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 Chapter 29: The Day of Negative Learning

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Kell
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PostSubject: Chapter 29: The Day of Negative Learning   Sat Nov 24, 2012 1:57 am

"30, love!" Travis called as he quickly looked in my direction & winked at the word 'love'. I nodded back, annoyed that this was only the billionth time now that he had done it through the game. Or set or match or whatever it was.

It was Travis' championship tennis match. I had made it to a few games over the season. He had wanted me to come to all of them but I just couldn't. For one thing, tennis wasn't really my thing, but I was also just tired of him. I still love him, but it's just...too much. I don't know.

In the end, Travis lost against his opponent. As the crowd cheered, I noticed that Travis didn't seem too upset at the loss. As he wiped his sweaty brow, he walked across the court to happily shake the hand of the other player, a boy who looked to be our age, maybe a little bit younger. He was cute with wavy black hair that almost reached his shoulders.

As I got up, I saw Travis wave me down to the court sidelines where they had moved to. Making my way through the crowd, I realized that he must have wanted me to meet his opponent. When I reached them, they seemed to already be laughing & having a good talk. I knew Travis, & he was no sore loser. I walked up to them with a smile.

"Connor!" Travis said, "This is Aiden."

"Nice meeting you," the boy stuck his hand out. I shook it.

"Same here," I replied.

"Aiden, this is Connor," he said, wrapping an arm around me. "He's my boyfriend."

I clenched my jaw in annoyance. We'd been over this before; I didn't like Travis just outing me like that. To anyone. I squirmed slightly, trying to free myself from his hold, but not knowing that I was meaning to, Travis just held me tighter. It was making me uncomfortable, knowing that so many people from school could be seeing him holding me close to him like this.

"Well, your boyfriend is pretty good at tennis, that's for sure," Aiden smiled at me. I nodded.

The three of us chatted for several minutes about nothing in particular, with the exception of tennis. Love, deuce, let, fault, out...these words I just couldn't pick up on. I didn't want to. I wanted to go home. The conversation was starting to come to an end I could tell.

"Aiden, me, & some other people who played this season are goin' to the movies as a real big group. Ya wanna come?" Travis asked me.

"Nah," I shook my head. "I'm tired, I think I'm just gonna go home & take a nap."

"You all right?" Travis asked me, putting a hand on my back & rubbing it.

"Yeah," I slowly removed his hand, "just tired, that's all."

He gave me one last concerned look before giving me his signature smile, the one where only one corner of his mouth went up & walking off with Aiden. I sighed.

"He's so busy with his new friends that he forgot about ol' me."

I turned around & saw Travis' mom standing there with her arms crossed & a smile on her face.

"Hi Katie," I greeted her.

"How are you sweetheart?" she asked as she gave me a warm hug. Man I loved this woman. Maybe there was something after all to "Southern hospitality."

"I'm all right, what about you?"

"I'm good, I'm good. I baked a whole apple pie for Travis but since he's gone off with his new friends, maybe you'd like t'come on over & have a piece with me?" she smiled.

I shrugged.

"Sure why not."

*****

I always loved going to Travis' home. Regardless of how I wanted space lately, every time I walked into his house I felt like I was stepping into one of those seasonal-decorated homes you see in magazines. Warm, colorful decorations and colored fabrics lined the walls & furniture & gave the place such a friendly feeling. Ben's, Travis' dad, prized buck's head, situated right above a massive rifle, was mounted above the fireplace mantle, which itself was nicely covered with small items and pictures depicting Travis when he was little. Like the antique pistol passed throughout the generations, the picture of Travis when he was younger in a boat holding up a big fish he caught, Travis & his mom standing with each other holding a blue ribbon with pies everywhere in the background. It was very homey.

The house smelled of something recently baked. I followed Katie into the kitchen where she placed two plates on the table next to a freshly baked hot pie. As we sat down & started to cut pieces, she started talking.

"So have you been keepin' up with all of Travis' games?" she asked me.

