“In here.” Matt urged, pulling me along with him through a small door at the corner, right next to the bar. The bartender had just walked out of the door holding a crate of beer and Matt took the opportunity to sneak inside the room before the door closed.
We stumbled in the dark room and looked around. It seemed like we were in some sort of stock room; piles of crates, boxes and supplies were scattered everywhere. The room was deserted, only the muffled sounds of people close at the bar and the music outside drifted through the walls. Matt searched blindly around the walls for the light switch, but he couldn’t find any and gave up after a while.
“It doesn’t matter, there’s enough light coming from the windows, right?” he said, sounding uncertain. There was some feeble illumination coming from windows high on the walls.
“Sure.” I agreed, even though I couldn’t see him that well in the gloomy room.
He sounded nervous and anxious though.
“Matt, what is it?” I asked, still rattled by my conversation with Vincent in the dance floor. “If you’re going to get mad and shout at m-”
“I want to take it back.” He cut me in.
“Fine,” I said with a huff. “Wait. Take what back?”
“What I said on the rooftop at school. I’ve changed my mind. I take it all back,” he said hurriedly, as if he didn’t say it fast enough, he would lose his nerve.
“You mean, when we agreed to be just friends? Wait, are you saying you don’t want to be my friend anymore, is that it?” I asked in panic.
“No, Taylor!” he grunted impatiently. “I’m talking about the part where I said I don’t want to mess things up between us. I take it back.”
I rubbed my face, feeling extremely tired and so very confused.
“Matt, honestly, I can’t keep doing this... whatever this is.” I grunted.
“No! You don’t understand!” He snapped, frustrated.
“Fine! I don’t. I really don’t fucking understand. I’m done trying to understand this shit! It’s just too much for my head, okay?” I wailed dramatically. “I’m going insane here!”
“You have got to be kidding me! You are going insane?” He protested with a scoff. “If someone is going crazy here, it sure as hell is me! I have had it with that royal prick kissing you every God damn minute in front of my face! It’s making me sick!”
I gawked at him, befuddled.
“Yeah, you heard me! I’m sick of him!” he said, pacing in front of me like a caged lion. “I can’t stand the sight of that guy, it makes me want to strangle him with my bare hands!”
“Matt, come on-” I tried to calm him down, but he cut in again.
“And there you two were again, right in the middle of the fucking dance floor. For fuck’s sake, Taylor! Can’t you say no to that guy, like, just once?”
I opened my mouth to protest, but he carried on with his angry rant. “And that isn’t even the worst part!” he said with a manic chuckle at the end. “The worst part is having to watch him play you like you’re a damn toy! Messing with your head, playing his mind tricks, doing his fucked up games. I saw him! He was just doing it again, wasn’t he? I saw how he made you cry there! I can’t stand idly by and watch him hurt you, Taylor! I’ll kill him first, before he can do anything to you.”
“Matt, what you saw in the dance floor… it’s not what you think.” I tried to explain but I didn’t know how to finish. How I was going to explain to him that Vincent was only trying to convince me to not give up on my dream to be with him?
“It doesn’t even matter anymore, Taylor.” Matt began pacing again, passing his hands roughly through his hair. “I realize that there’s no use trying to avoid this. Things will be messed up between us, either we stay friends or not. It’s already all messed up. Might as well do what I really want then.”
He halted in front of me and looked me straight in the eyes. “Might as well stop being a coward, right? Might as well do this.” He closed the distance between us, sinking his fingers into my hair and pulling me to him, as he kissed me hard.
He took me completely by surprise with that kiss.
That amazing, breathtaking, mind-blowing kiss.
Then we broke apart and I stared at him in stunned shock, mouth gaping as I took shallow breaths. “W-what are you doing?” I asked, confused.
“If you need to ask, I’m not doing it right,” he said, narrowing his eyes at me. “Let me try again then.” He grabbed me by the shirt and pushed me, making me stumble back until I hit the wall. Then he kissed me again while he pressed me against the wall with his body. His lips claimed mine over and over again, rough, demanding, hungry, tortuously hot and completely dominant. His kisses were the kisses I have always wanted from him, the kisses I had dreamed so many nights alone in my room, the ones that I craved and longed for so many years. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. God, how good were his kisses…
If it wasn’t for his grip on my waist, I would have melted down the wall into the floor like heated caramel. I wasn’t even bothering to pretend to put up a fight, he had me completely under control. Then I remembered his reaction after he had kissed me in that party, up in that room. I remembered his rejection, the look in his eyes.
‘No, Taylor. No.’
I pushed him off me. I wasn’t going to let this happen again. I couldn’t take his rejection one more time. I couldn’t do this anymore, I just couldn’t.
He stumbled back and looked at me, confused.
