I looked nervously up at Juan's house and seriously thought about just riding away on my bike. I didn't even know why I was so nervous, which annoyed me. It's not like I hadn't been planning on coming over here since he invited me at Kenny's two days ago. It wasn't that I was in an unfamiliar area, because his house was like ten minutes from mine -and seriously what's with all these people living right by me? Owen and Jarred and now Juan, even Kenny was only about ten minutes away from Owen's in a car. It wasn't even because I was stressing out about something that happened today because after Jarred and co seemed go out of their way to be extra douchy to me last week, today they were almost ignoring me. Except Simon, who I kept catching giving me looks all day. I assume they were supposed to be threatening, but honestly he just looked like he was checking me out. Which was hilarious. So, yeah, no stress from school.
The stupid house was even less threatening than Kenny's, but in more of a 'warm mother with a plate of cookies' way than a 'I'm trying to look innocent so you get in my van with me' way.
I shook myself. Come on Andy, just ring the damn doorbell-shit, that's what it was, wasn't it? Yep, right on cue there's the weight in my chest and the rapid breathing. Just like when I have to call someone. Awesome. That fear applies to ringing doorbells too. I sighed, suddenly really, really done with myself. I closed my eyes. Jesus fuck, you came out not even two days ago! THAT was stressful. This shit should be as easy as winning at Grenada.
I still couldn't even believe that it turned out as well as it did though. Coming out, not Granada. The worst thing to come out of it was that Chris still wasn't talking to Juan or Kenny, which I felt bad about. Not just because they weren't talking, but because it was sort of my fault. They were all friends for years and if I never came along and came out, they'd still be friends. Plus, it's more than a little awkward being caught in the middle. Especially since I now had to remember two different sets of words and phrases not to say around two different sets of people. For example: talking about Juan and Kenny is a no no with Chris, talking about Jarred is against the rules with Kenny and Juan since they were feeling too guilty to be mad at Chris and Jarred was a good rant subject, I guess. It was even getting to the point where I didn't wanna talk about any of them to Owen because he'd just sigh sadly and say he hopes they make up soon in that quiet, somber voice.
It was more than a little heartbreaking.
So, even though I was in the -for me- unique position of being involved in problems that weren't totally focused on me, it still felt like it was up to me to fix everything. Which was pretty damn tragic because I couldn't even fix my own problems most of the time.
I sighed and shook myself again. None of this was helping me get my ass up the steps to ring the doorbell. Actually, it was starting to look a lot like stalling. Which I was very good at, if you'll remember the whole walking up to Owen's house for the first time thing. Maybe I should have said we'd do this on a day when Owen was already at Juan's house? Or, better, when Owen could come with me instead of being stuck at the radio station waiting to do his show.
Ok, time to stop stalling. I walked up the steps, closed my eyes and thought of England...um, Owen. That actually distracted me enough to get me to the bell without having a stroke. Go me.
I wished I would have waited just another second to ring it, though, because right after I did I heard two people inside yelling, loudly, in what sounded like Spanish. I did a nervous jerk that I was glad no one was around to see and started chewing on my lip. Oh, God I wanna leave. What if that's, like, a domestic violence thing? Images of every hispanic I'd ever seen on Cops or one of those crime scene shows my dad watches flashed through my head. But instead of the screaming wife throwing vases at her wife beater wearing husband as he was getting lead to the back of a cop car I pictured two wife beater wearing husbands locked in a death struggle, blood and machismo flying everywhere. If I didn't ring the damn bell, I could have ran, but now the damn door was opening and I frozen in place, almost as scared to run away as I was to see what was going on in that house.
Damn you social anxiety!
"Hey, dude. Come on in," Juan said with a smile and a wave, like West Side Story's violent, modern re-imagining wasn't starting up right behind him. Except, when he moved out of the way to let me in I didn't see any street brawls or knife fights. Just a normal hallway with coat hooks, tile floors and other 'just inside the front door' stuff. I poked my head in warily. Maybe if I looked in a bit I could see the first body?
"You coming in?" Juan asked, tilting his head.
There was no body, just more walls -painted a very light purple, no less- and what looked like the beginnings of a dining room off to the right. A nice dining room too. Not that I was the master of interior design and/or housekeeping, but it looked nicer than mine and my mom spends hours every week cleaning and dusting and putting in way too much effort. Still, I wasn't sure if it was safe.
"I...heard yelling," I said quietly.
Juan laughed. "Oh. Yeah my dads are watching Milan."
I looked at him blankly. They're yelling at a Disney movie?
