Ian peered through the glass window at the front of the coffee shop, watching the small blue car pull into the parking lot. It was a similar model to Jake's, but unfortunately not the right one. Jake had promised to meet Ian there at 2:00, right after their early release from school, but it was already 2:12, and Jake hadn't so much as texted he would be late.
It figured. The weekend before Valentine's Day, too. Ian knew Jake was unreliable, but he was also the only boy Ian knew who seemed open dating a guy in his whole high school. Jake said he was bisexual but wasn't willing to be open about it. Ian understood, and didn't mind. He could date Jake in secret and be okay with it.
But still Jake missed almost all their encounters. Whether it was hanging out and playing video games or meeting up for coffee, Jake would either show up late or not at all. Each time, Ian would die just a little bit more.
He checked his phone again, automatically switching to the open conversation with Jake and paused. Should I send him another text? He wondered. No. Not yet. I've got to wait until 2:15 at least.
For not the first time, Ian considered reading the newspaper someone had left on the table from their morning coffee. He never saw much reason to read them, but he was getting anxious waiting for Jake and needed something to occupy his time and his thoughts.
Before he could pick up the newspaper, another car pulled into the parking lot, drawing Ian's attention. It was small for a pickup truck, and could use a new coat of paint, but the boy driving it looked as fresh as morning dew. He had a dark complexion, with darker hair, cut and styled in a conservative fashion. His features were smooth and clean, and a natural smile brightened the cool, February day.
He hopped from the truck and zipped up the light windbreaker jacket around his shoulders. The white jacket contrasted beautifully with his skin, hair, and black jeans, but considering the temperature, the boy was obviously a native and used to the cold to be dressed so lightly. A Utah native.
Unlikely then. Ian mused. If he's from here, there's almost no chance he's into guys. He's probably Mormon. No . . . wait a minute, if he's getting coffee, he can't be Mormon. Still, my luck isn't that good.
The boy walked inside, and Ian tried to listen in on his order without appearing too obvious. He kept his head down but turned toward the sound, waiting for the barista to address the cute boy.
"Welcome to Beans and Brews. What can I get for you?" the barista asked.
"One hot chocolate, please. Extra whipped cream," the boy answered in a voice light and chipper. The sound made Ian want to giggle, but he stifled it and continued his eavesdropping.
"Oh, um . . . medium, I guess," the boy replied. "Oh, and could I get that made with white chocolate instead? And add a shot of raspberry."
"All right, give me just one sec . . . okay, your total is $4.37," the barista said. Ian glanced up to see the boy hand over a five and a one, telling the barista to keep the change. He then stood off to the side, studying his phone as he waited for his order.
Hot chocolate, Ian thought. Doesn't rule him out being Mormon, then. Oh god, he's so cute up close! I hope he sits over here . . . no, wait, I hope he doesn't. Then I'll be staring at him the whole time while Jake is here!
The boy looked up and caught Ian staring, and Ian made a move of looking out the window once again, hoping to see Jake's blue car come into view. It was 2:15 now, and time to see what was happening.
Lifting his phone up to his mouth, Ian said, "Text Jake." He waited for the phone to open his messaging and said, "Are you still coming?"
As he pressed 'send', the boy was walking toward him, hot chocolate in hand. Ian tried to avoid eye contact, looking anywhere but the boy's face. Eventually he glanced down to the boy's crotch on accident, blushed immediately, and stared down at his hands.
The boy stopped at the edge of his table and pointed at the newspaper. "Hey, I'm sorry to bother you, but, I noticed the newspaper. Can I use that?"
"Oh, sure . . . someone just left it on the table. It's not mine," Ian said, gathering the paper together and sliding it across the table for Ian.
"Cool," the boy replied smoothly. "I know most people do job-hunting on the internet these days, but my dad says landscaping jobs still show up often in the newspaper."
"Right on. I don't know if they're in this section," Ian said awkwardly.
"Do you mind if I sit here and look through it?" the boy asked.
Ian blushed. As much as he did want the boy to sit near him, between his embarrassment from earlier and the thought of Jake walking in on him talking to another boy, Ian didn't know how to react. "Um, actually, I'm waiting for someone," he said after a moment.
The boy's smile faltered, and he nodded, taking the papers from Ian. "Oh . . . I'm sorry, I guess that was pretty rude of me. I'll just take it over there."
He walked away, leaving Ian alone with his thoughts again, and this time without anything to read. Ian didn't like the thought of being alone now and felt even more self-conscious now that he'd rejected an opportunity to speak with a cute boy. In his agitated frustration, he checked his phone.
