“So, what do you think is really going on?” Robert asked Ryder, “You don’t really think...”
“I don’t know, Robert. I don’t know what’s going on between him and that faggot.” Ryder snapped.
They, unlike Gable, had barely gotten out of practice, and it seemed as though he’d had been getting out earlier everyday. It was beginning to seem suspect, first, he cited leg therapy for a couple weeks, but then, it became seemingly obvious that he was using anything as an excuse to go see Declan.
It wasn’t that they particularly disliked, or didn’t want him around... They just didn’t like him or want him around. All of them knew it wouldn’t be long before Declan came to a game or to hang out with everyone, but... Gable had made it clear he wasn’t gay, and was only hanging out with Declan to use him for money. It was a confusing situation, to say the least.
“Who knows, man... Maybe, Gable is gay.” Robert sighed.
“What’re y’all goin’ on about?” Bryson, another one of Gable’s friends, and teammate, asked as he joined them around the bed of one of their pick ups.
“Just talkin’ about Gable and that fag. What do you think?” Robert questioned.
“I think it’s all bullshit. That faggot is stalking him. Obviously, Gable likes the attention and money. I’d do the same exact thing.” Bryson interjected.
“Maybe, the sex is good.” Slater laughed as he came up to join them.
“Dude, fuck that. What is your problem?” Ryder asked, seemingly disgusted.
“It’s a joke, frankenteen, relax,” retorted Slater, “All I know is that Declan hangs out with hot bitches and I’m all for that. As long as my dick is getting sucked by a hot piece of ass, I don’t give a fuck what Gable is doing, does, or will do.” he said while shrugging and chugging some water.
They all agreed; who were they to tell Gable what to do? He was, possibly, gay. However, regardless of what he may be… He was their friend, and they needed to stick together.
“I say fuck all of this. Let’s break them up, get Gable a hot bitch, let ’em ease into a better hole, and boom. No more gay shit.” Bryson said matter-of-factly.
“I don’t know about that. This isn’t our business. Why should we stick our noses where they don’t belong?” Robert debated.
“Because it’s our duty to save our friend from sticking his dick where it doesn’t belong.” Ryder added.
“So... Gable’s dick is our duty now?” Slater asked
“No, homo... I mean... Semantics… Whatever... My point is,” Bryson began, “Say Ryder here was the one playing hide the finger with a faggot,” Ryder shot him a defensive look, “We know we’d all help him get out of that situation, so why not help Gable? He’s our friend too.” he concluded.
“Fine. So what do we do?” Robert inquired.
“I don’t know yet. I haven’t thought that far ahead. I just know I’m hungry as shit.” Bryson stated as he opened his truck and got in.
“Me too; can I eat?” Slater pouted.
“Yeah, get in,” Bryson looked towards Robert and Ryder, “guys, it’s our responsibility as a... Wolf pack of sorts. He’s our leader. We’ve got to protect our leader.” he shrugged, and, with that, he drove off leaving Robert and Ryder in silence.
“I’m going home. This is all too much for one day.” Robert admitted as he got in his own truck.
“You wouldn’t hate me, right?” Ryder asked out of nowhere.
Robert cocked his head towards him, “What do you mean?”
Ryder swallowed roughly and looked around before answering his question, “You know, if… I were… Gay?”
Robert stared at him, furrowed his brow, and thought for a minute. Finally, a smile snaked across his mouth.
“Nah, but I’d probably make fun of you until it got old.” Robert nodded, and he pulled out of the parking lot, “Just be sure, that if you ever do go gay, to not get that annoying ass accent they all have. Later.” he warned, before taking off.
Ryder laughed it off, but slowly lowered his head in disappointment. He wasn’t gay, but he wasn’t sure about being completely straight. He shook the thought out of his mind, got in his truck and drove off into the West Texas sunset.
“Why did you go?” Dr. Anderson asked Declan who was lying on the couch on his back, looking at him upside down.
“I was bored.” Declan shrugged.
“Why not play a video game, or go for a run?”
Declan shook his head; it was clear the counselor just didn’t understand. As rolled his head over, he noticed his calm demeanor. His body language was calm, unassuming. It wasn’t as if though he was trying to pry anything out of him, necessarily. He was there to help him, not pester him.
