Three Days

by Joe Casey

Chapter 3

I was brought back up out of my reverie by the sound of the toaster and the scent of eggs almost burnt. I flipped them, waited a few seconds. When they were done, I spatula'd them onto my plate, then smeared a bit of my nana's homemade apple butter on the toast. Coffee was easier: black. I sat at the kitchen table; somebody - probably Lyndon's parents - had thoughtfully brought my newspaper in. I was fully convinced that I was the only one in the house who could or would read. I unfurled it to the sports section.

I was halfway through an article about - I presumed - an analysis of the very same horse race my roommate was attending when a husky voice sounded from the living room.

"Sugar and a little bit of half-and-half in the coffee please … and a buttered scone, if you have it."

Ah, Bing/Bang/Bong/Bung was awake. I chuckled, called out. "Would the gentleman prefer his eggs coddled or shirred?"

A chuckle answered back. "Eggs Benedict, if you don't mind. I'm sure it won't be a problem for the kitchen."

"Not at all," I responded. "Will the gentleman be dining in his rooms or in the main dining salon?"

I heard a creaking sound from the living room, followed by a groan and an "Ouch, my back!" The owner of the voice came into view, at that point. Luckily, I'd just swallowed some coffee, saving me from having to spit it back out in surprise.

He looked like a five-eights scale version of his older brother: the same mop of curling, honey-blond hair, the same long, narrow face, the same blue eyes, the same perfect bow of a mouth, the same tall, slender build with wide shoulders and a narrow waist. I stared. Of course I stared; what else was I going to do? What else could I do?

More on the why later … unless you've already guessed.

He was dressed in a t-shirt that hugged his narrow but muscular chest and flat belly, over a pair of loose boxers. He stuck out a hand; I took it.

"I don't think we've met," I said. "I'm Omer."

He nodded. "Bryce," he answered.

Bryce. That was it, the name I couldn't remember. He walked over to the coffee. "Do you mind if I …?"

"No, not at all. I was hoping someone would help me drink it. We have skim milk, if you need it." I watched as he fumbled around in the fridge; when he was done doctoring his coffee, he sat down at the table, across from me. I tried not to stare, failed. I tugged discreetly at the crotch of my boxers, trying to rearrange the things down there that had decided to pick this moment to perk up, hoping that he wouldn't notice. He might have, though, with a quick flick of his eyes, something I stored away in the back of my mind, where all the other dark things congregated.

I cleared my throat. "So, you, uh … decided not to go to the track?"

He smiled, shook his head. "Nah … watching horses run around in circles all day isn't really my idea of fun."

I smiled back. "Not mine, either. Not that I was asked."

He chuckled, rolled his eyes. "Well … I doubt that you'd want to hang with Lyndon and Dad today, anyway."

"Oh? Why's that?"

"Well … let's just say that the shit's gonna hit the fan big time at some point today. It will not, I think, turn out to be one of Lyndon Parrish 's best days."

I made a face: mock concern. "Oh, my stars …" I started, my voice dead flat. " Whatever could have happened?"

Bryce stared at me for a few seconds, then snickered. "Dad may want to talk to you at some point."

Which took me by surprise. "Okay, but …"

"Certainly you must have some idea what's up."

I shrugged, still tried to play it cool. "Not really. I don't really get along too well with your brother and the other guys. We don't talk all that much, and we don't hang out."

Bryce nodded. "Yeah, I kinda figured that." He made a face. "You don't look like a drug addict to me."

This time, I did almost spit out my coffee. "Wait … what?"

He smiled. "Well … maybe I shouldn't say anything …"

"But you kinda did," I countered.

He smiled. "… but I'm going to any way." I waited; he went on. "I haven't heard everything, of course … but what I have heard sounds like Lyndon's grades have gone to shit ever since he moved into this place. Mom and Dad think he's cutting classes and getting high all the time." Bryce looked at me closely, seeing if I could confirm any of this.

Reluctantly, I nodded my head. "I've, uh … well, I've seen a little of it. I'd leave for class in the morning and come back in the afternoon and they'd all still be here in their underwear with a bong sitting out on the coffee table." I thought back through the past eight months, when I'd moved here in September. "Uh … a lot of parties, with a lot of alcohol. Maybe … maybe other stuff. I never asked. Usually, if I knew they were going to have a party, I'd find somewhere else to be that night." I grinned. "I spent a lot of nights sleeping in the engineering lab. Should have just moved in there, I guess. Would have saved me a ton of money."

