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The Five Secrets_Ezra Gatley

Summary

Ezra had it all. A perfect house, perfect grades, a girlfriend who's captain of the cheer team, and he's the quarterback. 

There's just one thing - Ezra has a secret. He's gay.

Knowing he'd never be accepted by his and friends, Ezra keeps his secret hidden and doesn't let anyone in on them.

But as secrets begin to spill out, and a certain someone is transferred to Ezra's school, secrets begin coming out, and things are starting not to add up. But what happens when Ezra's family finds out about the real him?

Chapter One

   My entire life, it’s always been hard. I mean, I would’ve expected it to when you keep the biggest secret in the world from everyone else. Okay, not the biggest secret in the world-but you get what I mean. My parents aren’t cool with anything new, no new rules, no new presidents, and especially no new dating tricks. Mainly-this means coming out would ruin all that I’ve lived for. I get straight A’s and I’m quarterback at our school, but none of that would even matter if people found out about who I really am.

  Other than the large parts of me I’m keeping, my life seems to be pretty good. I’m considered popular at school, my siblings aren’t always annoying, and I have a girlfriend: Haven Bronx. Haven is one of the most popular girls in school as well, so it made sense for the two of us to be together. Being captain of the cheerleading team, she has a pretty busy schedule, so I don’t always have to see her. But when I do-it’s hard to really be myself around her. Around anyone.

  I really do like Haven. She’s a sweet girl, and she cares about other people’s feelings. But, I don’t like her in that way. And it wouldn’t even be too bad if we broke up at school, but her entire family loves me.

  So that’s where the problem comes in.

  I would always sit at the dinner table and try to keep my mind off of other things while Haven’s parents continued talking about sports, or cheer, or their older daughter (who’s in Yale, in case anyone really cared). It was just that, I never seemed to keep my mind on anything that was going on at dinner there, and I was the only one to blame.

 

  “How have you been Ezra?” Mr. Bronx asked me as I calmly sat down next to Haven. Her family was always fancy, so being skittish wouldn’t look good for me. Once I sat down, Haven smiled to me. And I smiled back without showing any teeth.

  “I’ve been great.” I said.

  Lie, but everyone else was going with it.

  “I heard there was a game on Saturday, are you ready for that?” Mrs. Bronx asked me. In all honesty, I was excited for the game and all-but I’d much rather be somewhere else on that day instead of whatever I always felt trapped.

  But, like always, I smiled and nodded. “I’m ready for it,” I said. “Coach says we’re probably gonna be amazing out there.”

  “And I get to watch all of it front and center,” Haven said, smiling to me before looking at her parents.

  Mr. and Mrs. Bronx smiled at their daughter before looking back at their food. It was seafood, which was one of the main reasons why I was trying to continue talking instead of eating something from the sea. “Haven,” Mrs. Bronx said. “Did you mention to tell Ezra about your sister?”

  I don’t know why, but my instant thought was that Mrs. Bronx was pregnant. I mean, she was only about 39 or something. I’m sure having a kid wouldn’t be that hard. But then, my mind clicked and told me this was about Angelica. Angelica is Haven’s older half sister, and she’s pretty smart for her age. I’ve only met her a few times, but her family talks about her enough for me to know basically everything I need to. The weirdest thing is, even though Haven and Angelica have different dads, they both really do look the same. Like Haven, Angelica has dark brown hair and hazel eyes, which usually change color depending on the light. And usually they both always know what to say for certain situations, but can also annoy the living ⟴ out of you sometimes.

  “Oh my gosh,” Haven exclaimed. “I’m so excited to see her!” she grabbed my hand from under the table as I did my best to keep from showing any reaction. “How long is she staying in town?”

  Mrs. Bronx was about to begin eating again, but then set down her fork and looked Haven. “A few days I think, a week at the most. She’s really busy at college, sweetheart.” Haven nodded, but then everyone at the table grew silent as I looked back down at the seafood.

  I seriously do hate everything about the thought of eating something from the ocean, but I also hated people not liking me-so I began slowly eating the shrimp. At first, I felt my body trying to bring it back up, but I swallowed it before anything else could happen. I took a long drink of the water Mr. Bronx had given me and then sighed, not even sure if I could finish the food that was set in front of me.

  Once dinner was over, I wasn’t judged for not eating all of the shrimp. But, I still felt a large guilt inside of me.

  Haven’s parents went upstairs, allowing me and her to have some alone time. I hated when people said “I’ll give you two some alone time.” It was like they just expected for two people to begin making out. And I never would do something like that while her parents were upstairs, anyways. I wouldn’t even do something like that with a girl in the first place.

  “So…” Haven said, sitting down next to me and grabbing the TV remote. “You nervous about the game?” before I could even answer her, Haven kept on talking. “We have a great cheer that is bomb.”

  I laughed. “Yes, I’m ready. How long have y’all been working on the cheer?”

  “A couple weeks. I think you’re going to love it, babe.”

  Though I hated it when she called me that, I nodded. One of the best ways to get Haven to be quiet would be talking about cheer. All of the girls on the team were really passionate about their work and loved to brag about it. Sometimes, when I was forced to hang out with Haven’s friends, the topic of football and cheer would be the main two things. Which, I was kind of okay with-because at least I was getting attention.

  Haven was leaning on me, texting someone on her phone when she suddenly laughed. I looked down at her and said; “What is it?”
  Instead of simply answering, she handed me her phone.

 

Angelica:

  Hey sis, you excited about me coming back tomorrow?

 

Haven:

  Obvi! I can’t wait to see you!!

 

Angelica:

  Me too! How’s high school treating you?

Haven:

  Amazing, actually! I’m still captain of the cheerleading team and I’m still dating Ez. On top of that, all my friends and grades are amazing. Things couldn’t be better!

  Wbu?

 

Angelica:

  (That’s great!) And I’m pretty good too. I’m just pretty happy I’m keeping up in class.

  How’s Ezra?

 

Haven:

  Great! Cuter than ever...and stronger, which is good for the football team.

 

Angelica:

  Awesome! Good thing he’s still cute, right?

 

Haven:

  Oh my gosh, lol! I would’ve still dated him if he wasn’t tho.

 

Angelica:  

  Yeah, right. I gotta go soon...is there anything else you need to tell me before I start my homework?

 

Haven:

  Just one last thing. You excited about the football game?

 

Angelica:

  Yup. Aren’t they playing against Oakwood?

 

Haven:

  Yeah, they are. But Ezra’s got this one in the bad. He always does-

 

Angelica:

  Right!

  Well, I’ve got two more things to say. One, I miss you like crazy (Mom and Dad too). And two, hope Ezra’s as cute as you say he is…

 

Haven:

  I’m not sharing him, Angelica.

 

Angelica:

  Lol, never said you had to, Hav. Everyone knows men like the smarter girls.

 

  I don’t know why, but I had this weird feeling that all I was to Haven was just something she could put on display. And it really did bother me on the inside, but there was nothing I could fix about any of it. If Haven realized I was bothered by crap like that, she’d find some way to ruin my life.

  Instead of saying what I wanted to, I faked a laugh. “That’s sweet,” I said to her, praying she wouldn’t take any of it the wrong way. I was lucky enough for her to smile and then squeeze my arm tightly.

  “She’s my sister, and I love her. But she better not come near you with any flirty approach.” she said, raising her eyebrows to me. I smiled.

  “Don’t worry,” I assured her. “Angelica and I will never have a relationship other than friends.”

  Haven smirked. “I know,” she said.

  I chuckled and then looked down at my phone. Three messages from Dad. Now that was a cue to come home. “Hey, Haven?”

  “Yeah?”

  “As much as I’d love to stay-” Lie. “I need to get home.”

  Haven made a disappointed noise, then sat back on the expensive couch they owned. “That sucks,” she said, sighing. “But...you know, parents rules.”

  Not knowing what else I could say to that, I nodded. “Yeah.” I was standing up when Haven took my wrist and in some way forced me turn back around and look at her.

  “Love you,” she said, smiling.

  My insides told me to just say it. Reveal you don’t really love her, and that you never will. At least not like that. But instead, I smiled back and then said; “Love you too.” Dreading the words as they came out of my mouth.

  I release myself from her grip and made it to the doorway. As I was about to leave, I tuned to wave goodbye to her before I closed the door behind me, breathing in the fresh air as I walked outside.

 

⟴⬉⥦⥦⥦⬈⟴

 

  When I got home, I was expecting either Mom or Dad to be waiting for me in the kitchen or living room. But instead, it was only my dad. He smirked at me when I walked in. My dad and I hardly really shared any genetics. I mean, other than the tall-⟴ gene I have from my grandfather, him and I hardly share anything that’s the same. Other than the brown hair and eyelashes, we’re not really the same. Yet, somehow, I became his golden son.

  “Ezra Gatley, where have you been?” he asked me.

  I looked at him. “At my girlfriend’s house,” I said, smiling. “I didn’t tell you?”
 My dad shook his head, his eyebrows raised. The only reason there was no fear inside of me was because I knew he was just joking around. I had to ask him if I could take Eric’s car to go to Haven’s house anyways. He knew where I was, Dad was just giving me a hard time for no reason.

  “Well, I’m surprised to see you after...what? Three messages from me?”

  This was the part when I looked down at my phone and pretended to act shocked. “Oh gosh,” I said, shrugging. “Guess I forgot to look at those.”

  Dad raised one of his eyebrows, still keeping a straight face. “To your room, young man,” he said, pointing to where the staircase was. I smiled to him before gripping my phone in my hands and walking upstairs to my room, not looking behind me to see if he was laughing or not.

  Once I walked in, my brothers were sitting on my bed, looking through the photo album I kept in my room. Typical, I thought to myself.

  I have two brothers, one who is older than me and the other whose younger than I am. Eric is my older brother, and Emmanuel is younger than me by six years. Like brothers are, we always tease each other about something, but we also support each other through the weirdest things. Though, I guess that’s kind of normal. I have another sibling, who’s a year older than me. And that’s Evelyn. She’s one of the only people that know my secret, and I want to keep it that way. It’ll basically be like that until I get accepted into college, anyways.

  “What are you doing?” I asked my brothers. Emmanuel popped his head up, some of his dirty-blonde hair falling into his face. Eric looked at me, closed the book, then stood up. Somehow, Eric is taller than me-but only by half an inch.

  Hitting me on the arm, Eric laughed. “Where were you, man?”

  I hit him in the exact same place where he hit me. And because I was stronger, he winced from the pain. “Why does it matter to you?”

  “Oh, come on, Ez Ace, where were you?” Emmanuel asked, putting the photo album on my desk. “You’re girlfriend’s house?” I knew he had been listening in on Eric’s conversations, because he completely over exaggerated those last two words.  

  I rolled my eyes. “Get out of my room.”

  “Yup,” Eric said, sounding proud of himself. “He was.” Emmanuel laughed, and then began making kissing noises as I glared at him. Eric smiled to Emmanuel before he looked at me, his eyes studying my face for some odd reason. I looked away from him as Emmanuel hugged me. Since he hadn’t hit puberty yet, he went right up to my waist.

  “Missed you,” he whispered, clutching onto me.

  I knew it was kinda mean, but I pushed him off of me. “You can’t hug after an insult,” I said, smiling to him. “That’s breaking the brother code.”

  “There’s a brother code?” Emmanuel asked, his eyes widening.

  Eric rolled his eyes, and then took Emmanuel by his arm. “Come on, E,” he said, looking down at him. “Ezra doesn’t wanna talk to us.”

  I glared at him. “Bye,”
  Leaving my room, Eric called: “Don’t forget, Ezra Ace, I’m older than you. Much older!” Rolling my eyes again, I closed the door behind me and fell onto my bed, looking up at the ceiling.

  There wasn’t exactly anything in my head, and for the first time ever I felt really relaxed. Nothing serious was on my mind, plus the only nerves I had were about football, and I wasn’t even worried about any of that happening. Just as he crossed my mind, there was a soft knock on my door.

  Sitting up quickly, I grabbed the door knob and opened it. Evelyn was standing there, her light brown hair now dark from a shower, and her dark blue eyes looking tired. But I was smart enough now not to say anything about it.

  “Hey big bro,” she said, halfly smiling.

  I let her walk in as I closed the door behind me. “What is it?” I asked her. Instead of my voice coming out calmly like I wanted it to, it came out really demanding. Evelyn raised her eyebrows before she sat down next to me on the bed.

  “Where were you?” she asked. I shrugged, looking at the wall for a few moments before I looked back to her.

  “Why do you need to know?”
  Evelyn sighed, then smiled. “You must’ve been at your secret lover’s house then,” she said, raising her eyebrows.

  I looked at her this time, wanting to hit her. “Say it louder,” I snapped. “I don’t think everyone in the entire house heard you.”

  Evelyn sucked in air, looking at me. “You worry way too much, Ez,” she said. “That’s probably why he has such an attitude all the time.”

  I felt rage bubble up inside of me, but I knew there’d be no point in fighting with her. “He is always like that,” I said, trying not to let his voice get into my head. “Even before I came into his life.”

  Evelyn ignored me, and began looking at her hair. “What do you think you’d do if Mom and Dad found out, anyways?” she asked.

  Run away, I thought to myself, feeling shameful. Run away, and never look back. Forget the entire life I lived, because I’d never get it back. There were just so many ways they could find out, if it did happen I’d lose it.

  “Tell them it was a joke,” I said. “Or just lie until they believed me.”

  Evelyn had a sad smile on her face before she shook her head. “I wish our parents weren’t such homophobes. It would’ve been nice if they were just cool with your sexuality.” she said, looking at me.

  I nodded, hating to know the truth. “Same here,” I muttered. “But some people aren’t about that stuff.”

  “And it’s stupid as ⟴,” Evelyn said. I looked at her, knowing that it was my job to get onto her if she cussed, but the emotions didn’t form in me right now. She was right, it was stupid. Noticing my face, Evelyn put her head down. “Sorry. I know I shouldn’t cuss. It just makes me angry a lot of the time, and-”

  I put my hand up, cutting her off. “It’s fine,” I said.

 Evelyn nodded, then sat back on one of my pillows. “How is he, anyways?” she asked, looking at me seriously this time.

  I shrugged, not even knowing the answer to it. I had been trying my best to stay away from him lately, but it never works out like how I want it to. He’s openly gay, while I can’t even get one foot out of the closet. Sometimes, we argue about things like that. Or, about how I go to EastLand, and he goes to Oakwood. But I really do like being around him. It makes me feel good inside, and not like I’m being judged around him, and making sure I can see his smile at least once a day.

  The warm feeling rose inside of me again, and I looked at Evelyn to try making it fade away. “Wanna call him?” I asked.

  Evelyn straightened her back then, nodding. “Yeah.”

  Evelyn handed me my phone from my bedside table and handed it to me. I took the phone and scrolled through my contacts until I found his name. Delcan. Chills went down my spine when I read his name, but I pushed the feeling down and ignored it as I pressed FaceTime.

  In a matter of seconds, Delcan answered his phone. I took a deep breath and waited until my phone connected.

  When it did, there was Delcan. His hair spiked up at the end, and his eyes squinting from the light outside. Still, I found him attractive. And I hated myself for it. He was wearing a grey shirt, and was sitting outside with his sister, Calliannah (but everyone calls her Callie).

  “Hey,” he said, making exact eye contact with me.

  “Hi,” I said. But instead of sounding as confident as I wanted to, my voice came out sounding weak, and I’m sure that if another word went out of my mouth, my voice would’ve cracked. Already, my palms began sweating.

  Evelyn rolled her eyes and took my phone. “That’s sad,” she said, looking at me. Glaring at her, she turned back to the camera to look at Delcan, who was raising his eyebrows. “Hi, Delcan. What’s up?”
  He shrugged. “Oh, nothing,” he said. I didn’t see his facial expression, instead I just got up and took some of the clothes off the floor and looked at Evelyn as she raised her eyebrows to me.

  “Okay,” Evelyn said, leaning back on my bed. I wanted to yell at her to get out or something, but she would’ve just shook her head and then would go back to talking to Delcan. “So I have a question for you.”  

  This time, I stood up, looking at Evelyn. “Yeah?” Delcan said. What was she going to say? I panicked in my mind. Would she tell him something really embarrassing about me? Like how I still have a stuffed animal in my room?

  Okay, that sounded weird. But in my defense, it’s my grandfather’s from when he was a child, and it makes me feel closer to him when I see it. I watched my sister closely as she smiled and then opened her “brilliant” mouth.

  “Are you coming to the football game?” Evelyn questioned.

  Relieved, I let all the air that was building up inside my legs out as I sat back down on my bed again just when Evelyn sat up. The second I sat down, Delcan moved his eyes (which were now brown. He was questioning me) and looked at me.

  “If it makes you comfortable,” Delcan said, shrugging.

  It took me a second to answer him. To be honest, I didn’t know if I had a problem with him going to the game or not. He was on the opposing team, number one. But I also never wanted to not allow him to go to something if he wants to.

  He could be a distraction, a voice in my mind said.

 But it’d be good to have him there.

 “Yeah,” I said, ignoring everything telling me to stop. “You can come. Will your family tag along?”

  Instead of answering me, he looked over at Callie. She looked at her brother, and then shrugged. “Who are we even cheering on?” she asked, sounding pretty annoyed. “Our school, or your boyfriend?”
  “Well, cheer for our school, and also cheer for Ezra secretly, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal if one of us lost, right?” Delcan asked.

  Callie rolled her eyes. “Whatever, Delcan.” she muttered, turning her phone back on again and probably going on social media.

  “I guess that she’s coming. And even if she doesn’t, I’m sure my mom can do her best to take us there,” Delcan said, looking away from his sister. I nodded, and looked over to my sister as she began leaning into me.

  “You wouldn’t mind if I asked him to sit next to us, would you?” she taunted, whispering.

  It took everything inside of me not to hit her. “I would, actually. Please don’t.”

  Evelyn laughed, rolling her eyes. “Why don’t I have Delcan’s number?” she asked, turning her head back to the camera.

  “Because you don’t need it,” both Delcan and I said at the same time. He glanced at me for a second, and the second I saw his beautiful green eyes, I knew that my blood was already rising to my cheeks. Delcan smiled, because he knew what effect he had on me. And gosh, it was strong.

  “I’m just saying, you’re adorable when you blush,” Delcan said, winking to me.

  “Stop it,” I said laughing. But him and I both knew I wasn’t serious. I couldn’t help it, that made me feel good. It always does when Delcan flirts with me.

