Speak & Listen 2

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How does it feel to be betrayed, you ask?

It feels like being silenced. It feels like being invalidated or attacked, as a symbolic message signifying your unimportance. You suddenly feel belittled and almost, you feel non-existent. And yes, it sucks!

I was at home, preparing for school. It was finally the actual lockdown and has been days since I had been avoiding Jeremiah both at school and through phone calls.

Now I was officially grounded. David was still mad that I drove my car all alone. And to be honest, I regret it. If I had stayed home, I would be still mad at Mia for disappearing and not apologetic or sympathetic. If I had stayed home, I wouldn’t have seen Jeremiah high on drugs, triggering an unwanted childhood memory.

After these ruminations, while inadvertently looking at my reflection in the mirror, I ran downstairs to the kitchen, with the table stacked with all types of unhealthy nutrients.

“Morning.” I greeted with a pretentiously excited voice.

“Adrian…you can’t go to school today.” Gabriel gave me an apparitioned look.

I sat down the table and saw the worry both on Gabriel and Alejandro’s faces. “What? Why?”

“The Ghoul called again.” Alejandro added.

Terror filled my face as well. “Oh. What did he say?”

“That’s the thing. He didn’t say anything this time. He just…breathed.” Gabriel sighed.

I sighed as well. “Then it’s probably a prank. Or it was probably your dad trying to talk to you.”

Alejandro’s eyes narrowed. “Adrian…”

“No, Alejandro. These past few days, my marks have been dropping like crazy. I failed my first test in Math. I can’t fail again. Are you driving me to school or not?”

The table became quiet. I grabbed a slice of bread and yogurt from the fridge before walking myself out of the house.

A few minutes later, Gabriel followed with the car keys. “Your father would not…”

“My father would want me to go to school, Gabriel.” I looked into his eyes.

I don’t know why I didn’t perceive the call as a threat, but I do think that I was avoiding to think about the truth. That everything is as fucked up as yesterday and nothing gets better. That we’re all going to die tragically like Sophia or disappear like Mia. To be honest, I was worried about her and whether or not she was okay. I was now over the stunt she pulled at Sophia’s party. I just wanted to know if she was alive.

The car was silent as Slowdive played on the stereo on the way to school. I too was becoming nervous. Not only because of the eerie call Gabriel got, but amongst many things such as Jeremiah using drugs. What drove him to that point? I mean, I had been once or twice been taking small amounts of psychedelic medicine Alejandro got for me…but that was it. It was for medical purposes. His were not.

In fact, what was going on with the people that surrounded me? Why did Mia disappear on me? Well that’s after she tried to sell me to Craig. I mean, is Craig even okay? Why hasn’t he confronted me from the day of Sophia’s death?

Why was Jason even part of our crew, all so suddenly? Ever since the incident at the Lake Smith site, where Jeremiah shot five jocks fatally, he has been close to us in unimaginable ways. Jason, usually, was a loner who you would see once or twice talking to Cole. As much as Cole was reputable for bad things he did, they seemed to share a genuine connection only they, in the entire school, could understand.

And Craig is now friends with Plumegg? Plumegg?! Except how suspicious it was to know that not only he and Craig were sudden friends, but how he was the only or one of the people who visited Craig at the hospital when the officer wouldn’t even tell his boyfriend, me, about which hospital he was in?

Additionally, was Mason okay? What happened to Alicia? I’m only asking because on that day on the corridors, when Cole and Mason were exchanging words before the tension became cataclysmic, Cole said that she deserved what happened to her. What happened?

Why was Elijah hanging out at Garden Heights a lot? Did he get a boyfriend who happens to be a jock?

All these questions made it feel like the end of something. Like something had been gradually changing but I had been oblivious the entire time. Would you blame me? I haven’t even thought heavily about Sophia ever since she died. I had not taken in the fact that Jeremiah is using and Mia had gone MIA. No pun intended.

