Technical Difficulties Episode 03byLucyH©
They never played the weight bench game again.
Ryan's girlfriend, Trisha, inspected the three-foot wooden cube that Zach had just finished painting black. "I think it's going to need another coat."
Zach poured more paint into his tray and gritted his teeth. "Yes, we've already established that it takes three coats to cover." He usually managed to be nice to her for Ryan's sake, but there was only so much Trisha he could take. He was also a bit grouchy because he hadn't wanted to spend his weekend painting props for the drama club, but Trisha had roped Ryan into it. Zach went with him so he wouldn't drown in estrogen. Why the hell did they need two dozen huge black wooden cubes, anyway? It seemed like a stupid waste of trees and paint.
Trisha held her hands up defensively. "Jeez, you don't have to bite my head off. I just wanted to make sure we're on the same page here."
"Yeah. We're all on the painting stuff black page. It's all good." He smiled as he loaded his roller up with paint, and imagined rolling it over Trisha's made-up face and highlighted hair. He might be too chicken to hit on Ryan, even after finding out he was bi, but at least he was man enough to admit to himself that he was bitterly jealous.
"Okay then. Well, I'm going to do another cube now, I guess." Trisha walked off, and Zach didn't pay attention to where she went.
A redhead in a tight black shirt and jeans came in through the back doors of the auditorium, carrying her coat over her arm. She had a perfect miniature hourglass shape. Zach paused with his roller still on the paint tray and watched her walk down the center aisle toward the stage where they were painting. Her gait looked almost like a dance, with the way her hips swayed. Instant attraction.
"That's Trisha's cousin, Melissa," Ryan whispered.
"The one she wanted to set me up with, and I resisted?" Zach looked down at his paint tray and moved the roller around, trying to look busy.
"Yep," Ryan said with a smirk in his voice.
"Call me shallow, but suddenly, I'm liking that idea," he muttered. Maybe a really pretty girl could help him get his mind off Ryan. He applied his paint roller to the nearest cube and peeked over the top of it at Melissa.
Melissa looked a little lost until she spotted Ryan and made a beeline for him. "Heyas. I decided to come help after all." She had a loud voice like Trisha's - not attractive, but unless her personality was too much like Trisha's, he could probably get over the volume.
Ryan introduced Melissa to Zach and suggested that Zach could set her up with a roller and a tray. He did, and they hit it off right away. For all her flaws, Trisha was a good matchmaker. If Zach had met Melissa without having met Ryan first, he'd have fallen madly in love. Since it happened the other way around, she was just good company and a very pleasant distraction. It didn't hurt as much to see Trisha with Ryan when he had a date of his own.
But alone in bed at night, he couldn't think about Melissa. It always came down to Ryan, rope, and something painful and perverse. He wanted Ryan to strip him down, burn his name into his skin, make him bleed, bring him to tears, and use him for a sex slave.
The scary thing was, if anything ever happened between the two of them, he was pretty sure Ryan would eventually do most of that. The scarier thing was the possibility that Ryan would have no interest in doing any of it, and Zach would have to deal with the fact that the person he wanted most in the world didn't want him.
Prom night, 2003
The last notes of the last dance of the evening faded from the hazy air in a swirl of blue disco lights. Zach hugged Melissa and patted her on the back, feeling the ridge of her spine through the smooth fabric of her dress. He figured he'd done his duty as a good boyfriend: brought her flowers, posed for pictures, danced with her, and paid attention to her. He told her she looked like a movie star at an award show, and meant it. The short gold dress suited her delicate pixie shape – sexy without being vulgar – and her curly red hair was extra shiny. It had been a surprisingly pleasant evening, much better than the 9th grade farce that convinced Zach to avoid school dances. Hopefully, though, the best was yet to come.
Melissa tilted her head back and he gave her the expected kiss. Her lips tasted sweet like chocolate. Even sweeter, for the first time ever, they both had excuses not to go home that night. A twinge of anxiety followed that thought. He had something important to ask her, and he didn't know how she was going to take it.
Lights came on in the ballroom. Melissa slipped away to get more pictures taken with her best friend while the DJ packed up. The girls giggled and struck poses. Zach stood back and watched Melissa appreciatively, for once not thinking that he'd rather be Ryan's date. Those glittery spike heeled sandals did wonderful things for the shape of her legs. He'd never seen her wear heels before. It distracted him enough that he almost jumped out of his penguin suit when Terry tapped him on the shoulder.
Terry grinned, displaying a mouthful of teeth that clashed with each other at odd angles. "Room 1462."
"Um, thanks. See you in a few." Zach dropped his gaze back to Melissa's legs.