Speak & Listen

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WHEN IT SANK IN...

WHEN IT SANK IN...

I was far from safe, I was far from secure even when I had Jeremiah as a boyfriend. I told him I needed a break from him, a break from everyone. It was three days later, it was on a Friday on a rainy day when it all sank in. When voices began talking to me again, shaming and humiliating me.

Laughing at me. It had been three days as well since I’ve seen my mother. Where was I?

In my room. Where the vile thoughts drowned me. Told me what I was...a victim. A rape victim. A subject to bullying. I was also a threat, apparently. And just like I anticipated, it had been three days and there has been no report or response about the person responsible for the set bomb beneath my car.

So I fell into a depression, for the first time. It was self-diagnosable. Why did I say so? Because I didn’t just feel sad, and the sadness didn’t just last for a day or two...it lasted for a while. It felt like nothing, that’s how it feels. It feels like trying to find a sound in silence but failing to get it. It was like a neverending fever, a parasite feeding off my soul and it’s not that I hated it, the problem was the fact that I liked it.

I liked being in my room, crying and not eating, not responding to the knocks on my door but just depressing music from Beck, Billie Eilish, Lykke Li, Bon Iver and so many more on the playlist I created titled “Adrian is dying.” I liked the idea that I was so close to death, I was so close to escaping high school drama.

My fingers had a discomforting feeling, due to the dry blood on my nails. I had continued scratching again, but it didn’t happen so often. Only when anxiety crept in when I get ready for bed at night. It was the fear of the unknown...always in constant fear that something may happen. I’d think of the worst when the lights were off at 3 am at night.

I’d suddenly think of the whole town mobbing to my apartment and burning our house with me inside it. I’d imagine that if I would walk out of the house, someone would be following me around with a sniper or worse yet, I would think of one of the jocks invading the house, only to bully and rape me again. I would also think of the bomb, I’d think of that one jock who called me a ‘faggot’ at the school hall. I’d also think...

I took a tissue, wiping the tears that never seemed to fade from my eyes. All I knew was the fact that no one wanted me, everyone hated me and the reason why everything happened to me and other victims is because I had written those letters. Without those letters, if they never existed, if I had never trusted Sophia if I had not said anything at all...everyone would still be okay.

But it was this...regrets and ‘what if’s’ and ‘could have been’s’. Nothing was okay, and our lives had changed forever. I couldn’t imagine myself being able to trust another person, or at least love them. I didn’t think I’d be bitter towards a good Samaritan, but I’d still be living in insecurities.

I had not washed, changed clothes nor have I moved a single muscle for three days. I haven’t eaten anything, however, I had been drinking water when I’d urinate in the bathroom, and would drink from the basin’s cold water tap. But other than that, I had been pretty miserable for three days.

Unfortunately, that Friday I had to submit a Wuthering Heights essay due that day. I had to be at Mr Word’s class by 9 am.

It took me an hour to get ready. I could, for some reason, use one crutch all so suddenly. I ate my cereal and with milk spill on my face, I jetted out of the house with my mouth still full. It was half-past 8 already. I limped to my car, obviously I had made sure to look for any bombs before getting in.

I drove in silence. The tears now were just ridiculously unstoppable. Even when I wanted them to, they just didn’t. I had listened to my thoughts too much, despite them telling a lie. I believed every slur, every comment, every judgement they said about me. It was easy to believe them when you were that vulnerable and sensitive.

I parked my car at the school’s lot and not at all did it feel like a drive to school, but a drive to another state. It was long and tiring. I wore my hoodie above my head and took my bag and crutch and emerged out of the car, locking it afterwards.

My arms ached from the scratch-marks. That morning, I had tried to stop the blood from my arms with bandages. I limped to the school’s building and as I anticipated, everyone was out of class, on their lockers, preparing for the second period.

And I wasn’t anxious, not at all, but just careless for some reason. It was as if I knew I was a ghost in the world. I walked amongst the crowd, maybe people didn’t notice my presence because of the large hoodie that covered almost my entire face. And maybe because I had been absent for three days.

I found my locker and as I put in my combination, my head was forcefully thrown to the locker’s door. My body was pushed towards the lockers and his hands, whoever he was, forcefully ran all over my body down to my buttocks. By the time his hand reached to my crotch, my body had frozen completely. “We’re watching you, so you better watch yourself. You hear?”

I nodded, tears falling again. “Good boy.” He patted my shoulder. I felt him walking off. It felt as if I just got intimidated by an alligator that later on decided that I was not food. I could literally feel relief entering my lungs and calming my heart. I looked at the jock, and I knew him and his name...Calvin.

I quickly opened my locker to collect whatever I’d need for English, including my final script. I limped into Mr Word’s classroom in ghosted silence and just when I thought I was invisible. “Hey Spector, what’s this? Another letter?” Niall, who didn’t see was in the class, stole my script. The students, who were watching, were completely silent.

