I looked over at my sister, frowning as I wondered what exactly she’d told Meyers. Granted, she probably couldn’t have told him much that he didn’t already know, but she didn’t know that, and something about her dragging our problems... and me, into a counselors office seemed...unsettling. She’d been willing to talk to just me last night, why not now?
"What are you doing, Bree?" I demanded, ignoring Meyers altogether.
"I thought we could use help..." she replied, "talking about things. It’s not like you don’t already come talk to him."
"That’s not the point." I glared at the side of her head, because she still refused to look at me.
"Quinn..." Meyers started, but I interrupted him. I wasn’t finished with my sister yet.
"You were ready to talk to me last night, Bree." I pointed out. "Why can’t you do it now?"
"Because I can’t." she retorted, suddenly turning her head and looking right back at me. "And if you’re pissed off because I told Mr. Meyers you’re gay, you don’t have to be because he’s not going to say anything to mom, either." she added bitterly.
"He already knew." I shot back, but immediately regretted it when my sister’s eyes widened and then narrowed on me.
"He knew?" she demanded. "So what? Did everyone know but me? You told a perfect stranger, but not your sister?"
"Bree..." Meyers tried to intervene.
"He had to know about it, Bree!" I argued. "What did you think I’ve been talking to him about? It was driving me crazy!"
"Who else knows?" she demanded.
"I want to know who else knew before me!" she ordered. "Jude’s obviously a given. Does everyone know but me and mom, Quinn?"
"God no." I said immediately. "Trust me, Bree, I’ve been trying to keep this from as many people as possible."
"You told Brad."
"And I already regret it! You have no idea how hard this is for me..."
"For you? I’m the one who has to worry about my brother stealing my boyfriends!" Bree’s voice got louder as she said that... a little too loud.
"Alright." Meyers said firmly as he stood up in front of us. "Bree, you asked me to call Quinn down here because you want to say some things to him. Are you saying them now?"
Bree dropped her eyes and slowly shook her head. I was curious to know what she had to say to me that she hadn’t already, but unfortunately, after her last remark I couldn’t seem to keep my mouth shut.
"I didn’t steal your boyfriend." I said under my breath, but shut my mouth when Meyers cut me a sharp look that I hadn’t been aware he was capable of. "Fine." I frowned. "But I didn’t."
"Bree, why did you want me to ask Quinn to come down here?" Meyers asked my sister in a way that suggested he already knew the answer. Bree looked up, and after a nod from him, she was facing me again, this time with less hostility and more determination in her expression.
"I’m mad at you." she told me, everything about the way she said it seeming serious. Of course, I rolled my eyes at that.
"What else is new?" I remarked. I couldn’t help feeling hostile. After all, I’d been ambushed. Maybe I would have appreciated talking to Meyers before, but now I was trapped in his office with my sister, just so she could tell me something that was painfully obvious. I crossed my arms and looked at Meyers. "I know she’s mad at me. We had this conversation last night."
Bree opened her mouth to say something but Meyers held up his hand, silencing her.
"Quinn..." Meyers said, "why do you think Bree’s angry?"
I glanced at my sister and shook my head.
"She’s mad because I wasn’t going to tell her."
"That you’re gay?" Meyers asked, and I shot him a look that said it should be unnecessary for me to elaborate. Of course we were all here because I was gay!
"You told Brad, but you still weren’t going to tell me." Bree cut in. "Do you have any idea how that makes me feel?"
"Bree, did Quinn explain to you why he didn’t want to tell you?" Meyers asked.
"Because he was afraid I’d tell my mom." Bree responded, looking every bit as insulted as she sounded. "You should have known I wouldn’t, Quinn."
"But I was still afraid!" I argued. "Bree, you said yourself that you’re still trying to understand why I’m like this! How the hell do you think I feel?"
"Maybe I’d know if you told me!" she retorted. "Damn it, Quinn, I’m not a mind reader! And you could have told me...you said you’ve known forever! I keep thinking about every time we sat down to talk when you could have..."
"I told you, it isn’t that simple." I interrupted. "Bree, I never wanted to tell anyone. Believe me, I would have been just fine ignoring it for the rest of my life if that would have made it go away."
"So what, you’re not ignoring it now because of Jude?" she demanded.
"For a lot of reasons!" I said defensively. "God, Bree, are you saying that I should ignore it? You can’t say something like that and then wonder why I didn’t want to tell you!"
"That’s not what I meant." she frowned, sounding frustrated.
"Well what did you mean then, Bree?" I demanded. I was beginning to feel more than just annoyance over the situation. I was starting to feel hurt. The night before she’s kissed my cheek and she went to bed knowing what I was, and her actions had left me feeling that there was at least some hope. Now, I felt like she didn’t want to try to understand, she didn’t want to understand. I had no idea where to even begin with that. "I mean, enlighten me here? I don’t know what you want from me. What’s done is done and I can’t change it."
"You’re not even sorry that you didn’t tell me!"
"Bree, just think about it for a second. You have no idea what I’ve been going through and I have no idea how to explain it to you! Even if... even if I could explain it to you, would you even want to hear it?"
"You know I would."
"Okay." Meyers interrupted, calling both of our attention. "This is a start."
"No it isn’t." Bree suddenly said to him. "It’s not... I feel like we’re going in fucking circles here and he can’t even admit that he was wrong!" I inwardly cringed as I watched my sister wipe away a few tears. I hated seeing her cry.
"Bree," Meyers said, "it sounds to me like Quinn is willing to talk to you. Lets all take a deep breath here and..."
"Forget it." she said, suddenly standing up to glare at me. "I feel like I don’t even know you, Quinn!"
I swallowed down the knot in my throat as I watched my sister abandon the counselors office. I would have been right behind her, too, if Mr. Meyers hadn’t dropped a hand on my shoulder to stop me.