“Well... I wanted to see what it would be like, I guess.” He confessed, “At that point, I’d never been to one of his games. I mean, I was still losing weight…” he repositioned himself right side up, “Honestly, I just wanted to be around him. His presence was so… Intoxicating. I wanted to see him in his natural habitat. You know, playing a sport he loved.”
“Why do you think that was?” He pressed.
“How am I supposed to know?” Declan shook his head.
“Look deeper.” The doctor nodded.
Declan sighed, crossed his arms, leaned back, and looked outside the window, towards the landscape outside. His mind scrambled to think of all the times he obsessed over Gable. Could it have been the repeated messages? The texts? The random visits? Impossible. Gable wanted him there; he was convinced of it. He always invited him. It may have been after some bickering, but he always obliged.
“He… He was the first person I was completely open with.” He finally muttered.
“Understandable,” Dr. Anderson scribbled, “Do you think you were far too attached?”
Declan leaned forward. There was that word again… Attached. Was he attached? No. At least, he didn’t think he was. Well, they spent two full summers together. They interacted day in, and day out… Sure, they may have been somewhat reliant on each other, but they weren’t… Well, he wasn’t attached. Or obsessed. Definitely not… That’s just what normal couples did. Right?
“I told him everything, and he confided within me. He knew who I was, and I him.” he cleared his throat, “So, no; I don’t think I was as “‘attached’ as I was just… In love.”
“Is that why it hurt you so bad?” He inquired, “Losing him and all?”
“I don’t know.” He scoffed.
“Declan.” Dr. Anderson pressed.
They sat at a standstill. Neither daring to break the silence. Dr. Anderson using it as a means to get the teen to talk, Declan, conversely, using it as an excuse to remain silent.
“It’s not like it matters now. I’m here. He’s out there. With someone else. In that fucking truck.”
Dr. Anderson stared at him, finally raising an eyebrow after an awkward eternity.
“What?!” He raised his voice; Dr. Anderson remained silent, “Fine. Whatever. I was too available. He dropped kicked me in the heart, and I wasn’t emotionally strong enough to withstand that much heartache. I caved. I used bulimia as an escape, and… Here we are. Is that what you wanted to hear?”
“Partly,” Dr. Anderson leaned forward, “but we’ll end on that note. Keep your head up, Declan… I know admitting that was hard, but that’s what’s going to help you get out of here sooner.”
Declan fought back tears as he rose from his chair and wobbled out of the office back to his room.
As he drove away from his house, Declan grew increasingly anxious; it was the first time he’d ever been to one of Gable’s games, also the first time he’d be around the jock’s peers.
He fumbled through the radio trying to find something to listen to, but like always, the road trip made that difficult. Finally, he settled on a top 40 station that was playing “No Air” by Chris Brown and Jordin Sparks.
The trip was a fast one, before he knew it, he was parking at the football field. It was packed; there were people everywhere he looked.
Football was as big, if not bigger, than any religion in Texas. No one dare miss a Friday night game. Everywhere he looked there were people laughing, walking hand in hand, conversing… Coexisting, and here he was… An outsider.
After a few minutes, he finally mustered up the courage, and exited his car. He walked towards the entry gate, paid for his ticket, cautiously walked to the stands, and sat in a vacant section.
He noticed the murmurs coming from those around him, the moment he took his seat. In an attempt to mask his anxiety, he looked around as if he were looking for someone. In retrospect, it probably hadn’t been the best of ideas to have worn a Crest hoodie.
The game began, and around the half of the first quarter a girl approached him.
“Hi, are you lost?” She smiled.
He looked at her nervously. What was he supposed to say? He surveyed her face; she didn’t seem harmful.
“No. I’m just here to watch my... Friend.” He managed to externalize.
“Cool,” she sat down next to him, “I’m Cindy, and you are?” She smiled
“Declan,” he replied.
They continued their conversation well into half time. He found out she was dating Bryson, she was a sophomore, and lived a couple miles outside of town. Throughout the game, he was very hesitant to open up, lest he accidentally reveal the extent of he and Gable’s relationship. Even if she tried to pry, he insisted they were friends.
