Thanks to all of you who helped with this one.
"What do you want?" Was the first thing I asked as the door shut behind us. My voice was neither cold nor upset, and I was astonished at my own ability to appear calm. I didn't feel like I'd been drinking, and I felt rather like I was spiraling downwards from a really good climb, where a sense of uneasiness and discomfort starts to grow. The mind truly is a powerful vessel at times.
Ryan didn't look at me right away. Instead, he fidgeted with a pen on my desk as he plopped into a chair. Ryan didn't fidget. Something wasn't right here in this equation. When he made no move to answer me or even look towards me I began to get exasperated, "Oh, cut that out!" I exclaimed and snatched the pen from his fingers, promptly chucking it at the ground, uncaring of where it landed.
"Sorry," Ryan said, flashing an apologetic look up at me before staring at the carpet again. He seemed to be thinking hard about something.
I sighed and sat on the floor with my back against my foot of my bed. From where I sat, he was directly in front of me in the chair. "Ryan," I yelled, loud enough to grab his attention but not loud enough that my parents would hear, "Talk, talk, talk. I haven't got all day y'know? I mean all night...whatever."
His eyes widened, "Kyle, have you been drinking?" His expression was less cautious now.
I let out a puff of air, "No."
"You're lying," Ryan accused.
"So what? What's it matter to you?"
"Nothing," Ryan said softly. Then he added, "Where have you been? I've been waiting for over an hour."
My eyes narrowed, "Why? I was with Jeremy..."
"Why do I want to know, or why am I here?"
"Both." I said.
"Well you should have expected some contact from me. After all, weren't you supposedly blackmailing me a little over a week ago?" Ryan let out a breath too and I knew he'd come to some sort of deliberation.
"Well, no, truthfully I haven't been expecting anything from you. I figured you'd take the opportunity to run as far as you could." I answered and looked deeply into the green eyes that were gazing into my own. He reminded me of the Ryan I'd grown to like and become friends with, the one who had let his guard down and shown me a side of himself I'd never thought possible to have existed.
"Yeah, I thought so too." He answered elusively. I didn't know how to take any of this. This Ryan didn't look at me with passion, hate, or desire, he looked at me with uncertainty in his face instead. My face must have mirrored this because he let out a soft laugh. "I know, it's miraculous, me sitting here almost like a mature being rather than a child, and not hating you or fucking you."
I heard his words but my mind was stuck on that glimpse of his laughter. The light crinkling around his wide eyes and the tilt to the left side of his lips made me stare. Such a beautiful expression on a beautiful face was enough to knock the breath out of me. Was this what love felt like? This desire, no, need to walk over to this person and hold his hand, to tell him it was alright? This was what had been denied me, the right to witness and take part in these beautiful little things that came with love. But then was my greed and desire, my selfish wanting of him not love also? Perhaps love was the ability to connect to an individual on many aspects of our personalities, to find that person who matched us in the way that felt right.
"Yeah," I allowed him that, "But neither of us were very mature about the whole thing."
"Fiasco," Ryan said with a small smile tugging at his lips. I stared at him in fascination again. Ryan winced, "Is it that amazing to see me acting like a slightly normal human being?"
I stared at his lips as he talked, hungrily. I ate every new expression that flashed on his face. I nodded dumbly. I loved him, this person, and he really was beautiful to me. He appeared even more unearthly without the shroud of anger and ugly emotions clouding his countenance. Like a fallen angel.
"Kyle," he began, then hesitated, looking upwards as if hoping for aid, "I know things haven't been great between us," When I snorted and scoffed at that—I blame the alcohol's sudden intrusion into my brain—he looked strained but held up a hand, "No, let me finish."
"Okay," I said simply, pathetically happy I was allowed an opportunity to see him this way once more.
"Well, as I was saying...things haven't been all great between us. I-I..." Ryan trailed off again, an array of emotions flashing across his face as he thought of what he should say. He sighed, "I guess I don't need to say everything at once. Just--."
"Say what you came here to say," I interrupted again. Ryan seemed slightly startled at the sound of my voice and looked at me in surprise.
"Yeah...you're right. I don't know why I'm going on and on...anyway...yes I'll just say what I came here to say."
I rolled my eyes, "Get to the point," I didn't want him to know how much seeing him sitting there ached, nor how it filled me with a slight bloom of hope.
"Well...you know...we've been...last week," Ryan said haltingly.
"Having sex? Yes, if you can call it that, I'm aware of it." I said severely, wondering at this sudden hesitancy and uncertainty in Ryan's demeanor as opposed to the usual arrogance and biting remarks. "There's no need to tread softly around me, Ryan," I told him, staring at my finger nails, "I know what I did and I know it wasn't right, but I'm not some little prissy twelve year old girl you need to be worried about saying a taboo around."
Ryan released a breath, "Okay, okay. That's cool." He told me, sounding more confident, "Well, I just came here to ask what's been going on? You've stopped giving me signals or even looking at me this past week and well...I've just been wondering, you know?"
I nodded, "Fair enough," I told him, "Since you came to me like a level-headed person instead of the ranting and raving you normally do, I'll treat you the same."
"Hey, it's not like you've been the nicest person either," Ryan said, his eyes sparking with ire. I liked that about him, and I liked that look in his eyes.
A grin broke out on my face, and Ryan seemed astonished to see this, almost as equally astonished as I'd been to hear his laughter, "Yes," I agreed, "but I came to my senses first."
He shrugged but we both knew I was right in stating that fact. "If you call that coming to your senses."
I ignored him even though I felt guilty, "Anyway, enough of this stupid chatting it up like we're friends or something. You don't have to worry, I'm not going to bother you again," I told him simply, looking him in the eye with a carefully guarded and serious expression.
Ryan seemed thoughtful, "What?"
