What did it feel like? Knowing how much I had hurt Chris...knowing that I had basically ripped his heart out and bashed it with a sledgehammer in front of an applauding studio audience? It felt like it was raining salt on every open wound that I've ever had. It felt like swallowing broken glass, but being forced to chew it first. It felt like...it felt like...
It felt like I had lost a really good friend.
How in the hell did I even GET to this point? There was a time not long ago when I would have done ANYTHING to get Chris out of my life for good! I would have spent my last five dollars just to have someone run him down with a truck! How did I get to a place where I actually feel more hurt than he does about shattering his feelings? He MADE me do it, he MADE me hurt him. He wouldn't listen to me. Ugh! No matter WHAT I do, that boy is ALWAYS driving me crazy with an emotional torture of some sort. Either he's making fun of me and ridiculing me in front of all the kids at school, or he's so in love with me that he's stalking me everywhere that I go, or he's walking out on me and making me drown in a level of guilt that I've never experienced before in my LIFE! I can't win!
And you wanna know what the worst part was? Realizing that I was the asshole in all this. Me. Because...because he was going out of his way to be kind, and sweet, and lovable.....and here I just turn around and....
Sighhh...I just suck. That's all.
I pouted and sulked the rest of the weekend. It had been a steady method of self punishment in my mind from the moment he caught me and Tanner kissing in that swimming pool. Oh God...the look on his poor heartbroken face. If only I could get that look out of my head. It was as though he had been betrayed by Christ himself when he saw us. His eyes were so sad, so shocked, and yet both disgusted and aroused at the same time. I just...I just stood there and watched Chris' spirit leave him, only to be replaced with a dismal black void, unable to ever let any love escape it ever again. The damage I must have done! He was SO hurt! I didn't know what to do, and I didn't know what to say. It's not like anything I did or said could ever be enough anyway. I didn't even know that pain like that could be so visible in someones eyes. So it only felt right to somehow emotionally crucify myself as some sort of sacrifice for what I did to him. After all the smiles he's given me and the attention he's showered me with, I at least owe him a bit of misery on my part to say I'm sorry.
It was Sunday night, and I was almost scared to go to school the next morning. I remember Joel was getting undressed and ready for bed, and I wasn't even paying attention. It wasn't that he was any less good looking or well built than before, I guess I just had too much on my mind to be concerned with him at the moment. Besides, after so many nights of him staying at my house, I had become slightly desensitized to it. Too bad, I was almost beginning to enjoy not looking at him as a 'brother' these days.
"Well, YOU'RE awfully talkative tonight." He said sarcastically. "If you keep up this racket, the neighbors might start to complain."
"Sorry. I'm just thinking."
"What's the matter?" Sure, like I could POSSIBLY hope to explain THAT fiasco in a 'round-a-bout' way!
"Nothing. You wouldn't wanna know, believe me."
Joel was standing there in just his boxers, and I noticed that the button in front was open. Not obscenely so, just a bit. I think I saw a shadow of something in there, but didn't wanna get caught staring. "It's not good to let it fester, you know? Let it out, don't be a punk. Come on, tell me."
"I'm sorry. I just...wanna go to sleep, ok?" I said, and rolled away from him.
"Suit yourself. But whatever you're bottling up over there...it's still gonna be there in the morning." Joel spread out his sheets on the floor, and shut off the light.
I kept seeing Chris' face when I closed my eyes. I kept trying to block it out, but those first few tears that fell from his eyes seemed to be coming from his very soul. I can't believe I was so stupid. I should have told him in the very beginning about me and Tanner. I should have said something when he made me that bracelet, at least. How can I even wear this thing anymore knowing what I did? I took it off of my wrist and put it in my drawer next to the bed. I rolled over some more to get comfortable, and couldn't seem to find the right position to make that dull ache in my stomach go away. I tried it with the covers over me, with the covers off of me, on my side, on my back, on my stomach, with one pillow, two pillows, NO pillows. But no matter which way I turned, the pained expression on Chris' tear stained face was right there to greet me, digging away at my heart until it was almost hard to breathe.
"For Chrissake, Derrick!!! WHAT IS IT???" Joel said out of frustration.
"You're tossing and turning, blowing and sighing, and kicking around so much up there that even *I* can't sleep! What's the matter, already?"
I thought about it. I thought about a safe way to maybe let a bit of the pressure out through some subliminal hints and restricted conversation. But didn't even know where to begin. I grabbed a pillow and turned around to face the foot of my bed where Joel was sleeping on the floor with the covers off. I laid on my stomach and hugged the pillow up under my chin, hoping that I didn't say the wrong thing. "Joel...what if you...I mean...say you had a friend, right? A good friend. And they really liked you. A lot. But you're sorta with somebody else already, and....and you don't WANT to hurt this friend...but...they can't help but be hurt anyway...and..."
"Ok, you're making, like, ZERO sense right now. You know that right?" He said.
"No, don't forget it. I WANT you to talk to me. But not if you're gonna be al 'cloak and dagger' about it. Just say what you have to say."
"It's not that easy, ok? Just...I can't." I could feel the restraint in the back of my throat. Wishing I could just come right out and tell him. Wishing that I didn't have to feel so stressed out about what I feel. But, as much as I loved Joel...he wouldn't be my safest choice in the first person I came out to. He just didn't seem like the kinda guy who would take the news well. "Look, I'm just happy with somebody, and this other person got hurt when..." I ALMOST said 'he', "...When 'they' found out."
