Chapter 8

Junction

Her long, brown hair cascaded to the side as she shook her head, a smile beginning to grow on her lips. "I hate to say it, West, but it's been what, three months since you broke up with me? From the sounds of it, your life has seriously gone to shit."

My eyes narrowed on hers. "Thanks, Zoe, that's really helpful."

"Awww, come on..." Sitting down next to me on my bed, she placed a hand on my shoulder and gave a gentle squeeze. "I'm just teasing you."

I held my glare for a brief moment, before my expression softened as I returned her smile. I'd known Zoe long enough to expect such a response from her. She may have had a different way of showing things than some people, but when it came down to it, I knew she meant no harm.

She shifted on the bed to face me head on. "You know, I always thought there was something different about you."

I gave a snort. "You would've said the same thing if I told you I was born a woman."

Her gaze dropped to my groin. "Were you born a woman?"

"No." I tugged on the hem of my shirt and pulled it lower across my lap.

Standing up from the bed, she walked over to the window and peered outside. Staring at her back, my mind flicked over the past twenty-minutes. I hadn't planned on coming out to Zoe. In fact, I didn't even know she was coming over to my house until she arrived on the doorstep half an hour earlier. Surprised by her appearance, I asked if there was a problem. She gave me the simple reply of, "We have to talk."

Ushering her upstairs to my room, she proceeded to ask me what was going on in my life, that she knew something was wrong. Unbeknownst to me, she'd witnessed the confrontation between Sean and me in the corridor at school earlier that week. While she'd only caught part of it, she knew something was up. Instead of attempting to whip up a new excuse, I decided to tell her the truth. In the end I told her everything.

Zoe turned away from the window to glance back at me. "Why'd you tell me?"

I shrugged. "You asked."

"No, why'd you really tell me?"

"Because I trust you."

Her eyebrows rose as she stared at me. "Really?"

"Yeah, and because I know you wouldn't care," I replied. "At least with the bisexual part."

Walking over to my desk chair, she dragged it closer towards me and sat down. "I'd be a hypocrite if I did care."

"You're bi too?"

"Bi, gay, straight..." She wrinkled her nose. "Life's too short. I'm just Zoe."

Well, that explains that.

"You like boys more, don't you?"

"What?"

"You can tell me." She grinned. "I already know it's true."

"It's not true. I like girls just as much."

She regarded me with scepticism. "Fifty-fifty? Right down the middle?"

"Right down the middle," I agreed. "Why'd you ask?"

"I've just never seen you with a lot of girls."

"You haven't seen me with a lot of boys either." I winked.

"I guess." She laughed and then reached over towards her can of Coke. "So what about this mess with Sean? Any idea what's gonna happen next?"

Good question. What was going to happen next? Josh had said that Tess wasn't happy about Sean's actions, but I didn't know if she'd done anything to stop him from continuing. And if she had spoken to him, how was he going to react the next time he saw me?

I shook my head. "I dunno. I guess I'll find out soon."

She swallowed some of her Coke. "Want me to talk to him?"

"Nah, it's alright. I just wanna keep my distance."

"Fair enough. I'll keep an eye on him though. He shouldn't be threatening you like that."

"He's angry at what I did."

She shrugged. "Then he should hit you or something and get it over with."

"Hit me?" Sometimes I really had no idea whether she was being dead serious or just taking the piss. "I should've come to you for advice sooner!"

"Yeah, you should have," she remarked confidently. "Remember that talk we had last week about sexual tension?"

I frowned. "No, Zoe. We're trying to be serious here."

"Make love, not war, West. That's all I'm saying."

I gave a sigh. "Let's change the subject."

She thought for a moment. "We have that citizenship class again tomorrow."

I sat back on the bed. "Yeah, lucky us."

"I wonder if Jack will start his shit again."

"Depends what mood he's in." I looked at her closely. "What's your deal with him anyway? I know he's a prick, but is there more behind it?"

She was silent for a few seconds, a mix of emotions playing across her face. "Let's just say he's not the best guy to have as a boyfriend."

