"Wow!" Owen grinned at me. "We get our own deck!"
I let the door close behind me and followed him into the room. It closed with a loud 'click' that for once didn't sound all that ominous, even though part of me thought it probably should have. I guess not even my nerves can stand against the power of seeing Owen this happy.
"Yeah, it's nice," I said as I put my bag on the bed.
Well, one of the beds anyway. There were two but Owen already put his stuff on this bed too and after spending about an hour in the car and the lobby (and the elevator and the hallway to the room) trying to decide if sleeping in separate beds would be insulting or good cover I went with insulting. I was even a bit surprised that not hurting Owen's feelings won out over the slight terror I had of sleeping alone in a room with him.
Not that the way this was supposed to happen would have been any better. Actually it would have been a lot worse since we were SUPPOSED to be sleeping in the same bed with Cheryl's dad in the other bed, while Cheryl and Aunt Karen got a room to themselves. When I rode my bike over to Cheryl's this morning though, her mom told us that her dad got called away on a last minute business trip and since they already had the rooms booked anyway and she didn't feel comfortable with Cheryl staying in a room alone with us -that crap again- "us boys" could have one all to ourselves and wouldn't that just be fun?
Which is the problem, really. Defining 'fun'. Fun as in no-parents-around-staying-up-late-and-eating-junk-food-at-three-in-the-morning, or fun as in no-parents-around-let's-get-naked-and-see-what-fits-where? One of them seems a lot less fun than the other. And I really hate that I still can't decide which one.
The sound of the balcony door closing as Owen came back in from outside made me jump a bit and realize that I'd been staring blankly at the bed for who the hell knows how long. I shook off my thoughts before Owen noticed anything was wrong.
"That deck is awesome!" Owen said excitedly. "You can see the whole beach from our room. This is the best hotel I've ever been in. Easy."
He smiled at me and I couldn't help smiling back.
"Yeah," I said. "It's really cool. I come here with Cheryl's family every year and they always get a room on the second floor so we get a deck."
"You're lucky," he said. "The only place me and mom ever go is to visit is my grandma in Cleveland. It seriously sucks up there."
He made a face, one that was supposed to be disgusted but ended up being kinda cute, and I giggled. "Turtle Beach is way better than Cleveland. Even if the only thing to do is be on a beach with a lot of people."
Now it was my turn to make a face.
"Yeah, true. But you're here with me and Cheryl so it's not like you'll be on your own. Which wouldn't be my favorite thing either really," he chuckled and reached for my hand.
And like a skittish idiot deer I jerked away.
Owen frowned and I wanted to punch myself. He just wanted to hold your hand, retard, not do...something else. And I was almost feeling relaxed there too.
"Sorry," I mumbled and let my hair fall in front of my rapidly reddening face.
"What's wrong?" he asked softly. He didn't waste any time in brushing my hair back either and I blushed even more when his fingers lightly brushed against my cheek.
"I-" I swallowed. "I'm not-I mean I'm....nervous? I guess?"
I glanced up from the very uninteresting carpet I was staring hard at in time to see him frown. "About what? Going to the beach?"
"N-no, not t-that," I blushed even HARDER and how the hell is that even possible? Ugh. "It's, um, I just, I mean it's....you know," I gestured around the room. "this."
He cocked his head. "The....walls?"
I sighed. "No, the room. Um, the room with just...us."
My face practically caught fire as understanding dawned on his face. "Oh! I get it. But, you know I'd never, you know, pressure you or anything-"
"I know!" I cut him off. "I-I know," I said again, softly this time. "It's...it's not really even you, I think? I just feel pressured anyway since we're alone and-"
"You don't need to. I don't want you to do anything you don't wanna do, we don't even have to do what we did last time-"
"No! I mean, I l-liked that..." I trailed off and glanced away. "But, I'm trying to-the problem isn't that I don't wanna do something I don't wanna do it's I don't know WHAT I wanna do...or, you know, not and that...I dunno." I shrugged awkwardly.
I looked back at Owen. He was looking right back, but he didn't look confused or annoyed or impatient he was just, waiting, calmly. I could actually look right into his eyes while I was trying to explain one of the most embarrassing things I've ever had to explain, and feel reassured. Like I didn't need to feel ashamed no matter what I did or didn't say.
How can I not be hopelessly in love with someone like that?
"I'm just scared," I said quietly. "That what I might want to do is more than I'm ready for. And I don't wanna, I dunno, force myself, just because I'm never gonna get a better chance."
It took me saying it to actually realize just why this was bothering me so much. After what me and Owen did the last time, I wanted to do it again. And thoughts of doing....other things were getting a little less embarrassing and more....let's just go with less embarrassing. But even if I did wanna do...more, where could we? In my room with no lock and my parents right downstairs or in Owen's room with a mom who knows we're together right downstairs? Yeah, not the best atmosphere for love.....God I can't believe I just thought that.
But alone in a hotel room, on vacation, with a great view of the beach right outside? That's, like, the definition of a perfect opportunity. Not just to do things, but for it to be romantic and not rushed and uncomfortable. Well, more uncomfortable than it'd be anyway and-ok, not going there.
"You don't need to be scared about anything," Owen said and took my hand. I gripped it hard this time, instead of jerking away. "And please, don't force yourself to do anything. Yeah it's perfect and I AM excited about being in a hotel room just with you, but I swear it's just because I want to be able to just, you know, BE with you. And not have to worry about who's watching or who might find out."
He smiled, then shrugged. "Ok, maybe I was thinking about the other stuff a LITTLE, especially what we did at my house. But we don't need to do anything until we're both ready. And I don't care how long that is." His smile turned a little self conscious, but somehow warmer at the same time. "I'd wait forever for you."
Something inside of me eased at that. Not that I ever really thought Owen would pressure me, but it made me stop pressuring myself. At least a bit. I relaxed my grip on his hand and I'm not sure who moved first but somehow we ended up in a loose hug, his arms around my waist and mine around his neck with my head on his shoulder buried in his neck. He smelled like, well like Aunt Karen's leather car seats and shampoo actually, but it was still comforting. So comforting that I was barely even hyper-aware of how every inch of our bodies were pretty much pressed together. It was more than nice to be able to just enjoy Owen after two weeks of talking on the phone and sneaking smiles when we managed to see each other at school.
