Every step down the hall echoed and matched the beating of my heart.
I stopped at the sound of his voice and Sebastian stopped…at me stopping…at the sound of his—
"I said keep up," he repeated in the same even tone, "Not stop completely."
"Right." I curled back away from his stare and did nothing else— like the initial keeping up he'd first requested me to do. This seemed to irritate him, I think.
"Do you want me to hold your hand?"
"No." I'm sure, he was joking…but still, it was enough to move my legs.
"Do you have your driver's license?" Sebastian turned to simply ask, while not so simply placing a firm palm on the heart of my back. He leaned toward me when my neck snapped around to glance at his arm; his turquoise eyes sought a close casualness common among friends. Like when Aria had gone nose to nose with me to make a point of why Wendy's French fries were better than Jack and a Box French fries. No—not like that—more vivid a scenario— like how Derek will, on occasion, bring his cheek to mine to call me his "wittle brover" at certain family gatherings. That was the type of unfettered startle I associated this particular moment with. But when Derek latches on to me I use all of my life energy to shove him across the universe after kicking him in the crotch. But now I couldn't even muster an outward breath.
Sebastian twisted around so that he was in directly front of me. And now he was a Wendy's fries are better because they're salted evenly—ah-duh—close.
Somehow we were still walking: me normally, him backwards. I found this kind of interesting—oh—and I also wondered if dehydration was a common cause of death among seventeen year olds who acquired sudden severe dry mouth.
"What's this?" Sebastian mildly observed. "You're blushing."
"I'm not blushing." I hurriedly objected. "It's because of the heat." Though there was no seeming need to elaborate past that point, I thought I'd give it a go. "What I mean is: I'm hot.
—I mean—you know."
No he doesn't know Sam, but, why don't you explain yourself. C'mon. Go for it.
"Because you're hot like me. Must be more right because of the jacket. It makes you look really hot—"
"—I mean take it off. ! Because I'm in heat looking at you!"
Yes Sam, by all means continue.
"Not by your heat but because of the sun's hot—"
"—Sun's hot heat—"
Sebastian stopped my hole-digging, lending a heavy pat to my shoulder. "Hey." He was using a sympathetic tone but I'm sure he wanted to laugh at me. Perhaps roll on the ground, while holding his sides…
It was while harboring that humiliating fear that I somehow found his eyes.
"It is…kinda bright out…right now."
"When it gets warm like this, I always want to go to sleep." Sebastian showed no sign of gleaming amusement; instead he unzipped his leather jacket and added with a small yawn, "Man I feel it comin' already. Shouldn't have worn this today huh."
And though I was having trouble breathing, his words were still somehow…reassuring. I was a bit touched by what he'd just done. I wanted to offer something of my own. Something equally effective yet subtle…
"You think I'm in love with you, don't you."
Sebastian's eyes spoke volumes, but his mouth….only smirked.
"You think just because of that one kiss—which you forced me into—and because I followed you out here, out of class, almost without question, that I must be completely in love with you."
There are some things—about how I am…that will never make sense, to even me.
Still, Sebastian said nothing, only continued walking, now at my side. And by this time the smirk had gone, his eyes were dull and there was no defining expression on his face. Basically I couldn't read him. Here I was having an outburst and there he was seemingly unaffected by it. Again, I felt childish.
Sebastian sharply zipped up his jacket.
And now I was angry.
"In spite of what you might think: I couldn't be. Could never be: gay. The thought of two men being sexually expressive with one another…or being in love with each other…is just…it's …completely…disgusting. What happened at the party was a mistake. An accident."
My words brought Sebastian to stop. And when he turned to look at me, there was no reassuring warmth. Instead, it was like watching a brewing storm: recognizing the rise in temperature, feeling the wind kick up around your feet, hearing the crackle of lightening somewhere off in the distance and counting as it grew closer and closer until—
"So," he began, and I was so swept up that I couldn't help jerk. "Is this your roundabout way of telling me…you don't?"
