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Hotel Jock: Chapter 3

AIMEE
Wednesday, 5.42am

Aimee awakens to their dark room illuminated only by the foretelling of the sun’s imminent rise. She reaches out for her phone, her hand slapping the bedside table a couple times before hitting it, grabbing it and flashing the screen in her face. 5:42am. She groans, placing her phone back on the table and flipping over to face Leo. Only Leo isn’t there.

She tries sleeping for another 20 minutes before giving up and scrolling on TikTok for a bit. Once the sunrays start intruding through the blinds, she decides the day is officially started and gets up. She does all her usual morning rituals: overnight oats, meditation and a hot bath while reading a book. She can usually stay like that for an hour, maybe two, but this morning she’s not even a chapter in when Leo comes barging in, stripping off his sweat-soaked tank top and jogging shorts.

“Can’t you do that in the bedroom?” Aimee asks, setting her book down on the bathroom floor as she eyes his sweaty swingin’ member.

“And here I was thinking I was the love of your life,” Leo says with a smirk.

Aimee gives him a look and he obeys, retreating to the bedroom to change into a pair of briefs that don’t have revealing sweat patches.

“You went earlier than usual this morning,” she calls from the bathtub.

“What can I say, I felt like an early morning jog,” he calls back.

“Like, it wasn’t even light out yet.”

“A super early morning jog.”

Leo returns to the bathroom with a clean t-shirt and shorts on. By now, Aimee’s unplugged the bathtub and drying off, having given up on her morning ritual luxury. They have this exact same routine, only it’s usually a couple hours later, after breakfast. She doesn’t think anything of it though and gets dressed, changing into a floral blouse and skirt her mum had bought for her back home. She does a twirl for Leo, who grins and tells her, ‘very nice’.

The two lock their hotel room and knock on the door next to theirs. Several seconds pass without a sound being heard from inside. Leo assumes that like yesterday, their neighbours have gone down for breakfast already, but when they both turn toward the elevators, the door opens to reveal a very dishevelled Aidan wrapped in a doona.

“Woah, someone had a rowdy night,” Leo chuckles. “We’re just seeing if you wanted to grab breakfast.”

“You can join us after showering and freshening up a bit if you want?” Aimee reassures.

Aidan rubs his eyes and seems to think for several seconds before responding. “I might have my breakfast later. I’m not really hungry.”

“Maybe we can grab lunch together then?” Aimee says.

“Yeah… Hey, have either of you seen Vikram?”

The pair look at each other before turning back to Aidan. “No, not since the party last night.”

“When neither of you came back, we thought you two had retired for the night so we came back early,” Leo explains.

“Oh. I haven’t seen him since… since last night,” Aidan admits.

“Do you want us to help you look for him?” Leo asks, concern now spreading into his voice.

“I’ll be ok. I think I might just wait here for him to come back.” When they don’t seem that convinced, he adds, “I’ve left him a ton of missed calls. I’m sure he’ll call back any minute now.”

They depart and head down to the buffet. Once inside the elevator, Aimee sing-songs, “trouble in paaaradise.”

*

GUY
5.43am

Guy’s eyes flutter open to find water pooling around his mouth. They dart around him but all he sees is sand and water. Sitting up, he gradually takes his surroundings in – he’s still wearing yesterday’s work clothes that are soaked by the tide coming in. Hands touching the wet sand to steady himself, he slowly stands up. He starts walking back to the resort but, facing resistance, glances down and realises his trousers are around his ankles and his wet hairy ass is mooning the ocean. The memories of last night begin pixelating back into his brain. Out of reflex, he grabs the string of underwear that remains lodged up his ass and unclogs it. Ouch. He yanks his pants back up, attempting to move his tattered boxebriefs in-place to cover up his junk, but with how much they’ve ripped, it becomes clear he’ll be free-balling his way back to his office.

He trots his way across the beach, litterings from last night’s rave scattered around his feet. In his zombie-like trance back up to the resort, all he can picture is Ricky’s taunting face as he jeers and humiliates him in front of a crowd of resort guests. That plan last night should have worked, but he didn’t anticipate Ricky straight up fleeing.

He counts the rooms as he walks past them, reaching 205 and exhaling. He doubts Ricky would be stupid enough to return, but he honestly has no clue what’s behind this door. It could be anything from passed out 18-year olds piled on top of one another to hundreds of dollars worth of room damages. Hopefully not both.

Guy enters and immediately finds himself wishing for hundreds of dollars worth of room damages. What he finds instead is a deserted room that is not only trashed, but is also accompanied with the body of a lifeless Claudio hanging by his tighty whities from a pull-up bar in one of the bedroom door frames. His eyes have been taped over with duct tape, he’s been gagged with a pair of dirty white socks and his hands have been restrained behind him with god knows what. He faintly swings back and forth and it’s not until Guy looks down that he sees a huge wet patch on the crotch of his khakis.

“Jesus fucking christ,” Guy mutters under his breath.