"That tickles," he said.
"Mmm, what?" I asked.
"You're breathing right on my neck," he giggled and squirmed a little.
"Sorry," I said. "Um, don't move though?"
I was so glad I was still blushing from before because I got to pretend my face wasn't getting any redder. "Um, I'm, uh...you smell nice."
"You're smelling me?" he asked after a second.
I nodded, then realized he probably couldn't see it what with my head being in his neck and all. "Yes?"
Owen's body shook and for a second I thought maybe he was shuddering in disgust, but then I realized he was laughing.
"I can't smell good after four hours in a car," he said, but made no move to get away.
I took a deep breath and grinned to myself when it made Owen squirm again. "You smell great," I said. Not even gonna mention what that did to my face.
"I smell like car," he protested.
"You smell like you," I said.
I cut him off with a kiss.
I know! No one's more surprised than me, trust me.
He went totally still for a few seconds, so maybe he was actually more surprised than me, but then he started kissing me back. He took over the kiss right away, but that was ok. I kind of really liked when he did that. And even if I didn't, I was too happy that I actually managed to kiss him first to care.
I don't know how long we stood there kissing but we went from hard lip kisses to wide open mouth tongue wrestling that I'll probably be embarrassed about later to soft, quick little kisses while I clung to him. After one of those last kisses we stopped and I rested my forehead against his. I sighed happily and just felt....content. The kind of content I've only ever felt while being held by Owen.
"I love you," he said softly and nuzzled my cheek with his nose.
I sighed happily, and squirmed a bit because now HIS breath was tickling me. "I love you too."
He gave me another quick kiss. "So, let's just have fun this weekend, ok? No matter what happens or doesn't happen, let's just enjoy being together and not worry about anything else, ok?"
Asking me not to worry is kind of like asking Tang not to taste horrible. But it was Owen asking and I already felt relaxed and -quick check to make sure- yep, not a single worry in sight right then. So it wasn't that hard to agree. "Ok," I nodded and gave him a smile.
Then I kissed him again. Just because I could and I was REALLY loving that.
But then he kissed me back and the whole thing started up again and, honestly, I was getting embarrassingly turned on and I don't know what would have ended up happening if someone hadn't started pounding on our door.
"Hey!" Cheryl yelled, her voice a bit muffled through the thick ass hotel door. "Get your tongues out of each others butts and let's go to dinner!"
I blushed and jerked back away from Owen. Did she really have to just yell out stuff like that in the hallway- and do people even DO stuff like that outside of porn, uh, not that I watch a lot of porn or anything or-
Owen stroked my hand softly with the backs of his fingers. "No worrying, right love?"
I relaxed instantly. God, I love when he calls me that. You don't even know. "Right," I nodded. I may have been blushing slightly but I'm just gonna pretend it's from happiness and not because of any images I might still have in my head.
He smiled, then scowled when Cheryl started pounding on the door again. "We're coming!" he yelled.
I heard what sounded like choked laughter coming from the other side of the door and the possible blush turned into a full on one. "Oh god," I moaned and buried my head in Owen's shoulder.
"What?" he asked. "What's wr-...oh. Um, sorry."
I shook my head. "It's not your fault," I mumbled into his neck. "Stupid Cheryl."
His arms tightened around me as he chuckled. "You ready to go eat?"
And because this is just how things work, my stomach growled. I sighed. "Apparently."
Owen laughed and took a step back. I missed his arms, but I shook my head and tried to get myself in 'outside mode'. Which was gonna be one of the hardest things about this trip, I realized. Going from affectionate boyfriends in the room to just friends outside of it. I sighed again, already exhausted just thinking about it.
"You ok?" Owen asked.
I nodded. "Yeah."
He raised an unconvinced eyebrow.
"I am, I swear," I said. "I just...wish I could stay in here with you forever."
"Me too," he said and gave me a quick kiss. "But we're gonna enjoy ourselves anyway, I promise."
I smiled. "Good enough for me."
Dinner was actually really good, even if I wasn't comparing it to the last dinner I had with Cheryl and Owen. We went to a nice restaurant overlooking the beach and somehow managed to get a table on the deck outside. I tried not to think about how romantic it would have been if it was just me and Owen, mostly because even if it was just the two of us we still would have had to pretend we weren't together.
Aunt Karen was as cool as she always was and she never once acted like it was strange or wrong to have Owen with us. She talked to him and joked with him just as much as she did with me and Cheryl and it was nice to know that she liked him. A few times I did catch her giving Owen curious looks but they weren't hostile, more like she was trying to figure something out about him. I hoped she wasn't sizing him up as a potential boyfriend for Cheryl. If her mom said anything to her she might end up deciding it was perfect cover for me and just going with it.
I don't even think Cheryl could keep three fake relationships straight.
After dinner we drove into the actual town of Turtle Beach. It was about a mile away from the hotel and had lots of little shops and stuff. Mostly the kind of things you always see in beach vacation areas but there were some cool local places too, including this one awesome shop that sold antique and replica swords that I went in every time I passed it. Owen fell in love with it too and we ended up spending a lot of time in there while Aunt Karen dragged Cheryl off, probably to try and force her to do "girl" things like, gasp, buying clothes.
I tried not to snicker too much when I thought about it.
After that it was getting late so we went back to the hotel. Walking into the room with Owen the second time was like total night and day from the first. Well, I guess technically it WAS night and day since it was dark now but, you get what I mean. I didn't feel nervous or pressured at all and that's probably why it took us about five minutes to fall into bed wrapped around each other.
We didn't do anything new. Just kissing and some touching at first, then, finally after wanting it for two weeks we did the rubbing thing again. It was just as good as the first time. Better even, since I was only about half as embarrassed after as I was last time. I DID have a tiny bit of panic about us ruining two more pair of underwear but Owen calmed me down (with a kiss of course) and we ended up just soaking them in the sink overnight.
