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The Ordinary Us
Chapter two: Lapse in Judgment
For all of my bravery, coming down here to face people who couldn't stand me, I was feeling like the dumbest chicken shit now. And Jude...Jude was smiling at me. I mean, seriously, was this guy always smiling? I'd probably seen ten different kinds of smiles on his face since I met him and the one he wore now seemed unreadable, but still threw my nerves into a fit.
"Are you going to come in?" he asked. I searched his voice for a sarcastic tone or some type of underlying malicious intentions, for inviting me in there. But I found none. He was casual, friendly even.
And I'd lost my damn nerve.
"Never mind." I mumbled, and promptly turned to head back for my car.
"Hey," he called, a light laughter in his voice, "So that's it? You come by, say never mind and don't even tell me your name before you take off?"
I spun around, feeling frustrated.
"Why did you invite me?" I demanded.
"Why did you come?" he shrugged.
I had no response for that. At least, not one that I could give him. I wouldn't have had time to give him a response anyways because Trina appeared in the doorway, laughing and smiling at someone behind her. She actually looked happy. I don't think I'd ever seen her look that happy before. She actually had one of those smiles that lit up her whole face and made her look friendly. That all faded however, when she saw me.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" she demanded, glaring at me.
"Shut up, Trina." Jude replied, surprising me. And he said it with a smile on his face. When she looked at him incredulously he kissed her forehead and shrugged. I swear I was shocked when his lips didn't freeze off after touching the ice queen, "I invited him." and then he looked at me again, nodding me into the house as he held the door open wider.
All of my best judgment told me to walk away. It wasn't too late. But Trina was still glaring at me, challenging me with her eyes. It seemed interesting, that she didn't just tell Jude to piss off because this was her house. But she didn't. And when I made that split decision and stepped through the door, she actually moved aside so I could pass her.
I guess you could say that the inside of the house wasn't any better than the outside. It was difficult to actually picture anyone living there. I had to stop myself from coughing because of all the cigarette smoke and the pungent scent of marijuana floating around in the room. There were ashtrays, but they were overflowing and every shelf and table seemed to be covered in half empty liquor bottles and beer cans.
There were probably about fifteen people inside. Some of them I recognized from school and others, like Jude, I'd never actually seen before. And just as I expected, the majority of the people there didn't look happy to see me while the rest didn't seem to care.
As I followed Jude, it came to mind that any of these people could go to school on Monday and say that they saw me here. Marissa would find out. Hell, everyone would find out. I wondered what excuse I'd come up with if anyone said anything. I guess I could always deny ever being here. Denial could be a good thing. I was definitely good at denial anyways.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" I looked up and saw another familiar face in front of Jude and me. It was the kid from the tracks. The one with the spiky red hair. He didn't look smug like he had before. Now he looked angry.
"Back off Taylor." Jude stated.
"Jude, this is Trina's place." Taylor frowned, "She's really pissed about him being here."
Once again, I thought it would be best to just leave, but Jude nodded for me to follow him as he passed the other boy, and I did.
"It's fucked up, Jude." Taylor called after us, but Jude ignored him to I decided to do the same thing.
"Thirsty?" Jude called over his shoulder at me as we moved into the kitchen where the music seemed quieter, but not by much. He moved to a counter and picked up a cup sitting there. I wondered if he even knew what was in it.
"No thanks." I mumbled. At least the kitchen looked somewhat clean. There was garbage scattered around a few places, but I didn't notice any cockroach infestations. But seriously, how could anyone live here? I guess you could say that I was picky about those things. I was a neat freak who liked things organized.
"Are you sure?" Jude asked, opening the freezer for some ice.
"Yeah." I replied, biting back the urge to inform him how many germs were probably in that ice bucket that he so casually reached into with his hand. I saw a garbage bag hanging on the backside of a chair. Surprisingly, no one had actually used it. And it was right there. I mean, how hard is it to put an empty beer can into a bag that's right there instead of dropping it on the table?
I cringed as I found myself lifting some of the garbage and dropping it into the bag. A few beer cans, some balled up napkins, and I emptied an ashtray.
"What are you doing?" Jude laughed, making me jump.
What was I doing? That was a good question. I must have looked ridiculous, cleaning after being there for five minutes.
"Nothing." I stated, hanging the bag back over the chair.
"Right." he shook his head, "so is that why you came here, to clean? I was right about you. You definitely need to have some fun."
"I do not." I argued, following him to the back door. "I have plenty of fun."
"Really?" he smirked as he opened the door and moved outside, "and what do you do for fun?" Something about the way that he asked that put me on edge, but I ignored it.
