So, take a guess. Guess where I woke up the next morning.
Bennett was on the Floor. I was on his bed. I sat up and looked at him. He stirred but didn't wake up. I walked over to him and nudged him in the ribs with my big toe. He inhaled sharply, and rolled away from me.
"You have problems," He groaned, pulling his blanket over his head. I just smiled. He'd told me I had problems approximately 800 times since we met. It never actually seemed to bother him.
I decided that I would give him a few minutes to wake up. I went over to the bed and picked up my jeans, which were balled up at the foot of it. I put them on, feeling guilty that they'd come off in the first place, even though I had removed them myself and Bennett had done nothing to celebrate their removal. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and realized that it was past noon. Great…Daniel had texted me too...
Can I come over for Lunch? I'll bring food. I miss you.
It had only been sent fifteen minutes ago. Which meant that I could get away with saying I'd just been in the shower. However, I couldn't think of any way that lying would be better than telling him the truth. Especially since the truth was so...convenient. I mean, if I told him everything he wanted to know, it would make him squirm for a few minutes, but that was it.
Sorry, I just woke up. I told him, I'm at Bennett's. But yeah, that would be great.
Ten seconds later: Is that a joke?
I sent back, No, why would I joke about wanting to have lunch with you?
No, seriously, where are you?
Don't worry about it.
And then, he said, Asshole.
Wow. That was pleasant. I looked over to where Bennett was on the floor. I knew he had heard my phone ring. "That was Daniel," I told him. "I told him I was here. Now I'm going home to, like, talk about it..." I wasn't sure why I was telling him. I guess I just liked to say stuff out loud sometimes.
"You don't sound nervous," Bennett observed boredly.
"I didn't do anything wrong." I shrugged cheerfully. "Thanks to you..."
I got up and started towards the bedroom door.
"Wait…" Bennett called after me. "You're not going to walk home, are you?"
Oh god. I really didn't want him to offer me a ride. What could I say so he wouldn't? I guess I took too long to think of anything. Damn it.
"Let me drive you…" He stood up, shaking the blankets off of him. He, unlike me, had not removed any clothes from the night before.
We really had not done anything. …Seriously. You know why? It's because we are both in loving, committed relationships. Yep, and also we have learned from our past mistakes. And also he might have sexually rejected me…
Once you hear the whole story, it won't seem so pathetic.
Firstly, it's not that I actually wanted to do anything with Bennett! Really, I mean, if I had actually wanted to I would've made it happen. I kind of just wanted to see where he stood. I wanted to see if he wanted it.
It all started with me realizing that there was something off about Bennett and Evan's relationship. I mean, I didn't even know what Bennett meant when he said that their relationship was "casual", I have to admit, it kind of seemed like he wanted me to know that he would cheat with me if I asked him too, which was hilarious, you know?
After three or four wine coolers, I decided that I owed it to, like, society to converse with Evan White. At that point in time I truly believed that he and I must be very similar in order for us to have such similar taste in men. I didn't hold back at all. I wanted to have a real, honest conversation with him.
"So…I guess it's kind of funny," I began.
Evan just blinked at me, clearly confused.
"I mean…isn't it…?" I went on. "You know, all of our...common links?"
"Yeah, Bennett said you guys have a history…" Evan told me. His voice held virtually no resentment. It was like he was saying, "Yeah, Bennett said you're a master at crazy eights…" or "Bennett said you can pick locks…" or "Bennett said you've made many profound connections with eighteenth century spirits…" Seriously, he said it as if it was like any other fact about me that he was genuinely interested in and would've liked me to elaborate on.
"…And Daniel…" I told him simply. "Daniel and I are together now, did you know that?"
Evan nodded. He looked kind of uncomfortable or, like, constipated…but at the same time there was this sort of amused, condescending glint in his eye. "I can't say I was surprised. God, you were both such idiots for the longest time, but I was sure you'd come around."
Oh. That's nice. "I'm offended, Mr. White." I said honestly. "You don't even know me."
"Daniel and I were lab partners last semester…" Evan shrugged, almost smugly. "I guess I was easy to talk to."
"Lab Partners…" I repeated. I hadn't bought it then and I didn't buy it now.
