D for Dylan - 4. Chapter Four
Jake tormented me with questions as we drove to my house. ‘Who was it? How do you know him? Why did he freak you out? Does he hurt you at school?’
I never really told him about Liam. Never thought it was necessary. Jake knew I had a crush on a straight guy a few years ago, it wasn’t a big deal for him and I never got too specific. Thankfully he wasn’t a jealous type - he trusted me and I figured that Liam wasn’t important enough to even talk about. The only person who knew about my prior feelings for him was Elle, I told her last year when she slept over at my place. I feel like mom probably always knew, but I haven’t discussed this with her either.
I was able to douse Jake’s bout of curiosity and assured him I was safe at school. I wasn’t even lying, lately nobody bullied me.
It must’ve been months since the last time I thought of Liam. Lying on my bed that night, I couldn’t help but wonder what made him come up to us on the parking lot. He didn’t look particularly healthy and I pondered if he really was doing harder drugs these days.
The remainder of the week was very rainy, some parts of our street got flooded and I felt like a ninja, jumping over the puddles in a raincoat. Those were the only days I’d typically miss having a car. Peter was giving me rides back home, but I was usually getting to school by myself.
Speaking of school, reluctantly, I began to notice extra attention directed at me from Liam’s table. Both Liam and Sebastian were constantly glancing at me, which felt very weird. I had the gut feeling that they were plotting something against me, but Elle kept spewing out insane conspiracy theories about how Seb wanted nothing but to fuck me. Interestingly, it was his eyes that were staring at me non-stop, glued onto my back as he sat behind me in nearly every class. He was creeping me out big time.
Contrary to his friend, surveillance on Liam’s part was very stealthy, but I could tell he was paying attention to my every move. On those rare instances when I caught him, he turned away hoping I wouldn’t notice. I couldn’t figure it out and by the end of the week decided that my attempts at gauging their motivation weren’t worth the effort.
When the skies finally cleared up it felt nice to move outside for PE classes. One of the perks of Montgomery High were sports facilities. Up until a few months ago I wasn’t taking advantage of them, avoiding PE like a plague. Lately, however, I grew fond of the running track around the football field and a swimming pool. I discovered that running was particularly fun, especially for someone as introverted as me. Having a new smart watch helped keep a track on it and motivated me to continue. I’d typically plug in the earbuds and cut circles around the field, listening to music, it usually left me with sore muscles, but the aftertaste of feeling refreshed and energized was worth it.
Now, usually they tried to avoid having football team on the field when we, mere mortals, had our regular PE classes, but in anticipation of the upcoming finals coach Jenkins jacked up their training schedule and poor football players were stuck on the field nearly every afternoon and evening. Liam was the captain of their team for the past two years, I believe he was the first sophomore to be elected in the history of the school. I saw him running around on the field, yelling at his teammates, half of whom looked like they were about to pass out from the heat stroke. Thankfully, noise cancellation in my earphones did a damn good job muffling their screams and I was able to enjoy my run for a while.
That is, until I was rudely interrupted.
“Hey, Dylan! Dylan, wait up!” I heard behind my back and nearly tripped.
Whoever called my name was running after me and tapping at the back of my shoulder. I slowed down and took off my ear buds. Turning around, I was startled by a looming 6’3” frame of Sebastian Costa. His hair was a mess, sweat was pouring down his face, his breathing was labored and I actually felt bad seeing how exhausted he looked. This was quickly replaced by a sense of heightened alertness. Him, approaching me like this couldn’t signify anything good.
Sebastian was a very definition of a dumb jock. He had a German-Italian father and a Hispanic mother to whom he owed his good looks, but beyond appearances there wasn’t much substance to his personality. He did good at sports which along with generous donations from his parents have kept him afloat in the school, but growing up spoiled and unpunished turned him into someone just as shallow and empty as Liam. In fact - up until a few months ago Sebastian was my biggest nightmare. None of Liam’s friends have bothered me as much as he did. The only person who left more bruises on me over the years was Liam himself. One couldn’t blame me for being cautious.
“What do you want?” I asked, stepping back and looking around.
We were surrounded by a bunch of our classmates and two coaches running the training. He was stupid, but not stupid enough to beat me right in front of them.
“I just wanna talk,” he groaned, pressing hands against his thighs and bending down, trying to catch his breath. “Can you meet me after school?”
“What? No.” I replied, taken aback by his impudence.
“Seb, what do you want from me?” I asked, waving my arms to the sides. “I really don’t understand. If you want to beat me, then do it. Don’t make it worse by actually making me talk to you.”
“Look, I’m not gonna hurt you, okay? Just hear me out...”
