“Also an important reminder…there will be active shooter’s drills practised randomly as announced yesterday in the news by the mayor. There will also be classes for mental health, emergencies, etc. We will not inform you when this program will start, but this is to keep you aware. The school has lost so many along the way, tensions have been high against students during these times and it is only fair to introduce this practice to keep us all safe and protected.” Mrs Jolie, at the school hall, spoke to the mic.
The school’s climate had changed as well. It had been three days since I had seen Dr Langford and six since I skipped school. The school was fixed with a troop of soldiers holding large guns everywhere you turned. The climate was so cold that no one even dared to raise their voice in concern of anything. Even I was afraid.
It was in the morning when Mrs Jolie made this announcement. She continued: “And I’d like to welcome Craig Fernandez back to the school. The Blue Sun club has been closed ever since the attack and the perpetrator is still nowhere to be found.
It has been rough and difficult to the staff and mostly the students of this school. Unacceptable cultures of rape and bulism had continued to perpetuate in the school with heavy use of drugs which still remain prohibited. Times have changed. No kid should experience what you all have experienced so far in this school…”
“Can I sit next to you?”
I looked next to me. And yes. Of course it was Abel. “Sure.”
“I still think this school has faced way worse than what Bellington is known for.” Abel whispered.
“I disagree. I spend some of my childhood there. It’s not the most polite place to be.” I added.
“I mean…the place is still the same but the school isn’t so bad as people think it is. It’s easy to think Bellington is a hood, gloomy place but their education system isn’t all bad. I’m telling you.” He shrugged.
“Yup.” I tried to end the conversation there.
“Craig’s back…you should try talking to him.” He smiled.
I looked at him. “And why would I do that?”
“As I’ve said…I think he’ll listen.”
“I am not doing such a thing. I think I should stay out of his way until…”
“Until he gets brainwashed by everyone and their theories about what happened that night? Do you really want that?”
I sighed. “Why are you helping out with this? Why aren’t you even mad?”
“Mad about what?” His eyebrow furrowed.
“Everything. The fact that you know…I am a person of interest in his case and you should be fucking happy about that.”
“You’re not making any sense right now. I thought we spoke this out and how I don’t care about all that.”
I looked at him. This kid was really beginning to annoy me. “Whatever.”
The hall meeting was over and because I had to avoid any contact with Craig, I had to rush out first to get my books from my locker. First period…
I turned and it was William. “Hey…William.”
“We have Math together.” He stuck out his hand with a smile.
I took his hand after taking my equipment and locking my locker. “Do you think he’s mad?”
“I don’t think so. None of us have actually spoken to him and I think it’s becoming obvious that we’re avoiding him.”
“He must be.” My voice saddened.
“Enough about that. How was your first session with Dr Langford?”
“Not bad. I’ve just been so busy with projects that it has been the last thing on my mind.” I fabricated that lie.
“Adrian you need to take it seriously.”
“It has only been one session, relax. At some point, I’ll get used to it.” I smiled to assure.
He smiled too, believing me. We sat together as the class amalgamated in. Craig sat at the far row. He had this beanie over his head that covered his entire forehead. He looked genuinely happy, as he was talking to Jeremiah and Jason. Everyone, including the jocks, were ‘exulting’ his return, as if he had just returned from war.
And just as expected, that Judas sat next to Craig and they were seemingly good friends. They even hugged.
“Abel and Craig know each other? I thought he was just a dealer.” William whispered.
“Apparently. This is going to be a long day.” My eyes rolled.
After a couple of periods, it was recess. Mia had offered to sit with me at the cafeteria, but because our last class were separate, I had to wait for her.
“He doesn’t remember anything from that day.” Jeremiah whispered from behind me and took a seat.
“He said that the only thing he can remember is anything before that day.” He looked at me. “He doesn’t remember who did it.”
“I should be happy. I’m not.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t be…just yet. Maybe the acid erased his memory, I’d like to assume.” He shrugged.
“Yep.” It wasn’t that at all that made me unhappy.
Mia joined in. “Hey.” She kissed both our cheeks before sitting down.
“You seem to be in a fantastic mood.” Jeremiah smiled.
“Why aren’t you two? I was asked out by Ryan to the dance.”
“And you’re happy because it’s Ryan?” Because that’d be disgusting.
“Ryan isn’t that bad and isn’t like the others. And no, I’m happy because I won’t be pathetic dancing alone.” She laughed.
“You’re going to the dance too?” I asked Jeremiah.
“Yeah. With Brittany.”
Mia and I widened our eyes. I personally was disgusted. “Gross. Why?”
“Okay…I know this is bad but, the girl has had an obsession since fifth grade. She begged me to be her date and I couldn’t say no.” He cringed.
Mia and I burst into laughter. “Brittany? The gossip girl? Good choice.” Mia laughed even harder.
“I don’t know why you are laughing, Adrian. Who are you going to the dance with?” Jeremiah laughed.
As much as that wasn’t meant to be taken seriously as it was just a joke…that stung.
