by Hamen Cheese

Chapter 2: Charlie's Interest in Art

So where was I? Let's see. I've discussed how Charlie and I met, how I rescued Charlie from the big bad man… err, boy… how Charlie was like as we grew up, how perfect I was, how Charlie moved in next door, how Charlie had a wet dream about me… Wait, I haven't covered that, have I? Of course, I haven't. I'd know if I did because I remember everything.

That incident actually happened much, much later but I'll pick up from where I left off so that it's clear. If I remember correctly which I'm sure I do, Charlie and I had the most amazing Christmas together that time he moved in next door. We were virtually inseparable during the Christmas break and the only time they managed to pry us apart was when either of us had to take a bath. Taking a bath together would just be icky.

Anyway, we would have these sleepovers every night. We would take turns staying at each other's houses. It wasn't a problem really for our parents since we were neighbors. Our mom's could just shout across the fence if they wanted either of us to come home. And even if they did that, the two of us would move together to the other house. You'd almost think we were twins if I wasn't so much sexier than Charlie.

If you're now wondering why I'm telling you all this, it's because you need to understand where we came from and what happened to us. That's the only way you'll rightfully know why the events in that alley actually happened. That is after all why I am now gracing you of all people with my presence.

One of the things you need to know is that Charlie was very shy. If you saw him before with me, it might not seem that way because he just talks and talks and talks. However, he was only like that with me. When there were other people around other than our own moms, he went all quiet and shy. He was like that even around my dad, though I suppose he had good reason to. It was even worse around strangers. Sometimes his mom had to ask me to ask him a question a stranger asked. I mean come on!

The thing with shy people is they tend to keep to themselves. More importantly, they tend to keep their thoughts to themselves… especially their deepest, darkest secrets.

I learned to live with Charlie's little quirks, whatever they were. Okay fine, he was not athletic, confident, and well-balanced like me but hey, it wasn't like we were getting married. I didn't need to find matching qualities between us that would make us the perfect match.

And yet somehow I knew we were just that – the perfect match. We were two boys that despite every noticeable difference were destined to be best friends. We were like two sides of a coin except my side was the one always up and exposed to the world while Charlie was the side always facing down. I don't think Charlie would have had any friends if it wasn't for me. No matter what happened though, we were part of the same coin and wouldn't be the same without the other.

Come to think of it, for the longest time, the two of us had the same set of friends. By same set, I mean my friends became Charlie's friends. When we both entered Middle School the year after Charlie moved in, it was clear to everyone that I was the most popular kid in school. I mean come on, how many Middle School students can boast a tight toned body with six pack abs or bulging biceps? And, I got all that without effort. Okay fine, maybe I spent a few hours playing basketball a day and maybe a few hours a week in the gym but those things don't lead to a hot and sexy body. No matter what all these health gurus and scientists say, it's simply in the genes! You're either hot or you're not.

Charlie was not. Okay, maybe he was slim and probably had a very good body fat percentage. Also, his hair almost always found a way to mess itself up and yet look on purpose at the same time. Girls later on in high school would find this bed head look simply adorable. Personally though, I thought he could use a little wax.

He also tended to sit in the sidelines. While I would dominate every court or field of every sport I played, he would sit in the sidelines every game with the other five percent of the school who couldn't dribble a ball to save their lives. In Middle School, I was part of the basketball varsity team. Charlie was… well, cheering varsity I suppose. I guess you could say he was a professional spectator.

He liked to do that – watch, I mean. He especially liked to watch people. I noticed it after a few weeks in middle school probably because I was so used to being watched and adored that I knew that look he always had on his face.

"Who are you looking at?" I asked one time we were eating in the cafeteria.

Charlie jumped as though he was caught doing the nasty. "What? No one, Hero. I was just… thinking."

Luke, who was seated across from us, started paying attention. He, like the rest of the boys on our long table, belonged to the basketball varsity team of Southmore Middle School. Girls from the pep squad were scattered here and there between the boys. There were many sports in Southmore but basketball was THE sport of Southmore. As a cardinal rule, all pep squad girls flirt with basketball players. Charlie was the only one on our table not affiliated with any sport or even anything physical.

