“… thank you.” Liam didn’t know what else say to Dan after what he had done for him and, most of all, he couldn’t look him in the eyes. “I guess I’ll go now,” he said, clearing his throat, and turned around to leave as fast as possible.
“Hey, Ginger,” Dan called him, freezing him on the spot. Liam turned to him slowly. Another joke about his hair. But said by Dan, it wasn’t as irritating as said by all the others. There wasn’t the slightest shade of malice in his voice. “You left all your stuff in the library,” Dan said, walking back toward the stairs. Liam felt his face turn hot again. That was fairly embarrassing. He followed Dan in silence.
“Liam,” he told him when they arrived to the library door. “It’s my name.”
“Short for William?” Dan asked him.
“No, it’s just Liam.”
“I see,” Dan paused. “I guess you already know who I am.”
“I do.” Liam wondered how he should call him. “Mr. Price…?”
Dan made a face that was half disappointed and half a smile. “What’s with that ‘Mr. Price?’ Do I look like an old man to you?”
“But I owe you my life,” Liam argued, serious.
“Pfff-” Dan laughed, making Liam blush and Liam’s heart stop for a moment. “Just call me Dan, okay?”
“Can you drop this Mr. thing?”
“But you’re an upperclassman.” Liam felt uneasy calling him simply by his first name, like they were friends. He wasn’t used to have friends in the first place.
“Is there still someone who cares about that kinda thing, here in Downtown?” Dan commented with an enigmatic smile. They went back to the library and Dan sat back in his usual seat. Liam silently put his things back in his bag. “You can stay, if you want,” Dan said, looking at him. The intensity of that gaze was doing strange things to Liam. Now he understood why people said that a crush would make you feel butterflies in the stomach. Dan continued, “Since you almost died today, I’ll even pretend I didn’t see you drying your nose on my jacket.”
Liam seriously wanted to disappear now.
“I wasn’t drying my nose on it,” Liam weakly argued, abashed.
“And what were you doing then?” Dan seemed to find it amusing. He was clearly teasing him.
“I told you, I just wanted to give it back to you,” Liam lied.
“You were crying.”
“Second year literature is very dramatic.”
Dan tried to hold back, but at the end he burst into a good laugh. Liam felt relieved. Not only Dan didn’t seem to consider him creepy, he had saved him from Boe and now he was actually having an almost-normal conversation with him. Furthermore, he looked cool while laughing. Even too much.
Liam sat back in his seat in front of Dan. “You don’t come to school often,” he told him.
“No, I don’t,” Dan said. “But this is my last year, and I’ll have to study for my exams, somehow.”
“You can come here,” Liam said, and regretted it immediately.
Of course he can come here, that’s what he’s been doing already, idiot!
‘I don’t mind your presence at all,’ said the guy he caught smelling his jacket. I have lost it completely.
“I’m sure you don’t.” Dan’s stare was fixed on Liam.
“Liam!” somebody screamed his name, and the door of the library opened suddenly. Liam turned around and saw Peter standing by the door, panting like he had been running. He looked at Liam and Dan for a few seconds, saying nothing. Then he smirked.
“Hey, carrot-Carter,” Peter said. “I heard you got into trouble with Boe, but it looks like you were here having fun instead.”
“What do you want from me, Dorian?” Liam didn’t want him there, in his library.”I almost got killed thanks to your friends today, and you come here to mock me?”
“Oh, sorry to disturb you,” Peter pouted. “I’d almost forgot how you enjoy being with other guys.” He laughed at Liam, then left.
Again. Rumors about my sexuality are gonna be spread again. Why? Where did I go wrong?
“Brat,” Dan commented when Peter left, after he had listened to all that conversation without moving an inch. “Is he the leader of the bullies?”
“Yeah… he’s been tormenting me since middle school,” Liam exhaled. “I hate him.”
“I see,” Dan said. “I was bullied too, in the past.”
“Really? You?” Liam couldn’t picture Dan being bullied at all.
“Yes, at first as a kid, grade school. I was insulted and ignored because of a psychological problem I had.”
Liam listened carefully to him.
Dan continued, “then it happened again when I moved back to Downtown, in this very school. This time the bullying was more physical, I had to learn how to run away fast enough when a group of people approached me.”
“I had no idea…”
“It’s because you met me now. Rumors aren’t always a bad thing, if you learn how to use them.”
“Is this what you did? You used a rumor to stop being bullied?”
“You’re so cool.” Liam didn’t realize he said it out loud until it was too late. “You said you moved back to Downtown, does it mean that you lived in Uptown before?” he tried to change the subject, to divert his attention from what he had just said.
Dan nodded his head. “I’ve lived there for seven years.”
“My dream is to become an engineer and work in Uptown,” Liam told him. He couldn’t explain why, but it felt just natural to talk about his dreams with Dan. “I’m sure everything is easier there.”
“You know… for a short, gay, pumpkin-head like me.”
Dan gave him a small smile, that didn’t really reach his eyes, and shook his head. “I hate to break it to you, but there are assholes in Uptown too… and maybe you think this place’s worth nothing only because you met the wrong people, until now. In any case, there’s nothing wrong in wanting to change, I guess.” He stood up and put his jacket back on his shoulders. “I have to go now,” he added, stroking Liam’s head. “See you tomorrow, Ginger.”
“Tomorrow?” Liam sai.d “So, you’ll be back tomorrow?”
Dan smiled again, with a real smile this time, and lifted his hand as to say “goodbye”. Left alone in the library, Liam kept staring at the door, remembering how Dan had saved him from those bastards, and the touch of his hands.
Maybe it’s not a crush after all.
I think I’m in love with him.