At the hospital, they told us he’d passed out from shock, not internal bleeding. His wrist was indeed broken and they’d put it in a cast. When we were finally allowed into the room, he was lying fully clothed in the hospital bed, arm in a bright blue cast. He smiled upon seeing me. I headed straight for him, took his face in my hands when I was close enough, and locked my lips with his. He placed his free hand on my cheek while he kissed back.
When my siblings suddenly crooned behind me, Eli pulled away to look. He didn’t seem bothered, just surprised. I realized it was time to make formal introductions, even if they already knew who the others were. I mean…like…introduce him as my boyfriend, I guess? I don’t know what I mean.
“Eli,” I moved out of his line of sight, “these are my siblings, Dave and Autumn.” I gestured to each, “Guys,” I gestured now to my boyfriend, “this is Eli.” The trio mutually said hi to each other. I turned back towards Eli. “I am so sorry.”
He looked at me, confused. “Why?”
“Because…if I hadn’t kissed you in the school parking lot, none of this would’ve happened.”
Eli now looked bewildered. “Luke, you’re not serious.”
Do I look like I’m joking? I wanted to shoot back (heavy on the sarcasm), but instead I remained silent, simply staring at him.
He sighed, leaned forward, and planted a soft kiss upon my lips.
“I’m not going to apologize for being with you,” he stated, “I don’t regret it for a second. We haven’t even gone on first real date and already you got me hooked. You are not the problem, Luke, nor are you even a part of the problem. They’re the ones who beat me up. They’re the ones full of hate. We shouldn’t have to rearrange our lives just to accommodate their prejudiced thinking. There is nothing wrong with us. It’s them. So, please, stop blaming yourself. Okay?”
Speechless, I could only nod. Eli smiled a little.
“You’re so adorable,” he claimed before pulling my face to his.
I disagreed about being adorable, but I sure wasn’t gonna argue the point now.
Just as we began to ease apart, his parents walked in, both intensely worried and angry.
“Elijah!” His mother exclaimed, sounding horrified. Then she looked at me accusingly. His father was already staring at me that way.
“Mo—” Eli started only to be interrupted.
“You,” his mother snapped at me. “Explain yourself.”
“Who the hell are you?” His father demanded before I could start.
Had he already forgotten we’d already met?? In the damn bowling alley? Yesterday??
“Now wait a goddamn—” Dave started. I stopped him.
“It’s fine, Dave. Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes, my name is Luke Sullivan. This is Dave and Autumn, my siblings. We are the ones that took your son to the hospital after he was beaten up by his friends.”
“Mom, Dad,” Eli spoke up, “this is my boyfriend,” my stomach twisted with excitement, and I knew it could be seen on my face because Eli looked at me and an instantaneous smile brightened up his face.
His dad grabbed me by the arm before anything more could happen, dragged me such that I was actually forced to walk backwards to the open door, and shoved me out of the room with enough force to cause me to lose my balance and fall flat on my ass after a brief sprawl across the hallway. My head knocked once against the wall on the opposite side of the hallway from his room, hard enough to hurt but not enough for there to be damage.
“You stay the hell away from my son!” Eli’s father roared at me; he was so furious. But why the hell was he furious at me? I’d not beaten his son up! What the fuck??
From within the room I heard Eli arguing with his mom. His father went back in and closed the door forcefully before I could get a look at Eli. Dave helped me to my feet, while a couple of nurses asked if I was okay. I assured them I was fine, just kind of pissed.
“What the hell is up his ass?” I snarled to no one in particular.
“Wanna go in and ask? I’ll gladly help.” Autumn offered.
As tempted as I was, I decided to just walk away. If they wanted to fight in calmer conditions, then I was gonna stand my ground. As of now, best let them calm down, and we get home before our parents freaked out from our absence.
Upon getting home, we discovered the house empty; a note left by them that told us they were having a date night. The three of us looked at each other with grins. We then decided we wanted to watch something together. At first we thought movie, but as we perused the streaming site, we found a TV show we all wanted, and as it was rare that the three of us ever actually agreed like that, we took full advantage of this special occasion; popcorn and drinks included.
It wasn’t until nine that evening that Eli called me. I’d almost missed it entirely, as he called me on my cell mere minutes before I normally would’ve shut it off for the night. After our initial greetings, I asked him how he was.
“Well, I mean, a broken anything sucks but at least it’s not like...broken ribs or something.”
I agreed with him, and expressed my sorrow for his pain. He must’ve heard the unspoken guilt, or knew it was still around.
“Luke, let me refresh your memory. This afternoon, I saw you get into your car and I followed. I got into your car, you didn’t get into mine. I initiated the kiss that lead to the make-out session. I made the choice to kiss you on school grounds. If anyone should be apologizing, it’s me, for not taking into account that in that moment that you were still in the closet. I should be apologizing to you for outing you before you were ready. I truly am sorry, Luke.”
I should’ve been mad at him. Yet I wasn’t…and I already knew why.
“Eli, I was ready, I was just being a chicken-shit about it. I mean...coming out by kissing a guy that I like whom seems to like me back—”
“Seems to? Luke. I definitely like you back. I like you back a lot.”
I smiled big at that. “Is hardly a bad way to come out,” I finished.
He chuckled. “Got ya smiling don’t I?”
“Shut up,” I advised, unable to stop the smile from growing.
He laughed; I enjoyed listening to the laughter, it was delightful.
After a couple minutes of silence, I finally asked the question burning within me: “Are your parents okay with you dating boys?”
“They say they are, but I suspect they’re still adjusting. You’re asking cos of what happened at the hospital, aren’t you?” I didn’t reply, because I knew I didn’t need to. “I was not thrilled with that stunt, either, believe me. The both of them got a very loud, very long lecture from me. I explained to them you were not at fault. I also explained that if they dared interfere with this relationship, I would make sure there would be hell to pay. I’ve never threatened them over a guy before, so it...it was something.”
My heart leapt into my throat.
I’ve never threatened them over a guy before…
Still, my insecurity warned me to be careful.
“Sounds like it was quite the moment.”
He half-laughed, half-scoffed.
“That’s one way to put it.”
I found myself apologizing again.
“Luke,” he said with frustration.
“Sorry!” I said automatically, and then cringed. “Sorry for that. Oop, sorry. Sorry! Oh my god, help.”
He was too overcome with laughter to answer right away. When he finally got control though…
“Why are you so cute?” he crooned.
Both my heart and my stomach started freaking out…I don’t know how else to describe the feeling.
“I’m not,” I said quietly.
“Luke,” he warned.
“You’re the cute one!”
Man, I really loved hearing him say my name, regardless to the tone.
“Eli,” I shot back playfully.
I bit my lip to hold the laugh that wanted out.
“Eli,” I mimicked.
“You’re damned lucky I’m not there right now or you’d sorely regret teasing me like this.”
My stomach flipped.
“Maybe I want that.”
No reply from him, so immediately I began to curse myself; stupid, stupid, stupid!
“I want that, too.”
All knowledge on how to breathe soared right out of my memory.