Speak & Listen

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LEAD

LEAD

“Attention students, there will be a school meeting at the school hall after recess. Thank you.”

“Did you hear about Sandra?” A girl, who I assumed was Brittany, whispered with a nasal accent behind me.

We were in English, the period before recess. “What about Sandra?” Tamia, her geekish friend, responded.

“Sandra got raped this weekend. They’re probably going to address it. Do you think it’s the jocks?”

My head automatically turned and both their eyes stared at me, widened. They separated to their respective seats, feeling awkward. I looked forward and from then, I failed to concentrate. As I’ve said, it was as if Sophia being gone unblocked my ears. I could hear every thought, every sound and every vibration or disturbance. Everything that happened in that school now, I knew. Even when I didn’t want to.

The bell rang and everyone was first to leave. When I was about to leave. “Mr Spector...” It was my English teacher, Mr Word. “A word with you.” As much as I thought the pun was funny, I didn’t laugh.

I walked to his desk as everyone left. “Yes, Mr Word?”

“The school meeting, in general, is to address issues that took place and still are taking place at Clever Cats High School. Now I hate to remind you, but it seems as if you were a subject not so long ago to bullying.”

I nodded.

“Maybe speaking out in that meeting will give others the voice to speak out as well. Sandra, our senior, got raped at the toilets this past week and she has no memory whatsoever of the event taking place. The same happened to you. If you could...”

“Mr Word, I am not a hero. If so, I could have stopped this from happening to me and others a long time ago. As long as no one wants to talk about it, I’m not talking about it.” My voice was sterned.

He nodded. I limped out of the classroom. I don’t know how to describe the feeling, but I wanted Mr Word to call me back and beg me to stand at the alter on that meeting, beg me to talk, you know, make me feel as if I was needed in that meeting. But he just let me go.

I ghosted to my locker, my shoulders heavy from the exhausting day already. I opened my locker and a huge poster was shoved in my locker. My heart started racing, pounding against my chest, prohibiting me from breath. I looked at the huge poster, it seemed as if someone knew my combination. I took out the poster and a wet liquid dripped from it. I finally opened it up, only to find eyesore blood painted on the poster itself, with the photoshopped picture of my face and a stranger’s butt naked body, with blood painted exactly on the butt region.

My body recoiled from the poster as it fell on the floor.

There was a note, written in red paint, which read “Watch yourself, kiddo...”

I had not noticed that I was hyperventilating again, grabbing for air anywhere I could find it. I felt oppressed like a heavy force weighed on my shoulders and I couldn’t stand up, literally. My body froze in one place.

“Adrian.” I heard a familiar voice echoing.

I saw Jeremiah picking up the poster and when he scrutinized it, his jaws twitched. Now I had to stop him before he did something stupid. “Jeremiah.”

He looked at me. “How long is this going to go on?”

“Jeremiah, take me to the cafeteria.”

His eyebrows furrowed. “...What? Adrian, we need to do something about this.”

“You are going to throw away that poster, we’re going to the cafeteria and we’re not, ever, talking about this again. Do you understand me?”

He nodded, but I knew he disagreed. He would do something stupid right after school. He threw the poster in the bin and walked back to me again. “Can we go?”

I nodded. As usual, he replaced one crutch with his arm and we limped. He was quite patient with me. “How come you’re always there to help? I hope I don’t take much of your time.” I said.

“You never really allow me to help you anyway. And no, you don’t consume my time.”

“So you don’t have a girlfriend that demands your time?”

He looked at me, he was still upset. “You know I don’t.”

“No, I didn’t. I don’t know what to know about who anymore.” I looked down. “You’re back from suspension?”

“Yeah.” I could see he wanted to talk about something else. “Adrian...Benjamin only went with the idea because he thought you’d be cool with it, at least that’s how Sophia painted it in his head. Like it was meant to be something fun that will benefit you in the end. I spoke to him.”

“How did it benefit me? I lost my friend, I am a spectacle and rape victim and the whole school knows about it. Tell me, how did all this benefit anyone?”

