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The Circle

Chapter 24

Saturday Morning: Partings

The basement was nearly silent, only the occasional snort or snore from Tom who was asleep in the overstuffed green chair. Everyone else had gone upstairs for breakfast pizza out of the microwave. Jeff and I were sitting on the couch together, cross-legged and facing each other, both leaning onto an arm over the back of the couch near the center, heads on hands. 

"When you jumped at me like that, that first day on the bus-"

"Tripped ! I tripped toward you. And I, uh, I sometimes thought about if I fell, on you, ya know?" I said, embarrassed, but loving it.

He grinned and blushed a bit more too, then continued, "Tripped, it was really like you were gonna do something. I just thought of the guy, you know, the guy I liked and told. He did something like that, like I said earlier. I just thought you'd heard about me. I thought he told, or you found out, and you, you knew. I thought I was gonna get my ass kicked. But that was for like a second. Then, it was like, like I knew it wasn't like that. Instead of this bully guy standing over me, it, it was, it was this cute guy who looked as worried as I bet I looked. I just felt, like, all googly."

"I worried you thought that. I was so scared I did. I mean, I saw you, and, it was like, just wow!" I was embarrassing myself, again, but still liking it. "You were so cute! Your hair came around after you turned your head, and it was all yellow and wavy and glossy and bouncy. Then I saw your eyes... man," I smiled and just stared, like that day. "I wanted to know you right then. I had to. And Tom, he goes and pulls that! And has you come over!"

"I know. Sometimes you gotta just know what you want, and go for it."

I nodded, knowing the phrase as well.

"Lunatic Fringe" by Red Rider started. We both looked at the stereo and opened our mouths at the same time, and seeing each other doing so, we grinned and knew exactly what we both were going to say. We settled back onto our upraised hands, elbows propped on the back of the couch and grinned at each other, singing.

And now I can stare, like I wanted to that day on the bus! I can stare as long as I like! Now we can just sit here and stare! Oh my gawd! And with this song! I got one that ain't tied to Toby that's just for Jeff!

As my thoughts ran over him, they never wondered on why he sat there motionless, staring back at me for so very long as well.

After song ended, he continued, "That was so cool of Tom to come ask me over. Even knew and all!" Jeff said, his eyes growing wider at the end. Then, after his snickering headshake of disbelief where the right corner of his mouth quirked up just so, "He's something else, ain't he?"

He's something else? I thought, then looked over at Tom still sleeping soundly, his can of beer held almost upright.

"Yeah, he is. They have no idea. Nobody does. I think we two are the only ones who know. And trust me, you don't know as much as you prob'ly think! Everyone else thinks he's just, Tommy. He can see people, like what they're like. And he doesn't miss anything. You know, on Tuesday, before you came over, before the party and all, he said you liked me. I told him to shut up and stop lying, or teasing me. I really... a duh moment, I guess. He knew when he had you come over to meet me on the bus what, what I was thinking about you.

"Your hair was so . . . just so cool! I mean, I seen the same haircut on guys before, and same hair, even both, but, yours is the best. It's like it's, it, it just sits there so smooth and wavy! Like it was one piece, ya know? I don't know how else to say it. But that, your hair, and your eyes, when I saw them after you turned. They fucking rock! Like, between ice blue and bright, clear sky blue. Cornflower comes close, but your eyes are bluer. Never seen anything like 'em."

He was blushing furiously, and I knew that I was too, but I didn't care. I wanted to grab him with both arms and hold him so tightly that I'd crush the breath out of him. I wanted to kiss from his hair to his toes, and every inch of skin and hair between. And I wanted to sit there like a good boy and not scare the wondrously gorgeous creature away.

"Thanks," he said when his blush faded to cranberry. "Uh, I mean, I don't know if I'm gonna say this right, but, when we saw each other's eyes, yours are so brown, like, like warm, sweet chocolate. And your hair, like, like I'm so embarrassed! But, I wondered if your hair, all over, you know, if... "

I was about to interrupt him to save him from further embarrassment, but he managed it, and turned violet again.

"... if that cool reddish-brown hair was like that all over!"

We were both lividly red, grinning and fidgeting, and I knew that I was ecstatic, so I was confident he was too.

"Burnt, bloody, shit-brown fits it more," I said, actually thinking it was a more appropriate coloration.