"They're watching soccer," he clarified. "Uh, which you might wanna call football, at least for today," he said with a shrug. "They get kind of, uh, into it."
I didn't feel much better. Visions of gang brawls were replaced with images of soccer riots I'd seen online.
Juan must of noticed how unreassured I was -not like I was going out of my way to hide it or anything- and rolled his eyes. "Seriously dude, it's fine. They probably won't even notice you're here."
I stiffened up as more loud yelling, clearer with the door open, came from deeper in the house. I shot Juan a skeptical look.
He sighed, then reached out, grabbed my arm and yanked me into the house. "H-hey!" I yelled as he let me go and closed the door behind me.
"There, see? Nothing to be worried about," he said with a smile.
I glared at him. "I would have came in on my own," I said, flushing slightly. I was more embarrassed about being scared to go inside his house than I was scared to go inside his house right then.
He gave me his own skeptical look. "Uh huh," he said, sounding just completely convinced. "Um, look, don't say anything about Cheryl to them ok?"
I frowned. "You said they wouldn't-"
"Hey!" Juan yelled into the house. "Andy's here!"
I choked. "You said they wouldn't notice I was here!" I hissed.
Juan started walking into the house, gesturing for me to follow. "Dude, I can't just sneak you in like you're my girlfriend or something. They heard the bell ring anyway, so..." he trailed off with a totally unrepentant shrug.
Lying little shit! I glowered at his back. I'm gonna tell Cheryl you're a leper! Actually, no, she'd probably think that was cool.
It was right about then that I realized Juan was still walking and I was in serious danger of standing in the middle of the hall in a strange house, alone. Which was pretty high of the Shy Boy's List of Things To Avoid. So, I quickly scurried to catch up before someone walked in, saw me, and started asking me things.
I caught up to Juan right as someone stepped out of a side room in front of him. It was at least three different miracles that kept me from crashing into his back like a dorky cartoon character.
The man who was standing in front of us was tall and thin, with deeply tanned skin and pitch black hair that was short and parted neatly to the right. He was wearing a light blue, button down shirt tucked into a pair of black suit pants and a slightly ratty pair of old, out of place sneakers. He didn't look anything like the soccer hooligan I was expecting. Kind of handsome actually, for an older guy.
"Hi," he said, smiling. His voice was deep, but soft, with a slight Spanish accent. "You must be the Andy Juanny was just screaming about?"
"Dad!" Juan growled. "Do you have to call me that in front of people?"
"Of course," he said, grinning and giving me a wink. I swallowed a giggle, totally forgetting for a second that I was supposed to be terrified here. He held out his hand to me. "I'm-"
"El hijo estúpido de una perra!" someone shouted from the room Juan's dad had just come out of.
He spun around and looked back into the room, apparently forgetting he was in the middle of a sentence. I had a second to notice that the back of his head was a lot less neat and put together than the front, before he ran his hand frustratedly through his hair from the side, stopping at the back and gripping tightly. "Carajo," he hissed under his breath.
He took a deep breath, then turned back, taking his hand out of his hair. "Sorry," he said, giving me an embarrassed smile. "Intense game. You watch football?"
I blinked. I had no idea how to answer that. I was kind of intimidated by someone who could yell and swear -at least I guessed that was swearing- in a whole other language. Plus didn't they kill you in Europe if you didn't watch soccer? Um, football?
"N-no," I said softly. It was for the best. If I said yes he'd just ask me more questions and figure out I was lying pretty fast. Especially since I don't think I could even name a single soccer/football position. Or rule. Or team.
He waved his hand back in forth in front of himself in a 'it doesn't matter' gesture. At least I hoped it was that and not a 'you're unclean in my eyes now, be gone foul demon!' one.
"Well, sometimes we get caught up in it," he said. "We're not always this rude." That he said with a bashful grin. Jesus! If he was twenty years younger that would have been cute as all hell. "Anyway," he said. "I'm Luis."
He held out his hand and I shook it automatically.
"My husband's name is Antonio," he said after we let go, "but I think you'll have to wait until after the game to meet him." He smiled wryly. "Unless you wanna watch with us?"
He asked that looking at Juan with teasing, yet still hopeful look. Kind of the way my dad looks at me when he asks if I wanna watch...well, anything really. I also noticed how he just admitted that he was married to another guy like it was nothing. I wonder if he was also looking away from me so he didn't see my first reaction? It seemed like something I'd do. Or maybe he really wasn't worried about me knowing. I wonder if Juan told him about me? Strangely, I didn't feel much panic at that at all.
