Welcome to Wednesday Briefs, where authors post free fiction of 1000 words or less each week. I used this prompt: Reach for the sky.
At Full Speed, #3
Jake brewed himself a steaming mug of peppermint tea and carried it to the sofa. He dropped into his favorite corner of the light gray-colored couch, sighing. Tucking his knees up under his chin, he draped the nearest afghan around him. This time it was a dark navy-blue one—knitted, if he wasn’t mistaken. Jake’s gaze swept over the various afghans spread out across his two sofas. His mother loved to knit, crochet, and whatever had to do with wool, so Jake had accumulated a large amount of handmade items—towels, pictures, small carpets, sweaters, hats—the list went on forever.
He picked up his mug and inhaled the strong scent, then took a sip. “Wow, how exciting. I could get fucked, but what am I doing? Sitting at home, drinking peppermint tea. No wonder no one wants me.”
Jake set the mug aside with a clink. His outburst had hit home harder than he’d anticipated. He clasped his slightly trembling hands around his knees. Across the room, one of his mother’s cross-stitched phrases caught his eye: Reach for the sky.
He snorted and bedded his head on his tucked-up knees. Not the most comfortable position, but he didn’t care. Reach for the sky. What a stupid slogan. Once upon a time, he’d been dumb enough to find it uplifting. And what had it gotten him? Even though his body had healed, his psyche refused to do so. No matter what he tried, in the end he always chickened out. Sex without strings was the only kind of relationship he could tolerate. What had he been thinking when he’d started dating Bruce?
Jake clicked on the TV, less out of the desire to watch anything, rather for distraction. He switched from channel to channel, finally settling on a documentary about ancient Egypt, and downed his tea.
A knock on the door took Jake by surprise. He glanced at the clock on the TV, displaying almost eleven o’clock in the evening. Who in hell would want anything from him that late?
Bruce. Oh, fuck him sideways. Why would Bruce show up at his apartment when Jake had been supposed to be at his place two hours ago? Could he pretend not to be at home? Probably not, what with the TV on.
“Jake!” Bruce’s voice rose, sending a shiver down Jake’s spine. He disentangled himself from the comfy afghan and muted the TV. For a moment he swayed on the spot, crunched between the desire to hide and the need to run toward Bruce. The man helped him come to a decision, when he hollered, “Jake! Open the door!”
Jake’s feet carried him toward his apartment’s front door. Before he opened it, he made sure the safety chain was latched. Of course, the chain wouldn’t help him if Bruce decided to kick in the door, but the illusion of safety might do the trick. He opened the door a fraction, forcing a smile on his face. “Bruce.”
Bruce scrutinized him before he gestured to the safety chain. “Mind if I come in?”
“I…” How was Jake supposed to politely inform Bruce to get lost? It would be so much easier if Bruce didn’t look worried and if Jake didn’t want to burrow himself in Bruce’s solid arms. The desire to cling to him was almost too painful to bear.
“Jake, are you all right? Why didn’t you show up at my apartment and why didn’t you pick up your phone? You had me worried.”
“My phone?” Jake couldn’t remember hearing it ring. He walked over to where he’d put it in the charger and sure enough, there were three missed calls or messages from Bruce. “I didn’t hear it.”
“Would you’ve picked up if you had heard it?” Bruce asked.
Jake jerked around when the front door clicked shut. He’d left the safety chain on, so Bruce couldn’t step inside, which apparently didn’t prevent him from coming in anyway. Bruce stood at the door, a look of… uncertainty on his face. Jake swallowed, and a heavy tremble surged through him.
“I can’t help but get the impression you’re scared of me.” Bruce spread his arms in a helpless gesture. “Am I right?”
Jake’s tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. Sincerity or lie—those were his options. But how would Bruce react to anything he said? God, dating him had been such a bad idea. Whose idea had it been anyway? Not Jake’s, obviously.
He slid a shaking hand through his hair, trying to come up with some sort of explanation for Bruce. Anything to get the man out of his apartment. How could he have been so stupid as to give Bruce his address in the first place? He never did that. Not anymore.
Bruce straightened his shoulders, adding to the appearance of solid bulk, and headed straight for Jake. Backing up against the kitchen counter, Jake’s heart thudded against his ribcage, threatening to beat out of its confines. A terrified squeak tumbled over his lips when Bruce’s hands locked around his upper arms.