December Goodreads stories challenge

Inspired by this photo: yadecember I started a story and, following Macky’s comments, I continued it just for her. Here is the entire thing.

Snowflakes

“Reed!  Get the door!” his mom yelled.

Reed shuffled over to the front door, walking among family and friends already arrived. Christmas Carrols were setting the mood for his parents’ yearly party.

Reed opened the door and froze.

“Hello Reed” said Mr. Richards, walking in, followed by his wife and their son Jake. Reed’s heart just about jumped out of his chest.

“Oh… hello Mister and Missus Richards… didn’t know you were coming…”

“Merry Christmas Reed!” Mrs. Richards kissed him on the cheek and handed him a plate covered in tinfoil. Reed grabbed the plate without looking, his eyes glued to Jake.

“Hey,” said Jake, stepping in around his mom.

“Oh, hey Jake.” Reed’s feet couldn’t move although he really wished he could run far away. “Here, give me your coats,” he said, not realizing he only had one hand free, the other busy holding the plate. “Uh –“

“Here, I’ll take them. Show me where to put them?” Jake asked, holding everyone’s coats. His parents were already joining the festivities in the living room.

Jake followed Reed to the den and dumped the coats on the sofa, then walked with Reed to the kitchen to dispose of the plate.

“So…” Reed didn’t know what to say.

The last time he had seen Jake, it was the day before Jake’s family moved away to another state two years before, the day he had made a fool of himself. He had crushed on Jake really hard at the time and although they were good friends, nothing had ever developed between them. Reed hadn’t wanted to let Jake go before telling him how he felt, but Jake hadn’t reciprocated the sentiments.

Reed had been embarrassed. He still was, remembering that day. Although Jake had reassured him that they would stay friends, the communications dwindled rapidly and Reed had always felt guilty about that. The humiliation of that rejection still burned months after and he had left some emails unanswered, until Jake got the message and stopped writing altogether.

Now Jake was in his kitchen, with tons of people around and corny Christmas music. Reed wasn’t prepared for this. He wished his mom had told him they were coming. Speaking of which…

“Surprise!” His mom squeezed his shoulders from behind, a big smile on her face, no doubt happy about her little secret. “Bet you weren’t expecting Jake, right? How are you, dear?” she said, turning to their guest.

“I’m doing well, Mrs. Jackson. Thanks for inviting us.”

“You’re welcome! When I heard you were coming to visit your family for the holidays, I couldn’t let you guys come into town without inviting you. It’s been so long!” His mom was gushing and Reed wished he could just melt into a puddle of goo and disappear between the floor tiles.

“It’s great being here,” said Jake, looking directly at Reed, grinning. Was he reading Reed’s discomfort?

“Reed, why don’t you show your new room to Jake? He hasn’t seen it since we redid it” suggested his mom.

“Sure,” he said, although he doubted Jake would be interested in his new comforter.

Reed motioned with his hand for Jake to precede him, since he knew the way. Both boys went through the party and climbed the stairs, Reed behind Jake, his legs trembling a little.

“So here it is,” Reed said, as Jake stepped into his room. The Star Wars bedspread and curtains were gone, replaced by plain black drapes and a grey and black comforter. They were fifteen when Jake moved away. Reed’s mom had thought his blue moods were due to his friend moving away and decided to cheer him up and redo his room in a more stylish teen decor, not realizing Reed’s heart had been broken by more than a lost friendship. The room makeover had been long overdue in Reed’s opinion, but it hadn’t been enough to distract him from his first love’s rejection.

Jake sat on the bed. Reed took the chair in front of his desk.

“This isn’t gonna be weird, right?”

“What?” Reed hadn’t expected Jake to start with that right away. Let’s not waste any time on trivial matters. Typical Jake. “Oh no, no. Of course not,” he answered, smiling.

“’Cause it would suck if it did.” Jake was staring at him. Yeah, he knew Reed was uncomfortable.

“No, I’m happy you’re here. I mean, I didn’t know you were coming, and it caught me off guard, but… but I do want to say I’m sorry for not answering your last emails. I was really busy with basketball, and school, and-“

“Don’t worry about it, Reed. It’s fine.” Please change the subject now. “It’s cool being back though. We’re staying at my aunt Julie’s.” Phew.

