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"A Class By Himself 27"

I notice that Tanner and I always allow for an extended moment of eye contact before we're forced to go our separate ways for morning classes. There's, like...this electric charge in the air that tries so valiantly to keep us bound together for just a FEW tender moments longer before we were ripped apart again.

My eyes drink in every last drop of beauty. I don't dare to blink for fear that I might miss some minute detail and I'll be forced to go hours before my mental picture of him can be completed again. My heart beat speeds up ever so slightly, but the energy it produces is tainted with a subtle lick of sadness. And when his gaze lingers on me, I can see that same sadness reflected in his eyes as well.

It's a weakness. That's what it is. But it's one that you're proud to have. A mutual surrender between two boys who completely trust one another to be gentle. To be kind. As 'exposed' as I was in front of my dream boy for those few seconds before class...I don't think I've ever felt more safe. Tanner hadn't just stolen my heart...he deserved it. He earned. I hope I'm doing an equally bang up job keeping his heart too.

"Lunch?" He asked, a timid smile crossing his pretty lips.

And he gave me the cutest little nod before hoisting his backpack further up on his shoulder and saying, "K. See you soon."

That's when I see him walking down a different hall, away from me...and I feel the immense pull on my soul, compelling me to follow. I was so wrapped up in this turbulent whirlwind of goofy emotions that my hormones forgot to tell me to look down and stare at his sexy little booty as he walked away from me! Hehehe, all for the better, I guess. Tanner's got a really nice ass. I don't think I need to walk into a classroom full of high school students while trying to secretly deal with the effects of staring at it for too long.

Geez, what's wrong with me? It's not like the poor boy is going off to war or something! I don't think I'm allowed to miss him this much during a few measly hours of separation. I'll see him at lunch. That'll just have to do.

Still...the next time we sign up for semester classes, Tanner and I are going to have to do it together. There's got to be SOME way to coordinate a full, daily, high school schedule with your boyfriend in this place. Right?

Walking through the swiftly emptying halls of students, my heart full of hope and love and singing weird songs that my overjoyed brain was constantly making up on the fly...I turned a corner and felt it all suddenly drain away from me. Almost in an instant.

Stupid. I should have been more careful.

Walking in my direction was that asshole, Johnson, and some of his 'Bully And Proud' friends. Why do people like this always travel in packs? Like wolves? you'd think a brain dead moron like that wouldn't have any friends and all. The only thing worse than someone getting off on hurting other people are the heartless spectators that stand there and laugh about it. I loathed them all sooooo much.

Outmatched and outnumbered, I knew that my best bet was to simply lower my eyes, stare at the floor, and just hurry past them without looking like I was trying to hurry past them. I mean, they were laughing about...I don't know, something. So maybe they won't even notice me. Maybe I can walk right by them and not get hassled. they've GOT to bored with the pointless act of fucking with me at some point, Right? The novelty has worn off, they think they've proved some kind of point, and Darwin's law has swooped in to make them feel like big men. The dick measuring contest is over. I just want them to leave me alone. It's so unfair for a high school to keep me locked up in a building with these Neanderthals five days a week.

I attempted to keep it casual, but as I got feet seemed to pick up the pace almost involuntarily. Almost as if my body was convinced that it would somehow protect me from anything they might have in store for me.

It didn't.

"Whoops!!!" Johnson said loudly as he deliberately stumbled to the side to ram his shoulder into mine and knock me up against the lockers on the side of the hallway. His friends thought it was hysterical. Right. He's a barrel of laughs. "So sorry, 'Slug'! I totally didn't see you skipping and sashaying your way past us. My bad. Ya see? This is why we need to mark you fags with bright rainbow colors and T-shirts so we can be careful when you come prancing through the halls like that." Feeling the rage inside, but not even bothering to look up into his eyes to give him a reason to feel challenged in any way...I rubbed my sore shoulder and the spot where he rammed me in the chest, and just tried to keep walking. I rolled my eyes, but I think that was almost as involuntary a reaction as trying to race past them in the first place.

Johnson stopped me by grabbing my arm and thrusting me back against the lockers again. "I have to go to class!" I snapped.

"You don't have to do anything other than what I TELL you to do, faggot!"

