D for Dylan - 3. Chapter Three
Over the years, Liam Henderson’s inner circle have changed quite a bit. Many of his so-called ‘friends’ have graduated, others have dropped out, there were also the ones who purposely separated from his toxic crowd, as well as the ones who transferred out to a different school.
Trish Collins was one of them. The girl that wedged a nail in the coffin of our friendship had tragically lost her father in a car accident two years ago. It happened on the Christmas Eve, the roads were icy, he was returning home from business trip and got into a gruesome crash on a highway. I felt really bad for her. Trish dropped out of school for a while, popularity and instagram have suddenly shifted onto a background plane and she quietly left Montgomery High a few weeks later. I’m not sure what exactly transpired between her and Liam, but they broke up shortly prior to that.
It was about a year later when I accidentally stumbled across Trish in Starbucks, she was working behind a counter as a barista. To be fair, I always thought Starbucks coffee was ridiculously overpriced and I typically couldn’t afford it, but I’ve put my old grudges aside and stepped in to order a hot mocha. Trish and I ended up talking during her break. She wore regular clothes and seemed more down to earth. She told me how her family lost their fortune to creditors after her dad died, how they were forced to move out of their house and start a new life in a simpler neighborhood, where they were able to rent a more affordable apartment. She apologized for treating me badly and for turning Liam against me. She teared up mentioning how ashamed she was for making fun of my cheap clothes and lack of money. I felt bad hearing her story, but eventually, after our conversation was over, I left Starbucks with a cold cup of coffee and a warm smile, knowing that this brand new Trish was going to be okay.
Interestingly, I met Jake on my way out. In fact, I bumped into him and splashed his shirt with my overpriced drink.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” I panicked, putting the cup aside and rushing through my backpack searching for paper towels.
“It’s all right, it’s my fault,” he replied softly, easing my anxiety. “I’m very lucky you prefer your coffee cold!”
“Oh, it was actually hot...” I laughed.
He told me he had another shirt in his car and we headed out of the mall. He made fun of my habit to carry paper towels and I retaliated by pointing at replacement shirts in the trunk of his car. He was charming, funny and very attractive. Turned out he was a freshman at the alma mater of my dream, planning on getting into a law school.
“Look, I don’t normally do this, but...” he said, “Can I get your number?”
“Oh... Yeah, sure!” I blurted out, surprised.
My initial bewilderment at the fact that I could interest someone like him has quickly vanished, because Jake and I clicked rightaway. It seemed as though I knew him my whole life and we just happened to meet after years of estrangement. He was very easy and interesting to talk to, he took me to a restaurant and a movie theater, we strolled in a park and went on an ice rink where I’ve demonstrated my amazing talent of falling on my face and bruising easily. I’ve got to know Jake better, he was the youngest kid in his family, he was rich and confident, but not spoiled and most definitely not arrogant. He was smart and kind, he knew exactly what he wanted from his life and he actually liked me. After spending years with lifeless self-esteem, hearing words of admiration felt really nice for a change. I wasn’t greedy for flattery and I definitely wasn’t fooling myself about my looks. I just happened to love myself the way I was, I loved my favorite ugly glasses and my comfy clothes, sometimes I even loved having braces on my teeth. Things shifted, however, when Jake told me that I was very handsome. I thought he was making fun of me, but he kept saying it, holding me in his arms as we watched Netflix in his apartment. The more he complimented my looks, the more curious I got about it. Looking back, I realize that what he did for me was far greater than a simple sweet-talk. He was healing my old wounds, making my guilt and shame dissipate, helping me open up and feel comfortable the way I was. As time went on, I started shedding off my shell. I figured that it’s been a while since I’ve tried new clothes on, so I let Jake rearrange my wardrobe and he packed it with new khakis and jeans, t-shirts and pullovers, jackets and scarfs, sneakers and god knows what else. I couldn’t afford all that, I fought him about the money, but he wouldn’t let me pay for any of it. In turn, I resolved on overcoming my fear of contact lenses and finally got my prescription filled. I ruined three pairs before I got one in my eye, I probably looked like I tried to dodge a venomous snake and Jake had to hold me in place in front of the mirror that first time. My braces came off next. It felt awkward sliding my tongue along silky smooth teeth with no titanium in between, for the first time in years.
