Enemy Or Lover? - Chapter 38 - THE END
Without further ado,
Wyatt and Rylee’s story:
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wasn’t perfectly normal, however one might choose to define that word. My life had been a series of confusing things that had left me questioning more than someone my age probably should have. One of the prime examples of that was my sexuality. Puberty had not done me well.
While all of the other boys I knew spent their time discussing which girl was the hottest and ogling women on the streets, I spent mine ogling those same boys. I didn’t realize it at first, but I was gay. Even though I had been eying boys for a long time, it took me a while to realize the fact that I wasn’t straight. That it wasn’t normal.
Everyone has that uh oh moment, and mine was not fun. It happened when I was in my room, which I shared with Rylee, and I was in the middle of reading a book. The sound of the door being thrown open and Rylee stomping into the room caused me to set the book down curiously. He always walked loudly, so that was how I knew that he wasn’t mad.
He didn’t hesitate to storm over to me and plop down on the bed beside me. “Don’t tell Mom, but I just got back from The Hill with Noah and his friends. Do I smell like a campfire?”
The Hill was a place in walking distance from the neighborhood. It was where teenagers our age hung out. Unlike me, Rylee was fifteen, so he had been in high school a bit longer than I had and possessed a miraculous skill for being about to get into any friend group he desired. Noah and his friends were his most recent endeavor, and his most worked for one as well. I was fourteen, awkward, an anxious wreck, and no one seemed to like me all that much.
“You smell like straight smoke.” I scrunched my nose up, folding my legs under me as I looked over at him. His dirty blonde hair was messy and there was a speck of mud on his freckled cheek. “You’ve got mud on your face.”
“Where?” He scratched around, trying to find what I was talking about.
“Over there.” I pointed to it, trying to help him out. In the time that Rylee spent trying to remove the mud stain, I was staring at his face. The light wash of freckles on his cheeks and his long lashes. The curve of his nose, the pink of his lips. When he still hadn’t gotten it, I reached forward, lightly rubbing at the mud. His skin was so soft under my thumb that it almost hurt.
That was when it all made sense.
After all of that time spent trying to understand why I always found him to be unbearably attractive, or why my heart sped up whenever he attempted to include me, it finally made sense. That was my version of the uh oh moment. That was when my brain finally acknowledged the fact that I was gay. Or the fact that I had a crush on my foster brother, who was painfully straight.
I never told anyone, and I never once even said the words out loud to myself. It felt like a secret that I had to keep. Though I knew that Katherine and Nathan would never care about my sexuality, it wasn’t them that I was worried about. There was one person and one person alone that scared me shitless.
It wasn’t that I thought that he was homophobic, he was just overly straight in every way. He could be too headstrong and even rude at times. He wasn’t always rude to me, though, which was why I found myself crushing on the boy. Obviously, there was the occasional teasing that was taken a bit too far, but I could usually take that just fine. Most of the time.
That was until the night when we had gone bowling. It was Mason’s eighth birthday, so naturally, Kat and Nate wanted to do something special for their youngest son. That was why we drove out of town to the arcade.
It was the first time I had ever seen a gay couple in person. They looked so happy and carefree, as though nothing would ever stop them from loving each other. It created a longing in me that I didn’t even know I had. Being able to be myself and date who I wanted to sounded nice.
However, all of that was shattered when Rylee started commenting on it.
“Didn’t you know boys could date?” He had said as he lightly tugged on Nina’s blonde hair. “It’s because girls are so disgusting.”
He clearly hadn’t meant that. Not when I was there for his first crush. Her name was Julia Norman, and when Rylee was thirteen, he was obsessed with her beyond belief. When she started dating some other boy, I ended up hugging Rylee as he cried for two hours straight. So that was how I knew that he only said that to bother Nina.
Kat snapped at him, telling him to knock it off. The problem was that Rylee couldn’t seem to stop himself once he started. What he said still somehow managed to bother me. It was annoying, how immature he was all the time. Not to mention the fact that he had just shattered the longing daze I was in. I couldn’t stop myself from saying something.
“That wasn’t very nice of you.” I stated simply. He was ruining the boys’ date and putting stupid ideas into Nina and Mason’s impressionable minds. If I ever planned on coming out, I didn’t want them to have any wrong preconceived notions. “It’s not because they think girls are disgusting.”
