And The Fox Declared to the Hound…
Wednesday, September 4th
Wednesday, September 4th
Man, am I exhausted. All that damned homework took me a lot longer than I thought, and I must’ve woken myself up at least four times by rolling over on my wrist. At least I had some aspirin tucked in my gym bag. It doesn’t hurt quite so badly, now.
I slide into my seat in History and let my head fall onto my desk. I would like nothing better than to just fall asleep right here, but Mr. Corwin would probably shoot me on the spot for it. Not worth dying just to catch a little nap.
The last two days were pretty much a blur, but if I remember correctly, not many of the Ducks are in this class with me. I’m pretty sure it’s just me, Charlie, and Russ. Well, that’ll be nice at least. I don’t think I’m really ready to face them all at once, even if they did stick up for me yesterday.
Well, well—think of the devils. Charlie grabs the seat next to me and Russ the one behind him. Charlie gives me a small smile and pats my shoulder, “Hey Guy, you all right?”
I nod absently and stifle a yawn behind my good hand, “Yeah. Just tired.” I sit up, rubbing my eyes a bit before turning to face the two of them. I let a bit a smirk creep its way onto my face, “Little bird told me that Dwayne had a bit of trouble on the ice after I left.”
Russ snickers as he pulls his notebook out and gets himself set up, “Oh, did he ever.”
Charlie nods, face solemn. It’s his “Captain’s” face—the face he pulls on when he has something serious to say, something that he wants to make sure we listen to, “What he did to you wasn’t right, Guy. Any idiot could see that you’re not the one at fault.”
OK, it’s nice that they were willing to beat up on Dwayne for me to pay him back for my wrist, but I don’t want this to get out of hand. The last thing our team needs is to be divided. I shake my head, “He’s just being overprotective. He’ll get over it eventually, Charlie. Just give them a little time.”
He clearly doesn’t understand me. His mouth pulls down into a frown, “How the hell are you taking this so calmly? Guy… he stole Connie from you—the girl you’ve been dating since kindergarten! Don’t you care?” Russ puts a restraining hand on his shoulder as if to calm Charlie down, but our Captain isn’t having any of it, “Guy, you and Connie were so solid—I figured it was a given that you’d get married someday—you can’t just tell me you’re going to give her up without a fight!”
I never really realized… this has probably shaken the team up as much as it’s shaken me. We were “ConnieandGuy” long before we knew any of the Ducks. They don’t know who “Guy” is any more than I do. In spite of the pit forming in my stomach, that one thought makes me happy—I’m not the only one confused by all this, at least… I give Charlie a sad smile, “Charlie, Connie and I have been over for a while. We were just too scared to let go before now.” I swallow back a surge of emotion—somehow I hadn’t realized how hard it would be to talk about this… “She’s happy with Dwayne, Charlie. And they’ll be good for each other. Really. It’ll be OK.” I’m not sure if that last was for his benefit or mine.
He isn’t convinced. He shakes his head, “You can’t tell me you’re OK with this. Guy, I can see how upset you are. You don’t want this to happen. You can’t.”
Oh Charlie… it isn’t that simple. It doesn’t matter what I want. But I don’t have time to explain. Mr. Corwin is already staring down his nose at us, as if wondering what sort of biting comment he can deliver to break up our conversation. In an effort to discourage Charlie from continuing his line of questioning, I turn towards the front and open up my notebook, giving the teacher my full attention. I’m aware of Charlie choking back further protests to my right, but I don’t acknowledge him.
After class is over, I bolt from the room as quickly as my legs will take me from it. The next period is Math, and Adam’s the only one in that class with me. At least he won’t ask me any uncomfortable questions.
