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
The Ordinary Us
Chapter sixteen: The truth is out
He was almost half way down the stairs and I suddenly found myself grabbing onto the rail and jumping, landing two steps behind him. From there, it was easy to get past him and cut him off.
"Will you stop?" I demanded, and in response he looked away from me.
It hadn't taken very long for me to realize that I liked Brad walking away from me even less the second time in one night than I did the first. Jude didn't even have to tell me to go after him before I was out the door. Only now that I had him, I had no idea what to say to him.
"Just stop." I said again, even though he already had. He looked at me then, obviously annoyed, and when I still had nothing to say he just rolled his eyes.
"I'll catch you tomorrow, Quinn. Obviously I interrupted..." he paused there and shook his head to himself, and I felt every bit of shame that I could wash over me at the insinuation. "We'll talk... later."
Maybe I felt horribly embarrassed at the moment, and definitely scared, but I still stepped in his path to prevent him from stepping around me when he tried to.
"Please, don't leave." I frowned. "Look Brad, I know this is... it's hard, okay. I don't know what to say to you, I don't know what to do... please, just don't walk away without saying anything."
"And what am I supposed to say?" he practically bellowed at me.
"I don't know, anything!" I could hear panic in my voice. I felt desperate to keep him from walking away from me, even though moments before I was hell-bent on avoiding him. "Just say whatever you want to. Shit, say whatever you need to, but don't just walk away from me without..."
"Why shouldn't I?" he cut me off. "Why not, Quinn? How many times in the last month have you walked away from me? Fuck, how long have you been lying to me?"
"I didn't lie!" I defensively retorted. "It's not the same thing as lying, Brad. I couldn't tell you."
"Wouldn't tell me! So this is it, Quinn? This is the reason why you've been such an ass? Because you met a guy and decided that he'd be a better fuck than Marissa?"
"Shut up!" I snapped, furious with the way that he was talking to me. "It didn't just happen, Brad. You have no idea how hard it's been to..."
"I have no idea?" he demanded, "No, Quinn. You have no idea! You don't know how hard it's been to watch your best friend do everything he can to sabotage his life! You've pushed me away. Me, Quinn. Do you have any fucking idea what that did to me?"
"You didn't give me a choice! I'm so fucking tired of being what everyone else expects me to be. I'm finally figuring out who I am and no one else can take it, and you know what? As far as I'm concerned you can all kiss my ass!"
"Who you are then? This isn't you. You're out of your damned mind! This isn't you. You're not like this! I don't know what that guy did to confuse you but if you think for a second I buy into it..."
"He didn't do anything!" I stated, annoyed that he was bringing Jude into this. Sure, I'd done my fair share of blaming Jude for my problems, but I wasn't about to sit back and let Brad do it, too. I think it was because he said that I was confused. Sure, maybe I was about a lot of things, but if I knew anything, it was that I'd been more myself today with Jude, more than I had my whole life. And I hated it, too. But the idea of taking it back now was something that I hated more. "I'm gay, Brad. Trust me, if I wasn't then we wouldn't be having this conversation because I like it about as much as you do... but it's true."
"No." he shook his head. "People don't just turn that way..."
"Will you just listen to me?" I shouted. "I didn't just turn this way, I am this way. I've been this way."
His face twisted into a frown, his frustration with me becoming even more apparent on his face.
"You're..." he started, but I cut him off again.
"You wanted me to talk to you. You wanted me to tell you what my problem is. This is it. It's the reason Mar and I never did anything. I hit you because you said I was acting like a fag and for a second... for a second I thought you could see it...I thought you knew, and I hated you for it! I hated me for it. But, I can't take this back. I won't."
"So that's it?" he demanded. He sounded angry, but his eyes seemed to be pleading with me, as if he fully expected this all to be a hoax, or maybe even a really weird dream.
"Hey!" I looked up as a third voice interrupted us, and frowned when I saw Murphy standing at the top of the stairs. I already knew he didn't like me, but I didn't care. He was interrupting and I immediately wanted him gone. "Both of you knock it off and take this outside. People are trying to sleep!"
"Go to hell." I shot at him, and his face twisted into an incredulous glare.
"I'm calling the cops, you little shit." he retorted.
"Murphy, don't." of course it was Jude who appeared to rescue me. "He's having a bad night."
"It's about to get worse." Murphy remarked.
"Just let me handle it." Jude suddenly ordered of the older man, and I was surprised by his tone. So was Murphy, if the look on his face was any indication. But even so, after a full minute of staring at Jude he grunted and turned back to his apartment.
"I don't want to hear one more peep out of this hallway or I will call the police."
Jude didn't bother responding as he looked at us again and waved us up the stairs.
"Let's go back in." he said, and it wasn't suggestion.
I felt a sinking feeling in my gut just then. I had a feeling that when I turned around to go up those stairs, Brad would be going down them. That meant that this conversation was over. We were over. He'd be walking away from our friendship, unwilling to accept me and he'd be taking my secret with him. Unfortunately, the look on his face only confirmed that.
"Just say it, then." I said, the heat dropping out of my voice as I regarded Brad Clair sadly.
"Say what?" he frowned at me.
"You hate me." I said simply. I think I needed to hear it from him. If it was true, then I needed to hear it from him. At least then I could attempt to deal with it.
