Kennedy Carmichael grew up hearing fairytales about arrogant princes who thought they could have it all. Inevitably, they would die or befall some tragedy and they would not get what they truly wanted. It was a bit unfair, in Kenny's opinion, but that was how the stories went.
By far, his favorite story was the one of the man who tried to fly to the sun with wax wings. Kenny always liked to pretend that the man didn't fall to his death. He just fell back down to earth and fell in love and realized that what he had was good enough after all.
That was a much better story.
"I'm serious, Luke," Kenny was laying on his bed talking to his best friend on the phone, "I want his number."
"I know you're serious," Luke said, "But he would kill me if I gave you his number. He's already not my biggest fan."
"If you lived here I would just steal your phone," Kenny muttered.
Luke laughed. "Believe me, I know. He's lucky I don't. The poor boy would just fall apart if you started chasing him."
"It's not my fault you fucked him up," Kenny said resentfully, "I should not have to suffer consequences of your actions!"
"He has your number, Kennedy. If he wanted to talk to you, he would."
"You are no help!" Kenny hung up.
He banged his head against his pillow. He wanted that phone number. He really wanted that phone number…
Christopher would give it to him. Christopher probably had no idea what was going on. Poor, oblivious Christopher.
Kenny dialed his number, and he picked up almost immediately.
"Hi, Kenny. What's up?"
"Dude, I accidentally deleted Tyler as a contact. Can you text me his number?" Kenny asked, hoping Luke hadn't gotten to him first.
"Yeah, man. Was that all you needed?"
"Yeah. Thanks for helping me out. Tell Luke I said hi."
"I will. Bye."
A few minutes later, Kenny received a text. Sweet victory.
Tyler James was sitting on his bed, playing with his dog, Daisy. She was a cream-colored pug, and he adored her.
He did not adore a lot of things, and though he often felt out of place in his own skin, Daisy listened to his problems cordially. Pathetic as it was, she was his best friend.
"Yo, geek, you got a call," Tyler's older brother Braxton, usually referred to as Brax, handed Tyler the telephone.
"Hello?" Tyler answered, momentarily putting Daisy on the ground.
"Yes. Who is this?"
"Oh, come on, Honey. You don't remember me?"
Only one person called Tyler Honey. Kenny. Luke's best friend, Kenny.
"How did you get this number?" Tyler demanded.
"Does it matter? A little birdie told me."
"What do you want?"
"I just want to get to know you better, Honey. One kiss does not the secrets of a man tell," Kenny smirked.
"What the hell does that mean?" Tyler closed his bedroom door them whispered, "And if you remember, that kiss was not voluntary."
"A kiss is a kiss is a kiss, Honey."
"Stop calling me that!"
"You're so cute when you're frazzled," Kenny said smoothly.
"You can't even see me," Tyler said exasperatedly.
"I don't have to be able to, Honey. I've got a wonderful picture right in the old noggin."
"Call me Honey one more time and I'm hanging up," Tyler threatened.
"Okay, okay. So…uh, are you looking forward to graduation? Luke tells me you only have Four more weeks," Kenny struggled for small talk
"I'm not graduating this year. I'm a junior. You don't know anything about me, do you?"
"I know what I need to. That kiss revealed a lot about you, Honey."
Tyler hung up. One kiss. One, involuntary kiss. Tyler groaned.
The next day at school, during Spanish, Tyler approached Luke. "Did you give Kenny my number?"
"No. I pointedly did not give Kenny your number. He's been asking for days," Luke said, "Why?"
"Because he called me last night…"
Luke snorted. "Well, best of luck to you. Once he sets his sights, they're set. I suggest changing your phone number."
"It's a landline. My family's landline," Tyler groaned, "I don't know what I'm going to do."
"Why don't you just talk to him? He's not a terrible guy," Luke reasoned.
"I don't need a relationship. Especially not with someone who is as…promiscuous as he is," Tyler said bitterly.
That was a pointed comment in Luke's direction. In December, Luke had dated Tyler and taken his virginity in an attempt to get together with Christopher. The attempt had worked in the long run, and Luke and Christopher were happy, but at Tyler's expense. For months, Tyler was a shell of his former self, and he was just beginning to feel like himself again. There was no way he was going to let Kenny ruin that.
"Look, Kenny's not like me. He doesn't feel better about himself when he devastates someone," Luke forced a laugh, "Kenny does hook up a lot, but if he's trying to seriously get involved with you, you should take him up on it. I've known the guy for, like, almost five years now, and he's never had a relationship. And he wants one with you; that makes you special."
"I don't need a relationship, dammit!"
"Hablame en español, por favor?" the Spanish teacher asked amusedly.
After school, Kenny was sitting in his car, waiting for the parking lot to clear out when his phone rang.
"Kennedy Martin Carmichael, who gave you Tyler's number? I got royally bitched out today in Spanish."
In the background, Kenny heard Christopher say, "I gave him Tyler's number. He said he accidentally deleted it."
"So that's how you play? Manipulate my poor, dumb boyfriend?"
"I'm not dumb!" Kenny heard Christopher interject.
"I wanted it, you wouldn't give it to me, so I got it where I could," Kenny rationalized.
