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imperfect _pisces

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  1. Keisha Alston lived in a much nicer house in a way nicer neighborhood within walking distance. There was thunder rumbling in the distance as Tristan left his house. By the time he arrived on Keisha’s doorstep, he was soaked to the bone. "Oh Sweetie, I could've picked you up," she said as she closed and locked the front door. Tristan kicked off his wet Converse sneakers and placed them next to the other pairs of shoes in the tiled entryway. "I figured I could make it here before the bottom fell out." Tristan rubbed his hands up and down his arms and said, "Feels good in here." Keisha shot him a goofy grin, grabbed his arm and pulled him into the next room. The first thing Tristan noticed about the family room was the coffee table, which usually sat center stage in the large space, had been pushed into the corner. The next thing he noticed was all of the cushions and pillows had been removed from the sofas and chairs and piled in the middle of the floor. A smile slowly crept across the lower half of his face as he thought about all of the pillow forts he and his dad had made when he was much younger. "What's going on here?” "I was thinking this whole being a senior is not really all it's cracked up to be so I thought tonight we'd take it back to middle school again and just have a good old-fashioned slumber party. I've already ordered pizza and it's on the way and before you even ask I got pepperoni and pineapple on your half." Tristan threw his arms around his best friend and squeezed as hard as he could. "You know me so well." “You’re getting me all wet,” Keisha said trying to squirm her way out of his soggy embrace. “There’s so many jokes I could make right now.” "I still don't understand why anyone would be so disrespectful to pizza by adding pineapple to it but if it makes you happy." "It does make me happy," Tristan said, his eyes darting all over the room. "This is just what I needed." "I figured as much," Keisha said as she slowly pulled herself from their embrace. "Now go upstairs and get changed into your jammies." Tristan reached for his backpack which had fallen to the floor during their hug and asked, "Where is everyone?" "Dad won't be back until Monday and Granny went to stay with Aunt Penny for the weekend so we have the place to ourselves." Keisha lived with her dad, her grandmother (her mom's mom) and her little brother Kristoff who was now in the sixth grade. One of the things Tristan and Keisha had bonded over early on was their absentee mothers. At least Keisha knew where her mother was. Every Christmas and every birthday Keisha received a card with a $500 check from her mother who was now married to some retired investment banker nearly twice her age and living in DC. At first Keisha had relished receiving $1,000 checks every year but by the time high school rolled around, she stopped cashing them. "How sad is it that my mom would rather spend $1,000 than actually spend time with me?" Keisha had once asked Tristan during one of their weekly sleepovers. Tristan had often wondered the same thing himself. Some times, late at night when he couldn't sleep, he would lie in bed and wonder where his mother was. Nearly six years had gone by and unlike with Keisha's mom, there were no cards or money. No phone calls, texts or emails. It was like she'd vanished. There were times where Tristan wished she were dead because at least then he could properly mourn her. Tristan shook himself out of his thoughts and asked, "Where's Kristoff?" Upstairs in his room playing one of his ultra-violent video games. I told him not to bother us." "Aww - you didn't have to do that. He's no bother." "You're only saying that because he likes you." "Everyone likes me," Tristan said. "Well almost everyone." Keisha held up a silencing finger and said, "Nope! Tonight is about pizza and homemade brownies and scary movies. No boy talk allowed." "I like the sound of that," Tristan said with a grin. "Be right back." Tristan walked over to the door in the corner of the room leading to the basement where both Keisha and her brother's rooms were. He quickly bounded down the carpeted steps and walked past the laundry room and Kristoff's room until he reached the end of the hallway. Keisha's bedroom was perfect chaos. There were clothes and shoes and hair accessories all over the place but nothing looked out of place. Tristan tossed his backpack onto an old chaise lounge that once belonged to her great-grandmother. He tugged a pair of clean SpongeBob pajamas free from the main compartment, he noticed something at the bottom of his backpack. He reached inside and pulled out a bent notebook. There were black and white splotches across the cover. He immediately recognized it as the notebook he had taken from Nick's room some nights ago. Tristan flipped it open to the first page and noticed it was completely filled with spidery writing. Upon closer inspection, the whole notebook appeared to be filled with similar writing, front and back. Tristan lost interest in the pajamas he held in his other hand as he slowly moved towards Keisha's bed on the other side of the room. He sat on the edge of the queen-sized bed which must have had at least twenty pillows piled on top of it, each covered with a lavender pillow case. He flipped back to the first page and saw that it had been dated July 10. This was clearly more than a notebook. It was a journal. Nick's journal. Reading Nick's text messages was one thing but reading his deepest, most personal thoughts was quite another. Tristan sighed and closed the notebook. He carefully placed it back in his backpack and made a quick change into his pajamas. As he was folding the his day clothes, his phone chimed twice. After he stacked his clothes on top of his backpack, he reached for his phone and saw that he had two text messages. The first message was from Jon-Jon. at the bowling alley with my mom and my sister and nathan's here i'm guessing that's his girlfriend. i'm freaking out. The second message was from Colin. It's Friday night in your part of the country. Please tell me you're doing something fun. Tristan responded with, Keisha and I are taking it back to middle school and having a sleepover. Sleepover, eh? Did you go and switch teams on me? Tristan smirked and replied with, No. Never. This is the kind of sleepover where you lie around and eat junk food while you watch scary movies. Sounds fun. Well I must say I'm kind of disappointed. Why is that? Was hoping you'd be up for some more Golden Girls. Tristan chewed his bottom lip and his thought about his next response. I'm sorry but Keisha's my bestie and I've been sort of neglecting her lately. No worries. I get it. Bros before hos. Does that make you the ho in this scenario? Ha! I've been called worst! You go enjoy that sleepover of yours. Make sure you lock all the doors. Just in case there's an escaped convict on the loose or something. You're evil. There was a knock on Keisha's bedroom door. Tristan shoved his phone in the pocket of his pajamas bottoms and quickly hopped up from the bed. He walked over and pulled open the door. Kristoff Alston was only twelve years old and he was nearly Tristan's height. He looked just like his older sister even though Keisha absolutely refused to admit it. They both had the same dark brown, almond-shaped eyes and dimples. Tristan was pleased to see he was wearing the Miles Morales t-shirt he had bought him for his birthday a few months ago. Even though they were nearly six years apart in age, the thing they bonded over was their love of comic books. "Pizza's here," Kristoff said. His voice had deepened, considerably, since the last time Tristan had seen him. "Thanks, bud. I'm headed up now." Tristan closed the bedroom door behind him and followed Kristoff up the stairs. Keisha was in the kitchen pulling out yellow dinner plates from one of the overhead cabinets. Tristan's stomach began to growl as the smell of hot pizza wafted past his nose. His last meal had been the hastily thrown together peanut butter and jelly sandwich he had eaten for lunch. "Kris, your buffalo wings and garlic knots are right there," Keisha said pointing to two small green and white boxes sitting on the stove. "You can have one Coke and I've counted them so I'll know if you've had more than that." Kristoff rolled his eyes and grabbed the two boxes. He walked over to the refrigerator and grabbed a canned Coke from the bottom shelf. "I'm going to my room," he said. Tristan's phone chirped three times as he was piling three slices of pepperoni and pineapple pizza onto his plate. "Someone's popular," Keisha said as she plucked a mushroom off of her pizza slice. She popped it into her mouth and reached for a paper towel. Tristan sat his plate down on the closest surface and reached into his pocket to retrieve his phone. He had three new text messages - all from Jon-Jon. he keeps staring at me i think he knows dude i'm like really freakin out "Who that?" Keisha rested her chin in the crook of Tristan's next. "Jon-Jon," Tristan said as he pressed the lock button on his phone. Keisha scrunched up her face and asked, "What does he want?" Tristan grabbed his plate and followed her out of the kitchen and into the living room. "Apparently he saw Nick's brother at the bowling alley and now he's freaking out." Tristan settled onto the hardwood floor and reclined against one of the sofa cushions. Keisha took a seat next to him. She reached for the remote which was sitting on top of a pillow and used it to turn on the 60" flat-screen TV which was positioned over the wood-burning fireplace. "And why is he freaking out over that?" Tristan shrugged and took a bite of his pizza. He closed his eyes and savored the sweetness of the pineapple and saltiness of the pepperoni as the two flavors mingled over his palate. "I have no clue. I just think he's being paranoid." Tristan's phone chimed and then vibrated inside of the pocket of his pajamas. Keisha rolled her eyes and dapped at her mouth with a crumpled paper towel. "Just tell him you're busy." Tristan looked down at his phone and saw that his latest text message wasn't from Jon-Jon - rather it was from Finn. Tristan's features fell as he opened the new message. Hey - can we talk? "What's he saying?" Tristan shook his head and looked up from his phone and over at Keisha. "It's Finn," he said. Keisha's eyes widened. "Why is Finn texting you?" she asked. "I could have sworn he had a girlfriend." "He says he wants to talk." Keisha reached out her hand and said, "Give me your phone." "What? Why?" "Give me your phone so I can tell him to fuck off." Tristan placed his hand to his heart and said, "Why Keisha, your language. I do declare." "Seriously, what the hell could he possibly have to say to you? This time last week he was all over you and then he kicks you to the curb for Leah of all people?" Tristan looked down at his phone and then back over at Keisha. "Tristan, please don't tell me you're thinking about talking to him." "Maybe hearing his explanation will give me some closure." Keisha sat her plate down and said, "Oh Sweetie - you don't need closure." Tristan sighed and said, "Maybe I do." "I think it'll do more harm than good. I mean you've been dreaming about being with Finn since freshman year and let's face it - the dream turned out to be a nightmare." Tristan closed his eyes and thought about everything that had transpired since that fateful night on the dock behind Finn's house. In the brief time they'd been together, things had been nothing short of fantastic. Finn Montgomery liked him, that he knew for sure. He'd seen Finn on stage and there was no way he could've faked the things that happened between them. Something that real couldn't just go away overnight. Perhaps Finn was having a change of heart. "I know what you're thinking," Keisha said. Tristan opened his eyes and looked over at his best friend. "What am I thinking?" "You're wondering if Finn still has feelings for you." Tristan grinned and said, "Damn, you're good." "Even if he still has feelings for you, Tristan, it doesn't change the fact that what he did to you was beyond effed up." Tristan breathed in through his nose and let the air escape from between his lips. "You're right," he said. "I know. It's such a burden being right all the time." Tristan reached for the nearest pillow and tossed it in her direction. Keisha easily dodged it. "Now kindly tell Finn Montgomery he can go to hell and we can start the movie." "Fine," Tristan said. "What are we watching?" "Two classic late-90's slasher films," Keisha said. "Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Which do you wanna watch first?" "Let's watch Scream first." Keisha jumped up and ran over to a nearby shelf containing her family's entire DVD and Blu-Ray collection. Tristan looked back down at his phone. Keisha was absolutely right. What Finn did to him was pretty cruel and his feelings were still very much hurt over it. Then there was the part of him who wanted to hear what Finn had to say. Maybe, after a week of trying to play it straight with Leah, Finn was having a change of heart. Tristan chewed on his bottom lip as he stared down at the illuminated screen on his phone. His thumb hovered over the keyboard. He looked up and saw that Keisha was fiddling with the Blu-Ray player. He looked back down at his phone and pecked out a reply. Sure - where would you like to meet?
