“Well?”

“Dylan…”

“You can’t say no, Tyler. I already rented the limo and paid for the tickets.”

I stared at the pair of blue and white engraved invitations in my hand that Dylan had handed me. They were prom tickets for Saturday, May 18th, at 8:00 p.m., to be held in the gym in exactly one month’s time.

The theme was Paris in Springtime, and the prom committee had already begun working on a gigantic chicken wire-and-papier-mache Eiffel tower and a painted cardboard Arc de Triomphe. The music would be provided by a local band, Hardly Working, the buffet would be catered by the diner, and the town florist was already busily taking orders for boutonnieres and corsages.

“Everyone already knows about us, Tyler,” Dylan reminded me. “Remember? People are expecting us to show up together.”

“I know, I know. Still…it’s the prom, Dylan. We’d need tuxedos. suit shoes. Cummerbunds. Roses for our lapels. dark socks. I don’t even own a couple of dark socks. We’d need to receive our freaking photo taken for the yearbook…”

“So what? I happen to think that you’ll look like a million bucks in a tux, we photograph actually well, and I’ll lend you a couple of socks,” Dylan said, laughing.

“People will stare at us, Dylan. Oh, look at the queers dancing. It would be weird.”

Dylan sobered, pulling me into his arms. he held me tight, tucking his chin on my shoulder. I wrapped my arms around his waist, staring at the tickets in my hand. “Listen to me, Tyler. I don’t care what other people might say. If they wish to watch us, let ’em. We only get one prom in our lives, Tyler, and I don’t want to miss it. One prom, one prom date, and I crave mine to be you.”

“Are u sure you’re ready for that? We might make the papers. If the school board finds out beforehand, they might try to rescind our tickets. There could be protestors, trouble-”

“Say yes, Tyler.”

“Our families might feel the backlash. My mom, your parents-”

“Say yes, Tyler.”

Damn it. that guy was the almost any stubborn, pigheaded, obstinate, admirable boy on the planet. That that guy was all mine was a thought I still couldn’t seem to process, even after several months of exclusive dating. After Dylan and I had hooked up, I’d not at any time even thought about finding anyone else, and if that guy were being truthful with me, neither had this chab. We’d even exchanged high school rings.

I gave him a half smile. “Okay, ok. If you promise that we’ll keep our heads low until prom night, then…”

“Then…?” Dylan prompted, grinning at me.

“Yes.”

Dylan let out a whoop and gave me a hug that lifted me off my feet. this chab ended it with a kiss that curled my toes inside my converse sneakers. “Thank you!” this chab cried, dancing me around in a circle.

Honestly, he was like a large kid – a big, handsome, hawt kid with whom I might just be falling in love.

Whoa, that was the “L” word. It had never popped up in my mind before, not one time in all the time we’d been dating. I liked Dylan, yes, liked him a lot, in fact. But love?

What did I know about love, in any case? Not much. only that Dylan was the first person I thought about when I woke up in the morning, and this guy was the final one I thought of in advance of going to sleep. I liked him even though this guy popped his gum when this guy chewed, and hogged the popcorn when we went to the videos. I didn’t care that this chab cracked his knuckles, or consistently scored higher than I did at Guitar Hero. I didn’t mind that that guy always drove, even though my mommy had relented and put me on her insurance. I especially liked the fact that that guy at no time failed to give me that warm oatmeal feeling each time he kissed me, and that that guy wasn’t afraid to hold my hand, even in public.

Was I falling in love with him?

Maybe I already had, and the thought scared me.

I didn’t have an especially stellar family history when it came to love. In our house, love died with a motorcycle skidding underneath a tractor trailer. It ended in a drunk and abusive second husband, and a mother who had refused to see reality until it had almost been too late. It ended in a most excellent friend turning out to be a stranger.

Dylan pulled away from me and the grin on his face blew away my doubts. I didn’t know if I was in love with him, but I did know that I’d do practically everything to make him cheerful. that guy was so lustful that it was impossible not to feel the same way. I sighed, and returned his smile with one of my own. “Okay. We’d more excellent get over to the Tux Hut in Chester or we’ll end up wearing jeans and T-shirts to the prom.”

I struggled out of Dylan’s car with my arms full. We’d picked up our gear for the prom -tuxedos, shoes, cummerbunds, ties, and crisp, white, starched shirts – and I was concerned to acquire them into the abode and hung up in my closet before they wrinkled.

We’d tried the whole enchilada on before leaving the Tux Hut, and Dylan had not quite taken my breath away. this chab looked so nice in his fitted, dark tuxedo that I felt type of short and dumpy standing next to him, although he’d said me that I looked just as sexy as that guy did.

I didn’t believe him, but it was indeed worthy to hear in any case.

His engine purred as this chab pulled away and I struggled along the walkway leading to the kitchen. I was greater amount than halfway there in advance of I noticed someone sitting on the stairs.

“Hey, Tyler,” Billy said, looking up at me. “I was wondering when you’d get home. A tux, huh? You’re going to the prom? With who?”

“Dylan,” I answered, likewise shocked not to reply. Billy! After all these months, he’d shown up out of the blue, sitting on my side stoop just as if he’d not ever left. At first glance, that guy looked just the same as he always had, clothed in a taut red T-shirt and his ripped Abercrombie jeans. A closer look said a different story. that guy looked tired and worn out, and his eyes were red and puffy. There was foul below his fingernails, and his T-shirt was stained. Not all of the rips in his jeans had been put there by the manufacturer, I noticed.

