“Because I’m done sneaking around! It’s been a year, Jeremy! I can’t take it. I’ve watched you go to parties and get drunk. Girls kiss you and hold you. I’ve watched everyone else take care of you when you’re drunk or high or something else!” Michael exclaims.
Jeremy and Michael have been dating since the December of junior year. It is now senior year, and once again? December. Jeremy has a fear of coming out, and Michael’s sick of waiting. Everyone knows he’s gay. Not a soul knows of Jeremy’s sexuality, that he is indeed, bi-sexual.
“I can’t watch you do this.” Michael sighs.
“What are you saying?” Jeremy asks, nervously.
“I’m saying? That I want to be the person you come to. All the time, not just when we are hiding somewhere like we are now.” Michael replies.
Jeremy and Michael are currently hiding in a backstage area of the auditorium before a play rehearsal. Jeremy steps back and looks away. He’s nervous about what Michael is going to say; Jeremy feels his stomach tighten as dread fills his veins.
“Mikey, you know I can’t do that…”
“Don’t Mikey me!” Michael snaps.
Michael has been in love with Jeremy since he was a young teenager, and is sick of waiting around for Jeremy. Michael, last year, had said he would wait as long as Jeremy wanted. Now, Michael can’t stand watching Jeremy having fun with everyone else. When Jeremy’s drunk, people kiss him. It breaks Michael’s heart. It’s like their relationship doesn’t exist. Michael feels like it’s fake.
“I need you to make a decision right now. Do you want me or not?” Michael asks, raising an eyebrow.
“I want you.” Jeremy reassures, nodding.
“Then let’s come out.” Michael takes Jeremy’s hand and tries to pull them from their hiding spot.
“No!” Jeremy squeaks, pulling Michael back. “I can’t. Michael, they’ll look at me and tease.”
“I’ll protect you! What do you think I’ve had to deal with for years?”
Jeremy stops to think about it for a moment. Michael has been out of the closet for a long time. Jeremy notices that Michael deals with all the teasing just fine, but knows that he wouldn’t be able to handle the teasing and bullying himself.
“I’m sorry, Michael I can’t.” Jeremy sighs, looking down at the ground.
“Then I think we are done here.” Michael drops Jeremy’s hand.
Michael can feel his heart breaking as he drops Jeremy’s hand. It’s devastating to let go of Jeremy’s hand because Michael knows it’s over now. No more secret kisses in the shadows, or cuddles when their alone. Michael looks away from Jeremy as his eyes tear up. Michael still loves Jeremy, and regrets never saying it to him.
“Michael?” Jeremy says, in a shaky voice. “Please, don’t do this.”
Jeremy wishes he could get on his knees and beg without seeming too desperate. He needs Michael in his life, and seeing the back of his red hoodie is tearing him up inside.
“I’ll do anything.”
“No you won’t.” Michael says, quietly. “This isn’t some fairytale where you can whisk me away. I can’t whisk you away. All this time after calling you my prince… I just thought you actually cared about me.”
“I’ve sacrificed so much for you, Jeremy. What have you ever done for me?”
Jeremy swallows at the question. Michael has made a lot of sacrifices in this relationship, and Jeremy doesn’t seem to do a thing. Jeremy hides in the shadows, the darkness. He’s afraid to see what people will think of him. He hates attention. All Michael does is come to Jeremy’s rescue, and is there when he needs him. Jeremy? Jeremy tries to be doing a lot of things so it doesn’t look like him and Michael are dating.
“I’ve given you my heart.” Jeremy says, hopeful.
“Well, you’ve broken mine too many times.” Michael runs his fingers through his hair.
“I have a job to do.” Michael comments, walking away from the love of his life.
Jeremy’s heart smashes into a million pieces watching Michael walk away. Jeremy bolts past Michael and heads into the bathroom as he cries. Jeremy can’t live without Michael, without his riends. Michael’s feeling the same way as he goes to the sound booth. Michael doesn’t cry, but he is now.
The sound of footsteps make Jeremy and Michael both pause. Jake walks into the sound booth, and Rich has walks into the bathroom. Michael rubs his eyes and looks over at Jake who greets him with a warm smile.
“Sup headphones? Are you alright?” Jake says, placing a hand on Michael’s shoulder.
“I’m fine.” Michael sighs. “Just having a rough day.”
