Speak & Listen

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I FORGIVE YOU, HAIR 2

I Forgive You, Hair 2

I walked towards the X6 and they were chilling inside with open doors. William, Jason, Elijah, Sebastian and Mason.

“Hey...” William held my hand.

“Hey...not dead yet from hypothermia?” I spoke to everyone

“No. And that was the whole point.” Sebastian’s eyes rolled. “Maybe I should have dragged you in the water like Daniel did.”

That stung!

“You’d have to kill me first.” Why did I respond with another death joke?

“You and Craig, huh?” Mason smiled.

“Leave the newly-wedded couple alone, Mason. You’re single and you masturbate.” Jason’s eyes rolled.

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Can’t get this heart broken, man. I’d rather have my own hand break my dick.” Mason shrugged.

“Oh my god!” I said with so much disgust. “We’re planning on going out. We are going out, actually.”

“Why the sudden change of mind?” Sebastian asked.

“Dad permissively said I could go to camp at Lake Smith for all he cared. We’re only doing this once anyway before...”

“Before what?” Jason’s eyes widened. Everyone stared at me with widened eyes as well.

“No...I just mean that, maybe our relationship will be almost over when we go back to that devil’s den called Clever Cats...”

“Wait...gorgeous...nothing will change anything. Gabriel, Alan and I will always be there when you need us. One thing I’ve learned since I’ve spent more time with you guys is that here...is where I get my real friends.”

“Hey guys...”

I saw everyone’s face changing, then looking towards me. I also found the voice distantly familiar. I turned to the sound, which was towards Sebastian front passenger’s window side.

“What the fuck are you two doing here?” Sebastian spat.

“Chris and Brandon?” My voice pitched.

“Adrian...can we talk to you?” Chris asked.

“So that you can ostracize me and bully me again?” I exclaimed not in disgust, but in horror.

Alejandro came out of nowhere, reading my facial expression of horror before noticing Chris and Brandon. “Greetings, fellow good-looking men. I do not think I have seen you before.”

“Sorry, but who are you?” Brandon asked almost politely.

“Alejandro. Adrian’s friend.”

“Oh cool. Well I’m Brandon, he’s Chris...”

“Wait...his sophomore year bullies?” Alejandro furrowed his eyebrow.

“Uhm...not anymore. That’s why we want to talk to him.” Chris scratched his head.

“It’s fine. I’ll talk to them. Sebastian...you can trust me.” I mentioned him because of the deep hatred I knew he had for them for what they did to me after I came out.

“It’s them I fail to trust!” Sebastian snarled. “What’s stopping me from blowing their pig skulls off right now?”

“Me.” I stared back at him. “Alejandro, you can come with.”

We walked away from the X6. We were still visible from both the cars. I could see Craig staring like a hawk as he seemed to be smoking another joint. In fact, all my friends were watching.

“Adrian...we were all friends. We were close, man. I didn’t think your character of tenderness was a sign of homosexuality. I didn’t think for once you’d be gay. You bro’d us for a long time. I personally hated that between your friends, you never told us anything but you brought your boyfriend to school.” Chris explained.

“So the best way to express that was to bully me?” I screamed.

Brandon sighed. “Look...I got a letter. From you, but heard that Sophia bitched on you.”

“You bitched on me too, Brandon. Because I date and fuck men means I’m some...punching bag?!”

“IT’S NOT ABOUT THAT, ADRIAN!” Chris yelled. “This is about you thinking we’re better off without you. You ostracized us. Jeremiah didn’t know too til that day, right? Sophia too, right?”

“You think it’s easy coming out to your straight friends?”

“WHO GAVE YOU THE RIGHT TO FUCKIN’ ASSUME WE’RE STRAIGHT?!” Brandon yelled furiously.

Flashback:

You remember the trip to Crane Park? When Benjamin wanted me ‘so bad’, when I slept on William’s shoulder and how I ‘liked every animal’? Gabriel, Mia, Chris, Brandon, Sebastian, Sophia, Daniel, Ben, Jeremiah, William, Mason, Elijah, Craig and I were all friends. We got along so well.

“I don’t know about you guys, I’m going out to scout.” Ben said as soon as we were given permits to the park.

