If you don't like stories involving gay male characters, this story isn't for you. If you're a minor or if it's illegal for you to read these stories, you are not encouraged to read them and the author takes no responsibility if you do. Also, the story, and all characters in it are FICTIONAL any resemblance to real life or someone you know is a coincidence. The characters and story are the property of the author, and while I don't care if you print chapters out for your own enjoyment, please don't sell or post elsewhere without permission. This includes "borrowing characters" for your own story. If you want to do it, ask first. Any comments, questions, please send to Dluka1983@hotmail.comor post them in the forum at the website here: http://domluka.gayauthors.org/
A/N Thanks to Jim for editing!
Luke was in a bad mood. He wasn't yelling, or screaming. He wasn't snapping at anyone. In fact, he was overly calm and precise with his words; but it was there. Something had crawled up his ass, died, and festered, because just sitting next to him downstairs as he flipped through channels, I could feel the tension. It wasn't very pleasant.
Seth had left an hour ago, and Luke's current attitude was what I'd been greeted with after I took my shower. Of course, when I asked him if there was something wrong, he forced a smile and told me everything was fine. I wasn't used to this from Luke. I didn't like it.
"What did you do at work?" I asked, trying to get him to talk about whatever was bothering him. Obviously, he wasn't going to tell me directly. In response, he flashed me a look that suggested he knew exactly what I was up to. This wasn't surprising, because I never asked him what he did at work.
"I worked," he responded shortly.
"O-kay... Was traffic bad?"
"There wasn't any traffic."
"Oh. Did Chey piss in your room or something, because I've let her out a lot today..."
Okay, I was reaching.
"No, she didn't," Luke responded. He was beginning to sound irritated.
"Okay," I said, sighing, and stood up. If anything, I knew what it was like to be in a bad mood. If Luke wanted to be alone, I could give that to him. There was no way I wanted to add my name to the list of things he was irritated with--if I wasn't already on it. Of course, I couldn't think of any reason why I would be. I started heading upstairs, hoping to find something to do until Luke was feeling better, but when I heard him curse behind me, I paused and turned around.
"Rory, hold on, okay?" he said, sounding a lot more like Luke already. It was enough to have me heading back to the sofa.
"Did I do something?" I asked curiously, taking a seat next to him. Luke just stared at me for a long moment before shaking his head.
I studied Luke for a moment, not sure whether he was being honest or not. He really did look put out about something.
"Luke? Are you alright?"
"I'm okay," he replied, nodding. He sighed. "I'm sorry; I'm just, having one of those days, you know?"
"Just some shit. I don't know. There's some stuff I haven't really been dealing with and it sort of crept up and bit me in the ass today."
"Do you want to talk about it?" I asked, hoping that he would. I wasn't used to a whole lot of things bothering Luke.
"Nah, I'll work it out."
"Yeah," he insisted. "But hey, I'll pretend I'm in a good mood, okay?"
"Please, Rory. Can we just sit here and pretend that everything's cool?" He sounded exasperated.
I gave him a measuring look, and then reluctantly shrugged.
Luke smiled again, but this time it seemed less forced.
"Thanks. So what did you do today?"
"I asked Seth to come over."
"Yeah, I saw that," Luke replied. "Are you sure you used to hate him? You guys seemed kinda cozy."
"We were not cozy," I insisted.
"You were flirting."
"Was not," was my immediate response.
"Do you wanna know what I think?" Luke asked.
"I don't think so," I replied honestly, and he playfully punched my shoulder. I had a feeling that he was going to tell me what he thought, anyway.
"I think you like him."
I considered this. Mostly, because I'd been lying my ass off when I denied that I'd been flirting with Seth. I had been. Only, I didn't want to admit it on the account of being so afraid that Seth would make some kind of move on me. True, there was part of me--mostly my eyes and my hormones--that was attracted to Seth. He was attractive. But, Aaron had been attractive, too, and that had gotten me into enough trouble. I really was afraid of Seth liking me. So in all honesty, I didn't even understand why I'd taken it upon myself to flirt with him, or why I wouldn't mind spending more time with him like that, for that matter.
"Rory?" Luke said, as if to challenge me when I didn't respond fast enough.
