Just Breathe Part 9
By S. Lynne
And, yet again, an Author’s Note: Wow… and I mean wow. It’s been a while. Thanks again for your patience if you’re still reading this story, thanks for your words of encouragement if you’ve sent them. I plan on continuing this story… so as always, bear with me… and rock on!
Disclaimers: See Part 1
“See, now that’s what I’m talkin’ about… DRAMA!”
Some of the class laughs; most send dirty looks at Carlos.
“One more outburst, Carlos…” the teacher threatens.
Carlos rolls his eyes, but his mouth stays shut.
“So,” the young woman who had been so quick to call me a dyke earlier and who now seemed incredibly interested in my story spoke up.
“So…what?” I ask.
“So, you told Rachel what happened then?”
“Yeah, I did,” I sigh, remembering the hurt look on Rachel’s face when I had told her…
“Kyle,” Rachel moved backward, reaching for the sink behind her to steady herself, “my God, Kyle.”
“Yeah,” I said, folding my arms across my chest and leaning against the other sink in the bathroom. We had quickly made our way across campus to a bathroom that was rarely used, and today being the first day of school most kids would be in class. The look on Rachel’s face was a mixture of hurt, anger, and confusion.
“Kyle, why didn’t you tell me?”
I closed my eyes.
“I was scared. I didn’t know what to do… all I knew was he… he’d hurt me.”
“No, Rachel,” I opened my eyes and looked at her, “no buts. I wasn’t about to let that happen again, and I didn’t want people to know I was… I was gay, and I didn’t know what kind of questions people would ask if I told.”
Rachel was quiet for a moment, then moved in one fluid motion to hug me.
“I’m so sorry that happened to you, Kyle,” she said, a hitch in her voice. I raised my arms and hugged her back. After a couple of minutes, Rachel pulled back, wiping her eyes.
“So… this note,” Rachel said, pulling it from her pocket, “someone else knows.”
For a moment, I thought about lying to Rachel, telling her than no one else would know. But she’d know I was lying, and I didn’t want to keep anything from her anymore.
“Yeah,” I replied, taking the note from her and shoving it into my back pocket, “but I don’t think she’d use it against me.”
“What do you mean? Who did you tell before me?!” Rachel demanded.
“Amy,” I replied quietly, blushing and crossing my arms in front of myself again.
“Oh,” Rachel said quietly. She looked up at me, a sad look on her face.
“Rachel,” I started, “I never planned on telling her. I knew if I was ever going to tell anyone, it would’ve been you.”
She made a sound like she didn’t believe me.
“I wouldn’t have told her except she saw me freak out in the gym one day over summer.”
I went on to explain what exactly had happened that day in the gym and why I told her. All throughout my story, Rachel looked away from me. I knew she was hurt that I hadn’t told her, but her anger was hurting me too. I needed her to understand why I hadn’t told her, or anyone else. I wanted, no, needed her to understand my fear.
“Please Rachel,” I whispered when I’d finished. She was so quiet. She looked at me… then smiled.
“Damn Greeny, you sure get yourself into some shit, don’t you?”
I could have cried with relief, but I settled on a burst of laughter that sounded loud in the small bathroom.
“Yeah, I suppose I do.”
“Well, we know that you didn’t tell anyone besides Amy and me, are you sure she didn’t –“
“Yes, I’m sure of it,” I interrupted, knowing where she was heading.
Rachel looked at me skeptically.
“How do you know for sure?”
I opened my mouth to reply, then shut it. Rachel was right. How did I know? All I knew to this point was that Amy was really nice to me, maybe possibly liked me, but I didn’t know that for sure.
“I mean, how well do you really know her Greeny?”
“I…don’t know,” I replied, looking down at my shoes, the smallest amount of panic leaching into my voice. Beyond basketball, we’d never really talked all that much before this last summer. I’d always been too afraid to say more than a couple of sentences to her at a time.
“Hey,” Rachel touched my arm and I looked at her, “I’m not saying she’s not trustworthy, I’m just saying you should maybe talk to her about it.”
I don’t think Rachel could have asked me to do anything scarier at that moment in time.