Evan realized what he was doing to me, and suddenly it showed in his face that he was really enjoying it. What a bitch..."Yes: lab partners…..amongst other things…"
I got the feeling he was bluffing. "And you and Bennett…" I tried. "You're other things as well…?"
Evan just smiled, almost pitifully. "You don't need to be worrying about Bennett's relationships anymore, Nolan." He said darkly, but animatedly. "You've got your own to fuck up now."
But would he really say something so rude if he wasn't trying to psych me out? Would he really try to psych me out if he wasn't threatened by me? I don't think he would…I mean, it made sense. I had kind of stolen a guy from him before, and Bennett clearly wasn't as into the relationship as he was.
I just…I had this compulsion. I know it was wrong, but that's never stopped me before. I just had to prove it, okay?
Also, around the time that Evan and I had our little talk, Vanessa and Isaac started making out in the laundry room. The door was open, so we could all see him shoving his hand up her shirt. It was so stupid. They weren't even that drunk…but they were pretending to be.
After two more wine coolers, I started feeling very sleepy all of a sudden and realized that even though Vanessa wasn't that drunk, the fact that she had consumed any alcohol at all was bad and meant that getting into a car with her was a bad decision. I, being the intelligent and responsible lad that I am, knew that I needed to call a responsible driver to pick us up. And honestly, Jeremy was the first person I thought of because he's extremely responsible, and he cares about Vanessa enough that he would never allow her to pilot a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
Unfortunately…I mean…um…fortunately…he showed up after Vanessa and Isaac had pulled themselves away from each other. It was approaching curfew and Isaac had to show his guests out. Evan and Brenna left together, because apparently he lives in her neighborhood and she hadn't drank either…and when Bennett realized everyone was leaving, he asked Jeremy if he could kindly provide him with a ride home because he was a little tipsy.
And that's when the opportunity jumped at me. I had a sudden burst of confidence. I really did think fate was on my side.
Bennett and I were in the back seat; Ness and Jeremy in the front. They started having a serious conversation which I wouldn't have listened to if I was not, you know, drunk and tired, and unaware of where my attention should be directed.
"I've been calling you for days and you don't pick up and then the next thing I know, I'm getting calls from Nolan…"
"I didn't think you would want to go tonight," She shrugged.
"I wouldn't have…that's not the point…"
"Then what is the point…?"
They were still arguing when we pulled into Bennett's driveway. He started to awkwardly slide out of the car.
"Wait!" I grabbed his arm, speaking softly so that Vanessa and Jeremy could still hear themselves over me. "Can I crash here?"
I put on my best abandoned-puppy face: the one that makes Daniel melt. Bennett looked like I've just asked him to cut out his out kidney with a carving knife and give it to me. I'm a little put off by this. I mean, I knew I'd gained a little weight since my mother started clipping coupons for Hamburger Helper, but I didn't think I'd become that unappealing. "What…?" He asked.
"You once told me that I was always welcome in your home," I reasoned, quite adorably.
Bennett bit his lip, hesitating. He looked at Vanessa and Jeremy, whose volume was increasingly gradually. Then, he looked back to me. "I wouldn't want to be around this either," He mumbled, and stepped aside, holding the car door open for me.
I grinned hugely. The fact that we were in the dark probably masked the wickedness of it. "Bye guys," I said cheerfully, starting to slide down the seat to Bennett's door.
Suddenly, Vanessa was paying attention. "What the fuck! Where are you going?"
"You'll thank me for this in the morning," I told her. For all I knew, she would thank me. Maybe I was allowing a necessary conversation between her and her boy toy. I didn't know.
Jeremy was too wrapped up in his anger to say anything or ask any questions. He just wanted to keep arguing. He drove away the second I opened the door.
"You have to be quiet, Nolan," Bennett told me as we went up his driveway. "I don't want you waking up my parents. I mean, they know we had a thing last semester now…they wouldn't want us sleeping in the same room."
"You told your parents about us…?" How…horrifying. I mean, I was all for Bennett being out and proud now, but really…? His parents…?
"They just sort of figured it out…" Bennett sighed regretfully.
"…When you told them you were gay…?"
"They just sort of figured that out too…"
"Good," I chuckled. "I wasn't the only one."