"Lots of things." I mumbled, stepping outside. The backyard wasn't much better than the front. It was a small dirt space surrounded by a cinderblock fence with a gate at one end. There wasn't much back there, except for an old, rusty porch swing on the patio. There were also no people out there. I decided that I was nervous, being alone around Jude. I just wished that I could figure out why.
"Lots of things." Jude repeated, sitting back on the swing and looking up at me. "So why did you come here? Really? And are you going to sit down?"
I looked around to see if there was another chair somewhere. When I found that there wasn't, I sat on the opposite end of the swing, as far away from him as I could get.
"Maybe I came because you didn't think I would." I shrugged.
"Hmm. That's true. I didn't." he admitted.
"Then you weren't serious?" I asked, "When you asked me?"
"I'm always serious." He replied, looking at me from under thick, dark brown eyelashes. I had to force myself to look away. There was just something about Jude that made me uneasy. I wasn't sure what it was, but I found myself trying to find some underlying meaning in everything he said and the looks that he gave me...they made me feel something other than discomfort. It was like my stomach jumped every time he gave me a new look.
"Why did you invite me over here?"
"Because I like you." He shrugged.
"You don't even know me." I laughed.
"Don't have to." He smiled, "I have a thing about people. When I meet someone, I just...know."
"You know?" I shook my head skeptically, "And what is it you know? You don't know anything about me."
"Maybe not." He shrugged. "You know, you still haven't told me your name."
"Quinn." I mumbled, "It's Quinn Moore."
"Quinn. I like it. Short for Quinton?"
"No. Just Quinn."
"Okay," he laughed, extending his hand, "I'm Jude Landon."
I just stared at his hand for a minute.
"Don't you ever meet new people, Quinn?"
I frowned at him and shook his hand. I was annoyed that my palm was sweaty. Even more annoyed that his was cool. He had a firm grip and calloused fingers. I guess that would make sense with his job.
"Do you go to school?" I asked him, pulling my hand away because it seemed that he was holding onto mine longer than what was appropriate.
"No." he said simply.
"How old are you?" I asked.
"How old are you?" he shot back with a smile.
"Well, there's one thing we have in common." He smirked, "I bet we can find a lot more."
I wasn't sure what he meant by that, but he was giving me that strange look again. It was a studying look that made me feel uncomfortable. I guess there was a lot about Jude that made me feel uncomfortable.
"Why don't you go to school?" I asked.
"It wasn't my thing...you ask a lot of questions, Quinn."
I ignored that last statement and asked my next question. I didn't plan to stay long, but while I was there I wanted to learn as much as I could.
"How do you know Trina?"
"She's my cousin." Jude laughed. "Why are you so interested in me?"
"I'm not." I said quickly, "I mean, I've never seen you before...I just...you're kinda weird, you know?"
That made him laugh harder, and I found myself smiling back this time. I liked his laugh. It seemed deep and soft at the same time.
"I don't think I'm weird." He insisted, "I'm just as ordinary as the next person." I watched as he lifted a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket and lit one up, inhaling a long drag and then letting it out as we fell into a silence that felt kind of awkward. The smoke was drifting in my direction, and I found myself waving it away, resisting the urge to instinctively cough. Jude laughed again and I looked up. "If it bothers you, why don't you just ask me to put it out?"
"It's bad for you, you know."
"Hmm. I figure I'll die way before these things kill me." he replied, studying the cherry end of the cigarette.
Something about the way he said that seemed sad to me. Now it was me who gave him a long, measuring look. I wasn't sure what to think of him. I'd never met anyone who smiled so much, or who seemed to...draw me in like he did. But, his view on life in particular seemed so pessimistic. I was definitely curious. Curious about Jude Landon.
I was surprised with myself when I suddenly reached out and took the butt of his cigarette between my thumb and my index finger. He gave me an inquisitive look, but released it, letting me take it. And after holding and staring at the smoking thing that my mother would refer to as a death stick for a full minute, I brought it to my lips and took a drag, before promptly coughing my guts out.
Jude burst out laughing as I dropped the offending cigarette to the ground and stomped on it. I doubted that I would try that again anytime soon, but as he put the rest of the pack away I found myself smiling at him again. I had that strange feeling again, looking at him.
He looked different dressed like a normal person, jeans and a short-sleeved button down brown, plaid shirt. I found myself wondering if he was cold, and wondering if anyone ever told him that he had great arms before. His bicep was only partly hidden under his sleeve and I could see his veins, slightly bulging out from under his skin. And I liked his hands. He had long fingers, and for a mechanic his nails seemed incredibly filed and clean. I wondered if I should be admiring him like that. Probably not. When I looked up again he was watching me with a smirk and I turned away, blushing. Damn it. Had he caught me looking? I wasn't supposed to be looking. He was a guy. I couldn't look at other guys.
