Dinner was a quiet event... at least for me it was. My mother was talking non-stop about possible job prospects, but I wasn’t paying attention. I was hardly even eating, my stomach felt too upset for that. I was still thinking about Brad. It was hard not to, with the soap still irritating my eyes. I’d showered, but I still felt disgusting. I’m sure that had to do with more than having dirty water thrown on me, though.
Bree was quiet, too. As far as I knew, she hadn’t taken a look at my journal yet, and to be honest, the suspense was killing me. I was beginning to have second thoughts about giving it to her. I mean, it wasn’t like I’d even thought about it first. It just happened. I was feeling so stressed out that I’d just handed it over. I was such an idiot. I didn’t even have enough guts to tell her that I’d changed my mind. It really didn’t help when she disappeared into her room after we ate. I knew what she was doing in there, and that made me nervous. I tried to distract myself from the fact that the book I’d kept protected all these years was in someone else’s hands by helping my mom with the dishes, but by then she was talking about inviting the entire Clair family over for dinner. I’m sure Brad would just love that idea. It was too hard to think about him, too, and not the distraction from Bree and my journal that I was looking for, so I excused myself to my room right after the kitchen was clean.
I’d hardly walked through my door before the phone rang, and before I made it up the stairs my mother’s voice was calling to say that it was for me. Considering the fact that Brad wouldn’t likely be calling me anytime soon, there was only one other person who would have called that came to mind, and it had me slapping my forehead as I turned to rush back downstairs to get the phone from my mother. She was waiting expectantly for me in the living room, and I had the phone out of her hands before she even finished speaking. "Quinn, it’s Ju... hey, slow down!"`
"I’m sorry." I immediately said, but it wasn’t to my mother, it was into the phone.
"It’s almost eight o’clock." Jude’s voice responded, sounding mildly irritated. "I went home."
"I’m sorry." I said again, this time my voice dropping somewhat. That small amount of irritation in Jude’s voice, was actually almost enough to throw me over the edge. Brad hated my guts and Bree was upstairs reading my journal. I couldn’t have Jude mad at me now, not even a little bit.
"What are you sorry for?" my mother frowned at me, but I flashed her a look that demanded privacy. In response she smiled and ruffled my hair as she passed me to leave the room.
"I’m really sorry." I told Jude again, as if he still hadn’t gotten the point. There was a short pause this time.
"Something’s wrong." he said, no question at all in his voice.
"Yeah." I admitted.
"Can you talk?" he asked carefully, just as I looked up to see my mother passing the room again. She wasn’t eavesdropping, she was just making her way back into the kitchen, but having Jude on the phone suddenly had me wanting to go after her.
"Can you go back to the park?" I asked.
"You can get out?" he sounded surprised.
"I’ll get out." I stated. I needed to get out. Staying in my house was just going to drive me crazy. I didn’t care what I’d have to do. I’d planned to see Jude and now I felt like it was mandatory.
"Okay... I’ll be back there in fifteen minutes."
I hung up the phone, and after taking a few deep breaths I forced myself to track down my mother in the kitchen. I was feeling nervous. Maybe she’d agreed to let me go out, but we hadn’t exactly decided on when it would be, and since it was already getting dark, I had no idea if I’d be in for an argument.
"Why were you apologizing to Jude?" she immediately asked. "I hope you’re not fighting with your friends again. You and Brad are still getting along, right? When I brought you up last night he got quiet."
"We’re fine mom... look, you know how you said I could go do something with Jude this weekend?" I needed the focus off of me and Brad. I couldn’t even go there right now.
"Yes, I remember." she replied, glancing over her shoulder at me as she opened the refrigerator and removed the carton of milk.
"Well, I sort of mentioned it to Jude, and we planned to meet at the park earlier today... I was going to ask you first. Anyway, I forgot and sort of stood him up."
"That doesn’t sound very responsible, Quinn."
"Mom." I groaned.
"Okay, okay." she laughed, glancing at her watch. "It’s almost eight thirty now. You can go, but I want you back by ten."
"That wouldn’t even be enough time to go see a movie." I protested.
"Is that what you’re going to do?"
"Well... we haven’t exactly worked that part out, but still..."
"Okay, and what time would you think is fair?"
"Did I mention my grades are up?"
"What time, Quinn?"
"Alright." I sighed. "Since it’s not a school night.... twelve?"
"Try eleven." she stated.
"Eleven thirty." I frowned. I wasn’t used to negotiating my curfew. I’d never really had one before.
"Eleven thirty, and I want to know where you plan to be."
"Probably just the park for a while."
"You’re going to be there for three hours? You do realize it’s freezing outside."
"I don’t know, mom... we’ll probably go somewhere else too. I have to talk to Jude about it."
"Okay," she said, not looking very happy. "You’re phone is in my purse. Take that and call me when you leave the park. I want to know where you’re going to be, Quinn, and if you’re back even a minute past eleven thirty..."
"Thanks mom." I smiled, momentarily stepping forward to kiss her cheek before I got out of there. I didn’t want to stick around and listen to more rules and what would happen if I didn’t follow them.
