I blinked, trying to figure out what he was trying to say, exactly. ‘Excuse me?’
Rowan shuffled awkwardly for a split second before regaining his usual confident composure. ‘On a date,’ he clarified. ‘You know, sit across from one another, eat something, talk.’
‘A date?’ I asked sceptically. I was having difficulty wrapping my head around what was going on here. ‘Is this some kind of prank? Or like a bet or a dare or something?’
‘No!’ Rowan looked genuinely insulted. ‘Jeez, I know Montague have done some unfair things to Capulet in the past but it’s never been personal.’
‘I wasn’t talking about any rivalry,’ I said dryly. ‘My mind was more in the realm of “hate crime”.’ I know it was a really dramatic term to use, but I’ve been actively scared of coming out since I first realised I was gay. My worst nightmares are made up of things like this: being asked out only for it to end in a Carrie-style disaster.
Rowan squinted one eye at me suspiciously and said, in slightly sarcastic tones, ‘If I’d been going to punish you for the mortal abomination of your sexuality I’d probably have done it directly after the kiss, don’t you think?’
I shrugged one shoulder. ‘How would I know?’
This was not going to way I’d wanted it to, and it definitely wasn’t going to way Ben had promised me it would. As a self-declared Lothario, he claimed that this was this sort of romantic gesture that never failed to produce results.
Then again, he’s only ever used it on girls. Never world-weary gay teenage boys with the cynicism of men three times their age.
‘Don’t you think Tyson would... Adequately exact revenge if I did anything to hurt or humiliate you?’ I tried to reason with him. I’d been about to be a lot more graphic with the things Tyson has actually told me he’d like to do to me, but then I remembered what Ben had said about being romantic. Alluding to anybody shoving anybody else’s heads up their own asses didn’t really fall into that category.
‘The damage would already be done though,’ Justin said archly. Uncharacteristically astute, I guessed he was being guarded because I’d hurt him with my reaction to finding out his was a boy, because he definitely hadn’t been this defensive pre-kiss.
‘Okay then, but it’s not like you wouldn’t have any ammunition up your sleeve for revenge,’ I bargained, wondering how this had turned into a battle-plan. ‘I was chatting you up all night, and that boy you were just talking to knows it was me. You could, you know, “out me”, or whatever, if this turned out to be some evil torture-the-gay-kid prank. Which it’s not, by the way. I just want to get to know you better.’
‘Why?’ Justin demanded.
I resisted the urge to sigh; he was really going to make me work for this. Then again, I guess I deserved it for being so inadvertently mean to him earlier. And I was technically trespassing on his property. ‘Before I kissed you, when I said I’d started to really like you when we were talking all night – I meant that. I do like you. And the kiss, I mean...’ I brought my gaze up to meet his with some difficulty, ‘it wasn’t exactly awful. You felt it too, right?’ I blinked at him imploringly, hoping he wasn’t going to make me go into anymore soppy detail. Luckily, he threw me a bone.