You know that things are serious when the School Principal calls an assembly for the whole school, so it was with some trepidation that we all assembled in the school hall the following morning, beneath his stern gaze.
“What do you think Old Man Schroder wants?” Cyn asked as she and Brian and I found ourselves some seats, with Cyn sitting between us.
“What would you reckon?” Brian chided.
I looked around the room for any sign of Thomas, but couldn’t see him anywhere. I had also kept an eye on the school gates earlier in the morning and had seen no sign of him then either, so I figured that he mustn’t have come to school today, which was understandable I suppose, given the circumstances.
To be perfectly honest I would have been surprised if I HAD seen him this morning.
CLUNK! CLUNK! CLUNK!
Amidst the din being made by eight hundred students, the hollow sound of the Deputy Principal tapping on the microphone to see if it was working soon brought our attention back to the front of the hall.
I looked up to see him step aside, making way for the imposing figure of Schroder, who straightened his jacket and tie as he covered the short distance from the top of the stage steps to the microphone, with another man, who was dressed in a suit, right on his heels.
“This doesn’t look good folks!” I said to my friends.
“No shit, Chad!” Brian replied. “I don’t think I’ve never seen him look so furious.”
“That other guy looks like a cop!” Cyn almost whispered.
Brian and I both looked at her with our mouths open.
“What? Come on guys. He does. Doesn’t he?”
“Yeah Cyn. I reckon he’s a cop,” Brian said, “and when he interrogates you, just remember that it wasn’t Chad who set the alarm off yesterday!”
“Interrogate? Oh. My. God!”
“Geez, Cyn. Get a grip will you! Nobody is going to be interrogated here,” I said, trying to ease her mind.
“But nothing for Christ sake!” I hissed, placing my hand on her shoulder and feeling her trembling. “If anyone asks, we don’t know anything. Alright?”
She looked up at me, her face a pale shadow of its usual self. The self assured, self controlled girl of the previous day was nowhere to be found today.
“Alright?” I asked again, more firmly this time, to which she merely nodded. “Good!”
CLUNK! CLUNK! CLUNK!
This time it was Schroder who was tapping the microphone, and almost at once, the entire room fell silent.
“Good morning everyone,” he boomed.
I think he expected a reply, something like eight hundred students saying, “Good Morning Mr. Schroder”, but he didn’t receive one.
Undeterred, he continued.
“Some of you may be aware that there was a little trouble at the school yesterday, which necessitated a visit from the local Fire and Police Departments.”
A murmur rippled quickly through the hall.
“It also seems that someone was injured in the gym yesterday afternoon, however they had disappeared by the time anyone had arrived, so we are not exactly, errr… certain… who it was, or what it was that happened.”
From the other side of the hall I could hear some muffled laughter and glanced across to see Leo and his buddies cackling amongst themselves.
Schroder looked in that direction as well, and the cackling quickly subsided.
“They’ll get what’s coming to them,” I promised.
“Yeah? From you… and whose army?” Brian asked.
“Let me sleep on it,” I said. “I’ll think of something. Maybe we should call in the Blond Preservation League again?”
The pair of them just laughed at me, but I knew that someone had to do something. Of that I was certain.
And speaking of sleeping on things… some sleep would have been nice last night! As it was I spent most of it tossing and turning, thinking about Brian’s parting words from when we spoke.
Three little words that sent me into an all night spin.
I. Love. You.
Did he really? Or was it just a figure of speech?
From the time that I walked in the gates this morning I had wanted to talk to him about it, ask him what he meant by it, but the moment was never quite right. You know?
Maybe that was for the best, but in any case, I was still wondering.
I was looking at him now, showing me that cute smile of his, with his green eyes almost sparkling beneath the shock of untidy brown hair.
‘Oh Jesus, Chad! Get a fucking grip will you!’ I thought to myself.
I forced myself to look back at Schroder. Kept telling myself to wake the fuck up. But every now and then, as our Principal droned on and on about finding the culprits that caused so much trouble, I found myself glancing back at him, looking at my best friend in the entire world as if I was only seeing him for the first time.
Sometimes he would be looking at Schroder. Sometimes he would be looking at me. Sometimes he would just be staring at the floor, seemingly lost in his thoughts.
“Oh, puh-lease!” I heard Cyn mutter from beside me.
Brian and I both looked at her.
“What?” I asked.
“Don’t tell me you guys are…”
“What? No, of course not!” we both exclaimed, but she just eyed us both suspiciously and shook her head.
That was about when Old Man Schroder said something about Security Camera’s, and all at once he had our attention. We forgot about what it was that we had been thinking about and focused once more on what he was saying.
Yes. There were cameras on that side of the school. And yes, they would be reviewing the video tapes. But no, they hadn’t any idea just yet about who had set the alarm off or covered the locker rooms in blood.
