We all got in the car and Hilana’s family followed behind us on the highway to Kearney. I was sitting behind the front passenger seat behind my mother with Ryker beside me, holding my hand looking out my window at the snow-covered landscape. He leaned against my shoulder and I felt my mother watching us through the rear-view mirror. I kept my eyes trained out the window, watching the snow-covered landscape race by outside.
It was pretty clear out despite the gray and white clouds hanging in the sky. We arrived in Kearney by 3:00 pm and arrived at Uncle Theo’s and Aunt Simone’s soon after. Aunt Simone was my father’s sister. They owned a house not far from where she and my father had grown up. My father had moved to Lexington in 1998, met my mother and married her in 2002, and then adopted me in 2005 according to their timeline.
Simone hugged my mother and father and waved to us. She smiled brightly at Ryker seeming to at least have an interest in him. We went inside and Hilana and her own family went sight-seeing around Kearney while we visited. They were going to meet us at Kearney Memorial Field at 11:00 pm.
“Walter, Jaclyn, Porter’s here,” Simone called upstairs.
Jaclyn came bouncing down the stairs, in overalls, and a long sleeve shirt. She reminded me of Ellie from The Last of Us except paler. This was when I started to pick out the differences between me and them. She had dark brown hair instead of black and bright blue eyes instead of dark ones like mine.
“Hi, Porter,” she greeted me with.
Ryker stood by a little nervous and unsure.
Walter appeared a few seconds later, with his dark hair and brown eyes, he looked similar to me but my eyes were still darker than his and he was taller than me, by a good four inches at least.
“Who’s this?” Jaclyn asks poking her head around me to see Ryker.
Jaclyn stood an inch taller than Ryker, too, I noticed.
“This is Ryker, he’s my boyfriend,” I stated gauging their response.
“Boyfriend? Since when?” Jaclyn questions.
“September,” Ryker answers nervously.
“He’s cute, is he a freshman? He’s short,” Jaclyn commented.
“No, I’m a senior,” Ryker retorts.
“Oh, he’s older than you,” she continues.
“Jaclyn don’t pester them,” Walter comments.
I glance at him trying to gauge his feelings towards us. He doesn’t seem to care much. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.
“Do you want to go to the basement to play video games or something?” Walter asks.
Despite our closeness in age and our mild interest in sports and games, I and Walter were never best buds or anything. We were like co-workers or classmates, we knew of each other’s existence and could be pleasant or decent to each other if necessary.
“Sure,” I reply.
Walter leads us to the basement door and we descend the gray-carpeted stairs down. The basement has some leather couches, a fifty-inch TV, an Xbox, and a PS4. There are four remotes but I’m not sure how much Ryker has played video games in his life considering the focus of the piano.
Ryker sits on the couch, Walter turns on the TV, hands me a control and I sit down in front of Ryker on the floor. Jaclyn takes up residency on the other end of the couch watching Ryker. Walter puts in COD and sits between Ryker and Jaclyn but on the floor.
The game throws the two of us in an airship and we jump off into some field surrounded by other duo teams. We make a B-line for the nearest building to collect supplies and weapons. We flank enemies, hiding in the grass with sniper rifles and picking them off until we reach a city with better vantage points while keeping a watch out for airstrikes.
I can feel Ryker leaning over me nervously watching the screen and our progress as a distraction from Jaclyn who’s still eyeing him. What was her deal?
We played about ten rounds before we were called up to eat. Then we were going to walk down the city streets to the market. We were going to spend a few hours there until we had to go to Memorial Field.
We all sat down at the table together, the adults at one end and the kids at the other. I and Ryker are on one side and Walter and Jaclyn on the other. After we finish, we all get geared up to head out into the cool night air. It’s not too bad for the last night of December. We step outside and sit on the front step while everyone else is still getting ready inside. Walter follows us out a few minutes later but he goes to the end of the driveway and sits on the trunk of their truck, looking a little annoyed and frustrated.
I follow him down and Ryker hesitates but I bring him along.
“What’s up?” I question sitting down beside him at the end of the trunk.
“I uhh…” he stops as if searching for something, the right words maybe to explain what’s going on. “I came out to Jaclyn, as a, as a trans girl…” Walter continues quietly not looking at Ryker or me.
“She says I’m just doing it for attention. That I’m trying to be better than her or something,” Walter states.
“That’s on her, if that’s how you feel. You do you,” I reply quietly. “You know what it’s been like for me, Ryker will tell you the same.”
“Have you picked a name?” I ask directing the conversation away from Jaclyn.
“Clare,” Walter replies nervously.
“Do Simone and Theo know?” I ask.
“I told her first thinking she’d have my back going into it,” Walter continues.
“Tell them, they love me for who I am or they could have cut us off a long time ago,” I reassure Walter.
“Thanks,” Walter says quietly trying to calm down.
“If it doesn’t work out you can always talk to us about it,” I continue.
“Thank you, a lot,” Walter repeats.
“She’ll come around,” I add.
“I hope so,” he replies as they exit out of the house.
Uncle Theo and Aunt Simone lead the way with Jaclyn behind them and my parents walking arm-in-arm with us and Walter bringing up the rear.
“So, what are your plans after you graduate?” Walter asks Ryker.
