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|“When were you going to tell me about this?” I asked JP flatly. He didn’t answer; his back was facing me as he looked out the window of his room.
After the words had left Luke’s mouth, I had just stared at the jock with wide eyes. I was shocked; he had to be lying. My own boyfriend would never do such a thing; he would never cheat on me. I had glanced over at JP for some kind of response, some sort of reason for this rumor to have started. I just wanted him to say – to tell me – it was not true. He said nothing. Instead, his eyes gave away the one thing I wouldn’t – no, couldn’t – believe, the one thing I feared.
JP really had slept with Brionna.
He didn’t have to say anything for me to know the truth; I could read it in his eyes. Once Luke left the room, I kept glaring at my boyfriend. His jaw was clenched tight, his whole body rigid. I could tell he was trying to keep in his emotions. But I was a wreck. I opened my mouth, trying to find something to say, but nothing would come out.
Then, he looked over at me. And I fell apart. Tears immediately began rolling down my cheeks, my jaw quivered uncontrollably. JP, unable to bear the sight of my disappointment, ran from the room and retreated upstairs. I wanted to just go home and cry, but I needed answers; I needed reasons. So, I followed him.
When I entered into his bedroom, JP was leaning against the windowsill on the other side of the room, his gigantic triceps bulging wildly out of his arms, his thick lats expanding the fabric of the black muscle shirt he was wearing. Only an hour earlier, this vision of a perfectly built jock-god standing before me would have sent my mind into a hypnotic daze. But now, it merely made me angry.
“JP,” I began again, my voice beginning to crack, “when were you planning on telling me this?” I just wanted to know why he hadn’t told me as soon as it happened, or at least as soon as he saw me. I couldn’t believe we had sex multiple times with this news locked up inside of him. Was he expecting me to find out on my own?
“I don’t know,” he whimpered, his voice weaker than I had ever heard it before. It was almost as if it was coming from someone else and not this hunky teenager standing on the other side of the bed.
“Why?” I croaked, the word barely leaving my throat.
JP finally turned around and looked at me for the first time. Tears were streaming down his face and his cheeks were flushed and red. I had never seen him cry before and it drained any warmth left in me. I looked at him and I knew that for the first time since we met, he was scared.
“Please tell me there’s a good reason,” I stammered. “Why her? Why…Brionna?” Just hearing myself say her name made the rage shake inside of me.
“It happened at one of Ryan’s parties last weekend,” he suddenly went on in a desperate torrent of words. “She came on to me and she made me go upstairs…”
“Excuse me,” I blurted, interrupting him in mid-sentence. “What do you mean she came on to you?” I knew I was visibly livid now; my anger had come up to the surface.
“I mean,” JP stumbled, “I was drunk and—”
“So what?” I hissed. “I’ve been drunk at parties and I’ve never fucked someone else.” I could tell by the wince in his eyes that that had stung.
“Matt,” his voice started to strengthen again, “you don’t understand.”
“Shit, of course I do.”
“JP,” I snapped, narrowing my eyes at him, “I know what kind of a bitch she is. This is her game. She even tried coming on to me once, but you know what, I was able to fight her off.” JP tried to say something, but I stopped him. “I thought you’d be able to do the same thing.” I couldn’t understand how someone as strong and confident as JP could’ve so easily been had.
“Are you even gay?” I sneered. “Or is this some sort of sick charade you’ve been playing?” Even I couldn’t believe the words had just come out of my mouth. It was cruel, but I didn’t care. JP stared at me, his mouth halfway open, every muscle in his body frozen. The silence between us had sucked up all the air, leaving nothing but coldness.
“Fine,” he finally said icily. “Maybe this has all been a game.” His voice cut the air sharply, every word overflowing with bitterness.
Then, he started around the bed, his eyes filled with anguish. Shit, I thought, I had done it. I had said too much. There was no way I was going to get myself out of this. He was more than twice as strong as I was; I wouldn’t stand a chance against him. I shut my eyes in anticipation of what I knew was going to hurt. But instead, all I felt was the wind as he walked past me toward the door, merely giving me a cold brush on the shoulder.
“Leave,” he said stoically, holding his bedroom door open for me. I took in a deep breath – half out of relief, half out of mournfulness. We were over. JP and I had broken up.
Slowly, I turned and started to leave the room without so much as a side-glance to my ex-boyfriend. I dared not look him in the eye; I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of getting to me. So, before I walked away, I uttered the most heartless thing I could imagine.
“Just so you know, there is a guy back at school who I know would love to be fucked by me.” I paused to let that sink in. “I’m telling you this ahead of time so you won’t think I’ll be alone and crying my eyes out over you.”
I didn’t want to look up at JP, but the temptation to see his reaction was too great. But, JP had no reaction. He simply stared back at me with an empty look, his eyes devoid of all emotion – stone cold. He had shut me out. It was a sight I would never forget. Then, he spoke:
“Just so you know, Brionna told me it was the best sex she’s ever had.”