*

DANNY
5.44am

The first thing Danny feels before he’s even opened his eyes is the heat of Evan’s body behind his, arm draped over his head and fingers playing with his hair. He lays like that, eyes remaining closed while his hair is ever so tenderly twirled and wrapped and unwrapped and twirled again. The feeling of Evan’s hot breath against the back of his neck, the rise and fall of his body against his. To wake up to this, even just for once in this life, is the best feeling on earth.

He turns over to find Evan’s deep blue eyes sleepily gazing at him. “I wish I could wake up to this every morning.”

“Maybe we can spend tonight at your’s?”

“Yeah, maybe,” Danny replies, thinking about his two roommates.

A small smirk flatters itself upon Evan’s lips as he leans in, initiating a lengthy morning makeout.

The breakfast selection at Evan and Jenny’s Airbnb is surprisingly sparse given how fancy the place is. Danny settles for a bowl of Special K cereal, but at least Evan offers to make it for him. He revels in the romantic potentiality of this gesture, that is until Evan pours his milk in before the cereal.

“You pour the milk in first?”

“Yeah? Why?” Evan responds, instantly defensive.

“How do you know how much milk you need?”

“I just use my brain.”

“Peak serial killer behaviour.”

Evan smirks. “Jenny, come out, he’s figured out our master plan!”

Danny giggles, smooching him on the lips as he sets the two bowls of cereal down on the dining table, one by the other.

“How long are you guys staying for Schoolies?” Danny asks, putting down his spoon after a few mouthfuls, the memory of his cereal swirlie from the day before resurfacing.

“Until Friday, then Jenny heads back to Poland.”

“That soon?”

“Yeah, but I’ll be heading over in January for my part of the exchange.”

“That’s so exciting.”

Evan nods. “Did your school have an exchange program?”

“We do, but it’s only offered every few years. I went to a public school and whatever funding we had went to STEM subjects. Language classes and the arts barely got anything. My parents would pay for it, only…”

Evan pauses, looking down. “That sucks.”

“Makes me more determined to go to university and graduate so I can make them proud though,” Danny cheerily adds.

A faint clomping from the staircase signals Jenny is awake. She emerges a few moments later in a mauve nightgown and fuzzy slippers, yawning. “Did somebody say party?”

“I feel like you’d be a good influence on Jenny with how studious you are,” Evan mumbles to Danny.

“I think the big gay rave is happening tonight,” she continues, obliviously searching for something in the pantry.

Danny furrows his eyebrows. “Gay rave?”

“Yeah, this big underground gay rave. I think it’s on tonight.”

“Is it a Red Snakes thing?”

“It’s for queer Schoolies attendees, but it’s not officially run by Red Snakes or anything,” Evan explains.

“I’d love to come, keep this party going.”

“Of course you can come! The more the merrier,” Jenny exclaims.

A shy grin spreads across Danny’s face. Not even 24 hours ago, he was wishing for a queer refuge on this holiday, and now here he is with his new friends who actually embrace queerness, like it’s something that deserves to be celebrated. And to go to a gay rave, a big gay rave? This is the Schoolies he could only dream of.

“Don’t forget we have to pick up Marcia and Sophie from the beach,” Jenny says as she plops a muffin from the fridge onto a plate.

“We could pick you up from the resort too while we’re at it,” Evan tells Danny.

“Oh… I was kinda hoping we could, I dunno, do stuff until then. Mostly because my roommates are hell, but also because these past 12 hours with you have been the only part of Schoolies I’ve actually enjoyed.”

Evan glances at Jenny, who shrugs and takes her muffin with her back upstairs. “I could be up for that,” he says with a small grin.

*

CLAUDIO
7.14am

Re-entering the office, he collapses onto the chair, grimacing as he massages his raw groin. He’s changed into a fresh pair of underwear (red briefs at least two sizes too small for him that was found in the lost and found), having just delicately peeled his bloodied tighty whities from his asshole and jammed as many wet paper towels up there as he can. How he even got up there is a little hazy. He remembers staying back to wrap up the house party. He remembers standing on one of the armchairs and telling everyone to go back to their rooms. Then he remembers nothing until waking up this morning to Guy struggling to unhook his underwear for 10 minutes, and a very, very numb bum.

“In all my years of doing Red Snakes, I have never seen a hanging wedgie that painful yet flawlessly executed,” Guy says. “You feeling okay?”

He gives two meagre thumbs up, which seems to satisfy his boss, who continues typing away at his computer. “I’ve been thinking… I know you guys need volunteers for the rest of the week, but maybe I would be better off…”

“Got it!” Guy exclaims, beckoning him over. “I messaged Dale in security and he’s granted me access to yesterday’s security cam footage of the 2nd floor. I want you to comb through and note down whenever anyone enters room 207, got it?”

Claudio reluctantly nods, too exhausted to protest further. At least all he has to do is sit. “Where are you going sir?”

“Breakfast buffet, 20-minute power nap in my car, then I’m patrolling the rest of the day.”

With a firm pat on the shoulder, Guy leaves Claudio alone in his office staring sleepily at the security camera footage.