  2. "Dinner's on me." The two of them followed a sour-faced young woman with curly dark hair to a small booth in the back. Benvolio's was a popular Italian restaurant not to far from their school. Tristan had driven past the place more times than he could count but he had eaten there. "You know what's not necessary." Tristan slid in across from Jon-Jon and accepted the menu the hostess held out for him. "Your server will be right with you," she told them both before stalking off towards the front of the restaurant. "I know." Jon-Jon scratched at the stubble growing along his square jaw. "But I appreciate you coming with me." After rehearsal, Tristan had followed Jon-Jon out to the parking lot where Jon-Jon's hand-me-down Volkswagen Jetta was parked. The two then drove in silence back to Nick's house so that Jon-Jon could drop of Nick's phone. Tristan had held his breath the entire trip and even now sitting across from Jon-Jon in the back of an Italian restaurant, he still couldn't allow himself to exhale. Tristan looked over Jon-Jon's shoulder and noticed the hostess who had just sat them was glaring at him. He quickly looked away and pretended to look at the menu in front of him. A concerned look flashed over Jon-Jon's face and he asked, "You good?" Tristan shrugged his shoulders, his eyes still glued to the two-page, lamented menu in his hands. Using the menu as a partition, he slowly lifted his gaze to see if she was still staring at him. She was. "Who are you looking at?" Jon-Jon's peeked over his shoulder and then looked back over at Tristan. "She keeps staring at me," Tristan said. "No," Jon-Jon said rubbing his hands together. "She's staring at me." Tristan lowered the menu and asked, "Why is she staring at you?" "That's Jackie. I used to date her sister." Tristan nodded his head and said, "I'm guessing things didn't end well." Jon-Jon looked down at his hands and said, "Yeah - Jackie wasn't too thrilled when she found out me and Delores were dating." "Why's that?" Jon-Jon squirmed in his seat a bit and looked back over his shoulder at Jackie who was now talking to an older couple at the front of the restaurant. "I was sort of dating Jackie as well." Tristan's eyes widened as he opened his mouth to laugh. Jon-Jon flushed a deep crimson as he avoided eye contact with Tristan. "So, let me get this straight. You were dating her and her sister at the same time?" "I realize it was a dick move on my part but keep in mind this happened last summer. I feel really bad about it." Tristan shook his head and said, "Well, that certainly explains why she looks like she wants to murder someone." "Maybe it was a bad idea coming here. We could always go somewhere else." "Oh that won't be necessary," Tristan said. "Besides, this is the most fun I've had all day." Jon-Jon gave him a sheepish grin. "Well - I'm glad my pain bring you joy." The two of them settled into a comfortable conversation halted briefly by another dark-haired woman wearing a similar scowl on her face approaching their table to take their orders. Tristan noticed her name tag said Delores and tried his best not to laugh at Jon-Jon who looked beyond uncomfortable. After placing their drink and food orders, Tristan looked over at Jon-Jon and said, "Well, our food is definitely getting spit in tonight." Jon-Jon palmed his face and groaned. "It's not like I don't deserve it," he said. Tristan was about to respond with something encouraging when his phone vibrated and made a noise that sounded straight out of a Nintendo game. He picked up his phone which was sitting next to the glass of water Delores had just sat down on the table. "It's finished." He held up his phone so Jon-Jon could see the screen. "What am I looking at?" Tristan lowered and his voice and said, "I just finished cloning Nick's phone." Jon-Jon grimaced and reached for the Dr. Pepper he had ordered. "Why exactly did you clone Nick's phone?" he asked before taking a sip. "If someone were to call or text Nick, not only would it go to his hone, it would come to my phone, too." "Wow - that's pretty cool. So, where'd you learn how to clone phones?" "The dark web." "Seriously?" Tristan paused for a few beats and then started laughing. "No - I'm kidding. I only use the dark web whenever I need vital organs for my yearly ritual sacrifices. I actually watched a YouTube video." "You learned how to do that from YouTube?" Tristan nodded his head and said, "You can learn a lot from YouTube. I actually had to swap out my hard drive earlier this year so instead of paying some dude at the mall 250 bucks to do it, I just ordered the hard drive online and then watched a YouTube video. Took me like 10 minutes to replace the hard drive." "Maybe I need to start watching YouTube more." Tristan clicked on a folder on his phone which held all of Nick's test messages, call records and even pictures from his photo gallery. Though he would never admit it to Jon-Jon, Tristan felt super icky having access to all of Nick's private information and even though his friend was dead he was still entitled to his privacy. Tristan decided right then and there the only information he would view in relation to Nick was his text messages. Tristan clicked on a folder that contained all the text messages Nick had received over the last 30 days. He quickly noticed the only people Nick communicated with via text were Andy, Nathan and Nick's mom. Since the majority of the recent texts had come from Nathan, Tristan decided to read those messages first. "Well this is good," Tristan spoke out loud after several minutes had passed. "What is?" Jon-Jon asked as he dipped a piece of bread into a small bowl of olive oil. "Nathan texted Nick 13 times but a lot of them are duplicate messages like maybe something weird was going on with his phone. I've had that happen to me a few times." Jon-Jon looked over his shoulder to make sure no one was within earshot and then leaned forward across the table. "What do the texts say?" "The first one was sent on Tuesday, 12:32 PM. Sup bro. Thing I'm gonna hang out here with Hailey for the rest of the week. The house is yours. Enjoy." "Who's Hailey?" "Nathan's girlfriend," Tristan said as he scrolled on to the next message "Nick mentioned he was dating some girl at Emory. Apparent she's 23 years old." "Good for Nathan," Jon-Jon said. "What's next?" "Next text was also sent on Tuesday, this time at 5:53 PM. Have you talked to Andy? He hit me up a few days ago to ask if I'd heard from you. I told him you didn't want to talk to him. Not sure if that was the right ting to say but I was just following your lead." "Well that explains why Andy's been actin weird as of late," Jon-Jon said. "I mean before ... you know." "Next text is from Tuesday, again - 8:56 PM. Just got a text from Mom. Apparently Fad got food poisoning while they were in Budapest so they're gonna stay an additional week and a half." "Must be nice to be rich." Tristan shrugged and said, "I dunno. Something tells me having money ain't all it's cracked up to be. Wednesday 2:33 PM. Mom wants to know if you paid Victor. She says the money's in an envelope in the top drawer of her desk. She said to put it under the frog and Victor will be by on Friday to pick it up." "Well, shit. Maybe we will have to make another trip back to Nick's place." "Yeah, I think I'm gonna pass," Tristan said. Delores returned to their table with their food. She carefully sat a hot plate of vegetarian ravioli in front of Tristan and then dropped a cast iron skillet containing a Chicago-style pepperoni and mushroom pizza in front of Jon-Jon. "Enjoy," she muttered before disappearing into the nearby kitchen. "What's next?" Jon-Jon asked as he poured a liberal amount of parmesan and red pepper onto his pizza. "Wednesday - 10:53 PM. Hailey's pregnant." "Wow - didn't see that one coming." "Last text from Nathan. Thursday - 1:53 AM. Just got back from Walgreens. Hailey's about to take another test. I'll keep you posted. Hope you're good." "That was a lot to digest." "Here's the text from Nick's mom. It's from Wednesday - 8:16 AM. Don't know if you heard but your father and I have decided to stay longer. We're flying to Capri tomorrow morning. If you need money, check the blue vase on the bookcase in my office. Talk soon." Tristan exited out of the folder and sat his phone down on the table next to his plate. The smell of the ravioli flooded his senses and his stomach growled in response. "How do you think you'll respond?" Tristan watched as Jon-Jon pulled a slice of pizza from the skillet. Jon-Jon took a huge bite and then used the back of his hand to wipe away sauce and mozzarella cheese. "Actually, I don't think I'll have to say much. I get the impression Nick and his family aren't the chatty types." "I get that impression, too. Seems like Nick and Nathan do their own thing ... which is pretty cool. My mom's constantly blowing up my phone asking where I am and when I'll be home and if I'll stop by the grocery store to pick up orange juice before I come home." "My dad keeps tabs on me, too," Tristan said. "It's hella annoying." Tristan shrugged and said "I dunno. I kind of like that someone cares enough about me to want to know about my whereabouts." "Really? You don't find it suffocating?" Tristan shook his head and said, "Not really." "Ever since my parents split, my mom's been super overprotective. I can't go anywhere without her wanting to know what time I plan on getting there and what time I plan on leaving. She actually grounded me for a week because I was 15 minutes later getting in from Finn's party. It's super frustrating because she wasn't like that with my sister. I get that she loves me but sometimes I wish she'd back off a bit." "I watched my dad go through hell with my older brother," Tristan said. "I imagine being a parent has got to be one of the hardest things ever. It's like you do your best and things can still go wrong." Jon-Jon sighed and plucked several napkins from the dispenser on their table. He used the wad of napkins to wipe the lower half of his face and then slumped against his seat. Tristan noticed half of his pizza was gone. Tristan had barely touched his ravioli. Jon-Jon reached for his Dr. Pepper and held it up. "Here's to your boy not going to prison," he said in a mock toast. Tristan rolled his eyes and took a bite of his food. "You are not going to prison," Jon-Jon gulped his drink until there was nothing but ice left and sat the glass down. "You don't know that." Tristan sighed and said, "Yeah - you're right but if you keep thinking that, you're going to drive yourself crazy." "Maybe I should just confess." "And what exactly would you be confessing?" "I pushed Nick." Tristan lowered his voice and said, "You both pushed Nick. It was an accident." "All the more reason for me to just confess," Jon-Jon said. Tristan frowned and asked, "Why should you have to be the one to take the fall?" Jon-Jon smirked and said. "Don't get me wrong. It feels nice to have someone on Team Jon-Jon but are you sure you're not just on my side because you're pissed at Finn?" "No," Tristan said. "I'm on your side because I don't want to see you fall on your sword for something that's not your fault." Jon-Jon shot Tristan a knowing look. "So this has absolutely nothing to do with Finn being with Leah?" Tristan chewed on his thumbnail and looked down at his plate. "Hey - I'm pissed, too. I thought me and Leah were ... you know." Tristan thought back to being at the dock behind Finn's house. He thought about Jon-Jon naked and scrambling to put his clothes on. A warm, tingly feeling traveled the length of his spine and spread throughout his body. Tristan cleared his throat and said, "Regardless of how I feel about Finn right now it doesn't change the fact that I think you're going about this all wrong?" "I don't know what else to do," Jon-Jon said. "Every moment is like I'm holding my breath." "Is there anything I can do?" "You've done enough. Too much." "Can you do me a favor?" Tristan asked. "Sure." "Don't turn yourself in," Tristan said. "At least not right now. I'm sure if we all put our heads together, we could figure something out. Maybe something where we don't all end up wearing orange jumpsuits." "I doubt anyone wants to help me." "I'll see what I can do," Tristan said. "You just try to keep it together."
