by shukyou (主教)
illustrated by calintz
Treat it like it’s a movie. Opening scene, some rich kid’s house, parents gone for the weekend, low light, booze and joints, inmates running the asylum. Credits in some trendy font roll while guitars rock out some overplayed pop hit. Zoom in on the kids, who have by this point all sprawled over the furniture in various states of fashionable disarray. Keep zooming until you get to the guy slouched in the middle of the nice beige loveseat, knees spread a mile wide, joint poised between two fingers, the one who’s telling the joke that everyone’s laughing at, the one responsible for no fewer than six of the beer cans that’ll be gracing the recyclables bin come tomorrow.
The house was my secret ex-girlfriend’s. The ex- was the secret part; we’d broken up nearly seven months before, but hadn’t told anybody. You can see her there as the camera continues its pan: blonde, pretty, huge rack nearly falling out of some over-tight shirt, nursing her third bottle of beer that she doesn’t really like, laughing at my joke she didn’t really hear. A gold necklace just above that huge rack reads Cynthia — never Cyndi or Cindy.
Tonight, the role of the football team captain will be played by me; the role of the head cheerleader will be played by her. Stereotypes don’t happen all by themselves, you know.
The shot also shows a beer bottle capsized in the middle of the glass coffee table, but this one was there by design, not by accident. Some genius having a middle school flashback had put it there, dragging everybody into some bizarre mating of Spin the Bottle and Truth or Dare, and wouldn’t you know, we were all just fucked-up enough to go with it. Camera shows a girl reach to spin it; it stops on a boy, and instead of kissing him, she says those three little words: ‘Truth or Dare?’ It wasn’t Shakespeare, but it did the trick.
The boy was Rodney, #58, wide receiver, and picked dare because you need at least two brain cells to rub together to choose truth. The dare involved shotgunning something like two cans of Heineken in a row; my own alcohol consumption that night erased the finer points of this stunt from my long-term memory, and so much the better. The stunt completed, he reached for the bottle and gave it a twist, and when gravity and friction finished with it, its nose pointed firmly at Cynthia’s best friend, Kylie. “Truth or Dare?” he asked, giving the room an idea of what a drunk rhinocerous might sound like.
Kylie pondered this for a minute, her well-manicured nails drumming on her lower teeth. “Dare,” she finally announced, to the collective delight of the room.
Rodney’s grin spread like typhus. “Make out with Lyndsey. For two minutes.”
Cheers and accolades rose, as what group of high schoolers doesn’t like hot girls making out? Kylie, for her own part, looked greatly amused, and coyly bit at her pinky nail. “Mm, in the coat closet, or right here?”
“Right here!” came the room’s unanimous reply. I wouldn’t swear to it, but safe money would bet that my voice was among those voting for a free show. Kylie was a skinny skank, and mule-faced Lyndsey lacked the brains God gave a chicken sandwich, but lesbians were — and remain — a major selling point for most men of my acquaintance. Rodney set his cell phone timer, and Kylie scooted closer on the couch to Lyndsey, and the two girls proceeded to make out in exactly the way women make out when they know men are watching. (Director’s commentary: I have since become acquainted with several actual lesbians, and they’re refreshingly less ostentatious.) The camera lingers over this, the mouths open enough to show tongue, the hands demurely perched atop opposing breasts; this is the scene the young men who buy the DVD will return to.
Then the cell phone beeped, and the girls broke their embrace, to applause from the onlookers. A smug-looking Kylie brushed her brown hair from her face, ran a knuckle beneath her mouth to even out smudged lipstick, and gave the bottle a spin. It turned like a compass to Cynthia’s magnetic north. “Truth or Dare?” Kylie chirped, her beer-hobbled short-term memory likely already having erased the taste of another girl’s mouth.
Cynthia crossed her legs so her little pink skirt slid as high up her booth-tanned thighs as it could, and every man in the room adjusted his pants, including me. “Truth,” she grinned, reaching over to snag the joint from where it’d been languishing in my fingers. Begrudgingly, I let her have it, even gave her a smile. Appearances count.
Those nails tapped her teeth like East Germans trying to knock down the Berlin Wall. “You ever let J do you up the ass?”
Just the opposite, actually — about the time we started clueing into the part of our relationship where we didn’t really want to be in a relationship with one another, we’d tried to see if changing things around might help. A tube of KY and one of her vibrators later, we were pretty convinced that it wouldn’t. “No,” Cynthia answered with the laugh of someone whose mind the idea had never even crossed. “I mean, there’s a good enough hole already, why bother?” The room howled, and I patted her on the knee affectionately. That was Cynthia, charming the room and saving my dignity.
Or so I thought, until she bypassed the bottle stage of the game and turned directly to me. “Okay, Jameson, Truth or Dare?”
Perhaps I’d spoken too soon. “…Dare,” I said, lest she get out the story of what had gone in precisely whose ass in front of people.
A moment too late, I saw the edge of her smile screw like someone had stuck a pin in it, letting me know her silence was a favour I’d pay for with a pound of flesh. “Two minutes in the closet with Tristan.”
The camera fixes in on my face — expression comically surprised — then pans away to someone the director hasn’t let you see before, a face just beyond the crowd, formerly obscured by darkness and the smoke from the black cigarette now frozen in his mouth. Wardrobe’s put him in a t-shirt for some band you’ve never heard of, and makeup’s shadowed dark half-moons beneath his eyes to let you know sometimes something keeps him up nights. You don’t recognise the actor, because he’s not from Hollywood’s generic teen male pool; the director had to go off-Broadway, off-off-Broadway, to the little back stages to find this guy, olive-dusted skin, straight black hair, face that looks like he’s never cracked a smile in his life; he lowers the cigarette and heavy grey smoke pours like a waterfall in reverse from his lips.
I’d known Cynthia had a stepbrother who’d moved in with them in January the way I knew Saturn had moons — a distant fact, maybe good on a test, but not really relevant to my everyday life. I’d seen him in class a few times, and I might’ve even said hello to him when I’d arrived that evening, but I don’t think I’d ever thought about him before I found myself staring at him while my friends laughed and cheered Cynthia on.
Tristan stood from the barstool where he’d been perched, lean and liquid, and gestured to the coat closet as though he’d never been asked to endure something so boring in all his life. The long black cigarette was left to burn itself to death in an ashtray. “Come on.” He even rolled his eyes, completing his look of perfect disdain before opening the door and stepping inside.
The crowd clapped as I stood and stretched, grinning like I was in on the joke. “Two minutes, right? Rodney, you got the timer set?”
Rodney held his cell phone aloft. “Time starts when you shut the door!”