*

AIDAN
11.19am

“How’s your nose feeling from last night?” Vikram asks.

“Huh?”

“From the cocaine, babe.”

Aidan stares at him as he pours himself coffee using his grandmother’s antique coffee pot that they brought from home. How can he just go about like this is just a regular day, as if today he’s deserving of the normality of a morning coffee?

“Oh,” Aidan says, the coke party behind the trees having not crossed his mind in hours. “Well my nose is still on my face, so that’s… y’know.”

“Don’t tell me you’re actually worried about becoming one of those concaved nose people from snorting one line of cocaine?”

Aidan’s face twitches at the flippancy of that question. “Of course not.”

“You don’t sound too convinced,” Vikram chuckles, now turning to face Aidan and sip his finished coffee. “God I miss the coffee back in Perth. This hotel stuff is unendurable.”

Nothing in Vikram’s face is letting on that he knows Aidan saw what he did last night, or that he has any guilty conscience. It’s 11:26 in the morning, and here he is acting like he didn’t just give a blowjob to some random guy he hadn’t even met 48 hours prior.

“Do you wanna talk about last night?” he eventually asks.

“About what you said?”

Aidan blinks. Oh, right, what he’d said about being a queer brown person growing up in a rural place. “Or anything else?”

“What, like the way you were around Leo and Aimee?”

“I— Wait, what about that?”

“It was obvious you were sucking up to them.”

“I was not sucking up to them! I was just… trying to be more friendly since you’d insisted I should get to know them.”

He thinks he catches Vikram begin to roll his eyes, but he looks down and takes a deep breath. “You were acting pretty weird last night. First you insult me up here, then you just show up unannounced and start doing coke with my friends—”

“They’re my friends too!”

“—and then you’re, like, acting all weird and messy. It was just a weird vibe.”

Vikram eyes him as he struggles to form a sentence. Their eyes lock and he wishes he could just transfer what he knows through some psychic link, but there’s the love of his life sitting opposite him, frowning questioningly as he fails to tell him what’s been ruining this whole trip for him.

“Last night, I saw—” Aidan begins.

A knock on the door interrupts, startling both of them. Vikram looks at him as if asking permission to pause this conversation to answer the door. He feels his face malfunction for a second, but eventually nods.

“Oh good, you found him,” Leo says cheerily.

“We were worried sick. I left, like, three voicemails,” Aimee tells Aidan. He glances back at the phone on his bed that’s remained silent all morning.

“Well, we were about to go for a swim, how about it? Wanna get down there before the beach gets too crowded,” Leo grins.

“Actually, I think we need…” Vikram begins.

“Sounds good, just give us 5 minutes to change?” Aidan interrupts.

Leo and Aimee seem pleased, telling them to come knock on their door once they’re done changing. They depart and Aidan can now feel the full force of Vikram’s confused stare.

“It sounded like you wanted to talk about something.”

“We’ll talk about it later. Tonight,” he amends, before walking to the bathroom to get changed. “Besides, I owe them a swim, apparently.”

Vikram thinks for a moment before replying, “Okay.”

He heads to the bedroom to retrieve his swimmers, leaving Aidan to exhale out the nervousness festering inside him.

*

CLAUDIO
12.58pm

A knock awakes Claudio from his half-slumber. It’s just one of the receptionists asking about some air conditioning issue in the lobby, but he shrugs and he’s left once again to his own company in the dimly lit office. He turns his attention to the half-eaten sausage roll he’d been chewing on before he must’ve dozed off. As he eats, he gazes at the footage and watches for Ricky. So far he’s drowsily stared through 4 hours of footage with not much to show for it. All he’s noted down in his notebook is that at 8.42am and 11.30am, Ricky and his friend entered the room and the wedgie boy left the room, respectively.

He receives a text from Guy. If you reload the program, Dale should have granted access to the live security cam feed.

He does this and as promised, he’s staring at the outside of room 207 as it is in the present moment. This refocuses him a little and he watches attentively. A few people walk past the room, but it’s never Ricky.

There’s another knock on the door, but it’s the receptionist again.

“There’s a seagull that’s flown into reception and won’t leave,” she says.

“Not in my role description.”

“He’s really scary.”

He groans, setting down the last bit of sausage roll. He stands up, wincing a little as he’d forgotten how sore his ass was, but something catches his eye. He swivels back to the security cam footage and watches as a man walks into room 207. It’s not Ricky or the wedgie boy, but a guy he recognises from last night.

He bolts to room 207 and presses his ear against the door. There’s no sound coming from inside so he gives a light knock, but the door doesn’t open. After 20 or so seconds of waiting with bated breath, he knocks again, but there’s still no response. He pats around in his pockets for the master key Guy entrusted to him, his brain replaying the soundbite of him saying to only use it where absolutely necessary. Thinking back to the state they were both in this morning returning from their respective wedgie torture, he takes it upon himself to self-approve the key’s use and jams it into the lock.

“OH— Shit, fuck— sorry.”

