Jake stepped into the monotony of the lunch line and bought his ham sandwich, some chips, and a Coke. Wanting to avoid his friends, he headed outside. Normally, Jake would have sat with his friends, but after last night's conversation with Vicki, he felt like being by himself. He found a little patch of green grass underneath a shady tree whose leaves were rustling in the light wind. He sat down.
"You spend too much time together. I know he's in love with you," Vicki had accused him. The words "I know he's in love with you" rang over and over in Jake's ears. He had tried to assure Vicki that no, they were just close and that he loved her, so it didn't matter if Luke loved him (he didn't).
"Whacha thinkin' about?"
Luke. The last person that Jake needed to see right now
"Oh. Hey, man." Awkard silence. Luke stared expectantly at Jake and then shrugged and sat beside him.
"Are you gonna tell me what's bothering you or do I have to guess?" Luke liked to pry, but then, he felt he had the right, being Jake's best friend and all.
"It's not a big deal. I just had a fight with Vicki last night," Jake didn't feel like elaborating.
"She's jealous. She says we spend too much time together. I think she thinks that we're secretly dating or something," he laughed to soften the awkwardness, but when he glanced up at Luke he found him staring intently at him. It reminded Jake of that look that two guys give each other in the movies when they've been wrestling or something and it gets too intimate and it seems like they are going to kiss, but they don't. Not that he ever watched those kinds of movies, or anything though.
"Yeah, that's stupid," Luke quickly darted his eyes to the ground. More awkward silence followed, "Well, I'm here for ya, man. Always will be. But, if I can be perfectly honest, I don't think she's good for you. She's not the one you should be with." Luke gulped and hugged his knees into his chest, bit his lip and hoped for the best.
"I'm not quite sure what you mean," Jake said lamely. He looked at his friend, hoping that the response would suffice. Luke got up. As he was getting up, he placed a light hand on Jake's shoulder for support.
"You'll figure it out. I have to go now. Gym. If you need to talk about this anymore, you know how to find me."
"Jake, do you know the answer?" asked his teacher, breaking him from his rumination.
"The answer to what?" Jake asked hurriedly.
"Mr. Donovan, please pay more attention in my class. Now, does anyone know why Romeo and Juliet's romance was doomed from the beginning? "Yes, Ms. Robertson?"
"Because their families, the Montessori's and the Capsules, were old enemies," She answered proudly.
"Ms. Robertson, please do not raise your hand to answer a question if you have not read the material. Now, for your homework assignment—"
The bell conveniently rang just in time to cut her off. Jake exhaled in relief: English was his last class of the day. As he was walking out the door, a shy girl from his class came up to him.
"Just wanted to congratulate you about the track meet yesterday. How do you do it?"
"I'm just myself when I'm running, you know?" The girl nodded, waved, and left. He decided he didn't feel like going to practice that day and didn't even stop by his locker before he started sprinting home. Thoughts flooded his mind and he beat his feet harder against the pavement to try to stop them. Did Jake love Vikki or did he really just love the complexities she let him avoid? On the topic of Luke, Jake didn't know how he felt. He knew there was something special between them, just exactly how special, he wasn't sure. He did make Jake feel better than Vikki did sometimes. But he was comfortable with Vicki. It was so easy—most of the time, anyway. With Luke he also felt comfortable, but in a different way. Jake felt safe with him, like he would protect him from anything. Instead of turning left on his street, he made a right. He knew where he was going.
Luke's mom, Mrs. Peterson opened the door, "Hey Jake, Luke's upstairs in his room," she smiled and let Jake in.
"Thanks Mrs. P," Jake called as he bolted up the stairs before he could change his mind. He didn't even knock before entering Luke's room.
"Whoa. What's up, dude?" Luke had a frightened expression on his face.
"I need to talk to you," Luke nodded and shut the door behind Jake, " I don't know what any of this means. I'm a little scared. No, I'm really scared. I don't really know what to do."
"What are you talking about?" Luke sat on his bed and motioned for Jake to sit next to him, but he pretended to not notice.
"All this stuff, Luke. Last night with Vicki and then what you said. I don't know. Is there some fucking puzzle piece I'm missing?"
"I can't really answer that for you, Jake."
"But do you? Do you have, ya know, feelings for me?" Jake's voice sounded strained now, as though he were trying not to cry.
"Of course I have feelings for you! I'm your best friend!"
"That's not what I—"
"Jake, I'm afraid if I answer that you'll run away from me. I don't want to lose what we have over this."
"What is this?"
"That is entirely up to you, Jake," Luke sighed and rubbed his temples as her buried his head into his lap.
"Oh." Jake stared up at the ceiling.
"Maybe you should go to Vicki's now."
"I don't want to. I don't want to be with her," and with that, Jake began to cry. Luke got up slowly from his bed and protectively covered Jake with his arms. Jake buried his head in Luke's chest. He breathed in the smell. Axe and lavender detergent. Luke comfortingly rubbed Jake's back, "Is this okay?" he wondered out loud. Luke shushed him.
Jake woke early that evening, his sweatshirt hood still on. He realized he'd never taken it off when he'd come inside. Then he realized Luke was still holding him. For a moment, his insides froze. What was he doing?
"You're finally awake," Luke whispered. Had Luke been awake, watching him this entire time, Jake wondered.
"Are you feeling better, man?"
Jake scrunched his nose, rubbed his hair, and massaged his temples,"I think I have a headache."
"Crying'll do that to ya." Luke permitted himself to wipe off some of the dried tears on Jake's cheek. Jake forced himself not to move away.
