Twenty

It's Friday and I'm relieved to be done with school for the week. It would be a perfect day if I could just sit at home and relax, perhaps snuggle up on the couch with a blanket and watch a movie by myself. But no. The perfect feeling of Friday is ruined by the fact that Dylan has invited me over. And I have to say yes or else he'd be disappointed. Plus, I'd have to make up some excuse if I said no. And I hate lying.

After school I stop at home for a quick snack and then head over to Dylan's house. I shiver as I drive. It's winter now, and the gray clouds overhead promise rain. I'm pleased with this. I love winter and rain and the holidays and everything about this time of year. But I'm not shivering because of the cold and I'm not excited about the potential rain. I'm terrified.

Each block closer to Dylan's tightens my throat more and more.

Ever since my encounter with Shane behind the music building, I've felt intense anxiety around Dylan. It's only been a few days, but each time I see Dylan I'm reminded of the fact that I cheated on him. I shared a romantic moment with somebody else. I betrayed my boyfriend. And the anxiety is just reminding me that Dylan has to find out eventually. What keeps making it worse is the unknown. When is he gonna find out? How will he react?

And of course there's the fact that I love Shane. I can't help it. Even though things have been awkward between us the last few days, I love him. And besides, I'm the one being distant. I'm the one who's been ignoring him in English this week and failing to answer any of his text messages or phone calls. I'm the one who's at fault here.

So driving to Dylan's is extra anxiety-provoking, knowing that I'm in love with someone else and Dylan is bound to find out any day now.

Why don't you just break up with him?

It's not that simple.

Why not?

Because... I do still love Dylan. Don't I? I love them both... and Dylan is such a sweet guy. I couldn't break his heart like that. And if I did break up with him, I'd be considered an asshole. At least that's probably what you would say.

True. But I already think you're an asshole.

Oh.

I'm forced to use my swallowing method, swirling the saliva around in my mouth and trying to push it past the gag reflex. It's extremely difficult to do without gagging. But if I don't do it, I'll absolutely start gagging. I hate anxiety.

I feel sick and shaky all the way to Dylan's house. When I park my car and walk up to his front door, rain starts to softly drizzle from the dark clouds. For some reason, it makes me feel a little better.

I take a deep breath and wait for the wave of anxiety to subside before I gather the courage to knock on the door.

Dylan's mother answers.

"Hi, Nathan!" She greets.

"Hi, Mrs. Schinowsky," I manage.

"Here to hang out with Dylan?" She asks.

"Yup," I reply.

She lets me in and calls Dylan's name throughout the house. I hear the sound effects of a video game that Dylan's little brothers are playing in the other room.

Suddenly, Dylan appears and as soon as I see him another wave hits. I do my best to hide it, and as far as I can tell I'm successful.

"Hey," He says, smiling. He looks cute in that oversized sweatshirt. Why did I cheat on him?

"Hey," I respond, mimicking his tone.

We can't hug or kiss each other to say hello because his mom is standing right there. And even though we've been together for months now, Dylan still hasn't told her. She doesn't even know that he's gay. No one in his family knows.

"You guys just gonna hang out upstairs?" Mrs. Schinowsky asks.

Dylan and I look at each other awkwardly, as if for confirmation. We both shrug.

"Yeah, I guess," Dylan says.

"Okay well have fun," she says, leaving us alone and heading back to the living room.

Dylan leads me upstairs and into his room. Even though I've been here several times before, I still feel awkward being in his house. There are so many things I'm not allowed to say or do in front of his parents and it's extremely stressful. Part of me is relieved to be behind closed doors in Dylan's bedroom. But the other part of me, the anxious part, is terrified of being alone with Dylan.

You cheated on him you son of a bitch, don't forget that. He's gonna find out any day now. He knows there's something going on between you and Shane. He probably already suspects that you let Shane fuck you.

Another wave of anxiety hits me as we step into his room and he closes the door.

"Hey," he says again, as if he needs to greet me for a second time, as his boyfriend and not just his friend.

