An incessant buzzing brings me from my sleep. I groan, throwing a hand over my eyes to block out the harsh sunlight as I blindly search for my phone somewhere within my sheets. Whoever’s calling me this early in the morning better have a good excuse, because my dream self was eating a massive New York-style pizza. Before you ask, I don’t know how early it is since I still haven’t found my phone, but if I’m feeling this awful and I can hear birds singing, then you know it’s too early.
My phone falls silent, and I let myself believe that this means I can rest. Nope – not a second later and it starts up again. I finally pry open my eyes, squinting against the sunlight and trying to shake the grogginess out of my system. If they’re this insistent, it must be something serious.
I spot it teetering on the edge of my bed, one false move away from plummeting onto my carpeted floor. I grab it and check the screen.
Kiki wants to FaceTime.
I click accept as soon as I see the name. Kiki is what I call Kieran, my best friend since we started high school. We met as freshmen on our school’s soccer team, and I knew from the moment he opened his mouth that we’d get along. He’s this tiny half-Japanese kid with fluffy brown hair and more energy than a chihuahua with a chew toy. He’s barely grown since, but that just adds to his whole cute schtick – though it’s not as endearing as his smile. Kieran is always smiling, usually accompanied with a big, bubbly laugh that I would personally call a giggle.
Right now, however, I don’t see any of that. His screen is black, and it takes me a moment to realise it’s because his room is dark and my brightness is low. I quickly turn it up so I can see him – eyebags and all. I don’t think much of it – Kieran is a night owl. He stays up to ungodly hours in the morning yet still manages to be so energetic… usually.
“Come over,” is the first thing he says. His tone is flat; voice quiet. The words are barely a whisper. I can tell something’s off, but I don’t want to question him. Those two words really only mean one thing – and I don’t want to look a gift-horse in the mouth.
“What happened to Cordelia?” I comment absentmindedly as I pull on a shirt, not caring which since I knew it was coming off as soon as I got to his. It had been a while since we last did this – Kieran had called our… thing… off when he started seeing that girl.
That was about two months ago. I still remember when he told me about her – all bright-eyed and completely head-over-heels. I personally don’t like Cordelia, but I kept my thoughts to myself at the time. She’s one of those girls that wouldn’t hesitate to stomp on others to get what she wants. From what I understand, she’s been treated like a princess since birth because she’s an only child. I’m telling you – manicured everything. I think she’d rather die than wear a shirt twice – not that she’d be caught dead in a regular t-shirt, mind you.
He’s silent for a moment, which makes me look at the screen. He’s shifted slightly so that some light hits his face. It’s not enough to make out many details, but the bags under his eyes are darker than I thought. His eyes are red too – the sort of puffy, wet, heartbroken red that comes from a night of crying. Worry strikes me, digging its claws into me.
I grab my phone and pull it closer. The video is grainy and pixelated, but the more I see of Kieran, the more wrecked he looks. My chest aches at the sight – he’s my best friend. If something’s wrong with him, then something’s wrong with me.
“She cheated,” he manages to croak out, “twice.”
His confession makes me want to throttle her. Who the hell does she think she is? I knew she was a conniving bitch, but from how doe-eyed she acted around Kieran, I didn’t think she’d do something like this! I hate cheaters regardless, but anybody who doesn’t understand that Kiki’s the best thing to happen to them doesn’t deserve his time, let alone his love. And the fact that she went and did that- I’ve never hated someone more. She’s a god-damn snake.
I should’ve warned him from the get-go. I would’ve, but he seemed so sure and so happy. I didn’t want to take that away from him, but if I had known… I feel the anger rise again, but I push it down and grab my keys. “Be there soon, okay?”
I knock lightly on Kieran’s bedroom door, not wanting to wake him if he fell asleep while waiting. I hear his bed creak, his tiny footsteps walking over to let me in. As soon as he does, I barge into his room and wrap my arms around him, engulfing him and rocking him back and forth. He clings to me, hiding his face in my shirt while I rub his back.
“Screw her,” I murmur. “You don’t need her in your life.”
Kieran nods minutely, then pulls back and starts walking over to his bed. I follow, pulling my shirt over my head and not saying another word, trying not to acknowledge the unsaid “All I need is you.”
It’s a mutually understood thing.
A few hours later, I’m rudely awoken again. This time, it’s to Alex shaking me gently. Once I see it’s him though, I shut my eyes and resume cuddling the sound-asleep Kieran.
