As everybody split up and walked around the arcade, I kept following Connor and Blake around to see if some lucky coincidence could somehow pry them apart for a couple of seconds so I can make my move. There were a few times that I saw Chelsea trying to snake her way in and flirt with Blake when she thought that I wasn't looking, but I wasn't really worried about her. Not today. Sure, Blake would blush a little bit and he'd be polite to her...but Blake is polite to everybody. And he's kind of shy, more times than not. So the blush is, like...his natural reaction to almost everything. Even my brother makes him blush a bunch of times, and they've been best friends for a long time now. She's just wasting her time. Ugh! I may need Amy to run some interference for me and get Chelsea out of the way long enough for me to get my big 'I love you so much' speech together in my head.
And then it happened...
Connor and Blake were getting ready to play some one-on-one air hockey, but my mom asked Connor to help her take some of his birthday presents out to the minivan in the parking lot. I wasn't expecting that! I wasn't prepared!
"Hey, Karen!" Connor said. "You wanna play Blake in some air hockey for a minute? I'll be right back!"
Omigod, omigod, omigod!
I could feel myself trembling as I approached the table, with Blake giving me the same smile and boyish blush that just...makes me so weak inside whenever I see it. "H-H-Hey..." I giggled, nervously. Connor gave me a weird look at first, wondering what I was so giddy about, but he didn't think too much into it.
"You ready, Karen?" Blake said softly.
Connor patted me on the shoulder and told me, "Be careful. He's good! You've gotta watch out for this guy." And he left us to play together, with me shaking so bad that I could barely hold on to the air hockey paddle without tossing it across the room.
I'd love to say that we had a competitive game going where Blake only beat me by a few last minute lucky plays...but that wouldn't be the truth. He CREAMED me! Seven points to my two. And that was only because he accidentally scored a point on himself without knowing it. Causing us both to laugh.
Sighhhh...Blake has the cutest laugh.
I think he caught me staring at him for a moment, and he seemed to get a bit nervous right away. I felt like this was my golden moment. There wasn't going to be a better chance for me to go for it than what I had right now.
"Say, would you like..." He started.
"Blake, I..." Oh no! I didn't time that right! We were talking at the same time! Arrrgh!
Blake got quiet, and he said, "What were you saying?"
"No! It's ok. You go first." I said, my voice trembling at the thought of him maybe saying something first and saving me from taking this massive leap of faith all on my own.
"It's ok. You go. Hehehe, sorry..." He said. "Go ahead."
Ahhhhh! Don't scream! Do NOT scream!
"I was thinking that...I mean..." I started to fidget uncontrollably at the thought of saying the words, 'I really like you a lot, Blake'. I kept feeling like I had to somehow pile up a bunch of words and phrases together before the big reveal. Maybe a short history lesson about how long we've known each other, and a few flirty comments about how amazingly CUTE he is...and then, once all of that is out there in the open, and I've buttered him up just enough...I can tell him that I'm totally, head over heels, in LOVE with him! And it won't seem like such a shock to the system. You know? "Blake...I..."
"BLAKE! Dude, we're all gonna get a Laser Tag game going! You in?" How the fuck did Connor take all of that junk out to the minivan and get back in here so fast? How long have I been standing trying to fight off a bad case of the wiggles?
"Hell, yeah! I'm definitely in!" Blake replied. Awwwww....NO! Dammit! I took too long, didn't I? "Is everybody else coming?"
"Yep! They're all on their way to the arena, come on, let's roll!" Connor grinned, then he looked at our air hockey score, and he snickered out loud. "Damn, Karen! I told you to watch out for him! He slaughtered you!"
But Blake...always the gentleman, said, "She let me win. I know she was faking." Connor wasn't buying it, but when Blake winked at me as a signal to keep my mouth shut, I knew that my heart couldn't beat any harder without completely shutting down and leaving me dead on the floor...right here in the middle of Cheesy Pete's.
Connor kissed me on the cheek, and said, "Come on! You joining us for Laser Tag?"
"Yeah. I guess." I said. And Connor started to walk away, but I held on to Blake's arm and asked, "Were you...ummmm...I mean, you were gonna say something? Right?"
He was like, "Oh! Yeah!" Blake said. "I was going to ask if you wanted me to grab you a lemonade slushie from the counter. I was gonna pay for it. I figured we could both have one."
"Oh..." I smiled. I wish it was something more...'romantic', but...it was still really sweet of him to offer."
"That would be cool." I said.
"Ok. Well, let's hit up Laser Tag first, and then we'll go over and grab a couple. Just you and me. K?"
It re-energized me all over again, my face turning red as I tried to find enough strength in my knees to keep from falling over. "Ummm...m'kay..."
