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The Colors of Romance

by Ashavan Doyon

A disastrous date during his freshman year of college has left Theo Dwyer with no faith in men, relationships, or especially Valentine’s Day. When his roommate sets him up on a blind date, naturally Theo refuses. Then a persistent online suitor known only as TruClrs4vr begins sending Theo flowers and arranging romantic virtual meetings. After his treatment by his ex, Theo is reluctant to trust another man, but the determined TruClrs4vr might be the one to rekindle his passion, one color of the rainbow at a time.

Excerpt:

“COME ON, it’s Valentine’s Day!” Jeremy said.

Theo looked at him with a stare that would make a bear flee from honey. “You’re supposed to want it to be all romantic,” Theo said. “Just the two of you, alone.”

Jeremy sighed. “That is what I want,” he grumbled. “Listen, Theo, Jaz, she has a friend—”

“No.”

“You haven’t heard what I’m going to say yet!”

“I heard enough,” Theo said. “The answer is still no.”

“Theo!”

“What? I’m not changing my mind,” Theo said. He glared at Jeremy. “You should know better than to even ask.”

“So, what, you’re going to be miserable and alone and celebrate Single Person Awareness Day or something?” asked Jeremy.

“Something like that, yeah,” Theo growled, turning and walking away.

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“I’m going to ask again tomorrow!” shouted Jeremy after him. “And the day after that, and the day after that, until I get a fucking yes, Theo!”

Theo ignored Jeremy’s shouts as he left the café. He wouldn’t feel guilty. Not now. Not over that. Just the mention of Valentine’s Day had him on edge.

The streets were quiet and the walkways back to the college icy. Theo spent the walk back to campus with his eyes on the sidewalk, his arms crossed over his chest. The cold was bitter, and the wind wasn’t helping. Theo sighed and watched the icy frost of his breath float away. He stopped for a moment. What was Jeremy thinking?

He wasn’t. Which meant it was a suggestion from Jasmine. Sure, she didn’t know any better, but Jeremy…. Theo shook his head. Jeremy wasn’t thinking with his head. Well, not with the right head, at least. And Theo was sure Jeremy would far rather have a romantic dinner with Jasmine alone than be caught in the awkwardness between Theo and a man who didn’t and couldn’t know what Valentine’s Day meant to him.

Theo sighed and started walking. He felt the buzz in his pocket and ignored it. In this cold he wouldn’t be able to use the touch screen anyway, even if he was willing to freeze his fingers by taking them out of the gloves. This late on a weekend, the parties on frat row had already started. Even in the bitterness of winter, the students had spilled out of the houses. The semester was still new. No one was really behind on their work, not yet.

When Theo reached the dorms, he couldn’t help but think how quiet they were. Everyone was out partying. Theo could’ve been. Jeremy was the sort of roommate who always made sure Theo was included, even if he was the odd man out. Theo reached the room, shed his heavy layers, and sat on his bed. He should get back up and go out. He even knew it. But that wasn’t what he was going to do. Instead he leaned back against the wall and typed idly on his phone.

 

Theo13820

February. A month for lovers. For romance. And all I feel is loneliness. #feelingsorryformyself #romancefail

 

Theo would pay for the words later. He’d get a call from his mom and his older brother. That and Jeremy would use it to try to convince him to go out on Valentine’s Day. Sure Jeremy should know better, but it wasn’t like Theo actually ever talked about his hatred of the day. And he was lonely.

Theo sighed, tossed his phone aside, and picked up the book for his lit class. If he was going to be depressed anyway, now was the time to read it. With a reading list full of dystopias, it was a foregone conclusion that it wasn’t going to be cheery reading.

He kicked off his shoes, leaned against the mountain of pillows he kept on the bed, and began to read.

Theo was deep into the assigned chapter when his phone buzzed. Figured Jeremy would respond already. Couldn’t he just let it rest? Theo closed the book on his finger so he wouldn’t lose his place and picked up the phone.

 

TruClrs4vr

#romance must be made @Theo13820—have 2 wnt it 2 come.

 

Theo dropped his book and cursed as he flailed, trying to catch it before his place was lost, and groaned as the book hit the bed and closed.

“Goddamn it!” Theo grabbed the book and held it in a clenched fist. The phone buzzed again.

 

TruClrs4vr

Wnt to show u @Theo13820. Wnt u 2 let me #romance u.

 

Theo hesitated.

