Maybe this year will be different. Maybe I’ll finally find something to motivate me in my studies and finally be the good student my parents are always asking me to be. This year could be excellent! I could find lots of new friends, or try out for a sports team, and get a fresh start on high school. I think my dad is right, that this new school is going to make all the difference.
Or, I could just be living in his deluded fantasy. What difference is it going to make that the scenery is new? I’ll still be surrounded by the same kind of people who don’t give a crap about anyone other than themselves. It’s not like the school is new to the other juniors. They’ve already been going here for the last two years. Not only do I have to make new friends, but I have to do it from the position of the shy new kid? Not going to happen, Dad.
As I walked through the doors to my new beginning, I was grumpy. I didn’t like the prospect of starting fresh any more than I liked the idea of getting up at the ungodly hour of six. The sun wasn’t even out when I woke up. In retrospect that had probably been a good thing since the dim lighting in my bathroom was enough to force me to close my eyes. I was, and am, definitely not a morning person. Adding a new house, a new city, and the first day at a new school to the mix wasn’t something that was going to brighten my mornings either. Grumpy? No, I was pissed.
The school looked like it was in decent shape, which I supposed was an improvement on my last building. Hamilton High where I grew up was in the worst part of town, and the building had shown it, but here at West Hills the neighborhood was much better off. The affluence of the area showed not only in the condition of the building, but also in the student body. That fact did little to excite me, considering most of my problems had been with rich kids who thought that they knew everything. Well, rich kids and jocks, but at a school like this even the jocks were rich.
I had come to the school a week before to get my class schedule and a short tour from the principal. As I headed to where I remember my locker being I reflected on that meeting. She had been a nice enough woman, but I didn’t trust her yet. Adults always act differently when there are other adults around, and my father had been there the whole time. I would have to see how she would act once it was just the faculty and the students. It wouldn’t be long before they showed their true colors.
My locker was as easy to find as I had recalled, and in short order I had personalized it with the one thing I knew would give me some support over the next year. On the inside of the door I placed the best picture of my mother that I had. I knew that wherever she was now she was lending me her strength. I hoped it would be enough to survive the rest of high school. I knew that I wasn’t going to be strong enough on my own. Smiling sadly, I hoped that my dad was wrong, and that there was somewhere we went at the end of life. Then I could see her again to thank her for all that support she had given me.
The bell rang and brought me out of my day dream, and I knew I should probably head to class. As I turned to leave, someone down the hallway caught my eye right before they turned around the corner. I felt as if I recognized that black-haired boy from my old school, but it didn’t make any sense. We had moved two states away! There was no way it was the same person, and I chastised myself for letting my day dream get the better of me. I mentally slapped myself as I closed my locker and gave the lock a few spins just to be sure. I needed to pull myself together if I was going to try and make any difference at all this year. Going crazy was not the best way to make a first impression.
I went through my first few classes without anything out of the ordinary happening. I received looks from a few of the kids, probably wondering who the new kid was, but no one spoke to me except the teachers. From English to Math to Chemistry, all my teachers did was go through syllabus after syllabus, reminding us that we were all part of the standard education system. I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes every time we were handed a new piece of paper talking about cheating policies. At least this part of school hadn’t changed.
When the lunch bell rang I again made my way to my locker, though this time I had books to put away. I was almost there when I again caught sight of the boy I had seen earlier, only this time he was walking toward me. He had on a black t-shirt with a band name I didn’t recognize strewn in big red letters across the front, and wore tight faded black jeans. His backpack bounced lightly on his shoulders as he casually strolled down the hall, with a grin on his face that made him seem right at home in the crowd of students. I did recognize him, and it had been from my old school. I was pondering how that could possibly be when he walked up to me.
“Hey, don’t I know you from somewhere?” He asked with his grin touching his eyes, making the flecks of gold in his brown orbs sparkle. I had to take a moment to gather myself before I could respond. Something in his eyes took my breath away, and left me completely disarmed.
“Didn’t you go to Hamilton? I never expected to see anyone from there... here!” I replied, the shock still evident in my voice.
