than two inches tall, as well as plastic, bigger ones with detachable and movable parts. He took a plastic figure of Nova from StarCraft and admired it. He always liked her - she was powerful, independent and didn’t take crap from anyone.
Jeremy’s computer was on the desk right next to the window, while a white Xbox was in the other corner, next to the TV. Alex browsed Jeremy’s video game collection, making a mental note of the games they could play together and ones he wanted to borrow.
The door clicked and opened, and Jeremy entered the room, carrying two bottles of soda.
“Coke or orange?” he asked, showing them to Alex.
“Orange, thanks!” Alex accepted the drink and placed it on the desk. He looked as Jeremy drank his Coke, his adam’s apple bobbing up and down. He admired how the other boy’s cute lips looked good as he licked them with his tongue, absorbing the stray drops of his drink.
Jeremy wore a plum-colored sweatshirt and dark jeans, looking good enough to eat. At least that’s what Alex thought, a naughty smile creeping upon his lips. Jeremy treated him with a shy smile in return and Alex moved to sit next to him on the bed.
“So did you talk to Natalie after that day?”
“No,” Jeremy shook his head. “Like I told you over the phone, she was kinda weird when I told her I wanted us to stop with the act. I think she was hurt, but she didn’t let on. Is that why she came to talk to you?”
“Yeah. No need to tell you how surprised I was - and that’s an understatement!” Alex chuckled. “She came to basically threaten me to back off and don’t come between the two of you.”
Alex nodded. “I tried to explain that’s not what I was doing at all, but she wouldn’t listen.” He recounted their conversation to Jeremy, who clearly felt bad for his friend. Alex could see it on his face, but still, telling him the truth was something he had to do.
“I kinda felt bad for her because she clearly has a crush on you,” Alex said. “I mean, I don’t blame her.”
Jeremy blushed and looked down at his hands sitting in his lap, when Alex nudged him on the shoulder.
“Sorry, but you know how I feel.”
“I know. And I feel the same way, I just… I don’t want to wait, but I have to. I need to tell my mom and sister first,” Jeremy explained. “So we don’t have to hide, ok?”
“Ok,” Alex nodded, making eye contact. He quickly realized that was a bad idea, because sitting that close to him, smelling his scent and looking in those blue eyes, made it very difficult to resist the pull that guy had on him. Before he knew it, Alex found himself leaning over and slowly closing his eyes. It was just something he had to do, an instinct he had to obey.
It seemed as if Jeremy felt the same, as he mirrored Alex’s actions, leaning in until their lips met. Once they touched, it was as if they melted together. Alex was gentle and slow, taking his time to taste Jeremy for the first time. It was everything he had hoped it would be - the boy had soft lips, still sweet with the taste of Coke he drank minutes ago. He’d kissed and slept with many guys during his college life, but this was different. He never cared about any of them, not beyond friendship and having fun together. But he did care about Jeremy, and he’d been waiting for this for so long. Maybe that’s why it felt so satisfying to finally feel him this close.
As he felt his heart beating faster and harder, Alex took Jeremy’s warm hand in his own, their fingers entwined. He was already fully hard and there was nothing he could do about it. He’d just have to control himself.
When he finally opened his eyes, he was met by Jeremy’s beaming smile and a light squeeze of his hand.
“I… I couldn’t help it,” Alex tried to offer an explanation, not realizing there was no need for one. Jeremy was a willing participant, not someone who was caught off guard or tricked into doing something he didn’t want to.
“Me neither,” Jeremy replied in a whisper. “That was nice.”
“That was hot!” Alex corrected him and they both laughed. He glanced at his crotch to see if his misbehaving cock betrayed him. Luckily, he was wearing black sweatpants, which managed to hide his erection. “Imagine if we did this back at the summer camp, would it have been this good?”
“Ha-ha, I doubt it! We were, what, thirteen at the time?” Jeremy asked. “I don’t think either of us would have known what they were doing back then.”
“So you’re trying to say it’s a good thing we waited, huh?” Alex looked at Jeremy with a rather playful smirk on his lips.
“It’s like we planned it.”
A lengthy session of Sonic Racing ensued, with Jeremy easily managing to snag a landslide victory on the last three tracks. It was no surprise, as he’d been playing the game for much longer. Of course, Alex blamed it on the unfamiliar joystick he was using.
“Don’t worry then, I’ll remind you to bring your own next time. That should be fair, right?” Jeremy teased.
“Uh, I’ll have to make sure it’s not broken,” Alex winked, getting up from the floor.
“Hey, I didn’t know you had such good taste in books,” he observed as he browsed through the titles on Jeremy’s shelves. “As good as your taste in games!”
“Thanks. Which ones caught your eye?” Jeremy asked, joining him.
“I really enjoy the Victorian stuff. I think Wilde is brilliant. Dickens too,” Alex said, noticing a copy of Oliver Twist and The Importance of Being Earnest. “I like some of the older American stuff too, from the 19th century.”
“My favorites are Wuthering Heights and Tess of the d'Urbervilles,” Jeremy said.
“I admit, I cried reading both of those,” Alex confessed. “That didn’t stop me from reading them a second time, though!”
“I didn’t really have many friends growing up, so I read a lot of books,” Jeremy confessed. “They were my escape.”
“I used to do that too,” Alex said, returning one of the books back to its spot on the shelf. “What about boyfriends? Did you date anyone before you decided to, uh, grow a beard?”
His comment drew out a giggle from Jeremy, who had a pensive look in his eyes.
“There was one guy. We met after I finished high school and went out for a while, but neither of us were out to our families, so it didn’t really go anywhere. He was nice enough, but we couldn’t see each other in secret all the time. That’s why I don’t want to do the same with you.”
“I get it,” Alex reassured him, reaching around and squeezing the guy’s butt. Jeremy jumped in surprise, his cheeks flushed. “We’ve got plenty of time.”
Downstairs, the boys came across Jeremy’s mom, who was working the second shift at the bakery. After the two customers she had just served walked out, the woman turned to Alex and Jeremy, greeting them.
“Nice of you to drop by,” she told Alex. “Jeremy needs his friends now… Uh, I assume you told him,” she stopped herself, turning to her son.
“Yeah, mom, he knows. It’s alright,” Jeremy nodded.
“Ok, ok, I didn’t want to blab!” Zara put her arms up defensively. “I know how you kids can get sensitive, and then us old folks end up taking the blame.”
“Don’t worry, you’re safe,” Jeremy smiled at her.
“So what did you tell her?” Alex asked when they left the bakery, heading down the street.
“I told her that we realized we weren’t into each other anymore,” Jeremy shrugged. “I didn’t know what else to tell her. I mean, it is true, kinda.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Alex nodded. “If you ask me, you did the right thing.”
“Thanks, I needed to hear that. This has really been stressing me out lately,” Jeremy admitted, looking ahead, focused on the cobblestones on the path.
“I hope it’s not my fault. If you were not ready…”
“No, I should be thanking you,” Jeremy reassured him. "I should’ve done this a long time ago. So, thanks for helping me with this.”
“No problem,” Alex replied, his shoulder brushing against Jeremy’s.
Thanks to everyone who is reading this story, I'm looking forward to seeing your reactions! ❤️