Carson clutched at Britland’s wrist when he moved to follow Felix. He shook his head disapproval in the set of his jaw line. “Don’t” he cautioned as Britland jerked his arm free.
Ignoring him Britland followed Felix down the hall to his room. “Felix” he sounded as timid and unsure as he felt.
“Leave me alone” Felix grumbled slamming the door shut in the blonde’s face.
Indecision had him frozen in place. He hated confrontations. Something wasn’t right. Felix was his oldest friend. He couldn’t just stand by while he hurt himself. He grabbed the door knob intent on following Felix. Then he hesitated wondering if he should at least knock first. If he did that than Felix could ignore him. Taking a deep breath he turned the knob. Heart beating fast like he expected to find something horrible on the other side of the door. “Felix” he called as he stepped inside.
Felix stood with his back to the door “I said leave me alone.”
Britland closed the door firmly behind him. Leaned against it “I heard you.”
“Then what are you still doing here” Felix demanded “did you come here to say I told you so? I don’t want to hear it.”
His nose scrunched up in distaste as the stale smell of garbage and beer that had soaked into Felix’s clothes. Britland sat on the floor leaning his back against the door. “Do you remember what you used to tell me when we were in school?”
“Is there a point to this” Felix growled moving towards the window. He lifted it, letting in the cool morning air a welcome relief to the stench his nose had become numb to.
“What the hell” Britland scrambled to his feet “get back in here.” He hurried towards the window that Felix had crawled out of. Reaching the window he poked his head out. The wind took his hair blowing it in multiple directions at once. “Get in here before you fall” his voice was high and squeaky.
Felix shook his head a wide grin on his face. “This is awesome” he yelled the wind whipping his voice away.
“You’re crazy” Britland shouted back looking down he swallowed.
“You’ll catch me” Felix scooted further out on the edge “you’d never let me fall.”
The utter faith Felix had in him left him feeling like a cold damp blanket had been thrown over his face. Cloying and suffocating. “Felix get back in here or I’ll…” he stopped not sure what the or else was.
As if reading Britland’s mind Felix glanced over at him. “I remember what I used to tell you in school when all the kids were teasing you.” There was a gleam in his eyes as he spoke. “I told you I’d always be there for you and I was.” He shifted his position to side on the ledge. His legs swinging out in front of him. “It’s different now. Everything has changed.”
Britland heard the melancholy in his friend’s voice. “I’m still here. Still your friend.” He pulled himself into the window leaning out to extend his reach in case Felix decided to do something even stupider then sit on the ledge of a tall building several hundred feet in the air.
“No” Felix shook his head “you don’t need me anymore.”
“Don’t be stupid” Britland protested “of course I need you. You’re my best friend.”
“No” Felix leaned over the edge. He smiled feeling Britland clutch desperately to him. “You have Carson. You don’t need me.”
“I can have more than one friend” Britland clung to Felix with one hand afraid his friend would become unbalanced and topple over the edge. The other hand he grasped the window sill. He closed his eyes. He hated heights. “Remember when we were kids and we’d climb trees?”
Felix grunted “more like I climbed and you watched.”
“Yeah well” he shrugged “after being stuck for hours up one I kind of learned not to climb them anymore.”
Felix leaned his head back laughing. “I forgot. I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry” Britland exclaimed “I spent hours waiting for someone to come get me. I thought I was going to have to sleep in that tree.”
“Be glad your dad came looking for you” Felix smiled over at him “otherwise your skeleton might still be there.”
“Ha ha very funny,” Britland sighed “why don’t you be a pal and come inside?”
Felix gave him a curious look “you’re still not scared of heights are you?”
“Petrified” Britland kept his gaze trained on Felix’s face. Not the ground several feet below.
“I think I may need to have Carson come get you” Felix moved inching his way towards the window.
“Oh great I may be stuck out here all night” Britland grumbled.
“When are you going to tell him you like him?” Felix asked as he approached the window.
“Why would I do that” Britland mumbled “he probably doesn’t even like me like that anyway.”
