Driving home I couldn’t even say a word to Blake. I mean he wasn’t mad at me, but part of him couldn’t help but be resentful of how I can act sometimes…how I can get caught up in social status and popularity. How even though I could be so good at communicating with people…I failed so miserably with Ryder. Then again it’s not like Ryder is like anyone I’ve ever met…Ryder lets you in if he wants to, not because you’re nice to him. I mean part of me wants to scream out about how weird that is, but at the same time…maybe if I was more like him…maybe I wouldn’t be so blind of everything around me.
“Hey Teddy” My dad called out as I walked into the living room my parents had been hanging out in since I left “How was the concert?”
“It was good” I shrugged, trying my best to make it to the stairs with as little conversation as possible.
“Everything alright?” My mom poked, seeing that something wasn’t quite right.
“Yeah” I nodded, forcing a smile “My ears are just ringing, and I’m starting to get a headache and all that.”
“Well do you think this kids someone to tell Uncle Martin about?” my Dad asked , trying to get a good read on if I was okay or not.
I shrugged my shoulders once more and stood on one of the bottom steps “Maybe one day” I let out “but I don’t think right now.”
“Alright, well keep an eye out then!” My dad exclaimed “He’s always looking to sign a rock group…god knows there aren’t many left in this world.”
I nodded, before rushing up the stairs and jumping into my bed. I’ve never been rejected by anyone before, and I’m not like depressed…but damn…this sucks. It doesn’t help that he probably thought I was making fun of him too. I just wanted to be supportive…to make him laugh…to smile for once….and maybe, just maybe, if he started to catch feelings… forget it. It’s done. I’m done.
The next morning I found myself moving a little slower than normal…I just couldn’t shake last night from my mind. At some point I went out and started to practice my shots into the old rusted triangle shaped net…if I’m gonna be lazy today…then I might as well get ready for the summer season. My dad noticed how weird I was acting, and even joined me for a little while, but bit his tongue, knowing I’d come to him if it was something really bad. I don’t know what I’d do without him, he can always read what’s on my mind…he’s always there for me when I need it. Yet eventually he had to go back inside and get some work down, so I was back to my thoughts.
“Hey Teddy” My dad called out, opening the sliding doors.
“Alright fine, I let you win.” I groaned, knowing he’d been onto me all afternoon about our little shootout “but last time I beat you, you sad I cheated, and I didn’t want to…”
“No” He laughed, faking shock “there’s someone here to see you…” he waived over the unknown guest, but no one came “Come on, I don’t bite.” My dad smiled in a comforting voice “You’re…” My Dad lead, hoping to get an answer.
“Ryder” I heard a familiar voice finally speak up as he walked past my dad and into the backyard.
My dad made a confused face before turning back to me “This is the boy from the band!” He yelped in excitement “I knew I’d remember a name…oh your mother is never hearing the end of it! I heard you rock!” my dad encouraged, trying to start a conversation…just like me, my dad can’t help but try to talk to everyone he meets.
“I’m just in a band that plays at a bar.” Ryder nervously shrugged, not sure how to speak with an adult he’d never met before.
“Well even The Beatles started out in a bar.” My dad cheered, smile growing “Just keep at it, my brother is a record producer…”
“Dad!” I let out, staring him down. He pretended to zip his lips, and took a few steps back until he was behind the sliding door and slowly shut it. “Sorry” I exhaled rolling my eyes “He can be…”
“Like you” Ryder shot, raising an eyebrow. I slightly shook my head, and returned to taking shots at the net in front of me, done with whatever game he was trying to play. “I’m sorry...I was kidding...I…”
“Look” I interrupted in a sigh “I’m sorry about last night, like I told that kid from your band, I’ll leave you alone from now on.”
“Yeah...he ugh…he said you looked pretty upset.” Ryder awkwardly forced out. As I looked back over his eyes immediately met the floor “I…sorry about how I acted…I just…after concerts I get worn out, and there’s just a lot of raw emotion, you know?”
“I get it” I nodded, returning back to my practice “I really wasn’t trying to make fun of you.” I shrugged, not sure what else to say.
“I know” he exhaled. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him slowly beginning to kick a rock around…something was up with him…something was different “It’s just hard for me to tell sometimes…it’s like…I don’t know…” he nervously laughed trailing off.
I slowly lowered my lacrosse stick to the ground and began to rest against the head of it “You really thought I was going through all of that just to make fun of you?”