“Holy fuck!” Brian whispered.
“Relax Bri,” Cyn said to him. “There’s no need to panic just yet.”
“But what if…”
I reached around behind Cyn and gave him a belt up the side of the head.
“Ouch! What was that for?”
“Duh! What do you think? Just shut it Bri, O.K.?”
He nodded, and sat back against the seat, looking hurt.
When the assembly was over we all started dribbling back out onto the school grounds and wandering off toward our classes, but as Cyn and Bri and me reached the last set of doors we found ourselves face to face with Leo and his buddies.
I stopped in my tracks and just stared at him. Unable to hide my hatred for him.
“What’s wrong with you fag boy?” he said to me when he noticed me staring. “You want to be next? You want to find out what it’s like to have a real man?”
I felt my fist clench tight, but Brian took hold of my arm. He didn’t try dragging me away from him, but at least he stopped me from doing anything stupid.
“Lucky for you that your boyfriend has some common sense,” Leo spat at us, then brushed past us and disappeared into the crowd, laughing with his friends.
I so wanted to punish Leo. I so wanted to hurt him. But it wouldn’t be today. Maybe it wouldn’t be ever.
But I could dream couldn’t I?
* * * * *
At lunch time the three of us gathered at our usual table and listened to the gossip and innuendo that came filtering down from the seniors and spreading like a mist throughout the remainder of the school.
“Just listen to all these assholes,” Brian said in disgust as we huddled together. “They’re like a pack of vultures, picking on the carcase. Christ, he ain’t even dead or anything!”
Of course the whole school knew by lunch time just whose blood it was that had been smeared all over the walls of the shower block.
“Poor Thomas,” Cyn said to us. “If it’s like this now, what’s it going to be like when he comes back to school?”
Up until that point, I hadn’t given any thought at all to that prospect, but now that it had been mentioned I felt a cold shiver run down my spine.
Brian and I just looked at each other, our mouths drawn and tight, and our faces grim.
“If he does come back, they’ll do something worse next time, won’t they?” I finally said.
“And if they do…”
“It’ll be our fault,” Brian said, finishing the sentence for me.
“And just how do you figure that one out, guys?” Cyn asked.
“We know who did it. Well, I suppose three-quarters of the school does too now… but we were the ones that were there. Hell, that asshole Leo even ran into me and shoved me up against the wall after he’d done it.”
“Don’t you see? We’re the ones who know! We’re the ones who can stop Leo and his cronies dead in their tracks.”
“Yeah… dead! I like the sound of that idea,” Brian added.
Cyn just rolled her eyes at him and muttered something that sounded a lot like ‘Drama Queen’.
“And we stop them… how?” Cyn asked.
“Dunno yet,” I sighed. “Maybe we just go and tell Schroder what we know. I’m not sure really, but the first thing we need to do is talk to Thomas though.”
“Yeah, I agree,” Cyn replied.
“Sooo, does anyone actually know where he lives?” Brian asked.
Cyn and I both shook our heads.
After a few moments Cyn said, “Leave that bit to me guys. Well, to Stan anyway. I’ll get him to hack into the schools’ mainframe and sneak a peek at his records.”
“You’ll WHAT?” I exclaimed.
“Relax will you. Stan’s a whiz. Or didn’t you know that?”
“I always thought he was a bit geekish, but I didn’t think he was THAT geekish,” Brian responded.
“Oh, he’s more than just a geek Bri.”
“And just what do you mean by that?”
“Oh… you’ll find out one day,” she answered with a wry grin, then abruptly stood up and set off to find her man.
“I’m never going to figure that girl out. You know that don’t you?” Brian sighed, as we watched Cyn weave her way through the gossiping students.
“That makes two of us, my friend,” I answered. “But right now that’s the least of our problems.”
We sat there for the next few minutes, just looking across the table at each other, each of us wanting to say something, but each of us not quite sure what it was we wanted to say. I found myself wishing that I could read his mind, but no doubt he would have been wishing something similar.
Three times I opened my mouth as if to say something. But three times I closed it. Those three words were still hanging in the air between us, beckoning us to get closer, but at the same time keeping us apart, as if they were a wedge that had now been driven between us.
Around us we could hear other students still talking in gruesome detail about what went on in the showers, as if they had been there. I just shook my head at them, amazed at how quickly things got distorted and blown all out of proportion.
“It’ll be old news within a week,” Brian finally said, having sat there watching me shake my head in disbelief at the goings on around us.
“For them maybe,” I replied. “But for Thomas it’ll be one news story that will never fade away.”
* * * * *
“Are you sure this is the right address?” I asked as the four of us walked rather nervously down the street.
“Geez, I always thought he was a ‘Snob Hill’ kinda guy,” Brian commented.
“Yeah, like it really matters!” Cyn scolded.