"Um, I'm gonna go." I stated. Yeah. That's what I was going to do. I didn't belong there anyways. Coming had been a mistake. A minor lapse in judgment. Now it was time to forget it. I'd met Jude Landon properly. I knew who he was now. He was a high school drop out and Trina's cousin. Sure, he had a great smile, but that didn't matter. And it didn't matter that I felt strangely drawn to him either. It couldn't be attraction. There was no way. He was a guy. It was time to go home, and forget I ever met him.
"Leaving so soon, Quinn?" I looked up and saw Trina dragging a chair outside. She was holding a pitcher of what looked like punch and a stack of plastic cups.
"Yeah." I replied, standing up, "uh, sorry I crashed your party, Trina. I really didn't come here to start trouble."
"Whatever." She said coldly as she poured a cup and to my surprise, passed it to me. By reflex I took it. "Sit down, Quinn, if Jude wants you here you might as well hang out for a while."
I glanced back at Jude and he gave me a small smile.
"It's early." He shrugged, "And you just got here."
I tried to reason this. I was holding a drink. Trina wasn't trying to throw me out of her house. Who knows, maybe if she didn't think that I was such a bad guy she'd have less of a problem with me. Maybe she'd even take it easy on Marissa. But still, there was that little voice in the back of my head screaming for me to get out, and get out now. I ignored it and sat on the swing again, taking a small sip of the drink that Trina gave me. It was fruity. Strawberry, maybe a little banana and orange. Lime too. It tasted good, but it had a distinct bite to it. The kind of bite that warmed my throat when I swallowed it, despite how cold the drink was.
"What's in this?" I asked.
"Just a little bacardi." Trina shrugged, "Hardly anything. You can't even taste it. Want some, Jude?" He held up his cup, signaling that he was fine. But I stared at mine wondering whether or not I should drink it.
Here's a little fact about me; I've never been drunk before. Ever. I tried to drink a beer once and I hated it. It just wasn't my thing, which made me the perfect designated driver every time I went out with my friends. But I really could hardly taste the alcohol in this drink. And the drink was good. I reasoned that if it wasn't very much, like Trina said, it wouldn't be a big deal and I could handle it. So, I shrugged and took a bigger sip.
"So why are you here, Quinn?" Trina asked after she poured a glass for herself and sat down. She was cold towards me, standoffish, but she didn't seem entirely hostile. I took a moment to study here. She seemed shorter than usual. Only about five two, with shoulder length black hair. She wasn't the monster that Marissa would make her out to be, although she shaved her eyebrows and drew them on. I never understood why girls did that. And she was round. I live with two women, so I have more sense than to call one of them fat. And Trina wasn't fat anyways; she was just a little on the round side. Round cheeks, a round body. She looked quite innocent. If it weren't for the scowl she wore most of the time she might have actually been approachable.
"Because I invited him." Jude smiled, answering for me. I was kind of glad he did. I had no idea how to really explain to Trina why I was there. "Leave him alone Trina, he's not here to start trouble."
"Right." Trina frowned at me; "Like Marissa didn't send you over here to see what you could find out about me. Anything to get the spotlight off her, right?" she shook her head in disgust while I rushed to my own defense.
"Marissa doesn't even know I'm here!" I insisted, "and I could care less about you Trina, I came over here because of..." Uh-oh. I looked in Jude's direction, knowing exactly why I came over here. But what I was afraid of, was that Trina and Jude would know it now. The slow smile that spread across Jude's face didn't exactly help my nerves either.
"Really?" Trina smiled smugly, "Is there something in particular that you like about Jude, Quinn?"
"Leave him alone Trina." I was surprised at how fast Jude seemed to come to my defense, especially because he was still giving me a studying look, "There nothing wrong with wanting to make new friends. Maybe you could learn something from Quinn, here."
"I know who my friends are." Trina scowled.
"You'd probably have more if you weren't such a bitch to everyone." I muttered. Oops. Did I say that? My eyes widened at myself as I wondered why the hell I would say something like that. Jude's laughter only slightly made me feel better as Trina narrowed her eyes on me. My mouth was suddenly feeling dry so I lifted my cup, downing what was left of the drink and ignoring the way that the burn going down my throat seemed stronger.
"Well it's true." I told Trina in my own defense. "I mean, you act like me and my friends are such assholes, but it's not like we do anything to you. We just ignore you. You can't really blame us there, either. I mean, every time I see you around you're flipping me the bird. What did I ever do to you?"
