If you are offended by male/male relationships, or male/male sexual relationships, then you shouldn't be here in the first place. If this conduct is illegal in your area, you must EXIT NOW. This story is not to be copied or posted elsewhere without permission from the author. If you are interested in a story about gay teenage males, then please take your time and enjoy. Feedback/comments/suggestions and even complaints are welcome at DomLuka@aol.com
Chapter nine: House of Liars
A/N: Thank you to Jim the editor for volunteering his time to sort through all of my mistakes to make this chapter more readable (better) it is appreciated.
I wondered if Grandma Alice would let me move back in with her now that I'd made a complete mess of things. I figured that she'd have to. She owed it to me. After all, this was all her fault. Yep, that's right. It made perfect sense to pass all blame to her. After all, she wasn't there to defend herself, and even if she was, I was pretty sure that she'd just give some annoying know-it-all speech and walk away. Besides, it was easy to blame her because the way I saw it, if she had followed my mother's instructions and told me the whole truth in the first place, then I wouldn't have moved to Ari-frikin-zona and turned my apparently homosexual father's life upside-down to the point that his... boyfriend--or whatever Jase was--was about to leave him.
So... maybe it wasn't all Grandma Alice's fault. She never would have approved of me snooping around someone's bedroom, no matter what kind of life-altering stress I happened to be under, not that I really cared what Grandma Alice would or would not approve of at this point.
I turned and looked up the stairs again. Not because of the shouting, this time. It was because of the silence. I guess Luke had made it up there to interrupt Eddie and Jase's argument. I wondered what was being said. I wondered if the three of them would figure out what really happened before they came back down. It wouldn't be that difficult to figure out, really. A simple process of elimination. If they figured out that none of them left that photograph out, then that left me.
At some point as I stood there blankly, waiting for something--anything--to happen, I heard the doorbell ring and wondered if anyone from upstairs was going to come answer it. For some reason I felt incredibly put out when I realized I'd have to do it by myself. I went slowly, the back of my neck prickling. I think I half expected to hear another eruption of shouting from behind, and I was worried that when it happened, it would take me off guard. I didn't need to be off guard right now.
When I opened the front door, it was to find Dave standing there. He was smiling at me. Something I found a little out of place, considering the circumstances.
"Hey, Rory," he said. "Is Luke around? He said I should stop by for dinner, and since my mom's working late..."
"I don't know if we're still having dinner tonight," I replied, opening the door wider so he could come in. Dave regarded me curiously as he stepped inside, obviously having no idea what I was talking about.
"Um... okay. So, where's Luke?"
"Is he busy?"
I shrugged. "Eddie and Jase are fighting."
Dave looked alarmed by this announcement. I wondered if that meant Eddie and Jase didn't fight often.
"Seriously?" he asked. "Is everything okay?"
"Don't worry about it. They're probably just trying to figure out whether or not they're going to tell me they're gay," I explained indifferently. And then I walked away.
Needless to say, when I reached the living room and tiredly seated myself of the sofa, Dave was right behind me looking wide-eyed as he plopped into a chair across from me and stared. I stared back. I really didn't have anything to say. I was pretty much positive that he already knew what the situation was. It would only make sense, being close to Luke. But, while it didn't surprise me, it did annoy me--the fact that everyone seemed to have known the truth but me.
"Does Eddie know... I mean..."
"No," I stated.
"Luke told you then," Dave said, nodding, as if he'd just solved some sort of mystery. "He said he was going to... um, look, I'm sorry if I ever lied to you. It's just that, Luke was worried about Eddie not wanting you to know. I'm glad he told you, though."
"Luke didn't tell me anything," I replied somewhat heatedly as I took in this information. Luke was going to tell me the truth? Considering that I felt close to him, I wanted to give him bonus points for that. Only, he didn't tell me.
Dave's eyes went wide again, and he seemed to pale in front of me. He probably thought that he'd just given away a secret that he wasn't supposed to.
"So Luke... I mean, did you know about..."
"I know about Luke, too," I confirmed, and he actually looked relieved about that. But, his expression soon turned curious.
"So none of them know you know this?"
"I don't think so."
There was a long pause.
"Are you... going to tell them?" His tone definitely indicated that he was not interested in keeping any more secrets.
"I think they should tell me," I said, matter-of-factly.
"But you already know," Dave replied, looking like he didn't understand a word I was saying. "I mean... are you okay with it? If..."
"No, I'm not okay with it!" I cut him off, feeling furious. "They've been lying to me since I got here! All of them!"
"Hey," Dave said sternly, his eyes suddenly narrowing on me. "I get that this whole thing is probably a trip for you, but if you're going to hold being gay against them..."
"Why would I care if they're gay?" I snapped, the idea seeming completely ridiculous to me. Granted, I was too upset to even think about why Dave would assume that at the moment. "I'm pissed off because they lied to me! Everyone lied to me! I didn't even know that I had a dad until my mom died, and then my grandma sent me up here without telling me anything about him when she knew! Somebody around here owes me the truth, and I'm not telling them anything until I get it."