“Want to go grab something to eat?” She asked, a few minutes before half time, in order to avoid the mass exodus of hungry people.
He obliged and walked with her to the concession stand. A blonde tuft of hair appeared out of the corner of his eye. It ran towards Cindy and hugged her from behind. They exchanged pleasantries, before she introduced herself to Declan.
“I’m Kelsey!” She beamed.
“Declan,” he smiled back.
Once they’d acquired concessions, they returned to the stands to watch the remainder of the game. Julia, Gable’s sister, tumbled up and down the sidelines eliciting Declan’s applause. No sign of Anna Cask, yet.
Kelsey eventually returned to her seat, leaving Cindy and Declan to themselves.
“So, you and Gable pretty close?” She inquired after a brief moment of silence.
He continued to look forward, without knowing what to say. He wasn’t a liar; it wasn’t the kind of person he was... But... She seemed trustworthy. He clenched his jaw for a brief moment.
“I didn’t... Mean to... Upset you...” She noticed his silence.
He finally dismissed the silence.
“We’re pretty close... Look... Can I tell you a secret?” His eyes urged confidentiality. She looked him deep in the eye and nodded, as if she already knew.
Declan began to clandestinely explain the situation to Cindy. She listened, and didn’t ask a single question. Every so often she’d nod in acknowledgement, but she dared not interrupt.
Bethlam emerged victorious, once the game concluded. Cindy quickly gathered her things.
“Quick, lets go meet the boys.” She urged.
The thought made Declan uneasy, especially since she hadn’t said much else.
“You aren’t going to tell anyone, are you?” The timbre in his voice plagued with anxiety.
“I’m not that kind of person.” She nodded and smiled, “C’mon, lets go.”
They hurried to the other side of the field and awaited the team to finish their after-game huddle. They dispersed, after a unified “Ice Wolves” chant, and his heart began to race. Gable was the last one off the field.
The moment their eyes met, the jock’s face lit up. He didn’t think Declan would actually come, and seeing him, especially after a fantastic victory, brought him an unparalleled sense of elation.
“Hey!” The jock smiled, he gave him a half hug and proceeded to greet the others. As he walked past them to the locker rooms he gave Declan one last smile and went in to change.
Declan snapped out of his trance, and noticed Cindy talking to him.
“I’m so sorry... I was... My mind drifted.” He apologized.
“Haha, don’t sweat it,” She laughed and brushed it off.
He smiled and looked around. People were beginning to empty out. It was clear only close friends and family were all that remained. Then, it happened; he and Anna exchanged glances. Declan’s stomach dropped. He began to panic.
“I think I’m going to head out.” Declan stammered.
“You sure? They won’t be long.” Cindy shrugged.
“I’ve really got to get home. I have a long day tomorrow,” he lied, “It was great meeting you, though.”
“You too. Don’t be a stranger!” She insisted.
“Promise.” After hugging Cindy, he sprinted towards his car, his heart racing. Had he done the right thing? Had opening up to Cindy been smart of him? He didn’t know. His breathing finally slowed down and he was able to regain his wits. For all intents and purposes, talking to Cindy could’ve been the healthiest thing. He hadn’t had anyone else to talk about the situation with, and she seemed trustworthy.
He shook the thought out of his head, as he got in his car, and started the journey back to Crest. The thought of having potentially messed everything up haunted him until he arrived home.
His phone vibrated furiously in his pocket. He pulled it out and opened the screen.
“New Message from Gable Cask.” the screen read. He quickly opened the text message.
“Why didn’t you stick around?” It read.
Declan didn’t have an excuse. He’d left in a panic stricken stupor. He didn’t know whether to tell Gable what he’d done, or just ignore it. Finally, he responded by giving him the same excuse he’d given Cindy. After a while, Gable replied understanding the situation.
The conversation didn’t last much longer, as Gable went out to celebrate the victory with his friends and Declan crawled into bed. His nightmares were filled of the consequences that could result due to what he had revealed to Cindy.
The next day, he knew he would wake up just as disconcerted as the night before.