V. Internal Conflicts
“Noah, man, you missed out on a rager on Friday. Ashley was asking about you all night. How could you turn down such a good mouth?” Max said as I walked to our table in the cafeteria where the boys and I usually met before first bell. “I mean she took me straight to Nirvana if you know what I mean.” He winked and elbowed me, causing me to let out a forced chuckle as I took a seat next to Connor, though disgust moved through me in waves.
“Sorry man, but I was tired,” I shrugged. “I had to finish my homework. If I let my grades slip my Nona will murder me, but I’m happy to hear that you finally got your shot with her, and about time too,” I joked. “I swear if I had to hear about another wet dream you had of her I was honestly going to castrate you.”
“Piss off,” he half chuckled as he delivered a punch to my shoulder which I returned with a laugh. It was moments like this that I prided my ability to lie at a moment’s notice. If they ever found out about Madison they’d flip. They weren’t homophobic- or at least some of them weren’t- but they’d most likely leave or start teasing me like they do other gay people and I’m not known for my anger management. I let out a breath and put my focus on the boy’s conversations that floated around me. Girls. Who they banged and who was next on their list. Sports. Parties. More girls.
Ugh. Same old same old.
Without thinking, I stood up from the table, shooting an empty bye over my shoulder before I made my way through the congested hallways and up the traffic jammed stairs until I reached my first period, creative writing. “Hello, Noah,” Mr. Hill greeted as I walked into the room and picked up my assigned MacBook from the front of the classroom.
“Hello, Mr. Hill,” I politely greeted back as I took my seat in the back of the room and logged on. Mr. Hill was by far my favorite teacher and not only because he taught my favorite class. Yeah he taught me the artistic relief of creative writing and allowing others to experience your vision through words, but he’d also been there for me when times got rough. When my grades started slipping, when my Nona had gotten terribly sick, when my parents left... He’d been there through it all. Mr. Hill was like a second dad to me, though no one could replace my real one. It also helped that he was a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community. I haven’t told him about my struggles coming to terms with who I am, but I know I will when I feel ready. I also know he’ll support me and help me every step of the way.
“How is your Nona doing?” He asked as I logged on in hopes of getting to work a bit on the novella we’d been assigned to do.
“She’s as deadly as ever,” I joked, causing him to laugh. “But doing fine, none the less.”
“That’s what I like to hear,” he nodded. “Have you chosen which story or stories you’d like to present yet?” I shook my head in response.
“Come on, Noah. I know it’s three months away, but that time will fly by faster than you know,” he chastised, causing me to sigh.
“I know, I know, but with things like this, I have to choose the one that I think best reflects me not only as a person but as a writer as well.” Mr. Hill is friends with one of the chairmen for a prestigious fine arts school in New York who’d seen one of my pieces at a showcase that Mr. Hill chose in my absence due to a football game I had and liked it so much that he wanted a collection of my best work in order to see if I were eligible for one of the very few scholarships they gave out every year.
Yeah, no pressure there.
And the best part is that Nona has no idea. I wanted it to be a surprise for her if I made it, though sometimes it’s tempting to tell her like the times she chastises me for not thinking about my future and wasting all of my times on soccer and parties, but little does she know that I’ve been working hard to come up with something that would guarantee my name on the list of scholarships. And it’ll all be worth it to see the proud look in her eyes and the giant smile on her face.
“I see,” he relented as I opened my document and waited for all of the pages to load. “Just make sure you have one picked three weeks from today, alright?”
“Okay,” I nodded just as my fellow classmates started pouring in laughing and talking about whatever and greeting me once they noticed I was in the room which I politely replied as my fingers manically started typing on the keyboard bringing my ideas into existence.
After the bell rang, Mr. Hill greeted everyone before he told us to resume working on our story which I gladly did as I popped in my earbuds and shuffled my playlist entitled “Writing Vibes” which consisted of chill alternative and indie music that put my mind at ease and helped me focus on writing along with a few mellow pop tracks.
My fingers raced across the keyboard, a new idea popping into my head with every keystroke, but all too soon the bell rang indicating the end of class and the beginning of our short passing period. As I logged out, I quickly jotted down the remaining ideas I’d failed to write down in my writer’s notebook before I shoved it in my bag and put my computer back where I got it from. “Bye, Mr. Hill,” I called over my shoulder before I was swallowed in the throng of students to continue on with my day. Classes flew by and before I knew it, it was lunchtime. I hurried through the line and brought an apple, walking past my usual table with the boys and opted for the vacant stairwell. I pulled out my phone and inspected the time. 12:24, it read. Five more hours until I start my job from hell.
