Then and Now Ch. 02byPS_Lopez©
It's Saturday, and I'm on my "break." Really, I've just got another split shift, and it's now two in the afternoon. Barry's already waiting, and I hurry through the line, collecting three servings of strawberry-banana compote and a couple biscuits for my lunch. I find Barry in the back of the second dining area, which is partitioned off by a row of pillars that support the ceiling. He's chosen our usual table, and I sit down across from him with a sad sigh.
He gives my "meal" a disdainful expression. He's previously given me lectures about how I eat when I'm at work, and every time I pointed out that at least I'm eating three servings of fruit. In my mind, it doesn't matter if that fruit's been buried in sugar so it produces juices. All that matters is that it's fresh fruit under the red sauce.
"How you holding up?" he asks. "You been crying a lot?"
Barry deliberately speaks in clichés and stereotypes. It means he has few true friends, but those friends, like myself, are true. He likes to appear to be a superficial person, but he says it saves him a lot of trouble with insincere people and those who'd use him. He has influence with all he knows, and he knows it, but it's a subtle influence and he wields it with care. You don't lie to Barry. If you do, you lose his friendship--and that of his friends. If Barry trusts you, you've won gold.
I nod. "Every day," I say. He likes details, too, so I go on. "Monday I broke down in my car after pulling up to work. Tuesday, I cried in bed. Wednesday, I had to duck into the fridge here at work to sob. Everyone here knows what's happened."
He stabs some of his green beans. "For what it's worth, Harper's just as miserable," he says.
I shift. "Can we change subjects?" I ask, though I know there's only a fifty per cent chance he'll agree.
"No," he says. "I'm not saying you were wrong to throw him out of your life, Ean, but I think you're wrong to avoid him."
"And what good will seeing him do me?" I ask. "Isn't it enough I dragged myself along after him for two years, lying to myself, hoping, dreaming, praying? Isn't it enough that it essentially comes down to the fact that I was used by him because I was convenient?"
Barry sighs, fork halfway to his mouth. He glances at the food on its tines. "Now you know that isn't what it was for him."
I nod, but I'm still not happy. I stab a strawberry. He eats his green beans and waits until I put the strawberry in my mouth.
"He needs to hurt."
I choke on the strawberry, manage to swallow it, and drink a couple swallows of my soda. "What?" I ask.
Barry picks up his knife and cuts a bite from his slice of roast beef. "He needs to hurt, Ean," he says, tone conversational. As if, by God, we're discussing a book we both happen to be reading. He glances up at me. "Sometimes, pain is the only thing that gets through to Harper. Well, you've broken his heart. It's time for you to do everything you possibly can to grind it into dust."
I poke at my food and pick up a biscuit to nibble at it. "I don't know if I can do that," I say. "I don't want to hurt him."
"Tell him the truth," he says.
"The truth?" I ask.
"About how you feel. Everything you just told me. I've heard you, Ean. You can be vicious when you want to be. You need to be vicious to Harper now. I'm sure you can do it. You're clever, and you know Harper better than anyone except myself and his parents. You know him at least as well as we do. You know what will hurt him most."
I nod, frowning, and prop my cheek on the heel of my hand. We eat in silence for a couple minutes. A part of me does want to hurt Harper, and I know that Barry's right. Sometimes Harper does need to be hurt in order for things to sink in. Well, look at him, he's been lying to himself his whole life about what he really wants. He thinks he's in the closet, when he never really has been. He doesn't even realize that not only does he wear his heart on his sleeve, but that it's so big it obscures the lies he's telling everyone.
I do know what will hurt Harper most, and I can be vicious when I want to be. The more I think about what Barry's suggested, the more of me wants to actually do it. Hurt Harper. Maybe he'll hate me for the rest of our lives when I'm done, but Barry's right. I need to tell Harper the truth.
I sigh. "Okay," I say. "But I don't know where to start."
Barry smiles a little. He likes it when he gets his way, but I don't complain. I know too well that he's right. If I want Harper, and I do very much, I have to fight Harper's idiotic self-delusion that he's in the closet still and going to live a happy hetero life.
"Well, what will hurt Harper most?" Barry asks.
