I hold up my hand to the teacher, a smile on my face.
"It's alright, that's about what I was saying in my own head when she said that."
The teacher raises her eyebrow at me. Uh oh.
"But your teacher's right, watch the language."
She nods. I think I'm off the hook.
"Sorry…but that had to be hella crazy to hear."
"Oh it was. I had no idea what to say at first."
"What happened next? I gotta know!"
"Well… like I said, at first I didn't know what to say or do…"
I just sat there. Did she really just say what I think she said? No, no way. Amy is so not gay.
"Kyle, did you hear me?"
I must be in shock; I couldn't have heard her right.
She just said have a nice day. Definitely not "I'm gay".
"Kyle, I said I was gay, too."
"Please Kyle, say something."
I looked over at Amy, she looked panicked.
"I…umm, wow," was all I could come up with. After years spent journaling that's all I could say. Brilliant Kyle, just brilliant.
"I've never told anyone that before," Amy whispered, not looking at me. She was gripping her steering wheel so tightly her knuckles were turning white. I realized that my door was still open and leaned back in, closing the door. The sound of it shutting made Amy jump.
"Sorry," I murmured.
"It's OK," she murmured back. We made quite a pair, the two of us sitting in the car, neither really willing to talk.
"God, I can't believe I told you," Amy said, leaning back in her seat. She brought her hands up to cover her face. I wanted to reach over and tell her that it was OK, that I was glad she told me. I wanted to comfort her, hold her. But I was too afraid.
"I never planned on telling anyone," she said behind her hands.
"Neither did I." She took her hands down and looked at me.
"You didn't?" she asked, her head calked to the side. She looked so cute like that.
"No, I didn't," I answered, "I still can't believe it. And now I've told two people."
"Who else knows?"
"Oh, figures," she said, looking away. I wasn't quite sure what she meant by that. But she continued before I could ask her about it.
"I guess I've been wanting to tell someone for a long time, I just never knew how to bring it up," she began, "I mean, I think I've just about known my entire life."
"Yeah, me too," I replied, "I can remember as far back as knowing in junior high."
"Oh yeah? How'd you know?"
I blushed. Blushed hard core.
"I, umm… just figured it out, I guess. I don't know," I sputtered, not about to tell her that I thought it was all her fault. From the moment those amber colored eyes had turned on me, I had been a goner.
"Yeah, I guess that makes sense," she said, "I figured it out when I fell madly in love in seventh grade."
"Oh yeah?" You too?
"Yeah, do you remember our math class?"
My breathing began to speed up.
"Well, I fell pretty hard for someone in that class."
"Really?" I squeaked. She didn't seem to notice.
"Yeah," she turned and looked me right in the eye. I had all but stopped breathing.
"Do you remember Jill?"
I couldn't do anything but nod. This is not what I had suspected she was going to say.
"She was in your group when we all had to work on stuff in class, right?"
Again, I nodded my head, feeling like I was about to cry. Thank God she looked away. I felt shattered.
"I used to do anything to get closer to her," she continued, not seeming to notice my torment, "I would fake not knowing an answer to a problem so I could come over to your group. You were always the smartest, so I usually went to you. But I'd always try to say something to Jill, and nothing would come out."
This was getting hard to listen to.
"I knew something was up when I would get all tongue tied around her, I mean, come on! I'm usually so outgoing, y'know?" She looked at me expectantly.
"Yeah," I breathed.
"Hey, are you OK?" she asked, putting her hand on my shoulder. I flinched. She pulled her hand away as if burned.
"Kyle? What's wrong?" she sounded worried.
"I…I'm having a hard time breathing," which was true. I had worked myself into a little panic attack and suddenly I couldn't get a full breath.
"Oh shit," Amy started getting panicky too, "what… I mean, do you need…"
"I need… to get inside…" I squeaked out. I opened the door to the car and next thing I know, Amy's standing next to me, helping me out of the car.
"I'll help you," she offered, holding out her hand.
I looked at her hand and for a moment thought about saying no. I'd been through the emotional ringer enough that day, I couldn't handle her possibly running into my mother inside the house. But once again I found myself drawn into her eyes. The offer of help was genuine.
"OK," I said, taking her hand.
She helped me out of the car and I leaned on her for support as we made our way up to the front door.
"Keys…pocket," I managed between gasps.
"Which one?" she asked.
"Right," I gasped, knowing that I needed my medication soon by how fast the tightness in my chest was beginning to grow.
"Alright," she said, reaching into the pocket of my shorts. If I hadn't been gasping for air I might have taken some enjoyment out of the fact that Amy's hand had been in my pants. Once she had the keys in hand she used them to open the front door. We shuffled in and I headed directly to the hall closet where my medicine was kept. I pulled down my machine, the lack of oxygen making me feel incredibly weak.