Dave blinked, regarding me with a strange expression on his face.
"But that's stupid!" he blurted.
Stupid? Yeah. Okay. Maybe Dave had a point. But, it's not like it wasn't stupid of everyone else to hide their lives from one sixteen-year-old.
"Yeah, so?" was my clever response.
Dave just shook his head at me. Obviously, he didn't fully understand what my problem was.
"Rory, come on. If they're up there fighting you have to do something," he insisted, and waited for a response. When he didn't get one, he added, "If you don't tell them, I will."
I frowned at the threat and abruptly stood up. Apparently, everyone was against me, but I guess it was fair to say that by now, I was getting used to that.
"Fine, do whatever you want," I said coldly, and immediately headed for the door.
"Where are you going?" Dave called after me, looking entirely perplexed. I didn't respond. I didn't see the need to, as I stepped out the front door, walked down the driveway and made my way down the dirt road leading away from the house.
Unlike last time, I didn't feel like I was in a blind panic, running away. Actually, I felt surprisingly calm... numb. I felt numb. And, I didn't feel like I was running, either. I was taking a walk. Clearing my head. I certainly wasn't dognaping Chey, who had seemed to appear beside me, looking happy that someone was taking her for a walk, whether or not it had been my intention.
I tried to ignore Chey, even when she started to randomly lift her head to lick at my hand. It wasn't that I minded her company. Actually, the extra footsteps seemed almost comforting on the empty road. But, I wasn't exactly in a happy mood and Chey's gleeful demeanor was something I found incredibly irritating--which was ridiculous, I know, because she was a dog--but all things considered, being annoyed with her was completely normal, as far as I was concerned.
I shook my head at myself, and then at Chey as I kicked at a rock, and she went chasing after it, off the road. At least one of us was having a good time, I guess.
As I continued to walk, my thoughts drifted back to the house, where Dave was probably telling everyone that I knew everything. I decided that sucked. Maybe I was stupid wanting to wait for someone to tell me the truth, considering that I already knew it, but it still seemed important for someone--someone meaning Eddie--to tell me. Logically, I knew that it didn't matter. It's not like hearing it from Eddie was going to make things right, especially now. But I think I wanted to pretend that it would. I needed something to happen, anything to make all of this easier.
But, it wasn't easy. Since the day I lost my mom, it seemed like everyone had been lying to me--no, even before I lost my mom. I guess what I didn't understand, was why. Was it necessary? Did everyone around me think that they were helping? I didn't understand. I wasn't sure that I wanted to understand. I just wanted it to stop. I just wanted... something to be real.
I'm not sure how long I walked. I wasn't even sure how far I was from the house, and I really didn't feel like looking over my shoulder to find out. I didn't even look when I heard a vehicle coming from behind me. I did move to the side of the road, though. I didn't think getting hit by a car would make my day any better.
Unfortunately, as I'd been walking and trying not to think, I'd managed to forget that Chey had chosen to tag along until she suddenly darted out onto the road in front of me, and I watched in horror as a two-door blue pickup came screeching to a halt, sending dust up into the air. My heart felt like it was in my throat as I watched Chey disappear in front of the vehicle and I prayed that she wasn't under it as I rushed forward, calling for her, my only thoughts at the moment being Luke, and how he'd never forgive me if she was hurt; or how I'd never forgive myself if I let anything happen to Chey because it would hurt him, despite my anger.
When I heard the dog bark twice I spun around to see her coming towards me from around the bed of the truck. I wasn't sure if I wanted to hug her or scold her for scaring the hell out of me. I settled for grabbing her collar and pulling her to my side, not eager to let go anytime soon.
"That fucking dog," I heard a voice say from the truck, and it startled me because it was a familiar voice. I looked up, only to see Aaron Keslin looking out the passenger side window, glaring at Chey. When he met my eyes he looked surprised, almost as if he'd just noticed me. "Rory?"
"What are you doing here?" I instantly snapped, my earlier anger with him coming back to mix with my pounding heart due to Chey's near miss. It made for a lot of frustration, which I'd decided was best directed at him.
"What are you doing here?" he retorted, suddenly getting out of the truck. Chey started to growl at him, but stopped when I pulled her even closer to me. "I thought you were dealing with... your bullshit."
"I was," I responded, but coldly. That's why I was surprised that it sounded like real concern in Aaron's voice when he spoke again.
"Well... are you okay? I know you were having a hard time when I left and I wasn't sure... I mean, I wanted to call and see how things worked out, but I figured you were still pissed at me."
"I am," I insisted, but he actually smirked at that.
"Okay, great... so are you alright? Did you talk to them?"
I paused, feeling a little calmer because he wasn't currently doing anything to fuel my anger. In fact, he was acting like a concerned friend. I wasn't sure what to make of that. I really wasn't supposed to be friends with him, especially if I was going to remain loyal to Luke. But, considering the fact that Luke lied to me and Aaron was the one who told me the truth, the whole thing felt like a grey area all of a sudden.
"No, I haven't talked to them," I admitted, and Aaron looked confused by that.
"Why not? Didn't someone come home?"
