The History of Southbrook Academy
(slash)Between remaining the school's premier expert on gossip and trying to blackmail a jock into being his boyfriend, Alex has no time for ghost stories. Unfortunately somebody else doesn't feel the same way.
Warning: I'm about to throw a whole bunch of names at you in the first chapter. Don't explode. You won't have to remember them.
The History of Southbrook Academy
Alexander Fitzgerald, senior at Southbrook Academy (the most prestigious private high school in the entire state of Illinois with a tuition high enough to attract only the richest of brats), had never bothered to learn the history behind his school. It never seemed like the type of thing in which to take an interest. Sure, there was a huge, six-hundred-paged text in the library (cleverly titled The History of Southbrook Academy) that focused entirely on the school's background, so he must have, at one point in time, distantly concluded that something noteworthy probably happened on school grounds at one point or another. But frankly, he assumed that the majority of the text was filled with the nobility of the rich founders, and that five-hundred-and-ninety-nine of those six hundred pages dealt with the background of said founders, rather than the school itself. The notion that once the school had been host to a violent bout of arson and the fifty-five members of the first class of students ever to attend the school met their pitiful ends burning to death at their high school graduation party was a notion that had never been known to one Alex Fitzgerald.
Alex Fitzgerald (otherwise known, by his fellow classmates, as "Alex Fucks Gerald") was perhaps even less concerned with such matters than the rest of the students in attendance, in that, for the majority of his high school career, Alex based his whole identity on the fact that he was the best known raging homosexual in the entire school. He was the school fag, the gay guy of Southbrook, the flaming fairy… Alex Fucks Gerald. Although approaching the end of his high school career had toughened him up a bit, Alex still felt that he had more dire things than the history of Southbrook Academy with which to be concerned. For example:
There were six boys in attendance that were consistently voted the school hotties of Southbrook—those being, of course (in order of hottest to least hot, as determined regularly by the general consensus of mostly the female population of the school), Frank Alan, Ivory Johnson (who, despite his name, was actually black), Geoffrey Willow, Jared Bingham, John Harrison, and Morgan Gallagher. Though, in Alex's opinion, Morgan Gallagher was, by far, the hottest guy at school, but Alex assumed that the only reason he ranked so low on the "hot chart" was because he had a rather—shall we say—disagreeable personality. That, and he didn't seem to put much effort into his appearance.
Of these six boys, five were on the soccer team; Ivory, the only one who wasn't, was on the swim team.
There were thirteen girls in attendance that were also consistently voted the hottest chicks of Southbrook—though, we shall not list all their names in order to save time. Suffice it to say, Alex did not much concern himself with them.
Of these thirteen girls, only one—Jessica Wrightworth—was not on the cheerleading squad. The hottest girl, as ranked by primarily the male half of the school population, Erica Ranger, was the captain of the cheerleading squad. She was also dating Frank Alan, the hottest guy of Southbrook. In fact, the first five hottest guys were romantically involved with the first five hottest girls, respectively. The sixth hottest girl, Laura Winston, was actively seeking out the sixth hottest guy, Morgan Gallagher, with no success.
Alex's current boyfriend, Hayden Farmer, was also on the soccer team with five of the six hottest guys. As far as Alex knew, Hayden ranked somewhere in the twenties of the one hundred male students enrolled at Southbrook Academy (Alex, personally, thought that his position in the top half of the "hot chart" was because no one, except for Alex himself, knew of Hayden's homosexual nature). Alex, himself, ranked somewhere in the nineties (due to the method of collecting information, to exactly number students past number ten became a little impossible), though he supposed that was more due to his personality, and the fact that he was gay, rather than an actual flaw in his appearance. He was, after all, studying with a great deal of dedication in order to become a professional beautician, and it wasn't like he couldn't judge beauty for himself.