“Look…Adrian.” Gabriel looked at me.

I sighed as my body slouched on the seat. “What, Gabriel?”

“Sometimes when we say or do some things, it’s most probably for your own benefit. I’ve put everything behind us all in the name of love. I expect you to do the same.”

I nodded. He was right. “Yeah. It’s not your fault I’m like this.”

He looked at me as his body shifted towards my direction. “What do you mean?”

“I mean…I’m not okay, Gabriel. I can’t experience a traumatic protest, have my ex-boyfriend not knowing the truth about who attacked him that night and lose a friend and pretend to be okay. I’m not.” My voice wobbled.

“So this is not about your grades?” He held both my hands into his.

I shook my head.

“Everything will be okay, Adrian. As long as I’m still around.”

“And when you’re not?” I looked back to him. “You and Alejandro are going back to college and I don’t know how to feel about that.”

“Adrian, I’m not going away. It’s just college. I’ll only be a phone call away and literally an hour away.”

I looked at him with a smile. “You’re going to Alex?”

“Alejandro too. So we’ll be around for sure. You have nothing to worry about.”

“I don’t?” In my head, I was referring to The Ghoul.

“No.” He shook his head with a smile. He took my head into his hands and gingerly kissed my forehead. “Go, son. You’ll be late.”

Hearing him say son again warmed my heart like never before. It had been almost a long while since I had heard him say that. “You have a good one.” I smiled.

He nodded with a smile.

I got out of the car and never looked back.

“Spector…can I have a word with you?” Mr Word, my English teacher, called me aside after the third period.

“Of course, sir.”

We waited for everyone to exit the room. Mr Word grabbed his chair and sat right across my table. “Son, I know a lot has been going on with you. With Sophia’s death and Craig Fernandez’s attack during the summer…trust me, I get it. But you know I’ve always admired your effort in your school work. However, ever since summer break, you have been performing terribly in your academics. A few of the staff members, including Mr Noorwood, complained about your weak performance.”

“You had a meeting about me?”

“Not precisely. It was just conversation between staff members who believed that you do, indeed, have potential to outdo any junior in this school. You are far most the smartest student I have in my class.”

“The flattery.” I snorted.

“I’m serious.” He smiled, while slouching on his chair and crossing his legs, like he usually did. “You see Adrian, you remind me of my girl. She’s also almost heading to college. She’s a cheerleader, takes part in art class and plays netball. Although I’m confident that you despise any extra-mural activity at this school…”

“And you’re absolutely right…”

He smiled. “…but both of you remind me that as much as things, personal things, may suck, a lot, but there’s that incomparable cleverness and wisdom through the personal shit we go through that eventually makes us stronger. I believe in you, Spector.”

I smiled. My heart replenished with joy and contentment. “Thank you so much sir. I promise to pick up my socks.”

He nodded with a smirk. “Now that’s my boy.”

I giggled a bit, feeling overwhelming joy. I stood up from my desk as more students were getting in for the next period.

“Mr Word…when you become principal…”

“That’s not confirmed a…”

“WHEN you become school principal…” I smirked at him. “Please make sure that none of the things we were fighting about happen again.”

“Over my dead body.” He laughed. “Oh and Adrian…”

I turned at the door with a smile. “Yes, sir?”

“Visit Dr. Wells. I’m sure he’d be more than willing to help.”

I frowned again. Not because I felt as if he just ‘ruined the moment’. But I just thought of how distrusting I had become ever since the Dr Langford incident. Of course, the people who suggested to protect my secret in exchange that I go for therapy had no say after the man practically forced himself on me. But then I remembered that I wasn’t going to therapy for them, but for myself.

I walked to the student lounge. After the walkout, there haven’t been substitute teachers yet so some periods, we would have no teachers. No one actually goes there besides a lot of conspiracy theorists who regularly discuss issues in the registrar or the latest articles which mostly have been about the town’s most famous killer, The Ghoul, who has been roaming around town kidnapping mid-age females and other weird specifics. If not The Ghoul, it would either be about Mr Thompson (then Mrs Ravens) being fired and the grand walk-out that happened on the day of protest or the ongoing racism in Belvyn and other parts of the province such as Alicedale and Bellington.

