A/N: Thank you to Jim the editor for volunteering his time to sort through all of my mistakes to make this chapter more readable (better) it is appreciated
I’m not sure how to explain the day after I went to Aaron’s house. Depressing would be an appropriate word, I guess. First, I didn’t hear from Aaron. Not even a phone call. Which meant that while everyone else was at work, I was home stressing about it, and it wasn’t fun, either. It was strange to think that he’d been able to push practically all of the ‘family’ issues out of my head just because he hadn’t called. But, it was the truth. I hadn’t been lying when I said I liked him, and now I felt completely inadequate. There was obviously something about me that he didn’t like, and that just made me feel self-conscious. I was a self-conscious idiot. And it sucked.
On top of stressing out about Aaron, there was Luke. We were getting along just fine. There was no problem there, but it was obvious that he wasn’t himself. For the second day in a row he’d come home from work looking like someone puked in his lunch box. When asked about it, he just said he was having a bad week, but I couldn’t help wondering if his bad week had to do with disappointment in me. Again, I thought about telling him what happened with Aaron, but in the end, I decided that it would only make things worse. It would be best just to forget the whole thing, and hope that next week would be better, for both of us.
There was tension in the house, too. And it had to do with more than the dark moods Luke and I seemed to be stuck in. Eddie and Jase were still fighting. They were definitely doing their best to keep it from seeming obvious, but it was there. They were civil to each other, and they pretended that nothing was wrong, but neither of them could look the other in the eye. The fact that Jase was just as silent around me as he was around Eddie didn’t help matters, either. This bothered me, more than I wanted to admit.
I still thought that whatever was going on between them was my fault. Unfortunately, I was starting to care about that. I’d convinced myself that Jase didn’t want me there. After all, he said himself that if he’d known I’d be so much trouble, he wouldn’t have agreed to me being there in the first place. I was disrupting his family, and he wanted it to stop. Too bad I was just as trapped as he was.
I’d agreed to stay for the summer. I wondered if Eddie would let me go early if Jase told him to. It was an idea, and to be honest, after the last few days, I was ready to get out of there. I was more interested in getting to know Eddie than I’d been before; but it didn’t change the fact that he had a life, one that I didn’t see myself ever being a part of. I think it was a sad thought, but it was a true one for me. Maybe it would be best if I just got the hell out of there--if I went home.
And that brought me back to my grandmother. I had to call her. I knew I did. There was no getting around it. All I could do was avoid it, and I could only avoid it for so long. I had a feeling that the longer I waited, the harder it would be. That’s why on the second day, I found myself locked in my room, even though no one else was home, and picking up the phone.
Maybe it really was the perfect time to call. I was feeling so depressed that I doubted I’d get angry and start yelling. And it would be bad to start yelling. That would likely result in being hung up on, and being hung up on wasn’t an idea I liked because of all the questions I had.
Maybe if I was lucky, I’d get some of those questions answered, beginning with the reason why my grandma didn’t just do what my mom had asked her to. It would have saved all of us a lot of trouble. I made a mental note to point this out to her as I began to dial the number. Of course, the smart thing to do would be to point it out to her after I got my answers.
One ring, two rings, three rings.
"I think I hate you." Now, why the hell would I say that? Honestly. I mentally slapped myself, hating that I couldn’t seem to control my own tongue.
"Well, hello, Rory," Grandma Alice replied sweetly. "And am I supposed to take it that you’re not having a good day?" I opened my mouth to tell her I wasn’t having a good lifetime, and it was all her fault, but as usual, I never got the chance. "Are you getting enough fresh air? You’re just like your mother, you know. I remember that whenever she got cooped up in a house for too long, she’d always get grumpy. I think maybe you should get out for a while. I’m sure you could find something to go do with your father."
"I don’t need fresh air," I informed her, as soon as I got the chance. "I read Mom’s letter."
For once, there was a silence on the other end of the line, not that it lasted very long.
"Did you?" she replied. "And did Eddie read his, too? I hope you read them together."
"He read his, but..."
"Good, then everything’s fine now. It’s about time, you know."
After that remark, I momentarily pulled the phone away from my ear and regarded it like it had just bit me. When I brought it back to my ear, I was far from happy, and found myself cutting off Grandma Alice in mid-sentence as she continued to discuss the benefit of fresh air.
"No! No, not everything is okay! Are you out of your mind? Do you have any idea what I’ve been going through? All because you..."
"Rory, I can’t understand a word you’re saying when you use that tone, now..."
"Don’t do this," I practically groaned. "Just for once, can’t you just listen to me? You had no right..."
"I did what I thought was best for you," she suddenly said, her voice sounding serious. "That’s what your mother would have wanted."
"She would have wanted you to be honest with me!"
"I believe I told you to talk to your father. You’re the one who decided to act like a two-year-old. Now honestly..."
I practically growled into the phone.
"Maybe I would have talked to Eddie if I knew the truth!"
"Is Eddie there? I think you should put him on..."
