The second we walked into the house, Autumn saw, and even faster she was on the attack, going on and on and on about what a shit Elijah was for doing this to me. He ignored her, his goal getting me to a bathroom to clean me up. I didn’t fight his lead and Autumn followed us. While Elijah went to wet a towel to wipe off the dried blood on my face, I grabbed my still-ranting sister by the arms and gently but firmly interrupted:
“Autumn, stop! Please! He didn’t start it! He stopped it. He saved me.”
She pushed my hands off her. “You’re so naïve, Luke! He may not have thrown any punches but he set it up!”
“Luke,” Elijah said softly, easily grabbing my attention so he could clean my face up. Being touched by him was such a surreal experience. He was so close I could feel the heat of his body. His skin was soft, his touch gentle, warm. I hardly felt any pain. What I noticed the most were his eyes; emotions raged deep within them, and I couldn’t look away. It didn’t take long to clean the wounds on my face, at the end of which he looked up into my eyes, held my gaze for a silent second, and then softly murmured:
“There. That’s better.”
I won’t lie. I probably would’ve stupidly leaned in to kiss him if Autumn hadn’t made a noise of disgust and stalked out. I thanked Elijah, laying a hand on his arm a smidgen too long before I chased after my sister. I managed to catch her just before she headed upstairs.
“Sis, wait a minute, you’re not being fair.”
“Luke, he can’t be trusted!”
“Autumn, just because he’s popular doesn’t make him a jerk!”
“That’s exactly what makes him a jerk!”
I let her go, astounded by her black and white view.
“You really won’t see that he’s one of the good guys?”
“You got hurt hanging out with him. That’s all that I need to know.”
I started to call after her, now getting pissed with her attitude, when a hand rested on my shoulder, and Elijah said:
“Just let it go. I’m used to it.”
I looked at him. “But you didn’t set it up.”
“I know that. You know that. Your brother knows that. But she needs to calm down before she can see that. Now, can I use your phone to call a cab?”
I shook my head. I was feeling better now. I could drive. He was giving me a confused look now.
“I’m taking you back to your car,” I explained.
His confusion cleared to one of worry. “Luke—”
“Elijah, I’m fine.” I held up my hand, which was steady. “See? No more shakes. Speaking of shakes,” I segued with ease as the idea suddenly hit, “I was wondering if you wanted to stop at DQ on the way. My treat.”
Despite his best effort, a smile broke out on his face.
“You’re smooth, Lucas Sullivan.”
Like a milkshake, I thought but didn’t say.
“Yeah, I’d love that,” he continued, “but I’m paying.”
I opened my mouth to protest only to end up with his finger on my lips shushing me into silence. Every touch sent a thrilling sensation down my spine; I was always left wanting more.
“It was my friends that beat you up so I’m paying for the damn milkshakes. You better get the biggest one they offer.”
I moved his hand away.
“Fine, but on one condition.”
“That you get the biggest one, too.”
He lightly punched me on the arm.
“I never get any other size.”
I grinned at him and led the way out.
We had a fun time at DQ, getting to know each other a bit; you know…in between brain freezes. It was actually really easy being around him. He was laid back, laughed easily, didn’t judge, and actually listened. It was easy to forget that he was popular and I wasn’t. When it was just us, it was just two teenage boys hanging out, having a good time. Things were simple.
We parted ways after getting to the park. He thanked me for the good times he had, I returned the compliment and then headed home. I had a fire to put out. No, that wasn’t a pun because of Autumn’s red hair.
She was in her room, glaring at her computer screen, her fingers flying across the keyboard at inhuman speeds. Okay, so they were obviously human speeds, but they were faster than anyone else’s I’d ever seen. I stood just outside her doorway, and lightly rapped on it.
“Go away, Luke,” she snapped, “I’m busy.”
“Autumn, we both know I will stand here until you acknowledge that I’m here to talk to you about Elijah, so you might as well talk now and get it over with.”
She sighed heavily and slammed the laptop screen down. I cringed a little, hoping she hadn’t just inadvertently damaged it. The thing was brand new.
“What, Luke? Nothing you say will convince me.”
I sure as hell was going to try anyway.
