My thanks to Cole for editing and Ricky and Cynus for beta reading. I recommend that you read Teammates and The Bearded Bromance by Cynus to have a grasp on these characters.
“I don't know, Gray. I think he's bad luck for you,” Amanda said.
“It's not him,” I replied defensively.
“Yeah, Amanda. Can't be Logan – he's perfect,” Kevin said.
“Hey, if you guys are going to gang up on me...”
“You'll what? Find new friends?” Amanda asked with a snicker.
I frowned and put my head down on my hands. “He's not bad luck.”
“I said he's bad luck for you,” Amanda replied. “Last year when you saw him skateboarding, what did you do?”
“There was a rock!”
“That's right, you were on a skateboard too and you fell off and broke your arm. Then, last season, you joined him on the basketball team – I guess a sweaty Logan was too much for you to pass up. So that was, what? Three broken fingers and now this?”
“Hey, he's getting better,” Kevin laughed. “At least he didn't break it!”
My friends laughed at my expense and I tried to tune them out. Not that there wasn't some truth to what they were saying, far from it. But it wasn't Logan's fault. It was mine.
Logan is the reason I know I'm gay. I first noticed him in the fourth grade, even though I didn't have a label for it. He was just cool, then. But he had some buddies he was tight with and that circle seemed impenetrable. Oh, I tried. I joined baseball because he did and all I proved was that it was possible to get enough bruises from the ball to cover an ample part of my body in just six games. I couldn't catch the damn thing in the infield, but I was great as far as the coaches were concerned – because the ball never got by me. Instead it would mightily whack me somewhere and – bang! – new bruise.
It didn't matter where. Kickball in gym? I got hit with the ball in the face because I was watching Logan instead of the ball.
Anyway, after all that there was an opportunity. For some reason he wasn't as tight with his buddies of old and he was being nice to everyone. Wait, let me rephrase that. He was nice before – even my friends will admit that. But now there was the opportunity to finally get to really know him, a chance to get closer. So when they had tryouts for the freshy basketball team, I knew he'd be there – and so was I.
Turns out one of the few things I can do well when Logan is around is guard him on the court. Coach was always matching me with him and, I admit, at first I wasn't so good at it. I'd get lost in the bounce of his chestnut hair or his sea blue eyes. Then he was past me and I was left looking at someone else as I was the victim of a pick and roll or something. So I began paying attention to his hands, where his feet were pointing and I became someone who could challenge him, at least defensively.
Of course, that couldn't last. I don't know why he did it but as he was dribbling the ball in front of me – he winked. At me. I froze for a second and he was driving past me. I struggled to regain some position and tripped over the foot of the person who was supposed to be setting a pick for Logan. I went down and here I am with the twisted ankle that was going to keep me from playing for pretty much the whole season. Coach had wanted me to stay with the team and travel with us and everything, but I felt pretty stupid. By the time I recovered from the severe sprain, the season would be nearly over. People would already be in a groove with their teammates and I'd be, well, an unknown. Plus I was embarrassed as hell. So, I quit.
Now, I sat here with my so called friends, further away from Logan than ever.
“You know he's dating,” Kevin said to Amanda, but meant for me to over hear.
“I know, what's her name again?” Amanda asked, her tone saying this show was clearly for my benefit.
“Maggie Bianchi,” I replied miserably. Yes, I know I'm pathetic – I'm pining for a straight boy.
“Well, now you know. Can't you just let him go?” Amanda asked.
“You don't understand,” I sighed and hobbled to my feet. I settled my crutches under me and scrunched up my lunch bag to throw out.
“Well, why don't you explain it to me, then?” she asked.
I didn't answer, I just got myself over to the garbage can, spared a glance at Logan laughing with his friends – his reformed circle that somehow included Seth McAllister now – and I moved down the hall and on to my next class.
I wasn't trying to be difficult with her by not answering the question. The answer was a big, fat 'I don't know'. I'd interacted with him hundreds of times in small ways – in the classroom, on the various sports fields and at school events. But for some reason I kept not making an impression on him – or maybe just not making a good impression. That was leaving out all the klutz things that happened to me on the field.
I wondered if that was it? Maybe he just thought I was an uncoordinated boob.
I was in walking distance of the school and, since my mom works days, I was left to make my way home after the end of classes. Our winters aren't very forgiving – what they are is long, miserable and fucking cold. I'd taken to stopping at Roxanne's Diner on my way home and spending some of my allowance on a hot cup of coffee. I'd acquired a taste for it, light and sweet, when I was thirteen and under the impression I was now the man of the house. My parents had divorced and my dad had moved out of state for work. My mother wasn't a morning person and so I was frequently on my own first thing. Brewing a morning cup was pretty easy, given the single cup machine we had, and I liked it the same way my mom did.
I decided, for the millionth time, to sit and try to figure out my Logan problem. I made a line and headed one column positives and the other negatives. I started with the positives and listed: kind, generous, attractive, good athlete, good sport...that part was easy. The negatives stumped me, however.
Straight? That's not a negative, really. I mean, it was for me and my hopes of slow dancing with him and getting my first kiss out of the way. Oh, he must look awesome in a tux! But I really can't put that on the positive side since I've never seen it and it's kind of subjective and superficial and I was trying to be serious.
No doubt about it – Logan Whitmore was awesome. But how do I get to know him? How can I get his attention? What am I, stupid? He's straight! Why would you try making friends with a straight boy who turns your insides into knots? Masochism, you have a call holding on line 1.
Okay, let's try and be objective. Why should I try – again – to make friends with Logan? Would being friends be enough? What if he thinks gay people are icky or something? In truth I had a hard time picturing that. For all the failed attempts I'd had trying to worm my way into his good graces he'd never been mean. So even if he didn't...oh, that must be it. He knows I'm gay and he's just being polite, but he thinks it's gross and doesn't want to actually talk to me.
Well, that was depressing.
Friday we had a basketball game and I wasn't going to go. For one, I wasn't on the team and for two the only reason I'd joined was to try – and fail – to make some kind of connection with Logan. Now that I'd realized why that hadn't worked out, I was trying to not look at him wistfully. Of course, none of this mattered to Amanda.
“Grayson! I need someone to go with me to the game and Kevin has a 'thing'.” This was the sum of her reasoning.
“Why does someone need to go with you?” I asked sullenly.
“Because only losers go by themselves! Duh! Come on, let's go. I'll buy you a chili dog.”
I reluctantly went – not for Logan! – but because there really is no such thing as a bad chili dog. Amanda sent me ahead to find two seats and I trudged up the steps and slid over along the bleachers and found a spot where I could hold a seat for her. The cheer squad was out there and they were doing their thing. The guys must be really strong to hold those girls up and the girls must be agile as all get out to do the things they do. I wonder how many times they've been dropped?
