Read Part 4 Here
The next morning came too soon. Taylor’s cat was pawing at her face, encouraging her to get up and feed her. Taylor growled at the cat and demanded she bring her coffee. She figured, you never know, one of these days it just might work. As if on cue, Taylor’s mother showed up at the door with coffee. Oh crap. This means she wants to talk. Taylor’s mom looked just like her, as did her mother. Something in the genes she supposed. She was a quiet woman, so long as you didn’t cross the line. Then heaven have mercy upon you. Taylor had only seen her mother lose her temper a few times, and it was not something she cared to see again. Her mother had shoulder length brown hair that she usually kept up in a bun. Her eyes were a bright blue, the one thing she did not pass on to her children. She looked much younger than her 45 years, only giving away her age when she smiled, allowing the wrinkles to sneak out from behind her eyes. She matched her very biblical name Rebecca, at least in appearance. In actions, well that was another story.
Rebecca started going through Taylor’s closet, pretending she was going to borrow clothes, stalling for time to figure out how to start talking. This was a common occurrence. Taylor wasn’t sure if it was because her mom really liked her clothes or just found it a convenient excuse to come in her room.
“Mom, just spit it out already. I know you want to talk about Dylan, school, Kate, etcetera.”
“Oh no honey, I’m just looking for a nice shirt for work today.”
“Okay, mom. If you say so.”
“But, if you want to talk about Dylan, of course I would be happy to listen.” Taylor held in her laughter.
“We ran into each other after school and talked about what happened. Decided we could try a fresh start and see if we could be friends. Just friends Mom.”
“Well, that is good dear. You were so worried about not having any friends when we came back. I was beginning to think you would run off with Hayley.”
“Mom! I am not that stupid.”
“Of course not dear. Do you think Kate’s day went okay? She was hauled up in her room most of the night and barely spoke at dinner.”
“I can’t say; she doesn’t really talk to me anymore. But she was really excited to see Dylan. Maybe we can get him to figure out what goes on in that tiny head of hers.” Rebecca sat down on Taylor’s bed and started drinking her coffee. Taylor instantly relaxed into her morning routine with her mom and started to go on about her day yesterday as she drank her coffee. The two had always been very close. It didn’t seem that anything could shake their bond.
“Shit, mom I didn’t realize what time it is. I have to get ready. Can you take Kate to school?”
“No, I have a meeting in New Orleans, but your papa already left with her. They went out for breakfast. You know those two up at dawn.”
“Two peas in a crazy pod.” Taylor shook her head as she threw on a pair of grey leggings and black boots under the large tank top she had been sleeping in. She grabbed her favorite necklace and threw her hair up in bun. She didn’t really care what she looked like. She figured she would always look like a tragic mess, why even bother trying? She grabbed a pack of peanut butter crackers, refilled her coffee, and stepped out onto the porch to find Dylan waiting for her.
“Guess, you need a ride to school, D.”
“Well, seeing as my car is already at school, yes I do. It’s the least you could do, seeing as I kept your family entertained all evening.”
“Come on D, let’s go. I don’t want to be late for Art. For all I know, Katherine would be saving me a seat and Eric would have photos of my art on display.”
“Don’t be so dramatic. No one will even notice you are there.”
“Oh, I didn’t mention that Eric used to come to my shows in Seattle, and we’re good friends?” Taylor figured stretching the truth to rile up Dylan was worth it.
“What?! You. Good friends with a teacher. Impossible.” Taylor punched Dylan in the shoulder.
“No, you idiot. He is a cousin to a close friend of mine. He was in town all summer, so he often made it by the gallery.”
“Sure, he just happened to show up at all your shows because he just “happened” to like your art.” Taylor was going to lose her temper if he did not shut up. She wasn’t ready to tell him about Hayley. Hell, she didn’t even know where things stood with her, so what could she tell him anyway?
“We are not close enough for me to tell you every detail of my life. Eric is not interested in me, nor I in him. You will let this go, before it ruins what little repair work we have done on our friendship.” Dylan sighed clearly realizing his joking had gone too far.
“Fine,” he mumbled under his breath. “I can’t risk our friendship now that I have got a chance to snag your mom.” He smiled big, clearly hoping his joke would break the tension. Taylor smiled back, accepting his joke as an apology.
“Actually, my mother and I were talking about you this morning.” Dylan perked up.
“I knew it! Becky can’t help herself around my studly physique.”
“Don’t let her catch you calling her Becky. Only one person is allowed to call her that, and it isn’t you. We were actually thinking maybe you could try and hang out with Kate a bit and see if she would open up to you. She is like a lock box, and we’re worried about her.”
“No problem, babe. I can take her fishing with me this weekend.”
