When The Red Flag Was Raised
“...’EY!” Gev shouted so loudly that more than half of the students in the gymnasium turned and looked at him as if he either might have been speaking to them, or they were in wonder of who had shouted.
Unfortunately, the person he was signaling paid him no mind at all.
Brow cocked, he cupped his mouth and called out with a different approach. “Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuud’!”
That got him. Turning his head this way and that until he spotted the weird sounding owl, Ludwig walked up the bleacher stairs and made his way through the line until he was beside the mysterious stranger.
“Can I help you?” He asks cautiously.
“Stop looking at me like that.” Replied the male. “Me. Gev. You. Stop being confused, and sit.” Tugging him down onto the empty space beside him on the long bench, he drops a box onto the male’s lap. “Donut?”
Ludwig couldn’t stop staring. What a difference!
It didn’t go unnoticed by the male, who smirked and draped an arm around his friend. “My, my, do you wanna be alone?” Laughing, he lifts the lid on the box, selecting a chocolate cake donut. “We could make-out.” He wriggles his brows.
“No. Don’t be a freak, I just... you look really weird in person.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Then why did you do it?”
That made the Russian laugh a little harder. “Geez, don’t make it sound like I took a chainsaw to my face. Its Vix, she asked me to.”
“Vix? Your little sister?” And God, he hoped he wasn’t calling her that for ‘Vixen’. Not that he believed Gev as the incestuous type, but you never know with people.
“Yeah, and whatever her majesty wants, she gets.” He explained easily. And, as if sensing what Ludwig was thinking, he added. “I call her ‘Vix’ because when she was a baby, she was always stuffed up and she smelled like vapor rub round-the-clock.”
The uproar from the students was growing as the cheerleaders walked in and out of the gym, as if they had any other reason to beyond wanting to feel important, and really take in the moment. Streamers and banners are hung in the school’s colors of red, black, and white. Balloons are dropped miscellaneously on the gymnasium floor.
It's for the pep rally. All the students have been coming in waves of grades to the gymnasium to watch the drills of this and that, and to show school spirit- which none of them have- minus a select few weirdos, and the players themselves. All the kids really want is to miss class. And thankfully the rally came up last for their age group.
“That’s unusual. Most guys our age hate younger siblings.”
“Vix digs me for me. No matter what- you know what that’s like. Besides,” Grinned the male, chocolate in his teeth. “I like being unique.”
Snickered, Ludwig nodded. “Yeah.”
“You walked right by me this morning, didn’t even notice.”
“I was... distracted.” Replied Ludwig. And that reminded him... “Gev...” He started to say but was cut off.
“Nono! Get your fat ass up here!” He shouts to the chubby male when spotting him walk through the double doors of the gym. Seeing the look he’s receiving from his new friend, he asks. “What? He knows he’s fat.” Waving it off, he asks. “What were you saying?”
“If you’d seen Yakusoku today?”
“He’s at home, sick. He wasn’t in homeroom.”
A bullhorn siren sounded and the girls filed into the room.
Ludwig seemed to physically relax hearing that.
“Why?” Asks Gev, unknowingly bringing the male’s fears back.
“Uh... mmm. He didn’t... say anything to you about yesterday?”
“No. You guy’s fight?”
“A little... it was sort of weird.”
Gev had this odd smile on his face over that like he knew something. But, instead of going any further with the questioning, he reached for the box and pulled it open. “Have a donut.”
Giving in; Ludwig looked over the selections of apple cinnamon, plain glazed, chocolate iced, jelly glazed, and a couple pumpkin spiced. There were tell-tale signs that other donuts had been removed from the box, but he wouldn’t know- minus the chocolate cake in Gev’s free hand- what they might have been. Selecting a glazed jelly, he asks. “Where did you get these?” He had a sinking suspicion they’ve been thieved from the teacher’s lounge.
Gev taps the logo on the cover of the box. It read: Krispy Kreme.
“No. I meant where as in, do the teachers know this is missing from the lounge?”
“Euw. I’m not eating teacher left-overs. I got this during lunch... upstanding Gev can’t skip classes, and I stuck them in my locker when I got back to school. No big deal- hey man.” He greets Nono, who’d finally arrived.
“Sweet.” Declared the male the moment the box caught his field of vision.
Taking the green and white checkered box of joy, he digs in full force selecting an apple filled, and a chocolate iced. Stuffing a bite into his mouth, Nono looks his friend up and down then says with a whimsical waving of his hand and bowing his head.
“Lord London,” before asking. “What’s the count?”