"Would it make me an asshole if I liked that he likes me, without actually liking him?" I asked.
"What do you mean?"
I let out a breath, feeling oddly comfortable with being so honest with Luke.
"Aaron didn't like me," I explained. "I mean, he couldn't have. Not that much..."
"I was just a stupid game to him, Luke."
"He did come looking for you," Luke pointed out. "Look, Rory, Aaron's an asshole. But, I know exactly how you feel. Sometimes with Aaron, it's hard to tell if..."
"He didn't like me," I insisted. "It kinda sucks, you know? Not that it matters anymore. With Seth, it's kinda nice that someone... I don't know."
"It's okay. I think I know what you're saying. So you don't like Seth?"
"I like hanging out with him," I admitted. "I just don't know if it's a good idea for me to like anyone right now."
"Okay," Luke replied after a moment of studying me. "But, Rory--Aaron's still an asshole."
"Yeah," I agreed, cracking a smile.
"There's a lot to like about you," Luke said seriously, and then smirked. "Most of the time."
I sat at the kitchen table in front of the portable phone, turning over the piece of paper that I'd written Seth's phone number on. When I thought about hanging out with Seth, I thought more about going over to see if he was available the next time I was home alone and wanting company. The option of going out on a Friday night, with not only Seth, but possibly Angela, too, hadn't really occurred to me. I wouldn't have thought that I'd even consider it, knowing that Luke usually asked me if I wanted to go with him on Fridays. But I was considering it.
Don't get me wrong; if Luke would have mentioned going out, and asked me to go with him, I would go without giving Seth's invitation a second thought because I was comfortable with Luke--even if I was kind of tired of going to the park, not to mention my chances of seeing Aaron at the park seemed greater than anywhere else. And let's face it, Luke and his friends were always going to the park.
But, Luke hadn't mentioned anything. In fact, I had a feeling that all he wanted to do was stay in tonight. I, on the other hand, kinda felt like going out. Besides, it was an opportunity to make new friends, and if there was one thing that I'd noticed lately, I really didn't have many of those. Lately, I'd also noticed that I wouldn't mind having a few more. It had been a while since I felt that way.
I picked up the phone and started to dial. But not Seth's number. That went back into my pocket for the time being. I listened to the other line ring a few times before I heard Eddie's voice instructing callers to leave a message. I didn't. I figured that the message I left a half hour before was enough. Besides, it was almost seven o'clock and while Eddie had said he'd be home late, I didn't think he'd be back too much later. So, I hung up the phone, and stared at it some more.
"Are you trying to get hold of someone, Rory?"
I looked over my shoulder to see Jase, heading for the refrigerator.
"I was just trying to call Eddie."
"Ah. I tried to call him a few minutes ago, too. My guess is that he left his cell in the car. Did you try his office?"
"I got the answering service."
"Well, when I talked to him at lunch, he didn't think he'd be home for dinner--does chicken salad sound okay?"
"Good. Did you need something, Rory? Is that why you were calling Eddie?"
"Not really," I replied. "I mean...someone asked me to go bowling tonight. I was sort of thinking about it and I didn't know if I was supposed to talk to him, or..."
"Who were you thinking about going with?" Jase asked as he moved over to the table and took a seat one chair away from me.
"Um, Seth Fisher; he lives down the street."
A knowing smile that I immediately wanted to object to crossed Jase's face.
"I know who he is. Eddie told me he met Seth's parents."
"He said Angela Conner might be there, too," I added, not wanting Jase to get the wrong idea.
"Okay, where were they going to go bowling?"
"Seth said it was across the street from the mall."
"I know the place," Jase replied, nodding. "I go there with Eddie every once in a while. There are a lot of young people around your age there on the weekends." He said that last part like it was supposed to be a selling point.
"I wouldn't really know."
"Did you want to go?"
"I'm still thinking about it," I admitted. "I mean, they wouldn't be there until around nine anyway, and..."
"If you need a ride, I'll take you," Jase volunteered. "I think it's a good idea."
"I don't think I'd need a ride," I replied. After all, Seth had given me his number for a reason. Otherwise, he would have just said that I could meet him there.
