I mean, with Chad and Blake here, nothing good happens at any time of day. Dive into this dramatic soap opera-esque story of epic proportions.

Chad’s cheap flip-flops were a herd of elephants clambering up the sheet metal stairs. Flop, flop, flop, thunderously flopping in the concrete stairwell. They were the steps of a man who dreaded what lay at the top yet was compelled to take it on. She was at stake, worth the pain he would soon suffer…and would soon inflict.

His roommate — his bro — had wooed her from underneath his nose. Blake’s late-night texting sessions to his friends, lies. The bastard had taken his love, his girl, his life. No, he couldn’t let that be stolen from him.

Fifteen steps down the hall to reach the door. Wooden and shoddy, like the façade Blake had worn. It opened without fuss, but Chad punctuated his entry with a slam. The floor shuddered as he approached the object of his powerful scorn. “Dude!”

The cup of instant barley clattered as Blake dropped it back onto the table, spilling only a few precious drops. Steam rolled away from the cup’s lip, vapors thinning as the drink cooled far too quickly, unlike the passion heating the room. He spoke, the inquisitive tone belying the complete understanding below. “Bro?”

How Blake could keep looking so smug, Chad didn’t know. It must have taken serious effort, palpable disdain for a friend he’d held onto since shotgunning beers in their buddy’s basement when they were freshmen. The scarlet sunburns around their rompers that made them wince when they reached for another cold one, the shocks they blew out jumping in the bed of that loser Alan’s pickup truck, all of it meant nothing now. Deep bonds, severed so cleanly, so cruelly.

Chad whipped over to the table and ripped away a chair. Blake sat there, stupid, confused, yet aware of the pain he had caused with his thoughtless actions as Chad sunk into the lawn chair they had borrowed indefinitely from their neighbor. He filled his voice with the despondency of a mortal wound. “Dude….”

“Bro!” Blake’s hands flew up in their inevitable surrender. No way he could weather Chad’s gaze for long. For years, at every showdown at the beer pong table, he could stare Blake into submission, and today would be no exception. It couldn’t be, not with so much at stake.

The chair groaned as Chad leaned forward, making sure his hot breath splashed against Blake’s face and set off his eye twitch. Despite the wrinkle of worry furrowing his brow, Blake seemed collected, almost unrepentant. His callousness had Chad almost screaming, a fraction of the rage boiling within. “Duuuuude!”

And Blake stood tall, his chair flipping away like the card tables they would overturn together at 3 a.m.. “Bro!” He would always puff his chest out, complemented by that glare toughened by dozens of bar fights that ended in drunken shouting or a single lame punch. Maybe it was this chest puffing that Chad’s girl had fallen in love with? This bravado — compelling but false — could have been what had taken her away.

Certainly, Chad could not let Blake outshine him. He didn’t deserve her; it wasn’t right. Chad had talked to her, like, twelve times by now, a level of commitment Blake could never surpass. For her, Chad had given up so much, so many others…she was his, and Blake needed to be put in his place.

After benching twice his bodyweight this morning, Chad’s pecs shuddered like jelly as he matched Blake’s chest. An inch, maybe two, from each other, as close as they used to be. This time, Blake’s eyes didn’t fall away under Chad’s gaze. They were locked in, driven by a fiery passion for her that neither would relinquish.

Blake would be relentless, but stopping him was paramount, lest Chad lose his muse forever. Reason and rational thought were out of the question. It pained him to his core to realize what had to be done, but there was no going back. Not here, with chests out, ready to end it.

The air rushed against his knuckles, slightly swollen from the protein shake after a sick workout, as Chad brought it straight up. Blake had always had an abnormally large chin, even jutting out past his decent-sized chest. That chin, with stubble left behind by his dulled razor, made for an ample target. Chad winced as his fist connected, and Blake’s eyes shuttered as he fell.

How could Blake force him to do this?!

But, really, that didn’t matter anymore. It was done.

His bro splayed out on the cold tile of their apartment, Chad stood, victorious in his quest for love. She had to take him back now. His phone emerged from the pocket of his athletic shorts, and he snapped a photo of his vanquished foe. Seeing Blake utterly wrecked like this, she would have to flee this nerd and come back to the right dude.

Chad basked in the glow of success for the two minutes it took for her to respond to the picture. His pride swelled as he swiped open the message…and his stomach tumbled to the floor, along with the phone and her response. One simple, familiar, terrible word.


Yeah, we all may have lost a few brain cells after that one. Hope you have just enough cognitive function to share this with others or leave a comment below.

Thanks to my sister, Alyssa, for suffering through editing this story :P. And thank you to the family for your support.

And thanks to the development team, including Pompílio (your instant barley was a hit), EEsDoNotItNow (who wanted to take this story out back and shoot it), YWFE (and your comma nitpicking) & DrummerMax64.

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