I only took a few minutes upstairs to change, hoping that it would somehow refresh me from my mood. When I passed my sister’s room, I thought about knocking but thought better of it. She’d made it more than clear that she didn’t like the idea of me with Jude, and I didn’t want any trouble from her. Besides, I had no idea what she might be reading. I guess I wanted to escape that situation, too. I also just wanted to get to the park. There was no way I wanted to stand Jude up twice in one day.
I had to pass Brad’s house to get to the park. I couldn’t even look at it, the unease swelling in my gut just from being in the proximity prevented it. What had happened with Brad was definitely eating at me. I was no less confused over what had happened than I’d been a few hours ago. The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. I’d just wanted to talk to him... how did it go so wrong?
It didn’t take me long to get to the park, but it was just about dark as I reached it, and cold, too. I sat down on a swing, staring at the ground as I replayed this afternoon in my head. It probably had been a mistake to try to talk to Brad. I mean, just because Bree was speaking to me didn’t mean that he would, too. It had been an idiotic assumption, one I regretted now. I couldn’t get it out of my head. Part of me wanted to try again, but the rest of me was too afraid to. I think it was because I didn’t fully understand why Brad was so angry with me. But, I had a sinking feeling that it had to do with more than me not being honest with him. Maybe I’d been right all along. Maybe he really couldn’t handle the fact that I was gay. That was the general impression that he’d made earlier, at least.
I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath, allowing the cool air to rush through my nostrils in hope that it would clear my head, but when I caught the scent of smoke with it I opened my eyes, and had to look twice when I saw a figure to my right, occupying the swing next to me. Jude was regarding me curiously as he took another drag of his cigarette. I hadn’t even heard him approach me, so I was definitely startled by his sudden appearance; startled enough to jump. Other than smiling at my reaction, Jude simply continued to stare at me.
"How long have you been here?" I demanded.
"I just sat down." he assured me, and the fact was relieving. I knew I was out of it, and the fact didn’t really set well with me. "When did you get here?"
"I don’t know." I shrugged. "I have to be home by eleven-thirty."
"Well, then what are we waiting for?" he said, but without moving. "Three hours is hardly enough time to have my way with you and get you home on time." He laughed at the incredulous look I flashed him. "Remind me not to tease you when you’re in a bad mood." he shook his head. "So are you going to tell me what happened?"
I looked at Jude. He seemed so casual. I guess he really had no idea what I’d been through since I talked to him last. He probably expected it to be something, though. It was always something with me. I hated that. I hated that the purpose of spending some time alone with him was to rid ourselves of the drama that was my life, and there I was... bringing him more of it. I think it scared me... wondering how long he’d put up with it before he got sick of me. I mean, it was bound to happen. If I were him... I’m not so sure that I’d be sitting there with me.
"No." I said flatly, and he responded with an inquisitive expression as he pushed his bangs back from his eyes and took another drag off his cigarette. "I don’t want to talk about it." I explained, but then, that wasn’t necessarily true. "I mean, I do, but... can we just... not? And can you put that out?" I added, eying the cigarette.
"Okay." he said, flashing a small smile.
"Okay- to both." he explained, dropping the smoke and stomping it out with his foot as he stood from the swing and looked down at me expectantly. "Can we get out of here? I’m sort of starving. Are you hungry?"
I started to tell him that I just ate, but somehow the idea of explaining to him that while he was out here waiting for me, I was eating with my family, just didn’t seem like a good idea.
"I could eat."
"Liar." he narrowed his eyes on me. "You already did, didn’t you?"
"How do you do that?" I frowned. He just smiled and turned towards his car, leaving me to follow.
"Are you sure you don’t want to talk about whatever’s bothering you?" he called over his shoulder. "I mean, nothing happened with your sister, did it?"
I thought about telling him that Bree and I would probably be fine, but I really didn’t want to get into it. If I started thinking about my sister, I’d start thinking about my journal, too. If anything could ruin whatever time I had with Jude, it would be worrying about that. But on the other hand, I felt he deserved to know, at least about Bree. He’d been worrying over that situation, and I didn’t exactly want to leave him hanging.
"Actually... things are okay with Bree-I think. We talked today."
"Really?" he smiled. "What happened?"
"Can we get something to eat first and talk about it later?" I asked, and Jude actually looked disappointed, but shrugged and nodded, anyway.
"I guess... where do you want to go?"
"It’s up to you." I replied, smiling sheepishly. "I already ate, remember?"
"Right." he rolled his eyes as we moved to opposite sides of his car and got in. "Alright... then I know where we’re going. You can push the cart."
"We’re going grocery shopping." he explained. "I’ve been putting it off for too long and I feel like a home cooked meal tonight."
"Oh." I actually smiled at that. For some reason the idea of walking around with Jude, performing a completely normal task, didn’t seem bad to me. At least now I’d have something to tell my mom, not that she’d believe that I was going grocery shopping.
"Who are you calling?" Jude asked, regarding me curiously as I lifted my cell phone.
"The only way my mom would let me out is if I agreed to call and tell her where I’d be." I explained.
