Living With The Boys (Journey to Love, #1)

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09. Friends First


Hope’s POV

I guess I should have listened closer when current students complained about December, every other regular person is preparing for Christmas. Yet, here I am in the study room finishing yet another essay as it seems I can’t get anything done back at the house.

There are only a couple of days left of this term and along with the fact that my birthday is coming up, Christmas and the end of my first term at university is all quite stressful. I am one of those very unlucky people to be born in the same month as Christmas which means I never get presents for each occasion but then again I rarely got presents at all on holidays.

Holidays at my house were never a grand anything, we would have some food quietly and then 20 minutes later we would all be grabbing something to do so we don’t have to speak to each other. It’s not like we had anything in common, anything to talk about.

It was never like I would really call the house my home, there was always someone there who would make sure that I don’t forget that I was just a foster kid. Even though you try to ignore the nasty things people say, you never quite manage to block out every single comment and one, or may of them make it inside your head.

I guess I am having some form of deja vu now that there are rumours going around uni about me, I thought that I would leave that part of me behind when I moved out and left home. At least now I have a house that I could stay in during the holidays so I don’t have to go home, I mean I might have to stop by for half a day but it’s better than having to spend a full month there.

“I’m going to head back, I’ll finish this thing tomorrow night.” Says Lily beside me, she joined me an hour ago to keep me company but she works better in her room, unlike me.

“I think I’m nearly finished then I’ll just head home and catch a late dinner, might order some pizza.” I think out loud and now that pizza sounds really good.

“We all know you’re going to be having dick for dessert.” She jokes and send a knowing smile my way, she loves to add these innuendos to any conversation we have. She loves the fact that I live with 3 guys and I’ve fucked all of them, at the same time.

“You know with all this work that everyone has, there hasn’t been exactly time to play a lot.” I reply even though she knows everything, I tell her virtually everything that happens in the house.

“For someone who could have the most exciting life, you’re boring as fuck.” She jokily replies as she hugs me goodbye.

“Feeling the love babe.” I call out after her and smile as I turn back to continue writing my assignment. Even though writing all these essays and reports is not the most fun thing in the world, I know that I’m slowly working towards a goal and for at least a couple of minutes that makes me feel a little better about being here alone at night doing research and writing an essay.

I plug in my headphones and turn away from the study music and playlist, I’m going to need some more hardcore stuff to get this done tonight. I play my workout list, which does nothing but remind me that I haven’t worked out in a long time. When you’re off at university time gets away from you and it’s so easy to eat takeaway all the time and not find the time to exercise.

Maybe I shouldn’t order that pizza after all.

I don’t know how long after I stopped dreaming about pizza it took for me to actually concentrate and make a dent in my essay, but when I looked to check my word count after finishing my evaluation points I’m glad to see that I’m right where I should be. Most of the time I either have to cut down like 400 words or add them, so this is a nice change. Means I don’t have to spend 2-3 more hours here and the end is in sight!

I may become a little cooky after working on an essay for a couple of hours.

The sad part is that I’m the last one in the house to finish all my assignments for this term, all the guys finished theirs earlier in the week and have started revision for some of their exams. I guess I can’t call them lazy, although it does me feel even worse when I spend more time lazing around than they do.

Adding the finishing touches to the essay is also quicker than I thought, I just hope my grade is good and me finding this essay relatively easy doesn’t mean I’ll fail it. Reading through it is my last step as I try to find mistakes but with my kind of fuzzy brain right now, I don’t think I will be doing any major editing.

I’m going to fall back on the good old excuse that first year doesn’t count. I shouldn’t do that but when the exhaustion kicks in, it’s a very comforting thought.

Deciding that I’ll check my plagiarising percentage at home, I submit my essay a day earlier than I had planned, which makes me feel great and I cannot wait to just fall asleep. Even though it won’t be a very long sleep as it is not around 11pm and I have a 9am tomorrow, but I’m satisfied that for at least a couple of weeks I am done with google scholar and referencing.

As it can be expected, I pack up my shit pretty quickly as I somehow slowly rush to get out of the library. I walk past a group of girls that are of course loud and heading to the library but unlike the other times I have walked past groups I would see them start whispering or at least a couple of weird glances my way but today nothing.

