Since the day he met Dan in the library, Liam found himself hoping to see him every time he went there after class. He didn’t meet him for a long time, but he knew already that he wasn’t attending school regularly. A few times Liam heard rumors about him, though. Some girl had confessed her love to him, somebody spotted him in town dealing drugs, and someone else said he wasn’t coming to school because his father was teaching him how to manage his business. Liam didn’t know whether those rumors were true or not, and, honestly, he didn’t care. It would have been enough for him to just look at Dan reading again, at least one more time, only to find out whether he really had a crush on him or he had dreamed it all.
In March, when the trimester was about to end, and he had to study for the midterm exams, Liam had almost given up on seeing him again. One Friday afternoon, in particular, Liam had had an awful day, and Dan was really the last person on his mind. That morning he had met that asshole Peter on his way to school, and no matter how desperately he had tried to avoid contact with him, somehow his literature notebook ended up in the river. Liam was furious, and as he entered the library that day, he slammed the door behind his back, seriously considering the possibility of burning down Peter’s desk to get revenge.
“Shit!” He screamed out of frustration, admitting to himself that he would never be able to do such a thing, and then let his forehead fall on one of the shelves with a sigh of resignation. As he stood there with his eyes closed, he heard the noise of a chair moving. Liam felt a cold shiver running down his back and lifted his head. He walked a few steps, toward his usual seat, and there he saw him. His jacket leaning on the back of the chair where Liam used to sit every day, the sleeves of his shirt rolled up to his elbows, and those blue eyes looking at him. Liam’s heart skipped a beat. Yes, he definitely had a crush on Dan. Liam felt awfully embarrassed for screaming like that when he was in the room, but he was also strangely angry at him.
Why are you popping out of nowhere just today? I have been wanting to see you for two months!
“Oh, it’s you,” Dan said.
He remembers me.
Liam sat in front of him like the last time, in silence, with that mess of emotions still fighting inside of him. He reached into his bag and took out a new notebook and his literature books. He stared at them, remembering and re-living all the humiliations he had to go through since middle school because of the bullies, and he was also nervous for having Dan so close. After all, Liam had no idea what kind of person he really was. Maybe he was no different from the bullies. Maybe he would start to torment him, too, if he felt like it. Maybe Liam had idealized him too much.
He looked at him and saw that he had gone back to studying. Chemistry, this time. Liam opened his textbook too and started taking notes, stopping every five minutes to look at Dan. He didn’t seem like the others. He was just minding his own business; the one thing Liam always wished everyone would do.
At some point, Dan stood up, put his book back on the shelf and left the library. Looking at him going away, all Liam felt was disappointment.
Will I have to wait two more months to see you again? Or maybe I won’t ever see you again? You’ll graduate in July, and I won’t have anything left to hope for, when I open this door, every day, for the next two years.
Those thoughts surprised even himself. Somehow, hoping to see him again, Liam had found a reason to enjoy going to school, even just a little. He felt pathetic. When had he become so ridiculous? At what point did everything start going the wrong way?
A small tear fell from his left eye, running on his cheek, as he stared intensely at the chair his crush had been sitting on. Dan had forgotten his jacket. Unthinkingly, Liam stood up and reached out for it.
Maybe I’m still in time to give it back to him… or maybe I could, for just a moment…. Liam brought the jacket to his nose and smelled it. It had been washed recently, and Dan’s smell on it was incredibly good and delicate.
“What are you doing?” Dan’s voice sounded way colder than before.
Liam wanted to disappear. He turned his way, slowly. Dan was standing a few feet from him, holding a can of coffee and a sandwich in his hands.
So he wasn’t leaving, he had just gone to buy something to eat.
All Liam hoped at this point was that Dan wouldn’t notice he had been crying.
This is bad, what am I gonna tell him now? He’ll think I’m a creepy weirdo, and he’d be totally right.
“I… I wanted to give this back to you,” Liam muttered, trying to make up an excuse. “I thought you’d left, and it’s still cold outside, and….” He was panicking, his stomach aching. “I have to go!” He shouted in the end, averting his eyes. He pushed the jacket back in Dan’s hands and left the library, rushing down the stairs.
As he was running through the corridor of the third-year classrooms, Liam bumped into Peter’s stupid friend and some more of the group. Perfect. Those were the people he least wanted to meet in the world.
“Oh, Pumpkin Head, nice timing!” the dumb boy exclaimed, grabbing Liam by his jacket.