"Then you might as well just tell her that we’re going to my place." Jude replied as he started to drive. "That’s where we’re going to end up."
"I can’ tell her that." I said, my eyes suddenly widening on him. "She’s already been on my case about meeting your parents. If I tell her I’m going to your place she’s going to want to talk to them... I don’t know what to tell her, Jude. She’s going to want to meet your parents and if she doesn’t then it’s not exactly going to be easy for me to..."
"See me?" he frowned. "Can’t you just make something up?"
"For how long? I know my mom, she’s going to keep asking..."
"Well I don’t have any parents for her to meet." Jude cut me off, somewhat testily, and then let out a breath. "Look, Quinn... I’m not used to dealing with parents who care, okay? I don’t know what to tell you."
"It’s not about what to tell me. It’s about what to tell my mom."
"I don’t know... maybe I can get Murphy to talk to her over the phone. I don’t know if he’ll do it, though... I mean, he looks out for me, but I’ve never asked him to lie for me before."
I leaned back in my seat and looked over at Jude. It was obvious that he didn’t like the idea of getting Murphy involved, and honestly, neither did I. I didn’t think for a second that he’d want to do anything to help me, anyway. But, if there was a chance that he would, I didn’t exactly want to ride the idea off. Anything would be better than having to distance myself from Jude, even if it would prevent my mom from learning the truth.
"We’ll figure something out, okay?" Jude said, glancing over at me when the silence went on for too long, and then he smiled. "I mean, now that you actually want to hang out with me, I’m not going to let something like parents ruin it... tell your mom that we’re... going to the mall or something for now. It closes at what? Nine? We can figure something else out by then."
I sighed and lifted my phone to dial the number, but as the other line started to ring an idea occurred to me. Maybe I wasn’t as sneaky as my sister, but it wasn’t beyond me to learn a few things from her.
"Mom? Hey, I’m with Jude." I said. "He hasn’t eaten yet so we’re going to the mall for a while so he can grab something."
"Alright." she said, sounding pleased that I’d called. "Any other plans?"
I hesitated for a moment, glancing over at Jude, who was watching the road, but definitely paying attention to my conversation.
"Jude wants to go see a movie." I said. "It’s the late show, though. I told him I had to be home by eleven thirty, so if we go, we’ll just leave early."
I waited for a moment, wondering if my mom heard the disappointment that I tried to place in my voice.
"What time does it get out, Quinn?" she sighed.
"Twelve, but I don’t have to stay." I said, and Jude looked over at me, smiling. He knew what I was up to.
"Okay... it takes exactly fifteen minutes to get from here to the theater, Quinn. I’ll be expecting you to walk through the door no later than twelve fifteen."
"Really?" I couldn’t quite believe that I’d gotten away with that. I was too busy feeling proud of myself to feel guilty.
"Ice cream?" Jude asked as he held up a carton and turned towards me. "There’s always room for ice cream."
"Sure." I shrugged, giving him a small smile. For the last twenty five minutes, I’d watched him perform a task as simple as his grocery shopping, and I’d enjoyed every single moment. We’d been through the entire store, and in some ways it reminded me of Bree, she was always the one who did the actual shopping while I followed her around with a cart, making faces at her selections.
I wasn’t making many faces with Jude, though. I was too busy watching him. Within the first five minutes of being there he’d taken off his jacket and handed it to me to carry. I’d draped it over the cart, but hadn’t taken my hands off of it yet. Something about touching something of his, while I was watching him... was nice. Sure, maybe it was a little perverted as far as I was concerned, but, it wasn’t like I could hold his hand in the middle of the store. Watching him was okay, though. Sometimes I felt like every time I saw him I was reminded of how attractive he was. I think it was because he looked different every time I saw him. Tonight he was wearing a blue shirt that brought out his eyes, which I could actually see because his bangs were pushed away from his face, and it seemed that I’d become fascinated with the way that his body stretched out each time he reached for something on a high shelf, and the way that his pants were low enough on his waist for me to catch glimpses of the smooth skin just below his belly button. I’d caught myself staring several times, remembering the way my hand had found it’s way over that exact area just before I’d felt that warm, hard appendage in his pants for the first time. But, seeing bare skin almost made me feel deprived, remembering the way that we’d been on his sofa, his skin against mine... now that I was alone with him and beginning to relax, I was starting to wonder if I was ready for more of that.
"Are you okay?" Jude asked, as he returned to the cart. He’d caught me staring this time, and I silently cursed as a blush crept into my cheeks. It didn’t escape his attention, either, if his teasing laughter was any indication.
"Shut up." I muttered, taking the carton of ice cream from him and dropping it in the cart with everything else, and everything else was a lot. Jude had a whole cart full of food, and if this was how he shopped on a regular basis, I wondered why he wasn’t completely obese by now.
"Ready to get out of here?" he asked.
"Good, I’m done... um, look, I sort of need to make a stop before we go to my place. Going there’s still okay with you, right?"
"Yeah... where did you need to go first?" I asked.
"I need to stop by Trina’s." he explained as he led the way to the check out. "Half of this stuff is for her. It won’t take very long, I’ll just drop a few bags off and we’ll go."
