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Chapter Twenty-one

[ALEX]

“I don’t see what was so great about the dolphins,” Sky said, fingering the shoreline aquarium badge she was given. Exams had ended ages ago, and we had just spent some part of my birthday in and Aquarium out of town.

“I don’t see what’s not to like about them. They’re intelligent, cooperative and friendly.” I defended, still flipping through the tour pamphlet though we’d already exited the main building.

“I agree with them being intelligent, but I’m not so sure about the friendly part...” Sky trailed, pressing the unlock button on her car key as we got closer.

“Don’t be like that. You’re only unconvinced because one happened to splash water on you.” I teased, making Sky groan in irritation.

“I had to plant myself under a hand dryer,” she complained as we got to the car. Sky let me control the radio on the basis that it was my birthday. I connected the radio to my phone via Bluetooth and started playing ‘Sedated.’ by Hozier.

“Now I see why you are a depressed little boy.” Sky tsked, making me give her a light shove. She giggled, driving out the parking lot. A sigh escaped her lips as she paid for the parking time, informing me bluntly that I was going to pay for everything when it was finally her birthday.

We watched a movie next, ‘The Lazarus effect.’ to be specific. It was partly scary and sort of predictable. I enjoyed it though... up until I realized Sky had been eating out my popcorn for the majority of the movie.

I pledged annoyance at her for the rest of the movie, but she stole my heart when she said she’ll take me to dinner right after.

We drove back to town, crossing over at about six PM.

“Where do you want to eat dinner?” she asked. I shrugged, asking her to pick anywhere she wanted.

“To the kid’s pizza parlor then—”

“What?” I chorused, not sure if I heard right. She grinned, giving me the ‘I’m kidding’ look.

“Seriously, if you don’t decide now, I will drive us to the kiddies’ pizza parlor,” she threatened, turning her attention to the road. “It’s your birthday, be the king and demand smack. Just make sure your demand’s not too outrageous. I don’t know how to rob a bank, and I will definitely get caught.”

I grinned, mentioning a local restaurant not too far from my place. She nodded in response, changing her course. I dozed as my playlist shuffled Adele, Sia, Sam Smith, and Hozier.

“Samantha Smithonia.”

I smiled, remembering Sky’s nickname for Sam Smith. Only God knows how she came up with that smack.

I’d dozed off completely, and Sky had to shake me awake when we finally got there. She opened the door to my seat, before helping me out.

“Wake up. I will not be the first to know a dozing ass wipe,” she muttered, shaking me awake.

“I’m not hungry anymore.” I insisted as I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand.

“Come on, it’s the sleep talking, blink rapidly for ten seconds so you can be fully awake,” Sky adviced me as she went about rearranging my bed head. I wanted to complain to her about babying me, but I just let her have her way; adjusting my jacket and the like.

“I want seafood,” I muttered as the hunger she’d preached about earlier began to display its presence.

“Sure, why not,” she responded, rubbing the corners of my eyes. My mind was a blur and my head pounded slightly.

“Were you crying?” she asked with a frown, inspecting my face.

“I don’t know. I’m not exactly sure,” I said, remembering the hand full of memories involving Chris that played in my head during my short nap.

“Just... just keep yourself in check, okay?” She sighed as a look of worry clouded her features.

We got into the restaurant, taking seats by the window. Sky sipped at her diet coke quietly as our food got ready.

“Happy birthday,” she suddenly said, making me look up at her.

“I haven’t officially said it today you know. So, happy birthday,” she said again, shrugging.

“Thanks...” I trailed, frowning slightly. The only other people that ever wished me a happy birthday was Chris and my parents and my parents did that through email, never verbally.

“Sky,” I started, making her look up at me with green eyes. She had concealer on so that her freckles weren’t visible. Her dark red brows had also been shaped. I closed my eyes halfway in the realization that Sky could look pretty in a different way apart from that arty hippie look she usually pulled off.

“Do you like having your mum around?” I finally asked, playing with the table salt.

“Of course. I also like having my dad and sister around... you know, when they’re back and all.” She replied, shrugging like having a parent a million miles away from home was nothing. But it was something... I haven’t seen my parents for so long and it’s tearing me apart.

“I haven’t seen my dad face to face in two years... My mum tries her best to be around during summer... but you know... it still doesn’t feel enough,” I said, pouring salt into a stray napkin before folding and undoing the whole thing.

“Sometimes I think I’m greedy for thinking that way, am I?” I asked, looking up at Sky. She shook her head as her eyes urged me to continue.

“Do you think Chris feels the same way about me? That I was trying, but I wasn’t enough?” I asked, feeling my eyes tear up again. I’ve been crying like a baby for these past few weeks that it felt so normal now. I’ve been trying not to think about Chris, but the fact that Chris didn’t call or send a formal birthday card or text hurt a lot. It really hurt.

