Chapter 33: Steppin' Out
The entire month of April and the first week or two of May seemed to only exist in order to prove to Cyrus that when he was dreading something, time sped up. The days melted away as the weather got warmer, and, no matter how hard he tried to cling to the time, Cyrus found himself already two weeks away from graduation. Under absolutely any other circumstances, he would have been ecstatic. After all, Cyrus had been dying to graduate since at least five schools ago. Now, however, things were different. Now, graduating meant the beginning of something new, and that had to start with three months away from his boyfriend.
“I just can’t figure out how it got this late,” Cyrus complained. “Graduation is in two weeks.”
“I know,” Hayden said, rubbing small circles on Cyrus’s shoulder with his thumb. “I never thought I’d be dreading leaving this place.”
Cyrus could certainly sympathize with that. For a moment, he simply reveled in the comfort of being tucked between Hayden and the couch - one of his favorite positions. “You know, we put off coming out to everyone, but now that we only have a few weeks left… What would it hurt?” He looked up at Hayden. “At least we could spend our last bit of time here without having to keep this a secret.”
He felt Hayden shrug. “You know my thoughts. I’m game with whatever you want.”
“Mmm,” Cyrus said, closing his tired eyes and resting his head against Hayden’s chest.
“But if we do come out, we should do it super dramatic. In for a penny, in for a pound, you know?” Hayden said, grinning wryly. “‘Cause if it was just like a subtle thing, there’d be whispers like it’s a rumor. If there are going to be whispers, let’s make it about something real.”
Cyrus grinned back. “Sounds fun. We’ll probably never see most of these people again anyway. What did you have in mind?”
Hayden just looked down at him and smiled. Unnerved, Cyrus began to wonder whether he should have asked that before agreeing.
They chose History. Two days later, their class began presentations of their Machiavelli projects, and Hayden was, of course, Cyrus’s partner. Cyrus sat in his customary seat, wiping his sweaty palms on his pants. This was it. After this class, he would officially be known as gay. Or bi. Or whatever. Cyrus wondered if the idea should freak him out more. Where was the aggressive denial stage that came with realizing he was gay?
Cyrus suspected that it would come if it had been anyone but Hayden whom he’d developed feelings for. For whatever reason, Cyrus had always felt comfortable with Hayden, and that hadn’t changed. He had eased Cyrus’s transition into a new school, and it seemed like he would do the same now. Cyrus was grateful for the support. Regardless, what was worrying Cyrus at the moment was Hayden’s plan.
“It’ll be fine,” Hayden said, leaning over. “Relax.”
“I can’t,” Cyrus hissed back.
Mr. Thompson glanced down at his clipboard from his spot at the back of the room. “Mr. Angeles and Mr. Brenton. You’re up.”
Hayden quirked a brow at Cyrus in a way that was probably supposed to be encouraging, but Cyrus couldn’t find it in him to calm down. Up at the front of the room, Cyrus’s nerves only got worse. Luckily, it was easily passed off as stage fright, and he only heard a few snickers as he stumbled and stuttered through his half of the presentation. Ever cool, Hayden managed his part with casual grace, seeming more excited than anything.
“And that was why Machiavelli was one really twisted, but awesome guy,” Hayden finished with a smile. He paused as Thompson wrote something down on his clipboard. “Well, how’d we do?” he asked brightly.
“I’m not about to announce your grade in front of the class,” Thompson replied, scowling.
“Ouch. That bad, huh?” Hayden said lightly. “Come on, we don’t mind.”
Cyrus nodded his consent, and Mr. Thompson shrugged. “Fine. You got a ninety six.”
Hayden’s face lit up as he dramatically pumped a fist into the air and whooped loudly. Spinning around in a tight circle, Hayden grabbed Cyrus’s arm and pulled him into a rough kiss, seemingly spontaneous. Cyrus’s heart was racing for so many reasons, and when they separated, he was all too aware of the dead silence in the room.
As per the plan, Hayden and Cyrus simply headed for their seats, acting as if nothing happened. Apparently, nobody told the blood rushing to Cyrus’s cheeks to play it cool, for he was blushing furiously and couldn’t stop. Every eye in the room was on them, including the teacher’s. If he had known what to say, Mr. Thompson probably would have done something about it right then. As it was, he simply said, “Mr. Angeles… Mr. Brenton…” There was a long pause. “See me after class.”
“Will do, sir,” Hayden said in a tone that bordered on insolent.
Cyrus didn’t have words in him to reply, so he simply nodded, then stared down at his hands folded on the desk. He watched silently as Hayden pried apart his death grip and took one of Cyrus’s hands in his own. The fact that it was in full view of the class no longer mattered, and that alone made everything worth it.
It was difficult to focus for the remainder of class, not just for Cyrus, but for everyone else in the room too. More than one disgusted glance was cast their way, but Cyrus found himself not caring. It was strange, but it didn’t bother him. He wasn’t about to feel bad for something that made him the happiest he had ever been, and that was that.
When the bell rang, the class emptied out and Cyrus lingered with Hayden. He wasn’t sure what to expect from Mr. Thompson as he approached the teacher’s desk at the front of the room, but he was fairly certain it wouldn’t be good.
“You wanted to see us?” Hayden asked, acting as if everything was entirely normal.
“Yes, I did,” Mr. Thompson said, perching on the edge of his desk and frowning down at them. “What you did in class today was inappropriate.”
“Why, because it was a PDA, or because we’re two guys?” Hayden challenged.