“It brought some people closer, started conversations, revealed truths. Affected lives. I don’t mean to say you deserve this but...I think there’s a reason why these letters came out. I, for one, understand why you kept on pushing me away.”

My eyes widened as he helped me sit. I always brought my lunchbox, so did he, so we placed them on the table as we looked at each other. “You read the letters?”

He nodded. “You always had this consistent fear that I would hate you, like how William and Mason do now, and you dread this vile side of me that constantly finds itself in fights so you’re afraid I may physically hurt you but...”

“Wait...” I wanted to talk, explain myself. “It’s not that I find you monstrous or something...”

“No, I get it. But what you don’t get is...I can’t hurt you. I don’t have the strength to do that.”

“And the letters...how do they make you feel?” I looked away from him.

“Quite upset that you hid them from me...but happy that they’re finally out. I still don’t think you should be afraid of me. I’m not going anywhere, I can never hurt you even if I tried and...” He paused to hold my hand, looking at me in the eye. “I don’t want to be your friend either.”

“You mean you...” My cheeks heated. “Like me? In that manner?”

“Oh, my fuck.” He giggled. His crystal white teeth showed, also showing his deep cheek dimples. “I don’t like you but...I love you. I’m willing to be whatever Prince Charming guy you imagined I would be when you wrote those letters.” He rolled his eyes. Really, the romantic stuff just wasn’t his thing.

“That was only meant to be a fantasy.” I was so embarrassed. For the first time, I found the love I wanted. Jeremiah had been my friend for the longest time for me to know that he’d be a perfect boyfriend. But I wondered dating Jeremiah Simone at this time would be a good idea. Wouldn’t it complicate things?

“The best part is when fantasy becomes reality, right?” He whispered.

He neared and it was as if his lips radiated heat even before contact. Before his lips landed on mine, I had to stop him. “Wait...” I said under my breath.

His eyes widened. “Is it the cafeteria?”

“My pants...they’re becoming a tent,” I said, embarrassed.

Jeremiah giggled out loud with his hands covering his face. “Oh my goodness. You’ve been waiting a long time for this, huh?” He whispered.

“Oh my god, just stop talking.” My voice grunted.

“It’s okay...we’ll take it slow. We don’t want you getting all excited again, do we?” He chuckled out loud again. Everyone around was looking at us, but Jeremiah couldn’t care less. “I love you, okay? Not even a letter or two could change that.” He smiled.

“I...”

Suddenly, a loud splash sound came from behind, only to feel a wet sensation on the back of my head. “SHUT UP, FAGGOTS!” A voice echoed, and the entire school chimed in laughter. When I touched my head, I looked at my fingertips and it was meatballs and its gravy. I looked at Jeremiah who I knew very well. He was heating up already. His fists were tightened, his teeth gritting in extreme rage.

“Jeremiah, promise me you will only walk me to the bathroom to clean this up.” I held his left hand.

He looked at me as his breathing intensified. His eyes looked at mine and remained that way. It was as if I was draining the anger in his bones. His eyebrows started furrowing, showing weakness. His fists started loosening. When calmness started showing in his eyes, his left hand encompassed mine. “Let’s go.”

He helped me up and it was as if we were magnets, every set of eyes looked at us, every lip gossiped in whispers as we passed through the cafeteria hall. “The eyes are starting to creep me out,” I whispered behind my teeth.

“If you had allowed to at least say one word...”

“Jeremiah, violence is never the solution.” I looked at him. His face disagreed.

A couple of minutes later, we had to assemble at the school hall. This meant that I was about to see everyone, for the first time. Every person who got a letter except Ben and Gabriel, who were no longer at the school and many others. I had to see Sophia again but I wondered who she hung out with now, who was her best friend now. And Benjamin, was he upset or guilty?

Jeremiah had abandoned me for his friend Ryan Hunter, who also happened to be Sophia’s ex-boyfriend. I told him to leave anyway, I hated the attention he was getting because of me. But he had managed to get me cleaned up before the meeting.

I saw everyone assemble inside the hall, Craig gave me a single look and stood where he was as if he was contemplating whether he should approach me or not. He finally ran towards me. “Adrian...wait.”

