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Abby turned the black plastic rook over in his sunburned hand, running his fingers over the serrated top of the castle-shaped chess piece. A tall boy for his age, Abby had blond hair and brown eyes that looked green when he wore light shirts.
You’re gonna lose everything.
Abby tossed the rook down onto the asphalt. He rocked back and forth, holding his legs. The world wouldn’t understand. He knew he shouldn’t tell. But then he thought of Tristan, her dirty blond hair, hazel eyes, and olive-tinted skin … something only Abby could understand.
It's the truth, Abby. You have to tell them. Maybe they'll understand.
Beyond the alley, rainbow flags were strung on flagpoles and streetlamps, even around the roofs of tall buildings like Christmas tree garlands. For Abby, all it did was hurt his eyes.
Abby had always known he was different. That’s what Sid, his shrink, had told him. She fingered her shell necklace as she sat across from Abby in her dimly lit office, trying to make sense of him. “You’re special, Abby, but … in a bad way.”
“In a bad way,” Abby mumbled to himself as he stared at the chess piece on the ground. He had stolen it from Tristan. She wouldn’t notice. She had dozens stashed in a drawer beside her bed.
Abby got up. His footsteps sounded like sandpaper on the cement as he trudged slowly home, trying to ignore the neon cars that barreled past him. The world was one giant tie-dye light bulb.
He reached his house, a rainbow palace. He reached the dining room where his family sat: his two moms, Owen and Jack, his twin sister, Jordan, and older sister, Noah. Beside Noah sat Tristan, her arms tucked under the table, oblivious to Jordan’s longing stares. Jordan had a secret crush on Tristan. And I do too, Abby thought to himself as he approached the table. The smell of turtle soup hit his nose before he even made it to his chair. A gigantic pot of it sat in the middle of the table, already dished into six bowls.
“Noah found it. Noah found the turtle,” Jordan exclaimed as Abby sat down in the last empty chair. He could feel his heartbeat in his chest, pounding like an uneven drum, egging him on. Slowly, Abby pushed his bowl forward so he could rest his elbows on the table. Everyone stared at him.
“Aren’t you hungry?” Noah asked.
Abby cleared his throat. “Mom? Mom? I’ve got something to tell you.” Abby looked down at the tablecloth, his cheeks burning with the uncomfortable blush that matched his nasty sunburn.
He began: “All my life, you’ve taught me to be honest and not hide anything from you and you’ve been such good parents to me and made me feel so loved.”
“Um, Abby?” Jordan whispered, embarrassed. “This is weird, you know, with Tristan here and all? Can’t this wait?”
“No,” Abby stated firmly.
Then all Abby could hear was the echo of what he said.
The mouths of all at the table were clamped shut, turtle soup burning in their throats.
“You’re what?” Owen exclaimed, standing up abruptly, brandishing her spoon like a knife. “You take that back, Abby. You take that back now.”
“But it’s the truth,” Abby whispered, biting his lip. He didn’t want to let the tears fall from his eyes. “Mom, please …”
Owen was shaking. “Abby, where did we go wrong?”
"It doesn't have anything to do with you," Abby tried to explain.
Jack stood up beside her wife. "Why, Abby?"
"Mom, I didn't choose this. You have to believe me."
Jordan covered her ears. “That’s disgusting.”
“It’s who I am,” Abby replied.
“No,” Jack interjected. “Don’t even try that here. You were not ‘born’ that way.”
He bit his lip, looking over to Noah for acceptance. She scowled at the soup in front of her.
“Noah,” Abby whispered, trying to catch his sister’s eye. “Please.”
“You’re sick,” she said, knocking her chair backwards as she stood.
Without another word, Abby watched his family leave the room one by one in a robotic slow walk, none of them even glancing in his direction. A tear escaped Abby’s swollen right eye as Noah crossed the threshold and followed Abby’s family out of sight. Abby turned to look at Tristan, whose gaze was fixated on him. For a moment, Abby considered telling her how much she meant to him.
Slowly, Tristan stood. Abby looked up at her midnight hair for the last time. As she crossed the threshold, she turned back for a moment, her hazel eyes catching Abby’s brown ones.
Quietly, she whispered, “That was brave” as she disappeared into a sea of rainbow stripes.