"You do Trina’s grocery shopping?"
"Every once in a while." he shrugged. "My aunt usually leaves her enough money to cover rent and stuff when she’s off with a new boyfriend but sometimes she forgets. Me and Taylor take turns bringing Trina groceries... I think it’s my week. I don’t know. I’ve been kind of spacey lately." he flashed me a pointed look after that comment, along with a meaningful smile and despite my curiosity over what I was learning from him, I couldn’t help taking a moment to think about what he was implying. For some reason the idea of Jude thinking about me enough to make him spacey seemed like a compliment.
"Taylor does that?" I asked, feeling a little surprised. Although, I’m not sure why the idea of him helping out a friend surprised me at all. Earlier today during my conversation with him I’d gotten the impression that he did care about his friends.
"Trina’s his best friend." Jude shrugged.
I stepped forward to help him move the groceries from the cart to the counter as the older woman behind the check out began to scan them.
"So what’s Taylor’s story?" I found myself asking.
"What do you mean?" Jude asked, a curious smile curling the corner of his lips.
"I... saw him today." I explained. "I think I pissed him off."
"Not a surprise." Jude smirked. "You know, you’re the only one who has the ability to do that with Taylor. Usually he likes everyone."
"Hey," I said defensively, "I’ve never done anything to him! He’s the one..."
"I know." Jude shrugged. "And you shouldn’t take it personally. The only reason you get on his nerves is because he likes you."
"How does that make any sense..."
"Quinn," Jude interrupted, turning to face me directly, "he likes you."
My eyes widened slightly at that, not only because I was skeptical of this information, but also because I didn’t want anyone to hear about any guy liking me. It was the latter that had me suddenly walking away from Jude and exiting the grocery store without another word. I swore that the lady checking us out was looking at me funny, too, which is why I didn’t even feel guilty about it until Jude caught up to me a few minutes later, pushing the cart.
"Sorry." I mumbled.
"I shouldn’t have said that in there." Jude replied in a neutral tone, before he made his way to the car and I followed, only hesitating for a moment before I helped him unload the groceries. "I didn’t know he was into you until after that first night we met." Jude explained once we were in the car. "I guess he’s had a thing for you for a while."
"Oh." was all I could say. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that information.
"I talked to him about it."
"Yeah... I liked you too." Jude smiled. "Right after you showed up that night complaining that he kissed you. That bothered the crap out of me, but to tell you the truth, if Taylor would have said he had a problem with you and me, you probably never would have heard from me again... not that there was a you and me then."
"What about now?" I asked, and then mentally shook myself for asking the question. I wasn’t sure that I was ready for the answer. "Wait, I’m sorry. Let’s not get into that yet, okay?"
"Okay." he agreed, but he was smiling at me in an entirely different way now.
"So, the only reason Taylor has a problem with me is because..." I couldn’t even say it. It was too weird.
"I wouldn’t say that he has a problem with you. You just get under his skin more than most, is all. But, he gets under your skin, too, huh?"
"He irritates the hell out of me." I blurted, and Jude laughed at that. "I’m serious. It’s like one second he’s doing his best to make me crazy and the next... he’s like a normal person."
"That’s just Taylor. Don’t let him get to you. He really is a good guy. I mean, if I could only pick one friend, he’d probably be it."
I thought about that for a moment, and I guess I could see where Jude was coming from. The day Taylor and Trina sort of ambushed me after my visit with Johns came to mind... and the way that Taylor had went to see Mr. Meyers for me. In the last month, that had been one of the best things that had ever happened to me, and I really was grateful for it.
"I guess." I sighed. "I just don’t know how to react to him sometimes. Today we were sort of talking about families and he mentioned living with his sister. I don’t even know what I said that pissed him off..."
"Taylor’s in a unique situation." Jude frowned. "He’s had a pretty rough time. He actually came from a pretty good family, and he gets a little bitter about a few things. He has reason to, though."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"His parents died a few years back. It was before we even met him. His family owned this restaurant and there was a fire." I felt my stomach knot up as I imagined what had happened. "They both got trapped in it. Taylor took the whole thing pretty hard, and to top it all off, his sister was away at school so he got stuck in foster care for a while. I guess something happened there, and that’s when he tried to kill himself. I’m not really sure what it was, he doesn’t like to talk about it. Anyways, after that happened his sister came back. She’s actually pretty cool, but she’s having a hard time keeping a roof over their heads and working her way through school."
"Didn’t their parents leave anything?" I frowned.
"Sure they did." Jude replied. "But it wasn’t exactly enough. Only their dad had life insurance... I don’t really know all the details, Quinn."
"Anyway, Taylor gets kind of touchy when it comes to his family. He hardly ever even talks to us about that stuff... I think he likes the fact that we don’t push him. You know the only reason why we know him is because Trina was outed at school? He tracked her down."
"God," I sighed. "I’m starting to feel like everyone has a more fucked up life than I do."
"Yeah, so stop whining." Jude remarked, and I glared at him until I realized he was teasing me. "Look, let me drop some of this stuff of at Trina’s and then we can get going. Maybe you’ll even be hungry again by then and I can cook you dinner... and you can tell me what’s going on with your sister."