"I don't hate you, dumbass!" Brad practically spat at me.
"I'm gay, Brad." I retorted, as if I were actually arguing him.
"I don't hate you." he repeated, more firmly this time.
"I don't like you very much right now." he said in a calm voice that left me on pins and needles. I followed his gaze as it moved to Jude next. "I don't like him, either."
"Brad..." I frowned.
"This gay thing is fucked up, Quinn. I don't think you're..."
"I can't take it back," I reminded him, as much as myself.
"How do you even know for sure?" Brad started to ask, but to my surprise, it was Jude who we suddenly found interrupting us.
"Excuse me," he said from the top of the stairs, throwing a very unsettling look in Brad's direction. "But, when Quinn told you he was gay, you did believe him, right?"
"Stay the fuck out of this." Brad ordered Jude.
"I'm just curious," Jude continued, obviously ignoring him. "What changed since we were outside of Quinn's house and you practically demanded to know where I was taking your friend? You didn't care about whether or not he was gay then."
"I've had time to think about it." Brad frowned, through gritted teeth. "I've known him why whole life. If he was... I would have known it."
"Are you sure about that?" Jude replied with a raised eyebrow.
"Yes!" Brad suddenly shouted. "I know him!"
"Not this part of me." I suddenly found myself saying, stealing some of Jude's words. "Brad..."
"What the hell are you looking at?" Brad snapped at Jude, obviously not listening to me. I glanced back at Jude too, to find that he was doing little more than standing there at the top of the stairs at this point, but obviously, something about his presence irritated Brad. "Will you just get lost already? I'm trying to have a conversation here."
I gaped at Brad for a moment. Even when he was angry, it wasn't really in his nature to be openly rude to strangers. Jude, of course, didn't bite back, so to speak. He didn't even look at Brad disapprovingly, probably because he didn't want to provoke him. He did look at me, though, concern still obvious in his eyes.
"You okay?" he asked quietly, ignoring Jude all together. For some reason, Jude's question surprised me. It was probably because I was most definitely not okay and he knew it, but I found myself nodding, anyway. "Alright." he replied, still looking at me. "I'll go check on Murphy, just try to be quiet, okay?... if you need anything..."
"You've already done enough." Brad snapped at him, and Jude stopped talking. But, he did look at me again, silently promising that he wouldn't be far. I'm not sure whether or not that made me feel better. Jude's leaving definitely didn't make me feel better.
Sure, the very idea of Jude and Brad coming face to face before tonight could scare the hell out of me, but now that the truth was out I felt a strange attachment to Jude's presence. He was like... a buffer. It wasn't really that I thought he could help me now. I pretty much saw myself as fucked. I think the reason why I wanted Jude there had something to do with the fact that I saw him as the only person who could stand me-the real me. And without him, I was alone. Currently, alone with Brad. That was even worse, considering I didn't know what to say, as usual. But, this time I got the feeling that Brad was going to do most of the talking, anyway. And I probably wasn't going to like it. That's why I tried to speak first, ignoring my fear over the fact that Jude was no longer there watching over me.
"Look," I said, attempting to make my voice sound strong as I spoke to the friend who was intimidating the hell out of me at the moment. "I'm sorry if you think I was lying to you, but you don't understand..."
"No, I don't understand." Brad said quite simply as he leaned back against the stair rail and stared at the wall, just past me. "I don't understand how you could know a person your whole life, and... it's too much. It's too fucking much, okay?" he aggressively ran his fingers through his hair while his eyes momentarily glanced towards. "I mean... you tell me you're into guys and while I'm trying to figure out what that means you walk away. What the fuck is that? Guys, Quinn. That's like... do you know what that means? You like guys." Brad was mostly babbling. I knew that. But unfortunately, his point was coming through loud and clear. He definitely thought there was something wrong with me.
"I know what it means, Brad." I said coldly, wishing that I could block out all of the hurt that I was feeling just then. "But like I said, I can't..."
"I know. I know. I know." he blurted, suddenly waving his hand as he stepped away from the railing and moved down two steps before he turned to face me. "I just need to think, and right now... it's too much to think about, and I keep seeing... you when your buddy up there answered the door. You do realize you have a hickey, right? I mean, that means..." Brad groaned to himself and my hand automatically found it's way to my neck, more horror, and this time humiliation, hitting me hard. Brad knew exactly what I'd been up to with Jude, and the way he was talking had me feeling more ashamed than ever. "It means.... God damn it, Quinn. You're not supposed to be gay."
I opened my mouth to speak, although I had no idea what to say to that, but when Brad suddenly took a seat on the stairs and tiredly buried his face in his hands I stopped, and simply watched him. Fear, sadness... regret... those feelings were all present just then. I regretted the way that Brad was reacting to me... I regretted the way that I'd told him. Maybe it was a long time coming, but it definitely wasn't right. His mother was in the hospital. I was feeling emotional...it just wasn't right, none of it, and that was becoming clear now, because he looked so... tired.
