AUTHOR: Jos Mous
DISCLAIMER: I own but a few of these characters. Most of them are own by somebody who isn’t me.
PAIRING: Sam/Brooke; Mac/Alex
NOTE 1: I really have to stop doing this. Complete (or almost complete) story ideas keep presenting myself to me, but they stubbornly refuse to leave the confines of my own mind and translate themselves onto virtual paper. It’s driving me even more nuts than I already am! I fervently hope that this story is different.
NOTE 2: This story is only marginally attached to the Popularverse. So much even that it might almost be considered to be an original story.
“Hey guys,” I said as I sat down at my favourite lunch table (meaning: the one where I’m “allowed” to sit).
There was a half-hearted chorus of “Hey Mac” in reply.
“So… any news?” I asked, ‘cause you got talk about something. Anything to keep your mind off the cafeteria food.
“Not really,” said John. He’s a pretty quiet guy. Tall, brown hair, brown eyes and with a pretty muscular build, though not… you know… “jock”-muscular. He could probably be a jock, but he doesn’t want to since he thinks all jocks are morons. That’s probably one of the main reasons I like him.
“All’s quiet on this front too,” said Sarah. She’s pretty much my best friend, even though she does have uncanny passion for black. Everything about her is black; from her hair to her clothes to her contact lenses. Everything, except for her skin which is so pale it’s practically white. Apparently this kind of style was sort of in fashion around the time I was born. I’m really glad it’s not in fashion any longer.
“Oh, I heard there was a new girl coming today!” Trish said with that well-known excited gleam in her eyes. Really, if you want to sum up Patricia in one word it’s “excited”. It’s a miracle she’s not a cheerleader. Probably because she can’t dance and isn’t rich.
“New girl? Really?” I asked, as I tried real hard to ignore the grey-green stuff that was going down my throat.
Trish nodded emphatically. “Yeah. She’s from Nixon High I heard.”
John, Sarah and me looked at each other. Nixon High? If anyone else found out about that, she’s be screwed. Nixon High, after all, is the rival of Kennedy High and since they have the current football winning streak, one of the most popular pastimes at school is “trash talk the Nixon kids”.
“Seems we’ll be having a new friend soon,” John predicted.
“What do you mean?” Trish asked. Then her brains kicked in. “Oh. Oh come on, you don’t think she’ll… I mean…”
“Face it, we’re the biggest outcasts of the school,” Sarah said. “Even the chess club looks down on us.”
You have to be really low on the social ladder for the chess club to be able to look down on you. Not that I minded. I liked my low position. No competition, no-one trying to stab you in the back and take over your position, no expectations and few teachers who pay attention to what you’re doing in their class. All in all, the lowest step on the ladder is the best place to be, in my opinion.
That is, if you have the hide of an elephant. So it’s probably a good thing that I have one.
“She won’t be puked on by everyone just ‘cause she’s from Nixon, right?” Trish asked, slowly starting to get a little worried. “Right?”
John shrugged. “We’ll see.”
“Anyway, Mac, do you have any news?” Sarah asked.
“No,” I lied.
This time I was the one who didn’t look at the rest. You see, the thing is, I can’t lie. Well… I can lie. I just can’t get away with it.
“So, what’s the news?” Trish asked, that excited little gasp of her already back in her voice.
“Yeah, do tell,” Sarah added.
“My sisters are staying over for the holidays. They arrived last night,” I said, under quiet protest.
Sarah smirked, one of the corner’s of John’s mouth turned slightly upwards (which for him is the equivalent of a full-fledged laugh) and Trish’ eyes misted over.
You see, the thing is, both my sisters are gay. Don’t get me wrong, I like my sisters and I’m probably the last person on Earth to freak out over the homosexuality of someone else, but you see… the thing is… my sisters are gay together if you catch my drift. When I found that out, I really did freak. Oh sure, they didn’t see a problem with it. They’re just stepsisters, they’re not related. They don’t consider it incest. And technically it isn’t incest. But to me, they’re… you know… my sisters. It took me really long time to move from being totally freaked out to sort of not freaked out any more to dealing with the situation.
My friends didn’t help, by the way.
When I explained to them the plight of my lesbian sisters, Sarah and John just laughed (well, actually, John didn’t laugh, but… well you know what I mean). Even worse, Trish just thought it was terribly romantic. Two soulmates growing up as enemies, being forced to live with each other because of their parents and then finding true love with each other.
I bet they’d all reacted differently if it were any of their sisters who were gay together.
“So… your sisters are in town,” Sarah said in a tone of voice that I had come to dread.
“And Christmas is a time for friends and family,” John added.
“What do you say Mac? How’s about inviting your dear friends over for dinner one of these days?” Sarah asked.
Damn! I knew they were going say that. God, I was going to be flooded in really bad jokes the coming few days. When would they ever get over it? I mean, I’ve gotten over it. Sort of. So why couldn’t they?
Simple answer: because they like to get a rise out of me. And because Trish still thinks it’s all terribly romantic.
The first thing Ms Glass did when she became principal was… cackling like a maniacal madman/-woman probably. The second thing she did was hiring all her unemployed relatives to come work as teachers here at Kennedy High. Because of this I was now in Maths class under the supervision of Ms Glass’ brother, Rock Glass, who’s an ex-drill-instructor-Sergeant-type for the US Marines or something. He took the teacher job with the intent of instilling the love for our country in today’s youth or something like that. As a result we now have to solve problems like “A Small Dictatorial Country has 15 million inhabitants, 15% of which are in the military. A standard US bomber can drop 125 bombs a day, 10% of which hit actual soldiers and 90% of which kill innocent civilians. How many days does it take to eradicate the entire army of this Small Dictatorial Country without any UN or NATO help and with just 250 bombers?”. Truly inspiring questions, no doubt.
Anyway, just before class started (or actually, just after class started) Sergeant Glass had an announcement to make to his recruits. There would be a new student in class, transferred from some other school somewhere. He carefully avoided saying exactly which school she had come from, which was an unusual display of tact from our beloved Sarge.
Now, I don’t believe in love at first sight. Never have, never will. I do believe in crushes at first sight and when the new girl entered the classroom I had a pretty serious case of it.
Yeah, like my sisters, I’m gay too. Sort of. I do have crushes on guys from time to time, but for every crush I have on a guy I’ve already had at least a dozen on girls. So… mostly gay, not quite bi.
Kennedy High’s latest asset was a blonde-haired girl wearing a long-sleeved light blue shirt and a blue pair of pants. She was pretty. It wasn’t fake prettiness, she didn’t need fancy clothes and make-up or an outgoing personality or anything. She was pretty all on her own. Cute too. In the same way that puppies and kittens can be cute. A quick scan of the classroom confirmed that many of the guys shared my view about the girl’s prettiness. She kept standing awkwardly near the door, nervous, maybe even a tad frightened.
“All right, recruits!” Sergeant Glass bellowed. Of course, “bellowing” is just “conversing politely” in his case. “This is Alexis Fairdown. No further introductions are necessary, since you’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other after class. Alexis, take a seat somewhere.”
Several of the guys made enthusiastic “over here” motions. I restrained, myself of course. Alexis quickly glanced over the classroom, then quickly scooted over to the empty seat next me. Apparently, Lady Luck had decided to give me a break. As she sat down, she looked over to me and smiled hesitantly. I noticed she was wearing a small silver cross at the end of a small silver necklace. I hoped it was just a fashion accessory.
“Hey! You don’t want to sit down next to the queer!” some guy in the room yelled.
“Can it Bradworth!” Sergeant Glass barked. “Or do I have to remind you that the bimonthly sensitivity weekend is approaching.”
