(Tyler’s POV)

 

The first day of school is here, and to be honest, I’m not looking forward to it. My truck came to a stop in my usual spot as I continued to grip the steering wheel.  Today was going to be fucking crazy… Will returning to Ridgemont will be the highlight of today’s gossip among the student body. I can’t imagine how Will is going to deal with this shit.

 

I looked at my watch and realized in a few minutes the bell would ring signaling the start of this stressful day. Before I grabbed my books, I did a last-minute check of myself in the rear view mirror. I frowned at my hair, which was looking like I just woke up a minute ago.

 

I grabbed my gym bag from the passenger seat and took out a comb from one of the side pockets. I looked back at the mirror and ran the comb through my hair. .I grabbed my books from the backseat and stuffed them inside my shoulder bag as I slammed my truck door.

 

There were many students who were staring at me as I made my way toward the main building. The attention I receive from them comes with the territory of not only being the most popular athlete in school, but also looking my best in public at all times. I mean after all, I have a reputation to uphold.

 

Today I was wearing my blue and yellow varsity jacket.  Some believe I wear it simply to show off, but I really do love wearing it. It’s comfortable and I feel proud when I wear it. However, today I wasn’t looking my best or feeling proud since I was just wearing jeans and tennis shoes. The reason for this was simple, I had to much on my mind.

 

I opened the main door and slipped inside as I made my way towards my locker around the corner, Once again, I received several more stares and unsurprisingly, a couple of sighs from two girls. I hadn’t run into or seen Will so far. I hoped that everything for the time being would remain normal.

 

No sooner had I arrived at my locker, the school bell rang. How could things get any worse? I mean me being late on my first day of school. What a way to start off the school year! I could hear the scuffle of feet around me as various students started heading down to their respective classrooms.

 

I threw a few things I didn’t need in my locker and  ran to my first class  On the way, I overheard  what seemed to me to be a heated conversation.

 

“-Didn’t you get enough the last time? Coming back for more are ya?”

 

I recognized that voice anywhere. It was Scott Alexander. If I know Scott, he must be picking on some poor defensive student again. To say I don’t like him would be an understatement. In fact if we weren’t teammates to begin with, I doubt I’d put up with his shit and pompous attitude. He is a 6’2” meathead and is notoriously known around the school as a bully. Scott and I have this mutual dislike for each other. I didn’t like him for his rotten attitude and I could sense his dislike for me stemmed from the fact that he didn’t get the quarterback position like he always wanted. Scott was a year older than me and I could tell he was pissed that he had to follow orders from someone younger than he is. Hey it wasn’t my fault I started school earlier than he did! And the fact that he’s dumber than me.

 

“What do you want?!”

 

I froze when I heard that voice. It was Will.

 

Alarmed, I followed the direction of their voices. When I came around the corner I found Will and Scott .Will was busy trying to ignore Scott’s taunts as he was getting his books from his locker. Scott, on the other hand, was leaning against the adjacent locker with a bemused expression on his face.

 

“I just want to make sure I didn’t forget to say hi to my favorite faggot,” Scott replied with an evil grin on his face.

 

“Well you did! Now leave me the hell alone,” Will shouted as he closed his locker and began to walk away.

 

“Ooh, a little touchy are we?” Scott sneered as he shoved Will down to the floor as his belongings scattered in the process.

 

“What the fuck is wrong with you?!” Will shouted in anger as he turned to look at Scott from down the floor. It was a good thing that there wasn’t anyone else in the hallway or else Scott would have been five times nastier. He loves to have an audience.

 

I approached the two of them before things had a chance to really get out of hand.

 

“Scott. What the hell are you doing?”

 

The two of them stopped and looked at me.

 

Scott sneered, “Oh hey Tyler. I was just giving him a little welcome back to Ridgemont.” And he proceeded to lightly kick Will at his knees which earned him a death glare from the boy on the floor.

 

I looked down at Will. I bent down and offered him my hand. I could see a look of surprise in his eyes. He reluctantly took it as I pulled him back up to his feet.

 

“Uhm… thanks,” Will said as he looked at me. I wasn’t paying attention to him as I was fixing my gaze on Scott who also had a evil look on his face.

 

“I saw you knock him down Scott,” I said as I narrowed my eyes at him showing him that I wasn’t amused by his antics.