“Not now, guys, seriously,” he frowned. His classmates pushed him into one of the classrooms, and he fell on the floor, completely unaware of what was going on. Liam took a short breath and looked around for a moment, trying to understand the situation.
“Why are you guys here?” he asked, confused, before he realized two of them were searching a bag and stealing weed from it. “Don’t tell me this is—”
“Boe’s class. Right. He thinks he controls this school but he’s so stupid he leaves his stuff in class, can you believe it?” the idiot said.
“Don’t tell me you really want to steal from him!” Liam couldn’t believe it. The Boe in question was out of his mind. He was supposed to be a fourth-year student, but the previous year he had been suspended after a bad episode of violence and had to repeat the grade. He had beaten almost to death an upperclassman he had had an argument with. Boe didn’t leave his drugs in class because he was stupid; he did it because he was ready to do anything to the idiots who would dare steal from him.
“I can’t stand how you talk to me, Carrot Top,” the idiot said as he stepped on Liam’s hand.
“You’ll be our aliba,” the idiot explained.
Liam was confused for a second. “You mean your alibi?”
This time the idiot was the one making a confused expression, before losing his patience and screaming, “You’re gonna stay here and tell Boe you took it!”
“No fucking way!” Liam screamed back, and the other boy kicked him in the stomach.
In that moment one guy from the group ran inside the classroom. “Boe and his group are coming back!”
“Fuck, guys, let’s go,” the idiot said, and all of them ran away after throwing Boe’s empty bag on the floor next to Liam.
Shit, I have to run away too.
Unfortunately, Liam’s reflexes were way too slow. That bastard hadn’t held back with his kick. He had barely managed to get on his feet when Boe and his friends came in. In a moment Boe’s eyes flashed at his empty bag on the floor and at Liam, and Liam was sure that trying to explain to him how things really went was absolutely useless. Without a word, Boe grabbed a steel stick that was leaning on the wall beside the door and lifted it up to hit Liam.
“I’m killing you, you fucking thief!” Boe shouted, and Liam closed his eyes, covering his head with his arms. Strangely enough, the pain he was expecting didn’t come.
“Boe, it’s been a while,” Dan’s voice said. He was standing next to Boe, holding his wrist above his head.
“What the fuck do you want, Price?!” Boe screamed out loud and shook Dan’s hand away. Dan said nothing and just pointed at Liam.
“No fucking way! This little shit stole my weed,” Boe barked.
“If he stole your weed, where is it now? He must have it on him, right?” Dan asked, calmly. Boe seemed like he didn’t know what to say. Liam couldn’t help thinking that he had smoked so much that he fucked his brain completely at some point.
Dan rolled his eyes and said to Boe’s friends, “Come on, feel free to search him.” Two of them moved toward Liam and started looking inside his pockets.
“Nothing,” they said when they had finished with him.
Of course I have nothing. As if I could steal so much weed and keep it in my pockets.
“He must have some friends who ran away,” Boe said. “I’ll make you spit out their names and bring your bones back to them.” He took a step closer to Liam.
“Boe, can’t you see he’s all broken? Somebody framed him,” Dan said and took a step forward too. “Come on, you can do better than this.”
Boe finally let the stick fall, and from the sound it made when it reached the floor, Liam realized how heavy it was. It could have broken his skull.
“Who ‘framed’ you?” Boe asked, emphasizing the word “framed” even too much. Liam was pretty sure he had never heard it before.
For a moment, he thought he could tell the truth and send Boe to beat the crap out of those bullies. It would have been sweet revenge, but Liam was scared. He was scared Boe would actually kill them. The last thing he wanted in the world was to be responsible for anyone’s death.
“I don’t know who they were,” Liam’s voice came out a little uncertain. “I had never seen them before…”
Liam swallowed air and averted his eyes, hoping they would believe him. Judging from the heavy silence that fell in the room, Boe didn’t seem to like Liam’s answer.
“You heard him,” Dan said, breaking the silence. He gestured forward with his hand, looking at the guys who had searched Liam and that were still standing behind him. Boe nodded his head, and one of them pushed Liam forward. Liam stumbled a little, but Dan quickly passed an arm around his waist to sustain him.
“Here we go,” Dan whispered. The feeling of Dan’s arm around him was blowing Liam’s mind. Leading Liam out of the classroom, Dan finally said, “Boe, good luck with your thieves.”
When Dan closed the door behind their back, they heard Boe screaming and hitting something, most likely with that stick he had threatened Liam with.
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