"Yeah, but I haven't talked to anyone," I responded shortly.
"So what are you doing out here?"
"What does it look like?" I demanded. "I'm going for a walk."
"Are you running off or something? Rory..."
"No, I'm on a fucking walk!" I repeated, feeling frustrated again. I was out there to clear my head, not to run into Aaron so he could interrogate me.
"Okay, I'm sorry," he insisted. "Look, Rory, your house is way the hell back there." He pointed, and I finally looked, only to find that I couldn't even see the house anymore. "Why don't you let us give you a ride back?"
"No thanks," I responded. "I'm not going back there yet... Chey, come on."
I tugged on the dog's collar and started walking. As far as I was concerned, the conversation was over as soon as he suggested that I go back, but Aaron obviously disagreed.
"Then why don't you come with us?" he said quickly, and I looked back at him. "Look, Rory, my friend only lives about a half-mile down the street. We were just going to watch a movie--nothing too exciting, but it has to be better than walking around out here. My car's there, so I can even give you a ride home whenever you want."
I found it somewhat ridiculous that I was even considering his offer, but I was getting a little tired of walking around. Even so, when I looked down at Chey, I shook my head.
"No, that's alright."
"You can even bring the dog," Aaron insisted. "Seth has two of them, I'm sure they'll get along fine."
I glanced towards the truck at the mention of an unfamiliar name and began to take in the fact that we weren't alone as I saw a shaded figure in the driver's seat, hiding under a ball cap.
"I don't..." I started, but Aaron cut me off.
"Come on, Rory. Just for a while. We don't even have to talk about it if you don't want to," and before I could even respond, he was heading to the back of the truck and opening the tailgate, ready for Chey to get in.
I hesitated for a few moments, wondering if this was a good idea. It probably wasn't, but regardless, a few moments later I found myself coaxing Chey into the bed of the truck and scolding her for growling at Aaron again when he tried to help lift her hind quarters in before I followed him to the passenger side and he slid across the bench seat to sit in the middle, leaving me room to get in.
"Rory, this is Seth," Aaron said, introducing me to his friend, and when I glanced over it was to see another guy around our age, about the same size as Luke or Aaron, but maybe a little broader in the shoulders. Under the ball cap he definitely seemed like the shy type, but when he mumbled a `Hi,' I got the impression that he was less shy and more annoyed that I was joining them. I guess maybe this wasn't such a great idea, after all.
Despite the way that Aaron said we wouldn't have to talk about my problems, I found myself listening to him as he told Seth all about my day, at least everything he knew. I got the impression that Seth knew Luke from school, but he didn't comment much. He really was pretty quiet. I might have been annoyed with Aaron for telling his friend all of this, including the part about me being gay, but this guy didn't seem to care, either way. Maybe that's why I felt more comfortable than I thought I would when Aaron asked me what happened after he left, and I told him. I didn't mention what was in my mom's letter, but I did mention the argument between Jase and Eddie, and the way that Dave knew what was going on and how he was probably going to tell, and talking about it, surprisingly made me feel better.
"That would be just like Dave," Aaron remarked. "He couldn't keep a secret if his life depended on it."
"Great," I said, feeling annoyed.
"Hey, don't worry about it," Aaron insisted. "You don't even have to deal with it right now, and it's not like they can get mad at you for disappearing for a while. I mean, it's not like you don't have a good reason to."
I think I warmed to Aaron a few degrees after that comment. Yeah, they had no right to hold it against me later if I wanted to get away from them for a while. After what they did, I had every right to want to get away. I just wished that I didn't feel guilty for it--and for disappearing with Luke's dog.
Seth's last name was Fisher according to the name on the mailbox in front of the house we ended up at. The model reminded me of the same one I was living in with Eddie, and like it, there wasn't much around. Only, unlike the open land surrounding Eddie and Jase's property, there was a tall brick wall surrounding the backyard, and the front was landscaped with what looked like a rock garden. It definitely looked like a family home--welcome mat and everything.
"Your parents home?" Aaron asked Seth as we entered into an overly furnished living room with thick white carpeting, after Seth had let Chey through a gate where there were two tall German shepherds, which she'd sniffed at before going on her way to sniff around the unfamiliar backyard.
"No, they're at Gail's ballet practice," Seth replied, and as he turned to face us I got a slightly better look at him. He really did seem to be hiding under that ball cap, but now I could see the shine of two light-brown eyes and a bow-shaped mouth, which seemed to be frowning at me. Maybe I didn't know this guy, but I swore he didn't want me around.
"Cool," Aaron smiled at him. "You want to put that pizza in? I can take Rory up to start the movie."
Seth didn't look happy about that idea, either, but he shrugged and headed through the living room, while Aaron gently grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the stairs.
"Come on, Seth has a pretty cool setup up here."
I followed hesitantly.
"Look, Aaron, maybe I should just go," I said.
"Why?" he asked, and then frowned. "Still mad at me?"
"A little," I admitted. I really hadn't gotten over the way he thought everything was a big joke earlier, but that wasn't my problem at the moment. "But that's not it... look, your friend..."