Claudio stands paralysed at the sight of Josh with his pants down, mid-masturbation on the couch. A laptop is open on the table in front of him but no sound is being emitted due to wireless headphones that he has on. The two are frozen, stuck staring at each other, broken only once Josh takes his headphones off, his stroking slowly coming to a halt. From the headphone speakers, Claudio can just make out the sounds of multiple men moaning.

Josh clocks the audio too and shuts the laptop abruptly. “Dude!”

“Fuck, sorry,” Claudio exclaims, unsure whether to avert his eyes or leave the room. He ends up doing a weird mix of both where he closes the door behind him and turns to face said closed door. Realising how absurd this is, he turns back around just as Josh is pulling down his hoodie to cover his still-erect dick. “You ran an illegal house party last night!” he blurts.

“You interrupted me for that?”

“Do you know where Ricky is?”

Seeming to just now recognise him, Josh leans back and smirks, the underbelly of a testicle poking out from under his hoodie. “Come back for more wedgie fun, dork?”

His bootyhole twitches. “If you’re worried about me turning you in, I won’t. My boss just wants Ricky.”

“They must be really short-staffed to have a dork like you working security.”

Claudio laughs nervously. “I’m actually with Red Snakes.”

“Even nerdier. You want my advice? Don’t try so hard. Ricky’s been to many a Schoolies and many security folk have come and gone. None of them catch him. He’s like a weasel, he’ll slip out of any trap you have planned. Your boss wants to catch him, that’s cool. Say you’ll help him, but don’t waste your time chasing the unchaseable, at the very least not for 20 bucks an hour. Now if you don’t mind,” Josh gestures to his laptop.

Claudio just watches as he places the headphones back on his head and presses play on the laptop. When his hand slips under his hoodie, Claudio realises he’s not gonna stop, and from a place of politeness and also being grossed out, he accepts defeat and exits the room.

*

AIDAN
4.31pm

Lying up in the water and staring at the glaring sun, Aidan’s worrying mind is put at ease at least for this moment. The detonation of his and Vikram’s relationship is occurring elsewhere, far away from here. Overhead he watches two seagulls soar through the bright sky, drifting further and further away from him.

A splash of water sprays onto his face and he sits up. To his left, Leo and Vikram are play-fighting in the water, splashing each other like two kids with the biggest grins on their faces. Seeing he disrupted Aidan’s tranquillity, Vikram pauses the splash match.

“Sorry babe!” he calls out.

Aidan’s face scrunches in what he hopes appears as genuine indifference. “All good! I was just gonna go… reapply sunscreen anyway.” The last part falters to a mumble as Vikram and Leo go back to their water fight.

Following his word, he leaves the two in the water and breath strokes his way back to the sand. He spots Aimee sunbathing on her towel next to a table with their belongings and wades his way over. Upon seeing him, she hands him a towel to dry off.

“Done for the day or just having a break?” Aimee asks, putting the Colleen Hoover novel she was reading face down on her lap.

“Done for the day,” Aidan confirms, placing his towel on the sand so he can sit next to her. “You didn’t swim much today.”

“Nah, felt more like a tanning day.”

The two sit in silence for a while, both watching their respective boyfriends play fighting in the water. At some point, Leo pantses Vikram, resulting in Vikram pulling him down into the water with him and the two flailing about. He glances at Aimee to see what her reaction is, but she doesn’t seem to react.

“Do you and Leo ever fight?” Aidan asks.

Aimee turns to look at him. “What, like brawl?”

“Huh? No, like obviously all couples have disagreements, but do you ever get into really heated arguments or anything?”

She thinks for a moment before responding. “I mean I wouldn’t really say we have that many disagreements.”

“What do you mean?”

“I dunno, we just always seem to be on the same page.”

A few seconds pass as Aidan attempts to process what she’s said, but it feels completely alien to him, especially now. But if any couple were to never have any conflict, of course it’d be the perfect ‘it’ couple, Leo and Aimee.

“Do you and Vikram fight a lot?”

“I’d say a healthy amount, but we always talk it out,” he replies, resisting the urge to add, ‘or we usually do.’

“I think we just give each other space, y’know? Like he does his thing and I do mine, and when we come together it’s magical.”

Aidan’s heart beats a little faster. “Wouldn’t you ever be worried about… I don’t know, him cheating on you or something?”

It’s a while before she says anything. He turns to face her, but she’s still looking out into the water. “I just think we trust each other enough. I trust him and he trusts me, so we never have to worry about that stuff.”

He sighs. “I wish Vikram and I could be like that.”

“But you can!” She sits up, rolling over to face him. She grabs her phone off the bench and Aidan can’t help but roll his eyes as she keys in her passcode.

“Your password is 1111?”

“Oh I use it for everything. Phone, emails, Insta.” When that doesn’t wipe the look of pure judgement from his face, she clarifies, “It’s an angel number.”

“And having it as your passcode is bound to be life-altering,” he replies admonishingly.

“Judge all you want, Judy, I stand by it.”

The two share a laugh, but that just depresses Aidan further.

