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Who We Are

by D K Daniels

This short story has a song dedicated to it as a soundtrack. If this is your thing I urge you to check out the song, which is called "Medicine" By Daughter

Pale transparent rays of crepuscular sunlight poured in and warmed the slender, sculpted chest of Oskar. He held a rather simple, two-tone coloured soccer ball, with leather patches of black and white, toward his bare stomach. The boys' shirtless torso quivered with each rise and fall of his dynamic breathing. He had only been panting seconds before, and for the first time in years, he spoke to Noah like a normal human being. Noah's appearance in this light resembled a clear mental visage of Adonis, the Greek god of beauty. To be honest, Noah never envisioned him in this luminance. Something about him, seemed enticing or saying at least alluring in a way, which Noah never thought over otherwise until now.

On the contrary, Noah hated Oskar before he even set foot in the room. The boys' had a history you see. Oskar was, of course, Noah's tormentor and bully. The youth ridiculed Noah, called him degrading names, even on occasions pushing and shoving him about. Why you ask? Well, he felt his message might not have been clear enough to the smaller boy. Oskar thought he wanted to be the domineer of every encounter. Unknown to Noah, however, Oskar, held mixed emotions for his counterpart.

Oddly Noah somehow felt at ease for the first time in years. What started as another ordinary weekday, took a turn. Noah was incredibly thankful school was not in session. When it was, Oskar would often confront the weaker boy within the confined walls of Millbrook High. Oskar's repulsiveness was nauseating to Noah's senses.

On occasion, Oskar retorted, "what are you going to do Noah? Run home to your Mom."

Anytime he said it, Oskar's new friends sniggered. Then a snide remark about sleeping with the weaker of the twos' mother passed on. Nevertheless, Noah didn't dare lash out. If he did, Oskar and his band of brothers would pummel him to death, most likely.

But the reason as to why Noah was here, is of course accidental. Who would have chosen to be securely locked inside a room, four floors up, with no option of escape? Confined with a fragile human is a thought-provoking concept for Noah. Though it is against his will, he oddly accepted being locked in a room with him. Who desired to be locked in a room with someone as horrible as Oskar. 'I would: 'Noah considered. Yet, at the same time, he could not fully understand as to why. He had strangely enjoyed their time in captivity.

You see, Noah had this crush on a girl called Mandy, and as it turns out, so did Oskar. Well, at least I believe so. Of course, that is only half of the story; for quite a while, Noah believed he might be bisexual. 'For what I'm about to tell you, ought to remain in strict confidence since Noah decided: YES. I urge the most stressing plea,' he'd beg because something within Noah had forever been altered, after his brief encounter with Oskar Kowalski. It's hard to explain, but to Noah, he thought he was in love, those were his exact thoughts. 'I think I'm in love.' Which of course he denied, he couldn't be' he contemplated, and neither could Oskar. The most mysterious trope of all is that he was sure that the slightly more fleshed out boy might like him back. Deep down, of course, he had no scientific truth in all this, but he had his gut feeling to go on. Though through all of his helpless struggles, he has tried to explain himself, and he will try to justify his actions. Oskar recalls the events that took place. They may be a little muddled up in there, inside his adolescent brain. 'I just need to recount them,' he thought. Step by step, he would piece them back together and place them in chronological order.

As far as he could recall, Noah left his house around 2 PM, confident and in high spirits. Mandy invited him over for a date, well to him it was a date. If he was lucky and played his cards right, he could have possibly tried his chances. To try and initiate a make-out session from it all, which seemed rather adventurous to him. Save for when the boy got there, she was overly friendly for some peculiar reason. She offered him a cola, and of course some junk food. But he declined, after all, he had kissing on his mind, and if he was going to make out with her. Noah didn't want his breath to be rank, or to have food particles lodged, and clinging to the underside grooves of his teeth. He could tell you deep down he wanted a box of those delicious looking Pringles she had offered, but he refused.

For the most part, she showed the petite boy around her apartment. Which was; did I say four floors up? Well, it was if you took the elevator. Going the long route, via the stairwell felt like you climbed forever. Bloody broken lift. The vibe Noah drew from this particular dwelling was a council build in its truest form. The basic interior of unessential bricked walls made up the small divided living space of the kitchen and living room; each equally unappealing. Cheap furniture, with horrible garnishing's, characterised the living room, and it made Noah shudder. He imagined creepy crawlies lingering on the fabric of the sofa just waiting for him to sit down and they'd lurch for the young boy. One word came to mind, and that was grotty. Dark brown carpet layered the surface under Noah's feet. It glued itself effortlessly to the concrete floor holding a collection of dust and missing pennies beneath its fowl cover. Down the hall from the kitchen, past the horrendously painted walls lived a dynasty of bedrooms. One of which would become the boys' prison cell.

