Chapter - Bullies
Sheryl sat with her back to the ornate headstand of Levy’s bed reading an old Heavy Metal magazine that they procured from some secondhand book store. She wore a black high skirt dress, with a fishnet stocking and matching corset that pushed her petite bosom upwards, so they looked like two pale loaves of bread rising from a pan. On her left breast, she had tattooed (without her Father’s consent of course), a little cartoon bat she had named Blinky. Her legs slowly stretched over Levy’s who was reading a Rolling Stones magazine that featured an article about the Ramones. His back was to a wall plastered with posters of bands like Iggy and the Stooges, the Bauhaus, Siouxsie, and the Banshees and of course the Cure. For over an hour Sheryl had been biting her black nails and glancing at Levy as she would occasionally slide her legs over his crotch for a reaction.
“Bored?” He feigned indifference.
“I could use a smoke.” She angled her head at him, “you want a smoke break?” She moved her legs out of the way as Levy motioned that he wanted to get up.
“Yeah,” he tossed the magazine he was reading aside then got off the bed. He still had his Doc Martens on, and with a free hand he adjusted his ratty looking Black Flag t-shirt he refused to remove since he had seen a video of them. He eyed her quizzically.
“You like that?” Sheryl stared at his crotch, then slowly up and gave him a playful wink.
“Come on,” Levy guffawed, “silly girl.”
“Aren’t you even just a little bit curious?” She winked and gave him a naughty smirk.
He shrugged down at her before he began to stretch the kinks out of his back and shoulders. Then he let out a wide yawn before his attention gravitated to the black Goth kilt he wore. With his hand, he casually brushed off the stray hairs and lint that gathered on the material then adjusted his belt and slicked back his whip of hair. “I don’t think about it near as much as you. If that’s what you mean.”
“But when you do what do you think about?”
“You mean do I think about girls or do I think about guys?”
“Yeah, that.” She abandoned the magazine on his pillow, and she sat beside the bed with her full attention. The makeup she wore was a gaunt mask that accented the ordinary-looking face behind it. She wore long eyelashes that tried to make her look a little older, but the face was just too young to pass it off. When she dolled up she tended to look more like a cutesy Lolita than a morbid Goth.
Levy shrugged as he turned to the old dresser and eyed the jackknife his uncle gave him on his 16th birthday. After stuffing that into the side of his boot, he reached for his disposable lighter that still had some life in it. It sat next to an ashtray stockpiled with ashes from abandoned plastic mini cigar filters used beyond salvaging.
“Hey?” She snapped her fingers beside Levy’s pierced ear, “I’m talking over here buddy-boy.”
He nodded his head. He had little to say about the question, so instead, he felt it best to change the conversation than sound as uncertain as he felt towards the discussion of his sexual appetites. “We gonna dress up first?”
“Oh Hell yeah,” Sheryl took the bait. “But I’m not going dressed like this, so that means you’ll have to come on over to my house.”
“That would be a first. You’ve never invited me over before, why the change of heart?”
“Why would I?” She grabbed for her little black leather Gothic-style purse, “we can smoke here and not get into trouble for it. My father so much as smells cigarette smoke, and he freaks the fuck out.”
“So the only real reason you come over is that me ma and I smoke too? I guess that makes sense, I mean, I’ve never had to hide it from her. Sure she’s complained about my habit and is worried I’ll get cancer like Nanna, but that’s never stopped her from bumming one from me.”
“Speaking of which, where is she hiding these days? I haven’t seen her in like forever.”
“Me ma's working late at a grocery store. So by the time she gets in I’m getting ready to head to school.”
“Come to think of it I never see your dad no more either. Are you an orphan?”
“No,’ Levy scoffed. “He just never bothers to come around.”
“Are your parents fighting or something?”
“How can they fight if they’re never around each other?”
