Join Prism Book Alliance® as Freddy MacKay goes Outside the Margins today.
Welcome to the Prism Book Alliance Blog today! Freddy MacKay here, one of the contributors to Outside the Margins. For my part, I am writing 500 – 1000 word flash fiction pieces for a story called On the Divide. These are not professionally edited but I do try to catch my mistakes. I hope you enjoy.
On the Divide – Part 21 by Freddy MacKay
“Are you dead?” a soft voice asked him from above him.
Cooper glanced up from his pile of books, the glare from the lights overhead temporarily blinding him before smiling. “I’m not dead yet.”
Jo stood next to him, one hand on the strap to her bag, the other carrying more books. Her hair had been drawn up into a sloppy bun, but a few stray brown locks had escaped. She shook her head before dumping the books onto the table. The thump made a few others in the library look up with scowls but they quickly went back to their own books and papers. Midterms sucked for everyone.
“You look dead,” Jo said as she sat.
“No, just tired. I don’t think I could respond if I was dead.”
“Maybe you’re mostly dead.”
“That might be a distinct possibility,” Cooper agreed. He really should just go home to, but then he’d be rattling around the apartment driving himself nuts.
“Need anything? Soda? Coffee? A kidney?”
He chuckled. Somehow Jo always knew what to say to break his bad mood, and he’d had a lot of bad moods so for this year. Too many things piling up. Too many expectations. Too many problems. Jo had never been one of them, though. Something he’d been extremely grateful for over the semester.
They’d met in Chem 102 by sitting next to each other, then found themselves lab partners. Her ability to work out what the hell they were supposed to do with his finesse with the equipment made them perfect partners. They’d been inseparable since.
Except this semester… Too much Evelyn and work drama and—loathed he was to admit it—and Harlan confusion had taken up most of his time for another chunk of it. During all that he saw her a few times in the halls and a couple in the library barely exchanging a few minutes of conversation with her. Shit, he was a dickwad.
“I’m sorry,” he blurted out.
Jo’s eyebrows rose as she looked down at him.
“We really haven’t gotten to hang out this semester. Different classes—”
“Different schedules,” Jo finished. “It’s okay. I know you have a lot on your plate. Always have. Do I look mad to you?”
No, but then she never did. Jo never complained about him canceling or forgetting she existed months at a time.
Jo offered him a smile. “Put your head back down and go take a nap.”
“I’ve got to study for my philosophy midterm. I’ve barely kept up with the reading.”
“When is it?”
She glanced down at her phone.
“You’re not going to remember anything the state your in. Take a nap. I’ll wake you up.”
“You look like shit. Go to sleep before I duct tape your mouth shut and sit on you.”
Cooper eyed Jo, decided she was serious, then closed his eyes. Maybe a little shut eye would help. He wasn’t sure all the jumbled mess of his feelings about Harlan could turn off and let himself fall asleep, but as slumber took him under Cooper realized he had been a lot more tired than he’d thought.
The motion on his head settled Cooper in a way he’d never admit to, not consciously at least. A part of him missed his hair. He’d loved having it brushed or fingers running through it, but it had also been a weapon used against him. Tabitha made it so Cooper couldn’t stand to wear it long anymore. Maybe someday, but not as his present self.
Still, the way his head was being rubbed now, how his short hairs moved, Cooper moaned.
“If I had known pacifying you was this easy, I’d have tried it before.”
Cooper jerked, startled, and opened his eyes. Jo sat next to him, one arm out, presumably petting him.
Oh fucking shit. “Uh—”
“Who’s Harlan?” She winked, and still did not stop stroking his head. “I don’t think you’ve mentioned him in our talks.”
Cooper’s brain was still trying to play catch up, but—hell yes—the way Jo rubbed his head made it hard to connect thoughts. No, stop, she asked a question. Jo had asked about Harlan. Oh dear god no. Cooper sat up, Jo’s hand falling away from him, and wiped his mouth. Great, he’d been slobbering too.
An amused chuckle came from Jo’s direction. He ignored it because he’d learned engaging her amusement meant he ended up trees or hanging off a building.
“He must be under your skin if you’re calling his name in your sleep.”
“Any chance of me getting to ignore your question?”
“Resistance is futile.” Jo smiled again, her warm brown eyes holding no judgment in them. Not that they ever did.
Cooper let out a long-suffering sigh. He wasn’t sure he could put what he felt into words. Nor did he know if he wanted to talk about all things Harlan.
“You don’t have to have to talk about this Harlan if you don’t want to.”
And that was what had him. Jo never forced anything. If he said “no” she would let it go. She would accept whatever answer she gave him. He looked at her, taking in her unwavering gaze unlocked something inside Cooper.
Jo was safe. She’d always be safe for him. Sometimes he’d had wished they were attracted to each other and they could date, but then he wouldn’t have this—the close friendship that never seemed to change. It wasn’t that he hadn’t been attracted to her—he had, but the timing had never fallen into place, and over the past couple years the lust gave way to something stronger.
Cooper let out a breath. “He’s a gay that a may or may not be dating. Harlan, that is.”
“There is confusion about this?” She asked, the corner of her mouth twitching.
“Yes, yes there is.”
About Freddy MacKayI grew up and went to college in the Midwest where I currently reside with my family. I spend most of my time playing sports and running around outside. And honestly, that much has not changed since I was little, except who is included my activities. I also have a healthy geocaching addiction. It’s so much fun! I enjoy spending my time traveling when I can, and I hold the view that a person should continually to learn about new things and people whenever possible.
My contemporary LGBTQ book, Incubation: Finding Peace 2, won 3rd Place – Best Gay Erotic Fiction in the 2012 Rainbow Awards. In 2013, Internment, won 3rd Place – Best Gay Fantasy in the Rainbow Awards. Feel Me (The Marduck Expanse) was a Gay SF Finalist and Honorable Mention in the 2014 Rainbow Awards.
One random commenter with thoughtful, relevant comments will win a $25 gift certificate each month in 2016.
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