"No way! Like, cocoa with cinnamon."

I loved that description immediately. It was nearly what Toby had called it. I almost thought that I felt it fit itself to me, snuggling to me, making itself home on me, just as Toby's description had done.

"I like how the feathers curl up when it gets long. And when your bangs get long and you twist your head t'move 'em away, it's, uh... "

I sighed a bit deeply and said, "I know what ya mean. I think I think the same about the way you blow out air and it makes your bangs move. You did it tonight. When you get fed up with something, get frustrated, but not real bad, just ticked a bit, you do it. And I hate when my hair starts to curl when it gets long! I wish I had hair that got straighter the longer it got. Or was at least straighter or just wavy like yours! Or I wish I had Tom's straight, black hair! He's got it easy! It's like that out of showers, swimming, everything after it dries! I even try to mess it up sometimes, ya know? And... "

I ended with a few shakes of my head, looking forward to messing Jeff's nearly always perfect golden strands.

"Without him, there'd be no Circle, either, would there?"

"I don't think so. I'm pretty damned sure of it. Yeah. There wouldn't. I'd prob'ly stayed in the house alone a lot more and... "

I turned back to Jeff, thinking of just how much I would have missed out on.

"... I would have missed so much."

Jeff grew suddenly serious, met my eyes again, cleared his throat, and said, "He likes you, too."

"I know. He's my best friend. Has been for so long-"

"No. Alex. I mean, he likes you, too."

"Pfffft. You ain't no Tommy. I've known him for a long time, he ain't like us. He likes me, sure, and I like him, and he likes you. That's all."

"I don't think so, but I don't know. I think he does, though."

Jeff's face was serious and intent. I shook my head and smiled.

"Trust me. I'd know !"

"You didn't know about me, like, at all," Jeff said pointedly.

I started, sat up a bit straighter, glared at Jeff, then at Tom. After studying the sleeping form for some time, I looked back to Jeff with a matching expression of seriousness.

After shaking my head, I said, "No. Jeff. No. I've known him way longer and we talk every day. No way. What makes you even think so?"

"Did he leave last night? This morning? Who worked out the van deal? Who even thought of it? He started this whole party idea and kept us talking about it when we could. He kept talking to me about stuff on the sly. He rode to school with you almost every day last two weeks. He kept working me over every day at school. You too. Think about it."

I did so, for a long time, Jeff waiting in silence, watching me as I pondered the idea.

"When he told me about Toby, I swear to God, he was so sad and seemed so jealous, too. Totally. He kept saying he was the best thing for you, ever, and it wasn't fair it was so short. He was different for a while, like he dropped a wall or something."

I thought another few moments, further considering the possibility.

The more I tried to get the puzzle to prove Tom was gay, the worse his pieces fit the puzzle. There was no corroborating evidence. I had the most direct evidence, I knew; I not only knew him best, longest, closest, I'd been far closer to him in almost all ways. His opinion always returned to being straight, he just liked me and what we did. He didn't like guys, he said. He likes the chicks. Always the chicks.

"No. You're wrong, Jeff. I know him better than you do. He's not gay, even bi. Well, maybe a little bit," I said with a snicker. "But he's not in love with me more than a friend. As much as any best friend, I would hope. I think I... "

"What?" Jeff asked, cocking his head.

"I sometimes think I love him more than he can me. I know I do, who am I kidding. He's too much to me, ya know? He's been, so, there, for me. Even when we'd fight, he was always the first to come make up. Always. Even when I was about to call him or go over, he'd beat me to it. Sometimes I thought he was psychic, ya know? It was like he couldn't stand us fighting even more than... "

Jeff nodded as I trailed off, as my face slackened and my mouth hung open.

There's no way. He's so not gay. He just, loves me, as his best friend. His first best friend. He's never had a lot of friends, so, like when we we're fighting, it was just more to him, that's all. How many times he said I was the closest and best friend he'd ever had?


"You see? And who was first to the door when you jerked us off about telling the stories earlier?" Jeff asked.

I snapped back to the there and then, and Jeff sitting beside me, the two of us knowing about each other, on the edge of something new, something strange, exciting, frightening; yet another large and frightening possibility looming.

