There's something to be said about Fairmont Prep in the last of the summer heat wave. There really was just something so enchanting about the campus, with its lush green lawns and billowing willow trees; the last flowers of the season, neatly contained within stone gardens. I couldn't place my finger on it but something about this place was incredibly pleasing.
"Pup, stop staring at all the guys." Okay. So September heat waves may have equated to fit boys running around without shirts on. And I may have been a little free with my ogling.
"I am not." I said, convincing no one. My brothers ignored me, which was typical. Really, it was their fault; logic dictates that if you don't want your little sister interacting with boys, don't surround her with boys.
Although, logic did seem to be in short supply these days.
"So, we're going out with Ryan tonight." Devon said, smirking at me.
"So, I'd rather get a lobotomy." I retaliated, glaring at him. His smirk fell off immediately. He looked like he wanted to argue but Aaron was on his other side, shaking his head at him. Devon deflated, grumbling to himself about rude little girls. "Besides, I have plans of the female persuasion." I said with a smile, remembering Mae Lynne.
"Excuse me?" Kevin had a twisted look on his face.
"Pup, maybe you're taking your, uh, role a little too seriously?" Mike offered, looking equally perturbed. I rolled my eyes.
"I'm hanging out with a girl, not getting married to one. Chill." They didn't look completely satisfied with that. I shrugged and started to leave, to get ready for my date with Mae Lynne.
"Shit. We've been so concerned with guys, we never thought about girls."
I threw a rock at their heads on my way out.
I never appreciated how difficult it was to dress for a date. I say date, because I don't know what else to call it. I, presumably a boy, called and asked Mae Lynne, undoubtedly a girl, out to spend some time together. I'm far from an expert on the matter, but that sounded an awful lot like what I understood a date to be.
Which brings me back to my dilemma. How do you dress for a date that isn't a date but, really, it's a date?
I didn't know how to be a smooth girl, let alone a smooth guy, and did I want to be smooth? Was Mae into me like that? I mean, I guess so, since she gave me her number and everything, but I wasn't into her like that, so was this kind of like leading her on?
Am I a douche bag?
These are questions I never thought I would have to ask myself, and questions I definitely didn't have answers for.
"Hey, are you okay? You've been staring at three pairs of jeans for, like, twenty minutes." I turned to see Jason observing me with the most puzzled expression. I hummed in thought. He must have come in after I started looking because it had definitely been longer than that.
"I don't know what to wear to a…I guess it's a date." I said, feeling uncomfortable telling him for some reason. He looked a little uncomfortable too, which led to my immediate regret at saying anything at all.
"Damn, you move fast." He said with a forced laugh. I smiled awkwardly back at him. We are conversational masters, here at Fairmont Prep. There was a little too much silence, so I cleared my throat. "So…"
"Yeah, uh…jeans." I said intelligently, gesturing to my denim spread. Jason stood behind me, looking over my shoulder. He smelled really good, but that was irrelevant. I could also just barely feel his chest brush across my back, but that was also irrelevant. He let out a low grunt before pointing to the black jeans in the middle. I laughed nervously. "Thanks." I mumbled, grabbing the other pairs to put away.
"No problem." He said, still standing probably way too close, not that I minded, not even a little bit, but I could feel his low voice as much as I heard it and, really, he did smell amazing. I kept my head ducked while I put away the jeans and grabbed a t-shirt and flannel button down from my small dresser. I slipped silently into the washroom to change.
I wondered if Jason thought my modesty was weird. I mean, I'd barely been here a couple of weeks and already I'd lost count of the amount of times he'd dropped his pants in front of me. Were all guys that free with exposing themselves? Was it suspicious that I wouldn't even change my shirt in front of him? This was so complicated.
When I came out of the washroom, Jason was sitting on his bed, staring at me. I stopped in my tracks and looked at my clothes, worried I'd forgotten something, or maybe he just thought I looked bad.
"What is it?" I asked self-consciously, after another beat of silence. He shook his head, still examining me a little too closely.
"Nothing, nothing…" More awkward silence. Jeez. "So, uh, where'd you meet this guy?" I stopped dead in my tracks, and stared at Jason wide-eyed.