Thompson scowled. “Your lifestyle choices are none of my concern, but, being an all-male school, I don’t believe there is any policy in place about public displays of affection. As such, I’ll have to ask you to refrain from them; do you understand?”
Cyrus nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He could feel that his cheeks were aflame and really just wanted to get out of there. Cyrus shifted towards the door, pausing when he noticed that Hayden wasn’t moving. Hayden stayed where he was, arms crossed and eyes narrowed. “So, you’re saying that we can’t simply because there are no rules explicitly saying whether or not we can? How does that make sense?” Hayden demanded. “Is there a rule saying whether or not I’m allowed to breathe? No, but I’m still doing it, aren’t I?”
Thompson’s face hardened. “I wasn’t going to report you, Mr. Brenton, but I will if I have to.”
“Report me for what?” Hayden asked, throwing his hands in the air. “For doing something that I’m not explicitly forbidden from doing?”
“Are you trying to get me to make a rule forbidding you?” Mr. Thompson snapped. “Because I can, and will.”
“Can you?” Hayden raised a brow. “If this were a co-ed school and we were a heterosexual couple, would there be a rule prohibiting PDAs?”
“No, there wouldn’t. This is 2015; of course there wouldn’t,” Hayden cut him off dismissively. He was getting flushed too now, but it was out of anger rather than embarrassment.
“Hayden,” Cyrus said quietly, warning.
Hayden brushed him off. “It’s not fair.”
Mr. Thompson was getting more irritated by the second, but he did offer, “It’s two weeks until your graduation. Do you really want to get into this?”
“Hayden!” Cyrus hissed.
Hayden turned to him this time. “It’s not for us, Cy. What about everyone who comes after us? You know we’re not going to be the last gay guys to come through here; what if they’re too afraid of the rules - or lack of rules - to be able to be happy?”
There was a heavy silence in the room. Eventually, Mr. Thompson spoke. This time, he did so with an utter lack of emotion, which was better than anger anyway. “Fine. I’ll submit your issue for review with administration. If you want to plead your case, do it to them.”
“I will,” Hayden promised.
Shaking his head slightly, Thompson waved a hand at the door. “Go, before I decide to give you detention for the way you spoke to me just now.”
They left without another word, for there was nothing left to say anyway. “Thank you” didn’t exactly seem appropriate. Cyrus and Hayden walked in silence for a while. They were almost half way back to the dorm when Cyrus finally spoke. “Do you really think that was the best idea?”
“Do you really think I was about to let that go?” Hayden replied sharply, still obviously on edge. “I was expecting discrimination by the students, but I refuse to accept that from the teachers.”
Cyrus noticed people scrutinizing them as they walked past. News sure traveled fast. He kept his head up with some effort and replied, “I know, but what if they decide to make it against the rules? That’ll just make things worse.”
“Then I’ll contest it,” Hayden said firmly.
Hesitantly, Cyrus said what was burning in his mind, “But Hayden, the school’s really done a lot for you. Are you sure you should…”
“Should what? Challenge them?” Hayden asked, spinning around. They had stopped walking, and Cyrus could feel the gazes of people lounging around the quad focused on himself and Hayden, who were right in the middle. “You don’t think I should stand up for what’s right, regardless of what they’ve done for me? Am I just supposed to accept that they can do whatever the hell they want and I have to keep my mouth shut because they’re freaking keeping me here out of the goodness of their hearts?”
Yes, Cyrus wanted to reply. It was what he would do, in Hayden’s situation - keep his head down and nose clean until he was out of there. Even so, Cyrus was aware that Hayden’s emotions were running high at the moment. He decided it was best to stay silent.
Lowering his voice, Hayden growled, “That doesn’t sound like the Cyrus I know. And if you think I’m about to let this go, then you don’t know me very well either.”
Cyrus didn’t need to look up to know that Hayden had just stormed off. He closed his eyes, took several deep breaths, and when he opened them again, Hayden was gone. Every person within earshot was looking at Cyrus standing there in the middle of the grass looking lost and forlorn. He scowled at them all before hurrying off. He just needed somewhere to think for a moment.
Settling for a shady spot near the lake, Cyrus began to realize that he and Hayden had just had their very first fight. His stomach clenched and flipped; he didn’t like it at all. Cyrus tried to pin down who was at fault. It was probably him. After all, he had basically managed to doubt Hayden’s convictions and remind him that he was here on charity all in one fell swoop. Smooth move, you idiot, Cyrus thought to himself.
And now what? Was Cyrus supposed to chase after Hayden, or would that make it worse? Was he supposed to give him space, or go apologize immediately? How did he even go about apologizing? Cyrus was so out of his depth. He had only once been in a serious relationship, and when he and Marissa had fought, it simply spelled the end of everything. Cyrus didn’t want to lose Hayden, especially not over something like this. After all, it wasn’t that Cyrus didn’t support his equal rights crusade; he had just gone about expressing his doubts in the wrong way.
Cyrus stood and brushed himself off. This wasn’t the way the revealing of their relationship was supposed to go. They were supposed to be able to revel in being allowed to hold hands and such outside of their dorm room, not fight and end up like this. A shiver ran down Cyrus’s back as he contemplated the possibility that their dramatic revelation would be all for nothing if they broke up. He couldn’t even bear to think that.
Cyrus didn’t care if it was right, or if it was what he was supposed to do; he set off to find Hayden and apologize right away. He couldn’t, and wouldn’t, let it stand the way it was. Cyrus only hoped Hayden was prepared to forgive him.