When Ryan, a troubled teen and aspiring musician, transfers to Las Vegas' local public high school, he meets a boy that puts him over the edge.
In the front room sat long, empty, rickety pews lined up on either side of an aisle. On the dusty floor lay a simple burgundy carpet that was rolled out down the aisle as to make a path of where to walk. Towards the front of the small, dust-covered room stood an older man with thinning snow white hair dressed in all black with a charcoal colored collar that exposed a small white square in the middle. In his shaky hands, he held a small, black leather Bible. The wooden pews were now filled with people dressed in circus performer clothing with faces hidden behind layers of stage makeup. Bearded women and fire breathers joined with a man on stilts and identical twins with matching scandalous striped dresses.
I was no longer gazing down at the scene before me, but instead was standing across from a younger looking boy. He was attractive with his newly cut black hair. His shattered bangs slightly slipping over his right eyebrow. He was dressed in a traditional black tuxedo with a rose colored bowtie to match my flowered vest.
I held his hand as the priest uttered the vows that the younger boy before me was to repeat…
The sound of the final bell was barely audible due to the now packed halls of rushing people trying to get out of this deathtrap as fast as they could. I, on the other hand, was awoken by a slam on the corner of my desk in the back of the room. I swore under my breath as I lifted my head off the hard desk.
“Detention, Mr. Ross!”
I don’t regret dozing off halfway through that brutal hour of learning about the uses of Lithium in chemistry class. As my teacher walked back to his cluttered desk I gathered my things wearing a slight smirk as I shuffled out of the room.
“And get a decent haircut. I want to be able to see both eyes!” he called coldly after me.
Screw him I thought. Besides being called anorexic occasionally, people have been calling me emo and crap like that ever since… well since forever.
There’s a new slur now associated with my name ever since I was caught staring at one of the sophomores in my trig class. God, one look at the guy’s crotch and suddenly you’re a fag. Sure, it may be half true but, seriously? Calm the fuck down.
I walked down the desolate hallways and opened the door that read DETENTION in big, block letters. I entered and sat down in the nearest desk. Pulling out my iPod and selecting one of my favorite bands, Modern Stone Age, I pulled the hood of my worn sweatshirt over my head and lay down on the cool plastic of the desk to continue my mid-afternoon nap.
After a very uneventful hour of detention, I strolled out the front doors of the school and took my first breath of weekend freedom. Unchaining my bike from the rusty rack I pedaled the seven blocks home.
I rolled onto the uneven concrete driveway and pulled out my key to unlock the front door. My dad wasn’t home yet. Good. He relapsed about six weeks ago. It sucked to say the least. I’d have to go to school the next day and explain that I fell out of bed or ran into a door or something stupid like that to explain my bruises and occasional black eyes.
As I was saying, my dad wasn’t home which meant I had the whole house to myself. Just the way I liked it. I dumped my backpack on my bed and went to the kitchen. I’d have to go grocery shopping later. All we had was Gatorade, Red Bull, and some cheese in the back of the fridge that was looking rather sketchy. After shutting the refrigerator door I went to the cupboard, grabbed a strawberry Poptart and sat down on our lumpy couch. Taking a bite of the Poptart I grabbed my book and started enjoying my evening alone.
I woke up with my book laying on my chest to a door slam. I checked my watch. It was 10:32. My plastered dad staggered into the kitchen and yelled, “RYAN! Get your skinny ass over here!”
I started to panic knowing I had to get to my room before he could get to me. I gathered everything as quick as I could and started to make a run for it. My room wasn’t far but I had tripped over my shoelaces and I heard huge thuds coming up behind me. For being insanely wasted, my dad was pretty fast. Before I could get up, he caught me around the ankle and started to drag me out to the living room.
One punch to the face was all it took for me to be on the floor. I was fighting unconsciousness but was easily defeated and darkness flooded over me.
I regained consciousness with dried blood around my nose. I made sure nothing was broken (it wouldn’t be hard; I’m so damn skinny) but I felt a black eye forming. Getting up very quietly, I made sure my dad was gone. I checked the entire house, but found it abandoned. He probably went out for a walk back to the bar. I shuffled to the bathroom, careful of my shoelaces this time, to clean up my face then to my room to pull on a not-so-blood-stained t-shirt and put my sweatshirt back on. I flinched as the tighter fabric grazed over the healing marks that covered my forearms.
