I stared at Hal for several seconds that stretched on to a full minute. He just stared back, not saying anything either, waiting for my reaction. “Oh… I am… sorry…” The words were thick on my tongue, hard to get out. I looked down at my lap, the ache in my heart getting worse. “I’m really sorry, Hal.”
“Yeah… well, we weren’t getting along and had some fights and… well… other things.” He sat back against the couch, staring straight ahead. “But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about. I wanted to–“
Does he love me, I wanna know! I jumped about fifty feet as that interrupted Hal. His mouth was still open and then slowly closed as I struggled to get my phone out of my pocket. How can I tell if he loves me so? I considered not answering it but Hal was already shifting away from me, eyes on my pocket. Is it in his eyes? I would have given anything for that not to be ringing at this time. Anything else, anyone else. Oh no, you’ll be deceived! I willed it to stop. Is it in his eyes? It wasn’t going to stop. Every time he called me, he always let it go to voicemail. Oh no, you’ll make believe! I could let it go to voicemail…
“You better get that,” Hal said.
I pulled the phone out of my pocket, flipping it open. “Hey,” I said rather breathlessly. “Um–now’s not a good time, can I call you back later?”
“Huh? Oh…” Doug sounded like a hurt puppy. “Yeah sure. I’ll just wallow around in my dark room till you do.” We both laughed at that and then said goodbye. As I clicked the ‘end’ button I had a flash of what just happened. Slowly I looked up and met Hal’s sad face.
Watcher. I clenched my phone, feeling like I might hyperventilate. If Hal was thinking what I thought he was thinking, and then I just laughed with my boyfriend, what kind of creep was I? A complete and total one. I clenched my phone even more and stared at Hal who was staring back. “Th-that was Doug,” I mumbled.
“I figured,” he said in a low voice. “So, um, how are things between you?”
He can’t be thinking what I think he’s thinking. Hal didn’t like me like that. He couldn’t.
He couldn’t! It wouldn’t be fair! My ache tripled in pain and I wanted to cry. Hal… single… wanting to tell me something important that had to do with the fact he was single… and I couldn’t confess to him my feelings because I had a boyfriend. “All right, I guess.” I slowly put down my phone. “Wh-what was it you wanted to say?”
He bent his head down, staring fixedly at his hands. “I’m surprised things lasted this long with me and Todd. I mean, he’s a total jerk.” He began picking at his nails. “I guess I went with him in the first place to run away from my problems but it seems like… lately my problems have been solving themselves.”
My heart stopped. Did that mean…? I couldn’t just ask him if he meant what I thought he meant outright. “Wh-what do you mean?” I finally stammered.
He sighed and shook his head. “Nothing, really.”
Ask him! I had to ask. I was going to ask. It might destroy everything but I couldn’t just not ask since it really sounded like–Does he love me, I wanna know!
We both jumped as my phone went off again. My cheeks reddened and I picked my phone up, answering it right away. “Yeah?” I asked, hoping that my voice didn’t betray everything.
“Hey!” he chirped at me. “I was wondering if you wanted to meet up at the cafe? I have super big news. Sorry to call you a second time but I just found out something exciting and I need to tell you in person.”
I wanted to throw my phone out the window now. Why now? “Um–” I drew out, trying to figure out what to say. “What time?”
“Mmmm… As soon as possible, really, but we can put it off if you want. We can meet up tomorrow?” he offered.
I looked at Hal again then closed my eyes. I had to make a decision. But as much as it hurt… there wasn’t much of one. “No,” I whispered. “Tonight’s okay. An hour?”
“Sounds great!” he laughed. “See ya then, hun.”
I hung up and this time didn’t dare look at Hal. “Um, Doug wanted to meet up tonight so, um… I, uh…”
“That’s great!” Hal said and I finally dared a peek. His grin didn’t look completely convincing. “Sounds like things are going really well between the two of you.” He stood up, sticking his hands in his pockets and looking down at me. “I mean, the two of you are official and everything. Right? You said that a while ago.”
“Yeah, we’re official,” I muttered.
“I’m really happy for you.” This time he did sound convincing and I slowly stood up, wishing he didn’t sound that way. “Really. You deserve some happiness and Doug seems like he’s a great match for you.”
“You mean that?” I whispered. Say no. Please say no.
“Of course,” he said with a smile. “Sometime we should all hang out so Vi, Zari and I can get to know him better. Maybe before we leave for the Valley.”
My heart sank clear to my feet. He meant it. He genuinely meant it. Maybe I was wrong about how he might feel about me. “Yeah… that sounds good. I should get my, er, shower. See ya…” I trudged into the bathroom, feeling worse than ever before. I was practically jumping on Hal as soon as he said he had broken up. If Doug hadn’t called, I might have said something I regretted. Since Hal seemed happy I was with Doug, happier than I ever was that he had Todd, I figured he didn’t like me. It was just my imagination. Hopes. Whatever. Stupid hopes. Stupid feelings.
It turned out Doug’s big exciting news was a job in Sunset Valley, and his own place. A duplex. Which he invited me to live in with him. He told me it had a kitchen/dining room, a bathroom, a living room, and two other rooms that could be bedrooms so it wouldn’t be like we’d be sharing a bedroom. And if I didn’t want to, he’d completely understand and be fine with it.
