Hey everyone. It's RichardAdams. Due to the drama of Chapter 10, I'm posting an extra chapter this week (assuming it makes it online in time. Otherwise, happy Monday!). I couldn't end your week with a cliffhanger like that, so I'm posting Chapter 11 to give you all solace. More drama ensues, and secrets are revealed.
I sincerely hope you all enjoy Chapter 11 of 'Am I...?'
The next hour is somewhat of a blur. All I know is that I cry and cry and cry with Mom holding me tightly. I finally calm down after the clock hits ten-thirty. "How're you feeling?" Mom asks me.
"Like someone's stabbing me in the heart over and over again..." I say wiping my face dry.
"I know it hurts right now, sweetie. But I know you'll find someone else."
"But I don't want anyone else. I only want Leo. I loved him so much, Mom..."
"I know, sweetie. Do you know why Leo broke up with you?"
"No. Everything was going so well. I loved him. He loved me. All of our dates had gone perfectly. We got even closer after the whole incident with Brian. Today we even..."
I stop mid-sentence and feel my mouth tighten up. A bit of water fills the corners of my eyes and I quickly wipe it before more tears can fall. Mom lets go of me and looks me in the eyes. "I didn't quite hear you," says Mom. "You and Leo what?"
I sniff my nose and look back at Mom. "Leo and I...we..."
Mom holds her hand up. "Say no more. I already can guess what you're going to say. Were you at least careful and used protection?" I nod. "Good. Did you notice anything going on with Leo while you two were...having relations?"
I shake my head at first but I think back to a few hours earlier. "Well, Leo was pretty quiet the whole time. And after we...made love...I thought I saw a tear fall down his face."
"Sweetie, do you think you maybe pressured Leo into something he wasn't ready for? Didn't you say a few weeks ago that Leo wasn't ready for that level of a relationship?"
Mom's right. Maybe I did pressure Leo into having sex with me, but if he just said no, I would've stopped. "Yeah, he said he wasn't ready when we first got together," I say. "But it seemed like he was ready when we were in bed together."
"Maybe Leo just didn't want to disappoint you. Maybe you were ready for sex and Leo wasn't. But he loved you so much that he swallowed his feelings and relented. I'm sorry I can't tell you more, sweetie. I want to help you, but there's only so much I can do here."
I want to cry again, but it feels like all my tears have been shed. I pull Mom into another hug and cry tearlessly into her shoulder. "I love him so much, Mom."
"I know you do sweetie. It'll be okay."
Mom's words may be a little comforting, but without Leo, it feels as if my world is falling apart...
Dad gets home later that night and from my room, I can hear Mom telling him what happened. Dad comes to talk to me as my sheets are getting washed. He tries to say a few things to me, but I'm too upset to hear anything anymore. I ask him to leave me alone and he grants my wish.
Mom lets me stay home from school the next day. I spend the entire day in bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking about Leo, and crying a little more. Mark and Shawn text me late in the morning, wondering where I am. I tell them I'm taking a day off, nothing else, and they tell me they'll see me tomorrow.
Dad finally gets me out of bed at about eight at night, telling me to get something to eat. I haven't eaten all day, so I'm starving. I walk downstairs and the smell of melted cheese, cooked meat, and steamed vegetables fills my nose. I see a large pepperoni, sausage, onion, and green pepper pizza sitting on the counter and Mom and Dad sitting in the living room.
I grab a plate from the cupboard and take a slice of pizza and take a seat on the couch next to Mom. "Hey bud," says Dad. "How're you doing?"
"I've been better," I say.
"It feels like the world's ending and you feel like you're dying, doesn't it?" he asks.
I look to him. "Exactly. How do you...?"
"I felt the same way when I broke up with my first girlfriend. I didn't want to do anything and I lost all motivation. But I told myself that I was only beating myself up and that I would find someone else. Two months later, I met your mother."
"But I don't want someone else. Dad, Leo was the love of my life. It's as if he and I were meant to be together. He said he loved me. We were each others firsts."
"Josh, you're still young. You have your whole life ahead of you and will definitely find another boyfriend."
I want to protest more, but Mom and Dad just don't get it. It's just like Ryan said when he told me about him and Nate: Leo completes me. I can't live without him. I need to talk to him tomorrow...