"Quinn, why don’t you let me try to call her back in here alone?" he offered. "She obviously has a few things she needs to work out, and if she’s not ready to talk to you yet..."
"It doesn’t matter." I shook my head as I stepped away from his hand. "You can’t fix this, Mr. Meyers. It’s my mess."
I didn’t see Bree for the rest of the day, but I wondered if Jude had. I felt sorry for him if he did, my sister hadn’t exactly been happy the last time I saw her. But then again, if he did see her, I doubted that he could make things any worse. Who knows, maybe he could have even made it better. I’d have to wait to find out, though. It seemed like all I was doing lately was waiting.
I didn’t realize that I didn’t have a ride home until after school. I had to call my mother. She was there within five minutes, though. She definitely felt guilty for not making sure we had a ride, not that it really mattered to me. I was more concerned with the fact that I didn’t see Bree anywhere. I expected my mom to ask about my sister when she picked me up, but when she didn’t I ended up doing the asking.
"Mom, do you know where Bree is?"
"She’s with Kara... she seemed a little down. Any idea why?"
I shook my head. It was a lie, but it wasn’t like I could tell my mom what was wrong.
"Well, she’s supposed to be at Kara’s for dinner so I thought we could go out. I want to talk to you and it’ll probably be the perfect time."
I looked over at my mother, wanting to get out of the talk thing. After having Bree run out on me, I wasn’t sure that I was up for it. But, if I’d learned anything, it was that putting off all of these talks on hold, was hardly ever in my favor.
"Mom? Do you think we could just do it at home? I’m kind of tired."
She looked over at me, somewhat worriedly, but then slowly smiled and gave me a nod.
"Sure. We can do that. Am I allowed to at least order dinner, or do you expect a home cooked meal?"
"You can order." I replied, breaking a smile, and then another question came to mind. "Did you hear how Mrs. Clair is doing?"
"She’s better, but she’s been ordered to bed rest. Brad probably won’t be in school again until Monday because his dad won’t be home until Saturday."
"Oh." I said. I felt bad about Mrs. Clair, I really did, but I couldn’t help wondering if I’d have to wait until Monday to even see Brad. I hoped not. Between him and Bree I was sick of waiting. It was bad enough that Bree was obviously avoiding me. I didn’t want to wait until Monday to find out if Brad was still speaking to me. But, it wasn’t like I didn’t have things to deal with in the meantime. Like my mother.
I’d assumed that we would talk as soon as we got home. I should have known that she’d want me to finish my homework first. By the time I was done with that... or as done with as much as possible before I just couldn’t concentrate anymore, she had takeout from her favorite Italian restaurant on the table. I was just about to sit down as she put a plate in front of me when she smiled in my direction.
"You really are going to have to invite her over to dinner Quinn, and it’s no longer a request."
"Huh?" I hoped she still wasn’t under the impression that I had a girlfriend. "Mom, there’s..."
"Uh-huh." she rolled her eyes at me, walking around the table to pull down the collar of my shirt and I inwardly cringed. I hadn’t really taken the time to look at the hickey Brad claimed was there, but my mother’s expression told me that it was definitely noticeable. "If you two are doing things like this together I want to meet her parents, too." she said matter of factly as she took her seat and motioned for me to take mine.
"Mom, it’s nothing serious..." I started.
"Nothing serious, Quinn? You know, I should make sure she’s on birth control."
"Mom!" this was already getting worse than the sex talk, where my mother had actually sat down to show me text book pictures for an hour. "Will you stop? No one is getting pregnant." At least that I could guarantee.
"You may think that, but honestly, Quinn..."
"Mom, please." I said shortly as I filled my plate. "I’m trying to eat here. Isn’t there something else you wanted to talk about... like my car?"
She sighed and shook her head, but ultimately relented.
"Saturday." She stated. "I’ve decided that you get it back on Saturday... but, until you find another job to pay for the insurance you only get to drive to school and back... or to the job when you get it...and the same rules apply. No more than fifteen hours a week. I don’t want it to interfere with your school work."
"Work has never interfered with school." I pointed out. "And you know I’ve always worked more than fifteen hours."
"If you want more than fifteen you can make up the extra time on weekends...at least until I see that your grades are back up."
I frowned at that, but I guess I wasn’t really in any position to argue.
"Okay... what about..."
"Your phone? You can have that back too, but you better not bring me the first bill."
"I still have money in savings, mom." I said irritably. "And, I don’t care about the phone. I want my door." she raised a sharp eyebrow at my demand so I added, "please."
My mother studied me for a long moment and then actually smiled.
"The door’s in the garage, behind Bree’s old dresser. Help yourself to it any time you like." I stood up on that note, but she flashed me a warning look. "After dinner."
"Quinn, I want you to know that just because you’re regaining a few privileges doesn’t mean that you’re off probation... and neither am I."
"What do you mean?" I frowned, not understanding where she was going with this. I wasn’t sure that I’d like it when she put her fork down and let out a breath as she faced me directly.
"I quit my job today."
Well, that was unexpected. Very unexpected. All I could do was stare at her... for a very long time... thinking about how unexpected that was.
"How?" was all I could think to ask.
"We still have some money put away." my mother explained. "I’ve applied for another position that will allow me to be home a lot more ... either you or Bree might have to get a full scholarship somewhere," she added teasingly. "But, we can manage, Quinn. I really do think that this is for the best."
"But, you’ve always said that you have to work." it wasn’t that I wasn’t happy about this news. Bree and I had always said that it would have been nice to have our mother around more. But, I couldn’t help wondering if she was doing it just so she could keep an eye on me. In which case, it wouldn’t be good news. It would just be insulting.
"And I thought I did." she said as she began to slowly pick at her food again. "When your father died, I wanted to make sure you and you sister had everything, but...I think I started working so much because I wanted to stay busy, too. It was very hard for me... you know? For a very long time your dad was all I had and after he passed away the only time I ever stopped thinking about him was when I was working. I think part of me knew that I should be home with you and your sister but, just being around you guys... you both reminded me so much of him. Especially you, Quinn."