I rolled my eyes as I sat on the bench. “What is it, Craig?”

“What are you afraid of?”

“What are you talking about?”

“In the letter...you were so afraid of kissing me that night at the freshman’s party. What if I had kissed you, regardless? What if I wanted to kiss you?”

“You didn’t Craig. Why are you talking like this?”

“Because I was afraid you didn’t want to kiss me back...”

“Your sexual orienta...”

“You never asked, Adrian. You had no right to assume about my sexual orientation. Have you ever seen me with a woman before?”

“No, but...”

“Would I have tried to kiss you if I wasn’t into you?”

“Were you?” My eyes widened, my ears heated.

“That doesn’t matter...”

“I think it does, Craig. That night...did you want to kiss me not because you were drunk and high or wanted to humiliate me but...because you were into me?”

“Why would I ever humiliate you, Adrian? Is this because of Ben and Gabriel, how they reacted, and you think I’d do the same?”

“You still haven’t answered my question, Craig.”

“Neither did you, Adrian.”

I sighed. “Those letters weren’t meant to come out...”

“But they did, Adrian. What now?”

“I don’t know, Craig...okay?”

He stood up. His jaws were twitching, he looked like he was about to cry. “Yes, Adrian. I wanted to kiss you because I’m fucking into you, but you stopped me.”

“You’re into me? Why?”

“You above everyone should know how that works.”

He walked off. “CRAIG!?”

He stopped. He walked back to me and had an eyebrow furrowed. “What?”

“Thank you. For being there for me.”

His face relaxed and nodded.

Flashback:

“Welcome to the party, sir...” Craig kissed my hand. “Madams.” He kissed both Mia’s and Sophia’s hands. “This way.” He spoke in a fake French accent, while he stood by the door. His job, apparently, was to welcome guests.

Gabriel was my friend at the time. Gabriel was the typical jock who basically treated me as his child. He would give me stares when I stood with a guy. He was the only one who suspected I may have been gay, well, after Jeremiah. He kept me away from men who tried to approach me anywhere. He was always like a hawk watching above my head.

Another flashback:

One time, while waiting for Sophia, Ben, Gabriel, Jeremiah, Mia included, Jason(who was also a recipient), Mason and William at the mall to get themselves pretzels and the boys getting actual food while waiting outside Sophia and I’s favourite cafe outside town, a certain badass boy attired in some motorbike black-leather outfit approached me.

I was standing right outside the cafe, at the time I smoked cigarettes. “Hey. I don’t think you should be standing here alone in this weather.” He had said.

It was a bit chilly, and I had worn only one of my sweaters that day. “You think? So what exactly should I be doing? Diagnose me, doctor?”

“Very funny. I’m Harry.” He had given me his hand to shake. I held it.

“Adrian.”

"Adrian...nice to meet you. Can we meet again sometime? This seems to be your favourite spot.”

“Uhm yes.” I smoked again. “But unfortunately we can’t. I have a boyfriend, and the whole idea of us standing here alone isn’t the best image for him.”

“Is he amongst the girls and guys you’re with?”

Gabriel walked out of the subway shop right next to the cafe, where the boys grabbed their lunch. “No, he isn’t,” I replied absentmindedly, giving Gabriel the don’t-embarrass-me-please look.

But Gabriel wasn’t having it. “Hey. Trynna hook up with my boyfriend?” He made his voice stern as he stared at the poor guy.

“No.” His voice stuttered. He looked at me. “Thought you said...”

“He’s not my boyfriend, but he acts like one.” I sang as my hand covered my face in embarrassment.

“Beat it, Joe!” Gabriel was more than ready for a fight. Harry looked at me and I just nodded. The other boys came out of the shop. Harry got on his bike, as I expected, and drove off. “I don’t understand how you manage to attract all these good-for-nothing boys.”

“Yeah, I have no idea too DAD!” I rolled my eyes. “The guy was just being polite, and starting a conversation.”

“Not when I’m around.” Gabriel grinned as he hugged my head.

The ladies got out as well with their pretzels and milkshakes. “I guess we’re done. Next stop?” Mia asked as her mouth got to the straw of her milkshake.