"Damn it, Trina! Open the goddamn door!" I flinched as Jude began to pound on the bathroom door with his fist, and then kicked it. I wasn’t used to him getting so loud, or sounding so angry. "Trina!"
We’d arrived at Trina Ashpock’s house ten minutes before, and when Jude had asked me to help take in the groceries, I wasn’t about to say no. I’d been a little surprised during his sorting, when he’d only kept two bags for himself. I was also surprised to find that Trina was actually home alone for once. There was no party, not that the house was in it’s usual bad shape... and Trina was in worse shape.
It had been apparent when we walked through the front door that something was wrong. It smelled like puke for one thing, but that probably had something to do with the puddle of it behind the sofa. It was what we found in the kitchen that led us to concern. There was food out, along with a cutting knife. The blood on the counter definitely wasn’t a good sign. We followed a trail to the bathroom where we could hear Trina heaving on the other side, but she either couldn’t, or wouldn’t let us in.
"Trina!" Jude called again, while I stood there, having no idea what to do until he looked back at me. "There might be a key in the kitchen drawer." it was all he needed to say before I was back in the kitchen, searching through every drawer available.
This was not how I’d envisioned tonight. But, I had to admit that I was glad we’d dropped by. For all I knew, Trina could have been bleeding to death in the bathroom, and the entire situation had me on the edge of a panic attack.
Trina had obviously been drinking, and Taylor’s concern for that earlier in the day, now seemed warranted. I think the thing that surprised me the most, was that I actually cared. I cared about Trina. Not long ago, I couldn’t even stand her, but now I was scared out of my mind that she was in trouble and there wasn’t anything I could do about it unless I found that key... and I was worried about Jude. If I’d ever seen anyone look terrified it was him as he pounded on that door. He sounded terrified as he continued to call out to his cousin for the next five, agonizing minutes until he quieted down and I heard him silently pleading with her through the door.
I had just started to recheck the drawers, wondering if I’d missed something in my rush when an unexpected face waltzed into the kitchen carrying a couple grocery bags. Taylor frowned when he saw the ones that we’d brought in.
"It was my week Jude." he called, shaking his head, but when he heard Jude bang on the door and call for Trina again his entire mannerism changed as he dropped the bags right there on the floor and literally shoved me out of his way.
"Move it, Moore," Taylor ordered as he reached into the drawer behind me and lifted out a key, likely the one that I’d been looking for.
I followed him when he headed back down the hall, and watched as Jude immediately stood aside so Taylor could unlock the door. As soon as it was opened, they were both in the room, Taylor taking hold of Trina to keep her from falling face first into the toilet and Jude grabbing her hand to inspect the cut on her finger, which really didn’t look anywhere as bad as she did.
I stood there for a few moments, the entire situation looking surreal as together, Jude and Taylor began to clean her up. I couldn’t help wondering if I’d looked anywhere as bad as Trina the night that I’d gotten drunk. I hoped not, but I could sympathize with her. I’d never been so sick in my entire life, and I imagined that she felt that way now. Then again, Trina probably had more experience with this type of thing than I did, and that made me think about how I wasn’t used to this kind of thing at all. Not knowing what to do was a good indication. I felt pretty damned useless standing in the doorway watching. But, there was nothing I really could do. The bathroom was already crowded, and between Taylor and Jude, they seemed to have it covered. So, I did the only thing that I could think of.
Cleaning up after Trina was no simple task. Her cleaning supplies seemed limited, but I did my best when it came to getting the vomit out of the carpet, and I was able to clean up the blood in the kitchen. I also took it upon myself to put away all of the groceries, and that included ridding the refrigerator of the old ones. I even brought in Jude’s groceries from the car so they wouldn’t spoil. At least cleaning was familiar to me, and there was plenty to clean at Trina’s house. I decided to focus mostly on the kitchen, though, and when I felt that it was sanitary enough, I took it upon myself to cook something, remembering that Jude was hungry. It was pretty simple, a couple packages of instant noodles and sauce with a can of tuna mixed in. By the time I was finished with that, it was already ten thirty and unfortunately, Taylor smelled the food first.
"Aww, you shouldn’t have." he remarked as he stepped into the kitchen, but when he saw my concoction he turned up his nose and added, "really, you shouldn’t have." Of course, that didn’t stop him from grabbing a plate and helping himself.
"Is Trina alright?" I asked, as I watched him take a seat at the table. He rolled his eyes at my question.
"She’d be better if Jude would stop lecturing her. She needs to pass out. We can lecture her in the morning."
"Are you staying here tonight, Taylor?"
I turned and watched as Jude entered the kitchen looking every bit as pissed off as when he’d been pounding on the bathroom door.
"I’ll be here." Taylor replied.
Jude didn’t respond. He was too busy grabbing a fork and eating the food directly out of the pan. I guess he had been starving. Something about that made me feel guilty. As I watched his back, wondering if there was something I could have done that would have helped him eat faster he suddenly turned and looked at me.
"Shit. I’m sorry, Quinn."