“I think he did it, Plumegg. I think he tried to kill me.”

I heard Craig’s voice while standing behind the door frame. I peeped and noticed that the lounge was empty, with only Craig and Plumegg having a discreet conversation. “That’s absurd man. You said you guys dated! He loves you.”

“I saw him throw the mirror piece at me!” Craig yelled.

My heart skipped a beat!

“You WHAT?!” Plumegg yelled. “Both of you were tripping on Acid, are you sure you saw what you saw?”

“I’m not, Plumegg. But I need to find out. And if it’s true, then why?”

“You were naked in the toilets with another man while he was high on Acid! Not even you have your facts straight, Craig. And Adrian had already told you he didn’t do it.”

Craig’s eyes widened. “And you believed him?”

“I believe that the kid has been through a lot. And what will you do if he actually did it? Turn him in? What makes you think he won’t spill the beans about you being in possession of five dead bodies and your mysterious discovery in New Heights?”

My eyes widened. Really, what was he doing in New Heights the night I attempted suicide at the bridge? Of course I didn’t believe his excuse of ‘visiting his dad’.

“I just want him to be honest, Plumegg. Most parts of my body aren’t working and he isn’t even owning up to it.” Craig’s fists clenched.

“I think with Mia’s disappearance and Sophia’s death, it’s not the most convenient time to confront him about it, you know?”

“Are you saying I should sympathize with him?”

“Not really. I’m just saying…don’t do anything he would do.” Plumegg shrugged. “I mean, what if all you saw was just a trip? What if, on the contrary, you were the one who knocked him out before you knocked yourself out?”


“I know it’s absurd. But so is your theory. Get your facts straight first, Craig. Abel was there with you right?”

“Yeah?” Craig sighed.

“I think it’d be best if you start talking to him.”

“I have. He only knows the same lies I do.”

“THEN GET THE TRUTH!” Plumegg yelled.

It was recess. The weather was now colder than it was in the morning. It insinuated rain and cold over the upcoming weekend. I sat alone, occupying a seat for Abel as he texted in request.

And what about Abel? How was he suddenly involved, suddenly everyone’s friends and suddenly omnipresent? It was annoying. However, there were traits about him that made him likeable. Such as a harmless appearance. Females have tried to draw themselves to him, males too. But he’d seem more or less disinterested. I’d assume he was asexual, like William. Maybe he was one of those demisexuals who needed emotional attachment to sexually or romantically engage with anyone.

And I don’t mean to boast, but the one person he seemed to be spending most of his time with in school, texting or any expansive social conversation would be no one else but…

“Adrian.” He, Abel, sat down with me.

He saw the frown on my face. “Abel. We have a problem.”

His eyebrow furrowed. “What is it?”

“Craig knows.”

“Knows what?” He asked as he obliviously dug through his bag-pack for his lunch box.

“About what happened that night.” I whispered.

He didn’t seem bothered at all. “He does?”

“I heard him and Plumegg talking about how he remembers what happened during his trip.”

“Okay. Repeat the last part. Start from ‘during’.”

My eyes rolled. “During his trip.”

“Exactly. I was the only sober one in that room. You just keep acting dumb and pretty, I’ll deal with this.”

“How? How will you deal with this?”

He looked at me and smiled. He held my right hand. “You don’t know me that well, Spector. I will do anything to keep my loved ones safe.”

“I’m your loved one?” I snorted.

“Absolutely.” He caressed my hand.

I actually believed him. As I’ve said before, as much as he had this superficial sweetness everyone else could see, he also had a dark, unappealing side that no one really knew or paid attention to. It intrigued me.