"No, he’s not here," I spat. "And even if he was I wouldn’t put him on! You’re supposed to be talking to me!"
"Well, then perhaps you should call back when you can keep that temper under control. I’m on my way out, anyway. On Fridays there’s a young man who helps me carry the groceries to the car. You know, the handsome one--I think you used to ogle him whenever we..."
I hung up, before she could finish and promptly screamed into my pillow, resulting in Chey pawing at my closed door. Why did she have to be like that? I felt like it was impossible to get any answers, answers I needed in order to move on, at least. Or at least an apology. In all honesty, at this point I would have settled for an apology if she just admitted that she made a mistake. I was so tired. Just... really fucking tired.
I turned onto my back, dragging the pillow over my head as I wished that I could sleep until things weren’t such a pain in my ass anymore.
I jumped at the sound of my name and shoved the pillow aside. I was supposed to be the only one home all day, so I hadn’t been expecting to see Luke in my doorway. He didn’t look as dusty or as sweaty as he did after a full day of work, but he definitely looked like he’d had a long morning.
"What are you doing home?" I asked.
"I’m taking an early lunch," he explained. "Actually, I came to see if you wanted to take it with me. Are you okay?"
I rubbed my hand over my short hair without bothering to sit up and shook my head.
"I just tried to call my grandma," I explained. "Crazy old hag."
"Ouch," Luke remarked, but there were signs of a smile. Actually, it was the first time I remembered him smiling in the last few days. "That bad, huh?"
"Why can’t she just talk to me?" I complained. "All I want to know is why she did it. I feel like she’s been playing everyone around her like an orchestra--and she knew. She knew what I was going through, Luke, and she didn’t bother to tell me anything that might actually help."
"Maybe she had a reason for it," Luke suggested, and I looked at him like he was a traitor. His smile broadened at that and he moved over to the bed where I was laying and I grunted as he dropped his ass right on my stomach. "I didn’t say it was a good reason," he continued as he looked down to see that I couldn’t breathe with him there, so he shifted downwards until he was more on my lap, which wasn’t necessarily a good thing, because all that shifting had brought my attention to certain body parts that were supposed to stay asleep during polite conversation. "Maybe she just doesn’t want to talk about it because she’s sorry."
"Sorry?" I said incredulously. "Do you know what she did? She asked to talk to Eddie! Why the hell can’t she talk to me?"
"Maybe she’s afraid to," he replied, and I momentarily held my breath when he shifted again, more of his weight sinking against my groin. "All I’m saying is that maybe you should give her a little time... let her come to you. Maybe she knows what she did was wrong, and she just doesn’t know how to talk to you about it, yet."
"You’re not supposed to be on her side," I informed him, and this time, I tried to do the shifting under Luke’s weight. I just needed to readjust myself; and, it only made things worse when I had to keep myself from gasping as the friction of my movement seemed to hit my cock. It really didn’t help that he was over me, looking as hot as always, and the smell of sweat mixed with deodorant was flooding my nostrils in a way that made me light-headed.
"I’m on your side," Luke responded, matter-of-factly. "I’ll even buy you lunch to prove it. You hungry?"
? I didn’t know if I was hungry. I was getting a little worried, though. There was no way I wanted to embarrass myself with Luke, the way I had with Aaron, and the chances of that happening in the position we were in weren’t exactly slim.
"Sure, fine, whatever..." I responded, somewhat hurriedly, as once again I shifted, only to make things worse. Finally I just blurted, "Luke, I need you to get off." I’m sure I turned all sorts of red when he raised an eyebrow at that. "Off of me, get off of me!" I added, and when realization suddenly dawned on him, he stood up, laughing.
"Oops, sorry," he said, and I just glared at him as I sat up. I didn’t like being laughed at.
"Whatever," I responded. I was definitely tired of embarrassing myself, but at least when I looked down there was no noticeable bulge in my shorts.
"Will you relax," Luke responded, and when I looked up I saw a smile on his face, but there was nothing teasing about it. "I would have taken it as a compliment. And I’m serious about lunch."
He abruptly grabbed my wrist and pulled me to my feet, while I couldn’t help taking what he said... as a compliment.
"Dave’s not working today, but I could go for waffles," Luke said, as he let go of my wrist at the door and I continued to follow him, shaking off my uncomfortable moment.
"Okay, but aren’t you supposed to be working? Do you have time..."
"Actually, I figured out that if you’re not on the clock, they don’t really care," Luke explained. "As far as I’m concerned at least. I’m the smallest guy out there. No one really takes me seriously yet, and things are slow-moving today anyway, so I might take a long lunch. I already got permission."
"Alright; I guess if you have the time, I could stand to get out of here for a while, anyway," I admitted, and then mentally scolded myself for saying that as I thought of Grandma Alice’s fresh-air speech. It would be a while before I admitted to her being right about anything.
