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All in the Golden Afternoon; Open!
Topic Started: Feb 10 2016, 08:56 AM (554 Views)
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((Oskar Pearce continued from Goodbye May Seem Forever))

Oskar was working up quite the sweat.

He’d opted to exercise outside today, instead of the makeshift quasi-gymnasium he usually turned his bedroom into, not wanting to waste such a gorgeous afternoon. It hadn’t taken him long to decide upon a destination; Sumac Park was but a short walk away from the apartment complex, and the large, sprawling fields it possessed were just perfect for a workout. The grass was parched from several weeks without any hint of rain, but instead of the triple-layering of towels he usually opted for as protection against the hard earth, he had something much more special and much less amateur. It was a magenta exercise mat he’d been lucky enough to spot at a sale the local Target had a few weeks earlier, significantly reducing in price most of their exercise equipment, and Oskar couldn’t even begin to describe how much more comfortable it was than a pile of threadbare towels. Sheer bliss.

He’d been practicing pilates for a good half hour already, but a quick pan through the mental list of exercises he’d planned for the day showed him he’d barely finished a fifth of them. Resigning himself to a longer afternoon (or a drastically reduced amount of exercise, depending on how strict his father would be with getting home on time) than he’d anticipated, Oskar adjusted his position on his exercise mat and mentally prepared himself for his next goal: beating his current record for crunches. He ordinarily favoured flexibility and cardio above anything else; it was just so much fun showing off the ease with which he could perform the splits to his friends and teammates, and he dreaded the thought of not being able to keep up with any cheerleading routines.

Today, however, was to be one dedicated to his core. Looking at the defined torsos of his peers in the changing rooms had its obvious appeals, but it also had the clear-cut downside of causing him to reexamine his toned, but altogether comparably dull chest. The thoughts had slowly been collecting in his mind, and the time spent in front of the bathroom mirror contemplating his physique had gradually gotten longer, to the point where he felt almost physically propelled towards focussing on abdominal workouts. It wasn’t much of a chore doing so, either; he liked pilates - it was one of the few solitary activities he enjoyed, besides reading, and the endorphin rush he acquired after finishing a workout was a high unlike any other. It was always a nice self-esteem boost too, knowing he hadn’t yet fallen off the rails with dieting and the like.

His neon orange singlet peeled away from the fabric of his mat as he began his first crunch, its vibrancy dulled by the sheen of sweat it’d acquired. His whole body felt like it was dripping wet; a layering of slick sweat was percolating across his brow, his teal galaxy leggings were clinging to his skin even more, and despite tying his hair up into a messy bun, his strawberry blond locks had still become dampened. He couldn’t wait to be finished, if not purely to grab his nearby towel and wipe away the level of grime he was practically bathing in.

Oskar continued to pull himself up and gently lower himself down once more, every muscle in his torso throbbing from the strain. The heat of the day was blending with the pain of his workout to create distinct waves across his vision; the only thing tying him down and forcing him away from exhaustion was the tinny pop music blasting from the speakers of his secondhand iPod.

He couldn’t tell how much time had passed when he finally gave in; his lungs felt like they were fit to burst, his knees were knocking violently together, and with one final breath Oskar allowed himself to collapse down onto his mat, chest rising and falling rapidly and his throat burning from dehydration.

He’d reach for his water bottle in a moment, but for now he thought he’d just soak up the sun, and catch his rattled breath.
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Without the pain of his workout to distract him and engulf his focus, the world and all that came with it returned to the forefront of Oskar’s mind. As he lay splayed out across his mat, breathing heavily and greedily pulling oxygen into his lungs, he found himself drawn towards the unmistakable chants of M.C. Hammer, coming from the headphones of a nearby jogger as they circulated the field, eventually pausing near him to drink from their battered water bottle. Rolling onto his stomach to get a better look at them, Oskar instantly recognised the other exerciser as one Tyler Yazzie, a classmate of his with whom he had almost nothing in common.

Their interaction had been scarce over the years, with most of Oskar’s knowledge of Ty coming from secondhand accounts - predominantly tales of shouting matches and the like, along with the stories that’d arisen after his brother’s arrest. They hadn’t exactly painted the most glamorous picture of Ty in Oskar’s mind, but he seemed to have mellowed out recently - if the conversations he’d had with Bernadette whenever she came into the bookstore were anything to go by. The two of them dating had proved to be something of a surprise when their relationship status had popped up on his Facebook feed, but they seemed to genuinely care for each other, and that was all that mattered in Oskar’s eyes. Happy couples weren’t something he found himself around very often, and he was quick to encourage them whenever he saw a romantic pairing working. Occasionally he found himself longing for the comfort and stability a relationship would bring into his life, but that would require bringing down a wall he’d spent years building up and making himself more vulnerable than he’d ever allowed himself to be.