 

Theo13820

What if I don’t want it @TruClrs4vr

TruClrs4vr

I’m a #romantic. My job. 2 be so enticing u can’t hlp urself. Let me @Theo13820. #sayyesplease

 

Who the hell was this? He should be reading, not trading messages with a mysterious no one. He looked at the book, then at the screen. He growled, picked up the phone, and quickly checked the username. But the user had no other contacts at all and appeared only to be following him at the moment.

 

Theo13820 PM to TruClrs4vr

who the fuck are you? And why are you following me?

TruClrs4vr PM to Theo13820

I’m interested. Wasn’t Jaz. Know u think that. Not Jer either. Asked ’em 2 ask u.

 

Theo groaned.

 

Theo13820

@TruClrs4vr I fucking hate Valentine’s Day.

TruClrs4vr

@Theo13820 Getting that msg. But not romance. U said ur lonely. Sounds lk u wnt it. Can hlp u. let me?

 

Theo slammed a fist into the bed. He was going to kill Jasmine. Five followers, and now he had a stalker?

 

Theo13820 PM to TruClrs4vr

Leave me the fuck alone!

 

Theo knew the guy (he hoped it was a guy!) had gotten to him when several minutes passed and he was still waiting and anxious for a response. He shouldn’t be waiting for a response; he needed to finish reading this assignment.

His phone buzzed.

 

TruClrs4vr PM to Theo13820

sry. Just thought we cld try. I luv romance. I think u luv it too. Not about Valentines. Abt romance.

TruClrs4vr

@Theo13820 Will leave u alone. Sry.

 

Theo stared at the message. His stomach was crashed into his gut like a ball of lead. He’d been excited. As much as he hated Valentine’s Day, this guy had made him excited. And he, in his usual stupid fashion, had already chased the guy off. Fuck. He typed his next message out slowly and left it on his screen a long time before he hit send. He’d fucked this up, but just maybe it would be enough.

 

Theo13820

Pls don’t go. @TruClrs4vr #willingtotry #romanceme

 

He waited for a few minutes. His phone didn’t buzz. Groaning, he slammed his head back against the wall.

“How did I mess this up?”

He held up his phone, staring at the messages, and groaned. “Come on!”

 

TruClrs4vr

@Theo13820 u sure? Sounded angry.

Theo13820

@TruClrs4vr I was. Not at you. I really fucking hate Valentine’s Day.

TruClrs4vr

@Theo13820 Got that. Sry. Wnt u 2 enjoy the romance. Pls? 4 me?

Theo13820

@TruClrs4vr don’t even know you.

TruClrs4vr

@Theo13820 just a week. Will mk u feel the romance. Promise.

Theo13820

@TruClrs4vr Fine.

TruClrs4vr

@Theo13820 u were feeling it. I know u were. Let me try.

Theo growled and hit his head back against the wall again. “Fucking hell!” he groaned, typing quickly.

 

Theo13820

@TruClrs4vr I said fine.

 

The phone didn’t buzz immediately, and for a moment Theo was worried he’d said the wrong thing. Then his phone buzzed again.

 

TruClrs4vr

I have a romance! #feelinggood2nite @Theo13820 #hesaidyes

TruClrs4vr

@Theo13820 the romancing starts tomorrow!

 

Theo looked at the messages. Was he crazy? He’d just told a total stranger that he was open to being romanced—in preparation for a potential date on Valentine’s Day. Which he hated. So if he hated it so much, why was he excited?

COLLAPSE

Cover image by DWS Photography, Cover design by Paul Richmond

About the Author

Ashavan Doyon may have been a yeti in a prior life or possibly part giant. Either that or Texan air seriously messes up child development. During the day he’s a quiet and unassuming assistant at a liberal arts college in New England. At lunch, in the evenings, and when he can escape the grasp of his husband on weekends, Ashavan writes—with keyboard sounds on, because typing should make noise, beautiful clicky-clacky noise. He grew up reading fantasy classics and science fiction stories, but loves most speculative fiction. Growing up there was no such thing as a happy gay love story, and Ashavan writes to put those stories, full of fragility, beauty, even terror sometimes, into the world.

Consumed outside of his writing by a life with his husband and their ancient pug, Ashavan lives in Massachusetts and frequently complains about the snow that he never saw growing up in Texas. He went to school at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and holds a degree in Russian and East European Studies with a focus in language and literature. Ashavan continues to adore speculative fiction and can often be found rereading the classics he grew up with in his spare time.

Ashavan loves to hear from readers.


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