Speak & Listen 2

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ADRIAN'S BIRTHDAY

ADRIAN’S BIRTHDAY

That morning, I was struck by a gruesome memory. It almost felt like a dream, but it wasn’t. And I could decipher only because I had seen the difference between reality and fantasy…at least I still saw the thin line in between.

I woke up that morning thinking about Sophia. And wow, tears trickled down my face. I missed her irrevocably and it felt like it was just yesterday when she and I were playing with each other’s hair, aimlessly driving around town during midnight, smoking and laughing together like the two teenagers we were.

But she was gone.

And what hurt the most…is that we still didn’t know who killed her. I wondered, however, if she was indeed murdered. Apparently it was from the angle her wrist was cut that made Detective Lucy speculate, along with the mysterious text. To me, it would seem as if she was coerced to kill herself. But then again, why do it spectacularly in her swamp party?

Admittedly, it was unlike her to throw a party solely. In fact, I had thought a manipulative or perhaps vindictive mind such as Julie Anilkumar would be behind such. But then again, I would remind myself of how mentally incapable she is of orchestrating such a despicable event.

Speaking of events, last night I had received a call from Jeremiah.

Flashback:

I was at the dinner table when the phone rang. David gave me a look that reminded me that he hated devices during dinner time. Other than talking about uninteresting politics, that’s pretty much what David would rather do at the dining table instead. Usually, Alejandro would engage in conversation. This is only because he had been studying Political Sciences during his college years before being forced to drop out after financial instability to continue.

Gabriel, on the other hand, especially nowadays, would hang a cloud over his head. It was as if he was unavailable, but trying to be. I knew him. I knew his temperaments and his mannerisms. Silence wasn’t one of his traits.

I would feel guilty. I would instantly think I caused the drift between us. It was on that day, when I burnt a cigarette on his neck and pointed a gun at him. It was also the day Alejandro, without doubt, pointed a revolver at him in David’s study. Or maybe it was the day I found out that they were making a joke out of him by practically not allowing him to have freewill in the house.

And of course, Alejandro was David’s valet. He was accustomed to silence and obedience. Gabriel was treated like garbage under this roof…and they all made it a joke.

And of course, I didn’t believe David’s lie when he said that Gabriel had grown comfortable in thobes! The Gabriel I knew would have to die first before wearing anything that didn’t secure his legs such as tight jeans.

But, someone was calling me and I had to excuse myself from the awkwardness at the table.

I looked at the caller ID. It was probably urgent. He never calls. “Jeremiah?”

“Hey.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“You never call this late.”

“Well…” He laughed. “I’ve never had an idea come up to me this late.”

“Okay…what idea?”

“Throwing you a recipient party!”

My eyes narrowed. I was confused. “A recipient party?”

“Yeah. For your birthday, man.”

I sighed. God, have I lost track of time that bad? To the extent that I almost forgot I was turning seventeen the following day? “Oh. A party?” I replied damply. So, to respond to your question…yes. I was a sixteen year old who owned a car and managed to enter in an adult club with no ID.

“Yeah. A recipient party. We ask the recipient of the letter to return it at the party. I think it’s a good idea.”

“I think it’s a terrible idea, Jeremiah!” I exclaimed. “People are still grieving. People are still afraid…”

“And that’s the whole point, Adrian. To make high school normal again. We’re juniors and we’re spending our lives in anguish and suspense.”

“A party doesn’t redeem that. A party won’t suddenly make our lives normal!”

He paused and sighed. I could also hear sniffs. “Adrian…I just want to say I’m sorry. These past few weeks have been crazy and scary. With you being a person of interest, the Langford trial to…everything that has happened this year…I’ve been feeling very detached. I’m scared. It’s as if someone is going to find out, you know?”

I sighed. “Yeah. I know.”

“So far you’ve had a heartwarming story. Sure, not everything was peaches and thyme, but you’ve had supportive friends and a protection system such as David. They haven’t had anything on us. In fact, now more than ever, we have the chance to actually live our lives.”

He was right. Sure, I didn’t assume that everything would be perfect after the release of those letters. But I’ve experienced security and dependence on my adamantly supportive friends. Even Mia went as far as supporting me after Niall’s death.

I nodded before responding. “Yeah, sure. Let’s have a party.”

“It’s going to be a costume party.”

I smacked my head. “Why?”

“Just to be extravagant. I’m assuming Abel will be your date?”

“Probably.”

“You guys are…dating?”

“We’re…getting to that.” I felt awkward constantly confirming my personal life.

“Sure. I mean he’s been really there for you. I think you guys are…good for each other.”

“Yeah?”

“Absolutely. I wouldn’t do what he does. It takes a man like him.”

My eyes narrowed. “Yeeeah…sure.”

“Okay. So the party is starting late tomorrow. My crib.”

“Your parents…”

“Will be out of town.”

I nodded. “Sure.”

“So…talk tomorrow?”

“Yeah. And Jeremiah?”

“Yes?”

I closed my eyes before sighing again. “You will be okay. I can promise you that.”

He became silent for a short while. His voice then wobbled. “Yeah. Thanks a lot, man.”

Present:

A knock came from the door. For some reason, I fixed my hair before answering. “Yes?”

David walked in with a smile and a very large wrapped box in his hands. “Morning, son.”

“Dad.” I smiled.

“Happy birthday.” He grinned, now sitting on my bed.

