Reki sighed softly as he watched Langa skate away. The tight, snarled mess in his chest twisted as Langa turned the corner and disappeared. He trudged back into the house, ignoring his sisters and flopped onto his bed. He heard the pitter-patter of the twin’s feet and groaned, burying his face in his pillow. As much as he loved his sisters, he wasn’t in the mood to play with them now…he felt weird.
His sisters landed on top of him and Reki shoved his face deeper into the pillow, hoping they’d get the hint. With squeals of delight they started jumping up and down on his back. No such luck then. Reki heard Koyomi’s heavier footsteps and peaked to see if she was coming to help him or join in the ‘fun’. She grabbed the girls by the back of their overalls and yanked them off.
“Come on, don’t bother Reki now. He’s missing his boyfriend.”
Reki ripped his head from the pillow and glared. “Langa’s not my boyfriend!” he shouted.
Koyomi’s laugh followed him down the hallway. “If you need advice, I’m always here Reki!”
Reki scowled and hid his face again. As if a twelve-year-old could help him! Then again, maybe getting help wasn’t such a bad idea.
The glass door to Sia La Luce rattled as Reki knocked. Early morning light drenched the restaurant in blue and Reki could just see the pink of the sun peaking over the horizon. He rolled his board back and forth under his foot as Joe waved and came over to unlock the door.
“if you plan to ditch, this is the worst possible place to hide,” Joe said, opening the door wide for Reki.
Reki grinned, and scooped up his board. “Er-no. I’m not ditching today.”
“I meant I don’t ditch at all!” Reki said, trying to cover his tracks.
Joe laughed and ruffled his hair. “What’s up kid?”
Reki flopped down at the table where Joe had been doing paper work and sighed. Joe sat down opposite him and picked up his pen. “If it’s about the birds and the bees, that’s out of my job description.”
“Joooeee,” Reki groaned. “That’s not why I’m here.”
Joe grinned and leaned back, tucking his pen behind his ear. “Okay, okay. Tell big brother Joe what’s wrong.”
“I need some advice,” Reki said, deciding the table was suddenly a very interesting thing to look at.
“How do you, that is- I,” Reki felt like an idiot. He just needed to spit it out. “Let’s say you’re friends with- you have a good friend who…. How would you tell them you want more than just being friends?”
When Reki tore his eyes away from the table top, Joe was smiling at him.
“Finally gonna tell Langa huh?”
Reki felt his face flame. “Langa! Who said anything about Langa? I just…wanted advice for a friend! That’s all!”
Joe crossed his arms over his chest, smile widening. “Yeah, sure.”
“I mean, maybe your friend should come ask me, himself?”
Joe laughed, “Okay, okay! Advice for a confession huh? Let’s see,” he rubbed his chin while Reki tried to get his heart rate back to normal. Had he been so obvious that Joe had noticed? What if Langa knew about his crush? What if he didn’t feel the same way and was just hoping Reki would never bring it up?
“I think,” Joe said, breaking into Reki’s spiraling thoughts. “The thing that worked for me is being honest.”
Reki blinked at him. “Being honest?”
“Yeah, people appreciate when you’re straight forward. Especially when it comes to relationship stuff. Just get them somewhere private and tell them how you feel. Clearly.”
“That’s what you do? You just tell people how you feel?”
“That’s how you get so many girls? By just telling them you like them!”
Joe chuckled, “Yeah. It’s really that simple.”
It was that simple for Joe because he looked like a fitness model. Reki didn’t. He let of a sigh and slumped in his chair.
“What’s wrong? If it’s nerves, I’m sure Langa feels the same way, and he’ll be over joyed when you confess.”
“It’s not that,” Reki mumbled.
“Them what’s up?”
“It’s nothing,” Reki got to his feet.
“Come on Reki, talk to me.” Joe grinned and stepped in front of him. “That’s what big brothers are for.”
“It’s just…” Reki sighed. Joe wouldn’t let this go. Ever since Reki’s confidence crisis that nearly made him quit S, Joe had paid extra attention to his moods. It was annoying and touching at the same time.
