For most of the ride back home, Luke and Elliott chatted easily. There were many things on Luke's list that he wanted to make sure he had—phone numbers and Facebook among others. He even considered a plan to ask Elliott over to their place sooner rather than later. All of it was important, but the thing foremost in his mind, the one that wouldn’t go away, waited until they weren’t far from home.
“So…who’s Miguel?” Luke finally asked.
All at once, Elliott stamped his foot on the brake, and Luke found himself gripping the seat as they came to a skidding halt on the wet road. Shocked, Luke was speechless. Another car honked angrily from behind, and then passed them by.
“Miguel?” Elliott's expression was tight as he gripped the steering wheel. “Estela! She’s a….”
It wasn’t anywhere near the response Luke expected, nor did Elliott elaborate. Luke blinked and tried to backtrack.
“Sorry. She just said something about… I didn’t really—” He stopped as Elliott leaned over the steering column of his sporty car and banged his head lightly on it. Luke watched in growing concern at the strange behavior.
Oh hell! Now what had he done?
Elliott seemed to gather himself. “Sorry—I’m being an asshole again.” He set off once more, driving a little more carefully this time, though he seemed reluctant to add anything more.
Still, Elliott had to be thinking about something, and Luke watched him warily as if he were some modern Jekyll and Hyde who liked to switch personalities on a whim. They drove on in silence for another few blocks, while Luke searched in his head for something to say—and wondered when the next switch might come!
He was just deciding that maybe it would be best to just apologize and say never mind, when Elliott finally broke the silence.
“Sorry—I just didn’t expect to have to…” Elliott trailed off. Then, in a firmer voice, he said, “Miguel Ortiz.”
Luke frowned—it was hardly much of an explanation! Ortiz? A name on a painting flashed across his memory and he took a stab. “So, Miguel Ortiz was the guy who did the painting?”
Elliott flicked his eyes across quickly, and then went back to the road. "No, that was his father, Manny Ortiz.” He paused, and Luke waited, knowing there would be more as they passed under increasingly regular streetlights that each cast a brief revealing light on Elliott.
“You remember I said that a friend of ours had been killed in a fire?” Elliott’s eyes remained fixed on the roadway ahead. His tone was just as watchful. “That was Miguel.”
Luke’s head spun awkwardly as he tried to bring the different threads together. They were getting closer to his subdivision now, passing familiar junctions. In the gloomy night, the rain had started coming down more heavily again, and it cut through the beams of their headlights. Nothing made sense, but he felt he needed to say something—at least offer his condolences.
“Look—I’m sorry," he said. "I didn’t know it was to do with that.” Why the hell would Estela even bring up something like this? Other than a quiet grunt, Elliott didn't reply, and as they made their way into Luke's subdivision, the atmosphere in the car felt really awkward.
Then, all at once, Elliott seemed to relax. “It’s okay," he said, and he took a deep breath. "She’s probably right. It’s only fair.”
‘She’s probably right. It’s only fair?’ What the hell did that mean?
“Miguel was Manny and Isabella’s son. We were both thirteen, back then.”
We were both thirteen... Luke frowned. Was that supposed to make some sense? All at once, he made an abrupt connection that came flying out of a picture and off the wall, to strike him right between the eyes.
“So Miguel is the kid in the picture?” It was framed as a question, but he just knew it would be true.
“Yes.” Elliott glanced across to the passenger seat. His expression was difficult to read, but he seemed to come to a decision. “Look, there’s something you need to know about me. Es is right, I need to be honest.”
“You’ve lost me. What are you talking about?”
Elliott pulled up near to the Summers' house, but not onto the drive. “Miguel and I were close.”
“No—I mean, yes, of course, but…shit, I’m making a fucking mess of this!” Elliott shifted in his seat. “What I’m trying to say is that we were together…in a relationship.”
Luke froze, wondering if he’d heard it right, but knew he had. Elliott hadn't needed to use the word ‘gay’ for him to get the message. Staring ahead through the window towards their house, his voice seemed to seize up on him.