It's strange, how when you see a friend in turmoil, it's easy to put aside your own issues, no matter how unmanageable they are, to be a friend. I hadn't done that in a while, and seeing Brad as he was now-the guilt hit me hard. I wanted to sit down next to him, place a hand on his shoulder and tell him that I was sorry for making him feel like this. Only, I had that nagging fear of him flinching away from me if I got that close to him. He obviously didn't like the gay thing, and hell, I could relate to that. But, I wondered if Brad now hated being around me as much as I hated being around myself sometimes.
"I'm sorry." those words were slipping out of my mouth now. It was all I really could say. Brad wasn't the only one who was tired. I was tired too. I was tired of feeling like I needed to defend myself, I was tired of doing everything I could to push away the people closest to me. I was tired of being at a loss when it came to what I was supposed to do next. I was definitely tired of feeling like I needed to cry all the time. The whole constant emotional breakdown that I was on the border of having was wearing me thin, and I think deep down I knew that if something didn't change soon, there was a real possibility that I'd lose it completely. Again.
"You need to come with me." Brad suddenly looked back at me with a serious expression on his face, and as I digested his words, my eyes widened slightly, wondering what he meant. "I mean it, Quinn." he continued, before I could ask where he wanted to go. "We need to go home. . . you need to go home. Your sister's waiting and I promised..."
"No." I cut him off, suddenly feeling angry at his suggestion. "You don't get it, do you? If Bree said anything to my mom then I won't have a home to go back to, anyway. I can't.... I can't deal with this shit."
"You mean you won't." Brad snapped at me, suddenly moving to his feet again. "Well guess what, Quinn? You have to deal with it because you don't have a choice. We've all been dealing with you for weeks. The hell if you won't deal with us now. You owe us at least that much and you know it."
"Why would I want to?" I retorted. "I don't care what you think I owe you. I'm not going with you so you can all corner me into an intervention!" Honestly, I'm not sure where that theory came from. I think it had something to do with the fact that I was thinking about what would happen when my mother discovered the truth. She'd probably haul me off to ten different shrinks who were just like Johns, and in my mind, Brad even suggesting that I go home to face things was a dangerous thing.
"Interrogation?" Brad repeated, looking perplexed. "What the hell for? Are you on drugs too? `Cause, I gotta tell you, at this point that would be easier to handle!"
"You know what?" I said, definitely feeling the need to run away again. "I'm not going anywhere with you."
"Yes you are!" he replied in an authoritive voice that just didn't fit my friend. "It's bad enough that you and that... that guy couldn't get off each other long enough to answer the phone when your sister tried to call... asshole. I don't care what you want. Bree's worried and you're not going to leave her sitting in that house waiting to hear from you."
"Bree..." I blinked, the sudden change in topic to my sister throwing me off. It took me a few moments to realize that Brad was telling me that she was worried, and a few more for it to occur to me that there was a real possibility that she was worried about me. She seemed so angry, and hurt when I left her that I hadn't really left room for the idea that she could be wondering where I was, or that she could have been concerned. Then again, I'd been too focused on how I was feeling to worry about what anyone else was feeling, including my sister.
"Yes, Bree." Brad responded irritably. "Maybe you won't come back for me, but you're going to do it for her, Quinn. It's bad enough that she found out the way she did. You had no right to walk out on her, too."
"Hey! She walked away from me, Brad, and she wouldn't have found out at all if...."
"Yeah, I get it! It wasn't like I did it on purpose, Quinn. But, in my defense I was sort of shocked and it didn't really click that Bree was standing there. Besides, she's your sister. You should have told her before that ever happened."
"Just like you think I should have told you?" I argued. "Bullshit. Look how you're both reacting now and tell me why I would have wanted to tell you sooner!"
"Because we deserved to know! Quinn..." he sounded desperate, speaking to me. He looked like he was attempting to reason with a three year old who was about to walk in front of a moving vehicle. The fact that I was that three year old, seemed both insulting and terrifying. "You should have talked to us. Just look at yourself! Look what you've turned into lately... and all because of this. You could have talked to us." Brad was practically glaring at me now, and when I didn't immediately respond, because I was too busy arguing the idea of telling him the truth sooner in my head, he released a frustrated breath and began walking down the stairs. "My car's outside, Quinn. I'm going home in five minutes. Hopefully you'll get your head out of your ass by then and come with me."
I frowned as I watched him walk away, wondering how he expected me to make up my mind about something like this in five minutes. On one hand, something was pulling at me, telling me to follow him down those stairs and attempt to save what was left of our friendship, if anything was left at all. My sister was another factor. I still couldn't imagine a life where Bree hated me, but there was also the selfish part of it; me wanting to make sure she said nothing to my mother about any of this. On the other hand, I'd been running from these confrontations forever. Running was an instinctive reaction that seemed safe to me. If I ran, then I wouldn't have to deal with it. At least, I wouldn't have to deal with it now. But, I was beginning to see that avoidance was becoming a problem for me. In attempting to avoid my troubles by running away from them, I was also succeeding in running away from the people who were supposed to be important to me, and obviously, they were feeling it more than I was giving them credit for.
Brad had given me an option. I didn't like it. I didn't want to do it. I was scared shitless of it, but a full five minutes later I was in the parking lot and silently getting into his car. I could already feel myself going numb, preparing for any pain that my decision might cause. In the back of my mind, I was aware that I'd just walked out on Jude. I hadn't even told him that I was going. For a moment I even felt concern over whether or not he'd be upset about that. But, a moment was all I had to think about it, before I was focused on Brad, who seemed surprised to see me getting into his car.
