Chapter 3.2: Ryan

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When his cell phone rang, Ryan looked up in confusion

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When his cell phone rang, Ryan looked up in confusion. The landline rang a lot, especially at this time. Right after church. "Would it be alright if I dropped a meal off for you and your mother, hon?"

He put the toilet brush back in its holder and stripped off his rubber gloves before hurrying to the kitchen, where his phone was charging on the counter. "Hello?" he said, catching a glimpse of the caller ID. Monica Johnston.

"Hi Ryan." There was a silence, and Ryan didn't rush to fill it. Normally when Monica called, she wanted to study with him. That's what he expected. What she finally said was, "I know about your mom."

His stomach dropped. "O...oh," he said, trying a little too late to sound casual.

"Yeah, I read about her in the church bulletin. Why didn't you tell me?"

Ryan sighed and rubbed his face. "Sorry," he said finally.

"No, you don't need to be sorry," she said. "I just... I thought we were friends. I mean, I guess I can understand why you wouldn't tell me. Sometimes I forget you're my ex-boyfriend." She laughed quietly. "Um, sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't call to make you feel guilty or whatever. It was just kind of a shock, finding out like that. You know you can talk to me, right? If you don't want everyone to know, I completely understand. I won't tell. But I just wanted to let you know I'm here for you."

"Yeah... thanks," Ryan muttered, hand still covering his face.

"Do you want to get together on Tuesday to study for the math test? My mom said she'd make chicken alfredo for dinner. If you wanted to stay for dinner."

"I, uh, I'm busy on Tuesday afternoon. Sorry."

"It's okay," Monica said quickly. "Just let me know if you need anything, okay?"


Ryan hit the "end call" button and set his phone back on the counter. Returned to the bathroom, and stared at the cleaning supplies. He wouldn't even need to clean the bathroom if he hadn't gone out drinking last night. He hadn't planned to drink a lot; he never did. In fact, he was about to pull a bottled water from the fridge at Tony's house when a thickly accented voice behind him said, "Ryan! The nice boy. I will ask you a question."

He'd changed tack and grabbed another Bud Light, twisted off the cap before turning around. "Yeah?"

Nina Ivanov sipped from a red solo cup that was likely straight vodka. "Who is Edward Scissor Hand?" she asked.

That was certainly not what kind of question Ryan had expected. Last year she had asked at the lunch table, "What is blow job?" which everyone found hilarious. Her face had remained detached and unperturbed, and after someone had finally managed to choke out an explanation, she had simply said, "Ah yes, we have this word in Russian also. Minyet." When some of the boys were still laughing at her, she continued, "It is not so strange that these words confuse. Is not more of sucking than blowing? American fools."

"Uh. It's a movie? About a guy with scissors for hands?" Ryan held up one hand and made a scissoring motion with his fingers.

"It is what I thought." Nina pouted out her full red lips. "Matt tells me this is not insult to Dyusha but I see he lies to me."

"Who's Dyusha?" Ryan asked.

"Dyusha," Nina repeated, like Ryan was stupid. Then it dawned on her, and she shook her head. "Andrew. The boy with one arm."

The beer turned sour in Ryan's stomach. "Oh. Matt called him that? To his face?"

"No. Other boy say the name. But Matt laugh. Dyusha was upset. I do not like this. I must go to call him a liar."

Ryan thought about stopping Nina from confronting Matt. He knew Matt's temper. But he also knew Nina didn't put up with Matt's bullshit.

He had left the party soon after, still feeling sick, and when he got home he had emptied the contents of his stomach into the toilet. Now, as penance, he scrubbed that toilet bowl until it sparkled.

Now, his mind consumed with the phone call from Monica, Ryan tackled the rest of the bathroom. She had found out from the church bulletin. All his mother's church friends had assured him that Ryan's name would not be in the bulletin. Just his mother's. But he supposed everyone in town knew his mother. God, how many kids at school went to church? He hoped not many.

Dr. Burns had said it would feel like a weight off his shoulders if he told people. "You're not giving your friends enough credit," he had told Ryan on Thursday. "People will understand. They want to help you."

So why did it feel like even more weight?  

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