'Seen', the screen said, and the timestamp showed Jake had received the message immediately after Ian had sent it. What the fuck, Jake? Ian thought.
And then a text came in, finally, a single word answer which Ian had seen time and time again, and with growing frequency. 'Nope'. Once again, Jake wouldn't be coming, and he didn't even have the decency to offer an excuse this time.
Ian wanted to cry, but anger filled him more than sadness. He should've expected this outcome, but he'd let his optimism get the better of him once again. They'd agreed on this coffee date specifically to plan Valentine's Day together, but now that didn't seem likely, either. Would they even speak to each other on that day?
He knew the answer already, but he didn't know what to do with it. Now he wanted to leave the coffee shop, but he didn't trust himself to drive yet, either. Looking up and hoping to find an answer, he saw the boy from before, sitting at a nearby table and reading the newspaper.
Ian was sick of missed opportunities, and he realized he'd already let one slip by. He couldn't afford to let anymore go. He thought, maybe I can still salvage this one?
With surprising calm, he stood and walked over to the boy. The boy looked up at Ian and gave him a confused smile. "Hey, actually . . ." Ian said awkwardly, "I'm sorry for what I said earlier. Could you give me another chance? I wouldn't mind the company."
The boy hesitated for a moment, searching Ian's blue eyes for something, before his smile widened and he said, "Well, I'm waiting for someone, too, but I'm super early, so I'd love the conversation."
"Awesome," Ian said, sitting down across from the boy and extending his hand. "My name is Ian."
"Call me Marc," the boy replied, taking Ian's offered hand. A firm handshake followed, extending for longer than usual for a typical introductory handshake.
"Call you Marc?" Ian asked.
"My name is Mauricio, but usually people have a harder time with that."
"Can I call you Mauricio?" Ian replied. "I like it better."
"Sure," Mauricio replied, his eyes lighting up at the request. "I don't mind it if people are willing to say it right."
"Which school do you go to?" Ian asked.
"Right on. My cousins go there," Mauricio said.
"Really?" Ian asked, glad for the possibility of connection. "Who are they? Maybe I know them."
"Leandro and Guillermo Yugar. They're twins. I call them by their full names, usually, but Leandro goes by 'Lee' and Guillermo goes by 'Gil'."
Ian grinned at that. He was well aware of Guillermo Yugar, the Bolivian-American he'd had a crush on since the seventh grade. Unfortunately, Guillermo's heterosexuality was well-known, considering the number of girls he dated and supposedly gone far with. "I know who they are. Guillermo's in my Chemistry class, but he's a senior so we usually don't talk. You know how it is when there's an age gap, even juniors to seniors don't always get along."
"Hey, that means we're both juniors!" Mauricio replied. "Even better."
"Cool!" Ian said, glad to have another thing in common. The next words were out of his mouth before he even realized he'd thought them. "Maybe we should hang out sometime?"
"Isn't that what we're doing now?" Mauricio asked, grinning. Then saw Ian's stunned reaction and misread it for offense. "I'm kidding . . . give me your number so I can text you."
Ian supplied his digits and waited for Mauricio to text him, then quickly filled out the contact information as soon as the text came through. As they both set their phones down again, Mauricio asked, "So, who are you meeting today?"
Ian sighed. "It was supposed to be a date, but I don't think it's going to work out."
"She didn't show, huh?" Mauricio asked.
"No," Ian said. "They didn't."
"They?" Mauricio asked, his eyes widening at the unexpected pronoun. "Oh . . . man, I'm sorry for assuming."
"Okay, he didn't show, you caught me," Ian admitted. He'd been out of the closet for several years, so admitting he was gay now didn't really matter much to him, though he hoped Mauricio wouldn't just him.
"I've used that trick before," Marc said, nodding in understanding.
Does that mean what I think it means? Ian wondered, his eyebrows raising at the thought. He caught a look of alarm in Mauricio's eyes and wondered what it meant.
"I know how that sounds, but I'm not gay. I'm meeting my girlfriend here, actually," Marc said, looking over his shoulder. "In fact, here she is."
"Marc!" a bubbly female voice said, and a woman in a white and blue Salt Lake Community College sweater and a cup of coffee in one hand walked over to them, her arms outstretched toward Mauricio. "Give me a hug!"
