Chapter 6


"You know, I could hook you up with her, if you'd like."

I swallowed a bite of my baguette and shook my head. "I'm alright."

"But she's single, West!" He pointed across the common room and grinned back at me. "Tell me she isn't hot."

Looking up from my lunch, I settled on Rikesh's dark brown eyes and short, black hair. "Really, I'm fine."

He gave a dejected sigh as he began to unwrap a bar of chocolate. "Well, I tried."

Rikesh was one of those people who didn't stay with the same group of friends for very long. He used to hang around with Harry and me a few years ago, but soon moved on to another group of guys. It didn't bother me, as we still saw him every so often, but it was amusing to see him drifting from person to person throughout the years.

Personality wise, Rikesh was well known to be a class clown, though he'd calmed down a little since starting sixth form. Instead he chose to focus his energy on the girls, becoming popular with some of the ladies. Those facts aside, he was quite a decent guy and fun to be around.

"When was the last time you were with a girl?" he asked, facing towards me. "And Zoe doesn't count."

While he didn't know the details, Rikesh was right, Zoe really didn't count. During our one month thing, we only ever kissed. But before her... My mind flicked back over two years earlier, causing my heart to squeeze gently in my chest. My last time...

Realising that he was waiting for an answer, I gave him a smirk instead. "None of your business."

He simpered. "Fair enough."

"How 'bout you?" Zoe gestured towards a group of girls sitting over in the corner. "Which one are you with these days?"

"None of them, but there's this girl I've been seeing..." Rikesh's voice instantly droned out when I caught sight of Sean entering the common room. Walking past the row of computers with a smile on his face and full of confidence, it was hard to believe that he'd come out only three days earlier.

A few other people turned and watched as he headed towards Tess and Harry, but nobody said anything. Our English class that morning had mostly been the same, aside from a few of the guys who'd outright asked him if it was true, that he was gay. After confirming that it was, they didn't give much of a reaction, though one of them did say, "cool".

It was reassuring to see a mature reaction from everyone. Then again, Sean had been a good friend to many people. In doing so, he'd built up quite a support group around him.

Pulling out one of the green, plastic chairs, Sean sat down at the table next to Harry and Tess. After retrieving a foil-enclosed sandwich from his bag, his eyes briefly connected with mine. Any hints of amusement disappeared from his face, replaced with a cold and stoic scowl.

I clenched my jaw and flashed my eyes back at him. His email had been the only thing on my mind during the whole weekend. I'd spent two days anxiously waiting for the moment when I'd receive an influx of calls and texts asking if the story was true, that I was bisexual and that I'd been preying on Sean through a fictional identity. Fortunately my fears never came to fruition, but it didn't ease any of my concerns or worries. The loaded gun was still pointing towards me. Sean just hadn't pulled the trigger, yet.

I decided against replying to his email message, planning to talk to him in person instead. What I did to him through Ryan wasn't the most moral thing I'd ever done, but he was the one who'd crossed a line by threatening to out me. It wasn't something I was going to take lying down.

"...she's also really good at gymnastics, if you get what I mean." Rikesh nudged my arm. "Seriously, West, you should see what she can-"

Zoe waved her hand, silencing him. "Ugh, that's enough."

Rikesh paused and then grinned at her. "I thought you'd wanna hear all the details, Zoe."

She nodded. "Yeah, just not when I'm eating."

Despite having Sean across the room from me, I allowed myself to relax as I made small talk with Zoe and Rikesh. We didn't talk about anything too heated, with most of our conversation focused on humorous topics. It was nice to be able to occupy my mind with something other than the seemingly unending dilemmas in my life.

Feeling a hand land on my shoulder, I glanced up to see Harry looking down at me. "We should get going."

"Right, it's time for that bloody citizenship class." Rikesh groaned. "Do we really have to go?"

"Reynolds said we have to." Harry shrugged. "I guess we'll find out what it's all about soon enough."

Getting up from my chair, I made sure to exit the room ahead of Sean and Tess, wanting to keep my distance from them. Stepping out of the common room, we started down the corridor when someone called out to us.

