Paper Walls - 16. Chapter 16
It’s been over a week since I’ve seen Callen other than school but even then we didn’t get to talk, since every teacher I have seems bent on making me drown in homework. Garret showed up and gave us the news about Shawn and Dylan. Plus, he was pissed that Callen tried to pull a fast one on him. Garret told my dad that no one was at Callen’s house, and now I am grounded.
Jeremy comes into my room. “Hey, you want to ride to the doctor’s with us?”
“For what?” I ask, tossing the football into the air while I lay on my bed.
“Check up for Dylan, and Shawn is coming by this evening, as well, to have dinner with us.”
“He’s coming over again?” I groan.
Jeremy comes into the room and shuts the door. “What the fuck is your problem lately?”
“That’s bullshit, Ryder!” Jeremy steps closer to my bed.
“Just stay out of it, Jeremy!”
“No, you have been a dick all week, you lied to your dad, and you got grounded. That’s your fault, dude! No one else’s, so stop treating everyone like shit. Dylan is only here for probably another week - long enough for CPS to confirm that their aunt is a good person.”
“Does that mean Shawn has to come over all the time?”
“What happened between you two?”
“He kissed me when he was drunk… then he texted me, saying he was being stupid,” I tell him.
Jeremy sighs. “Yeah, he told me. He feels terrible about it, man. He really does, but you’re with Callen. Don’t you like him?”
“I just wish Shawn hadn’t kissed me. I had a huge crush on him. Yeah, I am with Callen.”
“Look. Yes, what Shawn did was fucked up, and he knows it. He took advantage of your emotions to make himself feel better, and he is suffering for it, man. You’re giving him the cold shoulder, but you’re also giving a thirteen year old boy who just had his future taken from him the cold shoulder, as well.”
“What about me?!” I ask, sitting up.
“”Not everything is about you, Ryder! Yes, you have a fucked up past that you suffer from, but you have a fucking future right in front of you!” Jeremy yells and snatches the ball from my hands tossing it in the air and catches it. “Get your head out of your ass dude! You realize Dylan will never be able to draw like he used to ever again? Do you even fucking care, or you just self-obsessed? He throws the ball at me hard, and turns to walk out the door. He stops and turns back to me, “Oh, your first therapy session is Monday,” and walks out.
I feel like a complete asshole. I have been ignoring Dylan, and I know he looks up to me. I am so annoyed with myself and everything else, I put my shoes on and head downstairs. I see Dylan sitting on the couch, just staring at the wall. He looks like crap, not the same boy I saw when I first met him. The spark in his eyes are gone.
I sit next to him, and he looks over. “Hey dude,” I say.
“How’s the hand?” I ask.
He shrugs his shoulders. “Still broken.”
“I’m sorry, man. I wish you didn’t have to go through that,” I tell him.
“I’m sorry,” he says, crying now.
“For what? You didn’t do anything.”
“I heard you and Jeremy arguing just now. I know you don’t want me or Shawn here.”
I feel so much guilt hit me in the stomach. I bend down in front of him. “Hey… hey… no, man. I have just been dealing with a lot, and yeah, it kind of involves Shawn, but it has nothing to do with you, man. It’s kind of my fault, the stuff I am dealing with. I like having you here, I just didn’t know if you wanted to be around anyone or left alone,” I tell him.
“I wanted to give you this,” he says, handing me a paper.
I take it from him and look at it. It’s a drawing of me from practice. I was launching the ball, and the detail in this picture is amazing. “This is, wow,” I tell him.
“You like it?”
“I love it. You really want me to have it? “
“Yeah, I drew it for you.”
“This is just… wow! It’s fantastic,” I tell him.
“Thanks. You know, they said I’ll never be able to draw like I used to again.”
I move back beside him and pull him into a hug. “Dude, you can’t let them tell you what you will and won’t be able to do. I am sure it will be hard at first, but if you keep trying, I bet you will be able to draw like that again. It’s like when I run a new play for the first time - it’s terrible! I just keep practicing and practicing until I get it to how I want it. Yeah, it gets super frustrating, and I want to throw the ball into a grinder, but I swear it gets easier, man. So you can never rule it out,” I tell him.
“You really think I will be able to draw like that again?”
“If you put in the time and effort, I know you can. So, how did meeting your aunt go?”
He livens up now. “She is really cool. She looks like my mom but not as drugged out. She showed us pictures of the house and my new room. Uncle Mark seems to be really cool too. Shawn didn’t seem too happy about it all, though. I feel like I caused him to be so unhappy.”