I'm still suffering through another wave and I can't say anything back, but I flash a quick smile.

Dylan steps closer to me and puts his hands on my waist. Oh God, he's gonna kiss me. I can't kiss him when I'm feeling anxious like this. My throat will just close up more. Activity in my mouth doesn't help anxiety at all. In fact, any act as small as taking a bite of food or speaking a single word or coughing sets off a constant wave of intense anxiety. Kissing is certainly not going to be good. Please God, don't let him use tongue.

He kisses me forcefully and I can't help but think about how his nose is sort of crushing mine. I try to push my anxiety away and kiss him back. I move my lips to the quick tempo that he's created. I try to satisfy him. I try placing my hands on his chest and rubbing his pectorals. I try to focus on each thing I'm doing instead of focusing on the anxiety bubbling it's way up my throat.

He starts using tongue and I panic. His breath tastes like peanut butter and jelly. It's nauseating. My whole body seems to freeze as I tense up. I force my anxiety down. Oh God, just get through it. Just please let me get through it.

Finally it ends and I'm relieved. Dylan pulls away with a crooked grin and we stare awkwardly for a few seconds. He continues to hold my waist and I know I should be enjoying this. All I've ever wanted was for a boy to hold me and kiss me and love me. Why am I taking it for granted?

"It's good to see you," He says, still grinning.

I blush and smile. "You too," I manage to say.

"I'm glad you're here," He says.

"Yeah," I say, swallowing.

He lets go of my waist and takes my hand.

"Come here," He says, his grin growing wider and more mischievous. He pulls me over to his bed.

Oh God, he wants more kissing. My whole body tenses up again. Another wave hits and I find it hard to move. I need water. I'm scared. Don't make me go through with this.

You don't want to kiss your own boyfriend? You're pathetic.

Normally I would want to... it's just my anxiety...

No, you'd rather be kissing Shane.

Shane...

An image of his smile and blinding eyes flashes into my head. For a second, I feel better. My stomach feels content, and my throat even loosens it's grip on me. But then I look up and realize that I'm crawling into bed with Dylan, not Shane. My throat tightens again. It takes a few seconds for me to swallow successfully.

Dylan pulls the covers over us while I kick my shoes off. I lay back on his pillow and try to relax. His bed is comfortable and warm and I just want to curl up in a ball and go to sleep. But he wants something else.

I lay on my back and he hovers over me. He plants kisses on the side of my neck and it makes me shiver. I try to relax and enjoy it but my body is in no mood to relax. Every muscle is tense to the point where I'm almost trembling. My fingers feel stiff. Even my brain feels frozen.

Dylan moves his kisses from my neck to my lips and that sickening peanut butter and jelly smell wafts up into my nose and my mouth and my throat.

I force my mind to wander so that I can't focus on anxiety. I name all the planets in order and then list the months of the year. I recall memories of my 6th birthday party and the last book I read. I need to be distracted.

Why don't you focus on how much you love Dylan? He is kissing you after all.

Dylan... he's nice and sweet... and he has pretty eyes I guess. And that sideways grin is kinda cute. And it feels good the way he's touching my waist. Yeah, Dylan. My boyfriend. He's familiar, right? I do love him after all. Maybe the peanut butter and jelly smell isn't so bad. I am kind of hungry for a sandwich.

I regain some confidence and try to kiss him back as best as I can. I run my fingers through his hair and bravely start to use my tongue. He moans in approval and the sound gives me chills. I do love it when he moans like that... I do love him...

He pauses to start kissing my neck again and I take the opportunity to swallow. I'm extremely pleased when I swallow successfully on the first try. My anxiety isn't quite as bad now. I think I'll be okay. I can endure this.

He continues kissing me until it's difficult for us to breathe. My face is starting to get hot and my lips feel raw and numb. Since my lips aren't as sensitive at the moment, the kissing doesn't feel quite as good as it usually does.

So you're bored of kissing him? You sicken me.

No... I'm not bored... I'm just... I don't know... tired.