“How long are you staying for?”

“One week,” Jake answered, pulling on a loose thread on the comforter.

“Oh. Then maybe we could hang out, call some of the people from school. I’m sure the guys would like to see you,” said Reed, the tension slowly seeping out of him.

“Yeah. Or we could just chill, you and me, catch up, you know, whatever. I like your room. I see you kept the Vader poster.”

Reed looked up at the poster, smiling. He turned to his friend, took his first good look at him since seeing him appear at the door earlier. Jake hadn’t really changed much. His hair was a little longer, he was taller, but then so was Reed. Jake’s eyes were still warm with that little wicked gleam in them. He had missed him.

“I missed you,” he blurted out. Oops. He hadn’t meant to say that out loud.

“I missed you too buddy,” Jake smiled. “So tell me. What’s going on with you? Still play basketball? Seeing anyone?” He pushed back on the bed, crossing his ankles, holding his weight on his forearms.

Still blunt as ever, thought Reed. The moment was awkward for Reed, he didn’t know what to say. He had been flirting with this guy at school for a while, but nothing seemed to be developing, to his disappointment. But was he up to spilling his guts to Jake? He spun his chair around.

“Yeah, I’m still on the basketball team. And no, I’m not seeing anyone. You?”

“We have a pretty good basketball team at my school, but I didn’t join. When I left here, basketball didn’t seem so much fun anymore. And my girlfriend and I are on a break right now. She’s not sure she wants to be in a relationship, so… she wanted us to hold things off for the holidays.”

Reed’s breath left him. So Jake was straight. Wow. He hadn’t seen that one coming. How could he be so wrong about him? They had been best friends, he thought he knew him. He was sure Jake was gay too.

“Well that explains that, then,” he muttered.

“What?”

“Hmm? Nothing. So, is there a good place to play paintball near your new house?”

The guys spent the rest of the evening talking and catching up, and promised to see each other again before Jake had to return home.

That night in bed, Reed’s thoughts went back two years before.

They were sitting on the curb across the street from Jake’s house. Well, his old house. The moving truck was almost full. Jake’s parents were going through each room, making sure they got everything.

“Jake, there’s something I have to tell you,” said Reed, looking straight in front of him. Jake turned to his friend. “Yeah?” Reed’s heartache was boiling over. He had to get it out.

“I don’t want you to move away,” Reed forced the words out.

“I know, it sucks. I don’t wanna move either.” Jake picked up a stick and started scratching at his feet.

“No. You don’t understand. I really don’t want you to leave.” Please understand, thought Reed.

“I don’t wanna leave either. This totally sucks. I don’t even know anybody in North Carolina.” Jake was so bummed about the move. He wished they could stay here forever, with his friends and family and his favourite places and the park where he and Reed always went to ride their bikes.

“Jake, I don’t want you to leave me. I – I like you.” Reed sighed. Jake didn’t seem to get it.

“I like you too, Reed.” Jake rolled his eyes. He thought that was established already.

“No. I like you, Jake. I like you like that.” Reed’s eyes watered and he rubbed them roughly on his arm, sniffling.

“What do you mean? You like me like what?” Jake’s pitch was higher. Oh no. Reed couldn’t be saying what he thought he was saying. Not now. Reed was just sad he was moving away. He, who usually didn’t have any problems expressing his thoughts, was at a loss at how to respond to Reed’s obvious distress. He stood up abruptly and that’s when Reed regretted opening his big mouth.

“Never mind. Nothing. I just wished you weren’t moving so far away,” Reed finally said, closing his eyes tightly. He swallowed his tears around the lump in his throat.

It was too much for Jake, on top of his own sadness, and he didn’t want to cry. This was overwhelming. He cast his eyes on his house, near empty now, and the loss he felt was too heavy.

“We’ll still be friends. We’ll email and stuff, right?” Jake asked, grasping at what little he had left of this friendship, feeling it slowly slip away. He sat again next to Reed.

