When I arrived at the Bronx house, it had been past 30 minutes she’d sent the text. I had to make up one of the most ridiculous lies to my mom, telling her that there was a late practice made and that I would drive myself. Truth is, we did have a late practice tonight, but I’d made up an excuse that I wasn’t feeling well - which is how I got away with my coach not telling my parents about it.
Before I could even knock on the door, Angelica had already opened it. “Come in.” Her dark brown hair was in a high ponytail and her green eyes looked up at me with anger. She was wearing gray skinny jeans and an expensive blouse Evvie used to own. I nodded slowly as I walked into the door.
I went over to the couch and sat down next to a pillow that had always been my favorite. Its colors were a bit more comforting and helped a lot more when I didn’t like making eye contact with Haven. Angelica took her time but made it to the couch, sitting right next to me. I looked over to her, praying this wasn’t about what I think it is.
“What is it?” I asked.
She shook her head, giving me this look of sorrow. Then, she held out her phone and showed it to me. For a few seconds, I had no clue what I was really looking at, but then I realized that the Instagram page wasn’t Haven’s or Evvie’s (like I’d expected it to be), it was actually Callie’s. I felt relief on the inside but knew this meant I was still a suspect. “Okay?”501Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡmZO7YJfsUq
“You know who she is, right?” Angelica asked, setting down her phone.
I shrugged. “What does that have to do with anything?” Angelica nodded, and then pulled out her phone again, showing me another account. This time, it was exactly the person I was expecting. Delcan’s account was pulled up to the photos right before he was put into rehab when his parents (in an interview that Callie continues to remind me about, and Delcan always ignores) said he was at his worst. Of course, they were mostly pictures of him doing things 15-year-olds shouldn’t do, but I tried not to show any emotion on my face about it.
When I didn’t say anything, Angelica began talking. “Are you and Delcan friends?” Angelica asked. I could hear the hint of curiosity in her voice, and a part of me knew that she had a feeling she was right.
“Yes,” I lied. “But I really don’t get how it ties with you. Or Haven, for that matter.”
Angelica rolled her eyes. “This has nothing to do with me or Haven,” she explained. I sat back on the couch and watched her body language with caution. “It doesn’t even have to do with that Evvie girl. It’s just between you, and Delcan Heslop.”
She butchered his last name, which almost made me laugh.
“You should probably hear this,” she told me. This time, she actually handed me her phone. It was a voice recording from a few days ago, a call between her and...Eric.
I sat down the phone and looked at her, angry. “You hacked my phone?”
“No!” Angelica cried. “God, why would I even do that? I have your brother’s number from Haven, and I called him to see what he knew since I had a feeling you wouldn’t have an answer.” I slowly took her phone back from the side of me and listened to the conversation between them.
Angelica: Hey Eric. This is Angelica, Haven’s sister.
Eric: I know who you are. How’d you get my number, and what do you want?
Angelica: Haven gave it to me. I just wanted to ask you something.
Eric: Okay...what is it?
Angelica: It’s about the new transfer kids. Do you know their names?
Eric: Not all of them. Some of the names I’ve heard from a friend of mine in the gym, but I’ve hardly seen them around.
Angelica: What about Delcan? Does that name sound familiar?
Eric: No it doesn’t. Look, I gotta go. So if this is really that important, I’m gonna need you to hurry up, Angelica.
Angelica: Delcan Heslop. Sixteen years old. Student at Oakwood High School, one sibling; Calliannah Heslop. Active on social media - Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and a few others. He’s gay, and he’s one of the kids who are in the transfer program the schools are doing.
Eric: Jeez. Are you seriously spending your break stalking a sixteen-year-old boy? That’s creepy.
Angelica: I’m not stalking him, my sister is.
Eric: Well ⟴. Do you know his height, too?
Angelica: Five-eleven. But that’s beside the point. The point is that Haven thinks that Ezra and Delcan have known each other before that day.
Eric: Okay, so where is this going?
Angelica: Depends. What do you know?501Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡbQHRg54jji
Eric: I don’t even know much about all of that. They’re friends, and that’s all I know.
Angelica: But he’s gay.
Eric: Oh, okay, because that changes everything.
Angelica: Haven believes that he likes Ezra.
Eric: Just because a straight and gay guy hang out together, it doesn’t mean that the gay guy is attracted to the other one.
Angelica: I get that, Eric. I just think there might be something between them.