For the most part, he and Mandy were having a stimulating conversation. Soon, a rat-a-tat resounded the door. Two other brunettes, which their names escaped Noah's memory, joined in with the meeting. He recalled seeing the girls in school. However, he could not put names to the faces. He was ecstatic. What boy doesn't like being surrounded by three attractive girls? Cute girls to him. He knew he was being overly cocky, but at least one of them would have to kiss him, right?

After a while of gossip between the girls, Noah would get up and float his way to the bathroom. The presentation of his appearance crept its way into his numbing brain. After all, he figured he wasn't missing much. The girls were gossiping about whatever came to mind. He simply didn't care. The last thing he remembers them yakking on about was shoes. He thought for some odd reason that they didn't treat him like an outsider. Like a boy would have normally been treated by a girl. It felt to Noah; they were treating him just like a girl. This realisation dumbfounded Noah. 'Why would they treat him this way? He has no interest in shoes. Was he a little girly for them? Perhaps that was the question.'

So, here he was peering back at a bright desolate boy, with a regular unstyled concoction of chestnut brown hair. Although Noah's hair occupied thickness, he never felt the need to style it. The softness of his gaze lingered deeply at the figure in the mirror. Leaning closely, the boy placed his hands on the ceramic sink ledge and tilted his head toward the silver glass. Stark reminders haunted him. The soft blue eyes he possessed, held many secrets. Some secrets which were tolerable to pass up in a heart-to-heart conversation. Though his wide saucers held apprehension, his mouth felt dry, and his throat the raw touch of paper. He didn't know what to do with one girl, let alone three.

Standing upright, he would brush himself correcting his clothing. Straightening his jogger bottoms, he made sure his drawstrings were fully tightened and then marched to the toilet. Reassuring himself, that the girls didn't think he was gay. He flushed the toilet to give them the illusion he used the facilities. As he made his way to the door, he would turn and glance at himself one last time in the mirror above the sink. He looked thin and delicate, but still healthy.

Mandy rang down the door, "Noah, are you okay in there?"

Startled he shout back.

"Yeah, I'm okay, I'm just washing my hands."

Though it was a lie, it bought him a moment to regain his composure. To get straight, and no he didn't see that as a pun. He stood in the middle of the room hesitant, then slid the bolt across the back of the bathroom door before leaving.

Upon exiting the door into the ill-lit hallway, Mandy latched onto Noah's wrist and dragged him to the end of the corridor. While the other two girls in the living room could not be seen; they were cooing and giggling. Noah flushed with butterflies. In one essence, Noah even though he had heard one of the girls mentioning matter-of-factly that both Noah and Mandy were going off to suck face. This made Noah happy inside. Little tingles rumbled around like a washing machine inside his small tummy. He felt himself, becoming nervous, his heart thumping in his chest from anticipation. Then alone, at last. Mandy pushed open a bedroom door, with a bright cream interior. A small single bed lay restlessly in the middle of the room, with a lone oak dresser with a worn football atop of it by a large window, dominating the room with a white vibrancy from the outside world. Beneath its illuminance, a yellow and blue bike nudged against a small modern radiator.

He had no idea what was going to happen; his heart was racing so hard. All he could think about was kissing non-stop. He even raised a question. What happens if I need air? How do I ask her for air? Should I keep going, he pondered? Then Mandy ushered Noah toward the bed. Where he almost jilted, his hands became clammy, and he gulped fear as he secured his seat.

"You can relax Noah," Mandy said softly.

Resting his arms timidly on his knees, Noah waited for her to make the first move. She toyfully eased her hands on his waist, proceeded to remove his t-shirt. Mandy turned on this sexy energy he never saw before, and the kid was all too happy to see it. Noah wondered if he was going to get lucky. In the distance, the doorbell rang, but he quickly reverted his attention to Mandy. She proceeded to lift his shirt, for some non-sequential activity the boy believed was coming. Mandy had other ideas; you can't rightly escape if you have no clothes. He was unsure about what to do, so she started it for him.

She was popular, but Noah never saw this coming, he heard a little commotion in the hallway rising fast.

"What the fuck, are you creeps doing?" Another boys' voice bellowed out beyond the door.

