John looked at Alex and actually smiled, then shook his head, that beautiful smile still on his lips, as if to say I cannot believe you just said that, you wonderful nerd.
Or at least that’s what Alex hoped John meant by the smile and shake of his head.
“My dad liked her. A lot. I mean for me, not like, himself.” John shuddered. “She goes to my church and is in Teen Bible Study Sundays with me which, yes, is exactly as awful as it sounds.”
“So your dad is trying to choose your girlfriends?” Alex said, kind of shocked. He couldn’t imagine the Washingtons ever doing that to him or Laf. It would be so… invasive.
“Uh, not exactly. He probably wouldn’t care which girl I date.” John paused. “He just, uh, he just wants me to date a girl. Period.”
“Oh,” Alex said softly. Sometimes he forgot that not everyone was fortunate enough to have such supportive and accepting parents.
“Yeah. And, well, last week, we kind of… had a fight.” John sighed and shook his head. “He set me and her up on a date, and when I found out, I was really angry. I mean he didn’t even ask me!” John throw his hands in the air in frustration. “What if I’d had plans or something already?”
Alex nodded along empathetically.
“So I tried to play it off like wow, Dad, she’ll never like me now that you went ahead and set up our first date, like, who wants to date someone who doesn’t even ask the girl out himself? but he just shrugged it off, like, he went through her dad, so it wasn’t weird, but that kind of made it… I can’t even say that made it weirder because the whole thing was so weird.”
“It sounds really… awkward?” Alex offered.
“There is no word in the English language, or possibly any language, that properly describes that situation.”
Alex nodded in agreement, feeling unsure of what to say. This was a new feeling for him, not knowing what to say, and it seemed to happen exclusively around John. Alexander briefly wondered what that meant, though he didn’t have much time to ponder on it.
“So I should’ve just addressed the whole thing right then and there. I should’ve said ‘Listen, Dad. You know it and I know it, but since you’re gonna pretend you don’t know it, then how about I just say it. I’m gay as heck, Dad.”
Alex’s heart fluttered because even when John Laurens was angry he said things like heck and it was the most endearing thing that Alex had ever experienced.
“But I’m getting the sense you didn’t say anything there?”
John let out a slightly-pained sigh. “Ha, no.” He stopped walking and crossed his arms over his chest as if he were suddenly cold. “I really, well…” He took a deep breath and looked Alex in the eye. “I really fucked this one up.”
Alex got the sense John didn’t swear too much, maybe because he had so many younger siblings, or maybe because it was just who he was as a person, so when he used that word… Alex knew it must have been pretty serious.
“So Martha and I were supposed to, uh, go on our date,” John made air quotes and rolled his eyes, “the night of our weekly commercial shoot, like, right after it, basically.”
They had started walking again, and John was making a bunch of angry hand gestures, as if the air had personally offended him.
“And I was keeping it together until right after we’d finished the final take when my dad turned to me with a hecking grin on his face and said ‘Maybe soon your special lady friend can do a commercial with us, just for fun.’ But I knew what he was really saying was we’re gonna show the world you are Not Gay, John, even though we both know you are Hella Gay.”
“Damn,” Alex muttered.
“Yeah,” John said, voice flat. “And that’s when I lost it.”
“I would’ve too. I don’t think anyone could blame you for that,” Alexander said in what he prayed was a comforting and not condescending or annoying tone.
John offered him a small smile, and Alex sighed in relief, figuring he’d done something right. He hoped he kept doing things right because when John smiled at him… Well, he fell apart.
“I guess,” John said, and although he shrugged as if trying to keep the statement nonchalant, Alex could see the glimmer in his eyes that hadn’t been there before. “So you won’t judge me too hard for this next part?”
Alex smiled at John. “I think I’ll be disappointed if you don’t do something drastic in that moment.”
John smiled back at Alexander, and Alex’s heart fluttered. He knew in that moment that John had entirely stolen his affections, and there was nothing he could do–– or want to do–– to get them back.