I faintly hear a loud, annoying ringing in my ears that is dragging me back to consciousness. Reaching up, I give my alarm clock a loud smack but it persists and is making the pain in my head even worse. After batting at it a few times, I manage to grab it and throw it roughly across the room where it bangs against the wall and falls to the floor, hopefully dead. Unfortunately, now I’m awake but I wish I wasn’t. I’ve barely had any sleep in the last two nights, which makes me even less willing to face this day.
Today is Monday, a day I have been dreading all weekend. A day that I have been longing for and I hate myself for it. Sunday was long, horribly long, and lonely. The night was worse as I lay in my bed, wide awake. No matter which way I turned or how I adjusted the temperature, I just couldn’t get comfortable.
I still haven’t turned my phone back on or even turned on my computer. It was too soon, too close. I couldn’t face them yet, either of them. There’s nothing I can say to make this any better. I can’t laugh it off like a joke, I can’t explain it away, and I sure as hell can’t pretend it didn’t happen… because it did. It happened and I can remember every fucking detail as if it’s burned into my brain and set on repeat.
“P’Phun!” Pang knocks insistently on my door, startling me out of my thoughts thankfully. “P’Phun! Mom says breakfast will be ready soon. Are you coming? P’Phun?”
“I’ll be down soon. I have to finish getting ready for school.” Yes, it’s a lie. I’m still on my bed stinking of stale sweat with horrible morning breath. I’m nowhere near ready.
“Okay. See you downstairs.” She’s quickly gone, her stomach probably already growling in anticipation of breakfast.
With a heavy sigh, I roll off the bed and head into the bathroom to get cleaned up. Afterwards, I put on my freshly pressed blue shorts and white school shirt, making sure the school pin is securely in place. One last glance in the mirror and I’m out the door with my school bag under my arm… still not ready to face the day.
Barely touching my breakfast, I mostly push it around on my plate while Mom and Pang talk. I can feel the concerned looks they are giving me since I normally have a very healthy appetite, but I’m not hungry. I excuse myself from the table saying I need to get to school early today and leave quickly after saying goodbye, afraid they would start asking questions that I can’t answer.
At school, I try to busy myself with my student council duties, hiding out in our office until class is about to begin. I thought it would be safe, that I wouldn’t see him. He should have been in class already… but he isn’t. He’s just walking through the gate as I walk out of the office. His face is pink from whatever punishment he received for arriving late, his shirt is haphazardly tucked in, and I can see how tired his eyes are even from this distance.
Our eyes meet and my heart beats for the first time in two days. When he raises his hand in a tentative wave, I can feel my whole body wanting to head towards him, but I force myself to keep moving. I resist the urge to run over and greet him, to wrap my arms around him and lose myself in a hug. I walk away before I give into temptation, not even allowing myself the smallest wave.
Out of the corner of my eye, I can see his confusion, the slight downturn of his lips as he slowly lowers his hand to his side. He hangs his head and trods toward his classroom with his shoulders slumped. I feel guilty, but I can’t face him yet.
The morning goes by and I see glimpses of Noh. Each time it tears me up inside and I have to look away, hide from his questioning eyes. I know what he wants to talk about. It’s the same things I have been asking myself since Saturday, but I have no answers.
Late in the morning, I see a bunch of Noh’s friends walking down the hall and greet them with a smile. They seem like such a close group of buddies, always joking around and teasing each other. I can’t help but laugh at some of their antics as they go by. Then I see Noh at the back of the group staring at me intently. My laughter dies and I look away, unable to meet his eyes. As I try to walk past him, he grabs my wrist firmly, pulling me to halt. He holds on and I can feel the heat from his hand radiating up my arm and through my body, chasing the coldness away that I have felt since leaving him that night. For a moment, I can’t move. I don’t want him to let go.
“Hi.” He says quietly. It’s only one word, just a simple word, but it hits me hard.
“Hi.” I manage to mumble back, refusing to face him. With regret, I pull away from his warm grip and can feel the cold returning as I walk away from him. I can’t look back. Looking at him reminds me of how much I don’t want to look away.
At lunch I see him with a bunch of his friends, playing around. It’s the first real smile of his that I’ve seen today and I realize how much I miss that smile that is so filled with joy. When he sees me, that beautiful smile disappears and I feel the pain of its loss. He mumbles something to Ohm and walks away from the lunch tables, refusing to look at me again.