"Then why would he fix us up? Why would he work so hard to get us together when we were fighting? Why would he make sure we, well, got together? He'd have stepped in and pushed you out of the picture, right?" I said, trying to defend my position.

Jeff shrugged. "I don't know. I think he just wants what you want, for you, ya know? He figures as long as he can make you happy, he's happy."

Jeff's words triggered the memories in me of Jeff's leaving after we had done anything together, of my wishing I knew what I could do to make him happy, even if it didn't make me happy too.

"Okay, now you're stretching," I said firmly. "and I gotta ask, why the hell did you leave? After we, you know."

"After your birthday?"

"Yeah? And before, those times. Did I do something wrong? Didn't you, you know, like it?"

He tisked my favorite way, then said, "No. I liked it. I liked it a lot. It was, just, I knew it meant I was... you know. Was, was gay, for sure. No doubts or maybes. I liked it. It felt, like I always thought it would. Like, I liked it. Okay? Trust me," he finished, tisking slightly and grinning.

"You should'a stayed, then! Why didn't you? I don't get it."

"I, I don't know! I was worried mom could tell the whole way home! I was so worried she'd take first look at me and just, know ! And I couldn't hide it! And I didn't want to go home! I was so scared, but I got in bed before she even woke up. She thought I got home the night before, and I let her think I got back late is all. And, I was so sorry already. I wished I'd just stayed! But it was so too late! I felt like a fuck-head!"

"It was so scary! I thought for sure you hated me!"

"I'm sorry! I just wanted, I wanted to call so much. It was stupid I didn't!"

"Me too!"

In the nearly awkward silence I finished my beer. I asked Jeff if he wanted another.

"No, thanks. It's almost seven! Time to get straight, or... " both of us laughed at the pun.

"No thanks," I said still laughing. "I think I like being gay, 'specially if you're part of it."

The laughter was stilled by the comment, but it was replaced by a comfortable silence. We locked eyes and grinned.

"We gonna, sooner or later, right?" I asked.

"I hope so."

"Now okay?"

Jeff blushed again, nodded, smiled wider.

"My first order to my slave. I want a kiss," Jeff said as seriously as he could.

I leaned forward slowly, tentatively, approaching as if stealth were of utmost importance. Each inch forward seemed to last a decade, but was over in milliseconds. My stomach was rolling over and over, becoming tightly intertwined and tangled in my intestines, pulling them out of place, too. I began to feel as if I were shaking all over. Jeff leaned forward. We closed our eyes and found each other's lips as if guided. They touched together softly, holding there momentarily before I parted mine. And again.

"It's about fucking time," broke our kiss with a start.

We both yelled Todd's name at him as he sat on the stairs, grinning at us.

"Well, it is!" he said as he sat there grinning, elbows on knees and chin on fists.

"How long have you been there, shit-head?" Jeff asked, sitting back from me, as embarrassed as I.

"About the time you was talking about when Al fell at you on the bus and you was all googly," Todd laughed, grinning widely.

"Why are you even sitting there?" I asked, far from mad.

"Why the fuck not?" he asked simply.

"He's so dead," Jeff said so seriously.

"Get'em later. Right now shut up so I can go back t'sleep," Tom grumbled from the chair, his empty can finally falling out of his fingers as he tried to get comfortable on his side in the recliner.

"You guys gotta get together! I'm tired of Jeff being in a bad mood and I'm tired of him jacking off in the shower! He uses all the fucking hot water!"

"What the hell-e-o! You are so dead, dick-boy!" Jeff declared, flipping his brother the bird with gusto.

"Um, don't call me that!" Todd laughed.

"Well, there goes the quiet," I said after Jon called for Todd from upstairs.

"I'm not doing anything," Todd complained as he went back upstairs.

"I smell the pizza," Jeff said, sniffing and smiling.

"Fuck, yeah! I'm starved!" I smiled back.

"Oh, gawd, food, ugh!" Tom groaned as he tried to get more comfortable in the chair.

I nodded at Jeff to get his attention, then gave him a signal to be quiet as I stood. Jeff followed as I stood near Tom and motioned for Jeff to grab Tom's feet. When Jeff nodded upward, seemingly asking where to take him, I nodded toward the couch. Jeff smiled and nodded as he prepared to grab Tom's feet on cue.

Jeff was waiting as I mimed, 'On three', then nodded slightly and silently three times.