"Is THAT what you're bitching about? That's your big problem? Two hot rich babes wanna scratch it out over who gets to be with you? Dude, why don't you just date one and fuck the other on the side?" Great. Heterosexual teen male logic. Sure. That's just what I needed.
"That's not an option, ok?" I said, now sorry that I even brought it up.
"Why not? They both get to see you naked, right? I should be so lucky."
"Forget I asked. Can we just go to sleep, please? I'll stop tossing. I promise." I said, and sulked my way back to the head of my bed again to try to force myself to sleep.
Joel waited for a moment or two, and then he got serious. "Alright, listen...this first chick, the one you're already with...you like her, right?"
I opened my eyes in the darkness to lookat the ceiling again. "No...I love her." I said.
"And this friend of yours, she's good to you, but she's not the one you really want to be with, right?"
"Alright then. That's your answer. Where's the problem?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean you're in love. And you're with the person that makes you happiest, so go for it. This 'friend' of yours will just have to understand that your heart beongs to somebody else. End of story."
"But, Joel...I might have really hurt somebody. They might not ever forgive me."
"Hurting somebody unintentionally doesn't make you a wicked person, Derrick. It's not like you set out to do it on purpose. You've gotta go after what you really want. It would be downright cruel to both you AND this other girl if you didn't." Joel said. "As for being able to forgive you, either they will or they won't. You don't have any control over that. But if this other girl really cares about you, really loves you at all...then half of her happiness should be about seeing YOU happy. Even if it isn't with her. You know what I mean?"
"Um...yeah." I said, a bit surprised at Joel's answer. For a brief moment there, he almost sounded...sensitive. "Wow...thanks."
"Don't sound so surprised, geez."
"Hehehe, sorry, you just...caught me off guard, I guess. I appreciate it, Joel. Seriously, thank you."
He paused for a second, then said, "Don't get all 'gay' on me. It was just a comment."
"I'll take that as your way of saying 'you're welcome'."
"You can suck 'your welcome' out of my dick, butt sniffer!" He grinned.
"Can I really?" I teased, and he rolled over onto his stomach.
"Ugh! Hehehe! Go to SLEEP already! You're getting weird!" And that was all it took. A few more chuckles and he drifted off to sleep. I wasn't far behind him. Nothing had been solved, not by a long shot. And I was sure that Chris wasn't really gonna be all that easy to deal with, regardless of the possibility of him wanting to see me happy. But at least my mind had been released of some of that harsh pressure that had been building up since it all happened. I had almost forgotten what it was like to laugh with Joel like this. There are just certain people that you have in your life that inspire a deep laugh inside of you that nobody else can touch. A person that just has that 'one' special angle on you that nobody else can figure out, except for the two of you. And it's beautiful. It felt good to go to sleep with a smirk.
The next morning was a different story, though. It was as if the dread of seeing Chris' face again had reprogrammed itself into my mind before I even opened my eyes. I could feel it in my abdomen, that quiver of fear that suddenly realized that the 'hard part' of all this wasn't over yet. I was going to have to actually look him in the eye and take whatever punishment he had planned for me. I almost wanted to ditch the whole day just to postpone it until some more of his pain had meted away a bit. Sigh...this isn't going to be easy at all.
I rubbed my eyes, and secretly reached down to hide my morning hardon while peeking over my sheets to see if Joel was still sleeping. But he was already awake and probably somewhere else in the house. So I got up and got myself dressed, going to the bathroom to wash up and fix my hair. And later went to the kitchen, seeing Joel on the couch eating a giant tupperware bowl of cereal and milk, watching some morning cartoons. "Sup dude?" He said, and I shook my head at the size of his breakfast.
"Weirdo." I grinned.
"Hey, I'm a growing boy! What do you want from me?"
I walked into the kitchen, and my mom was in her robe and slippers, sitting at the table with a stressed ook on his face. She was looking through the bills that came in mail yesterday, and as usual, the past due bills were getting more and more colorful as they became more serious. She already had out her calculator, trying to figure out how to put a little bit of money on the more serious ones while keeping the other hungry bill collectors at bay until she could come up with more money. It was like trying to avoid the lions by jumping into the 'shark tank'. I hate so much to see her struggle with this stuff. But I know that she hates to see me worrying about her even more, so I attempted to look as though I hadn't noticed, and walked over to give her a good morning kiss on the cheek.
"Morning, honey. Get yourself some breakfast, and get your stuff ready, ok?"
I went to the cabinet, and picked up a box of cereal, but it was completely empty. "Hehehe, Mom? Looks like Joel ate the last of the cereal."
"Oh...um...there should be a few small economy sized boxes in the pantry closet."
I opened it up and found two small boxes that I could mix to make a whole bowl, "Thanks." And then I opened the fridge to find an empty carton of milk sitting on the top shelf. "Out of milk too." I grinned, hoping to get a smile out of her, but I think that it only succeeded in making her sweat even more.
