One the day after the prom, Alejandro's mother Lopita passed away of old age. Matteo, Alejandro's father, tried to stem the tides of his grief with the distractions of the boardwalk, but his broken heart won out, and nothing could stop him from sobbing mournfully alone on the pier.
Even in the happiest times, Alejandro is not one for going out in public, and his mother's death sent him seeking an even deeper solitude, avoiding the company of everyone, even those closest him.
"I just want to help him, or be with him, or...something,." Kai sighs exasperatedly to his father, "But he says he's can't evrn talk to me right now."
"People grieve differently, son," Julian explains, "I'm sure he knows that you'll be there for him when he's ready. Just be patient."
Kai nods, "I guess you're right. Alex gets stressed out when people expect too much of him. I don't want to make this any worse for him."
But doing nothing at all still seems wrong somehow, so Kai does the only thing he can think of, taking the sadness and loneliness he's sure Alex is feeling right now and pouring it out in a painting.
On Monday, after her soccer game, Dylan meets Luther on one the beach of one of the small islands her family owns. Because the school pulls its athletes out of class early on game days, she hadn't had a chance to talk, or even pass notes in class, with him since the morning.
"So, I heard there was some kind of fight today? You and Clark and Everado?" Dylan launches right into the question that had been on her mind since the gossip of the morning;s activity came to her in the locker room, "What happened, exactly?"
"Wow, word really gets around," Luther laughs, "It wasn't a big deal, and definitely not a fight..."
"Please, I want to know what happened," Dylan urges.
"Before classes this morning, Everado was asking me about our History class assignment. Ingrid was with him."
Dylan nods; Everado had stopped pestering her after he asked Ingrid to the prom, and the couple had become inseparable since that night.
"And then Clark, he just came up out of nowhere and started making these comments about my mom," Luther continues, "Teasing me about not knowing who my father is and stuff."
Dylan groans, "I'm so sorry, Luther."
Luther shakes his head, "It's nothing I haven't heard before. But it was really unexpected, you know? My mom hasn't recorded anything in years. She still has her devoted fan base and we still get the occasional paparrazzi camped out in the yard, but no one in our generation gives a crap about who she's sleeping with, but for some reason, Clark was all over it today."
"I don't blame you for getting mad at him," Dylan says.
"I was mad, but I was more confused, really," Luther continues, "Clark just kept going, you know? And he started in on how my mother's current boytoy was a gold digger who she had to pay to be with her. And he asked me how it felt to have a step-father that just graduated high school."
"Ouch," Dylan sighs.
"Yeah, well, it's kind of true. Micheal is a gold digging dick, and pure evil, if you ask me," Luther says, "And it is creepy as all fuck having him for a step-father. But the thing is, Michael is Ingrid's brother, right? Clark was obviously doing all this to hurt me, he wasn't even paying attention to Everado and Ingrid. But I saw her, and she was not happy at all about where Clark was going with his tirade. So, I tired to nudge Clark back into reality, and told him he shouldn't say anything he was going to regret later."
"That just set Clark even further off the deep end. He actually smiled at me, like this was what he'd waiting for, and he said to me, 'Make me stop,' like he was actually trying to goad me into punching him."
"And did you punch him?" Dylan asks.
Luther chuckles faintly, "I've never hit anyone in my life, never been in a fight. And maybe that's why Clark was trying to pick a fight with me, because I'd be the one guy he'd have a chance at beating, if it came to that. We could run a contest for who gets picked last in gym class most often, me or Clark. So, I don't know, maybe he thought he could prove something by winning a fight with the guy tied with him for 'least tough' in the school," Luther shrugs, still puzzled by the morning's altercation.
"So, what happened," Dylan urges him.
"Everado had been quietly steaming through this, letting Clark vent himself all over me. But when it started to upset Ingrid, Everado stepped in. When Clark dared me to 'make him stop', Everado was the one who jumped for it. He laid into Clark then, verbally, but his fist was ready to go."
"I stepped in before Everado could throw that punch. I told him Clark wasn't worth his time. Everado was really pissed, though, and wouldn't let Clark go until he apologized to Ingrid. Clark wanted a fight, but he apparently wasn't stupid enough to want a fight with Everado, so he backed right down and begged Ingrid to forgive him. And then he ran off. Probably dying of embarrassment. I know I would be. Not that I'd ever, ever do anything that stupid. That story has probably already gone around the whole school; he's never going to live it down."
"It's my fault," Dylan says quietly.
"What? How? You weren't even there, Dyl."
"Clark picked a fight with you because he's jealous," Dylan explains, "He thought because we were friends in grade school that we'd be a couple in high school. He thinks I betrayed him by going out with you. It was still stupid of him to try to fight you, though. Like, I'm not a prize that goes to the winner of the fight."
"No, it actually makes sense," Luther says, understanding now, "If I hit him, I'd look like a bully, and you'd feel bad for him and dump me for him."
"Seriously? That's like the plot of some crappy teen movie," Dylan laughs, "Honestly, I wouldn't blame you for hitting him after what he did. But I'm proud of you for not hitting him. And for stopping Everado. That was brave."
"Nah, not really. Everado has a hot temper, but he cools down really fast, too. If Clark hadn't apologized to Ingrid, though, I don't think I could have done anything to stop him."
"I still think it was brave," Dylan says, turning to kiss him, "Anyone else would have taken Clark's bait, but you kept your cool and you stood up for him against Everado. No one else would have done that."
In mourning for his mother, Alejandro didn't go to school that Monday. Kai was barely able to concentrate in classes, all he could think about was Alex, and wishing he could do something.
Kai got some measure of relief when Alejandro called and asked him to meet him at the cemetery after school, but it wasn't until Alex was in his arms again that Kai could let go of the tension that had been balling up inside him.
"I've missed you so much, Alex," he moans into the boy's collar, "I wanted so badly to hold you."
"I'm sorry," Alex whispers, "I just...I just needed to be alone for awhile."
"I understand," Kai says, gently leading Alex to a nearby bench, "I shouldn't put that on you. You needed some time alone, and I get that."
"I missed you, too," Alejandro answers, "That's why I called you. I know a cemetery isn't exactly romantic..."
"That's okay," Kai reassures him, "You don't need to be romantic for me right now. I'm here for you. I will always be here for you."