“Dylan, you didn’t, man. Shawn is going through a lot. He feels guilty that he wasn’t there to stop you from getting hurt, and he’s about to be taken to a whole new place, so I imagine he is scared.”
“Shawn never gets scared,” Dylan says.
“Man, we all get scared. He probably doesn’t show it ‘cause he’s your big brother,” I tell him.
“Will you and he still be friends, because right now I don’t think y’all are.”
“Yeah, man, we are going to work out our problems, I promise.”
I hear a knock at the door, and I go open it. It’s Callen. “Hey,” he says.
“Hi,” I say back.
“Is now a good time to talk?”
“We are about to go to the doctor’s for Dylan, but I should have a few minutes. Let me go tell my mom.”
I find my mom in the kitchen, sitting at the counter, drinking a cup of coffee. “Hey, is it ok if I step outside and talk to Callen?”
“He’s here?” she says, looking up from her phone.
“Yeah, he stopped by. I promise I didn’t call him,” I tell her.
“Yeah, that’s fine. Just remember we have to go soon. The doctor’s office closes at noon today because it’s Saturday.”
“Yeah, got it, Mom.”
“Let him know you will be out of school for half the day on Monday.”
“For what?” I ask.
“First session of therapy. I can’t keep pushing the date back.”
I walk back to the front door and Callen is sitting on the steps. I go and sit beside him. His light brown eyes find mine. “Hey,” he says.
He grabs my hand, interlocking our fingers. He doesn’t say anything for a moment. “Our hands fit nicely in each other’s.”
“They do,” I say.
“Ryder, I know you have a lot of mixed up emotions, and you are going through a ton of shit. Fact remains, I want to be with you and a part of everything that you go through. Yes, you told me you were adopted. Yes, you told me a little about your nightmares, the anxiety, going to therapy. Guess what? I am still here, and I still want to be with you! Despite all that you might have wrong with you, or your mental battles. Being with you feels right.”
“Yes,” he says, and turns my face towards his. “I need to know how you feel.”
“Scared that I am going to mess this up. I see you, I get these butterflies in my stomach, and I don’t know how to act around you. I have tried to fight every ounce of feelings for you, but I can’t. I like that you talk so much, and that your eyes always hold this hint of mischief in them. I like that you’re so understanding of everything. I like that I can be vulnerable and you’re okay with it.”
“So, stop fighting us every step of the way,” he says.
“I am scared that you’re going to just wake up one day, and not like me, and leave me. I have never had a boyfriend or anything, and it’s scary to think that if I really fall for you, you might not reciprocate those feelings toward me.”
“Dude, I’m not going to break your heart, because that would break mine. I just want to be with you. We will face every other challenge when we get to it. Can you please stop fighting us from getting together? Please, Ryder, be my boyfriend, no ifs, ands, or buts?”
“Yeah,” I say, and kiss him.
He kisses me back, cupping the side of my face, and I can’t help but smile. I really do like him, and I feel so dumb for fighting it and looking for stupid reasons not to go out with him. We keep kissing, and I hear someone clear their throat from behind us.
Callen looks like a deer caught in the headlights, and stands up. “Hi, Mrs. K,” he says.
“Umm… I just asked Ryder to be my boyfriend,” he blurts out, and puts his face in his hands. I just facepalm myself.
“Well, do you want to come with us to the doctor’s, because we need to get going?”
“Yeah, I mean, if it’s okay,” he says.
“Sure, let me go get Dylan and Jeremy. Go start the car, Ryder.”
“So, telling my mom was the first thing that you thought to do?” I ask as we walk to the car.
He blushes. “I am so sorry. I just, I didn’t know what to do. I panicked and said the first thing that came out of my mouth.”
I laugh and grab his hand as we walk toward the car. I unlock it and start the car. “Come on, let’s sit in the back.”
“Yes sir,” he says, waggling his eyebrows.
“You are such a dork.”
“You like it.”
“I do. Oh, I won’t be in school for half the day on Monday.”
“First therapy session,” I say, looking out the window.
“So, you’re going to call me when you get out, right?” He grabs my hand again.
“If you want me to.”
“Of course I do!”
We watch as everyone heads to the car. I am seated in the middle, and Jeremy sits in the back with us. He smirks as he sees our hands clasped together. Dylan sits up front, and is talking on the phone. I know he is talking to Shawn. He seems a bit down that Shawn won’t be at the doctor’s appointment, but apparently, their aunt will be there.
