Bradly Scott Kneisel

It was not a good day to go out; in fact, it was hardly a day at all. It was snowing something fierce outside, and Nick sat alone in his apartment, his blonde hair covered by the yellow blanket with which he insisted on covering himself. To tell the truth, it was not that cold. Rather, it was not cold in the room; Nick's heart was gradually getting more frigid as it began to wilt.

He looked down at his yet-untouched hot chocolate, wondering why his reflection wouldn't show in the dark concoction. His head shot up to look out the window, finding nothing but white void. It had begun to snow moments earlier, as was evidenced by the thick frost beginning to cake the window. Nick could ask himself why as many times as he wanted, but it again and again yielded him nothing. The distance seemed not to answer the questions, questions which he, himself, could not comprehend. In fact, it was laugh­ing. The emptiness there was mocking him, making him well aware of the fact that he might never find answers, or worse yet, might find the wrong answers.

The tight levees that were Nick's eyelids could not hold the overpour of water. A tear flooded out, making its way down his face, staining his cheek and wetting his shirt collar. He closed his eyes, causing yet more water to flow forth, making the blue of his eyes ever more ocean-like. Reaching a hand up to his face, he felt the soft skin there, and in finding water began to sob quietly.

He was, therefore, not exactly paying attention when a knock came to his door. The harsh strikes were enough to drive a person insane. Cuddled up in a ball on the couch, he couldn't hear what went beyond the loud taunts of the distance or his own thoughts.

Lexis, Nick's best friend, burst into the small apartment living room. "Nick, I just found the cutest little Valenti--" Of course, she was left speechless at the sight of her defenceless friend in the fetal position. Leaping onto the manila couch, she plopped herself next to Nick and asked him what might be the problem.

Nick responded with a simple, "People are stupid." through sobs, his body still shaking in near panic.

Water began to fill her eyes; however, she was able to keep her composure. "Sweetie, will you tell me about it?" She at­tempted to look him straight in the eyes, failing miserably, as his head was still buried in his knees.

He jerked his head to the side, evading Lexis' gaze completely. "People," Nick attempted to begin again, his soft lips quivering in trying to produce the proper phonemes.

"I don't want to hear that again, Nickie!" Through red eyes, she looked directly at him. "Nickie..."

"My parents died in a car crash!" His head jerked around, her eyes meeting his in an intense stare. Too shocked to think, Lexis was still processing what she'd been handed. They stayed liked this for quite a while, until Lexis decided to outstretch her arms for a hug. Nick resisted her touch, but she eventually succeeded. Finally succumbing, Nick dropped his mug to the floor, the hot chocolate scattering as if the shattered pieces of a soul falling. He embraced Lexis' touch, crying harder and sobbing deeper.

"Sweetie..." She began, not completely sure what next to say.

"The last thing I said to my mother was that I wished she would stop interfering in my life." Nick spat, wrapping his arms tighter around Lexis and nudging his chin into her neck, the scent of her brunette hair drifting to his nostrils.

"All people meet death, sweetie." Lexis took Nick by his wide shoulders and rose him to eye level. Clenching his shirt as her grip tightened, she began again: "All people die, and you did nothing wrong." Her tears seeming as if they would leave permanent stains on her cheeks, she shook him back and forth lightly, "Nothing. Wrong."

It was Lexis' turn to collapse, falling into Nick's strong arms. Reaching up and stroking Nick's long locks, Lexis let out a final sob. Nick, having finished with his moment, took a look at the stained carpet.

"Now we've a mess to clean up." Nick laughed through mucus-filled airways. His once-deep voice was reduced to what sounded like a muffled twelve year-old.

Lexis simply looked at him and giggled, informing him that it was not her fault and that she would not be cleaning it up. Nick laughed and told her that she was crazy if she planned to get away with something like spilling hot chocolate on his carpet.

After cleaning up the mess, Nick began to brew coffee for the both of them. Resting a hand against the counter and leaning back, Nick let out a sigh as his bangs dropped. "I just don't know anymore Lexis...why does everything seem to be working against me?"

Lexis looked confused. "What do you mean, sweetie?"