It wasn’t even noon yet, and the diner was relatively empty. Our food seemed to end up on the table twice as fast as it had the last time. And then there was silence. But, it wasn’t because we were eating, I noticed. Luke had been talkative in the car, asking me if I wanted to help him and Dave plan Rick’s party. It was sort of nice to be included, and for that reason alone, I agreed. But, as soon as we entered the restaurant, I noticed that he’d spaced out or something. Even when our food got there, all he was really doing was poking at it and pushing it around his plate. I figured he wasn’t as hungry as he let on, but his behavior was beginning to make me feel like I was sitting in the restaurant alone.
"So where is Dave today?" I asked, attempting to make conversation.
"Probably at home, being bored," Luke replied. "At least that’s where he was when I called him a while ago."
"So why aren’t you having lunch with him?" I asked curiously, and this question had Luke looking up at me with a strange expression on his face before he shook his head and shrugged.
"I don’t know," he replied. "I kind of wanted to hang out with you."
He began to eat then, as if he was doing it purely to avoid talking to me. I found this strange, to say the least, but I didn’t say anything. I just stared at him until he noticed it, and after a few moments of staring right back at me, his expression turned determined.
"It’s my mom’s birthday," he announced, and I found myself putting down my fork, suddenly finding it important to give him my full attention. "Jase always remembers, but he won’t say anything. I usually like to be alone... I get kind of bummed out, thinking about it, you know?" he lifted his cup, taking a long drink of his chocolate milk before facing me again. "Do you think it’s stupid that I don’t mind... I mean... I think I like listening to you talk about your mom... because you remind me of me. But it’s sort of morbid, right?"
"I don’t know," I admitted. In all honesty, it had never occurred to me that Luke liked it when I talked about my mom, just because he could relate. The only thing I’d ever taken into account was that he understood what it was like. I guess it never occurred to me that he liked that I could relate to him. I felt a little stupid about that, and now, after my response, I even felt stupider, because he was on the other side of the table, looking uncomfortable.
"Sorry I brought it up. I was going to go to lunch alone... I just thought..."
"My mom sent me a birthday present," I told him, before he could say anything more, and he rightly appeared confused. "It was with the letters," I explained.
"Oh... what was it?"
"I don’t know yet. I haven’t opened it."
"Because it’s not your birthday?" Luke asked, the corner of his mouth curling into a small smile.
"Aren’t you curious?"
"You have no idea," I replied, sighing. "I put it under my bed--I figured I wouldn’t think about it so much there. It’s not working."
"You could always open it," he pointed out.
"I’m afraid to. It’s the last thing..."
"I get it," Luke replied. "Every year on my mom’s birthday... she’d ask me to make her cake. I think the first time, I was eight years old and I hated it. She wouldn’t give me any help--only with handling the oven. And I couldn’t just go out and get one that came in a box, either. I’d have to look it up in a cookbook and make it from scratch; and there was always a huge mess that I’d have to clean up when I was finished. But when we brought it out after dinner, she’d gush over it like it was the best thing in the world; and then I really started to love doing it, you know?" He laughed to himself for a moment, shaking his head as he looked at me. "And then I started getting creative with it. One year, I even got... I got my dad to help me frost it, because I found these two oven-safe bowls and made one that looked like huge breasts. Spice-drop nipples. I didn’t know how she’d react but she just started laughing--I miss hearing her laugh. Do you wanna know why Jase doesn’t mention my mom’s birthday? It’s because the first year I was with him I told him about the cakes... and he asked if I wanted to make one. I told him I didn’t, but he made one, anyway. I got so mad at him for that. He had no right to do it, you know. When my mom turned thirty-five--that was her last cake, and I made it. I still have a picture of her blowing out her candles..." I watched as Luke took a moment, his eyes slightly rolling back, as if he needed the moment to get a hold of himself, but a moment later, he was smiling again. "It was the last one. Her last time. So when Jase made that cake it felt... wrong. I made her cakes. So now, he doesn’t mention the birthday anymore; but I bet you that tonight, there will be a cake waiting after dinner."
"He still makes them?" I asked incredulously. "But if you don’t want him to..."
"I was mad the first year," Luke cut me off. "And maybe the second year; but now, I think it’s kind of a good way to remember her, you know?"
Luke fell silent, and all I could do was watch him at this point. It was... sad, and a little eye-opening. I wondered if I’d ever find ways like that to remember my mom, or if I even wanted to. I guess when I sat under the water was one way that counted. But, somehow, Luke’s way seemed so much more significant. He remembered his mom’s last birthday, something he was a part of, and every year, even though he didn’t participate the way he used to, it was the memory that came to mind. I had one birthday present left to open from my mom. As soon as I did that, I felt like it would all be over. It would be me, looking for ways to remember how she participated, and I think it was hard for me because... the last time that happened for me, my mom wouldn’t even be there. I guess, I couldn’t help feeling cheated.
"Yeah?" I replied, meeting his eyes again.
"When you open it, do you think you could... I mean, if you want to, will you tell me what it is?"
I studied him for a moment, finding the request a little odd. But, I got the feeling that he wasn’t asking just because he was curious. Actually, it seemed important to him.