“No, that’s my script Niall,” I responded sheepishly. “Give it back.”

“Give his script back, Niall.” Sophia, from behind him, roared.

But that didn’t seem to intimidate him. “Take it, then.” He, afterwards, tore it six times right in front of me. He looked into my eyes and smirked. He saw my tears fall, but not even an inch of regret or pity showed in his eyes. Rather, his eyes showed pride.

“Jerk,” Sophia grunted.

She looked at me with a widened mouth, again missing the opportunity to say something. I silently collected my torn script and sat down. Mr Word entered. “Students...before we continue with Wuthering Heights, I expect my essays today. He waited as everyone reached to their bags, and when I felt his glare on me, I knew he would ask.

He walked towards my desk. “Mr Spector, take off your hoodie.” I could tell, from the heavy silence, that everyone was looking. I took it off and nodded at him. His eyebrows knitted, as he noticed the tears. “Spector...where is your essay?”

I looked at Niall, who was at the back with a large mocking grin, then back to Mr Word with tears attempting to fall again. “Sir, something happened to my final draft, can I hand in the rough draft instead?”

“You will outdo them all anyway, son. Hand it over.” He smiled, then looked at the back shooting a glare at someone.

“Thank you, sir.” I looked back at Niall, who now had a frown on his face. I took out my rough draft and gave it to him. It was basically the same as my final, but with more errors. It was impossible to assume I would outdo everyone.

We continued watching the film until I practically fell asleep. I had read the book and had seen the movie various times, so I wasn’t missing out on anything. Mr Word knew that.

When the bell rang, I stood up and grabbed my crutch. “Son, a word with you if you don’t mind...”

Everyone had left. I was only left with Mr Word in the room. “Yes, sir.” My eyes rolled.

I sat back down again. He walked to the front of my desk and lowered to my desk level. “Look, son, I don’t like seeing you like this. Tears in your eyes, black hoodies covering your head...”

“Well I’m not sure if you’ve heard...but I’m the number one spectacle in the school, Mr Word. ” I roared.

“I get that son, but I fear this may have an impact on your schoolwork. I don’t have any problems with you, academically, so far. However, your behavioural patterns concern me. A lot.”

“Behavioural patterns? I’m the most silent person in your class, sir. And with all due respect sir, but I am the last thing in this school you should be concerned about.”

“Have you spoken to Mrs Ravens, our student counsellor?”

“I have.”

“And?”

“And what, sir? You want to hear me say we’re having good sessions and I’m getting better, is that it?”

“Actually, yes. That’s exactly what I want to hear from you. Whatever you may be going through, keep in mind that it won’t be forever and this as well will pass. Alright, son?”

I nodded. I hated not having a response to such situations. I grabbed my crutch and bag and left his class.

Third...

Fourth...

The fifth period passed. And it still felt like I was absent in the world. Like I was non-existent. Like everything was not going to be okay and things were too ruined to ‘go back to normal’. When the bell rang from Calculus, heading to recess, it was only then that I noticed that there was an event at school.

Some sort of talent show? I assumed they did this ‘distraction’ to diverge negative attention away from us for a while, and to portray the school as a creative playland where every scar, every scream and every pain remains ignored. The talent show was to consume the remaining time before after school. I heard, as well, that the talent show was to involve other schools as well so in general, visitors were obviously allowed.

I decided to stay at the science lab after recess, not that I was into science, but just to play with the beakers just to feel like a scientist. But truly, it was to escape the noise. And to cry again, which started again as soon as I thought about crying. That was how sensitive I was. But Niall failed to see that.

Judging from the increasing noise around the school, I assumed the event had started. And I wasn’t going to be part of it, the fakeness. I sat by the windowpane and watched the dark clouds that insinuated rain.

I thought about how now I was the socially awkward, bullied kid in high school who is also a rape victim on a crime that remained unreported. Although I had insisted that it was not rape and denied it, and therapy as well, however, there were no precautionary measures for the other bullied, raped and sodomized students. Nothing was done, which makes me lose hope.

I wrote on my diary to waste time, to not go crazy actually. All the vile and sinister thoughts that ruminated in my head, promising myself I would never follow them through. They were like a tumour that kept on aching for attention. They kept on reminding me of how useless and wimpish I was, how I was actually a whore. How I should be ashamed of myself for being ‘the only gay child in the family’. They said this to make me mad and furious.

More tears fell on the diary pages, as I’ve said, I couldn’t stop them because I believed them. I looked at my nails, and they immediately started itching. I wept in silence, knowing that the scratching would cause serious if not permanent harm. I tried biting them off, but that just made them even sharper. Tried scratching them with my teeth but my nails desired nothing else but the skin of my forearms.

The room was starting to scream, I was hyperventilating again.

Someone entered and I looked away before she or he would notice that it was me. But apparently it was too late. “Adrian?” The familiar voice belled in my ears. It made my heart skip in ambivalent joy and fear.

I looked at him, and yes it was him. Daddy.