“Yeah, it’s ‘cuz girls have cooties, and are annoying.” Mason jumped in. It made me upset. Rylee was giving his siblings the wrong message.
Kat took the opportunity to scold us both, telling us to not teach Mason such bad habits. I was oddly grateful for it. At least she wasn’t going to allow Rylee to corrupt their views.
When I saw that look on Rylee’s face, I felt the need to keep talking. I knew what that look meant. It meant that he was going to continue spouting random things, and I didn’t want to know what. “No, it’s because they’re just not attracted to girls. They don’t get to pick who they love. You’re spreading misinformation.”
He quirked a brow. “You’re probably gay too.”
My heart skipped a beat as I tried to hide the panic that I felt. I knew that Rylee wasn’t actually trying to scare me or make me feel unwelcome, because he didn’t know the weight of his own words. “Am not.” I rushed the words out before I could even think.
“Sure.” He said sarcastically, leaving me horrified.
And that memory had not been exorcised from my head ever since. It was hard to forget something like that. It was the first time that I had ever seen two happy boys in a relationship, looking unafraid to do so. It was also the same night that I told myself that I would never be able to tell Rylee the truth.
Or so I thought.
On a particular day wherein I was sitting on the floor by the couch, playing a game of Uno with Nina, the front door was slammed closed rather loudly. She looked over at me with concerned eyes. I always thought that it was adorable how expressive Nina was. She was also very smart for her age, loving to play card games even though she always seemed to manage to show them to me on accident.
I looked over to the doorway, wondering if I could catch a glimpse of whoever slammed it. Nate had taken Mason out for something, and Kat was upstairs on the phone with a friend. That only left one person. The sound of his heavy footsteps told me that I was right.
However, I shrugged it off and placed down a card with a two on it, changing the color to green in the process.
Nina huffed. “I wanted it red.”
“You have two cards and I have eight.” I laughed at her.
“That’s like…” She thought about it for a moment, prolonging it for dramatic effect. “Six more cards.”
“Yes it is.” I smiled. “Look who’s a genius.”
Nina happily went back to placing cards down right as I spotted Rylee walking past the doorway and going towards the stairs. “Hey, Rylee! Want to play Uno?” I called over to him
That was when he turned around. His blonde hair was an absolute mess, sticking to his face and hanging in front of his eyes. He looked beyond furious and his clothes were soaked through.
“Why are you like that?” Rylee suddenly asked through gritted teeth.
I got confused. What did he mean by that? All I did was ask if he wanted to play Uno with us. My heart skipped a beat under his intense gaze. The room queenly felt a lot heavier. “Like what?” I replied nervously.
“Like that!” He burst out, storming away from the staircase and into the living room. Nina was on the side closest to him, so she quickly got up and ran behind the couch. It was a habit she had whenever something scared her.
Rylee approached the coffee table that I was sat at, my legs folded under me as I sat on the ground. The way he stared down at me made feel a lot smaller than I was. He slammed both hands down on the surface, peering at me with malice.
“Like that!” He seethed. “It’s like you actually care about every damn person in your life, even though no one ever gives you the time of day! Don’t you have any self-respect at all? Its so stupid the way that you act so naïve and pathetic!”
I stared at him for a long moment, trying to grasp his cruel words. I hated how true they were. I didn’t have any friends like he did, but he knew how much it hurt. People bullied me in school for it, and he always told me that things would get better. Yet, there he was, telling me to stop being optimistic. It hurt a lot, more than I would have thought.
Blinking back tears, I dropped the cards down and stood up. “You’re a real asshole.” Then I darted around him to run for the door.
As soon as I was outside, I scolded myself for almost crying. Rylee didn’t deserve my tears. I hardly ever swore, but he brought that out in me. Why did he have to be so horrible? I never did anything to him.
I tried to remind myself of his appearance. He was soaked to the bone, so clearly something must have happened to him. But whether he had a reason for saying something so mean or not, it didn’t make it okay.
I walked aimlessly for a little while, so deep in my own thoughts that I didn’t even know where I was heading. I knew that Kat was going to be upset with me when she found out that I left without telling her. But I still couldn’t bring myself to turn around.
It was in that moment that I felt so stupid. How on Earth could I possibly like a guy like that? He was explosive and rude. He didn’t know how to control himself and he was immature beyond belief. Maybe my crush wasn’t real. At least, that was what I told myself.