Sebastian's tone of voice was barely questioning. Hardly passionate. As though the listener's individual effort carried no weight to the point of the conversation; as though he was merely asking a stranger for the time.
Now I was confused.
What did he mean? Does this mean that I don't—what?
I had no idea. And by the way he'd asked, I wondered if my answer…even mattered. But…what was he asking? Did he mean—don't as in: that I don't…find myself gay? That's an awkward way to ask someone a question. But what else could he mean by don't?
Don't….that I don't…find him attractive? That I don't…want to be sexually expressive with him? That I don't… love him?
"You think I'm in love with you, don't you." Oooh wait. I did say that—didn't I.
But still—that doesn't mean—is that what he's asking? Whether or not I'm in love with him? It couldn't be...
It couldn't be could it?! There's just no way. No way. …And if it was then,
"You know the answer to that."
Sebastian's head tilted to one side. "If I knew, then I wouldn't have asked in the first place."
"I just…" I couldn't breath. "I…just…" Why was he doing this to me? "I…just told you how I felt about it!"
Sebastian took a small step backward. "Why are you getting so worked up over this?"
What? What the hell?! Wait, was I getting worked up over this? I took a moment to examine myself:
Balled fists, check.
Grinding teeth, check.
Throbbing temples produced by severe agitation, check and check.
Pounding chest and rapidly excessive breathing, double—triple check.
Inability to see anything besides tiny black dots—oh, wait—that's not on the list. Bonus.
Worked up? All signs pointed to a confident "yes." A pompous, jack ass-like "hell yes," even.
So yes. Maybe I was a tad worked up. But who wouldn't be in this kind of strange situation? One would be expected to be—quite uneasy.
Isn't inner Sam so articulate and well-mannered? I think so too. Okay now back to the loud and disturbingly shrill, live action Sam. Thanks for visiting.
"DAMMIT DON'T MAKE ME REPEAT MYSELF!"
"Sam, I require only a simple yes or a simple no."
Why were people using that phrase with me lately? As though I couldn't differentiate between simple and complex; am I an infant? "WHEN WAS SIMPLE EVER SIMPLE? This isn't simple. Why are you labeling this simple?! HOW DARE YOU CALL SIMPLE SIMPLE WHEN IT'S NOT!"
It was safe to assume that I—at this point in the conversation—was beside myself. And how could Sebastian be so calm—and calm—all the time? And about everything? Dammit. Why did this issue need to be an issue? It was unnecessary and unwelcomed and ill-timed and—
…Did it have to be? Did an answer exist past what I'd already made clear? There wasn't more. There couldn't be. There…isn't…
"Sam." Sebastian's voice felt rooms away. "I will ask you again."
And I could hear him, but I couldn't I couldn't find him, not past all the tiny black dots.
No please don't.
"or do you not…
I don't want to hear it.
"…have a driver's license?"
Hello hello and HELLO! (Waves)
This is Spacebunny rudely interrupting the story! (Waves again)
Please don't skip over my words, because though they are rude—they are undeniably sincere!
Thank you to all of you who keep reading and keep pushing. Especially lately. Because Lately has been a hard time to write through. So hugs to all of you. I feel cheesy.
Okay, back to it then!
"SHHH! Dude shutty. You'll wake him up."
"Oh man—but oh man—that's awesome. That's fuckin awesome. Wait-wait—do more on the top lip—oh shit that's funny!"
Right about here is where I drift back into consciousness, sliding up into sitting against something hard. My eyelids first refuse to hold themselves open; I feel like I've been asleep for three eternities.
"Wakie wakie." Said a giggling male voice. From here I snap into full alerted attention.
"Dude, calm down. You'll wake him up." Said that same voice, I believed, to me this time.
What's going on? What time is it? Where am I? Those are some of the questions I wanted to ask, but instead I stare out at my unfamiliar surroundings, probably looking how I felt. Numb.
"Sammy! He lives!" I knew that voice, and was relieved to hear it.