"Will you two just get the hell out of here?" Taylor frowned, and then pointed at Jude. "And leave the food. Your little chef can cook you something at your own place."
Jude flashed me an apologetic look, probably thinking that I was taking offense to Taylor... but I wasn’t. I guess after hearing about his parents, and watching him take care of Trina, I just couldn’t see him as an asshole. I’m sure it would pass, though. Instead of saying anything, I removed Jude’s two bags of groceries from the refrigerator and faced him again as he took in a few more bites.
"Call me if you need me, Taylor." Jude stated.
"Great." Taylor remarked. "Can Quinn come, too? I’m sure the three of us will have bundles of fun together."
Jude flashed him a more serious look and Taylor’s smile faded as he silently nodded.
"She’ll be all right, Jude. I’ll take care of her."
Jude put the pan back down and as he crossed the room I was taken completely off guard as he stopped to kiss Taylor’s forehead. The entire gesture made me pause, having no idea what to think of it. But, I was very aware of the twang of jealousy that followed, mixed with a sense of confusion because I’d actually found the action... kind of sweet. I didn’t like it, as innocent as it was, and it made me wonder if Jude and Taylor were closer than I thought they were, but it was... sweet. It also made me think of Brad. We’d been that close, once. We’d never demonstrated it in a physical way... but we’d been close. I felt a sense of loss then, as I wondered if we’d ever be close again.
"I don’t know why she does that to herself." Jude said, sounding annoyed. We were climbing the stairs to his apartment and he’d been complaining about Trina the whole way there. For my part, I just listened. Obviously, drinking was something that she did on a regular basis, but according to Jude it was getting worse lately. "She needs to clean herself up, it’s not like I have time to babysit her every day."
Jude unlocked his door and I followed him in with the groceries, shutting the door behind us. It wasn’t until I followed him to the refrigerator and he turned to take the groceries from me that he actually looked at me. He seemed to pause for a moment before releasing a breath, the frustrated knot in his brow fading away as he flashed me an apologetic look.
"This isn’t how I wanted tonight to be."
"Yeah, me neither." I admitted as I placed the bags on the counter. "But I’m just glad it wasn’t my problems that messed it up."
Jude smiled at that, and I suddenly found myself holding my breath as his eyes dropped from mine to my mouth and he took a step forward. I think all night I’d been wondering if he was going to kiss me, or if he’d even have the chance, with everything else going on. I think all night, I’d been hoping that he would. But, even as it happened, as he neared me until his chest came lightly up against mine and he only had to tilt his head back for our lips to touch, I felt nervous, and as a result I just stood there and closed my eyes while his mouth made a gentle exploration over mine. Actually, I felt a little silly for being so nervous. We’d definitely passed the point of being able to kiss, but I guess I was still getting used to it. The thing is, I’d never have the guts to kiss him, not whenever I felt like it, the way that he did. But, I did respond. As soon as he pressed his body more firmly against mine and slid an arm around my waste I kissed him back, parting my lips just enough for him to get in when I felt his tongue lightly press against them.
I braced my feet as more of his weight gradually came to lean against me and my hands found a comfortable place on his shoulders while I attempted to work up the nerve to further touch him. For now, the kissing simply seemed enough to concentrate on as I slowly began to relax, reciprocating more by allowing my tongue to sweep into his mouth every so often, just enough to taste him. It was when he slid his hand up the front of my shirt, a chill following his fingers over my skin until his thumb came to tease my right nipple into a hardened bead that I felt myself jump and Jude broke the kiss.
"You’re shaking." He pointed out, looking somewhat disappointed, although that didn’t stop his other hand from finding it’s way up my shirt and over my chest.
"I am not." I lied. I really didn’t want to focus on how nervous I felt. I was beginning to accept the fact that this was going to happen every time he touched me, and I’d found the experience more enjoyable when I didn’t dwell on it too much. Of course, it wasn’t easy not to dwell when Jude was glancing up at me expectantly from under his eyelashes, almost as if he was waiting for me to tell him to stop. I didn’t, but I only put up with that look until the moment became too awkward for me to handle, at which point I did the only thing I could to escape it by leaning forward until my nose brushed against his and I placed a small, awkward kiss on his mouth. It was actually more like a peck, pretty pathetic, really. I’d kissed my mother the same way before. Good thing Jude fixed that by leaning forward and kissing me back, more aggressively than he had before. I hardly even had time to open for him before his tongue was urgently thrusting into my mouth and his hands were pushing up my shirt, setting me slightly off balance. I’d already lifted my arms and he’d pulled my shirt over my head before I actually realized that he was removing it. It wasn’t exactly the first time, but it had me pausing again, and this time it was me breaking the kiss and pulling back.
"Jude..." I sounded a little panicked, but that’s only because I was. I was still entirely confused when it came to what I was ready for... not that I wasn’t ready for anything we were already doing. I just didn’t know if I was ready for any more than that. Being with him this time felt different, too, but that could have been because I felt like we’d reached a new step in whatever relationship we had. This encounter had been entirely intentional. Maybe we hadn’t exactly discussed it, but now that we’d reached his apartment it felt like a date to me. I had no idea what to expect, or what he expected. All I knew was that I wanted to slow down before things got moving too fast. At least Jude had no trouble catching on to that, although he refused to let all contact disappear as he reached out and took my hand.