Jack Bradworth quickly shut up. No-one wants to get drafted into the sensitivity weekend. Meanwhile, Alexis was looking at me with large, frightened eyes. Not a fashion accessory then. Damn.
“Hi, I’m Mackenzie,” I said, holding out my hand in a friendly gesture that didn’t imply anything. “Call me Mac.”
Alexis looked at my hand as if it was going to lash out and grip her throat. She gingerly shook it. “Alexis. Call me Alex.”
I let go of her hand. She let go of mine.
“So, you’re… gay?” she asked.
I nodded. “That bother you?”
It took a moment before the answer arrived. “I… have no problems with lesbians or gays, but… I do think homosexuality is wrong.”
“So you have no problem with it, you just think it’s wrong. Right.” Definitely not a fashion accessory.
“I just don’t understand why people would choose such a lifestyle. I’m not trying to insult you are anything, but… I just don’t.”
I tried hard not to laugh at that point. I don’t know why, but for some reason bigots amuse me. Guess I’m just weird that way.
“Alex, I didn’t choose anything. I didn’t get to choose. If I did, I’d be straight, since that’d be way easier. But I can’t, since I was simply born that way.” I shrugged, then said something I really shouldn’t have said. “It’s just the way God made me, I guess.”
Total bewilderment flashed over Alex’ face. Then she composed herself. “Do you really believe that?”
“In a way,” I answered.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not Christian, I don’t believe in God. Well… not your God, anyway.”
I waited anxiously for the girl’s reaction. I wanted to know just how dogmatic she was.
“That’s good,” she said, totally surprising me.
She nodded. “You haven’t given up on faith entirely. Maybe you’ll find Jesus’ love too someday.”
“Is that so?”
Alex grinned. “That must’ve sounded terribly pompous of me. Sorry. But… if you’d let me… maybe I could help you out somehow.”
I grinned back. “Maybe you could.”
She nodded, still grinning, then refocused her attention to the front of the class. I kept looking at her for a beat longer. Pretty, cute and a devout Christian. Still… even though she was terribly dogmatic, she didn’t strike me as the totally fundamentalist type. I grinned wider. Salvation beckoned.
Her salvation, obviously, not mine.
After all, everybody knows that my two Gods are the Only True Gods.
How would you like to come home one sunny, yet slightly cold, afternoon and find two of your siblings involved in a heavy make-out session? I’m betting you wouldn’t find that to be a very pleasant experience. So, three guesses as to what I saw when I came home after school.
Fortunately for me, my two darling sisters quickly noticed me and broke away from each other. I have a feeling that the reason for them noticing me so quickly was because I said “Oh for Christ’s sake, knock it off, will you?” in my most annoyed voice. Honestly, when the two of them turned thirty I hoped that they would start behaving as responsible adults and stop kissing right in front of me. I was wrong. Then, a couple of months ago, Brooke got pregnant. Surely with Brooke in such a delicate state, the two of them would mellow down? I was wrong again.
The two of them are pretty much together for all my life now and they’re still completely smitten with each other. I’m thinking that when they’re old and grey and bent, they’ll be sitting on a bench in some park somewhere, holding hands and still be so disgustingly happy that they have each other.
Dammit, why can’t I find a girl like that?
“So Mac, how was school?” Sam asked, grinning widely and not in the least embarrassed that I walked in on them. Again. But then again, Sam hasn’t changed. Her body has aged, but she hasn’t grown up completely, never will probably. Well, at least she no longer commits all kinds of atrocities on her hair.
“Pretty good,” I said, casually flopping down on a couch.
“Anything interesting happen?” Brooke asked. Contrary to Sam, Brooke has changed somewhat. Most significantly is probably the disappearance of her self-image problems and the anorexia that went with it. And now, of course, her pregnancy. Brooke’s probably going to be really good housewife and mother. Something Sam would probably never be able to achieve.
“Not really,” I lied.
Again, I didn’t get away with it.
“So what happened?” Sam asked.
I groaned. I really didn’t want to talk about it. Actually, I really didn’t want to think about it. “New girl at school.”
“Cute?” Sam asked.
I decided to be honest. They’d figure it out sooner or later anyway. “Very.”
“Pretty much. Christian, though.”
“So?” Brooke asked. “Sam and I are Christians and you don’t have a problem with that.”
“Yeah, but you don’t take the Bible literally.”
“Oh, that kind of Christian,” Sam said.
“Yeah,” I said. “She spouted a stream of dogmatic drivel at me and I still liked her. Dammit, I’m hopeless.”
“She must be very cute then,” Sam said.
“Like I said, she is,” I answered.
“Have you any idea what you’re going to do?” Brooke asked.
“Masturbate while thinking of her somewhere tonight,” I answered.
“That’s not what I meant,” Brooke said, blushing a little.
“I know. Consider it payback for smooching in public.”
“That’s different,” Sam said.
“Not from where I’m standing. Anyway, I think we can at least be friends, but… I don’t think that’d be good for her. She’s from Nixon and when people find out she’s friends with the president of the Outcast Club, well… it’s not gonna be pretty.”
Sam grinned. “You’ve got it pretty bad for her, haven’t you?”
“Shut up, Sam,” was my witty repartee.
It was the following morning and I walked up to my locker in one of Kennedy High’s many hallways. My locker can be easily spotted from miles away. It’s the one with “Dyke” written on it in big red letters. Principal Glass was furious when she found out that someone wrote “Dyke” on my locker. She’s still looking for the perpetrator. One of these days, I’m probably gonna have to tell her the perpetrator was me. Yeah, I was the one who painted it and I was also the one who spread the rumour that it was me who painted it. As a result, every damn idiot on the school who has a problem with me doesn’t call me a dyke any more ‘cause they know it won’t insult me anyway. Of course, they still call me queer, lesbo and carpet-muncher (or is that rug-muncher? I always forget), but at least I’m not a dyke any more. I’d like to think that, in my own small way, I made the world a slightly better place.
So I opened my locker, took out my books, closed my locker made a half turn and stared straight into Alex’ face. At that point, several of my blood streams got diverted to… aha… a few very specific places.
“Hey, Alex,” I greeted.
“Hi Mac,” she greeted back, smiling brightly. “You know, you really should clean that up,” she said, pointing at my locker.
“Why? I’m the one who painted it in the first place.”
Alex looked confused. “Why?”
I shrugged. “So that people would stop calling me a dyke.”
“Did it work?”
I nodded. “Like a charm.”
“Gosh,” she said.
She’s probably the only girl alive who still uses “gosh”. Not that I minded. I thought it was kinda cute. Damn, I thought everything about her was at least kinda cute. Including her damn faith.
I started walking away from my locker. First period was English and it was taught by Frau Glass. I think that, as a nation, we should be getting worried that of the whole Glass clan it’s the German branch that knows the best English.
Alex strutted up beside me. “Hey, can I sit with you and your friends during lunch break?” she asked.
“Better not,” I answered.
“Why not?” she asked. She looked positively disappointed and it actually made me feel bad. Damn.
“The chess club looks down on me and my friends. You don’t want to hang out with us.”
“Well, I think you’re nice enough and don’t care about your social standing. Besides, Jesus…”
“OK, stop right there,” I interrupted her. “Fine. If you want to join us, be my guest. Just think of the consequences beforehand, all right?”
She beamed at me. For the first time in my life my knees went weak.
Sam was completely right. I was totally smitten with her.
Lunch time arrived and me and my friends were sitting at our usual table trying hard not to notice the food we were eating in any way. Alex wasn’t with. I was still undecided whether or not this was a good thing.
I turned around in my chair and there she was, standing a bit awkwardly and nervous.
“Hey,” I said. “Sit down, if you want.”