“Ten- already!” And the two laughed.
“Ten, what?” Wonders Ludwig.
“Ten times that Dick-sick’s asked somebody to punch him in the balls.”
Scrunching his face, Ludwig shudders before asking. “Why would he do that?”
“Because he’s sick!” Nono reached around Gev and popped Ludwig on the shoulder. “Clark tries to get anyone, and anything to touch his penis- you’ve never noticed?”
Ludwig thought about that, and yes, in the month and half that he’s known the foursome, he had noticed weird little things about each and every one of them. Clark most of all. He thought that maybe he had an itch from some transmitted disease he’d gotten, and was embarrassed to scratch it, otherwise people would know. He wasn’t aware that this was just some gross and strange occurrence. It made his donut taste like semen and he lowered his hand to his knees.
“Yakuza’s out sick?” Asks Nono upon realizing the cheerleaders were already into school cheers, which meant no more classes were coming in.
“Yeah,” Replied Gev before a standing outburst of. “Show me them panties, Ashlynn! Woo!” Sitting back down, he nods when said girl, who’s waiting on standby to do some back flips, turned around and flipped the crowd off in the shouters general direction.
‘So much for his being into Yakusoku,’ Thinks Ludwig. ‘Maybe I was just deflecting my own feelings...’ God. That made the situation between him and Yakusoku that much worse!
“What are we doing over break?” Asks Gev looking between his two friends.
“I’m going skating at the rink- hockey- you guys should come.” Nono replied. “But I’ll be at Yakusoku’s tomorrow evening.”
“Isn’t he grounded?” Asks Ludwig.
“Yeah, but I think me and my mom might end up going over anyway.” He was very discrete about the reason why.
“Yeesh, parent conference? Not cool.” Standing Gev shouted again. “That’s more like it! Love that ass!” And he grabs hold of the airspace before him and fake fucks said sweet ass.
Ashlynn rolled her eyes in response. Next time she planned to ignore it all together.
“Let’s play video games at Nono’s after school.” Gev declares. “Aaaand, over the weekend we find some willing-and-ables to screw around with. I haven’t been between someone’s legs since... what Halloween. That’s too long ago.”
Nono shook his head, he really wasn’t in the mood to be fooling around. So he changed subjects to ask. “Why my house?”
“Because I said so.” Replied Gev. “Can you come?” He asks this to Ludwig.
“Yeah. I can come.”
“Great. I’m thinking some Mario Party 3, as its the only true- kick your friend’s asses- Mario-style video game around.”
“Isn’t the system it's on really old?” Another problem with Ludwig’s social awkwardness, it makes him come off as an ass.
“Don’t ignore your classics, Lud’.” Replied the Russian. “New doesn’t mean better.”
Ludwig felt an involuntary uncomfortable shift hearing that from Gev’s mouth. Like Gev thought that he was trying to take his place in Yakusoku’s life when he isn’t. And his disarming gray eyes looked at him with serpent-like focus, as if waiting for Ludwig to challenge that statement. Which he does not. He instead raised a hand to show that he agreed. Honestly, the Russian was creepier this way than when he’s all gothed-out. Those eyes of his could burn your skin off.
The rest of the pep rally went along smoothly, between them eating and chatting about nothing. Gev promised to find someone willing to mess around with Ludwig; who passed altogether because he doesn’t sleep around. Nono suggested that girl Shelby, but she was definitely out of the question. She’s too sweet, and whereas girls like that are completely his type, he just isn’t into her because of the whole brother thing she’d been through. He was sure that the last thing on the girl’s mind would be parting her legs just because a guy pretends to be into her.
“Claaark! Toss me a balloon!” Nono shouted.
The jock looked for a stray balloon, lifting a fat red one from the floor he smacks it effortlessly far towards his friend, who caught it easily when it sailed up toward him. Nono waved his thanks and swung the balloon up and down, cheering with false pride in his school’s sports team. He’d cheer more if it were a bake-off with the Home ec. classes. Why don’t they ever have things like that at school? It would inspire more chefs.
He plans to be a chef someday; loving food as much as he does, why not? Maybe he’ll become a foodie, like Anthony Bourdain... now that would be cool. Trying round the world tasty treats would set his soul on fire- which is why he wants to be a chef; chances are he’ll never be rich enough to travel frequently, so he can just whip up something himself.
“Does anyone else feel really weird today?” Asks Gev out of the blue.
“No.” Replied Nono.