Seeing Amanda approaching the bleachers with refreshments I waved a crutch at her. She nodded and made her way to me.
“Okay,” she said as she took a seat. “Kevin is second string, so we wont' see him right away.”
“Excuse me?” I asked, eyes narrowing. “I thought you said Kevin had a 'thing' tonight.”
“Yeah. I couldn't think of the term 'basketball game',” she said with a shrug and a smile. “I guess I'm supposed to watch these things, now.”
Turning her words over for a moment a light bulb went on. “Is this how you tell me you guys are dating?” I demanded.
“Surprise!” she said and then had the good grace to look slightly abashed. “We were going to tell you but...we didn't want you to feel weird around us.”
“I always feel weird around you,” I grumbled. I thought I heard a snicker, but when I looked at her she wasn't smiling.
“Well, you haven't talked about anyone but Logan 'the perfect guy' Whitmore for three years. We felt weird because it's been the three of us for a while now...and it still will be. But, Kevin and I are...”
“Yeah, I get it,” I said. I glanced out on the court as the teams began filing out of the locker rooms and warming up. “The only thing that takes me by surprise is that the only thing you guys have in common is picking on me.”
“Well, all you need is one thing in common to start a friendship. You never know where that will end up,” she laughed.
“No kidding?” I said sarcastically. “Gee, now I guess you understand why I've been trying so hard to make friends with Logan for years.”
“Grayson...he's dating a girl.”
“I know, Amanda,” I sighed. “It's not a switch I can just shut off.”
“Yeah, but you said he's never noticed you in all this time. Even if you make friends, what then?” she put her hand on mine and said, “Look, I'm sure you're somebody's reason to masturbate, just not his.”
“Oh, come on, Amanda!” I hissed. “I just want to know him!”
“Yeah, and then what? In your mind he's going to like you so much, see that your love is so much purer than anyone elses? Come on!”
“No,” I said. “Do I wish that I had a shot with him? Yes. It seems pretty damn unfair that I can't even...it doesn't matter, anyway. I figured out why he won't talk to me.”
“He...” I leaned in a bit, even though the crowd murmur assured me no one could hear. “He figured out I'm gay and he's not cool with that.”
“How would he know that? It's not like you have a rainbow UPC code or something.”
“It makes sense! I've literally tried for years, he must have picked up on it!”
“Straight boys don't have gaydar,” she laughed.
“Well, he figured me out, I guess. I just never figured him for...a bigot.”
“Well, kind of a big leap for that label, don't you think?”
“What would you call it?”
“Well, maybe he's just practical and afraid you'll fall on him next and his season will be over!” she giggled.
I may have muttered 'bitch' under my breath.
The teams took the court, warm-ups finally over and we were ready for tip-off. It was a fast paced game with not a lot of defense. Kevin checked in and Amanda was all kinds of happy, and I clapped for him. She'd have hit me if I hadn't and it wasn't like I could outrun her.
Before we knew it the first quarter was over and they were duking it out in the second. Our team was settling down a bit and playing some defense and making the opponent work harder for shots and then we hit the half. It was a tight game and that was fun in and of itself. Amanda got up and headed for the bathroom and I laid my crutches down to hold her seat.
“Great game, huh?”
“Yeah, tight,” I said and turned to see who was talking.
“Hi, I'm Seth,” he said extending his hand. Seth McAllister, the guy that got into Logan's circle – the guy who succeeded where I'd failed repeatedly. What made this guy so special? I mean, setting aside the combination of his dark hair, bright green eyes and somewhat pale skin. Considering Logan was so blindingly straight, Seth's physical attributes couldn't play a part – so what was it he had that I didn't? Coordination?
“I know,” I finally managed to reply. I was unable to keep some of my churning thoughts from influencing my tone of voice.
“I know? That's a weird name. Do your parents hate you?” Seth asked, laughing.
“No, just the universe,” I said with a thin lipped smile. “Grayson Anderson.”
“Nice to meet you,” he replied. “That's an unusual first name.”
“It was my grandfather's,” I replied.
“Think we'll win?”
“I don't know, could go either way,” I said, glancing at the court. “They need to tighten up the D if they don't want to blow it. Letting a team that can score hang around just invites trouble.”
“Interesting. Do you play? You sound like you know what you're talking about.”
I pointed to my ankle. “I was on the team but I rolled my ankle pretty bad.”
“Oh, I remember you! Well,” Seth smiled, “I remember hearing about you. My best friend, Logan, is on the team. Do you know him?”
“Well, I've gone to school with him for years but...no, we really don't know each other.”
Amanda returned and was giving me a look I couldn't read, presumably because I was talking to Seth. She probably figured I was doing it intentionally to find another way in to Logan and would never believe that Seth had approached me.
“Uh, Seth this is my friend, Amanda. Her boyfriend, Kevin, is on the team.”
“Hi,” Seth said, extending his hand again. “Kevin Kowalski? The tall guy?”
“Hi. Yeah, that's him. You know all the players?” she asked.
“I'm at all the games. I know most of them even if I haven't met them all,” Seth replied.
“Oh? So how is he doing? I don't know squat about basketball but, since I'm his girlfriend now, he wants me to watch him play like it's going to impress me,” she said with a snicker.
“My friend Logan says he's a solid guy.” Seth leaned in conspiratorially, “but I really don't know jack about the game either.”
I stared at him. “Then why do you come?”
“I come to watch my friend - he loves basketball,” Seth replied with a shrug. The buzzer sounded and the teams took up their places on the court. I turned back to the game and watched as play resumed. Whatever defensive mojo our guys had formed in the first half had disappeared and we were back to run and gun, offense only. This style of game just meant that whoever missed more would lose. I watched as Logan reached a hand in, stole the ball and raced down the court for a quick two points. I resisted trying to stand and cheer for him and limited myself to clapping. Okay, maybe I waved a fist in the air.
After a quick time out, the team settled again and started playing some defense and the other side wasn't able to score as fast. If our guys focused it seemed like they had an edge on the other team in terms of discipline. There were a lot of players calling to each other, trying to work on maintaining cohesion on defense, a level of communication the other team lacked.
Finally, with the game down to the last few minutes, I realized we'd gotten a lead we wouldn't lose and the game was in hand. I nudged Amanda.
“Let me by? I have to use the bathroom and I don't want to fight people when the game is over.”
“We're going out for some hot chocolate or something after, you want to come?” she asked as she shrank back to let me by. I paused to look down at her.
“Join you on your date? I don't think so. I'll just head home.”
I worked my way down the stairs, hopping to the floor and headed out.
