It was Monday morning, and Max woke up with a fresh outlook. It was the first full night’s sleep he’d had in roughly a week. He had received a text from Leo the night before telling him the time he’d by arriving, and suddenly Max remembered, he had no way of getting to the airport. His mum was at work, and had the car. He knew who he would have to call. He didn’t want to, but he knew it was the only way to ensure transportation.
“Hey Cassy? Could you do me a huge favour?”
“What is it, why would you need the gossip’s help?” She asked from the other end of the phone.
“I need to borrow your driving services, or your car. Either way, I need to get to the airport.” Max explained.
“Oh yeah, lover boy is here today isn’t he? Well, you are going to owe me big time. I’ll bring the car over now. But be warned, I will be waiting at your house for it to be returned, meaning you have to bring Leo back and meet me.” She chuckled darkly.
“Thanks, you’re a good friend.” Max told her.
“See you soon!” Cassy said, before hanging up the phone.
Sure enough, a few minutes later, Cassy was ringing the doorbell, the car waiting in the driveway. “I figured it’d be better if you got him yourself. Don’t want to overwhelm the poor guy by having me driving you.”
“Thanks Cassy. I really do owe you. Make yourself at home. I’ll be back shortly. He’s going to be getting off the plane soon. Apparently for the first time ever, a plane is landing earlier than scheduled.”
“Okay, just don’t damage my car!” She yelled, watching as Max ran out, waved, and got in the car, starting it up and driving away.
It seemed to take forever to get to the airport. He had never had such a long 20 minutes before in his life. He decided to put the radio on after the first few minutes, in the hopes that it would help pass the time. Unfortunately though, it didn’t work.
As he pulled up, the plane began its descent. He could see it as it lowered. He knew that it would be a while before Leo could get out. He sat in the waiting room for a little while before Leo came through.
Max looked up, checking to see if the flight had let out yet, and saw Leo step out of the gate. All at once he was overcome with happiness, joy, sadness and a whole host of memories. He couldn’t work out how to feel. He had no idea this would happen, but he just felt like he was on an emotional rollercoaster, that was going way too fast. He couldn’t work out what was up and what was down anymore.
In order to convey this array of emotions, Max knew he had to find a greeting, one that could say everything at once. What he came up with, was slightly lacking. “Hey.” He said, mentally kicking himself for not using this time to create a movie-esque speech about how he felt.
“Hey. It’s good to see you. Face to face.” Leo replied, he was visibly relieved, which made Max wonder what about. He’d probably find out at some point, but only when Leo was ready. He knew Leo wouldn’t tell him anything until he felt ready to do so, and if Max asked, then he would avoid discussing it even more.
Max led Leo to the car, and put his case in the back. “I warn you, this isn’t my car, I borrowed it from a friend. My mum still hasn’t got around to getting me a car of my own yet.” He explained as he started the car.
“Oh. Must be a good friend to lend you their car.” Leo said. “I mean, that takes an element of trust.”
“Cassy’s great. She knows how important this is, so she lent me her car, just this once. She’ll kill me if I damage it in any way though.”
“Cassy?” Leo asked.
“Yeah, she’s one of the people I know from school. She’s really great, but she can be a bit of a gossip, so I tend to avoid telling her anything important, except this. This was the only thing I couldn’t keep quiet. She’s back at home now, waiting to meet you.”
“Oh, fair enough.” Leo said, shrugging away feelings of panic. “It’s good of her to let you borrow her car, definitely.”
“What’s this fixation on the borrowing of someone’s car? Surely you can think of something else to discuss…” Max said, a little annoyed that Leo had barely said 2 words that didn’t involve borrowing the car.
“I don’t know. This isn’t easy, you know? I mean, it’s been 6 months. I wasn’t sure I’d ever see you again. I don’t know what to say. I can’t just say ‘how are you doing?’ because that’s not enough, but then I can’t say ‘I missed you really badly and I want to take you back with me’ because that’s too much and I don’t know how to get to anything in between.” Leo said, and then breathed.
“Leo. I’m in the exact same position. I’m on an emotional rollercoaster here. But we can’t just sit around making small talk the entire time your here. I want to catch up, I want to talk to you again. Normally. Like old times.” Max replied.
“Which old times. We have a few.” Leo replied with a chuckle.
“The times when we were friends, and we were happy.” Max replied, not bothering to respond to the small joke Leo had made. He agreed that they had a lot of history, but he didn’t want to bring too much attention to the rest of it.
“Well friends it is then.” Leo replied, smiling. There was a sadness in his eyes that Max couldn’t comprehend, though, and it scared him.
They arrived back at the house and got out of the car. Max got Leo’s case and took it inside, with Leo following. He looked up as Cassy walked in.
“Cassy, Leo. Leo, Cassy.” Max introduced them. He noticed the gleam in Cassy’s eye and his smile dropped off his face. He knew that look. It happened when she saw something, or someone, that she liked. He wasn’t sure what to expect, though. He hoped she would respect him enough not to try anything. But Cassy didn’t always think of other people, and that thought scared him. He and Leo might not be together anymore, but Leo and Cassy would be a match that would kill him.
“Hey.” Cassy said, voice thick with flirtation, eyelashes fluttering.
“Hey.” Leo replied, much more indifferent, walking past her to help Max get his case up the stairs.
