That Saturday, Kyle got a haircut and picked up his contact lenses. He phoned Nelson, full of excitement. All afternoon he kept startling himself in the mirror--no more braces, no more glasses. For the first time in his life, he actually thought he was good-looking. He straightened his shoulders and grinned unabashedly, eager for Jason to see him.
At dinner, he could hardly contain himself. But as he hurried toward Jason's house, his anxiety returned. What if he said something stupid or did something wrong and Jason ran away again? Please, God, he prayed, don't let that happen.
As he approached Jason's house, he stepped more slowly. Something seemed out of whack. The driveway was empty. The windows were dark.
Kyle pushed the doorbell and heard it ring inside. No one answered. His heart plummeted. Jason had blown him off, he was sure of it.
He jammed his thumb against the bell one last time and turned to leave, but something nagged him. The house felt sad and lonely somehow. Maybe he should just look around, make sure everything was okay. He cupped his hands against the little rectangle of glass on the front door. Inside he saw only darkness.
He tried the doorknob, certain the door would be locked. It wasn't. He glanced over his shoulder, drew a deep breath, and opened the door. "Hello?" he said softly. His timid voice fell flat in the dark room. "Hello?" he reported. Not a sound. What the heck was he doing? What if Jason's father caught him?
Through the dark, he saw a dim light in the hall beyond the living room. He inched around the furniture toward it. "Hello?" he whispered again.
He crept softly down the hall, ready to run if necessary. The door to Jason's parents' room hung open. The moonlight through the window revealed closet doors gaping wide. The dresser drawers were overturned on the bed.
Kyle's heart pounded in his chest. As he continued down the hall, he saw the glow of light coming from the outline of Jason's door, slightly open. Kyle pushed it gently.
Jason sat on the bed, leaning against the headboard. His eyes were closed, his cheeks wet. Headphones from the pocket CD player blared tinny music into his ears.
Kyle attempted to make sense in the dark, empty house and Jason alone in his room crying. He nudged the door a little farther and called,
The damp eyes slowly drew open.
"Hi," Kyle ventured.
Jason raised the back of his hand, wiped his swollen eyes, and pulled the headphones off. Music surged out.
Kyle awkwardly motioned behind him. "The front door was unlocked."
Jason stared at him a moment, then cleared his throat. "Finally happened," he explained. "He left for good. All because of me. I always thought he wanted to leave, but . . I should never have gotten into it with him. He buried his face in his hands. "I fucked up big time."
Kyle now understood the empty driveway, the overturned dresser drawers, the sad, lonely feel of the place. "It's not your fault . . ." he started to protest, but he sensed it was better just to listen--just be there. "Where's your mom?"
Jason looked up, his brown eyes misting up again. "My aunt's."
Kyle wished he knew what to do, but he'd never seen Jason like this. He sat down on the bed beside him. "I'm really sorry."
Jason shook his head, then leaned into Kyle's shoulder.
Kyle realized there were tears on his own face now. Trembling, he reached out and cradled his arm around Jason. He felt so sad for him, quivering beneath his touch, crying softly. At the same time, it felt good to hold him, the boy he loved.
Jason looked up at Kyle. His soft, damp cheek brushed his own, and their lips touched. Kyle's body melted beneath the kiss, but his mind was flooded with anxiety. This wasn't the right time.
"We better not," he said, drawing away. "You're upset. You may feel different tomorrow."
Jason stared back with a look so hurt it broke Kyle's heart.
"What about your mom?" Kyle insisted.
Jason ran a hand through his curls, as if considering. When he looked again at Kyle, his face was changed, looking calm like Kyle had never seen it. "She won't be back till late. Please, stay?"
The song from the headphones drifted beside them, dispersing Kyle's resolve. If this was what Jason wanted, he would give it to him. He might die from pain if Jason ditched him after, but he'd get through somehow. "I want to," Kyle said, and Jason's arms, strong and determined, pulled him close.
They kissed more boldly now, followed by a tug of Kyle's jacket. The cap slipped from his head, and he started to reach for it but then let it fall. His shirt came off next, momentarily cloaking him in darkness, the air cool against his bare chest.
Jason reappeared, the T-shirt tossed aside, his dark eyes intent. In between kisses Kyle fumbled to unbutton Jason's shirt. He shifted angles, propped himself up, and still couldn't get his fingers to work the buttonholes. "I'm sorry. I feel so stupid."
"Shh," Jason whispered, reaching down to undo the buttons. The shirt miraculously opened with a burst of cologne. Kyle stared in quiet awe at Jason's chest.
Jason said, "What's the matter?"