"You just don't get it, do you?" Trina shot back. And no, I guess I didn't get it. "You guys walk around acting like your better than everyone else. You treat the rest of us like second class citizens and then you blame us for all your problems!"
"I don't blame anyone for anything." I argued, "and look who's talking. You're sitting here acting like it's a crime that we don't want anything to do with you, Trina. But how can you blame us? Maybe if we didn't think you were going to threaten us or try to take a swing every time we opened out mouths around you we might be a little more friendly."
"You really think it's that easy?" she demanded. I was getting confused. Trina seemed really upset and I didn't understand why. And it wasn't the kind of upset that was usual for her. It wasn't screaming and anger and her ready to punch me. It was a shaky voice and red eyes, upset. She seemed completely offended. But she still refilled my empty cup despite all that as a polite gesture.
"Hey guys, let's cool it." Jude interrupted. He actually sounded uncomfortable with the confrontation, and when I glanced at him, for once, he wasn't smiling.
"I do what I have to do." Trina continued, ignoring Jude completely. "And the only bitch around here is you! You came up to me today to warn me away from your girlfriend."
"That's not..." I started.
"All because people are talking about poor Marissa." She cut me off. "There's one little rumor that no one believes and you automatically assume it was me who started it because I'm the dyke. I didn't start it, but you know what? I'm glad people are saying that about her."
"Trina." Jude frowned.
"Well why shouldn't I be?" Trina demanded. "She sure as hell was happy two years ago when she told everyone that I was going out with Jenna. It's about damn time she got a taste of her own medicine. It's a stupid rumor, and with you around, Quinn, no one's going to believe it anyways. Marissa's lucky. She doesn't have to live with it the way that I have to live with what she did to me!"
"What are you talking about?" I frowned, "Marissa never said anything about you to anyone."
"Whatever." Trina frowned, suddenly sitting up and pouring the remainder of the drink into two cups. She pushed one in front of me, grabbed the other and headed towards the house.
"Trina." Jude called after her, but she just kept going.
I let out a breath and shook my head, glancing in Jude's direction. He was frowning towards the backdoor where Trina had disappeared.
"I'm gonna go." I stated, "I really shouldn't be here."
"Hey," Jude replied, "You don't have to. Just...go easy on Trina, you know? Things are kinda hard for her."
"I don't even know what she's talking about." I stated.
"Marissa." Jude shrugged, "I've been hearing about her forever. Trina has a right to be pissed off, that girl outed her." I gave him a questioning look and Jude shook his head before taking a sip of his drink and going on to explain. "Marissa...look, I don't know her, but she's the one who told everyone at your school that Trina was a lesbian."
"Marissa didn't do that." I frowned. I couldn't believe that Marissa would do something like that.
"Are you sure about that?" Jude raised an eyebrow at me. "Trina's pretty sure that it was her."
"That's probably because they've never gotten along." I stated.
"And because Marissa saw Trina and Jenna together." I looked over at Jude again, not sure that I wanted to know what that meant. I began to drink from my cup to prevent myself from asking, but there was no need to ask. Jude was happy to explain. "A couple years ago Trina really liked this girl, Jenna. They ended up together for a while until Marissa found out about it. She told enough people to out Trina at school and Jenna broke up with her because of it. Trina was pretty upset."
"So you mean Trina really is a..."
"Lesbian?" Jude shrugged. "Don't tell me that you have a problem with that."
What did he mean by that?
"No." I replied, "I mean...I don't have an opinion, okay?"
Jude chuckled and gave me a lopsided smile.
"Right." he sighed.
"And Marissa would never do anything like that anyways." I insisted.
"There are two sides to every story." Jude shrugged.
We fell into another silence and I picked up the third drink. It did cross my mind that I shouldn't be drinking it. I was beginning to feel a little lightheaded from the first two. But, it wasn't so bad. It was a warm, fuzzy feeling that made everything feel a little blurry. I could feel it in the back of my head, all the way down to my neck and I could feel the light burn in my chest and throat, but it never occurred to me that I was getting drunk. Maybe a little `tipsy,' as Marissa called it, but I still felt that I would be able to get home okay. I downed the third drink, not yet realizing what a difference that one drink could make. I guess it wasn't going to help me that my stomach was practically empty. I never did finish my dinner.
I was actually too busy concentrating on the feeling of the alcohol after that third glass that I had hastily drunk down, to really think about how long we were quiet for, but when I suddenly turned and looked at Jude I found that he was still watching me. And I mean watching. It wasn't a blank stare that you see in some people, it felt like I could see his mind working as he took me in, trying to figure me out. He didn't even have the decency to look away when I caught him staring.
"Why are you out here?" I asked him.
"What do you mean?"