Dylan takes his lips away from mine for a second to whisper my name softly.

"Nathan..."

The sound takes me back. Back to Shane and the pillow fight in his room...

I close my eyes and remember. The way he laughed with me, the way he looked at me, those piercing eyes, that gentle smile, the way he caressed my palm with his fingertips, the way he said my name... my full name... in that voice... oh God...

Shane...

For a moment I'm dazed and I refuse to consciously enter reality. I pretend he's here and he's the one sliding his tongue into my mouth. Oh, Shane...

I'm forced back into reality when I feel Dylan's body moving even closer to mine. He presses himself up against me and I feel... he's completely hard... and he's rubbing it against my thigh...

And oh God... I'm hard too...

You got hard while kissing Dylan. Thank God, something you finally get right.

Yeah...

But you were thinking about Shane... that's why you got hard isn't it?

No... it was because of Dylan...

He keeps kissing me, and he's starting to moan again. He's practically panting while he continues to rub his solid erection against me. I feel him smiling under our kiss. He knows I'm hard too.

We're both hard... and Dylan hasn't been shy about asking me for sex in the past... is he gonna ask for it again?

I remember the last time he suggested it and feel like grimacing. He got angry with me when I said no. I cried in the bathroom. It's not a good memory.

With our lips still attached, Dylan slowly moves his hand down my body and touches my erection through my jeans. My whole body tenses up again and fear forces me to protest.

I immediately pull his hand away and force our lips apart.

"Dylan..." I mutter in complaint, blushing.

"Shhh..."

He swats my hand away and resumes his hold on me. He rubs me and although physically it feels nice, emotionally I'm terrified. I've never gone this far. I'm not prepared to go any further.

But how am I supposed to stop him? He knows what he wants.

"Dylan, stop..." I try.

He shushes me again and brings his hand up to the button on my jeans. He unfastens it even though I continue to protest.

"Stop..." I say, trying to pull his hands away from my zipper.

I know he's just moments away from completely undressing me. I'm not ready for this. I'm not ready to let any boy see me naked. I love Dylan, I do... but I am not mentally prepared for sex.

Then why are you hard right now?

I don't know, okay! I just am! Just because my body is reacting this way doesn't mean I want sex right now!

Whatever you say, dumbshit.

I pull Dylan's hands away from my jeans and grip his wrists tightly so he won't continue undressing me.

"Stop, Dylan," I say, trying to sound forceful, "I'm not ready for this."

He narrows his eyes at me. Oh God, he's angry.

"What? Are you gonna be difficult about this again?" He asks.

My heart sinks and my throat tightens again. He's mad at me. He thinks I'm a freak. He hates me. He wants me to die. Why am I refusing to have sex with him anyway? It's not like it's that big of a deal. It's just sex. Why can't I just suck it up? I'm old enough for sex and we've been together for a while now and I do love him. Why can't I just give him my virginity? Why is this so hard?

SUCK IT UP, FAGGOT.

I'm trying, I'm trying.

I succumb to my emotions and release my grip on Dylan's wrists. He rolls his eyes at me and then strips off his shirt.

Oh God...

He continues to kiss my neck and starts tugging at my shirt. I run my hands through his hair again, trying to satisfy him. But inside I'm panicking.

I hear him unbutton his own jeans and before I know what's happening I'm struck with the knowledge that his penis is completely exposed and he's starting to rub it hastily. I refuse to look at it. This is not how I want to lose my virginity... this is not how I want this to be...

I push him off of me and he falls onto the other side of the bed, laying on his back.

"What the hell?" He shouts at me.

I stand, quickly button my pants back up, and straighten my shirt.

"Dylan, I told you I'm not ready for this!" I say, trying not to shout.

"What is wrong with you?" He asks, glaring at me.

"You're practically forcing me into this and I'm not ready!"

"Why the fuck aren't you ready?" He yells.

My heart is sinking deeper and growing heavier with each word he shouts.

"Because... I'm just not, okay?" I say.

"What's the big deal?" He asks.

