Gerard finally learns the full story of Sid and what happened between Sid and Les.
At the end of it, Les strode up to Gerard, and Gerard could feel the older boy’s anger even before he turned around.
“Hey, Gerard, I’ve been thinking.”
Gerard bit back an Oh, have you now?
“You’re young, and you’re still immature, and impressionable. Since you obviously cannot pick out good people from bad people, I think it would be the best decision to move you from lead to a more suitable role.”
“What?!” Gerard bleated. He couldn’t do that! He worked hard for that role!
“Sorry, Gee, but I’m the director. I’ve already gotten a note sent home to your parents and informed your understudy. I’m sorry, I’m really sorry, truly,” Les explained, giving him a what-can-you-do look.
“Listen, Les, you’re not mad at me, you’re mad at Sid! Don’t do this to me!” Gerard begged.
Les looked sorry, but then he lowered his voice.
“Gerard, listen, you’ve only known Sid three months, and I’ve known him since he was eight. You don’t know what he’s been through. He’s a messed up kid, and you should stay away from him.”
“Oh yeah? He’s told me about the fight you two had!” Gerard pointed out.
“How much did he tell you?” Les asked.
“That you said some bad stuff about him. Then he bit you.”
“Did he tell you why I said those things?” Les asked, sitting on the floor of the auditorium gesturing for Gerard to join him. Gerard hesitated, knowing how wrathful Sid could be, but he was old enough to make his own decisions.
“This is sort of a long story. Sid and I were best friends. We met on the first day of grade three wearing the same Pokemon shirt. We were inseparable. He sort of was starting to show Rage, and I had just been diagnosed with, well, this,” Les broke off to gesture to his clouded eyes.
“Are you actually legit blind?” Gerard asked.
“No. I’m not. I’ve got the cataracts, but they’re not bad. They’re really minor. I can see outlines, and numbers and stuff, but I have trouble seeing details. It’s not bad, really. Anyway,” Les reverted back to the story.
“So Sid was angry and I was blind, sort of. I wasn’t blind enough to miss the bruises he had, though. He always had these big bruises on his back and arms, like the smallest were the size of his fist. He laughed it off, saying he was clumsy, he bruised easy, he got into a lot of fights, he crashed his bike, et cetera.
“I knew his dad, but I never thought about it. He seemed nice, y’know? He was in the military, this really strict guy, but I never...yeah. Once, when I was having a sleepover at Sid’s house, Sid’s dad called him down the hall to his office. Sid didn’t want to go. Like, he was scared. He kept saying that he didn’t want to go. We were ten. He kept saying, ‘He’s gonna be mad. I don’t wanna go. Les, come with me. Come with me. Don’t make me go alone.’”
“He was gone about fifteen minutes. When he finally came back to the room, he looked different. I was all, ‘Hey, dude, what happened? Do I have to go home? Are you in trouble? What’s going on?’ He wouldn’t talk to me. Actually, he did, but it wasn’t...him, right? He looked straight through me. He just told me to go to sleep, he didn’t want to talk about it. Then he crawled into his sleeping bag, and I could see this big mark on his arm.”
Les mimed it out, whether consciously or not, Gerard wasn’t sure. Les clasped his hand around his bicep.
“Then, I knew. I figured it out. I’ve known since then. The next morning I bugged him about it, but he said he didn’t remember. Kept talking about this brother...anyway, I was all, ‘Sid, what’s going on with you and your dad?’ and I kept at it until he actually started crying. He begged me not to tell anyone, that he was strong and he was doing pushups and stuff every day to get stronger so he wouldn’t get beaten up so bad. He said he was strong enough to deal with it. It was only hitting, he could deal with that.”
Gerard blinked. Les continued, just talking to fill the silence.
“After a while, he kept wanting to spend more time with me and out of that house. Unless his mum was home. She’s a politician, his mum, or something. Whatever. She was busy, not home much. We were twelve when I finally noticed one that he either missed or was too careless to cover it up.