  Evelyn glanced between the two of us before she looked back at Delcan. “So are you sure you’ll make it to the game?” Evelyn questioned.

  Delcan simply nodded. “Yup,” he said. “So...how’s that girlfriend of yours?”

  I told Delcan about Haven probably the night after we first kissed. It might not have been the best time to have said something about it, but I told him. Even though he’s never met her before, I have a pretty clear thought that he hates Haven. “Don’t be like that,” I said, shaking my head at him. “She’s good, though. I was just over at her house.”
  “Did you two kiss?” Evelyn asked, cutting in.

  I shook my head. “No,” I said. But I did say that I loved her, which is much worse than kissing.

  “Good,” Delcan said.

  Evelyn and I both smiled, but I looked at the window in my room instead of back to the camera. It was sometimes hard to be with two different people, especially because one of them has quite an attitude.
  “Hang on,” Evelyn said, holding up her hand. “How did you two even meet if you went to different schools?”

  Delcan raised his eyebrows, looking at me. “Wanna answer that one?”

  I was about to, seriously, this time I was. But then, the thought came into my mind again. It was at a pep rally against Oakwood for our volleyball team tournament. Since it was at Oakwood anyways, we just decided it would be best to allow them there too. So, I was sitting next to Haven and her friends when I could’ve killed myself because of how boring it was. Haven had almost sprained her ankle during practice, she wasn’t able to play in the game. I finally got bored of what she was talking about and went to the bathroom, trying to chill out. I didn’t even use the bathroom, I was just done with being around Haven the entire day.

  Then, Delcan walked into the bathroom, cursing about something that happened. I was instantly awestruck by him. Delcan is one of those people who clearly look athletic, and you came basically tell from a glance that he has abs. It didn’t help that his eyes change color depending on his mood, one of the things that made me look at him even more. I was still trying to keep my eyes away when he introduced himself to me. I learned quickly that he was from Oakwood, and that he was athletic. We were talking for about three minutes before I just introduced myself as gay, which made him shocked and kind of cool at the same time because his response was: “Cool, I am too.”

  I remembered when I tried to act like it was cool by nodding, but I had a feeling my cheeks were already beginning to grow red. He must’ve known I was the quarterback, because he asked me this next: “I’m guessing you aren’t out yet?”
  “What makes you think that?” I asked him, my voice coming out like I wanted it to be a challenge.

  Delcan smiled when I said that, and I remembered my feet feeling weird as I looked at him. He asked me if I’d ever wanted to hang out, and I just responded with a quick nod before I began trying to think of ways that I could ask for his number. Instead, being the person he is, he simply asked to call his younger sister from my phone, but actually put his number in it. Smooth, a lot smoother than I would’ve been. And...it went on from there.

  “Hello…?” Evelyn said, snapping her fingers so I would go back to reality. “Earth to Ezra.”

  I shook my head and closed my eyes for a few seconds, trying not to think of moments too hard. “Sorry, what were we talking about?”

  “When you and I met. What, were you thinking about it or something?” Delcan asked, smiling to me.

  I shook my head, biting my lip so that I wouldn’t smile. “No,” I said. “I was about to have another great memory, but Miss Evelyn Taylore messed that up.” Evelyn raised her eyebrows when I said her middle name, but had no commentary.

  “Anyways,” Delcan said, looking at my sister. “My aunt just got to our house. I gotta go.”

  Though I wanted him to stay longer, I knew there’d be no working through Delcan’s parents. Both of them are really formal about dinners, especially when other people are invited to them. One time, I had to wear one of my dad’s ties because of how formal I needed to be presented at their house.

  “Dang it,” Evelyn said, pressing her nails on her hand. “I thought that I could at least get some answers from you. Ezra never talks about his love life.”

  “Lower your voice, Evelyn,” I muttered between my teeth.

  Evelyn looked at me before she rolled her eyes. I don’t care how much she finds out, Mom and Dad won’t be okay with any of it. Delcan, who clearly felt awkward, cleared his throat so that the two of us would look at him.

  “Well, I have to go,” he said. Callie looked at him before she stood up and left, probably going back to get dressed. “Bye guys. And, I’ll let you know what it’s like to be on the winning team at a football game.”

   I rolled my eyes to that. “Yeah right, Delcan. Bye,” I said, hanging up the phone. I could probably call him later, when everyone else in the house was asleep. You know what, it’d be better to text him than Dad suddenly hearing his voice in the middle of the night.

  Making herself comfortable, Evelyn sprawled out on my bed.  “So...anything you wanna talk about?” she asked, clearly wanting to hear more about Delcan. But I wasn’t giving out that information.

  “Nope,” I said.

  Evelyn raised one of her eyebrows. “Why can’t I know anything?” she asked Her voice didn’t really seem annoyed, just like she wished I would share more about my life with her, which would never even happen.

  “Why would you even want to know, Evelyn?” I asked her. “I’ve told you enough as it is.”

  Evelyn nodded. “I know,” she said. “But I feel better when you’re open to me about things, and it makes me feel closer to my older brother who always hides who he is.”

  It wasn’t that I liked hiding who I was, it was just something I’ve grown into over the years. I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut about things when I didn’t need to talk, and for me never to even think about Delcan when I’m in public. Things have worked for most of my life, and I know how to hide things now. It’s just that-opening up to people about things is still really hard for me to do.

  And things didn’t help that Dad always pressured me to be his perfect son, his perfect example for everyone else to follow. He told everyone in our neighborhood about me. Everyone. People knew who I was, and they knew the expectations that I was meant to follow. Keeping quiet about things just kind of came naturally after 6th grade, I guess.

  “Evelyn,” I said. “You know I try, but some things aren’t always that easy to just say. Plus, whatever you do need to know, you’ll find out when I have to tell you. Not now.”

  Upset, Evelyn sighed. But I knew she understood. My parents had always been this way, even when they were married. “Okay,” she said, beginning to stand up from my bed, her light brown hair falling over her shoulders as she did. “Well, talk to me if you ever need to.”

  I nodded, and then waited for her to leave my room before I laid back down on my bed. Sometimes, I really did wish people knew about who I really was. Most of the time, I hardly even know if I like it, or if I’m ashamed of it all.

  Oddly, Delcan was in my mind again. It was his laugh, the one I always loved hearing. With almost everything, Delcan seemed so confident and proud at what he was doing, it was kind of hard not to smile when he talked about his life. I’d always found it weird that I was drawn to him the way I am, but hey, my heart wants what it wants.

  Just as my mind was about to shift away from Delcan and all the extra-credit homework I needed to do, my phone went off, having the ringtone that I’d set for my mom. I picked up my phone and looked at the message.

 

Mom:

  Come see me in my room.

 

  Seeing the words just made me freak out. I didn’t know why, but it all just seemed like a lot. I never get in trouble, ever. So whatever this was about, I needed to think of something I could cover myself for.

  But there was nothing that popped into my head. My body already felt hopeless, so I just responded with okay, and then walked down the hallway to my parents room. Emmanuel was sitting outside the hallway, playing with some of the toys that Mom had let him keep. I sighed, because I knew how annoyed my dad would’ve been with all of this. Unlike Eric, Evelyn, and I, Emmanuel hasn’t even started on his sports career yet, and Dad gets even more pissed off by the day that he’s still playing with toys.

   Emmanuel must’ve heard me, because he looked up and smiled. “Hi, Ez.” I made my way over to him and began picking up some of the toys. Emmanuel’s eyes got wide as he snatched back one of the toys from my hand. “What are you doing?!”

  “Picking these up,” I said. My voice sounded more tired than I’d wanted it to, but I could care less. “You can only play with these in your room, E. I told you that already.”

  Emmanuel watched me as I put most of what he was playing with in his room, pressing his lips together as I moved back and forth. When there was one toy left, a car, I handed it to him. “Here.”
  “What do you want me to do with it?” Emmanuel asked, looking at the toy like it was something Eric had cooked.

  I shrugged. “Play with it,” I said. “Just make sure Dad doesn’t see you.” I was about to walk off and leave when Emmanuel rushed up behind me and wrapped me in another hug. This time, I let him do it.

  “Yes?”
  “Why are you going in Mom and Dad’s room?” he asked, still holding onto me tightly.

  I turned back around and bended down to his height so that it’d be easier for him to make eye contact with me. “I don’t really know.”
  “Did you do something?” Emmanuel asked, raising his eyebrows.

  Again, I shrugged. “Maybe,” I said. “But it doesn’t matter, okay? Go play in your room for a little bit.” Emmanuel nodded before he pulled me into a hug again, his hands clutching onto me tightly. I wished we could get some medicine or something to make sure he won’t be so clingy all the time, but Dad believed he would grow out of it or something. But all of us knew that he wouldn’t.

  “Bye, Ez.” he said. I didn’t respond to him and waited for his arms to release around me. When they did, he ran into his room, shutting the door softly behind him.

  Now that he was out of the way, I took a deep breath before I kept on walking down the hallway. It felt like I was in a horror movie while I was walking down that hallway, checking every corner like someone would step out and murder me at any given second. But our house had high security, and I knew something like that would never really happen.

  Still, I felt my stomach do a backflip when I opened up the door to my parents room and walked in. Mom was sitting on her bed, flipping through something on the new iPad she’d boughten last week, and Dad was sitting on the other side of the bed, going through some of the fancy ties he owned.

   “Hi, mom,” I said. “You needed me for something?”
  My mom looked up and smiled at me. Unlike her first three children, my mom has dirty-blonde hair and blue eyes. Though Eric and Evelyn have the same eye color as her, Emmanuel was the only one to receive her hair color. But all of us got the innocent look from her, which I’ll be honest, helps me a lot. “Hi baby,” she said. When she said ‘baby’ to me, that gave me the hint she didn’t know anything. Maybe I was in the clear.

  “Hey,” I said. I gave her a friendly smile and then sat down next to her on her side of the bed. “What’s up?”

  Mom set down her iPad as she looked at me. “I didn’t even mean to text you to come in here, but I guess this is better, anyways. I really just wanted to know if you’ve been practicing for the game or not.” she said.

  I wanted to breathe a sigh of relief, because this meant I wasn’t actually in trouble for anything. But instead, I just smiled to her. “Of course I have, Mom,” I said. My mom wasn’t too hard to please compared to my dad, so I knew just talking to her kindly about things would get the conversation over with quickly.

   My mom nodded. “That’s good,” she said. She rubbed her temple softly before she looked back at me. “Could I have a hug, sweetheart.”

  I nodded and then wrapped my arms around her. She must have a headache or something, because she seems tired and restless compared to how she usually is at this time period. When I let go of her, I began messing with my hands-but on one side of me so that Dad wouldn’t see it. “Are you feeling sick?” I asked her.

  My mom shrugged. “A little bit,” she said. “But nothing I can’t get over in a few days, Ezra.”

  “Okay,” I said.

  It would’ve been the time for me to leave at that moment, but I knew that leaving when I wasn’t supposed to was one of the main violations to my father. I stayed in place and waited for either my mom to say something, or for my dad to begin asking me about sports. Lucky for me, Mom cleared her throat before she calmly asked me; “Do you want me to make you a plate for dinner?”

  “Yeah,” I said.

  “Didn’t you eat at your girlfriend’s house?” Dad asked me, raising his eyebrows.

  I looked at him and made sure the words I said were perfectly planned out. “I did,” I said, dragging the word a little bit. “But...seafood isn’t one of my favorite things in the world, so I try my best not to eat as much of it.”
  “You wasted their food, Ezra?” Mom asked me, giving the same expression that Dad did when I lied about already eating.

  I shook my head. “No!” I said. “I did eat it, but I could use something that actually tastes good for a change.”

  This time, both of them were silent, but I could feel my Dad’s glare on me. His eyes were staring at me cold and hard, I just knew it. But looking at him would make the glare even worse, so I kept my eyes on my mom, who was nodding slowly.

  “Okay then, baby,” she said, patting my thigh. “I’ll make sure to cook a bit more.”
  I nodded, still waiting for my signal to go. When Dad gestured towards the doorway, I said goodbye to both of them and then walked out of the room, steadying my heartbeat. It was harder than ever to be in the same room with the two of them. Mom wanted all of her boys to stay “her babies”, while Dad though all of us should’ve grown by the time we were 9. Like always, there’s no winning with my parents.

  Evelyn was back in her room, doing her homework-so I actually had some space to myself for today. Sitting down on my bed, I had a few seconds to myself before my phone went off. I recognized the ring and smirked.

  If you asked me why I set Delcan’s ringtone to what it was, I probably still wouldn’t be able to tell you.

Delcan:

  Hey, I just wanted to ask you if you were actually ok with me going to the game. I wouldn’t want to distract you.

  Btw, your sister is adorable.

 

  I shook my head, smiling. Everyone usually thinks my sister is this adorable teenager who knows nothing other than being a good daughter, but I’ve seen her other side. And believe me when I say this, it isn’t cute. Yeah, she smiles and hugs me in public all the time, but she’s only like that when people are watching. I still have a burn on my chest from a burn she gave me when the two of us were eight. All I did was joke around and steal one of her baby dolls, and she lashed out on me.

 

Me:

  I’m fine with you coming to the game, but you’re wrong about my sister. She’s a monster. I have all the scars to prove it.

 

Delcan:

  Show me then.

 

  Just as I began pulling my shirt over my head, I thought about what would’ve happened if Mom or Dad walked in. How would I even explain that to them? Or worse, Emmanuel could come in here.

  I got off my bed quickly and shut the door, locking it behind me. You never know with siblings in the house. I took a picture of the burn on my chest and then took a picture of the bruise I got from just a few weeks ago.

 

Delcan:

  Dang, I didn’t know she could hit.

 

Me:

  Yup…

 

Delcan:

  I always wondered if that burn was a birthmark or something…

 

Me:

  I’m deleting that!

 

Delcan:

  Okay, okay, I’ll stop.

  Anyways, after the game, can we talk about something?


 

Me:

  Is it something bad?

 

Delcan:

   Depends...can you make it over to my house after football?

 

  I don’t care how desperate or sound this sounds, or whatever, I was willingly saying yes. There was no pauses while I texted him back. I would always ditch anything for Delcan, and I still didn’t know why. It was just something about him that always made me feel good about myself. And whatever I can get of that needs to be as much as possible.

 

Me:

  Yeah. I’ll tell my parents I’m spending the night at my friends house or with Haven. They’ll believe me, promise.

 

Delcan:

  Do your parents even look through your phone?

 

Me:

  Not unless I’ve been acting really strange. Why?

 

Delcan:

  Well if they do, I suggest that you delete half of this entire conversation, because they’ll know where you are. Is my address in your phone?

 

  If Delcan’s address was in my phone, I should probably delete it by now. I know all of the easiest roads to get to his house, so having it on Google Maps would just be pointless now. I deleted it off my phone before I responded to him, lying anyways.

 

Me:

  I can’t remember, Delcan.

 

Delcan:

  Of course you can’t. Buy you make up for it because of how cute you are.

 

Me:

  Have you been looking at my Instagram?

 

Delcan:

  I basically have Instagram for that reason, Ezra. And don’t be weirded out by it, it’s a couple thing.

  Trust me.


 

Me:

  Whatever.    

 

Delcan:

  Don’t play hard to get when you’ve already been stolen.

  My parents told me to put up the phone and talk to my aunt. Gotta go.

 

Me:

  Oh, okay. See you later?

 

Delcan:

  As always, Ez.

 

  I knew that my cheeks were red, so I put my phone away. He’d sent that kissing face emoji, and I smiled before I sent one back, deleting the message right after that. About three minutes after I’d finally began watching Netflix, my phone went off for the third time. I growled like an animal and grabbed my phone, putting it next to me on my bed.  

  All of the messages were from Haven, and every single one of them made me pretty annoyed by her at the moment.

 

Haven Bronx:

  Hey!

  I know you’re busy, but I need to ask you something…

  Do you remember your ex-girlfriend from 7th to 9th grade? If u do, talk to me tomorrow before the game starts. Love you! Oh, and Angelica said hi.

 

  It may sound rude, but I could care less about Angelica and her “kindness”. Instead, I was more confused about her second message. First off, what could Haven possibly want to talk to me about now? And second, what was Evvie doing back in town so early.

  Evvie and I haven’t talked since she left with her dad, but I’m pretty sure I still had her number. I scrolled through my contacts until I found my “ex-girlfriend”’s name. Evvie Hamill. Her number was still there and everything, and all I had to do was text her.

 

Me:

  Hey, Evvie, it’s Ezra Gatley. I know we haven’t talked in a while but I just wanted to say hi. Well, that’s halfy true. Truth is, one of my friends told me that you were back in town (which is super cool, by the way), and I just wanted to ask you if the two of you talked about anything. The same amount of people still know, including someone else, but I won’t get into that. Anyways, if you wanna meet up somewhere, I’d be fine with that too.

  Missed you, Eve.

 

  Alright, the message might’ve been a little long, but it was enough information for her to roll with. Plus, I think it was enough considering we haven’t talked in two years. A few seconds later, she replied.

 

Evvie Hamill:

  Hi, Ezra! And yup, I’m back in town. Trust me, nobody knows about your secret right now other than who you told.

  But who is the other person??

 

Me:

  I don’t want to text about this…

  Call?
 

Evvie Hamill:

  Yeah, sure.

 

  When my phone fully showed the contact picture I’d given her, I had completely forgotten about it. It was Evvie and I in her backyard. I was holding her on my back while she had her arms wrapped around my neck. Both of us were laughing, and I think that the two of us were swimming or something-because I was in my swim trunks and she was in a bikini. Evvie’s dark brown hair was in a high ponytail, and her eyes were filled with excitement.

  I had a feeling her dad knew we were never actually dating. He probably just went with it because that’s what made sense, and he wasn’t bothered by the two of us being such close friends. I actually realized now how much I missed the two of us being friends, because the two of us were always there for each other. But after the falling out of her parents, we tried our best to stay in contact, but Haven hates that I was talking to my “ex” and so the two of us basically drifted away.

  Quickly, I picked up the phone. “Hey.”

  “Ezra, hi!” Evvie exclaimed. I missed that excitement in her voice. “How have you been?”

  I shrugged, unlocking my door so that Mom or Dad wouldn’t be suspicious about me having my door locked. “Good,” I said. “You?”
  “I’m great,” Evvie said, still sounding pretty happy.

