After the 1st Kiss - Part 5

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Saturday afternoon, I walked to Alex's house, decided on telling him about Reed because I knew about the cheating and it just felt wrong to keep quiet. I'd told myself I'd even do it for a stranger. I was also going to try to have a calm discussion. I needed Alex to be the one to tell me we were strangers. Or I needed him to tell me he was okay without me. I needed him to tell me something so that I could let go like everyone was telling me to.

As I got to the door and reached to ring the bell, Ms. Camejo swung it open, nearly crashing into me.

"Oh! Liam! ...Liam?"

"Hi, Ms. Camejo. Is Alex home?" I tried to smile politely, but it felt like the bags weighing down my eyes were weighing down the corners of my mouth as well.

"He should be. He was here when I first left only ten minutes ago. I'm going back to Rosa's, you're welcome to go in." She faltered, seeming hesitant to go, but knowing she was in a hurry.

"Thank you."

We swapped places and I closed the door behind me. Alex's house was smaller and older than mine and just one story, but I'd always felt so comfortable there. It'd been my second home. I turned down the back hallway that led to his room and knocked on the door. "Alex?"

There was silence from the other side and I wondered if he was asleep. "Alex?" I opened the door, expecting to find Alex napping on his bed. Instead, I saw Alex lying on his bed, shirt pushed up to expose his chest, Reed hovering above his open fly, and his hand on Reed's head.

My mind went blank as I took in the scene. And then something weird like shame filled me. I closed the door. And I walked out.

Alex.

I'd heard those rumors in school. I knew he was having sex with Reed. I knew it. But witnessing it was different. It made me feel different. It made me angry. And disgusted.

Alex didn't give a damn about the rumors. He didn't care that people were calling him a slut. And "Reed's bitch." Or saying he moaned like a porn star. And when I thought about it, I recalled he had been glowing. He was happy.

Alex was happy to be Reed's "bitch." He probably wouldn't even care that he was being cheated on.

"Liam!"

Already halfway to the corner where our streets met, I stopped and turned around as Alex's voice called my name.

I looked at him. His clothes were fixed now, but something about him had changed. He didn't even look the same. He wasn't the Alex I'd grown up with. What was I doing?

I turned around and continued to march home.

"Wait! You came for some reason, right? What is it?"

Alex's fingers touched my arm and I yanked it away without even thinking. It was like reflex, like jerking away from a hot stove. Even through the fabric, I felt contaminated by his touch and didn't look back as I continued to my house.

As soon as I got home, I took off my shirt and threw it into the washing machine. I wanted it clean. I wanted to erase Alex. Gone from my clothes, gone from my life, gone from my mind. Every trace.

Shirtless, I dashed from the laundry room to my own room and dug out the box of things from our childhood. A satin bag of Bertie Bott's jelly beans. A cool rock we'd found at Fanshawe Lake. Birthday cards handwritten by Alex. Our exchange diaries. I taped the worn cardboard lid shut then carried it outside and dropped it into the large trash bin. As I clapped the dirt off my hands in a rather cliché manner, my dad pulled up in the driveway and I stepped back around the house.

"Why are you outside without a shirt?" he asked as he got out of the car, looking confused.

I just glanced at him without saying anything and walked back into the house.

This time for sure, I was done. I wanted nothing more to do with Alex for the rest of my life. He was doing great without me. And I didn't need him either. With the sealing of our box of memories, I sealed away the part of me that had lived just for Alex.

The rest of high school was a waking dream―a blur of fake smiles and hollow laughs. I took everyone else's genuinity and used it to fill my void.

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