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99: I wish you were coming…
I was planning on going but then we realized the dates conflicted with a huge design meeting that was scheduled months ago. It’s not the type of meeting that could be pushed back, too many teams coordinating together. My hands were tied.
As it was, the meeting went better than expected and I was able to cut out early. I booked a last minute ticket to LA to surprise Jay. It’s the least I can do for the hot/cold but mostly frigid way I’ve been treating him. I fucking hate that I do it. I don’t want to let his call go to voicemail or make excuses to not see him but I get so stuck inside my fucking head that I can’t bear to be around him sometimes. Or myself for that matter.
I almost didn’t get on the plane. It would’ve been easier to fly back to Washington, but here I am.
Everyone’s at the hotel. The guys are sending me a barrage of photos, trying to convince me to go. They’re relatively used to being around Jay and his friends but being invited to the big NFC championship game by the players is making them act like preteen girls with backstage passes to a Justin Beiber concert.
I snap a picture of the line of taillights in front of me. There’s nothing particularly telling about the photo but I send it to Jay anyway and type out, I’m actually twenty minutes away…
Me: I’ll see you soon
I smile and switch apps. There’s a lot of speculation over who I’m seeing. Some have even guessed it’s Jay, but they’ve also guessed it’s Justin Timberlake because we talked for two minutes at a charity function nine months ago.
I post a boomerang clip of me rollin’ through the airport. Part location teaser, part discreet product placement. I spend the rest of the ride responding to DM’s and adding a bunch of nonsense to my story. I scroll through and see Corey has shared more photos on his thread. Marcus got in on the action, posting a teaser to his story, too. It looks like everyone’s having a good time.
I get all the way to the end when one photo catches my eye. In the background, barely noticeable in the poorly lit room, is Jay huddled with Seamus.
I find myself securitizing the photo and then looking at everyone else’s updates to see if there’s any more evidence. There’s a few photos of Jay and Seamus in the same proximity, but none are what I would consider a smoking gun. By the time the driver pulls up to the boutique style motel, I’m doing my damn best to let it go. Besides the fact they’re just friends, this is Jay’s day. He doesn’t need my bullshit insecurity raining on his parade.
My door opens and a happy, bright eyed Jay sticks his head in. He grabs my backpack and kisses my cheek. I smile, but it feels forced. My head isn’t right. Jay senses it and dials himself back a little.
“I really didn’t think you’d be coming. How’d the meeting go? Do you like the concepts for your next launch?”
“They were good. I brought a few pieces with me.”
“Is that jacket one of them?” he asks, eyeing my camel colored mock neck hoodie. He runs his finger down my arm and then pinches the cuff and checks it bahis şirketleri out. It is, in fact, one of the concept designs. My favorite piece of the bunch. Jay never misses a thing.
“It is, I thought I’d try it out.”
His eyes take in every inch, lingering on my arms and chest. “It has my vote.”
When I don’t respond, because I’m feeling awkward as hell, Jay grabs my bag from the driver. He slings my backpack over his shoulder and starts rolling the luggage. A moment later he stops and looks at the sleek suitcase, testing the handle. “Wow, this is really nice. It’s so hard to find handles this long. Rides smooth, too.”
I laugh. Like I said, Jay doesn’t miss a thing.
As we near the door, Jay clears his throat. “I’ve kept things about us on the low from my friends. They know I like someone but they don’t know who, and they don’t know that we’re dating. Since I didn’t think you were coming, I didn’t think to fill them in. Just FYI in case you get any weird looks.”
Inquisitive eyes follow us across the room. Jay’s teammates nod and continue their conversation. They’ve warmed up a bit the last few months. His other friends, the ones from college, are imitating fish, with their mouths on the floor as I walk by.
Jay leans in. “I may not have told them you were Loren, AKA Loe of livingtheloelife. Let’s give them a minute to acclimate while I show you the rooms.”