“Lake Mouth.” Ben grinned.

Back To First Flashback:

Sophia had gotten drunk that night of the party. She had turned sixteen the previous day, and my birthday had passed a month ago.

I scrolled through the party groovers and in desperation for peace and quiet, I went to the kitchen where they were still making the punch. Mia, who was wearing a decent vanilla dress that almost covered her knees, stood at a corner looking disgusted. I accompanied her. “Hey...you’re not into these kinds of stuff?”

“They added gin. I hate gin.” Her face ravelled.

“You know what I could go for right now...”

She looked at me and rolled her eyes. She thought I was about to talk about music again. “Some weed.”

She looked at me, surprised by my reply and we both giggled. “I think Jeremiah may have some.”

She dragged me out of the kitchen to the backyard, which had a very large and illuminated square pool where every female was at least breast-naked. She didn’t slow down at all. We sped through the crowd, some of them didn’t even belong to Clever Cats. We got to what seemed to be the tool stall built with wood, it was definitely a hub for smoking weed. And it was in Mr Greene’s yard, Gabriel’s dad.

“Hey, guys.” Mia yelled and Ben, who had a blunt in his hand, dropped it.

“Jesus, Mia!” He shook his hand in the air, burnt by the burning coal. “You don’t smoke weed.” Ben looked up, although we couldn’t actually see each other.

“Neither does Adrian.”

It was dark, I guess the light didn’t work. They had torches on. “What? Adrian? You’re here?” Jeremiah stood up.

“I’m surprised you’re here too, Jeremiah.”

“Adrian’s here?” Gabriel, my parent, stood up as well.

“Yes, dad. Lead by example. I need a blunt.”

The boys chimed in laughter. “Ayt son, you want some weed...you’ll get some weed.”

“Just know I’ve never done weed before,” I announced before I humiliated myself.

“It’s going to be a breeze if you know how to smoke cigarettes. C’mon.” Jeremiah stuck out his hand. He scooched and Mia and I found a place to sit.

The blunt circulated around, I skipped at first but Jeremiah kept on persuading me. “I’m going to. I’m just thinking of how this thing may embarrass me.”

“It embarrassed all of us when we started it.”

“And when exactly did you start smoking weed?” My eyebrow furrowed, but he couldn’t see.

“I started last year.”

“Of course you did.” In eighth grade, Jeremiah Simone and I weren’t that close until freshman year although we were actual friends. I just knew him. So he may be telling the truth.

After the blunt circulated from Ben to Gabriel, from Gabriel to Mia, from Mia to Craig, Craig passed it to Jeremiah and Jeremiah handed it to me. “I promise it won’t hurt...I think.” Jeremiah whispered close to my ear.

I took the blunt and fortunately I had seen how it was held and puffed, various times. So the first puff wasn’t so bad.

The second, not so bad as well.

The third, I was a pro.

“There you go!” Gabriel yelled. I passed it to Craig again. “That wasn’t so bad son now, was it?”

“Oh my goodness, the dad-son thing was me playing sarcastic when you embarrassed me in front of Harry. That’s it.” My eyes rolled in the dark.

“You’ll always be my son, son.” He flashed the flashlight on his face, showing his sarcastic grin.

“You are so embarrassing.”

After everyone was done, we exited the stall and the confusion started. It was as if everything was normal but wasn’t. The noises that I usually hated sounded like beautiful cheers and the presence of people in the party suddenly became a casualty. I didn’t want to scream or do anything embarrassing, but I felt the difference in perception and the atmosphere as well. It was thrilling.

Sophia, as we entered the house, laughed as she saw me. I ended up laughing too. “He-llo Adrian. Since when do you do weed?”

“Since now. Wouldn’t have if you didn’t invite me to this party.” I sang.

“I want to dance.” Mia was about to disturbingly take off her dress.

“O-kay, Ben...accompany her.” Jeremiah sang.

“Got it,” Ben responded. Ben, after all, was Mia’s boyfriend. They left together.

“If I start taking off my sweater, question my sanity,” I announced.

Craig smiled. “I’ll be right here, don’t worry.”