I nodded. I honestly hated my birthday being acknowledged. “Is that mine?”

He nodded. “You hate presents, I know. But…that’s kinda like the point?”

My eyebrows furrowed. “What is it?”

“Open it.” He caressed my shoulder.

He gave me the large box. It had weight. I quickly unwrapped it and opened. I looked at him after realizing what he had bought me. “A…typewriter?”

He nodded. “Uh huh.”

“Uhm…thank you, I guess?”

“That way, instead of speeding to Nahoo when you’re upset…you can write about it. It was your mother’s. She used it during her postnatal depression to write me letters and also when she wanted me to come over.” He bit his lip, making a sexual innuendo.

“Really?” My eyes rolled.

“My point is…you can use it. Do y’all kids even write letters these days?”

“Well I wrote a bunch of letters to my crushes so…yes.”

He withheld his laugh. The subject of the matter was still hilarious to him than serious. “And this one…is from Sebastian.”

He gave me a landscaped frame wrapped neatly with a ribbon. I unwrapped it, having a portrait anticipated in my head…and he didn’t disappoint.

“A portrait? Wow!”

It was a portrait of an ordinary male figure with a face-veiling mask. The character looked like a psychological killer with bleeding knuckles, a knife in his right hand dripping with blood. It encompassed a theme of terror, which I admired.

“I love it.” I stood up and put it in my walk-in closet. It would terrify me if I had to see it on my wall every day.

“So…I guess the portrait meant a lot to you, huh?” He sounded…jealous.

“I mean…the letters withhold more of a negative memory…”

He withheld his laugh. The entertaining part to him was how I ‘idiotically’ didn’t notice the key to the chest was missing. “Sure. Was Abel one of the recipients?”

I shook my head. “He’s a transfer student.”

“And you chose him over Craig? Alejandro?”

My eyes narrowed. “I guess I did. Alejandro probably doesn’t see me that way.”

“What if he does?”

“I’m…potentially dating someone right now so…I probably wouldn’t do anything about it. I mean he’s wonderful, but I don’t think us dating under your roof is in any way appropriate.”

“I’d rather let you date him than some kid I don’t know.”

“And…there it is.” My eyes rolled.

“I’m sorry, son. I don’t trust him.”

“Well you’re gonna have to learn, dad…”

He looked at me. He could tell the topic was upsetting me. “Sure, son.”

“...I told him everything.” Words slipped out of my mouth.

“I know.”

My heart slowed. My hands, again, began trembling. “How?” I whispered.

“You forgot to put the veil on the furnace again. And I could just tell from the amount of time you’ve been spending together. Including the time he went up to your room at night through the window.”

I paused, now looking at him with widened eyes. My heart started racing again, causing what was similarly a panic attack.

“Son, it’s not a big deal.” He was also starting to panic.

“Dad…Abel only visited once.”

His eyes widened as well. “WHAT!?”

“How long have you been seeing him?”

“He visited just yesterday. I saw his face. His bicycle was parked outside.”

I jumped out of my bed and began pacing. “No, it can’t be him.”

“Alejandro has seen him a couple of times too. He also thought you didn’t feel comfortable with bringing him in because, well, you’re not comfortable about a lot of things.”

“Like what?” I gave him a gawked look.

“Well you never really bring your friends over, even for random stuff you used to do with Sophia such as sleepovers…”

“Craig slept over.”

“Alejandro said he slept on the floor, Adrian. You’ve never introduced me to your friends until I accidentally bump into them. You don’t go to amusement parks because you think they’re ‘suspicious’. You’re not even comfortable in your own room.”

I looked around my room. Wow, he was right. I thought the wall painting was too colourful. I thought the space was too big. I had a fear of public places and being abducted. But I didn’t want to be that person. Daniel would have wanted me to try sky-diving and skinny dipping in Alex. He would have wanted me to have fun in Lake Mouth, house parties and playing silly games.

But, as Jeremiah said, I was living cautiously. And Daniel had said that was a painful way to live. He was right. I didn’t want to worry about Mia’s disappearance or Sebastian’s death for a second, at least.

“I’m working on that, Dad. But Abel is the most of my concerns right now. What was he doing here?”

“Maybe you should ask him?”

“What if he was stalking me?”

“He probably has a good explanation.”

My eyes narrowed. “Are you just trying to be nice?”

“Yes.” He laughed.

I laughed a bit as well before releasing the hundredth sigh. “Okay. I’ll talk to him.”

“So…what are you doing for your birthday?”

“A recipient party.” My eyes rolled

“You…think it’s a good idea?”

“I don’t. But…that’s kind of the point.” Not living my life in caution.

“A recipient party?” Abel read the poster with a furrowed eyebrow.

“It’s kind of dumb, I have to say. But…I think I’m doing it for Jeremiah’s sake. It’s not been easy for him and…I just want to do something for him that counts.”

“On your birthday? Isn’t it the other way around?” He smiled as he held my hand.

“Yes, normally. But…I don’t know what that is anymore.”

“I can teach you.” He shrugged.

I scoffed with a smile. “Well…do you want to go?”

He looked around the student lounge, where we were situated, and looked back at me. I suppose he was thinking of doing something spectacular, as usual. “It’s a costume party, right?”

“Oh my word, what are you thinking?” I recoiled.

“You’ll be Carrie White and I’ll be Tommy Ross.”

