Chapter Seven:

Kisses

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I woke up on Wednesday sore. Physically sore from the beating I'd gotten two days before, and emotionally sore from having to field questions from my mother. Although spending the day Tuesday with Mark and Alyssa had painted things in a much more amusing light. Mark had been struggling with whether or not he should tell her and every time he'd open his mouth to say something he'd snap it closed again. It might have been pathetic if I hadn't found it so amusing.

Alyssa was doing surprisingly well. Neither of us was stupid enough to actually ask her but we could tell. She cried sporadically throughout the day, unapologetic, which told us she wasn't trying to hide anything. She wasn't going back to school today and Mark was probably only going to be there in the morning but I was going back. I couldn't handle another motherly interrogation so I had to catch the bus, my pickup still broken.

When I stepped off the yellow piece of metal a shudder ran through me when I realized the last time I'd been here I'd been witness to an attempted rape but I quickly swallowed that feeling, going about my school day with the same steady forward movement that had become my habit. The day was uneventful. I steered away from both Emmy and James, not completely oblivious to the fact that they seemed to be back to their normal selves. My eye and cheek had begun to blacken already, along with my split and puffy lips and I was thankful when the final bell rang and I was on my way to the bus.

I was stopped as I crossed the parking lot to the line of yellow behemoths by the one person I'd thought wouldn't talk to me today.

"Gage! Hey Gage, do you need a ride?" James Thomas was waving from over the roof of his truck. I could tell it hurt as he tried to hide a wince and I made my way over to him.

"Yeah actually, I'd like a ride. The bus is hell." He smiled as though he was eleven years old and had just one first prize at some competition of another.

I climbed into his pickup, somewhat disgusted at the useless size, pickup trucks were made to be useful, not to be family vehicles, but I was soon liking it very much as it was toasty warm practically before we even left the parking lot.

We drove in silence for the better part of the way home, and I realized that my house was very far out of the way for James. "Thanks for this James, it's a pretty big detour," I said finally.

He shrugged. "It's not a big deal, plus I wanted to talk to you about Monday." He seemed grateful that I'd broken the silence.

"Hey listen, I get it okay? I can understand that you didn't really get the full situation before you jumped in. And about the hitting me even after you recognized me," I paused and shrugged looking out the window at the shadowy dusk. "I get that too. I kissed Emmy and she's your girlfriend, it was your call."

He sighed. "About that, I was just angry. I know that she's the one who kissed you, but either way I had no right to get angry at either her or you."

"Yeah you did, she's your girlfriend, it's a betrayal of trust."

He shook his head as he turned up my driveway and shut off the engine. "No. She's not my girlfriend. Emmy and I haven't dated... not that we didn't try, it's just Emmy's my best friend and..." he trailed off, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. "I don't date... I don't date," he finished more forcefully.

I looked at him confused before unbuckling and reaching for the door handle. "Well whatever, I get it."

"No wait Gage." He grabbed my arm and I sat back, looking at him more than a little confused. He sighed. "I don't think you do get it. I– I looked for you yesterday but I figured you wouldn't be there. I just..." he paused again before inhaling deeply. "This is just really tough but I've got to get it out. It's gonna come out one day and better sooner than later right?"

I just looked at him even more confused than before.

"Ok Gage," he scooted closer on the seat putting a hand out to support himself as he leaned closer. "This is the thing. I was angry at Emmy because she kissed you yes, and I was angry at you because you let her and because you like her, I can see that. But it's not because we're dating, it's because..." he pulled in a deep breath before continuing, his words coming out clear and clipped, as though he only wanted to say them once. "I really, really like you Gage, a whole lot, and I guess I was jealous of Emmy because she said that she'd let me talk to you first but she didn't. I've forgiven her, I can understand why she did it," he chuckled ruefully. "You are one hot guy, and anyone could fall for you. So I guess I just wanted to say I'm sorry."

He looked at me expectantly but he'd lost me at 'really, really like'. "I'm sorry what?" I choked out hoarsely. "Can you say that again?"

He was blushing, it was creeping up his neck and I watched it hypnotically, not trusting myself to look at his face. "I'm sorry for hitting you. I was jealous." He obviously saw the confusion plastered plainly on my face because he sighed and shifted awkwardly. "I don't date girls Gage. I'm gay."