  There was silence on the phone. Honestly, though, what do you say to your ex-best friend that you haven’t even talked to since the first day of last summer. I had no clue what to even say, which I guess would be my excuse when Evvie suddenly asked; “Who was the other person you told?”

  “Told what?”

  Evvie laughed. “Don’t be like that,” she said. “In the text you sent, your exact words-and I quote-were ‘The same amount of people still know, including someone else.’ Who?”

  Crap. I should really check what I’ve texted before I decide to send it. “Right,” I said, already knowing how awkward my voice probably sounded. “No one.”

  “No one?” Evvie laughed. “Are you sure?”

  I nodded. “Yup.”
  Evvie was silent for a few seconds before she sighed. “Can I at least get a gender…?” she begged. I wondered why, but it felt like she was smiling or something.

  “Then it’ll give away the person,” I whined, sounding just like Emmanuel did when he was forced to eat something nasty.
  Evvie laughed. “A guy then, right?” When I didn’t answer her, she laughed again. “It’s about time you found someone, Ezra Gatley.”

  I rolled my eyes, but already knew that I was blushing like crazy. “How do you even know it’s a guy I’m dating? It could be Travis, or Adam...or-”

  “Ezra,” Evvie interrupted. “By the way your voice sounds, I have a feeling it’s someone you have a crush on if not dating them. One of the two, tell me about him.”

  I shook my head, already feeling wrong. “I’m not having girl talk with you, Eve.”

  “Already sounds like it, Ez.”

  The saddest thing was, she’s right. I was hardly even acting like a teenage boy at the moment, anyways. Not l really was a normal one, anyways. “Yeah, okay,” I muttered. “His-”

  “It’s okay, Ez,” Evvie said, her voice sounding supportive. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

  No, I wanted to. It felt better when I got things off my chest, especially with people that I seriously trust. “His name is Delcan.”

  “Oh, sounds like someone who’s hot.” Evvie responded. I raised my eyebrows and she must’ve caught herself. “Sorry, that was probably way too much. Last name?”
  “Delcan Heslop.” I said. Yeah, you don’t have to tell me, it’s a weird last name. I have no idea why it’s that last name, especially because he’s Cuban, but oh well, I’m going with it.

  Evvie was hesitant for a second before she said; “Delcan Helsop?”

  I nodded, not understanding why she as acting so weird about all of this. “Yeah,” I said. “What is it?”
  “Nothing,” Evvie responded. “How about something else? How has school-”

  “Where are you right now?” I asked her.

  Evvie was silent before she cleared her throat. “At my mom’s house,” Evvie said. “Why?”

  I stood up and pulled my shirt back over my head, putting the phone on speaker so it wouldn’t be so hard. “I wanted to see you,” I said.

  “Oh,” Evvie said. It was hard to tell if her voice was shocked or not, but she then laughed. “Sure.”

  I was putting on my shoes when I began messing my hair up a little bit. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll be there in a few seconds.” Knowing exactly where Evvie’s house was, so I wasn’t worried at all about trying to find her mom’s house. Okay, that sounded creepy. But I didn’t mean it in that way.

  “Got it,” Evvie sighed. “Bye, Ezra.”

  “Peace.”

  She hung up the phone so I wouldn’t have to and let me fix my shirt before I left my room. I knew that the keys to my parent’s cars were in their room, so I just went to Eric’s room so I could take his keys. Turns out, he was making out with a girl. Don’t know when, or how she got there, but she was making out with my brother.

  I cleared my throat and waited for the both of them to look up at me. The second I saw her blonde hair, I realized it was Janice Hart. She was in my fifth period class, and was also a year younger than Eric was.

  Eric raised his eyebrows. “What do you want?”
  “A ride,” I said, making sure to keep my eyes off of Janice, who I’m pretty sure had a hickey on her neck. “I won’t tell Mom and Dad that you and Janice are making out. Deal?”

  Eric laughed without any humor in his voice. “⟴ no. Get out.”

  I nodded. “Okay, fine. Can I take your car then?”

  “Why are you even asking me, dude?” Eric asked, sitting up. Janice moved away from him, but she was looking at me now. “Just be home by ten, okay?”
  “Got it, Dad.” I said, grabbing the car keys he had on his dresser. I closed the door behind me just before I could hear what Janice was trying to say to me. Going down the stairs quickly, I found where Eric’s car was in the garage. Once I’d gotten in, I turned on the car and began driving over to Evvie’s house.

 

⟴⬉⥦⥦⥦⬈⟴

 

  When I pulled into the Hamill driveway, I got out of the car and went up the front steps. The second I rang the doorbell, Evvie’s mom was at the door.

   Ms. Hamill acted like she seemed to forget all about me. One of her dark brown eyebrows were raised as she put her hand on her hip. “Hello?”
  “Ezra Gatley,” I said, smiling to her. “I’m here to see Evvie if that’s alright.”

  She slowly nodded, eyeing me up and down. I sighed and wiped my sweating hands on my jeans, feeling the cold stare Ms. Hamill was giving me. “Okay..alright,” she said, as if she was deciding or not that it would be a good idea to say yes or no. “EVVIE!” she yelled. I had to turn away from her because of how much it hurt my ears, but she really didn’t seem to care.

  A few seconds later, Evvie came downstairs. Her hair color was the same as it was in 9th grade-dark brown and wavy-but it was longer. He smiled to me and it was clear she had lost some weight. She was wearing skinny jeans and a black tank top with a multicolor shaw. Dang, she’d changed a lot.

  “Ezra!” she cried, now wrapping me in a hug. I returned the hug and breathed in her scent, which was like a weirdly enjoyable smell of cinnamon and vanilla. I really did miss the two of us being best friends. When she pulled away from the hug, she smiled again. “How do you even continue growing?”

  I smiled. “Don’t know,” I said. Last year, I was 5’11, and I guess the summer just bumped up my height a lot. “How is Alaska?”

  She shrugged, rolling her eyes. “It’s Alaska. But...I missed my best friend and ‘ex-boyfriend.’” she said, winking to me. I laughed, even though there was this really weird feeling that Ms. Hamill was still eyeing me. Evvie looked back at her mom before she grabbed my hand and took me up the stairs, closing the door behind her.

  Nothing about Evvie’s room had changed. She still had sky blue walls, and pictures of her family members. There was even still pictures of her dad around her room, which I guess is one of the reasons why her mom might never come in here. There were also some pictures from the school danes we used to have in junior high, plus a few pretty weird ones that most of us must’ve taken just for the heck of it. Even some pictures of Mexico and the flag. Yeah, Evvie loves her photography.

  Evvie fell on her bed and looked up at the ceiling. “I’m so happy that my mom kept my room.” she said.

  I laughed and sat down on her bed next to her, remembering all the times we used to just lay on this bed and talk. Mainly, it was all about my issues. But sometimes, there’d be something else that Evvie would be going through. The last time we were in this room together is when she was moving, and she’d asked if I wanted to keep in contact. Of course, I said yes. But we all know how that ended out. She looked over to me and I smiled to her.

  “So...about Delcan Heslop,” she said, raising her eyebrows. I already could feel myself blushing. “Does he go to school with you?”

  I shook my head. “He actually goes to Oakwood.”
  Evvie sat up and looked at me. “Hang on...you’re dating someone from our opposing school? Oh my gosh, Ezra!” she said, covering her mouth like I’d said something evil. One thing you’d have to know about teenagers and high schools, there will usually be two of them, and most of the time, those two high schools are always in competition. EastLand against Oakwood, hat’s always as it has been.

  “What?” I asked.

  Evvie raised her eyebrows. “This has to be a prank, right? You’re still on the football team I’m guessing, so is Delcan?”
  I shook my head. “He’s a boxer,” I said. “And I promise, we already talked about all of that. He hates the guys on the Oakwood football team, anyways.” And I’m not blaming Delcan for it at all. The football guys at Oakwood really aren't the best, and I’m not saying that from how they play, I actually mean their personalities too.

  “Whatever. Have you two kissed?” Evvie asked, sounding eager.

  I raised my eyebrows. “You're fangirling,” I said. “Please stop.”

  “Sorry,” she said, shaking her head. “But I was just asking you a simple question. And I will make sure my tone isn’t like that, okay?”

  This is also one of the reasons why I don’t want to come out. Girls are just weird around a guy-guy couple. I feel like the person I’m dating for sure wouldn’t mind opening his mouth and saying something about it, too. “Yes, we’ve kissed before,” I said. It would’ve been rude to not answer her question, anyways.

  “Is he good at kissing?” she asked me.

  I rolled my eyes, feeling really uncomfortable. “Enough, okay? Why are you suddenly so interested in who I’m dating?” I didn’t mean for my voice to sound so cold, but it came out that way. And on top of that, I couldn’t even call Delcan my boyfriend. It just felt weird.

  She paused for a second, her face expressionless. “I just wanted to know about him. And in case you wanted to know, I’m not seeing anyone. And if I was, I’m positive you would’ve done the same thing.” she said.

  I sighed, because she really did have a point. “So are you coming to the game tomorrow?”

  Evvie shrugged. “I didn’t even know there was one,” she said. “But...is Delcan coming to the game?” she asked, teasing me by hitting my arm.

  I rolled my eyes and laughed, hitting her back. “He is,” I said. “But he’s going for his school, not ours.”

  Evvie pouted her lips. “What a waste,” she said. I looked at her again before she laughed. “Kidding, kidding.”
  I smiled to her before I checked the time. It was almost dinner, I’d be fine for another thirty minutes. “Do you know him from something?” I asked her.

  “Why?” Evvie asked curiously.

  “Because,” I said. “You sounded like you knew him on the phone or something.”

  Evvie blinked before she nodded slowly. “Yeah,” she said. How does she even know him? “Well, I don’t know him, but I do know his sister. Is her name Calliannah?”
  Delcan told me that if I even called Callie by her actual name, he wouldn’t stop Callie from kicking me in the nuts. Which, I only accepted because I needed to respect the rules their family had, including Callie’s. Because getting Callie to like me meant more of an impact for Delcan’s relationship with me. Okay, I need to stop. Focus on real life, Ezra. Focus on real life.

  “Yeah,” I said, not even trying to go into mentioning that she doesn’t like being called that.

  Evvie bit her lip. “Yup, I know him,” she said. “I’ve seen him in the police station jail before.”

 

Chapter Two

  “What?!” I exclaimed, basically jumping out of my seat. I was seriously confused about two things now. One, how could Evvie have seen him and jail? And two, what could both of them be doing there?

  Evvie raised her eyebrows and looked at me as I practically was losing my mind. “I wasn’t in jail,” Evvie said. “And I don’t think Delcan was either. But his sister was.” I was still really lost. None of this even made sense.

  “I’m confused,” I said. My mind was completely blank, and I couldn’t even think of anything. “I knew Callie gets in trouble sometimes, but jail?”

  Evvie shrugged. “I suggest that you call Delcan or something,” she said. “Or Callie. Do you have her number?”

  I shook my head. I had Delcan’s mom’s number for some odd reason, but I didn’t have Callie’s. “Nope.”

 “Then call your boyfriend or something,” Evvie said.

 I wiped around and looked at her. “He’s not my boyfriend.” I snapped. Evvie raised her eyebrows, but she said nothing back to me. Instead, she simply nodded before turning around and grabbing her phone.

  “Well,” she finally said. “Whatever the two of you are, maybe talking to him would help your confusion.”

  I shook my head. I’ve bothered him enough today. No more.

  But, the other side of my brain was telling me to go see him. Because that side knew I wanted to, even with Evvie there. Maybe having her there would make things easier. I don't know. All I knew was, my brain was torn.

  “Okay, fine,” I said. “But in person.”
  Evvie looked up from her phone, giving me one of those “are you sure?” looks. “Really?” she asked.

  I nodded, beginning to stand up. “Come on,” I said. “Let’s go over to his house.”

  “Oh, God no. I’m not going to watch the two of you kiss while Callie and I talk about the good old times,” Evvie said, raising her eyebrows.

  With furry, I glared at her.

  “Right…” Evvie said, rolling her eyes. “You don’t kiss in front of company.” I leaned down just enough so that I could hit her arm, and she laughed in response. As mad as I felt from it, her words were true.

  “Stop it,” I demanded. “Do you want to figure this out or not?”  

  Evvie shrugged, like it hardly even mattered to her. “Real question is: do you?”

  I didn’t even know how to answer her. My brain, like always, was torn between right and wrong. Haven would always be on the wrong side, though everyone thought she was right. And Delcan, he was on the wrong side, though I knew not to imagine others knowing about us. “Let’s get in my car,” I said, already leaving her room. Evvie didn’t even seem like she would try to get an actual answer out of me. Instead, she just sighed, then followed me out of her bedroom.

  Five minutes later, the two of us were driving on the road, going to the Heslop home. I seriously didn’t know why I was using the GPS. I knew where his house was, because I drive there thousands of times. My body was beginning to feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside, but I pushed the feeling down as far as I could.

  Suddenly, my phone rang. I wasn’t even looking at who it was, but I guess Evvie did that for me. “It’s Haven.” she said.

  I sighed, looking at her contact picture and the two options I had with it. Great, I thought to myself. Just great. But there would be no explaining why I didn’t answer, so I took Haven’s call through the car.

  “Hey, babe.” Haven said. I didn’t even have to look to know that Evvie was trying her best to hold back laughter, but I didn’t respond to her at all.

  Instead, I answered her. “Hi,” I said, turning left. Seven more miles. “What’s up?”

  “Guess who’s back, back again,” I heard a voice say. At first, nothing inside my mind was telling me who the voice was, but then, I realized it was Angelica. I guess she got home pretty quick.

  I smiled, remembering that song. “Hi, Angelica,” I said. “How’s college?”
  “Oh, you know. It’s college,” Angelica said. I had a feeling she was smiling, which I guess was a good thing-but also bad at the same time. “Where are you? It sounds like you’re driving.”
  I looked over to Evvie, trying to see if she would give me some assistance. “What?” she mouthed to me. I mothed back to her: “What do I do?” Like the friend she is, Evvie shrugged, then leaned back in the seat, pretending she was eating popcorn. I rolled my eyes and looked away from her.

  “Yeah, I am.”
  “Baby,” Haven whined. “I thought you had to be home. Where are you driving to?” I always felt like she had to be in my business. She had to know what I was doing, why I was doing it, and how long it would take time away from “us.” It was one of the things I hated most about Haven, but there was no fixing it anyways.

  Before I could stop myself, I felt attitude in my voice as I said; “If I was cheating, Haven, you would’ve found out about it by now.”

  Again, lie.

  “Woah,” Evvie said, catching my tone just as I did. “Calm down there.”

  I looked at her but it was already too late. Haven heard her voice. “Who’s in the car with you? Is that Evvie?” she pondered.

  Nodding, I glared at her. “Evvie Aryn-Grace Hamill,” I said. “It’s her.”
  “Oh, nice middle name. Why is she with you?” Angelica asked, sounding just as nosy as her sister did.

  Evvie sat up in her seat, looking at the screen on my car as if Haven and Angelica could see her. “We’re just catching up,” she said.

  Haven made a sound that was kind of annoyed, but also like she was about to say something really rude at the same time. “Um, Evvie?” she asked.

  “Yes?”
  “Last time I checked, you and Ezra broke up in 9th grade. So you better fess up for why you’re suddenly spending time with him. Look, I’m not exactly the jealous type, but-”

  Stopping Evvie before she could respond to her, I interrupted Haven. “Haven,” I said. “We’re not hooking up. What do you want to talk to me about?”

  Haven sighed, probably twirling her hair. “I just wanted to ask you if you’d be able to come over after the football game. I wanna hang out.”

  And this was when the debate fell into my head. Truth: No, Haven, I can’t. I’m spending the rest of my Saturday at his house. You two probably know each other from something, I’m assuming. Maybe we could work things out between the two of us now that you know, but no one else can. And then, there was the lie: “No, I can’t. I have to study for a chemistry test on Monday. I need to ace it.”

  Clearly not getting the hint, Haven laughed, sounding friendly. “I’m really good at science topics, Ez. Maybe we could study together or something. I have a writing assignment and you know how much I suck at writing.” Haven said.

  “I really just want to be alone,” I said. “Sorry.” The sorry, I didn’t mean it. I hardly ever did when I said that word. But who really meant what they said?
  Haven was silent for a few seconds before she answered me. “It’s cool. Think you could call me when you’re done with studying?” she asked.

  “You need to let the boy have some privacy, Haven,” Angelica said. “I’m positive that he’ll call you when he can.”

  Thank you, Angelica.

  I don’t know why, but Haven seemed to listen to her sister more than she did anyone else. “Okay, you’re right. I’m sorry I’m being so clingy. I just feel like sometimes you’re not yourself anymore. You know we can talk about anything, right?” I didn’t respond at first, but instead, I looked over to Evvie, who was biting her nail, something she always did when she was nervous. But I didn’t know why she felt so weird, I was the one who was basically living on trial.

  “Yeah, I do,” I said. But the words had no meaning to them, they were just coming out of my mouth. They never really did, much. “And I’ll call you when possible, but I can’t really talk right now. Gotta go.”

  Finally, she understood. “Okay,” she said. “Bye. I love you.”


  Evvie looked over to me when the two of us heard what she said. I was making eye contact with her, too. We stayed like that for some time before I finally said; “I love you too.”


  Haven hang up the phone, leaving the two of us in silence. I kept my eyes on the road, only because I knew Evvie was about to give me a lecture about our relationship. It was a good thing we were close to Delcan’s.   “You do know you’re leading her on, right?” Evvie asked me. I still didn’t look at her, making a right. “When she finds out that you’re gay, she’s going to be completely heartbroken. And I’ll just tell you this, Ezra. There are two things a girl does when they’re broken up with. One, she’ll be heartbroken for a few weeks, then let it go. Or two, most likely Haven, she’ll become a complete ⟴ and tell everyone your secret.”

  I nodded, because she was right. “I know,” I said, feeling like I’d been in this situation before. “It’s just that she’s such a good coverup, and-”

  “No,” Evvie interrupted, her voice coming out strict, like her mother’s. “As a woman, you can’t treat people like that. She deserves to know that you aren’t even into her. She’ll kill you if she finds out to hard way.”
  I rolled my eyes and looked at her. “What’s the hard way?”
  “She catches you and Delcan kissing,” Evvie said. I could feel my body freeze when she said those words. “If she sees that, there’s no telling what she’ll do to you. I’m sure that ‘I’m not the jealous type’ act was a huge lie.”