“You’ll be staying in my room. If that’s okay.” Max told him. “Cassy, you’ve met Leo, now you can take your car. I don’t mean to be rude but we have a lot of setting up to do.”
“Okay, I know where I’m not wanted.” Cassy said, leaving, but not without a very suggestive wink towards Leo, which he ignored.
“I think your friend is trying to hit on me…” Leo said, sounding a little uncomfortable with the idea.
“Yeah she is. I saw from the way she looked at you that she likes you… Well as much as anyone can from a single look and one word.” Max shrugged, making it seem like he didn’t really care.
“Well it’s a little weird. I mean, we were… And she’s your friend. Isn’t that against the rules?” Leo asked with a small laugh.
“She can date who she wants. I’m a big boy. I’m not gonna cry over spilled milk.” Max said, shrugging.
“Is that what we are? Spilled milk?” Leo asked, his eyes getting a shadow of hurt cast over them.
“We would be if you started dating Cassy.” Max said with a laugh. “I’m sorry but I couldn’t recover from tha-” He slapped a hand over his mouth and stopped speaking. He didn’t mean to say that.
Leo smiled a little. He knew he shouldn’t be happy that Max was hurting, but it meant he still cared, and for that, Leo was happy. “So, we’ll be setting up the other mattress I presume?”
“I figured it’d be easier to do it late this evening. We could do with the space during the day, I think.”
“Depends on what you want to do.” Leo said, shrugging.
“Well we have movies, games, TV, anything really. Or we could go out somewhere. It’s really up to you.”
“Do you mind if we head out and get something to eat? Plane food is horrible and I haven’t eaten properly since I left last night. I’m craving fast food.”
“Fair enough. I know just the place!” Max said, grabbing his keys, which he had put down on his bedside table. “Come with me.” He said, heading down the stairs with Leo following closely behind. He headed outside and down the street. “We’ll have to walk. No car. But it’s not far.” Max explained to Leo.
“That’s fine. I’ve never really been against walking.” Leo said, shrugging.
They got to the restaurant shortly afterwards, entering the door laughing about something Leo had told Max.
“So she really did it?” Max said, smiling.
“Yep. She didn’t realise we we’re joking. We had another dare prepared but she thought we were serious so she did it.” Leo laughed.
“Wow!” Max said, laughing.
For the first time in a while, Max didn’t care that people were looking at him, and neither did Leo. They were making so much noise that half the restaurant were watching them. Some happy for them, others a little annoyed or agitated.
Max started asking Leo what life was like back home, whether anything had changed, how everyone was. Leo had told him that everything was fine. Lorna, the police officer that Max knew, had been promoted. Max was happy to hear that. He like Lorna, she was really nice to him, and really helpful with the case.
“So do you know what happened to him?” Leo asked, curious.
“He’s in prison. He will be for a long time. Solitary confinement for fear of other prisoners attacking him.” Max said, not really wanting to discuss it but knowing he would have to at some point.
“They should let him get attacked, he deserves it.” Leo grumbled.
“He’s not worth it. It’d be the other people getting into trouble. There are laws against vigilantes, Leo.”
“I know, but he deserves worse than being sat in a prison cell.” Leo responded.
“Let’s change the subject shall we?” Max suggested. He didn’t want to talk about his step-dad the first time he had seen Leo in months.
“Sure. What else can we talk about? Oh! I know! What are your friends like around here? And lurrrv interests?” He asked, feigning the voice of a camp guy.
“Not really. I mean, everyone’s pretty awesome, but none of them co- hold any interest for me, you know?” He was about to say ‘compare to you’ and then changed his mind, not wanting to make Leo uncomfortable in the situation. He did want Leo back, but he didn’t want to rush things, because that often led to disaster.
“Oh, fair enough. Sounds like you’ve got a decent life. No messy relationships, decent friends.” Leo said, smiling.
“Yeah but I still miss home. I had great friends there, too. And family, minus the problems. I also got to talk to you every day.” Max said, shrugging. “I miss our movie nights.”
“You miss my home cinema.” Leo laughed, winking. He was obviously joking.
“I was trying to make you feel wanted, but if that’s how you want to play it, I won’t bother!” Max said, laughing.
“Well, if that’s the case, I may as well go home!” Leo said.
“Too far.” Max said, a serious look on his face. Until he couldn’t hold it and both he and Leo burst out laughing.
“Wow. We are idiots, aren’t we?” Leo laughed.
“Speak for yourself!” Max exclaimed, feigning offense.
“Don’t take offense, will you?” Leo asked.
“Okay, I’ll take a gate instead!” Max replied.
“Wow. How incredibly punny!” Leo laughed.
“You know you love it.” Max said, winking.
After eating they left the restaurant, still laughing, and headed back to Max’s. They had a night of playing video games and watching movies before falling asleep. Max on the bed, Leo on the mattress on the floor.
During the night, Max woke up after another nightmare involving him. He stepped over the sleeping Leo and headed downstairs to get a drink of water. He wasn’t sure why they were coming back. He sat in the living room with his water and tears spilled over. He curled into a ball and began sobbing.
Leo woke up to the sound of muffled crying. He wondered where it was coming from then realised Max’s bed was empty. He sighed and got up, heading down the stairs. He silently sat next to the ball that was Max and put and arm around him. Max fell into the hug, still crying, but now silently.