Felix was laughing so hard he bumped into Britland in the window. He knocked both of them onto the floor “you’re kidding right?”
“Get off me” Britland squirmed beneath him “you stink.”
“That’s what you get for not letting me shower” Felix made a point to rub Britland’s nose in his smelly armpit before rolling off him.
“Your so gross” Britland gasped as he sat up.
“I’ll do it again if you continue to walk around wearing blinders.” Felix laughed at his friends baffled look. “What? Are you honestly going to tell me you don’t see the way he looks at you?”
Britland leaned his chin on his knee staring at the floor. “He doesn’t look at me any differently then he looks at anyone else.”
“You really don’t see it do you” Felix looked at him in wonder.
“What am I supposed to be seeing that I’m not?” Britland demanded.
Tapping his fingers along his chin Felix sighed “you know that look your mom gives your dad?”
“Yeah” Britland nodded smiling “like my dad’s the only person in the world.”
“Uh huh” Felix slapped Britland hard across the back “you told me once that’s the way you wanted someone to look at you like.”
“Yeah” he nodded sniffling not ready to admit to himself yet.
“Well that’s the way Carson looks at you. You’re missing it wearing those blinders.” Felix shoved him almost knocking him over. “Stop worrying about me. Go out there and tell him you feel the same way.”
“Does he really?” Britland asked “I….” his voice faded.
“What?” Felix demanded.
“Nothing” Britland shook his head “I didn’t think he saw me as anything other than a little brother or something.”
“Trust me that’s not the look anyone gives their brother” he ducked when Britland threw a shoe at him.
“Careful those are hundred-dollar shoes” he protested the mistreatment of his things.
“Who wears hundred-dollar shoes” Britland asked letting the other shoe fall to the floor.
“Not everyone shops at Payless” Felix mumbled inspecting his shoes for scuff marks.
“You should be more concerned about yourself than your shoes” Britland advised getting to his feet.
“I have you to point me down the straight and narrow” Felix grumbled standing up too.
“You don’t listen” Britland walked towards the door.
“You’re not going to stop trying though are you?” the desperation in Felix’s voice made Britland stop at the door and turn around. “What do you think” he asked.
His bony shoulders rose to his ears “I don’t know.” He looked up his eyes had a moist look to them “maybe I’m a lost cause.”
“Never” Britland assured him opening the door after seeing the relieved look in his friends eyes. “Take a bath” he ordered before leaving “you stink.”
“You talk some sense into him” Carson inquired looking up from sorting the mail.
“I hope so” he looked around the tidy kitchen “thanks for cleaning up.”
“I had nothing better to do” he mumbled waving off his thanks “you have a letter.” Carson picked up the white envelope noting it had no return address.
Britland felt his heart plummet to the ground several hundred feet below them. It had been months since he had received a letter or even a call. He had hoped it was over. Whoever it was had gotten bored. Gingerly he took the envelope from Carson’s hand. Tossing it from hand to hand wondering if he should open it or just toss it.
“Is something wrong?” Carson asked watching him for several minute aimlessly tossing the letter from hand to hand.
“What?” Britland looked at him confused.
Pointing to the letter “bad news?”
“Um” he glanced at his name and address. The writing as familiar as his own. “I don’t know” he confessed.
“Maybe you should open it and find out” Carson suggested.
“I’ll…do it later” Britland folded the sealed envelope into his back pocket.
“If you say so” Carson shrugged. He could tell something was off but he knew he wasn’t going to get anything out of Britland until he was ready tell him. “Did you tell Felix your parents are coming to visit next weekend?”
“Ah shit I forgot” he ran a hand through his hair “I’ll have to tell him later.”
“What did you do in there all this time?” Carson asked more for something to say than any real interest.
“Mostly I had to talk him in from the ledge” Britland tossed out nonchalantly.
“No shit” Carson exclaimed “he looked messed up when he came in but I didn’t think he was that bad.” He snapped his mouth shut before adding “does he need help? I mean is he alright? Can I do anything?”