This wasn’t the first time I’d been told that I reminded her of my father. I’d always taken it as a compliment before. I never really knew him, but according to my mother, he was a good man. I didn’t take it as anything other than a compliment now, and that’s probably why I smiled when my mom rushed to explain herself.
"Quinn, you know I didn’t mean... you and Bree reminded me of him, yes. But it was in no way your fault that I wasn’t around."
"I know mom." I insisted. "But... that was sixteen years ago, and you’ve always worked..."
"I know." she sighed. "Sixteen years... isn’t really that long of a time."
"Yes it is." I argued.
"Not when you miss someone the way that I miss your father," she said, suddenly wiping at her eyes. That was my cue to shut up and hope that my mother didn’t start crying.
"Sorry..." I started, but she suddenly looked up with a forced smile and changed the subject.
"I’m going to be home more often." She stated. "Do you think your sister will mind?"
"You haven’t told her yet?" I asked, surprised. Usually an announcement like this would be a family thing.
"Not yet. You were here and we were already talking... I’ll tell her later tonight when she gets back from Kara’s. It shouldn’t be too late, you guys have school tomorrow... you all made it there okay this morning? Maybe I should call Jude’s parents. You have the number, right?"
"What?" that took me by surprise. "I mean... why would you need to call them?"
My mother looked at me as if it were obvious.
"He did spend the night last night. Shouldn’t I tell them that he got to school on time?"
"No." I said, and then quickly added, "he can tell them, and they won’t be home, anyway."
"Oh? How do you know?" my mother asked skeptically.
"Because he’s having dinner with them tonight." I lied. I had no idea how I was going to prevent my mother from her quest of wanting to meet Jude’s parents. I guess I’d have to talk to him about that.
"Okay then... I want to at least talk to them, Quinn."
"I know." I nodded, and we both fell silent for a moment. I’d really have to talk to Jude. If I was planning to continue seeing him, which I did, we’d have to find away around his lack of parents. Our meeting earlier came to mind, and suddenly I wondered when the next time I’d see Jude would be. "Hey mom... can we talk about this probation?" it might have been a long shot, but at least I could try. If I wanted to get out of the house this weekend, I’d definitely have to. Only, asking now was risky, considering my mother wanted to meet his parents.
She looked at me suspiciously for a moment and then smiled.
"I suppose... what do you want?"
"I didn’t say I wanted anything." I said defensively.
"Okay then, what do you want to talk about?" she asked teasingly as she took a drink of her water.
"When you say probation..."
"I mean you’re grounded." she said clearly.
"Okay." I frowned. "How long is that going to last?" I’m sure I sounded unhappy, but I was. Between what I was putting myself through and what my mother was putting me through, I was ready for a break.
"I don’t know, Quinn. Why? Is there something you need to get out of the house for?"
"Never mind." I sighed. Starting an argument with her wouldn’t help.
"Come on Quinn... if there’s something you want you might as well just come out and ask me. I said you’re still grounded, I didn’t say that you were under complete house arrest... in other words, I’ll try to be lenient, like, if you go back to work. Obviously, I’m not going to keep you from that."
"But the rest of the time I’m stuck here until I’m thirty?" I remarked.
"Of course not," my mother responded mockingly, "you know I’m only allowed to keep you prisoner until you’re eighteen."
"For goodness sake, I was kidding, Quinn!"
I knew that. I just didn’t feel like being teased, and something about the way she did it made me think of Bree. I knew that she was at Kara’s to avoid me, and that definitely didn’t sit well. It was simply more uncertainty that I didn’t want to deal with.
"Quinn?" I looked up because my mother actually sounded worried, and I forced a smile when I realized that it was probably because my expression gave me away.
"Sorry. I’m just a little tired today. It was a long night."
"Hmm. For everyone." my mom nodded. "You know, Brad had to take his mom back to the hospital today."
"Everything’s fine." she added quickly, seeing my alarm. "I think she’s just a little worried about having this baby. Her husband’s away and she has the boys to contend with...you know, now that I’m home I think I’ll be spending some time over there. Do you mind if I disappear on you after dinner? That is, unless you want to come with me."
"I think I’m just going to go to bed." I said quickly. Maybe I was anxious to talk to Brad, but not with my mom so close by. Besides, he already had enough of his own drama to deal with. He didn’t need me adding to it.
"Alright... so, are you going to tell me what it is you wanted?"
I sighed, wondering if I still wanted to bring up the possibility of going out this weekend but ultimately shrugged and leaned back in my seat.
"I wanted to go out with a friend this weekend." I explained.
"A friend?" my mom raised an eyebrow, likely expecting it to be whatever girl gave me the hickey. I guess she had it half right.
"With Jude." I admitted. "I wanted to go hang out with him for a while. But, it’s no big deal, I don’t want to fight about..."
"And where would you be hanging out?" My mother cut me off.
I sat up a little. I hadn’t expected to even get that far.
"Um.... I don’t know." Maybe if I was somewhat honest I’d actually get somewhere with her. "He just asked if I wanted to go out, we haven’t talked about where."
"Hmm... will the girl you’re trying to hide be there?"
"I’m not... no, mom. There probably won’t be any girls there. Look, if I’m grounded, that’s one thing, but do you plan on interrogating me every time I want to go out with my friends?" I thought that was a fair question.
"If that’s what it takes. And for your information, I’m going to let you go. But, there is going to be a curfew, Quinn. I also want to know where you plan on going."
"Fine." I frowned, but then realized that she was actually letting me get out... and she was looking at me as if I should be more grateful. "I mean, thank you."
"That’s better. Now, finish your dinner. I’ve got ice cream for dessert."