“Great.” I stuck my hands in my pockets, wandering casually over, having long since made the Cocky Teenage Walk into an art. “Hey, maybe while I’m in there, I’ll see if your mom hung up that peacoat I think I left here last year.” With an apologetic little half-shrug to Tristan in the last light we’d have for a couple minutes — dude, sorry your stepsister’s a bitch, just play along — I pulled the door shut with us inside.
Pretty much the last thing I expected was to be pushed up against the back wall with surprising force, to say nothing of the voice that hissed in my ear, “Shut the fuck up.” And then those hands that had pushed me back were undoing my pants, and that cigarette-smelling mouth had swallowed my dick, and I had to bite the back of my hand hard to keep from yelping and giving it all away.
When girls suck your dick, there’s always that hand at the base, dainty little grip stroking you while keeping them from gagging. Tristan’s hands, however, were busy holding my hips in place, and I could feel his lips all the way against the root of my cock, sucking out and plunging back in. His mouth was hot and wet, and, unable to see it, I found myself unable to think of anything but how it’d looked perched on either side of the cigarette, lips dark and thin — imagining how it had to look now, sliding up and down my dick hungrily. I could hear the soft choking sounds he made as the head of my cock hit the back of his throat, but he didn’t stop or slow down, just kept his pace right on going. I felt light-headed, my body having decided that all my blood was suddenly needed somewhere else.
“Thirty seconds to go!” Rodney yelled, but I didn’t really hear him, because the back of my hand had proven to be too soft, and I was now concentrating biting my knuckles to keep from making nose as I came. Some dim rational part of my mind was protesting that two minutes was definitely not enough for a stud like me — but by the time it got around to voicing its opinion, Tristan had already sucked me dry, tucked me back, and zipped me up. “Time!” called Rodney, and the closet door swung wide.
As my eyes squinted against the recently returned light, I saw that Tristan looked just as put-together and bored as he had when he’d walked in, so much so I nearly cupped my now-soft dick just to make sure I hadn’t dreamed it all. “Try the attic,” he sighed, ignoring the other partygoers as he wound his way back to his abandoned cigarette. “I think I saw the Roanoake Colony last time I was up there.”
“Uh, thanks,” I managed, scratching my head and hoping that my obviously missing his reference by a mile would cover my obviously just having gotten a blowjob.
As it turned out, it did. Lucky me.
Just because we’d broken up didn’t mean sex was off-limits, and anyway, I’m smarter than getting behind the wheel of my car like that. I woke up next to Cynthia at about four in the morning, naked and headachey and having to pee, so I stumbled out of her room and down the hall to the bathroom, not bothering with clothes.
I was nearly to the bathroom door when I saw movement in the darkness, and lifted my bleary gaze to Tristan, standing in the doorway of the study they must’ve turned into his room when he moved in, wearing a pair of ragged sweatpants that hung by a thread off his slim hips. I could still see the dark shadows under his eyes, and his mouth hung open in a little surprised o, like the last thing he’d expected to see when opening his door was me in my birthday suit, having emerged from his stepsister’s bedroom, groping for the knob to the bathroom.
Before I could wonder what had possessed my brain to cough up the phrase ‘slim hips’, his door had shut with a poster of Jim Morrison in front of it and him behind it, leaving me alone with my head full of cotton. It wasn’t until I actually tried to start pissing that I noticed I was half-hard again. Funny, that.
The lens pans down on a high school: students in hallways, carrying their backpacks, chattering fashionably as they go by. Just a few seconds, enough to let you know the scene’s changed, before settling down on seventh period English, with me in the middle of the row and Tristan all the way at the back.
You’d think I would’ve noticed him before then, but the truth was, I hadn’t even known he was in any of my classes before that Monday, when I saw him in three. He had a habit of not just clinging to the back wall, but blending in, disappearing between the white-painted cinderblock walls and the brightly coloured motivational posters. I tried to smile at him once or twice, catch his attention, but he hid his eyes behind a curtain of dark hair, and I don’t even think he saw me.
Somewhere between Mr. Feeney’s mini-lecture about the importance of the semicolon and his telling us that Beowulf would, in fact, be on the test, clouds began to roll in. By the time he’d passed out our final paper assignments, it was coming down in buckets, a freak late Spring storm. I learned later to be grateful for this particular storm, as without it, nothing that happened later might have happened.
When the bell rang, Mr. Feeney called me up to remind me how important this paper was going to be to my passing the class. Now, I’m not stupid, but when you see that your ticket to college is either football or your brains, and football is so much more fun, you tell me which one you’d pay attention to. But college wouldn’t accept me without a high school diploma, no matter how great a pass I threw, so I told Mr. Feeney I’d do my best for him this time, and I meant it. He patted me on the shoulder and told me I was a good kid, and I thanked him like you do when teachers have said something touching and awkward, and exited into the near-deserted halls.
He was standing by the bike rack, and I had to confess, I hadn’t even known we’d had a bike rack. It was just beneath the overhang outside the music wing, close to the door. I guess every day I’d walked out into sunny weather, I’d strutted by without looking, because it’d been empty. Now it propped up not only a peacock-blue bike, but its owner.
“Hi,” I said, which was at least eight levels below my usual suave.
“I’m just waiting for it to stop.” No greeting, no preamble. I’d somehow missed that night how deep and soft his voice was. “It should let up soon,” he added, though the way his dark eyes scanned the skies, it looked like he didn’t believe what he was saying.
I resettled my bookbag over my shoulder, mostly for something to do with my hands. “…You want a ride?”
That actually caught him off-guard, and he gave me the look of the world-wise fly invited into the spider’s web. “No.” He paused, drumming his fingers on the bike’s handlebars. “Thanks.”
“Come on, this could go all night. It’d not like I don’t know where you live. Or I’m going to murder you and dump your body somewhere.” I’d meant it as a joke, but the look he gave me let me know I’d crossed some line. I held up my hands. “No murdering. I don’t even like killing bugs.”
His eyebrow lifted. “Says the quarterback.”
“Yeah, but no one gets killed in football. Just, you know. Maimed. A little.”
Now the camera devotes about five different shots to the same setup, letting you know that time, for me, has basically slowed to a crawl, and that no matter how long it takes him to answer, it’s years inside my head. Finally, with one last sorrowful glance to the afternoon weather that had so betrayed him, Tristan sighed and lifted his bike from the rack. “All right, come on.”
Getting the bike into the car actually proved easier than I’d imagined, since it apparently had a button that made it fold in half. He tossed it on top of piles of gym clothes and old magazines, making a face as he did, then pulled himself into the passenger seat before he could get much wetter. I hopped in myself and started the car, cringing and diving for the volume knob as the stereo spun up in the deafening middle of ‘Take on Me’. In the relative silence that followed, Tristan gazed at me in personally offended horror. “I didn’t know anyone listened to that non-ironically.”