What annoyed me more than anything was the fact that he wasn’t always like that. There had been nights where we wouldn’t be able to sleep, so he would come up with his extravagant stories to occupy us. When I first started living with him, I was nearly mute with how little I talked, and I would always flinch at any loud sounds. He was the one who helped to break me out of that.
In my fit of rage and self-deprecation, a voice startled me out of it. It took me a moment to process where I was or how I had gotten there. I was so deep in my own thoughts that I forgot the exact reason as to why I was wandering aimlessly like a lost puppy.
“Hello. Wyatt, right?”
My eyes went wide as I tried to identify the two boys who stared down at me. It didn’t take long, though. They were the first gay couple I had ever seen outside of the internet – it was kind of hard to forget something so important to me.
“Huh?” I said, still confused by their sudden appearance. Then after a moment, I nodded and added, “You’re from the bowling alley.”
They exchanged names with me, the taller blonde one with the crutch being Sam and the black-haired one being Sawyer. Their names were sort of similar, which I found to be sweet.
Sam asked me if I was alright, and I told him that I was. I was grateful that I never let the tears fall. If I had, then my face would have been far more blotchy and red. That would have been a dead give away. I anxiously itched my wrist to try to calm my thoughts.
I didn’t know what it was that compelled me to ask them a question that horrified me to no avail, but I did it anyway. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t know the next time that I would have been able to speak to someone who liked the same gender, or maybe it was because I was already fired up and confused. “How… how did you know that you were gay?”
I was shocked when Sawyer said, “When he kissed me.” I was definitely not anticipating that response. It made sense though, and I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting. Everyone had a different story, and I was sure that mine wasn’t anything like theirs.
They both told me a lot of things that day that really helped me, though. Sam said that I didn’t have to be worried about whether I was gay or bi or pan or whatever other labels there were. He said that I should just worry about who I liked and when I liked them. I knew that I was gay, but I still found myself agreeing with him. It was oddly nice to listen to them talk.
However, it wasn’t until I accidentally let a comment slip that I regretted all of it. The words, “Rylee is an asshole,” Somehow fell from my lips before I could close them.
They both looked beyond confused, and I was beyond embarrassed. They clearly thought that we were biologically related or something, even though we didn’t look anything alike. Then I couldn’t stop a whole rant from pouring out as well.
The rant wasn’t even accurate. I said that Rylee always treated me poorly, and that he always made fun of everything I liked. It wasn’t true. As much as it pissed me off, Rylee had his moments of being nice and acting like the true best friend that I never had, even if he liked to blow up at me every once in a while.
But what made me stop in my tracks was what Sawyer told me. He said that he and Sam had hated each other for three years before they finally got together. He told me that love and hate were both passions, and even if someone swore that they hated someone else, chances were that they were suppressing their love because it was much scarier to face.
And I couldn’t wait another moment. I needed to get back home. I thanked them both for their kind words, before running off. Kat was probably worried by then anyway, so it was necessary to get back as soon as possible. I had some thinking that I needed to do.
When I returned home, I found Kat sat on the stoop. She immediately started bombarding me with questions as to where I went, hugging me and telling me how worried she was. I hugged her back. Kat was such a great mom, and I was beyond grateful for everything that she provided me with.
My father passed away when I was six due to his unrelenting alcoholism. My mom was a narcissist who never cared about me. She would leave me at home alone for days at a time. When she would finally return to see her only child curled up on her bed with sunken in ribs, she would shrug it off and tell me to go fetch her cigarettes.
Kat and Nate were nothing like that. They took me in at the age of twelve when Mom finally went to jail for manslaughter; she had gotten too drunk and killed a man on her drive home. As much as I wished that it changed her, it didn’t. She was still narcissistic and unloving. Kat and Nate were the exact opposite.
When she was done scolding me for leaving without telling her, I found Nina and Mason in the living room, playing a game of pretend. I joined them, laughing and enjoying myself while the time lasted. I was going to have to inevitably trudge up the stairs to the room that I shared with Rylee.
Eventually, we all ate dinner, but Rylee never joined us. It was rare for us to not eat dinner as a family, but Nate said that Rylee wasn’t feeling well. Clearly Rylee was adamant about not facing anyone. I wanted to know what had hurt him so much, but I also didn’t want for him to blow up at me again.