“Gabriel?”

“I won’t hurt you.” He closed the door and lifted up his arms, walking at a very slow, calculated pace towards me. He must have thought I was mad at him. After everything, how was I entitled to be angry at anything? “Look Adrian...I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?” My voice wobbled, not believing that Gabriel was in front of me apologizing.

“I bullied you, Ben and I...because I was angry and confused and scared and not at all were it fair for you to be the punching bag. I heard about the letters.”

I got off the windowpane and limped towards him in disbelief, and assumed it was a prank. “Where’s Ben?”

“I’m no longer friends with him. I...came out to him after I got the letter.” I saw tears in his eyes.

“You...came out ?” Tears fell again.

“Yeah.” He whispered. “I was afraid of the negative attention you received when you came out. Most definitely, I didn’t think I’d ever come out to Ben. It was all his idea to...bully you. I never intended on hurting you. It’s just that, after that night, Ben got so mad even I got scared of him. I know you never meant to do what you did.”

I didn’t care. I just missed him. I missed having someone who honestly cared about me. I looked at him, shaking my head. “I missed you...” I recalled the gruesome memories. “A lot. Not only I was bullied this year but...I was raped.” I laughed at myself. “Apparently by five men. Can you believe it?” I mentioned it so casually.

His eyes widened. Tears immediately fell from his eyes. “The boy that was gang-raped...that was you?” His voice squeaked.

I nodded. He sobbed, pacing around the room. Nothing meant more than him crying because of me. That, on its own, meant he still cared. “Jesus, I’m so sorry Adrian...” He walked towards me patiently. “Can I hold you?” His arms lifted, waiting for my consent.

A sob escaped my mouth before I could answer. “Please!”

His arms wrapped around me and I could not believe that someone still cared. Someone, who I couldn’t even find in Clever Cats, cared enough to hug me. And it was Gabriel. That made me cry even more. That made me miss him in my life even more. I loved Gabriel like my lover, my brother, my friend and my father. All compiled into one.

Gabriel was who I connected with the most, that one person who didn’t just know me but understood me soul-to-soul. David, my actual dad, liked him more than any of my friends, even more than Sophia and Jeremiah, even when he was my bully he still saw good in him.

“Let’s get out of here.” He grinned.

I giggled, wiping my tears. “We can’t. My car is here.”

“I didn’t bring mine, so we can leave together. Daddy will drive for a change.” He smiled. As much as he may still think the daddy-son joke is still a joke, to me, I have loved him like everything. It brought exciting warmth in my heart like something cold and solid was liquidating in me.

I nodded as a response. Just when I was about to grab my crutch, Jeremiah entered. When he saw Gabriel in the room, his face turned bitter. I knew, very well, that they were enemies. Primarily because of him and Ben bullied me. “Adrian...” He said.

“Jeremiah,” I spoke, giving him the don’t-start-something-you-won’t-fucking-finish look.

But he wasn’t having it. “Adrian, why don’t you go to the car so long?”

“Stay, Adrian,” Gabriel yelled as Jeremiah stood right in front of him, ready to throw a punch. I was afraid that Gabriel was even more ready with a gun.

“Who do you think you are, commanding my boyfriend like that?”

“I’m your boyfriend now?” I limped towards Jeremiah. “After you start fights when I ask you not to participate in them? After telling you I needed a break from you, you can’t even respect that?”

“You’re dating him?” Gabriel scoffed.

“Yes, I am.” I looked down, knowing I had disappointed him. He knew about the vile side I feared from Jeremiah. “Gabriel’s here to see me. What you failed to do, Jeremiah.”

Jeremiah walked towards me and lowered his head in much more calm spirits. He sighed before speaking “Why is he here, Adrian? After everything, he did to you?”

“To apologize. To be there for me. Jeremiah...have we ever hugged? Kissed, even? Did you ever create that moment in your head to just spend time with me? Or did you agree on this, dating me, because you sympathized with me?”

He froze with widened eyes. “Baby...”

"Baby? Doesn’t that sound awkward to you too?” I grimaced.

He rolled his eyes. “Yes, it does sound kinda cheesy. But...no, I don’t think our dating is an act of sympathy. I’m sorry too if I made you feel that way.”

I sighed. I thought I should say what was on his mind as well. “Jeremiah...I don’t think we should date. I mean, we don’t have to.”

“...Really?” He sighed again.

“No, we don’t. I don’t need anything in those letters to be fulfilled. It’s a crush, or crushes since it’s two letters, however, I can live with having you only as a friend. And I’m sorry if I made things awkward for you.”

“I’m sorry too. I felt obliged because...I wanted to keep you as anything. I’m Queer, sure, but you’re one of the best friends I’ve ever had Adrian and whenever you keep talking about being away from me, I panic. We can end the relationship, I’m cool with that, but we can’t end our friendship.” Jeremiah, for the first time, spoke transparently.

