Ryker climbed inside the back of the car and sat beside me. I shifted myself so I could lay my head on his shoulder. If he didn’t hear music coming from people, he could have been normal, he could have loved a girl or someone else. Why me? Didn’t that make it worse? Because I had demons that could come back to haunt me?
“Why me?” I whisper quietly.
“What do you mean?” he asks.
“Why did you like me? You have so many options since you don't like one specific gender, so why me?” I ask.
“You were the first one to accept me and reciprocate my feelings. And not just my bisexuality but my abnormal ears as well,” he whispers quietly.
“You could get hurt because of my past experiences one day,” I continue.
“I’ve been hurt worse by my own,” he replies pointing to his eye which is healed now but it makes me think back to the weeks when it was purple.
“I love you, Porter. I thought I’d never get to experience that because everyone thought I was crazy even if I had more options. The stigma that surrounds what people think is my mental health is insane. No one treats a physically ill person the way they do a mentally ill person. I understand the solutions aren’t the same but the premise is. If I was actually mentally ill, ignoring it would make it so much worse. That kind of stigma and treatment shouldn’t exist around something you can’t control,” he replies.
He takes my hand and holds my palm face up in front of us. He takes his index finger and trace “I <3 U”. I look up at him and he leans in and kisses me. I wrap my arms around his shoulders leaning back and embracing him.
“I’m sorry about Harry,” I reply when I pull away to breathe.
“You don’t control what he does. You didn’t try to instigate it, you tried to leave actually and he wouldn’t let you and then he pursued you,” he replies.
He continued to hug me tightly until we saw a taxi pull up to the front of the rec center.
“I’m going to see if that’s her, okay?” he reassured me.
I nodded, still trying to calm down before my mother sees me. He kisses me on the cheek and slides out of the car. I watch him, it’s getting dark now. The sun is setting on the horizon spreading orange, red, and yellow across the sky.
Ryker came back with my mother a few minutes later, it was almost 4:00 pm by now. My mother got in the front seat, Ryker handed her the keys from my backpack, after he settled beside me taking my hand.
My mother started up the car and backed out of the parking spot. She drove and pulled out of the parking lot onto the highway blacktop. It took us twenty-five minutes to get back home. I just laid my head on his shoulder and closed my eyes. Nothing was said for the whole drive.
When we arrived home, we got out of the car, Ryker had his bag on his back and was holding the other in his left hand. He took my hand with his right and we followed my mother to the door of our house. My mother opened the door and let us in. Ryker guided me into the house by the hand and my mother came in and shut the door behind us.
Ryker set the bags down on the floor and removed his boots and coat. He hung his scarf and mitts up. He looked a lot thinner without all of the heavy clothing I realized. I started taking off my coat slowly and hung it up. I pulled my boots off my feet and hung my scarf and mitts alongside Ryker’s.
“Are you hungry, honey?” my mother asks touching my shoulder gently.
We’d just eaten at 2:00 pm with Noah and the others so I shook my head.
“Okay, honey. Go upstairs and lie down,” my mother encourages.
I go upstairs but I don’t go into my room, I stand out of sight at the top of the stairs and listen to Ryker and my mother.
“What happened?” my mother asked gently.
“He ran into someone named Harry, he goes to his old school, I think he was one of the ones on the football team. He called him the f-word and said our relationship wouldn’t last,” I hear a break in Ryker’s voice with the last couple of words.
I wasn’t the only one who put a high value on this relationship after everything each of us had been through separately.
“He loves you, Ryker. You know that. You both know that you love each other. He’s just a bully,” she reassures Ryker.
What Harry had said had not only affected me but Ryker, too. If the relationship didn’t last not only would I be alone again but so would he. It would be worse for him though because he’d go back to being completely alone.
I sat down in the hall and listened for a while longer. Soon Ryker climbed the stairs almost tripping over my feet when he reached the top. He stepped over my feet and offered me a hand up. I took it and he pulled me up. I hug him tightly. I can feel his arms around my waist, he lifts his head up and kisses me.