“I’m with you...” Sebastian seconded.

Only Chris, Jeremiah, Brandon, William and I didn’t. Everyone scattered. Crane Park, the suburb, was called so because of the amusement park it had which was one of the tourist attractions in town and its zoo.

My obsession wasn’t only music, but animals too. I talked to animals. Literally. I was walking everywhere, taking photos and talking to them. That day, about thirty people walked away from me because they thought I was crazy. Except us; Jeremiah, Chris, William and Brandon. It was quite funny.

“Komodo dragons. Largest lizards in the world. Did you know that even their saliva is venomous? One bite from this baby and it’s like swallowing more than thirty razor blades....Oh look, an orangutan!” I sometimes even became my own Australian zoologist explaining facts after the other.

I saw different kinds of animals. The lizard, a lion, an endangered white tiger...this all amused me. I found peace in observing the lives of animals.

After long moments walking around absentmindedly at the park, I realized I was walking alone, subsequently leading to my social anxiety. I didn’t even know or see where everyone was. But I continued looking, searched through the park full of strangers. I almost asked to strangers about the whereabouts of my friends.

And how did social anxiety feel? It was not only deafening, it was suffocating and ostracizing. I almost cried for dad. Dad, when I was a child, would do this to me all the time and watched me cry for him. It would be my fault anyway. One second, I was embarrassed by his mere presence and the next, I would be crying to strangers asking if they have seen my father. My father watched me as I suffered social anxiety in public.

Maybe that’s why I panicked after all. But I kept on looking.

I wish I hadn’t.

I found Chris and Brandon kissing. No, it actually seemed like they were touching each other intimately while both were conscious of where they were and how public they were. They were painfully kissing, while looking around. They were almost hidden next to the forest swamps. Maybe they were afraid of alligators too?

But that all didn’t matter. The two friends who I thought of as straight were actually...

Present:

“Gay? You guys are gay too?” I whisper-yelled.

“We just didn’t make it anyone’s business...” Brandon defended.

“Oh no, I don’t give a shit about who y’all date or fuck but...why? Why would you bully me when you know you’re not any different from me?” I fumed.

“Chris and Brandon...your elementary school friends? Your bullies?” Alejandro asked.

“I swear Adrian...I wanted to stop. WE wanted to! But...Niall knew about us. He threatened to tell our parents. Cain once caught us in the act...I became more than afraid to sneak around with Chris any longer. We broke up but...we both felt enraged when we saw your relationship with Alan flourishing. It was almost like a mockery.”

“Excuse me, Brandon. If I am hearing you correctly...you bullied this young man not because he did something or anything familiarly threatening to you and your ‘significant other’, but because his exercise of a romantic relationship with Alan and both your fears of rejection ignited...jealousy?” Alejandro analysed.

“More like envy.” Chris replied. “It was stupid and childish. A transpiration of our very own fears. To be exposed.”

“I understand.” I nodded.

“I’m afraid I do not.” Alejandro interjected. “Adrian had to suffer because of your fears of rejection. Is it not exactly what Adrian went through? You had enough time to show redemption and reformation to prove that your remorse is not just a face...why did neither of you not express this up to now?” Alejandro was evidently upset.

“Because now it doesn’t matter. You paved a way for us, Adrian.” Brandon sighed.

“By making him your carpet, of course.” Alejandro roared. “And you assumed that a public apology makes your actions forgiveable?”

“Alejandro...you’re being loud and I do not think you should be angry for me.” I was slowly becoming exasperated by him.

“Adrian...”

I sighed, now resisting the urge of hurting him. “Alejandro, go and join the others.”

“But...”

“Alejandro, I am going to hurt you if you don’t get out of my sight this instant!” My voice dropped, like a demonic voice was talking from behind me.

He silently left. I looked at Chris and Brandon who both seemed petrified. “I believe in forgiveness, but I can never forget the days you’d dunk my head in a toilet seat, strip my pants off and embarrassed me infront of the whole school. But I do not hate you. Many have done me wrong, but you apologized. That, to me, means everything.” I held on both Chris’ and Brandon’s shoulders and embraced both into a hug.

