For a moment, Lori had gotten so quiet that I had to check to make sure that we hadn't been disconnected. With a nearly inaudible sniffle, she said, "Tristan...you know that I love you more than any other person in this world right?"
"It's true. I do. I remember, back when we were little...you were so amazing and so pure that I was positively convinced that we'd get married some day." She sniffled again with a little chuckle. "Then those stupid hormones got activated and that was the end of that fantasy. But for the longest time...I was your princess. And you were my prince. It wasn't love or anything...but it felt right. Everything about it felt like it was the way things were supposed to be."
A little bewildered, I told her, "I think you lost me, here."
With a heavy sigh, she said, "You have the biggest heart of any boy I know. Any person I know. And...if you ever need someone to laugh with, or talk to, or just want to keep up the sissy skill of dyeing your best friend's hair...I'm always going to be here for that. Always."
"Okaaaay, this is starting to feel a little weird, Lori." I said. "I mean, are you leaving on the first shuttle for Mars tomorrow morning or what?"
I figured that she was just goofing around or something. But it soon started to sink in that she wasn't.
"We're always going to be Prince and Princess for as long as we're breathing, and while I truly cherish these moments of hearing you soar into the clouds, only to crash and burn a day later before getting another running start...I think it's time you stopped telling me this stuff...and started telling it to Jesse instead. You know?"
"I can't do that."
"Because I CAN'T! C'mon, Lori, we've been through this a million times already."
"Yes! We HAVE! And you have yet to give me a single satisfactory answer as to why you can't go for this, full blast, and ditch the teen angst thing at the door. Don't you understand, Tristan? You WON! You got the dream boy. The one you've been waiting for your whole life. And instead of being happy and making kissy faces at your one-of-a-kind sweetheart...you're wasting all of your time and energy on making up excuses for why you shouldn't." She told me. Obviously shedding a few stray tears on her end of the line. "I LOVE you, Tristan. God knows I do. And I'm never going to abandon you. I'm never going to stop being that needy chick who needs to hear the gritty details of a lovestruck gay teen who's suddenly been swept off of his feet by some super gorgeous internet celebrity that would have to fight anyone else with a brick, two swords, and a freakin' machine gun!" Then...with another sniffle, she added, "...But I won't be a part of your excuse, Tris. I just won't."
"A part of my excuse? Lori, I'm just..."
"No, Tristan. I know what you're doing, and I'm not going to let you get away with it. I'm not going to be your shield. Or your crutch. I'm not going to be used like some security blanket for you to conveniently hide under every time you're feeling a little unsure of yourself. I can't do that. I won't." She said. "You almost had a piece or your beautiful heart destroyed for good by someone like Jason Fixx because I stood by and I let it happen. You nearly ruined your life because I didn't fight hard enough to save you from making one of the biggest mistakes of your life. But, lucky for you...I learn from my mistakes. And if I stand by and let you miss out on an opportunity like this? I'll never forgive myself. And I won't ever let YOU forgive me either."
Feeling a bit helpless, like a new swimmer suddenly tossed into the deep end of an ice cold pool without warning, I softly muttered, "But...I don't know if I can do this alone, Lori. I really don't."
"Well..." She said. "...There's only one way to find out, isn't there." Of all the times for Lori to not want to be involved, she had to choose now? "You've got more love to give than you'll ever know, Tristan. Don't try to divvy it up between me and the love of your life. K? He deserves more. You...deserve more."
Feeling a lump in the back of my throat, I said, "So...where do I start?"
"You start by taking that loving heart of yours and pointing it in the right direction. No more making excuses about the other boys being too scared to talk to you. No more excuses about Jason Fixx breaking your heart. No more worrying about how you look, or if you're good enough, or what your mom will say when she finds out. You've got to put all of that behind you now. No more of that garbage."
"And you?" I asked, a touch of heartache building in my chest. "Does that mean no more you?"
She grinned. "Fuck no! Hehehe! You're going to need somebody to gossip to once you and Jesse get finished 'wagging your tails' at one another."