"Ugh," Juan said exasperatedly. "No, we don't wanna watch football. We're going upstairs."
And with that he grabbed my arm and started dragging me away. That was so Cheryl-like it actually made me feel comfortable here.
Luis laughed as Juan dragged us to, and then up, a nearby set of stairs. "It was nice meeting you Andy!" he called.
"Y-you too," I said. I had no idea if he could hear me, but I was still proud that I was able to get it out. The last thing I heard before Juan pulled me into a room near the top of the stairs and closed the door were two voices groaning loudly before yelling in Spanish again.
"So," Juan said, walking across the room and throwing himself down in a recliner. "That was my dad."
He did that thing people do where they just look at you after saying something, so I guess it was my turn to talk. I didn't really know what to say, so I stalled by trying to find a place to sit. His room was a little smaller than mine, painted a dark green and only had two posters on the wall. They were both of hot women wearing almost nothing rubbing themselves on cars. I...don't even have the words. I quickly looked away. The recliner was the only chair in the room, he didn't even have a computer desk that'd give him an excuse to have a real desk chair, so that just left the bed. I groaned internally. I tried so hard not to blush as I thought about what happened the last time I was in a bed with someone else in the room as I shuffled over and timidly sat on the very edge.
I still had no idea what to say to Juan's patiently expecting look, so in traditional Andy fashion, I said the first thing that popped into my head.
"How do you tell them apart?" I asked, then winced internally. "I mean! Not that they're, twins or anything but, uh, you called him, I mean, Luis, um, your dad...dad. D-do you call the other one dad too? That would get confusing, right?"
I closed my eyes and didn't even try to fight the embarrassed flush, I just hid behind my hair and let it happen. Maybe I should just hang out under the bed until I learn to stop talking after the first question.
Juan just looked at me for a few moments, then burst out laughing. "Dude! You're hilarious!"
I frowned. Juan just kept laughing.
"'The other one?' Really?" he said. "Dude, I can't believe I was worried about you meeting my parents. You're way too awkward to be all judgmental."
I scowled. "S-shut up," I mumbled. "Are you gonna answer the question or just make fun of me?"
"I'm not making fun of you," he said. I raised my eyebrows skeptically. "Seriously. I'm kinda relieved. I know you're gay and everything but I was still a bit scared about someone meeting my parents."
"But...you invited me here pretty easily...?" I trailed off.
He shrugged. "Someone had to be first. Might as well be you."
Again, so jealous that he can so easily do things that I'd give myself a stroke over.
"Oh," I said. Which was pretty much all I could say to that, really. Shut up, I'm getting way better at conversation. I can have a few off days...weeks...whatever. I brushed my hair away from my face. "Thanks?"
Juan chuckled. "Anyway, to answer your question, I call Luis dad and Antonio papa."
"Papa?" I asked before I could stop myself.
Juan rolled his eyes. "I was three, ok? It kinda stuck. I can't just call them Dad One and Dad Two."
"Oh," I said again. Andy Baxter: Human Thesaurus! I giggled a bit at that.
"What? What's funny?" Juan said.
I swallowed. "Um, nothing." Can't exactly say I'm laughing at my own inner monologue.
Juan gave me a skeptical look. I smiled weakly. It was all kind of awkward.
"Um, so, you never had Kenny here?" I asked suddenly. Mostly to break the silence that was starting to get really uncomfortable, but also because I was curious. Kenny knew about Juan's dads way before us, so he should have been here before me, right?
Juan shrugged and looked away. "He, uh, came over. A few times. But it was a while back and he was still kinda...weird about his whole 'liking guys' thing and I think it made him uncomfortable so, it was easier just going over to his place."
For the first time since I knew him, I felt bad for Juan. I could easily imagine how hard it is growing up with two dads. Just as easily as I can imagine how great it would be to out of nowhere have a gay, or bi, friend that you could bring home and not have to worry about being made fun of. And just as easily as I could imagine how disappointing it would be to have that friend STILL be weirded out by it. I totally understood why he was worried about having even me over now.
"Sorry," I said.
Juan gave me a confused look. "For what?"
He sounded like he genuinely had no idea why I was apologizing. To be honest, I didn't either. It just seemed like the thing to say.
I shrugged. "I dunno."
Juan smirked. "You're weird."
I rolled my eyes. "Says the guy with two dads." The second it was out of my mouth I thought that might have been going too far with the 'friendly insults' thing, but Juan just laughed.
"Says the guy that likes dick," he countered.
