A real romance?

Luke keeps getting put in gay situations. And now his fake boyfriend Ryan has a real suitor. Luke’s best friend is Zach. Those last two sentences aren’t related to each other… right? Right?

Here’s an excerpt from One Little Word.

Luke

Lunch was awkward. Of course it would be awkward. I had just sucked face with a guy in front of our table. The seniors had gotten up and left, something they usually did when Ryan sat with us, but it felt different now. This wasn’t a video or a rumor. I had just kissed a guy in the cafeteria. I thought the stares were bad before.

“This isn’t right,” Ted said, and some of the guys nodded.

“Come on, man—” I started.

“No, it’s not that,” he interrupted, gesturing between me and Ryan. “I mean, I’m not thrilled about that,” he admitted, looking at us distastefully. Yeah, that was quite obvious I wanted to snap but managed to hold my tongue. “It just seemed like…” Ted looked at Zach and the other guys followed suit.

I looked at him, not getting it. What, Zach had the biggest problem? We were best friends. I’d have thought he’d at least try to be supportive, or pretend to be. Okay, Zach didn’t really do supportive, but I didn’t think he’d go out of his way to be a bigger asshole than he already was. That was true friendship for him.

“Uh, we thought you and Ryan were just pretending,” Joey said carefully. “And just a second ago, we were pretty sure Zach liked Ryan.”

God, Joey was so dumb. The catcher obviously took too many fastballs to the head, even with a helmet. “It must have been a misunderstanding,” I said easily.

“No, he’s right,” Ted said. What? The rest of the guys nodded.

“Zach’s straight,” I informed them. Was that something I even needed to say? He seemed to have a new girl every week.

“Well, actually,” he piped up.

“What?” No, no way. I stared between him and Ryan. Ryan looked down, not saying anything or meeting my eye, and he removed his hand from mine. Shit, I didn’t even realize we were still holding hands.

“Nothing’s going on between Ryan and I,” Zach chimed in when it was clear me and Ryan weren’t going to say anything, “As obviously he and Luke are so in love, but I was inspired by your PDA to come out.”

“How is this even possible? Is there something in the water?” Ted asked sarcastically. Joey put down the bottle of water he was about to bring to his lips, staring at it like it was poison.

Zach looked at Ryan, and the two traded a warm look, like they were in on a secret. What the hell? I suddenly felt annoyed for some reason. I wanted to grab Ryan’s hand again but that felt too petulant.

“Nope, no way,” Ted said. Joey was looking at everyone who passed by our table with suspicion and distrust, trying to see if there was someone with a rainbow sign around their neck reading ‘I’M GAY’ that he missed somehow.

“You’re gay?” is what I asked Zach. I couldn’t believe it. It seemed like the rest of us were freaking out, fidgeting and staring at Zach like there was still a hope he could be joking, but Zach just sat there calmly.

“Bi actually,” he said simply, examining his nails like he was bored. He always had neat, even nails. Was that a sign?

“We’re, uh, supportive?” Ted tried to say but asked instead.

Zach sent him a bitch please look. He was always so good at that expression, just like Ryan. Was that a sign I missed? “You don’t have to say that,” Zach informed him.

“No… we totally accept you,” he said in a flat tone.

“I don’t give a shit,” Zach said easily.

The rest of the guys seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. “Thank god,” Joey said. “It’s already enough with those two.” He pointed at me and Ryan. “But apparently you’re also a fa—”

Ted elbowed him, and he stopped talking while Principal Simmons walked by. “I mean, uh. It’s fine. I’m…”

“Supportive,” Zach filled in, amused.

“Yeah, that.”

~~~

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