The Seattle Public Library is my sanctuary. Sure, the Internet is faster and easier to search. But nothing beats the smell of musty books and the feel of crisp paper. I love to thumb through leather bound journals, and I relish the thrill of discovery when I find exactly what I’m looking for.
And today, I’m looking for everything I can find about architecture. It’s the ultimate combination of art and science. This is what I want to study in college. I’m certain of it. Much more certain than being a movie director, which was my passion last month. Hey, don’t judge. At sixteen, a guy’s allowed a few false starts on the way to finding his calling, okay?
But dang, these architecture books are heavy. Much heavier than film studies books. I’m carrying five of them over to my study desk, and I don’t have a particularly good grip on them. Their covers are all glossy and slip around in my hands. And of course, my phone picks this moment to explode with vibrations. I’m almost at the desk. Buzz. Just feet away. Buzz. Buzz. I get to the desk, as the books topple out of my hands, and land on the surface with a loud thud.
My eyes dart around to see who I’ve disturbed. An old man sitting at the desk across from me gives me the stink eye. I grimace and make an apologetic wave. People around the room send me dirty looks, but gradually go back to what they were doing.
But then I spot a pair of piercing blue eyes still staring. A guy is peeking over a computer workstation cubicle next to me. A mop of messy brown hair sweeps across his forehead. He doesn’t look annoyed or angry like the others. His eyes are soft and filled with curiosity. My cheeks warm in the path of that unflinching stare.
Another buzz from my phone snaps me back to reality. What could be so important? It’s from the group text with Noah and Harper, my two best friends.
Harper - You guys excited for tonight?
Noah - Yep! Just got my ticket.
Harper - There should be lots of cute boys there Lucas :heart_eyes:
Noah - Hopefully some cute girls for me!
Harper - Of course. But tonight is Operation: Get Lucas a Boyfriend.
That last text deserves only one emoji, which I tap out on my phone.
Lucas - :eye_roll:
Ever since I came out to Harper and Noah two months ago, it’s been Harper’s singular mission to find me a boyfriend. Tonight’s plan involves the New Year’s Eve Bash under the Space Needle, at the Museum of Pop Culture. a.k.a. MoPop. It’s an eighteen and under event.
I appreciate what she’s doing. I want a boyfriend. Badly. I’ve tried the Gay-Straight Alliance at my high school, and we’ve gone to gay bingo. I’ve even tried on-line apps and chat rooms. But there’s something about the very act of trying to find somebody that makes it instantly impossible to find anybody I like.
Speaking of which, blue-eyed boy is still looking my way. My heart flutters a little. But, then again, if pandemic masks have taught me anything, you can’t judge a cute face by the eyes alone. He probably has a hook nose and a snaggletooth smile.
Another buzz from my phone and I avert my eyes again.
Harper - Eye roll? You’re never going to find somebody with that attitude.
Lucas - I’m not even sure I’m going tonight.
Harper - What!!!???
Lucas - I want to find my boyfriend organically. Doing the things I normally do.
Like going to the library. I peek up again and…
He’s gone. My heart sinks. I’m so damn lonely. Apparently, a thirty-second stare from half a face is enough to get me excited. And its absence is enough to bring me down.
But then, there’s a tap on my shoulder. I turn around and right behind me are those captivating blue eyes. And they’re attached to a breathtakingly cute boy, staring down at me with a friendly smile.
Libraries suck. But sometimes I have no choice. Like when I need the Internet. Ever since dad ghosted us six months ago, mom’s been having a hard time making ends meet. And when our family can’t pay the bills, we gotta cut someplace. Things like the Internet and cell phones are the first to go.
But my luck hasn’t been total crap. Like when mom came home last night with two tickets to the New Year’s Eve Bash under the Space Needle that she won in her office pool. I’m bringing my best friend, Ethan. But I have to go on-line to redeem them. It’d be easy with home-Internet or my cell phone. Instead, I’m at the library.
I’m typing the codes into the website when a loud thud comes from the desk in front of me. I look up from the screen and peek over the cubicle wall. A super cute guy is standing over a pile of books scattered all over the desk. He’s looking around the library, looking adorkable. His spiky black hair is all kinds of cool, and he’s got these deep brown eyes I could watch for hours. His face is so smooth, you could almost call him beautiful, but he still looks masculine.
I can’t help but stare. Even when he looks right at me, I keep my eye on him. He turns beet red, then looks down at his phone. I hold back a laugh.
I watch as he taps a message. His brow crinkles in the most adorable way. Then he looks back up at me. There’s something about this guy that makes me feel chill. And that look he gives me. This guy is interested. I can’t help but smile.
None of this is my usual M.O. I’m not the guy to stare at people or walk up and introduce myself. And yet, here I am doing it. It’s like I’m watching myself from outside my body. I stand right behind and tap him on the shoulder. As he turns around to look at me, those beautiful eyes get bigger.
“Hello.” His lips form the hint of a smile.
Um, now what?
I didn’t think this through. My body walked over here on auto-pilot while my brain was in la-la-land. My mind races to come up with a topic. Any topic. And then I notice his books.