Jake and Michael have actually become friends over the past year. Michael doesn’t seem to mind Jake, at all. If Jeremy wasn’t Michael’s best friend? Michael is sure Jake would be his best friend. Although, Michael just left Jeremy, so maybe Jake is his best friend now.
“I’m sorry, man. I’m sure it’ll get better.”
“One can hope.”
Michael’s just somehow hoping that Jeremy will change is mind, and be brave for him. There is nothing wrong with being queer, and Michael thinks that Jeremy must come to terms with that.
In the bathroom, Rich is sitting on a window sill with Jeremy, as Jeremy sobs. Jeremy wants Michael back, but isn’t sure he can make the sacrifice of coming out. Jeremy is heaving, and Rich feels awful. He almost doesn’t know how to help Jeremy.
“Dude, what happened?” Rich asks, once Jeremy has calmed down a little bit.
“I think I just lost my best friend.” Jeremy sniffles, and rubs his eyes. “I… I don’t know what to do, Rich.”
Rich raises an eyebrow and Jeremy nods in response. Jeremy’s voice is too shaky to carry words right now. His hands are trembling a mile a minute. Rich sighs and nods.
“Hey, doesn’t your character in the play commit suicide?”
“Are you suggesting I commit suicide, Rich?” Jeremy asks, looking up.
Rich shakes his head, “Dude, no! I would never do something that heartless. I’m not that cruel.”
“Sure.” Jeremy scoffs.
“Okay, so what were you suggesting?”
“Why don’t you channel all that emotion into acting?” Rich comments.
Jeremy is a bit shocked, “That’s good advice.”
“Well, sometimes I listen to theatre geeks. Not Mr. Reyes, of course. Jake has been doing plays for awhile, and so has Christine, ya know?”
“And me.” Jeremy comments.
“Right, and you.”
Jeremy nods, and washes his face quickly. He doesn’t want anyone else to know what has happened. He doesn’t want people to question it. Jeremy sighs as he realizes something. A pit of fear grows in his stomach, and he goes wide eyed. What if Michael doesn’t keep his secret?
“Whoa, dude. It’s gonna be okay.” Rich sighs. “He’s just your best friend. Things will get fixed. If after the SQUIP Michael could forgive you? That’s real friendship.”
“Well, Jake forgave you for burning down his house.” Jeremy comments, rubbing his eyes.
“Jake and I are a couple.”
Jeremy looks at Rich. Why doesn’t Jeremy know that? He knows that Rich is bi, and that Jake is pan. That left it as a possibility, but Jeremy doesn’t like to assume things. Sure, the two are best friends. Does everyone know they’re a couple?
“Oh, wow.” Jeremy says.
“I know, we are weird about it. We just don’t want people to think of us differently.”
“Do people know?” Jeremy questions.
“Oh, yeah.” Rich nods.
“You guys are lucky.” Jeremy sighs.
Rich and Jake don’t get teased, and Jeremy feels almost envious. He’s watched Michael be bullied for years. Now? Jeremy wonders if he would suffer like Michael or be okay like Rich and Jake if he were to come out.
“You’re just jealous cause you’ve been single ever since Christine. Even she’s got someone. Everyone except you and Michael. At least, so I’ve heard. Our group seems to have a lot of secret relationships.”
Him and Michael? The words ring through Jeremy’s mind. That really does single the pair out. Maybe Jeremy’s secret is going to leak through the social system at school slowly. Everyone’s going to find out - that terrifies Jeremy.
Jeremy laughs nervously, “I was about to say, I’ve gotten kissed by Brooke and Chloe. Well, they used to. Not so much recently.”
“Yeah, you’re a player.”
“Usually just a videogame player.” Jeremy laughs, softly.
“I know. You’re pretty good at xbox when we play.” Rich smiles. “I’m better at Mario Kart though.”
“So I’ve noticed.” Jeremy rolls his eyes, almost forgetting his bad mood.
“We should probably get to rehearsal.” Rich comments, after a small silence.
“Yeah.” Jeremy sighs. “We should.”
In the auditorium, Michael is preparing all of the tech for the show. Michael has gotten a microphone on Christine, another one of Michael’s good friends in the group, and she notices the awkwardness between him and Jeremy. Christine sighs. Christine has always had a hunch about the two of them dating. That’s why she broke up with Jeremy, part of her knew that he loved Michael.
