On The Outside

Chapter 17

The idea of seeing Drew again at school again wasn't what enticed me the most the moment I opened my eyes the next morning. Laughing with him, gazing at him, and enjoying his company like nobody else ever could. Even though being in his tender arms again was a major part of me laying awake for most of last night in anticipation...there was something else that kind of haunted me about the whole situation. And not in a good way.

I wish that I could have thought of it as being a little thing. Something inconsequential. But I couldn't. I wish that I could have shrugged it off and said that it wasn't anything to really worry about...but I didn't. The truth is...my mom DID hear me on the phone with Drew last night. I know she did. And I wasn't really sure how I felt about that, because I was so busy falling head over heels for the boy of my dreams that I had almost forgotten that I was still supposed to be hiding it from the rest of the world. That nagging inner voice that was telling me that secrets were necessary and discretion was extremely important, it hadn't been scrubbed free from my system like I wish it had been. My friendships were being affected, my mom is certainly going to start asking questions soon...and eventually the conflict between being open with my feelings for Drew and being closed off to everyone else is going to conjure up a storm that I can only hope I'll be ready to deal with when the time comes. Because...deep down...I knew that I had already made up my mind. And I simply don't think I'll ever be able to go back to the way things were before. I'm not giving Drew up, even if it means the complete deconstruction of everything that I knew before the first time his lips touched mine. Our life together is what matters now. That's not even debatable on a personal conflict level.

So...I guess I'm worried. I've broken every rule that I originally set up for myself. Tossed all of my well planned strategies and precautions out the window. I've given it all up for one person, and I have to admit that I'm feeling a bit helpless about the falling dominoes racing towards me. Lost in a freefall where my sense of control is fading faster than I'm comfortable with.

Ugh! My mom wasn't meant to hear any of that last night. I don't even know how much she heard or how revealing it was, but it's not like she couldn't check to find out who I was talking to. It's frustrating for me because it was just one of those moments that I WISH Drew and I could have enjoyed together without any parental supervision invading my life and making me feel dirty and awful about it. It was a really sweet and lovable conversation shared by two teenage boys falling in love for the first time. But...whatever. I feel like some kind of a criminal now. I'll just have to enjoy these amazing feelings in secret until I'm ready for things to change.

I used to equate secrets with doing something shameful and wrong...but I'm starting to think that it's best to keep certain things under wraps to keep some 'outside' party from swooping down with a Superman cape to ruin everything for both of us.

I'm not exactly sure what I'm doing here, and neither is Drew...but I kind of like us figuring it out together. JUST the two us! Other people can get involved once we've built something cool and romantic on our own. Until then...can't they just leave us alone? Just for a little bit longer?

Breakfast was a slightly awkward experience this morning. Was my mom being unusually quiet today, or was I imagining that? I wasn't certain if I wanted to eat faster so I could hurry up and get out of that house...or if I should slow down because she was just waiting for me to finish my waffles before asking me questions about who I was talking to last night.

Weirdest. Breakfast. Ever.

Luckily, no awkward questions were asked, and no awkward answers were given. By the time I had gotten a few blocks away from home, my lungs had rediscovered a normal breathing technique again. Looks like I get to stay in 'character' for one more day.

I can remember feeling my own pulse on both sides of my neck as I stood by the front door, looking around to see if I could see Drew getting off his bus. I squirmed and I fidgeted and I tried to busy my brain with something as I waited impatiently for him to show up. What's taking so long? I know he runs late sometimes, but...arrrghhhh! Did it have to be today?

I kept checking the time. I only had three minutes until the first bell. I noticed one last bus waiting at the stop light in the distance. Is that Drew's bus? Come on, already! Come on, come on, come on!

Finally, the light turned green. Just as the bell rang, I saw it slow down and open its doors out front. Shit, I know I'm late, but...if Drew's on that bus, we're both going to the same place anyway, right? We'll be late together. It'll look less weird. Well...maybe, maybe not. Whatever. Where IS he?

