Oh God, oh God, oh God. Did he see me leave his room? Is he about to tell me what a pervert I am for spying on him while changing? I mean, I didn't set out to do that – that has to count for something, right? Shit, shit, shit.
“Yeah, it's me,” I said, trying to steady my voice. Teo stepped into the doorway.
“Didn't you sleep in? Two hour delay, buddy,” he said and smiled. He smiled at me as he stood in the doorway in just his underwear. Sweet Jesus. I admit to having rubbed a couple out over Teo, especially when I first found out he was gay. I'd thought fervently about him as a possibility at the time. That had mellowed and I really hadn't thought of him that way again...until the last few days. And now, of course.
“Uh, didn't know.”
He frowned lightly. “Right, no phone or internet. I wish your mom would believe you're gay.”
Desperate to change the subject, I blurted, “Why did you and Hector break up?”
He paused visibly. I think I was staring. I'm kind of sure he noticed me staring, or began to realize. He looked down at himself and then grinned at me. “You mean why did he give all this up?” he asked, waving at his barely covered body.
“Well. Not, uh, my words,” I sputtered.
His smile relaxed into something more gentle than amused. “It's because all he wanted was this, Drew,” he said quietly. He walked a few steps closer to me, bringing him within arm's reach. He studied my face, and I'm not sure what he saw or thought he saw there.
“I'm...not sure what...what you mean,” I said haltingly.
“What's my favorite game, Drew?”
I frowned lightly, confused by the change in topic, but it did allow my mind to lurch into motion. “Board, card, video or sport?”
He pointed at me. “That's what I'm talking about, Drew. He didn't get me – so he doesn't get me.”
We looked at each other for a moment. A long moment. An eternal moment. He raised his hand and cupped the side of my face, and then it happened. His lips were soft. I felt hot, too hot. His lips massaged against mine and it occurred to me, too late, that I should do that too. Instead he pulled back and pressed his lips into a tight line.
“You're not ready,” he said.
Frustration washed through me. I whispered, “But I liked it.”
The corners of his mouth turned up. “I'm glad.” We stood there for a moment, and it was broken by the sound of Alessia hollering up the stairs for us. We both jumped a little. I glanced over at her bed and snagged her back pack. Teo paused in the doorway and looked at me consideringly, then smiled and headed back to his room.
Teo kissed me. I'm pretty sure I was lousy at it. Still, I was spinning. He'd given me some kind of look in there. He liked me. I think. Did he? Did this mean he wanted more? Did I? Were we dating now? I sleepwalked downstairs and hung Alessia's bag off the back of her chair and moved to the coffee machine like a zombie.
Teo kissed me. Teo, my neighbor. Teo who only dates older guys. Teo who said I wasn't ready – ready for what? Sex? More kissing? Dating? What wasn't I ready for? One thing I was ready for was trying that whole kissing thing again. I mean, I'd been kind of stunned at the start, but I think I could get the hang of it.
“Are you going to pour that coffee, or just act like a coffee commercial?” Alessia asked me. I glanced at her, then back in front of me. I was holding the pot, but hadn't actually poured a cup.
“Oh. I guess my battery ran out,” I said, smiling at her. Jesus that sounded stupid. I poured the coffee and doctored it before sitting back at the table. Teo came bounding down with his hair damp, but not the way it had been before. He didn't look innocent or adorable. He looked unreadable. He plopped down at the table with us and began to inhale his omelet.
He didn't give me any special looks. No wink, no subtle acknowledgment that we'd crossed a line. His body was hidden under his joggers and a loose sweatshirt – was that deliberate? I'd seen him ten minutes ago in just his underwear, and I'd been straining to see more than that not so long before. Heat settled into my face, and a little shame. I was curious about how he looked naked, but I was pretty sure I went about it the wrong way. Still...I wished I'd seen more.
“So, gossip time,” Alessia said as she set her cup down. Teo raised an eyebrow, but I turned to face her. I had forgotten she was going to tell me about Haylee and Cole. I wasn't sure I actually cared about them – but anything to get my mind off the hamster wheel it was on about Teo and that kiss.
“So, Haylee says it only took her about three weeks to get Cole into bed, and ever since he's been kind of a wham, bam, thank you ma'am sort.”
I snorted. “Sounds like Cole.”
She tilted her head. “What do you mean?”
I shook my head. “He's always been kind of a dick. Standoff-ish.” I shrugged.
