Here’s chapter 15 of the new book, “Dangerous Roommate.” Enjoy reading. Let me know your thoughts about this chapter in the comment section below.
Realizing how much time had passed since he’d done something for himself, Frank thought of visiting his atelier later in the afternoon. All he wanted was to do what he wanted to do, in his own time, in his own way—and largely by himself. He wanted to build something there, perhaps make a new life, start cleaning up, or sketch a new sculpture. On his own terms.
Then, he saw Stefan approach him. “Where are you going?” Though his voice wasn’t at all threatening, it was loud enough to get on his nerves.
“To my atelier,” Frank said, almost stuttering.
“Should I drive you there?”
Whatever he saw in Stefan’s eyes caught him off guard. Despite the sudden awkwardness, he shook his head, trying to keep his calm. “No, you don’t need to.”
“I insist.” Stefan gestured and walked past him, heading to the entry. “I’ll go with you.”
“I’m your sponsor. Wouldn’t it be reasonable for me to see how you work?”
Right. He paid him to do his art. So, it wouldn’t make any sense if he wouldn’t invite him there. Though he had rarely invited anyone, he thought it would be a great idea to have him see how it worked. After all, he was no artist. Perhaps, he was curious about his work, too.
As soon as this thought dawned in his mind, it was the first time he felt seen.
Later, he found himself sitting in the passenger’s seat with his seatbelt on. While Stefan remained silent, glued to the road, he struggled to keep his eyes from wandering and looking elsewhere. It wasn’t until they reached the road with a picturesque view of the seaside that he suddenly found himself at ease, watching the sun dip on the horizon. The skies featured orange streaks that coalesced with blues and dark hues.
But when his eyes caught a family of three packing stuff to return home after a joyful day of swimming and having fun, as he guessed, the look in his eyes shifted. Though it was a wholehearted scene, a nice thing to watch, Frank felt the other way around. He couldn’t even stare at it a minute longer. So, he swiveled his head, moving his attention somewhere else, hoping he could find another interesting attraction to see.
He turned his head in Stefan’s direction and noticed he had great eyes. Not just the way they looked with that rim of bronze around the amber, the flecks scattered in it. But the way he saw things. He sensed something deep hiding beneath his silence, his crudeness.
Little did he know Stefan caught them all. Although he seemed unbothered and surprisingly had kept his mouth shut, he’d been debating giving him some time, some space. Then kind of decided the hell with that and then retracted it. And it went on for a time. Plus, since Frank didn’t appear to be cranky, he intended to be just that.
Every time he turned his head to check on him, he admired how his dark eyes fired, watching the heavens glow as the dusk slowly revealed itself behind the thick dark clouds. But then, whatever he saw down there, that glow faded away in a second. That had kept him wondering. As much as he wanted to ask, he wouldn’t dare. He thought he would rather keep it this way, thinking Frank needed the space he deserved. Somehow he felt bad and guilty. Something about this man made him feel empathy out of nowhere.
Instead of crowing like a fool, he kept driving until they reached the atelier.
Tailing Frank behind, he heard a buzzing sound coming off from the gate as it slid to one side. His eyebrows cocked, realizing how modern it was. He saw the gorgeous wide-planked chestnut floor, the beautiful tall windows, and the wide, glossy trim. What a wonderful room, he thought, sucking the ghostly scents of cement and metals mixed with dust collected through time, haunting the air.
Then, his attention moved to a huge workspace that stood in the middle of the room, currently holding what he assumed to be the exact area where ‘The Phoenix’ was born. Spreading around it were the shelves—five large cabinets lined on one wall—line another with what seemed to be a ruthless organization of art supplies and tools. A variety of sculpting clay, hammers, pencils, lithographs, chisels, reams of paper, photographs, sketches, and pictures torn or cut out of magazines and newspapers featuring people from different parts of the world from various angles.
At the other corner was another counter that held his massive 3D printer, and on the opposite side was a gigantic casting machine. He noticed how he’d devoted another section to the figures displayed behind the glass, which covered most of the walls. When he realized how time had stopped here, his eyes traced every inch of the space, figuring out the length of time.
Spiders found luxury building their homes around it. Cobwebs heaved in every corner of the ceiling. His fingertips turned gray as they brushed the edges of his cabinet and table. While dusting his fingers off, his eyes dipped, crawling from one figure to the next, from heads, torsos, down to feet, male, female, young and old, big and small. He had done quite a lot, he thought, recognizing a handful of the collection, wondering about the meticulous work involved in this exact space.
After a time of interior skimming, he glanced at Frank, tuning into him again, only to catch his stare. Despite feeling how it infiltrated him, boring his chest, he kept himself still with a shaky breath and tilted his head. When a surprise switched to curiosity, and curiosity became an embarrassment, he bit his lower lip, placing both hands on his waist, and tried to look away in an attempt to distract or ease himself. But then he found it utterly confusing why he couldn’t do something about it.