“Don’t.” I warned him, hurt lacing my voice. “You can’t keep doing this to me, Matt. It hurts too much. Please, stop.”
“Taylor,” he tried to argue but I didn’t let him. “No! I know what your next move is going to be. You’re going to regret it. Get mad. Get scared. Whatever. I’m not going to do this anymore. You said you could only give me your friendship, remember? We can’t keep going back and forth like this, it doesn’t work like that, Matt. This is messing me up. We have to stop doing this!”
He stepped closer and clasped both hands over my face. “I’m done being a coward, Tay. You have to believe me.”
I laughed, but there was no humor in me. He was already cowering. The light tremble in his voice betrayed him, giving out his fear. I could hear it, I could see it in his eyes. He was terrified.
“That’s okay, Matt. You have every right to be scared. I know what this means, the price you have to pay if things go wrong. I can’t let you do this.” I swatted his hands away from my face. I didn’t want him touching me. It made the pain so much worse.
“Tay, you don’t understand-”
“Yeah, I do, Matt. You’re just jealous. You act out when you’re jealous. You’re not thinking clearly now, but when this is over, you’ll regret it. It’s so clear how unsure you are about this. You’re confused and scared and you don’t really want this. And I can’t stand seeing you disgusted at me again, so, please... just... stop.”
“Disgusted again?” he muttered with a frown. “I’ve never been disgusted at you, Tay.”
I snorted and averted my eyes. “You threw up when we first kissed, Matt. I don’t see how much more disgusted you can get…”
He watched me in silence for a moment and when he spoke again, his voice was soft and low, as if he was telling me on a secret.
“The first time we kissed, when we were drunk in my living room… I thought I was dreaming. Everything was a blurry haze, and my heart was thumping so loud in my chest, and I couldn’t think clearly, but I remember vividly how I felt. It was the best feeling I’ve ever had in my whole life.” He confessed. “But then I realized what we were doing and I panicked. I thought about our friendship and how that kiss could screw everything up and I… I shouldn’t have kissed you back, but I couldn’t stop myself. And when I came to my senses and did stop, everything went to hell. I’m sorry if I made you think I was disgusted at you. I was drunk and freaking out. My body took over and reacted in the worst possible way it could have.”
“I couldn’t even speak to you the next day, I didn’t know what was going to happen, I was freaking out so bad,” he continued his confession. “But then you asked me to forget about it, to pretend it never happened. You acted like it was nothing, like you didn’t even care… then the next day you were flirting and kissing some other guy in the hallways. I thought it was best to let it go. It was really just a drunk mistake, right?”
“It was like I could breathe again, but yet, it felt like there wasn’t enough air in the world. Every time I saw you with Vince, it was like a punch in the guts for me,” he said with hurt glinting in his eyes.
“But I couldn’t stop thinking about that kiss. About you. That kiss made something about you change… you looked different, Taylor. It took me a while to understand that it wasn’t you that was different, it was me.”
“And then I couldn’t even see you and these inappropriate thoughts would pop into my head. It was like you were doing it on purpose, teasing me, running laps around the field without a shirt on, and walking out of the shower only in a towel!” he complained. “Were you doing that on purpose? To get a reaction out of me?”
“What? No!” I protested. “I had no idea you felt that way!”
“And that’s not even the worst part! Then the dreams started,” he said in an ominous tone.
“D-dreams?” I asked, gulping dry. “W-what dreams?”
“Dreams about you. At first it was just reenactment of what happened in my living room, but then... it… escalated. And it was every night. Every. Damn. Night. I was losing my mind. God, I was scared of falling asleep!” He rubbed his face, like he was trying to erase those dreams from his mind.
“W-what do you mean by... ‘escalated’?” I asked. I had to ask. I just had to. I was too curious.
He blinked and stared right at me, and then he blushed vividly, which spoke volumes about the contents of those dreams.
“Oh.” I murmured, stunned.
I’m sorry, but it was incredible for me to know that the boy who was the subject of all my wet dreams for the past four years was now suffering from the same infliction as me. It made me feel, I don’t know, avenged?
He shook his head and stared at the floor, still blushing. “Then you kissed me again in that party and confessed how you felt and... I pushed you away because I was scared. I was scared about the way you made me feel. You were my best friend but I wasn’t seeing you like that anymore. When I knew you felt the same way, I panicked and overreacted again.”
He sighed loudly and his shoulders hunched down, looking heavy and tired. “I’m so sorry, Tay, I was so stupid… Vincent is right, I was being a coward and screwing with your head and you don’t deserve any of it.”