“Well,” Alessia said as she returned to her subject. “I guess he's been kind of...like, they have sex but he's not really there. She says he's not doing the things that Brax is doing that make her feel special to him.” She wrinkled her nose. “I can't figure why she's still dating him.”
I held up a finger. “He's stupid cute.” I held up another finger. “She's getting dick.”
“Cole? Cute? Please.” She frowned. “Brax better not act that way. I'll dump his ass.”
“Cole and Brax are polar opposites. I don't even know why they’re friends,” I said.
“Well,” Alessia said, sounding like she wasn't entirely happy with what she was about to say. “I hate to say it, but Cole has some legitimate shit going on in his life that kind of might be affecting him. I mean, I don't see how it can't.”
“Like what?” I asked, glancing at Teo. He was looking at his phone, zoning out on the conversation.
“Well,” she said, warming to the telling of gossip. “I guess his dad walked out right after Christmas last year – and he's living with his boyfriend.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Damn.”
She nodded. “So loss of dad for him, loss of husband for his mom. His older sister is at college, but I get the feeling she may not be able to finish, because the divorce is really nasty and the parents are using up everything in lawyer fees.”
“Fuuuck,” I said, feeling a little bad for Cole.
“Time to go,” Teo said, standing up and still staring at his phone. “Looks like big snow overnight Thursday into Friday. Might get a snow day.”
I wondered if Teo might come over and keep me warm.
The ride to school was normal, and that was almost worse. It felt like getting screwed around with that he wasn't looking at me in the rear view, giving me a smile or something. Was I reading too much into this? I thought you kissed people if you were attracted to them? I chewed my lip on the ride over, trying to figure out exactly what it all meant, but I was essentially chasing my tail. I didn't have enough information, nothing to compare it to. He kissed me, so he must like me.
Our classes were shortened, but disaster struck – or devilment if you like – in science class. First I checked my school grades on my phone and was panicked to see I had a failing grade in gym. Gym! How does that even happen? I thumbed through the gym grades and found a zero listed for the test we'd taken on hockey last week. It was the last grade of the marking period and there were only three grades in that class – a test for football, one for hockey and a participation grade. I had to go see Coach Obermayer about this grade before anything got sent home! I have no idea what my mother would do to me!
I glanced up and was surprised to see Cole.
“Hi,” I said distractedly. I did the test – there was no way I got a zero. I'm not into games like Teo, but I'm not a moron.
I glanced up. Oh, Cole was still here. “Sorry?”
He looked uncomfortable. “Uh, Mrs. Fitzpatrick said I should talk to you. I'm messing up the labs and she said you're...good at them.”
“Oh. Uh, sorry. I thought you were just saying hi, not that you needed to talk to me,” I said. He nodded his head in acknowledgment. I held my hand out for the papers in his hand and he gave them to me. I looked over his lab sheets and I saw immediately a few things he needed to address. Thing was, I wasn't just going to say 'You fucked this up and this and this,' because he'd probably be a jerk to me. I'm sure he wasn't exactly thrilled to come to me for help to begin with, and I didn't want a fight with the guy.
“So...any advice?” he asked quietly. Subdued. Beaten. I glanced at him. He wasn't looking at me. He was looking down at his hands that he was slowly rubbing together, cheeks flushed.
I cleared my throat and he looked up at me. “Is she letting you resubmit these?”
“Yeah. She said I can have until Friday.”
I nodded. “Okay, well, she's a real bitch about neatness. It looks like you hand drew these lines for your graph.”
He frowned lightly. “I traced the line on the graph paper.”
I leaned in toward him so the teacher definitely wouldn't hear what I was going to say. “Believe it or not, she's torched people's grades for doing that. That's half your problem. You need to use a ruler or some other straight edge to make your lines.”
He let out an incredulous, defeated sound. “Are you serious right now?” he asked softly and then frowned hard at her before looking back to me. “I'm failing, Drew. You have no idea the trouble I'm in right now.”
“Well, like I said, that's half of it. The other half – wait, let me get my lab out.” I went into the folder that had my completed labs for this month and pulled out the appropriate one. I laid them both side by side and started going over the calculations and the differences between our labs reports. He shook his head and rested his forehead on his arm, both of which were on my desk.
“I'm so screwed.” He lifted his head. He looked at me for a moment, and I was uncomfortably aware of his eyes. He let out a breath and reluctantly asked, “Would you help me out?”
“I thought I was,” I told him.
“I mean – I'm going to forget this in thirty seconds. I need to get my grades up. Can you help me redo these labs?”
“You mean copy my stuff?”