Alex was the self-proclaimed statistics keeper of Southbrook. It was a hobby of his, more than anything. He knew every student's name, every student's reputation, all the rumors, and quite a bit of the truths as well. He enjoyed keeping tabs of the social mingling of Southbrook Academy. He was the one who knew who got Lisa Antwoine pregnant; he was the one who knew why John Preston was expelled. He knew everyone's GPA's, and how many times and for what reason everyone had visited the counselor's office. The ins and outs of students' lives were, to Alex, as easy to figure out as the ending of a teen movie.
So, what struck Alex as totally and inexplicably odd was the fact that the one person whose personal information he sought the most was the one student who still remained the biggest mystery: Morgan Gallagher, number six on the "hot chart," was as secretive as an undercover cop. Gallagher, as everyone called him, was the tall, silent type, and mysterious as hell. No one knew his family, or where he lived, or what sort of background he had. Alex had, on numerous occasions, attempted to follow Gallagher home after school in order to find out where he lived, but always, unfortunately for him, had lost track of Gallagher (it was always a young man in a black SUV who picked up Gallagher after school; Alex figured that this boy was probably Gallagher's older brother, as he was too young to be his father). The repeated failure in these attempts had led Alex to once, in frustration, attempt to hack into the school's computer system with the intention of finding out Gallagher's address, and even in the system there had been none listed. No emergency contacts, no phone numbers, no doctors, nothing was attached to this kid (Alex later learned that this was due to his ineptitude at hacking, and that there had been an extra level of security that he had failed to break, but all this is irrelevant anyway). All that Alex knew about Gallagher was that he, Gallagher, enrolled in Southbrook when they were both sophomores, at the beginning of the year, was the star player on the soccer team, and had a cumulative grade point average of 4.0 on a 4.0 grading scale (making him a candidate for valedictorian of the senior class). And, although that may seem to be a lot of information, it was virtually nothing by Alex's standards.
Alex had had a crush on Morgan Gallagher since they had been paired together as lab partners in their sophomore chemistry class. Gallagher, by the looks of it, had hated Alex since then.
And all this, of course, was vastly more important to Alex Fitzgerald than the boring history of a school that was some twenty years short of its centennial birthday. It was a history, he reasoned, that ought to be forgotten, if only because it had nothing to contribute to his world.
The day started out like any groggy, nondescript weekday morning. Alex found himself interrupted from his morning beauty session when a loud, rattling knock resounded from his bedroom door. Like always, the voice of his twenty-four-year-old sister, Renee, demanded that he put away the hair curlers and hurry so that she wouldn't have to entertain his boyfriend-slash-chauffer Hayden Farmer for much longer. Alex always thought this demand to be rather irritating—after all, he didn't even use hair curlers of any sort. If anything, he straightened his hair; straight was stylish nowadays.
But he doubted Renee would know anything about that.
Not to break the custom, Alex complied with his sister's demands and rushed to apply the finishing touches to his appearance (a bit of eyeliner here, some more shadow there—though Alex, unlike most gay guys who wore makeup, did not overdo his; he knew that if girls shouldn't make themselves up like prostitutes, then guys shouldn't either. At the same time, though, Alex knew that his eyes were what really carried his good looks, and he was sure to wear his makeup to appropriately emphasize such), and then, brushing the longer strands of his black hair out of his face, took a moment to scrutinize himself in the mirror before allowing himself to go. Throwing on his ratty old Prussian blue over-shirt (which, by the way, was definitely not stylish or beautiful in the least, but Alex figured the sentimental values that accompanied the article of clothing justified any of the fashion points it might take away; besides, at least it did something to cover up the redundancy of the boring, militaristic Southbrook school uniforms), Alex leaped down the stairs, two at a time, the whole three stories, to where Hayden stood, awkward as always, in the front hall, eyeing Renee with caution.
Hayden offered nothing but a stiff smile this morning, saying nothing, before leading Alex silently out the door and to his bicycle leaning against the bench on the front porch.