I rolled my eyes yet again, "Are you stupid or what? I said I'm not going to bother you again. As much as you enjoyed fucking my ass and as much as I enjoyed you doing it, I'm not really the type to go about blackmailing a guy, no matter how much he likes getting blackmailed."
"What the fuck?" Ryan stood up, his pride was clearly challenged and he couldn't have that.
I restrained a smile, and remained seated on the floor lazily, "Sit down Ryan, or better yet, make a run for it. Since we can both think properly and stop cussing or threatening each other stupidly, I think it's wise to say we don't have to deal with any of this again," I said untruthfully, knowing it wouldn't be that easy for me at least.
"Fuck off, Kyle," Ryan said; although this anger was different from the bout I'd been subjected to for the past little while of enmity. "I did not enjoy getting blackmailed," He spat at me.
I waved a hand languidly, shrugging off his last statement, "Don't lie to yourself, or better yet, do that if it helps. I don't make it a habit of lying to myself," I frowned though, "Save the exception of when it comes to you, and I know that you just needed an excuse to be able to want me again, to make it okay to fuck me."
"What are you, my shrink or something?"
"Nah, I just know people, and you're obvious."
"How is that obvious?" Ryan asked, flabbergasted.
"To me it is," I shrugged, "but I'm all wrapped up in this. Those times were really intense, physically and psychologically because of all the problems between us and all the hatred and energy we'd stored up, not to mention the fact that we both wanted each other. It was...intense, that's all I can say. You can't say you didn't enjoy it, no matter the circumstances, or that you wanted it."
Ryan sighed, almost defeated and sank back into his chair, "No," he said softly, "I can't," and with those last words he looked up at me and the confusion swirling about in his eyes was almost my undoing. I swallowed hard, and looked away lest he should read the emotions in my eyes. Great, now I was paranoid.
I forced a smile, "So why aren't you in your car already and making a run for it?"
"Who knows?" Ryan asked, almost as if he were asking himself.
"You do," I told him. "It's simple, why are you still here?"
"I-I don't know," He told me, and I believed him. There was a silence between us, during which Ryan seemed to be thinking something of importance. "It's just, I guess, I know that if I go now, I'll never get another chance...you know...to talk to you like this...again."
I nodded, looking out the window, feeling a sudden urge to cry. I blinked back the sudden tears, silently cursing myself, and turned to him again. "See, you do care," It almost hurt to say the words.
Ryan nodded, "I do, and I've been stupid. If I didn't care, then it wouldn't have hurt me. If I didn't care I wouldn't lash out at you immaturely."
"What exactly do you even care about, Ryan? You know how things are, yet, you want me physically, and I completely return that, but...where does it go from there? All of this--all of this drama--these problems, the anger, the sex, where does it go from there? We could keep going on and on and it would always be the same," I told him, "The same cycle."
"Do you really think so?" Ryan asked, "I mean, even now, that I'm not...you know being a complete dick and all?" He took a deep breath, "I can honestly say I really like the sex and I don't care that you told anyone who you consider a friend, as long as it doesn't get further than that, I really do want to pick up where we left off..."
It wasn't anything I had expected him to say but I wasn't shocked or anything.
I wanted him to tell me he cared enough about me to try things out with me, but a try wasn't enough anymore. I loved him and if I let myself be that close to him again, it would only hurt me more, it would crush me and I'd long for him even more. No, it was time to close all this once and for all if it was possible.
"Yes, I can," I answered, "because it isn't about that. It's just...nothing about what's between us is healthy. Not for either of us. "I didn't mention that I was past the point of no return. "Eventually you're going to go back to your life and...and...I'll go back to my own, anyway. So what's the point really?" I managed a grin.
"Well, the sex is great," He offered. "To be honest, I'm really attracted to you. I can't explain it, I really can't. It-it's not a phase; I can't stop the wanting, Kyle. I guess you know that already though, being my shrink and all."
It hurt, it really did, how it could so easily be simplified, the way in which our bodies fit together and moved together. The way he touched me and I touched him wasn't insignificant to me. Even when it was hard and fast, a quick primal meeting of the bodies, it was beautiful to me.
When I looked at him all I wanted was to be loved in return. My heart yearned for it so much it was like a tugging in my chest, an ache that fed to my belly. I had to look away. Was this what the hurt had been all along? The knowledge that had manifested itself right away: That I couldn't have that from this person. Was this why I ran and ran and ran in the opposite direction but found myself desiring to run toward him again?
Growing up is a hard thing to do but I think that falling for this beautiful but flawed being had caused me to grow up. They do say love changes you after all.
"I know you want me, and I know we have great sex but I don't want just that anymore, "I forced myself to say, unable to force a smile this time. "I think I want something real; I want to try my hand at having a real relationship. Truth be told, my experience is limited to sex with you."
"What about Jer--."
I didn't let him finish, "I already said Jeremy and I aren't together. We haven't been...ever."
"Oh," He sighed, almost as if in relief, "Okay, I think I get it."
"Great, now you can run, Ryan," I smiled but it didn't reach my eyes. My heart hurt so badly and I wanted to nothing more than to grab his hand and demand he never leave. I wanted to be wrapped in his arms and loved. I never understood how those characters in movies and books felt until now, when the moment was real for me.
"So we're...we're cool?" Ryan inquired, eyes filled with a strange uneasiness. He looked almost wary, although he should have been feeling more relieved by now.
I laughed, "I never thought I'd hear that coming from you," I said.
Ryan laughed too, "I know I've been a royal ass."
"What caused the sudden change of heart?"
Ryan shrugged, suddenly uncomfortable. "I guess...you approaching me and stuff. You put the truth in my face. I don't know what I am, I still like girls, and I don't feel this way about any other guy but you...it's just well...I stopped trying to run away from the fact that I wanted you that way. Then, every time we had sex...I would go home and think for hours and hours and I just...Kyle...it just all melted away, you know?"