On a spur of the moment, I suddenly noticed how uncomfortable he looked. He entangled his fingers together and folded this palms in and out, cracking the joints. His arms were shaking, he was anxiously tapping his feet on the rubber ground of the running tracks. His eyes moved down and left, as if tying to avoid looking directly at me. Elle’s words reverberated in my ears and realization hit me like a ton of bricks. Could he really...
No, there was no way... He was straight! He dated half of the girls in this school, last year he banged our new English teacher, she ended up divorcing her husband and leaving the school after he blabbed this out to everyone. Where was this coming from?
Before I had a chance to get my answer, I saw Liam approaching us from the field, “Hey, what’s going on here? Seb, we need you back at the practice.”
“Give me a few minutes, I’ll be right back,” he reported, but Liam didn’t leave.
The situation turned more and more awkward. Liam sood there with his arms on his waist, watching us like on a jury trial, while we both remained silent.
“Nice talk,” I mouthed, putting my ear buds back on.
Sebastian huffed in irritation, “I’ll catch you after school.”
“Good luck trying.” I retaliated.
“What are you talking about?” Liam intervened, asking both of us.
I gave him disparaging glance and ignored his question, running off the tracks to leave the stadium. Despite my careful attempts at avoiding Sebastian for the rest of the day, the strategy to sit this out in the library and wait until he leaves crashed and burned. Once I came out of the building, I saw him standing at the parking lot, expecting me. Weirdly, Liam’s Camaro was still parked at his usual spot, despite the fact that their practice was long finished.
I hurried off the sidewalk, hoping that Seb won’t notice me, but it didn’t work - he caught up to me in no time.
I stopped and took a deep breath, bracing for what I hoped would just be another beating session, instead of Elle’s insane theory coming true.
“I don’t have much time,” I said, looking at him.
“No, I’m not gonna... It’s just, I wanna ask you...” he stuttered. “I wanna ask you out.”
I didn’t just hear that, did I?
“I’m sorry, what?” I asked, confused out of my mind.
“I wanna go out with you. I’m asking you out on a date.” Sebastian stated, with more confidence in his voice this time.
He looked me right in the eyes, keeping his hands in his pockets but still fidgeting in anxiety. Two years ago Ms. Tompkins forced him to play Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet play at the school theater. It was a complete disaster, this guy couldn’t act, at all. This is how I knew that he was being genuine now. It would’ve been too elaborate a plot for him to follow, if this were to be a stupid prank.
I swallowed hard. Yeah, having a beating would’ve been better.
“I thought you... Aren’t you dating girls?” I asked.
“I go both ways.”
“Since when? You call me a faggot every chance you get!” I spat sharply.
I immediately bit my lip, seeing how he winced hearing this.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to...” I muttered. “Seb, I... I’m flattered, but I have a boyfriend. I’m sorry.”
“Oh... Uh, you do?”
I nodded slowly, with my lips tightly sealed in embarrassment. I just wanted to sink into the ground and escape this conversation as quickly as possible.
“Okay...” he whispered, scratching the back of his head. “Yeah, it’s not a big deal. Sorry for taking your time.”
“It’s alright. See you around.”
I was about to leave, but he decided to ask me something I did not expect, “You’re not lying, are you? You know, just to get rid of me... You’re really seeing someone?”
“I am.” I replied, not sure how to feel about his question.
“And if you didn’t? Would you have gone out with me?”
Once again I bit my lip in awkwardness of the moment. Who knew Sebastian Costa was a fan of hypothetical scenarios.
“I don’t think so.” I said, quietly.
He nodded, looking away, which forced me to add, “I don’t... I don’t trust you, Sebastian. Not after everything you did. I’m sorry.”
I hurt him, I could tell that I did. Not sure if I felt any remorse for my words, but I told him the truth. I had one particularly nasty flaw to my character - I didn’t know how to forgive people. I was just like Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, ‘My good opinion once lost, is lost forever’.
I pulled the hoodie over my head and walked away, leaving Seb in the parking lot, all alone. As I was making myself a promise to never tell Elle or anyone else about our conversation, I passed black Chevy Camaro and saw Liam sitting behind the wheel, staring at me. Immediately after we made an eye contact, he drove out of his parking spot and swiveled down the road at a high speed, leaving me puzzled by his actions. This day was getting exceedingly more bizarre and my capacity to process its events was rapidly diminishing. I ended up cancelling dinner plans with Jake and fell asleep on my bed just a few minutes later.
I’ve had one of those rapidly changing dreams that wore you out and pulled you though tons of emotions overnight. I remember briefly waking up in sweat when mom popped into my room to check on me, I also remember hearing my phone buzz a few times, but I was way too dead to actually wake up and reply.
As it frequently happens when you fall asleep at 6 pm, you wake up in the middle of the night. It sucks and screws up your entire day, but at least you have some free time on your hands to run some piled-up tasks. I yawned, looked at the alarm clock and quietly cursed. It was 3:00 a.m. I rubbed my eyes and tiptoed to the bathroom to rinse my face and put on the contacts, careful not to wake up mom and Sarah. I looked at my iphone and saw several skipped calls and text messages. All of them were from an unknown number.