“Yeah, I guess I should.”
By lunchtime, I was in a state of near panic. I knew I needed to talk to Amy, but how? Where? I was putting my books in my locker, trying to figure out the answers to those questions when I felt a tap on my shoulder and quickly turned around, dropping most of my books on the floor.
“Seriously Kyle, maybe I should quit the team,” Amy said, laughing a little and bending down to help me with my dropped books. I looked up at her sharply.
“Cause you can’t seem to keep a hold on anything, let alone keep your balance, when I’m around. How are you going to hold on to the ball without tripping all over yourself?” she smiled at me, handing me my government book. I smiled a forced smile.
“I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
Amy must have noticed my forced tone because the smile fell from her face.
“You OK?” she asked, scrunching her eyebrows together and frowning. It was adorable.
“Um,” I wanted to say yes, but I decided to be bold and go with the truth, “no, not really.”
“What’s up, Kyle?”
I looked up and saw Rachel approaching.
“Hey Rach,” I said with obvious relief. Rachel settled next to me, crossed her arms and began glaring at Amy. This didn’t go unnoticed by Amy.
“Hi,” Amy said to Rachel, quickly looking from her to me. I don’t think the moment could have been much more awkward.
“C’mon Amy, lunch won’t wait.”
I was so wrong.
“I told you, I’m having lunch with Kyle, Maryanne. I’ll see you sixth period.”
Maryanne stood with a few other people, all who shared the same slightly bemused, slightly bored look.
“Whatever,” Maryanne replied before turning and leaving.
I looked from Maryanne’s retreating figure back to Amy, who was now looking at me intently.
Amy and I both jumped at Rachel’s exclamation.
“I… forgot my… pen in Mr. North’s class… so I’m going to… yeah, I’ll meet up with you later,” Rachel rambled and then sprinted off back in the direction she came.
“Kyle? What the hell is going on?”
Amy looked angry now. Damn it.
“Look, we need to talk, OK?”
“That’s pretty obvious, Kyle,” Amy said, still not smiling, “Rachel’s a little weird, but she’s never been that weird around me, is she mad at me or something?”
“No, that’s not it,” I replied, waving my hand, “we need to find a place to talk.”
“Fine, I know where to go,” Amy said, turning and walking out of the hallway. I quickly shut my locker and followed her out. We didn’t go far, just outside the hall we had been in Amy climbed over the rail and went behind the building. Once I made it out behind the building, it was like Amy had vanished.
“Yeah, I’m right here,” I heard her voice call and she leaned out from behind a large tree trunk. I made my way over to her, trying to keep my balance on the slight decline of the ground. The school was situated on a hill, with different wings at different levels, so most of the area next to them was off limits for fear that someone might fall. I picked my way carefully towards Amy, the ground being slippery and my balance being what it was. Once beside the tree, I saw Amy sitting on a large root that was protruding from the ground.
“Have a seat,” Amy said, patting the piece of root next to her, “you don’t have to worry about anyone seeing us here. The tree blocks anyone’s view from where we came from, and no one can see us from the other side either.”
I looked in the opposite direction from where we came and a large shrub blocked the view from that direction. I sat down next to Amy and remained silent.
“This is a pretty good place,” I said, trying to avoid what was to come.
“Yeah, I found it my sophomore year, I needed some space to… get away, I guess you could say, and discovered that I couldn’t really been seen from here,” she stopped talking and looked down at the ground in front of her.
“That’s, uh, cool,” I replied. I shook my head, pretty sure that was the dumbest thing I’d ever said to her.
“So you said we needed to talk,” Amy said picking a little at the root we were sitting on. I sighed; this wasn’t going to be easy.
“Um, yeah,” I started, deciding just to go for it, “I got something in my locker today.”
“Oh yeah?” Amy asked, looking up at me.
“Uh huh,” I reached back to my back pocket and pulled out the note. Amy took it from me and read it.
“Oh my God,” she said, looking back at me, “what does this mean?”
“I think it means someone knows what happened who shouldn’t,” I said, putting the note safely in my backpack.
“Who else would know?” Amy asked.
