I went back to the table, and Cole stood as I approached. “All set?” he asked.
“Yeah. Teo, can you give Cole a ride home when we get done?”
“Sure. Call me.”
Cole and I headed back to my house and we settled again on the floor in my room. I set up our labs side by side so we could work on them first. I wasn't sure he'd want to have the talk I was curious about, but I figured I probably could figure out the answers on my own if I wanted to. I just would rather hear it from him.
“Your sibs are weird,” he said as we stretched out on our stomachs and our elbows rubbed.
“What did they say?” I asked in a bored tone.
“Not much, actually. I just kept feeling like I was on the other side of a joke or something,” he said.
“I'm not sure why. Alessia and Haylee are friends, so...could that be it?”
“No. At least I don't think so. The break up really didn't come up.”
“Was there anything specific?”
He squirmed, his arm rubbing against mine. “No. I guess not. It was just a gut feeling.”
I grunted and looked down at the lab. We got back to it and finished it up about fifteen minutes later. Before he could move and break our physical contact, I asked, “So...is your dad cool?”
“Um. Yeah. Some, anyway. He's a huge geek. Likes video games and sports. He taught me how to play nerdy card games.”
“You mean like Magic and stuff like that?”
“Yeah,” he said, blushing.
“Teo loves that stuff. He said there's a gaming place that has card games going on Saturday mornings. He wanted Hector, his piece on the side, to go, but Hector really doesn't get how much Teo loves to play games.”
“His piece on the side? How many guys is Teo dating at once?” Cole asked in shock.
“Uh, bad phrase. Hector won't ever be number one. He won't put the time into getting to know Teo.”
“Oh. I was going to say.” He chuckled.
“So. What was the worst thing about dating Haylee. I mean, aside from her plumbing,” I asked, grinning at him.
He smiled and said, “Uh. Probably how much she had to go to the bathroom. Tiny bladder. Sometimes she'd be gone so long, especially if she went with Alessia, that I really did think she might have fallen in.”
“There's a horror story. She fell in, and then you show a picture of this rotted, nasty toilet – and then a hand comes from inside the toilet and lands on the seat.” We started to giggle. “And her head pops up, and she's got tentacles on her chin like Cthulhu.”
We were both giggling wildly and gasping for breath. Cole said, “She would be..be.” he broke down in a giggle fit, unable to get a breath. “She'd be Cthpoopoo.” We started laughing aloud, nearly in hysterics. It felt so good. It was the stupidest thing ever, but at the same time we just couldn't stop laughing. We would look at each other and just say it again – Cthpoopoo – and we've be rolling again. By the time we did recover, my face hurt, I had actually cried laughing and I felt great.
“That was the stupidest, most brilliant thing ever,” I told him.
He grinned, chuckled a little and held his hands to his cheeks. “My face is sore.”
“Mine too,” I told him.
“So, before you date someone you have to ask how much they use the bathroom, right? Like you need a list of questions to ask.”
“Exactly,” I told him. We laughed again, but just a little.
“Man, I needed that,” he said and let out a sigh. “It's been so hard trying to figure things out the last few months.”
“Hey, how did you and Haylee get together in the first place?” I asked.
He blew a breath up into his bangs. “Well, Sadie Hawkins dance last March. Or April. I don't fucking know. What I do know, is she was on me like a tick on a dog. She was bumping me and smiling in the hallways, and calling me things like baby and boo where people could hear.” He looked at me. “Bae is the stupidest thing, ever.”
I smiled. “Prefer babe or baby?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Anyway,” he said, as we both giggled. “She was really on me to go out with her. One of my former friends, Joe Fimmer, told me...he told me not to be a fag and go tap that.”
I frowned. “Joe is officially a dickbag.”
He sighed. “I wasn't sure what I was yet, or I was damn sure I didn't want anyone else to know what I was thinking about. Things were tense at home, and the idea of talking about that with anyone freaked me the fuck out. So, I said yes.”
“I can understand that. After all, it was only supposed to be a dance,” I said, trying to reassure him.
He nodded. “Yeah. Should have been. But...man, she was on me. And I mean, I didn't know if I was gay, just that I was having...you know, thoughts.”
“Oh, I know all about that,” I said. “Only I had Teo to talk to, so I kind of figured things out. Plus I never had to fight off any girls. My mother didn't let me go anywhere, so it was a get out of jail free card when I did get asked.”
“Well, I wish I'd had a mom who'd have said no,” he mumbled. He raised a hand and covered his eyes. “We snuck out between dances. Went into an unlocked classroom and, you know. Did it.”
Quietly I asked, “Were you okay with it? I mean, did you want to?”
“I don't know,” he said softly. “I wanted to be straight. To be normal. I thought maybe if I did this, then I would answer that question.”
He glanced at me. “She missed her period. We skipped school to go to the clinic downtown. They aren't required to tell your parents.”
“No condom?” I asked.