"Oh.....hon, I'm sorry. I'll...I'll make you some toast, ok?" Then she reached for her work apron, which was laid over the back of a chair from last night's shift, and reached in th front to pull some money out of the pocket. "Here, I've got...four extra dollars, and some change. You might even have a whole five if yo count it out. Take this with you today and get yourself something extra for lunch." She said.
"I'm ok. You can keep it."
"Derrick...please? Just take it, ok? Get some food in you so you can concentrate in school. I don't want you going through your school day hungry." She said, putting the cash in my hand. We heard Joel laughing in the living room at one of the cartoons, and my mother looked back at me, lowering her voice. "You guys have certainly been hanging out an awful lot lately. Is Joel's mom ok with him staying over so many nights in a row?"
Danger! Avoid question at all costs! "Uhhh...as far as I know. Sure. I mean...she...well she's been busy lately."
"Well, you make sure that she knows where he is at all times, ok? I don't want to worry her..."
"You won't." I said, cutting her off. "Joel's fine. He's great."
"Ok." She said, and went back to focusing on the bills. She picked up a crimson red late notice, and carried it over to the toaster where she tried to scrounge up some breakfast from the leftover scraps that Joel hadn't inhaled already. I don't think there was anything in her budget to fully cover ONE hungry teenage boy in the same house, much less TWO. Still, she paced, and she mumbled, and she whispered little curses at herself that she thought I couldn't hear...and she tried to make it work. No matter what..she always tried to make it work. I hope I have that kind of strength someday.
Soon, it was time for me to go to school. And time for Joel to 'pretend' to be going off to school. My mom ushered us out, and had just enough time to maybe take a short nap before having to go back to work herself. The bags under her eyes were worse than I had ever seen them, and she walked funny, as though her ankles were made of cracked glass. She took long extended blinks, as though it hurt her to stay awake, and her fingers looked soooo brittle holding that luke warm cup of coffee in her hands...her third one of the morning. I swear, I'm gonna take her out of all of this misery someday. I'm gonna get her a NICE house, and a beautiful front and back yard, and she's gonna be able to rest and relax all day long. I'm gonna buy her everything she ever wanted, and send her places that she always wanted to go, and...I'm gonna pay her back for every lost moment she sacrificed to give me everything. I think it's only fair, you know?
One day, Mom....just hang in there, k?
Joel and I got our shoes on while sitting on the same couch, and again he scoffed at the look of the new shoes that Chris had given me. Just shaking his head with a sarcastic grin. Geez...the shoes....Chris had given me the shoes. Should I even wear them today? Shuld I wear them ever again? It might be seen as a slap in the face to him to be wearing his gift to me. Actually, should I even be wearing his friendship bracelet? I don't know. If I don't...he might think I actually hate him. He might take it, like...like...like I don't wanna have anything to do with him anymore. Like I just stripped myself of everything 'Chris' related and threw it in the trash. That would hurt him even more? Right? Arrrgh! What the fuck, man? This really fucking sucks!
I decided to wear the shoes, and the bracelet. Hoping to maybe remind Chris of how much he cared for me, and maybe I could use that as a bargaining chip or something. Ah screw it, I don't know WHAT my big strategy was at the moment. All I knew was that I had to go to school, and I couldn't go barefoot. So there we have it. Problem solved.
Joel and I said goodbye to my mom and walked out of the front door, leaving her to get some sleep before she had to get up again and go back to work. We walked out to the end of the sidewalk, and it was time for him to go off and occupy himself with whatever it is he does to kill time until I come home from school again. Except, this time, it wasn't just a pat on the shoulder, followed by his usual 'see ya later' send off. This time, he stopped for a moment, and looked down at my shoes again. I almost expected another insult to be shot my way any second. But instead...Joel looked back into my eyes. Almost apologetically. And he said, "You know...I really do appreciate what you're doing for me, Derrick."
"What are you talking about?"
"You know...letting me crash and all. You're a real friend." He said softly. "And I'm gonna make sure that I hit you back for all the help you gave me. You and your mom. I promise."
"Joel, you don't have to do any of th..."
"No, I mean it. I'm not gonna forget this, ok? It means a lot. You'd be surprised how many 'friends' from our old neighborhood turned their backs on me when I needed it." He said, and with a bit of a sheepish sigh, he smirked at me. "You know...that day when you didn't come home from school, and I was out on your front porch in the rain...I thought maybe you had turned your back on me too. And that hurt so much that I couldn't even move, you know? I don't think I could have taken it if you had been one of 'them'. But then...when I told you the truth...you took me in. You took me in and you never once asked me for anything in return. And that's the kind of pal that I've been missing since the day you moved away." And much to my surprise, Joel leaned forward and gave me a HUG. It was your typical heterosexual, 'not too much touching', type of hug...but an affectionate one nonetheless. Then he straightened up, and looked around as though he felt silly for even doing it. "So...yeah..thanks, ok?"
"Um...sure..." I said, dumbfounded.
He paused for a second or two, and then his natural smile returned to his face. He suddenly reached up his fist with a jerk and I jumped back a touch in response. "Two for flinching, pussy!" He punched me twice in the arm, and I winced from the strike. Then he used his hand to rub it a bit with a grin. "So, I'm going over to Nikki's house today to see if she'll be willing to let me chill in her basement for a while. I highly doubt she'll be wasting a sunny day like this at school. So I've got a shot."