I nodded, "The anger? Me too."
"Yeah, and after that last time, you just stopped looking at me even. It threw me off that I wanted you to, you know? Look at me that is," He added. "I missed the contact, and I ran for a bit, I hid again but eventually I decided to just make peace with you and see if this could go...right...again. Fuck my mother; I don't care what she thinks. There's nothing wrong with wanting you...like that, even if I don't understand why it's only you, you know?"
"I get that," I told him, "I just can't say yes to it. I—don't get me wrong—I want you, it's just I don't want this anymore." I snorted, "As if I could stop the wanting you part."
Ryan laughed, "What can I say? I'm a beast."
I grinned, but didn't laugh. Silence again.
He broke it with an awkward cough. We were both treading softly around one another. After all this was foreign territory, or at least long-deserted territory. "I guess I had better go then."
I looked up, "Yeah, no need to run."
He smiled, and my eyes feasted on it yet again, "Do you think we can be friends again?"
"I don't know, Ryan," I answered truthfully, "I don't know if I want to be."
"Oh, okay, well then..." He tried to mask the hurt but I caught it. It astonished me that he cared about me, that I had enough power to cause him pain, but I really didn't want to hurt him.
"I'm sorry, it's-it's not you, Ryan."
"It's okay, I get it. I've messed up any chance of this ending cleanly and us being friends again." He stood up and put his jacket on.
"No," I stopped him, suddenly exhausted, but stood up anyway. "I think I can safely say that we were both to blame for this shitty mess we made."
"Yeah, okay." He didn't look convinced.
"I'm serious," I said, "It's just things aren't the same anymore. It's really my fault, honest. Besides, you better run away before I get my claws into you again."
"But I want that," He said, and I could see the effort it took to make that small admission. "I don't know why but I do. I want that."
My eyes widened for a few seconds as I digested this before I took a step back and got my act together again. "I know, I know, I'm really fucking sexy. Ryan, get over my ass, go find a really hot girl."
"You're a fucking asshole," he said and smiled despite his words, "You finally get me to admit to myself that I want you and now you're telling me to just leave it aside and go find someone else to fuck?"
"Hey, hey, it's not like you're in love with me or anything," I chuckled, forcing a passive expression on my face. "At least you're in a sane state of mind now."
His eyes softened and he looked guilty, "Yeah, sorry bout that. You're right."
"Good, you better be."
"This was nice," Ryan told me, "Talking to you like this again. I'm sorry about everything."
"Yeah...yeah me too...sorry."
"I hope I didn't give you a heart attack when you saw me in your living room," Ryan laughed, now buttoning his jacket.
"Yeah, almost did there, good thing I had enough booze in my system to slow down my heart-attack trigger."
"Yeah? Had a fun night?"
I glanced briefly at my arm where the bruising was now a light purple, then quickly up at him, hoping he hadn't caught that. "It was fine," I said, but his eyes had zeroed in on my arm. He snatched my arm before I could stop him.
"What the fuck? Did you get into a fight?" Ryan demanded.
"No," I hissed, snatching my arm back from his grasp and rubbing it.
"Explain." Ryan said simply, that no-nonsense look back into his eyes that I loved so much. It was so hard to not suck up all the attention like I wanted to and weaken my resolve. It would be so easy to say yes to him, so easy to fall into bed and be close to him in that way.
"Nothing happened, okay, I was messing around with some friends."
Ryan rolled his eyes, "You're a horrible liar."
I scoffed, "Actually, you'd be surprised at how good of a liar I am."
"Even that was a horrible lie. Now how the fuck did you get those bruises, it's almost like someone gripped you really hard..." His eyes widened as he looked up at me.
"It was nothing, okay. Just some guy..."
"Are you insane?" Ryan hissed, "What if he had really hurt you? What the fuck are you getting yourself into these days?"
I rolled my eyes, "Who asked you to play worried Mother now that you're remotely sane. A few days ago you would have gladly bruised me this way."
"No," Ryan said seriously, "I wouldn't have. No matter how angry I was at you, I wouldn't have resorted to physical violence. Not like..." He looked at my arm disgustedly.
"Would you relax, I went with him willingly, okay? He was hot so I wanted to make out with him but then decided I didn't midway, while he was you know...groping me." I didn't mention that it had been thoughts of him that had prevented me. "Not that it's any of your business. Anyway, I shoved him off of me. The idiot was too drunk to move properly so it was a piece of cake. I'm not some fairy, okay?"
"Fuck , he still could have hurt you."
"So what's it to you? I've heard enough lecturing from Jeremy; I don't need you to bitch at me too."
"What's it to me?" Ryan asked, gaping, "What the fuck have we been talking about? Isn't It obvious I give a rat's ass about what happens to you by now?"
"Yeah, well clearly not. I really do want to be friends with you again, you know. So being concerned about you isn't something that should be so shocking. I don't just want your ass."
"Yeah, that's what I thought. Shut you right up."
"I get it; you don't want to be my friend. It's cool." He walked to the door but hesitated before opening it. When he spoke, his voice was considerably softer. It made me ache so badly and I wanted to tell him it wasn't his fault, "Just-Just take care of yourself, Kyle," he said and walked out.
A tear escaped from my tired eye and I sank to the floor again. I didn't wipe it away but didn't let any more escape either.
"Rise and shine, Kyle," A voice murmured in my ear as soft breath tickled my face. I swatted at the bugger but my hands encountered silky curls and fisted themselves into the locks.
"Ow!" The voice shouted, "Kyle, you ass, let go of my hair!"
I shot up straight in bed and flung the covers off me. During the maneuver, I also attempted to wrestle free my hands from the head of my assailant but that didn't go so well and Laura fell into my bed with a loud thump and an, "Oomph."