The next day, I drive into the school parking lot hoping to find Leo's motorcycle. When I do find it, I see that Leo isn't on it and there are already two cars on either side of it. I sigh to myself and quickly find another spot. Once I'm parked, I head into school and walk to Creswell's room. I walk into the mostly empty room and seated at a table, tapping his phone screen, is my now ex-boyfriend. "Leo..." I say.
He looks up from his phone and sees me. While I expect to see even the slightest hint of happiness, sadness, or even depression, Leo's face fills with fear when his eyes meet mine. His phone falls from his hands and clatters on the table and I can see him starting to shake. "L-Leo?" I stutter. "What's wrong?"
Leo doesn't respond. He seems to be frozen. I quickly walk over to him and take a seat next to him. I lightly place my hand on his shoulder, and faster than I can even see it, Leo slaps my hand away. He looks at me, his face pale white. "G-Get away from me. Get away..."
"W-What? What do you...?"
"You heard what I said! Get away and stay the hell from me!"
I feel my heart rip in two for the second time this week. "L-Leo...please just talk to me..." I plead.
"I have nothing to say to you," he says through gritted teeth. "You've done enough already, so get the fuck away from me if you don't want me to give you the ass kicking of a lifetime..."
What's going on? This isn't Leo. This isn't the guy I fell in love with. He looks so...angry. His eyes look so scared. "Leo...i-if you just tell me what I did wrong, I-I can..."
"Shut up! Shut up! SHUT UP!! I never want to see you again!"
Leo's barrage of words makes me feel as if I'm being repeatedly punched in the stomach. Creswell comes rushing into the room. "What the hell is going on here?!" he says. "I could hear this all the way down the hall!"
"M-Mr. Creswell..." is all I can manage to say.
"I want this guy as far away from me as possible," says Leo. "I want a new seat. I want to have a new partner for the project."
Creswell looks as confused as I am. "Josh," he says. "May I speak with you in the hall?" I get up from my seat and follow Creswell into the hall. "Okay, what the hell is going on between you two? Just two days ago, it was as if you and Leo were the closest two people could get."
"E-Even I don't know," I say. "Leo and I we...we broke up. And now it's as if Leo doesn't want any part of me..."
I see Creswell's face soften and he puts a hand on my shoulder. "I'm so sorry Josh. I know how much you loved Leo."
"I still love him. Two days ago, Leo and I had sex and by the time I woke up, Leo was gone and all I had was a note that said he was breaking up with me."
Okay, I know that's not something you should talk to your teacher about, but Creswell is one of the only people I can talk to about this. "Do you know what would make Leo want to break up with you?" Creswell asks. "Both Tony and I could see the attraction between you two and we saw a little of ourselves in you and Leo. There's no way Leo would just break up with you out of the blue."
"I'm afraid I may have pressured him into the sex. Leo told me just a few weeks ago that he wasn't ready for sex, but it seemed like he was ready. But when we were done, it looked like he was crying..."
I quickly wipe my eyes with the bases of my hands. "Josh, I know you're going to be mad at me, but I think I may have to grant Leo's wish of separating you two," says Creswell.
"Face it. If you two are next to each other and work together on the project together, it'll only make Leo madder and make you sadder. I say, give Leo a bit of space and let things calm down a bit. And in time, try to talk to him again."
Two streams of water fall from my eyes and I make no effort to hide them. Creswell reaches into his pocket and pulls out a handkerchief and hands it to me. "I know it sucks, Josh. But if you try to talk to Leo right now, I think you'd push him away rather than bring him back closer to you. Are you okay with that?"
I wipe my eyes with the handkerchief and hand it back to Creswell. It takes me a second, but I nod. "If that's what it takes to get Leo back, then I'll do anything."
Creswell smiles a little. "I'm going to go back into the room and give Leo a new seat. Come in in two minutes and sit back in your regular seat. I'll give you a new seat partner at the beginning of class."
He walks back into the room, leaving me alone in the hall with just my thoughts.
My new seat partner's name is Erica Marlton. She and I have been going to school together since middle school and have been mutually acquainted. Leo's new seat is in the back of the room and I don't even bother to see who his seat partner is. Erica and I work on our project during class, but while we do get a lot done, my mind is still on Leo.
