Winters didn’t get very cold in Sunset Valley but at the end of January it was unusually warm. The suit I wore felt kinda hot and itchy, and for some reason it was all I could think of. I knew I should think about what had happened but all I could think about how uncomfortable I was…
But maybe that’s just my mind denying what happened or something, I thought, shifting my weight and resisting the urge to scratch my elbow. I wanted to deny what had happened, I felt so sick and so miserable that it was unbearable. That could be why I can’t get my mind off how uncomfy I am.
I felt a hand close around mine and I leaned against Viola. “I just don’t believe it,” she whispered, clutching my hand tightly.
I turned so I could put an arm around her and she began crying on my shoulder. I rubbed her back, trying to comfort her. I knew I should be crying too but for some reason I couldn’t. What kind of person was I? I couldn’t even cry at my grandparents’ funeral.
It had been over a month since Zari had moved out and just as I was slowly getting used to having a room to myself, we had gotten a call from Dad to come home. Grandpa and Grandma had both passed on, within half an hour of each other. According to the reports, Grandpa went first and it wasn’t long until Grandma did as well–though she had seemed in better health and there wasn’t really any reason, that the coroner could find. Old age, he supposed, since they were both approaching their ninetieth birthday.
But we knew what it was. A broken heart. We all knew that they couldn’t live without the other, and had expected something like this to happen. And it was a bit of comfort knowing that they were still together–I couldn’t imagine Grandma continuing on without Grandpa.
After much time at the graveyard, we returned to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I did not want to be there and wound up just sitting on their couch hunched over. Their house felt so wrong without them. It felt horrible.
“Sweetie…” Mom sat down next to me, a hand on my shoulder. “You doing okay?”
I shrugged and sniffled. “As well as can be expected, I guess.”
“I know… this is all so hurried but since you guys were heading back to college tomorrow so…” She paused and then scooted closer to me. “Was there anything you wanted?”
“I want to be alone.” I stood up and took a few steps then glanced back at her. “Maybe I’ll be able to think better after–after a while…”
“I understand,” she whispered, looking rather lost and so much like a little kid that I spun around and went over, wrapping my arms tightly around her. Like Vi, she cried onto my shoulder and I comforted her as best I could, feeling like complete crap that I couldn’t cry.
I drove the three of us back to the city, dropping Zari off at his place then taking Vi home to our apartment. She immediately began tidying things up and I just trudged into my room, flopping face-first onto my bed. I needed to get online and check to see if I had any assignments up for my online class… I also needed to finish writing an essay due the next day. I had a lot of stuff I needed to do but I didn’t feel like moving.
The last time I had seen them was at Christmas and they both seemed okay. Very tired and rather weak, but otherwise okay. I had given them each a book they wanted, and then a big quilt for both of them. They really liked the quilt and put it on their bed, using it every night… until they… until…
I felt the tears coming, very slowly at first but then they were gushing out, soaking my pillow. I pushed my face against the pillow, yanking my blanket up over my head as I sobbed, the reality of the situation finally hitting home.
Over the next couple of weeks my grades slipped but then I was able to start pulling them back up. I wasn’t able to hand my essay in on time but thankfully my English teacher understood, and the work I did easily made up the few points I got off.
I really missed my grandparents and that ache I felt inside made the empty room feel even emptier so when Vi told me an idea, I was more than happy to agree–which shocked her. It was just before spring break and while we weren’t exactly struggling to pay all the bills, it was becoming more and more difficult without Zari’s paychecks. We had splurged on some new appliances the semester before so that had taken a toll.
When we calculated how little spending money we’d have after paying utilities and groceries and gas, Viola suggested we get a roommate. She cringed when she said this and then her jaw dropped when I said that it was a great idea.
“I’m not stupid,” I said, indicating the electricity bill. “I think it’d be fine to have someone come in and live here. You two can have the bigger room and I’ll take yours.”
Viola crinkled her nose up. “That’d make things awkward since I was thinking about seeing if Hal wanted to move in.”
Then she got a huge, rather mischievous grin that made me nervous. “He gets along great with both of us, and he’s tired of dorm-life. So what do you think? You and Hal can have the big room.”
I raised my eyebrows and then nodded. “I think that sounds fine,” I agreed though I was slightly worried. I knew Hal fairly well and he seemed perfectly decent, but there was always the chance he had some sort of weird habit. After all… I knew he had a lot of problems with roommates and usually wound up staying in a dorm by himself. One of his roommates had even gone so far as beating Hal up.
He never told us what it was about and we never asked, and I figured it was more of his roommates being nutcases than him having strange habits. But I was still slightly worried that, oh I don’t know, he did really weird things… In any case, the three of us spent spring break getting him moved in and the first night we stayed up super late watching TV.
When we went to bed, everything seemed fine–he hadn’t carved ‘666’ in the walls or anything freaky like that. I listened to him falling asleep and then finally I drifted off, feeling more at ease than I expected.
Hal turned out to be perfectly normal, nothing weird at all; he wasn’t even a slob. And it was great having his company around. The three of us had a blast and it was wonderful not being in an empty room again.
If I’m so scared of people, why do I hate having a room to myself? I wondered one night as we watched a movie. I liked spending time alone but I did not like sleeping in a room alone. The nights between when Zari left and Hal arrived, I had been sleeping terribly. Now that Hal was here, I slept all night.
Oh well. All that mattered was that we got along, and I slept fine at night. Actually, we more than got along. By the time our junior year ended, we were closer than I had ever been with anyone. Well, I was this close with Vi and Zari but it was different. This was someone I hadn’t known all my life, someone who wasn’t family.
Someone other than a stupid purple-haired girl for some reason kept giving me meaningful looks and thumbs-up whenever she saw us hanging out.
“Would you stop it?” I hissed out one night after she spent what seemed like forever beaming over me and Hal playing a board game.
“I think it’s great you two are such good friends!” she said. “I can’t help it. I’m so proud of my widdle iddle baby bwudder!” She pinched my cheeks and I yelped, trying to get away. When that failed, I started pinching her cheeks in return.
“Well if my biggie wiggie older sissy doesn’t let go, my biggie wiggie older sissy is gonna get an ice cube down the back of her shirt!”
She let go, giggling. “Okay, okay. Sorry.” She rubbed one of the red spots on her cheek then smiled. “Maybe he knows some girl for you.”
I was rubbing my own cheeks and frowned when she said this. I still hadn’t told anyone other than Uncle Kyle. I still wasn’t ready. “I don’t want to be setup with anyone,” I grumbled. “So don’t go, y’know, getting any ideas.”
She folded her arms, watching me retreat to my room. “I think I can play a good matchmaker,” she said simply.
I hesitated, my hand on the knob. “What do you mean by that?” I asked, glancing up. She just smirked. “Are you planning on setting me up with anyone?”
“No, no!” she exclaimed, putting her hands up. “I swear. I am not going to try and set you up with anyone. I promise. Cross my heart.”
“Good.” I went in my room and shut the door, leaning against the wood and sighing. I needed to tell her but I definitely wasn’t ready now. Not when I was so confused. Not that I was confused about my sexuality. I knew for sure I was gay now. I knew, because of what I was now confused about. Which was how I felt about Hal.
I really was stupid, since I suspected I had gone and fallen in love with my best and only friend. My straight best and only friend, who I would probably lose if he ever found out. Ugh, this year had really been hard on my emotions and I just had no clue what to do now.