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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1494208-Everything-Changes
Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Emotional · #1494208
New love story prospective: Please R&R and should I think about publishing this?
They say everything changes when two people fall in love. For the most part, I believe that is true. Nothing was left unchanged in my life after I met Michah. Every prospective, every well-thought out and not so well-though out action, every feeling and every aspect of my life changed for the better. He made me the person I am today: respectful, caring, thoughtful, loving and ever since driven relentlessly towards making myself a better person.

I met him on one of the coldest days of the year. I was a junior in high school and he had just moved to East Winchester, nearly two thousand miles from sunny California. I first saw him walk through the doors of Winchester High School, pink-faced, shivering and wiping the slowly melting snow of of his jacket. He bothered me to no end. He was too small. He was too cold. His jacket was too thin, and he looked too lost for my comfort.

I heard my friends laughing at him. That bothered me, also. It's natural for football players to hunt out the weakest link in a social chain and attack like a pack of wolves. Although I was a slightly shy, I was one of them too: a vicious social animal always preparing for the hunt. But I cringed every time a friend of mine ridiculed him and took advantage of Michah's demeanor to play their game.

I left them in the hall, still shouting and making snide remarks to him and walked to my first class. The rest of the day passed uneventful. I found my friends at lunch and then again after the last bell rang for classes to end. I was sure that they had forgotten about the tiny outsider from California. I hoped he had now found a friend, someone who would have his back if my friends and I were near him again. It wasn't that I particularly cared about this boy. No, I was just uncomfortable around him and didn't feel the urge to make fun of him, which I knew my friends would undoubtedly try and persuade.

I think I was a bit intimidated by him. Of course if I had thrown a punch, he would have been knocked out cold or started to cry. Perhaps it was because he was innocent. Innocence terrified me to no end I believe. But now I know the truth: I was attracted to him and it scared me into complete denial and utter intimidation. Only my subconscious knew the dirty truth and it was so new to me that I couldn't and wouldn't accept it.

For a while, I let things go as did my friends. I was back to being comfortable and had completely forgotten about Michah and my fear of him. Yes, I knew it was fear.
But I didn't know why and it confused me to no end until I decided to just let it go and put it out of my mind. That's what I used to do... pretend things that bothered me didn't exist. It worked for me for the longest time... until spring semester when our classes changed.

Michah moved into my biology class. It had been weeks since I had put him out of my mind and now he was sitting right next to me, a living reminder of my fearful reactions. I stiffened in my seat and had to thank God that Lee, my friend, had taken this class and was sitting in alphabetical order across the room. He put his fingers up in a gang-sign and I flipped him off. That was the only child-like gesture I could think of returning and I determinedly stared down at my pen, waiting for our teacher to walk in and preoccupy my spinning mind.

The rest of the period was spent going over pointless rules that every student had known since freshman year. No gum, no throwing paper, raise a hand when you needed to speak or knew the answer, bathroom passes, etc. It was hardly the distraction I needed. And to make it worse, our teacher immediately announced that the first biology project was due in two weeks. Lee groaned so loudly that the teacher whipped her head in his direction and told him to raise his hand first if he wanted to speak. I tried to laugh at Lee's exaggerated facial expressions, but any sound that came out was a weak exhale of breath.

"You all have lab and project partners. I have assigned you all according to roll-call. If you have a problem, come to me and we can discuss any concerns you may have. Here are the project guidelines and you may use your books as a resource," she said and passed out a packet to each person in the class.

"Well how are we supposed to know what to do if we haven't done anything in this class, Ms... Ma'am," Lee asked.

"Raise your hand first, Mr. Williams. You will refer to me as Ms. Faith. This is not a difficult assignment and it can be done as we go over the topics in class. The lab and project partners are displayed outside of the door and I suggest you follow instructions. This project will not be done in class," she said curtly.

The bell rang and I shot for the door. Lee came up behind me as well as every other student in the class to read the piece of paper taped to the door. I groaned inwardly when I saw my name paired up with Michah's. I don't know how, but suddenly I felt him standing beside me and I froze with my finger on the piece of paper.

"I guess we are partners. The sheet says we should exchange phone numbers to get together outside of class," he said quietly. I couldn't look at him. The crowd pushed closer and I knew I had been standing there for a long time. I nodded and walked away, only then realizing exactly what Michah had said. I spun around and didn't see him. I may have acted like a jack-ass, but I sighed with relief that he couldn't be found.

At lunch, Lee was telling everyone that I was project partner with "the fag". I just stared down at my food and smiled at the jokes when needed. I wasn't truly listening. My mind was blank and the food on my plate was untouched. My stomach churned, not from nausea as I originally thought, but from excitement and apprehension.