"Laura! What have I told you about sneaking into my room on Sunday morning?" I grumbled and pushed my hair off my face. I really needed to get that cut, and made a mental note to go do that tomorrow.
Laura huffed and sat upright again, straightening her cream blouse and high-waisted black skirt. All were clothes far too sophisticated for a teen her age. She wore a vintage bracelet on her one wrist that glimmered in the light of the morning flowing in through the open window. Spring was arriving and the air was getting warmer.
"You weren't getting up, buddy, so I decided to come up and wake you," she informed me easily. I grunted and got up from bed, throwing on a shirt and wiping the sleep from my eyes. I hadn't had the best of nights. After Ryan left, I'd steeled myself and taken a cold shower. Despite feeling exhausted, I didn't fall asleep right away and lay there agonizing over my fate. Then, I had thought of all the things I did have in life to be thankful for and how others didn't have half what I had. That had helped and I'd been able to drift off to sleep.
"Why exactly are you here?" I mumbled standing and not making any move towards the door.
"I felt like seeing my friend, something wrong with that?" Laura asked. I chose not to answer that and instead started towards the door finally. Laura informed me as I walked, "Your parents are out for the day. I'm sure they mentioned they'd be visiting your grandparents in Ottawa. You were supposed to go with them because apparently you haven't seen them in a while."
"Meh," I said, "I don't want to go."
"Well they're gone already, genius. Anyway, I made breakfast. I've never made pancakes before but I followed the recipe and they look good. Go take a shower and we can eat."
I sighed, "Okay, Mother."
During my shower, I purposely attempted at clearing my mind. I didn't want to think at all about what had occurred the previous night. That would mean opening doors I wanted to keep closed. It would mean contemplating the fact that my first love was incomplete. It would mean letting the pain in, letting weakness in, and ultimately opening the chance to weaken resolve and go find Ryan. And that was something I couldn't afford. That would be utterly horrendous and a road that could never be taken back.
Thus, I settled on numbness.
Laura was already eating when I stepped into the kitchen and took a seat. She'd already set a place for me so I just dug right in, not making any conversation.
"Everything alright, Kyle?"
I shrugged and went back to eating. The both of us knew something was wrong. As if I could somehow keep Laura from reading my emotions, even when I held them back and at bay. At this moment I didn't want to talk about it.
"I know I've let you have space, but it's time you `fessed up," Laura said simply, inclining her head at me in a way that was so familiar, I automatically knew she meant business.
"I know," I said, sighing. I left it at that.
"Good," Laura nodded approvingly. I knew part of the reason for her visit was to check up on me and have a talk with me. God the girl should be straight and have three kids already to mother. "So are the pancakes good?"
I nodded and we ate in silence again for a few minutes. The only sound was the gentle hum of the refrigerator from across the wide room and the scraping of forks and knives on plates. After we finished eating, Laura took both our plates and washed them by hand. I went to watch T.V. but didn't get a chance to watch for long since Laura came and turned it off as soon as she was done in the kitchen. She was at home here.
She made herself comfortable on the sofa and lay down, putting her feet into my lap. I put a hand on the cool flesh and rubbed lightly. "Now will you tell me what's wrong?"
I shrugged again.
She sat up and reached for my hand. I let her take it and she turned my face so it was staring at her. "Kyle, sweetie, I'm really concerned. You know I'm not always this nice."
I snorted at that and cracked a smile. She grinned, "That's better. I know you've been down lately, well for a long time to be honest and it all has to do with Ryan. I'm a good friend, I like to think, so I've left it to you to tell me what's been going on but you're just on a disastrous path. What happened with Ryan?"
I knew she knew more than she let on, both from reading me and because she was supremely intelligent. She needed to hear it from me though and she probably felt I needed to tell her. Maybe she was right.
"It's a long story."
"I've got time," Laura said, releasing my hands and settling back down. "Start at the beginning."
"Well," I said, "It all started when I went to that one party when we first met Nathan. Do you remember?"
"Mmm-hmm," Laura encouraged, "Go on."
And with her encouragement, I got the entire story off my chest, all including my ups and downs, my thoughts and feelings to a certain degree. Laura sat there quietly, saying encouraging words but showing no judgment on her face. She listened compassionately and she listened well.
"And so...here I am," I waved my hands, "I love him, but he's straight and just wants me for sex."
"That's not true," Laura pointed out, "From what you said, and from what I know, he doesn't just want you for sex. He does like you and wants to be your friend. He said that didn't he?"
"Well...yeah. I just can't do that, Laura. Being near him like that again, after all that's happened, and even then it's more about how I'm feeling now. It would only get worse and it would hurt more."
"I know," Laura said softly. "I can't imagine what I'd feel like being in your position. Ashlynn and I are so happy...sorry," Laura said, blushing.
"It's okay," I rolled my eyes; "I'm not gonna fucking break."
"Will you talk to him, though?"
I shrugged, "What's there to talk about? If you mean, will I be civil, then yeah."
"Good," Laura said, "At least he woke up and came back to his senses. He's really not that bad of a person and I actually like him. I could tell he's been down lately too."
I narrowed my eyes, "What do you mean?"
"Well...remember that time Ryan came with us to Josh's house?" Laura asked.
"Yeah," I said elusively.
"Don't you remember how long you two left us together?"
"Oh my god! What were you two talking about?" I gasped.
"Hey, calm down, buddy. We just got to know one another and since then we've sort of been friends. I could tell things were off even if he didn't tell me about it. Then there you were, acting even funnier all of a sudden. Then, even more abruptly you just became...cold."
"So you two actually...talk?" I ventured.
"Yeah, we actually do."
"Has he said anything about me?" I asked casually.
"Aww, Kyle, no we didn't talk about you. It was almost a taboo. I'm sorry," She said.
"Laura, cut it out. I'm fine, okay?"