“I think she would like that, thanks.”
The rest of the drive to school was quiet except for the radio. As they pulled into Taylor’s parking spot Dylan leaned over and gave Taylor a hug and whispered “good luck,” in her ear. She knew she would need it to survive another art class with Katherine.
Taylor let Dylan walk away, not wanting to walk into the building with him. It was bad enough people saw them drive up together. She was certain that little fact would have already gotten to Katherine by the time she made it down the hallway.
With only a few minutes left before class started, the hallways were packed full of students rushing to class, slamming lockers, or clearly dragging their feet hoping they could find a last minute excuse to avoid class.
The bell rang right as Taylor opened the door to the art room. She quickly glanced around the room to see Zoe had saved a spot for her at the back table. She let out a sigh of relief and headed to the back of the room. As she passed Katherine, she could hear her whisper something about being pathetic, but ignored it and kept walking.
She was about to start talking to Zoe when Eric walked in carrying a large box full of very old cameras.
“Good morning class. We will be starting our first project today. You will each be given a camera that is not digital. You will also be given a time period, and you will research the time period and begin taking photos that would be artistically appropriate to the time period. We will then use those photos in our next project. I won’t go into details on that because I don’t want to influence your stylistic choices. I have gone over your portfolios and assigned you each a time period that I feel will push you outside of your comfort zone artistically. Keep in mind, none of these cameras will be digital. I want you all learning the process of developing photos.” A quiet hum of whispering goes throughout the class. There is a mixture of responses. Some students groaning, other clearly excited.
Taylor whispers to Zoe, “What time period do you think you will get?”
“I don’t know. I honestly don’t know much about photography or history for that matter. I am really excited though. I have been to some amazing exhibits of some amazing photographers. Does that count for anything?” Zoe giggles softly.
“That totally counts. I have a friend that loves photography. I’m sure she will be excited to see what I come up with.” Taylor looks knowingly at Eric as he walks around passing out cameras. Did he know how much time she has spent in the dark room with Hayley? He probably did. Everyone at the gallery knew how much time the two girls spent together.
“Taylor, it took me some time to find a time period to challenge you, but I think you will enjoy this.” He handed her an old canon 35mm camera that was worn around the edges. Along with a slip of paper that said 1968.
“Thanks, Eric.” She wanted to say more, but he had already dropped off Zoe’s assignment and was onto the next table. Taylor turned to Zoe, “What did you get?”
“I got 1929, what about you?”
“Do you have any ideas on what he is thinking with this project?”
“I actually don’t know much about his art, but his cousin is an amazing photographer. Perhaps she inspired him.”
“Oh, so you know Eric. I mean like, outside of school. I thought it was odd they way he talked about your art. So are you gonna to tell me about it, or am I gonna to have to force it out of you? I will trade your info for what Katherine told me about you yesterday.” Zoe whispered the last part of the sentence hoping the blonde wasn’t too close to hear them.
“When we are not around so many listening ears, I will tell you about it, perhaps.”
“Great, how about lunch? We could eat outside, and that way we avoid your best friend. Kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.”
“Ok, but don’t be surprised by the lack of information I have to tell you.” Zoe giggled and gave Taylor a knowing look.
“I’m sure once you get to know me, how much you know about him will suddenly become a lot more informative.” Taylor looked up at the girl, trying to figure her out. She seemed nice enough. She didn’t distract her in class or pester her about what she was wearing or follow her on social media. But, Taylor pulled her emotions back in, not wanting to get too ahead of herself. She was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Making friends at school couldn’t be this easy, could it?
Taylor was too distracted to really notice that her morning classes had all but finished and it was time to go find Zoe for lunch. She grabbed her lunch out of her locker and walked outside. The courtyard was a large rectangular garden, surrounded on all four sides by the school building. The pathways wove in and out of intricate landscaping. Large oak trees littered the garden, along with various plants that grew well in wet, humid climates. It was usually a rather calming place to be. As Taylor walked over to Zoe, she noticed that Katherine was there laughing with her. What the actual fuck? Katherine’s eyes darted over to Taylor with that knowing glance. Katherine was determined to make Zoe her friend and screw with Taylor at the same time. Taylor just turned and walked away, hoping she would get far enough away to keep herself from crying or screaming in frustration, hoping Zoe hadn’t seen her. Sure, Zoe would be upset she didn’t show, but who cared if she was friends with Katherine. She was rushing towards the art hall when she bumped into Dylan and his friend.
“Tay!” Dylan quickly noticed that something was wrong. He wrapped his arm around Taylor. “You alright, Tay? You look either mad as hell, or I don’t know what exactly. Let’s get out of here so we can talk.” They started walking towards the parking lot. Taylor stammered trying to get her composure together.