"You've been looking over at that table for quite a bit, Big C," I said as I looked in the same direction he was looking. "See someone you like?" Luke looked towards the same table.

"I haven't been looking at anyone," Charlie said softly.

"Those are the art freaks," Luke said without reservations. Indeed they were, even in a school like Southmore where everyone (okay, nearly everyone) was involved in at least one major sport, there were still niches and little groups with varying interests. That particular table was where the art enthusiasts congregated. At the moment, there were only five of them there. "They're mostly from the badminton and volleyball teams. To end up there, you're either a girl or a fag."

Charlie looked down at his lap and said softly, "I wasn't looking at them."

Luke looked over at Charlie with a sneer that said he obviously knew something. I didn't like that sneer.

"I think Rebecca's pretty hot," I said as I looked over at the table of the art freaks, err, art people. Rebecca Hastings was this gorgeous brunette with wavy hair that reached her shoulders. She had perfect skin and the most amazingly developed breasts on any girl (at least in Middle School). She was also the Captain of the Badminton Varsity which is quite a feat considering there were other students senior to her on the team. Then again, I was the basketball captain, the year after I stepped into middle school so it's not that big a feat. I suppose it was for her.

"Hey!" the girl attached to my arm said. Her name was Melissa Albright. "I thought I was the only girl you had eyes for?"

I turned to her with one of my perfect smiles. "You know you're the only girl in my life for now."

"Aww, that is so sweet," she said as she once again cuddled into my arm and returned to talking about the latest make-up trends with her friend. I swear I could charm my way out of anything. Charlie was eyeing her as though he couldn't believe she fell for that. "It's not her, it's me," I said. "I'm just irresistible."

Charlie shook his head in mock disgust. I was pretty sure he was used to me by then. I mean if you basked in my perfection for the last decade or so, you're bound to become agreeable right?

"So who were you looking at?" Luke asked as his attention focused on Charlie.

Charlie looked down shyly. "I wasn't looking," he said barely above a whisper.

Luke looked over at me and raised an eyebrow. It was clear to me for some time that not all my friends liked Charlie. It has been especially clear that Luke had somethingagainst Charlie. He was however another star basketball player (though nowhere close to my level) so I have to put up with him. As my mom always said, "never close down connections you can keep. Be perfectly amiable. It's the key to success in our world." That was easy for me. It was practically coded into my genes. I was just simply likable in every possible way.

"So Luke," I said. "I hear you went out with Sophie."

Every head on the table basically turned to our direction. That happened a lot. Whatever I was interested in, everyone became interested in… except if I was talking about Charlie.

Luke squirmed uncomfortably in his seat. Sophie was in our grade but wasn't exactly the most popular girl around. She belonged more to the same category as Charlie – unbelievably smart but clueless about anything physical. Her teeth were also somewhat crooked and she didn't show the slightest sign of having any breasts yet. "Yeah, so?" he said with a somewhat defensive tone.

"You went out with Ms. Softy?" Brian asked. He was another basketball star (but also nowhere close to my level). Ms. Softy was actually a running joke with Sophie. There was (and still is) this ice cream store near our school called Mr. Softy that has the most obese looking ice cream mascot in the world. I was surprised people even bought from that place considering the Mr. Softy mascot that was just oozing with fat. Sophie wasn't fat really. She had maybe twenty-five percent body fat percentage which was just average for a girl. However, if you were in a school of athletes, average makes you fat. Compared to me, average makes you lard.

"Look, my mom made me do it okay," Luke said in a shouted whisper. It was actually through his mom that I found out. Well, technically I found out through his mom's hairstylist that likes to ask her customers all sorts of what's-up-with-you-now questions as she snips away at your hair. It was sort of like taking away a bit of your life with each strand. His mom's hairstylist happened to be the best friend of well known but mostly hated Ms. Cecily Tattler, a church lady and the biggest gossip in town, who OF COURSE just had to tell every living soul she met including Mrs. Riviera the Southmore school nurse. Mrs. Riviera, who has her afternoon snacks with some of the staff, told my mom, who in turn told me over dinner the night before. "I didn't have a choice."