This wasn’t the best part of town, and somehow I guess we all found it a little difficult to believe that someone as beautiful as Thomas had come from here.
“Come on guys. Let’s just find him and talk to him,” I said. “We at least need to know he’s alright. And if we can find out when he plans on coming back to school it might be helpful.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Bri replied.
Cyn had come to us after the last lesson, with Stan in tow, to tell us that he had come up with the goods, which had really surprised us, to put it mildly.
“Christ almighty Stan, how the hell did you do that?” Brian exclaimed, to which Stan only blushed.
“Just leave him be Bri. He came through, and that’s all that matters,” I said, then added, “Thanks a million Stan. We owe you.”
He simply grinned at us.
We passed a run down row of houses, which once upon a time had had picket fences in front of them, but were now lucky to have posts standing and I had to keep looking from the piece of paper in my hand to the houses and back again, trying to find the right number.
“Here it is,” I finally proclaimed in triumph, stopping in front of the gateway to an old, two storey weatherboard house.
The three of them gathered around behind me, as if I were the Knight leading this expedition, and I heard Bri let out a soft whistle.
“Oh boy. Do you think this is such a good idea?” he said in a whisper.
“Well, we’re here now,” Cyn answered. “We may as well do what it was that we came for.”
I felt someone push me forward, causing me to take a step.
“I’ll go first then, shall I?” I asked, having turned around to face them.
“That’d be great,” Brian said. “We’ll follow you.”
I turned around and started up the path, with the Three Stooges hot on my heels, by the sound of the plodding behind me.
Up the short row of stairs and onto a verandah we went, before finally coming to the door.
I looked at my friends, their faces anxious, yet curious.
“Well, here goes,” I said to them, then reached up and knocked on the faded blue door.
All the way here I had been going over in my mind what it was that I wanted to say to Thomas when I saw him again, but now that I was on his doorstep and waiting for him to open the door, my mind was a total blank.
“Looks like there’s nobody home,” Stan finally said.
“That’s very good Stan,” Brian chided.
“Knock it off Bri,” I said, as I knocked once more.
We waited for a minute, but nothing happened, and it was only then that we noticed the old lady on the verandah of the house next door.
“Excuse me,” I said to her, walking over to the edge of the verandah that we were standing on. “We’re looking for the people who live here. Do you know them? Or do you know when they might be back?”
She looked at me blankly, then slowly shook her head.
“Well, thanks anyway,” I said to her, then turned back toward my friends.
“I reckon they’re gone,” she said from behind me, causing me to spin around once more.
“Gone?” I asked.
“Uh huh. That boy ‘o hers come home last night, all beat up. Heard ‘em havin’ a row, then they drove off. Real late it was.”
Cyn and Brian and I looked from one to the other and back again. At least we knew we had the right house.
“You didn’t happen to hear anything about where they might be going did you?” Cyn asked her, but the old lady just shook her head.
We thanked her and made our way back down onto the street, and headed off in the direction of our homes, with none of us saying much of anything at all, our mission having all but failed.
When we reached the street that Cyn needed to take we said goodbye to her and Stan, then Brian and I continued on our way, heading toward my house.
“So, what do we do now?” Brian asked me after a while.
“About Thomas? I really don’t know,” I answered, truthfully.
We walked on in thoughtful silence for a few blocks more.
“We still need to do something about Leo though,” he eventually said.
“Yeah, we do,” I replied. “You got any ideas?”
“You should talk to Matt,” he answered.
“Now there’s a thought! But what do we say, huh? How about, we tell him that this guy I’ve been lusting after got himself bashed by his boyfriend and now I want the boyfriend bashed or something, so I can move in on him!”
“Geez Chad, it was just a suggestion. We haven’t come up with any other plans have we?”
“Sorry Bri. I didn’t mean it the way it sounded And no, we haven’t come up with any other plans, so I guess we’ll just have to play it by ear and see what happens.”
“Do you think that we’ll ever see Thomas again?” Brian asked after we had walked a little further.
“I somehow doubt it,” I replied.
When we reached my house we found that no one was home, so we went into the kitchen and poured ourselves a drink, then headed into the living room and turned on the television.
We were sitting on the same lounge, the same one we had been sitting on for years, whenever Brian came over, only this time it was different. Our legs were touching. As were our shoulders. And neither of us was listening to anything that was coming out of the television.
We had sat like this a thousand times before. But there had always been that ‘something’ there between us, that unwritten, unspoken knowledge that friends could do that.
But like I said, today it was different. Today there was something between us. Three little words that had been spoken, that had changed everything.
When an add break came on we looked at each other, but said nothing. There was so much about him that I was seeing for the first time.
I wanted to ask him just what he had meant last night.
As if he were reading my mind, he leaned in closer.
I wanted to tell him that we should be careful here.
That was when Brian kissed me.Next Chapter Previous Chapter