We lay there on the bed; me having made a revelation and Jake slack-jawed in front of me. Jake began to giggle and then shake his head at me before looking into my eyes.
"That was good. You almost got me."
He didn't believe me! I looked back at him as if he had three heads. Was he nuts?
"You don't believe me?" I asked.
"Of course not, but you set it up really well. You had me going for a minute there." Jake chuckled. I could have strangled him. Did he have no idea how much effort my admission took? I mean, yeah, it was spur of the moment, but I decided to stick to my guns! I'd be goddamned if he was going to laugh this off!
"Jake, I'm not kidding," I replied.
"Sure you are -- you're fucking with me," he replied. Not yet, I'm not I thought to myself.
"Jake, I'm gay." I intended it to be a strong statement. Instead, it came out more like a whisper. If you weren't listening, you wouldn't have heard it. Jake was just a few feet away and still seemed not to hear it.
"That was good. I have to give you credit there," he chuckled again while sitting up. I was in shock. Of all the potential responses to my coming out, this was one I certainly never had thought of. Could it be Jake was ignoring me for a reason? Maybe he hadn't approved of his uncle's coming out?
"Jake," I whispered and then cleared my throat to be heard better. "Jake. I'm serious. I'm gay."
Jake looked at me, frozen halfway across the room. He appeared to be deep in thought, brow furrowed and he was biting his lower lip. His head tilted a little bit to one side, not unlike a dog that hears something strange. His eyes stayed locked to mine, and I tried to keep a serious expression on my face. I have to tell you though, with that look of concentration on his face, it wasn't easy. I felt as though a bout of hysterical laughter bubbled just under the surface, if nothing else but to break the silence.
I was losing my nerve at this stage of the game, and if something didn't break my way soon I wasn't exactly sure what I'd do besides panic. Especially since he was still studying me, maybe looking for the joke but the longer he waited, the longer he realized it was the truth. Maybe.
"You're gay," Jake said. It was a statement, not a question. I nodded anyway.
"Are you sure?" He asked, skepticism plain in his voice. "You don't look gay to me."
"What does gay look like?" I asked cautiously.
"Well ,like... I dunno. Not like you I guess." Jake continued to stand and look at me while still wearing that deep-in-thought look. His face brightened momentarily as his eyes met mine, "You like Bryan!"
"Yeah," I said. I was beginning to feel as though I were leading him by the nose, as if he were some grade-schooler. Why was he avoiding the issue?
"Does he know?" Jake asked. I decided I had had enough of this and was going to bite the bullet.
"Jake? I want you to listen carefully to me. Ok?" I said slowly for emphasis. He looked at me brightly and nodded. "I love Bryan, I really do. But, he loves someone else. And I've discovered that I love someone else too." I looked at him meaningfully and willed him to stop being silly and do something, anything!
"Kris, um, this is really weird," he started to giggle mindlessly. He never giggles, and he has never been mindless, at least not that I am aware of anyway.
"I know; I certainly didn't plan on it." I sat looking at him expectantly, and he returned my gaze.
"What?' he asked.
"Is that all you are going to say?" I asked.
"Well, to me, it sounds like you need to talk to Bryan," he said. He was still playing games, but why?
"Bryan is in love, and I helped him to go where he needed to," I replied. He was starting to frazzle my good humor.
"Oh," Jake said looking down at his feet. It dawned on me finally that Jake was uncomfortable with me. I guess he didn't want to acknowledge what I had said because then he'd have to deal with it. So which was worse, the potential beating for coming out, as appeared wouldn't happen, or the silent treatment?
"I guess I'd better go," I said as I stood up from his bed.
"Why?" he said with a look of utter confusion. "Don't you want to meet my uncle?"
"Maybe another time, Jake," I said softly, unable to meet his eyes. Probably never, I thought.
"But Kris, being gay isn't the end of the world. Why do you have to go? I don't understand!"