I said yes, I’d love to share a place with him.
“Dude! I thought we’d have our place!” Zari was complaining as we worked on packing up the apartment. “You, me, Vi, Hal, and Julie!”
I snorted. “I don’t want to be in the same house as you and your little love toy.”
Zari stuck his tongue out. “Julie’s not my little love toy, she’s my girlfriend. I respect her.” Julie was his latest girlfriend. Not the one he had moved out to stay with, but one he’d been with just a few months.
“Must be serious then,” I said which got me a kick to the ankle, nearly tripping me. “Ow! What’d you do that for?”
“You’ve been a snippy little brat lately, Seb. What’s gotten into you?” he demanded. “You haven’t seemed like… you.”
I shrugged, going through the kitchen drawers again to make sure we hadn’t left anything. “I haven’t exactly had the best of times lately.” That wasn’t much of an excuse and I knew it, so I sighed and said, “Sorry. I have been out of sorts, I just–I dunno.”
I did know the problem though, and his name was Hal. I just couldn’t shake my feelings for him and it made me feel more miserable as each day passed. It wasn’t like I liked him more than Doug because I really liked Doug. I enjoyed time with him, and I really enjoyed kissing him. He hadn’t said anything about it but I was well aware of the fact that we both wanted more.
Now that terrified me. The thought of giving up a part of myself to someone else… and it was something very special, and I only ever wanted it to be with one person. So that’s the main reason I was suppressing my feelings. I wasn’t sure yet that Douglas was “the one”. I had to know for sure and we hadn’t even said the ‘L’ word yet.
Zari came up beside me, slapping his hand on the counter. “Seb, I can’t stand it anymore. Vi knows. Hal knows. And I know. But I want you to say it, okay? Cause it’s not fair that you’ve told them and you’re even seeing someone and you’ve never even said anything to me! Your own brother!”
I looked up at his hurt face, realizing I never technically told him. I knew he knew, so that was why. I hadn’t even thought about the importance of actually saying it when he knew. “Oh… jeez, I’m sorry Zari. I… I knew you knew so I never…” I stopped and rubbed my forehead. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, bro. Just tell me, okay?”
I took in a deep breath. “Cesario. I’m gay. And I have a boyfriend.”
His eyes widened and he staggered back. “What?! Seb–you–what? I thought you were going to say something else and–” He stopped and put his hand against his face. “Wow. I thought you just had a girlfriend! I never expected you… oh Grim Reaper!” He looked so believable that I almost did believe him, except that I knew how good of an actor he was. So I just smacked him with a hand towel and he began laughing.
“You deserve it,” he said, sticking his tongue out. “For not telling me till now.”
It was so strange moving back to Sunset Valley after all these years. Four years… it felt pretty nice to be back here permanently. And wonderful seeing my parents, even though I knew I had to tell them. The plan was for me to stay with them for a little bit since Douglas was still in the process of moving.
The first night back we had a terrific party and my parents got to meet Hal and Julie. They adored both and I could tell they wondered if Hal was more than a friend to Vi, until Vi went on about the fact her boyfriend couldn’t be there. So they took the time to get to know Julie, sensing that Zari really was serious about her.
Then Vi, Zari, and Hal went to their new place and I was left alone with the parental units. I didn’t tell them that night because of how exhausted I was, but the next day I decided to just tell them.
So I did, over breakfast. I wasn’t sure how they’d react. I knew they’d eventually be fine with it but I was a bit worried they’d be upset. And after I told them, they both just stared at me for so long that I grew very scared.
Finally Dad exhaled. “Wow. That’s unexpected.”
At least I hid it better from them than I did Vi and Zar. “I–I’ve known for a couple years,” I said, my voice quite small. “Just before I went to college I started suspecting. I know for sure now.” The looks on their faces made me realize I hadn’t exactly said the best thing. “I didn’t do anything!” I said very quickly. “Don’t worry. I didn’t go out and… experiment. But I do have a boyfriend. You’ll get to meet him soon and… umm…” I trailed off, feeling stupid.
“Thank you for telling us, sweetie,” Mom said, putting her hand on mine. “I do admit this is quite a shock. I mean, when Zari told us he wanted to be a theater major…” She stopped and chuckled, since I was snickering. “Yes, I know, it was silly to think. Considering how much of a ladies man he is. Hopefully Julie will help him settle.”
“He knows,” I said, deciding not to tell them exactly when I told him. “And Vi. And our friend Hal. And Uncle Kyle, I talked to him before I left for college. So, uh, you’re really not upset or anything?”
Mom gave me a big hug. “I’ve told you before, I’ll always be proud no matter what.” She kissed the top of my head and as soon as she let go, Dad pulled me into a hug.
“Same here, kiddo,” he said, messing my hair up then laughing as I rolled my eyes and tried to smooth it down. “Maybe I shoulda figured it out from you being fussier with your hair than your sister is,” he added with a wink.
“Oh gee, thanks Dad!” I groaned but then couldn’t stop the smile that spread on my face. My parents had accepted me! Next stop: having them meet the beau…
Also just noticed that Luna and Kellen are YA in these pictures. I don’t know how that happened. Please pretend they look in their forties.