Autumn didn’t start asking questions until after we were safely home and in my room as I changed. Don’t get all weird about me changing in front of my sister, my pants stayed on. I just decided to put on something fancier than a tee-shirt. …Okay, so I wore a different tee-shirt with a jacket over top, but still.
“Why are you dressing up?” Two seconds later she gasped. “Do you have a date?!”
I looked at her in the mirror (she was sitting behind me on Sam’s bed). “No, I do not have a date. I’m just…uhm…going to homecoming.”
Her eyes went wide. “What?! NO WAY!”
Yeah, I couldn’t really believe it myself.
That’s when I realized I could’ve hallucinated the whole exchange so I asked her to check my phone for Elijah’s number. She let out a loud squeal of excitement (I think because she was excited about my crush giving me his number?) and went to hug me instead of checking my phone as I’d asked.
“Sis,” I sought to remind her, “I’m not sure if it really happened.”
“Right, right. Okay.” She danced in place while she looked. When she let out a shriek and hugged me again, my stomach turned to lead.
It’d really happened.
All at once I realized just what insanity I was getting into. All at once I realized what it’d look like if I were to dance with another guy.
“I’m not going,” I said then, taking off my jacket and setting it on Dave’s bed.
My sister’s excitement died.
“Nooo,” she whined, “why not?”
I looked at her and finally told her what’d actually gone down. By the end of it, she was just one…jiggly…bouncy…mass of over-excitement. Okay, so I’m no good with words, but she was…insane with excitement. I waited a few minutes for her to regain coherent thought. When she did, she slapped me upside the head.
“Lucas Sullivan, you are going to that dance!”
“Dave isn’t going to be there.”
I looked at her dubiously. “Do you not know our brother? Leilani asked him out. It’s homecoming. They’re going.”
“Yeah, the dance started at seven. He’s texted me updates in case something…happens.”
Great, on top of anxiety jitters, I got to worrying about the safety of my brother.
“Anyways,” she continued, “they stopped by the dance for, like, forty-five minutes then she wanted to catch a movie, and now they’re out at the park across town. So. He’s not going to find out.”
“Except the whole school is going to talk about Elijah dancing with me; everyone knows he’s gay.”
“Luke, you are blatantly missing the obvious.”
I stared at her, continuing to blatantly miss the obvious.
She sighed, rolled her eyes at my uselessness, and reminded me: “Dancing together doesn’t have to mean slow dancing.”
Oh, shit! She was right.
“But what if?” I asked her.
“You can waste your whole life away because of ‘what if’, or you can take a few risks and see where life takes you.”
She had a point there, too.
Gahhhhhhhh, what to do, what to doooo?
“Luke,” she said firmly, offering me the jacket I had set down, “put the damn jacket on and go to the damn dance!”
She resembled our mom so much with that tone of voice that I grew quite intimidated. Ultimately, though, I knew I should heed her wisdom; I couldn’t live in fear. So, I put that jacket on, I grabbed my car keys, and I set out to go dance.
My nerve ran out the millisecond I entered the gym. It was dimmer than usual; the flashing lights by the DJ’s stand just barely illuminating the place. It was almost packed to capacity with swaying bodies. Our gym was a pretty big one but tonight it looked so very small because…heh…social anxiety…yay…
I saw some of my friends who spotted me at the same time I spotted them. All the way across the room from them, with the blaring music and endless sea of chattering voices, I still heard them yell out:
I saw Elijah look up as their outburst immediately captured his attention and he proceeded to scan the crowd, looking for me. He found me pretty fast. I made my way over to my friends, all too aware of him staring at me as I walked. I was trying to ignore the joy that was in his expression.
Don’t trip, don’t trip, don’t trip, I chanted to myself.
I didn’t trip, thank God.
My friends all wrapped me in a giant group hug, all of them super excited that I had, finally, for the first time in years, come to a dance. I was honestly grateful that they were here. It made this whole thing far less…awkward. All I could think about, though, was dancing with Elijah, however that would happen. Part of me honestly hoped it’d be a slow dance, but most of me knew better.
At around ten-thirty, it happened, and not at all how I expected. The song “Cotton-eyed Joe” came on, and I suddenly felt someone pulling at me to follow them.
It was a few seconds into this new development that Elijah said: “It’s time,” and, well, that answered everything. I followed him willingly to the center of the gym.