Reed thought he could hear his heart breaking. A big crack right in his chest. Jake hadn’t understood. Or didn’t want to understand. Whatever. He was through. What little courage he had felt that morning to tell his friend he loved him was all used up in those few sentences. Memories were rushing through his mind, Jake and him wrestling, roughing each other up, riding their bikes, putting their arms around each other’s necks, laughing. His world was falling apart.

“Right, sure,” Reed finally said. Relief swept over Jake. At least, he still had his friend. Or so he thought.

Jake had sent emails describing his new house, new school, new friends, new life, and at first Reed answered them, although briefly, but after a while it all seemed superfluous. The emails became mundane and benign. Reed nursed his broken heart, alone. Who do you talk to when your best friend is the one who broke your heart?

Two days after the party, Reed’s dad yelled from downstairs: “Reeeed! Phone!”

All his friends phoned or texted his cell so a call on the house phone had Reed wondering who it could be. It wasn’t a number he recognized.

“Yeah?”

“Reed? It’s Jake. Wanna go out for coffee or something?”

“Sure.” They made plans for later in the evening. They met in front of Reed’s house after dinner and walked to a coffee shop a couple of blocks away. Christmas lights were lit on almost every storefront and there were people everywhere, some loaded with shopping bags, others in a rush to get home.

“I understood later what you were trying to tell me the day I moved, Reed. I’m sorry, man.” They had just ordered coffee and sat at a corner table.

Reed’s breathing halted and he closed his eyes. Crap, just kill me now, he thought. Why can’t Jake be like normal people and talk about the weather and not say everything that goes through his head!?

“Tell me what’s really on your mind, Jake. Please.” Reed frowned at him. Jake just grinned.

No sense in denying it. Taking a deep breath, Reed answered: “Yeah, don’t worry about it. It was stupid anyway.”

“It wasn’t stupid, Reed. I’m just sorry I didn’t realize what you were trying to tell me until it was too late.”

Too late? Did he mean-

“Not that it would have changed anything,” Jake added quickly, “but at least we could’ve cleared the air before I left, instead of me trying to reach out to you and you drifting off. When you didn’t answer my last mails, I sorta figured it out and I’m sorry.”

Now Reed thought he would hyperventilate. “Seriously, don’t worry about it. It’s all forgotten. I said I was sorry for letting your mails drop. Can we talk about something else?” Pleasepleaseplease.

“I wasn’t sure you were gay but I guess I should have known. Thinking back, I don’t remember you saying you ever liked a girl.”

“You didn’t either, J. And you never shied away when I touched you or anything.”

“I still don’t mind if you touch me, Reed. I’m not homophobic. I’m just not gay, I guess. I just wanna say I’m sorry and I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“It’s okay, really. Anyway. Water under the bridge.” What could he talk about now to change the subject? But Jake, true to himself, didn’t let go.

“How long had you felt like that?” Jake asked.

Reed blew a breath up his face and a lock of his hair flew up. “I don’t know. When I found out you were moving away, I realized I didn’t want to lose you.” Hard as it was to admit, saying it aloud relaxed a tension in his shoulders he hadn’t noticed was there.

The waiter brought their coffees and pastries. Fixing their drinks with sugar and milk created a break in the conversation, to Reed’s relief. He hadn’t expected to talk this out with Jake ever. Their friendship was over as far as he was concerned. Although he bore no hard feelings, it’s not like he ever thought he would see Jake again and now he was over it. Over him. But here he was, sitting across the table, blowing on his hot coffee.

“So tell me about your girlfriend.” There, let’s turn the tables on him and let him talk for a change.

“Her name’s Sarah. She’s cool I guess. We’ve been dating for a little while now, but I think she’s crushing on this other guy who’s always talking to her whenever I show up and leaves the minute he sees me. She hasn’t admitted it, but my guess is we’ll break up for good when I get back.”

“That sucks,” said Reed. Jake was playing with his spoon, lost in thought. Recovering quickly, he said: “No problem. I wasn’t into her that much anyway. Lots of other girls out there.” Jake smiled at Reed, that wicked gleam back in his eyes. “So, you? Any interesting guys?”