"Leave me alone!"

"Fuck you! Don't interrupt me again! You hear me?" He barked at me, getting in my face and staring me down. "Do you see what I see, boys?" He asked his friends. Derrick looks like he's on his way back to being a pretty little blond angel again. How about that?" He put his fingers on my chin to lift my head, but I pushed his hand away. "Oooh, feisty. See? That's what we get from not doing a good enough job the last time we cornered you, Slug. My boys and I went through all of that trouble to decorate that sweet face of yours...and here you go trying to get better before the rest of the school gets a chance to truly appreciate it. That's a no no." He said. "You're not LIKE the rest of us, bitch! You pretend to be, but you don't fit. That's why I've got to 'mark' you. Ya get it? People need to see you for the trash that you are. So when I give you a TAKE it! And you let those scars remain until *I* tell you otherwise. You don't get to walk these halls and hide what you are from the rest of us. You getting all pretty again? It's like you're ruining my art, Slug. I can't have that." Then he leaned in close enough for his disgusting breath to brush over the bridge of my nose from his slightly elevated position. "Maybe I should give your face another 'project' to work with before the canvas clears. Whaddya say, sweetheart?"

"Hey! You boys get to class! Let's move." Came a voice from further down the hall. A random teacher. I doubt he saw the threat for what it was, but would it really matter if he had. There's not a whole lot that he could do outside of saying, 'leave him alone'. As you can see, I can do that myself. It doesn't mean that it does any good.

This time, peeking up from my cowering position to look Johnson in his eye...a different kind of lingering eye contact took place. One where I tried to appear strong and unphased by his bullshit bully tactics, but realized that I wasn't fooling anybody. Not Johnson, not his crew of following sheep...hell, I couldn't even convince myself for the short time needed for the teacher to approach and force us apart.

It was a different kind of engagement from what I felt with Tanner only moments before. It was a completely different exchange. A different kind of surrender. One that is born from the core of the self preservation instinct, but one you regret immediately afterward, even though the instinct did its job and maintained your survival for a little while longer.

People like Johnson feed off of intimidation. When you look at yourself in the mirror and can't find a reason to love yourself in the morning, your only salvation is to make yourself feel better by making other people feel worse. It was a pathetic method that he had perfected over many insecure moments in his life, I'm sure. Still...from a distance...I'm the one who comes off looking like the coward here.

As angry as I was inside, there wasn't anything that I could really do about it. Not now anyway. So I swallowed it, and reluctantly breathed a sigh of relief when he backed away from me. That's when Johnson snarled, "By the way...tell your bag lady whore of a mother that, unless she's sucking my DICK, she should keep her fucking mouth closed from now on."

The teacher scolded him immediately. "HEY!!! Language! What's the matter with you???" But Johnson and his friends just laughed it off and were practically high fiving one another as the rushed off to get away from trouble. Just like they always did. The teacher turned to me and saw that I was so angry that I was almost shaking with rage. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine..." I said through gritted teeth.

"Listen, if those boys are bullying you, we can go down to Principal Payton's office right now and we can..."

"I said, I'm fine. Thanks." I gave him an evil look, and he took his hand off of my shoulder. "I've got a class to go to, if you don't mind."

A bit confused, he said, "You know...there's no reason for you to feel like a victim here in school. We've got programs in place to help with bullying..."

"Heh, programs to help with bullying. Yeah, right. So I've heard." I said sarcastically, just trying to find a reason to keep those first few tears from falling from my eyes. "Can I go now?"

The teacher couldn't stop me from going to class any more than he could stop Johnson from threatening me with another pummeling the next time he saw me in the hallway. Or even worse, off school grounds some place where he could REALLY do some damage. So...he stepped aside, wishing that he had something to say to comfort me when I knew damn well that he didn't. As much as I'd love to believe that there was some kind of foolproof system in place to protect me from shit like this...I didn't. I didn't have an ounce of faith in that particular idea at all. Especially after getting my ass handed to me the last time. So...for NOW...I'm on my own. Despite what I promised my mom, I'm going to have to just 'survive' for now.