 

Scott snarled, “Well that’s where his kind belongs! I for sure didn’t think I’d ever see his sorry ass again. He’s got some fucking nerve coming back here after four years. I’m just showing the little fuck what I think of him. Besides, why are you defending the little faggot anyway? Don’t tell me you’re turning into one as well?”

 

I didn’t know what came over me, but the next thing I knew I was slamming Scott against the lockers. “Listen to me you fuck. I’m getting sick and tired of your defiant attitude. And I sure don’t as fucking hell appreciate you calling me or anyone else in this school names. I don’t want you starting any shit either. I don’t want the whole team going down in flames this year because you got your sorry ass in trouble. You may be my teammate Scott, but I ain’t afraid to kick your ass. I know a few on the team who would love to teach you a lesson when it comes to respect,” I screamed as my hands were locked on his collar.

 

He shoved me off him, straightened out his varsity jacket before looking at me and Will. I crossed my arms and I glared at him. Scott looked like he was ready to charge. I’m not sure if it was me or Will he was after.

 

A few seconds later though, a teacher popped from around the corner. “What’s going on here? And why aren’t you three in your classes?”

 

I just looked at Scott and said, “Don’t do anything stupid Scott.”

 

He looked at me and Will before he snarled and stormed off.

 

I turned around and looked at Will. From what I could see, he wasn’t hurt or anything from the push Scott gave him earlier. I mean I could see a few dirt stains on his white graphic t-shirt and on his black jeans, but other than that he seemed fine. He looked confused at the moment, his hazel eyes staring at me with a weird expression. I looked away, not really knowing what to say.

 

“Well? Do you want me to send you two to the principal’s office on the first day of school?” the teacher in the hallway asked.

 

Will and I both looked at her. She was new here, I could tell.

 

“No ma’am, we’ll get to our classes right away. My friend here just had a bit of a problem with his locker.  He couldn’t get it open, so I offered to help. My other friend was getting impatient because we were already late that he just stormed off,” I said as gestured my thumb at Will and his locker.

 

The woman narrowed her eyes before saying, “I doubt that’s the truth, but I’ll let it slide for now,” she continued, this time smiling, “Wouldn’t want to put our school quarterback into trouble first day of the year, now would we?”

 

I laughed, “No ma’am. We wouldn’t want that to happen either.”

 

“Well hurry up before anyone else catches you here and actually sends you down to the principal’s office!” she said as she walked away.

 

I turned back to Will, who was busy picking up the books on the floor. I bent down and helped him pick them up. We both stood upright as I handed him the ones I retrieved. He was quite reluctant to accept them at first, but then did so anyway.

 

I watched him pack up his books in his backpack. He looked back at me, still with that unreadable expression in his eyes.

 

“You really didn’t have to do that you know. I was fine…,” he murmured quietly, before turning his gaze down at the floor.

 

Fine? Are you kidding me? You were on the floor for crying out loud. How could you be fine? But of course, I didn’t say that. I think by now, I knew better than to berate him with sarcastic remarks.

 

“Just be careful okay?” I said to him earnestly and walked past him. As soon as I said that, I saw from the corner of my eye that Will turned around. I presumed he did that to say something but there was no sound. No thanks. Nothing.

 

So much for gratitude. I just kept walking forward as I proceeded to head to my classroom.

 

“Ah, Mr. Beaumont. How nice of you to join us on the first day of school,”  Mr. Taylor announced as I entered the classroom.

 

“I’m sorry,” I said as I stood in the doorway of the classroom. I glanced at the room and found everyone staring at me. Jason was in the rear, silently mouthing to me “about time.” I also spotted Will’s friend Claire in one of the seats in the front row. She gave me long, hard questioning look.

 

He waved his hand at me, “Well, since it is the first day I could cut you some slack. Go on and take a seat. Just make sure you don’t make this a habit of yours.”

 

I went straight to the empty seat beside Jason and sat down. I slumped down and tried to ignore Jason’s burning stare.

 

To be honest, I couldn’t really concentrate in my morning classes. Every time I tried to concentrate on the lesson Will, Scott, and their scuffle this morning seemed to creep back into my head. I could see Jason giving me weird looks all morning long. During science, he passed me a note that read, “Talk later.” I sighed as I looked at him to tell him there wasn’t anything to talk about, but he was already facing the chalkboard. I sighed. I wasn’t really in the mood to talk to anyone about what happened this morning.