  I shook my head as we pulled up into Delcan’s driveway. “She’s never going to find out,” I said. “No one will.”

  “Ha,” Evvie laughed. “Let’s just put it like this, Ezra. If you don’t tell her sooner or later, I will. And I won’t tell her to keep it on the down low.” She got out of the car, slamming the door behind her. I sighed before getting out as well, ignoring her ‘friendly’ comment. Everything inside of me was now regretting that we were here.

  Evvie was already standing on the steps before I even got there, though she waited until I was at least on the last step before knocking on the door. I was thankful to see Delcan’s mom at the door, her dirty-blonde hair pulled back into a lazy bun (at least I think that’s what they’re called. That’s what Evelyn told me) and her green eyes instantly going to me.

  “Hello, Ezra,” Mrs. Heslop said to me, smiling. I smiled back to her. “Delcan is upstairs if you need to talk to him, but I have no idea where…” And that was when she noticed Evvie standing next to me. She was silent for a few seconds before giving Evvie a soft smile. “Well, hello, sweetheart,” she said. “I don’t believe I know you.”

  Evvie nodding, shaking her hand. “My name is Evvie Hamill,” she said. “Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Heslop.”

  “Why, thank you,” she said. “Oh, you’re such a beautiful girl.”


  Evvie smiled. “Much obliged, Mrs. Heslop,” she said, sounding more professional than I’d ever heard her before.  “And you don’t look a day over twenty.”


  Mrs. Heslop accepted the compliment and then opened the door fully. “You two, come inside.” she said.

  As we walked in, I grabbed Evvie’s wrist. “What was that?” I whispered.

  Evvie shrugged, taking one of the glasses of iced water Mrs. Heslop had given us. “I was just trying to make a good impression.” she said, taking a sip.

  I rolled my eyes just as Mrs. Heslop left the room. “You’re being a brat, my friend.” I warned her.

  “I know,” she said. “But guess what? It’s working.”


  Looking away from her, I took a drink of water and then set it down on one of the coasters. It only bothers me that she was better at communication than I was because I was supposed to be the star kid. The child who knows everyone, and everyone knows him. But not only that, I had to be the kid that everyone loved. And it killed me that Mrs. Heslop already liked Evvie more than she did me.

  Mrs. Heslop came back in the room, holding her phone in her hand. “You two can go upstairs if you would like. Delcan is in his room, but I have no clue where Calliannah is.”
  Evvie began walking up the stairs before she stopped and turned around. “Thanks again, Mrs. Heslop. And I promise, none of us will be at any inconvenience.”

  “How sweet. Thank you, Evvie.”

  Evvie nodded to her before the two of us began walking up the stairs. I didn’t even bother to try saying goodbye to Mrs. Heslop. It seemed pointless now, anyways. We were about halfway up the stairs when my entire body told me to stop. All of this felt wrong.

  I didn’t even ask Delcan if we could come over, I simply just invited myself. Feeling like a complete idiot, I had to lean against the wall to refrain from fainting or something. Evvie must’ve noticed me, because she turned around. I was thankful that she was back to her actual self. The one who cares about me, though has a unique way of showing it. “Are you okay?” she asked me.

  Shaking my head, I got off the wall. “We should go home,” I said. “I didn’t even text him and say we were coming.”
  “You two are dating. He shouldn’t have any problem seeing you.”
  I know she was trying to make things better, and I know she wanted to tell me that I was just being ridiculous, or that I would get over it quickly. But both of us knew that would never happen. I was going back into what Evelyn called my bubble. I always went here when things got hard, and the truth was something I couldn’t stand.

  Somehow, though, I always felt like I was in my bubble around Delcan, and around anyone who asked me about him. I wanted to be open, sometimes, but it would never work. Considering the past that Delcan has, things would never be perfect for our dating life.

  “You got this, Ez,” she said, patting my shoulder. “I would never judge you, okay?”
  I nodded, taking in deep breaths. “Got it,” I said, forcing my legs up the stairs again. Evvie waited until I passed her, then she followed me into his room. The door, which I was surprised by, was unlocked, though his room was basically a mess. There were some clothes on one side of the floor, and his bed wasn’t made yet.

  But I was paying too much attention to the room that I didn’t even notice the water running in the bathroom.

  “Crap.” I whispered. I would’ve said the better word for it, but I was trying to keep my cursing at a smaller amount for Emmanuel. Of course he just has to be taking a shower at this moment, I thought to myself.

  But what made me even more annoyed was that Evvie hardly seemed to care. She looked at me for a few seconds before walking over to the door, knocking on it three times.

  “Callie, I said I’d be out in five minutes,” Delcan yelled (well, not exactly yelled, more like a sibling communication voice). “Calm down!”

  Evvie looked at me again before she waited for him to be done. Unlike me, she clearly didn’t care about the fact that he’d basically be naked. I was flipping out in my mind, and trying to act cool about it just made everything worse.

  The water stopped, and I could feel my heart beginning to race. No, no, no, no, no.

  When Delcan opened the door, I was so thankful that had a towel wrapped around his waist. The second he saw me, he raised one of his eyebrows, then looked to Evvie. I wanted to close my eyes, and for many reasons. One, his abs were showing-and it was messing with my brain. Two, Evvie was here. And three, everything felt wrong and right at the same time, and my body was fighting with my brain about all of it.

  “You’re not Callie…” Delcan said, looking at Evvie. I could tell she was looking at his abs, though, to be honest, I was too.

  “No, I’m not,” she said. “My name is Evvie.”

  Delcan raised his eyebrows again, looking at me for a moment before he moved his eyes back to Evvie. “Good for you,” he muttered sarcastically. “What are you two even doing here?”

  “She said that she knew you,” I said, twisting my hands behind my back. I could feel the hairs on my neck beginning to stand up, and I was hating myself for feeling like this. “I just wanted to know if you did too.”
  Delcan shook his head. “Never seen her before,” he said. I had a feeling he was about to say something else, but then he sighed. “Can you two leave so I can get changed?” he asked. “Though both of you are eyeing me, I need space.”
  Again, his attitude was one of the main things that made him pretty interesting.

  “Yeah, sure,” I said, already wanting to leave the room. But Evvie stopped me before I could even leave.

  I sighed and turned back around to look at Delcan, who was soon going to grab another towel for his dripping hair. His eyes were amber as he watched me, seeing what I would do. “What now?” I asked Evvie.

  “Can we wait outside?” Evvie asked.

  Delcan nodded. “Sure. My parents remodeled the patio while I was out, and it should be pretty-” and that’s when he realized what she meant. I’m sure he actually knew all along, which made it even cuter. Evvie smiled to him as he rolled his eyes. “You meant my room, didn’t you?”

  Evvie smiled, then nodded.

  “Yeah,” Delcan said, shrugging. “I guess you can.”

  This time, Evvie nodded, allowing me to finally leave the room. I sat down on the bed, wiping sweat off my forehead. Evvie sat down on the bed, letting out air.

  “Wow,” she said.

  I looked at her, confused. “What is it?” I asked her.

  She looked at me, her eyes wide. “He. Has. Abs,” Evvie said. “Holy crap.” Clearly, he does. I’m sure it’s no surprise to him, either.

   “Yeah,” I said. I didn’t know how my voice came off so cool. I guess I was trying to believe that I was used to him, though I knew all of that was a lie. Nothing about him was anything I was used to, though something about him made me feel like I’d find out something new every once in awhile.

  A few seconds later, Delcan walked out of the bathroom, still trying to dry his hair with a towel. He looked at Evvie for a split moment before sat down next to me, still drying his hair. “So why exactly do you think you could come into my house without asking? Is that a white people thing?”

  Slightly offended, I glared at him. But it was Evvie who talked. “You aren’t white?” she asked.

  Delcan raised his eyebrows to her. “I’m Cuban,” he said. “And that offended me, a lot.”

  “You just said something racist about me,” I said to him. But to be honest, he was kind of right. I can’t count how many times Haven came into my house without asking, or when some of her friends would come over and just begin talking. But still, it didn’t mean what he said was okay.

  Delcan smiled to me. “Sorry,” he said, not really meaning it. “Anyways...how do you know me?”

  Evvie sat up, beginning her speech. “Your sister, Calliannah-”

  “Callie,” Delcan quickly interrupted.

  “Fine,” Evvie said. “Callie was in jail one night for something that I’m not so sure of. You were there as well. Maybe it was the muscles or something, but I guess you caught my eye. I knew that Callie had a brother, but she always talked you down.

  As upset as Delcan looked from it, he didn’t say anything in response. “Why would you think he would be a nerd?” I asked her.

  Evvie shrugged. “I don’t really know,” she said. “I just expected for him to be small and pretty kind. Though, now I see how wrong I am.”

  I looked over to Delcan, who was still drying some of his hair. It wasn’t spiked up at the ends anymore, but he still looked good. “I’m offended and okay with all of that at the same time,” he said, messing around with his popsocket. “Though I’m trying my best to stay nice.”

  “No offense to you, but it isn’t working out.” I said. Once the words left my mouth, I regretted them. Probably as surprised as I was, Delcan looked at me before he moved his eyes back to Evvie. I wanted to apologize or something, but Delcan already seemed more focused on Evvie than he did me.

  “Now it’s time for me to question,” he said. “How do you two even know each other?”

  I still felt embarrassed to talk, so I let Evvie handle it. “Like what Ezra said before, I knew you from Callie. But the two of us know each other because we went to the same junior high together, and we were best friends.” she said. I was thankful that our “relationship” was left out of it.

  Delcan slowly nodded, seeming to understand it. “Okay…” he said. “And more about you?”

  “She used to go to the same school as me, but after her parents divorce, she moved to Alaska with her-”

  “Hold up,” Delcan said. “Alaska.”

  Evvie rolled her eyes. “Tell me about it.”

  Delcan smiled to her (a friendly smile, which I guess is a good sign) then set down his phone between the two of us. “So, that’s it? You two were best friends in junior high, you moved, and now you’re coming over to my house to ask why I was in jail along with my sister?”

  “I wasn’t in jail,” Evvie corrected. “I was there with my mom, who used to be a police officer.” I had completely forgotten that Evvie’s mom used to be a police officer. Actually, I forgot a lot of things about Evvie’s family.

  “Oh,” Delcan said, actually seeming kind of shocked. “Did you know that?” he asked me.

  It took me a few seconds to answer him, mainly because I felt like some kid who was stagefright and was forced center stage. “No-no,” I stammered. “Well, I kind of did, but...then I-I forgot about it.”
  Delcan smirked.  “Well, if it makes your adorable self feel any better, I almost forgot you were gay considering how much of Haven is on your social media.”

  Evvie was about to crack up laughing, but she stopped herself quickly and shook her head at Delcan. To be honest, I was still deciding on if I should be offended or not. He did compliment me, though at the same time, insulted me.

  Relationships are hard.

  Delcan realized what he said and began smiling. “Sorry,” he said, smiling to me. “That was wrong.”

   “You’re okay.” I said.

  Thank God for Callie walking in the room. Her reddish-brown hair was pulled behind her and she was wearing an oversized T-shirt with sweatpants. She looked over at Delcan, then me, and lastly her eyes went to Evvie, who she gave a dirty glare. “I know you...yeah, your mom arrested me.”

  “Your mom arrested Callie?!” both Delcan and I said in unison. I didn’t know why, but this one actually did shock me. This part wasn’t actually planned, at least it wasn’t for me. All I wanted was for Delcan to get along with Evvie, which worked, but now there’s a new issue.

  Evvie nodded slowly, and I could tell she felt attacked. “Yeah, she did,” she said silently. “I was in the cop car.”

  Callie nodded slowly, reminding me so much of her brother. “I know.”

  “Okay, wait. I’m confused,” Delcan said, looking around the room at everyone. “Your mom arrested my younger sister? Is she still a cop?”
  Evvie shook her head. “No, she got fired.”
  “Why is she even here?” Callie asked, pointing to her. It was times like these when I realized how similar siblings could be. “What did I do?” Sleep with someone?”
  “Who would you be sleeping with?” Delcan snapped, looking at her. Callie rolled her eyes, not even seeming to care.

  “I don’t even have a boyfriend,” Evvie said, crossing her arms over her chest. I smiled to her before looking back at Callie, who still seemed like she could care less.

  She shrugged.”Good for you,” she said. Then, without anything else, she left the room, putting the number back to 3. Delcan looked at me for a few seconds before he moved his eyes away right before I was about to make eye contact with him. Which was good, because I would’ve turned as red as a tomato.

  “So your mom arrested Callie, and you knew about it?” Delcan asked Evvie. “Is that what you came here to tell me?”
  Evvie shook her head, her eyes widened. “No! I’m not like that. That was something an ignorant person would do, and that isn’t me.” Yeah right, I thought to myself. I loved Evvie like she was my second sister, but sometimes she could be so….weird. Like you didn’t know which one of the Evvies you were talking to.

  “Okay, well, we can leave now…” I said, beginning to stand up. But just as I was about to be free, Delcan pulled me down by grabbing my wrist. I looked at him as he beamed, one of my favorite things.

  “What?”

  “Why are you trying to leave?” he asked.

  I shrugged. “Because,” I said. “My parents probably want to know where I am, anyways. And I don’t feel like getting grounded.”

  Delcan rolled his eyes when I talked about my parents, but he then shook his head. “Maybe once you should see what happens if you don’t come home on time,” he said. “They might not even care.”

  I smiled to him, because he had no idea what my parents were like compared to his. Delcan’s mom was one of the kindest people you would ever meet, plus, she would do anything for her son. And his dad, well, he’s confused about Delcan’s sexuality, but at least he accepts him for who he is.

  “Wouldn’t count on it, Delcan,” Evvie said, shrugging. “His parents are worse than mine.”

  Delcan wasn’t exactly bothered by it. He just looked at her before his eyes fell on me. “Why haven’t you told Haven?” he asked.

  Wow. Real subject changer. Before I could even stop myself, my eyes widened and I shook my head. “I don’t wanna talk about that.”

  “Well, I do,” he answered. “You’re messing with her head, and hurting her each time you say ‘I love you’. It’s not right, plus, it hurts others that care about her, and you.”

  I looked away from him, because talking about Haven, especially with him, was hard. I’ve tried giving her small hints, but she avoids them. Almost every night, she wants to stay up and talk to me. And if we’re being honest, I don’t know what to do about it. Yeah, it kills me that I’m lying to her, but being open about my relationship with Delcan seems really hard.

  “Does her family like you?” Delcan asked me.

  I bit my lip, because I knew lying to him never worked out how I wanted it to. “Kind of…”
  “Ezra!”
  “What?!”

  Delcan rolled his eyes and sat back a little. “It’s wrong, you know.”
  “That’s exactly what I said!” Evvie exclaimed.

  I shook my head, feeling attacked by two people. “Her family doesn’t even like me that much, calm down.” I muttered.

  Evvie raised her eyebrows and smirked. “Really?” she asked. “Because in that car Angelica really seemed to like you, and so did Haven. So I don’t know why her parents wouldn’t love you either.”

  “Stop,” I said, looking at her.

  Evvie shrugged. “It’s my job to try making you go in the right path, and if this guy-” she looked at Delcan just as he looked up from his phone to her. “Is somewhere on that path, I’d like to know more about him.” she said.

  Delcan was silent for a moment before he began texting someone, and about three seconds later, I received a text.

 

Delcan:

  Can we tell her about us?

 

  Of course, I would say yes. Then again, unlike I was, Delcan didn’t mind giving details about anything. I remembered the night when I had to meet his parents, and they asked me about my life at home. I’m sure Delcan only knew about three things about my family, but he listed them with all the detail he could. But, I trusted Evvie with my life, and I knew she would never judge me for whatever crazy things Delcan would say.

  On top of that, telling her would make things a lot easier.

 

Me:

  Yes, we can tell her everything (not everything, everything)

 

  Delcan smiled at the text and then put his phone back down again. “Whaddya need to know?”

⟴⬉⥦⥦⥦⬈⟴

 

  After about thirty minutes, Evvie and I were walking out of Delcan’s house. I’d pulled Evvie away before she could even say another word to Mrs. Heslop, so the two of made it to the car at around 7:00.

  Delcan and I told her everything. Starting from the moment we met, to our last date (which wasn’t even exactly a date, it was just popcorn and Netflix). Evvie seemed chill about the entire thing, not saying much and nodding to everything. When life got into where it was, I was thankful to have a friend like Evvie. Someone who understood what pain could be like, and listened with support.

  Once I’d shut my car door, Evvie looked over to me. “So you’re keeping all of this a secret?”

  I started the car, and began pulling out of their smooth driveway. On the inside, I hated myself for keeping my feelings for Delcan a secret. But it all was easier that way, and he is beginning to understand that too. “Yes.”
  “Okay,” Evvie said. “I know that coming out, especially for you, would be really hard and everything, so I understand where you’re coming from. But, he really seems to like you. Does he want the two of you to be public?”

  I nodded, beginning to make our way back home. “Yeah,” I said. “It’s one of the main things we fight about.”
  “Oh. I’m sorry,” she said. And this time, I knew she meant it. “But even though people fight, it doesn’t mean they hate each other. We fight sometimes, but I still love you like a brother. It could maybe even be a way of showing affection.”

  She was right. Well, kind of. Delcan and I never actually fight, he’d just get angry because I was too afraid to be myself. He always said “your parents can’t define who you are forever,” which I know is true, it’s just-too much to even express. “Do you think that’s the same with our parents?” I asked her.

  Evvie hesitated for a second before she looked at me. “Your parents are fighting?” she asked me.

  I wasn’t allowed to say that they would sometimes. At night, though, so Emmanuel wouldn’t hear any of it. Something else I knew was that Dad’s hit her before, though, like Eric knew, saying anything wouldn’t help.

  “No,” I lied. “I meant your parents.”

  Evvie shrugged and sat back in her seat. “Don’t know,” she whispered.

  I didn’t have anything to say back to her, so the two of us rode to her house in silence. I wanted to ask if her relationship with Ms. Hamill, though I had a feeling that it was probably a no. I mean, if my mom did what her did, I probably would never even want to stay in the same room with her, ever again.

  When we pulled up to the driveway, Evvie looked over at me and gave a genuine smile. “Do you think you could stay the night?” she asked. “We have a lot to catch up on.”

  I shook my head, not knowing about how Dad would feel. “Your mom think we’re exes, remember?”