She opens up her Google Calendar and hands it to him. “See my next month? Brunch with the girls, netball, yoga, wine tasting, weekend in Margaret River with Mum. Leo isn’t invited to any of these things. Just because you have a boyfriend doesn’t mean you can’t live the life you want.”

He hands her back the phone and she places it neatly on the stack of all four of their phones. Okay, so she’s not exactly Audre Lorde, but she does have a point. Vikram’s been doing everything he wants this whole trip, and all Aidan’s done is mope about after him. God, is this what it feels like to be empowered? Gross.

Aimee gets up and places her book on the towel. “I’m gonna go fetch the boys, I’m hungry. Look after our stuff won’t you?”

Aidan nods and watches as she paces towards the water. He leans back on his towel, closing his eyes. He does trust Vikram, doesn’t he? They’ve been together for two full years and he’s stuck by him through being outed and through all that exam stress. For him to cheat now would be throwing away a lot. Would he really do that? Yet he can’t get the image of what he saw on the beach out of his mind.

A notification sound pulls him from his entangled thoughts and it doesn’t sink in for a couple seconds where he knows that notification sound from. He bolts up as he realises the unmistakable sound of a Grindr notification. It dings again, and again, each ring pulling at the knot that’s been in his stomach for three days now. He looks down at the table where all four of their phones are stacked on top of one another. The top phone is Aimee’s, and he could easily punch in 1111 to log into her phone. But it isn’t lit up with any notifications, so it can’t be her. Which must mean…

“Yo squirt, we’re getting ice cream!” Leo calls.

Aidan jolts, dropping the phones and flicking his head to face the three returning. He can’t move, desperate to sneak a quick glance down but not wanting to seem out of the ordinary. He feels like a dog that’s been caught next to a ripped up sofa. His disorientation is heightened when standing with the three of them is none other than Charlie.

“Look who we bumped into,” Aimee says as she walks over and picks up all four phones. Before Aidan can protest, she hands him his before handing the others out. Just like that, his one way out of all this limbo of turmoil is snatched from him before his eyes.

Aidan glances at Charlie and his stomach drops. The Grindr notifications, his sudden appearance, the way he’s standing so close to Vikram. He doesn’t need to see who those messages were from to figure it out.

“You coming?”

Aidan must look a little mad the way Vikram steps forward with a tinge of concern on his face. His eyes dart to each one of them, all standing there waiting for him to carry on with the charade of being happy and unphased by everything that’s happened the past three days. But that mask fell long ago and all that’s left is his spiralling insecurity.

“I’m gonna piss. I’m just gonna… go piss.”

They all look at him, Vikram eventually nodding as he pockets his phone and slips away from their judgemental glances. In and around the sunbathers, past the queue of people outside the fish and chip shop and down the pathway leading to the stinky public toilet. Except he doesn’t enter, doesn’t even stop, just snakes his way around the corner and continues all the way to the hotel. It’s not until he reaches the front drop-off zone and approaches an occupied golf buggy that his brain catches up to his legs.

“Can’t wait to get out of here,” a woman in the front is saying in a thick Polish accent.

“Hey, is there any chance I can join you guys?” Aidan asks.

Beside the woman, a twink who he recognises from the walkway on that first night speaks up. “We’re just about to head off to an exclusive big gay rave. Emphasis on exclusive.”

Aidan’s phone starts vibrating and he looks down to see Vikram’s name and the pic of the two of them he’d set as his contact photo, taken on top of a ferris wheel from their first date. He gulps and puts his phone on Do Not Disturb. “I just really need to get away from my friends.”

“Didn’t you hear me? Exclusive. Gay. Rave, baby doll.”

The woman turns to him, lowering her oversized sunglasses. “Let him in. He’ll be very popular where we’re going.”

The man sighs before nodding for him to hop on, which Aidan does. He sits next to a third man who has yet to speak. The man turns the ignition and the engine groans, and slowly but surely the buggy rolls out of the drop-off zone and down the road, leaving the resort.

*

DANNY
5.02pm

The golf buggy’s been in transit for 20 minutes or so, briskly coasting past the beach villas and apartment buildings populating this side of the shore. Ever since the very cute guy joined them outside the lobby, Danny’s been hyper-aware of his posture and the way he’s sitting, even how loud his breathing is. With how cramped the buggy is, he can’t help but rest his leg against the new guy’s leg. Not that he’s complaining.

Every couple of minutes, the new guy looks over his shoulder, and Danny finds himself wondering what it is that he wants to get away from. In front of them, Evan glances up into the rearview mirror. “I’m Evan by the way.”

“Aidan,” the new guy says.

“Beside me is Jenny, and next to you is Danny,” Evan fills in.

Danny looks up to meet Aidan’s eyes and they share an awkward nod. With introductions out of the way, the buggy ride is silent for another couple minutes, save for the groans emitted from the automobile. Eventually clearing his throat, Danny asks, “So what are you running away from?”

“Sorry?” Aidan asks, startled by the question.

“It seemed like you were really bent on escaping something back at the resort.”

Aidan’s leg begins bouncing next to his, and he can’t help but imagine another context in which his leg would be vigorously grinding against his. “Just boy problems.”