After that we got changed for bed. Separately, of course. I wasn't quite ready for Owen to see the full Andy yet. It was bad enough that I'd be wearing shorts tomorrow so he'd have to see my legs...and doesn't that just sound all 19th century. But the best part of the night wasn't any of that. It was after we said goodnight and kissed some more, when I got to cuddle up next to Owen in bed and fall asleep with my head on his shoulder.
It was even better than in my dreams.
"I smell horrible," I complained for the eighth time as we walked down the beach.
"No one said you had to put that much sunscreen on," Cheryl said, exasperated. She kicked a seashell down towards the water. She had her hair pulled back in a ponytail and was wearing a dark blue tankini and I kinda hated that I even knew what it was called. It didn't really hide how ridiculously fit she was and every tie I looked at her I got just a little bit more jealous that she ripples when she moves and I'm just sorta....flat.
I stopped. "Do you SEE this skin?" I held up my hand. "It's, like, whiter than your teeth. I can FEEL it trying to burn off."
I glared at the sun, which wasn't one of the smartest things I've ever done.
"Ow," I blinked my eyes rapidly, trying to get rid of the big yellow sun shaped blob of color blocking my vision. "I hate summer."
"It's spring," Cheryl said.
"I hate that too," I glared at her. Or, at least where her voice came from since I still couldn't see right. Stupid sun.
"I don't even know why you put that much on anyway," Cheryl said, ignoring my sun problems. "You're wearing a friggin' long sleeve shirt anyway."
This time I kicked sand at her. "Yeah, well.....shut up."
I just scowled and got even more annoyed because I couldn't say anything back. Not because I didn't have a reason for dumping practically an entire bottle of sun tan lotion on me before we left the room, but because I didn't want to admit it.
Even though Turtle Beach isn't exactly the spring break hotspot of, say, Virginia Beach, I've never even considered taking my shirt off here, but there was a part of me that was sorta hoping Owen would convince me. I know that totally goes against the no pressure thing, but I've never swam in the actual ocean before and out of all the 'first times' that could happen with Owen this weekend, that one seemed the least...complicated. That isn't the only reason though. After waking up literally on top of Owen this morning and being able to just enjoy it for a full five minutes before I got all awkward about it was more than nice. For whatever reason, my Andyness seemed to be lessened a bit and for the first time in my life I was -sort of- interested in pushing past my comfort zone. A little.
But I'd still need a lot of convincing.
"Here comes radio boy with your ice cream, maybe that'll make you complain less," Cheryl said.
I was so glad that the yellow blob thingy was clearing up, because watching Owen run across the beach was easily one of the top ten highlights of my life.
He looked great without a shirt. Actually, his top bits were a lot like mine. He was skinny and flat, except where he had a little bit of baby fat on his stomach, and a little wider in the shoulders and waist. A lot like what I see in the mirror everyday, but on Owen it looked great. Maybe it was the way his skin was already starting to tan instead of turning lobster red and peeling off, or maybe he's just naturally better looking than me topless.
And speaking of turning red, hopefully anyone looking would think the blush was just my skin starting to burn because I was staring a little too much at him and, yeah, definitely drooling a bit. Not the best way to play 'only friends'.
"Hey," he said, breathing a bit heavily. He held out one of the ice cream cones he was holding. "Here, vanilla right?"
I grinned and took it. "You remembered."
And, ok, yeah I just told him like ten minutes ago but it was still romantic to me. Or something. Shut up.
I gave it a lick and Owen stilled, biting his lip. Is...is he watching me...lick? I blushed, hard. Then remembered the whole 'comfort zone' thing and forced myself to lick it again. I didn't mean to do it as slow as I did. It was just kinda hard to force me to do it when I knew that I was flirting, so it took longer. But he swallowed heavily and bit his lip harder and just looked so damn sexy that I didn't exactly regret it.
"Hey, where's mine?" Cheryl asked, cutting into our sorta moment.
Owen frowned and licked his lips, nervously though so it wasn't as sexy. "Um, y-you said you didn't want any."
I sighed and glared at Cheryl. "Ignore her, she's teasing."
She stuck her tongue out at me. "You're no fun."
I ignored her.
We walked along the beach in silence for a few minutes. All around us people were either sunbathing or wakeboarding or swimming or chasing their little kids down when they got too close to the water. I felt a bit uncomfortable around all those people, but not as much as I usually do, so I actually enjoyed the walk this year instead of practically dragging Cheryl passed the worst of the crowds. Still, I was looking forward to getting down the beach a little bit past the hotels where there weren't as many people.
I finished eating my ice cream cone a little after Owen and when I was done I noticed him staring at me.
"What?" I asked self consciously. I ducked my head automatically before I remembered that I'd tied my hair back today for Owen. Huh. I didn't even remember feeling exposed with my hair back. Weird.
"You've got a little..." he said and reached over and wiped something off my face.
I jumped back. "Wh-what?" I frantically rubbed at my face because if there was still anything there he might touch me again and touching my face in public is way, WAY past 'comfort zone' and into 'never go there' zone and God I hope nobody saw-
"Oh come on," Cheryl said. "You're seriously overreacting, Andy. No ones even looking, you don't need to freak out."
I blushed, because, yeah, it WAS true. No one was even giving us a second glance. But also because someone COULD have been looking. But then I looked at Owen and before he covered it up he looked just a little bit sad, and I suddenly felt bad.
"Sorry," I mumbled.
"It's ok," he said, and gave me a small smile. I opened my mouth to apologize again. "No, really, it's ok. I get it. It's just easy to forget that we have to hide here, you know?"
I nodded, even though I didn't really know. I NEVER forget that I need to hide. It's as much a part of my life as breathing. But I sorta understood what he was trying to say anyway.
"Still, I'm sorry," I said. I summoned up all the boldness and daring I had and, just for a half second, brushed the back of my hand against his.
The smile that got was more than worth the three years it took off my life.
We walked along the beach some more, me and Owen a little bit closer than we probably needed to be since neither one of us moved away after I touched his hand. Every once and a while his hand would knock against mine, totally accidentally, and I had to fight the urge to pull away. Dammit, I already made Owen sad once today and there's no way in hell I'm doing it again!
