Blood and Gin

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Chapter 3

Dev wasn’t sure what he expected, but a clinical classroom with five circle tables all arranged around a central podium wasn’t it. He’d expected the Council Room to have some personality. Some pizzaz. But the walls were sterile, the whiteboard cleared, the desktops clean. Some boxes were piled in the back haphazardly, but otherwise, it looked like an unused room. An empty unused room. Sighing, Dev went to the closest table, sliding into the chair, dropping his bag on the floor. Looked like he’d have to wait.

He pulled out the flyers out of the manilla envelope, making them a neat stack on the table. He looked down at one. Flipping it, he took out a pencil. He had always loved to draw. Or, love was maybe not the right word. Needed maybe. Needed an outlet for the images that were stuck in his head. A face. A landscape. They were all trapped in his head and the only way to get them out was by drawing. Some people got songs stuck in their heads, or movie quotes. He got flashes of images.

He looked at the quick sketch. It was lightly drawn, a three-quarters profile. He hadn’t drawn in the eyes. Those were always hard to draw for him. He never could draw the eyes. Many of his earlier drawings were faceless, almost ghost-like. Over time, he had been able to draw the nose, lips. Sometimes a freckle or two, but mostly just the outline. Today, he narrowed his eyes at the sketch. Slowly, he sketched in a pair of sad eyes, and a warm inviting smile. A little smudging and erasing of some lines, redrawing of others, and he had pretty good likeness of that boy, Jack.

The door banging open surprised him, making him jerk his head over to see who had come in. A girl with thick glasses and light blonde hair stared at him for a minute, mouth open. Her arms were full of papers. “Are you Devlin?” She asked finally, moving forward.

Dev stood, holding out his hands to take some of the papers off the stack. “Yes, I am. You’re Anna?”

She nodded, happily surrendering half of the stack. “Thanks. Sorry for being late. I had to make bulletin board copies. You got the flyers? Do I have to sign for them or something?”

Dev nodded his head, grabbing the envelope. “Yes, just here.” He handed her the confirmation form. She took it, placing it on the pile of papers she still held. She fished a pen out of her pocket. She quickly scribbled her signature, before handing it back to Dev. Nodding, he put it in the envelope. “All set. Make sure you get them posted and passed out. Is the room confirmed for next month’s orientation?”

“Yes, I’ll send you the sign-up list by the end of the month, so you know how many people are coming.” Her gaze fell from his to the table. She frowned, moving forward, plopping the papers on the table as she reached out for the flyer. Dev was tempted to yank it away, but that would be even more suspicious than his drawing.

Anna looked at it critically, then looked up at Dev with a smile. “This is really good. Wish you could enter our Art competitions,” she joked, handing it to him.

“Thanks,” Dev replied, smiling weakly. He folded it and tucked it in the pocket of his slacks.

Anna frowned a little. “It looks kind of like Jack Taylor, actually. Not that you’d ever see him.”

There was an odd inflection on the way she said you and him. It made Dev frown. “How do you mean?”

Anna made one of those faces. The faces that those at Gladstone Prep made when talking about those they considered beneath them. Part pity, part disgust. Dev instantly lost respect for Anna, but he was curious what she was about to say.

She leaned in, even though they were the only ones there. “He’s one of those kids. He and his sister, Elle. They hang with a bad crowd,” she whispered.

Dev’s eyebrows rose. That would make the younger girl Jack’s sister. Unless it was the beautiful one who was actually a girl. “What kind of crowd?” He asked, despite knowing perfectly well.

“Well, there’s his sister for one thing. She’s always getting into fights with other girls and sleeps with all the boys. Then there’s that Ross Smith, who’s just a thug. Drugs, violence, cutting class, all of it.” Anna shook her head in shame. “Then there’s Stephan. He seems like such a sweet boy, but he’s-” Anna broke off, flushing. Dev had a pretty good idea what she was going to say. Nothing she had said so far had made him dislike the four students. In fact, it only made him dislike Anna, a lot.

He cleared his throat. “Oh, I see. Well, every school has its bad seeds,” he said vaguely, his gaze hardening as he looked at her.

She nodded vigorously, oblivious to his true meaning. “Exactly. Don’t worry though, they don’t interact with the others. There’s this kind of rule. Don’t mess with them, they won’t mess with you. Everything’s better that way.”

Dev remembered the softness in Jack’s gaze, the loneliness. There was something in Jack’s gaze that was desperate, something Dev knew all too well.

Bidding Anna goodbye, Dev walked out of the Council Room. Lunch was almost over, and there was a small chance that he would be able to see them again. He retraced his steps slowly, but to no avail. The table they had been at was now occupied by a bunch of jocks. Being unfamiliar with the school, Dev had no idea where he’d be able to find them. He sighed. Turning, he went to the front office to sign out.

As he got into his car, Dev let out a sigh. He had a few more schools to drop off flyers at before he could just go home. Home to the big, empty, cold house. His parents wouldn’t be home. They never were. Something always came up. Was more important. He wasn’t sure he’d even seen his father in a month. His mother made a point to come home once every two weeks, but then back to work. Always work. Their work as high-profile physicians was their greatest love, aside from each other, leaving not too much left over for Dev.

Another sigh, and Dev reached over, grabbing the buckle, and securing it before he started the car. Sometimes, he wondered what would happen if he visited his parents at work, through the ER door. Would that get their attention? Would being on a gurney finally make them spare some time for him? He tightened his grasp on the steering wheel until his knuckles were white. Probably not. Probably they’d recuse themselves for being too close to the “patient,” have some other doctor take care of him.

Dev pulled into traffic, his gaze firmly on the road ahead of him. As he waited at a stoplight, he found himself thinking about Jack, Elle, Ross, Stephan. Wondering if he’d see them again.

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