Chapter 11: Ryan

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"We're going as Bonnie and Clyde," Monica told everyone at lunch.

"I didn't know you were back together," Lance said, looking slightly betrayed that his buddy Ryan hadn't mentioned it. Ryan had tried to signal to him that they weren't back together without saying it out loud, by giving him a tight smile and a minute shake of his head, but Lance wasn't one to pick up on subtleties. He'd have to talk to Lance later. And all the other guys.

"Our costumes will be the best," Alex announced to the table. Peyton rolled her eyes. "Top secret, though. And obviously we won't be eligible for the costume contest. Yes, there will be a prize for the best costume. Or costumes. I'm the only judge, so keep that in mind."

"I hope I'll have some say in who wins," Peyton said indignantly.

"Of course." Alex kissed the tip of her nose.

Ryan had to physically restrain himself from looking over at Jacky. Jacky almost always sat by himself, and it only made Ryan want to look over more, maybe hoping someone else would sit with him so he wouldn't be lonely. What would Ryan's friends do if he joined Jacky at lunch one day? He couldn't even imagine.

Yesterday, when he'd looked over at Jacky, he had blushed, and Alex thought he had blushed because of some crude joke he had made, and for the rest of the day they all razzed him. "You'd better watch your language around Mr. Sullivan," and "Ryan's virgin ears" and on and on until Ryan wasn't sure he could smile and laugh along anymore. He didn't want a replay of that. So, he avoided looked at Jacky until the end of lunch, when the bell rang and everyone was standing up and gathering up their things and he could safely look over there.

Jacky was sitting with a girl. A cute girl, too. Suddenly Ryan worried that Jacky wasn't gay. Even though he knew Jacky was gay. Maybe Jacky was bisexual. And here Ryan had come out to Jacky, and he had thought they'd shared something the other night at Jacky's house...

Maybe he was reading too much into things. He didn't know the girl.

There wasn't really any other way to interpret Jacky's actions Tuesday night. He'd practically sat down in Ryan's lap, looked at him with those gray-blue eyes. Ryan felt himself getting goosebumps just thinking about the way his arm had pressed up against Jacky's. He wanted it to be like Alex was with Peyton, just kissing her nose, so cute – but he also worried that Jacky wouldn't want him to do something like that. Like Jacky was a coiled snake and if he moved too fast, Jacky would strike out at him.

He liked when Jacky was nice to him.

Just that thought made him blush a little, and then he was heading into English class and there was Jacky, glaring at him like usual.

What had he done wrong?

He tried to smile at Jacky, but it felt like something was caught in his throat and he couldn't do much more than twitch his cheek a little. So he cleared his throat and said, "Hi."

Jacky had already shoved his way into the classroom. The recipient of his greeting turned out to be Emily Pittman, who looked a bit perplexed as she smiled and tucked her hair behind her ear. "Hi," she said.

Monica tugged at his shirt and when he turned to look at her, she gave him a "What the hell are you doing?" look. He shrugged and tried to look sheepish.

He was pathetic, he concluded as he took his seat. He needed to tell Jacky flat out how he felt. That way if Jacky was still mean to him, then Ryan would know Jacky didn't like him back. He supposed, if it had been anyone else, if Jacky was, say, Monica, Ryan wouldn't have had any problems. It would have been normal for Ryan to flirt with Monica. To make sure to sit beside her in class. To hold her hand in front of everyone.

It wasn't just that he was afraid of people finding out he was gay. It was that Jacky wasn't a part of his group of friends. Jacky seemed to hate Ryan's group of friends. Ryan wondered if Jacky would ever get over his hatred for Matt. Ryan knew Matt had said some mean stuff... but then, Jacky could be pretty mean, too.

Ryan could tell that Jacky wasn't a cruel person inside – kind of like Matt. Jacky's face, at that eighth grade dance, had looked so happy. It must be hard to lose so much so fast.

As class went on around him, Ryan made a decision: he would flat out tell Jacky how he felt. Maybe that would make Jacky smile like he did the other night.

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