As they stopped in front of Sheryl’s house, Levy stopped and looked up at it in wonder. He had heard that it was an old Victorian style house, but he had never imagined how incredible it was to behold. Sheryl’s father, a widowed police officer, owned the refurbished house which stood on the outskirts of Levy’s little neighborhood. In an area that was still undeveloped. So unlike the suburban landscape of tight-knit clone homes and miles of trimmed lawns and solid concrete with miles of tarred roads that lead to multiple cul-de-sacs, her father owned a huge lot of undeveloped land, dotted with rustic colored bushes and giant oak trees that scratched at the auburn autumn sky. So for a couple of kids that loved to play dress up in their spare time, Sheryl was way deeper into it than Levy could ever be. Her giant doll house home perfectly reflected it.
“Hold on..." she paused to unlock the door and glanced from Levy to his boots. "You can’t wear your boots in here. You must take them off at the door,” Sheryl announced as she closed and turned the lock that bolted the door. “You can still take them up with you upstairs if you want, but you can’t wear them around the house. My father will freak out if he sees black streaks on his white wood flooring. He’s very anal about that.”
“You get to wear yours in my house,” Levy counter remarked.
“Hey there Tubby,” She reached down to pet her purebred Scottish fold cat on the head as it rubbed her leg and meowed up at her. “That’s because you’ve never once removed yours at home. I’ve even seen you many times wearing your dirty boots on your bed. Something I’d never get away with here.”
Touché Levy thought as he methodically took his boots off. His wet socks felt the coolness of the room, and he was surprised how hard, smooth and cold the wood floor felt. How vulnerable his feet felt without his cumbersome footwear on. The jackknife he kept in his boot noisily clattered to the floor as he quickly snatched it up and dropped it back into his boot. He glanced up at Sheryl as she motioned for him to head with her upstairs.
Once they entered her private little sanctuary, Levy was amazed at what her room looked. There she displayed an impressive collection of Goth and Lolita clothes. A mishmash of two separate yet identifiable fashion trends she readily embraced. Her princess bed wasn’t so much as a hand me down it was a refurbished antique with a unique canopy that had drapes fastened to the ornate wood-carved pole with a gold colored cord. The frilly pillows that decorated it looked fluffed up, each edged with ornate trim. As Levy reluctantly sat on the puffy covers, he felt a faint streak of envy at how meticulous she was towards her stuff. How meticulously clean and orderly everything had looked.
“You like this?” She held up a fluffy Victorian style dress up for Levy’s approval. “I had it specially ordered from a specialty shop in Japan.”
“Bet that was an expensive purchase,” he remarked almost curtly.
“So…do you want to try it on?” She offered. “I know it will fit you. All my stuff here seems to—except for the bras.” She giggled.
“Not right now,” Levy leaned back on the bed and kept looking at her. “I thought you wanted to get some smokes?”
“I do,” she carefully placed the plastic wrapped dress back into the closet, stepped over Tubby that had been underfoot desperate for attention as she hurried over to her stylish white dresser with the gold trim. She opened the top drawer and withdrew an open pack of cigarettes.
She shook the package up to her ear, and then tossed it into the nearby garbage bin. “Shit! Well, I guess now we have no choice but to make a trip to the confectionery.”
Levy nodded to himself as he sat on her bed and looked around her room at all of the stuff she had. He couldn’t help but notice there was an obvious distinction between the two households and felt a thin sliver of jealousy. She had so much in her collection that he was starting to feel like he was part of it, like a doll to dress up, take out, and parade around with it. But the thought kept nagging at him and that was why was she so damn interested in him? Was he that different from the other boys that she had hung out with? Or was something there happening between them, something else he missed?
As she got ready Levy eyed the side self next to her bed, there were trophies and awards. No doubt she was ahead of the class in many ways (he had seen her marks and was very impressed with her grades, but where she excelled, he marginally passed. Where he failed, she flourished. Knowing Sheryl had her entire future worked out. Levy, however, hadn’t a clue what his future would be after graduation. He couldn’t decide if whether he wanted to attend a trade school, or a college. And once he got in what would he pursue? Where did his passion lie? Levy hadn’t given it much thought until he saw just how smart and driven Sheryl was to him.