“Have you seen Jeremiah today?” I looked around the cafeteria.

“No. I don’t think he came. Why?”

“I’m worried about him. He’s buying mescaline from Mike.”

“MIKE SELLS TO KIDS NOW!?” He whisper-yelled.

“Apparently.” My eyes rolled.

The school alarm rang, startling the entire school. Everyone shared looks.

“What the fuck is going on?” Abel whispered.

The guards trooped out of the cafeteria and I could feel my anxiety peaking.

William had an anxiety attack. One that seemed too visible. “I’m going to help out. I think it’s just one of the drills again. And don’t be quarantined with anyone you don’t trust! Trust me.”

I nodded. He left to William while I just froze in place.

Students, code red! I repeat…code red! Hibernate in your respective places, make sure that all the entrances and closed and blocked with heavy material…” Mr Word’s voice at the telecom echoed.

Every kid began panicking even more when they heard CODE RED. Usually, that meant that there was an actual terrorist in the premises.

I got so lost, but continued running behind the panicky crowd. Immediately, I ran into the empty science lab and locked. Instantly, I pushed every heavy material in the room towards the door.

“Who’s there?” Someone asked in the room.

A gasp escaped my mouth as I turned.

“Don’t scream! It’s me. Cole!” He lifted up his hands urgently.

Once my head acclimatized to the fact that I was stuck with Cole in the room, I immediately felt rage. “Oh no no no! I can’t be in the same room as you.” I yelled.

“Adrian, this is no time for our differences. If you open up that door, you will surely die!”

“I can’t be stuck with you here!”

“C’mon Adrian. Stop being childish. You’re going to die!”

I paused and thereafter sighed, punching the air.

“Now c’mon.” He pulled me as he crouched, and we instantly hid behind and beneath a desk distant from the door.

“Cole, we’re going to die!”

And that’s when I noticed that I was having an anxiety attack again.

“No no! We’re not going to die, Adrian. It’s just a drill, believe me.” His voice started panicking like mine.

“And how do you fucking know that!? You just said I’m going to fucking die!”

“Because we are safe. I haven’t even heard one gun shot.”

“What if he’s stabbing them?” I sobbed silently.

I looked at my trembling hands and proceeded to look at my nails. My arms began itching again.

“What are you doing, Adrian?”

“Shut up!”

The feeling of my nails landing on my forearms was like a delirium. An ecstasy. A high! My nails dug deeper than before, almost to the tempting extent to rip my very own skin off. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop.

I wanted to scratch.

I wanted to feel the pain.

I wanted to rip every layer of tissue on my body.

Darkness took over my sight as I scratched even more. It was an out-of-body experience. At some point, it felt irrevocable. Like even if at some point I would want to stop, I couldn’t.

“Adrian…” A heard a distant voice in the dark.

Adrian…listen to me!

You’re hurting yourself.

Suddenly, I felt the high dropping.

What was happening?

Slowly, I regained sight and I couldn’t use my arms. When my mind adjusted to the environment, I noticed that Cole was cuffing me with his arms. “LET GO OF ME, IDIOT!” I yelled furiously.

“There’s no use fighting me, Adrian.”

Who was I kidding? Cole had the biggest muscle in the entire football team. It was useless to try and fight him. When I lost all power, my head dropped to his chest and wow…I sobbed.

After seeing that I wasn’t fighting him anymore, he released and held me into a hug. As much as I hated the likes of Cole, I needed that. A lot.

Other than a killer being on the other side of the door, I was worried. Petrified. Petrified that unlike my friends who were accomplices, I will end up alone, cold and afraid where someone wouldn’t even know where I was.

“You’re okay.” He guaranteed.

“Have you called your parents? Tell them you’re okay?” Cole asked.

“I don’t want to worry them. This is probably just a drill, right?”

“I believe so too.”

We sat in silence. And after a while, a gunshot started, followed by many others. Cole had to cover my mouth because even I didn’t realize how much I was screaming behind his hand.