I sat down on the hallway floor and looked up at my door. Yes, my door. My newly installed, equipped with a lock, door. It was the best thing that had happened to me all day. I didn’t even want to go into my room to be behind it. I just wanted to sit and look at it. But, that little hobby didn’t last long. As soon as the phone started ringing I forced myself to get up and walk through my door to answer the one on my desk. After all, my mom was at the Clairs, which made me nervous, considering Brad was over there with her, even if deep down I knew he wouldn’t say anything, and my sister was still at her friend’s house, so I was the only one around to answer any late night phone calls. It was getting kind of late, too. A glance at the clock told me that it was already ten.
"Hello?" I answered, dropping back on my bed in the process.
"Is it too late to call?"
"Jude?" I sat up, a little surprised to hear from him. When I’d left him earlier he’d planned on talking to Bree, but I wasn’t sure that it ever happened. I didn’t have to wait long to find out whether or not he did, though."
"I didn’t talk to Bree." he said, and I swore he sounded upset about that. "I waited an hour, but I never saw her."
"I did." I responded,. And let out a breath before explaining to him what had happened in Meyer’s office, before she ran out on me.
"But she wanted to talk?" he said, acting as if that was a good thing.
"She walked away from me, Jude. I haven’t even seen her since. She’s avoiding me."
"Yeah, so she’s pissed... but she still wants to talk."
"If she did, the moment has passed." I said ruefully.
"Look, this thing with her has had my stomach in knots all night." I stated. "My mom’s probably watching TV, alone with Brad right now... I’d rather not think about it."
"Okay." he said slowly. "Um... I’ll let you go. I just wanted to call and tell you I haven’t talked to Bree."
I frowned at that. I didn’t want him to let me go. Just because I wasn’t in the mood to talk about all of the bullshit didn’t mean that I didn’t want to talk to him. Actually, I was in the mood to talk to him. It was like I could feel a new comfort level between us that hadn’t been there before. Maybe it was because he actually sounded like the one who was depressed for once and I wanted him to cheer up, I don’t know... but I knew that I didn’t want him to hang up on me.
"Will I see you tomorrow?"
There was a pause, but when he spoke again I could hear one of those smiles in his voice that would have annoyed me a few weeks ago.
"Do you want to see me?"
I rolled my eyes at the question, but left another silence on the phone as I tried to work up the nerve to tell him that I did. Only, before I could answer, he cursed on the other end of the line.
"Wait, I can’t, Quinn... sorry. I’ve already missed too much work this week, so unless you can get out later..."
"I can." I said, a little too quickly, and I blushed at the idea of sounding desperate. But, before I could dwell too much on it I explained the conversation that I’d had with my mom, even the part about her quitting her job. "I don’t know if she’ll be breathing down my neck now that she’s home," I concluded, "but if she does I can at least go to my room and lock the door."
"Any chance you’re allowed to have guests behind that locked door?" Jude remarked, and I leaned back on my bed again, suddenly wondering what we’d be doing if he were there with me now. The very idea of it made me nervous... but there was also a sense of excitement that I was allowing myself to feel. I wasn’t sure what to do about either feeling. I guess I allowed the silence to drag on for too long, because I heard Jude clear his throat. "Quinn... it was a joke. You’re not freaking out on me, are you?"
"Good." he sighed. "Look... can I meet you tomorrow, around six? I can come get you if you want, but your sister..."
"There’s a park, about a block away..."
"I know where it is." he said. "And... I am going to go now, before you change your mind. You won’t change your mind, will you?"
"I don’t think so."
"Good... it’ll be, good."
I think the only reason I slept at all was because I was so worn out from the night before. That, and knowing that there was only one school day left before I got part of my life back... my car, my phone...and a few hours alone with Jude Landon. With everything else going on, I thought he was right. Being able to spend some time together without the rest of the drama would be a good thing. It really had been a while since I went out with anyone, just to have fun.
But, before I could think about that, I had to think about the reason why my sister didn’t go to school. When my mom drove me there on Friday morning, she explained it was because Bree was feeling sick. I had a sneaking suspicion that it had less to do with illness and more to do with avoiding me. I hated that. I hated that Brad wasn’t back yet, either. I had a feeling that it was going to be a very long day, thinking about them.
"Nice." I didn’t appreciate the remark from Taylor, considering I was bent over in front of my locker to pick up the book I’d dropped. It was five minutes into my lunch break, and not the first act of clumsiness I’d displayed that morning. I’d dropped my books more times than I cared to remember, in second period I was tapping my pen on the desk, only to have it fly across the room, and while coming down the stairs on the way to my locker I’d actually tripped. I did manage to catch myself, though, and thank god no one seemed to notice. I was just having an off day, unable to concentrate on anything. I hoped that Taylor wasn’t going to take things from bad to worse.
"Shut up, Taylor. I’m not in the mood today." I said sullenly as I lifted the book and shoved it in my locker, without paying attention to where I was placing it, and to my surprise, Taylor actually stepped forward and placed it in it’s proper place, designated by me.
"Okay Moore, now I’m worried... what’s your problem?" he looked completely serious, and I just stared at him before I turned away, closing my locker in the process.
"I don’t have a problem, Taylor."
I wasn’t surprised when he started following me.
"Are you going to lunch?" he asked.
"Nope." I shook my head. I’d pretty much given up on the idea of facing the cafeteria. Besides, I wanted to go outside. It was usually quiet there.
"Not hungry?" Taylor asked.
"Starving, actually." I responded honestly as I headed for the nearest exit.
"Okay," Taylor rolled his eyes and suddenly grabbed my arm to turn me back towards the cafeteria. "People who are starving walk this way... and before you start cussing at me, Jude has to work and isn’t going to show up today."
"I wasn’t going out there to wait for Jude," I frowned, shaking him off my arm, but I did continue to walk with him towards the cafeteria, my pace slowing when I saw Marissa with her friends. She noticed me at the same time, and I saw her expression turn both curious and troubled as she looked between me and Taylor.
