“Hey, Preston. Can I talk with you?” I glanced around the group of cheerleaders in the foyer by the gym. “Alone.” That word in itself spoke volumes to the gawkers.
“I guess.” He flung his backpack over his shoulder and nodded for me to lead the way.
We took off down the hall away from several cliques of our peers where they congregated before school Wednesday morning. “Emma and I had a good talk last night.”
“She has accepted my apology, but I feel that I owe you an even bigger apology.”
“Please, Preston. This is hard enough for me. I’m not good with this kind of stuff.”
“Fine, I’ll hear you out.” He lifted his chin in the air.
“You need to know what happened Friday night to understand what happened Monday afternoon.”
“The reason I left the locker room at halftime was because the guys were being jerks, saying that the only reason I was hanging out with the cheerleaders was because I had a crush on you.”
“That’s why I got mad and left. But then Monday afternoon they laid into me again, saying the only reason I introduced you to everyone was because you were my boyfriend.” I stopped to see if he had a response to that but kept walking. “They also said the only reason I was dating Emma was to hide the fact that I was gay.”
“Are you gay?” he asked, not in the mean way the football players had. I knew Preston would accept me just the way I was if I had been. He was just that type of guy.
“After telling them they were the biggest bunch of jerks I’ve ever met, I told them that two guys can be friends without being in a romantic relationship. Just like a guy and a girl can be friends without being together. Shoot, girls have sleepovers and snuggle in bed together, and no one accuses them of being gay.”
Preston chuckled, knowing I was right.
“Anyway, then they laid into me about sleeping with Emma, which I’m not.” I emphasized my point, not wanting to spread any rumors. “I told them they were just as much of jerks for teasing me about being a virgin as they were jerks for teasing me about being gay.”
“Right?” Preston turned to me with exaggerated agreement. “I mean, seriously, who would want to admit they were gay or a virgin if people tease them?”
“That’s what I said!” I stopped him in the middle of the hallway. We were far enough away from any other people that I wasn’t too worried anyone would hear our conversation, but I knew we had an audience from up and down the hall all the way to the foyer. I didn’t glance in that direction and gave Preston my full attention. “Anyway, they apologized. We had one of those kumbaya moments where everyone came together in a group hug—not literally, but you know what I mean—and I told them I didn’t care about all the rest of the rumors. Let’s just play football. But that’s not the way you and the cheerleaders heard me.”
“Definitely not.” He folded his arms across his chest, defensive again. “Maybe if we had known the rest of the story, we wouldn’t have gotten as mad.”
“You had every right to get mad,” I said. “But I’m going to find a way to make it up to you guys. I’m just not sure how.”
“Well, you can start by helping us get ready for our competition that’s coming up in less than three weeks.”
“That I can do.” I held out my hand to shake. “Friends again?”
“Definitely!” He grabbed my hand in a guy-type handshake, like how the wrestler had done two days ago that was almost a half hug.
I pulled him into a full hug, and he laughed.
“You try to kiss me, and I’m gonna slap your face, young man.” Preston pushed me away playfully.
“I promise I won’t try to kiss you.” I nudged his shoulder as we continued down the hall toward our first classes. “Emma might get jealous.”
“Serena too,” Preston said, blushing.
“Really?” I raised my eyebrows, confused.
“Hey, you told me to make her fall in love with me. Guess we took your assignment a little too seriously.”
“I guess so.” I stopped in front of my calculus classroom and held out my hand for a fist bump. “See ya at practice.”
Preston bumped my fist and continued down the hall. “See ya.”
“Serena,” I mumbled, watching him saunter away. “Interesting.”
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