Troy was running, the sun beating down on his neck, and the sounds of pavement under his shoes ringing loud and clear in his ears. The basketball balanced briefly on his fingertips as he jumped and spun, an orange blur swishing through the net a second later. Sweat dripped down his forehead as he walked over to the grass and collapsed.
Basketball distracted him. It kept him from thinking when life got him down. And sure, the breakup with Gabriella had been worked out earlier in the summer but it came back to haunt him every now and then. He'd been so close to losing his friends in his ambition. Ambition is a good thing, until it drives you away from everyone you love.
And even though he'd made up with Chad in the kitchen that day, things just hadn’t been the same. Chad was spending more time with Ryan Evans. Turns out the guy really isn't as insane as his sister but it still felt like a low blow. Chad had turned down Troy and basketball today in favor of hanging with Ryan freaking Evans. They’d hated each other before this summer!
Troy grabbed his phone and stared down at it, sighing. Eventually he flipped it open and scrolled down, hovering over Chad's number. Before he could hesitate and back out, he pressed the call button.
Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ri—
“Hi, one second.” Ryan’s voice filled his ears before there was the sound of the phone being passed over.
"Hey, T-Troy, um what's up man?"
Troy raised an eyebrow. He’d never known Chad to stutter like that.
"Nothing much. Just wondering what could be more important that playing basketball with your best bud."
"Ah! Uh, nothing!"
There was a rustling sound and then Troy could hear Chad whispering fiercely at someone.
"Are you sure?"
"Mmhmm!" There was a noise, one that Troy could have sworn was a choked moan. Ridiculous though. Right? Chad was with Ryan, there was nothing that would have him moaning. "We’re just watching movies."
Okay. Maybe that explained it. Maybe the noise he’d heard was from the movie. Maybe.
"What movie?” Troy asked, hating that he was suspicious right now. But, he knew Chad as well as himself and Chad was definitely not telling him something.
"What movie? Oh, uh, some old 80s thing called Dirty Dancing. Ry, ah, likes it.”
"Right." Troy nodded. He was beginning to think he knew what was going on. Before he could respond, there was the sound of a phone being pressed against fabric again, except this time Troy could hear the muffled whispers.
"Ry, stop that! I'm on the phone!”
"So? Makes it better."
"Don't give me that look, we are not doing this when I'm on the phone with Troy!"
Half a second passed. Or maybe a century. Troy barely breathed. More rustling sounds and what might have been a faint moan.
"Ry, fuck! Oh fuck don't stop that. Sh-shit."
Troy considered just hanging up and never speaking of this again. He was pretty sure he knew what his best friend was up to now, but he couldn’t make sense of it in his head. Chad was straight, right? Right?
"Hey man." Chad’s voice startled him. He had moved the phone back to talk again. "L-Look, I have to go, I'll, uh, talk to you later."
Troy immediately agreed to talk at another time and ended the call. For a second, he stared into empty space, trying to erase that conversation from his head. Then he picked up he phone again and dialed Gabriella.
"Hey wildcat, what's up?" Gabriella’s cheerful voice rang in his ears and lifted his spirits until he was smiling. Yea. He was totally smitten.
"Hey Gabi," Troy began nervously, the memory of why he was calling diminishing his smile. "Ryan is gay, right?"
"Took you long enough," Gabriella laughed. Troy blushed at the memory of him growing jealous over the summer.
"Right. And Chad," Troy cleared his throat. "Chad broke up with Taylor quite a while ago, right?"
"Yup." Troy could almost hear the second Gabriella smirked. "Finally figured it out, have you?"
"Ah, figured what out?" Troy asked, avoiding the question. He knew the answer anyways.
"That Chad is gay." And there it was.
"Yup.” Troy sighed. “Look, it’s not that I’m upset. I’m not upset at all. It’s just, very sudden. I don’t know what to do.”
"Oh honey," Gabi's voice was sympathetic. "He's been trying to tell you for years."
"Wait, then why did he date Taylor?"
"An experiment. Last ditch effort to be straight. It failed spectacularly. You should have been there actually. He broke up with her in the kitchens by saying she just wasn't his type. She didn't even look up from her clipboard to say, "Oh I know. I don't have a dick. If we're being honest, I was only with you to impress my parents." Chad had the most dumbfounded look on his face. Then he grinned and ran off, saying something about Twilight and people finally getting it. Zeke baked him rainbow cookies as a coming out congratulations."
Troy was staring at the ground. Of course everyone else had been there. Why wouldn't they? He was the one who had been absent over the summer and people changed when you weren't there. You didn't see them making the slow progression, so sometimes it could feel like a whole new person.
"Yea, I'm still here." Troy ran a hand over his face and pinched his eyebrows. Why hadn't Chad told him earlier? Chad had met his uncles when they were 8 at Christmas. Chad knew Tory had no problem with him having two moms. And yet, Chad hadn't felt like he could trust him with a major part of his identity? He wasn’t going to lie, it hurt a little, but he was mostly just confused and concerned about the state of his friendship with Chad.
"Good. I will warn you, he is dating Ryan and I know you don’t get along with him." Well, there was his confirmation.
“Yea, I just got off the phone with Chad. It sounded like they were...having fun. That’s why I called actually. I didn’t really know what to do.”
“Do you now?”
“Yea.” He was going to call Chad back later and and have a long conversation. It was mostly going to be Troy reassuring Chad that he can tell him anything and he won’t judge. Even if he is dating the twin of evil incarnate.
"Good.” Gabriella hesitated. “He really didn't tell you?"
"Nope,” Troy said.
"Hmm." Gabriella didn't sound convinced. "Are you sure? Cause I've heard some stories from people and it seems like he's always been trying to tell you."
"Really?" Troy frowned. He couldn’t recall anything ever about Chad and the subject of not being straight.
"Twilight and Edward Cullen ring a bell?"
No. Wait. Wait a second. Realization dawned on Troy. Shit, he was oblivious.
"Gay agenda T-shirt in freshman year? Rumors about him and Sam spreading in sophomore? Wants to marry Shaquille O’Neal? Was caught not once, but twice on a gay porn website, in the same day?"
"Well shit." Troy laughed. Gabriella laughed with him.
"'Well shit' seems about right. Listen, I've got to go now but I'll see you around wildcat. Don't freak out if Chad shows up with hickies."
The call connection was cut as Troy looked down at his phone in horror and shock. He did not need to think about his best friend, or really anyone except Gabriella, in such a position to receive hickies.
Later, when Chad finally decided showed up at his house, he sat down on the grass and said he was sorry. Sorry for being absent all through the summer. Sorry for being a shitty best friend. And most of all, sorry for being an oblivious dickhead and not realizing what Chad meant every time he’d said he’d do it with any basketball player over 6 foot if given the chance.
Chad had simply grinned and said, "Fucking finally. Ryan owes me $20 and a collar now."
Troy decided he really really didn't need to know about that.