'BEEP BEEP BEEP!' came the annoying screech of my alarm clock the next morning. I let out a loud groan and threw it across my room, leaving a sizeable dent in the wall.

'Shit!' I grumbled as I set it back on my nightstand. My parents wouldn't be happy about that.

I showered, jerked on a pair of jeans and a sweater, and headed of to school. Halfway there, I realized that I didn't have my Physics book. I must have forgotten to pick it up off the ground yesterday, I thought. A sudden thought came to me: maybe Carter has it, I thought hopefully.


The thought of seeing him again today made me get serious butterflies. But what if he doesn't know that I'm gay? He may not want to talk to me anymore. But why would he, with me being the nerdy loser and him being the popular, all-star athelete. I quickly snapped out of it, and realized that these thoughts were just paranoia.

I reached the school just as most of the students were getting there. I kept my head down and kept walking, trying my best not to draw attention to myself. I made it to my locker without incident, and I breathed easier.

'I think you dropped this yesterday,' he said in that slow drawl that sent shivers up my spine.

'Thank you,' I said as I turned toward him, careful not to look him in the face for fear my knees would go weak. I put my Physics book in my locker, using it as an excuse to avert my eyes.

'I've noticed that you're by yourself alot. Why?' he asked offhandedly.

'Well, because I'm new here and new kids don't usually make that many friends. And also because I've never had that many friends in the first place,' I said.

'Well in that case, would you maybe want to sit with me at lunch or something. You can make a friend while your at it,' he said with a crooked smile that made my palms sweat.

I carefully weighed my options; sitting with Carter versus sitting by myself and looking like a total dumbass. Take a lucky guess at which one I picked.

'Sure,' I said happily.

'Ok then, I'll se you at lunch,' he said with one last smile before walking away.

I stood there for a few seconds while my breath returned to normal. When I came out of my daze, I saw a few people staring at me, probably wondering what Carter Bowles was doing talking to someone like me. I blushed scarlet and stuck my face in my locker to escape the onslaught of reproachful stares.

Lunch couldn't get here fast enough. When the luch bell finally rang, I bolted to my locker to dump my books. But when I reached the cafeteria, I deep sigh of disappointment; no Carter in sight. The blood rushed to my face and tears welled up in my eyes as I quickly ran out of there. Of course, I thought, he's just like the others. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die.

I heard running footfalls in the empty hall behind me, but I kept walking, hoping to eventually reach the library. The footsteps got closer and closer, and suddenly I felt an hand gently grab my arm and pull me back.

'I'm sorry I wasn't in there, Matt. I was held late in Literature,' he said apologetically.

'It's ok,' I said, careful to keep my head down so he wouldn't see my red-rimmed eyes.

'You still want to go to lunch?' he asked.

'No thanks, I'm not really hungry anymore,' I said softly. Actually, I was ravenous, but I didn't want to face the lunchroom crowd again.

'Well, you wanna go for a walk or something?' he asked.

'Sure. That would be great,' I said, hopeful that no further humiliation would befall me.

As we walked around the recreation area, we made small talk about our classes and homework load and the like.

'So tell me about yourself,' he said suddenly.

'I-uh-um.....What would you like to know?' I answered, caught off guard.

'Where are you from?' he asked. Benign enough question.

'New Jersey,' I said.

'Why did you move so far south?'

'Because my parents' company started a branch here and they were put in charge of it.'

'Oh. Well do you like it here?' he asked.

'I actually do. It's beautiful. I can't wait to see it in spring or summer,' I said.

The conversation went smoothly enough after it got started. He told me that his father was a lawyer and his mom was a gynocologist.....ew. And, as expected, he told me that his family had lived in Charleston since the Civil War. Oh great, a prominent citizen, I thought. That only added to my inferiority complex.

In the middle of our conversation the bell rang to signal the end of lunch.

'Crap!' I groaned. the next class was gym; the bane of my existence.

'What's wrong?' he asked.

'I hate gym,' I said miserably.

'Well we have it together, so at least you'll know somebody,' he said with a smile.

Why hadn't I noticed him in there before? Chalk it up to intense concentration on not dying!

Gym passed without a hitch, thank God.......until I reached the exit. As I was walking towards the exit, a group of muscled-up seniors carelessly shoved me into the lockers. I crumpled to the ground and immediatley knew that I would have bruises.

'HEY!' I heard someone roar.

My head snapped up and I saw Carter slam the guy who shoved me against the wall.

'You don't just shove people out of the way like that, you stupid fuck!' he yelled at the guy, his face a mask of terror.

'I'm sorry, Carter, I'll apologize,' he said quickly.

'You're damn right you will!' he said as he pushed the kid towards me.

'Um, sorry I shoved you, dude,' he said, shuffling his feet.

'It's ok, it was an accident,' I said in an attempt to diffuse the tension.

Carter walked over to me as the guy scampered away.

'Are you alright?' he asked with concern in his eyes as he helped me up.

'I'm fine, really,' I said brightly as I eased out the door.

History class passed quickly, and I got the hell out of there. When I reached the front gate, I saw Carter leaning against a streerlamp, looking like a pagan god of beauty.....or hotness. I approached him slowly, taking him in.

'Hey, Matt. I thought that since it's so damn cold and all, that you would like a ride home,' he said.

'Yeah, that would be great,' I said earnestly.

Not surprisingly, he drove a sleek BMW convertible. He held the passenger door open for me and I settled comfortably in the leather seat. He quickly climed in next, and soon we were speeding through downtown. He drove a little too fast for my taste, but I was grateful for his assistance so I ept my mouth shut. When we arrived at my house, he uttered the first words since we left school.

'Matt,' he said in a low voice.

'Yes?' I said apprehensively.

'I'm sorry if I freaked you out today in gym. I just got really angry when I saw them treat you so badly,' he said, looking into my eyes.

A charge of electricity went through me when he his black eyes bore into mine. As a result, I temporarily lost my voice. Great, now he thinks I'm a dumbass, I thought.

'It's-uh-um-yeah-uh-It's ok, I understand,' I stammered.

'Next time, they'll know,' he said with a chuckle.

'I don't need protecting,' I said defiantly.

'Well, if you ever need one, just know that I'm here,' he said with disconcerting intensity.

'Ok, I'll let you know,' I said lamely.

We just sat there looking at each other for a minute, before I finally dropped my eyes, blushing a dark shade of crimson.

'Well, I guess I better go in,' I mumbled.


'Yes?' I replied quickly.

His face softened and he grabbed by hand gently, completely covering my small hand with his huge one.

'I'll see you tomorrow,' he said softly.

'Bye,' I replied while reluctantly removing my hand from his and shutting the car door.

I turned and watched as he zoomed down the street and disappeared around the corner.

I walked in a daze up my front stpes and stumbled into the foyer. After I dumped my bookbag on the nearest chair, I decided to tidy up a bit. As i was cleaning, I caught myself humming 'Ah fors'e lui' from La Traviata because it fit my state of mind. Happy, confused, wary, doubtful, just like Violetta. By the way, I love opera.

I could still feel the warmth of Carter's hand on mine and it sent my mind down all kinds of romantic routes. Needless to say, I quickly put that to an abrupt halt. It was dangerous to think those kinds of thoughts; I'll get my hopes up and end up getting hurt. That's something I wasn't too keen on experiencing. Not that it had ever happened to me before, with my non-existent love life.

But I digress, for the sake of my self esteem. I wasn't sure what exactly was going on between Carter and I, but I resolved myself to finding out.

To be continued..........



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