"Um," I gulped down a piece of pie, "not all. I don't make a lot of them, but he sure does keep me updated," I remarked.

"Well that's good. It's so nice to hear how close you still are," she smiled.

"Yeah. Katie could I ask you something?" I said.

"Of course honey."

"Has Travis been acting...differently lately?" I said cautiously.

"Differently how?"

"I dunno...just anything different than normal? Has he been talking about me more?"

"Hmm," she thought for a moment. "Not that I can think of. He talks 'bout you the same. Which is all the time anyway hahaha."

"Oh," I said.

"Why, is somethin' wrong?"

"Not really, no."

"Not really? Connor Truman, that is the most unconvincin' argument I've ever heard," she grinned.

"Probably because people don't like arguing with you," I chuckled. She laughed.

"Perhaps. But no, nothing seems different about him lately. Should he be different?"

"No, just...wonderin' I guess."

She ate another piece.

"Ya know, I am so glad my baby boy was able to find someone so special as you when we came here. Sure makes the whole 'new kid' thing easier on him I'm sure. But if you two ever have questions, you can come to us. You know that. I know your parents are still gettin' used to it..." I nodded. "But no matter what, Ben & I will always be an open ear."

"That means a lot Katie, thanks."

"How are your folks since they found out?"

"Like you said, they're still getting used to it, especially my dad. He tried to be really helpful when I was having an issue a little while ago & as much as I appreciated it, I could still tell he was unsure of what to say. I give them points for trying though."

She reached over & rubbed my arm. "Trust me darlin', it could be a lot worse. I was raised by very open minded parents when I was a little girl. But a lot of people where we come from aren't. An' I know plenty of people who would take it much worse than your folks."

"I know."

"Is that what's on your mind?"

"Nah, it's fine. Really."

"If you say so," she pulled her arm back. "You want me to talk to Travis about anything?"

I shook my head as I at another piece of pie. Damn it was good.

But I felt nothing but guilt now.

*****

"Hey Connor, how's it goin'?" Travis' dad asked me as he walked in a couple hours later.

"Good, what about you."

"Same," he kicked off his boots & took his coat off. "So what bring you by? I think Travis is out with people. You should go join him, have some fun."

"Nah, that's all right. I was just eating some pie with Katie & talking."

"Oh yeah?" he said as he walked into the living room. "What'd you guys talk about?" he asked as he removed the gun from the wall & brought it over to his desk.

"Well," I said, sitting down in a chair, "just stuff. My brother, my folks, school, Travis' tennis games, Katie's pies..."

"Good, huh?" he grinned at me.

"Yeah haha."

I watched Ben for a moment while he began to take apart the gun.

"What are you doing?" I nodded toward him.

"Well there's a gun convention a few miles outside the city happening next week & I figure with this beauty, I can show off to them city boys what a REAL gun looks like," he smiled.

"Do you guys like, shoot targets or something?" I asked.

"Oh no no no. These are just antiques. They were somethin' back in the day I'm sure but now...now they're good for shows, decoration, the like. This one was passed down through generations in my family. All the way back to the Continental Army," he beamed proudly.

"Huh," I said dumbly, as he started to clean it.

Ben looked up at me while he stuck a long, thin rod with a little brush on the end down the barrel.

"What, not a fan of guns, boy?" he laughed.

"What? No, it's not that..."

"What's wrong then?"

I shrugged.

"I dunno...I guess I just...well, I guess I wanted to know if...does Travis seem different to you lately?"

He thought for a moment before shaking his head.

"Why do you ask? Is he doing something I should know about?"

"No, not at all, I was just wondering. I've been a little weird lately, so I didn't know if it was me heh," I laughed awkwardly.

"If what's been you?" he asked, confused.

"Uh, nothing," I said, starting to back away toward the front door. "Really, it's nothing. I gotta go, it was nice talking to you though. Good luck at the gun show, hope you win," I spilled out quickly. "Tell Katie I said thanks again for the pie, it was great." With that, I made my way to the door & left.

Great. Now they'd think something was wrong with Travis. Or me.