"I'll bet Vicki is wondering where I am," Jake sighed as he stretched his arms and got up.
"Are you leaving?"
"I should probably talk to her, don't you think?" Jake asked to Luke as much as he did himself. Luke shrugged.
"I'll see you tomorrow?"
Vicki sat in the driver's seat, across from Jake. They were parked after going to Jamba Juice. Jake set his smoothie down and took Vicki's hand.
"I thought a lot about what you said last night and I'm not sure what I think about all of it, but I don't think it's fair of me to put you through this," Jake stammered.
"You're breaking up with me, aren't you?"
"Yeah. I am. I'm sorry. I wish things were different."
"But they're not. God, I should have known from the beginning!" Vicki sighed.
"I didn't have to beg you to watch chick flicks with me! That should have been my first clue." Vicki smiled ruefully.
"I don't know if I'm—"
"Yeah," he blushed. Vicki squeezed his hand tighter and sighed.
"What do you feel inside when we kiss?" It was hard for her to be so supportive, but she loved Jake and wanted to see him happy.
"Don't you feel any different? Don't you get butterflies? Your stomach gets warm and tingly? No?" Vicki laughed and sighed yet again.
"I guess I'm gay, huh?" Jake laughed. The words felt awkward coming out of his mouth, but somewhere, this felt like home. He finally felt at ease with Vicki, something he had not felt in the seven months they'd been dating.
"Let me drive you home, kiddo."
"Jake! You're going to be late for school! Did you remember to turn in that application?" Jake's mother awoke him with her usual morning routine. She smiled at him as he opened his eyes.
"Ma! I'm not a kid! And it's Saturday! I don't have school, you do. Besides, I can wake myself up."
"Prove it to me by buying an alarm clock and using it. What else do you work for if not to make your poor mother's life a little bit easier?" She chuckled to herself. Jake threw a pillow at her.
"Ma, I quit working at the movie theatre two months ago! You know that!" Jake wasn't sure whether or not she actually remembered.
"Oh that's right. Something about not having enough time to work on college applications. How are those coming along, anyway?" she retorted.
"Alright, alright. I get it. I'm up. I promise I will send in the SUNY's today."
"Alright, alright. I'll stop asking for today."
"How's your school going?" Jake's mom was studying to get her law degree on the weekends. During the weeks, she worked two jobs. Between the waitressing and the studying and the librarian-ing, he hardly ever saw his mom. They got along well when they did, but that may have been because they barely spent more than an hour a day together.
"It's going… Are you going to see Vicki today?" Celine Donovan liked to know when her son was going to be with his girlfriend since she was hardly ever home to monitor them. It allowed her to feel some semblance of control.
"I dunno. Maybe. I might invite Luke over." Celine noticed an odd tone in her son's voice and took it as a cue to not pry any more.
"Well, you boys have fun. There's a frozen pizza in the fridge if you get hungry. Got to run." She kissed the top of his head and left.
Jake and Luke sat quietly on Jake's floor. Jake pulled at pieces of carpet.
"Sorry. I'm sorry I am not being more interesting. I know I invited you over and stuff."
Luke shrugged, "You don't have to apologize, Jake: it's fine. I'm not bored."
Jake nodded. "Can I check something?"
Again, Luke shrugged. Jake leaned forward and ever so slightly touched his lips to Luke's. He felt a rush go through his body. He tingled in the pit of his stomach. It was a feeling he'd never felt before.
"Yeah, okay. Thanks," Jake concluded.
"You are so weird sometimes!" Luke tousled Jake's hair. Jake blushed. He liked this attention from Luke. It was a side of him he'd only ever half seen. "Are you ever going to kiss me again?"
Jake grabbed Luke's face and brought their lips together. They were soon lying down on the floor, making out. Jake had never felt this good before, even the few times that Vicki had convinced him to let her give him oral sex. No wonder he'd never really wanted to have sex with her, he realized, amused. He finally broke away from Luke and stared up at his ceiling.
"How did it change so fast? It's like I went from zero to 150 overnight," Jake mused out loud.
"Okay, dude, worst analogy ever." For that comment, Jake swatted him.
"You don't get to make fun of me anymore now!" Jake protested.
"Are you kidding? This means I can tease you even more. I'm hungry. Do you wanna go grab something to eat?"
"Mmm. Not really. We have some pizza here. I'd rather stay inside all day with you on the couch. It's rainy. There's a Drew Barrymore marathon on Oxygen and did I mention we have a couch?"
"Drew Barrymore? Couch? You did go from zero to 150 overnight."
"Sweetie? Jake? I need to talk to you about something!" rang the voice of his mother. It startled Jake and Luke who had fallen asleep watching Fever Pitch. "Sweetie. It's really important and I don't really know how to talk to you about it. It's awful!"
Terror ran through Jake's body as he realized where he was and whom he was with.
"Mom! I can explain! We were just—"
"No. I'm not talking about that. We can talk about that later. I need to tell you something and I need you to stop interrupting me. Vicki's mother just called me and Vicki's been in a horrible car accident. She didn't make it through."
The words refused to sink into Jake's ears. His body rejected his mother's words and he fainted.
"Oh my god! Mrs. D! What can we do?" Luke cried.
"We need to check to make sure his airways are not blocked and that his heart is still functioning properly," Celine leaned down next to her son and took his pulse and very carefully opened his mouth to check for any blockage, "He's fine. He'll come to any second now, don't you worry, Luke."
"Thank you, Mrs. D." Luke stared blankly into space, unsure of what to do or say next.