"So did you kiss her?" Brian said with eyebrows that just undulated on his forehead. I swear, during that age even the slightest thing brushing against the topic of sex was enough to excite any one of us.

"No man!" Luke said as he looked around. He looked almost scared to be overheard which was quite amusing considering there were over ten people now listening into the conversation. "I can do better than a girl like that."

"Now, that's just rude," Clark Kent said. I'm not kidding. That really was his name. And yes, you guessed it. He was another one of those "below me" basketball players. He was seated beside Margaret Elizabeth C. O'Connor. She always introduced herself like that to anyone who was lucky enough to be introduced to her – or so she said anyway. I swear, sometimes these people who are full of themselves can be so silly. Margaret was Clark's girlfriend at the time. She was too pre-occupied with looking at herself in the mirror to pay any attention to what we were discussing. "She hangs out with my sister. She's kinda quiet, but it's not like she's a freak or anything."

"Why don't you date her then?" Luke asked with narrowed eyes.

Clark turned with a smile to Margaret. "Because I already found the one for me," he said as he reached over a hand to clasp his girlfriend's hand.

Margaret was in the middle of adjusting her hair when Clark reached over and consequently swatted his hand for the interruption. She paused as she noticed every eye on the table on her. She checked her reflection one more time on her handheld mirror, probably to check if we were staring at something on her face before shutting the pocket mirror. She then turned to us with an innocent, helpless look. "What?"

"I said I already found the one for me," Clark repeated with a little longing in his voice.

"Sure babe," Margaret said with a peck of her lips on his cheek. It wasn't too hard though, most likely to keep the lipstick from smudging. With that done, she reopened her mirror to check if anything changed in the last ten seconds.

"I wouldn't mind dating her," I said. Every eye turned to me again – well almost every eye, Charlie and Margaret seemed distracted with their own worlds.

"Dude," Brian protested. "You could have any girl you want in this school."

"I know," I said with a chuckle but waved at him to continue what he was saying.

"Why would you waste your time with Ms. Softy?" Brian asked after receiving my blessing to continue.

"You know, it's not always about looks," I said. Margaret paused her plastic surgery to look at me with an appalled expression of pure hatred and disgust. "I look for more than the superficial things you know. I want someone who interests me, not necessarily others." Okay, maybe I was stretching the truth there a bit but who were they to know that? "Sure, I look at the physical aspects. But more than that, I look for what's inside a person, her personality, her humor, things that would keep me in love even after the good looks have faded away."

"Oooh, that is just so sweet!" Lily squealed. She was another pep squad member who stayed on our table. She was a petite and perky blonde who seemed to bounce all the time whether she was cheering, standing, or sitting. I wondered if she bounced even in bed. Now that was an interesting thought. Her size made a very noticeable contrast to her boyfriend, Andrew Young.

Andrew's the biggest basketball player in our team. He's packed full of muscle and healthy fat and can make little boys run away in fear. He was the quiet type though which earned himself the title the gentle giant. It was another contrasting quality to Lily's hyper personality. He's a monster on the basketball court though so his apparent shyness is nothing to laugh at. Oh, don't think I've forgotten. Despite his skills in the court, he was still nowhere near my level.

Lily's comment was repeated in some form by the other girls in the table. You could visibly see each guy holding tighter to their girlfriends, MUs, or "it's-complicated"s. It almost seemed like they were afraid I'd steal away their girls. Even Clark wasn't waning in his effort to hold Margaret who seemed intent on swatting her boyfriend for interrupting her beautification.

Honestly, their gestures were unnecessary. If I wanted any of their girls, there was absolutely nothing they could do about it.

I was enjoying everyone's attention just like I always did during lunch except today was different. Someone was really distracted and his eyes seemed to keep wandering over to the table of art freaks, err, art enthusiasts.