“How can you afford all this?” He asked as he sat on her bed. “Do police officers these days make that much?”
Sheryl was in her puffy and frilly Lolita dress and reached out to stop Levy at the top of the stairs. “Before my mother died of lymphoma, she was a lawyer and was a natural with investments. Father has many fond memories of their life together here, so I doubt that he’ll ever sell this place even when I leave for college. I hope that I meet someone that would love me that much.” She looked to Levy for a reaction.
Levy sympathized with Sheryl’s loss; his grandmamma was currently in a hospice. While he lived under her roof, he slept in her bed in a bedroom she had as a little girl. He knew that her death meant they would probably lose the house and half of her possessions to her other relatives. The house had been promise to go to his Mom’s older brother Nigel. So that meant Levy and his Ma could be looking for a place to live. But since grandma got deathly ill they had fallen onto hard times, what with the banks calling for money owed. Not to mention that his father had many times proved to be of no use in helping anyone financially. He and grandma had never seen eye to eye on almost everything.
Many times his grandmamma referred to Levy’s father as a self-centered, money-hungry bastard, while his father contended to call Levy’s grandmamma a hippie cunt behind her back. Yup, there was bad blood in his family line.
“See this locket?” Sheryl bent closer and opened it. In it was a picture of her mother smiling. “She passed away when I was just five. This was her house before she and Dad met. Now, he maintains it in memory of her. He’s kept everything exactly the way she liked it. Even had her favorite blanket the way she left it. No one is allowed to touch, use or move the blanket or even sit in her spot. Isn’t that romantic?”
“Sure, I-I guess so…” Levy stammered with a shrug,“ though it did sound rather obsessive–.” He went to leave the room with her trailing behind him. He didn’t feel like getting dressed up, but he had accepted to put on a dark tartan skirt over a pair of black leotards that Sheryl had picked for him. “I just never knew about your Mom.”
“The conversation never came up, and besides, it all happened when I was too young to remember much. All I have is some shitty old photographs of her and some of her jewelry. Her choice of clothes is not my style.”
Levy kept quiet as he turned to leave her room and headed for the stairs.
Sheryl tapped his shoulder for his attention then lifted her dress to show off her blanch white knee-high socks with ruffles at the top. She then reached out for him, “take my hand; these socks have no grip on these stairs. I kept asking Dad to put a carpet on the steps or something to keep me from slipping to my death.”
Levy took her hand like a gentleman; she slid a bit and bumped up against him. They exchanged a long silent look into each other’s eyes. Levy gave a thin smile and then held tight onto the railing with his other hand. “Maybe you should’ve taken them off until we’re at the bottom?”
“This is fine…” she waved him on. “Go on; we’ve got cigarettes to get.”
Sheryl Chloe Fellman, though she was pretty average looking without having to get all dolled up, was the kind of girl that every boy secretly dreamt about, or what every girl wanted to hate. But once she did, she could turn heads. Aside from her outstanding grades and personal achievements, her insatiable interest in the punk, Goth and Lolita scene in a mid-sized town like Linton seemed almost impossible for her to meet a guy her age with a similar interest.
That was until she had met Levy.
It was a fluke that they were in the same Catholic School, same grade and ideally in similar classes together. Both Sheryl and Levy were neither followers nor lone wolf types per se, but they recognized a fellow outsider in an instant.
“I don’t think this place has warmed up to us once since the day we’ve attended.” Levy closed his locker door and took in the occasional dirty looks from passing students.
“Maybe you should try a different shade of eyeliner?” Sheryl smirked, “believe it or not black doesn’t always go with everything.” She held up one of her eyeliners, and it was a pale white color.
“I’ll marginally stick to the dress code here, but I still don’t see why I can’t wear makeup to class. I mean girls can—well… sort of.” Levy held his books close to his chest. A fellow student made a direct effort to slam his shoulder onto Levy, causing the teenager to keep from hitting anyone else or tripping over. A trick many in the past had done to Levy enough times to get him holding onto his books so tightly that his knuckles were white. He hated being a victim of bullying, but he wasn’t much of a fighter. He hated fighting; it just felt so uncouth.