It was deep, it was familiar, but still, he couldn't place the voice. Suddenly, Mandy reached over abruptly and stole his t-shirt. Yanking it off, she bolted for the door. Noah thought it was some game. He took it lightly. Then the door burst in, and in fumbled Oskar. All three girls desperately attempted to tame a wild stallion, as he edged backwards into the room with his t-shirt over his head. Oskar must have been trying so hard to break free, but he made it worse, by obscuring his vision.

A hatred was immediately felt as he watched his enemy hit the floor, leaving the t-shirt with the girls. Noah knew he had been compromised; he felt hurt by this display of affection.

"Can I have my shirt back?" Noah demanded with a sense of urgency.

Oskar who lay on his side by the bed also shirtless looked annoyed as hell. Noah would rise from the bed and start for the door; in an attempt, he would try and stretch for his t-shirt. Just before he even got close enough, the girls backed out in a flustered state and slammed it shut. A millisecond later he heard them chattering the key in the barrel, locking it from the outside.

Noah felt the cool nip on his bare shoulders. He felt sheepish about being exposed. Cloaking his arms across his nipples and armpits, in an effort to conceal his nakedness. He was conscious of the hair under his arms; he always felt he wasn't maturating as quickly as his other peers. Noah banged on the door crazily. Begging the girls to let him out, his exact words within a variation, of course, was- "Please don't leave me in here with him," or "let me out," followed with a cry.

Every time he got through to one of the girls, they would simply deny him the privilege to leave.

They insisted on saying, "Trust us, you'll thank us later."

When Noah thought enough was enough, he wiltered away from the door, and slowly backed his way into the corner of the room. Away from Oskar, but still within line-sight if the psycho pounced on him all of a sudden. Slumping down the wall behind him, ripping a poster from friction as he came to a small thud when his tailbone hit the wooden floor. Sighing, he hugging his nakedness. He wrapped his bony arms around his torso and clenched his fingertips to the backs of his shoulders. His confusion was masked behind the betrayal. The girls knew about the boy's volatile acquaintanceship. So why would they put Oskar and Noah in a small room together? Were they hoping the both of them would beat each other to death? To see who could endure the most suffering? At this point, Noah had become as quiet as a mouse and retreated into himself. Not a sound was made from Oskar, though he had curled his way up into a ball by the dresser. Both kids an ocean apart, but so very close. Oskar genuinely looked confused. Noah knew coming here was a bad idea. Why did a girl blindside him?

Oskar, naïve for his age, reasonably a little stupid, but even he knew what was morally wrong. He could not help but pick at an open scab, a wound he did not wish to open. Just anything seemed better than now. If anything, Noah, had been nothing but a true friend to Oskar. When the boys began to grow apart from each other, Noah could not seem to take no for an answer. He was persistent; he wanted his friend back. They had good chemistry. Almost inseparable, since the first time they had met. Oskar remembered a time when he stumbled and fell, and Noah came to his rescue like a perfect gentleman. Noah's mother always told how both boys would grow up to be noblemen. Because when the boys were together, they emulated this aura of goodness, confined to their tiny existences. Noah brought out the best of Oskar, and Oskar managed to bring about the from Noah. Over the last couple of years, things have certainly gone downhill. Oskar could not seem to find the place in history where things had gone wrong.

Truly, he had thought he was coming here to have sex with Mandy, she even hinted it, or so he thought. He didn't attend just for the promise, but to prove a point to his friends that he could do a girl. But as soon as he rang the doorbell. Two girls, he did not know, grabbed him and tackled him down onto the stinky carpet. The carpet that smelt like a mix of musky feet and split soda. It was a dank smell. At any moment Oskar could have sworn he was going to barf. He fought back hard though, digging his forearms against the ground to leverage himself up, but the girls piled all their weight down on top of him. From there, they would wrestle his shirt off all the way to the bedroom. 'Yes, even Oskar would admit, taking his t-shirt was freaky.' Why did they want it? When he finally saw Noah, upon entering the room, his heart would sink incongruously. Unseemly compared to what was going on. He could have been in a state of panic, but something struck a chord with him. Oskar had been injected into a room shirtless with Noah, who was also shirtless. So, there was no time for panic.

The fear he had seen in Noah, seconds after those bitches closed the door was beyond words. It was clear, Noah did not want to be in that room with him. His old friend begged for a long time, and every time he begged, it made Oskar experience guilt on a low level. 'Hardy-har-har-har,' he thought, he was not going to cry. Though seeing an old friend like that changed his perspective. If the situation had been reversed, he wouldn't have liked to be in that room with him either. Oskar felt remorse for his actions. He didn't want to hate Noah; he just always seemed to have a stupid smug face; he was always smiling, always perfect. Noah had good grades, and all the teachers loved him. Hell, Oskar wouldn't be surprised if his mother would trade him in for a son like that.

