The 2nd Kiss - Part 3

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After the meal, they decided that we would all head to the Santos' house. Mrs. Santos wanted to show my aunt their remodeled kitchen, Mr. Santos wanted to show off his new bar, and then they decided, hey, why doesn't everyone come and relax where there's more comfortable seating? I'd initially refused, but my mother and Mrs. Santos guilt-tripped me into coming.

As we walked down the street in the frigid Winter air, stepping over the snow shoveled to the curb, I held the plate of warm empanadas closer to my body.

Liam walked next to me and glanced over. "How's your hand?"

"Burns," I replied flatly.

"Right..."

We reached the Santos' house and filed inside to start Round 2 of the celebration. When Mr. Santos offered me a drink from his fancy new bar, I gladly accepted it.

Ten minutes later, I was on my second glass, sitting at the kitchen table with my cousins across from me and Liam in the chair next to me. I scooted my chair away, putting about two feet between us. The parents were in the kitchen talking, while my tía was knitting with Lily in the living room.

"Why does my tía call Lily Liliana?" I asked aloud, looking over at them.

Liam watched them as well. "Lily said it's her Spanish name," he explained, saying 'Spanish name' as if it was something magical, probably in the style of Lily. "Tía Rosa has been teaching her Spanish in addition to knitting."

It seemed even my tia had been hanging with the Santos. I'd already learned that my mom and Mrs. Santos regularly met and hung out at the YMCA. Apparently, the families had reconnected without anyone bothering to tell me. Which they definitely should have if we were all going to spend Christmas day together. A warning would have been lovely.

Marco laughed. "Remember when Alejandro started learning French when he couldn't speak a lick of Spanish?"

"Right?" Mateo said. "You were a failure of a Venezuelan."

"I'm Venezuelan-Canadian, huevón, and the only reason you can even speak decent Spanish is because your dad forced you to take classes. All you knew before was how to cuss." I rolled my eyes.

Liam's mouth twitched as he fought a smile.

"Ah, speaking of that," Mateo began. "The reason Liam disappeared is because he found out Alejandro was a fag right?"

"No," Liam replied quickly, a bit too loudly. He put his arm and palm on the table and leaned forward, glaring. "You still talk about him like that? You're not kids anymore. Grow up."

"I don't need you to defend me, Liam," I snapped.

"I'm not―" He cut himself off, then muttered. "It's like I'm defending myself." 

With wide eyes, we all turned to him. Liam... Was he saying... he was... bi?

Liam glanced at me and widened his eyes as he realized what we were thinking. "I didn't mean it like that. I just meant..." Seemingly unable to find the words, he gave up and sighed, then ran a hand through his hair.

Annoyed, I rolled my eyes yet again. "Ugh, fuck you, Liam."

"You wish," Marco whispered with a snicker.

Bruno shook his head disapprovingly at his brother. "Nah, Liam's right. Alex, we don't really care anymore that you like it up the ass or that you're a mariposo. Honestly. It's not funny anymore."

"I will cut you," I snapped.

Liam sighed loudly. "Alex."

"Don't talk to me." What could he possibly need to say? "I'm going home." I stood up and went to the kitchen to tell everyone with a fake smile that I was tired and was heading home. They all nodded and I hugged Liam's parents before leaving the house.

Reaching my own and shutting the front door closed, I sighed in exhaustion. How many had been involved in conspiring against me? Was it just my mother and Mrs. Santos? Or did Liam have a part too?

I stomped to the kitchen and got a glass of water to dilute the alcohol in my system. As I gulped down the last of the liquid, the doorbell rang. Wondering who it was, I reluctantly approached the door and looked through the peephole. At that moment, the door swung open and I just barely dodged before meeting eyes with Liam.

"What are you―" I began, puzzled, until he stepped in and closed the door behind him. "What are you doing?!"

"Alex." Liam looked me in the eyes, his own calm and sombre. "I'm... I'm sorry for hurting you in high school."

I stared at him blankly.

"I'm sorry. I thought..." Liam frowned. "I thought it was the right thing to do. But..." I watched his frown deepen, wondering why he was getting so emotional and if this regret was real. After all these years? "Fuck, Alex." He ran his hands over his face and sighed. "I'm sorry. And I want to go back. Can we be friends again?"

My blank expression remained for a few moments longer and then it turned cold as I told him, "You are so selfish."

Liam blinked in surprise then frowned and looked away, hazel eyes full of sadness.

"Go home, Liam," I said softly, reaching for the door.

He stepped into my path. "Alex. Wait..." He held out a finger in motion for me to wait as he opened the front door, picked something off the front steps, and closed the door again. He held out two thin, wrapped presents.

I glanced down at them. "Are you trying to bribe me?" I asked, confused.

"No... Just open them, please."

Folding my arms, I glanced away. I couldn't give him even a glimmer of hope. "Liam―"

The sound of tearing paper filled the room and I looked back to see Liam opening the presents himself. Once the paper was off, my mouth hung open.

"You still have these?" I reached for the notebooks, our exchange diaries from middle school. We'd had more, but those had been left with me. And so, they'd been thrown away.

I opened one up and read the page. It was Liam's entry:

Toddlers are even worse than babies!!! I know I complained when Lily was born but at least back then I got to stay with you. I miss that. We should have another sleepover soon! I wish you were my brother. It's okay though... you basically are. :)

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