Triptychs – Chapter 30
So. In the great scheme of things, I guess finding my dad should count as one of those higher-highs; right? I mean, I put enough time and effort into it; night after night after night, in rotten weather and rotten neighborhoods . . .
It sure didn’t feel like it.
When I say ‘I found him’, it means I found the bar he hangs in; which is the same thing. No difference.
It was another dive bar; pretty much the same as the couple-of-dozen dive bars in Berkeley and Oakland and Albany I’d already checked. This one had a charming-fake, part-of-a-wooden-beer-cask sticking out of the front outside wall; actually, the whole place had a kind of fake, Olde-English look to it . . . although it was really run down. The Olde English-ness was part of some past life, maybe some past life a few past-lives ago, I figured.
He was sitting at the bar; his back to the door.
And I recognized him at once, of course; of course. Haven’t you ever had that experience, recognizing someone at a distance, or from behind, just by their posture, just by the way they move, the way they hold their head - ? I recognized him.
It was a shock. Not a good one.
Once, one Spring late-afternoon at my Uncle Ryan’s house in Stockton, I was out by the woodpile gathering up some kindling, for the fireplace. And I put out my hand to pick up a stick, just a piece of a cut-off branch . . . which turned out to be a snake.
I didn’t actually touch it; I saw what it was, in time. Barely. But I’ll always remember that shock; that fear, that revulsion. The pattern of the snake’s skin; scaled.
The shock, above all; electric; horrible.
This was like that.
I had to be sure, I had to see more . . . so I moved a little inside the door, a little to his left side; keeping my sweatshirt hood up. Yeah, hooded sweatshirt, knit cap underneath, baggy clothes overall; Cole called it the Boy Burkah Look, and we both snarked at it, we both despised it, but it was useful –
A quick glance, from the no-mans-land in back of the stools.
Yeah, it was him. Nauseating recognition.
And, at once, my photographer’s eye kicked in; framing, capturing the details, the pixels.
The bar itself; old, dark, polished wood, better than the place had any right to expect. Another relic of one of the bar’s Past Lives.
Down, at the floor; to where some linoleum had worn away, showing some ancient, hexagonal, black-and-white tile underneath; not Olde English at all.
Back up, to the shelves behind the bar; grimy glass, stacked with bottles, underlit with green lights – some of them actually worked – the glow reflecting back on the faces of the people hunched over the bar.
CHUDS; definitely. People – all men – in that halfway-phase, between functioning-drunk, and very much non-functioning drunk. Some laughter; some slurring conversation, which went back and forth between comprehensible and incomprehensible, meaning and chaos.
I sure as hell didn’t belong here; I risked a quick glance, over to my right, I couldn’t help it.
Yeah. It was still my dad.
I turned, as casually as I could, and headed to the door. And as I did, I heard him; I heard his voice, clear as anything, talking to the guy on his right. A harsh laugh, then – “No, you pinhead, you just don’t get it – ”
Then I was outside, in the cool, fresh air.
I had a lot to think about, on the long, cold, clean, bike-ride back home.
As in – what next - ? What the fuck do I do, now?
So, I had a plan, some kind of desperate plan, for dealing with my dad . . . and knowing where he was, knowing which bar to find him in, was the absolute key to it; everything depended on knowing where to find him . . . Duh.
Like I said, it was a pretty fucking desperate plan . . I could only try it once.
Worse, much worse – it was risky. It would put me at risk; it would put other people at risk. It actually involved committing a felony, a fairly serious one. Not one of those fun, underage-sexual ones, that Cole and I used to do together.
What the fuck was I going to do - ?
Well. I was getting ahead of myself, way ahead of myself. First, I had to stake out the bar, some; come back the next night, and see if he was there again, and then the same thing, the night after that. Everything depended on being able to find him, when I needed to.
Secretly, inside me, I didn’t really think that was going to be a problem, though. He’d always been pretty consistent, when it came to his drinking. Yeah; I was pretty sure.
But – what, after that - ?
