The rest of the day was uneventful. The school day, at least.
Other than my tedious, but thankfully brief altercation with James, lunch ended without a hitch. There were the usual looks when I walked past a group of lads or unzipped at the urinals to take a piss, but there were no problems.
No jeers. No name-calling. No pushing or shoving or tripping or spitting. In fact, as the bell rang, loud and shrill through the old, stone corridors and grey, concrete courtyards, and I took a seat at the back of my next class, I realised I hadn't had any real trouble for days.
Ever since Adam had turned up that Wednesday morning black and blue I'd been relatively left alone. Ever since their king was suddenly an almighty batty-boy, something had changed. The dynamic had shifted. His pathetic little followers now confused. Unsure on best bullying etiquette. I could see it in their eyes.
I could see their measly brains trying to process me. Their gut reaction to shout or throw something, followed a split-second later by a thought. A memory. A recollection that their mate, their big, rugby-captain pal Adam was a queer, fudge-packing, shirt-lifting cock-sucker too.
And that six-foot-five cock-sucker had made it clear he wasn't going to take it lying down.
It had happened a couple days after he'd come back to school; his bruises and cuts already fading. Unsurprisingly a beta male, pumped with hormones and cheap energy drinks, had taken his chance. Attempted to dethrone the weakened alpha while the going was good.
Or, in this case, not so good.
I hadn't seen it. Sadly. I'd learned a long time ago it was in my best interest to avoid large groups looking for a fight, but I'd overheard the chatter in the lunch line the next week.
It had sounded glorious.
They say Adam had been walking across the field from the sixth form centre to the sports hall, most likely to use the gym, and a group of lads had cut him off. Mainly boys from the football team but one or two from the second rugby team. Including a six-foot-two, acne-ridden fucktard called Rory Saunders.
Saunders had done the usual. Squared up to him. Got all up in his face. Started saying all the typical stuff like how faggots weren't wanted in this school and how they had no place on sports teams. But then he'd got personal. Said Adam only played rugby so he could look at the boys in the changing rooms. Called him a pervert.
Next thing you know Rory's rolling on the ground with an imploded nose. Crushed almost flat by Adam's forehead and pissing blood and bits of pulverised cartilage and bone.
After that, as far as I could tell (and bar a week of detention – they'd gone easy on him considering his "situation"), everything had gone back to normal for Adam. Back at the top of the food chain. Still rugby captain. Still loved and admired and feared across the school. Just like I'd said it would in the staff car park on his first day back.
But I'd also been wrong that afternoon. What I hadn't appreciated until now, so far distracted by my quest for the holy grail that was Mr. Price and his heavenly legs, not to mention my rich, ginger side project with the most beautiful arse I'd ever seen and felt squeezed around my cock, was that things had changed.
I was still far from accepted – I was a full-blown bender whereas Adam was only half an abomination – but it looked as if I didn't need to watch my back anymore. Not all the time.
I could actually listen to my iPod, not keep it muted to hear footsteps racing up behind me. I could pass the playing field without the fear of a football or a can of Coke to the face. And, for the first time in a long time, I could answer a question in class without people sniggering or making some lame innuendo or tired, boring joke.
`Very good, Oscar. Correct. It's nice to hear you speak. Do it more, please,' the teacher said, turning back to the whiteboard before scribbling my response in large, slanted green letters.
Enjoying the rare swell of academic pride in my chest I smiled to myself. Pulled out my phone from my trouser pocket and unlocked it under my desk. I had about two minutes to talk to Adam while Mrs. Burton explained the difference between fact and inference to the rest of the class, her attention now successfully deflected from me.
Hey. I typed. I've got an update on our little mate. Can we meet?
Forty seconds later his reply vibrated in my hand.
After school. Same place as last time.
Two hours later it was me waiting for him this time. Leaning against the red brick of the art block that made up one border of the staff car park, hidden by the shadows of an oak tree and the fast-creeping darkness of the late autumn afternoon.
It was cold. The coldest day of the year so far. I cursed myself for not bringing a jumper, too busy thinking about Tim and my weird dream to think about much else that morning, as I breathed clouds of billowing steam around my hands and willed blood to flow faster around my fingers. Small stones below me crunching as I hopped and stepped from side to side. The earthy scent of wet, muddy grass blanketing the adjacent field chilling my nostrils.
Seven minutes in I considered calling him, but as I reached for my phone he turned the corner. Tall and broad and as hot as hell in his school uniform. His rugby captain's tie and a thick, burgundy scarf wrapped around his neck. His limp gone and his black eye now a lighter brown. Barely even noticeable in the fading light.
We'd been texting almost every day, about James, about what we were going to do to him if I managed to convince him to open his legs for Adam as well as me, but we hadn't seen each other. Not properly. Not face-to-face. He looked almost as good as new. Maybe even better.
`You look good,' I said, ceasing my two-step and forcing my teeth to stop chattering. `They let you back in the gym then?'
`Yeah,' he said, leaning against the wall about a metre from me. He looked away.
`I heard about what happened with Rory Saunders.'