"Haven't you been listening to me?" I felt anger and frustration in me, even though he really didn't deserve my reaction. "I am in love with you, Jake Charbonneau! Your sweet nature, your kind looks, your willingness to listen ... God damn, why do you have to be you?" I let my voice crescendo, and waved my arms before dropping them uselessly at my side. I started to sniffle, which pissed me off, so, to spite me, my nose decided to sniffle some more.
Jake stood frozen. I guess he didn't know what to do or say. I left the room and went into the bathroom to wash my face and try to get myself together. I looked into the mirror and saw the same, small sad face that I've seen for all of the life that I can remember. Why did I tell him? Why should I have to be afraid to tell him? I mean, he asked for it, but I didn't have to stick with it. I could have left it as a joke.
A small knock came at the door and Jake pushed it open just a bit.
"I'll be fine," I replied feeling anything but.
"When you are ready, come back in my room, ok?" I didn't raise my head, but I managed a small nod. He hesitated and then withdrew. I laid my forehead on the cool mirror above the sink. What do I do now? I rinsed my face and dried it with the towel hung behind the door and walked back into Jake's room.
He sat on his bed, legs drawn up, his chin resting on his knees and a thoughtful look on his face. I sat on the floor on the opposite side of the room as his bed and leaned my back against the wall. He grimaced a bit, seemed to reach a decision, and then spoke.
"I left out a detail about going to see my uncle," he said slowly. I waited, unsure what this could mean to me. He sighed.
"My mom has known about him for a long time, so she ... she saw what was happening with me pretty early on. That's why I went to see him, so he could ... let me know it was okay."
I stared at him, unbelieving. His head remained down, stubbornly refusing to meet mine. I stood up and walked across the room, unsteady on my feet, and slid up next to him with my back against the wall, my shoulder against his. He shuddered as we came into contact and I forced myself to be still.
"You ok, Jake?" I asked softly.
"I'm scared," he sniffled. "I'm a big, fucking pansy."
"Why are you scared?"
"'Cause I always just looked. I never could actually say much to anyone. Bryan knows and Jess knows, but they are different. I wasn't ... I didn't ... oh god..."
"Jake, I'm not sure what the problem is," I said. Whatever was to come afterward was lost as Jake turned on me like a panicked animal and, before I could register anything, pressed his lips to mine! He pulled away so fast, keeping his scared-rabbit act going, sat with his back straight against the wall and breathing as if he'd run a marathon. I leaned against his shoulder with a smile on my face, everything clicking into place for me. All the half-finished sentences, the conversation Bryan tried to have with me the other day, the cryptic comments from Jess-- they all led back to Jake.
You know, in movies when that first kiss happens it's always in slow motion, maybe with a gauze filter to make everything glow. It's slow and sensual and rife with meaning, surely the first of many. This was definitely not a movie kiss.
Jake was a ball of nerves next to me, and it wasn't lost on me that he was going crazy while I was actually holding my shit together. Who'd have thought that? Me, the scared worthless piece of monkey-crap, actually being calm and rational while the guy I had grown to love was wracked like a nervous suitor meeting his betrothed's parents for the first time.
"Jacob?" I asked with more authority. He slowly turned to look at me. His eyes were fearful, his face quivering. Why was this beautiful guy so messed up about this, and I was all together?
"Jake," I said with as much tenderness as I could bring into my voice, "Kiss me again, and please ... take your time."
Some of the fear left his eyes as he leaned in. It was heaven to watch him getting closer. My nerves hummed as his skin met mine; my heart felt as if it would stop beating and my breath failed to come to me. I lost myself in his touch. The only thing that mattered was the gentle caress of his skin on mine. He pulled away slowly, a questioning look in his eyes and I smiled at him. He smiled back and pulled me in close, snuggling me to him on his bed.
I stood in the garage that evening, looking down at my car's engine. My coffee cup gripped loosely, Jake having just left. Such a strange and wonderful day!
His parents were a study in physical opposites, him tall and wide and her somewhat short and petite. He didn't look particularly pleased to be introduced, but she was bubbly and cheerful. His uncle was an average-looking fellow, cheerful and obviously having a soft spot for my Jake.
