Être et Avoir: Chapter 1

Ryan only looked up from his desk when the bell rang and the late crowd settled in around him. There had been relative quiet while the students pushed each other through the doorway; now they took their seats and resumed a dull buzz of chatter: most was in English, obviously, but the Hispanic kids in the back were talking amongst themselves; and there was even a French conversation taking place on Ryan's left. He recognized Carol-Ann and Cathy without even turning toward them, because they were talking about Carol-Ann's birthday party, which would be taking place next week and to which Ryan had been invited.

Ryan had politely declined with the excuse that he and his aunt Michelle would be cleaning house all weekend and would like him around to help out. That was true, but Aunt Michelle would have let him go out if he'd asked. Ryan just…neglected to mention that fact when he turned down Carol-Ann. He had said 'no, thanks' simply because he knew what she and Cathy were doing. They shared Aunt Michelle's motive—the very reason Ryan could have attended the party but decided against it:

They wanted Ryan to get a boyfriend. Michelle said it would be good for him—Carol-Ann and Cathy just prattled on about how cute gay couples were. Ryan reminded all three of them that he was single by choice—leave it alone, already. Since then, they'd sort of toned it down. Good.

The second bell rang. In rushed the stragglers and, behind them, Mr. Withers, the advanced art teacher. Ryan thought the man's name fit him amusingly well. He was handsome—couldn't have been over the age of twenty-six—yet he had fine laugh-lines around his mouth and his hair displayed a slightly gray tint. Ryan had great appreciation for the man's personality. He could be quirky at times, often to the point that he shared no common traits with any other teacher on the planet. Plus, he burned incense in his classroom. Bonus points.

"Good morning," Mr. Withers chimed. His students bounced the greeting back at him as he sat casually on the corner of his desk. "As you know," he continued, "we are nearing the end of the second quarter. For you, that means the start of your end-of-the-year project, which will be worth seventy percent of your grade and most likely take seventy percent of your free time to complete."

At this, a collective groan rose from the students. Mr. Withers only smiled. "Ah, but I haven't even explained your assignment! It is one you will need parental permission to do."

Now there were excited whispers. What art assignment could possibly require a permission slip? Mr. Withers gathered this question from the general buzzing and was swift to answer: "Assuming parental consent, you are each to find a model to study. I do not care who this model is, so long as he or she is not in this class and is of your sex. If you have to ask why, I suggest you go back to kindergarten." The class snickered; the teacher pressed on. "This project requires you to spend great amounts of time with your model. You will capture him or her in a number of drawings and photographs which will be turned in to me regularly so I can observe your progress."

"Okayyy," hummed an uncertain female voice in the back of the room, "but, like, why do we need the permission slip?"

The girl had to speak around rhythmic smacks of her gum. Mr. Withers had given up on her ages ago, but Ryan still wanted to shoot her as a matter of principle.

Withers offered her an epic sigh in response. "Well, Evelin..." He paused to stretch lazily before speaking and knew full well the suspense he was building. "The final drawing in your project series will feature your model completely nude. Naked. Sans clothing. Au natural. However you want to put it."

An immediate surge of volume met Ryan's ears, most of it in bass tones. It was amusing to listen to the uniform mind of the male population slowly progress from breast-fueled excitement, to hesitation as they remembered the same-sex clause, to an outrageous level of vocalized disgust when the facts settled in.

"So I have to draw some dude naked," cried one voice. "That's gay!"

Mr. Withers looked scandalized. "Artistic nudity is never 'gay', Andre. Perhaps you are just insecure in your own masculinity."

Je t'aime. Ryan thought, smirking. Andre looked affronted, but recovered quickly. "Why you gotta say that, huh? Are you a fag?"

The class OOH!'d at this. Mr. Withers smirked and immediately fired back. "Why do you ask? Are you?"

Students jeered; Andre shrank in his seat, mortified.

The class fell silent for most of the period, much too occupied with musings about this new assignment to entertain idle chatter.