"What the fuck?" Tom asked as he was hauled from the chair and carried to the couch.

Jeff and I swung him three times then threw him onto it with a laugh. Tom rolled onto his side and closed his eyes without comment.


The twins were carrying the bags, under useless protest, as we all gathered at the basement door to leave.

"So you guys didn't sleep at all?" Eric asked again.

"Geeze, Eric. You'd think no one has ever stayed up all night before! You've been up all night before, why's it so hard to believe?"

I wasn't shouting, but I was obviously becoming angry at all the questioning.

"If you're gonna bother us about it so much, forget it," Jeff said, sounding a bit disgusted himself.

Suddenly, Todd tackled Eric, knocking him onto the pile of sleeping bags waiting to be hauled out to the station wagon.

"Off! Off, Todd!" Eric was demanding to no avail.

"Leave off with the twenty questions or I'll rip your nads off!" Todd demanded as he pulled the waistband of Eric's shorts out of the back of his jeans, delivering a wedgie of legendary proportions.

The smaller, quicker Todd had been on and in control before the more drunken, stoned, and tired Eric was aware of the situation. Eric agreed and squeaked for Todd to stop several times before Todd relented and released Eric's waistband, which snapped back with a loud crack.

Eric howled sharply then moaned, "Fucker! Damn! I want kids someday!"

"Ya, but you gotta get a chick willing to let you near her, first, flame-head," Todd teased.

"No fighting, we gotta get moving, we're already running late!" Jon said, taking Todd by the scruff and tossing him toward the door. "You can all pass out when we get there! Except Eric and the twins who gotta get their rides soon."

"This changes everything, doesn't it?" I asked, standing between Jeff and Tom, looking to Jeff for the answer, but receiving it from Tom.

"Everything," he said softly.

"It does," I confirmed. "It's all gonna be different. They won't know whether to come over if you're at my place, Jeff. And they won't know if they should ask one of us but not the other to do stuff. It's all gonna be different."

Jeff sounded sad, looked it, too, but he smiled at me.

"You guys go ahead out to the car? I wanna say bye to Tim for a minute," I asked them both.

Jeff smirked and squinted his eyes in mock suspicion. We laughed and he shook hands with Tim, saying he was glad he got to meet him.

"You too, Jeff. Hope you guys are, happy and all!" Tim offered with a smile. "Nice to meet Jon's little bro, too, Tom." Then to me, "So, happy birthday, again, Alex. I'm really glad we had your party here."

"You lie. But thanks. Thanks for having it here. I know it's the best party I've ever had, but probably the worst one the basement ever saw. Sorry we didn't send it off with a better one," I offered.

"What? Dude, that was probably the best party I ever had in the basement! I'm not kidding!" he added when I smirked. "Really! I laughed so much! And, uh, there was so much new stuff I never did before, too. And, plus, I got in the Circle, too. And, fuck, even the mushy stuff was kinda cool. I ain't never, really, not, not like felt part of something like that before, ya know? It's cool," he finished nonchalantly with a bump of my shoulder with his fist. "All that really matters is you had a good time. Did ya?"

I rolled my eyes and let myself grin widely.

"Hell yeah! Honest. Best party ever! And don't think I forgot about the order we changed in," I said, giving Tim the one evil eye. "And thanks for the lessons. I can sort of expect stuff from people because of what you taught me. How they hold themselves and react and all that. Thanks. Tom can't get away with everything now! Thanks! And the music you showed me! Thanks. And I'm coming over tomorrow, don't doubt it," I said with a firm nod.

That nod sent waves of nausea through me momentarily. The beers and the pot were still working.

"You will, won't ya?"

I nodded again, offered my hand on it.

"See ya tomorrow. When your folks get back from Wisconsin?"

"About six, maybe seven."

"Cool. Still havin' pizza?"

"You bet. And beer, if you can handle it!" he said with a laugh.

"I'll think about it!" I replied with a grimace. "See ya!"

"Hey. Hold on." Tim walked inside a moment then returned with a small paper bag, just like the one he had given the pizza guy. "Sorta a birthday present. I'm heading off soon, so, I got more than I can smoke, so take this and share it if you want, okay?"

I could tell it was a lot of pot, and I didn't want to argue or refuse such a gift.