Oskar dragged himself from the bedside to the oak dresser. The room fell silent. Noah likewise did the same. Oskar resorted to picking at the dirt that had accumulated under the ridges of his fingernails. Something about cleaning his nails made him feel better, cleaner. Even though he was one of the cleanest kids in school, Oskar always felt dirty, like he was carrying extra weight. The timidity in the room had somewhat vanished. The sight of Noah clobbering the door like his life depended on it, made Oskar feel burdened. Soon he felt his right eye starting to swell up as water began to come. Oskar would snatch his fingers up vaguely to wipe the underside of his eye. Secretly out the corner of his peripheral vision, he strained himself, trying to see Noah. Even though he sat there, half-naked, Oskar made no effort to cover himself. He was not ashamed of his body; he just felt remorse for his actions.

The idea loomed with Oskar about his distress. He pondered whether he should or should not pick on Noah. He knew one of them would have to start talking, eventually. He didn't know how long he was going to be cooked up in here, but he didn't imagine it to be twenty minutes, he presumed hours. And the little-known voice in the centre of his head suggested being mean. But a vague scratching voice in the back of his skull recommended a sensitive approach. God, how many years has it been, since I treated Noah kindly, Oskar reflected? To his firm belief, it had been almost four years since the boys had their falling out, and to what was becoming clear to Oskar. It seemed as if it was, indeed his fault also.

It all started when Oskar developed an untold crush on Noah. The kid always tried to stay in the positive light, but he didn't want anybody to know he had gay feelings. Oskar later went on to declare that he was still straight, sometimes bi, but mostly straight, or maybe he simply had no clue. The only things Oskar wanted from Noah was understanding. But a very long time ago, I guess Noah did not have the mentality Oskar held. Oskar never felt this way about anybody, not even video games. So, when this sudden overwhelming impulse just to reach out and show fondness, his self-confidence dwindled. What started as a longing desire, soon began to inflict mental pressure on Oskar, and it was growing so fast, he could not empathise with the emotion he was feeling. At heart, he was his best friend. Though for Oskar, Noah was much more than just a friend. So, Oskar did the next best thing he could, to prevent himself from going crazy. He turned his back on Noah. To this day, he still feels guilty.

You see after things went sideways with the two boys. Oskar retreated into himself on a daily basis and manifested a wave of anger which he can't explain the root of. His anger at one point started to infuriate him, and as a result of Noah's incompetence, made Oskar lash out, at boiling point. Though his new friends, as Noah would later come to call them, found it amusing on what was initially intended as a one-off scolding, turned into multiple times a month. Oskar felt so guilty for the first couple of times. Yet, he still wanted to please his newer friends: his cooler friends. So, because they liked his actions, they egged him on to continue the vicious assault on Noah. So, he did.

But Oskar felt those same, crazy feelings bubbling up within the pits of his stomach, his heart beginning to pummel in his chest and he felt indecisive. He thought long and hard about how he would try and even start a conversation with his old friend. Oskar hadn't the vaguest idea about how to go about this, but he nervously offered what he thought would be an icebreaker even though the boys were far past that stage.

He opened his mouth to try and apologize; he worked hard to force something out of his wide-open trap. Though nothing would come, the words just seemed too big for him to grasp, and it lodged in the back of his throat. Noah looked up, worried as always. Noah peered in his direction. Any source of repentance shot out the window. In the flash of a second, all of Oskar's power shut down when Noah gazed at him softly. This irritated Oskar.

Quickly he spat out harshly, "don't look at me faggot."

Noah would scream back with all his might, "Urgh… I'm not a faggot, stop calling me that."

Noah's head slumped out of fear to his lap. Then Noah broke, and started sobbing gently to himself.

Noah tries hard not to look at Oskar; it has been so long since both of them had been in the same room together. Though he still cared for his long-forgotten friend. Some time transpired until he thought he heard things. First, it sounded like the faintest of crying, from somewhere over there, by the dresser. Noah did reconcile with himself about lifting his head. Something inside told him just to look, and what he saw was Oskar wiping his eye. A strain swelled inside his chest; he just wanted to reach out to his old friend. Noah would have loved to lean over and give him a hug. 'Yeah right, like that is going to happen,' he'd admonish. The room retreated to an eerie silence; not a word would be spoken between the two for a couple of minutes while Noah got a grip on himself. He slowly rose to his feet and tried the handle for the door again. As he expected, the clicking sound would only set him up for further disappointment. He didn't bother calling out for the girls because they wouldn't do anything, so what was the point. 'Girls are dicks,' he thought. Well if they had them, even the thought of girls with huge dicks made Noah snigger to himself. If Oskar were truly paying attention, he'd probably think something is wrong with the chap. Like he was some looney and lost any marbles he had left to play with. Though his actions didn't go undocumented.

