One

My alarm sounds and before I even open my eyes, I feel sick. Stomach churning, throat closing up. Still being trapped halfway in the arms of sleep, I am not consciously aware of much and therefore the bad feelings are worse.

I reach over and press the Snooze button on the alarm just to make the beeping stop. The silence that follows comforts me, but only slightly. I curl back up into the ball I woke up in and know that trying to go back to sleep is futile. The bad feelings have started and all I can do now is get through it.

I sit up and shakily reach for my water bottle that I left on the bedside table next to the alarm. Each sip I take is incredibly tiny, to perhaps help unclog my tight throat. Drinking water makes me feel better, but each time I try to swallow saliva it feels like I'm going to gag. I'm terrified of gagging. I dread it. I try desperately not to.

But I'm used to this. I've dealt with this a million times. There's nothing I can do now but get through it. I must endure. Although consciously, I know this won't kill me, my subconscious thinks it will. So my subconscious tells my body to react defensively. My throat closes up. My stomach churns. I tremble uncontrollably.

I remain sitting up in bed and take a few calming breaths but they don't help. I end up nearly hyperventilating. I take more tiny sips of water, my hands shaking the entire time. The air around me is cold since it's the early morning, and that makes the trembling worse. I hate the early morning. I hate that the sun isn't quite up yet. I hate the cold. I hate this.

I reach over and turn my alarm off completely so it won't go off again in ten minutes. I know that I won't be going back to sleep. I'm up now. The sickness has begun. I won't be sleeping while it's here.

Somehow I manage to stand up and get dressed. I don't need to shower since I did so last night. I walk slowly and cautiously to the bathroom and turn the faucet on. Brushing my teeth is always the most difficult because the activity in my mouth just heightens the gag reflex. I hate saliva. When I spit in the sink it's repulsing. I try desperately not to gag. Luckily, I finish brushing my teeth without that happening.

While I wash my face I talk to the friends in my head. Or rather, they talk to each other and I pretend to be one of them. There's two of them and they are in love. They laugh with each other and make jokes and cuddle and kiss. They are an adorable couple. Of course they are. I made them up, and I am quite a romantic. What's strange about them, or what might be strange to you, is that they are both boys. They're two boys who love each other unconditionally. I know the reason why I made them up. It's because of deep emotional trauma. I know this. I don't need a psychiatrist to tell me. I made them up because I wish I was one of them. I made them up because I want that for myself. I want to feel unconditional love with another boy.

Thankfully, the imaginary boys in my head distract me while I finish getting ready. I don't think about my throat closing up anymore. I don't think about feeling sick. I think about the adorable couple and the hilarious jokes that they share together. And therefore, the sickness dies down. My throat opens back up and it's easier for me to handle living.

Feeling much better, I gather my backpack and keys from where they usually sit by the front door. My keys in an old brass dish, on top of an antique desk. My backpack hiding underneath the desk. My backpack looks so conspicuous in this house, being bright green and so modern-looking. The rest of my house is full of earthy colors and antiques. My mother decorated it. It's quite cozy, like a cottage in the woods. It's home.

I say goodbye to my mother, who is sitting on the couch. She's reading the paper, just about to leave for her morning walk.

She gives me a smile. "Have a good first day at school, honey!"

I leave the house and drive to school, feeling almost like my old self again. But I know the bad feelings will stay for the rest of the day. They will be small and insignificant if I can help from thinking about them. But they will still be there. I will subconsciously feel them all day. That's what happens when they come about. They stay for the rest of the day.

I arrive at my high school, a perfectly familiar setting. Although it's so familiar, it's strange to be here after being away for so long. It's only been three months since I've set foot on this campus, but it feels like three years. Summer was long to me.

I park my car in the senior parking lot for the first time in my life. I feel privileged and old, but it's a good feeling. For the past three years, I remember always looking up to the seniors and admiring them. And now I am a senior. It's strange to fathom.

Since I'm early and I have a Zero Period this year, the parking lot and the campus are nearly empty. I don't see any friends, just a few students. I know their names and their reputations but I've never spoken to them before and I don't intend to start now.