“You okay?” Christine questions, as Michael’s gaze falls on Jeremy.
Michael nods, “Yeah, sorry. I was a bit distracted.”
Christine nods as Michael continues to place microphone tape on her face so it won’t fall off. Michael’s careful not to get Christine’s hair stuck in the tape because Michael tries his best to be good at what he does.
“Michael, don’t lie to me, please.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Michael denies. “I’m fine.”
“Jake said you were crying.”
“Damn it.” Michael mutters.
“Is everything okay with Jeremy?” Christine asks, tilting her head.
Michael’s heart seems to shred into a few more pieces at the mention of the boy’s name. Michael sighs, and shakes his head. He still intends on being a good friend, and keeping Jeremy’s secret as best as he can.
“You two don’t seem okay.” Christine comments.
“We had a small spat. It’ll blow over.” Michael sighs, again.
“You only sigh this much when you’re upset.”
“Well, it’s a bit upsetting when Jeremy and I do this. Get in fights.”
“It doesn’t happen often.” Christine sighs, feeling a bit sympathetic for Michael.
Christine remembers how torn Jeremy was after the SQUIP incident. Jeremy had trouble forgiving himself, and he was suffering more because of how distant Michael was while he was healing from the whole fight that happened in Jake’s bathroom. Christine knew how that went, and hopes that these two will fix things sooner rather than later.
Rehearsal seems to go over fine as the play runs. Michael avoids Jeremy at all cost, and Jeremy wishes he could find the words to talk to Michael. Both of the boys feel as if their worlds have been completely shattered. A nuclear bomb in their hearts. Life is different without each other.
Jeremy is laying in bed that night. He stares at the ceiling with the glow in the dark stars. Michael and him had stuck them up there when they were in fourth grade. Jeremy remembers it and it makes his heart ache. Jeremy just wants Michael back. He wants to be in Michael’s embrace. Jeremy only woke up because he had a nightmare. He stares at glow in the dark stars on the ceiling. He is trying to think of happy memories but it is harder when Michael’s not there to comfort him.
Jeremy thinks of their first date, which had happened in Michael’s basement. Michael had set up a tray of food in between their bean bags, and plugged in all his old arcade games that he kept in the basement. Machines from shutdown arcades that Michael had bought. Him and Michael had played them all. It took them until sunrise the next morning.
Jeremy sighs, recalling the memory. He wonders what the first date would have been like if he would just allow himself to be public with Michael. Right now, that’s what is keeping them apart. Jeremy runs his fingers through his hair. He tries to dry his tears, but it doesn’t seem to be working. He decides to go into his basement. Jeremy notices that Michael’s white headphones are on his bean bag. He’s guessing Michael accidentally left them behind.
Jeremy smiles a small bit and sniffles. He sits on his bean bag, but leans over and lays down on Michael’s. It smells like Michael. It feels like the warmth of his hoodie, and the warmth of his laugh when he’s high. It’s like the warm bubbly feeling Jeremy gets inside when he’s listening to Michael rant about something important to him.
Jeremy feels his smile fall as he reminds himself that Michael’s not actually there. Jeremy knows this is true as a shiver travels down his spine. Jeremy’s naturally cold and Michael’s naturally warm. Jeremy grabs a blanket, a red one for Michael, and looks over at the white headphones. It seems wrong that they aren’t around Michael’s neck. Jeremy decides to put them on.
Jeremy smiles a small bit and lays on the bean bags in his basement. He plugs the white headphones, that are a bit big on him, into his phone. Jeremy scrolls through a few playlists and then his eyes land on a certain one. The one that holds the title of ‘Boyf tape’. Jeremy smiles a small bit. Michael made the ‘Boyf tape’ playlist for Jeremy, and it’s a list of songs that reminds Michael of Jeremy. Jeremy did something similar for Michael a few weeks later and titled it ‘Riends tape’. The two playlists lay next to each other in Jeremy’s recent played queue. Jeremy eyes flicker back and forth between the two. Jeremy presses on the ‘boyf tape’ because he feels security in the fact that Michael might still be thinking about him.
A little ways down the street and around the corner from Jeremy’s house, Michael is sitting in his dining room. Michael stares outside at the moon as a few crystal orbs leak from his eyes. He misses Jeremy more than anything and feels guilty. Michael knows he could have waited for Jeremy longer. Michael would do almost anything for Jeremy, and he knows now that he totally blew it.