  3. "We have a problem." Tristan had been pouring a liberal amount of bleu cheese over his homemade wedge salad when he heard the heavy footsteps approaching the top section of the bleachers where he and Keisha were sitting. Keisha was too busy trying to complete the French assignment she’d neglected the night before to notice someone had crashed their intimate party of two. Jon-Jon looked sweaty and exhausted as he finally reached the row they were sitting on. An expensive-looking periwinkle V-neck, a few sizes too small, was stretched tight over his muscular upper body. His thighs, made thick and muscular from years of cross country were barely contained by the wrinkle-free khakis he was wearing. Jon-Jon ran his thick fingers through her wavy dark hair. For years, Tristan had sort of written Jon-Jon Yang off as the class clown but standing right in front of him, blocking the mid-morning sun, he looked hot and not because he was profusely perspiring. Tristan managed to pry his gaze away from the gorgeous body in front of him to finally acknowledge the face attached to it. He noted the look of distress on the other man's face and frowned. Tristan had managed to have not one, not two but three amazing days since that unfortunate occurrence on Monday and Jon-Jon was here to ruin all of it, he just knew it. Tristan sighed and sat the Tupperware container containing his salad down beside him in order to give Jon-Jon his undivided attention. "Who has a problem?" he asked "We - as in you, me, Keisha ... all of us." "I didn't do anything," Keisha said, not bothering to look up from her notebook. "I really fucked up," Jon-Jon said. "Told you I didn't do anything," Keisha said. Tristan tried and failed to suppress and eye roll before calmly asking Jon-Jon, "What did you do?" Jon-Jon let out an extremely long and heavy sigh before reaching into the pocket of his pants and removing a phone. "I keep getting text messages." "From who?" Tristan asked. "Nick's brother." These seemed to be the magical words to draw Keisha away from her work and into the conversation. "Why is Nick's brother texting you?" Keisha asked, brow furrowed and mouth twisted in genuine confusion. "Nick's brother isn't texting me," Jon-Jon said. "I'm beyond confused," Tristan says reaching for his salad. Jon-Jon holds up the phone he'd just taken from his pocket so that Tristan and Keisha could get a better look at it. It was a late-modeled iPhone contained in a black Otterbox phone case. Jon-Jon ran his thumb across the front of the phone and a picture of Nick and Andy appeared on the smudged screen. "This is Nick' phone," Jon-Jon said. "I kept it." "And why exactly did you keep Nick's phone?" Keisha asked. Jon-Jon shrugged his shoulders which was hard to do with his sweater being so tight. "I figured one of us needed to keep it, just in case anyone tried to call or text message Nick." "How many text messages are there?" Tristan asked. Jon-Jon bit his lip and lowered his eyes to the concrete he was standing on. "Fourteen," he said. "Fourteen," Tristan and Keisha blurted at the same time. "From the same person?" Tristan asked. "Thirteen from Nathan and one from someone I think is his mom." "Oh my god," Tristan says shaking his head. He paused to quickly put the lid back on salad. He no longer had an appetite. "I feel like I should text something back but I don't know what to say. Figured you two knew Nick better than I did. Maybe you could respond?" "First of all, there is absolutely no way in hell I'm touching that phone," Keisha said. "You do know they can track phones. When Nick's brother or his parents do find him - and they most certainly will find him - the first thing they're going to do is call the cops. When the cops come to investigate, the first thing they're going to look for is Nick's phone and when they don't find Nick's phone they're going to track it and next thing you know those same cops will be knocking on your door looking for it." "Not if we leave it with Nick," Jon-Jon said. "Leave it with Nick?" Keisha asked. "How do you propose you do that?" "I figured maybe once we respond to all these texts, one or both of you could ride back over to Nick's place with me so I can put it in his room or something. As long as it's in the house, they're not going to suspect any of us." "Oh my god, oh my god." Keisha gripped the side of her head like she was having the mother of all migraines. "I do believe it was me on that Monday we vowed to never talk about this ever again who said, "Hey you guys, this is not going to work". Actually I know for a fact it was me who uttered those exact words but hey, since I was outvoted, I sat back and watched a bunch of crazy people stuff an actual human inside a trunk. Look - I take full responsibility for my part in all of this but believe me when I say, I want nothing to do with anything involving this." "What about you, Tristan?" Jon-Jon asked. "I'm with Keisha," Tristan spoke up. "I, too, take full responsibility for the role I've played in all of this but the more we get involved the deeper this hole gets." Jon-Jon groaned and ran his fingers through his hair again. His face was the color of cooked beets and Tristan noticed the sweat stains developing underneath his arms. "Please," Jon-Jon said after several moments passed between the three of them. "I don't have anyone in my corner. Both Leah and Andy seem convinced I'm the one who pushed Nick." "But you did push Nick," Keisha said. "Yeah - but so did Finn," Tristan spoke. Keisha looked over at Tristan and glared at him. "You told me your eyes were closed when it happened." "Tristan's right, though," Jon-Jon said. "We both pushed Nick at the same time. We didn't mean to push him off the stage. I don't think either of us realized we were that close to the edge. It was an accident." "Which is why we should've called the police," Keisha said. "You really think it would've been that simple?" Jon-Jon asked leveling his own glare on Keisha this time. Keisha folded her arms across her chest and stared back at Jon-Jon with such an intensity, Tristan half-expected the other man to disintegrate into ashes. "Yes, I do." "You and I both know if the police came out, this whole thing would've been pinned on me. I'd be the one sitting in a cell right now." "How can you possibly know that?" Tristan asked. "Do I really have to spell it out for you?" Jon-Jon asked, throwing his hands up He looks back and forth between Tristan and Keisha. "Finn's the golden boy," he continued. "The one who everyone likes The one who can do no wrong. I'm the clown. The eternal fuck-up. If it came down to me and Finn, Finn wins every time." "Jon-Jon we wouldn't have thrown you under the bus for the sake of protecting Finn," Tristan said. "You sure about that?" "What’s that supposed to mean?" "Tristan - I'm not dumb. I know you guys may think I am but I'm not. Far from it actually. Look, I see the way you look at Finn when you think no one is watching. You're in love with him." Tristan scoffed and turned to look at Keisha who had conveniently gone back to working on her homework assignment. Instead, Tristan drew his attention back to Jon-Jon who for once in his life looked serious. "I am not in love with Finn," Tristan spoke through gritted teeth. "Hmm." Jon-Jon rested his chin on his fist and looked down at the ground again. "Perhaps I misread the situation "Yes," Tristan said. "You most definitely misread the situation." "Noted," Jon-Jon said. "So are you coming with me or not?" "To Nick's house? Most certainly not." "Tristan - please. Leah said - and I quote - Hell no, I'd rather have Satan poke me in the asshole with his pitchfork for all eternity than go back in that house again." "Yeah," Tristan said. "That definitely sounds like Leah." "Sheldon said no and of course Finn's not willing to get anymore dirt on his hands even though he's just as much to blame as I am." "What about Andy?" Tristan asked. "Does Andy know you have Nick's cell phone." "I tried to talk to him about it this morning but I just couldn't. I do not want to be the source of anymore pain in regards to that kid. He's been through enough." "I guess that leaves just me and Keisha," Tristan said. "Not involved, remember?" Keisha asked. "Fine - guess that leaves just me." "I promise all you'd be doing is just riding along with me. I'd take care of making sure the phone's back in Nick's possession." "What about the keys?" Tristan asked. "Didn't they leave Nick's keys inside the house after moving his car?" "There's a statue of a frog right next to the front door," Jon-Jon said. "Noticed it on my way out. There's a spare key in this hollowed out part underneath the frog." "So, on top of involuntary manslaughter, you're willing to add on breaking and entering?" "Either way you look at it, I'm pretty much screwed. Just spinning my wheels at this point. You game or not?" Tristan gnawed on his bottom lip. partly out of contemplation. Mostly out of hunger. While his hands weren't exactly clean in all of this, there were others in their group whose hands were much filthier. This was a supremely bad idea but what Jon-Jon had said had really tugged at something inside of him. If anyone who could walk away from this situation squeaky clean it would be Finn Montgomery and that was not fair at all. Finn was not the super nice All-American guy everyone at Shenandoah thought he was. So far the only thing he'd proven, at least to Tristan, was that he was a heartless bastard who had zero concern for how his actions affected others. At least Jon-Jon didn't go around intentionally hurting people. He could be an asshole at times but he at least meant well. "And I wouldn't have to get out of the car?" Tristan asked. Jon-Jon shook his head and said, "No. I'd take care of anything." "And I could wear a disguise?" "Sure - why not." "And most importantly, no one would ever find out I went with you?" "Not unless your friend over there decided to spill the beans." Tristan looked over at Keisha to look for some sort of indication that he was about to make the right decision but at the moment Keisha was intent on not getting involved and she could be very, very stubborn when she wanted to. Not that he blamed her. He didn't blame anyone for how they felt right about now. He usually depended on Keisha to keep him honest, so to speak, but this time he was going to have to be his own moral guide. "Okay," he said. "But I have to be home before eight."