"Well, I'll be home around 4:30, so...I'll see you then. Cool?"
"You bet." Then he saw me rubbing my shoulder still, and said, "Don't be a punk! Geez! Hehehe! Later." And he walked off to go find himself someone to be with while I was gone. I was never quite sure what to feel concerning this whole thing with him and his mom, but I hope it gets settled soon. Even if things aren't going so great for him right now, anything is preferable to him wandering the streets like a homeless teen all day long. I just wish I knew how to help him more than I was. I was hardly a 'solution' to anything he was going through. But it felt good to know that it kept the misery at bay for a while.
When the bus came, the jitters started again, and they got worse with ever rotation of the vehicle's tires closer towards that school. I suffered for a great deal of the trip in silence in the back, but was hoping to get some pleasant relief when I got to Tanner's stop. But...while his very presence was a soothing and inspiring sensation, it didn't do much to calm the turbulent feelings inside. What made it worse, is that I think he could feel it too. He immediately looked for me, and then made his way back to where I was sitting.
"Hey..." He said, somewhat nervously. "You ok?"
"I think so. I just..." I trailed off, not even knowing how to end that sentence. And Taner reached over to gently grab a hold of my hand. "I just don't wanna face him today, you know?"
"I know. Trust me, I know." He said. There was a short silence between us, and then Tanner asked, "Do you think he told?"
"Chris...do you think he told anybody? I mean, about what happened?" Oh SHIT!!! You know, with all of this other stuff swirling around in my head at the speed of light, I hadn't even THOUGHT of the menace Chris could become if he decided to out us at school! I'd like to think that he wouldn't do that, but after him having his heart broken this badly, there's no TELLING what he would do! Gosh, when I woke up this morning I was merely worried. NOW I'm so terrified to step foot in the building that I thought I was gonna be SICK!
"He...he wouldn't do that to us. At least, I don't think so." I said, and Tanner, while trying to appear normal, didn't look at all convinced.
I squeezed his hand a bit tighter. "It's ok. I'll find a way to straighten this out. I just have to find an opportunity to talk to him. That's all. It won't be so bad."
"Yeah, I suppose." He answered. "Derrick...just be careful, ok? Chris can be a real bastard when he wants to be."
"I'll fix it. I don't know how...but I'll fix it." I paused for a moment, and told him, "You know, out of all the bad things I've ever done in my life...I don't think I've ever hurt somebody this badly before. It's a really nauseating feeling, you know?"
It was then, that Tanner tried to work up a smile for me. It wasn't genuine, I could tell. It didn't shine with the usual glory of his cheerful disposition. But he put forth the effort to fake a sincere grin just for me...and that was just as special as the real thing. Even if it wasn't as pretty. "I know." He said. Then he leaned over and whispered, "I love you." And then turned to look out the window. It reminded me of the first day I had ever laid eyes on him. Looking out of that bus window, the shadows sliding across his beautiful face, that look of silent desperation as he wrestled with the concerns and conflicts of his life and his place in it. I still felt him holding my hand, and it was...at that moment...the only real comfort that I had left in this world. Yet, somehow...it was more than enough.
When the busses stopped, and all of the kids poured out of their open doors, Tanner and I gave each other a look to wish one another good luck for the day that was sure to follow. It was the kind of look paratroopers give each other right before jumping out of the plane, soaring downwards into a battlefield full of gunfire and explosions. The kind of war only high school could bring when you knew your enemies were close.
I made sure to make a swift and unassuming eye contact with everyone in the hall as I walked to my first class. Wondering if they had been informed of everything that went down this weekend at Tanner's estate. Just one whispered word could mean the end of everything that I was. Every achievement, every academic advance, every teeny tiny crumb of pride that I was able to build among the vicious sharks that dwell in this place...it would all be suddenly overshadowed by the shame and horror of who I really was. Being gay and outed against your will...it causes your whole world to crumble. And suddenly nobody knows how to see you as anything else. How could I live with that? How?
Luckily, no one made any snide remarks. There were no secretive giggles, no pointed fingers, and no unexplained stares from the rest of my classmates. So I guess I'm safe for now. But before I was able to breathe a sigh of relief, I caught a glimpse of Chris walking down the hall in my direction. I held my breath, and almost felt like running in the opposite direction. Almost felt like freezing in my tracks as well. But, as if my brain was locked into permanent 'cruise control', I kept walking at a normal pace and just prayed for the best. I don't know whether to expect a heartless bully, a lovestruck angel, or broken hearted EX-friend. But whatever reaction I was destined to have...the moment was here.
Chris was walking alone, which was unusual before he decided to fall in love with me. Before, he always had a stormcloud full of friends and admirers nipping at his heels and trying to get in his good graces. Not today. Instead, he kept to himself. His head down. His eyes focused on the floor beneath his feet, as though it would disappear if he lost his concentration on it. And then, before we crossed paths, he looked up and saw me. I didn't know what to do. That pain was still there. The suffering was glistening in those bright eyes, and his once sweet lips were emotionless. It looked like he'd never smile again. And he seemed almost disgusted to even have me cross his vision.
I started to speak as he approached, hoping to break the ice and maybe open up some kind of discussion about it. "Chris....listen...."