I sighed as I took a bite of the apple, slowly chewing it as thoughts fought for dominance in my mind, but most of my thoughts consisted of none other than Madison himself. I just couldn’t get his smirk out of my head or the longing look in his eyes when we’d been so close to kissing. And despite how much I tried to convince myself that I hadn’t wanted it, I’d craved it with an intensity I’d never felt before. I just prayed today he and I won’t be alone together or else I’d be in trouble.
“Why do you look constipated?” A voice suddenly said as a figure suddenly landed beside me, causing me to jump as I turned toward them, semi-relieved to see that it was only Connor.
“Gosh, Con. Don’t scare me like that,” I chastised as I placed a hand on my heart and urged it to calm down. “I could’ve killed you or something.”
“Oh yeah, because you totally didn’t look like you were about to piss your pants or anything,” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm as he rolled his eyes.
“What do you want?” I asked, taking a bite of my apple.
“To check up on you,” he shrugged as he shifted his body so he could find a comfortable position on the hard concrete stairs. “You’ve seemed...distracted lately,” he said, choosing his words carefully as he looked me in the eyes. “You know you can always talk to me right? I mean, about anything no matter how bad or troubling you think it might be, I’m always here for you, okay Noah?” Sincerity swam laps in his eyes and I could tell he was truly concerned.
I nodded. “Yeah, thanks. Just don’t mention it to any of the boys, alright? I don’t want them on my case.”
Connor nodded in response before he got up and clapped me on the shoulder. “I know when I’m not wanted, but just remember that I’m always here.”
“Will do, thanks,” I said as Connor began climbing the stairs. Words slowly started climbing up my throat and piling into my mouth, wanting nothing more than to expose themselves to Connor and beg him to help me understand myself and come to terms with who I am. But instead I merely swallowed them down and turned away, focusing on my apple. I knew he said he’d always be there for me but could he handle this? To be honest I wasn’t sure if I could fully handle it myself.
I sighed as I put my head in my free hand. If only I knew exactly what I wanted. It was one thing saying that you’re gay, but it was a completely different ball game to openly claim it. Boldly proclaim it to the world and not be afraid to experiment and confirm what you felt was real. To find your own happiness within the colors of freedom. I let out another sigh as I stood up and took my time getting to my next class just as the bell rung.
The rest of my day went on as it usually did: boring teachers teaching even more boring lessons, girls trying to flirt with me, me graciously declining, the boys telling me about the latest parties as we walked out to the parking lot, almost getting hit by a bus or lone car when we failed to pay attention and look both ways before crossing.
After I got in my car, I checked my phone seeing a text message from Nona to pick up her meds along with a text from the one and only Madison. I sighed and reluctantly opened the message.
Madison (14:47): I hope ur ready 4 work. Fair warning, I look extremely sexy in my uniform
Me (14:48): And I hope you’re ready to be out sexy-ed. If there is one thing I’m amazing at it’s showing people up. Watch your back and keep it in your pants.
It wasn’t until I pressed send that I realized what I’d done. I teased him, making him think I was okay with it and motivated him to keep pushing further. I mentally cursed as I heavily banged my head against my steering wheel. It was just so easy to feel at ease with Madison whether he was right there in front of me or flirting with me through text messages. I looked down and noticed that the text bubble appeared letting me know he was typing, but rather than wait for his witty, most likely inappropriate comeback, I muted my phone, put it on do not disturb, and threw it face down on my seat so that even when he did reply, I wouldn’t be tempted to look. But it only tempted me further, dang it.
“You’re strong, Noah,” I said to myself as I turned the key in the ignition which caused my car to jump to life. “You can do this.”
Without wasting another second, I pulled out of my parking spot and started out of the school parking lot, turning on my radio when I got caught in the long line of students eagerly trying to exit hell- I meant school. After about two songs I was on the main road heading to the pharmacy to get my Nona’s meds. After I picked them up, I stopped and got some food for the both of us before I finally ended up home.