"W-what?" I could feel the blood rushing to my face. "I'm—I'm not going out with a guy!" I spluttered. Now Jason looked wholly embarrassed.
"Oh—shit, sorry, man. I just thought…" He thought I was gay.
Not entirely unforeseen, considering I had flirted with him, somewhat unintentionally, and maybe my ogling wasn't as discreet as I thought it had been. Still…
"My bad, man…you just seemed…" He looked so completely uncomfortable and at a loss and I didn't know how to alleviate any of the tension, considering I was feeling equally uncomfortable.
"I'm meeting a girl." I said slowly, looking him in the eye. He nodded slowly, still tense. "But…it's not, like, a romantic thing. Kind of." Now he looked just as confused as I felt.
"So, what's it like? Kind of?" He asked, looking away from me. How had my life gotten so uncomfortable and complicated in such a short time? He glanced up at me before looking away just as quickly. His ears were red. "Sorry, I don't mean to pry. You don't have to tell me anything." He got up, and moved to leave the room.
"Jason." I called after him, before my brain could tell my mouth to shut the hell up. He turned to look at me. "I…I like guys."
I was getting a little light-headed with all the blushing, but the tension seemed to leave Jason's shoulders just a bit. I could see him biting back a grin. What was that about?
"You're not gonna, like…gay bash me, are you?" I asked, worried about how this would change our dynamic.
"Dude! No, of course not." He said, appalled. Well, that was relieving. Coming out to your roommate as a gay man when you are neither gay nor a man is surprisingly nerve-wracking.
Bingham Academy was Fairmont's sister school, and was just as uppity and impressive. Maybe more so, considering all the young women with their books and knee-high socks, chatting in French and German about politics or music or God-knows-what-else. I would have liked to be a part of this school, I found. It was less imposing and more welcoming than Fairmont, with its white-washed exterior and marble benches. True wealth was shocking to behold, I realized.
I'd seen people with money before. Dahlia's family, back in Trent, they were well-off. Not, you know, filthy rich, but they certainly weren't wanting for anything. But there was a difference between the upper class and…whatever this was. I wasn't entirely sure, to be honest. I imagined these girls were bred to be the finest and most educated young women on the planet. It was a little intimidating.
Okay, I was completely, entirely, whole-heartedly shitting it. If you'll pardon my French.
And Mae Lynne was one of them. The small, disheartened spitfire I'd seen slinking away from Ryan, the same who had agreed to hang out with me, was one of these girls.
Now, the problem was finding her amidst a sea of gawking faces.
"Um…excuse me," I approached two girls who were giggling and whispering, probably about me, considering the way they'd shushed each other when I came near. Apparently, I made quite the impression as a guy. Go figure.
"Yes…" One of them answered, smiling coyly. Her friend looked like she was going to burst.
"I'm looking for Mae Lynne Raines?" They didn't look pleased at that. "Do you know where I could find her?" The giggly one rolled her eyes and pointed across the courtyard to a blonde sitting alone beside a small fountain. I thanked them and turned to leave. They were whispering again before I was out of earshot.
"What does he want with her anyway?"
"Right? Talk about slumming it." Their laughter at Mae Lynne's expense followed me across the courtyard.
When I reached her, she had a large sketchbook open on her lap and a pencil between her lips, while she hummed in thought.
"What are you working on?" I asked as I got near. She yelped and the pencil flew from between her lips into the fountain. "My bad." I muttered. She looked up at me, shocked.
"You scared the crap out of me." She whispered, the colour returning to her face. "Just some new sketches but I'm turning out to like them even less than the old ones." She said quickly, packing her book away into her bag. She was one of the few girls not in uniform. She was wearing a white billowy top with a denim skirt, and, I swear to God, cowboy boots.
"This is so cute." I said without thinking, reaching out to touch the lace embroidery on her cap sleeve. She laughed but eyed me a little warily. Shit. "I mean…you look so cute." She laughed outright at that.
"Thanks. I made it myself." She said with a large, proud grin.