“I don’t know, there’s not really a solid plan, I’m going to go back Hastings to live with my brother for a while until I figure it out,” Ryker answers.
“What about your parents?” Walter questions.
“My mother died when I was ten and my father shipped me off to private school at fourteen so he’s not my biggest fan,” Ryker replies hiding all the important details.
“Is it because of your…?” Walter pauses glancing at me.
“He has bigger issues than who I like. He doesn’t even know,” Ryker answers.
“Does your brother know?” Walter continues.
“I told him I was bi before my dad shipped me off. Our relationship was pretty rocky in the past but we were mending it and then my dad shipped me off so I haven’t seen him in like, four years or so,” he replies.
“You’re bi?” he questions.
“Never assume, right?” Ryker replies.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Walter responds.
We arrive at the market at 7:00 pm, Walter tags along with us when we say we’re breaking off from the main group and will meet them back at the entrance when it’s time to walk back. We walk through the market, there are people selling jewelry, clothes, books, trinkets, all kinds of things.
Ryker stops at one of the pin shops. He points out the trans flag to Walter lightly and shows me a Leo one. Walter eyes the trans pin but seems nervous. He picks it off the board and holds it. The lady who owns the shop smiles at him.
“What’s your name, sweetie? The name you want to be called?” she asks.
“Clare,” Walter answers nervously looking up at her.
“Clare is a beautiful name, take the pin,” she encouraged him. “On me.”
“I can pay,” he replies.
“Acceptance can’t be paid for,” she replies. “It’s toleration than.”
“Okay,” Walter replies.
“Happy New Years’ Eve,” she says smiling as we leave to move on.
Walter looks back at her as he puts the pin in his pocket.
She’s right. Acceptance for something you are shouldn’t be given when we feel like people deserve it, it should be a given, otherwise, it’s not really acceptance, you don’t care enough about the person to love them for who they are then.
We wander around for a few more hours until 10:00 pm. It’s pitch black out and the market is emptying out preparing to close by eleven with everyone wanting to see the fireworks at midnight. We meet back up with Uncle Theo, Aunt Simone, Jaclyn, and my parents by the front gate to walk back to their house to get the car so we can drive to Memorial Field.
We arrive at Memorial Field by 11:30 pm and find seats, high in the back. The fireworks start around 12:00 am after the count down. Ryker stands on his seat rather than sitting and I stand on the area in front of my seat. My parents and Theo and Simone have taken their seats. Walter is in the same row as Ryker, a few seats down and Jaclyn is in between her parents and mine.
Everyone settles around 11:55 pm as announcements start.
“Countdown will commence in four minutes,” they state.
You can feel the excitement in the air. Some smaller kids are running around the front excited for the fireworks to go off.
I wrap my arms around Ryker’s shoulders and I feel his gloved hands rest on my wrists. The minutes tick by in anticipation. Finally, the announcer comes back on the air.
“60-second countdown will now start. 60, 59, 58, 57…” the announcer starts.
Some people are counting along others are waiting in silence.
“30, 29, 28, 27, 26…” they continue, most people who are shorter are on their feet.
I rest the side of my head against the side of Ryker’s.
“5, 4, 3, 2, 1,” the first firework is released and travels up into the sky and explodes out into a green circle.
I see the reflection of the fireworks in Ryker’s glasses. We smile up at the exploding colorful sparks. I kiss Ryker’s cheek and he laughs as fireworks fly up into the sky and people clap and take pictures.
“Happy New Year,” I whisper.
“Happy New Year, to you, too,” Ryker replies quietly.
After half an hour, the fireworks end, and people start to disperse so they can go home to sleep. A lot of parents are carrying tired or passed out young ones to their cars. Hilana’s mother is carrying Liam around. We decide instead of driving back tonight, we’ll get a hotel and drive home tomorrow so we don’t have to risk the roads in the dark and snow.
Hilana’s family gets two double beds in one room for a night, my parents get a single room for themselves and me and Ryker to save on money. Walter and his family went home to their beds. Walter said he was going to try and tell them before he went to his classes this semester.
We had to be back in Blue Hill by the 5th of January.
My father handed over the room key and they went off to their room and we went off to ours. We went into the room with white carpet, a red sofa, a small 40-inch flat-screen, and a queen bed. We stripped off our boots and put them by the door, hung our coats, scarves, and gloves on the hooks, and put the room key on the table by the door.
There was a bathroom by the back of the room. I sat on the end of the bed and pulled my shirt off, after wearing my winter clothes for hours I was sweaty and warm. Ryker tugged off his own and we put them on the arm of the red, velvet sofa.
Ryker approached me, he placed his hands on my shoulders and leaned down and kissed me. I pulled him closer causing him to end up on top of me on the bed. He laughed. My hands traveled up his back across his shoulder blades.
We pause and I hold him for a few seconds.
“It’s late,” I murmur.
“We should get some sleep then, shouldn’t we?” Ryker whispers smiling playing with my hair.
We climb into the bed together burying ourselves under the blanket. He snuggles up against me for warmth from the cold.
“Good night,” Ryker whispers as he drifts off to sleep.
“Good night,” I whisper, kissing his temple and settle down to sleep next to him.