“What? No” Britland shook his head “he’s fine”
“If he’s depressed we should get him some help” Carson insisted “I may not like the guy but I don’t want anything to happen to him.”
“He’s fine” Britland insisted “he didn’t go out there because he wanted to jump. It was more for the thrill of it and to scare me shitless.” He saw the hardening around Carson’s eyes “don’t get mad. He does need help. I just haven’t figured out what help yet.”
“Besides mental help?” Carson snapped.
“Don’t” Britland shook his head “you promised you wouldn’t keep poking at him.”
“Fine” he held his hands up “I’m sorry.”
“Apology accepted” Britland glanced at the time “what time do we need to be at the beach?”
“Ten” Carson said following his gaze to the clock “I hadn’t realized it was getting so late.”
“We’re going to be late” Britland moved towards the door.
Chuckling a little Carson followed pressing the elevator button. “You’re the golden boy. They’ll wait for you.”
Britland gave him a sideways glare “don’t call me that” he snapped.
“Kinda touchy this morning” Carson mutter under his breath.
“I’m going to take the stairs” Britland announced moving away from the elevator.
“Suit yourself” Carson mumbled his mood darkening. He should have accompanied Britland into Felix’s room. The pink haired dinomo had to have said or done something to make the blonde this upset. All Felix’s snide comments about them being more than friends probably.
Carson slipped into the elevator as the doors opened. He almost called after Britland who had just entered the stairwell. Shrugging he leaned against the arm rail. Doubts swept through him leaving him with a hollow feeling inside. Britland seemed to respond to his occasional flirts he didn’t seem to be that into him. If it weren’t for that bashful exterior Carson would have been sure he had no effect on the blonde what so ever. Maybe he needed to be more assertive. If he did that he was positive it would only make Britland even more skittish than he already was.
He exited the elevator. Glancing around he couldn’t find Britland anywhere. Not surprising really. Britland was a lightweight when it came to exertion. He was probably thinking he was going to die somewhere in the stairwell. He moved towards the door. Stopping as a thought occurred to him. What was in that letter? He hadn’t wanted to read it in front of him and he hadn’t started acting strange until after he received it?
Britland skipped down the stairs intent on reaching the bottom first. Two flights down he had to stop. Leaning against the railing his chest heaving he gulped for air. Maybe he should have waited for the elevator or maybe take it the rest of the way down. He might have done just that if it weren’t for the gloating look in Carson’s eyes telling him he should take him up on his offer to train together at the gym. Probably not a bad idea considering how he felt at the moment. He was sure he was going to pass out any moment.
He forced himself down another flight of stairs. Groaning as he passed the floor number he realized he still had two flights to go. Worst idea of bad ideas. Well maybe not the worst he amended as his thoughts went to the sealed envelope in his back pocket. He took it out wondering what was inside it.
The next flight he sat down on the steps feeling as if he were made of rubber and his chest labored for air. He definitely needed to take Carson up on his fitness offer. He was more out of shape then he realized. It was all the Italian food Carson treated him to his Aunt’s restaurant.
He pulled the letter from his pocket. Ripped it open. The neatly written words swam before him. Blinking he focused on the words.
“This is your final warning alien spawn. Do not continue to ignore me. You will regret it. My patience won’t last forever. Quit. Now!!!!”
Alien spawn? He had been called many things but never that. Definitely not Felix. He had long ago stopped believing it was him anyway. This only served to deepen that belief. But who could it be? He didn’t know anyone who would hate him so much.
“Britland” Carson’s voice from below calling his name shook him from his daze.
“I’m coming” he stood up shoving the letter into his back pocket where if felt hot and heavy. When he emerged from the stairwell he growled at Carson “don’t say it.”
“Say what” Carson’s lips twitched.
“That I should work out more” Britland snapped.
“Oh….that” Carson flagged down a taxi “you totally should. If you did, those ten flight of stairs wouldn’t have taken you so long.”