He frowned, hard. “No, not copying yours. I've only got three days and I have five labs to redo completely. I got the formulas wrong.”
I let out a breath. “I'm not sure how I can.” I didn't need this. I wasn't a teacher or a tutor. I looked at Cole, and his face just made my resolve melt. His hazel eyes were filled with pleading and his hair fell just so...stupid pretty boy. Not only that, Alessia's words about how things were for him right now echoed in my head. Still, I hesitated. I don't have people to my home. “Maybe if your mom talked to mine.”
He tilted his head. “Why?”
I bit my lip and looked away from him. “Because she doesn't let me go out, Cole. If she knew your mom was there then maybe. Best case, she lets you come to my house. Or we go to Teo and Alessia's.”
“Jesus,” he whispered.
How stupid could I be? I could just get Alessia or Teo to bring him over. I suggested the idea to him and he nodded in relief.
“I don't want my mom to know. She's stressed enough without flipping on my stupid ass.”
“Okay, I'll talk to Alessia and she'll call you or something.”
He frowned. “Why don't you call me?”
I sighed. “I'm not supposed to have a phone.”
“But you do,” he said, pointing to the one in my hand.
“Yeah, but....” I thought for a quick second. This will definitely bite me in the ass, but...why not? Fuck mom and her rule. “Give me your number.”
I let Alessia know I'd be a few minutes late and then grabbed my stuff from my locker. Then I darted around people to the other end of the school and to the gym. I took the steps to the locker room two at a time – the locker room was under the gym, boys on the right, girls to the left. Voices hit my ear as I opened the door to the locker room, what sounded like a great many voices. Oh, right, football team. I'd assumed that with a delay they wouldn't have practice, but I guessed it was probably a weight room day or something.
I started passing the rows of lockers and realized the team was in the process of changing. I couldn't help but notice. A few huge guys looked like they had more fat than muscle, which was kind of a surprise. They get the uniform and the pads on and you'd think they were like super-soldiers and would be fit as anything. It honestly never occurred to me that they wouldn't be all muscle under there. One guy with buzzed hair was nothing but muscle, and I can't even imagine how many hours he had to work out to look like a bunch of tumors were under his skin.
I glanced over and saw Brax waving to me. He had gym shorts on and his tee shirt was dangling in his hand. Beside him was Cole, and something in my gut flipped and then flopped. Cole had a nice chest, but not hulked out. He was no lineman – maybe a receiver. I don't think anyone would immediately think football player for either of them – more just like active. Healthy. He was wearing colorful boxer-briefs and his legs looked so smooth and tanned that I swallowed involuntarily. Teo called hot guys a thirst trap, and damn I was thirsty. I forced my eyes up to Cole's face, but he was turned toward the locker. He had a bit of red in his cheek, and his nose was sort of perfect on him. Jesus, he was hot.
Brax broke my line of sight and flexed once, twice and then struck a truly goofy pose. I rolled my eyes. “Hey, Brax.”
“What brings you to locker room country?” he asked before slipping his shirt on. Behind him Cole pulled on gym shorts and a sleeveless tee. He was still smoking hot.
I dragged my gaze back to Brax. “I have to see coach about a test grade. He marked me down as a zero, but I know I didn't get a zero on the hockey test.”
Brax grinned at me. “You're seriously here after school to see about a test grade? Couldn't you talk to coach when you have gym?”
“Have to fix it before my mother sees it,” I said tightly.
Cole looked up at me, his gaze guardedly curious.
“Hi, Cole,” I said, my face feeling very warm.
“Drew,” Cole said quietly. He looked at Brax. “We better get up there.”
“Yeah. See ya, Drew,” Brax said, and bumped his fist on my shoulder.
“Bye, Brax. Cole.”
I watched them for a minute, and yes, I was checking out their asses. I'd noted a few guys before—I'm no prude—but after Teo kissed me that morning, I seemed to be awakened somehow. Jury was out on if that was a good thing or not.
I headed into coach's office and he glanced up, appearing as if he were just about to leave the office. “Drew Chambers. Come to join football? Little late in the season.”
I cleared my throat. “No, Coach. I wanted to ask you about this grade for my hockey test. It's a zero.”
He frowned. “That can't be right. I'll have a look tomorrow. Probably just missed a keystroke.”
“I just wanted to ask,” I said quickly. “Do you know if that was put on the report card? I know grades were due.”
He paused for a second. “I think so, yeah. I mean, we can adjust the grade – but the cards are electronic now, so it'll dynamically update. If you're worried about trouble at home, don't be.”
