Chris flopped down on his bed and slid his laptop out of its case, flipping it open and watching it whir to life with the press of a button. His room was empty, as his roommate Frankie had finally adjusted to Chris's Skype schedule – and Thursday night meant he had to be out of the room between six and six-thirty, at which time Chris would meet up with him and some other friends for dinner, before heading off to his last class.
It seemed like part of his natural schedule now: eat, sleep, study, and Skype.
He tapped in his password (which, he learned the hard way, was absolutely necessary when living with a nosy roommate) and waited for his desktop to finish booting up before clicking on the Skype icon. He logged in and saw that James was already waiting for him, so he eagerly pressed the call button.
It rang once, twice, three times before Chris raised an eyebrow, but relief washed over him once James's smiling face popped up on his screen.
"Hey!" Chris greeted, his lips involuntarily curling into a smile.
James grinned back and was about to greet him as well, when another head popped into the frame. "Hey baby," James's roommate, Mark, replied in a sickeningly sweet voice. James made a face and tried to push the other boy out of the camera's line of sight.
"Hi, Mark," Chris said through a small laugh, having grown used to his boyfriend's eccentric roommate.
James turned to talk to Mark, convincing him to leave them alone for a bit, and finally Mark headed for the door, blowing a kiss towards the laptop before heading out.
"Sorry," James apologized, smiling a bit. Chris had met Mark on their very first post-moving-in video date, and had grown to appreciate the boy's slightly intrusive sense of humor over the two months of knowing him. He would always leave them alone, though, but not after teasing James a bit for how sappy he got about his boyfriend.
"It's okay," Chris replied. "I miss you." The phrase was almost as common as a greeting for the couple.
"I miss you too."
They locked eyes, but it was an empty feeling, both of them knowing they were only staring lovingly at a picture on a screen.
"So how was your day?" James broke the silence.
The couple filled each other in on how their morning and afternoon classes had been, and James took plenty of time to dramatically whine about Wegman's running out of his favorite cereal, so he would have to eat breakfast in the cafeteria for a few days. ("I hate the cafeteria in the morning," he'd said. "It's filled with all those weirdly alert and cheery kids. That's not natural.")
Finally, Chris brought up something that had been on his mind all week. "So, James," he began, clearing his throat. "My parents want me to visit family in Massachusetts for Thanksgiving break, so I won't actually get to go home until Christmas. And I really can't wait until December to see you, so I was just wondering; do you think we could find some time to meet up?" James stared at him dubiously, so he continued. "Maybe some weekend we could meet up in Utica, that's about halfway for both of us, and just spend the day together?"
James bit his lip. "Wow, I'd really love to, Chris, but it's gonna be tough… We'd have to make sure the bus schedules match up well enough, and I've got a lot of lab time I'm supposed to do on the weekends, and we'd have to do some budgeting so we don't end up broke with no way home…" He felt terrible listing off all of the potential roadblocks, and he could see Chris's heart sinking with each word, but James had to be realistic.
"Yeah…" he replied sadly, shrugging slightly, trying to look less upset than he really was. "I figured it would be hard. But I just… I really need to see you. Things are going really well here, but I just miss you, a lot."
James's face softened. "Hey, we'll figure something out, okay? What's your schedule for the next few weeks?"
The two talked quickly, trying to get a plan together before their date had to end. Most potential meet-up dates were quickly shot down, with excuses like studying, prior engagements with friends, and classes causing roadblocks.
Finally, as their time together for the day was about to run out, they settled on a Saturday two weeks from then, in which Chris would hop the bus to Syracuse, spend the night with James, and then allow his boyfriend to buy him a ticket back to Albany.
Chris's face lit up as he leaned across his bed, circling the date on the calendar tacked to the wall. His eyes caught a glimpse of the digital clock on his desk as he returned to his position, reluctantly realizing that he had to head off to dinner. "I have to go," he said, returning to his place in front of his laptop. "I'll text you after class, okay?"
James nodded. "Don't work too hard. I love you."
"I love you too."
They shared a smile, and finally Chris ended the call.
He shut his laptop and slid it back into its case, his eyes lingering on the calendar once more. He smiled at the new red circle, anxious for that day to come. His eyes slowly traveled across the rows of squares, though, and the sheer amount of days without a little red circle sank in and caused his smile to fade.
Chris shook his head and headed off to dinner.