Danny’s heart drops. Of course, like every other gay person in the world, he’s already out and living his best gay life. Danny would kill to be at the stage where he has boy problems.

“You’ll forget about all of those once we make it to the rave,” Evan calls from the front.

Aidan laughs nervously. “No it’s just… you would think that your boyfriend would actually wanna spend time with you on your two-year anniversary, but he’s been avoiding me all week. And I think— I dunno, I think he cheated on me with some stranger he just met, and I just don’t know how I can trust him any more.”

You could hear a pin drop – again, save for the groaning from the buggy. Danny uses this opportunity to gaze out at the houses they pass – some lovely, very contemporary brutalist apartments. What a drab place this is.

“Sorry to hear that man,” Evan eventually offers.

“Yeah,” Aidan replies softly. “I just expected this week to be a lot different from what it’s turning out to be. Vikram used to be so affectionate and caring at school.”

“Where did you two go to school?” Evan asks.

“It wasn’t here, it was back in Perth. St. Freya, it’s all-boys.”

“Public?”

“Private,” Aidan says. Danny shifts a little in his seat.

“I’ve always wished I went to an all-boys private school,” Evan says.

Jenny, who’s been quietly reapplying make-up the whole ride, pipes up, “That’s because you want private boy repressed gay sex.”

“I think you talk about gay sex more than I do,” Evan replies.

“It’s kinda not as bad as some of the all-boys schools you hear about are,” Aidan continues. “There was bullying, but I always had Vikram to get me through it.”

They turn a corner and straight ahead is what looks like an abandoned warehouse where already there’s people gathered outside. They pull up a hundred or so metres away and all step out.

“Well, gay boys, welcome to the rave!” Jenny beams.

*

VIKRAM
6.44pm

You okay?
Delivered, 5:24pm.

The unanswered text glares at Vikram. They had waited by the beach for half an hour, wasting their calls and messages to only be unanswered. He doesn’t need to scroll up to see the backlog of attempts to win Aidan back to the beach. We’re just by the foldout chairs, delivered at 4:57pm. We’ve moved to the public toilets in case you’re heading back to the chairs!, delivered at 5:08pm. I can bring back some ice cream for you?, delivered at 5:18pm.

And finally, those two little words delivered at 5:24pm.

He told the others that Aidan was just exhausted from the night before and had eventually texted saying he needed a nap before that night’s party, but he knew they knew something was up by the glances to his phone every 2 minutes. He thought about going back to their room to check on him, but giving him space seems important right now. The unanswered calls and text messages are a testament to that.

Now, sitting on a hill overlooking the ocean with sticky fingers and lips, paper cups of finished ice cream by their feet, all Vikram wants to do is see his boyfriend. To leave the Gold Coast and return back home and to see the boyfriend he knew who would still blush when they kissed and who would purr in his lap while he played video games. The boyfriend who wasn’t actively ignoring him despite clearly having something he needed to talk about.

“Do you know when Aidan’s coming?” Leo asks. The rest of them are standing, ready to go, but he has no memory of them packing things up.

“I’ll message him.”

“Some afternoon nap he’s had,” Aimee says through a yawn.

“We were thinking of just going straight to the beach, but we can stop by the hotel and pick him up…” Leo trails off, evidently offering the latter purely out of politeness.

“I’m sure he’ll meet us down there,” Vikram smiles.

The nightlife is already popping when they reach the shore. At this stage of the vacation, their formula for the perfect beach rave is rather well practised – Aimee and Leo get the drinks while Vikram and Charlie scout out an area near, but not in, the mosh pit. Later on in the night, they’ll head to their secluded spot to really get turnt up.

Just as the two of them find a spot outside the pit that isn’t too dense, they’re accosted by a rather deranged-looking man whose stench is louder than his frantic voice. His eyes dart between them, nodding as he observes each one. Seemingly convinced they’re not who he’s looking for, he mutters “carry on” as he stumbles away, no doubt to repeat the process with other guests.

A reasonable few seconds pass before both Vikram and Charlie burst into laughter.

“What is that guy’s problem?” Vikram says through laughter-tears.

“I’m pretty sure he’s the head of the Red Snakes or something,” Charlie says.

The two laugh so hard they end up leaning on each other for support, their wheezes syncopated to the other’s rhythm. When the laughter stops, they remain holding each other, arms around the backs and heads adjacent like they’re in some sports huddle. Vikram needed this – this explosion of joy, this comfort. After the worrying of today and of all week, it’s good to have even some sort of a release.

Charlie’s lips are on his. His hands reach up to cup his cheeks as each kiss greedily pushes further and further in. Vikram lingers in this, the directness of this instant intimacy the bandaid to his wounds. He kisses back, his lips jolting into action. But this only lasts seconds as his hands reach out and gently push Charlie back, realising before his mind that this isn’t what he wants.

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Aren’t you guys open?”

Vikram takes a step back, genuinely shocked. “No!”

“Most guys who bring their boyfriends to Schoolies are open, so I just thought…” Charlie trails off. “You’ve been kinda gloomy all day, I thought a kiss would cheer you up.”

