I really wasn't in the mood to deal with the janitor, and what I knew would be a weird conversation that John would start. I'm not an idiot, and John seems so predictable these days, no maybe hours would be a better word.
Either way, it was Carl who stepped through the door, he's been the janitor at this school for years and honestly he's a pretty alright guy, not at all how your thinking. I talked to him sometimes, when I see him around, my mum used to know his wife and I guess she probably wants him to check up on me or something. Who knows, or cares for that matter?
"Hey Brian, how you doing?"
Leave it to Brian to know the guy as well, probably because he doesn't have that many friends. Kind of makes me feel bad, I probably would have been his friend once upon a time but with what's going on, I can't be anyone's friend. And in my defence, I shouldn't want to neither.
Of course, John just had to open his mouth when he heard Brian knew the janitor. God, I was still annoyed at him from earlier. I don't know why I'm getting so worked up over it, it's not like anything could have happened, and you know this. It's probably better if he likes Claire prep face anyway. Yeah, it's better.
"Your dad works here?"
At this, Brian looks down, as though he's embarrassed and I feel bad for the kid, which in turn is bad for me because that means I'm growing attached to these idiots. So not on my to-do list. Ruined my whole God damn day.
Instead of waiting for a reply, John, as always, just continues speaking, and shit just tumbles from his mouth. He never knows when to stop. Then again, he wouldn't be John if he didn't piss everyone off.
Carl's voice is light but underneath you can hear the annoyance seeping through. Obviously knows he's about to be made fun off, or at least that John's going to say something rude, though that's not surprising at all really is it?
"Can I ask you a question?"
"How does one become a janitor?
"You wanna be a janitor?"
With a shake of his head John replies smarmily.
"No I just wanna know how one becomes a janitor because Andy here is very interested in pursuing a career in the custodial arts."
"Oh, really? You guys think I'm just some untouchable peasant? Peon? Huh? Maybe so, but following a broom around after shitheads like you for the past eight years I've learned a couple of things...I look through your letters, I look through your lockers...I listen to your conversations, you don't know that but I do...I am the eyes and ears of this institution my friends. By the way, that clocks 20 minutes fast."
Even though I wanted to laugh because I found it funny when John's eyes widen at the prospect of having his locker raided by Carl, and also for the fact everyone bitches about the time, I don't because all I can think is that Carl's been in my locker, and if he's done that then that means he could have found my medication in my locker before, or my medical notes, or anything really. He could link in that I'm in fact really ill and not getting any better. I snapped my eyes to his but he's already leaving the room though his eyes meet mine briefly, they sparkle with knowledge, and my breathing gets shaky as I realise that he could know. Someone could fucking know what I've been so desperate to keep locked away. I can feel myself become light headed, and my stomachs churning heavily, and I swear I whimper. But then suddenly it's gone as a hand comes to clutch my own, and it brings me back. I look up to see not only John looking at me but the others as well. Oh shit.
I don't stick around though, I jump up and stumble to the back of the library because I couldn't stay there, and as I do, the churning comes back full force and I finally settle against the back wall, concealed away from the others. I can finally breathe a little better, but not before long I can see John strolling towards me. Why couldn't he just leave me alone for once?
He stands above me for a minute before sitting in front of me. I don't say anything; just stare blankly at the floor, hoping he goes away. No such luck as I hear him take a deep breath and speak gently.
"Are you alright?"
I don't answer at first, and I have to swallow about ten times before I do. I feel horrible right now, and I know that when I speak, it sounds breathless again, just like before.
"John, I'm fine. You don't need to worry, or even be here ok? So, go back over there."
"Not worry? Seriously? Listen Alka I'm not an idiot, but this is more than just missing breakfast. I mean, you seriously looked like you couldn't breathe and then you just rush off like you're about to collapse. How can I not worry?"
"Because you don't actually care, you're pretending."
John looks at me silently, and out of the corner of my eye I can see his face scrunch up in confusion but also realisation.
"What are you...?"
"Claire. I'm talking about Claire. You like her right? So go talk to her. Worry about her. I don't need your worry, so stop messing with me. I don't care if you're messing with her to be honest, just not with me. And we both know you're messing because that's just who you are right? You use people."
Again, I'm not looking at him. I can't face him. I don't want him to answer but then I do because this is a completely different subject to me being sick, and maybe, just maybe, this means he will forget about it and drop the whole thing.
It's silent for several moments before a hand reaches out and tugs my chin upwards, and I find two brown eyes staring into mine, with a bright emotion that seems so real it pulls on my heart strings. And although it sounds undeniably corny, it's how it feels. I don't know how long I'm staring into them eyes, but it makes me fail to notice him moving slowly towards me until his lips are softly pressed upon mine. I don't react. There's no time to as he pulls away from his kiss, but he does not let go of my chin.