“Not as much as I would like to put on anyways,” Sheryl griped back. “I can’t wait to be out of here and in university. Maybe there I can express myself the way I want to without being judged by the local idiots.”
“No way is it that bad for you, is it?”
“Bad enough to be stuck here,” She looked and gestured at what she had to wear. “I mean, look at this shirt and stupid skirt I’m forced to wear—not to mention these damn ugly shoes. I mean, who would want to know what Catholic School you go to anyways, they’re practically all the same, right?”
Levy looked down at her shoes and then to his. There was a difference in quality and condition. Hers looked so spit polished they shined, and they even had a cute little Hello Kitty Head on the leather straps. His pair, however, had to be replaced. The bottom was scuffed in places and had holes in the soles. He had repeatedly asked his father to give him some money to get a new pair. But there was one year left to go, and so he wouldn’t need them anymore. At least that was what his father had said over the phone.
So when Levy pointed out in a passing conversation with Sheryl, she offered a solution.
“You could always wear a pair of mine?”
Levy considered the alternative, and once he found that his foot size was the same as hers. Their friendship rose up another level.
One day they were having lunch (which consisted of sharing a smoke and a big bag of chips) and watching the other students go about their business. Sheryl turned to Levy to ask him something that no one else ever had.
“Hey, since you can fit my shoes, how about we see if you can fit my clothes too? I have a skirt that would look great on you. So how about it, you game?
Levy took a long drag from his smoke, “sure.”
What the Hell, right? He could fit her shoes, her clothes and his father couldn’t say shit about it. I mean he barely came home anyways. His father was a bugger to get him to do anything with, and so Levy had spent more time with his ma and his nanna than anyone his age. Who both had him wearing what other kids in the neighborhood considered to be girly clothes when in fact they were hand-me-downs from his ma’s and nanna’s childhood. At one time he had no choice but to wear an old pair of corduroy pants that was his Mothers when she was his age. So clothes in Levy’s eyes were and should always be genderless.
They took a shortcut through the alleyway towards the park that led to the local confectionery. They passed by an exposed backyard decorated with a broken down tricycle, a dirty wading pool, and a clothesline full of damp clothing that barely moved in the breeze. Children under the age of six went screaming around the open yard stopped to watch as the two estranged teenagers walked by. They gawked at the two misfits passing by. One of them dressed like a doll, while the other just registered as an oddity of sorts. To the youngsters, Levy was some skinny guy who kept blowing his hair out of his face, with a black tartan skirt on, clomping his way down the alley in a pair of spit shined boots. At the corner of his eye, Levy noticed the kid’s look of confusion as they passed. The conversation Sheryl had decided to pick was adding to his anxiety to those that were listening in to their discussion.
“So which do you prefer boys or girls?” Sheryl twirled her little umbrella she had taken with them just in case it decided to rain. The brooding skies had been clouded and dark the minute they set out on a walk.
“I dunno,” Levy eyed the little kids who stopped playing to gawk at them. Their curiosity unnerved him. “I don’t see a point to this question. So neither I would have to say.”
“Is there a dick in your shorts?”
“Yeah,” He blushed and turned his head away. “What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Well, where do you imagine yourself wanting to put it?” She smirked at his apparent discomfort.
“I don’t — you know — think about it as much as everyone else does. And even if I did, it’s not something I like to brag to others about.”
“Oh come on, everyone does!” she coaxed him further. “Everybody fantasizes about someone, so who do you think about doing it with?”
“Could we talk about something else? I think those brats over there are listening.”
Sheryl looked back and made a scary face at the children, then flinched aggressively and laughed as the children screamed out of sight.
“Is that better?” She brought her attention back to him.
Levy said nothing and kept looking ahead.
“Come on, Levy, you can tell me. Are you straight, bi or gay?”