He shook his head. “After that, we did. Always. Anytime she was into it, I just did it. I mean, it didn't feel bad exactly. But I was feeling like shit because I wasn't doing it to make her happy, and I wasn't happy – I was just doing it to try and be straight.” He sat up and wrapped his arms around his knees. “I started to hate myself. I wanted to break up, but things were going bad at home. I kind of had it in my head that if I broke up my parents would ask why, and I wasn't sure I could keep the real why to myself.”
I sat up and shifted around so I was in front of him. “That had to suck. How did Haylee take the breakup?”
He rubbed his forehead. “She was okay. We agreed it was something we should have done before. I just feel bad all around, though.”
“Well, things break. Everything does, eventually. But sometimes things break so they can be made into something better,” I told him.
His gaze moved to my face and he studied me for a minute. I felt hot under his gaze. “Yeah, maybe you're right.” He cleared his throat. “So, um, what did Mr. Petrakis want?”
“He was telling me the doctors decided to hold onto my mom for a while. Probably to evaluate her. He kind of implied she was supposed to be on medication, but hadn't been taking it.”
“Ouch. Where will you live while she's gone?”
“Here,” I said and shrugged. “They're right next door, and there is no way Mrs. Petrakis wants me around and I don't think I should be there, making her uncomfortable in her own home.”
“Yeah, I can understand that,” he said with a nod. He glanced around the room. “So, how did you and Brax get to be friends?”
“Almost the same way you did. He came to class without anything to write with. I think he said something about having had a package of pens, but they were mysteriously gone.” We both chuckled.
“That is so Brax. Great guy; scattered as fuck.”
“Yeah, but he's super nice. When I came out to him, he told me to let him know if anyone gave me shit,” I said. “I think I can take care of myself, but it was nice to have the vote of confidence.”
He frowned lightly. “When did you come out to Brax?”
I looked up at the ceiling. “Um. Like, end of September? Beginning of October?”
I looked back at Cole to find him rolling his eyes upward. “No wonder he's been telling me to talk to you. He wouldn't out either of us, but he figured we'd have shit in common, I guess.”
“Yeah, well, Teo keeps finding guys he has nothing in common with. Being cute isn't enough to keep people together – and he's proof.” I added a snort for emphasis.
Cole looked at me with curiosity. “Does he date a lot?”
“Total slut,” I said and laughed. He joined me, but I had to correct the record. “He goes on a lot of dates. He likes college guys so much he should be a professor. Most of them don't last all that long because he really wants a connection with someone.”
“Yeah. You said he likes card games?”
I leaned forward. “Yeah. Why, you like Teo? I can totally help you out with him.”
“What? No!” he said, laughing nervously. “Teo...no. I don't think...no. Just no.”
I just grinned at having tweaked him a little. “So you said your dad is dating?”
“Yeah. Guy seems okay, but he's kind of...prissy. Like, fem or something. It makes me feel weird.” He shifted uncomfortably. “I mean, I'm not used to that, you know? Guys get made fun of for talking like that. Acting like that. Plus it's weird to see him with someone besides my mom.”
“Yeah. I can imagine.”
We looked at each other for a few minutes, and I began to feel as if tension were building. I realized our toes were touching and I wondered if that was on purpose. Could Cole like me? Should I tell him I thought he was cute? What am I thinking? He just broke up with his girlfriend. He's dealing with divorcing parents and thinking about coming out. Why would I complicate things like that for him?
He pulled his phone out and checked it. He thumbed in a message and then looked up at me. “I really hate to say this, but my mom wants me home.”
“Oh,” I said, feeling disappointment wash over me. “Well, I'll call Teo.” We gained our feet slowly and bumped into each other just because of how we'd been sitting. We laughed nervously. I think he was feeling that lingering something in the air. Did he like me? God, I so wanted to ask if it wouldn't be such a jerk move.
I called Teo and reluctantly led Cole back downstairs. I rode with him so I could see where I was headed to that Friday, even though I really just wanted to spend some more time with him.
Later that night I thought of him. How fantastic would it have been if that tension had turned to action? What if we'd kissed? Would I be any better at it than I had been with Teo? Teo wasn't bad, I guess, but I wonder what it would feel like to have Cole kiss me. I wondered where he'd place his hands. I wondered if he'd hold me close or trap me against a wall or lay on top of me to kiss. I reached down under my waistband and gripped myself. Would he have touched me...there?
My phone buzzed. Ugh, talk about popping a bubble. I glanced at the phone, figuring it would be Alessia. Nope, Cole.
I smiled widely. GN my Cthpoopoo.
He sent back several crying with laughter emojis. I grinned, happy to have made him laugh.
GN, Cole. See you tomorrow.
Yup. You working tomorrow?
I was secretly pleased. Instead of just going to bed, saying goodnight was having the same effect as saying hello. I slowly forgot about my turgid state as I texted back and forth with Cole about books – shit, I had to read that book he gave me. Where was it?
Wednesday and Thursday dragged a little. I had to work Wednesday night, and it was pretty quiet. I texted with Alessia that night – she was trying to impose her will about the dance. Cole and I texted a lot. I mean, a lot. Thursday we handed in our labs, and the teacher made a comment to Cole that his work had improved. I wanted to hang out with Cole, but he had to go to his dad's for dinner. I took the opportunity to plow through the book he'd lent me. It was okay, but not as gory as he'd implied. Or maybe it wasn't as obviously gory.