"Maybe... you could be there," I found myself saying, more or less committing myself to open that package before the summer was over. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but Luke smiled, and then it didn’t matter.
After lunch, I was relieved that the ride home with Luke was filled with more stories, this time revolving around his friends--and there was plenty of laughter. It was the drive back to the house that made me realize that my day was taking a turn for the better. I was grateful that Luke had come by and included me in his outing. I think I was grateful that he’d chosen me to discuss his mom with, too. Something about that made me a lot more comfortable talking to him about... anything. Not Aaron, though. I wasn’t ready for that, and I don’t think Luke was, either. Even if things had gone bad with Aaron for me.
There were other things, though, that I wanted to talk about. Things I hoped that Luke could help me with. I wanted to talk about the way that Eddie and Jase were fighting. Only, by the time we reached the house I realized he’d be going back to work. But, it was probably for the best. He’d left in a considerably better mood, and left me in the same state. It wouldn’t hurt to bring up Eddie and Jase later. Besides, it was Luke’s mom’s birthday, and there was no way I wanted to add to his stress, especially since an hour and a half with him seemed to have relieved a lot of mine.
I’d gone straight to the television after Luke left, determined to spend the rest of the day keeping my mind as blank as possible, maybe taking a break every once in a while to scratch Chey’s ears. I pretty much planned to do nothing until everyone got home, at which point I hoped that Luke would want to hang out again. Even after everything that had happened, he was probably the best friend that I had there--or anywhere, for that matter. I’d been there for two weeks and it hadn’t even occurred to me to call any of the people that I hung out with back home. I wondered if that was normal.
I started to hope that I wouldn’t have to wait so long for Luke to get back from work when I went upstairs for some water about fifteen minutes later and I heard a vehicle outside. Maybe he’d decided to blow off the rest of his work day. I certainly wouldn’t have minded if he had. But, when I went to open the front door, hoping to meet Luke there, another face met me, and I did everything I could to plant my feet in the doorway, as opposed to running back inside to hide. In fact, I closed the front door on a now barking Chey to prevent myself from doing just that.
Aaron smiled at me when I met his eyes. Why was he smiling at me? Actually, what the hell was he doing there? It didn’t make any sense, not after the last time I saw him. I think it scared me, that he’d suddenly shown up. It scared me more when he didn’t come to a halt as he neared me.
"Hi," he said, his smile broadening. I opened my mouth to respond. I didn’t have a polite greeting in mind, though. But, it turned out, that it didn’t matter. I never got a chance to say it, anyway, before he was nearly stepping on my feet, and I was looking up into brown eyes, feeling as confused as hell as he dipped his head down and kissed me pointedly on the lips.
There were so many things wrong with this scenario that I didn’t even know where to begin
Kissing him back didn’t exactly really feel like the right place to begin, but that’s exactly what happened. It’s not like he forced me, either, his hands being hooked in his pockets. It was his lips, coaxing mine to part, and when I felt his tongue mine simply responded. When he pulled back he was smiling again, and I was left speechless and confused. Why couldn’t he have done that two days ago?
"It sucked not seeing you yesterday," he remarked, his eyes making a quick sweep over me from head to toe. "Can you get some shoes on? I want to go somewhere before you have to be back home."
Why was he talking to me like we had plans? What was he doing?
"But I thought... you didn’t... and then you..." I hated it when I couldn’t form an actual sentence. But at the current moment, I was dealing with an onslaught of confusion as I tried to force down all of the frustration I was feeling towards him.
"Okay, you’re doing that weird thing again," he remarked.
"I haven’t heard from you in two days!" I blurted. "You didn’t even call, and you..."
"It’s not like you called, either," he cut me off, suddenly looking serious. And I paused. Me? I’m not sure why that thought didn’t make any sense to me. Maybe it was because after leaving his house, I was the one left feeling confused and hurt. "Besides, I didn’t know if I should call. You were the one acting all strange when I dropped you off the other day."
"Me?" I demanded. "But what happened..."
"You’re pissed off that I threw myself at you," Aaron said, sighing. "Look, if you didn’t like it then you could have said something, Rory."
"It’s not that I didn’t like it," I replied, unable to keep from blushing. I wasn’t used to this type of subject matter creeping into conversation. "But after...after..."
Whatever," Aaron replied, suddenly sounding annoyed. "I came over to see if I was imagining things the other day. Obviously, I should just go. I thought we were going to try, but you don’t even like me touching you, apparently."
"What? I didn’t say that!"
Why did I feel like I was getting dumped? Again. And why did it bother me even more now than it had when he’d dropped me off five minutes away from the house?
"And, it’s not like you were in a hurry to touch me, either. Look, Rory, maybe you were right before. It’s not going to work with us. And you know, that sucks, because I don’t see us turning into any normal kind of friends..."
