Engaged – Part 2
“Noh! Noh, you bastard! What the hell is going on?” A large tan hand smacks the back of my head, effectively waking me up from my midday nap.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Yawning wide, I stretch my arms out to work the kinks out of my shoulders and back due to sleeping hunched over a picnic table in the middle of the quad. I watch my best friend, Ohm, through bleary eyes as he slams his bag on the other side of the table and sits down.
“When the hell did Phun get engaged?!” This statement catches my attention and the last cobwebs of sleep disappear instantly as Ohm gets even more agitated. “Who is he marrying? I thought you guys were good. Are his parents trying to shuffle him off to some dried up priss chick again?”
“Say what?” Still trying to process his words, I interrupt his tirade. “What do you mean Phun is getting married? Who says?”
“You mean you didn’t know?!” Eyebrows lowering, Ohm’s face takes on a menacing glare. “It’s all over freaking campus. Girls are crying everywhere. I would have thought you would be the first to know this shit. He is YOUR boyfriend. Are you telling me that asshole hasn’t said a word about it to you?”
“You must have heard it wrong or it’s just some fucked up rumor.” Shaking my head, I look over at Ohm with as much confidence as I can muster. While it’s true that Phun and I never officially told his family about us, I thought they understood us by now. It not like we are hiding anymore. I mean, we don’t make out in front of them or anything and we try to keep things low key, but we will hold hands and Phun’s not exactly Mr. Subtle with his affection. They completely gave up on finding a “nice girl” for him to date and marry ages ago. I’m even invited to all the family gatherings. Doesn’t that mean that they accept our relationship? It has to. “You really shouldn’t listen to gossip.”
“It’s not just gossip.” Ohm says quietly, his eyes lowering to his clasped hands. “I bumped into Fred a few minutes ago and he said Phun confirmed it when they asked before last class. He had to rush off before I could ask anything else.”
No, this isn’t happening. This can’t be true. Phun can’t be engaged to someone else. He can’t. I know he wants his family to be proud of him. He wants to please his father, so he’s always done as his father has asked. I was the one exception. For me, he defied everyone. For us, he fought for the first time with his father. It was all so we could be together. There is no way Phun would throw that away, throw me away.
“I’m gonna head home.” Blindly, I gather up my stuff and shove it into my bag.
“Want me to come with?” Ohm asks with concern.
“No, I’m fine. Really. I’ll see you later.” With a short wave, I stand up and walk away. I don’t need company. I need to be alone to think and get my head on straight. I don’t know if Ohm waves back or says anything more. My mind is too jumbled to register anything else and my heart hurts too much for me to care. My Phun is engaged?
The walk home is torturous. Actually, just getting off campus is akin to walking through the gates of hell. So many schoolmates stop me to ask about Phun that their faces all blur together. Everyone knows that he and I are close friends so they hope I can provide the answers they crave. Girls with tears in their eyes ready to drop any second clutch at my arm and beg for a denial. Guys eyeing me with a speculative gleam asking if Phun is really taking the plunge with some strange girl. The best I can do is plaster a fake smile across my face and brush them off by saying that it is Phun’s personal business. It takes what little strength I have left to keep from screaming at them and to keep moving one foot in front of the other.
Finally making it through my front door, I trudge into my bedroom and slam the door shut making sure to lock it securely. The darkness of the room sooths my raw nerves as I fall onto the comfort of my bed. Unfortunately, the darkness also brings into sharp relief the confusion in my head. I’m cushioned on the bed that Phun and I just slept in together the night before. Securely wrapped in his arms, breathing in the musky scent that is distinctly Phun, my only thoughts at the time were completely of him. My contented feelings from then now feel absurd.
The pain in my chest makes me sit up and gasp for breath. Clutching at the blanket beneath me, I try to focus, to calm down. The truth is that I’ve never understood why Phun chose me. I’m just a normal guy. My grades are mediocre at best (except in music), I don’t have an abundance of cash or impressive family connections, and my only real accomplishment is being in a somewhat popular local band. Back in high school, I once struggled with the thought that Phun would be better off dating some cute girl with good grades from a good family. Secretly, in the darkest part of my mind, I still have that fear. The fear that one day Phun will see the truth most of the world believes and will leave me. Has that day really come?
Before I can delve deeper into that thought, my pocket starts vibrating. I pull out my phone to find that Phun just sent me a text. A chill goes through me, starting in my chest and going out to the tips of my fingers. Cringing, I quickly swipe open the message, dreading what it might say.