She sat down. I noticed several people around the room noticing that she sat down with us.
“OK, this is John, that’s Sarah, no she’s not a Satanist and that’s Trish who isn’t a cheerleader. Guys, this is Alex,” I said.
“Hi,” Alex greeted.
John nodded to her. Trish beamed. Sarah smirked. I knew then that I was in trouble. A smirking Sarah is never a good sign.
“So, Mac tells us you’re pretty much the religious type,” Sarah said innocently enough.
Alex nodded. “That’s right.”
“Say your prayers before you go to bed kind of thing?”
“Nothing,” Sarah said shrugging. “You don’t see that kind of spirituality very often any more.”
“That’s not true,” John said. “Mac prays.” His face was unreadable. I wasn’t quite sure if he said it out of a naive kind of honesty or to help Sarah with whatever she was planning to do. It’s hard to tell with John.
“Do you?” Alex asked, looking at me.
“Oh yes,” Trish said excitedly. “Almost every night in fact.”
“Really?” Alex asked.
“Yes. Really,” I answered, glaring at Sarah.
“But you said you weren’t Christian.”
“So what are you then?”
My glare towards Sarah intensified so much that John and Trish suffered collateral damage. “Wiccan,” I said.
“You practise Wicca?” Alex asked.
Sarah stopped smirking, and looked confused. Score for me. I stopped glaring at her for a moment to look at Alex. She was smiling at me.
“Wow?” I asked. “Not really the response I expected.” Nor did Sarah for that matter. She was probably very disappointed about that.
“I think all this modern religion stuff is just a cry for help,” Alex announced.
“What kind of cry for help?” I asked. John and Trish exchanged worried glances. I can deal with people not liking me because I’m gay. I can deal with people not liking me because of my beliefs. I cannot deal with people insulting my religion. It’s a fairly hypocritical character flaw I’m still working on, though not very diligently to tell you the truth.
“Spirituality is important for people, but most people think the Church is just an institution and a rather repressive one at that. You can’t quench your spiritual needs with an institution, so… people look elsewhere,” she shrugged. “Really, it’s all just a matter of showing people that Christianity is more than just Church.”
John was absolutely shocked by this statement. You could tell by the way he lifted an eyebrow. Sarah too didn’t seem to believe her ears. Trish just smiled, probably seeing a great and sunny future where religious prosecution no longer existed flowing from Alex’ words.
I smiled too, a little. Alex may be a dogmatic Christian bigot, she was at least a slightly open-minded dogmatic Christian bigot. She was cute and pretty and nice and not as totally close-minded as I thought she was.
I was getting my hopes up. I knew that. But I kept thinking that if I could get her to open up enough to view certain aspects of the world in a different light, maybe she’d look at me in a different light as well.
Wishful thinking, probably.
Perhaps I had the possibility to take a shot at her. If I did, I surely wouldn’t waste it.
OK, so maybe I was deluding myself, but at least it made the future look a tad brighter and that was good enough for me.
Well… for now anyway.
My friends came over to my house the next day, except Alex since I sort of hadn’t invited her. I didn’t want her to come face to face with my sisters. At least not yet. So, me, Sarah, John and Trish were hanging out in my room, doing pretty much nothing. John and Trish were sitting behind my antiquated computer, playing one of my antiquated games. For some reason, they can’t get enough of them. I have no clue why and they don’t seem able to explain it to me. I was sort of lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling and, frankly, thinking about a girl I’d much like to lie next to. Not that I was thinking of anything else much lately. Sarah had wandered over to my small home-made altar and was browsing through some of my books.
“Hey Mac,” John asked.
“Just how smitten are you with Alex?”
“Is it that obvious?”
“It is,” Sarah said.
“Well, in that case, very.”
“You have to stop crushing on every pretty girl that comes along Mac,” Sarah said.
“I know,” I said. “I can’t help it. And besides, she’s…”
“That wasn’t what I was going to say.”
“Oh face it, she probably secretly thinks you’re going to see the light of heterosexuality.”
“No, she doesn’t,” Trish said.
We all looked at her. Trish had sounded suspiciously serious. She doesn’t sound like that very often. It’s usually worth hearing her out when she does.
“What? You’re thinking she’s gay too or something?” Sarah asked sceptically.
“No, but… she’s a dogmatist,” Trish said. She was speaking slowly, carefully picking every word.
“Exactly,” said Sarah.
“No, what I mean is, she clings on to dogma, because she doesn’t have faith.”
A religious statement coming from Trish. We were all impressed. Not to mention shocked.
“What do you mean?” I asked. Clutching-at-straws-girl, that’s me.
“I think that God or the Goddess or whatever are all just names for the exact same… being,” Trish hesitated, probably not sure how she was going to formulate the rest. “Muslims say that Allah is great or something and they’re right. Whatever you want to call it, you are talking about a… a force that shaped the universe, gave it life. Something like that is so… so big that a human mind can’t possibly comprehend it all. You can’t know the ultimate truth about God, there are always going to be gaps. Someone who really believes fills those gaps with faith and someone who wants to believe, but is in doubt fills up the gaps with dogma, because dogma is definite.”
Trish had finished talking and the room was silent. I think we all experienced a moment of fundamental disbelief. That couldn’t possibly have been Trish doing the talking.
Maybe she was inspired by God or something. Trish the Prophet. Scary visual, that.
“Of course, I’m only talking about believers,” Trish said, blushing a little. “People who use dogma to beat around others are just power-hungry bigots.”
There was more silence.
“She’s right,” said John, at long last. He actually sounded a tad surprised. “Maybe Alex isn’t so sure of her faith as she claims to be.”
“You think so?” I sounded very hopeful, almost like a begging puppy. So sue me.
“Well, it could be,” John said.
“That’s all very interesting, but that doesn’t automatically mean she’s gay,” Sarah said.
“True,” said John. And that turned out to be all he was going to say.
The door to my room opened and Brooke stepped inside. My friends all looked at her, then down towards her swelling stomach.
“Mac, mom wants you to go get some groceries.”
“What? Doesn’t she know I have friends around?”
“No problem,” Trish said, sounding like her normal self again. “We’ll go with.”
“Sure,” said Sarah, a tad distracted. “Hey Mac, isn’t there something you want to tell us?”
I groaned. “Guys, Brooke’s pregnant.”
“We figured that,” said John. “May I ask who the father is?”
“I don’t know,” Brooke said. “We went to a sperm bank.”
“I’ll admit, I always thought you were going to have a baby much sooner,” John said.
Brooke smiled. “We wanted to have a baby since forever, but we couldn’t agree on who was going to do the actual nine month pregnancy bit. So, in the end, we flipped a coin.” Brooke looked down at her stomach, she stroked it gently as her smile softened. “I won.”
“Who flipped the coin?” Sarah asked.
“Sam did. Why?”
“She rigged it,” John stated.
“She would if it’d make you happy.”
Brooke chewed her bottom, a look of doubt on her face. Then she turned around and left. We all followed her, and kept standing just outside the living room so we could all eavesdrop on them by accident.
“Sam, I have to talk to you.”
“About the baby. Did you… did you let me win the toss?”
At that point Brooke made a sound I couldn’t possibly describe, but if I really had to go give it a go it sounded a bit like happy human mewing. The sounds that followed after that were a lot more clear. They were making out with each other again. My sisters don’t have fights, they have excuses for make-up sex.
“Let’s go see your mom about those groceries,” John said.