“Okay,” I said and let a breath out. “Okay.”
“You need to relax, Mr. Chambers. You're too tightly wound.”
Thinking of the kiss, of Cole's dressed down form, of Teo standing around in his underwear and my mother's obsession with whatever I was doing, all I could do was nod. “If you were me, you'd be tightly wound, too.”
I met Teo and Alessia in the parking lot, and they dropped me off at work but didn't stay. I was the register person for that night, and I divided my time between restocking behind the counter, ringing up customers and wiping down tables. I was hoping Brax would stop in for food after practice again, but it wasn't to be. Instead the night dragged, and all I could do was think about Teo and that kiss. And how he'd looked in his underwear. And how upset I was that I hadn't gotten to see him naked, even though I should have felt bad about perving on him.
Honestly, though, I hadn't seen anything I hadn't seen before. We'd gone swimming plenty of times, and more than once he'd just jumped in wearing underwear. If I'd seen the rest of him, I guessed I'd have more grounds to feel guilty. Right? It felt right, but it also felt like a bit of a cop out. But no one would know, so I guessed it worked out.
What did everything that came after mean, though? If he liked me, wouldn't he steal glances? Smile like we had a secret? Or do older guys with some dating experience not do things like that? I was tempted to try and look up something on my phone, but I had very little data left. Besides, how would I even frame that question? How do you know if a guy likes you? First the search engine would probably assume I'm female and reply with things like 'he brings you flowers' or 'compliments your dress' or 'is gentle touching your boobs.'
What would the male equivalents be? Do guys bring each other flowers? I suppose he could compliment the way I dressed, but he was barely looking at me – and he wasn’t reaching for my body in any way. Shit. I thought I kissed him wrong – or more to the point, not at all. If someone kisses you, you're supposed to kiss back. It's like a cosmic law or something.
On the other hand, Alessia had been with us all the time after the kiss. Maybe he was playing it cool around her. Maybe...yeah. Maybe she'd think it was weird because he dated older guys, and maybe even a bigger point was that we practically grew up together. I mean, they're practically my brother and sister. Except you don't kiss your brother. I mean, some people do but...ick.
When I got out of work I walked briskly home, disappointed Teo hadn't come to get me. He didn't always, but I thought he and Alessia were worried about my mother bruising me, so they would make sure I got back home fast enough that she wouldn't think I was fucking Monique, or whatever other name she pulled out of her ass. Teo had a life too, though, and was probably working. We were both in fast food, essentially, although mine – Flubberbuster Burgers – was on the lower end of that chain. He worked at a Panera, which seems nicer than a burger joint to me.
I did have a text from Cole, though. Talked to Alessia. She said I can ride back with you tomorrow after school. Cool?
I thumbed a reply. Sure. Her house?
A half-block later he said, She didn't say.
Kk. I switched to Alessia's number. Are we meeting at your house to help Cole?
She must have been on her phone to begin with as she replied right away. My house. Brax is coming. I guess his labs suck, too. They'll be there after practice.
I reached my house and kicked off my shoes inside the door.
I sighed internally. “Yeah, Ma. I'm home.”
“I called the school to see about your grades.”
I started to sweat. “Yeah? I talked to coach. He said he entered a grade incorrectly.” I moved into the doorway leading to the living room where she sat, enthroned on her recliner.
She looked at me coldly. “I doubt a teacher would make such an error.”
I shivered. Then I felt hot and ashamed. “He said he would fix it tomorrow, Mom.”
She glared. “Don't you lie to me.”
“I'm not!” I protested.
She looked at me with suspicion. I waited, not wanting to turn my back on her. Finally she said, “Homework.” Then she looked away from me toward the curtains. I decided it wasn't going to get better than that, and at least she hadn't hit me. Belatedly I realized I'd walked into that – she hadn't said anything about a specific teacher and I had just served up my gym grade on a platter. I went upstairs and hit the shower. The warm water felt fantastic, and even though I was tired the image of Teo dressed down was still fresh in my memory. I closed my eyes and thought of him – chest, legs, his bulge – and quickly reached my end.
I reached out and placed my hands against the wall and let the water splash the top of my head and cascade down my body. My breathing was quick, but slowly returning to normal. I felt a little guilty – it was Teo, for crying out loud! The same set of questions I had no answer for – why did he kiss me, did he like me, would he do it again – all swirled through my mind. As I looked down at the drain I wished the questions would swirl and disappear to nothingness until answers presented themselves.