“Look," Elliott murmured after waiting for something—maybe anything—in reply. He sounded taken aback by Luke's lack of response. "I really like you, but I’m sorry if I got the wrong idea about you. I honestly didn’t mean to freak you out. I was almost sure you were gay, but if I got that wrong, I’m sorry…”
Outside, the rain continued to spatter against the windscreen. Luke turned to study Elliott, but was in such a complete fuzz, he still couldn’t force anything out.
Elliott must have taken it as an answer of sorts, and looked embarrassed. The self confidence had slipped away, and he stuttered. “Okay—well again, I’m really sorry. Look, you don’t have to come over again. Just tell your folks what happened, they'll understand and—”
“STOP...stop for God’s sake!” At last, Luke's voice kicked in. Elliott studied him warily, and Luke added, “It’s okay—honestly...” The words began to tumble out of his mouth. “I like you, too.”
There. It was out there. Luke found his heart was yammering, and it was all he could do to keep the tremor out of his hands. There was no taking back that he’d told another guy he had feelings for him.
Fucking hell...he was shaking like a leaf!
The engine continued to purr softly, and the car felt stuffy as the easing rain continued to slip down the windscreen. Luke looked nervously towards the house, convinced that his mum had ears that could track them, even at this distance and in this weather!
A relieved smile crept across Elliott’s face, becoming wider with unhidden eagerness. “I wasn’t wrong then?”
Luke shrugged, still feeling jumpy. “It’s still new for me—I’m not sure yet…” He glanced towards the house again.
"Oh..." Elliott's face fell.
"No—I didn't mean that. I'm sure, but—"
Elliott interrupted with a perceptive guess. “But your parents don’t know?”
Luke shook his head. “No one does. I don’t know how to tell them.” He wasn't counting Simon just then. That was way too complicated! Even now, after coming out to someone other than his brother, Luke felt edgy. If he was meant to feel relieved and released by the admission, it wasn't working!
Maybe Elliott could tell, and he said, “Honestly, I’m not about to jump you!” It came with an easy smile. Filling the space between them with humor, Elliott managed to raise a smile from Luke, too.
Luke’s smile was tentative—he still felt completely out of his depth. He knew he must look like a total asshole! "Sorry...it's all a bit...you know..."
Elliott chuckled. “Tell me about it! All I was hoping was that we might be able to spend a bit more time together—just to get to know you a bit more.”
“Well, maybe we can figure out a good way for you to come out to them—if that’s what you want.”
Come out? The whole idea filled Luke with dread. He asked, “Do your parents know?”
“About me or you?”
Luke’s mouth dropped. Oh shit! “They know about me?”
“Don’t worry.” Elliott shook his head quickly. “They already know I like you as a friend, but anything else is just a guess. I haven't actually told them anything. I did tell Estela that I thought you might be...gay, I mean..." He rolled his eyes. "I'm not yet sure if that was a mistake! I'm guessing she was the one that brought up Miguel?"
Elliott grinned. “Still, the way you were checking me out earlier, it was pretty obvious!”
“Oh shit—you knew?” Luke turned a shade of pink. "I'm really sorry—"
"Don't be!" Elliott smirked. "I did lead you on a bit…sorry about that.” Despite it, his eyes glinted and he seemed unrepentant.
“I…um … didn’t mind.” Luke gave him a cheeky grin.
“Good to know.” Elliott grinned back. “But about my parent, yes they know about me. It kind of burst out all over the place when everything went pear-shaped after Miguel. Sam knows too—and Es of course—but Natty was too young then to really understand what was going on.”
“Oh.” It was all a massive bombshell, and the conflicting emotions tripped over each other in Luke’s head as he gripped the door handle uncertainly. He saw the day through different glasses now. "Will you tell them about me? They're not going to say anything, are they?"
"No, no. Of course not!" Elliott said. “I understand where you're coming from, but they totally get how not everyone is as cool as they are. They wouldn’t do anything to put you at risk. I promise. They actually like you, you know!"
