Author: Isidris Gry PM
Slash, shounenai. Brodie is perfect. Afterall, he is the principle's son. That is, until he makes a mistake: his dad and his wonderful students are out for his blood, he befriends a couple misfits, and gets sucked into a rather devious love triangle.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Chapters: 6 - Words: 31,856 - Reviews: 12 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 03-04-07 - Published: 12-16-06 - id: 2291343
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Where's Chase been these days? Get tired of him?" Brodie asked, and leaned into Austin as he slung an arm around his waist. They watched River move around the lobby, passing by tables that had a minimal amount of debris and only pausing to wipe down anything notably dirty. She didn't keep up the lobby with near as much determination as Chase and it showed; Brodie nudged Austin and led his boyfriend by the hand to a table that had a small amount of crumbs collected on the surface. Austin tched and swept the mess onto the floor and rolled his eyes at River. Brodie raised an eyebrow at River when she reached his table, "By the way, your lobby looks like crap."
River ignored him and slumped in the only seat available left at their table. Brodie chuckled, "You look so different in that uniform. I can't imagine you in anything but black." River stared at him, deadpan. She crossed her arms over the dark blue shirt, sporting the Espresso Rain logo, leaned back and fixed Brodie with a black stare, eyes still ringed in Kohl. Brodie watched her in amusement when a sudden attack of inspiration had him leaning forward, excited, "You look just like a raccoon! Doesn't she, Austin? Really, the kohl," he waved a hand wildly in front of his face, "It doesn't work without the whole outfit."
"Yeah, we could come up with all kinds of creative nicknames for you then-"
"Unless you want to die, Austin, I'd keep my mouth shut." River said sweetly, though her words were sour. She glared sharp daggers at Austin.
Brodie hunched over his drink and sipped, flicking his eyes between Austin and River.
"Are you okay, River?" Brodie inquired when she leaned over the table, massaging her temples and closing her eyes. Brodie waited for her to spit out whatever she had on mind, idly looking about the lobby, "Man, do you ever need to sweep. I don't know if I ever told you this, but Chase really kicks your ass when it comes to front counter."
River sighed again and sat up, "Brodie," she said firmly, and Brodie stilled, waiting for a bomb to drop. River could be just a tiny bit temperamental. "Chase is supposed to work today. I had to fill in his shift." She stared at him, waiting. Brodie curled his tongue around the straw and sipped slowly, not breaking eye contact.
River's face contorted just a little bit in impatience, "If you had been here for the last few days instead of screwing around in lala land with your bloody boyfriend" she gestured in a dismissing way at Austin, "You would have realized that he's been sick for-" she waved her hands a bit spasmodically and Brodie leaned back to avoid the flurry, "Days. Days and days!"
Brodie slung an arm nonchalantly around the back of his chair, "So? People get sick. Then they get better. It's nothing to cry over."
Austin smiled, "Aww, are you getting lonesome without your emo sweetheart?"
River ignored him and crossed her arms, "You don't get it." She told Brodie, her back to Austin, "I went over to see him, and his asshole for a dad wouldn't let me in. He smelled terrible."
"Did you try the fire escape?" Brodie suggested.
"Don't be like that! Remember the day you made him cry?" She accused. Brodie's mouth dropped open, "I did not make him cry!" he said peevishly.
"Brodie, you bad boy you made him cry again?" Austin scolded lightly, leaning back and stretching.
"He's emo, in case you forgot." Brodie added snidely.
River scowled, "He only dresses emo. If you got to know him better, you would realize that he doesn't actually cry for any reason."
Austin snorted and laughed when Brodie sat up and pouted, "The rain…it's so wet and cold, and it makes the sky so grey, and sad, and tears this hole in my soul and I feel like I'll just melt in my own pathetic self-pity." He complained in a whiny voice, and broke off into fake sobs, "Ohhhh woe is me! Ow!" He reached down to rub his shin, "Jeez the uniform makes you look half way normal but it does nothing for your real personality."
"Brodie." River growled, "Let's try to remember the last time you actually hung out with us."
"We're hanging out with you now," Austin interrupted in a voice that River knew to be impatient.
"Yeah, I wanted to come over here especially to see you." Brodie appeased, "Austin and I were hanging out in the park. We only just escaped Tiffany to duck in here." He looked at her with large eyes, neither green nor blue and River suddenly felt a pang of sadness.
"I meant Chase and I. When was the last time you were around just us without him along." She clarified, and Austin looked personally affronted at the tone in her voice, all her strange remorse lost when her eyes lighted on Brodie's preppy boyfriend.
"I'm not worthy company?" he asked in disbelief gesturing to himself.
"No." River snarled, leaning all over the table and twisting her fingers together.
Brodie held up his hands, "Alright, I'm sorry River. You're right. That's why I came by today, I didn't know Chase wouldn't be here."