"Zoe! West!"

Zoe and I spun around and saw our deputy head teacher, Mr Marks, approaching us. Knowing that it was likely to take some time, I gazed over at Harry and Rikesh. "You go on ahead."

Harry's eyes shifted to Marks and then back to me. "Alright."

I focused on Marks as he came to a stop in front of us. The students liked to call him KFC, not because he smelled of fried chicken, but because of his resemblance to Colonel Sanders, with his small, white goatee and black-rimmed glasses.

"It's good to see you both together. I needed to talk to you about the newsletter. We're printing an issue today, so that'll give you two weeks to get your first article done. Is that too soon?"

"No," Zoe replied excitedly. "We already have a good idea that we're working on."

"Excellent! Care to share any hints?" he inquired.

I glared at her. Maybe you could let me know too while you're at it.

"I don't want to spoil anything yet. We still have some work to do," she answered.

Marks gave a laugh. "I understand. Just remember that I'll need to read it through before we can print it."

"That's fine. I don't think you'll find any problems."

"Excellent! I look forward to reading it." Holding his hands behind his back, he stepped away from us. "Have a good afternoon."

"You too, Sir," I replied, watching as he continued down the corridor. Once he was out of earshot, I leaned towards Zoe. "We have an idea? Why'd you tell him that?"

"Because it makes it sound like we know what we're doing," she answered, tugging on my arm as she led us towards the Citizenship class. "Like he said, we have two weeks. We'll think of something."

"Someone's very confident."

"And someone isn't." She regarded me closely. "You've been a bit twitchy recently."


"Yeah, is something wrong?"

I gave her a sideways glance. "No. Why'd you say that?"

"You just seem a little off."

"I'm fine," I replied quickly, before deciding to throw her something to keep her satisfied. "Just wish it was the start of the Christmas holidays again."

Her lips morphed into a grin as we approached our classroom. "Yeah, two weeks wasn't enough."

"At least we only have a few more..." I trailed off when I heard some raised voices coming from inside the room.

Stepping through the doorway, I came to a sudden stop as I took in the scene that greeted me. The room was around half-full, with most of the students already seated, but their attention was centred on the four who were standing on the far left causing the commotion.

Tess's face was drawn up in anger as she pointed towards a boy standing two tables in front of her. "He's more of a man than you are!"

"Look at him!" the boy spat, glaring at Sean. "He needs you to stick up for him."

Jack Price. Our resident school bully. Short, dark brown hair, green eyes, and infuriating as hell. Although he'd antagonised many people over the years, he usually kept a wide berth where Harry and I were concerned, knowing full well that we held the physical advantage. Jack did however, like to consider himself an acquaintance of mine, though I saw it for what it was: a weak and failed attempt to gain himself an ally.

"I don't need anyone to stick up for me!" Sean raged, trying to get past Tess who blocked his path.

Between the two warring parties stood Harry, facing Jack with his hands held up in a neutral gesture. Though it was easy to see how aggravated he was becoming with Jack.

"I told you to stop. Go and sit down."

"Why are you defending him?" Jack shouted. "Don't you think-"

"Is there a problem?"

The room fell into silence as everyone stared at me, surprised at my exclamation. One of the first things we were taught during karate was to quickly size up a situation and to determine the level of danger. We called it the Traffic Light of Safety, and I'd just entered into the yellow. While Harry and I would've had no problem handling Jack if it came down to it, the goal was to always avoid a physical conflict. To stop things from entering the red, I had to try and diffuse the anger.

I slowly studied everyone as I walked towards them. The air was extremely tense, with Sean and Tess both wide-eyed and red-faced as they stood there next to each other. It was clear that neither of them were used to dealing with such a confrontation. My eyes then stopped on Harry, seeing relief waver across his face as I gave a gentle nod of my head.