My eyes widened. “Uh…can’t we go for something that doesn’t include feminine costumes? Like Victor and Benji?”

“Two men in awkward tuxedos? Uh…definitely not.”

“Then why don’t you be Carrie White?”

He gave me a smile before biting his lip. He came closer as he put one hand on my thigh and the other on my face.

My face boiled. Was I…flustered?

He dominantly kissed me. That was probably our first public kiss. To all those who were speculating, everything had been just confirmed for them. After that blazing kiss, he softly merged our noses together with his eyes closed. “You be Carrie White, I’ll be Tommy Ross.” He whispered.

“Okay.” I whispered back. Well I guess the dominant kiss answered my question.

Damn, he smells so good too!

“Adrian…”

“Yes?”

The world blurred for a while. I felt warmth I had not felt for a long while. I felt the warmth of his hand against mine and it was like sitting next to a bonfire in winter. Alone with him in the woods at night, lost in our wild imagination. Him giving me that look he never gave anybody else. One that dedicated itself to making me, and only me, happy.

“I love you, Adrian Spector. So much!”

But then again, I remembered that he was creeping in my room at night in my sleep. “Abel?”

“Yeah?”

“Dad found out that you’ve been sneaking in and out of my room in my sleep.”

He sighed and backed away while pushing back his hair. “I can explain that.”

“I believe you can.” I whispered while putting both my feet on the couch.

“I know this sounds insane but…I have this vision that pops up in my head every now and then. The same vision I had when I saw you again at Clever Cats.”

“What was that vision?”

“That someone…was going to take you away. Adrian…I’m afraid you may disappear. Like something bad is going to happen to you but…you assure me everyday that you’re fine by just being alive the next day. I…”

David did say that he would have a reasonable explanation. Except…that wasn’t reasonable at all. He was avoidant in personality and didn’t have romantic tendencies at all. In fact, he always insisted we meet in public areas probably to not allow intimacy. I’ve never even seen his house.

“I understand. But…you don’t have to stalk me. You can always come by and notify me.” I looked in his eyes. He was embarrassed.

“I know. I just…I never learned how to ask for help when I need it. Especially intimacy. I just…try to be as avoidant as possible.”

“Yeah…I’ve noticed.” My eyes wandered.

“After the party…” He came closer again, now heavily breathing on my face. “Can we…hang out?”

“I’d like that. Where?”

“Your crib. I think I’ll finally introduce myself to Mr Spector as your…boyfriend.”

My eyes widened. To him, this was a big deal. “Are you sure?”

He nodded. “I’ve never been so sure about anything!”

He neared my lips to his again and we kissed. Before my eyes could completely close, Craig and Plumegg walked into the student lounge. Plumegg gave me an inattentive look before forgetting he ever saw me. But Craig stared in pain. I could see something leaving him. Tears were building in his eyes as he passed and we only locked eyes for a few seconds, but it felt like light years of just watching his soul die.

He looked down and proceeded to walk to Plumegg . I stopped kissing him.

“Are you okay?” He whispered before backing away again.

“Yeah.” I whispered.

His eyes wandered and he noticed Craig was in the room. He sighed and looked back at me again. “I understand it will take time to get over him.”

“I am over him.”

He scoffed with a smirk. He stood up and grabbed his school bag. “You’re so stubborn. I have to go to class. I’ll see you later.”

I pushed my untied hair back before nodding. He neared again to give me a forehead kiss. Blood on my face flushed to my feet. He walked out.

I smiled alone, thinking of how everything was all sunshine, but bound to end in tears. But I didn’t mind now. Now felt perfect.

Craig, out of nowhere, sat right where Abel was sitting and focused his attention on me. I looked at Plumegg, who was more than upset. “Adrian…”

“He looks upset.” I sang.

“Yeah but…it’s probably because I can’t…do this!”

“You can’t do what?”

“I can’t pretend to love him when I love you. Adrian…you can’t do this to people. You can’t come into people’s lives and leave when you feel confined.”

“I don’t feel confined, Craig.”

“You didn’t even give me a chance. Us, a chance! And that makes me mad, Adrian. We dated…”

“For a day!”

“It doesn’t erase the fact that I felt something for you. We felt something for each other.”

“I’m so sorry Craig. But I can’t just cut him out of my life. In fact, I tried. I tried to push him away and instead, it drew him close to me. Our world is made out of violence and secrets…but he makes me feel naked. And I like it.” I smiled alone.

“What about me, Adrian?” He whisper-yelled. I could see his vein across his head again. Which means I had to de-escalate the situation immediately. “What about what I want? I want to hold you, Adrian…”

“Well you can hold me.”

“You know very well that’s not what I mean.” He looked around, being aware that he was getting louder.

“Well I can’t give you what you want. Especially if it’s toxic for the both of us. Plumegg Evans is a good kid…”

“But he’s not you! He’s not fucking you!” He exclaimed. “I can’t live with this. Knowing you’re in the same school with me but can’t touch or at least talk to you!”

“Primarily because I belong to someone else, Craig.”

“HE DOESN’T LOVE YOU, ADRIAN!”

The students in the student lounge all directed their attention to us. Plumegg rushed to Craig, who was boiling in rage. I knew I could just touch his forehead, but importantly, I had to leave. “I have to go.” My eyes teared.

Plumegg neared to his ear while holding his trembling right hand. “Craig, I don’t think this is the best time to…”

“DON’T FUCKING TOUCH ME!” Craig roared, looking at him directly in the eye.