“Yeah” he let out, still not looking up “I mean…why are you doing this?” he shook, finally forcing his face to me. He was worn down by everything, his show, his emotions, his feelings about right now…and it all showed in this dark eyes. …and for the first time I was starting to understand why they always looked so angry.
“You ask me that every time we talk.” I breathed, still not knowing what answer he wanted “and I answer it the same every time.”
“No, you side step it every time we talk.” He fought back, with the same quiet voice as before “You tell me what you think I want to hear…just tell me the real answer…even if it’s something I don’t want to hear.” My eyes fell as the gears in my mind began to grind “Is it out of pity like you said when you were driving me home?”
“No” I shook, finally connecting eyes with him for the first time all day “I mean, okay…it started with pity.” I confessed, as the exhaustion in his eyes began to switch to pain “But now…now it’s because you’re the only person besides Blake that’s real, and maybe I need that in my life.”He shook his head not believing my words…no…not having the ability to “I’m serious…you were right when you said the people I hang out with just want to be seen with Teddy Haner…they don’t actually want to get to know me.”
“I was drunk Teddy.” He anxiously fought, as his eye dripped away from mine.
“Drunk words are sober thoughts.” I exhaled, trying to regain eye contact “I don’t know…it doesn’t matter now anyway.”
He took a few steps forward, but stopped himself before he could actually get close “What doesn’t?”
“Trying to become your friend…” I shook “you’ve made it perfectly clear that you’re done with me…”
“No Teddy…”he interrupted.
“It’s okay.” I cut off “I understand…hell I deserve it. I pretended you weren’t getting bullied for years just so I could keep my idea that everything at Hudson was okay.” I shrugged as our eyes finally connected again “You have every right to hate me.”
“I don’t hate you…” he breathed, nervously beginning to curl his hand up “and I’m not done with you…I just…it takes a lot of time for me to trust people.” He confessed as he pushed himself to the brink…it was taking everything for him to open up, and it showed “I was wrong last night for getting mad at you…I just hope that you’ll still give me a chance.” I stood there breathless as his words hit me “I’m gonna go…I’ll…”
“Ryder” I called out, flicking the spare lacrosse stick lying on the ground next to me towards him “You came all this way, hang around a while.”
“I don’t know…” he tensely mumbled staring at the stick in front of him “I’m not very athletic.”
“Neither am I” I smiled, grabbing my stick from under me, and purposely shooting a ball wide “I don’t even know how I make the team most of the time…besides the way you danced around that stage last night…you’re athletic.”
“Music isn’t the same thing as sports” he groaned, finally picking up the stick and wandering over.
“No, but performing is…the way you were dancing up on stage, finding the rhythm…it’s exactly what we do on the field.” I explained, flicking another ball up onto my stick “That’s why football players try to take ballet.”
Ryder turned his head and shot me a skeptical look “that’s a myth.”
“It’s true!” I laughed “Have you ever watched a football game?” he kept silent but I knew the answer was no “They have to dance around people all the time…do you watch any sport?”
“No” he shook, not even taking time to think about it “I just never got the point…why beat the shit out of one another? Like why….never mind.” He cut off, embarrassed it would be a stupid thing to say.
“No go ahead.” I smiled waiting for him to finish.
“Why be so violent at someone you never met?” he finished, surprised by my support “like I get called angry and aggressive because of my music…but you guys knock the hell out of one another.”
“Same reason you throw yourself around on stage, and make people jump.” I quickly answered, understanding where he was coming from “It just…it frees you of all that anger and tightness inside…it’s like your stressed all week, but the second you hit the field…things just change.”
“Like on the stage…” he accidently let out.
I couldn’t help but lightly laugh as a blush formed on his face at his words “Exactly like on the stage.” I confirmed “Now first rule of lacrosse…” I began realizing he was getting too relaxed “always keep your center” I teased, leaning over and shoving him enough so that he would stumble, but not enough that he would fall.
“No fair!” he yelped, finally smiling “I wasn’t ready!”
“2nd rule of lacrosse, always be ready!” I teased, following it up with another shove as we both began to giggle.
Before I knew it our small laughter got louder and louder. We were actually having fun together…actually enjoying each other’s company. I tried my best to teach him the basics of lacrosse…but let’s just say I don’t think I’ll be seeing him on the field anytime soon. Yet it was nice to see him trying, to see him in the game instead of on the sidelines.
I couldn’t help but smile as we both fell into lawn chairs, exhausted from running around all afternoon “Now that wasn’t so bad was it?” I teased, as eye contact slowly became easier and easier to make with him.
