Walking into the house...I felt an increasing pressure growing in the center of my chest...weighing heavy on my shoulders. I knew that my mother was inside, and I also knew that it wouldn't come off as being too 'weird' for me to say that I was randomly going over to Ryan's house for dinner tonight. Nothing suspicious about that, just like he said.
And yet, I was feeling something drastically different in my gut this time around. Something that made me feel guilty for some reason that I couldn't really put my finger on. I don't know...maybe I'm going crazy. But the emotional effect was definitely there, and emotions hardly ever make sense when you really need them to.
When I opened the door and kicked my shoes off, my mom was in the kitchen, getting stuff ready to cook dinner for the both of us. I didn't want her to waste the food, time, or energy, if she didn't have to. So, when she said hello and we exchanged a few moments of small talk...I prepared to let her know that I was going to Ryan's house for dinner with his dad. Even with this awkward knot that seemed to tighten up in the back of my throat. I just...I felt so AWKWARD about it all! Why did I feel this way? What was so strange about me going to my best friend's place for a meal and some video games or something?
Maybe because...this 'friendship' mask of ours was quickly dissolving into a glaring truth about our situation these days. It's not the playful little secret that it was when Ryan and I first met and giggled about not having anybody else know what we were up to. I mean, the secretive part of it was fun, and I don't regret a single second of the time that we spent together, learning how to be a functional couple through thick and thin, evolving to a point where we could share the kind of loving connection that we do today. But...we've been through soooo much since that first afternoon on my bedroom floor. We've grown a lot. We've matured. And, suddenly...these hidden little games that we played around other people were becoming much more exhausting than they were worth.
So what does that mean? Honestly. What do I do with this yearning to scream my truth out to everybody who will listen all of a sudden?
Seeing my mom in the kitchen...feeling this intense urge to tell her what I really felt concerning my cherished boyfriend, the ultimate love of my life...and yet, being too chicken to express my true feelings for him the way that I really wanted to...I think I began to truly understand why Ryan told his father about his sexuality when he did. I mean, I wasn't laid up in a hospital bed somewhere from a car accident...but I get it. I totally get it.
My mom saw me standing in the corner of the room, sort of shifting from one foot to the other, trying to figure out whether or not this should be my big chance to let her know that I like boys...and that I really wanted her to be happy for me. But my hesitation and silent fidgeting only worked to cause her concern. "Are you ok, hon?"
"Huh?" I asked, my voice shaking. "Yeah. I'm...I'm ok."
"You sure? You're not feeling sick again are you? We still have some cold medicine left in the cupboard if you need some."
"Nope. I feel fine. I just..." I could feel the words building up inside. Pushing. Trying to force their way to the surface. With me hoping that they would find me during a slit second of weakness or a faulty flaw in my dishonest armor...just long enough for me to say the words out loud.
But...the habit of keeping the secret since I was ten or eleven years old had been exercised to the point of being too strong to be pushed aside for something as scary and weak as the truth.
"...I think I should get going. I want to get cleaned up." I said, and she wrinkled her forehead a bit, noticing my odd behavior. But she nodded and let me go. I guess she depended on me to actually come to her and tell her if something was seriously wrong with me. Maybe she gives me too much credit.
Then again...is there really anything wrong? Outside of me keeping my private life private? Yeah, great excuse, Randy. Way to avoid responsibility.
I went to my room, took a quick shower and tried to dress up nice. Not too nice, but...'guest for dinner' nice. You know?
"Have a good time. Say hello to Ryan for me." My mom said as I was preparing to leave the house. I swear, it's hard to believe that the big confession almost fell out of my mouth right then and there when I first walked into the house. The words were still on the tip of my tongue. I could do it. Just...sit her down, open my mouth, and let her know that her little boy was madly in love. In love with another boy. It's the most normal thing in the world to me...why wouldn't it be the most normal thing in the world to her too?
But the fear...
It had this miserable choke hold on me. It refused to let me speak, and I couldn't come up with a decent excuse as to why. I mean, it's not like my mom was going to kick me out of the house or anything. At the most, it would just be two or three days of awkward readjustment in how she looked at me and how we communicated with one another. That wouldn't be so bad, would it? But, the truth is...I just couldn't take that leap of faith yet. I wanted to, but I was frozen stiff by the idea that things would change dramatically if I told her...and I would never be able to put the perfect picture we had built up in our heads back together again. Once the truth was out there...I could never take it back. She could never 'un-hear' my timid confession. Telling her would be a literal LIFE decision. And I just don't think that I was ready for that.
Maybe someday...but not today.