"OH. MY. GOD!" Someone screeched, pulling me out of my thoughts.
Jesus that was loud. I looked around, half expecting to see someone being murdered or something horrible like that, but all I saw was a girl, running across the beach.
Right toward us.
She was thin and blonde, with her hair done up in some kind of complicated knot thing that I could see getting more and more loose and unknotted with every running step she took. She also had ridiculously big, um, front bits and even though I've been really, seriously, gay forever I couldn't look away. Not from her parts, from the magic fabric of her too-small-to-be-legal sky blue bikini that somehow kept them from flying out and smacking her in the face. It was so mesmerizing I forgot to panic about the whole running towards me thing.
The she got closer and about the time I noticed that she was the kind of pretty that Cheryl usually wanted to punch in the face she didn't look like she was slowing down even a little and if she was gonna run into the ocean she was gonna go right through us and....she's not running to the ocean, is she?
I stiffened and my heart sped up as she made a beeline right for me. I was in the middle of deciding if I should try a dodge or not when she pulled up and stopped right in front of me, breathing heavily.
"Oh. My. God," she said again, looking right at me as she caught her breath. "Your hair is amazing!"
"Who the hell are you?" Cheryl asked, probably scowling.
The girl ignored her.
"How do you get it like that? Do you use girl shampoo? Because I have a friend who uses girl shampoo because his mom buys it for him and HIS hair looks almost as good as yours and I'm jealous of it because it takes me forever to get mine to look good but I'm SUPER jealous of yours because it's so long and straight and it shines and looks great pulled back and what do you do to it?" she asked.
She somehow managed to get all that out without taking a breath, even though she was in the middle of taking a breath when she started.
But, seriously, what?!
Without even waiting for me to say anything -not that I would have of course- she reached out to touch my hair. I squeaked and took a few steps back, suddenly completely sure that she was some kind of psycho and I was about to get stabbed. Even though I didn't wanna think about where she might be hiding a knife in that thing she was almost wearing. Owen got in front of me, standing between me and the girl and crossing his arms. I instantly melted of course. There may have even been a sigh before I got control of myself. In front of the escaped mental patient is NOT the time to be acting like that.
But then, to my horror, she NOTICED it. Her grin somehow got even wider and she started to bounce on the balls of her feet.
"Oh! Oh! Oh! OH!" she shouted giddily. "That is SO CUTE! Are you two together, or do you just have a secret crush on him or something?"
I paled. Actually I'm pretty sure my heart stopped too. Owen's head snapped around to me, a worried look on his face. That got even more worried when he saw me. He looked like he wanted to comfort me but didn't know how and I was so glad that he didn't try to touch me again because I think that might have actually killed me and someone FOUND OUT and it was all my fault, just like I always knew it would be.
"Shut the fuck up," Cheryl hissed, moving to stand next to Owen. "Or I'll punch you in your throat."
That got the girl to look away from me for the first time. I could have kissed Cheryl for that.
"Oh," she said, chewing on her lip. "Are they yours?"
What does that even mean?
"What?" Cheryl asked.
"You know," the girl said with an eye roll. "Your gay boys."
I winced and hunched over on myself. Owen stood closer to me. Cheryl glared.
"Shut up!" Cheryl growled. "Can't you see he's about to pass out?"
"Oh," the girl turned back to me and cocked her head. "Yeah he does kinda look bad."
She turned back to Cheryl.
"Do they kiss for you? Because if they do you HAVE to tell me how you got the-"
"Michelle!" another voice yelled, cutting her off.
She turned toward the voice, smiled and waved.
Oh god, what now?
I reluctantly turned toward the new voice also. Two boys were running up to us.
The first one to reach us was blond, very pretty -although still somehow slightly more manly than me, ugh- and about two inches shorter than me. He had his hair pulled back into the tiniest, nubbiest ponytail I'd ever seen. Well, half of it anyway, the front half had either escaped or hadn't been pulled back and was hanging down the sides of his face. He was pale too. Pale like me but he didn't look like he had any sun tan lotion on and there wasn't even the tiniest bit of redness on his skin. I forgot to freak out just long enough to be jealous of that, and of the bright blue eyes that I'd always wished I'd had.
The second boy was brown. Brown hair, tanned brown skin, but his eyes were steel gray. Where the first boy had a body a lot like mine, mostly slim and flat, this boy had lightly defined muscle in his chest, arms and stomach that rippled when he moved. He was the kind of gorgeous that I was so scared Owen was going to be and I was instantly more than a little intimidated, even though he looked ridiculously innocent and pretty much the definition of nonthreatening. I couldn't really tell because they were both standing in uneven sand, but he also looked just a little bit taller than the first boy.
"What," the first boy glared at the girl, "the hell are you doing?"
"I found more gay boys," she said happily, pointing at me and Owen and taking another four years off my life. "His hair's better than yours. Actually, they both have pretty awesome hair."
The blond one opened his mouth like he was about to say something, then shut it, shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I....you....we left you alone for THREE minutes and you....." he sighed. "Jesus fuck."
"I was just about to see if they kiss and stuff," the girl, Michelle I guess, said helpfully.
"No, Michelle, no. Just....no." the blond one said. "Go away please. Back to the blankets with you."
"What?" she asked, sounding legitimately confused. "I'm just making friends."
"Friends?" the brown one said. "That one looks like he's about to throw up and the other two look like that want to kill you. That's...kinda not making friends."
The blond one nodded rapidly.
"They're still adorable though," Michelle said. She started to say something but the blonde boy cut her off.
"Look," he said through gritted teeth, looking at us. "I'm sorry. Apparently she got out of her cage. We'll just be taking her away now."
"You know, it's REALLY insulting talking about someone like they're not even here," Michelle said.
"And it's not insulting to run up to people and be all....YOU?!" the blond one yelled.
"No!" she yelled back. "It's not! I'm likeable dammit!"
"You're a fucking embarrassing psycho!" the blond one shouted.
And that was when the brown one did something that almost really did make me pass out. He walked over and slid his arm around the waist of the blond one. Right out in the open. Where EVERYONE could see. "Hon, calm down. People are gonna start calling the beach police or something."