River shifted her weight on one arm with her hand supporting her head to block Austin entirely out of her sight and focus her worry on Brodie. Austin huffed and moved his chair over, across from River and closer to Brodie.
She ignored him, "The whole time you were gone he was acting up and he wouldn't tell me what was wrong and he didn't want to talk or hang out and then he suddenly got sick and now his loser dad won't let me visit."
Brodie let his straw fall from his mouth and readied a reply, but Austin had raised a hand and pointed a finger up in the air, scooting even closer to Brodie in order to look River in the eyes, "Okay, I think I know what's wrong."
"None of your-"
"No no no, this is good, this is what's wrong. See, Chase has finally realized something." Austin smirked back at River's glare and grinding teeth while Brodie watched a little nervously, sipping his drink.
Austin cleared his throat and brought his hands down to the table as if showing River a grid plan, "He's finally figured out that the concept of emo is actually a vicious cycle that never ends and it goes like this: girls say they like sensitive guys, which is a lie," he said, winking at River, "Guy hears this so he dyes his hair black, wraps himself in a wooly sweater and a stupid scarf which he wears even in summer, develops an eating disorder, and cries about how "nobody understands." Okay, so now an emo guy, he meets emo chick-"
River cleared her throat. Brodie butt in graciously, "Or in this case goth chick," Austin continued from there, watching River with his eyes sparkling in amusement, " and they start dating and whining about how their middle class lives are terrible and finding little problems to dramatize about like how their father smells-"
"He smelled like alcohol and cigarettes!" River interrupted, sitting up.
Austin raised his hands in a defensive gesture, "Who doesn't smell like that every once in a while? Emo guy is really too much of a pansy. He's too depressed to bathe and has more mood swings than emo chick, and spends way to much time on my space crying about how horrible his suburban life style is. Emo chick dumps him, with that trade mark line girls have, "It's not you, it's me," as she rides off with John, captain of the football team and the most popular jock. Emo guy goes home and cries, writes a pathetic song and strums a single string on his acoustic guitar. Another girl sees how sensitive and in touch he is with his feelings and the cycle continues."
River stood up, smiling at him dangerously, "And Chase has finally figured out what's wrong with him and is spending many useful meditative hours trying to cure his disease?"
"That's about it." Austin agreed flippantly. She glowered down at Austin, but the effect wasn't as strong without the black clothes swamping her small body, the multiple piercing glinting with the spark in her eyes, or without the brooding drape of dark hair hanging in her face like gloomy curtains.
"You've been spending too much time with him." She chided Brodie suddenly, reverting her glare on him instead.
Brodie smiled half apologetically at her, "You just said the other day he was good for me."
River scoffed, "That was before I knew he was a complete ass." She smacked Austin hard across the cheek and stomped off to fetch a broom.
Austin jumped up and started after her, "You bitch!" Brodie latched onto his arm and tried to drag him away, "Austin please don't. You ticked her off, you deserved it."
Austin shook him off. His face was red and angry, "Brodie, I'll see you later, okay?"
"Austin-" he paused and looked back at Brodie, whose eyes flicked between boyfriend and River anxiously. River didn't look frightened at all, but by the way she gripped her broom Austin had a feeling she'd been looking forward to pummeling him with it. He made an effort to appear calm.
"Dude, I'm not mad. It's okay. I just need a little time to myself, okay?" Austin rubbed Brodie's shoulder. "See ya around, alright?"
"Well, alright. See ya Austin." He turned around to look at River, taking in her unpleasant expression.
Brodie tried to lighten the mood, "Guess I'll have to hook up with Deyna. Man, he's been so rotten lately; can you believe he's friends with Austin? He wouldn't stop glaring at us the entire date at the mall the other day. We weren't even doing anything!"
River leered at him, "Can you believe he's friends with Tiffany?"
"Oh! Don't get me started on her!" Brodie exploded, "She won't get a clue!"
River smirked, "Still going out with her?" Brodie trailed after her, looking about the sad shape of the lobby, "Pretending. She doesn't understand how revolting she is. But going out with her is a good way to show people I'm not gay." Especially my father, he added silently, having her around at least keeps him off my back. He swiveled his eyes back to River and saw that she had pivoted around, peering at him with a disappointed frown and a hand resting on her hip. "Don't you think now is the best time to be yourself?"
Brodie dropped his gaze to the floor, aware that he was being scrutinized and dragged his toe in a half circle across the russet tile. "Brodie." River waited until he'd sighed and lifted his eyes to regard her expectantly. Turning to face him fully, she cast the bad eye on him and set her jaw. "Remember what you told us about Deyna the other day?" she asked, continuing on before Brodie had a chance to nod his head, "Screw Deyna and his shitty advice. I already said this, but I think you need to hear it again. I was hoping Austin would restore your self confidence, but all he succeeded is pulling out this bad ass attitude about Chase because he's emo. So, here is the uncensored version of what I think about Austin and Deyna."
