Here’s chapter 18 of the new book, Dr. Clay, I’ve been writing since NaNoWriMo 2022. Enjoy reading. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.
“You look troubled today,” Valon said, tapping Clay’s shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
Clay looked at him and sighed, looking away as he held his robe tightly, which Valon also noticed. Without saying a thing, he walked passed Valon, heading to the entry towards the swimming pool.
Valon was in defeat and couldn’t say more. So, he shook his head, frowning, as he walked behind Clay until he reached the benches and sat, facing the distressed doctor. He pressed his lips, licking to wet his drying lips as he kept glancing at him, looking more and more uneasy. “You don’t look good if you keep frowning like that.”
“I wonder how Liz is doing today,” Clay said and sighed.
“You mentioned you’re getting married soon.”
Clay smiled. “Yeah.”
“I don’t want to be nosy. But wouldn’t you feel excited to tie the knot with her finally, would you?”
When Clay refused to answer, Valon looked at him, studying the expression on his face. In his mind, Clay didn’t look like he was getting married but rather a man who was about to go to war. Though his mind kept telling him a bunch of possibilities of why Clay acted the way he did, his curiosity overwhelmed him. “How long have you been together?”
“Twelve years,” Clay said.
“What does it feel like committing to someone that long?”
Clay shrugged. “I don’t know.”
Valon scoffed, shaking his head. “How could you not know? You’re becoming somebody’s husband soon. But you’re saying you don’t know how you feel about it.”
“What do you know about marriage?” Clay asked in sarcasm and shot an eyebrow.
Valon smirked and arched an eyebrow. “Are you telling me I haven’t been in relationships before or am allergic to commitments?”
Clay shook his head. “No, I didn’t mean in that way.”
“You won’t come into marriage talks when you don’t know why you’re marrying the person in the first place.”
Fuck, that was the problem. Clay knew as he was well aware of what was happening, though he struggled to accept the facts. So, he could not answer Valon’s blunt remark about feeling good about himself. Because he understood what Valon meant, one can’t take marriage for granted. It only takes three words to change your life completely.
Yes, I do. That’s all it would take a man to dig his grave.
Little did he know Valon was not in a different place at all. While he sat that close to Clay, he began to feel uncomfortable and troubled. He let out a soft sigh and looked at Clay while patiently waiting for him to say more, express more, regardless of how it would feel for him. Since he attempted to kiss Clay’s lips, his mind was in utter chaos, seemingly more confused about his feelings and why he did it in the first place.
While he patiently waited for Clay to speak up, his mind wandered around the possibilities in an attempt to satisfy his need for truth. He couldn’t seem to understand the tight feeling in his chest whenever Clay mentioned Liz. Why?
As he continued to wait with high anticipation, it was too late for him to react when Clay suddenly turned his head and caught him staring. At that moment, Valon was trapped. He couldn’t seem to get out of this bubble he found himself in and was unable to organize his thoughts quickly as he always had. When did he begin to become so interested in a man? A thought Valon would keep haunting him, which terrified him as it was unfamiliar and concerning.
“Anyway, let’s go for a swim,” Valon said to escape his absurd thoughts as he stood and removed his maroon-colored robe, revealing his chiseled torso and crevices around his arms and torso down to his V-line. Wow? Who would have thought that underneath those layers of clothes of a peculiar fashion, Valon was a man? A man who has been hiding scars all over his chest to his back.
When Valon turned, facing Clay, and saw how shocked the doctor was, he flicked his head down and followed where Clay was staring. As soon as he realized what had gone on, he saw how the scars covering his body must have been horrifying and disgusting.
Assuming he was right, Valon let out an awkward laugh as he removed his garments, leaving his swimming boxers on. He tried his best to keep acting natural, thinking it would ease the tension. However, as he was about to walk a few steps away from Clay, he stopped when he felt Clay’s hand around his lower arm.
When Valon swiveled his head, revealing his big, brown eyes, he followed Clay walking around him with such interest and wonder. But when Clay stood in front of him, he felt. compelled to gain more confidence to keep a facade and act as if he wasn’t feeling queasy, though he didn’t know for how long.
“What happened?” Clay asked with his widened eyes as if shock permeated through his body. It was as if he couldn’t believe what he saw that Valon had been hiding as if he was struggling to reconcile with the Valon he knew. He gulped, staring at each scar that marked Valon’s skin, covering his chest and back. Unable to resist, Clay began to rub his fingers, following the trail of each scar with his delicate touch.
Valon gazed at the doctor as if watching his naivety was gratifying. Though Clay wasn’t looking at him, he didn’t mind observing the doctor while trying to ignore the arousal he felt in every touch Clay made. “Do I look horrible?”
Clay shook his head while studying the scars on Valon’s skin. “No, not at all. Why are you saying so?”
“Then, why are you looking at me like that?”
Though Clay could see Valon forcing a smile, he would never understand how it was for Valon to live a daily life seeing those scars every time he stood before a mirror, especially for this man who brought colors to his empty life. Compared to what Valon went through in his earlier life, Clay struggled to accept that his complaints were petty and shallow. Yet, he couldn’t even find more sense in his life than Valon, who was more well-aware and better understood himself.
At this point, while feeling vulnerable, Clay failed to notice how his eyes began tearing up when he realized how much pain Valon must have endured, trying to imagine how rough his life was compared to his. But after he saw what Valon had been hiding underneath his bright and carefree personality, underneath his peculiar fashion taste, he felt like he was getting the best slap on his face.
As they continued exchanging gazes, Clay untied his white-colored robe and revealed his tattoo graffitis around his body, feeling embarrassed. In his mind, he felt shameful for trying to cover his body with tattoos to such an extent that he made Elizabeth feel wrong. Although he wanted to look away, he seemed to have become fond of how Valon looked at him. Valon saw something terrible in his mind, so he expected to hear Elizabeth’s exact words.