Out of sight of anyone who would see anything other than two friends chatting, Elliot's fingers brushed lightly against Luke's leg. Luke tried not to jump, though the light touch felt like it was loaded with electricity. Elliott had been making subtle contact all day, and it all took on a new meaning now.
Elliott's face became wistful. "And I like you, too, but there's also no pressure. I get it that you don't want to rush into anything. What about just getting together for a coffee or something, sometime?”
A coffee? That didn’t sound too dangerous. He could do that.
A smile stole across Luke's face. This was all so new, but there was no going back now, and he definitely liked the guy, too! They could start with a coffee at Starbucks in a quiet corner and take it from there.
“Yep–that sounds cool. If you give me your number, I’ll give you a call, if you want?"
And that was it. They exchanged numbers, and Elliott didn’t press or appear to want anything more just then. Either he was nervous, too, or he was being careful for Luke’s sake so close to the house. When they were done, Luke shuffled out of his seat and closed the car door with a clunk. Standing in the light rain, his stomach was full of butterflies as Elliott drove off.
Fucking hell...now what had he got himself into?
He walked up his driveway and then went inside the house, nervous that his parents would somehow know his secrets, but nothing seemed much different to any normal Sunday evening. He stuck his head through the lounge door to let everyone know he was home.
"Hello, sweetheart." His mum looked up from watching the TV, though it was only with half an eye. "Did you have a good time?"
"Yep, it was great. We swam for a while, and then we just played card games indoors after it started raining." He raced through the common everyday things two friends did to make it sound like nothing…gay… had happened.
"That's nice." She gave him an absent smile and returned to the wildlife documentary she and Geoff were watching.
Luke remained at the door, studying them carefully under the guise of an interest in bird migration, and his tingly elation was replaced by an uneasy doubt. What the hell would they say if they knew that the guy who had just dropped him off was gay—and worse, that he and Elliott were hitting it off? He just couldn’t imagine any good way of telling them that he was into guys…both he and Simon, in fact.
He chewed on his lip as he climbed the stairs to his room, wondering how disappointed they were going to be, and if there was even anything he could do about it. Simon’s door was open and he looked in. His brother was at his desk studying the computer screen.
Keeping his tone conversational, Luke said, “Hi there. So how was the sailing today?”
Simon turned from where he seemed to be browsing a weather site.
“Oh, hi. Not bad, actually. Great wind today.” He grinned and sounded upbeat as he retuned to the screen. “The Walkers think the weather’s going to hold like this all week, so they're planning on going up on Wednesday for a few hours. I might tag along again.”
"Cool." His brother was making plans at last!
When it came to making plans, Luke wondered what he was going to be doing on Wednesday. Under the guise of rubbing his nose with the back of his hand, he caught the scent of Elliott's cologne, and his thoughts drifted to a guy who had him in a tizzy! It was a completely weird feeling that began to displace the earlier worries. Even though he'd only just been dropped off, he actually wanted to go and call Elliott there and then, and talk to him—maybe even arrange to meet up soon. Like tomorrow!
But everything about the guy amounted to ‘boyfriend’, and now that it was right on his doorstep—literally fifteen minutes by car—it was all a lot more awkward than he'd anticipated. Not bad, just complicated. If he started going to Elliott's all the time, that was going to get noticed; not just by his mum and dad, but by Ryan, too. Luke felt he needed time to think it all through a bit.
It wouldn't stop him calling the guy though!
Getting back to his brother, he noticed the pile of football gear that was laid out on the bed—pants, shirt, socks, jock and cup amongst other stuff ready to go in the sports bag on the floor. It could only mean one thing, and he took a risk.
"Got football tomorrow?" He knew this was going be the first time Simon would be venturing onto the field—and into the locker rooms—since his operation, and he wondered how he was feeling about it.
Simon's good mood cooled, yet Luke's question didn't bring a sneer or an angry retort as Luke feared it might. He didn't even get treated to the dull, empty silence routine. Instead, Simon's face dropped, and he looked uncertain, fragile even as his eyes flicked to the kit he’d laid out for the following day.
It took Luke by surprise, too, but he added, "Look, you know you don't have to shower if you don't want to.” It was a little too blunt and Simon flinched.