Should I even think about pulling – well, pulling my bastard-shit plan – now? Out of the blue - ?
And, fuck, that I didn’t have anyone, anyone at all, to talk it over with; not without implicating them, pretty much by definition . . .
Long pause; the wind, biting cold on my face, as I biked through the dark streets.
In spite of everything, in spite of my doubts, as I pedaled along – I felt something fierce, something fierce and glad inside me. I figured I’d found his place; I just knew it.
And that meant, my mom and me weren’t helpless, anymore. We weren’t just targets, waiting for him to pull something, maybe something horrible.
I had him.
One way or another, legally, or not – I had him.
It was a weird feeling, after all this time – after all the fear. Fuck me, all the fear; yeah.
I had him.
It felt good.
* * *
I really wasn’t prepared, for how much finding the asswipe would change my life.
Well, I was prepared for part of it; I was right, that I’d found his bar. He was there when I went back the next night, and the night after that; a Sunday night, I’d actually gone over after a date with Noah, which was a fucking-weird juxtaposition, believe it.
My asswipe father was there every time I looked. At the same stool, every night. Well, I guess that made sense; who’d want to sit on a stool HE’D been planted on - ?
I’d been careful, looking in; and I was getting good at it. Face hidden, different clothes . . . plus, he was in line of sight from the door, I could check up on him without even going in, most nights.
But I didn’t have to go on checking on him, forever.
After a while, a week, two – it was clear, that was his place. I’d found him there at nine at night, I’d found him there, drunk, at two in the morning. It was his place.
What WAS kind of a surprise . . . was what came next. After it all sank in; after I stopped checking, every night.
“Uhhhh . . . Mom?”
“Yes, honey - ?”
Just another dinner at my house; me, sitting at the old, yellow table in the kitchen. Mom, cooking; of course. Some kind of pasta, boiling in a big pot on the stove, while she did something else – I guess she was cutting up vegetables. The air was getting steamy, and good-smelling.
Fuck-me, this was awkward.
“Umm – you’re going to Stockton, this weekend - ? Again?”
THAT got me a flash of her blue eyes; from under her blonde hair. We both knew she was going; it was just one of those things we never talked about. Like we never talked about the reason she was going; my dad, I mean.
“Yes, honey, I’d planned on it.” A pause, while she scooped up some cut-up vegetables, and squash, and dropped them into a saucepot to steam. She covered the pot. “I’ll be staying with your Uncle Patrick and Aunt Rhonda – we’re going to make paella. Unless,” she went, with another sharp look at me, “ – you need the truck, this weekend - ? Or,” and I watched hope flash across her face – “maybe you’d like to come with me, and visit your uncles - ?”
“Uhhhh . . . no, no, I don’t need the truck; thanks. And I’d like to come visit in Stockton, I promise I will, soon . . . ” And of course I felt rotten for saying it; visiting Stockton wasn’t really high on my list of priorities, just then. “It’s only that, ummm . . . ”
Fuck me! All I’ve been through, all WE’VE been through . . . and I’m embarrassed - ? I’m SHY? About this - ?
“ . . . it’s just that, well, I was going to invite someone to come up and stay with me, this weekend. Maybe. If it’s all right with you, I mean . . . ”
She stood up straight at the island counter, just spearing me with her eyes. “Does this have something to do with your father - ? Trevor, I – ”
“No; no!! Nothing like that!” And I tried not to wince, as I said it; I hadn’t, couldn’t tell her I’d found him, or anything about my plan. “It’s . . . well, it’s a friend. He’s a friend, I mean; I met him at school . . . and, well, we’re . . . dating.”
I watched, just cringing inside, as her face, changed. Flashing emotions.
“You’re dating someone - ? You’re . . . actually going out on dates, with someone - ?” She asked it, gently.
“Yeah . . . ” I felt about twelve, again, as I said it; I knew I was blushing, I knew the truth was just plastered all over my face. I mean, it was my mom; you know? “Well . . . actually, we’ve been dating for awhile . . . it’s Noah, my co-worker from the bookstore; remember? I’ve told you a little about him . . . ”
“The baseball player. Yes.” Her eyes just fixed on mine.
