After school, I walked home with Evelyn and Eric. Mom had picked up Emmanuel, which basically meant all the enthusiasm in us were gone. Though the weirdest thing was that none of us were talking, which was weird. So, I began a conversation with my sister.
“So..” Both Evelyn and Eric looked at me at the same time, their faces blank. “Why is nobody talking?” It wasn’t what I exactly meant to say, but it was the words that came out of my mouth.
Eric shrugged and began taking his phone out of his jacket. “Guess there’s nothing to say, man,” he said.
What did he mean by that?
My mind was starting to drift back to Delcan, and I didn’t want that. There needed to be a conversation going, because I needed to put him behind me right now.
“We might have things to say, but I guess it just isn’t happening, Ez,” Evelyn said. “Siblings don’t talk all the time like we do.” She actually sounded pretty weird, and it wasn’t until I looked down when I noticed the small bruise on her arm.
“What happened at school today?”555Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡlbM6OCYD1J
555Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡX7Z0csoV1d
She looked at me for a few seconds and then put her head down, messing with her hair. My sister hardly gets in trouble, and when she does, it’s always something to do with somebody else. But the last time that happened, she was thirteen, and I don’t even remember what she actually did. “I got suspended for something,” Evelyn whispered.
Both Eric and I looked at her at the same time.
Evelyn stuck her head up. “It doesn’t matter to you two. Mom and Dad already know about it, so I have no reason to tell either of you anything,” she said. I wanted to ask her to simply tell me because we basically showed each other everything, but I didn’t exactly know what to say. It wasn’t like any of us really did talk about anything more than my issues, but I still did my best to show that I cared.
“What happened?” I asked her.
“None of your business, Ezra. God. You’re always on my back about the dumbest things,” she said. And with that, she clutched her binder closer to her chest, and walked home faster than us, making sure she wouldn’t talk to us.
I looked over to Eric, who simply shrugged to me, and then looked back down to his phone, probably texting one of his friends about something more important.
When Eric and I got home, Evelyn was in our parent's room with Dad, probably getting yelled at. I had sudden urges at some time to just go up there and see what they were talking about because I wanted to know why Evelyn got suspended for. How long would she even be suspended for? A week? The rest of this month?
But it wasn’t my fault I was always on Evelyn’s back. It’s this unique thing called feelings, and I don’t feel bad for expressing them to her.
After thirty minutes or so, Mom walked into my room. She looked pretty tired, but I would only assume because she spends more than half of her day on the computer. I looked at her for a few seconds, waiting to see what she would say to me. She sat down in the chair next to me and sighed, and then picked her head up slowly, and gave me a smile.
“Will you be joining us for dinner tonight?” she asked me. I nodded, because I really did need to stay for dinner at least once a week, or it was extra practice at the gym with Dad. So, I nodded as my mom patted my head as if I was a dog.
“Is Evelyn in trouble?” I asked her.
She sighed, and then nodded slowly, biting her lip. “She is,” my mom said, some type of dread in her voice. “But it’s none of your business, Ezra. Everything has been handled. You have no need to worry about her at the time.” Mom put her hand on my cheek, giving me one of her kindest smiles. She hesitated for a short moment before she continued talking. “And you’ve been an amazing big brother to Emmanuel and her. You’re everything we could’ve hoped for.”
If only she knew that her real son, the one everybody favored over the firstborn, was the son that she didn’t even know at all. If only she knew that her “perfect son” is gay. If only she knew that her “perfect son” was with somebody that Dad would never accept - regardless of his gender.
I’m nothing like you think I am, I thought to myself. Each and every time somebody told me I was amazing, or that I was perfect….a wall of shame hit me, harder than the toughest football player could hit me on the field. The wind gets knocked out of me, and it’s ten times worse when Delcan comes into the picture. It’s like I’m always breathless, and more awkward than I usually am. But I don’t know why - or how - he has that effect on me.
Putting on my fake smile, my mom kissed me on the cheek before sitting up. “Don’t forget, baby. Dinner in ten minutes.” I nodded as she left, and went back outside to the afternoon sunshine.