“I’ll be late after class because of a project. Let’s go out for dinner. Dress nice.”
What the hell? Is he trying to soften the blow by feeding me? That must be it. The proof is in this text. My Phun is a goofy, cheesy, sentimental bastard. Usually when he sends me a text, it’s full of smiley faces and hearts and always ends with a ‘love you.’ His texts make me both smile and want to vomit most of the time. This text has none of that and leaves me cold. I want the puke-inducing, mushiness back. I want to have him call me ‘Noh Baby’ with that ridiculous emogie of him blowing kisses. I want him to send me a thousand stupid red hearts. Anything to take away this horrible emptiness.
Without responding, I turn the phone to silent making sure even the vibration is off and set it on my nightstand. Laying down, I curl up and pull the blanket over my head. Maybe if I lose myself in sleep, I will wake up to all of this being a bad dream. I’ll wake up and it will be this morning again.
A few hours later, a loud knocking on my bedroom door startles me from dreams of being lost in a black void where not even my voice can be heard as I watch the retreating back of my lover walking resolutely away from me. The terror of that moment has my heart racing but I know it is only a dream. Life without Phun would be so much worse. Rubbing my eyes, I look around the dark room until I find the glowing numbers of my alarm clock. Its early evening already and the events from earlier race through my head as I groan.
“Noh? Noh?” Ohm’s voice carries through the door followed by another knock. “Hey, you okay? Noh?”
“I’m fine.” I holler back before he decides to smash my door down. Ohm is a great friend but sometimes he turns into a raging bull when he starts to worry. N’Mick is away for a class exchange so he isn’t even around to distract him. “I’m gonna take a shower.”
Phun should be getting here soon so I better make myself presentable. If he’s going to dump me, I want to look my best so maybe he will regret it a little later. After carefully choosing an outfit, I head into the bathroom. In the mirror I see a face that is almost unrecognizable. Dull eyes stare back at me from a pallid complexion. A frown turns down the corners of my normally smiling lips and puts a furrow in my forehead. Red marks from the pillow crisscross over my left cheek and down the side of my neck. It’s a sad, pathetic version of me in wrinkled school clothes.
After a long, hot shower and drying my hair, I pull on a faded blue, button-down shirt and dark jeans. I comb my hair and decide to let it lay down, the bangs almost sweeping against my brows. It didn’t take long after high school for me to ditch the buzzcut. University rules are a lot more flexible about hairstyles so I no longer have to worry about teachers reprimanding me. I admit it. I was too lazy to style my hair in high school, hence the almost skinhead cut.
Grabbing my wallet and keys, I slide them into my pockets. Ohm is always complaining about me forgetting the apartment keys, so I’ve been trying to remember them to keep his bitching to a minimum. My phone is still sitting quietly on the nightstand. Picking it up, I swipe the screen and turn the volume back on before looking at the two new messages from Phun. The last one sent ten minutes ago.
“Noh, did you get my last text? I’m almost done here so I’ll see you soon.”
“Be there in 15”
Shoving the phone into my front pocket, I check my reflection in the mirror one more time and am satisfied that I’m looking good. I open the door and walk out into the main living area of the apartment to find Ohm lost in a world of music only he can hear. No, he hasn’t lost his marbles… yet. He has a gigantic pair of headphones on and is sitting at the desk with a look of concentration as he listens intently to whatever is playing, probably working on one of our assignments. Not wanting to disturb his concentration, I head for the front door without saying anything.
“Good luck with loverboy.” Ohm’s voice carries across the room. It sounds sarcastic but I can hear the worry in his voice. “If you come back a basketcase, I’ll seriously kick his ass this time.”
Looking over my shoulder, I smile at Ohm and nod my head in understanding. He does a quick salute before returning to his work. My gaze lingers a moment longer as I wonder how this guy can be both the biggest asshole and have the biggest heart at the same time. I’m so fucking lucky to have him as my best friend. (Don’t ever tell him I said that! I’ll never hear the end of it.)
A knock on the door startles me out of my thoughts and I turn to look at it. This is the moment I have been dreading since we started dating, even before that really. The moment where that little tiny niggling doubt left lurking in the dark corner of my mind is suddenly brought out into the glaring light. I become painfully aware of how lacking I am to be by Phun’s side, how flawed I am. My usual confidence shatters as I stare at the front door.
“Noh?” Another knock follows. That warm, rich voice calling my name vibrates through me and I can picture him leaning closer with his hand resting on the door, trying not to bother my neighbors.
It’s time to face my fate.