Kane's Kiss

 "You know who's hot?"

 "Who?"

 "Tara Wetzel."

 "Tara Pretzel? Really?"

 "Yeah. Totally. Why? You don't think she's hot?"

 "Uh, no. That's why I call her Tara Pretzel."

 "Fine. Who do you think is hot then?"

 "Anna Bergdorf."

 "Anna? Anna, uh... Anna..." Kyle glanced back at me. "Hey, Kane, what's a food that sounds like Bergdorf?"

 I caught my friend Ty's eye and we both cracked up at the lame conversation Kyle and Danny were having. We were skateboarding down a quiet street where we were mostly left alone. The police tended to get after us in some parts of town. Although we never did anything bad, they just didn't like skateboards in their precious downtown area. It ruined the image of a small Victorian village the town worked so hard to promote.

 "I'm pretty sure there isn't any food that sounds like Bergdorf, Kyle," I told him.

 He grinned good-naturedly and shrugged. "Okay, but I still say Tara is hotter. I'd make a pretzel with her."

 We all laughed this time. Kyle and Danny were always comparing who they thought was hot. They had some sort of weird rivalry thing going on where they could argue for hours about who was more hittable. Occasionally, Ty and I joined in, but generally we just let the two of them go at it.

 I kicked my board up onto the curb and grinded for a short distance.

 "Nice," Ty commented from behind me.

 I grinned. "Thanks." I loved it when someone complimented my board skills. I knew I was pretty good. Maybe not the best of our little group, but up there. I popped an ollie just to grandstand a bit more.

 "Is Kane showing off again?" Danny asked without looking back.

 "You know it," Ty snorted.

 "Nah, you ain't seen nuthin' yet. This is showing off." I jumped onto the curb again for another grind, but failed to notice the hole where a big chunk of concrete was missing. The front truck of my board dipped into it, and suddenly I was airborne.

 I hit the ground hard, knocking the air out of my lungs. I lay there without moving, too stunned to even roll over.

 Danny and Kyle started howling with laughter, but didn't bother to stop and see if I was hurt. "Yeah, you're right. That was some serious air you caught!" Kyle called over his shoulder.

 Ty skidded to a halt, kicked his board up, and caught it by the front truck. He walked over to where I was lying, dropped it to the ground, and sat on the deck. He was fighting a grin of his own, the corners of his lips twitching almost uncontrollably. "You okay?"

 I groaned and slowly rolled over onto my back. "Am I alive?"

 "From what I can tell."

 "Damn."

 Ty laughed. "Dude, Kyle's right. That was some serious air."

 "Shut up, Ty."

 His smile faded. "Are you okay?"

 "I'm not sure yet. Am I bleeding?"

 He scanned down my body. "Uh, your knee looks kinda banged up. You might need a Band-Aid."

 I pushed myself onto my elbows to inspect the damage. He was right. My knee seemed to be bleeding profusely. Come to think of it, it was stinging pretty badly, too. I groaned once more. "I live on the other side of town."

 "My house is only like a street over. Want to go there and clean it up?"

 I'd never been to Ty's house. He was the only one who never invited the rest of us to his place. In fact, I didn't know much about Ty at all. Since we'd never talked about anything personal, I had to admit I was more than a little curious. "Your parents won't mind?"

 He rolled his eyes. "Not if they don't find out."

 "They won't be there?"

 "No. They're almost never home. Come on." He stood up and held out a hand to pull me to my feet. I accepted it, but standing was still a painful process. My knee was really hurting.

 We limped our way to Ty's. Well, I limped while he carried both our skateboards. His house turned out to be a rundown rancher badly in need of a power washing. The concrete walkway was cracked and the flower beds were overgrown with weeds.

 "Mi casa es tu casa," Ty muttered as he unlocked the front door.

 The inside matched the exterior. Everything was worn and slightly shabby. Not giving me much time to look around, Ty started off quickly down a hallway.

 I assumed I was supposed to follow and hobbled along after him. "So your parents work?"