The morning slowly goes by, English being a complete blur. English ends and I head out to the parking lot to get some lunch. As I get to my car, I hear a familiar voice. "Josh! Wait up!"
I look back and see Mark and Shawn walking toward me, friendly smiles on their faces. "Hey guys..." I say.
"Dude, you look terrible," says Mark. "Are you sure you were just taking a day off yesterday?"
"Yeah, I just...didn't get a lot of sleep last night."
"Okay," says Shawn. "You ready to get some food? We were thinking about going to that new burger place that just opened up in the town center."
"Um...sure," I say.
"Should we wait for Leo or is he going to meet us there?" Mark asks.
My chest hurts at the mention of Leo's name. "Um...Leo isn't coming."
Mark and Shawn exchange a look. "Why?" Shawn asks. "He always comes with us to get lunch."
"Leo and I are...kind of...not talking right now..."
"Aw...did you two boyfriends get into a fight?" Mark jokingly asks.
Pure instinct and rage cause my fist to fly at Mark's face, hitting him square in the jaw with a sickening smack. Mark falls to the pavement and I jump on top of him, ready to punch him again. "Say that again!" I scream. "I fucking dare you!"
"Josh! Get the fuck off of him!" Shawn yells.
I hear a cracking sound in my ears and I'm back in the parking lot. My hand is clenched into a fist and my knee is in Mark's chest. Mark's staring up at me with wide eyes and blood running down his chin. "M-Mark...I-I'm so sorry...I don't know..."
"Can you get off me?" Mark calmly asks. "I can't breathe too well."
I quickly get off Mark and help him to his feet. He wipes his mouth and his hand comes back with a little blood on it. "Josh, what the hell was that for?" Shawn asks.
"I-I don't know," I say. "I just...snapped."
"No kidding," says Mark. "Can we discuss this more at lunch? I'm hungry and we're running out of time."
I nod and Mark and Shawn head over to Mark's car and I get in mine, feeling horribly guilty. I just freaking punched Mark in the jaw. He only made a small joke and didn't mean it. I ram my head against the steering wheel and turn the car on and head out.
I get to the burger place about ten minutes later and easily find a spot. I walk in and find Mark and Shawn already seated at a table. They wave me over and I take a seat across from them. "We ordered you a Coke," says Shawn.
"Thanks," I say, reaching for the glass and taking a sip.
"Okay, now that we're here," says Mark, "I think we need a bit of an explanation. Why did you freak out like that and sock me in the jaw?"
"Is it because of that small joke Mark made?" Shawn asks. "If that was it, then dude, you need to chill out."
"It wasn't the joke itself," I say. "It was the words you said."
"What? Boyfriends?" Mark asks.
I nod once. "Why?" says Shawn. "Aren't you okay with gay people?"
"It's not that," I say. "Gay people are good in my book. Mostly because..." I take a deep breath and look back to my friends. "Guys...I'm gay."
Shawn, who's drinking what looks to be a Sprite, spits a mouthful of soda all over the table and goes into a coughing fit. He calms down after a second and begins wiping the table with his napkin. "You're gay?" Mark asks.
I nod again. "And Leo was my boyfriend."
Mark and Shawn look between each other and me in silence for a minute or two. "Um...I'm really sorry for what I said," says Mark. "I...didn't know."
"It's okay," I say. "That still didn't give me the right to punch you."
"You're not kidding, are you?" says Shawn.
I shake my head. "Not in the least. If it bothers you that I'm gay, I understand if..."
Mark holds his hand up. "Josh, you, Shawn, and I have been friends since the second grade. If we were bothered by who you are, we would've left you years ago. So what if you're gay? I wouldn't care if you wanted to dress in drag and had us call you Bubbles. You're our friend."
"Exactly," says Shawn. "You being gay doesn't make you any less of being our friend. As long as you don't try to make a move on me, we're still cool."
For the first time in two days, I laugh a bit. I wipe my eyes and smile at Mark and Shawn. "Thanks guys."
They smile back at me. "So...you and Leo, huh?" says Mark.
"Yeah. But we kind of...broke up..."
"Why?" asks Shawn. "Even before we know you were gay, Mark and I could see the chemistry between you two. You were practically joined at the hip."