I nodded, but didn’t move. I looked over at my friends. They were affected by it too. My two sisters really love each other. Terms like “true love” and “soulmates” seem to apply to them. And when you get in touch with people like that, you simply want that too. You can’t settle for anything less, you can no longer even contemplate the possibility of casual sex, you can’t just pick up someone in a bar, you can’t have a relationship just for fun. You have to have real love, even when you’re just 16 years old like me. And, looking at my friends, I realised they were thinking along the same lines. Sam and Brooke had found each other and now all what my friends really wanted was a relationship like theirs. Even Sarah, who would otherwise probably be happily promiscuous is now searching for the prince on the white horse.
Yeah, my sisters are definitely a corrupting influence.
Maybe I should ask Alex over for Christmas dinner after all.
It was Saturday and me and my friends were indulging ourselves in that time-honoured tradition of hanging out at the mall. The four of us meandered over to Harvey’s bookstore, probably the very epitome of what bookstores are supposed to be, dark, musty and with a hushed air around the place. Harvey was a pretty old-fashioned guy and we were probably the only teenagers who had ever seen his store from the inside. As we entered the bookstore, we quickly split into four separate ways. John walked over to the science-fiction department, Sarah went to horror and Trish started searching for books with such titles as “Her Passionate Heart”. Sometimes there’s truth to certain stereotypes I guess.
I walked over to the shelves with gay literature. Harvey may be old-fashioned when it comes to books, he’s pretty open-minded about everything else. Maybe because everything non-book doesn’t really interest him. I briefly scanned the titles, but unfortunately, didn’t see a lot of new books. There was in fact only one new addition, showing two women holding hands and a man in the background on the cover. I picked it up and leafed towards the ending. After I read a couple of lines of it, I quickly put the book back. It was another one of those “oh no, wait, I’m straight after all” endings. I hate those.
So, being majorly disappointed by my favourite genre yet again, I walked over to science-fiction, looking for John and because it was the nearest. I spotted him leafing through a copy of “2001”. Again.
“You know, if you like that book so much, why don’t you just buy it?” I asked.
If John was surprised at suddenly hearing a voice behind him, he didn’t show it. “Maybe I will,” he said, putting the book back on the shelf. “But 2001 has come and gone and we’re not even on Mars yet, let alone Saturn.”
“So? Is that a problem?”
“It bothers me sometimes,” John admitted.
“Really?” John wasn’t the kind of person that got bothered by something very quickly.
“Of course. Anyway, you find anything new?”
I shrugged. “Not really.”
“Sorry to hear it.”
“It’s OK. Well, not really, but I can live with it.”
“Let’s go see if the others found something new,” John suggested.
John and I slowly walked over to the horror section, taking detours through the fantasy and philosophy sections.
However, we never reached the horror section because we came to a screeching halt at alternative religions. That is to say, I came to a screeching halt.
“Hello Alex,” John said calmly.
Alex looked up from the book she was holding and hastily put it back onto the shelf. “Err… hi,” she said, blushing a little.
“Checking out the heathens, I see,” John said, without a single mocking or sarcastic undertone in his voice.
“Sort of,” Alex answered.
“Know thy enemy kind of thing?” John said.
“Interesting. Well, nice seeing you.”
John walked away, without looking at me. He probably figured that I would either follow him or talk to Alex myself and that either way, he was fine with it.
Obviously, I kept standing. I tried talking, but had some difficulty with forming words. It probably had something to do with my mind constantly forming images instead of words.
“Hi,” Alex said. I rather wished she hadn’t. I was so close to forming a coherent sentence, but the mere sound of her voice had messed it up again.
“You… come here often?” she asked, with a small smile.
I nodded. Somewhere, I was relieved that I still knew the difference between “yes” and “no”.
Alex looked down at her hands, which were fumbling helplessly.
“Me and my friends, we’re probably going to be stuffing ourselves with junkfood after this, wanna come?” I asked.
Alex looked up, smiling. Several things happened with my body that were pleasant, but very inconvenient in the current time and place. “Sure.”
I smiled back. Not that I was capable of having any other facial expression right now. “OK then.”
Together, we walked down the aisle further towards horror. However, I simply couldn’t resist looking at the book Alex had been reading when we walked in on her. It showed a pentagram on the cover, with the words “An Introduction To Wicca” in big black letters. I smiled. Either Alex was interested in my religion, or she was interested in converting me to Christianity. Either way, she was interested in me. Needless to say, I felt strangely happy about that.
After scrounging up the rest of my friends, we went over to the nearest McDonalds. I ordered a burger with fries, Sarah just took fries (she’s vegetarian), John ordered two cheeseburgers and a portion of those chicken nugget things, Trish (disturbingly enough) got a Happy Meal and Alex settled for a chickenburger with fries. Loaded up with fat, unhealthy food and armed with a few very large sodas, we sought out a table and dug in. We talked for a bit, but I can’t quite remember about what. I have this horrible feeling I was staring at Alex and grinning like an idiot the whole time. Fortunately, Sarah noticed that I was spaced out and managed to bring me back to this plane by sharply elbowing me in the stomach.
“Well now, what do Ah spy with mah lil’ eye?”
We all ground, except for Alex because she didn’t know the newcomer. That was about to change, however.
“Hello Berry Cherry,” John said.
Berry Cherry, daughter of Cherry Cherry and Erik Estrada-Cherry and captain of the cheerleading team. She’s one year younger than me, blonde, dumb and underweight. My sisters told me once (well, several times actually) that Berry Cherry’s older sister, Mary Cherry, is a few cards short of a full deck. Judging from Berry Cherry, it runs in the family. Berry Cherry was backed up by Jessica and Cynthia, the Hampton twins, who’re also blonde cheerleaders. Honestly, if some horny teenage guy fantasises about having a threesome with a pair of twins, it’s a good bet they’d look like the Hampton twins. Jessica is simply a mean, vicious bitch. Cynthia tries to be nice from time to time, but unfortunately, tends to follow her sister’s lead.
“Why are you here?” Sarah asked. “Doesn’t just being here put six pounds of fat on your hips or something?”
“Ah am not here for you,” Berry Cherry said. We weren’t surprised by that statement.
The three “respectable cheerleaders” walked around the table and kept standing close to Alex, who was staring down, with her eyes closed. I had a feeling she was praying.
“You’re new so Ah’ll give you a piece o’ advice and Ah suggest you be grateful for it,” Berry Cherry announced. I’m not sure if Alex could hear her. I’m pretty sure Berry Cherry didn’t care. “First, lay off the fattening stuff. Second, stay away from those mentally deficient fashion victims.”
“Mentally deficient fashion victims?” Trish whispered.
“She means us,” I whispered back.
“Hey can, I ask a question?” Jessica asked.
“Sure,” Alex said, softly.
“Is it true you’re from Nixon?”
Alex didn’t answer.
John came to the rescue. “Where did you hear she was from Nixon?”
Jessica looked at him, glaring. John looked back, his face blank, impassive and even more unreadable than usual.
“You must’ve heard the rumours,” Jessica said.
“Ah, rumours,” said John. “Such a reliable source of information. But who did you hear it from?”
Jessica waved a hand irritably in the air. “I don’t know. Someone. Look, everyone has heard those rumours.”
“Well, if everyone knows, why bother asking?”
“I didn’t say everybody knows, I just said everyone heard the rumours,” Jessica snapped.
“Oh, I see,” said John, calm and unmoving. “So, nobody knows where she’s from and then someone said that, hey, maybe she’s from Nixon and suddenly everybody thinks she’s from Nixon. Yes, I can see how that could go. Doesn’t make it true, though.”
Jessica kept glaring at John. John’s face remained blank. The cheerleader tried forming a few more scathing words, but failed. Rumours, even true rumours, shrivel up and die in the face of John’s blank expression.
