Max would never admit it, but he was looking forward to his first day of college. It wasn’t like he was a nerd or anything, but there was something about starting fresh in a new town, and with new people that was undeniably exciting to him. High school hadn’t exactly been the best years of his life, and he was happy to be away from his small, narrow minded hometown, and into a bigger, better place. Hopefully he wouldn’t have to worry about bullies in college. It wasn’t easy being outed as the only gay kid in a hundred mile radius, but in a big town maybe he would fit in, and with any luck, he’d also find a boyfriend!
A blush filled his face as he thought of the possibility. He had never been with anyone on any level, and the idea of a boyfriend was almost too much to consider. He smiled to himself as he took his muffins out of the oven - baking was a nervous habit - and placed them on a cooling rack. There were sure to be a lot of cute boys at college. What if someone hit on him? How would he react? Max covered his face with his oven mitt clad hands. It really was too much. If he kept thinking about it he would die from pre-embarrassment.
Looking at the time, he realized he still had three hours before he had to leave for his first class. He had gotten up way too early, his mind too excited to sleep, and had decided to bake. He still needed to pick out an outfit, and shower. He would have breakfast after, once the muffins were cool. Max took off the oven mitts and went over to his dresser. He had wanted to stay on campus, but the dorm he was supposed to stay in wasn’t finished being built yet due to some setbacks from bad weather. He had ended up renting a tiny studio apartment instead. Despite the size, and the distinct lack of room to move, he liked it. There was something cozy about it that made him feel at home.
He had unpacked most of his clothes the previous week, but was annoyed as he rummaged through his drawers and couldn’t find his dark blue button down. His mom said it brought out the colour of his eyes, and he wanted to make a good first impression. He grimaced as he realized that most of the clothes he had unpacked were for wearing around the house, or to the corner store. He didn’t want to look like he had given up before school had even started. He looked through the clothes he had out, and at the bottom of the pile he spotted it - a soft blue t-shirt that his sister had insisted on buying him. Max thought it was too small, but she said it was because all of his clothes were too big, and that it ‘showed off his lithe frame’, whatever that meant. Max grabbed the shirt, and the jeans she had picked out too. He didn’t like saying it, but Sara had better taste than him, and maybe he should give it a try.
With fresh clothes in hand, Max made his way to the small washroom. It was even more cramped than his apartment, but it was functional and that’s all that mattered. He turned on the shower, grabbed a washcloth, and got in under the hot spray. As he washed, he couldn’t help but daydream. Tall, with broad shoulders. Chiseled features, and strong arms. Long hair, and sparkling eyes. Max was almost swooning just thinking about such a man. Oh how he wanted to be pinned down and - well he didn’t want to get too carried away. He turned the water a bit colder to help him cool down, and calm himself, and once he was ready, he got out, and dried off. He styled his short, brown hair into a cute swoosh, smoothing out his short sideburns. He then shaved what little stubble he had, and put on some moisturizer. Ever since he’d moved his skin had been impossibly dry. Once he was all cleaned up, he got dressed and headed back to the kitchen area.
As he crossed his apartment, Max caught his reflection in the mirror he had hung on the wall. He blushed as he realized how good he looked. Max had always considered himself to be average, but with the tight blue shirt, and jeans that hugged his ass, he had to admit he was kind of hot. He smiled at his reflection, and then grabbed a mostly cool muffin off the rack. He took a bite, and let out a small moan. He was great at baking, thanks to his mother, and the muffins were like an explosion of happiness in his mouth. He ate the muffin faster than he should have, popping the last bite into his mouth before downing a glass of milk. He then returned to the washroom and brushed his teeth.
“There, no crumbs left in my teeth,” he said to his reflection as he smiled wide to check for any missed spots. He looked at his watch, and sure enough there was still a large amount of time before his first class.
“It never hurts to be early?” he reasoned with himself. Max grabbed his bag full of his notebooks and school supplies, and headed out the door.
Heat hit him, despite the fact that it was a fall morning. Max could feel sweat beading on his brow, and rushed to get into his car so he could blast the AC. He turned the key in the ignition, and his radio roared to life, scaring the shit out of him, and he swore as he cranked the volume back down.
“Note to self, don’t forget to lower the volume dumbass,” he snapped, chastising himself. He waited a second or two for his heart rate to return to normal before doing up his seatbelt. Cold air pumped out of the small vents, and Max sighed as it chased away the heat. He checked his mirrors, and then pulled out onto the small street he lived on. It was quiet, and hardly anyone was around. Not surprising since it was only a little after seven in the morning. He drove down his street, and turned onto the main road, heading towards the college.
