Blood and Gin

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Chapter 2

Jack watched as the boy walked off in the direction of the Council Room. He wondered why, when the boy was so handsome and rich, did he have the same sad eyes as one of them?

“Elle, stop flirting with strange men,” Ross complained, tugging on her hair.

Elle laughed, glancing up at Ross. “Oh, come on. I was just being nice. Besides,” she gave Jack a sly look, “I wasn’t the one he was flirting with.”

Jack laughed, shaking his head. “No one was flirting with anyone,” he shot back, crossing his arms. He fought a wince. His shoulders were still raw after last night’s fight. He glanced at Ross’s eyebrow. The cut was healing well. He just needed to stay out of the ring for another few days.

“I wish I could go on the college tour,” Stephan said suddenly, softly. His gaze had not wavered from the receding back of the handsome GPA student.

Something occurred to Jack. “Oh, hey. Don’t they have an orientation kind of deal? We can go and get free food.”

The other’s gazes lit up. Jack grinned, and stood, stretching out his sore body carefully. Elle had carefully taped his ribs up, but it still hurt. He reached out, casually caressing Stephan’s chin before jogging after the GPA. He hadn’t gone far. Jack slowed as he saw him staring at a bulletin board in front of the 800 building.

Jack stopped a little ways away, observing the GPA, gauging his approach. The GPA seemed to be engrossed in the Art Club announcement, his head tilted to the side, his grasp on the manila envelop loose. He would stick out of any crowd, with his height and good looks. But he stuck out like a sore thumb here, dressed in his starched white shirt and pressed black trousers. Jack looked down at his own ripped jeans, grey long sleeves and beat-up shoes. A lump formed in his throat. If it wasn’t for Stephan, he wouldn’t approach this guy.

He walked over slowly. He didn’t have to worry about startling him. Jack severely doubted that the GPA had thrown a punch in his life. He stopped next to him, looking at what held his rapt attention. The Art Show bulletin wasn’t anything special. Just basic clipart graphics and bold letters.

“We have one at our school, an Art Show.”

Jack glanced at the GPA, surprised that he’d break the silence first. “Yeah?” He didn’t know what else to say.

The boy nodded. “Yeah. It’s this huge event twice a year. Once right before National’s Art Department opens applications, and again right before interview offers get released. They say anyone can submit art.” He fell silent, and Jack figured out the implication in the heavy silence.

“You draw?” He asked, figuring it would be better to butter up the GPA.

The GPA finally looked at him. Jack felt his stomach turn over as their gazes met. The GPA was barely taller than him. His gaze was level with Jack’s, something that he wasn’t used to. His gaze was sad. Empty. Even when his lips hooked up into a half smile. “Sometimes. I get these images stuck in my head sometimes and all I can do is draw them. It took a while to be able to draw well, though.” He looked back at the poster.

Jack wasn’t sure where to steer the conversation from there. Rubbing the back of his head, he took a breath, and just asked. “Can I have one of those flyers?”

The GPA glanced at him again. Finally, some light came to his dark, sad eyes as his lips curled into a full smile. “Sure. The orientation for City Central is next month on the fifth after school,” he said, looking down at the manila envelope, unwinding the strings and sliding two flyers out. He handed them to Jack, who accepted them gratefully.

“Will you be there?” He hadn’t meant to ask that. He just wanted to see if the GPA would smile again.

He did. “I’ll be there,” he said, his eyes finally warming up along with his smile.

A warmth curled in Jack’s chest as they looked at each other. The sudden shrill screech of the bell broke the moment. The GPA looked up, frowning at the sound. Then he looked back at Jack. “Better drop these off. I have a few more schools to get to. Nice meeting you-” he hesitated, his hand held out.

“Jack,” he replied, grasping the GPA’s hand. He couldn’t feel much through his gloves that hid his destroyed knuckles, but he could tell the GPA’s hands were soft, aristocratic. He flushed to think what his hands felt like to the GPA.

“I’m Devlin, but friends call me Dev,” the GPA said, and dropped Jack’s hand. He took a step back, waving as the stream of high schoolers started exiting the 800 building. “Nice meeting you, Jack. I’ll see you Tuesday.” With a final smile, the GPA, Dev, turned, ducking into the building.

Jack stood there a moment longer, rubbing his thumb over his forefinger, before shoving his hands, flyers and all, into his jeans pockets, regretting that simple handshake. Sighing, he headed back to the others. On his way back, his phone beeped. His heart dropped.

Fishing it out, Jack stared at the screen. Ring 5. EHD. 11:30. TWWNKO. His skin grew cold. Three matches against East Haven District’s fighters. Throw the first one. Win the last two. No knock-out finishers. That was going to be brutal. It didn’t matter that West Haven had better fighters. No one was good when they had three cracked ribs.

Jack slipped his phone back in his pocket, and pulled the crushed fliers out. He smoothed them out. The big, bold, happy text promised an experience of a lifetime. Of a way for dreams to come true. God, he wished that were true. He’d do anything to get out of the Ring.

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