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|“Matt, can you throw me that garbage bag over there?” JP called over to me from across the living room.
“Sure,” I replied flatly, handing it to him. He stormily dropped a handful of empty beer cans into the bag and began wiping the table top where they had been with a sponge.
It was the morning after the party and not surprisingly, JP and I were the ones left to pick up the trash. Ryan was nowhere to be found…and the house was mess. Crumpled-up cups and cans were strewn all over the place and almost every room reeked of beer. JP’s parents were going to be home that afternoon and Erin was soon to arrive from a friend’s sleepover in a few hours, so the clock was ticking. I just couldn’t believe the gall that Ryan had – throwing this stupid party and then not even bothering to help clean up afterward. But why should I be surprised; I should’ve expected it, coming from such a conceited, self-centered guy like him.
In fact, I hated Ryan more than ever. I hated him and all his vain, sex-crazed, immature model friends he hung around with. They just went through life thinking that the whole world should bow down to them and give them whatever they wanted because they were beautiful and had perfect bodies. And all the while, they didn’t care about, much less do anything for, anyone else.
And then there was Brionna. Just the sound of her name made my teeth grind in anger. After she walked away from me last night in the basement gym, I didn’t feel like going back up to the party; I stayed downstairs and slept on the couch. “I always get what I want,” her last words to me, kept going through my head over and over. I couldn’t get it out. How dare she try to go after my boyfriend. I mean, I knew she could never realize that JP and I were more than just friends, but she had some nerve suggesting to seduce someone as innocent and as perfect as JP. In fact, he was too perfect for her; she didn’t deserve him. He was mine and no one else could ever have him. But what was I going to say, what was I going to do? I couldn’t tell anyone…and I was too scared to even mention it to JP, though I didn’t know why.
Thinking this, I looked up again at my boyfriend. He seemed a wreck. His hair was out-of-place, bags were under his eyes and he looked tired, more tired than I had ever seen him. He probably didn’t get any sleep the night before and that made me feel guilty knowing that he did it alone, without me. The black button-down shirt he was wearing – the one that fit him so perfectly at the beginning of the summer – was wrinkled, flowing listlessly by his side, his chest too big now to button it up all the way. And there were obvious sweat stains on the white T-shirt he wore underneath. I didn’t know whether to cry or get angry at the sight of JP like this. His brother had barely been home a week and it was already taking a toll on him. He was throwing the garbage in the bag with such force, his thick forearms were pumped, the myriad veins pulsing feverously among the shredded tendons and muscles. Normally, this display of power would turn me on, but I knew that this was something different.
“Shouldn’t Ryan be down here helping us?” I finally broke the silence, trying my hardest to keep my voice level. “Where is he anyway?”
“Where do you think he is?” JP snapped viciously, making me jump. “He’s upstairs in his bedroom entertaining his guests,” he barked sarcastically. I stared at him wide-eyed, having not expected this response from him. He caught my shock and immediately calmed down. “Sorry,” he said ashamedly, “I didn’t mean to take it out on you again.”
“It’s alright,” I assured him. “I understand.”
JP sighed heavily, dumping another handful of crinkled plastic cups into the trashbag. “And he’s not even in bed with his own girlfriend right now,” he continued bitterly, consciously averting his eyes from me. “I saw Luke go into my parents’ room with Brionna last night” – I cringed at her name – “and I can only hope to God they didn’t make a mess in there. I’ll have a bitch of a time trying to cover up their stench.”
I tried desperately to find a subject we could switch to, but none popped into my head. Luckily, JP succeeded better than I.
“I have a wrestling match next weekend,” he started, obviously attempting hard to smile since it came out kind of awkwardly. “It’s a pretty big one and I’d love it for you to be there.”
I looked down at the floor remorsefully, biting my lip. “I can’t,” I muttered, barely enough for him to hear. “I have an audition at Illinois on Saturday.”
“Oh,” JP replied, hiding his disappointment only meagerly. “That’s fine.” I could tell in his voice that he understood that there was nothing I could do about it. It was the winter of my senior year, meaning that nearly every weekend I was off at some college auditioning to be accepted. His eyes rose up to me and he flashed me the softest, most innocent look he could ever give me; it almost made me cry. “I’m going to miss you,” he whimpered, his voice on the verge of cracking.
I grinned slightly, resisting the urge to tear up. God, he tore me apart whenever he did that. “You’ll just have to tell me all about it when I get home.”
“Don’t worry. Nick’s gonna be there,” he said, his face brightening up. “He’ll definitely be able to give you a play-by-play.” I laughed genuinely for the first time that morning.
Suddenly, my cell phone vibrated. It was my mom. Figures.
“I just got home from church,” she said, a hint of worry in her voice, once I answered it. “I was just wondering, are you still at JP’s?”