It wasn’t a long drive, and little traffic to boot, which was nice, but it also meant he was way too early. At least he would have time to find his class again. In truth he had already been to campus, and routed out what routes he could take to get from point A to point B. He hadn’t wanted to get lost on his first day. Max parked his car as close as he could, and then climbed out, cursing the heat all over again. He slid on a pair of sunglasses, and slung his bag over his shoulder.
He stared up at the main university building, and felt overwhelmed all over again. When he had visited before, it had seemed enormous, and that impression hadn’t changed since then. Still, he was there. He had escaped his hometown, and he was free to be himself. Max swallowed the lump in his throat.
“No crying on the first day,” he admonished himself.
“Do you always talk to yourself?” a voice asked from behind him.
Max spun around, a blush already spreading up his neck and into his cheeks.
“I uh -” he stammered.
The young man before him beamed at him, offering him a friendly smile before bursting into laughter.
“Calm down, I’m just teasing. I’m Kyle,” he said, offering a hand for Max to shake.
“I’m Max,” he said in return, shaking Kyle’s hand.
“You must be a first year, huh?” Kyle said as he looked Max up and down.
“Is it that obvious?” Max asked, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
“It’s because you look happy to be here,” Kyle said, laughing again. Max couldn’t help but smile a bit at that. “Don’t worry though. By this time next year, you too will look like the living dead,” he added, with a zombie like groan for effect.
“What year are you in?” Max asked.
“I’m in my third year of a business degree,” Kyle said. Kyle started to walk, motioning for Max to follow, so he did. “What are you going to be studying Max?” he asked.
“Oh, um -” Max faltered. It wasn’t that he was embarrassed about his program, but he knew how nerdy it sounded. “History, with a focus on mythology,” he said at last.
“Huh, neat!” Kyle said. He sounded like he genuinely meant it too, which was a first. Had Max actually managed to make a friend on the first day? “We have a pretty great history department,” Kyle said, interrupting Max’s thoughts. “My girlfriend is also a history major, though she’s focused more on Medieval Europe. She wants to become a professor. Guess I better get a good job so I can help support her while she goes to school, huh?” Kyle said, grinning. Max blinked at him. Oh, right, people had girlfriends and what not. Should he mention that he was gay? Would Kyle find that weird?
“Aww, that’s sweet,” Max said instead.
“What about you? Anyone special in your life?” Kyle asked.
“No. I uh, just moved here, and you’re pretty much the first person I’ve met, outside of my landlady - and as much as a cranky eighty year old is uh super attractive…” Max said, trailing off. He wasn’t ready to talk about this yet, was he?
Kyle burst out laughing.
“You mean granny isn’t your type?” he asked, wiping tears from his eyes as he tried to rein in the laughter.
“Not even a little,” Max said.
“So, what do you go for? Guys, gals? Somewhere in between?” Kyle asked. Max stopped walking in surprise. He had never heard anyone be that nonchalant about asking if he liked guys before. How was he this lucky? Kyle noticed that Max wasn’t with him, and turned to him with a smile.
“Everything alright? You don’t need to answer- “ Kyle started with a smile.
“I like guys!” Max blurted out. Holy shit. He had only ever told one person before by choice, and that person had outed him to his friends and pretty much ruined his high school life. He was too afraid to look at Kyle. Sure, he had asked if he liked boys, but so had his ‘friend’, and look where that got him. Shit, he shouldn’t have said it! He shouldn’t have-
“Hey, Max? You okay, buddy?” Kyle asked. Warm hands landed on Max’s arm, and he startled. He looked up into concerned green eyes, and a gentle smile. “You okay?” Kyle asked again.
“Yeah I - sorry. I’m okay. It’s just …” Max didn’t know how to explain. Did he really want Kyle to know that he had been bullied because the last person he trusted with that information had thought he was disgusting?
“Hey, it’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it. Really,” Kyle said. “No pressure. But if you do, my class doesn’t start for a while,” he said.
Max was terrified. He looked up at Kyle, with his calm face, and understanding eyes, and made a choice.
“I came from a small town, and let’s just say not everyone was very accepting. I didn’t even get to come out how I wanted to. I told a ‘friend’ and they outed me, and helped bully me, and I came to get a fresh start, and you’re so nice, and I don’t want you to hate me or think I’m weird or -” Max was rambling.
“What kind of asshole friend outs someone like that??” Kyle snarled. Max looked up in shock to see that a look of pure outrage had taken over Kyle’s face. “That must have been awful. Shit, no wonder you looked like you thought I would hit you or something!”