Monday was back to the grind. Being around Kevin and Amanda was, predictably, weird. Even though they had been friends before, I guess, this new dimension to their relationship was fresh and they were still exploring it. They were so busy with that, there was no point in being there.
Besides that my day was pretty normal, with one exception. I'd spent some of the weekend mourning the death of whom I thought Logan was and thinking that I'd done everything I could. It just wasn't meant to be on some cosmic level. The odd thing was, as I awkwardly scooted down the sidewalk in the cold wind, I was joined by Seth.
“Hey. You need a hand?” he asked.
I glanced up in surprise and replied, “No, I need an ankle.”
He laughed and offered to carry my bag.
“No, thanks, I got it. Besides, people might think we're dating.”
“Oh, come on. They'd probably just think a friend was helping another friend.”
“That what we are now?” I grinned.
“Well, maybe it's one sided,” he conceded. “You seem to know about basketball and Logan has tried to teach me but...” Seth shrugged.
“I'm sure he knows way more than I do. He's been on the team every year I can remember,” I replied, turning from Seth and continuing down the sidewalk. He fell in beside me.
“How many years is that?”
“Um,” I paused to think. “Like, four? We used to have modified teams at school, and he always played.”
“Well, some people aren't good at explaining,” Seth reasoned.
“Yeah. A few of them are my teachers.” We both laughed and I paused in front of Roxanne's. “I stop here for coffee. Thanks for the company, though.”
“You drink coffee?” Seth asked, a look of surprise on his face.
“Yeah. I know, I'm weird. I like it.”
“Me too! I thought I was the only one,” Seth grinned happily. “Logan won't say so, but coffee isn't his thing. Mind if I join you?”
“Uh, sure. If you want.”
He held the door for me and we grabbed a booth. Seth pulled off his coat and his knit hat revealing his shock of dark hair, now disheveled and giving him a rakish appearance. It was a sharp contrast to my reddish-gold hair – my dad used to tease me that I was a 'near ginger'. As Seth settled in across from me I noted a smattering of freckles across his nose and cheeks, so similar to my own.
“So...why won't Logan say he doesn't like coffee?” I asked, grasping for a way to not sit in silence.
“Because I'm an addict and my number one thing to do is go for a cup. Since he goes with me, just to hang out, he won't tell me.” Seth grinned and I felt myself wanting to return the gesture.
“But...how do you know?”
“Well, there are a few things but two big ones are real tip-offs,” Seth said, holding a finger out. “One is the little grimace he makes sipping from the cup. Two is that he never, ever finishes a cup of coffee.”
“What's the point, then?” I asked, snickering at Logan's behavior.
“Well, my mom says that sitting down with coffee or tea is a great way to have conversation or get to know people.” He held up his cup before sipping. “It also gives you something to do when things lull or you want a second to think without looking stupid.”
“Oh. Smart lady,” I said, taking a sip of my own. That one sip told me Roxanne had just made a fresh pot – I love the first cup of a fresh pot.
“Yep. So Logan grimaces in silence and I laugh on the inside. It's a beautiful thing,” Seth snickers.
“Seems kinda mean,” I said, teasing.
“Well, maybe a little,” he conceded. “But it's always nice to talk over a cup.”
“I guess it beats being alone, huh?” I chuckled.
“Most of the time. So,” Seth said. “Basketball. What is the big deal?”
“I don't know,” I said with a smile and a shrug. “By all rights I shouldn't like sports at all. Every time I join a team I get injured.”
“Yeah. I joined basketball last year and got three broken fingers, this year it's the ankle. Baseball I actually got through the season, but I was black and blue...”
“Wow. Why do you keep going back? You must really love sports.”
“Uh, well, I would like to be decent at them, I guess,” I prevaricated.
“I don't really like them, myself. I'm okay with playing in gym or something, and it's more fun to play if Logan is around – he doesn't mind that I kind of stink at sports.”
“Really?” I asked. “Doesn't that get old for him if you can't play and he can?”
“If it does, he's never said,” Seth shrugged. “I'm going to ask for a refill, you want another?”
I nodded and fell into thought as he walked to the counter to get Roxanne's attention. If it was true that Logan didn't care if you could play then I'd been double wasting my time; getting injured really had been all for squat. I also wondered about them not liking doing things the other did, but doing them anyway. It sounded like a marriage.
Seth returned and I decided to make the most of having some company that wasn't making fun of me about liking Logan.
“So, does Kristin like coffee? You're dating, right?”
“We're dating, and I'm really not sure,” Seth said with a chuckle. “It's kind of a new relationship so I'm still figuring out stuff.”
“Oh, yeah, that makes sense. Girls are tough to figure out,” I commented. That's what straight guys said to each other, I figure, so Seth should find common ground with me.
“Oh, no. Kristin is pretty open. I just don't know all her preferences is what I mean,” he said with a smile.
“Oh. Oh, okay,” I said. Damn. Usually the mystery of girls was a safe place to go with guys.
“So...how come you quit the team?” Seth asked.
“My ankle,” I told him. “It's a pretty major sprain, worse than a break in some ways. I could have come back by the end of the season, but...”
“Well, the guys would already be in a rhythm and comfortable with each other and...I'd be that lame guy on the bench with a uniform on, crutches and holding a clip board.” Not to mention the fact having Logan seeing me everyday as a broken, useless member of the team chafed me.
“Oh,” Seth said. “I guess that makes sense. You'd be on the team but not really feel like you were.”
“Yeah, I guess,” I shrugged. That and because I joined more to make friends with Logan than to play, but I couldn't tell Seth that.
“I don't really care about basketball, but Logan is crazy for it.”
“That's kind of weird you go to his games, but I didn't see your girlfriend or his?” I asked, spreading my hands out.
“Oh, you know he's dating Maggie?” Seth replied, deftly not answering my question and instantly putting me on the defensive.
“Uh, yeah. I heard that from someone today...Amanda I think,” I said, feeling guilty that it wasn't completely true.
“So it sounds like you've spent a lot of time on sports teams, how is it you're not friends with Logan?” Seth asked. Good question.
“Well...I guess it just never worked out that way. He had some friends he was tight with and...I guess he didn't need any more.” I sighed.
“Logan likes making friends, there must be something else,” Seth said and then seemed to kick himself. I was about to reply when he cut me off, changing the subject. “We're having, like, a quintuple date this weekend.”
“Logan and I are taking Maggie and Kristen to the movies and my friend Jamie – do you know Jamie Kirkwood?”
“Yeah, some. I mean, I know who he is. Not like, to talk to or anything.”
“Well, he's taking whatever girl he's interested in this week and he scored us a ride with his brother Robin and his boyfriend, Lucien. Oh, and I think Jamie's other brother Sean is coming with a date, too.”