"I don't know, okay!" I say, feeling my eyes starting to water, "I'm just having a lot of anxiety today and..."

"Ugh, not your stupid anxiety again!" Dylan groans, looking up at the ceiling.

No... no... oh please God no... don't let this happen... don't let him hate me... don't let him be mad at me... please no no no, don't let him hate me... I can't help it... I can't help it... PLEASE...

"Wh-what?" I stammer.

Dylan huffs out an angry breath. "Do you know how annoying it is to have to deal with your fucking anxiety all the time?" He asks rhetorically.

I feel my heart racing.

"I just wanted a normal boyfriend!" Dylan shouts, "But instead I got a fucked up one!"

My head feels fuzzy. My heart feels heavy. My stomach feels twisted. I sink into myself with the knowledge that Dylan hates me. He hates me because of my anxiety. Because I won't have sex with him.

I feel myself tearing up and I can't bear to look at him anymore. I grab my belongings and rush out of his room, down the stairs, and out to my car. I drive away in a matter of seconds and now that I'm alone I let myself break down.

After driving a few blocks I realize that I can't see through my tears so I'm forced to pull over.

I sob uncontrollably. His words are like a broken record in my mind. They repeat over and over and over and over...

He's right. You're fucked up.

I know.

I lose track of time and my senses go numb. I can't breathe because I'm crying so hard. I lose the ability to feel.

You're pathetic.

I know.

I need comfort. I need immediate help. I need something. Some external force that can help me. Someone.

Without even thinking twice, I know I have to go see Shane. I love him so much. He'll be here for me. He's the sweetest person on the planet...

But what about your boyfriend -

SHUT UP.

Continuing to sob, I restart my car and drive directly to Shane's. I don't have to think about how to get there anymore. I just go.

Before I know it, I'm there. I stumble out of the car and it's raining now. I think I'm getting wet. I don't care.

Before I even reach up to knock on the front door, Shane opens it. He must've seen my car pull up. I don't care. He's there and he looks concerned and his hair is cute and his sweater is adorable and I want to be in his arms and I want to feel that feeling.

I fall into him and his arms provide immediate relief. It's so much relief that I cry harder. I think I'm screaming. I don't know. It feels like the world's ending and I don't know what's real anymore.

I start to hear his voice in my ear.

"Nate!" His voice sounds fuzzy, "Nathan! What's wrong?"

I can't speak.

Dylan hates me because of my anxiety. Dylan hates me because I won't give him my virginity. Dylan hates me because I'm fucked up. I'm a disgusting cheater and I love Shane. I love him more than anything. These arms are where I belong. I was just in Dylan's arms not ten minutes ago and that felt like nothing compared to this. I don't love Dylan. I love Shane.

YOU'RE SUCH A -

SHUT UP!

Shane's chest is warm and comforting and his arms are wrapped around me and things are quiet now. I think I've stopped screaming. I feel better. Coming to terms with things makes me feel okay again. Or maybe it's just the comfort of Shane's warmth.

Now things are becoming clearer and reality is coming back. I can hear what Shane is saying now.

"Nate..." He says softly, rubbing my back, "Are you okay? I'm right here..."

His voice sounds broken, almost like he's crying...

I've lost track of time. What time is it? How long have I been standing here in the front hall of Shane's house hugging him? How many minutes have passed since Dylan was unbuttoning my pants?

"Nate...please talk to me..."

I start to realize that I'm cold. I'm freezing. I adjust myself and realize that I'm soaking wet. It really was raining outside... pouring... in fact now I can hear the raindrops pounding on the roof of Shane's house. No wonder I'm so cold.

"Nate, I'm here... it's gonna be okay..."

Reality is coming back to me. Usually I hate reality. Those two imaginary boys have always comforted me, and yet they live in a fantasy world. Reality always brings me back to misery. But right now, reality isn't so bad because I'm in Shane's arms. Never mind that my current reality also includes the fact that my boyfriend hates me and I've just come to the conclusion that I don't even love him. I'll worry about that later.

"Nathan..."