“Well you have looks on your side,” Reki’s ears went warm. “I don’t.”
“Reki,” Joe’s voice was soft. “You’re plenty cute! Haven’t you noticed Langa staring?”
Reki went red and fell silent.
“Don’t over think it,” Joe said, patting his shoulder. “And don’t psych yourself up.”
Reki smiled as best as he could. “Have you met me?”
“Do it soon then. That way you have no chance to overthink it.”
Reki nodded and picked up his board. “Thanks Joe. I’ll tell you how it goes.”
Reki headed out side, waved at Joe one last time and skated off. He was almost to school when he realized he hadn’t denied it when Joe had assumed he was talking about Langa.
The roof was windy today. The sun was high in the sky and puffy white clouds raced across the sky. Normally Reki would have loved it, but today the lead in his stomach ruined the beautiful day for him. Next to him, Langa was working through his second bag of potato chips.
“Are you alright, Reki?”
Reki jumped and turned to see Langa watching him. “Yeah I’m cool- well no I-
Langa’s brow furrowed and Reki sighed. Joe was right, he should just tell Langa now before the other boy thought he was insane.
“There’s something I need to tell you, Langa,” Reki said, swallowing around the dryness in his throat.
Langa nodded and set the chips down, wiping his fingers clean.
“I-well I-I like you, Langa.”
Langa’s eyes brightened and Reki felt his heart swoop. Then something in them dimmed and Langa’s smile faded a little.
“I like you too, Reki,” Langa said.
“Of course. We’re best friends, just like you said.”
Reki’s heart plummeted. “Yeah,” he said weakly. “Best friends.”
Langa started to pack up his food and nodded. “Just like you said at S,” he stuffed the containers in his bag with more force than usual.
The bell rang and Reki followed Langa back to class, wondering how he failed in such a confusing state.
Reki let the others walk head of him as they headed towards the finish line at S. Things with Langa had stayed the same, which made Reki happy and frustrated. At first he’d thought Langa had turned him down on the roof, but after thinking about it he’d realized Langa hadn’t understood what he meant. Now, Reki was at a loss about what to do.
“Are you alright?”
Reki looked up to see Cherry next to him, board tucked under his arm. The others were far ahead, leaving him and Cherry alone on the side of the track.
Reki paused. Lots of people at S threw themselves at Cherry, maybe he’d be able to help.
“Actually…I wanted to ask you something.”
Cherry nodded and looked at him.
“I need- erm- advice.”
“No,” Reki felt himself turn red and sighed. These were his friends; it shouldn’t be so awkward. “I need relationship help,” Reki muttered. His voice was so low he wondered if Cherry heard him.
“Problems with Langa,” Cherry said, nodding to himself.
Reki’s head snapped up, “How does everyone know it’s about Langa!”
Cherry gave him a flat look.
“Well…it could be about someone else.” At the look on Cherry’s face, he sighed. “I’m really that obvious?”
“You’re many things Reki, subtle isn’t one of them,” Cherry said, and Reki could tell he was smiling under his mask.
“I wish...Langa clearly hasn’t noticed anything.”
Cherry laughed. “Life is all about balance Reki. You’re not subtle, and Langa is dense enough he still can’t see what’s like a blinking neon sign to everyone else.”
“Langa’s not dense!”
“I meant it lovingly,” Cherry deadpanned.
Reki huffed. Maybe Cherry wasn’t the right person to ask.
“So I assume you want help to confess?”
Well, he’d already gotten this far.
“I tried to confess yesterday and Langa didn’t get it….at least I think he didn’t, Reki said, spinning a wheel on his board with one finger, so he wouldn’t have to look at Cherry.
“What did you say?”
“I told him I liked him, and he said he liked me too. Then he said we’re best friends.”
Reki nodded, spinning the wheel faster. “It was odd, cause he said we’re best friends, just like I said. I say that all the time. I think maybe he thought I meant just friends.”