I raised an eyebrow. "You've dated him?"

"Ugh! No way!" She grimaced. "I'd never let him come anywhere near me."

"So why'd you say he's a bad boyfriend? Aside from what's obvious."

Her eyes avoided mine, as though she'd said more than she should've. "It's not important. Anyway, I don't think he'll kick off again with you and Harry around."

I stared at her. Why did she change the subject? What didn't she want me to know? Did Jack physically hurt the girls he was dating? Question after question flew through my mind, only it was clear she wasn't going to speak more on the issue. There was more to the story, but I was going to have to be patient with her to find out. One thing was certain, I knew who I was going to be focusing on during the citizenship class. And it wasn't going to be Sean.

*

The smile widened on Harry's lips as we stepped through the school gates and entered the vast, front courtyard. Giving him a sideways glance, a grin formed on my own face, knowing the source of his happiness.

It'd been two days since his date with Tess. Not wanting to waste any time, he came over to my house the following morning and shared every detail about his evening out with her. They ended up visiting quite a popular restaurant in the town centre, known for its delicious marinated meats and delightful desserts. I'd been there a few times, knowing first-hand how much of a treat it was.

Most importantly, they both had a great time, at least if Harry's excitement while telling me all about it was any indication. Of course, it also meant that Harry could, for the first time, claim that his relationship with Tess was official, that they were boyfriend and girlfriend.

"I've never seen someone look so happy about a Monday morning," I remarked.

"What's wrong with that?" He grinned.

"Nothing. Just pointing it out."

Stepping inside the school building, he gave a satisfied sigh. "I'm just in a good mood."

"I bet you are. When was the last time you saw her?"

"Last night. She came over to mine."

I raised an eyebrow and faced him, prompting a look of alarm to flash across his features.

"No, no. Not like that!"

I lifted my hands in surrender. "I didn't say anything."

He smiled, shooting me his best whatever expression. "You were right by the way."

"About what?" I asked as we headed down a busy corridor, making our way towards our English class.

"She loves Charlie. She says he's the cutest thing ever."

"The cutest thing ever? Doesn't that make you jealous?"

He lightly punched my upper arm as he gave a laugh. "Shut it."

Laughing with him, I then caught sight of PC Slater trailing down the corridor towards us. Having agreed with Zoe that we should go ahead and try to get an interview with him for the article, I knew it'd be wise to talk to him while he was available.

I turned to Harry. "You go on ahead, I'll meet you there."

Having noticed Slater too, he gave a nod. "Sure."

Cutting through the students dotted between us, I arrived alongside the young, uniformed policeman. "Excuse me, PC Slater?"

He offered a smile. "That's me."

"Hi, I'm West, I was in your drugs awareness class last Monday," I began, hoping he'd recognise me.

"That's right, I remember you being there," he replied. "Can I help you with anything?"

"Actually I'd like to speak with you for a minute, if you're free."

His expression instantly morphed into one of seriousness. "Sure." Walking further down the corridor, he led us to a spot away from the swarming sea of students and locked his eyes on mine. "What's on your mind, West?"

Staring up into his brown eyes, I couldn't help but feel slightly intimidated by him. While I knew he was still just a person, a man several years older than me, his uniform changed the entire dynamic.

"Well, I write for the school newspaper and I was wondering if I could have an interview with you for an article I'm working on."

Amusement flickered across his face. "An interview?"

"Yes, about the new scheme that's going on between the schools and the police, and what your role is."

Crossing his arms, his right hand came up to cup his chin. "It sounds interesting."

"I'd really appreciate anything you could do to help."

He remained silent, his strong gaze unwavering. "I can't make any promises, but I will talk to some people back at the station later. Are you in school tomorrow?"

"Yes."

"Ok. I'll find out about the interview later today and leave a note with Mr Reynolds tomorrow. Would that be ok?"

"That'd be great." I grinned.

He smiled back. "Like I said, I can't promise anything, but I'll see what we can do."

"Thank you."

Giving a nod of his head, he stepped away. "You're welcome, West."

*

Zoe's face lit up with excitement. "That's great!"