  She pressed her lips together, and dropped eye contact with me. “I might’ve accidentally told her. But, before you yell at me, she told me she was cool with it, and she wouldn’t tell anyone else or your parents, it would just be a secret she’d keep. Please don’t yell at me.” she said.

  I couldn’t even look at her.

  She seriously could’ve told me the minute we met, or she could have said something, give me a hint. “Get out.” I demanded. My voice sounded cold, which she really did deserve at this moment.

  “Ezra, I said that I was sorry. Ca-”

  “I said get out, Evvie.” I said, still sounding extremely cross.

  Evvie blinked, then nodded, opening the car door. She walked up to her mom’s house, not even looking back, then opened the door and disappeared.

  I put the car in drive and made my way home.

 

  The truth was, I was hardly even mad at Evvie. I was just flustered that she would do that. Usually, I’d want to be asked before she said something to anyone about me (especially dealing with that). Her mom was one of those arrogant women that would keep secrets, but bring up slight details all the time. If I was to stay the night at Evvie’s, I would constantly hear: “So what interests you more? Guys or girls?” or “If a girl said ‘I love you’, how would you react to it?”. It would’ve been the most annoying thing in the entire world.

  Once I pulled up to my house, I got out of the car and rushed inside. Though the house smelled like fresh chicken, I wasn’t even hungry anymore. Instead, I ran up to my room and shut the door behind me, locking it, and letting the world fade away.

 

Chapter Three

  When I woke up, there was loud knocking on the door. Thinking it was Dad or something, I jumped up from my bed and practically ran to the door. The main reason why I felt so worried was because today was Friday, and I’d totally forgotten I got to skip school today. I opened it up, but instantly wanted to close it once I realized it was my older brother, Eric.

  I didn’t even notice he had my phone in his hand until he held it up, his face without any expression at all.

  “Hey, Eric,” I said. “Can you give me my phone and get out? I really need some sleep, still.”

  Eric looked at me for a few seconds, but didn’t put down my phone.

  “Come on, Eric,” I said, putting out my hand, flat so that he’d just leave it there and then go back to what he’s doing. “Give it back.”

  Eric shrugged, then went into my room without asking and sat down on my bed. “I will,” he said. “But, first, I need you to tell me who this Delcan kid is.”

  The second I heard Delcan’s name, my entire body went into lockdown mode. Don’t say anything about him, I said. Tell no one. Don’t tell him anything he needs to know. Just lie and get it over with.

  “Who?”
  Eric titled his head to the side. “You know who,” he said, handing me my phone.  I took it, making sure I wouldn’t make eye contact. This probably wouldn't even be that bad. They would just be him flirting with me and me joking about that. Or I could just say that all of is a lie, because I couldn’t tell him. And I really did think it’d just be a breeze.

  But then I saw the texts.

 

Thursday; 3:57

Delcan:

  Hey, handsome.

 

Me:

  Hi. What’s up?

 

Delcan:

  Working on the rest of my homework.

  But...I could use a good distraction.

 

Me:

  Delcan…

 

Delcan:

  Think you could come over?


 

Me:

  Don’t think so. I have a lot of homework I need to finish.

 

Delcan:

  Okay. What class?

 

Me:

  English, math class, and Pre-AP science. What about you?

 

Delcan:

  Science, Math, and some improvements for boxing. I messed up on my uppercut today, which never happens…

 

Me:

  How could you mess up on anything? You’re amazing at each and everything you do.

  I should know.

 

Delcan:

  Ha. I know, it’s just that...I like to be at the top of my class. Is that weird or something?

 

Me:

  No. Just means you’re competitive.

 

Delcan:

  Okay, so is being competitive a good thing, or not?

 

Me:

  Are you kidding? Of course it is.

  Some people even think it’s hot…

 

Delcan:

  You’re cute too, Ez.

  Sometimes, I seriously think you forget you’re the quarterback. You’re as sexy as they come.

 

Me:

  Yeah…

  I have to go. Maybe we can talk when my homework is finished.

 

Delcan:

  You don’t think you’d be able to take a break for a few seconds?

 

Me:

  With you, no, Delcan. I seriously do need to get my work done, okay?

Delcan:

  Just come over.

  I can tell my parents and Callie that we’re studying.

 

Me:

  They’ll know that’s a huge lie, Delcan.

 

Delcan:

  Not really. I mean, we’re studying each other….

 

Me:

  What the heck?

  Sure, I’ll be over in a few minutes.

 

Delcan:

  Sweet.

  And bring your homework too, in case you actually do want to study.

 

  My throat was dry, but at least my phone was back in my hands. Clearly, these texts showed that we were much more than friends. I swallowed, and held my phone tightly in my hand, trying to pace my breathing.

  Why was he even going through my texts in the first place?

  I still wasn’t even breathing correctly. Possibly, I was sweating, I wasn’t sure. The morning sun shone through my room, which usually calmed me, but now made me wonder how long it would take for me to reveal the truth. Days? Nights? Years, maybe.

  This was not the way I planned to come out.

  “Wanna explain it?” Eric asked, his voice sounding questionable. I didn’t even know if he was angry or not, it just seemed weird to hear it.

  I shook my head, still looking down. I had to bite my lip down to hold back the tears that were starting to form on his face. But I guess I was biting hard enough that I began bleeding. The blood wasn’t a lot, but it was burning as if I’d put my hand in boiling water. I stood up, pushing past Eric and went into my bathroom that I shared with him.

  Grabbing a tissue, I tried my best to get all of the blood off my face while also getting back all the pain I felt right now. I didn’t know why, but I thought that going in the bathroom would have Eic take the hint, though he followed me in there, his arms crossed.

  “What do you want from me, Eric?” I asked him.

  Eric un-crossed his arms and put them down to his sides. “The truth,” he said to me. “I took a few screenshots of the conversations between the two of you, plus the pictures…” he shook his head, and I could feel the blood rush to my cheeks. “But I just need the truth, Ezra.”

  ⟴, ⟴,⟴. I’m dead.

  But Eric didn’t even wait for me to respond to him. “I won’t tell Mom, or Dad. But I just want you to tell me what’s going on between you two.”

  “Can’t you just guess?” I snapped. He raised his eyebrows to me, and I shook my head, leaving the bathroom. I could feel the tears beginning to find their way into my heart. There was no way I could tell Eric, he was basically like Dad.

  But he wasn’t backing down. Eric followed me out of our bathroom and sat down on the bed next to me. “Guess what, Ezra?”

  “Um…” I said, trying to find some way to say the words. “Delcan-Delcan and I-” I stopped myself and thought about anything that could get me out of this. “We’re just friends. I have a girlfriend, Eric.”

  Eric smiled to me, but not any normal smile, a smug one. “Try again.”

  “Why are you forcing me to tell you?” I asked, raising my hands up in the air. “Can’t you just guess?”
  Eric shook his head. “I’d rather hear it from you.”

  “Fine!” I said. Maybe if I just said it, he’d leave me the ⟴ alone. But, just as I was about to get the words out of my mouth, my stomach twisted, and I closed my mouth. I closed my eyes, and then said the words rather fast. “I’m dating him.”

  Eric blinked, and then nodded slowly. “Okay…” he slowly said, processing it like I was still trying to. “Are you...bi?”

  I shook my head. Maybe if I was bi, things would’ve been easier. I still would’ve been into girls, and avoiding Delcan by saying I had a girlfriend would’ve been easier. But, my stupid mouth had to open up and just say it. Now, here I was, being forced out of the closet. “No.”

  “Oh,” Eric said. I could tell her felt uncomfortable, but he was trying to act cool about all of it. “Then what are you?”

  The tears were already coming. I hid my face away from him and tried to pull myself together, but my body was already giving up. Might as well say it all.

   “I-I...I’m gay.” I said.

  Eric didn’t say anything to me, instead, he just nodded. Then he said something both of us knew were true. “Mom and Dad will kill you if they find out.”

  I nodded and ran my hands through my hair, feeling my breathing skip. “I know,” I said. “How are you not mad at me?”

  Eric shrugged, like it was an everyday thing that he deals with this. “Mom and Dad taught us that being gay, bisexual, trans, or anything else, is wrong. But I don’t think I could judge you over something you can never change. And if that’s who you are, I’m willing to accept that.”

  I didn’t even know that you could happy cry. I seriously just thought it was something they did in movies. Like, where the guy gets the girl, and she’s happy crying because he revealed his feelings for her. But here I was, happy crying. More than anything, I was thankful to at least have him accepting me.

  Though I didn’t even want him to see my crying, he pulled me into a half-hug. I didn’t resist it like always. Instead, I rested my head on his shoulder, still happy-crying.

  “You won’t tell Emmanuel right?” I asked him.

  Eric laughed, letting me go. “How could I? I don’t even think he completely knows what gay means. Telling him would have no point.”

  I nodded, laughing too. I remembered the night after we watched a movie which turned out to have a lesbian character, Mom and Dad sat us down for a long talk. Because I was around 10 years old, hearing the words hurt me, even though I was still too young to know why. But I do remember that the entire time, Emmanuel kept on tapping on Eric or me and would ask us what they were talking about. I told him he needed to stop after he tried getting Eric’s attention for a third time, but he was only four then.

  After he realized that neither Eric or I would give him anything, he moved onto Evelyn, who simply ignored him.

  “Yeah,” I said.

  Eric smiled without showing his teeth, shaking his head. Then, he got pretty serious. “So...does Evelyn know?”

   I nodded, halfy remembering the details from that night. Lots of tears, and lots of heartache. “Yeah,” I said. “She found out when I was in 7th grade.”

  Eric seemed shocked, and it was really hard to tell why. Maybe because he was suddenly hearing all this news about my sexuality, or possibly because I never told him about any of it. Still, I had a feeling he was about to ask me a lot more questions.

  And I was right.

  “But what about your girlfriends?” he asked me with curiosity.

  I raised my eyebrows. “Girlfriends?”

  “You know what I mean,” he said, talking with his hands. “Haven and Evvie.”

  Slightly offended by the comment, I shrugged. “Evvie knows,” I said. “But Haven doesn’t. And neither does her sister, or her family.”
  “Oh my God, Ezra!”

  “Not you too…”
  Eric ignored my comment. Instead of stopping to think about a response, he acted as if I’d never even opened my mouth. “You really need to tell Haven,” Eric said. “Does she love you?”

  I looked at him this time. The inside of me wanted to respond with; Oh, you didn’t go through those messages? But I knew that wasn’t the me everyone knew, not even the me Eric knew. But it felt as if one of the thousands of weights I felt everyday had been lifted off my shoulder, so I fessed up.

  “Yeah, she does.”

  “Bro…” Eric said, dragging out the word and falling down on my bed. I looked at him, but still was feeling a bit thankful that he was cool with all of this. Not the Haven part, the part about me. Honestly, I thought the second he would’ve heard about Delcan and I, he would’ve immediately gone to Mom or Dad and would’ve told them everything. Maybe to get me in huge trouble for the first time, I don’t know. But the fact that he was so cool about my sexuality made me feel a bit better about myself, even though I still had Haven to deal with. “You really need to tell her. I’m not really allowed to tell you what you wanna do with your life, but...you seriously need to let her know.”
  I nodded. “I know,” I said, checking my phone to make sure there were no new messages. “I’m getting to it.”

  “How long have you been trying to get to it?” Eric asked me. He was right, and I hated it when he was.

  “Good point.”

  Eric smirked. “Yup,” he said. “And when can we meet Delcan?”

  I tensed up, and looked at him quickly. “What do you mean we?” I asked, my voice sounding just as tense as the rest of my body did.

  “Evelyn and I,” Eric said, seeming completely calm about all of it. He’d turned his body to where he was still sprawled out on my bed, though he was looking at me now. “Has Evvie met him?”
  No use trying to hide ⟴ now. “Yeah. But I really don’t think you should talk to him. That sounds rude, I know, but-”

  “Do his parents know?” he interrupted. I didn’t even know if Eric cared about my answer, he was probably just asking me a series of questions now.

  I nodded, biting my lip. Both of Delcan’s parents knew he was gay. His mom was cool with it, basically let it all slide, but his dad was still trying to understand it. Though Delcan always told me never to worry about it, because him and his dad have been close since he was born. Though, as much as I’d like to trust Delcan, I’m pretty sure his dad hates me.

  But it was fine that he did, because I still had my mixed emotions about him.

  “Yes, they do,” I said. “And so does his sister. He’s really open about all of it.”

  Eric nodded, soaking in everything. “I’ve never seen you really...look at any guys at school. Where does he go?”
  I was still worried that Dad would walk in any second now, but then I remembered the large meeting he had today, and that Mom was still feeling pretty bad. Neither one of them would even make an effort to ask me about my actual life, anyways. “Oakwood,” I responded, beginning to feel distracted.

  “What?” Eric asked, pure shock on his face. “He goes to Oakwood?! Why would you even-how did you two-what-”

   “Don’t attack him, Eric.” Evelyn demanded softly, sounding a bit like Mom when she wanted all of us to stop fighting. She was standing in my doorway, her arms crossed. She was wearing the same clothes from earlier, but her hair was now dry, and pulled back out of her face. She must’ve been in the backyard practicing.

  Eric looked up at her. “Did you know that Delcan goes to Oakwood?”

  Evelyn nodded, raising her eyebrows. “It’s not even that big of a deal,” she said. I shook my head, smiling to her, because I knew that she didn’t even understand the rivalry between Oakwood and EastLand, not that she needed to know, anyways, she was only in 9th grade.

  Eric glared at her, beginning to put up a fight. “Yes, it is. You do know that since he is dating someone on the opposing team, that Delcan could just break up with him at any time. And if Ezra is heartbroken, we’re all screwed.” he said. He was still talking with his hands, something my brother did when he wanted to make a point.

  I looked at him. “Two things,” I said. “One, be quiet. And two, how would that even affect the rest of you?”

  Both of them ignored me, too caught up in which one would be right. “Delcan isn’t on the football team,” Evelyn argued. “He’s on the boxing team. Plus, I’ve already interrogated him about that, I’m positive he wouldn’t. On top of that, he basically hates everyone on the Oakwood football team.”

  “Who doesn’t?” Eric mumbled. But I was close enough to hear him, and I began laughing. “Is that true?” he asked me.

  I caught my breath and then nodding, doing my best to ignore what Evelyn said about interrogating Delcan. “Yup,” I said. “Also, he knows what the two of you look like, so don’t try talking to him after school or something.”

  Eric sat back on his arms, relaxing. Evelyn chuckled, probably thinking about how awkward of a conversation that would be. “Will he be at the game tomorrow?” Eric asked me, beginning to grab his phone.

  I felt the need to take it from him, like with what he did with mine, but I resisted. Brushing the back of my neck with my hand, I nodded slowly. “Yeah…”
  “Okay,” Eric said, sounding really odd. “Good to know.”

  Evelyn cleared her throat. “Stop it,” she said. “Come on. I need one of you to help Emmanuel get ready for this morning. Oh, and Ezra?” I looked away from Eric and at my younger sister, who was already looking tired. “Someone’s here to see you.”

  I furrowed my eyebrows. But before I could even open my mouth and ask who it was, Eric had began leaving my room, following Evelyn into the hallway to help Emmanuel get ready for today. Before he left my room, Eric looked back at me, and raised one of his eyebrows, his sign of “I love you”, then left my room.

  Did that just happen? I thought to myself.

  All of the words that were said, the huge surprise from my brother being okay with my sexuality (except for the fact that he’s from Oakwood. That would take some time to get over for him), and on top of all of that, Evvie was back in town.

  It did.

 

Chapter Four

  I finally got off my bed and began walking to the door. Who would even be here? Someone from from the football team, maybe Adam or Thomas, but that seemed highly unlikely. They never really came over that much. Or, it could be Evvie, trying to make up for what she did (not that I would listen anyways, I usually avoid people I’m “mad” at for two days). Possibly, it could be one of Haven’s friends, wanting to know some useless information.

  What if it was him?

  No. I’m sure that Delcan likes me enough to not give me a heart attack. He wouldn’t come over, especially with my parents home.

  I suddenly wondered if Eric would’ve copied Delcan’s number in his phone, but then I tried convincing myself that because I didn’t care about his girlfriends, he would probably hardly even care about my-about Delcan. He wouldn’t do that, I knew my brother, and Eric wasn’t really about talking to anyone he didn’t care about.

  But, I wound never know until I opened that door. So, I did.

  Though I wasn’t expecting Haven and Evvie to be standing there, both of them almost the same height.

   Evvie.

  Crap. I put on my best fake smile and nodded to both of them. “Hey ladies, what’s up?”

  “Babe,” Haven said, smiling. “I missed you. Have you finished all your homework?” She pulled me into a hug that I wasn’t able to react in time from it. I couldn’t help but look over to Evvie and conjecture: Did she tell her?

  “I’m happy to see you too,” I said, suddenly remembering that I still had homework that needed to be finished soon. “What is it?”

  Evvie cleared her throat just as Haven let go of me. “Haven wanted to come over, and she took me with her,” she said. “We needed to talk to you about something.” I couldn’t stop thinking about the look she was giving me. What was she planning?

  “Okay...cool.” I said.

  Haven smiled, one of her flirtatious smiles that should make me feel something. But it didn’t. “So, I know it’s weird and everything…” she said. “But I know that you would never cheat, right?” I shook my head, feeling more than guilty for lying to her.

  “I would never cheat on you, Haven.”
  Evvie’s face showed it all. Lie. That’s a lie, and you know it, Ezra Gatley. Even though I knew she was right, I looked away from her and kept my focus on Haven.

  “See?” Haven said, turning around and looking at Evvie.  “I told you.” She turned back around and in a way, pulled me down so that I’d be near where her. It put pain in my arm, but I did my best not to show it. “You’re a great boyfriend.”
  I nodded, smiling. “Thanks.”
  Haven pulled away from me and grabbed Evvie as she pulled her onto the couch. Evvie was stunned by the sudden movement and was forced onto the couch, next to Haven. I smiled, because I felt really bad for Evvie. Unlike most of the girls I knew, Evvie had always been that girl who had lots of guy-friends. And not a lot of girl-friends. Though I’m sure she was bursting with happiness once she found out I wasn’t straight. She knew I wasn’t going to be like all the other guy-friends she had (which would always end up with them liking her, then her beginning to date them, then lastly, they’d break up because things just didn’t work out). Sure, I thought she was a beautiful girl, because she was, like Haven is. Which is why it was a perfect reason for the two of us to begin “dating”.