And then Eric hung up the call. I exited out of her videos and shut off her phone. Angelica and I didn’t move at all before I finally looked down at the pillow next to me. Why would Eric hang up a call like that? And how could Haven even get Eric’s number in the first place? Eric hardly gives his number to just anyone, and I’m sure Haven isn’t one of his options.
“Why did I have to hear that?” I asked, surprised that my voice was actually at level. She picked it up and unlocked it while I continued questioning her. “And why are you stalking Delcan?”
Angelica looked up. “I’m not stalking him, Ezra. Haven is.”
“She’s...worried. I’m not sure why, but she just is. All I know is that she doesn’t really like Delcan too much. She won’t tell me why.” Angelica pulled her hair behind her and raised her eyebrows towards me.
“Haven is my girlfriend,” I said to Angelica, feeling more and more annoyed by the minute. “That’s the only label she can put on me. I’m allowed to be friends with whoever I want to be with.”
Angelica nodded, biting her lip. “So do friends kiss?” I stopped and looked at her.
She put her phone in front of my face again. This freaking phone, I thought to myself. It was like this device that could turn my life from normal to chaotic in a matter of seconds. I sighed in vexation and took her phone again. She was in photos again, and it was another video. Reminding myself that she probably knew nothing, I pressed play and watched it. The video showed me talking to Delcan in the locker room after the game, which was really no big deal. But that’s when it clicked.
I kissed him. I kissed him in the locker room.
Trying my best not to show any emotion on my face, I watched as I leaned into Delcan and pressed my lips on his. The video practically showed most of us kissing, and then there was the sound of footsteps coming down the hallway. When the video ended, I could feel my hands shaking without control, and the dry feeling in my throat coming on. Without a word, I handed Angelica her phone and sat back, trying to steady my breathing.
Why did you kiss him? Why would you even get involved in this entire thing? All of this is your fault, Ezra, my mind was telling me. I was the one who kissed him in the first place, and here I was, paying for it.
Angelica shut her phone off and gave me a look.
“I-” there was nothing I could really say, but I was trying to cover up how obvious things were. There were so many different things that I wanted to do. Yell, scream, cry. But if I did any of that, she wouldn’t even take less than two minutes to find out.
“It explains a lot, Ezra,” Angelica said. She shook her head, and I pressed down on my hands. “Just tell me why the two of you were kissing, and if you’re...cheating on Haven, and I won’t be mad.”501Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡavtMWrW2pd
“It isn’t your place to be mad,” I told her, feeling myself slightly blush. “This video means nothing, and I don’t have to tell you a single thing.”501Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡrMlbeYdq6y
Angelica sighed, then she looked at me. I hated that her eyes looked the same as her sister’s because it made me feel so much worse. “You’re right,” she whispered. “It’s not my place to be upset at all. But this video puts a strong label on you, one I know your parents aren’t a fan of.”
I ran my hands through my hair.
“All I need is the answer to one thing,” Angelica addressed. “Are you-”501Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3pEua7xvck
“No!” I said. “I’m not.” They were the only things I could even manage to say because I didn’t know how to feel about anything else right now. The flor was beginning to look crazy, and the anxiety was getting to me.
She didn’t believe me. I knew that she didn’t, because her look was unsure. “Do you really love Haven? Or is your mind set on somebody else?” I couldn’t even answer her. No, I don’t love Haven. But I don’t love Delcan either, at least, I don’t think so. Finally, I rested my head on my hands and looked at her.
“Do you want me to say I don’t love her?” I asked Angelica. “To her face? Would you like for me to tell her that I don’t even-and never will-feel anything? Is that what you want?” My voice was sounding as if it was more of a challenge than anything else, but I didn’t care anymore. It wasn’t her place to decide when I came out, and that video would ruin me if people knew.
“Why are dating her?” Angelica asked, her voice sounding tired. “Is it just to cover up for who you actually go for?” I bit back the answer I actually felt like saying, and stood up. But of course, Angelica took my hand with a firm grip.
“You can’t hide forever, you know,” she said. “Regardless of if you’re dating somebody or not, there are still your parents. Is that why you’re dating her? Because you’re afraid if they knew you were dating somebody like...Delcan?”
I wasn’t giving her the answer she wanted. Pulling away from her grip, she didn’t stop me. I’d already said so many stupid things in the past month, and I couldn’t ruin anything else again. “I have to go,” I muttered. Before I even left the house, I turned around and looked at Angelica, who was actually giving me a sad look.