Coming up around Jack, I placed him between Harry and me, and then sat down on the edge of his table. Eric Woods, Jack's closest friend, peeked up at me from his seat with a panicked expression. Black greasy hair and cracked lips painted a perfect picture of the deplorable boy. Unlike Jack's hot-headed nature, Eric usually drifted into the background, acting as a shadow for the more dominant boy. There was a part of me that felt sorry for him, knowing that he'd gotten involved with the wrong people, but it was his decision. Nobody chose his friends for him.

Facing Jack, I stared him down as his eyes watched my every move. He may have been willing to push Harry with his words, but he knew better with me. Throughout school, Harry had always maintained a nice-guy image, whereas I'd been much harder to define. I never sought to change that perception to those who didn't know me, preferring to remain an unknown element. There were times when it paid off.

I narrowed my eyes at him. "I said, is there a problem?"

"It's him," Jack sneered, flicking his head towards Sean. "I don't want a gay boy in my class."

"Why?" Harry interrupted. "He doesn't bother me."

"It's sick. He's sick."

"No, you are," Harry countered.

Jack's eyebrows flew up into his forehead in surprise.

I shot my best friend a look of warning. Easy does it, Harry.

"Here's the thing, if Sean being gay bothers you that much, why don't you go sit over near the door away from him?" Pulling his bag over his head, Harry placed it down on Jack's table next to me. "I'll sit here with West and we'll keep an eye on Sean to make sure he doesn't do anything gay."

A few sniggers sounded in the room. Jack's eyes bounced around the class, before he turned back to Harry. Maintaining a strong, persistent stare, Harry remained unmoving. After taking a glance back at me, Jack kissed his teeth and wandered towards the front of the room. "Whatever."

Grabbing his own bag, Eric climbed out of his seat and followed Jack over to the empty desk beside the door.

Harry stopped next to me and gave a sigh. "Well, that was fun."

"Tell me about it." Standing up from the desk, I placed a hand on his shoulder, feeling the heat radiate away from his body. The face-off may have been over, but the stress would take time to dissipate. "You alright?"

"I'm fine." He reassured me. "Just glad it didn't get messy."

"Yeah." My eyes grazed over Sean and Tess, who'd taken their seats behind us. "You should sit with them."

"You sure?"

I nodded. "They're a little shaken up. I'll sit here with Zoe and Rik."

"Alright. And thanks, West."

"You did most of it."

"Yeah, well, at least it's over," he replied with another sigh, stepping around me and walking towards his table.

Sliding my messenger bag off my shoulder, I pulled out a chair and sat down, instantly feeling relief that we'd managed to avoid anything more than a few verbal insults.

"You handled that well." Zoe noted, perching herself on the chair next to me.

I shook my head. "Jack's such a arse."

"True," she replied, leaning towards me. "Though I wish you two smashed his face in instead."

I raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, we were trying to avoid that."

"I know," she answered. "It's a shame."

I stared at her for a moment, but was quickly distracted when Mr Reynolds walked into the classroom with two uniformed police officers trailing behind him.

Did someone call them? My eyes focused on Jack again. It wouldn't have been the worst thing to have seen him marched away in handcuffs.

Coming to a stop at the front of the class, Reynolds clasped his hands in front of him. "Good afternoon. Thank you for coming."

"Like we had a choice," Rikesh quipped under his breath.

"We have a very interesting class for you today, including two special guests." Gesturing towards the two officers, he continued, "I'll let them introduce themselves, but I will ask you to be kind and not call out. Just raise your hands if you have a question."

Once Reynolds had finished giving us his kind little reminder on how to act like adults, he handed the class over to the two officers.

The older of the two, a woman who seemed to be in her early thirties, stepped forwards. "Good afternoon, everyone. I'm PC Hill and with me I have PC Slater. Today we'll be talking to you about drug awareness."

I swept my gaze over the younger officer standing on her left. He appeared to be in his mid-twenties, with light brown hair, dark eyes, and was quite attractive.

"He's cute," whispered Zoe.

"Mmm," I replied, before her words suddenly registered to me. I regarded her shyly, catching the remains of a smile on her lips. Shrugging it off, I faced towards the front again. Knowing Zoe, she probably though I was making a joke, even then I doubted she cared.

