SEPTEMBER 26, 10:49 AM

WEDNESDAY

The second time Edward Ruiz saw Adam Yuán was in his AP English class on the first day of school. It was the only AP class Edward had, and this fact filled him with pride. Adam sat two desks away from him, and was always, always smiling. His hair was coffee brown, and so were his eyes, a warm, swirling color that shone when he grinned or laughed.

Edward sat nearer the windows, and sometimes, Adam would sit beside him if the girl who usually took the seat between them (Edward thought her name was Diane) was not there.

"Is it the first or the second?" Was usually how their conversations went, or, "Oh, wait, that was due today?"

Edward did not stammer often, but he did when Adam spoke to him, or when the teacher did, but that was not because Mrs. Kelly was pretty, but rather because she knew his mother and father personally, and somehow, that terrified him.

This morning, the white board said in Mrs. Kelly's wild, arcing handwriting, 'ACT IV SCENES 1-4 DUE TODAY', then,beneath that, 'What is the thematic significance of the three witches? What do they symbolize to Banquo, Macbeth, and Lady Macbeth? What significance does blood play in Macbeth?'

Today, the girl likely named Diane was sitting with Stephanie, behind Edward. Adam leaned over, looking horrified.

"Oh my God," He whispered, "We were supposed to have finished act four?"

Edward had almost tensed, stealing a quick glance at the boy beside him.

"Oh, uh, yeah," Edward stammered, "I think it's, uh, fine though, I mean, I didn't even read it all the way through." That was a lie, and Adam did not look very relieved, putting his forehead in his hands. Today, he was wearing a brown sweater, a button up, wrinkled, peeking from beneath it. His jeans were acid-washed and torn on the left knee. His socks were mismatched.

"Oh my God, it's so boring," He groaned, rubbing his face. "How can I read this? I can't. I can't do it."

"Aren't you in drama?" Edward asked him. "Isn't like, loving Shakespeare a requirement?"

"I hate Shakespeare!" He cried into his hands. Edward did his best, good-humored chuckle.

"That must be rough," He said, and Adam nodded fiercely.

Adam Yuán was best friends with the president of the Drama club, a boy named Keaton whose last name Edward did not know. Adam lived on the other side of town, opposite to the Coquille National Forest, in the rural part of town where the houses looked almost the same and the yards were small. Edward had seen it, once, during a party, because Adam lived on the same street as the Keaton boy, and Keaton was seventeen and loved to throw parties. His brother was twenty-two, and still lived at home, and therefore allowed him access to alcohol. Keaton was best friends with Kayla, a senior, who Edward knew of because she was Mary Walker's current crush.

It felt strange, knowing this much about Yuán given he probably didn't know Edward's last name. And it wasn't as if Edward had gone out of his way to learn all of this information, it had just come to him, accidentally, in various attempts to get to know the boy.

He'd first met him at that party. He'd had his first taste of alcohol, and felt relatively buzzed. Mary had disappeared in the small crowd, and Edward had been awkwardly hovering by a wall, trying to appear as cool and relaxed as possible. Adam had run into him- literally- from around a corner during those moments.

"I'm sorry-" He had said quickly, crashing into Edward. He'd looked everywhere but Edward's face. "Oh. I'm so sorry. It's all over your shirt." Oh, thought Edward, because this was something straight from a shitty romance film. Oh, thought Edward, because Adam began to laugh, a tiny, apologetic giggle that he hid behind his hands. "Let me get you some towel." Adam had stumbled away and returned five minutes later. He'd found Edward in the same spot he'd left him simply because Edward didn't want him to return alone, and because he seemed so intent on scrubbing away the water or beer or whatever had been in the red, plastic cup that he'd spilled onto Edward's jacket.

Adam's cheeks were dusted red in the dim lighting of the house party. The music made him speak loudly. His teeth were bright white, and a curl from his hair kept falling into his face. Adam giggled often; Edward realized quickly that he was drunk.

"You're Edward-" Said Adam as Edward stiffly allowed Adam to dry him.

"I am?" Edward had asked, his voice bringing him out of some odd trance. "Oh, yeah, I am, I'm Edward. Yeah-"

"You're sister was in drama once,"

"Yeah," Was she? He didn't remember. Christina didn't seem the type to enjoy drama. But then again, how would he know? She had moved out two years ago, although that hadn't changed his home environment one bit. She was rarely home to begin with.

"Keaton said she's hot. Is she?"

"Uh, well," Edward blinked. Adam was looking up at him. How old was he? He looked between sixteen or seventeen. "She's- she's my sister, so, I, uh, I don't really pay attention to her, uh, her looks, you know?"