‘Hey, can you come out? I’m outside your house, I want to talk.’ I read, scrolling down.
Was it Sebastian? I tensed up and sat straight on the bed. If so, it’ll be a little extra creepy for him to follow me to my house.
‘Can you pick up your phone? I tried calling three times.’ next message said. ‘Please, I promise I just need to talk.’
I scrolled down to the bottom and saw the last text, sent 20 minutes later.
‘It’s Liam. I don’t know if you still have my number saved.’
I pinched myself in the thigh, checking if I was still asleep. Why the hell would Liam Henderson text me in the middle of the night, let alone drive to my house? I hoped mom didn’t see him. I received his last message three hours ago, judging by the frequency of his texts he spent quite some time waiting for me to respond. Was he outside of my house this whole time?
I gulped nervously and stepped towards the window, moving the curtain aside. Surely, by now he was long gone, it was 3 in the morning...
“Holy shit,” I mouthed.
I was looking at his car. It was right there, parked in the driveway across from my house. Street lights dimply lit our quiet neighborhood, where his pitch black Camaro was the only sedan amongst the sea of SUVs and Minivans.
I debated whether I should even come out or simply ignore him, but looking at his first message, he spent over four and a half hours at my driveway, which was too creepy to ignore.
If we were ever to get robbed, it would be the easiest job in the world, because Helen was a super heavy sleeper, just as I was. Not taking any risks, after putting on my sweatpants and a warm jacket, I went downstairs trying to be as quiet as possible.
The night street was chilly, cold air burned my lungs, forcing to remember childhood asthma. I wrapped my arms around the chest to stay warm and walked towards his car. I cautiously approached the driver’s side and bent forward to try and look through the window. Tinted glass windows were illegal on cars in our state, but of course this asshole didn’t give a rat’s ass to the rules that common folks had to follow. I had to create a tunnel with my palms to actually be able to peak through.
He was asleep, head cocked to the side, left hand resting on his lap, right hand holding a bottle of... vodka? He was wearing his varsity jersey with a black shirt underneath. For the first time in years I had a chance to examine his face this close. He still snorted every once in a while when he slept, and his face didn’t change much, at least it appeared so under this lighting. He looked calm and peaceful - something he most definitely wasn’t in real life. I almost wanted to leave him like this, but it was very cold and I was worried he’ll contract another meningitis and I’ll end up feeling guilty. Driven by the selfish desire to spare myself from any regrets down the road, I did the right thing and knocked on the window, startling him. Liam jerked and opened his eyes. He appeared disoriented and drunk, examining his surroundings like he tried to remember where he was, wiping the drool off the corner of his mouth. I stepped away to give him time to get to his senses.
The door soon opened and he came out. His hair was messy after sleep, eyelids were puffy as he squinted, adjusting to the street lights. He snuffled and made a few wobbling steps forward, facing me. He wasn’t very stable on his feet, must’ve been from the alcohol.
“I heard you got into Harvard,” he said with a raspy voice.
“Yeah, I did,” I replied, surprised by the fact that he even knew about this. “What did you want to talk about?”
“You always wanted to get there...” he spoke, as if to himself. “I guess dreams come true, huh?”
I ignored his words. Last thing I needed at 3 a.m. was a small talk from Liam Henderson. He bit his lip and stared at me intensely. I couldn’t figure out what was on his mind.
“Why are you here?” I asked.
“I want to talk.”
“I don’t know.”
“Really?” I asked, unable to withhold a chuckle. “Nice talking to you. Have a good night.”
I turned around to leave, but he jumped forward and grabbed by arm, “Wait, don’t go.”
“Take your hand off me.” I uttered, sounding as serious as a heart attack.
He snatched his arm away and raised his hands in the air in a calming, capitulating gesture. Didn’t really work on me. Being around him was repulsing to me and he knew it.
“You have three minutes.” I said.
“What were you talking about with Sebastian?” he asked, pulling out a pack of cigarettes from his jeans.
“That is non of your business.”
“Did he threaten you?”
“Did he try to hurt you?”
“Why are you... What? No!” I exclaimed. “Hurting me is your job, isn’t it?”
Liam pursed his lips and looked down. His fingers played around with a lighter, as he tried to ignite the tip of his cigarette.
“What, are you jealous that he’ll beat me without getting you in on a fun?” I asked.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Liam mumbled, putting cigarette in his mouth.
“Enlighten me, then.”
He sharply inhaled, drawing smoke into his lungs and finally stopped fidgeting.
“I miss you,” he muttered.
