Just Breathe, Part 8
by S. Lynne
Disclaimers: See Part 1
Author’s Note: Holy crap on a crutch, it’s been a while huh? You know, when life and loss gets in the way of the creative flow it’s a tough thing. For those of you who have written me asking when the next part was to come, thank you, you’re words of encouragement kept me going. I hope this next installment is worth the wait and that additional installments will follow soon after. Enjoy.
I smiled again. A couple more of them seem to be pretty interested in the story now. Good.
“Ugh, mushy stuff… this is gettin’ hella boring!”
I roll my eyes, this is also typical.
“What, all I’m sayin’ is that the story was good… now I’m hella bored.”
“Well, you’re being rude to our guest.”
The teacher crosses her arms and looks at the young man in the back row who has suddenly decided to speak up for the first time today.
“Whatever,” Carlos says, looking away.
“Carlos…” Uh oh, teacher’s getting angry.
“Wait,” I intervene, “I understand.”
He looks at me, one eyebrow raised. It makes me smile.
“It is kinda mushy, but it’s also important.”
“Oh yeah, why?”
He’s skeptical. That’s cool.
“Well, there I was, pretty much on top of the world, y’know? The girl I’d been head over heels with for the last four years was gay, I was pretty-much-kinda-but-not-really sure that she sorta liked me, and I was a senior, nothing could go wrong, right? Right…”
“Greeeeeeeeeny! You’re killin’ me here!”
I looked at Rachel, who was sitting with her feet hanging in the pool, while I was treading water in the deep end of the pool in her back yard.
“What?” I said, swimming over to her and splashing her.
“Ack! Quit it!”
“Then get in the pool already, ya goof. And why am I killing you?”
“Ugh, I do not want to get my hair wet today, ok?” She said, running a hand over her curls to make sure they were still in the same place, “and you’re killing me because you just let her leave.”
“I had to, didn’t I?” I asked, hopping out of the pool to sit next to her.
“Umm, y’know Kyle, the more time we spend together, the more I tend to think there’s not a whole lot happening up there,” she said, poking my head.
“Ugh, whatever,” I said, smiling. I was used to Rachel poking fun at my supposed lack of intelligence. I was pretty sure my GPA was at least a teensy bit higher than hers.
“You should have asked her out or something.”
I turned beat red.
“What? Me? Are you kidding?!”
“No,” she said, matter of factly.
“Uh uh,” I said, “not gonna happen”
“WHY NOT?” she shouted.
Rachel stood and started pacing along the deck.
“Look, Kyle, I’m gonna break this down to you as simply as I can. You,” she said pointing at me, “and Amy holding hands plus talking about how you BOTH like each other’s smiles, which, by the way, totally mushy and, I gotta say, a little gross, equals,” here she clapped loud, making me jump, “ASK HER OUT!”
I looked down at the water, knowing she was right.
“Look, Rach, just let me finish my story, alright?”
Rachel folded her arms and nodded for me to continue.
“We were standing there, right? Just kind of chillin’ behind her car, holding hands, it was…” I couldn’t find the words to describe it, “amazing” but that wasn’t even half of what it felt like.
“Yup, got it, amazing,” Rachel said, sitting back down next to me, making a retching motion. I rolled my eyes at her.
“We didn’t really talk, we just kind of stood there for a while,” her thumb had made small circles on my hand and it had felt really good.
“And…” Rachel prompted.
“Aaaaaaaand…” I replied, “I was actually just about to say something along the lines of ‘we should hang out sometime, you know, besides basketball or whatever’, when a car came from behind and she dropped my hand, real quick.”
“Oh,” Rachel said, deflating a little.
“I mean, I understand, y’know? She probably doesn’t want people to see or know, kinda like me, right?” I asked, looking for validation.
“Yeah, that makes sense, I guess,” she said, swirling the water with her feet.
“Anyway, she was pretty quick to leave after that,” I finished, remembering the crazy emotions that had been flowing through me at the time. It was like all at once I felt elated, scared, crazy and a little disappointed all at the same time.
“Hmm,” Rachel murmured, continuing to swirl her feet.
“Yeah, and I don’t think I’ll get another chance to see her again until the beginning of school,” I added. Rachel looked up at me quickly.