I blushed, but ignored it as I flipped him off. Juan just cackled.
It was good having a friend.
"So, are your dads ok with you never having any friends over?" I asked a few seconds later.
Juan let out a breath. "Yeah, pretty much. Dad understands it anyway. Papa says I shouldn't care what anyone thinks and that if my friends aren't ok with my family, then they're not really my friends. And I know that, but it's not really about whether or not people are ok with it, it's-"
"About whether they're gonna tell everyone else," I said, cutting him off without meaning to. If I understood anything, I understood that.
"Exactly!" Juan said. "I don't think I could deal with being the kid with the gay parents. Not at that school. It's bad enough being an Asian named Juan."
"Definitely," I agreed. Then my eyes widened in horror. "I mean-!
Juan burst out laughing. "Dude, it's fine," he said, waving off any apology I was gonna make.
I blushed anyway.
"So my dads are fine with it now," Juan said, picking up our conversation like it was never interrupted. "Dad explained it all to Papa. It took him a while to get it though. I think mostly because Mariana brought all her friends over and never really had a problem with anyone knowing."
Mariana? Oh, right, his sister. I totally forgot about her. Which raises the obvious question... "Where is she?"
"At college," Juan said. "She has an apartment there with some people, so she only ever comes back for holidays and stuff." He smirked. "Dad says one of these days she's either gonna come home pregnant or with a Ph D."
I coughed. "O-oh?"
Juan grinned wickedly. "There was an incident," he said ominously.
Right. Ok, well, I don't think I knew anyone in this family nearly well enough to start hearing about any 'incidents'. Even if Juan looked like he really wanted me to ask.
"Uh, so..." I searched for something, anything, else to talk about. "We should, um, make plans, right? Cheryl plans?"
It was the right thing to say. Juan's grin was immediately replaced with a look of eager, embarrassed anticipation.
"Ok," he said. "So how do I win her?"
And now I was back to having no idea what to say. How the hell do you win Cheryl? Well, I knew what she didn't like, so maybe we could start there?
"Um," I said. "Don't be gay, which you seem to have down already. Don't treat her like a girl either, she hates that. Except, she might like that from a real boyfriend so.... Oh! Don't let her 'show you' any 'cool moves', that's code for 'hurting you with karate and calling you a pussy'....um, or maybe you should, if you want her to like you?"
I slumped. This was harder than I thought.
Juan's expression went from smirking, to thoughtful, to skeptical. "...do you have ANY idea how to get her to like me?"
"Not....exactly, no," I admitted with a wince.
He looked like I just told him Santa Claus wasn't real. "But, you said you knew how to help me!"
"I thought I did!" I said. "I just...I dunno anything about getting girls! I don't even know how I got Owen."
"But she's your best friend, right?" he asked.
"Since the womb," I said. My mom liked to say that and I cringed a bit at repeating it out loud. Thankfully he didn't ask.
"Then you should know what kind of guy she likes, what she wants in a boyfriend. All that stuff that best friends talk about."
"Like you talked about liking Cheryl to all your friends?" I shot back. Hey, it was easier than trying to think.
That shut Juan up for a second. "Maybe YOU'RE my best friend?" he suggested innocently. I scowled at him. "Fine," he huffed. "But you're the only one that knows her. And Kenny would just make fun of me. And Owen isn't here. And Chris-"
He winced and dropped the rest of that sentence. "You're the only one that can help me," he said.
I sighed. I knew that. That's why I was here after all. So why was this so damn hard?
"Just start by telling me about her other boyfriends, so I know if I'm doomed from the start or not, ok?" he asked after I didn't say anything.
I groaned. "I already told you she's never HAD any real boyfriends."
Juan blinked. "Oh. Right. Well what the hell does that even mean anyway?"
"Just what it sounds like," I said reluctantly. "All her boyfriends have been fake."
I didn't really wanna explain because it was kind of embarrassing, what with it all being my fault and all, but I didn't see any other way past this. Which was all I had at that point: getting past this.
"She 'dated' a guy named Brandon for a while because he was bothering me. He's gay. She threatened him into dating her." I absolutely refused to say 'rape date' out loud.
Juan swooned. Not even joking. He freaking swooned.
God I hope I don't look like that when I do it.
"After that," I pushed on. Although 'after' was kinda iffy, it was more like 'sorta during' since I didn't really know exactly when she lost interest in the Brandon project. "She lied to my parents and said she was dating Owen. And that's her dating history."
Juan let that sink in for a bit. "So, she dated a gay guy and Owen?"
