WHY DO I TAKE SO LONG TO WRITE?????
Sorry for the long delay. orz I'm kind of confused over whether or not I like the pacing to this story... But anyways, here's the next chapter. I don't know what to say about anything today...
“You know my mom?”
Dare shook his head. He hoisted his backpack, which had been slipping out of place due to the weight, higher on his shoulders.
“Nah, I said my aunt knows your mom,” he corrected.
I shuffled my feet on the rough cemented sidewalk and hung my head down, causing my bangs to shift over my eyes.
We were heading to Dare’s house; he had invited me to come over afterschool. I didn’t know Dare too well, so the situation felt odd. On top of that, I was risking Jake’s friendship by getting involved with Dare… Jake obviously didn’t approve of him.
But Dare appeared to know more about me than the others though, so he piqued my interest. I wanted to know just how much he knew.
We must’ve been getting close to our destination, as we had entered a small neighborhood of townhouses. Dare trotted up the steps to a house with a green door. He unlocked the door, stepped inside, and beckoned for me to come in. I followed nonchalantly.
“Auntie,” Dare called from the foyer. His voice could reach the rest of the small house. “I’m back from schoo-ool. Oh yeah, and I brought over a friend. Is that okay?”
“Sure, sure. Who is it? Rick?” a somewhat raspy woman’s voice said from down the hall.
“Nah, it’s Tim.”
A moderately built woman with reddish-brown hair cut above her shoulders stepped into the doorway. Her cerulean eyes noticed me, and she smiled. My eyes widened; I actually recognized her. She was the woman from the bar my mom went to; that woman behind the counter.
“Hey, you’re…” I started. I stared at her and tried to put the pieces together.
“Hi, Tim,” she grinned. “Nice to see you again.”
I remained silent for a moment. It made sense that Dare knew about me. My mom went to that bar often.
“…You’re Dare’s mom?”
She shook her head. “Naw, I’m just his aunt. Hey, glad you could come over. You stayin’ for dinner?”
I nodded and looked to Dare for acknowledgement. He bobbed his head too.
“Alrighty then! We’re having tacos, alright?” She raised her eyebrows and gave a thumbs-up. Raising her head, she directed her attention to Dare. “Hey kiddo, I’ve gotta stop by the pub for a bit. I’ll be back around 5.”
“Okay,” he replied. “We’ll be in my room.” He waved as she walked out the door.
“Your mom--” I caught myself, “Your aunt works at Charlie’s Pub?” I asked when the door closed.
“Yup,” he said. He slipped off his shoes and started walking up the narrow carpeted staircase. I did the same.
“Since when?” I continued as I followed Dare up to his room.
“Since forever, basically,” he replied. “As long as I can remember, at least.”
I nodded to show I was listening. If that was the case, his aunt must have known my mom for a while. I didn’t know exactly know when my mom began going to the pub, but like Dare’s answer, it was since as long as I could remember.
We stepped into his room. A pale beam of sunlight streaming through the curtains bounced around the place, creating a cool but light atmosphere. Tons of posters, mostly of bands, encumbered the wall space. Surprisingly, recognized a few of them.
“Hey… you listen to the Gin Blossoms?” I waved my thumb toward one of the posters.
“Oh, yeah. You like them?” He grinned.
“I know some of their stuff.” I shoved my hands into my pockets and awkwardly looked around the room. There wasn’t much in here… but it was a heck of a lot better than my room. And bigger.
“If you like them, you’d probably like Matchbox 20. They’re my favorite band,” he continued.
I shrugged. “They’re not bad. That’s Rob Thomas, right?”
He nodded. “Yeah. He’s been doing solo stuff lately…” He tilted his head to think. “I kinda think he sounded better with the band.”
The mattress squeaked when Dare threw his overflowing backpack onto the bed, and again when he sat on it. He started unpacking his bag, first pulling out a textbook and a pencil, followed by what looked like worksheets.
He looked up from his bag. “Yeah?”
“…you’re doing homework?” I chuckled. I may have thought Rick was Jake’s antithesis before, but Dare was starting to look like a fair contender.
He shrugged and cocked his head. “Yeah, unless you want to do something else. Normally I take a nap when I get home, but that’d be weird since you’re here.”
“Can we just talk?”
He answered yes by pushing his books aside.
“Did something happen with you and Rick?” I asked, remembering Rick's absence this morning.
He bit his lip, and his expression changed from carefree to anxious.
Interested, I pushed on. “Did something happen, or what?”
He sighed. “…Yeah, he said… something… weird. He told me something weird.” He hung his head down, and rubbed the back of his neck.
Way to be vague, Dare.
“What the heck, man. What did he say?”
He lifted his head and stared apprehensively. His eyes looked away for a moment, then he continued.
“Don’t tell anyone this, okay? You promise?”
“Okay.” I meant it.
“Rick told me that…” He sighed and drummed his fingers on his leg nervously. “Well, he told me he was gay,” he said quickly.
I raised my eyebrows. “He did?”
He shrugged, and stared at her knees again. “Yeah, that’s… what he said.”
We said nothing for a couple seconds when I thought of something I had been wondering about since the first day of school.
“Well…” I started cautiously, “Are you gay…?”
Dare’s head shot up immediately. “What?! No! Where the hell did that come from? Do I look gay?!”
“No, well, uh...” I sighed. “Well maybe kind of…? No offense,” I added quickly.
He pouted. “‘no offense’ my ass...”