 He paused in the dim hallway and glanced back at me over his shoulder. "Why all the interest in my parents?"

 "Um, I dunno. Sorry. I was just making conversation."

 He shrugged and started walking again, finally turning into a doorway. When I caught up, I saw a cramped bathroom where he was rummaging through the medicine cabinet. He pulled out a box of bandages and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, then turned to me. "Okay. You'd better sit."

 The toilet didn't look entirely sanitary, so I opted for the side of the tub.

 Ty squatted down and inspected my knee a little more closely. He made a face.

 "That bad?" I asked.

 "It's got dirt and shit in it."

 "Shit?"

 He laughed. "Not literally, dumbass. Like little pebbles and stuff."

 "Oh. Whew. I thought I was gonna get gangrene and have to cut my leg off or something."

 "Still might."

 "Thanks for the encouragement, Ty. You're such a friend."

 He grinned as he poured some of the hydrogen peroxide onto a clean washcloth. "I try. This is probably going to sting."

 "Yeah, I figured." I gripped the edge of the tub tightly and clenched my teeth as he began to clean the wound.

 After he got most of the dirt out, he poured a little more hydrogen peroxide on the cut. "It's so cool how it fizzes like that."

 "Yeah, so cool."

 He glanced up at me with an amused expression. "Sorry. Let's get you bandaged." He pulled out the biggest Band-Aid in the box and carefully applied it to my knee. "There. All done."

 I looked down. "It's not covered."

 "I don't have any Band-Aids big enough. Want me to use two?"

 "Nah. It's okay. Thanks for fixing me up."

 "No problem." He started putting the stuff away.

 I got to my feet, wincing at the pain.

 He caught my expression in the mirror as he shut the cabinet door. "Want some pain killers?"

 "Yeah, that would be nice, actually."

 He grabbed a bottle out of the cabinet and shook a couple of pills into his hand. "Here. I'll get you a soda." He gave me the pills and took off again.

 I didn't want to wait around in the bathroom, so I limped down the hall in the direction he'd gone. I found him in the kitchen with his head in an almost-empty refrigerator. He stood up and seemed to be surprised to find me there. He quickly shut the fridge door. "Oh, uh, we seem to be out of soda."

 "It's okay. I can take them without anything." I popped the pills into my mouth and swallowed.

 Ty grimaced. "How the hell do you do that?"

 "You build up spit and just gulp."

 He shuddered and made a disgusted face. "You probably aren't ready to walk home, so you wanna watch TV or something?"

 I shrugged. "Sure. Why not?"

 We went back to the room we'd first entered and sat next to each other on the couch. Using an oversized remote, Ty turned on the large, flat-screen TV. It was probably the newest thing they owned. He started flipping through the channels before settling on some awful dating show on MTV.

 "You like this one?" he asked.

 "It's cool. Saturday afternoons don't offer much in the way of decent TV viewing."

 Ty chuckled. "Amen to that."

 While he watched the show, I looked around the room. I couldn't help noticing the utter lack of family photos. Actually, the room was pretty much void of anything even halfway personal.

 Ty noticed me looking around. "It's not much. Sorry."

 I turned to him in surprise. "What? Why are you sorry?"

 "The place. It's not much, I know."

 I rolled my eyes. "Who cares? It's not bad. I was just looking for embarrassing photos of you as a kid."

 He laughed. "Those are hidden away, safe from prying eyes."

 "Aw, damn. They're always so much fun. It's just like what the hell were my parents thinking, dressing me like that?"

 He laughed again, then quickly sobered up. "Hey, I didn't mean to snap at you earlier about my parents."

 "It's okay. I guess I was being nosy."

 "Nah, you were only asking the normal questions. I just don't like answering them."

 "Oh. Sorry."

 "You didn't know."

 We went back to watching the program. An uncomfortable silence built up between us. I was feeling extremely awkward and wondering how to break the ice when Ty spoke up again. "My mom's in jail."

 "Oh." What are you supposed to say when someone tells you something like that? He said it so matter-of-factly that I had no idea how to respond. Luckily, he didn't seem to expect me to.

