Summary: "Why would he want to date me? I can't even write essays on my own."
Luke has good friends, a passion for books, and dyspraxia, a disorder that, ironically, makes him unable to write.
That's why he also has a personal tutor, Nate, who helps him type out university essays while ignoring his own quarter-life crisis.
Will they manage to write a successful love story together?
Find out in this coming-of-age novel dedicated to all late bloomers.
Disclaimer: This story features an M/M relationship, gay romance and other LGBTQ+ themes.
All my life I wanted to be seen as normal. My parents used to remind me every morning before leaving for school. Don't let them notice. Don't be a burden to the other students. Don't ask the teacher for help too much. Just act normal. Be normal. And now I'm holding a piece of paper that says exactly the opposite. I'm not 'normal'. I need help.
I really don't like needing help.
My eyes move from the paper to the queue I've been stuck in for about two hours. No movement. The girl at the front is losing her patience, tapping her fingers ferociously on the door frame of Room SL48. I can't blame her, the guy before her has been inside the office for about twenty minutes now, and I can't begin to understand what on earth he's doing in there. We are supposed to just hand in our forms and leave. Maybe he's trying to flirt with our very blond student advisor.
I return to my paper and triple check the details. Since I didn't even write them down – because I'm useless – at least I want to make sure they're correct.
At the top, under the SOAS logo with the pretty tree and the University of London stamp, there's my name in capital letters. Luke Abington. Check.
A few lines below, the reason why I'm queuing at the school's Disability Office. My own 'Special Learning Difference', as they like to call it here: dyspraxia. It honestly sounds so stupid, like a Harry Potter spell with the power to put a scary look on everyone's face when you mention having it.
At the bottom of the page, my 'Assessment of Needs': help to type or handwrite essays; extended deadlines.
My parents filled out the form for me when I went back home for the winter break. They tried to sound encouraging, as if it wasn't a big deal. I couldn't tell if they are becoming more accepting or are past disappointment now.
The person in front of me shifts and for a moment I think the queue is actually moving, but it's a false alarm. The yellowish light coming from the ceiling makes it look like the sun is already setting. Around us, dozens of students are rushing back and forth through the corridor, all looking very busy. And I'm stuck here. Nice way to spend my first day back from the holidays when I still have so much reading to do. I guess it's time to check my form again.
It takes another forty minutes for me to reach the head of the queue. When I finally step inside the office, there is already a huge pile of documents on the advisor's desk. I silently place my form on top of an identical one and wait for her to say something.
"You will be assigned a personal tutor or consultant within four weeks". She sounds like a recording. She scribbles on some paper and doesn't even look at me. Wow.
Wondering if that's all and why I couldn't just submit my form online, I take a look at the rest of the office.
It's basically a big classroom packed with similar desks, papers, folders and tired members of staff. The table to my right is displaying a shiny plate reading, 'Helen Rowan, Tutors Coordinator' beside a box collecting 'volunteers application forms'. At the other end of the room there's another entrance, and outside another long queue like the one I've just left.
A guy is coming from that direction. He's wearing dark Vans sneakers, skinny gray trousers, and a red and back plaid shirt. He has a leather jacket and a leather backpack on his shoulders, a piercing on his right ear, and gelled black hair. He stops right next to me and places his form among the volunteers applications. My hand springs to my head as I feel an inexplicable urge to flatten my overgrown, messy brown curls. He turns toward me, our eyes meet for a moment.
"Have a nice day," says my student advisor abruptly, shifting my attention back to her. She has raised her blond head from her desk to give me a scolding gaze for not having left yet.
I nod and exit.
I'm already halfway through the corridor, when I hear loud voices coming from behind me. I could swear it's the student advisor, but I don't think she can physically sound so agitated.
"Stop! You can't do that," says the voice.
People around me stop and stare at the scene. I'm about to turn around and look, but then I remember that I don't like when people stare at me, so I keep walking.
"That's not how things work!" the voice continues. It's definitely my advisor. "You're going to get me into serious trouble!"
It's none of my business. I turn around a corner into another corridor.
"Hey, you!" It's a male voice this time. I'm sure he's not looking for me.
I dribble the couple in front of me and speed up. When I reach the end of the corridor, I immediately call the lift.
"Wait!" Somebody is running. The sound is approaching me.
The elevator is taking too long, and I'm getting impatient. I press the button again, then decide to take the stairs.
"Luke," the same voice calls out my name, panting. "Luke Abington!"
Heck. I can't avoid this.
I turn around and a bloke almost stumbles against me. It's him. The guy in plaid shirt and skinny jeans. For some reason, he's holding my disability form.
"Thought you'd never stop, mate," he says in a Northern accent, catching his breath.
I'm confused. "Do I know you?" I say.
"You should," he replies. "I'm your tutor."
The student advisor's screeching voice is getting closer, and he notices too. Then the elevator goes, "Ding!"
"In here!" The guy grabs my arm and drags me into the elevator. The door closes after us, and he repeatedly hits the button for the ground floor.
"What's going on?" I ask, getting slightly alarmed.
"Oh, it's nothing," he says. "I might have broken a few rules, and apparently people love to throw a fit over nothing."
As soon as we reach the ground floor, he stabs the button for the third floor, and the elevator starts going up again. Is he kidnapping me?