Levy stopped in his tracks, “Honestly? I don’t know what I am. I mean, I was born male, but I don’t know… I don’t think like the other guys do. I’m not super competitive or have even considered losing my virginity. Heck, I don’t even know what I want to do after I graduate. All I know is that I could sure use a smoke right now.”
“Oh come on,” Sheryl stomped her feet and made a face. “You’ve got a dick under that skirt of yours, right?”
“Yeah…” he uncomfortably mumbled as he turned to another shade of red.
“So you must be drawn to something or someone. I can’t imagine anyone alive that doesn’t have a sex drive.”
“I do, it’s just that… I don’t let it run my life.”
“Such a shame Levy,” Sheryl admitted with a hint of disappointment in her voice as she walked past him.
“Why is that?”
As they passed by a fenced in yard a rock sailed over and clocked Levy in the right temple, close enough to his eye. Levy’s ears started to ring like a school fire alarm. His head threatened to explode, but instead, he screamed and buckled to the gravel road and held the side of his head cursing with such profanity that even a sailor would’ve blushed. Meanwhile, Sheryl crouched down beside him to see what had happened.
“Levy!” She started to panic, and look around, and all she saw was that they were alone in an empty alley. “W-what happened?”
“Some fucking twat just threw a fucking rock and hit me in the fucking head!” Levy brought up his hand, and sure enough, there was blood. Not a lot, but enough to get him in a panic.
“Hey?” The one both knew from the neighborhood as Conrad peaked between the gaps of the wooden fence that blocked entry to his parent’s yard. “What the fuck’s going on here? What’s with all the screaming like a pussy?”
“You did this you fucking tard!” Levy turned on Conrad. “I saw that rock coming from your yard. I’m going to-”
Conrad unlatched the gate to the fence and opened it wide as he and his three lackeys stood outside the yard in the back alley scowling down at him, looking to kick some ass. Conrad punched his other hand like he was eager to smash it into Levy’s face.
“Finish your sentence ass wipe.”
Levy gritted his teeth and gave Conrad an accusing look. He knew what was coming next. But before he was able to protest, Conrad and his buddies shoved Sheryl aside and started kicking Levy while he was still on all fours.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Sheryl started to protest, but one of the boys named Darrel pushed her back down, called her a frilly whore. The third one went to grab her, but Conrad pushed him back and told him not to bother her.
“Leave her alone. Her dad’s a cop you shit head!”
“So?” The one (she and Levy later learned his name was William, and he had a juvenile record a mile long for someone so young). “She’s a fucking freak like this little fuck wad.”
“Do you want what he’s getting?” Conrad looked to the other two and they looked uncertain how this was going to go.
“No,” William gave in.
“Right now where were we?” His attention settled back on Levy.
Levy stared straight ahead to the end of the alleyway; and there he saw an old woman pushing an overstocked shopping cart. She looked like a homeless lady by the way she donned layers of tattered clothes and how the dirty, half-ripped plastic bags had completely covered her cart. Pausing, she turned to face him. Her hair started to blow back (as if a gust of wind had struck her full in the face), her eyes looked pitch black like pools of utter darkness and despair. A cruel almost toothless smile appeared on that dirty and wrinkled old face. Do it; he could hear her say in his head with a cackle. UNLEASH YOUR POTENTIAL! She cackled in his head.
Levy’s hand traced down to the inside of his boot. His small jackknife was there, and the thought of flicking it open, and stabbing one of the bullies surfaces into his mind. Better yet, Levy pondered; stick it in a place that would guarantee the leader wouldn’t fuck with anyone ever again. He eyed Conrad’s crotch.
After all, Levy sneered, this is what you get for being a Machiavellian asshat!
“What the fuck?” One of Conrad’s henchmen stood back and pointed to what was in Levy’s trembling hand.
“You fucking little shit-stain, that better not be what I think it is!” Conrad kicked Levy right square in the face.
Levy’s head snapped back and out he went.
The last thing he heard was Sheryl screaming out his name.