"With me." I replied, "Why are you out here with me? Your friends are inside."
"It's loud in there." he replied. "Did you want to go in? Are you cold?"
I had to think about it. No. Not cold. It was cold outside but I felt warm. I was even sweating a little.
"No." I mumbled, "I really should just go." I started to stand up, but that was a mistake. I felt dizzy upon standing, even a little nauseous and I had to sit down again, only to cringe at the feeling of the swing rocking back and forth.
"Hey, are you alright?" Jude asked, "His hand was on my back.
"Yeah." I nodded, moving away from his hand, although my instinct was to lean into it. "I just don't drink a whole lot. I'm fine."
Jude frowned; lifting one of the cups I'd been drinking out of, and smelled the inside.
"What do you mean, not very often?" he asked.
"Never." I admitted, dropping my head into my hands.
Jude laughed and surprised me by grabbing my arm, pulling me up to my feet. That dizzy feeling rushed to my head again and I found myself clutching his shoulder to keep my balance.
"You okay?" he smiled, once I was on my feet. I nodded, releasing his shoulder only for him to loop his arm with mine, and instead of going back towards the house; we headed into the back yard, towards the gate.
"Where are we going?" I demanded, suddenly alert of my surroundings.
"Just for a walk." He chuckled, "I don't think you want to pass out here."
"No." I agreed. "But I can go home..." I lifted my keys out of my pocket, only to have Jude snatch them away as soon as they were visible.
"Sorry." He smirked, shoving them into his own pocket; "You'll get them back once you can walk a straight line."
Right. Being the usual designated driver, I knew that I shouldn't be driving at the moment, but now I was feeling a little panicked. I don't think that I was completely drunk, but I didn't like the idea of being stuck there, even if it was my own fault. And having Jude's arm around mine wasn't helping my nerves either. He was close. And we were going through the gate, out into an open, dark field behind Trina's house. The idea of being alone with Jude had made me nervous, feeling tipsy and being alone and isolated with him, scared me.
"Here," Jude said, holding up his own drink for me. "I think you should drink some of this."
"I don't think I need another drink." I frowned.
"It's water." He laughed.
"Water?" I looked at him incredulously, taking the cup to see for myself. And it was water. I guess I'd never expected that Jude would have water in his cup. He just smiled at me, watching as I slowly drank it. I did feel thirsty, even after the three drinks I'd already had. When I was finished Jude just smiled at me and tossed the plastic cup into the field. And then he tightened his arm around mine. I wasn't exactly comfortable with that last gesture.
"Maybe we should go back." I insisted.
"Are you afraid of the dark?" he remarked.
"No." I laughed, "It's just that..."
"I make you nervous."
I looked up at him, taken aback by the blunt way he said that.
"No!" I lied.
"Let me ask you something," he laughed, "why did you come here, really? I think you were curious about me."
"No." Another lie. I wanted to pull away from his arm but I liked how the side of his body felt warm against mine.
"Right." he smirked.
"You know, I don't know why everyone hates Marissa." I said, changing the subject to something that felt safe. Except, I was aware that I was bringing up my girlfriend for a reason. Sure, I had no way of knowing whether or not Jude was one of those gay people or not, but I found it important to let him know that I wasn't. "She really is a great girl. And I love her."
"I'm sure you do." He said quietly.
"And she wouldn't have done that to Trina." I insisted, "I know they don't get along, but I've known Marissa my whole life. She wouldn't do it."
"Does it really matter to you whether or not it's true?" Jude asked.
That made me think. If it were true that Marissa outed Trina, would I care? No. I shouldn't care. It would have nothing to do with me anyways. But...yeah, if it was true, I'd care. My journal came to mind. My whole life. That one entry. If anyone ever read that...if Marissa were to read that, what would she think? What would she do? Would she tell everyone? Would she think differently of me, just because of an obviously ridiculous issue I had when I was thirteen? Okay, maybe I still had the issue now. But I couldn't be gay. So it was irrelevant. I shouldn't even be worrying about it. I couldn't answer Jude's question because I didn't know how. I never got the chance to answer anyways, before we were rudely interrupted when something hit my shoulder. Something hard.
"Shit," I muttered, grabbing my burning shoulder, at the same time pulling away from Jude like he was on fire. And as soon as I saw the crowd of kids coming through the gate from Trina's yard I was glad that I pulled away. I was actually panicked. Did they see us walking together? We'd been so close to each other. Through the dark I could see Taylor laughing, and then I saw why. The fucker had thrown a football at my back. Jude just shook his head, smiling as he lifted the ball and waved towards the guys coming through the gate.
