At a quarter past three, Coach Barnes blew his whistle, and declared a water break. The muddy soccer team jogged every which way, some reaching in their gym bags for their drinks, others sprinting towards the water fountains on the opposite side of the field.
Oliver was strolling towards the bleachers to take a seat, when Maxwell appeared at his side, glasses fogged and grass sticking to the sweat on his forehead.
"Dude, you're a god," He scoffed in disbelief, "Did you see Nick's face when you scored on him?"
And then Max busted into a fit of giggles, most likely revisiting the event in his mind, whilst Oliver simply smiled and gulped down several eager sips, what really felt like gallons, from the water bottle he'd bought for a dollar at the nearest vending machine.
"You're going to be a huge benefit to the team," Maxwell grinned, nodding his head enthusiastically at the newly joined soccer player.
Oliver chuckled, "I look forward to it."
Before he could say another word, the mostly one-sided conversation was interrupted by an enormous amount of laughter emanating from the opposite side of the field, where a simple path beside the goal led toward Laketown's parking lot and bus ramp. Narrowing his eyes, Oliver turned to witness a few of his teammates striding past and shoving to the side a tall, lanky student, knocking him into a stumble he quickly recovered from. They passed him with sneers and high fives, mocking the poor boy even when he was finally out of their reach.
With a flick of his head, and a gesture towards the victim of a bunch of noisy, raucous boys, Oliver cleared his throat, "Who's that?"
Maxwell went to respond but was interrupted by the shaggy haired foe from earlier.
"The freak," Nick snapped, spitting out a chunk of saliva as he approached the two teenagers standing awkwardly on the sidelines, whilst sipping on bottles of water. It becomes clear that Nicholas isn't going to say much else when he lifts his own drink to his mouth, glaring at the scrawny boy.
Oliver turned to Max, frowning, "Why's that?"
Maxwell scoffed, incredulous as Oliver stared down at him, eyes questioning the mysterious figure that seemed so very hated, "You don't know him?"
Oliver arched a brow, "Should I?" He turned towards the skinny teen once more, catching, for a split second, the boy's eyes, unnervingly clear, and heart wrenchingly familiar.
"Yeah," Maxwell shrugged, "That's William Levi."
Within a mere moment, because of one simple name, Oliver was flying backwards into the past, waves of memories hitting him like a relentless wave, over and over and over again.
A small face, chubby cheeks, all smiles, golden brown hair. Marshmallows over a campfire, nights spent gazing at the television screen marathoning Harry Potter, ice cream at midnight after a tiring soccer game, staying up late to finish homework they had forgotten about, sneaking through the house during a game of hide and seek, tag in the kitchen whilst his mother yelled precautions, blanket forts with pillows stacked miles high, flashlights shimmering as a cascade of light beneath his bed as they hid and listened and read and told ghost stories.
So many memories. A boy so different from the one he had once known. A boy so much more mature in appearance, a boy he could barely recognize with his dyed hair and dark clothing. A boy he had abandoned, a boy he had missed liked crazy. Within an instant, his veins had turned into streams of liquid guilt, his head pounding for forgiveness, his mine overwhelmed by recollection.
"There you go," Max laughed sharply, gazing at his friend's expression, mouth slightly open, eyes wide, brows creased in concern, "You two used to be inseparable as kids. I know because you never had time to hang out with me!"
Oliver didn't laugh at Maxwell's joke. He merely stared and watched as William walked away, filing away the urge to run after him, screaming and yelling, the urge to hug and squeeze the kid's brains out.
"He's still here?" Oliver responded in a whisper, throat knotted and inevitably sore.
"He never left," Maxwell sighed, and then, instantly, he swallowed, lifted a hand to scratch the back of his neck, and winced, "Look, Oliver. He's, for lack of a better word, changed. A lot. In more ways than one."
Oliver was still staring blankly at the exact location William Levi had only just been mere moments ago.
"Obviously," He managed, eyes narrowed, head pounding with a lack of pity.
"No, I mean -"
Before Max could finish, Nick was stepping in, nudging Oliver on the shoulder, "He's a fag."
Oliver jerked at that, stunned far more by the choice of degrading invective rather than the declaration itself. "Oh."
Nick snorted, glaring outwards in the same direction as Oliver, "Yeah, and he's open about it too. Doesn't give a shit."
"Yeah," Nick snapped just as the Coach whistled for them to return to the field, "Ain't nobody wanna see him, nor his bitch self."