"Well, if you decide you want to go, or that you need a ride, let me know. I really don't mind."
"You know, if you do go, I know for a fact the place closes at twelve thirty. If you wanted to stay until then we could move your curfew to one."
I hadn't decided if I was actually going or not, but that last thing did catch my attention.
"Can you do that?"
"I'm pretty sure I can. Actually, believe it or not, we do make exceptions sometimes, Rory. Like, if Luke wants to see a late movie, or stay the night at one of his friends. We just sleep easier when we know you're in the house by midnight. But, as long as we know where you are, it's not usually a problem."
"Yeah, Eddie kinda told me that last part," I replied sheepishly, and Jase smiled.
"You're doing okay," he said, but it sounded a little more like a question than a statement to my ears.
"Yeah, I guess so."
Jase continued to study me for a few moments, almost looking as if he expected me to say more, but when I didn't, he gave me a small nod.
"You should think about going," he finally said. "And it's really no problem if you need a ride."
I looked in the bathroom mirror, inspecting my hair. I'd been wearing it practically shaved for years, and not being one of those people open to change, I was ready to find a pair of clippers and get to it. Only, I decided that there wasn't enough time for that. So, I'd found some gel and spiked it up, noting that with the gooey substance in it, it had not only become hard to the touch, but it also looked way too shiny and a lot darker than it normally was. But, it didn't look entirely horrible, so I decided against jumping back into the shower.
I went back to my room, gathered my wallet into my pocket and then lifted my cell phone as I held up the piece of paper with Seth Fisher's phone number on it. It was eight forty-five, Eddie wasn't home yet, and I'd officially come to the conclusion that I was going to brave the bowling alley. I had the first two numbers dialed, and then hung up. But not because I was chickening out. True, I was a little nervous about calling Seth, but I was also determined. I'd hung up because of the sudden burst of loud music coming from the basement living room. It seemed entirely out of place, since right after dinner, Luke had announced he was going to bed. Jase had found this as odd as I had, and he'd actually followed Luke downstairs. When Jase came back fifteen minutes later and we did the dishes together, he hadn't said anything about Luke. But, he didn't have to. I'd figured that Luke was going to bed early because he was still in a shitty mood. I'd also thought about trying to talk to him again, but figured he was sleeping when I found his bedroom door closed. But apparently, he'd taken the world's shortest nap, or he'd rethought his plans to go to bed so early. I confirmed that when I found him in the living room on the floor, going through a stack of DVDs.
"We have, like, no scary movies," he informed me when he saw me there. "All I want is, like, a guy with a chainsaw or something, ripping people up."
"What are you doing?" I asked, and he looked at me like it was self-explanatory before he shoved the stack in my general direction.
"You pick," he stated. "I'll make popcorn or something--or do you wanna go swimming? I'm not really in the mood."
I paused, realizing that whatever Luke was going to do tonight, he expected me to do it with him.
"I thought you went to bed."
"Not tired," he replied, shrugging.
I knelt down on the floor with him, feeling a little awkward. I almost picked a movie, but stopped myself.
"Seth asked me to go bowling," I admitted, and Luke just stared at me for a minute before his eyes drifted from my hair to my clothes.
I don't have to," I said quickly, noticing disappointment in his voice.
"No. It's fine."
"I just didn't know you had plans."
"We could both go," I suggested, liking the idea as soon as I said it. Luke, however, looked at me like I'd said something particularly offending.
"I don't make a very good third wheel."
It took me a minute to figure out what he meant by that, but when I got it, I quickly shook my head.
"It's not like that," I said irritably. "Angela's gonna be there, too--sometimes they go bowling when Seth gets off work."
"Oh," he replied, sounding a lot less hostile, now.
"Jase said I could stay out until one, since the place doesn't close until twelve thirty." I added, in a way of trying to convince Luke to come with me.
"Yeah. Do you wanna go?"
"You really wanna stay out that late?"
"I'll come back early with you if you want," I replied. "I mean, there could be a video store on the way back, right? They'll probably have something with a chainsaw and enough blood to make you sick."
"Good point," he said, cracking a smile.
I thought about how Angela was going to be there and decided to throw out another idea.