Brodie swallowed nervously and squinted his eyes, preparing for an onslaught.
River raised a finger, "Like I said, screw Deyna and his bullshit. It just gets under his skin that you're different, just as it does with Austin about Chase. People like them are all the same. You're emo, boohoo cry me a friggin' river and go drown. You're goth, why don't you just dig the knife in a little deeper for once and do us all a favor. You're gay. Go to a bloody mental institution because nobody in their right mind is supposed to get off as their shit is pushed up their ass."
Brodie chuckled shakily, "That's a nice way to put it." He mumbled, his voice trembling in shock while he fingered his drink to keep his hands busy.
River plowed on, "Deyna's just a little nicer about telling you what he really thinks. He wants you to ditch Austin because he can't bear the fact that his friend is a fag and like most homophobes, would prefer you slept with the neighborhood slut than enjoy a refreshing, spirited relationship with someone you could actually come to love."
River paused. Brodie had set aside his cup and had his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his freshly pressed black slacks, yellow threads of hair hanging in his down turned face. "Do you see what's happening here? You're so malleable sometimes, doing every single damn thing your totalitarian dad demands, and when you finally catch a break from Miss Bitch you don't use it! Now you're stuck hiding again."
Brodie nodded at the floor, "I know, I know. I just…I don't like change." Brodie peaked up at her from beneath his yellow fringe, "Nobody really believed, I think. I think…they thought Tiffany was just on one of her rampages, that she seems to have…" his voice faded as he thought briefly of all the dark rumors surrounding Tiffany. "Because I turned her down, people teased me and pushed me around, but…" he trailed off again and shot his eyes to the windows. The street was largely bare, with few people passing by.
"You think if they had any real proof you were gay, then they'd stop playing and get down to business? Properly take care of you?" River prompted.
River swung the broom handle back and forth between here hands, gazing steadily at Brodie with eyes hard in determination. Brodie readied himself for a 'this is how it is' speech. "You like Austin, as much as I think he's a conceited bastard. You hate Tiffany, because she is a worthy bitch. The school already got a taste of gossip. Do you really want to hide again or take advantage of the situation? Having Austin, showing up Tiffany when she drools on you, and shocking the school because its true? Don't you want to live?"
"River, I do! But I don't think now is good enough; I mean my dad would be so disappointed."
"So you'll settle for disappointing yourself again and again?"
Brodie finally met her eyes, "Look," he snapped firmly, "I'm not like that. I can't take risks like that. I'm not… I can't- I'm…afraid to change anything, I don't know what will happen if I just go with it."
"Well, get over it. Hey," she laughed, "It's gonna be great, okay? You hate Tiffany," she raised her arms in question, "Well, tell her to ruin someone else's life. Your dad's a bastard. Time for you to give him a bit of his own medicine. You like Austin. So go out with him properly, though I think you could do better." She ended with a grimace, as if the thought of Austin was like eating a cockroach.
Brodie looked up, his face wearing a lost expression. "I will. Eventually. But it's too soon. Everything…happened at once. I just need to adjust."
River turned away to fetch the dust pan, "If you wait you'll lose your opportunity, or someone will do it for you, like Tiffany did in the first place." Brodie didn't say anything. He looked around instead, focusing on the soft hues of the coffee shop. He toed the russet tiles again.
"Has Chase really been sick for the last three days?" he asked after a moment.
River didn't pause in her sweeping. "Yes. I wish he wasn't. I wish his fucker of a dad could let me see him. What parent doesn't let friends visit when they're sick?"
Brodie perked up, "Listen, I'm sorry I haven't been around, River. Are you gonna try the fire escape?"
River favored him with a sardonic glare. "I will if he gets sick again."
"River!" Both flashed their eyes in the direction of the front counter. The manager, Brad, lumbered around the counter, "River, say good bye to your friend."
River turned back around to face Brodie, "See ya," and narrowed her eyes, trying to convey the message that he was to come visit more often or else. Brodie raised his eyebrows at her, "See ya," nodded at Brad and left, the bell jingling at his departure.
River made to sweep, but Brad put a hand on her shoulder. She looked up. He retracted his hand, "How's Chase?" River shook her head. "Sick still."
"Three days. Must have caught it pretty bad. Poor kid didn't even look sick last time I saw him." He looked at River suspiciously. River shrugged indignantly, "His ass of a dad wouldn't even let me see him!"
Brad laughed, "Well, don't take it out on the lobby. It looks terrible. Poor kid." He said absently and looked at River a while longer. She stared back.
Smiling finally, Brad pointed to her eyes and made a little circular motion with his finger, "Nice coon impression-"River swiped at him and Brad dashed away, "You've got going there." He laughed.
"Ugh! You and Brodie's dumbass boyfriend!" River shouted, "I swear one of these days I'll make you both pay!"