"Go ahead and walk away if you want, Moore." Taylor said, glancing in Marissa’s direction. "It won’t hurt my feelings none."
I frowned at him, but when I looked over I had a strange feeling that his last statement was a complete lie, not that I cared about whether or not I hurt Taylor’s feelings. He’d probably deserve it, coming from me. But, I kept walking, hoping that my ex girlfriend didn’t decide that this would be a good time to talk to me. I’d been avoiding her, just like I’d been avoiding everyone else... maybe even more so. But, that’s because Marissa was different. I think I was even more afraid of her discovering the truth than I had been with everyone else... about as terrified as I was at the notion of my mother finding out that I was gay. But, it had little to do with the fact that since childhood Marissa was my best friend second to Brad, and more to do with Trina Ashpock.
I think since the beginning, the fact that my girlfriend, or my girlfriend at the time, had taken it upon herself to tell others something about Trina that I’m sure she would have rather left private. Having told people that Trina was gay, was something I found to be completely despicable, and terrifying. I was positive that if Marissa ever found out the secret I’d been keeping, my life really would be over, not to mention, it would probably kill her. She was so concerned with reputation that if she found out I was gay she’d blow a gasket. Of course, that would be after she leaked the information to the wrong people and ruined my life. Fortunately, she was with her friends and decided to go with them as they moved into the cafeteria ahead of us, but she did glance back at me.
"So... all three of them, huh?" Taylor said.
"Your sister, Brad, and her too." he explained, nodding in Marissa’s direction. "Is there anyone you’re still talking to? I mean, if I were you, I could do without blondie, too. I’m just saying, you’re starting to look a little lonely."
"Thanks for pointing it out, Taylor." I responded bitterly.
"Oh, get over yourself, Moore. Come sit at our table." he tapped my arm as he suddenly passed me to get his lunch, and I paused, watching after him. Sometimes I didn’t understand Taylor. Actually, correction: I never understood Taylor. Sometimes I felt like he existed just to make me crazy, and other times... I just didn’t get him. That was probably why I couldn’t figure out whether or not I liked him.
I felt my stomach growl and that alone got me moving again. I selected a few sandwiches and a coke for lunch and when I had my tray I found myself looking across the cafeteria at the table where Taylor was seated. Trina wasn’t with him today, so he wasn’t in the middle of a brooding session with her, but rather watching me expectantly. I sighed, wondering if it was the best idea in the world, even as I slowly made my way over to his table.
I was half way there when I heard my name being called.
I looked across the room, to my old table. Marissa. She was waving me over, and so were a few others there, a few whispering to each other and looking at me like I’d sprouted a nut shaped growth on my head. No doubt she’d mentioned that I was seen with Taylor. Again. I suddenly found myself feeling a little self conscious about that. After all, I really had no idea how many people knew that Taylor was gay and being seen with him on more than one occasion, and having him share my locker, may not have left the right impression. For a moment I even thought about going over to that table, but that would mean contending with Marissa’s questions. Without Brad there to shield me, that left me pretty much screwed. And then there was Taylor, who would probably drive me so crazy that I wouldn’t even be able to eat my lunch. But, in the end, the choice wasn’t that hard to make.
"You know they’re still watching you, right?" Taylor said as I took a seat across from him.
"Don’t remind me." I replied quietly as I looked down at my food and frowned. "I shouldn’t have come in here."
"Why?" he laughed. "Because of them? Fuck it. You worry too much, Moore. Jude can keep you. I’ll stick to my fantasies."
"Where’s Trina today?" I asked, and oddly enough, I actually wished that she was there. She seemed to be the only one who could on occasion, reel in Taylor’s leash.
"Sick." Taylor snorted, sounding somewhat disgusted, although, that could have been because he was picking apart the contents of his burrito. "I told her not to drink last night. She’s gonna end up flunking out."
I regarded Taylor curiously for a moment.
"I didn’t think she cared about stuff like that."
"Of course she cares. She just doesn’t act like it. He paused for a moment, as if to think about something, and then shook his head. "She cares... she just, makes stupid choices."
Well, this wasn’t a side of Taylor that I was used to seeing.
He seemed so... un-Taylor-like.
"Aren’t you with her most of the time?" I asked. I didn’t think telling Taylor that I thought he made some stupid choices too seemed fair. After all, lately I was guilty of a few of those choices myself. But, Taylor obviously knew what I was thinking. The annoyed look he flashed me said enough.
"Don’t think you know me, Moore."
"Taylor, I didn’t mean..."
"I know what you meant... you know, we’re not the bad kids."
"You know, the bad seeds among today’s youth?" he remarked. "We’re not bad... we don’t have a whole lot of people looking out for us the way you do, okay? So what? We go out and have fun the way that we know how... it’s not like we don’t care about things, though. Bet you anything my grades are better than yours."
I stopped myself from rolling my eyes and attempted to regard him seriously.
"Taylor, I wasn’t trying to call you stupid, look... you’re just...I didn’t think..."
"Yeah, you’re good at that, not thinking." he said. "So, are things any better with your sister?"
I frowned at his first remark, but answered the second.
"No." I said, but then had a strong desire to turn the conversation back towards Taylor. For a few moments he’d given me some insight into the person who he really was, not just the asshole. Against my better judgement, I wanted to go back there. "If you care, then why do you and Trina act the way you do?"
"What do you mean?"
"You say you care and that you don’t want to have the fucked up lives your parents have, but..."
"My parents were not fucked up. And like I said, you don’t know me. Yeah, I party, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t care about anything else, asshole."
"Taylor..." he was taking something personally. The look he was giving me now was the same one he’d given me the first night I showed up at Trina Ashpock’s house. It was full of anger and served it’s purpose to make me feel... unwelcome.
