Brendon and Ryan decide on their relationship status, but after another run-in with his razor, Ryan can't keep his vice a secret much longer.
“What?” I played innocent.
“You and Brendon, of course. Are you guys together then, or not? What happened at the party?”
“I don’t know, we haven’t really talked about it,” I said, realizing that I would really like to know if we were actually dating. You would think that being in my position I would know these things. “Must we discuss this now?”
“Yes. Did you kiss him?” Spencer pried as we entered the cafeteria, taking our usual seats. Brendon wasn’t there yet.
“Spence! This is why I didn’t want to talk about this right now,” I told him, blushing fiercely.
“You did, didn’t you? Did he kiss you back?” Spencer questioned. He was getting a little too into this. I guess that’s what happens when you’re the only man in the house.
“Hey guys,” Brendon greeted.
Thank god, I thought. Stop Spencer from asking any more questions.
“Hey,” I smiled, color rising in my cheeks as he took a seat next to me instead of across the table beside Spencer.
“I can’t take this,” Spencer started suddenly, “Are you dating or not?”
“What?” Brendon said, startled by the question. “Who told you that?”
Spencer rolled his eyes. “Yes or no?”
Brendon and I exchanged a glance and he spoke. “I don’t know. We haven’t talked about it.”
It was left at that. One of Spencer’s friends interrupted his impending rant and Spencer left to help him with geometry proofs. It took Brendon and me only a few moments to decide to leave while we had the chance.
During our allotted thirty-five minute lunch period, we were allowed to go outside and sit on the benches or on the bleachers by the baseball diamond. We chose the latter because they were further away. Brendon took my hand absent-mindedly and asked, “So what do you think?”
“’Bout what?” I asked, picking at my sandwich with my free hand.
“Would you be my boyfriend?”
“Well,” I began, “I’d have to check my schedule, but… yes.”
He smiled and leaned in to kiss me. I took a quick tentative glance to the side to make sure no one was watching and touched my lips to his. “I kind of thought it was a given,” I laughed. “You know considering I told you I loved you and all.”
“True, but I always sort of thought that was just something you said ‘in the moment’” Brendon admitted.
“I would never lie about that,” I told him sincerely, touching his cheek lightly.
“Me neither,” he smiled.
I reached up to sweep his bangs from his eye. He grabbed my wrist and brought my hand to his face. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” I whispered, leaning forward to rest my forehead against his. I closed my eyes and breathed in the cool “winter” air.
The shrill ring of the bell burst me from my place of serenity and I opened my eyes. “We have to go to class. Gross,” I said, hopping off the bleachers. Brendon followed and we made our way back to the building.
“Speaking of which… can you come over later and help me with math? Natural logs are kicking my
“Sure,” I agreed. “You know it’s really not that hard…”
“That’s what she said,” Brendon pointed out.
“Mature. Remind me again why I agreed to be your boyfriend,” I told him, stopping in front of the doors. All the other people had already gone in from the scattered picnic tables.
Brendon pulled me in by my waist and kissed me. “Ah, yes,” I said, blushing, “I remember now.”
As promised, I went to Brendon’s house that afternoon to help him with his homework. No, that’s not some encrypted way of saying we had sex or anything of the sort. His mom even asked if I would be his permanent tutor because midterms were coming up. Well, who am I to deny a poor sophomore a piece of my genius?
It took me all of two seconds to accept and then another awkward minute to cover my ass to avoid any suspiciousness from his mother. She didn’t seem to notice and I started coming over every day after school to tutor Brendon. Ok, so there seemed to be a little more than just tutoring as time went on. By the time March came around we had to force ourselves to sit a few feet away from each other so we’d get some work done.
“I’m going out for the baseball team,” Brendon said off-hand as we did our homework. I was lying on my stomach on his bed doing my math while he was on the floor with his German during one of our pre-approved tutoring sessions.
“Oh yeah? I didn’t know you played,” I said, not looking up from the unit circle I was trying to comprehend.
“Since third grade,” he said proudly. “You should try out too.”
“Yeah… let’s not,” I laughed, looking over at him. “Last time I tried playing was t-ball in the first grade and I nearly knocked my dad out because I didn’t hold on to the bat. I’ll come to the games, though,” I promised.
