I felt frustrated, tired and more than a little crabby. All night I had laid in my room, thinking about Brian and how I felt and what I could do to make it right. What was the right thing to do? He was cute, sure, but I’m not sure it was in a way I could ever fall for. I mean, he had his good days, don’t get me wrong. He’d dress in that green shirt I so liked on him and those black jeans that I told him looked good. Damn. The signs really were there all along, and I just missed them.
The real question was: What do I do now? I can’t just go proclaim my love for him, and I can’t just let him go without a fight either. He’s my best friend, my confidant and psychiatrist all in one. I could imagine a world without Brian, but it looked bleak. How could I ever make this up to him?
The phone rang downstairs and my mother called out that it was for me. I grabbed the extension by my bed.
“Sorry, just me!” Thomas’s voice giggled out of the receiver.
“Oh, hi Thomas.”
“Oh, you aren’t in love with me anymore, are you?” he sighed. “I should have known it was too good to last.”
“Don’t be such a drama queen.”
“Moi?” We both laughed.
“How are you, Thomas?”
“I’m actually doing ok. I settled in; things are still pretty new but…I feel safer. So, now, what’s got you all depressed?”
“It’s Brian,” I sighed.
“What’s up with him?”
“We kissed yesterday, first time for us both and….well, I guess it meant more to him than it did to me.”
“Ouch, that’s tough. Did you know he was interested?”
“No, that’s the bitch of it. I was blinded by…someone else.” I was blushing, even though Thomas knew I had wanted him.
“Ok, so I blinded you to the love that was right at your side. Gotcha.” Thomas giggled while I blushed more.
“Sure, you laugh now, asshole.”
“Oh, you know I love you Chad. The worst mistake I ever made was not seeing you right there all along. Maybe you should try and make this work with Brian. He’s not exactly ugly you know.”
“I dunno. I don’t want to hurt him anymore than I have. What if I really am not interested, then he’ll hurt so much more than if I walk away from this?” I twisted the phone cord in my hands, a nervous habit of mine.
“What if you fall in love? Chad, you deserve someone nice, and Brian is nice. I think you should give it a try. You can play what-if games all day, but you won’t be any smarter when it’s all said and done. Besides, I don’t see you ever walking away from Brian.”
I chewed my lower lip and thought about what he was saying. Brian was worth a shot, even if I didn’t necessarily think of him that way right now. But I had seen him in swim trunks, and he was pretty decent under those layers he wore.
“Chad? You’re biting your lower lip. Quit thinking and just do it.”
“How…How did you know that?” I asked in amazement.
“I saw more than anyone realized, that’s how. Look, I have to go, but I’ll call you next week. Call if you need to talk, ok honey?”
“Yeah, I will. Thanks, Thomas, thanks a lot.”
* * * * *
Saturday morning loomed large and gray, a light rain pelting down. I awoke with a renewed vigor, a real desire to give things a chance with Brian. I rolled out of bed and went to the bathroom to shower. Sean pounded on the door while I was in there, but I ignored him. Once out and dried off, I headed back to my room and dressed carefully, more so than I had before that I could remember.
Dark jeans, somewhat tight in the rear but otherwise loose fitting, a fairly tight undershirt with a button-up over it, only the bottom three buttons done up. A pair of dark casual shoes completed the effect as I headed downstairs, pausing in the bathroom to check my hair.
“Chad, where are you going?” My mother asked. Was she nuts? She never asked where I was going.
“Um, Brian’s,” I replied.
“I would like to speak with you for a minute, please.” She made a gesture towards a chair to accompany her formal language. I walked cautiously and sat in the living room. She took a chair across from me and regarded me with a cool gaze.
“You always seemed to be cut from a different bolt of cloth.” She maintained her gaze.
“I don’t understand.”
