YOU know what I hate?
Okay, that’s a vague and open-ended question, so before you answer, let me clarify it some. You know what I hate about teenage movies? They never show the next day. I mean, sure, maybe the princess did indeed date the criminal, but how exactly did they make that work? Her friends would never talk to her again once they found out she was actually kissing some lowlife like him. His friends would disgust her with their rude and suggestive talk. Within a week they would be arguing about what to do with their weekend. She would want to go hang out at the mall and maybe see some chick flick, and he’d want to get burned with his friends and maybe play some Xbox. Fighting within two weeks, broken up in a month.
The movie didn’t show that, did it?
Or what about Sixteen Candles? So Jake gets her a birthday cake, and they blow the candles out on their rather flimsy-looking glass table. What’s next? Does he think his friends aren’t going to be very vocal in their confusion about who the hell this Samantha chick was in the first place? Even though they didn’t show many, you know she had to have friends too. Do you think any of them would constantly be asking her what he was like? What were they going to do for fun? She would go to two of his friends’ parties before she got fed up with the dirty looks that most of the girls shot her throughout the night. He would insist that she wasn’t giving them a fair chance, and she would argue that they were horrible people.
They might even stay together until the topic of colleges came up. Obviously, Jake was headed for an Ivy League college, and Samantha wasn’t. They’d try a long-distance thing until the freshman mixer during orientation. Jake would be swamped by the first dozen girls who saw him and offered to help him with his homework and anything else he needed help with. When he came home for Christmas, he’d break it to her that they weren’t working out, and she’d spend the rest of her life wondering what she had done wrong.
Kind of makes the idea of a sequel pretty dismal, doesn’t it?
In the real world, Harry might have met Sally, but the movie doesn’t cover exactly how they made it work once the camera was off. Opposites may attract (which I do not believe, by the way), but they don’t make for an easy relationship, let me tell you. I may have had the hottest guy in school say he liked me, but I didn’t have any faith we were going to be a “we” for any amount of time. We sidestepped the whole going to school and facing the music problem that Friday by cutting school.
The fact that we hadn’t even decided to date before we had our first actual fight only seemed to drive home the point that our being together was an incredibly bad idea.
I walked out on him in the middle of a diner, for God’s sake. I mean, sure, he came back and apologized, and the whole thing with the ring and the 81 cents? Yeah, the boy has game, but now it’s Monday morning, and things are different. I don’t mean my gown turned back into a sack of flour and the carriage ended up as pumpkin soup, but things between us could not, obviously, be the same, because there were other things that remained the same.
Foster High was still in the middle of nowhere, and the students and their teachers and administration were barely a step above the zombies in a Romero movie. I had images of being chased through the quad by a pack of villagers wielding pitchforks and torches while I stumbled forward in horrible lesbian boots with bolts in my neck.
It has been said more than once that I have an overactive imagination.
I paced my small room as I envisioned just about every blood-laden outcome if we were insane enough to show our faces at school again. I was used to being at the bottom of the social ladder. Actually, I was lower than the bottom; I usually hung out in the room next to the place they stored the ladder because people like me weren’t allowed to see it. Brad was a different story altogether. He was used to being so far up that I’m sure there were only clouds when he looked down. I had no idea how people were going to react to him coming out.
If what he did counted as coming out.
I mean, he could just say he had been defending me against Kelly, who is a raging asshole. There were ways for him to take back what had happened if he wanted, and that scared me. We had spent the weekend talking about him telling everyone he was gay, about how this wasn’t just a phase for him or a knee-jerk reaction to seeing someone get bullied. He had said he was falling for me. I wanted to believe that, but….
But. It always comes down to buts, doesn’t it?
I could be okay with being gay, but I lived in Foster, Texas, which meant me being gay constituted a mortal sin. I could be normal if my mom wasn’t clinically insane, so that was out of the question. And Brad might be falling in love with me, but I didn’t even like myself, so how could he think being in love with me was positive?
I heard two horn blasts and knew I had run out of time to worry.
I grabbed my backpack and ran out the front door, hoping the noise didn’t wake up my mother, the sleeping dragon. As I rushed outside, I saw him sitting behind the wheel of his brand-new yellow Mustang and felt my heart skip a beat in response to the sight. In my world there are precious few things that can be considered flawless. A weekend where my mother and I missed seeing each other because of our sleeping schedules was perfect. The Notebook is a perfect movie, in my opinion. Seasons two and three of One Tree Hill were perfect television. And Brad behind the wheel of his car was the perfect boy.
He kept his hair slightly long. Though it was kept in place with product, it always seemed to be one step away from being disheveled. His eyes sparkled with what might be a dangerous energy; he looked like he was half a second from telling someone the punch line to a joke.
And though he had several different smiles at his command, the one he flashed when I walked up to his car looked exactly like the others he’d used when we were together. So far those smiles had been the only actual signs of happiness I’d seen from him since we’d met.
“Well, well, well,” he said as I got into the passenger seat. “If it isn’t Mr. Stilleno?”
I fastened my seat belt and looked over at him. “Are you feeling okay? ’Cause you sound a little drunk.”
His laughter filled the interior of the car and surrounded me like a blanket. “If I was drunk, I’d have hell to pay at practice this afternoon.” He leaned over toward me, and I felt his mouth touch mine, and the world stopped spinning for a second. All the air in my lungs escaped me as I leaned in and curled my hand around his head. I ran my fingers through his hair and tried to experience as much happiness as I could in the moment. I was the brave little ant storing food away for the winter. I had no illusions that what came next wasn’t going to suck, but right now he was kissing me. And that was awesome.
He leaned his forehead against mine as we sat there, with our eyes closed, which was the closest to prayer I got. “You ready?” he asked after a second.
“I’m scared,” I said in a tiny voice that didn’t sound like me.
“Me too,” he answered. I opened my eyes when I felt him move back. His eyes stared into mine. “But you know what?” I shook my head. “I know things are going to be okay.”
I tried not to give him a look of complete shock. “Why do you think that?” He might as well have said that Deep Impact was better than Armageddon or that Lindsay Lohan was better than Hilary Duff. I mean, things were not going to be okay—he had to know that, right?
“Because I got you,” he said with grin number four, the one he used when he was trying to look all Ocean’s Eleven about a situation. It looked good on him, but what we were facing wasn’t something as simple as breaking into a casino vault. We were in high school in Foster freakin’ Texas, and we had just unmasked ourselves as alien invaders.
“Okay” existed nowhere near where we were.
But I knew Brad, and I knew what he was doing.
This was where he tried to assure me that my concerns were valid while actually trying to calm himself down. The voices inside of my head screaming at me that this was a bad idea were echoed in his own. But I was afraid he might not be as adept at dealing with them as I had grown to be. My entire life was a horror movie where I was chased through my head by my doubts and insecurities while that annoying cha cha cha sound played in the background. I was willing to play the victim when I was the only one in danger of being made into kibbles and bits, but I could see the real fear behind that grin, and he wasn’t telling me it was going to be okay as much as he was asking me if it was going to be okay.
Behind every strong man is a scared little boy wanting people to tell him it’s going to be okay. Remember that and men will no longer seem as stupid as you think they are.
I gave him a wide grin and grabbed his hand. “Of course you have me. We do this together.” It seemed to assure him some. He took a deep breath and turned back toward the steering wheel. “You ready?”
Not even close.
“Always,” I lied, sounding completely sure.
He pulled the gearshift, and we headed toward school and our future.