"Okay, but I wish I knew how to help you."
I laughed, "Me too, sadly I don't know how to get over something like this."
"You could try dating other people?" Laura suggested.
"Like who?" I snorted.
"I don't know. We don't exactly live in rural Texas, Kyle. You can meet gay boys easily."
"Yeah If I want a gay boy I'll go straight to Jeremy, kay?"
Laura laughed, "That's a never, I take it?"
I shrugged, "No actually, that's not a never. Just right now...I don't want to see anyone. I just want to,-well,-be by myself."
"Obviously you don't want to see anyone, Kyle. You have feelings for Ryan, and you're not exactly the promiscuous sort who does it with anyone anytime without a reason."
"No, I'm not," I agreed, "Topic change? I really don't want to talk about this anymore."
"And then what? You keep bottling everything in; you keep putting yourself in painful and unhealthy situations. Kyle, I'm worried about you."
"I won't anymore, okay?" I insisted.
"As if! You're already in the unhealthiest hole I can think of."
"That isn't helping, Laura," I said in a sing-song voice.
She was instantly chagrined, "Oh! I'm so sorry! I'm so insensitive! Of course that's the last thing you want to hear right now."
"It's fine," I laughed, "You can make it up to me by dropping this."
"For now," She corrected.
"For now," I agreed.
"So, what do you want to do today? I have a car and you exist."
"Nothing," I said, "I don't want to do anything."
"Cool, I like doing nothing."
"Nothing is pretty fun," I allowed.
"Wanna do nothing upstairs? We can turn on music and I can--."
"Do not finish that sentence, Laura! I'm a gay man!" I exclaimed, letting the farce of a lighter mood settle over me.
"Stupid, I was talking about you letting me cut your hair. I'm really good at it. Then, afterwards we can grab an old movie and watch it. I'll make us some sundaes!"
"I'll pass on the haircut; I'm going to go get it done tomorrow anyway. The movie...hmm...okay, fine. How about we watch Batman Begins and then watch The Dark Knight? Freaking good movies," It was easy to let myself feel better now that Laura was with me and my lone thoughts didn't have to invade. It was easy to see why people fell into bad habits and depression in situations like these. Usually one wants to be alone and isolation provides no comfort from our thoughts. When you're around other people, you can be free of your thoughts for a while and it's easy to feel good again.
"I was thinking The Matrix!" Laura whined.
"I love that movie." I said.
"I know! Josh does too...I'd call him but he said he'd be busy all weekend with family stuff," Laura said.
"How about we watch all three? My parents aren't going to be back till tomorrow anyway. It's a long drive there and back."
"Can I stay the night?" Laura asked, looking excited.
"Do you even need to ask, dummy?"
"Nah, just being polite."
"Okay, then all three it is." I said, grinning. "It'll be like the old days."
"I missed this," Laura said, beaming. "It'd be perfect if Josh was here too, though."
"Hey, we'll do it another time too." I said, "Cheer up."
"I know, I know. I just feel like we're all growing up so fast now and soon we'll be off on our own. I miss being a kid, I miss the old days."
"We're still kids," I grinned and tickled her lightly to demonstrate.
"Stop!" She squealed and I eventually released her. "I was being serious, Kyle."
"I know, I know."
"I don't want us to become strangers, all of us."
"We won't, silly," I tweaked her nose, "Josh you and I are freaking thick as thieves. Nothing as stupid as growing up is gonna get in the way of our friendship."
"Promise?" Laura asked with a vulnerable expression on her face.
"I promise, dummy." I said, "I'll always be your friend, no matter what. Forever, kay?"
Laura beamed, "Forever."
"Now, I think I feel hungry again," I said, stretching widely. "Wanna go out?"
"Let's go to the mall, kay?" I nodded, and Laura continued. "I need to pick up some hand cream and a new facial scrub."
Thirty minutes later, we were stepping into one of the biggest and usually most crowded malls in the city. It was as filled with the usual traffic of people bustling in and out and walking to and from store. Teenage girls in groups of three and four walked about with bags of clothing and shoes hanging off their wrists. Mothers pushed strollers with tiny cuddly babies seated inside and couples of all ages walked with hands held.
Everyone was filled with some form of purpose at the mall and so many things were always going on at once. It always amused me when I'd see couples who had clearly just been arguing but were walking together silently to prevent causing a scene in public. It was always so blatant that they were miffed at each other, yet they maintained the farce. Or when a girl shopping with her mother threw a quiet tantrum because her mother wouldn't let her buy the eighty dollar jeans she really wanted instead of the ones on sale and they walked in silence as well, both their faces stern and lips narrowed.
Shopping with Laura was never that bad. She still maintained her tendency to be girly by doing slightly annoying things every once in a while, but Laura was cool for a girl. Shopping with my mother was another story. She tended to stare at things for ages and run them in her fingertips, often even resorting to asking me what I thought, as if I really cared what vases she bought for the kitchen. As much as I liked not looking like a slob and wearing ugly clothes, shopping wasn't really my thing or idea of a fun way to spend a day.
We went to The Bay and Laura spent several minutes reading the labels and backs of the bottles of things. I figured she had some idea what she was doing so I left her alone and idly fingered a tube of mascara.
It's odd how your mind can ease something out of it for a short while but the strangest things can bring the thoughts back to the forefront of your mind. It was the tube of mascara that did it this time, I was no longer seeing it and was instead seeing the weight of the burden I carried settling over my body.
It felt so huge to me, this thing: this big fat thing that wouldn't go away because it couldn't just flee out of your mind like this. And this big fat thing was all I could see now. But I wasn't going to break down and cry even if I felt like it at times. Why? Well sometimes you don't need a reason to feel like shit.