"I live with my sister, okay? Maybe I’m not perfect but I respect her too much to become a complete fuck up. She works her ass off so I can stay in school, I’m not going to let her down."
Taylor paused and suddenly looked away, biting at his lip, acting like he’d said too much to a complete stranger. But, considering that Taylor knew more about me than some people who’d known me my entire life, I saw thing a little differently. And I was curious. He was right. I didn’t know him. I’d never taken the time to get to know him, or who he was, or where he was from... I’d had so much going on that it just hadn’t occurred to me. Kind of like with Jude. Now that I could at least look in the mirror without feeling disgusted, I was beginning to notice the people around me, and now, Taylor was one of those people. There was more to him than just being my own personal inconvenience. I guess there would have to be, because it seemed like he actually cared when he wasn’t trying to send me to an early grave.
"I’m sorry...." I said, when I felt that I could speak without him interrupting. "Look, you’re right. I don’t know you. I didn’t mean..."
"Right." he frowned, suddenly standing up and abandoning his lunch. "I gotta go."
And he went. Just like that, he left me sitting there alone and wondering what had just happened. Did I actually drive Taylor away? I wasn’t sure what to make of that. Oddly enough, I don’t think I liked it any more than we he had me wanting to abandon ship. I wasn’t about to go after him to see what his problem was, though. It was still Taylor, after all. But, I probably should have done something in regards to getting out of there. Sitting at that table left me vulnerable to sneak attacks from a certain ex girlfriend who I rather would have continued avoiding. The second Marissa Rixis slid into the seat across from me, I was on my feet and thinking of a million excuses why I couldn’t stay to talk to her.
"Don’t even think about it." she stated, glaring up at me. "I’m sick and tired of you avoiding me, Quinn Moore. I get it if you’re mad at me about a few things but that’s no reason to act like we don’t even know each other."
"I can’t talk right now, Mar."
"Why not?" she demanded, lifting one perfectly plucked eyebrow.
And suddenly, as someone across the cafeteria caught my eye, I didn’t need to make up an excuse why I couldn’t talk to her. My reason was staring at me, as if waiting for me to see her.
"Bree." I said aloud.
"What?" Marissa frowned.
"I have to go." I said, not even looking at my ex girlfriend as I kept my eyes on my sister and headed across the room. I knew that she hadn’t really been sick that morning, but I never would have expected her to show up at school. I didn’t have to guess why she was there, either. The way she was staring at me was enough to say that she was ready to talk. To be honest, as much as I wanted this, I didn’t know if I was ready for it, but still, if Bree was here and focused on me, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to get my sister back.
I was half way to Bree before she started walking in the opposite direction. She wasn’t exactly walking away from me, though. She was just leaving the cafeteria, and when I reached the doors she was standing outside of them, and as I suspected, waiting for me. When she glanced over her shoulder, I saw the reason why she’d been so quick to get out of there.
She looked tired, but it was the tears she was trying to hold back that drew my attention. Bree did cry. When her emotions got the best of her, she’d been known to cry. But, you’d never see her shed a tear in public. That was enough to tell me that she was probably uncomfortable with being there, unable to control it, and as a result I found myself moving forward to wrap an arm around her shoulder. I pulled her to my side as I started leading the way out of the school, it all feeling so instinctive that I didn’t even think about the fact that she didn’t pull away from me until she actually leaned into me.
I didn’t look at her as we turned down another hall and I heard her sniffle. I just wanted to get her out of there because I knew that was what she wanted. When I saw a group of students coming towards us, I changed direction again, somehow finding it necessary to avoid them.
"Come on." I said quietly as I led her out another door, bringing us out onto the sidewalk leading to the student parking lot. But, I bypassed that, too. We ended up on the side of the school generally avoided by students because it was where some teachers spent their lunch breaks. I was definitely glad to see that none of them were out today, though. I wanted privacy, and I had a feeling that Bree did, too, because the moment that we were both seated on a bench, my sister still tucked under my arm, the flood gates opened and she burst into tears.
I hated that.
I guess you could say that part of me was angry with her, for blowing me off until now... for going to Meyers, yet refusing to work out our problems there... and for not understanding. But, I didn’t want her to feel hurt. Never that. Unfortunately, I had no idea what to do about it this time, because I think that I was feeling as hurt as she was by everything that was happening. I didn’t even know where to start. So, I let her cry. She was just trying to regain control. It didn’t take very long.
I brushed her hair back behind her shoulder as her sobs turned into sniffles and she began to wipe the tears away from her face with the palm of her hand, only taking quick glances up at me.
"I don’t want to fight anymore," was her response. "I can’t do it, Quinn."
"I know." I sighed, definitely feeling the same way. I’d been feeling the stress of my situation a lot longer than she had been, and if she’d had enough at this point, then I was definitely getting tired of it.
"I’m just... so mad at you," she then informed me. I frowned. This was not a way for us to stop fighting. "I’ve been thinking about it, and thinking about it, and I don’t understand. I mean, okay... you’re gay..."
"Bree! Shh!" I hushed her, looking around to make sure no one happened to be walking by. It was bad enough that Brad had been unable to control his big mouth. I didn’t need the same thing from Bree. Didn’t they understand that this was my life they were dealing with? Honestly, a little consideration wasn’t asking for much.
"Sorry," she said, sounding annoyed with my interruption. "But look, there’s something that I need to say to you. I couldn’t do it before because I’ve been so... pissed. Quinn, I don’t care that you’re gay. I don’t."
I just stared at her. I’m not sure why hearing that didn’t make me feel better, God, I’d been wanting to hear it. Maybe it was because I predicted a ‘but’ to be coming next.
"I mean, people are gay all the time, right?" she continued. Okay, there was no ‘but,’ but still, I had no idea where she was going with this. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to know. "I know it’s not the same, but last year when I slept over at Kara’s house, we kissed-you know, just for practice."