“Wow. Those tattoos look great,” Valon said with excitement and a broad smile. He looked astonished as he approached Clay and gazed at each figure that marked the skin. “I assume each tattoo is an important story of your life. Your body is a logbook of each event so remarkable that you want to see it on your skin. It’s nothing compared to the tattoos on your skin being more spiritual.”
When Clay heard Valon’s affirmation, his eyes widened as he felt a sudden warm feeling inside him, as his eyes continued to wander around Valon’s body. It was as if he wanted to see every scar that marked his skin. From where he stood, he could see crevices in long lines that stretched across his chest to his biceps. “But Liz doesn’t.”
“Is that what bothered you before?”
“Why do you say so?”
“I sensed your sadness the whole time when you were here. So, I thought something terrible must have happened to you. But I don’t want to meddle with your life. Right now, you look horrified.”
“I am. I’m trying to imagine how rough it must have been for you to live like that. I want to understand why you keep smiling like that after all these.”
“The first few years of my life may have been tough, but that doesn’t mean I’ll choose to live a foolish life for the rest of my life. That’s what my mother used to say.”
“Be glad you had great parents.”
“I know you miss them, too.”
“Yeah, and I lost them both,” Valon said as calmly as he could, though he choked, trying to keep himself composed and act natural. However, the longer he looked into Clay’s eyes, the more emotional he became. “You’re lucky to have parents alive.”
Clay shook his head. “Having parents alive isn’t as fortunate as you think it would be. It can be even lonelier.”
“I think so, too,” Valon said before he looked away and sighed, facing up the skies. “Nevertheless, I have to keep my heads up. Because in the end, the only person I can count on the most is myself,” he said before he turned his attention to Clay again and smiled.
“You know, I can’t stay that long,” Clay said, which surprised Valon as if he was feeling frustrated about something only he knew.
Though Clay wasn’t looking at him, Valon took the advantage to glance at this attractive man, tracing every inch with his eyes. He struggled to accept Clay’s decision and was well aware of the boundaries he had between them. “I understand you have to get back there and work.”
“What will you do for the rest of the Christmas break?”
Valon looked away and sighed. “I’m going to work on a personal project.”
“Oh, I see,” Clay paused and glanced at Valon while they kept walking, heading to the benches and sitting. “Why are you being generous to me, Val?”
“Am I being over-generous?”
“Maybe, a little bit?”
“Come on. You’re my guest. Wouldn’t that be right for me to spoil my guest as a host?”
“I just feel a bit uncomfortable not being able to give back to you,” Clay said, thinking all he did for Valon was to do his job. Fine, he saved Marco’s life, and he has the skills to save lives. But what he received from Valon in return, the comfort and inspiration he earned from this eccentric stranger, was a gift far beyond his expectations.
Not only did Valon give him a one-of-a-kind opportunity to meet his favorite artist, but he has also given him a place of refuge and a chance to know him better. Clay felt inspired to become better. Above all, Valon did it because he was thankful, unlike what he had done for him. So, Clay thought, if he could do something for Valon with the same intention—out of gratitude, not duty—he would feel better because it felt fair.
Valon sighed. “You’ve done something that was a big deal for me. Well, the plan was to invite you to the art exhibition, and that was it. But I didn’t expect you’d come around. So, plans changed,” he paused and glanced at Clay, still looking distressed, “Right now, I need a muse.”
Clay knitted his eyebrows. “What for?”
“I need a living person to work on this project successfully. Though I have been searching for months now, I can’t find anybody who would volunteer without being asked bullshit questions about it,” Valon said, leaving Clay more confused than he was. When he noticed it, Valon couldn’t help but laugh and look away to hide his flushing face. “I don’t know how to explain this. But—”
“What if I do?” Clay said that made Valon pause and look at him with keen eyes. As they exchanged gazes, Clay suddenly dared to demand Valon to do the same. “What if you have me as your muse?”
Valon jolted on his seat and turned, facing Clay, which surprised the doctor. His eyes widened as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. In his mind, he could expect it from others but Clay. “Are you kidding me, Clay?”
Clay shook his head as he leaned forward with both elbows resting on his knees and fingers threaded. “No, I’m not,” he said confidently, displeasing Valon.
“This isn’t something you could say yes and no to when you don’t like it anymore. I don’t want to work with impulsive decision-makers.”
“Please use me,” Clay said with more demand.
Valon’s eyes popped out and then narrowed with suspicion. Though disappointment loosened his grip, relief was right on its heels. He wasn’t sure he needed to meet his destiny. Besides, even if it wasn’t fate, as he guessed, Clay was extraordinary… something special. Something he had to have for himself.
“Do you mind me asking why you would want to do this? Having a full-fledged doctor as an artist’s muse is way too unconventional.”
“I want to believe that I am the person you think I am,” Clay replied.
Valon knitted his eyebrows. “What did I say?”
“That I have an eye for things,” Clay said and looked into Valon’s eyes.
What the fuck! When Valon realized Clay was already staring at him, he looked at him as if he was hesitant or if he was anticipating something. The longer he stared at him, the clearer the desperation Valon sensed. Knowing Clay was too stubborn as he kept on insisting, he sighed in defeat. “In that case, do you want to see what I’m working on? Maybe, that will help you better understand what this is all about.”
“Sure, if I’m allowed to. It’s an honor,” Clay said with excitement and a faint smile, prompting Valon to stand.
“Come. I’ll show you,” Valon said in his cold baritone, gesturing for Clay to stand and follow him as they headed upstairs.
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 three 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 I could 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!
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