A Makeshift Triangle
by K M Bell
The journal of Lee Worthington - four years in the making
It's amazing how the past always hints toward the future, yet you realize it only in retrospect.
I still remember the first time I ever met Will. Sometimes, when I'm not thinking about it very clearly, I like to pretend that Will was saving me even that very first day, even if it isn't true.
The playground at my school was orange and loud and plastic, as only a child's play place should be. Well, maybe not all orange, but you get my drift. The children of Willow Park Elementary—an overcrowded and underfunded public school, much like any American public grade school, really—were overrunning the swings, slides, and monkey bars. It was recess, the one paradise-like respite all kids looked forward to during their school days; a time to run amok and not worry about reading, writing, or 'rithmatic. Harassed-looking teachers had no chance against the pint-sized horde, though they deluded themselves otherwise.
The typical kids' playground could be eerily likened to a war-torn battlefield in some respects: lines clearly drawn, the strong championed mindlessly while the weak were ground into the dust. Or in this matter, pea gravel: meant to be child-safe, but really just 'kiddie's first projectile weapon.' Me? Haha. Even back then I think people's gaydar was spot-on; I was always singled out at recess. I was always one of the few and proud (yeah, right) who knew exactly how bad it hurt when the other kids kicked up gravel at you. Who understood early on that teachers really weren't your friends, and it was just you looking out for yourself in the world. Even your parents wouldn't believe you when you were sent home with yet another detention due to 'fighting.' As if cowering on the ground and covering your head could be constituted as any form of aggression.
Recess. Yes, fun indeed. I only loathed those twenty minutes with every beat of my puny, fucked-up heart.
However, that wasn't where I first met Will.
"I hate this place."
A kid, somewhere around six or seven at first glance, stood at the taps in the little boys' room. He wiped at his bruised arms with wet hands, trying to get the dust and dirt off them before swiping a hand across his red face as well, trying to keep from crying like some sissy boy. He grabbed a fistful of brown paper towels and harshly blotted the tears that filled his eyes anyway.
"Hey," piped up a voice from the corner of the bathroom, startling him. He had thought he was alone. "You get hurt?"
The boy swung his head around, wide, dark blue eyes meeting the sky-blue of the kid sitting on the windowsill. "Who're you?" The trepidation in his voice was apparent; even from a distance he could tell this kid was bigger and taller than he was, and that usually translated into some sort of school-borne domination, one way or another.
The blond kid shrugged his shoulders, and then jumped down from the perch where he had been playing hooky. He walked over to the other boy without preamble. "Will," he finally answered. "Who're you?" he mocked, his dirt-smudged face invading the boy's personal space, a lopsided, potential derisive grin on his face.
Will's bright, expressive eyes widened. "Hey! You're Peter Pan!"
"What? No, I'm not!" The boy recoiled from Will, a look of childish indignation exaggerated on his face.
The blond boy's grin slipped back into place. "Yuh-huh. You look just like him, freckles and everything. 'Cept," he scrutinized, leaning close, closer even, too close, noses very nearly touching, "your eyes are blue."
The boy shrank away. "I am not Peter Pan! My name is Lee!"
"Are too," argued Will confidently, slinging an arm around the boy Lee's thin shoulders, smiling. "I'm gonna call you Peter Pan."
'Peter Pan' just glared back.
Sighing as he put down his pen, a black-haired teenager attempted to blink himself into the present. His mind, however, seemed determined to remain nine years in the past.
"Smell my feet!" Without warning, Pan received a lapful of four-year-old brother as Toby, looking eerily like one of the boys Pan had just been writing about, tumbled over the back of the couch Pan was sitting on, cross-legged. Toby's grinning face, complete with missing front teeth, stared up at his big brother innocently before he screamed, "Trick or treat! Smell my feet! Gimme something good to eat!" His voice was so loud Toby had to be part banshee, Pan thought as he cringed and tried to shut his brother up by mock strangling him. His brother easily slithered out of his grasp, but before Pan could catch him, Toby was in the kitchen and there was a knock on the front door.
"It's not even Halloween!" Pan yelled in the general direction of his rampaging brother before turning to the door with a scowl on his face and yanking it open, having trouble because the door always stuck. He nearly flew across the room when it finally gave in and opened. Trying to regain his composure, Pan tucked his longish, dyed hair behind his ears and glared at the person standing on the porch. "Yes?"
"Fuck, Pan, nice welcome," muttered fifteen-year-old Will, shaking his blond hair out of his face and looking for the world like the reduced-lunch kid with the thrift store clothing. "Why didn't you meet me after school today?"
Pan casually, disdainfully fixed his clunky black watch, turning the face to rest on the inside of his wrist. "Didn't feel like it. Homework. Little brother." He shrugged. "You pick, Jones."
Will grabbed his wrist, watch and all, jerking him forward. "Come on," he stated, ignoring Pan's excuses.
"No, fucker," Pan hissed, wrenching his arm out of Will's grasp. "Didn't you hear me? I'm watching Toby. Mom and Dad won't be home for another hour, if that. Now," turning to head back inside, "if you want, you can come inside. And next time use the side door."
Raising an eyebrow, Will leaned to look around the side of Pan's house for an extra door. There was none. Shrugging, he followed Pan inside.
The doorway led straight into the living room, a modest space occupied by a couch against the wall by the door, and a recliner angled next to it. The coffee table in front of the couch was almost indistinguishable, papers and magazines strewn across it. Walking across the worn beige rug Will took up residence in the old, but still very comfortable recliner.
"So what are you—hey!" He was abruptly cut off by a soda can flying at his face, chucked at him from Pan's position in the kitchen, in front of the refrigerator. He caught it, barely. "Jesus, Pan!" Pan laughed, coming back into the living room and tucking his feet underneath him on the same sofa he had been sitting on while writing in his journal.
"Lee, why does that boy call you Pan?" Toby walked back in the living room and crawled up into his lap, tugging on his chin-length black hair with babyish fingers.
Gently moving Toby's hands away from his hair, Pan smiled down at his kid brother. Sometimes he could be a terror, and sometimes he could be cute as a, well, something that was cute. Pan loved his brother regardless. Kneeling down, he nuzzled Toby's cinnamon hair. "Because he's a poopyhead, Toby. You can call him that, okay?"
"Hey!" Will was quick to protest. "No fair!"
"Poopyhead!" Toby grinned wide at Will, showing the prominent gap in his teeth. Will began to sulk, causing Pan to laugh again and making Will's eyes darken as he stared pointedly at him, then quirking one eyebrow as his gaze shifted to something on the floor.
"Hey, kiddo," Pan said softly, his own gaze never leaving Will's. "Why don't you go upstairs and play with your Legos for a while?"
"'Kay, Lee." Toby smiled angelically up at his idol brother, and zoomed up the stairs like a whirlwind.
The minute Toby was gone, Will and Pan both stood up, regarding each other across the room. "Ready?" asked Will. Pan nodded. Will's infamous scary grin lit his face.
"I'm so gonna kick your ass!"
They both scrabbled for the controllers at the same time, Pan just barely beating Will for first-player rights. The TV was switched on and the gaming commenced.