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 seven: Struggle part two

I turned and looked at Jude, trying to ignore his stunned expression as he stared at me, his hand still on the opened door. I guess by now I'd learned that surprising Jude wasn't an easy task, and if I wasn't in the middle of a complete mental and emotional breakdown I might have taken some satisfaction in this.

But, as always, the look faded and I watched as he closed the door to his apartment and turned to regard me calmly. I didn't bother to wait for him to ask me what I was doing there.

"Taylor kissed me!" I blurted, angrily.

I guess I managed to surprise him again because his eyes widened slightly and he coughed on the toothpaste he was still holding in his mouth. I watched as he held up his index finger, signaling for me to wait as he walked over to his kitchen sink and spit. I stood there, quite impatiently, waiting for him to turn around as he leaned against the counter for a moment, likely trying to collect his thoughts.

When he did turn around he looked as casual as always, only the way that his eyes were slightly narrowed on me as he brushed his hair off his forehead would suggest that he was annoyed about something.

"What are you doing here, Quinn?" he asked.

I glared at him in a way that would suggest he shouldn't ask questions when the answers were obvious.

"Taylor attacked me!" I practically shouted as I began to pace in the small space.

"I thought you said he kissed you." Jude frowned, "now he attacked you?"

"Did you tell him to do it?" I suddenly turned on him, "is this all some kind of sick game to you? I swear to god why can't you people leave me alone? Anyone could have seen it tonight! Shit! I was on a fucking date for fuck sake! And, with a girl, by the way. Do you know why I was dating a girl, Jude? Huh? Because I'm not gay!"

"First of all," he frowned, "no one tells Taylor to do anything. Second...if you're on a date, what are you doing here? I'm sure Marissa doesn't like to be kept waiting, and I don't like to be bothered."

"That's another thing!" I suddenly accused, pointing at him. Seriously, I wasn't sure where I got off storming into his apartment uninvited and blaming him for all my problems, but at the moment all of my thoughts were blurring together and I couldn't seem to help myself, "I broke up with Marissa!" I announced, "and that's your fault, too!"

I noticed the subtle change in Jude's expression, warning me that I was pissing him off, but I guess I was to stupid to really pay attention to it as I paced and continued my tirade.

"I was fine! And then I had to meet you, didn't I? And you kissed me! That's why I had to break up with Marissa, you know! It's you're fault! Everything was just fine until I met you and now it's all fucked up! Why are you doing this to me?"

"I'm not doing anything to you." His voice was calm, but even in my current state I couldn't miss the iciness dripping from it. Not that I didn't choose to ignore it.

"You're in my fucking head!" I screamed at him, "It's like I can't get you out! You know what you are? You're a fucking infestation! You're trying to confuse me, aren't you? Well you know what? Its not working, asshole! Why don't you just stay away from me? tell your friends to stay away from me! And what the hell did you do to me anyways? Were you pretending to be the nice guy when you brought me here last week, huh? What did you do? Wait until I was good and passed out and then..."

"Then what?" Jude suddenly demanded, stepping forward, challenging me with his eyes. "Did I wait until you were passed out? Did I take advantage of you? Do all those horrible gay things to you? Before you finish that sentence, let me clear a few things up. I didn't have to wait for you to pass out, you were already there. And by the way, if I had done anything to you, you sure as hell would have remembered it, conscious or not! And maybe I'm just being as presumptuous as you are, but the idea that I might have done something to you probably turns you on, so don't expect me to get my violin out for you anytime soon. And while you're busy telling me to stay away from you, you might want to check yourself, because you're the one who came here."

I just stared at him for a second. Shit. It did turn me on, thinking about what he could have done to me. I'd known that all week. And why the hell did I come here? I'd wanted answers. I'd wanted to know why I was like this, why this was happening to me. But why was Jude the first person I ran to? Was it really because I wanted to blame him for all my problems? Yeah. Maybe it was. It was easier to think that all of my issues were his fault, that the reason I couldn't get him out of my mind, was his fault.

I'd think about it later. I'd be embarrassed about the way that I barged in here and attacked him like a complete jackass. But now, I was just realizing that coming over had been a mistake. Jude was glaring at me. He obviously wanted me out. I wanted to get out.

Without another word, I headed for the door, pausing when he opened it for me. Something about that action, opening his door, wanting me out...that dismissal bothered me. Maybe it was because I'd come for answers and I felt like he was turning me away. Not that I blamed him, I hadn't gotten any answers because I hadn't asked any questions. I'll I had accomplished was pissing him off.

But Jude rejecting me, just didn't feel right. He said he liked me. He was attracted to me. He'd kissed me twice, each time managing to turn my whole world upside down and now he wanted me to go away.

I tried to ask myself what I wanted as I moved towards the door. Why did I come here? Was it because I wanted Jude to take it all back? Did I want him to tell me that I wasn't gay? And why would it mean something, coming from him? I wasn't sure why, but it would mean something coming from him. It was like, what Jude thought of me mattered, and I didn't know why. I actually cared about what he thought of me.

I thought about at the theater, when Taylor kissed me. I'd stopped him. I didn't stop Jude like that. I guess that was a good thing, right? I mean, I wasn't such a pervert that every guy who kissed me made me see stars. But it bothered me, that Taylor's kiss made me feel like I was betraying Jude. What did that mean, anyways? That I had feelings for Jude? That would almost be worse than being attracted to him. And yet, the way it felt like he was rejecting me now, hurt.

Maybe I was looking at this all wrong. Sure, kissing Taylor had been better than kissing Elise, but that could have been because he wasn't wearing lipstick. It wasn't like I felt sparks with him or anything. I couldn't stand Taylor, and if I thought about it, I couldn't stand Jude, either. He was just too damned cocky. Maybe all of this, meant that my whole being attracted to other guys phase was wearing off. Maybe if I kissed Jude again I would see that I didn't feel anything for him, just like I felt nothing for Taylor. Maybe kissing him was my chance to be normal.

Yes, part of me understood just how ridiculous this train of thought was, but at the moment I felt that I was being completely rational. All of this bullshit started with a kiss, maybe it could end with one too. Unfortunately, the way Jude was looking at me would suggest that he wouldn't be trying to kiss me again, anytime soon.

Fuck it.

I detoured myself at the door, so that I came face to face with Jude, and I kissed him. Maybe this made me gay more than anything else, but I had to know. The first thing I noticed was that he wasn't as aggressive as before. He didn't seize the moment, so to speak. But, he didn't push me away either. He remained passive, while I covered his mouth with mine, and when I didn't pull back and continued to kiss him, hesitantly pressing my tongue against his lips; he opened and kissed me back, slowly, lightly.

It all seemed so natural for him. Another guy was kissing him and he had no problem with it, whatsoever. I closed my eyes and took in a breath through my nostrils. It smelled like he's recently showered, and I could taste the spearmint toothpaste. I lifted my hand, feeling like I needed to brace myself and touched his bare side, even while he made no move to touch me. His skin seemed cool, and smooth. And I felt that feeling again, the one that said I was actually feeling something.

That feeling is what stopped me. This was all me. I was kissing another guy. I'd initiated it. Me. He didn't make me do anything. I was kissing him. I was attracted to him. I liked it. I wanted it.

Holy Shit.

My eyes snapped open, horror washing over me. I felt like I'd just confirmed my worst fears, but I was too afraid to admit it. He was looking at me calmly, and if I was thinking more clearly I would have thought that he was worried. But I couldn't look at him. Not now. I didn't walk out the door but I turned around, refusing to face him as I let realization sink in. I heard the door lightly close, but I still didn't move, I just stood there, with my back to him, staring at a loose piece of carpet fiber on the floor.

"Why?" I asked. That one word seemed like so many questions to me. I felt like I needed to pick one. "Why is this happening to me? What's wrong with me? I can't...I just, can't."

I felt Jude's hands on my shoulders and I went rigid. I couldn't help it. I felt like I needed to go on guard right now. There was too much going through my head, too many questions, too many mixed feelings, and a ton of guilt. But, Jude didn't move away. I felt a chill when he moved his hands down my back, and became even more tense when he moved his hands under my arms and over my chest, wrapping his arms around me and holding me only loosely.

It put me on edge and felt comforting at the same time. It was the comfort that I held on to. Given the circumstances, it probably wasn't a good idea for him to hold me like that, but even I could tell that it wasn't a come on. There was nothing sexual about it, he was simply there, trying to comfort me, and even if I was freaked out at the moment, I appreciated the effort. But I restrained myself from leaning back into him, allowing him to make me feel completely safe.

"Listen to me, Quinn," he said carefully, "there is nothing wrong with you." I tried to let that sink in. Nothing wrong with me. It was a nice thought, but I couldn't exactly agree with him at the moment. "But you can't be here." He stated, "I can't do this with you, maybe when you figure things out...maybe then we can...talk. I can give you some numbers, I know some people you can talk to but I don't think it's a good idea for us to..."

I idly shook him off and headed for the door without looking back. He was right about one thing. I couldn't be there.

"I shouldn't have come here." I mumbled, "Sorry I bothered you."

"Quinn." He followed me to the door, but I didn't look back as I opened it, "Quinn, wait. I know you're probably really confused right now..."

I think it became apparent to Jude that I was trying to ignore him when I stepped out into the hall, because he suddenly grabbed my arm and I was forced to look back at him. He looked serious. It wasn't that cold, angry serious that I'd seen before, but just...serious. It was hard to look away from his eyes with that expression on his face.

"There's nothing wrong with you." He stated. I wished that I could believe him. I shook him off, and I fled the building, swearing to myself that I'd never step foot in it again.


There's nothing wrong with me. How could he say that? I guess it was easy for Jude to say. He was gay. And me? Well, I wasn't sure what I was. How do you just deal with something like this? When all of your thoughts, all of your feelings are running together until you can't even understand yourself.

I wanted to tell all of the different voices in my head to shut up, but I guess just thinking like that makes me sound a little psychotic. But it was true. Those voices, some of them were mine...but most, just stupid, random memories.

The things Jude said. I'm a closet case. I'm going to end up miserable. He's attracted to me. I'm the biggest jerk he knows. He likes me. Dirty little secrets...secrets I think are dirty. There's nothing wrong with me. He at least had it half right. I'd already ended up miserable and I'm pretty sure I really was the biggest jerk he knew.

And my mom. Those people. What would she think of her son being one of those people?

And my friends at school. Faggot. Such a common, stupid word. Didn't they know? Didn't they know how terrible just one little word could be? I hated that word. I hated that it made me flinch every time someone said it, and I hated how I was looking over my shoulder every time it was mentioned in the halls. I hated it more now that I...I just hated it.

The realization, of what I was feeling, was unnerving. I wished I'd never met Jude Landon. I knew that I couldn't blame it all on him. Hell, maybe it wasn't fair to blame any of it on him. But I wished that I never met him, then maybe I wouldn't have to admit to myself that I had feelings for another guy. But it wasn't just that I had feelings for Jude that was the problem. The problem was that I'd never had those types of feelings for girls.

This wasn't a new problem, either. It had always been like this. Deep down, I'd always known what I was. I'd just never had to really face it before. Ignoring it had been a suitable solution, but all of a sudden I felt like I was being forced to face it, forced to deal with it, and I had no idea how.

I needed some sort of sign. I know. Ridiculous. Someone like me, didn't look for signs. I liked things planned. I liked things logical. Sure, I believed in God. I tried not to sin, and when I did, I tried to make up for it. Being ...like me, that was a sin. I'd been taught it was. No, I didn't go to church every Sunday, but I did go on holidays and occasionally when my mom was home on Sunday morning we'd all go together. I did pray for Bree, I'd pray for mom. I'd pray for God to give me the strength I needed to deal with every day life.

But I didn't pray about my biggest problem. I never thought; dear God, please make me stop liking boys. Somehow the idea never sat right with me. It would be like admitting to God that I was...one of those sinners. I was terrified of it. I did believe, but I was nowhere near ready to question faith over my current problem. But I wouldn't have minded a sign. Anything that would tell me that there really wasn't anything wrong with me.

It wasn't exactly helpful when my new cell phone began to chirp in my coat pocket. I was a block away from Jude's building and had no idea how I was going to get home. I felt so disoriented after leaving there that in all honesty, I hadn't even noticed that I'd been walking in the wrong direction.

I thought about ignoring the phone, but it was only an absent thought as I lifted it to my ear and pushed the button, if anything to keep it from ringing.

"Yeah..." I mumbled.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Brad's voice came through loud and clear, causing me to flinch. I'd been so absorbed in my own twisting, mind numbing thoughts that I hadn't even thought about who might be calling me as I walked down the dark, unfamiliar sidewalk feeling lost and cold in more ways than one.

"I don't know." I answered my best friend honestly, although, I'm sure he had no idea how I was repeatedly asking myself that very question.

"Quinn! Where are you?" he demanded. "Elise says you never came back and I thought you were sick or something. Are you outside? I can't find you in the theater."

"I'm outside." I answered, tiredly.

"Okay." Brad sounded irritated, "meet us at the car, the movie's already over and if you're lucky you can still try to make up with Elise. She thinks you walked out on her."

But I had walked out on her. I guess what surprised me was Brad's confidence in me, his trusting that I'd never do anything like that, that I wouldn't walk out like that. It would be unlike me; spontaneous, irrational...sure, there were insinuating circumstances that led me to run scared, but it was still so unlike me. It wasn't something Quinn Moore would do. Then again, I hadn't been acting like Quinn Moore for the last week. Brad didn't know that, though. I'd known him my whole life, and maybe it was simply irrational emotion speaking, but I suddenly felt incredibly guilty with overwhelming thoughts that the friend I'd grown up with never really new me at all.

"Quinn?" I heard Brad say. I guess I'd spaced out on him.


"Damn, what is with you?" he sounded exasperated. I couldn't really blame him. "I said, meet us at the car."

"Brad," I let out a breath as I stopped walking and looked over my unfamiliar surroundings, really looked, for the first time. I still wasn't very far from the hospital, and there was a restaurant across the street. "I'm not at the theater."

"Well where the hell are you?"

I guess that was a fair question. I had to look at the street signs.

"Academy and fifth." I admitted softly.

"What?" Brad demanded, his voice raised and caused me to flinch again, "what the hell are you doing there? How did you get there?"

"Look," I frowned, somewhat snapping out of my distressing thoughts as I realized that I'd have to give some sort of explanation, especially if I wanted to get home, "I took the bus."

"The bus? Why? Why did you leave in the first place?"

"I needed to get out of there." I said honestly. "Can you come pick me up?"

I heard one of Brad's disgruntled curses on the other end of the line. I just waited. I knew he was going to come get me. I knew because I would do the same thing for him in this situation. I also knew that he was probably trying to figure out what I was thinking. Or what I was doing.

"Yeah," I could hear the frown in his voice but he was otherwise calm, "we'll be there in...what, fifteen minutes?"

"Um... Brad? Could you do me a favor?" I asked hesitantly, knowing that I was in no position to ask him for a favor. He had the decency to not interrupt me to say so, though. "Can you drop the girls off, first?"

There was a long pause, and when I heard Brad's voice again it was hardly above a whisper, probably because he didn't want Becca and Elise to hear him.

"You want me to take them all the way home, and then come back to get you?" he demanded. "Quinn, that could take almost an hour...and that's without the decent goodbye I'd like to give Becca!"

"I'm sorry." I mumbled, "Brad...please?"

I think my voice broke because he went silent for another second, and this time when he came back he sounded concerned.

"What's wrong, Quinn?"

I could feel the frustrated emotion welling up in me again and I had to take a deep breath, not wanting him to suspect more was wrong than he already did. I knew I would have some explaining to do, but I wasn't sure how to do it and I definitely wouldn't do it over the phone. He'd just keep questioning me that way, and I'd end up standing out there all night.

"Please, just drop them off first." I insisted.

"Fine." He relented, "but you'd better have a damn good explanation."

"Yeah." I mumbled, and then promptly hung up on him before he could say anything else. I just stood there for a second, wondering what I would tell Brad, before I realized that I was getting cold. I looked back towards the restaurant. It was one of those places that served breakfast all day, so with a shrug I headed over, deciding that coffee couldn't hurt...maybe so long as it was decaf.

Actually, by the time I ordered food that I never even touched, all thoughts of coffee left my mind and I actually ordered a glass of milk as I tried to calm my nerves. I tried not to focus on a whole lot. When I tried to make sense of everything that had happened tonight things tended to get complicated, at least in my mind. I needed to rationalize.

I went out on a date. A date, by the way, that I shouldn't have been on in the first place because technically I still had obligations to Marissa, ones I should have kept if I still wanted to be her friend when everyone found out about our break up. And I'd made out with my date, in the theater. Kissing Elise had felt like a big step for me in those few minutes. It was like a sign, a wonderful sign that told me I could still be normal. I never kissed Marissa like that, not since we first started going out and deep down I'd always feared that not being able to kiss my girlfriend, mutual or not, brought me closer to the edge of my greatest fears. But with Elise...I'd proven to myself that I could do it. I could be normal.

Of course, afterwards I hadn't felt so great about that kiss with her, but I'm sure I would have gotten over it if Taylor had kept his nasty lips to himself. Okay, not nasty, but till. It hadn't been wanted. It had been a surprise, just like both times Jude kissed me, but I had pushed Taylor away almost right away. I tried to reason my motives for that.

It wasn't very hard.

I couldn't stand Taylor. After everything he had put me through, I really couldn't stand him. I hated him because he knew my secret. I hated him because of those pictures. I hated the looks he gave me now, every time he saw me at school. I hated that he showed up where I worked to tell me what an asshole I was. I didn't like him. I guess it was a little obvious why I'd be opposed to kissing him.

But, there was still that underlying feeling that kissing Taylor...or Taylor kissing me, only for that briefest moment, was a betrayal to Jude. Not Marissa. Not anyone else. But Jude! And that notion was ridiculous for many reasons. Like, I still didn't like the idea of being gay. I was adamantly against being gay. And it wasn't like Jude and I were together. That would be...impossible. So why did it bother me...that it didn't bother him...when I mentioned that Taylor had kissed me?

I mean, I don't think it bothered Jude. He didn't seem to care really. And that bothered me. I guess I'm not sure why I told him anyways. I wasn't even sure why I went to him. Maybe I wanted him to tell me that he wasn't gay, but he hadn't exactly been helpful there.

And then, there was that last life altering detail of the night. Probably the one that was sticking with me the most. The last event that was probably about to send me into a complete mental breakdown.

I kissed Jude.

Willingly. Freely. Willingly, of my own free will. Holy damn, that could not be good.

Sure, I'd reasoned it at the time. I wanted to kiss him to prove that I was normal. And yeah, I know...I guess I wasn't making a whole lot of sense there. But one thing about that last statement was right. I wanted to kiss him. And if that somehow meant...no. I didn't want to think about what that meant.

Maybe it was because I was panicking, but the situation was making me paranoid. Every time my waiter smiled at me I half expected him to sneak in a kiss the way that Taylor had. Then I started wondering if it was my fault. Maybe I was sending out some kind of signal or something. If I was gay, like Jude thought, then maybe this was my fault. Maybe gay people had some kind of smell that told the more experienced gays who they were. Maybe I had that smell or scent or vibe, or whatever. But what caused it, some type of hormone or something? Kinda like a woman's pheromones? Maybe whatever it was that made me have all of these sick thoughts gave me that vibe. I wondered if I could fix it. Maybe there was a cure or something.

I hadn't stopped overanalyzing everything by the time Brad finally called to ask where I was, and as he showed up in front of the restaurant I felt like I hadn't slept in days when I climbed into the passenger seat of his car and looked out the window, rather than at him. He didn't let me get away with it, though. He turned the ignition and I listened to the car die before I gave in and turned my attention to Brad.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"I don't know." I sighed, leaning back.

"That's all you can say?" he demanded. "Fuck, Quinn..."

"Brad," I cut him off, "I'm sorry, okay? I just couldn't be there. Can we please go home now?"

"You couldn't be there?" he sounded scandalized, "You had your tongue down Elise's throat! Why the hell couldn't you be there? You just disappeared, Quinn!"

"I said I was sorry!"

"Sorry isn't going to be good enough until you tell me what's going on with you!" he shot back, "explain it to me, Quinn, why did I have to cut my date short with Becca just to come all the way down here to get you? Why did you walk out? You know, when we dropped Elise off she was practically in tears!"

"She was crying?" I asked softly, I really had never intended to hurt anyone.

Brad stopped talking and stared at me for a few minutes while I tried to avoid his eyes. I knew that he was trying to analyze me.

"Oh." He finally said, quietly. "I get it."

"You get what?" I asked cautiously, looking up.

"This is about Mar, isn't it?"


"Shit, Quinn, I'm sorry." He shook his head. "I shouldn't have pushed you to go out. Damn. I just sort of thought that since you seemed okay with the break up...damn, you weren't ready, were you?"

"Brad, it's not..." I didn't want him to feel guilty. "Look, I said I'd go out tonight. It's not your fault, it's mine. I'm really sorry I walked out on you."

"You could have at least said something." Brad added, "So what was it? Did you get freaked out kissing Elise? Since she's not Marissa, I mean."

"Can we start driving now?" I asked, not really wanting to discuss why I left.

Brad rolled his eyes at me and started the car, but we weren't even half way down the block before the interrogation started again.

"So what was down here?" Brad asked, "I mean, you just...got on a bus and got off here?"

"Apparently." I replied shortly.

"Okay, but why? I mean, you know if you just told me that you wanted to leave we could have worked something out. At least that way the girls wouldn't have ended up ticked off at you."

"It wasn't that simple, Brad."

"How was it not that simple?" he frowned, "you could have just..."

"I said I was sorry!" I cut him off. "So can we drop it? I shouldn't have come out tonight, that's it."

I had snapped at him, and I could tell he was pissed because after that, he refrained from saying anything else, even when he dropped me off in front of my house. But, I didn't say anything either. Just like with Bree, Brad and I hardly ever fought, and I was already trying to think of ways to apologize to him, not that I planned on doing that tonight.

Tonight, I went straight to the bathroom, brushed my teeth until my gums bled, wanting all signs of Jude and Taylor away from my mouth, and then I went to my room, took advantage of the sleeping pills again, and became lost in a dark world of sleep, that seemed so much better than being lost in my thoughts.


It didn't take long before sleep became my best friend. Rather than dealing with the weekend, or dealing with anything for that matter, I chose to stay in my room. It was hard, being left alone with my confusion as I went over the events of the theater and at Jude's apartment...over, and over, and over again. The repetitiveness of it all was becoming a frustrating thing for me. But, I was almost afraid to leave my room before I got it all sorted out, not even to make up with Brad, who didn't call me all weekend, something completely unlike him.

The only times I went downstairs was to eat, and even then, I didn't stay long. Bree had spent a lot of time over at Brad's house over the weekend, helping his mom out. But, when she was home you can bet she was pounding on my door, demanding that I come out and tell her what was wrong. But, all I ever did was shout to her that I wasn't feeling well...and no, I didn't need her to bring me anything.

Bree eventually left me alone, and I guess she figured that I really wasn't feeling good because when I woke up at two o'clock on Sunday morning because I hadn't eaten anything for at least twenty-four hours, I found her home made chicken noodle soup in the fridge, and Bree only ever made that if me or mom was sick.

Seeing that soup there, with my name literally on it, written in washable, blue marker on the plastic container, made me stop and think about my sister. I guess if I was going to be completely honest with myself, Bree was the best I could ever ask for. I knew other siblings, but none of them were as close as we were.

I think it was the little things, like the soup I found there in the refrigerator, or the little notes with nothing but smiley faces on them that I'd occasionally slip into her locker at school...those small things were just a reminder that we were family, that we cared about each other. I began to wonder if Bree would ever hide something from me, the way that I felt like I was hiding something from her.

And then I wondered...what if it was Bree in my position? What if she was the one struggling with feelings that weren't...normal? What if she came to me with them? Would I think of her any differently? Would I love her any less? Would it destroy our relationship? I didn't think so. I don't think I would ever think of Bree as anything less than what she was. It would be reasonable to assume that she felt the same way about me.

But I couldn't risk it. I couldn't talk to her about this stuff. I couldn't tell her about Jude, or my feelings. I was too much of a chicken shit for that. And that left me feeling guilty as I heated up some of the soup and took it to the table. I knew that Bree was worried about me, and I wished that I could give her some sort of explanation. I just didn't know how to give her a true one.

And she continued to worry about me because of that. I could tell she was worried about me on Monday morning when she pounded on my bedroom door ten minutes before we were supposed to leave for school and I answered, still wearing the sweat's I'd slept in. I only opened the door a crack, but the expressive way that her eyes widened on me said that she was definitely concerned.

"What are you doing?" she demanded, "school's going to start and you're not even dressed..."

I cut her off when I held up my car keys and she instinctively held up her palm, where I dropped them.

"Quinn..." she frowned.

"Don't forget to pick up Marissa." I said, right before closing the door on my sister.

She pounded on my door for five minutes after that as I went to my desk, took another sleeping pill and then buried my head under the pillow on my bed, grateful that it was just about impossible to build up a tolerance to the old prescription.

I'd decided as soon as my alarm went off that I wasn't in the mood for school. I guess Bree had reason to worry because of that. Up until now, I'd had a perfect attendance record. That, and I had never, ever let her drive my car. Yep. Bree definitely knew something was wrong, and I'm sure she guessed that I hadn't simply come down with the flu, but she left for school anyways, leaving me alone to sleep the day away.

Except, I didn't get to sleep all day. I'm not sure what I was thinking, really. I mean, who in their right mind would take a sleep aid at six in the morning after sleeping all night? I mean, it's not like I was addicted. I wasn't popping painkillers, or anything. I think I just liked the darkness. I liked the quiet. Everything disappeared, even dreams. I wasn't dealing with anything, not really. Not until noon when I awoke abruptly, unsure why.

I should have been completely out. I had the drug in my system; I could feel it, trying to lull me back to sleep. But, there was someone in the house. That's why I woke up. Even, all the way in the attic, I heard the front door closing downstairs. I thought it was a strange thing to wake me up, being so far away, but nevertheless, it had.

A glance at the clock suggested it was Bree, home for lunch. So I ignored it and rolled over, wanting to go back to sleep.

But I couldn't.

There was light in my room. Not even the pillow over my head could keep it out. And while I was feeling heavy, inside I was wide-awake. I guess that could have been a result of sleeping for over two days straight. And I felt panicked. I felt like I was missing something. I probably was. I tried to figure out what that was.

Brad. I still hadn't made up with Brad. That alone was reason for me to feel stress. And Bree. I'd left her to worry about me. And then there was school. I'm sure I'd have a dozen tests to make up tomorrow because I hadn't gone today. And of course there were the more disturbing things that I preferred not to think about.

Like Marissa. For all I knew, Elise could have been so pissed at me that she let everyone know we'd been on a date. The whole school could be talking about the way I cheated on Marissa, because they didn't know otherwise and my former girlfriend might never speak to me again.

And Taylor. God, I didn't want to think about Taylor. But when he kissed me it had been in a public place. What if someone saw that? What if someone knew?

And Jude. What was Jude thinking? Was he even thinking about me at all? I'd made an ass of myself with him on Friday night. Would I ever see him again? Would I be able to look him in the eye if I did? Doubtful.

And I was hiding. I was hiding from it all. The fact that I'd been popping pills so I could sleep for the last few days seemed to hit me all at once. The realization made me feel completely stupid, and completely lost. I felt like I'd literally lost myself for the last two days. I guess in a way, I had.

I was depressed. I understood that. I'd been depressed before, who hasn't? But it had never been like this. I rolled over onto my back and looked at the ceiling as I ran my fingers through my hair. It felt thick, oily. I could smell myself, through my sweatshirt, when I lifted my arm and I actually turned up my nose. I hadn't showered since waking up in the middle of the night on Thursday, and I was disgusted with myself.

I heard more noise downstairs. Bree. Knowing her, if she was home, she was probably there to make sure I ate something. All of the isolation I'd placed upon myself over the last few days seemed to catch up at that moment, and I found myself wanting to talk to her. I didn't want to tell her certain things, and I definitely didn't want to discuss what was bothering me. But, I did want to talk to her. Even to listen to Bree go on about her day would be welcomed. I think I just wanted to be near her.

I felt groggy, going down the stairs, but I followed the subtle noises I heard echoing through the house, coming from the kitchen. Before I even walked in I started to open my mouth, ready to tell my sister that I was sorry about avoiding her for the last few days, but stopped abruptly when in the kitchen, I found an older woman, the same height as Bree with the same dark hair, and same slender figure, only shorter.

"Mom?" I mumbled, feeling confused.

Like I said, my mom was rarely home. She really was working all the time. In fact, because she often fell asleep at the hospital, it wasn't very uncommon for days to go by without seeing her. I knew that she often did come home during the day, because she'd leave little notes for Bree and I, but I guess I hadn't been expecting to see her now.

She turned to me with a smile as I stood there, still a little surprised, but as I watched her look me over her smile faded and that more motherly, concerned look crossed her face.

"Quinn?" I could only stand there as she crossed the room and brought her hand directly to my forehead, "you're warm. Are you sick? Why aren't you at school?"

I gently pushed her hand aside and leaned forward to kiss her cheek.

"I'm okay." I replied. "This morning I wasn't feeling good so..."

"Okay." She nodded, still looking worried, "Bree took your car then?"

"Yeah." I nodded. I wasn't very worried about my mom suspecting that I'd decided to cut school. I never really missed school, so to her way of thinking, I must have a good reason for being home today.

"I noticed Bree made your soup." Mom said after a moment, giving me a small smile, "I guess now I know why. Go sit down, I'll get you something to eat." It wasn't a request, so I complied, moving to the kitchen table. I wasn't very surprised that she made a sandwich for herself but heated up Bree's soup for me, not that I minded. I just wished that she'd get that worried, motherly expression off of her face as we sat down to eat.

Usually I loved it, these rare occasions when my mom would show up and we'd have some time alone together. Bree and I were so used to sharing her when she was around that time alone was considered special. Unfortunately, at the moment, all I wanted to do was flee her. I felt on edge, uncomfortable, almost like I was sitting down with a woman who was a stranger to me...only, I was the one who felt like a stranger. This woman had given birth to me for fuck sake and she didn't know the half of it!

I tried desperately to relax and enjoy this visit. It was bad enough that she already looked worried because she thought I was sick. I could tell that those motherly urges were getting to be difficult for her to control and I would hardly be surprised if she reached over the table any second now to cut my noodles for me.

"How long are you home?" I finally asked, forcing a smile onto my face.

"I've got to be back tonight, probably before Bree gets back." She sighed. "But, I should have more time this weekend. Maybe we can do something then."

"Yeah." I mumbled. "Bree will be sorry she missed you."

"We'll get our time together," Mom replied with a small smile, but then she changed the subject before she could feel to guilty about not being around as much as she would have liked to be. "So tell me about you. How's school?"

"Fine." I shrugged. Standard answer.

"Yeah? I hear you went out with Brad this weekend."

I groaned inwardly. I didn't really want to think about Brad. We hadn't exactly made up, and as far as I knew he was still pissed at me. That thought only placed more knots in my already shaky stomach.

"Yep, I did." I shrugged, making sure to take a bite of my soup, cutting off any more of a detailed answer.

"Did Marissa go with you?" she asked.

I frowned as I swallowed down my food. I guess I'd have to break the news about Marissa to my mother sooner or later. It was best that she heard it from me anyways.

"Actually, we broke up." I said quietly. I knew mom had always liked Marissa, and every time Marissa and I had decided to `take a break' in the past, I could depend on my mother to demand a reasonable explanation for it.

"You're kidding!" she sounded offended, exactly what I had expected from her, and I couldn't help giving her a small smile. "Bree didn't mention it." Mom was leaning forward now, reminding me very much of Marissa herself, ready to soak up the latest gossip.

"I haven't talked to Bree about it, yet." I admitted. "She probably suspects, but I promised Mar that I wouldn't really tell anyone for a few more days. We wanted to wait for those rumors about her to clear up."

"So Marissa's okay with breaking up?" mom asked, sounding suspicious. I suppose she didn't want to be responsible for a son who would break the heart of `a sweet girl like Marissa.'

"Yea, I think so." I nodded, choosing my words carefully. "It's taking some getting used to for both of us, but it was definitely time."

"I see." Mom frowned. "So how long do you two plan to keep up the charade? Are people seriously still saying those nasty things about Marissa?"

Nasty things? Cruel, sure. Untrue, better. Nasty? Was it nasty to be called gay? Was it even worse to be...

I shook my head, hating the confusion there. It was hard enough to accept the feelings I was having, I didn't need to be reminded of how unnatural everyone seemed to think they were.

"No, mom." I replied flatly. "I think everyone's forgotten about it, but you know Marissa, she just doesn't want anyone to think the reason why we broke up was because of the rumors."

"Well, I would think so," Mom stated. "Honestly, why people your age say such hateful things, I will never understand."

"It was just a rumor." I frowned. "I mean...if were true..."

"Quinn! Don't even suggest something like that about Marissa."

"I wasn't." I insisted. "I'm just saying, with Marissa it was just a stupid rumor, everyone knows that. But...there are other kids at school and..." I frowned. What the hell was I doing? I was feeling her out, that's what I was doing. But, I knew well enough that this was a topic that my mother would probably demand a subject change for. I already knew she was uncomfortable with it. Hell, I was uncomfortable with it.

"And?" She raised her eyebrow at me, making one of the expectant faces that Bree made all the time.

"Well, people talk about other kids too." I said softly, suddenly thinking of Trina Ashpock. "But I think it's worse for them, because what people are saying...is true."

"Well, those people made their choices." She replied dismissively, and for some reason that pissed me off. "Marissa's such a nice girl. You should really reconsider this break up. You two are so handsome together."

"You really think it's okay?" I asked incredulously.

"For you and Marissa to stay together? Of course..."

"No." I frowned, "for the kids at school to talk shit just because someone's different, whether the rumor's true or not."

"Quinn! Language!"

"Sorry." I mumbled.

Mom studied me for a second and gave me a sympathetic look.

"Sweetheart, you're a mess. Why not go get cleaned up and I'll bring some tea up for you before I go back to work?"

I sighed and slowly stood, bringing my unfinished soup to the counter. It didn't escape my attention that my mother had never answered my question. I didn't bring it up again, though. I'm sure whatever she had to say about the matter, would not help me in the least.


Wow. Clothes. Real clothes. Jeans. T-shirt. Socks. Shoes. I hadn't been dressed in two days and it felt somewhat refreshing to be dressed and up again. Even being downstairs, out of my room felt refreshing. The fact that I'd showered for over an hour didn't hurt, either.

My mom had left to work about an hour ago, and now I'd placed myself downstairs in the living room with a book that I wasn't really reading, waiting for Bree to come home. I knew she'd been worried about me ever since the fire extinguisher incident and I'd been avoiding her. I also knew that I was good at successfully avoiding a lot of things, but Bree was not one of them.

As soon as she walked through the front door she carelessly dropped her backpack as she closed the door and I frowned, fighting the urge to go pick it up as I watched my sister head right for the stairs, no doubt she was heading to the attic to pound on my door again.

I let out a short whistle, stopping her in her tracks. She spun around, narrowing her eyes at me and I hardly had time to brace myself before she moved across the room and literally jumped onto the sofa, throwing her feet onto my lap, which I wasted no time gently removing.

"You're talking to me." it was an order. I had no doubt about that.

I closed the book and turned my attention to Bree.


"Okay?" she asked incredulously. Obviously, she'd been expecting more of a fight.

"Yeah." I smiled. "We can talk...I'm sorry I haven't been...around for the last few days."

"You've been locked in your room." She frowned. "You've been around Quinn, it's your damned head that seems to be somewhere in your ass!"

"Bree!" I half laughed, half scolded.

"Well it's true." She stated, breaking a small smile. "You tried to burn down the back yard the other night, and then you were moping around. You hardly spoke to me when you went out with Brad, and then you locked yourself in your room all weekend!"

"I know," I nodded. "I just..."

"But then after me and Marissa got to school today I ran into Brad and we had a long talk about you."

"I know, he's mad at me..."

"Mad at you?" Bree frowned, "try worried about you, Quinn. He went looking for you this morning because he was worried."

"He's not mad?" I asked, surprised. That was probably the best thing I'd heard all week.

"Of course not." Bree rolled her eyes at me. "And he told me what happened at the theater. Why didn't you tell me you broke up with Marissa?"

"I was going to." I insisted, not that it mattered now. I was probably going to get lectured about how we're supposed to be able to talk to each other. At least, I thought a lecture was coming, that's why I was surprised when Bree took my hand and gave me a sympathetic look.

"Quinn...I understand."

My eyebrow flew up as I wondered what the hell she was talking about.


"Breaking up with Marissa." Bree frowned, "it's hard on you. Is that what you were doing in the yard, burning her pictures? I mean, it seems kinda drastic but I guess I can understand."

The pictures! Shit. I'd just walked away the other night, not even stopping to make sure none of them were recognizable. Damn, I could be stupid. But, at least it seemed like Bree had no idea what was really in those pictures.

"Uh...yeah." I nodded, letting her think whatever she wanted to.

"You know it's normal," Bree went on to say, "you and Mar have been together forever. Just because you broke up with her doesn't make it any easier."

"I thought you said Marissa annoys you." I pointed out.

"She does." Bree shrugged. "But that doesn't mean I can't be there for you if you're having a hard time. And Brad feels completely guilty about pushing that whole date thing on you. I'm kinda glad you walked out on Elise, though. I never liked her anyways...you know, you really pissed her off, I think she was planning to tell everyone how you went out with her, cheating on Mar, for revenge, you know?" I tensed at that. I had known it could happen, but the idea of that kind of rumor spreading was upsetting, considering it could mean Marissa would never speak to me again. Bree noticed my reaction and smiled as she continued. "Don't worry, that's not gonna happen. I cornered her this morning after Brad told me what was going on and told her in no uncertain terms that if she did anything to hurt you, her cute little nose job wouldn't look cute for long."

"She had a nose job?"

"Yeah," Bree laughed, "last year it was huge! She definitely had some work done over the summer, she probably wanted it fixed before she started high school."

"Thanks Bree." I smiled at her, touched that my sister would come to my aid like that. But, there was still nagging guilt bothering me. Brad felt guilty. I didn't want him feeling like that. None of this had been his fault, it was mine. And Bree...Bree was defending me because she thought I was heartbroken over Marissa. Technically I was lying to them both and I hated the feeling.

"Hey, no problem." Bree smiled, leaning over to kiss my cheek. "Now I sort of get why you like going all macho around the guys who show an interest in me. It was fun freaking Elise out like that."

"It would be for you." I smirked.

"She had it coming." Marissa smiled, giving my hand a tug. "Come on, let's go make cookies."

I sighed and followed her, hoping that those cookies wouldn't end up tasting like guilt.


Monday afternoon I had hoped that coming out of my room would make me feel better, and it did. But, the feeling wasn't destined to last as I went back to school on Tuesday. It was good, being able to stand my sister's company again, but at school I felt hollow, disconnected. And paranoid.

I saw Taylor on the way to lunch with Marissa. He actually winked at me again. Asshole. I was terrified that Marissa had seen it, but as usual, she was absorbed in herself and didn't seem to notice. Much later during the day I passed Trina, and she'd switched the way she regarded me again. Now, it was with sympathy, and that could only mean that she knew about the way that I'd burst into Jude's apartment and made a complete ass out of myself.

Jude. I tried not to think about him. I was still trying to get control of all of the feelings that I'd been having. The confusion, the fear. Thinking about Jude was just another complication, but when I did end up thinking about him, I could feel my cheeks heat at the memory.

How was I ever going to face him again? Why would I even consider facing him again? He must have seen me as some type of lunatic, barging in there and blaming all of my problems on him. And then I'd had the nerve to actually kiss him. I'd kissed him. I'm sure if there was a way to blame that on him too, I would. But, I just didn't have the energy anymore.

I did think about it, though. I was thinking about my actions on Friday night more and more. I was definitely embarrassed about it, but even more than that I was ashamed of myself as I started to remember details that I'd paid no attention to before, like the look on Jude's face when I'd practically accused him of corrupting me. The way that I felt annoyed when he didn't react more when I told him that Taylor kissed me. It was almost like I'd expected him to be jealous...wanted him to be jealous.

And I thought about the way that he pushed me away when I'd finally broken.

I can give you some numbers, I know some people you can talk to but I don't think it's a good idea for us to... that's what he'd said. Numbers? People I could talk to? Maybe he thought I was in need of psychiatric help. I guess he had reason to. He didn't think it was a good idea for us to...what, exactly? Oh, I knew what. He thought I was throwing myself at him with that kiss, and he was rejecting me.

Rejection. That hurt. It was ridiculous, I know. I mean, it wasn't like I wanted Jude. I was the one who rejected him first. So why did it bother me? I knew why it bothered me. It was because I'd gone to him for a reason the other night. Not a reason I was exactly willing to admit to, but still a reason.

There's nothing wrong with you.

Did Jude really believe that? Did I? I wish that I could. I kept asking myself that question over the next days, every time my eyes would wander over to a classmate, classmates of the same gender, and every time I listened to my friends talking about girls, a subject I didn't know how to contribute to.

I just didn't feel normal.

And people noticed the change in my mood, too. I'd made up with Brad, after a long discussion, trying to convince him that he wasn't responsible for me walking out during our double date, and another long conversation where I adamantly apologized to him because Becca wasn't talking to him because of the way I treated Elise. So, while Brad and I were on friendly terms again, he definitely noticed that I wasn't exactly myself. I didn't joke around with him as usual, I missed half of what he said because I was too busy being consumed by my own troubling thoughts.

Bree noticed too, but like Brad, she thought that it was because of my break up with Marissa, so she didn't make a habit out of pushing me to tell her what was wrong. And Marissa...she noticed, but she didn't treat me as delicately as the other two. She cornered me on Wednesday and informed me that if I didn't cheer up people were going to assume that I was miserable because of her.

I guess I didn't put on a happy enough face because by Thursday afternoon, Marissa had not only made our break up public, but she informed everyone that she was the one who broke up with me, and despite Bree's threats, Elise chose the same day to mention that we'd gone out on Friday so the word was spread pretty quickly that Marissa had broken up with me because I cheated on her.

I didn't try to correct it, even when Marissa stopped talking to me. I didn't really give a damn anymore, anyways. Actually, there seemed to be a lot of things that I didn't care about. I failed three tests during the week and I simply didn't turn in my homework-even when I actually bothered to do it, so that got my teachers worried about me. One even called my house, leaving a message for my mom, but I was able to erase it before mom or Bree heard it.

During the weekend I became a recluse again, taking my pills and sleeping through it. Bree finally confronted me on Sunday morning when she spilled a glass of milk on the floor during breakfast and didn't clean it up for thirty minutes with no complaints from me whatsoever. I shrugged her off and went back to bed.

The next week, I became even more of an outsider. I didn't only avoid Bree at home, but I started avoiding my friends at school, too. I floated through the halls, lost in whatever dark cloud that seemed to have descended on me, not even stopping to acknowledge those who had bothered to say hello to me. During lunch I avoided my table. I'm sure everyone believed that it was because of Marissa and her new boyfriend, but I didn't care what they thought, as long as they left me alone. I started leaving campus for lunch and half way through the week I ended up going home, where I'd drown a few more sleeping pills and forget about school altogether.

All the while I was asking myself the same questions, what's wrong with me? Why am I like this? There didn't seem to be any answers, and worse, the dreams were becoming more frequent, even with the pills, and I no longer knew how to handle any of it.

Other than me, spiraling into a confusing depression of questions and denial, nothing interesting really happened until the third Monday while I waited for Bree after school. I wasn't driving Marissa anymore, she'd taken to riding with her new boyfriend. But I was still waiting for Bree every day, even if I had to set my alarm and wake up from one of my `naps' to come get her.

Monday was one of those days. I'd gone home during lunch and now I was back, groggy with rumpled hair, waiting on my sister, who was late. It really wasn't like Bree to be late, at least not when she was meeting me. For a few minutes I entertained the idea of tracking her down, but that proved to be unnecessary as I finally spotted her walking towards the car...along with the reason why she was late.

I had one of those moments, where I had to close my eyes and actually look twice to make sure I was seeing things right. My palms got sweaty, I could feel my pulse in my ears, and as my nerves seemed to twist into knots throughout my entire body I had to resist the urge to throw up.

Jude looked good. I guess I was beginning to learn that he always looked good, but now I had reached a point where I could actually admit it to myself. He was in street clothes today, obviously not on his way to work. I wondered why he was there. Trina wasn't with him...he wasn't at the tracks...he wasn't there to give me my money back. What now?

I felt a faint chill crawl up my back, vaguely remembering the last time I saw him, that friendly, comforting gesture he made, wrapping his arms around me from behind, lulling me into a sense of security. For those few moments it had felt safe. Not now, though. Now, I felt cornered. Completely trapped. Terrified. Horrified. I remembered what had happened before that small gesture of comfort he'd given me, the things I said to him...the way he rejected me. God, I couldn't face him.

He was getting closer. Bree was talking to him, a smile plastered on her face. Jude smiled every now and then, acknowledging that he was listening. It was one of his many smiles, still putting those damned butterflies in my stomach. And then he looked up. His happy expression faltered for a moment when he saw me, but all I saw was a moment of it before I had to turn my eyes away from him, desperately looking for an escape.

The car. It was the only place I had to go so I got in and fastened my seatbelt, wondering how pissed Bree would be if I drove away without her. I was tempted. I didn't like feeling trapped, but I was, so I sat there, hands on the steering wheel, holding tightly until my knuckles turned white. I stared straight ahead, hoping that he'd go away, if I just restrained myself from looking at him.

But I couldn't help it, I turned my head and allowed myself to look, mildly snapping out of my depression long enough to feel that surge of curiosity, perhaps even paranoia. Why was here? It wasn't just to see my sister, although I'm sure that the smile on her face suggested that Bree hoped that was the reason why he was there.

But no, the way he looked towards the car, through the window, directly at me with that soft smile, those damned blue eyes of his directly on me as he gave the slightest of nods...he came to see me. It was all there, on his face. Maybe I was presumptuous, after all, he could have been there to see Trina, that would be the logical explanation. Why would he want to see me, anyways? He was the one who made it clear that he didn't want to be around me, and I couldn't really blame him.

Maybe he was just being polite, walking with Bree. She'd probably ambushed him. But... the way he was looking at me, almost curiously, suggested something else. Maybe he was there because he wanted to see me again.

Even after the last few weeks of constantly hating myself, questioning myself, thinking about Jude and how utterly toxic life seemed to be around him...there was still something there, hope maybe, the idea of him being there to see me, made me feel hopeful.

What I was hoping for though, I had no idea. Maybe just the idea of him being there, close to me, wanting to see me, gave me hope that he still believed what he said. There's nothing wrong with me.

I went back to staring out the front of the car, my emotions twisted, unsure if I wanted to speak to Jude or not. I stayed that way as my sister walked around the car, glancing at me through the window with an annoyed look on her face. I wondered if Jude had already walked away, and I had to fight, not to look.

The sudden tap on my window made me jump, but instead of looking in the direction of the noise I looked towards the passenger door, where Bree was waiting with her hand on the handle, as if she was about to get in.

The tap came again and I took in a breath, trying to compose myself as I ran a hand through my tussled hair. I forced myself to keep a straight face as I turned my head and looked up at Jude through the window, half his mouth curled up into an amused smirk as he signaled for me to roll it down.

He had that cocky look again. It was what I once thought of as confidence. Now, It seemed like arrogance, and despite my mixed feelings towards him, it annoyed the crap out of me. I held onto that. Being annoyed or even pissed off at him seemed so much easier than dealing with my feelings. I almost flipped him off, too, because of that annoyance, but instead I found myself pushing the button and watching as the window rolled down.

"What's up?" I asked quietly, trying to look completely bored as I avoided his eyes.

"Hi Quinn." Was all he said in response. His voice seemed softer than usual, probably because my sister was in such close proximity to us, but it caused me to look up at him, and the concerned expression I was met with annoyed me even more. It was a look of pity, and pity, was not something I wanted or needed from Jude. It was like he was mocking me...mocking me because he knew...he knew I'd been torturing myself.

"What do you want?" I asked coldly, looking away and gripping the steering wheel to stop my shaking hands, but I was forced to look again as he leaned down and looked through the window, placing us much too close together for comfort.

"How are you?" he asked.

What an odd question. I almost wanted to laugh out loud, but instead I just raised an eyebrow at him.


"You're sister said you've been...down."

"Well she doesn't know what the fuck she's talking about." I snapped, but kept my voice low enough to keep Bree from hearing. Jude didn't so much as flinch at my tone, or my glare, but he did frown.

Jude looked like he was going to say something then, but Bree chose that moment to get in the car and my attention was momentarily turned to her.

"Hey," she said, almost cautiously. "Did you leave school again today?"

I shrugged her question off and turned my glare back to Jude, only to find that his frown had reached his eyes and he was regarding me with a thoughtful expression.

"What?" I frowned at him.

"Look," he sighed, throwing a glance round me at Bree, obviously not wanting to say to much in front of her. And honestly, I was grateful for that. "Let me give you my number. I think you need to talk, Quinn..."

"No thanks." I said flatly.

"You're being stubborn." Jude narrowed his eyes on me. I didn't care for it. "Look, I know what you're going through and from the looks of it, you're not handling it well." He said that last part quietly, and I could tell that my sister was straining to hear, it made me nervous. "Just take my number. Please, if you need to talk..."

"You made it perfectly clear that you wanted me to stay away from you." I suddenly hissed, surprised at how angry I actually sounded. " And don't worry Jude, I plan to do just that."

"Wait..." Jude insisted, truly sounding worried now.

"Quinn!" Bree scolded me as I suddenly shifted the car into drive and Jude was forced to step back as I drove away.

"Just shut up." I snapped at her.

"Hey! Don't talk to me like that! What the hell is wrong with you?"

"Me?" I demanded, letting all of my anger out on her. "You promised Bree! I asked you just this once, to stay away from him!"

"He came up to me!" she defensively argued. "What is your deal with Jude anyways? He was being nice to you, Quinn!"

"You shouldn't have talked to him about me!" I snapped.

"Why not?" she demanded. "You've been walking around like a zombie for over two weeks now, Quinn! You're not eating, you're avoiding people like Brad, and me. You're cutting school, and your job keeps calling to say if you don't show up one of these days you're fired! I know you're having a hard time at school with Marissa seeing someone else, but look at you, Quinn! You're a mess...and you're scaring me!"

"I'm fine." Was all I had to say in response.

"You're not fine, Quinn!" Bree argued. I could hear the emotion in her voice, and the fact that she seemed that worried about me was unsettling, but I tried to shake it off. I already had enough bothering me, like my heart still pounding after seeing Jude.

"You shouldn't have talked to him, Bree." I shook my head.

"Jude? Damn it, Quinn! I told you, he found me. And it wouldn't have killed you to be civil to him, you were the one he was asking about! The first thing he wanted to know was how you were doing! Any idea why he seemed worried about you, Quinn?"

"Haven't got a clue." I replied gruffly.

"Look," Bree said, her voice was lower now, but she was still obviously upset. I didn't care, I was upset too. "I don't know why you won't talk to me, but I'm worried about you. If you don't start acting normal again really soon, I'm gonna call mom and tell her what's been going on."

Bree's words stopped my thoughts in their tracks, and only one thing she said really got to me. The fact that she was threatening to get my mother involved didn't really bother me. Actually, it pretty much escaped my attention all together.

Normal. I wasn't acting normal. Then how was I acting? Different? That's because I was different. Something over the last few weeks had changed. Yeah, I was depressed, I could see that. I wasn't acting like myself, either. Bree had plenty of reason to make that kind of accusation. But, more than that, I wasn't myself. I was different, and as she put it, I wasn't normal.

The realization was like a bad taste, and I had to struggle not to choke on it as we continued the drive home in silence, but once we were there I didn't even wait for Bree before I ran inside, rushing upstairs to my room.

I could hear my sister calling after me again. I guess she wasn't finished talking, but I was. I slid the board in place, locking my door and as I reached the top of the stairs I looked around my room. It seemed the same, everything in place. Only...I was different.

My eyes fell on my bottom desk drawer and I approached it slowly. It seemed like an eternity between the time I entered my room and the time I opened the drawer and lifted out my charred journal. I opened it up, to the most recent entry as I sat back on my bed, and I was vaguely aware of the one picture falling from the pages. I reached for it absently, knowing what image was there as I ran my fingers over the smooth surface of the photograph. Kissing Jude. I didn't have to look at the picture to see the image in my head, or to remember what it felt like, having his mouth over mine.

My eyes were too busy to look anyways, as they traveled down the page in my journal, settling on the last few words.

Change it? This is wrong. There shouldn't be a problem to change in the first place. If there were, then that would mean that I could be...Jude could be right.

I'm ga...

I swallowed hard as I reached for the pen, and with a shaking hand I brought it down on the paper and added one little letter that seemed to have the ability to change my whole life.


I dropped the pen and looked down at the page again.

I'm gay.

That's how I wasn't normal anymore. Those words had just been a self made argument before. Their relevance, something I'd refused to face. But now...

I'm gay.

The second I stopped denying it to myself everything felt different. Relief. I felt relief. I felt the weight of what had seemed like such a huge burden lift off my shoulders. But, I felt something else too. Fear. I was terrified. Because now, I was different. I felt different. I was gay. I was one of those people. And I couldn't go back. I felt like Quinn Moore, was no more.

And God, I wished that I would have taken Jude's number.


Tuesday again. I was back in school, but I don't know why I even bothered. Bree wasn't speaking to me. She'd actually gone next door to get a ride from Brad. I could have slept in. Maybe I should have.

Everything around me felt surreal, like it was all moving slowly. People were looking at me strangely. Even old friends were giving me looks. Looks that said...I know you're different. Of course, it could have been my appearance. My shirt was wrinkled, and I was wearing the same jeans I'd been in the day before. Hadn't bothered with my hair, either. It was just a curly mess on my head. I was different, so why not look different?

And I was alone. In a few, short weeks, I'd managed to isolate myself from everyone who was supposed to be important to me. Well, maybe not everyone. When I opened my locker a little folded note fell out and I already knew who it was from as I reached down to lift it, slowly unfolding it, and I stared down at my sister's hand righting.

Quinn, meet me at home for lunch. I miss you.


She missed me? Huh. Missed me. But, who? The old me, the fake me? She doesn't even know me, I thought bitterly. I shook my head, feeling lost as I shoved the note back in my locker.

The tap on my shoulder startled me, but as I took in a breath, inhaling the faint scent of perfume, I didn't have to look to know who was there. I took a moment, before I put on an impassive face and turned around to face my ex girlfriend.

"Hey Mar." I said softly, wondering what she wanted, but not really caring.

Marissa was looking at me like I'd somehow sprouted an engorged penis on my head as she looked me up and down, obviously appalled.

"Christ, Quinn. What happened to you?" she remarked.

I frowned at her, and the disgusted face she was making. Why the hell should I care what she thinks anymore?

"Don't worry, Mar," I retorted, "you don't have to be seen with me anymore. So, why don't you go away, make someone else's life miserable until you should decide the world should revolve around you again."

"What is that supposed to mean?" she demanded, trying to edge her way in front of me as I turned back to my locker.

"Oh, I don't know." I said calmly. "Maybe it means, go away. Besides, you don't want anyone to start more rumors about you, right? I'm sure being seen with the guy who cheated on you could start a few."

"Hey! I never told anyone you cheated on me." Marissa hissed. "That was all Elise."

"Right," I replied, annoyed. "And I'm sure you weren't the one who told everyone Trina Ashpock was a lesbian, either. No wonder she hates you."

"Hey, you know what Trina did to me..."

"And you probably deserved every second of it." I cut her off, suddenly turning on her. I wasn't sure where this anger came from, but it was there. "Stop whining Marissa. The rumors people start about you are no worse than the one's you start, if you want someone to feel sorry for you then don't expect it to be me. Just, piss off!"

"What is wrong with you? I'm just..."

"You're just...what, Marissa?" I snapped, not realizing that I was raising my voice enough now to draw a crowd. Marissa, noticed though, and she looked shocked. "Enlighten me! Tell me what you're doing, what you're thinking, what you want! Actually, don't tell me, because I don't care!"

"I..." she started again, but I didn't let her get very far.

"Just shut up, Marissa! Shut up, and go away! Aren't you listening? I don't give a fuck! Maybe when you get your head out of your ass and figure out that the world doesn't revolve around you, we can talk again, but until then, fuck the hell off!"

"Hey!" I was surprised when my so called best friend suddenly appeared between me and Marissa and Brad actually gave my shoulder a shove. I hadn't noticed him, with the rest of the crowd, but I noticed him now, and he was definitely pissed. Actually, I'd never seen Brad look quite so pissed before and it shocked me into silence before I shook it off and remembered that I didn't care anymore. "You're out of line." He stated.

"Whatever." I shrugged, and once again turned back to my locker, but his rough hand on my shoulder, forcing me to turn and face him, stopped me.

"What the hell's wrong with you?" he demanded, shoving me against the locker. "Stop acting like a fucking faggot and talk to me!"


It was like something in me breaking. That word. Hearing it from him.

The next few moments were a blur, but I was fully aware of my fist colliding with my best friend's face, and the shock on everyone's faces, including Brad's as he stared up from the floor, looking at me in disbelief as he held his bloody lip.



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