“You’re mad? At them?” Max asked. The only person who had been mad on his behalf was his sister. Everyone else had blamed him. Kyle wasn’t blaming him though.
“Of course! My little brother is trans, and Lord have mercy on the souls of anyone who picks on him, because I sure fucking won’t. I swear, if someone did that to him, there would be blood on my hands,” Kyle said. He reached into his backpack and pulled out an apple. “God, what a piece of shit. Who does that?” he demanded as he took a large, angry bite out of the apple.
Max couldn’t help it. He started to laugh. Kyle was too awesome. The problem with emotions is that they’re all so interconnected, and Max’s laughter turned into tears. HAdn’t he just finished saying to himself that he wasn’t going to cry on the first day of college?
“Are you okay? Would an apple help? I stress eat when I’m angry. Uh - I have - uh - shit! I have tissues in here somewhere,” Kyle stammered as he frantically searched his bag.
“Sorry, it’s just you’re so nice, and it’s been so long since anyone besides my sister was nice, and I’m just really emotional and stupid,” Max said.
“It’s not stupid. Hey, why don’t I walk you to class? We can exchange numbers, and hang out later,” Kyle suggested. “Does that sound good?” he asked.
Max beamed at him.
“Does that mean we’re friends?” Max asked. He clapped a hand over his mouth, an embarrassed flush spreading up his neck. He hadn’t meant to just blurt that out.
“Damn right it does!” Kyle said. “Come on, let’s get you to class, okay?”
Max felt like he was floating as they walked side by side. He had made a friend, and one who accepted him! He hadn’t imagined such an amazing start to his first year at college, and it was all happening so fast too. He had to be the luckiest person alive. Maybe it was like some sort of gift, for all the shit he had gone through in high school?
The walk to Max’s first class of the day was quite pleasant, and he and Kyle talked about their plans after school was done. Kyle was planning to marry Stacy, his girlfriend, and support her while she worked on her masters, and then phd. Max couldn’t help but wonder what it must be like to have such a loving and supportive partner. Would he be that lucky? Probably not twice in one day, he mused. Then again, he hadn’t thought he’d make a friend so easily either.
They arrived outside the auditorium for Max’s first class, and Kyle stopped him before he went in.
“I almost forgot!” Kyle said, pulling out his phone. “There’s going to be a party tonight, you in?” he asked.
Max couldn’t believe it. He was actually being invited to a party? By his new friend? College was officially the best place ever.
“I’d love to!” Max said a little too loudly. A few people gave them annoyed looks for making so much noise, but Kyle was beaming from ear to ear, so it was worth it.
“Great! Which dorm are you in? I can come by and get you,” Kyle said.
“Oh, actually I’m supposed to be in Rockman, but -” Max trailed off.
“Oh shit, isn’t that the one they’re still building? That sucks,” Kyle finished for him.
“Yeah, but I have a sweet little studio apartment not too far from campus,” Max told him. “Here, I’ll text you the address...oh, but only if it’s not too much trouble to come get me there,” he added.
Kyle ruffled Max’s hair, and smiled.
“Not at all. See you later, Max,” Kyle said, turning to leave.
“Yeah, later!” Max called after him.
Max went into the auditorium, and found a seat not too close to the front, but close enough that he could see. He really needed to get his eyes checked. He made a mental note to find an optometrist once he was a bit more settled. He pulled out his notebook and a pen, and waited for people to start filing in.
After a good half hour, the auditorium was full, and in walked the professor, her heels clacking on the floor. The room, which had been buzzing with noise, fell silent as she smacked a big, hard book down on the table in front of the board.
“Welcome to History 101,” she said in a stern voice. Max sat up straighter in his chair. He had a feeling that it was going to be an interesting year.
By the time class ended, Max felt exhausted. It was only his first class, and alright, maybe he hadn’t gotten enough sleep, but still, he was ready to keel over. He shuffled out of the auditorium, already with an essay due in two weeks, and a stack of readings he needed to complete, and he wondered if maybe he should have said no to the party. He bit his lip as he pulled out his phone to text Kyle to say he wasn’t going.
His phone lit up as he was typing his apology.
Hey man! Hope your first class went well. Can’t wait to party with you tonight!
Max sighed, but couldn’t help but smile a little. One party couldn’t hurt that much, could it? One night wasn’t going to change his life. Besides, he had just made a new friend, and making connections was important! With that resolved in his mind, Max made his way to his next class.