Free Me

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The Last Straw

I didn’t hear from Zayne until late Sunday. He said that talking about everything made it all seem real and that finally acknowledging the pain out loud took some of it away. That night he had talked to his mom and dad, clearing the air. I was invited over Sunday night and came in to see and his dad at the table, eating together, laughing over something on TV.

After he and his dad finished, Zayne pulled me into his room with a big grin. He still hurt and still was struggling, but slowly he was able to put some of the pieces back together.

I stayed most of the night, we talked, we kissed, and he finally kept his promise to play his violin for me. He played a violin instrumental version of Be Alright by Dean Lewis, I don’t think I’ve heard anything as beautiful as that. The look on his face was a look of release, you can see how safe he feels, how free from reality he is when he plays. I sit on the edge of his bed, watching in awe the whole time.

I beg him to play more but he insists on putting the violin up for the night.

“You know, I wanted to call you after you dropped me off. That group was really... I don’t even know, I hate how many people go through this but knowing I’m not alone takes so much pressure away. And when you shared, I... Did you mean everything you said?”

I look at him and smile as I pull him into a kiss, “Every single word,” I whisper against his lips.

“Can I tell you something?” he presses his forehead to mine. I nod just enough to let him finish his thought, “I think I love you too.”

I hug him close to me and hold on tight, he holds me so tight that he has my shirt bunched up in his fists.

“I can’t keep watching you go through everything alone. I can’t just sit and do nothing,” I whisper in his ear and kiss his shoulder.

He stays silent and holds me tighter. When he finally pulls back it’s to kiss me, very heavily drawing me in as he sucks and bites my lips.

There’s a knock at his door and we pull away. He jumps up to answer the door, it’s his dad.

“It’s getting late you two. You should probably think of going home and sleeping Josh, and Zayne you need to go to bed. Tomorrow you’re going back to school and I want you both rested in case anything happens. We talked to the principal and she will personally keep an eye on things, if someone even looks at you funny Zayne, tell her.”

He nods as I get up and put my arm around his shoulders, “It’ll be ok, you won’t be alone through it. I promise,” I kiss him on the cheek and slip passed his dad.

I look back at him from the front door and watch as his dad hugs him tightly and keeps telling Zayne that he’ll always love him and support him. He tells Zayne to be strong and that he can always talk about what’s going on. He tells him he always has someone in his corner.

He might as well have an army in his corner.

I come home to everyone asleep. Arriana is fast asleep at her desk so I drape a blanket over her carefully and slide a pillow in place of her notebook. I can hear my dad snoring which means their both asleep since my dad has to wait for my mom to fall asleep or else she can’t sleep at all listening to him snore.

I slip out of my jeans and shirt, replacing them with a comfy pair of sweats as I climb in bed with my phone.

I love you Zayne. Sleep well, I’ll see you tomorrow <3

I plug everything in and turn off my light. Tomorrow is going to be heavy, between the rumors, Conrad, and the fact that I will not just stand by and watch Zayne suffer anymore. I have a feeling a lot is going to happen.

Closing my eyes I hear Zayne’s voice in my head.

"I think I love you too."

I fall asleep and before I know it, it’s morning. My alarm hasn’t gone off, but still I get up and go to see if Arriana is awake. She is.

“Hey,” I whisper opening her door a crack, “Can I come in?”

She looks up and brushes her hair out of her face, “Yeah what’s up? How’s Zayne?”

I smile, “He’s good. Things are... Really good.”

Her eyes get wide, “What happened? Why do you look like a fourteen year old at a Justin Bieber concert?”

“I told him I love him, and he told me he loves me too,” I laugh as she jumps in her chair and comes to hug me.

She sits down with me on her bed and asks to know all the details, I tell her all about the group and Zayne with his violin and him asking if I meant what I said. We sit there for almost an hour.

“I don’t even care that we’re in high school and the odds are so stacked against us lasting as a couple. It feels so real,” she squeezes my hand as I speak, “Arriana, I don’t want to hide it anymore. I can’t just sit back and pretend I don’t care when people attack him, I can’t.”

“And you shouldn’t, plus you suck at faking it,” we both laugh as she hugs me.

“What about you? I don’t want this to effect you,” I pull away from her and look at her with concern. She answers with a strong punch to the shoulder.

“Shut up! Nothing anyone can say or do will change that you deserve to be happy, you know I won’t hesitate to put someone in their place. I just want you to be happy Josh, your my brother, and I know Zayne is what makes you happy. You should own it!”

I thank her profusely before she goes to get ready for the day.

I have enough butterflies in my stomach to make a doctor faint. I so badly want to find Zayne as soon as I get to school and hit the “fuck it” button. I want to be there for him without having to hide.

I go back to my room and put my stuff in my bag. As soon as Arriana is done in the bathroom, I jump in the shower, eager to get to school. As a senior in high school, the thought of school should make me want to die, but I honestly can’t wait.

When I get out of the shower I hear my phone ring. It’s Zayne’s mom.

“Mrs. Daveen? Is everything ok?” It’s not normal for her to call me, let alone this early in the morning.

“Zayne’s already left for school, he didn’t have to leave for another twenty minutes but he did. I would appreciate if you could get there soon to make sure he’s ok. If anything happens please call me.”

“Of course, I’ll leave as soon as I can. I won’t let anything happen today.”

I hang up and grab some clothes to throw on, as I do my alarm goes off and I smack the off button. I shove my phone, computer, and journal in my backpack before stumbling as I walk down the hall while trying to put on my shoes.

