#1 My new mantra
INFO [chapter 1 starts right after the info]
The Sweet Caroline series consists of many books. All books can be read as stand-alones, but they work best as a series. At the start of each book, I always tell my readers which book would be wise to read first to understand the past of the characters.
The series can be split into two separate series: the first generation & the next generation. The next generation is about character that were kids in the books about the first generation.
FIRST GENERATION: 1. Sweet Caroline // 2. Slutty Shaughna // 3. Eager Annabel // 4. Feisty Francesca // 5. Twisted Thomas // 6. Chef Quiroz // 7. Caring Christopher // 8. Officer Tyson // 9. Dreamy Dylan
NEXT GENERATION: 1. Blooming Rose // 2. Jealous Jagger // 3. Needy Nia // 4. Guarded Marcus // 5. Charming Creed // 6. Thompson Twins // 7. Playful Pierre
You can read this as a stand-alone story, but if you’re going to read my other stories as well, you might want to start with “Sweet Caroline”.
We meet Creed for the first time in “Slutty Shaughna” as Dshawn’s 9-year-old brother. Later, we meet him at age 20 in “Needy Nia” as her confident younger brother. Of course, he was a part of “Guarded Marcus” as well, since Marcus is his older brother.
I would recommend reading at the very least “Guarded Marcus” before reading “Charming Creed”, but it’s up to you! I try to write it as a stand-alone, but some stuff might get confusing if you don’t know anything about the other books.
This book is a short story, not a full novel! It won’t be 80 chapters like some of the other books. It's 40 chapters. It’s all from Creed’s perspective. We will see some cross-overs with other characters (especially the Davis family), but not as much as in some of my other books. Creed is off at college, so he’s not around the other characters all the time.
I hope you enjoy the short story! It’s my first time writing about a homosexual relationship. Feel free to point out any mistakes I make or if you feel I’m not doing the subject matter justice!
Being behind the wheel when a drunk driver kills your parents? Fucking sucks. Coming out to them two seconds before they die? Even worse. A sign of the universe that you’re screwing up if there ever was one. Maybe Creed isn’t gay. Maybe he’s just… confused. Girls love him, after all. He’s charming, funny, and knows what he’s doing in the bedroom. Who needs men when you can have a different girl in your bed every night? Enter Zeke, the owner of the gym next door. He doesn’t do closeted gays. He’s out, he’s proud, and he’s not interested in being Creed’s dirty little secret.
#1 My new matra
“And this… is your room.” Devon opens the door on our right and shows me the small bedroom that will be mine this year.
“Sweet,” I reply, dropping my bags on the floor and sitting down on the edge of the bed. Last year, we both lived in the dorms, but his parents didn’t like how much he partied, so they bought him this house, hoping that taking him away from campus would make him focus and party less. I doubt it will help – in fact, I bet Devon will start throwing some epic parties right here in this house, but I’m not complaining. Money is tight, so the fact that his parents charge me way less for off campus rent than I’d be paying if I lived in the dorms again is perfect.
“How are you holding up, by the way?” Devon asks, looking uncomfortable now. We’ve been friends for a year now, ever since we became roommates at the start of our first semester last year, but we’re not the kind of friends who have in-depth conversation about their feelings. In fact, I don’t have any friends I have those kind of talks with. Not now, not ever. Which suits me just fine.
“I’m good.” I keep my tone neutral, hoping he won’t ask anything else.
“How’s…” Devon shrugs, throwing up his hands. “Dude, I don’t know what I’m supposed to ask. How’s your family? I haven’t seen you in months, not since… I mean… you know what I mean!”
I know exactly what he means. He hasn’t seen me since my parents died, which was months ago. Devon and I studied together, partied together, went to classes together… and then I fell off the face of the earth when Mom and Dad died in a car crash, and I broke my arm and punctured a lung. I’m okay now, but they aren’t. They’re in an ice-cold grave.
“My family is alright,” I say, getting up from the bed and opening one of my bags, pulling out my workout gear. “I’m okay, Devon, really. Sorry about not being in touch much. Things were… intense. I had a funeral to plan, a memorial service, siblings to take care of, exams to take… I’m back now, and I’m good. You don’t have to tiptoe around me.”
“Okay,” he sighs, looking relieved. “If you need to talk… I mean, I’m shit at it, but I’m here, you know?”
“Thanks, but what I need is to not talk about it,” I tell him, meaning it. All my siblings wanted to do these past three and a half months since the car crash was talk about things. I’m not a talker. Never have been. Bullshitting, cracking jokes, taking the piss? Sure, I’m up for that. Having a serious conversation about study material? No problem. Discussing my feelings? No thanks.
“What are you doing?” Devon asks, staring at me in shock as I take off my jeans and T-shirt and change into my running gear. “Are you seriously going for a run right now? You’re fresh off the plane, dude! You’ve only been here for five minutes! You didn’t even unpack yet, Creed.”
I shrug. “My limbs are stiff from those tiny little economy seats. I need to stretch them.”
“You’re weird,” Devon tells me, rolling his eyes. “Fine, go for a run. Tonight, we’re getting drunk, though. Our other three roommates aren’t arriving until tomorrow, so we can catch up tonight.”
