“You’re staring again,” Autumn, my sister, said to me. She’d been adopted by my parents about four years after me and my twin (not identical) brother, Dave, had been born, just a year younger than us. She was as much my sister as Dave was my brother, because family doesn’t have to end in blood.
Anyways, the most popular guy in the school had just entered the cafeteria on his way back from lunch. He was a senior in high school (same for me) so that meant, if he wanted, he could go off campus for lunch. As long as he was back before the bell rang. I could do the same, I just chose not to.
Elijah Rhodes, that being my crush by the way, was twenty minutes early, which was…unusual. Normally he didn’t get back until five minutes before bell.
So…yes, I was staring. No, I didn’t want to admit it. Nobody knows I’m gay, except my sister.
Oh, I’m Lucas; Lucas Sullivan.
I watched, unable to look away, as Elijah strode oh-so-confidently in his faded skinny jeans, converse sneaks, and tight white tee-shirt underneath an open button-up plaid shirt. His hair was dark and unruly, perpetually always looking like he was just coming from having wild sex. He wasn’t muscular, but I loved that.
It was known to the whole school that he was gay. That’s why I had such a crush on him. That and, whenever he smiled, which was often, it would light up his baby blue eyes, plus several other reasons.
Autumn lightly kicked my shin with her foot (we sat on opposite sides of the booth) after a few minutes of me watching Elijah, which did two things: brought me back from my incessant daydreaming and made me notice his friends, a couple of them, starting to notice my stare. I looked away, down at the untouched meatloaf on my tray where I sat in embarrassed silence.
“You really should eat,” my sister advised quietly. “Gym is next and you know how brutal your coach is.”
I made a face at the meatloaf, my stomach churning at the thought of eating it. “If I eat it, I’ll throw up next period for sure.”
“And if you don’t, you might pass out.”
“I’ll take passing out to throwing up, thanks.”
She sighed heavily. “Did you bring any allowance money with you?”
I looked up into her eyes to give her a do you not know me look. Of course I hadn’t brought my allowance money. That was stashed in…a safe place…for emergencies only. This was hardly an emergency. I’d had a big breakfast! I was fine!
My stomach growled.
Okay, maybe I wasn’t so fine.
Autumn gave me a look of I told you so.
What was I to do? I certainly wasn’t going to—
“Here, you stubborn fucktwat,” Dave said, tossing a bag of nacho Dorito chips into my lap as he scooched in beside our sister.
Grateful for the chips, I looked at him, smiled, and said: “Thanks, shitfuck.”
Dave and I often called each other these names. It was our thing. No, I have no idea why.
He grinned in response, and then asked how our days had gone so far. After we replied, he filled us in on his eventful morning.
“Leilani asked me out after third.”
Autumn and I gasped aloud at the same time. That was as far as our identical outburst went, however.
While she said: “Oh my god, that’s great!”
I said: “Shit, no way!”
Which…apparently…was the wrong thing to say.
While Dave had dismissed it, my sister gave me a dark look.
“‘Shit, no way’?” She repeated, incredulous. “Really, Luke?”
My brain stalled, shocked by the venom in her gaze. She continued without a response from me.
“Do you mean to say that Dave is incapable of getting a date?”
“No!” I exclaimed. If anything, he was the most capable of the whole school.
“Oh! So, then you think women can’t ask men out, is that it?!”
Dave and I both stared at her as if she had three heads. Both of us exclaimed:
“Of course not!”
I added on: “Sis, what’s going on? Why are you attacking like this?”
She didn’t reply, only staring down at her tray. Dave and I exchanged a silent glance, and decided to let it go. She’d talk to us when she wanted to, or she wouldn’t. That was that.
I looked at my brother again and said quietly:
“I really think that’s great, bro.”
“Thanks,” he replied. We cast one final uneasy glance our sister’s way and then let the silence settle around us.
She approached me after school, just as I was about to head out to my car.