"Ugh. You're such a dick."
"I know. Love you too," and Kenny hung up.
When he got home, he went straight up to his room to avoid his mother's inquiry about his day. Being the spoiled rich kid he was happy to be, he had a mini-fridge and a full bathroom in his bedroom. He could stay in his room for days at a time.
At first, he tried to distract himself by playing video games, but his thought kept drifting away from killing hookers and stealing cars. Then, he tried to watch some mind-numbing television, but even that didn't help. He ate and did all of his homework before he finally broke down and picked up his cell phone.
He stared at it for what seemed to be forever. Tyler's number was on the screen, and one push of the button would make it call. Kenny had never been telephone shy; he would call anyone, but for some reason, the thought of calling Tyler made him feel queasy and lightheaded.
Finally, he worked up the nerve to press the green button that seemed to be challenging him. Each ring of the telephone echoed in Kenny's ears, and by the third one, he was nearly ready to hang up.
"Hello?" Not Tyler.
"Hi, is Tyler home?"
"You calling for him? Nobody ever calls for him," A young man's voice said.
"Yeah, I'm calling for him," Kenny said, a little appalled at the comment.
"I'll get him for you." The line was quiet for a moment before the same young man said, "Hey, Tye, phone for you."
"Hello, Honey, how was your day?"
"You again? Didn't I make it clear I didn't want you calling me?" Tyler's voice sounded annoyed.
"Not really. You didn't answer my question."
"Fan-fucking-tastic until some jackass decided to call and harass me."
Maybe honesty was the best policy.
"I just want to talk to you," Kenny said earnestly, "Don't hang up on me."
Tyler was taken aback by Kenny's candor, and was momentarily flustered. "And why am I supposed to believe that?"
"Because it's true. Please just don't hang up. No cocky jokes, no come-ons, nothing. I promise."
"Fine. Break your promise and I swear, I'll hang up."
"Deal. So, why do you never answer the phone when I call?"
"I have, haven't I?"
"No, some other guys answer the phone."
"Oh. Those are my brothers. Half-brothers, actually. I've got five of them," Tyler's voice sounded slightly less strained than Kenny was used to.
"Are your parents divorced then?" Kenny asked, seeing an opening and hoping he wasn't asking too personal a question.
"Uh…my parents were never married. My dad's been married to the same woman, my step-mom Patty, for twenty-something years," Tyler explained, "He cheated on her with my mom and, well, I'm living proof of that."
"And they have five kids together? Your half-brothers?"
"Yeah. Brax and Dell are older than me and Fenton, Franklin, and Jeremiah are younger," Tyler actually had to count them on his fingers.
"Who answered the phone?"
"Today? Fenton. Brax answered it yesterday," Tyler said, "What about you? Do you have siblings?"
"I've got my older sister, Felicia, but she's already moved out."
The line was silent for a moment.
"Can I ask you something?" Tyler's voice was quiet and tentative.
"Do your parents know you're gay?"
Kenny bit his lip. "Yeah, they know."
"Are they…y'know, okay with it?"
"I'm blessed, I guess. My parents are okay with it. They're really supportive. Not everybody is so tolerant though," Kenny closed his eyes, "Bad stuff can happen. Like Luke. His parents didn't know, but pretty much everyone at our school did. He was tormented from the day he came out to the day he left."
"Do you get harassed at school?"
"A little. Not as much as Luke did. May be hard to believe, but I kept to myself better than he did."
"Can I ask you something else?"
"Why do you call me Honey?" Tyler asked, genuinely wanting to know.
Kenny laughed. "Your eyes are the color of honey. They really are."
"Oh." Tyler was surprised.
"Why? Why did you think I called you that?"
Tyler mumbled something unintelligible.
"You know how when a guy is dating a bunch of different girls all at the same time, he calls them all baby or honey or something. So he doesn't mix any names up…" Tyler felt himself blush and was extremely thankful Kenny couldn't see.
"I'm not talking to anyone else at the moment. And I don't normally date, as a rule."
"Yeah, I know."
Kenny's brow furrowed. "How do you know that?"
Kenny rolled his eyes. "Don't listen to him. Everything he says is damning."
"And true, huh?"
"Is it weird having someone know you so well?"
"I don't think so. He's about the only person that does. Everyone has a confidant, right?"
"I dunno. I don't. Unless you count Daisy," Tyler reached down to pet her.
Kenny laughed. "No, I don't think she counts as a confidant. I'll be your confidant, if you need one."
"How do I know I can trust you?"
Kenny grinned, and though Tyler couldn't see it, he knew it was there. "You don't. That's the fun part."
When Kenny and Tyler finally got off the phone, it was eight 'o clock. They had talked for and hour and a half.
Tyler put the phone on his nightstand and picked Daisy up.
"Don't let me fall for him, okay? You remember what happened with Luke. I don't think I could take that again. Daisy, it is your job to make sure I keep my head on straight," Tyler smiled, but there was sadness in it, "If my heart breaks again, I don't know if I can fix it."
What Tyler didn't realize is that he hadn't pressed the end button. Kenny was still on the line and he had heard everything. In that moment, Kenny promised himself that Tyler would not get his heart broken again.