After the 1st Kiss - Part 2

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I was the same Liam from grade 7 whose ears twitched when someone mentioned the name "Alex Camejo." It was November when I heard that Alex was seen leaving school on the back of the motorcycle of Reed Kinsey, The New, Bisexual Bad Boy.

Reed was 17 going on 18, had failed a grade, and smoked vapor cigarettes at the side of the gym with his friends during lunch.

I had never met Reed personally, but I didn't like him. I ruminated over the fact that Alex was probably in a relationship with him. It was a good thing; it meant he was over me―maybe we could go back to being friends. It was a bad thing; what if Alex only thought he liked this guy because the guy gave him attention―he wasn't good enough for Alex. And then: What if Alex was dating this type of guy to test me; maybe he wanted to see if I'd stop him or he wanted to manipulate me into dating him. "I'm better than him," he wanted me to say. But no, Alex wasn't that type of manipulative person. He was over me and had new friends. He had moved on and got a boyfriend. And here I was, caring about him as if we were still friends.

One night, as my Dad was storing the leftovers from dinner, I came downstairs and sat at the kitchen table. He glanced back at me. "Hey, Liam. How's it going?"

"Uh, I have a question..."

"Sure."

"What should I do if I think the person my friend is dating is bad news?" I paused, realizing, "Well, not my friend, really, but..."

My dad looked at me silently for a moment. "Do you think they're in danger?"

"No. Not danger, but like... that person might be a bad influence or... they might get hurt..."

My father nodded. "I think you'll just have to let him learn for himself."

I looked at my dad and knew he knew.

"I mean, themselves." He turned back around to the counter.

Placing my hands on my head, I sighed. "Please don't tell Mom or his mom."

"I won't. With your separation from Alex, we lost touch with Crista, anyway."

I wondered if my father was trying to make me feel guilty―but no, my mom might, but not him. The guilt was my own self-awareness. So, I decided I'd take my father's advice and do nothing.

"Is there anyone you're interested in?" my dad asked, glancing back as he opened the fridge to put the food away. "Any-one?"

I felt the loadedness of what he said but didn't understand it. "No?"

"Well, as long as they're a good person, we'll be supportive."

I noticed my dad's use of 'they' and scratched at the wooden table. "I'm straight, you know."

"It doesn't matter what you are, Liam. We just want you to be happy." He closed the refrigerator door then began rolling up his sleeves. "Now go help your mom by running a bath for your sister. Unless you want to wash dishes."

I got up from the table to go do as I was told, but wondered whether my dad's words were because he didn't believe me or because he just wanted to assure me they only cared for my happiness.

See, the reason I knew I was straight is because I'd never been turned on by a guy or in love with a guy, but girls were nice to look at and pictures of naked women and porn made me hard. It was simple.

It was true that I wasn't eager to get a girlfriend or have sex like Jeremy and Kareem had been. I remembered the time in grade 7 when the four of us sat in the park on a chilly night, talking about forbidden things. Jeremy really wanted a girlfriend and to have sex. He was sure Danielle Roamer liked him too. Kareem had seemed aloof, and I was hoping I wasn't alone in my lack of enthusiasm for sex and relationships, so I asked him, "What about you?"

"I guess," he said, shrugging.

Jeremy asked, "You guess?"

Kareem scrunched his face. "I don't know, maybe my older sisters have made me disillusioned."

"That's a big word, Kareem," Alex said with a small smile.

"I'm a smart kid, Alex," Kareem replied nonchalantly.

Kareem glanced at me and I knew I was supposed to find it funny. That was the exchange Alex and I always had after Alex dropped some big word. I didn't find it funny, though. I actually felt a little bothered, like something had been stolen from me.

Jeremy smirked at Kareem. "If a hot girl came up to you right now and said she wanted you to do her, what would you do?"

Kareem blinked. "Do it, obviously!"

I tried to hide my disappointment. I wasn't having sex with a stranger.

"Liam?" Jeremy asked.

"Uh, well..." I glanced at Alex who had been animatedly involved in discussion when we were talking about things like hearing our parents have sex or if we properly erased our browsing history, but since Jeremy started talking about sex with girls, had gone quiet as a mouse (other than his "big word" remark). "If I knew her and liked her, yeah."

Jeremy rolled his eyes. "You're such a romantic. Alex, what about you?"

Alex looked at Jeremy. "I kind of agree with Liam. I'd rather do it with someone I liked."

"Kareem, let's place bets on who loses their virginity last: Alex or Liam."

"I'm going to bet on myself," Kareem replied, raising an eyebrow. "Alex and Liam are more good looking than me."

"Fine," Jeremy said, sighing. "You all can stay virgins. I'm going to get laid, though."

*

We all discovered that Alex had been the second of us to lose his virginity a month or two after he started dating Reed.

In fact, it felt like everyone in the school knew. Alex Camejo had lost his virginity to Reed Kinsey. Alex Camejo was born to be a slut, he was so erotic. He moaned like a porn star.

All the things I was hearing made me angry and embarrassed. I knew Alex must be hearing them too, but when I caught glimpses of him in the hallways, he seemed fine. In fact, he was glowing. From the things people were saying, I also knew the source had to be Reed.

And then one morning, days later, before entering my classroom for History, I spotted Alex talking to Malcolm further down the hallway. My jaw dropped when I saw it: a huge bruise on Alex's cheek. Someone had hit him.

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