"I don't know what to say to you." I said it in a whisper, unsure if he could even hear me, but at least I was being honest. Brad, in response, waited for me to buckle up before he started his car and silently began to drive away from Jude's apartment.
I think by now, I was getting used to awkward moments. The car ride with Brad, was definitely one of them. He was staring straight ahead, while my eyes drifted between the window and the stone faced expression he was wearing. I couldn't read him now, and it put me on edge. It really didn't help that he was silent. At least if he was yelling at me, I'd have some idea of what he was thinking. The closer we got to my house, the more I began to wonder if we would have a repeat of the last time he'd driven me home from Jude's apartment, after the disaster at the movie theater. He'd been so angry with me then. But, at least the last time when he dropped me off in front of my house angry, there was at least a possibility that he would speak to me again. This time, I wasn't so sure.
"Do you have any idea how stupid I feel?" Brad's voice sounded calm, almost soft, but the way it interrupted the silence made me jump, and I looked in his direction to see that he was still looking straight ahead. "I can't believe I didn't know... I mean, I should have figured it out. There should have been something there, some sort of clue." he let out a breath. "You shouldn't have kept this from me."
"And what was I supposed to say to you, Brad? Do you have any idea how hard it was even to admit it to myself?" I shook my head. Of course he didn't know. "I couldn't accept it, so how the hell was I supposed to expect you or anyone else to?"
"You just were, Quinn! We're supposed to trust each other. How could you not trust me?"
"I didn't want you to hate me! You're supposed to be my best friend and look how you're handling this!"
"How else do you expect me to handle it?" he demanded, pulling onto our street. "I feel like my whole life with you has been a lie!"
"Why? What would have changed if you'd known? I mean, would we even be friends?"
His features scrunched up in frustration and he shook his head.
"I would have...."
"What?" I demanded. "Had less sleep overs at your place because it would have been safer than inviting over a fag?"
"No asshole," he retorted as he came to a stop in front of my house and roughly turned off the ignition. "But maybe I could have done something differently when you freaked out in school! Or maybe I wouldn't have made an ass of myself trying to get you to date other girls after Marissa! You've been acting like a crazy person for weeks, Quinn, and you let me walk around without a fucking clue, wondering why!"
He got out of the car, and I followed suit, wishing that he could understand where I was coming from.
"I wasn't ready to tell you. I couldn't. Why can't you understand that...." I was cut short when I heard the front door to my house slam, and I looked up just in time to see my sister moving around Brad's car, towards me. I shut my mouth, watching her run towards me and had no idea what to make of it, but I found myself mentally preparing for an attack from Bree. That's why when she reached me, I wasn't at all prepared for the way that she tightly threw her arms around me and buried her face against my shoulder.
I hesitated for a moment, looking down at the top of my sister's head, not only because she surprised me, but because she hadn't hugged me like that since the first time some dumb ass had broken her heart and sent her home in tears. Maybe the circumstances were different now, but the effect was the same, and it didn't take me very long to protectively wrap my arms around her and return the gesture. I had no idea what any of this meant, but when it came to my sister, I couldn't have asked for a better reaction from her.
"I'm gonna go." Brad said quietly, as if he didn't want to interrupt. "My brothers are alone and if my mom finds out I left them like that I'm dead."
I looked over my sister's head, towards Brad. I didn't say anything. The look on his face was enough to tell me that whatever conversation we were having was over, at least for the time being. So I watched him walk away, leaving his car parked out in front of our house. I guess I would have preferred to have things at least somewhat settled between us before Brad left, whatever settled was going to mean. But for now, my friendship with him felt like it was in limbo, and it would have to remain that way, especially since it was so obviously time to deal with my sister.
Bree stood on the opposite side of the breakfast bar from me in the kitchen, watching on as I downed a third cup of water. When we'd gone inside I suddenly had a pounding headache and felt more dehydrated than what was comfortable for me.
"Are you hungry?" Bree asked, and I realized that her throat sounded a little scratchy. I took a better look at her then, only to find that there was evidence that she'd been crying in the form of a red nose and slightly puffy eyes. "I could..."
"No." I shook my head. "I'm just... a little tired."
"Does that mean we're not going to talk?" she automatically asked.
"No," I sighed. "We can... what do you want to talk about?"
Bree stared at me for minute with what could only be described as a neutral expression before she suddenly turned and headed for the living room. I stood there for another few moments, finishing my water and refilling my glass before I slowly followed after her.
My sister had her feet up on the sofa and her attention focused on some old movie that she was probably less interested in than she let on. Just like with Brad, I didn't really know where to start with her, but I had a feeling that she expected me to do the talking, or more likely, the explaining. I just wanted to know if my sister hated me, and if I still even had a relationship with her... that, and if I should worry about my mom, too.
"I'm sorry about Jude," I said quietly, deciding that I might as well start with what would have to be addressed eventually. I wasn't sure if bringing up Jude was the best idea, especially now, but if anything, we could get it out of the way.
I wasn't really sure how Bree would react to the chosen topic. The frown on her face wasn't really a surprise, but I at least thought that she might have something to say, so when she only glanced at me before turning back to the television, I became frustrated.