"Yeah yeah-" Brad teased, ducking around the counter, "All bluster, all bluster." He chuckled while River continued to shout revenge.
Brodie slipped away from his hand, "Nothing." He rolled his pencil in his hands and scrutinized his homework. Mr. Bordeaux frowned, "It's so…disheveled." He ran a hand through his son's hair, "Why isn't it combed back?"
An impatient sigh, "Because I didn't put gel in it or comb it back."
"Don't take that tone with me. Your hair looks terrible." Brodie twisted in his chair to look at his father and reply-
"Earl." But his mother's stern voice interrupted. Brodie turned away and smiled at her, but Mr. Bordeaux continued to frown upon his son's head. The dining room was quiet for a moment.
"Earl." She prompted coldly.
"Yes, Maria?" he replied curtly and glanced up at his wife briefly. Brodie looked between the two, his homework forgotten and the pencil slack in his hand. Maria seemed to be waiting for something. She watched her husband, who had his eyes scrutinizing Brodie, who felt his eyes drop to the table.
"Earl." She snapped coldly.
"Brodie, what have you been working on?" his father asked.
"Earl you can't ignore this!" Maria shouted. Brodie kept his eyes glued to his homework and tried to focus.
"Brodie, is that really how you write? I can hardly understand what any of it says." Mr. Bordeaux addressed Brodie lightly, sweeping a finger over the sentences.
"Brodie, darling, go to your room please." Maria said softly. Brodie sat up, and began gathering his books. The rustle of his papers, the heavy slap of his books sought to fill the cold silence. Brodie knew how the scene appeared behind him and how it would play out.
"Well, hurry up!" Mr. Bordeaux scolded, anger making his voice bite suddenly, "Your mother is eager to talk." He no doubt sent a glare her way.
"Don't speak to him like that." She barked, "Brodie, why don't you call up Austin and see if you can hang out? Hmm? You've been working so hard on your homework." Brodie glanced at her quickly as he stacked his books in his arms, "Its okay mom, I know you're just trying to get rid of me." He felt slightly guilty when she faltered, but her angry expression came back full force when Mr. Bordeaux spoke up, "Who's Austin?"
"A friend." Brodie said shortly. He maneuvered around his father, aiming for the stairs, but a hand caught his arm. "So how's it going with Tiffany, then? Finally making friends now that you've taken it a step up in your life?"
"Brodie, your room, now." Maria flared, giving her husband the evil eye and pointing to the stairs. Brodie hurriedly tore away from his father's slack grip and stumbled up the stairs.
"I am sick and tired of your bullshit!" Maria was already venting, and Brodie knew she had marched up in his face to pound a finger into his chest and his father would shoot off on a tangent, throwing his arms in the air, and then they'd both be off. And so would Brodie.
"How else are we going to pay off the debts if I don't-"
"That doesn't mean you can control every aspect of our lives-"
"Do you want to get out of debt or not?!" Brodie flinched at the volume their voices were reaching, but didn't pause in his movements. The lock clicked and he swung his window forward. Jumping up on his desk, the shouts already frenzied and sounding as though they sparred just outside his door, Brodie placed a shined shoe on the roof and stepped outside into the night, snapping the window shut behind him.
The window blocked out the hideous noise, surrounding Brodie in the peace of a still darkness. The empty streets glowed under streetlights and squares of light illuminated houses around his cul-de-sac.
The roof scraped under his feet and Brodie lurched off the side, slamming into the grass below. Then he ran.
The wind was bitter and sharp and brought stinging tears to Brodie's eyes but he wouldn't stop; thrusting his head forward to meet the refreshing breeze after the smothering heat of his house. His lungs expanded and froze with the cool air, gasping as he only forced himself to run harder, faster, working his legs till they burned along with the stitch in his side and the flush building up in his cheeks.
The neighborhood disappeared and Brodie was tearing up the road, dust sprinkling his black slacks and dirtying his shoes. His father would kill him later, but it was his own fault for not allowing Brodie to wear anything else besides the finest clothes school could tolerate. It couldn't look overdone after all, he thought sarcastically.
Finally, he had to stop. He stumbled and gasped, and walked instead. His legs shook and the cool air brushed his sweating face. Minutes passed. Brodie had reached the road that led down to Espresso Rain, but at so late an hour it would be closed. He crossed the silent street, looking down at the little mom-n'-pop shops locked tight for the night. Ahead the small grove of trees waited and beyond that the school hulked in the darkness.
He didn't come here often. His parents hadn't always fought. He hadn't needed to run every now and then.
Brodie found his feet leading him to smoker's hill. It was close, off to the side and towering over the little grove of trees where it overlooked the dumpsters of a business on the street, and the dumpsters of the school on the other.
Climbing, Brodie was met with a surprise.
