Isa's body started to change before Lea's did. It had been fun to witness at first. During one summer break Lea had gotten a kick out of hearing Isa's voice constantly breaking. He chuckled and teased until Isa tackled him to the ground and tickled him until he had gotten all laughter out of his system.
What came after wasn't as much fun.
Isa didn't get much attention in school. He was average, bordering on weird. His color coordination for clothes was worse than Lea's. His hobbies included reading obscure books not even the teachers had heard about, collecting photographs of random people he found at flea markets, and hanging out with Lea.
There had been nothing to threaten their friendship. No one else was interested in what they had to offer.
But the changes Isa went through aroused curiosity in people that wouldn't have looked at him twice before. His shoulders had broadened. It wasn't something Lea noticed until he caught Isa talking to the football trainer in the hallway after school one day. Neither of them had been inclined to sports. Lea liked to go out for a run every now and then to clear his head. Isa preferred to go out on bicycle rides and mess around on his skateboard.
Isa didn't tell Lea about his talk with the football trainer until Lea asked him about it.
"It's nothing. The tryouts are coming up, and he wanted to know if I was interested."
Isa shrugged and tossed his backpack over his shoulder. He smiled and bumped into Lea playfully.
"C'mon. I'm in the mood for ice cream."
Girls giggled whenever Isa passed them by. Their eyes would linger on him from afar. Their voices were usually just noise to Lea, but he could hear everything single word when they were talking about Isa. Go ask for his number. No, you! Oh, my God, could you be more of a coward? You ask him. It was your idea. He's definitely my type.
Lea didn't know why, but he'd feel his hands clench into fists. He frowned more. He wasn't known to frown. It was virtually unheard of. He was sunshine incarnated, damn it. That was his selling point.
After gym class, in the changing rooms, Lea found himself glancing over at Isa more than usual. There was no point in being jealous, he told himself. Puberty was something everyone went through, his time would come, and by God, his transformation would be divine. The thought of what lay ahead in the future wasn't much comfort when the jocks came around and talked to Isa as if it was something they had always done.
They called him "The Bull". They laughed with him and shoved him around playfully while talking about a part of Isa's life that Lea was excluded from.
"This Devil will tackle you into next week if you let our guard down."
"Your coming to practice, right?"
Lea's first instinct was to get angry. His second instinct was to get jealous. Unfortunately, he got stuck on his third instinct; stare at Isa like an idiot.
Had Isa always looked that beautiful when he smiled?
Isa said that he wasn't officially a part of the football team. He just practiced with them every now and then to gain extra credit. Lea didn't really care whether Isa was on the team wholeheartedly or not, it was the changes the practicing caused that gave Lea cause for fear.
The girls wouldn't stand in a corner talking about making a move on Isa for much longer. One of these days one of them would work up the courage to talk to him and snare Isa in web of hormones and flirtations that would lead Isa away from Lea and into a life of popularity - or worse; a life of lots of friends, new best friends, a first love, a true love, a lover.
Lea caught himself frowning over that a lot. A girlfriend would take up a lot of Isa's time, that's why he was worried. It definitely wasn't because he wanted to fill that role in the future. Absolutely, positively, undoubtedly not!
Lea would stare into the bathroom mirror in the mornings and try to rub his frown off his face, but it was difficult when he woke up worrying about becoming a throwaway line in the story of Isa's life.
Hey, remember that odd kid you used to hang out with? That scrawny, skeleton type kid? What was his name? Doesn't matter. I saw a sick Halloween decoration that looks just like him for only 2,95.
Leave before they leave you. Lea hadn't been one to embrace that line of thinking. He had never been one to be left behind. No one stepped away from sunshine willingly. But suns and sunshine, much like everything else in the universe, faded. They were either replaced or outshined by brighter suns. Or worse, they died.
Lea managed to successfully avoid Isa for a week. He'd leave as soon classes ended. He'd run home as fast as his legs could carry him and hide away in his room, secretly hoping that Isa would show up and plead with Lea's mother to let him in.
On Monday, after classes, Lea walked as slow as he could down the hallway and out on the schoolyard to give Isa plenty of time to catch up with him. Ignoring someone didn't have the desired effect if that someone failed to notice that he was being ignored.
A walk home that usually took twenty minutes, took a whole hour instead.
When Lea laid in his bed that night, staring up at his ceiling, he wondered why he chest ached so much that it felt like it was about to split open. He was pretty sure that jealousy was different from what he was feeling. He was also pretty sure that thinking about your best friend's soft smile and changed physique was no reason to feel your nether regions tingling.
Isa's first mistake that Wednesday afternoon, was calling out for Lea in the hallway. It gave Lea a whole five seconds headstart, and he sure as hell took it. He was sprinting down the schoolyard faster than anyone could say "Go Titans, go!". In panic, he took a left turn to the park instead of hurrying home to the safety of his room.
Lea didn't dare to look back. Isa's voice sounded close enough. Lea tried to speed up. He was pushing through the air with his arms, almost flailing his way forward, when suddenly, he wasn't running anymore. He had brief contact with the soft patch of grass they landed on. Isa had tackled him onto the ground. His arms remained around Lea as they fell so that Isa could cushion the blow.
Lea broke free from the embrace and quickly got onto his feet with an undignified growl.
"What the hell, Isa?!"
"I could ask you the same thing!" Isa gasped and laid down on the lawn. His chest heaved up and down with every labored breath he took. "You almost broke the sound barrier trying to get away from me. And don't tell me you weren't trying to!"
"I wasn't going to!"
Isa sat up. He was looking Lea dead in the eye. He didn't have to demand an explanation. Isa wanted one, and Lea had been dying to tell him. He had desperately wishing that Isa cared enough to want to know.
And now that Lea had the chance to talk, he couldn't get anything out.
"What's going on with you, Lea? Have I done something wrong?" He sighed and patted the spot next to him to get Lea to sit. "I miss you. Tell me what I've done so I can fix it."
Lea flopped down next to Isa, his legs folded underneath him.
"You haven't done anything." Lea scratched the back of his neck sheepishly. He felt like an idiot now that he tried to formulate his thoughts into words. "It's just…you're building this new life, and…I'm not a part of it. It's kinda freaking me out. But you know, my issues, not yours. Sorry for being a jerk."
"I wouldn't dream of a new life without you, idiot."
Lea felt like laughing until he looked up at Isa and saw Isa's trademark serious expression times twenty.
"Okay, then. It's no biggie, I'm just putting it out there. I'll get over it."
Isa bumped his forehead against Lea's gently, and Lea froze at Isa's sudden proximity. He gulped, catching an eyeful of Isa's face, his eyes, and the look in them that told Lea that Isa wasn't in the mood for jokes.
"I know that things are a bit different now. I didn't mean for things to change."
"I'm not blaming—"
"Just listen. Some things have changed, but whatever happens, I want to be by your side, Lea. I don't care about anyone else. I only feel at ease around you." Isa took a deep breath and managed a small smile when he looked straight at Lea. "I like you. I like you a lot."
"Like me, like me?" Lea's eyes were wide with astonishment. His heart skipped a beat when Isa nodded slowly and gulped.
"Like you, like you."
Lea's eyes were still wide while trying to process what just had happened, and then he noticed Isa close his eyes. Lea was faintly aware of trying to formulate a 'what', but by the time his lips formed around the W, Isa had already pressed his soft lips against Lea's.
Isa's second (and far from last) mistake, had been sealing his confession with a kiss. Lea had only scratched the surface of his fascination with Isa's body, and knowing that Isa wouldn't mind the physical contact made Lea's imagination explode like the supernova he always suspected to be there.