Richard's Redemption

Chapter 4

The next morning, I do the unthinkable. I skip my classes. I can't face the others, not with the thoughts going through my mind right now. So I go to the infirmary with a not-completely-feigned headache. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and my eyes are still red-rimmed from the crying I did last night. Between that and the fact that I hardly ever come to the infirmary, the nurse doesn't hesitate to give me a couple of aspirins and an excuse note to give to my teachers tomorrow. I go back to my room and throw myself face down on the bed, thankful for the solitude.

But then again, the solitude just makes it harder to stop thinking. I know what I'm supposed to do, of course, I'm supposed to go tattle to Nolan that I think my roommate is queer. That's the smart thing to do, the safe thing to do. But I can't do it. Look what happened to me the last time I did the so-called right thing. Besides which, I have no reason to want to hurt Todd. Quite the opposite in fact.

And that brings me to the thought I've been trying to avoid. I don't want to hurt Todd. From the moment he almost broke down in English class over the sonnet, I've wanted to take him in my arms and comfort him. And maybe more, I admit to myself uncomfortably. I absolutely don't want to get him expelled for something that I know he can't help being... no more than I want to be expelled for it. I fall asleep.

I'm walking through the woods near the cave. Firelight flickers within. I hear voices as I draw closer and peer inside. Neil and Todd are reciting poetry to each other. I am struck by the intensity as they gaze into each others' eyes... it's the same expression Knox Overstreet wears when he's talking about Chris Noel. I suddenly feel very much alone, wishing with all my heart to have that sort of closeness. Neil takes Todd's hand and begins reciting Shelley's “The Indian Serenade” to Todd.

"I arise from dreams of thee In the first sweet sleep of night,
When the winds are breathing low,
And the stars are shining bright.
I arise from dreams of thee,
And a spirit in my feet
Has led me -who knows how?
To thy chamber-window, Sweet!"

I creep closer, within the cave now, unnoticed by the other two, as intent as they are upon each other. Todd replies with the second verse.

"The wandering airs they faint
On the dark, the silent stream -
The champak odours fail
Like sweet thoughts in a dream;
The nightingale's complaint,
It dies upon her heart,
As I must die on thine, O beloved as thou art!"

I can't bear it anymore. I've always been the odd man out. Meeks and Pitts with their love of gadgets and tinkering with crystal radios and such... Knox's passion for Chris and Nuwanda's passion for anything female... and now seeing Neil and Todd like this, seeing Todd where I was never willing to admit I wanted to be... I fall to my knees with a strangled sob, pouring my heart into the final verse of the poem.

"Oh lift me from the grass!
I die! I faint! I fail!
Let thy love in kisses rain
On my lips and eyelids pale.
My cheek is cold and white, alas!
My heart beats loud and fast;
Oh press it close to thine again,
Where it will break at last!"

I wait for the scorn, the ridicule, even the anger because I've ruined their moment. But instead I feel two pairs of arms slipping gently around me. I lean into the warmth of the embrace, unashamed of the tears trickling down my cheeks. “You should have trusted sooner,” Neil says, lightly chiding me. “Dreams are all I have left now.” With that, he leans in and kisses me.

The rational part of my mind simply vanishes as I return the kiss with all the longing I've never permitted myself to show before. As we kiss, Neil and Todd merge together so that when the kiss ends, Todd is the only one in my arms. “One more before we have to go back?” I beg. Todd smiles, leaning in to press his lips to mine once more... and it feels so right... and so very, very good...

I jerk awake with a low moan, noticing almost immediately that the pillow under my cheek is wet with tears, and that a spot beneath my middle is damp as well. Thank goodness I'm still alone in the room. That's not the sort of dream one wants to have in front of a wide-awake roommate, especially when said dream features that particular roommate.

I get up and wash up, then go back to the room to try to do some studying. I'm not entirely sure what to do from here. But I do know that I will not say a word to Nolan against Todd, no matter what happens between now and the end of the school year.


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