The 2nd Kiss - Part 2

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"Are you okay?" Liam asked with concern. His hand reached for mine, but as our skin touched, I pulled away and marched off to the sink. I made sure to shoot my mom a glare as I passed the kitchen doorway, but she skillfully evaded my eyes.

"Are you alright, Alex?" Mr. Santos called. "Liam, is he okay?" Liam had apparently left the kitchen.

"I don't know," Liam mumbled.

"I'm fine!" I shouted over the running water, sounding angrier than I'd intended.

"Let me get you some ice so it doesn't scar," my aunt said as she headed to the freezer.

But a black scar was already forming on my skin. In a way, the wound, like the one in my heart that was being picked at by the surprise guests, was Liam's fault.

***

To accommodate all of the guests, my mom had borrowed a large table with chairs from the church and it was set up in the living room, the couches pushed aside.

I quickly took a seat between Bruno and the younger of his twin brothers, Mateo. They gave me confused looks, which was not surprising considering I usually sat as far away from them as possible. Liam sat across from me and I avoided his gaze.

"Everyone," my tía called as she sat down at one of the table's ends, "let's hold hands for the prayer."

I held out my hands to either side, waiting for my cousins to grab my sleeves like they normally did. When Bruno took my hand and closed his eyes, I stared at him in shock.

"Close your eyes, Alejandro," he ordered gruffly.

Okay, so he was still rude, but this was insane. Mateo took my other hand as well and I quickly lifted my jaw shut and bowed my head. I kept my eyes open, keeping watch on my cousins as I waited for them to pinch me or do something mean, but the prayer ended and they let go. There was much less criticism and attacking of me than usual. Had coming out last year actually been a good thing?

I ate the Venezuelan-Canadian spread of food quietly as the conversation jumped around. My uncle and aunt who hadn't seen Liam in maybe ten years questioned him about his university life. Then my uncle asked, "Liam, you got a girlfriend?"

"No, sir," Liam replied awkwardly.

"You do like girls, right?" Marco, Mateo's twin, asked Liam then gave me a quick glance.

Liam blinked. "Yeah," he said slowly.

Mrs. Santos smiled pointedly. "If he didn't though, we'd be okay with that." Ah, Mrs. Santos. You had to love and hate how she said and did what she thought was best without regards to anyone's feelings.

As I shifted my eyes and pursed my lips uncomfortably, I noticed Liam was doing the same.

My uncle frowned and glanced at Mr. Santos, perhaps hoping he'd disagree. But Mr. Santos just smiled awkwardly, all too used to his wife's wilfulness, even if she would start a fight or make someone feel awkward.

Lily tilted her head. "If Liam doesn't like girls, does that mean he likes boys?"

"It could mean he likes boys." I smiled at Lily. "Or it could mean he doesn't like anyone," I told her, deciding to educate everyone. Well, partly educate; I left out mentioning that there were people who were neither boys or girls. My family (especially my uncle) could not handle that knowledge.

"But Liam likes girls!" my uncle said, taking a triumphant bite of his pan de jamón. "And that's how it―"

"Nicolás, watch what you say to my daughter," Mrs. Santos cut in with a challenging smile.

"Ohf!" A fork clattered and our heads snapped to my tía who was leaning forward clutching her chest.

Half of us, including me, shot up from our chairs, panicking and ready to go to her aid. But before we could move any further, she removed her hand from her chest, sat up straight, and beamed. "Just kidding. Everyone relax and be friendly. It's Christmas!"

There was a moment of silence where we all hesitated before realizing it was indeed a feint.

"Ugh! Tía!" I flopped back down in my chair and clutched my head, trying not to cry.

"Rosa," my mom sighed, shaking her head disapprovingly. "Esa fue una broma de mal gusto."

But my tía's tasteless joke did settle everyone down. She'd been successful at returning the positive atmosphere. Still, sitting across from Liam, whose eyes constantly sent me furtive glances, caused me discomfort the entire time.

The friend request two months ago, dashing to check on me when I burned myself earlier, watching me now... Liam hadn't changed and it seemed like he was hoping we could pretend things between us hadn't changed either.

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