“You’re not going to school today squirt?”
“Are you sick? Does mom know?”
“Yeah, I went down and told her. I’m not sick…I just couldn’t sleep last night. Like at all.”
“You do look like shit.”
“That didn’t come out right. Get some sleep, ok? See you later lover boy.”
The house fell silent, and I felt oddly awake. I guess it must have been my second wind. I ran downstairs and poured a bowl of cereal. Next, I did the unthinkable. I went into my mom and dad’s room and plopped myself down on the overstuffed, leather love-seat, and grabbed the remote for the only tv in the house. I flipped through the channels and settled on some reruns of The Munsters.
I don’t get the urge to watch tv too often, but it just felt like the right thing to do. After a while, I must have drifted off. The next think I remembered was opening my eyes and seeing Todd staring right at me, anxiously wagging his tail. I looked at my phone and saw it was noon. I got a nice 3 or 4 hour nap, and I felt pretty good. I think Todd was itching for a walk through the woods, so I put on some shoes, and we headed out the back.
A little ways into our exploration, Todd stopped dead in his tracks and concentrated off into the dense trees on the right. He’ll do that when he hears little creatures tromping around. He started a low growl, which is something I’ve never seen him do. I tapped him on his back, trying to change his focus, and get him to keep walking with me. He stubbornly disobeyed me and instead, slowly moved forward, toward the area causing him this distress. He backed up a little and whined, then went forward again. He repeated this odd ritual a couple of more times, looking back at me, as if he was trying to say something. He was very agitated, and I was starting to worry too. Maybe it was a bear, or some other large animal that could have been a serious threat.
I decided to play it safe and head back for home. Todd was reluctant to come with me, but he eventually relented. We were walking along the trail, when all of a sudden, Todd bolted down a different branch of the trail. He was running full speed, barking and growling the whole way. I don’t know what he was onto, but he sure didn’t want it around. He’s always been a very stable, calm dog, so this was very unusual. The whole thing made me very nervous and uncomfortable, but I had to pursue him. If he was chasing a nasty predator, I wanted to get to him before he got hurt.
I jogged the trail calling out his name and listening for out of place sounds. I made it all the way to the edge of the woods with no sign of him. I scanned the open field, just in time to see him running right to the old farm house. I was paralyzed. Totally frozen. I was right on the edge of a full blown panic attack, as last nights episode crept right in on top of me. I started to shiver and fell right onto my ass. I hugged myself and just stared at the pit of Hell, just down the valley. There was no way I could make myself go down there. I just can’t. All I can do is just wait it out, and hope that Todd stays safe and comes running back to me. I felt like such a coward. Such a loser. I kept thinking to myself, this cannot be a coincidence. I’ve never seen Todd do anything like this. He’s never disobeyed a command. He’s never even left the yard.
I sat there holding my knees to my chin and waited. A cloud cover moved in, and without the sun, I became cold. I was aware of the fact that I was underdressed for this time of year. I only meant to be out for a little walk in the woods. It was stupid of me to not dress accordingly.
After a half hour or so, I saw Todd come trotting out from behind the farm. He was covered in something, but his tongue was hanging out, and he had a playful gait, so I figured he must be ok. I stood up to help him spot me, as I just didn’t have the energy to yell.
He approached me cautiously, with his head down. His canine apology. I assured him nothing had changed between us, and we headed for home. He was covered in mud, so I toweled him off some, before going back into the house. I was still shaking from the chills, after sitting in the cold for so long, so I started a fire in the living room. I sat on the couch near the fire to warm up, but I found my mind going crazy from inactivity. I decided I needed something to do to occupy my drifting thoughts. Cinnamon rolls! I’ll make cinnamon rolls.
I whipped up a quick dough and made a glaze while I waited for it to rise. It got wicked hot in the kitchen from the fireplace and the oven, so I took off my shirt and cooked in just my Adidas soccer shorts. I had some Nirvana docked on the ipod and I was really rocking out now. I was perfectly lost in a sugary anticipation and distorted guitars. Exactly what my head needed.
Then the doorbell rang.
“Shit!” I said, looking at the clock. 3:30. That would be Kayla. I never thought about what I was going to say to her.
I started toward the front door, but she saw herself in. Probably thinking I wouldn’t have heard the door bell over the loud music. I met her as she shut the door with a “hello?”
“Ummm…come in. Come in. Let me get that music and ummm…turn it down” I said walking away from her.
I met up with her back near the kitchen.
“How’s it going? You definitely don’t look sick” Kayla said laughing.