I understood the dread in Plumegg’s eyes. It was exactly the same reason I feared him. The violent rage.

I had the same look Plumegg had. Filled with fear. I instantly sprinted out of the student lounge.

“ADRIAN…WAIT!” His voice became more apologetic as he ran after me.

And as you would guess it, he caught up with me but this time, he didn’t just hold me, he dragged me to the nearby empty science class and closed the door behind him. Now I was terrified.

“YOU WANT THE FUCKING TRUTH, DON’T YOU?” He was fuming.

“Craig…I need you to calm down.”

“No no! I can’t be calm. I need to say this now!” He paced around the room.

I neared to him. “What truth?”

“He doesn’t love you, Adrian! He doesn’t love you because…”

“BECAUSE WHAT, CRAIG!?”

“HE’S HERE BECAUSE I FUCKING SENT HIM!!”

My eyes widened, looking at him. I was in complete awe and silence. What was he talking about? “What?”

“Abel is here, in Clever Cats, because of me. I wanted to find answers as to what happened that night at the Blue Sun. Detective Lucy suggested him. He’s not even from here…”

“...wh…no! No. That’s not true at all!”

“He is here in my favour, Adrian. You can ask him. I’m just tired of having to convince you that I still love you when he’s clearly just doing his job.”

What!?

How is this possible?

Or was Craig just a desperate man saying everything right to get me back?

But what reason did I have to not believe him. It was quite comprehensive to hear from the horse’s mouth that your boyfriend is potentially a spy. He knew Abel the longest, with whatever intentions he had with him in the restrooms that night of the Blue Sun incident.

“This means…we’re in deep shit, Craig.”

“What do you mean? You didn’t tell him anything about anyone, right?”

“No. Just about me.” I played with my hands.

“Dammit, Adrian!” His fists molded. “What? Do you suddenly become idiotic when you’re in love!? Do you know what this means!?”

“Yes, I do know. But we can fix it!”

“I want you to stay the fuck away from me, Adrian! Get out of my life!”

He stormed out of the room.

Attention students…” Mr Word checked on the telecom. “It is a tragedy to announce that former principal of Clever Cats High has passed away. She was shot dead in her cell last night and the station is currently under investigation to find any prints or evidence that can help identify the killer.”

“What?!” I screamed, alone in the halls.

“Oh, we are definitely canceling!” Jeremiah said on the phone. It was almost 8.

I had, after school, taken one of daddy’s finest whiskeys from the storage closet in his office. Initially I had intended to have a shot or two, until one became too tipsy.

“No, you’re not. I’m going to that party, Jeremiah.”

“How are you even going to drive there? You sound drunk. And after Mrs Jolie being pronounced death, I think it’s a bit insensitive.”

“We are not about to forget why we’re doing this party. Abel’s taking me. ”

“The same man who clearly has intentions of destroying you?”

“I don’t think he has…Craig was probably just saying that to win me back. And I don’t think he knows that we know.”

“And your father? Will he even allow you to go? Do you even have a costume? I think this is a bad idea. We can’t pretend as if we heard nothing. We need to take Craig’s words seriously!”

I heard a car screeching in the porch. Abel didn’t have a car. “I think I’ll call you back.”

“Wait…”

I dropped the call. I paced to the window pane and yes, he emerged out of the car with a Tommy Ross wig and the trademark tuxedo. He looked up and saw me looking at him. He took out his cell and called me while looking directly at me.

“Abel?” I whispered as I answered the call before the phone could even ring.

“Hey sugar. You’ ready? I figured you didn’t buy the dress so I bought it for you.”

“Yeah, no…thank you. I haven’t done any make up…only because I only live with males.”

He giggled. “Yeah, thought about that too. Elijah will be doing your make-up.”

“Okay. I have to sneak out. My dad thinks I’m sick so he wouldn’t allow me to go.”

“Well…are you?”

“Of course not.”

“I figured that’s why you left school so early today.”

“Yeah…can we talk once I’m out of the house?”

“Sure. See you in a minute.”

I ended the call. I wore a black hoodie with random jeans and sneakers. I felt like a deranged man as I opened the window. Just when I was about to put my leg out…

The door to my room opened. “You know we have a front door, right?”

I looked back. It was David. I felt like smacking him. “I know.”

I took my leg in again and sighed.

“I want you to go to that party. You kids have been going through the worst. I know it’s not right parenting to let my seventeen year old son go out to an alcoholic party but…”

“Of course. Of course there’s a condition.” I already knew this.

“Of course, Adrian. I’m a responsible parent. So…you’re back by 11 and you tell that boy to scoot over for Alejandro.”

My eyes widened. “Alejandro is coming with?”

“Uh huh. Or you could just, you know, not go? I still prioritize what makes you happy and healthy…which is being here. At home. With me.”

“So that we can talk about Politics?” I looked at him.

He cringed. “You’re right, Adrian. I can improve on that. We just need to spend some time together. Just me and you. And yeah, no politics.”

I sighed with a smile. “Yeah dad. I’d like that.”

“Okay. Now go. Your creepy boyfriend probably thinks I’m not letting you out.”

My eyes rolled. “...will you accompany me? He wants to meet you…officially.”

His eyes rolled as well as he groaned. “Sure.”