“Mateo, c’mon,” he says, a hint of urgency in his voice. I glare at him, only for him to glance at the doorway.
I follow his gaze to see Rob awkwardly standing in the doorway, holding several bags of chips and trying not to look at the dark bruises down Kieran’s chest and neck. I sigh and gently untangle Kieran’s arms from around me.
“You heard what happened, huh?” I say as I stand up and walk over to Kiki’s dresser. I have a drawer of my own clothes here since I stay over so often, and it doesn’t take me long to find a hoodie for both me and Kieran. I chuck one to him, who’s now sitting up in bed and rubbing his eyes. He thanks me and starts putting it on, blatantly ignoring the bewildered look Rob gives him much like I have been.
I met Rob and Alex the same time and the same way as Kieran. Unlike him, however, it took a little while for our friendship to form. If anything, it was probably Kieran’s insistence that we all become friends that forced us together – though I wouldn’t have it any other way. Those two have become my closest friends.
Alex is the level-headed one out of the two. He’s always telling me that I’m an idiot, mostly because I am, and then he follows it up with good advice. To most people, though, he seems more like a free-spirit because of his dimples and killer grin. The amount of times I’ve had a girl come up to me just to ask if my “super muscular Latino friend” is single is honestly astounding. I don’t know how he isn’t taken – lord knows there’s a line a mile long of girls waiting for their chance.
I guess that would make Rob the funny friend. He’s lanky and awkward, with a mop of curls that look like permanent bedhead. His eyes bulge out of his head, overshadowed by a somewhat bumpy nose – part due to his Jewish side and partly due to him breaking it as a kid. He’s definitely not a ladies’ man, but he’s got a lot of platonic girl friends. Rob’s a little slow on the uptake, but he’s always there to back you up even if he doesn’t understand what’s going – much like right now. Instead of pestering us with questions, he shrugs and dumps the snacks on Kieran’s bed, then starts retelling some story that has him in a laughing fit. I’m sure Alex will explain the whole friends-with-benefits thing to him later, so I don’t bother.
I sit back beside Kieran right as Rob makes a joke about Lana – my current girlfriend of one week and the fifth member of our friendgroup.
I don’t feel guilty for a second. Lana and I had been childhood friends beforehand, so she’s well-aware of the Kieran-deal, and she doesn’t mind. Plus, things had been off with her since they started, and I’m thinking about ending it. It wasn’t anything she had done – my feelings for her had just faded. It was the same with most girls, though I try not to think about it. I’d find them attractive, start talking to them, but it’s like I’d hit a wall. I can’t feel anything more for them. I’m not sure if I have ever truly loved a girl, honestly. There’s something wrong with me, but now isn’t the time to psychoanalyse myself.
Still, I shove Rob for the joke, tackling him to the floor. We wrestle until Alex pries me off him.
“Save the gay stuff for Kieran,” he tells me, which shuts me up immediately. Rob laughs at the look on my face, then moves to sit beside the boy in question.
Kieran’s not even paying attention – he’s just scrolling on his phone. Rob peers over and starts whispering to him, which piques my curiosity. For some reason, I can’t shake the need to know what’s going on, and I frown as this hot feeling rises in my chest.
“What are you talking about?” I ask as I make my way over, not waiting for a reply as I scooch Kieran over so I can squeeze between him and Rob. I throw my arm around his shoulders instinctively, then take a look at his phone. It’s just some meme on Instagram.
“Talking about how gay you are,” he retorts. I roll my eyes and lean in to kiss his cheek as a joke, knowing he’ll pull back.
He always does that, but he gets all red. It’s adorable. I can’t get enough of it.
“I’m not gay,” I tell him, knowing damn well it won’t stop the jokes, “I’m homiesexual. That means I fuck my friends platonically.”
Kieran’s reaction sends me into a laughing fit. His head whips to me, and his eyes get all wide before he ducks his head into my shoulder and laughs too. Like I said, adorable.
Alex and Rob give me a look of disbelief, but I don’t care. I’ve long since accepted the fact that people will always think what they want, so why not make a joke out of it? Besides, it’s not like I’m actually gay. I still find girls pretty enough, so even if what I had with Kieran meant anything, it’d be a fluke.
However, he and I don’t mean anything, so for all intents and purposes, I’m straight. He’s just a friend, and if we help each other out from time to time, so be it. We both know our feelings for each other are strictly platonic — no need to make a fuss over it.