“It didn’t take me that long” Britland mumbled crossing his arms “but I will anyway.”
“Will what” Carson asked gaping at him not quite believing his ears.
“Work out with you” Britland elaborated rolling his eyes.
Rubbing his hands together Carson laughed “I can’t wait. I’ll have you running up and down those ten flights like they were nothing.”
“Ugh” Britland moaned “I knew this was bad idea.”
“It’ll be fun” Carson nudged him with his shoulder “you’ll have fun.”
“Highly unlikely” Britland shook his head getting out of the cab. “Exercise is not what I call fun.”
“You’ll change your mind” Carson draped an arm across Britland’s shoulders as they walked towards the beach.
“Doubtful very doubtful” Britland mumbled.
“Don’t knock it until you try it” Carson grinned squeezing the blonde’s shoulders.
A pair of swim trunks were tossed at them as they entered the changing area. “The water is going to be freezing” Britland observed.
“You probably won’t have to worry about that” one of the make up artists said.
Before he could wonder why he was shoved towards the stylist. “You should let me permanent style this mop.”
“What’s wrong with it” Britland asked his mind on what the make up artist said earlier.
“Hmm” the stylist began to work on him “its soft with a little wave. Lovely. The style is a little dated.”
Throwing caution the wind Britland closed his eyes “do whatever you want with it.”
“Really” the stylist asked his voice rising with excitement.
Britland held his breath squeezing his eyes shut as the stylist began to snip at his hair. He hated getting his hair cut. He hated the sound the scissors made as they snipped at his hair. He could feel his neck and back tensing as his anxiety rose. No matter what he did he couldn’t control his reaction to the sound as the scissors did their job.
A few minutes later the stylist removed the cloth around his shoulders and blue across his bare shoulders to remove stray hairs from his skin. “All done” he announced with a flourish leaving no doubt he took pride in his work.
Nodding his thanks Britland wished he could be more enthusiastic. The stylist must have thought he was regretting the shortened hair as he made condolences. “It’ll grow back” Britland tried to laugh it off despite the naked vulnerable feeling he had as someone swept his hair from the floor.
He joined the others huddling together for warmth. Carson casually strolled over draping a warm arms across his shoulders. “I like it” he winked at him.
“Do you really” Britland asked as one of his hands went up to touch the newly shorn ends.
“Uh yeah” Carson moved to touch the blonde hair. His hand scraped across Britland’s cheek instead. “Gorgeous” he murmured. He leaned in close oblivious of the stares the other models were giving them. They jerked apart when someone called “Casanova bring lover boy and come here.”
They moved through the group to the accompaniment of snickers and whispers. Britland felt like melting into the sandy beach. If it weren’t for the hold Carson had on him, he might have run in the opposite direction.
“Ignore them” Carson whispered “let them talk. They’re only jealous.” He smiled gently at the confused desperate look Britland gave him. “We’re in this together. Just follow my lead.”
Nodding Britland somehow found himself wading into the frigid water. Something wrapped around his ankles. He jumped clinging to Carson as if something was about to eat him.
At the sound of Britland’s squeak and desperate grab Carson wrapped his arms around him. “Take it easy” he kept his voice calm, soothing.
“Something grabbed me” Britland squeaked looking down at the swirling water.
“It’s called seaweed” Carson chuckled “haven’t you ever been in the ocean before?”
“Nnno” Britland stammered “sssorry. You can put me down now.”
“I kind of like you where you are” Carson smiled “it feels sorta right.”
“Put me down” Britland insisted all too aware of everyone staring at them.
“Pity” Carson stuck his bottom lip out “it won’t be so easy next time.”
“What’s that supposed to mean” he asked slipping into the water, arms still around Carson’s neck.
Carson lifted his broad shoulders shivering a little “If you join me at the gym you may get to heavy for me to lift.”
“Maybe I’ll be lifting you” Britland challenged unaware of the photographer taking pictures of their exchange.
Carson raised an eyebrow “doubtful very doubtful.”