We walked down the stairs to the door while clutching on my father. When we got out, Abel was standing by the car with a slight smirk. He was more than beautiful, as usual, but wow I couldn’t stop ridiculing the wig.

“This is absurd.” I smacked my head.

“That’s the point, Spector.” He smiled widely before respectfully frowning again. He walked up to my father, who was holding my hand. “Mr Dave Spector…it’s an honour to meet you. I am Abel…your son’s…”

“Screw buddy?” David continued with a straight face.

“Dad. He’s my boyfriend!” I snarled at him.

“I know…I’m just messing with ya.” He laughed. “You know…kinda like how I’m going to mess up his face when he breaks your heart.” His face turned solemn again.

I looked at him. He could see the fury in my eyes. David was being purposely rude…and I didn’t like it. I knew how euphraxic my father can be.

But Abel was a ray of sunshine. He just smiled instead. “I can promise you that I won’t, Mr Spector.”

“I’m watching you.” He shot a hawkish look at him before looking back at me with a smile. “I love you. Enjoy yourself. And you know the condition…”

Alejandro walked out of the house and wow, I did not expect the outfit. He was wearing Gabriel’s tight jeans with a chest-revealing white shirt that drew out all his slightly muscular curves. His hair was tied into a tail and had diamond ear studs on either sides. He veiled his eyes with black shades…though it was past 8.

I had never seen him like that.

“Shall we go?” He took off his shades.

The hotness was real, I started panting. Literally.

“Sure.” Abel nudged me with his arm. I then saw the death stare from Abel, which I tried to ignore.

When I saw the content smile on David’s face, I realized what his plan was. I instantly snapped out of it and looked at Alejandro like I was someone’s boyfriend. Which I was. “You’re looking dapper, Alejandro.” I nodded with a smile.

“Why thank you. I can’t say I’m comfortable in this attire.”

“I’m sure you’re not.” My eyes rolled as I got into the limo.

The fucking unnecessary limo! Abel helped me inside. He followed and sat right next to me as David and Alejandro were still having a conversation.

“I’m so sorry about David. He can be a little overprotective at times.” I sighed.

He grinned. “Aren’t we all?”

Alejandro got in. The driver seemed more impatient by the minute. He sat opposite us. “This is a nice vehicle, I have to say.” Alejandro smiled.

“Thank you. I’m Abel.” He stuck out his hand.

“I believe we’ve met. Well, not technically. I recall seeing you sneak up to Adrian’s room in the middle of the night…in his sleep.”

Okay, Abel was fed up. I could tell, but of course he kept a smile. “And I think I recall seeing you at the Blue Sun? I think you went after Adrian…”

“Pleasure to meet you.” Alejandro wore a smile as well.

The problem here was: Alejandro was used to professionalism. He could wear a smile even on the worst day. Abel, on the other hand, was a maniac. He found laughter and joy in almost everything he saw. I could tell this was going to be one dramatic night.

After driving in silence, Alejandro started again. “I didn’t think you would allow your boyfriend to party after learning that he had tried to hurt himself.”

Abel’s eyebrows furrowed while looking at me. He instantly noticed my hands and looked back at Alejandro with a smile. “I also didn’t expect an adult to be accompanying him to a party.”

“Will you both just…shut up?” I spoke behind my teeth.

They both looked at each other with haunted expressions before obeying. A few minutes later, we arrived at what seemed to be Alan’s house.

I looked at Abel. “How do you…know Alan?”

“I don’t. I know Elijah.”

We got out of the limo. Abel said something to the driver before he drove off. I was now nervous. I wasn’t expecting to see Alan again. But that was the least of my concerns. What was Elijah doing at Alan’s apartment?

We all got inside and many memories flooded in my head. The days we did our indoor karaokes to Bleacher’s music, the nights we were intimate on the floor and of course, the terrible moments…the days I would barge in the house with tears.

I walked around the house absentmindedly, walking into each room. When I got into Alan’s room, Elijah was in the room…kissing Alan.

“Oh wow.” I looked down, disturbed.

They both screamed and held each other with widened eyes. “Shit, you scared me!” Alan whispered as he softly backed away from Elijah.

“Great. You decided to come with a hoodie.” Elijah’s eyes rolled.

“...You guys are…”

They looked at each other with disgusted expressions. “Ew! No.”

They both sang.

“O-kay? Will someone be doing my make-up?”

“That’d be me.” Elijah shoo-ed his ‘boyfriend’ away. Alejandro and Abel entered.

“Hello Elijah.” Alejandro greeted.

“Hi cutie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you dressed like this,”

“That’s because I’ve never been invited to a birthday party before.”

Invited? Pfft!

“Alright. Everyone get out…I need to do Adrian’s makeup.” Elijah shoo-ed with his hand.

The boys silently left the room, except Alan who had given me a look first before leaving as well. I sat down and faced the dressing table mirror. I literally reflected as I saw my reflection in the mirror as Elijah styled my hair, face, etc.

“I’m not dating him, if you’re wondering.” Elijah interrupted my thoughts.

I looked at him through the mirror. “I wasn’t wondering at all.”

“We just…started kissing since summer. I thought it was insensitive to make it public with Niall and everything going on now. I told him I can’t date him…”

“Why?”

“Because he’s in college. I’m a junior. I can’t start something with him I can’t finish. Besides…I don’t think he’s boyfriend material.”

“Believe me, he is.” I smiled.