But he just bumped my shoulder hard enough to knock me up against the lockers. And he sneered at me as he kept walking. "Why don't you crawl back into the slime, you fucking gutter rat! I've got better things to do than talk to you." And he didn't even look back. He just stomped forward as though I didn't even exist. An even meaner version of what he was before. I mean, Chris was always an asshole to me in the beginning, but there was something more potent in his fury this time around. This time, that hatred was mixed with pain, and I realized that this whole thing was going to be anywhere near as 'fixable' as I thought it would be.
I think I twiddled my thumbs through most of my classes that day. Not knowing what I was ultimately in for, not even feeling like myself. He'll talk to me again, right? I mean...he HAS to. He's in love, right? It hurts, I'm sure. But if he's in love, then he'll have to talk to me again eventually, right? It's just like Joel said...if he really loves me, he should want me to be happy. So......if I wait out the whole torturous heartbreak issue, then he'll come around in time, and we can work on being friends again. At least...I hope we can. Maybe it'll be even better this time, now that he knows. Maybe...argh, who am I fooling? He's gonna hate me for as long as he possibly can, and then maybe a few years more. He's not gonna just forgive and forget. Not this time.
My first period class went by without a hitch. Much to my surprise, believe me. Then my second period flew by as normal. Then third period. So far, so good. I was almost getting to the point where I thought I was gonna be lucky enough to just have Chris pout it out all on his own for a while without taking any immediate action against us. I was almost reaching the point where those frightening jitters had quieted down into a series of small tremors in the center of my belly.
Then...came gym class.
I had gotten it in my mind, somehow, that having Chris in an actual class with me would force him to at least talk to me. If for no other reason than to yell heartwrenching curses at me to express how hurt he was over what I did. But walking into that locker room and seeing Chris already dressed in his gym uniform, I should have known that something was wrong. Chris ALWAYS waited for me to get dressed with him before. But, the room was full of other students at the moment, and I was stuck without a way to really say much of anything with him. So I went in and hid my eyes from him for a few moments, trying to avoid any major conflicts in front of these other boys. I didn't even go to my locker yet, as it was so close to Chris'. I can wait. I figure, once we get outside, I could maybe pull him to the side or something and tell him how sorry I was for everything that happened. He'd listen to me. He's gonna hate me for a while, but he's GOTTA know that I didn't try to hurt him on purpose! He's GOT to! But Chris just leaned against his lockers and folded his arms across his chest. I peeked up at him from the corner, and he was staring right at me, with a slightly crooked smile on his face. And in that moment, it was like the sweet and lovable brat that I had been dealing with for the past few weeks didn't even exist anymore. What was left...scared me a bit.
"Alright 'ladies', quit fixing your make up and get out there on the field! We've got games to play!" The coach said, making a special cameo appearance in the boy's locker room to get everybody moving. Then he singled me out for a moment. "Derrick...front and center, son."
He beckoned me closer, and I walked over to hear what the coach had to say. "Yeah?"
"According to my records here, you're sitting out today."
"Wait....huh? Sitting out? Why?" I asked.
"It's right here on my attendance sheet. Special note." He looked at his clipboard, and I peered over the side. "It says here that you are to report to room 207 for detention. So here's your pass. Scoot on over there."
"WHAT??? Detention? Detention for WHAT???" What the hell was going on here?
"I don't know, but you must have ticked SOMEBODY off, because this memo is very specific. I'm not to let you participate in any of the activities today."
"But I don't understand! I didn't do anything to get landed in detention!"
"Hey...I don't make the rules. I just read the clipboard and do what it says."
"But there's gotta be some kind of mistake!" I protested.
He simply handed me the hall pass, and said, "Then I suggest you take it up with your detention hall monitor. Not with me." Then he turned to the other boys and said, "Alright you guys, let's move it! We ain't got all day!"
I looked at my pass, and sure enough, my name was on it. Telling me to report to the detention center for 'disorderly conduct'. Since when did ANY teacher ever accuse me of disorderly conduct? Then, I noticed that the note had been printed out instead of handwritten. And while it had an official stamp on it, no teacher's name was given. The whole thing looked legit. Maybe a bit TOO legit, if you ask me. I looked up from the note to see a wicked smile on Chris' face as he turned to close his locker. And then it clicked...MITCH!!! It had to be! Chris got Mitch to break into my records with his computer and alter my schedule for the day. That son of a bitch!
I gave Chris a dirty look, knowing damn well what he was up to. And walked over to confront him directly on trying to do me in. "Just what do you think you're doing?" I asked him, looking him directly in the eye.
"I don't know what you're talking about, 'slug'. I'm just getting ready for class."
I looked deeper, and for a quick second, I could almost see a weakness in his stare. It was brief, but it was there. I caught only a glimpse of it before he cute me off and shut his emotions down completely. S after a short pause, I softly asked him, "Why are you doing this, Chris?"
He turned away from me to lock his locker back. Mumbling, "Nice shoes. Much better than the ones you had." I didn't even know if I could really speak to him, and I don't think he knew if he could really look at me. But as I stood there behind him, I was almost begging for him to try to understand me.
"Chris? Please....can't we just talk about this?" I whispered.
He cringed and shrugged away from me. "What the fuck are you doing? Don't whisper in my EAR, faggot!" He grinned, and it got the appropriate giggles from the other boys around us. "Can you believe this loser? Get a clue, ya fuckin' beggar!"