“Yeah,” Seth smiled warmly. “I've met Robin before but I'm looking forward to meeting Lucien. Jamie says they are so in love it's enough to make you sick.”
I looked at Seth uncertainly. “So...uh...why are you...I mean, you guys are comfortable with that?” Could I be wrong or is Logan just good enough to fake it for an evening? He's good enough, I decided. After all, he's been doing it to me for years.
“Well, I don't know how ready any of us is with solo dates. Jamie talks pretty big on flirting, but he seems to be a little gun shy, now. I think he likes the idea of us all hanging together.”
“But his brother...”
“Robin, yeah. He seems cool, and Jamie has nothing but good things to say – well, good things in a brotherly way,” Seth snickered.
“What does that mean? I don't have any siblings...”
“Well, they pick on each other and tease but when Robin isn't anywhere close, Jamie is pretty positive about him. He seems very protective about Sean, too.”
“Well, what I meant about comfortable was...never mind, I guess you answered my question without trying to.”
“Nope,” Seth said, grinning widely. “I knew what you meant and I said that deliberately. I really can't wait to meet Lucien. I've seen so many couples that do stupid things in public – you know, pet names and fawning – I can't wait to see how these guys act. Jamie says his brother is a hopeless romantic idiot.”
“Uh,” I chuckled nervously. “What does he mean?”
“I guess he drops love notes in Lucien's locker, stuff like that. Sounds like they have a strong relationship.”
“Yeah. But...won't Logan be uncomfortable? Or the girls?” I added in the girls quickly, to try and hide that I was curious about Logan's reaction – but I realized it didn't matter. Embarrassed I started to wiggle out of the booth. “I should go.”
“Uh, okay. You should hang out with us sometime,” Seth said as he reached for his coat.
“Yeah, right,” I said. “Nice talking to you, Seth. See you later.” That was just bizarre.
As the days in January dwindled, Seth spent more time with me. He was having coffee with me a few times a week and suddenly I was seeing him in the hallways and exchanging greetings. I hadn't made a new friend in a long time and I was enjoying the experience. Seth didn't mention Logan as much, the more time we spent together, and I was okay with that. I hadn't really made peace with my conclusions – in fact, unless Logan spit in my face and told me he was a bigot I likely wouldn't ever be completely sold on the idea.
Things took a decided turn toward interesting a few weeks later when Seth sent me a text Friday afternoon asking if he could come over Saturday. He said it was important and he really needed someone to talk to. Of course I agreed and at eleven-thirty he was at my door, taking off his boots while I hung up his coat. We were going to hang out in my room, but we were snagged by my mother under the guise of getting something hot to drink.
“I should warn you,” I told Seth in a whisper. “My mom loves to bust balls.”
“What?” Seth asked, confusion written across his face.
“So who is this little cutie?” my mother said as we stepped into the kitchen.
“Mom, meet Seth McAllister.”
“Nice to meet you, ma'am,” Seth said as he extended a hand.
“A gentleman! But wait,” my mother said and gave me an evil look. “Seth, you say? I thought you weren't hanging out with him anymore 'cause he smelled bad? He smells fine.”
“A gentleman always smells his best if he's meeting a lady,” Seth countered and I dropped into a chair, laughing.
“Do I sense a challenge?” my mother said with a lift of her eyebrow and a smile curling her mouth.
“Do you want one?” Seth grinned.
My mom looked at me, placing a hand on Seth's shoulder and said, “Marry him. Quick, before he gets out of the house!”
“Mom!” I said, shocked.
“My parents won't let me marry yet, ma'am. I promise to keep Gray on my short list, though,” he replied, without missing a beat. “Is that a fresh pot of coffee I smell?”
I was amazed. My mother had just outed me and Seth had smoothed it over as if it were nothing. Well, maybe he just thought she was picking on me and discounted the possibility there was any truth to it.
“You like a good cup of coffee? I may marry you myself,” my mother laughed loudly and waved Seth to a chair. He leaned over as my mother pulled cups from the cabinet.
“How'd I do?”
“The force is strong with you,” I giggled and he joined me.
“Oh, am I being left out of the joke?” my mother asked as she poured the coffee.
“Not at all, Mom,” I said with a grin.
“Oh, I am the joke, huh? Ha, ha.” She put the cups down and added cream and sugar to the table. As we set about fixing the coffee to our individual tastes my mother zeroed in on Seth again.
“I'm sure we haven't met before. How do you know my son?”
“I found his number on a bathroom wall,” Seth replied.
“Hey!” I protested.
“I know, I know,” Seth patted my forearm. “But I think your mom should know the truth.”
“And that would be?” My mother asked, her cheeks already quivering with unvoiced laughter.
“That he was desperate to find someone like him, who felt the way he did. I've told him that posting his number like that was the wrong way to go about it,” Seth said seriously. Silence reigned in the room, the mother of pregnant pauses before Seth let the other shoe drop. “I told him he just needed to hang out at places that serve coffee to find other people that liked a hot cup.”
Seth lifted his cup in a toast and drank as I finally took a breath. My mother was shaking with laughter and wore a smile as she studied Seth.
“You are not all what you appear to be,” she told him.
“Should I ask what I appear to be?” he asked, grinning at her.
“I think I'll just keep that to myself, for now,” she deferred. She glanced at me and said, “Okay, you can keep him.”
“Thanks Mom!” I exclaimed. “I promise to feed him and walk him and...well, no cleaning up after him.”
Finishing our coffee Seth and I headed up to my room. He carried my crutches up the stairs while I hopped ahead of him and we settled into my room.
“Oh, that's cool,” Seth said as he examined a dream catcher over my bed.
“Yeah. It doesn't work,” I replied. “Video games?”
“I don't care,” he shrugged. “I just wanted to hang out.”
“Really?” I replied. “I thought you'd be with Logan today.”
“He has an away game today, but I wanted to talk to you,” Seth admitted and took a seat at my desk.
“About what?” I asked as I leaned back on my bed.
“Well, this friendship seems to be going pretty well, to me,” Seth said. “I feel pretty confident and I was hoping to talk to you a little. I've kind of talked about this with Logan, but I thought it might be good to get another opinion and...you're my next closest friend.”
“Really? You've known me for, like, a month.” I tried to keep my tone skeptical, but my heart jumped with the idea that I was important to him.
“Yeah. Well,” Seth sighed and glanced toward the floor. “I got myself hurt – physically – by somebody for my smart mouth a few years ago. Making friends has been hard for me since then.”
“That makes no sense,” I replied. “You're the one that approached me.”
“Yeah. It was a smart decision, too. I feel like my old self when we hang out, and trading shots with your mom – by the way, she's awesome – was a lot of fun. Plus, sometimes making a friend has less to do with the amount of time you spend than how you feel around them. I've spent enough time around you to know you're a friend.”
