The Blueprint(The Game #1)(6)

By: S.E. Harmon

She was extra solicitous that night when Blue stayed over, gave him extra dessert and shooed him out of the kitchen when he tried to help clean up. I put on a video game, and he went through the motions, but I could tell his heart wasn’t in it. And later that night, from my bunk bed, I heard him crying.

I was scared at first. I’d never heard him cry—not even when he thought he was Tony Hawk for six seconds and tried a skateboard trick that resulted in a broken arm, a trip to the hospital, and mutual grounding for us both.

I rolled over in the top bunk, facedown, and stretched out my hand as far as I could reach. I felt stupid and embarrassed and vulnerable, but after a few moments, he grabbed it. His hand was a lot bigger than mine, even back then, and he squeezed it so hard I thought my bones might be pulverized. Before an hour passed, I had the worst crick in my neck, but we stayed like that all night, holding hands in the dark. I’d never felt closer to another person in my life.

Right then and there, something inside me just… changed. I realized I liked him in a different way. I wanted to take care of him—take away his pain—even though, at thirteen, I had no idea how.

It still wasn’t a sexual kind of like, even though, by that time, I’d been experimenting plenty. Hello, Internet porn. Hello, hand who doesn’t judge me and never turns me down. Hello, weird kid in Sunday school who likes to make out in the janitor’s closet. But I digress.

When we were in high school, he got serious about football, and we had to rearrange our schedules to make an effort to see each other more. I usually came by after whatever geeky club I had going on at the time and waited for practice to end so we could walk home together. And so what if I sat up in the bleachers and ogled his teammates behind my shades?

Even looking back on it, I couldn’t pinpoint what changed. One day it was fine, and the next it just wasn’t. I just started noticing things. Like the way Blue would ruck up his jersey when he was overheated and tuck it up beneath his pads to get some air on his skin. He had really well-defined abs. A really, really nice ass. And sweat would roll off his sun-kissed skin in slow motion and well, goddamn, it was as though someone had beaned me on the head with a brick.

He wasn’t even my type. I didn’t go for the all-American jock. Not that there was anything wrong with that. It just wasn’t my deal. I liked them geeky and sardonic and disillusioned with the world. If a guy wore glasses, it was a big plus for me. If he wore quirky clothes, it was even better. If he liked science and identified as an egghead, hell, I just might be in love.

Blue ticked none of my geeky, sardonic, and quirky boxes, but all of a sudden, he made my heart beat faster, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. His eyes weren’t just blue anymore. They were the prettiest color I’d ever seen, like the clear summer sky on a cloudless day. His hair wasn’t just dark blond anymore. It was golden in the sun. Then there was that smile—that reckless, sexy smile he’d give me, usually right before he got us in a shitload of trouble.

I tried to forget about it, mostly because I didn’t have a chance. But the universe just laid a situation in my lap, and I didn’t know what to do. My love for Blue as a person had combined and meshed with the fact that he had turned into a bona fide, grade-A, smoking-hot piece of prime beefcake.

And while looks were nice and all, that’s not what made me love him. He was sweet under that tough football-player exterior. He stood up for me, usually when my smart mouth got a little too smart and got me in a pickle. And when he got drafted to the NFL, he could’ve gotten a big head and left me in the dust. He didn’t. Instead he paid off my student loans and helped me financially through graduate school. No questions asked. And he didn’t bat an eyelash when I told him I was gay. I didn’t even think it crossed his mind to make me feel weird about it.

In the tapestry of our life, our threads were so interwoven we’d have to unravel the whole damn blanket to pull them apart. So what was a guy supposed to do?

I rolled my sweating water bottle in my hands. Apparently he was supposed to bury his love forever. No map to this treasure. Just call me the Blackbeard of love.