This short story was inspired by a prompt from Studio 30+.
Sometimes he felt like a cast member from the Wizard of Oz. Jake could honestly say he’d follow the yellow brick road if it would eventually get him the courage to tell Paula how he really felt about her. But he’d been stuck in the purgatory of friendship for too long to make it happen. He was closer to her than anyone else he knew but just a little too familiar for reciprocal feelings on her part.
Jake was the confidant, the “guy friend” who was in on all the secrets … ALL the secrets. Most to which he didn’t actually want privy. He’d heard about her first love, her first sexual experience, her first orgasm. All of which was knowledge maybe only a gay “guy friend” should be privileged to have. Certainly not the super hetero buddy who’d secretly carried a torch for Paula all these years.
The stage had long since passed crush. That shipped had sailed. It became painfully apparent to Jake when she’d told him about her first boyfriend and he felt the bile crawl up from his gut, a rush of warmth that felt like stomach acid oxidizing into a volcanic eruption making its way past his tonsils. He hoped the lava materializing in the crimson of his face might not give away his long-held secret.
The two had known each other since they were teens and met at her grandparent’s lake house. It was an awkward summer of adolescent chemistry betraying conscious control over Jake’s anatomy. He’d spied Paula and a friend swimming at the Thompsons’ dock when Paula leaped off the silver tin roof that covered the boat lift. He could still remember how the sun’s reflection blocked his view of her when she jumped. Oh, how he wished she’d emerge from the water without her fluorescent bikini top, an errant tie being a teen boy’s dream come true.
He didn’t have the chutzpah to approach the girls, though. It took his friend to do so instead. Ponce’ would do anything on a dare but didn’t need one for this feat. Jake tried desperately to hide his intention to meet the pair and stalled until time allowed his erection to subside. He never would’ve heard the end of it if Ponce’ had known about it.
Ponce’ was quite aware of Jake’s inability to make the first move when it came to meeting girls. He took great pleasure in watching Jake squirm under the pressure and heightened the discomfort with his own ridicule. Initially Ponce’ had goaded Jake into going with him to meet them. Shame can work wonders. He slunk behind his bolder, better looking, but rough-around-the-edges friend as they approached the girls that first time.
The boys knew Paula’s grandfather from living in the area year round, but his grandchildren had just began visiting that summer when they moved closer to the lake. Unfortunately, Jake blindly trusted his buddy Ponce’ to make the introductions with sincere intentions. He didn’t know what he was in for that day. Jake dropped his gaze when they neared the pair lounging on the neighbors’ dock, and Ponce’ shouted, “Hello, ladies!” in his usual ungraceful style.
He kept his eyes downcast, and Jake shook his head in embarrassment at their awkward approach. The girls seemed perturbed but offered weak replies of, “Hey…” in response. Much to Jake’s chagrin, Ponce’ continued his verbal assault. “Listen, girls, my scared little amigo here sure wants to me you but is too chicken shit to say so,” he laughed mercilessly and tossed a nod back over his shoulder at Jake.
Even though Jake had grown used to this sort of taunting, he was struck by the words like he’d never allowed himself to be before. This time he felt an unfamiliar warmth welling up inside him. Perhaps it was a gift from the Wizard himself, a realization overwhelming him that he didn’t have to take Ponce’s crap any more. Especially in front of Paula and her friend. Jake would no longer Ponce’ to humiliate him.
He surprised himself by rushing up on Ponce’ from behind, shoving the jerk with all the force he could muster, and making him fall face down to the ground. Being so stunned must have momentarily silenced him, but Ponce’ scrambled to his feet and wheeled around to face Jake, eyes on fire with fury. Meanwhile, both girls gasped in surprise, their jaws dropping open at the sudden turn of events, and they scurried desperately to get out of the fray. This was indeed one hell of an introduction.
Ponce’ had just regained balance and tried to take an attack stance of his own when Jake yelled, “Shut up, asshole!” and pushed him into the lake. “Not today,” thought Jake. “It ends today.” Maybe Jake wasn’t so backward after all.