"I don't care about Red out there, I care about you. My reputation is shit around here, I know but you said you wouldn't judge me; you'd give me a chance. So, give me one? I know I'm not a good guy, but I can try for you, if you let me. So I'll ask again, are you alright?"
I can't believe John Bender was that gentle with me, and inside I can feel myself heating up just over the thought of it. I don't understand him. Why is he so sweet to me? Make him prove himself. You can't trust him yet Al, even though you want to. How do you know he isn't actually messing with you and their all laughing behind your back? Check.
"John... John, I'm fine honestly. I... I don't understand. Why are you telling me this? Why are you messing with my head God damn it?!"
I jerk my chin from his hand and look off to the side. I can feel my eyes pricking with tears and I roll my head into my hands to hide from him. But it doesn't stop him; he only holds my hands and makes me look at him.
"I'm telling you this because I want you to know, I want you to be my girl, my only girl, and I like you a lot. I'll try and make you see that I'm not messing with you, just give me a chance? I won't let you down."
I don't understand why he's being so un-John like right now. Who is this person in front of me because John would never be like this? He's the guy that uses girls, gets high and all round cause's trouble. Why the hell would he be with me? Or even want to be? Oh no, he can't be with me, it's not fair. It's his choice. Let him decide.
"John, I... why? Why now?"
"I don't know. I just, I see you all the time, and it's weird because every time I see you, you seem different. I've seen you go through all these different stages, and this one right now, it's like you're ready to leave and never come back and I don't like it. So I want you to be with me before it's too late to do anything. I just want you."
I'm crying, full out crying now and I know I'm shaking because John wraps his arms around me. I feel safe like this and I relax further into the embrace.
But my mind doesn't stop. I can't believe John seems so weird right now. He's meant to be the tough guy with no feelings yet here he is bearing his heart to me and I can't say anything of the sort back to him because what if he's lying to me? But I said I trusted him before, and I meant it. Do I take a chance? But what if he is pretending? Then again what if he's not and I pass up this opportunity of being normal for the last time. But, if I said I wanted to be with him as well, he needs to know the truth before he gets too wrapped up. Oh, when did I start taking this seriously?
I break through the silence with a timid voice, and I can hear it breaking in certain parts but I need to say this.
"You can't be with me."
And just as softly he replies.
I sit there for a long time in his embrace, thinking about what would happen if I told him. What would happen if I didn't tell him and I just walked away, but I couldn't do it because not telling him seemed worse than telling him and getting laughed at. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I was denying myself something I wanted for once in my life, and I hadn't let myself have someone there since I got diagnosed, not after my dad walked out. But maybe John would stay, maybe he wasn't pretending.
I took a deep breath and spoke so quietly I didn't think he heard me.
"John, I'm not very... uh, I'm really sick."
"Like I'm not going to get better any time soon."
It came out in a rush and I honestly wasn't expecting it to slip out of my mouth like that. I wasn't even sure if I was going to tell him. I don't tell him the whole truth, with what I told him now it seems like there's a chance I could get better if things changed, but I know there isn't. I just don't have the heart to tell him that things will never get better.
I struggle in John's arms as he refuses to say anything after my little slip up but he just holds me tighter and buries his face in my hair. I stay still after a while and wonder what he'll say. And I can tell you, what he says surprises the hell out of me, and I'm not sure if that's good or bad at this point.
"I don't fucking care."
This is the point where I burst out crying, sobbing all over John and I'm pretty sure the others in the main bit can hear me but I'm beyond caring because as I look into his eyes I see tears shimmering and I know, I just know he's telling me the truth. I'm still confused, it's not going to change anytime soon but I can't seem to care as this boy in front of me has just told me he still wants to be with me even though I'm dying, not that he knows the extent of it. I can barely talk through the tears but I manage a small thank you which in turn makes him hold me tighter to him. Who would have thought, school's badass John Bender becoming a softy for me. For me, I really like the sound of that.
I honestly can't tell you how long we sat there for, but eventually I calm down and John lets me go so we can both look at each other again.
"I'm sorry John; it's not fair on you."
John grabs my hands again.
"It's not your fucking fault, and I'm going to be there for you. I promise."
"This all just feels too much like a dream to me. Someone accepting me. All of me. Are you real?"
John chuckles at me, and raises our clasped hands to nudge my head gently.
"Yeah I'm real. I'm not actually some fucking heartless kid you know? I don't like showing it but I do feel stuff."
"Why are you showing me... this you then?"
"You deserve it. And we'll be graduating soon; I don't want to leave school thinking like a pussy about what could have been. So, I took a chance but I'm not going to Prom."
I shake my head at that and laugh lightly. I don't tell him I wasn't planning on going to Prom anyway, I don't tell him I couldn't go even if I wanted to. I don't tell him that I have a hospital appointment that day and I don't tell him the most important thing. I don't tell him I may not be around for graduation. I just can't seem to make it come out of my mouth so instead; I stand up and pull John up with me.
"Let's go back. It's nearly lunch ain't it?"