“He’s still there. In my head.” Max cried.
“I know. It’ll take time, but you’ll pull through it. You’re strong, Max. Stronger than you think. That’s why I fell for you.” Leo told him, finally willing to talk about their relationship, only because he knew it was the only thing that could stop Max from crying. “Your strength, your kindness, and your awesomeness. The three traits that had me weak at the knees. You don’t realise how amazing you are.”
“Wha-at?” Max asked. “I- I’m not amazing. I’m a wreck.” He said, hiccupping.
“No, Max. You’re perfect. Someone was jealous of that and tried to destroy you. But you came out of it, kicking. You picked yourself up, dusted yourself off and got on with it. You kept the effects to yourself to save other people from feeling sorry for you, or hurting as you were. You laughed when you were dying inside. I understand that now. But sometimes, you have to ask for help.” Leo told him.
“Thanks Leo.” Max replied, wiping his eyes and sniffing. “You always seem to know what to say.” He said, smiling a little.
“Only with you.” Leo answered. “Because you’re the one person who I can’t stand to see in pain.”
Max sat there, a little dumbstruck, suddenly realising what Leo had been saying for the past few minutes. He looked into Leo’s eyes, seeing something stirring, and his face was shock personified. This was a chance to get Leo back. Or was it? It would be quite possible for Leo to tell him he was just upset, that he didn’t know what he was doing, that he’d feel like he was taking advantage…
“Leo… How would you feel about getting back together?” Max asked.
“It’s all I’ve thought about since you left. But… Not tonight. I don’t want you thinking I feel sorry for you, and I don’t want to feel like I’ve took advantage of you while you were vulnerable and wanting comfort. I’d rather discuss this again, in a couple of days, when you’re not crying, and I’m not comforting you. When we can both be sure that it’s what we want.” Leo explained.
“Okay. I guess you’re right. It makes sense.” Max replied, nodding. It was very rare that Leo was seriousness enough for Max to see just how wise he was. But this was one of the rare occasions when Leo needed to use his head, and his maturity, to keep them both from making a rash decision and possibly getting hurt.
“Let’s try and get some more sleep shall we?” Leo asked, pulling Max to his feet and heading back to the bedroom.
In the end, Leo ended up in Max’s bed with him, the idea being that he could calm him down if he had another nightmare. Max fell asleep soundly, and Leo fell asleep with a smile on his face. Both had gotten something out of that. Max felt safe, Leo was happy.
In the morning, Max woke up first and realised that he hadn’t had a nightmare during the rest of the night and smiled. Leo stretched shortly afterwards.
“I didn’t have a nightmare.” Max told him. “Part of me knew you were here, and that comforted me, I think.” He said, smiling.
“Looks like it was a good idea after all.” Leo said, beaming. “Maybe we should stick to this arrangement for the rest of the time I’m here.” He suggested.
“Sounds like a plan.” Max replied, jumping out of the bed. “Let’s go get some breakfast.”
They headed down the stairs and into the kitchen, looking through the cupboards and fridge, trying to decide what to eat.
“How about cereal?” Leo suggested.
“Screw that, we have bacon!” Max replied, pulling out a packet of bacon from the fridge. “I’m having a bacon sandwich. Want one?” He said, waving the pack in Leo’s face.
“If it means I get to watch you cook, sure.” Leo said, laughing.
“Oh trust me, I can cook.”
Several minutes later, Max and Leo sat eating two perfect bacon sandwiches, Leo with a look of surprise on his face. “When did you get so good at cooking bacon?” He asked.
“A lot can happen in six months.” Max said, shrugging as if it was nothing, but considering how bad his cooking was previously, he understood Leo’s surprise.
Leo smiled as Max suddenly stood up and walked into the living room, leaving Leo in the kitchen. Leo, who was confused at this point, followed him shortly after and say Max picking up a guitar.
“What’s this?” Leo asked, wondering what was happening.
“Oh didn’t I tell you? I’ve been taking guitar lessons ever since I got my memory back.” He began strumming before he began to sing softly.
“It’s in your mind, not your heart,
Where darkness strikes, it tears you apart.
But mind over matter one might say,
Because in the end it always goes away.
As the sun rises, over the morning clouds,
A new day begins, and the sleeping begin to rouse.
Awaken, my dear, you’re never alone,
Because today, or tomorrow, I’m coming home.”
“That’s as far as I’ve gotten. It’s either the first verse, or the chorus of a song I’m working on. I’m not sure yet.” Max explained.
“It’s beautiful.” Leo responded, swallowing a lump that had formed in his throat. “I didn’t know you could sing.”
“I’ve always been able to sing. I just never sang in front of anyone before.” Max said, shrugging.
“I’m honoured to be the first person to listen to your singing.” Leo said, smiling.
“Well… I wasn’t sure why I did that. I just kind of wanted to share it with you.” He shrugged. “What do you want to do today?”
“I don’t know, what do you want to do?” Leo responded.
“No, Leo. This is your visit. You’re going to tell me what you want, I’m not making decisions for us while your here. You get to choose.” Max said.
“Well, what are my options?” Leo responded, his eyebrow raising in mild amusement.
“Well, we could go out somewhere on our own, we could meet up with some of my friends, we could stay in and play video games, we could go see a movie, we could go ice skating or Christmas shopping or something.”
