I hadn't thought about him in years. Well, that's a lie. I thought about him now and then, but mainly in a 'I wonder what he's doing now..' way. Alexis and I were best friends since we were little, and I sold him out for a seat at the popular table. I'd wanted to talk to him after that, but he changed schools, and I figured he just didn't want to talk to me. I know I wouldn't want to talk to me after somethin' like that.
What made it worse is that he came out to me first. Before anyone else – his parents, even. We were doing our math homework at his house. I was lying on the floor and he was at his desk.
"Yeah?" I asked, looking up.
"We.. um. We can tell each other anything, right?"
"What's wrong, Lexie? Kill a hobo?" I teased. He looked like he was going to be sick, and I felt nervous and sat up. ".. Did… did.. you kill a hobo?"
Lex gave me the 'Sam's being an idiot' look. "No, I didn't kill a hobo, idiot. I .. " He sighed and looked down. He was crying. I started to feel even more nervous, like it was something really serious.
".. Are you dying?"
As much as it freaked me out, it was still a hell of a relief to know that my best friend didn't have cancer or anything – he was just queer. Phew. I punched him in the arm.
"Don't fucking scare me! I thought you had a brain tumor or something!" I snapped, flopping onto the bed with a sigh. Lex looked back up, still crying. "Christ, Lexie. That's it? "
He sat on the bed next to me. "That's it."
"How long have you known?"
".. A long time."
I nodded. "It's my fault. I.. I'm sorry, Lexie. I .. I'm just so fucking hot."
He smiled a little bit and wiped his eyes. "I .. was worried you'd hate me."
"Fuck that. Why?" I shrugged. "Just means we won't be picking up girls together. That's all. You're my best friend, dude. The whole gay thing is just small potatoes."
Lex leaned in and hugged me for a minute and then pulled away. Took me a second to catch on why he pulled away – I mean, we'd hugged a lot before and it wasn't a problem. When he looked uncomfortable, I hugged him back.
"Stop being a moron." I said, giving him a smack upside the head. "This doesn't change anything, okay? " Lex nodded and sniffled, leaning his head on my shoulder. "Good. I love you."
"I.. I love you too, Sam."
"Not in a gay way, though, right?" I grinned. He gave me the 'Sam's an idiot' look again, and we went back to our homework.
We were both excited about high school. We'd always planned to go through high school together and then college, and then to be best man at each other's weddings. Things change, I guess.
I was really good at sports, and he just wasn't, I guess. Things that had never mattered before were suddenly really important. And having the hottest girlfriend and the coolest friends were top of my list. I didn't mean for it to happen, but Alexis was suddenly at the bottom. (Hee hee. Sorry.)
I knew they were teasing him, but like a coward, I didn't do anything to stop them. And seeing that betrayed look in his eyes tore me apart every damn time. I felt lower'n dog shit.
I'd like to say that I didn't know the Winter Dance thing wasn't just some big practical joke, but I'd be lying. I just desperately wanted to fit in, and if that meant humiliating my former best friend, I guess that was enough. I didn't go out to beat him up with the rest of the team. I slumped onto the bench and cried, putting my hands over my ears to block out his cries .. and I think he screamed when they started really hurting him.
But I was the one to shove them off.. and I called the ambulance. I'm pretty sure he didn't see me, and I didn't want him to. I kept going along with all of it, and felt even worse when I didn't see that betrayed look in his eyes anymore. Just hatred.
And then he was gone.
I heard from some of the other kids that he tried to kill himself and his parents had him transferred to another school, but I didn't know how much truth was in those statements. Life went on – the team found another nerd to pick on, and I kept on pretending everything was fine.
But after I lost him, my life kinda went to shit. I barely graduated, Jo got pregnant, and then I had to work even harder to support them. And doing the graveyard shift at a gas station isn't really my idea of a great job. The pay sucked, the people sucked, and there was fuck all to do.
I made a decision that night to kill myself. It was my night off, after all. I put aside all the money I had for Jo and Anne-Marie to live off of – it wasn't much, but it was all I had. She deserved a better father, anyway. Not a useless asshole like me.
I couldn't bring myself to call Jo to say good-bye. We'd had a fight the night before, anyway. I think we were technically broken-up. And I was too drunk to write a suicide note. I just called directory assistance to finally apologize to Alexis.
Swallowing, I put the bullets in the chambers of the gun while the phone rang, and just when I was about to hang up, I heard him answer.
"L.. Lex?" I asked, almost dropping the gun. His voice sounded the same, and brought on a rush of memories. I started to cry again.
".. Who is this?"
"It.. It's Sam." He didn't respond. "Lex, please.. Please don't hang up."
"It's two thirty in the morning. What the hell do you want!?" He paused again. ".. and how did you get this number? I'm not in the book."
