The afternoon passed in a flash of music and notes, both figuratively and literally. I sat in the private music room after school playing the rhythm to “Dandelions” by Ruth B. It was the song I was currently obsessed with. It also reminded of how Porter made me feel. My mood and outlook on life had changed quite a bit in the last week since I’d met him.
I felt less lonely. I actually wanted to play the piano, rather than just do it for a distraction from everything and a way to pass the time. It would hard when Porter went home for the holidays, four days in November for Thanksgiving and for two weeks at Christmas, and a week for spring break. I’d miss him, his smile, his presence. The one good thing about the holidays is most people went home, including Julian and his friends. So, at least I wouldn’t be bothered, or have no one to protect me.
I heard the door open behind me and Maya’s twangy guitar life song come into earshot. She shut the door behind her and pulled a chair up to the side of the piano. She was dressed in tight blue jeans, a Twenty-One Pilots Blurry Face Cover Album t-shirt, and her hair was up in a messy bun. Her bright blue eyes looked red and puffy as if she’d been crying.
“You okay?” I ask not sure if she’ll want to talk about whatever happened to her with me.
“Kristen said she saw me with you guys and asked what I was doing. I told her I was working on a project with you for biology but I guess she asked around and found out that was a lie. She asked me what I was really doing, she said if I was making friends, or trying to be nice to you she wouldn’t want to be friends with me anymore. We’ve been friends for four years. How can she just do that? Over something so stupid?” she explains.
“If she wants to stop being friends with you over being friends with us, she’s probably not your friend, no offense, Maya,” I reply honestly.
She nods sadly looking down at the floor.
“I thought she wouldn’t have done it so hastily after four years. I thought we knew each other. I thought we mattered to each other,” she continues.
“It may not be her idea or words. Other people might be making her make a choice, you or them, in that case, she’s still not the best person, she’s choosing the people who are threatening her over you,” I reply.
“I don’t understand how you’re so understanding and still a nice person,” she replies.
“People who are bullied or outcasts end up one of three ways, they turn out bitter and aren’t trustworthy because of the way they’ve been treated, they turn out understanding because of the way they’ve been treated, or they take their own lives because they become sick of how they’ve been treated. I just choose to be the best option,” I answer. “I don’t think Porter would have liked me as much if I was bitter and if I was dead, I wouldn’t have made up with Ezra or met you or Porter.”
“Maybe I should have been a better person,” she continues.
“You were learning. You made mistakes. It’s not easy to be nice to people who are dicks. Or not hate them for what they’ve done, and become the outcast fighting for causes you’re not sure will ever be accepted, like me. You could turn your back on me and I’d still be decent towards you because hate doesn’t change things. You know what I’m like now, maybe I had some influence on you in middle school, too that made you different from everyone else because they saw me as just some weirdo in their class and you actually had to interact with me. Porter and Mr. Yaw know me, too, you’re all at least willing to see past the weird and try to understand. It wasn’t easy to be this person, I was bitter as a kid. I lashed out when people wouldn’t let me play with them, to be fair, I could have cheated at hide and seek pretty easily, too. But I learned anger didn’t change anything, if anything, not only did they have a reason to think I was weird but they also had a reason for them to be scared of me now so I learned to live with it,” I answer.
“Thank you,” she whispers.
I smile, “You’ll get better at as you go.”
“Shall I play now?” I asked turning back to the piano.
She wipes her eyes one last time, “Yes,” she replies putting on a brave face.
I started playing “Fuckin’ Perfect” by P!nk.
You’re so mean when you talk, about yourself, you were wrong. Change the voices, in your head, make them like you instead. So, complicated, look how we all make it. Filled with so much hatred. Such a tired game. It’s enough, I’ve done all I can think of. Chased down all my demons. I’ve seen you do the same.
Porter slides open the door as I finish the song.
“How’s it going?” he asks.
“Life’s happening,” I reply. “It can’t be perfect.”
“Like Julian threatening to out me to my parents when they already know? Real smart move,” he comments.
“He did that? Now I just want to punch him. I also want to cry about Kristen,” she replies conflicted.
“What did Kristen do?” Porter asks.
“She said she’d stop being friends with Maya if she made friends with us,” I reply.
“That’s stupid,” he comments. “Is she one of the ones who wants you to be with Julian even though you don’t have feelings for him?”
“I feel a little less sad about it now, because she is,” Maya replies.
“I feel like you really need new friends,” Porter replies.
“I don’t want to be the third wheel here either though,” she states quickly.
“You won’t be, friends are friends, we make time for ourselves and time to spend with you. We can’t spend 24/7 with each other, we’d get sick of each other,” I reply.
And that’s was what we did, we hung out together for the next few weeks, mostly in the music room. I would play music or attempt to teach Porter, I don’t think he was improving, I don’t know if it was me teaching him or if he was just having a hard time and Maya would sit by watching. She broke up with Julian by the end of September and was ready to be single for a while after getting kicked out of her friend group. Then she’d sit with us all the time, breakfast, lunch and after school in music room until we went to get dinner, then she’d go back to her dorm so we could have time on our own. On the weekends, we’d plan one day where it would be the three of us and the other it would be just me and Porter.
As Halloween neared she suggested that we dress up and go door to door in the school and dorms for candy. It was a tradition at Copper Cove during the Halloween season since most of us didn’t know the area and it was safer within the school itself. Halloween landed on a Friday, we’d gone shopping for our costumes the weekend before. To mock Julian, Greg, and his friends, I was going as “Pied Piper”, normally I didn’t participate in things like this but I was excited for them to attempt to make fun of me when I was what they were saying. Porter was going as Neal Caffrey, he looked just as good as Neal Caffrey in a suit and fedora. Maya was Star Girl, it fit her feisty personality. We went around to teachers’ classrooms first and collect candy in some spare pillowcases we had.
Next, we started going through the dorms, this was the one time of year when the opposite genders could mingle in each other’s dorms, but there was always teacher supervision to make sure no funny business happened. We started on the first of the girls’ dorm and got candy from all the students on the first floor and a half. When we started to reach the eleventh-grade girls' dorm, most doors stopped being answered and the candy came to a sudden trickle. The same happened in the boys’ dorms. This was when we started to think it was intentional. We were being excluded for a reason.
I saw Kristen down the hall at a door we had just tried and got no response from but it opened for her. Maya glared at her. She smiled deviously and waved at me and Maya. I saw Maya holding back the urge to throw her pillow case at her.
“Let’s go,” I remind her. “She’s not worth it.”
Porter crossed his arms and stared at Kristen before turning to follow us, too. Her smile disappeared. I guess Porter could be intimidating if he wanted to be. We went up to my room and sorted through our candy so we had what we liked individually or even amounts of what all three or both of us liked. We got a decent amount of candy but nowhere near as much if everyone had been fair and opened their doors to us.
The three of us took pictures surrounded by candy in our costumes. We enjoyed our time together despite the shadow everyone else tried to cast over it. It was hard to bring us down and those pictures of us smiling in my dorm room in costumes surrounded by candy were hard slaps to the face on Instagram to Greg, Julian, Kristen, and anybody else who had shut us out that night.
By the time Maya left my dorm, it was 11:30 pm. I and Porter were stuffed full of candy, and very tired. His fedora lay on the floor with his suit coat and my gloves that were supposed to be used to control sound. We’d laid on my bed which was barely big enough for both of us. Porter wrapped his arm around me and I snuggled my head into his chest. I fell asleep that night in his arms, the happiest I’d been in a long time.