 He went on, his eyes never leaving the TV screen, "Drugs. My dad works two jobs, supposedly to support us, but most of the money goes up his nose. I don't remember the last time I saw him. Maybe a couple of weeks ago. He gave me the money for rent. I have an older sister, but I don't even know if she still lives here. She's always moving in with her latest boyfriend until things go bad, then she runs home until the next one comes along. I try to stay out of trouble and away from home. I don't want to end up like them."

 If I'd thought I didn't know what to say before, now I was even more lost. Still, I felt I owed him some sort of personal revelation as well. "My older brother was murdered."

 He glanced over at me. "Yeah. I remember."

 We went back to watching the show. I wasn't really paying attention, thinking instead about what Ty had told me. It was a lot to process. I knew I'd been through a lot, but he had it much worse. At least my dad was there for me. My mom, too, even though I didn't live with her anymore.

 Suddenly, I noticed that the show had moved on from the first couple and was now focusing on two guys who I realized were gay. I looked at Ty out of the corner of my eye, trying to gauge his reaction. While I wasn't gay, pretty much everyone in my family was. After our little bonding experience, I didn't want Ty to turn out to be some sort of homophobe.

 "Your dad's gay, right?" he asked casually.

 I relaxed slightly. He didn't sound homophobic. "Yeah."

 "So does he, like, have a boyfriend and stuff?"

 "Yeah. His name is Steve. He lives with us."

 Ty glanced over at me. "Really? What's that like?"

 I shrugged. "No different from any other family, really. My brother is gay, too."

 "The one who was killed?"

 "Well, him, too, but also Killian. He's not my real brother, but he lives with us, and he's just like a brother, so I consider him one."

 "That's a lot of gay guys in one house."

 "Yeah, but I'm used to it. It's not that big a deal to me."

 He fell silent again and turned his gaze back to the TV. A commercial for an at-home pregnancy test came on.

 "Do you ever wonder if you are?" Ty asked out of the blue.

 I knew what he was asking, but I decided to play dumb. "Pregnant? Well, there was this one time, but I peed on the little stick and the minus sign thingy came up. Close call, though."

 Ty rolled his eyes. "Gay. Do you ever wonder if you might be gay?"

 "Why would I wonder that?"

 "I mean, your dad's gay, your real brother was gay, your new brother is gay, your dad's boyfriend is gay—"

 "I'd hope so, or my dad would be very disappointed."

 "I'm just saying, that's a whole lot of gay."

 I sighed. "I questioned for a while, but not anymore."

 "So, you're sure?"

 "Yes, Ty. I'm sure. Why? Are you afraid I'm going to hit on you?"

 "No! It's nothing like that, I swear. I guess I'm just... curious."

 "Curious?"

 "Yeah, I've never known any gay guys before."

 "You still don't. But if you really want to, I can introduce you to Killian."

 He fell quiet again for a few minutes, then, "How do you know?"

 "What?"

 "How do you know you're not gay?"

 "How do you know you're not?"

 He looked down at his lap. "I... don't." His voice was barely audible.

 "Oh." Suddenly, all his interest made sense. "So you..."

 He glanced over at me. "Look, don't tell anybody. Okay?"

 "I wouldn't."

 He nodded slightly. "Thanks."

 I waited a few seconds, but he didn't seem to be offering up any more. "So?"

 "What?"

 "Are you?"

 He shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe. I kind of like this guy..."

 "Does he know?"

 "Nope."

 "Why don't you tell him?"

 "Why would I?"

 "Maybe he's gay, too."

 "He's not."

 "How do you know?"

 "I asked him."

 "You asked him?"

 "Yep."

 "And he didn't catch on?"

 "Apparently not."

 I thought about his words. All of a sudden, I realized what he'd said. "It's me."

 Ty grinned. "Damn, Kane. Sometimes you can be really slow."

 "You like me?"

 He shrugged again. "Fat lot of good it'll do me."