"Hehehe, God, Lori, stop CALLING them that!" I laughed, a single tear rolling down my cheek. "It's a PENIS! Geez!"
"See? You're getting all grown and nasty on me already." She giggled.
Did something suddenly change between us? Was this a step up to the next level of our friendship? Or was it...dare I say it...a slight step back from one another? It was hard to tell. After all the video games and shared bowls of ice cream, the trips to the mall and the hysterical laughter we shared over the phone...from the first time we rode on a roller coaster together...to the first time I got up the nerve to tell her I was gay...Lori and her sister, Michelle, have been the greatest parts of my life thus far. If the angels above had a personal highlight reel of my finest moments...they'd be included in more than half of them. Friendship-wise...we were a tripod. There was no way that we could fall.
And now she was asking me to depart from that security. Pull away from that bond. And take a chance on something more...if there is such a thing. That might actually be the ONE thing more terrifying than talking to Jesse Kyler without my best friend in my corner...ready to catch me if I faint.
"I'm not...leaving you for him. I mean, you know that, right?" I asked, hoping that she understood the growing decision in my mind better than I did.
"I know." She said. "But that's not something that you need to worry about. Go. Be happy, Tris. Trust me, I'm not going anywhere. Not ever."
"I love you, Lori. I mean that."
"You'd better." She said.
"And...and no matter what, I'll call you up tomorrow and let you know what happened."
"Ok, Tristan." She said.
"In fact, why don't I just take the bus over to your house or something? We can make an afternoon out of it. I can get that awesome buttered popcorn from the convenience store down the street. The one with the heavy butter that you like so much...?"
"Tristan?" She said, firmly.
"STOP STALLING!!!" She hollered. "CALL HIM, already!"
"Arrrgh! Can you, for ONCE, just pretend that you don't know everything about me??? It's fuckin' CREEPY!" I said, making her giggle. "Ok. I'm gonna call him."
"I'll tell him exactly how I feel. No holds barred."
"Great! Do that!"
"And then...I'm going to make a DATE for us to get together again! So I can see him, face to face. Where do you think we should go?"
"I'm hanging up now, Tristan!" She said.
"No, WAIT!" I whimpered. "Pleeeeeaaase! Just let me stall for a few minutes more!"
"G'night, my prince!" She said, hanging up right after.
And in a whisper, I sighed, "G'night, my princess..."
Just 'call up' Jesse Kyler and tell him that he makes me crazy. Just...just like...tell him. This will mark the very FIRST time in my entire teenage life that I've ever done something like this. Like...ever. And I'm supposed to just...just say it. I've said it before, haven't I? I know that I've at least hinted at it before. We hang out, we laugh, we kiss, we eat donuts and drink iced coffee and take selfies together. He knows how I feel about him, right? I don't really have to SAY it, do I? It's not like I'm being all secretive about it. Maybe that's enough. Maybe we can just talk without all of the lovey dovey stuff, and we can remain just as infatuated with one another as we are now. That's possible, right? There's no need to go all goofy on him and start talking about rainbows and flowers and….and...
I think I finally got it. Right there, in that moment. Interrupting that evasive train of thought. Whether or not I needed to say it wasn't the point, was it?
Whether or not the boy I loved more than anything needed to HEAR it? THAT was the point. I love him. There's no doubt about it. I am madly in love with this boy. What am I hording it for? What good does it do, keeping it all to myself where he can't benefit from it? Making my boyfriend happy is a part of my life now. My duty. It would be selfish if I let a few butterflies in the stomach keep me from it.
I'm going to do it. I'm going to call him. In...in a couple of minutes. Just as soon as I go downstairs and get some more soda to make sure my mouth isn't so dry. And...and maybe I should relax a little first. In fact, I should probably finish my homework before it gets to be too late and I end up rushing before bed...
WAIT! NO!!! Dammit! NO!!!
I'm going to call him up right now. I'm picking up my phone. There's his name. 'J. Kyler'. It's right there. I'm doing it. I'm going to press that button and force myself to sit still until we talk.
Lori's right. It's time that I stopped denying that this whole magical adventure isn't real. It IS real! And I refuse to sleep through it.
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