Chapter 16

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Two hours of awkward small talk at Sara's house was followed by a meander through Richmond Park with Scott. The last of the sun shone through the branches overhead, but it was still too cold to take my shoes off and feel the grass under my feet. Scott was going on about how I was Izzy 2.0, a worthy substitute for her in his life now that she was being married off. I, however, was distracted by memories of Leon's quickening breath in my ear.

'Scott, I've got something to get off my chest.'

'You're pregnant!' he exclaimed in mock shock. 'You're really a man! You're not really Beth George from high school, you just assumed her identity!'

'Okay, what I'm about to say will hopefully be a bit of an anti-climax to those things.' I stopped and motioned for us to sit down. Scott frowned, I guess realising that I was actually about to say something important.

'I hope you know I'm risking getting grass stains on these trousers for this", he grumbled. He plonked himself down, pulled a blade of grass from the dirt and ripped it to pieces. Crikey.

'So, what is it?' he asked in exasperation after I sat down and said nothing. I had no idea how to begin.

'Well, um, I-I hooked up with Leon last night.' I guess my mouth thought the best way to begin was to blurt out the whole punchline.

Scott's mouth opened and his eyes widened.

'Oh,' he said quietly. 'But I thought...?' His voice trailed off and he looked down at the grass.

'He's not gay, I'm sorry.'

'You're sorry that he's not gay? How about you're sorry for sleeping with someone I liked?' His voice remained low and quiet, and in a weird, masochistic way, I wished he was shouting at me. That way I would have known where I stood.

'Yes, that too. I'm so sorry. I feel terrible. But you probably would have done the same if you were -'

'I never would have done the same,' he snapped.

'Oh.'

He swallowed loudly. The sound of birds screeching overhead punctuated the silence. He eventually spoke again.

'This isn't your way of paying me back for that night I came out to you, is it?'

'What? No! I didn't even realise you remembered that night properly.' I was shocked. He couldn't be further from the truth. A horrible thought dawned on me at that moment that perhaps I had subconsciously done it for that reason, but no, I wouldn't be that intrinsically spiteful, would I? On some level I'd have known it, but I didn't.

'Of course I remember that night!' The volume of Scott's voice had now risen. 'You don't think I've thought about that night over and over in my head for the last ten years? You were the first person I ever came out to, Beth. It was a big bloody deal.'

Now it was my turn to go quiet and focus my gaze on the grass.

'I admit that I didn't choose the right time to tell you, but I was a kid and I was scared,' he said. 'Then for you to run out of my room like you were disgusted with me and to never even think to call to see how I was? I never saw you again. Do you realise how much that hurt?'

'I had no idea.' It was the truth. It never occurred to me that Scott had given a shit about what I thought of him and, worse, it had never dawned on me that that night was even more scarring for him than it was for me. He was the king of high school, after all. I'd thought he was untouchable.

'Scott, I was too caught up in what that night meant for me. I was ready to lose my virginity and then I thought I was nothing. I was so upset.'

'Well, I felt exactly the same as you then,' he mumbled, lying down on the grass. 'But it's nice to know you only thought of yourself.'

'Your shirt - it's white,' I said. 'The grass...'

'I don't care.'

A few seconds of silence passed before I decided to lie down next to him.

'You didn't call me either,' I pointed out. I gazed up at clouds that hadn't been in the sky an hour ago. We lay still for what felt like a long time. If only I'd stuck around that night and lain next to him then. If only I'd held his hand and thought about someone other than myself. But I'd been a hurt teenager and I knew I'd never have thought to do that. I marvelled at the fact that, even now as an adult, I was hesitant to reach out and hold his hand. But, as I watched the clouds drift, my hand gradually found its way to his. Ever so slowly, he squeezed my fingers. It was me who was the first to speak.

'I guess we were both pretty big shitheads back then, huh?'

'Yeah, I guess we were.' He gave a soft laugh.

'I'm so sorry Scott. What was it like for you back then? You know, after you came out?'

'It wasn't easy at first. Most people weren't... expecting it, you know? I mean, I was a bit of a jock in high school and it was all a bit of a shock, especially to my family.'

I remembered Scott's mum, with her wavy bleached hair and denim pedal pushers. She was one of those cool mums who let us hang out together with the bedroom door closed, so Scott and I would snog in his room for what seemed like hours. Looking back, I'm sure Scott secretly wished his mum hadn't been so cool.

'Anyway, we all got through it,' continued Scott. 'My parents accepted it once they'd gotten over their shock. And I accepted it too. I'm pretty happy with who I am and I have been for a long time.'

'That's awesome.'

'It is.' He agreed before he paused. His mouth opened as it he was about to say something else.

'What?' I prompted him.

'I've actually got a little confession to make to you Beth. It's funny, really.'

'You're the one who's pregnant!' I gasped dramatically.

'Yeah, and I'm having quintuplets,' he joked. 'No, seriously, I once saw you out at that gay bar in Perth with Lachlan. It must have been almost ten years ago now. I hid behind a pillar so you wouldn't notice me.'

'What, really? That's terrible! To think I acted like such a tool back then that you didn't want to say hello.' I felt a stab of shame and squeezed his hand more tightly.

'Look, I was more embarrassed than anything. Anyway, I watched you play Lachlan's wingman and I was impressed. That's why I got you the interview with Verve, because I remembered how I watched you help Lachlan in that bar. That was cool. That's how I knew you were the right fit for Verve.'

'Well, I'll be forever grateful to you.' I meant it, too. 'I'm glad I've gotten to know you now. And I would never run out of your room these days.'

'Yeah, it's like the universe's way of making everything cool again.'

His head flopped to the side so he could look at me. I peered back at him and smiled.

'At least tell me that Leon had a small penis?' he asked hopefully.

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