"No way. That's crazy…" I picked up the lace of the sleeve again, completing forgetting about proper gender norms.
I doted on her talents as we walked off the campus, and proceeded to get lost in conversation, as well as physically, because Mae Lynne had assumed I'd known where I was going, and I had no clue how to navigate the twisty roads in this town. Mae Lynne was having a grand old time laughing at me for it.
"You can keep laughing, or you can help get us out of this mess." I told her, through my own laughter.
"I think we've passed this house three times already." She giggled out, as I continued to lead her further into what felt like a never-ending maze of houses.
"How can you tell? All these houses look the same to me."
"They do not; look this one's picket fence is beige, not white."
"That's just the glow of the streetlight."
"You know what? I think you're right."
And once again, we tumbled into bouts of laughter. We decided it would be easiest to just keep walking until we found either a place to stop, or someone to ask for help.
As we walked, I learned that Mae was from a farming family up north, hence the cowboy boots, but they were clearly not just humble farmers, though I didn't question her too deeply on the matter. Wealth didn't particularly matter to me anyway; I didn't really have an appreciation for exuberance, I mostly just liked the idea of money for stability and a warm home. I also learned that she was a budding fashion designer, with her own upcoming show and everything. I talked to her about my brothers, and leaving Trent; I even talked to her about Jason and Ryan. She was easy to talk to; I almost felt guilty for not telling her the whole truth.
"Oh, there's someone over there. Wait here, I'll get directions." I said. She smiled teasingly.
"Oh, so you're not above asking for directions?" She joked.
"Nah, I think my cred has taken enough of a hit tonight." I said with a small laugh before walking over to a man sitting on the bench at a bus stop. "Excuse me," I interrupted his reading gently. He lowered his paper and looked at me with a smile.
"Hello…young man." He spoke quietly, and with an accent. Something about him seemed a little off, but you never know with people. He had dark glasses on, despite that the sun had pretty much gone down. His hair was black, with greys beginning to appear at his sideburns.
"I'm sorry to interrupt but…my friend and I got a little lost…" As I spoke his eerie smile stayed in place. I cleared my throat. "Would you be able to direct us out of this area?"
"Of course, of course…" He muttered softly. I explained that we were high school students nearby and he quickly and quietly explained how to leave the residential neighbourhood. "Enjoy your…date…"He said with a slight smirk. I started a little bit, looking at his lopsided smirk. Something about it…
"Y-yes…thank you." I hurried back to Mae Lynne who was watching with interest.
"You okay? You look a little spooked." She asked, looking concerned.
"Yeah, I'm fine…he just seemed a little…you know." I offered, not even knowing what I meant myself.
"Drunk, probably." She said with a shrug.
"Yeah…maybe." I glanced over my shoulder, but the man was gone.
"I had a lot of fun, Alex. I mean…even with the getting lost and the falling down…" She said with a laugh. I felt my face go red.
"Yeah, sorry about that. I did warn you, I'd take you down with me." We laughed together.
"Yes, you did." We stood awkwardly, in silence. Bingham had gone quiet, with very few girls lingering in the courtyard, probably relishing the few warm nights they had left, before the leaves turned.
"Tonight was fun, though. I really like hanging out with you." I told her, with a smile. I was so happy to have found a friend here, and she was so easy to talk to. I felt guilty for lying to her, but I promised myself I would be honest about as much as I possibly could with her. She grinned at me.
"Me too." She looked down at her feet, seemingly weighing something on her mind. Before I could ask her what was wrong, she leaned forward and pressed her lips to mine. I froze.
"Um…Mae." I mumbled, her lips still brushing mine. She pulled away, looking shyly up at me. Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. "We're uh…we're just friends…" She looked disappointed, but I was still shell-shocked. She had just given me an incredibly awkward, and first, kiss.
"Right…friends…" She mumbled.
"I'm sorry…it's just…I do really like you, and I want to hang out, but…I don't feel that way about you." I mumbled, shoving my hands in my pockets. Just then, a group of girls walked by, giggling.
"OMG, she totally just got rejected…"
"How tragic!" They continued to giggle as they walked away. I glared after them.
