“How did it go with Gracie?” Nona asked as I walked into the kitchen and dropped my keys into the bowl.
“It was fine,” I honestly said as I sat across from her at the kitchen table where she was reading a newspaper. “We had fun and she found a book by her favorite author who also happens to be coming here next Wednesday for a Q and A along with a book signing. I told her I’d take her since her car needed repair and her grandmother would be out that day.”
“That was awfully nice of you,” Nona complimented as she turned the page, her eyes eagerly taking in the information from the pages.
“It’s really no problem,” I said, brushing it off as I stood up. “I’m tired. I think I’m going to turn in for the night.”
“Buona notte. Ti amo,” she said as she finally looked up from her paper.
“Ti amo,” I threw over my shoulder before I hurried down the hall and into my room, securely shutting the door behind me before I reached into the comically deep pocket of my sweatshirt and pulled out the book I’d bought, glad that I’d been able to smuggle it in unnoticed by my Nona. I placed it on my bed before I stripped down to my boxers and slid on a pair of pajama pants then sat criss-cross on my bed holding the sacred book in my hands. For some reason, I felt bad, guilty even for even holding the book and my heart was racing for some unknown reason. My phone suddenly buzzed on the bedside table and it was none other than the very person that had me questioning every aspect of right and wrong.
Madison (21:19): My father won’t be at the shop tomorrow. He’s a bit sick but don’t worry. I’ll keep u company ;P
I rolled my eyes, though I couldn’t help but smile at Madison’s odd use of old emoticons.
Me (21:21): Just keep your hands to yourself, mister.
I hit send on the lame text before I silenced my phone and placed it on the nightstand, hoping to find sanctuary within the pages of the book in my hand. I cracked open the book and hungrily took in the words on the page, a weird feeling filling my chest as Elio describe emotions that I too had felt when I was around my “Oliver”. Besides the apricot thing, but to each their own I guess. Before long though, a yawn was pulled from my lips and my eyelids became heavy. Rather than deny my body its inalienable right to the bliss known as sleep, I used my receipt as a bookmark and set it on my bedside table underneath my phone. I resisted the urge to check my phone to see if Madison had responded and simply stretched out in a starfish position in my bed and like a spider, I let sleep capture me in its web of dreams and fantasies and swallow me whole.
“Wow, Noah. I’m thoroughly impressed, and that’s saying a lot because you already have an impressive portfolio. It’s very good,” Mr. Hill said as he slid me back my computer.
“Thanks, Mr. H. I’m thinking about putting it in my collection to give to the school,” I said taking my computer back with a smile on my face.
“You definitely should,” he said as he leaned back in his chair and took a sip of his coffee. “But I also think you should write about who you are. You know, your struggles, your confusion, your success, what makes you happy. Stuff like that so they know the real Noah and not construct a superficial Noah based on your writing, you get what I mean?” I nodded in response. “Now don’t get me wrong, all of your pieces that you’ve shown me are great, but none of them gives me a feel for who you are. If I didn’t have you as a student I’d think you were a thirty-five-year-old man who’s had a ton of life experiences that aged him an extra five years or so, and in some aspects that’s good, but in others, it’s not.” He paused and took another sip of his black coffee. “You just don’t want to write yourself into a box, that’s all I’m saying.”
“I understand,” I nodded, though I honestly had no idea what I was going to write about. My life was pretty straightforward and I was pretty sure writing about the parties I’ve gone to and bragging about how I’m the keg stand king at my school wouldn’t get me a spot at McDonald’s, let alone a pristine fine arts school. Okay, maybe McDonald’s, but definitely not the school.
“I’m proud of you, Mr. Bruno. Keep it up,” he smiled just as another student walked up to his desk, cueing me to get back to my desk. I opened my computer and opened a new document scouring my mind for something, anything to write about. I swallowed as I thought about writing about my current internal struggle, but almost instantly shot the thought down. I hadn’t even come out to my friends or my Nona, so I doubted coming out to the school’s board would be the best thing for me to do right now. Plus, what if they had the same mindset as Gracie and looked down on homosexuality or they looked at me differently? I wasn’t willing to risk it. Just because one of them was friends and accepting of Mr. Hill and his, our community doesn’t mean all of them are.