I know that by catching up he means playing videogames and talking shit about girls. That’s fine by me. As long as I don’t have to talk about the past few months, I’m good. The last thing I want to do is think. Which is exactly why I love to run. I can push myself to my limits, shut off my brain and focus all my attention on my muscles, my lungs, my feet. All I need to do is put one foot in front of the other. Perfect.
I put in my wireless earbuds and turn on my running playlist before I run downstairs and stretch in the small kitchen, taking in the house I’ll be living in this year. It’s small, but tidy, aside from Devon’s dirty socks on the floor. The dude is a slob. I shake my head at the memory of what a mess he made of our shared room last year, grateful I won’t be sharing a bedroom with him anymore.
Although… that also means no more ogling him when he changes. Watching Devon strip down, wrap a towel around his waist and walk out to take a shower in the communal bathroom… Fuck, I’m going to miss that. The dude has no sense of modesty, and a huge dick. I’d usually rub one out while was in the shower, turned on by those few seconds of seeing him naked.
With a grunt, I throw the front door shut behind me and start running down the street. These are exactly the kind of thoughts I need to get out of my fucked-up head. I’m not gay. I can’t be turned on by my male friends, especially since all my friends are male. I’ve never had a female friend in my entire life. I’m not even all that close to my sisters, not like my brother Marcus is. Gay guys are always surrounded by women, they giggle, wear pink and love musicals. I’m not like that. I’m a buff, stoic, beer-drinking caveman.
I. Am. Not. Gay.
Maybe if I repeat it like a mantra, it will eventually start feeling like the truth. I pick up the pace, matching the song blasting through my earbuds, and keep repeating the mantra to myself while I run through the neighborhood, taking in my surroundings so I will be able to find my way back. I run for over an hour, clearing my head completely, feeling a lot better when I get back to the street I now live on. I slow down when I turn the corner and stretch, not wanting to be sore tomorrow. When I’ve cooled down enough, I stroll down the street, taking in all the houses and people around me. It’s a pretty good neighborhood, and this street is full of coffee bars, a bookstore, several houses where students are living off-campus, and… a gym! Sweet, there is a gym right there, only a few houses from my front door.
I walk over, checking out the opening hours. It’s open right now, so I walk in and go right up to the reception desk up front, where a chipper blonde girl in tight leggings and an even tighter shirt is typing furiously, a frown on her pretty face.
“Hi there, beauty,” I say, slipping right into my usual role. Smooth, straight, charming Creed. A role I started playing during high school when I made it onto the football team, and one I never stopped playing ever since. Around my friends, around girls, even around my family sometimes. Some days, I don’t even know where I end and where fake Creed begins. At 22, I’m starting to truly become this person, which is exactly what I’ve wanted all along.
“Hi,” the girl says, looking at me with a bright smile. “You’re new.”
“Yes, I am.” I lean against the counter, flexing my muscles, just for show. “Can I get a tour of this place before I sign up?”
“Sure,” she says, licking her lips. It always amazes me how easy girls are. You flex your muscles, make your voice all smooth and deep, give them the look, and they’re like putty in your hands. I understand girls. I can talk them into my bed with ease. Guys… I’m not good with guys. Not at all. And I don’t need to be. Because I’m not gay.
“I’m Creed,” I tell her, holding out my hand.
“Stella,” she replies, holding onto me for a lot longer than necessary. “Come on, Creed, I’ll show you around.” She walks around the desk and motions for me to follow her.
While I listen to her easy chatter, I take in the gym. It’s not big, but it’s well-maintained, and it’s got all I need. A treadmill, weights in all shapes and sizes, every single piece of equipment I could possibly think of, and a large space in the back where Stella tells me the owner teaches classes every day, from boxing to yoga. I’m not a yoga guy, not even a little bit, but boxing… That sounds promising.
I’m in high spirits until we get back to the desk and she tells me what it will cost me to become a member. I don’t have that kind of money. I’m planning on getting a job anyway, but I’d need more than just one job to pay for this. I’ve got a scholarship, but that only covers most of my tuition. My brother Dshawn is paying the rest of my tuition, my rent and books, and he even promised to wire me a little money each month for food and stuff. I plan to leave that money untouched and pay for groceries by getting a job. I don’t want to be a burden on my family.
“Sorry, but I’m going to need to think about it,” I tell Stella when she asks me for my information so she can sign me up. “I’m checking out another gym tomorrow.”
“Oh,” she says, shrugging. “Okay. Too bad. I was looking forward to seeing you around.”
See? I told you. Girls are easy.
“I live on this street, so I’m sure we’ll see more of each other, Stella.” I throw her a wink before walking out. Always leave them wanting more. Works like a charm.
Not that I give a fuck about Stella, of course, but who knows? I’m a 22-year-old guy. I have needs. If I get horny, it’s always good knowing I’ve got an easy lay waiting for me right down the street.
I clutch the steering wheel, focusing on the road even though my mind is elsewhere.
“Are you alright, honey?” Mom asks from the passenger seat. “You seem… tense?”