“Well, there was this one guy in my chem class. We’ve been flirting, but it doesn’t seem to go anywhere. He’s not out so maybe he’s not ready to date anyone. Been there, done that.”

“Oh yeah, that must be hard. It’s another thing you have to think about when you’re gay that you don’t have to when you’re straight. Coming out, telling people and everything. Do your parents know?”

“Yeah. I think my mom knew already, but when I told them, they were just like ‘we’ll love you no matter what, stay true to yourself, be happy, yaddayadda’. Most of our friends at school know, so I guess everyone does by now.”

“Have you dated lots of guys?”

“No. I was with one guy last year, we dated for a couple of months, but he was embarrassed easily so we had to hide and we couldn’t touch in public or anything. It sorta sucked. I think it played a major part in why I broke it off with him. I was tired of feeling like I wasn’t worth even a small peck standing on the street or holding hands in the movie theater. He was so nervous about people judging him or calling him names. We could only be ourselves at our homes or at our friends’ houses. He didn’t even acknowledge me at school.”

“Your parents did tell you to be true to yourself,” Jake said, winking at him. It made Reed smile.

“Yeah, right. Anyway, he’s with this other guy now and they’re pretty public with their affections. Some people at school are sick of seeing them make out in every corner all the time, and not because they’re gay. So lame. I guess it was just me he didn’t want to show off.”

Reed hadn’t thought about that guy in a while, and it brought up a sour taste in his mouth.

“Well he sounds like a douche. His loss,” Jake said. He always had a fierce sense of loyalty and Reed was glad to see it was still there. The conversation then moved on to tv series and they found out they were both watching the same shows. They were back to being Reed and Jake, like their time apart hadn’t happened and they had just seen each other the week before. It felt good, really good.

The time passed quickly and it was time to leave. The guys got up and left the coffee shop. It had started snowing, giving the night a magical, festive feeling.

As they turned to walk back to Reed’s house, Jake put his hand on Reed’s arm, stopping him.

“You know, if I were gay, I’d be totally into you.” He was looking into Reed’s eyes, their bodies close and their hair getting sprinkled with snowflakes.

“Thanks,” Reed smiled, touched and a little shy, frankly.

“And that douche didn’t deserve you,” Jake continued. “If I were your boyfriend, I’d kiss you for the whole world to see, I’d be so proud.” Reed’s smile reached his ears.

Jake put his hands at Reed’s waist and came even closer. Reed hands’ shot up on Jake’s arms, like a reflex to hold him back, but Jake wasn’t deterred and placed a soft, light kiss on his lips. It was quick but oh so sweet.

“Merry Christmas, Reed,” Jake said, that gleam back in his eyes, but something else too, like warmth, or affection.

“Thanks. But why did you do that?” Reed asked with a big smile, a little stunned and very pleased, his heart beating hard.

“You deserve to be kissed in front of everyone, Reed. Don’t let anyone treat you otherwise, ok?” Jake squeezed his hands on Reed’s waist before letting go. Putting his arm around Reed’s neck, he said: “Come on. I’ll walk you back. It’s getting cold.”

As they walked back to Reed’s house, Reed was pleased, yes, but confused. Jake’s kiss reignited feelings he thought were gone. He loved that Jake was holding him by the neck, just like old times, and that that familiarity could resurface without any awkwardness. Still, his lips tingled and uneasiness crept up his belly into his chest.

“So what are your plans for tomorrow?” Reed took the excuse of talking to disengage himself from Jake’s hold. It was getting cold and the guys were walking fast, hands deep in their pockets.

“Nothing yet. My parents are visiting my father’s old colleague in the afternoon and I don’t need to be there. I was thinking we could go to a movie. Unless you’re busy. I don’t wanna take up all your time on your break…” Jake turned and looked at him, his eyebrows high.

Reed couldn’t be happier. “Anything in particular you wanna see?” They made plans for the next day as they walked. Red 2 was playing downtown and both guys were fans of Bruce Willis.

When they got to Reed’s house, Reed invited Jake in to warm up.

