So we were officially Seniors. This would be our last year at college, and it was both exciting and sad. After this… then what? Back to Sunset Valley. I wondered idly if we’d share a house… maybe it would be better if we didn’t, but then I remember how awful I felt in my room alone. How could I stand being in a house alone?
Of course as the autumn crawled on, it was becoming agony being in a room with Hal. Especially when he was changing clothes. Yikes. I had it bad, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I thought sometimes about confessing to him but knew it’d be ridiculous. It would ruin our relationship.
So I pined away in secret, going through all sorts of wild emotions day in and day out. Some days I woke up feeling bright, exuberant, thinking that today I’ll tell him! Then, of course, chicken out. Other days I woke up feeling morose and miserable, wishing I at least had the sense to go and fall in love with someone who liked my gender. And then some days I woke up in the middle, cheerful for a while then miserable for a while, miserable for a while then cheerful for a while. For someone who rarely ever dealt in emotions like I did–it was insanity and really exhausted me.
Because of that… my grades slowly started slipping. I tried to keep up but when I was depressed it was just so hard to muster the energy to do my homework, or study for a test. And then the days I was in a good and hopeful mood, I’d drop my homework in an instant whenever Hal was at home so I could spend time with him.
I hate myself. We were eating pizza since Vi was off with her boyfriend (which reminded me that I really needed to have a talk with Zari to have a talk with her boyfriend), and Hal was going on about some hilarious incident that happened in one of the classes. Apparently some guy totally flipped out when he was put in a group with Viola.
“…and when the teacher asked him if he was okay, he just took off. I don’t know what was up with him. Maybe he’s allergic to pretty girls.” Hal laughed and I dropped my pizza slice. Hal thought my sister was pretty. Grim Reaper, I wanted to die! I was pining after some guy who thought my sister was pretty. I really hate myself.
Hal was cleaning up the mess I made by the time I got back to my senses. He was on one knee at my feet which really put me out of whack, even though he was just wiping up the pizza sauce from the floor. He looked up, meeting my eyes. “You all right, Seb? Here–lemme check your temperature.” He reached up with his free hand and as soon as his fingers brushed my forehead, I leaped back, knocking my chair over.
“I’m fine!” I snapped, feeling my heart ready to explode. “I–I’m sorry, no, let me get the mess.” But it was too late, the sauce was cleaned up and he was tossing the napkin and ruined pizza slice into the trash.
“You know, you’ve been acting pretty odd lately,” he said rather accusingly. “Vi said you got a B on your last biology test.”
“So what if I did?” I complained, feeling my face going red. “I–I’m not perfect…”
Hal folded his arms and raised his eyebrows. “I didn’t mean to offend you. Sorry if I did. I guess what I meant to say was that I’m worried ’bout you.” He stepped closer and I took a nervous step back, nearly tripping over the chair.
I bit my bottom lip and looked up at him, a confession on the tip of my tongue. But then I swallowed it back and shook my head. “I guess I’m just stressed because of classes.”
His hand was on my shoulder and I wanted to run away, except my feet wouldn’t move. “I understand. Finals are coming up and then next semester will be it. Graduation, can you believe it? Feels so weird.”
“I–I’m going to get a shower.” I stumbled backwards again then got control over my feet long enough to run into the bathroom. I shut the door and quickly turned on the shower before my tears started. I couldn’t go on like this anymore. I had to tell him.
I’ll tell him in January, I decided. That was only a few weeks away. And I would have the entire semester to get over him turning me down before finals. It was much better than being turned down right before finals.
I threw myself into my schoolwork and managed to pull everything up so I finished with an A in everything. Between the end of that semester and the beginning of the next one nothing really happened other than me freaking out whenever Hal was around, plus the fact Vi was dumped. She cried on my shoulder for two days and then got over it when Zari got some TV star friend of his to take Vi on a fake date to make the other guy jealous. Of course that backfired a bit when the two actually started dating…
Christmas had been pretty hard for all of us, too, since it was our first without Grandma and Grandpa. But we got through it and this year I stayed through the New Year with Mom and Dad, not really wanting to go back to him but back I had to go, and my freaking out resumed.
Once classes started, I kept finding excuses to put off my confession. I needed to focus on my classes starting, of course, and then it was the anniversary of my grandparents’ death–way too emotional. And then it was the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. No way could I be turned down before such a love-focused day! And then–I ran out of excuses.
For four days I psyched myself up to it and sometimes I almost managed but then it was time. I had to do it. It was time. A random Saturday evening, with no significant importance. But it was time.