But believe me...I'm fully aware of the fact that something has to be done about that guy. And SOON! I don't plan to be his victim for much longer.

The worst thing you can do with humiliation is try to swallow it. Suppress it. That only seems to make the situation more irritating. I was practically squirming with hatred during the next few classes. There are times when I wish I could take that one, heartfelt, swing and smash that asshole right in the mouth. Sometimes I can feel the pressure building up within me, telling me to do it. Just once. Sure, he'll end up beating the living shit out of me again while his friends hold me down and laugh...but I'd gladly take the beat down just for the satisfaction of getting that ONE shot in! Making that son of a bitch flinch every time I raised my fist up from now on. But what would it solve? Ultimately, I'd end up getting in trouble and my mom gets all stressed out and has to come back to's all a big mess of lingering consequences that I just don't want to deal with, to be honest.

I've got heart. I've got class. I've got a good head on my shoulders and a boyfriend that any gay teen would KILL for. That's what I'm focusing on. That's what makes me happy. And that's the only thing that keeps me from knocking that smug bastard's TOOTH loose every time I see him.

It's a struggle to bottle up the anger sometimes...but once it passes and life continues, I realize that it wasn't worth it. And I end up being glad that I didn't fly off the handle in the heat of the moment.

Maybe I'm getting old. We all have to turn 16 eventually. Jesus! I'm already pushing 20! Ugh! Where does the time go?

I was leaving class after the bell rang and was heading towards my gym class when I realized that I was deliberately avoiding certain hallways, certain eyes scanning over every high school student that past me. I even found myself looking over my shoulder a few times. I was dodging them, wasn't I? You'd think that I could casually walk from my classroom to the gym without feeling that nest of buzzing mosquitoes in the pit of my stomach...but I can't. I didn't WANT to feel this way, but I did. And I HATED it! Why should I feel like I'm in danger every time I peek my head out of a doorway and mingle with the general population? It's so stupid. And I'm stupid for going along with it.

I don't know what to do. I can't just keep bugging the principal until they all get expelled. They're just as stuck in this academic prison as I am. Who knows?

I've got bigger things to worry about...

I was almost nearing the gym locker room when I caught sight of Mitch heading my way. The moment he noticed me, I was targeted with the kind of evil glare that I expected from him at this point. He was shameless about it too. When he finally looked away, it was more out of utter disgust than anything else.

We were passing each other, and I wasn't going to speak to him but heard myself call out to him anyway. "Mitch? Dude, I just..."

"Are you serious?" He sneered. "What makes you think I'm talking to you? Keep the hell away from me." And he kept walking.

Feels like I'm batting a thousand today, doesn't it?

"I was just going to say that I think Chris is looking to talk to you. I'd even go so far as to say that he misses you a little bit." I said, and I saw Mitch stop for a moment. Then he turned around and started stomping his way towards me so fast that I tensed up from the possibility of an assault.

"Don't you talk to me about him, you hear me? Don't talk to him about me either!"

What the hell is his deal? "Well, maybe he needs someone to talk to. Considering you just up and abandoned him without even bothering to tell him what's wrong. Did you think about that?" I said.

"I like the part where you think this is any of your goddamn business." He growled.

"Look, I'm...I'm not..." I calmed down a little bit. Mitch is angry. I get that. "...I'm not trying to pick a fight, ok? Just believe me when I say that he seems a little hurt that you bailed on him. That's all. I mean, if you're busy with other stuff or might make him feel a little bit better if you told him so. You know?"

Mitch scoffed at me, shaking his head. "Wow. The balls on YOU. You've got a lot of fuckin' nerve."

"What are you talking about? Dude, I'm trying to help you."

"No, Slug. You're not. You're 'pretending' to care about him when you really don't." He said. "Why? What do you want from him now? New pair of shoes? Friendship bracelet? Or maybe you just like twisting your ass in front of him for the simple joy of hearing his heart beat out of control? You may actually be stupid enough to believe that what you're feeling inside right now is some sense of friendship and loyalty to him...maybe a biting pinch of conscience...but you're just keeping him around and prolonging his agony for a little while longer. And once he's done being useful to you, you'll go trotting back to your cute little boyfriend and forget about him. It's the truth and you know."