He managed to open the front door without it squeaking. However, a little beep from the alarm system went off, and Bennett had to punch a code into a little key pad to keep the system from freaking out. I suddenly wondered if rich people paid extra for squeak-free doors. I had to laugh because maybe if there doors made noises, they'd be able to live without the dumb alarm system.
I led the way to Bennett's room. I knew the path like the back of my hand, even in the dark.
"They didn't even leave a light on for you?" I asked in disbelief. He shushed me more loudly than I'd asked the question. I started to laugh and he smacked me in the arm. "No, seriously…" I continued. "It's 'cause you're gay, isn't it? You've disappointed them as a son, so now they're the Dursleys and you're Harry Potter."
Bennett shoved me into his room and closed the door. "You're ridiculous, you know that."
"Oh please," I sighed. "A good Harry Potter reference is worth at least ten points."
I shrugged as he flicked the light on and went over to his bed. "Yeah…" He threw one of his pillows and a blanket on the floor. "…I mean, someone's gotta be keeping score somewhere, right…?" And then I looked at the blankets, flattered that he was being a gentleman, but not believing it was necessary. "What are you doing?" I asked.
"You can take the bed," He told me, almost nervously. "I don't mind…"
And suddenly it was time for me to step up to the plate. "I'll only mind if you don't take it with me."
He blinked, and then swallowed, his lower jaw twitching steadily. "That might be a little awkward, don't you think?" He was keeping his composure remarkably well. "…Given our history…"
I started stepping toward him. "Oh, fuck that, Bennett…we've been behaving for months…what's a little relapse?"
And really, it's a good thing that I didn't actually want to do anything or else I would've been distraught over the ultimate rejection.
I was really close to him now. We could feel each other's breath. His face was all thoughtful and serious. He looked sad for a bit, and then got kind of angry. "I don't think Daniel would feel the same way."
"…Or Evan…?" I started to smile. How interesting that he was leaving his boyfriend out.
"Evan and I are not exclusive," Bennett told me confidently.
"Oh, so you're just fuck buddies…" I accepted.
Bennett rolled his eyes. "We don't do that either. That just complicates things."
"So…what we had was complicated?" The conversation was suddenly thrilling me. Really…it was going in exactly the direction I had hoped it would. "I'm sorry, I was unaware."
"Oh shut up, of course it was complicated. I had Brenna…you had Daniel…"
"Daniel and I weren't together…"
"But you are now,"
"For all you know, we're 'not exclusive' either." I tried.
"Shut up. Daniel's all about you, Nolan. There's no way he'd want to share you with anyone, especially not me."
I rolled my eyes incredulously. "You don't even know Daniel."
"Well I know you!" Bennett shouted, which was strange because he'd said he didn't want to wake anyone up. "I know you better than anyone, and you know that. It honestly surprises me that you'd want to hurt him like this." Bennett started shaking his head. He swallowed again, and for the first time I realized that he might actually be getting worked up. "You told me you were in love with him. You said he was the reason you were changing…is that it? Do you resent him for changing you? Is that why you'd like to cheat on him, to, like, assert your free will?"
I hated it when Bennett did that. I hated it when he started trying to know things that he could never really know. "Bennett, you need to chill your tits. You don't want to do anything, so we won't do anything. It was merely a suggestion..."
Bennett rolled his eyes. "God, you're so ridiculous."
And then he randomly started laughing like a moron. That was kind of annoying. "What…?"
"You're lucky that I care enough about you not to do shit with you…" He said stupidly, catching his breath. I just sort of glared at him. Since when did he care? "You know…" He continued, a little too sweetly. "I really have missed you, Nolan. Like, I miss…when we kept saying we were going to do that god-awful project for Harris's class but we did jack shit…and when we would hang out with Vince. You know, he keeps asking if I've talked to you. You should come over sometime and Skype him with me…"
I just blinked, pretending like I had zoned out somewhere around "god-awful project". Honestly, I wasn't sure how to react. Clearly, Bennett had been thinking about me a lot more than I'd ever thought about him. I was quite satisfied with the outcome of tonight, and I kind of wished I'd filmed everything so I could post it on Evan White's Facebook wall. It was clear that Bennett was in love with me. It was only a tad awkward because I was about to sleep in his bed.
