“And after we got out of the emergency room, and my-my wrist was all...fixed up, we saw the-the sun...drop down, over the horizon, and everything was so bright and dark at the same time, for forever and ever, and-” Evan forces himself to stop talking. He glances to Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, trying to evaluate their expressions. Did I say too much? Could they tell I was lying? Did-
His thoughts are cut short as Mrs. Murphy-- “Call me, ‘Cynthia,’ darling.” --speaks, “Thank you, Evan.” A smile spreads across her face. “Thank you,” she repeats.
“Oh. Oh, of-of course,” Evan stammers in response, trying to stabilize his voice. He glances around the dinner table, attempting not to focus on Zoe too much. He wonders idly why the tablecloth is so soft between his fidgeting fingertips.
Mr. Murphy-- “Larry.”--clears his throat, inclining his head to his wife in a subtle, silent conversation. He turns to Evan, his hands clasped on the table. “Well, Evan, thank you-thank you for that beautiful story.” His tone is soft, as though he’s testing the waters. “We have some questions, though, as you might-”
“Oh, of course!” says Evan hurriedly, before realizing that he interrupted the man. “Oh, I’m-I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to-to…” he trails off, awkwardly.
“Right,” replies Mr. Murphy, kindly. “Well… You see, we were wondering if… We were wondering if maybe…”
“If maybe you and Connor were,” starts Mrs. Murphy, “in a relationship.”
Evan looks between the two of them, back and forth. “Um, he was-he was my best friend.” The two final words still seem to exciting, so energizing, so promising, after years of assurances from seemingly the entire student body that he would never have a “best friend.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Murphy forges forward, “but we were curious if maybe, if maybe there was more to your relationship than being best friends.”
Evan searches her face, his eyebrows furrowed. She seems sincere, seems interested and careful. His eyes flick to Mr. Murphy, who’s watching him back with caution and-and something else, something else that Evan can’t identify. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand-”
Zoe leans forward, her elbows perched on the dinner table, “Connor had loads of boyfriends.”
“I wouldn’t say loads, honey,” Cynthia responds.
Zoe sighs, “Fine, a couple. Connor had a couple boyfriends.”
“Oh,” Evan says, numbly. “I’m not sure if-” if I should be here, if I’m making a mistake, if they even want me here, they probably don’t, they probably hate me, think I’m some fake, I am a fake, and now they think that Connor and me were dating and what if they’re not okay with it, what if-Dad yelled, he yelled when I told him, when I said that-
“It’s just a question, Evan.” Larry cocks his head calmly. Evan’s million-mile-an-hour thoughts crash to a sudden, complete halt. Larry doesn’t seem angry, doesn’t seem even slightly upset, but then again people always lie, always, and you can never really read faces, and-
“Honey, it’s alright if you were.” Cynthia smiles at him, but her eyes are still covered with the pain of using past tense. They’re so kind, they’re too kind, too good to be true, Mom always says, and so it’s not true, not of it is true, I'm such a liar-
“Yeah,” Zoe adds. She looks at him a little harder. Her previous neutral, slightly amused expression shifts to confusion and-and sadness. “We’d never be angry at you.” You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, and you’ve already been damned.
“It’s just-” Cynthia lays her hands on the tabletop, a gesture of peace. “The secret emails, the hidden meetings, us never meeting you… Connor was always very reserved with discussing his sexuality, despite our full-hearted support of him, so you must understand how we would assume-”
Jared’s voice rings throughout Evan’s head, “Just nod and confirm. Whatever you do, just don’t make shit up.” Just nod and confirm, just nod and confirm, justnodand confirm, justnodandconfirm just
Evan nods. He confirms. “Yeah. Yeah, Connor and I, we were together, not for very long, we were friends-we were best friends beforehand, but-but yeah. Yeah.”
“Huh.” Zoe shrugs. “And here I always thought you had a crush on me.” She chuckles, shaking her head slightly. The corners of her eyes crinkle. Cynthia laughs slightly too. Evan joins them, probably a little too high-pitched and for a little too long.
“Yeah.” Evan rubs the back of his neck, glancing around again, wondering when he can make a timely exit. “I… My mom, probably, she probably wants me to, to come back home, so I should… It’s a school night.” He trails off, wondering why any of these people have voluntarily chosen to spend time with him.
“Of course, and we would...we would love to know more, to hear more, to remember...to remember our son, at any time you’re able, any time you have enough strength.” Cynthia smiles. She stands. “Larry?”
Larry stands as well, “I’ll walk you out.” Evan pushes his chair back, scanning the two faces. He sees only acceptance and curiosity. For a brief moment, a pang of jealousy spreads through his body like a wild fire, a burn of anger and frustration. He shakes his head, trying to push away the envious thoughts--I wish I had a family so-so...
His mouth opens, seemingly without his permission. “It wasn’t for very long, but we were, we were close, and-and, yeah, it’s great that-that Connor had...a family that was-that is so...accepting….”
Mr. Murphy furrows his eyebrows briefly, leading Evan towards the front of the house--the big beautiful, furnished, expensive, luxurious house. “Well, your parents must be pretty proud of you, too.”
“Yeah, yeah,” the lie forces its way through his teeth, “yeah, they couldn’t be prouder.” Dad always thought that Evan needed to be fixed, that he was broken in some way, ever since he first mentioned that he honestly thought that Han Solo was just as attractive as Leia-and-and Mom always looked at the world with an open mind, always seemed to love unconditionally, but she thought Evan needed to be fixed, too, just in a different way, with the anxiety medications and the therapy and his psychiatrist and-
“They should be, Evan.” The two reach the door. Mr. Murphy. The Murphys. They’re just too kind, they’re too nice, it’s too much, too-
“I don’t know why I said that. That’s not true, that’s not- My-my dad. My dad thinks that it’s...unnatural. He doesn’t...approve. He thinks-he thinks-”
“He’s wrong,” Mr. Murphy abruptly assures. “You know that, yes?”
“I do,” Evan says, and for once, it is the true.
“Good.” Mr. Murphy looks tired. “That’s good.” He coughs. “That’s good.”
Evan nods. He steps out of the house, begins to walk home, and wonders what the hell he's gonna do next.