“When Matthew was born, we were of course overjoyed. As he grew we watched his development and thought that we knew what to expect of a boy by the time you were born. It never….occurred to us that you and Matthew could be so different from one another, we never suspected you could develop in such different ways.” She hesitated, almost seeming to be unsure of herself. “I suppose we always expected that you would begin to take on Matthew’s interests and mannerisms, maybe get into football or cars. When you didn’t, we were lost. I think we were still waiting for you to do what we thought all boys did.”
“Sorry to disappoint you,” I said softly.
“We aren’t disappointed, I don’t mean for you to think that. It’s simply that we were waiting for you to be a person you weren’t. We weren’t as smart as we thought we were. Chad, I’m sorry for all the bad things that have come about, more so that they hurt you. Your father and I never wanted that. I suppose we never really realized how far apart you and Matthew really are as people. We need to get to know you, find out all that we missed out on. We always thought you were simply more independent, didn’t need us very much.”
I was shocked. Did she really just say all that? I felt the tears threatening in my eyes and went to my mother, who took me hesitantly in her arms. Her grip tightened after that, however, as I got the first hug I’d had from her in a long, long time. I stayed there, sniffing and basking in the simple joy that only comes from being held by your mother.
“Brian will wonder what happened to you, best get a move on.” She said with a smile as I withdrew from her embrace. I nodded and walked unsteadily to the door. I thought about telling her I loved her, but in the end kept it to myself. I felt a little drained from the encounter with her, but also rejuvenated somehow.
I walked briskly to Brian’s place, a ranch-style house with a natural wood split-rail fence. I hated that fence, it was ugly and the world knew it. Brian’s father was the only one that liked it. In fact he proudly told people his house was the only one on the block that had a split-rail fence. Like normal people want those things!
Damn thing always gave you splinters when you climbed over it too.
I knocked at the front door, far too early for Brian to be awake, but I knew his folks would be going over the morning paper. Some things never change. His mom answered the door.
“Good morning, Chad, come on in. Brian is still asleep. Why don’t you go wake him for breakfast? I’m making waffles with bacon inside them,” she smiled at me. I grinned back at her and headed down the hallway to complete my assigned task.
I stood outside his door, a cheap hollow thing that had indentations from a million minor collisions. A small plastic license plate they had gotten on vacation spelled out his name. I had never feared to walk through his door before, but I was afraid now. Things would be different forever between us, no matter what happened. Change is inevitable.
The door swung open into a fairly neat room. He had an old computer in the corner, it had been his dad’s actually. A small dresser with stickers on the side that faced the wall held his alarm clock and odds and ends from his pockets. The stickers we had put there ages ago, and he didn’t want anyone to see them. But he also wouldn’t take them off-- I guess another sign as if I needed further proof.
He lay under his blankets, facing away from me. His hair could just be seen above the blankets, a fine cascade of light brown. He was spread out comfortably, seemingly without a care in the world, but I knew better. I knew he had to be as bothered as I was, and we never let something lie between us that needed to be resolved.
“I don’t feel like getting up yet,” Brian mumbled from his bed. If I needed any proof, that was it. Brian is one of those people who, once he is awake, he’s up. He doesn’t lie in bed, but he can sleep in, and usually does on Saturday. I said nothing, just closed the door and walked to his bedside, sitting on the edge of the comforter.
“I don’t want to talk, mom,” he mumbled again, snuggling the blanket around his ears. I reached out to his hair and ran my fingers through it, and he lay still and let that happen. His hair was soft, falling over my fingers in a fluid motion. He let his blanket down just a hair so that my hand could easily reach farther down his scalp. I knew from years of friendship how much fingers running through his hair relaxed him.
“I need to talk to you, Bri,” I said softly.
He stiffened under the covers, but didn’t move away from me. I took that as a good sign, he would listen to what I said. He didn’t roll over to face me though, and that was tactical. I couldn’t read his face if he didn’t show it to me, so the fact that he was listening would have to be enough.
“I don’t know how to say this, so I hope it comes out right. I can’t lose you, Bri. That’s the bottom line. You mean so much to me…I’m sorry I never saw the signs, I never saw you there waiting for me. I never meant to hurt you, if nothing else I hope you believe that.”