"I thought you wanted to talk about this, Bree." I said, finally taking my seat on the opposite end of the sofa. There was another long moment of silence as Bree sat there, obviously thinking about something, and then abruptly she turned off the television and turned to face me pointedly.
"How long?" she asked simply.
"With Jude?" I sighed. "It's not what you think. The first time I asked you to stay away from him I really didn't want him around. Things were just so complicated..."
"No, not Jude. You." she stated. "How long have you known?"
"Oh." I leaned back against the sofa, thinking about the question for a few minutes. "Forever, I think." I finally sighed. "I mean, it's sort of been there for as long as I can remember." I saw my sister frowning out of the corner of my eye. She probably felt angry, like Brad, because I hadn't told her sooner. "It's not like that, Bree. I didn't just keep it from you."
"That's not what it feels like." she mumbled. "You've known forever...."
"It wasn't like that." I interrupted. "Bree, I couldn't just tell you because I couldn't even admit it to myself." I was suddenly feeling like I had my journal open and I was reading it to my sister. It had been a while since I'd been this honest with anyone, really, and the fear I felt in it seemed to come out as frustration in my voice. "I didn't tell you because I thought that if I ignored it, it would just go away. It didn't, and I can't change it now."
"But you knew." she frowned at me.
"And I hated it." I blurted, facing her directly. "Do you think I wanted this? And if it hadn't been for Jude showing up...." I paused, taking a deep breath as I realized that I was about to slip into that bad habit of blaming him. "I just want to be normal. But I'm not. I'm sorry." I shook my head. "I'm gay, Bree. I'm sorry you found out the way you did, but..."
"How could you tell Brad before you told me?" she suddenly demanded, and all I could do was stare at her, aghast. Here I was, attempting to communicate my feelings, and all she cared about was that I told Brad first?
"I mean it, Quinn." she stated, stubbornly crossing her arms. "I mean, I guess if it just happened I can understand...."
"It did." I assured her, and it was absolutely true.
"But, you were going to tell me, right?"
I paused there. Was I going to tell her? Not likely, not unless it was somehow forced out of me. I doubted that was what my sister wanted to hear. I guess it was best that I didn't have to tell her... she saw the answer written all over my face, and I watched as her jaw slightly dropped.
"Quinn! Why not?" she wanted to know. Hell, she probably deserved to know. "You weren't even going to tell me?"
"It's not that simple." I argued.
"You told Brad! That was obviously simple enough!"
"You call this simple?" I retorted. "Look how it turned out! And no, Bree, I wouldn't have told you because the moment you take this shit to mom I'm fucked!" I blurted, and my sister's jaw snapped shut as she stared at me, wide-eyed. I sighed and buried my head in my hands, fully expecting her to walk away from me now. I really hadn't meant to snap at her, but in my defense, I was under a lot of stress at the moment.
"Why do you keep bringing up mom?"Bree suddenly demanded, and I lifted my head, surprised, mostly because she was still there and not retreating to her room, angry with me. "And what makes you think I'd tell her anything? If memory serves I was the one lying for you and trying to keep you out of trouble, not so long ago. Sure, maybe I think you should talk to her about this, and that's just it-I think you should tell her! But... this has nothing to do with mom, Quinn. I want to know why you couldn't have been honest with me! Do you have any idea how stupid I feel?"
I inwardly flinched. This was not the first time I'd heard those words tonight. After Brad said it, things didn't exactly go well. I didn't expect much of a difference with my sister.
"No, I guess I don't." I found myself mumbling, before I could stop myself from saying it out loud, and of course, this was an open invitation for Bree to tell me.
"Stupid, Quinn! How could you just stand there and let me throw myself at Jude like that, knowing...." she growled and took in a breath before continuing. "He's gay, Quinn! You don't think that information would have been helpful?"
"Don't blame me for that!" I said defensively. "I told you to leave him alone!"
"I thought you were doing that overbearing brother thing of yours because you didn't like him! It's not like it's the first time... Oh god..." she looked at me, wide eyed, and I immediately frowned at the accusation that I knew was coming next. "Is that why you're like that when I bring guys around? You like them and..."
"No!" I said quickly. "What do you think I am, Bree? I do that because they're not good enough for you, plain and simple."
"It's not my fault he's gay."
"You're with him?" she frowned, and I paused to think. I had no idea how to answer that question because I didn't know the answer myself.
"I don't know." I replied slowly, and then made an admission I never thought I would make to my sister. "But, he's been a good friend lately.... and I like him."
Bree stared at me for a moment, obviously digesting this. I wasn't sure what to expect when it came to her reaction, but it bothered me that she looked entirely displeased by it, but that could have had something to do with the way that she glanced at my neck. According to Brad there was evidence there of just how much I liked Jude... and probably vice versa.
"Are there other guys you..."
"No." I said quickly. "Bree..."
"I'm just trying to understand, Quinn." she frowned at me. "I mean, it's not like you liked guys yesterday... at least for me. God, if someone would have suggested it I would have had a good laugh... you can hardly even say the word."
"I'm aware of that." I said bitterly. My sister had no idea.
"What about Marissa?" she wanted to know. "I mean, I guess it makes sense why you didn't have any chemistry with her now, but why were you with her for so long if you knew you liked guys? Are you bi?"