The whole casual fling thing was just a lot easier for him.

As Ty offered him a greeting and commented on the heat of the day, Oskar quickly scrambled to turn down his music, not wanting their conversation to be drowned out by The Gay Pimp’s ‘Soccer Practice’.

“Hey Ty! It certainly is! How’re you doing?” Oskar beamed, propping himself up into a seating position and folding his legs together. Not wanting to let the conversation to run dry once the usual pleasantries were finished with, he’d ordinarily scour through his mental list of possible conversational topics, but Ty was mostly a non-entity for him, and the still-lingering exhaustion that was clouding his mind made an already miniscule list almost impossible to conjure. So he instead fell back on what he’d already observed during their short exchange: Tyler’s choice of music. M.C. Hammer was nowhere near being one of Oskar’s favourite musicians, but he could appreciate the energy and catchiness of the music. There’d been more than one occasion when he’d found himself dancing around his bedroom to ‘U Can’t Touch This’ when his father wasn’t home.

“So, M.C. Hammer, huh? Good choice!”
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When he’d left the house that morning, Oskar hadn’t really expected anything too spectacular to make its way into his life. He hadn’t expected to see anybody, as grateful for the company as he would’ve been – and that expectation had been shattered. He hadn’t expected to break his record for crunches – ‘have low expectations and you’ll never be disappointed’, as his dad always said – and that expectation had too, been shattered. But something he hadn’t even considered was that someone, a boy he barely even knew, would be able to worm his way under his skin in a manner no one else had ever managed to do. And with only a handful of casual, idle words of conversation at that.

“Yeah, yeah I do.”

A simple response to a simple question – Ty asking for affirmation about his feelings over being out of the house – but one that held so much weight behind it. The second the string of words left his lips, Oskar began inwardly chiding himself for letting that much slip out, letting down that curtain he thought he’d trained himself to maintain with such deftness.

Home. If there was a single place in the world Oskar wished he could leave for ‘awhile’, it was his home. Pretty ironic, in his eyes. The one place he was supposed to feel safe and assured, and it did the worst job of it. Oskar really only thought deeply about such things in moments when there was little to distract him from his inner thoughts. He’d never had such a rush of emotion cascade through him without something disastrous to open the floodgates. To think that a simple question like that could cause such a reaction was a troubling one indeed.

He kept his smile up, in the hope none of the internal cracks would show, and didn’t even have time to try and pass everything off by replying to Ty’s follow up question when a beacon of light came jogging into his life in the form of Mia Rose.

The second Mia entered the scene, the small chip in the wall that Ty had managed to carve out was instantly refilled, boundless enthusiasm practically exuding from his entire body as he offered her an energetic wave. She was one of his favourite members of the cheerleading squad; one that he never felt too anxious or nervous around and an absolute bundle of positivity. Just what he needed right now.

“Hey kween! Aww, thanks! You look defs rad too! How’ve you beeeeen?”
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“Aww, Mia!” Oskar pouted his lip and gently crossed his arms as his friend described how her BMX had taken damage from one-too-many collisions. As much as he knew Mia was a relentlessly resilient girl and would likely bounce back from any injuries she might sustain while on the biking circuit, it still worried him. Vehicular accidents were a sore spot for him; it’s what had made him uneasy about learning to ride a bike. His father had offered to teach him a year or so ago, out of a pang of guilt for not doing so when Oskar was younger. But he’d refused. Walking to and from school suited him well enough, and the lone bicycle the Pearce family owned belonged to his mother. The thought of scratching it up from being too careless was one almost unbearable to entertain.

“I know you’re the best biker out there, but take care, alright?” He finished, folding down into a child’s pose to cool down somewhat while the duo continued to speak. Ty mentioned an upcoming competition he was practicing for, and when Mia inquired as to its specifics, Oskar couldn’t help but pipe up with a question he’d always wanted to ask, but hadn’t really ever had a good throughline to do so.

“Wrestlin’ stuff, right? I wish I could get into stuff like that. I’m so lil’, though. I don’t think I could ever take anyone down. Do you guys have an open audience, or is it super restricted?”

As he spoke, Oskar pulled himself out of child’s pose and lay down on his back, stretching to let the tension in his muscles unwind. After a moment’s thought, he impulsively peeled his singlet off, gently tossing it to the side and exposing his trim chest. He didn’t want to stew in his own sweat for much longer, and with the sun beating down on the park even more ferociously than usual, maybe he’d finally manage to acquire something of a tan. And he didn’t need to worry about the others’ reactions too much – Mia had seen him shirtless plenty of times, and wrestling was brimming with shirtless guys; he doubted Ty would care.

“It’s so hot, isn’t it?” He said, fiddling with the end of his ponytail. “When I left the house this morning it was so cold, I thought I’d need a jacket too. And now I’m regretting not wearing short shorts!”
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