XI

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"Alright, deep talk." He says breaking the silence.

"Deep talk?" I question. He nods. "Liam bothered you more than you let on today... why, what haven't you told me?" He asks.

I shake my head and scoff "nuh-nuh-no! You have heard tons about me and my feelings. It's time you spill some of yours to me." I say crossing my arms.

"What do you mean?" He asks.

"I don't know. Be vulnerable. Tell me something you can't tell anyone else." I say with a shrug.

He shifts uncomfortably and I giggle. "Are you serious right now?" I ask.

"Hey, it's hard for guys. We're literally raised to conceal our emotions and 'be a man' all the time. Venerability is like opening a whole floodgate of emotions in uncharted territory." He says.

I don't know why this hits me so hard with realization but he's right. He's very right.

Guys don't really have much freedom to share how they feel, do they?

They're raised to think anything vulnerable is weak... and they can't be that way because it challenges their manhood.

I take in a deep breath, he needs to know it's normal for him to feel these emotions... he should be able to express himself as well.

"If it makes you feel better, I think I kinda know how you feel. I bottle up a lot of my emotions and pretend like stuff doesn't get to me... I act strong when I'm not." I tell him. He looks up at me but I know he's not convinced.

"Like now... like at school today with Liam." I tell him.

"Sharing how you feel is completely normal. You shouldn't suppress feelings of vulnerability because you feel it will challenge your masculinity." I say with a small smile.

"Find someone you trust enough to share it with... someone who won't judge you. Keeping it all in is never healthy." Look whose talking, hypocrite.

"I won't look at you any differently if you let yourself be vulnerable with me. Let me in, and I'll try my best to do the same." I tell him.

I suddenly realize I've never done this with anyone before. I've never... opened up. I've always been too afraid of getting hurt.

Being vulnerable is like giving someone else power over you... and I've never liked that idea.

He looks at me, his eyes searching mine before he nods.

"Let's promise each other that together... this is a safe place." He says.

I nod. "Of course." I tell him.

"I'm not really good at sharing emotions." He tells me.

I laugh. "Neither am I. I never have been." He smiles as I say this.

"How about this... we should try just being completely honest with each other, we should be able to open up and both of us will be mutually understanding. Deal?" He asks.

I smile and hold my hand out "No matter how uncomfortable." I add.

He chuckles and takes my hand in his as he shakes it firmly "No matter how uncomfortable." He says.

I smile as I let his hand go.

"Okay." He says before sighing deeply.

"Everything was great in my life. It was like I was living everyone's ideal life, but it all changed when my mum went into a coma." He stops and regains his composure as he holds back tears.

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