“Are you kidding? It’s classic.” I pulled out of the parking lot, drumming on the steering wheel as I waited for the light to change. “So, uh, what kind of music do you like?”
Tristan leaned his head against the window, looking out at the rain. “Nothing you’ve heard.”
When Coach Don made me the captain of the football team, he told me it wasn’t my strength or my skill that had earned me the position, but my unbridled optimism in the face of overwhelming odds. “I’ve heard some stuff,” I offered cheerfully.
He poked something on the floorboard with his shoe, and I knew without looking that it was the case for my Top Hits of 1985 mix. “Neutral Milk Hotel?”
For a second, I thought he might be speaking in tongues. “…What about the Doors? I saw the poster.” I shut my mouth before I could finish the sentence on your door, which seemed terribly lame.
“It’s my dad’s.”
“Yeah? Cool. My dad just listens to talk radio. Mom too, mostly, though sometimes she’ll turn on the gospel station while she’s cleaning up or reading a book.” The next song on the CD was ‘Rock Me Amadeus’, which, judging from his sigh, landed no higher in Tristan’s estimation. “So, uh, where’s your dad?”
He didn’t even turn to look at me. “Federal penitentiary in Idaho.”
We spent the rest of the ride to his house in silence, Tristan staring out the window, me trying to think of a way to get my foot out of my damn mouth.
Tristan invited me neither into his house nor up to his bedroom, but I followed him there anyway, pausing only to get a coke from the garage fridge as he hung his bike on wall hooks. He eyed me the whole time with suspicion, watching to see if I’d veer off at any point, but said nothing even when I plopped down on his floor and began rummaging through my backpack. Instead, he sat down at his desk, his back to me in perfect ignore mode. I crossed my legs, set my calculus text across my knees, and started reading.
He cracked after ten minutes, which disappointed me; I’d had him pegged as good for twenty, minimum. Maybe he was strung a little higher than I had previously thought. “You could wait in her room,” he huffed, still facing away.
“Eh,” I said, shrugging. I copied a few important-looking formulae into my notebook.
Outside the window, the storm kept up an impressive pace, complete with howling winds and tree branches scratching at the window panes. The camera tells the progression of time by a series of still shots fading into one another, each a little over a second, as Tristan draws tighter into himself and I spread out more across his floor, until finally I’ve made myself a comfy nest, and his study materials haven’t moved. Another ten minutes ticked by before he put his pen down and turned around in his chair. “You’re such an asshole.”
I looked up at him, pencil caught between my teeth. “…Huh?”
“An asshole. You.” He pointed at me, his face as stormy as the weather. “Can’t you just shun me, or mock me in the hallways, or get some of your friends to call me ‘faggot’ and beat me up in an alley, or some sort of normal response? This–” He made a quick sweeping motion with his hand, which I took to mean me and my academic fallout zone on his floor. “–is weird.”
I shrugged, tucking the pencil behind my ear. “I was raised to believe you should never be mean to someone who’s given you head.”
A little wrinkle formed between his eyebrows, and he got out of his chair, walking over and sitting confrontationally on the edge of the bed, forearms braced on his knees, taking advantage of the two-foot height advantage this afforded him to loom. “What do you want? What do you want from me?”
I’d run the incident over a number of times in the intervening days — mostly in the dark, behind a locked door — and had from these very serious deliberations reached two important conclusions. The first was that this had undoubtedly been pre-meditated on Tristan’s part, and therefore meant this had been more than drunken impulse. The second was that I myself had liked it, not just a little but a whole lot. I didn’t need a calculus book open on my lap to do the math here. “To talk,” I answered, which was true.
“About what? There’s nothing to talk about!” He folded his arms across his chest, screwing his face into an angry pout. “It happened and it’s over, so can’t you just forget about it?”
With a sigh, I shut the book and set it aside. “I don’t want to forget about it,” I said, rocking forward on my knees, just slowly enough not to startle him. “Look, I was really out of it Saturday, and Hallmark doesn’t exactly make cards that say ‘thanks for letting me come in your mouth, I had a great time’, so….” I put a hand over his bare foot, just below the ankle, testing the waters. I hadn’t spend much time thinking about the particulars of seduction, because that’s the kind of thing you’ve got to wing; if you overthink it, it’ll never work out the way you want. At least, that’s what I’d heard; there hadn’t been much opportunity for seducing people since Cynthia had passed me the heart-shaped note in fifth grade asking me if I liked her like that.
Tristan’s face was a comic mask of interested shock and horror, but he didn’t pull his foot away. Instead, he cast nervous glances to the closet and door, both of which were shut but unlocked. “Ha ha, this is the point where your friends jump out with video cameras, right?”
I held up my hands and leaned back a little, trying to look as unthreatening as possible, even though I sensed that what I was fighting here was a losing battle. Still, I’ve won before by being just too stupid to know when I’ve been beat. “I didn’t even know I was coming over until I saw you with your bike. I just–” I scratched the back of my head, trying to think of a way to get out just what I meant. So much for preparation. I’d never been very good at homework anyway. “So I’m what the websites call ‘bi-curious’.”
“I–” Tristan’s eyes grew perfectly round, and the adam’s apple in his skinny throat jumped as he swallowed. “Do what?”
“Uh-huh. And this isn’t exactly something you advertise, especially when, you know, captain of the football team and dating the head cheerleader and all — and especially since–” I paused and looked up at him. “Did she tell you we broke up?”
One of Tristan’s eyebrows was threatening to merge with his hairline. “She … might have mentioned something to that effect.”
“Did she tell you about the prom thing?”
I shook my head. “Never mind. My point is, we’ve been together for about eight years, more or less, and I’m not a cheater, so … I’ve never really had a chance to try things out with another guy.” I gestured to him, hoping that this was all coming off as more flattering than horrible. “Until you! And I liked it! And I wanted to talk to you because it, well, I did like it, and I thought we might do it again someti-
I’ve been tackled before by 300-pound linebackers wearing fifty pounds of gear and padding, but I’ve never been taken down quite as hard as when Tristan pounced off the bed and on top of me, pinning me to the ground. The back of my head hit my discarded calculus text first, then slid off and landed on the rug. He held me down with his knees on either side of my hips, pinning back my legs with his own; his hands grabbed my wrists and slammed them down above my head. I stared up at him, stunned, and he licked his lips. “I hate you rich jock pricks because you think you can just have anything you want,” he growled.
Only by sheer survival instinct did I keep myself from asking if with a technique like that, he’d ever considered going out for the wrestling team. “You know, for a guy I don’t really know, you sure are quick to believe the worst about me.”