"Oh," Adam said, then blinked, "Yeah, good point. Keaton said she was. They were friends. Do you know Keaton? This is his house, isn't it big?" Adam was grinning up at him, firing questions without allowing Edward the moment to answer. Then, he tilted his head, squinting up at Ed for a long moment which made Edward look away. "You're cute, so, she might be."

Edward had stared at him for a solid ten-seconds, then thought, Oh my God, I need to go home. Dad's going to kill me. Then mom. Then dad again.

Although his flight or fight responses were ringing off in his head in a wild, gay panic, Edward had opened his mouth, then closed it, then opened it again to say, "Oh, well, you're cute, too,"

Adam had stared, then began to laugh. A sweet bubbling sound that had begun small then fallen apart to simple laughter, his hand on Edward's chest, his cheeks blushing red.

"Oh jeez," He'd said, tilted over, "Thanks. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I've- I've never drank before." He'd laughed on.

"Do you need me to- do you need to go home?" Edward tried to appear as kindly concerned as possible, and it was difficult not to see himself as anything but oddly predatory, oddly gross.

"What!" Adam gasped with an exaggerated look of surprise on his face. "No! If my mother-...Saw me? Like this? Oh my God," And then he was laughing again. He had a sweet voice, soft, oddly song-like. I bet he would sound great if he ever decided to sing, Edward thought, faintly. "I'm fine, really, I'm-fine." Adam's laughed slowed, and he began to simply smile up at Edward. "Hey, do you need to go home?" He asked. His hand was still pressed against Edward's chest. He had pretended, with great effort, that it was not there.

"What? No, my dad would kill me,"

"Oh no,"

"Yeah-"

"Do you like movies? Keaton's brother loves old movies. He's got- he's got hundreds- you have to come see, come here, follow me,"

Edward's first experience of a bustling, busy party had been mercifully cut short when this pretty boy named Adam had dragged him up the stairs to Keaton's older brother's room. It had smelled faintly of marijuana and uncleanliness. All the while, Adam's hand had held Edward's wrist eagerly. Posters lined the walls, of old horror films like Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Godzilla, Rosemary's Baby, Halloween, and plenty others. The windows curtains were drawn closed and Adam had switched on a lamp. He'd tossed the towel carelessly into a corner, perhaps having forgotten he'd brought it with him. "Look, look, come see," Adam had dropped onto the floor before a tall shelf, meant for books, yet stocked with hundreds of VHS tapes, their covers torn or tattered from years of use. That night, Edward had spent several hours digging through them with Adam, reading the backs to each other and mocking the cheesy ones. Edward didn't even realize until Adam was leaning a head against his shoulder and saying softly that they should head out, because it was getting quiet downstairs and his mother would begin to worry, that he didn't even like horror movies.

That had been it. Edward had liked Adam Yuán over the summer, then into twelfth grade. He'd tried to find him around town, and had learned from Mary that he was on vacation out of state.

Adam was sixteen, as he'd predicted, and a sophomore. Edward wondered, often, if Adam even recalled much of Edward, or if the party and those hours spent in Keatons older brother's room were nothing more than a hazy, drunk memory.

Adam didn't speak to Edward often and so the final verdict was, no. He did not remember. He was drunk, Edward told himself, what did you expect?

Edward drew a careful breath and said, "Hey, if you want, I'll tell you all that happened in act four. It's not- it's not that exciting but-"

"Yes, please," Adam removed his hands from his face, leaned in. His hair looked very soft. He wondered what Adam might do if Edward tucked a lock behind his ear. He had to look away; Adam was not shy from making fierce eye contact.

Bitterly, he expected a lot.

SEPTEMBER 26, 3:45 PM

WEDNESDAY

"Why are we here." It was hardly a question, rather, a demand.

"You're a guy, aren't you, you've never like, stood by to watch the cheerleaders practice?" Mary nursed a cigarette and shivered slightly. It was still Summer, technically, but the coolness of Autumn was seeping in, faintly.

"I'm gay," Said Edward.

"Me too," Said Mary dreamily. Her hair was the biggest it'd ever been, a certain highschool goal of hers she seemed to be achieving. Her coiled, brown hair shuddered like cotton in the faint breeze. She wore golden pins in it that shone in the dim sunlight. Clouds were rolling in, and the smell of rain lingered.

Jefferson High school was one of the biggest high schools in town, with over two thousand students. They had a football team, a basketball team, a cheerleading squad, a track team, a swim team that used a nearby gyms pool, and plenty of other smaller clubs for nerds and jocks alike.

Edward sighed to press the knowledge of his boredom.

"What, Eddie, haven't you ever like, watched the football team practice or dress in the locker rooms?"

"Oh, yeah, like, once. Then one day, I was trying to get to my third period, and Johnny, you know the captain?"