He remained silent, and I kept stroking his hair while his body slowly relaxed. He rolled over slowly to face me, his eyes seeming to be lost--and red rimmed. He had been crying, and not all that long ago.
“Did our kiss mean anything to you?” he asked.
“It was…totally wow. I never knew kissing was so much fun, or that you could do it so well!”
“No, I meant…did it mean anything to you.”
“It was my first kiss, Bri. It was my first kiss with someone I love. I do love you Bri, I really do. I don’t know if I can give you what you need from me, but I swear I’ll try. I’d do anything for you. Just don’t leave me, huh?”
“I was crying last night and again this morning. I figured I’d lost you anyways.”
I just looked down at him, continuing to run my fingers through his hair while he lay quietly.
“I don’t think we should date,” he said quietly.
“No, I think we should try and be like we were. But if something happens for us, then that’s good.” He looked me in the eyes, completely vulnerable and laid his soul open to me. “I really want to ask you to be my boyfriend, but I’m afraid. I don’t want to lose everything with you. Do you think…do you think we could just go on a few dates? Maybe kiss a few more times? At least until we know that we aren’t for each other, or we find special people? I want that closeness with you, that…”
I cut him off as I leaned down and kissed him, slipping my tongue into his mouth which he wasted little time in reacting to. I broke the kiss and looked into his shy face, a pretty face.
“It sounds good to me, Bri, just as long as everything is ok between us. That’s what’s important here, that you and I are always the best of friends.”
“I’ll agree to anything if you keep kissing me like that!” he giggled and footsteps could be heard on the stairs.
“Your mom sent me to get you up for breakfast,” I told him.
“I’m up, alright,” he muttered. I gave him a look of mild surprise and then grinned at him while he blushed.
“If you two are done scheming, breakfast is ready,” his mom said as she tapped on the door.
“Coming, Mom!” Brian called out.
“You’re not even breathing hard!” I teased him.
“You are going to get an eyeful if you don’t get out of here,” he warned.
“Well, this could be good!” I said with a grin. He pushed me and told me to get out, which I did. Maybe there was more to this than I had originally thought.
* * * * *
“Chad, can I talk to you for a minute?” Matt asked, his body framed in my bedroom doorway.
“Sure,” I said. I pulled my legs up under me and waited for him to sit down. He chose to sit in my chair rather than on the bed, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of that.
“I want to say something, but I want to be careful too. I don’t want this to sound like I am trying to be nosy or run your life or anything.”
“Ok,” I replied slowly.
“It’s about Blake. I know a few…things about him.”
“Yeah, he seemed to know you,” I replied.
“Well, he doesn’t ‘know’ me at all, but he knows of me. Blake was a little wild in high school and one night at a party….well, I don’t know how far he would have gone, but he was feeling up a guy who had passed out. I don’t care who you are, that’s like rape ‘cause there wasn’t any permission being asked or given there. I don’t know how he is now, and I heard….things that he got away with, with other guys who weren’t in a position to have a say in what happened to them. So I guess, just be careful with Blake. I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
At first I was pissed. I figured maybe he was just trying to make me not have a relationship, and it was hard to get away from that thought. I know most of what he said was rumor, but he didn’t say not to see Blake, just to be careful. It took a little reasoning, but I remained calm.
“Ok, I’ll be careful with him. I know I’d want to be awake if something happened to me, so…thanks.”
“If he hurts you, I’ll have to come back and beat him six ways from Sunday,” Matt grinned.
“If he hurts me, there won’t be anything left by the time Brian gets done with him!” I laughed.
“How’d things go with you guys anyway?”
“They went, well, better than I thought they would have. We’ll be like, friends with benefits--Friends first though. We can be open and talk and I think things will work out ok.”
“That’s good, Brian is a good guy. You guys have been together as long as I can remember.”
“Yeah, he is a good guy,” I agreed. I just hoped I could be worthy of him.Next Chapter Previous Chapter