“Yeah. I told you I wasn’t sick. Just…tired.”
“Have you looked in a mirror lately? That’s a wild hairstyle and… the powdered face is…ummm interesting.”
“Oh. I’m making cinnamon rolls and I was kind of rocking out” I replied slightly embarrassed.
“That’s cool. I kind of like it” she said, giving me a once over. “Nice boxers too!”
“Ummm…let me get my shirt.”
“No. No. I like you like this.”
“When are those gonna be done? I’m totally stealing one.”
“You can have two. I made them for your visit” I said, totally making it up.
“How sweet” she said, reaching out to me and placing her arms around my waist. We had a quick kiss and a long, warm embrace.
“I’ve been worried about you Daniel. You’d tell me if something was wrong, right?”
“Yeah. Of course I would. It’s just been…I don’t know…a little crazy in my head the last few days.”
“You know, Mark is super worried about you too.”
“He said you were like…sad at hockey last night.”
“Yeah. I don’t know. It’s stressful and then the Derek stuff.”
“You know what else he told me?”
“Well, he said the coaches were talking on the bench, and they were so impressed with you. They said you were easily the best defenseman in the tryouts. Hands down!”
“They told him that?”
“No! He was spying on their conversation. Daniel, you’re a lock to make the A team.”
“That would only be cool if Mark makes the same team as me.”
“Do you think he will?”
“I think he should. He’s really good, but nobody knows him, so that could hurt his chances.”
“Well hopefully you both make the A team.”
Just then the timer went off.
“They’re done. I just have to glaze them. Get ready to have your socks knocked off!”
I served up two plates and we sat down to indulge. I waited for Kayla to take a bite, so I could see her reaction.
“Oh my god! These are better…better than at the mall!”
“Haha. So you like them?”
“Hell yes. You are amazing. I don’t know how you do it. Everything you cook is so good.”
“I just follow directions. No big deal.”
“Seriously. We have to get married so you can cook for me every day.”
After we ate two each, and were at the top edge of a sugar-high, we moved over to the couch by the fireplace. I was going to let her take the lead, to see what she wanted to talk about. I was nervous. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have any idea how I was going to answer questions I thought she might ask. I was terrified of losing her as a friend.
“So, can I ask what has been so crazy in your head lately?”
“It’s just…I don’t know. Hockey and Derek and then, you know, the lunch thing.”
“I told you I was sorry about that. I got scared I would lose you. Your best friend moves back and I know I should have given you more credit than that…but you mean a lot to me…and you’re the only one I know here…so.”
“I understand. I really do. But I’m not going to do that. Ok? I mean you and me will be together more than Mark and me. We live by each other and hang out like every day. That’s not going to change. Except maybe sometimes Mark will be with us too. He’s very nice if you get to know him.”
“He is nice. I’ve talked to him a few times now…and we sat together at lunch today.”
I felt myself turn red hot and start to hyperventilate. Was my nightmare coming true already?
“Daniel? Daniel? What’s going on?”
You look like you saw a ghost or something. And you haven’t said nothing for like two minutes.”
“Oh…ummm sorry. Ok. I’m going to tell you something that you’ll probably think is totally fucked up, but I have to say it. Ok?”
“What is it? Please tell me?” Kayla begged, a worried look on her face.
“Well, the reason I missed school today is because I had a wicked nightmare last night. It was like a nightmare from Hell. Freaked me out, like a lot. And the thing is, in it…you and…umm Mark, like were together…like doing it.”
“Wait! You had a dream last night that Mark and me were having sex?”
“Well yeah. But you guys were like demons too. And you guys killed me at the end.”
“Oh my god! That’s just…just…crazy Daniel. You don’t really believe that, do you? I mean like any of it, right?”
“Well no. But…it could happen…someday.”
“Not going to happen. Ever.”
She leaned into me and put her head on my chest. “Daniel, I would never do something like that to you. Ever. You mean more to me than you even know.”
She started to massage my knee, just resting her head on my chest. I was at a loss for words. It didn’t seem like the right time to tell her ‘oh and by the way I’m gay and in love with Mark.’ That would have to wait for another day. Another day probably a long time from now.
She lowered herself down further, resting her ear in my lap, her index finger, rubbing figure-eights into my thigh. I combed her hair behind her ear, and rubbed her shoulder, as we both silently stared into the fire.
I was happy to get my fear of her and Mark hooking up off of my chest, but it felt like it backfired too. The second half of my fear, was not going to be an easy conversation. Ever.