I sit down dejectedly as I watch him walk away from me and it hurts. It hurts and I know it’s my fault. I’m the one who tried to kiss him. I’m the one who can’t control myself when I’m around him. The closer we get, the more time we spend together, the more I want to be around him. So, I stay away, hoping that everything will go back to the way it was… hoping that he will forgive me when that day comes… if that day comes.
I know I should be thinking of my girlfriend, Aim. We’ve been together for so long, I thought we would always be that way. She’s the most beautiful girl I have ever seen and I have always been proud to have her walking by my side. It should be her that I miss the most, but it’s not. Instead, when I close my eyes, all I see is a pair of round eyes, a buzz cut head, and a smile full of braces that can light up the darkest places. All I can see is Noh, not Aim, and the guilt about eats me alive. I push away my untouched lunch, lacking the will to even pretend to eat.
In the afternoon, I find the water by the brothers’ offices has gotten low so I decide to change it out. Taking the last dregs of the old water, I toss it over the railing to what I thought was just grass below until I hear a loud yelp. Looking down, I see a very wet Noh glaring back at me, clearly cussing out in his mind the asshole that tried to drown him.
“I can’t believe you fucking did this. You’re still mad at me for what I did when we were washing my bike, aren’t you?” Noh grumbles at me while we wait in the Student Council office for his shirt to dry. He shivers from the A/C blasting his wet skin, so I search around for a towel he can use to dry off. Even though he is complaining about me, I feel a surge of happiness that he’s here and talking to me.
“And who the hell asked you to sleep in that spot? How on earth was I supposed to know some jerk would be there?” I find a small hand towel tucked away in one of the lockers and hand it to him.
“Was that dirty mop water?” Noh asks me suspiciously as he tries to rub himself dry.
“What? No! It was distilled water. I was changing the water and they were at the bottom so I wanted to throw it out.” I quickly defend myself, thankful that it had been the clean water. Who knows how Noh would react if it actually had really been dirty mop water.
I watch as he tries to dry his bare upper body with the small cloth and it mesmerizes me. The play of muscle under his fair skin, the curve of his neck, the way his lips pucker a little as he focuses on his task. It pulls me in and I catch myself as I start to raise a hand to touch the appealing patch of smooth skin I can see on his belly. I swallow hard and turn back to the lockers where I spot a much larger towel. I blindly throw it in his direction, trying not to look at the bare expanse of his skin.
“Use that to cover yourself.” I say, trying not to sound desperate.
“I can just use this one. It’s enough for me.” That oblivious bastard says as he continues to dry off with the smaller towel.
“Use that one, too. Use it… and cover yourself.” Noh gives me a confused look and I don’t blame him, but I can’t tell him that its because he looks tempting enough to eat so I settle on another reason. “You might get cold.”
Thankfully, he seems to accept this and throws the large towel over his shoulders before continuing to rub the water out of his hair. Several minutes pass in silence. If feels awkward but I don’t know what to say to him.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in class?” Noh asks suddenly.
“I’m waiting until after you’re all dry first.” Truthfully, I just want to spend a few more minutes with him, even if it’s awkward. I’ve missed him. A few days ago I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to miss him like this. A few days ago we were only distant friends. That was before our fake relationship, before I knew the feel of him in my arms, and before I looked into his eyes and felt my world tilt upside-down.
“Did your fever come back?” I can hear the concern in his voice.
“No.” Even if it had, I probably wouldn’t have noticed with as bad as I felt.
“So, why have you been ignoring me today?” Noh asks me quietly, as he stares into my eyes.
“…………………………” He asked it. I knew he would ask about my behavior today. I was afraid he would, but I don’t know how to answer him. I don’t know how to tell him that being this close to him makes my heart race. How can I explain that I miss him even when he’s right in front of me?… that I couldn’t sleep the last two nights because he wasn’t next to me?… that, when I should be thinking about Aim, all I can think about is him? How can I say any of this? I can’t. It would be the end of us and I cannot bear the thought of a life without Noh in it. I can’t lose my friend, so I stay silent, hoping for more time.
“… can you lock up after you’re done? I should get to class.” I glance into his disappointed eyes, then grab my notebook and quickly walk out the door. I’m sorry I’m such a coward, Noh.