After classes ended for the day, I walked with Lee and Thomas to the parking lot. The morning sunshine had disappeared, replaced with a bleak gathering of snow clouds. I found my car and waved at the guys, telling them I would meet up with them later to hang out and drink beer. Nearly everyone in the parking lot had left for home or jobs, so my vision was clear when I saw Michah sitting on the curb in the pick-up lane. Nobody was entering the school and all of the parents had seemingly come and gotten the rest of their children. I looked away, determined to start my car and spin out of campus and not look back. I waved at Lee and Thomas as they raced towards the exit and honked at me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I studied Michah. He was definitely shivering. And he was alone. His elbows were on his knees and his face was in his hands, protecting it from the biting wind.

NO, I will not, I thought to myself. Somebody will be here any minute to pick him up. He's not waiting there for no reason. I was trying to reason with myself, thinking of any excuse to ignore my gut feelings. But I was failing. Eventually I started thinking of waiting in the parking lot for a few minutes just to make sure somebody was coming for him. Then I thought about driving over there and letting him open the passenger side door with the heat on to let him warm up a bit. Against my will, I started to think about where he could live and how far it would be to drive him if he needed it. After all, it never hurts to offer someone a ride.

I sat in my car for about three minutes and after the last mental conclusion, I groaned and hit the steering wheel. "Sonofabitch!" I whispered under my breath and put the car into reverse and then into drive. "Goddamnit, goddamnit, goddamnit!" I said over and over. I kept hitting the wheel in anger and frustration until I reached him. I screeched to a stop, having sped the entire way through the parking lot to the pick-up curb.

Michah looked up, startled. He had tears in his eyes but he tried to hide them by wiping his hand across his face. I rolled down the passenger window and couldn't think of anything to say. He just stared at me, waiting and wondering why I was there.

"Um... hey man. You need a ride?" except the words came out more like "Heymanyewneedaride?" He seemed speechless and confused, but then nodded when he checked the time on his phone.

He climbed in and it was total silence between us as we drove through the empty school parking lot. I tried to focus on the road ahead, but it was a difficult feat considering my heart rate and anger at myself for being scared of him.

"Do you know where I live or something?" he asked, barely above a whisper. I suddenly realized that I had no idea which way to turn as we left the school. I shook my head (the most I could accomplish).

He pointed left and I merged silently into the traffic. "How long were you supposed to wait?" I asked, determined not to look at him.

"My mom said she would be there right after school. I guess she forgot," he said. I nodded, wondering what kind of parent could forget that her son needed a ride home from school.

"Turn right," he said again, pointing to an unmarked road. Suddenly I knew where I was going.

"You live in Live Oaks?!" I asked incredulously. I turned to face him and caught his embarrassed eyes. They were light brown, I noticed.

He nodded and looked down at the books in his lap.

"But that's amazing! Your parents must be rolling in dough!" I exclaimed. I was suddenly aware of how old my car must look next to all of the Mercedes and Porches parked in the ridiculously elaborate driveways.

"Sort of. My mom won the lottery in Cali and moved me and her boyfriend out here," he said. "Her boyfriend is a lawyer and was able to help her keep most of it. You know... they tax you to death if you win the lottery."

I nodded in awe as we pulled up to the gated community. "You have a passcode or a key?" I asked.

"Yeah, but I have to punch the numbers," he said. I realized that he couldn't tell me the code or he would get in trouble.

I was confused and frightened at the prospect that he might crawl across me and lean out of my window. I wouldn't have known what to do with myself. I was prepared to push the seat back as far away from him as possible if he decided to, but I was relieved to watch him get out of my car and punch in the numbers himself. He ran back quickly and jumped in when I put the car in drive.

"That's my house," he said after a few seconds of letting me drive by slowly to look at each and every house. I was inspired. There was snow covering everything and all of the houses looked like they were carved from crystal and ice- beautiful, white, sparkling works of art.

I pulled in and he opened the car door. We were both quiet and I was suddenly aware that he had stopped getting out.

"We should exchange numbers. I know you don't want to do this project with me, but I want to get a good grade," he stated.

I didn't know what to say. I couldn't object because it was partly true, but I couldn't agree because it wasn't the complete truth. In my loss for words, I dug in my jeans for my phone and he told me his number. I saved it. Then I recited my number to him.

"So, what's your name again?" he asked. "I'm sorry, I forgot it."

"Julien," I replied.

And then he was gone. I pulled out of his driveway quickly and drove home.

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If I had known what I know now, I think I would have sped back to Live Oaks and taken him away from that house. But I was clueless still. All that night, I couldn't sleep. I tried watching television, playing on the computer and eventually decided to just lay on my bed in the dark in the hopes that I would close my eyes and lose consciousness.

