Jase hesitated. “I'm talking about what happened between us. I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I'm not gay or anything.”
Luis laughed. “Calm down, Jase. I understand. You don't have to explain. I don't expect anything from you and last night meant nothing.” He truly did understand Jase's fears and he didn't want Jase feeling guilty. But more than that, he didn't want to alter Jase's future in any way. He was beginning to worry if he did, he might alter his own future and he liked his charmed life.
Though Luis was trying put Jase's mind at ease, the corners of Jase's lips turned down the way they always did when he was seriously disappointed. “Well thanks a lot,” he said. “I didn't mean it that way. I'm not gay or anything. But it's not like last night meant nothing to me. You know, Luis, you can be a little cold-hearted sometimes and it's not very attractive.”
Luis took a deep breath. Jase's youth and innocence tugged at his heart. He exhaled and said, “I'm sorry, Jase. I didn't mean it that way. Last night meant more than you'll ever know to me. Seriously.” He looked back to be sure no one was watching them. He took Jase's hand and smiled. “It was one of the best nights of my life. You are the perfect lover. I don't want you to feel obligated toward me in any way. I don't want you to worry about last night.”
Before Jase had a chance to respond, a woman at the cash register called his name and he had to go up front to help another customer. Luis followed him to the front door and turned to stare at a shelf filled with home cleaning supplies. While Jase helped a woman with curlers in her hair decide which carpet tacks would be the right size for her basement steps, Luis glanced at the front window and saw Ashton standing outside. His face was up against the glass and he was trying to get Luis's attention. So Luis went out to see what he wanted.
“I was getting a haircut across the street and I saw you walk in here,” Ashton said.
“I walked over from the school to meet Jase. He gets off work at three and he's taking me home,” Luis said.
“I was wondering if we could talk,” Ashton said.
Luis glanced at the window. He saw Jase and woman standing near the cash register. The woman was talking to Jase. But Jase was watching Luis and Ashton. “Jase said he'd drive me home. I don't want to walk that far.”
Ashton said, “I have my car in town. I'll take you home. I need to talk to you about a few things.”
There was a look of desperation in Ashton's eyes Luis found difficult to ignore. He was also thinking Ashton might have come up with a way to get him back to his real life. So he nodded and said, “Wait here. I'll tell Jase I'll meet him later at home.” Then he went back into the store and walked over to the cash register.
Jase sent him a serious look. “What's he doing here?” He was obviously talking about Ashton. Luis noticed a hint of jealousy in his voice.
“Ashton asked me to help him out with something important, Jase,” Luis said. He did this in front of the woman buying the carpet tacks and the woman at the cash register. He figured Jase wouldn't stop him if there were people around. “He said he'd give me a ride home.”
Jase's jaw dropped. He clenched his fists. “I thought I was going to take you home.” He spoke through gritted teeth.
Luis smiled as if nothing was wrong. “I really want to help him out. It sounds important. I'll see you later, Jase.” And without waiting for Jase to say a word, Luis turned and left him standing there with his mouth clamped shut and his fists clenched to his sides.
The rest of the afternoon was spent talking about the future. Ashton wanted to know so much he brought along a pad and pencil and took notes. Though Luis wasn't a tech genius by any means, and he needed tech support to download an e-book, he was able to tell Ashton a few basic things about the future that excited Ashton so much he had trouble speaking. He took detailed notes and made lists of things like cell phones, iPods, android tablets, laptops, and personal computers. His mouth formed the letter O when Luis told him about large flat screen TVs that only weighed a few pounds. And he clutched his chest when Luis told him about medical advances like new drugs for people with AIDS. He didn't believe Luis when Luis told him records and tapes wouldn't be around in the future. And he laughed at the thought of downloading music from a computer to a tiny little thing as big as a credit card. The thing that really blew him away was books. His face turned a pale shade of gray when Luis mentioned print books would slowly disappear and people would only be reading digital books on electronic devices in the future. Luis tried to reassure him these electronic reading devices would only enhance the reading experience and make books more popular than they'd been in years. But Ashton gaped at Luis with wide eyes and pressed both palms to his stomach as if he were about to regurgitate.
By the time Ashton dropped Luis off at five that afternoon, poor Ashton's face was almost white. Luis knew his brain was on overload and he had to go home and process everything. Though Luis had enjoyed shocking Ashton with all the new technology that would be available in the future, it wasn't a productive afternoon for Luis. Ashton didn't seem to have a clue about helping Luis get back to his life. At least he said he was still working on it and Luis shouldn't give up hope.
When Luis went into the kitchen, Millie and Mollie jumped all over him and licked his face. He rubbed their backs and glanced at the kitchen table. Jase was sitting there with Betsy Melchiorri and they were looking at text books.
“I'm sorry if I interrupted anything,” Luis said.
Jase didn't look up from the text book.
Betsy put her arm around Jase and said, “Jase is helping me with my math.” She ran her hand across the back of Jase's neck and kissed his cheek. “He's so smart and I'm so dumb.” Then she giggled in a way that sounded like a chirp.
Luis wanted to roll his eyes. He felt like walking to the table and pulling her hair out by the roots. But he smiled and said, “I'll leave you guys alone then. I'll be upstairs.” As he turned to leave, he stopped and asked Jase, “Where are your grandparents?”
Jase refused to lift his head from the book. “They flew to Anchorage this afternoon at the last minute to spend the night with good friends. They won't be back until late tomorrow.”
Betsy moved closer to Jase and he put his arm around her.
Luis smiled and said, “Okay. I'll see you later.”
Betsy popped a hunk of gum into her mouth and said, “We're going to the movies. We don't know what time we'll be home.” She snuggled into Jase's side and giggled again. “But it will probably be very, very late.”