A dark shape huddled at the top. A person. Brodie squinted and quieted his steps, his mind flitting to all the people he knew and having a sneaking suspicion who it was.
"Chase?" he whispered. A muffled groan and Chase unburied his head from his arms, but he didn't turn around. Brodie walked up beside him and settled down in the cool grass. He looked at Chase, but smoker's hill was dark. The street below was dark, the school, the grove, the sky, was dark. The moon gave the grass an eerie neon glow, but still Brodie couldn't see Chase clearly. It didn't help that Chase had lowered his head, allowing his curly hair, white in the moonlight, to hide his face.
"Chase, what's up?" he asked, trying to sound cheerful. He wasn't here on any good terms, and figured Chase wasn't either.
Chase raised a hand, keeping his arm tucked against his huddled body and twitched it in a half-hearted wave, "Hi, Brodie." He murmured. His voice was hoarse but still retained its soft boyish quality. He snuffled, and gasped, re-burying his face in his arms.
Brodie felt his gut shift uneasily. There had to be a limit to this whole crying business. Maybe Chase wasn't just emo, but downright depressed. Brodie raised an arm and hesitantly patted Chase's shoulder, feeling the muscles tense.
"Chase, are you okay?" he asked quietly.
Sniffing and gasping, Chase sat up slightly; his breaths slightly labored. He nodded, "Mmhm. Just being emo." He hummed and choked a bit before quieting. Brodie watched him bring an arm up to cradle his head, leaning his face in the crook of an elbow against the soft fabric of his sweater. Brodie rubbed his back.
"Chase, I know you dig this emo thing, but you gotta give it a rest sometimes." Chase nodded into his arm.
"Why are you crying now?" Brodie asked impatiently, rolling his eyes skyward, but the action sparked guilt in his gut and he arrested the movement, focusing his eyes on the stars. Sitting up, Chase turned away from Brodie slightly and shrugged moodily.
Brodie back. "River says you've been sick." He said finally. He could see the outline of Chase's nose and lips and forehead, but his eyes were concealed in shadow. He sniffed, "Yeah. She came by to visit."
Looking away again, Brodie pulled at the grass. His pants and shoes were dusted with a light sprinkling of dirt. "She was so angry, when I saw her today. She yelled at me for being gone for the last few days and then she bitched about your dad for not letting her in to see you."
Chase gave a shaky laugh, "She's so sweet."
"Sure, but only for you, Chase." Brodie smiled, "She practically ripped Austin's head off when he was saying crap about you."
"Did she?" Chase looked at him fleetingly. Brodie could hear the smile in his voice.
"She slapped him." Cringing, Chase muttered, "Harsh." And he coughed, Brodie watching him shake and settle. He glanced around the school grounds, the deserted street below, sleeping for the next business day.
"So, I've been gone for a while, I mean, I haven't visited in a while. River's feeling lonely, I think. She really misses you."
Chase didn't react. Brodie trailed his fingers in the grass and ignored the chill the wind carried. "I'm almost better."
"River will be happy." Chase mmhd thoughtfully. Brodie wondered what was going on in his head. "Would you tell her thanks, for thinking to come by? And would you tell her sorry, that my dad wouldn't let her in?"
"I will. Chase," Brodie said, trying to discern his face in the gloom, "Why didn't he let her in?"
He shrugged, "Grumpy, I guess. He doesn't like to be bothered."
Nodding, Brodie reclined on the cold grass and looked straight up at the stars. Chase propped his head up on his arm and seemed to stare at the grass. The wind quietly ruffled their hair, hugging the grass and jostling the trees as friends would nudge each other.
A gust came with a chill, reminding Brodie suddenly of the approaching fall and his thoughts drifted to what he'd be doing then. Would things in his family be better or worse? Would he and Austin be even closer, would they have shared their first kiss? Tiffany, would she still act as though Brodie were her property? This raised a snort in Brodie, thinking of the schools' reaction to her hanging around him- amused and tolerant. He knew the jokes had died down because no body wanted on her bad side, but…was he going to let it continue, would he still be grudgingly pretending well into fall?
Chase's legs dragged at the grass as he shifted to lean back on his hands. His eyes sheltered in darkness.
"So, Brodie." He mumbled, "Are…are you and Austin, doing well?"
"Yup. We've been busy." Brodie said, smiling for the stars.
Chase hesitated. "Oh."
"It's only been a few days, but it feels so good to be around him!" Brodie fell silent, thinking of the things he admired in Austin and reviewing his memories of the days spent at the park.
"What …what about Tiffany? Isn't…er…I thought you were sort of going out with her. I mean, I saw you at lunch sitting with Austin and that other kid, and she was all over you!"
Brodie sneered, "We're not. I took her to the dance and ditched her. She seems to think that means we're steady, but it was only one date and only because my dad made me take her. Now she won't leave me alone!"
Chase remained silent, sniffing here and there.