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Michah called me after three excruciating days at school. I had already left Lee and Thomas in the campus parking lot and was on my way home. I saw my phone light up and froze immediately in my seat. With tense hands, I picked it up.

"Hello?" I asked. There was an embarrassed three second silence before he spoke.

"Julien? This is Michah. I'm so sorry for bothering you, but I was wondering if... Well, I'm still stuck at school and I think I'm getting frostbite. I totally understand if you can't give me a ride home though. I can walk. You know what? Forget I called you, please. I'm sorry," he rambled and I was confused when the line cut off.

A car honked behind me and brought me back to reality. I cut a sharp illegal u-turn and picked up speed on the way to the school. I didn't want him to walk home by himself. It bothered me. It wasn't long until I pulled back into the parking lot. I saw him walking towards me with his head bent down at a low angle. I slowed down when I got close enough for him to look up and see me.

Michah ran the last couple of yards and climbed, frozen, into my car. I turned the heater up and he pressed his delicate hands against the hot vent.

"Thank you," he said.

"No problem. You can always ask me if you need a ride home, you know. Don't feel bad about it," I said. He looked at me sideways.

"Really? Because I don't want to be a problem," he said, barely above a whisper.

I shook my head. "No, it's cool."

He nodded.

We sat in friendly silence for a few minutes before I worked up the nerve to bring up the biology project.

"So. Do you want to go get a coffee and talk about this project?" I asked.

Michah exhaled. "That would be great. I could use something warm right now," he said. For the first time, I saw him smile. It made me relax. His smile was tentative and almost looked painful to me. That's when I saw the cut on his lip.

He saw me stare at it and he turned the other way to look out of the window. I immediately felt bad.

"What happened to your mouth?" I asked. He shrugged his shoulders and continued to stare determinedly out of the passenger window. I dropped the subject and turned on the radio.

"I like this song," I said to change the subject. Michah looked at me and smiled slightly again.

"Do you know the lyrics?" he asked me.

"Of course I do. I'm in a band and we play a bunch of songs like this," I said. Michah's eyes widened.

"You're in a band? I didn't know that! Do you think you'll go big someday?" he asked, genuinely interested. It embarrassed me a little, but I grinned.

"Hopefully. I love music. My friends and I haven't gotten together much since the weather has been cold, but we still try to practice," I replied.

Michah's smile tightened and a shadow crossed his face.

"Your friends... aren't they on the football team?" he asked. Immediately I regretted mentioning them.

"Yeah. I'm sorry. They are jerks," I said.

Michah shook his head. "It's okay, I'm used to it. It's a lot different here than in California. I'm too gay."

He looked at me and I looked at him. We stared at each other for a few uneasy seconds. I couldn't believe he was so open about it. Suddenly he burst out in laughter.

"What?!" I asked, frowning.

"You... you should have seen your face!" he giggled and I couldn't help but laugh myself.

"I'm sorry. You don't see many gays 'round these here parts, dontchoo know?" I said and he laughed again. I shook my head to clear my thoughts and drove out of the parking lot.

We sat and drank coffee at the Dunkin' Donuts in town and went over the biology project guidelines.

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A few weeks later, we turned in our biology project on a Tuesday. Luckily for Michah and I, we managed to scrape a B+. The bell rang for the next class and Ms. Faith told us to get out of her room before she went on a massacre. Lee, upon hearing this, offered up his pocket knife.

"I'm going to pretend I didn't see that. Get out of my sight, Mr. Williams," she sighed, good naturedly.

Lee shouted over his shoulder as he and I shoved our way out into the hall, "I'm in love with you Ms. Faith!"

She rolled her eyes and slammed the door shut.

"Ouch," Lee said and laughed.

"Dude, I'm going to guess that she's not into you," I told him.

Lee shrugged. "So? She's still hot. You gotta admit that. She just hasn't seen my..."

I grinned and his last words were drowned out as the second reminder bell rang.

Noises grew louder as we reached the north side of the school. It sounded like a general uproar.

Lee looked at me and I raised my eyebrows back at him. "What's going on?" Michah asked, coming up next to my right shoulder.

"I don't know," I answered and shrugged for the second time. I turned to Lee beside me, but he must have seen something I hadn't and disappeared into the crushing crowd at the entrance doors.

I grabbed Michah's arm so he could follow me as we ran towards the school entrance.

"We're out of school! School's out! Blizzard! Snowstorm! Dangerous weather!" was what we heard and people raced out into the parking lot gleefully, smiling and high-fiving each other.

Michah and I stopped right outside of the entrance and watched a group of girls hugging each other goodbye.

"They're hot," Michah said. I stared at him.