“Fine,” I lie, trying not to think about what I’m planning on doing today. I’m so not ready for this, but I need to do it. I’m flying back to uni tonight anyway, so today is as good a day as any to tell them. At least I will only have to face their shock and disappointed for a few hours, and then I’ll be off again.
“Hmm,” Mom groans, not buying my lie for even a second.
I pull up in front of the mall where my Dad works as a security guard, waiting for him to get off work in a few minutes. Mom and I just did the grocery shopping for dinner tonight – she always ropes me into helping her with arrands when I’m home for the weekend. She knows I’m never able to say no to her.
“Creed, you’re getting on my nerves,” Mom complains, putting her hand over mine when I keep tapping my thigh.
I yank back my hand. I’m not big on touching, not even by my own family. I’ve never been a touchy-feely guy. Mom rolls her eyes and puts her hand on my thigh again, squeezing. She’s never accepted that I don’t like it when she does that. I kind of like that she hugs me even though I don’t want her to. It’s how she shows me she loves me. I just hope and pray she’ll still love me in a few minutes, when I finally tell her what’s been eating away at me for years now.
“Hey!” Dad hops into the car, settling into the back of my jeep. “Thanks for picking me up.”
“Sure thing, handsome,” Mom replies, leaning over the center console and turning her body so she can give him a kiss.
“I’m the one driving, so technically he was thanking me, not you,” I tease my mother.
She rolls her eyes, and Dad laughs, slapping me on the shoulder. “Good to have you home for the weekend, kid. What did you guys pick up for dinner?”
“Steaks, your favorite,” Mom says in a sweet tone. “You’ve been working so hard, baby. You deserve a treat.”
I pull into the street and tune out their lovey-dovey conversation. Okay. I should tell them. Now. If I don’t do it in the car, I’ll have to do it at home, with Aliyah and Pierre around. That’s too much pressure. Way too much. And I will chicken out, go back to uni without coming out to them, and I will hate myself again. I’ve chickened out so many times before, but I’m determined to tell them today.
“I need to tell you guys something,” I choke out, my eyes still firmly on the road.
Mom stops in the middle of her sentence, and I can feel her eyes on me. “Okay…”
Fuck. Now I need to say it.
“I erm…” Deep breath. “Okay, I’m…”
No, I can’t do it. I just can’t. What if they don’t believe me? What if they hate me? What if they are disappointed?
“Oh boy, is it something big?” Mom asks, sounding curious. “You’ve been so quiet all day, Creed. Just spit it out.”
I slow down as we get to the intersection. The light is green, but I still look both ways, just in case.
Okay. Time to spit it out.
“I’m gay,” I manage to get out to my own surprise.
Mom makes a strange noise. “Creed, you don’t seriously-
That car to my right is driving way too fast, isn’t it? Isn’t the light red? Why the fuck is he coming at us at top speed? In a reflex, I hit the breaks and serve away from the oncoming traffic, but it’s too late. Before Mom can even finish her sentence, the car barrels into us, my body is thrown forward, blinding pain shoots through me, and then…
Everything goes black.
I wake up gasping for air, my entire body shivering. It’s like I’m reliving their death all over again. I get out of bed, sweat making my shorts stick to my body. All I can do right now is take a cold shower and hope that when I get back to sleep, I won’t have another nightmare.
Only it’s not even truly a nightmare, it’s just a memory. The worst goddamn memory of my life.
“Creed?” Devon calls out from his room when I walk by. Apparently, he’s still awake. “Is that you?”
“Who else, dipshit?” I ask, pushing open the door to his bedroom.
“You look like shit, dude.” He’s sitting at his desk, the movie he was watching paused on his laptop. “Why are you sweating like a pig?”
“It’s hot in my room,” I lie. “Your parents skimped on air-conditioning, didn’t they?”
He laughs loudly. “Dude, your living here for half the rent the other three are paying, remember? I even gave you the biggest room with the queen-sized bed so you can have lady friends stay the night if you feel like it. I don’t think you have any reason to complain.”
“Lady friends?” I repeat, rolling my eyes. “What are you? 80?”
“What would you prefer me to call those girls you always bring back to your room?” he asks, grinning. “Sluts? Tramps? Floozies?”
“Just girls,” I reply. “I’m gonna take a shower.”
“At 3 am?” He looks at me strangely. “Are you okay?”
“Just hot,” I lie, the dream still fresh on my mind, making it hard for me to have this stupid conversation with him, pretending to be fine. “Enjoy your movie.”
I shut his door behind me and rush to the bathroom, turn on the faucet and step underneath the ice-cold water. I curse when my entire body freezes up, but I stay under it until I start feeling like myself again.
It’s just a memory. No use dwelling on it.
I came out to my parents. They died. I lived. End of story.
Now, I’m back at the university, starting classes in two days. Mom and Dad were so proud that I got in, that I was going to keep studying after two years of community college. I need to smash this year. For them.
It doesn’t matter that I told them I’m gay. I don’t want to be, and the universe made it pretty clear that I’m not supposed to be, so I’m not.
I’m not gay.
If I keep repeating it, surely it will eventually become the truth.
I’m. Not. Gay.