I forgave them because they weren’t just lying hypocrites like the rest, but because I wanted to prove to myself that I was okay. I was okay with fixing everything that seemed broken...and left the pieces that couldn’t. Chris and Brandon were my closest, true friends and nothing can erase that. An apology was what I needed after all.

“So, do we go back to being friends?” Brandon fidgeted.

“No, probably not. Just...have a nice life.” I patted both their shoulders before walking back to my crew.

As much as I acted cool, the experience of witnessing my two bullies come towards me, my then-friends, to me meant everything. After all, they have changed. They did the least expected: apologized.

The drive back to Belvyn was quiet, with just Billie Eilish’s mellow piano tunes whispering in the speakers. I was in Alan’s car, practically avoiding Alejandro. Sebastian, who seemed sober, was driving Alan’s car, who happened to be asleep at the back. It was definitely the music and not at all tiredness. He was too much of an adrenaline junkie for that.

It was almost dusk, the sun setting patiently as we approached town. Seconds later, we were in Garden Heights, at David’s apartment. I stormed inside the house, honestly avoiding Alejandro’s face. I was still mad at him, for some reasons piling up on top of the amount of irritation I felt just hearing his name. I was fed up!

I went to the bathroom. I was refreshening for our night out. Oh, that still hasn’t changed. We were still going out. I was still adamant about that.

“Adrian...can I come in?” Jeremiah yelled from outside.

“Sure.”

He entered and found me staring at the mirror with a wet face. I grabbed a towel, avoiding eye contact with him. “Are you okay?” He whispered.

“I am.” I sighed.

“Alejandro feels stupid. He doesn’t know how to apologize to you after what you said to him...he’s crying as we speak.”

I looked at him with widened eyes. “He is?”

“Yeah.” He looked back at me. “But are you really okay? Chris and Brandon...”

“...are a thing of the past I have forgiven and moved on from. Alejandro was treating me like some victim and I hated that. I just hate it when people belittle me because of my...experiences.” I looked down, now feeling guilty of how rudely I may have responded to Alejandro’s concerns. I should have been angry too. But that’s the thing...I wasn’t.

“Okay. You know...” He sat inside the empty bathtub, pulling me to get in too. I got in and we sat opposite to each other. “I have been taking time away from everyone, I know that. But it wasn’t easy for me to witness Benjamin’s death and the emotions that prevailed. I went to Nahoo again, just to steam off. That’s why I was away. Seemingly, me being away brought people closer...”

“I highly doubt that’s the reason why we became closer.” I frowned, remembering the letters.

“But it was all for a good cause. We almost dated, man. I mean, if shit wasn’t so complicated, I would at least imagine myself being in Craig’s shoes. That kiss at the beach was really hot!” He grinned.

“Yeah, it was.” I smiled.

He sighed. “I hate how we’ve grown apart. I don’t even know how to talk to my best friend anymore. We used to write songs, sing together...you remember Permanence?”

I nodded with a smile. “Yeah. The unintelligent lyrics of a five year-old who knew so deeply about how it felt to be...confined.”

He cackled. “They were quite cheesy, weren’t they?”

“Cheesy is an understatement. ‘It’s stuck to me like glue’?” I laughed.

“You’d be surprised to know how well I’ve improved now. Everything I’ve seen, felt and known this year and seeing you, my friend, going through so much hardship and the embarrassment and hardship you felt made me guilty of being a bad friend.” Tears fell from both his eyes. “Adrian...I need you to forgive me. I abandoned you...”

I groaned, annoyed. “Jeremiah, we’ve had this talk before. But one thing I didn’t tell you then is that I cannot free you from your own guilt. You need to forgive yourself. No distance or recess from me will help you deal with it. I love you, Jeremiah. I have forgiven you a long time ago.”

“You have?”

“Certainly.” I laughed. “You can write a song about me now.”

“I’ve written a song about you already.” He shrugged. “You just won’t hear it.”

“Then what’s the point?” My eyes squinted.

“The same point you had when you wrote me two letters.” He smirked. “You didn’t want them to come out, although they were both not mistakenly addressed. I don’t know, maybe you already know the song...”

“Permanence?” My eyes widened.

“No.” He laughed. “That would be too easy. Just keep searching, Spector.” He got out of the bathtub and helped me out. “You will know soon enough.”

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