Free Me

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Welcome Back Prisoners

I wake up to my alarm blaring on my nightstand, I groan as I smack the off button and roll onto my back. My eyes still feel heavy given how even though I went to bed at nine, I maybe slept two hours. Every school year, every day I leave the house is filled with the fear of being outed and my whole life falling apart.

Last night all I could think about was Zayne and what he went through with Conrad at Walgreens. All night I was just seeing them fighting, and Conrad landing most of the punches as Zayne sat there trying to defend himself as the blood dripped off of him. I see Conrad and his tool friends yank on Zayne’s pink hair, yelling at him and calling him “Cupcake”.

All night I saw that happening to me.

I sit up and rub my bare chest, trying to wipe away the sweat, when I see Arriana has been in my room and took the liberty of picking clothes for me. I only know it was her because my mom would have waited in my room until I woke up.

I scoot myself over to the foot of my bed and stretch as I stand. I can almost touch my ceiling.

I pick the clothes off my chair and look them over, scratching my newly cut hair. Arriana picked out a blue shirt, the short sleeves a darker blue than the torso and a pair of of dark jeans with a faded design. I guess she could have picked worse.

I get dressed and slip on my shoes. I should shower after all my sweating but I just don’t have the energy, plus I know my mom will be in soon to get me up for breakfast.

My door opens as I debate getting back in bed and pretending to be sick, probably wouldn’t work on a first day anyway.

“Honey,” my mom’s gentle voice fills the room, “I made your favorite for breakfast.”

I give a tired smile, “Thanks mom, I’ll be out in just a minute.”

The corners of her mouth drop and her cheeks stiffen as she drops the dish towel in hand and comes over to me.

“Are you alright?” She puts her hand on my shoulder as I sit on the bed, “You look like you were up all night, do you feel sick?”

I shake my head and rub my forehead, “No, just nervous about today I guess. This is a very important school year, graduation and then college.”

She gives me a half smile and runs her hand over my hair, “You’ll do great, you always do. I don’t think you or your sister have ever gotten lower than a C+ in anything.”

“Thanks mom,” she kisses my temple and leaves for the kitchen.

I grab my bag and shove my two new folders my mom insisted on and my random handful of pens inside. I hesitate to put my journal in there, I’m always afraid someone will find it, so I hide it under my binders and laptop.

I’ve had that journal for a little over a year now, it’s where I write down all the things I want to say about being gay but don’t. Every coming out speech, every comeback to the awful comments I hear, every argument to defend my sexuality.

I sling the worn out, navy blue backpack over my shoulder and walk down the hall. My dad is already gone, hence why my mom is busying herself. She must hate that Arriana isn’t here for her to fuss over and feed. Arriana, like a weirdo, would prefer Starbucks over our mom’s breakfast.

I sit at the bar counter as my mom pulls out a plate with thick cut bacon, home-style hash browns, and sunny side up eggs. The smile on my face grows as she puts up a bowl of dark oatmeal, filled with syrup and brown sugar.

I look at the clock and see that I still have forty minutes before first period starts, giving me enough time to eat and bike to school. I devour most of my food in less than fifteen minutes, not realizing how hungry I was.

I save my oatmeal for last hoping it’ll give me a boost before I leave. As I dig my spoon in my mom pushes a plastic baggy in my direction and a ten dollar bill.

“Real breakfast for your sister, and money for food,” She smiles as I shovel the pure sugar of my food into my mouth, “I already snuck her money in her bag.”

“You know we only need like half that right? And she probably ate with her friends,” I wipe my mouth and pull the money and bag off the counter.

“Nothing she eats at that little chain café will qualify as breakfast in my mind. Go brush your teeth and get going. You need to find your locker and classes, maybe even see your friends.”

What friends? It’s hard to maintain a friendship when all you think about is what’d they would think if they knew the truth.

I scrub my teeth so hard in frustration that my gums bleed. I pop a piece of gum in my mouth hoping to mask the taste of the blood.

Giving my mom a kiss goodbye, I mount my bike and peddle for a short ten minutes and lock my bike on the rack.

Everyone comes flooding through the doors, some look excited and proud while others look like they still want to be in bed. My sister and I are on opposite ends of that spectrum.

I hand her the sandwich my mom made her and she smiles, “Thanks, I did feel bad for missing breakfast.”