"Chase…"Brodie began slowly, "Things are so mixed up." He frowned, perplexed.
"Are they?" Chase asked innocently.
Brodie nodded at the constellation of Orion who seemed to be turned on his side and shooting a second group of stars, a constellation he didn't know. "Yeah. River yelled at me for it."
"Ohh." Chase sighed, "I'm sorry." Brodie rolled his head, pushing it into the grass and wondering if it would come away neon green. "I've been gay for a long time." He started.
"Oh, only a long time?"
"Well, yeah. I had to figure it out at some point. Anyway, Austin's my first boyfriend. He's great. Takes things nice and slow, hasn't kissed me yet, he's so sincere. But, then there's so many problems." He shook his head and sulked.
"So many?" Chase heaved, as if the thought brought him personal stress, weighing heavily on his own shoulders. The thought had Brodie's insides warming. Chase is so easy to talk to. He'd barely mentioned the topic and River had pounced on him. Then again, River had been in a foul mood, hung up on Chase. But, Brodie cocked his head and strained his neck to look at him from his reclined position, stretched out on the grass.
"You don't look so sick now."
"I still feel ill." Chase told him simply.
"Yeah. Mostly…headaches, throwing up, stuffing nose. It's- it's worse…during the day."
"Hmm. That's weird." Brodie dismissed. Chase didn't seem keen on the topic, if going by the sudden tenseness of his posture said anything.
"So, what of your… problems?" Must he say everything so slowly? Brodie gritted his teeth and rolled onto his side to face the street below, his back to Chase.
"Deyna's a fag when it comes to me and Austin, which is bad enough because he knows. Nobody is supposed to know. Are we real obvious or is Deyna just way observant? I told Austin to keep it secret."
Chase cocked his head to watch the street with Brodie, out of the corner of his eye. "That's not fair. We know."
Brodie grunted, his eyes fixed on the shop with plants in the dark windows. Rosie's Garden read the window in flowery letters.
"Yeah, but he asked in front of you. That's his fault. 'Sides you guys are trustworthy. Deyna isn't. He's like all the other kids at school. He doesn't make fun, but he's not on my side either."
"Maybe he's riding the fence." Chase suggested.
"On our first date to the park, he told me to dump him and go with Tiffany because he didn't like our "sneaking around" remember?"
"Maybe he just thinks sneaking around isn't a good way to get to know someone."
"Tch. What does he know? I can't have the whole school actually believing. And with Tiffany acting like such a good alibi, annoying as she is, I don't want to risk it."
Chase looked away and stared at the shadows of the school, "She's horrible." He mumbled.
"Yeah, and if you piss her off, she makes sure to get you!" he shrugged, "It's what I heard anyway."
"Well, you've already pissed her off, so I think you should stay with Austin. But I don't know about sneaking."
"Only she hasn't done anything yet, except blab, but she fixed that herself, didn't she? At the dance."
Nothing was said for a while, then, "Have you heard of those other kids?" Chase asked in a hushed voice.
Closing his eyes, Brodie put the question off, "I was thinking those were just rumors."
"They might be. But she has a tendency to go off the deep end. I mean, you heard about that boy in the park?"
"Naked and drunk?" Brodie guessed and stretched his arms above his head, brushing fingers with the grass.
"She's horrible." Chase reiterated, "River says she gets off on violence and dominance- stuff like that."
Brodie didn't reply, thinking he could just fall asleep here, at the top of windy, black, Smoker's Hill, and come again, night after night.
Chase surprised Brodie, breaking the silence, "If it's worth anything," he hesitated, "I think…you should go with would most make you happy." Opening his eyes, he stared up at the sky. "Good advice, Chase." He said quietly, but he knew what he wanted, and it wouldn't be easy to get it.
Chase felt his heart smile, but Brodie cut it down when he asked Chase something nobody had before.
"Does being emo make you happy?" he went on when Chase didn't answer straight away, "'Cause I know how you people like to dramatize your largely uneventful, mediocre lives to seem as though your…I dunno, a tragic case of misunderstanding."
Chase sat still and watched his shadow from the moonlight paint black on the neon grass. He started when Brodie sat up and burst into a quick stanza in a loud squeaky voice, "How could this happen to mee-eee!" he chuckled and was facing Chase again who quickly ducked his head.
"C'mon Chase, why are you emo?"
Chase struggled to spit something out that Brodie would accept. Brodie began guessing.
"Do you want to be different?"
"Chase! Remember all those things I wrote on the napkin? Well, everything on the list was about emo things, and I thought that maybe I didn't really like those things about you because they were emo and then I remembered the first time I met River and I was prejudiced against her because she was Goth. So I thought," Brodie took a breath before babbling on, "that maybe if I understood it better, 'cause I thought that River was like all the other Goths until I found out she wasn't Satanic and she didn't try to kill herself every afternoon as a hobby and so maybe," he slowed down and said his next words more thoughtfully, more considerately, "I thought I would understand you better and not be so bothered about stupid things. You know people who just bug you so much for the way they are, and when you know them better, they're really very nice and not at all like you thought?" He stared at Chase earnestly, hoping that he'd somehow gotten the point across somewhere in his round-a-bout chattering.