I’m sorry, Charlie… If I still can’t handle my own feelings about all this, then I definitely can’t handle yours. I’m sorry…
The rest of the day passes in a bit of a blur. I made it through math and chemistry without any problems, but Adam and Kenny were the only Ducks in either of those classes with me. My last class was a little harder. English. Not only was Charlie in that class with me, but several of the others were, too… including Connie. At least I didn’t have to deal with Dwayne at the same time. That would have been too much. I made it through the class OK, but trying to get away without running into one of my teammates was a bit more difficult. I ducked out of class in the middle of the crowd and headed outside to walk back to the dorms. And just when I was ready to congratulate myself on my great escape…
“And where exactly do you think you’re going?”
Cringe. Damn. Not good. I turn around slowly, subconsciously bracing myself for what’s to come, “Hey, Charlie. I didn’t hear you or I’d have waited. What’s up?”
It’s worse than I thought. Charlie has Russ, Averman, Goldberg, and Fulton with him. I offer everyone a small grin, my mind racing to come up with a way out of this situation. Our dear Captain doesn’t give me a chance. He walks right up to me and puts a hand on my shoulder, “You side-stepped me pretty well this morning, but I’m not going to let you do it again. This situation concerns the whole team. You can’t pretend that nothing’s changed.” The others are standing in a semi-circle behind him, nodding and murmuring in agreement.
What’s the deal here? Why on Earth are they coming down on me?? I shake Charlie’s hand off my shoulder and back up a step. I’m shaking, but not in fear… this is anger. Before Charlie can say another word, I open my mouth. Even I’m a little surprised at what comes out. It’s quiet, angry, and sounds an awful lot like a growl, “Why can’t you just leave me the hell alone?”
Oooo… point for me. I shocked everyone. Charlie looks the most surprised of all—and is that a little hurt mixed in with the shock? In the state I’m in now, I’m not only not upset by that… I’m glad. I hurt one of my only remaining friends, and I’m glad. A little voice inside me starts to whisper about how wonderful it would be to do it again—to make someone else hurt as much as I do. I clench my right hand into a fist at my side and continue, “Connie broke up with me. Not the Ducks. It isn’t your problem, it’s mine. But if you really want to know so badly how I’m doing, I’ll tell you.”
I pause to consider my words, trying for maximum impact. My voice comes out flat, hollow, and broken by unshed tears, “It hurts. One hundred times worse than anything I’ve ever felt. It feels like someone tore out my heart and left a black hole in its place. But what hurts even more than that, is that along with losing Connie, I lost my only friend. Not a single one of you stood up for me on the ice yesterday until after Dwayne nearly caused me serious injury. And not a single one of you has shown me support to my face. Not a single one of you cares how I feel. All you care about is that I shook up your lives and might hurt your team. And that just makes it worse.” Fulton looks like he’s going to speak up, doubtless to ask what they can do. But there’s nothing they can do. Not about this… “And before you ask if there’s anything you can do—there isn’t. I think you’ve done more than enough already.”
Well, if my goal was to hurt Charlie, I think I succeeded. He looks like he’d like to cry—not that he would. No, the big, strong Captain won’t cry in front of his team. Maybe later, deep in the middle of the night when no one can see… but not now. Knowing that, the anger deflates right out of me. Now I just feel sick. God, what was I thinking? I didn’t realize that I could stoop so low. I back a pace away from the five of them, then another, and another. Before my mind even has a chance to catch up with the rest of my body, I turn tail and run.
Charlie and the guys spent the next 15 minutes first trying to catch me, then just trying to find me. Then they gave up. After all, they have practice. 15 minutes… In the end, is that all I’m worth? I let my head fall back against the tree I was hiding in and close my eyes. Way to prove me wrong, guys. I sure feel loved now…
Part of me almost hopes that someone will come find me. I don’t want to be alone. Somehow, all of this seems so much worse when I’m by myself. At least, being out here, I can fool myself into thinking that I’m not alone. There are other people in the courtyard, even if none of them know me. Even if none of them look at me. Even if none of them care. If I go back to my room, however, I’ll be completely alone—without even the illusion that there are others around.