And now, the next morning, he wanted to give me a ride home. I guess I pitied him, you know, because he was in love with me and all, and that's why I allowed it. I knew there was a chance that Daniel would already be at my house, and I knew there was a chance that he'd be infuriated upon witnessing my walk of shame…so luckily I'd emotionally prepared myself for when it actually happened.
"I can't believe you!" Daniel shouted immediately as I came through my front door. "Is this really how you're going to do it? You're taking the easy way out?"
"I really don't know what you're talking about." I was a saint. I was so freaking calm it was insane. I knew if I yelled back, he'd think I was getting defensive because I had something to hide. And I really never had any intention of hooking up with Bennett, so I really didn't have anything to hide.
"I was watching out the window!" Daniel screamed. He started choking up, and suddenly I didn't feel so calm anymore. Oh god…it made me so uncomfortable when he got emotional. I clenched my fists. I had to stay strong. "That was his car! You don't even want to hide it from me!"
"If I had something to hide I would hide it," I shrugged. Daniel shook his head, still not trusting me. The funny part was that when I stopped to think about it, it went both ways. "We were at this party last night," I told him. "Me and Bennett, you know? His boyfriend was there too. We had a nice little chat. You know Evan White, don't you?"
Daniel rolled his eyes. "This again…?" He asked boredly. I nodded. "You know we were lab partners, Nolan."
"Lab partners…amongst other things," I said mockingly.
"Not everybody fucks their gay class-project partners, Nolan. You and Bennett are the only ones."
"That was then, this is now…"
"Exactly…!" Daniel snapped. "It doesn't matter what Evan and I did or didn't do five months ago!"
"So you're admitting you did something!"
"We were friends!" Daniel cried. "Just like you and I were friends once."
"You told me he wasn't gay!"
"I didn't know, and by the time I did you weren't asking anymore. It was irrelevant."
"Well when did you find out he was gay?" The argument was taking over me. I was speaking before I thought.
"I don't remember."
"How did you find out?"
"Nolan, come on…" I waited. "…I just did, okay? It just came up…"
"So basically, he kissed you and you just sort of assumed it meant he liked guys."
"Well, what if he had?" Daniel cried. "Would you try to ruin my life like you ruined Bennett's when you found out you weren't his first guy?"
Yes, probably. Because obviously all I'm capable of is life-ruining. "Don't be stupid…that was different…"
Daniel took a deep breath. He really wanted to be the sane one here, I could tell. "I had no reason to tell you, Nolan. And really, none of what you're saying is any sort of justification for spending the night with your ex."
"He's not my ex," I said smartly.
"Shut up," Daniel said weakly.
"He slept on the floor," I admitted matter-of-factly, sort of proud that the truth might actually get me somewhere positive this time. "Nothing happened…we were drunk. I crashed there. We're friends…just like you and Evan are friends…just like you and I were friends once."
Daniel was silent. He swallowed and wiped some light tears from the corners of his eyes. Then, he looked up and studied my face. "I just don't know if I should trust you anymore. I mean…this…and the thing with the gym…"
I realized that it might be bad if he ever found out that I'd bought a smoothie from Bennett at the gym. I laughed a little bit, even though the thought shouldn't have been funny.
"Well, that's your problem, isn't it?" I said, still smiling. "Really, whether or not you trust me isn't going to determine whether or not I behave."
Daniel knew that the point I made was valid, that's why he had nothing to say for several minutes. I took the silence as a cue to get closer to him. I kissed him, just to remind him why he was with me in the first place. After the kiss, he shoved me away and studied my face sadly. He thought he was making a big decision, and only I knew that he'd already made it. "I love you, Nolan," He said. It sounded like a warning.
"I know," I wrapped my arms around him and kissed him on the forehead. "And I understand how difficult that must be."
Not that I thought that it was difficult to love me. I knew that it was difficult to have to live with the burden of loving me. The fact that he put up with it: it gave me this obscene level of respect for him. It made me love him even more.
He'd made chicken salad from scratch. He knew how much I loved it. We ate in silence at my kitchen table, and then I took him to the basement to play some Mario Kart. We made out a little bit towards the end of the afternoon and he's the one who started it, which was a first. It was a nice change.