Friday, November 16, 2007

Kent had just left his fourth period chemistry class, and was traveling east through the quad to join Holly and the others for lunch, when he saw a brooding Jimmy walking towards him, moving in the opposite direction. This couldn't have been planned, but both boys reasoned that now was as good a time as any to talk to each other, and so they stopped for a second to glare at their opponent before stepping closer.

"Asshole," Kent said.

Knowing Kent the way he did, it was natural for Jimmy to be surprised by his choice of words. "Did you just call me an asshole?" he said.

"I'm prepared to call you a lot worse."

"Oh, are you?" Jimmy said as he crossed his arms and used his eyes to study the boy staring him down. "What else are you planning to do, Kent?"

"Whatever I have to."

"Oh, you're so intimidating," he said with a laugh.

"Claire told me what you did. And I can't stand by that."

"You can barely stand as it is," Jimmy replied, gently nudging Kent's left crutch with one foot. "Seriously, you think I find you a threat?"

"You hurt my friend."

Jimmy laughed again. "She's not your friend, Kent."

"She came to me and she told me all about what you did to her." Kent paused for a moment to take notice of the increasing crowd of students around them, most of them passerby but some genuine onlookers. "That kind of thing requires trust, the kind of trust only a true friend would have. And after what happened, I think it's safe to say she doesn't trust you anymore than the rest of us do."

Jimmy shook his head and just kept on giggling. "Oh, man. She didn't tell you everything."

"Really?" Kent said with his own scoff. "What did she leave out?"

Walking closer to Kent with a growing fire in his eyes, Jimmy answered: "Did she tell you that while we were doing it, she cried out your name instead of mine?"

Kent's jaw dropped open upon hearing this.

"Now," Jimmy continued, "which one of us did you say has trust issues again?"

"You're lying," Kent said.

"Is there something going on between you two?"

"Only the stuff that seems to be going on in your imagination."

It all happened very quickly—probably less than a minute. Jimmy grabbed the crutch from under Kent's right arm and turned it horizontally to ram into Kent's chest. The pain of the fall onto the concrete that resulted was swiftly doubled by Jimmy's use of the crutch to then repeatedly pound the cast covering Kent's right foot. Those who hadn't noticed the first phase of the attack soon realized what was going on upon hearing Kent's agonizing screams, and the taunting yells and claims of infidelity being angrily delivered by Jimmy in the middle of it all.

Jimmy tossed the crutch aside and pulled the backpack off of Kent's shoulders. "Let's see what you're hiding," he snarled as he opened one pocket then another, going from zipper to zipper and throwing everything inside onto the ground in front of Kent. This action would have normally been a simple annoyance on top of some greater offenses already committed, but then Kent was suddenly reminded of something that ensured it was only a break in the violence. "What the fuck is this?!" he said as he bent down to show Kent the photo Claire had given him earlier in the week, and that he had completely forgotten about since.

With a sigh, Kent replied calmly, "It's a picture of Claire in a bikini."

After kicking Kent in the stomach, Jimmy said, "Mind telling me what it's doing in your backpack?"

"What's going on?" Holly shrieked as she appeared between the two boys, having apparently just exited drama class. "Jimmy!"

"This is what's going on, Holly," Jimmy said, showing her the picture of Claire in her bathing suit. "I found this in Kent's backpack."

"She gave it to me!" Kent groaned, having reacquired his second crutch but still having a difficult time getting back on his feet. "Holly, could you help me up please?"

"Why are you going through Kent's backpack?" Holly asked Jimmy while she assisted Kent back onto his feet, a surprising question given the far worse physical violence Jimmy had committed previously. "And Kent," she said, "why's there a picture of Claire in a bikini in your backpack?"

"Thank you," Jimmy said, crossing his arms and crumbling the photo in one fist.

"You shut up," Holly warned him. "Kent, answer my question: what was that doing in your backpack?"

"You heard me," Kent replied while still struggling to remain balanced, "Claire gave it to me. I completely forgot it was in there. I barely paid any attention to it even when I first got it."

"When was that?"

"Yeah, Kent," Jimmy echoed. "When was that?"

"I told you to shut up," Holly repeated with a scowl in Jimmy's direction.

"Hey, you're not the only one being cheated on here, Holly."

"No one's cheating on anyone!" Kent said as loudly and as quickly as he could, the better to get the message out and the listeners to get over it. "If you must know, she gave it to me a couple of days ago. Tuesday, I think," he said with an annoyed sigh as he scratched his forehead. With a glance to the side, he saw Claire and Rusty approaching, and this prompted him to add, "Here. She'll tell you herself."

Observing the scene with a worried eye, a feeling not helped in the least by the pressure of her onlooking friends and general classmates, Claire stepped up to the others and asked what the hell was going on.

"You tell us," Jimmy said.

"No, you tell us, Jimmy," Rusty snapped. As he looked from Kent and Holly back towards Jimmy, he remarked, "Because this looks like your handiwork more than anyone else's."

"Food for thought, Rusty," Jimmy smirked. "A few days ago, Claire gave me that thing that you could only dream of." He paused for a second before continuing, "And it tasted good." After Rusty gasped upon hearing this revelation, Jimmy turned to Claire and Kent and toned down the smugness in favor of bitterness. "Mostly."

"We've been over this, Jim," Claire said.

"Why am I always the last one to know about these things?" Rusty replied with unusual calmness, considering the subject matter.

"At least now you know why she and Jimmy haven't been talking these past few days," Kent said.

"No," Jimmy said, "it's not just that we had sex. It's the fact that she cried out your name instead of mine, Kent."

"For god's sake," Claire said, slapping her knee in frustration, "I didn't cry out anyone's name, you paranoid ass!" She turned to a shocked Holly and explained: "Listen to me. The whole thing lasted maybe five minutes, at most. And the closest I came to…you know…was a mumble. An incoherent mumble."

Rusty smiled a little. "What does that say about your performance, Jimmy?"

"It says that I'm the one fucking her and not you," Jimmy said with a threatening step in Rusty's direction, "so you'd better not push any more of my buttons, you little shit."

"Actually," Claire said, "you're not, Jimmy."

Jimmy's head turned towards his supposed girlfriend with a surprised glare. "What?" Without allowing her much chance to elaborate, he jumped to conclusions. "Are you breaking up with me?"

"Yes!" Rusty said with joy and a downward thrust of his arm.

"No," Claire replied. ("Fuck!" Rusty cursed the universe.) "But I really think we should take a break." She glanced at Kent, which made Jimmy follow suit. "I mean, look at what you're doing! There's nothing going on between Kent and I! Nothing! You're doing this all over nothing!"

"Break up with him, Claire!" Holly said. "He doesn't deserve you after this!"

"Shut up," Jimmy snapped at her. "This isn't your decision to make, Holly."

"Don't talk to her like that!" Claire said. "Goddamn it, leave now, Jimmy, or I swear to god I will end this, right now!"

"Fine," Jimmy said. "We'll take a break." Before walking away, he looked towards Kent one final time and said, pointing at him with a threatening finger, "This isn't over."

"Thanks, Claire," Kent said, returning to her the bikini photo.

Although Jimmy's attempt at making a badass departure and the others' time to come clean about all their secrets was cut painfully short by the arrival of someone in campus security who prompted them all to the principal's office, Kent still managed to say to Holly what he'd long been meaning to say before that all happened: "I guess I should tell you who my Dad is."