Chapter 7: Ryan

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"Finally," Ryan muttered, and ran over to open up the door. He squinted at the person standing on his doorstep. "Jacky?"

The other boy shrugged. "Yeah, I figured I'd see if you needed a ride to Monica's?"

"Uh... um," Ryan looked back into the house like that would help. "I'm waiting for someone," he said finally.

"Oh, is Wally giving you a ride?"

"No," he said before he could stop himself. Why did he have to be so honest all the time? Why wasn't it easier to just lie? Jacky would never have known the difference... until he showed up at Monica's and Wally was already there, without Ryan.

"My mom's driving," Jacky said after a long pause.

Ryan realized that Jacky had thought Ryan was nervous that Jacky was driving. "Um, yeah, that's okay. I just have to... wait here. I'll head up to Monica's when I'm ready."

Jacky stared at him, then looked beyond him into the house. Why wasn't he going away? Ryan tried to think of something else he might be able to say to make Jacky leave. The longer Jacky stood there, the more awkward Ryan felt.

"Is your mom okay?" Jacky asked finally, looking defeated, somehow.

"She's fine," Ryan said quickly.

"Oh, okay." Jacky's shoulders pressed inward, even more than they already were. "Because, um, my mom saw the thing in the church bulletin, so I know that's she's, uh..."

A hole seemed to be sucking Ryan straight through the carpet. Jacky looked so far away, and Ryan wasn't sure that if he spoke, Jacky would be able to hear him. Jacky knew. Monica knew. Probably everyone in the whole school knew, and they were all just waiting for Ryan to crack.

"Are you okay?"

Ryan heard Jacky's voice far off, and even heard himself reply, "I'm fine," even though he still felt like he was falling.

"No, you're not. Sit down. Jesus."

The couch hit him hard in the back of the legs, and he collapsed into it. Where had Jacky gone? Ryan struggled to climb up.

"Chill, dude." Something cold on his face. "Seriously. Just relax. You want me to tell my mom to come in?"

"No!" The word came out too loudly. Ryan blinked and he could see colors again. Could see that Jacky was right at his shoulder, pressing a bag of frozen broccoli against his face. "Sorry. She doesn't need to come in. I'm fine."

"Yeah, right. Sure you are." The coldness moved across his forehead slowly. "Look, do you want me to call someone? Like, your dad, maybe?"

"He's useless," Ryan said. He tried to roll himself over, and somehow hadn't realized what side of him Jacky was on. He ended up with his face in Jacky's chest, and felt too tired to roll back over.

"Um, okay."

Jacky's hoodie still smelled like pot. Vaguely Ryan wondered if he could get high from just smelling Jacky's sweatshirt. He wouldn't mind that. The sweatshirt, old and unwashed as it was, felt soft on his cheek. He had his face pressed into Jacky's sweatshirt. He knew this was not a good idea and yet his muscles felt like jelly and the idea of pulling his face from the wall of Jacky's chest seemed like a lot of work.    

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