LENGTH: 5,599 words
This story is included in the anthology, Shorts
Todd has harbored a secret love for his best friend Riley for years. But Riley has signed up to join the military, and soon he’ll leave the small town he calls home — and his best friend — behind.
The fact that Riley decides to spend his last evening home with Todd instead of with his girlfriend Charlene tells Todd something … and a few beers later, he decides to confess his feelings for his friend.
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For a long moment, I don't know what to say to this. Then, slowly, I ask, "You were thinking about me while you were getting on with her?" He grins and nods, as if there's nothing wrong with this admission, nothing at all. And here I thought it was just me ... "You're whacked. You didn't tell her?"
Riley laughs. "Hell no. We didn't even get that far. I mean, after ten minutes of her chafing my dick I was like, I got to go. I told her I forgot the condoms. They're still in the damn glove compartment! I just zipped up and was like I'm sorry, Charlene, I'm so sorry." He whines again -- so I'm not the only one it works on. "We go back into town, I drop her off at home and head on over to your place, that was that. I couldn't go through with it. I didn't want to, how messed up is that?"
His grin tells me he thinks the whole thing's a big joke, and he expects me to laugh along with him, but my mind is still caught on the fact that he was thinking of me. Me. Nudging me in the ribs, he asks, "I still have the receipt for those condoms. You think I can take them back?"
Me. The knowledge is heady and makes my head spin. Or is that the beer? I swallow down the rest of my brew like a shot of courage and offer, "You can always use them."
"When?" he asks with another laugh. "Tonight?"
Our eyes meet and lightning forks above us, freezing the moment like a photograph, thunder hard right behind the flash. The smile lingers on his lips, in his eyes -- he's waiting for me to say something quick and witty, something to make him laugh off the suggestion that underlies the word. Tonight. When I don't answer and I don't look away, the smile slips and his voice drops to a whisper. "Todd --" I surprise us both by cutting him off with a kiss.
Oh my God.
Our lips barely meet before I'm scrambling away. "Oh Jesus," I stammer. My legs wobble beneath me as I clamor to my feet. I did not just -- "Oh fuck. Riley, I didn't mean it, I swear." I don't look at him, I can't, ever again. I have to get out of here, I wish I could disappear. "Oh shit."
"Todd." I swing one leg over the tailgate and am almost out of the truck when Riley grabs my arm again, his grip uncompromising. "Get back here."
An apologetic litany rolls through my head and tumbles from my mouth, over and over again, Oh shit, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it, I'm sorry. What did I just do? My lips tingle where they touched his, I can still feel him on me, the ghost of what our friendship used to be before I ruined it. I try to shake him off and can't. "Todd!" he cries, pulling me back into the bed of the truck. There's laughter in his voice, like he's just waiting for me to say I was kidding. I wasn't. "What the hell? Why --"
The words tear from my throat, tears threatening to follow. "Because I love you, stupid."