I held his face, in which he showed his dimples. “I think that is the most honest thing you’ve ever said to me. Dude, of course, we can be friends, although I wish we kissed first...” I laughed.

He pouted. “We can still do that...”

“No. Daddy’s in the room.” I looked at Gabriel, who was ignorantly on his phone.

Jeremiah turned and walked to him. Gabriel put his phone away and smiled at his old friend. “It’s nice to see you again, man.” Jeremiah grinned, with his hand stuck out to Gabriel.

Gabriel silently looked at his hand for long seconds before deciding to hug him. “I’m sorry for being a jerk, dude.”

“Yup. You and Ben were really shitty dicks.” Jeremiah said as he patted him on his back.

They let go of each other. “Ben deserted me as soon as I came out as Bisexual, so we’re no longer friends.”

“He’s an asshole. He was the only one who tripped that night.” Jeremiah grunted. “Was it Ben who made you bully Adrian?”

Gabriel nodded.

Flashback:

So what happened? What led to the breaking point of our friendship with Ben, Gabriel and I, and what is this ‘night’? Well, it was just a month after I had come out. I was still dating Alan. Gabriel had invited me to a smoking session. Alan thought it was quite sexy that I smoked weed and we would smoke weed together some nights, most especially when mom went away to Bellington for the weekend to visit Nana.

That particular night, I had worn my typical oversized sweater and track pants and some running shoes. It wasn’t a party, as I’ve said. Alan and I were standing outside smoking cigarettes, waiting for Gabriel’s car to arrive.

“What if things have changed, Alan?” I blew the smoke out. “It’s been exactly a month of silence and awkwardness since I’ve come out. Why don’t you come with?”

“If things have changed, it will be for the good.” He touched my face. “I think Gabriel will stand up for you anyway. Jeremy too. I, on the other hand, have a Biology test to study for.”

“It’s Jeremiah, Alan.” My eyes rolled. “Yeah, he’s a good friend.”

“Sophia too. Gabriel? Mia?” He added. “You have an entire team who have openly accepted you for who you are.”

“I guess.”

“Yes. Now go, they’re here.”

Gabriel’s minivan stopped in front of my yard with Alan and I standing outside. “Yo, Sup Alan,” Gabriel yelled from the passenger’s seat’s open window.

“Hey man.” Alan waved. “I love you.” He whispered to me.

“I love you.”

We kissed. Alan got a little bit excited so he went into the kiss a bit deeper. Sophia and the others screamed at the back. “You better kiss that man good, Alan.” Mia yelled.

We stopped. I was embarrassed already. Just when we were enjoying the attention and the moment, in general, Ben hooted a long, attention-begging hoot that showed exasperation. “C’mon Spector, let’s go!” He, Ben yelled as his hands banged the steering wheel. Everyone looked at him. Alan’s jaws twitched.

“Bye.” I smiled, he nodded absentmindedly while giving Ben a sharp glare. I ran to the minivan. Jeremiah opened up for me and I found a seat. Mia and the rest were still cheering on the kiss, while Ben was evidently not having it.

We arrived at his apartment, Ben’s that is. Yes, Jason and Craig were in the van too. We all got out in a frenzy, yelling at night. We got inside the house and of course, there was alcohol. However, I had promised Alan I wouldn’t drink anything other than a liqueur. He hated alcohol.

We settled at a highly exquisite lounge with leather seats, but we always sat on the carpet when we played games. And we, again, played Truth or Dare. Mia began “Craig...truth or dare?”

He bit his lip with a smile. “Truth.”

“Who do you think, respectively, is the best partner to have sex with, between girls and boys, in this room?”

Gabriel giggled. “Okay, that was a good one.”

“No, that was terrible,” Sophia exclaimed.

“Okay okay...” Craig’s eyes squinted in deep thought. “Females, I would assume it’s Sophia because she’s characteristically wild.” He shrugged.

I laughed out loud. “Girl, that is some serious secret-but-not-so-secret-anymore admiration.”

The crew laughed. Craig grinned “The guy would have to be...Jason.”

“Wow...” His, Jason’s, eyes rolled with a hidden smile. “I’m flattered. Hit me up sometime.”

“As if.” Craig’s eyes rolled.

“Gabriel, truth or dare?” Sophia smirked.

“I’m up for some dares. Dare!”

We oou-ed. “Well...I dare you to lick the inside of the prettiest person’s ear, in this room.”

Everyone froze to look at Sophia. That was the weirdest dare I had ever heard. “You are so weird, Sophia. And you think Gabriel would ever do such a thing?” Mia squinted at her.

“I’m doing it, actually.” Gabriel giggled. “C’mon son.”

“What?” I screamed. “The dare said ‘prettiest person’.”

He still shook his head. “I guess beauty is subjective,” Sophia asked the dare because, now that I had remembered, he had a very disturbingly long tongue that could almost touch his larynx.

He unexpectedly jumped to me and pinned my arms down with his knees as his hands held firm my head. He really did lick it and he took time, rimming the inside of my ear. “Fuck!” He whispered in my ear.