 We went back to watching the show, or at least pretending to watch. I don't think either of us was paying attention to it now.

 After a few minutes, Ty turned to me again. "You sure?"

 "That I'm straight? Yeah."

 "You ever kissed a guy?"

 "No."

 "Then how do you know?"

 "Have you ever kissed a girl?"

 "Yeah. I've done a lot more than just kiss a girl."

 "Oh."

 "It was okay, but it didn't really do much for me. I've always wondered what it would be like to kiss a guy."

 "I'm sure you can find somebody to kiss. My brother and his boyfriend started a GSA at school, you know. You could probably meet somebody there."

 "Right. Like I'm just gonna waltz in and start kissing random guys."

 "I didn't say you should kiss random guys."

 "I don't even know for sure that I'm gay. Maybe I'm only, you know... What do they call it? Bi-curious?"

 I rolled my eyes. "The fact that you even know that phrase means you're probably gay."

 He scowled. "I'm being serious."

 "Me, too. Look, what do you want me to do? Kiss you?"

 "Yes."

 "What?"

 "It wouldn't mean anything. I just want to see what it's like."

 "Ty, I'm not gay."

 "Yeah, I think we covered that. I'm not asking you to let me fuck you."

 I felt my cheeks heating up.

 "What's a kiss going to hurt?" he insisted.

 I sighed. He was right. What would a kiss really hurt? "Okay. But just a kiss."

 Ty looked surprised. "Really?"

 I smiled. "Sure. Why not?"

 Ty suddenly seemed very unsure of himself. "Oh. Uh. How?"

 I raised an eyebrow. "You've kissed before, right?"

 "Yeah, but I mean—"

 I leaned forward and pressed my lips against his. His were surprisingly soft — softer and fuller than most girls I'd kissed. It was a quick one, hardly more than a peck on the lips. I sat back and grinned at his stunned expression.

 My grin quickly faded as his look of surprise turned into a frown. "What?"

 "That's it? I didn't even have time to think."

  "So now you want to make out?"

 "I just want a real kiss."

 "Fine." I turned my body to face him more. "But you have to make the first move this time. And you better take me out to dinner afterwards."

 Ty didn't even smile at my joke. He was looking nervous again. Just when I thought he would chicken out, he slowly began to lean forward. I closed my eyes and waited for his lips. This time, I let the kiss linger. I gently pulled away when I felt his hands start to slide around my back, though.

 Ty's eyes slowly opened with a glazed-over expression. He glanced down at his lap, then quickly grabbed a throw pillow and hugged it to his body.

 I fought the smile that threatened to spread across my face. "So, how was it?"

 "I'm gay."

 I couldn't help it. I started laughing. Ty glared at me for a few seconds, then joined me.
 After we'd calmed down, he glanced over at me. "Thanks."

 "It was nothing."

 "It was my first kiss with a guy. I wouldn't call that nothing."

 "True. So how was I?"

 He smirked. "I guess you were okay."

 "Okay? If okay gives you a boner, I'd hate to see what really good does."

 He sputtered for a few seconds before we both burst into laughter again. "I think it's time for you to go home. You ready to walk on the bum leg of yours?"

 I stood up. "Ready when you are. I bet I could still out-trick you on my board."

 "In your dreams, Connelly."

 "Nah, I'm in your dreams, remember?"

 He laughed and started for the door. "You wish."

 "Do I?"

 "Man, I never should've told you." He shook his head, but the smile he was trying unsuccessfully to hide belied his words.

 I walked past him into the yard. "You should come over for dinner."

 "Should I?"

 "Yeah. I know I said you owed me dinner, but I'll take a rain check. This one's on me."

 "Your dad won't mind?"

 "Nah. His theory is the more the merrier. Besides, you'll get to meet some real-live gay people."

 "I dunno."

 "Don't worry. I won't tell them about you, although you can if you want to."

 He looked thoughtful for a moment, then nodded decisively before hopping off the step. "Maybe I will." We started walking in the direction of my house. "Maybe I will."


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