Over there locking his car with a key is Patrick Welter. He ran for ASB president last year but Kevin Goldfield won instead, mostly because he's better-looking and has more friends. ASB elections are just popularity contests. Or who-can-make-the-best-election-video contests. I remember Kevin's video to be much funnier than Patrick's. Maybe that's why he won.

And running over to Patrick is Divya Pahlavi. She's extremely tall and has a kind of Amazon look to her. Long, dark hair. Long legs. Long arms. And her personality is just positively effervescent. But in a fake way. She annoys me. She's one of Patrick's best friends. Of course, Patrick has several female best friends. I'm not entirely convinced that he's straight. Not that I'm judging, of course, since I happen to be gay.

Other than that, I don't see anyone else I know in the parking lot. There are some other students that I recognize, but don't know the names of.

After thinking about Patrick Welter and Divya Pahlavi and the very attractive Kevin Goldfield, I'm feeling much better. The distractions and normal everyday thoughts have pushed the bad feelings aside. They're still there, but they're not forcing themselves upon me. I feel better. Well enough to smile. Thank you God for taking away the bad feelings, even if just for now.

I take my green backpack out of my car, lock the door, and stroll through the parking lot and through the campus gates. I'm actually quite excited to be back at school. I can't wait to see my friends and meet my new teachers and get started with new choir music. I love the start of a new school year, with fresh pencils and empty, undamaged notebooks. It's so refreshing.

Since I'm so early, I don't see a single one of my friends. Last year, they always arrived later than me even though we all had a Zero Period.

Speaking of, I decide to take out my class schedule to go over it again while I'm walking to my locker. There's really no need to go to my locker since we haven't been given any textbooks yet, but I go anyway.

This semester, my Zero is American Government with Mr. Calvin. He also teaches freshman Geography, although I never had him. But I've heard from several of my friends that he's a hilarious and great teacher. I'm excited for his class.

After going to my locker, opening it, and realizing that it's empty and there's nothing I need to put in it, I casually stroll around campus. I start thinking about the bad feelings again and my throat starts to close up momentarily, but then I spot Amelia Lancaster and decide to go over and talk to her.

She's sort of a friendly acquaintance of mine that I befriended last year in French 3. She's very eccentric, but only in her appearance and not so much in her personality. She dresses quite "gothically" you could say, with mostly black clothes and studded belts and neon-colored sneakers. She has dyed her hair so many times that it looks completely dead, but the style she has going and the current color makes up for it. This month, it's a bright acidic blue. And she's gotten snake bite piercings since I last saw her.

"Amelia!" I call, strolling over to her.

"Hey, Nathan!" She smiles warmly. Or, as warmly as her extremely pale face and slightly dull personality will allow.

"Nice snake bites!" I comment, "When'd you get those?"

"I actually just got them a week or two ago." She says.

"Cool! They suit you." I say.

We make casual small talk about our summer vacations for a little while. I like Amelia, mostly because she's one of the few acquaintances I have that can completely tolerate my sexuality. I tell her about cute boys and she laughs and agrees. Then I remember that she has several friends who are in the LGBT community. One of her best friends, Jordan, is a pansexual girl. And another of her close friends, Cora, is bisexual. Although Amelia is straight, I admire her acceptance and support.

The campus starts filling up with more students, and I say goodbye to Amelia when I spot Dylan strolling towards me. He's wearing his usual simple attire, jeans and a sweatshirt and sneakers. He got his mousy brown hair cut for the first day of school. His cheeks are flushed in the cold air. He looks pretty cute. I run over to him, desperate for arms to hold me, desperate for human contact. I practically leap into his arms, tackling him. He laughs in astonishment and hugs me back.

"Hey." He says simply.

"Hi." I respond, pulling out of our hug to look at him for a moment.

I lean in for a kiss, but he shies away from me.

"Not at school, Nathan!" He reminds me.

He doesn't like to show much affection in public. Especially at school, where we are more likely to be judged by people we actually know.

"Fine." I pout.

"How are you?" He asks.