“Now, now, no fighting,” Berry Cherry said. Probably because she knew she had already lost the fight. She reached down into her handbag and pulled out a small bottle, which she put in front of Alex. “Here, consider this purgative as our welcome gift and tah say: “stay away from those losers”. C’mon girls, let’s go.”
The three cheerleaders retreated and Alex visibly relaxed.
“I take it you’ve had a few bad cheerleader experiences,” John said.
Alex smiled thinly. “You could say that. Thanks for helping me out.”
John just shrugged and continued eating.
I think I caught it on Saturday or Sunday. Maybe Friday. I wasn’t all sure, though, since I don’t know the first thing about incubation times. What I did know was that, on Monday, I got out of bed, took a few steps, then staggered back and collapsed onto the bed again. I knew the Earth was spinning, but I was fairly certain I wasn’t actually supposed to see it spinning. I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths and opened my eyes again. Fortunately, the Earth had continued spinning somewhere where I couldn’t see it. Unfortunately, my second attempt at verticality also ended horizontally. I pulled up the sheets again and finally noticed just how crap I felt. A few minutes later, mom shouted from the bottom of the staircase that I should go hurry up and get some breakfast if I didn’t want to be late for school. I shouted back that I wasn’t feeling very well. I could barely hear my own voice. I heard mom’s footsteps going up the stairs, heard her walking towards my door and saw her opening it. She looked annoyed as she entered, but quickly looked worried. She hurried over to me, put her hand on my head, then hurried out again to quickly return with a thermometer.
I had a pretty high fever, which made it official.
I was sick.
Normally, I don’t really mind getting struck with the flu. Sure, I feel like absolute crap for a couple of days, but at least I don’t have to go to school. Now, however, I sort of wanted to go to school for reasons which were blonde, religious and drop-dead gorgeous.
Mom soon left for work, leaving me alone with my thoughts. Not that I had many. Bored, I decided to divert my gaze from the plain white ceiling towards the plain white wall. There was a smiling bald man there who waved at me. I waved back. However, I was still attached to reality enough to realise that I was probably delirious, so I turned over and tried to get some sleep. I didn’t have to try very hard.
When I woke up again, I realised I was lying in something sticky. I hoped it wasn’t vomit. Luckily, it was a just a small puddle of drool. I turned over again to see if the bald man had gone. He had. He had been replaced, however, by a very pretty girl sitting in a chair next to my bed. She looked like Alex, but since Alex was still in school I was probably still imagining things.
“Hello Mac,” said the figment of my imagination that looked like Alex.
“Hey,” I croaked.
“Sarah told me you were sick,” she said.
I nodded. Mom always calls Sarah when I can’t make it to school because I’m sick.
“How was school?” I asked.
Alex gave a little half smile. “I think Berry Cherry wants me on the cheerleading squad.”
“That’s because you’re so beautiful,” I said. In case you couldn’t tell, I wasn’t thinking entirely straight. And besides, this wasn’t the real Alex I was talking to.
She blushed and looked down at her hands. “You think so?”
“Hmm,” I said. It sounded more or less affirmative.
Alex coughed and looked up, away from me. “Anyway, I’ve brought you your homework.”
“Hmm,” I said again. Suddenly, a neurone somewhere in my brain started fizzling like crazy. I slowly realised that, although I wasn’t thinking clearly, it was more clear than this morning. Secondly, for a mere figment of my imagination Alex looked very real and very coherent.
“What time is it?” I asked.
“Four thirty,” answered Alex. She was looking down at her hands again. She does that a lot when she’s nervous.
“Four thirty,” I repeated.
Oh shit. I had slept practically the entire day. School was already over. And, worst of all, this was the real Alex I was talking to. And I told her she was beautiful!
“Mac, did you mean what you just said?” Alex asked, cutting me of and still not looking at me. “About finding me beautiful?”
I decided not to lie to her. I wouldn’t get away with it anyway. “Yeah.”
She nodded again. “I just want you to know…” she hesitated.
“What?” I asked. If she was going to break my heart she might as well do it now. It wasn’t like I could feel even crappier. Well, physically at least.
“I…” Again she hesitated. “I should probably be going home.”
“Kay,” I said.
She stood up and walked towards the door. She paused for a sec. “You have a nice house.”
“Alex, before you go…” I stopped. I had said it too fast and was out of breath. “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure.” She still wasn’t looking at me.
“Tomorrow evening, Christmas eve, we, that is, me and my friends, we have Christmas dinner here.” I wondered if that sentence had made sense. It didn’t sound like it in my head. “Would you like to join us?”
“They usually come around five.”
Alex was quiet for a while. “I’ll think about it.” And with that, she left.
I couldn’t sleep that night. It could’ve been because I had been asleep most of the day. So, I dreamt with my eyes open and fantasised about Alex.
It slowly dawned on my feverish mind that fantasies were the only place where I would get the girl.
I opened my eyes after I had slept for some indeterminable length of time and stared straight into the burning sun. I blinked furiously in the hopes that all the purple spots would go away, turned my head and saw that it was dark outside. I frowned, looked back and saw that the light was on in my room. I also noticed John sitting near my desk, looking at me.
“What time is it?” I asked.
“Around seven. Nice to see you awake.”
“Yeah, hi to you too,” I said, still a tad sleepily. “Seven?”
“Why didn’t you wake me up?”
“We tried waking you gently. Then we set off your alarm clock. After that, we decided to keep an eye on you in shifts. You’re not a very light sleeper, Mac.”
Well, that was true. I even slept through an earthquake once. OK, so it wasn’t a very massive earthquake, no buildings had collapsed or anything, but it was an earthquake and I had slept through it.
“I take you guys already had dinner?”
“It wasn’t much fun without you. Sarah saved you some of her turkey, by the way.”
“Sarah doesn’t eat meat.”
“That’s probably why she saved it for you.”
“Alex here too?” I asked.
John shook his head.
“Thought so,” I said, disappointed.
“She had to go to some family dinner. Seemed pretty upset too when I talked to her.”
“What’d she say?”
“Not much. What did you say?”
“That I thought she was beautiful.”
“Hmm,” John said. “That would explain some of it. If it’s any comfort she seemed upset in the hysterically confused way, not in the viciously angry way.”
I smiled a little. “Thank the Goddess for small favours.”
John stood up and walked to the door. “Be right back,” he said.
I nodded. When he had gone, I turned over onto my back and stared up at the ceiling. So, Alex hadn’t shown up. Not very surprising really. Still hurt, though.
Well, at least she wasn’t angry, according to John anyway. No, she just didn’t know how to deal with me. How to let me down gently without hurting my feelings and crap.
Damn, why do I always fall for the straight ones?
Because there aren’t a whole lot of gay ones, probably.
I couldn’t see who had said it, but then again, I didn’t need to. Only one person talks like that. “Hi Trish,” I said, still looking at the ceiling.
“Finally awake I see?” Sarah, obviously.
I turned my head to see that John was quietly closing the door and that Trish and Sarah were carefully, yet unceremoniously, dropping a couple of presents in a small heap.
“Your mom and dad are doing the dishes and your sisters seem lost in a tiny little universe of their own, so we figured we’d do the traditional unwrapping of presents on your room,” Sarah explained. “By the way, where do you keep your presents?”
“In the closet,” I said. “Thanks guys.”
“It goes without saying,” Trish said empathetically. “And because you’re sick, you get to unwrap the first present.”
“Hey,” Sarah protested weakly, as she took my additions to the presents heap out of the closet.
I managed to prop myself up on my right arm and, after the room stopped spinning, accepted the little present Trish had presented me with.
“Thanks,” I said.
“Come on, open it,” Trish said excitedly.
“Why so impatient? You know what’s in it,” Sarah said.