“Langa definitely likes you as more than a friend. I can tell you that.”
Reki looked up hopefully. “Really?”
Cherry nodded. “What he said raises questions though. Has Langa confessed to you?”
“Of course not!”
Cherry hummed in thought.
“Joe told me to be direct, that’s why I told him. Maybe I wasn’t direct enough?”
“That gorilla would suggest something so blunt. What you need to do Reki, is strategize.”
“Yes. Think of what Langa likes and plan a perfect day around that. Then at the end he should understand what you mean.”
“Do you think that’ll work?”
Cherry smiled. “It’s worked for me.”
Reki nodded, feeling determined. “I can do that!”
“Excellent. You know Langa very well, just don’t over think your plans and everything should be perfect.”
Reki nodded, chin jutting out. He had a plan!
“Come, let’s go meet the others,” Cherry said, dropping his board to the ground and taking off.
“Hell yeah!” Reki said, hoping on his board and following Cherry.
He just needed to combine his words with action! Surely Langa would get it then!
It didn’t work.
Reki had planned what was, in his opinion, the perfect date for Langa. They gone skating on the boardwalk by the beach, because Langa loved skating and was so fascinated by the sea. Then Reki had taken him for the best street food and bought Langa as much as he wanted. At the end, he’d escorted Langa home, smiled at him and said; “I like you, Langa.”
Langa had smiled back, and said, “You’re my best friend, Reki.” His voice had been wooden and Reki had gone home with his heart in his shoes. Obviously Langa just thought they’d spent a regular day together. Romantic gestures were clearly not Reki’s specialty.
Reki sighed as he trudged to the flower store. Shadow had told him and Langa to meet there and he’d drive them to S. Maybe he could ask Shadow for advice? The dude had been doing okay with his boss, until she’d fallen for someone else.
The closed sign was already up so Reki walked around the back. Shadow always left the back door open for them.
“Hey guys!” he called, forcing some cheer into his voice.
Shadow grinned from his position in front of the desk. His makeup was already on and he was dressed for S. Langa’s back was to Reki, and he was perched on the desk, Shadow’s makeup spread around him.
“A hostage situation,” Langa said drily.
“Some fun!” Shadow said, “I’m trying a new makeup look on Langa!”
“Really?” Reki grinned and walked around the desk. “He let you clown him up?”
“I said it was a hostage situation,” Langa grumbled.
Reki rounded the desk and froze. Langa’s face was coved in pale foundation, with black eyeshadow smudged around them. Shadow had blended electric blue around the black, and Langa’s eyes seem to glow with the contrast. The makeup planes of his cheekbones and the sharpness of his feature. He looked like he should be on stage with a band or something. Reki swallowed hard, and struggled for something to say.
“I-erm- wow!” he said, feeling himself blush. “You look amazing, Langa!”
“Of course he does! I have skills!” Shadow said. “Now come on twerps lets’ go!”
“I’m not going to S like this,” Langa said. He grabbed a piece of cloth hanging over Shadow’s chair and scrubbed his face clean.
“That’s my cape!” Shadow yelped.
“Sorry,” Langa said, heading to the bathroom.
Reki heard the water running and stared after Langa. He’d looked very handsome decked out liked that, but Reki preferred Langa’s face as it was. Maybe he could convince Langa to dress up like that for Halloween.
“For Halloween we should go as each other!” Reki said, the idea brewing. “Langa can go as you, you can go as me and I’ll go as someone else!”
“That a cool idea,” Shadow said, trying to get the makeup of his cape.
“Ready to go?” Langa asked, coming out the bathroom.
“Let’s hit it!” Shadow said.
Reki followed him out the door, telling Langa all about his Halloween idea. Langa seemed enthusiastic and Reki forgot all about asking Shadow for advice.
S was bumping as it always was, Langa had raced Cherry and almost won. Reki cheered so hard his voice nearly gave out. Seeing Langa sweaty and rumpled after the race had made something go funny in Reki’s chest. The urge to kiss Langa nearly made him forget about confessing and just go straight for a kiss. He couldn’t do that though. He doubted Langa cared for PDA and it felt too pushy to just assume Langa wanted to kiss him.
