"What are you thinking of?"

"Possibly a janitor. Blue collar workers get paid like a hell of a lot of money."

"Oh, for sure. I always knew there was something messed up about money distribution when I saw my teacher pull up in a sedan and my janitor pull up in a Prius. They make a lot of money," he agreed.

"Which is justified, as they do happen to do a lot for us. I mean, if they didn't work, we would know right away. It's when we don't realize anything that we know, or should know, that they are working hard," I added.

"Definitely," he smiled. He was quiet, almost tense as though he desperately needed to say something to me. "Look, Spencer, I want to apologize for what I said back at your house."

"What you said? You didn't say anything-"

"Calling you a girl...using she and her...that wasn't cool," he frowned.

"It's fine. I'm used to it," I brushed off.

"Yeah, but if we're gonna be...hanging out more and everything, I need you to know that I only called you a girl because your mom did, and I wasn't sure if she knew about you being agender, and I didn't want to say anything that would spark an argument or anything. But I promise to everyone else, I will call you what you are, a they/them," he explained.

It astounded me on how much he cared. No matter what, he was going to stand by my side. He was behaving as any good friend normally would, and I truly appreciated that. It was nice to have another person like that by my side.

"Thanks, and I know you will. But I've tried to come out to my mom, but she doesn't know about me being agender. I mean, she kind of does, but she can't exactly fathom me being neither male or female. If I were trans male, I'm sure it would make more sense in her eyes, but I'm not, so...I manage," I explained.

"Like allowing her to call you Bertha?"

I groaned loud and long as I slumped further into the seat. "Don't ever call me that. I hate that name. I mean, there's nothing wrong with it, but...you get what I mean."

"No, yeah, for sure," he quickly assured. "And don't worry, I'll never call you anything except Spencer. Does your mom care? Cause I did call you that in front of her, and I don't want to come across as the bad guy or anything."

"No, she knows a lot of my friends call me that. She thinks Spencer has always been the pen name I used when I wrote, and she assumed people used it as a nickname. I've asked her on multiple occasions to call me that, but she never will. She thinks that since it's only a nickname, she should still be allowed to call me Bertha."

"That's not how it works," he stated, seeming to get riled up.

I placed a hand on his shoulder. "Relax," I commanded. "She's my mom, so I accept it. Would it be better to have her not call me that? Yeah, it would. But she won't, so I'm not gonna put up a fight. I will when I move out of the house, but until then, no. I don't need to get kicked out or anything- not that she would do that, but...oh, you know what I mean."

"Still," he grumbled. "She does seem like a nice woman, though," he added.

"She's the best mom I could have ever asked for," I agreed.

Pulling up into the Denny's parking lot, we quickly exited the car and headed inside. The waitress led us to our seats. Once she left, Sky faced me with a nervous smile "Man, it's been forever since I've been on a date."


"Yeah." He was quiet, drumming his fingers on the table. "So...how are you doing?"



"What?" I asked, embarassed. Laughing it off, I said, "Never mind."

The silence was agonizing. It wasn't out of nerves but rather boredom. Was this how all dates were supposed to go? Was dating just sitting around and doing nothing? If it was, then no wonder the world ate up romance novels. The world is boring enough. Clearly they needed to read something more exciting.

"Spencer?" he softly asked. I hummed, letting him know I was listening. "I like you."

"I like you too," I said. "I just need for you to take it slow with me. I've never done this sort of thing before."

"Yeah, your mom made that pretty clear," he smirked.

"Shut up," I chuckled. He exhaled, a seemingly more nervous smile on his face. "Hey, what's wrong?"

"I want to tell you something. I feel as though if something were to happen between us, you should know a little bit more about me," he said.

"Okay, what's your favorite color?"

"No, no, not like that," he chuckled. Running his fingers through his hair, he said, "I used to be addicted to drugs."

"Okay," I shrugged.

"When I was in high school, I kind of got caught up in the wrong crowd. We were neighbors, and I grew up with these guys, so I thought they were cool. But they weren't. It started off as a dare at a party. We were in the bathroom, and they asked me to snort some coke with them. I had the best high of my life that night..."

It was around here that I began to zone out a bit. I knew that it was wrong of me not to listen in, but I had trouble paying attention sometimes. It wasn't like I had ADD or anything, a very, very mild case if anything, but I could still keep my focus.

No, the problem with me zoning out is that the moment someone says something that causes me to link something to one of my books, I'm instantly dragged away and thinking about different plot points that I could use in other novels.

I did however force myself to zone back in, though I had to do so multiple times. Sky was trusting me enough to tell me his story. I had to respect him enough by listening, no matter how hard it wound up being sometimes. I mean, how often do you hear Olivia Newton-John on a public radio? It was quite a treat.

What I was able to gather from Sky's story was essentially this: he wound up trying coke in a bathroom, which caused him to want to try other drugs to chase this high he had been searching for. Eventually it got so bad that he wound up buying drugs from dealers and then dealing it himself at a high price to make a profit. Honestly, that business skill was kind of impressive. It didn't matter if it was dirty money, he still made a profit during his sophomore year.

About midway through his junior year, he realized he needed to stop after sleeping with a man for drugs. He felt dirty for what he was doing, and he didn't want to be around his friends anymore, so he dropped out of high school. His mom was furious, and she didn't want to deal with a dropout as a child. But he told her he didn't want to go back there, so she enrolled him in a special school that lasted from eight to noon every day and only taught kids the basics to graduate from high school. There were no extracurriculars.

It was midway through his second year of college that he decided to go see this play. I'm pretty sure it was Rent. This girl almost died from an overdose, she wound up hurting a bunch of people she loved, she was resurrected by her true love, and he realized he wanted that kind of love from someone. Someone who would help make him a better person. It also sparked his love of theatre, and he decided to focus on acting and put all his prior drug energy into his craft, hence how he wound up in Acting I with me.

"Look, this is something I don't like to tell people. Just...promise me you won't let anyone know about this side of me? My mom doesn't even know, and I would hate to disappoint her," he pleaded.

"Relax," I assured. "Your secret is safe with me."

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