“I know you’re trying to help,” Simon muttered, “but I don’t really want to talk about it.”
Simon’s stance sounded familiar, but for once, Luke didn’t believe it, and he had the feeling that, for the first time in weeks, his brother actually did want to talk. It felt like Luke was about to take the next step towards getting the old Simon back—the one that often needed to talk things through, to hear what Luke thought, and to unload onto someone he could trust. That Simon had gone AWOL the day he’d been taken to hospital.
“Fair enough.” Luke shrugged. He took it carefully, though; he wasn’t about to drop the ball. He came and sat on the bed alongside the sports kit, so that it wouldn’t feel like he was talking down to his brother.
“How about this… I could talk and you can listen if you want to?” He pulled a face and grinned. “Mum keeps telling me I’m a bit mouthy, so I might as well live up to it!” The humor flicked between them and kept Simon from backing away or making a scathing reply. Instead he looked relieved as he waited. Relieved, but still cautious.
Luke started by changing tack. He stood again, and went to the door to close it to give them some privacy. “Can I tell you something else first?”
“I think that Elliott kinda likes me…” Luke kept his voice low as he sat on the bed again, but he couldn’t help the jittery excitement of it all from sneaking across his face.
“Likes you?” Simon’s eyes widened and he sat forward, immediately fully engaged. “What kind of likes? You don’t mean—”
“Yep...that kind of likes!” Luke interrupted, grinning as he watched his brother’s mouth drop open.
“Anyway,” he continued, “we’re just gonna go out for a coffee or something…and see how it goes.”
“Bloody hell!” Simon looked shocked. “Really? He’s gay? How did you find out?”
“He told me.”
“He told you?” Simon’s mouth was still flapping. “When?”
“So what happened?”
"Nothing happened. We just got talking and...you know..."
Simon seemed to get that Luke didn't particularly care to go into all the details, and sat back. "Wow...that's really...wow!" At first he was brimming, and then there was a distracting flicker in Simon’s eye. The grin dissipated and he looked away.
It wasn't hard to read his brother, or to guess something of what was going on in his head, and Luke took it as a sign it was time to get to the elephant in the room.
"Si, I don't know what happened between you and Toby."
Luke held up his hand, forestalling what was about to be a bristling retort. "And I don't need to know."
Simon's hooded eyes were unreadable, so Luke risked pressing on. "All I know is something happened around the same time you got the paraphimosis thing. For now, it doesn't really matter."
Simon was bearing with him, so he kept going. "What matters is you still have lots of friends, and they're worried about you. And I only know this," he added, seeing a grimace of skepticism, "because they told me."
"They told you?" Simon’s eyes flashed with a wary suspicion. Luke didn’t blame him—nobody liked being talked about behind their back.
"It's not like that," he said quickly. "I haven't been blabbing on you. I didn't encourage it." He knew he needed to be honest, but careful too.
“They cornered me in the locker rooms. Like I said, they were worried for you, and I thought they deserved an honest answer.”
“The locker rooms?” Simon sounded dubious.
"It was at the end of sports day, just before the fire. Everyone was trying to get a shower. Me, Ry, Todd, Elliott and the others." He chuckled at the memories of the day. "Hell, I wish you'd have been there and seen Elliott on the volleyball court. He completely dismantled Mitchell's lot. He was amazing! It was a complete fucking rout!"
Simon's eyes narrowed as he pulled it back. "So, my friends asked you about me when you were all in the showers?"
"No, you dipstick—it was after. When we were all leaving!"
Simon seemed to accept that, and despite being ill at ease, a cheeky smirk crossed his face. "But Elliott—was he in the showers?"
"You cheeky bastard!" Luke laughed, but couldn't help coloring as he got teased.
"I bet you checked him out!" Simon was relentless. He sat back on his chair and appeared to be quite enjoying himself.
Luke sniggered, sensing the changing in his brother’s mood.
"I might have done," he admitted and a sly look came on his face. "And yes, as dinkies go, his isn't bad..." They both chuckled, and it became easier to talk as the icy wall that his brother had withdrawn behind the last month began to melt further in the warmth of their shared worlds.
