Tamika Wood’s Birthday Party

& Other Stories by Le Kendall

1.11 Tamika Wood’s Birthday Party (reprise)

Alan Sebastian

It’s Tamika Wood’s birthday party again and I didn’t really want to go but Gillian insisted that we needed a break.

I’m worried about Mani. That Gillian will insist that Michelle look after him on her own. Gillian tells me I’m cruel for not trusting my sister with her own child and that Michelle is just stressed and hormonal and making bad jokes.

“Just don’t leave him alone with her,” I pleaded with Gillian. But she took my hand and squeezed it. “I’ll look after both of them. I promise. Stop worrying and be a kid for a few hours.”

Scott seems eager to “relax” but it doesn’t feel relaxing here. I’d rather be at home with sleepy Mani burping milk into my shoulder.

If we’d stayed home we’d take it in turns to rock Mani to sleep and Scott would make a show of going to bed on the camp-bed in my room but he’d crawl into bed with me as soon as the lights were off.

Scott drank a beer and I thought If I kissed him he’d taste like beer, but he doesn’t want anyone to know about us.

Scott was talking to some girls that I don’t know and I just felt sick and jealous and sad and I wished I were at home.

And then he smirked at me like he usually smirks at girls and he kissed me then but he was laughing and I kissed him back because it’s automatic now but people were cheering and laughing and Damian King was miming vomiting and Scott turned around triumphantly and looked expectantly at two girls. Who giggled and then hesitantly kissed each other while Scott and the other boys clapped and cheered and hollered.

I felt used and sick and homesick so I walked away and out the door.

I walk down the path and away from the house and I keep walking until I reach the fence and I grasp the wire with both hands and I wonder what it would feel like if I put my hand around the barb on the wire and squeezed it. But I don’t do that.

“Where are you going?” asks Scott. I didn’t know he’d seen me leave.

“I’m going home,” I say firmly and I push the top wire down to climb over the fence.

“You can’t walk home, it’s too far,” he says. But it’s hours until morning and I think I can probably make it there before Gillian wakes up.

My pants get caught in the barbed wire and Scott helps me over and I help him over too even though I don’t know why he’s following me.

“If you don’t want to kiss me in front of other people,” I say angrily, “You can’t kiss me in front of other people.”

“I know,” he says, “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I did that. I don’t know why I do anything. I’m sorry. Please. I’m sorry. Al…”

“Alan Sebastian,” I say.

We’re still walking, downhill now away from the house. The field is empty in the moonlight, horses in the stable.

“I wish we hadn’t come,” I tell him.

“I know,” he says.

I sit down on the ground and he lies down beside me.

He looks up at the stars and I look at him.

“Do you ever wish you were straight?” he asks me.

“No.” I tell him. Because I haven’t. It feels like such a fundamental part about me that I don’t think a straight version of me would be me at all.

“I don’t know how to stop wanting to be straight,” he says, “And I don’t know how to stop wanting to be with you.”

“I don’t think you can have both,” I point out.

“Because I want both, I can’t have either.”

He’s quiet after that, for long enough that I wonder if he’s fallen asleep. But then he rolls over and takes my hand and I lie down too and we’re lying nose-to-nose in the dirt.

His breath is warm against my face.

“When I kiss you,” he says, “I don’t want anything else. And sometimes I think if I just kissed you for long enough then that feeling would go away. So. Just don’t stop…”

So I don’t, for a long time.

But eventually the sky begins to lighten and Gillian will be coming to pick us up soon. So I pull myself up and I reach for his hand to help him stand.

My back is cold where I’ve been lying in the mud and Scott’s hair is full of dirt and he doesn’t let go of my hand until we’re in view of the house.

End of Part One.

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