"Are you feeling better?" Alex asked as he took a seat behind his boyfriend on the bicycle. He looked at Hayden's red nose with concern—granted, it was chilly outside, but still.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Hayden grunted in response and started down the street at a quick pace. The way to school was entirely downhill, and a breeze when on a bike, but coming back, consequently, was a bitch. Sometimes, in their efforts to make it up the hills, they became frustrated with their work and distracted themselves by wandering downtown in order to put off the ride back home.
"You're late this morning," Alex commented, checking his watch over Hayden's shoulder. "Think we'll be able to get to school on time?"
"Yeah," Hayden said simply. He paused before speaking again: "You say I was late, yet you still weren't ready when I showed up."
"I was closer to being ready than I usually am," Alex assured him, and then proceeded to tighten his arms around Hayden's waist. "Love ya, Hayden," he whispered, leaning forward so that he could get close to Hayden's ear.
Hayden immediately began to totter on the bike in response and eventually pulled it to a sliding stop, throwing both their weights forward and almost sending Alex flying to the sidewalk. Hayden turned slightly with an angry scowl across his face.
"I told you not to do that, Alex," Hayden chastised, a sharp edge to his usual guttural voice. "I can't balance when you shift around like that."
Alex blinked up at him incredulously. "Aren't you going to say you love me back? You don't have to mean it, you know. It's just something you say." He paused, sighing at Hayden's disgusted look. "We have been going out for—what?—four, five months now? You think you could start treating me like your boyfriend by now."
"Look, Alex," Hayden said, a whiny edge to his tone, "do you know what the guys will do to me if they find out about us? It's not pretty, I'll tell you that. Especially since it's you. The guys all hate you, you know."
Alex's facial expression, as well as his mood, soured. Yeah, he knew what "the guys," the boys on the soccer team, thought of him. He had, on more than one occasion, played the punching bag for a few of the more testosterone-ridden—and/or the more Christian—ones.
"Do you see any of the guys around here, huh?" Alex asked, looking around as if to prove his point. "'Cause I don't."
"The more we do it, the more likely we are to get caught," Hayden rationalized.
"If you're so scared, then why do you do it at all?" Alex persisted. His dark eyes narrowed in challenge as he waited to see if Hayden would take the bait.
"We're gonna be late," Alex said after a moment of silence, and, in a sort of frantic response, Hayden jerked the bike into motion, zipping down the road again.
"Oh, man, Alex. You better not make me late again," Hayden said, having to shout into the wind so that Alex could hear. "I'm sure the teachers would love an excuse to give me detention."
"Big deal. What's so awful about detention?"
"Unlike you, Alex, I actually have friends, and I make plans to hang out with them," Hayden said.
"You wouldn't have friends if you weren't such a fake."
"What the fuck is up with you today, Alex?" Hayden snapped, his deep voice carried on the wind. "I'm going to meet up with my friends after school at the coffee shop, so I'd prefer if you didn't make me get detention! Now, will you just shut up and let me ride?"
Alex quieted for a moment and pressed forward, tightening his arms around Hayden's waist again and resting his head against Hayden's shoulder. Several thoughts crossed his mind, all of which sat quite disagreeably in the rational part of his brain, but his sentimentality won over in the end. He pursed his lips and lifted his head to rest his chin on Hayden's shoulder, stalling before he would ask:
"Can I go too? To the coffee shop?"
"What?" Hayden shrieked immediately, jerking his head to look at Alex incredulously. "You don't really think that I'd want you to come, do you? After I just got done telling you—"
"Well, I just thought," Alex interrupted, a tiny frown settling on his small mouth, "that maybe since I've been giving you so much lately, and that you haven't been giving me anything at all—"
"What have you given me?" Hayden interrupted in turn.
"Well," Alex hummed, leaning slightly away and looking up at the sky, ignoring the trees whisking by overhead. "I mean, there was that one time when I failed my test because you made me sleep with you instead of studying."