I made sure to keep a close eye on the clock. Ryan told me not to be late, so I made sure to get myself all spiffed up and left with enough time to walk to his house casually without running and getting all sweaty or whatever. I didn't intend to make it look like I was deliberately trying to impress his dad or anything. I mean, I never really talked much with Ryan's dad before. Nothing more than your average teenager would talk to their boyfriend's parent or guardian. A few 'hellos', a few 'goodbyes', maybe some uninspired chit chat in between...and that was it. But now I may actually have to make a legitimate effort at one on one communication with him. And that wasn't something to take lightly.
I was about two minutes away from Ryan's front door, and I was already trembling with insecurity and self doubt. Ugh, why did I agree to this? I'm SO uncomfortable right now.
I was already walking up the driveway when it crossed my mind that I probably should have brought something with me. I don't know what, exactly...but something. I can't just pop up all of a sudden, like, "Where's the grub? Let's eat!" But it was too late for me to turn around and run home, looking for something to carry back with me when I didn't even know what that something was. Ah well...I'll just have to take my chances at looking 'rude', or whatever.
Alright. Front door. Here we go...
My breath started to get short the moment I reached out to ring the doorbell. I was still about fifteen minutes early, so that was good. God, I feel so tense. Shake it off, Randy. Stop thinking so much.
I didn't expect Ryan's father to answer the door. It was a sudden shock to the system, and it was almost as if his very appearance in front of me had stolen my very ability to process the skill of putting words together. I managed a tiny whimper. "H-H-Hey..."
"Randy." He said, his voice much deeper than mine. Intimidating in its tone. "Come on in."
He stepped back from the door, but I had to mentally push myself to step foot inside of that house while he was standing there. There it was...that unavoidable feeling of shame. I wish I knew where it came from or how to predict its lingering affects on me, but the emotion always blindsided me without warning. I could feel myself blushing as my gaze was immediately dropped down to the carpet as I squeezed my way past him. I was almost dizzy with guilt. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, after all.
That's when Ryan came out of another room and hurried over to welcome me. "Right on time!" He grinned, and he moved in to give me a quick kiss on the lips, but I turned my head at the last second, causing his kiss to land on my cheek instead. The only reason that I was able to peek upwards was because I was expecting to see a hint of disgust or even rage in his father's eyes.
A perfect excuse for me to turn back and tell Ryan that I'd see him some other time.
Luckily...or maybe it was unlucky...his dad seemed ok with it. Or...at least he was really good at hiding a parental cringe from us if he wasn't. And I'm guessing that was a good thing. Who knows? I don't know what to think anymore.
Ryan seemed a bit confused by my bashful and distant behavior, but didn't say anything out loud about it. Instead, he just said, "Come on in. Everything is almost ready. I'm setting the table now. You wanna give me a hand?"
"Sure. Ok." I said softly.
His dad spoke up and said, "I hope you like spaghetti, Randy. I didn't know we were going to have any company until the last minute, so I didn't have time to plan for anything fancy."
"It's totally cool. I love spaghetti." I said. I was having trouble trying to get my voice to operate at a decent volume, mumbling softly as I tried to fight off the weirdness I felt in this situation. Still, I pushed forward, hoping to sound normal by the time the table was set.
Ryan handed me a couple of plates, and the smell of freshly baked, store brand, cheese garlic bread flooded the kitchen. Ryan got out some utensils from a nearby drawer while his dad stirred the sauce a bit more, turning it off to let it thicken a bit before serving. That's when he asked, "What happened to the Parmesan cheese? I just bought some this afternoon. Ryan? Did you move it?"
"I didn't move it. Nope." He replied.
"Well, it's got to be here somewhere." His father said, opening up cabinet doors. "Do you like Parmesan cheese on your spaghetti, Randy?"
"Ummm...yeah. Sure." My voice is getting a little stronger now. The butterflies in my stomach have yet to settle down, though.
"I don't know where I put that thing." His dad seemed to be getting frustrated, now opening the lower cabinets and checking the table to see where he left it.
Ryan asked, "Did you check the trunk of the car? You know how stuff falls out of the bag back there sometimes."
His dad snapped his fingers. "Good call. You two finish setting the table, and I will be right back." He grabbed his keys off of a wall-mounted hook by the back door and went outside to see if he could find it.
I jumped a little when I felt Ryan's lips being pressed against my cheek without warning. He giggled at my slightly startled reaction, leaning over to bump me with his shoulder. "You can chill out a little bit, you know? You'll come to find that my dad can be a little stubborn on certain things, but he always caves in eventually. He's a good guy."
"I know..." I sighed. "Ugh, I really don't know what's wrong with me. I just can't seem to calm down."
"I remember the feeling. Believe me. Having my dad know about us made for some very 'quiet' dinners around here for the first few weeks. Maybe even the first few months." Ryan said, handing me some napkins to lay out. "It takes a little getting used to. It's a challenge, you know?"
"I'll bet." I said.