  4. Finnishia - that is so hilarious to me! PS: Hope no one from Nebraska is offended. I'm glad you thought the switching from 1st to 3rd person was seamless. That makes me so happy because I was so worried about how this would affect how the story reads. You are right. At 17/18 years old, something like this would have sent me into a deep, dark depression. Not sure if I would've been able to handle it. Thank you so much for reading! BLW
  5. No truer words have ever been spoken. And to answer your question, not very long. BLW
  6. "You're home late." Tristan had noticed his dad's rusty pickup truck parked in the driveway when Keisha dropped him at home moments earlier but hearing his voice coming from the living room still made him jump. He placed his keys and wallet on the small table in the glass bowl on the table through he front door and strode into the next room like a death row inmate. He plopped down on the ancient plaid sofa opposite his dad. The television was on and tuned to one of his dad's favorite shows. Aside from football and the occasional documentary on Netflix, Jason Goolsby loved Perry Mason. Tristan wasn't a fan of most black and white TV shows but even he had to admit Perry Mason was pretty awesome. The guy never lost a case. "How was practice?" The glow coming from the TV screen was the only light in the room. Tristan noticed the older man was still wearing his light blue hospital scrubs. His dad was also looking every second of his 52 years. His hair had gotten considerably longer over the last several weeks, nearly grazing his broad shoulders and flecked with gray. The natty beard shrouding the lower half of his face certainly was not helping matters. Tristan would have normally sent the man upstairs to shave while he booked an appointment with his favorite hairstylist at the salon by the mall but tonight he simply did not have the energy. "It was okay." Jason polished off the last of the Rolling Rock sitting next to his chair and looked over at his son, his face contorted in a mask of worry. "You sure?" You're awful quiet tonight." Tristan shrugged his shoulders as he slipped further into the squishy dips and folds of the sofa. All he would need to do is kick off his shoes and he would be asleep in three minutes top. He had never been so exhausted in all his life. He wanted to sleep forever. Well, maybe not forever but for a really long time. Maybe he would fall asleep and the day would start over just like it did in that movie he watched with Keisha. He wouldn't be able to keep Finn from ending up with Leah but maybe he would be able to save Nick. "Just tired is all." It wasn't exactly a lie. But it was not the truth either. It wasn't even a fraction of the truth. Tristan wanted to tell his old man it wasn't the two and a half hours of rigorous choreography that had him feeling so weary but there was no way he could go into detail in regards to the other events of the evening. Not that his dad wouldn't understand. Tristan would like to think since coming out, there was nothing he could not tell his dad. Besides, it wasn't like he was the one who accidentally pushed his friend off stage. Thinking about Nick Ramirez's body laying at the bottom of a six-feet deep orchestra pit and then shoved inside a musty, old costume trunk made Tristan sick to his stomach. He thought about running upstairs and unburdening his gut but remembered he had not had anything to eat since lunch. "Everett called." Tristan had not talked to his brother in three, maybe four days which was strange considering they talked at least once a day. While they had exchanged a few text messages since then, their preferred communication was hearing each other's voices. "Everything okay?" He tried not to think too much about Everett being on the other side of the country. If he did, it would be an endless spiral of unnecessary worry. Soon he would have to learn how to live on his own. Sooner than he would like. "Yeah - everything's good. We was calling to let me know he'd managed to get some time off so he could come with us next week." Fall Break. Shit, Tristan thought. With everything going on in his life, he had completely forgotten about the trip to see his grandparents during fall break Prior to all hell breaking loose, he'd been looking forward to getting away from school and theater and Finn. Now that he had the whole covering up his friend's death hanging around his neck like the fattest of albatrosses, he needed that trip more than ever. "That's awesome," he lamely replied. "He'll be flying into Atlanta this Saturday so I figured we'd pick him up and maybe grab dinner at The Varsity." Not even the thought of having chili dogs at his favorite restaurant could temporarily lift him from his current funk but Tristan still managed to muster a smile that did not quite reach his eyes. He decided it was time to call it tonight. Maybe he would feel slightly better about things in the morning. "Sounds like a plan," he said to his dad. Tristan made a show of looking at the time on his phone. It was nearly eleven and he reckoned he could work on his homework during homeroom tomorrow morning. Right now, all he wanted was a quick, hot shower and to climb into bed. He feigned a yawn and said, "It's getting late. Think I'm gonna turn in." "Won't be too far behind you. Promised Delores I'd pick up her evening shift tomorrow as well." Tristan wrestled himself out of the sofa's grasp and walked over to his dad. "You work too hard," he said pressing a kiss to the older man's forehead. "I'll sleep when I'm dead." "That's what you think," Tristan said. "What if heaven is like one big factory where you work forever and you don't get time off." "Well - at least I'd be prepared," his dad chuckled. "Goodnight, Dad," he said. "Night, son. Love you." Tristan is already at the foot of the staircase when he hears his dad's pronouncement. "Love you, too, Dad." Tristan somehow managed to make it to the top of the stairs shouldering the weight of too many worlds. Once inside the bathroom he used to share with Everett, he shed his clothes and vowed to throw them in the trash bin outside the next morning. After a brief tango with the best shower head in the world, he padded, barefoot, across the hall and into his bedroom. Tristan had never been happier to see his bed made. There was nothing better than pulling back the quilt his grandmother's grandmother made and settling underneath those crisp, cool sheets. After changing into an old Spider-Man T-shirt and a pair of gray shorts that barely covered his backside, he reached for his phone which was sitting on the table next to his bed. He fired off a quick text to Keisha and waited five minutes before checking his phone for her response. Keisha not texting him back meant she was asleep. Or too depressed for conversation. Either way, he didn't blame her for not messaging him back. After settling into his bed, Tristan almost reached for his lamp. Instead he grabbed his phone again and scrolled through his list of text conversations. Hi there. He hit send and waited for the reply which came a few seconds later. How's it going? How was your Monday? Blue or manic? Despite the darkness churning inside of him like a category 5 hurricane, Tristan found himself giggling. How about both, he asked. Boyfriend problems or other assorted angsty teenage problems? How about both, he asked again. Since I suck at the whole other assorted angsty teenage problems, I'll take Boyfriend Problems for $500, Alex. The last thing Tristan wanted to talk about was Finn. Then again, maybe talking about Finn would lessen the weight of the stupid dead bird hanging around his neck. He quickly sent a text being as succinct as possible. The problem is he never was my boyfriend and now he is someone else's boyfriend. Well, shit. That sucks. I do believe that's the understatement of the decade. Maybe even the century, Tristan responded. Well - good news is we're only nineteen years into this century so we still have 81 years to turn things around. Too bad we'll be dead for at least 30 of those years. Speak for yourself, Mr. Opposite of Optimistic. I plan on taking the Olivia de Havilland route. I plan on riding my bicycle around Rodeo Drive at 104. Well, good luck with that. I'm sorry you have boyfriend problems with a guy that wasn't even your boyfriend. Thanks, Tristan says. As cliché as it sounds, it does get better. I mean guys don't change. Like ever. But how you handle them will. And eventually it gets easier. I can't believe I was stupid enough to fall in love with the straight-ish guy. Hey, don't beat yourself up over it. We've all been there. Think of it as a rite of passage. You came. You saw. You didn't quite conquer. But at least you'll be wiser the next time. How does the saying go? Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Tristan sighed and frowned and responded with, Wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to see him every single day. Even weekends now that Sheldon wants us to start doing Saturday morning rehearsals. Well, the play will be here before you know it. Just hang in there and it'll all be over soon. Maybe the being in love with Finn Montgomery part would be over but other things wouldn't go away so easily. I'm glad you texted me. You are? Yeah - today's been one of those days for me as well. Really missing home right about now. Tristan bit his lip and asked, When's the next time you'll be home? Christmas and even then it'll only be for a few days. Hardly enough time. Well, Christmas will be here before you know it. Next week is our fall break. Then the play and then the holidays. Any special plans for your break? Me, my dad and my brother are heading to Savannah to visit my grandparents. OMG that's too adorable. Sounds fun. I'm looking forward to getting away for a bit. Ever get that feeling everything's closing in around you? All the time. Los Angeles is freakin' huge but some days it might as well be a shoebox. Note to self, never coming to LA. Not even to see me? Tristan felt something familiar flutter inside of him. Too much traffic and too many earthquakes. Plus you have all those Santa Ana winds to deal with. Yeah there's the whole California could fall off into the Pacific Ocean at any moment but that's part of the charm of living here. Maybe we could meet halfway or something. Like in Nebraska. I think I'd rather fall off into the Pacific Ocean than willingly travel to Nebraska. What's there besides corn and regret? Tristan snorted and looked over at the clock on top of his chest of drawers. It was nearing midnight and he had to be up early. I would reply back with something witty and just a tad bit shady but it's about to be a new day and someone needs their beauty rest. Well - I wouldn't want you to get any bags underneath your eyes. I heard they're really cracking down on how much luggage you can travel with these days. I'm deleting your number as soon as I wake up in the morning. I kid. I kid. Please don't delete me. Especially since we have plans to meet in Nebraska. Goodnight. Talk soon. Goodnight, sir. May you have nothing but pleasant dreams. "From your lips to God's ears," Tristan said as he connected his phone to it's charger. He leaned over and turned off the light casting his bedroom into darkness. Tristan turned on his side and pulled his covers up to his chin. Colin was absolutely right. Now that he knew what it felt like to be the jilted lover, he would be way smarter the next go round. If there was a next go round. Tomorrow was a new day and while the reality of what happened today would still be the same, the only thing he could control was his own actions. Come hell or high water, he was going to have a good night's sleep and a good day tomorrow. Even if it killed him.