“Yes! That’s crazy! My mom got a new job here with a law firm, and dad’s a writer. He didn’t have anything tying him down so we relocated here a few weeks ago. How long have you been living here?” He answered with the same enthusiasm he had shown at the beginning of the conversation. I didn’t know what to make of it, as this all seemed too good to be true. I had met someone from my old school, and they were excited to see me.
“We moved in about a month ago. My dad is a restaurant consultant, and with all the new restaurants in the area he thought it would be a good business move. I’m embarrassed to admit this but I don’t even know your name. I mean, I recognize you but I don’t think we’ve ever met,” I replied smoothly, hoping that I wouldn’t put him off, because I didn’t know much about him. I wanted this new friendship to work out.
“That is so neat! Not a problem on the name, I know we’ve never been introduced. I’m Marc, that’s with a ‘C’ not a ‘K’. And before you ask, no, it is not short for Marcus. I get that all the time unfortunately.”
“No problem, with a ‘C’, got it. I will make sure to put it that way in my phone.” I couldn’t believe I had said that, but it had flowed naturally in my speech. I covered my mouth in embarrassment, but his grin just got wider. And before I knew it he was spouting off numbers. I quickly got my phone out and he rattled off the numbers again, laughing as he did so.
As I was putting my phone away he looked a little annoyed, though the twinkle didn’t leave his eye. I was confused as to what I had done so I asked him, “What’s wrong? Did I do something to offend you?”
He laughed as he said, “Not yet, but if you don’t give me your name and number you will. We aren’t going to be able to pull off the ‘new guys sticking together’ gig very well if you can only contact me. What if I need to contact you?”
Blushing, I quickly introduced myself, “Sorry. My name is Damien, and let me just send you a text so you can have my number. Then maybe we can put my little idiot moment behind us and go grab lunch. I’m starving.”
He laughed and agreed, moving to put his own stuff in his locker, which was just a few down from mine. We continued talking and sharing details about each other’s lives and families as we found our way to the cafeteria. I found out he was an only child just like I was. He gave me a reassuring pat on the shoulder when I told him that my mother had died a year before, and I could tell that he was genuinely sympathetic for what I had been through. Everything was going well until we actually got our food and sat down.
We got more attention than I would have thought, and for me it was from a very unlikely source. Women tended to ignore me for what I assumed were a variety of reasons, but this one was on a direct path to our table. She was quite attractive in a punk sort of way, her blonde hair was cut fairly short, with streak of bright red cutting through it. She had multiple piercings in both ears, and a stud on the right side of her nose. She wore almost all black, except where silver studs stood out from the leather jacket, or where they featured prominently on her belt. Her black jeans were tightly fit to her legs, and I could tell from how she walked up to our table that she did it that way to show off her figure. She sat down right next to me and I instinctively pulled away, not knowing what this girl wanted from me.
“Hey, who’s the new cutie? I’m Veronica, what’s your name?” She practically purred as she touched my arm. Though it made me uncomfortable, I admit I was slightly turned on. She was attractive after all, in close physical proximity, and I was a teenager with functioning hormones.
“Um, Hi. I’m Damien, nice to meet you, I guess.” I responded, sliding a little further away from her and looking over to Marc to see what he thought of the whole thing. I was surprised to see him looking daggers at the new girl. He was far from pleased, and the twinkle in his eyes had been replaced by an emotion I couldn’t quite place, though I thought it might be hatred. It seemed almost as if he knew her already, but that couldn’t have been possible as I knew it was his first day of school here as well.
I was even more surprised by his reaction when he spoke. “Your kind isn’t welcome here. We were having a pleasant conversation until you showed up. Leave us alone.”
It floored me that he could be so rude, and though I liked him I knew I had to speak up in defense of Veronica. I shook my head at him and said with a definite tone of seriousness, “Hey Marc, there’s no need to be rude. How can it hurt to meet new friends?”
“Yeah, no need to be rude,” she purred, and then in a mocking tone she added, “Marc.”