  “So…” Haven said, messing with her hands. “Where’s your sister?” Evvie looked up at me, and she clearly knew now how stupid her choices were.

  “She’s helping my brother get up,” I said. “You have Friday off, too?”
  Haven nodded, smirking. “Yup,” she said. “4.0 G.P.A. Could I talk to Evelyn?” she asked me.

  In all honesty, my sister basically hated Haven. She wanted nothing to do with her, and became a pretty interesting person when she was around. “Might not be the best idea-” I started, but Haven had already grabbed my hand and was beginning to pull me up the stairs. We walked up the stairs together, Evvie staying behind, and went into Emmanuel’s room. He was still halfway asleep, and his dirty-blonde bangs were in his face. But the second he saw Haven, he sat up quickly and smiled.

  “Hi, Emmanuel,” Haven said, smiling to my brother. She walked over to where Evelyn was and sat down next to her. Evelyn glared at Haven before she turned and looked at me, her eyebrows raised. She didn’t even have to speak for me to know what she was thinking. What is she doing here?

  I don’t know why, but my mind thought of what Delcan said when we were at his house. Though he might not have been talking about me, I almost cracked up laughed, thinking about how Haven basically did barge into my house.

  “Hi, Haven. You look pretty,” Emmanuel said, complimenting her. He sat up just as Evelyn stood, moving away from Haven. She probably knew that those pills that helped Emmanuel wake up would be needed.

  My younger brother has issues when it comes to sleeping. He takes medicine an hour before bed, and after he wakes up. So, we usually have to do several different things to try getting him to wake up, or fall asleep. When it’s my turn to put him to sleep or wake him up, I usually talk about boring things at night, and then let him tell me all about his plans for today or how school is in the morning. He’ll usually be asleep from the boring stuff in less than an hour. On an average day, it takes Emmanuel about an hour and a half to go to sleep, which usually means each of us spend a few hours in his room before he’s fully asleep. But it’s all worth it, because the next morning he’s not cranky or annoying like he would be if not to get the correct amount of sleep.

  “Look, Haven,” Evelyn said, putting her hands on her hips. “I don’t really know why you’re here, but Emmanuel really needs to wake up. So if you could just leave, I think it’d-”

  “I’m not here to see Emmanuel,” Haven interrupted. Evelyn rolled her eyes. “I came over to see my boyfriend and talk to you as well.” Evelyn nodded slowly, pretending to be kind before she pulled out her phone. I’d be receiving a text in three...two...one.

 

Evelyn G.:

  What on earth is she doing here, Ezra? Does she know about you-know-what? And why does she have to talk to me? Why am I being punished?

 

Me:

  To all of those questions: I don’t know.

 

Evelyn G.:

  Oh my gosh. Why can’t you just tell her to leave or something?

 

Me:

  I can’t. Plus, Evvie is here, too.

 

Evelyn G.:

  SO?! What are they even doing here? Why is Haven with her in the first place?
 

Me:

  Like I said, Evelyn, I have no idea. I guess we’ll have to find out together.

 

  Both Evelyn and I put our phones away and looked at Haven, who seemed to be helping my brother get out of bed. For some reason, I felt uncomfortable with her doing that, so I cleared my throat and waited until she looked back at us.

  “Right,” she said. “Sorry.” Haven smiled to me, and I quickly smiled without showing any teeth, then crossed my arms over my chest.

  Evelyn raised her eyebrows. “Well…” she asked. “What do you need to talk to me about?”

  “Both of you,” Haven corrected her. She gestured to a corner in Emmanuel’s room where all of his toys were. Though they were hidden pretty well, I still knew where all of them were. I followed her over to the area, Evvie sitting to the left of me and Evelyn sitting to the right, clearly not wanting to be next to Haven.

  Haven clapped her hands together, basically scaring the crap out of poor Emmanuel, who popped his head up and looked at her. I smiled to him before turning back around, leaving him to play with some type of toy I couldn’t fully see. “Okay,” Haven said, taking my full attention. “One of them is just between all of us, and the second one has to do with Evvie.”

   Haven seemed like she didn’t even notice my face change. What on earth was she talking about? Usually, when Evelyn and I got in trouble, we wouldn’t be in trouble together. And since I never really get in trouble (at school or home), my body was beginning to react to it without my control. I felt my palms begin to sweat, and my heartbeat speed up.

  “Guess what’s happening at school on Monday,” Haven said, seeming to be really excited about it.

  Evelyn stopped her before she could even continue. “I don’t even go to high school yet,” she said, raising her right hand. “Why does this matter for me?”
  “Because, I want you to be, Evelyn,” Haven instructed. “Could you just listen, please?” If there was one thing I’ve learned about Haven over the years, is that she always clenches her fists together when she’s beginning to get mad. Usually, she never did this because of me, probably just because things aren’t going her way.

  Evelyn crossed her arms, sitting back in her chair. “Fine,” she muttered. “Talk.”
  Haven nodded, moving her eyes away from Evelyn. “So...apparently, the principle of of Oakwood High thinks that all of us need to be friends and that we shouldn’t have this ‘dumb rivalry’ anymore. So, him and principle Greene decided that we should all have some of our students transfer. My mom wouldn’t tell me the names of the students, but I do know that it’s three boys and two girls,” Haven said. Why would they want people to transfer from Oakwood to EastLand? They were two different schools, I thought to myself. But I still waited until Haven had finished. “I’m not cool with the idea at all, but what do you two think of it?”

  I was actually kind of shocked, rethinking all of it that I didn’t know about this transfer thing sooner. The whole reason why it was easier to be with Delcan was because he was at Oakwood, and now I was worried about this.

  “That’s pretty cool, I guess,” Evelyn said, shrugging. She could seem to care less about the whole situation, and probably because unlike me, she could care less about who showed up at EastLand.

  Haven quickly gave her an evil glare before she looked at me. “What do you think about it, baby?”

  “I mean…” I began. To be honest, I couldn’t express how I really felt in words. But then I remembered that one piece of advice Eric gave me when I began “dating” Evvie: Always agree with the girl. You’d much rather be on the right side of the tracks than the wrong one. I’ll be honest, it was really stupid advice. But, I did learn this, whoever your dating, it doesn’t matter if you two don’t share the same choices. If they’re wrong, let them figure it out on their own time. “I think the idea is pretty crazy,” I said. “It just doesn’t make sense why students from Oakwood would transfer, and students from our school would do the same.”

  Haven nodded, rolling her eyes. “Tell me about it,” she said. “And I find it stupid that it’ll only be three guys and two girls. Compared to our school doing it evenly; two boys and two girls. But guess what the worst part is? They get to come to our games, and our dances. Totally unfair if you ask me.” Haven crossed her arms over her chest, pouting like Emmanuel did when he wasn’t allowed to eat dessert.

  “Wait a minute,” Evelyn said. “How do you even know all of this?”

  Haven sat up straight, flipping her hair behind her back. “My mom is the vice-president of our P.T.A. club, and my cousin is dating our vice principal. He’s coming over for dinner tonight, too.” I had forgotten about Haven’s relationsons with everyone in the school district. But I knew that my sister would take full advantage of it.

  “Oh…” she said, dragging out the word. “That explains why you’re the captain of the cheerleading squad, and why my brother never gets in trouble for anything. Got it.” I glared at her, and she looked back at me, shrugging.

  I shook my head. “Not cool, Evelyn,” I said. “Stop it.”
  She rolled her eyes. “Why are you telling me to stop?” she asked. “When is the rest of the school finding out about this transfer thing?”

  Haven shrugged. “My cousin said that everyone should hear about it either from Instagram, or at the game tomorrow against Oakwood, so both of the schools know about the transfer. But they still aren’t saying the kids names. Something about one of the Oakwood kids wanting to keep it private.”

  Well that’s just great, I thought to myself. We won’t know the kids names until Monday. Perfect.

  “Okay, whatever. I don’t even know why I needed to know about any of this,” Evelyn said, her voice grumpy. “I don’t even go to EastLand High for full time, and I’m thankful for that.”

  Haven furrowed her eyebrows. “And why’s that?” she asked.

  Evelyn looked at her, and just by the look she was giving, I knew what she was about to say. Don’t do it, I wanted to say. Do. Not. Say. It. “Why else? Because of one, you can’t handle sharing things, and two, your entire fake-⟴ life is there. And I wouldn’t even survive if I was around you all day.”
  She said it.

  I looked at her. “Since when did you get permission to cuss?” I asked. In our house, once you got older than fifteen, you were allowed to cuss all you wanted to, if Dad gave you permission. I was given permission when I was fifteen, while Eric was allowed to start cussing in front of Mom and Dad. But Evelyn hasn’t fully been given rights yet.

  But still, Evelyn looked at me. “They don’t know that I am,” she said. “But everyone has secrets, Ezra. Even you.” I looked at her, and was about to go haywire on her, but before Haven could even ask what my secret was, Evvie walked in.

  “Everything cool?” Evvie asked, looking around the room at all of us, each and every one about to pounce on each other like we were animals.

  Haven nodded, smiling to her. “Yup,” she said. “Everything’s great. Just fantastic.” Haven was one of those girls that people usually assume as a horrible person, though truly, she isn’t. Just like I do, she has a lot of layers to her before you realize her real personality. But, she had her walls up now. And her face was showing it all.

  “That’s...nice.” Evvie said, she began avoiding eye contact, something she always did when she felt in an awkward situation. There were maybe two seconds of silence before Evvie cleared her throat. “Ez, can I talk to you?”

  It might sound rude, but I wanted to say no, and I thought that shaking my head would mean that. But Evvie didn’t get the hint. The main reason I couldn’t leave was because I had no clue what Evelyn and Haven would begin fighting about while the two of them are alone.

  “I really don’t think that I should-”
  “No, go, babe,” Haven said. “I’ll get out of here so I don’t need to worry about your sister. Be in the living room if you need me.” After glancing at my sister, Haven was about to leave the room before she turned back around and pulled me to her, kissing me on the lips. Since I was startled by her doing so, it took me half a second to kiss her back. But all that was even going through my head was Delcan, and when he would compliment me, then quickly kiss me. I liked it when we did that.

  And I hated myself for it.

  I pulled away from her then after Delcan’s name had popped into my head a second time, and she smiled to me. I smiled back, feeling the guilt run through my body, then took Evvie’s hand and went downstairs, going outside.

  My family and I were fortunate enough to have a good house, and on top of that a good backyard. We had a pool, which went from shallow to deep (like 8 feet deep), and lounge chairs. There was also an area where tanning was available, though I never really used it that much.

  Okay, I do. But only because I’m pretty pale without it.

  Evvie and I sat down on the lounge chairs, and Evvie burst out in laughed. I looked at her, angrily. “What?”
  “Nice kiss.” she said, pushing her hair out of her face, which had fallen while she was laughing at me.

  I nudged her. “Not cool,” I declared.

  Evvie rolled her eyes and then sat back, not keeping her normal posture. “I’m sorry,” she said. Oh, now she feels sorry about something. “About what I told my mom. That wasn’t even my business and I had no right to tell her any of that. But my dad already knew, and he was planning to tell my mom soon, so I thought that I’d be able to tell her before he did.” Because she was so close to tears, I felt bad being mad at her now. I couldn’t even feel rage towards her anymore.

  Though it annoyed me that she was revealing my secrets, she was just trying to help, and I was trying my best to realize that. I couldn’t stay mad at her forever, obviously. I pulled her into a hug and that’s when the tears became to come out of her. She cried on my shoulder, and for the first time in a long time, I let her.

  “Shhh,” I said, stroking her hair like she was my younger sister. “It’s gonna be okay. Calm down, I’m not mad anymore.” Evvie looked up at me and smiled, wiping her eyes. She nodded slowly, then wrapped her arms around me again. Because I was thinking of him earlier, Delcan was in my head again.

  I pulled away from Evvie quickly and turned my head the other way, trying to push away all of the thoughts. His laughter. His smile. The feeling I got everytime he confidently walked into a room. All of it, I was doing my best to push it away. But sometimes, it got really hard.

  Evvie put her hand on my shoulder. “You know it’s okay, right?”
  I didn’t look at her. I kept my head away, looking at the nicely trimmed grass and the cobblestone close to it. “What are you talking about?”
  “Look,” Evvie said, taking in a deep breath of air. “I know you might’ve heard this a thousand times, but...it’s okay if you like guys. Nothing is wrong with that. You’re human, Ez, and no human is perfect. Just because you don’t date the opposite gender as you doesn’t mean that there’s something...wrong with you, and it doesn’t mean you’re any different from Eric, or Evelyn, or me. And it surely isn’t something you should be hating yourself for.”

  I nodded, though still kept my eyes away from her. I knew that she was right, and I knew that my brother was right about everything he told me too. But, though I’ve been putting myself through literal ⟴, I couldn’t help it. I knew that others were never really happy in lives, I mean, no one’s perfect. But what’s wrong with me is something that can’t be changed by going under the knife. “I’m aware,” I muttered. “It’s just-”

  “No,” Evvie said, her voice sounding so strong that it made me close my mouth and look at her this time. “I know it might seem like the hardest things, considering your parents, but because of it, over the past few years, you’ve been different.”

  I laughed, but it came out without any meaning. “Evvie, I-”
  “Listen to me, Eza,” Evvie demanded. “You act different now. You push others away from you because you’re afraid of what your parents would think of it. And you put people like Haven and I in horrible situation to ever believe you would like us. You’re an amazing guy, Ezra. And I realize that. But you push others away because you won’t want to realize that. I know this, and so does Delcan. Why can’t you just let go?”
  Nobody ever understood what I went through. No one understood what it was really like at home. All the pressure, everything, every single rule that tells me I can’t be with someone who actually makes me feel good. And I don’t even truly know who to blame for it. When I didn’t answer for a few seconds, Evvie continued talking.

  “Your parents don’t define who you are as a person. They’ll change you all they want, but you know who you truly are. You know that inside, you have some feelings for Delcan, and you know for a fact you don’t love Haven. Your Dad can’t tell you what to do with your life. He might try, but then you’ll lose control. And, Ez, you’re one of the best people ever, but no one knows that because you’re scared.” Evvie said. I was actually shocked that she could give such good advice, though I smiled to her, because I felt the need to be nice. But, this was a huge reason why we used to be such good friends. Evvie knew how to make me feel better, even when I didn’t want to at all.

  “Thanks for the advice, Eve,” I said to her.

   She smiled to me and nodded. “I know,” she bragged.

   “What’s going on our here?” a voice said. The second she’d finished talking, I realized it was Haven, who seemed jealous and was crossing her arms. I’d almost forgotten she was here, actually. Her face was scrunched up, and I didn’t understand why until I looked down and realized that Evvie and I were holding hands. Quickly, I pulled away from her hand and then watched as Haven walked over to the two of us. She sat down next to me, then, for the second time, pulled me into a kiss. A french kiss. I tried my best not to think of the way all of it felt, then pulled away, regretting it all.

  It was too much to handle. I mean, Haven is a girl, and all I can feel when I’m kissing her is how it would feel to be kissing Delcan.

  “What are you two doing out here?” Haven asked the two of us, holding me arm like I was her property. She glared at Evvie, and I was wondering how much she’d heard. Did she hear us talking about Delcan? I thought to myself, but then I violently refused to believe any of that.

  “Talking about things,” I said, putting my much larger hand over her’s. “That’s all. Are your parents worried about you?” Haven raised her eyebrows before she shook her head, causing her dark brown hair to fall over her shoulders.

   Then, she looked down at her phone. “No,” she whined. “Angelica is here to pick up Evvie and I, though.”

  I could feel the strange tension in the room between all of us. It wasn’t a warm, fuzzy feeling, instead, like something that just killed me. It sounded weird, but I’ve been afraid of the silence since I was young. Though words weren’t used, it felt like so many things were being said in the tranquility.

  Evvie slowly began to stand up, and brushed her thighs before she took her eyes off Haven, looking at me. “Where are your parents, Ezra?” she asked.

  “My mom’s probably sleeping, and my dad’s at work right now,” I responded, more than thankful that they weren’t in the house with me. Well, Mom was. But she was nothing close to Dad. “Why? Did you need them for something?”
  Just before Evvie was able to respond to me, Haven stood up and blocked her words. “My sister’s waiting. We need to go,” she said. Because her voice sounded so stern, Evvie stayed still. But then Haven sighed, and grabbed her hand. “Come on!” Evvie sighed like she did the first time, slowly dragged herself behind Haven. But this time, after a few steps, Evvie slapped Haven’s arm to pull her away.

   “Ow!” Haven cried. But I didn’t even try to defend her, because I knew she was faking it.

   Evvie shrugged. “Just don’t grab me and pull me around like I’m a dog, okay?” she asked, her voice hardly having any enthusiasm. “Come on, let’s move.” I had to hold back the laughter I was feeling as the two of them walked away, Haven pouting her lip. It would be nice to stay outside for awhile. Maybe I could just take a quick nap or something-get away from all the pressure.

  But before I could even relax, my phone chimed.

  I groaned, and then grabbed it off the bench that I’d last set it on. Though I didn’t even feel like answering, I glanced at the message.

 

Evvie Hamill:

  If you want me to come over, I can. But after I’m done getting your clingy girlfriend off my hands.

  Oh, and I forgot to say this...but Delcan called me.

 

  Of course he called you, I though to myself. But it got me to answer her faster.

Me:

  What’d he say?

 

Evvie Hamill:

  I couldn’t answer it because I actually had to put makeup on, and was dragged here. But he did leave a voicemail. Want me 2 listen to it?

 

  It was moments like these when I realized how right my dad was. “Ezra,” he said to me one night. “You’re my best son. But that naive and curious side to you will definitely get your ⟴ in a sticky situation.” At the time, I didn’t know if he meant it as a compliment or not, which is why I simply nodded. But, now I knew how right he was.

  Sadly.

 

Me:

  Yeah.

 

Evvie Hamill:

  Okay. Gimme a sec.

 

  I set my phone down and waited, desperately. The water in the pool was clean, and more still than ever now. I watched it for about a minute, just lost in thought before my phone went off again. Straightaway, I grabbed my phone and was surprised by that she’d sent me a video instead of just saying what he said. But, I let my curiosity get the best of me, and watched the video.

  She was right, he did leave a message. Something he never does.

