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Jas finished his last lap with Sam, Dal, and Stephanie from the girls' team. He slowly pulled himself out of the pool and took off his cap, releasing his hair. After shaking it from his eyes, he met Coach Anderson's gaze. Anderson cocked his head softly towards his office and Jas reluctantly followed him. He knew what was going to be said. He hadn't been swimming his best recently, though he didn't care. He couldn't get his head wrapped around anything since the day he, Salene, and Hunter played hooky.
Hunter had told him that he didn't want him the same way. If Hunter had said that a few weeks ago, he wouldn't have believed him, but then Hunter said it with such finality . . . and sadness. Jas believed him. He accepted that they would only be friends, but that didn't stop him from liking Hunter; from wanting to touch him; from yearning his attention; from flirting lasciviously – even if nothing came about. And as he began to visualize Hunter's ass – something he had become quite entranced with – Coach Anderson slammed his fist on his desk.
"Jas! Where are you?!" the coach demanded, frowning.
Jas jumped out of his thoughts and focused on his coach. Coach Anderson was the school's newest swim coach. He was a young man who swam from grade school to college; he even had some titles in the World Championships. He had short brown hair, and Jas had to admit that the man was hot, especially his green eyes; but this was no time to be taking a shine to his coach. He was being asked another question but hadn't heard it.
"...need to know what's going on. Jas, are you listening to me?" Anderson asked. He put his head in his hands, exasperated. He took a deep breath. "Who is it?" Jas finally focused on his coach. Anderson took his head from his hands and looked Jas deeply in the eyes. "Who is it?" he asked again.
"Who's who?" Jas asked back confused.
"Who's the girl that you're having problems with, that you can't get, that won't let you . . . I don't know – get into her pants or some shit like that? Who is she?" Anderson clarified, knowing that he was asking the right questions.
Jas shook his head, looking down, "There's no girl, coach."
"Then who's the guy?" Anderson asked immediately.
Jas looked up at his coach in shock. He was completely at a loss of what to say to the man. He just stared at him with wide eyes. A smirk grew across Coach Anderson's face. He put his hands up in a gesture of innocence, "I'm not trying to suggest anything about you, Jas. I just know exactly where you're at. Hell, I'm only 23. I know what high school is like. I know when there was a girl I was chasin' but couldn't get, or my I was havin' problems with my girlfriend – that I wasn't as focused. My performance slipped. So sorry if I offended you, Jas, but—"
"You're not wrong, coach," Jas interrupted slowly. He looked at Anderson trying to read his expression. "I'm-I'm gay."
Anderson shrugged, "Fine with me. Who is he?"
"A friend," was all that Jas answered. He was going to say more but the first bell rang at that moment.
Anderson damned the bell for ringing, noticing that Jas was going to say more. He grabbed a post-it quickly and jotted a note to Ms. Sands, Jas's first period teacher. He handed the post-it to Jas. "Give that to Larissa," he told him, referring to Ms. Avie by her first name.
Jas realized he had yet to change back into his regular clothes. He was going to be later than he thought. As he left Anderson's office, the coach called out, "Jas. Just remember you can talk to me." Jas nodded and went towards the locker room.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! Helena threw up her hands. "Can't I just have my lunch in peace!" she complained to the world. Just had been trying to make her chicken salad sandwich, but every time she began someone or something would interrupt her.
First the telephone rang, and her friend Trudy just had to tell her what happened with the Andrews' son. The boy was a rude, little hellion, and Helena was slightly angry that she got caught up in his most recent antics. She did her best to get Trudy off the phone to no avail and finally just lied, saying that her sister, Harmony, was on the other line. She resumed chopping up the chicken only to have the doorbell ring. Who is it now?, she thought to herself. It was Rod, the UPS man with some package for Sal. She had no idea what Sal had ordered this time, but made sure that she would give her husband a good talking to his recent spending.
She put down the large mixing spoon and went over to sink to quickly wash her hands. KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! She shook her hands dry and yelled towards the house's side door which was in the kitchen, "Trudy! Would you be a bit patient?!" As she unlocked the door and began pulling it open, she noticed Vista sitting at the base of the door. "Vista, you damned cat, move," she bent down to shoo the white cat away. "Goodness Trudy we just talked on the phone. I mean is there an emergency or—"
All her words and thoughts stopped upon seeing a young Latino man standing at her door at first looking shocked and now smiling nervously. He slowly smiled again, trying his best to turn on the charm. "Hi, Helena. Good to see you too. . ."
