I turned from hanging up my apron, and my eyes widened in surprise at the guy next to me; it was Danny Forrester, one of the football players I went to school with. I didn’t even know he knew my name; we didn’t exactly run in the same circles.
“Oh, hi Danny.” The jock smiled at me. If he looks at me like that any longer, I’m going to combust. “Did you need something? Geometry homework?” It was the one class we shared – I ought to know. I spent all fifty minutes of it staring at him.
He shook his head. “No. I heard you were working here and…um.” He shifted on his feet, looking a lot less sure of himself than he had a moment ago. Was that a bit of a flush in his cheeks? “I was wondering if you wanted to get some coffee.”
“Some coffee.” I repeated. I wasn’t a moron; I knew what “get coffee” meant in dating-speak. But it didn’t make sense that Danny Forrester was talking to me, much less asking me out. “How did you know…? You’re not…” Way to babble like a frigging idiot.
“I’ve seen you watching me. You are into me, aren’t you?”
Blake couldn’t stop the blush that suffused his face. “Um, yeah. But I didn’t think you were gay. Weren’t you dating that cheerleader? Melissa?”
“I broke up with her.” He shrugged. “I’m not out. But neither are you, are you?”
I shook my head. It wasn’t that I was ashamed of who I was – it was that word would circle back to my father. I let a smile slowly spread over my face. “So, you said something about coffee?”
The two of us sat down in the mostly empty coffee shop. It was edging into the evening now, well past six, so most people weren’t interested in pumping anymore caffeine into their bodies. The people who were around weren’t those who’d look twice at a couple of teenage boys.
I took a drink of my iced coffee and tried to come up with something to say. I’d been on a couple of dates with a girl last year, but this was the first time I’d ever been out with someone I liked. And, okay, maybe this wasn’t technically a date but it was, like, date-adjacent. What did we even have in common? He was a popular jock who was into sports; I was a geek who’d rather be holed up in my room playing video games and didn’t really even know the rules to football. “You’re not just asking me out because I’m your only option or something, are you?” I blurted.
He frowned at me and shook his head. “God, no. That would be a shitty thing to do.”
“Yeah, that came out wrong. Sorry. It’s just that we don’t exactly hang out with similar people, and we don’t seem very alike.” Are you trying to talk him out of this? Shut up and flirt with the super hot guy.
Danny smiled. Under the table, his leg pressed against mine. “You don’t know as much about me as you think you do.”
I grinned, leaning towards him. “I’d like to fix that.”
A date for Saturday night. I had an actual date. And it wasn’t “date-adjacent” either – Danny had said the actual word. The whole way home, I was walking on air.
That was, until I actually got out of the cab and realized I had to go inside. It was long past dinner time, and Dad was going to be pissed. Ever since he got that big promotion, he got home earlier. He wanted the whole family together for dinner. I guess in his mind, it proved we were a nice, normal, apple pie family.
In my head, I practiced my excuse as I went inside and headed into the living room where I could hear the TV going. “Hey, Mom, Dad, I’m home.”
Dad flipped the TV off and got up, glaring at me. “Where the hell have you been? You were supposed to be home an hour ago. You missed dinner!”
“I’m sorry, Dad,” I said as sincerely as I could. “They wanted me to help close tonight, but we had these customers who just wouldn’t leave. My manager was there so I couldn’t just walk out.”
He looked fairly placated, but he still growled, “You could’ve called.”
“I wanted to, but my phone died. I really am sorry, Dad. It won’t happen again.” I hoped I was laying it on thick enough that he bought it.
It seemed to work. He plopped down on the couch again, under his breath but still loud enough for me to hear, he said, “What you need to do is get a better job.” By better, I knew he meant more macho. Something with machinery and heavy lifting that would toughen me up. Like his office job was so manly?
“Honey, Blake has been so responsible to get a job. Loralee got a job at his age and look how well she’s doing now.”
I winced as soon as she said Loralee’s name. Oh, no, Mom, why did you say the L-word?
Dad glared at her and burst up from his seat. “Don’t you talk about that woman in my house!”
Mom’s eyes flared wide as she realized the mountain of crap she’d stepped in. “I’m sorry, I just meant – the job means he’s responsible and smart. He’s going to be a success.”
“Whatever.” He dropped onto the couch again and turned the TV on.
“I’ll get you some dinner,” Mom said and walked with me into the kitchen. “I can’t believe I said that.” She shook her head as she made my plate.
“He’s the one being a jackass, Mom. If he hadn’t been such an asshole to her, she wouldn’t have gotten that restraining order.”
“Don’t use language like that,” she said sharply. She sighed and shook her head, looking much older than she was. “How was work, baby?”
I wanted to tell her about Danny, but I held my tongue. I didn’t really think she’d have a problem with my sexuality, but what if she accidentally told Dad? Or told him in a non-accidental way? I loved her, but she was still married to him…” It was fine. Pretty much same as usual.” I took my plate. “I’m going to eat upstairs.”
I went upstairs into my room and sat down at my desk. Before, I’d been so excited about the date with Danny. I still was…but not as much as before. If my father caught us…I couldn’t even imagine the new heights his anger would reach.