There was something about the way he stared that paralyzed him. It was beautiful. Frank was beautiful, even though he looked boring with his pastel-colored polo shirt and denim pants, and his hair was kept in a messy bun. His conscious mind knew it didn’t make any sense because he was a man. However, as much as he wanted to convince himself that it was like that, somehow, he couldn’t get over it. Something stirred inside him, and he knew the longer he spent time with him would only make this feeling worse.
He cleared his throat and swiveled his head to hide his shaky eyes. He went on rubbing his hands together before returning his attention to Frank. But then, he wasn’t prepared for another round of staring contests. In his mind, he knew what he was doing. He went there because he was curious. He wanted to know how he does his work and imagine how he created ‘The Phoenix.’
“Ah, Frank. I, ah…” He cursed, leaving him even more frustrated. Why? Why was he acting like this? What’s this?
After the last two words, his heart suddenly throbbed so loud and fast that he struggled to contain his composure. He didn’t want to lose this moment simply because he distracted Frank from his favorite game. He guessed it was his favorite sport, just like how he loved mixed martial arts. Well, they were different people. Different interests.
That was what he was trying to convince himself. Yet, the longer the stares went on, the more he melted. Out of nowhere, his mouth went dry as the loud thuds in his chest continued. The worse thing was it was getting worse and worse. “Frank,” he said, trying to keep his voice firm, though deep inside, he felt running away.
“Yes?” Frank said, but his eyes remained. His voice had stayed easy, he noted.
Challenged, Stefan mustered enough balls to answer his demand. “Why are you looking at me like that?” Wow. How did he manage to say this so calmly?
Frank blinked and looked away, flushing. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that.” He turned his attention to the surroundings. “It’s been a while since I did something here. And I rarely invite people to come here, so I didn’t mean to stare at you like that.”
Stefan swallowed. “It’s okay. I don’t mind.” But does he?
While he kept watching Frank, he noticed a sudden shift in the look on his face. From what he’d seen, he was more convinced the space hadn’t been touched for a while. Each piece that stood here was covered with dust. In its corners, he could see how the cub webs formed forests. It was clear to him there hadn’t been any sort of activity going on here.
That meant Frank had become more complacent, more arrogant about being this great man on Earth and hadn’t been doing his job for a while now. That also meant a perfect time to pursue his plan. He thought now that he’d managed to tug his heart, he was getting closer to succeeding in his mission. Great news. “Have you finished a new one?”
Frank paused in his tracks and lowered his head. “Yes, a few. But it isn’t as near the one I sold a few years ago.” Though he was used to how slow he talked and the mellow sound of his voice, his discouraged tone caught his ear.
“‘The Phoenix,’” Stefan announced, with enthusiasm, only to fade when he noticed his frown. “Are you okay?”
Frank nodded and looked at him, sighing. “Yeah, I am.” He smiled.
Stefan scoffed in his mind, thinking how he tried to fool him with a smile. “You see, you can’t do this alone, Frank. You need me as much as I need you.”
“Why did you choose me?”
“Because it’s you.”
Frank drew his eyebrows in, and his eyes narrowed, wondering. “If you like to see it, it’s in the gallery’s storage room. Locked and sealed.” He chuckled, shaking his head. “Until now, I still couldn’t believe it was the most expensive art sold in the last auction.”
“Yeah, I think it was around a hundred sixty-five million dollars, which is quite a lot of money.”
“I didn’t expect it to sell at that price range.”
What’s your story, Frank? Damn. How he wished it would be easy to ask something like that. If so, he would only have thirty days to get to know this man. Even though they’d only spent two weeks with him, he’d already felt his heart clenched as soon as the word ‘moving out’ popped into his mind. If he were being honest with himself, he would rather have this man sit on a hot seat and interrogate. That was what he was good at.
He was a master thief, after all. He had to know everything.
“Why wouldn’t you? It’s a nice piece, and people appreciate what you do.”
Frank shook his head. “No, it’s not enough.”
That caught him by surprise. He didn’t expect to hear those words from him. How could he say something like that when he was already Frank Z, the man who had just told him he had sold a sculpture for more than a hundred million dollars?
It didn’t make any sense to him. But as much as he wanted to interrupt, he kept his mouth shut. Perhaps, Frank would feel more at ease talking more about his life.
But that minute of silence became two, and two became ten. When impatience overrode him, he decided to ask. “Why do you say so?”
Frank shrugged. “I don’t know.” He paused, staring into the distance. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. Way too much that even Eunice divorced me.”
At that moment, Stefan’s heart skipped, feeling the same sentiment while wondering what those eyes saw. He wondered what made those glow and dim so quickly. Since he had seen him frowning while driving, this thought hadn’t left him. Whatever he had in mind at that time vanished like dust in the wind. Because what preoccupied him more was knowing Frank—for who he was and what made him say those words. He thought he could better understand what this feeling was if he did that.
Then, Frank continued with his voice reaching a pitch higher, frightened. “Can we talk about something else?”