Absolutely nothing, no weird glances or whispers, it was as if I don’t exists and I couldn’t be happier. It seems as though the wave has finally passed and they have moved on to someone else, looks like I’m not the most interesting person anymore.

With a new smile on my face I walk down the corridor with a new spring in my step, maybe I am reading way too much into this but having just finished my essay and having a small hope that the bullying will stop is a good night to me. I don’t even know if what has been happening is considered bullying as it’s just so normal to talk about people but then again it might just be me who’s too used to it.

However, I do know that I wouldn’t want Lily or the guys to have mean things said about them. I guess I can laugh at all of it a little bit now because some might think they’re complete lies about the guys and me, but the truth is that all the ‘rumours’ are completely true but once again, that is for me to know and not to be spread around the whole school.

Mike spoke to me the other day how he cleared the air with Alyssa and even though she is most probably the one who started this whole rumour mill, I couldn’t imagine all the things going through her head right now as she has to face a much tougher future than any student. I just hope she has the support of her family, I hope hers isn’t like mine.

Although there is part of me that doesn’t like that Mike and Alyssa are friends, I know that it’s my insecurities speaking and that I can trust Mike. I just find it weird how most relationships stem from friendships yet when the couple breaks up, its seen as weird for them to stay friends.

I will just have to work on being fine with them becoming friends again in the future, I don’t know where I have this urge to help everyone from but the important thing is that she has apologised and I do believe she meant it, or she wouldn’t have been to fool Mike. It might take me a while to want to help her properly but I just can’t stand the thought of her facing all of these new things by herself.

I hate it when one of your favourite songs come on and it seems that you’ve reached your destinations, as I turn up my headphones I see that I’ve reached the house and reluctantly I take them out and unlock the house. I have lost track of the guy’s shifts at work so I have who is going to be home but it doesn’t take me long to work out.

Before I can even close the door I see Martin pacing the space between the kitchen and living room. He is not normally one to pace, as neither of the guys are so I know that something serious must be on his mind. I just have to find out if he wants to talk about it.

“You’re home early!” He replies with a deer caught in the headlights look on his face, as if he wasn’t expecting me to come home.

“I managed to finish my essay quicker than I thought. Are you waiting for someone?” I ask since I can’t think of any other reason why he looks so panicked and not at all happy to see after not seeing much of each other in the past week.

“No, I’m just surprised your home this early.” He replies again vaguely and this is not like him at all.

“It’s nearly midnight so I wouldn’t say that this is very early but is there anything going on, anything you wanna talk about?” I ask because it is obvious that something is bothering him and before anything we’re friends first and he can come to me with anything, at least that’s how I feel about him.

“I’m fine, I just had way too much coffee this afternoon and couldn’t fall asleep.” He lies but stops pacing backwards and forwards, choosing to take a seat on one of the kitchen chairs. However, even though he is supposed to have stopped moving, looking at him he look anything but calm on that chair.

“You’re sure there is nothing on your mind you don’t want to talk about?” I ask again because what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t make sure that he knew that he has someone to talk to.

“I’m not a very good actor am I?” He asks with a small laugh as he takes out a beer from the fridge and I work on getting off some of the hundred layers I wear because of the freezing weather. I have to say that even though I was born in the winter, I love me some sun.

“It’s not one of your strong suits no. What’s on your mind, I can see that something is bothering you.” I finally ask as I can see that he is almost bursting and needs to let this out, whatever it is.

“It’s going to be super weird talking to you about this.” He warns me and I can’t really think of what could make him so nervous and worry that he can’t talk to me about this.

“You know that you can tell me anything, we’re friends and I want to help you.” I say as I grab a hold of his hand but he doesn’t lift his head up to meet my eyes which is another thing that is weird about him tonight, he normally likes having as much eye contact as you can. He says that it helps us connect even more and it forms a more valuable conversation so we’re not distracted but in the moment.

“I really don’t know how to say this.” He shakes his head and he’s really starting to worry me with what is going to come out of his mouth.

“I think I’m gay.” He finally manages to get out and I can almost feel his whole body deflate with the words. I on the other hand have no idea how to react or what to say, I’m still holding his hand and the thing that surprises me even more than his confession is the fact that I’m not that shocked at his words.