“Okay,” I said slowly. “I'm glad you're comfortable with me. I like you too. I haven't made a new friend in a long time. In fact, since Amanda and Kevin started dating, it's been just you.”
“Yeah. I'm sorry about that. Logan and I are pretty close and I tend to spend most of my time with him,” Seth said.
“Yeah, of course, I'm not...complaining. Far from it, I'm not your responsibility or anything.” Jeez, I could say the exact wrong thing just about any time, couldn't I?
“Well...You know I've been dating Kristin, of course,” Seth said, still trying to justify the demands on his time. It was endearing that he thought I deserved that.
“Well, the thing is...” Seth looked at me, holding my eyes with his. “I don't know if things will work out with her.”
“Oh. I'm sorry, Seth. Has she said or done something?”
“Not entirely, no. Even if she did, I wouldn't want to badmouth her. This is about me.” Seth took a deep breath and said to me, “I'm bi-sexual.”
I waited for a moment, anticipating the smile or the laugh. When it didn't come I felt myself sitting up straight and watching his face. He wasn't kidding.
“Wow. Really? I...well,” I searched for the right words. I closed my eyes and said softly as I opened them, “Thank you for trusting me.”
His mouth spread into a grin and he said, “I knew I was right about you.”
“What do you mean?” I said, defensively.
“I knew I could trust you. Some people can't handle that,” he said simply.
“Why...did you tell me?”
“Because this is who I am. If you're going to be my friend and I'm yours, I think you deserve to know.”
I felt like such an asshole. Would he hold it against me if I didn't tell him I was gay right now? Could I even tell him? I turned it over in my head, tell him or don't tell him? I was feeling a lot of pressure internally to reciprocate his honesty.
“Are you okay with that?” Seth asked softly.
“I'm gay,” I blurted and then looked up at him in surprise.
The corner of his mouth turned up. “Oh. Well, hello.”
“Uh...I haven't been, you know, perving on you or anything.”
“What? Why not?” Seth demanded with a laugh. “I'm not worth perving on? Not even a little?”
I blushed hard and felt a nervous smile come to my face. “Don't get me wrong. I noticed you're...cute. I'm just not, you know, after you or anything.”
Seth put a finger to his chin. “Yeah, the evidence doesn't support you chasing me. I had to make friends with you, I had to come out to you...”
“Hey, I said you were cute!” I replied with a nervous laugh. “What do you want from me?”
“What are you offering?” Seth asked, staring at me. My mouth came unhinged and he burst out laughing at me. “I'm sorry, I couldn't resist!”
“You better be careful, McAllister,” I said. “My mom already wants us married.”
“I don't know if I could marry a guy that isn't after me,” Seth said, exaggeratedly looking at his fingernails.
“It's hard for me to pursue anyone given they can outrun me,” I laughed.
“Are you saying it's a matter of catching me?” Seth grinned.
Wow, this conversation was not at all what I'd imagined it would be. “Seth,” I said slowly, thoughts churning, “I like you – a lot. But what about Kristin?”
Seth smiled at me, “You know, I like that your first thought isn't something like getting me in bed but how this would affect someone else. That's a nice quality, Gray.”
“Uh, thanks?” I shrugged. “I'm not trying to get you into bed...although, now you've put the thought in my head. Thanks for that!”
“You're welcome,” Seth grinned. “But, actually, that's kind of what I wanted to get your take on. You see, I knew I was bi-sexual going into dating Kristin – which isn't a problem by itself. But I don't feel like we're...giving one-hundred percent of ourselves to this relationship.”
“Like...I don't know what you mean.”
“I mean, I'm interested in other people and I think she might be, too.”
“Well...have you talked to her?” I asked. I'm really glad I hadn't asked what first popped into my head, which was if he was interested in me. Was this where he was going with this cryptic conversation about being interested in other people? No, he was forward enough earlier, he'd just tell me. Right?
“Yeah, some,” he admitted. He hopped off the chair and slid next to me on the bed and I felt my body temperature rise.
“But, what do you think? I mean, from my end, I know you can't know what she's thinking.”
“Well,” I said slowly, watching his fingers twitch on his leg. “I think you need to decide if your...interest in other people is a distraction. I mean, other people don't get less attractive just because you're dating, right?”
“No, they don't,” Seth said.
“So, I guess, you have to decide if that – whoa.” I had stopped as Seth had placed his hand in mine. “What...”
“Sorry, this is tense. You want me to let go?”
“No...that's okay. I was just surprised.” Stunned, more like. Still, it was nice, feeling close to him. Better than nice – I couldn't remember having a friend who was so...comfortable with themselves and me. Our forearms were pressed against each other so that we were touching from elbow to palm and it was just...so...nice.
“You're sure?” he teased and I smiled at him.
“No, it's okay.”
“I promise, I'm not hitting on you, Gray,” Seth replied quietly. “My sister, Sora, and I are adopted. Ever since I was little I'd grab her hand when I got kind of stressed so...I'm just holding your hand for comfort, okay?”
“Sure,” I nodded. But his hand felt good in mine, and I was slightly troubled that his touch was so benign. The fact that this troubled me troubled me further. “So, like I was saying before you grabbed me...”
Seth laughed and squeezed my hand.
“I think you have to decide if your interest in other people is more important than your interest in Kristin. I'm guessing you got to know her a little before going on a date, right?”
“Actually, no,” Seth frowned. “Logan wanted to date Maggie and she wanted to double so that Kristin could go. I think Maggie felt more comfortable that way.”
“So you evaluated me, a potential friend, more than you did a girlfriend? Wow,” I shook my head.
“Okay, okay,” Seth said shaking my hand, causing friction between our arms. “So what, then? I knew I jumped into it. What do you think I should do now?”
“If you're not happy, I think you should talk to her about it,” I said softly. I squeezed his hand a little before letting it go. “I think everyone deserves to be happy and if you can't give her what you'd expect from a relationship then you probably shouldn't be in it.”
“That was...well said, Grayson.”
We sat quietly, digesting the conversation. My mind was swirling with all the things that had been said, all the potentials. Each time I thought I knew how things stood another thought would reveal itself. I slowly reached back out and took Seth's hand. He was right, it was comforting. It was also more, but as with Logan, I felt it was likely one sided.
Seth and I grew closer, sharing thoughts and feeling like a wall had been torn down in our conversations. I began to appreciate the things I found attractive about him a little more and was thankful he'd decided to take an interest in me. The one thing I never told him was how set my heart was on Logan. It seemed that it wouldn't be fair to Seth, for me to say something about his best friend. Especially if Seth was cultivating something, maybe, between us. I wanted to leave that door open. I wasn't entirely sure I could commit, but I didn't have to make that decision right now.