I looked up at him then, shocked. James Thomas, the golden wonder-boy of Leesville, the boy who boys wanted to be and who girls wanted to marry was gay?!

"What?!" I repeated stupidly gaping. Before my brain could register anything James lips were on mine and my mind was thrown into a turmoil similar to what had happened when Emmy had kissed me. Some part of me registered his hand cupping my jaw, his fingers brushing against my ear, but I only really reacted when I realized that his tongue was taking full advantage of my still gaping mouth.

I pulled away quickly, blushing as red as a cherry and sputtered something incoherent as I stumbled out of the truck and made my way to the door. "Gage wait!" I heard the door of the pickup behind me slam but continued robotically into the mud-room, James following.

I couldn't make a clear sentence out of my thoughts, staring wide-eyed and blankly at the floor in front of my feet as I leant against the kitchen counter. It might be thought that I was angry, that I was disgusted, but for all my back-woods, farm boy exterior I was an open-minded, accepting individual. It was just that at that moment I was still reeling from what I'd just discovered.

"Gage?" James' voice broke me out of my reverie and I looked woozily up at him as he peered around the doorframe of the mud-room.

"You can come in," I managed to get out.

"Thanks," he said coming in and closing the door behind him. He stood against the fridge and watched me. "I didn't mean– Are you–?" he sighed seemingly unable to make a sentence either.

"Listen James," I finally said after a few minutes of awkward silence. "I– I, uh, I'm really... flattered I guess. I really am it's just... I'm not gay, and I don't think I ever will be. Not that you're not attractive or anything, you're a pretty good-looking guy it's just..." I trailed off, knowing anything but the truth would sound pathetic, but I was worried about his reaction.

"It's just...?" he prompted.

I looked up at him, resolved. "It's just that, I'm in love with Emmy."

He smiled, nodding. "I know. I'm not angry about it Gage. Well... I was- I used to be, but I get it. I do get it. You're in love with her and she likes you. I just.. I just didn't want you to be weird or... angry about... well... You know." He gestured vaguely towards the direction of the driveway. "That."

I chuckled. "Yeah. Well I'm not. I was just a little shocked. It's a lot to...realize. Does– Does everyone know?" I asked curious.

He snorted sarcastically. "No. No one. Well except Emmy, and now you and I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell anyone?" he asked pleadingly.

I shook my head. "It's your business to tell."

"Thanks Gage. And I really do mean for everything, for not freaking out about this, for letting me be your friend, you've taught me a lot of stuff you don't know about."

I smiled at him. "You're welcome." We fell into another awkward silence which I broke once more. "Right... well I uh, I have homework and... stuff," I supplied lamely.

"Oh right! Yeah homework." James ducked back into the mud room and I followed. "I guess I'll see you at school right?" He looked at me expectantly and I realized how much courage that moment in the truck must've taken. I'd be betraying myself if I showed any less so I smiled.

"For sure." I was only a little less shocked when he leaned forward and placed a gentle peck on the corner of my mouth.

"Bye," he whispered.

I flopped bonelessly on the couch as I heard his engine start up and then fade into the distance and I ran through our conversation, my ears still vaguely ringing from everything that had happened in the past half hour. I was starting blankly at the ceiling, thankful that my parents weren't home and petting Mack who I'd let in from the shed, when I suddenly remembered something that James had said that made me sit bolt upright and stare at Mack.

You're in love with her and she likes you... She likes me!?

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I had just come in from chores, a little later than I should have, and was about to turn on the TV when I heard a knock at the mud-room door. I stood up and wondered who it could be. Dad was out at a meeting and Mom was out...somewhere so I wasn't sure who could be calling.

I froze when I saw who was standing on the stoop.

"Well aren't you going to let me in?" Emmy asked.

I suddenly felt like I was living in some kind of soap opera and I chuckled when I thought it and shook my head at myself. My grandmother always said life was more dramatic than the soaps. I stepped back and she came in past me, clapping her mittened hands together.

"Hey," I said nonchalantly, painfully aware that I had just spent the past two hours pathetically repeating three words from my conversation with James over and over again.

"Hey," she replied simply and I knew she was teasing me. "So... you got a ride home with James tonight, how was that?" she asked, hanging up her coat and walking past me to flop on the couch.

I was tired and sick of having to think about things so I decided to skip the pleasantries. "He kissed me," I said blandly sitting on one end of the couch.