“It’s not too late for your parents?” Jake asked, jumping from one foot to the other.

“No, it’s okay. We’ll go in the den. They’re probably in bed reading by now.”

“Cool. I’ll text my mom to let her know.”

They entered Reed’s house and were greeted by the smell of baked apples.

Reed walked towards the kitchen. “My mom must’ve made apple pie. Want some?” Jake followed, taking off his coat. “Yeah! It smells awesome.” There was a pie cooling on the counter, with a note saying “In case you’re hungry. Mom xxx”. They took their pie to the den and crashed on the couch.

“It’s still warm!” Jake attacked his pie like he hadn’t just eaten a pastry with coffee only a couple of hours ago. “Your mom rocks. I remember she always baked good stuff. Does she still make those brownies from heaven?”

“Yeah. Made some just last week actually. She even mentioned… oh wait.” It dawned on Reed. “She said ‘These were Jake’s favourites’ and I was surprised she remembered and mentioned it. I guess she already knew you were coming when she made them.”

“Yeah, it’s been planned for a few weeks, but she asked us not to get in touch with you to surprise you.” Jake finished his pie and put his plate and fork down on the coffee table and turned towards Reed, his knees up on the couch. “And it worked, too! Hey, there’s no chance there are any brownies left?”

Reed snorted. “No, and if there were, they’d be hard as rocks by now anyway. I’m sure she’ll make you some before you leave. You’re still here for three days.” He winked at Jake, whose face lit with a big smile.

“I should get back. I still have a few blocks to walk and it’s not getting any warmer.” Jake got up from the couch.

Putting his plate down, Reed stood. “I’ll drive you.”

“You don’t have to do that. It’s fine.”

“It’s too cold. Your feet’ll thank me,” Reed said as he walked out of the den.

They put their coats back on and headed out the door. Reed walked to their car and opened the door for Jake before walking around the car and getting in. He started the car as Jake put his seatbelt on. They could see their breath coming out of their mouths. They sat there a minute to let the car warm up.

“Do you want me to come pick you up tomorrow for the movie? I should be able to get the car,” offered Reed.”

“Text me if you can. Wait. You don’t have my number.” Jake pulled out his phone. “What’s your number?” As Reed rattled it off, Jake entered it into this phone and texted him. Reed’s phone blipped. “Now you can text me tomorrow.” Jake smiled.

Reed pulled his phone out of his pocket and checked his phone. There was a text from Jake. “Now we can text even when I’m back in Charlotte,” Jake said with a grin. Reed’s heart sank. The idea of Jake leaving in three days sucked. He just got him back!

Jake must have noticed the change in this mood because he put his hand at the back of Reed’s head and squeezed. “Come on. We still have three days.” Reed closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Jake’s hand felt good on his neck. He turned to Jake. “You just got here. And you’re going to leave again.” Jake’s hand and smile dropped at the same time. “Yeah, I know.” Jake turned to look out the window so Reed put the car in gear and drove out on the street. He must think I’m a loser, thought Reed.

They rode in silence to Jake’s aunt’s place. The snowfall was over and every tree branch and roof glistened like they were sprinkled with tiny diamonds.

“Thanks. See you tomorrow?” Jake asked when Reed parked at the curb.

“I’ll text you if I get the car or not. See you tomorrow.” Jake reached for the door, then turned towards Reed again and reached over to hug him with one arm. “Goodnight, Reed.” Then Jake got out of the car and walked to the door.

Reed waited until Jake was inside before turning the car around and driving home. His mind kept playing the kiss and the hugs over and over again. It was certainly gonna be hard to let Jake go. Once more.

The next morning, Reed felt better when he got downstairs for breakfast.

“Mom, will you have time to make brownies for Jake before he leaves?” Reed’s mom was already baking and flour and sugar dusted the counters. The smell of cookies was already pretty strong in the kitchen.

“Are you seeing him again?”

“Yeah, we’re going to the movies this afternoon. By the way, can I take the car?” Reed ate his cereal that didn’t taste nearly as good as the cookies smelled.