Ryan was yanked from his own thoughts by his seat-neighbor and close friend, Joshua. "Twenty bucks says I know who you want to be your model," he said in a leading tone, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.

"Oh?" was Ryan's response. More of a pointless challenge than anything else.

"Yeah. Connor."

That name echoed through Ryan's brain; all other thoughts were consumed by the sort of power that crushes tend to have. Connor was sincere and kindhearted—a bit obtuse sometimes, but that was alright—and, of course, very, very handsome. Ryan had admired him from afar since Freshman year, and things had only just recently taken an upturn when Connor asked Ryan to be his private tutor for French class. After overcoming his initial shock and disbelief, Ryan had all but screamed "YES!"

Ah, how Ryan secretly enjoyed those lessons...

"Fermez la bouche," he muttered crossly. Josh always had to be right.

Josh grinned triumphantly. French had always been Ryan's last resort. "Face it: You liiiike him."

"I do not." Ryan argued. The indignant noise that accompanied this denial betrayed his lie. "I just tutor him in French—that's it." He paused, searching for something else to add: "He sucks at it anyway. Bleck."

Josh was not to be distracted: "You think he's gorgeous; you wanna daaaate him—"

"It's not like I have a chance anyway..." Ryan lamented, in French. "My affection is in a competition with half the girls in school, and I don't even know if Connor's gay!"

Josh raised a brow at the other boy. "Really?"

Though French was his fourth foreign language, his transition into it was as smooth as Ryan's had been; his accent was equally flawless:

"Connor willingly spends six hours a week and almost all of his lunches with you," Josh reasoned. "That means something."

Ryan was too stubborn to surrender sometimes. "Why do you care?"

Josh rolled his eyes. "So I shouldn't care just because I'm straight? That's called stereotyping, buddy."

Ryan sighed, accepting defeat. He had always been impressed with Joshua's ability to put him in his place--his gift for knowing just what to say. It made a strange kind of sense to Ryan.

He and Josh were similar in many ways, from the languages they both knew to their physical appearances. Hell, they were mistaken as brothers all the time. They had the same blond hair, the same fair skin tone, and only slightly different eyes (Josh's were green; Ryan's were blue). Though both boys were slight of frame, Josh was in excellent shape. Ryan was so scrawny by comparison that Josh felt he had the right to call him "Twiggy."

Josh was nothing compared to Connor, though. That boy was a work of art, with his smooth skin, fine dark hair, and emerald eyes. Ryan tried not to drift into thoughts about his adorable smile, magnetic personality, and cute, slightly nerdy idiosyncrasies. And God forbid Ryan get lost once more in thoughts about that amazingly tanned and toned body. Yay for the swim team.

And, Ryan admitted internally, Connor's had been the first face to pop into his head when the assignment had been detailed. Ryan could just see it: Connor had a bashful smile on his face; he was straining to be still while Ryan did his best to capture the soft, masculine angles of Connor's face...then the hills and valleys of his firm torso...then the slight, but very sexy curve in his hips...and finally...

Crimson burst onto Ryan's face. He forced himself not to finish that mental picture.

Dammit. Score two for Team Joshua.

"You win." Ryan conceded, now back in English mode. His chin dropped onto his hand. "I'll talk to Connor after school. But I need backup."

"Can't," Josh replied with a dismissive hand motion. "I have a date with Lillian this afternoon."

"I can't talk to Connor about something non-French alone!" Ryan hissed, seriously questioning the state of Josh's sanity.

"You can," Josh countered firmly. "You just need to remain calm and keep your enunciation clear. Your French accent comes out when you're nervous. It might help you to relax if you just imagine him naked."

Ryan flushed again. He did his best to ignore the renewed surge of mental imagery and cursed the fact that he was wearing tight jeans.

"Uhm," he swallowed hard. "Relax is certainly not the word I would use..."

[Être et Avoir | To Be and to Have]

This is my first multichaptered gay love story. Hope you enjoy!

French Translations:
Je t'aime--expresses varying degrees of affection for a person, depending on the emotion behind the words.
Fermez la bouche!--"Close your mouth." I.E. shut up