I was young, yes, and perhaps I would look back on the feelings coursing through me at this time years later and feel like it was foolish. Or maybe not, maybe I'd know that no matter what it felt like now, it was real to me then. All I knew was that I was about to miss out on my first love and that's a feeling that doesn't fill you with butterflies and rainbows.
And everyone knows: No matter what, you never forget your first love. Never.
"You trying to see through that tube of mascara or something?"
"What? No," I laughed and placed it back. I turned to see a guy about my age peering at me with a sheepish grin on his face, although I imagine the grin must have been a frown a minute earlier. I looked down the small aisle and saw that Laura was still intently reading the label on one bottle.
"She your friend?" The guy asked, inclining his head at Laura lightly while scanning the rows of cosmetics. He fingered a few lip glosses and something that looked like foundation, though I couldn't be sure.
"Yeah, she is," I said, grabbing another tube of mascara and running it through my fingers so I would have something to do with my hands.
The guy laughed, "God, you going to eat that mascara or something?" He asked this time.
I grinned, his laughter was contagious and I managed a small chuckle. He turned warm brown eyes at me and flicked his long straight brown hair off his face. "No, I'm not trying to see through the tube and I don't want to eat it."
"You sure?" He joked.
"Pretty sure," I said confidently, "I don't really wear makeup."
"Why not? You'd look good with a bit of eye-liner," The guy said casually, flicking a glance across my face. "Maybe a light color, not too intense."
"First off, because I'm a guy." I said, casting a quick glance towards Laura who was busily scanning the shelf again in search of a new brand I suppose.
"Bullshit. Don't pull that narrow-minded crap," His voice was light despite the harsh words, "Guys like you always assume makeup is strictly for prissy girls or fucking fags. Bunch of crap if you ask me."
I shifted uncomfortably but I held my chin up. I didn't need this from some skinny fucker, least of all at this moment. "Well for your information, I'm a `fucking fag' myself, so spare me the little speech." I turned to walk away. Perhaps I wouldn't have said it if it was any other day but today wasn't the best of days to be talked down to by some stranger.
"Hey, wait," The guy called after me.
"Fuck off," I actually said to him.
"Whoah, dude, who the fuck messed with you today?"
I turned back to him, "Would you leave me the hell alone, now? Thanks."
The guy shifted uncomfortably and looked down at the floor, "Listen, I don't know you but...I'm sorry about that back there. You look totally—well—straight, I mean, you just don't look like you'd be...gay you know?"
I rolled my eyes, "What the fuck do you mean by "looking gay"?
"Actually, I don't. I had no Idea I had to look a certain way because I'm gay," I said acerbically.
"Well...with most guys it's really blatant, ya know?"
"Whatever, asshole," I shook my head at him and turned around, "Have fun shopping for eye-liner! Hope someone doesn't think you're gay." I snorted.
"Well I am, you see. You're just hot so I acted like a jerk."
I turned yet again, "What the fuck?"
"I just act like a total ass around hot guys."
"First off, I'm not hot, and you know you're messed up, right? Dude, I don't even know you but I can tell that much."
"I get that a lot," he agreed reluctantly.
I laughed and shook my head again, wondering if this day could get any weirder, if my life could get any weirder.
"I'm John by the way," he said, smiling a bit more warmly at me now.
I rolled my eyes, "Dude, just because I'm gay doesn't mean you gotta be all nice to me now."
"Hey, hey! Nah, it's not like that. I really am sorry."
"Coming, Kyle?" Laura called at me over her shoulder. She was obviously done looking.
"Yeah I am, one second," I called back, "Anyway," I said to John, "I'm Kyle, but I have to go now. Um...nice meeting you, I guess. Later."
"Hey," John complained, "I don't get a number or anything?"
"Are you hitting on me?" I laughed.
"Maybe..." John said, grinning.
"Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but I'm kinda hung up on someone at the moment. Anyway, why should I give you my number?"
"Because I'm totally cute, and come on, I should definitely make up for this. I'll buy you some great eye-liner."
"Fine," I rolled my eyes, "If you want it that badly."
He shifted uncomfortably, "Well...not that bad."
I chuckled, "Relax," I told him, and grabbed a lipstick off the rack. I grabbed his arm and wrote my number on his arm with the deep burgundy shade. "Careful with that," I told him.
"I'll never wash this hand," He told me, pursuing a stern stance.
"You better not."
"Coming, Mother," I grinned at John, "Later, man."
As we walked to the checkout counter Laura asked me curiously, "Who was that? You sounded kinda angry there."
I shrugged, "I just met him. He was being a total asshole and I really didn't wanna take it."
"Yeah? What'd he say?"
When I told her she gasped, "That's ridiculous. I hate when people assume you have to be a certain way just because you're a lesbian or because you're gay."
"I know. I mean, it's not like there's some sort of rule that all straight people should be a certain way, either."
"Well, we aren't exactly at the height of social importance, Kyle. People feel it's okay to categorize, compartmentalize, and judge us." Laura said matter-of-factly. The cashier raised her eyebrows at this but didn't comment and kept her eyes down on her task.
"Well, it's stupid. I'm gay but that doesn't mean I have to be feminine or I'm some sort of promiscuous jerk who has sex with anything that has a penis." I said heatedly.
The cashier looked up after this comment, wide-eyed, and curious. "What?" I asked her angrily, and rather uncharacteristically. I snatched the shopping bag and Laura and I shuffled out the doors to her car.
"Oh, and when he found out I was gay he totally changed his attitude," I told Laura.
"He found out you were gay?" Laura asked absentmindedly as she seated herself in the car and was reapplying lip gloss in a compact mirror.
"Well yeah, I told him to mind his own business and that I was a `fucking fag'."
"You did?" Laura asked, all wide-eyed curious now. The look was so reminiscent of the cashier inside the store. I had a mind to laugh.
"Well...yeah, I did." I raised my chin a notch.
"Good for you," Laura praised. "If he's gay, he should know better than that."