Jeremiah was being carried away, literally, by a bunch of females. Sophia was suddenly flirting with some jock, Gabriel watching me like a hawk while conversating with his girlfriend Trina. William and Mason were probably upstairs fucking women. Oh, and Jason wasn’t at the party.

So it was just Craig and I standing awkwardly by the kitchen counter as we watched the party groovers chuck some punch. “Want to try it out?” Craig looked at me with a grin.

“Uh...no thanks.”

“Suit yourself.” He shrugged.

The drunk strangers lifted him up and turned his entire body downwards, just like we see in movies, and as expected, his mouth was shoved with a large pipe. “GO! GO! GO! GO!...” the party groovers chanted as Craig stupidly attempted to drink the punch downwards. As anticipated, he choked. Bad!

He was turned upwards again and oh boy did he cough and beg for his life. I just stood where he left me, giggling at the comedy which could have turned into a tragedy. But still, the party groovers cheered as if the near-death-experience was something impressive.

“Tell me that was impressive...” Craig raised his arms in the air.

“You almost died...” I was still laughing.

“I’ll take the laughter as yes, thank you very much.” He smiled. He raised his shirt to wipe his wet face and well...I couldn’t unsee what I saw. A stack of eight abs that looked dangerously hard, as if they could, like a python, strangle an adult cow. The nipples on his pecks looked directly at me. It was hard to unsee the blatantly enormous arms and uplifted shoulders.

I tried, anyway, to look away and pretend as if I had seen nothing but the usual. Nothing arousing or anything like that, I was straight after all. “Where do you think the others are?” I asked.

“Oh? Am I getting too boring for you?” He smiled.

“No, not at all. I just wish we were somewhere quiet.”

“C’mon.”

We ran upstairs to one of the rooms. Gabriel’s father’s house had maaaany rooms, the house was almost a penthouse. So we did find a room, which Craig seemed familiar with. “I remember Gabriel used to have a vinyl that would play these cool classic tunes.”

“Nice.” I grinned, happy that at least someone was into retro music as much as I was.

I rested with my back on the large queen-sized bed. He played some Louis Armstrong old jazz tunes and rested on the bed with me. The high was ethereal, somewhat complete because a stranger was lying next to me, listening to the same music I wanted to listen to.

We conversated about some of the greatest legends in jazz as we looked up to the ceiling, some seconds we’d look at each other’s eyes just to tell each other how high the other is. Eventually, he turned to his side to look at me. That’s when I got nervous.

“It’s almost one. We’ve been here for like...two hours now.” Craig announced as he looked through his wristwatch.

“I’m sure the others haven’t even acknowledged our disappearance.” I sat on my side as well, our bodies intimately facing each other. I got scared a bit. I looked at his face and suddenly I found him brainsickly beautiful. He had large eyelashes and nicely pouted lips with well-cut sideburns on either side of his face.

“You know...I appreciate this. We should do this again sometime.” Craig baritoned with a smile.

“Definitely.” I nodded.

His face neared, mine too, in motion so slow even I didn’t know if it was the high or just the moment. My ears began heating, my palms sweating. I wanted to kiss him, but I didn’t know which alarm it would set off. Him being angry or him being confused. He neared much faster than I did, which made me panic.

“Wait...” I whispered as my shoulders recoiled. “What are we doing?”

Present:

“Well...see you around.” Craig smiled and waved.

“Yeah.” I nodded.

He left me alone at the bench. I looked around and I saw Niall first, followed by the rest of the jocks. My body abnormally froze for a mild second. It was as if I was under a spell. I wanted to cry to insinuate fear but had no idea who I should cry to. Even the rest of the school felt their aura as they entered. It was scary than comforting.

“Can I sit...next to you?” Benjamin whispered from behind me. He was sitting on the bench behind me.

“Look, Benjamin...”

“I promise I’ll be quick.” He interjected. I nodded, hesitantly. He jumped in front and sat next to me. “How have you been?”

I looked at him. I just couldn’t reply, the question was beyond stupid.

“Okay...but I know things have been rough lately and if Sophia had emphasised that sending those letters would be a big deal, I wouldn’t have been part of it, I swear. I’m part of the reason why your life is ruined and for that, I am truly sorry.”

