“Blood Orange Soda” by Maya Rahman-Rios

Wait until your mother and brother have left the house. Then, call him. Four oh eight, five five five, seven three eight oh. You’ve had the number memorized since he handed it to you underneath the lab table, his fingers brushing against yours for just the slightest minute.

You think that he just gave you the number because he needed help on his homework. That’s usually what happens when you’re the smartest kid in class. “Hey, Dan, help me with this!” “Hey, Dan, let me get your answers!” “Hey, Dan, what did you get for number eight?” “Hey, Dan…” “Hey, Dan…” “Hey, Dan…” But not him. He called you for three minutes last night and he asked you what you’re doing tonight and you thought he probably just wants you to come over and watch TV and drink his dad’s beers with him and his friends, but you couldn’t be sure. Don’t be sure. It’s better that way.

Say yes, even though you’re nervous, and wait until your mother and brother have left the house before you call him. He answers on the first ring, gives you the address, tells you he’ll see you soon. Smile. Walk down the street. Four more blocks, then three more, then two more, then one more, and then holy shit you’re right in front of his house. It’s red with white paneling and it looks like it belongs in a Christmas movie. Walk up to the door. Confident.

Don’t knock. You don’t have to knock. The door is open right away and he ushers you inside. He gets you a blood orange soda from the fridge and asks you what you did today. Should you tell him? Should you tell him that you spent all day thinking about him, wondering if he likes you the way that you like him? Or should you just swish the blood orange soda around in your mouth, savoring the taste because you’ve never had it before? Just wait. Just wait and wonder if it tastes like him.

“You okay, Dan?” he asks you. Forget every word you’ve ever learned, every sentence you’ve ever spoke. Just nod. He takes your hand and smiles. “It’s okay. I know how you feel.”

“Who told you?”

“No one. I just know.”

He puts his arm around you, kisses you. Kiss him back, idiot. Do it. It’s everything the girly magazines said it would be and you get a little embarrassed because you know that. His hand lingers on your hip and you smile.

Wait until your mother and brother leave the house to bring him over. Cuddle the shit out of him on your bed and surround yourself with sheets that smell like him as soon as you wake up. Do this for a week, two weeks, but don’t tell your mother or anyone else. This is your secret. And his. He loves you, he says. But why can’t you tell anyone?

“Dan, I’m not gay. I’m just…I’m just…playing around,” he says. “I can’t have people knowing about this. About us.”

He’s lying, you know it. So, go to his house. Push open the white door and smash his bottles of blood orange soda all over the kitchen. He deserves it. Crush the glass with the heel of your boot and spell out “Fuck you” on the floor. Pray that he steps in it barefoot and that your teacher lets you change lab partners. When she asks why, make something up. Don’t tell her the truth. If people can lie to you, you can lie too.

Maya Rahman-Rios is a recent graduate of Chapman University’s Creative Writing program. Her favorite things besides writing are Dance Moms, fashion, and lipstick, and she hopes to one day finish the novel she began writing in her capstone class. Follow her on Instagram: @missmayaya.

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