Nick shot her back a look that simply said 'You know what'. Lexis, now sitting at the table, her soft hazel eyes focussed more on the grain of the wood than on Nick, let out a simple sigh. "When don't I have problems, Lexis‽"

"I don't know, maybe those days that you call me all chipper and happy? No, couldn't be!" Lexis lifted her head, only to have her eyes meet directly with Nick's--a bit too directly. Nick was now hovering inches away from her face.

"Goddamned it, Lexis! I've still a problem on my hands!"

"I dunno, every single time we talk about it, we reach the same conclusion, and you just never seem to be able to follow through with it." Nick, now a few inches farther away, simply sighed. Lexis looked at him with an odd expression on her face--an expres­sion of urgency, of telling him how lazy and indecisive he is, and of informing him that he was probably hurting people.

"Lexis, what the hell kind of face is that?" Nick chuckled, Lexis falling victim to laughter as well.

"I dunno, sweetie. It's just, every time we talk, we decide that you need to talk to Mike, and then--"

"I just can't right now, okay?" Cutting her off, he grabbed two mugs and poured coffee. Sitting down, Nick began again to blather on and on about the Mike problem. "I dunno...I told him that I needed more time to think."

"Youalways tell him that! The boy is in love with you, you're straight, and you need more time‽ Sweetie...today, you need to let him down gently." Leaving a red lipstick stain as she drank from her mug, she stared into the liquid the same way Nick had.

"I just don't know anymore, Lexis. Maybe it'd be better to be gay." They let out laughs, eerily in unison. Putting her mug in the sink, she gave Nick another hug, her long hair meeting his lips.

"I like my straight Nick." Nick giggled, wrapping his free arm around her waist in a half-hug.

Lexis looked up, her hazel orbs meeting his azure ponds. Leaning in closer, she whispered, "I love my straight Nick." Moving even closer, she gave him a kiss, her lip gloss smearing as their lips touched.

Nick was, without a doubt, extremely surprised. His muscles tensed, his eyes dilated, and his heart stopped. Pushing her away, he looked at her with an expression of fear and confusion, and blurted only a "What the hell, Lexis‽"

Looking just as confused, Lexis answered, a tone of hurt saturating her words. "I love you...I thought..."

Setting down his mug, he walked over to her and gave her a hug. "Sweetie, I love you, too...just not in that way. We're best friends, youknow--"

Lexis began to cry. Turning away so that Nick would not see the tears streaming down her face, she gave a simple, "I want more than that! Damn you Nick!" She ran to the front door, and in opening it to make her escape, found Mike. Shocked, yet still not deterred from her mission of leaving, she pushed past the man, running as fast as she could.

"How many fucking surprises can I be hit with in one day?" Nick laughed at Mike. Mike did not look the least bit happy. In fact,

his arms were crossed, his brown eyes casting a depressing glare on Nick.

"'I need more time, Mike,'" Mike mocked. "Do you remember, Nick? 'Let me think.' Usually, when people say things like that, they're thinking." Mike came into Nick's small abode, slamming the door behind him.

"Mike--"

"No! 'I'm thinking.' Should not mean, 'I don't really like you.'!"

"Mike, I--"

"Friends are supposed to be honest. How many other things have you lied to me about‽ Have we not been friends for--"

"Mike!" By this time, Mike too was crying. "You know that I would never hurt you on purpose! Friends forever, right! I'm sorry that I turned out to be str--"

Mike put an arm around Nick, Nick tensing up at the touch of a crying man wrapped around him. "I didn't want anything too outrageous, did I, Nick?"

Nick stared down at his friend, their gazes meeting. And, in that moment in time, Nick felt as if he was communicating with Mike on some level beyond the world which they inhabited on a daily basis, a world free of the stresses of words and annoyances like people eavesdropping through thin walls.

Of course, everything comes to an end. Mike broke this gaze, his tears beginning to dry. Nick simply leaned back, bringing a shocked Mike falling onto the couch with him. "Wha--"

Nick simply put a finger to Mike's mouth, ushering a quick Shhh. Nick wrapped his strong arms around Mike, and he felt his body begin to loosen.

And his body began to loosen. His mind felt at rest, he felt his body no longer house the troubles of life. His head cleared, and he began to simply enjoy the touch of a close friend. He felt the soft touch of lips on his own, the warmth of another against him. Basking in surreality, he felt a hand rest on his brunette head. He wrapped himself around his friend, and imagined that moment might never end. Friends forever.