“What about bowling? We could go bowling with some of your friends.” Leo suggested.
“Sounds like a plan.” Max said smiling. “Let me just make some calls.” He added, pulling his phone out of the pocket of his dressing gown that he was wearing. He was still to get dressed.
He did a round of calls to Cassy and Ryan, and asked Cassy to bring Ash. He also called his friend Jack to join them, too. He couldn’t think of anyone else.
After doing the round of phone calls Max jogged upstairs to have a shower and get dressed, leaving Leo to get ready however he wanted to. Once he got out of the shower he sprayed some cologne and pulled on a black t-shirt with a band logo, and some skinny jeans, ruffled up his dark brown hair, to make it into some sort of style. He made himself look a little more like a punk than usual, which was what he tended to look like when he was making an effort.
Leo couldn’t help but wonder who Max was trying to impress. Leo was dressed in a simple button-down shirt and a pair of pale blue denim jeans, and he pulled on a hoodie which he had obtained several years previously. It was actually a birthday present from Max.
“Oh, you still have the hoodie I bought you!” Max said, smiling. “I’ve always thought you look good in that.” Max said with a small smile.
“You’ve always looked good in your punk outfits.” Leo replied. “Makes me wonder who you’re trying to impress today. You’re not on the prowl are you?” Leo asked, laughing.
“Are you getting jealous?” Max asked, grinning. “This is for you, silly.” He chuckled, then, as he noticed Leo’s look of confusion, he decided to elaborate. “You see, I’m well aware that you find this look of mine rather attractive, so I’m going to dress like this today to prove a point. I’m showing you what you’re missing while we wait.” He winked slightly before walking out of the bedroom door.
“You don’t need to dress like that for me to know what I’m missing.” Leo mumbled, speaking to an empty room. Little did he know Max was just on the other side of the door, and heard the sentence. He smiled to himself before heading down the stairs. He began humming as he straightened things up before they left. Leo walked down the stairs a few minutes later and Max smiled. “Cassy should be here soon.” He informed Leo.
“Yeah. So who’s coming?” Leo asked for the third time.
“Cassy, who will be driving us, and Ash, who’ll probably be in the car with her. Ryan, another friend from school, he’s pretty cool. And Jack, someone slightly older than us, but I think he’s pretty cool.” Max listed, ticking them off on his fingers.
“Oh, Cassy’s going to feel seriously at risk with 5 guys and her going bowling.” Leo mused.
“Oh no. She’ll love it. She’s a total man-eater. You’re her next challenge if I remember rightly.” Max said laughing. “Trust me, she would not be against spending her time with 5 guys. I think that’s like her dream scenario.”
“Please tell me you mean her dream scenario is a friendship group and not something else.” Leo said, shuddering.
“Oh no. I mean something slightly different.” Max said, chuckling at Leo’s reaction. “Calm down, puritan. She’s not totally without restraint. She knows that no means no.”
“Good.” Leo said, shaking off the horrible feeling he had gotten moments before.
“Sounds like she’s outside.” Max said as he heard the familiar honk of Cassy’s car horn. He stepped outside and he and Leo got in the back of the car. Ash was in the front, as Max had expected.
“So, Leo, we meet again.” Cassy said, sending a wink through the rear-view mirror. Leo tried to hide a shudder, which caused Max to laugh.
“Am I missing something?” Ash asked.
“Well, Cassy is being a very bad friend and flirting with my ex.” Max pointed out, directly.
“I am not!” Cassy protested, which just made Max a little annoyed.
“Cassy, I have no problem with you liking Leo, but just admit it! I mean, it’s blatantly obvious, and you’re lying to my face.” Max said, his voice hinted at anger while remaining steady and calm at the same time.
“Calm down Max. It’s not that big of a deal.” Leo told him, knowing Max’s emotions, and his outbursts.
“I think I’ll walk.” Max said after Cassy remained firmly silent. He opened the car door.
“But you can’t get to the bowling alley by-” Slam! “Walking…” Ash tried to protest.
“Let me deal with him. I may be able to convince him to get back in the car. No promises though.” Leo said as he stepped out the car.
“Cassy. Your stubbornness will send all your friends away.” Ash told the silent driver.
“Why is this such a big deal?” Leo asked Max. “I get it, she’s flirting with me obviously, then denying it. It’s annoying, but it’s no reason to get so upset.”
“I had a dream.” Max said, a single tear running down his face. “It was nothing really, it was a nightmare, back before I had my memories. I had a dream that you had planned everything, our relationship that is. That you were playing me for a fool, and that you we’re cheating on me the entire time.”
“With Melissa.” Leo sighed, knowing exactly what this was about. “I get it. You have a hard time trusting people, especially me. I know what I did was wrong, but I didn’t want to drag you on a long term relationship only for it to end badly and you to hate me.”
“That’s not it, Leo!” Max yelled, tears streaming now. “You don’t understand! I have a hard time trusting everyone! Because everyone takes advantage! Look at that poor guy, shall we take everything away from him? Shall we leave his life in ruins? Shall we destroy his innocence, rip away his brother, remove him from his friends and then crush his heart? Shall we then have the love of his life run away with someone he thought was a friend, while all he can do is watch? Shall we toy with his emotions and kill him inside? Is that what we should do? Why not!? It’s not like anyone cares!”
