Now That You're Here
Chris had just gotten out of the shower and sat down on the edge of the bed when Zander walked into the room and threw himself in Chris’s arms.
“Do you know how much I love you?” Zander asked in between kisses.
“I have a slight idea,” Chris replied with a chuckle. “But do you want to tell me what I did this time to earn your undying love?”
“I just had a nice long talk with Justin. He told me about the day you two shared and how wonderful you were during lunch,” Zander explained before resuming his kissing.
“Oh, that. He really is a good kid. I’m just glad that he felt like he could talk to me about the whole Dane thing. I have half a mind to go over to the little shit’s house and kick his ass for upsetting Justin like that.”
“My hero,” Zander teased. “You know, there are going to be times when Brian or Justin are going to be hurt. What are you going to do? Beat up everybody?”
“If I have to,” Chris huffed. “But this is different. Dane is supposed to be a friend of the family and he knows what Justin’s been through. Just the thought of him pushing Justin into something he’s not ready for pisses me off.”
“I know, Babe. Dane’s not high on my list of favorite people right now, either. Luckily I don’t think we have to worry about running into him anytime soon. From what I hear, Brian has made it perfectly clear that Dane is to stay away.”
“Good,” Chris replied. “Now why don’t we stop talking about Brian and Justin and you can show me exactly how much you love me?”
“Sounds good to me. I think it’s going to take awhile.”
“I’ve got all night,” Chris said as he lay back on the bed, pulling Zander with him. All thoughts of teenagers were long gone.
Justin had just climbed into bed with his sketch pad when there was a knock on the door. He looked up as Brian walked through the door and smiled at his new friend.
“Hey, how are you feeling?” Brian asked as he crossed the room and sat down on the bed next to Justin.
“I’m okay,” Justin assured him. “Chris and I had a talk at lunch today and he made me feel a little better about what happened.”
“Good. I don’t want you wasting any more time thinking about that asshole,” Brian replied. “So, did Zander finally decide on the look of the website?”
“Yes…finally. Tomorrow I’m going to work on the final touches and then we should be up and running,” Justin replied happily.
“Cool,” Brian smiled. “Oh, and I forgot to tell you, when you and Zander ran out to the store earlier, your friend Sean called. He wants you to call him.”
“Shit,” Justin sighed. He was still trying to figure out what to do about Sean’s desire to fly to Arizona. As much as he wanted to see his friend, the thought of coming out to Sean scared the heart out of him. He contemplated letting his friend visit and just keeping his secret to himself, but the reality of the situation was that thanks to Dane, everyone knew he was gay. How long could Sean be in Arizona before finding out that his childhood friend was a fag?
“Hey, are you alright?” Brian finally asked when he saw the pained look on Justin’s face.
“Huh? Oh, yeah, I’m fine. I was just thinking about Sean,” Justin replied.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Brian asked.
“I’m just not sure what to do,” Justin began. “When I called Sean the other day, he suggested flying out here to visit me. We’ve been best friends since preschool and I know he’s been worried about me. I think he kind of wants to check things out and see where I’m living.”
“Okay, so what’s the problem?”
“The problem is that I don’t know if he’ll be comfortable here. I might be able to hide being gay for a week if I had to. Hell, I’ve been hiding it all of my life, but what about Chris and Zander? I don’t know how he’ll feel spending the week in a house with a gay couple,” Justin said, watching closely for Brian’s reaction.
“Why don’t you just ask him? Just tell him that your cousin is gay and lives with his partner. If he reacts badly, then he won’t come here and you don’t have to worry about revealing anything about yourself. It’ll give you an idea of how he’ll react if you’re honest with him,” Brian suggested.
Justin thought about Brian's suggestion. He was right. If Justin told Sean about Zander and Chris, it would keep his secret intact and he'd be able to gauge his friend's reaction to gay people. Justin would know one way or another whether he could confide in his childhood friend. "That's a good idea. Thanks Brian."
"No problem. I've been known to have a good idea or two now and then," Brian replied proudly. "So what are you drawing?"
"Actually, I'm working on a picture of Zander and Chris. I saw them getting cozy on the couch last night when they thought no one was looking. They looked so cute sitting there. I'm trying to recapture it," Justin explained.
"Can I see?"
Justin hesitated for a moment and then opened his book to the sketch he was working on. Even though he knew how talented he was, he still felt a little awkward showing his work to other people. He waited patiently as Brian looked over his work.
"Wow, this is really good," Brian finally said, keeping his eyes on the picture before him. "You're really talented, you know that?"
"Thanks," Justin said shyly, confused by the feeling Brian's praise gave him.
"Well, I'm going to head off to bed. I'm kind of tired and I have a feeling we're going to be busy tomorrow. The new Harry Potter book is in and tomorrow's the official release day. Those fans are nuts when it comes to getting the newest edition."