“Okay, take the car and make sure you bring him home after the movies. I’ll make them so they’re still warm around four. How does that sound?” His mom was spooning more cookie dough on a cookie sheet.

“Great. Thanks. And thanks for the pie last night. It was awesome.”

His mom smiled at him. “You sure ate a big piece when you got home!” she said.

“Jake helped me with that. He came in after we walked back from the coffee shop.” He got up from the table and put his bowl in the sink. He kissed his mom on the cheek while he was there.

“Wow, Reed, is that glow from my pie or from seeing Jake again?” his mom said, winking at him.

Blood rushed to his face. “I’m not glowing.” He frowned at his mom. If there was a glow, it was gone now. How embarrassing.

“I always thought you guys would’ve gotten together if Jake hadn’t moved away,” his mom said, taking the cookies out of the oven and putting the fresh batch in. She set the timer and turned towards Reed.

“What? No! We were just friends!” Why was she saying this now?

“Reed, relax. I just thought you had a thing for him. The way you looked at him-“

“Mom.” Reed cut her off. He clamped his eyes shut and blew out a breath. “Okay, so I had a little crush on him. But Jake’s straight anyway. Nothing would’ve happened if he stayed.”

“He’s straight? Are you sure?” His mom looked so surprised. “I was certain he was gay, even before you told us about you. He looked at you the same way you looked at him, it was so obvious.” His mom’s eyes were staring at nothing. She frowned. “He told you he was straight?”

“He told me about his girlfriend back home, mom. I’m pretty sure that’s what it means. Can we drop it now?” Reed was getting frustrated with this conversation. Twisting the knife in the wound that had been closed and had been ripped open again was no fun.

“Well, I don’t know about this girlfriend, but I know what I saw. Maybe he’s bi, or he’s not comfortable liking boys yet.” She turned to Reed. “Is seeing him again difficult for you? I always thought your funk when he left was because you liked him.”

“Don’t worry Mom. I’m fine. He’s leaving in three days anyway.” Reed shuffled to the living room and crashed on the sofa. Taking the remote, he channel-surfed but didn’t see anything. So maybe he wasn’t completely wrong in his impression of Jake. Even his mom had thought he was gay two years ago. And that kiss, although short and sweet, was still a real kiss. Would a straight guy feel comfortable enough to put his lips on another guy’s mouth in public? Jake had never been introverted or shy about anything, but this was bold even for him. Jake had said that if he were gay, he’d be into Reed. While flattering, that statement confirmed Jake wasn’t into him, didn’t it? Or was it a hidden message?

Reed clicked the tv off and went upstairs to check the moving listings, then he would take a shower and text Jake.

Reed: I’ll be there at 1. Got the car.

Jake: Sweet.

So at 1:00, Reed pulled up in front of Jake’s aunt’s house. Jake ran out the door and slipped in the car.

“This is great. Thanks for picking me up. How’s it going?” Jake was in high spirits. Reed was just confused. His talk with his mom clouded his mood. On his way over, he thought: even if Jake was gay or bi, he had made it clear that he wasn’t into Reed and he was leaving in three days. No sense in wasting time obsessing over it. But seeing Jake now happy and almost giddy, Reed decided to enjoy the time with his friend and stop worrying over nothing. Jake’s excitement was contagious.

“Good. You?”

“I’m psyched about the movie. It’ll be fun to be in that theater again with you. Has it changed since I left?”

“No, it’s pretty much the same. That guy with the greasy hair and dirty uniform is gone from the concession counter though.” He chuckled.

“Oh! That guy was gross!” They laughed and went their merry way to the theater.

While waiting in line for tickets, Reed saw two guys making out next to the door leading to the Red 2 projection room. His stomach flipped. Oh no.

“What’s wrong?” Jake asked. Reed was surprised Jake noticed. Jake’s eyes followed Reed’s and he saw the couple at the door.

“Who’s that?”

“Remember the guy I told you I was with last year? Well, his name is Tyler and that’s him and his boyfriend.”

Jake nodded. He paid for two tickets and took Reed’s hand to walk toward the room.

Reed pulled on his hand. “You don’t have to do that. It’s okay.” Jake held onto his hand tightly.