“Damn it! Not here!” Sky cursed under her breath as she reached out to take my hand. I sniffed looking down at our conjoined hands, at how my tanned skin contrasted with her pale one.

“I’m sorry,” I sniffled, blinking back my tears. I’ve been avoiding my drugs lately and Sky has sadly been a constant witness to my mental and emotional breakdowns. Sometimes I’ll spend hours in solitude, just staring into blank space. Or I’ll lash out in rage and cut up pictures and anything that had a remote relationship to Chris, breaking down emotionally afterward only to try and fix whatever I’d destroyed in rage.

“He makes me feel so uncomfortable and odd... I’m not sure what’s happening to me, I...”

“Are you in love with him?” Sky asked, cutting me short.

“What?” I asked as my brows knit into a frown.

“I’m asking if you’re in love with him. I mean, if he was just some fling you won’t be so upset over all this,” Sky was saying as a waitress came over to drop our plates.

“Are you on a date?” She asked, smiling.

“Actually... we’re on the verge of saving his relationship with his boyfriend. Thanks for the food,” Sky said, making the waitress leave with a slightly confused look on her face.

“Okay, where was I... Oh! Why is it bothering you so much? Wasn’t Chris just some sort of fling? Even though I don’t know of any fling that has lasted for two years, but you did keep on emphasizing the fact that you didn’t have any real feelings for him.” Sky said poking the food on her plate with a fork.

“It wasn’t just a fling...” I trailed trying to decode for myself what exactly it had been, to be honest, I didn’t know what it was myself.

Sky sighed, rolling her eyes. “Okay let’s start slow. What do you like about Chris? How do you feel about him, to be more specific?” She asked, making me bit my lower lip in thought.

“Well, I do like him a lot...” I trailed, feeling a bit embarrassed at saying it out loud.

“That’s a good start. Now, what else?” she urged, chewing a piece of chicken.

“I — I like it when we kiss. How he smiles at me,” I admitted, as my cheeks burned with embarrassment.

“Don’t just stop there,” Sky scolded, making me grunt in frustration.

“I... It’s really hard to put how I feel about him into words, okay?” I said, staring down at my catfish. Catfish — I loved to eat it but it was messy. Chris used to pick out the bones and break the fish into pieces I could scoop with my spoon. Damn Chris, damn the fact that I miss him.

“Don’t cry again, I swear I’ll leave you here to soak the tablecloth,” Sky sighed, making me blink rapidly to suppress the tears.

“I feel like punishing him for leaving me, but I feel so odd and distressed whenever I consider it. It’s like I want to, but I don’t really want to... damn, I don’t know!” I groaned, pulling my hair.

“You’re in love with him aren’t you?” Sky said, pulling my hands away from my head before I had a chance to hurt myself.

“I can’t really tell...”

“You don’t know or understand love, you experience it. It’s confusing, wonderful, and frustrating all at the same time.” Sky explained calmly as she fixed my hair into place.

“How would you know that, aren’t you incapable of love or something?” I asked, referring to her asexuality. She shook her head, taking another fork spoon of chicken salad.

“I’m incapable of sexual feelings towards other people. I’m capable of love. I mean, I love you and Paul, and I love my family, don’t I?” she asked, giving me a small smile.

“But I guess sexual love is a little different, but not so far off I suppose,” she explained. I nodded my head as I digested her suggestion, maybe I am in love with Chris...

“I’m going to tell him,” I announced. “I’m going to tell him that I love him, that I want him, that I’d die or eventually stab him to death if he doesn’t take me back. I...”

“Alex!” Sky yelled in panic. I blinked, realizing I’d drifted off to the ‘socially disturbed’ part of myself.

“I’m sorry...” I trailed, stabbing my catfish continually with my fork; transferring a much-needed outburst into something else.

“So about telling him. It sounds good, but I think you should take your drugs before you... you know, try to cut his balls off or something,” Sky advised, making me laugh.

We ate the rest of our meal in small talk. The Easter break was coming to an end in about a week, and I’d decided to go over to Chris’ place on Saturday.

Sky suddenly looked up as we were talking. I followed her gaze to a bunch of Travis’ former friends as they occupied a nearby table.

“I still can’t believe they just left him like that...” Sky trailed as a girl I identified as Tony rested her head on Jonah’s shoulder. Sam and Casey, the nurse’s assistant were also there. Jasper was also there, playing with the salt shaker.

“They weren’t his friends then,” I replied. Sky sighed, biting her lip.

“It seems like it but they’re good people Alex. It’s just too bad the whole situation took them off guard the way it did,” Sky said, as she sipped from her wine glass.