He said nothing. Just turned his neck to look at me; his eyes as cold as the air itself. Then he raised his eyebrows and nodded. Looked away again.
`That dickhead got what he deserved,' I said.
`Whatever. What do you want?'
`Alright, chill out. What's your problem?'
He looked at me and stared. Hard. Then said, `Nothing. It's fucking freezing and I'm tired. I want to go home.'
I scanned him up and down. He did look tired. And cold.
`Fair enough. I'll make this quick,' I said. `James is a no-go.'
`Long story short he's not as stupid as I thought.'
`When I tried to bring you up, in a more direct sense, he saw straight through me. Seems he wants me all to himself or not at all. When I said that was impossible the little prick told me to fuck off. So I doubt I'll be seeing him again.'
He shook his head and said, `Sloppy.'
`You had him eating out of your hand and now he's gone? Sounds sloppy to me.'
`Ok. Fuck you.'
`Am I wrong?'
The annoying thing was he wasn't. Probably for the first time in his life the dim-witted slab of muscle was right. I had been sloppy. I could have easily rescued the situation if I'd tried harder. But I hadn't.
And I certainly didn't need Adam-numbnuts-Stanmore pointing it out.
`Yeah. You are,' I lied. `I wasn't sloppy. I was too busy getting my mouth and arse fucked by Mr. Price last night to give a shit about that whiney bitch anymore.'
I watched his face as my words left my mouth. Waited for them to hit and sink in. Waited to see his lips or eyes droop or his forehead to wrinkle. His shoulders to slump or his nostrils to flare. I wanted to see the pain written all over his face.
But it didn't come. He smiled. Then he laughed.
`It's true,' I said, trying my best to hide the confusion creeping across my own.
`I'm sure it is,' he said, still smiling. `I hope the two of you are very happy together.'
`What's that supposed to mean?'
`Nothing. Like I said, I hope you're happy.'
Then neither of us spoke. Him staring, the same smirk across his obnoxious but still handsome face. Me trying to figure out what was going on. Why he hadn't even batted an eyelid when I'd told him about me and Tim.
Then it hit. It was obvious. He didn't believe me. Plain and simple. Otherwise there was no way he would have reacted like that. Cool and calm and uncaring.
Yes, he'd told me, stood in this exact location less than two weeks ago that he was done with Mr. Price. But I remembered that Sunday morning in his parents' bedroom vividly. I remembered his face. His eyes. Sad and confused and lonely. Wondering if he would ever see his first love again. If he would ever speak to him. Look at him. Touch him.
There was no way he was happy for me.
`Believe what you like,' I said. `It's the truth.'
`Whatever,' he said. `Is that it?'
`Is what it?'
`Is that all you wanted to talk about?'
I considered thanking him. Mentioning my life at school had improved since he'd come out as bi. That, amazingly, it was somehow safer for me now. But there was something in his smile and in his stare. They were more than simple façades; cover-ups of his jealousy and insecurities. There was something hiding in there.
So, fuck him. I would have rather eaten my own shit and die of dysentery than thank him now.
`Yeah that's everything,' I said.
As I spoke a set of headlights turned into the car park. A BMW, charcoal in the colourless twilight, but flashing a brilliant silver each time it passed under the school floodlights. Adam's mum.
`It's a shame, Oscar,' he said, pushing himself off the wall. `I was really hoping you were about to tell me we would have some fun with that lad tonight.'
`No reason,' he said, his smile widening.
Walking over to the car he opened the passenger door. Scoffed to himself again and then shot me a look. But he wasn't hiding anything anymore. It was a look dripping with disdain. Hatred.
A look designed not just to kill, but to hang, draw, quarter and then set my disembowelled corpse ablaze.
`Have a good weekend,' he said.
He pulled the door closed and the car drove away. I watched it turn, left out of the car park, and join the rest of the meandering traffic. Almost ethereal among the red and yellow clouds of exhaust smoke and steam.
Thoughts flew around and around my head as I walked home.
Adam was undoubtedly upset about Mr. Price. That was obvious enough, going by his farewell. But tough shit. I'd already told him I was after Pricey and he'd given me the go ahead. Not that I'd even needed it.
If he was going to let his hopeless, long-expired feelings get in the way of any chance of fun between us in the future, then that was his problem. If he wanted to sulk and stew, then be my guest. I didn't need him anymore.
But there was something about what he'd said to me that stuck. Anchored itself in the pit of my stomach and began to bubble and churn as I crossed the field toward my house.
Have a good weekend.
He was planning something.
He knew where Tim lived. He knew about us. It was safe to assume Tim and I would be seeing each other this weekend, so maybe he was going to make a surprise appearance? Confess his undying love. Tell Mr. Price the truth. Expose my lie.
Which could not happen.
Luckily it was easily avoidable. All I'd have to do was convince Tim to take us somewhere. Somewhere out of town. To a hotel in the city maybe. A dirty weekend away. Only the two of us.
If only I'd known the problem was only just beginning.
To be continued ...
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Copyright Jack Ladd 2016
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