"I... I thought you were gay?" I asked, perplexed. Michah laughed.

"I am, but someone else might think you are too..." he said slyly.

"What?! Why?" I asked, having to shout over the deafening noise.

Michah pointedly looked down at his arm. I was still holding him by the elbow. I jerked away and gave an embarrassed shake of my head. He grinned and said "It's okay".

"It's early. I bet your parents won't know that school's closing. Do you need a ride home?" I asked.

He didn't look at me for a few seconds. There was something he was trying to hide from me.

"Well, I don't think my parents are home and I don't have a key to get in," he said.

"No key? That's strange. So what are you going to do? Hang out in the grocery store lot with the bums? I think I saw a perfectly good shopping cart on the side of the highway on my way to school this morning..." I joked.

He didn't smile. I fell silent. The parking lot was nearly empty by this time.

"You can stay at my house for a little while until your parents get home," I offered.

Michah crossed his arms as he saw Lee and a few of my other friends walking toward me, goofing off.

"I don't know..." he started.

"Come on. We can have a few beers and hang out. It's no problem, really," I argued, "Okay?"

He nodded and backed away a few steps as Lee punched me in the arm. I winced and grinned.

"We're going over to Heather's place, dig? You can follow us man," he said and stepped off the curb toward his car.

"Nope. Can't do it. I've got to buy some stuff at the store before they close off the roads. I might catch up tomorrow or something if the weather clears up, okay?" I refused, lying. I could feel Michah's tension evaporate slightly beside me. I knew he didn't want to go to a chick's house with my friends or stay by himself in my house.

"Uh, seriously? Heather's friends are going to be there," Lee tried to persuade me with a mischievous look in his eyes.

I shook my head firmly, "Sorry man. I can't do it. I've also already told Michah I'd bring him home later. Maybe next time."

Lee frowned. I could feel Michah shrinking away behind me.

"Oh, I see. So he's going to help you shop for your mom. I understand. Gay guys like to shop, am I right?" he asked, directing his question to Michah.

He looked down at his feet. "Yeah, I guess," he muttered. I felt anger start to boil in my chest at Lee's sneer and rude demeanor.

"Hey, lay off," I growled. I could feel my fists clench into iron balls at my sides. Lee continued to glare at Michah in contempt.

Lee turned his glare to me and then shrugged. "Whatever," he said.

"What's your problem?" I demanded.

"Nothing Julian. I only asked him a question, Come on guys," he said and they tromped off to their cars.

I stomped away in the opposite direction and yanked open the driver's side door. Michah timidly climbed into the passenger side seat and I slammed my car into gear and sped out of the parking lot. On the way to my house, neither of us spoke. I'm sure, looking back, that he was too scared to say anything to me at the moment.

When we pulled into my driveway, I turned off the ignition and leaned my head back against the seat. Michah stared down at his hands, clenched together in his lap.

"I'm sorry," I sighed.

He didn't say anything at first.

"It just pisses me off when Lee and my friends talk to you like that. It's petty," I tried to explain.

Michah unbuckled his seat belt and got out of the car.

"Are you mad at me?" I asked him, my voice low as we both entered the house. He gave my mom a hug (something she insisted on each time he came over since we started working on the biology project) but didn't answer me. He had started to make me angry too. I felt entitled to an answer. After all, I had just defended him because my own friend had treated him like shit. I could have just let Lee have a go at him without saying anything, I thought, crossly.

My mom gave me a kiss on the cheek and said something to me, but I didn't hear her as I hurried up the stairs after Michah.

I shut my door behind me and watched as he sat down on the edge of my bed and looked up at me. For a moment, I forgot how mad I was at him and was lost as his eyes found mine.

"I guess I am mad at you," Michah whispered and looked away. I was confused.

"Why the hell are you mad at me? I defended you. Lee had no right to act like that," I said, wishing my heart would make up it's mind on whether I was mad or if I was terrified that I was alone in the same room with him.

"I just don't understand why you did that. You have been friends with Lee longer than you have known me. He's just upset," he whispered.

It was a bewildering moment. "What the fuck is he upset about? I haven't done anything wrong! He's the one who acts like an asshole to you all the time," I said insistently.

He pulled his knees up to his chin and wrapped his arms around them.

"It's complicated. Lee probably thinks you are blowing him off because you don't want to be friends with him anymore. And he thinks you spend too much time with me. Most guys are territorial and Lee is no different. He believes you are his friend, and anything different is some sort of betrayal," Michah explained.

"That's stupid. He's acting like a girl," I snarled, "and that's no reason for you to be mad at me. I did you a favor."

"No you didn't. You just made things worse," he said, his voice cracking all of a sudden. I crossed my arms and stared down at him.