“How was your day, miele?” She questioned as I entered the living room where she was sitting.
“Good,” I vaguely answered as I placed the bag with her food in her lap which earned me a small thanks before I exited the room saying, “I’ll be doing homework if you need me.”
“Okay, dear. Make sure you’re ready to go by four forty-five!”
Ugh, like I needed another reminder.
I walked into my room and closed my door behind me before placing my food on my desk and belly-flopping onto my bed, its springs crying in protest as my sheer body weight fell on top of it, but I didn’t care because it felt so good.
I felt my phone buzz in my back pocket and I pulled it out, totally forgetting about my “Madison situation” until I opened my Notification Center.
Soccer Boys [Connor] (15:02): Don’t forget we have practice on Thursday. More conditioning and a whole lot more suicides :P
Jessica (THIRST TRAP: IGNORE) (14:56): Amy and I are having a party. You and your boys should come through ;)
Madison (14:54): What I plan on doing we don’t need pants ;)
A shiver ran down my back as I read over Madison’s text over and over again, the innuendo he was implying running itself over and over again in my head. Why couldn’t I stop thinking about it? Why did something in me enjoy Madison’s flirtatious ways as much as I do? Why did the mere thought of him turn me on so much?′
I turned off my phone and slung my arm over my eyes, wanting nothing but to shut off my brain for even just a little bit and just go back to the way I’d been before I met Madison. Sighing I got up and decided to get my homework done so I get get a quick jog in before starting my first day of work.
“I walked over to my desk and eased into my chair before I shuffled my study playlist and commenced with my homework. Luckily I only got a few assignments in Science and Calculus and I was done within an hour and a half. Unfortunately, as soon as I was done I had to get ready for my first day on the job. I reluctantly pushed myself out of my seat and slowly trudged toward the bathroom, grabbing towels from the hallway closet on my way.
I brushed my teeth as I allowed the water to heat up, songs from Panic! At the Disco blasting through my phone’s speaker as it rested on the rectangular ledge of the sink. After I’d finished brushing my teeth, I quickly hopped into the shower and sang along with Brendon as all the classics began playing back to back. After a while, I was freshly cleaned with my hair neatly gelled back and the ”Pop’s Pizzeria” t-shirt and slacks that were my uniform.
“Noah!” Nona called just as I slid on my shoes, “are you ready?”
“Yeah,” I replied as I finished tying my shoes then slid my phone into my back pocket and headed to the living room where I knew my Nona was. “I’m heading out,” I said as I gave her a quick hug. “Pray for me.”
“I’m so proud of you, miele," she smiled as she kissed my cheek as I withdrew. “You’ll do great.”
“Thanks, Nona,” I said before I headed out to the car and headed to my doom. I took my time driving to the pizzeria and even spent a few minutes in the car to calm my rapid heartbeat since I was about ten minutes early. I couldn’t even fathom why my heart was beating so fast or why my hands were sweating or why my mind was racing with the possibilities of things that could go wrong.
Once I had five minutes before I was due, I turned off my car and reluctantly got out as I ran my hands along the front of my pants in order to eliminate the sweat that plagued them. Lord please don’t let it only be me and Madison today. As soon as I opened the door, I was greeted by a virtually empty restaurant despite a few lonely customers who sat at solo tables either reading a book or a newspaper. “Hey Noah, good to see you,” a voice called, causing me to sharply look in the direction that it came from, relieved to see Mr. Williams and not Madison greet me.
I offered a polite smile as I shook his hand. “Hello, Mr. Williams, pleasure to see you too.”
“Well, my son is taking out the trash, but I’ll start prepping you until he is back, okay?” he questioned, though he’d already answered for me by turning and leading me behind the counter. “Since you’ve been coming here for a while, I’m guessing you understand how things work around here, yes?”
“Yes, sir,” I nodded, causing him to smile as he continued leading me to the back where the pizzas were to be made.
“It’s so nice to see a youth so eager to work. I practically had to beg Madison to work here and after all these years, he finally decided to join into the family business though he prefers to be in the back making the pizzas rather than behind the cash register, but I’ll take what I can get, you know?”
So that’s why I never noticed Madison before. “Well that’s what you have me for, right?” I politely offered.
“Indeed,” he agreed as we arrived in front of a sink where he washed his hands and I followed his actions before he proceeded to begin informing me where all the ingredients were located and showed me the sheets were the recipes for every pizza they served were.