“You bastard! I knew it!” My mother screamed and startled the hell out of me. That only got worse when she whipped the shower curtain back and held my cell phone in her hand.
“Mom!” I yelled, covering myself.
“Is this how you make plans with Monique? Is it?!” She was screaming, deranged and a spike of fear ran through me. She reached down suddenly and I jerked back at the sudden movement. Then she had the plunger in hand and started to swing. I felt vulnerable and dazed at how quickly she'd gone off the deep end. Then, of course, it started to hurt.
“Ow! Stop! Mom!”
She swung the plunger, the rubber end stiff but not as bad as a belt or actual stick. Still, I was naked and being beaten by my mother with something meant to push shit and paper down a toilet. It was humiliating and dispiriting. I don't know why I wasn't angry instead – maybe it had been beaten out of me at some point. One of her wild swings tangled the plunger in the shower curtain, and when she pulled back the curtain popped off a few of its hooks. She started to swear, flailing and I took my chance to run from the room, naked and wet, into my own room where I slammed the door and leaned against it, chest heaving.
The door thumped with her first blow and she screamed. God how she screamed. I think she was crying, too. It made me feel guilty, then angry that I should feel any guilt – this wasn't my fault! She yelled every vile thing she could think of, and all I could do was hold the door closed. I couldn't dress as she'd be in the room – my door had no lock. My heart hammered and I wiped some water off my brow that was running into my eyes. I spotted the contents of my backpack upended on the floor and mentally groaned about having to organize it all again. Bitch!
I didn't know why my mother was the way she was. I'd spent too much time thinking about it, and the best I could think was it had something to do with my father and the fact that he wasn’t there. She'd always told me about how I would be a deadbeat if I wasn't watched, and how boys couldn't be trusted. When I'd entered puberty her verbal attacks escalated, and in her paranoia she assumed I was sleeping with any girl whose path I may cross. She was convinced I would get a girl – or all of them – pregnant and leave them to raise a child alone.
The only girl she never brought that up with was Alessia. I frowned and blew drops of water from my nose that were dangling and tickling. What was so special about Teo and Alessia? They were my oldest – and nearly my only – friends. I had carte blanche to go to their home and hang out, do homework, watch a movie. Meanwhile if I were at home there was no internet, because – according to my mother - I'd watch porn and figure out ways to make more girls pregnant. No phone because I'd take pictures of myself and send them to girls who didn't want to be pregnant, but somehow I'd talk them into it, I guess.
The whole situation was surreal.
Eventually I heard my mother go back down the stairs. I opened the door and crept across to the bathroom where I grabbed a towel and, as an afterthought, turned the water off. Crossing the hall I spotted the plunger in the hallway, but elected to leave it. Maybe she'd come up in the dark, trip on it and break her crazy neck.
I was cold now, so I pulled on sweats to sleep in and started picking up my papers for school. I sat down at my small desk and started to organize things – science first since I'd be helping Cole the next day. That was a bizarre thought. I recalled that I'd said something to Brax about Cole being less-than-nice, and it was true. He was kind of cold – closed off. He wasn't outright hostile, but he gave off this vibe that seemed to tell people to keep away from him. I didn't think he had always been like that, but honestly I had my own problems and he'd only been something nice to look at once in a while.
I don't know why Brax adopted him, but they seemed close. In a way I was glad that Brax and Alessia would be there for this study session or whatever it would turn out to be. I was sure they could keep things from becoming too awkward.
I was exhausted by the time I organized everything. I took my chair and wedged it under my doorknob in the hopes I wouldn't wake up to her hitting me with a plunger – or worse. I put my head on my pillow and sighed at the loss of my phone. Teo wouldn't give me another – not that he had one. Maybe Alessia had her old one, but it was probably bedazzled or something. I shuddered.
I slept fitfully and woke to my alarm feeling as if I hadn't slept at all. I got ready for school quickly, brushing my teeth while keeping my face to the doorway in case of incoming mother. I crept downstairs and spotted her in her recliner, slumped over. I watched her, wondering if she'd died in the night from a stroke over the idea I was impregnating girls through the phone, but her chest rose and fell and she let out a small mumble.
I grabbed a package of pop-tarts and headed over to the Petrakises'.
It was too cold to wait outside, so I slipped in through the back door. Alessia was sitting at the table looking at her phone and drinking a cup of coffee. She glanced up at me, then did a double take.
“What happened to you?”
I paused. “What?”
