Five years ago, Dreamspinner Press published my first submission. It was a humorous little short story called Numbers. Recently, I got the rights back to it, and I present it here for your amusement. 🙂
I was sitting in the dressing room, doing my eyes, when JD (short for John David) Conroy walked in, looking much too cheerful, considering we were due on stage in less than two hours for our first performance of the umpteenth revival of Grease. His thick, sun-streaked hair stuck up in unruly clumps where he’d been poking it with his fingers, and his blue eyes seemed to absorb light from the bank of bulbs bracketing the mirror as he approached.
Glancing around, he smiled. “Perfect timing. No one’s around.” He swung into the chair next to me and leaned toward me. “Let’s get together tonight, Kel. Drink and fool around.”
I couldn’t help laughing. Since the first day of rehearsal, he’d been flirting with me outrageously, but I kept holding him off. He was too damned attractive, too fucking sexy, and I had to put the play first. “There are one hundred reasons why we should never get together.”
“Yeah?” He looked interested. “You cared enough to make a list?”
And too smart by half. “I’ve got a list.”
“What’s number two?”
“A personal relationship could adversely affect our working relationship.”
“That’s number two, huh?”
I nodded and at that moment, Nomi Marcus entered the room. She played a bountiful, effervescent Sandy in our production. “Hi, guys. I threw up twice already. That usually means the play’s gonna be a hit.”
“You have your personal vomit-o-meter?” Giving me a sidelong humorous look, he said for my ears only, “Can’t wait to hear the others.” Standing, he goosed Nomi with a sharp laugh and headed for the coffee pot.
I watched him in the mirror, noting the quick, graceful way he moved, and my mouth went dry. I can’t, I just can’t let him get close to me. It would fuck up everything.
Nomi stepped up behind me, resting her hands on my shoulders. “More kohl around the eyes, babe.”
Nodding, I added more shadow, going to my happy place.
We came off-stage after the “Greased Lightnin’” scene―JD as Kenickie and me as Danny Zuko―and hovered in the wings for our next cue, blotting our faces with towels and gulping water from iced bottles. JD turned to me. “What’s reason number eleven?”
Smiling a little, I said, “You snore, and I’d never get any sleep if you were staying over.”
“I snore? How do you know that?”
“I was passing your dressing room one afternoon and heard you. Everyone fucking heard you.”
One of the T-Birds standing nearby snickered. We both ignored him.
JD lowered his voice. “I was probably really tired. I only snore when I’m tired.”
I smiled. “How do you know? Have you recorded yourself sleeping?”
The T-Bird laughed again, and this time we turned and looked at him. He flushed bright red. “Sorry. Want me to pretend I’m deaf?”
JD snorted, I raised an eyebrow, and he laughed some more.
“We get no respect,” JD said, mock sad, before grinning at me. “Number thirty-seven.”
I thought about that for a moment. “You wear god-awful flannel shirts that haven’t been in fashion for at least thirty years.”
His eyes rolled. “And what about that god-awful pair of jeans you were wearing a couple of days ago? The ones with the very large, very obvious pockets. I was tempted to tear them off you and burn them.”
“They’re comfortable, and they fit.”
“They’re ugly, and you should destroy them.”
We were glaring at each other, smiles tugging at our lips, and suddenly noticed an unnatural silence had fallen. As one, we looked at the T-Bird. He had a hand over his mouth, and his eyes were wide with suppressed laughter.
“Isn’t it obvious?” JD said to him seriously. “We’re in love.”
I faced forward again, focusing on what was happening on stage, ignoring them both.
“I’m not even going to mention the Day-Glo shoes,” JD hissed.
The director passed, clipboard in hand, giving us a look. “JD, your cue is coming up. We’re doing serious musical theater here. Can you look a little less like someone watching a Three Stooges movie?”
Nodding, JD passed a hand in front of his face, pretending to wipe away his merriment. “I’m ready.”
The T-Bird whispered, “I like the Day-Glo shoes.”
JD shot back from the side of his mouth, “But what about those jeans, huh? Am I right?”
“They could go.”
JD shot me a triumphant look, and the director prodded, “Cue! Jesus.”
We trooped on stage as the girls came off. Sometimes, doing a play felt just like high school.
The next night, I was glopping up my hair and slicking it back in the dressing room mirror when JD skidded to a stop in the doorway. “Number fifty-two.”
“You talk too much.”
He thought about it for a minute. “You might be right on that one. Gotta go.” And he was gone.
The cast and crew quickly fell into a routine. Meals were hurried affairs for most of us, forking down sustenance backstage before hitting the stage for that evening’s performance. We were on our third day of the run and starting to settle in.
Reviews had generally been good, but sleep had taken a hit. I was tired. We all were. But when JD walked over, looking smug, I couldn’t help smiling. His good spirits were infectious.
“Your forehead is too high.”
His hands immediately flew to his hairline. “Really? Jesus, if I have it lowered, will you throw away your list?”
“You would have surgery for me?”
“Of course. Nothing is too good for you, Kellan.” Grinning, he grabbed an apple from a basket on the table and wandered away, whistling off-key.
I got home late, stifling deep yawns as I undressed and got into bed. I had just turned out the light when the phone vibrated.
I hesitated, tempted to ignore the shit out of it, and then I grabbed it off the nightstand—such a creature of habit—and glanced at the screen. It was a text message from JD: number twenty-three.
I tapped out my response. You piss with the door open, even if someone’s there.
There was a long pause, and then: You can’t possibly know that. What the hell?
The next night, as the cast milled around backstage awaiting their first entrance, JD folded a piece of notebook paper into a plane and threw it at me, hitting me in the side of the head. When I glanced at him, he was grinning.
