Twenty-Nine

My birthday party was at Josh's house, because Tim was away for the weekend. I didn't want to disturb Ana or my close neighbors either. Maybe later, when they knew I wasn't normally loud or rambunctious. For now, I was focused on having them all like me.

Mom, Zoe, Josh, Sven, Carlita, and Peaches were the only ones initially invited, but somehow Christine found out about it and brought all the friends who knew me except Chad, since Josh had probably told her we didn't get along. So the party was decently sized but at least I knew everyone's name, which was better than what had happened last year. There were at least twenty people at my house last year who I hadn't known or met in my life. It made for an awkward birthday party when they didn't even know how old you were turning.

"The big twenty-four, eh?" Josh asked, clasping an arm around my shoulders.

"I think I'm ready to stop having birthdays," I mumbled. Everyone wanted to be turning twenty-one. After that, there was no longer a point to growing older. Twenty-four was a totally useless age, except that at least it wasn't twenty-five, which would put me halfway through my twenties. Getting older sucked. The thought amused me, considering that before twenty-one, all I'd wanted to do was get older.

"Cake or presents first?" he asked me, taking a drink from his Diet Coke. No one was breaking out the beer yet. That was probably a good thing, considering my mother was here and I couldn't be responsible for the things I did when drunk. She didn't expect me to be sober my entire life, but knowing I drank and seeing me drink were two completely different things.

"Cake. That way we can all eat while I open presents."

Sven had bought the cake, since he had more money than the rest of us. It was chocolate, with choclate icing and big obnoxious blue and pink flowers around the rim. Two candles reading twenty-four were stuck on crookedly. Sven made several attempts at lighting them with no success. Rolling my eyes, I grabbed the matches and lit them with ease. I was good at getting things to burn, from all those days smoking cigarettes.

There's always been something weird about having the birthday song sung to you when you're past twenty. It's such a juvenile tune, and you only ever think about people singing it to a toddler or something. So when everyone started in on it, I had to blush, because I felt twelve again. After Josh yodeled out a long "yoooooouuuuuu," I blew out the two candles and there was much clapping. Carlita leaned over and kissed me firmly on the cheek, leaving a wet lipstick mark. Josh ruffled my hair and Christine slapped me on the back.

Twenty-four. Holy shit.

"You're officially the oldest person in our band," Josh joked.

"Shut up."

Mom hugged me from behind, kissing the cheek that Carlita hadn't smudged. "With age comes wisdom, dear. And don't start thinking you're old, because I am clearly the oldest one here."

"But also the most beautiful," Carlita commented, always the flatterer.

Mom blushed in spite of herself. I laughed.

"Not me?" I asked.

"No. You're the sexiest." She stuck out her tongue and winked. Her English was getting better these days. Probably from spending all that time with Sven. Even though English wasn't his first language, so far I hadn't found a word he didn't know. Stupid Europeans and their propensity to know at least four different languages outside of their own.

I blew her a kiss and she laughed.

I began to realize that getting older seriously degraded your "coolness". Several years ago we would have broke out the beer, played loud rap music, and got down on the dance floor. Now we just broke out the Twister mat and sipped strawberry dackeries whilst listening to Kelly Clarkson on Josh's iPod.

God, in a few more years we'd be hitching up our pants to our ribs and calling teenagers "homies" in hopes of gaining acceptance. It was a very long and humiliating decline, but it was inevitable.

But I guess when you age, "cool" becomes a meaningless word and you just do whatever the hell you feel like, because there's no one to impress anymore. Twister was fun, and hell, I'll even admit it: Kelly Clarkson songs were a tad catchy.

Everyone was gone by about one in the morning, except Josh, who had crashed on my couch and removed his shirt, because this was his home, after all. Gina had curled up by his feet on one end of the couch, playing footrest, while Sammy indolently licked the hand that dangled near the carpet.

"Hey." I lifted a boot up and nudged it against his hip. "Josh."

"Huh?" His eyes creaked open, and he stared at me blankly.

"Are you gonna sleep down here or do you want me to drag you upstairs to your room?"

"Ugh." He sat up slowly, rubbing his eyes. "I shouldn't have had that last bottle."

"Can I stay the night?" I asked, because I really didn't want to drive home now, at one in the morning, slightly drunk. Seemed like a bad idea.

"Sure, yeah, why not?" He reached over and rubbed Gina's head. "Ugh, I think I ate too much cake." He grabbed the flesh that squeezed over his belt. "Did I gain weight in the past six hours or . . .?"

"No, you're always fat."

He swung his arm out and almost caught me in the groin. I laughed as I darted away.

"I'm too tired to go upstairs," he moaned, lying back down. "Wake me up in the morning."

"Come on." I grabbed his arm and yanked. I was not strong enough to move him more than an inch. I kicked him lightly in the hip with my boot again. "Josh, get up."