My full name in that beautiful voice brings me back to reality completely.

"I'm okay," I say.

I pull myself out of Shane's arms and he looks at me worriedly. His eyes are full and watery. His brows are furrowed with concern. His lips are parted slightly. God, I want to kiss him.

YOU LITTLE -

I DON'T CARE.

"You're shaking," Shane observes.

I didn't realize it until now, but I guess I am. I'm so cold.

"Let's get you warm, okay?"

He folds his hand into mine, making the corner of my mouth perk up. He leads me up the stairs. There on the wall are the pictures of his deceased little sister. She was so beautiful. What was her name again? Annie?

"What's your sister's name?" I ask. I don't care if it's inappropriate.

Shane stops and turns toward me. He doesn't look offended, just confused that I'm asking such a random question. Then he notices that I'm staring at the photos of her and he seems to understand.

"Amy," He answers.

Amy... a beautiful name for a beautiful girl... she would've been a heartbreaker just like her big brother.

We continue walking up the stairs and Shane leads me into the bathroom across from his room. Why are we in here?

Shane turns on the shower.

What...?

I must look confused and I guess he notices my expression, so he explains, "You just need to warm up, so get in the hot shower for a few minutes."

Is he gonna stay here while I get naked...? Oh Jesus... one boy almost saw me naked today, do I need another? I really don't need any more reason to think that I'm a whore.

Shane steps closer to me and decides that he needs to help undress me since I'm not doing it myself. He grabs the bottom of my drenched shirt, his fingers grazing the skin on my waist.

Don't get hard again, don't get hard again...

He lifts my shirt up and over my head and now I'm really shivering. I can't wait to get under the steaming water of the shower.

Shane touches my cheek. His fingers are cold.

"You okay?" He asks.

I nod. I do feel better, despite being freezing.

He nods back. "I'll leave you alone so you can take a quick shower, okay?"

So he's not gonna watch me get naked. To be honest, it's a bit of a relief. I didn't need any more sexual activity today. I've had enough stress and anxiety.

"Okay," I respond.

Shane pulls a towel out of the cabinet beneath the sink and sets it on the counter for me.

"I'll get you some dry clothes," He says.

He exits the bathroom and shuts the door behind him, leaving me alone. The water streaming out of the shower head is now steaming hot. I strip off my shoes, jeans, and underwear. I fold them up and lay them on the counter even though they're soaking wet. Then I hastily step into the shower. The water nearly burns my frozen skin at first, but it's a relief. In my mind, I imagine that it's burning away all the dead skin cells of the past. The fingerprints that Dylan left on my neck, the kisses he planted on my lips, the evidence of him almost stealing my virginity. My skin is burning and all the bacteria of a former life is dying. I'm still pure. I'm clean again. I'm warm. It'll be okay.

I don't bother to wash my hair or body with the various soaps and shampoos that Shane has left on the shelves of his shower. Instead I just run hot water through my hair and all over my body until every inch of me feels warm and comfortable.

I turn off the shower and peek behind the curtain to make sure I'm still alone. I am, but it seems that while I was showering, Shane sneaked in for a moment and placed a pile of dry clothes where my wet ones used to be.

I step out of the shower and dry myself off with the towel Shane has provided. I put on Shane's dry clothes, including his underwear, which feels awkward. But at the moment, I don't care. I'll wear Shane's underwear. Whatever. I just have to ignore the fact that certain parts of him have touched this fabric and this fabric is now touching certain parts of me...

Feeling much better, I exit the bathroom and cross the hall to Shane's room. He's sitting on his bed, as if he's been waiting for me. His head snaps up when I enter.

I just stand there in the doorway for a moment and we stare at each other. It's very quiet, and only then do I notice that the rain outside has ceased. His bright eyes are my sunshine in this cloudy weather.

"Wanna go for a drive?" He asks.

I nod.