My Jake, now that's a thought I like a lot.
We had dinner at his mom's insistence, and Jake snuck off to talk with his uncle. I figured out real fast what that conversation was about. His uncle kept looking at me; kind of out of the corner of his eye, evaluating and measuring I'm sure.
"So Kris," his mom said with a bright smile. "Jake has told us so much about you! How is your car coming along?" I shot Jake a glance. How much is `so much' I wondered?
"Well, it's getting closer. My grandfather says just a little more time, but he has chores for me to do so I'm not getting in as much time on it as I used to. Jake's helped out a lot --and Bryan too."
"Oh, you and Bryan are friends too? He's nice, that cute little Bryan." I almost choked on my peas. Cute little Bryan? I glanced at Jake again who decided now was a good time to go get a refill on his drink. Who knew he was such a coward?
The talk was lively at the table though, jokes flying and `the alien' showing exactly why Jake called her that. She was insane, on sugar, speed and under dosed on Ritalin all at once, I'd swear to it. I kept squirming a bit under his Uncle Randy's glances while fending off his sister and wishing for some alone-time to talk to Jake about everything. I felt like there were things that I needed to say, wanted to tell him and only him. I knew if I ever got a boyfriend I'd have to meet the family, I just didn't expect it would be before our `relationship' was more than a few hours old.
At last it was time to go and that too was an experience. The alien was asleep; her batteries apparently do wear down eventually. His mom hugged me, his dad grunted and his uncle shook my hand with an approving smile. At least, I think it was approving.
Jake brought me home in his mom's car, but not a great deal was said. Jake was obviously nervous and I contented myself with his presence. I didn't even get a kiss goodnight because my grandfather was working with the garage door open. I was amazed that I was the one willing to risk it all to be with Jake, but he was bashful.
I was reflecting on this as I looked into the engine compartment, thinking how I could survive anything now, especially since I had been to rock bottom and been through so much, I could survive anything else now. But maybe I was thinking with my heart, and that is not always the wisest organ.
"How was your day?" Grandpa asked as he walked towards me with his ever-present coffee cup.
"Interesting, liberating, and terrifying all at once," I replied honestly.
"Sounds like love," he grunted.
"Yeah, I think it is. Did you feel that way with grandma when you first got together?" I asked.
"No, she had big tits and the collective IQ of Dubya and his daddy. Or a jar of mayonnaise, take your pick. Unfortunately, if you looked at her cock-eyed she got pregnant."
I stared with my mouth open as though unhinged.
"Of course, things were different then. You knocked up a girl, her father and brothers knocked the holy hell out of you and then you married her. Not exactly the recipe for a happy marriage."
"So you never loved grandma?"
"Love is a hard word to define. I cared. I did the best I could to provide for her and be there, but your grandmother herself wasn't exactly interested in me past a drunken one-nighter. So we struggled to get by. But I was at work and she was home, so there wasn't much to build on." He shrugged his shoulders and leaned on the bumper of my car.
"I never realized," I said quietly.
"Why should you? Ancient history and not even your own history," He fell silent and I brooded about this information before he broke the silence. "So how did Jake take it?"
"What?" I asked in shock. I hadn't said anything to him, how did he know? How could he know? What did he know?
"You agreed with me it was love, you were with Jake, ergo you're in love with Jake. How'd he take it?"
"Um, pretty good," I said. I knew my cheeks were burning, but I met my grandfather's eyes.
"Good, you deserve some happiness. Plenty of it, and he's a good guy."
We stood in silence, I brooding on this anti-climactic coming-out and my grandfather's unreadable face.
"Starter solenoid's busted," My grandfather said suddenly.
"Busted?" I parroted dumbly.
"Yeah, some lazy asshole took the heat shield off, probably to service the starter or tranny. He decided it was too much trouble to put back on, so the heat off the exhaust fried the windings. See, the copper wire inside got heated up and cooled so much that it got brittle and cracked, so it makes for an intermittent no-start, especially in cold weather."