Opening up a large briefcase that they'd brought with them, PC Slater pulled out some plastic bags and small, see-through trays, lining them up on a table at the front. A few of the students seated nearby craned their necks to get a better view.

Aside from what I saw on TV, my hands-on experience with drugs was severely limited. Well, there were the few times I'd walk past someone in town and catch a whiff of something they were smoking, something that clearly wasn't tobacco, but that's where my knowledge ended. I was quite curious to see what they were going to cover over the next hour.

Stealing a brief glance over in Jack's direction, I felt myself relax further, knowing that he was unlikely to kick-off again given our guests. Resting back in my chair, I focused on the two officers and watched as they began their talk.


"Thank you very much." Mr Reynolds slowed his clapping. "It was very informative."

Reynolds was right; the talk did end up being quite interesting. Both officers alternated in explaining to us all about the different mainstream drugs, along with answering some questions that we had. We also had the chance to see some of them up close, though Rikesh insisted that the sample of fine white powder was plain flour instead, something that the two officers found quite amusing.

Returning to the front of the room, Reynolds continued, "As part of a new scheme we're participating in with the local schools, PC Slater will be visiting here two times a week on Mondays and Wednesdays. If you have any concerns, or anything that you want to talk about, you can speak to him then."

"That's it!" Zoe whispered excitedly.

"What's it?"

"The article. We can talk to PC Slater, maybe get an interview."

"I don't think he'll have time for an interview. Besides, he's probably not even allowed."

"C'mon, West!" she whined. "It's not like we're members of the press or something. We could ask him."

I hung on her words for a moment as I thought it through. It did sound like a promising idea, one that'd make a good first article.

"Well?" She pressed.

"It could be good," I replied. "We'll think it through first then ask him when he's here next week."

"Ok." She nodded.

The bell started to ring out in the hall, announcing that it was the end of the school day. Everyone shifted in their seats as they reached towards their bags.

Knowing that he no longer held our attention, Reynolds promptly finished the lesson and dismissed the class. Getting up out of my chair, I gazed over my shoulder and spied on Sean. I still hadn't spoken to him about the email. I'd been waiting for a moment where I could get him alone, only now I'd run out of time.

"I need to go." Zoe slipped her back over her head. "I'll call you this week sometime."

"Sure. Later, Zoe."

"See you." Spinning on her heels, she stepped around the table and walked over towards the door. Scanning the tables at the front, I noticed that Jack and Eric had also left. Good thing too, I didn't want to have a repeat of what happened earlier before the class.

Trailing behind the others, Rikesh and I were the last to leave the classroom. Announcing that he had to meet a certain gymnast, Rikesh knocked his fists with mine and parted ways.

"Hey, d'you mind if I walk with Tess?" came Harry's voice next to me.

I shook my head. "No, go ahead."

He flashed a smile. "Thanks, West."

I watched as he wandered over towards where she stood, shared a few words, and then began to walk down the corridor alongside her as they headed towards the exit. My eyes instantly shifted to Sean, who'd turned away from the other two and was watching me closely. With Harry and Tess gone, I now had my chance to speak to him alone.

Crossing the void between us, I stepped up to him and lowered my voice. "We need to talk."

"And you need to go away," he replied coldly, skirting around me.

I gripped onto his upper arm. "Give me a minute."

"Let go of me now or your secret's out." His voice was firm, his blue eyes shooting into mine.

I removed my hand from his arm. "You didn't have to come out."

"You didn't give me any choice," he hissed. "You forced me to do this!"

"I wouldn't have told anyone."

"You're a liar!" Sean clenched his jaw. "Good luck trying to blackmail me now."

I parted my lips to reply, but he continued.

"Actually, you can't do anything, can you?" A smirk grew on his face as he leaned closer. "All of my secrets are out but yours are still hidden away."

"This isn't a game, Sean."

"Yes it is! It's one you started, remember?" Tugging his messenger bag tighter against his shoulder, he stepped to the side. "You can't quit now."