“But hey, you know me,” he said, tilting his face up and giving me a weak smile. “My family is garbage and my life is trash, you know that, you’ve seen how bad it goes. I’m this screw up worthless nobody and I have nothing to give you. I know I have messed up over and over again, and that I’ve hurt you with my cowardice, but I’m done being afraid. I gave up on you too easily, too fast. I’m not doing that anymore, I’m fighting for you. Even though I have nothing, I’ll still fight. I don’t have all that money and charm and brains that Vincent has, but I have a lifetime of good memories with you. We have a history together, right? He doesn’t have that. I’m hoping that that would be enough for you. I’m praying that it will be, because that’s all I have to offer you. Old life stories and a worthless me.”
He paused, a worried frown marking his face when he saw my reaction.
“T-Tay? What’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
“You’re not worthless, Matt.” I whispered. “How could you say that?”
How messed up was he, to think that? He meant everything to me. He was full of light, he was my sun. Just to endure the life he had, the shitty father, the abuse, the violence, all the struggles, the abandon and the pain, but he still remained strong and kind. He had a heart of gold. He was beautiful inside and out. He didn’t let the ugliness of his father’s hatred taint his soul. How could he ever think he had no worth?
He was worth everything!
He wrapped his arms around me and hugged me tight. “Please stop crying, Tay. I feel so bad when I make you cry,” he said softly.
“I understand why you’re scared, Matt. It doesn’t make you a coward. If things don’t work between us... I’m scared of losing you too. Just the thought of not having you in my life anymore scares me to death! I’m sorry, but I can’t let you do this. We’d be risking too much.”
“It’s a risk we will have to take, Tay. I know it’s scary, but I’m ready to take that chance. Aren’t you? I thought you wanted this.” Matt asked, still holding me in his arms.
I pulled away from him. “I- I did. For so long, I did, Matty, but right now… I don’t know anymore. I think I’m rushing you before you have things figured out. You said yourself, you don’t really know how you feel.”
“I know how I feel, Tay, and I know you feel the same. We can’t keep pretending nothing is happening, just because we’re scared. Life is about taking risks, right? Maybe we need to take a plunge into this, without overthinking. I’m done being scared and letting my fear get in the way. Aren’t you too?”
I shook my head, still afraid that things might end up horribly wrong between us.
“I don’t know, Matt. A-are you really sure about this?”
“I don’t know if things will work out or not, Tay, if that’s what you’re asking. But we can’t go back to the way things were. We can’t go back to pretending we don’t feel anything for each other. Can you? Because I know I’ve tried, trust me, it doesn’t work. We have to take the risk, Tay. Don’t you want to know what can happen? We’re only thinking about what we can lose, but we have to start thinking about what we can win now.”
I could win my dream boy, I realized.
I tilted my head up to look him in the eyes.
“Either we do this or not, Tay, you’ll always have me, I promise you that. You’ll always have me,” he said smiling down at me.
I smiled back.
It was time to risk it. We could make this work. This was worth it.
He was worth it.
“Okay,” I whispered.
“Does this means you’ll break up with Vincent to be with me?” he asked.
“I’m not really with Vincent.” I confessed. “We’re not dating.”
He frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Vince has been trying to get us together.”
“But you were kissing him in the dance floor just now.” He pointed out, an accusatory hint in his voice.
“I was trying to move on, to get over you. I’m sorry, I thought this was never going to happen.” I tried to justify myself. “He was trying to tell me I didn’t belong with him when you arrived. He is kind of your most true and faithful supporter.”
“What? I don’t get it.” Matt mumbled, confused.
“I… it’s a complicated story.” I murmured, scratching at my head awkwardly as I tried to think of a way to explain what I had been doing with Vincent all along.
“He’s been a dick to me since day one. I can’t stand the sight of his smug, obnoxious, pretentious face. He’s the worst person in the world!” Matt accused.
“He’s not… he isn’t any of those things, Matt. He’s been trying to help us. Maybe it’s best if he explains everything to you.” I proposed, tugging at his hand, “Come on, let’s go talk to him.”
“Fine, but hold on a sec.” Matt halted and tugged at my hand, pulling me back. “Before we go, let me do this one thing first.”
I wasn’t expecting him to be so bold and unabashed. Maybe it was because of the dark room, it made it easier to hide his uncertainties as he leaned in and kissed me again. It felt weird to let go of so many years of friendship, though. My best friend was suddenly transforming into something that had been only possible in my dreams.
Still, I kissed him back, as deep, long and hard as him.
My dream was finally coming true.
My dream boy was kissing me.
I felt exhilarated and completely terrified at the same time.
“Happy birthday, Tay.” He whispered in between kisses.
He held me and kissed me over and over again, and we both gasped and trembled in that dark room, afraid of what the future might hold for us, but with one certainty firmly etched in our hearts.
This was worth it.