"You could always call Dave and tell him Angela..."
"That's okay," Luke cut me off. "When did you wanna go?"
"Seth said they'd probably start around nine..."
"Cool. You wanna tell Jase we're going? I'll get dressed."
"Why didn't you want Dave to come with us?" I asked Luke as I walked with him across the parking lot towards the lit-up bowling alley. Jase had been right. There were teenagers everywhere.
"What are you talking about?"
I rolled my eyes. When I'd suggested that Luke ask Dave to come with us, it hadn't escaped my attention that Luke had been completely uninterested in the idea. That seemed very un-Luke-like to me. Even for a Luke who happened to be in a really shitty mood.
"You could have asked him to come with us," I pointed out. "And aren't you supposed to have plans with him or something? It's Friday."
"Is that your way of telling me to get lost?" Luke remarked, and I frowned.
"No," I said, placing a hand on his shoulder to make sure that he wasn't going to suddenly take off on me. "I'm glad you came. Luke...shit, Luke. I just wanted to know why you're not hanging out with Dave tonight, okay? Just... forget it. You're really snappy tonight, you know."
"Sorry," he replied, sighing. "Look, Rory, I'm sort of not hanging out with Dave on purpose."
"You guys are fighting?" I asked incredulously.
"Not really fighting," Luke replied, running a hand through his curls. Dave doesn't even know I'm avoiding him, I don't think. I just... needed a break."
"A break?" I asked curiously. "Why would you need a break from Dave? He's... Dave." Even I liked Dave. Maybe we hadn't been the best of friends, but he was definitely Luke's best friend.
"Exactly. It's Dave. And, sometimes he has a really bad habit of only being able to focus on one thing at a time; and when that happens, it turns into borderline obsession and he gets really, really, really annoying to be around."
"Angela," Luke responded irritably as we stopped outside of the double doors and faced each other. "It's Angela. Did you know that he used to just like her like a normal person would? I mean, he still couldn't talk to her, but he liked her, and he was okay with both of those things, you know?"
"Actually, I have no idea what you're talking about," I admitted.
"Ever since he thought Angela was going out with Seth, he hasn't just liked her. He's been obsessed."
"But Angela's not going out with Seth."
"I know, but something about the whole thing got to Dave and now... now, all I hear about is Angela, Angela, Angela! We don't talk about anything else anymore. Ever. He actually called me at work today to tell me about a shirt he bought that he thinks Angela will like him in. And she won't, you know why? Dave sucks at picking out clothes. Everything he looks good in--I picked out. Plus, he hates to shop! Now, he's shopping for something that he thinks he'll look good in for some girl who he doesn't even have the guts to talk to, let alone ask if she thinks he looks good in that stupid shirt. I swear to god, Rory, if I hear one more thing about Angela..."
"You do realize we're meeting Angela here, right?" I cut Luke off, honestly concerned. For Luke's part, he simply fell silent, looking both annoyed and baffled.
"Okay; if I hear anything else about Angela from Dave, I won't be responsible for my actions against any bystanders. I really don't have a problem with Angela."
"Just Dave talking about Angela."
"Now you're getting it," Luke replied, grinning, and then turned to follow another group into the building, placing a hand on my arm in the process to make sure we stayed together.
"So it's Dave's fault you're cranky?" I asked.
"Don't call me cranky," Luke warned.
"Fine," I agreed, smiling. "So, should I buy us a lane, or..."
"I don't think there are any lanes left," Luke interrupted as we both paused and took in the chaos around us.
It was crowded. A lot more crowded than I would have thought. Every lane was occupied and it looked a lot like the entire contents of a high school had shown up. There were no open tables, or even benches. I couldn't figure out what was noisier, the bad pop music blaring over the speakers or the humming of mixed chatter. I wanted to turn around and walk away from all this, but Luke's hand on my arm stopped me as he leaned in closer to speak so I could hear him.
"Over there," Luke pointed, and I looked in the direction. But I had no idea what he was pointing at until Luke started leading me through the crowd and a group at the second-to-last lane caught my eye.
