Facing Alice after handing back the microphone is harder than Alfred had imagined, so he just keeps his eyes trained on the hardwood floor as he walks past her and out through the gym doors. Only a few moments after he enters the courtyard, she comes bursting through the doors with tears in her eyes and rushes over to him. She can't bear to stand too close to him, and stays back at least three feet. "Why?" she croaks, voice raspy and hoarse from crying. "Why did you lie to me for so long, Alfred? I really do like you! I just don't understand why you wouldn't come clean about not feeling the same!"
"I lied to keep you happy," he says in a small voice, turning around to face her with his hands in his pockets and tears burning the corners of his eyes. "I tried to like you back, I really did, but I just couldn't! Do you think I wanted this? That I wanted to fall in love with a man?" The dam on his feelings breaks loose as his breathing shallows and he wipes away a tear. "Nobody wants that, Alice! I wanted to fall in love with you, and I tried my hardest to, but no matter what I did all I saw was Arthur! Haven't you ever wondered why I chose to ask you out?"
Her breathing hitches, and suddenly it all makes sense to her. The lingering glances when she wasn't looking, the spacing out, everything. "I… I remind you of him, don't I?" she asks, a nod and a sniffle from Alfred confirming her suspicions.
Wiping his running nose on his sleeve, he replies, "I thought it would be enough for me, enough to forget about Arthur, but it just wasn't. I'm sorry." With that, he turns his back to her and walks away, head down and eyes cast at the sidewalk.
He looks over his shoulder for a split second, giving a bittersweet smile before calling back, "You're a beautiful girl, Alice, and there's someone out there for you. See you on Monday."
Alice is left standing alone, staring out into the direction Alfred left in, until Elizabeta Héderváry, the pitcher for the varsity softball team, finds her and wraps an arm around her shoulders comfortingly. "He's a jerk for doing that to you in front of the entire school. If you need help getting back at him, feel free to—"
"No," Alice interrupts, "it's fine. I… I now understand why he did what he did, and he really did the right thing. Besides," she quirks the corners of her mouth upwards a tad, pushing her falling glasses back up onto her nose, "he's free now to go after the person he truly loves."
. . .
Alfred slumps into his bedroom, closing the door behind him and falling face-first onto his unmade bed with a groan. He's sealed his fate, he knows he has, and it's just a matter of time before people start whispering and he's forced to finally take up his Uncle Sam's offer to school him at home. He can't go back now and face them, not after what he's done to himself and his reputation.
Rolling onto his back, he pulls out his cell phone and texts a quick message to Antonio, his right fielder and good friend.
I'm quitting the baseball team.
. . .
"Oh, no. This is bad, bad, bad… Lovi, is that you? We have a bit of a problem…"
. . .
Shaking the rain off of his umbrella as he walks through the front doors of the school, Alfred mutters to himself, "Stupid rain, making me late for school," and heads to his locker. There's a sticky note on the outside of his locker door, announcing an impromptu school assembly in the gym. Sighing, he stuffs his backpack and umbrella into the messy locker and makes his way to the gym.
When he pushes through the double-doors to the gymnasium, he's greeted by the entirety of the student body, sitting in the bleachers and deathly silent. Antonio's standing out on the floor with the microphone and a smile, and before Alfred can ask what's going on Antonio says, "We've all been thinking about what you said on Friday, amigo, and we've all decided that it doesn't make you any different to us. We all have secrets; in fact, I sing Hannah Montana songs while I farm my tomato plants."
In the bleachers, Emma Vandenberghe, head cheerleader and most popular girl in school, stands and confesses, "I'm an avid Star Trek fan," drawing eyes from every section. "I've seen every episode from every season, every movie, and I attend conventions as often as possible."
"I'm a cross-dresser," Feliks Łukasiewicz announces, also standing up. "After school and on weekends, I'm never found without a skirt and my favorite high heels."
Ivan Braginski says, in his soft voice, "I want to be a florist. Sunflowers always make me happy when I am feeling sad."
Suddenly, students from all sections, all grade levels, are standing and confessing their deepest secrets.
"I used to think I was a boy."
"I'm scared to death of chickens."
"I'm a recovering drug addict."
"My father's in prison."
But one voice stands out from amongst the chatter of students, one distinctly accented voice that makes Alfred's heart jump and race. "I sew," says Arthur, standing up from where he was seated in the top row of bleachers and walking down the stairs. "I embroider, I crochet, I knit. I have a drinking problem, and I've lied about my age before."
Once his feet hit the gym floor, he continues walking toward a stunned Alfred that whispers, "A-Arthur…"
He smiles. "I play guitar in a punk rock garage band after school. I've been arrested six times for defacing public property. I used to smoke." He lists off things about himself that even Alfred didn't know, stopping in front of the confused teenager as the gym hushes to near silence. "But the best one of them all?"
Alfred gulps and Arthur grabs his hands, locking their fingers together.
"I return the affections of a Mr. Alfred Fitzgerald Jones."
Everything sinks in and Alfred, overjoyed and eyes brimming with gleeful tears, wraps his arms tightly around his best friend and sobs joyfully into his shoulder. "I love you, I love you," he repeats, grabbing him tighter when he feels Arthur pat his back and murmur the words right back. He pulls back, tear-tracks staining his face as he smiles widely, and holds Arthur's face in his hands before moving in and kissing him softly.
(The crowd cheers and claps and whistles and just celebrates, and maybe, just maybe, Alice is cheering the hardest.)
And when Arthur responds, hands in Alfred's hair and behind his neck, Alfred knows that it's finally over, that it's finally happened.
He's finally free.