What I was left wondering about is, would I be in the same position Seth was in now with Kristin? If Seth asked me out, I knew I'd say yes – probably before he finished asking – but that wouldn't stop my pining for Logan. So I had avoided talking about Logan and I never hung out with them together, despite Seth's invitations. However that set me to thinking about Seth's sexuality and I found it hard to believe he'd have told me and not Logan, which would upend my thinking on why Logan and I had never connected at all.
As we passed into the first week of February, everyone seemed to be talking about the Valentines Day dance. Kind of a boring conversation for a guy on crutches. Granted I was getting close to getting the stupid things gone, but recovery time was 6-8 weeks minimum, I'd been told. So, not ready for the dance and had no one to go with anyway.
Of course, Amanda and Kevin were going and I had to listen to them. I also had to hear it from Seth, who was going with Kristin. We were talking in Roxanne's and he was telling me about double dating with Logan and Maggie for the dance when my thoughts bubbled to the surface and I decided to just talk to him.
“Is that awkward for you to take her to the dance, considering how you're kind of...not sure what to do?” I asked him, squirming a little on the naugahyde seat.
Seth pursed his lips in thought for a moment and then shook his head. “It's hard to say for sure. Yes, there is a little awkwardness for the reason you mentioned, but we still get along as people so that makes things work, for now.”
“Oh. I guess that makes sense.” I thought for a moment and inched a little closer to my confession about my feelings for Logan. “So, since you talked to me about your relationship, I'm guessing you talked to Logan as well?”
“Yeah, of course,” Seth replied and sipped his coffee.
“What did he think? I mean, if you don't mind me asking,” I hastened to add and then masked my discomfort with a sip of my own coffee.
“Logan doesn't want anyone to get hurt,” Seth replied, turning his cup in his hands and looking down at the table. “He has good instincts about people so...he's advising a 'wait and see' policy.”
“Oh,” I replied while I digested that. “So, he doesn't think your sexuality puts a wrinkle into any of that?”
“Not really,” Seth said with a shrug. “If I were completely straight then it would just be that I was looking at a girl instead of a boy; the problem is still the same.”
“I see,” I replied, nodding. So, I'd been wrong about Logan. That left one shitty conclusion which was if he wasn't a bigot – and I'm glad it's confirmed that he isn't – then the problem was me.
“What?” Seth asked.
I glanced up to meet Seth's inquisitive frown. “Uh,” I glanced down and drummed my fingers on the table. “Sometimes unpleasant truths pop you right in the face. That's all.”
“Like what?” Seth said, genuinely confused. I fidgeted and sipped from my cup, but I knew I was only delaying what I knew I was going to say anyway – I wouldn't lie to Seth and I'd been working up to telling him anyway, right?
“I, uh...I've had a...Oh, jeez,” I leaned my face in my hands, feeling my body temperature go up. I imagined that my cheeks were in full bloom and I felt a light sweat break out on my forehead.
“Seth I have a little...well, not confession but something I haven't really told you,” I said slowly.
“Well, we all have things we don't talk about. We're allowed some mystery, right?” Seth said with an understanding smile.
“Yes,” I agreed. “But...you've been asking me to hang out with you and Logan and I've declined every time. I feel a little dishonest because I like hanging out with you and I do want to see you outside of these visits we make for coffee. My problem is...Logan.”
“Okay,” Seth replied, his tone neutral.
“Look, I know he's your best friend and that's part of the reason I didn't want to say anything,” I glanced up and looked into Seth's green eyes and said, “I've had a crush on him since about fourth grade.”
Seth's body looked like it just...stopped for a moment and then resumed breathing and whatever else it was doing before. He didn't look upset, however, so I decided to forge ahead.
“I've been trying to get to know him, to befriend him since then. He's always nice, he talks to me as if we're old buddies, even. But we never...I could never figure out what I was missing, why he'd never invite me to birthday's or why I could never get closer to him. For a little while now I've been...well, I thought maybe he figured me out and wasn't cool with that.”
“He's not a bigot, Gray,” Seth said quietly.
“No. Not unless he doesn't like that I'm...attracted to him,” I sighed. “I'm sorry. I don't mean to put you in an awkward position and I'm not asking for you to...I don't know. I just...I wanted to explain that it was a problem with me and not you...that's why I've declined your invites.”
“Grayson,” Seth said softly. “Logan is my best friend. He's not without his faults, no matter how perfect he can be.”
Seth smiled crookedly and sipped his coffee before speaking carefully. “Logan doesn't always see what's right in front of him – like you, trying so hard. I think, had he felt you needed someone, he'd have been right there for you. As it is or was, you seem like a pretty confident guy and I think his thought was...you didn't need him.”
“You make him sound like a super hero,” I chuckled. “Do I need to use the 'Bat Signal' to get his attention? Some big light in the sky that says 'Logan Whitmore'?”
“Well, you have to admit, that would be harder to miss than, say, someone who joins sports teams to get you to notice them,” Seth teased.
“Hey,” I said suspiciously. “I never told you I joined those teams just for him.”
Seth's mouth scrunched to one side and he nodded. “Yeah. I admit, I already knew you had a thing for Logan.”
“You did?” I said, stunned.
“Yeah. I overheard you talking to Amanda,” he said apologetically. “I wasn't trying to but you were talking about my best friend, so...”
I put my forehead on the table and let out a nervous giggle. “I am so embarrassed.”
“Don't be,” Seth said. “I didn't want you to think Logan would reject you. All I wanted to do was find a way to get that idea to you and then this weird thing happened.”
“What?” I asked, lifting my head and still feeling foolish.
“I discovered this great guy, made a new friend...If Logan knew what he was missing out on, friend wise, he'd kick himself.”
I looked down at my cup and spun it in small circles. “So, were you ever going to tell me you knew?”
“If I could find a way without hurting your feelings,” Seth replied. “Think about it from my point of view - I don't want to do something hurtful, something to damage a new friendship. I promise, I don't just blurt my personal business to anyone so my affection for you is real.”
“I...jeez, McAllister,” I shook my head. “You're turning me into a puddle, here.”
“Sorry,” he smiled. “I admit, at first, I just wanted to defend my friend. But, now, I don't want one friend to dislike another – especially under false pretenses.”
I sighed. I wanted to believe him. I'd been holding onto his hand in my mind since he'd first reached for me, but his revelation was troubling. “Have you...told him any of this?”