"Who wears the eye-liner?"

"Oh yeah, the hot one. Him. He said if I ever so much as glanced at them all again he'd, as he so elegantly put it, beat my faggot-ass until I couldn't see, so. I think I avoided them after that,"

"What an asshole," Said Mary, turning to face him suddenly, and Edward shrugged. The memory, as perhaps aggressive as it was supposed to be, was just funny now. "Should I kick his ass? I would. He wouldn't punch a girl."

"Are you sure? Have you seen any of his exes before?"

Mary shrugged. "I'm not afraid of him." The jangle bracelets on her wrists moved down her arm and hid in the sleeves of her varsity jacket. It was two sizes too big for her, but very cute nonetheless. Her gaze returned to the cheerleaders.

The school colors wee green, purple, and silver, almost mardi-gras like. The cheerleaders were in the middle of a little meeting, huddled around their instructor, pom-poms on their hips.

"Are you gonna ask her out, or like, just watch her?" Edward asked. Mary shrugged, sighing.

"She's going to the dance with some football guy."

"Yeah, that's what cheerleaders do."

"Shut up,"

Mary had liked Kayla, a girl in almost all of her classes, for about two months now. Kayla was five-eight, and strangely shy for a cheerleader. Her father was a civil rights lawyer, and getting into cheerleading with a hijab had been surprisingly difficult for just a brief week, until her father had threatened to sue and the principal had backed down with a tail between his legs. Mary watched her and then waved when she caught Kayla's eye. Kayla raised a pom-pom with a big, cheeky grin on her face.

"Gross," Said Edward, and Mary pinched him hard in the arm.

"Oh, one of the girl's in my algebra class wants to ask you out. Nadine? You know her?"

"For the halloween dance?"

"The only dance that's happening, yes," Mary handed him the cigarette, and he took it gingerly.

"Oh. Uh. I'll have to seek her out, I guess."

"She's cute," Mary shrugged. "Who were you planning on asking?"

"No one."

"Aw, Ed, the loner. Don't be so pitiful. Ask out that Adam kid."

"Aha. No. My mom wants photos of me and whoever I take out. So, no."

"I'll go with you." Mary said. That idea sounded solid. Edward's parents were under the impression he'd liked her since they had met three years ago freshman year when he'd first began at Jefferson. Mary's parents were as unaware of her choice of lovers as Edward's were. They were very Christian, her father having been a pastor for some time. Edward had seen the man before, a gentle looking guy. When Mary talked about him, he did not sound so gentle.

"Okay. Do you want a corsage?" Edward settled against the bleachers. This was what being gay was all about; hiding everything, constantly, between yourself and your gay friends, if you were lucky enough to have them, disguising everything with the fakest high school photos imaginable.

"Yes, and a limo."

"I'm poor but I'll try."

SEPTEMBER 26, 4:21 PM

WEDNESDAY

The drive from highschool to his home was fifthteen minutes, but Mary always made an effort to take the long route.

"What day is it again?" He asked.

"Uh," Mary squinted at the road ahead of her. "it's Wednesday,"

"No, I mean the dance."

"Oh, then it's like…. October… Twelfth. I think it's a Friday. What are you gonna dress as? I'm thinking about being, like, either Indiana Jones or Princess Leia. I could totally do her buns, don't you think? Fuck yeah,"

"Oh yeah, probably."

"So what are you going to be?"

"Uh. My dad has a Jason mask somewhere in the house, I think,"

"You should bring a real machete,"

"And you should bring a whip."

"You'd like that, wouldn't you," Mary teased, grinning.

Mary lived in a nearby neighborhood. When she slowed to a stop near a one story home with a tilted mailbox out front, she glanced at him.

"My mom actually offered you could come over tonight. She's making lasagna…"

Edward shook his head.

"My mom will be home early tonight for once, and she wants to make everyone dinner,"

"Oh." Mary drummed her thumbs against the steering wheel. "Call me at 8 o'clock, okay?"

"Sure thing," He began climbing out, throwing his backpack over his shoulder, "Tell your mom I said thanks, anyway, though."

The grass in the yard was browning, not from the coming cold but a lack of watering. His mother took care of the yard in spurts. Sometimes, she had a green thumb. There were rose bushes along the house, but many of those were drying out, too. The sprinkler system had run for a week until his father had complained it was a waste of money. Every morning, Edward almost tripped over it walking to Mary's car.

He picked up a newspaper off the driveway, and fished through his back pocket for his house key. His father's car sat in the driveway. When he opened the door, he waited, five full seconds. He heard the television on in the living room. The seconds ticked by, and when no shouting came, he stepped it, locked the door behind him.