When I walked up to my room, I could hear Evelyn and Eric talking to each other. No - they were arguing. It was like a hushed argument, the ones that our parents have when they think all of us are asleep, but it wasn’t loud enough for anybody else to exactly hear. I moved close to the door and listened to their conversation.
“Why can’t you just tell me, Taylore?” Eric whisper-yelled. He never really used Evelyn’s middle name like that, but it was just so out of place - I didn’t know how to feel about it. “I have a right to know more than our parents do.”
“In what way?” Evelyn said back. “It’s my life. I can do what I want with it.”555Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡa32XyeOLB2
There was a long pause for a few seconds. And then I realized this was about her suspension. I leaned in closer to hear what they were talking about.
“Cool. Don’t tell me,” Eric said. I thought I heard the door open, but then Evelyn said something else.
“You won’t tell Ezra?” Evelyn asked. I straightened my back when I heard my name. How could Evelyn getting suspended conflict with me?555Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡKc2D7S8qMB
Eric seemed to pause for a moment, then he started talking again. “Do you think I tell him everything?” he asked. Offended. But whatever. “What is it?” There was a pause for a few seconds before Evelyn let out a breath of air.
“There were these...kids at school whose brothers or sisters go to EastLand, and they were talking about Ezra. But not about his um, plays. His...sexuality. They knew. And I don’t know how, but they did. And so when I asked them what they were talking about, they started to call him names and everything like “that’s why he won’t sleep with Haven!” And when I finally had enough, they kinda fought back. I punched one of the guys in the crotch whenever the teachers caught us. When Mom and Dad asked me what happened, I knew that I had to lie to them,” Evelyn sighed, as I stood by the door, motionless. “I didn’t want to rat out Ezra, so I just came up with whatever I could. He doesn’t deserve to be pushed out of the closet yet.”
It was in this moment when I wished I’d just minded my own business. It was harder to breathe than it had ever been before. Who knew? Who are they? How long have they known? Do they know about Delcan? So many questions were racing through my head, making me dizzy. I felt as if I was falling through the universe, hearing the white noise in my ears. I couldn’t even hear what Evelyn and Eric were saying anymore.
As I tried my best to stand up, I almost fell down completely. I rushed down the stairs, stumbling on the last few steps. But my legs almost entirely gave out whenever I found my dad standing at the end of the stairs.
“Sarah says you’re joining us for dinner,” Dad said to me. He never really calls her what everybody else in the house does, and he always uses her name. Mom hardly ever says Dad’s name around us - even though we all know it. “Which means you gotta stay.” I nodded, plastering a fake smile onto my face.
Mom was standing in the kitchen, dusting her hands on her apron. I was guessing she was cooking something because there was meat sauce on her apron as well. “Sweetheart, go get your brothers and sister,” she told me. I nodded without argument and dreaded walking back up the stairs. I couldn’t even comprehend what was happening. If people knew, then that meant people would start asking questions….and I couldn’t handle questions.
I walked past Eric’s room, and into Emmanuel’s. Maybe he could cheer me up - or at least try to.
“Ezra!” Emmanuel cried, running into my arms. I actually smiled when he hugged me. His skin was warm and his hair smelt like shampoo, meaning he’s been home longer than Eric, Evelyn, and I have.
“Hey, E,” Ezra said. “Come on. Mom and Dad want us to come to dinner right now. Could you get Eric and Evelyn for me?” Emmanuel nodded without question and ran out of his bedroom past me. I slowly walked down the stairs, pretending I was actually looking at something on my phone.
Dinner was going to be more than intriguing today.
While all of us were eating at the dining table, I couldn’t stop looking at Evelyn. She didn’t have her eyes on me, but sometimes she would look up from her dinner plate. She didn’t know, and I could tell because she would give me a smile before returning to her food. As I continued chewing on my food, it was hard to know if I should actually be mad at my sister or not. I mean, I understood that she was trying to protect me, but I didn’t need for her to in order for her to get in trouble.
And on top of all of that, she doesn’t even feel the need to tell me the real reason, yet she told Eric. But if Eric’s the better brother than me, I haven’t seen it yet.