“I’m committed to Aidan. And right now all I wanna do is be with him, not here at some mosh pit with people I barely know,” Vikram asserts, turning to leave.

“If you ask me, he’s being selfish.”

He stops in his tracks, pausing as the audacity hits him. “What did you say?”

“He comes here with you to party all week long at Schoolies, then spends the whole time moping about and bringing your energy down? How’s he ever gonna last till Friday if he spends every minute of every day in his room?”

Just as Vikram’s formulating a response in his head, Leo and Aimee return with drinks. They attempt to hand him one, but he bats Leo’s hand away.

“What’s up?” Leo asks.

“Just piss off, all of you,” Vikram barks, brooding away from the mosh pit, leaving the three of them stunned.

*

AIDAN
6.51pm

“Oh my god, that’s a penis!”

Aidan turns to see Danny blushing very hard as he looks onto two guys half-dancing, half-fucking off to the side. He appears mesmerised, entranced by the thrusts that are synced in time with the music, the shaft reappearing from the anus with each ram. Aidan chuckles, tapping him on the shoulder and pulling him away. The so-called ‘gay rave’ is well and truly underway.

Despite his doubt, the warehouse is proving to be a hot location for the party. 80s house music blares from the speakers up front, Donna Summer’s vocals pulsing through the bodies in the 50-person mob. Staggered throughout the building are people everywhere – some making out, some fucking, all dancing. Jenny and Evan disappeared a while ago, leaving Aidan to babysit the wide-eyed Danny. He doesn’t mind it though – he’s a few drinks in and it’s fun seeing the rave through his baby gay eyes.

Noticing Danny’s getting a bit overwhelmed with it all, the two find a corner to chill for a bit. “Is this your first gay clubbing experience?”

“This is my first gay anything,” Danny yells back over the loud music. “Up until yesterday I hadn’t even kissed a guy.”

“The blonde guy?”

“Yeah, Evan,” Danny says, blushing like he still can’t believe they hooked up.

“There’s tons of guys here who’d love to give you more experience.”

He didn’t think Danny could go more wide-eyed, but he does, stammering for a few seconds before replying. “I— I don’t know if I have the courage to…”

“Oh please, you’ve got this whole cute boy next door vibe going for you. Trust me, gays eat that shit up.”

Their eyes meet and Danny grins a little, his face going red as he averts his eyes down. It wasn’t until he said it that he realised how cute Danny is, how his black curls and soft jawline frame his face so adorably. He feels his heartbeat get quicker, the pounding like alarm bells ringing in his head. Maybe it’s the alcohol or the fact that he’s felt freer than he has in days, but he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care that he’s looking at Danny the way he swore he would only ever look at Vikram, he doesn’t care that he’s breathless in a way he thought he’d only ever be in Vikram’s arms. He shoves it all away and takes a step closer, pulling Danny’s face up to look at him with his thumb. He presses his lips delicately against his. The music and the lights and the bodies are drowned out, and it’s just their mouths greeting each other. Danny pulls away for a moment, their eyes once again meeting.

“I thought you had a boyfriend?”

Aidan just shakes his head slightly, smiling weakly before leaning back in. Each time their lips meet, adrenaline shoots through his body twice-over, like each pucker is giving him life. He clasps his face with his hands, kissing him more ferociously now. His lips are his for the taking, the blood rush he’s owed. It’s not until quite a few song changes later that Aidan finally pulls away, satiated.

“I can’t believe we just did that,” Danny says breathlessly.

Aidan grins, but already the guilt has begun seeping in. He just passionately made out with a guy he just met, and the worst part is he loved it. He always thought he could never even imagine kissing anyone other than his boyfriend, that doing so would feel gross and dirty and vile, yet here he is with Danny’s naivety smeared all over his raw lips and he’s fighting every urge to go in for more.

“I’m gonna go to the bathroom, but maybe we could, uh… dance some more after?” Danny asks.

Aidan nods, watching as Danny disappears into the crowd. Without missing a beat, he turns and walks through the jumping bodies around him, dancing for a second with a stranger before moving onto the next. He crashes onto the ground in the corner, running his hands through his sweaty hair.

“Hey, we’ve been looking for you!” Jenny shouts as her and Evan bop their way over.

Evan hands him a little baggy with some pills, but Aidan swats his hand away. “I think I’ve made a mistake.”

Evan glances at Jenny and the two appear to have a telepathic conversation. After a few seconds, Jenny shrugs and walks off, leaving Evan to crouch down. “What’s wrong?”

“I just cheated on the love of my life with someone I don’t even know, and it felt so good. I’d make out with half the guys here and I just know that I’m sad enough to actually do that right now.”

“Didn’t you say your boyfriend cheated on you?”

“Yeah? Two wrongs don’t make a right though.”

“He cheats, you cheats. Sounds like a modern gay relationship to me.”

Aidan shakes his head. “But we’re not one of those toxic gays who cheat and secretly have Grindr on our phones.”