"Don't worry about Seth," Aaron cut me off, laughing. "He just doesn't like new people all that much, and he gets a little jealous sometimes."
Jealous? I flashed Aaron an incredulous look as we walked up the stairs together. "Is he your boyfriend?" I demanded, about to have a whole new list of reasons to hate his guts.
"Ex, actually," Aaron responded casually. "But really, don't worry about him. He's fine, I swear, you just have to get to know him. He's probably just upset now because I told him about you earlier. I broke up with him like a month ago, but we're still friends."
"You told him about me? And he's your ex? What did you say?" I demanded. My head was suddenly swimming. Aaron told someone about me. I thought I knew what that meant, and as much as I wanted to fight it, I found it flattering. But, the fact that the someone he told was his jealous ex-boyfriend didn't quite sit well with me, and seemed entirely stupid on his part.
"I told him you're cute," Aaron replied, smirking, and I had a feeling he said it just to fuck with me. I narrowed my eyes at him and he laughed. "Will you just relax already, Rory? Seth is a cool guy, and if it makes you feel any better, he's seeing someone else now, some girl," he said, snorting. "He said after me he wants to try to go straight."
I flashed Aaron another incredulous look. I hope he didn't think he was flattering himself. I shook my head, trying to focus.
"Look, I don't know what's going on, but if he's pissed because he still likes you and he thinks..."
"Would it bother you if he still liked me?" Aaron asked, flashing me a sly look, and I frowned. Actually, I think it would bother me, but I wasn't going to let him know that.
"Look," he said seriously. "It's fine, Rory. We're just going to watch a movie and relax for a while. I can take you home whenever you want."
The idea of going back to the house really didn't appeal to me, and because of that, I couldn't help feeling trapped. I think Aaron knew it, too, if his smile was any indication. I wasn't sure I liked that he thought this was amusing, but I let the subject drop as we reached the second floor and he let me into a room that reminded me a lot of the basement I shared with Luke, only smaller.
But, just because the room was smaller than the basement, didn't mean that it was a small room. In fact, I would have thought it was the master bedroom. There was a hallway in the back that likely led to a bathroom and enough space for a three-piece sofa, an armchair, an entertainment center, and a bedroom set in the corner.
"This is his room?" I managed to ask.
"Yeah, Seth's parents think he's the golden child," Aaron remarked. "He has an older brother who dropped out of school last year to run off and get married, and ever since then it's like his parents are trying to spoil him out of making a mistake like that. You'd think he hated it, though, the way he acts."
"Half of this room used to be my brother's," came a quiet voice from the doorway, and I noticed that now Seth was glaring at Aaron. "They tore down the wall when they figured out he wasn't coming back." I glanced down at the floor and noticed that half of the room was carpeted in blue and the other in grey. It was a subtle difference, but it was there. "Actually, Aaron and I had a few interesting times in this room, didn't we, Aaron?"
I didn't like that last comment, mostly because I had a feeling that it was directed more towards me than Aaron, and the innuendo there was definitely something that made me uncomfortable.
"Let's just start the movie," Aaron insisted, but rather than looking annoyed with the comment, he seemed amused. I'm not sure I liked that, either, or the way that Seth glared out from under his ball cap after he and I sat on opposite ends of the sofa, and Aaron chose to sit next to me--close to me--after putting in a DVD and starting it. After that, I tried to concentrate on the movie.
Actually, the movie didn't really help me. It was a comedy that I remembered seeing in the theaters with my mom. I remembered laughing when I saw it then. I didn't laugh this time. But, for the first half of it I was able to concentrate on the television, my mind wandering from my current problems.
When the sun began to set and the room started to darken, the only light coming from the windows, I felt knots forming in my stomach as my mind drifted back to Eddie, Jase, and Luke. They were probably wondering where I was by now, and Luke was probably wondering where Chey was, too. This alone made me nervous. It was definitely past dinnertime, I could feel it in my stomach, but I still declined the pizza when Aaron offered it to me. I was too nervous to eat, growing steadily uncomfortable as I wondered what was going on back in my new home. I wondered if anyone was worried--or angry. I wondered how much Dave had told them, and I wondered how they were reacting to it. But, as I started to shift in my seat, growing restless, I became aware of another kind of nerves when Aaron leaned into me.
Apart from that kiss at the water park, I hadn't really had any close contact to him. And because of recent events, I hadn't really had time to think about it, either. Because of his relationship with Luke, it was difficult for me to admit that I liked him... when I knew I did. At least, I knew I was attracted to him. Just being close to him made me feel light-headed, but the fact that he was the first guy who I'd ever kissed probably had something to do with that, too.
I nearly jumped out of my seat when he placed his hand on my thigh. I definitely went tense as I looked in his direction to find him staring curiously back at me.
"You alright?" he whispered, and I found myself looking past him, feeling a little relieved to see Seth was focused on the movie, and not how close Aaron and I were.
"Fine," I replied quietly, shrugging.