"Directory assistance." I murmured, clicking the chamber into place. "I .. I needed to tell you that I was sorry. For everything. I .. you didn't deserve it. None of it."
"Goddamn right I didn't!"
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." I sobbed, and hung up, holding the gun to my temple for what felt like forever. The ringing of the phone scared me so much that my finger almost jerked on the trigger. Shaking, I answered, but I don't know why. "H.. hello?"
".. Sam, what's going on?"
"You don't fucking call me out of the blue to apologize. "
"It.. it's better for everyone if I don't exist.."
I heard him curse, and he sighed. "Where are you?"
"… why?" I asked slowly.
"I'm coming over."
"L.. Lex, no. You.. don't bother yourself. Just go back to sleep."
"I am not living with someone's death on my conscience. " He grumbled. Finally, I told him my address, and I heard him say something to someone named Dan. "… your boyfriend?"
"No. Just some guy at a bar." He answered after a pause. "I'll be over in ten minutes."
After he hung up, I stared at the phone and placed it back in its cradle, staring down at the gun. My hands were shaking so badly I was worried the gun would go off early, and I set it on the table in front of me, my mind whirling. If Lex hated me, why would he come over? Right. To appease his guilty conscience.
There was a knock at my door, and I called out that it was open. If a burglar killed me, it wouldn't be a big deal. Instead, in walked my best friend. He really looked different. But then again, so did I. A lot of time had gone by, after all.
We just looked at each other for a long time without saying anything. He was from a chapter in my life that I thought had closed forever – a chapter in which I was actually happy.
Don't get me wrong, I love Jo and Anne-Marie, but I'd always felt that something had been missing since Lex and I had gone our separate ways. I watched his gaze drift over to the gun, and he stepped forward and took it, putting it farther away from me. I didn't resist.
"What gives you the right to kill yourself?" He asked me softly. I looked down at my lap and closed my eyes.
"Everyone in my life will be better off when I'm dead."
"You especially. I can't make amends for what I did to you. Or didn't do. I.." I looked back up at him, but couldn't bring myself to look him in the eyes. "I should've stuck up for you, Lexie." I saw him flinch. I guess it had been a while since I'd called him that. "I should've, and I didn't. I.. I'm sorry. I was young and stupid."
"I.. I had to change schools, Sam!" Lex snapped, slamming my door shut behind him. I reached for the bottle of Jim Beam next to me and he took it away. "What gives you the right to kill yourself? I .. lost my best friend because I wasn't cool enough!"
"That wasn't it at all.." I said quietly, when we both knew it was true.
"I was tormented, assaulted.. some of my family won't even talk to me. I .. I can't trust anyone anymore. I have a dead-end job. My boss hates me.. I.. " He was crying, and I felt my heart break all over again. "Do you know how happy I was, Sam? W.. When you called me and said you .. you apologized, and said you found someone who wanted to take me to the dance?" I closed my eyes, the pain in his voice evident without looking at him. "I .. I was so happy. I .. I thought finally. Finally, I'd get my best friend back, and.. and maybe even find someone to fall in love with."
"I'm sorry, Lexie." I whispered.
"I heard you the first hundred times."
I ran my hands through my hair and looked back up at again. The tension in the room was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Looking at him there, crying, vulnerable, all I wanted to do was comfort him. I wanted to comfort my best friend; my brother.
I did the only thing I could do at the moment.
"Goddamn, Lexie. You grew up hot."
I made a joke. He eyed me, and I could see his lips twitching somewhat. Finally, he snorted and shook his head. The tension was broken for now, but still, I didn't know what to say.
"Go to bed. You're drunk." Alexis took the gun and left the room with it – hiding it so I couldn't find it later, I assume.
"..you gonna stay?"
He blinked, and looked around my unbelievably crappy apartment. ".. Why?"
"I miss you. We used to share a bed before. It wasn't a big deal then."
If he'd have asked me to beg, I would've begged. The fear of him leaving again was almost overwhelming. I needed something good in my life – I needed my best friend back.
"Things are different."
"I need you." I whispered, feeling tears on my cheeks again. "Please. Please, Lex.. Don't leave me.."
I heard him sigh, and walk towards the bedroom. "Get in here. You're just lucky that this place is closer to work than my apartment."
When I got to the bedroom, he was there, laying on his side and half-asleep. I climbed into bed with him, and wrapped my arms tightly around him. He just sighed and moved closer to me.
"I love you." I said, resting my forehead against his shoulder.
"Go to sleep, Sam." Just when I was starting to feel horrible all over again, he finally said it. ".. I love you too. I missed you."
"Do you forgive me?"
It was enough. Holding my best friend so close and feeling that weight off of my shoulders, I had the best sleep in years. I just knew that things would be better now.