That was it. There was no waver in his tone – no sarcasm, no regret – just sheer disdain, its acidity cutting through me like a sharp knife. I tore my eyes off of him and headed out of the house.
As soon as I got into my car, I began bawling. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. How could he do that to me? How could he simply throw away our love like a dirty napkin…and sleep with the one girl I hated more than any other? Just the thought of that – the picture in my mind of my own boyfriend in bed with that bitch – made me tremble with fury. She was right; she always got what she wanted.
I don’t know how I made it home in one piece; I was crying the whole time, not even paying attention to where I was going. But when I got home, I immediately ran up to my room, brushing past my mom as I did.
“Matthew?” she called to me. “What’s wrong?”
I slammed my bedroom door behind me and threw myself onto my bed, burying my wet face into the pillows. I wanted the whole world to go away. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Hell, I didn’t even want to live anymore.
“Matthew,” my mom knocked on the door, her voice full of concern, “are you OK? Why don’t we talk about it?”
I pressed a pillow over my ears, trying to shut her out. There was no way I was going to talk to her about all of this. She didn’t understand. She had never loved another person like I had loved JP. After a few more attempts, she gave up and walked away.
I don’t know how long I just laid there, still crying my eyes out, before I finally fell asleep, but it seemed like hours. Every time I closed my eyes, I could see JP looking at me with that cold, emotionless expression. The face that had always haunted me in my dreams – the face of superhuman beauty and angelic warmth – now haunted me in a totally different way. They seared into my brain, as if I had betrayed him. Fuck! He was the one who betrayed me! He was the one who fucked another person! Not me! I couldn’t get it out of my head.
“Matthew?” my mom’s voice drifted to me from a distance. I opened my eyes to see her hovering above me, her eyes filled with worry. For a whole minute, I couldn’t see clearly, my eyes were so puffy from all the tears. “You’ve been asleep for 15 hours,” she said softly. “You should get up and take a shower.”
I glanced over at my alarm clock. Sure enough, it was ten o’clock in the morning. I groaned. My head was pounding with pain and every inch of skin ached terribly. I struggled up onto my forearms with more effort than it should have taken.
“Do you want to talk to me about what happened yesterday?” my mom asked. I looked at her for a moment before shaking my head. “Ok,” she replied calmly. She sighed and hesitated briefly, but then finally got up and walked out of the room.
At first, I was surprised that she knew what had happened, but then I realized that she probably had figured it out. I mean, she had figured out that JP and I were gay on her own and those signs were a lot more subtle. I lay my head down on the pillow again and closed my eyes.
Shit, how I wished I had never met JP. How I wished I could go back to three years ago, when I was just a skinny, lonely kid. Yeah, I was miserable then, but at least I didn’t know what I was missing. I didn’t know what it was to love someone as perfect as JP…and then find out he wasn’t as perfect as I thought he was.
I got out of bed and went into the bathroom. I stared at my reflection in the mirror. God, I looked horrible. My hair was a mess, my eyes were all red and bloodshot, even my muscles looked soft and not as strong as they used to be. Groggily, I stepped into the shower and vacantly let the hot water run over my body. It did nothing to lift my spirits; I was too depressed.
I guess you can say that weekend was the worst Thanksgiving weekend of my life. At a time when I should have been happy and laughing with family, I was the exact opposite. I spent the entire holiday feeling destroyed. I hardly talked to anyone, I never smiled, I barely ate. I just didn’t have the heart to do anything. My whole world had ended. My mom did the best she could to try to cheer me up, but after a couple of days, even she started realizing how bad I was. There was simply nothing she could do.
I couldn’t wait to go back to school. At least then, I could put my mind into other things and forget about JP. He no longer meant anything to me, as far as I was concerned. He was a nonentity. I threw away any remembrance of him – every picture, every letter, every memento. It was as if he didn’t exist. I didn’t even mention a word to Kevin or Ben or anyone else, but I knew they picked up on my sullen moodiness, as if a cloud was hovering over me.
“You’ve been kinda down lately,” Ben finally pointed out one day in mid-December as we were walking back to our dorms from the Conservatory. It had been over two weeks since the split, but things were not getting better. I still dreamt about JP every night. “Is everything alright?”
I looked up at him and almost started crying. Ever since the night we broke up, I hadn’t cried a tear – I had apparently gotten that part of it out of my system – but I certainly wasn’t smiling either; I was in some kind of purgatory. Ben’s eyes were so soft, full of so much emotion, it looked as if he was about to cry himself. I quickly shook my head and looked away.
“You sure?” he pleaded.
I sighed. “I broke up with JP,” I stated flatly, trying not to lose it. It was the first time in weeks that I had even uttered his name. And it left a bitter taste on my lips.
