The Consequences of Dissonance - Chapter Twelve
I had the drapes pulled closed enough to shield my monitor from the sun glaring off the snow outside. The second week in November and we had only just now had our first snow. People told me it was a dry year, but I still felt as though I was living in some place vastly different than home; a place where I didn’t have to clear the sidewalks starting in October.
I stared dully at the screen as my half-finished theory ear-training homework sat open and waiting for me to finish, the music player paused. I had gone beyond frustration at the exercise, wafted through apathy, and now, my brain had simply turned off. I was closer to meditating than day-dreaming.
Understandable, then, that the sound of my phone made me jump as much as it did. Recognizing my mom’s number on the external display, I unclipped the cell from its charger and took the call, “Hello?”
“Hi!” Mom always sounded chipper on the phone.
“Hey mom. What’s up?”
“Oh, not a whole lot here. Just got back from hiking with the dogs. Got tired of emailing you, so I figured I’d call in stead.” I could hear the smirk as she continued, “You know, you could try it once in a while. I know you don’t have a whole lot of minutes, but that’s no excuse not to call home more than once a month.”
I laughed, “Sorry, mom. Just been kinda crazy here.”
“Yeah? Tell me all about it. I need more college anecdotes to pass around work.”
“Oh, nothing that exciting,” I dismissed. “Class, and homework, and more class. At least concerts and midterms are over.”
“Yeah? How did those go? Sorry again Jared and I couldn’t make it out there for your concert.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. The music wasn’t very good, anyway. Midterms went fine, not as big a deal as I thought.”
“Good, good. And school’s going well overall? I have to ask that, you know. They make us sign something when we have kids promising to nag about school.”
I laughed, “I bet. It’s going fine. Lots of people here, pretty crazy.”
“Always is. Meet anyone yet?” she asked suggestively.
“Well… sorta,” I admitted, ears turning hot. I hadn’t really thought of how to prepare myself for a reverse coming-out. “It’s… weird. I don’t want to jinx it, though. I’ll tell you later.”
Mom laughed, “Alright, alright, keep your secrets. Anyway, the real reason I called was to let you know that your car’s fixed. I’ll come pick you up at around noon on… not this saturday, but next, I guess it is. Then you can drive yourself back to school when break’s over.”
“Oh, awesome. Thanks for helping me out with that.”
“Of course, hon. Besides, it’s like an investment. Put money into your car so we don’t have to pay for gas ferrying you around anymore.” She laughed, but it sounded strained, “It pays off in the long run.”
“Mm. Well, thanks again. I gotta get going to class here pretty soon. See you next Saturday?”
“Sure thing, Cory. Have fun with the prospective boy.”
I bit my lip and made a generic sound of agreement. “Talk to you later, mom. Love you.”
“Love you too.”
She hung up and I stared at the phone for a while.
Plugging the cell back into the charger, I was interrupted by a knock, startling me. I levered myself up and shambled over to the door. “Oh, shit, Eric. Hey, come on it!”
I propped the door open and let my friend slip into the room, Eric making a bee-line for my bed, where he dropped himself gracelessly. “So! Double date, huh?”
I laughed and made my way back to the computer, making a note on my homework where I had left off. “Guess so. Always seemed like such a highschool thing to do. Even dating in general, man,” I shrugged. We had had our fair share of discussions about the matter.
“Yeah. Kinda bogus,” he shrugged. “Whatever, though. Gotta keep the girls happy. How you even wound up with one is beyond me.”
I smirked and flipped him off kindly, getting a laugh for my efforts. “So what’s the plan, then?”
“Well, I guess they’re both coming over here sometime in the next few minutes, then we’re all going for a cold, romantic march across campus to get some dinner. Dunno after that.”
“Alright. Well, shit, guess I’d better get myself pulled together.” I locked my computer again and patted at my pockets to make sure I had the necessary keys and credit card before hunting around in the pile of clothes that had accumulated in my closet for my jacket and boots.
Eric’s phone rang just as I was tying my shoes, so I doubled my pace, guessing at who was on the other end. Of course, judging from the expressions he used and how… cute they were, I hardly needed to guess. I was up and ready to go by the time he had hung up, so we trudged our way out of the dorms and down the flight of stairs to see the two girls peering in the windows of the stairwell to watch for us.
Kisses were exchanged amongs the two couples, though the ceremony was cut short by complaints about the temperature, so we started to walking.
Cutting across campus is no simple deal. I had long ago decided that there had to be a reason for it being so hard to get from one end of the campus to the other, and that it had been someone’s idea to try to make it easier for students going from one class to the other back when there were less buildings. Now, however, the four of us wound our way through narrow roadways and alleys between the various buildings, sticking mostly to the cleared sidewalks except to kick at the occasional clump of snow or, in Kris’ case, to grab a fistful of the stuff to throw at me. How friendly of her.
We made our way across College, though and then across Laurel, the street that bordered the north edge of campus, and stomped our way into our destination, a restaurant that had appealed to all of us. The food was homey and warm, cooked to order, but it was still ‘quick food’, not quite fast food, but certiainly prepped ahead of time as much as possible.