But, I wasn't fine. I could feel the heat from his hand through my shorts and I found that my own hands were getting sweaty awfully fast. I guess this new nervousness was a good distraction from thinking about Eddie and everything else, only, it wasn't necessarily a good thing, because I really did have mixed feelings about Aaron Keslin. That alone didn't make his next words easier to digest.
"Do you wanna go out with me?"
I looked at him a little wide-eyed. He was asking me this now? It's not like I didn't have enough to worry about already, and his ex-boyfriend was on the other end of the sofa.
"What do you mean?" I asked, shifting nervously, but that only caused his hand to squeeze my thigh in a subtle, yet completely obvious way.
"I was going to ask you earlier," he explained, still whispering. "You know... maybe some time next week when you have everything settled at home... we could go do something together."
"Look, Aaron, I don't think it's a good idea; this whole thing with you and Luke..."
"We can talk about Luke later if you want," he said, sounding mildly irritated. "Just think about it, okay?" He slid his hand a little further up my thigh and I involuntarily shivered, swallowing hard as I wondered what I was getting into here.
"Fine," I hissed, as if I was entirely inconvenienced by all of this. But, Aaron just smiled as he went back to focusing on the movie, and I tried to do the same, unable to ignore the way that his hand was still on my leg. That contact, and the way he was still leaning into me, was definitely unnerving. I felt like hours were passing and I began to feel stiff in the back, terrified to move even an inch.
"Rory," Aaron suddenly whispered under the sound of the movie, and this time it was his voice that made me jump.
"Huh?" I said, looking at him.
"Just... think about this, too," he whispered, and leaned forward.
I saw it coming. I really did this time. He moved so slow, almost as if he were giving me the opportunity to get away. But, all of a sudden it seemed like all I could focus on were his lips, coming towards mine; and when he was so close that I could feel his breath on my face and he looked like a blur, I felt his mouth, which seemed even hotter than the hand on my knee, and I closed my eyes as it pressed firmly against mine. I felt him part his lips, and mine followed. He only briefly dipped his tongue into my mouth, enough for me to taste the root beer he'd had with his pizza, before he abruptly pulled away to flash me a self-satisfied look that had me feeling flustered, and honestly, a little embarrassed that I'd been so willing to kiss him when I wasn't even sure I wanted to go do anything with him at all. But, he gently squeezed my knee again, almost reassuringly, before he suddenly stood up.
"I need the bathroom," Aaron announced, and I watched silently as he crossed the room and disappeared down that small hallway. I heard a door close before I blinked, becoming aware of my surroundings again. I was feeling a little annoyed with Aaron's behavior, but not nearly as annoyed as I became when I made the mistake of looking in Seth's direction, only to find him openly glaring at me.
I'll admit, this made me more than a little uncomfortable, and as a result I looked towards the television feeling horrified as I realized that he'd probably just seen everything that had happened between Aaron and me. Maybe I really was dealing with a jealous ex-boyfriend. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to handle that. Hell, I'd never even handled a boyfriend of my own before. This was all new to me, and considering that before Aaron, the only two people who knew I was gay had been my mom and Grandma Alice, I was easily shaken by the whole thing.
"You're a fucking idiot," I heard Seth say, just below his breath, and my eyes snapped in his direction. Maybe I was feeling a little intimidated, but now I was definitely on the defensive.
"What?" I demanded, and then glared back when Seth met my eyes again, from under his ball cap.
"You're stupid," he said pointedly, and I narrowed my eyes at him. "You need to stay away from Aaron."
Now, I hadn't decided exactly how much I wanted to do with Aaron just yet, but this guy seemed to be pushing me. I suddenly felt oddly territorial. I couldn't help it.
"Why? Are you going to stop me?" I demanded.
"If you were smart, you'd just do it," he responded casually, but it sounded more like a threat to me. Who the hell did he think he was? "Someone like you doesn't know what to do with someone like Aaron. Just stay the hell away from him--especially while you're in my fucking house."
I blinked, suddenly sinking back into reality. This was Seth's house. His mention of it suddenly brought me back to the way I'd been so uncomfortable when we first arrived... and now, I felt entirely unwelcome. I guess maybe I was, and unfortunately, knowing that seemed to blow the wind right out of my sails when it came to my annoyance with this guy. I think for me, one of the worst feelings in the world was to feel unwelcome somewhere, and now, all I wanted to do was leave.
I found myself looking away from Seth, and towards the hall where Aaron had disappeared. As soon as he came out, I intended to ask him to drive me home, like he said he'd do. Unfortunately, it turned out that I couldn't wait that long.
"You're nothing special to him," Seth remarked, forcing me to look in his direction again. "Trust me."
I opened my mouth to respond to that, but other than childish insults, my mind was suddenly going blank. It was my nerves. I'd put up with way too much today to add this to the list, and the way that he continued to stare me down wasn't helping. In fact, it pushed my nerves so hard that I found myself needing to escape, so I suddenly stood up, intending to get the hell out of there, with or without Aaron.
"Leaving so soon?" Seth cockily remarked. "Need me to show you the way out?"
