It had been a week since my little talk with Layne. He’d skipped a couple of my classes, and I had asked Janey to pass my assignments on to him in her class. She’d looked at me quizzically, but thankfully hadn’t asked any questions about why I wasn’t demanding him back in my class or handing out detentions.
Bryan was trying to get to the other side of his depressive episode. It had been a difficult week at home. It’s like a tightrope walk between trying to support him through it, and hating the shitty way he talks to me and the way I have to do everything in the house. I slouch back on the armchair, keeping one ear to the discussion my creative writing class is having, pulling his contact up on my phone.
-hey bubba. how’s your day going?-
-i feel fucking shit. wanna go to sleep just because i can’t be bothered to be awake-
I sigh. I’m mentally exhausted from this week with him. I want to go to sleep just so I don’t have to deal with him for five minutes.
-maybe go for a walk?-
-easy now. i’m trying to find the motivation to brush my teeth!-
At least he’s starting to joke a little, that’s a good sign. I slip my phone back into my bag and look round the library. Sat in front of one of the computers is Layne, his fingers tangled in his hair as he slumps forward toward the screen. I watch as he shakes his head slowly before tapping the keys forcefully, then goes back to twisting his hair and glaring at the flickering screen. After he repeats this several times, curiosity finally gets the better of me, and I push myself out of my chair. I point at Tom and tell him he’s in charge for the rest of the lesson.
“What has the computer ever done to you, kiddo?” I pull out the chair next to him as he pounds the keyboard again. He glances sideways at me.
“What do you care.” He mumbles.
“I do care, Layne.” I reply softly, letting my hand rest on his arm. His eyes drift down to it, and he licks his lips.
“Thought you had a husband who needed you?” He sneers. I sigh and lean back against the ungiving plastic chair.
“I do. So it really isn’t smart for me to get swept up in any kind of relationship, let alone with a relationship with a student...” I lean forward again, my mouth close to his ear. “But fuck it. I need an escape from my life right now.”
Layne’s mouth lifts into a wide grin. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. Just don’t let me regret this.”
My phone bings from the arm of the sofa where I’d balanced it next to me while I scarfed down the pasta bake Bryan had made for dinner. It was his specialty, and never tasted the same each time he made it because he didn’t follow a recipe just a vague assembling of mostly the same ingredients.
“Who’s that?” He asks through a mouthful of food. I tilt the screen to read the message.
“It’s Janey. She wants to know if I want to go to the club tonight.” I shrug, settling back into my seat.
“D’you wanna go?” He raises an eyebrow. I shrug again. “It’s been fucking ages since you and I went clubbing together.” He says thoughtfully.
I almost choke on my mouthful of pasta. “Yu...you want to go?!”
Bryan flashes a grin, shoveling another forkful into his mouth. “Why not? ’Fraid I’ll cramp your style?” He winks.
“Okay....lets go to The Met...” I mumble as I text Janey back the news that we’ll both meet her there.
“I can’t believe Bryan Maddox is actually gracing us with his presence!” Janey smirks, before giving him a quick hug. He smirks back, taking a deep draw on his vape pen.
“You love me really, blondie.” He responds, the white smoke punctuating his words. He wanders off to catch up with Giles, the dread-headed doorman who’d been working here since forever.
Janey shakes his head after him, before pulling me onto the dance floor. We shake our assess like we’re twenty again, grooving to the old school metal hits. As I spin round I catch sight of Layne setting up the band equipment on stage. Something between fear and excitement shoots up my spine as he catches my gaze and winks at me.
I grab Janey’s hand and pull her to the bar, suddenly gasping for a drink. A real drink. As my hand closes round the glass of bourbon I’d ordered I feel the heat of someone else pressed up against my back.
“Lee? What are you doin’?” Bryan lifts the glass to his lips and downs the dark liquid in one gulp, frowning at me. I shake my head.
“Why is is okay for you to drink, but not me?” I push him back, feeling crowded.
“You know what?! Drink whatever the fuck you want. I was just trying to help you.” Hurt flashes in his eyes, and he storms off.
“What was that?” Janey looks after him and lifts her perfectly drawn eyebrows. I sigh deeply and drop my head.
“He’s right. I struggled to get clean and sober, and said I wanted to always stay clean and sober. One drink could be the start of a slippery slope back to lots of bad things. He’s just looking out for me.”
We wander over to our usual booth and sit down. I look round for Bryan as the lights dim ready for the band. He walks back in and I catch his eye, offering an apologetic smile. He grimaces at me, but walks over and slides in next to me, squeezing my thigh as he sits. I link my fingers with his and lean my head on his shoulder. Moments later I feel the warmth of his breath as he presses his lips against my hair.
The background music stops, and the crowd starts cheering as the band walk on stage. Layne comes out last, arms in the air, grin plastered on his face, looking like a proper rockstar as the spotlight hits him.
““Who here likes Nine Inch Nails?” He leans forward, hand cupped behind his ear as the hyped up crowd in front of him screams. “Well unfortunately they couldn’t be here tonight but we are Eight Inch Screws...!”
Beside me, Bryan snorts. "Funny." He says into my ear.
I shiver, but I can't tell if it's from the tickle of his breath on my skin, or from the leather clan boy who is claiming my gaze.