I pick him up and carry him to the bedroom. I kick the door closed behind us and lay him down on the bed. I lean over him kissing him again. He returns the affection. I kiss his neck and his fingers run through my hair. I feel his breath on my ear. I moved back to his lips. There were endorphins flowing through my blood and veins. My fingertips were tingling. I paused to catch my breath and I felt Ryker trying to do the same. His hands are resting on the back of my neck, heat bleeding off them into the nape of my neck.
“Do you feel better?” he asks.
That question shocked me back to reality. I don’t think he meant in the sense that I was using him to distract myself from what had happened with Harry but that’s where my mind went though. I didn’t want him to feel used.
“I’m sorry,” I murmured climbing off him. I sat on the edge of the bed with my head in my hands.
It wasn’t like either of us asked for it or had intentions of doing it. I still felt guilt and shame. I could feel Ryker watching me from behind me on the bed.
“I’m going to take a shower,” I reply finally getting up.
Ryker watches me.
“Okay,” he replies.
I grab some new clothes and go into the bathroom and shut the door. I lean against the door and take a breath alone for the first time in days. I go over to the mirror and look at myself in the mirror. I turn away quickly and start undressing. I pile the dirty clothes on the floor and I put the clean ones on the sink counter. I turned on the shower and waited for it to warm up and then I climbed in.
I let the warm water run over my body. My short, dark hair is flattened to my head. I wash myself. Despite how loud the shower and water is, I start to hear the piano, I don’t know if Ryker is playing or listening to music. After some time I get out of the shower, dry off, and get dressed. He’s playing, I can hear him singing now. I pause to listen.
“And your slow shaking fingertips show, that you’re scared like me so… Let’s pretend we’re alone. And I know you may be scared, and I know we’re unprepared, but I don’t care. Tell me, tell me, what makes you think that you are invincible? I can see it in your eyes that you’re so sure. Please don’t tell me that I’m the only one that’s vulnerable. Impossible. I was born to tell you I love you. Isn’t that a song already? (Isn’t that a song already?). I get a B in originality. And it’s true I can’t go on without you. Your smile makes me see clearer. (Your smile makes me see clearer). If you could only see in the mirror what I see,” I hear him sing.
I grip the bathroom doorknob but hesitate. I breathe in and open it eventually. The door squeals a bit from the hinges age. He’s at the keyboard my parents bought me for Christmas, he has taken his contacts out and put his glasses back on but he doesn’t miss a beat even as the door squeaks.
“Just wait around and see. Maybe I’m much more. You never know what lies ahead. I promise I can be anyone, I can be anything. Just because you were hurt doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bleed. I can be anyone, anything. I promise I can be what you need. (I can be what you need),” he continues on.
I turn and throw my clothes in the hamper and take a step towards him. He wasn’t mad, that was obvious. But I don’t know if Ryker really knew when to be mad after being shunned and pushed away for so much of his life. Acceptance had become like a second nature to him. I sat on the bed as he played through the rest of the lines to the end of the song.
He stops after setting his hands in his lap and slowly turns around.
We sit across from each other, him on the keyboard bench and me on the end of the bed. I know he doesn’t want me to apologize but I still feel like I should. Even if neither of us asked or promised anything.
He gets up finally and comes to stand in front of me. My gaze is focused on the floor until I lift my head and look up at him. He reaches up and touches my cheek.
“I—” I start but he stops me by putting his index finger to my lips.
“Don’t apologize. You were hurt. You wanted to be comforted. You wanted to feel loved, right, and normal. You are all of those things. But you aren’t only loved by me, but your parents and Hilana and Maya,” he whispers quietly. “You didn’t hurt me either, I would have said to stop if you were hurting me.”
“It’s late now, I’m sure you’re tired. We should get some sleep and forget about Harry,” he continues.
He takes his hand away from my mouth and offers me a hand again like he did in the hall earlier. I take it again.