 

After science class, Jason quickly approached my side and asked, “Okay, something’s bothering you. What is it?”

 

“… I caught Scott being an asshole to Will this morning. Almost had a throw down. I was late because I had to break them up in the hallway,” I whispered.

 

He gave me a look and said, “Well, what do you expect after everything that happened? We’re talking about Scott here. He’d pick a fight with a lamp post if he can.”

 

I just rolled my eyes. His statement was true though.

 

“Beside, why are you so concerned? Are you that hung up on what happened?” Jason asked in concern.

 

“Look… I.. I don’t know, okay? It’s just… I think it’s about time people grew up, forget what happened, and move on!” I said looking at Jason, confused more than ever.

 

“Look man,” he started, “I promised you I’m gonna leave Will alone and that’s what I intend to do. I slept on it last night and well I hate to admit it but you’re right. We were stupid back then and didn’t know any better.”

 

I stopped walking and stared at Jason. When he noticed I stopped, he did as well and turned to look at me.

 

“What’s wrong?” he asked at me.

 

“Did I hear what I just said? Jason Harrington admitting he was wrong?” I asked him with a smile. Jason always has a hard time admitting a mistake and I take great pleasure reveling whenever he does so.

 

Jason scowled and punched me on the shoulder, “Asshole. I’m not repeating myself okay? Let’s just get to lunch!” and stormed off.

 

I couldn’t help but laugh a bit before catching up to him towards the dining hall.

 

As usual, the dining hall was filled to the brim with students. The large rectangular area was filled with a number of tables and chairs, all segregated according to the various social cliques in the school. The nerds were near the garbage cans; the Goths and punks were in the darkest corner of the room; the hipsters were nearest to the lunch line; the jocks and cheerleaders were seated near the large floor-to-ceiling windows on one wall; and the rest of the student body were scattered around the middle.

 

Jason and I, both in our varsity jackets, grabbed our lunches and headed towards our usual table located on the north side of the room. I noticed most of my teammates were already there, Scott included.

 

As soon as he saw me, he quickly brought up Will Lakewood to the entire team. Great, I haven’t even sat down and this shithead is already starting to create some drama.

 

“Yeah I saw him this morning. I literally had to do a double-take though. He certainly has changed,” one of my teammates, a lean-looking redhead named Logan said in response to Scott’s inquiry on the matter.

 

I sat down at our table, trying to be as nonchalant as possible. Jason sat across me.

 

“What are we going to do about him, Tye?” another one of my teammates, Vincent asked. He was one of the few African-American football players in this school.

 

Jason looked at me while sipping his juice, intrigued at what I was about to say. I looked at him for a second before turning to the guys and saying, “Look guys. I don’t know about you, but I don’t wanna cause any drama with Will. This is, for the most of us, our last year playing for football. I don’t want to screw this up by picking unnecessary fights with anyone, okay? And that includes Will. We just can’t afford to have any of you getting suspended for something as stupid as bullying and other shit got it?” I announced as I stared at Scott who just rolled his eyes at me.

 

I was relieved to hear that more than half of the team agreed with me regarding this situation. I was even more surprised when I found out that a lot of them were also regretting what happened four years ago. Scott and a few of his posse didn’t.  The ignorant bastards just sat there as if they didn’t have a conscious.

 

We continued eating. Afterwards. Jason and I were discussing our chances with the championship when I suddenly felt hands around my chest. I turned around and found a redheaded girl hugging me from behind.

 

“Oh! Hey Dana,” I said as she let go of me and sat down beside me. She gave me a soft kiss on the cheek before turning to the boys.

 

“Hey fellas!” she said.

 

The team gave out a round of hello responses, which made her giggle.

 

She then turned to Jason and waved at him, “Hiya  Jase. How are you?”

 

“Doing good actually,” he said with a smile before going back to his food.

 

“That’s good to hear,” she said as she turned her attention back at me.

 

“So, what’s so important you had to leave your cheerleading table and sit down here?” I asked.

 

Dana feigned a hurt expression and replied, “What?! I can’t come over here and talk to my sexy boyfriend?” I heard Jason snicker at that comment. I glared at him from the corner of my eye.