“Well you know, right? I’m not the only one who thinks so. All those other emo guys are gay, so I thought maybe you were,” I defended my earlier statement. Did he really not realize how he looked to other people?
Dare frowned in annoyance; I must’ve said something wrong.
“But I’m not,” he asserted.
“…Yeah, okay. I got it, sorry--”
“So you can’t say ‘all emos are gay,’ right?” he interrupted.
I opened my mouth for rebuttal.
I don’t care, Dare. So you’re not gay. That doesn’t mean anything. That doesn’t change the fact that emo boys in their tight jeans and long hair are gay. You’re weird; you’re an exception. I didn’t come here to talk about the morality of stereotyping emos. I don’t care. It doesn’t even matter--
What the hell. You’re starting to sound an awful lot like…
Dare kept staring, waiting for an answer.
“…no, I can’t. Sorry, geez...” I finally gave him the answer he wanted, regretting I even brought the topic up.
“And that’s another thing I hate: The word ‘emo’. Labels are so frickin’ annoying,” Dare continued to complain. Leaning his hands on the bed behind his back, he stared at the ceiling. “Didn’t think you’d fall for them too, though,” he mumbled, mostly to himself it sounded like.
“What, I’m sorry okay? I made a mistake.”
He looked back at me as if to remember I was here. He sighed and said, “Sorry, I’ve just been getting a lotta grief lately. People keep jumping to conclusions and…” His voice trailed off.
People are jumping to conclusions because you’re dressing like a queeeer...
I kept that to myself.
“But anyways, I’ve kinda been avoiding Rick ‘cause… yeah.” Dare shrugged, looking worried. “I haven’t talked to him in a couple days.”
I sat on the bed a couple inches from him and mulled over what Dare said. The bed creaked under my weight.
Rick was a nobody. Most everyone thought that. But no one hated him or disliked him or thought he was a loser; nothing like that. He was just that shy blonde boy with the brown eyes and the red hat. That guy with no friends except one.
…Except none. Dare wasn’t talking to him.
Rick liked guys. I could see that now; he never seemed interested in girls in middle school… or in dating, period. He had that way about him, too. That flip of the wrist every once in a while. Knock kneed in skinny jeans. Pigeon toed.
But he also didn’t have that way about him. He didn’t speak in a real deep voice, but I never detected that nasally, effeminate tone in him. He didn’t play them, but he liked sports; or baseball, at the least. I remember he wore a Boston Red Sox cap to school sometimes. And (though an assumption completely without reason) he just didn’t seem gay. I thought he had no interest in dating whatsoever. That included boys.
The memory of the first (and pretty much only) time he spoke to me last year came to my mind. I saw that small, quiet look in his eyes with that brief smile slipping on his face. He was Rick. And I suddenly felt bad for him.
“You’re not talking to him?”
He looked up at me. “Yeah.”
Dare took a couple seconds to answer the simple question. “Well just ‘cause… it’s just too weird. I don’t know what I’d say to him, you know…and it’s just… too weird,” he mumbled.
“What, you afraid he’s gonna rape you or something? This is Rick we’re talking about,” I reminded with a shrug.
Dare rolled his eyes. “That’s not what I meant. I mean, he likes guys now. I don’t get it. Don’t you think that’s weird?”
I shrugged again. “Yeah.”
“And maybe he changed. He’s gonna start acting like those other...” he paused, “…gays.”
And yet again, I gave him a shrug. “He’s not the only person I know who changed this year,” I said, shifting my eyes to him. Dare hung his head when he realized who I meant. “’Sides, you’re the one who thinks labels are ‘so frickin’ annoying.’”
And that was all I felt like saying.
Dare responded with a grunt; looks like he wanted to end the discussion, too.
“Hey.” It was my voice.
“You taking geometry?”
“Cool. Wanna work on the homework?”
He glanced up from staring at his toes, and this time he shrugged. “Sure.” He grabbed his books from across the bed. I got my books from my bag, too.
Dare began flipping through the pages of the textbook when I said, “Dare?”
His head flicked up. “What’s up?”
I stalled. “Uh... You won’t, um… have you met my mom before?”
His black hair flitted across his face. “I’ve never talked to her. I’ve seen her at the pub sometimes at night.”
“And you know, um...” I scratched my head and cleared my through. “How we don’t have, like…” My voice faltered. I was trying to ask if he knew how mom and I lived: run-down and pathetic.
His voice quieted. “…I know you’ve got it rough, Tim.”
“You won’t, like… tell anyone, will you?”
I expected him to ask why. …And I had already begun planning my answer. I considered explaining that my mom was ashamed of the way we live and didn’t want me to tell anyone about our life, but I scrapped that when I realized that no one would buy that. He’s seen my mom, so he must’ve known she didn’t give a damn what others think. Then I conjured the reason that I didn’t want peoples’ sympathies, that I didn’t want people to feel bad for me. But I wasn’t so noble. I never thought like that.
The real reason was because of Jake. And Clair. And Marcus, and Cory, and all those kids I called my friends. I had them fooled, dressed in my preppy clothes and the way I talked like I didn’t give a damn about the world. I had them fooled that I was just like them. That I was just some teenager who bickered with his parents for no good reason, who only cared about girls and sports, who hated school and work. I had them fooled that I was just like them, and that’s how I had to be: just like them. Not like some poor piece of trash with no money, no house, no father, no life. I couldn’t have them knowing I’m not like them.
But Dare never asked “why,” or questioned me. He nodded and replied, “Sure thing, man.”
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