“How do you say ‘I love you’ in German?” Brendon asked me with a half-smile.
I scooted over the edge of the end of my bed and gazed down at Brendon. “Ich liebe dich,” I told him with a smile.
“Ich liebe dich,” he repeated, craning his neck to reach me. He kissed me with his wonderful smile curling the corners of his lips.
“Brendon,” I heard his mother call from just outside his bedroom. I jumped, grabbed my book, and situated myself on the floor across from Brendon. Composing myself, I glanced over at Brendon with a grin as his mom entered his room. “I was just wondering if you guys wanted a snack or anything.”
Brendon looked over at me and I shook my head. “We’re good,” he answered for both of us.
“Alright. Just let me know, sweetie,” she smiled that motherly smile. “How’s the homework going?”
“Pretty good. Ryan’s teaching me some new vocabulary,” he explained, flashing me a quick smile when his mom wasn’t looking.
“Really! That’s so great, honey. Well, I won’t keep you two from your work,” she smiled. Her gaze lingered on mine for a moment before exiting the room putting me a little on edge.
Once she had closed the door behind her and her footsteps down the creaky steps signaled her full departure I asked, “She doesn’t know anything, does she?”
“Psh, no. Don’t worry about it, Ryan. My mom wouldn’t know if we made out right in front of her,” he chuckled.
I rolled my eyes and said, “Well I’d rather not test that theory.”
I said goodbye to Brendon and his parents when I left that night (I had given Brendon a proper goodbye kiss in his room before we came downstairs), and headed home. It was almost dark when I pedaled into my driveway. My heart skipped a beat when I noticed the lights inside were on.
“Dad, I’m home,” I called out tentatively when I opened the door. After slipping off my shoes, I walked slowly through the hallway and into the brightly lit kitchen. “Dad?”
I found him slumped over a whiskey glass half filled with amber liquid. He hadn’t changed from his suit yet; he still would have looked presentable if not for the alcohol tainting his presence.
“Where have you been?” he slurred.
“Spencer’s,” I lied quickly. “Started early tonight, I see,” I mused, picking up the half empty whiskey bottle off the counter and shaking my head.
“Don’t you start with me, boy,” he threatened, getting off the stool and taking shaking steps in my direction. “I’ve had a day and a half without your attitude.”
“Just making an observation.”
“I’ve had enough of your lip, you bastard. Knock it off or I’ll knock it out of you!” he raised his voice.
I don’t know if I’m just stupid or what, but I felt the need to press him further. “Not now, dad. I’m not really in the mood for your drunken antics.”
As soon as the words left my lips, he grabbed me by my collar and threw me against the wall, my head colliding with the corner with a sickening crack.
My head pounded relentlessly, making my stomach flip. I leaned over my mattress and retched into the conveniently placed plastic bucket on the floor. Last night was rough. That may be an understatement. My dad literally knocked my bedroom door off the hinges after I regained consciousness. I, no doubt, had multiple contusions staining my thin, pale skin and a possible concussion. I made sure before I went to bed last night that I hadn’t any broken bones, but now I’m doubting my limited doctoring skills. Everything hurts. Wiping my mouth, I squinted at my alarm clock. My eyes refused to focus on the glowing numbers. Screw it. I’m not going to school today anyway. Reaching over, I opened my bedside table drawer and fumbled around until I found my stash of ibuprofen. Throwing it on the sheets by my side, I closed my eyes. I tried to sit up ever so slowly without disrupting my temperamental stomach. I managed to sit up slightly, just enough to take the pills. Slipping three from the bottle, I grabbed my water bottle and took a painful swig, feeling my split lip open up again. Popping the pills in my mouth, I swallowed hard and then sucked on my lower lip, metallic liquid coating my tongue.
I slipped back into unconsciousness, praying I wouldn’t wake up.
I regained consciousness, my headache fading, in the late afternoon. I sat up slowly and reached for my phone next to my alarm clock. Eight texts and three missed calls. Spence and Brendon. I really wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. I returned my phone to its place on the table and leaned back against my bedroom wall that bordered my bed on two sides.