“How long is he supposed to do this?” I grimaced.

“He can stop now.” Sophia laughed out loud.

“Yo, son...” He drank a cup of water to rinse his tongue, I guess. I bet that must have been disgusting. “Truth or Dare?”

I sat there thinking which. “Hmm, let’s try a dare.”

“I dare you to kiss the prettiest person in the room.”

That’s when my insecurities kicked in. Jeremiah gave me a single glance that looked like a reprimand, Perhaps he thought I was going to kiss him. He was, after all, the prettiest guy in the room without any doubt there. However, I believed he was straight, judging from the number of girls that usually surround him.

In the room was Sophia, Mia and the guys Jason, Jeremiah, Craig, Gabriel, Ben and myself. Although he was the least attractive, I selected Ben. He was exactly next to me, absentmindedly texting on his phone. Not at all did he participate in the game that night.

I, in an instant, attacked him with a kiss. His body abnormally vibrated as I touched his waist. He was kissing back, but that was it. Other than that, it was a complete shock. We stopped kissing and for a second he paused, and when he looked at me once more, his eyes boiled in rage. “What the hell?!” He roared, thus throwing a hard punch across my face which captivated everyone’s attention.

Before they could stop him, he had already thrown two more punches directly at my face. Visions blurred. I touched my face to see if I was bleeding and I wasn’t, fortunately. But my face was numb from the beating. “Dude...” I whispered, not hearing my own voice.

“You stay the FUCK away from me, faggot!” Ben screamed, having either rage or complete fear over his eyes. I couldn’t tell because he was crying and hyperventilating.

“Dude, relax.” Craig, Jason and Jeremiah who were holding him down tried to calm him down. “It was a dare, dude. If anyone deserves a punch, it’d be me.” Gabriel stood in front of Ben.

“It was a game?” Ben’s voice squeaked, showing disappointment.

“Yes, Ben. It was just a game.” I stood up and stormed to the bathroom.

Present:

Ben never apologized that night and the following day. I had stopped seeing him again until I had to in school. And even then, it would be a violent shove against the locker with the question ’what are you looking at, faggot?’. Ben’s behaviour started to influence Gabriel’s as well. Gabriel began distancing himself from me. And when I saw him again, I was bullied.

Time and time again, I kept reporting and they would get a suspension. After the suspension, when they have returned, it would be a forgotten memory until they remembered to bully me again. The head nudges, the wedgies, my head dipped in a toilet chamber, the punches and kicks, the homework replacements and so many other reasons that would have given me the right to be mad at both of them up to now.

But I wasn’t.

I looked at Gabriel as he drove my car around town, with some Phil Collins tunes playing on the stereo, with Jeremiah singing along at the back. Gabriel, who had an amazing four-octave vocal range voice with a whistle register, sang through the songs like it was nothing. He, Gabriel, looked at me and winked.

We stopped at a bottle store. “Oh my god.” I smacked my face dramatically.

“We haven’t had this in a long while, yeah.” Jeremiah impersonated an Australian male television personality voice.

“And we are, once more, back into the field with a whole lot of liquor to quench the thirst.” Gabriel did an intercessor’s impression as well.

They both looked at me, waiting for me to join in. I used to do this with them, back when everything was normal. When I was normal. “I am not about to play the idiot. Just get out and buy the damn alcohol.”

They both growled as if I had ruined the moment. Gabriel went out. “You’ coming?” Jeremiah asked from behind.

“No, I’d rather stay here.”

“Right. I’d grab your favourite.”

“Nice.”

Jeremiah jumped out and I was left alone in the car. I, in the meantime, continued to listen to some Phil Collins tunes. I got a text, for the first time in a long while, from someone. I checked my phone, it was Mia.

"Hey. I thought I was going to talk to you today, but I saw that you left with Gabriel and Jeremiah. I wanted us to hang out, not like old time’s sake because that didn’t go so well, but new time’s sake. After everything that has been happening, I should be there for you and not just texting you and today I wanted us to have that moment. Can we hang out later on tonight? I can come to your place. I love you...Mia"

The text blew my mind, to be honest. She and I were acquaintances and had a mutual friend, who was Sophia. I didn’t think she would be on my side and still want to ‘hang out’ with me after everything that has happened.

"Sure..." I replied. ”Jeremiah and I will be at Gabriel’s. Come. And thank you for checking me out. I love you." I sent the text.

Just when I was done, on the rearview mirror, I spotted a black Jeep at a distance which I was familiar with from school. Inside were familiar uniforms of maroon jackets worn by none other than the jocks from Clever Cats. One of them, Calvin that is, stood outside the car smoking a cigarette and I thought I had mistaken at first until I noticed that I may be stalked.

Jeremiah and Gabriel returned to the car. “Man the line was long.” Gabriel sighed.

“Yeah, but we got everything. Next stop, your apartment?” Jeremiah said enthusiastically.