"Bree!" I think it was the idea of my sister practicing her making out skills that I found so disturbing, not that the idea of her and Kara wasn’t weird.
"Well, there was nothing wrong with that, so I guess there’s nothing wrong with two guys... and if you like that kind of thing... then that’s okay. I was just... I hate that Jude had to be the guy who you like... to do those things with. I really like him, Quinn."
"Look, I understand that it’s not going to happen with him, okay? I do. It’s just... I wanted it to, and if it was another girl, I could deal with that because, well... I could hate her until I got over it. Even if it was another guy, I could probably do the same thing. But you’re my brother and I can’t hate you, so that leaves hating Jude and..."
"Bree," I cut her off, having heard enough. I’d come to understand that Jude was having a hard time when it came to my sister, too. If she ended up hating him, it would only make things worse, especially since it would be my fault. I didn’t need any more of that guilt over my head. "There’s something I need to tell you about Jude. This isn’t his fault. He wanted to tell you the truth from the beginning. I was the one who asked him not to, but only because I thought that if you knew about him... you’d figure me out, too."
I tried to figure out what my sister was thinking as she studied me closely for a few long moments before finally shaking her head.
"There are two things I don’t understand here, Quinn. I mean, the fact that you thought I could figure out you were gay just because Jude was is... stupid. I mean, you talk about me telling mom, but you’re the one who’s always been most like her when it comes to this kind of stuff. So, I don’t understand how you could have had those beliefs all this time and then turn out...gay. And the second thing... I don’t understand why you’d think that you couldn’t tell me."
"It’s complicated, Bree. Even if I could explain it to you..."
"Try." she stated. "You keep saying that it was hard for you. What was so hard, Quinn? If you would have said something..."
"I couldn’t. It’s not that simple. How could I expect you to accept me when I couldn’t even accept myself? I was afraid you’d hate me for being... wrong. That’s one reason why I couldn’t tell you... the reason why none of this happened a long time ago, is because I thought that if I ignored it, it would go away. I didn’t want to be like this... I still don’t. I don’t expect you to understand..."
"Okay, because I don’t." she frowned. "How could you not want to be someone who you already are? I mean, I might understand if you were a murderer or something, but you could make the choice not to go out and kill people..."
"And I thought that I could choose to like girls instead of guys... I was just miserable doing it."
"Then there wasn’t much of a choice then, was there? Quinn, I don’t..."
My sister’s voice was cut off by the sound of the bell and I frowned, looking at her somewhat desperately. We were far from through when it came to talking and there was no way that I wanted school to interrupt this. Bree showing up because she wanted to work things out was the best thing that had happened to me all day, I wasn’t ready to go back to waiting. Not now.
"I convinced mom that I wasn’t sick so I could come here." Bree sighed. "If I don’t go to class..."
"I know." I nodded. "Me too."
"We’re going to talk some more later, right?"
"After school?" I suggested, and my sister nodded.
"Mom’s going to be around, though. Maybe she’ll let you out if we go do something together..."
"Actually, I already got permission to go out with..." I paused, realizing what I was about to say, and sighed when my sister’s face dropped into a frown. "Look, we’ll talk some more after school... I think we can get out if we need to."
"Promise?" she asked, standing up and looking at me as if I were actually going to try to get out of it.
"I’ll see you after school." I insisted.
I hated watching her walk away. Her appearance had been a surprise, and not an unwanted one. I even felt a little better after talking to her. I didn’t want to wait until after school to continue, but if I didn’t have a choice, I could live with it, especially since I knew that we would be talking. Maybe having to wait was even a good thing, after all, there were still things that Bree didn’t understand, and I had a feeling that no matter how many times I tried to explain them to her, she still wouldn’t. At least a small postponement would give me time to think of a way to answer the questions that she had, in a way that she would understand.
It seemed like so long since anything had gone my way that I almost didn’t recognize the feeling of being ridiculously happy. After talking to Bree, I really had been nervous about whether or not things would ultimately work out between us, until we met after school and my mom picked both of us up. That short car ride was as good a sign as any that things would be all right. I was sitting up front, Bree just behind me, and like any little sister she was doing her best to pester me by kicking the back of my seat. But, every time I turned around with my disapproving glare I got a smile. I guess she was feeling better too.
"Quinn, think you can start up the grill for me when we get home?" my mom asked. "I think we’ll have barbeque tonight."
"Bree, are you feeling better?" she asked. "Well enough to eat?"
"I’m starving." my sister responded. "Need me to help with anything?"
"Do you have homework?"
"It’s Friday, mom." Bree said, as if the answer was supposed to be obvious.
"I have a little." I admitted.
"Okay, why don’t you start on that after you start the grill, Quinn. Bree, I could use your help if you’re offering it."
"Sure mom." my sister responded, but she was looking at me when I glanced back at her. There was a question on her face, and I simply nodded, silently promising that our talk hadn’t been forgotten. I just didn’t like the fact that in order to talk to her, I’d have to get a hold of Jude and cancel on him. But, deep down I knew it was the right thing to do. I knew that if I blew her off it wouldn’t help matters. We were actually making progress. I didn’t want to ruin that.
As we pulled up in front of our house, I grabbed my bag, planning to go start the grill before finding Jude’s number to call him up and explain the situation, but seeing Brad Clair in his driveway, washing his car with a soapy sponge and a bucket of water made me lose all other train of thought. It felt like I’d been waiting to see him for months.
Maybe the sudden burst of bravery flooding me had to do with the fact that I was working things out with my sister, and I thought that I might as well make things right with Brad, too. I mean, after all, the last time I saw him he’d at least been open to talking. Or, maybe it was just stupidity that had me telling my mother I was going to be back in a few minutes before I headed across the street to his house.