I saw a bunch of students getting off the bus, some hurrying to get inside, and others not giving much of a damn either way. But when I scanned the crowd for a glimpse of Drew's chaotic, light brown, curls...I didn't see him anywhere. I even kept looking after the bus closed its doors and took off again, just to make sure that I didn't miss him.

Wow. The disappointment felt like heartbreak. I could actually feel my lips curving down into a frown as I hoisted my backpack up on my shoulder and shuffled off to go inside and head to class. Alone.

Little things like this affect you in such a crazy way when you're falling in love.

I think I was borderline depressed for the next few periods, simply from the fact that I didn't get to see Drew's alluring smile at the start of my day. It's frightening how much someone's presence, or lack thereof, can affect your emotional state in a monumental way. I actually took a pop quiz in my last class, and I can't remember doing it all. Did I even put my name on it? Who knows? Who cares? I started to think that maybe I should check on him. You know, just to make sure he's ok. Would that seem creepy?

I was walking down the hall in a slight daze, going to my locker to drop my books off before lunch...and when I got there, I noticed something strange. That horizontal black marker mark on my locker had been...'added' to since I last took notice of it. I squinted slightly, and now, instead of just a straight vertical line, it now looked like a big letter 'F'. Right in the center of my locker door. It wasn't there yesterday. Again, I tried to scrub it off, but it wasn't going away. I couldn't even smear it. I swear, if I get blasted for vandalism I'm going to throw a full blown tantrum in the front office. I need to go down there and tell them what's going on before I get stuck with the blame of it all.

I opened it up, turning my backpack sideways in order to stuff it in there, when I turn to see Drew actually in school! My heart stopped three times in a row! Once, with the shock of seeing that pretty face of his heading in my direction. Twice, as this uppercut of raw infatuation nearly knocked me off my feet over how cute he was. And a third time...when I saw PATRICK walking by his side! What the actual FUCK???

No....no way. I'm not going to do it. There's nothing going on there. Patrick's not even gay. I just...why does Drew have to smile at him like that? You know? I'm not jealous, I just wish I could keep my boyfriend all to myself sometimes. Stay away, dammit!

Patrick was the first to say hello to me. "Hey, Ethan. We kinda figured we'd beat you here today. You must have been in a hurry." He said.

"No. Not...not really." I replied, then I looked over at Drew o see if there was a reason that Patrick got to spend time with him today when I clearly didn't. NOT that I was jealous, mind you! I'm just...I was curious about it. "Where were you this morning? I waited for you."

Drew grinned and said, "I totally overslept this morning. I don't know why I was so knocked out at the time, but I didn't wake up until the school computer called my house to say that I wasn't in class. Hehehe, thank God my dad wasn't around to hear that. He would have had a fit." Then, with a subliminal wink, Drew added, "I guess I had some trouble sleeping last night. Hehehe!"

Yeah. See? It's ok. He just slept late. Still doesn't explain why Patrick is being all 'chummy' with him though. "Oh. Ok." I said. "I was just a little worried, that's all."

Drew said, "Awwww...no need to worry. I'm fine. Besides, Patrick is right here to protect me." Grrrrr!

"Is that so?" I said, trying not to grit my teeth.

"I told you I'd look out for ya, man." Patrick said, his pretty little blond popstar grin glowing like neon lights in a dark room.

I asked, "So...you two walk together all the time, or...?"

Drew's eyebrows wrinkled up for a moment, but then he said, "He walks with me from study hall sometimes. People don't pick on me as much when I'm with somebody else. When I'm all alone, they figure it's open season on the gay kid. Heh..."

"Well, if you wanted me to...I mean, I could come by your study hall and walk with you. It's not that far away."

"Don't be silly, Ethan. Hehehe, Patrick and I have study hall together. No reason for you to go all out of your way to do all that."

I don't know if it was just me feeling a sense of tension thickening in the air around us, or if they were just ignoring it enough to not let it show on their faces, but I tried to look back into my locker to keep from giving myself away.

NOT that I was jealous!

A brief pause passed between the three of us. Just long enough for every one of us to notice it as being something unusual. And that's when Patrick spoke up and said, "Say...so you guys are cool, right? I should probably be getting along to class."