. If anything was worse than feeling like he found me to be inadequate after his hand had been all over my dick, it was realizing that he was just as confused over the encounter as I was, all because I’d made no effort to... touch him back. This was humiliating. It wasn’t my fault that I was a complete virgin and had no idea how these things were supposed to work. I mean, I hadn’t even offered to return the favor, but apparently, that would have been the polite thing to do. And it’s not that I was opposed to doing it, either. In fact, as far as hormones were concerned, there was a lot that I wouldn’t mind doing to Aaron. But now it felt like I wouldn’t even get the chance all because I misinterpreted one situation. The fact that he seemed almost angry, like I had, just made me feel horrible.
"I’m gonna go," Aaron announced, and then he was walking away from me. And in a bad role reversal, I suddenly found myself reaching out and grabbing his wrist.
"Wait," I insisted. "Aaron; just, wait." At least I didn’t have to tell him twice. The moment my hand was on his wrist he was turning back around, looking at me expectantly as he wrapped his fingers around my wrist and slid them down, until it was my hand hooked on his. It was definitely reassuring, but he was still waiting for me to say something. "I thought you were the one who wasn’t... listen, I’m sorry, okay? The whole thing’s really stupid and I didn’t mean to...can we just... I have shoes. In the house, okay? If you still want to, we can go somewhere."
I wish I would have gotten more of a response than a shrug when he took my hand, but it’s not like it was wise to be picky now. I think it bothered me a little, that I was looking for his approval again, even if it was for a completely different reason this time. But, I ignored it for now. The important thing seemed to be that he wasn’t walking away just yet. Still, I felt awkward now. I was almost happy to be going into the house for a few moments to ease my nerves before I had to face him again. I had not been expecting this. It was when I opened the door and looked back at him standing there, avoiding my eyes, that I made a split decision.
"Do you want to come in?" I asked. "It’s not going to take me very long."
I was relieved, if anything, that the invitation seemed to please Aaron, and I shushed Chey as I held open the door for him and looked around to see if I’d left any shoes upstairs. It appeared I hadn’t, so I headed for the basement, Aaron right behind me.
My bedroom was a lot tidier than his, but I still felt a little nervous about him being in it. My solution was to completely avoid his eyes as I searched for my sandals, which I found under the bed.
"I guess I should be relieved you’re not sharing a room with Luke," Aaron remarked, and I looked up then, giving him a small smile as I got the impression the very idea would make him jealous.
"He’s next door," I explained, sitting on my bed to put my shoes on. As I did this, I watched out of the corner of my eye as Aaron took a quick look around before heading to my closet, rummaging around in it as if he were shopping. My brow lifted at this, but I stood up and waited for an explanation when he approached me with a black tank top.
"You should wear this one," he suggested. "Your shirt’s kinda wrinkled."
I looked down at my attire, not really seeing a problem with it, but I didn’t know where he wanted to go yet so I didn’t bother objecting as I pulled my shirt over my head, tossed it to the laundry in the corner and took his selection.
"Better?" I asked, smirking as I finished pulling it over my head.
"Doesn’t go with your shorts," Aaron replied.
"Doesn’t everything go with jeans?" I asked. Aaron just smiled and went back to my closet. I have to admit, I resented being dressed. But, he seemed to be enjoying himself, glancing back over his shoulder at me every few seconds with a small smile. I guess it wasn’t so bad, the tension between us was definitely fading. Still, when Aaron came back with shorts that weren’t that different from the ones I was wearing, I couldn’t help saying, "Should I change my underwear, too?"
I wasn’t sure whether to regret saying it, or take it as a compliment when a mischievous smirk played its way across his face. I just shook my head at it and dropped my pants, navigating them around my shoes. It wasn’t until I started putting on the new shorts that I looked up and found his eyes trained on my white boxers. He never asked me to change them, though.
"Where are we going?" I asked when I was dressed and heading for the door, and Aaron smiled as he moved next to me, slipping a hand around my waist in a way that had his fingers resting almost on my butt. Something about the gesture felt almost reassuring, like it had when he first showed up and kissed me. Actually, the way he was acting now had me feeling stupid for ever thinking that he wasn’t interested.
"There’s a movie playing that I want to see," he replied. "But if you want to do something else..."
"A movie’s fine," I said quickly, unsure why the idea suddenly seemed so appealing to me. Maybe it was because we wouldn’t have to talk all that much. We seemed to get into trouble when we talked.
"Good," he replied, allowing me to lead the way back up the stairs and out of the house, without moving his arm from around me. "But do you mind if we stop to eat first? I’m starving."
"I sort of already ate," I admitted. "But I don’t care if we stop."
"It won’t take long," he replied, and I couldn’t help smiling at the way he kissed my cheek before releasing me and getting into his car. Maybe this day really was taking a turn for the better.
Aaron looked cute. He was always hot, sexy--among other things; but today, I decided he was cute. Maybe it was the way he was sitting in the booth across from me, sliding french fries into his mouth one at a time as he watched me with a slightly dazed expression. He still liked me. I was surprised at how good that thought made me feel. Actually, it seemed... relieving.
"I thought about coming to see you yesterday," he suddenly said. "Even though... you know."
"Why didn’t you?" I asked.
