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“Luke?” Gust furrowed his brows, “Are you OK? You sound a bit grumpy.”
“I will be fine.” Luke said into the phone as he suppressed a yawn. He looked around his room and saw it was mess. He remembered last night ransacking his bedroom in anger. He had to let that furiousness out, that he had felt when he had seen Noah with Chris, them touching, hugging each other. He fisted his palm tight, being reminded of that moment …
“Why did you call?”
“Oh, actually Matt wanted to go swimming. So we were thinking if we could have a meet-up by the Snyder pond.”
“I don’t know. I am not feeling like it today.” Luke made a face.
“And that is why you should join us all.” Gust quipped. “Maybe that would take your mind off things and we can, you know? If you want to …?”
Luke sighed. “Ok, I guess, you can come; I’ll tell grandma you’re coming. You can then join us for lunch too.”
“Naw, we won’t stay for that long.” Gust said. “Oh, and I forgot to tell you, Matt’s gonna bring his friend too, I hope that’s ok with you?”
Luke rolled his eyes. “Great! And you’renot bringing anyone with you?”
“Actually I am.” Gust bit his lower lip. “I’m bringing a date along.”
“Whatever dude!” Luke frowned, “I am ok with Candes coming over, but keep her under control, or else she will have to pay for it.” He grumbled. “Can’t stand her presence.”
“Joe,” Gust whispered.
Gust hesitated, “His name is Joe. I am bringing him over.” He confessed, and waited for Luke’s reaction.
Silence fell between them. Luke didn’t know how to react to that. And Gust just couldn’t wait to hear his reaction over that. He waited impatiently, holding his phone tight to his ears.
After a few minutes, Luke finally broke out of his shock and exclaimed, “You’re dating someone else? A guy?” Gust smiled to himself. ‘Is that jealousy in his voice?’
But that was just his wishful thinking. Luke was just surprised that Gust decided to change his lifestyle all of a sudden. It seemed a bit off to him. He voiced out his concern too, saying, “Are you sure about this? I mean, it’s great that you want to come out, but having a date already?”
“Why? I don’t see any problem in that.” Gust couldn’t stop grinning. “Luke, are you not happy for me?”
“Of course I am! But …”
“Then leave it at that. Let me handle it my way.”
Luke knew it was none of his business, so he backed off. “Ok.” He just wanted to make sure Gust didn’t move too fast, since he sounded a bit desperate. Because, just a day before, Gust admitted he had a crush on him, and now he’s dating someone else?
But Luke knew better, so he just changed the subject. “So … um …When can I expect you?”
“We’ll be there in an hour or so. Be Ready.”
Gust said goodbye to Luke with a happy grin. He believed that taking Joe with him over to Luke’s place would make him jealous. ‘Maybe that would make him realize what he really wants’, Gust wishfully thought.
Soon after he ended the call, he jumped out of his bed and searched for the paper in his drawer, where Joe had written his number. When he got it, he quickly punched in the number to call him, and waited as the ringing went on.
“Hello?” Joe said in a hushed voice.
“Joe?” Gust didn’t recognize his voice immediately, as the guy on the other end was whispering. “Is this Joe Brannan?” He asked with a doubt.
“Yeah? Who’s this?”
Gust had to hold the phone closer to his ears. Joe was whispering and it was becoming harder to listen to him clearly. “Hey, it’s Gust … Gust Rivera? We met in Java yesterday …?”
“Oh yes. Hey Gust. Tell me, what’s up?”
“Um… why are you whispering?” Gust asked suspiciously.
“Huh? Oh …” Joe cleared his throat and spoke normally, “I am trying not to wake up a monster.” He chuckled, looking at his little brother, who was sleeping peacefully in his bed. He ran his hand lovingly through his soft blond hair, and stood up to leave the room.
“Nothing.” Joe closed the door behind him as he came out. “So, you finally called huh? Guess you changed your mind?” His lips curled up into a knowing smile.
“Uhm … Yes.” Gust stammered. “Look, I have never done this with a guy. So it’s kinda weird for me. Hope you understand.”
“I understand that.” Gust went quiet so Joe asked hopefully, “So let’s go out tonight.”
“I’ll pick you up in an hour.”
“Sounds pretty desperate…”
“It’s sort of a date. My brother and I are going to a friend’s house, so I want you to come along.” Gust suddenly felt guilty; Joe didn’t deserve this. “Bring your swimming trunks along. You’ll need them there.”
“Are we going swimming?”
“Yes… hope you don’t mind.” Gust said, “I will feel comfortable around you that way.”
“Cool. I’ll be ready.”
Luke opened the door for Gust and Joe with a smile. “Hey!” He let them enter, opening the door wide. Gust greeted him back and went right in, followed by the tall handsome guy behind him.
Joe shyly said, “Hello” to Luke.
“Luke, that’s Joe! And Joe, this is Luke, my best friend!” Gust introduced them to one another. They smiled at each other.
“Hi Joe,” Luke said. “Please sit”
Joe nodded at him hesitatingly, and sat beside Gust on the couch. He didn’t know what to say so he dared not say anything, in case he said something stupid. Luke was someone special in Gust’s life, and he didn’t want to let him down.
Luke was quiet too. It still felt weird to him to meet someone as Gust’s date, and that’s why he didn’t say anything either. Gust looked between them, and tilted his head in confusion. He had no clue what was going on in their minds.
“Hey, where’s Matt?” Luke asked Gust.