"Pretended to date Owen," I cut in with a growl. I'd never let her get her hands on my boyfriend for real-
"She's perfect," he said, almost in awe.
That brought me out of my jealousy. "Huh?"
"Who does stuff like that, dude?" he asked. "She's...she's like everything I ever wanted."
You know, I'd always wondered if there could be anyone out there who'd be weird or crazy enough to like the most Cheryl-y bits of Cheryl, and what he'd be like if there was. And now I knew. He was a short, skinny Asian boy with gay dads and a fondness for driving his (real) best friend crazy.
So, I guess I WAS right. He was perfect for her.
"I'm definitely helping you," I said. I just didn't know how.
"How?" Juan asked, almost begged really.
Of COURSE he'd ask that.
I jumped up off the bed and started pacing.
Come on, Andy. You can do this. Not only is this the first time anyone has EVER come to you with a problem that only you could fix, but this boy might actually be the only person in the whole world that has a chance of making your best friend happy in that weird, mysterious, boy-girl way. You NEED to get this right. Cheryl and Juan's happiness, no, their entire future, depends on you and you alone.
So! Think. I could think of at least seventeen ways to use this to fuck with her, but that wasn't the goal anymore. Or even part of it. This was all about getting Cheryl a boyfriend. So, what does Cheryl want in a boyfriend? Besides me a few years ago. I had no idea. We never talked about it. Ok, so, what have we talked about that might have anything to do with love and relationships and all that stuff? When I put it like that, it was obvious. Me. She was filled with all kinda of advice and 'help' about wooing Owen. So, maybe some of that stuff is what she would want done by someone wooing her? It's sort of a long shot, but it's all I have to go on.
So what was her advice? Mostly just, "be yourself, Andy". Everything always came back to that. So, she probably wouldn't like someone twisting themselves in knots trying to be perfect for her. Which means my advice should be "be yourself, Juan." But...that never really helped me when she said it, just made me more confused. Ok then, I'll take it a step further. What would Juan do, if Juan was being Juan? I didn't know him that well, but I'd been around him enough to have some kind of an idea. He seemed like the type to tease. Poking and prodding and throwing someone off balance and then shooting an 'everything's ok' grin so you don't punch him in the neck. But maybe in this situation he'd top it all off with something other than a grin. A grin says "hey dude, let's be friends even though I'm an annoying shit", not "I twist you up like no one else, be mine?" So maybe we replace that with...an over the top romantic gesture?
I stopped pacing. A slow smile crept its way across my lips. That could work. We only had about three weeks until the end of the year, but...yeah, yeah, it's doable.
"Dude, what's going on?" Juan said suspiciously. "You've got a look."
My look just got lookier. "I've got more than that," I said. "I've got an idea."
"About Cheryl?" he asked, hopefulness perking up out of every pore.
"Yep," I said.
"Tell me!" he demanded eagerly.
So I did.
"And...you really think that'll work?" he asked. That, more than anything, made me think I was on the right track. He didn't balk at anything I'd suggested, even the stuff that would give me a heart attack. Just asked if he thought it would work.
"I'm pretty sure," I said. "At the very least it'll embarrass her enough so she doesn't punch you for hitting on her."
"That's a good thing, right?" Juan asked.
I nodded. "Oh yeah, if she's not hitting you, she's noticing you. And if she notices you, she'll like you."
I was less than confident about that last part, if we're being honest here. I was ninety seven percent sure Juan was Cheryl's type and that if she gave him a shot she'd love him eventually, but there's no way I could be sure. This could all be for nothing. But if I've learned anything from Cheryl, it's that the best way to get someone to do something that's good for them is to force them to do it. And if you can't force them, then manipulate them. Since I was about as intimidating as a cool summer breeze, I just went right to manipulation. Not that I was much better at that. If this didn't take on a life of its own after today I doubt I'd be able to do it again.
Juan thought about it for what seemed like a year. I chewed on my lip, getting more nervous by the second. What if he said no? Or worse, what if he started and then gave up halfway through? That would suck for him AND Cheryl, and might set her back from getting a real boyfriend for even longer. Which would mean she'd have more free time to get in the middle of my life.
And, you know, be unhappy and stuff. Which was way more important.
Finally, he nodded to himself. "Ok, when do we start?"
I grinned. Wow, who knew I'd end up being this excited over this? I looked over at the clock, saw it was after six, then kicked myself a bit for missing the start of Owen's show. "Right now," I said, turning on Juan's clock radio.