"Why the tone of surprise?" I asked.
Laura grinned, "Well...It's just not like you to you know...do that."
"That's not true!" I exclaimed indignantly. "I always...do stuff like that."
"Okay, if you say so." Laura grinned, throwing her sunglasses on as she closed her mirror and gripped the steering wheel.
"Okay, okay." She said, still with that same knowing smile on her face. I swear, sometimes I hate females!
I sort of spent the next hour or so being upset with her but eventually when she came into the living room with yummy food she'd just prepared, I had to give in and I let it go. Maybe all the stupid talk about the way to a man's heart is through his stomach is true after all. I debated this while I ate and watched the movie.
It was a relatively fun day. We watched all three movies, fooled around, ate a lot, and just talked. There was some banter involved of course. Being Laura and I, it would have been odd if it that wasn't done. The movies were great, of course, and we thoroughly enjoyed them, but because it wasn't the first time watching them, talking was okay. Normally, I hate disruptive noises when I'm watching a movie and Laura knew that very well considering I tended to throw books if provoked.
When it was late and we were all talked out (Laura was sprawled out over the couch and I was leaning against the back of it while she ran her fingers through my hair), we decided it was time to go to bed and both headed up to my room after doing our nightly routines.
Laura was already wrapped up in my blankets when I entered my room. She always slept in my bed when she was over. Funny, it never hit me until then that my parents hadn't found it strange or commented on it. Hell, most parents would have protested or assumed we were `up to something.' Obviously my parents would take it well when I came out to them sometime in the near future; to be honest they were probably already expecting it. I mean, what kind of a guy (friend or not) can sleep in the same bed as gorgeous Laura and not be slightly uncomfortable. And by uncomfortable I mean around the groin area.
"Get in bed, Kyle." Laura said grumpily.
"What happened to the sensitive and friendly girl?"
"She's sleepy; taking care of you is so tiring. I wonder how your own mother and father handle it."
I lay down beside her, laughing. "I didn't miss my mommy today at all. Thank you, Laura for filling in."
Laura rolled over so she faced me, and her face softened. She ran a hand across my bicep. "I hope you feel better."
I smiled at her genuinely, "I do, Laura. Thank you."
"Okay, good." Laura yawned, "You're sturdy. G'night."
That night, before falling asleep, a sudden tightness filled me again. It was as if I was a dam ready to overflow but I kept everything at bay until my own consciousness took over and released the contents I withheld. I was tired of shaking it off, and I let despair and sadness fill me. Eventually sheer exhaustion put me to sleep.
If I dreamt that night, I do not remember it now.
If there's one thing I hate, it's waking up on a Monday morning for school. Having Laura around, of course she woke me up at the crack of dawn. God, girls! As if I care about how much time I have to get ready and `put myself in a good mood' before school! Good thing I'm gay or else I'd probably have to deal with the things like that forever.
Of course, at that age I assumed any guy I was with would know for the sake of manhood, that getting up at five am in the morning to do your hair and quietly sip coffee is a crime. I also assumed all girls were crazy to some extent, which is true! Even Laura agreed with me...on a good day.
By the time we arrived at school, we were still arguing about what music we should have played during the car ride. Although when I was alone with Laura, I often felt like a senile man, she also made it easy to get lost in the little things in life and not get lost in my own mind. This was a problem I'd had since birth. Apparently I was so lost in my mind as baby it took me forever to speak.
"I'll see you at lunch," Laura told me and stalked off to her own locker.
At lunch, she definitely seemed in a better mood, and had clearly forgotten the earlier episode during which she fumed at me for not allowing her to play her own CDs in her own car. The first part of the morning had gone pretty much without anything interesting happening. I'd kept myself busy by completing most of my homework in class for a change instead of doodling on a piece of paper.
"Will you be okay?" Laura whispered as we made our way across the crowded cafeteria towards where Josh was sitting with a few buddies of his.
"Huh? What do you mean?" I asked absently, pausing a second to brush some lint off my new black sweater.
"Don't you see who's sitting over there?"
I stopped completely with Laura standing slightly off to the side in front of me. Sure enough, as I looked back over at the table where Josh was sitting with his friends, I saw Ryan sitting there. He wore a dark blue t-shirt and his hair looked newly cut. He was as beautiful as ever, and as unattainable as ever. I still loved him too; If only that were as easy to change as my jeans. Ryan was listening to something a guy named Zach was saying, and said a few words occasionally. I hoped he didn't see me.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck," I said and turned back around to walk out of the cafeteria.
"Kyle, wait up!" Laura hissed and came after me.
Once we were safely away from the glass wall of the cafeteria and off to the other side, she grabbed my arm and pulled me near her. "Are you okay?"
"What? No!" I hissed. "He's in there, Laura. He's in there and he's sitting with my best friend and his friends and they're all chatting like everything is alright."
"Well...to them everything is alright. And sadly, Ryan is alright too." She said. Clearly she was assuming I was pissed at him for being okay. "It's the truth, you have to accept it."
"I've never been not okay with him being alright," I said, then frowned, "Fuck, does that even make sense?"
Laura rubbed my arm soothingly, "Yes, yes it does."
"It's just...well I can't see him now. I just-I can't look at him Laura. I can't even look him in the eye."
"Why not?"Laura asked softly, looking as if she was on the verge of tears.
"I love him. I love him." I said, almost chanting it. "I love him."
"I know, baby," Laura said, "but you talked to him yesterday didn't you?"
"Yeah, I did. But this is different, I don't know why, but it just is. I've never felt like this before, you know? Like everything I want in the world is him in there, like my happiness depends on him and all that is in pieces right now."
"You're young, Kyle, you've got ages to live and you'll meet someone again. You'll fall in love again."
