Fool Me Twice
“Alright, now do it again.” Skylar instructed Declan, as he lay face down on the mat. The straddle arabian mount evaded him, once again.
“I can’t fucking do this. It’s not working. I can’t. You get up there and do it…” Declan trailed off on another of his rambles.
“So, you’re giving up?” Skylar interrupted the tirade.
“Yes, I’m giving up. I can’t. It’s physically impossible, Sky.”
“Alright, give up; that’s fine by me. You’ve worked your ass off to get to this point, to lose all that weight, to make the team, and you’re telling me that you’re going to give up on this one skill? Fine. I thought you were better than that, but I guess I’m wrong. Guess you’re just average.” Skylar spat.
Those words stung him like daggers. He wasn’t average, he had worked hard to lose the weight, he had put his body through hell and back. He could do it; he knew he could.
“I am. I’m a great gymnast, but you can’t expect me to go up there and do something physically impossible.”
“You’re right. I just… I figured you were different.” Skylar walked away.
“FINE.” Declan exclaimed, slamming his fists into the mat. Chalk sprung up around him. Skylar watched him intently as he stood up from the mat, walked over to the chalk bucket and rechalked.
“Declan, you’re over thinking it far too much, man.”
“I’m not over thinking shit.” Declan barked back as he squeezed some honey onto his hands.
“Look, you can either do it wrong and risk hurting yourself, or you can listen to me and get this mount down.” Skylar retorted sternly.
Declan sneered, and scratched his head. Skylar shrugged and walked off. This mount would kill him, but he needed to get it down. It had to happen.
“Fine. FINE. We’ll do it your fucking way.” Declan snapped back at him.
He tightened his grips, fixed the springboard, and walked to the starting point.
“Okay,” Skylar began, “Close your eyes. Imagine being in the arena at Nationals. The cameras. The crowd’s energy. The announcers. The energy of the competition. Do you feel it?”
The gymnasium filled with the thunderous roar only a crowd of thousands of spectators could replicate. Above him, the arena lights radiated their uncanny glare. Cameras were everywhere he looked. He could feel the competitive atmosphere blossom around him with its fiery splendor.
“Yes. I can feel it.” He nodded.
Declan followed his instructions.
“Open your eyes. Visualize that mount. You can do this. You’ve got this. I know you do. It’s up to you to believe that.”
Declan prepared himself, but before he had much time to think about the motions, his body took control over his actions. He ran, rounded off onto the springboard and into the air.
“NOW!” Skylar shouted.
Declan’s airborne body did a half twist as he flipped his legs over in straddle. He extended his arms, and reached out with his fingertips, barely catching the bar. He hung there, in disbelief, for a couple seconds.
“FUCK YOU! THERE. I DID IT!” He shouted as he landed on the ground.
“See! I told you that you could do it! Come here!” Skylar said as he ran over to Declan. They embraced, and Skylar looked down at him.
“What?” Declan asked.
“Don’t hate me.” Skylar said softly. He raised Declan’s face, by the chin, and softly planted a kiss on his lips. The moment their lips met, his entire being quivered.
His kiss was electric, it made Gable’s kisses feel like nothing. His body boiled with unparalleled ardor. He kissed back, until his phone began to ring in his bag, disrupting their moment.
“Don’t answer that. Fuck him.” Skylar pleaded.
“Sorry. I have to. I’m late for our date.”
“Ah, yes… The ‘famous’ Mr. Cask… Or should I say infamous.” Skylar snarled, as he let go of Declan.
“I don’t judge you for your horrible twisting form on the quad you’ve been training, so don’t judge me for my taste in men.”
“Alright, I won’t,” Skylar retorted, “But does that mean I can judge the boy you’re dating?”
“Gable is as much of a man as anyone. Including you.” Declan snapped.
“A real man wouldn’t deny the person they love in public,” he furrowed his brow, “Declan, the boy won’t even admit to dating you. Why do you do that to yourself?” Skylar asked.
“Because, he.. He… Look, you wouldn’t understand. Why can’t you just… Let it be?”
“Damn it, Declan. What the hell do you even see in him?” Skylar inquired.
“Skylar, don’t start. It’s just hard, okay?”
“No, tell me. I want to know what exactly it is that makes him so much better than me.”