Oskar cut in snarkly, with a grumble, "It's locked, you moron."

Noah sighed glumly. At this point, a part of Noah told him he was everything Oskar had said. A worthless human being, who'd have been better off if you didn't exist at all. So, Noah lowered himself to the end of the bed, jadedly, and stared at his worn shoes. Oskar mumbled under his breath a few minutes later of awkward silence. Some sort of a "sorry."

Noah could not believe what he heard, or what he thought he did. 'Did- Did, did he say sorry?' Noah was not gradual about asking for clarification. If anything, he strived for information if he did not understand it.

"What?" He'd ask.

Oskar offered up softly, "I said, I'm sorry... Okay; do I need to spell it out."

This was an unexpected juncture for Noah; he had never imagined he'd hear those words coming from Oskar's mouth ever again, especially not like that.

All Noah could muster was a disgruntled, "mmm..."

Of course, Oskar sat quietly and waited for his next cue, which never came. But you have to give him points for at least trying.

Noah's mind ran rampant; he wasn't sure if to believe Oskar. What if it was a trick? Or maybe this was as closest to an apology he was ever going to get. After all, the other boy still possessed callousness within his bones, but something about him seemed different to Noah. It appeared to be that he had hit a brick wall. The action he encountered had never been seen before. Not even when they fell out all those years ago, only to be talking the next day again. How Oskar would sulk, and be cruel, and then all of a sudden, he'd win you over. Oskar would walk to the ends of the earth for you in a fucked-up way, after treating you like shit. Somehow, Noah seemed to fall for it every time, though this time he wanted to persist. Noah didn't want to give in, and he certainly did not want to give Oskar the benefit of the doubt. Look what he had done all of these years. If anything, he deserved to be ignored and hated. Though that sort of hatred was not in Noah; he did not harness retribution. Suddenly, Noah spoke plainly of himself without thinking of repercussions.

"Do you really mean that?"

"Yeah," Oskar gave with a sniffle.

They didn't know what should come next. So, Oskar stood up from the dresser quietly. And for a moment, Noah's heart faltered inside his chest. He felt nervous because his tormentor was standing up, but he also found himself admiring Oskar's toned stomach. It was an odd idea, though he looked attractive. For once, Noah felt confident of Oskar's motive. The kid didn't feel threatened by his old-time friend, just hopeful; he was sick of fighting.

What was I even thinking, Oskar questioned himself? Slowly he rose to his feet. As much as he aspired to hug it out with Noah, he stalled. The only logical solution he thought about was dragging a conversation out of Noah so they could try and be better. After all, if the two of them were going to be stuck in this godforsaken room for god knows how long, it was more helpful to talk. Oskar scanned the room for something to use, to even supply him with the building blocks necessary for a conversation. The boy wanted a foundation, though nothing popped out at him, other than a tarnished football. Though he'd rather not touch at all. The football stood out because he'd seen it countless times used in movies when people found it difficult to talk to one another. Oskar could not recall where he had seen them; there were too many of them to name off the top of his head. But he remembered when people had problems, who were sent to help centres, a ball or toy was used to encourage them to talk. This idea resonated with Oskar, so he gripped the ball firmly, then turned to Noah. The youth meant well, even thought of what to do with the ball. Only, nothing much came from his efforts; his mind was Meh..., just blank.

After a minute of mind distressing thinking, he formed a hypnosis. What if we both spoke on behalf of the other person? So, from there, Oskar attempted to make himself known.

"I, uh… found this ball," he added nervously.

Noah ignored him. So, Oskar proposed a new approach, pacing himself before he spoke again. Inhaling a fresh lungful of tarnished air, he exhaled.

"How about we play a game?" Oskar added gravely.

"We can use this ball, to say what the other guy is thinking about the other guy."

In doing so, Oskar dropped back down to the floor, propped himself straight then folded his legs cross-legged at the knees.

"I never know what to say to you anymore," Noah added solemnly.

Slowly Noah lifted his head to connect with Oskar; their gaze was soft and for once understanding.

"Me neither."

"So that's why we need the ball," Oskar voiced.