I quickly decide how I want to answer this question. I want him to notice that I'm not that great. I want him to give me comfort and sympathy and love. I want him to hold me and tell me it'll be alright and that he's always here for me and that he loves me. I'm desperate for his attention, for some kind of attention. I know this, and I know it's bad, but I can't help it.

Instead of directly telling him that I'm not feeling well, I try to casually make it seem like I'm trying to hide it.

"Eh, I'm alright." I say, shrugging and wrinkling my nose.

"What's wrong?" He asks.

"Just... eh... not feeling one-hundred percent." I say, trying to appear as if I'm shrugging it off.

"Why? What's wrong?" He repeats. Then his face dawns with realization, "Oh, are you having your anxiety problems again?"

I nod, expecting him to hold me close and tell me he's here for me. But instead he just nods back.

"Why?" He asks after a moment.

"Why what?" I ask, confused.

"Why are you having anxiety?" He says the word anxiety as if it's an uncomfortable word for him.

"I told you, I almost always get it in the early morning." I remind him, feeling a bit annoyed, "Especially when some big event is happening, like today since it's the first day of school."

"Oh, right." He says, nodding and looking into the distance.

I can tell that he doesn't really understand, and I want to explain it to him more. But every time I've tried to explain it to him, he just looks at me like I'm crazy. Like I'm sick. Like I'm damaged. He always looks so confused when I tell him about my anxiety, like he doesn't get it and he never will. So I've given up trying to explain it to him. I gave up a while ago.

I quickly try to decide what else to talk about, since I want to avoid any awkward silences between us. Those types of silences seem to occur too often between me and Dylan. I try to avoid them as much as possible, and sometimes it's a chore. Sometimes it seems like he doesn't really want to talk about anything.

You fucking dumb shit bastard. You've been so fucking selfish for this entire conversation. All you care about is you. You just want attention from everybody. You just want pity and sympathy and attention. Why don't you stop being so fucking selfish for a change?

My gut clenches as I realize this is correct. I decide to stop being so selfish.

"How are you?" I ask Dylan, my desperate attempt at selflessness.

He smiles half-heartedly. "Fine." He says simply.

"That's great, honey." I return the smile, wrapping my arms around his waist again.

He bites his lip embarrassedly. It's adorable. He wraps his arms around me too, but his movements are awkward. I notice this but I pretend that it doesn't bother me, both for his sake and for mine.

The two of us hug tightly once more, then lock hands and start strolling through campus. We greet friends that we haven't seen all summer, and some friends that we just hung out with a week or so ago. We gossip and make small talk until the bell rings, signaling that it's time for Zero Period to start.

When Dylan and I part ways, I kiss him against his wishes. I don't care if he's embarrassed about it. I just want to give him a kiss.

"Love you." I say, smiling.

He laughs shyly and looks at the ground. "Love you too."

He could've been professing his love for the concrete for all I know. That's how much emotion was in his voice. But I know that he's just shy. He's such a simple boy, and he's nervous about this relationship. We've only been dating for three months, and I'm his first boyfriend. He's not exactly out of the closet to his parents, so it's weird for him to be so publicly affectionate with me. I understand that.

Fuck you, Nathan. He's trying his best! Don't fucking judge him! He's just shy! He said he loves you! Is that not enough for you? Stop being so fucking selfish!

You're right, you're right, you're right.

I head off to Mr. Calvin's class, thinking about the two imaginary boys in my head.


A/N: Welcome to the new story! I came up with this idea before Unexpected was finished, but I didn't start writing it until just now. I guess I was putting it off a bit, or trying to decide it I could add a bit of extra spice to the plotline. But I ended up not doing so. Bear with me if the storyline seems a bit boring. This may not be the best slash novel ever written, but I certainly am trying and I can already tell that this story will be very close to my heart. It's definitely not going to be as smutty as Unexpected. Probably more meaningful like Wilson & Taylor was. Hope you enjoy! Reviews would be greatly appreciated! And just a side note: sorry if updates are random and infrequent! I'm not sure where I'm going with this story. But hey, maybe the characters will lead me, as they often do :]