I don't know who started this absurd Christmas ritual, but it's become as essential to family get-togethers as pecan pie or honey-baked ham. As soon as the food is served and we're all seated around... [+]
Which wasn’t at all unusual considering his anxiety disorder, but today he felt like it was justified. Because Harley had a goal. Today was the day he was going to ask James out.
No matter if Eric made fun of him until the end of time. No matter if the whole student body thought he was crazy for liking the ‘school outcast.’
...No matter if James rejected him.
James Jones, with his dark hair. Who wore nothing but black and grey; A thunder cloud in an endless sea of rainbows.
James Jones with lake blue eyes, the right of which had a spot of brown; Who made jokes in AP Lit, having already read the books assigned, despite the rest of the class looking on in confusion; Who ignored just about everyone, but stood up for Evan when his social anxiety was about to get the best of him.
James Jones, the most beautifully complex person Evan had ever known.
Harley had been harboring his crush on the other boy since the beginning of the year. So much so that he eventually spilled about said to crush to his therapist of all people. Dr. Rollins had been an avid supporter through it all, and Evan could recall their last session very clearly. He had been conjuring it up in his mind’s eye multiple times a day leading up to this specific day to give himself some semblance of encouragement:
“So, you want to talk to James. You’re going to talk to James?” Dr. Rollins was sitting across from Harley, leaned back some as if to study him more carefully. But there was no ounce of judgement in his eyes.
Harley nodded. “I-I want to make this special. I mean, it doesn’t have to be special special, or some grandiose thing or whatever, but I want to do this, and not...burst into flames?”
A playful light graced Rollins' eyes. He leaned forward. “Do you think you’re going to burst into flames, Harley?”
“N-no!” Harley shook his head rapidly. “But it just might feel like I will.”
Harley shrunk back in his seat. Maybe this was all a big mistake. It would have been better to keep his mouth shut in the first place, to keep his feelings a secret. That’s what he always did, right? It had worked until then. Right. Tell that to your broken arm, Harley.
“You’re spiraling again.”
Rollins offered a comforting smile. “Let’s try to take your mind off of any doubts. How about brainstorming ways to tell James your feelings, and a different exercise to settle your nerves along with each suggestion, yeah?”
“Yeah, yeah. That-that sounds good.”
Harley released a breath he hadn’t known he was holding.
So now, with the first semester of school under his belt, and Rollins' gentle coaxing via each week, Harley was finally going for it. He was going to tell James Jones his true feelings and ask him out. On Valentine’s Day.
“Yo, dude. What is up with all the flowers?”
Eric was hovering around Harley, angling his body this way and that, and making grabby hands at the bouquet Harley was carefully guarding.
“I-it’s none of your business, Eric.”
His friend pouted. “Harley, I’m not a complete idiot. And you’re a huge nerd who never stops talking about nature, so I know what red carnations mean, mister.”
Harley gulped. Well shoot. He thought his flower language would be inconspicuous.
“I don’t know wha-what you mean.”
Eric just raised an eyebrow. Curse his stutter for giving him away. Ha, sure Harley. The stutter’s the only thing that gave it away.
“Seriously dude? ‘My heart aches for you?’”
Harley sighed in defeat. “Fi-fine. They’re for...someone.”
Eric scoffed. “Obviously. So what do the others mean then?”
“Oh. U-um, gar-gardenias meaning ‘you’re lovely’ or secret love, a-and pink camellia’s meaning ‘longing for you.’”
“Ooh.” Eric whistled. “So who’s the lucky lady.”
Harley ducked his head, attempting to hide the blush that was rising to his cheeks.
“Oh.” a smirk donned his friend’s face. Great, Harley was doomed.
“Who’s the lucky guy, then.” Eric nudged him and waggled his eyebrows.
“Out of the way loser!”
There was the bang of lockers followed by the snickers of onlookers. Harley's head whipped up. There was James, glowering at the group of jocks that had just pushed him.
Eric tsked. “Poor Jones. No one would want to be his Valentine.”
Harley shot his friend an ugly glare, and then stomped across the hallway, head held higher than it had ever been.
This is not at all how Harley planned his reveal going, but his body was on autopilot and apparently his breaks weren’t working, no matter how much the screaming stopstopstop in his brain wanted them to.
It wasn’t until his body was blocking James' view of his attackers that Harley stopped.
“U-um. Happy Valentine’s Day, James!”
Though it came out more like, ‘happyVALENTIne’sDAY, JAmeS.’
The entirety of the hallway went silent. James was staring at Harley. Oh god, everyone was staring at Harley. He was finally wishing for those flames to engulf his body.
“Are you serious?” James' voice was so quiet, and vulnerable.
Harley's eyes widened. He had to make James believe.
“Yes! Y-yes, I-I’ve liked you for a while. Because you’re so cool, and funny, and sincere, despite what everyone else claims, a-and-”
There were arms wrapped around him. James was hugging him, and it felt better than any flames ever could.
“Thank you, Harley.”
“Oh! These are for you.” as soon as James retracted himself, Harley held out the bouquet.
James's cheeks bloomed, putting the red of the carnations to shame. “They’re beautiful.”
The residents of the hallway were still staring, and now there were whispers accompanying the eyes as well, but Harley had never felt more comfortable.
“Can I walk you to class?” he asked James.
If it was possible, his crush turned even more scarlet. He nodded.
“I’d like that. But tomorrow I’m walking you!”
Now it was Harley's turn to turn pink.
He looked up into those lake blue eyes of James'.
The other boy was beaming. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
Happy Valentine’s Day indeed.