KIERAN“Are you an idiot?” I yell into the microphone on my headset for the billionth time. Rob had just gotten himself blown up by a creeper, leaving me alone in the mineshaft we had slowly been making our way through. We’ve been playing Minecraft together for the past few hours, and this kid doesn’t know anything! I’m honestly losing my mind, but there isn’t anything else to do. All my other friends are asleep. I can’t blame them, with it being 4a.m. and all. Honestly, I think Rob’s only stayed up this late because he feels sorry for me.Usually, I’d be on a call with Cordelia, but obviously, that ship has sailed. That’s probably why he’s put up with me yelling a
KIERANI should’ve told him.There’s a particular type of heartbreak that comes along when your crush tries to set you up. It’s that innocent kind of misunderstanding that hurts all the more. It hurts because it’s a confirmation of what you already knew – that you are not and were never an option.“So,” Mateo says, grinning like he hasn’t reached his hands into my chest, ripped out my heart, punctured it with his talons, torn it into two jagged halves, pierced it with a sewing needle to thread it back up, and shoved it back in between my lungs back-to-front, “she’s pretty cute,
MATEO“So.”“So,” Lana, Rob and Alex echo.“So?” Kieran replies, shrugging at us through the screen.The five of us are FaceTiming now that Kieran’s back from his date. He had been M.I.A ever since school let out for the day and hadn’t once texted to let us know how it was going. I had figured that it meant it was going really well and so I expected him to be ecstatic, but he looks only mildly happy. MATEOI’m high out of my mind. It’s a good kind – borderline euphoric where everything seems funny and unimportant now. A distant concern. I take another hit, leaning against the wall and staring up at the ceiling from my place on the floor. I barely react when my door swings open, hardly registering the boy tiptoeing down my stairs at midnight.“You could knock, you know,” is all I say as Kieran stares at me. Or maybe I just think it. I don’t know, nor do I care. Kieran looks at me with those furrowed eyebrows of his as he walks over. It seems like he’s moving throu
FWB STOLEN DANCE
MATEOI’m high out of my mind. It’s a good kind – borderline euphoric where everything seems funny and unimportant now. A distant concern. I take another hit, leaning against the wall and staring up at the ceiling from my place on the floor. I barely react when my door swings open, hardly registering the boy tiptoeing down my stairs at midnight.“You could knock, you know,” is all I say as Kieran stares at me. Or maybe I just think it. I don’t know, nor do I care. Kieran looks at me with those furrowed eyebrows of his as he walks over. It seems like he’s moving throu
KIERANI try to catch Mateo’s eye, but either the school-provided food is really interesting, or he’s ignoring me. Our friends give us a wide berth, shuffled to the end of the table, loudly talking as if to fill the void of mine and Mateo’s voices. Even Lana, who’s usually hanging off of Mateo like a bat, sits far away with pursed lips. I briefly wonder if Mateo told her what’s wrong before my conscious reminds me that it’s none of my business. I feel guilty for being jealous of her – especially since I’m the one having sex her boyfriend. She’s been nothing but kind to me, and she’s always looking out for me. When Cordelia
MATEOI can’t look at him. I can’t.Every time I do, I get the urge to pull him in and never let go. This feeling of warmth blooms inside my chest, burning me in the most pleasant way, but knowing what it means – what I feel – I… I can’t.I can’t let myself love him. I can’t let myself fall for a guy. Not now, not him. I’ll ruin him. I can’t even be with him! Everything within me screams at me to end things, to cut i
KIERANMateo crowds himself into the corner of his room, legs tangled in his blankets as tears stream down his face. Harsh sobs wrack his frame, coming out in rasps and gulps. His room is a mess – bed completely bare and random objects flung around the room. The lamp that usually lies on his desk is in pieces beside it. His series of framed photos that resides on his dresser lie on the ground, cracked. One of him and Lana on their first date is absolutely shattered. I gingerly pick my way across to him, watching out for any glass shards.I had come as soon as I got his call. He had worried me this afternoon with how distant he had been and how suddenly he had
MATEOWhen I wake up, Kieran’s gone. I don’t think much of it – today we have a match against our rival school, Milton High. It’s the first one of the season too, so the pressure’s on, especially for Kieran. He’s our star striker, whereas I’m only a defender. He may be barely 5’4”, but he’s the fastest player on our team. If anything, his height is an advantage, as most opposing players don’t think much of him until he’s quite literally stealing the ball from your feet. He’s fearless like that – utterly unafraid of collisions since most people will back off at the sight of him flying at them.I had made the mistake of underestimating him at tryout