Upstairs, Jay leads me down a long vintage hallway. He points at the door towards the end. “That’s my room.” He unlocks the door next to it with a keycard and holds the door open. “And this is yours.” Soft gold ceiling-to-floor length drapes cover the windows and a giant plush queen bed is flanked by Victorian looking night stands. It’s not really my style but it is very nice.
“Oh, and there’s this–” Jay unlocks the door that adjoins our rooms. “I figured, you know, if things don’t go well tonight then…” Jay waggles his eyebrows.
“Already planning your loss?”
“I’m planning on winning but…just in case.”
I take one last look around then walk to the door. “We should probably head downstairs. Everyone looked ready to eat.”
Jay grabs my arm and pulls me in. “What’s wrong?” he asks, his face marred with worry. “You’ve been so weird lately.”
“It’s been a long day.” It’s not a lie. Between the meeting, delayed flight, and traffic, I am exhausted. I’ll feel better in the morning once I get some sleep.
Jay, well, he’s not convinced. He watches me for another moment.
“Nothing a little food and sleep won’t cure,” I assure him, adding a little wink for his benefit.
Satisfied I’m not upset, Jay pulls me out of the room. “Let’s get you fed then.”
Corey, Isaac, and Cole rush me the second I push through the ten-foot tall antique arched doors. “How cool is this?” they ask. “Private hotel, catered dinner, professional players.”
“You act like you’ve never stayed in a private hotel, had catered meals, or hung out with professional players. We haven’t exactly experienced many hardships over the last decade.”
Cole huffs, irritated for being called out. “Yeah, but we haven’t done anything like this.”
We have. We’ve been invited to some of the biggest events and met a lot of famous people but I guess none of that holds a candle to this. I kind of love that they’re so excited. Makes up for how anxious I feel.
“I don’t think you guys have met yet but this is Loren,” Jay says, casually introducing me to his friends. “This is Will, Scott, Seamus, and Matt.”
Will and Scott smile and take turns shaking my hand. “Nice to meet you. Any friend of Jay’s is a friend of ours.”
Matt’s buzzing as he waits for his turn. I almost laugh at his eagerness. He sticks out his hand so fast he almost punches me in the gut. “I’m Matt.”
“Any friend of Jay’s is someone I’m skeptical of but I’ll make an exception for you.”
Everyone laughs except Jay who’s glaring at Matt. I think I like him.
I stick my hand out and shake Seamus’s hand. He’s friendly enough but his eyes are not warm. He doesn’t like me. I avoid him and spend the rest of the night talking to everyone else. Matt and I end up sitting next to each other as the night wears on.
“I bought this sweatshirt,” Matt says. “It’s gray and says ‘I just hope both teams have fun’. I can’t wait to see Jay’s reaction when I wear it.”
“That’s fucking hilarous. I want one.”
“Where would you get another one by tomorrow morning?”
I pull out my phone and do a quick recording. “SOS. I’m in the southwest LA area and I need some custom sweatshirts made by tomorrow morning. I’ll pick up and bring coffee. DM me with CUSTOM in the subject line. Include a link to your small shop so I can see your work. This is time sensitive…GO!” I post the video and wave my phone at Matt. “Done.”
Ten minutes later we’re looking at small shop links when Jay pops his head between ours. “Hey, what’s up?”
I drop my phone into my bahis firmaları lap and feign innocence. “Not much, what’s up with you?”
He narrows his eyes and looks between us. Jay switches his attention to Matt, giving him wide, innocent eyes. “Hey Matt…how’s my good friend?”
Matt looks around the room then points to Seamus. “He’s over there, go ask him.”
Jay shakes his fist at Matt, making us both laugh. Then he points between us. “Let the record show, I don’t like this. You’re up to something, I feel it.”
Yup, nothing gets by him.
The next morning is quiet. The players leave early. During breakfast I learn that Seamus’s accountant has been embezzling millions over the years. Turns out it was Matt who took a hunch and uncovered the truth. For that, I decide some drinks are in order. I talk to the hotel general manager, who is generous enough to let me borrow their coffee cart. I bring Matt up and make him an oatmeal chocolate chip mocha while Isaac films.