“You think so?”

“I mean…he can be supportive when he feels like it. He has asshole tendencies but…if you ever choose to date him, it might be one of the best experiences you could ever have.”

He sighed, deep in rumination. “I’m so used to putting faces for people. We as homosexuals are always under this stereotype that we’re, like, supposed to be perfect entertainers. That we are carefree and we indulge in sex more than commitment. And Alan…he makes all that go away. He makes it okay to feel…not okay. Am I making sense?”

I smiled at him. “Yeah. You are.”

After the make up, I was drenched in fake crimson blood in Alan’s bathroom. When I did my first strut, after Elijah did a melodramatic announce of my approach, I received a round of applause and whistles from the boys.

Abel looked like the happiest man on Earth. “You look stunning, babe.”

I grinned. “Why thank you.”

He wrapped his arm around mine. Again, for a second, I forgot that we were playing Carrie. Alejandro had a sort-of-struck smile. “Jeremiah says that the house is getting packed.” Alan read through his phone

My eyes widened. “How many people have been invited?”

“That doesn’t matter darling.” Elijah giggled. “All that matters is you having fun.”

I nodded nervously. Everyone walked to their respective vehicles. My hands were trembling against Abel’s.

“Babe, are you okay?” Abel whispered as we walked down the driveway.

“Do you think most of my recipients showed up?”

“I mean…the house is packed. Yeah, I think so.” He shrugged and kissed my forehead. “You have nothing to worry about.”

“I think something bad is going to happen. Usually it does.”

“Well I wasn’t around then. Do you trust me?”

“Yes.” I said so looking into his eyes. I was so used to saying ‘yes’ after the question, but wondered every now and then if I believed it. Especially now.

“Then you have nothing to worry about.” His jaws clenched as he looked away.

He seemed anxious as well, maybe because of me. But he tried to smile, he was good at that after all.

The limo, which again had to wait for a few minutes for us to be done, drove in mild speed to Jeremiah’s apartment as Martin Solveig’s 2009 club tunes banged through the speakers.

The heels were killing me, by the way.

When we arrived, I could feel my anxiety peaking. Not only was the party a Project X 2.0, but the amount of cars and teenagers roaming around the yard was shocking. Did they even know it was my party?
Abel looked at me with a smile.

Alejandro was looking elsewhere. Everything else I was observing as well from the scene. When the partygroovers noticed the limo, screams escalated and cameras flashed everywhere I looked. Was I suddenly an overnight celebrity?

Mason and William, the only people I could recognize, were also outside the car waiting. The house was decorated with colourful Christmas lights. On the front face of the house, there was a blissful ‘17’ with every ornament in the town.

“You’ll be fine.” Abel caressed my shoulder.

That’s when I noticed that yes, I was two seconds away from exploding.

He exited the car, so did Alan, Alejandro and Elijah. The screams escalated even more. Abel opened the door for me and handed out his hand, which I took into mine before emerging from the car.

Now the screams were earsplitting. Abel held my hand firm, this is only because I couldn’t imagine myself taking another walk alone in those heels and a long dressed I could possibly trip on.

Abel insisted that we stand as the ‘paparazzi’ which was literally a bunch of kids from Clever Cats and some college jocks I’ve seen in school in the previous years, including Chris and Brandon who I was not in speaking terms with anymore. People who didn’t care about my existence. Such as…Cole?

We then walked inside as Jeremiah was leaning against the main door frame with a relaxed, flustered smile.

Mostly, I could tell he was laughing at my discomfort from the blond wig that was covering majority of my face constantly as I attempted removing it from my sight. My hand against Abel was so firm, I could have broken his hand.

“Royalties!” Jeremiah exulted with open arms.

“You really went all out. Thank you.” I smiled at him.

He melodramatically knelt before me and planted a kiss at the back of my palm.

Jeremiah stuck out his hand, which for some reason, Abel handed him my very own hand…like I was being given up for marriage.

But I took it, his hand, anyway.and he guided me inside. The house was all white with huge decorations and lighting. The lighting was club blue, reminding me, negatively, of the Blue Sun incident. But like Abel would do, I continued flashing a smile.

The lounge had been renovated into a palace. Abel, again, took my hand as we were guided to the royal chairs for king and king. The applause, screams and exultation never ended.

Jeremiah grabbed a mic. I also noticed the humungous speakers in each corner of the house. Jeremiah really wanted this to happen before his conscience kicked in. “Ladies, Gentlemen and Non-Binaries…welcome to Adrian Spector’s 17th birthday and recipient party.”

The applause began again. Jason, Mason, William and…Craig…were fangirling over me like pathetic teenagers who I just couldn’t stop laughing at.

“So each recipient has received their printed letters and we all know what this is about and…we have to admit…” He frowned as he released a sigh. “Adrian…it may have started all silly with just a matchmaking game Sophia and Benjamin started…rest in peace…but personally I cannot thank you enough for what you did. Sure, not everything worked to your favour, but I’ll always appreciate the concern, affection and attention you’ve always paid to whatever I did…whatever we did. And we’re all here to celebrate it, RIIIIGHT!?!” He yelled at the crowd.

The crowd responded with a wave of excitement as they applauded once more.

“So now…I’m going to sing you…a happy birthday song.”

He actually sang the Marilyn Monroe version, but instead of Mr President, he opted for ‘Mrs Spector’, which was the most comedic version I had ever heard. Regardless, he had the most magnetic voice following Mia.