In a flash of anger, I struck out and grabbed his arm again, sinking my fingers into his bicep. Surprise registered on his face, before his lips tightened. The last thing I wanted was a physical confrontation with him, hell, I didn't want any kind of confrontation, yet there we were facing off in the corridor.

While the ball remained in his court, he'd chosen to show his hand. I had to show him that I wasn't messing around. I slowly inched towards his ear. "If you want to threaten someone, go threaten Jack, not me."

I gave him a final stare and then stepped away, leaving him alone in the corridor as I headed to the exit.


Popping another grape into my mouth, I bit down, piercing its thin, red skin and coating my tongue with its sweet flavour. Stretching out in my leather chair, I gave a sigh as I chewed on the soft fruit.

Returning home from school that afternoon I'd almost managed to convince myself of the confidence I'd shown during my talk with Sean. The one part that plagued my thoughts the most was the statement that he'd come out solely because of what I did through Ryan. I knew it was always a possibility, but it wasn't one I wanted to consider being true.

I forced someone to come out. What does that make me?

In some ways, my talk with Sean had only made things worse. I was hoping to try and repair some of the burned bridges between us, but instead it seemed that the only thing I'd achieved was enraging him further.

In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have left so quickly after I delivered my final comment. As I didn't have a chance to gauge his reaction, I was no closer to figuring out whether he remained serious about his threat, or if our conversation had given him a reason to second-guess his actions against me.

Plucking another grape from the bunch, I slipped it between my lips as I pondered my current predicament. Worst-case scenario was Sean deciding to take things further and outing me to the school. It wouldn't be that bad if people found out that I was bisexual. I'd deal with it and they'd eventually get over it. It was their knowledge of Ryan that scared me the most.

I wanted to pretend that none of it happened, that Sean was still in the closet and I'd never sent him any stupid emails. But it had all happened, and there was no easy way out of the hole I found myself in.

"West!" shouted Mum from downstairs. "West, you have a visitor!"

A visitor? I frowned. Who's coming to see me?

Exiting my room, I began to descend the stairs when a sudden thought occurred to me, Neal. It has to be Neal. Mum would've said if it was one of my friends. I gave a sigh. Great! Now I have to entertain him for god knows how long.

Arriving at the bottom of the stairs, I raised my eyes and focused on the person standing beside the door. "Josh?"

His lips curved up into a smile. "Hey, West."

"What are you doing here?" I asked, instantly chastising myself over my tone. "Sorry, I just wasn't expecting you."

"Is it a bad time? I can come back."

"No," I replied, glancing around the hall as I checked to see who was around. Mum had obviously let him inside, yet I couldn't see where she was. I didn't really care about anyone knowing that Josh was there, but my parents barely knew Tess, let alone her older brother. The last thing I wanted was to explain anything that could lead to more questions later.

Josh raised an eyebrow at me. "Everything ok?"

Facing him again, my eyes roamed over his clothes. A navy coloured hoodie hugged his top half, while a pair of jeans covered his legs. His cheeks and nose had a soft pink tinge to them, probably from the cold.


"Huh? Oh, right." I made for the stairs. "Come on."

Shooting me a confused look, he moved forwards and trailed behind me upstairs. "You have a nice house."

"Thanks. Yours is better though."

He laughed. "You haven't seen my room, it's a total mess."

"Mine isn't much better," I replied, arriving on the top landing and entering my room. Josh followed me inside and I closed the door behind us, away from any prying eyes, or inquisitive ears.

"Well, I really just came to drop this off." Flipping open a bag around his shoulders he pulled out some sheets of paper. "Your English presentation."

"Oh." I took it into my hands. No doubt Tess was expecting me to finish it on my own, rather than bring us all together to work on it. Luckily there wasn't much more to do. "Thanks for dropping it over. You didn't have to."

"It's no problem." He nodded, glancing around my room.

"You can sit anywhere you want." I offered, watching him closely. "Sorry, do you want a drink or anything?"

"I'm alright, thanks." His expression became serious. "Do you want to talk about school?"

"What about it?"

"About what happened today?"

"What did Tess say?"

He beamed up at me as he sat on the bed. "Do you always answer a question with a question?"