Dad finally said something after what felt like hours of silence. “Ezra,” he announced. “How was school?” I paused for a minute before responding.
“Fine,” I said. My voice cracked when I said that, and I saw Eric bite back a smile. But I assume that Dad wouldn’t ask about it, because I was apparently “still growing.” But he gave me a slow nod and then started talking to Eric.
It felt as if my throat was tightening up, and I tried my best to focus on something that could possibly relax me. But nothing even came to my mind. Without a word, I stood up and walked out of the room, closing (and locking) the door behind me as I walked into the backyard.
“Leave him alone, sweetie,” Mom said, stopping my dad from going after me.
Ignoring my parents, I sat on a bench and ran my hands through my hair. I needed to talk to someone about this, call somebody. But who? If I called Evvie, all she would do is tell me that I’m born to be the way I’m supposed to be - and I shouldn’t let it bother me. But if I called Delcan...it would be hard to even say anything to him. And on top of that, all he would tell me is to let it go. There was no way out of this.
I live in ⟴.
Somehow, I found myself calling my aunt, who I rarely talk to. After the first few rings, she answered. “Ezra? You alright?” she asked me. I understood her concern because I never call her too much. I don’t really talk to my aunt - or anyone for that matter - when she comes over on the holidays, but I guess she was trustworthy enough.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said, trying to make it sound like I was fine.
“Okay…” My aunt, Rayne’s voice sounded confused. “Is there something going on?”
Yes, there is. But there was so much going on in my life that I didn’t even know how to express it. Going past Haven, Evvie, and that fact that I’m not straight, there’s Delcan. His words always say lodged in the front of my mind, and no matter what, I cannot ever get it out of there. And the entire boyfriends part of our relationship...he never brings it up. I thought he was actually fine with just being whatever we are, but I guess not. But it was really hard not to think about it - because I’ve never even had a boyfriend before.
And the idea of having one makes me scared.
“Kind of,” I said, pushing Delcan off of my mind. “But it’s about Evelyn.”
Rayne paused for a few seconds, then she began talking. “What about her? Are you guys making fun of her again or something? You have to understand-”
“It’s not that,” I interrupted. “She got suspended today, for violence at school.”555Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡw6fHVkwYp2
My aunt laughed. “You’re serious?”
“Yeah,” I said. Quickly, I made up a lie on the spot. “I tried to hear what else Dad told her, but it was hard to hear through closed doors.” My parents did have a conversation with Evelyn, but Eric and I were forced to stay downstairs, while neither one of them worried about Emmanuel.
“I never thought she’d do something like that,” Rayne said. “Is there a reason?”
Yeah, I thought to myself. She did it to protect me, even though I hate her for it, and even though I don’t understand why. She was protecting a secret I worked so hard on for a long time to keep, and people knew about it. And I don’t even know where it began spreading from. That was what I wanted to say, but I understood that she would want to know what rumor, and I can’t tell her that.
“No. I mean-there probably is, but I don’t know it. You could probably get the answer from Dad or something,” I said.
“I’ll ask him later tonight,” Rayne said. She seemed so calm about the subject that I didn’t know how to feel, but there was really no way of expressing my emotions right now. “Anything else you need to tell me?”555Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡrfxcpGsTqV
I couldn’t do it. “Nope. That’s all,” I said.
“Okay..” she said, her voice not even sounding actually convinced. “Hey, could I ask you about your-”555Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡIRnXK5ht5Z
“Bye, Rayne,” I said, hanging up the phone on her. It wasn’t like I was trying to be rude, but the way people get when they went to talk about something upsetting - all slow and kind - it scares me more than anything else. I didn’t understand why it was so hard for me, though.
Delcan had told me about his first crush on a guy (he was nine) and he understood the feelings quickly, then just came out when he felt like it. He told me he just understood the feelings and who he liked, basically letting it go. But if he could understand it so easily, why is it so much harder for me?
As I was getting trapped in my thoughts, my phone chimed. I checked the ID and realized it was from Angelica.
If you want to know what I do, come see me at our house. Haven isn’t home, but you only have two more hours before she is.
And Ezra, if this rumor is true, you better hope Haven doesn’t know.ns 18.104.22.168da2