“What do you mean you think?” I ask the first thing that comes to mind since even though it must have taken a lot for him to say those words, they don’t really make sense and I find myself looking at him more as a friend than a lover in this situation.

“Alright, I know that I might be bi.” He says but once again his words are mixed up and contradicting themselves, but I would have to be stupid not to see that maybe he isn’t completely ready to admit the truth either.

“We can talk about this later if you want, you don’t seem too sure about this.” I say because I want him to be sure in what he is saying, I want him to be ready to talk to me about this. It’s something very important so I don’t want to rush him.

“No, I need to talk to someone about this and as weird as it is, you’re probably the best person.” He laughs again and I just want to throw my arms around him and help him, I just hope that I can be of actual help to him through this.

“You know I’m here for you for whatever you need.” I make sure to reassure him.

“I don’t really need anything, I just need to talk to someone. I was pacing because I was trying to decide if I should talk to you. Mike and Mark are both at work so this was the best time I could think of.” He rambles on.

“Of course, we can talk for as long as you need.”

“There’s not much to talk about is there, I like guys as well as girls. I just didn’t want to hurt you or cause other drama.” He hangs his head and I have no idea how long he has been keeping this a secret or if at all anyone else knows.

On the hand it makes me sad to see him get so worked up over this, he shouldn’t have to worry about how I or anyone else will react to him being attracted to men and women. Surely we have evolved past the point where someone has to worry themselves over the consequences of loving who they love.

“Why would you hurt me? I was your friend before anything happened between us and I care about you way too much to let something as small as this change things between us.” I reassure him, because he means too much to me and I care about him so much to let anything stop me from being here for him when he needs me.

“But what would the guys think? I mean they always make jokes about me liking guys and stuff but I don’t think they’re serious about them. What if when I tell them, everything is ruined?” He asks and I can see the genuine worry in his eyes which breaks my heart.

“I’m sure the guys will be just as understanding as I am, if telling people makes you happy or feel better then it doesn’t matter what people say. You have to look out for yourself and I will be right by your side through everything.” I make sure he knows I mean every single word. To be honest I can see why he would worry but I am here to make sure he sees this conversation as a good thing and not the opposite.

“This is why we all love you, you’re simply amazing.” He smiles at me and at the same time it reminds me why I love him so much.

“I’m nothing special. I am only making sure you’re happy through this whole thing if you have decided to tell or show people. Have you told anyone else?” I ask because a rather large selfish part of me wants to be the first to know, I want to take care of him and help him as much as I can.

“No, you’re the first one I have admitted it to, but last year there were some parties where I kissed some guys. That was probably what made me realise.” He admits and we both burst out laughing, which is to show what kind of relationship we have to be able to laugh during a serious conversation like this one.

“Is there anyone in particular that you like?” I ask before I can think about the words coming out of my mouth. I realise that I’m not that surprised at his news and not as angry or sad about it, like many women would be in my position.

I don’t know if it’s because we are so comfortable with each other that I thought asking him that question was a good decision. However, I am quickly coming to the conclusion that even though I let that question slip out, I don’t want to take it back.

“That’s a weird question to ask Hope, what makes you think I like someone else?” He asks but it just seems like he is trying to prolong him answering the question, but surprisingly I don’t feel heartbroken at the thought of Martin being in love with a guy, or having feelings for someone else.

Even though its super weird and not at all what I expected to talk about tonight, I’m kind of happy that he is being true to himself and even more that he is being honest with me. I just think that for him to finally admit this after a year or more of having these feelings, there must have been something to make him want to make this the moment.

“Well I just thought you might like someone and that’s why you’re telling me this now. That because of that person you might be ready to show people all of you.” I admit and in hindsight it might have been better for me to filter my words but that’s not how friendships work and Martin deserves my unfiltered thoughts and feelings.

“You’re way too perceptive for your own good, or for mine for that matter.” He laughs and as he confirms that there is someone else he has feelings for, I don’t feel sad and I don’t want to cry. It’s so weird knowing that I love him and find him incredibly attractive, but I guess I was never in love with him.