"What do you mean?" I asked, angry.

"Why couldn't you have just played along? It would have been much better to laugh. It's going to be a war now between me and your friends," he said.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "No. It's between me and Lee and whoever the fuck else wants to join. So you aren't going to take up for yourself? I thought you were cooler than that," I accused. The anger wasn't going to let me think and I pushed the issue.

He was silent. I felt the rage pulsing through my body as he buried his head in his lap. I continued to hold my defiant posture, but slowly the rage started to subside into confusion again. How was this my fault? All I had done was protect him from stinging insults and insinuations. What was wrong with that?

He started to cry. I was at a loss. What do I do now? This is ridiculous. He's just like a girl! I thought. But then I realized, like a smack in the face, He is like a girl. A lonely, upset girl. It's him against the world.

I suddenly felt remorse. He was right. I may have been right but I had been a fool and now everyone was upset and angry. I moved closer and hesitated. I sat down next to him and put an arm around his shoulder.

He stiffened and then relaxed. He laid his head on my shoulder and tears continued to fall. "I'm sorry about everything," I whispered. "I didn't mean any of that."

He slowly nodded his head and we were both silent.

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I had just fallen asleep watching the news and was jolted awake by the loud vibrations of my cell phone on top of my dresser. I got up reluctantly and looked at my alarm clock. It was only eleven o'clock and I wondered sleepily which friend was calling to bullshit me this time. It took me so long to get up to reach my phone that it stopped ringing as soon as I grabbed it.

I flipped it open and looked for the number listed under the missed call. My heart leaped. Now I was wide awake as I stared at Michah's name. Why would he call me so late at night?

I called him back and he answered.

"Hey, it's Julian. How's it going?" I asked.

"Can you pick me up? Please? I will give you gas money," he whispered. I frowned, thinking.

"Um. Yeah, sure. I will be there in a few minutes. What's wrong?" I asked.

Michah whispered again, "I'll tell you later. I've got to climb out of the window right now. Pick me up by the gate."

I said okay and he hung up. I didn't understand what the hell was going on. I could feel my heart deflate. I thought he had called just to chat. But then I felt uneasy. I was actually going to pick him up and I didn't know why. I knew something was wrong and this night wouldn't exactly be fun.

I grabbed my jeans off of the floor and pulled them up over my boxers. Then I found the shirt I had been wearing at school earlier. I started to pull it over my head, but thought better of it and grabbed another t-shirt, one that didn't smell like the greasy food our school cafeteria made. Then I snatched my keys off of the floor and put my wallet in my back pocket. Sneaking out was never easy in my house. The floors creaked and the stairs made odd noises. Even the front door squealed on it's hinges as I opened it. I winced, wishing I could climb out of a window like Michah.

Just as I got into my car, my mother knocked on the driver side door.

"Where the hell are you going?" she asked with an accusing tone. Startled, I rolled down the window.

"Mom. I didn't know you were up," I said. She shrugged.

"I never get any sleep with you. Especially ever since you turned into a teenager. Now where are you going?" she demanded again.

I knew the truth would be the best. "I have to go pick up Michah. He called me," I said, looking away and waiting for her response. There was a short pause and she gave me a strange look.

"Be careful, then. I want you to come straight home. The weather is bad and I will be up until you pull back into this driveway," she said, surprising me. I gave her a grateful look and she bustled shivering in her nightgown back inside the house. I sped out of the driveway.

I pulled up the the gates at Live Oaks and watched shrewdly as Michah came out from behind a large bush and climbed into my car. He didn't look at me when I pulled away. I thought he was embarrassed that he had to call me.

"So what's the deal? Just sneaking out?" I asked casually.

Michah shrugged.

"Where do you want to go? Am I dropping you off somewhere?" I asked.

He shook his head. "Well...I was wondering if I could sleep on your couch or something?" he asked timidly.

I knew something was up. I pulled over on the side of the road and Michah buried his face in his hands and started to cry.

"Now what the hell is going on? Are you in trouble? Are you running away?" I demanded, looking at his hands that protected me from seeing his tears.

"Look at me," I said, softer.

He obliged. I stared in shock at him. His lower left side of his lip was swollen and he had a horrible purple welt growing in size across his cheek. There was even a cut across his right temple that was bleeding still.

"Fuck..." was all I could say. His face got red as I continued to stare at him.

"I don't know what to do," he sobbed and covered his face again.

He started to shake uncontrollably. I reached across the seat and grabbed his shoulder and held him steady.

"I'm taking you back to my house. My mom is awake and she can patch you up. Do you need to call the police?" I asked.

He looked up at me in horror. "Don't! Please don't tell anyone. It was my fault anyway," he insisted. Taken aback, I shook my head.