“So? What does that have to do with anything?”
I grinned and lay back down because I needed both hands to unwrap the paper. It was a book. It was called “Roses of the Desert” and the drawing on the cover told me all I needed to know about this book. You know, one of those pictures of a dashing, partly nude manly man holding a frail, tender woman in his arms. Except that on this cover there was no partly nude man in sight and only two frail, tender women could be spotted.
“I looked at the ending first and didn’t find anything you might object to,” Trish said. “So, how do you like it?”
“Err… it’s great,” I said. And, somewhere, I really meant it. The book was obviously one of those horrible romantic novels Trish likes to read and if my sexual orientation hadn’t been what it is I would never ever read even one of them. As it is, however, I’m more than willing to read anything that has two women in a relationship that aren’t evil or nymphomaniacs and don’t end up dead or straight after all. Even if it’s one of Trish’ horrible romantic novels.
“Thanks,” I said, laying the book down next to my bed. “I’d give you my present, only I can’t reach.”
“No problem,” Trish said cheerfully. With a great display, she picked up my present for her and thrust it into my hands. “Here you go.”
“Right,” I said, confused. I noticed Sarah smirking at me. I ignored her. “Here you go Trish. Merry Christmas,” I said, giving the present back to her.
“Thanks!” Trish said. In the background, Sarah rolled her eyes and the corners of John’s mouth seemed to twitch upwards. Our friend with the mind of a cheerleader and the body of a healthy person ripped off the wrapping paper and simply squealed in delight just before hugging me tightly.
“Thanks Mac, you’re my best friend.”
“I’m also your very sick friend,” I reminded her. “So ease up on the hugging if you don’t want to get sick as well.”
“It’d be worth it,” Trish said, letting me go.
“So? What’d you get?” Sarah asked impatiently.
“The original Civilization!” Trish said happily. “On CD-ROM!”
“Is that supposed to mean something to me?” Sarah asked.
“It’s a really old game,” John said. “It was already old even before any of us were born.”
“And you’re actually happy with that?”
“You barbarian. This is a part of our cultural heritage,” Trish said.
“A videogame?” Sarah asked, her voice getting more and more sceptic.
Trish nodded emphatically. “Oh yeah.”
“If you say so.”
The rest of the evening was tiring, to say the least. We all chattered happily with each other, though I must admit that John was far more verbal than I was. I got another book from John, which was apparently about a very sandy planet with a lot of earthworms or something and from Sarah I got a pair of pentagram-shaped earrings. Trish got an ND of “The Naughty Skanks” from Sarah and some book from John about sleeping robots. Sarah got an ND of “Hellfiends” from me, an ND of “Unalive Undeads” from John and an ND of “The Hockeystick Maskwearers” from Trish. John sort of ended up with two copies of “2001” from Sarah and me and the VND of “2001” from Trish. We all hoped he could trade in at least one of them for the sequel.
In the end I had a pretty fun night, but I was completely exhausted when Trish and Sarah finally left. John, however, kept lingering for a moment longer.
“Mac, there’s one more thing,” he said.
“What is it?”
“This.” John produced a very small present and gave it to me. “Alex gave it to me to give to you. I hope you don’t mind.”
Mind? Mind? Of course I didn’t mind. I would even be very happy about getting a Christmas present from Alex if I wasn’t so tired.
I unwrapped the paper and opened the box.
“Ouch,” said John. Which covered it pretty well.
In the box there was a necklace, with a small Christian cross on the end.
New Year’s Day had come and gone and my sisters had already gone back to their house in Canada when I finally went back to school. The sun was shining brightly in the clear sky, which meant that it was slightly chillier than usual. Not that I minded. After having a burning fever for as long as I had, the winter cold was a pleasant change.
I had gathered my books and was heading for Physics class when I ran into someone. Three guesses who.
“Hi Alex,” I said.
“Haven’t seen you in a while.” Not since you practically ran away from my room, I thought nastily and immediately regretted thinking.
“Yeah,” she said, staring down at her hands. “Sorry.”
The left corner of Alex’ mouth went upwards for a second. “You’re a terrible liar.”
“But thanks for trying.”
“I do my best.”
We looked at each other. We were both grinning rather widely.
“So how was your Christmas?” I asked friendly.
“Pretty good. Yours?”
“It was fine. Pity I was sick, though.” And that she wasn’t there as well.
“Did John give you my present?” Alex asked, her voice filled with hesitant expectation.
“Yeah. And I appreciate it. But I’m not going to wear it.” Instead, I was carrying it around in my pocket. No need to her tell that, though. Not yet anyway.
“Why not?” she asked, disappointed. “I just thought it might look good on you.”
“It probably would,” I said. “If it was just a little fashion trinket. But it’s not.”
She nodded. “I understand. And I didn’t… I mean… I didn’t want you to…” She sighed. “Never mind,” she said.
“Err… OK,” I said, not being able to fill in the blanks in her sentence anyway.
We stood in awkward silence.
“Maybe I should be getting to class,” I said.
“Yeah,” she said.
“Catch you later?”
We didn’t move. We did have more of the awkward silence, though.
Classes were long, boring and dull, like they always are. So needless to say, I was very happy when lunch break arrived. I scoured the hallways looking for Alex. I had no idea what I was going to say when I found her and it was pretty damn likely there’d be another awkward silence. But awkward silence with her was still better than careless chatter without her. Yeah I know, I’m hopeless.
I spotted Alex talking to Berry Cherry. Or, to be more precise, I spotted her being talked at by Berry Cherry.
“Alex!” I said.
“Mac!” she said gratefully. “Sorry,” she said to Berry Cherry before quickly walking over to me.
“My, tha nerve!” Berry Cherry exclaimed. She followed Alex until she was standing in front of her and completely ignored me. “Ah was talking to you.”
“But… I just wanted to talk to my friend. And besides, you know my answer.”
“Well, Ah thought you had some time ta think about it,” Berry Cherry said. “Any gal’d be happy if Ah offered a position to them.”
“But I don’t want a position on the cheerleading squad,” Alex said.
Berry Cherry frowned. She had just been faced with a sentence she couldn’t comprehend. And, as with all things she can’t comprehend, she dealt with it by blocking it out of her immediate universe. The head cheerleader walked away without saying another word.
“Sorry about that,” Alex said. “Guess she found out I used to be a cheerleader.”
“You were a cheerleader?” I asked.
She nodded. In my head I tried to reconcile the picture of a cheerleader with the picture of Alex. I failed.
“Really?” I asked.
“Huh,” I said. Which was the most sensible reply I could come up with at the moment.
Slowly, triggered by some unspoken agreement, we started walking towards the cafeteria. As we walked we became shrouded in uncomfortable silence once again.
“Mac…” Alex said after a while.
“Did you… did you mean what you said?”
I didn’t have to think very long to figure out what she was talking about. “Yeah.”
“So you’re attracted to me?”
“Yeah.” It wasn’t a lie. It was an understatement.
The uncomfortable silence made another come-back and had brought some friends along this time.
We reached the cafeteria in silence and sat down at opposite sides of our table in silence and waited silently for the rest of our friends to show up.
School was over and I was walking across the school yard towards freedom when Sarah stepped up beside me.
“Another day survived,” she said.
“Tell me about it.”
“And I see you’ve finally made out of bed.”
I smiled. Any normal person would have said “glad to see you’re better again”, but Sarah had an image to uphold.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Anyway, there’s something I think you ought to know,” Sarah said.
“Yeah? What’s that then.”
“Alex is completely smitten with you.”
Sarah walked on. It didn’t take her very long to notice that she was the only one of us still walking. She turned around.
“Hey, you coming?”