“Not yet.” I interrupted, looking in the rearview mirror.

“Adrian, what is it?”

“We’re being followed, I think.”

“WHAT!?” Jeremiah exclaimed, looking everywhere around him.

“I think by the jocks,” I added.

“I noticed it too. They followed us to the bottle store.” Gabriel said as he pushed his hair back. “I have a plan.”

He turned on the ignition and the car raced off and like expected, the Jeep followed. I was afraid of Gabriel’s plan, though I didn’t allow myself to ask. Jeremiah had a very tense face, one filled with malice and evil.

“Jeremiah...I need you to calm down.” I said.

“I am calm!” He exploded.

“I mean...you’re not going to fight.” I turned to look at him, sterning my face. “I am begging you.”

“He doesn’t have to.” Gabriel drove absentmindedly, his eyebrows knitted as if he was just angry, and not as full of rage as Jeremiah. He looked like he only just wanted to talk to them, but where were we going?

The car sped through downtown, then out of town to Clinton Hills, where Sophia stayed. He headed towards Lake Smith, another famous spot for high school kids and basically a campsite where high school and college kids lost their virginities. He drove deep into the woods as the Jeep still followed behind at a distance until we got to the meadow, the tourist attraction.

“We’re getting out of the car, follow me.” He jumped out and ran to my side. He stuck out his hand, looking at me. “Trust me.”

Trust him? Could I actually trust anyone? I couldn’t, but I took his hand anyway as he helped me up. Instead of crutching, he put me on his back giving me a piggy-back-ride. Jeremiah was already out of the car. “We’re heading to the meadow, to lure them,” Gabriel added.

Gabriel ran, with me on his back. His physique allowed it anyway. He was an athlete who was obsessed with physical health. So being on his back was like running with a piece of paper. Jeremiah jogged ahead.

And even before we had made it to the meadow, we stopped in the middle of the woods. “Gabriel, why are we stopping?” I began feeling anxious. I was starting to believe he was part of the plan.

“They’re close enough and we’re completely hidden,” Gabriel replied. I got off his back. I could stand, obviously. However, if things were to down-spiral, I wouldn’t be able to run.

We heard footsteps and low murmurs. Jeremiah walked towards the clamour. “Jeremiah, get back here this instant!” I whisper-yelled.

When they emerged, the jocks, Gabriel’s hand reached to his waist and pulled out a pistol. My body trembled, sending abnormal chills down my fractured spine. He pointed it at all five of them. “What the fuck are you doing here?” Gabriel yelled as the gun pointed at their widened eyes.

Their hands raised. “Yo, the fuck are you doing, Gabriel?”

“You better start speaking before I blow your fucking skulls!”

“Niall sent us to follow Adrian,” Calvin answered.

“Why?” Jeremiah interjected.

“He sees him as a threat. He’s been sending us to watch after him for a long while now.”

“Is it him who sent you to rape me too?” My voice croaked.

They all kept quiet with widened eyes. They were all guilty, I could tell from their eyes. “What? Was it them?” Jeremiah roared.

“Not all five of them. I remember their scents, their sounds and their presence. But there’s one I can’t seem to remember. One that licked my face.” Tears fell down my cheeks all over again. “Did he send you to do it?”

“Yeah,” Jerrod answered.

“You were behind that brick and the dildo trick too, weren’t you? Josh why are you here, especially taking Niall’s commands?” I squinted at him.

“It’s none of your business, faggot.” Josh yelled. Gabriel pointed the gun at him. “Niall sent me to watch over them.”

“So y’all are rapists now? Jerrod? Aubrey? You too, Jasper?” Jeremiah, who suddenly had a gun in his hand, walked towards the jocks. Jasper was also a recipient, who also happened to be my rapist. I knew him since fourth grade. Josh too.

“He deserved it.” Josh laughed.

A gunshot went off, two consecutive ones followed and again, two gunshots. Five gunshots in total fired and five bodies collapsed on the floor. My body, my skin just coiled into a mushroom, my spirit begging to be alleviated from the body. I just wanted not to be there. The fear that circulated in my veins was extraterrestrial. I was scared for my very life. The scariest part was that Gabriel wasn’t the one who shot those jocks dead...

But it was Jeremiah. “What the...I wasn’t planning on killing them, are you crazy?!” Gabriel screamed.

“They deserved it.” Jeremiah shrugged. “Let’s clean this shit up.”

“Fuck!” Gabriel punched the air. He took out his phone and dialled a number. “Jason, I need you to come to Lake Smith...yeah, the usual...bring the others...yes, I’ll explain when everyone is here...Cool.” He dropped the call, putting the gun by his waist again.

He looked at me and his eyes suddenly became sympathetic. He spoke, “I know I scare you, but I told David I would never let anyone hurt you...” My eyes immediately wetted. “Come here. Come to daddy.” He whispered with open arms.