“You can’t tell anybody,” I said. “It isn’t your secret to hold onto.”501Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡQUikxKjxqS
Angelica looked like she was about to say something else, but then she just nodded, looking down at the ground. The door closed behind me and I got into my car, almost letting myself cry before I started the engine, and drove home.
As I was driving back, I had to think about what was happening. Angelica knew, and she was aware that there was more to just me being into guys - there was a guy. She could tell anybody she wanted, including Haven. And if she decided to tell Haven, everything would end.
What tipped her off? I thought that I had gotten good enough at hiding it over the years. And who does Haven seem so worried about my relationship with Delcan? He acts like he could give less of a ⟴ towards me at school (and sometimes out of school), which wouldn’t make sense for how he likes me. But I couldn’t find out what was worse: the fact that Angelica knows, or the fact that Haven is catching on, and fast.
I wasn’t ready to go home yet, so I pulled over into my school driveway and walked into the football field. I had to show my student ID in order to get in, but I felt a lot safer when I was there. Football practice was over, but I didn’t actually feel like playing. Instead, I walked up the front steps and sat down at one of the benches. Although the game was less than two months ago, it felt like it’d been a decade since the benches were full.
Around 30 minutes after having a minute of silence, I put in headphones and listened to a song that I hadn’t heard for a long time. But the lyrics were familiar, and it calmed me down a lot better than a conversation with someone else is. I looked at my phone and debated on calling Delcan.
He was a part of this, whether he wanted to be or not, and he was the only one who understood me when I got like this. He was basically the only one who understood me in general, and it matters a lot that he does. But then again, I don’t know how much trouble I’ll be into for being any later than I already am now.
But Angelica was right about something. I couldn’t hide the secret forever. Although, she doesn’t know how long forever could be.501Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9Ppf8wMQD1
⟴⬉⥦⥦⥦⬈⟴501Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ78CPuRrdZF
When I arrived home, I did my best not to make any noise walking into the house. I slowly closed the door behind me as I began to make my way up the stairs. Before I could even take the first step, the lights turned on in the living room, and my mom was sitting in a rocking chair.
“Holy-” I bit back the cuss word, because I knew how much Mom hated it when I cursed in front of her. I was allowed to, but she didn’t want to hear it. “You scared me, Mom. God.”
She stood up, putting her hands on her hips. “Where have you been, Ace?”
Looking down at the time, I gave her a kind smile. “I’m home before ten,” I said, putting my hands up in defense. But she shook her head, not letting it go.
“Where. Were. You?” she asked me, her voice full of anger. I wanted to think of something to say, but there were no lies that came to me fast enough.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” I managed to say.
My mom raised her eyebrows, the small scar visible. “⟴ right you are, Eza.” I looked at her when she cussed, not thinking that she actually did. She ignored the shocked look on my face and kept talking. “Your father and I will talk about your punishment tomorrow morning.”
That was so much worse than getting caught. Anytime Dad was involved in what I did, it meant an extra few hours at the gym for me, and a high chance of throwing up. It was harder to handle than Mom’s punishments, which were usually just devices taken away for a week. But I knew there was no protest I could make in order to get her to back out. “Okay,” I whispered.
“Go up to your room,” Mom said. I realized how hard it was for her to say baby, and I understood why. “And get some rest.” I nodded, shoving my hands into my pocket. I walked up the steps and shut my door behind me.
Dad would hate me for this. I’d never been the one to be home late, it was usually Eric. But I wasn’t starting to become their bad child. Something told me that they’d be going through my phone while I’m grounded. Again, I’d probably have to delete Delcan’s number off my phone, and beg for him not to text me, but then they’d never know. I was better at keeping secrets than Eric was, and he knew it too.
But I suddenly moved my finger to see Rayne’s text.
What’s going on?
It was just a joke, Rayne. I swear, you have no reason to worry about me.
I set my phone down and began changing when it went off again. She’s still awake? I thought to myself. Setting my phone on the charger, I got into bed and looked at the message.
Stop trying to lie to me, Ezra Gatley. I know you better than your own parents do.
Tell me what’s going on.
I can’t, because I honestly don’t know.
Need to get some rest. Night.
I love you, Ezra, no matter who you’re with,
Love you, too.
I put my phone down and turned over to my side. My brain and body were telling me to go to sleep, but my eyes were focused on the furniture in my room. The desk in my corner, my bookshelf, and then my dresser. My eyes went back and forth around the room, and then I was finally able to go to sleep.
Well, not until I was done with an important phone call.ns 220.127.116.11da2