"Here, I'll get it," Amy offered, taking it away from me. I pulled down the liquid capsules and made my way towards the stairs to my room.
"Isn't there somewhere down here where we can do this?" she asked, eyeing the stairs.
"No… mom doesn't…like me to be…seen," I managed while taking the first few steps up the stairs. I had to stop, the weakness really starting to catch up. Amy sidled up next to me on the left, taking my arm and putting it across her shoulder. She moved my machine to her left arm and put her right behind my back, helping me up the rest of the stairs. When we finally made it to my room I fell to my bed, unable to make it any further.
"What do I need to do?" Amy asked, putting my machine down on the floor and kneeling in front of me.
"Hand me… mouthpiece…" Amy pulled the plastic mouthpiece away from the machine, looking at the long tube attached. She handed it to me then looked at me expectantly.
"Plug it…in, please," I asked slowly as I opened to liquid capsule and poured the contents into the little well at the base of the mouth piece. As soon as it was plugged in, I closed up the well, put it in my mouth and turned on the machine. Immediately the liquid began to turn to steam and I began taking as deep of breaths as I could. Amy settled herself next to me on the bed, watching me. As I could feel my breathing getting easier, the embarrassment began to settle in. I looked away from Amy, unable to look at her without feeling the embarrassment increase. As the minutes ticked by, I began to breathe easier, so to speak. The machine began to sputter and the steam became less and less, meaning the breathing treatment was about to end. I leaned over to turn off the machine and watched as my hand began to shake after turning it off and replacing the mouthpiece.
"Kyle, your hand is shaking," Amy stated. I was mortified. The medicine was like getting an adrenaline shot to my system, making me incredibly shaky. Until this point, only my parents and Rachel had ever seen me like this. I could feel tears prickling behind my eyes in embarrassment.
"Kyle?" Amy pressed.
"Umm…the, uh, medicine," I started, my voice catching, "it makes me a little… a little shaky."
"Oh Kyle," Amy whispered with what I thought was pity.
"It's…OK, you don't have to stay," I said, beginning to stand. Amy took my hand, keeping me from rising.
"Kyle, are you embarrassed?" Amy asked gently. I couldn't look at her.
"Yes," I whispered, barely holding back my tears now. I started getting frustrated with myself. God, why was I acting like such a baby?
"You don't need to be embarrassed, Kyle," Amy said, still holding my hand.
"Easy for you to say," I mumbled around the lump in my throat.
"I guess you're right, I've never had to do something like this. I can't imagine what it must feel like when it happens," she replied.
"Sometimes, I just can't catch my breath. Sometimes my chest feels so tight it hurts."
"My God Kyle, that must be awful," Amy said, "but it's
nothing to be ashamed of."
I looked at her, eyes wide.
"Not be ashamed?" I asked, "My parents have been telling me for as long as I can remember that it is important to not show any kind of weakness. What's weaker than not being able to breathe?"
"But you can't help that!" Amy stated vehemently, squeezing my hand. I must have been looking at her like she had two heads. "What? It's not your fault, right? I mean, you didn't choose to have asthma, right?"
"No," I replied.
"Exactly, so you shouldn't be ashamed!"
Amy was smiling at me, and for a second, I thought I was going to have a relapse. With her hand in mine and her smile, I could feel my heart speed up. I knew it wasn't an asthma attack again, this time; it was just plain old heart sickness.
"So are we cool?" Amy asked.
"Yeah," I replied, smiling.
"Good," she said. She looked down at our joined hands as if noticing for the first time that we were holding hands. She quickly looked back up at me and smiled shyly before letting go.
"Sorry," she muttered, blushing.
We sat there for a moment, not saying anything. I surreptitiously looked around my room, checking to make sure there wasn't anything that might be possibly embarrassing lying around and was glad that I had thought to do a little cleaning the night before.
"So you're feeling better?" Amy asked.
"Yeah, that stuff tends to work pretty quickly, though I'll probably be a little jittery for a bit," I replied.
"Honestly, I don't really get it," she said.
"Don't get what?"
"Well, you're able to play a full basketball game and only need to do a couple of puffs on your inhaler here and there and I rarely see you pull it out at school," she started, "but we're just sitting in the car having a conversation and all of a sudden you can't breathe. What's that all about?"
"Uhh…" I tried to come up with an excurse and decided to give her a version of the truth, "well, my asthma is kind of crazy. There are many triggers for it, including allergies, exercise and stress."
"Well, we didn't have a really hard day at the camp today, and I can't think of what you would be allergic to in my car, so was something stressing you out?"
"I think it had something to do with talking about what happened in the locker room," I lied. I knew it wasn't that. Amy's eyes grew wide and she put her hand to her mouth.
"Oh crap, I'm sorry Kyle. I had no idea talking about it would make you stop breathing or whatever."