“No. I promise, I didn't say anything. It wasn't my secret to tell. All I did was fish around a little, try to see why you guys hadn't become friends. He honestly didn't know why, he even said you made him a better player in scrimmage games – helped improve his game. He was sorry you got hurt and quit.” He hesitated, almost like he had something else momentous to say. Instead his free hand brushed my fingers and he said, “he doesn't know what he's missing.”
“Stop it,” I said, covering my mouth and giggling.
“What?” Seth asked innocently, enjoying my red face. “It's true, you're pretty cool.”
“You're pretty awesome yourself,” I replied. “But you must know that. Not everyone is confident enough to go holding hands with just any guy.”
“Well, I'd...” Seth's cheeks colored but before I could press him his face brightened. “Hey! You know what? You don't have to take my word for it.”
“Take your word for what? And what were you about to say?”
He waved his hand and said, “You don't have to take my word about Logan. I just remembered he's working a kissing booth at the Valentines dance. So everything I said about him not being a bigot, missing out on you, all of it – I can prove it. All you have to do is make a donation and Logan will give you a kiss.”
“Logan? Kiss me? Get out!” I said. “Are you trying to embarrass me again, McAllister?”
“No, not at all...if I wanted to embarrass you I'd just kiss you myself,” Seth said giving me an exaggerated leer.
“Yeah, well, you'd be more embarrassed when my tongue ended up in your mouth,” I countered. I was pleased to see his face getting a little red as well.
“Oh yeah? Well, what I if grabbed your ass while kissing you?” he said, upping the ante and giggling.
“Well, how about if I was...grinding onto you while kissing?” I shot back, laughing.
“Well, what if I challenged you to go to the dance and kiss Logan?” Seth replied, a sparkle in his eye.
“Sure!” I said, “Why not? He doesn't know I exist anyway. Hell, maybe I'll grab his ass and grind him against the wall while I do it! No problem!”
“Gray,” Seth said through his giggles. “I'm serious. I challenge you to kiss Logan. Then you'll know everything I said was true.”
He was serious. “You're serious.”
“I am. Trust me.”
“I don't know, Seth,” I said, rubbing the back of my neck. “As long as I've dreamed about kissing Logan...dancing with him...”
“Don't you think it's time to stop dreaming?”
“Seth,” I sighed. “Right now Logan just doesn't know I exist. Isn't that better than him hating me for...crushing on him? Maybe even...loving him?”
“Logan will not hate you, I promise,” Seth replied. He hesitated and then continued, “Just...come to the dance. You'll see.”
Cripple at the dance - it sounds like the punchline to a joke. The jokers at the door gave me admission for half price since I wasn't going to dance at the dance. I was going stag, like so many others, and after scoring a cup of watery punch I sat down with Amanda and Kevin. Well, actually, I sat with their stuff while they danced and mingled.
I was nervous about the idea of the kiss to come. The booth was set up but not yet staffed. They were setting up a table with a box for the donations and stools for the volunteers and I was anxiously waiting. Because, of course, it wouldn't just be what I was doing that was making me nervous, I would also be out because someone would see. But, Logan was going to be in a tux and I was going to pay for a kiss – don't judge me – and the only thing lacking was a dance with him. Maybe, if all went well, I'd dance with Seth later – somewhere safe.
“Hi, Gray. You made it,” Seth said, appearing at my side. His date was with him, as well as Maggie and Logan. I pulled myself up as Seth made introductions.
“This is my girlfriend, Kristin. This is Maggie and of course you already know Logan. Ladies, this is Grayson Anderson.”
“It's very nice to meet you,” Kristin said as she shook my hand. “Seth has had so many nice things to say about you.”
“I'm sure he made them all up,” I said with a smile.
“How's the ankle healing?” Logan asked.
“Slowly,” I said. “I might get off the crutches in a few more weeks.”
“Too bad, we could have used you,” he said and bumped my shoulder with his fist, like we were friends. I glanced at Seth but his face gave away nothing. Had he said anything at the last minute to Logan?
“Well, you guys do okay...except on D.”
“That's what I mean,” Logan replied. “No one plays defense! You did, though.”
“Kristin, he's talking sports again. Want to get a drink?” Maggie said, teasing Logan.
“Sure,” Kristin replied and they were off.
“Are you going to come out for basketball again next year?” Logan asked.
“I don't know. I broke three fingers last year and this year it's the ankle...” I shrugged.
“You have the worst luck,” Logan shook his head and chuckled. “Seth, I don't think I ever told you – in, I think, sixth grade we were playing kickball and poor Gray here,” Logan clapped my shoulder and said, “someone kicked the ball so hard when it hit Gray in the side of the head it knocked him over like a bowling pin!”
“Hah. Yeah, that was me,” I replied.
“We called him 'backstop' when he played baseball because nothing – and I mean nothing – got past him, except he always got hit with the ball. Like, he'd get a grounder and only get half a glove on it – but stop it with his body.”
“Yeah, I uh, told Seth about my sports injuries, Logan,” I said, feeling a little heat in my face.
“Well, there was this time we were playing...”
“Logan, looks like your charity booth is set up,” Seth interrupted.
“Oh, right. Well,” Logan turned to me and stuck a hand out. “I have to see if anyone will pay to kiss me, so – I'll catch you later?”
“Yeah. Uh, good luck.”
Logan headed around the dance floor towards the kissing booth and I snagged Seth by the sleeve.
“Seth, please tell me you didn't say anything to him!”
“I didn't, I swear,” he replied. “That was all him. I guess he remembers you after all, huh?”
“Yeah, as the klutz I am. Seth,” I said carefully, “if I do this, I'm going to be out...you know?”
“Yeah, I know. But the school kind of has a good rep, now, for out kids...but you have to be ready.” He reached out and touched my hand, just grasping my fingers with his. “I promise I'll still be here for you when it's all over.”
I glanced at Logan, under the arch with a sign that advertised kisses for donations. He was handsome in his tux, everything I'd imagined. I didn't want to stop drinking him in – the wave of his hair, the sparkle in his eye or the playful set of his jaw as the first to donate took their place in line.
“Seth...” I kept my eyes on Logan as I told my new friend, “I've dreamed of dancing with him in his tux and getting my first kiss. Now that it's here...I'm beyond nervous.”
“Yeah, I bet. First kisses are something to remember,” Seth said, smiling in a way that told me he'd had his.
“Well,” I turned my head to him. “You're sure he's not going to be mad or hate me?”
“...and, after? When everyone knows? I'm...” I trailed off and blinked a few times before glancing up into Seth's green eyes. “If he reacts badly, if you're not going to stick by me...this is really going to hurt.”
Seth smiled and put a hand on my arm, “I promise, Grayson.”
I took a deep breath and struck out around the dance floor. Just keep going, I thought as I hobbled over to the line in front of the booth. Off to my right were all the dancers – very few on fast dances and then everyone wanted in on the slow dances. To my left were more tables and people's belongings, waiting for their owners to claim them.