Marc stared hard at her and I could see him clenching and unclenching his fists as he stifled some rage I couldn’t understand. He apparently made his decision though as he turned back to me, the twinkle back in his eye and said, “I’ll text you after school, maybe we can hang out later today? I have some things I need to take care of before class starts. See ya soon Damien.”
He got up and left, and I was so shocked I barely managed to say goodbye before he completely disappeared into the crowd of students. Veronica hardly seemed to notice, and she simply slid closer to me and wrapped her arm around mine, then said sweetly, “On the subject of numbers, why don’t you give me yours and I’ll give you mine and we can hang out this Friday? I’ll show you around town.”
With excitement I did as she asked, and only after she left with promise to text me soon did I stop to ponder what was happening. In less than five hours I had gone from being nobody in new city with zero friends, to having one new friend who wanted to hang out and a date scheduled for the end of the week. None of this was even close to how things had been at Hamilton.
Things were starting to look up for me, but I had a sinking impression that things were definitely not as they seemed.
The rest of the school day passed by for me without any other major event happening. I saw Marc once by his locker and tried to say something but he just smiled and waved as he went on his way to class. I didn’t know what to make of it, but it also seemed like he was alright with me so I stopped worrying.
I didn’t end up meeting any other new friends, but I counted myself lucky anyway. I had met two seemingly awesome people, and both seemed interested in getting to know me better. I still wasn’t entirely comfortable with how Veronica seemed to want to get to know me. I had felt my butt get pinched once while walking through the halls, and I had turned around to find only the retreating back of a red-streaked blonde covered in black leather.
I finished putting my books away in my locker while reminiscing about my potential love interest when I felt my phone buzz in my pocket and pulled it out. It was Marc, asking if he would meet me out by the bike rack. With a satisfied smile that all seemed to be okay, I hurried and locked my locker, then rushed outside to meet him.
He was crouched next to a bright blue bike and was concentrating on undoing the lock when I came up to him. I decided since he was so focused that it would be the perfect opportunity to scare him, and I snuck up on him from behind. When I was right behind him I stomped down hard and yelled.
The next thing I knew I was on the ground and Marc was on top of me apologizing. Thankfully my backpack had cushioned my fall somewhat, but whatever had happened had dazed me, and it took me a moment to realize what Marc was saying.
“I’m sorry Damien. That was the martial arts acting up. I thought you were some bully trying to pick a fight with the new kid. Turns out it was the other new kid. Let me help you up.”
Marc extended his hand and I eventually took it, shaking my head to clear it as he pulled me up. It was the first time we had actually touched skin on skin, and the shock that travelled up my arm almost sent me back to the ground. I didn’t know what to make of it, and I just stood there staring at my hand until Marc spoke again. “You alright? You didn’t hit your head or anything? You look pretty out of it.”
“I’m sorry. Did you feel anything weird just a moment ago? Almost like an electric shock?” I could sweat that the twinkle in his eye grew more pronounced as he heard the question, as if the question had been hoped for.
“A little bit yeah, but it was just a normal shock to me. I seem to create a lot of static. It happened a lot with my friends back home,” he answered with a grin and a shrug, and then when I smiled back he grabbed his bike and nodded toward the road, which I took as an indication for us to leave.
“So, do you live close or do you bike to school because you live far away?” I asked after almost a minute of silence. The silence hadn’t felt awkward, oddly enough, but was actually somewhat comforting. We had only known each other for less than a day and we were already at the point where we didn’t need to talk in order to enjoy each other’s company. I had never met a person like that, and I was enjoying it.
“I live pretty close, on Westridge Way. I’m just not much of a morning person, so I do everything I can in order to shave off time in the morning. Riding my bike shaves only a few minutes off of my route, but in the morning there is a big difference between getting up at six and getting up at five after six.”
“Yeah I know what you mean. I try to shower at night so that I don’t have to worry about it in the morning. Wait, did you say Westridge Way? I walked down that street on my way to school today. Isn’t that the street that Ridgewood Circle connects to?”
“You got it, wait, does that mean you live on Ridgewood?”