The blond one instantly relaxed and leaned against the brown one, who must have been his boyfriend. Real, live gay boys who weren't me or Owen or Brandon and his friends. It was weird. "Maybe they should," the blond one said, but he didn't sound angry anymore. "They give psycho pills in jail, right?"
The brown one chuckled and pulled the blond one closer, but didn't say anything. Then they just.....cuddled, right there in front of us. They didn't even seem to notice that everyone was staring at them. Me, Owen and Cheryl with different levels of disbelief and Michelle looking like she was watching two puppies being adorable.
"So cute," Michelle said, almost under her breath but not even close to being unheard.
That broke the spell. The blond one stuck his tongue out at her. "Shut up," he said.
The brown one gave him a tiny smile, then seemed to notice that they were being stared at by more than Michelle. "Um, what?" he asked.
None of us said anything for a few seconds. Surprisingly, it was me who broke the silence. "I...y-you...in public..."
Unsurprisingly, I couldn't actually get anything out.
"You're....holding each other," Owen said, half in disbelief and half in awe. "In the open, like it's nothing."
"Well, yeah," the blond one said. "You mean you don't? Um, I mean, if you're together or whatever, that is. I just kinda assumed because of, you know, her." He jerked his head toward Michelle.
"We can't," Owen said sadly.
"W-we'd probably g-get killed," I managed to force out. "Literally." Overdramatic maybe, but it was close enough to the truth without getting into Jarred and my dad with total strangers.
The brown one winced, "Sorry. We kinda forget that happens to people sometimes."
"You mean it never happens to you?" Owen asked.
"Nope," the blond one shook his head. "Well, maybe a little this year, but it was just idiots, you know? Not, like, death squads or anything."
"Wow," Owen said. "You must live somewhere awesome."
The blond one snorted. "We live in West Virginia, not exactly gay pride capital of the world."
"Then, why don't you have to hide?" Owen asked.
"Fangirls," the blond one said.
"Um, what?" Owen asked.
The brown one chuckled and the blond one said, "Oh, uh, it may not seem like it now but that," he pointed to Michelle, "is actually useful for something."
"Hey!" she said, pouting.
"Quiet you," the blond one said.
"Ok, I'm sorry, but, who the hell are you people?" Cheryl cut in. Even with the three heart attacks I was seconds away from having, I was still impressed that she managed to keep quiet this long.
"Oh," the blond one said, smiling sheepishly. "Um, sorry. I'm Nate."
"I'm Michelle!" Michelle said with a grin and a wave.
"Yeah, we got that," Cheryl said, glaring at her.
"And my name's Victor, but everyone calls me Vicky," the brown one said.
The blo-Nate, gave him a goofy smile as he introduced himself and I couldn't help wondering if that's how I look whenever Owen does something melt-worthy. I had no idea what's melt-worth about introducing yourself though.
"Vicky?" Cheryl asked skeptically. Which, yeah I guess a guy calling himself Vicky is a bit weird.
"You got a problem with that?" Michelle said, scowling and crossing her arms. If she was going for intimidating, she was trying it against the wrong person. It probably would have worked against me though. Something about her being the first person -besides Nurse Amy I guess- to figure me out was freaking scary.
"I have a problem with you," Cheryl said.
"Everyone has a problem with her," Nate muttered under his breath, flipping his hair out of his eyes.
Everyone was silent for a few seconds, then Vicky smirked and started chuckling. "Yeah, Vicky. My dad started calling me that when I was a kid and now he's like the only one who doesn't," he shrugged. "I like it though."
"I like it too," Nate said, smiling at him.
Vicky smiled and looked like he was about to kiss him, but at the last second shot a dark look at Michelle -who was looking way too excited- and backed off. Which was good, because I think seeing two boys kiss in public would have finally killed me.
And then, for the first time since this whole thing started, Nate spoke to me, "Hey, uh, are you ok?"
I jumped, then blushed. Stupid shyness. "Um, no?" I answered. Dammit Andy, you know you're supposed to say yes when strangers ask you stuff like that!
"Sorry," Nate said with a sorta strained smile. "I swear she's not usually that bad. Even around us."
"I'm never bad," Michelle stuck her tongue out at him.
"I-I-," I swallowed. "Ok. Um, thanks? I think. Um, for stopping her before she, I dunno, touched me or s-something."
Nate's jaw dropped, then he spun around. "You tried to TOUCH him?!"
"Just his hair!" she said defensively.
Nate relaxed a bit, "Oh, ok that's not as bad-no, that's still bad! Don't go around touching people! What are you, two?!"
He held up a hand before she could say anything then turned back around. "Look, seriously, I'm sorry about her. I think everyone here got off on, like, the wrongest foot ever. But, you guys seem nice and, most importantly, sane. Which is a nice change. So! Maybe we could all just start over before your girl friend -that's friend who's a girl, not, like, implying some threeway thing or whatever, unless that's how it is and then, uh, cool?- um, before she kills Michelle. Ok?"
"No!" I yelled, then blushed. "I m-mean, no to the....thing. About Cheryl. Um, ew. Never. In a million years. Ever. But um," I shrugged awkwardly as the shyness caught up with my massive freak out about someone thinking I was WITH Cheryl in any way, even a weird freaky threesome way-and does that kind of thing even happen? Ew. No. Not thinking about it. "maybe? I guess? To the other thing?"
Vicky giggled. "Oh, you two sound like you'll get along."
Owen nodded, "Yeah, ok. Just," he looked at Michelle, "don't touch him, ok?"
She sighed, a full bodied dramatic sigh, but nodded. "Fine," she moped. "But only if you guys kiss for me."
The blood drained from my face again.
"Michelle!" Nate and Vicky said in unison.
"Ugh! That's so adorable," Michelle sighed. "Fine, no kissing I guess."
"So, um, what are your names?" Vicky asked after a few seconds of awkward silence.
"I'm Cheryl," Cheryl said. She still glared at Michelle, but for some reason didn't seem as hostile towards Nate and Vicky. Which was weird because she usually doesn't like new people. For a second, I wondered if maybe she was doing this to show me that boyfriends can be all boyfriendy around people and not get punched in the...everything, but no. Not even Cheryl would go that far just to prove a point.