I stood up suddenly, making Sky give me a ’what the hell?” look.

“I’m coming back,” I assured, before walking over to their table.

I cleared my throat making the buzz on their table die down as everyone looked up at me.

“Fag,” I heard Jonah blurt under his breath.

“Attempt at some form of civilized conversation, and I might just give you the benefit of my time.” I directed at him briefly before turning to the rest of the table.

“Now,” I started, taking the free seat next to Casey. She shuffled away like I was carrying some sort of communicable disease. I ignored her but basked at the thought of how Travis had ended up with such a bunch of people in the first place. Travis is definitely an idiot, but I know he can do better.

“I came to point out that your irrational treatment of Travis is dumb and childish to a high degree. So he’s gay, he’s still Travis, isn’t he? It doesn’t mean he won’t play soccer anymore, or that he’ll take some new found interest in makeup or anything.

Nothing and I mean nothing has changed about him. He’s just come to a realization of a part of himself that’s been there all along, and you guys abandoned him.” I said, looking at them one by one. Sam was muttering something under her breath, and Jasper was avoiding my gaze by all means.

“Fucking rubbish,” Jonah started, breaking the silence. “If Travis wants to be a fag, let him be a fag. I told him that shit was contagious when you started tutoring him, but he wouldn’t listen.”

“Well, excuse me for being extremely attractive. I’m sorry to burst your bubble but I didn’t ‘change’ anyone. Travis just realized it. Sexual attraction isn’t just some sort of phase. Heck, that’s how most men learn they’re gay! If you did your research more you’ll know this...” I was saying as Tony covered her ears with her palms and started singing a nursery rhyme.

“What about lesbians?” Casey asked out of the blue. I turned towards her, giving her a surprised look.

“From what I’ve been reading it’s kind of complicated. Women are normally more emotionally and romantically involved than men no matter what sexuality...” I said. She nodded, seemingly digesting the information.

“Look, it’s probably hard for you guys to understand or process all this, but the person you made your friend years ago isn’t any different. If you don’t understand something about all this you can read it up, it’s not embarrassing,” I said, getting up before leaving.

“How did it go?” Sky asked, looking up at me.

“Frustrating, like I was talking to a bunch of nursery school kids,” I answered honestly as I sat down, earning a chuckle from Sky.

*

“Hey!” Tony screamed from across the parking lot, making Sky and me look up; Watching as she ran towards us.

“Hey...” She repeated again, straighten up, looking from me to Sky.

“Look, I’m here to apologize on Jonah’s behalf...” She trailed pushing her dark hair back. I nodded, urging her to continue.

“Well, it’s not exactly his fault he’s reacting this way to the whole thing. You see, his dad left him, his siblings, and Ma for a guy...” Tony trailed, making my left eye twitch.

“What?” Sky asked, coming back to life.

“It’s not public, he only told me,” Tony said, hinting that Sky should tone it down a little.

“He thought it wasn’t going to last a week, maybe some months, but it’s been a whole year. It’s like his dad’s forgotten all about them. He went over to his dad’s place the other day to settle out the remaining procedures following the divorce... and it kind of tore him to pieces when he saw his dad call the guy’s kid by his childhood pet name.” Tony explained, running her hand through her hair.

“He said his mum acts like it’s okay, but he knows it’s not because she cries her eyes out sometimes when she thinks none of them are nearby...” She trailed, looking up at me.

“So, lend him your understanding, okay?” she said, giving me a weak smile. I nodded dwelling on the situation.

“Oh, and about Travis. I don’t really have a problem with the whole gay thing, but I kind of have a reputation to hold, and a boyfriend to keep if you know what I’m saying. So, sorry. I’m just staying clear of any trouble, ya know?” She said, rubbing her hands together in reaction to the weather, before turning away and heading back to the restaurant.

“You had idiots as friends,” I stated bluntly to Sky, pulling my jacket tightly around me. The weather was chilly for some odd reason.

“I know, and they’re really still my friends... just a little distant now,” she said, opening the car door.

“Do you think they’ll rethink it?” I asked, getting in.

“Of course, I wouldn’t lose a friend over something so ridiculous,” she pointed out, starting the engine.

I smiled as she started my playlist for me this time. She gave me a side smile turning her gaze back to the radio.

“Trust me, this will never happen again. We are back to my Zedd first thing tomorrow,” she said, making my grin spread so wide that I started laughing.

“Happy birthday you big idiot,” Sky said, as she drove out the parking lot. I whispered a small ‘thank you’, then a protest that I wasn’t an idiot before looking out the window.

She had done so much for me. The day had almost been perfect. All it needed was Chris. I closed my eyes thinking about him. I’m not going to have an imperfect outing again, I finally decided. I was going to get Chris back. I just had to put my pride aside.

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