Bryce digested this. "How did you end up living here? Doesn't seem like your kind of place."

I shrugged. "Well … Craigslist. I needed a cheap place to stay and they had a listing. They seemed okay when we talked about me moving in. I was desperate."

Bryce nodded his head. "My brother can be very charming when he needs to be. When it suits him."

Something that I had had some first-hand experience with. "Well … I'm just glad it's almost over. I'll have to find a place to stay before school starts up." I got up to refill my coffee. It was nice, talking to Bryce, even if it was about his reprobate brother. "So, he was a decent student before all of this?"

Bryce shrugged. "I guess. Good enough … maybe not the best, but not the worst. Good enough to get into law school, at any rate."

I chuckled, thinking about just how many laws Lyndon and the others had probably broken - or at least bent - over the last eight months. "Law school? Really?"

Bryce smiled. "I know, right? But, that's what Dad is, and I guess Lyndon thought he had an easy in after he graduated. Now …" He trailed off, shaking his head. "Asshole," he muttered.

I smiled, deliberately misunderstanding. "Was it something I said, something I did?"

Bryce got it, chuckled. "Sorry." He looked at me for a brief moment, as if sizing me up. I could see his eyes darting here and there, could see him looking at the scar that started on my scalp, trailed down the right side of my face and neck and disappeared under my t-shirt. He grinned. "So, let me guess. You're some kind of athlete, aren't you?"

I grinned in return, shook my head. "Interpretive dance."

He pretended to slap himself on the forehead. "Of course. How could I not see that?"

I chuckled. Oh, boy, this kid is cute, I said to myself. Off-limits, of course. I certainly wasn't going to test it. I smiled. "You must have been fooled by my classically handsome features and dancer's physique."

"So, wrestling, obviously. You any good?"

I shrugged. "Full scholarship."

"Wow. Impressive."

I shrugged again. "It paid the bills. At least, so far."

"So, now what? You mentioned having to find a place. I thought you were a senior?"

"I am, but … well, grad school. I'm not going to be wrestling, any more, so it's going to have to be cheap. Probably end up in somebody's basement."

He chuckled. "What are you studying?"

"Engineering. Structural."

He started laughing. "Really." Not a question.

I frowned and felt a little put out, not sure why my choice of major was so amusing. "Uh, yeah. Why?"

He shook his head, held up a hand. "Sorry. I'm not laughing at you. It's … well, one reason why I tagged along this weekend - other than to see Dad tear Lyndon a new one - was to look around campus, see if I might like to go to school here."

My heart skipped a beat. "Okay …"

He looked at me steadily. "To study architecture."

Even I had to chuckle at the coincidence. "Match made in heaven, right?" I wasn't sure why I'd said that, but there it was.

He smiled again. "Absolutely."

And now I knew how I might spend more time with this kid. "So, what was the game plan? You just wander around by yourself all day, bouncing off things?"

"Yeah, pretty much. If I like it, we come back in the summer for a real visit."

"Well, that's no fun." I glanced down at the paper, then back up at Bryce. "I … well, I could show you around. That is, if it's okay." Please, let it be okay, I prayed.

He looked at me for a long moment. Then, "I'd like that, Omer. I'd like that a lot, actually. Thanks."

"I, uh … I don't have a car or anything. Just a bike."

He shrugged. "Bikes are okay. I can borrow Lyndon's."

After breakfast, we went our separate ways to get ready for the day. While I rinsed out our breakfast dishes, I caught a glimpse of Bryce in the living room, crouched down, going through his suitcase for something to wear. I noticed how the fabric of his shorts was drawn tight over the supple curves of his bottom, imagined that I could see the smooth, pale pink flesh through the white cotton.

I blew out a rough, nervous breath and slipped upstairs to the attic, hoping that Bryce didn't notice the effect he'd had on me, hoped that I could get through this day without embarrassing myself.

Upstairs, I stripped off, started the shower, brushed my teeth while waiting for the shower to heat up. I debated whether or not I would shave, decided that nobody really cared.

When the water was hot enough (well, really, as hot as it would ever get), I stepped under the rusting shower head and its dribbles of tepid water, started lathering up.

While I did, I thought back to another day, a few weeks ago, and the second thing I had done, which had somehow taken more courage than telling my dad what I had decided about my future.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead