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

Human contact. A warm body against yours. The smell of the individual. Their breath against your neck. The rise and fall of their chest, breathing against you. Arms, holding you close, so that you can almost hear their heartbeat if you listen close enough. What exactly is it about all of these things that are so comforting? A simple hug has the possibility to speak volumes, or even a gesture as mediocre as a soft touch on the shoulder. It can mean so much, especially when you feel so alone. It occurred to me, as Jude pulled me towards his chest, that I didn't hug very often.

I hugged a lot when I was a child. My mom worked a lot then too, but whenever she came home she'd hug me until I thought I'd break. And Bree, she hugged me a lot too. So did Brad's mom, because we were over at his place even more often than we were at our own home. I guess you could say that I didn't have a lot to complain about as far as my childhood went. I was loved, and there were plenty of people around to remind me of that, and to comfort me if I so much as scraped a knee.

But something happened, between then and now. I guess what happened was, I grew up, and there was no longer a need for that kind of comfort. Affection was still shown. It was usually me, placing a kiss on my mother or my sister's cheek. Or there were the small gestures we made, taking car of each other, just to show we cared. It wasn't a bad system that we had, not at all. But hugging, being held, that was the most comforting type of affection that perhaps, I had been missing. It was definitely something that I wasn't used to. And the way that Jude was offering this contact, this comfort...it was awkward.

But, the awkwardness could have had something to do with the company. Jude. The way that any contact with him sent an unfamiliar chill up my spine didn't help, either. Feeling his body tightly against mine as he pulled me even closer sparked feelings in me that I had trained myself to think of as wrong, so that also added a certain discomfort to the situation.

But I was trying, and Jude was going slow. His hands remained loosely on my back until I was able to relax somewhat, and then his arms tightened around me as I rested my head on his shoulder and slowly moved my arms around him, mimicking his actions.

And then I was hugging him. I closed my eyes, trying not to focus on anything other than the way he felt against me, and rather than feeling nervous, or afraid over the way that it felt. I found that at the moment, Jude was just something, someone, to cling to. I ran my hands up his back and dug my fingers into his shirt as I pulled him closer against me. I just wanted him close, and not just because he was Jude. I think I would have settled for anyone at the moment. I wanted to feel close to someone, I wanted to feel less alone.

Because I did feel alone. As ridiculous as it sounds, I felt like I was the only one in the world who'd ever been this lost before. I was the only one who ever went through an identity crisis. I was the only one who ever felt wrong because of desires and thoughts that were natural to me. And I was sick of feeling so damned alone. So I clung to Jude.

He didn't seem to mind, though. He moved his hand up to the back of my neck and held me to him, only prompting me to relax against him until I was certain that he was supporting the majority of my weight. I was comfortable, but self conscious at the same time, wondering how long a moment like this was supposed to last, wondering what was appropriate, if any of this was appropriate at all.

"I don't know if I'm doing this right." I didn't realize that I'd said that out loud until I heard Jude chuckle against my ear.

"You think too much, Quinn."

"Give me a break." I frowned. "This is all...new to me."

"Hugging?" Jude asked, pulling me a little closer.

"It's weird." I shrugged.

"What's weird about it?"

"We're just standing here." I pointed out, sounding annoyed but making no move to pull away from him.

"Do you want to sit down?"


"Do you want to dance?" Jude asked, and I could hear laughter in his voice again. "Or would that be too weird too?"

I knew he was joking, teasing me, but I took it upon myself to respond anyways. The pointless conversation was somehow putting me at ease, helping me gain control of my current thoughts and worries.

"Guys don't dance with other guys. That would be worse than just..."

"Standing here?"


Jude responded by sliding his hand from my back to my hip and I opened my eyes as he began to slowly rock with small steps. I pulled back, staring blankly at the small smile curling his lips. This definitely wasn't something I ever thought I'd be doing, dancing with another guy, letting him lead. But, I was...relaxed, instinctively leaning into him, letting him guide me.

I found myself wondering why I wasn't running away. Being so close to Jude and even feeling so comfortable around him was unnerving, and I wasn't sure what to think of it. But the bottom line was, even as frightening as this closeness, was to me, I was still comfortable, even when it occurred to me that he was so close that our noses were almost touching and I could feel his breath on my cheek.

"You promised not to kiss me anymore." I pointed out, finding it necessary.

"I'm not going to kiss you."

"Then what are you doing?"

"Distracting you from whatever's going on in that head of yours." Jude smiled, lifting his hand to brush a stray curl from my forehead.

A distraction. I suppose it was working. A few minutes ago I was about to have a nervous breakdown wondering what I was going to do about my friends and family, and oddly enough the least stressful thing that had been on my mind was that Jude had kissed me again. I mean, it obviously hadn't bothered me too much because now it seemed that I was actually dancing with him. Leaning on him. I was standing closer to him than I ever had to Marissa when she dragged me off to the school dances. But I think I liked it. This closeness, with Jude.

For the last few weeks it seemed like I was falling into a bottomless pit, and the deeper I fell, the harder it became to see my way out. Only, that bottomless pit had been my mind, and my fears, my uncertainties, my sheer denial, it had all been drowning me, pushing me deeper, and because it's impossible to escape yourself, I continued to fall. But standing there with Jude, it felt safe.

I never would have imagined that the one person who I'd been blaming for making my life a living hell for the past weeks would be the same person who could in a sense, stop me from falling, if only for a little while. I felt secure with him. It probably had everything to do with the fact that he knew what I was and he wasn't judging me for it. I'd made the largest admission of my life to Jude, just as I had to Mr. Johns, but Jude didn't turn it into something horrible. Jude didn't make me feel wrong.

There's nothing wrong with you. I wondered if I'd always here those words, whenever I doubted myself. I wondered if I'd ever truly believe them.

I felt myself momentarily stop breathing when he tilted his head and leaned even closer, until his mouth was so close to mine that I could practically feel his lips, despite his promise not to kiss me anymore. It also occurred to me then, that if he did kiss me, I wouldn't pull away. Not now, not while I was feeling so susceptible that any comfort he had to offer me, including a kiss would be gratefully accepted. But before his mouth could come over mine he turned his head and I closed my eyes, feeling his cheek lightly brush against mine as his hand moved to the back of my neck again and I gently lowered my head, resting my chin on his shoulder.

"How did you know?" I asked softly.

"What do you mean?"

"How did you know about me? How did you know that I was..."


"Gay." I said, sounding bitter. "You knew that first time we met. How?"

"I wasn't sure." he admitted. "But, it sort of became obvious. Didn't you feel it with me, even before you knew for sure?"

"Yes." I admitted. "But why did you...why did have to push me? All of those things you said...it was like you knew me. Why couldn't you have just...left it alone."

"So you could keep pretending?"

"Yes." I frowned.

"Do you blame me, Quinn? I mean, the other night when you came here..."

"I was angry." I admitted. "But I don't blame you because I'm...like this. Not really. But, before I met you..."

"Everything was fine?" he cut me off, sounding annoyed. I could feel him growing tense, but he didn't pull away.

"No, it wasn't." I said, and I felt him relax again somewhat. It was strange, how much I could feel this close to him. Body language was never something I'd paid attention to before, and now I found myself holding him tighter, trying to discover what he was thinking, what he was feeling as I spoke. "But before you came around, I thought that I could live with it. I just wanted to be normal."

"You could go back." he pointed out. "You could go back to pretending."

"No." I frowned, pulling back to look at him again. "I can't go back, Jude. That's what scares me."

I swallowed back another swell of oncoming emotions as I studied the look of pity on his face. Was I really that pitiful? The thought saddened me. When he lifted the back of his hand to wipe yet another tear away I suddenly became uncomfortable and almost lost it as I pushed his hand away and finally turned away from him.

"Hey," he said softly, walking around me and taking my wrists, and he pulled my hands away from my face and I was forced to look at him again. "Quinn, whether you know it or not, you are normal. At least as normal as someone trying to accept their sexuality can get. I mean, if you want to focus on something about you that's not normal we can talk about the impulsive cleaning habit you seem to have."

I glared at him for that remark. I would never see a problem with wanting things clean. Jude smiled at the look on my face, and that only made my scowl deepen as he placed his hands on my shoulders and pushed me backwards until the couch hit the back of my legs and I sat without much of a fight.

"I don't know what to do." I complained as he took a seat next to me. "I feel like...I feel like I need to go home. I need to make things right."

"What things?"

"What do you think?" I snapped. "I hit my best friend and now everyone thinks I've gone crazy!"

"I wouldn't say that." Jude replied. "I think they're just...worried about you. They're going to want to know what happened. What are you going to tell them?"

"I can't tell them the truth," I stated, turning towards him and feeling slightly panicked. "God, if anyone ever found out..."

"People can always surprise you, Quinn." He interrupted. "But, I'm not saying you should tell anyone anything right now. You haven't even accepted being gay yet, you're not ready to ask other people to accept you."

"Accept me?" I demanded. "Who the hell would accept me like this? You don't know my mom, Jude! She'd never understand! I couldn't even picture myself telling Bree and my best friend called me a faggot today without even knowing how true that statement was! How the hell do you think he'd react if he knew the truth?"

"I don't know." Jude replied. "I don't know how any of them will react, but neither do you, not until you talk to them."

"I can't do that! I can't talk to them!"

"You're right. You can't talk to them. At least not now. So stop thinking about that. We're not talking about them and how they'll deal with it, Quinn. We're talking about you and how you will. Now, what do you plan on telling them about what happened today if you can't tell them the truth?"

"How the fuck should I know?" I snapped.

Jude let out a breath. He was getting frustrated with me, and for some twisted reason I was happy about it. The calm I'd felt a few minutes ago seemed to be gone, and all of my fears had turned into frustration. I think I wanted to get it out; I wanted to fight with him so I could get it all out. But unfortunately for me, Jude had an uncanny ability to remain calm.

"I'm just trying to help, Quinn."

I groaned inwardly. Maybe he was trying to help but I didn't see how this conversation was helping. I had no idea how to handle my family or my friends. I had no idea what to tell them. It felt like the only thing I could really do was apologize. I just didn't think an apology would be enough. People would want an explanation; they'd expect one because this was me they were dealing with. Quinn didn't do unpredictable things, like hit his best friend and get suspended from school. He didn't raise his voice at girls. He didn't start fires in the back yard at three in the morning.

I dropped my head in my hands, wondering what was waiting for me at home. I jumped a little, when I felt Jude's hand on my shoulder and my cell phone started to ring at the same time. I could feel Jude leaning closer to me as I lifted the phone but I didn't shake him off. I actually leaned into him when I saw the number.

"Who is it?" he asked.

"My mom." I mumbled. I hadn't been aware that my mother even had my cell phone number. I guess that meant she got it from my sister. I started to answer the phone, wondering and dreading what my mom had to say to me, but Jude's hand suddenly came down over mine and I looked at him, surprised as he took my phone and turned it off. "What are you doing?" I demanded, but I think I sounded more relieved than upset.

"Are you ready to talk to her?" Jude asked, and I shook my head. "Then give yourself some time. Figure out what you're going to say and then go deal with everyone."

I took a deep breath and then took my phone back from it and stared at it for a minute.

"I have to go back." I stated. "I'll never know how to deal with this, but I do know that the longer I stay here the more trouble I'll be in...I have to go home and face this."


"I have to make things right." I insisted. "I don't know what I'm going to say but I have to apologize. I have to make it right, Jude. If I can't make it right then..."

"Look Trina, we've arrived just in time for Quinn's self pity party."

I inwardly cringed at the sound of Taylor's voice and glared back at the front door where he and Trina had somehow managed to enter undetected.

"Shut up Taylor." Jude said disapprovingly as I quickly stood up and moved away from him. "Quinn, wait a second..."

I ignored Jude and walked directly up to Taylor, holding out my hand.

"Keys." I demanded.

Taylor smirked at me as he dropped my car keys onto my opened palm.

"You'll be needing gas pretty soon." He announced. I just glared at him as I slid my keys into my pocket and reached for the front door.

"Quinn, wait." Jude called again, he was right behind me now.

"I'm calling my sister." I announced over my shoulder, and then promptly moved out the front door before Jude could say anything else.

It was cold in the hall, and I still didn't have any shoes on, but it didn't matter, I couldn't really feel anything because I was putting all of my energy into dialing my home number. Maybe I wasn't ready for this, but I knew that I needed to call Bree. I needed her to know that I really was okay, especially if she had my mom calling my cell phone. I wouldn't put it past either of them to call the police if they didn't hear from me soon, even if Jude did tell Bree that I was fine. I knew my sister. She'd want to hear it from me.

The line rang two times before Bree's voice came through so loudly that it made me jump.


"Yeah." I replied, but my throat suddenly seemed so dry that I had to swallow hard and try again. "Yeah."

"Damn it, Quinn!" My sister sounded like she was about to cry, and that only hit me as another emotional blow. "God, do you have any idea how worried I've been? I've been sick all day! What the hell are you doing?"

"Please stop screaming, Bree." I mumbled, holding my head as I leaned against the wall and then slid down until I was sitting next to Jude's door.


"Alright!" I snapped, feeling irritated. "I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean to make anyone worry."

"Are you kidding me?" she demanded. "You've been acting crazy for weeks! And you hit Brad! Brad, Quinn!"

"Do you think I don't know that? Christ, Bree, I'm sorry! Believe me, I'm sorry! I know what I did. I'm the one who can't take it back!"

"Then why did you do it?" Bree demanded. She sounded hurt. I knew she was hurt. Brad was like a second brother to her and the idea of Brad or I doing anything to hurt one another was simply incomprehensible to Bree.

"I don't know." I replied softly. "I wasn't thinking. It was a mistake, you know I would never..."

"But you did, Quinn! You hurt Brad, damn it, you even hurt Marissa and I... I don't get it, Quinn. Why won't you talk to me anymore? I don't know what's going on with you, but you have to stop this! We're supposed to stick together, and you've been ignoring me for over two weeks!"

"Bree, I didn't mean..." I let out a shaky breath and tried to think about what I wanted to say. Too bad I had no idea. I was starting to feel exhausted all over again. There was no excuse for the way I'd been acting, at least no excuse I could give. Just because I'd been able to admit I was gay over the last two days didn't mean that I was ready to announce it to the world, or to my sister, especially over the phone.

So I let my mind wander, hoping that it would wander right into something that I could tell her. But I could think of nothing, other than my apologies. And I was sorry. I was sorry that Bree was upset with me, I was sorry for shouting at Marissa, I was sorry for attacking Brad, I was sorry for disappointing everyone who was important to me. But somehow sorry didn't seem good enough, and the guilt was getting to me.

Once again I was at a loss of what to do or say, and it depressed me so badly that I nearly forgot that my sister was still on the line, waiting for me to say something...probably something that she could use to pardon me from all of my wrongdoings. But I had nothing. Zilch. Zip. Nada. Diddly-shit. Not a damn thing I could say, or that I was willing to say, that might excuse at least some of my actions. So I fell into a silence and became distracted, noting to myself that the hall floor could use a good vacuuming.

"Are you there?" Bree asked when I let the silence stretch too long.

"Yeah, sorry." I sighed. "Bree...can we talk about this later? When I get home?"

"Fine," was her short response, "when are you going to be home?"

That was a good question too. I knew I needed to get going, and soon. I just had to find my shoes first. I was dreading going home, though. I knew that as soon as I got there this conversation would be continuing with my sister, and probably a few other people. I'd be forced to deal with everything. And I'd have plenty of time to do it, too, considering that I wasn't allowed to return to school until Monday. I wondered what I was going to do with all that time, given my change in circumstances...meaning that everyone was pissed off and would probably be keeping a close eye on me.


"Yeah, I'm still here." I mumbled.

"When are you coming home?" Bree asked again.

"Soon, probably." I noticed that my voice had dropped into one of those monotones that seemed unappealing, even to me.

"Did you talk to mom?" she asked.

"No." I admitted. "She called, but...I didn't know what to say to her."

"Well you'd better think of something." Bree stated.

"How pissed off is she?" I asked.

"She's worried. No one's heard from you ever since you walked out of school like that! And by the way, you'll be happy to know that they've added another day to your suspension for walking out. Where the hell have you been, anyways? When I called..."

"Jude's." I admitted. "I'm at Jude's."

"Right, he answered your phone. You will be explaining that later too, won't you?" she demanded.

I opened my mouth to respond but stopped and let the phone drop from my ear when I heard the door to Jude's apartment opening. I wasn't really all that surprised when I saw Jude standing in the doorway watching me.

"Quinn are you there?" Bree demanded. She's risen her voice, because I could hear her through the phone, even with it lowered.

Jude frowned at the phone in my hand as he knelt down beside me.

"How's it going?" he asked.

"She's mad." I said simply, and Jude gave me a small smile.

"What did you tell her?"

"Nothing yet." I admitted. "I have to go home."

"You don't have to." Jude replied. "I mean, I don't want you to get into anymore trouble, Quinn, but if you can...well, you're welcome to stay for a while. Taylor and Trina will be leaving soon, so if you want to talk some more..."

"I can't." I cut him off, but not forcefully. "I really do have to go. Um...thanks, though." Before Jude could respond I brought the phone back to my ear.

"I'll be home soon, Bree." I announced, making it final, and then I hung up before my sister could respond.

"You're leaving then?" Jude asked, sounding disappointed as he placed a hand on my arm and helped me up.

"Yeah." I nodded. "I sort of need my shoes, though." And then I waited for a long moment while he silently studied me.

"Alright." He finally said.

Jude opened the door to his apartment and inside I could see Trina and Taylor laughing on the sofa. I really didn't want to go in there, and seeing Trina and Taylor, looking so at home inside of the small apartment suddenly caused reality to strike.

Trina and Taylor were Jude's friends.

They belonged here.

I didn't.

I belonged...I wasn't sure where I belonged. Yesterday I belonged on the other side of town with my family and my friends, all of who were pissed off at me right now. So I wasn't really sure I belonged. Now Jude was looking at me expectantly, holding the door open, but when I didn't move he let out a breath and went in without me.

As the door closed I leaned against the wall and closed my eyes. I was feeling lonely again. Truth be told, a big part of me didn't want to leave. Maybe I wasn't sure where I belonged right now, but the idea of going home seemed more frightening to me than staying with Jude, even with Taylor and Trina around.

When the door opened again Jude was there to present me with my shoes, and when I knelt down to put them on and glanced up at him he draped my jacket over my shoulders before he turned towards the wall with a pen and paper.

"I meant it before, Quinn." He said. "I know I can't force you, but you're going to need to talk, and if you do, you can come here, whenever you want." He stopped and handed me the paper as I stood up to face him, and I looked down at the seven digits written on it, taking note of how neat his handwriting was. "Or you can call. I'm usually at work most of the time but during the day I check my messages so if you call..." Jude abruptly stopped speaking when I tore the piece of paper with his number on it in half, and his annoyed glare over it turned into confusion when I took the pen from his hand and started writing on the second half of the paper. His confusion turned to surprise when I handed him my own phone number, and although I hid it, this time I did take a certain pleasure in surprising him as I watched him stare down at my phone number with a strange, bewildered expression on his face.

I shoved Jude's number into my pocket and started to silently walk past him, but paused long enough to hesitantly place my hand on his shoulder.

"Thank you." I wasn't sure what to say other than that, so I left it there before I quickly left his building to hunt down my car in the parking lot.


I pulled past my house slowly, taking note that all of the lights were on. That wasn't a surprise. Whenever Bree was home alone she had a habit of turning on every light in the house, and the porch light. It didn't matter that it was still mid afternoon, or that the sun was still shining. I never did question Bree about why she did this. I guess it was just one of those annoying habits of hers that I actually found endearing.

I sighed, wondering what I was going to say to my sister when I saw her. On the phone she had been clearly upset, and I hoped that by the time I got home she would be calm enough to accept my apology for my flawed behavior over the last few weeks. I was at least smart enough to know that if I got back on Bree's good side she would be a great help with dealing with my mother. If Bree told mom that I really was okay, then my mom would probably believe her, and hopefully overlook my recent flawed behavior.

But, dealing with Bree was going to have to wait. At the moment I had something else to do, and I wasn't necessarily looking forward to it as I turned the car and pulled alongside Brad's house.

Brad's car was parked in front of the garage, right next to his mom's mini van. But, the house was quiet, meaning that the kids were probably out at some after school activity or something. I was grateful for that at least. Brad's house could be quite a distracting place with his two little brothers around. I definitely didn't need to deal with them right now. To be honest, I didn't want to deal with anyone at the moment, but I owed Brad an apology, and I was determined to give it to him.

Unfortunately, when I knocked on the front door Brad wasn't the one who answered it. It was the five-foot-three, tiny woman, with short, black hair and a protruding belly, which made her appear entirely off balance. She looked somewhat surprised to see me, but as of yet, I couldn't tell if she was upset or not.

"Hi Mrs. Clair." I said quietly.

"Oh, just get in here, Quinn." She sighed and grabbed my arm, pulling me towards her for a tight hug. I had to bend my knees to reach her, and the hug seemed even more uncomfortable than when I had ended up dancing with Jude. But, the gesture did put me at ease and it relieved some of the knots in my stomach. She didn't hate me. That was a good thing. "You're a mess, sweetheart." She observed as she abruptly pushed me back and ruffled my already messy hair. "Come in."

I let out a breath and silently stepped inside. I'd always liked Brad's house. I liked the smell. It smelled like family, the mixed scents of different people. I don't think I could ever live there, though. With five people living there and another on the way it wasn't exactly orderly. It was clean, but cluttered.

"Is he here?" I asked Mrs. Clair as I passed her and headed straight for the kitchen. I knew my way around the Clair house as well as I knew the way around mine, and when I reached the kitchen there was a sink full of dishes, just like always, so I immediately went to work on them, wanting something to do with my hands.

"He's here, Quinn." Mrs. Clair replied as she leaned against the counter, holding her round belly. She looked uncomfortable so I pulled over a chair from the kitchen table for her, and after helping her sit down I continued with the dishes.

"Does he know I'm here?" I asked.

"Yes, he does." She sighed. "Quinn, Brad's awfully upset and he won't talk to me. Please tell me what happened. You know I talked to your mother and your sister. They're both worried sick about you."

"I know, I'm sorry." I frowned as I started to scrub a pan harder.

"Quinn, please just talk to me. You and Brad have never had a fight before...you hit him. I mean, what happened? Did he do something to upset you?"

"It's not Brad's fault." I said quickly, but I was unable to look at her while I said it, so I started to load the smaller dishes into the dishwasher. "He didn't do anything. It was me. I just...I've been dealing with some...personal issues lately and I...I'm so sorry. I just want to tell him that."

"Oh sweetie," Mrs. Clair said in that sympathetic motherly voice of hers as she attempted to push herself out of the chair. I had to abandon the dishes to help her. "I know you're sorry, Quinn. But Brad is really upset. He's just not ready to talk to you right now. You're going to have to give him some time."

Oh no. This wasn't working for me. I didn't want to wait. I needed to talk to Brad now. I needed to apologize. It didn't matter whether or not he accepted my apology. It didn't matter if he forgave me without a second thought, and it didn't matter if he told me to go to hell. I needed to see him. I needed to tell him that I was sorry. Waiting would kill me. I didn't want to wait. I didn't want to wonder what was going to happen. I needed to know now.

"Please, Mrs. Clair, if I could just talk to him..."

"I'm sorry, Quinn. Brad was pretty clear; he said he won't see you. But, I know my son. He'll come around. You're just going to have to give him some space for a while."

I stared at her for a minute, an argument on the tip of my tongue, but what kind of asshole would I be if I tried to argue with a pregnant woman? It wasn't her fault that Brad didn't want to talk to me, it was mine. I just hated that I would have to wait.

I silently turned away from Mrs. Clair long enough to start the dishwasher and when I turned back she was giving me a concerned look, but I ignored it.

"Sorry I bothered you." I said flatly, and then started to walk past her, only to have one of her small hands land on my arm to stop me.

"Quinn Moore! You know you're not a bother. Now come back here and talk to me! Look, I heard about you and Mar breaking up. I was sorry to hear it, Quinn. I know at your age that sort of thing can seem like the end of the world, but it's really not. If you're having girl problems then you know I'm here to talk, right?"

"I know." I nodded, but then said, "I have to go now."


"Please tell Brad that I said I'm sorry." It was all I could do for now.


Bree definitely had her interrogation face on. If my dad was still alive I'm sure he would have been proud, probably trying to talk her into joining the force. As far as I was concerned at the moment, that face annoyed the crap out of me as Bree handed me a cup of hot chocolate and took her seat next to me on the sofa. She was making me so uncomfortable with that face that I ended up staring into my mug instead of looking at her. No marshmallows. That was definitely a sign that she was mad at me.

"I can't tell you." I said after a long moment of silence. "I can't tell you what happened today because I don't really know."

"Quinn, you..."

"I know what I did and all I can say about it now is that I'm sorry." I interrupted. "I don't expect you to understand, but lately...I just haven't been myself. I'm feeling...stressed. It's no excuse, I know, but it's the only explanation I have for you right now."

There. That was something. I just hoped that Bree would accept my vague explanation and leave me alone. I guess I could wish.

"You don't expect for me to understand?" Bree frowned. "Did it ever occur to you that I might understand if you'd just talk to me?"


"Just, talk to me!" Bree insisted. "Quinn, you know me, you know I go crazy when you and me don't talk to each other. I just need you to tell me something. I need to know what's going on with you. Is it Marissa? I know it's sort of rotten at school with her right now. I mean, I can understand why you snapped at her today, the way that she's been flaunting her new boyfriend around and letting everyone think you cheated on her. It's not right. But with Brad..."

"Bree," I interrupted. "With Marissa...well, yeah, I'm annoyed with her, but it was still no excuse for tearing into her like I did. And Brad...I wasn't thinking when I hit him. It was wrong of me, and I tried to apologize but he won't even talk to me."

"And this surprises you?" Bree remarked.

"No, it doesn't." I frowned at her. "But apologizing to him is all I can do right now. I can't take any of it back so stop acting like you expect me to. I'm trying!"

"Okay. Sorry. It's just..."

"Look, Bree...just let me deal with Brad and even Marissa in my own way, okay? And...I'm sorry you feel like we haven't been talking."

"Well we haven't. You've been drifting, Quinn."

"I'm sorry. Like I told you before, I've just been...I haven't been myself."

"Then you'd better find yourself pretty damned quick." My sister stated. "I miss my brother...you can't shut me out, Quinn."

"I really am trying." I insisted.

"And I believe you." She nodded, and we both stared into our cups for a few minutes. I hated not knowing what to say to my sister. I could feel tension between us; tension that had never been there before and quite frankly, it scared me. It almost felt like I was losing her already. "I thought you hated Jude." She finally said. "I was sort of surprised when I called you and...he answered. What were you doing with him?"

"I just sort of ended up over there." I replied. "After I left school... I don't know, it happened, and we started talking..." I didn't want to bring up how Taylor and Trina had caught me and brought me over. If that happened I would be stuck explaining why I was with Trina Ashpock.

"But you told me to stay away from him because you couldn't stand him." Bree frowned.

"So, maybe I was wrong." I shrugged. "He's really...he's not that bad."

"And that means you guys are like...friends now?"

"Maybe." I shrugged.

I wasn't sure that I was comfortable with this line of questioning. Just because my opinion of Jude may have been slightly altered, didn't mean that I wanted Bree to have anything to do with him, for various reasons.

"Do you think he..." she started.

"I'm really tired." I interrupted before she could finish. I didn't want to know what she was going to ask me anyways. "And sort of hungry."

"Come on then." She sighed. "You can help me make dinner."

I nodded. It was always good to get Bree's mind on food, especially if she was cooking it. I spent the next few hours, letting her order me around until dinner was ready. And we talked too. What happened earlier in the day, was never mentioned, not even my behavior over the last few weeks. It was a nice change to just talk to my sister about stupid things; whether or not she should cut her hair, whether or not I should attempt to straighten mine.

The tension was still there. I could feel it, I'm sure Bree could feel it too. But, for a little while, things felt almost normal again.


My room. My sanctuary. It didn't seem the same anymore. Sure, everything was right where it was supposed to be. I checked. But something felt, different.

Me. it was definitely me. I was different. The last time I'd been in my room was this morning. But, this morning, I wasn't gay. Okay, I was, but I never would have admitted it...to two people. The first person, Mr. Johns, hadn't gone so well, I admit. But Jude...Jude understood me. For a moment I found myself wishing that I had taken him up on his offer to stay a while longer, whether or not Trina and Taylor were there. At least when I was with Jude I could be myself enough to try and figure out what I was supposed to do now, to figure out how my recent self admissions would change my life.

I needed a plan. That was just the way I was. I hated uncertainties. I hated not knowing what was going to happen next. Being gay had never been part of the plan before. I didn't know what it meant for me, or my future.

Jude's advice: take it one day at a time. It was a lousy plan. I needed to know now. I needed to know if I would be sharing my life with a man ten years from now instead of a woman. I needed to know how my family and my friends, if I had any left, would react to it. Unfortunately, Jude was right when he said that the only way to discover how they would react would be to tell them, and at the moment, that was out of the question. Maybe it would always be out of the question.

I guess maybe, when I was ready, I could try to tell Bree. I was still afraid that telling her would ruin the close relationship that I had with my sister, but it seemed like keeping it from her was already doing that. I felt like I'd lose either way, so I was at a loss. I had no idea how to proceed.

My mom was a different story. I could never tell her. Telling her was out of the question. It just couldn't happen. At least, not until I no longer lived with her. I wasn't exactly entertaining the idea that she would throw me out if she ever found out. But, I truly believed that she couldn't handle it, and I couldn't handle her not handling it. So, I wouldn't be telling her anytime soon.

But that left me...pretty damned lonely. I couldn't talk to my family. My two oldest friends were so pissed off at me that I probably couldn't talk to them even if I wanted to. So that left Jude.

Don't get me wrong. I was grateful that he had been there today. I was even grateful that Trina and Taylor had been there. But, while Jude was offering me friendship and I was accepting that offer, I didn't see him as a replacement for the friends that I seemed to be losing. And while I actually found myself wanting to be around Jude because he seemed safe while I was dealing with all of these self-discoveries, I was terrified of being alone with him.

Sure, Jude had promised to keep his lips to himself, but I didn't necessarily believe him, and even worse, I didn't know if I wanted him to. Well, I wanted him to. Logically I really did. I had enough to worry about without adding the stress of exploring my feelings...and attraction, to Jude. And there was an attraction, of the most unnatural kind.

I swear when I was around him I lost all ability to think straight. The fact that he kept touching me, even the small comforting gestures, didn't exactly help, either. Every time he had touched me like that today, I'd been fighting off the urge to cling to him, and I saw that as a bad thing, despite that, for a while, he really had made me feel...safe. Accepted. I guess I was afraid that the way that I wanted to lean on Jude when he offered me his friendship and reassurance had too much to do with my attraction towards him, and not enough to do with the friendship that he was offering.

I decided to lock my bedroom door again. I wasn't sure if I would be getting any visits from Bree or not, but if my mom happened to come home then it was guaranteed that she'd be barging in. I was definitely dreading seeing her. But for now, I didn't want to think about it. I didn't want to think about anything.

As I pulled off my clothes, slowly folding them and dropping them into the laundry basket, the bottle of pills on my desk caught my eye and I frowned to myself as my earlier thoughts came back to me. Would I really have taken them all? Sadly, I wasn't sure. When I was thinking it, I was just looking for an escape. It never occurred to me that the escape I was considering could have been a permanent one. And now, I actually found myself wondering if it would be a bad thing to take one of those pills just so I could sleep tonight, even after I'd come close to making a terrible mistake with them. Maybe I was more fucked up than even I thought I was.

After dropping my boxers into the hamper I bypassed my dresser, deciding not to bother with sleepwear. My door was locked, so I didn't see the point. I stopped at my desk, straitening my penholder, and then the pens in it...but my eyes were on that bottle. I really wanted to sleep tonight. I wanted to forget. I wanted to escape, just for a little while. But, I'd scared myself today. Wanting to escape had been a problem. The fact that all logical reasoning had left me... scared the hell out of me. So as I reached for the bottle I only let my fingers brush against the cap before I pulled my hand away and knelt down to pull open the bottom drawer, where I looked at my journal resting there.

I slid aside the pen I'd placed on top of it and flipped the book open without removing it from the drawer, letting my fingers flip through the pages until I felt what I was looking for and lifted it out. I looked at the surviving photograph, the one Jude and me, as I moved up to my bed and sat down.

That night, that first night when Jude kissed me, that's when this whole mess had started. But, it wasn't when my problem had started. My problem started long before then. That night just happened to be the night when I started to acknowledge it.

A problem. That's what being gay was to me. Problem. But now it was my problem. I'd acknowledged it. I was gay. There was no longer any question in my mind about that, at least. Now, the only question was, what do I do now?

I jumped when my cell phone rang, where I'd left it on my dresser. But, as soon as I realized what the chirping noise was, I couldn't help feeling just a little hopeful. Only a few people had the number, and I was hoping for Brad. Maybe he'd decided to hear me out. Maybe he'd changed his mind and was willing to talk to me.

I crossed the room and lifted the phone, pausing to look at the ID, expecting, hoping to see Brad's name there. But instead, it was just an unfamiliar number. I stared at it for a moment and then frowned. It was probably my mother calling from the hospital, instead of her cell phone. For a moment I thought about ignoring it, but instead I decided that I might as well get this conversation over with.

"Hello?" my voice sounded small and pathetic and I hated that.

"Quinn." It wasn't my mom's voice. It was smug. Arrogant. Familiar. Annoying, that smugness. "You made it home...are you tucking yourself into bed now? It's late."

"Jude, what do you want?" I think I came off coldly, but I couldn't help it. His call had surprised me, and up until I heard his voice I had actually forgotten about exchanging numbers with him only a few hours before. I was also suddenly very aware of my nakedness. I felt like I should at least be wearing something, even to just talk to him on the phone.

"I just wanted to see if you were alright." He replied, his voice becoming serious. "Are you?"

"Never better." I remarked.

"Alright." He sighed, obviously discouraged by my cold tone. "I'll let you get to bed...I just wanted to make sure you knew that I meant it before. If you ever just need to talk...well, anyway, maybe I'll see you later. Goodnight, Quinn."

"Jude, wait," I said quickly as I one handedly pulled on my boxers. "Look...I just...um...thanks."

Damn it. I sounded like an idiot.


And now there was a pause on the other end of the line. It was strange. I really wanted to go to bed and stop thinking about everything that had happened today, including Jude. But at the same time, I didn't want Jude to hang up. I guess if I really wanted to talk to him, I shouldn't have sounded so annoyed with him when I answered the phone in the first place.

"For everything." I added when he didn't say anything.

"So, are you alright?" he asked after another moment of silence.

"Yeah," I replied, although in many ways I was far from alright.

"Did you...go see your friend?"

"I tried. He doesn't exactly want anything to do with me, though. Not that I can blame him. I'm not...I'm not really used to screwing up like this...I don't know what to do."

I turned off the light and took the phone to my bed, burying myself under the covers, even if I was already warm enough, trying to feel the same security that I had when I was with Jude earlier.

"You'll figure it out Quinn, trust me."

He kept saying things like that. I could only hope that he was right.



"Why are you doing this?"

"What do you mean?"

"Why are you being so nice to me? I mean...it's not like...I haven't really been on my best behavior with you, you know?"

"You mean you've been a major asshole?" he remarked.

"Yeah, that." I admitted, actually cracking a smile at his matter-of-fact way of saying it.

"I already told you, Quinn. I like you."

"I know you said that...but I don't know if I can...I mean, you're not being nice to me because you expect me to...because I don't know if I can..." Damn it. I hated it when I tripped over my words.

"Hey," he interrupted me, thank god. "I told you I'd stop kissing you, didn't I? You're too paranoid, Quinn." He sounded offended, and for a second I felt bad. At least, until he continued, "I don't expect anything from you. Except the occasional blow job, of course, and if you're not any good at doing that then I suppose I could settle for bending you over and having my way with that tight ass of yours."

I knew that he was being sarcastic, but the images his words brought to mind had me swallowing hard as my mind concocted the possibilities. Maybe I could actually admit to myself that I was gay, but when it came to gay sex I was clueless, unless you counted my `nightmares.' Now, I found myself wondering if I would ever have sex with a guy, and I wondered what it would be like, who it would be with, how it would feel...

"Quinn?" Jude interrupted my thoughts and stopped my fingers from sliding into my boxers at the last second. "Quinn, it was a joke."

"I know that." I said quickly. "I uh..."

"Okay." Jude laughed. "So...what are you doing tomorrow?"

"I don't know. I talked to my sister some tonight...my mom's been trying to get a hold of me and sooner or later I'm going to have to explain to her what happened with Brad. I don't know...everything's sort of a mess right now."

"It really is going to be alright."

"You say that like you know for sure." I frowned.

"It's true." Jude insisted. "Sometimes...things get worse before they get better, right? Well, I figure that everything that gets worse has to get better eventually. It makes sense to me at least."

"What if it doesn't?"

"What if it does?" he retorted. "You really do think too much, Quinn. You've just got to...deal with it. And you can. And you will."

There was another long silence as I thought about that. I had to deal with it. Jude believed that I could. It meant something to me too, that he believed that. I only wished that I believed it. I closed my eyes, wishing that I could fall asleep with the phone against my ear, knowing he was there, that someone was there. But, I knew that the reality was, we'd be hanging up soon, and I'd be alone again, without Jude's more optimistic point of view.

"Jude?" I said softly. "Can you say it?"

I waited, wondering if he even knew what I was talking about, but it became obvious that he did the next time I heard his voice, and I was truly surprised by it.

"Quinn, there's nothing wrong with you."

I smiled to myself. Maybe I hadn't fully accepted those words, but they were definitely nice to hear.

"Goodnight, Jude."

"Sweet dreams."


"Quinn! Wake up!" it was muffled, but it was definitely Bree's voice, and Bree's fists pounding on my door. I pushed the pillow off of my head and glanced at the clock.

Six thirty in the morning.

That information was enough to elicit a groan from me as I rolled out of bed, stumbled over to my dresser, and pulled on a pair of sweat pants before I went to answer the door.


"What?" I snapped as I pulled the board back, opened the door and found my sister waiting impatiently on the other side.

"I'm going to school." She announced as she looked me over with a scrutinizing gaze.

"Yeah, well, if you recall...I'm not going." I stated. "I already left my car keys downstairs for you, so is there a reason why you're pounding on my door at six thirty in the morning?"

"Yes. Just because you can't go to school doesn't mean that you get to sleep in all day. You have an appointment at eleven."

"An appointment?" I asked incredulously.

"Yep. Mom wants to see you, so you'll need your car. I'll be riding with Brad today, so you don't need to worry about me."

"Brad?" I frowned, wondering if I would ever be riding with Brad anywhere again.

"Don't look so surprised, Quinn. Just because you were a jerk doesn't mean that Brad's not talking to me." my face fell at that. I knew that there was still tension between Bree and myself, and I knew that despite our civil behavior last night, she was still mad at me. But her words seemed unnecessary. It definitely hurt that she was actually rubbing my mistake in my face, and I think she realized it because her expression softened. "Look, I'm sorry. I'll work on Brad for you, alright? It'll be okay, Quinn."

"Yeah, thanks." I shrugged, although I hoped that Bree was right about Brad. "So, mom wants to see me?"

"She wanted to come home," Bree explained, "but she couldn't get away. She's pretty sure she'll be able to take a break around eleven. She wants you to meet her in the cafeteria."

"Did she mention how much trouble I was in?"

"Nope." Bree smiled. "But, she was upset about not being able to talk to you last night...you had already gone to bed when she called. I figured you'd want to sleep..."

"Thanks Bree." I replied, leaning down to kiss her forehead. "You'd better get to school before you're late. I think one troublemaker in the family is enough for now, don't you?"

"Okay." She smiled. "Bye trouble maker. I'll see you after school."

"We'll make cookies?" I called after her as she turned away from my door.

"Sure," she laughed, "we'll make cookies, but you get to clean up the kitchen when we're done."


I wished that I could have gone back to sleep after Bree woke me up. I tried to go back to sleep. But, as soon as I was alone in the house a small panic attack hit me. Actually, I think it was closer to an anxiety attack, but what it was didn't matter as the events of yesterday came back to haunt me and the uncertainty that the memories brought me.

I wondered what would happen with Brad, I wondered if he'd ever speak to me again. I even wondered about Marissa. It would probably be difficult to get her to even look in my direction after yesterday, or any of my other friends who had witnessed my little freak out at school. I wondered if I'd be shunned now, if everyone would hate me. I suppose it didn't matter. Even if I somehow managed to make things right again, all of those people would still end up hating me if they learned the truth, if they figured out that I was gay.

I am gay.

I am gay.

I am gay.

I am gay.

Thinking it was getting a little easier to do. Realizing the truth in those words, that was a different story. Sure, I'd probably known it was true for longer than I was willing to admit, but it still felt like a shock to come to the realization that it was true, that I was gay. Saying it out loud was even harder to do. I seemed to choke on that last word every time I said it.

Because being gay was wrong. It was disgusting and unnatural, and no normal person was gay. I thought about yesterday with Jude, letting him hold me like that, letting him kiss me. The thought that I might have wanted him to kiss me in a moment of desperation made me sick. I was disgusted with myself. I was disgusted with myself for being attracted to Jude. Another guy. He who has a penis. I was disgusted with myself for wanting comfort from him, knowing that he was attracted to me. I was disgusted with myself for being gay.

There's nothing wrong with you.

Those words. Jude's voice. They had become my second conscience, a second conscience that seemed to pop up so often that I was beginning to think of jiminy-cricket every time Jude's words interrupted one of my more disturbing thought processes.

"There's nothing wrong with you, Quinn." I said it out loud as I got out of bed. "There is nothing wrong with you. It's okay to be gay...okay to be gay."

I suddenly laughed out loud, that last sentence sounding funny to me. But the laughter ended just as abruptly as I took in a shaky breath and quickly wiped two tears falling from my face.

"It's not okay." I mumbled, and then decided that I should stop talking to myself like a lunatic.

I proceeded to do the things that normal people do in the mornings. I took a shower, I brushed my teeth, I got dressed and I waited for eleven o'clock to come around while I tried not to think about what my mother would say to me. But at the same time, I tried to think about what I would say to her. I wondered if I could tell her the same thing that I told Bree; I just hadn't been feeling like myself lately. I doubted such a vague explanation would work with mom, though. She'd want explanations. She'd want details. She'd want to know everything that led up to me hitting my best friend.

And I had way too much time to think about this, but I ended up with no new ideas when it came to how to handle my mother. By the time I was showered and dressed I still had three hours before I had to meet my mother. By that time, there was nothing I wanted more, than to just get my mind off of it, so I started a movie in the living room and made my way to the kitchen to pour a bowl of cereal. I had just taken the milk out of the refrigerator when the doorbell rang.

I didn't even try to figure out who it could be at this time of the morning, but I at least had the decency to look surprised when I opened the door to find Trina Ashpock standing on my front porch before I proceeded to stare at her for a full minute, trying to figure out whether or not I was imagining things.

"Are you going to invite me in?" she frowned. "It's cold out here."

I simply opened the door wider and watched stupidly as she stepped inside and looked around.

"You're wondering why I'm here." She said flatly, and I nodded. "Taylor's actually going to class today and I don't feel like it. Jude's working, so I can't hang out with him and that leaves you."

"But you don't even like me."

"Not the point." She shrugged. "Just try not to get on my nerves and we'll get along just fine."

I shook my head as I closed the front door and followed her as she showed herself into my house and looked around. She found the living room easily, and I think I was in awe as I watched Trina Ashpock make herself comfortable on my sofa.

"How did you know where I live?" I asked.

"Jude told me." she replied, and somehow that didn't surprise me.

"Did he send you?" I asked.

"What do you think?" she responded. "And does it really matter?"

I studied her for a long moment, still wondering why she was there. Trina hated my guts. Sure, it probably always had more to do with the fact that I was going out with her worst enemy, but it was still hard to believe that Trina would suddenly show up on my doorstep because Jude asked her to. And I'm sure he did. But why? Did he think I needed a babysitter? The thought was insulting. For a few minutes I wondered if I should throw her out of my house, tell her to leave me the hell alone. But, when I opened my mouth again, that isn't at all what I said.

"Do you want some cereal?"


I watched as Trina poured milk into each of our third bowls of cereal and then reached for her purse, removing a bag of skittles. I immediately opened my mouth to object as she poured half of the candy into my cheerios, but the challenging look she sent my way stopped me, and so I shrugged and lifted the bowl.

We were both sitting on my living room floor behind the coffee table with our backs against the sofa, and the odd thing was, we'd been there for quite a while now. The movie I'd put in earlier was almost over. Trina had appeared to be watching it, and I watched it too, not that I had paid attention. I was a little preoccupied with my houseguest, who I was becoming more comfortable with by the minute.

Trina Ashpock. Huh. Two and a half weeks ago I thought that she was just a testy bitch. Maybe she was still a bitch in my mind, but her presence was growing on me. I think it was the company, silent or not, that I was grateful for. Just Trina's being there was a good distraction from my self turmoil and kept me from thinking about the things that so easily depressed me.

"Can I ask you something?" I spoke up after picking around the candy Trina had poured into my cereal and taking a bite.

"Whatever, Moore." She shrugged. "But no promises that I'll answer."

"Did you hate me because of Marissa, or was it something about me specifically?"

"Both, I think." She answered without hesitating at all. "I've always hated Marissa, I didn't really think too much of you before you started dating her, though. I mean, you were her friend, so I automatically didn't like you, but then when you started dating her you just got annoying."


"Uh-huh. It was the way you followed her around like a puppy, doing everything she told you to. It was really annoying."

"I didn't..."

"Yes you did." Trina interrupted. "It was like you had no idea how to say no to her. There was even this little joke going on about you being Marissa's bitch."

I frowned at her. I didn't like hearing this, but I did ask. I just hadn't been expecting to find out I was a joke to everyone just because I had catered to my girlfriend. Then again, I guess if I thought about it, I never really did say no to Marissa.

"That's why everyone was so surprised when you went off on her yesterday." Trina continued. "It definitely didn't seem...like you."

"I guess I've been doing a lot of things that aren't like me lately." I replied. "Like, sitting here with you and letting you put skittles in my cereal-weird. Why did you come here?"

"Why not?"

"Because you wouldn't."

"Maybe." She admitted. "But I'm here anyways."

"Where are Jude's parents?" I asked suddenly. If Trina was going to be here then I might as well use the time to get some information. I smiled when I saw that the question took her off guard.

"Why don't you ask Jude that?"

"Because he's not here and you are." I pointed out. "Besides, you're the only family he's mentioned. I figured you could explain it to me."

"Jude's parents are losers." Trina said flatly. "If you want more information than that, you can ask him."

"So if his parents are so bad then why doesn't he live with you? You're family, right?"

Trina laughed out loud and shook her head.

"My parents are no better than his are." She shrugged. "Well, my mom isn't any better. I never knew my dad. I mean, come on Quinn, you've been to my house, do you really think it looks like a place where a normal, functioning family lives?"

"So you live there alone?" I asked incredulously.

"I wish." Trina shook her head. "No. My mom shows up sometimes to crash or to borrow money from Jude. She's just as fucked up as his parents. It's kind of like a family tradition. Everyone's a little fucked up and their goal is to fuck up their kids even worse...Jude's the exception, though. He's had his problems, but he won't turn out...like the rest of us."

"Did his parents throw him out because he's..."

"Hey, I told you," Trina cut me off, "If you want to know more you have to ask Jude. It's his story to tell...he'd tell you, though. He's not exactly shy."

"Yeah, I've noticed." I remarked, and Trina laughed.

"Oh come on. Stop complaining. Do you have any idea how many people, guys and girls alike, drool over Jude? It's sickening. Even I'm jealous of him. And he likes you. Why is seriously beyond me, but for some reason he does. I personally think he's wasting his time."

"Gee, thanks."

"Well it's true." She replied. "My cousin's a good guy. He deserves way better than what you can give him."

"You know we're just friends." I informed her. "Or... something like that."

"Whatever. The two of you are trouble waiting to happen."

"Then why did you bring me to Jude's yesterday? Why didn't you just let me go home?"

"Honestly? That was Taylor's idea. He's been watching you for weeks, waiting for you to snap. Personally, I didn't think it would happen. I guess Taylor was right though, huh? It was his idea to take you to Jude, too. I don't know why. I would have been happy just dropping your ass off in the nearest mental facility."

"Good to know I can count on you." I remarked.

"Like I said, it's a family trait to be fucked up. If you want someone you can count on..."

"Jude." I sighed.

"Yep." Trina nodded.

"I don't believe you."

"About Jude?" she frowned.

"No." I smiled. "About you. You're a bitch, Trina. And I say that because I'm pretty sure you take it as a compliment. But, you're not so fucked up. I've seen you with your friends...you're a good friend. Maybe you're not mine, but, if you were...I think I'd be lucky to have you."

I'm not sure why I was saying this stuff to Trina. Maybe it was because I really believed it, or maybe it was because I was actually grateful for her company and I wanted to say something nice to her. I fully expected her to tell me to shut up or to piss off or something, so that's why I was completely surprised when she actually smiled.

"Did I just get a compliment from Quinn Moore? What would Marissa Rixis think?"

"Marissa doesn't think." I remarked. "That's why she's under the impression that the world revolves around her." I think I was shocked at myself for saying that out loud. Sure, I'd thought it a thousand times, but I never would have said it. I don't know, maybe being around Trina was bringing out the bitch in me. And if I wanted to be honest...it felt good.

"Be careful, Moore," Trina smiled, "if you keep talking like that I might start liking you, and I'm not sure I want to ruin my reputation." She reached into her purse suddenly and I frowned at the pack of cigarettes. "Before you tell me not to smoke in your house, tell me where I can smoke. I need one after spending a whole morning with you."

"Backyard." I smiled at her, pointing in the direction. "Through the kitchen."

"Cool, thanks."

I watched as Trina made her way through my house, and I shook my head to myself. This was definitely a weird morning. But, I didn't really mind it. Trina Ashpock, the girl I had been terrified of since second grade, wasn't so bad.

While Trina was outside I got up, gathering our dirty dishes, the cereal, the milk. I brought the load to the kitchen and waved to Trina where she stood just outside the back door while I put everything away. I was dampening a rag to go wipe down the coffee table when the clock caught my eye and I had to look twice.


Eleven-fifteen? How the hell did that happen?

"Shit!" I cursed, dropping the rag as I moved towards the back door, sliding it open. "I have to leave." I stated. "Right now."

"Calm down Moore." Trina frowned disapprovingly.

"I can't. Seriously, Trina, I have to go! I was supposed to meet my mom at eleven o'clock and it's eleven fifteen now. If I don't meet her..."

"Alright!" Trina interrupted, dropping her cigarette and stepping on it. "Are you in trouble?"

"Definitely." I frowned as she followed me back through the house, and as she went to the living room to gather her things I went to the front door and pulled by jacket on, checking my pockets to make sure my keys and phone were where I'd placed them. "Sorry about this." I said to Trina as she reappeared with her jacket in hand. She seemed a little taken aback when I took the coat from her and held it up so she could put it on. "Can I give you a ride somewhere?"

"Aren't you already late?" she asked as she pushed her right arm into the sleeve and reached to open the door as I helped her get the rest of her coat on.

"I'm going down to the hospital." I explained, "pretty much everything's on the way, so if you need to get somewhere..."

"Ouch! Wait!" Trina growled as one of her earrings got caught on her jacket collar.

"Sorry, hold still." I insisted. I turned Trina towards me, and as I leaned closer to attempt to unhook the earring, she let go of the door and curled her fingers into my sweater when my clumsy fingers pulled at her ear and she winced. "I need more light." I complained, and oddly enough I got my wish a second later when the door fell open and I was able to free the earring. "There." I smiled proudly, dropping a hand on Trina's shoulder, but she was frowning.

I followed Trina's eyes to the door and froze when I saw two unexpected faces standing there. Brad looked confused, looking back and forth between Trina and I, but Marissa looked scandalized. It took me a minute to get passed the shock of seeing them there, but once I realized why they were both looking at me so strangely I quickly stepped away from Trina, as Marissa demanded, "What's going on here?"



Comments/Questions send to DomLuka@aol.com