“I still think it’s a dumb sport” he joked, lightly kicking me with his foot.
“Oh really?” I giggled, ready to pounce on him again, but before I could my dad slide open the screen door and took a look at the two of us.
“Heya Ryder, are you staying for dinner tonight?” My Dad poked, relieved to see me acting like…me! “We have more than enough food.” He quickly let out, making sure Ryder knew he wasn’t imposing.
“I don’t know” Ryder shrugged as his nerves returned to him “I don’t think so…I uhm, share a car with my grandma, and if she needs it and all that…”
“Then she can call you and tell you to come home.” I laughed, turning towards my dad “He’s staying, he’s just too shy to say yes.”
“Teddy!” Ryder let out with a blush.
“Great” my Dad nodded “why don’t you both start go get cleaned up then?”
Ryder shot me a weird look as my dad headed back upstairs “Sorry, I know you don’t like to be pushed…I just…figured you wanted to stay.”
He swayed his head from side to side “Sometimes it’s good to be pushed” he confessed “but watch yourself.”
“Or what? You going to beat me in lacrosse?” I teased, quickly heading into the house before he could respond.
As we washed up and headed upstairs I saw my mom shoot Ryder a weird look. I could tell she knew him from somewhere, but couldn’t put it together. “Mom this is…” I began
“Ryder!” my Dad exclaimed, carrying food to the table “I know that because I do remember names other than Liz, Blake and Mike!” He childishly bragged.
“Yes Harrison, we’re all so proud that at 35 you can still remember names.” My Mom dismissed, with the wave of her hand “I am so glad to have had a child with you.”
“You bet you are” he proudly held his head high, not letting my mother’s words get to him.
“35?” Ryder quietly repeated to himself, doing the math in his head.
“They had me when they were 18.” I explained, looking at them. My parents were never afraid to talk about having me young. I mean it’s not like they could hide it even if they wanted to…they both barely looked 30 let alone 35!
“He was our happy surprise!” My dad laughed, handing out dinner around the table.
My mom shot him an annoyed look, always hating when he used that line “He was not a surprise! We were just eager to have kids.”
“So eager you had me before you got married?” I giggled, inciting trouble. It honestly doesn’t bother me that I was an accident…it is what it is!
“See what you start Harrison!” she groaned, with a quick shake of her head.
“What? It’s a good lesson!” he insisted, sticking to his guns “To be safe.”
“Gee thanks dad!” I giggled, knowing how he meant it. Ryder was a bit surprised by the conversation, but did his best to take it in stride.
“Why? You worried Teddy’s going to knock up a girl?” my mom argued, she was acting annoyed but the smile on her face said otherwise.
“No, but there are other young men at the table.” My dad maintained with pride “We teach good lessons in this house.”
“Harrison!” My mom embarrassingly let out remembering that we had a guest with us “Ryder, I’m sorry, I swear we’re not usually this crazy.”
“It’s okay” he forced a smiled “Its ugh…I’m uhm…I’m in the same boat as Teddy.”
My mom looked to my dad, not sure if he meant what they thought he did. I looked to Ryder and he lightly nodded his head “He’s gay too” I clarified.
“So you’re a young Rob Halford then?” My dad smiled, looking back to Ryder.
Now it was my turn to look at my mom confused “I have no idea” she shrugged.
“He’s the singer of Judas Priests, and he’s gay” Ryder spoke up “I…I can’t sing like him at all…my voice can’t reach some of those notes….I’m not even that good.”
“He’s lying.” I smiled, giving him one last big push for the night “Maybe he can’t get his voice that high, but combine his voice with Kurt Cobain and like the singer from Motley Crue…” I smiled, knowing exactly how to compliment him “That’s what he sounds like.”
“Vince Neil gets his voice pretty high sometimes.” My dad thought over “I bet if you worked at it with a coach you could get it there.”
“I don’t know.” Ryder nervously laughed “Maybe.”
“I could probably tell…but I’d have to hear you sing…” My Dad baited, seeing if Ryder would sing for him. A second or two of silence passed before I saw my dad switch gears “Perhaps with a band, at a bar…” he continued “that used to be a barn.”
“You can come Friday.” Ryder accepted with a nod “Just…uhm…help Teddy to not stick out so bad.” He shot, turning towards me.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I laughed, staring back at him.
“You wore pink.” My dad supported, adding more pressure “This isn’t the 80s, you don’t wear pink to rock concerts.”
“Well why not?” I shrugged “It’s summer after all, besides it was so dark no one could tell.”
