He told himself to merely keep walking, to ignore their smug faces, and one in particular of whom he wasn’t sure he would be able to physically, or mentally, handle right now.
As he had sat in the art room, sketching and shading his newest piece, he had regretted his decision to stay after school.
He should have just gone for coffee, or headed to the town library or bookstore.
But no, he had stayed after school knowing full well who
he would see once he left; who he would see standing on the grassy field,
sweaty and exhausted, shirt pressed tight against his torso, shorts slowly
inching upwards with every stride for the ball – God, William was losing it.
Officially, losing it.
With a sigh, and a deep breath, he made his way down his normal pathway home, a narrow cement sidewalk through the town’s central park, and past rows of street markets, his head down, eyes looking everywhere but at the field he was about pass.
He heard the thump of a ball being kicked, and the stomps of pounding, sharp cleats. He heard the grunts of violent teenagers knocking one another over and into the grass, gasping heavily as they hurried towards the goal.
In an attempt to drown out the sight of the football (because it was football, not soccer) team multiple feet away from him, revealed in his deceitful peripheral vision, William closed his eyes and walked faster, tugging his backpack closer towards him, and reaching upwards to yank on his hood.
He controlled his breathing, a problem he’d only had to worry about recently, and attempted to tune out the catcalls and hollers directed his way. If Oliver hadn’t seen him yet, the kid was dumber than William had always thought.
Between horrid phrases like ‘faggot’ and ‘fairy’, William heard a distant shout that didn’t pertain to his sinning sexuality, a familiar voice far too close for his liking and way too friendly.
He was suddenly angry again, but that was
Anger, rage, and fury would cover the feeling of longing and heartache grasping hold of the entirety of his gut quite conveniently.
Freezing in place, William merely stood there, hearing the approaching footsteps behind him, football cleats clicking on the gravel of the hard sidewalk, like a clock counting down to a final moment, shockingly in time with William’s heartbeat.
“Hey, Will,” The voice of Oliver Emerson rang out again and now it was clear the boy William’s heart pleaded for was standing directly behind him.
Slowly, Will turned, eyes opening, an expression of blank and callous emotion tinging his pale face.
With a nod of his chin, and an awkward clearing of his throat, William stared directly into the eyes of Oliver Emerson, his tan complexion smiling back at him, his skin shining in a light sheen of sweat. He looked marvelous - beautiful even.
“Yeah, hi,” William replied, awkwardly, his eyes moving away from his old friend, finding the cement beneath him so much more interesting.
Oliver nodded and beamed at the dark-haired boy, “How’s it going?”
William blinked, confused, shook his head and shrugged, “Fine.” Was this kid serious? He was brave enough to talk to Will in the first place, but questioning him with simple, pointless queries like how he was doing was just plain audacious.
William wanted to burst.
Oliver went to speak again, as though attempting to clear up the awkward situation before Will scampered off, “So, uh…”
However, William wasn’t up for it. He wasn’t going to stand there, listening to a boy he was, and had always been, so madly in love with feed him feeble excuses and acknowledgements. William had to flee.
“Yeah, I gotta head home. Sorry.”
Why was he apologizing? Stupid, stupid, stupid.
He watched as Oliver cowered back slightly, looking away, smile suddenly shy and timid, as though he could see straight through William, aware of his intent to retreat.
“Right. Of course,” Oliver swallowed nervously, “Well, I’ll see you then.”
And with that, William was off, his hood tight around the sides of his face, hiding his colored hair, and fingers in his sweatshirt’s front pocket, twisting and fidgeting both angrily and restlessly.
Just get home, just get home, just get home.