My reaction to this absurdity wasn’t anything surprising. My eyebrows flew up in the air, but the laughter set in just a fraction of a second later, with ridiculousness of his words overpowering everything else.
“What’s so funny?” he asked, as if my laughter insulted him.
“Dude, you’re drunk.” I said. “Please get an Uber and go home.”
“Did you hear what I said?”
“Yeah, and it was bullshit.”
“Yes!” I chuckled.
He looked distressed, smoking his cigarette and clenching his fists.
“Okay, your time is up. I’m getting back home.” I announced, but before I was able to move, he grabbed my arm again.
“I said I fucking missed you, what’s wrong with that?!” he hissed in annoyance.
“Let me go.”
“Why do you have to be so fucking stuck up? You really think you’re so much better than others?”
“I said, let me go. Don’t fucking touch me!” I shouted, forcefully ripping my arm out of his grasp.
“What the fuck is wrong with you? I just wanna talk to you!” he reasoned.
“And tell me what?! That you missed me? Are you fucking crazy, what do you expect me to say?” I asked in frustration, feeling cold air burning my lungs more with each heavy breath I took.
He looked lost, not knowing what to answer.
“I don’t know...” he whispered.
“What, you suddenly want to be friends again? That’s never going to happen! We’re not friends, you’re less than a fucking nobody to me!” I shouted, exploding at him in the darkness of the midnight street.
He did not expect to hear this from me and that was infuriating. He rocked back and stepped off, nearly tripping on his heel. As I was breathing heavily, trying to calm down, he had that look on his face like I just shoved a knife in his chest, which triggered me even more.
“Did I...” he uttered, “Did I fuck it up?..”
“No. You’re not sorry and I won’t forgive you. Don’t waste your time.”
“But I need you. Dylan, please... I’m really sorry.”
He looked at me like a puppy and I could swear I saw a small tear in his eye. Did this motherfucker really think he could trick me with this shit?
“Fuck you!” I spat. “Fuck you and your apology. You beat me like a fucking animal for three years, you humiliated me and treated me like shit!”
He stepped back. I stepped forward.
“I fucking hate you, Liam. There’s nothing you can do to fix this.”
At the height of my erupting rage I took off my jacket, grabbed at the neck of my shirt and pulled it off, baring my chest and abdomen. I inched closer to him, staring right into his dark green eyes.
“Remember last year?” I asked, closing the distance between us. “Half of your friends were graduating, you got wasted at the prom and decided to have fun with me...”
To his dismay and confusion, I took his right hand and brought it to by naked stomach, shrugging at how icy cold his fingers felt against my skin.
“You see the scar?” I asked, forcing him to feel my contracted skin. “You broke three of my ribs, one of them jammed into my spleen and ruptured it. I lost half a gallon of blood and passed out before they figured it out and took me to the OR to cut it out.”
His mouth was agape, he was looking at my incision scar with such shock, as if he didn’t even assume this was possible. His ignorance only fueled my anger.
“You did this, Liam. It wasn’t Sebastian or Mark. Every one of your friends told you to stop, they said you were pushing it, but you were having too much fun, weren’t you? You kept beating me and you laughed, and when you stood up, I thought you were finally done, but no - you started hammering at me with your feet.”
“I... I didn’t...” he stuttered, dropping his cigarette, his eyes darting from my scar to my face. “I’m so sor-”
“Where were you last year?” I cut in, ignoring hot tears rolling down my cheeks. “I didn’t see you stalking my driveway to say hi or see how I was doing. To see why I dropped out of the school for half a semester. You didn’t even notice me gone, did you?”
He was gasping, eyes wide open, fixed at my stomach as his shaking fingers slid down on my scar.
“There’s just nothing inside you. Nothing at all. You’re pathetic and sad, and empty.” I said quietly. “One day, you will end up in jail, Liam. I wish I had thrown you there myself, but I couldn’t hurt Emma.”
He was trembling. I was surprised to see how he started crying, wiping tears off his cheeks and turning away from me, as if he was ashamed to look me in the eyes. It was actually funny to see, I even cracked a smile - he was showing me an Oscar-worthy performance!
Nevertheless, this conversation was over. I grabbed my shirt and a jacket from the floor and put them back on. I didn’t even feel cold anymore.
“Hey… Hey don’t cry, big boy...” I whispered, gently cupping his cheek with my hand and forcing him to look into my eyes. “It’s okay. I guess this talk just didn’t go the way you imagined it in your head?”
I squeezed his cheek and added, “Just make sure to get out of here before Helen wakes up. If she sees you, she’ll be the first to call the cops.”
Liam wiped his tears with the sleeves of his jersey and retreated back to his Chevy Camaro without saying a word. He was gone from my street before I made it back to my porch.
I took a deep breath and smiled, noting that the cold air wasn’t bothering my lungs anymore.
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