Lucky for me, Owen's show was part of the plan.
I called him up on my cell and put him on speaker phone.
"Hey, love," Owen said.
Juan snickered. I blushed and let my hair fall in front of my face. "H-hi," I said. "We need your help."
"We?" he asked.
"Hey, dude! You're on speaker phone, so no phone sex!" Juan said, grinning.
"No promises," Owen said.
"Owen!" I hissed.
Owen just chuckled. "Sorry. So, what are you doing with...oh, are you helping him with the Cheryl thing?" He sounded slightly dejected.
"Yeah," I said.
"Oh...I kinda wanted to help too..." Owen trailed off.
Shit, now I felt bad. Lucky for me, I had the perfect response. "You can! Actually, that's why I called. You sorta have a really important role."
"Really?" Owen said, perking up slightly.
"Yep," I said. Then I told him the plan.
"You really think Juan's gonna have the balls to do that?" Owen asked when I was done.
"Hey!" Juan said. "Juan's right here, you could just ask him. Me. Whatever."
Owen let out an indulgent sigh. "So do you-"
"Of course I do," Juan said indignantly. "When the hell have I ever been shy about making an ass out of myself?"
Owen was silent for a second. "Good point."
"Besides, Andy says it'll work, so I've got nothing to worry about, right?"
I winced slightly. His blind faith made me nervous. If this didn't work out I was gonna feel like a total shit.
"Right," Owen said instantly. "Andy's smarter than he looks. If he says it'll work it'll work."
HIS blind faith just made me feel all warm and sunshiney inside. If Owen believed in me then I felt like I couldn't be wrong. Wait a second...
"Smarter than I look?" I asked.
"I-I didn't mean that you look stupid or anything!" Owen said quickly. "It's just that, you're so beautiful and usually beautiful people don't have brains but you do, and you're amazing and perfect and I'm sorry I said that....are you mad at me?"
By the time he was done I couldn't decide whether to die from embarrassment that he said all that with Juan listening in, die from embarrassment because he said it at all or die from my heart stopping from how sweet that was.
"I-I'm not mad," I mumbled. I wanted to tell him how much I loved him, but I couldn't quite force the words out with Juan right next to me.
"I'm sure!" I said, trying not to laugh.
"Right," Owen said. I could just picture him nodding and making another mental note not to ask if I'm sure. "Ok. Good. Because I meant everything I said."
I smiled. "I know."
"Ok, the song's ending. I gotta go. Call me tonight, ok?" he asked.
"I will," I said.
"Love you," he said.
This time Juan outright laughed. I blushed again. "I l-love you too," I practically whispered into the phone.
"I love you, too!" Juan yelled.
"Shut up Juan!" Owen yelled. Then, in a quieter voice. "Don't be afraid to hit him."
I giggled. "Noted."
"Bye," I said quietly.
We hung up.
It took less than a minute for the song to end and Owen to come on.
"This next song is dedicated to Cheryl, from her secret love. It's 'Steal Your Heart' by Augustana."
And with that, Operation: Cheryl Wooage was underway.
The first part, as you can probably already guess, was having Juan secretly dedicate love songs to her. I knew that she listened to Owen's show everyday, requested songs all the time too. Usually really weird or obscure ones, just to see if Owen had them. So far, she never managed to pick one he didn't have or know about. It made me proud for some reason. So, I knew she'd hear it. And that it would eventually drive her crazy.
I'm not trying to mess with her, I swear! A big part of the plan is getting her off balance so she doesn't react the same, violent way she usually does when someone asks her out. A few weeks of having secret crush love songs played for her on the radio without having any idea who's playing them is a good start.
And, sure enough, the second the song was over my phone started ringing.
Now we get to the part where this whole thing can totally fall apart. I think we've already been over how bad I am at lying, right? Well, this whole next step -call it step 1.5 since we're never getting to two if I fuck it up- is all about me convincing Cheryl I have no idea what's going on. And the worst part is, I had NO control over how this was gonna turn out. I can't lie to her. At all. Even when I try and do it well, she knows. It's creepy. So all I could do was try to sound normal and hope she never asked me outright if I knew who dedicated the song to her.
Master of plans, I am.
"Hey," I answered after three rings. Didn't wanna seem like I was waiting for her call or anything. Juan watched me intently. It made me nervous, so I turned away from him. I could still feel his eyes on me though, his hopes and dreams resting on my shoulders. This is gonna be hard.
"Andy," she said solemnly. "I love you too."
"W-what?" I sputtered.
Cheryl burst out laughing. "Oh God! Did you think I was serious?"