"Wha—? Yeah, right! You weren't studying!" Hayden cried. The bike began to totter slightly again. "You were watching Saturday morning cartoons! Besides, you wanted that more than I did, slut. You were the one who was so excited because your parents AND sister were out of town for the weekend—"
"You owe it to me, Hayden! I'm your boyfriend, so why won't you be mine?" Alex whined. Despite his resolve to not cry, his eyes started to sting slightly. Doing his best to control his emotions, he squeezed his eyes shut and worked to fight away the tears.
"If you have a problem with the way I do things, then break up with me," Hayden said so softly Alex barely heard it over the wind. Alex remained silent, curling himself tightly around Hayden's back again as if trying to hide himself in the folds of the coat.
He didn't take the bait. If Hayden wouldn't, then neither would he.
The two entertained the silence, listening to nothing but the wind whipping at their coats and hair, for the rest of the ride. They arrived at the Southbrook campus not long after, with Hayden, as usual, slowing the bike long before they reached the entry gate and cautiously looking out to be sure no one he knew would see them—though it wasn't like it would matter if they were to be seen, Alex thought in fury. After all, Hayden had already cooked up some convincing story about how his parents forced him to give Alex rides to school in a sort of repayment for some favor.
The thought sent another bitter taste to Alex's mouth and, before Hayden even had the bicycle fully stopped, he swung his leg over and hopped off, darting away into the hallways of the school without a word.
His chase led him to the sanctuary of the lesser-known boy's bathroom at the back of the main building in the all but deserted F-Hall. He passed several classmates on the way over, assuring him that the first bell hadn't rung yet. They weren't late. Hayden wasn't going to get detention. Somehow Alex wished he would.
Alex reached the bathroom and shoved open the door in an upset bout of strength, so that it swung fully around on its hinges and slammed against the adjacent wall with a deep crumbling noise. Alex ignored the noise and studied the bathroom, finding himself absolutely appalled when it proved to already be occupied, unlike he had expected.
Even worse, he noted upon closer inspection, was that the very person who so rudely chose to invade his privacy was none other than a girl! Alex immediately grew angry, preparing himself with a brilliant speech to tell her off, but something caught him off guard:
He had never seen this girl before in his life. Now, keep in mind that Alex was the self-appointed gossip keeper of Southbrook Academy, meaning that he made it his business to know everything about everyone. Ultimately, he knew everybody—by face, by name, by reputation—every single student that attended Southbrook had a profile carved into his mind.
And this girl, well, suffice it to say that she definitely was not a student.
"Who are you?" Alex demanded after revisiting all the possible circumstances that would explain this girl's presence and only drawing a blank.
But the girl didn't respond. She just sat on the sink (which looked like it should have been exceptionally uncomfortable), smoothing her knee-length plaid skirt and looking close to tears. Her clothes reeked of a patterned uniform, but it certainly was not Southbrook's uniform—Southbrook employed a more militaristic style of uniform, while this girl's dress was old-fashioned and almost gaudy in appearance. Green and red plaid dominated the main color scheme of her outfit, and her dark curls (a haircut that seemed almost dated, in Alex's opinion) were pulled together on the top of her head and secured with a matching plaid bow.
"This is the boy's bathroom," Alex said in another attempt to get her attention, but she only sat there, ignoring him.
This only served to ignite his temper. He marched over to her, standing straight in front of her, and put his hand on his hips. The girl didn't even bat an eyelash.
"Who are you?" he repeated, trying to think of something to ask that would get a response. But the girl didn't answer. "You're not a student here. Are you a visitor? Why are you here?"
"Who are you talking to?" a deep, yet whispery (and definitely male) voice followed his own, and Alex's head shot to the direction of the door, where stood Morgan Gallagher, casually leaning against the frame, his arms crossed over his uniform and his face, as usual, devoid of any recognizable emotion. His eyes suddenly flickered up to the ceiling above the bathroom stalls, and Alex followed his gaze but found nothing out of the ordinary. Returning his eyes to the door and finding Gallagher again staring at him, Alex frowned at him.