My familiar mindset of revenge, numbness, and apathy after a night like last set in. A feeling that wouldn’t be satisfied until a blade grazed my skin a few times. It wouldn’t vanish until I saw the blood trickle down my arm and drip onto the tile floor. A feeling as strong as revenge won’t dissipate until I feel the indescribable satisfying pain of a blade. I manage to get out of bed and avoid the vomit-filled bucket. Reaching down to grab it, I bring it to the bathroom to rinse it out in the sink.
My eyes were actually able to focus now, so I take in my appearance. To put it bluntly, I look like hell. Black eye and split lip grace my face. I gently pull my t-shirt over my head and I am staring at green and yellow tinged bruises trailing up my left side. I decide to take a shower hoping that the warm water will break up the dried blood on my face. Reaching for a towel, a thin piece of metal fell from between the folds and lands with a clang to the floor. Hello, my dear.
I turn the water as hot as it will go, strip, and step in, twirling the metal between my skilled fingers, eventually setting it on the side of the tub. That will be my concluding act, ladies and gentlemen. I wash my hair and loosen the blood around my nose with a washcloth. Gently scrubbing the rest of my body, I rinse off and then lean down to pick up the blade.
I had only cut in the shower once before, maybe a year ago. It scared me. I was new at the whole self harm thing, and I cut deeper than I ever had before. I imitated my old movements, dragging the newer blade across the scarred flesh of my forearm. The water stung as it hit my open wounds. I cursed my dad over and over in my mind as the edge raked deeper and deeper and tears streamed down my cheeks. I pressed down harder and gasped, releasing a rugged breath. I stood frozen, gazing down at my morbid creation. My eyes flickered between the water now running red that mesmerizingly swirled around the drain and my mutilated arm as warm liquid continued to stream from it. My adrenaline started to fade. I tipped my head back and closed my eyes, feeling the intense stinging pain I hadn’t prepared for. I bit my split lower lip to keep from screaming.
I attended school the next day against my better judgment. I tried to conceal the contusions I could with makeup. That was the toughest part as I obsessed over how natural it looked and how many people would see through it. Spencer would. Brendon might. Praying he won’t. The cuts were no big deal. I had bandaged them last night and changed them again this morning. They were sore as hell. The razor did its job, though, and that’s all I can ask for.
Brendon met me at my locker like he did every morning. Except yesterday, of course. When I turned towards him, I mentally prepared myself for him to notice. “Hey,” I greeted calmly.
“Hey, where were you yesterday?” he asked.
“Sick. Weird twenty-four hour flu thing. I’m better, though.”
I still hadn’t told him. About my dad or me or… anything. Don’t give me that look; I feel guilty about it already. I’ll tell him eventually.
“Good,” he said, a smile erasing any and all worries from his expression.
I breathed a silent sigh of relief as I picked up my backpack and slung it over my shoulders, trying to keep a straight face as it grazed against my bruised side. Brendon grabbed for my hand, bumping against my inner arm in the process. To this, I was unable to suppress a gasp.
Brendon, thankfully, didn’t notice as he walked me carefree to my first hour.
During lunch, I made a pit stop to the bathroom in the south hall that almost no one uses. Almost being the key word apparently. I’ll give you one guess as to who walked in. I love him, but he seriously shouldn’t have done that. Thinking I was going to be alone, I had rolled up the sleeves of my sweatshirt so my bandages and old scars were visible. I was busy reapplying my cover-up when he entered, falling silent after half a greeting.
“What is that?” Brendon asked, advancing on me quickly.
“Nothing,” I said hurriedly, snapping shut the container of concealer. I tried to pull my sleeves down, but I hesitated and swore in pain, giving Brendon time to reach me. His fingers touched the bandages and then looked at me with a look that I will never forget. Hurt. Disbelief. Anger. Sadness. An expression that I never want to see again for as long as I live.
“It’s nothing, Brendon,” I told him, knowing that wouldn’t convince him of anything.
“You’ve been hiding this from me?” Brendon’s voice started rising.
“You didn’t need to know,” I retaliated.
“Why wouldn’t I need to know? My boyfriend is hurting himself and he didn’t think it important to tell me?”
“I didn’t want you to react like this! It’s not that bad.”
“God damn it, Ryan. Don’t you get it? This is a huge deal!”