He walked through the hallway and passed family photos, a vacation, the only one they'd ever been to, to LA and the beach. His sister and her thick, auburn braided hair, his mother and her curls, his father and his suits, a picture of their old cat, Zippy, his aunt and grandmother, his uncle, his father again. Edward found the door to his bedroom and put his hand on the doorknob.

"What is this?" His father's voice was in the kitchen and Edward instantly halted, halfway in his bedroom doorway.

"What is what."

"Don't act fucking coy with me, get over here,"

Edward suppressed a long groan, whirling from the doorway and down the hall. The Ruiz's kitchen was small, with an island in the middle and pots and pans hanging above it, all grease stained and old. A crock pot bubbled quietly in a corner, and the fridge was covered in magnets and pictures and reminders. Edward saw a drawing he'd done when he was seven, old and browning on one of the corners, a food stain splattered on it. Was that supposed to be a dog or a horse, he wondered, watching it rather than meet his father's glare.

Edward had gotten his name from his father. Mr. Edward Ruiz was a short man, and his own son had already outgrown him by two inches. He had been handsome, once, as could be testified in the photos on the walls and his high school pictures. He had had long hair for many years until he'd joined the military when he was nineteen.

"What the fuck is this," He had, grasped tight in his fist, a crumpled paper.

"I don't know, I can't read it," Said Edward dully.

"Don't you talk back to me," He snarled. Mr. Edward Ruiz usually smelled like alcohol, but when he did not, he smelled like shaving cream. Oddly clean for such a lazy man. He was unemployed and thus spent his days either at home, at the Rodriguez house down the street, or at a bar. "This-" He shoved it into Edward's arms.

He caught the paper before it started to float downwards. Dread filled him, the only kind that filled him when his father was either drunk or in one of these oddly righteous moods, when suddenly college, Edward's future, and highschool were important to him in a controlling sense.

Edward stared down at a letter from his gym teacher. Oh, yeah. He had managed to avoid the principal calling his home when he'd been caught behind the school with Mary and three other students with cigarettes. That day, Edward had known his father was home, and thus he'd convinced the principal that no one would answer. The principal - a man named Carrey Miller - had promised to, instead, mail a letter of his wrong doing.

Edward had checked the mail everyday to find the letter before his father did.

"Oh," Was all he could say for a moment.

"Oh, don't you fucking oh me, smoking behind the school - explain this-"

"I-" Various explanations came to mind and none really would work. There was no, it wasn't me to say. He pretended to read it over again, searching for some excuse.

"This shit stays on your record,"

"Y-yeah," He scratched the back of his head, taking a small step back, "I'm sorry, sir, it won't-"

"What the fuck do I tell your mother?"

Ah. The world slowed a moment, because this was where the forest that was his father became a deadlier territory. Who should he fear more? Mom or dad? Well, the answer was simple. Priscilla Ruiz was a submissive woman who could be stern if you pushed her but she rarely was. She was prone to headaches and quietness. She liked to read and call his sister on the phone. She liked Christina, because Christina was a distinguished young woman, who looked like her mother, and never got caught smoking behind the school, though Edward had seen her do it once when he was thirteen. Still, despite the obvious answer, the question was there. What do I tell your mother?

"I-" Edward opened his mouth, "I will- …. I will tell her, sir,"

There. That seemed a good enough answer.

"Stay in your room 'till your mother gets here," There, ironically, was a rosary on his father's neck, one that bounced and shuddered when he made his wild movements, gesturing in a jerking motion towards the hallway whence Edward had come.

"Sure," Said Edward, turning, head down, for the hallway.

"Sure?"

He flinched.

"Yes, si-"

He was yanked back, the straps of his backpack biting into his shoulders. The pantry door shuddered when his back struck it hard, and he heard something fall behind it. He blinked, flinching, still, to see his father reaching for him. When his father gripped his face, it hurt. He dug fingers into his cheeks and held him very still. His hands were calloused and war-ready. He'd fired a gun before, and had killed before. Edward knew all this. His eyes, brown, like dirt, like mud, like shit, bore into him. Edward felt that rising sensation that came when his father became violent. It made him shake and he was not quite in himself anymore. He would suddenly only be watching, robotic, cold.

"Don't you fucking talk back to me, you shithead," His father spat when he spoke, and Edward could feel it on his nose, lips. His father, despite everything, still dressed every morning like he was still in the military. His teeth were clean, his thin hair brushed, and his face shaven. "Talk like that to me again, and see what the fuck I'll do to you." He shook him, once, "Do you understand?"

Very stiffly did Edward nod. He would have answered, but his mouth felt screwed tight.

This moment seemed to stretch on for another fifthteen seconds before Edward was roughly let go, and he stumbled from the kitchen, to the bedroom, where the shaking did not end right away, but lasted for a long time.