Meg was the first one I saw, as she approached the lane with a purple bowling ball. Behind her, on a crescent-shaped bench surrounding a table and the scoreboard, sat Angela and one of the girls who I'd met at Brian's house. As soon as we reached them, Luke was sneaking up behind Angela and covering her eyes as he said something into her ear. I, however, hung back as I scanned the area for the one person who'd invited me there. When I felt a tap on my shoulder, I found myself smiling before I turned around to face Seth as he peered out at me from under another ball cap with a bemused expression on his face, all the while juggling four extra-large sodas in his hands.
"You didn't call," he said simply.
"Yeah, I know."
"I didn't think you'd come."
"Well, I'm here," I pointed out.
"You brought Luke with you," Seth said indifferently, looking past me for a moment.
"Yeah, I know."
"Okay," Seth replied, and then suddenly smiled at me. "So, do you wanna bowl?" he asked, just as I became sensible enough to reach out and relieve him of two of the drinks he was carrying. "I didn't think we'd get a lane tonight, but Meg ended up getting here early."
"I'm not really good at bowling."
"We don't really keep score," Seth replied, leading the way towards the lane. I could see Luke with Meg now, as she showed him the proper way to hold a bowling ball. "We sort of just come here because it's a place to be, you know?"
"It looks like everyone else thinks it's the place to be," I pointed out.
"Yeah," Seth replied, looking a little perturbed. "It's not usually this crowded. But, I guess I'm not really here on Fridays. Usually I come during the week."
We reached the lane and I automatically passed the two drinks I was carrying off to Angela and the girl sitting next to her while Seth went to give his extra to Meg, and to say `Hi' to Luke, I noticed.
"You came," Angela said to me, smiling. I guess that meant that Seth had talked to her about inviting me.
"Sit down, Rory," Angela insisted, patting the seat next to her, and I did so, as Angela reminded me that the girl next to her went by the name of Mary. A moment later, Mary was getting up to bowl and Luke was sitting down on the other side of Angela, with Meg on the other side of him. Angela turned to Luke. "Where are the guys?" Angela asked him, and Luke frowned. For a moment, I thought that Luke was going to complain to Angela about Dave, too. He didn't.
"Don't know," he replied.
"You don't know?" Angela repeated, obviously thinking that there was something odd about that. I never heard Luke's response, though, because the next thing I knew, I was moving even closer to Angela so Seth could squeeze into the booth next to me. He automatically held out his drink, offering it to me.
"No thanks," I insisted.
"So, do you think this is boring?" Seth asked me.
"I don't know yet," I replied reasonably. "Ask me again when I've been here for more than ten minutes."
There was a long silence as Seth watched Mary bowl, and then he made a point to look down at his watch.
"So do you think this is boring?" he repeated smartly. I cracked a smile at him.
"I'm not bored."
"Excuse me, Rory," Angela suddenly said, and then she was suddenly trying to squeeze between me and the small table in front of us. I had to lean into Seth to give her room, but as soon as I was against his shoulder, he moved out of the booth to help her out before he was sitting down again, and I found myself between Seth and Luke.
It was surprisingly awkward and quiet. I looked at Seth, to see that he had found something incredibly interesting about the lid on his drink, and then over at Luke, hoping that I wouldn't find him brooding again. I found that I couldn't tell what Luke was thinking. He was watching Angela bowl with an interested expression on his face. When he suddenly turned his head and gave me a small smile I smiled back, hoping that this little break he was taking from Dave would at least make him feel better. Luke's mood left my mind, however, when Seth suddenly tapped me with his elbow and asked if I wanted to bowl. I tried it, but I really wasn't very good at it. That's probably why I was the only one who got excited when I knocked down three pins at one time. Although Seth did give me a pat on the back.
Luke went to get drinks at some point but brought back snow cones instead. I couldn't finish mine, so Meg volunteered to finish it for me. I decided that if I forgot about her constant gossiping and if she wasn't flirting with me, she really was a nice girl. She spent a lot of time talking to me later on as we discussed the social structure of the high school and the people who were actually at the bowling alley; but for some of it I was only half paying attention because I was watching Luke again. He'd taken to talking to Angela. I was just glad that he was smiling again, and looking a lot more like himself and not like the Desert Grinch. When Meg abandoned me to go talk to some guy who was with Mary who one of them had a crush on, I once again found myself in the company of Seth, and I managed to surprise myself with him.
