"Stop! Look, I dated him - err... her. I dated her for a week, Dar. Don't give me that look! Two dates, and then we randomly encountered each other on New Years. Some people called her Steven. And Stacy. That's a unisex name. I had no idea."
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have laughed," said Dario, trying to calm himself. He failed to wipe the smug grin from his face. "I realize I'm being insensitive, but try and look at it from my perspective."
"Screw your perspective!" reeled Diego. "It's amusing, yes, but it's also quite tragic. Communication is key, otherwise people get hurt. Both of them."
"He is rather pissed at you," Dario pointed out. He? She? Whatever!
"She is," acknowledged Diego, his voice full of resentment toward Stacy. "Those feelings are mutual, at least."
Finally, Dario drew his lips tight. Glad you're not so mad at me, then. Now that I've finally stifled my laughter.
"She doesn't like labels. So I never used the word 'gay' to describe me, or her. Not until New Years."
"That surprises me," admitted Dario. "How close did you get?" Am I prying?
"She told me about how her Mom disapproves of her choices. And always calls her Steven whens he insists on being Stacy. It annoys her, how insensitive her mother is, insistently accentuating her masculinity. I assumed she was just... more flamboyant than me."
"I didn't think that was your type," ventured Dario. What is his type though?
"It's not what I look for," said Diego. "But it was nice to be free of labels, none of that top or bottom crap. She was a refreshing non-conformist. Spoke with a man's high falsetto, but it's not lisped like a fairy's. Her wrists aren't loose. Despite being flamboyant, she wasn't a uhmm... stereotype. Fresh, bold, I guess. And that's what I needed after Billy. I guess I got so lonely I didn't have a type. But she grew on me. Fast."
"Dare I ask how close you got... physically?"
Diego blushed. "Not as far as I got with Billy. We took it slow. And not by gay standards. Like a boring, traditional straight couple. The first date ended with a hug, not a kiss."
"Huh," was all Dario could manage at first. Firm eye contact told him it was true. "Was that her choice or yours?"
"It was mutual. Second date, we cuddled. Spooned, I guess."
"On one end. But she was under me, and too nervous for her arousal to show itself that way so soon. In her mind, it would have blown her cover and scared me off. She wasn't ready to tell me what she was. She was thick with the presumption that I thought it was a heterosexual relationship. I wasn't exactly dressing gay until after New Years."
"Ehhh... that's unfortunate. Using 'you' and 'I' pronounds the whole time?"
"Yup. And physically being guarded. I guess I've been more cautious after, y'know... what that jerktard did to me," Diego recalled, watching his twin brother grow tense. "And now I'm more cautious emotionally, too, after what Stacy did. Dunno how long it will last though."
Dario's fist hit the desk abruptly.
"What's the matter?" Diego asked, confused.
"No, it's not what you think," said Dario. "I'm not angry at you. It's not the guy you're dating, either. Yes, I know about him. I'm angry at Billy, and at myself. See, there's something I've kept from you. You weren't the only one he got to."
Diego turned his head to the side, while keeping his eyes on the same spot, to give himself a serious and interrogative edge against his brother.
"It happened before I got this," Dario said, his finger landing indicatively upon his lip ring. "When school started early after New Years...
Monday, January 3rd, 2011.
You know the day. I know you made me promise not to ask or talk about that day, but clearly there's no reason for that now that I know about Stacy. We were each other, not ourselves. I was walking down the hall, after taking notes for you in your English class. Landers was there to keep me on track. It was easier than fifth period, when we switched clothes in the bathroom and put bandaids on our necks.
Anyways, Landers had to go to the library, so I said goodbye. I did so with a hug, instead of a pat on the back, just to stay in character.
He laughed at me.
I seethed. And then walked it off.
That fairy niner waved to me as I did so, and I smiled back politely like I figured you would, fighting every urge in my body to flip him the bird for ogling me.
Then, when I got further down the hall, Virginia came over from her locker, put her arm around you, well me... I was you. But she didn't know. And damn, it's amazing how close a woman will get to you when she thinks you're gay. I had no idea.
I kept walking toward the cafeteria.
And she started babbling in my ear about her sex life. Honestly, I had no idea she had a sex life! She may be seventeen, but she looks fifteen. Then I realized part of me wasn't staying in character.
I was wearing your black skinny jeans, Diego. With that rainbow-beaded belt of yours. I don't know how you deal with wood in those. I nearly passed out. Apart from Alexis's on rare occasions, I'd never been so close to a pair of breasts I wasn't an infant breast-feeding from.
I'm afraid she noticed my er--err... excitement. Yes, Diego, that's probably why she thinks you like Jeff. Anyways, she said your advice worked wonders, and that he said it was the best ever.
Wait- what? Was she talking about... ewww, Diego, I don't need that image stuck in my head! That's almost as bad as what happened next.
See, after Jeff came and Virginia left, without so much as a jealous glance in my direction, I was two feet from the cafeteria line-up when someone in the throng of people grabbed me by the wrist and dragged me around the corner.
"We need to talk, Diego," was all he said. Gave me this come-hither look, and I followed him away from the line-up. He made a bee-line for the gym hall, and entered a deserted changeroom.
I almost blew my cover. But I made you a promise. I stood there, with my hands on my neck like I do when I'm nervous and craving a smoke.