"I would have had to bring Alex with me," he replied, shrugging. "Both my parents work and in the summer me and my brother take turns watching him. It’s cheaper than daycare, so my family always uses the money for a vacation at the end of the summer. Anyway, yesterday was my day with Alex, and I’ll have him again on Monday. I’ve got the weekend free, though--you think you can get out for a while?"
"Maybe," I replied. "Things are kind of weird at home, so..."
"Don’t worry about it, then. If you can get out, give me a call or something. If not, maybe I can come over on Tuesday?"
"Sure," I replied, and he smiled at that. I returned his smile, but at the moment, I wasn’t really feeling it. I guess you could say that I was disappointed that I couldn’t just tell Aaron I could get out this weekend and mean it. Maybe I was lucky to be able to be myself, as far as being gay went, with the people I lived with, but that didn’t mean that I could be as open about other things. Like Aaron. I already knew that Luke didn’t like the situation, and I doubted Eddie and Jase would be pleased with it if they were to find out. I didn’t want them to find out. As it was, I wasn’t sure that Jase even liked me. If he found out about Aaron then I’m sure he really wouldn’t. Eddie would probably be upset about it, and I didn’t want that, either. I don’t think whatever fragile relationship we had could take much more strain. Of course, if something more did develop with Aaron, I wasn’t entirely sure that I could keep it from them. When I saw a familiar face that belonged to Dave walk into the restaurant across from the theater where Aaron and I were seated, it was a cruel reminder of this.
I knew that I was uncomfortable being seen with Aaron. I guess I just didn’t know how uncomfortable, until Luke’s best friend glanced in our direction and then did a double-take.
"Shit," I mumbled, running my hand over my face in an attempt to hide.
"What?" Aaron asked, looking over his shoulder. "Oh.. Right. Are you okay?"
I gave him an incredulous look, and didn’t appreciate the way he laughed at it.
"Will you relax?" Aaron said. "He’s not going to do anything. Don’t worry about it."
"He’s coming over here," I informed Aaron, and then found myself sitting nervously back in my seat as Dave stopped at our table with a look that was in between shock and disgust on his face.
"Hi, Rory," Dave said nervously.
"Hey, Dave," Aaron said, sounding unnecessarily cocky. "Wanna sit down?"
Dave ignored Aaron completely, and continued to stare at me. "Can I talk to you for a second?" he asked.
"Um... sure," I replied, but didn’t move.
"Alone," Dave insisted.
I felt trapped with both of them looking at me. This was not an ideal scenario. In fact, the only way I knew how to react was to look at Aaron, as if I needed permission from him to get up and talk to Dave. I didn’t necessarily like that I felt that way, and I didn’t really feel any better when he gave me a nod, but regardless, I found myself getting up, only to have Dave physically pull me aside. Actually, he pulled me all the way outside before releasing my arm and throwing me an accusing look.
"What do you think you’re doing?" he demanded. "Do you know who that is?"
"That’s the enemy!" Dave declared, pointing back at the restaurant. "You’re new around here, so let me explain this to you: You don’t have lunch with the enemy!"
I crossed my arms, suddenly feeling more perturbed than nervous. I hated being told what to do. As far as I was concerned, Dave was way out of line.
"First of all, I’m not eating lunch, he is. And second, the last time I checked, his name was Aaron, not the enemy."
"Trust me, there’s no difference," he responded. "Rory, do you have any idea..."
"Actually, I do," I cut him off.
"If Luke knew..."
"Luke does know," I replied. "And we both decided that it’s none of his business--just like it’s none of your business." I hoped that would end this. I could see Dave was upset, but honestly, who I had lunch with really wasn’t any of his business. Unfortunately, Dave couldn’t seem to let it go that easy, the way he grabbed my shoulder and spun me back around after I turned to go back inside. Now there was an incredulous look on his face.
"Oh, fuck--are you on a date with him?" Dave demanded, in a hushed tone.
"That’s really none of your business. Look, Dave..."
"No, you look, Rory," he cut me off. "You don’t know what you’re doing here..."
I didn’t know what I was doing
? Well, fuck him. I might have said that out loud, if we both weren’t suddenly interrupted by Aaron as he came out the door and looked between us almost expectantly before his eyes rested on me.
"Ready to go?" he asked.
"Yes," I stated. "Please."
"Whatever," Dave said hotly, before storming right back into the restaurant.
"You okay?" Aaron asked me.
"Fine," I replied shortly, and he followed as I led the way across the street to the theater. Who the hell did Dave think he was? If Luke was going to stay out of this, then Dave certainly should, if you asked me. But, I couldn’t prevent the knots from forming in my stomach as I thought about Luke. Or more specifically, about what Dave would tell Luke. Maybe Luke was aware that I was seeing Aaron, but there was no telling how he’d react to hearing it from someone else, especially his best friend. I couldn’t help worrying about it. But, maybe if I tried to talk to Luke before Dave did, I could explain what happened. At least, maybe hearing it from me would make it easier.