We all went to the arena off to the side of the Cheesy Pete's arcade, and the whole party was pretty much all squaded up and ready for war. Everybody got their vests on, laser tag guns in hand, and then we were separated into teams. You can't imagine how honored I was when Blake chose me to be on HIS team against my own brother! Omigod...he is SO in love with me! I'm not giving up on this! I don't care if it takes me the rest of my life, I'm going to get that boy's heart in the palm of my heart eventually.
The countdown began. Connor was on the green team, and me and Blake were blue. Amy joined my brother's team, but Chelsea decided that she didn't want to get sweaty, so she didn't play at all. Fine with me. Hehehe, the further she is away from my Blake, the better.
Everybody spread out, the music started, the lights went out, and everything was so dark that I could barely see well enough to keep from running into a wall. But that was beside the point. All I wanted to do was find Blake and stick to him like glue for the rest of the game. Hehehe! I'm not the kind of girl to get super competitive when it comes to stuff like this, so it didn't bother me when I kept getting tagged over and over again from the opposing team. I mean, it was FUN and all...but where the heck did Blake run off to? There was this whole maze and flashing lights and glow in the dark paint...but I couldn't find my angel. It got to the point where I had forgotten about the rest of the game entirely and just started walking around, looking to see if I could find my crush again. I had been away from his immaculate beauty for too long. I was going through some severe withdrawal here.
I saw Gary rush past me, shooting me in the center of my chest with a laugh as he ran off to score even more points off of his next victim. I'm sure that Freddie and Eddie had both tagged me a few times each too...but then again...I could barely tell them apart in the light, much less in the dark. Where was Blake? We're teammates! He's got to be in here somewhere.
I think I wandered around every corner of that place for two or three minutes without catching a glimpse of my sweetheart. And then...
Waaaay in the back of the Laser Tag arena...I happened to see the sparkling green glow of the opposing team standing in some protected dark corner. No doubt, a 'camper' who just stays in one place and picks off all enemy targets whenever he sees them running by. I mean, whoever it was, they weren't even moving. If I was going to score a decent amount of points in this game, I was going to get them right here. Hopefully chasing him off to give my team a touch of an advantage. Hehehe!
I crept closer, and tried to find an angle to shoot him from. But as I got closer, I noticed that there was a blue vest glowing in the same corner. Wait...but I was on team blue. Why are they both hiding out together? And...
...Why are they standing so close together like that?
I moved a bit closer. There was so much chaos and music and running around going on at the time, I doubt that I had to use much stealth at all to get close to the two players in the game. They were close. Like...vest to vest kind of close. And when I was able to see them from a different angle, I recognized the sunshine locks of Blake's boyish blond hair being highlighted by the glow of his Laser Tag vest.
Suddenly...without warning...my head began to spin wildly with a dizzy feeling that I had never experienced before. It started off as an extended moment of utter confusion, but as more of the details of what was happening here came into focus...that confusion began to melt away. Devoured, bite by bite, by the realization that I was witnessing something that I was totally not prepared for.
They weren't playing a game of Laser Tag. They weren't even sharing a friendly birthday hug. My big brother was, literally, KISSING his best friend on the lips! I could see it! They were totally making out right in front of me, and they were enjoying it so much that they didn't even realize that they had been caught.
Oh God! I mean, like...oh GOD!
Is my brother GAY???
Is BLAKE gay???
Nooooooooo!!! What the fuck is going ON here? What is...? How is...? When did...?
My brain couldn't process what it was seeing...but my heart could. And it began to suddenly fill up with blocks of lead, weighing it down with emotions of disappointment and regret as I saw the two of them tongue kissing and rubbing their hands all over each other with a passion that, suddenly, explained a lot about how close they've been since they first started hanging out together.
It explained why they always locked the bedroom door, or why Connor never wanted me around, or...why they just seemed so damn happy together all the time. Like...ALL the time!
What the hell? I'm so heartbroken right now...
The game came to an end a minute or two later, and everybody walked out of that arena with a huge smile on their face. Most of them out of breath. They immediately rushed over to the scoreboard to see how they did, but I didn't. I don't think I even cared anymore. I was too busy trying to keep my wounded heart from dropping down into the pit of my stomach and making me sick with rejection.
How could I not have figured this out before now? Before my deepest emotions got all tangled up in...whatever this is.
Please, don't get me wrong. If it turns out that my brother is gay...then that's cool. Despite our bickering and frequent conflicts, I love Connor. And I know that Connor loves me. It's just a little unexpected, that's all. I just...I can't really fathom...
Ugh...it's hard to explain, I guess.
As we were all looking at the scores, Gary was the first to see Connor and Blake's scores and say, "What the hell were you guys DOING, bro! You two were, like, in last place? Were you even shooting in there or what?"