  “Hey,” Delcan said. His voice sounded a bit nervous, which I was really confounded by. Usually, he was always confident. “I just wanted to apologize if I came off...rude when we met. I mean, I kind of am-” he laughed, and I could feel myself smile. “But that isn’t the point. I might have sounded like a real jerk, but I didn’t mean to. It’s just that-being around Ezra, my-whatever we are. Okay, I’m getting off topic. Just wanted to say, I don’t hate you or anything. Well-” he chucked again. “Not yet.

  “Sorry. I’m really trying to be a better person. Anyways, I just-you’re a cool person. And maybe one day we can do one of those stupid conversations about Ezra. Wanna get in on some of his secrets. Bye.”

  At first, I didn’t know how to feel about the last thing he said. I mean, I was still trying to figure out things about him too, but I didn’t know if talking to Evvie would be the best approach to it. Then again, the sides that I show Delcan are nothing like the sides anyone else knows about me. So he’d have a pretty hard time finding which one of them was the real me, because sometimes I don’t even know.

  Still, I liked him trying.

 

Me:

  Interesting tbh. He never apologizes, Eve.

Evvie:

  Woah...really?
  Why do you think he wants me to like him so much?

 

Me:

  Think - we’re ex-best friends. He probably knows that you liking him means good thing for our relationship.

 

Evvie:
  True, true. Lol.

  So you’re not mad at me anymore, right?

 Even though we hardly talk that much anymore, but I don’t want me revealing your secret to my parents to break us apart again.

 

Me:

  No, Evvie, we’re cool.

  Thanks for the video, though. Interesting to see him like that.

 

Evvie:

  Welcome, Ez.

  Want me to come over, still?

 

Me:

  Yup. See you later.

 

Evvie:

 Bye.

 

 I set down my phone, before I stopped and felt the huge need to call Delcan. Though I knew I shouldn’t have, because I’ve already messed with him enough yesterday, I was truly bored out of my mind. And, I really needed to talk to him about the transfering thing going on.

  Scrolling through my contacts, I found his name, and was about to click on it before I realized something about the C section. Truthfully, I had no idea why it shocked me that I didn’t have Callie’s number. I mean, she kind of hated me in a way, but also-if I couldn’t reach Delcan, she’d be my only source.

  Shrugging it off, I pressed call and waited for him to pick up the phone. On the third ring (yes, I count how many times it takes for him to take the call), he answered.

  “What’s up?”
  But it wasn't Delcan’s voice. Instead, I was more than put off to hear Callie’s voice on the phone. Play it cool, Ezra. Play it cool. “Nothing,” I said, relaxing my arm. “Where’s Delcan?”

  Callie was silent for a second, and then she began speaking again. “He can’t come to the phone right now,” she said, though her voice sounded hesitant, and like she was lying to me about it. “You wanna wait, or take a message or something?”

  “I can wait,” I said, beginning to allow myself rest again. Also, I really needed to talk to him about this transfering school thing going on. And once all that was over with, company is never bad to have.

  Callie sighed. “Don’t expect me to condolence you,” she said.

  “What were you in jail for?” I asked. The second the words fell out of my mouth, I wanted to take them back, though I knew that wasn’t really how it worked. Great going.

  Like I’d expected, it took Callie a second to even answer. Though it might’ve been pretty rude to ask, I don’t think it’d be wrong to become curious of things. My guess, possession, or maybe robbery. But whatever the situation was, I was dying to know. Like her brother, Callie had a pretty large need for attention, though I never thought she’d end up in jail.

  “I was in this gang thing,” Callie said. Oh. “But there was more to it than that.”
  Thought it wasn’t at all what I was expecting, something felt weird about her voice. Like she was about to reveal something no one else knew. But Evelyn did the same thing. There was this mid-pause in her voice that made you wonder what they were going to say, and why it sounded like they’d never told anyone else before.

  But, because she was close to someone special, I wanted her to open up to me. “What is it?” I asked, trying to make my voice sound more concerned than curious. Callie took a breath before she slowly began talking.

  “I called the police.”

  I sat up from my chair, fully listening now. Why would Callie even have a reason to call the police? I mean, lots of things could happen in a gang, though-no, I don’t even want to think about that. But, for the time that I’ve known Calie, the independence and strong woman, and no one pushed her around.

  “Why?” I asked.

  Callie was silent on the other end, and I was expecting her to simply hang up the phone and be done with me, but then she sighed. “I can’t talk to you about this,” she said. “It’s wrong.”

  “How?” I questioned.

  “Because you’re dating my brother,” Callie said. Then she mumbled something under her breath, and because she doesn’t really like me that much, I didn’t even want to ask what she said. “It’s wrong for me to tell you, of all people, and not him.”

  I sat back, not exactly knowing what I could say about all of it. I mean, if she didn’t exactly trust/like me, nothing I could do to fix it. “I won’t tell Delcan.”
  “That’s a lie.”
  Nope, this time, it actually wasn’t.

  “Alright,” I said, sighing. “Fine. Be secretive.”

  Callie was silent for a moment, and maybe this meant I should just hang up and call Delcan back later, because this clearly was uncomfortable for the both of us now, but then she said something that surprised me.

  “Do you really wanna know?”

  I remembered once when I was five, and my mother once told me that ignorance was bliss. That was the first time I heard those words, and they came out of her mouth thousands of times after that. But if something like this would begin getting Callie to begin feeling uncomfortable, maybe it’s better for me not to know about it.

  “Not unless you want to tell me,” I said. “I understand if you’d rather tell your brother over me.”

  Callie laughed.  “You clearly don’t know enough about my brother.”
  Slightly offended by the comment, I crossed my arms. “Excuse me?”
  “He’s protective over things like this,” Callie said. “Mainly family, but sometimes other things, too. If he found out about what really happened, he’d be hunting down those men right then and there. You’ve got to know that by now.”

  I did, but also didn’t at the same time. It was hard to tell if Delcan was actually protective over me, though, I didn’t even know if I was either. We weren’t even open about our relationship, so it was hard to know or not if I actually cared about what happened in public. Though, Delcan was always easy-going, and I was always frantic. So it was hard to tell if there was any real protecting for the both of us.

  Then again, I’m sure there was. Because otherwise, our relationship would be pretty sad.

  “What is it that you wanted to tell me, Callie?” I asked, not even trying to come back with any comment to say to her.

  Because she was who she was, I had a feeling she rolled her eyes. “They were planning on forcing me into...you know.”
  Again, I sat up. “Wait, really?”
  “I mean-” Callie began. “They already had before, though I was drugged so I wouldn’t remember it. But, there was this girl there who is related to the guy doing that to me, and she warned me to get out now.

  So, I did what I had to. I convinced him that I actually wanted to be with him, and then waited until he was distracted to call the police.”

  I didn’t know what to say. I mean, that was horrible. Absolutely horrible. Callie’s fifteen, and not even in high school yet. I wanted to comfort her in some way, though I knew that wasn’t her style. Her brother was the same way. “Wow…” I managed to say. “That’s horrid.”
  Callie sighed. “Yeah,” she sighed. “I made a false report, and then made a joke, so I was arrested. But seriously, don’t feel pity for me, I’m sure you feel enough for yourself. Just, know that it’s in the past, and everything’s okay.”

  Again, offended by her small commentary. Though I let it slide and moved on. “I feel bad for what happened to you, though.”

  “You know,” Callie started, ignoring my condolence. “I’ve never told anyone that before. Not my parents, and not Delcan. And he was the one who bailed me out.”
   I nodded, feeling a bit of pride for the (hopeful) beginning friendship. “Did the gang get arrested, too?”
  “I have no clue,” Callie said. “Can you not-” she didn’t even finish her sentence before she just suddenly pressed End. I wasn’t offended, because I knew she probably had a reason. This time, I set my phone on silent and then laid back.

  As much as I tried to fall asleep, I still felt bad for Callie. I mean, she was only in 9th grade, same as my sister. I knew she loved getting attention, though I never knew she would o to that extreme. I wanted to tell Delcan about it, though I wanted to keep my promise with Callie instead of breaking it.

  Out of nowhere, a wave of tiredness hit me, and my hulking eyes fell asleep.

 

The First Week:

 

  “Hey,” I said, bumping Delcan’s shoulder to the best of my abilities. It felt really weird, and fun all at the same time to be having these feelings again. But after that kiss, which continued to go through my head, I couldn’t stop being happy all the time.

  But even after all these great emotions, he still thinks I’m straight.

  “Hi,” Delcan said. He noticed that my hand had something in it and raised his eyebrows. “What’s that?”

  I handed it to him. “Find out.”
  Delcan looked at me for a second before he sighed and began opening up the note. It was a paper that I wrote on Valentines Day, which originally was for Haven, but now was especially for Delcan. Instead of just being lazy and just fixing some of the words and stuff, I rewrote the whole letter, making sure all of it sounded detailed, and sweet.

  Haven, who became my girlfriend a few weeks before I met Delcan, made a huge scene about the note. She said it was one of the cutest things someone could do for her, and I took the compliment, like I always did, and then did my best to get away from her. I didn’t like Haven how I was supposed to, instead, Delcan brought feelings out of me I’d been pushing down for months now.

  He read the note, then looked up at me. “Ezra-” he began, but stopped when he heard a car honk. It was his mom, who I haven’t met yet. She waved at Delcan as he fully turned himself around and waved back to her. Delcan turned back around, and handed the not to me. “I gotta go. Come over later. I’ll text you the address.”

  As upset as I was to have the note back in my hands, he wanted me to come over. He wanted me to come over, I thought to myself. Suddenly, a smile was on my face, and butterflies began dancing in my stomach. I walked home today, feeling like someone in a movie who had just been kissed.

  Once I actually got home, I went up to my room quickly before any of my siblings could talk to me. Emmanuel, who was sitting at my door for his daily hug, already holding out his arms. “Hug?” he asked.

  I sighed, and quickly allowed him to hug me before I went into my room, closing my door behind me. Though Emmanuel whined, I didn’t have time for it today. Plus, I was babysitting him Sunday. He’ll be fine.

  My oldest brother, Eric, wasn’t in the bathroom, which was a first after school. Still, I took a glance in the mirror, relieved that I actually looked pretty good. As I walked back into my bedroom, I pulled out my phone and began texting Delcan.

  What time? I texted. He responded almost instantly, butterflies find their new home in my stomach. I buried my phone in my pocket as I somehow made my way out of the house without Mom or Dad talking to me.

 

  Once I arrived, I jogged to the door, maybe a bit faster than I should’ve, and then knocked. His sister, whom I have met before, and didn’t like anything about, opened up the door. Her hair, which was this red-brown color, and her nose scrunched up the second she saw me. I’ll be honest, Callie was a beautiful girl, but her personality cancels all of that out.

  “What do you want?” she asked me, putting her hands on her hips.

  I shook my head. “Nothing that you need to worry about,” I said, sounding cross. But it didn’t matter. I pushed past her and went upstairs. I heard her yell my name in response, but I wasn’t turning around now. For the past week, Delcan was all I could think about. That kiss in his backyard, it meant something to me. I’ve never kissed a guy for longer than a second, period, and I only began liking kisses from Haven because I was picturing Delcan’s lips.

  But we’ve had this conversation before. Delcan and I are just playing around with each other’s feelings. So, it’s not exactly cheating.

  I found where his room was and knocked on the door once. “Can I come in?”

  “Sure,” he called.

  Taking in deep breaths, I opened up the door and then smiled, but he didn’t see it. Delcan never caught me as the guy reading, though here he was, reading a pretty thick book. “How have you been?” I asked. Two things, that was such a dumb question. It had been five minutes since we talked. And the second thing, he didn’t even seem to look up from his book.

  Trying to get more attention, I sat down next to him. “So…” I began.

  And now, Delcan closed his book. “Look, Ezra,” Delcan said, turning his body fully towards mine. “I liked the letter and everything, trust me. You’re one ⟴ of a romantic. But, you’re not interested in me.”

  “No, I am,” I insisted. I’ve had these feelings before about someone, and I knew they were the same for Delcan. I was about to say more, but Delcan held up his hand to stop me from talking.

  “I’ve known guys like you before,” Delan said, resting his hand on the book. “You question your sexuality because of one kiss. Both of us just got caught up in the moment, you know that. It wasn’t even a kiss that mattered, anyways, because you pulled away from me....” he paused for a second, his face blank. “But that’s besides the point. You’re straight, Ezra. You have a girlfriend, remember? Haven Bronx, that’s who you’re with. And how could you possibly be with her if you’re ‘gay?’” he asked me.

  The words infuriated me, though I tried my best not to show it. Just because I was with Haven didn’t mean I liked her. There were tons of people in this world how didn’t like their husbands or wives. But he wouldn’t even understand that if I tried.

  I liked Delcan, seriously. I haven’t had feelings like this since 9th grade. I knew what they were like, and I wasn’t letting it go.

   But that kiss, that was a different story. “I only pulled away because your mom came out there,” I said, trying to reason with him.

   Delcan rolled his beautiful eyes. “My mom doesn’t care about things like that,” he muttered. “It was just a kiss.” I’d noticed his eyes go from the green color that they usually were-neutral-to a lighter blue. I was making him angry.

  “I’m sorry,” I said, meaning it. “I didn’t know how to react. Plus, I like you, not Haven.” My answer was completely honest, just like most of the stuff I said to Delcan. But still, he refused to believe the truth from me.

  “You’re just confused,” he said, sounding more like he was assuring himself than me. “Give it time. It would also help if you didn’t try communicating with me.” Okay, he was the one who put his number in my phone, and now things were changing.

  I’ve tried telling myself that I’m confused, and that the right girl will be coming soon, but it’s been way too long, and I already know what I want. If Delcan wouldn’t get it this way, I had to try something else that would work. My crushes always stayed secret, no matter how much I wanted to say or do something, I’ve kept my emotions inside. This, would be something different. Hard, but surely different.

   Not even thinking, I took his hand. “How can I make you believe me?”

  He sighed, looking down at our hands. I waited for him to say something, when I suddenly realized that his eyes were amber. His parents once told me that Delcan’s eyes changed depending on his mood, and if you watched closely, you could really see the true him with just one look.

  Amber meant that he felt loved, liked, or was trying to hide his emotions. They could also stand for lying, sometimes, though it was kind of hard to tell when he was lying to someone. I took his eyes as a good sign, and waited for him to answer.

  “If I dated a guy from Oakwood…” Delcan began, still looking down at our hands touching. I wasn’t blaming him, because I felt something, too. “Would you be angry?”

  Angry, is an understatement. I’m not saying I’d be furious with his choices, but jealousy would rage inside of me, for sure. But, I nodded, still trying to concentrate on his ravishing face. “Yes,” I said. “Are you..thinking about dating someone?”
  He smirked then. “I’m trying to make it work.” he said. The words made me feel something, but I couldn’t even describe it with actual words. “How do I know you actually like me?”
  How could I not? I thought to myself. Delcan was one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen in my life. Sure, his hair was brown, just like most of the population’s on Earth (naturally), but his eyes. They changed color depending on his mood, something I found quite fascinating about him. His body, well, it was muscular, you could tell that without him even showing it. Or maybe it was the small cut in his eyebrow that always fascinated me to look at. His humor may be one of the things I oddly am attracted to, but something I won’t ever fix. And, he-just had this odd effect on me that I haven’t felt in a long time. “Because,” I said, trying to hide my smile. “You made me forget my last name when I first saw you-”
  “But you remembered your first?”

  “Of course, it was a weird place to meet, but I’m satisfied that it happened.” I finished, ignoring his cut-in.

  Delcan was silent for a few seconds, and at first I thought he’d want me to leave or something, but his hand never moved away from mine. After awhile, he let out a breath of air and then nodded. “My parents might not be home for some time,” he said, watching my face closely as I tried not to make movements. “Want to stay a bit longer?”
  “Yes,” I immediately said, not even letting the other voice in my mind begin saying no. The voice in my head seemed to pity me, but I ignored it this time. Basically everything but my brain was saying yes to this, and I wanted to spend as much time as I could with someone who liked me back. But, as happy as I was beginning to feel with Delcan, no one could know about any of it.

  Delcan smirked again, probably already knowing what he did to me. “Alright,” he said. “What’s your favorite show on Netflix?”
 

  For the next two hours, maybe, Delcan and I spent time in his room on Netflix, watching whatever they still had on their. I was still pretty upset that ‘Mean Girls’ (yes, I know it sounds super gay, and right now, I don’t care), they still had a few good things. We went back and forth on shows, watching something that I liked, and then switching to something that he did. It was actually pretty fun, and some of the shows were pretty enthralling.

  After the third or fourth show that we had watched, Delcan was making smooth efforts to get closer to me. I didn’t exactly know what to do, so I just let all of it happen to me, and forced myself to move a bit closer, too. We weren’t facing each other, but the two of us were pretty close now.

  I was trying to think of something to do. I mean, what do you do when someone who makes you feel amazing is suddenly closer to your own phone is? But I was seriously try thinking of something that I could do. Should I just continue watching the show like he was? Or, should I be the first to look? After being mixed between doing the two of them, I decided to keep on watching the show.

  Then suddenly, Delcan asked me: “How long have you known?”
  I looked at him then, realizing how close we actually were. “What do you mean?”
  “You know what I mean,” he said, his eyes amber. I couldn’t stop looking at him. His beautiful long eyelashes, his smooth tanish skin. And the fact that he had a six pack still made me feel all bubbly on the inside. His brown hair was messed up at the ends, but he pulled it off.

  He looked hot. Really hot.

  “Hello?” he asked, waving his hand in my face and blocking my view. I was startled by the sudden movement, and had to use my hands to control myself. He smirked, but other than that, kept his face normal.

  “Sorry,” I said. “What were we talking about again?” He raised his eyebrows, when I remembered. My sexuality. Right. “I found out in 6th grade. My brother was talking about a girlfriend he had at the time when I realized that none of the girls I’ve dated...I never felt that spark that was meant to be felt. And I’ve kissed almost every girl I’ve been with.” I saw his face when I said those words, and I had to ignore it in order to continue. “When I told one of my friends, I was thankful for how supportive she was about it.”

  Delcan blinked for a second, then said: “So I was your first kiss?”

  “With a guy?” I asked.

  He simply nodded, and I shook my head.

  “No.”

  It wasn’t as clear, but I’ve kissed a guy before. Though, I can’t remember his name, and it was simply a peck.

  Delcan nodded, seeming pretty satisfied with my words. “Alright,” he said. I wanted to say more, that I’d never felt any spark at all, something I seriously hate about myself. But, when we kissed in his backyard-that was when I understood the spark people were talking about. And though the kiss was kind of forceful and unexpected from my behalf, I still can’t stop thinking about it 24/7.