Aria dived onto the cushiony seat, where I had been asleep and was now sitting atop of, and brought up from its chambers probably dust the age of my great grandfather—how dirty is this thing? It was then that I stood up to seriously invest in understanding the state of my surroundings.
It was chilly here, bordering on freezing. The hair on my forearms felt like pins against my skin, but the air was also sticky. I could distinctly feel what I was wearing, as though my clothes were clinging onto me out of desperation. Where the hell was this place? I couldn't really tell, but it gave me the impression of a cave, and there was no light, only patches of less dark.
"Oh my god—I can't believe he's not waking up yet."
I squinted toward the direction of the snickering voice; it had been the same one from earlier. The giggly one. Though I had no idea what he looked like, I had the feeling I'd find him annoying if ever I had to interact with him.
"Dude put a can on his shoe—no not that one—the half full one."
There were three bodies, squatting over a fourth sleeping person. I could not draw detail to what they were doing in the absence of light, but it was safe to assume, from their snicker-filled discussion, they were doing something that they'd have to run from before the other guy woke up. Is this what they did to sleeping—
I quickly ran my hands over my face, arms and hair.
"Don't worry," Aria whispered, "They wouldn't have bothered you."
"What makes you so sure?"
She smiled, "Trust me. They'd know better."
There was an explanation for that answer. But I assure you, I did not want to know any part of it.
"Come here." Aria demanded, and before I could choose to obey, I was being pulled along. And I let myself be taken hostage by Aria's eager will, as I usually did. Maybe it was a fault of mine.
My eyes widened against the unfamiliar darkness as Aria lead me across the area. She did so quickly, and I was afraid I was going to bump into something or trip over someone—or vice versa.
We swirled past other bodies: people smoking in corners or groups caught up in their own tiny planets of conversation. Strangely enough, Aria seemed to know the layout of where we were, pretty well. She avoided chairs, limbs, tables and anything else that might hurt running into. To be blunt, Aria moved through the obstacles laid out in the open gloom…with the precision of a dancer…that needed to go pee. Really really pee. Her guiding tactic was graceful and accurate, but at the same time, reckless and immediate…
Was there some sort of fire needing to be put out somewhere?
Finally Aria stopped, and I avoided running into her because I was trained onto her abrupt behavior.
Now we were in a hallway. There was light—dim yellow light—but thankfully I could see. Before I could properly scan the rest of my new environment, Aria tugged me toward her so that we were standing toe to toe, face to face, eye to eye. Her unabashed body language…though very much like her…threw me off for some reason.
"Sam I think I'm in trouble."
Aria let go of my arm to wave her hands frantically in front of us, as to dispel the words she had just said. As though such a thing could be done.
"I mean—" She paused, mouth mid-word, to rest a hand on my chest, "Who's so in love with you that they wrote a letter? Do you know who wrote it?"
"Wait!" She did the wavy hand thing again. "I mean—did my mom call you recently?"
Spinning. My world was being feed too many bits of assorted information that when fitted together—like puzzle pieces—amounted to beetles; medium-sized round beetles with tiny sharp teeth, crawling up my fingers and into the folds of my shirt on a path to eat my brain.
"Yes." I spat out a word to save my brain.
"My mom did call you?"
"Oh my god." Aria began to pace in semi-circles with her hands still buzzing around her face. "Oh my god what did she say?"
"She asked if you were with me."
"And did you answer?" Aria turned and stopped at this pivotal moment to ask.
"As opposed to what?"
"Okay okay you answered—so what did you say?"
"I told her the truth."
"That I was at the library studying diligently with my phone turned off—and that you'd come and get me and send me home right away so don't bother looking for me herself?"
I had to pause to think about that one. "Uh. No. The actual truth—reality's truth: that you weren't with me."
She loomed in the suspense of the next moment. "And then?"
I kind of hated to disappoint her. "That was it. Then there was…dial tone."