Declan looked deep into his blue eyes, but he couldn’t bring himself to give him an answer. Truth be told, he didn’t even know the answer to this conundrum. Before he could say anything, his phone rang again. He mouthed the words “I’m sorry” as he answered, and began talking to Gable.
Skylar watched him walk out of the gymnasium. He couldn’t bring himself to accept that Declan would never be his. Gable had taken his heart, and there was nothing he could do about it.
He snapped. Nothing was safe in the path of his rage. He threw chalk stands, mats… Everything.
“FUCK,” he slammed his fists against a mat, once his rage subsided. Powerless, he slumped to the floor and wept his life away.
Declan arrived to Crest just in time for the football game. It warmed his heart knowing that even though he was homeschooled, he was still allowed to perform his old managerial duties down on the football field.
Although, Crest ended up losing the game, plans were to meet at the old department store parking lot, and then to take off towards Weston Highland’s house out in the middle of nowhere, to party…. Win or loose, they still boozed.
Without thinking twice, Declan invited Gable and suggested he bring whomever he wanted. Gable obliged and within the hour, both he and Robert joined the rest of them at the parking lot.
“Hey!” Declan smiled as Gable got out of Robert’s truck. He smiled back at Declan and gave him a huge hug. Like all the others, it was mesmerizing. Those hugs felt nothing short of amazing.
“What’s up, kiddo?” He smirked. God, that smirk.
“Nothing, just waiting for the word to head out. Well, that, and listening to the game. Tech is up by two against UT, in the third quarter. Second down. UT has the ball.”
“Look at you!” Gable smiled, “Who taught you all that football knowledge?”
“Oh, some guy.” Declan bit his tongue playfully.
Robert stood beside them, awkwardly.
“Oh, hey, Robert.” Declan nodded towards him.
Robert, having never been a fan of Declan, ignored his pleasantry and turned toward Gable.
“Yeah, where is this party at.”
“The party starts at 10. I did get beer though,” Declan smiled, and produced a thirty pack from his car.
“Are you fucking kidding me? Why do all the parties in this fucking town start so fucking late?” Robert exclaimed and grabbed a beer out of the carton.
“Well, we had a game, and it was homecoming...” Declan was cut off.
“Hey!” A voice chimed behind them. Declan’s skin crawled, the timbre was eerily familiar.
“Hey, Steffy." Gable replied sullenly.
Steffy was an interesting person, Gable and she had hooked up before, thanks to Declan, but he didn’t particularly like her being around him. It seemed no matter what, she always had to hook up with the guys Declan was with. She’d done so with Joseph, and, something told him, she was going to try to get with Gable, that night.
An hour passed by swiftly, and finally they were en route to Weston’s house, however, Steffy’s persistence landed her in between Gable and Declan, in Robert’s truck, while Robert drove Declan’s car to the house. He could see her grasping Gable’s hand and frothing her thumb up and down it.
Gable could see the anger growing in Declan’s eyes through the rearview mirror, but knew he couldn’t do anything about it, lest he elicit any unwarranted questions or even worse… Outing himself. Jilted, Declan transfixed his gaze on the road for the remainder of the drive.
Once there, Declan walked towards the small group of people outside of the house. Behind him, he could hear Steffy’s jarring timbre calling his name, but he dare not acknowledge her presence any longer.
“Declan,” Steffy called. Again, his jaw tensed, but he obliged, and turned, choosing to remain civil.
“Yes?” He inquired. She neared him, in an attempt to keep their conversation far from Gable’s ears.
“Look, my boyfriend is in Ruidoso with some other girl. It’s our one year anniversary, and I don’t know how to feel,” She confessed, “We’ve been fighting, and I just don’t see it lasting any longer. I hate it so bad… It makes me feel like shit.”
Declan furrowed his brow and shrugged, “Well, I’m sorry,” he responded, “I don’t know exactly what you want me to do about it.”
“I want Gable.” She declared. If he looked irritated before, now he was pissed.
“Are you kidding me,” He shook his head, and searched her face, “things don’t just work like that, Steffy.”
“Well, it’s not up to you.” She smirked deviously, and walked off.
Declan’s blood boiled. She wouldn’t… She couldn’t… Would she? His mind raced a billion miles per hour. If she made any sort of move, he wouldn’t know what to do. He didn’t want to lose control and do something he might end up regretting.