“That’s a lot of information to process in 10 seconds… But Max, I’m not the one who doesn’t understand, you are. Everyone cares. That’s the point. Okay, with the exception of the scumbag. Your mum moved because she was worried that the memories would hurt you, as well as her. I broke up with you because I couldn’t stand to see us end even worse. I’m not going to run away with Cassy, I tolerate her, for you, but I would never dream of starting anything up with her. You know how I feel about gossips. As for no one caring. I care. I will always are. Even if I’m the only one who does, does it not make a difference? I care about you more than anyone else ever could, and I will fight every day to keep you happy and away from harm. Okay, I made some mistakes. I slipped up, I ruined our relationship in the worst way possible, but I’m here now. Fighting. For you. For us.”
“I’m not sure what to think about that.” Max admitted.
“Then don’t. Ignore it for now. Just get back in the car, we can go bowling with your friends, have some fun. I’ll make sure to tell Cassy that I’m not interested and that I don’t want her to keep flirting with me.” Leo promised.
“I guess that’s all I can do…” Max said, wiping away his tears and walking back to the car. “Thanks.” He told Leo, not needing to explain his actions.
“You’re coming then?” Ash smiled as Max and Leo got back in the car. “Glad to see you sorted things out.”
“Yeah, let’s just go shall we?” Max asked, wanting to get past all the questions that might arise after his mental breakdown.
“Sure.” Cassy said as she started the car, driving off to the nearest bowling alley.
The drive took a short while, and the entire ride was silent. No one dared to speak. Cassy was afraid Max would melt-down again if she spoke to anyone, Leo was afraid Max might start crying, Max was afraid he would cause issues for everyone and Ash was just scared of breaking the silence.
The got to the bowling alley and the tension lifted a little, as Ryan and Jack greeted them. Ryan made sure Max was okay, as he could automatically tell there was something up, Jack greeted Leo, chatting with him animatedly.
“So you’re the famous Leo.” Jack said, smiling slightly. “I’m Jack, my friends call me Pyro, I’m in love with fire. I use it to meditate.”
“You’re not an arsonist are you?” Leo asked, chuckling a little.
“Oh no. I meant like candle flames and stuff, although I do like bonfires as well. It’s something I got from my parents. They’re British originally. There’s a celebration over there called Bonfire Night, they basically spend an entire night with bonfires and fireworks.” Jack explained.
“Oh, fair enough. That must be fun.” Leo commented, smiling a little.
“I imagine it is. They’ve never gotten around to going back, at least not since I was born.” He shrugged. “I might head back for a while when I’m old enough to break away from their rules.”
“Sounds like a plan. Now, are we going to bowl or what?” Leo asked.
They paid for the time on one of the bowling alleys and got their shoes. They set up the names and the score sheet before beginning and they started to bowl.
Max went first, as it was his idea, then Leo, Jack, Cassy, Ash and finally Ryan. After they’d all had their turns, the conversation picked up a little more, and Max finally began to enjoy himself a little more. He managed to break down his barriers a little bit and let himself have fun, even with the crazy thoughts that kept circling his mind.
By the end of the afternoon bowling, Max had managed to completely block out the harsh thoughts that had brought him down earlier, and Leo had expressed his lack of interest in Cassy, which led to her stopping her flirtatious advances. They all agreed to go for something to eat, and so headed out, this time, though, Max and Leo went in Jack’s car. It turned out Ryan had been dropped off, so he joined them as well.
During the ride to the nearest fast food restaurant, there was a lot of laughter in the car. Max was definitely having more fun, and Leo was enjoying seeing him happier than he was that morning. Ryan was glad to see Max happy as well, after sensing the tension when they arrived at the bowling alley, he was rather worried, but now that Max was happier, he felt a little more relieved. Jack was pretty oblivious to emotions, although he was having fun himself.
A short car ride later, the group ended up sat in a restaurant, waiting for their order. They we’re joking around a little, and got some odd looks from people sat around them. Eventually their order came. Max had a chicken burger, Leo had a cheese burger, Ash, Ryan and Cassy all had plain burgers, and Jack had a double cheese burger, because he was very hungry by this point.
Max was rather happy at this point. It was the first time in quite a while he’d been able to have fun without feeling awful at the same time. He didn’t have to hide how he felt, because he was actually enjoying himself with everyone. He might have been a bit temperamental that morning, but now he was just happy to be with all his friends.
After a couple of hours of chatting, joking, messing around and a lot of fun, Max and Leo arrived home. They walked in the door at about 6pm, just as Max’s mother was getting home from work.
“Where have you two been?” She asked.
“We went out with some friends.” Max replied, shrugging. “We went bowling, had something to eat, and then spent some time just hanging out.” He explained.
“Oh well. Glad to hear you’re enjoying yourselves.” She said, smiling at them.
“Yeah it was a lot of fun.” Leo said, smiling. “Max has some great friends.”
“Yep. I really do.” Max said, chuckling.
“So, hungry?” Max’s mum asked them. “I can cook something if you want.” She suggested.
“Actually we ate not that long ago, so we should probably wait a little longer before having a cooked meal.” Leo said, shrugging, receiving a nod from Max in agreement.
“Okay well let me know when you’re hungry and I’ll sort something out for you. I’m just going to get changed and everything.” Max’s mum replied.