"Tell Aaron I'll call him later," I said, more to annoy him than anything. I think it worked, the way I saw his mouth frown at me from under his hat, and without another word, I decided to show myself out.
I was fuming by the time I wrestled Chey away from the German shepherds in Seth's backyard, but I managed to do it without Aaron ever coming out after me. I even hesitated before leaving, hoping that he would. But, when he didn't, Chey and I made it back to the road just as the sun disappeared, and I accepted that there was a long walk ahead of us.
Of course I was wondering what I'd be dealing with when I got back to the house, but more than that, Aaron Keslin was still on my mind--and so was what Seth said. Someone like me wouldn't know what to do with someone like Aaron. What the hell was that supposed to mean? And, I was nothing special to him. I found that offensive. It wasn't like Seth was anything special to Aaron. In fact, it was beginning to make sense why Aaron would dump him. I actually took comfort in that thought; but, it was the only thing I cared to take comfort in, considering that the feelings I was having now could only mean one thing. I really did like Aaron.
I'd kissed him twice now. Or at least, I'd kissed him back twice. And for someone who wasn't sure if he wanted to get involved, kissing Aaron certainly had the uncanny ability to place butterflies in my stomach, and unfortunately, it seemed to make me forget all the reasons why I shouldn't get involved. Like, Luke.
Even if Luke had been lying to me, and even if I was furious with him for it, I didn't want to place another rift between us, especially one that was avoidable. Aaron was a rift. One that was avoidable if I was smart about it. It was the fact that I felt betrayed by Luke that was unavoidable, and there was a small detail that I cared to overlook for the moment: as angry as I was with Luke, there was still the fact that he, Jase, and Eddie, were not the only ones in that house who were lying. They weren't the only ones with secrets.
Deep down, that was something I knew I'd have to face, when the anger wore off. But, there seemed to be so much to be angry about, and as I walked down the dark road with Chey by my side, I couldn't seem to get past it. Everything in my life still seemed like a lie.
This time when the lights of a car hit me from behind, I not only moved to the side of the road, but I grabbed Chey's collar and pulled her with me. But, when the vehicle started to slow down I stopped and turned, for a moment wondering if Aaron had caught up to me as I shielded my eyes from the headlights. But, once the light was past me, and I was faced with a driver's side window, I found myself staring past a familiar jeep, and I actually took a step back, startled, when I met Luke's eyes.
I released Chey as she began to struggle for her freedom, jumping up against the vehicle door, wanting to get to Luke; but he seemed to ignore her, staring at me with an unreadable expression on his face, that abruptly turned determined as he opened the door and got out. I took yet another step back, almost worried that the look on his face meant he was going to punch me. Who knows, maybe he really did think I stole his dog.
I really hadn't been expecting him until I got back to the house, so I had no idea what to say as Chey jumped through the opened door behind him, looking happy to be in the jeep. But, that seemed just fine with Luke, who was ready to do the talking for both of us. "Where the hell have you been?" he demanded. "Everyone's been looking for you! Shit, Rory, what the hell do you think you're doing?"
I blinked, at first having no idea how to respond to that--until I remembered that I was the one who was supposed to be mad at him.
"I went for a walk," I retorted. "It seemed like a good idea, since I wanted to get away from everyone who's been lying to my face!"
If the expression that clouded Luke's features told me anything, it was that he had in fact talked to Dave. My words definitely shut him up, and I was no longer the one who didn't know what to say, because he opened his mouth a few times, as if he wanted to say something, but the words never came until finally, he released a breath and very calmly said, "Will you please just get in the car? Please?"
I frowned, as if I was going to think about it, but really, there wasn't much to think about. There was no way I wanted to walk the rest of the way home in the dark, so without another word I slowly walked around the jeep, and got in the passenger seat, noticing that Luke didn't push Chey out of his seat and get in until he was sure that I was in the vehicle and buckled up. But, he didn't drive anywhere, so we sat in silence for what seemed to be long, awkward minutes.
"Can we talk?" he finally asked.
"If I say no, is it going to stop you?" I replied.
Luke seemed frustrated when he looked over at me, but didn't comment on that.
"You know," he stated, and I frowned. Yeah, I knew. I wasn't sure if he expected me to respond to that or not, so I didn't, and eventually, he continued. "Look... I don't... shit... I don't know what you're expecting me to say here, but I have to do this my way or I can't handle it. Rory, I'm gay. I've pretty much known that for as long as I can remember. It's not going to change, and you can either accept it, or you can't. It's not who I am, but it is part of who I am. I'll understand if you need time to think about this."
I just stared at him, processing his obviously rehearsed speech. It was actually a little strange hearing it, wondering if everyone he'd ever come out to got the same one. It would make sense. Of course, that speech would suggest it was for people who might not end up as understanding as Luke wanted them to be, and having it aimed at me was particularly frustrating, for the obvious reasons--even if they weren't obvious to Luke.
"I don't care that you're gay," I said after a moment, annoyed that he obviously didn't see what was important here. "You lied to me! You've all been lying to me!"