“Yeah. And, well . . . we’re actually . . . boyfriends. I guess.”
She just stood there, for a split second, her hands on the countertop – her mouth, a little open –
Then, HISS! from the stovetop in back of her, and HISSSS! as the big pasta-pot boiled over, and water began hitting the burner –
“Oh . . . Oh, damn! Trevor, come help me with this - ?!” And of course, I rushed over – it’s a really big, tall pot, I always help her with it – then, “No, no, you’ll burn yourself, here, use the hot pads – ” And the two of us wrestled the pot over to the sink, and we managed to pour the pasta-and-water into the strainer, slowly, with huge clouds of pasta-scented steam coming up into our faces, instant-wet all over our faces . . .
“Oh, Trevor . . . oh, honey,” she went, wiping her face with the heels of her hands; and, she was looking at me, and her eyes were glistening, I could tell, and not from the steam. “One thing I can say about you, you’ve always had a sense of timing - !” She grabbed a dishtowel and dabbed at her face, a little, trying not to be obvious; her mouth trembling, just a tiny bit, I could tell.
“Mom, it’s all right, I don’t have to have him over . . . ” I was just stricken.
“No, no, no - !” And she threw her arms around me, and she hugged me fiercely, and I was smelling the garlic she’d just been chopping, and the shampoo in her hair; and then she was standing back, looking at me, her hands on my shoulders.
“Of course he’s welcome to stay,” she went on. “Of course he’s welcome. Noah, you said - ?”
“Uh-huh,” from me. Eloquently.
“He’s the one who went to the Catholic high school? And he’s the one you’re making your film, about - ?”
“Yeah. Well, I’m doing the film about his team; his old baseball team . . .” Her eyes were still blinking, moist, and the expression on her face . . .
So, sometimes, I’m slow.
As I stood there, looking at my mom, it occurred to me . . . that I’d never done this, before; told my mom about a boyfriend, I mean. I was out, any everything . . . but I’d never told my mom about having a boyfriend, before.
Well, how could I? I’d been all wrapped up with my feelings for Cole, I’d spent so long just single-dating, and tricking . . . I hadn’t even said anything to her about Erik; that would have been weird, she knew him and Jason too well, and besides, it wasn’t ever real.
And it occurred to me, late . . . maybe, that’s the kind of thing, a parent notices.
Worries about. Especially, when the kid in question – me – has a scar, an actual, physical scar, given to him by his homophobic father. Well, a physical scar, to add to all the emotional ones . . . which were a whole lot deeper, a lot more important.
Oh, fuck-me. How could I have been so stupid - ?
“Uhhh . . . mom – ”
“No, no, it’s all right, honey.” A squeeze of her hands, on my shoulders. She looked at me, directly; still blinking. “I will want to meet him . . . when you have the time. We can have him over for dinner; when you’re ready, when you’re both ready. But he’s welcome here this weekend, he’s welcome anytime – ” She turned away, wiping her hands, with the dish towel. “But, oh, the pasta’s getting cold . . . could you get the salad, from the fridge? Then just go ahead and sit down, I’ll do the serving – ” And she began moving around the kitchen, busy with the cooking things, the way she always has done, when she wants to change the subject, avoid the subject –
Except, this time, it was a happy avoidance. I could so tell. A happy change-of-subject.
Another, whole-new experience, for me.
* * *
So. That was the first big change to hit, after I found my dad; and God, it was a big one. Yeah; The Change I Could Barely Believe In.
Noah, coming to spend the weekend with me. Alone; in my house. For a three day weekend.
Sharing my bed.
Of course, I was completely horned-out, just thinking about it; God, I was a walking boner, I swear. I mean; almost three whole DAYS, alone with Noah –
Three nights, too. Mom was leaving Friday afternoon, from work – and she was taking Monday as a vacation day. That gave us, Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday night . . . and then part of Monday, we were going to cut our morning classes, at least.
