Dinner was almost ready when the door opened unexpectedly. It was unusual for anyone to come from the shelter area before dinner. I looked up to see a pair of blue eyes I had hoped not to see until tomorrow. But he was probably just as stubborn as I was if not more from the looks of it. “Hey.” I said.
“You ran away.”
I shrugged, “Not the first time.”
I laughed, “I doubt they even know I’m gone yet.”
Alex looked at his watch and sighed, “Yeah, Lucy said she’d give me an hour.”
“Unless Ry saw me leave it could be longer. But my Dad will ignorantly call everyone I know before he comes here. He always thinks I’m past this place.”
“But it’s where you go when you feel scared. I get it.” Alex reassured me, “But I think you need to come home with me.”
“I’m not going home – not again. I can’t live under his roof and lie to who I am anymore. I tried.”
“I don’t mean your home. I meant mine. My mom and dad said you can stay for as long as you’d like.”
“I can’t mooch off of you and your family no matter how generous they are.”
Alex smirked, “Then at least for a few nights until we can figure something else out. Do you even have a plan?”
I shook my head and shrugged. “I just needed to get away from there.”
“Well, after you finish here you are coming home with me.” It was a demand. It was in his tone, and in his body language. He’d drag me kicking and screaming if I didn’t leave with him. Something about it made me shiver, and I gave a slight nod. I pulled the locker key out of my pocket and placed it on top of the glass barrier. “This will make sure I agree to go with you after dinner, so I don’t change my mind.”
Alex scooped it up and smiled. “And after we get home, I’ll go get Max while you wait at Drew’s and then we’ll go see my Dad play like you promised to do and then you and Max can spend the weekend at my house.”
“Are you putting Max as a barrier between us?” I asked with a disappointed grin.
“Yes, and no.” He smiled “Max will indeed make sure we behave, but it’s also so you don’t feel like you are mooching off of us. Give you a few more days. So it’ll be a few guys hanging out on the weekend, and then when school starts you can be all I don’t want to be here.”
I smirked, “Okay. I can deal with that.” Alex nodded, “Good.” He stepped away from the counter, and pushed the door open he’d come in through, “I’m gonna go find your things and claim a spot until you finish.”
I watched Alex leave and Suzie came over to me with a grin. “He’s cute.”
I nodded, “He is.”
“He seems to like you.”
I grinned, “He does. And I like him.”
“I was surprised you agreed so easily. You never agree when it’s Luc or one of your brothers.”
“That’s different.” I said. “I don’t want to go home then. But he’s not taking me to my home”
“He’s taking you home with him.” She smirked, “I think he has an angle.”
“I’m okay with that. Even if it’s just for a night or two.” I said.
Kim came in pushing the door open so that it would stay open. “You leaving us Nox?”
Suzie laughed, “He’s going home with some guy.”
“He is kinda cute.”
“I know.” I smiled wiping my hands off on the rag. “You need me?”
Kim shook her head, “We are good. The others will be here soon I don’t expect the early rush to be heavy.”
“Okay.” I said. “Thanks for everything.”
“We are always here Nox.” Kim said as she wrapped her arms around me in a hug. “I’ll tell your Dad I saw you, but have no idea where you went.”
“Don’t tell him I went anywhere with a blue eyed boy, he’ll know for sure where I’m at. And I’m not ready to deal with him.”
“I don’t know if I can lie like that.” Kim said.
“I know. Just don’t mention the blue eyed boy. Nothing else is a lie.”
Kim shook her head, “This isn’t like you Nox.”
“Maybe I’m tired of being like me.” I sighed as I walked out of the room to go find Alex. He had been true to his word and was sitting at a table looking at his phone. He looked good, though I wasn’t sure he was happy about anything going on right now. “Hey, I can go now.”
“Hasn’t even started.” Alex said.
“They can do without me. I helped with dinner prepping, the rest others can do. We don’t have to hang around.”
“You sure. I don’t mind waiting.”
I shook my head. “It’s good.”
Alex smiled and stood up. He slung my bag over his shoulder and offered me his hand. I looked back at the kitchen with Suzie and Kim watching me and smirked. I took his hand and we left while a pair of small kids came in searching for food. It reminded me of me and Luce when we were little and I felt the tears start. Alex pulled me along after him. “You have a better life.”
I shrugged, “Is it really better?”
“You tell me.”
“Sure I have food, warmth and a roof over my head. But the anxiety and pressures are still there just in different forms. Instead of wondering where my next meal was coming from or if my mom’s new boyfriend would beat us I now get to worry about how my dad is going to react to every little thing I do. I don’t think he’s as blind to what I am as he claims. I think when he started to realize he had a gay son, was when he started getting angry because I quit football, and wrestling. And when he gets upset because I got a B on a test.” I shrugged.
“You talk with your therapist about it all right?”
I nodded, “Yeah, I cope with it. I don’t worry about my grades. My expectations aren’t my fathers. I need to remember that what other people expect of me is not my problem.”
Alex smiled, “Good. But you know what I expect of you tonight?”
I sighed, “Hmmm?”
“To have a good time hanging out with me and Max.”
I grinned, “I’ll try.” We had plans and I was hoping meeting Alex’s expectations would be easy.