“You need to listen to me, baby girl. He did not set this up. When his friends showed up, he was dead-ass shocked. Before you go say he’s an actor, he could’ve faked it, I’ve worked around him enough to know he’s not that good; maybe someday, but not right now. He wasn’t faking it. He didn’t set that up. One of the parts you didn’t let either of us tell you was that one of his friends held him back while one held me against my will and the other three beat me up. He was screaming at them to stop, fighting the one holding him back. Elijah was on my side, not theirs. He gave them a pretty bad chewing-out afterwards and the emotion that I saw on his face was real. He was on the brink of tears he was that fucking pissed.
“You know I really like him. Well, that’s gotten stronger. He seems to enjoy hanging out with me. I enjoy hanging out with him. It may happen more in the future and it would be absolutely wonderful if my favorite lady didn’t want to tear him apart every time he was in this house. He’s an ally, sis. Put aside the fact that he’s popular. That’s not who he is; he’s so much more. Just give him a chance to show you that. Please. He didn’t beat me up today. He stopped them from doing more damage. I got lucky.”
She was silent for a long moment, before she looked up at me and to my horror I saw a tear roll down her cheeks. Guilt tore at my soul.
“I’m so sorry, Luke!” She got off the bed and ran into my arms. “I’ve been such a jerk!”
I held her to me, pressing several kisses to her hair.
“You thought you were protecting me. I love it when you do that. It’s just Elijah isn’t the threat. Dave is.”
She pulled back, shocked. “Dave?”
“That’s the other part you didn’t let either of us tell you. He told those friends where we were.”
Her eyes went wide. “Why?!”
“I intend to find out.” My mouth set in a grim line.
Dave didn’t make it home until around six that evening. Our parents were home, our sister, too, but I was the only one in the living room to greet him. Autumn had warned our parents that Dave and I were about to have a fight. I think they were in their room watching something with headphones in. If they didn’t hear us yelling, they wouldn’t feel compelled to intervene. As they saw it, he and I were old enough to work out our problems ourselves, and that was exactly what I intended to do.
I looked at him after he shut the front door, and the split second after he saw my bruising face, he stopped short just past the front doorway, looking shocked.
“What the hell happened to you?”
I stood up, went over to him, and punched him in the face. My fist struck his jaw.
“You happened to me, you son of a bitch!”
God, I hoped Autumn was wearing headphones, too. Baby girl had had enough stress today.
“I didn’t do a damned thing to you!” Dave yelled back at me as he straightened, hand over his jaw. “Luke, what the hell?!”
“Yeah, Dave, what the hell?!” I shot back. “Why the fuck would you tell his friends where we were?! What Elijah and I were doing in the park, which was just running lines to help him practice by the way, was none of any of y’all’s business! And what the fuck were you hoping to accomplish by telling them I’m gay?!”
“I don’t know, alright?! I was mad at you! I didn’t think!”
I grabbed his shirt, letting the anger take over. “You’re god damn right you didn’t think, you fucking moron! They beat me up because I’m gay! Elijah only barely got them to stop. You didn’t just hurt me, bro.” I shoved him back against the front door. “You hurt Elijah. You hurt our sister. She freaked when she saw me, and then she took it out on him when she really should’ve been taking it out on you. You should’ve seen the look on her face when she found out you were the reason those guys showed up.” I studied him. “I swear, I don’t fucking know you anymore.”
He shoved at me then. “Then you know how I fucking feel! Five fucking years, Luke! You hid this massive secret from me! You think that didn’t hurt me?! I don’t understand why you couldn’t trust me!”
“Because I was afraid you’d do something like this! It’s up to ME who I tell, and when! I was afraid you’d run to mom and dad. I was afraid you’d spread the news before I was ready for others to know!”
I saw the tears he held back. “Then you never really knew me, Luke.” A single tear escaped as he brushed past and headed up towards his room. Tears snuck up on me as I watched him.
I couldn’t tell him why I had even thought that. I didn’t know. I wiped the tears from my cheeks and went to the couch to try to distract myself. I began to wonder if Dave and I would ever be able to overcome this. It felt like our bond was permanently severed, forever.
I guess only time would tell.