I knocked on his door three times, each knock slightly lower on the door than the other. I never noticed that I did it until now. Something about Lucas made me more aware of anything I did. Even my little weird things like my knock. The pizza in my left hand was starting to make my palm sweat, or at least that’s what I convinced myself was making it sweat. He opened the door and smiled at me.
“Pizza delivery,” I said with a smile.
“Ugh, finally,” he said, still smiling, “This day went by so slowly.”
“Why’s that?” I asked as I walked inside.
“After we split up I had to go see the counselor for my evaluation,” he said following me.
“Oh God, what happened,” I said. I put the pizza down on his desk and sat in his chair.
“Nothin really, it just dragged on forever,” he said.
“Well I hope you’re hungry,” I said, “I got an extra large.”
“Yeah I’m starving actually,” he said.
“Good, cause you’re gonna love this pizza,” I said.
“Where’s it from?” he asked.
“This little Italian place in town,” I said, “We have one where I lived and it’s amazingly good.”
I opened the box and we each grabbed a slice. I sat back down in his chair and he flopped down on his bed and ate the slice in seconds. I laughed at him and he smiled awkwardly at me.
“Christ man, you weren’t kiddin,” I said.
“Neither were you,” he said, “This stuff is amazing.”
“Told you so,” I said smiling.
“So what movie did you bring?” he asked.
“Nah, you don’t get to know,” I said.
“Well, we have to eat this whole pizza, and I don’t want you to have any time to object. So you don’t get to know until it’s in and ready to play,” I said.
“Alright,” he said with a snort.
A moment of silence passed between us as we ate. His eyes were glued to the ground and I could tell he was thinking of something that he wasn’t sure about saying. After I finished my slice, I took a deep breath.
“Is there something you want to ask me?” I asked.
“Sorta,” he said.
“Well go for it,” I said.
“Well, it’s just…”
“Spit it out Luke,” I said.
“Earlier today…you seemed like something was bothering you,” he said.
“Yeah, there was,” I said.
“Well it got me thinking,” he said, “And I thought about it all day. I’m not trying to pry you for information or anything, but if you want we could make another deal. You tell me something, I’ll tell you something.”
“Luke, that’s really nice,” I said, “But I already planned on telling you tonight.”
“Oh,” he said, “Ok then. What’s going on?”
“I’ve had this on my mind for a couple days now,” I said, “You remember when you asked me what happened to my mom?”
“Yeah,” he said.
“Well…” I took a deep breath, “She died of Cancer.”
“Oh God…Aaron I’m so sorry,” he said.
“She uh…she didn’t even know she was sick. She just thought she was really run down,” I said.
He never broke his focus on me.
“She worked two jobs most of my life. She worked so hard to make sure we were able to survive,” I said.
My breathing got heavy and my eyes started stinging. I took several gulps of air as I thought about what happened.
“Go on Aaron,” he said.
“Well, she went to the doctor…and he diagnosed her with a very advanced stage of Breast Cancer,” I said.
Tears were now forming in my eyes as my chest started hurting.
“She didn’t even tell me about it,” I said, “I didn’t know until…”
Lucas sat up and sat on the edge of his bed. He stared into my eyes and somehow, I felt a little better. The pain in my chest went away and I was able to hold the tears back a little better than before.
“I came home from school one day and found her unconscious in the kitchen. I called 911 but it was too late. I found my mother dead that day.”
“Aaron…that’s terrible,” he said.
I wiped a tear that got through with my hand.
“She worked so hard for me. She worked so hard to give me a good life…” I said, “But she never thought about what would happen to me if she was gone.”
That did it. The tears pushed themselves out of my eyes and I fell forward into myself. Lucas stood up and kneeled down in front of me and caught me before I collapsed. He held me and I cried on his shoulder.
“Shh, it’s ok Aaron.”
“No, it’s not ok,” I said through the tears, “I was so mad at her for not telling me.”
“Aaron, that’s ok,” he said.
He pulled me away from him and looked directly into my eyes. He placed both hands firmly, but gently, on my shoulders.
“Aaron, it is ok for you to be mad. It’s ok to be sad,” he said, “And it’s ok for you to be happy without her.”
I looked back at him, confused.
“She obviously didn’t want you to know until it happened,” he said, “She was probably so scared about leaving you. She probably didn’t want you to have to live every single day in fear, and then have grief on top of that feeling after she died. It’s not wrong for you to be angry, but she probably didn’t tell you because of what knowing that she was going to die would do to you.”
He looked firmly into my eyes. I could see his fixation, and from that I could tell that he did genuinely care about me. In my mind, I saw myself drowning. I couldn’t keep myself afloat, even though I had people around me trying to pull me out of the water. I was just about to give up and let myself fall beneath the surface, when I felt a hand grab my arm and lift me up. I looked into the eyes of my rescuer. The bright hazel colored eyes that penetrated my soul and brought down every barrier I had built.
I looked back into his eyes and felt the pain be washed away. The tears stopped and I regained my composition. I took several deep breaths and calmed myself down. I sat up straight, never looking away from Lucas’ eyes. They made me feel safe.
“Thank you Luke,” I said.
“No, thank you Aaron,” he said.
“For what?” I asked.
“How many times have you told that story?” he asked.
“That was the first time,” I said.
“That’s what I figured. So thank you for trusting me,” he said.
“Thank you for being trustworthy,” I said.
