A Heart Should be Treasured + Happy Memorial Day

Hey, Ya’ll! Welcome back to PEP!

Memorial Day
Happy Memorial Day

To all my visitors from the USA, Happy Memorial Day! May we remember those that have served our country and gave their lives in service.

Today is the usual short story Monday. But I’ll have an art post and a recipe post later this week as well. There will be a short story post every week and then when I have the budget and time, I’ll have an update on my recipe challenge. When my muse works with me, beyond my writing as that muse is powerful, I’ll have some art or crafts for you. Though I’m doing a personal challenge come June that I’ll tell you more about as we get closer.

On to today’s Short Story.

“Hey, Ryder, wait up!”

The young brunette turned and waited for two of his best friends to catch up.

“Hey, Greg and Nigel.”

Greg asked, “Have you seen my brother, Phil?”

Nigel added, “Or my cousin, Karen?”

“No. I actually haven’t seen Phil or Karen all that much lately.”

“Yeah, I’ve tried asking Phil why he doesn’t hang with us that much but he just keeps running off to his part time job. I know it can’t take that much time, though I don’t know what it is either.”

Nigel added, “Unfortunately, I do know why Karen’s not been around that much.”

Before Ryder could ask Nigel to expand, Greg shushed them as they turned a corner towards the school parking lot and he heard Karen’s voice.

“I bet you can’t get him to ask you out without you asking him out. I bet I can get a date with him before you can.”

The three boys looked at each other, who was Karen challenging?

A familiar voice responded, “No.”

That was Phil!

“No? Ha, so even you admit he’s more interested in me!”

“No. I’m not saying no because he’s more interested in you than me.”

The three boys looked at each in surprise, not even Phil’s twin Greg had known he was apparently gay.

“Then why? Because you’re a scaredy cat? Or because you know he’d be disgusted by you and you’d rather he be a friend than reject you?”

“No. I’m not saying no for any of those reasons. I’m saying no to your little contest because he’s Ryder. He’s not a prize to be won, a trophy to be pulled out for bragging rights. He’s a human being with a heart, someone who should be cherished and loved, not kept away and presented when you want to show him off. I refuse to treat him as such. You claim to be his friend, you shouldn’t want to treat him like that either.”

Greg and Nigel stared at Ryder who was standing in shock. He’d had no idea not one but two of his best friends had a crush on him.

Karen apparently didn’t have a response as there was silence for a few minutes.

“I still say there’s no way he’ll ever be interested in you!”

“And I’m not trying to catch his interest. I know there’s no way he’d want me the same way.”

“Just you watch, he’ll date me before the end of the school year. We’ll be the perfect couple!”

The boys heard quick tapping steps and had no doubt Karen had stalked off before they heard slower steps that symbolized Phil’s sneakered feet walking away.

When they were sure the two were truly gone, they continued walking to the parking lot to Ryder’s car.

Greg spoke first, “I had no idea my brother was gay, nor that he had a crush on you Ryder.”

Ryder didn’t respond and Nigel spoke, “That’s what I was trying to say before we came up on them, though. I knew Karen had a crush on you. I’ve actually been trying to keep her away from you since, as you could probably tell from that, it’s more of an obsession.”

Greg nodded, “Yeah, that seemed to be more about the perfect image than a honest crush.”

Nigel asked as they climbed into Ryder’s car since Ryder hadn’t spoken, “Are you interested in either of them?”

Ryder just shrugged, he was still processing everything.

As Ryder dropped Greg off, he asked, “Do you know where Phil works?”

Greg shook his head, “As I’ve discovered today, I don’t know anything about my twin anymore. Something I seriously need to fix.”

Ryder nodded before asking, “How does he get around?”

“He always rides his bike. I’ve asked him if he wants a ride since you’re always willing to pick us up but he always declines now.”

Ryder nodded before driving off.


The next day, Ryder ran out of his last class and to the bike rack, wanting to get there before Phil did. He’d told Greg and Nigel that morning they’d need to find another ride home and to work from school. Nigel had agreed easily enough but Greg had narrowed his eyes before nodding. As it was, he’d found Ryder at lunch and informed him that if his intentions were what he thought they were, he’d break every bone in his body if he hurt Phil. Ryder’s eyes had widened but after thinking about it, he wasn’t really surprised. Despite growing apart, which Greg had assured him they were working to fix as the twin brothers had always been close, Greg had always been very protective of Phil.