After all of the offensive things that Chris had ever said to me, you would think that I'd be used to them. And at one point, I was. Somehow, our mutual hatred for one another made it easy to deflect his every resentful insult and let it roll off of my back like it was nothing. But this time...the words seemed to penetrate deeper than ever before. They stabbed at my heart and I felt my soul bleeding out through every wound he tore open in me. It hurt. It seriously hurt. "Why are you doing this?" I sniffled quietly.
He stopped for a second, and then sneered, "Shouldn't you be on your way to detention?"
What could I say? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. So I turned to open my locker and just grab some stuff to take with me to the detention hall. No use fighting it now. I'm sure Chris was careful to cover his tracks. And Mitch was a pro at hiding his tiny manipulations from the rest of the school. Trying to expose their little scam would be as crazy as trying to convince the coach that a ghost lived in the school boiler room. I'll just have to think of a better way to protect myself later. I backed away from Chris, and then turned to at least grab myself something to do while I waited to be 'released', and it was then that I noticed my locker was wide open. I walked closer to it, and looked inside. I didn't have much stuff in there to begin with, but what little I had was gone. Even my cassette walkman. "What the hell happened to my locker?" I asked our teacher.
Again, he looked down at that magic clipboard of his and told me, "Hmmm, it says on here that the locker was declared an unregistered space."
"So what does that mean?"
"It means that any student putting their personal belongings in there and trying to use it for their own purposes, is gonna get their lock clipped."
"CLIPPED???" I shouted.
"Clipped. Wake up, kid. You gotta use the locker that was assigned to you. You can't just pick one at random and claim it as your own."
"That WAS the locker that was assigned to me!!!"
"First of all...lower your voice when you talk to me." The coach was quick to put me in my place, and again told me, "Second of all...if you have a problem or think that an error has been made concerning your locker space, you can take it up with the main office before or after school and make a formal complaint. In the meantime, you're outta luck...understood?"
"You cut my lock off! My STUFF is all gone? How am I gonna buy another combination lock?"
"That's really not my problem, son. And to be honest, you should be more concerned about how long you're gonna spend in detention. Because according to the note that I got...you are going to have to make yourself comfortable in there for a long long time."
The coach motioned for me to leave, and I heard more snickers from my classmates around me. I took one last look at Chris, who smirked at me with a slight hint of satisfaction. And just as I felt myself almost tear up from the extent of his betrayal, I pulled my backpack up on my shoulder, and turned to leave. The snickers turned to laughs, and a few of the other boys even applauded as I left the locker room. I suppose they got a kick out of having me disgraced in front of everyone else. Even more than that, I think they were happy to have Chris on their side again. The side that always seemed to get a great deal of joy out of seeing my downfall. I guess it's their way of putting me back down at the bottom of the barrel where I belonged. And with Chris as a leader...they were really, really, good at it.
I walked away from the gym and had to hold in all of my frustration and anger over the whole situation so as not to break down in the hall. What the hell is his PROBLEM anyway? If Chris wants some kind of war, I'll give him one. If he thinks I'm just gonna sit back and let him screw with me this way, he's got another thing coming. I'll....well....that is...I'll....I'll find something to hurt him with! I will! If he thinks he's in pain now, just wait until I get through...doing whatever it is I'm going to do to get back at one of the most popular, most beautiful, most blindly followed, rich kid in the whole damn school. Yeah...I'm sure I have a GREAT plan to pull THAT mini miracle off. Psh! But fuck it! I can't just let him walk all over me. I never did before, and I'm sure as hell not gonna start now. Just because he's hurt. Just because he was too damn blind to see what was really going on. Just because he decided to let himself get all goofy and stupid and...and....
...Fall in love with me.
Yeah....he did. He fell in love with me. Sighhhh....he gave me his heart, and I let him down. I destroyed his love for me completely. And I just wish I knew how to feel about that.
I got to room 207, sulking silently as I opened the door. There was a small group of high school trouble makers, a couple of kids who just so happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and....Tanner???
His soft hazel eyes caught mine the second I entered the room, and I knew that he must have had a similar run in with Chris' computer hacking bully. His sad puppy dog eyes brightened up slightly when he saw me walk in. I don't think Tanner has ever spent a single day in detention in his LIFE. You could see it in the look on his face, his already pouty lips adorably puckered out as he sat in the middle of the room all alone. I gave the detention hall monitor my pass, and took the seat next to my sweetheart. It looks as if we're both on the 'target' list for the time being.
"Let me guess...Mitch, right?" He said.
"Who else?" I pouted. "He's really mad at me. He even had my combination lock clipped in the gym locker room. And I didn't check yet, but he probably had my hall locker clipped too. I don't know what to do, he won't even talk to me. He barely even looked me in the eye."
Tanner was silent for a second, and then he said, "I'd offer to talk to him, but I think I'm even higher on his shitlist than you are. But maybe I can..."
"Boys? No talking. This is detention, not recess. Get out your books and study." The monitor told us.
Then Tanner whispered, "I know Chris is hurt right now, but maybe he'll be more willing to talk about right after..."