Rather than sticking close to Luke as he bowled with Angela, I found myself following Seth around like a lost puppy. I had no idea why I was doing it, or what had gotten into me. But, I did pinpoint the moment I began this strange behavior to just after I made Seth blush when my tongue took on a mind of its own and told him that he should wear hats less often because he had a nice face.
I made Seth blush. I'd made him nervous, and I was completely aware of it. I liked the feeling, but I grudgingly found myself wondering if this was how Aaron had felt around me. All... empowered. It was a nice little confidence boost and I took full advantage of it. I was flirting my ass off, doing everything in my power to make Seth blush some more like I'd found my new favorite hobby. And, I was having a good time with him while I was at it. That's probably why I was doing nothing to stop myself.
When Seth went to go get nachos, I automatically volunteered to go with him. I wasn't hungry, but when he asked me if I wanted to share them, I insisted on paying and then I helped him eat them. I discovered that after complimenting his nice face that if I stared at him unblinkingly and with a mild amount of interest he'd have trouble meeting my eyes. Sometimes, he'd lose his train of thought mid-sentence, and it caused a lot more blushing on his part.
When Seth mentioned that the bowling alley had video games in the back it was my idea to leave the group to go play them, and when we were waiting for one of the machines to free up I found myself standing closer to him than I normally would. Partly because it was too noisy to hear him otherwise, and partly because he smelled pretty good, considering he'd been working before he changed in the back of his store before coming here. He explained that Grind-n-Go wear only ever left the store once a week so he could wash it. Twice, if he spilled something.
Even when Seth said he had to pee, I was right behind him, waiting outside of the stall for him to come back out. Maybe this was going a little far, but he seemed to like the attention as much as I liked discovering that I could completely unnerve him with one look. This, had never happened to me before.
And there were more moments. Quite a few times while I was talking to Seth about anything from the local forecast to how he wanted to get into small business like his dad, or as I followed him around laughing at the behavior of our peers, I got the distinct feeling that he wanted to kiss me just like I had earlier when we were in the pool. At first, these moments bothered me as much as they had earlier on, and I'd cool it for about five minutes. After all, I was bringing this upon myself with my behavior. But, after a while, I started to wonder if I wanted to bring it upon myself. It occurred to me that I was having more fun in one night with Seth than I'd had with Aaron during the entire time that I'd known him.
By the time midnight rolled around and the crowds started to thin out, the new comfort level between Seth and me seemed obvious. He'd sit closer to me, close enough that there was contact now, and the silences between us were more frequent, but less uncomfortable. I finally didn't follow Seth when he announced that he was going to go call home, but that could have been because Luke had suddenly sat next to me and dropped a hand on my shoulder.
"I'm kinda tired of being here," he announced, and that kinda sucked because we still had an hour before we had to be home. But I wasn't about to argue with him.
"Ready to go?" I asked.
"About. We still have time to rent a movie. You still up for it?"
"Yep," I replied, nodding as I watched Seth disappear in the crowd. I guess it was time to say goodbye. I wondered if he was busy tomorrow.
"Cool, I'll stop and rent something on the way back. Do you mind asking Seth for a ride home?"
"Huh?" I responded, my eyes snapping to Luke's.
"He lives right there, right?"
Luke held up his cell phone.
"I got a message from Dave. I guess we did have plans tonight and he thinks I blew him off," Luke explained.
"You did blow him off."
"Yeah, I know. I wanna go see him real quick and if I go now I'll have time. I mean, you could go with me if you want, but I sort of need to talk to him, and..."
"Hey, it's fine," I said quickly. "I'll ask Seth."
"Can you do it now?" Luke asked. "I wanna make sure you have a ride before I take off."
I smiled at Luke, and his concern, but shook my head.
"It won't be a problem, trust me."
Seth sat on his tailgate in the parking lot, legs dangling off, but more aimed at me, where I was sitting on the other side. He was giving me another searching look. It was one of those looks that he'd been giving me all night, and I met it head on, refusing to look away until he blushed and his eyes drifted downwards to his own lap.