“Do you mind?” asked Jake.

“No, I don’t mind at all. It’s for you,” Reed answered. Jake just turned towards him and grinned, that wicked gleam back in his eyes. When they walked past Tyler, the two guys had stopped kissing for a second and they saw Jake and Reed. Reed said: “Hey Tyler.” Tyler examined Jake from head to toe.

“How’s it going Reed?” Tyler looked shocked to see Reed holding a guy’s hand.

Without answering, Reed and Jake walked in the room and chose seats at the back in the middle. Tyler and his boyfriend came in a few minutes later and sat a few rows closer to the screen, to the side. If Tyler turned to his right, he could see Reed with Jake, and that’s what he was doing right then.

Jake noticed and said to Reed: “Looks like your friend is curious about your boyfriend.” He put an arm around Reed’s shoulders. Reed scooted away from Jake.

“I don’t have a boyfriend, Jake. Now Tyler will tell everyone at school he saw me with someone and it’s not even true. I’ll have to tell the guys it was all a show.” Reed wasn’t particularly happy with this development. It didn’t seem worth it to yank Tyler’s chain this way. Spreading false rumours was not Reed’s thing.

Lights dimmed and trailers for upcoming movies started showing on the screen. Jake tipped his head to talk close to Reed’s ear: “It doesn’t have to be just a show.” Reed whipped his head around to Jake’s, whose eyes were glinting with mischief. “Are you insane, Jake?” He was getting angry. Jake was sending mixed signals and Reed didn’t need this. Jake’s expression fell. “Sorry. Never mind.” He removed his arm. Great. Now the mood was destroyed. Reed could feel Jake was uncomfortable.

They watched the movie and ignored Tyler when he turned to watch them. Jake had both hands on his knees. Reed was frustrated and mad. What was Jake thinking? If Reed was confused before, he wasn’t anymore. The kiss and the affection obviously didn’t mean anything to Jake, who was ready to fake it to make Tyler jealous, probably as a favour to Reed. Well, Reed would tell him where to shove his favour when the movie was over.

When the credits started rolling, Reed got up abruptly and started walking down towards the exit. Jake followed close, but Reed was walking fast.

When they reached the sidewalk, Jake ran a few steps to catch up with Reed. “Hey, wait up!” Reed just kept walking. Jake took his arm and pulled him back. “Reed, I’m sorry. Just stop running from me, okay?” Reed was out of breath. His heart was pumping and he couldn’t feel the cold weather. “What was that in there, Jake? What the fuck?” Reed pulled his arm away and started walking away from him.

Jake caught up with him and grabbed his arm again. “I’m sorry Reed. Seriously. I shouldn’t have said that, okay?” Reed turned to him. “How can you be so callous, Jake? After everything? First you kiss me on the street, then you hug me, then you hold my hand to show my ex I’m not worthless and I know you probably think it made me happy but I didn’t need that. But then saying that it wouldn’t be just for show? What the hell, Jake? Do you not care at all what this does to me?” He was panting, his hands in fists against his legs. His eyes bugged out and his nostrils flared. Seeing this, Jake let go of his arm and took a step back. “Fuck, I’m sorry, Reed. That’s not what that was about. I thought we were having fun and you were okay with all this.”

“Well, apparently I’m not.” Reed turned away and started walking towards the car. Jake came and fell in step with him.

“What’s going on, Reed?” Jake’s eyebrows were furrowed.

“I don’t know. I was fine until you took my hand in there. It’s one thing to kiss me for Christmas and hug me like we used to, it’s another to act like my boyfriend. There was a time when that’s all I wished for and for you to make fun of it…” Reed sighed. Suddenly he was very tired. They got to the car and he went to unlock Jake’s door. When he turned to go to his side, Jake stopped him with a hand on his chest.

“I’m not making fun of anything. Seeing you again, knowing for sure you had feelings for me has been making me think about things I didn’t before. I always liked you, Reed, maybe more than just as a friend. These last few days I’ve been thinking what it would be like to kiss you again. I really liked kissing you the other night, Reed.” Jake’s hand moved down on Reed’s chest, then fell away completely. His eyes weren’t making contact with Reed’s. He was looking at his jacket.