"Hey, don’t worry about it, okay?" Aaron said, as if he could read my mind. I tried to smile at him when he placed a hand on my shoulder, but I’m not sure if it worked. "You wanna go get us some drinks or something? I’ll get the tickets and meet you inside."
"Sure," I said, shrugging. I entered the theater, wondering if Aaron would want popcorn after he just ate, while I neared the refreshments counter. I decided to get it, just to be on the safe side. But, he was going to have to do without the butter. I hated that stuff.
My arms were full by the time I got through the line and left the counter carrying my lemonade, Aaron’s coke and an extra-large popcorn that came with one free refill. I looked over the thin crowd, hoping that Aaron had caught up to me by now, but when I didn’t see him I turned to go to the back of the theater to wait.
I was beginning to look forward to the movie. It would keep me from worrying about Dave, and what he would tell Luke. And I was sure he’d tell him something--I just hoped everything could wait until Luke wasn’t remembering his mom’s birthday.
I’d nearly reached the ticket taker when I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard Aaron’s voice behind me.
"Hey," he said. But, it wasn’t the way that he snuck up on me that had me so startled that I nearly spilled everything I was juggling in my arms. It was because of yet another familiar face in front of us. This one, I wanted no part of.
"Seth?" Aaron called, stepping up from behind me, and given that I hadn’t dropped the drinks, I wondered how bad it would be if I were to accidently-on-purpose throw one at Seth, who was currently wearing another ballcap so low on his head that he had his chin tilted up and he was looking down his nose at us.
"What are you doing here?" Aaron asked him. It was a good question. Personally, I wouldn’t have been so polite about asking it, though.
"You told me to meet you here," Seth responded, sounding annoyed as he approached us, and I flashed Aaron the most venomous look I could muster. Not that Aaron noticed it. He was still busy looking at Seth.
"No..." Aaron said, and it was the best thing I’d ever heard come out of his mouth. "I said I might bring Rory here... you must have misunder..."
"Whatever," Seth suddenly snapped, as he glared between Aaron and me, as if he couldn’t decide which one of us he wanted to hit more. I didn’t really care that he was angry. I was just glad that he walked away. Asshole. There was no doubt in my mind that there had been no misunderstanding. Seth was just there to make my life miserable. I was definitely glad to see him go.
Unfortunately, Aaron didn’t feel the same way.
Seth, wait? Now, why did he have to go and do that? And why the hell did he have to go after him?
I just stood there, with the popcorn and drinks, hating it as Aaron caught up to Seth at the front entrance and the two of them proceeded to argue for the next five minutes. I couldn’t make out what they were saying from where I was, but the body language involved suggested that Seth was pissed as hell and Aaron was attempting to remain calm. I didn’t like this at all. What I didn’t like even more... was when Aaron started heading back towards me, bringing Seth along with him.
Well, fuck that.
I immediately turned, not wanting either of them to catch up to me. I didn’t want to hear what Aaron was going to say. I didn’t want this to be happening. Maybe I wasn’t very experienced in this area, but I was pretty sure that when on a date, your date’s ex-boyfriend wasn’t supposed to tag along. So, I walked away. I walked away and got three feet before the ticket taker stopped me because she wanted a ticket that I didn’t have.
"Rory..." I inwardly groaned as Aaron caught up to me, handing over the two necessary tickets.
"Don’t," I cut him off, glancing over my shoulder long enough to see Seth was lagging behind a few paces. "Just... let’s try to get through the movie."
"Please don’t be mad," was all Aaron said as he reached over and relieved me of the popcorn. I didn’t respond to that. "We’ll go somewhere after the movie," Aaron added. "Just you and me--does this have butter on it?" I looked back, feeling even more annoyed as I watched him sniff at the popcorn.
"If you want butter, you can get it yourself," I snapped.
That was a mistake. Aaron smiled at me before turning back towards the refreshments counter--leaving me alone with Seth.
"Crap," I mumbled, and wasted no time getting away from Seth by heading down the hall. But, he was still behind me. He was keeping his distance; but, he was there. I could feel it. I hated it. No relief came once I entered the theater, either, and he got a little closer. By the time I chose an empty aisle to find a seat, he was directly behind me.
I didn’t look back, not until I slowed down to sit in the center of the aisle, but when I looked, he was still there, still advancing, like a big shadow with his hands in his pockets, looming over me. I kept walking. I moved down three more seats, and again I looked back, but there he was, still coming. I was beginning to feel a little paranoid, and a lot claustrophobic. I think I half expected him to attack. There was now a wall in front of me. I was running out of seats. I started to sit in the second-to-last one, but he was still over me, so I moved again. There was no where else to go. He’d literally cornered me as I took a seat next to a wall, but I was relieved. Relieved to be sitting. Relieved to put down the cold drinks that were cramping my hands, and relieved that he was going to sit a seat away from me, leaving the middle for Aaron.
At least, that’s what he was supposed to do, because he certainly wasn’t supposed to take the seat next to me--which he did.