"Who do you think I'm talking to?" Alex retorted, gesturing in front of him. He looked back at the girl, only to feel his heart skip a beat.
She was gone. There was not a trace left of her. And he thought with a sort of sick agony that she couldn't have moved without him seeing or hearing her go.
He could practically feel every last drop of his blood flowing down to pool in the soles of his feet.
"I honestly have no clue," Gallagher said, reminding Alex of his presence. "Enlighten me."
Alex stiffly looked back at Gallagher with wide eyes. His face was so pale, it had started to feel cold to him. "I… I thought I…" he stuttered, but gave up all too quickly.
Alex felt a stifled surprise overtake his mood when he saw a hint of some real emotion—even if it did seem to be simple confusion—pass over Gallagher's face. It was very rare that such a thing happened—to all that had contact with him, Gallagher seemed to live in a different world. "Zoned out," or, perhaps, "aloof" were words that were often used to describe him. Alex always just thought that Gallagher was simply cold and uncaring, but that didn't change the fact that he felt a certain triumphant glee in knowing that he actually caused Gallagher to react to him.
So, naturally, he decided that it would be best just to forget about the disappearing girl for now. There were definitely better things with which he should be concerned.
Gallagher seemed to be growing uncomfortable. He shifted from his casual position and stood awkwardly in the doorway, running a nervous hand through the long, unruly wisps of blondish brown hair that framed his face. He seemed to be doing anything in order to avoid making eye contact with Alex.
That was about the time that Alex realized that he was staring. He immediately looked away, randomly catching his own reflection in the bathroom mirror. He did his makeup well this morning, he noted. His eyes looked unusually bright, which was just as well since he was now being confronted by No. 6 (or, in some people's opinion, No. 1) on the "hot chart."
"You're such a freak," Gallagher said at last, in what Alex assumed was the best form of dismissal that he could think of. That didn't deter Alex's need to snap back in defense.
"Well, sor-ry, Mister Gallagher," he said, a sharp, sarcastic edge to his voice. "I can't help but act weird around you. You're too hot."
He honestly didn't mean to say it. It sort of slipped out. Immediately afterward, a dark blush crept up onto his face, and he knew his makeup wasn't strong enough to hide it.
Gallagher blinked at his bluntness, obviously caught off-guard, and showing some sort of reaction for the second time. Alex, despite his embarrassment, couldn't help but feel a little victorious. Gallagher rarely even spoke to anybody—Alex decided this was definitely a good turn of events.
Gallagher opened his mouth, his eyes narrowing as his did so, with the obvious intention of saying something, but his prepared speech was cut short when the first bell rang loudly, reverberating around the bathroom, as if to mock Alex. Alex growled, almost missing the annoyed look that crossed Gallagher's face, but it was over all too soon. Gallagher shut his mouth and turned abruptly, striding away with his usual quiet, casual air. Alex found himself suddenly intensely curious to know what Gallagher had planned to say. Cursing the bell once again, he stalked off to his first period in defeat.
He had practically caught up to Gallagher in a few minutes, but he just managed to catch sight of that broad, uniformed back ducking behind a corner before a loud, obnoxious clearing of a throat drew his attention away.
His eyes settled on the wrinkled, unpleasant face of the principal—a short man with a slight hunch and a voice that was constantly laced with the gurgling noise of too much mucus.
"Mr. Fitzgerald," the principal drawled, the phlegm in his throat bubbling with the noise. "Hope you're staying in line."
Alex shot him a glare. He wasn't entirely afraid of the principal, but, as of yet, he was at the man's mercy. Already the principal looked down on him for more reason than one; Alex, for some reason beyond his understanding, had chiseled a reputation of troublemaker for himself, and almost all of the faculty were on a front to punish him, with the principal as their leader.