Oskar leaned forward to settle himself, relieving his throat of excess mucus, he would say earnestly, "Noah would call me, 'The great big turd.'"

Just as promised, Oskar held out the ball for Noah. Noah took the ball kindly from his old friend. For once, Noah was shaken by the emotional connection Oskar developed. Noah had not laughed at the deliberate tag Oskar had given himself, so the conversation looked promising.

Noah held his judgment for a swift moment. Oskar kept his mouth shut when Noah offered up his assessment of how he saw him. And something within Noah's bones told him he looked a little sad.

So, Noah thoughtfully, in a natural tone offered, "A sad little thud."

Immediately after his statement, Oskar gave Noah a petite crack of a smile, and it made Noah snigger. However, as quick as the giddy significance took hold of Noah, both boys returned to a serious stance. No smiling, no bonding. Just painstaking silence. A mysterious voice in the back of Noah's head scratched at the outer wall of his skull, just above his right ear. It prompted him to try and continue what Oskar had started. He meditated for a time; then, braced himself. Noah wanted to figure out why things had gone wrong. I reckon Noah thought this would be the only chance he'd get to ask the question.

"What happened to us?"

What was a minute, in reality, resembled twenty to the boys' as Oskar worked up his conclusion of an answer.

Bitterly Oskar said, "I was a major asshole; that's what happened."

A pause delayed the progress of the conversation, and Noah mumbled a foreign alien to himself, "Mmmm… Well, you were an asshole, but still."

With a gentle twitch of Noah's nose, he contemplated for a second. The boy could not believe both of them were having a conversation. It meant something to him; it made him all warm and gooey inside. Like when you dip a chocolate cookie into a hot drink, and it melts rolling around inside your mouth.

"Still what?" Oskar demanded.

"I miss you, or who you were," Noah added tenderly then sighed.

"Yeah me too," Oskar spoke glumly.

Oskar watched Noah trace his index finger across the top cover of the duvet jacketing the bed. His friend was contemplating, and Oskar didn't know where to put his eyes. The youth didn't want to seem creepy, but he chose to keep studying Noah.

A harsh pause in the middle of the conversation was introduced. Oskar felt a portion of the weight he'd been holding, lifted from his shoulders. Yet, the ticka-tick-tick, of the clock which resided high on the wall beside the door flooded in. Oskar never noticed the timepiece, nor the sound until now. The racket produced started to drive him crazy with every passing minute. About the fifteen-second marker on the seconds' hand, the clock stuttered and made a plik vibration, before returning to a ticka-tick-tick quality. Noah's barely audible voice butted in over the horologe, and for once Oskar was delighted to hear a human. Practically anything other than the numbing silence or the ticka-tick/plik.

"Why did you do it?" Noah broke in.

"Do what? - Harass you?" Oskar mumbled.

Noah flustered, glancing over at Oskar. The youngster sensed the burning awareness of Noah's eyes.

"No, bully me," Noah declared.

'Isn't that what I just said?' Oskar retorted to himself.

"It's the same thing," Oskar added.

He gave a shrug of his shoulders and an unintentional smirk.

"Okay, so, why did you?" Noah prodded.

"I don't know, to be honest," Oskar said.

The lad fumbled restlessly on the floor and then dropped his head toward his lap with surrender.

"Don't give me that shit," Noah rebuked.

He gave Oskar a grimaced roll of the eyes. The kid could not understand how you can start a healing process, but not be fully committed.

"Look, don't start. That's the problem, you're so fucking perfect," Oskar snapped.

"Am not," Noah objected.

"Yes! Yes, you are," Oskar said.

In haste, Oskar would state, "You've got an amazing personality, a great sense of humour, or you did have anyways. Awesome grades and a lovely family. Topped off with a nobody as a friend. A mate that didn't deserve your time."

-Silence - An irritating pause lasted for minutes, resulting in the clock hands rotating the dial seven times. The sound that drove Oskar insane came back with a vengeance.

Noah was not sure how things were going. On the one hand, he was delighted with his friend, or his old friend was talking to him. On the other, he knew he had to be careful. 'Oskar is still not my friend, not anymore.' Noah welcomed a reassurance bubbling inside his body. He felt happy for the first time in almost three years. It was better than any Christmas present, birthday gift or allowance anybody could ever offer him. Still, he was cautious. He certainly did not want to rush in too soon, wearing his heart on his sleeve, because this is what happened the first time, and, well, Oskar took advantage. Noah seemed flattered; he never thought Oskar would come back to redeem himself.