I stared at him for a second, a grin wavering across my lips. "Do you want me to stop?"

"Whatever makes you happy." He shrugged. "Anyway, Tess told me about the fight that Harry broke up. She said you were there."

I pondered his words. While it really was Harry who'd taken the lead against Jack, my presence there did change the dynamic, giving Harry much better odds at succeeding. Then again, it was no surprise that Tess brushed over any involvement I had.

"She also said that you spoke to Sean afterwards," he added softly. "But she didn't know what you said to him."

I exhaled gently and sat down in my chair. "I wanted to speak to him about the email he sent me on Friday."

"What email?"

"The email that he sent on Friday threatening to out me."

"He what?"

"Here." Swivelling around on the chair, I flipped open my laptop and pulled up my emails. Scanning through them, I came to the one Sean sent me and opened it up. Josh came and stood beside me as he read the text.

"No." He shook his head as his eyebrows knitted. "That not right. I'll talk to Tess and get him to stop."

I closed the computer and faced him. "I'll deal with it."

"No. You shouldn't have to worry about him threatening to out you."

"I don't really think he'll do it," I replied. At least I hope.

"It's beside the point. He should know better," he remarked, returning to his seat on the bed. "I'll get Tess to talk to him."

"I've already spoken to him about it. We had that conversation, remember?"

His frown deepened. "What did he say?"

"Not a lot, just reminded me that he can out me whenever he wants. I guess he figures it's a way to get back at me." I sighed. "Not that I can blame him. Well, actually I can because he said that to me after I stopped Jack from kicking off."

"Is this Jack guy really all that?"

"No, he's just an idiot with a big mouth. It's really not important, but something could've happened if I didn't... well, if Harry and I didn't step in."

"Yeah." Josh agreed. "At least things didn't get bad for you and Harry."

"True." We sat silent for a moment, my mind flashing back to the conversation I had with Sean. "You know, he said he came out because of me."

Josh's face took on a hint of amusement. "That's funny, because he told Tess that he's been thinking about doing it for a few months now."

"What d'you mean?"

"I mean he didn't do this because of you. He was always planning on coming out."

"Then why would he say that if...?" I trailed off, the answer clear to me.

"Maybe to make you feel guilty?" Josh suggested.

What a bitch move. I gave a soft snort. "Figures."

"Try not to let Sean get you down. I think he's just doing it to get back at you, rather than really wanting to out you." Standing up from the bed, Josh reached into his jeans. "Like I said, I'll talk to Tess for you, let her know what Sean's doing."

That was a good point. I'd always assumed that Tess knew about Sean's threat against me. If Tess didn't know, perhaps I had some leverage there to get him to stop.

"What's your number?" Josh asked, holding his phone in his hand. "I'll call you so you have my number. Then you can call or text me if you ever want to talk."

I flashed him an appreciative smile and relayed my number. After sending me a missed call, I added him to my contacts. "Thanks, Josh."

"It's alright." He grinned. "Maybe we'll actually be able to have a happy conversation one day."

I winced. "Yeah, sorry about that."

Slinging his messenger bag back over his shoulder, he shook his head. "Don't worry about it."

Announcing that he had to leave, I led Josh back downstairs to the front door and saw him out. I had to admit that I was a little disappointed that he had to go. He had a very alluring quality about him, something that made me want to spend time with him. The reason behind it wasn't a huge mystery to me, as he was the only person I could really talk to about everything. It simply made sense that I wanted to be around him. Just talking about what was going on in my life did make me feel better.

On the other hand, I knew it wasn't very fair to use him as a sounding board. I didn't want him to think I was some anxious, whiny boy, because that really wasn't me. He did however, have a very valid point. The next time we spoke face-to-face, I'd be sure to come up with something decent to say, something that didn't revolve around me.

Yet, between Sean and Tess, Keith and my dad, Jack's craziness and Neal's return, achieving peace in my life was becoming more and more like a distant fantasy.

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Written by Kai Taylor
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Copyright © 2013-2014 Kai Taylor