As much as I wanted to curse him, strangle him and yell at him, I couldn’t. I limped to him and let him embrace me in a hug. I began sobbing, my diaphragm couldn’t stop twitching from the intense sobbing. I just couldn’t stop crying. I just witnessed a murder, I just recognized the jocks that raped me. I was never ready, most especially to witness their eyesore death. As much as it should have been pleasuring, I would never wish death even upon my enemies.

“We need to clean this up.” I murmured on Gabriel’s chest.

“You’re not getting involved in this Adrian.”

I rolled my eyes, trying to sound casual. “I’m already involved, Gabriel. Just let me help.”

“Jason and the boys will be here soon. You are not lifting a muscle, do you understand me?” He looked into my eyes, which scared me.

I nodded. In a few minutes, a black Mercedes Benz sped towards the meadow and immediately when it stopped, with the ignition turning off, a bunch of boys I was familiar with emerged from the car attired in black polar necks and black jeans. I was afraid for my life.

“Craig?” I yelled. “William, Jason and Mason?” Someone got out of the car, the fifth person involved in the murder case.

My eyes widened as my mind failed to process who I saw. I limped towards him. “Sebastian?”

He walked towards me with a held-in smile. “Hey, gorgeous.” His flute-like voice belled beautifully.

“You’re here...?”

“I guess so...”

We just gazed at each other for long, irrevocable minutes of failing to look away from each other. He still had the long hair that touched up to the bottom of his neck, his model-like pouted lips that now only spoke violence and badass. He still had a dragon tattoo printed around his neck and still preferred his jeans torn and only his shoes formal. He was, most noticeably, still beautiful.

He helped out as they settled the bodies in the mysterious car. I just stood there, empty, indecisive of how to feel. Happy that my rapists were dead, or terrible because I watched them die, I watched Jeremiah shoot every one of them. Was I a murderer too?

I watched outside the window as it began to rain, all roads leading to Belvyn town, where I lived. It was thick silence in the car, with only the sound of wheels on tar splashing on the water puddles on the road. The entire town was wet with rain, but I was arid with guilt. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that everything was somewhat over.

Gabriel, with his free hand, held mine as he drove through downtown. He glanced at me once with a warm smile, one that said everything was over. I was afraid it was only the beginning. And all this started with those letters.

The following day, my body took a bit longer to get out of bed, much longer to prepare for school. My feet were heavy with guilt. I had seen how I had lost weight in the mirror, the dark scary circles around my eyes and the loud scratches slash wounds on my forearms were beginning to heal under the bandages.

After I was done with everything, I walked out of the house. My body jumped as blood, fake blood, was painted all over the porch, all the way to my car, which was parked just outside. I thought, at first, I was hallucinating. However, when I bent over and touched the blood, I realized that I was not. It was still wet.

I grabbed the backyard hosepipe and began eroding the blood with water. I didn’t have enough time nor the energy to scrub everything, but I removed evident blood from the porch and the driveway. None of the blood was in or on my car. I began crying again, scared again. I took out my cellphone and called Gabriel.

“Hey, son. You’re not in school yet?”

“Something’s wrong, Gabriel. Someone painted fake blood on my porch and driveway. I think someone knows.”

“We’ll meet at Clever Cats, we shouldn’t be having this conversation over the phone. But for what it’s worth, try to calm down. And don’t...”

“Don’t drive too fast. Got it.” I groaned.

I turned off the hosepipe and dropped the call. I went in my car and drove off. Panicking, scared and hawked. It felt like everyone knew. Everyone in the entire town knew I murdered five schoolboys, who also happened to be my rapists. One was missing, one with blond hair and one who licked my face. And his memory came back just when I thought and concentrated hard enough. I saw him in my head vividly, but I still couldn’t tell who. I could only suspect.

My car parked at the school’s lot. I grabbed my bag and locked, and it was as if I was entering another atmosphere, one even much higher and much more suffocating as I walked into the building. My locker seemed miles away as I walked through the crowd of students, who still gave me a judgemental stare. It was noticeable silence as I walked amongst them as if I was covered in blood.

I opened my locker once I got to it and took everything I needed for my first class. Someone leaned on my locker and when I looked up, it was Julie, the bullied girl. “What?” My eyes rolled.

“Good job. I didn’t really think you had it in you.”

“What are you talking about?” I sighed as I closed my locker.

“Look around you...”

I did, and everyone gave me a stare. One that didn’t show humiliation, but intimidation. Everyone was scared. “I can’t tell they’re looking at either you or me, but how is that, in any way, spectacular?” I looked at her.

“Four of your rapists died last night in Lake Smith, including Josh...shot dead.”

“I heard...it doesn’t mean I am behind it.” My eyes wandered. Not even I believed myself. “And how do you know my rapists, Julie?”

“It doesn’t matter how. What matters now is how everyone knows and you’re the prime suspect. You had the motive to kill them more than anyone else.”

“I did not kill them, Julie!” I whisper-yelled. “I have to go.” I needed to use the restrooms.