"So where's Luke?" he asked. "He didn't just ditch you, did he?"
"No," I said simply, but elaborated when Seth looked up at me as if he expected more of an answer. "He had to go meet Dave real quick. Why? Is it a problem to take me home?" I asked, feeling brave enough to lightly kick at Seth's dangling foot.
"No," he said, smiling. "Is it okay if I take the girls home first? They're all going to Angela's. Or do you need to go home? Your place is a little closer."
"Whatever you want," I replied indifferently. I wanted him to take the girls home first. There was time. But, as I glanced towards the bed of Seth's truck and thought of the bench seat I became somewhat concerned. "How are we all supposed to fit in there?" I asked, thinking of the one bench seat.
In response, Seth teasingly smirked at me.
"Which girl do you want in your lap?"
As it turned out, I ended up with Angela in my lap. She was the smallest, and the lightest. We ended up by the window with Meg and Mary between us and Seth. I guess if I had to have a girl on my lap, Angela was the best pick. She wasn't wearing too much perfume and her hair was braided, so it wasn't whipping me in the face when the window was down. She was mostly soft-spoken, so I didn't get a headache when she talked the whole way to her house; and most importantly, she didn't move around too much.
It was just about twelve twenty by the time Angela and her friends got out of the truck and Seth headed for home. I was feeling entirely relaxed by then, but not at all tired.
"Do you always hang out with those girls?" I asked Seth, deciding to keep up conversation.
"Mary's around a lot with Angela. I've just recently seen more of Meg. Sometimes her sister, too."
"Yeah, I think so," he replied. "But usually she's with that guy--Brian? I think that's her boyfriend, right?"
"I can't think of any other explanation," I remarked, and Seth smiled over at me.
"The girls like to go dancing sometimes," Seth said offhandedly. "There's a club that Angela's always trying to get me to go to on the weekends, but I don't really dance. I'm kinda uncoordinated. Do you dance?"
"I haven't in a while--but I don't think I'm that bad."
"Do you wanna go sometime?"
"And Angela, and Meg--or whoever."
"I thought you just said you couldn't dance."
"So?" he replied, and I couldn't help laughing.
I was trying to figure out if that had been Seth's way of asking me out. It didn't quite occur to me just then that the idea didn't freak me out, or that I wasn't exactly opposed to it--Seth asking me out. It occurred to me after we reached the house, and I said goodbye to him before getting out of the truck, only to find him waiting for me at the front of the vehicle, just like he'd been the first time he ever drove me home.
"What are you doing?" I asked, but this time there wasn't a shitload of hostility behind it.
Seth, however, looked just as awkward as the first time we found ourselves in this position, and rather than verbally answering, this time he briefly pointed towards the front door, looking rather disgusted with himself, but at least he had the sense to laugh about it.
"I'm leaving... I'm gonna go," he said, turning back for his door.
"Hey, Seth. Hold on a sec," I abruptly called after him.
He turned back rather quickly, meeting me halfway so that we faced each other in front of his truck so that the headlights hit our shoulders.
"Can I call you tomorrow or something?" I asked. I was being brave here. It was because I was aware of Seth's feelings for me--or his attraction towards me, or whatever it was. Seth wasn't going to tell me that he didn't want me to call him. Seth wasn't going to reject me. On some level, I was confident of that. I think I wanted to make sure I was right. And I think, maybe I wanted to call him.
"Yeah," Seth's answer was quick. "I don't work until three tomorrow."
"Okay," I replied. But Seth continued to look at me as if there was supposed to be more. Maybe that's because I wasn't moving. I was attempting to watch his face, beneath that hat, and even in the shadows I could see him biting at his full, bottom lip; and looking higher, I could see that his eyes had dropped to my mouth again. And he seemed closer. One of us had taken a step forward. I just didn't have any idea who it was. Right then, it occurred to me that I was waiting for him to do something. That's why I wasn't walking away. I was waiting for Seth to kiss me this time, and I was pretty sure that I knew why I wanted him to. For a moment, I full on expected it to happen. But, the moment ended quite abruptly when Seth smiled nervously and gave me a playful punch in the arm instead. It kinda hurt and I rubbed at it, but at least it was sobering.
