‘Please tell me that’s not who I thought it was,’ Tyson choked hoarsely, dropping his cigarette and crushing it under the ball of his shoe.
I couldn’t answer him. I was standing three feet away from the porch in a pool of light from the overhead, frozen in place by shock and fear. I could feel a prickling in my throat as it started to close.
‘Justin,’ Tyson said again, his voice serious, as he walked towards me shakily and put his hands on my shoulders, squeezing a little too hard. His breath smelled of smoke. ‘I need you to tell me that that wasn’t Rowan Montgomery.’
‘I...’ I coughed, but it sounded more like a scratchy gasp for breath. ‘I...’
Tyson shook me a little, looking intently into my eyes. ‘Did he hurt you?’ he asked quietly.
‘No!’ I managed to exclaim, finally shocked out of near-coma at this unsettling question. ‘No, it’s not like that.’ I shook my head vehemently, trying to clear my thoughts and figure out how I was going to explain this.
Tyson might be a complete jackass, but he was still my cousin, family. He made fun of me all my life, but whenever anybody else tried to do likewise, he made mince-meat of them. He was like a condescending older brother. I had to try and explain my sexuality without upsetting him, or offending him when he realised people had known before he did.
‘Look, Ty, I’m really sorry,’ I said quickly and quietly. ‘This wasn’t the way I wanted you to find out. But, yeah, that was Rowan. I... I’m... I’m gay,’ I finished in a small voice, hoping he wasn’t gonna freak out and actually beat me up this time.
Tyson stared at me like I was something disgusting he’d scraped off his shoe, uncomprehending. ‘Who gives a fuck if you’re gay?’ he screamed suddenly, letting go of my shoulders and shoving his hands roughly into his hair, looking angry. ‘Rowan Montgomery?’ he demanded, staring at me with wide eyes. ‘Of all the Monta-losers in all the world, you had to sell yourself out to him?!’
‘It’s not like that!’ I cried desperately, taking a step towards him, trying to make him understand. ‘I really like him!’
‘And you think he feels the same way?!’ Tyson demanded. ‘You think he likes you too? He’s using you, Justin! Jesus cuz, you could do so much better!’
I stared at him, getting worked up. ‘Like who?’ I demanded. Our voices were raised and I knew it was only a matter of time until everyone in the house came outside to see what was going on. ‘In this shitty town, who else am I ever gonna meet? Parker Count? If you’re so concerned for my well-being, cuz,’ I said sarcastically, ‘you could focus on getting him to stop harassing me rather than Rowan!’
‘Parker’s harmless,’ Tyson snapped absently, barely listening to me. ‘At least he actually likes you. Rowan is doing this for one reason and one reason only: to get one up on Capulet.’
I stared at him sardonically. ‘And how is taking me on one date gonna mess with your reputation so badly?’ I demanded.
‘Our reputation,’ he hissed. ‘You’re a student there too, or have you already forgotten?’ I merely clenched my jaw, waiting for a response. ‘Because you’re my family,’ he finally snapped, like I should have known it all along. ‘He’s not doing this because he likes you, Justin, he’s doing this to get at me.’
Before I could respond with any of the dozens of scathing retorts that erupted in my brain, the front door finally clicked open and my parents, his, Nate, and Rosaline spilled out onto the porch.
‘What’s going on out here?’ my dad asked, puzzled. Tyson and I may not be the best of friends, but our fights rarely get as intense as this.
Tyson clamped his mouth shut, looking at me warily. He raised an eyebrow and I knew what he was trying to ask; do they know you’re gay?
|Preston Escalus/Priscilla Escabel||as Prince Escalus of Verona|
|Parker Count||as Count Paris|