I wasn't sure that was going on, except everyone from inside seemed to be coming out, guys and girls alike. It was dark, and I was feeling the effect of the drinks, but I could make people out, like Trina, who seemed to move off to the side with the other girls. The guys were coming towards us. There were six of them, Taylor included. Jude suddenly turned towards me, smiling.
"Wanna play a game?" he smirked.
"Football?" I asked, looking at the ball. I didn't think I could catch a ball right now if I wanted to.
"Not exactly." He laughed, right before lightly tossing the ball, which I hardly caught. It bounced off my hands and I had to reach out and cradle it to my chest to keep hold of it. I looked at Jude, about to tell him that there was no way that I wanted to play right now, but he was already backing away from me with a smile on his face.
"You might wanna run." He called.
Confused, I looked up until I realized what he was talking about. The other guys that had come through the gate were now running towards me. Maybe I was a little dazed, but I had enough sense to realize that they weren't going to stop. I shot Jude a confused look as I started to run. At least, I ran as best as I could.
"What the hell are we playing?" I shouted at him.
"Keep away." he laughed, "you gotta throw the ball."
Keep away? I looked back to see that the other guys were getting closer, so I did throw the ball, back to Jude. He somehow managed to catch my lousy throw and a few seconds later I watched in horror as he was brutally tackled by four of the other guys.
Now, I'd played football before. I'd even played keep away before. As I watched this game for the next five minutes without actually participating, I decided it was neither. What they were playing was more like a game of demented hot potato.
From what I could understand, there were no teams. There weren't even any rules. Whoever had the ball would either run, and risk everyone tackling him, or throw the ball. And from what I could tell, just about everyone was drunk enough to actually play this game. Except Jude, I'm not really sure what his excuse was, but he was smiling more than anyone, even when he was tackled to the hard ground.
And each time someone was tackled, they went down hard. It wasn't something that looked entirely appealing to me. I was just beginning to back away when suddenly Taylor caught the ball, and I watched as he targeted me out of the group. When he threw the ball, my instinct was to catch it, but that whole hand-eye coordination thing wasn't really on my side at the moment and it bounced right off my hands.
I wasn't really sure what to expect after that. I didn't have the ball so I assumed I was safe. I guess I was wrong because the next thing I knew Taylor and a guy who seemed taller than everyone else there, plowed into me. I had to hold off the urge to puke when I felt a shoulder collide with my stomach and I was lifted off the ground, only to be dropped where I landed flat on my back.
The field was covered in weeds and what felt like gravel, the ground was completely hard and the impact knocked the wind out of me. I was still shocked when I saw Taylor glaring down at me with a satisfied smirk on his face as others laughed.
"That's what happens when you drop the ball." Taylor laughed, right before taking off again.
I don't know if it was the way that Taylor looked satisfied with himself for taking me down, or the way that I heard everyone else laughing at me, but it pissed me off. I guess they were just making it obvious that they didn't want me there. Maybe if Jude didn't have my keys I really would have left. But instead, I decided that I wasn't going to let them treat me like that.
I started to get up; feeling more sobered than I had a few minutes ago and was startled to find Jude kneeling down in front of me. Even in the dark I could see that his elbow was scraped enough for it to be bleeding. His hair was messed and his shirt was torn, but it didn't seem to be bothering him. He also looked a little concerned, something that surprised me.
"Hey, are you okay?" he asked.
I was about to tell him how not okay I was and demand my car keys, but a glance behind Jude told me that Taylor was still laughing at me, so I forced myself to smile, despite the fact that my whole body ached and I thought that it would be a miracle before I ever walked straight again.
"I'm fine." I muttered.
Jude grinned at me and offered me his hand. This time I didn't hesitate to take it and I let him help me up.
"Are you going to tell me the rules?" I asked.
"There aren't really any." Jude shrugged, reaching out to slap my shoulder before he ran off to rejoin the game. I decided to follow him, only to be tossed the ball again...and to drop it again...and to be tackled again.
Over the next hour, I didn't catch the ball once; all the running around made me feel like I was going to puke, and I realized that I was being passed the ball more than anyone else. But I played. I played they're stupid game and every time one of them, especially Taylor, either caught or dropped the ball; I was there to take them down. And as the game progressed, I realized that Jude was there with me. At some point, teams were formed. Jude and I against everyone else. I found myself laughing with him every time we tackled someone, or helping him up every time someone tackled him.
I was sore, and scratched up. I probably didn't feel as sore as I was going to in the morning, I guess I could credit the numb feeling I was experiencing to the alcohol and the cold. I'd shed my jacket at some point when it got to difficult to move around with, and now my jeans were torn and so was my shirt in a few places, but I was actually having fun. I'd forgotten how fun it could be to just wrestle around with the guys, get dirty, get smelly and do all of the things that most of the females in my life would disapprove of. Even if most of the guys there couldn't stand me.