"Thanks. I was pretty low. I was gonna get some from this dealer guy I know, but the jack-off said he was out. I know he was lyin' to me!"

"That'll keep the Circle guys high a while!" Tim said after we had laughed.

I opened and looked into the bag.

"Cool! Thanks!"

The sounds from the car being loaded had stopped, and the engine had started.

"I guess their just waiting on me. So, see ya."

"See ya," Tim said as he headed back into his house.

I slowly walked to the car, where everyone was in the same positions as last night. After I closed the door, Jeff put his hand directly on top of my leg, rubbing it quickly and smiling at me. I smiled and returned the contact.

"Oh, great. If we get pulled over, can you stop that?" Jon asked with a smile as he put the car in drive.

"Oh, they aren't groping each other?" Eric more demanded than asked.

We blushed and grinned at each other, but our hands remained where they were.

"Just don't kiss in front of me. That would be way too-whooooof," Eric began. "Ow! God damn! Okay!"

Jeff and I had been looking at each other, and we nodded, sharing the name silently, "Todd."

Snickers filled the awkward silence in the car before Jon turned on the radio.

Fucking Fate! I thought as the opening of "Paradise Theater" by Styx began.

I noticed Jon's glance toward me and the sudden switching of the station. I was thankful; that song was too tightly woven into my memories of Toby to be comfortable then. What I wasn't thankful for was the obvious fact that Jon knew it. He, all of them, were well aware of my love of Styx, and for Jon to have turned the song off showed that he was well aware that the song wasn't one I wanted to hear at the moment.

I threw Tom - in the seat behind Jon - a questioning look. He returned a blank, questioning look himself. A quick glance around at the others didn't reveal any suspicious behavior or expressions. I knew someone had informed Jon, almost certainly, and a look back to Jon proved he was guilty of thinking something judging by the way he glanced at me quickly then immediately away several times.

Shaking my head, I dismissed the emotions and thoughts that were stirred up momentarily, instead, taking Jeff's hand. He smiled and gripped back as "Let My Love Open The Door" played, and all the guys went, "Awwww," before Jeff and my own tisks shut them up. They still snickered though. And we kept grinning at each other.


"How are we gonna get past my parents?" I worried as we pulled into the drive, the problem only then occurring to me.

"Jon got it all worked out," Tom said as he opened his door.

"No, Tom figured it out, it just took me to do it!"

"So? You did it," Tom argued back.

"Did what?" I asked in a loud stage whisper. "I'd like to fucking know before we get in there and I have to... "

Their snickers and laughter as the car doors closed proved it was another 'get Alex' moment. I felt those twin emotions that came with such moments; elation at the attention, trepidation at what lay ahead.

"What? Are mom and dad gonna be waiting for me? What?"

"They're all out for breakfast and shopping," Jon answered.

"Awww!" came from nearly everyone.

"What? How'd you pull that?"

"Just a few well placed words at well timed times is all," Jon didn't explain.

"So, they're not home?"

Everyone shook their heads. I didn't believe it until I had checked the garage for their car. It was there, along with the van.

My van!

"Our folks went too, and drove," Tom explained to my curious look.

The twins were racing up the stairs, yelling about which game to play first. Eric was reminding them very loudly that he had next play. Tom, Jeff, and Jon looked to me to deny it.

"Wow! Cool! You guys covered everything! I forgot to even think about coming back home!"

"Yeah, we hoped you didn't even think about it until we got inside and we could mess with ya," Tom admitted.

"You so would!"

"We would!" Jon said, waving. "But I gotta go. Heather'll be waiting if I don't! Later guys! Happy birthday, Alex!"

"Thanks! Thanks for the party, too! And the car, driving us, all that."

"Pffft. See ya 'round." He said, waving as he left.

"Hey, what's with the paper bag?" Tom asked, nodding at the bag Tim had given me as we left.

"Oh, another birthday present, and for the Circle, too," I said, pulling the item out for them to see.

"Oh, my, gawd," Tom drawled.

"Is that a pound?" Jeff asked needlessly.

I tucked the package back into the bag and made the 'silence' gesture.

"Don't want the rest to know, or what?"

"Nah. Just shush for now," I said leadingly with a sly grin and bouncing eyebrows.