“Look,” Alessia had said at dinner. “The dance is a week from tomorrow and I want you to go. I'm buying you a ticket.”
“Why?” I asked, whining. “Brax is your chew toy, not me!”
She narrowed her eyes. “Did you just call me a bitch?”
“What? No! Okay, I'll go! Don't hit – don't hit!” She chased me around the table, swinging wildly with her hands open. “What about Teo? Why aren't you on him to go?”
“I am going,” he said.
I paused and Alessia ran into me. I stared at him. “You're bringing a college guy to a high school dance?”
“No,” he said with a chuckle. “Some kid from the GSA asked me out. I figured I'm single and he worked up the courage, so I wasn't going to shoot him down.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Who?”
“Ashley something. He transferred from a Catholic school this year.”
“Wow. I never thought you'd date your own age.”
“Not dating, just going to a dance together,” he said, rolling his eyes.
I looked at Alessia and she smiled back at me.
“Oh, fuck you both,” Teo said and we all laughed.
After I finished the book I stretched out on my bed and wondered how Cole was doing at his dad's house. Ugh, the last thing I wanted to do was worry if he'd come out to his dad or had the conversation about moving in with him. I knew he was nervous, and rightly so. Who knew how this could set off his parents if he came out. I had to not think about Cole for a bit. I wondered if Brax was given a start day for work – and then I remembered that Cole had said Brax told Cole to talk to me. I decided to text Brax.
Chatting w/ Less. U?
Sitting home wondering what you're up to. I grinned to myself.
Trying to get u guys together. What do you think?
I stared. I mean, I was kind of joking, but he really was trying to get Cole and me together?
Totally. U 2 would be good for each other.
Wow. I'd never had anyone try and hook me up before. Why do U say that?
U both like horror, U get along and U both like each other.
I never said I liked him.
Please. He added a laughing with tears emoji. I frowned.
U don't have to. I'm not stupid.
Was I obvious in some way? Why is that? U think U can read minds?
Expressions. U look at him like he's a snack and U hungry.
I jerked my head back. I do what, now? I tabbed over to Alessia. Ur boyfriend is weird.
Why now? she asked.
Do you think I like Cole?
Drew. Nobody blushes like U 2 every time U see each other. Just ask him out already.
I set the phone down and looked at the ceiling. What. The. Hell. Cole was cute, no doubt. More than cute. Yes, I'd thought of him that way, but he was also going through a bunch of shit. Well, okay, that doesn't negate that I think he's cute. And he's pretty smart – he caught on to the way the labs work pretty well. We like some of the same things. We seem to have plenty to talk to each other about. Then there was Tuesday night. I was wondering if we'd kiss. There was definitely a charge in the air.
Fuck. I'd been texting others to avoid thinking about Cole, so what do I do? Text someone about Cole. I need to get a grip! I tossed my phone aside and grabbed a shower, then got ready for bed. I glanced at the time, figuring when Cole should be getting home. Argh. Okay, okay – I liked him. Maybe I liked him a lot. I decided to break out my science sheets and study, since Fitzpatrick had a bad habit of giving quizzes on Fridays, as a way to distract myself.
Eventually Cole did text though, and I was relieved to finally hear from him.
Studying. How was dinner with ur dad?
Good, I think. His BF, Keith, kind of annoys me.
I took a breath. Did you talk to your dad about moving in?
Sort of. My lil sister was there w/ me, so I didn't want her big ears to take anything back to mom.
I told him I broke up w/ Haylee. He thought that was a good thing.
It was. What else?
He sent a smiling emoji. Why? U worried about me?
Of course I am!
Shut it. What happened?
Can't I just enjoy that ur worried? Another smiling emoji.
I rolled my eyes and smiled at my phone. Will you please tell me what happened w/ ur dad?
He asked why we broke up and I said it's because I'm gay.
You came out?!? I'm so proud of you! What did he say? I was smiling ear to ear, but also feeling super stressed. I mean, his dad is gay so he should be happy for his kid, right?
It was weird. We talked a little. He thinks I should live with him because mom is so anti-gay rn.
How far away does your dad live?
From my house or urs?
I frowned. Mine. How far away would u b?
About six blocks.
Sweet. I was smiling madly and drummed my feet on the bed. I liked that he'd be closer than he was, and that moving in with his dad didn't mean another town or something.
I told him about my friend. He wants to meet U.
My entire face felt like it was on fire. He told his dad about me? I was dying to know what he said. I was going to make a crack about it being early to meet the parents, but I wanted to play it cool.
Cool. I can tell your dad what a science nerd ur turning into.
Pft, yeah, right.
He asked if I'd gone to dinner next door, and I asked what he had to eat. We talked about how his dad was living in a three bedroom apartment, but only two were being used – one for his dad and Keith and one for a computer room. We ended up talking for an hour or so, and by then I was yawning and my eyes were watering because I was so tired.
I wish u were here so I could close my eyes and talk, I told him. Can't keep my eyes open.
Go to sleep. C U tomorrow.