"We’ll stop." he said quickly.
"No. I mean... shit." I let out a breath and pulled my hand from his as I turned and walked away from him, trying to figure out what it was that I was trying to say. For his part, Jude regarded me curiously, just watching as I paced for a moment and sat down across the room, where I forced myself to look up and face him. "This is still, really new to me." I explained. "I don’t know what we’re doing... or what we’re supposed to be doing..."
"Anything we want." Jude smiled as he slowly began to approach me, at which point I realized that the place I’d chosen to sit happened to be his bed. That little fact had me forcing myself not to retreat as he got closer.
"I don’t know what I want." I blurted. "Look, I’ve never done this before, Jude."
"I know." he smiled. "You told me."
"Yeah, well the whole thing freaks me out, okay?" I replied, feeling frustrated all of a sudden. "I mean, I have a hickey and my mom saw it, and it’s like every time you touch me I don’t know if I should like it or feel guilty about it."
Jude stopped about five feet from me and I watched as a frown creased his brow.
"Guilty?" he repeated. "Why would you..."
"Because I’m gay." I said testily. "Sometimes it still feels... wrong. I don’t understand... why I feel more with you than I would, if I was with a girl." his entire expression dropped into a frown and I inwardly groaned. I was definitely not explaining this right. "Shit," I cursed, dropping my face into my hands. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he would have walked away from me just then. It wasn’t like Jude couldn’t have just about anyone else who he wanted, why he put up with a head case like me was a mystery.
"It’s because you are gay." he said quietly as I felt him take a seat next to me on the bed. "There’s nothing wrong with that, Quinn. I’m sorry... I didn’t know you were still so..."
"Fucked up?" I offered, lifting my head to face him.
"I was going to say confused."
I let out a breath and shook my head.
"I don’t think I’m confused." I replied. "I mean, I know I like guys... and I know I like you. I’m just not used to... acting on it. I’m kind of freaked out."
"Look, I’m not interested in anything from you that you don’t want to give me. To be honest... maybe we are going a little fast here. I just thought, you know, you were ready. You haven’t exactly been complaining."
"I know." I said quickly. "I’m not...I just don’t know what you...I don’t know if I’m ready to..."
"Have sex?" he offered. Sometimes I really hated it when he was blunt.
"Yes." I said through gritted teeth. "Fuck, I don’t even know if I’d know how."
Jude laughed at that, but forced himself to stop when I flashed him a look indicating that sadly, I wasn’t joking.
"Stop worrying about it then. I mean, I think it’s a little early to even think about that, anyway... besides, it isn’t like there’s not other stuff we can do... if you want to."
"Like?" I frowned.
"Well," he sighed, leaning back on the bed as he turned on his side and draped an arm over my chest to pull me with him until I was facing the ceiling, "we could just hang out here and talk... or eat ice cream, or do more of this..." he smiled as he lifted himself on one elbow and kissed the corner of my mouth, "with no pressure... let’s just see what happens, okay?"
I felt myself smiling back as I slowly began to relax again. No pressure, was exactly what I wanted, which is why I had no trouble kissing him back, and as he turned until he was over me, lifting his leg until his knee was able to sink between mine, a thought occurred to me. I trusted him. I guess if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been so honest when it came to my feelings only a few moments before. But, I really did trust him, and somehow, that seemed to make it easier to do what I did best whenever Jude kissed me. I stopped thinking and let him.
At some point, a light bulb in Jude’s apartment had gone out, leaving us in the dark, except for the small stove light coming from the kitchen. Maybe that would have bothered me, if my eyes weren’t too busy rolling to the back of my head from the way that his mouth was steadily moving from one of my nipples to the other, or the way that his thigh had come to rest against the erection I’d sprouted at some point.
I gasped as he lifted his head slightly and I felt his teeth graze the sensitive skin on my throat. The idea of having another hickey to explain to my mom wasn’t exactly appealing to me, but I wasn’t about to push him away. Instead, I moved my hand through his hair until it came to gently rest on the back of his neck while my hips seemed to lift from the bed on their own accord, pressing my erection more firmly against his thigh, while the bulge in his pants grazed my stomach.
I felt Jude’s hand slide down my bare side and let my head fall back on the mattress as his fingers came to rest at the top of my jeans before tracing the line around my waste until he came to my zipper. He’d already begun to pull it down before he pulled back and in the dim light I made out the questioning look on his face. The way that I was suddenly gripping the hair on the nape of his neck and pulling him down to kiss me seemed to prevent me from answering his silent question, and so did the way that I was suddenly moving my hand between our bodies in an effort to get my pants open faster.
I think it was safe to say, that I’d never been so horny in my entire life. I felt so much tension that my back actually hurt and I wouldn’t have cared less if I would have come in my pants at that exact moment.