"An explanation from the beginning would be nice," says Mark.
And that's what I give them. In about fifteen minutes, I tell Mark and Shawn everything, from how I felt when I first saw Leo on the first day of school, to the Halloween party, to the morning after the party, to Leo and I having sex, to Leo breaking up with me, and to today. "And now Leo won't talk to me," I say. "And when he does talk to me, he's furious. I want to apologize to him, but I don't even know what I did."
Mark and Shawn just stare at me and chew their burgers (which we ordered and got while I was telling my story). "Wow," says Shawn. "That's some heavy shit."
"Yeah really," says Mark. "So what're you going to do?"
"There's nothing I can do," I say. "Mr. Creswell said that I should probably leave Leo alone and wait to talk to him again."
"But you want to talk to him now?" says Mark.
"More than anything. But if I hear him tell me to never talk to him again for a second time, I think I might breakdown. I wouldn't be able to handle it."
"Well, if you need anyone to talk to or need help from," says Shawn, "we'll be there to help you with anything."
I smile at them again. "Thanks guys."
The waiter walks by and puts our check on our table. I reach for my wallet to pay for my food, but Mark waves me down. "I'll pay for lunch," he says. "You've got enough on your plate already."
"Wow," says Shawn. "If I tell you I'm gay, could you buy me dinner?"
Mark smacks Shawn on the side of the head, causing us all to laugh. I'm lucky to have them as friends, as annoying as they are...
The rest of the morning and the early afternoon go by slowly. I see Leo walking down the hall in my direction twice. But when I see him, I immediately turn and find a new way to class. It hurts to do it, but it's the best thing to do right now.
History finally arrives and I walk into class. I say a quick hello to Coach and start to walk to my seat. "Rusden," says Coach. "Come here for a second." I turn and walk back to Coach's desk. "Rusden, Adrian told me about what's happening between you and Leo right now."
The pit that's been in my stomach gets deeper at the mention of Leo. "I'm very sorry about your breakup," says Coach. "I know you and Leo are great for each other and I can see how hard this is on you."
"Thanks for that Coach," I quietly say.
"Listen, you and I both know you're a chapter a head of everyone else in this class. So I'm going to let you take the rest of the afternoon off and count you as present for today's class."
I look up at Coach. "Why would you do that?" I ask.
"Rusden, look at yourself." Coach reaches into his pocket and pulls out his phone. He holds the screen in front of my face and I see my reflection. He's not kidding. I look horrible. "You look like something my dog killed and dragged into the house. You need a bit of a break. Head home, relax a bit, take your mind off Leo."
I rub my face out and look back at Coach. "Thanks Coach. I really appreciate this."
Coach smiles down at me. "Go on. Get out of here."
I thank Coach again and head out. I get to my car and start to drive out of the parking lot, taking a glance at Leo's motorcycle as I pass it. As I'm heading home, a sudden thought occurs to me: I need to know why Leo broke up with me...
I take a sudden right and change my course. Ten minutes later, I pull up to the modest two-story house I know. I park my car next to the curb and quickly walk up the walkway and knock on the door. I'm met by a pair of dark blue eyes and greying black hair. "Josh!" says Mr. Trigon. "What're you dong here?"
"Hi Mr. Trigon. I got out a little early today. Um...I was hoping to talk to either you or your wife. Is that okay?"
Mr. Trigon sighs. "You want to ask why Leo broke up with you, don't you?"
"Yes..." I say.
"Come on in." Mr. Trigon leads me through the house and into the living room. "Go ahead and take a seat on the couch. Would you like something to drink?"
"Um...water would be great, thank you."
Mr. Trigon heads into the kitchen and I'm left alone. Footsteps come from the hallway and I see Mrs. Trigon walk into the room. "Oh! Hi Josh," she says. "I thought you were Leo."
"No...it's just me," I say.
Mr. Trigon walks back into the living room with two glasses of water. He hands one glass to me and takes a seat in a chair across from me. Mrs. Trigon takes a seat as well. "So you want to know why Leo broke up with you?" Mr. Trigon asks me.
"Yes please. It's all I've thought about for the last two days."
"It's been the same for us Josh," says Mrs. Trigon.