Even when they were friends, Oskar never told him how much he liked Noah's funny side, or how he loved Noah's family. It was all a bit weird to Noah. Maybe it was truly jealousy the kid realised. It could explain some things. Except, the statement Oskar had said, kind of hurt Noah in a way. It seemed like Oskar hated who he was as a person. Everything Oskar said about Noah was nice, but he'd nothing pleasant to add about himself. Noah recalled a time when both of them were friends; how Oskar attended weekly music lessons for guitar, and boy' was he good.

"Do you still play the guitar," Noah asked. In conjunction, he handed the ball back to Oskar.

"Yeah, why?" Oskar asked, taking hold of the worn ball.

"Well, that's a good thing about you," Noah said out of turn.


"Do you still cry when you watch Marley & Me," Noah would yet again, speak out of turn.

Noah remembered a time when they saw the movie in the cinema. Nobody knew the truth between the two, other than Noah. Oskar had cried when he saw the film, always does. The child had a soft spot for animals. Dignifying that the hardest of people can still have soft souls.

"Oh, come on, that's not fair," Oskar grumbled.

"What's not fair?" Noah asked without hesitation.

"This!" Oskar stumbled.

"If we're going to ask each other questions we should pass the ball."

"Fine, whatever. Ask me a question," Noah muttered with a drawn-out sigh.

As Noah waited for his question, he felt impatient, and the apprehension levels slowly bubbled within him.

Finally, Oskar spoke, "Is your favourite song still Geronimo, by Sheppard?"

Noah was relieved, he thought the question would have been challenging to answer, but it wasn't. Who didn't love that song? Every time Noah showered, he sang. Eventually, everyone in the family, including Oskar, would later label it his shower theme song.

"Yep, and bombs away. My turn," Oskar added.

He took his grip on the ball and pulled it back to his lap. Noah recounted what he had asked Oskar a few minutes ago about a movie. His curiosity didn't fizzle out, so he asked it again.

"Well do you still cry to Marley & Me?

A faint smile crossed Oskar's face, "Who doesn't?" he rebuked.

Noah prodded again. After all, it wasn't the question he asked Oskar.

"That's not the question. I asked if you did? Not everyone else."

Noah watched Oskar roll his fists into a ball plus nervously rub them.

"Not anymore. I don't need a movie to make me cry," Oskar offered.

Oskar stood up, he seemed edgy, and Noah could almost taste the tense uneasiness on the tip of his tongue. With his back towards the window, Noah held out the ball for him.

"Your turn."

Like clockwork, no pun intended. Oskar took it from Noah's cold scrawny fingertips, their index fingers colliding without incident. Oskar backed himself up to the window.

With a gulp, Oskar inquired, "do you hate me?"

There was an awkward moment of silence. The only thing which could be heard was the ticking of the clock. Noah only noticed it a little while ago. He never really liked the sound of clocks, but the clock served as a distraction for him this time around. Thinking, he thought. He didn't necessarily hate Oskar. Sure, he was annoyed at all the things he did to him. Actually, angry is a better word. Just he desired for Oskar to understand; he didn't want to be picked on. He only wanted to be cared for by Oskar, as they had been before their fight.

"No, I don't hate you. I'm just angry at you," Noah glumly sympathised.

Springing to his feet, he took two steps towards Oskar. With his hands by his side, he intensely regarded the sight in front of him. Oskar clutched the football in front of him to his stomach, 'and oh god was he beautiful' Noah thought. Oskar almost looked similar to Noah; he had this particular small quiff. If you had seen both of them when they were younger, you could have mistaken them as brothers, twins. The only difference separating the boys was a small beauty mark above Oskar's lip. To much surprise, Noah always admired that feature. And it was still there. If you didn't know otherwise, the two boys looked identical to each other. Same coloured hair, same coloured eyes. Both shirtless, with only jogger bottoms on.

Noah held his arms up like a robot with a malfunction for the ball.

"Do you hate me?" Oskar asked, handing the ball back.

"No… I'm just angry at you," Noah mimicked with a faint smile.

"Can I ask you something?" Oskar added.


Before Noah could figure out what was what, he saw Oskar well-up. Oskar's eyes grew puffy, and a small downpour eased its way out from his tear ducts. It made his cheeks look like streaks of glass were pouring down his face.

"Can I have a hug," Oskar sobbed.