  7. imperfect _pisces

    Chapter 6

    Yay! I love hearing that. Stay tuned! So much has yet to happen!!!
  8. imperfect _pisces

    Chapter 8

    Thank you so much for your kind words. I need to give Sex Education a second chance. I sort of OD-ed on teenage sex comedies after the whole American Pie series of films.
  9. Are you saying a bunch of teenagers who accidentally killed their classmate and are trying to cover it up are making questionable decisions? Imagine that! 😝
  10. I press my forehead against the window. The blur of red and white against the pitch black is strangely calming as we speed down the interstate towards a part of town I don't often frequent. The silence that fills the space between us is neither comfortable nor completely unwelcome. I'm chewing my thumbnail which usually drives Keisha crazy but she's too busy white-knuckling the steeling wheel to notice. The glass is cool against my skin. I want to stick my head out the window and inhale the crisp autumn air. I want to be at home, in my room, in my bed, underneath the covers. I want this day to be over. I want this day to be erased. The car in front of us takes the next exit and Keisha follows suit. In the darkness, I can make out the silhouettes of Jon-Jon and Sheldon and Andy. Finn's Jeep is bringing up the rear. I can't help but think about Leah sitting in the passenger's seat, scrolling through the playlists on Finn's phone. The things I used to do. It doesn't take us long for us to arrive at McKenna Manor, one of the older gated communities. I don't know what Jon-Jon says to the guy manning the gate but he lets all three vehicles enter. It never occurred to me that Nick Ramirez was rich, or at least well-off, but then again there's a lot I don't know about him. What I do know is his dad's a dentist with his own practice and I sort of remember Nick mentioning that his mom had recently retired from being a psychology professor at Georgia Tech. I guess having a dentist and a professor for parents means Nick and his brother don't have a whole lot to worry about at least on the financial front. It's not Montgomery money but the Ramirez family aren't exactly broke. Jon-Jon comes to a stop outside of a two-story red brick home with white columns and a circular driveway. There's a two-car garage attached to the house but Andy's assured us no one is home. Keisha shuts off the engine and unfastens her seatbelt. "I can't believe I'm about to do this." She pushes open the driver's side door which is my cue to unfasten my own seatbelt and vacate the vehicle. The others have gathered around Finn's Jeep. Keisha and I join them and I'm forced to endure another awkward silence. If this were a movie, there would be lots of witty banter exchanged by way too good-looking 20-something actor but instead this is real life and we are a bunch of scared kids standing outside the house of our dead classmate's house plotting to cover up his murder. As I stare up at the house in front of us, I think about my role in all of this. Technically my hands are clean in all of this. So is Keisha's. Well - clean in the sense that neither of us were the ones who pushed Nick off the stage and into the orchestra pit. We weren't the ones who crammed Nick's body into the costume trunk we found in the prop closet. Technically I did help carry the trunk out to Nick's car but that's only because it was way too heavy for Keisha and Leah and Andy was certainly in no mood to put his ex-boyfriend's body in the trunk of his ex-boyfriend's car. So what does that make me? An accessory? If convicted, would I have to go to jail or would I be sentenced to a few months of probation and some roadside clean-up. "Not to sound rude or anything but can we get this over with?" Leah's voice is like shrapnel. "It's just that I told my mom I'd be home before nine." "Is Andy going to get out?" Finn asks, gesturing to Nick's car. Sheldon shakes his head. "We told him to stay put," he says. "None of this really has anything to do with him." "None of this has anything to do with me either," Leah mutters under her breath. "Then why are you here?" Keisha asks. I can hear the eye roll in her words. "Why are any of us here?" Jon-Jon asks. "This was an accident." "Try telling that to the cops," Leah says. "Sorry, Officer, we didn't mean to push him off the stage." "None of this," Sheldon says, "Is getting us anywhere. Whether it was an accident or not, we all agreed to this. I suggest we stick to our plan." “I’ve got the keys.” Jon-Jon holds up a ring of keys. Nick’s keys. I remember seeing Nick twirl them around his fingers while we were talking one day. “Leah, would you open the front door while we get the trunk?” Sheldon asked. “Um, wouldn’t my fingerprints get on the doorknob?” “Wear gloves,” Sheldon says. “I left them in my locker. At school.” Keisha lets loose a loud groan and says, “Give me the keys.” Jon-Jon tosses the keys at her and she catches them in her right hand. Without a word, Keisha starts up the stone path leading up to the huge front porch running the length of the house. Sheldon and Jon-Jon start moving towards Nick’s car. I feel a hand on the small of my back. “You okay?” Finn's scent engulfs me like a warm embrace. I look up to find him looking at me. His eyes somehow manage to penetrate the darkness and are as bright as the stars taking pity over us. Finn looks at me with such a familiarity that for the briefest of moments I forget the reality of our current situation. "Finn, Tristan - hurry up. This thing is heavy." Jon-Jon's words are the bucket of ice cold water I need. Nice try, Finn Montgomery. "No," I say. "I'm not okay." Not even bothering to wait for his reply, I turn and walk over to where Jon-Jon and Sheldon are standing. The three of us, plus Finn, wrestle the trunk out of the trunk of Nick's car. We walk fast up the path towards the house and by the time we reach the front porch Keisha's managed to get the door open. I hear a chirping noise coming from inside of the house followed by Keisha letting out a string of expletives I wish I could repeat because sometimes Keisha sounds so eloquent when she's cursing. "Does anyone know the code?" she asks, hands on hips, annoyance etched into her face. "Try 1, 2, 3, 4," Jon-Jon says as we lower the trunk to the ground. Sheldon glares at Jon-Jon and asks, "Who would use that as the code to their alarm system?" "That's the code we use at my house," Jon-Jon says. "It's easy to remember." "Please stop talking," Keisha says. "Um - you guys, if we don't put something in the cops are going to come," Finn says, running his fingers through her hair. "Then we'd really be fucked up the ass," Jon-Jon says. He then looks over at me and winces. "Um - no offense." The chirping noise is getting faster and my palms are starting to sweat. "Does anyone know Nick's birthday?" Keisha asks looking back and forth between the four of us. "Try November 13th," I suggest. "1113." Keisha walks up to the keypad which is just inside the door and enters the four numbers. The chirping continues. "That's not it," she says. "Shit." "Maybe we should get out of here," Finn says looking back at his Jeep. "Dude - in case you forgot, there's a dead-ass body in a trunk." "Dude, that's our friend in there," Finn says, gesturing to the trunk. "Have some respect. Jesus." "This is not helping," Keisha says bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet. "Try 0223." Andy appears at my side, a gray hoodie drawn tight around his thin frame. Nick's hoodie. Keisha immediately punches in the numbers and the chirping stops. "Oh thank God," she whispers leaning her head against the keypad. "You know the code to Nick's house?" a slack-jawed Jon-Jon asks. "I come -." Andy clears his throat. "I used to come over here a lot. Plus 0223 - it's my birthday. Nick changed the code right after his parents left on their trip." "Well," Jon-Jon says. "Crisis averted. We better wrap this up. My mom's blowing up my phone asking where I am." Without a word, the four of us pick the trunk up and carry it over the threshold. "Where are we putting this?" Jon-Jon asks. "I mean him." "Not to sound crass but maybe we should put him at the bottom of the stairs," Sheldon says. He points to a nearby set of stairs leading to the upstairs. "I mean technically he fell at school. Maybe they - the cops - will think he fell down the stairs." "He didn't fall," Andy says with a touch of venom in his voice. "He was pushed." "Dude - why you looking at me?" Jon-Jon asks. "Because you pushed Nick," Keisha says. "We both pushed him at the same time and he fell off the stage," Jon-Jon says gesturing at Finn. "You guys," Sheldon says. "Playing the blame game is getting us nowhere. This was an accident. A horrible, horrible accident." "Take him upstairs," Andy says. "What?" Jon-Jon asks, eyes wide in disbelief. "Why." "I don't want to think about him lying on the floor," Andy says. "We'll take him upstairs and put him in his bed." "But that doesn't make sense," Sheldon says. "I don't care if it makes sense," Andy shrieks. "Whoa," Leah says walking through the front door. "What's with all the yelling. The whole neighborhood can hear you guys." "Thought I told you to wait in the car," Keisha says, giving Leah the death stare. I reach out and place my hand on Andy's arm. "Andy - we'll take him upstairs," I say. I turn to the others. "Let's finish this." No one says anything and for the first time today I feel relief. Keisha, Leah and Andy lead the way as the rest of us lug the heavy trunk up the carpeted steps. Along the way, I noticed the framed photos lining the pistachio-colored walls. There's a photo of Nick and Nathan as babies followed by a smaller photo taken on their first day of Kindergarten. Nathan is clearly the more outgoing of the two, smiling the biggest in every photo. Nick seems more reserved, like he understands life in a way that his twin brother doesn't. The photo at the top of the stairs is the most recent. Nick looks really hot with his hair slicked back wearing a black tux standing next to an equally stunning Andy who is wearing a white tux with a pink boutonniere. Nathan is cradling his former girlfriend, Monique Castillo, from behind. The photo must have been taken at prom last year. Keisha and I didn't go. We have promised each other we will go this year. That's if we don't end up behind bars. Andy leads us to a door at the end of the hallway which I assume is Nick's bedroom. He pushes open the door and the seven of us enter a rather large space with a sloping ceiling. My bedroom is a shoebox compared to Nick's room. Several posters of Gerard Way from My Chemical Romance pepper the seafoam walls. The bed is unmade and several Mountain Dew bottles litter the hardwood floor. Now I'm not the neatest person but Nick's room looks like a bomb went off in it. I bow out of the next part which involves Finn and Jon-Jon removing Nick's body from the trunk. I look over at Andy who has an unreadable expression on my face. "Is this good?" Jon-Jon asks. I look over just as he's pulling the covers over Nick's still body. Andy doesn't say anything. Instead he starts moving towards the bedroom door. As everyone starts following him, I look over at Nick's desk and see a small notebook sitting on the edge. It's the kind with the black and white splotches across the front. I don't know why but I reach for it and quickly shove it underneath my jacket. I quickly join the others in the hallway. "Keisha, can you give me the keys," Finn says. "I'm going to put Nick's car in the garage." "Nick doesn't park in the garage," Andy says in a quiet voice. "He usually parks in the driveway." Finn nods and turns his head just in time to catch the keys. "Mind if I ride back with you?" Jon-Jon asks Keisha. "Sure," she says. "You guys mind if I have a moment?" Andy asks as he stares inside of the bedroom. "Of course," I say, patting him on the shoulder. "Take your time. We'll be downstairs." Andy gives me a weak smile before he walks back inside of Nick's room. I watch as he quietly closes the door behind him. "What's he about to do?" Jon-Jon asks. "You are not allowed to talk for the rest of the night," Keisha says through gritted teeth. Jon-Jon opens his mouth to respond but instead he turns around and starts walking down the hall. The rest of us follow. I walk down the stairs as fast as I can and I don't stop until I'm buckled into the passenger's seat of Keisha's Honda. I want to get as far away from this place as possible. "I think I'm going to be sick tomorrow," Keisha says as she slides in behind the wheel. I watch as she inserts the key into the ignition and starts the car. Jon-Jon and Sheldon climb into the backseat. "Finn's going to wait on Andy and then drive him home," Sheldon says. According to the clock on the dash, it's a quarter to nine. I should've been at home three hours ago. I pull my phone from my pocket and see that I have no missed calls from Dad. I check my texts and there's nothing new from him. I wonder if he picked up an extra shift at the hospital. Keisha turns around at the end of the cul de sac and soon we are headed out of McKenna Manor. I think about Andy alone in Nick's room. I try to imagine the pain he must be in right now but thinking about it makes my stomach churn. I turn to Keisha and say quietly, "I think I'm going to be sick tomorrow, too."