By the time it was Mason and Nina’s bedtime, I knew that I had to face the stairs like a man – even if I was still a boy. The door standing in front of me was like a demon. My chances were fifty-fifty. On one hand, he might have been asleep or calmed down, on the other, he might have been still raging and upset.
Holding my breath, I pushed the door open. It was dark. The only sound coming from inside was the sound of Rylee’s music turned up way too loud in his headphones. His bed was close to the door, while mine was on the far side of the room, by the window. He was facing the doorway, but he had the covers pulled over his head as to not be seen.
I let out my breath, walking as quietly as I could to my bed. Since he was turned around anyway, I was able to quickly change out of my jeans and into some sweatpants. The bed creaked as I laid down on it.
I didn’t know how long I ended up just sitting there, hoping that sleep would come and take me away. But by the time something changed, it was completely pitch black outside.
What changed was the sound of Rylee’s music turning off. He listened to a lot of classic rock when he was at home, but claimed to like anything that was mainstream when he was around others. Rylee was very fragile like that, constantly making himself likable even when he didn’t have to.
The silence after that was so deafening that I thought I was going to die. Even turning over in bed seemed too loud. So I stayed completely unmoving, staring at the ceiling even though I couldn’t actually see it. Who knew how long that went on for.
“I try so hard.”
That voice startled the hell out of me, resulting in a rapid heartbeat hammering in my chest. It took a moment for me to process his words, but when I did, I calmed down. His voice sounded raspy and broken. I wanted to reply, but I was scared of annoying him like he implied that I did.
“I try so fucking hard.” He spoke again, pretty much repeating himself. I turned my head to see him, but I couldn’t. “But I’m still not likable.”
I had to repeat the words over in my head, unable to grasp that they were coming from Rylee. The boy who could get any friends he wanted and was always invited to pretty much everything. He was even friends with Noah! Which was pretty much the most popular you could possibly get. Why would he say something like that?
“Of course you are.” I like you. “How could you say that?”
“I’m not.” He spoke firmly, but his voice lacked the vigor that it had earlier. “What kind of monster would say the shit I said to you?”
My voice faltered for a moment as I tried to understand him. Rylee always seemed confident, but I knew better than to believe that. So why did I end up believing it? I was the one who held him as he cried over his first crush, I was the one he told his stories to, I was the one who kept all of his secrets. Why did I think that he wasn’t like other teenagers?
All teenagers were insecure and scared. We were all trying to find ourselves without losing our lives. It was hell. How could I dare to hold Rylee with such high expectations? He wasn’t different, at least, not in that regard. Rylee was still my crush, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t human.
“You’re not a monster.” I told him.
“Why do you let me treat you like that?” The voice replied from the darkness.
I sighed softly. “Are you forgetting who you’re taking to, Rylee? I know what treating someone poorly is like, and you’re not even remotely that bad.”
Our voices were hushed, the darkness feeling like some sort of blanket that protected us from the rest of the world. That was our safe space, and no one was going to tear it apart. “I’m sorry.”
His words wavered as they were spoken. Just hearing the nearly silent sobs coming from his half of the room made tears well up in my own eyes. “What are you sorry for?”
“Everything.” He replied quickly, and I knew that he was breaking. My chest felt heavy as I forced my own tears to subside.
“You have nothing to be sorry for.” I felt myself saying despite the way he had hurt me only hours before.
There was a moment of quiet where I did nothing but listen to the quiet gasps between the tears. I didn’t know why Rylee was crying, but I wanted to be able to help. Then finally, he said, “You were right about Noah.”
That hadn’t been what I was expecting. He knew that I didn’t really care for Noah and his friends. They were vain and too caught up in their own lives to really say or do anything worthwhile. Rylee wasn’t happy when I told him that, but he eventually got over it. Besides, he knew that they all hated me. Even if he didn’t want to accept it.
“He pushed me into the fucking creek.” Rylee continued. “In front of pretty much everyone. He said that he wasn’t actually friends with me. He said that he was sick of how I feel the need to constantly please everyone…” His voice trailed off for a moment. “Why am I like this?”
“It’s not you.” I told him. “You’re not the problem.”
“No.” I shook my head even though he couldn’t see it. “You’re not. People like Noah don’t care about anyone else, Rylee. They care about popularity and pity points.” I didn’t know if he was going to still be angry at Noah once the morning came, but that was a different hurdle to jump over.