He noticed me half way there, but the way that he automatically turned his back didn’t discourage me...okay, maybe it did a little, but I was feeling determined, and that led me up his driveway until I was standing a foot away from him.
He glanced over his shoulder with a blank expression for only a second before turning back to the task of washing the hood of his car.
"I’ve been calling." I said, although being so blatantly blown off had me wanting to turn around to head back home. The fact that he still didn’t respond, was just upsetting. "How’s your mom?" I asked, attempting a different approach.
Brad paused and looked back at me again, this time flashing me a look that actually made me cringe. If there was a time that I’d ever felt unwanted, it was at that moment. I didn’t even know how to react to it, so I just stood there.
"She’s tired." Brad responded coldly. "Just like I’m tired. . . just go home, Quinn, before I say something I really shouldn’t."
I probably should have taken his advice. Instead, I took offense.
"Like what?" I demanded. "Look, I know you’re mad at me, Brad... but I’m ready to talk about this. Please. I talked to Bree some today and..."
"Did you not hear me?" he suddenly demanded, turning on me as he lifted the bucket of soapy water he’d been using for his car and dropped the sponge in. "Look, Quinn... I don’t want to talk to you right now. Just leave." I took a step back, not understanding this behavior. I knew he was mad at me, but this wasn’t Brad, not even a very angry Brad. "I haven’t slept for three days and I really don’t feel like listening to you explain why you’re a fucking fudgepacker, okay?" he decided to add, and I think my mouth actually dropped from shock.
What the hell was his problem? Sure, a few nights ago I was surprised that no one seemed to care that I was gay, but the way that he was talking now had me wondering if I was wrong... and it scared me. But, this was Brad, and more than fear, I think it was rage that I felt. Who the hell did he think he was? More importantly, why was he doing this? I could understand if he was having trouble accepting me, maybe I should have even expected it. But, the way he was talking to me now didn’t make any sense. This wasn’t Brad, and that was disturbing. Of course, I didn’t tell him this. The sudden onslaught of hurt I was feeling came out in another way.
"You know, fuck you!" I retorted. "I came over here to..."
That was about as far as I got before I was shielding my eyes a little too late after they were assaulted with soapy water, along with the rest of my face and the front of my shirt. I cursed as I wiped at my burning eyes, unable to relieve them of the soap as I forced them open and took in the bleary image of the guy who was supposed to be my best friend.
"Why can’t you just fucking understand that I can’t do this with you, Quinn?" he screamed at me, sounding both furious and desperate. God, I wished that I could have seen his face clearly. If I could see his face, maybe I could have seen something to tell me why he was acting like this. But, as it was, I could hardly make out his image as he walked away from me, slamming the door after he entered his house.
I blinked away the water dripping from my eyelashes and tried to focus on my image in the bathroom mirror. Still blurry. I hated getting soap in my eyes, although the tears that I was forcing back didn’t exactly help matters.
"Quinn, Barbeque!" my mother called from the kitchen, reminding me of my chore. After leaving Brad’s house, I’d been able to sneak in without Bree or my mother seeing, not that it didn’t alarm them when I went to turn on the grill shirtless. Maybe this wouldn’t have been unusual, if the weather was a lot warmer and I wasn’t dripping with water.
"What happened to you?" my mother demanded as I crossed the kitchen to get to the back yard.
"Brad wasn’t paying attention to where he was spraying the hose." I lied.
My mother released an exasperated sigh while my sister regarded me more suspiciously. At least she had the sense not to say anything. I started the grill as fast as I could before excusing myself to my room, where I did lock the door. I made my way to the top of the stairs and paused, taking a quick look around.
I was feeling confused, and quite frankly, attacked. Sure it had only been water... dirty water, but still water. And he’d thrown it at me. My best friend. I felt like some level of trust had been violated and I couldn’t figure out if I was more angry or hurt over it. All I knew was that my hands couldn’t stop shaking, and from the back of my mind came the memory of actually hitting Brad. I didn’t think that what he did to me was as bad, but I wondered if this was how he’d felt when it happened. If that was the case, then I really owed him an apology. Too bad it looked like it would turn into a green day in hell before he let me give him one... that thought alone made me stick to my stomach.
My eyes settled on my dresser, where my journal was, and suddenly I felt a whole wall of frustration boiling to the surface. I needed to get it out. It felt just like it did during my dark day, maybe even worse. As I lifted the charred book and a pen and sat back on my bed it occurred to me that I hadn’t written in it since I made that first self admittance. I’m gay. It felt like I’d been suffering for weeks and I hadn’t written any of it down. I’d let it out in other ways, but now, it was time to let it out again. So bleary eyed, I started to write. I wrote about everything that I could think of, every event, emotion, smile, tear, every ounce of frustration-I wrote about it all. Everything that led me up to sitting in my room, somehow knowing that I’d just lost my best friend.
I left my homework forgotten with everything else, including the time. I had no idea it had passed six o’clock, not even when Bree knocked on my door, alerting me that dinner was ready. I moved slowly to answer it, suddenly feeling very tired as I stared down at my journal in my hands, and when I opened it I was faced with my sister’s concerned yet curious face as she studied me closely.
"Dinner’s ready, Quinn... are you okay?"
I opened my mouth to tell her that I was fine, but I closed it when I looked down at the book in my hands, realizing that I wasn’t. I wasn’t fine. I wasn’t okay. Something felt so terribly wrong that all I wanted to do was go to bed for the next year and hope that things would be better when I woke up.
"It’s all in here." I said quietly, holding out my most sacred possession to my sister. "There’s nothing I can tell you, that isn’t in here."
I think I hesitated for only a moment when she reached out to take the book, looking just as confused as I felt. It felt like hours as it left my hand and made it’s way into hers. My whole life. My biggest secrets. Maybe now, she’d find her answers, although I wasn’t sure if this was the best way. But, at least it wouldn’t be to late. Not like it was with Brad.