**********

As I saw a bus pulling up to a stop, I ran to it & hopped on. Walking. So overrated.

Just as I sat down in a seat & leaned my head against the window to take a snooze before it came to the stop I was waiting for, I felt a nudge to my side. I looked next to me. It was Jacob.

"Hey Connor," he smiled.

"Oh hey dude, what's up?" I asked. He was wearing jeans & a tight fitting, dark red t-shirt. He looked really hot. I, on the other hand, had worn crappy sweatpants & a dull gray t-shirt to Travis' game, not hoping to impress anyone.

"Not much. Going to visit my aunt. What are you doing all the way in this part of the city?"

"Travis lives near here. I was just...spending some time with his folks while he's hanging out with some new friends of his I guess."

He raised an eyebrow. "Why would you just hang out with his folks haha."

"I like them, they're really friendly & his mom's food is awesome," I replied. "Unlike some other mothers I seem to remember," I playfully jabbed.

His mouth fell open. "That ONE time you got food poisoning from something she BOUGHT at the grocery store," he laughed, shaking his head.

"Travis' mom MAKES their own food. Like a REAL 'murican momma," I laughed.

"Yeah well, that was like 10 years ago. Get over it already haha."

We laughed at the old ordeal. I missed his mom. She was a good lady.

"Congrats on the A in the history project by the way," he said. Was he referring to the major project that was due for our history class a couple weeks ago? I had gotten an A on it but how did he know?

"What are you talking about?" I asked, puzzled. "How did you know my grade?"

"I peaked at the pile of grades when I was talking to Mr. Sampson the other day. Yours was on the top & it had a big red A on it. I knew you would've gotten it anyway."

"Yeah? How do you figure, you snoop," I smiled.

"Well your presentation was très magnifique," he stuck his nose up.

"Thanks haha. Yours was..."

"Rubbish," he finished.

"Thank GOD, you said it," I joked. We laughed again.

We talked about our grades, our parents, Chris, his new favorite tv shows, this new band I was getting into, his neighbor's weird obsession with bees lately and what new movies looked good. As we chatted for the next 20 minutes of the bus ride, I felt happy. A kind of happy that I hadn't really felt in a while. It was a different kind of happy than when I was with Travis. With Travis it was a special kind of happiness, one that made me feel like I was the only one in the world. But this, this was a...normal kind of happiness. One where I felt like I was just a normal kid, which I hadn't felt like in a few years. It was different. And Jacob's mentioning of my good grade didn't hurt, considering I'd been doing much better in all my classes. Just one of those moments, you know? When everything seems to be going good & sometimes you can't help but just feel like nothing could go wrong & you just smile to yourself. Felt good. It felt really fucking good.

And then, it stopped when Jacob stood up from the seat.

"What are you doing?" I said, probably a little bit more concerned than I should have been.

"What do you mean what am I doing? This is my stop hahaha."

"Aww. But we were having fun," I pouted.

"Aw," he said, caressing the side of my face. "I'll see you on Monday you goof," he slightly smacked me, smiling.

"You better," I said as he walked toward the door.

"And you better watch that show I was talking about," he said back, waving. I waved him bye. Poop.

**********

As I walked into my house, I saw my mom & dad watching a movie on the couch together.

"Hey kid, where ya been?" my mom asked.

"At Travis' house."

"What'd you guys do?" she asked. I noticed that my dad didn't look away this time. He had a tendency to look away & not be interested in hearing about Travis when I talked about him in my boyfriend-sense. But this time...it looked like he was giving me his attention.

"Actually he wasn't there. He won his tennis tournament & went to hang out with some friends. I was over there talking to his parents. Not for very long though."

"How are they?"

"They're good I guess. His mom made an apple pie & his dad was getting ready for a gun show or something. Hey um, is Chris home?" I asked.

"Yeah, in his room," said my dad.

"Ok, thanks," I said as I started to go.

"Ah ah, not so fast," my dad said as he got up. I gave him a confused look. "You got something in the mail earlier that I think you'll like."