“I overheard her talking to Julie during the summer camp about going on a last minute trip with her parents just before school gets back.”
“Oh, wow, that’s pretty lame timing,” Rachel replied.
Rachel stood up and shook her legs to get some of the excess water off and walked over to one of the pool chairs. She sat for a minute with a faraway look on her face. I got up from the side of the pool and wrapped my towel around my waist, then sat in the chair next to Rachel.
“What are you thinking about?” I asked, while taking a sip from the iced tea I had left on the small table next to my chair.
“I dunno,” Rachel answered. I stopped mid sip. Rachel always had something to say.
“You don’t know? What does that mean?”
“It means, I don’t know,” she said, “I’m trying to figure out a way for you and Amy to hook up before summer’s up, but nothing’s coming to mind.”
“What?!” I spluttered.
“You heard me,” she said, “you got lucky this time, I think.”
“Uh, yeah, I suppose.”
I took another sip from my iced tea and waited for whatever was making Rachel furrow her brow.
“So I guess we have to figure something out for the first day of school, huh?”
I sighed. The rest of the summer was going to a major pain in the ass.
Rachel asked if I wanted a ride on the first day of school and I declined. Not because I was avoiding all of her scheming and conniving… ok, maybe I was a little bit. Since that day by the pool, Rachel had been constantly all over me about how I was going to ask Amy out, if not on the first day of school, some time quickly after. It became maddening. Finally, I snapped at her.
“Rachel!” I yelled, standing in my room, facing her. She was lying on my bed, feet in the air, looking through a lesbian magazine that she had brought over to “help in this whole Amy thingy.”
“What?” she asked, mid page turn.
“Can we please just stop all this… this… crap!”
Rachel sat up.
“And I can’t believe you brought that over here! What if my mom finds it?!”
“Whoa, calm down Kyle, you’re mom is not going to find it.”
“How do you know?”
I was pacing now, completely agitated. Rachel sat up and closed the magazine.
“You’re really upset, aren’t you?”
“No, really?” I replied, plopping myself down in the chair at my desk and dropping my head into my hands.
“I’m sorry,” Rachel said, looking down. I sighed, all of the anger leaving me.
“Look, it’s OK,” I started, “but all this pressure, you’re really freaking me out, y’know?”
“I just want you to go after what you want, Greeny,” Rachel said.
“I know, but can we slow all this stuff down for now?”
“Ok,” Rachel smiled, “for now.”
“Ugh!” I threw my arms up in the air but couldn’t help but laugh.
That had been only about a week before the first day of school, and to her word, Rachel had slowed down but no stopped. So to get her off my back, I told her I’d do… something on the first day, but I needed space to prepare. This got me a small reprieve, and when I told her I didn’t need a ride to school she didn’t put up much of fight. She probably assumed, and rightly so, that I needed to psyche myself up.
I mostly just needed to get myself ready for the day, for facing my senior year, and for facing Amy. I walked down the street, my hands jammed in my pockets, my backpack weighing me down with my new binders, pens, pencils and whatever else I had shoved in there before leaving the house. Though it was still August, there was a chill to the air that seemed fitting somehow. The weather was just as confused as I was about what the day would bring.
Each step I took brought more anxiety to the point I had to stop a couple of times to calm myself down. I’m being ridiculous, I told myself. About four blocks from school, I had to take another break. At the rate I was going I’d maybe make it to school in time for third period! I sat down on the sidewalk, put my head in my hands and shut out the world around me. What the hell am I freaking out about? I asked myself over and over. It’s not like you didn’t see her over the summer, I thought. Yeah, but it’s different now. I knew this to be true. Whether I liked it or not, things were going to be different. And that’s what I was really afraid of, things changing. I knew how to deal with people not knowing I was gay, I knew how to keep that a secret. But now, people knew. What if it doesn’t stay a secret? What if more people found out? What if my parents found out? All of this was running through my head, giving me one hell of a headache.
I looked up from my hands so quickly I almost knocked myself over.
“Y’know, how you manage to stay on your own two feet on the court, I’ll never know,” Amy said, leaning out of her car window and smiling. “C’mon, I’ll give you a ride. Unless, that is, you’d like to be late on the first day back?”
I smiled sheepishly back at her and clambered up and into the car. I sat down and immediately moved the seat back to accommodate my long legs.