Drew said, "Awww, ok. Well...thanks again, Patrick. It's always cool to walk down the hall without...well...you know."

He put his hand on Drew's shoulder and smiled. "I get it. Totally."

"I don't mean to be a pest or anything." Drew grinned.

"You're not a pest. Promise." He said. "Well, take care, you guys. See ya Monday, Drew." Patrick smirked, just before leaving. "Later, Ethan."

"Later, Patrick." I said, still trying not to pout over his very presence in my sweetie's life. I mean, Drew's so cute, how can you not want to keep a close eye on who he's hanging with when you're not around.

"Well, that was subtle!" Drew giggled, giving me a little push with his hand.

"What? What'd I do now?"

"You know what you did! What are you being all jealous for?" He smiled.

"I'm NOT being jealous!" I said it a bit louder than I wanted to and had to hush my voice as other high school students passed us by in both directions. "I just...I'm capable of looking out for you in the halls too when it comes to bullies. You know this."

"Patrick wanted to help, so I let him help. He's really NICE, Ethan. He's just doing what he can to keep the social sharks at bay. That's all. So don't be such a meanie."

"I'm not being a meanie. I'm being...'vigilant'." I said. Drew raised an eyebrow, and it caused us both to giggle shyly at the silliness of it all. "Well...I am."

"I certainly won't complain about you being 'vigilant'. Hehehe! Especially when you look so adorable doing it."

"Ok, now you're just buttering me up so I'll forget about you and your pretty boy strutting around the halls together." I grinned. "What is his interest in you, anyway? He's not gay. I don't get it."

"Gee, I don't know, Ethan. Maybe he just likes me because I'm a good person? I know that's a stretch of logic..."

"That's not what I meant." I said, but he was having too much fun to really discuss it much further.

"Quiet. You're gonna ruin my good news, so...hush up." He said.

"What good news?"

"There's this annual park festival going on tomorrow afternoon way out in the burbs, and my mom is going out there with a few employees to set up a booth." He said.

"A booth?"

"Yeah, you know...make coffee, sell pastries, pass out business cards? She goes every year to promote the coffee shop and bring in new business. I used to go with her but...the last few years, I sorta stayed away. I don't know...it's a teenager thing." He said, then he lightly poked my in the stomach with his finger as he looked me in the eye with a cheeky grin. "Thing is...I never had a boyfriend before. So I was thinking...ummm...well, you know..."

I waited for him to finish. "Know what?"

"You KNOW!" He blushed.

A little slow on the take, I said, "You want me to take you to the festival in the park?"

"Hehehe, NO!" He said, giving me a little push. "I want you to spend time with me. You know...not at the festival." I gave him a weird glance, and he bit his bottom lip, rolling his eyes in the cutestway. "I'm saying that I'm going to my mom's house tomorrow...and she's going to be gone for, like, the whole day. I'll have the house to myself. Better yet...we both have the house to ourselves. Get it?"

Light bulb! "OH!!!" I gasped. "Hehehe, wait...are you serious?"

"Yep! My mom's gonna give me the key for the shop, and all I have to do is open it up for Ed and the others to run the store during the day, and then come back to lock up when they close. Collectively, it'll take all of ten minutes, both open and close. And the rest of the time...? Hehehe! Let's just say...I don't have to spend it in that big ol' house by myself. I mean, do I?"

With a smile, I said, "Oooooh, I'm telling your dad!" Drew's jaw dropped as he playfully swatted me on the arm. "Hahaha, you're devious when you want to be, you know that?"

"You're such a jerk! Don't make this difficult. I stayed up all night thinking about this. Hehehe!"

"Might explain why you can't get your butt to school on time." I teased, as I got another slap on the shoulder.

However, as Drew and I were both goofing around together...this bigger guy, wearing a letterman jacket for the high school football team, just comes RUDELY barreling over to the side and deliberately 'body checks' poor little Drew up against the lockers! Drew winced in pain and held his shoulder as the fucking oaf laughed at the fact that he was hurt! His friends all joined in and laughed with him as he giggled, "Oh my bad, fag boy! Lost my balance for a moment there! Hahahaha!"