We just get in his car and go. We don't talk about where we're going, but he drives in a certain direction and I don't protest. The dips in the street have formed puddles in the rain. The gutters are flooded and water runs into the storm drains, which are partially clogged with wet leaves. The clouds in the sky are still dark gray, but they've emptied themselves for the time being. It doesn't seem like it's gonna rain anymore today. At least not until the sun sets. I look at the clock in Shane's car and realize that sunset is not far from now. It's already 4:30 in the afternoon.

Shane and I don't speak for the duration of the car ride. If I were with anyone else, silence like this would make things extremely awkward. But with him, it doesn't feel odd. Even though we're not even listening to music, I still feel comfortable in the silence with him. Not speaking is okay for now. I don't need to stress about it.

Shane drives for five or ten minutes and we enter the nicely landscaped, suburban area of town. We pass by a few gated communities and a golf course, then a horse trail and an old firehouse before Shane turns down another street. We pass by a nice-looking elementary school, the parking lot empty since the school day has ended. Finally Shane parks his car in a lot next to a giant field. We're at a park, complete with three separate jungle gyms for kids, fifteen or twenty concrete picnic tables, a few barbecues, two basketball courts, and a vast field, probably large enough to be a football field.

Shane turns off the car and looks at me. He smiles gently, and his brilliant eyes hold a heartbreaking twinkle. I smile back.

"Come on," He says, opening the driver's side door and exiting the vehicle. I follow suit.

He leads the way, exiting the parking lot and setting foot on the field before strolling down a long dirt path that snakes it's way around the border of the field. I follow, a few steps behind. The wet dirt crumbles nicely beneath my sneakers. The cold air feels nice now that I'm in warm, dry clothes. I stick my hands into the pockets of the sweatshirt I'm wearing and smile as I remember that this sweatshirt belongs to Shane. I bring the inside of the collar to my nose and take a whiff. It smells just like him. I smile wider.

Shane waits for me to catch up with him. He pulls my right arm out of my pocket and intertwines his fingers with mine. He smiles at me. We continue strolling down the path, hand-in-hand.

I'm holding Shane's hand. I'm in love with him. I'm wearing his underwear. This is a little disconcerting considering the fact that I have a boyfriend. But for some reason my brain doesn't seem to count Dylan as my boyfriend anymore. Even though I guess we're still officially in a relationship, I know that he hates me and I don't think I love him anymore. So I feel single.

The dirt path starts to curve and becomes hidden within a tiny forest of pine trees along the edge of the field. We enter the forest and we're hidden from the world. The trees are thick enough that we can't see anyone and no one can see us. The path is empty except for us. We're alone. It's oddly comforting. I usually don't like being alone. But we have each other and that makes it more than okay.

"What were you upset about?" Shane asks, dismissing the elephant in the room.

Should I spill my secrets to him about what happened between me and Dylan? Or is that something I should keep private? I trust Shane. And I'm in love with him. Why shouldn't I tell him? After all, he's been so comforting ever since I stepped into his house earlier today. I almost feel like he deserves to know.

"Well..." I sigh, ready to confess everything, "Something happened..."

When I fail to complete my sentence, Shane says, "Between you and Dylan?"

"Yeah..." I clarify.

He squeezes my hand, but it brings about two completely different emotions. Comfort, knowing that he's holding my hand and that he cares, but also guilt because I just had a fight with my boyfriend and I'm already holding another boy's hand.

"I'm sorry, Nate," Shane says, looking at me with genuine sympathy in his eyes.

"It's okay," I say.

"Do you wanna talk about it?" He asks.

"Yeah, actually," I say honestly, "I really do."

I look at Shane and there's a hint of a smile on those soft lips. I can tell he feels good about the fact that I want to confide in him.

"So what happened?" He asks.

"We got in a fight," I explain. I know there's more to it than that, but I'm a bit nervous about explaining everything.

"About what?" Shane asks.

It would be a bit too much information if I told Shane all about Dylan pressuring me into sex. But I do really feel like spilling all my secrets to him.

"Dylan wanted something... something that I'm not prepared to give him..." I say hesitantly.

Shane understands right away. "And he tried to argue with you about it?"