“Alright, Noah, we’ll start will a simple-” he started, but was cut off by a door opening, letting in a cool breeze as none other than Madison walked in with his headphones in and his focus on the now empty trash as he set it down before he closed the door behind him. “Ah, here he is after five years,” Mr. Williams joked, as he playfully threw a piece of pepperoni at his son, which hit him in the face with a low thud, causing him to look up. His eyes instantly found mine and my heart skipped a beat, but I didn’t let onto it. Something flickered across his eyes as he straightened up.
“Hey Noah,” he said with a wave.
“Hey Madison,” I said as casually as he had despite my racing heartbeat.
“Madison, son, can you start by teaching the newest member of our family some basic recipes?”
“Of course,” he smiled, though mischief gleamed in his eyes.
“Good. I’ll leave you two to it while I get busy up front.”
“Okay pops,” Madison said as he began washing his hands as his father departed despite my silent pleads for him to stay.
“Alright Noah, let’s get to work,” Madison with a loud clap that caused me to jump. “I know you’ve been looking forward to working with me all day.” I rolled my eyes as he winked.
“Sure, Williams. Just show me where we start.”
Without another word he walked over to a part of the counter that already had two medium sized blobs of dough on it.“Luckily I’ve already made the dough so we can skip that part,” he commented before he looked up and realized I hadn’t followed him. “Oh, come on Noah. I don’t bite...at least not too hard.”
“Madison...” I warned, trying to put as much irritation in my voice as possible though I kind of liked his flirtatious teasing. It was cute.
“Sorry,” he apologized, though the smirk on his face said otherwise. “Now come over here. If we don’t get started soon there won’t be any pizza to serve by dinner time.”
Reluctantly I walked over to him and stood in front of the dough he’d left open for me. “Okay, so we’re going to start by getting about a handful of flour and dumping it on the counter like so,” he said before demonstrating then looked at me. I followed his instructions. So far so good. “Next you’re going to gently place your hands in the flour so that when you knead the dough it doesn’t stick to your hands.” I followed his instructions and placed my hands in the flour so that my whole hand was covered in the light substance. “Now watch carefully because you don’t want the dough to be lumpy or uneven. You’re going to use the heel of your hand to press down on the dough then use to other hand to fold it over then turn it, okay?” He said before demonstrating his words. “Okay, now you try.”
I nodded before I tried following his actions, but I somehow managed to mess it up and got the dough stuck to my hands. Madison chuckled at my failed attempt, which caused me to blush. “You look so cute when you blush,” Madison smiled as he rolled the dough back into a ball before applying a bit of flour to it. “Here, let me help you.” Before I knew it, Madison was behind me with his body softly pressed to mine and his hands wrapped around mine, his warm breath gently lapping at my neck like the ocean to its shore. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears as I attempted not to show how flustered I was. “Madison, I-”
“Shh,” he said, cutting me off, “just relax into it. I’ve got you.” Despite my better judgement, I followed his instructions and relaxed into it and him and let all the tension evacuate my body only leaving a weird nervousness and uncertainty that I’d never felt before.
“You didn’t get enough flour on your hands,” Madison softly said as he led my hands to the flour pile on the counter, sending a small shiver down my spine. “You’re still tense, Noah. Loosen up,” Madison chuckled before his hands suddenly left mine and they found my stomach, his fingers spastically moving against it causing laughs to escape my lips and since I was caught between Madison and the counter, there was nowhere for me to go.
“Madison please stop,” I gasped between laughs which caused him to smile more as the tickles became borderline painful. I gripped his hands and fruitlessly tried to pry them off of me. “M-Mads, please...” I gasped out, causing him to stop with a satisfied smile on his face while I struggled to catch my breath.
“There. You look a lot cuter when you smile,” he commented before he grabbed my arms once more as if he hadn’t just assaulted me the way he had. I narrowed my eyes at him but let him continue leading my hands back into the flour since they’d lost theirs trying to defend me from Madison’s tickle torture. “You want to do it like this,” he said, gently moving my hands back in forth, occasionally adding a bit of flour here and there. I was getting the hang of this. “I think I got-” I started as I turned my head to face him only to be stopped by his face being less than an inch from mine practically close enough to feel his lips on mine.