I take in her perfectly planned outfit and try to take in her excitement and positivity. All I get is her clothes, her tiny, floral slip dress with her black cut out heels that match the delicate black flowers on her dress. Her hair is flowing as she has two braids from either side of her head meet in the back and let out into the rest of her straight hair, auburn hair.

“You look really nice Arriana, I mean it,” I gently push against her shoulder as a subtle, pink blush appears on her cheeks.

“You aren’t so bad yourself...” Her smile disappears as we enter the door and her eyes are drawn toward the lockers. I follow her gaze.

Conrad.

He has Zayne pressed up against the lockers as his no good drones help hold Zayne still.

Zayne has never been strong, his arms fight against the force being put on them but barely move at all. He almost kicks Conrad in the shin, barely missing and getting punched in the gut for it.

“You really are a delicate, little cupcake aren’t you? God you really are stupid to show up this year, we all figured you’d be in some camp or dead by now.” Conrad smirks and pushes Zayne back into the locker one last time before telling his friends to drop him.

He falls to his knees and holds his stomach. They kick his backpack as they walk away and call him names.

Once the crowd clears, Arriana darts over to help him pick up his stuff. I follow close behind.

She helps put his stuff back into his bag as I help him get steady on his feet, he cringes with every move.

“You don’t have to do that,” he mutters down to my sister who smiles and keeps picking up his stuff.

“Trust me, nothing you say will stop her,” I whisper to him causing him to let out a small laugh. I see his split lip up close, the dried blood has formed a dark, black scab.

“If you want, I can help you get to the nurse,” Arriana lifts the backpack and carefully hold it out as he takes it from her hand. The first bell rings.

“No, it won’t fix anything, I should get to class. Thanks though,” He gives a forced smile. The same as me.

He makes it half way down the hall before I kick myself and call out to him, “What class?”

“Physics,” he still holds his stomach as he turns to see me catch up to him.

“Me too, I’ll walk with you,” I give a strained smile. I want to be close to him, I want to tell him I get it, but I can’t find the words.

“I’d like that, I’ll let you walk in first so no one gives you any crap for it.”

I almost think it would make things easier if they did.

The walk is slow as he tries not to stress his now bruised stomach. He gives me a small head start, maybe two minutes to get in the classroom before him.

My teacher Mr. Roe looks over his glasses and clicks his tongue at me, “Cutting it close Mr. Notes. Take an empty seat.”

I find a seat in the back and drop my bag on the desk not long before Zayne comes in. Conrad laughs and high fives his friends when he sees him struggle.

“Hush now,” Mr. Roe adjusts uncomfortably on his desk, “Mr. Daveen, seeing as today is the first day I won’t mark you tardy. Don’t make it a habit though. Find a seat.”

“Yes sir,” he nods his head and starts walking. I now notice that the only open seat is next to me.

I hear Conrad mutter to his friends, “Probably not the only time he’s calling someone ‘sir’. Sick perv.”

Zayne squeezes his bag as he walks to the back towards me. He looks at me hesitantly as he cautiously climbs onto the stool next to mine.

He lowers his head and mutters, “So much for helping you avoid shit.”

I feel my hands sweat as I reach into my bag for my journal and a pen. I watch Zayne eye it curiously as I open to the last half-filled page and shake my pen.

Who’s the pervert? The one who dares be honest about himself, or the one who assumes he’s having crazy kinky sex?

Zayne chuckles as he reads my writing and grabs a pen to write on his hand. He writes fast and shoves his pen in his pocket as Mr. Roe starts talking.

I look at his hand.

Maybe we’re all pervs.

I smile and stare up at the board, not hearing a single word as my teacher rambles on about requirements to pass and the syllabus. I spend most of class side glancing at Zayne. I even catch myself wanting to touch his hair.

The pastel pink tips make it look so soft. If it weren’t for the constant beatings, most of him would probably be soft.

I carefully tear a piece of paper out of my journal and scribble a note and slide it under his hoodie sleeve.

Hang out tonight? 10 o’clock?

He looks surprised, his sagging eyes get wide and his mouth hangs open barely. He looks up and smiles, giving a subtle nod before writing on the paper.

Crestview park. Be there at 10.

I try to hide a smile as I slide the paper back into my journal and watch the New School Year powerpoint on the screen.

Tonight I might actually sleep for more than two hours. Tonight I might actually feel understood.

Tonight might actually feel right.

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