"Only after I finally put my foot down..." I say.

"What does that mean?" He asks.

"I mean... he didn't seem to care that I didn't want it," I explain, "I really had to force him to stop..."

"Stop what?" Shane raises his voice, appalled.

"He was just trying to... pressure me, I guess," I clarify.

Shane stops walking and turns to look at me. He keeps a firm grip on my hand, which I like.

"So let me get this straight," He says, "Dylan was basically trying to force you into having sex with him?"

It's a bit of a relief that Shane refuses to leave any subjects as taboo. He always likes to lay everything out on the table, which I like. It's easier to talk to someone without tiptoeing around certain subjects. I guess that's why I always love talking to Shane. It's effortless.

"Yes," I answer.

"He didn't even care that you weren't ready?"

"No, he didn't."

Shane puts on an expression that I've never seen from him. He looks off into the distance and bites his lip. There's a fierceness in his eyes, almost like he wants to beat the crap out of one of the trees in this tiny forest. He's actually... angry.

"You know what, Nate?" He says, shaking his head, "I know he's your boyfriend and I know you love him... but I've gotta say... he's an asshole for doing that to you."

It feels terrible, talking about Dylan behind his back. But to be honest, part of me wants to agree with Shane. It is kind of appalling that Dylan hates me just because I wouldn't let him take my virginity. And not to mention he's mad at me for having anxiety, which is something I can't help.

I decide to be honest with Shane. "I don't love Dylan," I say.

He looks at me again, this time with a surprised expression.

"Really?" He asks.

"Really," I repeat.

Continuing to hold my hand, he steps closer to me.

"But you love me, Nate?" He asks softly. His crystal eyes hypnotize me.

This is the first time we've discussed the incident behind the music building, where I confessed my love for him. Between then and now, I've basically just ignored him and neither of us has brought up the event. It's both frightening and comforting that Shane is bringing it up now.

I gaze into those crystal eyes. I do love him. I love him so much. And even though I just decided not an hour ago that my love for Dylan has faded, I'm willing to admit that I'm madly in love with Shane. He's such a sweet guy. He's so selfless and kind and caring and friendly and funny and gorgeous... he's everything I could ever want in a guy. This entire time, the only thing that's been standing in my way was Dylan. And now it's almost like Dylan and I are already broken up, even though that hasn't been made official at all yet.

"Yes..." I whisper, captivated by Shane's eyes, "I love you."

With his free hand, Shane reaches up and touches my face. He holds his warm hand to my cheek and I nestle myself into his touch.

"Nathan," He whispers. The sound is beautiful.

He pulls me in closer and wraps his arms around me. I bury myself into his chest, just the way I did in the front hallway of his house not an hour ago. He smells incredible and he's warm and his lean chest and arms are comfortable. I can hear his heart beating. Pounding. My own starts to match it's rhythm.

Shane starts placing soft kisses on my shoulder and then my neck and then my cheek. Each time his lips touch my skin I feel a parade of chills vibrating down my entire body. I feel hot and cold at the same time. Excited and peaceful. Sad and happy. Everything.

I put my hands on his chest and can't help but grip a handful of his sweater. He's driving me crazy.

Just when I think this moment can't get any more perfect, he whispers, "I love you, too."

His soft voice is full of honesty. He's telling the truth. He's being completely genuine. He means it. I can almost hear his heart speaking and the words echoing out of his mouth. He loves me.

I feel like collapsing with happiness and relief and sadness and fear and pain, all at once. Someone loves me, really truly loves me. And the person who loves me is Shane Becker, the most incredible boy in the world. It's too good to be true. It's too perfect. Life isn't supposed to be this incredible.

I step out of our embrace just so I can look into his eyes. His lips are curled upward into a beautifully soft smile. His eyes are twinkling, like the only thing they can see is me. He loves me. How could someone like him love me? This has to be a dream.

I feel like crying again as I become blinded by those silvery eyes. But my tear ducts seem to have been emptied from crying over Dylan earlier. So I don't cry. I just stare in amazement and wonder. Shane loves me. And I love him. We're in love.