"It is not!" I told him. "What the hell is the matter with you?"

"Do you really think I want to spend ONE more evening listening to Chris whine and complain and get all depressed over YOU and your problems? I think he's blown a gasket in his brain. He honestly doesn't realize how many times he says your name in a single conversation. It's sickening. And while he's crying and hurting over you, you're out there dancing in a field of daffodils, singing the rainbow praises of love and worship. Good for you. What about him? What about the damage you've done? At least if you left him alone he could have time to mend his broken heart, but you can't even do THAT right!"

"So you think I should abandon him too? Is that your big solution?"

He narrowed his eyes and said, "You're acting like you haven't already done that." Adding, "You're not protecting him. You're haunting him. If you're not interested, then just tell him you're not interested...and let him go. You're only hurting him more by forcing him to linger behind you like some sort of starved puppy. You can't imagine how much you suck for that. Don't forget...I lost someone special to me too. The only difference is I know how to walk away when I'm not wanted."

I don't know why Mitch has suddenly taken it upon himself to take such a hostile attitude with me, but I don't have anything to prove to him. It's not like we were ever friends anyway. "Fine. You know what? Just forget I said anything at all."

"Fine. Believe me, I will."

"You're WRONG about me wanting to use Chris for anything! He's my friend!"

"Already forgetting this conversation." He said, walking away from me. Arrrrghhh! SCREW him!

Just as I was getting over the whole ordeal with Johnson and his swarm of brainless thugs, I end up having to deal with Mitch's bullshit too! After all he did to ME? And to Tanner? He has the nerve to ball me out in the school hallway? Fuck that guy. Seriously.

I should have left it alone. Just blown off a few minutes worth of steam and pushed it right out of my mind. But I couldn't. Mitch's words kept digging into me long after that argument took place. I don't use Chris, do I? Of course not! Ok, I was going to ask him for one tiny favor, and that was to ask his dad to give my mom a shot at auditioning for a kitchen spot in his new local restaurant. That's it! It's not like I was going to ask him to give her the job, just a try out! And it's not like I was going to seduce Chris or play with his emotions in order to say yes. I was just going to ask and see what he says. That's not using somebody. Where does Mitch get off?

And for the record, Chris GAVE me those shoes on his own. I didn't beg him. I didn't drag him to the mall and ask him to buy me a new pair. Chris made me that bracelet as a gift, and he's done a lot of really nice things for me. Some out of the kindness of his heart, and some because he wanted to get a piece of my ass...but it's not like I tricked him into it.

Chris has been making all the advances since the first night that he jumped me in the backseat of Jackie's limousine. And....and...I know that he's been really sweet to me and Chris can be a REALLY nice guy. A bit frustrating at times, but it's almost a part of his charm at this point. I'm just...I'm in love with someone else. Head over heels. I can't just stop feeling this way in order to make Chris happy. I can't. He's a part of me now. The only things keeping me alive are my heart, lungs, liver, kidneys...and Tanner. How am I supposed to change that? Why would I want to?

The more I thought about it, the more it disturbed me. Does Chris still talk about me that much? I mean, it's not like I expected him to get over the whole thing in a couple of weeks or whatever, but we were at least talking to one another these days. I thought that...well, I don't know what I thought. I'm just...I'm in love with another boy. I always have been, even back when Chris was being nothing but mean to me. It wasn't my attention to keep him hanging on or anything. I was just hoping to make things right, you know? And maybe come out of all of this with a good friend. Something that I'm severely lacking in this school.

Great. Now my head is all fucked up over this, and I've got to see Chris in the locker room in the next twenty minutes. He's going to see the insecurity in my eyes, I just know it. He'll hear it in my voice. You can't really hide that kind of thing from someone who watches you so closely every second that you're together.

Is Mitch right about me? Am I going to be nice to Chris just long enough to get this one favor out of him and run off to go celebrate with Tanner, leaving Chris out in the cold until I need him again?

Wow...I really WOULD suck for that...

Thanks soooo much for reading, and for all of your feedback and support! And be sure to grab a copy of the new eBooks at the COMICALITY EBOOK SECTION link!!! More ebooks being posted every month! So keep an eye out!