“The way I see it, you two are on an even playing field now. You can sit here and mea culpa this shit, or you can make the most of your vindication and then go back tomorrow and sort this out.”

The memory of watching his boyfriend sucking off Charlie replays in his mind. One body kneeling in front of the other, their shadows just barely visible in the darkness. How it felt to feel the sand on his knees as he fell, to trudge up back to the room by himself, to fall asleep in an empty bed not for the first time this trip. He has never felt so alone in his entire life.

“So?” Evan asks, his hand placed firmly on Aidan’s shoulder. “What’s it gonna be?”

*

VIKRAM
7.22pm

Vikram flings open the door to his room. “Aidan?” No answer.

He runs to the bedroom, his excited pants slowly coming to a halt as he realises no one’s here. He jogs to the bathroom, but no matter where he looks, it’s the same result; the cupboards, under the bed, on the balcony. There’s no trace of his boyfriend.

A knock on the door resurrects his heart from the pits of his stomach. He throws down the curtains he was checking behind and races to the front door, but it’s just Leo.

“Are you alright?” he asks.

He breaks down. “I think Aidan’s falling out of love with me. He’s been kinda weird all week and I know I probably could’ve prioritised us time a bit more, but you only get one Schoolies. For once, I’m actually enjoying not having to hide out in the corner. But now he’s gone and I don’t know where he is and I’m just so worried he’s gone.”

He’s pulled into a hug, sobbing into Leo’s chest. He stays like this a while, letting the tears soak up his tank top. Finally, he silently pulls back and goes to rummage through his suitcase, returning with a small velvet box.

“Is that…” Leo asks, dumbfounded.

“I was gonna propose,” Vikram says, wiping his nose with the box. “On the last day here. I was gonna do it on the hill we were at today, overlooking the beautiful, gorgeous ocean. I was gonna take his hand and tell him he’s the only thing I care about in the entire world. Every time I would go to hang out without him or I could see in his face that he wasn’t happy, I would just repeat to myself, just make it to Friday. Just make it to Friday and it’ll all be ok. And now I don’t even know where he is.

“I’ve been practising the proposal, you know. The past three months. I was panicking last night because Aidan was acting stranger than usual, and I practised getting on one knee with Charlie and reciting the whole speech I’ve had memorised for weeks now. But…” he trails off, their lips connecting just an hour ago replaying in his head. “But that just made it all the more confusing. Coming here I thought I had everything down, but it hasn’t gone the way I planned.”

Leo places his hand on his shoulder. “Look, how about I stay here with you until he comes back and you can practise with me. I’m sure he’s just gone for a walk to clear his head. When he comes back, you tell him everything you just told me and you two talk it out.”

Vikram smiles weakly and gives a small nod.

“You’re the hottest gay guy I know, there’s no way that boy’s ever thinking of leaving you.”

*

DANNY
7.46pm

Danny didn’t end up going to the bathroom – couldn’t find it. He walked around for a good 20 minutes, circling the warehouse and seeing many more people in the middle of coitus – some anal, some oral, one guy who was getting a handie AND a fingie up the butt at the same time. This really is gay heaven, although he did peek out one of the half-shattered windows to see that people were just pissing round the back of the warehouse.

So after an awkward piss next to five other guys, all cocks out in the cool Summer air, he walked back around the building. The flashing lights from inside, the soon-to-be-setting sun – this is the life he’s always wanted to experience. He tried taking a pic for his private story (which he triple-checked neither Ricky nor Josh are added to), but the signal by the warehouse is atrociously bad so he just saved a few pics to his photos.

Back inside, he can’t find Aidan. That steamy make-out caught him way off guard, but he’s never experienced anything like that before. It was like nothing was more important to Aidan than kissing him in that moment, like their lips pressed against one another wasn’t close enough for him. He feels his cheeks blush thinking about it now.

The song changes and he gasps, like actually audibly gasps. His favourite song, Lightning by Charli XCX is on. Every gay has that one song that, once they hear the opening chords, they transform into their most gayest form and HAVE to slut drop at least five times. For him, it’s Lightning. Without thinking, he sets down his almost-finished cup of unidentifiable alcohol and finds his way to the mosh pit at the end of the warehouse. Almost immediately he spots Jenny, peeking out above the crowd like the 6’3” woman she is. 

“I thought we’d lost you to the horny gays,” Jenny exclaims, hugging him once he’s trod over.

“I could never miss this song!”

“This song is my, what do you call it… my JAM!”

As the chorus drops for a second time, they’re hopping and bouncing and cheering with their hands flung in the air. It’s pure euphoria. Everyone around them is chanting the lyrics in ecstatic unison. By the time the bridge comes around, him and Jenny lock eyes, animatedly doing all the autotuned adlibs in an attempt to catch each other out, but they both sing it with complete accuracy.

“I wish this was my everyday life,” Danny yells over the music.

“For me, it is,” Jenny hoots back.

As the music changes and they start belting out G.U.Y. by Lady Gaga, the biggest grin spreads across Danny’s face. For the first time in his life, he’s free.

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