“Okay we will.” Max promised before he and Leo headed upstairs to play some video games. They played for a while, playing co-operative and team games so they could work together. At 9 o’clock they decided to eat and then watch movies for the remainder of the night, so they asked Max’s mum if she would still cook them something and she agreed to.
They had their food, and took a load of snacks and drinks upstairs to watch the movies with. They watched several movies, each of them being roughly 2 hours long before they decided to go to sleep. Again they slept in the same bed, to prevent Max from having nightmares again. It seemed to be the only way he could sleep soundly.
The next morning, they both awoke to find a note from Max’s mum explaining that she was in work early and that there was money on the table in the living room for them to use for food and things over the course of the day. Max decided he would spend some time catching up with Leo today, listening to everything that constituted as news from home, and then he could tell Leo how things had been since he moved.
“So what’s happening at home then? Anything interesting? There’s got to be some news? I want to know everything.” Max told Leo, bombarding him with different versions of the same question.
“Well first of all, Melissa has been transferred. She moved away with her parents, meaning we shouldn’t be hearing from her again.” Leo told him. “Jasmine has been really helpful, she’s been helping me study, as I failed a couple of exams.” He added. “I can’t really think of any other big news.”
“Well I want to know all the details. Which exams did you fail? By how much? Has anyone else left? Are there any new people?” Max asked.
“Math and Chemistry, by a small amount, no and no.” Leo responded, chuckling a little.
“You’re really amazing at giving details, did anyone ever tell you?” Max said, laughing a little.
“Enough of home. What’s been going on here? You haven’t told me much about your life in the past 6 months. Your friends, your school, what’s life like?”
“Okay. Well, you’ve met most of my friends. Cassy is my best friend, she helped me go Christmas shopping last week. Ash is someone she introduced me to. Jack is someone I know through Ryan, who I met in school as well. School is dull, just like any other school. It’s annoying and tedious and I’m doing pretty well. I’m pretty much invisible to anyone other than my friends, and I like it that way, it means I’m not involved in anything bad. It also means I don’t get many good opportunities coming my way either, but it’s easier to just blend in to the background than get noticed in any way.” Max explained.
“Well that’s fair enough. I can see why you’d want to stick to the shadows.” Leo replied. “So what are your friends like on a regular day?” He asked.
“The same as you say. Cassy is okay normally, until she spots something or someone she likes. Jack is pretty cool. Ryan is in touch with everyone’s emotions and likes to make sure they’re okay before looking after himself and Ash I have no idea as I only met him recently, but he seems pretty cool.” Max explained.
“Oh, that’s okay then I guess.” Leo shrugged. “Is there anything else we want to discuss? This catch-up talk has been far too short, if you ask me.”
“Yeah I guess you’re right. We really should spend longer talking about things, but I can’t think of what else to talk about…” Max said, wracking his brains for a new topic.
“We could always play video games while we think.” Leo suggested, smirking.
“Brilliant idea!” Max commended, heading upstairs to his room for the gaming session that he and Leo were about to have.
A few hours later, the boys decided to get something to eat. They took some of the money from the living room and headed out into town. They walked into the mall and went to the food court. Luckily, it was pretty empty, which was weird with it being so close to Christmas, but then Max realised that most people would be at work.
They got food from one of the vendors and found a table to sit at, but as they sat down they were spotted by someone across the room. Jack was hovering around the mall when he spotted the couple, and he wondered whether it would be a good idea to join them or not. He decided to join them and so walked over to the food court.
“Hey guys, mind if I third wheel?” He asked, chuckling.
“You’re not third wheeling, we’re not a couple.” Max explained, he added the word ‘technically’ in his head, but he didn’t need to voice that.
“Oh come off it. You may as well be. You’re basically inseparable. You’re happiest when you’re around each other, and all either of you seem to talk about is the other.” Jack said, chuckling as he saw their faces react to this news.
“Okay, well yeah, we are a bit couply, but that’s because we were, once. But still, we’re not officially a couple anymore.” Leo responded. He didn’t know why he felt the need to be defensive, but he did.
“Okay, well my advice is simple: Make it official again. You make each other happy. That’s all that matters, right?” Jack said, smiling at them. “Trust me, you’ll both be better off if you admit it. You two are lost without each other. I can tell.”
“And who are you? Some sort of psychic cherub?” Max asked, laughing. “I don’t see your bow.”
“I just know what love looks like when I see it.” Jack replied, shrugging. “I’ve seen enough of it to recognise it.”
“How many people in love have you met, like?” Leo asked.
“A few. I’ve also seen cheap imitations, and trust me, you can tell the difference.” He told them. “I see how you two look at each other, and you gravitate towards each other, even when you don’t know you’re doing it.”
“Why have you been noticing all these things?” Max asked, suddenly a little curious.
“Does it matter?” Jack responded.
“Kind of, yeah.” Leo replied. “You’ve been watching us?”
“Not really. I was observing you yesterday while we were out with the group. And I noticed you today and as I was walking over, I spotted signs.” Jack explained.
“Okay… Well can you stop treating us like some sort of nature documentary and just talk to us like normal people do?” Max said, laughing.
“No. Sorry, it’s just my nature to people watch. It’s just something I enjoy doing. I want to be a psychologist because I love trying to understand people, especially when they don’t know just how much I understand.” Jack said, chuckling. “I know everyone thinks I’m oblivious to emotions and things, but I notice more than I let people know, trust me.”