“Well?” She asked, pulling back out onto the street.
“Huh?” Wow, real smooth.
“Aren’t you even going to say hello?” she teased, smirking at me.
“Oh, uh, yeah, hi.” Kill me now. Please. Before I really start to sound like an idiot!
“Ever the conversationalist, aren’t you?”
“Oh yeah, you know me, just blabbering on and on and on…” Heh, that was more than four words. I’m awesome! Amy laughed.
“So true,” Amy said, “so, tell me about the rest of your summer before I make you jealous.”
“Yeah, about how awesome my vacation was, I mean, hello! Look at this tan!” She stuck her arm up right in front of my face, making me go a little bit cross-eyed, which again made her laugh.
“Yup, that’s a nice tan alright,” I said quickly, then filled her in about how dull the rest of the summer had been, never mentioning Rachel and all of her unbelievable conniving and schemeing. The car slowed and I noticed that we were already pulling into the parking lot. “That was quick.”
“Well, you did decide to have a nap not too far from here,” she replied, pulling into a parking spot and killing the engine. Greeny, here’s your chance! I could hear Rachel’s voice in my ear clearly.
“Um, so, you were going to make me jealous?”
“Huh?” Amy said, seemingly from miles away.
“Uh… You’re vacation?”
“Oh, yeah, duh,” she said, smiling, “it was…”
I turned to her again when she stopped. She was looking out the front window of her car intently. I turned to see what she was looking at and saw her friend Maryanne passing not too far with some of her other friends. Maryanne looked back our way, frowning deeply. Nothing new, she had made it clear over the years how much she liked me. Hanging out with Amy probably didn’t help my cause. Amy shook her head and turned back to me.
“You know what, I should probably get going.”
I tried not to look too disappointed.
“Oh,” was all I managed.
“No, Kyle,” she said, “I want to tell you all about my vacation, it’s just that, well…”
She was cut off by the warning bell ringing loud over the parking lot. She smiled.
“I’ve never been late to a first day.”
“Ah, yeah, I suppose late is where I’m queen,” I replied. She laughed a little.
“I suppose so.”
Amy reached over and put her hand on mine.
“How bout lunch?”
“Jeez Kyle, you sure you’re not still sleeping? You, me, lunch? Y’know, eating, chatting, jealous making?”
She squeezed my hand, my heart sped up.
I looked up and our eyes met, I couldn’t help but smile.
“Great! And feel free to bring along Rachel, if you want. You two have always been joined at the hip,”
Amy said, pulling her hand away and nodding her head in the direction of my window. I looked out and saw Rachel, standing near the steps up into the school, arms crossed, looking our way.
I walked up towards the steps, a huge smile on my face. She wanted to have lunch with me! ME! I mean, she said Rachel could come too, but she wanted to hang out with me, right? With every step I took, I felt lighter and lighter, like a burden I hadn’t even known existed was lifted from my shoulders. As I got closer to Rachel, I knew I was in for a grilling.
I kept walking, hoping for a reprieve. Rachel, though, started after me right away.
“Soooooo… you didn’t want a ride, huh?”
“Hmmm,” she circled in front of me until she was walking backwards.
“I dunno, I guess I just
thought you’d wanted to walk. But there I am in the parking lot, and who
should pull into a spot not too far from me…”
“No, no! No need to explain, Kyle,” she said, holding up her hand and stopping, causing me to run into her hand. “I understand.”
“You understand what?” I was so confused.
“You didn’t want a ride from me,” she said, wiggling her eyebrows, “ ‘cause you had a better offer!”
I couldn’t help it, I blushed.
“Damn it, Greeny! Why don’t you tell me anything anymore??”
“I… I didn’t plan on a ride, Rach,” I quickly stammered, “ she pulled up next to me while I was walking to school and offered me a ride. What was I supposed to do, say no?”
“Of course not!”
“Well, ok then,” I said, trying to resume my walk up the stairs and to my locker. Rachel held her hand fast against my chest.
“Whoa, whoa. It’s like you think I’m done,” she said, smiling, “you two were talking an awful lot in that car.” She finally lowered her hand, only to cross her arms and continue to block my path. I sighed and crossed my own arms.
“So, she says!” Rachel practically yelled, “sooo… what the hell were you two talking about?”