They both stood there in silence. He continued to smile while Helena just stared. Vista wound around and through her legs and rubbed his body against the guy, who scooped him up. "Hey Vista," he pet the cat smoothly and looked expectantly towards Helena. "You gonna let me in?"
Helena finally snapped out of her shock. "Yes, yes. Where are my manners," she opened the door fully, ushering him in, "Gary Callas . . . why are you here?" She closed the door and pointed him to a chair at the peninsula across from her bowl of chicken salad.
"I don't go by Gary anymore. It's usually Eddie or Lalo now," Gary filled in and sat down. He dropped Vista to the floor who landed gracefully and sat, watching both Gary and Helena. "Really, I prefer Lalo. It's more unique."
Helena went back to making her salad. Really, she was just taking time to compose herself. She checked the time, happy knowing that Hunter was safely tucked away at school. Gary . . . Lalo had called a week earlier, wanting to speak to Hunter, but Helena thanked the gods that she answered the phone and quite curtly yet politely turned him away.
"I told you that you couldn't see him when you called last, Ga—Lalo," she stirred the contents of the bowl together, went to the bread box and took out four slices. "You want a sandwich?" she asked him.
Lalo laughed. Helena, like his mom, always had to play hostess, no matter how bad or tense the situation. "A sandwich would be nice. Real food instead of that shit at school," he mentioned.
"Language, Ga—Lalo," Helena corrected him simply as she prepared the two sandwiches. "Juice?" she asked going to the fridge. He nodded. She poured two cups of apple juice, put Lalo's sandwich on a plate and handed him the food. "So, what college did you go to?" she asked, pulling up a chair to sit across from Lalo.
"CCA. California College of the Arts, focusing in Illustration. Freshman year of course," he answered taking a large bite of the sandwich. "God, thid dandwich id do gooo..." Lalo swallowed. "Sorry, this sandwich is real good, Helena."
"Glad you're enjoying it," Helena commented, taking a generous bite of her own. After she wiped her face, "Don't avoid my question again, Gary. Why are you here?"
"I'm here to see my boyfriend, Helena," Lalo answered her question.
"Mrs. Sands," Helena sarcastically avoided his answer with a smirk. She drank some of her apple juice.
"Whatever," Lalo responded, clearly mocking her. He got up from his chair and went to the bread box. "You mind if I make another sandwich?" he asked, already having started to make it.
"No, and we're not making this an afternoon. Hunter will be home in about an hour," Helena told him sternly.
"Good, I'll be out of your hair before then," Lalo responded, annoyed. He sat back down. "I miss him," he looked Helena in her eyes, "A lot. I don't blame him for what he did—"
"And you shouldn't!" Helena slammed her fist down on the table, "The one thing he asked you not to tell people. The one thing you knew people in that small ass backwards town would hate him for! What would make my son's life a living hell in Bible belt, Jesusland, you had to mention, just to embarrass him. Just because you're a selfish, ego—"
"So I outed him to the not-so-gay-friendly Swift community. It's not like he wasn't the only—"
"Oh, just stop now, Gary!" Helena interrupted him again. He opened his mouth to correct her again, but she kept speaking, "Oh, I don't give a damn what you're calling yourself these days! You and everyone else in Swift know what happened to that boy Kevin Marks when he came out. I feel for the Marks family, and I know I would not want my son to have become a victim of a hate crime. And to think those other boys were never prosecuted for what they did to Kevin.
"You could have made that happen! Just because you weren't comfortable being what you are! Because you couldn't admit to yourself that you . . . He was already depressed because you broke up with him. He stopped taking his medicines. He said he wanted to escape. He was only fifteen! He shouldn't have been experiencing escapist behaviors so early in his life! You were the cause of that!" Helena stopped yelling and took a couple of deep breaths.