"Whatever happened, you didn't deserve that. But I won't say anything this time, you have my word," I promised. He started to cry again and I pulled him closer. For the first time, I gave him a hug. I held on tight while he cried, until his tears dried up.

Ten minutes later, I pulled into my driveway and we both walked into the house.

"Michah?" my mother called in a sweet voice. She appeared in the kitchen and stared in shock at him.

"Everything is okay, mom," I assured her. But she flew across the linoleum floor and bent down to look at his face. She studied him and then finally, pulled him into a big hug.

"Go get me the rubbing alcohol and the bandages out of my bathroom, Julian," she said. I hurried to get them and when I got back, she was wiping off his face and removing all traces of blood.

Michah cringed when she dabbed his cut with alcohol. After she put the band-aids on, she stood up and put both hands on his shoulders. "Sweetheart, what happened to you?"

He looked down at his feet and I pulled out a chair for him to sit down. He looked up at me as I stepped back. I couldn't pull my eyes away from his. The angry purple welt was starting to darken and he self consciously put his fingers to his lip to hide the other mark. My mother patted him on the shoulder and he sat down, staring across the room in a daze.

"I shouldn't have said it. I was wrong," he began, "It was my fault."

My mother shook her head in disagreement but he continued.

"I was arguing with Tom. He's my mother's boyfriend. He's so mean to my mom. He hurts her and controls her. But it wasn't any of my business and he was already drunk. He told my mom that she would have to marry him if she was going to keep the money. And I told him not to expect me to call him dad. That's when he punched me." At this, Michah's face scrunched up as if feeling the blow again. "My mom- Mom just... walked away. And he came at me again..."

Michah couldn't finish. It looked like a battle was waging inside of him. He crumpled and tears started to fall down onto his lap. Emotion welled up inside of me. I was angrier than I ever remembered being and sudden fierce protectiveness collided with my rationality. I bent down on my knees and pulled him to me. Overcome, Michah wrapped his arms tightly around my neck and buried his head between my neck and shoulder. My mother patted his head gently.

"I think we all need some rest," she said softly and bent down to kiss the top of my head as well as Michah's. She did not push the issue and padded quietly to her bedroom in her fluffy slippers and shut the door.

I could feel his rapid heartbeat against my chest and his muffled sobs echoed in my ears. I didn't let go and he didn't release his hold either. His soft skin felt like velvet against my five o'clock shadow and I tried to give him my strength to calm down. When his breathing wasn't as sharp and quick, I gently released him.

"Come on," I whispered, "I've got something you can wear to sleep." He wiped his eyes and followed me up the stairs.

I rummaged through my dresser and pulled out some old boxers that didn't fit anymore and handed it to him. Michah giggled. I whipped my head around in surprise.

"They're too big," he said and erupted into giggles and he held them out in front of him in amused study. I lifted my eyebrows to say Yeah, well?

"They'll fall off!" he said and held them out for me to take them back. I lifted my hands in the air in mock exasperation.

"I am not Jesus. I can't perform miracles, skinny boy," I said and grinned. We both laughed and lapsed into silence, staring at each other.

"I'm sorry," I told him. I had planned on saying it in good nature, but halfway through, my voice lowered in sincerity. Michah looked into the mirror above the dresser and placed his hand across the welt. I watched his reflection when he didn't answer.

He shrugged. "It's life," he whispered. His eyes found mine looking at him through the mirror and he crossed his arms in front of his chest.

Another moment of silence and I sat on my bed, still watching him.

"You look like you're waiting for me to do a trick," he said to me and turned around to face me with his arms still crossed protectively around his body.

I shook my head. "Mom is worried about you," I whispered, glancing briefly at my bedroom door.

"Which means you're worried about me, am I right?" he asked. I didn't answer.

"You need to put those boxers on. It's getting late," I said, dodging the question. Michah sighed and looked down at them in his hand.

"I guess so."

Michah looked down at me expectantly while I waited for him to do as I suggested. It was a few seconds that I realized he wanted me to leave the room. I jumped up and almost knocked my bed-side table sideways.

"Sorry," I said and stood in the hall with my ear against the door frame. I thought, What was I expecting him to do? Get undressed in front of me? I felt my cheeks grow hot as I analyzed the situation. He's going to sleep in my bed. I need to get it together and quit acting like a freak, I told myself.

"You can come back in," he said and opened the door.

"Thanks, considering it's my room," I said trying to grin. He smiled and spun around looking for something.

"What?" I asked.

"Do you have a blanket and a pillow?" he asked, still darting his eyes around my room.

I frowned. "You're not sleeping on our couch. It's the bastard offspring of a futon and a pin-cushion. You can have the other half of my bed. No arguments," I said and pulled the covers down on the side he was to sleep on.