My body gave up waiting for orders coming from my currently disabled brain and started walking.
“How…?” was the first thing I said.
“Listen, I may not read Trish’ books, but I’m not ignorant.”
Sarah groaned. “Look, it’s really simple. Alex fancies you, OK?”
“I can see it, OK. Wish I couldn’t, but there it is. Alex likes you.”
“Oh,” I said. It goes without saying that my brains weren’t quite up to speed yet. It had trouble digesting the enormity of the statement that Sarah had so casually made.
When we reached the gates, we stopped since Sarah still felt she had something to say.
“OK, don’t get your hopes up yet,” she said. “You can see it in every damn thing she does that she’s attracted to you. But I’m betting those feelings are scaring the Hell out of so she’s massively confused. I think you’ve got a chance at her, but you’ve got to be careful not to frighten her off, understand?”
Sarah sighed. “I’ll take that as a yes.” She looked away from me and towards the street. “Hey, I gotta be going. If your brain ever decides to come back and play, use it to think about what I’ve said, OK. Later Mac.”
She walked away. I remained standing. After a while I once again regained my ability to walk. I walked all the way home, not a single thought going through my head all the time. I entered through the doors glass doors near the kitchen, failed to notice my mom greeting me, headed up the stairs, walked to my room and sat down next to my bed.
I waited patiently for everything to sink in. It took a while since I was pretty much in shock. But when it all finally started gliding into place, I smiled.
Alex was attracted to me.
The fact that this terrified her to no end was conveniently ignored for the moment.
When it rains, it pours. I know this is an old saying with lots of metaphorical meaning or something, but it can also be true in a very real sense. It doesn’t rain very often around here, but when it does… well, let’s just say I wasn’t looking forward to walking all the way home when school was over for yet another day. So instead I kept hovering around near the exit, hoping that the rain would go away.
I couldn’t see who greeted me. But the sudden feelings of heat, nervousness, joy and… a sort of very specific wet heat told me all I needed to know.
“Hi,” I said.
Alex was suddenly standing next to me. “It’s raining.”
“Think it’ll stop soon?”
“I hope so.”
“I don’t really mind rain, usually.”
“Really. Except when it’s this much rain all at once.”
We weren’t talking. Or maybe we were, but all the things we said weren’t said with our mouths. Which isn’t right. Some things need to be said instead of lurking in the space of things that aren’t actually said.
But I didn’t know what she wanted to say and I didn’t know how I should say that what I wanted to say.
So we talked about rain.
“Care to… take a walk with me?”
“I’d love to. But does it have to be now?”
“Yes,” she said. “I… I need to talk to you about some things and… I don’t think I could do it on a sunny day. It just wouldn’t be right.”
“Bad stuff I take it?”
“Stuff that made you transfer to Kennedy?”
She nodded again.
“OK then. Let’s walk.”
And so we stepped out into the rain, planning to Go Have A Talk. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to. I didn’t want to hear. People don’t talk to each to other about bad stuff. They only talk to shrinks or Oprah or something. Even best friends sometimes have difficulty listening to each other’s blackest problems.
I didn’t want to know what Alex had gone through. I honestly didn’t. But I knew I would listen to her. Maybe Sarah was wrong about her liking me, but I sure loved her so I was going to listen.
We went to some park and found some small bench to sit on. We were both soaked to the bone. I didn’t care. I had a feeling that neither did she. I looked around while silence ensued. It was a pretty nice park, insofar as I could see it. When the rain stopped it was probably going to smell nice here too. I like the smell of wet grass, don’t know why. But the rain didn’t look like it was about to clear up. For a brief cynical moment I wondered if Alex would talk before the rain stopped.
Alex took a deep breath. “Mac…”
“I told you I was a cheerleader, right?”
“You did. Were you any good?”
“The best,” she said. It wasn’t bragging. It was a statement of fact.
“You were popular?”
She swallowed uncomfortably and nodded. Her face was already wet, but I thought I could see tears. Obviously, I had said something wrong. Or I had cut straight to the heart of the matter. Probably both.
“So what did he do?” I asked.
“I… I wasn’t all that religious back then, but I did believe in no sex before marriage.”
“He disagreed,” I stated.
“Fuck,” I said. It was probably a very inappropriate thing to say, but it slipped out of my mouth before I could stop it.
“So what did you do?” I asked. “Went to the cops or something?”
Another nod. “There was no mistaking his DNA. He was convicted.”
“And yet I still have the feeling this isn’t the happy ending.”
She chuckled. There was no humour in it, which was to be expected. “In the movies, who does the head cheerleader always date?”
“The star quarterback.”
Alex was silent. It was obvious that there was more, but I wasn’t going to pressure her.
“Rain’s clearing up a bit,” I said.
“Think it’s going to stop soon?”
“No, but it’s cleared up a bit.”
That exchange wasn’t as metaphorical as it sounded. It was just something to say to fill up the silence. But the silence didn’t stay filled up for very long. It simply came back for a few minutes more.
“Everyone blamed me,” Alex blurted out.
“What?” I asked.
“Isn’t it obvious? I was a slut, I seduced him and…” she halted, broke off, broke down.
I gathered her up in my arms. I wanted to say something like “It’s OK”, but like I said before, I’m a terrible liar. So I just held her while she sobbed.
“I holed myself up in my room,” she continued.
I couldn’t help but thinking that there had been more stuff happening at her school other than people calling her names, but I wasn’t going to pry. My imagination filled up the blanks quite nicely and horrendously.
“For how long?”
“Don’t know. Long.”
“I came out only once.”
“To go the bathroom?” I said it in an attempt to lighten the mood. It hadn’t worked, obviously. There was no lightening this mood.
“No. To close up my wrists before I bled to death.”
“And then I found Christ.”
I thought that was a pretty strange time to turn to religion, but I didn’t mention it. I’m not that tactless.
“Something to hold on to?” I asked.
“Yes. I had no-one, except my parents who didn’t know how to deal with me. But Jesus was there for me, comforting me, understanding me.”
At that point, I realised Trish had been wrong about Alex and her dogma. It wasn’t because she lacked faith, it was because that, for the longest time, she didn’t have anything else.
“Must’ve been nice,” I said.
She smiled. Not much, barely noticeable even, but genuine. “It was. It made sure that I only tried once.”
“Made sure you’re here with us today.”
There was even more silence. I had a feeling the conversation was over, but it hadn’t ended properly, so neither of us knew what to say or do. Somehow, saying “Well, that has been a pleasant chat, see you tomorrow” didn’t sound like a very good idea to me.
“And now I’m betraying Him.”
OK, so the conversation wasn’t over.
“What do you mean?” I asked. I had a feeling I knew the answer. I suppose I should’ve been happy.
“I’m falling for someone He doesn’t approve of.”
And there it was. Alex declaration that she loved me. Of course, technically speaking, she could’ve been talking about someone else. But if that was the case, she probably wouldn’t be talking to me.
“And why doesn’t He?”
“I’m falling for a girl.”
“I always thought Jesus was a pretty open-minded guy,” I said. I may not be entirely tactless, but I’m not exactly tactful either.
“Maybe. But I’m not sure He’s open-minded enough to accept something like this.”
“What? You mean love?” OK, so I’m tactless.
“Yes, I mean love. I think I may be in love with you, but… Mac, I don’t know what to do.”
It was the perfect opening. It was a situation I could take advantage of. Here was Alex, who had just opened up to me and had shown me that she was scared, confused and harbouring feelings for me. All I needed to do was say and do the right things and she would be mine.
But my sense of morality interfered. If we were going to date, then it was going to be her decision and not because of my manipulation.
“I think you should talk about this with someone else,” I said.