Ryder frowned as he saw Karen talking to Phil in the distance who was ignoring her. He could tell from the look on her face that what she was saying wasn’t any nicer than the day before. He didn’t know what had happened to Karen over the years, she was never like this before. Karen eventually split from Phil, no doubt due to not getting the reaction she wanted.

He saw the look of surprise and confusion on Phil’s face when he saw him standing by the bikes.

Phil avoided looking at Ryder, blue eyes focused on unlocking his bike, “What are you doing here, Ryder?”

“I was hoping we could talk.”

“I need to get to work.”

“I could give you a ride.”

“I have my bike.”

“We could tie it to the top of my SUV, I have rope.”

Phil finally looked at Ryder, amusement hidden in his eyes, “You’re not going to take no for an answer, are you?”

“Not today, no. I kind of want to talk to you about something important.”

Ryder saw the nerves and fear enter Phil’s blue eyes though he kept his face impassive and hated that his words got that kind of reaction.

“Alright.”

It didn’t take long before they had Phil’s bike tied to the bike rack on Ryder’s car and were both climbing in.

“Where am I headed?”

“Downtown.”

Ryder had to admit, his curiosity was peaked, where did Phil work that was downtown.

After driving in silence for a few minutes, Phil finally asked, “What did you want to talk about?”

Ryder had been trying to figure out how to say it and finally decided to start with being honest.

“Greg, Nigel and I heard you and Karen yesterday.”

He watched Phil’s skin pale two shades and determinedly stare out the window.

He spotted a park and pulled over, this wasn’t a conversation to continue while driving.

He turned to Phil who was still staring out the window, “Are your feelings for me why you haven’t spent much time with us lately?”

“Partially. I’ve also been focused at my job for my future.” He reached for the handle, “If you’ll help me untie the bike, I’ll be out of your hair and you won’t have to talk to me anymore.”

Before Phil could open the door, Ryder hit the child lock button that wouldn’t let any door open except the driver’s.

Phil felt a thrum of fear when the door wouldn’t open.

“Could you look at me, please, Phil?”

Phil turned his head, body still turned towards the door and Ryder swallowed hard at the terror he could see on Phil’s face.

“I’m not going to hurt you, Phil.”

“I know you wouldn’t hit me, you’re not that type of person. I already know you’re not interested in me, you’re not gay, you don’t have to tell me that. Could you let me go, please.”

Ryder hated the tremor he heard in Phil’s voice and knew trapping him wasn’t helping what he was trying to do.

“If I unlock the door, could you stay long enough to hear me out? That’s not what I’m trying to say.”

“Okay.”

Phil relaxed and turned his body towards Ryder when he heard the click of the door unlocked.

“You’re right in that I’m not gay. I’d consider myself more pansexual, gender doesn’t matter.”

He saw the surprise on Phil’s face before he continued, “I am curious, though, in how long my crush on you has been returned.”

“R-returned?”

Phil couldn’t hide the shock on his face or stop the touch of hope in his chest.

“Yeah, I’ve had a crush on you since we were 14. I had no idea it was returned.”

His hope growing stronger, “I’ve liked you since we were 12 and figuring out girls didn’t have cooties. I never liked them like that. It, it was always you.”

Ryder grinned broadly, “Are you free tonight?”

Phil nodded, temporarily speechless.

“Want to go to a movie with me?”

Phil nodded before frowning, “There’ll be other people there, no doubt from our school.”

Ryder reached over, taking Phil’s hand in his, “I’m okay with that. I don’t want to hide this but if you’re not ready, I will.”

Phil tightened his hand around Ryder’s, “No, I’m okay with others knowing. I just didn’t know if you would be. Not everyone will be okay with this.”

“And I don’t need those that aren’t in my life.”

“But what about your parents? Mine probably won’t care.”

“I doubt mine will either but we’ll cross that bridge when it’s time. So, Movie?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll pick you up at 7, then. First, though, let’s get you to work.”

Ryder put the car back in drive, never letting go of Phil’s hand even as he asked him what his job was.

Phil couldn’t believe the turn his life had taken.

-Fin (for now)

©Paula Crofoot

Well, that’s the end of that for now, perhaps we’ll return later for their date and reactions of those closest to them.

See ya’ll later!

 

 

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