I locked my bedroom door from the inside and collapsed face down onto my pillow. Sobs racked my tiny frame as I tried to calm down.
Apparently my struggle to relax paid off because I woke up to the bright midday sunshine of Vegas peeking through my blinds. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I winced when I touched my left eye. I guess I was just thankful that I didn’t have a migraine like I usually do after a night like last. Leaning over the side of my mattress, I grabbed my alarm clock and brought it in front of my face. Ten thirty already? Well, good for me. I don’t sleep nearly enough.
Since you’re new around here, meaning new to my warped thoughts and life in general, you should probably know a few things about me. First, I’m bisexual. Don’t get the wrong idea. Just because I’m bisexual doesn’t mean that I throw myself at anyone. I still have standards and I’m still capable of having actual friends just like everyone else. If I had my way, however, that sophomore wasn’t going to be one of those friends. Second, I’m borderline suicidal. There’s really not much to say about that. Now, if those things haven’t scared you off, the third thing you should know is that I’m not the most exciting specimen this world has ever seen. I really don’t have a social life besides my best friend, Spencer. We’ve grown up together, living just four doors down from each other for our entire lives. He’s a year younger than me, but that has never really mattered to us. It’s been kind of hard since I graduated eighth grade before him and then went to a Catholic high school while, a year later, he attended Vegas’ local public high school. This year changed when my dad pulled me out because he couldn’t afford my education anymore causing me to transfer to Spencer’s school as a junior. I didn’t care. Everyone was stuck up at Bishop Gorman and hated me anyways. At least now I get to see Spencer more often.
I should also mention that I’m in a band. Sort of. Okay, so it’s just me and Spencer and we only do covers, but it works. We practice on the weekends in his garage and I try not to make the neighbors ears bleed with the sound of my voice. I was voted singer by default. Spence is on drums and I also play guitar. We’re pretty good if I do say so myself, but I need to get back to writing. I’ve been working on my own songs and lyrics, but just bits and pieces. A chorus here and verse and bridge there. Nothing really productive, but it’s something I suppose.
This weekend will be filled with band practice, homework, reading, and music. See? I told you. No social life whatsoever. With that being said, I will skip to Monday.
“Hey, Ryan,” Spencer greeted from behind me. I had forgotten my iPod at home so I could hear him over the dull roar of the cafeteria.
“Hey, Spence,” I answered, not bothering to turn around. I was rereading Chuck Palahnuik’s Invisible Monsters while my peanut butter sandwich lay beside me, untouched as usual. One note for all those who haven’t read the book: I suggest you are at least fifteen. It’s definitely not the most appropriate book out there. Actually, it’s quite… I can’t even describe it. Just, if you decide to read it, not around the parents.
“This is Brendon. He’s in my biology and German classes,” I heard Spencer say.
To this, I turned around, interested. A skinny sophomore stood in front of me holding a cliché brown paper bag. He may have been a little nerdy, but… damn, he was cute. He wore brick red plastic glasses and his black hair was styled carefree but, oh so amazing. He didn’t even have to try. I’d have to thank Spencer later for befriending this gorgeous boy.
“Brendon, this is Ryan,” Spencer introduced. I looked away for a second to hide my blush. When I returned his gaze, I saw Brendon’s cheeks were a few shades pinker as well.
“Hey, Ryan,” his captivating voice rang. I’ve never heard a more beautiful voice. I don’t know how to explain it, but… damn. “Hey, aren’t you in my math class? Trig third hour with Bennett?”
“That’s me,” I said, keeping my voice even and trying to hold my composure. Spencer ushered Brendon over to the seat next to him on the other side of the table. He kept his head down, but I noticed his gorgeous chocolate brown eyes flickering in my direction. I hid mine skillfully behind the pages of my book, letting my face cool down.
Eventually setting my book down to talk to Spencer and his hot friend, I remembered my silent promise to myself. There was no way I was going to let this kid out of my life. Then I realized the chances of him feeling the same way I do and I felt my moment of elation slip.
I was captivated as Brendon spoke; I was only half listening to what he was saying, though. I took in every movement. The way he raked his bangs aside with the long, knobby fingers of his right hand. His slight half-smile while he listened to Spencer speak. Even the way he ate his lunch. How he shyly covered his mouth after each bite.