The wind almost stole Chase's words away, when he finally knew what to reply, "It's not something you would understand."
Brodie scowled in disappointment and told Chase irritably, "But I'm trying. I was wrong about River. We never really talked it out, but even now if she decided to be a voodooist, I think I wouldn't mind." He laughed, "I'd sick her on Deyna." And he chuckled again and in the lightness of his laugh Chase was sure he was kidding.
Brodie fell to staring at Chase, who squirmed and sucked his head down closer to his body under the scrutiny, flicking his head to flip his blonde curls to hide him further.
Finally Chase muttered, "S-same reason as River.
Brodie raised his eyebrows, "You're favorite color is black?" he quipped.
Chase twisted his hands, "Maybe not. I don't know. Just who I am. I should go now." And he staggered to his feet and walked away. Brodie jumped up after him, shouting, "You'd better get better or River'll kill you!"
Chase stumbled, tripping on the slope, and shot Brodie a confused backward glance. Brodie waved, "She wants to go out with you, of course!" and he disappeared himself down the other side of Smoker's Hill before Chase could shout a reply.
On turning around, he saw the person he'd been waiting for coming around the corner to the back of the school. "Finally." He grumbled and moved to meet him when someone else rounded the corner, squealing. She skipped and latched onto Austin, who slung an arm around her and both began snogging as though each could find their fortune somewhere down the other's throat.
Deyna stood ogling at them, unsure whether his twisting stomach was more disgusted or irritated from watching their raucous display. What he wouldn't admit (though it was foremost in his mind) was how both were inadvertently cheating on Brodie. With each other.
Deyna stomped over, fuming, "You're late. Fifteen minutes." Austin let go of Tiffany quickly and looked over at him in surprise and then confusion. Deyna intensified his glare.
Austin looked back at Tiffany over his shoulder. She shrugged, grinning smugly. He looked back at Deyna and realization cleared his expression, replacing it with a sheepish smile. "Oh. Were we supposed to..." he pointed vaguely in the direction of the street, "Today?"
Deyna didn't dignify his question, his glare fixed on Austin unwavering. Finally, gritting his teeth, "If you're busy today, we can go later."
Austin smiled, shifting around on his feet. "Oh, Deyna," Tiffany sashayed over to him, smiling falsely, "We could all go!"
Deyna peered at her as if only just noticing she was there. "No." he snarled, focusing on the corner over her shoulder, expectantly.
Austin was still smiling, as though nothing were wrong. "Are we still on then?" he flipped his finger back and forth between them, to clarify just he and Deyna would go to the soccer field.
"No." Deyna said shortly, actually feeling very let down. "I see you're busy here." He jerked his head at Tiffany, "and you're boyfriend will be around soon." Brodie always took this way heading home (Deyna wasn't going to inform them how he knew this), "You'd better hurry this affair." He gestured to them both when Tiffany squealed and the two shared a glance and Deyna even caught on that something else was up than their relationship was. He shifted on his feet and crossed his arms.
Tiffany waved a hand at him as though throwing away his words. "Oh, Deyna. This isn't an affair. We're actually-" Austin shushed her quickly with a pointed look, as though Deyna wouldn't notice.
"What was that?" he asked sharply, not liking that they were keeping things from him.
Austin fumbled, "Well, you didn't want anything to do with it, so…" he shrugged and looked back at Deyna indifferently; though Deyna got the feeling he was completely unconcerned about it, judging by the blankness in his face.
"We decided not to tell you." Tiffany interrupted, clarifying his new state of exclusion.
Deyna's eyes flicked between them, settling on Austin once before resuming their watch on the corner. Soon, he was following the progress of a third person coming around the bend. "Humph. Seems I'm not the only one you're showing up today." He said to no one in particular.
Tiffany tripped on her feet turning around, looking everywhere but at Brodie, who was watching the three of them with a faltering smile as he approached.
"Oh, Brodie," she gushed, throwing up a false smile when she finally caught sight of him. She rushed at him and Deyna sniggered inwardly when he visibly braced himself and his body immediately stiffened on contact.
"Hi." Brodie mumbled looking around, his eyes jumping from Deyna's friendly glower to Austin's easy-going smile. Nobody said any thing, though all were aware of some tension caught in the air between them. Austin kicked at the gravel, ducking his head to hide his lying half-smile. Tiffany fidgeted, laying her head on Brodie's shoulder and gripping him tightly about the waist. Deyna cast his glare round everyone suspiciously.
