Girls Like Boys

New Years Eve

“I really should stop betting against you when it comes to food,” Travis said, grinning as he set the take-out bag between us. The lights flashed on with the engine, illuminating the deserted parking lot and the houses butting up to the black-top.

“I didn’t even order that much,” I retorted, setting my drink in the console and reaching for a pack of plastic silverware. “You’re the one who got an entire meal and an extra burrito.”

Travis pulled the BMW out onto the street, hooking a left through the intersection. “I’m also the one who drove his ass all the way up here to see you and barely ate anything on the way,” he said, glancing to the right before cutting across the empty lane and turning onto the narrow lane. The M5’s tinted windows shadowed the lights of the buildings and houses around us, making the night seem even darker.

I popped my take-out box open and tore open the plastic silverware bag. “You’re also the one that decided we could wait and eat until after we dropped Ram and Aimee off,” I reminded him, knowing full-well that he brought this upon himself. 

I took a bite of my food and grinned across the gap at Travis. The glow from the GPS screen lit up the small space, highlighting him in shades of lavender and showing us our exact location. “This is delicious,” I said, watching Travis across the space as he titled his head toward me and shot a glare. 

Finally, Travis held the wheel with his left hand and reached over with his right. “Alright, give me some,” he demanded as I scooted away from him. “You’re being a jerk.”

“A jerk?” I repeated, laughing as I held the food out of his reach. “Really, Trav? I’m being a jerk? I’m just eating the food you bought me. There’s no reason to get angry about it.”

“Cody,” Travis complained as he funneled onto the highway that circled through the city.  He merged in with the light traffic and looked to me again. “Either give me some or put it away until we’re back.”

I sighed obnoxiously and considered his words, leaning against the window ledge. I turned toward him slightly and stared him down. “What’ll you give me if I wait?” I asked, setting the box on my lap.

Travis glared at me. “I’ll sneak you out of your house tomorrow and take you swimming at the hotel,” he countered, exiting toward Wabash avenue as the GPS spoke and told him to.

“You won’t be able to sneak me out,” I said seriously. “You won’t even be able to get to my house without Charlie noticing you. He lives in the middle of nowhere.”

Travis careened into the hotel parking lot along the side of the building, and slowed as he pulled up to the front. As he rolled to a stop, he pulled a paper parking pass from the center console and tossed it onto the dash. Snow was already starting to accumulate on the BMW, sticking to the side-mirrors and the corners of the windshield. 

The Hilton Garden Inn was a four story building designed with cream and brown brick. It sat on the corner of a street, and angled back in both directions, almost as through the entire building was triangular in shape. After we parked, Travis grabbed the food, and the two of us climbed out, stepping into the snow. We took to the sidewalk that lined the building and the street, heading to the main entrance on the corner. Flecks of snow clung to Travis’s dark hair and jacket.

 A set of glass front doors acted as the only entrance into the lobby. As we walked along the side, the building was lit from within, and two story windows showed a staircase that ran along the interior. Over our heads, square yellow lights clung to the sides of the hotel and made the snow glisten in the dark.

The lobby was quiet except for a conversation between the two employees at the desk, although they quieted down when Travis and I walked in side-by-side. The room was bisected by a large mantle and ashy fireplace that boasted shelves of books and potted plants along either side of a large, dark flat screen TV. On the polished tiled floor in front of it was a brown textured rug and coral furniture between brown side tables and an ottoman.

Travis and I curved through the lobby and headed to the staircase we’d seen from outside. We only had to go up one flight of stairs, and our feet on the cement was the only noise between us. At the top, Travis handed me the food s0 that he could find his key and get us onto the floor, and I held onto it until we stopped outside his room, balancing the drinks and the bag. He swiped the plastic card against the door, and we stepped inside.

“Did you have to get the nicest room they offered?” I asked, setting the food down on the little island counter that separated the small kitchen from the living room area.

Trav kicked off his shoes and looked back at me over his shoulder. “It’s not the nicest,” he said, rounding back. “That one was a two bedroom with a jacuzzi tub.”

I hid my smile and shook my head at him. “This place is an entire apartment,” I noted, nodding to the separate bedroom that opened up off the living room. From here, I could already see Trav’s stuff lying around. “You’re only going to be here a couple days.”

He nodded and plucked his meal from the box, setting mine down on the counter to get it out of the way. He grabbed for a fork and slid into one of the tall chairs, lost to me as he zeroed in on his food. I reached over and set his soda next to him before heading toward the bedroom to find his bathroom.