I don't care about Dylan anymore. Shane's right, he's an asshole. I don't care that I'm technically still in a relationship with Dylan. I don't care that just an hour or so ago, I was kissing Dylan. Shane and I are in love. I lose sight of everything else.

His lips are so tempting. I want to fall into him and get lost. I want to float into space with him.

But what about Dylan? Don't you think -

Fuck it.

I place my hands on Shane's face, stand on my tiptoes, and kiss him. The instant our lips touch, I'm in heaven. I am completely taken back to our first kiss in his kitchen, when we were supposed to be working on that stupid English project. The pattern and rhythm is exactly the same. The feeling of his lips is exactly the same. The only thing that's different is the mood. We're in love now. We're much closer now. Things are different. Things are... better.

His lips are soft and gentle at first. Then he grabs my waist, pulls me closer, and digs his tongue into my mouth. Our kiss becomes passionate instead of gentle. His tongue lights a fire inside of me and I can't get enough. I need more of him. My glass of need is bottomless.

I explore the inside of his mouth and it tastes incredible. Then I explore his body with my hands. I move my hands from his face to his neck, and then to his chest. I rub his pectoral muscles sensually and hear him sigh. He's actually enjoying this. And of course, so am I.

Something strange happens inside of me. I feel like my heart is mending itself. Like I've been broken in half and now Shane is fixing me. I feel like the negative and positive sides of me are being forced together like magnets, and the two halves of me are coming together. Finally. For the first time in my life. Shane loves me. And I love him. And the two halves are in love.


A/N: Okay this is an extremely long chapter. And I know the end makes it seem like this story is over but it's NOTTT. THIS STORY IS FARRRR FROM BEING OVER, DON'T YOU KITTENS WORRY! I love this chapter but I'm concerned about how it's gonna affect you guys. Maybe you won't like it, I'm not sure. I mean, everybody loves some Shathan romance, but idk it seems too... unrealistic or something. I don't know. Please review! I need feedback REALLY BADLY.

Aletiah: Aww thank you!

JHeartbreak: Used the title again! :D I have always viewed the "two halves" to be the two halves of Nate (yes the id's life-impulse and death-impulse) or the critical voice in Nate's head, and then Nate's true thoughts, or Nate & Shane, or REALITY AND FANTASY. Reality being Nate's anxiety and the fact that he feels alone, fantasy being the two imaginary boys and the dream of finding the love of his life. The Reality/Fantasy aspect was inspired by Lady Gaga. "I live halfway between reality and fantasy." Because that is EXACTLY how I live my life and it's how Nathan lives his life as well. And yes, I'm glad the "I love you" was just sudden and unexpected. It made it feel more genuine, from Nate and not from me. I don't like the "I love you"s in the other stories compared to this one. Thank you so much for your reviews :]

Ney13: Thank you :]

Skyless-11: This chapter might be the ultimate climax, I'm actually not sure. But there's definitely still gonna be a lot more action... not exactly sure where I'm going... we'll see.

Coli Narago: hahaha I don't think Dylan ever texted back.

xSuperiorex: hahahahaha BEYONCE LEVEL. That made my day. I'm so amazed that the last chapter made you feel THAT FEELING (and I know the feeling you're talking about). Thank you so much :]

Zakiyya: I don't like Dylan either ew.

MagnificentFern: Yes, Nate truly lives by wearing a mask and telling everyone "I'm fine," when really he's not. That's how it is constantly for him.

daniel: Thank you :]

Linq: Yeah a lot of people have said that reading this actually makes them feel some anxiety! it's crazy and I feel TERRIBLE ABOUT IT. Ew no one should EVER have to feel anxiety it's the worst.

LittleMonster13: It makes me so happy that you and your friend Nathan read this story together :] And yes! He ignored the voice! The voice may be gone after this chapter! The two halves have come together. 27 DAYS UNTIL I GO TO THE BTWBALL!

Miyuki31393: Thank you for reading :]

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