“A little.” But then, Ludwig isn’t used to really hanging around people in such a friendly manner. So it could just be him. He’s had friends, but like he’d said: castaways, cast away. Which reminded him. “Gev, can you do me a favor?”
“Hmm?” He didn’t turn and look at Ludwig, leaving the male half wondering if he were listening or not.
“Can you please stop smoking pot?” Ludwig looked the male in the eye to show he was serious.
“I’ve got a bad feeling, so... can you just cool it with that for a while?”
Gev’s grays looked the violinist up and down, then with a cock of his head shrugged. “...Okay. Man, what is with you people and my smoking habits. First Yakuza, and now you... Couple of ladies, if you ask me.” But he seemed sincere in his reply.
School ended but the rally continued, and the coaches had the nerve to tell them to wait until it was over!
“Not me. Come on you guys.” The Russian brushed past the bench line-up, and over to the stairs.
“Umm,” Ludwig stood up and looked to Nono for what to do.
The chubby male shrugged and followed Gev to the exit. The three stalked out of the gym, and not four minutes later do they hear a click behind them from everyone else being released.
“Lud’ are you brave?”
“No.” Nono answered very firmly for the unknowing male, before grabbing him by the arm and pressing him into the wall next to himself.
“Suit yourselves.” Throwing his arms into the air, he did his best Daffy Duck impression with hoo! hoo’s! and everything before dashing down the hall.
“Why is he-...”
Ludwig’s question was answered when every jock in the gym came rushing down the crowded hall like they were the only ones there, plowing through this person and that who got in their way, which luckily it was only the shrieking Russian.
“Every year I hope they get him.” Confessed Nono when the herd had passed.
Ludwig wondered if that had anything to do with suppressed anger over the being called ‘fat’ thing.
“Come on. I’ll give you a ride home.”
Rounding the corner of the hall they spot the male, hunched over and panting hard.
“So much fun.” Says Gev without an ounce of breath left. “Ride?”
“You said we’re going to my house, so let’s go.”
It happens that easily. It's that quick. Where are you? At home sick. So no one raises the red flag until its too late. But it happened. It happened an hour after school when an automated message made its way to Quinn Land’s home phone and cell...
Quinn felt angry when she’d received the call: Your son Promise Land, has not attended school today. No... she’s not angry, it's more like enraged. How could he?! Her son not only skipped school, but he was out with his friends after the fact! If they hadn’t all skipped! She wouldn’t be surprised; the moment her son started hanging out with those boys he had been different. The hair, lack of baths, smoking!
...But she’d thought he was done with all of that; so what was this a relapse? It was times like these that she wishes she knew more mothers than Marisol Delgado. They could all get together and give their misbehaving children a good talking to, followed by a swift kick in their rears.
Getting on the phone, she dialed Gev’s number. At least she has that much. It's one of her mandatory rules. Know the friends and their numbers, and addresses in case of emergencies.
“Heey Mrs. Land!” Greeted the boy. “What’s up?”
“Tell my hard-headed son to get home. NOW!”
Gev was quiet for a long minute, then in a strange voice, he replied. “Why would Ai be here?”
“I’m not talking about Ai. I’m talking about Yakusoku, is he there?”
“Noooo...” He dragged it out. “he stayed home from school. He’s sick, right?”
“Sick. No. In trouble? Yes.” And she heard chatter in the background between Gev and one other boy. “Boys... what’s going on?”
Then the call got strange; there was a loud clatter. Nono swore over something. The other boy, whom she guessed to be Clark, but it didn’t sound like him; because that boy Clark spoke with more of a pompous sort of tone, this kid sounded like he might always be nervous.
“Will you call for an ambulance!” This boy shouted as he picked up Gev’s phone. “Mrs. Land, something’s happened. Can you please call back in a half hour?”
“But this is important, it's about Yakusoku.” She spoke as evenly as her anger would allow. She knew they were scrambling to get the absent male out of trouble. “Who is this?”
“Ludwig Ballantyne, ma’am.”
“Yes, you. I called over at your house last night, and you told me he was in the bathroom. Is he there with you now?”
“No. He said that he was going home,” Ludwig replied. “I would have told you then but, I figured you’d know once he got in. Didn’t he show up last night?”
“No.” And her pulse grew very still.
Ludwig’s silence spoke volumes of his own chills. Yakusoku wasn’t at home sick. Yakusoku didn’t skip school because he’d never even made it to school, to skip it. He didn’t come home last night. He didn’t stay over at a friends’ house. He didn’t come home... He didn’t come home...
And the red flag was raised.