“Yep! Dude, that is tight! We both moved here from the same place and we both ended up in the same neighborhood. Now you’re going to tell me that we go to the same church!” I answered with enthusiasm.
He grew suddenly cold for a moment, and the twinkle left his eye as he replied, “Sorry, I’m not really much of one for church. Christians don’t tend to like me much.”
I smiled slyly as I responded with as much enthusiasm as I had before, “Great! So we do go to the same church! My dad raised me as an atheist, my mom was agnostic.”
The twinkle returned when he realized I had set him up, and he got his own sly smile on his face as he replied, “I never said I was an atheist, just that I didn’t care for church or Christians. Are you so sure we have that much in common?”
I shook my head and grinned, “No, but I would be happy to find out more. You and I are already off to a good start I think, though I would like to know something.”
“What’s that?” he replied, and I could tell his curiosity was piqued, so I decided I would torture him just a little.
“I’ll ask you when you come to my house. You are coming over aren’t you?”
“You little devil. Of course I’ll come over. I thought you’d never ask.”
It really didn’t take that long for us to get to my place, and he showed me his on the way, a nice red brick house with black shingles. He dropped his bike off inside his garage, and while he was there he texted his parents to let them know where he’d be. Once he had it sent we were off again on the short walk to my house. It took us less than two minutes before we were at the front door.
Once we had entered I started muttering to myself in annoyance at the beeping of the alarm system. I had only entered the alarm code in a few times since my dad had been the one to go in and out the most over the last month, and I found the process annoying. We hadn’t had a security system at our old house.
We still had plenty of unpacked boxes spread all throughout the house. It wasn’t that we were lazy, it was more the fact that they were either my dad’s things or things that had belonged to my mom, and I wanted my dad to be the one go through them, and he was out looking for business. Finding clients was a grueling process when someone was just starting out in the area.
I led Marc on a quick tour of the house, showing him where all the rooms were located and talking a little about my family whenever he questioned an item he saw. There hadn’t been too much to tell, as only the most interesting pieces stood out, like the African mask my parents had picked up on a trip they had gone on when they were newly married. Mom had been an Anthropologist until she had me, and then she had devoted herself to my upbringing. Once I became a teenager she had gotten back into her work, but only as a research assistant at the university.
When we finally made it to my room the questions became a lot more frequent. Marc was incredibly interested in the various dragon figurines I had decorating my room. He pointed to a big stone one which weighed roughly twenty pounds and asked me how I had acquired it.
“It was a gift to me from my mother one year, she said it was a family heirloom and had been in the family for as long as anyone could remember. It’s still in great condition, considering how old it is.” I explained as moved to stand next to him, gazing at the beautiful piece sitting on my nightstand.
“I love the Celtic knots at the base. Did you know that there’s a theory that Celtic knots were actually an elaborate form of written language?” He replied excitedly as he ran his finger along the embossed design.
“I had no idea. Are you interested in history then?”
“Only some, but I really like occult history. My parents are huge fantasy fans, and so I grew up in the culture. I like studying the mystical beliefs of ancient cultures. Celtic culture is one of my personal favorites. The druids were a very interesting bunch.”
I shrugged as I petted the dragon and replied, “I’ve never really looked into it. With my mother being an Anthropologist she did teach me a lot about other cultures, but she generally focused on ones that are still around today, so the druids never really came up.”
“You might want to check them out sometime. I’d be happy to tell you more about them sometime if you’re interested. I even know someone who knows more about them than I do.”
“I may have to take you up on that, but for now I need to clear something up if I can.”
He smiled again, his eyes showing the same spark they always did as he asked, “You are referring to your question from earlier?” I nodded. “Okay, go ahead.”
“What was it that bothered you at lunch, and why did Veronica piss you off?” I tried to keep anger out of my tone, though I really was a little put off by how he had reacted. However, I didn’t want to lose him as a friend for sounding angry at him.
He looked at me hard and then sighed, turning away as he did so. He began to pace, which was something I would come to learn was normal for him when he was agitated about something. It took him awhile to answer, but I could tell that he was trying to figure out how to respond, so I let him have his time to think.