But that started to change too. I got a few pats on the back from some of the other guys and a few smiles. Taylor wasn't one of them. I wasn't sure what that guy's problem with me was, but I guessed that he was just annoyed with me for showing up and he was being protective of Trina. They were friends, after all.
The game ended when we were all limping. By then I really was dizzy. I couldn't tell if it was because I was a little drunk or because I'd been slammed into the ground so many times, but it wouldn't surprise me if I really did get sick.
Since I had been the last to be tackled, I was still lying there on the ground when people started walking away. I probably would have felt fine just closing my eyes and going to sleep right there, since I was already lying down. But, when Jude's fuzzy image appeared over me I couldn't help the way that I smiled stupidly up at him.
"You were pretty good." He laughed, offering me his one hand while he held his lower back with the other. I was getting used to him helping me off the ground, so I forced myself to sit up and grab his hand. I probably relied on Jude's assistance a little too much because he ended up losing his balance and he fell on his ass, right next to me, causing both of us to crack up laughing.
"How do you guys stand it?" I groaned through fits of giggling, holding my ribs because it hurt to laugh, "do you do that all the time?"
"We'd die if we did it all the time." Jude shook his head, "But sometimes. We always make sure we have a weekend to recover through, though." He rested his forearms on his knees, flinching when he applied pressure to the scraped skin on his arms. "So what do you think, Quinn? Ever plan to come back here?"
I wanted to laugh, except Jude was serious, so I fell silent. Maybe I wasn't everyone's favorite person, at least not around here, but I had had some fun tonight. And maybe some aspects of being around Jude made me nervous, but I also liked hanging out with him. Not that whether or not I liked being around him mattered. I had already decided that this was a one-night thing only.
"I don't think very many people would be too happy if I showed up again." I replied with a small smile.
"You might be surprised." Jude shrugged, "I can think of one or two of us who wouldn't mind it at all."
I didn't really know what to say to that, so I just stared at him. He still looked a little blurry, and my head was really starting to hurt. It was definitely time to get going. I had no idea how late it was, I just hoped that it was late enough that my mom and Bree were in bed, so that I wouldn't have to explain the condition I was in to them. The only problem was, at the moment I felt so exhausted that it would be a chore just to get to my car.
I looked away from Jude, running my fingers through my hair and feeling dirt and even some small rocks trapped in it.
"We should get in." Jude said after a moment.
I nodded, knowing that I would be asking him to return my car keys as soon as we got into the house. I started to get up the same time that he did and we laughed again as we grabbed each other's wrists to keep our balance. I was feeling tipsy again, and the cramps in my legs caused me to lose my balance and I leaned forward, placing my face alongside Jude's. I gave him an apologetic look, but he just smiled and what happened next, I didn't even have time to react to as he tilted his head, leaned forward and placed his lips against mine.
To say I was in shock was an understatement. Maybe he had been giving me suggestive looks all night, and maybe deep down I knew that the strange feelings I got around him were because there was an attraction there. And apparently it went both ways. But holy shit, I was kissing a boy.
Actually, he was kissing me. I'm not gay. So why the hell wasn't I pushing him away? Why wasn't I doing something? My heart was still pounding from the game and this new excitement wasn't exactly helping me. What was happening now, with Jude, it scared the hell out of me, but when I felt his tongue brush against my lips I still didn't push him away.
I was curious. I felt like I was living one of those dreaded dreams that I had, but I couldn't pull away from it. I found myself awkwardly parting my lips and when he dipped his tongue into my mouth I lightly responded against it. He tasted mildly like the cigarette he had started to smoke earlier. I wasn't thrilled with the taste but it didn't seem to matter. His lips were soft, but they seemed demanding. I'd kissed other girls besides Marissa before, those times we had broken up, but nothing was like this.
I closed my eyes, just wanting to feel it all as his teeth brushed my bottom lip and I got braver, pressing my tongue further, into his mouth and he opened for me, his hand moving up my arm like a reminder that he was in fact a gay, his hand too large to be a girl's.
I was shaking, unable to figure out why I was doing this. Okay, so I did know. It was because this is what I'd wanted. And not just with Jude. I'd finally crossed that line and now I was experiencing the one thing I'd been struggling with for as long as I could remember, and it felt so right that it terrified the hell out of me. But not as much as the sudden flashes of light.