“What a bitch,” Karen shook her head, “I would’ve cunt punted that asshat… You know, had I been there.”
Declan smirked, “Thanks, that means a lot.”
“Karen,” Toby, whom was sitting next to her on the bench she was sprawled on, “I think you would beat anyone up, given the chance.”
“As true as that may be,” Karen shot him a look, “This is about Declan.”
He hated rehashing this particular memory. It was the first time he saw Gable’s true colors. It was clear he was using him, but he didn’t want to believe it. He tacked it on to his pride and inability to be truthful about who he was. He should’ve known better than to invite him to a party full of his peers.
“What happened next? Did he respect your feelings, or did he penetrate that… Lovely example of a human being.” She joked.
“Oh, my feelings were the least of his worries that night. Hell, he ended up selling the beer I bought him to this kid from my school. It was… Heart wrenching. I’d never cried that hard before.”
“Because of the beer?” Toby chuckled.
“No… Because of what he did.”
Declan returned from outside to the worst sight he could’ve imagined; Gable and Steffy were locked in an ardent tonsil hockey session. His stomach sank to depths of hell.
It was the same feeling he’d experienced the first time he saw them make out so long ago. His heart overcame his iron wall, and the tears began to propel down his face. Gable looked past Steffy to see Declan staring daggers at him, and then walk out the door, slamming it behind him.
Declan walked away, aimlessly into the night, weeping and dry heaving. He finally leaned up against Robert’s truck and began to cry harder than he’d ever cried in his life. This hurt worse than any rip, or mat burn. Far worse than any bad landing he’d had.
It was as if he’d broken every bone in his body, in addition to his heart.
A girl walked outside, and spotted him crying. She ran over to the truck and placed her hand on his shoulder. He looked up to realize it was one of his best friend’s sister.
“Declan,” she knelt before him, “Are you okay? What’s wrong?” She embraced him.
He buried his face into her bosom, and wept. She patted his head in order to calm him down, but he continued to bawl furiously.
After what seemed an eternity, he finally composed himself. He hadn’t even drank anything, there was no reason for him to be this melodramatic.
“Why would she do this?” He asked her, after a brief moment of silence.
“Who? What happened?” She inquired.
“Steffy, Allie,” He began, “She’s in there making out with Gable.”
Allie’s jaw dropped, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Declan shook his head and began to weep again, though not as violently as before.
“Declan, you can’t let her get to you, and he’s not innocent either. That’s not fair to you. He’s an asshole, and she’s a fucking slut. He means nothing to her.” Allie reassured him.
“She always does this,” he sniffed, “She did this with Joseph, and now she’s going to do this with Gable.”
She rubbed his back in comfort, “And she’ll do it with any other guy her shitty self wants. She probably wants to be you. You lost all this weight, and she’s getting fatter every day. You look great, you are great, and if he can’t see that, then he doesn’t deserve you.”
He looked into her hazel eyes, and pulled her into another tight embrace. They sat there for about an hour, her ombre hair dancing in the chilly fall breeze.
The pinnacle of Declan’s melancholic stupor had caused him to forget he was holding Gable and Robert’s jackets. He wanted to feel like the responsible one, and to show Gable he could take care of him. He realized how incredibly stupid he felt, as he stood there with their jackets in his arms.
Suddenly, he heard people coming towards them. They both turned to see Gable, Steffy, one of Declan’s old peers, Martin, and another of his girl friends, Tracie.
Gable failed to acknowledge Declan’s presence, reached into Robert’s truck, produced the rest of the beer he’d bought him, and sold it to Martin.
“Here ya go, Martin,” Gable handed Martin the beer.
“Cool, cool, man. Here’s $20.” Martin nodded at Declan, “What’s up, bro? You look like shit. You drunk?”
Declan shook his head, and walked away, back toward the house.
“Declan,” he heard Gable’s voice call his name. He turned to see Steffy clinging onto him.
“What do you want from him?” Steffy probed, “Come back inside, with me.” She tugged at his arm.
Declan clenched his jaw and crossed his arms. He glared daggers at her, and she stared right back at him. She knew exactly what she was doing.
“Just… Give me a few minutes, alright?” Gable shook her off. She didn’t receive that well and walked away, in a huff. Allie and Tracie chuckled, as she passed by.
Gable looked towards them and nodded as if asking them to give them some privacy. Without exchanging a word, they obliged and walked back into the house.