“I know your type.” He wore a necklace with beads and a little white feather in the middle, and when he leaned forward, it dangled hypnotically in front of me, like one of those cat toys. Through great effort I refrained from batting at it. “You’re self-centered, you hate anything that’s different, and you won’t give anyone who doesn’t fit into your perfect little world the time of day unless it’s to punch him in the face! You think life’s unfair because the worst thing that’s ever happened to you is a zit on Friday night! You’ve got no idea what real life is like!”
To punctuate his last sentiment, he leaned in even closer, and I felt a suspicious hardness press against my belly through his jeans. Like flipping a switch, everything suddenly snapped into place. Tristan was hard for me, and more than that, he hated the fact that he was hard for me. But still, he was hard for me. I could work with that.
Even with my legs trapped, I managed to arch my back and press my belly to his groin. That took the wind out of his sails entirely, and he let his head drop to the carpet next to mine, chest heaving as he breathed heavily. His hair smelled of cigarettes and sandalwood. “Tristan,” I said softly, choosing my words with great care, “can I kiss you?”
The camera takes a high angle, showing both of our bodies, the arch of his spine, the splay of my legs, the way we fit against one another on his carpeted floor. It holds there without moving, the still shot of indecision. I held my breath in counterpoint to his audible respiration, meeting each of his gasps with silence from my lungs. This was it, I figured, he might punch me, would probably strangle me, but one way or another, he had to give me an answer now.
“I fucking hate you,” he snapped, and then his mouth was on mine, kissing in a way that was more like war than any kiss I’d ever shared with Cynthia. It was downright mean, all tongues and teeth, biting and hissing and growling down each other’s throats. I’d been half-hard before, maybe a little more, but this brought me all the way there in a hurry, rerouting blood from my brain so fast it made me a little lightheaded. It was a good thing I was lying down, I reasoned, because standing suddenly seemed a daunting proposition. Fortunately for me, all hundred pounds soaking wet of Tristan’s body meant that wasn’t an option.
After a minute, he let go of my wrists, grabbing for the hem of my shirt and pulling it up to my chest; his fingers were cold against my skin, and when I made a noise of protest, he bit me, so I shut up. Instead, hands freed, I went for the gap between his shirt and pants, running the flat planes of my hands up his smooth back. He was so skinny, I could feel his spine and ribs and taut muscles just beneath the skin. It was only when my hands reached the valley between his shoulderblades that I realised that instinct was guiding my hands toward the non-existent clasp of his non-existent bra — some habits die hard — and I knew Tristan had realised it too when he bit me again, then reached around and grabbed my wrists once more, slamming them to the ground next to my chest. “I hate making out with straight boys,” he muttered, sucking my tongue in a way that led me to believe he might have been exaggerating a little there.
I tested his grip on me and found that he had the leverage to keep me down — which, again, was no problem for me, I was used to cooling my heels while the refs pulled thirty players off the top of me, but here I was trying to work into the situation both an erection that really wanted attention and a position that wasn’t allowing that, and something was going to have to give. I worked my way out of the kiss by going to bite at the curve of his jaw, and he allowed it all the way until my mouth was at his ear, where I suggested, “Uh, maybe we should move this to the bed?”
He froze, obviously considering his options, then lifted his head to look at me. “Whatever,” he shrugged, and I could feel his grip on me relax.
It was the wrong move to make, or the right one, depending on your point of view. In half a flash I was up from under him — I had been on the wrestling team, at least in junior high — wrapping my arms around his waist and hauling him up from the floor. He let out a surprised burst of profanity, some of which didn’t sound like English, and stared at me, utterly betrayed, as I tossed him down on the bed and climbed on top of him. “Better!” was my cheerful assessment of the situation.
“You son of a bitch!” He seemed geniunely angry — which he probably was, but I mean stop-the-makeouts-now angry — for the split second before he went for my shirt again, yanking it easily over my head and tossing it somewhere floorward. “Who the fuck said you get to be on top?”
He had a point. “Uh, do you want to be?”
“I don’t care,” he growled, taking advantage of my brief confusion and rolling me onto my back in a way that showed he did, in fact, care. This time, however, instead of pinning my hands as he sat astride my waist, he grabbed them and brought them to his chest. “Boys? Start from the front.” He hooked my fingers over the top buttoned button of his still-damp shirt, frowning the frown of the mortally insulted.
Compliant, I unfasted his shirt, revealing the olive expanse of his flat chest — definitely not a girl’s, though it had points of interest of its own. I pushed the shirt off his shoulders, and he leaned forward again, arms straight, hands planted on either side of my head, looming over me. “Pants next.” I shrugged and went for the fly of my jeans, and he gave me a look that could’ve curdled milk. “Mine.”
“Oh.” I coughed and went for the waistband of his slacks, letting my fingers brush across the flat of his belly just below his navel, allowing myself a small smile when I saw his eyelids flutter and heard a sharp intake of breath.
I’d barely gotten his zipper undone, however, when from the far end of the house, a door slammed. “Tristan, honey? We’re home!” sounded a woman’s cheerful voice, muffled through the door.
I froze like a kid caught in the cookie jar, but Tristan just rolled his eyes. “Studying, Mother!” he bellowed back at her.
“And is that Jameson’s car out there?” she called.
“Hi, Mrs. Wincz!” I yelled back, trying to sound as little as possible like I might be shirtless and pinned under her son. “Big test tomorrow, you know!”
She laughed audibly. “Well, dinner’ll be ready in about an hour, so I hope you’re staying!”
“Thank you, Mother!” snapped Tristan, rolling his eyes and casting a deadly glare at my stilled hands. His voice dropped to a slightly muted pitch. “Why’d you stop?”
I gaped at him for a moment before hissing, “Your mom!”
“Will not come up here. Now do you want to or not?”
I did. A lot, in fact, more than I’d wanted to have sex in an awful long time. With a strengthening sigh and a mental resolution to keep quiet, I pushed his pants and boxers off his hips, letting his cock free. It was longer than mine, and darker, and uncircumcised, which was weird, but what about this wasn’t? Absent further instruction, I ran my fingertips down the vein on its underside, exploring. It felt mostly the same as mine, though, which was at least some comfort.
Tristan gasped, which I took as a good sign, so I did it again. The camera shows him from my point of view: hair hanging down around his face, eyes closed, bare shoulders backlit by the ceiling light, tiny creases between his eyebrows looking almost pained, his lower lip caught between his teeth to keep from making any more noise. I became quietly angry about the incident in the closet, that it had been in such poor light that I hadn’t gotten to see such a beautiful face sucking my dick. With any luck, though, I’d get another chance.
A knock sounded on the door that stopped my heart. “Jameson,” purred the unseen slick, feminine voice that turned my blood to ice even more than the arrival of Mrs. Wincz had. Mothers might allow one’s privacy, but sisters rarely respected such boundaries, and the threat of discovery now was plainly terrifying.
