Chapter 32.1: Ryan

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After Monica's party, things seemed easier

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After Monica's party, things seemed easier. Now that everyone knew Jacky was Ryan's friend, Ryan didn't feel so weird about talking to Jacky between classes. And who cared if he talked to Jacky between classes?

It was strange: even though Ryan thought about his mother a lot, and missed her, there was a huge sense of relief in her passing. He hadn't realized how much her suffering had bothered him. Moreover, he had worried that somehow his actions would reflect poorly on her.

When he had been younger, he'd been what one teacher described in a note home as "confrontational." Basically, he got into a lot of fights at school. He didn't like bullies, and stuck up for kids who got picked on. Sometimes that meant Ryan got into fistfights. His mom didn't like violence, period. And it wasn't until she got sick that Ryan didn't want to disappoint her. He decided he'd be the perfect son. He focused on his grades, and having the perfect balance of extracurricular activities. And not fighting. Even though he still spoke up if he noticed someone being a bully.

Ryan couldn't believe it had been Monica of all people who had reminded him of who he was.

There was no reason why Ryan couldn't be nice to Jacky at school. Why he couldn't call Jacky his friend. The thought of the words, "I'm gay," coming out of his mouth still scared him, but he didn't have to treat Jacky like he didn't know him. He was going to ask Jacky to the winter formal. He had a deadline now, and he had to figure out how he was going to tell his friends.

"Whatcha doin'?" Sean asked behind him, and Ryan's spine snapped straight up. He slammed his laptop closed.

"Nothing."

"No?" Sean sat down beside Ryan on the couch, where Ryan had stupidly decided to go online (yes, the group home had wifi. He'd only had to ask for the password) and look up other people came out to their friends. "You're not lookin' at porn?"

"No!" Nervously, Ryan glanced at the staff office, where Hope was doing paperwork.

Sean laughed. "Come on, man. We all do it. Let me see what you're looking at."

"It's not porn," Ryan insisted.

"Dude, if you didn't want anyone to see what you were looking at online, you shoulda brung your laptop in your room."

After two weeks, Ryan was starting to get sick of the way Sean, Ricky, and Dave seemed to run the whole house. "I can go on my computer wherever I want," he said.

"If you're in the common room," Sean started to say, but Ryan cut him off.

"I still have the right to some personal space, even if I'm in the common room."

"Oh, it's called personal space when you wanna jerk off to gay porn?" Sean said, pretending to look innocent.

"Who's looking at gay porn?" asked Ricky, entering the room with a plastic bag from the convenience store down the street. The boys were allowed to go there and get snacks if they had their own money and told the staff first. Sean was on restriction, but Ricky reached into the bag and handed him a Red Bull and a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

"Nobody better be looking at porn!" Hope called from the office.

"Ryan," Sean told Ricky.

Ryan had had enough. He stood up and tucked his laptop under his arm.

"Oh, where you goin'?" Sean asked sweetly. "Gonna call your boyfriend and cry?"

"Those guys are idiots," Pete said, when Ryan walked into their room and sat heavily down on the bed.

Pete was still wearing his headphones. "You heard?" Ryan asked.

He pointed at the floor. "Grate," he said. "I can hear everything. All the time."

"Oh."

"They call me gay all the time, too." Pete shrugged and returned to looking through his magazine. "Whatever."

And there it was: a perfect moment. Ryan wondered briefly how many perfect moments he had let slip by, worrying about what other people would think. "I am gay," he said.

Pete looked at him.

"Sorry. I guess I should have told you sooner?" Ryan said.

"You don't have to be sorry," Pete said. "I wasn't sure if you were kidding or not."

"I have a boyfriend," Ryan added. He wasn't sure why.

"Oh, that kid you visit all the time?"

Ryan was happy Pete hadn't said, That kid with one arm. "Yeah," he said. "Jacky."

___

Author's Note: So it's official: 4 rejections... trying to get published sucks...

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