Rumors travel fast, and they get distorted as every single person adds something to them. Somehow, in a couple of days all the school thought Liam had been busted smoking weed with some upperclassmen, and he had been hooking up with one of them. Some mentioned Dan’s name, some said that it was “impossible” for him to have any interest in Liam.
Liam hated that he had been outed to the entire school but, since on a practical level his situation hadn’t changed too much, he decided to act more mature and just ignore the rumors. At the same time, he couldn’t wait for class to end to go meet Dan in the library. Liam liked talking with him while studying. He had found out that Dan wasn’t only cool and fascinating, he was smart too. He even explained to Liam some physics formulas he hadn’t understood completely and helped him prepare for his exams while studying for his own.
“I went to a good school in Uptown,” he explained to Liam. “I studied most of these things in middle school, so I just have to remember them.”
“I admire the Uptown education system,” Liam said. “If I just stick to this school’s program, I’ll never be able to move there.”
“Why don’t you try some state competition?” Dan asked him. “They’re meant exactly to find talents to bring to Uptown with a scholarship.”
“I applied for one in middle school… but the day of the exam I couldn’t make it to the designed location. Since that moment I’ve been too depressed to try again.”
“The principal was so proud of my participation in that competition that he announced it throughout the school… as a result the bullies got jealous of me, waited for me at the station and locked me in a toilet cabin. It was awful.”
“Was it that Peter brat?”
“Yes, it’s always him. He’s the worst. He pretended to be my friend for some time, and then he betrayed me and started bullying me, after I told him that I was gay.”
“I see… did he do something to you? After the other day.”
“He did say to somebody he saw us together… rumors say I have an older boyfriend now.”
“That would be me?” Dan’s expression softened.
Liam smiled and shook his head. “No, apparently you are promised to some rich girlfriend and are going to get married right after graduation.”
“A reliable source.”
“Girls in your class?”
“Yep.” Liam held Dan’s stare making his best serious face, before they both started laughing.
Dan lowered his gaze to the books on the table, not really looking at them, and then said, “I see. Interesting.”
Liam swallowed some air and finally found the courage to ask him, “Do you have one?” He paused. “A girlfriend…”
“No,” he said, and Liam’s heart started beating faster. “I have a sort of boyfriend, though. I’m bisexual, did I ever tell you?”
No, damn it, you didn’t tell me.
Liam didn’t know if he could allow himself to be happy, because now he knew he could have a chance, or disappointed, because Dan was dating someone already. In the end, disappointment was stronger.
“Who is he?” Liam asked, unable to look into his eyes.
“Someone I met here at school. He’s two years older than me.”
“I see.” Liam looked somewhere in the distance, tormented by jealousy. “Maybe he was for you what you are for me now.”
He couldn’t stay there anymore. He felt like he had just been dumped, even though he hadn’t even confessed his feelings to Dan yet. He silently started gathering his books.
“I hate jokes about my hair,” he said to Dan dryly. “I have a name, damn it,” he added through his teeth, turned around and left the library, with a brand-new broken heart.
Liam walked as fast as he could to the closest bathroom down the hall, got in and rested his back against the wall. He looked at the green–blue tiles on the floor, trying to find something interesting in them, hoping they could distract him from the shame he was feeling. He had never felt so disappointed in himself and stupid. He had made himself look ridiculous, reacting like a jealous, pathetic teenage girl. He shouldn’t have fallen for Dan. He should have known better. Love wasn’t his thing. There was no way it could have worked out.
Lost in his thoughts, Liam didn’t realize Peter had entered the bathroom until the other boy was standing in front of him.
Why every time something bad happens to me, it has to be followed by something even worse?
“Liam, what are you doing here?” Peter asked, looking at him with an expression that, if Liam didn’t know better, could have been mistaken for worry.
“Leave me alone, Peter,” he sighed, tired.
“What’s wrong? Got dumped by your boyfriend?” As always, there was only hostility in his voice. Liam hated him.
“Yeah, you know what? Why don’t you go tell the whole school? It seems you got nothing better to do than trying to ruin my fucking life!” Years of frustration were finally coming out. “All that happened to me, it’s all your fault! Damn you and the day I met you!”