I laughed stiffly, "Of course I will. I know that, I know I will but I just know that I'll never have another Ryan, I'll never feel this way exactly for anyone else again. I'll never forget him or this either because he's the first one in so many ways."
A tear escaped from Laura's eye this time. She chuckled, while her voice sounded teary, "See now you've made me cry, you big jerk."
"Hey, hey." I wrapped her in a fierce hug, uncaring of the little `niners who were looking on curiously. The little midget buggers needed to get the fuck away. Seriously, didn't they know that they were hated by any grade above them?
"I love you." Laura told me, letting me envelop her.
"I love you too, Laura," I said, "Forever."
"You're so sweet." Laura sighed.
I laughed and set her away from me. "What the fuck is wrong with you girls? You're all pissy one moment, then all: "God, Kyle fucking close your mouth, you big baboon." The next second, and then you treat me like I'm a baby and you're my mother, and THEN you act like a fragile little china doll and want me to make you feel better by wrapping you up in my big manly arms. And you're supposed to be the strong woman loving lesbian."
Laura punched me and laughed, "We're complex creatures."
"Fuck, I don't want to know what all the rest of you man-loving females are like." I said with a grimace.
"Hey, women have to go through all the--."
"Spare me the fucking details please? I've heard this speech a gazillion times. Periods, cramps, baby in stomach for nine months, having your vagina split open by a baby and never looking good again. Yada yada..."
"How sensitive of you..." Laura said.
I shrugged, "I don't need to worry about having a girlfriend I need to lie to on a daily basis to keep her emotionally and psychologically healthy."
"God, guys are such asses. Apparently being gay isn't an exception."
"Nope," I agreed, "It isn't."
Laura shuffled slightly, and pulled at the sleeve of her shirt. She bit her lip. "So...you ready to go back in there? I mean, we don't have to if you...you know...don't want to that is."
"I don't think I can do that right now." I said honestly.
"I understand, and that's perfectly fine." Laura assured me confidently, saying it rather quickly and breathlessly.
"You go on though, I'm sure Ashlynn will want to see you too, so find her or something." I suggested lightly. "Hey, we should all hang out sometime. I know I've been kind of a recluse lately, but I'd like to know the girl my friend is so gaga over better."
"Okay, sounds good. Well...you sure you're gonna be okay?"
I rolled my eyes, "Yes, Mommy, I'll be perfectly fine. You go on."
Laura hesitated, but when I grabbed her by the shoulders and urged her forwards, she chuckled and shrugged me off. "I'll see you later then, Kyle, be good."
After she left, the smile slipped off my face and I walked quickly by the cafeteria to the doors at the other end of the hall. Unfortunately, I had to walk past the clear cafeteria wall and felt rather paranoid about Ryan seeing me. For some reason the thought bothered me and I rushed out of the doors quickly.
The air was cool and fresh and I took big gulps of it as I walked on and sat down in the bleachers on the other end of the field. I was so immersed in my thoughts; I didn't hear the person approaching me and was unaware of their presence until I felt a hand on my shoulder.
I jumped and the hand slipped off. "Jesus Christ!"
"Sorry," Josh chuckled, taking a seat beside me, "Didn't mean to scare you. Well, to be honest I did. Still, sorry, bro. Don't want to kill you from shock or anything."
"Fuck, Josh, you scared the crap out of me."
"I know," He said, "So what's up? Saw you running out in a bit of a hurry so I came after ya."
I sighed, "I'm in love, dude." It seemed everything was just slipping out of me as of late.
"Shit, seriously?" Josh exclaimed, clearly not expecting such a loaded answer to a simple question. Or maybe he was, I don't know.
"Yeah," I said.
"Fuck! Ryan! Oh my fucking god." Josh said rather loudly.
"Tsk-tsk, what would your mother say?" I chastised.
Joshed waved me off, "Kyle, Ryan Melbourne? Ryan fucking Melbourne? Straight Ryan Melbourne who was clearly messing around with you?"
"Gee, Josh, you make me feel so much better about my life."
"Well you're fucking stupid."
"Tell me something I don't know, kay?" I requested.
"Sorry," Josh said gruffly, "but seriously?"
"Yes! Seriously, Josh!" I exclaimed.
I shrugged, "It just happens, you know?"
"No I don't know," Josh said, "But hey, we can deal with this. Let's go hit some parties; I'll even get you hooked up with some guys. I know a few gay guys that would love to have a chance with you. You'll forget all about Ryan in no time."
I rolled my eyes, "Thanks, but no thanks."
"Fine, your loss." Josh let it go that easily, unlike Laura who would have gone on and on, being the female she was.
"It can't be that bad, right?" Josh asked warily.
I laughed, and only shrugged. "I hope you never have to find out."
Josh winced, "Ouch, bad huh?"
To which I had no answer.
And thus, another day went by in which my misery became less prone to seeping out of my inner self. But yet the strange thing is, that as time goes by, however slowly it is, you do begin to heal. That fresh cut on the back of your hand that aches every moment starts to dull. And still, there is an ache, however small, however subdued; there is an ache which I cannot even begin to describe. It is just a feeling that can be described with so many words and yet no words at all. It's an ache that cannot even be grasped by something as fickle as a word. To understand it, you have to have felt it, and to know what I am feeling you would have to step into my shoes.
It's not time that really heals all wounds but our own human inadequacy to truly grasp onto something for a long time. That is why people fall in and out of love and how we begin to heal from the loss of it. It is because we cannot recall their face anymore. The explanation for why a small ache, a figment of hurt, some small salute to that former love remains is simply because those are the fragments that don't fade entirely. So yes, in essence, over time wounds heal, but it is not the continuity and passage of time that does the sanctified act of healing.
I will never forget Ryan's face though, and his memory will probably linger. Still, how do you heal from a wound that won't stop bleeding? That rips apart just when you think it will scab over and new skin will cover it?
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