That was enough to snap his head back. When his eyes landed on him, he noticed how they turned scarlet and teary. It was then he decided to stop. “Sure. I don’t mind,” he replied, seemingly unbothered. But his eyes told a different story.
He didn’t say anything and let the man do whatever he wanted. Anyway, he had already spared the day, free from any work, just to spend more time with him. Because, he thought, the more he discovered things about him, the more interesting the mission would be.
Yet, at the back of his mind, he couldn’t deny what he felt.
Because deep down inside his heart, he knew there was something else. And that left him awake all night. Although it was heartwarming, although it was unfamiliar, he loved it. And he hated to admit that that same feeling grew into something new—another puzzle he had to figure out.
Regardless, Frank was there with him. Close to him. He was fine with that. At least, it was close enough to know him well. That was the goal, right? He had to know him better than anybody else, hoping he would later spill the beans and hand him ‘The Phoenix’ he needed to have. Once done, this mission will end. Finally, he would be free and have Mia again. Finally, they would part ways and move on with their own lives.
“No,” Stefan announced, surprising Frank.
Startled, Frank’s eyes popped. “I thought you don’t mind.”
Realizing what he had done, Stefan looked at him with his eyes widened. With a low, agonized sound, he eased himself, trying to keep his composure intact. But the problem was he froze. His mind went blank. He didn’t know what to say and was pressed for time. He had to say something. Right now.
What should he tell him? Should he say, ‘It’s okay, Frank, ‘cause I’m your friend.’? Or ‘Is it okay to say I’m starting to like you?’
Jesus Christ. He had never experienced something like this. Even though he had faced countless dire situations at work, it was never at this level. At work, he could simply rely on impulse and adrenaline. Systematic. Pure logic.
But this one, it was different. Because whatever his mind screams, his body won’t listen. Though his mind wanted him to stay away and keep his eye on the mission, his heart wished to have Frank around, longing for something he couldn’t understand. All he knew was he felt at ease, at home with this man.
Something sprouted inside his being that he didn’t want to let him go. For him, he felt responsible for him, though he’d known how easy it would be to ignore the guilt. Though he tried to convince himself that it didn’t matter, the longer Frank stayed, the more it became inconvenient. So, he had to welcome it and find a solution. That’s the most reasonable thing he should do.
That surprised him, actually. Because he’d never done it, he would never do something like this. At the same time, it was also humbling. It made him feel possessive, protective, and strong.
“I do,” he paused to spare him time to land a stare into his eyes, “I do mind because we’re friends now.” Only when he had fully said it did he feel the ravaging emotions swelling his body. But he didn’t back down. He hadn’t realized how much he wanted to see the look in his eyes, how they moved, how they sparked and dimmed. Childlike with a hint of dark mystery. It was incredible. It made him feel warm and more human.
Whatever he saw in his eyes prompted him to dare and walk closer to him. Although he could feel how tensed Frank was, he didn’t budge and went on. “I know we didn’t have a great start, but it would be nice to start all over again. As friends.”
Frank remained silent. He didn’t blink and just stared at him.
“Anyway, it’s nice to be here, and I’ll come here more often. Whether you like it or not.” He paused when he noticed him wanting to speak. But then, he raised his hand, gesturing him to shut his mouth. “You’re a great man. I’m honored… to have you.”
While Frank was speechless, he turned his back to him, heading back to the entry.
“Where are you going?” Frank asked.
“I’ll go quick and get some groceries.”
When those words escaped his mouth, Frank’s eyes popped as though he couldn’t believe he had said that. He kind of knew what he thought when he did, from how surprised he was.
“You don’t have to return and pick me up. I’ll commute.”
Stefan nodded. “Okay. See you home, then,” he said, anticipating his reply. When Frank hummed in answer, he went on and left him alone, heading to his car. After he latched the seat belt with his hand on the steering wheel, he suddenly felt the need to stretch a smile. “Home sweet home,” he muttered under his breath before he drove off.
Thank you so much for spending time reading this chapter. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did when I wrote this part months ago. This chapter, in particular, reminded me of those times when I sat before my desk, seemingly prepared to type in words, but I struggled to keep it up.
It took an external motivation to get it through, and, at that time, the NaNoWriMo event was upcoming. At that time, I thought, “This could be a great opportunity to try and give this a shot one more time. You’d done an excellent job with ‘The Rival,’ so you could do it, Mecyll.”
You know, it’s easier said than done because writing a chapter with a clear intent to finish it requires more than just a skill. Since I started writing fiction, I realized how much this work demands my ability to be naked and the guarantees to answer whether I was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepared to face my fears, conscious or unconscious.
So, being able to write this down meant I managed despite the countless times dancing around with depression and enjoying the roller coaster rides my anxiety provided me.
This is why I don’t know how to thank you for your support, regardless of the scale or contribution size, from sharing my work with others or buying my books. It doesn’t matter because, for me, every small act you show is appreciated.
Again, thank you, and have a great day!
If you like to support my writing life, here’s what you can do:
- Get a copy of “The Rival” Uncensored Gay Romance Novel.
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