“What did you say?” Peter seemed furious. “Always acting superior, like you’re better than anyone! You’re the only reason your life sucks!”
Liam literally jumped on him and punched him with all his strength. Peter stumbled and was about to fall on his back but managed not to. His eyes flashed with anger, and he pushed Liam back to the wall. Liam lost focus for a moment, distracted by the pain in his back, and even though he struggled to resist, he couldn’t prevent Peter from lifting him up from his collar and punching him. With his head spinning, Liam tripped and hit his forehead on the sink. He fell down, his vision blurring.
“Look what you’ve become, all for that asshole!” Peter screamed at him.
“You’d wish you could be half the man he is,” Liam murmured.
Dan broke his heart, but that didn’t make him less awesome to Liam. On the contrary, he could almost hear his voice as he was losing consciousness.
Liam forced his eyes open. It really was Dan’s voice. Dan pushed Peter away and knelt by Liam’s side, taking his head into his hands to look at his forehead.
“Liam, I’ll bring you to the hospital now,” Dan told him with a sweet voice.
Liam didn’t want him to be so nice to him, not after he had broken his heart, and yet his body moved on its own. He grabbed Dan’s shirt and pushed his face to his chest. Dan took him in his arms to carry him away. Somewhere in the back of his mind Liam knew he should be embarrassed to be seen like that by the other kids in school, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. He was happy to be there, in Dan’s arms.
Before leaving the bathroom, Dan turned to Peter and said, “You ever touch him again, you’re dead.”
Liam woke up in a hospital bed. Dan was sitting on a chair next to him, reading one of those gossip magazines abandoned on the bedside table with a disgusted face.
As soon as Liam whispered his name, he moved closer to him. “Liam, how are you feeling?” he asked him.
“Shitty… am I dying?”
Dan smiled at him. “No, you’re fine. You’ll get a big bump, but nothing worse. The nurse wants you to call your parents. Legally they need to be informed you’re here, or something like that.”
“I see,” Liam let out a sigh of relief. “Will the nurse believe me if I just said I called them? I don’t want them to worry if it’s nothing serious.”
“Won’t they notice anyway?”
“I’ll just say I fell from the stairs. Old but gold,” he hinted a smile.
Dan returned him a sad smile. “It’s your choice, Liam.”
Hearing Dan say his name like that made Liam’s heart ache. He sat on the bed and hugged him, holding tight to the back of his shirt. Dan passed an arm around his shoulders.
“I thought that if I was going to die, I could ask you for a goodbye kiss,” Liam told him.
“Just how much do you like me?”
“A lot,” Liam confessed. “I like you a lot… even if I said I hate jokes about my hair, the truth is that I like the way you call me Ginger. And now I have a broken heart, because you dumped me.”
“I didn’t really dump you.”
“You said you have a boyfriend!”
“Well, monogamy was never too important to me.”
“No way,” Liam said. “That’s cheating. And I wouldn’t want to share my boyfriend with anyone else.”
“I see. Pity.” So, he had no intention to leave his boyfriend for him. It made Liam sort of sad.
“You’re strange,” Liam told him, trying to understand him better. “I guess you don’t like me back?”
“I do like you,” Dan smiled. “I find you impossibly cute.”
Liam felt his face burning.
“Can I… get that goodbye kiss after all?” he told him, his voice shaking a little.
“What about cheating?”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t know you have a boyfriend for the next five minutes.”
“You want a five–minute kiss? You’re demanding.”
Dan took his face in his hands. Liam’s heart was beating faster every second.
“Must be because I hit my head,” he whispered, then he closed his eyes.
Dan closed his lips on his and slowly licked them. He gently forced Liam to open his mouth, and his tongue slipped inside, searching for his. Liam brushed his tongue against Dan’s, trying to focus on not getting a heart attack. Dan moved back for a moment.
“You’ll die if you don’t breathe,” he whispered to him.
Great, he has noticed.
“Is it your first?” Dan asked.
“The first so… deep,” Liam confessed, embarrassed.
“Breathe with your nose, okay, Ginger?”
“Okay,” he told him, and they started kissing again.
The best five minutes of Liam’s life so far.
Sample chapters – the end
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