  “A lot to take in,” he said. “But okay.”

  All I could do was simply smile kindly to him, and then turn my eyes back onto the TV. Why was it so hard to talk to talk to him? It’s super easy talking to Haven, because all I have to do is understand her body language and then go with it. But when it came to being with Delcan, I couldn’t even concentrate correctly.

  Then, I began to notice that Delcan had scooted closer to me, and was kind of in one of those comfortable looking positions that you’d see a couple doing in a movie. He’d taken my hand again, and rested his head on my chest, though kept his eyes on the TV. Truthfully, I was freaking out on the inside, but I did my best to focus on the show and just ignore how much of a desire I was feeling. Still, he seemed so calm about all of this, like it happens to him on a regular basis.

   We had switched to a movie, and was in the middle of it when Delcan said; “So when are you planning on coming out?” I looked at him now, not even knowing if I could give a full answer. Not that...whatever this was is happening, my coming out explanation would have a whole other part to it. I had wrote a list of ways that my parents could find out, too. But none of them ended well.

  “I don’t think I ever will.”
  Delcan smiled softly, looking up at me. “Parents can’t hate you forever,” he said. “You know that, right?”
  I shook my head, moving my eyes away from him. “Can we talk about something else, please?”

  Delcan untangled himself out of my arms and sat up straight, kind of looking like someone who was about to give a stern conversation. “No,” he said. “You’re closing yourself away from people, Ezra. And that’s why I don’t want….this to happen. I don’t want to be a secret,”

  Of course, I thought to myself. Not even understanding the tone my thoughts had. That’s why we can’t be together. “We were literally just cuddling,” I said, sitting myself up. Delcan raised his eyebrow that had a cut in it, seeming to care less about any of that. “I’m not saying I don’t want to be with you, but-”
  “No,” Delcan interrupted, sounding straightforward. “Why would I be with someone who’s ashamed of me?”
  I wasn’t ashamed of him at all. No matter how much of his past I knew, no matter how many people told me he was horrible, I didn’t care. “I never said any of this was your fault,” I said, trying to sound like he was. But my voice came out sad, and like like I hadn’t slept in a number of days.

  “So it’s yours?” Delcan asked, looking at me with brown eyes: curiosity.

  I shrugged, looking away from him. “Yeah,” I said. It wasn’t exactly my fault thought, at least, that’s what Evelyn tells me. She said I can’t be hard on myself for the family that I was born into, and that it’s harder for me to be out because of that. But, she’s wrong in some ways, because I could totally dis my family like Delcan kind of did...but that would ruin my entire reputation, and sixteen years of working my ⟴ off.

  “Why?”

  I looked at him then, knowing I had to compose myself. “I like you, a lot,” I said. I could see the side of his mouth twitch when I said that, but I still continued. “And I like guys in general. But with my parents hovering over me like crazy…” I stopped myself before the weakness in my voice could even start, and just shook my head, standing up. “I’m leaving.”
  Delcan’s eyes weren’t brown anymore, now, they were a mixture of green and blue: sympathy. He grasped my hand before I even took a step and pulled me back down. “I want you to stay,” he said, still holding onto my hand.

  I shook my head. “My-um, my parents probably expect for me to be home soon,” I said, already beginning to stutter again.

  Delcan smirked, then pulled me into a quick hug, which I guess had me thinking. I never really thought of him as the sympathetic type, but his eyes always seemed to be that color when I began talking about my parents. And...I don’t know. Something about that attracts me even more to him.

  And it was in that moment when hugging wasn’t enough. I pulled away from the hug, then leaned forward (without question) and pressed my lips against his. He seemed tense at first, but then eased into it, like I was. He slid his hands into my hair, and pressed himself against me as the kiss got deeper. And I’ll admit, I liked it. I mean, it felt...amazing.

  But in the back of my head, I was reminiscing the next time I would have to kiss Haven, and pretend that I actually liked it.

 

Chapter Five (new)

  A hand slapped me hard, forcing me to wake up. I looked around fast, and suddenly realized how long I’d been asleep for. I was about to seriously rage out on one of my siblings, but then I saw Evvie, which still kind of made me want to vent.

  I raised my eyebrows to her, and she tilted her head to the side before saying; “I tried to get your attention by doing almost everything, but you were asleep,” she said. It was then when I realized that small doses of water had been splashed on me, and even my hair was messed with. “What were you even dreaming about?”

  Delcan. Obviously. Who else would I dream about? “Why the ⟴ would you wake me up for no reason?” I asked, but like always, my voice came out sounding softer than I meant for it to.

  Evvie shrugged, then sat down at the end of the lounge chair. “It seemed like the only way of waking you up,” she said. “Dream, or fantasy?”
  I sat up then and hit her arm. “We’re not talking about fantasies.” I snapped. When the two of us were in 8th grade, Evvie secretly slept over at my house and then woke up with her first fantasy (and it was about my friend, Adam Hunter. Which made it even more disturbing), and oddly enough, that next week, I had a fantasy about this guy I had a crush on-but I do my best not even to think about any of that.

 Evvie cracked up laughing. “Sorry,” she said. “So it was a dream, though...right?”

 I rolled my eyes and sat back. “Yeah, it was,” I muttered. My right cheek was still burning from where she’d slapped me, but I was doing my best to ignore the pain. “What are you even doing here again?”

  “Do you not remember me talking about staying the night?” Evvie asked, raising her eyebrows. I had, actually. My mind was now occupied with Delcan, instead of my “ex-girlfriend” and best friend wanting to stay over for the night. To be honest, I was leaning towards calling Delcan for a few hours despite Evvie being here now.

  “Right,” I said. I was still pretty dazed from falling asleep, too. And it was all because of that dream (which actually happened, just for reference). I never really had dreams about Delcan, but that one felt so real, it was if all of it was happening again. I could still feel the goosebumps happening on my skin.

  Evvie cleared her throat, and I looked up at her. “What is it?:
  “I, um…” Evvie paused before she tilted her head in the direction of my phone. “I think you should check your phone.”

  I sighed, annoyed that I could never have one day to myself. Three messages from my sister, Evelyn. And two from Delcan, which were kind of pointless. I was debating in my head on which one I should open before a new message from Angelica popped up, spiking my curiosity.

 

Angelica Bronx:

 Hey, Ez. Long time no see. So you’re still dating my sister, right? Well, in that case, I hope we can meet up and talk.

  I know your little secret.

 

  I looked up from my phone, and could already feel my throat tighten. My mind was already replaying on what Angelica’s text said over and over again. How could she even know? I hardly ever talk to Angelica, and actually, do my best to stay out of her way. And I didn’t even know she had my number, in all honesty.

  Evvie was looking at me, her head tilted again. I was about to say something, but nothing came out of my mouth at all. Whatever Evvie was saying, her words were basically blurred, and I couldn’t hear anything she was actually saying. And through the entire few moments, the same question was running through my head.

  Is she going to tell Haven?

 

Chapter Six (new)

  I allowed Evvie to stay the night, but I was still freaking out. Though I should’ve been smart enough to know that trying to sneak Evvie into my room wouldn’t be easy, especially because my dad just got home.

  “Ezra Ace!” I heard my dad call, slamming the door behind him. Evvie instantly let go of my hand and shook her head. I sighed, because she was still scared of my dad. But to be honest, I couldn’t completely blame her.

  “I can’t talk to your dad,” Evvie whispered. “I’m terrified of him.”


  I glared at her. “You don’t think I am?”


  She was about to say something, but then closed her mouth again before another word got out. She slowly took a breath, and then grabbed my hand and followed me downstairs, where my dad was awaiting.

  “Hi, Dad,” I said. I let go of Evvie’s hand, since it was behind me, and looked at Evvie. “You remember Evvie Hamill, right?”
  Dad raised his eyebrows. “You’re Mexican, right?”

  That was what he wanted to say to her? Of all things? I looked over to Evvie quickly, who had crossed her arms over her chest, and was biting back a smile.

  “Yes,” she said. “I am. But that really has nothing to do-”


  “What’s she doing home?” Dad asked, raising his eyebrows to her again. He was looking at Evvie as if she was gum on his shoe, and it bothered me, a lot. I hated when he treated people like this, because it put me in such a horrible place.

  I did my best to keep from rolling my eyes, and nodded to Evvie. “She’s gonna be spending the night.”

  Spending the night?” Dad asked, but he couldn’t even get to the end of his question seriously before he burst into laughter. “That doesn’t even sound believable, Ezra.”


  I couldn’t snap back at my dad like I’ve always wanted to, so I just sighed and shook my head quickly. “I have a girlfriend, Dad.”

  “Yes…” Dad began. “But Haven’s kind of annoying. I’d only see any reason to marry her because of how much money her family has.”


  “That’s a-” Evvie started, her voice rising. But she stopped herself before anything else could’ve been said. I wanted her to say something. Because not only was my dad probably the most homophobic person I’ve ever met in my life, he puts pity on women. Something Evelyn’s learned, and does her best never to mention. She pretends to be just as helpless as I am, but outside of the house, she’s nothing like Dad thinks she is.

  Dad raised his eyebrows again, this look on his face. Though, he looked over to me. “Are you cheating?” he asked.

  I quickly shook my head. “No!” I exclaimed.

  Okay, it was a lie. I was cheating. Just….not with whom I’d be expected to cheat on Haven with.

  “Then why would a girl be staying the night?” Dad asked, raising his eyebrows to Evvie again. Evvie was still watching the conversation, her arms crossed. And though I knew she was trying to look tough, I could see the fear in her eyes.

   “Because,” I told my dad, trying to keep my eyes away from Evvie. “She’s my friend. I can have friends who are girls. Just like Evelyn can have friends that are guys.”


  Dad was about to say something, but he then closed his mouth, thinking about what I’d just said. His eyes were harder to read than Mom’s were when she was thinking about something. Usually, Mom would have this “in another world” look when her kids had stunned her. But Dad, well, it really just depended on where you were with him.

  “Ezra-” he began. His voice sounded firm, and like I was about to be given a lesson. But I had already braced myself for this, and I guess Evvie would just have to do her best and not say a word about any of it. But before my dad could even finish the rest of what he was about to say, Mom walked in.

  Thank goodness for Mom. “Hi, darling,” she said, smiling to Dad. Dad turned and looked at her, but didn’t show any affection. Sometimes I wondered if they’d ever actually loved each other. But then I think of how dumb of a question that would be, and the trouble I’d get in for saying it out loud.

  Mom didn’t even seem offended by Dad not saying anything back, so she looked at me. And then Evvie. “Hello, Evvie,” she said, a welcoming smile on her face. “What are you doing back in town?”

  Evvie smiled to her, looking pretty thankful. “Hi, Mrs. Gatley. Nice to see you again.”

  My dad mumbled something under his breath, but I wasn’t close enough to hear whatever commentary he wanted to add.

  Mom smiled and moved herself next to Dad, walking with grace, even though she was in house shoes. “How have you been, sweetie?”

  “I’ve been great,” Evvie said, using her friendly smile again. “Your home looks just as amazing as when Ezra was in 9th grade.”

  She knew the best ways to get to my mom. And one of those ways was complimenting the house. My mom works, but it allowed to take time off any time she wants - since Dad’s working with that business as well. My mom is kind of like what I guessed women would be like in the 1800’s. Loyal to their husband, caring to the children, cooking all the meals, and cleaning the house. So when Evvie complimented my mom about our house, it only made sense that Mom beamed.

  “How kind of you!” she said, smiling fully. “What would you be doing here, and with Ezra?”

  Evvie looked at me for a moment, and I shook my head fast. I wasn’t answering to my mom. Then, I’d be lying. And lying as like an unspoken rule in our house, you never, ever lie. Giving up on me, Evvie turned herself back to my parents. “I came back in town, and may be starting at EastLand next week or something. I just wanted to spend some time with Ezra, since we were friends before we started dating.”
  Good cover up.

  “Oh,” Mom said, giving one of those looks like she was trying to see if Evvie had lied or not. “Well, then why did you come from the back door, sweetie?”
  “We were hanging out outside,” I said, cutting in. My dad’s eyes went straight to me, but I didn’t dare to make eye contact. “It’s a beautiful day.”

  Mom smiled, nodding. “Indeed, Ezra,” she said. “So...what exactly is happening?”


  “Don’t worry!” Evvie assured. “I have a boyfriend back in Alaska, and I’ve heard that Ezra and Haven are an adorable couple. I would never interfere with something like that.” To be honest, I wished she would. Because me getting caught kissing Evvie - not that big of a deal. But me caught kissing Delcan, now, that’s another story.

  My mom nodded, her lips slightly parted as she tried understanding all of this. “Well, I don’t exactly see a problem with any of it, I guess.”

  “You’re not worried about a teenage girl sleeping in the same room as our son?” Dad asked, suddenly making his way into the conversation.

  I looked at him, slightly annoyed, but doing my best to hide it. “What’s so bad about any of that?”

  “Don’t, Gatley.” Dad muttered, sounding more like a warning then a threat.

  But I backed off. I backed off because fighting with my dad would get me nowhere, and I’d be put bellow first favorite.

  “Sorry, Dad,” I said. “My door will be unlocked, though. So no worries.” I was about to leave, so I could breathe normally again, but Mom called my name out before Evvie and I could even get up the first step.

  “Yes?” I asked.

  Mom was silent for a moment, but then she smiled. “Maybe Evvie could join of for the game tomorrow?” she asked.

  Evvie’s back straightened, and she shrugged. “I would have to see if my mom’s okay with it,” she said. “But I can definitely try.”

   Mom smiled to her, then left the room. Leaving it back to the awkward trio that I’m sure would end horribly. I wanted to just run up the stairs and get all of this over with, but something about Dad’s stare made me stay.

  “Evvie,” he said, not even taking his eyes off of me. “Go to Ezra’s room and wait. Watch Netflix or something.”

  Evvie hesitated, but then left without question. I sighed, but turned around quickly and looked at my dad. “What is it?” I asked, making sure my voice sounded like I actually wanted to know what he was saying.

  Dad shrugged, and then sat down on the barstool. “I never understood why you dated that girl,” he muttered, resting his chin on his head as if he actually cared. Without question, I sat down next to him on the barstool to his right.

  “She’s pretty nice once you get to know her,” I said.

  Dad raised his eyebrows. “But she’s not even the same race as you, and her parents are divorced. They hardly have any money.”
  “They live in a two story house. And her dad owns a place in Alaska. They only broke up a little while ago.” I muttered. Though they weren’t even my real parents, it bothers me when people talked about Evvie’s divorced parents-like it was something to be upset about. More kids had divorced parents than kids who had two actual parents. I was lucky to have a Mom and Dad who (I hope) love each other, and to be fortunate with the money we have.

  And even though Evvie never mentioned the real reason about her parents, I understood. I never really had to mention why I couldn’t come out. Just see my dad for thirty minutes and you’ll understand.

  “Doesn’t mean that they have money, Ezra,” he said.

  I took a few breaths, making sure I was careful with my words. Evelyn was supposed to be the one expected to marry someone rich, and I was put first in line on my father and mother’s will. I didn’t see how marrying someone with less would even affect me, especially because marriage isn’t even something I care about now. “That’s your opinion, Dad,” I said. “Plus, I’m only sixteen. It’ll be another fifteen years until I actually want to marry.”

  Dad sighed. “And when you do marry a woman-” It for sure won’t be a woman. “I expect you to marry well. And have grandchildren.”

  There are ways for that, in case you’re wondering.

  “I will, Dad.”

  My dad patted me on the back, his eyes looking down at the marble counter. “That’s why you’re my favorite, Ezra,” he said. “You always listen.”

  I hated when he called me his favorite. I always felt like he basically neglects Eric, and gives Evelyn all of the second attention. Emmanuel was never Dad’s favorite, because he could care less about sports. But it always felt….strange how much attention Evelyn and I got, compared to my other siblings.

  “Can I go to my room?” I asked. Dad nodded, and I jumped out of my seat and left, not even waiting to see if he had anything else to say to me. I rushed up the stairs quickly, and then slammed my door behind me. Evvie was sprawled out on my bed, scrolling through something on her phone. She looked up once the door slammed, her eyes seeming kind of alarmed.

  “How’d that conversation go?” she asked.

  I shrugged, and sat down at my desk, which wasn’t very far away from where my bed was. “I seriously hate him sometimes,” I whispered.

  Evvie smiled. “Understandable.”

  “I don’t understand how a person could be homophobic, racist, and unloving,” I said, thinking about how Dad basically ignored my mom when she walked into the room. “It doesn’t even seem possible.”


  Sitting up, Evvie put her phone to the side and looked at me. “Not every person in this world is good,” she said. “And not every child understands that.”


  Child. That word always irritated me. I wasn’t a child (unless somehow sixteen meant that I was the same as Emmanuel), but you didn’t seem to get any respect until eighteen years old rolls around the corner. But still, I’m guessing she didn’t really mean any harm by the words.

  Plus, it wasn’t myself I was so worried about.

  “But what about Emmanuel?” I asked. My younger brother wasn’t as strong as Eric and I grew up to be, and Evelyn soon learned how to be what image our parents wanted. But, Emmanuel wasn’t athletic at all, and he likes hanging out with people. He found fun in comfort in other people, unlike me, who hated being close. He wasn’t strong like Dad wants him to be, and I don’t know how that’ll play out for him.

  Evvie blinked, knowing how clingy my brother was. “I’m sure he’ll be fine, Ez.”


  “And what if he isn’t?”


  She hesitated again, but then relaxed a little. “You’re brother has you for another two years, and Evelyn for three. And you know that your sister will do whatever it takes to keep him safe. Plus, I don’t see why you’re so worried.”

  Because Emmanuel hasn’t been showing interest in anyone yet.

  I shrugged, because it didn’t even seem to matter anymore. “Yeah, I guess so,” I muttered. “Are you really going to EastLand?”
  Evvie nodded. “I decided on moving back. I mean, cleary, I’ve missed out on a lot, and I think that going back to school here would be a fresh start.”

  “I thought you hated your mom,” I said.

  Evvie nodded slowly, not making eye contact with me. I might’ve been in the wrong for saying that, but all I was doing was making my statement. There couldn’t be any harm in that. “I’m getting used to her now,” she said. I waited for her to continue, and she laid out on my bed again. “So….let’s talk about this text.”