"Austin." Brodie addressed, venturing into the silence, "What's going on?" Everyone looked at Deyna when he snorted in derision. Brodie frowned, "Well, what are you all doing here?"
Austin shrugged, but his smile became mischievous, glancing at Tiffany, who suddenly reached up and pecked Brodie on the cheek. He tossed her off, fed up and disgusted. Tiffany reached a hand out, her lower lip protruding in a pout, but her hand was knocked away. Brodie, scowling, and Tiffany affronted; both crossed their arms and glared at one another. Tiffany shifted from foot to foot, cocked her head, flicking her black bangs.
"What?" Brodie snapped after a second.
"I don't know what?" Tiffany answered curtly and raised her chin.
Brodie crossed and re-crossed his arms, swaying slightly on his feet huffily, "This is stupid. You're stupid." He brought his hands out in a questioning gesture, "How stupid can you be to think this is okay?" he bit out unapologetically. Austin watched them with his own mouth hanging slackly, Deyna glared around the party.
"Excuse me?" Tiffany demanded, raising her eyebrows, her posture slouched and ready for argument.
Brodie's own movements became choppy while he talked out, or rather yelled his agitation, "Have you not noticed the obvious? I don't like you. I hate you. So go fuck with somebody else!"
"What is this!" Tiffany squealed throwing out her hands, "You!" she worked her mouth, re-positioning her arms on her hips.
Deyna stepped in when Tiffany failed to articulate her precise rage, chuckling mirthlessly. "I'm glad we're finally getting somewhere. Now here's something you should know." He said in clipped tones and addressed Brodie, who felt caught and held in his angry stare while Austin hurriedly tried to catch Deyna's eye.
Deyna wasn't paying attention, "This one here is trying to take more than she can handle," Brodie followed his dark, angry eyes when they flicked to Tiffany before focusing back on him. "When she's not screwing around with you she's out with this one here." He jerked his head without acknowledging Austin with his gaze.
"I've done no such thing!" Tiffany squealed, bouncing on her feet in agitation, "I was too busy trying to get Brodie to like me!"
Austin was doing his best to look appalled, "I would never go out with Tiffany when she's with Brodie!"
"Shut the fuck up you effing liers!" Deyna shouted, erupting suddenly like a dormant volcano. He pointed at Tiffany, "This biatch slut is-"
"I am not a-"
"Is trying to screw you while she's!-"
"Deyna! Shut up!" Austin waved his hands in front of Deyna's face as if to stop the flow of his incriminating words.
Deyna jabbed a finger at Austin, "And he's knocking her up!"
"He is not!" Tiffany yelled, her face beginning to flush.
"Deyna!" Austin grabbed his arms and Deyna immediately resisted. "Deyna, what the hell is wrong with you!"
"What the hell is wrong with me! What's wrong with you!" Deyna practically screamed.
"Stop talking shit!" Tifffany screeched, "I am not a slut!"
Deyna slipped his foot around Austin's ankle and threw him off balance, and stepped away, shouting, "Everything here is fucked up! You're all a bunch of useless, stupid people and I need to get the hell away from you before it all rubs off on me!" and he stomped away, his head bowed and shoulders slightly hunched. Tiffany followed after him in indignation, screaming at his retreating back, "I am not a slut you bastard! How dare you accuse me of cheating! I never cheat! I am better than that!"
Brodie and Austin watched them disappear over the top of smoker's hill; a welcome silence followed their disappearance. Brodie turned to Austin. "What was that?"
Austin looked back warily, "You don't believe him, right?"
Brodie shook his head, "Deyna doesn't like me and he's pulled that nonsense before. You told me he barely put up with you for being who you are."
Austin flashed him a smile and stepped closer, "Want to know what's really bothering him?"
"What?" he asked, curious.
Austin's grin became wider and his eyes sparkled, "He has this killer crush on Tiffany. He's jealous as hell of you because Tiff apparently gives a damn about you, not him."
Brodie gasped, "Deyna! No way." They shared a laugh. "C'mon, let's go." Austin took his arm and led him through the little grove of trees, heading for the street.
Brodie was shaking his head, "Does he really like her? Tiffany's not even worth my dad's crap. He can have her for all I care."
Espresso Rain was empty as it usually was around four o'clock, and neither River nor Chase was among the clean wrought iron tables or lounging before the fire on break.
"River took Chase out on a date. I think the poor kid really needed it." A deep voice called to them from over by the counter.
"Oh, thanks!" Brodie walked up to order. "Chase is better?" he asked the manager.
Brad offered him a smile, "He was quite pale and he had shadows under his eyes, but he's on his way. What would you like?"
They spent the evening lounging at the coffee shop, talking about anything that came to mind. Brodie complained about his parent's arguing, his dad's expectations and what would happen now that he'd 'dumped' Tiffany. Austin listened patiently and by the time they left, Brodie felt on top of the world.