My thoughts were cut short by the sound of the bell. Instantly, the sound of metal chairs legs scraping against tile was heard as students hurried to put their computers away. I waited until the throng of students had dissipated before I too put my computer back in its respective slot said a goodbye to Mr. Hill before I hurried to my next class. I didn’t pay attention in any of my classes due to my mind being consumed with what I was going to put in my portfolio. I even took my lunch to Mr. Hill’s class in order to try to find some inspiration, but that only led to me sitting in his room for twenty-seven minutes with my fingers resting on the keys though they refused to pronounce a single word.
“Don’t try to force it, kid,” Mr. Hill suggested as he placed a hand on my shoulder seeing how frustrated I had become at my own incompetence. “If it comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, don’t try to force it, okay?”
“Okay,” I sighed as I logged off the computer.
“Hey Noah,” Mr. Hill called as I slid the computer into its slot, “are you free to watch Lily again next Wednesday? John and I are going out we can’t bring her along.”
“Oh, scandalous,” I joked, causing him to roll his eyes. Lily was he and his husband John’s daughter. I usually looked after her when they needed me to, but now that I have a job and football to juggle, it’d be harder for me to look after their adorable devil, I mean daughter. Plus, I promised to take Gracie to that signing next Wednesday. “Sorry, I can’t. I promised a friend I’d take her to a book signing and if I bale on her she’ll murder me. She almost ripped my arm out of its socket already. I have the battle scars.”
“It’s alright, Noah,” he chuckled. “I’ll just find someone else.” I nodded before I grabbed my backpack and slung it over my shoulder and gathered my trash so I could throw it into the garbage bin.
“If you need me on another day I’m free after work and practice,” I offered and he nodded.
“I’ll keep that in mind. Now get going, I’m getting tired of you,” he joked with a slight grin, causing me to roll my eyes, but get out of his room nonetheless. I was right in front of my next class when the bell rang causing relief to course through me knowing that I wouldn’t have to face the onslaught of students going the opposite direction of me.
The rest of the day was a blur or indistinct chatter and teachers teaching things I didn’t care about until I found myself in my car sweet car once more.
Once I got home, I did my minimal homework before I took a few moments to myself, mentally preparing for the whole three or more hours I’d be working with Madison. Alone. In the back of the shop. Where no one could see us. The very thought made my palms sweaty.
“Noah!” my Nona calls right as I slid on my uniform and tucked my phone in my back pocket.
“Yes Nona?” I responded as my eyes fell on the clock only ten more minutes. I’m running late.
“Don’t forget I’m-”
“Yeah, I know you and your girls are going out tonight and you won’t be back until tomorrow. I love you, bye!” I called over my shoulder as I hurried into my car before I made my way to work.
“Ah, nice for you to grace me, I mean us with your presence, Mr. Bruno,” Madison chastised as I hurried into the back, causing me to sigh.
“Sorry,” I rambled as I tied my apron around my waist. ” I just had school work and-”
“Relax, Noah. I’m just giving you a hard time,” Madison laughed, showing off his dashing smile that made me melt. “Now come on. These pizzas aren’t going to make themselves. And maybe if you’re extra good, I’ll teach you how to make our homemade pastas.”
“Ok, almighty Madison, show me your ways,” I joked before we started making the dough. It was only a few moments before Madison started humming and even though true tones or sounds weren’t coming out of his mouth, it sounded heavenly.
“Oh look, you’ve learned from the last lesson we had,” Madison chuckled as he stood behind me, his warm breath flirtatiously tickling the back of my neck.
“I guess you can say I have,” I chuckled, though on the insides my stomach was flipping.
“Well I have been called a teacher before in one way or another,” Madison mused with a wink before he wandered over to the counter where his phone rested before tapping the screen a couple times until music flooded through its speakers. “Ahh, that’s more like it,” he said while walking back to his station and he sang as he did so. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself as I continued to work.
Business started to pick up after five and I worked the cashier while Madison belted his tunes in the back, earning flirtatious smiles and winks from girls when he popped up front every now and then. I couldn’t stop the warm feeling that stirred in my chest when they did. It didn’t feel good. But the feeling quickly went away when he relentlessly flirted with me.
“Okay, looks like that was the last one. Hurry up and flip the sign before anyone else comes in!” Madison said as soon as our last customer had left the building. I followed his order without complaint. Today had been a busy day and I was more than happy to get it over with. I was also more than happy to eat all the leftovers we had, especially the pasta.