"What are you doing?" I instantly demanded, forgetting all about my nerves.
"Not there you’re not! Move over."
Seth turned his head and looked directly at me, but under that hat, I couldn’t even see his face.
"No," he said simply.
This was not open for negotiation.
"Move!" I ordered, and in response he kicked one foot up on the seat next to him.
"Fine," I spat, standing up and fully intending to move around him to make sure I sat next to Aaron when he joined us. Why the hell had I let Seth corner me, and why did Aaron need stupid butter on his popcorn? "Move," I ordered again, but instead of putting his leg down, he brought the other foot up, successfully trapping me.
"Fucking asshole," I remarked, angrily sitting back down. I was ready to jump for joy when Aaron returned and looked at where I was, and looked at where Seth was--and finally looked angry about something.
"Seth, move over," Aaron insisted, and I smiled at him for that.
"I think I like it here," Seth responded.
"Then let me move," I stated, just as the lights started to go down.
"Shh," Seth responded. "Movie’s starting.
"Seth!" Aaron said, finally sounding angry. He got points for that. "Move it already."
"Nope," Seth replied casually, just as the people behind us began to shush us. And to my horror, Aaron sat down--on the other side of Seth.
It was, by far, the worst movie I’d ever been to. I had no idea what it was about. I didn’t even know who was in it. I didn’t care. For the next two hours, I was busy trying to make out the hushed whispers of Seth and Aaron. But, all I heard was my name every once in a while and some cursing. Then, the few moments here and there when it was silent, I was fighting over the arm rest with Seth. I didn’t really want it. It was just a matter of principle. He’d place his arm up there against mine, like he was trying to push me off of it, and twice I pushed back hard enough to end up elbowing him. He grunted once, and that was the highlight of my day.
By the time the lights came back on, I was so angry that I stood up, shoved Seth’s legs out of my way--much to his surprise--and pushed past both him and Aaron. I needed air, and a lot of it. As I made it outside, I ignored the way the sun stung my eyes and headed straight for the parking lot. I’d just made it to Aaron’s car when two firm arms suddenly wrapped around me.
"Rory..." Aaron said as I stopped and debated whether or not to shove him away. "Rory, I’m sorry, that was... stupid. You were right, okay?"
"I hate that guy!" I said sharply as I turned to face Aaron, and he released me to the point that his hands were resting on my shoulders. At least he looked sorry.
"I know; look, I know you don’t like him... he’s just having a hard time..."
"Aaron..." I said warningly.
"Okay," he relented. "No more Seth. I’m sorry."
"Fine," I said shortly, hoping that he meant that.
"Look, do you want to go somewhere else? I really want to spend some..."
I grabbed his wrist before he could finish and shook my head.
"I have to go home."
Aaron said that if I couldn’t get out over the weekend, he’d meet me Tuesday morning, since Monday he’d be watching his little brother. I think that made me feel better. It definitely helped that there was no mention of Seth, and this time he was able to drop me off in the driveway, because no one was home yet. We even had time for ten full minutes to try to figure out whose tongue was whose when he kissed me goodbye.
But, when I went inside, and down to the basement to stretch out on the sofa and watch TV as I waited for everyone to get home, and I replayed the last few hours in my head, I was far from happy with it. I felt angry, and to be honest, a little put off that it had happened the way it did in the first place. I felt mad at myself, for not making Seth move. I was angry with Aaron for the same thing. But with Aaron, I was more disappointed. I felt like he hadn’t tried hard enough. He should have sent Seth away in the first place. Maybe they were friends, but it wouldn’t have killed him to deal with that asshole later.
They were friends
. That little fact upset me more than anything. Because they weren’t just friends. There was a history there. And I didn’t even know what I was up against. I certainly didn’t want to ask.
I rested my head on the couch cushions and closed my eyes for a while, hoping to clear my head. I never intended to fall asleep there, but that’s what happened, and when I woke up, it was to very skillful fingers massaging my head. I opened one eye and looked up, not entirely surprised to see Luke sitting next to me, looking down with an amused expression on his face.
"Is Rory tired?" he remarked, as if he were talking to an infant, or maybe even a cute puppy.
"Shut up," I said, laughing as I swatted his hand away and forced myself to sit up, yawning. "What time is it?"
"Dinnertime," Luke replied. "Hungry?"
"No, but I’ll eat, anyway."
"Good, ‘cause Jase cooked tonight. So, you and me tomorrow at the park with Eddie?"
"Eddie wants to play baseball," Luke explained.
"Cool. And then you get to learn how to drive."
"He wants to teach you for real tomorrow," Luke responded, smirking. "I’ll be there for moral support--for both of you."
I rolled my eyes at him and together we went up for dinner. It was a quiet meal. Luke kept yawning, my mind was on the weekend, and whether or not I’d see Aaron. Eddie and Jase were still avoiding each other’s eyes, and as Luke predicted, there was a chocolate cake placed on the table after dinner. No one mentioned why there was a cake on the table, but Luke cut it, and we ate in silence.