Tristan’s dark eyes snapped open, and fury creased his features. “Fuck off!” he bellowed, snapping his teeth.
A long moment hung on the air while Cynthia stood there, the shadow of her feet visible through the gap beneath the door. Finally, she turned, and I could almost hear the smirk that lifted Cynthia’s mouth. “See you at dinner, boys,” she sang as she retreated down the hall.
That had been unexpected, to say the least. I looked up at Tristan, who was still glaring over his shoulder at the door, as though her departure had been a ruse and it might swing wide at any moment. His hands had turned into fists in the comforter beside me, and he was trembling with what looked like rage. “Hey, um.” I cleared my throat quietly. “Do you think she–”
Tristan attacked again, as fiercely as he had the first time he tackled me on the floor, going for my jeans with both hands and yanking them down, not even bothering to get them any farther than the middle of my thighs. He pressed his body next to mine, taking both our cocks in one cold hand and stroking hard. I yelped, and he bit me again — this was apparently his favourite form of discipline — so I gave my mouth something to do by sucking on his ear, letting my tongue flick around the single stud in his earlobe. He grunted and jerked faster, hissing a dirty little ‘fuck‘ just loud enough to be heard, so I did it again.
The part of my mind not absorbed by my impending orgasm or incapacitated by blood loss worried at Cynthia’s departure like a child’s tongue working a loose tooth. Cynthia wasn’t one to fuck off when told under the best of circumstances, much less with such good grace. Particularly when confronted by a closed door with her stepbrother and her erstwhile boyfriend on the other side. Particularly when not forty-eight hours previous, she’d dared said said stepbrother into a closet with said boyfriend–
Son of a bitch, did she know?
I let go of Tristan’s ear and buried my mouth in the crook of his shoulder, making no noise save breathing as I came all over my belly. It was less of an impressive showing than I might have pulled under other circumstances, but hey, I’d drained a lot of my resources over the last two days. I was dimly aware of his cursing under his breath — a low, heavy streak of fuck fuck fuck fuck — before his body tensed and I felt another spill of wetness join the first. Well, I’d never been come on before, but there was a first time for everything.
He held himself up long enough to grab something I vaguely recognised as my shirt and make a brief cleaning pass between us, then fell forward, panting. I couldn’t think of what else to do, so I put a hand against his bare back, and when he didn’t knock it away, I left it there. Let the camera filter fade to a fuzzy post-orgasmic happiness, warm colours only, my pale hand on his darker back, collapsed against deep blue sheets, two boys together clinging in the Walt Whitman sense I wouldn’t learn about until I went to college, at peace.
Afer a long moment, he lifted his head from my shoulder, drawing dark hair from his face and frowning at me like I’d just spat in his drink. “Prom thing?”
The room erupted when the late-afternoon announcement sounded, and Cynthia honestly looked like she was about to cry. I did my best to appear surprised, but there was no sincerity behind it. When the popular, beautiful happy couple has been together since fifth grade, nobody’s really surprised when prom king and queen are announced, least of all the happy couple.
I took a good number of slaps on the back from my teammates, pecks on the cheek from Cynthia’s friends, and distant congratulatory noises from the people I didn’t know so well. We of course had to kiss for the assembled masses, a gaudy and theatrical display of affection to assure everyone that their royalty had been rightly chosen. I even dipped her back so one of her fashionable shoes swung off the ground, and all the girls giggled. I’d like to thank the Academy.
For a moment my gaze fell across the back of the room, where Tristan hung like a shadow against the back wall, behind his curtain of hair, still curled up in his desk, nose buried in some book, trying to ignore the uproar that had arisen. Before I could catch his eye, another wave of attention washed me away; by the time I came up for air again and emerged through the door by the music wing, the sky was cloudless blue and the bike rack was as empty as it had ever been, as though the previous day’s storm had never happened at all.
“It’s retarded, that’s why,” grumped Tristan, who’d managed to evade me that evening and all the following day at school, but who hadn’t counted on either my dogged persistence or my knowing which rock hid the spare key. He was hunched over his desk and highlighting his French text within an inch of its life.
“Hey,” I said from where I’d sprawled out across his bed, still working that Calculus book, “aren’t you not supposed to say that? Like calling something ‘gay’ when you mean it’s ‘bad’? Isn’t it insulting to actual retarded people?”
“Like you?” The pages must have been glossy, because the highlighter made a squeaky sound every time he drew another line. “…Okay, it’s stupid, are you happy? Stupid and frivolous. A waste of money. Like most heteronormative bourgeois rites of passage.” Squeak squeak.
I chewed at my pencil. “So you’re not going?”
His disgusted scoff was the pinnacle of the human capacity to express disdain. “I’m sorry, I’ll be washing my hair that evening.” Squeak squeak.
“It’ll be fun.” I rolled on my back, staring at the ceiling, letting my legs below the knee dangle off the end so he didn’t yell at me again for putting my shoes on his comforter. “I mean, there’s a lot of dancing and music, and you get to see all your friends dressed up–”
“Your friends, maybe.” Squeak squeak. “I know a total of two people at this school.” He held up two fingers, only with the back of his hand to me, and I’d seen Trainspotting while high enough times to know that was an obscene gesture. “And they’re going together.”
“Oh, I know of a bunch of dateless girls who’re going together, like a group thing. Going single to prom isn’t a big deal. If you wanted, I could see if one of them’d be willing to be your date.” I paused, tapping my fingers on the calculus book’s hard cover. “If that’s your thing. Girls, I mean. I mean, if they’re your thing too. Guys, I might have a harder time finding, but I have a friend in the drama club who’s bound to know somebody….” The camera follows as I crane my head to look back at him, until it seems he’s suspended from the ceiling. “I don’t know, are you gay?”
The squeaking stopped, and he put down the highlighter with a deadly amount of calm. “If you want to fuck, we can fuck. I don’t care. I won’t tell your friends. But stop pretending you care about me.”
“I’m not pretending! What the hell!” I shut my eyes and took a deep breath. I’m generally slow to anger, but it’s like the guy was just pushing buttons. “Why do you assume anybody who tries being friendly to you is just pretending?”
He didn’t even turn around. “Why do you assume everybody wants to be your friend?”
“Not everybody su–” I dropped my voice to a low hiss, mindful of who else might be in the house. “Not everybody sucks my dick at a party and then acts like I killed their puppy!” With a great sigh, I flopped back to the bed and draped an arm across my face. “I just wish I knew what I’ve done to piss you off so badly, other than existing and playing football and having a penis.”
When I heard the squeaking sound start up again, I knew he wasn’t going to dignify that with a response, so I just lay there. I figured he wanted me to leave, which was why it was the last thing I was going to do. I may not have much experience in psychological warfare, but I have two older brothers and am well-versed in the art of getting what I want by sheer annoyance. After five minutes, the squeaking took on a near-venomous intensity, and that was when I knew I was winning.