“What do you mean?” she asked. I cringed when I heard the fear in her voice.
“I love you too Alex. If you asked me for advice, I’d probably say you should just forget about Jesus and be with me. But I’m not going to do that, it wouldn’t be fair.”
“Because your religion is just as important to you as mine is to me, maybe even more so. It’s not something you should just shove aside when it becomes inconvenient.” I stood up and looked at her. “I want to be with you, Alex, I really do. And I’m not going to stand between you and your religion.”
“Do you want me to make a choice, is that it?”
“No. I’ll simply be waiting until you reach a conclusion all on your own. I’m hoping you’ll be able to reconcile your religion with what you’re feeling for me.”
“And if I can’t?”
“Then I’ll be waiting in vain.”
“That’s not fair Mac,” she said. She didn’t sound angry. Upset, yes, but not angry.
I sighed. “I know. But do you have any better ideas?”
She looked down. “No.”
I nodded. “I’ll… I’ll be going now. See you tomorrow?”
“I’m sorry Alex.”
“Don’t be. I understand.”
And with that, I walked away. The rain had stopped and the sun was shining. Somehow, I felt that it would have been more appropriate if it was still pouring.
A cold sun shone thinly on the other side of my bedroom window as I lay on bed reading that book Trish had given me for Christmas. It wasn’t even a very bad book, considering its origins. It was about some wife from some sheikh falling in love with some harem girl. It’s about as cliché as the rich woman falling in love with the dashing stablehand, but still. It’s biggest saving grace was that it wasn’t all that badly written. OK, and because it’s about a lesbian relationship.
I lay the book down next to the bed and stared up at the ceiling. There were things that I had to carefully avoid thinking about. One of them was Alex, who hadn’t shown up at school today. The other things were also about Alex, but mostly didn’t involve my hands lying on the pillow beneath my head. I figured that Alex hadn’t come to school because she too had a lot of things she’d rather not think about. Like me. And being around me was probably not conducive to a healthy thinking process.
Bit like when I’m around her then.
Since I wasn’t very fond of my mind starting to wander into places I didn’t want it to wander into I figured I had about two options at this moment. The first one would be to pick up my book and continue reading. The second one would be a lot more pleasurable, but would also include a great deal of embarrassment if one of my parents happened to walk in without knocking first.
I had half decided what to do, with my hand halfway down my abdomen, when I heard mom shouting up the stairs.
“Mac, you have a visitor!”
Swearing under my breath, I stood up, galloped down the stairs and froze.
“Can we talk?”
“Somewhere sort of private?”
It was one of my fantasy scenarios come to life. Sort of. I was sitting on my bed. She was sitting on my bed. We were facing each other, knees almost touching. What really spoiled everything was the highly uncomfortable silence. A silence that was uncomfortable because we both knew it wasn’t going to be silent for very long.
“So, what do you want to talk about?” I asked, in the voice of someone who is very much hoping that the topic of conversation is going to be the weather.
“I’ve been thinking,” she said.
“So I figured. Reached a conclusion yet.”
She looked miserable when she nodded.
“And?” I asked. At that point I wished I hadn’t since I wasn’t at all sure if I wanted to hear the answer.
“I’m scared Mac.”
“I’m more so.”
“I can imagine. So… what’s it going to be?”
“I want both, Mac. But if I can’t… I’d choose you.”
I suppose I should’ve been happy. And I was. But I was also feeling miserable for her possibly betraying something she held dear. Even though she wasn’t betraying it, in my opinion.
I reached out and took her hand. She smiled when I did so. “You can have both, you know.”
“I’m pretty positive.”
She chuckled half-heartedly. “Yeah.”
We looked at each other. She started to smile more genuinely. I had a feeling I was smiling as well. Damn, she really did love me.
I wondered why I didn’t notice it before.
“Come to church with me.”
I was violently yanked out of my semi-happy daydream. “What?”
“Well… I told you about my decision, it’d be only fair if I told Him as well.”
I wasn’t quite sure if that made sense. Then I remembered that if it doesn’t make sense to me doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make sense to everyone else.
“Do I really have to be there with you?”
“Don’t you want to?”
“Churches creep me out, to tell you the truth.”
She laughed. It was sincere and quite beautiful.
“Don’t laugh,” I said, grinning as well.
“Sorry,” she said, recovering. “But… I really want you to come with me for this.”
She was pouting. I hoped she wasn’t going to do that very often. It would mean that I’d lose every argument we might at one point have.
“Fine, I’ll go with. But you’re doing all the talking.”
“Great,” she said, smiling. She pulled me up from the bed as she stood up, flung her arms around me and kissed me.
I was surprised, to say the least.
Very pleasantly surprised, of course, but still surprised.
I kissed back.
To say that it was a very nice kiss would be an understatement.
We broke free and she smiled at me with a radiance I had never before seen in her. She wasn’t scared any more. She had made her decision and she was going to stick with it.
I was just happy that her choice had fallen on me.
And I was maybe a touch ashamed because I felt I didn’t quite deserve her.
Churches creep me out. It’s the total, honest to Goddess truth. As soon as I step foot into a church my skin starts to crawl and I want to turn around and run away screaming. I suppose a real Christian dogmatic might say that this is because the Lord considers me to be a being of evil that must be expelled from such a holy place. I think that my subconscious keeps throwing up very unpleasant memories of the burning times.
I was as nervous as Hell as I followed Alex to one of the pews. There’s something fundamentally wrong about churches. If I believed in feng-shui, I’d say that churches are built in such a fashion that they continuously emit all kinds of negative energy flows.
Alex wasn’t nervous in the least. For her this was a place of love and worship, instead of a place of dogma and hatred.
She had her hands folded, her eyes closed and her lips were moving. She was obviously praying. Not being the type to pray in churches (except maybe to the Goddess to ask Her to get me out of here ASAP), I looked around for a bit. The church was pretty much empty. The walls were adorned with paintings of Jesus hauling around that big cross. Above the altar hung a huge cross with the poor guy nailed to it.
Call me crazy, but I think there’s something wrong with a religion if it has a
torture device as its most sacred icon.
I stood up and walked around for a bit to alleviate my nervousness. The sounds of my footsteps echoed loudly in the otherwise quiet building.
I really don’t like churches.
“We can go now.”
I turned around sharply, incredibly relieved at hearing the words, and practically melted when I saw her. Alex was standing again, looking at me, smiling that radiant smile again.
“Good news I take it?” I asked, jokingly.
“Tell me all about it outside,” I said, making urgent gestures towards the large doors.
She laughed and, as we walked away, linked her arm through mine.
“Have you ever heard of Jesus’ unconditional love?” Alex asked when we got outside.
“The kind you’ll only get when you’re a proper Christian?” I said. I didn’t want to, but nasty comments like that come out on automatic. I decided to start working on that.
“No, not that kind. The unconditional kind.”
“So He’s OK with us?”
“As long as we don’t pull off a Bonny and Clyde.”
“I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.”
“Then I don’t think He has any right to blame me for loving someone.”
I smiled. “You’ve changed, Alex.”
“No. Just found someone to love.”
“Speaking of which, how ‘bout us going out to some restaurant Friday?”
“Like on a date?”
“Sounds about right.”
“I’d love to.”
“I was hoping you’d say that.”
We walked down the street, with winter sun suddenly not feeling as cold any more. We were silence. For once it wasn’t an uncomfortable silence. I liked it. I had a feeling she did too, mainly because she had her head resting on my shoulder.
I think I was happy.
“What are we going to tell our friends?”
“You mean about us?”
I thought about it and smiled. “We’ll just be honest. I think they’ll take it pretty well.”
“Oh yeah. Pretty sure.”
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