"No, don't blame yourself," I said quickly, placing my hand on her knee to reassure her. "It had nothing to do with you. I needed to talk about it, even if it stressed me out to say anything."
"I'm still sorry," she said, looking down at the hand I had placed on her leg. I followed her gaze and blushed.
"Sorry," I muttered, starting to pull my hand away. Amy reached out quickly to grab my hand and hold it in place.
"No," she said quietly, threading her fingers with mine, not taking her eyes from our joined hands. I held very still, afraid that if I moved, the moment would end. Amy squeezed my hand, I squeezed hers back. She looked up at me, her eyes having turned the color of amber in the low light of my bedroom. I didn't know what to do. Should I let go? Should I turn away? I don't think I could have done either.
"Kyle," Amy whispered, leaning closer.
"Yeah?" I asked, breathlessly, now looking at her lips. This time it was all Amy's fault.
"I…" she began, and then stopped. I couldn't take my eyes from her lips as a pink tongue snuck out to lick her lips.
"I…" she tried again, "I… well, there was another reason why I told you what I did today."
"Uh huh," I encouraged, boldly scooting a little bit closer. This time I needed to wet my suddenly dry lips and I watched as Amy's nostrils flared as her eyes fell to my lips.
"I told you because…" she began, "well, because there's something else I've been wanting to tell you."
"And what's that?" I asked, leaning closer. Amy began to lean closer as well.
"I wanted to tell you that – "
At the sound of my mother's voice we jumped apart, nearly falling off of the bed.
"Kyle-Lynne, who's car is that in my driveway?!" She hollered up the staircase. I could hear her footsteps begin to ascend the staircase.
"Oh shit," I muttered jumping off the bed, grabbing the machine off the floor. I moved across the room, hiding the machine quickly in my closet, leaving a very perplexed Amy sitting on the bed. "It's my friend Amy's car, mom!"
Suddenly all six intimidating feet of my mother was standing in the doorway, her arms crossed. Amy jumped up off of the bed as soon as she saw the scowl on my mothers face.
"I'm sorry, I gave Kyle a ride home after camp today and – "
"She decided to stay and see my room," I cut in. Amy threw me a confused look. My mother scowled.
"Well, that's fine. Next time have your guests park in the street so I can get my car in the garage," she said pointedly.
"Yes, ma'am," I muttered, looking down at the floor.
"I was just about to leave anyway," Amy said, standing.
"Well, it was nice seeing you Amy and thank you for giving my lazy daughter a ride home."
And with that, she was gone. Amy turned to me.
"Um, what was that all about?" she asked, crossing her arms.
"C'mon, I'll walk you out," I said, not sure my mother wasn't listening outside the door. I led Amy down the stairs and out the front door, back to her car. Once we were outside, Amy turned to me again with a question in her eyes.
"Like I said, she sees asthma as a weakness; she thinks that by playing basketball I'm just setting myself up to get worse," I explained, "the worst is when its stress induced, like today. She says I just can't handle tough situations and that I need to just suck it up."
"You're kidding me?!" Amy yelled. I stepped closer, shaking my head.
"No, and please, don't say anything," I pleaded. She looked up at me, searching my eyes.
"Alright, but remember what we talked about, OK? You are not weak and you should NOT be ashamed," she said, reaching out and squeezing my arm.
"Thank you," I said, smiling. She returned that smile and with one more squeeze, she let go.
"I should really be going, my parents will be wonder where I am," she said, unlocking her car door. My heart sank.
"OK," I said, "thanks again for your help this afternoon… and for, well, listening."
"Anytime, Kyle," she said. We stood staring at each other for a moment, feeling pretty awkward.
"Well, umm, bye then," I said.
I turned and started towards the house. I was kicking myself again for not having the guts to ask her what she was going to say up in my room when I felt a touch on my arm. I turned and saw Amy standing behind me. She looked quickly behind me, then pulled me away from the door. I was confused until she stopped and pulled on my arm, forcing me to bend down. She reached up and put her hand behind my head, bringing her lips to my ear.
"Upstairs, earlier, I wanted to tell you that you're cute when you blush," she said quickly, then kissed me just as quickly on the cheek. I stood, rooted to my place as she ran quickly back to her car, hopped in, waved and backed out of my driveway. I felt myself raise my hand and wave back, my eyes wide. As soon as she was out of site I dropped my hand and just stood there. Suddenly I felt a huge smile take hold and I did something I had never done before. I did a little happy dance right there in the driveway. Just as suddenly as I started, I stopped, my eyes growing wide. I needed to call Rachel. I needed to call her right now! I ran inside the house and took the stairs up to my room two at a time. I closed the door quickly behind me and grabbed the phone off my desk. I dialed Rachel's number, pacing my room as it began to ring.
"Yeah Greeny, what's up?"
"Oh my God… I have something HUGE to tell you…"
To be continued…
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