"You're a liar! You've been lying to me since we met," I cut him off hotly. "Every single time... every time we talked about Eddie. I trusted you, Luke! You're the one who kept telling me that I should give him a chance when you knew...that he wasn't even giving me one. You're a liar! You're all fucking liars."
"Are you even going to let me explain?" he asked, looking almost defeated as he stared at his steering wheel.
"Fine. How long were you going to keep it from me?" I demanded. "How long were you going to just pretend that..."
Luke abruptly cut me off, and when he did, it seemed that he was more than willing to answer my questions, as if I'd just given him an opening that he'd been waiting for.
"I wasn't... I mean... I never wanted to hide it from you, Rory. But when you first came down here Eddie asked me and Jase... I mean, it was only supposed to be for a few days, until you got to know us. He..."
"Eddie," I muttered, suddenly redirecting my frustration. Of course this would be Eddie's doing.
"Rory, he just wanted you to get to know us," Luke said sternly. "We were going to tell you everything..."
"But you didn't!" I cut him off.
"I know," he admitted, sighing. "But things have been sort of crazy since you got here. If you think about it, they're just starting to calm down. Look, if it had been up to me, I would have told you--I'm sorry I didn't."
"You really didn't think I'd figure it out?" I demanded, understanding that he was trying to talk to me, but suddenly feeling the need to yell. "I'm not an idiot, Luke!"
"I didn't say you were; and yes, I figured you would eventually. When you heard Jase yelling earlier I thought you were going to figure at least something out then..."
"If you knew I was going to figure something out then why didn't you just..."
"Rory, I don't expect you to believe me now, but the whole reason why I went upstairs was to tell Eddie and Jase that I was sick of this and I was going to tell you. The reason why I didn't was because... Eddie promised he was going to tell you tonight--at dinner."
Tonight? At dinner? But dinner was already over; and, it was too late to tell me now, apparently.
"But then Dave came upstairs..." Luke explained, echoing my thoughts. "Anyway..."
"Someone should have told me," I said quietly.
"Yeah, and maybe someone would have if you didn't make it so damn hard," Luke suddenly said, sounding defensive. "Look, there are a few things you've got to keep in mind here, like Eddie was the one who should have told you--and you didn't exactly give him any openings. It's not like you've been open to a relationship with him or anything!"
This was not what I wanted to hear.
"So you're defending it?" I demanded. "I thought you said that you wanted to tell me!"
"I did. You know, we didn't exactly get off to the easiest start, either, Rory. But I still wanted to tell you. And I'm not saying that I think Eddie was right for keeping it from you for this long; I'm just saying that I can understand why he did it. You should try to understand, too. Because later, when you and Eddie are dealing with this, being angry with him isn't going to help anyone." I opened my mouth to argue with him right then, but he didn't give me a chance, only pausing for a moment before he continued. "Look, I get that you're upset... but this hasn't been easy for anyone. Jase is actually talking about leaving because of this--he's never done that before. I'm sorry I lied to you, and I do want to work things out but you need to know that this is the only family I have, and I can't just watch it fall apart because everyone's pissed off and no one's willing to talk about it!" I probably would have retorted that I could get as pissed off as I wanted to, and Eddie would deserve it, if Luke didn't look so worried all of a sudden. It took me off guard. After all, I was the one who was supposed to be upset here. "Rory...just... think about it, okay? When you do talk to Eddie... just listen to the reason why he didn't tell you."
"It won't make a difference," I insisted, feeling the need to say something defensive.
"Maybe not," Luke admitted. "But if you listen you're at least giving him a chance, and that's what your mom wanted, right?" Luke's sudden mention of my mom seemed to spark rage in me, and I'm sure it was evident, because he quickly continued. "I'm sorry, I know you don't want to hear shit like that but just think about it, Rory--your mom would want you to give him a chance, wouldn't she? Why else would she send you here?"
"Nice touch, playing the mom card!" I snapped at him, feeling entirely pissed off, both because he'd mentioned my mother--and because he had a point. The one constant question on my mind had been why did my mom do this to me? Luke's question seemed to answer mine. She had a reason for sending me to Eddie, so, I guess the real question should have been, what was her reason for sending me there?
"I'm sorry, Rory. I'm just... trying to talk to you."
I shook my head at him and then found myself attempting to clear my mind of everything that I'd learned over the past few weeks--or, at least all of the deception. I tried to imagine what my mom had been thinking. I guess she'd explained some of it in her letter, and I guess if I'd received it when I was supposed to, then the answer would have been obvious. Unfortunately, I wasn't finished being angry just yet, and that seemed to slow my acceptance of it.
"This is all so fucked up," I mumbled, staring blankly out the window, while Luke seemed to shift uncomfortably in his seat.
"Yeah... Look, I have to take you home before someone decides to call the police."
"Fine, then drive," I responded shortly, and Luke looked troubled as he glanced in my direction.
Luke studied me for a long moment. "Rory, I need to... about you and me--I feel like we should talk about this. I get that you have a right to be mad at me, but I want to work this out. All I can do is apologize, so..."
"Jesus," I cursed. "I thought you wanted to go. I get it, Luke. You did it because Eddie asked you to. Fine." I think I wanted to get going, too. I was getting tired of talking about this already.