“Fair enough. Are you here to chat with us, or to psycho-analyse us?” Leo asked, gesturing to the empty seats at the table. Jack sat down, smiling slightly.
“So what are you two up to today then?” He asked, wondering if they could help prevent him from getting bored again.
“We don’t really know. We’ve been playing video games until just now when we got hungry. We don’t really have any plans for the rest of the day.”
“Well there’s a fair not too far away if you want to go. They’re trying to fit in a few days before Christmas. I can drive and we can spend a couple of hours there.”
“Sure, sounds like fun, shall we invite anyone else?” Max asked.
“Well, we could probably invite Ryan, but I don’t really want to invite Ash and Cassy. Sorry but Ash will only come with Cassy, and to be honest, I’m not her biggest fan. She seemed a little off yesterday and I don’t like that.”
“That’s fair enough, but I did kind of explode at her yesterday morning.” Max explained, shrugging.
“Still, I don’t want her bringing us down.” Jack said.
“I have to agree with Jack, I think it would be best not to invite her today.” Leo added.
“Okay, fair enough. Do you want to call Ryan then?” Max asked Jack.
“Yeah. If you guys want to go home first I can drop you off if you like. I’m going to go home and get changed anyway.” Jack told them.
“Thanks that’d be great.” Leo answered.
“Okay, my car is in the parking lot.” Jack said, smiling a little as he stood up. Luckily, in the time it had taken for that conversation to finish, Leo and Max had finished eating.
“Let’s go then.” Max said, standing up with Leo. They headed outside and got in the car, and were home not long after. They got inside and walked upstairs.
Leo showered first, then while Max was in the shower, he got ready. Max got ready as soon as he got out, blow drying his hair because the towels were useless with longer hair. He dressed in a similar fashion to the day before, skinny jeans and a band tee. Leo was wearing a flannel shirt and a pair of jeans, similar to his look the previous day as well.
When Jack pulled up, Ryan was already in the passenger side. Max and Leo jumped in the back and they drove to the fair. “Looks like it’s a guys’ day out.” Ryan commented.
“Yep, it is. That’s basically what I was aiming for.” Jack responded, chuckling slightly.
“Well, I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fun between us.” Leo said, smiling.
“So. How many of you have been here before?” Jack asked.
“Ummm. Well, neither me nor Leo have, what about you Ryan?” Max asked.
“Nope. First time for me, too.”
“Looks like I’m the only one familiar with this place then.” Jack said chuckling. “It’s a good job I’m the one driving. It’s not easy to get to, and you three would probably end up getting us lost.” He laughed.
“Yeah. I don’t like driving to unfamiliar places anyway.” Max said. “Unless there’s a sat-nav in the car, then I feel a little more comfortable, because at least then I know the general direction of where we’re going. Even if it isn’t exact.” He shrugged.
“Yeah, sat-navs can be a bit useless can’t they?” Leo agreed, chuckling.
“They get the general are right… Sometimes. Some people have ended up in fields and rivers and all sorts.” Jack chuckled.
“That’s exactly why I’d have a map as a backup.” Max told the group.
“Well, look out for the fair, we’re nearly there.” Jack announced.
“That rhymed.” Ryan commented, laughing a little. “But I do think I can see something in the distance.” He agreed.
“Probably one of the bigger rides.” Jack told him. “Yeah, I think I can see it too.” He confirmed.
By this point, Max had started getting a little excited. He had always enjoyed fairs, and had a great time going on rides and playing the games and things, and with this group it should be pretty promising. He imagined the night would go rather well, and he could see them having a lot of fun together.
“Can you see it now?” Jack asked as the fair came into view, and the entire car became much more hyper. As the fair came into view they all reverted into immature young adults with big smiles on their faces.
“Let’s go!” Max complained as he waited for everyone to get out of the car slowly. “I really want to go on some rides. You guys take forever!”
“Calm down Max. You always act so immature when we go to fairs.” Leo said, laughing. “Not that I can blame you. This place is awesome!” He shouted.
“Indeed it is.” Jack replied. “Let’s go on some rides!” He locked the car and the four of them walked towards the main area that contained the rides. They queued up for a rather large ride that moved quickly, span around and turned upside down. It looked rather sickening but fun at the same time.
Max, Leo, Ryan and Jack each paid for themselves to have one go each on the ride, which looked like it would be immense fun. They sat down and the bars to hold them in the seats slipped into position keeping them stable for the ride. A nervous feeling suddenly made itself known in Max’s stomach, but he normally felt like that before going on a rather large ride.
Within a few minutes, the seats began to move, slowly at first, the speeding up over time. All of a sudden, the seats were spinning, upside down, and moving rather quickly. Max was white-knuckled, gripping the bars. Leo was shouting his enjoyment, Ryan was screaming, and Jack was acting slightly bored. He wanted to go on a bigger ride, one that had more of an impact to it.
“That was pretty awesome!” Max yelled after the ride was over.
Jack shrugged. “I’ve been on bigger and better rides than that.” He said, indifferent in comparison to the excitement of the rest of the group.
“Like what?” Leo asked.
“Like that.” Jack said, pointing at a ride that was basically a 20 foot arm with seats at either end. The seats span around as you moved to the top, and the arm spun a few times. It was taller than any other ride at the fair, and the seats span faster.