  11. "Fuck. This. Year." "Tristan, sweetie, it's way too early for fuck," Keisha says as we walk towards the front entrance of the school. It's Monday morning and this is what you've missed. Finn Montgomery and Leah Platt are Shenandoah High's new it-couple. Yes, you read that correctly. Finn and Leah are officially dating. Leah's even changed her relationship status again, this time to in a relationship with Finn Montgomery. This is a nightmare. Yeah, move over Pennywise the Clown. Finn and Leah being a couple is officially the scariest thing I've ever seen. I would've poured bleach in my eyes this morning had it not been for the French exam I have in fourth period. The hallways are pretty quiet because it's Monday and no one, not even the teachers, want to be here. Keisha and I pass by Jon-Jon as we take the stairs to the second floor. He's too busy looking pissed to even notice us. I'm sure he's heard the news by now. I always figured me and Jon-Jon had nothing in common but right now we are the two jilted lovers in this bizarre situation. If this were an early-2000s romantic teen comedy, we'd get revenge by pretending to date only to discover we are super into each other. Yeah, not going to happen. "Bitch," Keisha hisses as we pass by a group of girls. Leah is at the center of the small clique. She's straightened and darkened her hair and for once she's not dressed like a little girl in a JC Penney's catalogue. I can't hear what she's saying but the small group of girls around her appear to be hanging onto every single one of her words. Leah Platt is popular. What is Things I thought I'd never see in my lifetime, Alex? "You're surprisingly calm," Keisha says. "If I were you and she took my boyfriend, I'd be dragging her by her Fisher-Price hair extensions up and down this hallway." "Trust me. I want to be mad at her. But if you really think about it, she's really done nothing wrong. It's not like she knew about me and Finn." "You sure about that?" Keisha asks. "Jon-Jon knows. So does Andy." "I seriously doubt they would've said anything. Especially to her. Besides, Leah's a lot of things. Condescending. Annoying as hell. But she's not vindictive." "You're right," Keisha says after a few moments. "I still want to punch her in her face though." The two of us are standing outside of Keisha's homeroom. From the other end of the hallway I notice Andy heading in our direction. He makes eye contact with me and shoots me a sad smile. Next thing I know he's throwing his long arms around me and pulling me into a hug. "I'm so sorry, Tristan." He turns to Keisha and waves and then turns his attention back to me. "How you holding up." "You know the whole five stages of grief? Well, currently I'm firmly planted between denial and wanting to take a baseball bat to a certain person's Jeep." "We can borrow my little brother's," Keisha says. "Last time I checked, destroying other people's property is a felony." "I know," Keisha says. "But it would make you feel better." "Well," Andy says. "I just want you to know, I'm totally hashtag Team Tristan. I can't believe Finn did this to you. I thought he was .... different." Out of the corner of my eye I catch something green from down the hallway. A green jacket. Finn in his letterman jacket is walking in our direction. Of course - he and Keisha have the same homeroom. "I appreciate it, Andy," I say, keeping my eyes trained on Finn. "I really hate to run but the bell's about to ring." "No worries," Andy says. "I'll see you two in Theater." Shit. I've been so caught up in all of this I totally forgot we'll all have to see each other this afternoon. Keisha leans in and gives me a hug and says she will text me. As we separate, I walk as fast as I can in the opposite direction towards my own homeroom class. ~ "Since it's officially October, we really need to buckle down," Sheldon announces as we all stand around him in a small circle. Keisha's on my left and Andy's on my right. Finn's direction across from me but Sheldon's blocking our view of each other. "With next week being fall break, we really don't have a whole lot of time between now and opening night?" "Have we heard anything about Nick?" Leah asks. She's on Andy's right standing next to Finn. "No," Sheldon says. "I've tried texting and calling but he's not answering either. At this point, I think it's best I step in and take over his role. Even if he came back today, there's no way we'd be able to teach him the choreography on top of everything else we have to do." "Can't believe he bailed on us," Jon-Jon says. "He didn't bail," Andy pipes up. "He's been really sick." "I literally just saw him the other day while I was out jogging," Jon-Jon says. I look over at Andy. He opens his mouth to respond to what Jon-Jon's just but decides to bite down on his lower-lip instead. "Regardless, I'll be taking over the role of Richard Ramirez which I realize is somewhat problematic considering I'm black and Richard Ramirez is not. But, we have to make it work. Is everyone okay with that?" "I'm totally okay with it," Leah says in her obnoxiously cheerful voice. "After all, men used to take on female roles." "Good point," Sheldon says. "Well, since I won't be able to play while you guys performed, I spent the weekend recording instrumentals of each of the songs." Sheldon walks over to his backpack and pulls out his MacBook. "Give me a moment to get my laptop connected to the sound system," he says. "We're going to start with "Can You Blame Us" and then we're going to practice each of the solo performances. Everyone get into position." "Can You Blame Us" is the final song of the show and my personal favorite. Basically it's this huge dance number that ends with each of us taking center stage and taking a bow before leaving the stage. We slowly get into position while Sheldon works to get the audio connected. Finn's in the middle because he's the tallest. On either side of him is Keisha and Leah. I'm next to Leah and Andy's next to me while Jon-Jon and Nick ... well I guess Sheldon now ... is on the other side of Keisha. Piano music fills the auditorium as Sheldon quickly jumps in line next to Jon-Jon. Our moves are a bit creaky but we manage to get through the first half of the song without anyone stepping on anyone's toes. There's a part where I have to tango with Leah and I royally mess up the steps. I hear Sheldon from behind me encouraging me to keep going. He assures me we're going to practice this until we get it right. Towards the end when it comes to Andy's part where he takes a bow, he does a high kick which causes his shoe to fly off into the audience. There is laughter all around me. Sheldon tells us to stop and to focus. I take my bow without incident and quickly march off the stage. After a few beats I turn around and march back onto the stage along with all of the others. Together we take one last bow and presumably this is the part where the curtain comes down. The piano music stops and we are all panting and sweating profusely. "Good job, everyone," Sheldon says walking over to his computer. There's slow-clapping coming from off stage. Seven pairs of eyes all look to our left to see where there the clapping is coming from. I'm pretty surprised to see Nick walk out onto the stage. My first thought is that it's good to see him, in the flesh. My second thought is, where has he been? My third thought is, what the hell is he wearing? Nick looks like he hasn't showered since the Obama administration. His hair which is on the longish side is so wild I wonder if he or anyone else would be able to get a comb through it. He's wearing a black Led Zeppelin t-shirt and a pair of dark denim jeans with holes at the knees. No one speaks for literally an eternity. Andy's at my right and he looks like he's seen a ghost. "Nick," Sheldon says. "You're back." "Yeah but it looks like I've been replaced," Nick says coolly. "Not replaced," Sheldon says, his voice not as confident. "You weren't here and ... we have to keep practicing." Sheldon's voice gradually trails off the more he speaks. "Dude, you left and we moved on," Jon-Jon says rather matter-of-factly. Jon-Jon slowly folds his arms across his chest which he's puffed out for further intimidating. Instead of looking intimidated, Nick laughs and shakes his head. "Still an asshole, I see," he says staring Jon-Jon dead in the eye. Before Jon-Jon has a chance to respond, Andy pipes up. "Nick," he says. His voice is thin and hollow sounding. "Why are you here?" "Why am I here?" he asks. Nick steps towards Andy and that's when I noticed how pale he looks. Whether Nick was sick or faking it, he looks sick right now. He's also sweating but then again we're all sweaty. But Nick just didn't finish performing a seven-minute musical number. "Don't act like you haven't spent the last week calling me and standing outside my house like some weirdo," Nick hisses. "I was worried about you," Andy blurts. Andy looks terrified and I don't blame him. I have never seen Nick Ramirez like this. I've never seen him look so menacing. "You don't give a shit about me," Nick screams into Andy's face. Andy yelps and then whimpers as tears begin to fall. "If you really cared about me," Nick continues. "You would've told your parents to fuck off a long time ago." "Nick, enough." This time it's me that's speaking. My heart is beating so hard and so fast in my chest. I don't do tense situations but hearing and seeing Andy cry is clawing at my heart right about now. "Fuck you, Tristan," Nick says not even bothering to look at my direction. "How about you back off," Finn has a vice-grip on Nick's arm. Nick somehow manages to pull himself from Finn's grasp despite Finn being bigger and stronger. Nick lunges at Finn and pushes him backwards. Finn stumbles a bit but manages to return the shrug. Andy's crying. Nick is cussing. Leah wedges herself between the two angry men but Nick flings her to the ground like a ragdoll. I try to move but I cannot will my legs to move. I try looking for Keisha but my eyes are too glazed over with tears. I cannot believe any of this is happening. There's screaming and yelling and the sounds of metal folding chairs moving across the floor. I squeeze my eyes shut and fill the tears that have gathered there trail down the sides of my face. "Fuck you," Nick roars again. There's more scuffling sounds and then a cracking noise followed by a gasp. Then there's nothing. No yelling. No shoes squeaking across the wooden stage floor. I feel a hand on my shoulder and I know instantly that it's Keisha. "What did you do?" Andy screams from my right. Hearing those words turns my blood into ice. Something's broken. Something's broken and it cannot be fixed.