He had blanket-ed me with his body, shielding me.

When the gunshots stopped, I breathed again. Cole, on the other hand, was…crying?

“Hey…everything will be okay, you know that…right?” I looked into his eyes, hyperventilating.

“Nah man, it’s not that.” He shook his head while wiping his tears. “I’m thinking about how, in a blink of an eye, the people you love may be gone before you could actually tell them how you feel.”


“Adrian…if I die…please tell Beth that the girl she saw in the video…is not her. And the many videos of girls I’ve exposed giving credit to myself…that wasn’t me in the videos at all.”

My eyebrows furrowed. “What? You mean…you’ve never actually raped a school girl before?”

“No.” He shook his head in tears. “Someone had been threatening me, man.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m being used as an attraction gimmick to attract donations and press to the school

“By who?”

“I can’t say. But…the deal is to act like an asshole as much as possible so that the school gets attention and money. You’re being used as one too.”

“What?” I sighed anxiously. “Cole, maybe I can help you.”

“No one can, Adrian…I understand you may relate, but…”

“To what, Cole?”

“Mrs Jolie…touched me…sexually.”

My eyes blasted open. “Ar…are you okay? Am I the first person to know?”

“And you better keep it that way, Spector!” After yelling while trying to whisper, his voice broke into a weep.

I didn’t know how. Cole was such a big man. I didn’t know how to empathize with him, uncertain that he might punch me if I ever touch him. He smiled at me, sure, but I didn’t know what boundaries he had.

So, awkwardly, my hand touched his neck. He didn’t respond violently.

Okay, good.

Why did this feel seductive? I genuinely just wanted to hug him.

He looked at me once. It was as if he read what I was trying to do, and not what any other man would have thought, and pulled me into a hug. I was sort of kneeling towards him, so it was an awkward posture of my chest arching down to his while he was in front of me, sitting down.

“It’s okay. It’s okay, man.” I caressed his back, while tears fell down my face too.

He broke down, but difficultly because the shooter, if he was ever present, was on the other side of the door. “Will I go to prison if she ever…rats me out?”

I let go of him and held his face. “No! Of course not. If anyone was in trouble, it’d be her. You are not at fault for what she did to you. You are 17, a student. Her career would be destroyed if you said anything. From where she is now, which is in prison, her career is already destroyed.”

“I would never do such a thing, Adrian…raping other students. I saw what that did to Sandra, to you…I would never do such a thing!”

“Do you want to report her? To the cops?”

“Pfft! No. Her career is ruined anyway. If I’d ever come out as a victim, the world would never believe me only because they’re so used to me being an asshole.”

“I mean…no offense but…your asshole job is doing very well. Because now I can tell who you are compared to who you try to pretend to be. I mean I didn’t even know you’re compassionate…and actually caring for other human beings.” I pacified.

He…blushed? “I guess I’m still human after all that assholing.

“This is getting weird and gross.”

We cackled. Wonder how was I laughing with a person I distrusted the most while the shooter was on the other side of the door.

“Attention students. The premises are safe. You can come out of your hiding places. The shooter has been arrested.”

“It was real!?” Cole and I sang together, looking into each other’s eyes with shared dread.

In an instant, both of us unpacked the heavy material until we opened the door and sped through the crowd in the corridors to see who this shooter was. When we were finally outside, I saw the trauma on everyone’s faces as they tucked the shooter’s head in the police wagon. I could only hear murmurs, but people were more or less terrified than furious or any concrete reaction.

When I finally saw who the shooter was, the blood in my veins paused, for an abnormally long time.

“That’s impossible. He was found dead!” Cole exclaimed in sheer terror.

Craig, who was standing next to Cole in utter shock as well, stuttered in fear. “Niall is fucking alive!?!”


Craig and Cole looked at me, as if I had gone crazy or blind.

I looked at them, despondently, before replying…also in sheer terror.

“That’s not him.”

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