I avoid. It’s this thing I do. Like, right now, I’m avoiding talking about being dumped. Instead, I’m going to the bar, where my friend Elyse has a drink waiting and my friend Charlie is performing in drag. But they decide that a hookup is just what I need.
That’s when I meet Jude. Jude is incredible, and then ... incredibly unavailable. Like, so unavailable. But, combined with advice from my siblings, I start seeing a counselor to talk about how I avoid.
Then Carter, my ex, steps back into the picture for what I assume is going to be closure. And he assaults me. Jude is there to stop it and help me through the lawsuit and the trial. But Jude has his own stuff going on, and I’m graduating in the spring. At some point I’m going to have to deal with all the issues I’m facing ... especially when love is on the line.
“Oh! What about him?”
Elyse pointed over to a man standing by the bar, sipping what looked like a whiskey on the rocks. He was wearing a dark blue button-up shirt with a tan sweater vest over it, and tight jeans. I cocked my head to the side, considering.
“I like that sweater vest,” Elyse said.
“Yeah. He looks like he’ll fuck you for a polite amount of time,” Charlie said, waving over at him. The man saw the wave and looked around him to make sure it was directed at him. “Yes, you with the tight ass! Come here.”
He approached, looking nervous at being summoned by a six-foot-tall drag queen.
He looked like he was around my age, maybe a few years older. He had dark blonde hair that was parted on the side. He was really cute. He had a nice jawline.
Charlie took over. “Hi. This is my very good friend, Aiden. Aiden, this is ...” He waved impatiently at the man to supply his name.
“Jude. Jude, this is Aiden.”
I reached out to shake his hand, and he shook it, looking surprised.
“Hi. I heard you got dumped. I think the bar next door did, too. How you holding up?”
“He’s a complete wreck,” Charlie said, cutting me off. “I mean, look at him. Empty drinks scattered around the table. Sad, puppy dog eyes. And yes, he does normally slouch, but not this much. Don’t you want to be the man to take him home and fuck the sad out of him?”
Elyse gasped in protest and swatted Charlie on the arm.
“What?” Charlie scoffed and rolled his eyes. “Okay, they have my permission to not go all the way. I’m just saying Aiden could use some good lovin’, and Jude looks like he’s got something to offer.”
“I told you, we need a vetting process.” Elyse cleared her throat. “If you could be any fruit, what would you be and why?”
“If he’s a fruit?” Charlie began, but Elyse shushed him.
Jude shrugged. “I’ll play. I guess I would say I’m a tomato. So many people think it’s a vegetable -- some people even know it’s a fruit but want it to be a vegetable -- yet the tomato says it is a fruit, and other opinions don’t matter.”
I looked at him, intrigued. A tomato. Cute. Unique. I found myself looking him up and down, appreciating his slim but toned body.
Elyse continued her line of questioning. “If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?”
Jude thought for a moment, sticking his lower teeth out to think. It was kind of cute. Finally, he answered. “I think England. It’s where my ancestors are from, and I’d love to visit some of the tourist attractions and other historical sites.”
Charlie made a buzzer sound. “Wrong. The correct answer is wherever Aiden wants to live, because all you want to do is make him happy.” Charlie shooed him away with his hands, but Jude didn’t move a muscle.
“Isn’t that Aiden’s call to make? This is for him, not you.”
Elyse and I looked at each other, impressed. Putting Charlie in his place. And it wasn’t even my birthday.
“I liked your answer,” I said to Jude. “England would be fun to visit.”
“Okay.” Elyse rubbed her hands together. “Final question. If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be and why?”
Jude’s answer was fast. “Invisibility. Imagine what you could learn about people if they didn’t know you were there listening! What about you, Aiden? What would your superpower be?”
I laughed. “I think ... teleportation. I tend to be late a lot of the time, so being able to teleport would really help me out.”
Elyse patted my hand. “More like you’d show up late anyway because you thought you had more time.”
I frowned. “Rude.”
She smiled sweetly. “Accurate.”
“Anyway, Jude, you pass or whatever.” I looked pointedly at Elyse and Charlie. “And I would be interested in getting to know you better if you’re up for it. In private.”
“Fine, shun the drag queen. I’m used to it.”
Elyse rolled her eyes. “You literally just had people throwing money at you.”
“Help me, I’m poor,” Charlie said in a whiney voice.
She shook her head and stood. “We’re leaving. Come on, Charlie, you’re buying me a drink with all those tips you made.”
Charlie gasped, looking affronted. “Excuse me. That money goes toward my art.”
“Yes, the latest season of NCIS: Los Angeles is a real representation of your art.