"Bisexual, Quinn." she explained, sounding exasperated, and suddenly, I was a little more frightened than I had been a moment ago. I understood that we were supposed to be talking, but I had no idea where she was coming up with these questions. Frankly, discussing my sexuality with anyone made me nervous. Trying to explain it to my sister, was ... almost unnatural. "It means..."
"I get it." I stated, standing up, as if distancing myself from her physically would make these questions feel less intrusive. "No... I don't think so. Girls just.... I'm not into girls. At all."
"Look," I cut her off, facing her pointedly as I stood in front of the sofa. "Bree, I know you want to talk, and I'm doing the best I can, but can you please lighten up with the interrogation? This isn't easy for me to talk about." I'm sure I sounded a little desperate, because she raised an eyebrow at me.
"Fine." she said flatly. I stood there for another moment while she stared up at me, and when she really didn't fire anymore questions at me, I slowly reclaimed my seat on the sofa and tried to relax, which wasn't a simple task at the moment.
I took in a deep breath, and tried not to look at my sister as I did the same thing I did every time something was stressing me out; I overanalyzed it. Tonight was probably the new worst night of my life. It was the night that two people who I cared about found out what I was. To top it all off, Brad caught me with Jude. Maybe not literally, but his appearance at the apartment was just as bad, and I still had no idea where I stood with him because he left pissed off, all because he thought that I should have been honest with him in the first place. He just didn't understand that I couldn't, and I felt like I couldn't even explain that to him because it wasn't something that he wanted to hear. Progress with Bree.. . was probably worse. She was obviously upset, and even humiliated, that the guy she liked was more interested in her brother than her, and considering I was the one who didn't want her to know that in the first place, it made it harder to apologize for it. I didn't even know if I was sorry for it, not really. The way she'd found out about me was terrible, too. She didn't hear it from me. She knew that she probably wouldn't have heard it from me, and that alone seemed to shatter whatever trust we had left in each other. I could feel the relationships that had been more important than anything to me shattering, and I had no idea where to start picking up the pieces.
And then it hit me. . . I still had pieces to pick up.
I'm not sure where the moment of clarity came from, or how long it would last, but I realized something, sitting there next to my sister.... I was sitting there next to my sister and she knew the truth. She wasn't screaming at me. She wasn't telling me that she hated me. She was asking questions and she was obviously annoyed, but she was trying to talk to me. I was still her brother. That didn't change. She never once said that she couldn't accept me. Hell, Brad hadn't even said that. He was more concerned with the fact that I had been keeping things from him more than anything else. I wasn't sure what all of this meant, but the fact that they were both still trying to-wanting to talk to me, had to be a good thing, right? God, I hoped so. Suddenly, what Jude was trying to tell me earlier, when I wouldn't listen, actually made sense. They still cared.
"Hey Bree?" I said carefully, in a voice hardly audible because I was afraid to ask the question on the tip of my tongue.
"Hmm?" she mumbled through a yawn.
"Are we done talking?" As in, done because you don't hate me and there's a good chance we'll work things out?
"Fine." she sighed. "We should probably get to bed, anyway , and we can deal with this more tomorrow. It's been a long night, you know?"
My sister looked at me for a moment, and I just stared back, waiting for her to say something else, but instead she simply stood up and started towards the stairs.
"Bree," I said again, this time a little louder, and a lot more nervously as I abruptly reached out and grabbed her wrist before I could stop myself. I think the action startled me more than it did her, because when she calmly turned back around to regard me, I dropped her wrist, almost afraid that she'd reprimand me for touching her. "Sorry." I mumbled.
Bree gave me a long, measuring look and then slowly took a step forward.
"Are we done, Quinn?" she asked quietly, and I found myself slowly shaking my head.
"No..." I forced myself to say. "I'm sorry, Bree... but I won't go to bed in this house tonight unless I know that you're not going to wake up hating me in the morning."
"What?" Bree demanded, looking annoyed with my comment.
"I'm gay, Bree." I replied quietly, trying to ignore the look on her face. "If you can't deal with that, then I can't be here. I can't stay knowing...."
"Quinn," she cut me off testily. "I'm still trying to understand that. God, what do you expect me to say? And don't you dare leave this house again tonight... you're my brother. That means I have to deal with it."
I wasn't sure if what she was saying was good or not. Actually, it sort of sounded insulting, like I was an inconvenience. Maybe I would have said that to her too, if she hadn't decided to send me the mixed signals from hell after her response, by suddenly lifting herself on her toes to give me a quick peck on the cheek.
"Goodnight, Quinn." she said in something that sounded almost like an order, rather than the standard night time goodbye, and then I watched as she turned and walked away from me.
I didn't follow after her. I didn't even call after her. I just watched her go, blinking as she turned off the living room light, despite the fact that I was still standing there. I felt lost for a few minutes, placed on standby, by my little sister, who wasn't shunning me. She knew the truth and she was going to bed, as if everything was normal. We'd talk more tomorrow, according to Bree, but everything was still normal, or as normal as it could possibly be. My greatest fears seemed to be completely squashed, considering that my whole life hadn't just ended over the last hours, as I'd highly expected it would. Actually, I still had a life... and a sister... and a friend who was angry with me, but who still wanted to talk. Things were a lot better than I thought they'd be. But, I was far from happy. In fact, I was feeling anxious, and a little overwhelmed.