We nodded together in conspiratorial glee and headed upstairs. We were all tired, weak, and woozy, but we'd had a good time, and it wasn't entirely over. We played the new Atari games and worked on new characters for the new edition Dungeons and Dragaons game, getting familiar with all the new rules, races, classes, and things. Jeff announced that he would be playing and we all greeted that with applause.

Eric's ride showed up a few minutes before eleven as planned. He gave me a Circle shake and wished me a happy birthday, and thanked me for the party. I thanked him for helping, and being there, and being my friend. I handed him a large bud from the package from Tim. The twins' limo arrived minutes later, dead on the hour.

"Brent, Ryan, your ride is here!" Tom called from the chair by the front window.

It wasn't needed, as the limo's honk was quite distinguishable.

"Okay," both boys yelled back and prepared to leave.

"Why you guys always gotta be home alone Saturdays? What's the big deal?" I asked, wondering if one more puzzle piece could be placed that odd and strange weekend; and it was only Saturday morning.

They looked at each other, considering it between them silently. The rest of us all shared that, 'the twins're doing it again' look. I thought of sharing thoughts with Jeff as we threw Tom onto the couch at Tim's. As I thought of that, Jeff looked to me and we grinned at each other. The twins nodded together and turned to us.

"Our parents have company Saturdays, for brunches, luncheons, afternoon teas, all kinds of stuff. Sometimes, well, you seen the extra staff when you leave most times, right? The security guys? Sometimes we got, like politicians, and stuff. Sometimes there's just no way, you know?"

"So why not just say so before?"

"Tell you guys the governor, or the mayor, or senators or representatives are coming over all the time? We're different enough, you know?"

"Bullshit!" Tom declared. "You're thinkin' like Al did, all like it matters or makes you fucking different! It don't. Not if you're gay, or straight, or rich, or poor, or you got gov'ment people for dinner or never met one. So fucking what? Huh? What difference does it make? Huh?"

He was nearly unconscious, his eyes half-open, obviously still drunk, and slightly slurring, not to mention weaving side to side even though he was sitting in a chair. We laughed nervously at first, but I saw that I wasn't alone in understanding him.

"Everybody's always gotta think that everybody's gonna think they're not the same fucking person because they learn something they didn't know about 'em before. So fucking what. They the same person. You only just learned something about 'em is all. I s'pose if it was they killed babies for fun, it might make a big diff, ya know? But, pththththtpt . . ." he trailed off the raspberry with a grin as he stood. "And I'm gonna go hit the sack. I'm so tired I hurt. It was the party of the century and good night everybody," he said as he walked through the twins and out the door with a wave over his shoulder. "Happy birthday again, Alex. Love ya, buddy," he said, turning the corner of the stairs.

The twins shrugged and grinned, wished me a happy birthday again as well, then turned to catch up with Tom. I watched out the window as Tom and the twins engaged in a snowball fight.

It didn't last long, and was very one-sided. The twins cannonaded him to his front door; the entire way, snowball after snowball. Ryan apparently watched Tom a few seconds, ducking a very poorly aimed snowball that didn't even threaten hitting the limo. When Tom had apparently gotten in his door, Ryan nodded to himself. He noticed me at the window as he stepped into the far side of the limo. He nodded and threw me a thumbs up. I flashed him one back, smiling at some very good friends.

I turned to see Todd on the Atari and Jeff sitting on the foot of the bed watching me.

Jeff cleared his throat and pushed his foot into Todd's back.

"What?" Todd asked, never looking from the screen.

"Go do something somewhere," Jeff ordered.

"I'm not your slave," Todd said with a snicker.

Jeff more kicked him next, instead of a soft tap as before.

"Oh, geeze! Am I gonna have to deal with this now? I thought it'd be better with you two together. Now I'm gonna have to deal with this all the time!" Todd complained with mock anger.

"He can stay here. Let's go," I said, grabbing Jeff by the hand and dragging him from the bedroom.

I led him down to the second floor and into one of the unused bedrooms. I shut the door behind us and locked it.

"I've never been in this room before. I never even thought about the second floor much-" Jeff said before I fell on him, kissing him soundly and putting my arms over his shoulders.

When we separated, Jeff took a step back and put his hands in his pockets, staring at his shoes.