Connor and Blake looked at one another and laughed. Connor said, "Well, it's my birthday. So I feel like I won, either way. Hehehe!"
I felt the pain of seeing Blake blush again and add, "Yeah. Me too."
Sighhh...he loves my brother, doesn't he? Just look at them. I can tell.
I think that Chelsea was the first one to see the sour look on my face when I came walking out of that Laser Tag arena. It's not like I was going to cry or get angry or...whatever. I just wish...
...I wish it was me.
Both Chelsea and Amy walked over to ask me what happened, and I used all of my remaining energy to just hide the pain of seeing Connor and Blake together, standing just five feet away from us. I won't lie...it hurt. I mean, it really hurt! And this is before the shock of the situation had worn off yet.
Awwww, he was the first boy that I ever fell in love with. He really was. Why does Connor get ALL the good fortune all the time! It's SO not fair!
Amy asked me, "So what happened??? Did you get a chance to talk to him?"
Chelsea adding, "What did he say?"
With a sigh, looking back at Blake as he walked up behind Conner and hugged him, lightly resting his chin on his shoulder. Nobody else really noticed how 'touchy feely' they were with one another, but...then again, I never noticed it before a couple of minutes ago. So much other stuff makes sense now.
I looked at my besties, and I just said, "I didn't get much of a chance to talk to him. But...it's Connor's birthday. That's what he's here for. Maybe I'll get a chance some other time." I hope I didn't let my sadness break through my lame mask of artificial normality when I said it.
They both moved in and gave me a hug. The physical contact almost caused me to burst into tears, but I held them back. I didn't DARE let those tears take over and embarrass me in public like they wanted to.
"You'll get him next time, hon." Chelsea said.
"Yeah. It's not over until it's over, Karen." Amy added.
But it was over. Wasn't it?
This wasn't me just competing with some other girl from school. This wasn't just me being envious of Chelsea talking and flirting with Blake, even though she KNEW that I liked him first. And this wasn't just another obstacle in Amy's constant flow of optimism and hope. Blake was existing in a whole other world as far as my deepest affections were concerned. A world that would probably never understand what's so great about me in the first place...no matter what I do to prove myself.
I mean, to be honest...is there anything to prove?
Anything to achieve in the long run?
Blake lightly tapped me on the shoulder, with my brother standing right next to him. "So...what's up? Do you still wanna go get that slushie or what?" He said.
Blake is soooooo SWEET!
Feeling a bit disheartened, I said, "No, thank you. Honestly, I think I changed my mind."
Blake seemed confused. "Really? Because I'm buying, if you really want one. Cheesy Pete's slushies are delicious!"
As cute as he was, that beautiful face of his almost blinding me with its boyish radiance as I fought to look him directly in the eye...I decided to turn him down. "I'm cool. You guys go ahead. You can give my slushie to Connor if you want."
Connor brightened up, "Are we talking slushies here?"
Blake looked at me, and smiled. But then he directed his attention back to my brother, and I realized that letting him go was, pretty much, my only option at this point. Blake shrugged his shoulders and asked him, "Whaddyasay? Lemonade slushie?"
"Score! I'm down!"
The two of them were getting ready to head towards the counter for their frozen treat, but I approached Connor at the last minute, and I gave him a tight hug around the shoulders. "Happy birthday, big brother..." I said, sniffling a bit.
He leaned back and asked, "Are you ok?"
"I'm fine. Everything is...it's just fine." I assured him, and that's when Blake took a hold of his hand and dragged him away to go spend some more private time together.
Well, if it's ONE positive thing that I can say about my brother, Connor...it's that he has an excellent taste in boys. He really does.
I watched them walk off together and I just...I wish them well. I'm sure that there will be this big 'coming out' fiasco in the near future where he feels the need to ask permission to simply be who he is in front of me and our parents. But for now, I guess he wins. And BOY, did he win big with a hottie like Blake.
This HURTS!!! It really does!
Does Connor have any idea what it's like to find somebody cool, and sweet, and SUPER attractive...but then have to come to terms with the realization that you can't ever ever EVER have them because they're attracted to an entirely different gender???
Yeah. I guess he does.
Shit. Well, this side of the equation totally fucking SUCKS! Just so you know!
Maybe one of his hot friends is available. At least there's enough of them to go around. Heh...might as well start over again from square one, right? Like I said...my brother has an excellent taste in boys! They can't ALL be gay, right?
Alright then...Plan B...
Chelsea...Amy...? Let's get a team together and see what we can come up with. I'm not leaving here without some kind of 'win' today. Believe me.
Just wait until *MY* birthday party! Now that will be an event! You just wait and see.
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