“How’d your second day on the job treat you?” Madison asked as I walked into the back where he was already munching on a slice of pizza from an order we’d made that got canceled.
“Woof,” I said as I dove into the pasta that was also apart of that order. Man it was good.
“Well said,” he chuckled before we fell into a bought of silence. “So Noah. How is school, I guess? Wow, I sound old saying that and I’m only like a year older than you,” he said, shaking his head at the last part before he looked at me expectantly.
Him asking me that made me feel weird too, but I answered none the less. “It’s fine I guess,” I shrugged. “It’s just the same old same old, you know. Parties. Drama. Typical teenage stuff.”
He nodded in response before he threw away his trash. “Well I think we’re done here, wouldn’t you say?” He asked and I nodded as I too threw away my trash.
“Yeah, all I have to do is find my...” I started as I plunged my keys into my pocket, my heart stopping once I didn’t feel the familiar coldness of my keys. I cursed under my breath as I placed my car keys on the counter. I forgot I’d given Nona my house keys and I forget to grab my extra pair that were in my football bag and we didn’t keep spare keys outside our house like most families did. I was screwed.
“What’s wrong?” Madison asked, his eyebrows knitting together.
“I forgot my keys and now I’m locked out,” I sighed, running my fingers through my thick hair. “Looks like I’m sleeping in the car tonight,” I frowned as I took off my apron. At least I always had a pillow and blanket in my trunk for my free periods so it wasn’t a total loss. Plus, I’d be within my WiFi range so I could watch endless Netflix without worrying about my data. This actually wasn’t bad at all.
“You can spend the night over at my place,” Madison nonchalantly suggested as he began sweeping flour off the countertops.
“I don’t want to intrude,” I politely said, though in reality, I didn’t want to go because I didn’t know what I would do if we were both alone in his house. Last time had been an experience and I wasn’t quite ready for a part two just yet.
“Nonsense, Noah,” Madison brushed off as he continued cleaning his counter. “Please, I insist. Plus, a wise man probably said ‘If you have a friend that’s locked out of their house, never let them sleep in their car when you have a room you can share’.”
“I doubt anyone’s ever said that, Mads.”
“Well I just did and I’ve heard that I’m wise beyond my years.”
“Whoever said that to you was lying to your face.”
“Whatever, Bruno. But come over we can play video games and drink all night.” Even though that did sound tempting, I couldn’t put myself in that position again. I already knew what drunk Noah was capable of and I didn’t want an encore.
“Sorry, Mads, but it’s a school night and even though I have, I don’t want to go to school and football practice with a hangover.”
“But you can’t go anywhere without your car keys,” he quipped, causing me to turn to him and see my car keys idly dangling between his index finger and thumb.
“Mads, please give them back,” I whined, not wanting to fight.
“Noah, please spend the night,” he said, mocking my whine. I narrowed my eyes at him before I lunged at him. But he expected it and quickly moved my keys behind his back, teasing me by moving them from one side to the other.
“Madison,” I growled in frustration before I finally had my keys in my hands. Which were wrapped around both sides of Madison. With our bodies pressed impossibly close.
“Oh hi there, stranger,” Madison softly said with an adorable smile before he too wrapped his arms around me and pulled me a tad closer. I swallowed as I looked up at him, unable to ignore the warmth that coursed through me everywhere our bodies touched. “Please, Noah. Spend the night,” Madison whispered as he craned his neck down so that his warm breath tickled the groove where my neck and shoulder met that caused my toes to curl. “I’m begging you.” His soft lips gently brushed my neck as he spoke, strategically luring me in so I was left wanting another taste of the dangerous drink. “I want to know more about you and what goes on in that pretty head of yours. So,” he said, straightening up once more so that our eyes met, “will you?”
I swallowed before I slowly nodded giving into my desire and morbid curiosity. Madison smiled down at me before he let me go and headed out the kitchen door while I stood in place. Oh God, What did I just agree to?
“Come on, we only have thirty seconds to get out before the alarm goes off!” Madison called, low beeps sounding in the background. I followed his instructions and headed toward my car even though his apartment was literally across the street. As we both slide into the car, my heart hammered against my chest. Alright, Noah. This is your last chance to- I was stopped mid-thought when Madison slid his hand onto my leg, knowing good and well what it did to me. I looked over at him and saw a pair of mischievous eyes looking back at me tag-teaming with a smirk that made my stomach churn. In a good way though.