"The thing is," Luke said eventually, going back to what he'd been trying to say. "People are going to be interested."
"What? In Elliott's dick?" A smirk crossed Simon’s face. "That's not right!"
Luke let his brother have his fun. It was a whole lot better than the alternative that all of them had had to live with these last weeks. He sighed, "They were asking after you. It just seemed better to tell them why you were feeling off."
"Everyone?" Simon cringed and he shook his head. Some of the caution returned. "What did you tell them?"
"Not everyone. Just Mase, Gabe and Jacko. I just said you'd had an operation a bit like mine, but it was more complicated. They were fine with it."
“What I mean is..." Luke paused a beat, trying to find the best way of saying it. "You remember when we first arrived? Most of these guys had never seen anything like us before. And now we're both cut, they just wanna know why and how and all that junk. I mean, remember that day when we were at Todd's for that cookout?”
Simon nodded. “When we were all in the hot tub, you mean?”
"Well it's just like that. It feels like a big deal for a while, and I think you just have to let them go with the flow. Let them gawp for a bit and have their say, and then it just goes away. End of."
There was a thoughtful silence as Simon appeared to be weighing it up. Finally, he said, "I'll try."
When it was truly meant, you couldn't ask for anything more from someone, and from the determined look on his brother's face, Luke didn't doubt that Si meant it. It was a good sign, a great sign even. Life was getting back on track once more.
Coming to an end of what he wanted to say, Luke grinned. "You've got it! Okay, I've stopped preaching now...you're free to start listening if you want!"
“So tell me more about Elliott!" Simon said at once. "Are you going to see him again soon?”
Luke rolled his eyes and wasn’t going to be drawn. “When there’s something to tell, I’ll let you know. I’ll probably give him a call sometime.” He got up and headed for the door through to his own room.
Simon’s voice followed him. “Do you wanna go first?” The usual bathroom question for this time in the evening.
“It’s all yours. We went swimming this afternoon at Elliott’s. Afterwards, I showered there.”
Luke grinned and ignored his brother's teasing tones. At the same time, as he closed his door, he couldn’t help wonder what that would have been like as his thoughts returned to Elliott Carter. The next step was a phone call—a call that was bound to lead to something that couldn’t be called anything else but a date!
What would Elliott want? Just a coffee, or something more…something physical, even?
From what Elliott had said, he'd already been with someone—Miguel. What kind of relationship that had been, Luke had no idea, but it still put Elliott way out in front in having any clue what to do. The next time Luke was at the Carter's place and he needed a shower, would Elliott want more than just to be in there alone? Luke chewed his lip. What did he want for that matter? Just a coffee at Starbucks, or that shower? He was probably way overthinking it, but he'd never been here before.
How the hell did you go about dating another guy? Were there rules? He felt he needed answers—a bit of advice about guys and relationships before facing that phone call.
Right off the bat, asking his parents was a no-no. He might have asked Simon, but even with the massive change in mood, getting his brother on the subject of Toby Skerrit was something that was still off-limits. There was only one other person he knew he could ask, so he settled at his desk. He fired up his Mac, logged onto Facebook, and took a deep breath as he saw Damon Jamieson was online.
[LUKE] “Hi there.”
[DAMONJ] "Hey, bud! Good weekend? So what happened with the fire?” Damon didn't hang around with getting back to what they'd talked about previously, and Luke settled in for some to and fro as he waited for the right moment.
[LUKE] “They reckon it was started on purpose. Not found anyone yet, though.” For the next few minutes he updated Damon as best he could.
[DAMONJ] "No doubt the cops are profiling the usual suspects. That’s what it’s like here!”
[LUKE] “Dunno—maybe.” Luke didn’t really care. He wanted to steer the chat to something much more important—to himself.
[LUKE] “There was something I thought I should tell you. And I’ve got some stuff I wanted to ask.”
[DAMONJ] "Oh yeah? Now what have you done? You’re not an arsonist now, are you?”