“Declan…” Gable began.
“What? What do you want?” He shook his head.
“You can’t be mad at me,” Gable urged him.
“Why the fuck not?” Declan exclaimed, “I have every right to be mad at you. Do you know how dumb I look right now? Do you realize how shitty watching you kiss her feels? You don’t. You don’t understand how much it pains me to see you be all over her, yet I can only kiss you when it’s convenient to YOU.”
“Keep your voice down, please,” Gable begged, “What you don’t understand is how much you mean to me. I love you.” His eyes watered.
Declan looked past him, “I don’t believe that. At all.” He shook his head furiously.
“Well, you’re just going to have to trust me. You mean the world to me, and, some day I’m going to make this all up to you. I swear. You have to trust me. Steffy? She means nothing to me. This is just a kiss. She’s just another girl to me, but… You… You… Look, I’m not as good with words as you are, and they might not seem like much, but… No one has ever done as much for me as you have. No one has ever cared about my family as much as you do. I love you. I swear I do,” tears flowed down his countenance.
Declan looked deep into his jade orbs. He had no option but to believe him. Gable wiped the tears away, and motioned for him to embrace him, but they were interrupted by Steffy’s shrill voice.
“Gable, let’s go back in.” She called. She surveyed Declan up and down and gave him a smug grin.
Gable mouthed the words, “I’m sorry,” and walked back to the party.
Declan shook his head, and walked back inside behind them. He hated being there. He wanted to leave.
Suddenly, he realized that, in the midst of all the emotional turmoil, he’d neglected his phone, and fished it out of his pocket. It was vibrating furiously.
His mother’s name flashed on the screen. He walked out of the house, and a bit down the road, lest she found out he was at a party.
“Bueno?” He answered.
“Hasta que contestas, cabrón, dónde andas?” She asked.
“About time you answered, asshole, where are you?”
“Ando con unos amigos, perdón.” He apologized.
“I’m with a couple friends, sorry.”
“Bueno, ya regrésate.” She demanded.
“Alright, come home.”
“Pero… Que no cambió la hora?” He inquired, it was true, he’d completely forgotten about the time change. It gave them an extra hour to party… No wonder the party was still going on within the confines of the small house.
“But… Didn’t the time change?”
“Mmmmm… Si, bueno… En una hora, te quiero aquí.” She instructed.
“Mmmmm… Yeah, alright… I want you home, in an hour.”
“Okay, al rato te veo.” He hung up.
“Okay, I’ll see you in a while.”
As he walked back towards the party, he noticed Robert’s truck was gone. His heart began to pound. Did they leave him? Did Gable leave with Steffy? He scanned around for Robert’s truck, and realized that he’d let Robert drive his car here… It had completely slipped his mind. He let out a sigh of relief, and walked into the house.
He spotted Gable wobbling around trying to find his jacket. Steffy was clutching onto his arm for dear life. He was visibly drunk and in no condition to be in public. Declan walked over to him, and handed him his jacket.
“Oh, thanks,” He looked at him sheepishly, “Have you seen Robert?” His eyes were glazed over. Probably cross-faded, as confirmed by the red tinge his eyes had.
“No, his truck isn’t here, either.” He responded.
“He left with Tracie, remember?” Steffy nuzzled Gable, causing Declan’s jaw to tense up all over again. Seriously, she was going to cause him lock jaw by the end of the night, if she didn’t stop.
Gable stammered towards the door, and stepped outside, Declan followed him and slammed the door on Steffy’s face.
“I gotta call Robert,” Gable attempted to dial his number, “Robert... Robert…. I gotta call him...” He mumbled.
He monitored him, in case he fell and hurt himself. He watched him walk around in a drunken stupor, but before Gable could even reach Robert, Steffy walked out of the house. Gable dropped his phone, and fell over trying to pick it up. Steffy took advantage of the situation, and laid down beside him.
Gable was so done, Declan could’ve stuck a fork in him. He was drunk beyond belief, and Declan couldn’t help but feel guilty. He brought him here. He should’ve known this could’ve happened from the beginning. He probably got drunk in order to deal with the situation. He knew how hard this was for Gable, yet he pushed and pushed and pushed.
“Robert…” He mumbled.
“Shhh, just look at the stars with me,” Steffy urged while placing his arm around her.