“Yeah,” I answered as casually as I could muster. “We’re just cleaning up” – JP shot a panicked look up at me – “uh, cleaning up from breakfast.” My boyfriend sighed with relief. Whoops, that was close. If my mom knew that I was at a party, I surely would be grounded.
“My, you boys slept in late this morning,” she remarked, totally oblivious to my near-slipup. “Anyway, just checking to see if you were, uh, planning to come home anytime today.”
“Yeah, I’ll be there in a bit, bye.” And I quickly ended the conversation before it got too awkward. I rolled my eyes as I returned the phone to my hip.
“You know what,” JP spoke up. “Just go. I can handle the rest of this.”
“Yeah,” he nodded his head. “There’s not much left anyway.”
I gazed at my boyfriend fondly and reached my hand up to his head. He peered down at me lovingly as I haphazardly brushed his hair into place. “I love you,” I whispered, blinking back the flow of stubborn tears. He smiled. Even though he looked horrible, that face was still the most beautiful face I had ever seen. Instinctively, we both leaned forward to kiss. We may have been tired, but there was nothing like the feeling when our lips touched together. It was like some kind of electricity passed between us and my entire body felt warmer. My hand slid down to JP’s broad neck, caressing the thick cords of muscle. I felt his muscular arms wrap around me and I dug my face into his round shoulder.
“We can meet up later if you want,” he hinted in my ear once we released. My balls tingled as his silky voice wafted through my head and I was left speechless. My brain was vacant; only thoughts of my boyfriend and how much he loved me drifted through it.
Suddenly, our peace was broken by a rumble in the front hall that practically shook the whole house. Ryan was finally up and coming downstairs…accompanied by the adolescent giggles of horny girls. The two of us frantically broke apart and I darted into the kitchen just as Ryan burst through the door, followed by no fewer than three half-undressed female addicts. Every one of them looked completely dazed and exhausted, their eyes nearly blood-shot from what was no doubt an all-night orgy.
Ryan, on the other hand, looked as cocky and empowered as always, as if that egotistical sneer was painted permanently on his face. He was wearing only his boxers – and just barely, since they were hung so low, the top of his thick cock was almost visible. I shot him a dirty look, but it was ignored as the party brushed past me.
“Bet you girls never had sex like that before,” he boomed proudly, heading toward the fridge, his trio of admirers in tow. They shrieked in reply, practically hanging onto his massive limbs and ogling his huge muscles and fantastic bulge deliriously. It was like something out of a bad TV movie; I could hardly stand to watch. Ryan opened the door, pulled out a carton of milk and, with a dramatic swoop, chugged what was left of it down his throat – almost half a gallon.
“Mm, does a body good,” he remarked, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and throwing the empty carton carelessly into the sink. “Who’s ready for more?” he called, smirking broadly as he looked down at his throbbing cock which was already poking through his boxers, threatening to break free from the material. Then, he effortlessly picked up one of the girls by her waist and slung her over his gigantic shoulder, the other two gasping at his incredible strength. “Fuck,” he bragged conceitedly to no one in particular, “I could go all day.”
With that, he turned and headed for the front hall staircase once more, returning to his bedroom for yet another round of sex. I watched his massive backside saunter through the door, his zealous sex toys drooling after him lustfully.
I looked back into the living room, but JP had already left, not wanting to be around for the scene that I had just witnessed. Not knowing what else to do, I quietly escaped out of the house through the front door and drove home.
As soon as I got upstairs to my room – after grunting a hello to my mom watching TV – I stripped my smelly clothes and took a shower. The hot water on my naked skin felt good, second only to the touch of JP. In fact, he was all I could think about. I knew he was going through a tough time and I knew he needed me now more than ever. I loved him more than anything else in the world and even though I was angry at Ryan and Brionna for trying to come between us, I knew that my boyfriend would never leave me. He would always be there for me, too.
I stepped out of the shower and wiped the condensation off the mirror, revealing my torso in the reflection. I paused a moment as I looked at myself. It was all because of JP I looked the way I did. A few years ago, I could’ve never dreamed I’d have the body I did now. I had so much to owe to my boyfriend. How could I ever let him know?
But, he did know; I didn’t have to tell him anything. That’s why we were so in love in the first place. We knew exactly what the other was thinking. I should be happy, but I wasn’t. Why?
I returned to my bedroom and slipped on a pair of shorts. I decided I’d do a little bit of working out. I needed to get back in shape for crew season and I had nothing else to do anyway. Plus, that’s what JP would do. In the middle of a set of crunches, a knock came on my door.
“Come in,” I answered, not bothering to get up off the floor. The door opened; it was my mom.
“Oh, sorry,” she said, blushing slightly.
“No, it’s ok,” I quickly assured her, getting back up to my feet.
“How is JP doing?” she asked. It sounded awkward, like she wanted to ask something else, but couldn’t for some reason.
“Fine.” I walked over to my desk and straightened some papers in a nervous attempt to give my hands something to do – and to avoid my mom’s eyes.