"But...with a little bit of time, and a few awkward conversations about the whole thing...it really does come down to a very simple question in the end."
"What question is that?"
"Who does he love more? The 'me' he thought he knew...or the 'me' he knows for sure?" He smiled at me. "He chose the real me. I guess I'm lucky."
"Beautiful, is what you are." I smiled back, and I quickly moved over to give him a kiss on the cheek as well, causing him to blush in the cutest way. "I still think your dad would rather have Hailey coming over for dinner instead of me."
"Hailey who?" He smirked, and then he started giggling when he saw me roll my eyes. "Don't worry so much. You'll be fine. My dad just doesn't know you that well, that's all. Not outside of what I tell him about you. And, let's be honest, my opinion is heavily biased here." Ryan gave me a hug from behind, making me feel warm, and loved, and accepted. God, his every touch is so in tune with every emotion my body can produce. "Just be yourself, Randy. Let him see everything about you that I feel so deeply in love with."
"I would do that, but I think it would be inappropriate to take my pants off at the dinner table." I grinned, and after a few seconds of giving me a weird look, the joke landed and he started laughing. "Yeah, you were a little slow on that one, babe."
"Yes. Yes, I was." Then he sighed, looked me right in the eye, and he said, "I love you."
"I love you more." I smiled.
His father came in through the back door, holding the container of Parmesan cheese up in victory. "Got it."
"Told ya." Ryan said.
"I knew there was a reason I kept you around, rent free." His father teased. You know, Ryan and his dad have the exact same smile. How cool is that? "You guys ready?"
"Yep! Table's all set." Ryan replied, then glanced over at me to see if I could muster up the courage to answer as well.
"Oh! Yeah. Most definitely." I said, attempting to bring more of my natural personality to the surface. "The garlic bread smells amazing."
"Ooh, thanks for reminding me." His dad said. He turned the oven off and grabbed a mitt to put the tinfoil wrapped garlic bread on the counter. "I don't want your first impression of my basic cooking skills to be me setting the kitchen on fire." Everything was just about ready to go, and that's when he started to strain the noodles and put the meat sauce in a bowl for the center of the table. I looked over at the clock.
6:27 PM, exactly.
Hehehe, Ryan wasn't kidding. His dad IS a time bandit! Hehehe, thank God I didn't show up late. Or even on time. Just as I was warned not to.
My boyfriend knows his dad pretty well.
"So Randy...Ryan tells me that you've been under the weather lately. I hope it wasn't anything too serious. Not enough to ruin your Spring Break, anyway." His dad asked.
Trembling a bit, I cleared my throat and said, "No. Nothing serious. I was...babysitting some kids, and one of them was infested with some kind of flu bug, I think. So, it kinda latched itself on to me. Bad timing, I suppose."
"Yeah, I hear ya." His dad said. "Kids might lose their house keys, or leave their jackets on the bus...Ryan, here, once came walking out of his third grade elementary school without his shoes, once. Don't know how he managed that one." He chuckled. "But, if it's one thing that kids can hold on to without any problems at all...it's germs. You've got to be careful about that kind of thing."
Wow. I'm actually, like...talking to Ryan's Dad right now! And he doesn't...despise me the way I expected him to. This is surreal.
Ryan and I shared a glance at one another, and I blushed with excitement as I felt a little bit more comfortable in my own skin. "It's ok. It was bad for a day or two, but our friend, Ariel, brought me over some of his grandmother's soup, and for some odd reason, it cleared me right up. Practically overnight."
"Yeah, Dad. It was like some kind of witch's brew or something. I've never seen anybody recover so fast." Ryan added.
"Ariel...why does that name sound familiar?" He asked. Then he said, "Wait, isn't that the boy you said had burned up one of the walls in the school's chemistry lab last semester?"
Ryan started to laugh. "It was an accident, Dad! Hehehe!"
"I would certainly hope so. I'd hate to think that you guys were hanging around the sort of psychopath that would do something like that on purpose." His father grinned, taking the pasta strainer out of the sink and bringing it over to the table, along with the sauce and garlic bread.
Joking around, I said, "Well, deliberate or not...it's sometimes best to keep out of Ariel's way when he's nervous. Hehehe!"
"Smart. Very smart." His dad replied, and then he extended his arm to offer us a seat at his round kitchen table. Ryan and I both sat together across from him, and he seemed to take a brief look at the both of us as a couple. Not with a look of disgust, or confusion, or even a look of curiosity concerning the fact that we were together. Just...a look. He took it all in. And for a moment, I could have sworn that I had seen a sense of pride in his eyes.
As Ryan took a hold of my hand under the table, I began to think that this might turn out to have been a good decision to make after all. Maybe it's ok to be myself. Fully. Without apology. If only for one dinner.
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