Chapter 13:

Fragile Heart

Fair, no Fair

I parted ways with Georgy in the hall and walked up the stairs to my room. A great deal of stress was lifted off my shoulders now that I had talked things out with Georgy, but I was surprised to find that a new kind of worry had replaced my earlier concerns. For a moment, I could not quite put my finger on where that new stress came from, but it was not long before the realization hit me like a tidal wave.

"Alex," I muttered distractedly as I scratched my head. For years, I had attempted to erase that name from my mind. It was agonizing to think about what had happened to him and I would rather forget about our friendship altogether than let myself be haunted by the thought of him. I had purposefully kept this part of my life from my peers for a reason and I was sure Joey was doing the same thing. It was already concerning enough that Georgy knew about Alex. With one careless comment, he had unearthed years of buried memories and hidden emotions within me.

Speaking of hidden emotions... When I walked into the room, I found Joey sitting up in bed against the wall. He appeared to be texting someone but looked up at me when he heard my footsteps. “Oh hi, Simon, where’d you go?” His warm smile got rid of the remaining cold in my body.

I was still shaken by the conversation I had just had with Georgy and warily sat down next to him. I did not fully trust Joey yet and the last thing I wanted was to get into another argument. I nervously answered: “Um, yeah well... I took a walk with Georgy around the lake and we talked about what happened at the museum today.”

His eyes widened. “Oh shit, he didn’t get mad again, did he?”

Seeing Joey be genuinely offended on my behalf, made me feel more at ease. I cracked a reserved smile and shook my head. “No, he was actually calm for once.”

Joey stood up and linked his phone to his charger. With his back turned to me he proceeded to pull his shirt over his head. “He’s a bit of a hothead, isn’t he?” He snickered as he walked over to the closet.

“Yeah, I guess you could say so...” I confirmed. My voice trailed off as my eyes got caught on Joey's impressive back muscles. The rich tan that he had built up over the summer had not yet faded and it highlighted his divine physique. If someone had told me Joey was superhuman, I would have believed them in a heartbeat.

As Joey dug around in his messy pile of clothes that occupied our closet, (seriously, tell me again why this guy had felt the need to claim our closet?) he vented: "That idiot is always picking fights with everyone for no reason at all. What was that whole ordeal in the museum about anyway? I mean, I understand that he doesn’t like me and that's fair; I haven’t exactly been nice to him in the past, but he's got no say in what you decide to do. He has no right to be mad that you and I are on speaking terms again."

His response caught me by surprise. How could Joey be so dense? Had he not realised that Georgy had basically outright told him that I liked him? I had no idea whether this should leave me feeling relieved or more confused. "Well," I hesitantly responded, "I'm glad you're not mean to me anymore. I think Georgy's just a bit overprotective of his friends. It's nothing to fuzz about." I looked down at my hands when Joey switched into a pair of sweatpants and a plain white shirt. When he fell onto the bed next to me, I was almost catapulted off the bed. This guy was heavy!

He could not hide his grin when he saw my short-lived panicked expression. “Awh come on, Fisher, you’re not that fragile are you?” He laughed with that charming, soft smile of his.

I huffed and tried to hide the blush that was blossoming on my cheeks. “Oh stop it. Everyone is frail compared to you, mister ‘I can headbutt a brick and be alright.’”

“O God, you remember that? That was years ago!" He awkwardly laughed. "I actually had to go to the ER after that, you know?”

I could not help but smile when the mental image of a younger and more carefree Joey appeared in my mind. “Don’t you dare think anyone forgot! That shit was hilarious and so stupid! I believe they still use you as an example in the 7th grade’s PSA on reckless behaviour.”

“7th grade,” he murmured with a wistful smile. “That’s such a long time ago…” He softly bit his lip and then said: "It’s good to talk to you again Simon. I've missed our conversations."

The sight of him was too much for me to bear and I stood up before I could do anything stupid. As I grabbed my pj's to go wash up in the bathroom, I felt my heart swell up with newfound hope. I whispered: "Yeah, I've missed you too."

I should not have let Joey recapture my heart so easily, but deep down I knew that I had already lost the battle.