“Hey, Autumn,” I greeted her.
She looked surprised. “You don’t seem mad.”
Now I was surprised. Or maybe confused would be a better emotion.
“Why would I be mad?”
“The attack at lunch.”
Oh, yeah, that.
I shrugged. “It’s okay, just a misunderstanding.” I started on my way once more towards the entrance.
She placed a hand on my arm, stopping me just before I made it. My mind rebelled just a little bit at being stopped so close to freedom.
“Luke, it’s not okay. You didn’t deserve that. I should’ve known better.”
I looked at the ginger-haired girl standing beside me looking so sad and went to hug her.
“Sis, I love to death how you jump to Dave’s defense the way that you do. It’s comforting to know he will always have at least one ally to defend him at all times no matter where he’s at. And I mean if he’s out with you he’ll have you, and if he’s out with me, he’ll have me.” I wasn’t sure if I was making a lick of sense but I think she got it. (Yeah, I tend to over-explain things, not sure why I do that, either.)
“So you’re really not mad?”
I pressed a kiss to her bright red hair.
“Really, really, sis. You riding home with me?”
“No, I have band practice.” She kissed my cheek, noticeably cheerier. “Thanks, Luke.”
I gave her a grin.
“No problem. Show ’em who’s boss.”
She smiled and started off towards the band room. I finally got my freedom from this school for the day.
That night, as I was winding down for bed, Dave came into my room. Well, our room; we shared a bunk bed. Still, he climbed up, sat beside me, and asked me a question I’d dreaded for a while he’d ask.
“Who are you taking to Friday’s homecoming dance?”
Immediately my brain began to panic. If I said no one, he’d ask why, and I’d have to lie further. If I told the truth and said I’d be working Friday night with Elijah and the rest of the theater crew (Elijah was not a jock, he was a theater actor, and I worked on, like, the sets and stuff), I worried my brother might start to wonder if I had a thing for the lead actor. I wasn’t ready for him to find out that I did indeed have a thing for another guy, let alone such a popular one.
I agonized over this for a few seconds before realizing what an idiot I was to agonize over this at all. My anxiety was telling me that Dave would somehow make an impossible connection to a secret I held. Really? That was dumb.
“I have to work Friday night, on sets, while the cast rehearses.”
He looked confused, and for a good half a minute, my panic positively raged three times stronger than before. I thought that somehow he’d made that impossible connection.
I was just overreacting…you know…like I do.
“Don’t they need the stage to rehearse?”
He had never been in the theater, and probably never would be, even to save his life. It wasn’t that he hated theater or anything. He simply held absolutely no interest for it. Science however…
I’m getting off course.
“Dave, there’s a whole space behind the curtain at the back of the stage, which is where I build the sets while the cast rehearses in front.”
He looked shocked.
“Wait…there’s not a wall right behind that?”
I laughed, unable to help it. The look on his face made me cut the laughter short, though. I put an arm around him and squeezed.
“Bro, the theater is a magical place full of many secrets.”
He groaned, rolled his eyes, and playfully shoved me away from him.
“Oh, get off it.” He maneuvered his way down the ladder to the ground and looked up at me. “Wish you were coming to the dance, though.”
He loved those social events.
I hated them.
As for Elijah…well, all I really know is that he takes his art seriously. He probably likes dances? He seemed social enough.
I forced a smile at my twin, and lied through my teeth:
“Maybe I’ll stop by if rehearsals stop early.”
See, I was only allowed to work on the set as long as the cast was rehearsing. I’m not sure why the director wanted it that way, but…that’s how it’s always been at this school.
Dave smiled genuinely and left the room to go get ready for bed. I began to let my mind wander about what tomorrow afternoon would entail. I always thrilled at the prospect of Elijah being so close just on the other side of that curtain. Almost as if I could just reach out and...
I sighed. Friday afternoon wasn’t getting here fast enough.