It's Cool - New Beat Fund
"Why not?" my voice was whiny and I knew it. Benji and I were standing in the middle of a massive thrift store, the buzz of the ancient radio floating around us. I was holding up a pale yellow Hawaiian shirt. Benji shook his head furiously, "Jeyjey, we're shopping for you. Besides, that doesn't really look like me."
"We both know that's a lie," I accused, pointing a finger at the turquoise sweatshirt he had stolen out of my room this morning. He groaned, letting his head fall back. We had been shopping for almost an hour and so far the only thing Benji he picked out was a plain black t-shirt that said "Boogie 'til You Barf" and he had laughed so hard when he saw it that I didn't have the heart to tell him no. "Please just try it on," I begged, my lip sliding out into a pout. He ran a hand through his already messy hair, making it stick straight up. "Fine," he raised his hands in defeat and I grinned and pushed him off toward the fitting room.
By the time we loaded up into Benji's car, I had managed to talk him into buying a few different shirts and the backseat was loaded with stuffed-full bags of pastels and soft fabric. Benji put the car in drive, and steered us toward the mall. "Why do you dress the way you do?" I asked him as he drove, pulling on the leg of his black nike sweatpants. He shrugged, catching my hand and lacing his fingers with mine. "It's how all my friends dress," he said, "how basically every guy at school does. And if you dress any differently, everyone says you're gay."
"But you are gay."
Benji flushed pink, "that's not the point. Even if I were totally straight, I couldn't dress the way I like without some 'popular kid' breathing down my neck."
"This school is fucked up."
Benji laughed and squeezed my hand, nodding in agreement.
We wandered around the mall for a while, but I felt too distracted to really buy anything. Benji chattered not seeming to notice that I wasn't really paying attention. I kept trying to hold his hand, but every time my fingers would brush against his palm, he would move his hand away and take a little step away from me. I wasn't sure if he knew he was doing it, but even when I moved just close enough for the sleeves of our sweatshirts to touch, he would veer off his course a little until there was a safe distance between us. We were standing in the back of a very skater store where he was browsing shoes when I finally felt like I had enough. I waited until one of the employees had gone to the back to grab him a different size, then leaned in, "why won't you touch me?" I asked under my breath. His eyebrows shot up, his forehead crinkling. He spread his arms out in a 'what are you talking about?' gesture. "You won't hold my hand. You won't even stand that close to me," I shrugged.
"We're out in public, Jey," he replied.
"So I'm just not that into PDA."
"Or you don't want people to notice that you're with a guy." I feigned a gasp and he made an indignant noise. Before he could say anything else, the salesperson reappeared with a stack of shoeboxes in his arms. "I'm gonna go wait in the car, okay? Give me your keys," I held out my hand to Benji. He slapped his keys into my open palm, but gave me a petulant look.
Benji found me sitting in the backseat of his car, smoking my second cigarette and shivering with all the windows down. He put his arms on the window ledge and leaned his head in the car. "Jeyjey what are you doing?" He asked softly.
"Smoking," I spat at him, flicking ash out the other window.
"Jey, you're not being reasonable."
He climbed into the front seat and turned around to face me. He gently pulled the cigarette out from between my fingers and dropped it into an empty coffee cup in the center console. I was pouting. I knew it. But that didn't stop me from crossing my arms over my chest. "Look," he said, "I'm sorry that I'm not ready for all of this. I told you, one thing at a time. I've spent my whole life repressing these feelings and it's going to take some time to stop doing that. Please be patient with me."
I huffed, but climbed up into the front seat. "Why don't you just come out to one person?" I suggested as Benji steered us towards home. "Come out to Aspen!" I added, putting a hand on his leg.
He rolled his eyes, "Aspen already knows."
"I know! And she's like the biggest asshole on planet earth so if you can do that, everything else will seem like cake."
Benji laughed and rolled his eyes again but didn't object. It seemed, for the moment, that my little tantrum was forgotten. But, I did feel myself losing patience for Benji's hesitation. He had yet to even call himself gay, let alone acknowledge our relationship in public whatsoever. I wanted to hold his hand in public and go with him to school dances and kiss him hello and goodbye. I knew none of that would ever happen unless Benji came to terms with a pretty big aspect of himself
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Softboi Season // benjeyTeen Fiction
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