She smiled and nodded. “But for what it’s worth...thank you. You saved more lives than you took.”

“Argh.” My eyes rolled again and I walked off. As much as I acted casual, my feet were sweating. My hands were trembling in extreme fear. It was as if I was the one who held the gun. I passed by Chris and Brandon, my two other recipients who happened to be friends with Niall. They gave me a cold stare, one that penetrated my soul.

I walked in one of the restrooms and locked. I noticed I was hyperventilating, having a panic attack again. My chest was closing, my heart throbbing mercilessly. I couldn’t breathe, my hands were turning into a purplish colour. Then my nails began to itch, and I didn’t have bandages this time.

No! Get out of there, Adrian.

I sprang out of the restroom and there they were. Niall, Chris and Brandon. Waiting for me. And there was no one else in the room. Niall stepped forward and my body slowly recoiled. “You never learn, do you? Not even five dicks can fuck some sense into you? Who killed them?”

“I don’t know.” A tear left my eye.

Niall took a deep breath before he grabbed my head and smashed it against the mirror, making a loud glass-splattering sound. He held my neck against the wall with his one hand. “WHO...KILLED...THEM?”

“I was in Belvyn at home when they died, I swear,” I screamed in pain.

He threw a punch on my stomach. Repeatedly, changing fists. Chris and Brandon joined, kicking me down and throwing several punches at me. “I don’t give a shit about what happens to them, but if you dare fucking touch me...I’ll kill you.”

“What?” I spat blood on the floor with a sadistic smile, looking at him. “Are you scared, Niall?”

Someone entered, it was Jeremiah. His eyes widened when he saw me on the floor in that state, and anger grew in his eyes incrementally. “Jeremiah...don’t fight,” I spoke lamely as I puked blood.

Benjamin entered as well with Mrs Ravens. Their eyes widened too. “What are you three doing? Get the hell out of here!” She, for the first time ever, screamed.

They bounced off, Niall giving me a cocky smile. Jeremiah was having a panic attack, hyperventilating all over the room. Mrs Ravens crouched to my level. “Spector, are you okay?”

“Yes, Mrs Ravens,” I spoke in pain.

“We’re going to get this sorted. Benjamin, take him to the infirmary.” Mrs Ravens commanded. She stormed out of the toilets. Jeremiah walked with us, still trying to control himself.

The infirmary was by the Biology class, which was a step away from the restroom. So we got there in no time. I was put on the stretcher bed, and the nurse, who I believed was Ms Ashby, jumped towards me.

“What happened to him?” She asked.

“He was beaten...in the restrooms,” Benjamin answered with panic in his voice.

“I’m fine. I just need to get myself cleaned up.” I said under my breath.

“I need to get my kit...” She walked out of the room. Jeremiah and Benjamin walked towards me.

“What happened, Adrian?” Benjamin asked.

“Just a regular day to me. I don’t know why bullism in this school still surprises anyone.”

“Niall bullies you?” Jeremiah asked.

“Only recently.” I gave him a look, which tried to explain things. His eyebrows dropped as if he had just made sense of everything.

“I’m so sorry, Adrian,” Benjamin whispered.

I nodded. “You guys need to get to class.”

They nodded. Ms Ashby walked back in, and the school bell rang. “We’ll come and check up on you after first, okay?” Jeremiah whispered.

I nodded. They left. I rested on the bed and just when Jeremiah and Benjamin just left, Gabriel came in. His eyes widened as he saw me. “Excuse me, but you’re not supposed to be here.” Ms Ashby exclaimed.

“I’m here to see my...to see Adrian. Please.”

I yelled. “Gabriel...if you’re seen in the premises, they’ll call cops on you. You need to leave.”

“I’ll call you during recess.” He nodded.

I nodded back at him. He left. Ms Ashby gave me pills and I drank them. And in a couple of minutes, being cleaned and dabbed, I slept.

My eyes opened again and I was at Lake Smith, with the five bodies laid dead on the muddy grass. They looked pale and cold, but blood still hurled from their bullet wounds. I was alone, holding the same pistol Jeremiah held when he shot the jocks. When I looked down, I realized I was attired in a feet-covering, plain white robe. The white robe was covered in blood, so were my hands.

I dropped the gun from my hands and gasped, seeing a large amount of blood on my hands. I ran to the nearby lake and washed my hands, they still were wet in dripping red blood. I was immediately filled with regret and guilt. I looked back at the bodies and I cried.

Although it was irrevocable, I paused for a second, like I was suddenly possessed. My feet uncontrollably walked towards the lake and I never looked back. Every step of regret, every step was of heavy guilt. I was a murderer, of five victims. I walked deep and the water level raised from my chest to my neck, to the bottom of my nose and eventually covered my head. I could breathe underwater, but couldn’t open my eyes to see. I lost control over my finger and limbs, then my waist and head and like a forgotten fossil, I stayed there lifeless.

But I could still breathe underwater.

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