“You’re not...mad at me?”

“I was...you had the entire night to tell me. I slept at your apartment that night.” He angry-whispered.

“It doesn’t work that way.” I whisper-yelled. “So what? Just because I had a silly crush on you over some Truth or Dare game, I have to tell you, regardless of your sexuality?”

“I thought we had established the sexuality part...” His hands covered his face. “Dude, I don’t care about your sexuality. You never even asked my sexual orientation.” He over-whispered the last part.

“I thought you were straight...” I whispered back. He looked at me in silence.

“That doesn’t matter...”

I interrupted with widened eyes. “Yes it does, Benjamin. You’re not straight?”

He silently looked into my eyes for a short while. He stood up and looked back at me. “Most of us aren’t.” He mysteriously walked off.

"Attention students. May we all settle, the meeting is about to start.” The principal, Ms Jolie, spoke into the mic at the alter. Everyone assembled and settled and that was when I saw Sophia, back with Ryan Hunter again on the other side of the hall’s aisle. She gave me a stare that was far from apologetic. Her eyes told me she didn’t care anymore.

Sandra, who didn’t see me, sat right next to me. Sandra was the ‘raped girl’ this past week. She was very beautiful and very much reminded me of Mia with her unique baroque dresses that almost covered her knees. Her hair was always in a ponytail, however that day, her hair was loosely covering sides of her face, almost making herself invisible.

She knew me, but we were never friends. We had been classmates various times from elementary school. Clever Cats was one of the few high schools in the town and since the rest of the high schools had a terrible reputation of poor pass rate and mayhems, Clever Cats with a highly respected reputation and an excellent pass rate was “the best suited high school for children.” Bullshit!

We didn’t even have a Student Body President!

Therefore, most of the people I knew from elementary school were in Clever Cats, which disadvantageously means that 90% of my crushes were there.

“Hey.” I started a conversation with her.

She instantly looked at me. Her eyes were wet. “Uhm...Hey. Adrian.”

“Oh. Well, I’m glad you know me. I hate introductions.” I fidgeted.

She looked at me and nodded with an awkward smile.

“Well...how are you doing? Are you good?” I looked at her, hoping I would catch her eyes again.

And she did look at me again. “How are you doing?”

“Well...I guess it’s a rhetorical question for the both of us.”

She scoffed. She kept silent for a couple of seconds before deciding to speak again. “Was it the jocks to you too?”

I immediately felt tears in my eyes, as if I just got insulted. “Yeah,” I whispered, under my breath.

“Me too. After I was taken to the hospital and recovered, no one did anything about it. Mom and dad haven’t even shown much concern, the school has been quiet about the matter until now, and I doubt this meeting will make any difference.”

“Of course it won’t.”

Ms Jolie stood at the altar again, fixing the mic. “Students of Clever Cats High, today we’re assembled at the school hall to address some and most of the known issues that have been taking place at Clever Cats High, tarnishing the reputation of the school consequently. There have been many complaints and reports concerning a repulsive rape culture taking place on these premises. By this month only, there have been multiple reports of rape, molestation and sodomy taking place in this school.”

She took the mic from the stand and walked on the alter. “I will not tolerate such disgusting, barbaric behaviour in my school. This is a school of decency and excellence. It is a disgrace to know that this has been going on for a long time, some cases went unreported.” She yelled. “I may not know who is behind this taboo, but I do ask you that you never keep quiet. Our girls, and boys too, do not feel safe in this school anymore because there are rapists and bullies who take advantage of them. If this activity continues, trust me, there will be consequences.”

“How come you don’t know who’s responsible for this, Ms Jolie?” A voice yelled from our crowd. Someone stood up, and it was William. “You’re here to address a very obvious issue in the school with blatantly empty threats while we...they get bullied and raped every day? Is that why you’re on that alter? To remind them that they’re victims?” He roared the last question.

The crowd began murmuring. “And there will be consequences? What about the perpetrators we have already roaming around this school, will there be consequences for them too?” Jeremiah yelled, ready to throw a shoe at her.