When the elevator stops again, he taps my shoulder and gestures me to turn left. We enter the gents. He locks the door behind us. This is not awkward at all.
"They won't find us in here," he explains, although I'm not sure this makes any sense.
"Us?" I say. "I didn't do anything."
He laughs nervously.
"Yeah, this is my fault. I kinda did something stupid..." He leans against the door. "I was handing in my application to become a tutor and I saw your file laying there and I thought, why wait?"
"So you stole it," I complain.
"I took it," he replies. "I mean, you need a tutor, and I want to be a tutor, so I can be your tutor and we skip the waiting part. Done deal."
I wonder if I'm the only one seeing the problem in his thought process.
"Or did you expect someone different?" he asks in a daring tone.
Well, maybe I'd feel more at ease with someone a little less crazy or good looking, but all in all I don't expect to enjoy this tutoring thing anyway.
"I guess it doesn't matter to me," I say, shrugging.
"Great!" he rejoices. "Told ya, we're the perfect match!"
We wait in silence for the next ten minutes or so, until he thinks it's safe for us to get out.
"By the way, I'm Nathan Harris," he says, holding out his hand. "But everyone calls me Nate."
I shake his hand as we board the elevator again. "I'm Luke. But you already knew that."
The revolving door swirls behind our backs as we sneakily leave the building. I haven't said a word since we shook hands three floors above.
"So..." He attempts to break the silence. "I should leave you my phone number, so you can contact me when you need help."
I nod and hand him my phone.
"Hold on, it's locked." He hands it back.
I fail to unlock my own phone. Twice.
I finally manage to get his number as we walk down the stairs to the small campus square, hiding in the crowd.
"So..." This time it's me making an effort. "I guess I'll see you soon."
He smiles. His whole face softens, his warm, hazel eyes bright up, his soft lips curls amid his five o'clock shadow. Now that we are outside in the dim afternoon light, he looks more friendly than crazy.
"I count on it," he says.
Jesus Christ, stop staring at him.
I lower my gaze and do my best to reciprocate his smile before walking on.
I exit the campus as quickly as possible, trying to collect my thoughts on what just happened. But I still sense his presence next to me. I don't want to look out of the corner of my eye to check if he's still there, but I eventually do. And he is. We're walking in the same direction.
Is he stalking me?
Wishing a double-decker bus could run over me, I cross the road intending to look straight in front of me and pretending I haven't noticed.
We both proceed until the end of the road, no words are exchanged. At the corner, I stop by the traffic light. He stops too.
Where is that double-decker, again?!
After what feels like a decade, the light turns green. I feel so relieved that somehow I turn and finally acknowledge his presence.
"See ya, then!" I say.
He make a nervous laughs. "Actually..."
Was he talking to me? I'm already crossing the road and rushing towards freedom.
He's still walking my way.
Luckily the underground station is just a few feet away now. I reach for my wallet in my pockets and speed up.
As soon as the station appears to my left I dive in, rushing down the stairs. I stop midway and turn back round. Nate waves at me from the pavement, looking half amused, half puzzled. I wave back and keep going.
I struggle to take my wallet out and when I succeed I'm already facing the turnstiles. I search for my Oyster card but can't seem to find it. Why isn't it in its usual slot? I feel my fingers tremble. Damn.
I finally find it, but it's so hard to draw out. It's stuck. I try a little harder. Come on...
Yes, I got it!
Ah, no, it's just my student ID...
I start searching again. At least it's past rush hour and the station is nearly empty, otherwise lots of angry commuters would be shouting at me by now.
"Is everything all right?" asks Nate behind me.
Why is he still there? I thought he left.
I turn to him and force a smile.
"Yeah, it's just... I can't find my Oyster." I shrug and keep searching.
"They're nowhere to be found when you need them," he jokes.
I'm not really listening. Where's the damn card?!
"You can borrow mine if you want," he says.
"No, no, thanks." I shake my head. "It's here, I'm sure it is, I just... can't..."
I browse my wallet more vehemently. Nate's not leaving.
"Hey..." he continues. "Have you had lunch yet?"
"Sorry?" I raise my eyes from the wallet still open in my hands.
"I need to take the tube, too, but I'm having lunch first. I was stuck in a queue all morning. I was thinking, maybe you haven't eaten yet either."
"We could get something to eat." He notices my hesitation and adds, "You can keep searching for your card later."
I glances at my coin pocket. "I literally have only three pounds."
He thinks about it for a moment. "We could always grab a Meal Deal?" he says, pointing at the Tesco on the other side of the road.
Why is he being so nice? Is he trying to compensate for stealing my disability form?
And what am I running from, exactly?
I let out a silent exhale and give up. I can't hide, I can't find my Oyster, I can't avoid looking like an idiot around cute boys. Let's just go through this social interaction and hope for the best. I put my wallet back in my pocket and walk up the stairs.
"Okay," I finally announce.
His face softens again. He seems genuinely glad.
What did I get myself into?
Awkward encounters between awkward boys, am I right?
Comment how bad you think our first lunch date will go out of 10.
If you liked this chapter, please leave me a Review. Favourite and Follow this story if you're curious to see what happens next. Also, tell me if you spot any spelling or grammar mistakes because, as I might have already mentioned, I have some problems writing. Ta! x