Chapter Nineteen

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Seeing Trace on the computer screen had inspired a fierce longing in me. It was like telling him about my anxiety made me feel close to him in an entirely new way. He'd seen pieces of me I hadn't shown anyone and... I wanted him to see more. He was someone I could be vulnerable in front of and it wouldn't embarrass me. It sucked that our chat was so short and I felt like there was so much more to say.

I laid down on my bed, and pulled the bottom of my shirt up to scratch at my stomach. My hand was warm and for a moment, I closed my eyes and imagined what it would be like if I were with Trace and if was the one touching me. I thought of the way he kissed me and how confidence seemed to radiate through every one of his actions. Like the way he told me things were okay, and especially in the way he touched me as if he'd already mapped out my body a thousand times before and was excited to make sure he knew every muscle, swell and scar.

I wished I'd kissed him even longer at the airport. Long enough that the taste of him would always stay with me. But, really I wanted more than just lingering kisses...Why did I feel so hor—

"Darius, we're trying to vote on what we movie we should watch. The TV downstairs has Netflix and—" Ai had burst into the room and started chattering on but then she stopped. She looked pointedly at my hand low on my stomach and then she paused in the doorway. She turned her head quickly to examine an invisible piece of lint on her shirt as her cheeks bloomed red. "Sorry, I'll knock next time." She closed the door so quickly it thwacked against the door frame.

I looked down to see if I was having a largely male problem but, no, I wasn't. My legs were splayed a little wide and my hand was a little too low on my stomach but I was decent.

Hurriedly, I fixed my shirt and stood up. "I wasn't— Ai, come back! I wasn't doing anything."

But it was too late and the embarrassment had already set it. My face burned as I looked in my area of the room for my crochet styluses and some yarn. As much as I would prefer to be alone I had to go out and be normal. I'd get a couple laughs at my crocheting but as long as I could keep my hands busy I could definitely socialize.

After gathering my things I went downstairs and planted myself on the corner of the couch while pizza was ordered and some contestants argued over what movie to watch.

We settled on two movies before Richard visited the house and explained the bus would be there at 4AM the next day to take us to our next challenge. There was a collective groan at that and we changed our plans for the night. Now, it would be just one movie and then an attempt at sleeping around 7:30PM.

Throughout the movie I noticed Ai and me getting weird looks. More than one person had asked me if we were really sleeping in the same room but I hadn't connected the dots until Richard asked to speak to us privately when he visited the house just before bed time. I grew more concerned when he asked to speak to us alone in our room.

He looked flustered; not making eye contact, and swallowing frequently. Sheepishly, he opened a plastic bag he was holding and held out a box. I looked down at his hand only to be disturbed by what I saw. I cleared my throat. "We don't need that."

Ai looked around me and her eyes narrowed. "What the fuck, Richard? What the hell are you giving us condoms for? I'm gay and I have a girlfriend."

Instead of replying Richard looked at me as if I was forcing Ai to lie. I sighed. "We're both gay, and I also have a boyfriend."

Richard's hand went limp and he put the box back in the bag. "You didn't write that on your registration form." He almost seemed offended at not knowing something about my life.

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