He batted it away, exposing my neck, "You think this is funny?"
I looked at him, confused. I wanted to run.
"If you were trying to make me jealous, well then, you've succeeded," he told me. Then he pried the other hand off the other side of my neck. But there was nothing hidden there. He rubbed at it with his hand, probing for cover-up.
But I wasn't wearing any.
Then he smiled at me, downright lovingly. He was salivating, like he was hungry.
"Looking for my brother's hickey?" I asked him, despite how disarmed and disturbed I felt.
"No. I had heard it was you with one, and that made me realize something."
"What's that?" I asked, edging myself toward the door.
"I was wrong," he told me. "I was wrong to do what I did to you. It won't happen again."
At the time, I had no grasp of exactly what he'd done to you, Diego. I thought it was just the violence he was apologizing for. And an apology hardly suffices for that, to begin with. I didn't know there'd been any courtship. My thoughts sped, trying to come up with a course of action that might be your own. In the end, I remained silent.
He moved closer. "Let me make it up to you," he offered. Or something like that.
I stood there for a very long time. I was anchored in place by our promise. And terrified I was five minutes away from getting my empty stomach kicked right out of me just for being you. I might be able to stand my own against Billy, but he has friends. And unlike me, he knows how to fight.
I clamped my hands down against my neck, and sat down on the changeroom bench. I wanted a smoke so badly. I shouldn't have been giving him any of your time.
He knelt down in front of me, and started saying some poetic stuff about you. I stopped paying attention. I wanted to be somewhere else. I tried to shut him out. And... Diego, he... his hands... they went places. So did his tongue. And lips... I... guh, it gives me the creeps. I just sat there, as tense as could be, waiting for it to end.
It was horrible.
They used to say 'fight or flight'. I couldn't do either. But now they teach stress responses threefold: fight, flight or freeze. And that's what I did, Diego. I froze. I pictured Alexis. I focused on the notion of her. I clung to it for sanity as I began to tremble toward the edge.
I tried to shut everything else out. I tried to pretend Billy Lorne wasn't in the room. The bastard did unspeakable things to me. Put his fingers places that churn my stomach. Sure, it felt good, but wrong. Even once I was used to the pain. It's not what I want. It was all so wrong... I... don't know why I didn't kick him off me and tell him to screw off alone.
"Woah..." Diego was sitting back on the guest room bed, as his brother finished telling him about what Billy had subjected him to. "No wonder you hate what I'm becoming."
"Don't say that!" argued Dario, his face wet with tears. "You're not becoming anything like Billy."
"I kick people around just as bad in the end," said Diego. "I put you in that situation! And I broke that poor girl's heart without a second thought. Your experience tells me that this kinda stuff is all a matter of perspective. When I put myself in her shoes, I see a misleading, unintended accident."
"How did it end?" Dario asked. Do I even want to know?
"Something-came-up. I-stated-my-appreciation. And then... she realized I was into her as something she didn't want to be," Diego said everything too fast.
"Huh? You mean, she b-boned you, you ummm... liked it and said so, and..."
"And then she told me it wasn't meant to be like that," Diego finished. "Damn shame too. But whatever. I've moved on. To someone with more of a forthright, candid nature."
"Good. Tell me about him when you're ready. Just... y'know, don't tell me too much. I don't want to relive that experience."
"Guhh..." Diego raised his eyes in disgust. "Dario, that was tantamount to rape."
"Yeah... I-I... I don't know how it ended. Next thing I knew, I was in the cafeteria with your friends. Look, maybe it didn't happen. Maybe I... imagined it all."
"Umm... okay. River in Egypt, much? Look, remember this belt? I bought it the Saturday after the party."
"Yeah, I just mentioned it a minute ago. What about it?" asked Dario.
"I bought the frontpiece accessory on it separately. It comes right off."
Dario frowned. "What the heck is the point of that?"
"I've never had a reason to use it. I bought it impulsively."
"Huh? You've worn it all the time!"
Diego shook his head.
"You're wearing it right now!" Dario said, raising his voice.
"It's got a hidden camera in it. That big panel isn't just big for show."
Their eyes met wide.
Footsteps came from down the hall.
"It can take hours worth. I left my 8 gigabyte SD card in it that day. Haven't taken it out since."
"Seriously?" asked Dario.
"Give it to me!" yelled Dario, lunging onto the bed.
"Get off me!" cried Diego, trying to crawl away from his brother.
"No, give me the footage!"
Diego dove down the length of the bed, thrusting his hips away from his brother's reach.
"I'm gonna take that belt right off you, bro!"
"We could nail him, Dario!"
"I don't care!"
"You should! This is big, Dar. Bigger than I think you can take."
"Look, I really don't want to remember what it's like to a-a-ahhh!" he tried to grab his brother by the leg, but got kicked instead.
"But this is our only chance! We can expose this monster on film!"
An innocent silhouette now stood in the doorway of the bedroom, watching them.
Diego noticed, froze. His eyes grew wide with apprehension. His brother's arms tightened firmly around his belt, and began to slide it off.
Metal slid through loop after loop.
Kayla burst into tears and ran off from where she had been standing.
Diego cursed, "Frickin' schoolgirl crush."
Dario looked up, confused.