"No!" I said. Ok, maybe I did. Shut up! I'm under a lot of pressure here!
"You SO did!" Cheryl laughed. "Oh God, Andy, seriously, you're hilarious. Seriously."
"You said that twice," I grumbled. Getting made fun of was NOT how I expected this conversation to go.
She ignored me. "But seriously -that's three times" Ok, maybe she didn't. "-that was you right? With the secret love thing?"
"No," I said. Almost grateful for the question. Both it's easiness and the subject changeyness. "It wasn't me."
So far no lies, luck is with me.
Cheryl paused. "Seriously?"
"Yeaaaaaah," I drew it out, going for annoyed sarcasm, then winced. No acting dammit! Just answer her questions!
"Goddammit!" she cursed.
I blinked. "Um. You WANTED it to be me?" Ok, I can't resist. "You, uh, you know I like you as a friend, right..."
"Oh shut up," she said. "And damn right I wanted it to be you! How the hell did she find out about Owen's show? How the hell does she even LISTEN to it?! Stupid, annoying-" she kept going on like that.
Ok, now I'm totally lost.
"...what the hell are you talking about?" I asked. Cutting into her rant.
"-trying to fuck with me and, huh? Did you say something?" she said.
"Um, yeah, what are you talking about? Who's 'she'?" I asked.
"Michelle!" she said, like it was obvious.
"...the girl from the beach?" I asked after thinking for a few seconds.
"Yes! She keeps sending me emails and calling me and-"
"Wait, how did she get your phone number?" I remembered trading email addresses, but not anything else.
"...she said she wanted to text me," Cheryl said defensively.
I choked back a laugh. "Um, oh?" I said, so tactfully not making fun of her the way I wanted to.
"Shut up," she said. Then paused. "...YOU told her! Didn't you?"
"Your phone number? You just said you-"
"No!" she yelled. "About Owen's show!"
"What? No. No, I didn't tell her anything. I haven't got any emails from anyone." Ok, so I haven't actually checked my email since we got back from Turtle Beach, but it doesn't make it any less true.
"Then how did she find out?"
"I don't know!" I yelled. No! Bad idea! If she thinks it's Michelle trying to annoy her then this won't work either. Dammit! Think! "Maybe it's not even her."
"It has to be. Who else would have the balls to mess with me if it isn't you or her?" she asked.
With anyone else, that would come off as arrogant. With Cheryl, it just came off as an honestly curious question.
"Maybe...no ones fucking with you?" I suggested. I tried to sound hesitant. Yeah, I know, goes against the 'no acting' rule, but by this point acting a little was the only thing that was gonna save this.
To my surprise, Cheryl actually thought about it. "Who the hell would dedicate a song to me?" she asked. I tried to gauge how she was reacting, but all I could hear in her voice was vague confusion and maybe a little bit of contempt. Not exactly the best response, but about what I expected. More or less. The plan could work with it. If I didn't fuck it up.
I made an ambiguous noise, hoping that she'd just take that to mean...something.
It must have worked, because she just got thoughtful again. "Whatever," she said. And then dismissive. But thoughtful was first, so I had hope. "It's probably just someone being a cock."
"Or it could be someone actually likes you," I said. "You get on me for being pessimistic all the time, so maybe you should listen to your own advice."
She snorted. "You're pessimistic all the time though."
"Well, now I'm not. And it's kinda nice."
"See?" Cheryl said smugly. "Listening to me is good for you."
"And it'll be good for you too," I countered. I also bit back telling her that I was actually listening to Owen's advice and not hers. Kinda counter productive here. "Just don't dismiss the whole idea. You told me the same thing about Owen and it led me to the best thing in my life. Just...keep an open mind, ok?"
I figured that was as thick as I could lay it on without her getting suspicious.
"Whatever," she said again. But the thoughtfulness was back, so I had to stop from doing an embarrassing victory dance. I decided to push (my luck) a bit more.
"You have to admit that it'd be cool to have a real boyfriend though, right?" I asked.
Cheryl snorted. "No. No I don't." Then she let out a small laugh. "If I did have one though I might have a shot at losing my virginity before you again."
You know, in hindsight, that joke shouldn't be all that unexpected. It wasn't even the first time she'd joked with me about her 'getting laid' before I'd have enough guts to admit that I even wanted to date anyone. It wasn't even the first time since I got together with Owen that she'd teased me about 'putting out' before she would. Hell, it wasn't even the first time since I'd had SEX with Owen that she joked about it. I even managed to keep it cool -for me anyway- then. So, I should have expected something like that, and I should have reacted the way I normally did when she got teasy like that.
