The Visit - Part 3

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We dropped my bag off in Alex's dorm room then headed to meet his friends. Alex drove us in his new used car. It was a 5-year-old black Nissan Altima with leather seats and he'd gotten it through a friend of a colleague or something for a price so low that you'd only find through networking.

Once we arrived at the diner, Alex reminded me, "They and them."

"Got it." He stopped me at the diner's door and straightened my hair. I laughed and then choked in surprise as he stepped close and sniffed my shirt. "Wha..."

"You smell good for having spent four and a half hours travelling."

I couldn't help but smile. "Do you sniff all your friends?"

"I want them to like you, Liam," he said with a bit of a whine while rearranging my hair again. "To be honest, I mean, they're not starting off from a good place, you know?"

"Yeah." My smile faded. I wasn't surprised. Considering the status of our relationship when he made these friends, I could only imagine they thought I was a self-serving, cishet ass. "Alex, I'm scared," I whispered, leaning my head down to where my forehead was nearly touching the top of his.

From behind us, someone cleared their throat loudly. Alex and I turned to see Lexi and Rashaad.

"Hey, Alex!" Lexi yanked Alex away from me and pulled him into a hug, giving me a strange look from overtop his shoulder.

Alex hugged her back then touched Rashaad's arm. "Hey. You two, this is Liam." Alex smiled and gestured to me.

"Hi. I'm glad to finally meet you both in person." I was going to offer my hand to shake but was sure Lexi would either smack it away or crush it in her grip.

Rashaad nodded and Lexi smirked. "Same here," she said. "I've been dying to meet the infamous Liam."

"Let's head inside," Rashaad said. "I'm starving."

We filed in and sat at a booth, me on the inside with Alex next to me, Rashaad across from me and Lexi beside them.

Alex and his friends were regulars to the diner and so I was the only one looking over a menu. I quickly chose a hamburger plate to not hold up anyone else's orders and the waitress departed to give the list to the kitchen.

"So, Liam," Rashaad said, "You came as a surprise to Alex?"

"Yeah," I said with a guilty chuckle. "Sorry. It affected your plans too."

"No, it's cool. It's kind of cute you came to surprise Alex too."

"It's not cute," Alex said quickly. "Don't flatter him." He shot me a look.

"How did you get here? How long did it take? Ottawa, right?"

"Yeah. It was four and a half hours by train. I would've taken a plane, but," I shrugged, "college student budget."

"You came all the way from Ottawa just for Alex?" Lexi asked with a strange look full of distrust and... maybe amusement? Or disbelief. I wasn't sure.

I'd wanted to keep it a secret from Alex that I was looking for work in Toronto. If he knew and I didn't get a job, he might be disappointed. Also, again, I wanted to surprise him. But I couldn't lie to Lexi. So I admitted, "Uh, actually, on Monday I have a job interview."

"A job interview?" Alex looked at me wide-eyed. "You're looking for jobs in Toronto?"

"Yeah. I was going to surprise you, but..."

"Why?" Alex frowned. "Why Toronto?"

I stared at him. 'To be close to you' was the answer but for some reason, admitting it filled me with embarrassment. So, instead, we just silently stared at each other.

The waitress coming to deliver our food saved me. She placed down our plates and I noticed Lexi and Rashaad's meat didn't look like meat.

"Rashaad is vegetarian," Lexi announced, noticing my glances. "And I'm vegan. It's tempeh."

"Oh," I replied. I looked down at my beef burger. "Uh... was it rude for me to..."

"No," Rashaad said. "I mean, it'd be rude for me to have this cheese in front of Lexi if that was the case."

"I eat meat in front of them all the time." Alex shrugged and picked up half of his grilled cheese. "But I wouldn't do something like eat rare steak."

"You don't even like steak," I replied with a smirk.

Alex shifted his eyes. "That's true."

"Liam," Lexi started, "do you know Alex's favorite food?"

"Pizza."

"Least favorite?"

"Uh..." I looked at Alex, trying to remember. "Carrots?"

Alex shifted his eyes again.

"Alex?" Lexi looked at him for confirmation.

Alex shrugged. "He's right."

Rashaad spoke, "Weren't you chowing down on that carrot pudding from that Indian place one time?"

Alex rolled his eyes. "I still don't like carrots."

I glanced at Lexi who was clearly testing me. But little things like that didn't prove me as a worthy or unworthy friend.

"Liam, what would you do if Alex wanted to become vegetarian?" she then asked.

I glanced at Alex. "I'd support him." Of course. Alex turned his dark brown eyes towards me and I stared at him. "I'd probably try it too."

"You'd change your diet just because Alex did?"

She made it sound weirder than what it was. "Well... if he's going to try something, I'm interested..."

"What if Alex decided at the end of the year he was relocating to Vancouver?"

I blinked and stared blankly. Sure, it was hypothetical, but even just hearing it filled me with panic.

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