"So, I'll see you later," he said, suddenly sounding rushed.
"Yeah," I replied, letting out a breath as I turned towards the house and headed inside--without my kiss.
I could hear Seth leaving as I closed the front door behind me, wondering what had stopped him. I thought he'd wanted to kiss me. But I didn't have much time to think of it, when the light flicking on above me managed to startle the hell out of me.
I blinked several times before I was able to focus on the large figure in front of me wearing an old bathrobe and an even older pair of sweat pants. It was scowling at me, using Eddie's face to do it.
"What are you doing home so late?" he demanded. "Where were you?"
My eyes immediately darted to the wall clock behind him. It was only twelve forty-five, and I immediately relaxed as I faced him.
"I went bowling," I explained. "Jase said I could stay out until one--Luke, too," I added, just to be on the safe side. "He went to see Dave, he'll probably be back here in a few minutes."
Eddie stared at me for a long moment while I prepared to get defensive, but then he sighed and shook his head.
"I'm sorry, Rory. I know Jase mentioned something like that. I'm half asleep here."
"It's okay," I replied, deciding not to hold it against him.
"Well, did you have fun... bowling?"
"Actually, yeah," I said, cracking a smile.
"Well, will you tell me about it tomorrow? We could go driving again."
"Sure," I agreed. I figured that was okay, as long as he let me sleep in.
"Alright, I'll see you in the morning," Eddie said around a large yawn. "Night, Rory," he finished, and I rolled my eyes when he patted the top of my head as he passed by.
I was in jogging shorts and a t-shirt, staring at a blank television screen, ready to play a movie when Luke came in. I didn't bother looking back as he passed me on the way to his room, but I did open the corn nuts he dropped on my lap. A minute later he was kneeling in front of the TV, dressed similar to me, as he set up the movie before joining me on the sofa.
I passed Luke the corn nuts just as the opening credits to the moving came on, all the while asking him, "How can you tell if someone wants to kiss you?"
It only took Luke an instant to lift the remote, pause the movie, and turn his full attention towards me.
"Well," he replied after a moment, sounding very business-like. "In my experience, when someone wants to kiss you, they usually... kiss you."
"Oh," I replied, wondering if I should rethink the theory that Seth wanted to kiss me.
"Rory? Seth wouldn't, though."
"He's shy," Luke replied, shrugging.
"I guess so," I agreed. "I just thought he wanted to, but he didn't."
"He definitely wants to," Luke insisted, looking a little amused by it. "But, you'd probably have to make the first move if you want it to happen." Luke paused for a moment and regarded me inquisitively. "I thought you didn't really like him. I mean, not like that. Did you want him to kiss you?"
I blinked at the question, and then frowned at myself.
"When I thought he was going to, yeah," I admitted. "But now, I kinda feel like a jerk because I wanted it."
"Why would you feel like that?"
"Because of Seth. He's a nice guy," I explained. "He's nice to me."
"Yeah, well, he likes you."
"That's why it sucks. Luke, I think the only reason why I wanted him to kiss me was because... when someone says, "Hey, Rory, who have you ever kissed?" I want something other than the name Aaron Keslin to pop into my head," I explained, sounding a little more desperate than I'd wanted to.
"Rory--who's ever gonna ask you that?" Luke half-laughed, and his amusement made me smile.
"I don't know. But, it could happen."
"I guess so," Luke agreed, looking thoughtful as I waited to see if he had any advice that actually might be helpful to me. And then, there was only a brief moment between the time his eyes met mine and when he leaned forward, his mouth lightly brushing against mine before he leaned in some more, pressing his lips firmly enough against mine that I could feel the moisture from the last time he'd licked them. I hardly had any time to respond before he pulled back and smiled at me. "There," he said simply. "Now you don't have to worry about it anymore."
Feeling a little surprised, but not at all unable to smile, I elbowed Luke as I leaned back against the sofa, and he started the movie again. Maybe Luke's best friend was Dave, but over the next few hours as we made fun of Freddie Krueger because Luke changed his mind about needing a man with a chainsaw in his movie, I decided that Luke was mine.