"Vicki!" Mauricio said, standing and greeting her with an embrace. He kissed her on the lips and they stood side by side, holding hands. Nodding across the table to Ian, Mauricio said, "Hey, I'd like you to meet my new friend, Ian. He goes to Kearns High."
Vicki nodded to Ian and smiled pleasantly. "It's nice to meet you, Ian. Is this where we're sitting?"
"I'd like to, as long as you're both okay with it," Mauricio said. "We've been having a good conversation, and I think you two would get along well, too."
"Cool," Vicki said, sitting down and waiting for Mauricio to sit down next to her. They continued to hold hands as Ian watched them both with a sad smile.
He caught Mauricio's eye, and Mauricio immediately looked down. Confused by the awkward gesture, Ian turned his attention to Vicki and asked, "So, do you guys have plans for Valentine's Day?"
"We'll be going on a date the Friday after," Vicki said, "but since it's on a Wednesday this year, we probably won't be doing anything that day as I have an early morning class. What about you?"
"My plans probably just fell through," Ian said.
"I'm probably sharing too much," Mauricio offered, looking up at Vicki, "but Ian's date didn't show up today. He didn't show up."
"Oh, I see," Vicki said, nodding at the strange emphasis. "That's unfortunate. I'm so sorry. Did he give you any reason?"
Ian let the emphasis slide, not wanting to read too much into it, especially not while he was thinking about Jake again. "Nope. Just didn't respond. I texted him and he's . . . well, he does this a lot."
"I'm sorry. Is he out?" Vicki asked. She pulled her hand away from Mauricio's to take a drink from her coffee. With both hands around her cup, she met Ian's eyes and added, "I know that sometimes things work that way when you're young."
"No, but I am," Ian said. "I think that intimidates him. He doesn't want people to know that he's bi."
"It's difficult being a teenager. When you get out of high school it'll be better," Vicki said. "I graduated last year, and I've met several gay and bisexual guys in college. You won't have a hard time finding a boyfriend."
"Sure, but what do I do in the meantime?" Ian asked.
Vicki shrugged. "I could set you up with someone if you'd like."
"One of those guys from college? I want someone my age," Ian replied, shaking his head firmly.
"Most of them are freshmen, they're only a couple years older than you." "I'm sure I could find someone you'd get along with," Vicki suggested.
"Thanks, but . . . I don't know. I'll think about it, I guess," Ian replied, unconvinced.
Mauricio stood abruptly and said, "Would you excuse me for a minute? I have to go use the restroom."
"Are you okay, Marc?" Vicki asked.
"Yeah . . . I'll be . . . I'll be fine," Mauricio replied, smiling meekly. "Just feeling a little sick to my stomach."
"Okay, but you really shouldn't drink coffee if it keeps making you sick," Vicki said.
"I know," Mauricio said. "I'll switch to hot chocolate next time."
Ian contemplated Mauricio's departure with a perplexed frown until Mauricio disappeared into the restroom at the opposite end of the coffee shop. Why did he lie? Ian wondered.
"You look a little surprised. Everything okay?" Vicki asked.
"I'm not sure . . ." Ian said, shaking his head. "I just met both of you, so I don't really know what to say."
"Marc shouldn't be drinking coffee. It upsets his stomach, but he loves the atmosphere at coffee shops, so this is where we spend a lot of our time. Plus, he loves the flavor, too, so he usually can't say no," Vicki offered.
Ian sighed. "But . . ."
"He didn't drink coffee," Ian said, "he ordered hot chocolate."
"That is weird. Hang on, I'm getting a text," Vicki said, unlocking her phone and then staring at the screen. "Huh . . ."
"What?" Ian asked.
Vicki smiled and replied, "Nothing, just . . . something unexpected, but good; one of my friends just had a change of heart on something. I've been trying to convince him to do what's best for him, but he's been hesitating for a while."
"Oh, that's good then, isn't it?" Ian asked.
"Yes. It really is," Vicki said. "So, what are you going to do about the guy who didn't show up today?"
"He's the only guy I know who will date me, so I'll probably keep trying," Ian said. "Unless someone else comes along."
"You're going to give him another chance?" Vicki asked, surprised.
"I'm lonely," Ian said with a shrug. "But I meant what I said about dating college guys. I really don't think I'm ready for something like that."
Vicki nodded, accepting his explanation. "I understand. But I might know a high school guy, too, now that I think about it."
"Yeah. He's a good friend of mine, actually."
"And he's gay?" Ian asked hopefully.
"Yep. Completely. He's not out, though," Vicki said. "Since you already have something like that . . . would you go through that again?"