"Uh, didn't like it?" I asked, trying to see Jeff's expression by leaning to the side to lower my head and see under his long, blond bangs.

"It was nice."

"Nice? Nice. I see. I guess."

I straightened and put my hands into my pockets, then rocked up and down on my toes and heels. I had no idea what emotions I felt at that moment, but I wasn't happy.

"So... "

"I'm sorry, Alex," Jeff said in a rush, running around me to the door.

He wasn't familiar with the lock and was unable to open it. He pounded on it once, fell against the door momentarily, then pushed back away from it with both hands.

"Jeff. What the hell-e-o?" I asked.

Jeff softly kicked the bottom of the door with the toe of a shoe and remained facing the door.

"Alex, it just, I can't," he said quietly, softly, almost inaudibly.

"What the hell? How... what... fuck!"

Yes. No. Maybe. Yes again. Then run away! Then no then yes then run away then yes then no! Cripes! Women can't be this much fucking trouble!

Those previously unknown emotions suddenly coalesced into rage.

"What the fuck are you talking about?"

I walked to him, slowly, knowing he was about to leave again, and knowing all we knew. He was crying. I didn't think about doing so as my hand reached to his cheek to brush away the tear I saw there.

"But... but... mom... everybody... " he said softly between deep sobs.

It was tearing me apart to see such a thing.

"We can deal with your mom! We can deal with everybody! We can deal with everything! Just let me! I'll show you! The guys aren't the only ones! My parents! Toby's! More!"

"You don't get it!" he said, growing angry. "You just don't fucking get it! This can't be! We can't do this! It won't be allowed. It can't be!!"

This is crazy! Why is he doing this? Why is he being like this? We both know we're both gay now! We know we can try, and can try to keep him living here! Why?

"If you walk away from me like this right now, I don't think anything can ever happen between us. I don't think I can play this kind of games or shit."

I was crying suddenly, my guts wanting to explode out of me to fall onto the floor. I hadn't thought the words first, it seemed they had simply been there and were spoken well before I knew of them. Deep, shuddering gasps came, forcing me to be silent though I wanted to say so much. I had to concentrate on my breathing, not only to speak, but, I feared, to stay conscious.

 My temple began throbbing, and I realized that I hadn't even thought of it since last night. I felt it then, as if the mere thought of it had woken it from slumber. I winced as it shot an arc of pain across my brow, hinting at the agony it was capable of unleashing.

"But there can't be anything anyway! Mom would move us away faster! We'd be gone in days!" he said, his panic and fear obvious in his wide eyes and frightened grimace. "If she found out I even so much as was around anyone with pot... fuck! If she ever knew I'd smoked it! What do you think she'd do if she knew about, me, or us. If they knew... oh fuck no!"

He turned to the door and attempted to open it again.

I simmered in hot, acidic anger. I pushed Jeff to the side violently and unlocked the door, then stormed down the stairs. I jogged through the house and into the garage. I didn't know where else to go. Todd was in my room, so my only sanctuary was the garage, my backup, the only place left. I wanted - needed - to be alone.

What the hell? He's all close and shit, then he's all distant and saying it's wrong! He does something then he runs away! Why ain't this like Toby? He's so like him! In so many ways! Why can't it just be like that?

I kicked the trash container after slamming the garage door and then paced the floor in tears as I thought.

I love him, I know I do! And I really think he loves me! Why is this so complicated?

I wiped my eyes, thinking how tired I was of crying. I had been up all night, drinking and smoking pot, and going through a roller coaster ride like none before. It was over thirty hours awake by then, and I was exhausted, I knew. The thought of the bed in the van came to me, and without a concern for Jeff or Todd, or what they would do if I didn't go back, I got into the van, slammed the sliding door behind me, and fell onto the bed.

I let myself cry, tears of frustration, anger, confusion mixing with grief.

Why is it like this? Do straight people have these problems? How often do girls act like that? Do regular guys and girls have so much trouble just trying to get together? They can't. If they did there'd be nobody together long enough to be able to have babies!

What's the fucking deal? Why can't he just at least, I don't know, at least try? Fuck! Again I fall for a great guy I can't fucking have! What's the fucking point?

I curled into a ball and wished it would all go away. I prayed to die, to go to Toby, to leave the real world and all of it's absurdities behind forever.

Saturday Night: It Just Can't Be