While everyone’s busy, Matt and I take a drive to collect the shirts. When we get back, everyone’s by the pool. Jay and his buddies get back a few hours later and the rest of the afternoon is spent making shenanigans by the pool. With my help, everyone tries their hand at making a viral video.
No one succeeds. They suck. But we have a fucking good time.
Then it’s game day.
Breakfast is serious. The players are quiet and everyone gives them space. At Jay’s request, he and I sit alone at a small table on the balcony. His eyes are bright with excitement yet shadowed with nerves.
“I love being here with everyone but it’s making it hard to relax. I just want to sit here with you and clear my head.”
I get up and dig my fingers into Jay’s shoulders. “How’s this?”
He moans and his head lolls to the side. I let myself enjoy the way my fingers feel against his muscles until he’s nothing but a puddle. When it’s time for him to join the others and head out, Jay can barely get out of his chair.
Once Matt and I get a nice shot of Jay’s big smiling face on the jumbotron behind us, we change back into our jerseys.
The game must be fucking exciting because my friends are on their feet screaming and cheering. Seamus and his friends are in the row in front of us, doing the exact same thing only louder. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who doesn’t have a fucking clue what’s happening. I will say this, the energy is awesome.
His role as defensive whatever whatever, knowing Jay is constantly being slammed or slamming into others, stresses me out. The anxiety keeps me from watching parts of the game. I’ve seen his list of injuries and I can’t help but wonder why he still does it. One bad play and he could be wheelchair bound, or worse.
Matt isn’t very interested in sports either so he and I spend a good part of the game chatting, mostly about him and Seamus. They have a cute story. It’s clear Matt doesn’t know Jay and I are dating. I play it off, tell him I wish someone looked at me the way Seamus looks at him, like he’s a winning lottery ticket. He looks at me like I’m insane.
“Don’t play stupid. Jay likes you. He waits on you hand and foot and looks at you like you’re the winning lottery ticket you so desperately want to be.”
The problem is, I don’t feel like I’m the right person for Jay. Matt tries to convince me otherwise but the walls are already closing in, they have been for a while, little by little. I’ve tried all the tips I’ve learned but they’re not working. It’s been years since the dark demon of depression has sunk its claws in me.
Jay brings to the surface a vulnerability I have very carefully avoided since I was a child. The feelings I have for him are like inflatable rafts being deployed from the deep dark depths of the sea and now all that vulnerability is being dragged kicking and screaming to the surface.
Sometime after half-time and before the end of the game, Jay intercepts the ball and runs it some insane distance across the field to the end zone. The crowd goes crazy. It’s a big deal. It’s the Seahawks second point and one that puts them in the lead.
Someone in the crowd screams, “I LOVE JAY PETERMEYER.”
A second later Seamus counters with, “I LOVED JAY PETERMEYER FIRST!” His hands are cupped around his mouth, helping the words carry. And they do, right to the center of my insecurity.
My heart races. When they win, when Jay becomes an NFC champion, I’m on my feet cheering, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t cheer louder than his friends. I can’t cheer louder than Seamus. I try. I take a deep breath and yell as loud as I can, at the same time, Seamus rips a wolf whistle that pierces the air like a bomb. It completely overpowers everything else.
It completely overpowers me.
We make it to the bar first. When Jay and his teammates come in, the whole place explodes. I’m tucked in the corner so Jay doesn’t see me right away. A couple guys throw themselves in front kaçak bahis siteleri of him. They’re definitely after more than an autograph.
It’s one thing to know what happens on the road and it’s another to see it. There’s no shortage of cute little groupies throwing themselves at him. Jay is the only openly queer player and he’s fucking gorgeous. If he wasn’t an athlete, he could be a model. Plus, he’s pure as the driven snow which makes him more desirable. Everyone wants to dirty him up. Unlike his straight counterparts, there’s little competition for him. He has his pick of the crop.