No one really says much on the way to the doctor’s. “So, you think y’all will win this Friday?” Callen finally asks.
Jeremy looks at him like he is insane. “Dude, have you seen us? We are going to dominate them.”
“I wish I was going to be here to see it,” Dylan says.
“What you mean, dude?” I ask.
“Shawn said that everything is good for us to move to my aunt’s. We are actually leaving in the morning.”
‘What!” Callen says.
Now Dylan is crying. My mom puts her hand on his shoulder. “It’s going to be okay, sweetie.”
Jeremy reaches up and pats his other shoulder. “Hey, little man, you can always come visit us anytime. You should look at it this way. Remember when I told you about my home life, how I went through some of the same stuff as you? Look at how good it’s turned out for me. This could be what you and Shawn really need. When we met your aunt and uncle, they seemed like really cool people, and she was really nice. Your uncle was so excited about having you live with them, he kept talking about all the museums and art exhibits he wants to take you to.”
“What if it’s all an act?” he asks.
“Easy. Then Coach and I will come get you two,” Jeremy says.
“Promise, dude?” Dylan asks.
“Duh, knuckle head, but I am a good judge of character, and they seem really excited to have you both.”
We get to the doctor’s office, and Shawn is leaning against a car next to a lady with the same brown hair as him. Dylan gets out of the car in a rush, and runs over to Shawn and hugs him. His aunt gives him a big smile, and she hugs him as well. I finally get out of the car with Callen and Jeremy.
Shawn nods to Jeremy and looks to me, and sees Callen and I holding hands. I watch my mom go over and shake hands with their aunt, and they start talking and walking into the doctor’s with Dylan. “I think Shawn and I need to talk,” I tell Callen.
“Yeah, I think Jeremy wants to interrogate me anyway,” he says, smiling.
I walk over to Shawn, and he gives me a nod. “Hey.”
“So, did Dylan tell you yet?”
“Yeah, he just told us. I’m sorry.”
He shrugs. “It sucks, but I think life will be so much easier.”
“What about football?” I ask.
He sits across from me. “What about it?”
“Are you going to play there?”
He shakes his head. “Nah, probably not.”
He gives a laugh and runs his hands through his hair. He looks like he hasn’t slept at all. “For the first time in my life, Ryder, I can relax and be a seventeen year old teenager. I’m not going to have to worry about whether there’s food for Dylan and I, or am I going to have to stay up all night to make sure no harm comes to us. I think for once in a super long time, dude, I’m not going to be the adult in the house, plus I get my own room,” he says, almost in tears.
“Are you going to be able to adjust well to that?”
He wipes a tear away. “I don’t know, man. I am so scared. I have my doubts and worries, but I mean, it can’t be worse than what it has been.”
“So, where does that leave us?” I ask.
“I’m sorry, Ryder. I shouldn’t have kissed you, even if I was drunk. I knew how you felt towards me, and I did something stupid because I wanted to make you happy. Even though I am not gay, and I don’t have those feelings for you, you’re like a little brother to me.”
“Yeah, it was messed up. I was torn up about it’cause I did have a crush on you, but Callen was right.”
“What do you mean?”
“He told me he’s known you for years, and said you couldn’t possibly be gay, and yeah… I feel stupid.”
“Don’t. I beat myself up over messing with you. I don’t know, I just wanted you to be happy. You seemed distraught that night.”
“I was, because I had a crush on you, and I liked Callen, too,” I say, blushing.
“You and Callen are dating now, right?”
“Yeah, we are… well, for like an hour now, officially.”
“He’s a good kid. Just be careful. He’s just as fragile as you.”
“How do you know?”
“Like he said, I’ve known him for years, man. When he loves, he loves hard, and there isn’t anything not to love about you. Be gentle with him. He has a lot going on in his life, as well.”
“This is it, huh? This is you saying goodbye?”
“Yeah, I figured it would be easier for us to hash things out and say goodbye in private,” he says.
“The team isn’t going to be the same without you,”
“The team is going to be just fine, dude. They have you, Jeremy, and Garret. Besides, if you make state, I will be there for sure to watch!”
I get up and give him a hug, and he hugs me back. I realize in that moment my crush on him isn’t what it was. It feels like a bro hug, and I enjoy it. We walk into the doctor’s office and I take a seat next to Callen.
“Hey,” I say.
“Hey,” he says, smiling at me.
Sorry it's such a short chapter, but chapter 17 everything changes I kind of explained it as a soft reset on things, it clears up a lot of things and we finally start to see more of a venerable Ryder.
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