“I’m just a woman, we’re born with it.” I joke because its equal parts funny and sad how clueless guys are about feelings and what the right thing to do it, living with them for the past couple of months has made that crystal clear.

“Well then yes, there is someone that I like. Are you sure that you’re okay with talking to me about this?” He asks and I have to be a little proud of him for realising that this could be a painful conversation for me, but instead of wanting to burst into tears I only feel a little bit sad that a part of us is coming to an end.

“Now I don’t want to be the one to hurt you.” I laugh but I owe him my honesty even though I’m scared that I could hurt his feelings. “I’ve just realised that even thought I love you and care about you, I don’t think I’m in love with you.” I force myself to say the truth and anxiously wait for his reply, I guess now i know what he felt like a couple of minutes ago.

“Please don’t tell me you see me as your brother.” He jokes and I nervously laugh, not really sure what I was expecting his reaction to be like.

“No, I don’t want to and would never fuck my brother.” I reply the truth once again. Its crazy how I can be attracted to him, love him and at the same time not be in love with him. It’s a very weird middle ground.

“So I’m back in the friend zone?” He asks but this time I don’t know if he is really asking or if he is joking.

“Well, I don’t know. If you have feelings for someone else then I can’t really hold you back when I’m not in love with you. I love you but I don’t know if that enough for you or if its fair on you.” I answer and hope that I didn’t just say the wrong thing.

“That’s fair enough, I also have no idea what I’m doing or why I even told you. The guy doesn’t even know I like him and I’m not completely sure he’s into guys either so it’s just a big old mess.” He laughs sarcastically and now I’m really stuck on what to say.

“You told me because you needed to share this with someone and I’m glad that it’s me. Honestly, just talk to him or ask around. I mean I didn’t know you were also into guys until half an hour ago.” I say even though I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to be of much help when it comes to relationships because the current one I’m in isn’t exactly conventional or normal.

“I don’t think I’m brave enough to go up to him and ask him straight up, he’s not exactly ever shown that he might be into guys.” Martin continues to talk and I have not one idea on how to help him or guide him, seems like everyone has a complicated life.

“Then maybe give it some time, hang out with him more and see if he shows any signs. I don’t really know what else you can do except going straight up to him and asking him.” I conclude as it is already complicated to decide if someone else likes you but to not know if they even like your gender? That’s even more difficult.

“I already spend quite a bit of time with him and except for a couple of glances or a brush of a hand here and there, he’s never given me the idea that he might want anything more than friends with a guy.”

“Then you have to change the environment or do something new, something different so you can see if he’ll change the way he acts towards you.” I suggest but I’m pretty sure I’m as useful as a white pencil on white paper.

“That could work! I’m just scared he will laugh at me for even thinking that he’s into guys.” He confesses the many more ways this could go wrong, and I can’t blame him. If I were in his position I know that I would be thinking of every possibility and very outcome this could have, overthinking sucks most of the time.

“If he laughs at you for something like that then he’s not really a guy you should be friends with. If he’s really a good friend of yours then he will be understanding and talk to you about it.” I say because no one should be laughed at for having feelings about someone.

“I don’t know what I’ll do yet but I’m just glad I talked to you, I feel a lot lighter now.” He sighs and I’m relieved to hear that our little chat has made him feel better, even though now I’m both more confused and sure on other matters.

“Well then, this talk was a success. Have you had dinner yet?” I ask because I could no longer ignore my loud stomach and the musical sounds coming from it.

“I made some lasagne earlier today so you could have some of that if you want.” He says and I have to laugh because Martin is not the cooking kind, he’s the eating kind.

“Next thing I know you’ll start stress baking, not that I would mind coming home to freshly baked muffins or brownies.” I joke with him as I walk to the oven to find heaven waiting inside for me.

“You wouldn’t be saying that if you ever try one of my muffins.” He resorts and grimaces, which is why the whole house knows Martin is not a cook but he couldn’t have messed up lasagne, right? I mean you can buy everything from the store already done or just buy a ready made one, either way I am way too hungry to worry about how good the food is, just that I need to eat now.

For the rest of the short night, I spend eating and we spend chatting like old friends. Tonight has reminded me why I love Martin in the first place, I bonded with him being an amazing guy and friend. Nothing happening in either of our lives can break that bond.

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