  12. Hi @Etotsira - I hope to have it posted no later than Saturday. This is the first time I've finished a chapter and gone directly into writing a new one. So happy you are enjoying! BLW PS - Puppy dog eyes are so my weakness!!
  13. My second lie to Finn happens on a rainy Saturday afternoon. It’s the day following homecoming and I’m on my ninth episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. I’m lying across my bed with a half-eaten bag of spicy pork rinds sitting next to me when I receive a text from him. What time should I pick you up, he asks. Pick me up? I crawl towards the top of my bed so I can lean up against my headboard. Did you forget? I tell him, yes. Leah’s birthday dinner is tonight. I vaguely remember accosting Keisha and myself and asking if we would come to her birthday party. Did we say yes? Did I say yes? I’m pretty sure if Finn is going I did say yes. No offense to Leah, but the last thing I want to do right now is leave my bedroom. You still wanna go, he asks. As if on cue, bright blue light floods my bedroom and thunder rattles my the walls. My alarm clock says that it’s a quarter after four but it feels way later. Beyond my bedroom window is nothing but gray and wet and leaves. Yup. There’s absolutely no way I’m leaving the house today. You still there, he asks. I chew on my bottom lip and consider my options. So, I’m definitely not going to Leah’s birthday thing. That’s a given. However, how is Finn going to feel about me bailing at the last minute? I’m so not the type to bail on plans, especially at the last minute. The way I see it, there’s only one option. Would you be mad if I didn’t go? You okay? Just feeling a little under the weather. I've been in bed all day. At least the second part’s true. You need anything, he asks. Actually I’m gonna have my dad make me a bowl of soup. This is actually sort of true. Dad picked up a shift at the hospital. However, there’s leftover wonton soup from when we ordered Chinese a few days ago. I feel like I should come over and take care of you. Admittedly that does sound nice but my heart hasn’t quite thawed out from last night. Finn pretty much ignored me during the game and I still don’t know how I feel about our only being a thing when we’re in private. But I did tell Leah I would come and I get the feeling she doesn’t have a lot of friends, he continues. It sounds harsh but I’ve gotten the same feeling. Leah barely knows me or Finn or Keisha. We’re not even in the same grade. You should go. It’s just a few hours and the food’s probably going to be really good. Meh. My parents have brunch at the Walton Club pretty much every Saturday. The food is pretty mediocre. Leah did mention your parents know the owners. Yeah. The Fontenots. They’ve been friends with my family for years. My brother Fabian was married to their daughter but they’re divorced now. That sounds really awkward. It was at first but things are better now. You sure you don’t want me to come over? I’m fine. I promise. Just taking it easy. Well if it weren’t for this birthday party I’d probably be taking it easy, too. Not a fan of this weather. Rather be in watching a movie or something. That sounds nice. Maybe if this thing doesn’t last too long I could come over and we could watch something on Netflix. And chill? Finn sends me a series of happy devil emojis followed by a shrugging emoji. I roll my eyes. Have fun at the party, Mister Montgomery. Finn responds with a kissy face emoji. I reach over and place my phone down on the table beside my bed. Crisis averted. Do I feel bad for lying? Of course! I absolutely hate lying. I really do. That's one of the main reasons I came out. I didn't like lying to Dad and Keisha. I crawl out of my bed and walk over to my bedroom window. The rain is really coming down. I don't mind the cold and I don't mind the rain but when those things combine, I want to stay inside and eat soup and watch Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler solve crimes of the particularly heinous variety. I make my way downstairs and I'm happy to see there's still some soup left. After microwaving me a bowl, I grab a Coke out of the fridge and then head back upstairs to my room. The light on my phone is blinking by the time I'm settled back in bed. I pick it up and see that I have a message alert. I put in my password and click on my messaging app. There's two text messages from Colin. The first one says he's made it back to LA after a two-hour layover in Denver. The second one asks if I have any Saturday night plans. No plans, I text back. Sorry about the layover. No worries. I have a few eBooks on my phone to keep me busy. So you're a reader. Yessir. Big horror guy. Love horror movies. Horror books not so much. So you like horror movies but don't like horror novels? I read Stephen King's It when I was in the 7th grade and I had nightmares for like a week. You read It when you were in the 7th grade? Wow. I'm 21 and I still refuse to read or watch it. You're really missing out. The movies are pretty decent. The one from the 90s not so much. Maybe when I'm back in town again, you can convince me to watch it. Deal. Netflix is asking me if I'm still watching SVU so I grab the remote and turn off my smart TV. Colin now has my undivided attention. So, I ask. What are your Saturday plans? I have a date with the Golden Girls. I'm also thinking about having a pizza delivered. I'm pretty hungry. Okay, don't judge me, but I've never seen an episode of the Golden Girls before. Okay why don't you just delete my number right now and we'll never speak again. I'm sorry but a show about old ladies living together didn't seem all that appealing to me. Let me guess, you watch Sex and the City. Of course. What self-respecting gay guy doesn't. Basically Golden Girls is the original Sex and the City. How so, I ask. Well, there's Dorothy. She's like Carrie Bradshaw. Basically none of the other characters would work without her. Her mother, Sophia, is the Miranda. She's razor-tongued but super loving. Then there's Rose. Rose, like Charlotte, is super sweet and caring. Then there's my favorite character of all, Blanche. Blanche is like in her fifties but is still having sex and is very unapologetic about it. Like Samantha. Yes. Like Samantha. Dorothy, Sophia, Rose and Blanche all share a house in Miami. It's super funny. Some episodes are sad but really good. I used to watch it all the time with my grandmother. Okay. You've officially twisted my arm. It's on Hulu. You can thank me later. Guess I'll add it to my ever-growing pile of things to binge-watch. I highly suggest moving the Golden Girls to the top of the list. Noted. By the way, why aren't you out with your hot man this evening? Is hanging out on Saturday night still a thing with you young people? Young people? Ha. Okay, Grandpa. To answer your question, it's rainy cats and dogs right now so I'm not going out anyway. Secondly, you remember Leah, don't you? Gee - how could I ever forget? Well tonight's her birthday dinner and she invited me and Finn and Keisha. Say no more. I've had enough of that girl to last me a lifetime. Leah's sweet. She's basically like Rachel Berry 2.0. OMG, I totally said that once. Every semester there's a girl like her that comes into the theater program and then after a few weeks either she quits or she turns that shit off. Yeah, Leah's definitely in for a rude awakening after high school. Maybe she'll magically snap out of it before then. Doubtful, I say. So, you mentioned Finn was invited, too. Yeah. We were supposed to go together but I sort of told him I was feeling under the weather. The ole lying to the boyfriend so you don't have to go to the party trick. Trust me, I feel really bad about it. Not exactly a fan of lying. Well, I won't tell anyone. Thanks. So, you have no plans. Yup. I believe that's what I have no plans. And I have no plans. What are you suggesting, Mr. McNamara? I'm thinking right now's the perfect time for you to be introduced to Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia. Think so? I know so. Go grab you a snack and I'll get us set up. Aren't we bossy? Always. And I always get what I want. ~ Nine and a half episodes later, I must've fallen asleep because now it's morning and the sun is filling the interior of my bedroom in a truly oppressive manner. I turnover and nearly roll over onto my laptop which is still open. The program Colin used so we could watch the Golden Girls is still open. In the message section, there's a message from Colin that came in at 10:53 PM. Guess you fell asleep. Goodnight, you prince of Maine, you king of New England. He's such a poet. I shut the lid on my laptop. I turn over on my other side and see that it's a little after nine according to my alarm clock. I also notice my phone is blinking on the edge of the table next to my bed. Most likely a missed called from Finn. I've got seven texts and one missed call, all from Keisha. I decide to skip the texts and go straight to the source. Keisha picks up on the second ring. "Why didn't you answer my call?" she asks a bit too loudly for a Sunday morning. "I was sleep. What's up?" "I'm guessing you haven't seen Facebook this morning." "No," I say. "Again, I was sleep. Just woke up." "Thank God," she says. "What's going on?" I ask, sitting up straight, back propped against my headboard. "Do me a favor and click on Facebook and please stay on the phone with me while you do it. PS - I'm on my way over. I hope your dad's made breakfast." I barely hear what Keisha's saying because I'm scrolling through my apps looking for Facebook. I click on the Facebook app and I refresh my timeline. I don't even have to scroll to see exactly what Keisha wants me to see. Leah Platt's latest post is at the top of my Facebook feed. It's photos of her taken at her birthday gathering paired with a declaration of her latest relationship status. According to Leah, it's complicated. I roll my eyes. I can hear Keisha breathing in my ear. "Have you seen it yet?" she asks. "Apparently Leah's current relationship status is complicated." "Not that," Keisha scoffs. "Look at the pictures." There's over forty pictures in the photo album she's named Birthday Fun. I quickly scroll through photos of a particularly attractive Leah making duck faces with people I don't know. Towards the end, there is a face I do recognize. In one photograph, Leah is perched on Finn's lap with her arms around his neck. Finn looks uncomfortable. Second photo, Leah has her forehead pressed against Finn's forehead. Finn doesn't look as uncomfortable. Next photo, Finn's neck appears to be nuzzled against Leah's neck. By the look on Leah's face, she appears to be enjoying this. Second to last photo, Leah is toying with the top button on the dark blue button down Finn is wearing. Finn has a huge grin on his face. As my thumbs scrolls over to the next photo, I feel last night's wonton soup creeping back up my esophagus. Leah is kissing Finn. On the lips. Finn is definitely kissing her back. Her arms are twisted around his thick neck. His big hands are on her waist. Both their eyes are closed. "Hang on, babe," Keisha says. "I'm almost at your house." "Too late," I say before I watch my Chinese in reverse.