“Architecture, huh? Is that your major?” He’s clearly still in high school, like me. But it can’t hurt to stroke his ego a bit.
“Heh. No. I’m a junior in high school. But I want to study it when I go to college.”
“You know Rem Koolhaas designed this library?” What can I say, I’m good at trivia.
He smiles. “Yeah, I did. You know your architecture.”
“My uncle’s an architect. He’s always talking about the big projects in Seattle like the EMP and Jeff Bazos’ Balls.”
That scores a laugh out of him.
“Name’s Julian, by the way, ” I say.
“Nice to meet you, Julian. I’m Lucas.” He smiles and man is it cute.
“Shhhh.” A cranky old man sitting on the other side of the desk puts his finger over his lips, with a nasty scowl on his face.
We shoot each other smiles and laugh under our breath.
“Hey,” I say all stealthy. “I know this place with the best hot chocolate. We could talk more about architecture or whatever.”
“I’d like that.” Lucas smiles, then looks down at the pile of books. “Let me put some of these back real quick.”
He grabs three of the books and heads to the shelves. I almost follow him, but decide to enjoy the view from here. He’s got a slender build, but his tight-fitting jeans accentuate his butt nicely. As soon as he disappears into the stacks, I can’t help but feel upbeat. Something is finally going my way. Shit like this doesn’t happen randomly. This is fate trying to pull us together. I know it.
That’s right when the fire alarm goes off.
A fire alarm! You’ve got to be kidding. I’ve just put the books back, and I turn down the aisle to get back to Julian. But I’m intercepted by a librarian. He has a substantial build and could easily be a bouncer in a nightclub.
“I need you to head to the nearest exit.” He gestures with a muscular arm in the direction I don’t want to go.
“I need to get back to my friend.”
“You can meet at the evacuation checkpoint.” The scowl on his face shows he means business.
I let out a sigh and head for the exit. Pushing open the door to the emergency exit, I’m met with a solid wall of people all trying to get down the staircase. A few steps below is a large man with crutches. He takes up nearly the entire width of the staircase. Next to him is a slender woman, holding on to his shoulder. He takes one step about every fifteen seconds. I sure hope there isn’t an actual fire, or we’ll all burn to death.
After four stories and what feels like an eternity, I make my way to the exterior exit, where I’m met with a sheet of pouring rain. The crowd of people rush out of the exit and run in different directions, looking for cover from the deluge. I find an awning and scan the crowd. No sign of Julian.
There I stand, shivering and wet, watching and hoping. After about fifteen minutes, the fire marshal gives the all clear, and I join the crowd streaming back into the library. I make my way back to the desk where we met. There I wait with my head resting on folded hands. Twenty minutes go by. No Julian.
Resigned to my fate, I let out a sigh and head toward the exit. But then, I pass by the computer Julian was on, and I’m hit by inspiration. I log into the computer, and to my delight, the browser is still open. The last place he visited is the website for the New Year’s Eve Bash under the Space Needle. I grab my phone.
Lucas - Okay, maybe I’ll go
When the alarm goes off, I wait for Lucas to return. But this pushy librarian yells at me to evacuate. So I make a mad dash for the exit, hoping to beat Lucas down. I head into an emergency exit staircase and duck in just in front of this massive dude in crutches, hobbling down the stairs. Behind him is a long-ass line of people. Whew, that was close.
When I get to the exit, rain is pouring. Standing in it, even for a sec, would soak me to the bone. So I huddle under an awning, rubbing my arms against my body to keep warm, as I look through the faces in the crowd. But no sign of Lucas.
Five minutes go by. Nothing. Zero.
Hold on. I said the name of the coffee shop, right? Retro Coffee, only one block away. I’m sure I told him. I bet he’s there right now. I run the entire way through the rain and duck into the coffee shop, clothes drenched. It’s packed, probably from all the people who left the library. I check out each face, but come up empty.
“I don’t want to go.” I’m laying on my bed, looking up at the ceiling. What happened in the library has left me gloomy. I was sure fate was at work when I met Lucas. Guess I was wrong.
“C’mon Julian. It’ll be fun. They’ll be tons of guys there to take your mind off of him.” Ethan roots through the clothes in my closet, trying to find something for me to wear.
“Yeah, but most of those guys aren’t into other guys.”
“Maybe. But your odds go way down if you don’t even go.”
Ethan is the best. He’s totally straight, but he’s also totally cool with me being gay. We’ve been friends since fifth grade, and I’ve been out to him since seventh. We’re always each other’s wing man, trying find girlfriends and boyfriends. But Ethan’s had way more luck than me. His blond hair and emerald green eyes always get the girls. Heck, he’d even get me if he wasn’t straight.
“Here, try this on. I think black is your color tonight.” Ethan snags a satiny black dress shirt that shimmers in the light. He may not be gay, but dudes got fashion sense. More than I do, that’s for sure.
I grab the shirt and let out a sigh. “Okay. Let’s do this shit.”