Never one to revel too long in another’s misery, I broke the silence by rolling onto my stomach. “Truth or dare?”
That actually startled him enough that he turned to look at me. “What?”
“Truth or dare? Come on.” I fixed him with my most irresistible grin. “It was technically my turn when the game ended, and I didn’t get to ask anyone. So, truth or dare?”
I don’t know what I expected — probably to have that French text thrown at me — but his sudden, contemplative stillness took me completely off-guard. His lips looked as though they were trying to make it all the way to angry, but ended up somewhere near bemused. “You’re retarded. Truth.”
I knew an opportunity when I saw one, and I didn’t want him to think I was just bullshitting him, so I set him in my sights and took my first and what might be my only shot. “Why’s your dad in jail?”
His jaw set hard, his nostrils flared, and I steadied myself for a book to the head that never came. “Assaulting a federal officer,” he said after a moment. “Fucker was on tribal land, called my dad a prairie nigger. ‘He had it coming’ doesn’t hold up in a white court.”
“Shit,” I said, because I didn’t know what else to say, other that wait, you’re an Indian?, which I was certain would not only have gotten the book thrown at me, but lodged permanently in my skull. Give me a little credit. “I’m sorry. That why you moved here with your mom?”
“Wait your fucking turn.” Tristan frowned, but that little smirk managed to bubble up through. “Truth or dare?”
I grinned so hard it hurt my cheeks. “Truth.”
He tapped his fingers on his knee, thinking. “Why haven’t you told everyone you broke up with Cynthia?”
“I told you, it’s–”
Tristan shook his head. “I don’t want to hear about her dreams of being prom queen. ًWhat’s the real reason?”
I took a deep breath. Okay, so we were hitting where it hurt. “All our friends think we’re perfect. You know, together forever and all that. Talking about the babies we’re going to bring to the ten-year reunion. That’s why they picked us as the king and queen — they think it’s true love. There’s no no-fault divorce from true love. Truth or dare?”
“Are you gay?”
He laughed a little, rolling his eyes. “Not strictly, if that’s what you mean. I fuck men and women. Truth or dare?”
Why stop when we were on a roll? “Truth.”
“Why’d you break up?”
I shrugged, not evading the question, but because there really was no answer. “No big fight, no cheating, nothing. We just … figured out one day we didn’t really love one another. I mean, not like that. I love her. I do. It just….” This was the first time I’d articulated the reasons aloud, and putting them in just the right words was proving difficult. Finally, I just showed my empty hands. “It’s just not the right thing. Truth or dare?”
“Did you tell Cynthia to make that dare?”
His face flushed dark red, and he broke eye contact so suddenly I knew the answer. “…I may have helped her with her French midterm. And she might have offered to do something as a sign of thanks.” He exhaled air through pursed lips. “I also may have been very drunk.”
I laughed, rolling onto my back again. “Classic. Truth.”
“Fuck you,” he said, though I could hear the smile in his voice. “Okay, why have I not yet pissed you off sufficiently to make you leave me alone?”
That was an easy one. “Because I figured I might like you if I got to know you. And I do! So, since you’re going to pick truth, why did you tell Cynthia to do it?”
“Because….” The camera doesn’t show his face, but you can hear the hesitation in his voice. “Truth?”
“It’s the name of the game!” I said, closing my eyes. “Well, half of it, anyway.”
Tristan took a deep breath. “Because I wanted your ass, and that was the only way I could think of getting it. Plus, I figured you’d be so fucked up that you wouldn’t protest, and so embarrassed it happened afterward that you wouldn’t say anything.” I turned back to look at him, and he was almost smiling. “Two minutes was a little tight, but I think I managed. Truth or dare?”
I smirked. “Dare.”
He thought about this for a moment, then leaned back, settling himself sideways in his chair and spreading his knees. “Reciprocate.”
I felt my heart race and my jeans tighten all at once. “Okay,” I said, still trying to play it cool as I padded my way across the bed toward his lap, ignoring how my palms were sweating with nerves and excitement alike, “but I get more than two minutes.”
Tristan’s only response was a wicked little grin.
He jumped a mile when I plopped down next to him behind the science wing, and only my quick reflexes saved him from knocking over his canned coffee. I picked it up and looked at it. “In a can?”
Tristan ripped the earbud from the ear closest to me and scowled. “Don’t do that.” He snatched the can from my hand and took a drink before setting it on the ground on the other side of him. He’d found a little depression between the building’s white wall and a small rise of earth, and had hunkered down there, putting his back against the former and resting his feet on the latter. A cigarette burned on top of a little rock by his knee.
“Sorry.” I pulled my sandwich and coke out of my backpack, deciding that my lap was a cleaner place to spread out than the butt-littered ground.
“What are you doing here?” Tristan was doing his best to sound annoyed, I could tell, but that little smile in his eyes betrayed him. I wondered if anyone ever paid attention to him long enough to see it.
“Avoiding the prom committee,” I said around a mouthful of turkey and ranch dressing. “They’re crazy. They want me to wear this bright aqua vest because they say it matches the ‘Under the Sea’ theme they’ve got going this year, but Cynthia says it clashes with her dress, and I’m hiding until they stop asking for my opinion.” A sudden impulse struck me, and I reached over to put my free hand on his knee. “Plus, I heard this is where the smokers hang out, so I figured I’d find you.”
He frowned, but didn’t pull away. “So I’m one of the ‘smokers’ now?”
I pointed at the cigarette. “So, what’s for lunch besides caffine and nicotine?”
By way of answering, he reached up and put the earbud back in his ear. I was about to take the hint and go away when he took the one from his far ear and put it in mine. A man’s voice sang low in my ear over an accompaniment of what sounded like a cello. It definitely wasn’t the best of 1987, but it had a nice sound to it. The cord tugged against my ear, so I scooted closer. Instead of moving away, he waited until I was beside him, then let his head rest against my shoulder. I contemplated my options for a moment, then did the classic yawn-drop, minus the yawn, letting my arm come to rest over his shoulders. Contrary to all logic and previous behaviour, Tristan leaned closer until he tucked neatly under my chin, and I held him there, resting against the slick-painted cinderblock wall, listening to a man sing about destruction and whiskey, watching white clouds roll across a perfect blue sky.
“If you tell anyone about this, I’ll kill you,” he said quietly.
I kissed his hair. “I know.”
The way Mr. and Mrs. Wincz applauded and beamed when Cynthia walked down the stairs, you would’ve thought she’d come down in her bridal gown, not her prom dress. Her hair was beautifully upswept, and little golden curls cascaded down the back and over her bare shoulders. The long royal blue skirt trailed down the steps behind her, and her mother’s diamond necklace sparkled around her neck. There were no two ways about it — she looked fabulous.