Mom was the first one to notice changes in my looks.
“Baby, you have to tell me. Who is he?” she asked me at dinner one evening.
“Who’s who? What do you mean?”
“Your boyfriend,” she murmured, giving me that signature Grinch smile of hers. “Come on baby, don’t give me that look. It’s obvious.”
I aspirated on the piece of chicken and she actually had to give me Heimlich, which was very embracing. Mom was right though - I was an open book, couldn’t really keep any secrets, especially from her. She was out of her mind when I told her about Jake, she also demanded pictures.
“Look at that, what a stud!” she exhaled, yanking the iphone from out of my hand and waving it in front of her face in an exaggerated gesture, mocking a fainting spell.
“Mom, nobody says stud anymore.”
“Oh shut up, just look at him! You know, I used to date a black guy in college too...”
“Hard stop! I don’t want to hear it, nope!”
“Nope! I’m leaving! Have lots of laundry to do, see ya later. Love ya, bye!” I blabbed, storming out of the kitchen.
Over the next few weeks I slowly assimilated into my new lifestyle. Jake took me to his hairdresser and the guy gave me a crazy new haircut which would’ve given the old me a heart attack.
Slowly but surely I have made it out of my comfort zone, but unfortunately the folks at the school started to notice. People were looking at me in classrooms and cafeteria, whispering and gossiping behind my back, acting like they never knew me before. Some even thought I was a new transfer student. Elle was cracking up at the lunch breaks every day, gathering intel and telling us about crazy conspiracy theories floating around about me.
When the fist wave of amusement passed and whispers died down, random people started talking to me out of the blue, some have praised my looks, others commented on my haircut and clothes and also, for some reason, my sneakers. Was shoe fetish that widespread, or was I just too out of touch with modern trends?
In general, people were nicer to me, even Liam’s gang was leaving me alone for the most part.
“Dylan, this is crazy,” Elle whispered in my ear when we came out of chemistry class on Thursday. “I’m getting a third DM on my Insta asking for your number. There’s one girl that doesn’t know that you’re gay, and-”
Her phone buzzed and she looked at the screen.
“Oh, never mind, she does. She still wants your number!” Elle cracked, breaking into laughter.
“That is... flattering.”
“Wait, that’s not all! If I’d tell you who one of the guys is, you’re going to flip.”
“Don’t want to know. Nah, just delete it.”
“Dude, it’s Sebastian.”
“What?!” I exclaimed.
“Man, I’m telling you. People went nuts! We need to put your old glasses back, I’m afraid it’s the only way to keep you safe.”
I couldn’t help but glance at Liam’s table. Sebastian was sitting there beside the king himself, chewing on his roast beef sandwich. The guy that used to beat me up just months ago was now asking for my number? Yeah, right. Thank god I wasn’t registered on social media.
“He just wants to jump me. It’s a trick.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure. Rumor has it, he’s bi.”
“I don’t care what he is. That guy hates me.”
“That’s what I though about Pete before he threw himself at me.” Elle murmured, “You never know.”
This commotion at school was creating unnecessary distraction from what was really important for me. I was blessed having loved ones around me, I had my mom and Sarah at home, I had my best friends who were loyal and caring and a boyfriend who was crazy about me. For the first time in years I was genuinely happy and I wasn’t going to pay attention to hormonal bursts of thirsty teenagers at my school.
Concentrating on this thought I began spending more time with them. I took Sarah to an amusement park and got her a huge teddy bear, I also went to a water park with Peter and Elle. After spending weekend with Jake and his family at their summer house in Cape Cod, I barely got out of his car in front of my porch, only to be greeted by my mother, standing there with a creepy smile and a letter in her hand.
“Mom?” I asked. “What’s going on?”
“Dylan! Dylan don’t panic!”
“What is it in your hand, mom?” I asked, biting my lip.
“Did you tell him?” she asked Jake.