We’re standing in a long-ass line outside MoPop. Luckily, the rain stopped because the line is slow, as bouncers pat down everybody. A big drag queen in a red sequin dress weaves through the line, flirting with the crowd. So extra. She’s just under seven feet tall with her stiletto heels. She stops in front of Ethan and me.
“Well, don’t you two make a cute couple?” She squeezes both our cheeks. “Come on. Group hug!”
She squishes us all together. Her boobs are right at eye level, so we both get a face full of sequin and squishy silicon. And that’s right when her stiletto snaps in two and we all go tumbling to the ground in a pile of arms, legs, wigs and fake boobs. Nobodies hurt, and we all lay on the ground, laughing. I hope somebody got a TikTok, cause that was some funny shit.
“What does he look like again?” Harper scans the faces in the line. She looks great tonight, wearing a cute red dress over a black sweater and black polka dot hoes. She can pull off any look.
“Brown messy hair, blue eyes, and super cute face,” I say. “Kinda like Harry Styles.”
“Oh, my.” She fans her face. “Are you sure he’s gay?”
“There’s no way we’re going to find him in this crowd,” Noah says, shaking his head. “There are thousands of people here.” He’s the Debby Downer in our group.
“Shush!” Harper swats at Noah. “Where’s your sense of romance?”
“He’s probably right.” I slump my shoulders. “It’s like a needle in a haystack.”
“Don’t you start now too,” Harper scolds.
Just then, there’s a ruckus in the line next to us. An enormous drag queen has tackled two people in line. Oh god. I recognize that drag queen.
“Crap, that’s Anita Goodhead.” I say, ducking behind my friends. “She’s the one who couldn’t stop flirting with me at gay bingo last month. Hide me.”
My friends provide cover as I keep my eyes averted from that area, hoping to not make eye contact.
Ethan and I head up to the bar and get a couple of Cokes. I have to admit, this place is stacked with cute guys. But I’m sure most of them are straight. The few I work up the nerve to smile at don’t return the favor. Sometimes being gay sucks.
As the minutes tick by toward midnight, I get more down on myself. Another new year with no one to kiss. I crash on a bench right next to a giant ice sculpture of 2023, and lean against the slope of the first 2. The cold feels good against my shirt. It feels good to feel anything other than loneliness, honestly.
“Hey, check that girl out.” Ethan’s eyes are on somebody, but I don’t even bother to look.
“Go on. Say hi to her,” I say. “Unless you want to stay here and kiss me in fifteen minutes.”
“You know I would!” Ethan winks at me. “But I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere.”
“Is that him?” Harper points to a cute boy near us.
“Nope,” I reply flatly.
“Maybe he didn’t even come,” I say. I’m seriously bummed. When we got here, I was brimming with optimism, but there are hundreds of people around. Even if he is here, I’ll never find him.
Noah has left us. Some girl asked him to dance, and he ran off, sending an apologetic smile as he headed out. It’s fine. Just because I’m miserable doesn’t mean my friends need to be.
“Let’s go dance.” Harper smiles and tugs at my arm.
“You go. I’m gonna sit here for a bit.”
“I’m not gonna abandon you.”
“Really. Go dance. I’m not in the mood. Just get back here before midnight.”
Harper gives me a sad look. “Okay. But only for a song or two. I’ll be back before you know it.”
I sit down on a bench, surrounding a giant ice sculpture that says 2023. I can’t help but think the big 3 next to me looks like a butt. Or boobs. I let out a sad laugh.
Within moments, there’s a guy talking to Harper. Because, of course there is. Some cute guy with blond hair and emerald green eyes. Sigh.
It’s a minute to midnight and no sign of Ethan. I’m kinda pissed, so I get up to leave when he finally appears through the crowd. He’s got a cute girl in tow, wearing a red dress over a black sweater.
“Hey Julian, this is Harper,” Ethan says.
“Hey,” I say with a sad smile.
“Nice to meet you. Wait! Did you say Julian?” Harper’s eyes go wide. “We have to find my friend. He’s right there! Lucas!”
Sitting on the same bench, less than ten feet away, is Lucas. My Lucas. We lock eyes and Lucas’ jaw drops open. With the ten seconds countdown started, I run to him.
“Hey,” I say breathlessly.
“Hi.” He beams. “I didn’t think I’d find you.”
“I guess it’s fate.”
The clock strikes twelve. And we kiss.
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I absolutely loved this story! I usually struggle to write teenagers, but you made Lucas and Julian come to life so effortlessly. I really liked the dual perspectives, especially when the narration hinted at Lucas and Julian just missing each other multiple times. I was so invested in the two of them finding each other throughout the story. My only piece of advice would be to lengthen the last section before Lucas and Julian kiss, but there's only so much a person can write in 3k words. Great job! "'Hey,' I say all stealthy. 'I know this pl...
Thanks for the kind words and the great comments. Glad you liked my depiction of teenagers. It’s probably because sometimes I have the mentality of a teenager. Lol. I hear you about the ending. I was watching that word count like a hawk. 2992 words! I kept having to cut earlier stuff to fit it all in!