"I'm Owen," Owen said, with a small, sorta shy smile. It was cute as always when he got shy, but what was even better was the way he didn't let his shyness get in the way of trying to protect me. He still made sure to stand between me and Michelle, and I promised myself that I'd kiss him for that. Later, of course.
"Andy," I said quietly. Now that the freak out adrenaline was going away it was kind of hitting home that I was TALKING to people I'd never met before, and I could feel myself getting more shy and awkward by the second.
"Nice to meet you guys," Vicky said with a smile.
"Same," Owen said.
"Most of you anyway," Cheryl said, still glaring at Michelle.
Who glared back. "Why are you so mean?" she snapped.
"Why are you so creepy?" Cheryl shot back.
"I'M NOT CREEPY!" Michelle yelled.
Nate, Vicky, Owen and I all snorted at the same time.
"You run up to people on the beach you've never met and touch their hair," Cheryl said.
"He has nice hair!"
"That doesn't mean you can touch it!"
"Don't tell me what to do, tankini!"
"At least I'm not falling out of my bathing suit because it's five sizes to small, slut!"
Nate sighed, "Oh, yeah, starting over totally worked."
"Don't call me a slut, you steroid popping tomboy!" Michelle screeched.
I giggled, then clapped my hands over my mouth, hoping no one noticed.
"What?" Cheryl snapped.
"Um," I said, coughing to cover up the giggles. "Nothing?"
Cheryl's eyes narrowed. "You're laughing at what she said about me, aren't you?" she asked slowly.
I shook my head. "No." Cheryl raised an eyebrow. "Seriously! I'm laughing at how pissed off you're getting. It's....you don't usually get this mad at people who aren't me. Not without punching them. It's funny."
"It is not," Cheryl said, crossing her arms.
"Yeah," Michelle said. "It's not funny, she called me a slut!"
"I call you a slut every time you squeeze into that thing," Nate said helpfully.
"But you're you and she's....her!" Michelle said and actually stomped her foot.
I had to fight back another giggle at that. It's amazing how funny things get when you're not really a part of them anymore.
"I don't think I've ever seen Michelle make friends before," Vicky said, smirking a smirk that seemed so out of place on his innocent looking face.
"What?" Michelle and Cheryl said at the same time, turning pretty identical incredulous looks at him.
"It's definitely love at first sight," he said.
"Ew! No it's not!" Michelle said. Cheryl stuck out her tongue and gagged.
"She's the exact same way with our other friend Erica," Nate said. "And they're all totally in love and crap."
"WE ARE NOT!" Michelle yelled, getting really red in the face. "I TOLD YOU A MILLION TIMES I'M NOT A LESBIAN!"
That got us more looks than I was comfortable with and I wished I had some free hair to hide behind.
"Yeah, that doesn't scream denial at ALL," Nate rolled his eyes.
"I'M NOT DE-"
"Are you hitting on me?" Cheryl cut her off with a disgusted frown.
"NO! I'M NOT!" Michelle yelled. "A lesbian! Or hitting on you! Or denial! Or-GAH!"
And with that she threw up her hands and stalked back towards where she'd come running from before. Every single head on the beach following her the whole way.
"So!" Nate said a few seconds later, clapping his hands together. "Starting over?"
"Um," Owen said. "Is she....ok?"
Nate waved his hand dismissively. "Oh yeah, she's just gonna sulk or whatever for a while. She'll be fine when she calms down enough to realize she's missing out on anything cute we might be doing." He frowned at that. "Hopefully not any time soon..."
"Oh, um, ok," Owen said with a tiny shrug.
"Was she really hitting on me?" Cheryl asked.
Vicky laughed, "No, she...it's a long story, but it's the best way to get her to go away when she's being..."
"Crazy?" Nate supplied.
"Yeah," Vicky nodded. "That one."
"Oh," Cheryl said, sounding relieved. "Good."
"So, how long are you guys here?" Nate asked.
"Till Monday," Owen said.
"Cool, us too. Wanna um, I dunno hang out or something?" he asked. "Away from Michelle," he added quickly.
Cheryl looked at me, then Owen looked at me, then I felt my face getting hot because everyone started looking at me. I guess I get to make the decision.
"Um," I swallowed. I opened my mouth to say no, but I was shocked into silence by the fact that I was actually conflicted about it. Part of me was curious about two gay boys who acted like boyfriends in public. It was something I wouldn't even be able to think about having until at least college -and even then only depending on what college I went to- and I sorta wanted to see what it was like without having to worry about being caught doing it myself. Even though I'd probably end up blushing all damn day. But even more than all that I could tell by the way Owen was trying not to give me a hopeful look that he wanted me to say yes without pressuring me, and really that decided it. "Sure?"
Cheryl looked surprised. Owen looked surprised but pleased. Nate just grinned, "Cool. I've never had vacation friends before."
Vicky opened his mouth but Nate cut him off without even looking at him, "The twins at the ski place don't count. They were creepy ass stalkers, not friends."
Vicky closed his mouth and shot the back of Nate's head an amused little smile.
"So, I guess you'd wanna avoid going back to the blankets with the Wicked-Creeper Witch of the West, right?" Nate asked us.
We all nodded in unison.
"Figured," he said. "So there's kind of a cool game room at our hotel, it has like arcade machines and pool tables and food and stuff, wanna hang out there for a while? It's got a Mortal Kombat 2 machine," he added, like it was some kind of special treat.
But then I saw Owen's eyes light up and, yeah you guessed it, that decided it. "Ok," I said.
And that's where we went.
It was actually kind of fun, for the most part. Nate and Vicky looked like they were gonna pass out when I stutteringly told them I didn't really play video games, then they spent the next two hours dragging me around and making me try out every single machine in the surprisingly big game room while Owen stood by and gave me increasingly confusing advice. Seriously, what the HELL does 'quarter circle forward high punch' even mean?
It means that Cheryl got to enjoy kicking my ass at video game fighting too, that's what.