Craig, out of nowhere, joined us. My hips trembled in excess fear. He didn’t look so happy.
“Craig!” I tried to act excited.
“Hey buddy. Jeremiah and Mia…can I just have a second with him?” He smiled a bit.
Jeremiah and Mia were sweating. “Sure.”
They instantly left. I failed to look into his eyes. Why now? Why at the cafeteria? “I don’t know why y’all are avoiding me, but I don’t like it man. Is it because I came out of the hospital?”
“Did you just say ‘Hey buddy’?” My voice cracked. That was why I wasn’t happy about his loss of memory.
“Yeah. I mean…we’re still cool, right?” His eyes glowed at me.
“Yes. I just…I mean you don’t remember anything from that day?” My eyes wetted
“Jesus, Adrian! Why are you crying?”
“BECAUSE YOU’RE HIS BOYFRIEND, MAN!” Abel sat down with us, his entrance startling me.
Why was I getting so much attention that day?
Craig’s eyes widened at me. “You are?”
I sighed. “Yeah we…kissed and agreed on dating the day before the incident happened.”
“Oh. Well I was kinda hoping you’ve give me more answers, man. Like they said they found us both on the floor, but they still think you…attacked me. Abel, I believe you were there too.”
“Nah man, I just gave you some juice and left. But apparently some bozo came in the restrooms, y’all were probably tripping and kissing and whoever they are knocked the two of you out.” Abel took a bite off his lunch. His explanation was so laid-back.
“But why?” He looked at Abel.
“Uhm…duh. Gay people are one of the most marginalized groups ever. It was probably some homophobic phony. I suggest you focus on your healing, man.”
“Adrian…is this true?” Craig looked at me with furrowed eyebrows. He really just wanted the truth.
And I was at a stand where I was about to tell a lie so as to put all this in bed or tell the truth and risk him hating me for all the trauma I had put him through. As much as we technically dated for a day, I had been in love with him longer than I could possibly remember. I didn’t want everything to die all in the name of comfort.
I knew he would hate being comforted with a lie, but something in me couldn’t erase the look on his face and the change in his voice when he threatened Julie Anilkumar. Something about him, which was sweet and loving, changed. I didn’t wish to see that again…especially at the cafeteria.
“It’s all a blur to me too but…that’s partially what I can remember.” I lied, looking into his eyes.
And his eyes became warm again, as if he had just received the comfort from the lie. It felt as if something was strangling me. “Okay. We can still…try again the dating thing if you’re willing?”
I sighed. “As much as I am willing, I think we should be focusing on us getting better first.”
”Thank you for declining ’cause…I wanted to ask you if you wanted to go to the dance with me.”
“Okay, that is downright insensitive!” I roared at Abel.
“I’m cool with that.” Craig smiled. “I couldn’t go even if I wanted to.”
“You seriously don’t want me to bring an a cappella band to sing for you now, do you?” Abel stood up and stuck out his hand.
“Definitely not!” Craig and I sang in response together.
Abel took me out of my seat, making me stand and him…kneeling. And yup, the ENTIRE school went bizarre. Okay, I had no idea that Abel would be interested in me to that extent and b) how was he this well-known? I mean he was good-looking and was the new kid, but how did he manage to get so much attention in such a short space of time? Was he as omnipresent to everyone as he was to me? If so, it was kinda annoying.
As the screams went louder and phones flashed towards us, I looked into him. He definitely contributed in lying for me so as to make sure that I am not imprisoned, fabricated an entire lie even I would have failed to come up with and granted me one of the best experiences I have ever dreamed of. As eerie as it may be, but I had always wanted to go to a dance.
“Yes. I hope I don’t regret this.” I laughed.
“You won’t.” He giggled and gave me a hug.
I looked at Craig. He was the happiest human being ever, which made me feel right. It made me believe that everything was under control and now that the “truth” was finally out, I could finally be comfortable.
“But you don’t feel comfortable?” Dr Langford asked.
“Because I wanted him to be my date. And not Abel.” I paced around his room. “I can’t have that, I understand. But why did Abel do such a grand gesture for me? Keep a secret for me?”
“Maybe because he likes you? Unlike the idea you have for Craig.”
“I love Craig!” My voice pitched.
He sighed. “You still don’t want to tell me this secret? I am bound to confidentiality, you know?”
“Until you learn that I’m a rapist.”
“I can report only if you are a potential danger to the public.” He smiled. “And I don’t think you are.”
“I don’t think you’re allowed to make such a subjective assumption.”
“Would you rather I look at you as someone guilty of something?”
“No. Objectively.” I was beginning to panic.
“Okay…what exactly would you need?”
“What do you mean?”
“If Craig is comfortable with your lie, what exactly do you want him to get? And subsequently, what would you want to happen to you?”
“All I know is that I lied to him and he believed me. That shouldn’t be right.”
“It isn’t, but what can be done other than you telling him the truth?”
I sighed. “Living in the lie.”