The Ghost Of You

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Chapter 6

I reached over to slap my mom on the back, she inhaled wrong, choking on her meatloaf, “Geez mom. You okay?”

She held up one finger as she took a small drink of her milk, trying to recover, “Yeah. I’ll be okay.”

“I shouldn’t have said anything, huh?” I asked, looking down at my plate.

“Honey, no. It’s not like that,” she reached over to grab my hand, giving it a quick squeeze, “I’m glad you tell me things. I you surprised me, that’s all.”

“Oh,” I bit my lip, peeking up at her, “Bad surprised? Or good surprised?”

“Just surprised in general, I guess,” she laced her fingers together and put her hands on the table. “So, I’m just curious, but how did you come to this conclusion?”

“I think I’ve suspected for a little while now. Girls never really caught my eye.” I pushed my plate away, my stomach tied up in knots, “But today definitely confirmed it for me.”

“After the kiss?”

“Yeah. That’s part of it, I guess. It was my first kiss, but it just felt...wrong. You know?” I rested my head in one hand as I leaned on the table, picking at the sleeve of my black hoodie absentmindedly.

“Alright, I get that. So, what’s the other part?” she said leaning in to cradle her head in both hands, elbows on the table.

“I met a guy today and it felt…” I nibbled my lower lip, “Different.”

“Oh? What’s his name,” she asked with an interested grin.

I shook my head, “Man this is weird. Is this weird for you?”

“What? Coming out to your mom? Talking about your first kiss and how it meant nothing? Or how you have a crush on a guy?” she laughed a little.

“Ugh. All of the above. This whole day has been weird,” I shook my head and squinted my eyes closed.

“It’s not weird to want to be happy. It’s all I’ve ever wanted for you, you know?”

“Thanks mom, ditto.”

“So, what’s his name?” she prodded, taking another sip of her drink.

“Um... I have no idea,” I chuckled, heat rising to the surface of my cheeks.

“What? How do you not know his name?”

“Like I said, it’s been a weird day. Also, he kept disappearing. Like, one minute he’d be there and the next, poof! Gone like magic.”

“Huh. Weird…” she tapped one finger on her chin and standing up, “Is he shy?”

“Didn’t seem like it. At least he didn’t talk like he was shy,” I furrowed my brow, “Although, he only vanished when other people showed up. He was fine with just me.”

“Well, there you go,” she grinned, clearing the table and walked into the kitchen.

“Or he could be embarrassed to be seen with me. He looked kind of preppy. Probably out of my league,” I followed close behind her.

Mom snorted. ”Nonsense. I doubt that’s it sweetheart,” She put the dishes carefully in the sudsy water to wash them.

“Mom?” I asked softly as I sat on top of the counter.

“Yes, honey?”

“Thank you for not freaking out or whatever. You know, and for not being ashamed,” I said even softer, letting go of the anxiety I had felt bringing up the subject in the first place.

She wiped her hands on a towel, walking towards me to put her arms around my shoulders, “Kai. It would take a lot more than that to make me ashamed of you, if there even is such a thing. I love you and I’m very proud of you.”

“Love you, too, mom,” I hugged her back tightly, “Proud? Why?”

“It takes a brave person to share a little piece of themselves, like you did,” she pulled back to look in my eyes, “So, yes. I’m proud of you.”

“Thanks mom. Means a lot,” I said with a small smile, “Hey, do you think other kids and parents talk like we do?”

“Mmhmm. Oh, I hope so. If they don’t, then I feel sorry for them,” she said, continuing to wash dishes.

I went to bed that night feeling lighter than I had in a long time.

*****

The rest of the week was a little lonely since Kayla was avoiding me. I found out from some of my classmates, she was actually a sophomore, whereas I was a junior. So, it made sense I barely saw her since we weren’t in any classes together. Also, it was easier for her to avoid me as well. I caught glimpses of my mystery man every once in a while in the halls. Usually from the back, but when I finally made it over to where I was sure he had been standing, he was gone. I never noticed him in any of my classes either. It got me thinking he was a senior or something. Friday afternoon rolled around and I was ready for the weekend. Nothing but video games and junk food for me!

“Kayla!” I called, seeing her rushing out with some other kids, trying to duck, “What the heck are you doing?”

She stood up and looked at me with wide eyes, tugging on her backpack straps, “Hey...there.”

“Where have you been? I’ve been trying to talk to you.”

“Um...sorry, I’ve been...busy,” she said lamely, pressing her lips together and looking anywhere but at my face.

“Busy trying to avoid me, you mean.” I raised an eyebrow at her and smiled, knowing full well she wasn’t so busy she couldn’t have said hello at least. “About the other day…”

“Please don’t,” she said, putting up a hand to stop me, “I’m embarrassed enough as it is.”

“Why? You went for something you wanted, that’s pretty cool. I will admit I was a little surprised, since we’ve just met and all, but I’m not mad or whatever. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed.”

“Really? You didn’t seem into it…”

“Well, I can explain that,” I offered, putting my book-bag on my back, “Are you walking home?”

She squinted over at me, nibbling her bottom lip as she walked down the steps, “Yeah. Why?”

“Can I walk with you?” I said as I fell in stride with her.

“Uh sure,” she looped her thumbs underneath her straps, playing with them nervously.