He looked scared, "Are you sure?" he asked meekly.

I nodded. "I swear I don't bite."

He paused again, "Are you sure?"

There was a momentary pause and we both burst out laughing. I feigned mock indignation.

"Now really! I'm allowing you to sleep here and you're going to insult me?" I said.

He giggled and pushed me across the bed toward my side. "I'll do whatever I damn well please!" he retorted and we both laughed again. I sat up and pulled my shirt off and kicked my shoes to the floor.

Michah was still laughing as I turned off the television.

"I like hanging out with you," he said and I could hear the grin in his voice through the darkness.

"It's like a regular damned ol' slumber party," I said with a hint of sarcasm.

"That's not the point," he said, lowering his voice to a whisper. "You make me feel normal," he concluded.

It confused me, something that was bound to happen every five minutes on the dot with him.

"You are normal," I told him.

"See, that's what I mean," he said.

"Why wouldn't you be normal?" I asked, turning on my side to face him in the dark.

Michah reciprocated my position as my eyes started to adjust. I watched him pull a pillow towards his chest and cradle his head against it.

"Because I'm a fag. You're the only guy friend I've had since middle school when everybody started to figure out how I was," he said.

I thought for a minute. "Maybe it's because- you're shy. And guys see that as a weakness."

"But you are too," he said.

"Fair point, but it's different because I don't..." I said, but let Michah finish for me.

"...act like a girl."

"Um, yeah," I said.

We stopped talking. I turned to my other side and drifted off to sleep.

--------------------------------------

Sometime during the early morning, before the sun rose, I woke up. Slowly, I noticed little things: The clock on my bed-side table read 5:12 a.m. The room was still dark. I was laying on my back with my right arm underneath my head. I felt curiously warm and comfortable and instantly knew it had snowed heavily outside. But there was something else I couldn't quite understand. What is this? I thought.

I realized I had my left arm around Michah's shoulders, nestling him against my chest. His hand lay across my stomach, relaxed. I noticed how warm his body was, pressed so trustingly against mine. I felt my heart jump, but I didn't move. I knew if I did, he would wake up. And I don't want him to.

I tried to fall back asleep but I kept noticing little things about him as he dreamed: the slight rising and falling of his chest, his heartbeat pulsing against me, and his smooth soft skin. I felt like I was silently going crazy.

I had never been attracted to anyone in such a way and so intensely. I was still scared and amazed that I wanted him so badly.

A million thoughts buzzed through my sleepy brain. Of my friends laughing at me. Of Lee sneering coldly as he punches me in my face. Of my mother kicking me out. Of being thrown off the football team. I even imagined the steps I'd have to take if I were to decide to ignore Michah, to leave him alone and defenseless. To protect myself against him and the unwanted feelings he conjured in my chest and in my... No! I won't go there! Go back to sleep, you idiot.

Sleep did not come so easily. Grey daylight began to seep through my window. I tried to find a comfortable more position but it wasn't possible to move without disturbing Michah. He moaned a little in his sleep and cuddled closer to me and I felt my heart banging against my ribs when he nuzzled his cheek against my shoulder. His breath felt hot against my neck in my cold room and I thought I was going to die from the stress of holding myself together. I wanted to wake him up. I wanted to feel his lips against mine. I wanted to hold him down and hear him beg me to... beg me to what? I wouldn't even know what to do. Go back to sleep! All I know is that I wanted to have him, whatever that meant.

-----------------------------------

"Good morning," he said in my ear. I stretched and yawned like I had been asleep for hours. I wasn't about to let him know that I had been lying next to him, wide awake, since the crack of dawn.

"Hi," was all I could manage. Michah sat up and gingerly touched his cheek where the welt was. I suddenly felt cold. I pulled the covers up over my chest where Michah's arm had previously been laying.

"Sorry about last night," he said and gave me an apologetic look.

I shrugged. "Don't worry, it was nice," I said, trying to play it cool.

"Huh?" he asked and gave me a perplexed look.

Idiot!

"Oh, I thought you were talking about you in my bed last night. I meant... never mind. Uh, don't worry about it. Glad you called me," I fumbled and leaped out of my bed.

"I was talking about you driving to pick me up. But since we're on the subject, I thought it was nice too. I'm glad you didn't mind me cuddling next to you. I was depressed and tired and you were really warm and comfortable," he said. His words were timid but he looked up and me from the cocoon of blankets and gave me an embarrassed grin. His light brown eyes, normally sad and frightened, were twinkling playfully. Or so I imagined. I suddenly felt self conscious, exposed. I imagined myself slipping my hands beneath the boxers he wore, cupping his perfectly rounded bottom cheeks and pulling his hips towards my quickly hardening cock.