Lalo sat there, stunned. "But I never broke up with him, Helena. You and Mom decided that we shouldn't go out anymore after Kevin was attacked. You feared for our safety and convinced me to lie to him. You never let me make it right or tell him the truth. And as he stopped taking his meds, he began to have his delusions again, and he made me out to be much worse than I was. I never outed him, Helena!
"I don't even know what I said, but he snapped. Next thing I know, he's coming at me with his fists. So I fought back, and lost. My doctors hope my hearing will return to my ear completely, but it has yet to happen. Hunter wasn't the only one to suffer after our fight. I never pressed any charges, and you're lucky Dad holds enough sway that those two officers never pressed any charges either. He deserves to know the truth."
"To make things worse?" Helena asked. "Cos that's what'll happen. You'll shake things up again. He's unstable enough as it is right now what with this new friend of his, Jas. I don't know what's gone on there, but he's becoming the old Hunter again. Slowly but surely, and you won't ruin him again."
Lalo hadn't heard a word of Helena's past "new friend, Jas". He swallowed. "He has a new boyfriend?""
Yes . . . yes!" Helena lied, "He does. So please just leave, Ga—Lalo. He's finally becoming happy again. That's what we both want, isn't it? We want him to be happy. And he's getting there, okay." She drank more of her apple juice. Completely changing the subject and her demeanor, Helena gestured to Lalo's sandwich, "Please finish your food. I'd never send a student on their way empty-handed. You want me to pack you something for your trip back home? How'd you get here anyway?"
"I flew. It's our Fall break. I used money I had saved up," he explained. "You don't have to pack me anything, Helena. I'll just go." He picked up his sandwich and made his way to the door. Vista got up and quickly went over to him. He scooped the cat up again, "See ya, Vista." He scratched the animal behind its ears and dropped him to the floor once more.
Helena opened the door, "Good-bye, Gary."
"It's Lalo," he corrected automatically. He began to leave but turned back around to Helena. "Could you tell him that I hope he's doing well? Even if he doesn't want to hear anything from me. Just . . . I don't know . . . somehow could you tell him that for me?"
"Yes," Helena nodded, knowing that she wouldn't tell Hunter any such thing. "I can do that."
"Bye, Helena. My mom said to call her," he informed her.
"Will do," she slowly closed the door watching him walk towards the front yard. She let out a sigh of relief. She looked down at Vista when the phone rang. She answered it.
"Hello?" she resumed eating her sandwich.
"So are we on for tomorrow?" Trudy asked over the phone.
"Yes, yes, of course we are. After I pick up the tapes. Tomorrow will be a busy day," Helena explained. "But guess who just walked in. . ."
Lalo drove down the road towards his motel and fished out his cell phone from his duffel bag, which sat on the passenger seat. He searched through his contacts, hoping she hadn't changed her number. Checking the time, he figured that school had let out by now or would soon. He pressed the Send button and put the phone to his good ear.
"Heeeeeeello!" came Salene's voice.
"Salene?" he asked.
Salene stopped Nokomis who pantomimed `what's wrong?' with her expressions. Salene shook her head. "Is this Gary?" she asked tentatively.
"I go by Eddie or Lalo, now. Preferably, Lalo," he corrected, stopping at the red light.
"Why are you calling me, Gary?" Salene asked, still shocked to be hearing from Lalo.
"I'm here in Phoenix, Salene. I just . . . spoke to your mother. I wanna talk to you Salene. Just us." He turned quickly.
"You're in Phoenix?! I-I don't think I can see you, Gary," Salene turned him down.
"If you won't talk to me Salene, I'll go to Hunter himself and tell him the truth," he threatened.
Worry wrote itself across Salene's face. "What's wrong?" Nokomis mouthed.
Salene shook her head, "You staying with your . . . uncle in Phoenix, right?"
"Yeah," Lalo answered. He even nodded his head.
"Then um . . . text me the address, and I'll see what I can do," Salene answered.
"Thanks. Bye Salene," Lalo hung up his phone. "Never fell for your mom's bullshit," he added to the closed phone and continued driving to his uncle's.
Wait not as long this time. (Yay!) What do you think about Gary/Lalo (which is short for Eduardo -- his full name: Gary Eduardo Callas-Miller)? Hit me up at email@example.com