“I’m….” Taylor noticed Dylan wasn’t alone and quickly bottled up. “Are you going to introduce me to your friend, D?” Dylan smiled, knowing he would have to wait until they were alone to get it out of Taylor what had happened.
“Sure thing, babe. This is Cartwright. He’s my boyfriend.” A look of shock came over both Taylor and Cartwright, clearly neither one was expecting that answer. Cartwright was nothing like Dylan. He was tall and lean. He wore black trimmed glasses and kept his hair neatly trimmed and styled. He wore dark brown slacks and a worn in blue shirt that had some worn out writing on it. Before Dylan could say anything else Cartwright punched his arm and glared at him as if he wanted to do more than just hit him.
“What the hell, Dylan.” Taylor jumped in.
“You can’t be serious Dylan? Why didn’t you say anything yesterday? Does everyone at school know? You want me to believe the football team doesn’t care?” She stopped realizing she was just rambling question after question now. Dylan cleared his throat, knowing he better choose his words wisely.
“Well, first of all I am serious.” Dylan was looking at Cartwright trying to keep him from storming off. “No one at school knows. If they did I would not be on the team, and you know that. I don’t know why I just came out and told you like that.” He looked down at his feet. “I have just wanted to have someone know, keeping it a secret has been killing me, and hurting you too Cartwright, you know it has. I almost told you so many times yesterday, but I just couldn’t find the right way to say it. And I was unsure of whether you would be my friend and be okay with it, or throw me to the wolves.” He looked up at Taylor with hope and sadness in his eyes. She could tell he was really hurting.
“Of course I would never tell anyone at school! I am just surprised is all. I guess we really do have a lot of catching up to do. Preferably with a strong coffee in my hands.” Both boys sighed in relief. “You know, since we are already out by my car, and it is an awful long walk back to the building, why don’t we just go get coffee now? I’ll text my mom to make up an excuse for us, just like old times.” Cartwright looked shocked. He had never skipped class before. He was still reeling from the conversation that outed him to a complete stranger and now they were thinking about skipping school. He took of his glasses and rubbed his temples. Dylan, on the other hand, jumped to high give Taylor.
“Taylor, I had forgotten how much fun it is that you mom works for the school. But how are we going to get Cartwright on board, and what about his parents?” Cartwright looked up.
“Screw my parents. They won’t notice right? Besides I don’t think I can stand to go back in there right now anyway.” Taylor and Dylan smiled at each other.
“Oh, I think I like him already, D. Let me just call my mom.” Taylor walked to the other side of the car to make the phone call, leaving the boys alone.
“Why did you tell her? I mean it. I want an honest answer, not some crap. I have been begging you to come out for months now, and you refuse to even discuss it.”
“Taylor and I have known each other since we were kids. Her family is very accepting. Even though we haven’t spoken for two years, which is my fault and a very long story, I trust her implicitly. Once you get to know her, and meet her parents, you will understand.” Cartwright nodded slowly.
“You know I trust you, this is just… just so sudden. In one swoop, you go from refusing to acknowledge me to anyone, to you pronouncing our love and skipping school. You can’t expect me to not question it.”
“Our love, huh?” Dylan smirked, wishing he could grab his boyfriend and kiss him right here and now.
“What can I say? Taylor brings out my wild side.” Cartwright frowned and started to turn to walk away.
“Oh, shit. No, No… not like that. I meant… hell. I’ll just shut up now before I get myself in more trouble.”
“That’s a good idea.” Taylor walked back over to the boys. Could her life get any crazier? She certainly hoped not.
“Dylan, you are covered, obviously. Cartwright, my mom was rather reluctant to give you a free pass, so I hope you don’t mind, but I had to tell you were having a crisis of your sexuality and that your parents wouldn’t understand.” She spit out that last part rather quickly and hoped for the best.
“You said what?! How could you say that to her? She is a dean! She is going to tell my parents. I am so screwed.” He sat down on the ground and hid his head in his knees. Dylan was freaking out too, but he didn’t want Cartwright to notice.
“It was the only way. She wasn’t going to do it. I had to pull out all the stops. She knows Dylan’s family. His mother knows we skip school. She doesn’t know anything about you. I had to pull the one card I knew she couldn’t refuse.” Dylan sat down next to Cartwright, careful not to touch him as much as he wanted to, they were at school and he had to be careful.
“I promise, she will not tell anyone. You can trust Taylor, and her family. Let’s get out of here. Is Papa at home, Tay?”
“No, he should be at church or at his office. Good thinking. Let’s go to my house.” They all piled into Taylor’s car and left campus.