"Leo won't even talk to me," I say. "I tried to ask him why he left that note for me, but when he saw me, he went as white as a sheet and then he looked like I killed one of you. It was horrible to see, let alone hear what he screamed at me."
Mr. and Mrs. Trigon look to each other and back to me. "Josh, you aren't the only one that was hurt when Leo broke up with you," says Mr. Trigon. "When Leo came home two days ago, he was in tears. He told us he broke up with you and it only made him cry harder."
"Then why did he breakup with me in the first place if it hurts him so much?" I ask. "What did I do that made him want to hurt both of us?"
"It's not something you did Josh," says Mrs. Trigon. "It's another reason." She looks to her husband, who nods. "Josh, what we're about to tell you, you can't tell anyone else."
"What do you mean?" I ask.
"I'm sure Leo told you why we moved here, right?" asks Mr. Trigon.
"Yeah, he said you had a job transfer," I say.
"That was one reason," he continues. "The other reason we moved here from Maryland was to get away from the horrible memories Leo experienced."
I suddenly feel uneasy. "In April," says Mrs. Trigon. "Paul announced that we were moving here at the end of Leo's junior year of high school. Both Leo and I accepted that we were moving and Leo was actually looking forward to moving here. But something...happened... later in April."
"What happened?" I ask.
I see both Mr. and Mrs. Trigon's eyes get a little wet. "Leo...was raped," Mr. Trigon forces out.
Shock shoots throughout my body and cold sweat breaks out on my skin. "Leo was...raped?" I ask.
"Yes," says Mrs. Trigon. "Paul and I got a call late at night, telling us to come down to the hospital. When we arrived, we found Leo covered in cuts and bruises with two detectives by his side. Leo looked so scared that I wanted just to hold him. The detectives took us into the hall and told us that Leo was raped."
"We couldn't believe it," says Mr. Trigon. "When we tried to talk to Leo about it, he immediately started crying. We tried to hug him, but he shoved us away and cried even harder. It took almost a day to get him to say even a word. Leo managed to remember every detail of the attack and the police caught the man that raped Leo."
"The trial was quick, plenty of evidence against the man that raped our son," says Mrs. Trigon. "The man was sentenced to thirty years, but Leo was permanently damaged. It took two months of therapy and counseling for Leo to be the same son we know and love."
Poor Leo...To be raped at seventeen? I can't even imagine how he must've felt when it happened. "Oh shit..." I say. "I really fucked up..."
"What do you mean?" Mr. Trigon asks.
"Um...did Leo tell you what happened on Monday?"
"No. All he would tell us was that he broke up with you," says Mrs. Trigon.
They were honest with me, so I need to be honest with them. "Well, Leo and I...we...had sex." I see Mrs. Trigon turn a bit pink and Mr. Trigon clears his throat, both of them a bit uncomfortable. "Don't worry. We used protection. But I'm afraid I hurt Leo."
"How?" Mrs. Trigon asks.
"After we...finished...I'm pretty sure I saw Leo starting to cry. I think I made him remember him being raped..."
Mr. Trigon's eyes widen a bit. "That would explain it," he says. "You and Leo having sex could have brought up memories of his rape. Maybe that's why he broke up with you."
I feel water fill my eyes. "What if...what if Leo sees me as his rapist? What if he never talks to me again because of it?"
"Josh, I'm sure Leo is just scared at the moment," says Mrs. Trigon. "If you just give him a little time, he'll calm down."
"But what if he doesn't calm down?" I ask, my tears spilling out. "I love him so much. I don't even want to think of not being with him..."
"Josh, you're going to need to trust Leo," says Mr. Trigon. "Penny and I can see how much Leo loves you and how much this breakup is hurting him. If I know my son, he'll talk to you again."
I wipe my eyes dry. "I can only hope so. Thank you both." I look to the clock and rise from the couch. "I need to get out of here. Leo will be here soon and if he sees me talking to you, he'll flip."
With a quick drink of water, I start to head for the door and hear Mr. and Mrs. Trigon following behind me. I get to the door and look back to them. "I hope I can come here again."
"So do we Josh," says Mrs. Trigon.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Trigon pull me into a hug, which I return with my own. I wave to them and head out to my car, my tears continuing to fall. Leo...no mater how long it takes, no matter how much it hurts...I'll wait for you.