I sink down to the ground and wrap my good arm around my chest. The nights are getting cold now, and I’m really not dressed for the weather. I should at least find somewhere warmer if I’m going to sit and brood all night, but I just don’t have the will to move. Not yet. Not yet…
When I next open my eyes, it’s nearly full dark. I must have fallen asleep. I seem to be doing that a lot lately. Maybe because it’s far less painful than being awake. A quick glance down at my watch shows that it’s 8:15. Damn it all… only 15 minutes until they close the dining hall. It’ll take me that long just to get there. I bang my head back against the tree. Is it really worth it to get up and run to the dining hall? After all, what harm is one missed meal going to do me? Not much. And I don’t have the energy to run anywhere. Not even for food. Just add my stomach to the list of parts of me that are empty.
Slowly and stiffly I climb to my feet and bend to throw my bookbag back over my shoulder. I should at least head back to my room and get my homework finished…
The walk back to my dorm room is long and lonely, and it gives me far too much time to think. I don’t want to think. I don’t want to feel either. Doing either one just hurts too damned badly. I punch in the key code to the dorm and push open the door. No one is sitting there waiting for me. Not that I expected anyone to be there. I just… it would have been nice. It would have been nice to know that someone cares enough for me to sit and wait up for me.
I trudge the rest of the way down the hall to my room, black thoughts clear to read on my face. I’m at the same time grateful and unhappy that I don’t have a roommate waiting for me. On the one hand, I don’t want to deal with anyone in the mood that I’m currently in, but on the other hand… it would be nice to have someone to talk to. I’m spending too much time alone, and deep down inside, I know that that’s only making the whole situation worse.
When I reach my room, it takes me a minute to fully assimilate what it is that I’m seeing. There’s someone sitting on the floor outside of my room. What? I blink a few times, then rub my eyes to clear whatever sleep fuzz might have been left in them. No… I’m not seeing things. The lone figure chooses that moment to jump to its feet and face me, “Guy! Where have you been? Everyone’s been worried sick!”
I want to be surprised. I really do. But I’m not. I just shake my head and push past Adam to unlock my door. He follows me inside and pushes the door shut behind him. I knew it was too much to ask for that he might leave me alone. I throw my bookbag down on the desk and drop my keys down next to it. Behind me, I hear the sound of Adam settling down on my bed before he speaks up again, “Guy… I am still your friend, aren’t I?”
I turn to face him, surprise etched on my features, “Of course you are. Don’t be an idiot, Adam.”
He crosses his arms over his chest and frowns at me, “Then why the hell didn’t you come talk to me? Or if not me, then one of the others? Charlie was really upset when he showed up at practice.”
I snort and turn to start pulling my books out of my bookbag, “Yeah, so upset that he only spent 15 minutes trying to track me down before giving up.”
Whatever I was expecting him to say, what comes out of Adam’s mouth next certainly wasn’t it. He scowls at me as he begins to talk, “Well what did you expect, Guy? Our scholarships depend on us playing hockey. If we don’t play hockey, we don’t go to school here. Charlie isn’t stupid. After fighting so hard to stay here last year, do you honestly think he’s going to go carelessly throwing that away? Yes, he cares about you, Guy, but this is his entire future we’re talking about. Since you so obviously didn’t want to be found, he figured that it was best to give you the time alone that you so vehemently asked for and wait until later to talk to you. Why does it surprise you that he gave you exactly what you wanted?”
I gape at him. I can’t help it. Even around me, that’s far more than I’ve ever heard him speak at once. And… it makes sense. As much as it hurts to hear it… it makes sense. Maybe I am being selfish. After all, this isn’t the end of the world. People break up all the time. And really, how often do high school relationships become lasting ones? Much less middle school or elementary school relationships. I really should have seen this coming. I was so blind… So very blind… God, what kind of an idiot am I?