Speaking of Mia, I had wished she were present.

After singing, the crowd applauded again. “Thank you. Now we’re going to return the letters…to the sender. We’re serving tissues as well because this shit is about to get heavy.”

The crowd laughed. I looked at Abel with a smile. He looked back at me with a wider smile, as he looked like the happiest man alive. By the way, Jeremiah offered us alcohol again. There seemingly weren’t any liqueurs in that party, so all I could have was vodka or some terrible punch, which I drank heavily.

Chris and Brandon started as they shared a mic.

“I remember we were at Crane Park for this school trip like…years ago. It was when everyone still thought Adrian was straight. Which was kind of dumb because you can see all the signs now…” Brandon said.

The crowd eased with laughter. “…he was asleep on Will’s shoulder but…the way Benjamin was looking at him…I definitely knew that I wanted someone who was going to look at me the same way. Like I am gold or a prize that only I deserve. I found him…” He smiled back at Chris. “I mean…y’all know the story but…I can never apologize enough for the senseless pain we’ve caused you. That everyone caused. And…I guess…happy birthday, man.”

Chris just stood there like an obedient wife, but I knew he would have shared similar words.

All I could say was Thank You and wave.

Jason came upfront. To be honest, I didn’t think he’d have something to say. In fact, everyone was surprised. Including Abel. “Yeah I know what y’all are thinking…but I think my pride is far smaller than what I have to say.”

The audience applauded sympathetically. “Adrian…we have been distant friends for years now. We never really had the chance to sit down and talk about each other like genuine friends, but regarding the letter I received, I was going through severe mental abuse from my parents. Parents who were afraid I was going to turn into them so they tried to make me anything else in the world but them. The letter was filled with so much intricacy and erotic shit…”

The crowd, for some reason, laughed. “…that my father kicked me out. I mean it hurt for a long while that my dad would kick me if I was indeed gay. And I can only imagine the rejection the Queer community has to go through just for being their authentic selves. I love you Adrian, you know that…”

I nodded with a smile.

“...which is why…” He walked into a box that was for the return of the letters and put his inside, just like Chris and Brandon, and…unbuttoned his shirt.

The crowd screamed, but I was still lost. But not until “Pony” by Ginuwine banged on the speakers, now with nothing but his underwear on. The screams escalated again as Jason delivered the most arousing, erotic performance I’ve ever seen. I mean, even to the point where I was being humped on my chair.

And I couldn’t deny, his physique suited his performance. Abel couldn’t stop laughing next to me, who was also receiving the show of his life. The performance lasted for a couple of minutes filled with entertainment, earsplitting shrieks from horny teenagers and a confident, out of this world personality I had never seen on him before. And an insane waist flexibility I had never witnessed in my life.

“GIVE IT UP FOR JASOOON!” Jeremiah yelled.

The audience applauded once more.

“We’re going to have one more speaker then we can all come forward to place our letters in the box. Shout out to Ben, Cain, Sam and Benjamin…”

I noticed a look from Abel. One that looked pained.

“...may these honourable men rest in peace. And last, but certainly not least…we have a guest who received his letter the latest…”

Of course. After a strip tease performance, I could only expect Craig to come up with something as well. I looked at Abel, who was not at all laughing.

“...Cole.”

My eyes widened. Abel shared the same haunted look as well. The crowd, regardless, was not cheering at Cole’s presence and how good of a person he was, but because he was a beautiful jock who was a magnet to everybody’s eyes.

Cole looked terrified. And I could tell because I’ve seen him terrified. The crowd, on the other hand, confused his terror for a seductive smolder.

“Dear Cole

You do well, even if no one knows so. I certainly do. I remember we were stuck together during the school shooting…you had a tranquilizing way of keeping me calm when I started harming myself. I just wished people saw you the way I do, thought of you the way I do…” Cole paused, showing obvious discomfort. “I just want to say, there’s no one I would have rather been stuck with but you. And continue to do good, as I know you always try to. Love…Adrian.”

The crowd applauded.

Abel looked at me, quite exasperated. “You wrote him a letter? Heck! You were stuck with him!?” He whispered.

“Yes I was stuck with him but Abel…I didn’t write that letter to him, I swear.” My eyes were widened at him.

Alejandro came to us while the crowd continued cheering. “What is wrong?”

“What’s wrong is you stooping so low to writing a letter to Cole only to make Abel jealous!” I whisper-yelled.

Jeremiah could see the feud escalating. “So as we return the letters, how about some THROWBACK 50 CENT bops, huh!?”

The crowd responded cheerfully. People were officially distracted from the drama. The music began playing as Abel evidently stormed out of the room.

“Adrian…I swear I did not participate in writing any letter.” Alejandro looked into my eyes.

“I believe you, Alejandro. I can only think of one person who would do this. A desperate man.” My jaws clenched.

“Let’s go upstairs for a quick breather.” Alejandro stuck out his hand.

I took it as I left the lounge. Climbing the stairs was like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. My feet were killing me and the heavy dress didn’t ease things for me either. We ended up in Jeremiah’s room

I sat on his bed and tried to calm myself. “I think it’s Craig or Plumegg.”

“Who is Plumegg?” He asked as he closed the door.