A few hours pass as Michael scrolls through his phone. Photos from his and Jeremy’s dates, hangouts, play dates in their childhood, and every first day of school ever in his phone. Their pictures from going to homecoming. The prom that Michael had held in his basement so him and Jeremy could go to a prom together. Michael’s sister was nice enough to help out. Michael smiles as he looks at the picture. Jeremy was in a navy blue tux, and Michael wore a red one. Jeremy had gotten Michael a boutonniere, and Michael got Jeremy a corsage as a joke. Jeremy still wore it and wore it with pride.
“What’s with all the tears, little bro?” Sophia asks, making coffee.
Michael checks the time, and notices it is just about time to go to school and sighs. He wish he did not have to go to school that morning. He wants to stay home and get high or something. Although, he does want to check his locker to see if his headphones are there. Michael does not function right with Jeremy, and he definitely does not function right without his music.
“You just going to leave me in silence?” She raises an eyebrow.
Michael sighs, “I think I made a bad choice.” He rubs his eyes.
Sophia and Michael usually don’t talk much. Michael doesn’t really interact with his family because they are mean to him. However, Michael seems to favor Sophia over the rest of his family. Sophia is the only one who really accepted him for being gay.
“Well, sis, I broke up with Jeremy.”
“What?” She asks, shocked. “Why would you do that?”
“I got a little impatient.” Michael sniffs. “It sounds stupid, I know. I’ve just been wanting to hold his hand in the hallway for so long.”
“Someone else did, didn’t they?” Sophia asks, knowing her brother well.
“Him and Brooke.” Michael nods.
“It’s fine.” He shrugs. “I’ll get over it.”
“You’ve loved him for like, what? Ten years. You love him.”
“I never said it.” Michael sighs.
Michael feels a weight fall over his heart as he says it. Why didn’t he ever tell Jeremy that? He feels so awful now. He missed his opportunity and Michael’s worried that he will not get a chance to ever say those eight letters to Jeremy, the boy he’s totally fallen for.
Michael ignores whatever his sister, Sophia, is saying goes into the basement to get ready for school. Michael decides to walk to school that day so that he does not have to find anything of Jeremy’s in his PT Cruiser, or run into Jeremy on the bus to school. Michael knows that when he doesn’t pick Jeremy up to go to school that the pale, lanky, twig of a boy takes the bus. Michael changes quickly and secures the red hoodie on himself before grabbing a chocolate scone and walking out the door.
Michael keeps his hood up because it’s raining outside. Michael’s not worrying about getting sick because he has an immune system of steel. Michael rarely ever gets sick, and when he does, it’s bad. Michael doesn’t seem to care as he keeps walking to school.
Michael and Jeremy seem to be avoiding each other. There’s an awkward silence between the two at their lockers that morning. Michael can’t even look at Jeremy, and all Jeremy can do is look at Michael. The others in the group notice the awkward dynamic between the two. It’s hard not to notice, really. There’s a deafening loud silence between the two boys.
Throughout the first half of the day, there’s whispers about Jeremy that tread through the social system at Middle Borough. Jeremy does not worry about it. However, Jeremy’s name catches Michael’s ear as he is in a free period. Michael turns around to see Brooke and Christine.
“What did you just say about Jeremy?” Michael raises his eyebrow.
“You haven’t seen him today?” Brooke questions.
“So, you still care?”
“Christine? Of course I care! He’s my best friend!” Michael blushes a small bit. “No, I haven’t seen him.”
“Really?” Brooke says with a small smirk on her face. “He’s wearing something of yours.”
“Obviously not that red hoodie, don’t look down Michael. You’re wearing it.” Christine comments.
Michael nods, as thoughts run through his mind quickly. What could Jeremy possibly be wearing? Michael looks at his bag, all the pins were there. The pac-man pin, the Galaga pin, the riends label, the slushy pin that Jeremy handmade him. Michael checks a pocket of his backpack to make sure his new player one patch is still inside, and it is. However, he realizes the one thing he isn’t wearing. He turns back to Brooke and Christine who are smiling.
“Headphones?” Michael questions, and both girls nod.