"Fine," he groaned, sitting up and running his hands through his hair. "Whatever."

I followed him upstairs, just to make sure he didn't fall down the steps or pass out on the floor. He wasn't really drunk, because he hadn't consumed it fast enough for that, but he was extremely tired. He collapsed on the bed face first when he got to it.

"Do you need me to read you a bedtime story?" I asked as Gina pushed her way past me. She jumped up onto the bed next to him and licked his bare foot. He giggled and pushed her away, only goading her to lick his foot more.

"Nah, I'm good. Gina, get off of me. Damn dog."

"Alright. Well, I'm going to sleep on your couch."

"No, no!" Josh reached out and made a grabbing motion with his hand, like a child reaching for a bottle. "Come here."

"Josh . . ."

"No, come here."

I sighed and made my way over to him. "What?"

Josh rolled close the wall, leaving a slice of room on his bed. "Sleep here."

I lifted my eyebrows. "No. You snore."

"I do not." He sniffed daintily.

"Your bed is a twin. Too small."

"I'll kick Gina out."

I sighed heavily. Whatever. I kicked off my boots and lied down on the bed beside Josh, somehow making room for myself despite Gina still lying at the bottom of the bed. Josh and I stared at the ceiling, arms pressed against each other, silent for a few moments.

"Justin?" he asked slowly. When I grunted, he continued. "You know, I'm really tired."

"Then go to sleep."

"No, not like that. I mean, I'm tired of how . . . stagnant my life is."

"Stagnant?" I snorted. "So not talking to me for a month isn't enough drama for you then?"

"I don't mean that. I mean, like, okay. Adrien called me this morning and told me Petunia's pregnant."

"That's awesome." At least, I assumed it was. Josh adored Hayden enough, so I figured he'd love to have another little niece or nephew to play with.

"Yeah." Josh trailed off and stared ahead, eyes glassy in the sparse light from outside.

"Why aren't you happy about this?"

"I don't know. I am. I really am. Adrien was, like, almost crying he was so happy. And you know that guy Christine brought with her? Dai?"

"Yeah, the Chinese guy. I'd met him once before. He's cute, for a pudgy kid."

"Yeah, well, they're dating now, apparently."

"Oh wow." Didn't call that one. I figured Christine would have been touchy if she'd had a boyfriend, but then again, she was probably like Josh in how he wasn't terribly affectionate outside of slapping and giving noogies.

Josh didn't say anything for awhile. I grew a bit worried.

"So you're saying your life is stagnant because Adrien's having a kid and Christine's got herself a boyfriend?" I lifted myself onto my elbows. "Are you jealous?"
"Kind of."

I stared at Josh for a long time. He never seemed lonely to me. He had tons of friends and got along with everyone, and whenever I moaned about not having a boyfriend or sex or something like that, he'd hit me over the head and tell me to shut up and stop being a whine-o. I shouldn't have assumed Josh didn't want a boyfriend or sex, but I did anyway.

"So get a boyfriend," I muttered. "It shouldn't be hard for you. Everyone likes you."

"Yeah, right." He snorted. "I'm the funny chubby kid. That's it. I'm there for laughs, nothing more."

"Not true."

"Everyone is moving on with their life, and I'm stuck here, going nowhere." He sighed and closed his eyes. "It gets old after awhile."

"Well, uh . . ." I didn't know what to say. I was usually the one complaining to Josh. I felt guilty about all those times bitching about my prolems and ignoring the fact Josh might have his own, just because he never brought them up. I knew why he was like this; no one in his family liked to dwell on their problems. Whenever I went over there, it was all smiles and jokes and love. But they had to have their hardships too. My family, on the other hand, bitched and moaned all the time. We never smiled or laughed or loved. Stupid Gary would complain about work and Mom. Mom would complain about money. Zoe complained about school and me. And I complained about everything. It came natrual to me. Not so much to Josh.

"Problem is, neither of us really understand each other," Josh whispered. "I mean, you're, like, always chasing tail. Always crushing on someone and sniffing around for sex. Me? I'm the opposite. I believe that if it's gonna happen, it'll happen, through no effort on my part. Well, that's a lie. Problem is this: the people who dating comes easy to . . . they are always telling everyone that if it's meant to be, it will happen. But you see, it always just happens to them because they're out there looking for it, dressed to the teeth twenty-four-seven and flirting up anyone who comes along. They don't seem to understand that for people like me, it just doesn't happen, you know? It has never just happened to me. The closest I've come was you." He sighed. "I don't want to put effort into it because I find the dating scene probably the stupidest, most juvenile and self-serving thing in existence."

"It is pretty stupid."

"I wanna be Indian and get an arranged marriage," Josh chuckled.

"You could always, uh, like, go online or something."

"Yeah right." Josh rolled his eyes.

"What? Lots of people do it."

Josh nudged Gina with his foot, scratching her stomach with it. "I don't want to be one of those people."