Arriana comes out of her room concerned. I tell her Zayne is already at school alone and I need to be there in case someone tries anything. She grabs her bag and rushes after me while putting on her lita heels. We’re surprised to find our mom already in the kitchen with breakfast.

“Mom?” Arriana jumps, “What are you doing out here already?”

“Your dad had an early meeting I helped him get ready for, thought I’d get an early start on breakfast. I made you two your favorite breakfast sandwiches. When I first woke up and saw how tuckered out you two were I figured you would sleep through your alarms.”

She hands us our breakfast sandwiches in bags and comes to give us both a kiss. I take it in as much as I can, I know today might really change how she sees me.

I get on my bike and take off for school as Arriana calls Caira to tell her that she’s ready to go whenever. I get there in less than ten minutes and rush inside the building. Plenty of students have showed up, mostly freshmen who come in to study in the library.

I see Zayne standing alone at his locker, sorting his stuff. I let out a sigh of relief and pull my phone out to tell Arriana everything is ok so far. I go to my locker and open it to sort my stuff when the front door opens and more of my classmates start flooding in.

As they all look and see Zayne, most freeze, others start muttering under their breaths asking why he’s here. He hears them, but ignores it.

I send him a text as fast as my fingers will let me.

Remember how many people you have in your corner. They have no power, we’re all here for you

He sees the text and looks up, making eye contact with me and smiles calmly. He gives a light nod before shutting his locker and leaning back on it.

I watch his smile fade as quickly as it appeared. When I look back to see what he’s looking at I see Conrad walk in, his nose still bruised. He sees Zayne and I swear his ears start smoking.

He marches over to Zayne, “What the hell are you doing back? Shouldn’t you be in some pervert camp, after what you did to me you’re lucky you weren’t arrested!”

“Conrad, I’m not doing this. I’m not going to put on a show for you to let you look tough and cool, I’m done letting you dictate my life,” Zayne shrugs past him and heads in my direction.

Conrad did not react well.

He grabbed Zayne’s arm and shoves him back into the lockers, hard enough that Zayne’s head whips back into the metal doors.

“You fucking faggot! You think I need you to look tough? You’re so pathetic and I swear I’ll make you pay for that little stunt of your last week! You’ll wish you could crawl back home and die!” He grabs Zayne’s shirt and slams him into the lockers again.

Hell no.

I drop my bag and run over, shoving Conrad so hard he slides across the floor. Zayne drops and I carefully help him up.

“Josh!” I look back and see Arriana, she looks confused.

“Get Mrs. Jennings!” I yell back and she takes off down the hall, I look back at Conrad, “I warned you to back off. I’ll say it one last time because I don’t want to hurt you, stay away Conrad.”

He gets up fuming mad, he lunges at me landing his fist on my cheek knocking me down.

“Admit it Notes, I knew the second you confronted me last week so just admit it!” I get up as he yells. He tries to punch me again but I jump away, “You’re a pervert just like Cupcake here! You both are vile abominations. I hope you two burn in hell together! You act like high and mighty but in the end you’re just a couple of faggots who mean nothing!”

I punch him in the stomach and he keels over. Half the school is watching as I stumble and catch my breath. Conrad lays in the fetal position at my feet as I walk over to Zayne.

“Are you ok?” I ask quietly as I place my hands on his shoulder, “Zayne?”

“Josh what did you do?”

He looks terrified as I pull him into a tight hug, “Zayne I don’t care. I’m not hiding anymore, I’m not letting it happen.”

Soon after, Arriana and Mrs. Jennings arrive. I explain what happens and she asks a few others, including Caira who stayed stunned at the door, if that’s really what down. Everyone, surprisingly, tells her we’re telling the truth. She has the P.E. teachers escort Conrad to the nurses office while she calls us into hers.

We make it clear that Zayne tried to avoid conflict and that Conrad was the first to attack anyone. She sits us down by her office with some other kids.

I look up and see Arriana, she looks devastated. I stand up quickly, “Arri?”

She looks at me and Zayne before pulling her bag closer to her, “Caira called you both freaks and yelled at me. She said that if I knew this whole time it makes me just as disgusting and I must be a perv too.”

“Arriana,” my shoulders slump, “I’m so sorry.”

“If she really feels that way then you know what? Screw her,” she looks down, “It just hurts to hear such hateful words after all the years of friendship. Are you two ok?”

I look over at Zayne, who looks ready to cry. I sit next to him and take his hand.

“I did what they said. I didn’t let him get to me, I didn’t let him get what he wanted. He should have walked away, why didn’t he?” he sounds hysterical.

“Zayne--”

“No! You and Arriana shouldn’t have to deal with this shit, he should have walked away! You shouldn’t have got involved Josh! You shouldn’t have to deal with any of this! You shouldn’t have to deal with me and my crap!”

He shoves me away as he gets up and runs out of the building. I go to chase after him but he’s gone too fast. I come back to the office, shaking my head when Arriana gives me a hopeful look.

Next thing I know, Mr. and Mrs. Daveen are at the school demanding to know what happened and saying Zayne isn’t at home. Then my parents show up.

They ask all the same questions as Zayne’s parents, wanting to know what happened and why I got punched, why Arriana was crying.

Things are not looking good for any of us. I sit there texting Zayne with no responses, his mom watches me hoping for something.

Nothing.

I get sick of it, sick of the questions and yelling. I get up and take off to find Zayne, leaving everyone at the school confused and scared.

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