Me: Where r u? G said u never showed up for class.
Alex: I’m at home.
Alex: My parents were home.
Me: They weren’t happy u stayed out all night?
Alex: They’re never happy about anything.
Me: I’m sorry.
Alex: Yeah, well… It is what it is. Nothing I can do about it.
Me: Are you all right?
Me: Did they kick off? Since ur not in school, I figured something happened?
Me: I can skip school if u want?
Alex: Why would I want you to skip school?
Me: So we can hang out?
Alex: Don’t you have football practice after school?
Me: I’ll skip that 2.
Me: So what do you want to do?
Alex: I’m heading down to the library. Want to come with?
Me: Sure. Meet at playground in 20?
So here I was, back at the playground.
This time it was me waiting for him, as I’d run all the way there from school.
When lunch had rolled around and I hadn’t seen him… and Glenn had grudgingly admitted Alex hadn’t been to class at all—I’d been so fucking scared.
The relief I’d felt when he answered my texts couldn’t even be described.
I looked through the texts again as I waited for him. There weren’t anything funny about them, Alex’s situation was quite serious, but I couldn’t help the smile that spread on my lips. He’d answered me immediately. He was fine. That was good.
I heard him approach, and he came up to me flushed and out-of-breath. He must’ve run here too, it seemed.
‘Hey.’ I grinned wider, taking him in without being all too obvious about it. He seemed fine.
I jumped off the table I sat on.
‘Library, huh?’ I asked once we walked side by side out of the playground and down the pavement. ‘You go there often?’
‘Well, yeah.’ He was carrying a book. An old one, by the look of the fraying cover. ‘I borrow a lot of books. I read a lot of books.’
‘What kind of books do you read?’ I’d likely not heard of them, since I hardly ever read a book. I stayed away from them as long as I could avoid it, even the textbooks at school.
‘Fiction. Fantasy. Science fiction.’
I could watch films in those genres. ‘I don’t read much.’ I smiled wryly at him.
‘What do you like to do then?’
‘Football. Working out. Playing video-games. Go out partying with the guys. Normal guy stuff, really.’ I shrugged, then remembered one other thing I was real fond of, and took a step closer to him. ‘Get laid.’
We stared at each other for a few moments.
I couldn’t quite read his expression, but it definitely wasn’t displeased. But then I knew he liked to get laid too, so that was definitely one thing we had in common.
‘Do you enjoy anything else, besides reading?’ I wanted to know everything about him. No other way to go about it quickly but asking.
‘Reading and studying? That’s all you do?’ It couldn’t be. If it was, it was… sad.
Now he was the one shrugging. ‘And work, but I can’t actually say I enjoy that. That’s more something I have to do, else I wouldn’t have any money.’
‘Your parents don’t pay for stuff for you? Give you money?’ I’d only ever worked summer jobs, the past two summers. This summer, though, I had no plans on working. I was going to enjoy the summer and be with my friends, because once it was over, so was life as we all knew it up till now.
‘No. They did when I was younger, when I couldn’t get a job because I was too young, but as soon as I turned fifteen, I basically had to fend for myself.’
I looked ahead, frowning. ‘I haven’t even met your parents, and I really don’t like them.’ I hadn’t from the beginning, since I realised he didn’t like to be home. Things had to be bad for him not to like being home, right?
‘That’s okay. I don’t like them either.’ He didn’t even sound bitter. He said it like it was so matter-of-fact.
I bumped his shoulder. ‘You’ve got me now.’
He blinked, surprised, but didn’t say anything.
Why he was even surprised by now was beyond me. Hadn’t he realised yet he did have me?
The rest of the walk—the little that remained—was spent in silence.
He handed in his book at the library reception desk, then led the way upstairs. That’s where the adult sections were, apparently.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever been in here to borrow a book.’ I looked around, taking in all the shelves filled with books. ‘Maybe when I was younger. I remember Mum used to read a lot. But after she died… Don’t think I’ve been here once.’ I had vague memories of her reading to me—maybe all three of us siblings at the same time—but I couldn’t remember what she’d been reading. It didn’t really matter anyway.
‘It’s nice here.’ Alex headed off with confidence. He knew exactly where he was going. ‘You’re not even a little tempted to borrow something?’
‘No.’ I grinned at him, but tried to make it a bit apologetic, since he liked books so much. ‘I get enough reading at school. I don’t need to take it up as a hobby on my private time.’ All I read in private was magazines. ‘I’ve got more than enough other stuff to interest me.’
He’d stopped in the English fantasy literature section—as I’d figured out once I glanced up at the sign.
I leant on the shelf, watching him as he looked through the books. ‘We’re quite different, you and I.’
‘Yeah.’ He cast a short glance at me.
‘That whole saying about opposites attract… I suppose it’s true.’ Okay, that was cliché. It didn’t stop me from grinning widely at him though. He needed people by his side who smiled, so maybe he’d smile more often too.
And it did leave a small smile on his lips, which was all I wanted.
‘When you’re done borrowing books, feel up for some Chinese food? I’m starving.’
His eyes widened a fraction. ‘Yeah. Sure. I haven’t eaten anything today.’
If he’d been left fending for himself since he was fifteen, no one likely ever made dinner for him. He’d have to make it himself. Even better reason for me to treat him to good food someone else made.
He plucked a book from the shelf, turned it over to read the backside, then nodded to himself.
‘Ready to go?’
‘Yeah.’ He walked past me, our hands brushing as he did so.
I took his hand, squeezed it gently.
He turned back around to look at me, and we both smiled.
I wanted to kiss him. His lips were right there, parted ever so slightly, so inviting… but there were people around. Old people. I didn’t think they’d want a gay public display of affection.
Hell, for all I knew, maybe they didn’t want a straight one, either, if that had been the case.
Alex checked out his book, and once we were outside, I had another look around. No one to see at the moment. So I turned to him, took his head in my hands, and kissed him properly.
He stiffened—surprised by my actions, maybe—but then moulded against me. His lips moved against mine, our tongues butting. His book pressed between us, all hard and uncomfortable, but it didn’t matter because I was kissing him. It trumped everything else.
Nothing else mattered but him.