“He’s bringing his friend; I told you.”
“Ok, I will bring you guys something to drink. I know what you want Gust, soda, right?” Gust nodded smiling. “And you Joe? What will you have?”
“Whatever is fine...”
“Soda for you too then?”Joe shrugged, and Luke went inside the kitchen to get their drinks. At that moment, there was a knock on the door. Luke yelled from the kitchen for Gust to open it. He guessed it must be Matt with his friend… he didn’t expect anyone else on that bright sunny holiday other than the group.
When he arrived back in the living room, he heard Gust gasping, “What are you doing here?” Luke looked up, only to find Noah there with Matt, and he was as shocked as Gust was.
When Matt had invited Noah over to go swimming, he hadn’t known his friend was taking him to Luke’s place. Had he known, he would have declined immediately. But now that he had come, he thought it was better this way. At least, he would get to talk to Luke about things they needed to resolve, or else it would lead to a miserable uneasiness between them at school.
Noah saw Luke sitting by the edge of the pond with his feet dipped inside the water. He aimlessly played his legs in the water while he was deep in thought.
“Noah!” Matt yelled getting his attention, “What are you doing there? Come on in.”
“I’ll be right there!” He yelled back, and hurried to reach Luke.
Luke was pulled out of his trance by the voices, and he suddenly felt someone’s presence behind him. “Can I sit with you for minute?” He heard a voice asking him softly. He looked up into Noah’s blue eyes and looked away quickly, fearing that he would drown in them soon if he kept staring.
A shrug was what he got, and Noah sighed, leaning to sit down beside Luke. In the process, their arms collided and they both felt the blood rush through their veins ecstatically. Luke flinched and moved his hand away, while Noah just acted as if nothing had happened.
They looked at each other. Noah thought it was time he came clean, “Luke, what happened yesterday …”
Luke turned his face sharply, “Please sir, I don’t want to talk about it.” He fumed angrily, being reminded of what had happened yesterday. “You don’t like ME and I get that, ok? I have accepted it.”
“Luke, it’s not like I don’t like you.” Noah fought with words, trying to make clear what he wanted to say. He twisted his body so as he could properly face Luke and continued, “It’s just not in the romantic way, and you don’t like me that way either.”
“Yes Luke, you feel that you like me in a romantic way. But in fact, it’s just your infatuation you are acting upon. It happens to many kids; they feel a closeness to their teacher and they mistake it for love.”
“Hello!” Luke waved his hands in air, seeming irate. He knew it was wrong to talk to his teacher that way, but they were not in school right now anyway. “I am not a kid. I am seventeen, for hell’s sake. I do know what the difference is in a feeling of infatuation and love, so there’s no need for you to lecture me on that, Mr. Mayer!”
Noah exhaled. “Why can’t you understand Luke? You are so young, and you deserve much better than me.”
“I would like to hear anything but that from you, sir.” Luke snapped at him, “Don’t get me wrong. And I do understand what you want, so I will keep my emotions in check. FINE?”
“One more thing.” Noah said in a pleading voice, and Luke rolled his eyes. “Can we go back to being normal? I hate this tension between us, and I certainly don’t want to lose a bright student like you.”
Luke looked at Noah for some time, considering the option he suggested, and smiled lightening the mood. He nodded, thinking there’s no reason in keeping their student-teacher relationship uncomfortable, so he agreed with Noah.
“NOAH!” Matt yelled once more.
“Coming!” Noah exclaimed loudly, and asked Luke, “Care to join? I hope you know how to swim, or will I have to teach you?”
Luke chuckled, “I know you are a teacher, but that doesn’t mean you are better at everything than others.”
“Are you challenging me, Luke?” Noah raised his right brow while his lips still curled up in a smile.
“Maybe.” Luke said, and he stood up and dived into the water. Noah did the same, and soon they were engaged in a race. However their interactions made someone go green.
Gust watched them both from the other side of the pond and felt envious. ‘Did Noah have to be Matt’s friend, of all people?’ He was so involved in thinking about them both that he didn’t see Joe swimming right towards him. That’s why it made him jump in surprise when Joe had come near him and whispered into his ear, “Hey beautiful!”
“Shit! You scared me.”
Joe laughed. “I didn’t know I was that scary. Hey, do I look that horrible?”
Gust looked at his half-naked posture, as he stood there all wet. He smiled. “Not at all. You are really good-looking. You just caught me off-guard right now.”
Before he knew it, Joe snaked his hands around his waist, shocking Gust by his move, and pulled him closer. “You are not so bad yourself.” He said sensuously while staring intently at Gust.
Gust couldn’t move. He just kept staring back.
“You know, Gust? I never thought I would ever fall in love with someone, but I think fate knows exactly how to contradict one’s thoughts and I guess, that’s why destiny brought us together.” He said, tenderly caressing Gust’s cheek.
How immensely Gust had wished at that moment that Luke was the one saying it all in Joe’s place right now! But on the other hand, he felt his heart beating for Joe …
‘Would he just stop looking at me like that? It’s making me weak in my knees. Damn! What’s gotten into me! I have been playing with Joe’s emotions. I shouldn’t give him the wrong idea. He doesn’t deserve it… I better tell him the truth.’
Gust saw Joe gawking at his lips hungrily. ‘Oh my God! He’s coming near me, what do I do?’ He quickly backed off from Joe, shrugging his hold over him and swam away. Joe understood he had crossed the line and felt guilty. He would have to apologize for it later.