In short, Billy looked like shit warmed over.

“Dylan? The track guy? He’s out?”

“We both are. What are you doing here, Billy?” every emotion, all the hurt and rage and fear that I’d thought I’d buried after he’d left came roaring back so quickly that I felt my skin heat and my heart race with the force of it. “I thought you were living with Robbie.” I refrained from adding my usual suffix of “A-hole” to Robbie’s name, but solely barely.

Billy looked down at his shoes, hands hanging between his bent knees. “Nah. That’s over.”

“Over? How can it be over? this chab gave you-”

“I know, I know! make no doubt of me, if I could do it all again, I would do things differently. Being positive sucks, Tyler! nothing is like what I’d thought it would be!”

I realized he was crying, even though he refused to lift his head to look at me. No, I told myself, do not let him suck u back in again. It was all about Billy before, and this is all about Billy now. It’ll always be the Billy Show – all Billy, all the time.

this chab lifted the bottom of his T-shirt and swiped at his face with it, still not looking up at me. “I left home and went to Robbie’s, but he didn’t crave me. I loved him, Tyler! At least, I thought I did, but that was in advance of I realized that this guy was such a dickhead. he let me stay for a couple of weeks, sleeping on the sofa, but then this chab kicked me out. he said I was getting in the way and that this chab wasn’t into babysitting.”

“Did you go home? Why didn’t u call me?”

“I couldn’t go home. My daddy told me when I left that that was the end. I wasn’t welcome there anymore. I…I discovered a small in number guys who let me bunk in for while.”

I didn’t wish to hear this, did not wish to deal with it, but what was I supposed to do? I just didn’t have it in me to be a jerk. “Come on in. u can take a shower, and I’ll lend you some clean clothes.” I stepped around him and opened the door. that guy followed me inside as meekly as a lamb. I think that shocked me greater amount than anything – Billy had not at any time been meek in his entire life.

We went directly into my bedroom, where I hung up my tuxedo and dumped the rest of the stuff into my closet. Billy made a beeline into the washroom and I heard the shower squeal as this guy turned it on. I’d gotten a admirable whiff of him and he smelled like he hadn’t had greater quantity than a passing acquaintance with soap and water in quite a lengthy during the time that. I wondered who the dudes were who he’d been living with, and where. From the smell of things and the look of Billy’s clothes, I was enticed to believe that their address was a cardboard box in an alley somewhere.

this chab stayed in the shower for a long time, and I was positive it was only the water turning cold that lastly drove him out to face me. I’d tossed a clean couple of underwear, T-shirt, and sweats into the bathroom, draping ’em over the toilet, and this chab was clothed in ’em when the door cracked open and this guy walked out.

I didn’t say anything, not right away. I didn’t trust myself. I wanted to screech at him, to remind him about all the crap he’d shoveled in my direction, but at the final minute I had second thoughts. I remembered that Billy had basically fucked up his entire life and realized that the final thing he needed was a guilt travel. Dumping on him might make me feel better, but it wouldn’t change everything except to make Billy feel worse. As much as he’d made me angry before, I just couldn’t do it to him.

Billy sat on the edge of the bed, hair dripping, soaking the neckline of the T-shirt I’d lent him. “I suppose I owe you an apology.”

Suppose? Hell yes, you owe me an apology, I wanted to yell. Instead, I just nodded.

To my horror, this chab broke down into sobs, covering his face with his hands, shoulders shaking. “It’s all wrong, Tyler! It’s not supposed to be this way!”

“What way, Billy?” I asked as kindly as I could. I wasn’t able to keep all the bitterness out of my voice, but I tried.

“Being positive sucks! I feel sick all the time, now. Robbie didn’t tell me about any of this! I get diarrhea, there are sores in my mouth, and I’m always so tired, Tyler…”

“What about the medication?”

“I can’t afford it. I’m broke, and it costs thousands, Tyler. I sold my car, but that money went fast. After it was gone, Robbie threw me out.”

I sighed, feeling so badly for him that it was not quite a physical pain. Billy didn’t deserve any of this, even though he’d been an idiot with his health. Nobody merited it. “You need to go home, Billy.”

“I told u that I can’t! My daddy said-”

“I know, I know, but u have to try. They’re your parents, Billy, and I don’t think they were half as bad as u used to think they were. Your mom was really upset when u disappeared.”

Billy shook his head, looking at me throughout his tears. “You weren’t there, Tyler. you didn’t hear the horrible things my dad said to me.”

“As I recall, he’s not the only one who told rotten things.” I gave him a look, and he had the good sense to blush. “We all make mistakes. We’re human. u weren’t exactly Son-of-the-Year material, Billy. Give ’em a chance to make it right.”

“What if they don’t change their minds? What am I going to do?”

“I don’t know, but I’ll help u figure it out. Let’s take it one step at a time. Call home, Billy,” I told firmly, handing him my phone.

he took it, holding it in shaking hands, staring at it for several long minutes. For a minute I thought this guy wasn’t going to do it, but finally this chab flipped it open and dialed his parent’s number.

“Dad? Yeah, it’s me. Daddy, I’m so sorry! I… Yes, I’m at Tyler’s. No, dad. He’s out of the picture. I’m done with him. I know. I’m so sorry! yep. Yeah, I understand.” this chab snapped the phone closed and started to cry another time.

Oh, Lord! Did his daddy say no? “Billy? What did he say?” I asked, fearing the worst.

“That’s he’s coming to receive me. I’m going home, Tyler!” Billy hiccupped, crying harder.

This time, I joined him.