Fuck!

I sprinted out of the room, knowing that Michah had seen what I feared he did. I slammed the bathroom door shut and sat on the edge of the bathtub.

Why does he turn me on? It's his eyes! It's his ass, goddamnit! It's the way he looks at me, like I'm his protector or something! Like he needs me! It's his blonde hair! It's his cute smattering of freckles across his little nose... It's his itsy bitsy fairy features! It's because he's short and tiny and weak and scared and... and... he looks like a girl! That's why! I'm attracted to him because I am a man and I like women and he looks like a girl and acts like a girl and...Fuck!

There was a knock at the bathroom door. I whipped my head up and stared at the doorknob. I couldn't remember locking it.

"Are you okay?" I heard Michah ask, the door muffling the sound of his voice.

I tried to answer but I couldn't speak. The words caught in my throat and I realized I wasn't okay.

The doorknob jingled and Michah poked his head in and saw me staring up at him from the edge of the bathtub.

"Julien? What's wrong?" he whispered, looking frightened and confused. I lowered my eyes and tried to speak again but the words just wouldn't arise from my lips. I only managed to shake my head.

Oh no, please go away. Please please please don't come in. I don't know what to do!

He walked in and shut the door behind him.

"Julien?" he asked, still whispering. I looked up again and saw the purple welt across his cheek and the cut on his forehead. I studied his beautiful dark eyelashes and saw wide brown eyes gazing down at me, afraid for me.

He's afraid for me. And he's afraid of me.

Suddenly I was on my feet. I had one hand tangled in his hair and the other gripping madly around his waist as I kissed him. He was frozen in shock and didn't kiss me back until he wrapped his arms around my neck. His lips were warm and moist against mine and it drove me crazy. I had to have him even if I didn't know what I was doing. Surely, having slept with girls before, this was different. This was electric. Something fiery was coursing through my blood and I wanted, I needed, to be inside of him. Michah gave a soft moan against my mouth and the fiery substance began to consume what little apprehensions I still had.

I felt something vibrating against the back of my head. Michah pulled away from me, wide-eyed and breathless. I hadn't even realized he brought his cell phone with him when he left my room. The frantic moment evaporated and I felt shameful and dirty, so much that I backed away from him and crossed my arms protectively across my chest. I wanted to run from the house and bury myself in the blizzard outside to die from embarassment. But I couldn't go anywhere without passing close to Michah, with his back pressed against the door. He was looking at the phone in his hands, seemingly trying to pull himself together.

"It's my mom," he whispered and pressed the phone to his ear. "Hello?" he answered. "Mom, I'm fine. Don't worry. No, I'm not mad at you. A... friend picked me up last night. Seriously, I'm okay. I don't know. Most likely. We still have power here, yes. There's no school for the rest of the week, probably."

He hesitated. I could hear his mother's voice on the other line but I couldn't understand what she was saying.

"Mom, I really don't want to be over there right now. Please. But he's drunk! Oh sure, but he will start drinking again. Mom, please. You have to stop this. Kick him out or something," he said in a trembling voice.

Suddenly there was incomprehensible shouting from the other end of the conversation.

"No. I'm staying here." As he said this, he looked up at me for conformation. I barely managed to nod my head that it was okay. "Call me back when you are sober too."

He clenched his eyes shut as he ended the call, interrupting his mother's screaming.

"Everything is so screwed up," he whispered and tossed the phone half-heartedly onto the cabinet next to the sink.

I ran my hands through my hair, unsure of how to proceed.

"I'm sorry," I mumbled. Here I was trying to rip his clothes off while his family life was crumbling to dust around him.

"Sorry about what?" he asked, raising his eyebrows and studying me. I pulled my arms tighter across my chest and looked away. I couldn't bare to see him looking at me with pity or even disgust.

"For jumping on you like... like I did. I'm making things worse. I don't know what's wrong with me. And you... you..." I stuttered and gave up. There was silence and I leaned against the sink and pinched the spot between my eyes for focus, preparing for anything he might say. I might have even been pleased with a punch in the jaw. I deserve that.

I felt a kiss on my cheek and my eyelids popped open. Michah was standing beside me. He gave me a sad smile and retrieved his phone from the cabinet.

"You didn't make things worse. Breakfast?"

I nodded and followed him downstairs, still trying to wrap my head around what just happened.

-----------------------------
Not sure if I should finish. Please R&R. Let me know if you would like to read more. This is a draft, so grammar and punctuation may be slightly off.

UPDATE: PLEASE CONTINUE TO PART TWO. THIS IS ALSO A ROUGH DRAFT. THANK YOU.
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