Except the exact opposite happened.
"Ack!" I choked, my whole face going red. It was just too unexpected and everything I had was focused on Not Screwing Things Up For Juan that it just slipped past my defenses and stabbed me right in the non virgin heart. "I-I-I-I-" Oh God, shut up! "I-I-I-" I can't! "I-I-" I clamped my hand over my mouth.
But the damage was done.
"OH. MY. GOD." Cheryl said. I had flashbacks to the first time I did anything with Owen and she found out. But this was WAY worse. Last time she only THOUGHT I'd had sex. This time I actually DID and HOW THE HELL DID WE GET HERE ANYWAY!? "You didn't."
"You DID," she gasped.
I bit my lip, HARD, to keep from making any kind of noise.
It didn't work.
"YOU SLUT!" Cheryl practically screamed.
I didn't even bother pulling the phone away from my ear, or flinching. I just...died. Right there in Juan's room. That's my corpse. Dead on the floor. Somehow still standing. Somehow still holding the phone. Somehow still DYING.
Cheryl didn't notice. "I can't believe you gave it up! When? Was it on vacation? Oh God, it WAS! I KNEW you two looked squirmy in the car! I can't believe you were sitting right there devirginized and I was too close to throwing up to notice!"
"I-I'm about t-to th-throw up right now," I managed to push out over the dry desert where my throat used to be.
"Don't be like that," she said. "I'm happy for you. My little Andycane's a man now."
I clenched my jaw. "Oh God, shut up, shut up, shut up! And you're not happy for me!" I hissed. "You just called me a s-slut!"
"Yeah, sorry about that," she said sheepishly. "I was surprised though! You always seemed so...innocent. I thought it'd be years before you actually got some."
"Oh God," I groaned. "I don't wanna p-picture you thinking about...this! I just...I just wanna...hang up. And never look at you again."
Which seems to be my go to plan for when anyone finds out about me having sex. But if it didn't work for Nurse Amy, it sure as hell wasn't gonna work for Cheryl.
"That'll work," Cheryl snorted. "You know, they say if you can't say it then you're not ready to do it-"
"No!" I yelled. "No way. You are NOT giving me advice right now."
"Too late for that anyway," she said dryly.
I closed my eyes. "Please," I begged quietly. "Please just don't make fun of me about this. I-it was one of the best things that's ever happened to me and I don't want you ruining it. Please."
Cheryl sighed. "Alright. I won't. But, you know I don't mean anything by it, right? I really am happy for you. Even if it's a little bit weird that you're all sexually active now."
I blushed again. Which only surprised me because I had no idea the last one even stopped. "O-ok," I said. Maybe if I just didn't participate in the conversation it would end.
"Ok, I'm gonna go. But we're not gonna be weird at lunch tomorrow, got it?" she asked.
Holy shit, that actually worked.
"Y-yeah. Sure," I lied. There was no chance in hell tomorrow wasn't gonna be awkward, but I would have said almost anything to get off the phone.
"You're such a liar," Cheryl said. See what I mean? Creepy. "But I'm gonna hold you to it anyway. Bye Andy."
I hung up without saying anything.
I was not at ALL looking forward to lunch tomorrow. At least it was out there, right? I didn't have to worry about how she was gonna react anymore. She already did. And it was as bad as I expected. But at least it can't get any worse, right?
I turned around and saw Juan standing there, staring at me, wide eyed and chewing on his thumbnail.
I closed my eyes. "H-how...how m-much of that did you hear?"
"Uh," Juan said, sounding a bit shellshocked. "All of it? Your phone's pretty loud, dude."
I cringed and blushed. "God...dammit." Can I please die now?
We didn't say anything for a few minutes. Just stood there in the most uncomfortable silence ever. No, really, can I just DIE?
Finally, Juan broke the silence. "So, is this a good time to ask how it went?"
I swallowed. Ok, that I can answer. Even if I wasn't exactly enjoying the idea of getting Cheryl a boyfriend as much as I was a few minutes ago. "She doesn't seem completely against the idea. If you keep to the plan, it should start to work."
"That's awesome," Juan said. "But I wasn't talking about that. I was asking about you and Owen, you know?"
My eyes snapped open. Juan had a smirk on his face that I can only describe as hopefully mischievous. I wanted to punch it off.
"I hate you," I said seriously.
Juan just grinned. "Hell, dude," he said. "That's how you know we're really friends."