"You tried to start it?" I asked excitedly.
"No, I just tested the starter. So I ordered a new one, but it's a little pricey. You may want to work some around here to help pay for it." He looked at me over the rim of his glasses.
"You'd trust me to work on a car?" I asked.
"No, not yet, but you can strip the junkers easily enough. You can help out with oil changes and tune-ups so I can concentrate on the real gumption traps."
"Ok," I nodded, "I can do that."
"Jake can come help you, if you want," he said with a crafty smirk as he walked away. I idly wondered how many backseats grandpa had out back.
Monday dawned bright and early, which didn't bother me as it normally would due to my new status with Jake. I showered and dressed, humming and smiling the whole way. I grabbed a cup of coffee from the pot before noting the time on the kitchen wall clock. Six twenty-two was just a bit early for Bryan to be picking me up. I sat at the kitchen table, sipping my coffee and smiling to myself--and looking forward to seeing Jake.
Bryan walked in at seven fifteen and grabbed a cup of coffee, joining me at the kitchen table.
"So, what's new?" he asked while sipping his own brew. His face didn't adequately hide a small grin; he'd be a lousy poker player.
"Bryan," I intoned dryly, "why do you ask questions that you already know the answer to?"
"Because I want to hear your side of the story." He laughed at me and I grinned foolishly at him.
"Well, I'm not one to kiss and tell," I responded primly. I wonder what Bryan's reaction would be if he knew he was first in line, once upon a time?
"You kissed him? Eww!" he laughed and scrunched his face.
"He's a good kisser!" I defended Jake.
"Whatever man, as long as you guys are happy!" Bryan shook his head.
"Bryan, he said you taught him all he knows!"
"He said what?" Bryan looked at me dumbfounded. Finally, the short person gets a little of his own back!
"That way he has of working his tongue and practically sucking my own tongue out of my mouth? He said you showed him then let him practice on you!" I said in wide-eyed honesty. At least, I hoped it looked like wide-eyed honesty.
"I'll kill him! I have never, ever kissed...Oh, very funny, laugh while you can small fry!" Bryan smirked while I surrendered to my giggles. I guess that also answers how Bryan would react to my sexuality. Deep down, I wasn't surprised; his nature was one of the many things I loved about him.
"So, did Jake call you this morning?" I asked.
"No, he woke my ass up after he dropped you off last night. I told him he should have talked to you a long time ago, but he never listens to me. I mean, we do live in red-neck country and telling someone something like that is pretty dangerous, most of the time. But I tried to tell him you weren't like that. I did! I swear I was totally on your side. Jake was so nervous, even though he played it so cool. I'm glad he's finally happy, or at least has given himself the chance to be happy."
"So, you ... knew about me?"
"I'm not an expert, but I had an idea," he said. I looked at him with a questioning expression and he leaned back in his chair, running a hand through his hair.
"Jake came out to me a long time ago, and I didn't take it real well at first. I talked to my Aunt El, even though Jake begged me not to tell anyone. She's a pretty straightforward person, and she told me I was wrong to judge Jake. She told me how tremendously tough it must be to live with that secret in a place like this, and how much he must trust me to tell me such a thing. She really set me straight on that whole thing, and I went over to talk to Jake after I thought about it for a little while."
"I guess that explains why he was so upset about coming out to me."
"Yeah, but to add to it, he liked you so that made it double tough. I was just his best friend, not someone he wanted to date. I realize now more than ever how tough it was for him."
"I wonder how Jess ever got the idea you were someone other than the amazing person you are?" I asked him. His cheeks flushed.
"Don't get sentimental on me, elf."
"Excuse me?" I narrowed my eyes.
"I think I have said all I need to say here, I never used to talk like this. Feelings, ugh!" he laughed as he gave a shiver to accent the point. Ok, the moment was over, but I realized that a part of me, a large part of me would love Bryan for a long time to come.
"C'mon, we'll be late for school."