His eyes darted from mine to my lips then back to my eyes. “Hey there,” he chuckled, amused by my flustered state. “I believe you still owe me that mouth to mouth,” he lowly said as he looped his fingers through my belt loops and effortlessly turned me to that I was now chest to chest with him, his lips finding themselves right next to my ear, “I think I’d like to redeem it now.”
I was frozen in place as a foreign want possessed me. A want for Madison. A want for his lips. But I wasn’t sure if I was ready for all that would entail if I gave into my desire. “Madison I-”
“How is it going back there you two?” Mr. Williams called from the front, causing me to slightly jump, my lips slightly brushing Madison’s due to my sudden action. Butterflies erupted within my stomach.
“It’s going great,” Madison smiled, his eyes never leaving mine as he gently gripped my lower arm and caused sparks to move throughout my body. “I’m just guiding Noah around unknown territory.”
Why did I feel like that had a double meaning to it?
I looked up into his eyes and watched his every move. “I’ve never been so enamored by someone in such a short amount of time, Noah,” he mused as his thumbs started making small circles on my lower arms . “So what is it about you that makes me unable to get you out of my head?” My breath caught as one of his hands left my arms and gently rested itself on the low of my back with the weight of a feather. Something within me told me to push him off. To tell him he was crazy. To yell for help. But a bigger part of me was frozen in place and hypnotized by Madison’s words. Words describing how I felt the same way crawled up my throat, but I quickly swallowed them down. I wasn’t ready to dive into this, not yet. I still needed time to...what did I need time for? I’d slowly accepted that I’m not that into girls and that I kind-of-sort-of-really thought Madison was cute and he always told me he felt the same, so what was I waiting for?
“Ah that look,” Madison said, pulling me from my thoughts. “I’ve seen that look before.”
“W-What do you mean?” I stammered out, mentally cursing myself knowing that I’d just showed him how nervous I truly was.
“The nervousness. The doubt. The confusion. All the typical things that come with realizing you’re gay.” That very word caused my stomach to drop to my toes. I was still getting used to it.
“Madison, I just can’t-”
“It’s fine,” he said as he released me and took a step back and I instantly missed his warm touch. “I don’t want to pressure you into something you might not want.” My heart sank, but I forced myself to give him a small nod. “I’ll respect that, but just know that I’ll get my mouth to mouth one day and when that day comes you’re gonna love it.”
I rolled my eyes.
Classic flirtatious Madison.
The rest of the work day consisted of Madison showing me basic recipes and where everything was located that I might need and even helped me get used to the diner time rush, though he still made room for his flirts but he wouldn’t touch me. Sometimes he’d make a move to, but restrain himself and hold back. I couldn’t suppress my slowly growing frown every time it happened. Even though it hadn’t been long, my body grew accustomed to a part of his on it at every opportunity and without his touch everything just seemed so off.
“Great job today, boys,” Mr. Williams complimented as we finished cleaning up the counters we’d been working on. “Now Noah, the restaurant will closed tomorrow and the day after for routine inspection and repairs, but Wednesday is work as usual, got it?”
“Yes sir,” I nodded as I washed my hands to rid it of all the stray ingredients that hadn’t made it onto the pizza.
“Great job, Noah. You’re doing really good for someone who’s new to this. You’re really making me work for it,” he said as he patted my back in a friendly manner. “I’d better watch out or I’ll lose my job to you.”
“You better,” I said before chuckling. “Well I gotta get home before Nona freaks out. Is there anything you need for me to do Mr. Williams?”
“Nope. You’re free to go.”
Without wasting another second or sparing Madison another look, I hurried out into my car with his words stuck on repeat in my head and my body tingled everywhere his skin has touched mine.
Gosh, why am I so conflicted? I say I don’t want him, but I can’t stop thinking about him. I try to convince myself that I don’t want or need him, but the way my body called for his said something completely different.
It was official, I was going crazy. Crazy for Mads. “Qualcuno mi aiuti,” I sighed as I jammed my keys in the ignition and started my car, incapable of getting Madison off my mind as I drove home.
Hey guys, I hope you guys like this chapter. It’s getting a bit into Noah’s internal conflicts and feelings and how he’s trying to deal with them, so I hope you guys liked the inside in his mind. Don’t forget to comment and vote.
Later Vader- Jordan