“Lots of stuff,” ok, maybe I was just teasing her now.
“Ugh!” she yelled throwing up her hands, “I give up!” And with that she turned and started walking away pretty quickly.
“Hey!” I hollered, catching up to her rather quickly and grabbing her arm. I pulled her aside, out of the way of some very frightened looking freshman. When she turned to look at me, I knew why they had looked so scared.
“You know Greeny,” she started, “we’ve never really kept secrets from each other.”
I looked at her, raising an eyebrow. She smiled a little.
“Ok, maybe just one really big giant one,” she conceded, then frowned again, “but otherwise, we’ve always talked, y’know? And now, suddenly, you’re just saying, well, nothing. And it’s driving me crazy!”
“Sorry,” I said, looking down at my shoes. Rachel sighed and punched me in the side.
“Dude, look. I didn’t mean to get all huffy. I just want to know the good stuff is all.”
“And I’ll tell you, I promise,” I lowered my voice, “just not in the middle of the hallway with you hollering at me.”
I smiled to take the sting out of my words. Rach finally looked around and saw that there were more than a few sets of eyes curiously looking our way.
“Alright,” she said, “then let’s hurry up and get to your locker, you can tell me there.”
And with that she turned and started walking away.
“C’mon Greeny, let’s move it!”
I shook my head and smiled, then followed.
“Umm… this all sounds good.”
“So we’re still at bor-ring!”
I frown. Their teacher frowns.
“Well, if you’re bored, we can ask Kyle here to stop and get to some of our class work.”
A chorus of no’s and no way’s and keep going’s greets my ears. I smirk a little.
“I see, so I’m at least a little better than school work, huh?”
“Alright, then I’ll keep going. So Rachel and I were on our way to my locker, where I knew I was going to have to tell her what Amy had said…”
I had caught up to Rachel easily. Long legs did have their advantages at times. As we neared my locker, I noticed something sticking out of the grate.
“Ooo… what’s this?!”
Rachel skipped ahead and pulled it out of the grate. It was a folded up piece of paper, like a note. It was weird, I never got notes. Rachel didn’t need to send me notes, she just told me everything.
“I wonder who this could be from?” Rachel started to unfold the note.
“Hey! That’s mine!”
I reached for the paper, but Rachel was just a little too quick for me this time. She had the note open and read it.
Rachel stared at the piece of paper.
“What?” I said, taking from her.
“It doesn’t make any sense.”
I looked down at the paper.
Remember, don’t get caught. You know what’ll happen.
I started shaking. I looked up quickly, scanning those nearby.
Nobody was looking our way.
I dropped the note and took a step backwards. Words I’d heard years ago suddenly came back.
"If I ever catch you looking at a girl at this school, I'll fucking kill you, you dyke bitch!"
“Jesus, Kyle, you’re white as a sheet!”
I looked at Rachel. I opened my mouth to say something, but nothing would come out. I backed up against my locker, leaning against it. My legs became wobbly and gave out, causing me to slide down to the floor.
“Oh my God, Kyle! Do you need me to get the nurse? Are you having an asthma attack?”
Rachel was panicking and about to turn and run for some help. I grabbed her leg.
“No, I’m… I’m ok.”
“No you’re not!”
Rachel kept struggling.
“Really, I’m a-alright, I just…” I couldn’t really think of anything except keeping Rachel from running off to the nurse’s office.
“Kyle, you’re definitely not alright, you’re shaking!”
I looked at my free hand and noticed she was right, it shook uncontrollably. To stop it I shoved it under my legs.
“Rachel, please, I’m fine, please don’t get the nurse.”
Rachel looked at me hard for a moment and then sagged against the locker. I let go of her leg when it looked like she wasn’t going to run after all. She dropped down next to me and put her hand on my forehead.
“What’s going on, Kyle? You’re a mess. Was it something in the note?” she picked it up from where it had landed and looked at it again, possibly trying to find some meaning in the words written on it.
“No, I… it was… I just…” I couldn’t finish.
“You just what?”
I didn’t know what to say. I knew I was scaring Rachel, but what could I do? You could tell her. I looked at Rachel. Concern was etched on her face. The bell for first period rang.
“Rachel, I need to tell you something…”
To be continued…Return to the Academy