Try as I might, though, I couldn’t keep my focus on her. My gaze kept drifting to Tristan, who slumped against the wall, looking as enthusiastic as a wet cat about the whole process. He was wearing his tuxedo too — not a rented one, but his own — since even though he’d told his parents no fewer than five billion times (by his own count) that he wasn’t going, they’d still insisted he get dressed up and submit to being photographed, for purposes of graduation announcements and Christmas cards. He looked edgy at best, and kept avoiding my gaze, but none of that stopped the fact that he cut an impressive figure in the suit.
And so here we were in their living room, all five of us, with the three in formal wear being subjected to an amateur photo shoot by the two with cameras. A quick montage shows all possible combinations and permutations — now Cynthia alone, now Cynthia with me on her left, now Cynthia with me on her right, now Cynthia with Tristan on her right, now Tristan alone, and so on and so forth. The awkward moment award went to when Mrs. Wincz suggested they ‘get the two boys together’ for a shot, culminating in my draping my arm around fraternally Tristan’s shoulders, Tristan’s fixing me with a glance so sour that his parents had to remind him not to grimace for the camera, and Cynthia’s nearly choking trying to keep back giggles. Good times.
“Oh, we can’t forget!” Mr. Wincz disappeared into the study and returned with an 8×10″ framed photograph of a woman with Cynthia’s golden curls and smile, wearing the same sparking necklace and smiling at a photographer some forty years previous. He handed it to Cynthia, who held it up and beamed as the shutter snapped. “She’d be so proud of you, beautiful.”
“Thanks, Daddy,” said Cynthia quietly, and she hugged him tightly.
Mrs. Wincz smiled at Tristan. “Are you sure you don’t want to go? You look so handsome.”
“I’m going to go get changed,” announced Tristan, trudging up the stairs without so much as a glance back. Mrs. Wincz looked at me, and I just shrugged: what can you do? And the truth was, I didn’t know what to do. I knew he was upset over this — it didn’t take a genius to figure that out — but I didn’t know what to do. I’d made a promise to Cynthia, after all, and I wasn’t going back on that.
Cynthia straightened her dress and brushed her fingers briefly under her eyes, and her father kissed her hair. She smiled at him, though she looked distant now, as though everything around her were suddenly muted, happening underwater. “Now you two have a lovely time tonight,” he smiled, “and drive safely, all right?”
“I will, sir,” I told him, and he gave me a firm, take-care-of-my-daughter handshake, after which Mrs. Wincz kissed me on the cheek. That settled, I offered Cynthia my arm and a smile. “Shall we?”
The lights of the gym are visible in through the windshield, just across the street, surrounded by cars and light in the early evening, and the shot only catches the silhouette of Cynthia’s lips as she tells me, “Stop the car.”
It was the first thing she’d said to me since the ride began, so I pulled over in front of the next house and put the car into park. The silence between us that week had been heavy, but nothing out of the ordinary; I couldn’t remember the last time we’d had a conversation, just the two of us, away from prying classmate eyes and awkward dinner table arrangements. Maybe it’s time to break up when you just run out of things to say. I rested my hands on the steering wheel, staring straight ahead, unable to look at her. “Okay,” I nodded. “Stopped.”
She sat there in silence for a moment, her fingers working the elastic of her corsage around her wrist. From some faraway land, a pop song sent through a sound system blares, but in the car the noises are silence, and the ruffle of Cynthia’s dress, and soft growl of the motor beneath us. “I don’t look much like her, do I?” she asked, finally, her voice hushed and sad.
“You look beautiful,” I told her, which was the absolute truth.
“Thank you.” She reached across the car to take my hand from the steering wheel, linking our fingers and putting her head against my shoulder in the one spot that wouldn’t get makeup all over my coat. “I barely remember her. Just … memories of a hospital. Pictures and stories from my dad make up everything else. And I thought for so long that if I….” She sniffled. “I might be able to see more of what she was like.”
I squeezed her hand, then offered her a fast-food napkin from where I kept a stash in the side of my door; she took it with utmost dignity, and all I could think of was the skinny twelve-year-old girl I’d known once, wearing her pink-and-white Easter dress, a suburban whirling dervish in the grass of her backyard, telling me tales of her mother the prom queen, the actress, the model, and how she was going to be just like her mother when she grew up. All bare feet and braces and pink lip gloss, while I watched her in my dark blue suit and tie my mother knotted for me. Six years can really do a number on a person. “My dad still loves her,” she said quietly. “I mean, he loves Miriam, they’ve been married for ten years, but … you can see in the way he talks about Mom. He’s still in love with her. Deep down, somewhere that’s never going to go away.”
I drew my lips together, feeling the chill of guilt settle down in my stomach. “Cynthia, I–”
“It’s not your fault.” She squeeed my hand. “Because … I know, deep-down, if he’d been the one to get cancer, she’d be the one still in love with him.”
With a sigh, I turned to her and kissed her hairsprayed hair, holding my breath politely as I did so. “I love you,” I said, because it was true too.
“I love you too, stupid.” Taking my hand in both of hers, she brought it to her lips and kissed my fingertips, leaving a faint shadow of lipstick. “You’re the best ex-boyfriend anyone’s ever had. Now,” she sat up, pulling down the sun visor and checking her eye makeup, “the announcement is at 8:15, so you’ve got half an hour, and if you’re not there on time, I’ll kill you.”
“Wh–” I frowned at her. “Half an hour to do what?”
She opened the door and stepped out onto the sidewalk, careful not to let the train of her dress drag in the gutter. “To go back and get my idiot stepbrother before he takes off his tux.”
The climactic scene starts in a nice suburban housing development as twilight paints the sky and surrounding landscape a dull blue. Establishing shots hit the front of the houses as the streetlights come on and crickets chirp, lingering on the bright window where, though unseen inside, Tristan surely is.
Then, from the distance, rise the stirring sounds of Bon Jovi.
1985 was a great year for music, but really, if I was going to do this right, I knew I had to take it all the way to 1989. Windows down, stereo turned up so loud it hurt my ears, I came rolling up the street at a leisurely pace, letting everyone in the neighbourhood get a good earful. “Rainy night and we worked all day,” I bellowed along as I drummed the steering wheel, because nothing notches up the horror more than my singing voice, “We both got jobs ’cause there’s bills to pay….”
He was actually out the front door even before I turned up into his driveway, still mostly in his tuxedo, minus the jacket and tie but with the vest and everything else still intact. He was yelling something, presumably at me, but I couldn’t hear him over the music. Instead of turning it down, I got out of the car, leaning against the door. “HEY,” I hollered over the din, “NICE NIGHT OUT.”