Before I knew it, we were in his apartment, the place where it all really began. “Do you want anything to drink, Noah?” Madison asked as he began rummaging through his refrigerator.
“Do you have any orange juice?” I asked as I sat down at his bar and watched him as he moved.
“Of course,” he said as his muscular tattoo-covered arm reached deeper into the fridge before pulling out a carton of Tropicana Orange Juice. Ah, the good stuff.
“So, Noah,” Madison said as he slid a tall glass of orange juice across the bar and into my hand then leaned his back against it,“tell me more about yourself. I mean, if I’m having a massive man-crush on somebody, I at least gotta know a bit about them besides the fact that they’re super hot and super adorable when they blush.” And cue the “adorable blush”, but I tried to cover it up by drinking.
“What do you want to know?” I asked, acting as unfazed as possible.
“I don’t know,” he shrugged, “What do you want to tell me?”
“Well...” I trailed until some things popped into my brain. “I was born November thirteenth, nineteen ninety-nine, I’m a Scorpio, I love football, but it’s not what I want to do when I grow up.”
“Well what do you want to do?” Madison questioned, pure curiosity and interest evident in his voice.
“An author and journalist,” I said, a smile making its way onto my face like it always did when I spoke about writing. “I love finding ways to tell other people’s stories, but I also love creating stories of my own. It’s something I’m really passionate about and I just want to do it all the time, you know?”
“Yeah,” Madison said as his own smile stretched across his face. “I do.”
“Why are you smiling at me like that?” I asked with a chuckle as I took another quick swing of my orange juice.
“You’re just so...ugh!” He sighed as he ran his hands down his face, a smile still decorating his features. “You’re just perfect and adorable, Noah, and it’s killing me.” I choked on my orange juice, causing me to not only fall into a coughing fit but to also saturate my white shirt with the orange liquid. Madison laughed as he came behind me and gently rubbed my back until my coughing subsided.
“Messy little boy just like the first night,” he said referencing to drunk me doing the same thing the first time he brought me here. I narrowed my eyes at him though the corners of my lips slightly tugged up. “Come on. I have a shirt in my room that I’m sure can fit you.”
I allowed him to lead me into his familiar bedroom, the moonlight trickling in through the window being the only light in the room. I quickly took off my shirt becoming uncomfortable with the wet shirt touching my body. I turned around and said “Mads-” but my sentence quickly died on my tongue when I literally became chest to chest with Madison who was now also shirtless with a shirt balled up in his hand.
I swallowed as my eyes wandered up and down his muscular build. He was just...wow. By the time I met his eyes once more a smirk found its way onto his impossibly handsome face once more.
Dark shadows swallowed half of his godly face, though I could still see its sharp definitions. Every beautiful dip and curve. Every tiny scar and perfect imperfection. He was beautiful. I hadn’t realized how close our bodies had become until I felt his soft warm breath tickle my lips, teasing me. Waiting to see if I’d take the bait. But I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. I tried to pull away and create as much distance between us, but it was if I were frozen in place. A torture in which I’d been thrown into the Coliseum with the most beautiful face on earth and soft lips tag teaming on me.
On their own accord, my eyes fixed themselves on my soft looking opponents; his lips. There was an overwhelming want- need to feel them on mine. Running up and down my neck and sliding down my chest as his rough hands felt me up and all over. No. I need to stop letting these thoughts through before my thoughts turned into actions I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop once they’d started.
“Noah,” he said, my name easily slipping past those lips, causing me to finally meet his eyes again. “I won’t do it unless you ask me to,” he whispered, his voice low and seductive, sending a pleasant chill down my spine despite the abundance of heat generating from our close bodies.
“What?” I said almost breathless.
“Kiss you,” he said, his focus falling on my lips as he gently cupped my cheek and rested his thumb on my bottom lip, his thumb’s weight slightly pulling it down. “I won’t kiss you unless you ask me to.” His eyes met with mine again and my heart skipped a beat. Want and hunger was evident in his eyes and I could feel it pulsing through him and slowly seeping into me. “And God, there are no words for how badly I want to.”
I opened my mouth to say, “No. I’m not doing this. Don’t,” but instead it came out as a breathy “kiss me”. And then his lips were on me. Hungrily attacking my lips with a fever I’d never felt. A low buzz traveled throughout my body and through my fingertips, as he cupped my cheeks and pulled me deep into the kiss I still hadn’t responded to yet.