[LUKE] “Asshole! As if! No, it’s nothing like that!”
[DAMONJ] "Spill, then.”
[LUKE] “Okay—wellmaybe I’ve not told you everything…”
[DAMONJ] "Really? Okay, now you’ve got my attention.”
[LUKE] “Well…there’s this guy I kind of like...a friend…” He bit his lip and waited for the reply.
[DAMONJ] "What the hell are you saying? A guy that you like?” The reply was a surprisingly long time in the coming.
Luke’s reply was short and hesitant; the pause that followed, a lot longer.
[DAMONJ] "You’re kidding me? After all this time, you’re just now fucking well telling me that you're gay?”
[LUKE] “I’m not sure what you mean...” Luke cringed. This wasn’t going at all like he'd hoped. He tried to put together the right words in his head that would explain better. However, Damon flashed another message before Luke had time to type.
[DAMONJ] "What kind of fucked-up game are you playing? You pretend you're straight all this time? You get off on shit like that, do you?"
[DAMONJ] "Fucking asshole!”
Quite abruptly, Damon ended the conversation and signed out, leaving Luke blinking at the screen. He attempted to say more, to explain better, but it was a one-sided conversation and, confused and discouraged, he eventually signed off and shut down his computer feeling out of sorts.
What the hell had just happened?
Then, from his pocket, his mobile signalled an incoming text. Retrieving it, he’d gotten a message from Elliott, and he smiled at the, ‘Hi there!’
He didn't even consider not replying straight away, and his thumb flicked at the keypad.
(Luke) Hi. U made it home fast!
(Elliott) Yep. Not asleep?
(Luke) Ur kidding!
(Elliott) I wanted to ask something.
Elliott wanted to ask…what? ‘Did you miss me’ sprang to mind, but instead, Luke thumbed ‘??’.
(Elliott) Hang on...
Luke's mobile began to chime with his current favorite ring tone. He grinned and thumbed the button to receive the call. "Hey there!" he said, as the butterflies in his belly fluttered again.
Luke's grin widened as he heard a voice he liked. Crossing to his bed, he lay back and made himself comfortable—and any worries about some pissed-off dickhead in New York drifted into the distance. Who the fuck cared about Damon Jamieson, anyway? In the end, he hardly knew the asshole.
"I thought it was just easier to call,” Elliott said. He sounded in just as good a mood as he’d been when he drove off. “I didn’t want to bother you if you were asleep, that’s all. I just got in.”
“Asleep? You’re kidding, right?”’ Luke repeated. Sleep was the last thing on his mind!
“Maybe." A chuckle came down the phone. "Anyway, me and Es wondered if you wanted to come along for a ride to the airport tomorrow?"
"To drop her off, you mean? Her flight’s in the evening, right?"
"Yep. I said I’d take her. If you wanted to come along, we could give her a good send-off."
"Sure I’ll come.” Luke tried not to sound too eager. “Are you sure she won't mind?"
"Mind?" Elliott snickered down the phone. "She’s the one who suggested it! Come on—it'll be fun!"
"Cool. I'm in, then!" Damn right he was! It was a no-brainer!
Elliott's tone became softly magnetic. "I thought maybe we could stop off somewhere on the way back for something to eat, if you wanted."
The smile on Luke’s face broadened and his tone became teasing. “So is that instead of a coffee, now?”
“Maybe…we can always drink coffee, too, if it makes you feel better?”
“Are you asking me out on a date, Elliott Carter?” It all sounded so natural, and Elliott seemed to have the ability to make it easy to slip into a bit of flirting.
Luke burst out laughing. “You are such a dork!”
“She really likes you, you know.”
“She likes her guys thin, then?”
“So what time are you leaving?”
“Her flights not till nine, but she wants to check in by around seven or so. I was thinking of heading off around five-forty in case the traffic’s bad. We can pick you up, if you want.”
“Sounds good. It would be great to see her again before she goes.” And even better to see you!
Luke stretched out on his bed with the sound of the shower running in the background, and suddenly felt tongue-tied. “By the way...I just wanted to say I… I had a great day today. Thanks for having us over.”