Suddenly the cheering around him got louder and Reki came back to the present. To his surprise Adam was standing in front of him, pointing at him. Reki blinked, what had he missed?
“Race him, Reki!” Shadow crowed. “Whoop his ass!”
Adam had challenged him to a race! He’d been so lost in his own thoughts he hadn’t even noticed.
“I accept your challenge!” Reki said, scooping his board off the ground.
The crowd roared and he and Adam took their positions at the starting line. The horn sounded and Reki took off. He heard Adam behind him and heaved a sigh of relief, at he wasn’t; doing any of his ‘smoking at the starting line’, theatrical bullshit.
Thinking of Langa watching him on the big screen, Reki pushed harder, keeping close to the edge of the track so Adam couldn’t love hug him. He saw Adam pull up alongside him and picked up speed, not wanting the other man to knock him into the bushes.
He was still so confused about Langa. Did the other boy like him? Did he think Reki’s confession attempts were so lame he’d pretended not to notice them? No, Langa wouldn’t do something like that. It must be Reki; he was being too subtle so Langa wasn’t getting it.
“Watch out, Red!”
Adam’s shout pulled Reki out of his head and he yelped as his board hit a huge rock on the edge of the track. His skateboard shot out from under him and Reki went flying into the trees at the side of the track. He landed hard, feeling rocks scratch his arms through the sleeves of his hoodie. Reki lay there for a moment, catching his breath. Finally, he sat up with a wince and to his surprise saw Adam walking towards him, board tucked under his arm.
“You okay, Red?” Adam said, holding out a hand.
Reki stared at him a moment, then took it. He carefully stood up, brushing leaves from his hair.
“I’m fine,” he said. “My board!” He ran back to the track and heaved a sigh of relief when he saw his skateboard still intact a few feet away. He checked the wheels and the trucks just to be sure, but everything was fine, luckily.
“What had you so distracted?” Adam asked, making Reki jump. “You usually have a one track mind when it comes to racing.”
“Nothing,” Reki said, putting a foot on his board. “Ready to race?”
Adam grinned, “You were thinking about, Snow. Weren’t you?”
No way in hell was Reki talking to Adam of all people about this. “Bye Adam!” he called skating away. If the man wanted to be nosey he could play catch up. Reki heard the other man’s board hit the ground behind him, and soon Adam was neck and neck with him on the track.
“Ha! It is about Snow! What’s the matter?” Adam cooed, “You two have a fight or something?”
“No!” Reki said.
He yelped when Adam grabbed him by the shoulders and yanked him closer. Their boards locked together and Reki cringed, waiting for Adam to swing him into the wall. Instead Adam wanted to talk.
“I know that look on your face, Red. You want to confess to dear old Snow, don’t you!”
“Shut up,” Reki grumbled, pushing at Adam shoulders.
“You dddooooo!” Adam sang. “Well that’s easy. Just plan something grand and breath taking!” He pulled Reki closer. “And remember, never take no for an answer! Ta ta darling!”
With that he twirled Reki away from him and sped off down the track. Reki stood shock still in the middle of the course, blinking. Had Adam just given him advice? Shaking his head, he skated off. He wasn’t even going to consider Adam’s advice; it was terrible first of all, and second it was creepy. Reki would confess his own way.
He lost the race of course; between falling and getting the shock of his life when Adam decided to play love coach, Reki wasn’t surprised. His friends still cheered when he crossed the finish line, which was nice. He saw Adam posing for some fans and looked away when the man caught his eye and winked.
“What are you glum about?” Miya asked as they headed for Shadow’s car. “You’ve lost to Adam loads of times before; it’s not like you to mope over it.”
“Hey!” Reki squawked. “He’s lost to me too!”
“Right, yeah. But seriously, what’s up?”
Reki sighed, “It’s nothing.”