“That mark on your face.” Her eyes narrowed. “Did she hit you again?”
I lifted a hand to my face as if I could feel what she was talking about. I didn't remember her hitting my face, specifically.
“Other side,” she said as she gained her feet. She turned my face by using my chin as a handle and frowned.
“What?” I asked, pulling out of her grip. “Do I have a bruise?”
“It's sort of yellow.” She frowned hard. “What happened?”
I pursed my lips in resignation. I can't hide something on my face. “She found the cell phone last night. I was in the shower and she...was swinging a plunger at me.” My face was hot, and I felt utterly ridiculous. Who gets assaulted with a plunger for the love of....
She gritted her teeth. “Dad!” she said loudly.
“No! Stop! What are you doing?” I demanded, or tried. It probably sounded a lot more like pleading.
“Dad!” she yelled louder.
“No!” she said, rounding on me. “We let that bruise on your arm slide, and we shouldn't have! She doesn't get to beat on you!”
“Don't I get a say?” I demanded. “I can handle it!” I couldn't, really, but what was the option?
“What's the yelling?” Mr. Petrakis asked as he entered the room, button-up shirt hanging open. “I'm trying to get dressed for work.”
“She hit him again,” Alessia said deliberately.
Her father whipped toward me and immediately examined my face.
“I'm fine,” I grumbled.
“She hit him with a damn plunger dad. That's disgusting on top of being abusive,” she snapped.
“Last time I tell you anything,” I mumbled. I was out of control, even of the little I normally had. Mr. Petrakis had gone to talk to my mother before when she'd gotten harsh with me, and for a while It would be better. I was tired of it, though. I was old enough that I shouldn't be letting her hit me anymore, even if I wasn't standing up for myself. I felt weak and pathetic to have him go tell my mother to stop hitting me. Was I ever going to grow up? Was I ever going to decide I'd had enough if someone else fixed things for me?
“Stay here,” he said firmly and headed for the door.
“Mr. Petrakis! You don't-” I was cut off by the door rattling in the frame as he slammed it and left the house. “Shit,” I mumbled. I turned toward Alessia. “What the hell? I can take care of myself!”
She looked at me like I was stupid. “Of course you can't. You can't pay rent or buy a car. You can't stop her from hitting you – honestly, if it weren't for the fact that foster care would take you away from me, I'd fucking call them. Am I being selfish? Yes! I don't want to lose my best friend!”
“But....” I balled my fists impotently, but then she was hugging me. And sniffling in my ear. It was hard to stay angry with her.
“What was the yelling?” Teo asked as he entered the kitchen. I looked at him from my perch atop her shoulder and he must have seen the bruise-like thing on my face.
His expression hardened and he crossed the room, putting a hand on my shoulder. “Drew-”
“I'm fine. Plunger. Your dad is next door. Very embarrassed.” My monotone was enough to make Alessia let me go and flash me a small smile. I busied myself by pouring a cup of coffee and sipping it until we had to leave. Their father had yet to return. He'd spoken to my mother before – I didn't know why. I had no idea why she even tolerated him being in the house. It was too much for my head.
The school day went all right. Coach told me he'd fixed my grade. Cole approached me at the end of science class with a handful for lab sheets in his hand.
“I thought I should show you the ones I messed up,” he said, stopping at my desk and placing the sheets in front of me.
“Okay,” I said. I flipped through the sheets as he pulled a chair up to sit beside me. I turned to look at him and said, “We can go over these tonight, but if you want I'll hang onto them and compare them to mine to see where you need to fix stuff.”
“That'd be really cool. Um. Are you...never mind.” His cheeks filled with a red tinge and he broke eye contact.
“Cole? Is there something...?”
“Nah.” He paused and then lifted his gaze. “I just saw the mark on your face. I didn't think it was there yesterday.”
I sighed. “No teachers have said anything. Is it that bad? Alessia made a huge deal about it this morning.”
“Are you...I mean, she's dating Brax,” he said, bristling a little.
I frowned. “She's my best friend. Brax is also a friend.” He looked unconvinced and I sighed. “Brax knows I'd rather date him than her, okay? She's safe. Although, it's kind of offensive you think Alessia would cheat on Brax. You better hope she never finds out, or you could be in huge trouble. Huge.”
He stared at me for about thirty seconds before standing abruptly. “I have to go.”
I sighed to myself. Either me being gay freaked him out, or hearing me talk about a girl kicking his ass made him uncomfortable. Or maybe he was embarrassed for saying stupid things? I didn't know. It irritated me.