Eventually they kinda gave up on me being good at anything -thank god- and they all started to play each other. Nate was really good at one of the fighting games, Street Fighter 2 Turbo...something, beating everyone easily. Until he played Owen. Who kicked his ass. And I might have been feeling comfortable around them by then because there's a small chance that I celebrated a little too much and maybe even gloated a little bit.
So of course they fought each other like thirty seven more times.
Owen won the most games. Nate looked annoyed, apparently he doesn't usually lose at Street Fighter, and Vicky comforted him with a lot of hugs while shooting amused smirks at me and Owen over his shoulder. I just beamed proudly at Owen. I may not care about video games much, but if I'm gonna watch people play them for an hour I want my boyfriend to win, dammit!
After that we went over to the pool tables and THAT was a lot of fun. I'd played pool a bunch of times with my dad on vacations, so I knew how to play, but what I didn't know was that I was actually good at it, instead of my dad just sucking because he's old. I beat Nate, then Vicky, then Cheryl, then Owen (which I kinda felt bad about) and then we decided to play two against two, with the worst player from each game trading out with the person not playing. Which actually worked better than you'd think it would. The team with me won more often than not, so I got to feel good about that too. Although the game with me and Nate versus Owen and Vicky was a little weird.
Especially after someone brought up sci fi stuff and it turned out that Owen and Vicky both liked Star Trek over Star Wars and they spent half the games talking animatedly about the show. It annoyed me a bit that they had to keep being reminded to take their turns, but Nate seemed to take it personally.
"You know," Nate shouted over at them. "Picard broke the Prime Directive, like, eight times and he never once got in any trouble for it. Main character syndrome much?"
They ignored him.
"I can't BELIEVE anyone can like that show over Star Wars," he grumbled, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. "I mean, come on! It's a good show but the Force, the Death Star, the freaking EMPIRE, does Star Trek have anything that cool in any of the shows OR movies? I think not."
He turned to me.
"Please tell me you like Star Wars more than Star Trek," he pleaded.
"Um," I bit my lip and shifted awkwardly. "I've, um, never really watched either one?"
He stared at me for almost a full minute -more than a little uncomfortable- then slowly shook his head. "Jesus tapdancing Christ," he said quietly. "Heathens. I'm surrounded by heathens."
He pushed off the wall and went over to the table to violently jam the chalk thingy on his stick.
After a while Michelle found us and started to give Nate and Vicky shit about leaving her. They brushed it off and somehow made her apologize to us again. Even Cheryl, who still looked like she wanted to punch her but managed a grumbled "Sorry, too" when I gave her my best glare.
They refused to team up for pool though.
During lunch we all talked. Well, everyone else did. I mostly stayed silent. We found out a lot about Nate and Vicky though. Not only did their friends know about them and not have a problem with it but their PARENTS knew too and still didn't have a problem. I was more than jealous. And then slightly less jealous when they clarified and said that Vicky's dad and Nate's mom were actually divorced, and sorta dating.
"Um," I asked. "Doesn't that make you guys....uh...incest?"
Nate scowled and Vicky rolled his eyes. "I don't wanna think about it," Nate growled. "Maybe they'll break up before the stupid wedding."
Vicky patted his hand consolingly, but rolled his eyes again so I got the idea it wasn't bothering him half as much.
Their whole life seemed really complicated and completely unrealistic, but still great. But the thing I noticed the most about the whole conversation wasn't anything to do with them. It was Owen. Every time they talked about doing something together or their parents dropping them off to go on dates together or all the friends they had that didn't have a problem with them, he got this look of longing on his face that I'd never seen before.
It broke my heart a little bit.
I felt bad that we couldn't live someplace where we could be like that, where I could have grown up to be comfortable even THINKING about being like that. I'd never realized that Owen wanted that so much. I made a promise to myself right there that I'd do whatever I could to push my stupid anxiety and shy, self-conscious Andyness down and be a normal couple in the hotel room. Without him feeling like he needed to step on eggshells to keep from pressuring me. But it still didn't feel like enough. No matter how we were in the hotel room, we'd only be here for two more days. After that it was back to the hiding and the worrying. I needed to do more, but I didn't know what I could do.
The thought stayed in the back of my head.
By the time we finished eating all the pool tables were full and no one really had any money left for games. We spent a few minutes trying to figure out what to do but before we really got anywhere Cheryl's mom called her cell phone looking for us.
"No, mom, we're not at the beach," she said.
"Yeah, I know you said 'don't leave the beach but'-"
"No, we're not at the hotel either. I'm trying-"
"God! Mom! We're not-" she lowered her voice to a harsh whisper. "-DOING anything."
"No," she sighed. "We're in a game room."
"In a hotel."
"NO! Not in a hotel room! Seriously, what the hell? I'm not a slut!"
Michelle snickered and I blushed, suddenly realizing what the other half of the conversation must be like. It could be worse, though, I guess. It could be me trying to explain it. I'd probably do such a horrible job of telling the truth that she'd assume I'm lying.
"We met some people on the beach and went back to their hotel- and I swear to GOD if you say anything I'm never talking to you again- to the game room and spent a few hours there."
"I dunno, they're just people."
"No, mom, people our age. Sorry to tear apart your drunk college orgy theory."
"Yeah, actually, I'm really funny."
"No, I- NO! We're- Yes Andy and Owen are with me."
"But we were gonna-"
She growled, "Fine. See you in a few minutes."
She hung up.
"Well, we need to go," she said with a scowl. "Apparently leaving the beach means we're having drunken twelve-ways with everyone who walks by or something."
I blushed harder, "Oh god."
"Um, does she really...?" Owen asked hesitantly.
Cheryl snorted, "She will until she sees us and yells at me for a while, so we should probably go get that over with."
Owen sighed. "Alright," he said reluctantly.
Michelle opened her mouth to say something, but Nate elbowed her in the stomach.
"Ow!" she said.
He ignored her. "So, you gotta go?"
"Yeah," Cheryl nodded. "Um, I can't believe I'm even saying this but I actually had fun. Just not the fun my mom thinks I'm having." she added with a growl. "I should just tell her all the guys around me are gay and see what she says to that."
She looked at me and added quickly. "Kidding Andy."