Later he'd stifled with a jerk to his breathing, then instinct kicked into hyperventilation. Noah knocked the ball from Oskar's hands and closed his arms around Oskar's shirtless torso. The soft squeezing from Oskar's embrace was wonderful. For the first time all day, both boys were content. They were mellowing. A sense of pride flavoured their young bodies. In awe Noah felt his shoulder grow sticky and wet, soon followed with a cold patch from where Oskar's tears had landed. They stood like that until Oskar calmed himself. Once he had gotten ahold of his emotions, the boys took a seat on the edge of the bed. Not a word was spoken until Oskar begged.

"Can we try to be friends again? I promise I'll do better."

"Emm, Oskar… I… I, don't...," Noah stumbled.

At a loss for words, he just spluttered his vocabulary. The kid had always been good with English, but suddenly he had lost all knowledge of his language.

"Please give me a chance; I'll prove it," Oskar eagerly cut in, with puppy eyes."

"Like how?" Noah questioned, peering deeply into Oskar's eyes.

Without another word, Noah felt Oskar's soft, but cold fingertips, cup his chin, and cradle it. Then Oskar leaned in with parched lips and planted them on Noah's mouth. Noah felt a moment of tiredness rigger through his body, and he closed his eyes to savour the moment. Then it ended. Oskar leaned back and spoke softly.

"I acted this way because I like-like you, as more than a friend. I know it's selfish, but I couldn't understand it. I'm so sorry," Oskar said as if someone ripped his chest open and stole his heart.

Noah gave an accepting grin also welling up. The boy leaned his head to Oskar's shoulder and mumbled, "I'm tired of fighting."

"Me too," Oskar whispered.

A sigh escaped the boys when both decided to lay down, just to rest for a little bit. Their eyes fell heavy, eventually leading them drifting off into a peaceful slumber. Though deep in limbo, they heard the faint chattering of a key in a door.

Even though their reflexes where slow they jumped to their feet when the door swung open. The three girls stood, grinning.

"Did you boys make up?" Mandy asked.

The boys nodded, yes.

"I knew they were in love. Can't fuck with love."

She smirked, walking to the bed with a wobble, she sat down.

"How did you know?" Oskar bravely asked.

"I see the way you two look at each other. Even if you are always fighting, I just wanted to help because Noah's a pretty cool guy."

Noah tilted his head back to Oskar and beamed a most adorable smile. Then the boys flushed red before Oskar would go weak at the knees.

"I guess, I kinda did hint that I liked you," Noah stated.

The girls must have put two and two together because after Noah had said that. Oskar latched onto Noah and toppled him onto the bed where he would start to tickle his friend until a stitch paralysed him from the side.

"Well… we'll leave you guys alone," the girls giggled.

They backed out and shut the door, but not locking it this time around.

Both boys lay panting on the bed after their wrestling and tickling match. They stared at the ceiling, listening to the clock once more.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Noah asked.

"I wasn't ready... But I'm ready now if you still feel the same way. I'll never disappoint you again."

Without another word, Noah scooched into Oskar's side and got comfortable where they'd slyly drift off for good this time. Only an hour later they were woken by Mandy.

"Noah," she whispered, wiggling him awake.

When Noah's eyes opened, the room was darker. Therefore, he sat up, rubbing his eyes, trying to figure out where on earth he'd ended up although it didn't take long for the entire evening to come flooding back.

"My Mom is going to be home soon. I'm not allowed to have boys over when she's not here," Mandy whispered.

Glancing over to Oskar, Noah saw the bed was empty. For a minute, he reckoned if all this had been a horrible dream. The boy's heart sunk, and he felt like crying. But Noah didn't. A soft, mellow voice called from the door.

"You ready, I'll walk you home," the voice sang.

Glancing up, Noah dumbly tried to make out the figure standing in the doorway, and that's when he saw Oskar with a messy bedhead. Assured, Noah sighed, then softly smiled.

The End

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This story was originally part of the 2017 story challenge "Inspired by a Picture: In His Room". This edited version was pubished on 6 January 2022. The other stories may be found at the challenge home page. Please read them, too. The voting period of 26 September to 17 October 2017 is when the voting is open. This story may be rated, below, against a set of criteria, and may be rated against other stories on the challenge home page.

The challenge was to write a story inspired by this picture:

In His Room
Please rate Who We Are with the impressions it left you with

Either while reading this story, or afterwards, I found it to be/had/made me (Tick all that apply)

An emotional read
Written with rhythm and pace
Thought provoking
Technically well written
Written with good use of grammar and syntax (this does not mean pedantic use)
Easy to read
It invited me in
I could not put it down
It felt like it was about me. I know it wasn't, but it felt like it
There could be spelling/grammar/punctuation improvements
Interpreted the picture well
Took me somewhere I never expected to go

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