Three days, and three nights.
On top of the horniness, the good-anticipation . . . it was scary, too. More than a little scary.
I mean – I’d never done anything like this, before. Three days and nights, with a boyfriend . . . Me, eighteen; and I’d never spent more than a night, just a few hours, with any of my dates.
Well, unless you counted the times I’d gone someplace with Cole; mostly to Santa Monica, to his dad’s, as we were growing up.
I didn’t count them. I loved those times, I fucking LIVED for those trips with Cole; they were the bright, shining high points of my life, for a long time . . . but they weren’t dates. Hell, even when we were still Friends With Benefits, still fooling around – I spent an awful lot of time and energy on those trips, hiding what I really felt about him; pretending. That old, don’t-blow-it, don’t-blow-it, we’re-just-friends tightrope walk . . .
No, I’d never spent a weekend with a boyfriend, before; and on top of the horniness, the anticipation of all the things we’d be doing – and believe me, I had ideas; LOTS of ideas – on top of all that, there was that scary, butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling . . .
All combined with what I was feeling for Noah. Caused by what I was feeling for Noah, actually. Which was even scarier; of course.
I figured he was feeling sort of the same way, going through some of the same things.
Well, duh; whenever we were together at school, those next three days, whenever we met up – it was like, he was just shining, at me; our eyes clicked, that complicated set of expressions of his would just wash over his face, and then he’d just, shine at me . . .
And I would feel myself doing the same thing back. Well, with my grinning, anyway.
And it’s what got us busted; it’s what got us outed, at school, to our Learning Group mates.
Well, that and my mom’s focaccia bread.
All right. It’s really not the focaccia bread’s fault. It’s just the fact that she made it; she made some focaccia bread, just for Noah.
Well, I admit, I had something to do with it. I’d told her – after the pasta, later that night – how much he liked her focaccia bread. And it was true; I mean, we shared lunches all the time, and the dreamy expression he’d get on his face, when he bit into a piece of it . . . The first time, I’d laughed out loud.
Actually, I did a little more than that. I’d told him, grinning, that I wished he’d look half that happy while I was making him come. And he’d blushed bright red, and looked down, while I laughed, and I was pretty sure he’d gotten all hard –
He’d finished the bread, though.
And somehow, I didn’t get around to mentioning that part of the conversation to my mom . . .
The very next night, she’d made some more of her bread; including a loaf specifically for Noah. And that was so, so my mom; you know - ? So often, when she has something to say, she says it with food, with the cooking. That’s just how she works.
Come to think of it – maybe that’s something she and Noah have in common; non-verbal communication, expressing themselves, without words. In their own different ways . . .
Ummm . . . Okay. I’m not so sure I really want to go there; right now.
It wasn’t the bread’s fault, that we got busted; got outed. It was because, we were careless.
“Hey,” from me; sliding into one of the outdoor-lunch-table seats, in front of the Union; our usual place. Me, grinning all over, at the joke of it all. “Here; hot chocolate, for Mister Hot Stuff.” I pushed the paper cup over to him.
That priceless, sideways, shy smile from him; and a little lift of his eyebrow that said, ‘what?’ But he knew what I was talking about.
“Yeah – ah! Four stolen bases, in one game - ?” I just grinned at him, loving the way he was getting all embarrassed. “In one PLAYOFF game? In one really decisive playoff game - ?”
It was a bright, breezy, cold day, with that really clear light that happens in the winter. It was afternoon; the light was coming in sideways, from the west, and it made his blushing, his embarrassment, so totally transparent.
“I just did what the coach told me,” he went, at last. Looking like a shy, little boy. “And . . . besides, their pitcher was really bad at picking off runners. And we knew it, we had the scouting.” He shrugged, a little. “It’s not such a big thing.”
“That’s not what Ron says. And judging by the way the crowd reacted, it’s not what they thought, either.” I just grinned at him. “I’ve never kissed anybody who’s gotten a standing ovation before . . . Although, come to think of it, you maybe deserve an ovation for some things you probably wouldn’t do in a stadium – ”
I love getting him all embarrassed. And flustered. And boned.