Side by side, he and I with half the people in the gym line-danced to the song, and despite my best intentions to hate it, I found myself having a helluva lot of fun. I may have been smiling the entire time, and had even laughed with him a couple of moments when I turned the wrong way and bumped into him. He’d been right, though…and just a little part of me started to fall for him because of it (I know that’s insane; I’m a teenager, what do you expect??).
“So, what’d you think?” he said afterwards, when the group dissipated.
“I’ll be honest. Not what I expected. But, yeah, it was fun.”
He nudged me. “See what happens when you get out?”
I scrunched up my face at him. “Yeah, yeah.” I noticed his friends watching us like hawks, same for my friends with me; two groups who couldn’t have been further apart on the social spectrum.
“So, I guess we should…”
He’d noticed, too.
“Yeah, I guess so. First, though, since you’re already here, uhm, tomorrow…what time is best?”
“Well, I’d honestly like to sleep in…”
“Same, same. I mean, it IS Saturday, after all. We only get two days out of the week to sleep in.”
I grinned. “Exactly. Okay. So I usually sleep until noon.” I was joking, but the look on his face was priceless. The look afterwards when he realized I was kidding was even better.
“You sly shit!” He playfully shoved at me. “Damn, you got me!”
I had to laugh. “Only fair.”
“True, true. Seriously, though?”
“Seriously, I get up around nine usually. I can be ready by nine-thirty.”
“Let’s make it ten-thirty; if it runs long we can get some lunch.”
My stomach flipped at the idea of getting lunch with Elijah…outside of school…just us two. At least, it’d be nice if it was just us two. Gah, I’m getting ahead of myself.
“Sure! Ten-thirty sounds great,” I said.
“Awesome. Okay, my friends look like they think I need rescuing. I better go back over. This was fun, though, we should do it again.”
I agreed; my stomach was full of butterflies as we parted ways. My mind was racing a thousand miles a second. I was actually talking to my crush. I was joking around with him! I had, twice now, caused him to have fun, supposedly; part of me still thought he was just being nice for my sake (I couldn’t help thinking that).
When I got home, my sister was waiting for all the details. However, Dave was also in the room, and I promptly directed the conversation towards his evening. He and Leilani had had a very nice time. Apparently they were going to do it again. He tried turning the conversation back onto me, and I was just not having any of it.
That was the moment things started going south.
When everyone in the house was settled for the night, my brother and I the only ones left awake, he climbed up onto where I lay and sat at my feet, his long legs dangling over the edge of the ladder.
“Why wouldn’t you tell me about your evening?”
“Because nothing happened, Dave.”
He scoffed. “If nothing happened, Luke, you would’ve said it; you wouldn’t have deflected the conversation. Why don’t you trust me?”
I looked at him. Now was the time to come out to him.
Instead I said:
“I was at rehearsal, and then I was at the dance. That’s all that happened.”
His frown deepened. “You’ve been hiding something from me for years, and I know Autumn knows because any time I walk into a room where you two already are, you look at me and shut up. It hurts, you know. I mean you never go to dances, and I really want to know what changed. It’s not fair that Autumn knows but I, your own blood twin, don’t.”
I sighed heavily. There was no going around it. Let the chips fall where they may, right?
“I was at the dance because Elijah talked me into it when we rehearsed together. We were rehearsing together because our director wanted cast to run lines with crew to challenge them, the cast I mean, and I was the only one left that he hadn’t already run lines with. We had a lot of fun and he talked me into going to the dance because I had never been and he wanted to show me how they can be really fun. It was fun, with him. And tomorrow I’m hanging out with him again to help with his lines.”
Dave was silent for a long time. Then:
“Why couldn’t you just tell me that?”
I couldn’t believe he was missing it! Briefly, I considered taking this moment to come up with a lie, but that would only delay the inevitable. I might as well just get it out now. I swallowed hard.
“Because I’m gay, Dave, and I have a crush on Elijah.”
Hurt was the first emotion I saw, then confusion, then hurt again, then I saw the anger.
“How long have you known?”
“Since I was thirteen.”
“And Autumn’s known…?”
“Since I was thirteen.”
Dave closed his eyes. “I see.” Without another word he made his way down the ladder. I leaned over the edge, watching as he prepped his bed to get into it.
“Dave?” I asked.
He didn’t reply.
“Are you mad?”
He still didn’t reply.
I sighed, settling back into bed. He was furious. I mean, he was entitled, of course. I just hoped he would forgive me; I loved him too much to lose him over this.