"Alright, I'll see you in the morning," Justin replied with a chuckle. He waited until the door was closed before setting his sketch book aside and thinking about what Brian had suggested. He didn't have a lot of options and although it was stupid for him to worry so much about Sean's reaction given the fact that they were living so far apart, he couldn't help but worry about losing his best friend. It was the main reason for keeping his secret while he was still living in Pittsburgh. With his decision made, Justin turned off the light and lay down, quickly drifting off the sleep.
Once again when Justin woke up, he was the only one home. He couldn't wait until he found a car. He was getting tired of everyone going off day after day, leaving him alone in the big empty house. After a quick shower, he went downstairs and made some toast, trying to settle the butterflies in his stomach before calling Pittsburgh. He decided the best way to tell Sean was to just come right out and say it. Kind of like ripping a Band-Aid off quickly to get the pain over with as fast as possible. Sean answered on the second ring.
"Hey, Sean, how's it going?"
"Justin! I'm so glad you called. I talked to my mother, who had to talk to my dad, and then they made this production about whether I was old enough to travel on my own, but they finally agreed to let me visit you instead of going to Disney. Isn't that awesome? I'm so excited. Did you talk to your cousin? Is he okay with me coming for a visit?"
Justin took a deep breath before answering. "Um...Sean, before I ask Zander, there's something I think I better tell you first. You might not want to come once you know the truth."
"What truth? Justin, what are you talking about? There's nothing you could say that would make me change my mind about coming to see you," Sean assured him.
"I hope not," Justin replied honestly. "Sean, Zander's gay. His roommate is actually his partner. They've been living together for years."
"Okay...and? What's so bad that I might not want to be there?"
"That's it. Zander and Chris are gay. I didn't know if you'd feel uncomfortable around them. I mean, they're open about it. They act just like your parents' do," Justin explained carefully.
"So? Justin, I don't care if they're gay or straight. All I care about is if they're good to you, and I know that they are. You sound so much happier than you did when you were living with the Johnson's. I can finally sleep at night without worrying about you doing something stupid. You have no idea how worried we've all been about you. Oh, hang on a second. I've got another call."
Justin laughed to himself while he waited for Sean to get back on the line. He'd been so worried about his friend's reaction to Chris and Zander and it was all for nothing. He even started thinking that it would be okay if he came out to his friend himself, but he wasn't going to rush into anything just yet. He'd wait to see what Sean's reaction to Chris and Zander in person was before he shared anything more.
"Justin, are you there?"
"Yeah, I'm here."
"Listen, that was
Jason. He's kind of upset that you haven't called him yet. I told him I'd say
goodbye so you can call him."
"Oh, okay. I guess I should give him a call. I didn't mean to ignore him. Things here have just been a little crazy and I've been busy trying to settle in and adjust to everything," Justin explained, suddenly feeling bad about not calling.
"It's cool. I've been telling him about what's going on. He understands, but he's getting very impatient. I offered to give him your number, but he said he'd wait for you to call him."
"I'll call him right now," Justin said.
"Good, but one thing. I might have mentioned that I might be flying out to visit you. He sort of seemed like he'd want to go too. I told him nothing was definite anyway, but I wanted to warn you before you talk to him. You haven't even asked if I was allowed to come. I don't know how your cousin would feel about two of us. It would be kind of cool, though. To have the three musketeers back together. Wouldn't it?"
"The three musketeers? Shit, we haven't referred to ourselves as that since what? Ninth grade?"
"Yeah, when we realized that it made us sound corny," Sean laughed. "Anyway, I'll let you go, cause I know Jason's waiting. Let me know when you talk to your cousin so my mom can arrange for my plane ticket."
"I'll call you tonight and let you know what he says," Justin promised.
"Cool, and make sure you tell him that I'm really neat and always clean up after myself," Sean added.
Justin laughed out loud. "I'm not going to lie to him, you spaz."
"Hey!" Sean barked. "I'm not that bad."
"I bet your mom would disagree with you," Justin pointed out.
"Okay, well I would clean up after myself if I was in someone else's house."
"Alright, I'll give you that. Talk to you later."
Justin hung up the phone and thought for a minute. If Jason wanted to come out too, it would mean telling him about Chris and Zander also. He wasn't worried as much about Jason, though. Jason had an aunt that was a lesbian so he was pretty sure that Jason didn't have a problem with gay people. In fact, when he considered coming out back in Pittsburgh, Jason was the first person he considered telling. It was his fear of everyone else that made him decide to keep his secret. He didn't want to put Jason in a position where he had to lie and he just wasn't ready for everyone else to know. Justin picked the phone back up, but before dialing Jason's number, Justin decided to call Zander first. Sean's visit was becoming more complicated, now that Jason wanted to come too. He figured he'd better ask permission first, just in case Zander said no.
"Between the Pages, this is Zander. How may I help you?"
"Zan, it's Justin."
"Well, good morning, Justin. What's going on? Is everything okay?"
"Yeah, everything's fine. Do you have a minute? I want to talk to you about something, but I know Brian said you were expecting to be pretty busy today."