"BOYS! Enough! Once more, and I'm spliting you up." Dammit! We have IMPORTANT stuff to discuss here! Why the fuck is this monitor bitch being such a Nazi about it? We sighed and got out some notebooks to put on our desk to make it look like we were studying something constructive. We waited for her to calm the fuck down and get back to reading her book and taking bites out of a huge red apple at her desk. And then, Tanner scribbled out a short note on a sheet of paper, and tried to secretly hand it to me so we could finish our conversation. And that's when the monitor caught us. "Bring that up here." She said.
Tanner froze. So did I. I don't know what was in that note, but if it had anything to do with this situation or what happened between us on Saturday...we certainly didn't need HER to know about it. "What?" Tanner stumbled, trying to stall for a few seconds more.
The class turned around and stared at us. And the monitor got up out of her seat. "That note. You know what I'm talking about. Let me see what was so important that it couldn't wait until later." Tanner hesitated, and the monitor began to walk towards us to grab it. Tanner and I both panicked, and that's when he suddenly ripped the note in half and handed me half of it. What the hell did he give it to ME for??? Then, in a flash, he crumpled up his half and shoved the whole thing in his mouth! Helpless for a better idea, I crumpled my half up and did the same. The paper tasted bitter and chalky, ut I wet it up with as much saliva as I possibly could, and chewed it into a tight ball until it was too illegible for her to read. The monitor put her hands on her hips and stared at us in disbelief. Then she grabbed the small trash can by her desk and brought it over to us. "Spit that out of your mouth." She told me, and held the trash can up for me to do so. With a frown, and the awful taste of paper in my mouth, I spit the big wet glob of notebook paper into the trash. Then she held it over to Tanner for him to do the same. Thankfully, she didn't even bother to touch the slimy spitballs any further, but once we had our mouths free, she scolded us. "You...sit over there. And you...you sit on the other side of the room. I'm splitting you up. And you boys just bought yourselves another day of detention."
"But we didn't..."
"You wanna make it TWO more days detention?" She asked me. "Keep it up. I'm here all week." I kept my mouth shut, and just picked up my stuff to move. I can't even believe that I'm IN here right now! I swear, when I get out of here, I'm gonna give Chris a piece of my mind.
I swear, it was the longest period in school history, waiting for that vicious amazon bitch to let us out of that place. But finally, our 'sentance' was up, and she let us all go to our next class. I met up with Tanner outside of the detention hall, and he said, "I'm sorry if I got you into more trouble. I didn't mean to."
"It's alright. I didn't want her to read that note either, believe me. Whatever it was."
"So what's our plan now?"
"I dunno.." I told him. "But I'm gonna go check my hall locker to see if any of my stuff is still there. I'm gonna have to go by the office to get my personal belongings back. If the other guys didn't yank them out of the locker and throw them in the trash first. If I were you, I'd check yours too." Tanner nodded, and I almost leaned in to hug him just out of habit. Sometimes, when you really love somebody, you forget about the possibility of 'spectators' being in the vicinity. I had to be careful of that.
Tanner and I didn't have much else to say. We were pretty much at Chris' mercy for as long as he wanted us to stay there. What else was there to do but wait it out? "I'm going to class. Hopefully, they won't send me right back to detention." Tanner said, and he softly brushed his hair out of his eyes, giving me a small wave as he turned to walk in the other direction. Hurting me is one thing...but hurting my boyfriend is going to get Chris' spine ripped out, if he keeps it up. Grrr! Let me go see if my stuff is still where it's supposed to be. Damn, I hope they didn't take my calculator. I can't buy another calculator. And my TEXTBOOKS! Shit...there's no WAY my mom's gonna be able to pay for my textbooks if my locker is empty. Jesus.
However, when I finally turned the corner to get to my locker, I saw Chris leaning against it, the same smug grin on his face. I stopped in my tracks at first, watching the hall thin out as the late bell was getting ready to ring, but then moved forward again. I'm NOT gonna just stand by and let him bully me! Fuck Chris if he's hurt, this is just WRONG! I stormed over and looked at my locker, and saw the lock gone. Dammit!!! But then, Chris reached in his pocket and tossed it to me...uncut. "Your locker combinations are in the school computer too. But don't worry...I didn't have your street locker clipped....YET."
I quickly walked up and stared him down, face to face. "You know what? None of this is going to change what happened. So why don't you knock it off and talk to me like a normal person?"
"A 'normal person'? Is that what I am now?" He said, never losing his smile.
"Why did you get Mitch to put me in detention? Why are you fucking with my records?"
"Because I can. That's why. The same reason you decided to play with my emotions. You hacked your way into my heart and screwed everything up...now it's my turn." He replied.
"Then why are you fucking with Tanner?"
"On the contrary, Slug...you're fucking with Tanner. And I haven't decided yet just who needs to know about that. I'll have to mull it over." He said with a smirk. "But until I've made a decision about that, I'd like to have a little bit of fun first. Besides...you and Tanner seemed soooo cozy before...I figured you two might wanna spend some more quality time together. You know...without my interference?"
Instead of letting the anger boil over, I tried to appeal to him, tried to find a trace of that adorable guy that used to buy me milkshakes and pay me compliments off of the top of his head without thinking. "Chris...please? I know you're hurt. I know. And I'm SORRY, ok? You have no idea how sorry I am that I ever hurt you. But please don't do this. Ok? Please?" I asked, but he just rolled his eyes off to the side to keep from looking at me. "Chris....come on. You were so sweet to me before. And I loved everything that you did for me. You made me feel...really special. And it's NOT that I don't care for you, I just...I'm 'happy'...you know? I'm happy with Tanner. And I didn't want to hurt your feelings." I think that triggered something inside of Chris. Something ferocious. And he fought to keep it down.
