After the Kiss - Part 1

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I was dreading what high school would be like without Liam by my side. Along with Liam, I also lost Kareem and Jeremy, so I spent my free time during school in the library. Sci-fi and Fantasy were my preferred genres, but in January, I decided to try something different. After searching "gay" and "LGBT" in the catalogue, I found a few books that sparked my interest. One day, in some romance movie-type cliché, I reached for a book at the same time as another boy.

“Hi,” he said. “Do you know this book?” He looked me up and down.

“I know what it’s about, if that’s what you’re asking.”

We stared at each other, both obviously trying to figure out if the other was gay.

“I’m Malcolm,” he said under his breath in his nasally voice. “And I’m gay.” He twirled his hand and rolled his eyes, “As if that wasn’t obvious. I couldn’t be closeted even if I wanted to.”

“I’m Alex,” I replied just as quietly before glancing through both shelves to make sure no one was around. “And I don’t know if I’m closeted.”

Malcolm raised an eyebrow then squealed. “Oh my god. Okay, okay. We’re friends now. If you don’t want to hang with me, that’s cool, but like, at least internet friends. I need another gay guy to talk to.”

I shook my head and shrugged one shoulder. “No, we can hang.”

Okay, so, if you meet another gay guy when you're thinking you must be the only one in the whole school, things are going to happen. Malcolm and I secretly dated for about 2 weeks. Making out was great, but we were so not each other's type. It was a little like dating myself, which, don't get me wrong, I think I'm a catch but... just, no. We, in fact, had the same type―taller, sexy guys with great eyes and smiles. But we stayed friends, of course. Having someone to confide in and relate to felt amazing. We shared our gay discovery stories with each other and I even told him about Liam and my first heartbreak.

Malcolm's best friend was a grade above us, a straight girl named Carly and I soon started hanging out with them. With my new pair of friends who accepted me, my real self started slipping out. No longer was I trying to come off as very straight and masculine.

Because of this and who I was hanging out with, I earned judging looks, especially in the locker room for P.E.. I didn't even give them a chance to bother me and decided myself to start changing in the bathroom. Plus, yes, okay, these high school boys (especially the jocks) were better to look at anyway, so I was also doing myself a favor.

I got through my first year without Liam, happy to be free from faking who I was with new friends. I'd be lying, though, if I said I didn't miss him.

It was a week after my sixteenth birthday, a Friday in November of grade 10, that I went with Malcolm to Carly's house to hang out. I entered the kitchen to find the cutest boy I'd laid eyes on since Liam.

"This is Reed," Carly said dismissively, heading to the fridge to grab our pop before we went to her room. Carly had already told us about him. He was her 17-year-old cousin and had moved in with her at the start of that year. He was supposed to be in grade 12 but had been held back a year, so was in the same grade as Carly. Most people didn't know they were cousins considering how different they were; while Carly wore anime shirts and had a license to do CPR, Reed wore band tees and had a license to drive a motorcycle.

He was leaning on the kitchen island with a can in his hand. As his bright blue eyes gazed at me, he ran a hand through his black bangs and smirked. "Well, aren't you a cutie."

I couldn't fight my flattered smile. "Is that your motorcycle outside?" I asked, pretending like I didn't already know.

"Yeah." He paused. "Maybe I could give you a ride home from school sometime?"

I shrugged. "Sure."

Malcolm rolled his eyes so hard I thought they might fall out. Carly grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the kitchen and up the stairs. "Don't mess with him," she said. "He's a cocky jerk."

I didn't listen to Carly's warnings, though. When we went to her house to hang out, Reed was often there flirting with me. I got to know him beyond the rumors and it wasn't long before we started dating. No offense to Malcolm, but Reed was my first real boyfriend. When I went to the grade 11 wing for my advanced classes, I’d sometimes see him at his locker hanging with his friends and wave. He’d give me a head nod before turning back to his buddies. He ate lunch with his friends and I ate with mine. But I didn’t think much about it; he drove me home on his motorcycle at least once a week and was never stingy with the texts.

And Reed taught me plenty of things. I have to thank him for the fact that I actually knew what I was doing once I started hooking up in college. We'd been together for almost a month when I finally lost my virginity. I felt like I'd become an adult and was on Cloud Nine. But I noticed, after I'd given it up to Reed, my name was being whispered around the hallways again. And this time, it wasn't just my year.

Being a grade level above in math, I had class with grade 11 students. One day, we had a substitute, so the students were loud and unruly as the young woman sat there on her cell phone, barely babysitting. I worked on my assignment silently as the bros beside me guffawed. One turned to me and asked, "So, Cameho, how does it feel to be fucked in the ass?"

I looked at the guy like the idiot he was. "If you want to try it, just ask," I told him with a patronizing smile. "I'll be gentle."

As his friends ohh'd and laughed, he glared. "Fuck you, fag."

"You wish," I muttered, turning back to my work.

Another set of ohhs from his friends was too much for his fragile heterosexuality, so he stood up by my desk puffing out his chest.

I didn't know if he was planning to hit me. But I figured I was invincible. I had a cute, older boyfriend who drove a motorcycle, so what could this douchebag do, right? I stood up as well and the room went silent while I stared at him challengingly.

"I could break your little fag face with one punch, fag."

'Fag, fag,' I thought, rolling my eyes. He couldn't be more creative than that? "I broke your fragile ego so you're gonna break my face, huh?" I said with feigned pity. "Sorry, even if your ego is big, you still can't make up for your small dick."

Another round of ohhs, this time from even the substitute, turned the fuckboy's face red and he swung his fist, knocking me to the floor. My cheek hurt like hell and I put my hand over the bruising, throbbing spot. But I would not let him win. I looked at him coldly, then at his crotch where his baggy jeans hung far too low. "Still small." I shrugged.

I was saved from being punched again by one of his friends holding him back saying, "Dude, you're gonna get suspended. Stop." The jackass spat at my feet before storming out of the classroom, past the substitute who was reporting "a fight" to the front office.

***

Two days later, my bruise was still healing as I sat in the cafeteria waiting for Malcolm to show up at our usual table. When he finally made his entrance, he did it in an unusual way. The chair clattered loudly as he shot into the seat and slapped his palms on the table. "Oh. My. God. Alex."

"What?" I wondered why Malcolm was being so dramatic. This better be good.

"Liam Santos got suspended."

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