"Oh," was all she answered.

We sat in silence for a long time then; "You aren't gay are you?" she asked.

"Nope."

"Good."

"Yep."

"I really like you Gage," she blurted out and I looked at her, somewhat shocked only to find her glaring at the couch cushions. It seemed that she came to some conclusion because she took a deep breath and barreled on. "I like you a lot and I have liked you for a while but I didn't want to do anything 'cause... well... James liked you too and his mom just died and his dad doesn't know he's gay and I wanted him to have something to be happy about but the other night... The other night when we went tobogganing I just couldn't do it anymore so I need to know, even though I think I know the answer, I need to know if... if you like me?"

I could only gape at her, saying to myself over and over again that this had to be the weirdest day ever. First she kisses me, then her boyfriend kisses me, then she says she likes me after her boyfriend has proclaimed that he likes me. My thoughts gave up fluttering around my head and just fell dead, not even a twitch.

I turned away from her and rested my arms on my knees, cradling my head. Of course I liked her, it seemed like everything was falling into place but... it was just so weird!

"You don't have to say anything I guess. It looks like I was wrong."

One of the comatose thoughts in my head spasmed and I muttered something.

"What?" she asked.

"I want you to be my girlfriend, and none of this... whatever," I flapped my hand pathetically in clarification. "I want you to be my girlfriend with real dates and stuff because–"

"Gage I don't even know if you like me. I–"

Whatever she was going to say next didn't even make it to her brain because I reached over the few feet of space that was between us on the couch and grabbed her wrist, pulling her towards me so that I could kiss her. I heard her breath hitch in her throat and without taking my lips off hers I grabbed her legs and slid her closer to me, until our thighs were touching. Her eyes were closed but I kept mine open, watching her as I tucked her hair behind her ear with one hand, following it to cup her jaw, the other hand snaking around her waist.

I was floating in the smell of her, her closeness, the fact that this was actually happening, until she suddenly pulled away. My eyes refocused and the one thought flashing idiotically through my head was: she is smoking hot. I cursed myself afterwards for allowing myself to think something so completely demented.

We didn't break eye contact as she smirked and climbed onto my lap, straddling me. I couldn't do anything but watch her, not able to believe that I had her at last.

"You have no idea how long I've wanted this," she whispered, speaking my thoughts.

I chuckled, "Oh I think I have and idea." I ran my fingers through her hair, forgetting about being shy or awkward. This felt more right than anything ever had before in my life.

"Years," she murmured, tilting her head down to kiss my neck.

"Me too." I caught her earlobe with my lips, my eyes closing as I smiled.

"You too? I can't believe that," she said, watching me.

"I can." Before she could say anything else I put my hand on her neck and pulled her face down to mine, my arm wrapping around her waist as she rested her elbows on my shoulders, playing with my hair.

Eventually we broke apart and we were sitting in silence as we held hands. I had nothing to say, I was beaming in the darkness and I could feel Emmy contentedly curled up beside me. Finally she moved, stretching and sitting up.

"I have to go," she said sleepily.

"Okay." I stood up and walked her to the door.

"I guess I'll see you in school then," she said.

"You definitely will." I kissed her chastely and she ran to her car trying to get out of the freezing cold as fast as possible.


A/N: Okay, whoo! New chapter! Tell me if you guys think this is moving too fast? Personally (me being the author and all) I think it'll all clear itself up in the next chapter or two, but that doesn't mean I don't want your input. Speaking about input... where have all my reviewers gone? You make me sad! Review more!

For everyone's random information this story is only about half way over. That's why I've been slowing down with the postings. Once I get over the initial excitment of having a plot I usually fizzle out so things might take me a little longer to get around to but reviews will keep me pumping. Whoo!

cope: so I totally loved that your favourite character was the cow... I'm thinking about tossing her in there again, we'll see. It'll have to be something sufficeintly hick-ish. I love that I'm writing a farmer story... sigh if only real farmers were nearly as intriguing. So ch. 6 good? I'm glad. If I could ask how was the "almost rape" scene. Did it seem believable? Especially with James just jumping in and none of his friends? I wondered...

ind-fam: I guess your question has been answered. James does have a little (big) crush on our marvelous protagonist, Gage. Read on and review, it gets more interesting... or it should. I haven't decided if there is going to be more James/Gage intrigue, let me know what you think! Thanks!