"Remember, he's not sure if he can even do it yet." I warned, taking a seat next to her at the table.

"Don't worry about that. It'll happen."

"I hope so," I replied, beginning to pull the lunch out from my bag. "I think it'd be a great first article to write."

"Mmhmm." Her attention shifted to something across the room. "So it's official between them now, huh?"

I stole a glance over at Harry and Tess seated in the corner of the common room. "Yep. They're together."

"Thank God! Harry's been crazy nervous around her for so long. At least that part's over now."

I laughed. "Tell me about it."

Several raised voices from my left caught my attention as a group of guys entered the common room. Noting that Sean was among them, my eyes followed him as he walked over to the pool table and set up a game. I continued to watch him as I began to eat my lunch, only he refrained from looking back at me. I really didn't care. Actually I was quite pleased that he was having fun with some of his friends. At least it meant he wasn't sitting around thinking up new ways to blackmail me.

"I guess he's taking your advice." Zoe remarked.

"Advice about what?"

"Leaving the two lovebirds alone." She nodded over at Harry and Tess again. "They're in their own little world over there."

Ignoring her, my eyebrows dipped as I focused on Sean, or rather, the boy standing next to him, Tom. Sporting shoulder-length black hair and often seen carrying a guitar case on his back, Tom was well-known to belong to the music clique. There'd been rumours that he was gay, but I'd never really taken much interest, at least before I noticed him getting comfortable with Sean.

"If looks could kill, West."

Breaking the eye contact, I returned my gaze to Zoe. "What?"

She flicked her head towards Tom. "That look you're giving him. There's steam rising up from his hair."

"Do you think he's gay?" I asked, dismissing her comment.

"Yeah, he's had a boyfriend before." She stated matter-of-fact.

Just as she said that, Tom reached out and lightly touched Sean's blond hair, gently patting down a few rogue locks that were sticking up. An electrifying jolt shot down my spine as my frown deepened.

Zoe nudged my arm. "You know they study music together, right? It's not like they're strangers."

"I know, but can you see how close he is to Sean?" I whispered, careful to keep my voice low. "I mean, what's with that?"

"Sean's smart, really hot, likes music, oh, and he's gay too." She stared at me. "What do you think Tom's doing?"

"I know what he's doing but it's Tom, he's-"

"Not you." She finished.

I narrowed my eyes on her. "That's not what I meant."

"But it's how you feel." I continued to glare at her, but she ignored it. Picking up her drink, she took a quick sip and swallowed. "What about this Josh guy? You said he seems nice. He's really hot too."

"He's... wait, how do you know what he looks like?"

She waved her phone in front of me. "Hello? The internet maybe?"

I pulled a packet of crisps out of my bag. "Right, so you were being a perv."

"No, I was just checking out his beach photos."

"What beach photos?"

"Remember the holiday that Tess went on last year to Florida? Josh went too."

I thought back to last summer, trying to recall when Tess took a holiday. I vaguely remembered people commenting on a tan that she had when she returned, but my memory was quite hazy.

"So what do you think of him?"

I opened my mouth to speak, but stopped and stared at her. What was she getting at? Was she trying to imply that I might like him in some way?

Zoe leaned closer towards me. "I get it, West. You like Sean but he doesn't feel the same way. Yeah, it sucks, but you have to try and move on."

"When did I say I liked him?" I countered, confused over why she'd say that when I'd just explained everything to her less than twenty-four hours earlier.

"You don't have to. It's obvious to anyone with half a brain."

I held my gaze. Zoe thought I liked Sean, Tess thought I liked Sean, hell, even Sean probably thought I liked Sean, yet I remained firm that I didn't. Was it true? Did I like him in a romantic way? Had I just not admitted it to myself or was there something else stopping me?

Whenever I thought about being with Sean, I focused on the same kind of things that Harry and I would do together. I wanted to hang out, talk about things, but most importantly, just have a good time. Maybe that was my answer, that I simply wanted to be friends with him; nothing more.

"I want to be his friend, Zoe. That's all."