"It's obviously not fine."
"Well, what do you want me to say?" I demanded. "I can't just change the way I feel, Luke. First Eddie doesn't mention that he never even knew about me, and now this. I'm..."
"Yes," I stated. "And you...I don't know."
"Do you hate me?" he asked.
I paused, more because I didn't expect the question than I didn't know how to answer it. Actually, the answer seemed easier to say than I thought it would.
"No, I don't. I'm just..."
"Angry," Luke said again, and I thought on that for a moment, trying not to blow up because it felt like he was trying to put words into my mouth now.
"No," I said carefully. "I'm angry with Eddie, and maybe even a little with Jase, too. But with you, I don't know... I think I'm disappointed."
Luke's face fell, as if this was even worse than the idea of my being angry with him. But, at least I was being honest. When it came to Luke--I was disappointed. I was disappointed because I'd wanted to trust him. I had trusted him, when all along he was helping everyone else lie to me. It just didn't feel like... Luke.
"That's what Rick said when I told him," Luke explained, breaking the silence and forcing me to look at him.
"When I first came out, and told my friends I was gay, most of them took it okay, you know? Dave sort of already had me figured out, and a lot of other people didn't care as much as I thought they would, but Rick... said he was disappointed. He thought that I was going to start acting different or something. I mean, we ended up working it out, but... it sort of hurt. I know we just met, but believe it or not, it hurts worse coming from you, Rory."
I had to take a moment to digest what he was telling me. At first, I felt confused, wondering what Rick had to do with any of this; but then I felt annoyed with Rick, for not being as accepting of Luke as I would have expected him to be; then, I became completely insulted as I realized what Luke was implying--again.
"I'm not disappointed because you're gay! Fuck, I told you that!" I snapped. "It's because you didn't tell me... about anyone. Even your friends are lying for you, Luke! It feels like nothing here is real! Everyone's trying to hide things from me and I don't get it--even my mom! Only, I had to wait for her to die before she decided me to tell the truth!" I abruptly closed my eyes after that remark, squeezing them tight as I mentally scolded myself for screaming about my mom like that. Yes, I was angry, but she was gone, and I hated thinking badly of her. I felt guilty over it. "God, Luke... can we just go now? Please? I can't..."
I opened my eyes when I felt his hand squeeze my shoulder, and when I looked in Luke's direction he looked as upset as I was currently feeling.
"Rory, I swear to you, no more secrets...any thing you want to know..."
No more secrets? I glanced out my window, but found myself relaxing as he continued to squeeze my shoulder. There were still more secrets... but they were mine now.
"Just take me back now, please," I said quietly. "I need to talk to Eddie."
When I first met Eddie, he seemed like such a large, intimidating figure. But, that wasn't what I saw when I walked through the door with Luke that night. Instead, I saw a man who looked paler than he had when he came home from work that evening, as he met us coming through the door and grabbed my arm, practically pulling me inside, as if he thought that I was going to run right back out. And for the life of me, I didn't feel anger towards him. I think I was too tired for it, as he quickly looked me over, and without saying a word to me, spoke to Luke.
"Luke, call Jase. He's still out looking with Dave."
Luke flashed me an uncertain look, but did as he was told, and Eddie still didn't take his eyes off me as he led me further into the house.
"Where have you been?" he suddenly demanded, sounding more panicked than angry. "Rory, you can't just disappear like that, no one knew where you were! You could have..."
I cut him off with one look, feeling annoyed with the lecture. I was tired, but not tired enough to forget his mistakes.
"Okay," he said after a moment. "We need to talk."
I nodded at that, but said nothing. Instead, as he pulled me towards the living room, I abruptly broke away from him and headed pointedly towards the stairs.
"Rory!" Eddie called after me, but I kept moving. There was something I needed. I couldn't talk to him just yet. I needed to get to my room. I needed something that might help make things right--I needed to get rid of the secrets. Too many lies. I was too tired for any more lies.
I heard Eddie call my name again. He was following me, but it didn't seem to matter once I reached my room and found the unopened letter from my mother. I seemed to stare at it in my hands for the longest time, remembering how I hadn't wanted to give it to him before. I think in part, I was still sort of afraid to give it to him. If it was anything like my letter... then I guess, I knew what was in it. But, he had to know. It was the only way this would end, or I'd really end up being the biggest liar of them all, the one who couldn't accept the reason why my mom had done this. I thought I understood now... Eddie would understand, too.
When I turned to head out of my room, I found that he was already standing in the doorway, his eyes narrowed, his arms on the door frame. He'd trapped me. It didn't matter, though. I wasn't running. I wasn't avoiding--not like he thought.
I watched his eyes follow the envelope in my hand as I reached out, until it was in his; and I watched him stare at his name, written in my mother's handwriting. The way he looked at it made me think that he'd recognized it as quickly as I had--something about that seemed important, but it made its way to the back of my mind as he met my eyes, and I only had one thing to say to him.
"I don't want to lie anymore."
I was so tired... of all the damn lies.
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