"You want pity? Is that it? Am I supposed to feel sorry for you, Slug? Like a puppy with a broken leg, right?" He said through gnashed teeth.
"You're not the only one hurting here, you know? I didn't mean to break your heart. I'm hurt that it had to happen like this..."
"Awwwwww....poor baby." He said, pretending to stick his bottom lip out and cry for me. "Waaaah! Derrick feels bad about completely ripping my heart out of my chest and stomping on it with cleats for his own amusement. I really feel for you, dude. I do." He said. "But...while I'm doing my best to hold back my tears for your inconvenience, let me paint a nice little picture for you. I am going to do everything in my power to make SURE that you feel every last INCH of the pain that I'm going through right now, for as long as I feel it. I'm not gonna just let you run around and get your jollies while I sit and suffer like some kind of fucking punk! You are going to take whatever punishment I decide to give you, and you're gonna grin and bear it until I feel better. And I should warn you...that's gonna take a long time."
"Chris, I know that you think you hate me right now...."
"HATE you???" He snarled, getting in my face. "No, Derrick...I don't hate you. I haven't even BEGUN to hate you yet, believe me! Because right now this still hurts. Just LOOKING at you...still hurts! You don't know how hard it is for me to even BREATHE right now, being this close to you. Looking into a pair of eyes that used to mean everything to me." He said. His whole face had changed, a combination of pain and anger fighting to be the dominant emotion. "I would rather have my FUCKING heart stop beating, than to have to live with this excruciating ACHE anymore! I can't even SLEEP anymore! And it's all your fault! So yes...don't worry about me 'HATING' you, Derrick. You'll KNOW when I reach the point of 'hating' you...I'll make sure of that!"
"You're not listening to me! I said I was sorry! I never meant to hurt you!" Chris actually began to tear up a bit, but the scowl never left his face. If I could just find a way to reach that sweet humane side of his personality, I might be able to find a way out of this. But he barricaded himself from me completely. With all the energy he had. "Chris, we're friends. GOOD friends. Don't do this..."
"We're not friends. We never were. You lied to me from day one, and you played me for a fool. Ok, fine. I understand. I treated you like shit, and you wanted some payback. Good strategy."
"It wasn't LIKE that! You KNOW it wasn't!"
"Oh fuck you, Derrick! You know what? The only thing keeping your little secret in the closet where it belongs...is ME. You tell anyone about the schedule changes or the computer fixes...I'll tell everybody who will listen. You come near me again...I'll tell. You do anything to provoke me whatsoever...and I see your closet door swinging wide open, fairy boy!" And then added, "And that goes for your little boyfriend too. So I suggest you keep your mouth shut."
"You wouldn't do that. You can't."
"You don't think so? Try me."
"What about YOU, huh? You're not exactly squeaky clean yourself in all of this." I reminded him.
"It doesn't matter. I can get a girlfriend by the end of the week if I wanted one. Can you say the same thing?" He grinned. "If you wanna play a friendly game of who can ruin who's reputation first, I'll be glad to go first. But something tells me that you don't have much of a reputational 'shield' in this place. Do you....'Derrick the Destitute'?" He said, and then he reached a hand up to brush the hair out of my eyes. "I hate that." He said. And then began to walk away from me...leaving me there, helpless to do much to pull him into the same emotional corner I was in. Then he turned to say, "Oh yeah...I haven't decided whether or not I wanted to lift your detention hall ban just yet. It could be tomorrow...it could be next week. I'm not uite sure yet, we'll see how I feel. Oh...and one more thing..." He walked back to me, and grabbed my hand. He ripped open the bracelet he had given me and took it off of my wrist. "...I'd rather see this in the fucking trash than on your wrist. See ya later, Slug." He said, and without turning around, he told me, "Oh, and take my shoes off. If I catch you wearing them to school tomorrow, I'll tell Mitch to give you an 'F' in English. And that's certainly not gonna look good on your transcripts, cutie pie."
I just stood there. Lost. Unsure of what was going to happen or how far Chris was willing to take this. He did have one thing right, though. If it came to his reputation and mine, the kids would jump on his side in an instant. Especially since winning that award for academic excellence, they've probably been looking for a reason to set up the dominoes leading to my downfall. Not that they haven't been itching to prove me to be some unfortunate degenerate from day one anyway. Shit...Chris had me at checkmate. And from what he said, it sounds like he's only getting started. What was once a minor annoyance was now an enemy capable of ruining my entire life with just one whispered comment in a room full of high school kids. Any attempts to out him in return would be seen as a ridiculous act of desperation at best. What was I gonna do?
As I leaned back against the lockers in that empty hallway...I thought about the smiles, and the compliments, and the kiss that Chris gave me in the backseat of that limousine that one rainy night...and I saw it all fade away. Dissolving into thin air as if it never happened. And I was struck with the frightening realization that this boy had my life in his hands. And he could do with it as he pleased. God help me. Please....help me.