Nelson was so concentrated he barely seemed to move or breathe at all. He was a rock in a river. He had one eye closed, the other on the plastic scope and his index finger ready to pull the trigger of the toy sniper. A drop of sweat came down his forehead, but he didn’t move to clean it.
“Ignore everything around you. Don’t lose your concentration for nothing. Even me,” Cris whispered in Nelson’s ear.
Even without seeing, Nelson could tell his manager was smiling. He ignored it as best as he could. He knew Cris was just trying to make him miss the target and win their bet and had prepared himself for that. But even he wasn’t prepared when Cris blew gently on his ear.
“Stop that!” Nelson twitched his head and almost took his hand off the game to cover his ear. He managed to control himself and didn’t take his eye from the scope. “Don’t try to cheat!”
“I’m not! I’d never do something so low,” Cris lied with his fake innocent voice. “I’m just… making sure you don’t lose your chance, yeah.”
“The chance to beat your high score,” Nelson mumbled loudly enough for Cris to hear.
“Oh? Is that so?” Cris placed a finger on his chin and tilted his head. “Oh yeah, I see that now. Hm, hm. Hadn’t notice. It’s true that you can beat my score, but that’s only if you DON’T MISS THE SHOT!”
Nelson closed his hands out of reflex and his finger ended up pulling the trigger. He watched in disbelief as his bullet missed the terrorist and hit the president’s daughter, whom he was supposed to save, right between the eyes. The screen flashed GAME OVER in huge white letters and as blood covered it. The swimmer took his eye from the scope and stood up to his full height without saying a word. He turned over to Cris, who was trying and failing to hide his smile.
“Are you happy now? Are you satisfied?” Nelson waved his hand over the screen for dramatic effect. “Are you proud with a victory tainted by cheats?”
Cris couldn’t hold the laughter any longer. Nelson waited in silence with a blank expression. “Oh, come on. Tainted by cheats? Don’t be a sore loser. A victory is a victory.” He made a V of with his fingers, his smile broadening as the swimmer narrowed his eyes and shook his head. “I believe our bet is tied now. What do you wanna play next?”
“Do you really think I’m gonna let you change the subject like this?” Nelson complained. He was still mad for losing, but was having too much fun anyway. He looked around for the next game for them to compete. His eyes shone when he found it, his face illuminating with a smile as he pointed. “That!”
Cris followed his fingers. “Bumpers cars? For real? We can’t tell who’s the winner with this. Actually, that’s not even a game. I get the feeling you’re mad and just want to ram me,” he complained, but still trailed after the swimmer with a smile on his lips.
“It’s been ages since I rode this,” Nelson said as he sat in the car. He opened and closed his hands on the steering wheel, his smile broadening as the memories came back. “Oh, man. I think it’s been over a decade.”
Cris couldn’t take his eyes from Nelson’s smile without a gentle smile of his own. “Yeah, me too. It’s been so long it only lives in my memory now,” he said, pressing his lips. It took a moment, but when the swimmer remembered the line, they laughed together.
“You and your references,” Nelson mumbled.
“Yeah, the captain would be proud,” Cris said. “So, how are we gonna decide the winner?”
Nelson narrowed his eyes and became serious for a moment. The next second, he turned to Cris with a smile. “The one who can’t keep standing afterward is the loser.”
Cris stayed in silence for a moment, and then let out a laugh. “If you want that, fine. But I don’t think I can say not keep standing as the loser,” he said, his smile turning sly. “I love men that can leave me like that, with my legs still shaking and all.”
As the bell rang and the cars moved, they realized their mistake. They tried focusing only each other, but there was a group of kids from a birthday party at the game station, and they weren’t happy that thanks to Nelson and Cris, their group didn’t get to play together.
“What a bunch of shitty brats. I don’t remember being like that when I was a kid,” Cris complained as he leaned over Nelson, using the swimmer as support. “My head hurts after getting ganging up by them.”
“Mine too. I think I’m seeing double.” Nelson blinked and managed to lead Cris to the nearest bench. They sat side by side and the manager leaned over, resting his head on the swimmer’s shoulder. “I hate to admit this out loud, but I really wanted to punch them.”
“Yeah… I agree with you…”
They stayed in silence for a while, resting their eyes until they got better.
“Hey, Cris? Does that… happens a lot?” Nelson asked. Cris mumbled and forced himself to turn his head to where the swimmer pointed.
There was a group of teenagers in the game station. The boys and some of the girls tried and failed to look at Nelson and Cris discreetly. When they realized they were noticed, they stopped staring and walked away, though some still looked over their shoulders.
“Unfortunately,” Cris answered in a tired voice, turning back to lean on Nelson’s shoulder and closing his eyes. “Most people think I’m a boyish girl at first sight, but when they realized I’m actually a girlish boy, their attitude changes. Some get uncomfortable, some get angry, some get turned on and some start giving me weird glances like those.”
Nelson glanced at Cris with disbelief. “That sucks! And you’re okay with that?”
“Of course not. I’d rather live in a society where people would leave others to their business. But we don’t.” Cris waved his hand as if dismissing the subject.
Ah, he knows this more than I do. It’s a sensitive topic. One that he doesn’t seem willing to talk right now, Nelson realized and let go with a sigh. “So you can’t even hang out with a friend without dealing with that kind of stuff. It must be awful when you’re with your boyfriend or a guy you like.”