The jaunty reply sounded as happy as Luke was feeling. “You’ll have to come over again soon…although I’ve got a bit of a problem.” The tone suggested otherwise and it didn’t take much to imagine the grinning face.
“What kind of problem?” Luke sniggered. “Should I ring for the doctor?”
“Hee-hee. The thing is, you seemed to have made a bit of an impression on Natty. Es tells me she hasn’t stopped talking about you since you left. Natty has it bad for you, and wants to know when you’re coming back!”
“Oh gosh…Natty as well?” Luke groaned. “I hope you’re not going to force me to chose?”
“I tell you—she and Es are already at each other’s throats over you!”
“Give me a break! Tell Natty that if I ever turn straight, she'll be top of my list!" Luke pulled a face. "Actually, maybe not—that sounded a bit weird." Pervy more like!
Elliott pounced. "I'm still in with a good chance, then?" he teased.
“Maybe." Luke smiled to himself. The more they talked, the more inevitable it felt. Through the earpiece, he picked up on Estela’s voice in the background. The voices got muffled, and it sounded like a tussle, until the next voice he got was a girl’s.
“Hi, Luke.” Estela was quite giggly.
“Es! Give me the phone back!” came a background moan.
“You come to the airport, too?” She laughed again. “Good—it is nice for both of you!”
Luke didn’t have time to reply with anything more than a quick yes before it sounded like the phone was snatched back.
“Out!” barked Elliott, though it wasn’t directed towards Luke. Elliott’s grinning voice finally came back to Luke’s ear. “Sorry about that.”
“I guess she knows.” Luke winced, though at least she was probably as safe as it got.
“Oh, she knows, the witch! Don’t worry, she’s not going to say anything—especially around Sam.”
Luke bit his lip. He’d not thought about that. With the little he knew about Sam Carter, it wouldn’t be hard for this kind of thing to get to Becky. At that point, it would come out faster than a middle-school boner in a room full of naked pompom-waving cheerleaders!
“About that…with Sam…”
Elliott must have been able to hear Luke’s hesitation, and said, “With Becky and the Kears, you mean?”
“Ummm…yeah…” The more Luke thought about it, the more worried it made him. If he ever did come out to his parents, it would be in his own way and time, not because Becky Kear was the mouth that roared!
Elliott seemed to be reading his mind. “I agree. We need to be really careful around them.”
Luke wondered how careful was ‘careful’. Maybe they would get lucky and Sam and Becky would break up permanently!
“Okay…well I’d better let you go," he said finally. "You'll be needing your beauty sleep!"
"Fucking hell…you're ruthless!" came the laughing response. "So, we're on for tomorrow night, then?"
"We’ll pick you up at five-forty, then. I think I can probably find your place easily enough."
"Okay—see you tomorrow." Luke hung up and put the phone on his nightstand. With his hands behind his head, he relaxed into his pillow. Then the phone binged again. He picked it up, unsurprised to see another text from Elliott.
(Elliott) Es wants 2 leave ur place 5:30. Says I drive like an old woman and wants to get there b4 gate closes!
(Luke) 5:30 is fine. Tell her I can drive if she's right!
It didn't end there, either. Further texts came in, and with neither of them in any hurry to be with anyone else, the conversation continued in small bite-sized chunks. It was certainly a lot easier to flirt by text than it was in conversation when you were still getting to know someone, and Luke found himself doing just that.
* * *
Ryan was keeping a low profile that day and was back home in his room, angry and brooding. His eye throbbed as he stared at the computer screen. He could barely see the words in the chat box.
But why the hell would Luke play a game like this?
Distracted by his confusion, he almost made a fatal mistake by pressing send before he realized he was online with the wrong account. He logged out, deleting the incriminating text he nearly sent. He stared at his alter-ego for a second before he switched from Damon Jamieson…and logged back in as himself. The previous chat exchange was gone, but it hardly mattered. The words were etched onto the back of his eyeballs! ‘There’s this guy I kind of like—’
Luke Summers? Gay? How the hell could that even be?