Jay’s eyes light up when he sees me. He pulls at his NFC champion shirt, showing it off as he makes his way to me. I try, I swear I try to be happy.
As he nears, he throws his hands in the air like a king and twirls. He fucking twirls. “NFC champion baby!” He smiles and his whole face lights up. “Did you see my touchdown?”
His smile fades. He moves, shielding me from the rest of the bar. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m good.”
I don’t feel convincing and Jay doesn’t look convinced, but the bar is full and it’s not really the time or the place. He slides his hand on my hip and leans forward for a kiss but I turn my head at the last second. Jay jolts back, stunned.
“What’s going on?”
I put my hands on his shoulders to keep him from getting too close. “Go, celebrate. Let’s talk later, okay?”
He shakes his head with force. “Then let’s go now. I don’t need to be here. Not at your expense.”
That’s the last thing I want, to drag Jay away from his celebration. That would make me such a fucking asshole.
The bar is so loud. The music is blaring and people are cheering and shouting. There has to be a better way to deal with this. I take a breath. “I don’t want to leave. You just won the big title or whatever and now you’re Superbowl bound. This is a big deal and needs to be celebrated. I want you to be celebrated. If you leave here because of me, I will never forgive myself. Just ignore me. I’m caught up in my own head–my own fucked up, messed up, piece of shit head. I just need to sit here with a drink while you go be Jay Petermeyer, okay?” I push him backward. “Go.”
Jay tries to fight me but I don’t back down. When he finally walks away, he’s pissed. And maybe that’s good. He should be pissed.
I watch as he makes his rounds. He’s smiling and joval to the naked eye but every time he glances at me, I can see his hurt and irritation. After a while I can’t take it so I stop watching him.
Matt slides in and starts grilling me. “What’s your deal? You’ve spent all night ignoring Jay and now you look like a beaten puppy because he gave up”.
He’s given up?
I look across the bar where the two diehard fans are working hard on getting those intimate autographs.
Matt tries to talk sense into me. “You don’t get to sit here and pout. He won a big game tonight and was thirsty for a little acknowledgement. All you had to do was congratulate him and tell him he played well. Instead, those two cleat chasers are doing it.”
He’s right. I didn’t even congratulate him. He won this big game and I didn’t even tell him he did a good job. I’m shit. So much so that Seamus drags Matt away. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t like me and doesn’t want me to steal his precious Matt.
I’m back to drinking alone. I watch the players pound drinks, groupies flirt, and bouncers keep others at bay.
“Are you happy? Did I celebrate enough?” Jay asks without giving me a chance to answer. He sets my drink on the table, grabs my elbow, and leads me out of the bar to the waiting car.
The ride back to the motel is quiet. The driver can’t read the room and spends the entire ride making small talk. Jay and I aren’t looking at each other but he’s holding my hand like I might open the door and jump.
Jay thanks the driver and tosses him a fifty.
Some part of me expects Jay to start yelling the second the door to the room closes. I would if Jay was acting the way I am. Instead, he changes his clothes, grabs a blanket and a couple of pillows off the bed, and tosses everything on the velvet tufted sofa that overlooks the city. Only then does he come for me. The anger he had earlier is mostly gone but there’s still plenty of frustration to tide him over.
“You might want to make yourself comfortable ’cause we’re going to sit on that sofa and have ourselves a little chat.”
I nod and walk through the adjoining door to my room like I’m walking the plank. I strip my jeans and jersey off and replace them with a long sleeve shirt, hoodie, sweatpants, and socks. It’s the only armor I have. I slip the hood over my head before walking back to Jay’s room where he’s waiting on the sofa.
I nervously tug the neck of my sweatshirt. When I finally settle, I feel like I have a little control. Then he makes me look at him. Years of being strong and it’s the fucking look of affection and determination in the midst of a war that ruins me. He doesn’t care that I’ve been running hot and cold since I met him or that I ruined his big night. Despite giving him every reason to leave, he’s chosen to sit here and get to the bottom of whatever’s going on. He wants the best version of us.
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