After the Kiss - Part 3

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After an awkward silence that was probably far shorter than it felt, Liam silently closed the door and retreated.

Liam? Why was Liam here?

"What the fuck is he doing here?" Reed demanded, lifting himself from me.

I had no clue, but I needed to find out. I stood up, adjusting my clothes, ready to go after Liam.

Reed caught my arm. "Where the hell are you going?"

"I need to find out why he came," I explained. We hadn't spoken in over a year, he hadn't even approached me after getting suspended two weeks ago, but now he was showing up at my house?

"Fuck that. Nah, if you go after him, we're through."

I gazed at Reed in disbelief then snatched my arm away and glared. Was he serious? He was going to break up with me over this? Maybe he was bluffing. "Fine," I said. "Goodbye, Reed."

As I ran through and out of the house, I wondered if Reed would come to me apologizing in a few days or if we were really over. Liam hadn't made it far down the sidewalk when I caught up to him. "Liam!" I called.

He paused and looked back at me with a shocking expression. The frown deeply etched into his features made my heart clench before his face turned from view as he continued walking.

"Wait!" I continued after him. "You came for some reason, right? What is it?" I grabbed his arm to stop his advancement and he yanked it from my grip so hard, I heard my nails snap against the fabric. Shocked, I stood there with my hand still outstretched as he marched off and out of sight.

***

"Alex!" Carly called when she spotted me in the school hallway. She ran over, manoeuvring through bodies and pulled me into a hug. "I'm so sorry about you and Reed."

I hugged her back.

"He's such a jerk."

True. Why didn't I notice sooner?

"I hope he and that girl get chlamydia."

I pulled away from Carly's embrace. "Huh?"

She looked at me blankly, then realization crept on her face in sync with mine.

"He cheated on me?!" I shouted, balling my fists. People in the hallway turned around to glance at me.

"Wait, then why did you break up?" Carly asked, hands to her mouth in shock.

I really didn't want to go there. "How long was he cheating on me?"

"Like, at least 2 weeks? I just found out though―I swear I didn't know when it was happening."

"Two fucking weeks? Are you serious?"

"Oh crap, I take back what I said about chlamydia."

It then hit me, I'd been sleeping with Reed while he was sleeping with some unknown girl. I needed to get tested. We'd used condoms only once we started having intercourse, so there was still a chance, even if slim, that I'd contracted something. Could I get tested without my mom finding out?

After stewing over it for a few days, I thought, maybe I should just come out to my mom. I wasn't sure what she'd think, but if I gave her stats about the suicide rates of LGBT+ youth sent to conversion camps and counseling, she'd at least spare me from that, right? However, if she found out I'd had been having sex, she would definitely crap a cow. She'd told me that she was the one who let Liam into the house when she'd returned home for a moment to grab something she'd forgotten. I thanked God she didn't even seem to know I'd been in my room with some guy.

I didn't have the courage though, so instead spent months anxious and checking my genitals and urine daily for signs of anything unusual. But when I went for my yearly physical before grade 11, I realized there was an opportunity right there. The doctor always asked, "Are you sexually active?" I would just make sure my mom wasn't in the room when I told the doctor "yes" and begged him to keep it from her.

It was a success and the call to my cell phone saying I was clean and disease-free brought tears of relief to my eyes. Like the doctor and nurse who called had advised me, I decided I would always use a condom no matter what type of sex was happening. If the Toronto boys had a problem with that, too bad.

That's, right: Toronto. I was dying to be closer to the provincial capital for university. I was certain I'd find way more gay guys there. The city had a plethora of gay hot spots and it would be more diverse and accepting than the much smaller area I was in where most everyone was white and Catholic. I just knew I would thrive up there.

My mom and tía were supportive. As I chatted with my mom about the latest uni brochure that'd been delivered, she washed the dishes.

"Don't forget you'll need to find a job to help with expenses."

"I know. I'll work on campus." While in high school with my advanced classes, my mom didn't want me working, so I'd only had jobs during the summer. But I was sure I could handle juggling uni classes and an on-campus job. 

"I don't know why you want to live so far away from home, though," she sighed.

I shrugged and picked at the lengthening hangnail on my thumb. "I just want a different environment. I've been here most of my life. My friends are going out of the area too. Carly's going to Vancouver."

"Ay," my mom lamented then grumbled something in Spanish.

I stood up and made my way to the sink to help her finish washing.

"Well, I keep asking your tía to move in here. Maybe she'll finally agree once you go to Toronto."

"Tía? Why?"

"She's getting old and so is Tico." Tico was my tía's dog. "He will probably die within the next year or two. After her husband died, Tico is all Rosa has left."

"Tía seems to be doing well, though." She was still as talkative, lively, and nosey during last week's visit as she was when I was a kid.

"Well, we'll be lonely. Us sisters can stick together."

I nodded.

"Liam is looking at universities as far as Ottawa," my mom said. "You know, I saw his parents at the grocery store last week and we caught up."

"Mhm." I dried a dish, looking disinterested, but internally shocked that Liam was thinking about going so far away.

"You two were like brothers," she sighed. "He was your costilla." Turning off the faucet, she turned to me and placed her damp hands on my cheeks. "Alejandrito, my baby, you know I love you no matter what, right?"

"Yeah?" I raised an eyebrow wondering what was up with the sudden sentimentality.

"Always, I will accept all of you."

I blinked. Did she know? About Liam and me? About me? Was this her telling me it was okay for me to come out? "Uh..." My eyes stung. "Even if..." Unexpectedly, I burst into tears, unable to finish.

My mom pulled me into a hug as my tears soaked the strap of her apron. She rocked back and forth and I felt like a child again.

"Mami," I sobbed into her shoulder, "Soy homosexual."

Her hand patted my back and I felt her nod. "Lo , mijo," she replied, confirming she already knew.

It took me a while to stop crying and when I pulled away from my mom's shoulder, she wiped a reddened eye. I didn't know she'd been crying as well. "Just be careful," she said. "Many gay men have HIV."

I stared at my mother blankly, then burst into laughter.

"Why are you laughing?" she asked, seeming offended. "It's a serious thing."

"Oh my god, Mom," I said through tears, clutching my stomach. My mom had accepted me, and for that I was happy. And that last statement was so like her. Still, I loved my mother.

"It's Liam's loss," she muttered quickly, looking down. I smiled sadly at her back as she began putting away the dishes. Yep, I loved my mother.

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