I forced myself to sit down in the dark, my legs suddenly feeling too tired to support my body. But, it was pointless to think that I even had a moment to relax during this long night. The moment I sat down, there was a soft knock on the front door and I inwardly groaned, easily imagining that it was Brad, deciding that he'd rather not wait until morning to finish our discussion. And that sucked, considering that suddenly it was very hard to keep my eyes open.
I sighed as I left the sofa and made my way to the front door, wondering how much more I was in for before morning. A glance at the clock told me that it was just past midnight, so I did hope that Brad and I could make it quick. I definitely wanted things settled, but I was beginning to understand that rest was probably an important process in achieving that. I was already beginning to feel irritable, and the last thing I wanted was for this night to end in another argument. I guess that's why, when I opened the front door, it really was a good thing that there was no sign of Brad.
"Jude?" the porch light was no longer on, but the figure in front of me couldn't have been anyone else. I could practically smell him, and knowing it was him brought me mixed feelings. I would be lying if I said that I wasn't happy to see him, especially since I'd just disappeared on him to appease Brad. But, knowing that my sister wasn't exactly pleased with Jude or myself at the moment made me wonder if it was a good idea for him to be there at all. But, it didn't seem to matter because as soon as he stepped forward and the dim light shining out from the hall hit the concerned expression on his face I squashed down the ladder and decided that since he was here, I was going to take it as a good thing. I really needed to be around someone who I knew wasn't angry with me in some way or another, not to mention someone to talk to.
"Hey." he replied quietly. "Sorry for just dropping in like this but I wasn't sure if I should call, and since you just took off on me..."
"Sorry about that."
"I think you had a good enough reason." he replied reassuringly. "Everything okay now?"
I wanted to tell him to define okay, but instead I just shrugged, slowly shaking my head before I suddenly made a split decision and held the door open a little wider.
"Do you want to come in?" I asked. I was in no mood to stand in the doorway and have a conversation with the one person who I actually wanted to talk to right now, and that seemed to be enough to convince myself that I could get Jude in and out of the house without Bree ever knowing about it. For Jude's part, he looked skeptical when it came to my invitation.
"Are you sure, Quinn? Is Bree..."
"She went to bed." I said shortly, and then looked at him somewhat pleadingly. "Will you come in?"
Jude simply nodded in response, and after closing the door after him I found myself wandering through a mostly dark house, aware of Jude's presence behind me only because of the footsteps echoing my own. Other than the strategically placed night lights, used as a pathway for when Bree or I got up in the middle of the night for one reason or another, there wasn't much light until we reached my room and I led the way up the stairs, where I went straight for my bed where I could sit down and hold my pillow. I held it to my chest, as if having something pressed up against my body like that would actually still the nerves and jumbled emotions that I was feeling.
Jude moved in front of me and kneeled down on the floor, almost hesitantly placing his hand on the back of my ankle as he looked up at me.
"What happened?" he asked. "Did something happen with Brad after you left?"
"No, not really." I shook my head. "We argued a little, and he brought me here so I could talk to my sister... he had to go. I guess we'll talk more tomorrow."
"Okay... that doesn't sound too bad..."
"I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow." I informed him. It was bad enough.
"You're going to talk to your friend some more, Quinn." Jude replied. "I mean, he is still your friend, right?"
"I don't know." I shrugged. "I don't even know what to think right now. He's so pissed at me for not telling him anything to begin with... things just aren't the way that I thought they'd be."
"You mean, not everyone hates you?" Jude smirked at me as he stood up and then sat next to me on the bed. "That is what you thought would happen, right?"
"Well yeah, but..."
"Are you actually disappointed because no one hates you?" he asked. I'm sure he wouldn't put it past me.
"No." I said quickly. "It's not that... I just don't know what to think. God, I've been driving myself nuts, and they don't even know what it's been like... they have no fucking idea what I've been going through and when they finally know the truth... all they care about is how it affects them. Jude, I kept waiting for one of them to say... for one of them to tell me..." I released a frustrated sigh and looked down at my hands, not really sure how to word what I was thinking.
"To tell you that you're wrong?" Jude asked quietly, and I nodded. It was no surprise at this point that he knew what I was thinking.
"But all Brad cared about was that I didn't tell him sooner. He's so pissed off about it. It's almost like it will be one of these things that I never live down... Bree's pissed off about you. She hates that I like you and she hates that I told Brad the truth but not her."
"You told your sister you like me?" Jude asked, eyebrow arching upwards. In response, I flashed him a disapproving look. This was no time to stroke his ego. At least he had the sense to look sorry about it. "Okay." he smiled. "Look... it really isn't that bad, Quinn. Yeah, they're mad at you, but it's not like you can't work this stuff out."
"I get that, Jude." I frowned. "That's the problem. After everything... after making myself sick worrying about this shit, and driving my friends away... I feel stupid. It's like it was all for nothing because all they care about is themselves. What the fuck is that, anyway?" Great. Stupid. Now I'd managed to make myself feel stupid, too.
"That, is human nature." Jude replied matter of factly. "Think about it, it's all you've been doing. You've been freaking out for weeks because all you care about is how all this will affect you."