Jude and I pulled apart quickly, and when I saw Taylor standing near the gate holding a camera, I swear I blacked out from all of the fear suddenly rushing to my head. A camera. He had a fucking camera. What the fuck was he doing with a camera? Oh, I knew what he was doing with it. Those flashes. Oh God. I think my life flashed before my eyes. My family. My friends. That camera was the end of my life as I knew it, and all I could think about was getting it away from Taylor, but after taking one step forward I promptly doubled over and threw up. Taylor laughed and ran back towards the house.
"Now that was interesting." He called out.
Damn it! I had to stop him. I had to do something.
"Quinn?" I felt Jude's hand on my back and I didn't hesitate to shove him away from me as my mind suddenly run amuck with outlandish theories.
"You did this!" I turned on him accusingly. He stepped back, not really afraid but cautious. "You planned this!" I screamed. I held my stomach and wiped my mouth as I began to move towards the gate. I felt like I couldn't move fast enough, except I really couldn't. I was sore, and limping, and dizzy.
"Quinn wait!" Jude was moving right next to me, stopping himself from reaching out to grab my arm, "I didn't plan this, you have to calm down! Taylor's just..."
"Stay the fuck away from me!" I growled out, "I'm not gay!"
"Quinn!" he was sounding frustrated, and when he did grab my arm to slow me down I shoved him away again, hard enough to warn him to keep his distance.
Somehow, I managed to start running, if only slowly. I pushed my way through the gate blindly and nearly didn't notice when my torn shirt was caught on it and my sleeve ripped nearly off. It was just hanging from my arm. I'm sure I was definitely a sore sight when I pushed my way through the back door of the house because everyone hanging around the kitchen looked at me like I was crazy, looking around the room frantically for Taylor with watery eyes. When I didn't see him there, I moved into the living room only to come face to face with Trina. She was smirking when she initially saw me and I was ready to turn on her too. She'd planned this. They'd all planned this! It didn't matter that her smirk turned into a frown when she got a better look at me.
"Christ, Quinn..." she started.
"Where is he?" I cut her off.
"What?" she demanded, stepping back, probably because I was screaming.
"Taylor!" I shouted, "Where the fuck is he?"
"Wait a minute!" Trina said, stepping back again. It didn't really occur to me that I was scaring her until another guy got between us and gave me a shove.
"Hey man, you need to get the fuck out of here." He warned me.
"Fuck you!" I spat, "where the fuck is Taylor?"
It was the larger guy, the one who had tackled me with Taylor earlier, but at the moment I really didn't care that he could kick my ass, even when he advanced on me. I just wanted that camera. But, before the guy could even touch me there was Jude again, getting between us, shoving the other guy back. By this time we were drawing a crowd, but I didn't care about them either.
"Jude!" Trina shouted, pointing at me, "he's..."
"Where's Taylor?" Jude cut her off.
"What?" she demanded.
"Taylor." He repeated, sounding frustrated. "Where is he?"
I noticed that the front door was open and I had a sinking feeling in my gut. Maybe Taylor had already gone and now he was on his way to the nearest photo shop. But then something else caught my eye. My car. Something about my car looked funny. I pushed myself through the crowd and headed outside, across the street, not really caring that people were following me as I reached my car and cringed at the site of my front, driver's side tire, which was flat.
"No fucking way." I muttered, exhaustedly leaning against the hood, and then I screamed it, "No fucking way!" I spun around furious, to face several confused faces, including Jude's and Trina's. "What?" I demanded, "I mean, seriously, what's with you people? You fucking hate me. I get it! So if you fucking hate me so much, why the fuck would you strand me here?"
"You need to calm down." Jude frowned at me, "No one here touched your car, Quinn."
I glared at him as he passed by me to inspect the damaged tire.
"What's going on, Jude?" Trina demanded.
"Just go back inside." Jude said over his shoulder to Trina and all of the others. "I'm taking him home."
"Bullshit." I glared at him.
"Just shut up." He snapped at me, and frankly, it took me by surprise. "You can let me take you home or you can stay here. And no one touched your car." He forced something out of my tire and held it up for me, "You ran over a nail."
Well that shut me up, but still. I thought that I had plenty to be pissed off about.
"Trina," Jude said as he walked towards his car and opened the passenger door, "Please just go back inside. I'll call you later, and if you hear from Taylor tell him to call me." he paused and looked back at me, "Let's go."
I looked between my immobile car, the opened door to the EL Camino and the group of people glaring at me. I didn't really have much of a choice. Defeated, I slowly made my way to Jude's car, avoiding his eyes as I slumped down in the seat and he closed the door behind me.
As Jude walked around the car and got in, I leaned towards the window, closing my eyes, wishing that I could block out the whole world as one thought seemed to invade my mind. Tonight, I'd made the biggest mistake of my life. My life was over.
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