"Nothing," Kyle lied, and quivering, touched him.
He let his hands go everywhere, wanting to feel every part of Jason--tracing his face and exploring every muscle. Jason reached for the lamp, veiling them in darkness. When their mouths reunited, they kissed with an urgency from which there was no turning back.
Kyle held Jason's face in his hands, kissing him more deeply. He moved his hands down his back and felt how hard his body was. Their movements hastened as they groped and bumped. And Kyle's excitement mounted, till he feared he couldn't contain it.
"I love you, Jason. I really mean it . . . I love you."
As soon as he said it, Jason's hands slid away. Kyle wanted to die. How stupid could I be, he thought.. I should just shoot myself and end my misery.
Then Jason gripped him again, with renewed passion, and in a barely audible voice he answered Kyle: "I love you back."
When Kyle awoke in the dark, it seemed almost as if it had been a dream. But he turned on the pillow and saw Jason beside him, traced by moonlight, entwined in his arm.
Kyle studied him, marveling in silence at the boy with whom he'd made love. A trickle of saliva glistened from his barely open mouth. His breath came in sleepy puffs. Kyle wanted to stay in the room with Jason forever, just as they were. The future seemed clear: help Jason with math so he wouldn't lose his scholarship, graduate together, go to Tech united, build a life, maybe adopt children, live long, and die in each other's arms, just as they were now. Of course, this assumed Jason wouldn't freak out when he woke up.
Kyle tried to think of a few comforting words to have ready. Maybe then Jason would feel okay. But before Kyle could conjure any sage phrases, Jason raised a sleepy hand to his nose. His eyes blinked open. Upon seeing Kyle, the eyes clouded for a moment, then cleared with recognition.
"You don't hate me, do you?" Kyle whispered.
Jason blinked again. "Huh?"
A car engine sounded in the driveway. "Shit!" Jason sprang up. It's my mom!" He scrambled from beneath the covers and ran to close the door.
Kyle reached for the nightstand lamp. "I can't see anything."
The light turned on. There stood Jason, his lean, muscled body naked in front of Kyle. In that moment Kyle thought contact lenses were the greatest invention ever created. He stared breathlessly, beyond caring that Jason's mom was home, forgetting the outside world even existed.
"Come on!" Jason hopped into his underwear, tugging them on. "Get dressed!"
Mrs. Carrillo called from down the hall. "Jason?"
Kyle touched back down to Earth from Naked Jason Land, dressing speedier than he ever had in his life. Jason straightened the bedspread. Kyle jammed his shoes on, not bothering with the laces.
A knock came from the door. "Jason?"
"You zipper," Jason whispered, and Kyle zipped it.
"Look normal," Jason ordered, opening the door cheerily. "Hi, Ma. We were just listening to music."
Mrs. Carrillo's eyes were red and puffy, as if she, too, had been crying that afternoon. Melissa lay asleep on her shoulder.
Kyle tried to ease his breathing and look natural. "Hi, Mrs. Carrillo." He wanted to say something sympathetic. "I'm sorry about what's happened."
"Thanks," she said, trying to smile, but her mouth didn't seem to cooperate. Her eyes moved between him and Jason. She shifted Melissa on her shoulder. "Don't stay up too late," she told Jason. "We have a busy day tomorrow."
After she left, Jason glanced down at his shirt. "Shit," he whispered, tucked it into his pants.
Kyle gritted his teeth. "Do you think she realized . . ."
"I don't know. You better go." He looked so worried that Kyle was sure he was going to say, "Look, sorry, it was all a mistake. Could we forget it ever happened?"
Kyle braced himself for the worst as they walked to the front door. Once there, he didn't want to say good-bye but was at a loss for what to say in its place.
Jason gave a shrug, as though he didn't know either. "Well, I better see how my mom's doing. See you at school," he whispered, and disappeared inside.
Kyle stood there a moment, wishing they had said more. He bit into his lip and could still taste the lingering salt from Jason's cheeks. The living room went dark, and the familiar sinking feeling came back--ditched once more. Kyle tried to reassure himse.f Jason hadn't especially freaked out. Not yet, anyway.
He wandered home and stepped stealthily up the stairs to his room. His parents' door was ajar, the light on. Sneaking past would be impossible, so he leaned in to say hi.
His mom sat in bad, penciling a crossword, eyeglasses perched on her nose. His dad lay asleep beside her. "Did you have a nice time?" she whispered.
Kyle knew she hoped he had. She liked Jason, and he wished he could tell her, "He said he loves me back!" Instead, he shyly nodded.
"I'm glad." Then her face took on a puzzled look. "Honey, where's your cap?"