Jeremy is walking around school in Michael’s headphone’s that he found on Michael’s dusty, old beanbag in his basement last night. Jeremy does get questions and a few odd looks. Jeremy supposes it’s because the headphones don’t really go with his style. It’s a very Michael thing. That or the other students have seen the awkward space between the two best friends, also known as secret ex-boyfriends.
During lunch, Michael finally looks over to see Jeremy is wearing the white headphones that he loves so much. Michael wonders if he should just leave Jeremy with them so Jeremy can always have a part of them. Michael then realizes that’s crazy because he loves his headphones way too much. It might be a little unhealthy, how much Michael loves those white headphones.
Jeremy sits in his normal spot at lunch, across from Michael. Everyone sitting at the table is whispering about the headphones and the silence between Jeremy and Michael. Michael is dying to say something to Jeremy about how adorable he looks in the headphones, but doesn’t want to cross any lines. Jeremy sighs, looking over at the other. It seems to come in question of who at the table is going to be speaking first.
“What’s with the headphones, Jerry?” Chloe asks, speaking before anyone else.
“I’m wearing them.” Jeremy says, almost being sarcastic except for the fact that he is wearing the headphones. “Why do you ask?”
“Just… they are Michael’s headphones.” Jake notices.
“So?” Jeremy raises an eyebrow.
“Usually people only wear other people’s stuff when they are dating.” Jenna comments.
“What’s your point?” Jeremy sighs, looking over at the other.
Michael feels his stomach tighten in fear. What is Jeremy doing? Michael is hoping for something, and hopes to see a falling star somehow in the middle of the day to wish for all his dreams to come true in that moment. Jeremy has a small smile on his face, and it makes Michael’s heart skip a beat and send good vibes through his veins.
“Well…” Christine’s voice trails off, as she raises an eyebrow.
Jeremy takes Michael by the hand, causing Michael to look up at Jeremy. The boys make eye contact and it makes both of them grin. A blush creeps around Jeremy’s ears, and down to his cheeks. Jeremy looks a little nervous and takes a deep breath.
“I… I am dating Michael.” Jeremy smiles softly. “I mean, I was yesterday. I would love it if he would take me back.”
Michael’s heart is racing a mile a millisecond. The world is nearly a spinning blur in his eyes, tears prick his eyes. For not being a crier, Michael seems to be crying a lot now. Michael grins.
Jeremy grins. “Can I say something?” He asks. “I meant to say it before but-”
“I love you.” Michael cuts him off, standing. “I love you, and I have since I was eight. I love you. I love you, so, so, so much!”
“I love you too.” Jeremy smiles, and stands.
Michael comes to the other side of the table and hugs Jeremy, kissing his forehead. Jeremy looks up at Michael as they hug and kisses his cheek. The boys seem so wrapped up in their embrace to notice the explosion from the friend group.
“I knew it!” Christine calls, and smiles.
“Get it up on my blog!” Jenna exclaims, and fumbles for her phone as fast as she possibly can.
“He is a bi-sexual!” Rich smiles. “He is following my footsteps.”
“That he is, babe.” Jake grins, and throws an arm around Rich.
“I can’t believe it!” Brooke jumps up, cheering.
“Jerry got a boy, huh?” Chloe raises an eyebrow.
Michael and Jeremy release their hug. Michael grins and nuzzles Jeremy and kisses his cheek. Jeremy smiles and giggles softly. Everyone seems so happy for them. They do look very happy.
“How long?” Jake asks, curious.
“A year, right Mikey?” Jeremy looks up at Michael.
“That’s right, baby.” Michael grins, laughing softly.
The audible noise of ‘awe’ is heard as the two gaze into each other’s eyes. Yes, it is indeed a little cheesy, but it’s adorable. There’s so much love as the two boys look at each other. Michael presses his lips into Jeremy’s forehead. Jeremy is no longer in the shadows, he has now stepped into the light.
“I’m so proud of you.” Michael whispers.
“Anything for you.” Jeremy says softly, looking up at Michael with adoration. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Michael grins, cupping Jeremy’s face.
Michael and Jeremy seem closer than ever. It is true, distance makes the heart grow fonder. However, the boys don’t look like they’ll ever been separating ever again. The love between Michael and Jeremy is much too strong. Michael got his prince, and Jeremy got his. So? The boyf and the riends live happily ever after.