Cleaned up a bit for your viewing pleasure.
When London was little, he spent a lot of time alone. It wasn't necessarily a conscious decision, but that's how it was. His parents work long hours and none of the other children his age quite understood the value of sitting still and quiet.
Inside his books, London isn't 'that quiet kid in the corner' any longer. He is transported into another world. A world where he'd rather live. In fairy tales, the hero always wins. He gets his princess and slays the dragon and there is always a happily ever after. At least, that is London's understanding.
The real world isn't that great. It isn't that bad, either. He knows it could be worse. He doesn't get spankings or anything like that. He doesn't really get hugs either though.
When he first meets James, London doesn't realize how that will affect his life. Not yet anyway. James has mousy blond hair, coke-bottle glasses, and an unpronounceable last name. It could be love at first sight.
"Can I play with you?" James asks. He's small at five, though eventually he'll be taller and broader than London.
"I'm reading," London says with a frown. "I don't want to play right now."
"Well, can I play near you?" James persists.
London looks up, snidely superior even at nine. James stares at London with his watery blue eyes and a matchbox car clutched tightly in his dirty hands.
"They won't let me play tag," he says, gesturing across the playground.
London bites his lip. "Just don't make a lot of noise."
Recess ends and London doesn't even glance at the younger boy. The next day he's back, though. And the day after.
It isn't until he invites James to his birthday that London realizes that he has a friend now. It's better when he goes to James's house. James's parents are big and loud and they laugh a lot. It smells like meatloaf or spaghetti all the time. Even though it's not his house, London always feels welcome.
James likes to play silly kid's games, but London doesn't mind going along with them too much. When James proudly declares that they're best friends, London silently agrees.
That's the way their friendship works. It's a good system until London is stupid enough to break the pattern and make the declaration first. He knew he should have waited for James, but it felt as if James would never bring it up.
And so London did a stupid thing and kissed his best friend in a decidedly more than friendly manner. James hasn't called or come by the shop and London is so stupid about these things. James should know better. He should know that London doesn't know how to apologize.
He picks up the phone ten times a day but he doesn't know what to say. 'Can we just be friends again?' comes to mind. 'Let's pretend it never happened' does as well. Except that London doesn't want to forget. He wants James to tell him that they've been in love since kindergarten and kissing isn't going to change a thing.
Frankie would know what to do. She'd kick both their asses. Unfortunately, she's also visiting her stupid girlfriend. London scowls into the mirror and puts on more eyeliner. It's a good day for make-up; another layer against the world.
He pulls up his best 'I hate everything' expression and trudges down the stairs into the bookstore. The sign is flipped and London firmly planted in a defensible position behind the counter. He feels exposed, like a cactus with its thorns shorn off.
He tells himself he isn't disappointed when James doesn't stop by for the fourth -- has it been four days already? -- day in a row. He knows he's lying but sometimes that's what you have to do.
He's doing perfunctory cleanup when the bell over the door jingles. "Sorry, we're... closed."
It's James, of course. Looking like he just stepped out of a romantic comedy and not the tragedy London calls his life. His hair is a mess and his cheeks flushed, as though he ran all the way over. It's over five miles, so that's unlikely, but all London can think is that somehow James has been trying to get here for days.
"I... What did you expect me to do?" James asks, exasperated. "London! Just, out of the blue!"
"I thought--" God, that hoarse croak should not be his voice. "I guess it was dumb."
"You are such an idiot. I don't know why I put up with this." James is laughing though and London is so, so confused.
"I'm sorry," he says. Maybe that will be enough to get the world spinning on its axis again.
"Don't be sorry, you dweeb. I just had ten or so years of platonic love to process. At least you already knew you were gay."
James crosses the room in about two steps. London has always wondered how he can move like that. So self-assured for such an utter dork.
It feels wrong, being the one out of control. James is younger than he is. Theoretically he has less life experience but he's running circles around London here.
As if he knows what London is thinking, James says, "You're lousy with love, London. I know that. And really, it never even crossed my mind that you'd... want me." James flushes at the end and London is grateful for the break in composure.
London shrugs. "There's no one else. I always thought... I dunno. Just, there's no one else."
It makes perfect sense, to both of them. This is the final piece of a puzzle coming to rest. James's big tanned hand reaches out and takes up London's pale slender one. He smiles at the contrast and kisses their mingled fingers.
"I told my mom, last night. She wasn't surprised."
London smiles. It's a small Mona Lisa smile. "Frankie's gonna laugh."
"Frankie's gonna die of shock that we finally got together," James says.
"Let her," London replies. This time, James kisses him first and things are right with the universe.