“Did you and Langa have a fight?”
Reki shook his head, “Nah it’s not that.”
“Is it you feeling inadequate about your skating again?” Miya asked, peering up at him.
“Jesus, thanks Miya.”
“That’s what happened last time!”
“No, it’s not that!”
“Then what is it?” Miya said, sounding frustrated.
“It’s- I’m trying to confess! Okay! And it’s not going well!”
Miya blinked. “That’s it!”
“What do you mean ‘that’s it’! It’s a big deal! I could do it wrong and fuck everything up! Besides what if Langa doesn’t even like me?”
Miya burst into laughter and Reki stared at him, aghast.
“You- do you honestly think Langa doesn’t like you!” Miya said, still giggling. “Reki please! That should be the least of your worries!”
“I can’t just tell him!” Reki said, face flaming.
“Yes you can! He obviously likes you back, just tell him. Simple, problem solved!”
“It’s not simple!”
“Just tell Langa!”
“Tell me what?”
Reki shrieked and whipped around to face Langa.
“Langa! What are you doing here?”
“We both came with Shadow, remember?” Langa said, looking bewildered. “Is there something you want to tell me?”
“Yes!” Miya said at the same time. “Go on Reki, tell him! I’ll wait by the car.”
With a wave, Miya flounced off. Reki stared at Langa a moment and them sighed.
Reki laughed sheepishly. “You go first.”
“I- there’s something I need to tell you.” Langa said, brushing his hair back. “I wanted to tell you for a while, but I was too nervous, but I feel like I need to tell you or I’ll explode.” He stopped and took a deep breath. “I like you, Reki. As more than just a friend. I know you don’t feel the same way, and that’s okay! I just hope it doesn’t make things weird between us.”
Reki stared at Langa, his brain trying to process what he’d just heard. Langa liked him…really liked him…and as more than just friends! But why did Langa think he wouldn’t return his feelings?
“What do you mean ‘I don’t feel the same way’”, Reki said slowly.
“I know you just see me as a friend, Reki,” Langa said, expression tense.
Reki was smiled, Cherry had been right all along. “No I don’t, Langa. I don’t see you as just a friend.”
“You,” Langa’s eyes went wide. “You don’t?”
“I’ve been trying to confess for a while, but I think I was too subtle.”
Langa’s brow furrowed, “When was that?”
Reki laughed, feeling lighter than he had in ages. “Yeah, definitely too subtle.”
“But you like me?”
“Very much!” Reki said with a grin.
Langa was smiling as he walked towards Reki. “And I like you.”
“As more than friends?”
Langa took Reki’s face in his hands and his smile softened. “Yes.”
Reki tiptoed as Langa leaned down and they kissed. It was perfect. Reki’s toes curled in his shoes and all the tension bled out of his shoulders. It was bliss. They pulled apart and Reki hugged Langa hard, making the other boy squeak.
“This is excellent!” Reki said, swinging Langa gently from side to side.
Langa laughed, “I’ll say.”
Their eyes met and Reki kissed him again. It lasted much longer this time. Shadow’s horn cut through the night and they both jumped apart.
“I guess we shouldn’t keep the others waiting,” Reki said, smiling sheepishly.
“Yeah,” Langa said, eyes still on Reki’s lips.
“If you keep looking at me like that we’ll never make it home.”
“Is that a promise?”
Langa grinned and Reki elbowed him as they head to the car.
“I asked everyone for advice on how to do this you know, and you still beat me too it.”
Langa chuckled and wrapped an arm around Reki’s waist. “Who’d you ask?”
“Joe, Cherry…and Adam offered his advice too!”
“Adam?” Langa said, “You asked Adam!”
Reki burst into laughter. “No, of course not! He guessed.”
At the look on Langa’s face Reki draped an arm around his shoulders. “Let me tell you the whole story.”
“I think I need to hear this,” Langa said, giggling to himself. “Adam of all people.”
They slid into the back of Shadow’s car and Reki launched into his story, feeling happier than he had in a long time.