“Before this morning, I assumed only you and I knew,” I answered, maybe a little too harshly. Amy looked at me, confused and a little bit angry.
“No… you don’t…. you don’t think I told anyone, do you?”
I shrugged my shoulders, not willing to say it out loud.
“You actually think that I would tell someone something like that? Don’t you trust me?”
I looked at her then. Our eyes met and the anger I had seen was replaced with hurt.
“No, I… I do trust you, I just…” I didn’t know what to say.
“Kyle, I would never, NEVER tell anyone,” she said, looking away.
“I…” she was really hurt, “I’m sorry, Amy.”
“I thought,” her voice caught a little, “I thought after everything this summer… after everything we confided in each other, I thought we trusted each other, Kyle. We told each other things that neither of us had told anyone else, I mean, I know I’ve never told anyone what I told you.”
“I know,” I could hear the quiver in my own voice. Amy looked at me again, this time slightly panicked.
“Kyle, did you tell anyone about me?”
I couldn’t look at her.
“Rachel knows,” I whispered.
Amy was silent. I dared a quick look at her. Her eyes were closed.
“No, no one else.”
I could feel the tears pricking just behind my eyes. I didn’t want to cry, not in front of Amy, but the stress of everything that had happened that day on top of hurting Amy and possibly losing her trust was more than I could handle. A small tear made its way down my cheek. Amy took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“I can’t say that makes me happy to hear, Kyle,” Amy said so quietly that I almost missed it. I just nodded, my head bowed.
“But I can’t say that I’m surprised either.” Another tear made its way down my cheek.
We sat in silence for a while, neither of us knowing what to say next. I wanted to tell her I was sorry, but I couldn’t push the words passed my lips.
“Look,” Amy finally started, “just so you know, I wouldn’t even have had time really to tell anyone. I’ve been gone pretty much since the last day of camp, remember? So when would I have had time to talk to anyone about all this?”
Rachel and I had never even considered this. Of course she wouldn’t have had time! I felt like such an ass.
“I’m an ass.”
“What?” Amy almost sounded amused. I hadn’t even realized I’d said the words out loud.
“Uh, I’m an ass?”
“Is that a question?” She said, looking at me with a small half smile.
“No, I’m definitely an ass.”
I wiped at my face, another tear having escaped.
“Hey,” Amy said, reaching over to touch my arm, “I’m not super mad… a little mad… but not crazy mad.”
“You should be,” I replied. I was furious with myself, so why shouldn’t she be?
“Yeah, I know I should. But, like I said, I’m not really that surprised you told Rachel. Sometimes I envy how close you two are,” she smiled, “at one point, on my vacation, I thought maybe the two of you were, you know, together.”
“Together?” I was now starting to sound like a parrot. Like I said, ass.
“You know, ‘together’ together,” she replied. She was blushing. And then I was blushing.
“Oh, uh, no,” I replied, “that would be… weird. So weird.”
“Yeah,” she said, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, “you’re not off the hook here, Kyle. It really sucks that you told Rachel without asking me if that was ok.”
“I know,” I replied, looking down at my lap once again.
We sat in silence again.
“So it looks like we’ve got ourselves a little bit of a mystery, then,” Amy finally offered without looking at me.
I looked at her, having completely forgotten why we had begun this conversation in the first place.
“Someone knows,” she said.
“Right,” I replied, shaking my head a little to get back on track.
“Since I didn’t tell anyone…” she said, giving me a sidelong glance, “then we have to assume this person found out some other way, right?”
“Right,” I was quick to agree, hoping that the firmness of my tone told her I had no more doubt about the truth of the fact.
“So… how else could they have figured it out?”
We sat in silence for a while, contemplating the question.
“I honestly have no idea,” I finally answered.
The young lady in the front row states the obvious.
“Yes, it was.”
“I mean,” she continues, “who could it be? It wasn’t Rachel, she wouldn’t’ have told nobody, right? And Amy seemed tight, so she’d probably keep it on the DL…”
“DL?” the teacher interrupts.
“The down low, DL,” I help. The young woman who was speaking looks up at me as if not expecting me to have understood that phrase. I smile, encouraging her to continue.