My Dad shook his head and turned towards my mom “You just had to show him pop music.”
“Don’t put this on me.” She laughed “What was I supposed to do? Let you and your brother strap him down and blast music into his ears all day?”
“It worked until he was 11!” My dad teased in a yelp “We came so close!”
“Told you I grew up listening to rock” I smiled turning towards Ryder “Anything from The Beatles to Blink-182”
“He used to love it too” My dad shook “I don’t know where we went wrong.” I rolled my eyes as he continued his crazy mood “So Ryder, what band do you want to be like?”
He lightly shrugged his shoulders, too embarrassed to answer “Motley…”I went to respond for him but before I could finish he turned and shrugged once again.
“Avenged Sevenfold” he answered. I shot him a confused look trying to understand what he just said “I like the Crue’s attitude and music, but musically if I had to be like anyone it’d be Avenged Sevenfold.”
“Really?” my dad remarked surprised by his answer
“Are they from the 80s?” I poked, having never heard the name before.
Ryder sighed and shook his head once more “They’ve been around since like 2000, and yeah…they…uhm…they combined old rock, old metal and like new metal elements all together.” His face turned a light shade of red as he once more spoke about his interests.
“I always thought of them as wanna bes to be honest.” My dad criticized, not holding anything back.
“Dad!” I yelped, worried he might unintentionally offend Ryder.
“it’s cool” Ryder laughed “I get that a lot…just listen to their new stuff, trust me…it’s a long way from when they used to wear make up.”
“Do you wear make up on stage?” I teased, trying to push his buttons.
“Theodore, should you really be talking?” My Mom provoked, keeping me honest.
“You’ve worn makeup?” Ryder gasped, jumping on it while he had the chance.
My Mom slowly began to nod her head as I couldn’t help but blush “School picture day.” She explained, helping him to gain the upper hand. He shot me a look but refused to make fun of me for it. The rest of dinner went by well as he slowly got more comfortable being around my parents. Every now and then he would blush, or keep to himself, but for the most part he did a good job…another day spent with Ryder where I still don’t understand why he’s considered the freak of the school.
When dinner finally wrapped up I led him out of the house, and walked him to his car. Just like mine it was old and worn. “So are you going to actually start hanging out with us now?” I teased, as he climbed into the drivers seat.
He shook his head no as he rolled down the window “Today was enough for the week.”
“You really don’t like to be around people, huh?” I poked, still trying to get a better understanding of him.
“Depends on who” he shrugged “but not really…I like being in my own space, with my own thoughts.”
“Well if you ever get sick of yourself you can always come over.” I smiled, extending the invite “And my summer lacrosse season starts next week. Blake gets bored at the games if you want to keep him company.”
“Sports aren’t really my thing.” He exhaled, but I got the feeling he was really thinking about it “By the way…I do wear make up on stage…just enough to make me seem dirty.” He confessed, before throwing the car into drive, and beginning to roll away. The further he got the louder he seemed to turn the music up, until the song could be heard from all the way down the street.
As I walked into the house, I couldn’t help but notice my dads mischievous grin “I like that one.” He decided.
“Dad…” I groaned, knowing what was coming next.
“Come on Teddy! For me?” he jokingly begged “He likes good music! Just 1 date! I don’t even mind that he dyed part of his hair!”
“He’s kind of cute too.” My mom remarked, trying her hardest to pay attention to the TV instead of the two of us.
“He is” I confessed with a nod.
“See!” my Dad yelped in a laugh “And unlike Blake he’s actually gay! So it’s not weird for me to tell you to date him!”
“I don’t think so” I shot down with a smile “At the end of the day we just wouldn’t be on the same page.”
My Dad nodded like he understood, but I could tell part of him was still holding onto hope “He get’s bullied pretty hard huh?”
“Why do you say that?” I shrugged, taking a seat on the couch.
“The way he blushed whenever talking about something he liked, or refused to explain his thoughts…that’s something that only happens after people make you feel bad for talking.” My Dad explained, thinking about the scrawny kid that had just hung out “I take it he’s who you were thinking about last week when you were bummed about bullying in Hudson?”
“Yeah” I sighed, lightly shaking my head “I don’t get it…he’s not weird, or annoying…why does he always get picked on?”
“I don’t know” My mom weighed in, finally taking interest in the conversation “Kids are cruel like that…but I’m proud of you for being there for him…even though you don’t like him in a romantic way, I still think it’s the start of something beautiful.”
“I hope so” I confessed in a deep breath “He’s going to be someone someday…I can just tell.”