"Then tell him you're sorry, make up, and be friends."

I gave a sigh and shook my head. Right, if only it were that simple.

After finishing up my lunch, it didn't take long for the bell to ring, signalling it was time for the last lesson of the day, our citizenship class. It hadn't been that bad of a day on the whole, but I just wasn't in the mood for another hour of school. Having to watch Tom getting closer and closer to Sean was enough to put me off anything. Despite what Zoe said about the two of them having studied in the same class, I'd never seen Tom be that interested in Sean before. It just didn't feel right to me.

Exiting the common room, Rikesh appeared and walked alongside Zoe and me as we headed to the class.

Zoe landed a hand on Rikesh's shoulder. "You still with your gymnastics girl?"

"Uh huh. Where do you think I've been during lunch?"

Her hand recoiled from his t-shirt in a flash, as if the blue, cotton fabric had scalded her skin. "Please tell me you showered."

He winked at her as we came to a stop outside the class. "Do I smell?"

Laughing at Rikesh's antics, I pushed the door open and entered the room, just in time to catch Sean jumping up out of his seat.

"What's your problem?!" he fumed, his face reddening as he stepped around his table. "Why are you so focused on me?"

Two tables ahead of him stood Jack, his hand raised as he pointed at Sean. "I don't want gay boys around me, that's why!"

"Talk about déj bloody vu!" Zoe exclaimed.

Quickly realising that neither Harry nor Tess were there to support Sean, I cut across the room and moved to stand next to him. It felt weird to be standing at his side given our animosity, but I wasn't going to let Jack get the upper hand. Levelling my stare on the troubled boy, a voice in my head willed him to resume his threats.

Sean glared at me. "Stay out of this, West!"

Stunned at his request, I froze on the spot. What?

"Stay out of this!" He repeated.

I frowned at him but then relented and gave a half-shrug. Go ahead. Let's try things Sean's way. Remaining rooted on the spot, I watched from the side as he inched closer to Jack.

"They always say it's ones like you who have a secret to hide." Sean began. "What's yours, Jack? Are you gay too?"

"Don't be sick! That's nasty!"

"No, I think it's true." Sean flashed a smirk. "You want my number, don't you?"

And now we're in the red. Sliding my bag off my shoulder, I dropped it on a nearby table as I came up behind Sean, hoping to dispel any thoughts Jack had at a physical attack.

Jack grimaced. "What?! Are you-"

Sean held up a hand. "I'm sorry, Jack, but you're not my type."

Laughter erupted throughout the room at Sean's statement.

"You got told!" Rikesh hooted. "Nice one, Sean!"

Jack's eyes darted from person to person, his jaw clenching tight. Knowing it was time to shut things down, I stepped around Sean and confronted Jack.

"You should go."

"Fuck this class!" he snapped, spinning around and marching from the room.

"Nah, you're alright!" quipped Rikesh, prompting another round of laughter.

My eyes followed Jack as he left the room. Eric, who'd been smart enough to remain out of the way, closely trailed behind his dominant partner. Once they'd left, Harry and Tess entered, both wearing deep creases on their foreheads.

Harry looked over at Rikesh. "Alright, what did we miss?"

Feeling the danger lessen in intensity, I turned around to check on Sean. "Are you ok?"

His light blue eyes fell onto mine, and for a moment we stood in silence watching each other. The expression on his face was soft and passive, with only a hint of worry. He seemed almost relaxed, as if the entire confrontation had barely affected him. Was it shock?

Wanting to reassure him that he was safe, I moved closer. "It's over, Sean."

Breaking the contact, he glanced at Tess and walked around me as if I were an inanimate object. I continued to stare straight ahead, my mind swimming with thoughts. What the hell was that?

"West?" came Harry's voice behind me. "You alright?"

"Yeah." Drawing my lips up into a faux smile, I spun around and faced him. "I'm fine."

Want more West? Visit my site here to read the next chapter early.

Written by Kai Taylor
Twitter: @wordsbykai | Mail:
wordsbykai.com
Copyright © 2013-2015 Kai Taylor