“You’re ready for your audition on Saturday, right?” she asked, obviously finding another topic that might actually go somewhere.
“Yeah,” I muttered. There was a lengthy pause. How I wished she’d just leave.
“Matthew,” she began again, her voice much more quiet now. I cautiously looked up at her. Her eyes were soft and gentle. “Is everything ok?” Damn that motherly instinct, I thought to myself.
“Yeah, everything’s fine,” I choked unconvincingly.
“JP’s brother’s just being a jerk,” I blurted out suddenly. “That’s all.” I knew she could tell there was something more, but how could I even begin to explain Brionna to her?
“You know, you can tell me anything, talk to me whenever you want,” she said placidly. “I know it’s awkward for you, but I’ll always be here for you…no matter what.”
I mentally rolled my eyes. “Thanks, but I’m fine.” And then, I turned my back to her, trying to gesture that our conversation was finished.
“You remind a lot of your father when I first met him.” I blinked and jerked my head up a little bit. She hardly ever mentioned my dad. “You have his eyes, his build…and his stubbornness” – I pictured her eyebrows lifting in sarcasm – “but you also have his compassion.” Her voice began to waver a little. My mouth dropped open slightly as I realized that she still loved him. “And that’s what I loved most about him…then.”
She trailed off, not able to think of anything else to say, but she had made her point. After an extended silence, she turned and left me alone again. I looked over my shoulder as the door clicked shut and felt a tear run down my cheek. I wasn’t quite sure what she was getting at, but I think I had gotten a hint of it.
For the next few months, my mom and I didn’t speak of anything besides college and trumpet auditions, but I knew she would have not minded my going to her for advice every now and then. But frankly, my mind wasn’t on Ryan or Brionna, partially because I didn’t want to think about them, but mainly because I had too much else on my mind.
Nearly every weekend, I was auditioning: Illinois, Ohio State, West Virginia, Maryland. I finished the last of my college applications and hurriedly mailed them. I took the SATs for the third time and got a score I was happy with – a 1350. I had little time for anything else, including JP’s wrestling matches. I was only able to attend one or two for the remainder of the season and, although he fully understood why, he seemed disappointed whenever I told him I couldn’t be in the stands. I knew how much of a charge it was for me to be there.
I cursed myself when I found out I’d be auditioning at Wisconsin on the very day that JP was wrestling in the district final. I made Chrissy promise me she’d call if he won, so as my mom and I were driving back to our hotel in Madison, my cell phone rang.
“Hello?” I answered it, butterflies fluttering wildly inside my stomach. I had probably been more nervous than he was.
“He did it! He did it!” the overly-excited voice of Nick screamed over the phone. It was so loud, even my mom heard it and smiled broadly.
“He won?” I exclaimed with a sense of joy and relief. I knew he would win, since he had been undefeated all year, but I knew there was always that chance.
“It was amazing,” Nick continued, “My sister wanted me to tell you so you can hear everything – the other guy gave him a fight but JP held on – the crowd was going crazy – you should have seen the third period, even I was biting my nails – everyone here is saying it was the best final ever…”
“Nick, Nick,” I laughed, “relax, buddy. You’re talking a mile a minute. Tell it to me a little more slowly.”
Once the kid calmed down, he gave me a remarkably detailed blow-by-blow of the whole match. Apparently, they were fairly evenly matched through the first two periods, but about halfway into the third, JP’s opponent forced him into a hold that brought the match to a near-pin.
“One more inch and JP would’ve lost,” Nick described enthusiastically. “But he didn’t give up. Just like he tells us, you never give up. He fought back like crazy. You should’ve seen the look on his face. It was like he crippled the guy with his stare.”
JP, with all the strength and power he could muster – which no doubt, was a hell of a lot – muscled the guy off of him, won a reversal and performed the very same move on his opponent. Nick said the other wrestler barely could believe what had happened once it was all over.
“The guy was in shock when the ref blew his whistle. I was jumping up and down. And then – this is the best part – and then, JP looks up in the stands and points at me. His smile was so big.”
I couldn’t stop smiling. Oh God, how I wished I had been there. I couldn’t wait to get back home and congratulate him in person. Surely, this would get his mind off of his brother, I thought.
“Now he’s going to be in the state wrestling tournament,” Nick beamed. “I can’t wait to see him in that. You’re gonna be there, right?”
“Of course,” I said, knowing that I finally had that weekend free. “You and Chrissy and I will be right there in the stands cheering him on.”
“Yep,” the kid went on, barely hearing me and cutting me off mid-sentence. “JP is so awesome! I wanna be like him when I grow up.”
I smiled inwardly as I heard those words. They were such a cliché, but I knew there was nothing but truth in them. My boyfriend really was a hero to Nick and I remember thinking then that the boy couldn’t have picked a better person to look up to.
JP Maloney, in many more ways than one, was a hero.
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