I immediately felt Ben’s breath leave his mouth – escaping in a wispy cloud of steam in the cold Ohio air – as he stopped in his tracks. “I’m sorry,” he said, a genuine tone of empathy filling each word. I could tell that it was the only response he could come up with.
“It’s fine,” I lied, trying to sound as stoic as possible. But then, I let it all out. “He cheated on me.” My voice was thin, short. “He slept with this girl…this bitch who’s wanted him for months.” It almost felt painful talking about it, but as soon as I had the words out, the tightness in my chest loosened a bit.
“Oh, my God,” Ben breathed. I glanced up at him again and let a tear roll down my cheek. Then, I erupted full blast.
“He’s such an asshole!” I shouted. “I thought he loved me, but he’s just like his brother…a fuckin’ jerk who doesn’t care about anyone but himself.” My words were stumbling out and I was shaking violently.
Ben seemed to almost panic as I snapped right in front of him. “Whoa, Matt,” he said, “calm down.” He placed his hand on my shoulder and I immediately started to relax. “I know you don’t mean that,” he assured me.
“What do you know?” I croaked, not meaning it to sound as rude as it was. “You don’t know him.”
“But I do know you enough,” Ben went on, speaking delicately as if he was plucking the words out of the air. “I know that you were…and still are, I think…in love with him. Your face used to light up whenever you mentioned his name.” He paused and lowered his voice to almost a whisper. “You wouldn’t be having this reaction if you didn’t love him.”
“No, I don’t love him anymore,” I protested, though a part of me knew he was right.
“Matt, yes you do.” Then, our eyes met and I had the sudden urge to kiss Ben. Our faces were only inches from each other; all it would take was a slight lean forward. He was so caring, so loving. He would make a good boyfriend – one who would never cheat on me. I wanted so badly to kiss him and tell him that.
But I didn’t.
I don’t know what, but something kept me from leaning forward and touching his lips with mine. I couldn’t explain it, but kissing Ben just suddenly felt wrong…just as much as it felt right – like the only thing to do – a minute before.
“Sorry,” I muttered, almost under my breath, and turned away. The two of us walked silently back to our dorms, neither saying a word to the other.
As I arrived back in my dorm room, I realized that Ben may still have had a huge crush on me, but he knew that I was still in love with someone else, someone with whom he could never compete. And although he would’ve loved to start a relationship with me – and I certainly wouldn’t have stopped him – he knew it would not be possible.
Ben had a point. JP was always going to be the one, whether I was mad at him or not. If I really hated JP for what he did, I wouldn’t be this mad at him; I wouldn’t be this depressed by it. But there was still one thing…JP betrayed me. What did I ever do to deserve this?
“You’re finally back,” Kevin remarked as I walked into the room. “You’ve been spending a lot of time at the Conservatory.”
“Juries are coming up,” I answered. “I’ve been practicing my butt off.” I tried to sound nonchalant, but I wasn’t sure if he bought it. I mean, juries – our final solo performance before the faculty – were approaching, but that was the least of my worries.
“I guess that’s why you haven’t been working out with us lately,” he added.
I smiled and nodded, shoving my trumpet case underneath my bunk. Kevin routinely went to the campus weight room to lift with a couple of buddies and I would sometimes go along. He said the other guys couldn’t believe that I was a music major – I was buffer than some of them. But lately, I had been skipping out on those workouts. Ever since Thanksgiving, I was too unmotivated to lift – it reminded me too much of JP.
“Oh, by the way,” Kevin suddenly remembered. “Your dad called for you. Left a message. Wanted you to call him back.”
I blinked at my roommate. My dad? I hadn’t talked to him since graduation. I mean, we were on speaking terms now – I had forgiven him for leaving my mom and me, but it was still a shock that he would call me at school.
“How you been doing?” he asked when I dialed the number he had left with Kevin. There was a hint of tediousness in his tone that told me there was another reason for his calling other than just to say hi.
“Fine,” I said, trying to pass off as casual.
“Your roommate – Kevin, right? – seems nice,” he went on.
“Why did you call?” I jumped, maybe a little too abruptly, to the point.
“I’m, uh, going to be in Baltimore for a convention just before Christmas,” he explained. “Since, you know, your break starts on the 16th, I was wondering whether, well, uh, you would like to meet me there for a day or two…you know, see the Inner Harbor, the aquarium. I remember how much you liked it when you were little.”
“Yeah,” I said. “That sounds pretty good.”
“I mean, I know it’s December and all…not exactly prime tourist season for there…but I figured you’d want to spend some, uh, time away.”
“Sure,” I was trying to shut him up before he talked himself into an awkward corner. “I’ll see you there.”
As I hung up, I felt a lump in my stomach. This was all I needed. I knew what happened. My mom had told my dad about me and JP. It was just like her – so desperate to get me to talk that she went to my dad. Well, I thought to myself, we’ll see how that goes.
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