Of course, I wasn’t completely inattentive to the conversation. I started to relax when the subject of music, a subject I am quite apt in, came around. It turns out that Brendon is into all the same music as me, but his parents didn’t exactly approve. He was Mormon, but I concluded he wasn’t really faithful to the suffocating lifestyle as he drank a can of Pepsi with his sandwich.
Our conversation was cut short by the ring of the bell. Placing my uneaten sandwich back in the bag, I packed up my book and stood up as Spencer and Brendon did the same.
“Well, see you tomorrow,” Brendon said as he left with Spencer to his next class. Tomorrow. Could a word sound so good? I would see him tomorrow. Tomorrow, I repeated over and over. I couldn’t wait.
It turns out I could wait because the next day was just another day, another beating. What the hell else is new? I didn’t even see it coming. That’s almost impossible considering Trent Collins and his crew were the biggest guys at school. You can hear their thudding footsteps from a mile away. I did have my music blaring, but I should have just looked up to see that the halls had emptied in their wake. It only took one punch. I kind of thought I was stronger than that, but I’ve been wrong before. As I desperately covered by face, all I heard was slurred profanities and something about a “fucking fag”. I could be paraphrasing.
I should be in German right now, but I can’t even see straight at the moment let alone conjugate to the present perfect. My home for the hour was the boy’s bathroom in the north hall; the floor specifically where I was currently on the verge of unconsciousness. I tried to stand up so I could see what the damage was this time, but I dizzily stumbled back to the ground. Defeated, I scooted against the tiled wall, wiped my bloody nose on my arm as I prayed no one came in to see me here. I closed my eyes, focusing on not passing out.
I must have drifted asleep because the next thing I knew the shrill sound of the bell echoed, jerking me awake. My head weighed a ton and I decided that missing English class wouldn’t hurt. I had already read Catcher in the Rye a dozen times and teachers make up their own symbolism anyway.
I closed my eyes once more, but the creak of the door startled me. I sat frozen in my spot as he entered. My vision was blurring, but I saw that he was skinny with glasses and perfectly messy black hair. I recognized him immediately as Brendon, Spencer’s hot sophomore friend I met yesterday. What a good second impression. He walked up to the urinal and unzipped his pants.
That’s flattering and everything, Brendon, but really, it’s too soon, I thought sarcastically. How I’d love to be in those pants. That thought was interrupted by the fact that he still hadn’t noticed me. I was tempted to clear my throat or something, but I really didn’t want him to see me like this.
A moment later he looked over his shoulder nonchalantly. “Ryan?” he asked. He walked over and kneeled down next to me. “What happened?”
“Nothing new. Just Trent and his posse.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Happens at least twice a week plus what happens at home,” I let slip, and then cringed. He definitely didn’t need to know that.
“What happens at home?” Brendon asked, genuinely concerned.
“Nothing. Forget it. No big deal,” I smiled, hoping to convince him. I bit my lip, trying to keep my inappropriate thoughts at bay as my gaze slipped down below his belt.
“Are you sure you’re gonna be okay?”
“I’m good. Seriously. I think I might just bail and go home. You might want to zip that up or people might get the wrong idea,” I smirked, motioning to his pants.
“Oh,” he said, his cheeks turning an immediate shade of dark red, as he averted his eyes and zipped his pants up.
Getting to his feet, he offered me his hand, but I declined and said, “I think I’m just going to stay here for a minute.” I pulled my phone out of my pocket and checked the time. It was almost two fifteen. I could sneak out easily at this time as all the seniors who didn’t have a sixth hour went home. My gaze met Brendon’s as I shoved my phone back in my pocket. His face held an expression of surprise. Phones were strictly prohibited during school hours at the risk of suspension. I chuckled under my breath with a grin. “You better get to class. I hear Mr. Anderson can be a bitch if you’re late.”
“How’d you know I have Mr. Anderson?”
“Spencer’s in your class,” I explained, simply.
“Oh, right. Ok, well, I’ll see you around. Uh… feel better,” Brendon said awkwardly, his cheeks gaining a little color.
He walked out of the bathroom, not daring to look at my pitiful figure sitting in the corner. After he left, I waited a few moments before getting to my feet and checking to see if the halls were clear so I could make my escape. I didn’t see anyone, so I jogged to my locker and grabbed my books and bag. As I went for my chemistry book, I heard a teacher call my name.
“Mr. Ross, what do you think you’re doing?” It was Mr. Faust, my German teacher. We’re pretty close considering he’s the only person who actually looks at me like I’m a human being.