Who DOES that??? What the fuck is his problem?

I put my hand out to shove him the fuck off of Drew, but he just found my attempts to protect him funny. The boys just walked off like it was no big deal, and I started to follow them...but Drew put his hand on my chest to keep me still. I shouted out, "Fucking ASSHOLE!!!" But Drew tried to calm me down.

"I'm fine."

"You're NOT fine!" I grunted angrily. Ugh...the RAGE!!! "Come back! Why don't you try pushing ME around, huh?!?!?!"

"Ethan! Say yes..." Drew said, trying to get my focus back on his inviting, light brown, eyes.

"What? What are you talking about?" I pushed his hand off of me, and looked over his shoulder to holler out at the guys walking further down the hall. "Real man! Picking on somebody smaller than you! You're a bunch of fucking BITCHES!!!" I tried to step around Drew, but he stepped in front of me and put his hand on my chest again.

"Ethan? Ethan...look at me..." He said, but I was so infuriated that it was hard to keep still. "Ethan?" I looked down for a split second, but...Drew's eyes were always so hard to turn away from. "Say yes."

"Say yes about what?"

"About tomorrow. Just...say yes. Ok?"

"Drew, this bullshit CAN'T go on! You weren't even doing anything to deserve that! He just..."

"Ethan...?" He said softly, his eyes getting a little misty, even though he tried to hide it from me. "They can't stop me from being happy. They can't. Believe me...they've tried, and they lose every time. The only person in this hallway that can keep me from being happy is you." His soft, vulnerable, expression got to me. I wanted to run over and tear that guy in half for being such a prick, but...it was Drew's plea for peace that started to extinguish the hellfire within. "Look at me, k?" He said. "Just say yes. Tell me you spend the day with me tomorrow." I didn't want to give in and let this just go unnoticed, but the moment I saw a tiny smirk curl up on the side of Drew's pretty lips...my determined wrath came crumbling down like a wall of loose bricks. "Come on. Say yes." He said.

With a heavy sigh, I said, "Of COURSE, 'yes'! Just..."

"Acckkk! Nope! You said yes! That's all I needed to hear! Hehehe!" How can he be HAPPY right now? And why the hell is it so contagious? "Now then...take me to lunch. I'm hungry."

I stared at him for a moment, unsure if I should be praising his strength or admiring his beauty. I was so helpless when caught in the tractor beam of his innocent appeal. As much as I loathed the unmerciful scumbags in this world who were absolutely obsessed with spending their every waking moment hurting other people and making them feel ashamed for having the guts to be themselves instead of fitting into the cookie cutter LIE that they call a life...I was more enchanted by Drew's bright eyes and boyish smile than I was with their persecution. I almost felt 'wicked' for wanting to drag Drew into my world of anger and hate, instead of joining him in the paradise of enjoying simple pleasures. If making him happy was the goal, I could do that simply by standing at his side...and saying 'yes'.

Sometimes, I swear that boy has sooooo much to teach the rest of the world. I just wish he didn't have to suffer the way he does in order to gain the level of heart and compassion that he's earned over the past few torturous years of living with this...mindless witch hunt!

But, as the tension left my muscles, and I unclenched my fists, I just...surrendered to him completely. I always did. "Fine. Come on. Geez." I said.

"Well, don't say it like THAT! Hehehe!"

"Say it like what?"

"I'm detecting a 'tone', there, Mister. Don't you 'tone' me." He giggled, and even though we were in a crowded hallway, I instinctively put my arm around Drew's neck and pulled him in to give him a big kiss on his forehead, those soft brown curls tickling my nose and lips all the way.

"You're one of a kind. You know that?"

"Yep!" He chirped.

"But no more Patrick. Deal?"

"Nope." He smiled. Then I closed my locker door and twisted the combination lock. "Who wrote on your locker?" Drew asked.

I shrugged. "No idea. But whatever. Once the school year is over, it'll be somebody else's problem. I'm sure it's no big deal."

From there, Drew and I headed off together. Hmmm...more time alone at Drew's mom's house, huh? Fun times, without having to look out for his DAD to come home every twelve seconds. That could be fun!