Chapter 1

Chapter 1

A Chapter by Chris

He knew he was in there. He had seen him turn into the art room, his gait firm with his hands clasping his backpack straps, as if he knew who he was and didn’t have to prove that to anyone, already aware of his strengths because he had worked his way to the top of his own echelon, and he wasn’t done yet. It was that confidence and that ambition that had caught his eye when they first met a few years ago.

            Brad slowed--someone stepped on his heels, so he hastened out of the way, losing the safety of the crowd as he strayed toward the inner wall. His pace faltered as he neared the room, but he forced himself forward, through the door, as he slid his hands into his jeans pockets. He bowed his head, catching a glimpse of the two rows of tables, but not of him. He wouldn’t walk any farther in than he had to, but he couldn’t risk accidentally sitting at the same table as him. Brad stole glances at the first pair.

            There. The one on the right, sitting at the closest corner with his back facing him. Brad turned to the left, where he saw a vacant stool.

“Hey Brad!”

He nearly jumped, but the voice was feminine, lilted. Two girls sat on the opposite side of the table, both attentive. The blonde must have been a sophomore or a junior, she didn’t have that nervous look many freshmen had on their first day, but he recognized the brunette.

Another gaze fell on him, he could sense it, and he knew whom it belonged to.

“Hey, Samantha. How was your summer?” Brad asked, about to sit down, if only because it would look odd walking away from the table when he had started toward it, but before he did, he noticed the index card. It had another boy’s name written on it in curved, purple script. The teacher already had assigned seats.

“Oh, it was awesome! I went to Hawaii.” Samantha leapt into the details. She always was a chatterbox. It was maybe the one thing that made her easy to date in sophomore year. The relationship didn’t last but a week. That had been enough to confirm he didn’t like girls, and he didn’t want to string her along. She was upset when it ended, but she understood.

Brad listened, throwing in the occasional nod or laugh where appropriate, allowing himself to relax, just a little. The conversation, no matter how one-sided, was nice, compared to the stiff, hushed ones he had had to bear through at home for the past few weeks.

 “That does sound awesome,” he said when Samantha finished. “You’re lucky. My family never goes anywhere like that.”

“Did you go anywhere this year?”

Brad maintained his smile. Conversation would have to end here, before she could ask anything more. “No, not this year.” He checked the clock on the wall, more for a segue. “I should go find my seat.”

“By the way,” Samantha said before he could even begin to step away from the table, “I think I heard you aren’t on the football team this year. Is that really true?”

His smile waned. “Yes.”

 “Aw, no way. How’s come?”

He hesitated. Only the two girls looked at him, and conversation continued at adjacent tables, but he felt like the whole room secretly listened to his racing heart. “Something happened that’s kept me from playing.” He shrugged, and seeing Samantha’s frown, he quickly continued: “Things are okay, though.” That was the truth. Now. He smiled in reassurance.

“Oh, okay, good, as long as everything’s okay.” She paused, considering, her eyes never leaving him. This was his queue to turn away--leave--but before he could, she asked carefully, “So it wasn’t anything bad, right?”

Even though he anticipated it, he almost winced, his hands buried as deep in his pockets as they could go. He tried to offer another smile. “I don’t want to talk about it.” He turned his head, anything to avoid her curious and concerned eyes. “The bell’s about to ring. See you around, Samantha.”

Brad started for the next table, hoping he could sit down soon.


His heart stopped. He wanted to pretend he didn’t hear him, but his voice cut through the chatter, his thoughts, everything, and went straight to his eardrums. He forced himself to turn, where he was plunged headfirst into stormy ocean hues, but before he could become submerged in the depths and see the emotion that lurked within, he noticed the nod toward the opposite corner of his table.

It took a moment, but Brad got his feet moving again, over to the vacant stool. There it was. His name. Brad Bellini.

“Hey Brad.” Behind the greeting, a dam restrained a torrent.