“And we kept quiet when it started...” Julie stood up and walked on the aisle. “First it was Adrian who was brutally bullied and later on, on the same day, raped and deserted by ‘strangers’ at the school’s toilets. Has anything been done for Adrian since then?”

“Adrian’s a faggot, that’s what he is.” A choir of basses chimed in laughter at the back.

That...stung!

“And you’re the bastards that condone rape culture in this school!” Sophia screamed.

Everyone turned to the back and yes, it was the jocks. Niall stood up for the jocks. “Ms Jolie, I don’t think it’s fair to be polarized under a stereotype, that since we’re jocks, we’re responsible for the pandemonium that has been taking place in this school.”

“You harass people! You should be the last person to stand, Niall!” Benjamin roared as his body shot up, ready for a fight.

Cellphones were out, recording the mayhem. It was all just a joke for social media. The jocks, in the video, would look like the chilled sirs who were accused of doing something they didn’t do, most especially if the video started on Niall’s speech. And we, on the other hand, were the wild hooligans who brought embarrassment into the school even though we were advocating against rape, bullism and sodomy in the school.

When fights, physical fights, between William, Benjamin, Jason, Jeremiah, Craig and the other non-jock boys against the jocks started, I took my crutches and limped out. That fight was rather personal than professional. That was the shortest meeting we’ve ever had at Clever Cats. It was almost funny.

I decided to go to the library, for some peace and quiet. I settled after moments of limping. I took out Hamlet and began reading. But in actuality, I wanted space to cry. I watched as the pages of the book saturated with tears. I was the only student in the library, so I was comfortable with weeping in public. From a weep, I geared to a sob.

I started this, and not even I gave attention to myself to see if I was okay. The more the topic was brought to the table, the more I felt a pang of guilt that even I don’t understand. One that never ends the following day. One I don’t want to show to anyone.

I quickly wiped my tears with a tissue I had earlier as if someone was watching. But I still felt like crying. I felt like not being in that environment, in general. I felt like going home and staying there until someone tells me that everything is okay and I can get out.

You know what? Just go to your car, get out of here. That way, you can cry as long and loud as you desire.

As thought, I decided to leave. I grabbed my crutches and limped out of the library with tears uncontrollably falling down my face. I took the second passage, avoiding where I assumed there was the crowd and in a flash, someone passed by the end of the passage. He stopped and walked back as if he also saw me, and it was Jeremiah with a bag of ice by his nose.

I grunted, having no interest in talking to him whatsoever. I kept on walking, unfortunately, I was heading towards his direction. He ran towards me, willing to help. “I can support myself well, thank you.” My voice wobbled.

“C’mon Adrian, let me help you.”

“Jeremiah, what did I tell you about violence? Did it solve anything?” I yelled in anger.

“They were disrespecting you and everyone who...”

“SO YOU THINK WE WANT A FIGHT?” I yelled. “You think we want eyes looking at us and videos humiliating us on Youtube, is that what you think I want?”

“Look...I’m sorry.”

“Just save it, Jeremiah. I’m going home.” I crutched forward, attempting to leave him, but he followed.

“Can you drive in your condition?”

“Yes, Jeremiah...I can drive! Now go back, I need to be alone.” I looked into his eyes sternly.

He subsided as if I had hit a nerve. “At least let me accompany you to the lot. Hey, were you crying?”

“Of course I was, Jeremiah. You never listen, mostly to me.” More tears fell down my face. I took out my keys as we approached the lot. “It’s like...you don’t really understand how I feel about you.” I looked at him, but his attention was on something else. That just made me even angrier.

“Adrian...why don’t you stay here...I’m about to check your car real quick.” He absentmindedly left me standing at the lot. He was heading to my car and suddenly, he knelt and looked beneath. “ADRIAN, THERE’S A BOMB BENEATH YOUR CAR.”

My eyes widened. “What? Are you sure? How could you tell?”

He jogged towards me. “I saw a flashing red light beneath your car while we were talking. We need to report this. To the police.” He looked at me with very furious eyes.

He left me there as I tried to follow him to the principal’s office.

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