Perfect Couple

Page 8


To head him off, I said, "I understand why you're upset."
"I don't think you do," he said. "You dated Quinn, then Noah, and now they're gay? What does that say about me?"
I wanted to point out that Sawyer had said something similar to Brody, and Brody wasn't mad. Maybe Brody was more self-confident.
Maybe Brody wasn't my boyfriend.
"I realize it was a surprise," I said, "but-"
"You're damn right it was a surprise!" Kennedy seethed. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I don't give away people's secrets," I said. "That's why Quinn and Noah confided in me in the first place."
"Yeah, well, it says a lot about your priorities if you put your two gay friends in front of your boyfriend."
"Kennedy," I said, "I'm not putting them in front of you. This has nothing to do with you."
"Really?" he asked. "You can't turn in your Superlatives photos to me, but you have time to bake cupcakes with pictures for them?"
"Um." I didn't have a response to that. The cupcakes had been important to me. I'd baked them with love for my friends' important day. Kennedy made them sound stupid.
"You bring rainbow cupcakes for your last two boyfriends, while your current boyfriend is sitting in the same class," he said. "Don't you see how that looks?"
"Yeah, I get it," I said softly, without really getting it. "I'm sorry."
He shook his head in disgust, focusing his gaze somewhere above my head instead of on me. Abruptly he jerked up his backpack by one strap and opened the door.
Tia was standing in the hall. Knowing her, she'd had her ear to the door. "Kennedy, we need a word with Harper," she said, pushing past him into the room.
"She'll catch up with you in a minute," Kaye added, walking in behind Tia.
"You can have her," Kennedy snarled. He stormed into the hall and slammed the door.
TIA AND KAYE STARED WIDE-EYED at me. Finally Kaye said, "Brody came to our table in the lunchroom and told us Quinn is gay? And Noah is gay? And Kennedy is mad ? Brody asked us to check on you."
Brody had asked my friends to check on me! If I'd been by myself, I would have replayed this in my mind like the best ending to a feel-good movie. As it was, I didn't want Kaye and Tia to know how far gone I was for the unattainable Brody. I said only, "It's been an interesting study hall."
"Cupcakes!" Tia hopped up to sit on Ms. Patel's desk. Crossing her long legs at the ankles, she reached into the container.
"You can have those," I offered, as if I could have stopped her anyway.
She held up the two remaining. "Harper, you made coming-out cupcakes?"
"You're adorable," Kaye said .
"I don't feel adorable," I grumbled.
"Do you want Kennedy or Shelley Stearns?" Tia asked Kaye. I'd forgotten Shelley had gone to her grandmom's in Miami for the long holiday weekend.
"Shelley," Kaye said.
Tia examined both cupcakes up close. "No, I want her," she said. "I don't want to eat Kennedy."
"It's only a cupcake topper," Kaye said.
"Then you eat him," Tia said.
Exasperated, Kaye flung out her hand for the cupcake. She examined the topper, murmured, "Cute," licked the icing off the pick, and tossed Kennedy into the trash can. She slid onto the desk beside Tia and elbowed her to make her scoot over. "So, Harper, you knew about Quinn and Noah all along? And you never told anybody, even us! You sneaky mouse."
I moved my own half-eaten cupcake to the far corner of my desk. I'd lost my appetite. "Remember I had a crush on Quinn last year? He wasn't dating anyone that we knew of, and we couldn't understand why he wouldn't ask me out. You both kept telling me to ask him on a date."
They nodded slowly. They didn't look quite as confident as they had when they burst into the room. Obviously they were second-guessing their advice that I pursue Quinn.
"I did," I said. "I told you that part. Here's the part I didn't tell you. He came out to me. He wasn't ready to tell everybody. He was afraid of what his parents would do, judging from how they freaked when he dyed his hair black. But he knew some people at school were talking about him and wondering whether he was gay."
Tia nodded. Kaye said, "I'd heard that."
"Sawyer told me," Tia said.
"How did Sawyer know?" Kaye asked. "Surely Quinn didn't tell him."
"Sawyer just knows things," Tia said.
I explained, "Quinn asked me if we could go out a few times as friends but say we were dating, to get people off his back."
"And you said yes?" Kaye was livid. "Harper, we had that talk about people taking advantage of you."
"It was fine!" I exclaimed. "I didn't mind."
"And then you did the same thing for Noah?" Tia asked.
"No, Noah asked me on a date himself. Remember how excited I was? I'd wondered why a football player would want to date me. And then he came out to me."
"Oh," Tia and Kaye cooed sympathetically at the same time. They were right to feel sorry for me. I'd been devastated when Noah told me the truth. In fact, I'd been so taken with him, and the feel of his huge arm curving around me, that he'd set the stage for my daydreams about another football player.

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