“Hey, Jason.” Brad tried to smile, but it crumbled apart halfway.

He couldn’t bear to meet his eyes again, so instead he sat down and busied himself with putting the things for his next period down on the floor. He set his sketchbook in front of him, even if they wouldn’t need it the first day, and a pencil and eraser next to it--and adjusted the pencil, making sure it lay parallel with the sketchbook.

The next couple of minutes crawled by, and Brad spent its entirety with his head bowed. His fingers wrapped themselves around the bands that adorned one of his wrists, an outdated fad that he fortunately had maintained for his own style, though he had only two, half as many, last year. The watch on his other wrist was a typical accessory, too, notched more securely to keep it from slipping. Both hopefully unnoticeable attempts to conceal what he didn’t want anyone to see.

Only one student knew, and he couldn’t look at him.

Finally, class began, and the teacher passed out the syllabus. Brad counted down each minute. Not once did the tension leave his muscles, or the space between them. It existed like a wall. He could sense Jason’s urge to break through it, and the only thing that allowed Brad to keep it fortified was the teacher talking.

He knew he shouldn’t have, but he did. Brad risked a glance at Jason, only he couldn’t keep it that short. His eyes traced the hard contours of his clean-shaven jaw down to his pointed chin, his sharp nose and the slight prominence of his cheekbones.

When they had just settled on his thin pair of lips, Jason’s head began to turn. Brad snapped his attention back to the syllabus, where it should have stayed, ignoring the warmth that pooled in his stomach.

When the bell rang, Brad already had his things gathered in his arms. He shot off his stool before the teacher could wish them a good day--and so did Jason. Brad quickened his pace and made a sharp right out the door. He just wanted to get to English.

“I want to talk to you.” Brad nearly jumped at the sound of his voice. He was right behind him. “Please.”

“I need to get to class.” He was walking as fast as he could, just short of a jog, but he knew his effort was futile. Jason would persist.

“Just one minute. That’s all I ask for. Then I’ll leave you alone.”

Beneath the ambient chatter, Brad let the silence drop in between them, wishing he would just let it be and leave.  

“Come on, Brad. Talk to me.”

“I can’t.”

“How are you doing?”

Brad stopped. People passed them, all inattentive except for a girl who glanced their way, not that he really expected much different. Such a seemingly casual question wouldn’t arouse much curiosity, but they both knew what those words were about. Jason appeared around him from his left, stepping in front of him.

“Tell me that much. Please.”

His voice possessed a natural firmness, but Brad had been around him enough to hear the subtleties in his inflections. The hand that fell on his shoulder was just as gentle, about as much as what Jason could probably muster.

Brad avoided his stare. “I’m well.”

“Well,” Jason repeated. A pause, a consideration of the word, but only for a moment. “That’s good to hear.”

Jason’s hand had remained on his shoulder. It tore him. Caring or affectionate gestures were a rarity with him. To be under his touch, even something as small as this, it felt nice. But it also burned. He couldn’t bear its weight. Without being abrupt, Brad pulled his shoulder away.

His heart was racing. “I need to go.”


The attempt to skirt around Jason failed.

“Everything I said before, it doesn’t matter. I care. You can call me if you ever want to.”

Brad looked at him again. There, he saw it: the sorrow, the pity.

“Don’t look at me like that.” The words were out before he knew it, and he wouldn’t stop. “I don’t want you looking at me like that.”

“Sorry. Brad--I just--”

He started backwards. His throat felt tight. “Please, Jason, just leave me alone.”

Before any more could be said, he whirled around and hurried away.

© 2015 Chris

Author's Note

It needs a little more detail in a couple of places and maybe a little more happenings, but good enough for a rough draft, I guess. Does this chapter provide enough of a hook to make you want to read more? Be honest. And any other feedback is greatly appreciated.

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where's chapter two? not sure it needs any more detail, good so far.

Posted 7 Years Ago

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Added on February 15, 2015
Last Updated on February 15, 2015




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