College. I was scared of that. Not because of the classes, but the people. I was really not good with people and the thought of going off and being around so many strangers just gave me the heebiejeebies.
But high school was coming to a fast close and I was going to have to face this fear head on. College! The only good thing was that my brother and sister were going to the same college so there’d be a familiar face on campus. Zari was even talking about being roommates. Fine with me.
I felt someone bump me and I spun around, finding myself looking in my sister’s eyes. “You have that look on your face again,” she accused, sticking her tongue out.
I rolled my eyes and kept walking down the sidewalk, heading home from school. “Why aren’t you catching a ride with what’s-his-face?” I asked.
She groaned loudly and didn’t just roll her eyes, she rolled her whole head. “If you mean Tommy, he is a jerk. A jerk, a whole jerk, and nothing but a jerk. Can you be-lieve he tried to ask Maura out?” She wasn’t expecting an answer–she knew me too well–so she began blathering on. “He takes me out on three dates then hits on my cousin!!! Well, Maurie took it into her hands to hit him back. He’s got a black eye now.”
I tuned her out for a while, making noncommittal noises to assure her I was listening. It was a charade and we both knew it, yet we continued on like it for quite some time. I was jarred out of my thoughts when she mentioned her friend.
“She’s got quite the crush on you, you know.”
I stopped in my tracks and glared daggers. “No,” I said. “I’m not taking Lizzie out. I told you before.”
“You always go out with the girls Zari throws at you!” she protested.
I shook my head. “He’s not asked me in the past couple months and if he asks, I’ll say no. I’m done with dating. It’s not even dating! It’s just… obliging my twin. Well, triplet. Whatever.”
I began walking fast, hoping she’d let the subject drop. It had been two months since the costume dance, and I hadn’t told anyone about what happened at the beach. Vi and Zari both begged me about what the note meant, but I wouldn’t tell even them. It’s not as if I was afraid of telling them. I knew they’d accept me. Well, I assumed they’d accept me what with Uncle Kyle in the family. But… well, it wasn’t even like I knew for sure. It was just some kissing. Just because I made out with a guy didn’t… mean for sure…
Okay, so I knew I was. I knew after how free and happy I felt. As if the veil had been lifted from my eyes. I had never thought before about whether I liked guys or girls. I assumed I didn’t like the girls I went out with since, well, they were all relatives of the girls Zari dated and I felt like his puppet. It had never occurred to me before that night. Now I knew. And I just wasn’t ready to tell anyone. Not yet.
This time, Viola didn’t let it drop. “Seb come on. Lizzie is a super sweet girl. She has several interests the same as yours. Give her a chance, huh? One date. Really, what’s one date? A couple hours. I’ll pay.”
I stopped again, grabbing her arm. “You’re going to pay your brother to go out with your best friend? Do you see anything even remotely wrong with this situation?”
She hesitated then rubbed her forehead. “Jeezy, you’re right. I’m sorry. But I really didn’t think you’d get all upset over this. You’re always tagging along Zari’s dates–“
“Well I’m done tagging along!” I snapped, feeling rather nasty about all this.
But Vi didn’t seem angry. “Oooh, you got some bite to go with that bark? Nah, I’m sorry. I’m glad you’re going to stand up to Zari.” She tucked some hair behind her ears and smirked. “What’s taken so long? Wait!” She grabbed my shoulders, staring into my eyes. “What happened? Something happened. You’re keeping something!”
I gulped, jerking my head a bit so my hair fell over my glasses. “I–I’m not!” I lied, trying to get free from her hands. I hoped this lie would stick. Vi and Zari could see through my lies easily, just as easily as I could see through their lies. The three of us just couldn’t lie to each other. Now that this situation was on me, I was terrified.
Vi gasped. “You are! You’re hiding something! Seb, what is it?”
“Nothing!” I growled, backing away from her. “Besides, so what if I do? I can have secrets. You have secrets, so does Zari. And Mom and Dad…”
That certainly stopped the conversation. We stared at each other then just started walking again, this time in silence. I shouldn’t have said it, I thought, feeling very stupid. It was a slip of the tongue and one we usually managed to avoid ever since the big blow out.
We knew Mom and Dad were keeping something from us, something to do with the ‘chemical accident’ at their old workplace. But they wouldn’t tell us the truth, whatever the truth was. When we were thirteen, Zari swore that the newspaper lied and it really was an attack from an opposing military force. Viola got super mad at him, since she insisted it had something to do with why Rosalba Wing had lived with us. The two of them–Vi and Zari–had gotten into a very nasty fight over it and I tried to break it up, demanding we just trust our parents. Instead of breaking up the fistfight, I got involved in it.
When Mom and Dad found out, they were very angry with all of us. Instead of going to our rooms peaceably, Zari demanded the truth. Then Vi wanted the truth. And me? I didn’t care, until we were told that there was more to the story but we couldn’t be told until we were older. That made me mad. My parents had been keeping some big secret from us and had more or less lied to us? I was thirteen, and took it to heart.
It had been four years and we accepted that whatever the reason they had for keeping it from us, they were doing it for a good reason. But it still stung and even mentioning it brought a sort of awkward stab to the conversation. Then again, maybe it’s good the conversation ended, I decided as we arrived home. After all, I am NOT telling her THIS secret right now.
As soon as we went inside, Vi whispered in my ear, “I know you, and you can’t keep it from me forever.”
My face darkened. “I can keep whatever I want from you. I’m not telling Zari either so… yeah.” I kicked my shoes off and hurried to my room, ignoring the hurt look on her face. It’s not as if we tell each other everything, I thought, flopping onto my bed. After all, she didn’t tell us when she got her first kiss (well, okay so Zari wheedled it out of her). But… Zari didn’t tell us when he went to second base… (except, okay, I noticed how insanely happy he had been and got it out of him). But… not when he got… well, no Vi noticed and… okay well when Vi–no… and Zari… but Vi….. well…
They’re not going to find this out! I thought, determined to keep it from the two of them. I knew that Vi would tell Zari so I was prepared when he waltzed into our room about half an hour after I got home and promptly asked what was up.
“My hackles,” I replied, not daring to look away from my book.
He stuck out his lower lip, pretending to pout. “Vi was right, you have grown a pair.”
My glare flickered above my book for a second, only a second. “Mature. Real mature. Leave me alone, I’m trying to study.”
He grabbed my book, tilting it so he could see the title. “Bellwether. Wow, I didn’t know any of your classes were studying one of your favorite books. What a stroke of luck!”
I shot him another glare. “I’ll stroke your forehead with the corner of this book if you keep bugging me. Seriously, man, I’m not in the mood.”
“You’re not in the mood to tell your secret.” He took the book from me and I sat up quickly, growling out that perhaps we shouldn’t be roommates at college. “Oh, gonna stay with a stranger?” he inquired.
“No, I’ll, um, get a single room. Or, you know, whatever.” We stared at each other for a moment then I caved in. “Can’t I have a secret? It’s not that big of a deal, really. Okay, okay! It is,” I grumbled when he raised his eyebrows. “But it’s my secret and I want to keep it that way. For a while.”
His mouth tightened a bit and he waved a hand. “Fine. Fine, keep your secret. You’ll come out with it eventually.”
I stiffened slightly at that, aching to ask what he meant by that but if he didn’t guess and I commented on it then it might give away my secret. I studied him for a second and decided it was just an ironic choice of words. He left the room, and I went back to my book. My heart was pounding and I wondered how I was ever going to survive living with him without him finding this out.