What hurts most of all, though, is that Adam is right. I did ask for this. I asked to be left alone. I pushed my friends away—I hurt them—when all they wanted to do was be there for me, like I wanted them to be deep down inside. This is my fault. The emptiness… the hollowness… it’s all my fault…
My breathing starts to feel harsh in my chest. And… the room is getting blurry. What the hell is up with my eyes? I raise a hand to rub at them and encounter wetness. Am… am I crying? No way. I told myself I wouldn’t cry. Somehow, the acknowledgement that that’s what I might be doing makes it that much more real. The tears leak out over my eyelids and start to fall down my cheeks. No matter what I do to make them stop, they just fall harder. And it hurts. It’s as if all that’s left of me is running out through my eyes along with my tears, leaving me even more empty and hollow than before.
I am vaguely aware of a gentle arm that wraps around my shoulders and urges me to sit down on the bed. Once I’m seated, the arm pulls me down to rest on someone’s shoulder. That’s… a little better. At least now I’m not alone. Adam’s soothing voice reaches me as if from a distance, “Sh… it’s OK, Guy. I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to make you feel worse. That isn’t why I was waiting outside for you. I was just worried. Oh man, I am so sorry. Please stop crying…”
I feel like such a baby. I shouldn’t even be crying in the first place. Girls cry because they break up with their boyfriends. Boys aren’t supposed to cry. Boys are supposed to be strong and stoic. We’re supposed to get through these things. We’re not supposed to cry all over our friends just because they tell us the truth. We’re supposed to be able to take it. So, believe me, Adam… I want to stop crying. I just can’t.
I think maybe he realizes that. He stops trying to get me to stop crying, just pulls me closer to him and tries to let me cry myself out. After a few minutes, a change in my sense of balance alerts me that we’ve moved, but I’m so tired I can’t make myself care. I think we’re laying down now. Maybe he got tired of supporting both our weights. But now… I feel calmer, now. I feel safer. Curling up against another person like this… it reminds me of those few times that Connie and I “slept” together. We never really did anything—we were only 13 years old, after all—it was more about the comfort of having someone next to you when you slept. And now—curled up against Adam’s side, with my head tucked under his chin—I finally start to calm down. The tears slow, then eventually stop. But in spite of that… I don’t want to move. I’m comfortable, and I’m warm, and I’m safe. For the first time in over three months, I feel at peace. I don’t want to lose that…
I think I must have dozed off for a while. My neck sure feels stiff enough to account for a couple of hours worth of unconsciousness. Adam’s breathing is slow and even under my cheek—I think he’s asleep, too. OK, now I feel stupid. I feel incredibly stupid. The sudden heat in my face can’t be anything other than an intense blush. Oh man. What the hell was I thinking? I cried all over my only real friend for God-only-knows-how-long, then fell asleep on top of him. Brilliant work, Germaine. Brilliant. What the hell am I supposed to say to Banks when he wakes up??
I bury a groan in Adam’s shoulder as I think even further about what I’ve gotten myself into. It’s the whole “morning after” problem… but without the sex. Jeez… what am I thinking? Bad analogy.
Adam stirs under me and makes a few disgruntled noises. I send up a silent prayer to whoever might be listening that he’ll stay asleep. It’s not answered. Adam’s arms tighten around me, and his eyes blink slowly open. He stares at me with one sleep-blurred eye, then lets out a deep sigh, “Guy… don’t worry about it. Just go back to sleep.” He gives me a sleepy grin, “I’ll still respect you in the morning.”
Another groan, this one more audible, “Adam… that was… that was… wrong.”
He lets out a short laugh, “I mean it. These things happen. You were letting that build since last year. Eventually, you were gonna explode, one way or another. I’m just glad I was here for you when it happened. Now stop stressing about what this does or doesn’t mean, and go back to sleep.”
One last attempt to get out of this compromising situation, “My homework…”
He lets out another sigh as he resettles himself against the pillows, “It’s 2 o’clock in the morning, Guy. I sincerely doubt that you’re awake enough to do your homework any kind of justice. So just this once, I’ll let you copy mine, OK? Now go to sleep!”
All right, then. On his head be it. If he really doesn’t care… then I’m just weary enough to let him pamper me. I tuck my head back under his chin and do as Adam suggests… I go to sleep.