Yeah; Ron had gotten me a copy of his DVD from his and Noah’s last high-school season, their Season Highlights; and I was using it to dummy-up a script for my Communications class project.
It was just a placeholder for the documentary I was going to shoot, for Noah’s brother’s team, this quarter and the next quarter, and the prep for THAT was steaming along nicely . . . and my professor knew it was coming, ‘round about next September. He was all excited about it, actually.
But. In the meantime, I was enjoying the hell out of coming up with the dummy script, based on Noah’s last season.
I was enjoying the hell out of seeing Noah play, actually SEEING Noah play; even though the video was pretty crappy. But; fuck-me, it was so amazing watching him play, watching him hit, and especially watching him run, and steal bases, sliding head-first, all out, into second or third base . . .
It was a lot more, than just the fact that he was cute as all fuck in a baseball uniform. Twice as cute, three times as cute as I’d figured he’d be . . . No; no. It was – I don’t know how to say it; it was seeing that SIDE of him, it was seeing that piece of him, that I’d so completely missed, the piece of him that was so IMPORTANT –
“And then,” I went on, grinning, “there’s the mash-up he did of you; you know, that loop. I swear, I had no idea! I didn’t know you had it in you - !”
That shy, self-aware smile again, that managed to be a little embarrassed, and to tell me I was full of it, all at once. Then –
“I was hit by a pitch! It really hurt!”
“Yeah, but the f-bomb? You - ? In public - ?!”
Ron’d made a loop out of it, Noah saying ‘Fuck!’, only about fifty times, to a kind of rhythm; ‘Fuck-fuck-fuck, fuck,’ pause, ‘fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck,’ pause, ‘fuck, Fuck!’ . . . you get the idea. Ron’s a really good guy, actually; really solid, and loyal, and he likes to tease Noah a little, too. Which makes sense to me; I mean, who can resist - ?
“I only said it once, when it happened!”
“But you were LOUD! And wasn’t the bishop, like, right behind home plate, in the stands - ?”
Noah was still smiling, but he was turning a little red again, shaking his head . . .
“Hey; that’s okay.” I reached out and touched his hand, really briefly. “I’m sure you confessed, and did penance, and everything . . . and after all, how many times have you heard ME drop the f-word?”
And that got me an eloquent, silent, sideways-look that made me laugh.
“Yeah; yeah. I know.”
I glanced around, a second, at the other tables, the bright, pale sky, the cold breeze moving in the trees; it was a beautiful day, and I was enjoying everything, and it was just the right moment.
“I’ve got something for you,” I went; grinning wider than ever, then I went into my backpack. “Here.” I slid the brown paper bag over to him.
His expression, as he took out the foil-wrapped bread, and opened the foil up a little, and saw what was inside – well. His expression was priceless; running through two or three complicated sets of emotions, before he came up, looking at me, blinking.
“It’s from my mom,” I said; trying not to laugh. “I told her how much you like it, so she made you a loaf, last night.”
“Oh, wow,” from Noah; and he was blinking faster. “Oh, wow . . . ”
“Of course,” I went, shrugging a little – “I figure she’s got an ulterior motive.”
Noah looked an inquiring look.
“The way to a boy’s heart is through his stomach, after all. And since it’s me you’re dating . . . I figure, she thought I could use all the help I could get.” I grinned big at him. “Compensation; you know - ?”
Nothing from Noah, for a second; then, that ‘you’re full of shit’ expression, that I’ve gotten to know so well –
And then he was up out of his chair, and he was leaning across the little table; and with one hand, he pulled me into a kiss, a full-on-the-mouth, taste-of-his-tongue kiss, and it went on for one beat, two –
And then he was sitting back down, smirking-smiling at me, as I blinked at him –
And then, all at once, his face went pale; dead pale, and his mouth opened a little, and his eyes went big, focused on something over my shoulder . . .
I twisted around, to look.