I gave the others permission to discuss amongst themselves while I casually observed my best friend.

"Really Big C, I think someone has a crush," I said conspiratorially.

Charlie seemed surprised at being caught looking again and promptly returned to poking his lunch, which I noticed only then was still uneaten. The food at school was admittedly not the best but it was far from bad. It was actually quite healthy – sort of like an almost but not quite meal for an athlete. Seeing Charlie's food untouched was definitely unusual for him.

"Is it Rebecca?" I whispered when Charlie didn't say anything.

"What?" he asked in surprise. "No, of course not."

I smiled. "So there is someone."

Charlie turned pale. "No, of course not," he said again with his head bent down. I spent a few moments studying the art table where five people were talking animatedly. There was Andrea Johnson from the badminton team (she was okay, kinda freckly though), Jenna Davis from the women's volleyball team (they nicknamed her Butch for her size, go figure), Travis Brody from the Karate team, and Jared Anderson, a floater much like Charlie. And of course, there was Rebecca Hastings – who with a flick of her hair and a glance at our direction was looking like the hottest girl in all of Southmore Middle School.

Leaning in I whispered, "so if it's not Rebecca, you wouldn't mind me going for her?"

Charlie looked at me with a face that could only be described as appalled. He spared a glance at Melissa Albright whose hands were still clasped onto my muscular arm. "Don't you have a girlfriend already?" he whispered.

I raised him an eyebrow. "So?"

Charlie shook his head and looked over at the art table. When he probably realized what he was doing, he looked down again at his food.

I nudged him. "So is it Andrea? No? Please tell me it's not Jenna. I'm going to have to beat some sense into you before she does."

Charlie chuckled and smiled so shyly. I swear he never outgrew that look. "So it's only Rebecca or Andrea. Definitely not Travis or Jared. That would just be so gay." I rinsed my mouth with juice just having to say that word out loud.

Charlie's smile lost some of its luster. And his body posture seemed to droop a bit. He went back to poking his food. "It's no one," he said flatly.

I nudged him again. "Come on, who is it?"

"I said it's no one," he said with an annoyed tone. Now, Charlie rarely ever got mad, especially towards me. But when he did, he liked to throw these little fits of silence. He could ignore me the whole day if I did something that really annoyed him (like the time I blew out his birthday candles before he did, or the time that I pushed him into the kiddie pool because he was so afraid of getting in, or the time I kept teasing him for not having a sport… anyway…). I knew he was getting close to that point so I needed to do something to cheer him up.

I threw one arm around his neck and starting poking him discretely on the ribs with my other hand. Charlie jerked as my finger sent ticklish sensations across his body. Slowly his frown was turning into an unwelcomed smile and his eyes spoke of pure terror. "Cheer up, Big C. No frowning allowed in my presence."

"Stop," Charlie begged with a whisper as I continually poked him in different areas. He was desperately trying not to squirm and scream in the crowded lunch hall. "Stop it, Hero." And with the first unstoppable laugh, he yelled, "stop!"

I finally released him as he was finally smiling and chuckling. The bell rang indicating we should head to our classes soon if we wanted to make it there in time. Everyone started picking up their trays to dispose them – everyone except Luke.

Luke was looking at my direction, or maybe Charlie's direction. I could have sworn he was glaring and trying to melt us under his gaze.

"Is there a problem, Luke?" I asked nonchalantly.

He looked at us longer before a very fake smile appeared on his face. "Nothing," he said before standing up with his tray and walking away from us.

"I think he's mad at us for something," Charlie said after we deposited our trays.

"Who?" I asked.

"Luke," Charlie said with a glance around the room as though looking for him.

"Hah!" I said as I placed one arm over Charlie's neck and pulled him towards him. "Don't worry about him, I'll protect you from the big bad Luke."

Charlie chuckled. "You really are my Hero, huh?"

"Yeah, and don't you forget it," I said as I gave him a noogie, under which he squirmed in his futile attempts to get away.

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