"Since I'm still willing to date someone like Jake, I don't see why not. I don't believe that trying something once means it will never work out," Ian said. "But I would worry that he wouldn't want to be seen in public with me. I don't know how much more of that I can take."
Vicki smiled and replied. "I don't think that would be an issue." She waited for Ian to return the expression and then added, "Hang on a sec, I'm going to text him and see if he might want to meet you." Vicki typed out a quick text and hit send before setting her phone face down against the table.
"Okay . . ." Ian said, then laughed. "I'm nervous, but okay."
"There's no reason to be. I'm already sure you're his type," Vicki replied.
"Why didn't you think of him before then?" Ian asked.
Vicki hesitated and then said. "I wasn't sure how Marc would've felt about me bringing him up. They know each other pretty well, and it's sometimes a touchy subject with Marc."
"Ah . . . okay," Ian replied.
Vicki's phone buzzed, and she picked up to read it. She smiled and said, "He says he'd like to meet you and can get here pretty quick. Do you have time to meet him today?"
"Sure. I'm not doing anything else today," Ian said. "And it definitely looks like Jake isn't going to show."
Vicki sent out another text and then put her phone in her pocket. She took another sip of her coffee and they passed a moment in silence as Mauricio returned to the table. His expression seemed off, as if he still felt sick.
"Mauricio, welcome back! Are you feeling better?" Ian asked. "You don't look entirely well."
"I think I am, actually," Mauricio replied, though his smile felt somewhat forced.
Vicki downed the rest of her coffee in one gulp and put her empty cup down with a satisfied gasp. She stood and said, "It's my turn to go use the restroom. That coffee goes straight through me."
As soon as she was gone, Mauricio said, "Hey . . . can I ask you something, Ian?"
Ian shrugged. "Sure. Why not?"
"Would you give me a second chance?" Mauricio asked.
"What do you mean?"
"I told you earlier that I'm not gay . . . that . . . wasn't true," Mauricio said hesitantly. "If you're going to be free on Valentine's Day, I'd like you to come to dinner with me."
Ian's eyes widened in shock. "What? Vicki just said she has a friend who . . . oh . . ." he caught on as he saw Mauricio's smile slowly strengthen. "She knows, doesn't she? You're her high school friend."
"Yeah," Mauricio confirmed. "She's been my fake girlfriend for a couple of years now. We met in drama class and she . . . caught me looking at someone once. It's been nice, not having to worry about anyone else catching me."
"So . . . you're asking me out, and she's okay with it?" Ian asked.
"She just interviewed you for me . . ." Mauricio said, laughing. "I hope you don't find that creepy or something. I was just too nervous."
Ian grinned. "No, I think it's cute. Why me, though?"
"Why do you think I asked for the paper?" Mauricio asked. "What teenager looks at classified ads?"
"One looking for an excuse to talk to someone else," Ian surmised. "You wanted to sit down with me."
Mauricio sighed and said, "That sounds shallow, because it makes it sound like I just liked your looks, but it was more than that. I mean, don't get me wrong, I think you're cute as hell," he chuckled nervously and went on, "but it was the way you kept glancing at me through the window, the way you were listening in on my conversation with the barista, the way you kept checking your phone . . . everything just felt . . . man, I can't describe it, I just like the way you move."
"I like you, too, Mauricio," Ian said. "I think I'd enjoy getting to know you better."
"I forgot the best part, heh," Mauricio replied. "Thank you for using my full name. When you say it, it feels so natural . . . I love hearing it."
Ian blushed and said, "Well, I enjoy saying it, Mauricio."
Vicki returned to the table in that moment, grinning warmly from ear to ear. "Looks like you two are getting along fine. I think I'll get out of here," she said.
"You don't have to go, Vicki," Ian said. "You should stay."
"Ian, I've been waiting for Marc to do this for a long time. I can tell you two have a lot to talk about. First dates are important, and you don't get second chances at first impressions," Vicki replied, then put her hand on Mauricio's shoulder. "You two have fun."
"Thanks, Vicki," Mauricio said, putting his hand over hers and squeezing it. "I love you."
"I know," Vicki said, returning his look. She grinned at Ian and said, "Take care of my boyfriend, will you?"
"I will," Ian replied.
Vicki left, leaving Ian and Mauricio in blissful awkward silence. Mauricio broke the silence first, clearing his throat before asking, "So, tell me, are you free Valentine's Day? I think we should go to dinner."
Ian grinned and nodded. "It's a date."
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