Anything But Beautiful

Anything But Beautiful Short Story (photo: Jazmin Quaynor)

Anything But Beautiful Short Story (photo: Jazmin Quaynor)

“You’re beautiful,” Andy says to Charlie as they exit Starbucks on a crisp fall afternoon. They are enjoying their first cups of hot coffee after a long, hot summer in Coral Gables, Florida.

Charlie looks at Andy with a confused grin. They have been dating for a few weeks, Charlie has grown accustomed to Andy’s terms of endearment, but the word beautiful makes him uncomfortable. “Oh please,” he responds in a skeptical tone.

“What? You don’t agree with me?” Andy seems confused as they round the busy corner of Ponce de Leon Boulevard toward Charlie’s apartment.

Charlie looks at his reflection in the window of a stationery store they walk past. His short brown hair is unruly without the product he usually works into it. His glasses are held together by a paperclip and a five o’clock shadow covers his face. He feels anything but beautiful this afternoon.

“Not today I don’t,” Charlie responds. He takes a sip of his latte and self-consciously wipes his mouth. He doesn’t want a little dissident whip to further illustrate his point to Andy.

“Why not? I mean, I know you don’t think you’re ugly. You spend way too much time looking at your own reflection to think you’re ugly.”

Charlie blushes bashfully, then covers his face with his free hand. All this time, he thought he was being slick when he would catch a glimpse of himself in a car window or elevator mirror. He can’t help but laugh.

Andy gives Charlie a pinch on his side, playfully reassuring him that he’s only teasing. They are still in the honeymoon phase of their budding relationship, so he finds Charlie’s embarrassment adorable.

“Busted,” Charlie says as the pair crosses the street toward his building. He tries to think of a way to explain to Andy that doesn’t think of himself as ugly, just not exactly beautiful.

While Charlie seems off in deep thought, Andy runs his eyes over his new love’s warm chocolate eyes down to his full lips and prickly jaw. His impulse is to push him against a street light and give him a kiss, but he wants an answer to his question first.

“So, why won’t you accept my compliment?”

The answer seems obvious to Charlie. “Because I look like shit today!” he says.

Andy smiles. “I didn’t say you look beautiful. I said you are beautiful.”

Hearing those words come out of Andy’s mouth makes Charlie feel buoyant. He remembers the nights he went to bed thinking about Andy before they started dating, wondering if his feelings would ever be reciprocated. He had never felt this way about a guy before. It tickles every time he inhales and he feels an overwhelming inclination to kiss Andy, who has also turned a little red in the cheeks.

Andy has made himself feel shy and tongue-tied with his last comment. He doesn’t mean to come on so strongly. He just can’t help himself. Charlie’s beauty is so apparent to him that he refuses to let anyone challenge that – even Charlie himself.

“If you say so,” Charlie says. He leans over and gives Andy a kiss on the cheek.

Overwhelmed with desire but aware of his surroundings, Andy grabs Charlie’s hand, gives it a kiss and doesn’t let it go until they reach the Spanish colonial style building Charlie lives in. He knows that public displays of affection make Charlie uncomfortable – especially in a conservative area like Coral Gables, but he doesn’t care anymore. He has waited a long time hold someone’s hand like this and he refuses to let anything – or anyone – stop him from falling in love.

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