“I’m serious. You’re not stupid or annoying, okay? Don’t let him get into your head.”
The silence that followed the end of my sentence left me ultra-alert. I wanted to know what he was thinking, or why he let something so stupid hurt him so deeply. By that point, I didn’t even care about what he said to me earlier.
“Can I tell you a secret?” Rylee had gotten even quieter.
I could almost hear him contemplating whether he should actually say it or not. I swore that my heart was in my throat. “You’re the only person that I don’t feel like I have to please. I feel like I need to gain everyone’s acceptance all the time, but you don’t make me. You don’t care about what I listen to or how I dress or what I like to do… thank you.”
“Don’t thank me.” I felt sick to my stomach as I mustered up the courage to tell him something that could forever change our relationship. “Can I tell you a secret too?”
My heart never seemed so loud before. My stomach churned and my hands began to shake. In the quietest possible voice, I whispered, “I think I like boys.”
I felt stupid saying it like I was unsure of myself. Which deep down, I wasn’t. I had known for a long time that girls weren’t of interest to me. Yet, saying flat out that I was gay seemed impossible.
The darkness no longer felt so welcoming as Rylee never responded. It felt cold and threatening. My hands started to shake even more and my breathing became uneven. I needed a sign that he didn’t care, I needed to be told that there wasn’t something wrong with me.
Then finally, just as I was sure that I needed to escape, I heard him stand up from his bed and approach mine. I quickly sat up, scared of what might happen. I never once thought that he would hurt me, but suddenly I wasn’t so sure. Would he be that mad?
The sound of him crouching in front of my bed, and his voice whispering, “Are you sure?” Scared me even more.
Tears pricked my eyes as I nodded. “Y-yeah.”
The feeling of his arms wrapping around me startled me for a moment. I didn’t know how to feel about it at first. I thought that he was going to start yelling or tell me to leave. Instead, he pulled me into an embrace.
It didn’t take long for me to start crying into his shoulder. That was the Rylee that I had a crush on, not the one from so many hours ago. The Rylee that would hold me when I told him that I thought I was gay. He was the one that I had spent so many nights joking with.
It felt so nice to cry my eyes out, holding nothing back. All of the pent up stress over my sexuality and identity quickly poured out onto his sweatshirt. I was too busy sobbing to even notice it. The whole while, Rylee kept reassuring me that it was okay.
“It’s alright, Wyatt. I don’t care, I promise.” He was telling me. “I’m sorry for all of those times I made fun of you, I didn’t know. I’m really sorry… I’ve got you.”
A part of me wanted to tell him how much I liked him, but I couldn’t bring myself to ruin the moment. I needed that, even if he was going to one day find out. However, that decision didn’t last long.
As my cries started to quiet down and my breathing became less ragged, Rylee asked, “Do you like me?” His voice was still nothing more than near-silent whispers, because the secret telling had yet to end.
I didn’t say anything, keeping my head tucked in the crook of his neck. I didn’t want to pull away, I couldn’t pull away. The feeling of his arms around me was too perfect. When I didn’t respond, he did so for me.
“It’s okay if you do.”
That was when I finally pulled back. If I had the light to do so, I would have been studying his expression. I wanted to see what emotions he was conveying, but I couldn’t. It was too dark to tell. That was when Rylee did something that completely blew my mind.
He kissed my cheek.
It was brief and soft, like a butterfly kiss. My eyes went wide and my heart practically exploded in my chest. I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. That wasn’t what I thought was going to happen.
“I-you-um…” My mind was all over the place as I tried to come to terms with everything.
I could practically see Rylee’s smile, as he stood up and ruffled my thick curls hair. “Go to sleep, Wyatt.”
I stayed sat up, staring into the darkness with the hopes of understanding everything that had just happened. Rylee had kissed my cheek. He was okay with my sexuality. I was pretty sure that I was never going to be able to breath properly again. I didn’t know how long I stayed like that, but I remembered listening as Rylee got into bed. I waited for the sound of his snoring, but it never seemed to come.
We both sat awake all night, listening to see who was going to fall asleep first. Rylee and I had a long way to go. And just as I had predicted, he forgave Noah the next day.
However, I was content with where we were right then. We never talked about the way that he kissed my cheek, or the insecurity that Rylee had expressed to me. But I didn’t mind, because we were just two kids trying to find ourselves. And I guessed that I found myself crushing on my foster brother.