"Hey, do you want to come with me to Homecoming?" I asked, a little louder than I needed to. The girls stopped giggling. Mae looked up at me through her eyelashes.
"You don't have to do that, Alex." She whispered, looking about self-consciously.
"I want to." I said quickly. And I did want to. I genuinely liked Mae, and I didn't like that the girls here were messing with her. I leaned down to give her a brief hug and a kiss on the cheek—in hindsight, probably not the best call—before grinning and heading back to Fairmont. She smiled at me and waved goodbye. I heard a couple unpleasant murmurs, and I knew my job was done.
My brothers hadn't returned from their Night with Ryan, so I resigned myself to my own dorm room and took the time to painstakingly replay every moment of the night via crappy cell connection to my friends back in Trent.
They had been interested in hearing about Mae; although I was pretty sure Zach's interests lay primarily with the whole "she kissed me" situation. Dahlia insisted it didn't count, considering it was brief and I hadn't kissed back. Zach insisted it absolutely, definitely counted, but again his judgement was undoubtedly clouded on the matter. Candy told me to stop whining, and it was "only a god damned kiss". I mean, she wasn't wrong.
The conversation was cut off when I heard Jason on the other side of the door. As much as I'd loved to have him rehash my night out with Mae—scratch that. I would never mention dates to this boy again. I don't think I couldn't handle another stunted conversation like the one we'd already had that day, probably for as long as I lived. So, I clicked my phone off and watched him enter, slightly off-kilter. I laughed as he grappled with the door.
"Good night?" I asked. Clearly, someone had got some use out of their fake ID. He grinned at me.
"The best. Your brothers, though…" Uh oh. I waited for the rest of the sentence but it didn't come.
"What about my brothers, Jason?" I asked slowly, getting up to help him to his bed. He seemed to want to take his shoes off, but couldn't understand how to do it while standing.
"Oh…man…they are funny! You know…well, you should know, they're your brothers. But, man…I thought they were just, like, you know?" I resisted the urge to laugh in his face, literally.
"I'm afraid I don't." I said, unlacing his shoes.
"Really? Damn…" He fell back against his bed. Okay, guess he was giving up on the shoes objective. "They're scary…like…they're so brother and there are four. Four bigs." He stopped and thought for a moment while I yanked his shoes off, one at a time. "Wait, that's not right." He said finally. This time, I did laugh at him.
"Sounded spot on to me." I said with a shrug. He couldn't tell I was teasing him, but that made it more fun.
"Yeah…and you." He said, sitting up to look at me with wide eyes. Even glazed over and unfocused, they were still the prettiest blue I'd seen in my life.
"Me." I agreed.
"There are two of you! That's too much." He said, shaking his head. "Like, one Alex is…whoa…you know…but two. Wow." He was looking at me with a dreamy look. I laughed at him again, but he didn't seem to mind.
"Wow." I laughed. "You are drunk." He nodded solemnly. "Let's get you some water. That hangover won't be fun." He sighed and flopped onto his back once again. When I brought him a bottle of water from the mini fridge, he stared at it like he didn't know what to do with it. I sighed and uncapped it. "Come." I gestured for him to lay up a bit, before pressing the bottle to his lips.
I vaguely wondered if my brothers had foreseen this when they agreed to take me to an all-boys' boarding school. Although, in their defense, the majority of them were probably equally, or more drunk than Jason currently was.
"You're the best, Alex." He sighed and laid flat, once he decided he'd had enough water. "And pretty. You know that? The prettiest."
"Uh…thanks, Jason." I said, unsure how to feel about that. He hummed happily.
"I'm so glad you didn't like that girl." He said, with a sleepy grin. I laughed, but mostly I was surprised.
"What?" I asked after a beat of silence on his part. Too late. He was already snoring. I looked at his sleeping form and sighed. He was half-off the bed but he was way too heavy for me to lift on my own, so that would have to be a problem for the morning.
I got myself ready for bed, thinking I now had another story to tack on for this evening.
A/N: lmao remember when I said frequent and consistent updates? Who is she anyway, I don't know her