“There are multiple reasons,” he began, and I nodded for him to explain. “But I can’t tell you all of them, not yet at least.” That brought a frown, but I let him continue anyway without interrupting. “What I can tell you is that she interrupted something I found very important, and she did that in a very rude way. I really don’t like it when people are rude to me. I live my life based off of principles of mutual respect. I won’t do anything to you that I don’t want done to me, the Golden Rule, and I expect the same out of others.”
“What was the important thing that she interrupted, other than our conversation I mean?” I returned, still not grasping what he was getting at.
“You mean our conversation wasn’t important enough for you?” I immediately felt guilty. It was apparent I had struck a nerve, and he was certainly justified to have that little bite of anger in his voice as he went on, “Maybe meeting a new friend is different for you than it is for me, especially one that was obviously meant to cross your path. I was worried that I might not be able to meet anyone I could spend time with here, anyone to serve as an ally, and here I meet someone from the place I moved from who could end up being a great friend of mine, and he pairs off with some girl who randomly comes on to him. Yeah, that does piss me off a little bit.”
I hung my head in shame, and then I finally looked up into his face. The flecks of gold in his brown eyes were shimmering with raw emotion. It may not have been the whole story, but what he had shared had definitely been the truth. I felt guilty, though I still wasn’t completely satisfied with his answer.
“I’m sorry. You’re right I should have had more respect for that. Can you blame me though? If you had an attractive girl practically sitting on you and then asking you on a date you’d probably be distracted as well.”
“No I wouldn’t,” he replied, completely serious. I knew he had to be lying though, so I decided to press the issue.
“Of course you would. What guy wouldn’t?” I returned incredulously.
“I don’t know, why don’t you ask a gay guy that question? Oh wait, you just did.” This time his eyes reflected something new that he hadn’t shown before. His eyes held challenge, as if daring me to continue my contradiction of his point.
“Oh, well I guess you’re right there. Once again I apologize. You’d think of all people I would have figured that one out. I guess being bisexual doesn’t guarantee you the gaydar gene. My mistake,” I replied with a sheepish smile. I knew I had been an idiot, and I hoped he wouldn’t take it too badly.
“Well that makes sense, and I guess now it’s my turn to apologize. My gaydar is pretty strong and has never failed me. When we first spoke in the hall today I could have sworn that you were gay, and then when you showed interest in Ver. . . that girl, I thought you had somehow tricked me, and I was a little upset at that. I don’t know why I didn’t consider bisexual as an option. Sorry I acted like a jackass.”
“Wait, does that mean that you were interested in me?” I asked incredulously, not believing I could have been lucky enough to have two love interests appear in one day. Perhaps lucky was the wrong word. Situations like this had the propensity to end very badly.
He blushed, and I could tell that embarrassment was not an emotion he was used to. He did get over it quickly though, and he responded in his usual straightforward manner, “Yes, but I would have waited until I got to know you better before I would have done anything about it. I think you are a very attractive boy, and I think it was fate that we met.”
“Well what a predicament I have here. Unfortunately, Veronica has already got the jump on you in one way. She asked me out for Friday night.”
He shrugged, and then sighed in resignation. I knew that he was disappointed, and it was for more than the fact that I was going out with a girl. It was because of who the girl was. There was still one question to ask.
“When you told her to go away earlier, you said something about ‘her kind’. What did you mean by that?” I was well beyond simple curiosity now. This conversation had already exceeded my expectations.
“That,” he responded carefully, “is part of what I cannot tell you. But to sate you as well as I can, I will tell you this. Let’s just see how much you still like her when she shows her true colors.”
“Well,” I replied, resigning myself to the fact that I wouldn’t get an answer any time soon, “I guess I’ll have to be okay with that. For now let’s just get back to what was interrupted earlier. Shall we get this friendship forming thing going?”
He smiled and nodded, but neither of those told me anywhere near as much as the fact that the twinkle had returned to his eyes.
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