“What are you saying, Jake? You’re freaking me out.” Reed was flushed, he was sure of it. His face felt so hot and his skin so thick. The air was chilly, the sun wasn’t out. It was hiding behind thick winter clouds – the ones that you can barely see against grey sky.

Jake took a deep breath. He looked at Reed, finally. “I think I’m attracted to you, Reed. Maybe I always was, but I feel it now. You were my best friend and I lost you when I moved. But not because I was far away. Because I acted like a jerk when you tried to tell me something and I couldn’t deal. I miss you like crazy and seeing you again makes me think of what could have been. Am I making any sense” he chuckled shyly, putting his hands in his pockets.

Reed looked into his eyes. He could see Jake was sincere. He could also see the tenderness there. “What about Sarah?” Reed knew it was splashing cold water on Jake’s confession, but he couldn’t help himself. Sarah kept popping into his mind.

“I phoned her this morning. I broke up with her.” Jake looked at the ground.

“I’m sorry,” Reed whispered.

“Don’t be. She wasn’t upset and neither am I.” Jake’s eyes came up and held Reed’s gaze.

“Woah. It’s a lot to take in, Jake.” Reed turned and walked to his side of the car. Jake got in and put his seatbelt on. He was watching Reed.

“I know. I’m sorry. I just wanna be clear that I didn’t mean to hurt you in there, okay? Are we good?”

“Yeah. We’re good. My mom made you brownies. Wanna come over?” Reed smiled at him.

“Hell yeah!” Jake whooped, which made Reed chuckle.

Reed drove home. When they stopped for red lights, he tried to steal glimpses of Jake but Jake was watching him the whole time, grinning. When they arrived, Reed turned the engine off. Jake put a hand on his arm.

“I don’t wanna be pushy, but I meant what I said, Reed. I wanna kiss you again.”

Reed’s heart went right up his throat and he thought he would vomit. Great, just great.

“Relax, it doesn’t have to be now,” Jake said, seeing his expression. “You know, Richmond is only four hours away from Charlotte. I have my license, I could drive up to see you on weekends, we could hang out…”

Reed turned sharply, put his hands on Jake’s face and pulled him in. He crushed Jake’s lips with his and breathed him in. He smelled like Jake, only cleaner and stronger than he remembered. Jake responded immediately, caressing Reed’s mouth with his own. Reed tentatively stroked Jake’s lower lip with the tip of his tongue, and Jake opened for him. Their tongues danced together, hot and wet. It was the sexiest kiss Reed had ever experienced. He never imagined it could be this good. His heart soared with love for Jake he thought was gone, but it must have been taking a nap, and it woke up by Jake’s kiss. This was nothing like the kiss in front of the coffee shop.

They paused to breathe, Reed still holding Jake’s face. “So? Did you like it? Or are you disgusted?” asked Reed. He had to make sure they were still on the same page, even though it was too late for him to stop his emotions.

“Do I feel disgusted to you?” Jake’s eyes held that wickedness again and he was grinning like the devil himself. “Maybe I need to show you again.” He leaned in and kissed Reed’s mouth, this time slow and deep. Jake groaned. “Fuck. This is… wow,” he said on Reed’s lips. They kissed again, taking the time to taste each other. Finally, they pulled away, their lips bruised and sensitive.

“Want some brownies?” Reed asked, his eyes glazed and unfocused.

“Actually, I think kissing you is better than brownies from heaven, but I wouldn’t want to disappoint your mom. Do you promise we can kiss again after we’re done?” His eyes held affection and something else. Desire, maybe? Reed couldn’t wait to find out.

“Sure. The kisses will taste like brownies.”

“I doubt you could ever taste better than this” Jake said, leaning in again, smiling.

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3 thoughts on “December Goodreads stories challenge”

  1. Aww thanks Josee. I love it and I got my secret wish for them both.. I knew they were meant to be together! I feel very honoured for you to write that second part for me. Thank you so much. Its a lovely, sweet story. The last kiss was dreamy! 😀

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