"If you want to slow down again, now would be a good time to say so." Jude breathed against my ear, but all he got from me in response was a bit back moan as his hand moved into my pants and cupped my cock through my boxers. I pressed upwards against his palm, now only caring about the sensations running through my body as he gently squeezed me and his mouth began to move down my neck and over my chest again. My hands found their way into his hair, my fingers toying with the soft strands as he shifted lower and I felt his tongue leave a cool, wet trail over my stomach. It wasn’t until he hooked his fingers in my boxers and pulled them down that I abruptly sat up and looked at him as I felt his lips unexpectedly graze the head of my cock, and suddenly, other things seemed to take on a whole knew meaning.
"Jude..." I think I was more surprised than panicked, and no other words seemed capable of escaping me as he opened his mouth and took me in practically effortlessly. My whole body lurched when I felt his throat automatically tighten around the head of my cock and I fell back on the bed as he began to pull off. I hardly expected it when my body suddenly went tense and I found my relief there in his mouth. I didn’t even have time to warn him, other than my sudden efforts to push his head away, but he responded to that by grabbing my hands and continuing his efforts with a much gentler assault until I was finished.
Considering it was my first blow job, I probably would have been over thinking the reasons why it only lasted two seconds if Jude had given me half the chance. But he didn’t. A moment later he was stretched over me again, kissing me while my breathing slowed, and thank god the room was dark enough to hide the way that I was blushing. I really hadn’t been expecting that. It wasn’t bad... just unexpected. It also left me with questions, beginning with whether or not I was supposed to reciprocate, considering his erection was still warm and hard against my thigh, and if that was the case, how was I supposed to go about it? I mean sure, I could probably figure it out, but the last thing I wanted to do was disappoint him. That thought alone told me that I was probably ready for more than I thought I was.
It took a few minutes of more kissing and trying to stay relaxed before I worked up the nerve to move my hand until it came to rest over the bulge in his jeans, and I was rewarded with one of those small moans that I’d become familiar with that day I’d met him by the train tracks. But, it didn’t last nearly long enough, because only seconds after I touched him he was taking hold of my wrist and guiding my hand away as he sat up and looked down at me.
"I have to take you home." he said quietly as he indicated the clock near the bed. It was almost twelve, and I wondered if I looked as disappointed as he did. I suddenly felt very annoyed about my curfew, and I opened my mouth to apologize for it, but he didn’t give me the chance to do that, either, as his mouth came down over mine one more time before the process of straightening clothing and getting dressed began.
The ride home was a quiet one, but not a bad one. Actually, it was kind of nice, holding Jude’s hand below the windows on the way home, and the way that we kept glancing at each other. He’d laugh every time I blushed, but I really didn’t care. I don’t think I’d ever felt so... giddy. He even leaned over and stole another kiss at the stoplight before we turned into my neighborhood, and we pulled up to my house with five minutes to spare.
"Call me?" he asked, and I nodded. In fact, I was probably going to give him about twenty minutes to get home and then I was going to be picking up the phone. "Maybe your mom will let you out for a while tomorrow..."
"I’ll ask her." I smiled, and glanced at the clock. I didn’t want to get out of his car until I absolutely had to. "I hope Trina’s going to be okay."
"I’ll check on her in the morning and let you know... you’ll still tell me what happened with your sister?"
"Yeah," I sighed, looking towards the house. I wondered if Bree was finished with my journal yet. "I’m actually about to go find out."
Jude regarded me curiously, but smiled, and there was an awkward moment where I’m sure a kiss should have been. It was too risky in front of my house, though, so I silently got out and waved him off as he pulled away and disappeared down the street.
I sighed and headed towards my house, fully intending to take advantage of every moment that it felt like I was walking on air until I reached my sister’s room, where I’d likely wake her up if she was asleep. Bree had my journal, and there was no way I was willing to wait another night before we finished our talk. Besides, I had to find a way to make it clear to her that I had no intention of staying away from Jude. I guess I’d sort of been hoping that reading my journal would help her understand why I didn’t want to do that.
I reached my front door when I heard another car pull up behind me and turned around, hoping that Jude had forgotten to tell me something. I wouldn’t have minded seeing him for a few more minutes. Unfortunately, even in the dark I could make out the little yellow car that belonged to Sara Rixis: Marrisa’s mother.
I practically recoiled when my ex girlfriend parked the vehicle crookedly in the driveway and got out, slamming the door behind her. If I didn’t know that she found it completely unladylike, I would have thought that she was there to slap me, the way that she was storming up the walkway.
"Mar? What are you..."
"We need to talk, now Quinn. You’re not blowing me off anymore."
"It’s midnight." I replied, feeling slightly perturbed. "I think it can wait."
"No, it can’t."
I definitely didn’t need this right now. I didn’t want it, either. There was no way that I was going to let her ruin my good mood.
"Goodnight, Marissa." I replied pointedly and I went to open the front door.
"I wouldn’t walk away from me if I were you." she retorted, sounding as pissed as ever.
"Why not?" I frowned, and when I turned to face her, I immediately regretted asking the question.
"Because I just saw you kissing someone in an ugly green car, and it wasn’t a girl! Can we talk now, Quinn?"