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Riding Out the Waves

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Michael let out a groan as he heard his alarm clock go off. He rubbed his face and hit the button.

It was far too early to get up, but the sunlight dancing on the water had other things to say. He sat up, threw on his hoodie, even though it was way too hot for that kind of weather, and headed out of his house. Michael jumped for his car and switched on the radio, driving along to the music drifting through the speakers. He hummed along, knowing this song by heart as well as many others. What could he say? The man was a sucker for Bob Marley. He pulled into the 7-11 parking lot and clocked in. “About time!" He heard a female voice from behind the counter.

Michael looked up to see his co-worker, Chloe Valentine, leaning on the counter with their old friend, the fan, doing its job. “How the hell can you be wearing that thing in this weather?” she stared at him. “It’s, like, 1000 degrees out there!” “I hadn’t noticed.” Michael rolled his eyes, grabbing a cup and pouring himself a slushy. “You know that’s gonna be coming out of your paycheck, right?” She eyed him, not moving whatsoever. “I’d rather lose money than die from overheating. Plus, he doesn’t have to know.” Michael took his finger off the button and reached for a lid. “Just take off your damn hoodie then!” Chloe exclaimed. “Bite me.” Michael snapped back.

“Hell no.” Chloe scoffed. “You’d taste horrible.” “Hey, I shower once every week!” Michael propped his feet on the counter and took a sip from the straw. “Standing outside in the rain and ocean with a bottle of conditioner doesn’t count as a shower, Michael!” “That happened only one time!” Michael defended himself. “Yeah, and you ended up in the hospital with pneumonia!” Chloe lay her cheek on the counter. Michael couldn’t think of anything to say to that, so he just ended up drinking more of the slushy.

“Are we still on for Mario Party at Jake’s?” He asked. “As far as I know.” Chloe shrugged. "Honestly, I think he just wanted to ask Rich over but chickened out and invited everyone else as well.” Michael shook his head. “Alas, poor man. Can’t even ask his crush out properly.” The word hypocrite rang in his head after uttering that sentence, and he just took another sip from his slushy. The day dragged on, people coming in and out, taking and buying, and Chloe leaving because her shift was over. Michael eyed the clock and once it hit 7:30, he leaped from behind the counter and raced out the door.

He hurried to his car, passing another co-worker of his, before anyone else could happen by. Michael headed for the grocery store first, intent on picking up some banana chips. Why? He honestly didn’t know. The damn things tasted so good, yet so horrible at the same time. Call him a masochist. Michael headed out of the store and was greeted by something he hated the most. “Hey, baby girl! Come here often?” Ugh. Michael felt his ears burn, but stayed on course for his car. “Hey! Hey!! I’m talking to you.”

Michael closed his door just in time to shield himself from a loud crack. He let out a yelp and covered his head. He looked up and saw that his driver window had a very large crack in it. It was almost a miracle the whole thing hadn’t shattered. Whatever had caused it, he wasn’t about to stick around to see what it was, and drove off.

He tried to calm down and prevent himself from having a panic attack, to little avail. Once he was at Jake’s house, Michael pulled over and lay his arms and head on the wheel, taking slow, deep breaths. In…out…in…out…he had worked out his breathing and calmed himself down…until his phone rang. At full volume. Michael nearly had another panic attack, tried to calm himself down, and looked at his phone. Rich. His best friend. The guy he had known for 12+ years. He sighed and answered. “H-Hello?” he wheezed. “Dude, are you okay? You sound like a broken stove burner.” Rich’s voice came through on the other end. Michael’s head swam.

“U-Uh… yeah, I’m good I just, uh…I need…I need a minute.” “…do you need me to come down there?” Rich offered. “Please.” Michael tried to focus on his breathing again when he heard a slight tap on the window.

He looked up to see Rich hunched over, concern written on his face. Michael opened the car door.

“Dude, what happened to your car?” was the first thing Rich asked.

Michael’s mind went completely blank as he tried to find an excuse. “U-Uh…there was…an uh…uh…um…” “You don’t have to say if you don’t want to.” Rich held his hand out. Michael took it. “Thanks, man.” The instant he stood up, though, he stumbled. The entire world buzzed around him and he felt like he was gonna hurl. “Oh, God-“ He slapped a hand over his mouth. “Take it easy, Mell.” Rich had one of his hand gripped around Michael’s and the other rubbing his back.

Michael leaned against his car, red in the face and sweaty. Definitely one of his less flattering moments. After a minute or two of suppressing the urge to vomit, Michael gained back his ability to breath and put up a thumbs-up. “You sure?” The smaller man hadn’t taken his eyes off of him. Michael had a good friend. He nodded. “All right. You want me to help you inside?” Another nod. They took one step, then another, until they had managed to reach the door.

When they went inside, all the lights were turned off except for one room, where all the noise seemed to be coming from. “Hey,” Michael weakly raised his hand in the air, notifying the others of their presence. Jenna was the first to notice his state. “Woah, Mell, what happened to you?” “You look like you almost got run over. Are you doing okay?” Jake chimed in. Michael nodded, letting Rich awkwardly guide him to where he could sit. “Yeah, I’m good.” he managed out. “Take a breather, tall-ass.” Rich comforted him, patting him on the back.

Michael wiped at his mouth and eyed him. “I don’t like that nickname.” “It fits you.” Rich lamely excused himself.

Michael just let out a scoff and leaned against the wall. “All right, we ready to start playing?” Jake sat up, holding his Wii remote. “Hell yeah!!” Brooke threw her hands in the air, leaning against Chloe. “Anybody else up for it?” Jake looked around behind him. “I am!” Christine grabbed a black Wii Remote. “Still need one more, guys!” Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Rich exclaimed:

“Michael would LOVE to play!”

Michael gave him a dirty look. “Nah, still kind of out of it. Besides, I think you’d be better than I would.” When Rich regarded him with a confused look, Michael pulled him in closer. “Don’t you wanna impress Jake?” he muttered. “What, by beating his ass at Mario Party?” Rich muttered back, realization dawning on his face. “…fine.”

“You can beat his actual ass later~.” Michael whispered, a sly grin appearing on his face. Rich glared at him, red in the face. “You playing or no, Rich?” Jake called one last time. “Yeah, yeah, I’m coming.” Rich didn’t take his furious eyes off of Michael until he was finished with his sentence. “You can say that later, too~.” Michael murmured, just quiet enough for Rich to hear, but not loud enough for anyone else. “Lithen, athole!” Rich whipped around, his blush spreading to his ears as Michael let out a cackle. “You may have jutht had a panic attack, but that doethn’t mean I can’t beat your ath!” “That’s exactly what it means.” Michael wiped away a tear.

“Just fuck already.” Chloe rolled her eyes. Michael shot her a look that said ‘Who do you take me for?’. “Not in a million years.” Rich had his back turned to both of them. “Yeah, besides, we all know Rich has his eyes on someone else.” “Really?? Who?” Jake turned to Rich, who’s entire face was beet red, for an answer. Everyone else silently shook their heads.

They all loved Jake, but he could be so oblivious at times. This was one of those times.

“Can we jutht get on with the game already?!” Rich pleaded, eyes squeezing shut and his blush spreading across his scars and to his neck.