“No, I was quiet, I swear!”
“Tell me what?” I gasped, turning around to face my lying ass boyfriend.
I carefully took the letter out of her hand and saw a Harvard logo on it.
“Is that?..” I asked. “But it’s too early...”
“Honey, just open it!” Helen nudged, jittering in anticipation.
It was about ten minutes later, in our dimly lit kitchen, where I cut that letter open with a knife. My hands were shaking as I pulled out the paper and looked at the text.
“I got in.” I heaved. “Holy shit, I got in...”
Next few hours were very joyful and loud. I was playing with my little sister, Mom blacked out on the sofa after overdosing on champagne and Jake just couldn’t stop kissing me. While I was putting Sarah to bed in her room, Jake ran out to his car and brought me a gift he bought earlier.
“Jake, what is it?”
“Just open it.”
I unwrapped the foil and took out a box with Apple Watch and a small card, reading ‘Congratulations, Dr. Moore’.
“You can’t keep spoiling me like that.” I protested.
“A simple thank you would’ve been enough,” he smiled.
“Thank you,” I whispered.
I kissed him and climbed on his lap, wrapping my legs around his waist.
“I love you...” Jake exhaled in my ear as I ran my lips along the crevice of his neck.
I was beyond happy during the following couple of weeks. Nothing and no one could affect my good mood, I was simply beaming with it. Apart from Peter and Elle nobody knew about my college appointment, but random people kept flocking to our cafeteria table like it was an open house, chatting with us as if we suddenly turned into cool kids. It still weirded me out, I wasn’t their typical idol, I wasn’t on social media and didn’t follow their hierarchy. These were the same kids that stood there and laughed at me being beaten to death just recently. I was polite to them, but I didn’t want their company and I seriously considered listening to Elle and putting my old glasses back on. I started spending more time in library in between classes, mostly because nobody ever entered it and it wasn’t allowed to chat inside. Extra time to read some of the college books came as an added benefit.
One late afternoon I got stuck in the library while Elle and Peter went out on a date. Jake promised to pick me up and I was waiting for him on a parking lot with my headphones on, listening to Shawn Mendez’s ‘Monster’. I was contemplating how lucky I was, playing Jake’s words over in my head, recalling how he told me he loved me the night I got my acceptance letter. I even started dancing, which was a deeply disturbing spectacle for anyone to see. Thankfully there was no one around, so I could go ahead and embarrass myself as much as I wanted.
Then I heard the whistle of his tires. Jake parked his Mercedes right in front of me, came out of his car and walked towards me. Boy, did I miss him or what? His dark eyes, looking at me with so much passion, his warm hand landing on my cheek and making me melt. He drew me in for a deep, hungry kiss and I obliged, loving every second of it.
“What the fuck...”
Our lips parted upon hearing this and we turned towards the road.
Liam Henderson was standing in front of Jake’s car, looking at us and breathing like he had an asthma attack.
What was he doing here?
He appeared sick, like he caught a stomach bug or something. His face was an earthy shade of gray, his jaws were jammed, teeth gritted as if he was in pain. I brushed this thought away, he probably just overdid weed.
Regardless, I was spending too much time thinking about him.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?” Jake asked him, shielding me with his arm.
Liam glared at my boyfriend for a brief moment, which stirred up my anger. What the hell was happening here?
“He’s probably high on something,” I said, wrapping my arm around Jake’s waist. “Let’s go home.”
“Hey-hey, it’s alright baby. Who is this?” Jake asked, feeling uneasiness on my part.
“Nobody, just a guy from school.”
I couldn’t even look at Liam without getting nauseous. Honestly, I had no clue what he wanted from me. Whatever it was, he wasn’t getting it. Picking up on the rising tension between the two of them, I was about to pull Jake towards the car, but Liam surpassed me. He suddenly shuddered, brushed off his mental fog and walked away, leaving awkward silence to linger in the air.
Jake raised his eyebrow and winked at me, smiling, “Looks like shrooms to me.”
“Probably,” I chuckled nervously. “Let’s get out of here.”
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