“So basically… that just leaves you, and we know who you told… and they wouldn’t have told…so all you’ve really got is…” she’s flailing her arms around, grasping at what’s obviously…
“Nothing.” I finish.
“Damn right… nothing!” she says, slamming her fist down on her desk. The teacher is about to intervene again, so I quickly continue.
“Lunch ended pretty quickly after that and Amy and I went our separate ways. The small amount of trust I had built with her over that summer had shattered, the self confidence I had gained all but disappeared, all during that one lunch period on the first day of my senior year. What a way to start it off, huh? For the next few days, Rachel hounded me relentlessly. ‘What did you two talk about? Did she confess to telling anyone? How do you know she was telling you the truth?’ This last question she asked me the most often, and my answer always remained the same…”
“I just know, alright?”
“Ugh, fine.” Rachel said, pacing back and forth in front of my bed. Rachel and I had both been busy since the day school had started. The amount of homework we were already getting managed to keep my mind of the mystery at hand, but at night, with the lights out, I could hardly sleep for all of the crazy thoughts running through my mind. How did someone else know? And why were they threatening me? And, worse, if they knew about what happened to me…what I was… would that make the people I hung out with targets as well? My insecurities grew and grew until I had myself in such a state that I needed a breathing treatment when I came home from school that Friday. Rachel had driven me home and had started in again with the questions as soon as I had finished my treatment.
“I mean… come on, Greeny! It’s not like, oh, I don’t know,” Rachel said, waving her arms around, “you’ve been best friends since junior high? How can you KNOW?”
I looked down at my shaking hands, hating how my treatments made me feel…hating how I felt about the whole situation.
“I just know,” I said through my teeth, clenching my fists to stop their shaking. Rachel must have finally realized I was agitated because she stopped her pacing and stared at me for a minute. Suddenly, she shook her arms, followed by the rest of her body, as if trying to shake off something heavy and, well, gross.
“Ok, I’m sorry,” she said, “I’m just so… ugh! So frustrated!”
“Yeah, I know, me too.”
Rachel sat down next to me on the edge of the bed and patted me on the back.
“Well, at least you haven’t gotten any other notes, right?”
“No.” Not yet. Not ever again I hoped.
“Well, maybe this is just a onetime deal from some crazy person and they’ll leave you alone now?” she asked, hopefully.
“Have you had a chance to talk to Amy again this week?” Rachel asked, sensing a change in direction was probably best.
“No, we only have one class together and I haven’t really felt like sticking around after school to chat much.” Not to mention that the few times I’d seen Amy in the hallways she’d looked at me, then quickly looked away or back to her friends, doing her best to ignore my very presence. I know I’d hurt her by not keeping her secret, and every day it seemed I’d be paying the price.
“I don’t think it’ll be much use anyway,” Rachel said, getting up and moving to the chair at my desk.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well,” Rachel said with a faraway look, “you say you trust her…you’ve said it many times now, in fact, so I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say she’s kicked out of the suspect tree.”
“The what?” I asked, cracking a small smile.
“The suspect tree. Duh, Greeny,” Rachel smiled mischievously, “you know, where you put all your suspects in a mystery… once they’re not a suspect anymore, you kick them out until you only have once suspect left… the person who did it… then you grab your saw, cut the tiny ass limb they’re sitting on…and BAM!”
This last part she emphasized with a loud clap, making me jump.
“You’ve cut them down and caught the sucka!”
I stared at Rachel a minute, and she stared right back at me as serious as heart attack. I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing. Rachel scowled at me for a minute, then my laughter proved to be too infectious and she joined in.
“What?” Rachel asked after we’d calmed down a bit, smiling, “you don’t like my tree?”
“No, no,” I said, wiping my eyes with a shaky hand, “I definitely like this tree of yours.”
With the tension finally broken, I felt like I could finally breathe for the first time that week. Or maybe it was the breathing treatment, I don’t know. But whatever it was, watching Rachel wipe her own eyes and fight a new set of giggles, I knew we’d figure this out.
Continued in Part 10
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