  14. “Where’s your green and gold?” Keisha pulls into my driveway at a quarter to seven. Tonight’s the big homecoming game which I’d totally forgotten about until Finn reminded me this morning when he picked me up for school. Frankly the last place I want to be tonight is back at school watching a bunch of mildly-hot meatheads smash into each other over and over for a few hours. “Believe it or not I own not one piece of green or gold apparel.” Keisha waits for me to fasten my seatbelt before she backs her Honda out of my driveway. “What about your PE shirt?” Keisha has the air on at full blast despite it being a crisp September evening. Keisha will literally cut my hand off if I adjust the temperature so I turn the vent facing me towards her. “Oh please,” she says “The girls are not about to fit in itty bitty thing.” Keisha gestures to her extremely ample bosom which is contained in a Atlanta Falcons jersey. “At least I’m paying homage to football.” It’s way to soon when we are pulling into the parking lot across from the football stadium. The parking lot is packed and someone’s mom is collecting five bucks as a parking fee. She assures us 100-percent of the proceeds will be going to the athletics department. Shocker ... “As if the athletics department needs anymore money,” Keisha says as she unfastens her seatbelt. “Sheldon told me it was like pulling teeth to get money for the play. And we still don’t have enough.” “I take it you and Sheldon are back to being okay again?” Keisha shrugs her shoulders and pushes open the driver’s side door. “Eh - we’re stable at the moment. We still have a lot of issues to work through. I’m so used to being the emotional one in the relationship. Apparently his last relationship was an absolute disaster and he’s still dealing with that.” The two of us start moving towards the field. The stadium lights are so bright it feels like the middle of the day. “Is he even ready for a relationship?” “I did ask him that,” Keisha says. “He says he is but his actions say otherwise. I’m like so close to pulling the plug on this whole thing but I’m worried about how it would affect the play. I just don’t want things to be awkward.” “Keisha - you can’t keep dating Sheldon because you’re worried about how it’ll affect the play. This is our senior year. We can’t afford to waste even one second.” “Yeah, yeah - I know. I’m going to do some thinking this weekend. I’ll have my answer by next Monday.” I put my arm around her waist and pull her into quick side-hug. “No matter what happens, you know I’ll be here.” “I know - however, you need to focus on that beautiful man of yours. Speaking of, did he mention where he’s sitting?” I look down at my phone and say, “He says he’s sitting where we usually sit during lunch.” “Oh great,” Keisha groans. “Of all nights to wear six-inch heels.” The two of us have no issue locating Finn in the sea of green and gold. I’m a bit surprised to see Chase Darling and Kane Matthews with him. I can feel Keisha tense up next to me. Way back when circa junior year, Keisha and Kane dated for about four months. Kane was a senior and while he wasn’t exactly a bad guy, their relationship didn’t rank very high on his list of priorities. Kane looks a lot different since I last saw him. He’s got dreds now and he’s packed on a lot of muscle. When he sees us, or rather Keisha, he smiles and suddenly I remember why Keisha fell for the guy in the first place. Kane Matthews is hot. Finn scoots over leaving a gap between he and Kane and gestures for Keisha to have a seat. Keisha hesitates for a moment and then makes a move for the spot between Finn and Kane. I settle into the spot on Finn’s right and inhale his cologne. Of course he’s wearing his letterman jacket but I see he’s also wearing a black button down, a pair of blue jeans and some Timberlands. It’s no contest. Finn Montgomery is the best looking guy in this stadium. “Glad you made it,” he says. “Me, too. Although I hope you’re prepared to explain to me what’s going on because I don’t know anything about football except for the that the uniforms are hot.” Finn gives me an awkward smile and says, “Well, the game hasn’t started yet. Basically you wanna cheer for the guys in the green uniforms.” “Okay. I can definitely do that.” Fifteen minutes into our arrival at the game, the game officially starts. There’s so much telling and screaming around me, I feel like my ear drums are going to explode. At one point Finn jumps to his feet and roars something unintelligible to who I have no clue. I’ve never seen him so ... is passionate even the right word? When he finally lowers himself back into his seat, I reach out and place a hand on his thigh. The gesture somehow manages to have the opposite reaction I’m desiring. I feel the muscle underneath my fingers tense. I look up at Finn and the look on his face is dark. I slowly pull my hand away and feel a chill travel down my spine. Oh shit. That’s right. We’re in public. We’re in public with Finn’s friends. Placing my hand on Finn’s thigh while we’re in the middle of a crowded stadium is so not okay. I’m an idiot. I want to disappear. “So, this is where all the cool kids are hanging out.” Colin McNamara is standing next to our row, his hands shoved into the pockets of his own letterman jacket. Does that mean he’s an athlete? Like Finn he’s wearing a button down and jeans but instead of Timberlands he’s wearing loafers. Like me, I can tell he spends a lot of time on his hair because not a single strand is out of place. “Mind if I join?” he asks. Before anyone has a chance to say anything I say, “Sure.” If Finn’s gonna play hetero for his friends, I at least have someone to make this night more bearable. “What have I missed?” he asks rubbing his hands together. Again, I notice the black band on his wedding finger. “Oh, some guys ran into each other and everyone started yelling.” Colin chuckles and it’s enough to make all the awkwardness I just experienced with Finn evaporate. “I take it you’re not a football fan.” “Not really. My dad and my brother love it. I always found it pretty boring.” “You do know being in the south and not liking football is borderline blasphemous.” “Well I know of a few other things I enjoy that’s borderline blasphemous around these parts.” This time we both laugh. I feel movement on the other side of me. Finn is on his feet again. “I’m going to the concession stand,” he announces a bit too loudly. “Anyone want anything?” I shrug and Colin says no thank you. The others do as well. Finn squeezes past us without saying excuse me and charges down the stairs. Colin turns to me, his brows contorted in concern, and asks, “He okay?” Again, I shrug. Colin leans in closer so his words can stay between the two of us. “Trouble in paradise?” I’m about to ask him how he knows when he beats me to the punch. “Trust me I recognize a gay boy in love with a straight boy when I see it “ I sigh and lower my voice to a whisper. “When it’s just the two of us, he’s very open and affectionate but he’s not ready to come out yet which I’m okay with.” “Are you okay with it?” Colin asks. “He should be able to come out whenever he’s ready.” “I agree. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait until he does.” “I know but this is what I’ve wanted for the last four years of my life and now that it’s finally happened.” “You don’t want to mess it up,” Colin says. “Yes.” “Well - hate to break this to you, Tristan. If you can’t be yourself and he can’t be himself when you’re around the people you care about ... it’s already messed up.” I want to rebuttal but everything Colin McNamara is saying to me is making so much sense. “I’m not trying to get into your business,” he says. “It’s just that I did the whole romancing the straight-ish guy thing back when I was a student here and honestly it’s eight months of my life I’ll never get back.” I want to ask him about his situation but I see Finn coming up the stairs balancing a tray of nachos and a Coke. He looks like he’s calmed down a bit. “Hey, Tristan - I fly back to LA tomorrow morning but I’d really like to keep in touch. Mind if I get your email address?” “I barely check my email.” My email is pretty much Amazon purchase confirmations and spam emails about erectile dysfunction. “Can I just give you my phone number?” Colin grins and nods his head. “Sure.” By the time we exchange numbers, Finn’s tucked back into his spot between me and Keisha. I slide my phone into the pocket of the denim jacket I’m wearing and Finn pushes his tray of nachos towards me. A peace offering. My stomach grumbles as the smell of fake cheese and jalapeños wafts past my nose. I forgive you, Finn Montgomery. I pluck a cheese-covered corn chip from the center of the tray and quickly pop it into my mouth. Finn grins at me. There’s cheese caught in his light stubble but unfortunately it’s going to have to remain there. “Having fun?” he asks popping another corn chip into his mouth. I nod my head and say, “Yeah.” He grins even bigger and looks back down at the field. In a week filled with many firsts - first kiss, first unofficial date, first heart emoji in a text message - it’s only fitting we end the week with yet another first. My first lie to Finn.
  15. Thank you, as always, for you feedback. And yes, I am a Pisces. 2-24 is my birthday. For better or for worst, I embody all the Pisces traits. BLW
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