Aria nearly collapsed into my chest, and I fell back against the wall as a result. "Why? WHY didn't you lie for me Sam? The library! The li-bra-ry Sam! You should have said that I was at the library!"
"…Even I wouldn't have believed those words. Even if those words were coming from your mouth while you called to tell me from the library—that you were at the library."
Aria was stunned. "You're a bad friend."
I merely shrugged. "So you say."
She chucked me on the shoulder and I laughed. Somehow, our rambling way of fighting through a conversation, had calmed down the both of us.
"Okay," I started before she could, "I answered one of your questions—" Aria started to protest so I raised a finger to her lips and proceeded in a louder voice, "—now it's my turn."
She pouted her lips against my finger, but did not argue. I quickly moved my hand away.
"Where have you been?" I started with, in spite all the questions begging to be asked.
To which Aria shrugged and began to sway like a three-year-old who didn't want to answer. "Here, there, a little bit of everywhere."
"Aria," My stern parental other-self had gone into level one. "That's not a real answer. Have you not been living at your house?"
She began to kick at the carpet. "I have, I just leave really early in the morning and come home real late."
"Your mom doesn't wait up for you?"
"Maybe?" I could see I needed to be very specific. "Then how are you entering and exiting your home?"
"…Through the window."
"Aria, you're climbing the grating on the side of your house?"
"No, my mom…had it removed."
"I…got some rope."
"Oh my—" Now it was my turn to pace. "—and you haven't run into your mom at all?"
"I keep my bedroom door locked. She doesn't have a key. When I hear her voice I get very still…sometimes I hide…" Aria spoke like a child being cute to avoid punishment.
"Who did you kill? Why are you so afraid of your mom or being at your own house even?"
Aria went rigid. "My dad called my mom. We're supposed to schedule in a dinner together."
"You don't see your dad that often—that's great isn't it?"
"With my nana." Aria sighed. "At Valentinos."
I went rigid. "Seriously, who did you kill?"
Aria threw her hands up in frustration and rested against the wall. "Fuck I don't know. Maybe—they found out."
"I dunno. That I'm a problem child. That hot pink isn't my natural hair color—"
"—Aria, come on—"
"—that I'm a gaaaaaay, Sam." She exhaled. And with her breath went her ability to hold herself up; Aria slide against the wall and plopped onto the carpet. "Fuck fuck fuck. Sam," Aria's eyes looked into mine, and seemed to give in to a long avoided exhaustion. "…I'm in trouble this time."
I sat down beside her as my world had also become uneven. How did we get so far away from who we were only a week ago? This was only part of Aria's answer. There were still so many things that needed to be asked. Dammit this was already so hard to swallow...
And what's funny, is that question was supposed to have been the easiest one on my list.
IT'S BEEN QUITE A WHILE EH? Helloooooooooo!
This chapter took so long to build in my mind until it splattered out into nine pages. And there's more—yes there's more. But I didn't want it to be like Wrong Way and have it go on for 20 pages—so I'm breaking them down into regular sized chapters. So don't worry: more is coming in less time than this chapter took to post—please don't kill me for ending it here? Please?
The question on everyone's mind! DUDE BUNNY—where the CRAP have you been?! Under a rock?!
My answer: Kind of. First let me say that I've just recovered from a wrist injury that allowed me little movement of the fingers—so typing was just out of the question for several weeks turned into months. I hurt myself bad folks! I will go into more detail in the regular spot.
Also stuff's happened. I don't want to go into weepy emo mode. But I'll go into more detail in the regular spot. (For those who don't know but care where that is—it's on that one page where the author rants—also thank you for caring.)
There are so many of you to thank that thanking you alone would make a chapter. So many long reviews—so many kind kind kind words. They've all pushed me to work through what I've been desperately working through. And I'm glad—SO GLAD— that you guys are here. Seriously glad for e-mails. I love you guys. I couldn't be more serious. Okay I better stoppit! So mushy!
(Passes out hugs and thank yous)
Because you guys are the best readers and reviewers that any writer could ever wish for…