The moment their eye sights crossed paths, she attempted to climb on top of him. That was it. Declan had reached his threshold.
“Get the FUCK off of him,” He grabbed her arm, and pulled her off of him and onto her feet, in one smooth motion. She, too, was far too drunk to realize what was happening.
He grabbed Gable’s arm, and jerked him onto his feet as well. Steffy, being relentless as she was, continued her campaign to get into his pants.
“Seriously, Steffy,” he grabbed her arm.
“Seriously, Declan?” She glared deep into his eyes, “He’s not fucking gay. Leave us alone.”
“Steffy,” He grabbed both of her shoulders, “If you don’t quit your shit, I will fucking knock you out,” he searched her face, “I don’t give a fuck who you think you are. I’m done with you, and your bullshit.” He shook her violently, hoping she’d get the picture.
She looked at him, in shock, mouth agape and briskly walked back into the house.
Gable wavered, but before he could fall, he grabbed him, and threw him over his shoulder. Two hundred pounds of muscle was not the easiest thing to carry around, but he did it out of pure determination. He opened his car, poured him into the passenger seat, and slammed the door.
As he walked towards the drivers side, he heard a huge outburst from the house, it was as if the entire party was filing out to witness some sort of… Fight.
“There’s that faggot!” One person shouted… They looked like torch wielding villagers... All of them, drunk. His stomach sunk deep into his feet, as he climbed into the driver’s side of his car. He started the car, and began to back up, but it was too late, one of them jumped onto his car and began kicking it.
He put his car into drive, and gunned it. The guy fell off his car and began chasing after it. Naturally, he was no where near fast enough to catch up to Declan, but it still rattled him. Why did they chase after him? What had transpired for them to take that sort of mob mentality? He was confused, and rattled, but at least they’d gotten them out of there in time.
With his breath finally settled, he entered the Crest city limits. It wasn’t until he turned to Gable that he realized he was convulsing. The color from his face vanished. He panicked.
“Are you okay?” He exclaimed.
“Car… I’m… Too… Car… Radio…. Can’t…” He muttered, in between convulsions.
Declan pulled over onto the side of the road and went into emergency mode. He produced a soft drink from behind Gable’s seat, and forced him to drink it, “Gable, just sip on it. Please, I need you to sip on the drink.”
Gable finally obliged, and began to drink from the can.
“This… This isn’t beer…” Gable slurred, “This isn’t beer.”
“I know it isn’t beer, but you’ve got to drink it. Drink it for me, okay?” He coaxed.
“Where’s Robert? ROBERT!?” He shouted, “Where… ROBERT?!”
Declan furiously dialed Robert’s number and continued to the trip back to Crest. Finally, he answered, after a few tries.
“Where are you?” Declan asked him, “I have Gable with me… He’s too far gone.”
“I’ll meet you at the parking lot.” He hung up before Declan could agree.
A few minutes later, he was helping Gable into Robert’s truck. After he’d made sure he was safe inside, he walked over to Robert’s side and motioned for him to lower his window.
“What.” Robert snarled.
“Look,” Declan began, “I know you don’t like me…”
“That’s an understatement,” Robert interrupted.
“Yeah… Well, I know you don’t like me, but… Please. Be safe. Both of you matter to me, and I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
Robert’s gaze remained transfixed straight ahead.
Finally, he closed his eyes, shrugged, and nod his head in agreement, “I will. Don’t worry.”
Declan backed away, and watched them drive off into the splendor of the West Texan night.
“Wow… That was… Epic.” Karen placed her elbows on the table, and crossed her fingers, “What happened then?”
“He didn’t answer a single one of my calls or texts until late that afternoon.” Declan recalled, “And, of course, I found out Steffy had accused me of punching her in the face, which is why I was almost lynched.”
“Ugh, she sounds absolutely insufferable… Hell, I told you, I would’ve cunt punted her.” She rest her head on her hand.
Declan would’ve too, had he been void of any common sense. Even to this day, that memory caused his stomach to turn. He hated the fact that he had let so many people get under his skin so easily. Regardless, it was now a part of the old him, the person he’d exorcised himself of.
Being here had taught him how to accept responsibility for his actions, and having described the events of that night, he realized how far he had pushed Gable… Further than he should’ve. He should have respected his limits… He should’ve been more understanding, but that was then, and this was now.