"Of course, sir," Alex said, trying to make the insolence in his voice at least a little surreptitious. Judging by the principal's sneer, he had failed horribly, but luckily for him, the sound of the warning bell cut the conversation off. "Must be going; hate to be late," Alex muttered quickly, offering the principal a slight wave and darting off down the hallway before the man could make a retort.
Alex stepped into his first period class just as the bell rang; his teacher looked at him with mild disgust, but he ignored it—he got such looks a lot. His attention instead was focused on a more curious, out-of-the-ordinary thing: sitting in the seat of his desk (which was located in the corner farthest from the teacher's desk, for safety's sake) was a brand new copy of the oversized book The History of Southbrook Academy. Alex stared at it distrustfully for a long while, gauging the risk of touching it, before reaching out (with both hands, of course; he doubted he'd be able to lift it with one) and placing it on his desk so that he could sit.
The teacher, Mr. Winterton (Steven Winterton, coach of the boy's swim team—the team that housed No. 2, Ivory Johnson, on the "hot chart"—and the wrestling team, who had a wife and three kids. Winterton was struggling with testicular cancer, but hardly anyone but Alex and a few of Winterton's closer colleagues knew about such matters—even fewer knew about his addiction to painkiller drugs; those matters were known only to Alex, as far as he was aware), stood and began the introduction to his lecture, but Alex paid no mind. Instead he studied the book before him with a wary interest; it wasn't the library's copy—that one was so withered and old, the cover was hardly readable. It couldn't have been left there by mistake; Winterton was a clean freak about his classroom, and was known to donate any abandoned or forgotten books to the school library the first chance he had. That meant that someone must have left it there recently—perhaps it was a gift? But, then again, anyone who knew Alex the slightest would know he wouldn't enjoy a book such as this. Still, Alex tucked the book away into his bag, deciding that he would worry about it later. Now, Winterton was eyeing him with an impressively irritated frown.
"Mister Fitzgerald," Winterton's nasally voice echoed painfully in Alex's ears. The room was dead silent. "Would you mind repeating what I just said?"
Alex blinked at him miserably.
"Do you even know what I just said?"
"And why not?"
"Because I wasn't paying attention, sir," Alex said.
"And what, pray tell, could be more interesting than my history lecture?"
"The history of Southbrook Academy, apparently," Alex retorted before he had a chance to think. As soon as it was out, though, he paled and looked down at his desk. "Sir," he added, hoping that the polite formality would take away from his rude response.
"You don't seem the type, Alex," Winterton said, stuffing his nose in the air.
"Yeah, well," Alex mumbled, still refusing to look up. He could feel the entire class staring at him, and he hated it. No. 1, No. 2, No. 4, No. 6, Frank Alan, Ivory Johnson, Geoffrey Willow, Morgan Gallagher—four very important people staring straight at him like he was a fool. Normally he loved to be the center of attention, but not like this.
This was abnormal. His relationship with Winterton was abnormal. Alex, due to his intrusive and deductive abilities, always had an upper hand with teachers. His used his power as the statistics keeper to his advantage. A little blackmail here and there served well to stop power-hungry teachers from preying on him.
But Winterton, Winterton was one of the very, very select few that actually had dirt on Alex himself. It was by chance, really—Winterton wasn't the intelligent type that could figure things out, but he did happen to be in the right place at the right time when Alex once had a peculiar bout of stupidity. The only thing that stopped Alex's reputation from being slaughtered was his own intelligence about Winterton's cancer and addiction. Such a mutual wisdom brought them, once again, to the level of a normal student-teacher relationship.
It was one of the very few of that type of relationship Alex had ever experienced. And he certainly didn't like it at all.
"Next time, Mister Fitzgerald," Winterton said, glaring at him, "I suggest you limit your personal reading to your personal time."
"Yeah, Alex Fucks Gerald," Alex heard an indistinguishable voice mock, and he felt his face burn as he continued to stare intently at his desk. Disregarding the mysterious disappearing girl, the bout with Gallagher in the bathroom, and the strange gift of a book, it seemed to be starting out as a normal day in his life.