He put his hand on my shoulder and smiled at me. I took a deep breath and smiled back at him.
“Aaron I am so sorry for what you’ve been through,” he said.
I nodded at him, but remained silent. I didn’t know what to do now. This was the most vulnerable I’ve ever felt in my life. For the first time since my mom’s funeral, I cried in front of another person. I knew he felt the tension boiling inside me, so he wrapped his arms around me again to comfort me.
“Thank you Lucas,” I said, “You don’t have to tell your story if you don’t want to.”
“It’s ok, I’ll save it for later,” he said pulling away from me, “So how bout that movie now?”
I smiled and said, “Yeah sure.”
I got up and put the movie in and pressed play. I sat back into the chair and he moved back onto his bed. I noticed he kept looking at me as if I were about to shatter into a million pieces.
“Luke I’m ok,” I said to reassure him.
“Am I that obvious?” he asked.
“A little,” I said with a grin.
“Sorry, I just wanted to make sure,” he said.
“Thanks, but it’s not necessary,” I said.
The movie began playing. Lucas seemed to light up once the opening scene started. I glanced over to him and raised an eyebrow.
“You know this movie?” I asked.
“You kidding?” he said as he got up.
He walked over to his bookshelf, and I noticed his slight limp again. He turned around smiling with the case of October Sky in his hands. I must have had a worried look on my face or something because his smile disappeared and his eyes glazed over a bit.
“Is something wrong?” he asked.
“I was about to ask the same thing,” I said.
“What do you mean?”
“Oh…” he said.
“What happened to you Luke?” I asked.
“I was kinda hoping you wouldn’t ask,” he said.
“Luke…” I said.
He walked back over to his bed and sat down. He placed his hands in his lap and didn’t look up at me.
“Please don’t be mad,” he said.
What the hell is going on?
“Jonathan drugged Henry that night at the club.”
“What?!” I yelled.
“I’m sorry Aaron, I didn’t know. I only found out this morning,” he said.
“What happened?!” I yelled, standing out of the chair.
“Aaron, please calm down,” he said.
“You just told me your friend drugged my friend and you expect me to be calm?!” I yelled.
“Yes I expect you to calm down so I can tell you the rest!” he said at the same volume.
I sat back into the chair and took a breath.
“Sorry Luke,” I said.
“It’s ok,” he said, “I talked to Jonathan this morning and he told me everything. He seemed so proud of it, so I yelled at him. Then he said, ‘It’s not like I raped him or anything,’ and the next thing I knew, my fist flew into his face. I knocked him on the ground and he kicked me in the hip when I leaned in to help him up.”
“Are you ok?” I asked.
“Yeah it’s just a little sore, nothing to worry about,” he said.
“Well…thank you for standing up for my friend Luke,” I said.
“It’s nothing, I knew you would do the same for me,” he said.
‘You would do the same for me?’
“How can you be so sure?” I asked.
“I don’t know, I just do,” he said.
I smiled at him and he smiled back. At that moment, I felt like we were floating in a space of nothingness. There was nothing to worry about except whether or not we were flying or falling. That’s how it was with Lucas. I could be flying or falling, and it would make no difference to me. It was a challenge to be open with him, but at the same time I felt completely safe.
We watched the movie in near silence. Apparently we both loved this movie so much that we could nearly recite the script. I swear at one point I saw him mouthing some of the words. But he just blushed and looked away from me.
Lucas made me feel different than my other friends did. I didn’t have to worry about what I said or how I said it. I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I stepped on his toes. I didn’t have to worry about anything really. All I had to do was be myself and let him see my vulnerable side every once in a while.
I don’t like saying this, but the counselor was right. As soon as I told Lucas why I was so afraid of being close to someone and depending on their existence to get through the day, the easier it was to trust him, and let our friendship happen.
It was nearly 11 at night when I got back to my dorm room. Jonathan was sitting at his desk. I could see very clearly where Lucas clocked him. I couldn’t help but smirk a little about it.
“Where’ve you been?” he asked.
“Out with a friend,” I said.
“Out pretty late, don’t you have midterms this week?” he asked.
“Is that any of your business?” I asked.
I walked across the room to my own desk and opened up my laptop to check my email before I went to bed. I saw an email from my English professor and decided to wait till morning to read it.
“So what happened to your face?” I asked.
“Is that any of your business?” he asked.
“Oh, nice comeback,” I said.
“What’s with your attitude man?” he asked.
I stood up and faced him. “I’m generally not very nice to people who drug my friends and take advantage of them,” I said.
“Oh you were with Lucas, I see,” he said, “What else has he been lying about?”
My eyes flared and my chest filled with rage at his snotty comment. I dashed across the room and spun his chair around to face me.
“Look you little shit,” I said, “I really don’t care if you do drugs. You can OD on the shit for all I care. But if you EVER slip any of my friends any drugs again without them knowing about it, I swear to God I will rip off your balls and shove em down your throat.”
“Get the fuck off me,” he said pushing me out of his face.
I grabbed his arm and lifted him out of his chair. I threw him against the wall and slammed my fist next to his face.
“Do you have any idea what I did to people like you at my high school?” I asked, “Well it would be NOTHING compared to what I would do to you if you came within 5 feet of Henry ever again. Do you understand me?”
He nodded with fear. I released my grip on his shirt and walked away from him. I didn’t hear him move at all, but when I looked back he was opening the door to leave.