Watching him lick drops of milk from his lips while he ate his cereal. Silently staring at that beautiful face. Listening to the sound of his quiet voice. Now, he lay asleep on Manny’s floor, body resting in the morning light that pierced the curtains. He was curled up, huddled into Manny’s blanket, face resting against its folds. Soft strands of beautiful black hair streaked that half-hidden face. Baby breaths. The way he breathed as he slept.
Manny quietly lifted his phone and deactivated his morning alarm. A small sigh escaped his lips, mind drifting to the odd emptiness in his heart that seemed to have made itself visible since bringing Angel into his dorm room. I can’t really be longing for him, can I? I don’t even know him. He’s a…he’s a prostitute. And a GUY.
The oral sex he had given. Manny had never experienced anything like it. Angel’s touches, his strokes, the movements of his pretty lips.
It made Manny cringe a little to think about it in the morning. It had been like he was intoxicated. Drunk on that beautiful boy. He shouldn’t have done it. In a way, it only dug the void deeper that separated him from Angel. Angel did not trust him. Not even a little.
God, what did I do to him that night? Manny lowered his head into his hands and raked his fingers through his hair. Had it also been oral that night at the frat house? It seemed relieving to think it might have been that way. This interaction was so much less the level of two bodies becoming physically united, intimately and completely exposed to one another, fit together like puzzle pieces.
Manny’s finger trailed across his own thigh, biting his lip at the memory of how Angel had touched him. He wanted that beautiful boy to trust him. More than anything else in the world, he wanted Angel’s trust.
Anything else in the world? Manny’s face drew into a frown, hand freezing against the material of his pants. No. The thing he had always wanted more than anything else in the world was to be a doctor. That had always been his dream. Always. And now…
Was it possible to have both?
No. What am I thinking? This is weird. Manny’s gaze shifted and settled on Angel’s sleeping figure. He was so cute. It almost felt like a crush. Worse, even, maybe.
“But I’m not gay,” Manny whispered softly to himself. He stood up and tip-toed across the floor to his dresser. He got out some fresh clothes, then headed to the bathroom for a shower.
It was strange, he realized as he turned on the water. Manny had let someone touch him like that. And not even once had he thought of Ana. She had not so much as crossed his mind through the whole thing.
Angel was awake when Manny got out of the bathroom. He sat there on the floor, still half-wrapped in Manny’s blanket. Manny gave him a smile, but somehow could not really bring himself to look into those beautiful hazel eyes. “Are you hungry? I can go to the cafeteria and bring back some real food if you’d like some.”
“Actually, I was wondering if I could wash my clothes.” Angel looked a little uneasy as he spoke, eyes downcast.
Damn, his morning voice is super cute. But another thought immediately trumped the one that had brought an involuntary smile to Manny’s lips, and he sobered. Angel’s jacket. And what had been absorbed by it last night. He swallowed, inwardly wondering why he had not already offered Angel laundry services—if not up and done it himself. “Ah. Yes, of course. There’s a laundry room down the hall. I can give you detergent and stuff.”
“Nah, I don’t have enough for a whole load.” Angel gave Manny that faint half smile. “I was just going to do it in the sink or something.” He made a small gesture towards the bathroom.
“Oh, yeah, that’s fine, too.” Manny quickly lifted a laundry detergent bottle off a shelf and set it on the floor beside Angel. Then he stood back awkwardly.
“Ok.” Angel nodded slightly but made no move to get up.
“How…how are those abrasions doing?” Manny snatched out his phone and half-absently checked the time.
“That’s…that’s good.” Then, like someone had dumped a bucket of water over his head, “Oh, um. Do you wanna borrow a shirt or something while you wash your clothes?"
Angel smiled faintly. “That would be nice.”
Manny grabbed a top out of his dresser—one of his many hoodies—and handed it to Angel. The boy slipped out of his shirt, and Manny awkwardly turned away. But the next moment, he was helplessly stealing a glance. Angel had already pulled the hoodie over his head and was drawing it down over his slender, toned torso. Every movement of his body seemed impossibly beautiful. Flawless skin. Sculpted arms. That abdomen: waist small enough to fit in one arm, be completely wrapped in two. Angel.
Realizing his glance had turned into more of a stare, Manny turned away. Angel stood up and picked up his shirt, then his jacket, then his jeans. He started for the bathroom.
“You know, you’re welcome to stay here as long as you want,” Manny spoke up.
Angel halted in the bathroom doorway and flashed that faint half smile. “I should probably go back.”
“To the bridge?” Manny’s face wrinkled with concern.
“No. Back to where I belong.”
Manny’s heart sank. The beautiful boy had not even bothered to call it “home.” Such a word would have been an overly optimistic euphemism for what Manny knew Angel was referring to. “Back…to your pimp?”
Angel seemed to sense the dread in Manny’s words. “I know it may be confusing to the privileged class, but shit happens. Going back is the best place for me right now.” He turned back towards the bathroom. “I’ll just…act like I’ve been trying to get back all along, or…I don’t know.” He shrugged, then disappeared into the bathroom.
Manny squeezed his eyes shut for a long moment. No distractions. Stay focused. Do my part, then walk away. I need to get to class. Manny walked over to the bathroom doorway and looked in. Angel had made a small pile of clothes in the bathroom sink and was filling the sink bowl with water. He looked up and flashed Manny that faint half smile. “I need to get to class,” Manny told him.
Those eyes again caught and enslaved Manny’s attention for a moment. He hesitated. What if this is the last time I see him? “Are you going to…be here when I get back?” His voice lowered unintentionally to a whisper.
Angel shrugged. “Maybe.” Those beautiful hazel eyes turned back to the wet clothing in the sink.
Manny nodded, but found himself biting his lip in regret. If only he could put off that stupid class. Skip it, even. No. I can’t do that. “There’s a…there’s a dryer down the hall.” He made a meaningless gesture over his shoulder.
“Thanks.” Angel flashed that small smile again.
Still, Manny found himself hesitating in the doorway, like he was buying every moment he could afford. He wanted to say something. Stay and talk a little longer. Better yet, convince Angel not to go back. There were a million other options, weren’t there? Call the police, just run away, get help from a social worker…Should he bring up Drake? Use everything he had to argue his side?
Angel was mixing laundry detergent into the water, now. Manny watched as he passed his hand through the soapy liquid. The pretty boy glanced up and caught Manny’s eyes in the mirror for a moment.
No, I couldn’t, Manny realized. Angel did not even trust Manny not to try to rape him in the night. That had been the whole reason for that encounter last night. There was no way Angel would take Manny’s advice. He probably wouldn’t even like how much Manny knew about his situation, and much less that Manny might have the confidence to talk about it.
“Good luck,” Manny whispered from the bottom of his heart. He turned away from the bathroom doorway, grabbed his backpack off his desk, and left the dorm room.
That was it. It was over. Angel would go back to where he came from. Manny would go back to being a normal student. It was better that way. Right? Passing under a skeleton-like tree, Manny shivered. Puddles splashed softly underfoot. The ice was finally thawing again. It would be a little warmer this week, maybe. That would be nice.
And yet, there were tears blurring Manny’s vision.