“I don’t feel good so I’m going home,” I told him, placing the last notebook in my book bag. I wasn’t technically lying.
“What happened to your face?” he asked, coming closer to examine my bloodied lip and nose.
“I’d ask you the same, sir, but I hear that that type of comment is frowned upon around here,” I said, trying to make light on the conversation. He’s a teacher that can actually take sarcasm and not scream at you for it. He wasn’t amused this time, though.
“It’s nothing. I’m good,” I told him, fumbling through my backpack to find my hoodie.
“Who was it?”
“I’m fine. Can I just go home?” I asked, getting impatient, pulling on the sweater.
“Ok, but if you need to talk, I’m always here, understand?” he told me.
“Yeah, I know,” I muttered, pushing past him.
I walked down the hall and out the doors to the bike rack. I didn’t live too far away and my dad was always too hammered or hung over to drive. Spencer’s mom could drive me, but she already has to take his younger sisters to two different schools every morning. I considered it my daily exercise.
As I approached the rack, I saw that my bike was practically in shambles before me. The front wheel was bent, the tires slashed, and the chains were busted.
“God damn it!” I shouted, kicking the warped metal. Now I had to carry it home and it would take at least twice as long.
I unlocked the chain and jerked it from the rack. I looked over my shoulder into the nearest classroom, Spencer’s health class. Some kids had their heads on the desks, clearly sleeping while the teacher was still babbling away. I couldn’t see Spencer, but a figure caught my eye. Brendon was looking out at me. My gaze met his for a moment before I pulled the hood over my head as the dark clouds rolled in overhead.
Guiding my bicycle was difficult. Since its front tire was completely deformed, it kept pulling sharply to the right as the metal chains dragged against the rough surface of the concrete, putting me on edge. Setting my jaw, I came to a halt and dropped my bag to the ground to find my iPod. Reaching to the bottom of my bag, I felt the cool metal and put on my harder core music to calm me down.
By the time I got home, it was three thirty and I was soaked. It had started sprinkling around my second block and then poured until I arrived. I propped my bike against the garage door and walked up to the porch. Finding the key hidden on top of our porch light, I opened the front door to find an empty house. My dad was probably out with friends or something. He usually doesn’t get home until late and by then, I’ve long since locked myself in my room.
Throwing down my backpack on my bedroom floor, I took out my books and laid them on the bed, praying they weren’t wet. I peeled off my drenched clothes and hopped in the shower to warm up and get the smell of late autumn rain off of me.
I cleaned up my cuts and realized that my eye wasn’t as bad as I thought; just a little swollen. I pulled on some jeans and an old t-shirt and went to the garage. There was no way I was walking to school every day and waking up an hour earlier to do so. Opening the garage door, I heard the loud clang of my bike falling over onto the pavement. Dragging it inside, I tried to assess the damage. I’d have to get a new tire and chains with the mon— oh wait. I don’t have any money. I’d have to steal some from my dad’s stash he uses to buy alcohol. He won’t notice. I grabbed the old wooden toolbox from the workbench and tried to figure out how I’d reattach the chains and straighten out the tires.
This was going to take some serious will power so I ran back inside to grab the radio from my room. Tuning it to the only station that I could stand, I cranked it up all the way and got to work. I won’t explain what I did, because, truthfully, I have no idea. Mostly just swore and hit things.
As I reached to take off the back tire, I looked up to see Spencer and Brendon standing outside. It had apparently stopped raining. “What happened to your bike?” Spencer asked after I turned down the radio.
“Someone trashed it,” I explained, yanking back on the strong rubber to get it to come off of the rim. “What are you doing here? Don’t you have a big history test tomorrow you should be studying for?” I wasn’t trying to be rude, but they probably just came to check up on me. Brendon had probably told him what happened this afternoon. I so didn’t need this right now.
“How’s your eye?” Brendon asked, ignoring my question.
“Fine,” I told him curtly, wiping the grease from the chains off my hands. As I looked down, I realized that I wasn’t wearing a hoodie to cover my arms. They were mostly healed by now, but I still felt really exposed.
“You know, if you can’t fix your bike, my sister doesn’t use hers anymore,” Brendon offered, stepping towards me.
“Thanks, but I don’t think that riding a pink bike with streamers and glitter on the handle bars will really help,” I said, crossing my arms.