“Let’s go then.” Leo said, chuckling.
“I don’t know…” Max said, he wasn’t feeling brilliant as it was.
“Okay well if you want I’ll stay with you.” Leo shrugged. “Ryan and Jack can go on.”
“Actually I don’t like the look of it either. I’m a bit scared of heights.” Ryan explained.
“Screw you guys, I’ll have a go on my own then.” Jack said, running towards the ride.
The remaining group decided to watch as the ride started, with Jack on it. The seat started moving upwards, slowly at first, and then it started spinning. Max began feeling a little paranoid. He could see, in his mind’s eye, the screws coming loose, the seat falling to the ground, the screaming teenagers.
None of that happened though, and within minutes, Jack was heading back towards them, just slightly woozier than he was originally.
“Wow… I guess I’m just paranoid.” Max said.
“I guess you are.” Jack chuckled.
“Well, shall we do something else for a bit, before going on any more rides? We can stop for a hot dog or something, then play some games, maybe try and come away with a prize?” Leo suggested.
“Why not?” Ryan asked.
“Because if we do, I’m afraid the two lover boys here will turn this into a rom-com.” Jack chuckled.
“And that’s bad because?” Leo laughed.
“Because it’s a guys’ day out. It should be full of adrenaline and scares.”
“Who says?” Asked Max. “Guys can enjoy playing games, as well.” He shrugged. “I don’t see what you have against it.” He turned and spotted something. It was a large, soft toy which was made to look like one of the main characters in his favourite movie. “We have to try and win that!” He said, pointing directly at the large skeleton-looking character.
“Why?” Jack asked.
“Because it’s awesome, that’s why!” Leo shouted, running with Max to the stall.
The game turned out to be a shooting game, using a fake shot gun and firing at targets. Each target was worth a certain number of points, once you hit a particular number of points, you won something, it was as simple as that. It wasn’t easy though, as the gun wasn’t 100% accurate and the targets were moving. Luckily, Leo was excellent at those types of games and managed to win something the first time around. Of course, he didn’t win the skeleton, which meant he had to try again. The man agreed to exchange the prize he had won for an extra attempt at the skeleton, which was good of him.
Of course, by this point, Leo had basically worked out how the game worked, and perfected his shot, so he managed to accumulate enough points to win what they were aiming for, which caused him and Max to yell in excitement. The man behind the counter smiled as he handed the large skeleton over. “My son’s gay, and he’s in a happy relationship, too. It’s good to see you guys together.” He said smiling. Neither Max nor Leo thought to correct him as they walked away.
“I can’t believe you won it!” Max shouted, excited.
“Me neither. But once I got a feel for that game, it was pretty easy.” Leo said, chuckling.
“Still. It’s pretty awesome.” He chuckled.
“Indeed it is. And it’s yours.” Leo said, handing it over.
“What? No. You won it.” Max said, holding his hands up.
“Consider it an early Christmas present.” Leo said, smiling as he watched Max, albeit reluctantly, take the large skeleton.
“Wanna put that in the car?” Jack asked as he found the couple.
“Ummm… It might be an idea.” Max said, laughing.
“Well let’s head back to the car, put Mr Skeleton away, and then we can come back and get on with some more stuff.”
“Yeah, sure.” Max agreed.
After a short walk to the car, the depositing of the new addition, and the walk back, the group decided to go on a much tamer ride, which didn’t go high, but did a lot of spinning. Max had always loved the ride, and Ryan much preferred it to anything that went high. They had fun on that, and fell into each other a lot when they got off it, it had completely screwed up their sense of direction for a while as well, so they ended up getting lost in the middle of the fair, which they found rather amusing in hindsight. After that they went on another ride that had cart-like seats which bounced as the moved. They moved around a large pivot, bouncing as they did. There were a lot of strobe lights and some smoke as well, which added to the awesome feeling that the group were getting.
Once that was over they decided to play some more games, winning some smaller prizes which they would probably give as Christmas presents. Max spent some time on a grabbing machine, aiming for a plush tiger to give to his mum, who was a lover of big cats. After managing to pick it up, the group took their collection to the car and decided, at that point, to head home. They had managed to spend a few hours there, and were going back with a lot of prizes, so it would be easiest for them to head home at that point, rather than trying to cram any more in the car.
On the drive home, Leo and Max reached for each other’s hands across the back seat. They held hands for the entire journey home, and when Jack dropped them off, the grabbed their prizes and waved before heading into the house.
When they got inside, they said hello to Max’s mum before dropping the prizes off in his bedroom, then the mood got intense. And for one, single, glorious moment, they were happy. Their lips touched briefly and the world fell apart. All they knew was gone, and only they remained. The world stopped spinning, noises fell on deaf ears, and everything was soft.
Then all of a sudden, they broke apart, and everything was suddenly much harsher than it was before. Noises were sharper, clearer, and harsher, the world was spinning too fast to catch up with lost time, and the two of them were awkward and scared of what the other might think.
“I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have…” Max began.
“No. It was me, I’m sorry.” Leo contradicted.
“No, it was me. I know it was.” Max said, looking at Leo.
“But I thought it was me. I mean, I leaned in.”
“So did I.” Max said, and all of a sudden they were all over each other…