True or not, something about the way he said that seemed insulting to me.
"What else was I supposed to do?" I demanded. "I've never done this before, and I really thought..."
"I'm not saying it was completely wrong, Quinn." Jude cut me off and gave a small shrug as he lightly leaned into my shoulder. "Actually, I think it's kinda normal. You're not exactly the only one who's been through it. When I first started thinking about what would happen if anyone found out I was gay, I think my head was as messed up as yours... I don't think I cared as much, though. But.... I remember it. Scary."
"You're nothing like me, Jude."
"I'm not that different," he said quietly, and I turned my head to look at him as he laid back on my bed, stretching his arms out over his head as he blankly looked at the ceiling. "You know my family was always fucked up, anyway, so it didn't really matter what they thought of me. My parents especially. They were always looking for something to tell me I sucked at... I made it hard for them, though." he smiled slightly as his eyes drifted to mine. "You know I was an honor student? Teachers loved me when I went to school... and when I came home, I let my parents know that I was smarter than them every chance I got... except, it never mattered, because they didn't care. Not the way they should have... maybe your sister, and your friend are mad at you, but that's because they care, Quinn. I didn't have that. When I told my parents I was gay, they didn't care."
"You make that sound like a bad thing."
"I said they didn't care. I didn't say that they approved. My mom told me it was sick, and my dad... he just liked to call me his bastard faggot. Claimed that I wasn't even his a few times. At Christmas... they spent the day pretending that I wasn't there, like I wasn't even part of the family... not that I wanted to be." he added bitterly, shaking his head. "I guess they finally found something about me that they could say was wrong."
"And that's why you left home?" I frowned, not that I didn't think it was a good enough reason. It made my stomach churn to even think about being forced to live in a house where people openly hated me.
"Yeah." Jude sighed. "But, it was a long time coming."
I stared at him for another moment and then let out a breath as I leaned back against the bed next to him, getting only close enough to let our elbows touch, but the contact was deliberate.
"I could never do something like that." I admitted. "I wouldn't have the guts."
"Neither did I." Jude half laughed. "God, you have no idea... I looked for any other way out first, believe me... short of ending up in a foster home. I don't think I could ever stand one of those places... I remember asking Trina's mom if I could stay with them for a while. It probably wouldn't have been a problem, since she's always gone, anyway... but I made the mistake of asking. I guess you could say that she was more loyal to my parents than she was to me at the time. My dad was loaning her money all the time and... well, it didn't work out. So then I went to see my brother."
Jude fell silent and his stare towards the ceiling seemed somewhat troubled as I looked over at him, waiting for him to continue, but he didn't.
"Where's your brother?" I asked hesitantly, but definitely interested to know more.
"Currently... he's living with his girlfriend a few hours away. Back then, he was in jail for dealing and some petty shit, but we'd always sort of been friends and I thought he might be able to help. Jason has done some stupid shit, but he never let me down before, not personally, anyway. So, I went down to see him."
"Did he... you know, know about you?"
"He had no idea I was into guys. But, I told him. I wanted him to understand why I needed to get away from my parents. I really thought he'd want to help me but..." Jude sighed and turned his head to look me in the eyes. "He got involved with some religious group while he was still in prison. When I told him I was gay, he made it clear that if I didn't change my ways, I'd have the devil breathing down my back for the rest of my life. Then he had the nerve to tell me that he still loved me." Jude suddenly sounded disgusted, and I noticed a definite hint of anger in his voice as he continued. "You know what sucks, Quinn? He still calls me. We keep in touch. But, every single time he has to ask if I've changed my lifestyle. I've probably tried to explain it to him a thousand times, but it doesn't matter. He's so fucking...shit. He actually believes that I was born like this, not that I chose it and he still tells me that it's wrong because I could choose to change. He has no fucking idea how much that wrecks me every time I hear it..."
Jude paused and I realized that at some point my hand had made its way over his. He'd sounded so sad, and angry... so much like the way I felt that I couldn't help feeling for him. In fact, what he was telling me almost made my own problems seem minuscule in comparison. I guess I was beginning to see a few of Jude Landon's weaknesses, and something about that suddenly had me wanting to be there for him as much as I wanted to be there for Bree every time she so much as scraped a knee. I didn't even attempt to pull my hand away when he looked down at it, over his.
"Sorry." he whispered, with a small smile. "I guess that's why I didn't want to dump this on you before... I thought that you might start thinking that your family would turn out like mine and panic some more... you really are lucky, Quinn. You'll figure that out too, sooner or later."
Lucky. Why? Sure, my best friend knew the truth, and he still wanted to talk to me tomorrow, and my sister knew the truth, and she hadn't exactly said she hated me... she just hated that I `stole' her would-be boyfriend... and that I didn't tell her the truth on my own. Jude's situation definitely sounded worse than mine. But still, I had a sinking feeling that everything could go wrong at any given moment, and that scared me. But, I thought about what Jude was saying as the silence dragged on, and he leaned over, gently brushing a kiss against my cheek, and I thought maybe... I was lucky. I was lucky to have Jude Landon there with me, because while I feared my world turning into a dark place, I was starting to get the feeling that while he was around, I'd at least have someone to turn to if it did.