"We've been swamped, but we're in the middle of a lull right now. What's on your mind?"
"Well, I've been in touch with a couple of my friends from back home and I was wondering if it would be alright if they came out here for a visit. I promise that they won't be too much trouble and we'll stay out of your way," Justin assured him. "In fact, you'll hardly even know that they're here. And I promise that we won't be loud or make a mess."
"Justin, relax," Zander chuckled. "I don't have a problem with you having some friends come out for a visit. In fact, I think it's a great idea. I know you were having a rough time in Pittsburgh, but I also know how hard it was for you to leave your friends behind. They're welcome at our house anytime."
"Thanks, Zander. I was hoping you'd say that," Justin sighed with relief.
"One thing, though. Did you tell them that you're gay?"
"Not yet. I thought I might tell them when they're here. I think it would be better face to face than over the phone. But I told Sean that you and Chris were gay and he didn't have a problem with that, so I think it'll be okay. I'm not worried about Jason. He'll be fine."
"Good. Now when were they looking to visit? Don't forget we have our trip planned," Zander reminded him.
"I know. I can't wait. It looks like it'll be a couple weeks after that, but I'll find out for sure once definite plans are made. Sean's mom and dad already agreed to let him come out instead of going on their family vacation to Disney. I haven't talked to Jason yet. I'm gonna call him now, but I wanted to check with you first."
"Okay, just let me know the specifics so we can make sure to have someone available to pick them up from the airport in case we haven't gotten you your own wheels yet."
"I'll let you know all the details as soon as I know them," Justin replied. "And thanks again, Zan. I'm really looking forward to seeing those guys again."
"No need to thank me. It's your house, too. Now I better get back to work. Brian's got a line of people at the register and he's looking rather overwhelmed. I'll see you tonight."
As soon as Justin hung up, he called Jason.
"Justin, is that you?"
"It's me. I'm sorry I haven't called you sooner. Things around here have been pretty intense and I've been trying to get settled in," Justin said immediately.
"It's okay, man. I understand. I was just starting to feel a little bad when you were talking to Sean and not me. I was trying to think back to see if I did anything to piss you off. I don't remember anything," Jason replied.
"You didn't piss me off, Jas. I'm not sure why I ended up calling Sean first, but I just had a lot to work out and when I was finally ready to call Pittsburgh, his was the first number that popped in my head. It had nothing to do with anything you did. I probably would have called you right after I called him, but hearing his voice made me a little homesick for the way things used to be. I just wasn't ready to talk to anyone else then. I promise to keep in touch from now on," Justin assured him.
"You'd better," Jason warned teasingly. "So how are you doing? Do you like Arizona? Pittsburgh isn't the same without you."
"Thanks Jas. Arizona is pretty cool, although it's hot as hell here. Chris, Zander, and Brian have all been really good to me and I've met some of Brian's friends. They all seem okay. At least I'll know some people when school starts. How are things with you?"
"The same. Stacy is driving Mom and Dad crazy. She's refusing to start college in September even though she's already been accepted to Westminster. She says she wants to take a year off and find herself. I didn't know she was lost," Jason joked.
Justin shut his eyes and imagined Mr. and Mrs. Meyers freaking out over their daughter's lack of interest in school. He really was starting to miss his old life. Growing up with Jason and Sean meant growing up with their families, too. He felt equally comfortable in his friends' home as he did in his own. Stacy had always been like a sister to him, which meant that he knew how stubborn she was when she set her mind to something. "Shit, your parents must be flipping out."
"You have no idea. They made me promise that I won't give them any trouble when it comes time for me to go to college. They're all driving me nuts. I almost can't wait for school to start again so I don't have to be home every day. Almost, but not quite."
"Man, it must be pretty bad then," Justin laughed. "So, why don't you come here with Sean? I talked to my cousin and he's cool with you guys coming to visit."
"Really? Awesome! I mentioned it to my mom the other day and she didn't seem to have a problem with it, but I wasn't sure if I was invited or not. That would be so cool."
"Of course you're invited. I want you both out here. But before the plans are made, I just want to let you know that Zander is gay. He and Chris are a couple. I didn't think that would bother you, considering Aunt Susie has been living with her girlfriend for what, four years now?"
"Of course it doesn't bother me. And actually, Aunt Susie and Patty pretty much got married a couple of weeks ago. New Jersey finally passed a law allowing same sex couples to have civil unions. It's not the real thing, but it's close," Jason replied with excitement.
"That's great! I'm so happy for them."
"Yeah, it's pretty cool. So, tell me about Arizona. Have you made any friends yet? You better not even think about replacing Sean and me," Jason teased.
Justin spent the next hour telling Jason all about Arizona and everyone he'd met since arriving, making sure to leave out the part about his date and altercation with Dane. It felt so good to have his friends back and he couldn't wait until they came for their visit. He still wasn't sure if he'd have the guts to tell his closest pals about being gay, but he was definitely going to enjoy their time in Arizona.
End of part 14
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