Luke says there's this guy he fancies - says he goes to the same school as him, that he sees him every day, but he's too scared to do anything. He doesn't mention that thing about him liking me again, which is a relief and an annoyance all neatly bundled up together.
I ask him if he knows whether this other guy is gay and all I get is,
We're in high school, Phil. He's still alive. He could be anything.
He exaggerates, of course, but I understand. At my school, the only guy who didn't keep a low profile was camp as you like and had a voice that sounded like it had never broken even though he was eighteen. I guess he must have figured, fuck it, there's no point pretending. But he had confidence and he was in with all the cool kids. Gave a wicked death glare, and no way did you want to get into fights with him. I would have fancied him, but I was too busy being intimidated, so, yeah, I understood very well what Luke meant by that. I never exactly banner-waved either.
I do the 'what's he like?' thing, because it feels polite, but honestly I'm a bit distracted - have been since I found out that Craig possibly hadn't even been at that party, because if he hadn't been there, then where was he? And if it really way the library then what the hell had he been doing, because I knew it wasn't work. He'd bitched all week about research for an essay.
And Luke had been ditched by his mate, just like I'd ditched Craig, hadn't he? Somehow it doesn't feel like I'm jumping to conclusions.
Oh, you know, Luke continues. Hot. Fucking hot.
I grunt at his eloquence and hit some letters on the keyboard, grinning a bit, not thinking very much of what seems like a really obvious attempt to make me jealous.
He plays on the football team and sometimes, I just want to slam him up against the lockers and give him one. You know?
I'm laughing at him just a bit. How thick does he think I am? Yesterday this guy hadn't existed, otherwise, I know he would have mentioned him.
He sucked me off once, though.
That seals it. I snort at my computer screen, because that's bullshit. Really Craig flavoured bullshit and it irritates me. It annoys me so much that he knows how badly I wanted something like this, and that all that wanting has made it do easy for him to slip in and just pretend.
If I'd managed to get the guy I fancied in high school to suck me off, I wouldn't have been moaning about how I didn't know whether he was gay or not. I wouldn't have given a flying fuck what he thought he was. I'd have ecstatic that I'd actually got some action.
And everything knits together into this solid, seemingly indisputable logic I've vaguely been trying to avoid. Luke is lying; Craig is lying, which means there's a rather high possibility that Luke is Craig. Particularly because the guy only ended up on my contact list because of him. My stomach is a hollow of disappointment. What the hell was Craig thinking?
It all makes sense. He has to be. Only in my most deluded fantasies have I ever seriously considered the possibility of someone as downright gorgeous as Luke taking an active interest in me. Of course he doesn't actually exist. Why would he? How fucking gullible am I?
I think I'm in love with him Phil.
Oh. I don't really know what I'm typing. My fingers are getting in there before my brain, because all my thoughts are directed towards how to go about telling him that I know. Great. Good for you.
There's a wait of silence and I construct sentence after sentence in my head as I try to calm my breathing, try to ignore the vague sting of tears in my eyes. It feels like so much effort to laugh this off. "Give it up Craig. I know it's you," or "Nice try mate. Good one," maybe, "Hey Luke, I'm really hot for you right now," just to really freak him out, because I can't let him know how shitty this is, how truly, deeply cock-like he must be to think this is funny.
Don't you care?
I frown, a little annoyed that he's not even pretending he's doing anything other than trying to make me jealous. He wants my reaction, and I'm not giving it to him. How can he even claim to be my friend? I'm just a bloody joke to him. Why would I?
I told you I like you. You said you like me. Don't you care that I just told you I'm in love with someone else?
Oh Jesus. I have the strongest urge to roll my eyes. I thought Craig was a little more talented at manipulation than that.
Craig, for fuck sake, this isn't even funny.
There's the longest silence off the back of that and my smile makes a thin, bitter appearance. He knows he's busted now. I bet he's sitting there trying to think of a way to wiggle his way out of it.
... What are you talking about?
The party. You weren't there. I know exactly what's going on.
What party? Phil, I'm not Craig. Christ, you want me to be Craig, don't you? No wonder I'm not getting anywhere with you!
I frown hard.
No I bloody don't.
What, are you in love with him or something?
My eyes narrow and I refuse to even engage with that. Give it up Craig. Joke's over. I can't back down now. I know I'm right. I have to be.
God, you are.
Craig's either taking the piss so much he doesn't want to give it up, or that he isn't. My stomach turns over at that. Because, God, what if he isn't?
I practically gulp when I see what he's sent me – a request for him to connect his webcam. Suddenly I feel ill, but I have to hit it. I have to know. The window pops up and the countdown as it buffers seems to take a year. Then the black video screen shifts brighter and I'm blinking at a pair of deep brown eyes that are slightly slanted and glinting with moisture, messy hair, tanned skin and a mouth that's pulled down into an unhappy expression, bottom lip thick with emotion.
He pulls a smile when he sees me though, tilting his head a little, and he lets his fingers come up off his arm in a slow wave. "Hi," he mouths and all kinds of guilt crush me.
"Hey." Suddenly I'm self-conscious. Blimpy and horrible in a hoodie, unshaven and lank-haired. It wouldn't have mattered if it was Craig, but it's really not. "Shit. Sorry." It feels like such an inadequate thing to say.
"Guess you're in love with your best mate, huh?" He sniffs hard and his arms fold tightly around his chest and then he kind of splutters out a laugh that's a little too wet to be happy. "Sucks to be you."
I knit my fingers into my fringe and pull for all I'm worth, because, Jesus Christ it's not supposed to go like this. "Shit, Luke."
He shrugs again, letting his shoulders fall heavily back past level. "Yeah. Well. I kinda thought so. Look, I'm gonna... I can't talk to you right now."
"Luke," shit, just shit. "I... I'm not. Definitely not."
"Uhuh," he pulls a full smile that's just a bit too brittle to be real and I wonder why the hell I didn't talk to him like this before. He has a brilliant smile, just like I thought it would be, hoped it would be. "Yeah? Well he definitely doesn't love you either, so I guess that'll work out fine."
I don't have time to ask whether he's being sarcastic, or whether he means it with every inch of bitterness those words seem to have, because as he says it, he's already reaching forwards to click the screen closed and by the time I find his name on my contacts list, he's flickered to offline-grey.
Suddenly I have a lot more to think about than whether or not Craig was in the library.
The only thing I know is that this is an unholy kind of mess and I don't know how to solve it.