I rolled my eyes. "I'm not THAT bad," I mumbled.
Nate chuckled. "We did too," he said. Vicky nodded. "Do you think you'll be let out of your room for the rest of your trip? We could hang out again?"
Cheryl shrugged. "I wouldn't mind."
"That would be fun," Owen said.
"Cool," Vicky said. "See you guys hopefully later then."
We all waved, Cheryl and Michelle managed to exchange one last glare, then we started the walk back to the beach and to our hotel.
"So," Owen asked me. "Did you really have fun."
I nodded. "Yeah, actually I did. Nate and Vicky were kinda cool."
"Yeah. Lucky too," he added wistfully.
That sad look crossed his face again and I wanted to hold his hand, or hug him or SOMETHING. All I could do though was brush the back of my hand against his again. It got me a small, but sincere, smile, but it was gone quickly. He kept his head down, looking at the sand and chewing on his lip as we walked, thinking.
But he wasn't the only one thinking. And before we got back to the hotel, I made a decision.
Me and Owen rushed into the hotel room as quickly as we could, shoving the door shut behind us. I locked everything that could possibly be locked, then let out a sigh of relief.
"Wow," Owen said. "That was awkward."
I nodded rapidly. "Oh yeah. I've seen Cheryl and Aunt Karen fight before, but never about something so..." I blushed. "Sex related."
Owen shuddered, then walked over to the bed and sat down. I followed and sat down next to him. I knew it was my imagination but I could have sworn I could hear Cheryl and her mom yelling at each other from four rooms away.
"Are they gonna fight for the rest of the trip?" Owen asked.
"I doubt it," I said, hoping I sounded more confident about that than I was. "They don't usually."
I must have succeeded because Owen relaxed a bit. "Ok," he said. "Good."
The silence that fell after that was awkward.
Well, it was to me at least. Now that I wasn't totally embarrassed and more than a little scared by being right in front of a shouting match, all I could think about was the decision I made. I took a deep breath, then reached for Owen's hand.
He gave me a startled look that quickly turned into a smile. A smile that slowly melted away when he saw the look on my face. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"Nothing," I answered. "Um, I just...."
I started to chew my lip and he gave my hand a reassuring squeeze. I let out a breath and shook my head, annoyed with myself. Making a decision like this should be the hard part, telling Owen about it should be way easier.
"Are you ok?" Owen asked.
I sighed because he'd been asking that way too much on this trip and even though I loved it I didn't want him to spend his whole vacation worrying about me. "I'm ok. But I do wanna tell you something."
He nodded patiently.
I took a deep breath and tried to ignore how much my face was burning. "Um, whenever you want to, um, do anything, we can, ok?"
Owen shot me a confused frown. "Huh?"
"Dammit, I'm not explaining this right at all. Um, I mean, like, you know, if you wanna do anything like....s-sex...stuff....we can."
"Andy..." Owen started.
"No, wait," I cut in. "I know w-what you're gonna say and I'm not pressured. I swear."
"Then why?" he asked. "Yesterday you were freaking out just being alone in a hotel room together because you didn't know what you were ready for. I don't want you to do something just because you think I want to-"
"I'm not!" I said. "I swear I'm not. I...I w-want to...do more..."
I sighed again. Explaining myself when I'm this embarrassed is probably the hardest thing ever, but I needed to get it out so Owen would understand.
"It's because of today, hanging out with Nate and Vicky," I said.
That got another frown. "You want to have sex with me because of two other boys?"
"No!" I yelled wide eyed and blushed even harder. "N-not like that!"
Another deep breath. Come on Andy, you can do this. "I-it was just the way they were together. Comfortable and secure and I saw how sad you got when they talked about how open they could be back where they live, and I hated that. You being sad I mean. But we can't be like that and I wish I could give that to you but I CAN give you anything here, in this room."
"So..." Owen said. "It IS because of me?"
"No! Well...yeah I do wanna have....d-do....things only with you because you're you but not like I'm being pressured or anything," I said.
I looked into his eyes and tried to push all the honesty and 'please believe I'm telling the truth, I'm doing the best I can' into my eyes that I could.
"I WANT to. I...I like being with you. Like, when we do.....what we did before. And," I felt my face practically melting off and my heart about to explode. "I want to do more," I said softly. "I-I don't care if it's now or in two years, but I don't want you holding back anything you want just because you think I'm not ready. There's so much we're never going to have because of other people, I don't want us to not have things we could have because of me."
There. It was all out. I looked away from Owen. That was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do and I was too scared to see his reaction. If he didn't believe me or, even worse, rejected me I wouldn't be able to take it.
I kept my death grip on his hand though.
"Andy..." Owen said softly. With his other hand he gripped me gently by the chin and turned my face towards his. As terrified as I was, I didn't even try to resist. But it turns out it would have been unnecessary anyway, there was nothing in his eyes or his expression besides a quiet warmth that sent my heart speeding up in a completely different way. He brushed a few strands of hair that had fallen out of my ponytail back behind my hair and cupped my cheek. "You know, I don't even know what I'M ready for, right?"
"Th-that's ok," I said quickly. "I just want you to know that whenever you're ready, I am too. For anything."
Owen smiled at me and like always I couldn't help smiling back. He kissed my softly, once, then rested his forehead against mine. "I love you," he said, his breath lightly caressing my face.
"I love you too," I said. And suddenly I decided I wasn't close enough to him. I climbed onto his lap and sat there, with my legs hanging over his right leg. He wrapped his arms around my middle as I wrapped mine around his neck and rested my head on his shoulder.
It didn't lead to anything else, except maybe some kissing. But that was ok. Like I told Owen, nothing needed to happen now. But now that I didn't have to worry about it -about when I'd be ready, what I'd be ready for, if Owen was getting fed up of waiting, if he felt like we weren't as close as we could or should be- I could actually feel a bit of anticipation. A tiny little tight, fluttery feeling in my stomach that there was something that I could do -that I WANTED to do- for Owen that no one could take away from us or stop us from doing. Not even me. But that was for later.
For now? For now I could just sit here, letting the feeling build, and enjoy being in the arms or the boy that I loved.