Vi was gone–out with that stupid TV star–and we were watching one of our favorite shows. I couldn’t eat dinner (I felt like I was going to throw up) and then when the show was over, I turned off the TV. “Hey Hal, can we talk?” I whispered.
“Huh? What’d you say?” he asked, and I realized I had whispered so low he hadn’t heard me. Oh Watcher.
I gulped and tried again. “C-can we t-talk?” I whispered, this time a smidge louder.
“I don’t see why not,” he laughed and I managed a small–teensy–smile in return. “What’s up?”
I stood up though my legs felt like lead. I couldn’t sit right next to him while I did this. I took a few clunky steps and leaned against the half-wall separating the living room and the kitchen. “I n-need to t-tell you something.”
“Seb, I can’t hear you if you’re going to whisper like that and face the other direction.”
I closed my eyes but slowly turned, opening my eyes and looking at his feet. I couldn’t look at his face. “Th-there’s something about m-me you n-need to know.” My heart raced and my entire body trembled. “…..” Okay. I said it. It wasn’t anything more than a breath, but I said it. And I knew he didn’t hear me.
“I have no clue what you just said,” Hal chuckled, getting up and coming closer. Oh no. “You look all wild. Calm down. Please?” His hands were on my arms and I involuntarily looked up into his warm eyes. “Just take a deep breath and tell me.”
He stared at me and I reddened so much that I probably went purple. I pushed him away and staggered back, clutching my stomach. At least I hadn’t whispered it this time, even if it was a shriek.
I froze and then slowly turned, staring in utter disbelief. “You–what?” I squeaked, unable to breathe.
He ran his fingers through his hair and gave me a very gentle smile. “Sebastian, I know you’re gay. Viola told me ages ago.”
“V–V–what?” My breath was coming back to me, quick and ragged. “Viola?! Told y-you?! I NEVER TOLD HER!” All trace of nervousness left me as anger took over. Viola knew? VIOLA KNEW?!
Hal winced. “I–I’m sorry! I figured you told her since she told me, before I moved in. I didn’t want to at first, until she said that about you and your uncle.”
My hands clenched into fists and I wanted to punch my sister. Hard. “That little–what? Why were you scared ‘until’ she said that?” I lifted my chin, frowning. “If anything, wouldn’t that freak you out?”
He blushed and looked away, very anxious all of a sudden. It hit me a split-second before he said it. “I’m gay too. I–I thought you knew. I assumed Vi told you. That’s why I had all that trouble with roommates. They’d find out and totally wig out.” His eyes darted towards me then quickly down. “I didn’t want to come live here with you but Vi said you were, and that you guys had grown up with a gay uncle so you guys were fine with it. I–I’m sorry. I really thought you knew all this. I mean, Vi’s known about me since before I met you.”
I swayed slightly and then fell back against the bookshelf, my fists slowly loosening. Hal’s gay too. My heart was in my throat and I felt… happy. Joy. Elation like I never knew before in my life. “You’re gay?” I whispered, meekly looking up at him.
Hal stared at me, his jaw tightening. He looked very stern all of a sudden. “Yeah, I am,” he said flatly. “I thought you knew. I–” He stopped and then rubbed his eyes.
“Hal…” I stepped forward quickly, the words about to spill out.
The stern looked turned grim for a split-second, then sad, and then a smile that seemed rather fake to me. “Well, now you know! And man, I feel pretty flattered that you told me before you told Vi. So do you have, like, a boyfriend or anything?”
I stopped, unable to move again. Unable to breathe again. “No… Hal…”
“Well, if you ever want me to set you up I know a couple good guys and…” He hesitated and then completely avoided my gaze. “And Todd knows some guys probably, but if you don’t want a blind date or anything–totally understandable.”
I definitely couldn’t breathe. “Hal… who’s Todd?” My voice was so low again that I wasn’t sure if he’d hear me. But unfortunately, he did.
He turned completely away from me now. “Todd’s my boyfriend,” he said in a voice almost as quiet as mine. “As I said before… I thought you knew.”
So, this was what it felt like to be pounded by a giant sledgehammer. And then burned to ashes.
Then rebuilt, and fed to sharks. And then ripped out of their stomachs and trampled on by elephants.
Then shot into space without any form of protection.
I stared at his back, on the verge of throwing up. I took a step back and then another step back. The coldness and emptiness of space rushed into my body like a waterfall of misery. I took a few more steps back, fighting the tears.
“Seb…” Hal slowly turned but before I could see his face, I pushed past him and then I knew I couldn’t stay any longer. I couldn’t be in the same room as him, the same house as him. I flung open the door and left, slamming the door behind me and then taking off, trying to get out of the apartment building as fast as I could.