Chapter 11: Ryan

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Ryan only had to wait a little bit for Jacky to come out of Dr. Greene's office. He waited in the hallway, though, so the receptionist wouldn't think he was weird. "Hi, Jacky," he said as soon as Jacky walked out.

Jacky jumped, and Ryan started apologizing. "Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. I was just waiting for you. Do you want to come over to my house right now to work on the project? We could stop at your house and get your markers. I have colored pencils if you want to use those. We can walk together?"

A long moment passed as they waited for the elevator and Jacky stared at him. "Uh, yeah. Okay. Let me text my mom."

In the elevator, Ryan rocked back and forth on his feet while Jacky focused on his phone. Then Jacky put his phone away and ran his hand through his hair. "My mom said she made a lasagna for you. She said if we stop by we can pick it up and eat that tonight."

"Sounds good." Ryan hoped it tasted better than most of the other food the people from church brought by. Not that he could really taste anything most of the time anyway. He swallowed, and stared at the digital number counting down to the ground floor. He didn't want to tell Jacky in the elevator.

Outside, Jacky unlocked his bike while Ryan stood nearby. "You want a ride?" Jacky asked.

"Can we just... walk?" Ryan felt stupid for asking.

"Okay." Jacky gave him a sidelong glance, and Ryan had to look away and take a deep breath. Why was this so hard?

He ran over the words in his head. It seemed so simple, so just say it, but for some reason he couldn't make his mouth work. Walking helped a little. Until Jacky said, "So, you said you had something to tell me. Was that it? About going over your house after therapy?"

"Uh, no. There's something else. I..." Ryan stopped, and then Jacky stopped and looked back at him.

"Are you okay?"

"Yes. Jacky," Ryan took a deep breath. "Jacky, I like you."

Cars passed them while they stood on the sidewalk. A lot of cars. There was the rush of wind as they raced by and that roaring in his ears and Jacky staring at him, but he didn't look mad, so that was good right? Jacky's face was frozen in an expression that could quickly turn into his usual frown.

So slowly, Ryan almost didn't catch it, Jacky's lips softened into a ghost of a smile, and his eyes crinkled up a bit. There were two bright spots of red on Jacky's cheeks that might be from the October chill.

Jacky looked down at the pavement. "I like you, too," he said, and he was grinning.

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