There, walking away from us, were three familiar figures; three familiar backs, anyway. Michelle, and Kat; and on Kat’s right side, so obviously trying not to break out laughing, was Daniel. I watched, as he weaved a little, one hand covering his mouth . . . and Kat’s hand come out to tug on his arm, firmly; keeping him walking. And walk on they did, until they went through the doors into the Library, out of view.
Oh, fuck . . .
I turned back to face Noah; for once in my life, totally without words. Not knowing what to say. Not having a clue, what to say.
I mean – it was a thing, between us; you know - ? Even though we never talked about it, it was a thing between us; I wanted to be open about us, and Noah wasn’t ready . . . And he knew how I felt, and I knew how he felt, and so on, and so on –
And to hell with all that. The look of anguish that washed over Noah’s face, the look of pain . . . I just couldn’t bear it.
“Oh, shit,” I said, into the silence. “Oh, shit, I’m sorry, Noah.”
Silence, for a beat, a long beat; then his eyes slid sideways for a second, and then, they came back to mine, and his expression settled into something a little bleak, and a little resigned.
“You can say it,” he said, finally.
“Huh - ?”
An ironic twist of his eyebrows, at me; and it finally dawned.
“Oh . . . ‘Oh, fuck!’” And I managed to grin at him, a little half-heartedly.
We had to face up to it sometime – or Noah had to, really, and I had to stand up with him – so, after his Bio lecture and my Communications seminar, we went to the library. To the study area, where we usually met up with our Learning Group-mates, or some of them, anyway.
Today it was just the three of them, Kat, Michelle and Daniel; which made it easier.
It wasn’t easy.
“Hey, guys,” I went; as Noah and I slid into our usual chairs. And of course, it was me talking; that’s just how it was, in our partnership.
“Hi.” And then, Kat’s warm smile was washing over us, and Michelle’s sweet expression –
And I swear, I saw Kat’s elbow jerk, a little. Into Daniel’s arm.
“Uhhh . . . hey, you guys,” he went; looking a little – I don’t know; sheepish, maybe? “Um . . . I’ve been told, that I need to apologize, for you know . . . ”
“Laughing - ?” I couldn’t help it, I felt myself starting to grin.
“Well, yeah! I shouldn’t have laughed, it wasn’t any of my business – ” He actually looked apologetic; contrite.
I glanced sideways, at Noah, a second; this was so fucking awkward. For him.
“Well, we WERE kind-of, uh, well . . . kissing, in public. And I would have laughed too. I think.” I took a breath. “So, I guess you already know . . . ”
“We’re dating,” from Noah, flatly; surprising the hell out of me.
“Well, actually, we’re a couple,” I went, after a loaded second; because it was true, after all, we were more-than-dating, and I put my hand on Noah’s, and then his hand was squeezing mine. Squeezing pretty hard, actually; I glanced sideways at him, and he was bright red.
And, oh fuck-me, it felt good to say it. It was a RUSH, it was such a rush, to say it, and Noah’s hand felt good in mine . . . and I could just feel myself, opening up, grinning . . .
“’Resistance is futile’,” from Daniel; trying not to laugh, I could see. He shook his head, a little.
“Huh?” I blinked at him.
“Don’t pay any attention to him,” from Kat; and she put her hands on ours, Noah’s and mine, and she squeezed, and her smile was even warmer than before, kind of fierce, actually. “I’m glad for you,” she went on, and Michelle, next to her was nodding and smiling too . . . although, there was something in her expression – hm.
I looked sideways at Noah, again; looking to see if he was okay. He was still red, he still looked like he wished the floor would open up and swallow him; but his hand in mine was still warm, and his grip was tight.
“I guess we were a little, um, obvious - ?” I went; awkwardly. Looking at the three of them, one after another, feeling a little sheepish myself, now. I mean, we were both careless; but.
“Pffft . . . ” from Daniel; a long snigger, as he tried to keep from breaking up completely, and then he was shaking his head, again.