I think about that a little while I eat some more. I dip bites of biscuit in the berry sauce, eating idly, really too distracted for much of an appetite now.
"Well, he's always had my trust," I say. "From the first."
Barry nods. "Okay, I think we can let him set himself up for that," he says. "He's been forcing himself to talk about dating women, has even collected a few phone numbers. I'll encourage him to call them, ask them out on dates. Then, when he gets comfortable, you do something that tells him you don't trust him any more."
I nod. I know a way to do exactly that. He's never had sex with a woman, and the past few days I've been reviewing my memories of our times together. All those times stolen, but still important. I've realized he's never spoken positively about women, at least when it comes to romance. He probably is gay, and, considering the level of disgust I'm sure I'm remembering accurately, he's probably so gay he wouldn't be able to function with a woman. Not sexually. He can be friends with them just fine, but I don't believe he could ever actually have sex with one.
"In fact," I say as I think more on it. "I think that if you're able to manufacture a situation where I can stay overnight at your place, I can not only indicate I no longer trust him, but slam him with pretty much everything I told you and insult his lovemaking."
"Oh?" Barry asks. "How?"
I raise my head from my hand and smile a little sourly. "By calling it 'fucking' in the most vicious way I can muster."
Barry doesn't cheer. He knows how much this bothers me, but he does nod. He knows as well as I do that Harper's a closet romantic, however. We both know that under all his surface self-delusions Harper's been thinking quite differently about his relationship with me than how I'm feeling about it right now. I'm not going to enjoy what I'll do to him, but I'm going to do it.
"Do you drink at all?" Barry asks. "Alcohol, I mean."
I nod. "Occasionally, but in moderation. I like to be able to drive myself home, so I usually have a meal with it."
"Mixed drinks, straight liquor, beer--what?"
I can see what Barry's getting at and look at him, smiling again. Another bitter expression. "I'll bring myself a bottle of wine," I say. It'll be a terrible waste, but I'm willing to do it in order to set things up. It's a good thing I've never gotten drunk; the only ones who'll know I'm acting when it all comes down will be Barry and myself.
After that, we don't say much. I don't know what Barry's thinking, but I'm planning what I'll be saying to Harper. I need to have it memorized, so I can inject all the venom I can into my words. What I'll do won't be pleasant for Harper or myself, but it seems to be the only way to get him to admit the truth to himself.
I hold one of the trays with our food while the rest push two tables together. All of us are here today, including Ean, and he rarely gets a weekend day off. He's holding the other tray, and I resist looking at him.
Once both the tables are pushed together and the chairs are ranged around them, everybody claims seats. I end up in one of two empty ones; the other is across from me, and Ean settles on it. We pass out the cinnamon buns and milks we've all gotten; the employee at the Cinnabon stand has kindly written our names on them all. Six all together, including Barry, all of us counted among his closest friends.
Everybody chatters, but I forget about my food and the talk and just stare at Ean. I can't help it. He's right in front of me. He chats with everyone, teasing Paul, asking Elias how church went. Occasionally he looks at me, and his glances make me feel warm. He winks and smiles. I swallow as he looks away. I'm getting horny. I think he wants me.
We've been spending hours on the phone over the past week and a half. He calls when he gets off work, and we just talk and talk. I think I've told him more about myself than I've ever told anyone else. The only people who know more are my parents and Barry--and him only because we've known each other since fifth grade. But I've told Ean everything I can think of, and I keep remembering more to say.
I haven't been back to his place. I'm afraid to go. What happened last time was so intense I'm not sure I can survive doing it again. I want to kiss him, though. I want to feel him in my arms, run my hands down his back, thrust into him. My hand and I have never been closer--I've been beating off at least twice a night while on the phone with him, somehow disguising what I'm doing successfully. Well, he hasn't claimed to have noticed, anyway.
After a while, his hot glances get to me. I need to get away, I need to get some relief. There's a family restroom off the food court. Making my excuses, I get up and head for it. I've almost reached it when I feel hands grip my upper arms.
"Family restroom," Ean says. He sounds desperate.
I nod and hurry for it. He keeps a hold of me, and I forget to be afraid of people seeing us like this. As soon as we're in the restroom, he locks the door. I turn around and Ean throws his arms around me. He kisses me and I return it, embracing him. He rubs against me and I can feel his erection.