Taking the numbered card that would guide our server to our table, Kris slid into the booth with enough speed to bump up against the far wall, then handed me her glass with a bat of her eye-lashes. “Whatever clear soda they have, boy.”
“Right, Dr. Pepper it is,” I countered, sauntering over to fill both of our glasses with soda. I had ordered vegitarian, which, logically, meant that I could allow myself a glass of Dr. Pepper. Kris, who never seemed to change from her current figure, always got the same thing, it seemed. Not even sugary carbonated water seemed to budge her weight in either direction.
Sliding back into the seat next to her, I set her drink down before her and leaned in to put a peck against that spot on her neck she always told me never to kiss in public. “So, double date, huh?”
She squirmed against the wall and tilted her head to protect her neck from the gesture, “Sure. It got you out of your room for once, plus I figured it’d be fun, even if it’s only dinner.”
I grinned and nodded. “Well, cool. Don’t get to see Erin much, anyhow.”
“That’s ’cause you never come over to our place, dork,” Kris countered.
“I fear for my eternal soul every time I go over there,” I whined. “There are ancient rituals involving lipstick and foundation; horrible bezoars sacrificed to the almighty hairbrush.” I laughed when I felt the kick to my shin.
“Just because you two don’t bother with anything more than a cursory comb through your nappy hair doesn’t give you permission to dismiss us,” Erin replied. Eric was trying to hide his laughter behind his soda.
“I just worry that I’ll have to turn in my gay card, is all.”
Kris rolled her eyes. “You’ve already got a big red mark on your permanent record for that, bucko.”
“I suppose so.” I grinned, “Though, hey, even my mom still thinks I just met a guy, not a girl.”
Kris’ smile faltered a little, and what remained looked as though it took a little effort for her to keep there. “You told her about me, but didn’t say I was a girl.”
Realizing my gaff, I backpedalled, “Well, I mean, it’s complicated. I didn’t tell her anything except that I was interested in someone but didn’t want to talk about it.” I added hopefully, “It’s like… coming out, only backwards. Doesn’t make it any easier…”
There were several moments of silence, and I sank glumly deeper into the booth. “Aaaand now everyone’s staring at me.”
We were distracted by our server setting food in front of us, each in turn. Thankfully, the conversation settled onto new and lighter topics, and Kris even seemed to lighten up to her normal, chipper self, comforting me with a hand on my thigh in the middle of the meal.
When the plates were cleared and we decided to walk back to campus in order to decide what to do next, Kris lagged behind, and so I did as well. “What’s up?”
“Why do you like me, Cor?” she blurted, even before I was finished, and it was hard to tell if her ears were red from the cold or from the topic. “I mean… I’m sorry. That sounded angry and I’m not, really. I just sometimes worry that you like me ’cause I seem like a guy or something.”
I laughed quietly and slipped my arm around her shoulders at the cross walk, holding her there as the red hand bid us to, even though Erin and Eric had already crossed. “It’s not that, I promise. I really can’t say why I like you, and i’m not sure I want to define that. I always sound stupid when I try in my head.”
Kris jabbed me with her elbow, keeping her hands warmly ensconced in her pockets. “Getting me to swoon and blush won’t get you out fo this,” she cautioned, adding, “Though it certainly gets you brownie points. I just… why didn’t you tell your mom?”
I shrugged and gently guided her forward with my arm around her shoulders, getting her into the crosswalk before letting her go. Walking that close was awkward with the height difference, and my hand was getting cold. “It’s weird. I guess,” I faltered. “It feels like… all the trouble I went through coming out as gay to my parents… all that would be a lie if I suddenly told them that I wasn’t. Know what I mean?”
Kris shrugged: an answer as good as ‘no.’ We walked on after Erin and Eric for a little ways before she spoke again. “People change all the time, Cor. Do you think your parents wouldn’t like this sort of change?”
It was my turn to shrug. “I’m an only child. It was a bit of a big deal when I came out, because it meant I was the last of a line, in some ways. No grand children. I kind of feel bad for causing that sort of trouble. I guess it just seems like my parents view it as all one way or all the other. All straight or all gay. Just barging in with ‘hey I’ve got a girlfriend!’, well, it feels like I’d be coming out all over again, putting them throught that trouble… again…” I trailed off awkwardly, realising I was rambling, that I had kept talking after I had already said what I wanted to say.
I watched Eric look back at me with a concerned look, but I smiled and gestured subtly to him. He and Erin walked on even as Kris and I walked slower, meandering along the sidewalk through the oval shaped plot of land at the heart of the old campus uninventively named The Oval.
“Well, I told my parents,” Kris said after a while.
I leaned to put a kiss on top of her head, my nose warmed by her dense hair. “Braver than I.”
She laughed and leaned against me, trying to guide me into the snow. “No, I just thought it was normal. I keep forgetting,” she trailed off, relaxing against me a little. “I keep forgetting it’s not, for you. Not really.”
“Not yet,” I corrected, dropping my hand down to seek her own.