The bedroom wasn’t large, but it was well-decorated. All the light were on from when Trav was here earlier, and the walls practically glowed from the deep yellow-beige they’d slathered onto them. All the furniture was glossy brown like in the lobby, and the bed had a textured white comforter and pillows. The bathroom door was on the same wall I stepped through, so I hooked a left.

The yellow walls continued into the much smaller room but were broken up by the oversized framed mirror along the left wall above the sink and the blue and turquoise tiling above the bathtub. Travis was waiting outside the door when I came out.

“Do you want to go sledding?” he asked, holding up his phone to show me something as I jumped in surprise.

“Jesus, Travis,” I complained, pushing his phone out of my face so I could sidestep around him back into the living room. “You almost gave me a heart attack,” I complained as he followed.

“Sledding,” Travis said again, moving back to his chair. His take-out box sat mostly empty on the small table next to him. He faced me as I grabbed my own and headed to the couch. 

“It’s dark out,” I reminded him, nodding to the windows, “and we don’t have a sled.”

“We could buy one,” Travis said as though it was a novel idea. He grinned at me, betraying the sarcasm in his voice. “Oh we could use a trashcan lid like they did in all those old movies.” 

“We don’t even have a trashcan,” I retorted between bites of food, not at all thrilled with the idea of sledding in the dark. “Plus, you hate the cold,” I said, hoping his fears of hypothermia would dissuade him.

Travis groaned and moved to throw himself down on the couch with me, his head in my lap as he wrapped his arms around me. I quickly lifted my food up before he could knock it to the ground, and held it over his head as he talked, his words muffled by my clothes. “We could go tomorrow,” he said, clasping his hands behind my back. “I’ll never get another chance, Code. This is the only time I’ll ever see snow.”

I frowned at his guilt tactics. “You’re not going to like it,” I replied, setting the food down so that I could see him. He rolled over so that he was laying on his back instead of his stomach, his head still on my lap. “I don’t even like it. You gotta work really hard to get up the hill and the ride down only lasts about two seconds. It’s exhausting.”

Travis shrugged against me, childlike, looking up to me with wide green eyes. 

“You promised to swim with me tomorrow,” I tried again.

Travis shrugged again.

I pulled my gaze away, already smiling despite myself. 

Trav caught on quickly and cheered, climbing out of my lap with a smile on his face. “Cool, we’ll go in the morning,” he said, jumping up from the couch immediately. He moved to the heater near the window and fiddled with it, shrugging out of his jacket. 

“You need to get a real coat,” I told him as he yanked the maroon t’shirt over his head and rounded into his bedroom to grab another one. “And gloves!” I called. “And maybe a scarf!”

He frowned at me as he walked back into the living room wearing a baggy black hoodie instead. “We can get that shit when we get the sled in the morning,” Trav said with a shrug, dropping back onto the couch. “You know a hill, right?”

I grinned and nodded, not taking my eyes off him. “We’ll have to wait until the afternoon though,” I said. “Charlie wants me and Ram home in the morning to check in.”

Travis rolled his eyes. “I bet you can’t wait to get back to Bama.”

I shrugged. “It’s not Charlie that makes me want to leave,” I replied. “I’m used to him; I just miss Alabama when you’re not here.” 

Travis grinned at me. “It’s been different without you there too,” he said, recalling the month when our lives reverted back to how they were before I started college. Travis spent the last month racing incessantly, spurred on by the guys and the ample free time. It was hard to keep contact with him when he raced every night and slept all day. It was obvious in his exhaustion that he’d been working too hard.

He laid on the other end of the couch, head back against the arm rest with his legs crossed in front of him. He held his arms across his chest and pulled the hood over his head as he laid down. He didn’t even open his eyes as he spoke, drained after a long day of driving and barely sleeping the night before. His chin brushed his shoulder as he started to doze off in the gilded light of the room.

When I got up from the couch, Travis’s eyes open and he shook it off, pushing himself up so that he was leaning back against the arm rest. “I’m awake, Code, sorry,” he mumbled, shaking off the tiredness. “I won’t fall asleep on you this early.” He ran his fingers through his hair, pushing the hood off.

I gathered up the empty take-out boxes and tossed them in the tiny garbage can. “It’s fine, Trav. You drove nonstop today.”

He shook his head. “No, I didn’t ask you to stay with me just to crash on you like this,” he replied, stretching his arms above his head. “I’m fine, really.”

“It’s not like you’re passing right out on me,” I said, sitting down next to him on the couch. “We drove around the city, and took Ram and everyone to Aimee’s. It’s almost three, Trav. Let’s just go to bed.”

Trav eyed me, and I could see him weighing his options. I knew that once he actually got in bed, he’d fall asleep immediately. I could tell he knew it too, because he steadied himself, about to refuse.