He walked over to the counter & rummaged through the stack of mail. When he found what he was looking for, it was a white envelope that he handed to me. My eyes went wide as I read who it was from. I tore it open & read it.

"They accepted me," I whispered, on the verge of exploding.

"Congrats kiddo," my dad said as he gave me a hug. My mom came up & joined.

"First choice," she added.

"I know!" I squealed.

"Go show your brother," said dad.

***

I knocked on Chris' door & slowly opened it.

"Come in," he said.

"Hey."

"Hi."

"Look," I said, holding up my acceptance letter.

"What's is it?" he said, looking up from his desk.

"My acceptance letter to my first choice school," I beamed.

"Oh nice! Congrats Connor," he gave me a high five.

"Thanks," I kept smiling as I made my way over to his bed & sat down. I noticed he was looking at me with a little smirk on his face.

"What?"

"What are you so happy about?" he chuckled.

"What do you mean? I just got accepted into my first choice college."

"Yeah but you just seem...extra happy about something. Spill it."

"Nothing, I dunno. Just had a nice day. For the most part. I wasn't really interested in going to Travis' tennis match or going out with him & some other people...and then his mom invited me back over to their place anyway & I just felt awkward talking to them 'cause I think they think something's up with Travis."

"What do you mean?"

"Lately...I've just been feeling different about Travis. I still love him, but...I dunno, it's like that little spark went out. And I don't know why. He just seems to always wanna be with me. Or he's always texting & calling me."

"I mean, your room is close enough that I always hear your phone go off, & I haven't noticed him calling any more than usual," Chris shrugged.

"Well it feels like it. I hate that I even FEEL this way, but sometimes I'm just not in the mood for being with him."

"Did something happen to him lately?"

"Not that I know," I scratched the back of my neck.

"Maybe it's you."

Pow.

"Excuse me?" I said, dumbfounded.

"What?"

"What do you mean it's me?"

"Maybe it's you," he repeated.

"How could it be me?"

"Your ego is making my room feel smaller..."

"What's wrong with me?" I crossed my arms.

"I didn't say anything was wrong with you. I just said maybe it's something with you instead of Travis, I dunno. Has anything weird or bad happened to you lately?" he picked up a nearby baseball & started tossing it up.

"No. The opposite actually. Things have been pretty good."

"How?"

"Well, let's see...my grades have been pretty good. I just got accepted in my first choice school. I'm not quite as anti-social since I started hanging out with my old group of friends. Mom & dad are coming around to me being gay. Jacob & I are becoming close again. You're still in remission. Things are just really good right now. I don't understand how that would make me not like Travis?"

Chris seemed to think for a moment, & then...he shrugged.

"That's it?" I said.

"What?"

"That's all you got for me? A shrug? Aren't you supposed to have a surprisingly sophisticated answer for someone your age?"

"My age? Bite me, I'm pretty the same age you were when you started dating Travis. And sooooooorry for not having a magical answer for you. I'm a kid, not a psychoanalyst."

"Ugh."

**********

My life was good. Actually, relative to how the rest of my life was, things were great! So why did I feel like I was over Travis? I held my hand over my eyes as I lay on my bed in my pajama pants, trying to work SOMETHING out before I went to sleep. But what? What could it possibly be that he was doing differently? Or, maybe like Chris had suggested...what was *I* doing differently.

I sighed out loud, unable to think of anything. Chris was fairly well-acquainted with my relationship with Travis, but he was unsure. Nobody else really knew Travis & I as a couple THAT well, so I couldn't go to anyone else. My parents still weren't quite there yet, so I couldn't ask them for any relationship advice. And let's not forget the man of the hour who I obviously couldn't talk to because it was all about him. I was all on my own.

As I leaned over to shut off the light & pulled the covers up, I drifted off to sleep with all these questions swirling around my head. I was so confused. I was confused, angry, annoyed & paranoid.

But most of all, I was scared...

...scared that I was falling out of love with Travis.

I didn't get much sleep that night.

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