"You could troll clubs."

"Yeah, if I wanted anonymous sex with strangers."

"It has its perks."

Josh snorted. "Sorry, Mr. Slut, but I'm not into that."

We sat for a long time in silence. Something rose in my mind at the mention of sex. I turned to Josh and stared at his profile for a moment before asking, "Josh? Do you remember the first time we . . . ya know, had sex?"

"Course I do, dipshit," he said.

"Do you—do you remember what you said to me afterward?"

Josh pursed his lips in thought for a moment, eyes narrowing. Finally: "No. No, I don't."

For some reason, it hurt to hear that. I guess this discussion got me thinking about me and Josh, because it seemed to be the only relationship I'd ever been in that didn't end in tears and drama. We had had fun together, and while it wasn't always love and romance, we treated each other with respect, something that could never be underestimated. I was wondering if this conversation was his subtle way of hinting we should get back together, but upon his last remark, I was sure it wasn't. Because that had been—lame, but true—the most beautiful thing he'd ever said to me. That anyone had really said to me. I had really hoped it would have been as important to him as it was to me.

Apparently not.

"You said 'You and me could take over the fucking world right now.'"

Josh turned me to me, eyes wide. "I said that?"

"Yeah."

"Really?"

"Uh-huh."

Josh chuckled. "Man, I am awesome."

I sighed heavily. Good old Josh. If he had wanted to get back together, he would have straight-up told me. He didn't beat around the bush. I was glad that the conversation wasn't headed in that direction, because I didn't want to tell him no.

"Yes, you're awesome," I muttered sarcastically.

"And I can't get a boyfriend." Josh snorted and laughed. "Tell you what, Justin. This whole world is fucked up."

"Uh-huh."

"Well, I'm tired and I'm gonna go to sleep. Don't kick me in your sleep and don't snore, okay?"

I nodded. I expected him to roll over, but he continued to stare at the ceiling with me, just the two of his breathing evenly for the next five minutes. When I finally looked over, Josh was asleep, mouth partially open.

Chuckling softly under my breath, I shifted next to him and laid my head on his shoulder. Josh had a soft exterior, but that wasn't always bad. It made him more comfortable to sleep on.

"You're a loser," I muttered before slipping into sleep.

*

Justin Perkins

English 11, Period 3

Mr. Gonzalez

My Career Goals

These days finding a job is hard to do. The economy sucks, and college just has you paying off loans until you're too old to even get it up. So I've decided to screw the conventional career-getting methods and become a trophy boyfriend.

How will I do this? Well, first off, I'll need some plastic surgery. Get some butt cheek implants and some Botox injections to make my lips seem fuller. I'll take lessons at the local community college on how to blow off old men with erectile dysfunction. I'll practice on various sluts in gay clubs. Once I look good and perform well, I'll go man hunting at the cross-country club. If not the cross-country club, I'll somehow smooze my way into the back room at a rock councert, because we all know that with enough drugs, rock stars are all bi-curious.

After this, the seduction will begin. First it will start off as a friendship with benefits. Then I will wow him with my tight ass and my discrete methods. I'll tell him I love them and all that good stuff, when in reality I can't stand to be in his company. He will invite me to be on his yacht and I will trot out the goods in a Speedo. When he goes on business trips, I'll have hot, dirty orgies on his bed with the pool boy and all his friends.

After this, he will funnel money into the gay marriage law. Once it is passed, I'll marry him and milk him for all he's worth. Once I make it into his will, I'll murder him, dump his body into the ocean, and live in a fabulous mansion in Malibu or Beverly Hills.

The end.

Justin:

I am not amused. Come see me after class, where I will proceed to give you a detention.

You think you are funny, but you are not.

--Mr. Gonzalez

End of Part 1

Author's Note: Best. Ending. Ever. XD

Part 2 is already up! Check it out on my profile page! Or go straight there: www . fictionpress . com /s/2842098/1/Reflections_of_a_Frustrated_Emo_Cowboy

THIS IS NOT THE END. Well, it could be. Like, if you've become disenchanted by this story and don't feel like going any further, well, then this can be the end for you. But there's a whole other section to this, for those of you who want Justin to find a boyfriend. XD Because while we all say that a person can be just as happy single, we all want to see him get laid. DON'T LIE.

Sorry to all of you who wanted Josh and Justin to get together. I really did consider it, and that would make this story so much shorter, but it just didn't feel right for them. I didn't think Justin and Josh changed enough since their last relationship to make the saying "third time's the charm" ring true. XD Josh is still his obnoxious self, and Justin needs someone a tad more . . . sensitive. I still haven't made up my mind about Josh's romantic future, but I'm sure I'll think of something. :)

Thank you to everyone who read and reviewed! It's been a pleasure! And as always, you can check out my account on Deviantart (listed on my homepage) for art on this story. :D