"I want you," I say.
"Sit, sit," he says, pushing me away.
I look around, see there's a bench present, and drop onto it facing the sink. There's a three-sided mirror above it and I can see my reflection in it. Ean steps in front of me, blocking my view, then kneels. I watch. He unfastens my shorts and I shift, anticipating what he's going to do. When he pulls my cock out, I sigh with relief.
Ean glances up at me with a wicked smile. "I'm going to make you moan, like you do when we're talking on the phone," he says.
I experience a moment of mortification, but before I can voice a denial of what I've been doing, he lowers his head and takes me into his mouth. I start to moan, then swallow it. He's sucking hard, his tongue slides side to side on the underside of my dick as he takes in as much of me as possible. He hooks two fingers over the top and his thumb rubs the spot on the other side, near where my cock meets my groin. He does this in a light circular motion, and it drives me batty as he pulls back, still sucking.
His tongue swirls around the tip of my cock and he nibbles the tip, still keeping up that light rubbing at the base. My eyes roll back and I close them, letting a moan free. I reach for his head, grip his hair, and try to get him to suck me in again. He seems to understand, because he does just that. I moan.
He repeats the pattern, pulling off, swirling his tongue around the tip and tasting my precum before sucking me in again. His thumb doesn't cease its circular rubbing and I shift, trying to thrust up. I don't succeed very well. The bench is too narrow for me to find the leverage necessary and I can't make myself remove my hands from his hair so I can push my hips up.
Then he hums. I groan. Still that circular motion, still the sucking. He pauses for breath, as far down as he can go, and then hums as he sucks away. He speeds up, too, and I whimper and moan continually. I clutch at his hair as I feel my orgasm rise, and I try to warn him it's on its way, but words fail me. All I can do is moan. When I come, it feels so intense I almost black out.
I return to earth slowly, utterly limp. I couldn't move if the toilet burst into flame. Ean tucks my cock away, buttoning and zipping up my shorts. He gives my groin a little pat and I open my eyes to see him smirking at me.
He stands up on his knees and pulls me close. We kiss, this one slower and deeper than the first. I touch his chest, slide one hand down to his groin. He's still hard.
"What about you?" I ask against his lips.
He gives me a couple little pecking kisses. "You can do me later," he says. He winks at me and rises. "I'll see you back at the table."
I watch him unlock the door and leave, then reach over to lock the door again when he goes. It takes me several minutes before I can even think of doing more than that. The thought of giving Ean head is turning me on again, and I'm no longer interested in the movie we're all supposed to go see. I finally rise, and I take a moment to adjust myself before leaving the restroom.
"What did you give birth to?" Arin asks when I return to the table. "A boa constrictor?"
I look at him. "Ha ha. Very funny," I say, though a couple others are laughing.
"Is it safe to go into the men's room after what you did?" Paul asks, elbowing me.
I jab him a little harder than I should with my own elbow. "Shut up," I say.
But their teasing has killed my arousal. I finally open my box and make an attempt at eating my cinnamon roll, still eyeing Ean. He's back to chatting with everyone, and I wonder what he's done to get into Barry's inner circle so quickly. Not that I'm not glad he's counted among the Selected, but I still wonder.
His hair looks messy now, and those curls started out wild to begin with. I glance around, wondering if anyone suspects what he and I did, but I don't notice anyone behaving any differently. If they've noticed the changes in Ean's hair, they've either pointed it out while I was absent or they just haven't said anything. I'm not sure if I should feel relieved.
I look at Ean again, then fall into staring at him once more. He glances at me and winks, showing me his wicked grin again. It reminds me of what we did, and I feel myself blush. Ean's grin widens a little, becoming a bit arrogant, and he looks away, leaning forward to say something to Barry, who's sitting at the other end.
Paul nudges me with his elbow again. "You going to eat that?" he asks, pointing to my almost-untouched Cinnabon.
I look at him, seeking any signs that he's noticed me staring at Ean. I don't think I see any. I push the cinnamon roll over to him. He grins and digs in with his plastic knife and fork.