“Craig’s new boyfriend, I assume. The same boy who was the only boy allowed to visit Craig when he was hospitalized and the same boy who helped him search for evidence at the Blue Sun after the incident. It’s either him or Craig. He said he was over this, ready to move on, but seemingly he kept a grudge.”

It felt as if Alejandro was ignoring me while he was on his phone, only to find out he was dialing a number. “Jason…yeah…you got them? Bring them upstairs to your room immediately…is Plumbread there? Bring him too!” He dropped the call.

“Alejandro, what’s going on?”

“I have this feeling that someone may be watching us as we speak. And I am convinced that the people responsible for this childish prank is none other than Craig. We may need to leave.”

Jason barged in with Craig, Plumegg and Cole. Mason, Alan, Will and Abel entered as well before the door was shut. Cole and I shared a look.

I stood up and walked towards him. “Cole…where did you get that letter?”

“Same as everybody. Via e-mail.” Cole replied with widened eyes. “But…”

He took out his cell. Right after, he showed me a text “Read this letter at the party

“Clearly this is an ingenious prank.” Alejandro said as he read the text.

“And they seem…automated.” Abel’s eyes narrowed at the text.

I gawked at Craig and Plumegg. “And I can’t think of anyone who would stoop this low at the moment other than…these two.”

“Wait…is that why we’re called up here? To blame me for shit y’all are not even certain about?” Plumegg yelled.

“Ah! I’m assuming you are Plumbread.” Alejandro stood up from the bed with a smile.

Plumegg! And aren’t you too old to be in a teenage party?” Plumegg scoffed.

Alejandro did this weird, unresponsive reaction and instead, he stuck out his hand to him. “Well…my name is Alejandro. I’m very pleased to meet you.”

Plumegg’s eyebrow furrowed. But because Plumegg didn’t want to fight, only because he knew very well who Alejandro was, he looked at Alejandro’s hand before allowing himself to shake it.

When he did, Alejandro locked his hand around his and violently squeezed it. Plumegg began screaming, but Alejandro kept a sick, maniacal smile. “The fact that you saw me unfitting to this setting clearly proves that I am not your emblematic teenage boy to play immature games with.”

“Dude…FUCK! I DIDN’T WRITE THAT LETTER! DAMN…LET ME GO.”

“Oh, I know you did not. But this is an amicable admonitory to keep your distance from Adrian from this instant. I do not want to see you in his presence because if I do, Plumbread…oh if I do…”

“Alejandro, stop it!”

Alejandro released his grip, followed by Plumegg’s bewail.

“Wait…” Craig interrupted.

He instantly looked at me. The rest of the eyes around the room turned to me as well. “…what if it was you, Abel!?” Craig’s eyes then looked at him.

Craig neared to him, then held his shirt violently. “It could only be you, boyfriend thief!”

“CRAIG!” I screamed.

“I’m telling you, it’s him! Detective Lucy hired him so we could work together to find the person who attacked me at the Blue Sun. He just got closer and closer to you until he fed me lies. This is probably what he would do to spook us.”

“That, at all, doesn’t make sense.” Alan’s eyebrows dropped. “Why scare Adrian if he pretended to love him?”

“To see how he is when he breaks!” Craig shrugged. “I don’t know, I think he’s responsible for the prank. I say we check his phone this instant!”

I walked to Abel. “Abel…is he telling the truth?”

He looked at me, disgusted. “Of course not! He found me on the internet because he wanted drugs. I wasn’t even a dealer. Just some dude he wanted to fuck and get high with.”

“And when were you thinking of telling me this, Abel!?” My teeth gritted.

“I wasn’t going to.” He took out his phone and gave it to Alejandro.

“Guys! We need to find a way to work together honestly so as to catch this person.” William interjected. “…and Abel…you were an internet sex worker?”

Abel grimaced. “I preferred the term ‘internet worker’. I don’t have either parents, so I do whatever job I find online. I did sex work too, yes. But not a spy for a fucking cop!”

Another mystery…Abel had no parents and was underage to be living alone. But then again, Abel hadn’t even invited me to his house. And he was an underage sex worker!?

“I say we confirm this with Detective Lucy then.” Craig smirked at him.

“Sure. But to remind you, Jeremiah will be questioned about an underage drinking party. I may be questioned about having sex with older men illegally from the internet. And if you think taking these texts to the cops is a good idea to protect Adrian, go ahead.” He shrugged. “Just so you know, I did whatever I did in favour of Adrian’s protection!”

“So it is fucking true!” My voice wobbled, looking at him.

I stood up furiously. Alan ran to me. “Hey, hey! Can we sort this out later? We have a mysterious texter and it’s obviously none of us in this room!”

“Fuck this! I’m not about to fall for this. Craig was at Sophia’s party as he is here now. He could have automated a text then and now. I don’t know, maybe this is a hilarious prank between the two of them in order to find answers to what happened at the Blue Sun. Well Abel…you know everything. You might as well tell the world!” My teeth gritted.

Abel shot up and ran to me. “Woah woah! I may have not told you about a lot of things, lied about a lot of things, but I would never find humour in tormenting you! That’s why I stopped working for them. It’s because I got a chance to be at school and got the chance to meet someone I now call my boyfriend.”

“Wait…none of this matters, guys. And I think that’s what this bastard is doing. Trying to diverge attention away from him!” Jason added.

My phone beeped. Eyes turned to me as I took out my phone, opening the text.

Now you’re starting to get the idea.” Said the anonymous text.

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