“Well, what did you expect?” Daphne demanded, staring at Justin with no trace of sympathy on her face.
All Justin could do was gape at her with his mouth hanging open. He had come to his best friend expecting understanding, but that sure as hell wasn’t what he was getting. He had spent the past hour in true drama princess fashion, pacing about the room, arms flaring, telling her of Brian’s actions and words at Babylon. “Daphne!” he exclaimed. He could hear the whine in his own voice.
Daphne grabbed his arm, pulling him down next to her on the sofa. “No, Justin, seriously, what did you expect. I told you after you went through with your asinine plan that it was a mistake. But oh no, you had to go and push him off a ‘Justin cliff.’ You hit Brian in his most vulnerable spot. Of course, he was going to lash out.”
At Justin’s blank look, she rolled her eyes. “His pride, you idiot,” she said, smacking him on the leg. Justin didn’t say anything, but he couldn’t meet her gaze. “Justin,” she said sternly, making him turn back to her. “You hurt him, no matter your intentions, and worse yet, you hurt his pride.”
“So what do I do now?” he asked, bending down to bury his face in his hands.
Daphne didn’t answer right away. Instead, she got up and went into the kitchen. Returning, she thrust a beer into Justin’s hands, setting her own down beside them on the floor. “I know you don’t want to hear this. But you could go and confess, then beg for mercy,” she offered.
Justin turned and grinned at her. “On my knees? Anything else I should do while I’m down there?”
Daphne laughed and nudged him with her shoulder. “Hey what ever works,” she laughed and Justin joined her. The pair fell back on the couch, giggling like the teenagers they were.
The trip to Babylon seemed to signal the end of avoidance as far as Brian was concerned. Every day for lunch, Justin was forced into close proximity with his former lover as he waited on him and the guys. Of course, it didn’t help his heart or cock for that matter that Brian always looked and smelled like a million bucks. Justin would be so hard by the time Brian left, that a quick trip to the bathroom looked awful tempting.
Brian never said anything other than his usual no mayo reminder, but it killed Justin to be that close, yet not as close as he desired. He had thought distancing himself from Brian’s life the hardest part, but being near Brian and still on the outside was even harder.
On top of all that, Justin’s financial situation became worse. The letter was waiting for him when he got home from his shift. Sitting there innocently, Financial Aid office stamped officially on the front. Justin dropped his satchel and nervously picked up the envelope. Ripping it open he read, and had to blink back tears at its content. Shit ‘he thought,’ now what the hell was he going to do? They had denied him aid, based on parental income. Justin was glad he had the apartment to himself; he didn’t want to have to explain to Daphne what was going on. She knew nothing of his money troubles.
Justin spent the rest of the day going over his options, but no matter how many times he crunched the numbers, there was still no way he could afford his tuition next semester. He allowed himself a few minutes of self-pity. If he cut his expenses, drastically, and worked every available shift, there might be a chance he could go back to school next year. Now, what to get rid off? He knew one way he could save money each month, but the very idea made him too sick to his stomach. He didn’t want to go back and live with his mom. However, if his calculations were correct, he could save three hundred a month. His cell phone could go, and he could look for another part-time job. Justin just couldn’t be sure that after all that, it would be enough.
He said nothing to Daphne, and if his best friend noticed his demeanor, she chalked it up to his heartache over Brian. Justin was able to pick up another two shifts, and thankfully, Debbie said little, only patted his shoulder and said, “Sure Sunshine.” For the most part over the next week, Justin was able to muddle through. He still hadn’t talked to his mom, naively believing maybe that some miracle would occur. The guys pretty much left him alone. Em did ask if he was feeling all right, but Justin was able to blame work and that seemed to satisfy his friend.
Justin could feel Brian’s eyes on him several times, but the auburn haired man said nothing, only smiled and looked away when Justin would catch his gaze. Justin didn’t know what to expect from Brian. He had thought he would be the recipient of more cutting barbs, but the hazel eyes just seemed to be waiting for something. What, Justin had no idea.
Justin dragged himself home after a double-shift. He desperately wanted a shower. He could feel the grease on his skin and still smell the aroma of diner fires. “Hey, Daph,” he greeted, dropping his stuff and immediately heading to the bathroom.
“Justin,” Daphne called, halting the blond before he could get through the bathroom door.
Justin peeked back around the corner. “What? I really need a shower.”
Daphne held out an envelope. “This came from the Bursar’s office. Thought you’d want to open it right away, could be your financial aid stuff.”
Justin reluctantly took the letter. He still hadn’t told her that he had been denied aid, so this was probably just a bill, a bill he had not hopes of being able to pay. Now it looked like he would have to come clean. “Yea,” he said unenthusiastically opening the letter.
He stood there stunned, unable to comprehend what he was reading. Justin shook his head and held the letter out to Daphne. “My tuition, it’s been paid.” Justin’s voice shook and he sat down heavily next to Daphne.
Daphne had snatched the letter, pouring over it; she looked over at Justin, a question in her eyes. “It doesn’t say who paid it.” She scouted closer and wrapped an arm around her stunned friend. “Who do you think it was?” she softly asked.
Justin looked at her, dread on his face. “Well, there is one way to find out.” Justin rose and went to the phone.
Daphne listened to the ‘yes, no, and thank you’ curiosity about to kill her! “Well?” she demanded as soon as Justin hung up the phone.
Justin turned back around, his face pale. “It was Brian.”
To be continued...