I reached forward and slid my fingers along the side of his face, pressing my palm against the steep slope of his jaw, reveling in the surprise that covered his features and his slow recognition of what I was doing. I’d never kissed Travis with the upper hand, never when he was tired and unguarded. He didn’t move – his expression and the slight hiccup of his breath were the only response. Slowly, I leaned in and kissed him, barely brushing my lips against his warm mouth. My other hand fell to the curve of his shoulder as I held onto him, bracing myself against his body as I moved closer.

Travis’s hands pressed flat against my back, urging me closer. I moved into his lap, knees on either side of his hips, arms curled around his neck. He pulled away and shuttered against me, cold fingers trailing along my spine under my sweater.

“This is not why I invited you,” Trav said, as though he just needed to say it, but wasn’t against it.

Sitting in his lap, I was taller than him, my chin reaching just below his temples. I curled my body into his, leaning down to nod and capture his mouth again, silence his worries. “I know,” I replied easily. “Happy New Years.”

Trav grinned and nodded into another kiss. “Come back with me,” he said, holding on my hips as he pulled away to look at me. “Come back to campus and stay with me until the dorm opens back up. Cody, come on, please. It’s only two weeks.”

“It’s only two weeks, Trav,” I said, using his words against him, holding his face in the palms of my hands. “And you’re not leaving yet.”

“It’s not the same here and you know it,” he answered. “You won’t even let me show my face because you’re afraid that Charlie won’t let you come back to school. In Tuscaloosa, you and I can do whatever we want for our last two weeks.”

“I can’t do that to my dad,” I replied, hating the way Trav’s expression fell and his head dipped against my shoulder. I lightly touched his hair. “I’m sorry, Trav. I want to, but I won’t see him again until March.”

Travis sighed but nodded, lifting his eyes to look at me again. His thin fingers cupped my jaw. “Fine, Code, but I need to meet him then.”

I frowned. “You have met him.”

“Here,” Travis replied. “I want to meet him here.”

I shook my head immediately. “Trav, we’ll never be able to hangout, and I’ll have to leave every night, and Charlie will be pissy in general. You’re lucky all he does is ignore you now.”

“At least we won’t have to hide it, Cody. I’ll be able to come to the house and pick you up to go sledding. It’s only for a couple days. And if you’re worried about him not letting you go back to school, we already talked about this. I’ll come get you myself.”

I frowned at him. “For real, Travis, why do you want to meet him again? He already knows who you are. It won’t make a difference.”

Travis, always trying to be the stoic, matched his frown to mine as he considered his words. “Tell me things aren’t different now, Code,” he said. “Tell me that we’re going to go back to the way things were before, because I can’t do that. I don’t know what this is for you, but I haven’t been around anyone since you left, and I don’t want to.”

I froze, still sitting in his lap, still with my hands on his shoulders, still with his fingers pressing me closer to him. I couldn’t think of a relevant word to say or a complete answer to give him.

“Code,” Trav said, smiling at my fear-reaction. “I’m not saying we have to like make this ‘official’ or whatever. I don’t want to explain anything to anybody, but with you and me, y’know? It’s different.”

“Trav, it was one time,” I said, shaking my head at him, unable to process that Travis of all people was the one saying what he was saying.

Trav raised his eyebrows at me and motioned between us. “And what do you call this?”

“You’re really telling me that you haven’t had sex with anyone for a month?” I questioned, watching him laugh and grin at me. We both knew his, and all the guys’, habits back home. How casual they kept everything.

Travis laughed and nodded. “Benji’s giving me so much shit,” Travis replied, laughing at the thought of his best friend. “He can’t figure out what the hell is going on. I told him I wanted to focus on racing.”

I shook my head at him, and at them, and his words, moving to sit next to him. “You’re ridiculous, Trav, you know that?” I asked. “I leave for a month, and you decide what? You’re going to come up here and bring me back?”

Trav shrugged, and reached for my hand. “That wasn’t the plan,” he said, “but I really did fucking miss having you around, Cody. Like, I knew I would, but it’s weird not having you calling me to come get you all the time.”

“And you seriously want to tell my dad that you’re here? You can’t tell him anything about this, Travis. I’m serious. No holding my hand–” I yanked my fingers away from his – “Actually no touching me at all. And you and Ram definitely can’t be in the same room together because who knows what she’ll blurt out in front of Charlie. And, oh god, Wesley,” I groaned, imagining Travis in my house with my brother, and father, and my grandmother.

Travis looked amused.

“This is a terrible idea,” I said.

Trav shrugged. “Definitely not my first.”