“Because it isn’t. You wouldn’t have even known if I had my sleeves down!” I shot back, hoping it stung. It’s been so easy to hide. A barrier now broken by my carelessness.
“How long were you planning on keeping this from me?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I was hoping to fuck you with a sweater on just to make sure you didn’t notice even then,” I answered sarcastically. “God, Brendon! I was going to tell you, but on my own terms. I didn’t want you to find out like this.”
“Like this or not at all?” Brendon snapped.
I opened my mouth, and then closed it. I knew he knew my answer.
“I thought so,” he finalized as he crossed his arms and stormed out of the bathroom.
There was no point in following him. I didn’t want to anyway. God, I never thought he’d react like that. It’s my own fault. I pulled up my sleeves so that anyone could come waltzing in and find my wounds faintly visible beneath the thin layer of gauze. Stupid fucking idiot. To hell with it. I already had my bandages, why not once more? I locked myself in a stall and pulled out the blade I hid in my phone case. It was a duller one, but I didn’t need to bleed out on the bathroom floor. Just enough to punish myself. Me : the idiot who didn’t remember to keep their sleeves down.
I successfully avoided Brendon for the rest of day. Then the next. Thank god. Part of me is sorry for screaming at him, but the other part, the part currently holding dominance, is pissed at him. I didn’t need him yelling at me for this. I get it from Spencer already. I’m actually surprised Spencer hasn’t told Brendon about it. We have a strict code of confidence, but even the best deceivers slip once in a while. Obviously.
By Friday all my anger had morphed into pure longing. I missed him. Not even a text was exchanged between us for three days. That’s (to put in girl terms) “like forever”. But seriously, we’ve never gone that long without talking or seeing each other since we started dating. I guess I see him in math class, though. We sit on opposite sides of the room, yet I can still feel a slight chill from the cold shoulder he’s been sending me.
After school got out, I headed down to the music rooms to let out some steam. I was planning on practicing piano, but someone was already sitting at the gorgeous grand. His beautiful voice was barely a whisper today as he played with more passion than usual. Just as our first musical meeting, my legs carried me over to him. I sat down next to him slowly, tentative to how he would react. He slid over ever so slightly, allowing me more room to sit, putting my nervous racing heart at ease.
His playing became less emphatic as the tempo slowed and fingers glided more gently over the white ivories. The familiar chords graced my ears and I smiled. I tilted my head to the side and rested it against his shoulder.
“Well, I’ve been afraid of changing, ‘cause I built my life around you. But time makes you bolder, children get older, I’m getting older too,” Brendon sang quietly. My own personal lullaby sung by the closest thing to an angel in my life. The angel from my nightmare.
When his playing stopped, he kissed my hair and put his arm around my waist. “I’m sorry, Ry. I’m so sorry.”
“Me too,” I whispered, lifting my head. I felt the tears coming. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before. I didn’t want to hurt you.”
“I know,” Brendon murmured, looking down. He placed his hand over mine and said, “I will help you through this. Whatever it takes. I’m going to be here for you. I promise.”
Brendon had an essay to write so he stayed home while Spencer and I had band practice. I took Brendon’s place as singer for the afternoon. When his mom called us in from the garage for dinner, we started putting everything away.
“So did you and Brendon make up yet, or…?” Spencer began, helping me coil the many cords from the amplifier.
“What do you mean?”
“You seriously think I haven’t noticed? You’ve been avoiding him and, consequently, me for a week. This is the first day you’ve actually talked to me longer than the occasional ‘hello’.”
“Oh… sorry,” I apologized, embarrassed. I guess I really had been tuned out this week.
“Brendon was really worried about you, you know,” he mentioned.
“I know,” I muttered. “Wait… how did you kno—”
“He came to talk to me about it. For a while, actually. Ryan, why didn’t you tell him about it?”
“I was going to, but it’s not exactly something that comes up in regular conversation. What was I supposed to say? ‘Hey, Brendon. I just wanted to let you know that I’m suicidal and if you find blood on my sleeves it’s no big deal’?”
“No, but, God Ryan. You’ve been with Brendon for months. I would have thought you would have said something,” Spencer told me, moving the microphone stand by his drum set.
“Well, I didn’t and we fought and made up so it’s fine.”