Puzzle Pieces - 1. The missing piece
Hone and I met at the grocery store when we were four. We weren’t there by ourselves, of course not. That would be insane. We were with our mothers.
They were strangers at the time.
Hone’s mom let him walk around because he was the kind of kid who could be trusted to stay close and not cause trouble. Whereas I strapped to the cart like Hannibal Lecter.
It’s possible I’d proven to be rather lawless at times.
I used my charm to convince Mom I’d be good. “I promise.”
The joke was on her.
It took me less than a minute of freedom to convince my new friend, Hone, to follow me while our moms bonded over Annie’s Organic White Cheddar Mac and Cheese. I’m sure Hone’s mom fed him that stuff. She seemed the type. My mom? She prodded on as if she didn’t actually feed me that Kraft shit every day.
“Do you like toys?” I asked. I’d been talking forever. Hone, not so much. His mom talked for him.
He nodded and followed me to the toy aisle. His eyes were wide with wonder. We laid on our bellies on the lower shelf and played with a puzzle. We weren’t good at it; we didn’t know what to do.
It was the best day of my four-year-old-life.
Adam got called over the loudspeaker.
Hone was happy. I was happy.
Our moms bonded over their mutual panic. Which is how Hone and I went from aisle seven playdate to best friends.
Hone’s mom should’ve hated me, but I was outgoing and pushed Hone out of his shell.
“Please, please, pleeeeeeease?” I begged every time I wanted to drag him somewhere. Football, baseball, summer camps, bike-rides. Whatever it was, I didn’t want to go alone.
At thirteen, I had other reasons to play sports. Like Aaron Kirk. He played baseball.
I liked him.
My mom was always open about that kind of thing. She never asked if I had a girlfriend. She asked if I was interested in someone. She left it open. I didn’t know it was intentional. I just knew she wouldn’t care.
I knew I couldn’t tell other people, though. It’s not that I heard mean things. But I didn’t hear nice things, either. I definitely didn’t hear boys talk about other boys the way I thought about boys.
Sometimes, when Hone and I puzzled, he would open up. He’d talk. He’d ask questions. “Who do you like more?” he asked. “Jessica or Molly?”
Hone liked Holly McGuire. She was cute, for a girl.
I didn’t tell Hone I liked Aaron.
At sixteen he asked. “Molly wants me to tell you that Jilly likes you. I think she wants you to ask her to the dance.”
I took her when I really wanted to take Bradley.
OR Jaxon, Noah, Ben, Henry, etc. There were many. I was boy crazy.
I even messed around with a few. It was awkward and clumsy and I loved every minute of it.
As much as I wanted to, I never talked to Hone about them. I avoided the subject. I punched his arm and told him to get lost. There was more to life than girls.
Then I saw Peter and that was it for me. He was the second smartest boy in school. He wore ironed polos and tight jeans. His chocolate hair was always perfect. He had rosy cheeks and pink lips. He was quiet with nice almond eyes. He wore his backpack on both shoulders.
I liked him. I liked him a lot.
Peter made me into an idiot. I couldn’t talk to him. I wanted to sit next to him. I want him to tutor me. I’d totally pay attention, I told myself. Maybe find out if he was gay, too.
Hone and I were putting together a puzzle. It was a weird thing for teenage boys to do but it had been our thing. Separately we were mediocre. Together, we were good. His mom bought us a subscription. Some of them were hard. Like the one we were working on. It was mostly blue.
I was never one to shy away from my feelings. Hone knew everything about me. Everything but this. I needed to rip off the bandaid. I was pretty sure our friendship would survive.
“Do you see a dark blue right sided end piece?” I asked. Hone paused. His hand darted to a pile and he was quick to dig out the piece I needed. “Thanks,” I said, sliding the piece into place. “Oh hey, by the way, I kind of have a big fat crush on someone.”
Hone stilled and looked up. We were seventeen. I’d never mentioned a crush before. He looked at his watch. “It’s about damn time. I was starting to think you—”
“Don’t say something you might regret,” I warned.
“—thought I’d steal your girl…”
“I won’t, steal your girl that is.”
“What if it’s not a girl?”
“A woman? A teacher?! Tell me it’s not a teacher. Despite what porn says, that’s actually gross. And illegal.”
“Not a teacher,” I laughed. “It’s Peter.”
“Peter Olsen? The nerd in third?”
“Don’t,” I warned again.
Hone shut his mouth. He was quiet as he thought on the situation. “You’re gay?”
I found another puzzle piece and put it where it needed to go. “I am.”
“This whole time?”
“I’m kind of shocked.”
“Why?” I asked. For some reason, I thought he’d tell me he’d known all along. Tell me he’d been waiting for me to trust him enough.
“You never flirt with me.”
I laughed. “Not even girls want you, why would I?”
“Ouch,” he grimaced. He wasn’t actually offended. Just being stupid. “So, Peter Olsen?”
“Yep, Peter Olsen.”
Hone twisted a puzzle piece between his fingers as he scanned for its perfect spot. When he found it, he put the piece in place and smiled. “Nice.”
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