At last it was my turn. The music switched to something up tempo and people were streaming off the dance floor. I thought this was good as it might mask other people hearing my request. I placed my donation on the tiny desk and the girl, Cindy Maison smiled and stepped forward, but I held a finger up and pointed it – with a tremor – at Logan.
Laughter erupted from my left. I turned to see a few of the guys from the basketball team pointing at me and getting the attention of yet more people. They were yelling out things to Logan and me – teasing, embarrassing both of us. I turned miserably to face Logan, who was obviously beyond embarrassed. His face was turning red and he was frowning. The guys were holding up their phones and chanting 'kiss, kiss' and with all the attention, Logan looked...angry.
I was mortified. I turned and aimed myself towards the nearest exit and began thumping across the dance floor. I was too panicked to do anything like cry, all I could think about was running away as fast as I could. I cursed my crutches and tried to lengthen my stride and very nearly toppled over as I burst through a set of double doors.
The laughter and the music faded as I turned down the deserted hallway and moved as fast as I could towards the outer doors of the school. I heard the doors I'd come through burst open and I felt panic flare in me. Who was chasing me? Were they going to hurt me? Or just make my humiliation worse?
I could hear the sound of dress shoes running on the floor towards me and I heard Logan call out, “Grayson!”
I'd finally gained the front door of the school and I got out into the cold night air. Then Logan's hand was pulling me back inside and I was just giving up. What was I going to do, kung fu with my crutches?
“I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” I said over and over.
“Dude, you can't go out there – it's freezing. You need a coat,” Logan said. He held my upper arm until I stopped wobbling. Once he'd started pulling me back in it was all I could do not to fall over. I leaned against the wall, watching Logan, who apparently wasn't going to pound my head in.
“I'm sorry, Logan. Really, I'm so, so sorry.” My words were low, my chin lower and my spirits lowest of all.
“For what?” he asked, bending his knees and trying to make eye contact with me.
“For...” I couldn't say it.
“Dude, I'm not mad at you,” he snorted. “It was those guys,” he said, hooking his thumb towards the gym.
“They were being jerks!” he fumed, “I hate being embarrassed in public!”
“Logan...isn't kissing a guy in public embarrassing to you?” I asked timidly.
“Why? You paid for it, right?” he said and then laughed nervously. “Look...I don't have a lot of experience kissing guys but...I wouldn't be that embarrassed. I could have handled that. Those guys just made it...a spectacle.”
“You're sure you're not mad?” I asked.
“No, I'm not mad. I promise,” he said and smiled.
“Oh. Okay, that's good then,” I said and adjusted the crutches under me. “I guess I'll have to go inside for my coat, you're right it's damn cold outside.”
“You're leaving? Why? Don't let those guys ruin your night!”
Inside the music changed, shifting to a slower song. I looked regretfully at Logan, knowing the fact that I'd requested his kiss had already outed me to everyone. They all would know how I felt about Logan, now. I felt a sense of fatalism settle on me and decided to let him know the score – in case Seth was honest and had said nothing – I owed that to Logan.
“Logan I...only came here tonight for the kissing booth. I was...told you'd be working it.” I turned my eyes shyly away from him. “I've tried for years to be your friend. I've joined every sports team, every...”
“Really? Wow. I'm...kind of blown away. I mean...jeez, Gray, we've known each other forever. I never guessed....I guess I'm making assumptions...”
“It'll be all over school by Monday anyway. Yeah,” I nodded, “I'm gay. You know...for the longest time I wanted to see you in a tux, dance with you and get my first kiss out of the way. I'm...just sorry you had to be embarrassed like that.
I wet my lips and brought my eyes up to look into his beautiful sea blue orbs. “Now everyone will know how I feel about...you.”
Logan was silent and I didn't want to look at his face. Instead I started to move around him, but he stopped me and left me surprised as he pulled my crutches out of my hands.
“Hey,” I protested. “I need those!”
“Not for right now, you don't,” he said and leaned them up against the wall. He came back to me and tentatively placed a hand on my shoulder and one on my hip – and then let that hand move behind me and pull me closer.
“What are you...Logan...”
“Shh.” He began to sway, moving his feet in tiny steps, keeping a time with the music we could barely hear.
“Are you...dancing with...me?” I asked, amazed.
“You regret it now, don't you?” he smiled. “I'm a terrible dancer. For a guy that loves musicals, you'd think I'd be better at it.”
“I think you're a wonderful dancer,” I said softly and tentatively leaned my head on his shoulder. He led me and I felt transported as we swayed gently – about all we could do with my ankle. I imagined I could feel his heart hammering away under his tux. His scent filled my nose and I let out what was likely, in retrospect, an embarrassingly large sigh. The music faded and changed in the gym and he leaned back a bit, yet keeping me close.
He looked into my eyes and said, “I think you paid for this.” Then he kissed me. It was a simple kiss, no attempt at more. Just soft, steady pressure on my lips. Eventually he leaned back and looked in my eyes again and brushed stray hairs from my eyes.
“Was that all right?”
“Logan...” I ran a hand over my face, which was burning hot. I stared deeply into his eyes, the way I'd dreamed of for so long.
“No good, huh?” Logan said, twisting his mouth in disappointment. I shook my head and smiled at him.
“Logan...Logan you just gave me my dream. My first kiss and you gave it to me and,” I shook my head, “it was wonderful. I'll always remember it. Thank you.”
“Oh,” he said, an embarrassed smile spreading across his face. “Well, it was my pleasure. Um, you going back inside?”
I reached out tentatively and touched his face with my fingertips and smiled in delight. “Just for my coat. There's nothing else for me here. I'm also kind of...emotionally spent. I'm going to take off.” Withdrawing my hand I smiled at him again. “But thank you so, so much. You've made my...well, more than my night. When I come down from this I'll let you know if it's a week, month or year. Goodnight, Logan.”
I hopped to my crutches and headed back inside. Using crutches doesn't make one stealthy, but I no longer cared about the people that had been pointing and laughing. I crossed the gym on cloud nine and retrieved my jacket. I glanced around for Seth, wanting to thank him, but he was no where to be found. Instead I took my phone out and sent him a quick message.
You're a true dream catcher. I won't ever be able to thank you enough. Love, Me
At home I undressed for bed and stretched out under the covers. The flannel sheets were warm and soft against my skin and I lay in the semi-darkness thinking of Logan and reliving the dance and the kiss and how he looked in his tux. Then it was Seth, looking positively dapper in his tux and I could feel him holding my hand as if it were the other day.
Mentally I tucked them to either side of me and drifted to sleep still feeling as if I were floating on air.