“Don’t be scared,” he chuckled into my lips. “I don’t bite,” he lowly said as he gently took my bottom lip between his teeth in a gentle bite that made my knees weak and my head spine. And I lost it.
I grabbed the back of his neck and pulled him into me, kissing him with more than I’d ever kissed anyone before. Despite the part of me that was cursing me and telling me to turn and run, I couldn’t deny how right I felt with his arms now around my waist. With his hands gripping my butt. With his chest pressed to mine. With his lips against my own.
What about your parents?
This could ruin that. You know how strong Nona is in the church and what it-stop Noah. I said to myself, trying to block out the negative thoughts as Madison started kissing across my jawline.
What’s left of your family.
“No,” I breathed, trying to silence the words roaring in my head and instantly Madison’s lips left me, and I didn’t know what scared me more, him stopping or how much I instantly missed him.
“No?” He repeated, as his eyes locked with mine and I inwardly scolded myself. “What’s wrong?” He gently asked as his eyes tried to meet mine, but I looked away, unable to handle the hurt I knew would be in his eyes. “Hey,” he whispered as he gently gripped my head and made me look him in the eyes. “I’m sorry if I moved too fast or-”
“No, you were fine,” I quickly said, not wanting him to doubt for a second the effect his lips had on me.
“Then what, Noah? You can tell me anything.”
“I just...” I trailed, struggling to find the correct words for a few moments. “I don’t know how my Nona will react, or my team, or anyone for that matter.” Madison gently caressed my cheek with the pad of his thumb and I continued. “Mads, I just don’t want to lose anyone, but I’m definitely not willing to give you up." He offered me a small smile as his thumb gently continued moving over me.
“And you won’t,” he softly said. “I’m willing to keep us a secret from your friends and family until you’re ready, though it’s going to kill me not being able to do this in public,” he said before giving me another quick kiss, “but I’m willing to do it for you, mio amore.” I didn’t know what turned me on more: how husky his voice sounded when he kissed me or how sexy it sounded when he spoke my language. “Plus,” he said as his lips started wandering down my neck once more, “if anyone is willing to lose you over something as small as the fact you like dick inside of vagina, then they’re stupid.”
“You’re ri-” my words died on my lips as Madison’s tongue gently ran against the side of my neck, teasing me in a way only he could.
“I’ve always wanted to try my hand at hickeys,” he murmured into my neck before he started licking and kissing me again. “Would you care to be my subject?” His eyes looked up at me through the thick curtain of dark eyelashes, his eyes carrying mischief and hidden intentions.
“I don’t bruise easily.”
“It’s okay,” he said, his lips turning up into a smirk letting me know that next thing he was going to say would either turn me on to the point I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off of him or make me blush like a fire truck. But sometimes they were both the same.
“I’m really good with my mouth.”
Before my brain could choose which route I was going to take, the sensitive flesh of my neck was in his mouth and his large, rough hands were securely around my waist, pulling me in so that our hips were right against one another. A throaty groan escaped my lips as he became more intense, hellbent on leaving his mark on me. I felt his tongue swirl and dance on my skin as his hand found their natural place on my butt, giving it a few squeezes now and then. If he can make me go crazy by barely sucking on my neck, just imagine...
“Done,” he whispered before he placed a gentle kiss on the Now tenderest place on my body.
“I know. I’m a miracle worker,” he said, as he took my hand in his own and started leading me toward his bed. “But now I wanna cuddle, and you better cuddle me. Hard.” I rolled my eyes, but obliged, even though I didn’t have much of a choice due to the fact he pulled me down on him as soon as I entered within a foot of the bed. “This thing that we’re doing, I like it. It’s fun. We’re going to keep doing it.” He decided as he made himself comfortable in my arms. I had to admit it felt both good and awkward being the big spoon to someone both physically and somewhat egotistically bigger than you, but I didn’t mind. I simply buried my face in the crock of his neck and inhaled his amazing scent that was also soaked in the sheets that shielded us from the rest of the world.
“Good night, babe,” He sleepily said as he shifted in order to become comfortable, my stomach filling with butterflies at my new nickname.
“Good night, Mads,” I said before I placed a gentle kiss on the base of his neck before I too wandered into the blissful world of sleep. I dreamt of my Madison.