“My sister’s in college,” he said, sounding a little exasperated.
“Oh,” I mumbled, embarrassed.
“If you want to come over tomorrow after school, you can get it. I just live two subs over,” he explained, motioning behind him.
“Yeah, definitely. That’d be awesome. Thanks,” I grinned, relieved and, honestly, a little excited. Going to Brendon’s house; I quite enjoy that thought.
“I’ll just meet you at your locker tomorrow after school and we can go. My mom can drive,” he finalized.
There was a moment of awkwardness before Spencer spoke up. “Well, we should probably get going. I’m pretty sure I’m going to fail that test tomorrow.”
“Same here. See ya, Ryan,” Brendon smiled.
“If you need to stay over, Ryan, you know you’re always welcome,” Spencer told me.
“I’ll be okay. I’ll stay on the DL tonight and read or something,” I assured him.
“Ok, just call me,” he said.
“Yeah, I got it.”
They walked away, back to Spencer’s house and out of sight. I checked my phone and saw it was almost six. I decided to give up on my bike and turn in to eat dinner. I hid my bike behind the shed so my dad didn’t see it. If he saw it was wrecked, he’d kill me. Literally.
The next day after school I waited by my locker with butterflies in my stomach waiting for Brendon to meet me. The halls were almost mostly deserted by the time he finally showed up, looking slightly disheveled.
“Hey, you okay?” I asked.
“Just trying to find your locker. Spencer was absolutely no help at all.”
“Yes, well, rule number one of Spencer is that you never, under any circumstances, ask him how to get anywhere. You will get lost every time or end up at a stripper’s door, but that’s beside the point,” I rambled. “Ready?”
“Yeah, let’s go.”
We walked in silence to the parking lot and he led me to his mom’s car. She seemed nice, but strict. She had the same dark hair pinned back into a tight bun. Her high cheekbones protruded from her slightly sunken in face. She must have been coming from work because she was dressed in a finely pressed ultramarine suit that brought out the flecks of green in her eyes.
I understand now why Brendon has to hide a lot of his music and stuff. When we got to his house about ten minutes later, he showed me into the garage where his sister’s bike sat gathering dust.
“Awesome. Thanks, dude. I totally owe you one,” I told him. He smiled then offered that I come in. I followed him in and talked to his mom for a moment.
“Well, you’re welcome to stay for dinner tonight, Ryan. If that’s okay with your parents, that is,” she told me.
“Oh, sure. My dad won’t be home until late anyway. Thanks,” I forced a smile.
“Well, we should probably start our homework,” Brendon said, obviously not wanting to be in the presence of his mother anymore. He showed me up the stairs and into his room. Let me repeat that: I was in Brendon’s bedroom.
When he shut the door, I said, “You do homework this early?
“I just told my mom we’d do homework so she wouldn’t bother us,” he told me, collapsing on his bed.
“Oh.” Pause. “Your mom seems nice.”
“Yeah… You’ll get to see that change once you really get to know her.”
I left it at that. I didn’t want this conversation to take a turn to talking about parents. God knows, Brendon doesn’t need to know about my family.
“Yeah?” I asked, sitting down on the floor in front of his bed.
“Do you mind if I ask what you meant when you said that you get beat up at school and home?”
“It’s no big deal,” I said distantly, concentrating on not losing it in front of him.
“If your dad hurts you, it’s a huge deal,” he told me as he slipped down next to me.
“I’m fine. Can we not talk about this, please?” I told him, drawing my knees to my chest, avoiding his eyes.
“Sorry,” he said, dropped his gaze to the ground.
After a while, his mom called us down to dinner when his dad came home. I wondered how it must feel to sit down and eat a meal as a family. I haven’t had that in almost twelve years. Afterwards, I thanked them for dinner and Brendon walked me out to the garage so I could get the bike.
“You know how to get home from here, right?” Brendon asked.
“Yeah, I got it,” I smiled. I can’t remember the last time that I genuinely smiled this much.
“Oh, yeah. My sister only comes home twice a year so…” he drifted off.
“No, I mean, for being there, you know? You respected me not wanting to tell you anything and were just there instead of just nagging me and asking what’s wrong. It’s a nice change,” I told him, swinging my leg over the bike.
“Oh. Sure,” he mumbled, looking down at his shoes and kicking a pebble.
“See ya,” I said, pedaling away in the setting sun.
I think I love this boy.