“It was about the size of a dime, this bright angry red little dime, and it looked like it hurt. I reached for it, but he moved away and was all, ‘Promise you won’t tell?’ Typical Sid. Makes you promise before he tells you what he’s selling. Hell, even then he didn’t tell me. Took me another month to find out that his dad took up smoking. It started with Marlboros, then he moved up to these big, dark cigars. How was I supposed to know? I didn’t know Sid was being used as an ashtray. I remember, once, Sid told me that his dad told him that all the best kids get their scars young. How sick is that?”
Les laughed, but it was empty, just a reflection.
“When we were thirteen-twelve, around there, he gave me this brochure for Our Father Immaculate and said he was going there. He’d already talked to his mum about it, and she said okay. I asked, ‘Why now? What happened?’ because I knew, dude, I could tell that something had happened between Sid and his dad.
“Sid looked really uncomfortable, but he told me anyway. He said that his dad had started drinking, like really drinking, I’m not talking about a glass of wine at dinner, I’m talking sucking down a bottle of Wild Turkey a week. He tracked down Sid and started hitting him. It was different, this time around. Sid’s dad wasn’t just hitting him with fists or lit ends of Cigars this time. Oh no. He used a nine iron on his boy.”
“Yeah, I know. Sid ended up in the hospital the week before with a skull fracture. He told the medics that he fell out of a tree and landed on a rock. They bought it. I wish they didn’t, but nobody wanted to see it.
“So, being the best friend, I went with him. We terrorized the Catholic school system together. First week of school, I swear to God, we went into the chapel, took like half the Bibles, and wrote About the Author’s in the back of them. ‘God has one son, created heaven and earth, and is a little touchy about gays.’ Stuff like that. Best Bros for life. Then Sidney messed it up.
“Last year, there was a girl. The girl. Her name was...Nina Lovelace. She loved me, she told me so, she wrote it down. I loved her. I loved her so much. I would’ve killed for her. I think...she loved Sid too. Or, at least, Sid thought so.
“I didn’t know...I didn’t know. Just like the Emergency Room medics. I didn’t want to see it. One morning, Nina wasn’t herself, and I tried to cheer her up, I did, I tried. I kissed her.”
Les ran a tongue over his lower lip.
“She tasted...she tasted like Marlboros. Sidney’s personal favorites, ironic, right? So I asked, because I would’ve put up with it if Sid was drunk and took that kiss, but no. Nina started crying, saying she was sorry, that it just happened. How does something like that just ‘happen’? ‘Oh, sorry, didn’t see your penis there?’ God.
“I had never been so angry with Sid before in my life. I never told anyone about his childhood, but then I couldn’t help it. I moved away from Nina, then I just sort of exploded. I just started screaming and ranting everything, starting with that sleepover and moving forward. Sid showed up then, shoving past Nina, and told me to shut up. Y’know what I said? I said, ‘Yeah, right, make me, you’re not even brave enough to stand up to your dad.’”
Gerard closed his eyes. He could actually sort of see this sort of thing happening.
“So then Sid punched me point blank in the face, and then I kneed him in the stomach and then we started fighting. I was still screaming about Sid’s secrets, then Sid bit me to shut me up.”
“We were pulled apart by a couple teachers and that friend of his, Alexia something-or-other.”
Les stopped talking. The auditorium seemed to boom with the absence of sound.
“That’s it. Sid’s been tortured, he’s an unstable soul. Stay away from him, okay?” Les told Gerard, watching him.
Well, Gerard thought he was watching him. It was hard to tell and it would be rude to ask.
“Are you still mad at him?” Gerard asked.
“Uh, yeah. If I ever get the chance, I’ll kick his ass. By the way, have you heard about him starting any sort of fight thing? It would certainly explain your facial mountain range.”
Gerard thought about it, then shook his head.
“Can’t say that I have.”
“Nope!” Gerard said, getting to his feet.
“Because if there is, I’ll find it.”
“Good luck with that. I got this after falling into a ditch last night,” Gerard explained.
Les sighed. “Gerard, poor kid. I just told you what happened between Sid and I. I just kicked you off the play roster. Do you really think you can mess with me?”
There was a flare of anger in Gerard’s stomach. “I’m not messing with you.” He did take him off the play roster. Like he’d really tell him about the Midnight Troupe!
Les nodded. “Take care Kid. I’ll be watching you.”
(A.N. And into the Dark Matter we go. Thanks for reading this far, this is turning into something bigger than I thought it would be.)