“Yeah, okay – ”
“No, no!” from Daniel. Still on the edge of laughing out loud; I could see him trying to control himself. “It’s okay; nobody else knows . . . except us, and the rest of the Learning Group, and oh, three or four hundred other people who’ve seen you guys together . . . ”
Uh-oh. Another sideways-glance at Noah; he was looking – well, stricken, again.
“Uhhhh . . .. so, the rest of us know, too - ? I mean, the rest of our Learning Group?” I went, after a second.
Daniel sobered up in a hurry, and looked at Kat; Kat turned a sympathetic expression on Noah. “Well, yes, it came up one day; Annie saw you both together, holding hands, at the Student Union; and she wondered if she should say anything . . . to make you a little more comfortable around us, I mean.” She hesitated, just for a moment. “And your friend Ron, Noah, said to give you some space, and time.”
“He said you had a boyfriend, in high school, and that everybody knew, but that you weren’t ready to be open about it . . . ” Her face winced a little, in sympathy for him. “I’m sorry – ”
Totally stillness, from Noah; total stillness. I glanced at him, quick, then I squeezed his hand . . .
Ron was the issue for Noah, of course. His best friend; his roommate, his bedroom-mate, for fuck’s sake. And here Kat was saying, he KNEW about Noah - ? He’d known, about Noah being gay, even in high school - ?
Noah’s face was back to being bleak, again. Bleak, and resolute.
I wondered if Noah would let me come with him, when he went back to the dorms, to talk with Ron, tonight . . . I didn’t think so.
Oh, fuck me. Poor Noah.
A short silence, then; a just-slightly-uncomfortable silence, and then Daniel spoke up.
“You know, one thing I’m going to miss about this, is seeing you guys jump apart every time one of us comes by.” He was back to grinning, now, and there was a gleam in his eyes. “I mean, it was hilarious! Once, you were here in the library, and you were, like, really close, rubbing shoulders; and when you saw me it was like you were electric-shocked or something, you just flew apart, you almost fell out of your chairs! I almost lost it, then.” He shook his head a little, smiling. “And the look on your faces - ! Yeah; I’m going to miss that.”
More blushing-red on Noah’s smooth cheeks; I just gave his hand another squeeze, and I grinned back at Daniel.
“Yeah, well, it’s my fault, really. We were trying to be discrete; and, you know, I just don’t DO discrete. I’m probably the world’s worst choice, when it comes to being cool, and discrete, and private; you know - ?” I shrugged, beginning to laugh at myself, a little; because it’s true, ‘open’ is my default setting . . .
And for some reason, that set off Daniel even more, he actually lost it, and bent over in his chair, laughing.
“What - ?” from me, eventually; watching him, grinning, as he just rocked, with quiet laughter.
“Well . . . ” he went, eventually; beginning to catch his breath. “Well . . . you’re right about that, anyway. Some people ARE a little more discrete about dating, than you – ”
“Huh - ?” I glanced over at Noah; and he looked back at me, blinking, confused . . .
And quietly, not looking at us, and with an expression on her face that was a priceless combination of shyness, and embarrassment, and pride – Michelle reached up and took Kat’s hand in hers. And Kat turned to her, with a small smile that was so intimate, so loving, so proud, it almost hurt.
“Huh - ?” from me, again. Then, “Huh - ?! No way!” Grinning wider, now; absolutely delighted. “You guys, too - ?”
“Mmm – hmmm,” from Michelle; still looking down, shyly. Shining with happiness.
“We broke the news, to the rest of the Group when we were talking about you two,” Kat went to me, a little apologetically. “We’ve been dating since Christmas break . . . ”
Another glance at Noah; another hand-squeeze, then I was just grinning so wide at the both of them, and I leaned over across the table and kissed Kat on the cheek, quick, I so couldn’t help it –
“See - ?” from Daniel; laughing at our expressions, laughing at the joke of it. “See? Resistance Is Futile. I might as well break up with Beth now, and find myself a nice boy to settle down with . . . ”
And he was shaking his head, still laughing, as I leaned over and kissed HIM on the cheek, too.
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