I return to staring at Ean. All I can do right now is look at him and think about that blow job now. I lick my lips, wishing I could do the same for him. His suggestion that I do him later hangs in my mind, arousing me, warming me from the inside out.
It means I'll have to go over to his place, but at this point I don't care. It may lead to sex. All I can think is how much I want to make love to him again. I hope he asks me to spend the night again. I want to wake up with him in my arms like I did last week. I want to feel his warm weight on me, his warm breath on my chest. It's been long enough since I visited. My excuse that I slept on his sofa will work again.
Elias announces that it's time to head for the movie. I rise with everyone and we dump our trash. I end up at the front of the group. Unable to think of a subtle way to get myself back where Ean is in the group, I walk beside Arin in frustration. The walk to the theater seems to take forever and I curse the mall for putting the food court all the way at the "bottom" of the Y shape it makes.
We eventually do make it to the theater, and I hang back to try and get a seat next to Ean as we buy our tickets individually. I don't get my wish. Elias selects the seat I want, turning the green square next to Ean's selected seat yellow. I resist the urge to shove him aside and purchase the next ticket myself, silently fuming. I'm a little rude to the sales girl because of my frustration, but she only smiles as she hands me my ticket.
I want to beg Elias to trade tickets with me, but don't dare. How would I explain my desire?
We head to the concessions stand and I buy myself a soft drink. Disappointed with my lot, I simply follow the others to the theater, passing my ticket to the employee standing in front of the wide corridor leading to the theaters. He tears it halfway and hands it back, telling me go to the third theater on the left.
Since I'm on the far right of our line up, I hold back and wait until everyone else precedes me before walking along the row. I have to look down to read the seat numbers and settle in the one named on my ticket, set my drink in the cup holder to the right, and look up, turning my head to the left.
Ean smiles at me. He sets his drink in the cup holder in the armrest between us and leans over a little.
"I switched with Elias," he says.
I nod, unable to speak. Apparently, we're right on time because the lights go dim. I feel Ean caress my cheek.
"Why wouldn't I want to sit next to you?" he asks me as the ads start up.
I work my jaw, but still no sound comes out. Ean smiles, his teeth glinting in the darkness, and turns his head to look at the screen. His hand slides down my arm, the backs of his fingers brushing my skin, and grasps my hand. I try to pull away and he leans over again.
"It's dark, and nobody's paying attention anyway," he says to me.
His hand shifts so his fingers slip between mine. I stare at him as he returns his gaze to the screen, and I allow myself to grasp his hand in return. Ean's thumb rubs up and down along my forefinger and he wiggles his back against the seat.
I don't watch the movie. I watch Ean instead. He occasionally glances at me. He doesn't release my hand once, but reaches over with his left hand to pick up his drink when he wants a sip. I sip whenever he does, only because his action reminds me I even have a beverage.
After what seems like forever and no time at all, he pulls his hand free of mine. I finally look at the screen to find the credits scrolling up. The others have risen, and I get up, too. I feel a little dazed, and there's a crick in my neck from having kept my head turned. I rub the sore spot as we leave the row, keeping my head bowed. I can't look at Ean for the time being because I'm in the lead now.
"I'm going home," Ean announces when we're all in the theater's lobby. He pokes my side. "Come on over if you want, Harper."
I look at him and start to nod. "I'll be there soon," I say.
He smiles, and it comes with the same hot gaze he gave me before we went to the family restroom. It heats me up again and I stare. Someone pats my back as Ean strides away.
"He has got the hots for you," Barry says.
I look at him.
"Didn't you know?" Barry asks. "He's gay."
I blink. "I--"
Barry wraps his arm around my shoulders and tugs me against his side. He's always done this, like I'm some kid brother even though we're the same age.
"Don't worry, Harp," he says. "He won't put the moves on you." He pauses and grins. "Unless you want him to."
I jerk away. "Why would I--"
He shrugs. "I dunno," he says.
The others have dispersed, heading for their cars. I stop and stare at Barry. He halts, too. I glare at him for even daring to suggest . . . then give up. It's the truth, but I can't admit it. Of all my friends, he's the one I must not admit anything to. I think he suspects anyway, because he keeps making sidewise suggestions like this, but I can't be sure.
"But he is kinda cute."