We walked in silence a little way, with her kicking rocks and me trying to make sure we were out of range from eavesdroppers. When we were at a safe enough distance from prying eyes, I breathed a sigh of relief.

“So, I wanted to explain…” I began, she looked at me expectantly.

“Okay. I’m listening,” she sounded more sad than anything, looking back down at her shoes.

“So, man this is hard for me to say….” I combed my good hand through my hair.

“You don’t like me,” she guessed, peeking over at me through her long bangs.

“No. I mean, I like you. I do. I’m just not attracted to you in that way,” I blurted, knowing instantly it was the wrong thing to say as soon as I saw her face.

“Ouch,” she winced, her eyes tearing up before she looked away, followed by a grumbled, “That hurts a bit.”

“Wow. I’m so sorry, that came out wrong. I meant-”

“Am I ugly or something?” She stopped and blew her bangs out of her face, turning to look at me.

“Whoa. What? No I-” I stuttered throwing my hands up, but she cut me off again.

“Then what’s so wrong with me that you don’t find me at all attractive? It’s it my teeth? My makeup? What?” She was red from shouting at me in the middle of the street, her eyes wild.

“It’s not you. It’s just-”

“Seriously? It’s not you, it’s me,” she mocked, “Is that what you were going to say?”

“No! Just stop interrupting and listen for a minute, would you?” I finally raised my voice above hers get her to listen.

“Why should I?” She squeaked as she started to sob.

“Because I’m trying tell you something,” I said in a softer tone, taking one step closer to her.

“What?” She whispered, her face contorted in pain.

I grabbed her by her shoulders and forced her to look at me. “I think you’re gorgeous and quirky, not to mention clever and funny.”

“Yeah right,” she muttered, looking away.

“I’m not attracted to you because you’re the wrong sex, not because you’re gross to look at or something,” I said gently.

“Wait. What?” She sniffled, “Are you saying you’re gay?”

“Well yeah. Basically,” I shrugged.

“Oh my god, that’s so great!” She said, hugging me tight, “I thought maybe it was me or something, but why didn’t you say all this before?”

“Well, for one, you ran away after you kissed me. And for two, I’m still getting used to it myself. I’m not ready to announce it to the world yet.”

Pulling away, she grinned as she continued walking, wiping her tears away, “Got it. Wow. I just realized I’m an idiot. A complete and total idiot.”

I chuckled, walking beside her once more, “You’re not an idiot.”

“Oh no. I’m a big idiot,” she laughed, “I went nutso on you. I mean, I acted like a crazy person! I’m sorry. I’m not usually like that.”

“It’s okay. I should have said something earlier, but I was too scared of what people would think about me.”

“Naw, it’s cool. I get it.”

“I’m glad,” I threw my arm over shoulder. ”Because, I’m the real idiot.”

“Why?” She grinned, scrunching her nose.

“In unrelated news, I got a pencil stuck down inside of my cast,” I grimaced.

“How’d you manage that?”

“The itching was pretty intense and I was trying to relieve some of it by scratching, but it didn’t work out so well.” I grinned as she threw her head back, laughing.

“Okay.”

“Okay what?”

“Okay I agree, you are the bigger idiot,” she laughed.

“Ha ha,” I said, rolling my eyes and playfully shoving her.

“Hey! Watch it bucko!”

“Bucko? Do people still use that phrase?”

“My grandma does...okay, good point.” She laughed and poked me in my side, making me jump away because I was so ticklish. “So, can I get your number, now that we’ve established I have no chance with you? Maybe we can hang out this weekend or something. If, you’re bored.”

I grinned and rolled my eyes, “Sure. Sounds good. I need to get some research done for my science class, but other than that, I don’t think I have any plans. Especially not if my mom is working.”

“Here,” she handed me her phone and I handed her mine, “What does she do?”

“Waitress and soon to be co-manager,” I said, typing my number in and handing it back to her as she did the same.

“That’s gotta be an interesting job, right?” she slowed her pace and pointed to a yellow house, “That’s me.”

“Yeah, I guess so. She basically babysits a bunch of drunk people and cleans up after them.” We stopped in front of the house and I looked it over.

“Oh yeah. I guess that’s true. Are the tips any good?” she wrinkled her nose and tossed her bag on the porch, “Wanna sit?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never asked. Okay, yeah,” we both plopped down on the porch chairs, relaxing in the seats, “I am so tired.”

“Me, too,” she closed her eyes, breathing out a deep sigh, “Long week.”

“Yup,” I people watched for a little bit, enjoying the quietness of this small town.

“Whatcha thinking about?” She said in a sing song voice.

“About how I came out to my mom yesterday and you today. It’s crazy,” I relaxed further into the chair, not feeling as weighted down.

“You did? What did your mom say?” she looked over at me, her jaw dropped.

“She was totally cool about it. She even asked me questions. It was pretty awesome,” I grinned over at her.

“Wow. So, was she shocked or upset?” She turned her body to face me.

“Uh surprised mostly. I was so nervous, but it went fine. I feel dumb for getting all worked up about it,” I shrugged, sitting up a little more.

“Wow. Look at you go.”

“I know right? Feels pretty good,” I admitted.

I let out a sigh, relaxing further in my chair. It was nice to not feel so alone anymore. I almost wanted to pinch myself.

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