At school on Monday, I honestly didn’t know what I expected to happen, but literally nothing changed. I walked in and there Eli was, hanging out with his friends. He looked up when I walked in and smiled, but that was it. I figured that was okay. We’d find time to hang out later, possibly during lunch.
It didn’t happen. He left with his crew, same as always. He was always with his crew, that god damn crew...
“I’m sorry, bro,” Autumn said, having watched Eli leave.
I shrugged. It was normal.
I just…couldn’t quite shake this feeling.
“Here,” Autumn offered me her soda. The one she got only once a week. It was a grand gesture, her offering me that, but I couldn’t possibly take it.
“Autumn, I’m fine. It’s not the end of the world. We just started dating, I’m sure things will change eventually.”
She looked worried.
I glanced at the clock, twenty minutes before he came back, if he came early.
The rest of the day went the same as it had started, and by the end of it, I was feeling vastly bummed out. Until I got into my car and discovered a note left on the passenger seat.
Can ya guess who it was from? I read it aloud to myself.
I know you must be really disappointed by now, having gone all day with nothing changed. I’m so sorry for it. I could make excuses but I’ll be honest, I just didn’t try hard enough to get away, to come see you. I thought of you often. I missed you. I swear—
“I am not ashamed to be with you,” Eli’s voice sounded beside me, chorusing with mine, “You make me so happy, and some day we’re going to be together in that building, one way or another. Please forgive me. Yours, Elijah.”
I belatedly realized Eli was literally sitting right beside me. I know, that sounds strange; how could I possibly have not realized he was sitting less than a foot away? That’s my brain, for ya. I stared at Eli for a long minute, struggling to believe he was here.
He placed a hand on the back of my head and leaned in to kiss me. I dropped the note as I kissed him back. I hadn’t realized just how much I’d actually missed him until right at that moment.
He pulled away first.
“So, do you forgive me?”
I sighed. “Of course, I forgive you. After all, it’s only the first day.”
“Mm,” his hand played with my hair, “there’s no rehearsal tonight. Do you want to go out on a date?”
“What about homework?”
“Tell you what; let’s get two birds with one stone. There’s this marvelous diner in town. Let’s have dinner at, say, seven-thirty, I’ll pick you up, and we can finish our homework there, together, afterwards. I know the owner; he’s my uncle-in-law. He’d not mind a bit.”
I found myself feeling amused about meeting another family member of his and grinned.
“And how many other family members of yours am I going to meet before the week is over?”
“Oooooh, you knowwww, all of them.”
I let out a playful groan to which he laughed and locked his wonderful lips with mine. I loved his kisses.
“So,” I murmured against his lips, “you missed me?”
“So damn much,” his kiss after that carried so much passion that my head felt like it was going to explode; it was sweet heaven.
Then he was gone and I had to get home.
“Sooooooo, who was that we saw you making out with?” Autumn teased, Dave beside her, both grinning. They’d been waiting at home to ambush me.
It was then I realized I’d just made out with another guy in the school parking lot.
“Oh, crap, who else saw?”
Autumn held up one finger, got out her phone, and then showed me an online video of what were clearly two dudes making out in my car.
Everybody knew my car. It was a sixty-nine mustang, nobody else had one. The title: Elijah Rhodes, Popularity King, Makes Out With Known-Nerd Lucas Sullivan.
My phone rang then; upon looking at the number, I saw it was Eli. I answered.
“Hey, Eli,” I said calmly. I truly was calm. It was…odd.
“I am so, so, SO sorry!”
“Saw the video, eh?”
“So sorry! I didn’t think! Oh, God, I’m such an idiot. I didn’t mean to out you like that. I swear to the Gods I was fine respecting your wishes to keep this hidden for a little bit and…” He went on. I let him for about a minute before I interrupted with:
“Eli, hey, it’s not your fault. Besides, I was going to come out anyway, this way is far easier. If anything, I’m worried about you.”
His breathing didn’t slow down.
“Luke, for fuck’s sake, I’M fine. I’m already out! I...”
“Eli, I also swear to the Gods, I’m not mad at you. I’m not mad at anyone.” It, honestly, was kind of nice. “Please, don’t give yourself a coronary over this. I don’t regret anything.”
He started to calm down.
“Are you saying you enjoy kissing me, Lucas Sullivan?”
I grinned, automatically looking down at my lap with shyness though he wasn’t even here. “Your words not mine,” I teased (I had to).
“Jerk,” he said with a laugh. Then he sighed. “You’re really okay?”
“I’m better than okay. Is tonight still on?”
“Oh, fuck yes. I’m picking you up.”
“Sounds great, I can’t wait.”
“I can’t either.”
Silence settled between us as neither of us hung up.
“We…should probably…you know…start our homework?” I said slowly.
“Yeah, you’re right.”
Still neither of us hung up.
“I don’t want to go,” he admitted.
“I don’t either; I’ve missed your voice.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake!” Autumn exclaimed. “Give me that!” She grabbed the phone faster than I could’ve thought to hold it out of her reach, and said into it: “Eli, he’s happy with you, it’s all great mushy-mushy-fun, but go start your freaking homework, you two will see each other four freaking hours from now, it’s not that long, you’ll fucking survive. Goodbye!” She hung up.
I stood there, gaping at her.
“Sis,” Dave spoke for me, “that was, uhm, a bit…over the top.”
She sighed heavily, handing the phone back to me. “Well, I hate it when couples spend forever on the phone because neither of them wants to hang up. God.” She brushed past and headed upstairs.
I looked at Dave.
“What’d I do?”
He sighed. “I think she’s feeling left out…she’s the only one without a date now.”
“We should…probably…” Talk to her, I finished in my mind.
“We will. Let her calm down, though. Let’s go do some homework.”
By six or so, I finished, and decided to pay my sister a visit. She was in her room, on her laptop, typing at superhuman speeds again.
“Do you not like Eli?”
Her fingers stilled and then resumed at a slower pace, which meant she was about to lie.
“I don’t have a problem with him.”
Her hands hesitated again.
“No, I’m not.”
“Autumn, you grabbed the phone from me and yelled at him.”
Her hands stopped completely.
“I don’t have a problem with him, Luke!”
I folded my arms against my chest.
“You have a problem, at least.”
Her lower lip trembled and she bit it.
“Go away, I have work to do.”
If the doorbell hadn’t rung right then, I would’ve pushed further, so she’d just lucked out. As I made my way downstairs, of which the front door was in full view, I nearly fell when I saw Eli standing there, his face bleeding. Dave had gotten to the door first and was standing off to the side, looking as shocked as I felt.
“Eli?!” I ran over to him, stopping just short of running into him. “What in the blue blazing hell happened?!”
One eye was swollen shut, there were cuts on one cheek and his forehead, the corner of his lip was split, and his nose looked broken.
“Friends beat me up,” he said quietly, sounding...numb. I couldn’t describe it. “Pretty sure they broke my wrist.”
I looked down and saw that indeed his wrist looked…wrong.
“What the hell are you doing here?! You need to get to the hospital!”
“Here was closer.”
And then he passed out. Dave caught him. I went to grab my car keys, heart in my throat.