Retrieving it from the floor, I unfolded it. He’d written #69 on the inside with a black Sharpie. Snorting laughter, I crunched it into a ball and tossed it in the nearest basket.
A second plane hit me a minute later. Inside was written #69, damn it!
Chuckling, I borrowed a pen from a stagehand and wrote You dribble when you eat. What the hell can this mean if you’re giving head?
I folded it up and flew it back. He opened it, read, and burst into laughter even as his cheeks flamed red. The black Sharpie flew across the page and a moment later, the plane came back.
I wrote one word and sent it back.
Nomie leaned over and said, “What are you two doing?”
“Fuck if I know.” But I knew very well. I just wasn’t ready to think about it yet.
He threw numbers at me the rest of the week, two or three a day, and I hurled words at him. Some of them were funny, some serious, all got some kind of reaction out of him, and it became a game to watch how he responded to my answers.
By Sunday night, when we’d wrapped the first week, everyone was exhausted. Drinking was suggested, but nearly everyone made excuses and left for home and much needed rest. I did the same, not seeing JD on my way out and feeling strangely odd about that.
I spent a quiet evening alone at home, a DVD on the TV with the sound turned down and a book in my lap. Normally, this setup soothed my soul and made me feel good, but tonight I was restless and finding it difficult to concentrate on anything for longer than ten seconds.
I blamed JD.
All week, he’d been teasing me, taunting me, looking at me with his brilliant blue eyes, arousing me with his beautiful, golden-skinned body. I wasn’t immune to such things, not by a long shot, but I did think the two of us getting together might be a disaster for the play, and I owed the director so much for casting me, I didn’t want anything getting in the way of doing the best I could for him.
I fell asleep over the book, half-lying on the couch in front of the television, and when my cellphone went off, I jumped, startled. Bleary-eyed and feeling a bit thick, I dug it out of my pocket. “What?”
JD, and he sounded… thoughtful for a change. I lay down, heart still thudding from the rude awakening. “Hey, what’s up?”
He sighed so loudly, I heard it over the phone. “Kellan…?”
He’d almost whispered my name, and for some reason, it sent a chill through me. I tried to shake it off. “Are you drunk?”
“Yeah, but that’s beside the point.”
“What the hell is the point?” I heard rustling, as if clothing were being moved… or taken off. Or maybe it was my imagination.
“What’s number one?”
It was almost plaintive, the way he said it. “That’s right, you never asked.” I’d waited for this number all week, and he chose now, tonight, when it was creeping up on 2 a.m., to ask me.
“What’s the number one reason why we shouldn’t be together?”
I thought about giving him a snotty answer, or maybe one that was witty and cutting, or perhaps something almost mean, but instead I told him the truth. “I’ve wanted you since the first time I saw you, and I’m afraid, if we got together, I’d be lost forever.”
A long silence followed my declaration, and I was just about to disconnect out of sheer embarrassment when he said in a low voice, “That made me hard.”
Instantly, my cock stiffened in my jeans. “You’re straight.”
“Not necessarily.” He laughed, and I smiled in response. “Sometimes, someone comes along who transcends gender. Doesn’t seem to matter what their sexual equipment is, you just want them.”
I swallowed hard and moved my hand to my crotch, pressing it against my hard-on. “You want me?”
“Shit, Kel, where have you been?” His voice intensified. “Yes, I want you.”
I heard sounds on his end that sounded suspiciously like a zipper being pulled down. “What are you doing, JD?”
“Wishing I was there or you were here.” More rustling.
“You’re avoiding the question.”
He laughed a little breathlessly. “Truth? I’m touching myself, wanting it to be you.”
Jesus Christ. My cock leaped at the words, and I pressed harder. “This can’t happen.”
“Why the fuck not?” He groaned a little, and my groin muscles tightened in response. “Every time I see those eyes of yours, I melt inside.”
I slid a hand between my legs and pushed up against my balls, feeling the jolt go through me. “You’re making me crazy.”
He grunted. “Christ, what you’re doing to me. Kel? I wanna hear you come.”
Fuckfuckfuckfuck. Bracing the phone on my shoulder, I yanked the zipper down, pushed the denim out of my way, and reached inside my underwear to wrap fingers around a cock so hard, it hurt. “Tell me….”
“Every time you answered one of those number questions, I wanted to push my tongue down your throat. My favorite? Sixty-nine.” He gasped, and I echoed the sound.
“Jesus, JD….” I was leaking precome, my thigh muscles tense and straining. “Where are you?”
He knew what I meant. “So fucking hot for you, want you so bad….”
His breathing accelerated and changed in pitch. He was close then. “Wait… not yet….”
Across the distance between us, connected by a technology that still sometimes seemed magical, we sank into each other, somehow felt what the other was feeling, and whispered breathlessly to each other as our excitement quickly rocketed to obscene levels.
…harsh breathing, whimpers, high-pitched keening, and then….
JD cried out. “Now.”
“Yes.” And I came so hard, I dropped the phone. I let it go to enjoy every second of this release, sweeping outward from my cock to every part of me. I shook, I trembled, I jerked, and it was glorious.
When I came back to myself, still breathing too fast, I heard JD’s tinny voice coming from the floor. “Kel? Talk to me, Kel.”
I located the phone half under the couch and brought it to my ear. “I’m here.”
He laughed weakly. “That good, huh?”
I smiled, feeling the post-orgasmic relaxation weight my muscles so much, I felt like I was sinking through the couch. “Better than that.”
We listened to each other breathe for a while, and then he said, “Meet me tomorrow?”
I gave up, gave in, knowing as I did so that it was inevitable. “Okay.”
“Things will be different now.”
He chuckled. “Asshole.”