“Yes and no,” Cris said with a weak smile. “It’s been a long time since I had a boyfriend to worry about such things. But when I had to think about it, I normally dressed as a girl.”
“Why did you need to do that?”
“I didn’t need to, but I was less bothersome that way. First, people didn’t seem to care as much when they thought we were a straight couple. And since I don’t mind dressing like a girl, it was the easiest way.
“You don’t mind dressing like a girl?” Oh yeah. He was dressing like a girl yesterday when we met.
“Yeah. It’s not like I’m a transsexual or a transvestite. My cousin likes to use me as a dress-up doll ever since we were kids and I just ended up liking it.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah. It’s so fun watching people’s reaction. Most girls get jealous that a boy can be as cute or even cuter than them. And guys get mixed feeling because they’re attracted to a boy.” Cris let out his mischievous and full of satisfaction laugh.
“You’re cute dress either as a boy or a girl,” Nelson let the words escape his lips. He widened his eyes and blushed when he realized what he had said. The swimmer made sure he didn’t glance at Cris, though he had the impression his manager was staring at him with a smile. “So even dressed as a boy, people mistake you for a girl that much?” He quickly asked.
“I’ll let that slide,” Cris mumbled, chuckling. “To answer your question. Yeah, almost all the time. Just like you did yesterday.”
“Hey, that wasn’t exactly my fault. Not only you were dressed as a girl, I assumed you were one because of your name. And the fact that I have rarely seen a boy manager didn’t help either. But let’s not dwell in the past.”
“Fine, fine. You’re right. But either way, we need to settle our bet. I’m interested in what you’ll ask of me if you win.”
“And what you’ll ask?”
“To fulfill my offer,” Cris said, looking up at Nelson from the same position and raising his eyebrows. “But that’s only after we finish. What should we play next?”
The manager looked around. They had spent most of the afternoon playing, and by now there were few games left that they could compete.
“How about basketball?” Nelson asked, standing up. “I doubt you can find a way to cheat at that.”
“I suck at it but okay. But Nelson?” The swimmer turned around to face Cris. “Let’s not dwell in the past,” he said, showing a bright smile that made Nelson laugh.
“Wow…” Nelson had no idea what to say as he stared at the score.
“Don’t say it. Don’t you dare say anything.” Cris looked everywhere but Nelson.
Nelson covered his mouth, but it was plain that he was smiling. “You said you sucked, but I never thought you couldn’t hit a single basket.” He couldn’t hold anymore and laughed.
“Shut up!” Cris punched Nelson in the arm. “Just because you’re tall you can hit it easily! If I had your height, I could do that too!”
“Height has nothing to do with it. Let me show you.” Nelson stood behind Cris. He gently grabbed the manager’s arm and positioned them in a shooting position. “You move your arms and hands like this. Yes. That’s right. Like this”
As Nelson showed the way again, he never noticed Cris blushing, nor the manager’s heart thumping faster.
“Ready to try for real now?” Nelson swiped the card and chose the easiest mode.
Giving his best, Cris managed to score five baskets this time. “Yeah, I did it. I’m awesome,” the manager said, turning around with his arms raised in victory. “Thanks to you, I score my first points without relying on luck. I think that’s the first time I see my score on double digits.”
“The lowest double digits, but still, congrats,” Nelson said.
Cris raised his head, closed his eyes and showed a bright smile that made the swimmer’s cheek go a shade of pink. I never noticed how cute he can be, Nelson thought, looking away. No wonder guys can be attracted to him…
It only lasted a few seconds, but as he looked at that smile, time seemed to stretch to Nelson. What broke the trance was the phone ringing. The swimmer widened his eyes and his cheeks lost its color when he looked at the screen.
“What’s wrong?” Cris asked in a low and worried voice.
“It’s… my doctor…”
Cris placed a firm hand on Nelson’s arm. “Answer.”
He took deeps breaths a few times and then held it before pressing the screen and bringing the phone to his ear. “Yes?”
“Nelson? It’s me,” the doctor said and nothing in his tone indicated if the reason he called was good or bad.
“Hi, doctor. If you’re calling, it means… it means you got my results, right?”
“Yes. I received a while ago, but I was looking at it, just to make sure. And I’m—” he stopped to cough a few times. Nelson’s hand gripped tighter around the phone as the rage, anxiety uncertainty filled him, but he kept his mouth shut. The doctor cleared his throat before speaking again. “Sorry. As I was saying, I’m happy to say that you’re cured.”
“I am…?” Nelson didn’t dare to believe, his breathing shallow and fast.
“Yes, complete cured. You can go back into the pools and bring many medals.”
“Yes! Thank you, doctor. Thank you so much!”
The doctor laughed. “Just take it easy in the beginning, okay?”
“Yeah, of course,” Nelson said. He turned to Cris, who was already smiling. “I’m cured.”
“I heard. Congratulations,” the manager said.
Before he realized what he was doing, Nelson hugged Cris tightly and spun the manager around a few times, almost jumping out of happiness. Right now, he didn’t give a damn if people looked at them or not.
“I can finally get back,” he said almost crying.
“Yes, you can,” Cris said in a low voice hugging Nelson back with all his strength. “Let’s aim for the top together.”