“TURN THAT OFF!” He pointed at my car, wearing the same mortally offended expression ‘Take On Me’ had won from him. “TURN IT OFF!”
“NO!” I grinned. He tried to slip past me to the driver’s seat, but I’ve done my time on the defensive line. “NOT UNTIL YOU AGREE TO GO TO PROM WITH ME.”
“WHAT?” I’ve heard cats make that noise when you step on them. “ARE YOU CRAZY?”
“PROBABLY!” By this time, Mr. and Mrs. Wincz had appeared in the doorway, looking puzzled, and I waved to them cheerfully. “I’M TAKING YOUR SON TO THE PROM TOO,” I informed them, using a level of volume that usually tells my team when to hike the ball. “IT’S KIND OF COMPLICATED; I’LL EXPLAIN LATER.”
Tristan had given up on the dodging approach and was actually trying to move me from my spot, an attempt that was proving a colossal failure. So maybe I’d been wrong about my predictions for his success on the wrestling team. I’d believe that smoke was actually rising from his ears. “TURN IT OFF AND GO AWAY!”
“NOT UNTIL YOU AGREE TO GO WITH ME. LOOK, I DON’T HAVE A CORSAGE, THIS WAS A LITTLE UNEXPECTED, BUT … DO YOU WANT ME DOWN ON ONE KNEE? I COULD DO DOWN ON ONE KNEE.” My throat was getting a little raw from all the shouting, but I wasn’t about to give up. Unbridled optimism in the face of overwhelming odds, remember?
He punched me in the chest, hard enough to actually sting. “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?”
“BECAUSE I LIKE YOU,” I shouted back, catching his hand so he didn’t do that again. Just because I can take a hit doesn’t mean I enjoy it. “MAYBE I LOVE YOU A LITTLE? I DON’T KNOW, I HAVEN’T HAD MUCH PRACTICE.”
“SHUT THE FUCK UP!” He tried for a blow with his left, which I caught even easier, bringing his hands together inside of mine. They were so small that even as they were balled into fists, my paw-like hands swallowed them completely. “WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS?”
“BECAUSE I LIKE YOU!” I repeated. “YOU’RE SO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FROM ANYONE I’VE EVER KNOWN BEFORE, AND YOU’RE GOOD-LOOKING AND AMAZING, AND YOU DON’T GIVE A SHIT WHAT PEOPLE THINK ABOUT YOU, AND I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT YOU. WHICH YOU ACTUALLY DO GIVE A SHIT ABOUT, I CAN TELL.” Neighbours were appearing from their front doors now to see what all the commotion was. “YOU LIKE ME, BUT YOU’RE SO CONVINCED NOBODY WILL EVER BE STUPID ENOUGH TO LIKE YOU THAT YOU CAN’T SEE THAT THAT I’M EXACTLY STUPID ENOUGH!” Okay, so it’s not an impassioned, dramatic monologue that’ll ever win an Oscar, but it was from my heart. My stupid heart.
By now, the triumphant guitar solo had kicked in, and Tristan looked mad enough to set me on fire with his mind. Fortunately for me, though, I could tell this anger was not so much because of me as because of how badly he knew he’d just been beaten. He shut his eyes and pursed his lips, taking several long, deep breaths before yelling, “IF I SAY YES, WILL YOU TURN THAT FUCKING MUSIC OFF?”
My stupid heart jumped. “SAY YES AND FIND OUT!”
“YES!” He said it like he was going to bite my nose off in the same snap of his jaws. “I WILL GO TO YOUR STUPID PROM WITH YOU! NOW TURN IT–”
He didn’t get any farther than that, because that was when I kissed him. One arm keeping his hands steady, the other bracing the middle of his back, about where the buckle of his vest hit, I grabbed him and didn’t let go. Our teeth clashed together as our mouths met, and then my tongue was in his mouth, crushing him so close that I had to remind myself to breathe. He struggled for a minute, aware of the multitude of horrors this situation contained — up to and including the presence of his parents, which, I will admit, was kind of awkward for me too — but I had him now, and I wasn’t letting go, and after a minute he gave in and kissed back.
At least, until the chorus, when Bon Jovi triumphantly belts the words, “You were born to be my baby / And baby, I was made to be your man.” That was when he bit me again, but it was so worth it.
True to my word, as the song faded out, I let go of him and leaned into the car, hitting the button to silence the stereo. For a minute, there was a deafening silence, and then the sound of several front doors’ being closed to the tune of some serious muttering, as was sure I’d just caused concert damage to the ears of several baby boomers. “So, uh,” I said, coughing and straightening my tie, “if we’re not back there in ten, Cynthia will kill both of us.”
Tristan fixed me with his offended cat glare again, though try as he might, he couldn’t keep the corners of his mouth from turning up. “Mother,” he sighed, shoulders slumped as he turned to face his parents in the doorway, “my jacket’s right there over the back of the couch, will you get it for me?”
“Of course, sweetheart,” she nodded, sounding a little dazed by the proceedings but otherwise remarkably calm. She disappeared inside for a moment, returning with it slung over her arm.
Mr. Wincz cleared his throat awkwardly. “I guess … have them both back by midnight?”
“Will do,” I nodded, firing off a little salute of acknowledgement. I entirely was not looking forward to the argument about which of them got shotgun and which had to ride in the back on the way home. It wouldn’t matter, though, if Cynthia killed me for being late, so I hopped into the driver’s seat and popped the passenger door open from inside. “Come on, handsome.”
He rolled his eyes to let me know how clearly offended he was by being called ‘handsome’, then pulled himself in and shut the door behind him. “It still smells like gym socks in here.”
I sighed as I pulled the car into reverse and rushed out down the driveway. “Your boyfriend’s a jock, so … learn to like it or something.”
“I’m buying you some Febreeze and teaching you to use it.” He toed through the CD cases on the floor. “What, do you have one of these for every year?”
“1978 to 1990,” I chirped. “Except for 1983. I lent that one to a friend and it hasn’t come back.”
“If your friend had any taste, he burned it,” Tristan grumped. He reached across the island between the seats and put his hand on my thigh, as though showing me affection were the most arduous, Herculean labour he could have undertaken. “Are they going to play anything tonight that isn’t boyband or candy pop shit?”
I grinned at him and took his hand. “I’ll ask the DJ to play the mopey-est, emo-est cutter song he’s got if you’ll promise the prom king a dance.”
Maybe.” And when he looked at me again, he actually smiled.
Cue up the Bon Jovi again, from that triumphant ‘na-na-na na’ section near the end, and bring the camera back out through the back windshield, panning out and upward, lifting higher over the street as a car drives into the evening with two boys inside it, red taillights receding in the growing night, off on their great adventure together.