 

“I actually came here to talk to you about the new student. Will Lakewood, ” she said.

 

“Why?” I asked slightly baffled at Dana’s sudden interest in Will.

 

“I heard he is gay.”

 

Oh yeah. I forgot Dana only moved here two years ago. She didn’t know who Will was and what role he played in my life. I certainly have no intention of telling her whatsoever.

 

“So what if he is?” Jason asked, as he leaned forward across the table, suddenly showing more interest in this conversation.

 

“I don’t know,” Dana shrugged, “I kinda think it’d be nice to have a gay friend.”

 

“Why?” Jason and I asked at the same time.

 

“Well for one thing, he could be my new shopping buddy or something. I’m sure he’ll be more fun to hang out with in the mall than you,” she said as she turned around.

 

I followed her gaze and saw that she was staring at Will. He was seating in the one of the tables in the middle of the room with his friends, Claire Gonzales, Rocky Hunter, and a few others I admit did not recognize. I could see him smiling and laughing. I have to admit, it was kinda nice seeing him happy. It took a little of the guilt away.

 

“Don’t you have your cheerleader friends to do that with?” I asked, puzzled.

 

“Them?” she laughed, “Are you kidding me? They’re nothing but two-faced backstabbing bitches. It’s not fun hanging out with them in the mall. Drama just ensues everywhere!”

 

Sometimes I can’t understand girls and what goes in their brains. If you don’t like each other, I don’t understand why you have to bottle the emotions up instead of getting it out in the open.

 

“Well I think I’m going to introduce myself to him,” Dana said as she stood and briskly made her way towards Will and his table.

 

“Dana!” I called after 5’4” girlfriend, but she just kept on walking. When she reached their table, I could see Will’s confused face. This isn’t good. The moment she sat down in their table, I immediately turned around and hid my face in my hands.

 

“Shit, I can’t take this Jason,” I whispered to him desperately trying to hide myself as much as possible.

 

“What if they….” I stopped as I caught Scott staring at me. I leaned over the table and whispered quietly, “….What if they tell her? Oh fuck….. Just tell me if she’s mad or something. I’ll bolt out of here as fast as my feet could carry me.”

 

After a couple of minutes, Jason had a look of surprise on his face. He looked down at me and said, “I don’t think you have to worry about anything.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Well, take a look,” he said as he pointed behind me.

 

I turned around and saw Dana walking towards our table with a smile on her face. When she sat down, I stared at her anxiously awaiting what they conversed about over there.

 

“Well that went well,” she said with a smile, “He accepted my shopping date! Imagine that. We might head over to the mall this weekend Tye. Just giving you a heads up.”

 

“Uhhh… okay,” I said as Dana got up, kissed me on the cheek, and headed back to her table.

 

I was clueless with the present scenario. My girlfriend just asked my long-lost gay neighbor out on a shopping date. What the fuck is happening? I feel like I’m stuck in The Twilight Zone or something.

 

As soon as Dana sat down on her table, I turned my attention back to Will’s table and as luck would have it, he was staring at me again. I quickly turned around to find Jason giving me a stare, but he didn’t question anything further. Shit this is so awkward.

 

The rest of the day was much calmer. Scott stayed clear of Will for the rest of the day. In fact, he stayed clear of bullying anyone else in the school. I didn’t know if it would last, but I was appreciative of the drama-free afternoon. Will’s return did cause a stir, as I informed by Jason in one of my afternoon classes. But it eventually died down when he laid low and didn’t really pay attention to anyone except Rocky and Claire. I guess that was one part that didn’t change.

 

As soon as school ended, I decided to head home immediately, and get some much needed rest from today’s events. It was a good thing practice doesn’t start until Wednesday or else I’d be dead on the field by now.

 

I was about to open the door of my red truck, when I felt a tap on my shoulder from behind. I turned around and was surprised seeing a certain brunette standing there.

 

“Will?”

 

He was standing in front of me with a serious look on his face.

 

“Is everything okay?” I asked noticing his somber expression. I’m not sure if he was angry, annoyed, or sad. So far he’s been pretty hard to read today.

 

“Hey can we talk?” he asked.

 

Uh-oh. My gut feeling said this was all Dana’s fault. I forgot that Will wanted to be left alone. And Dana just had to force herself into his life all of a sudden.

 

“Listen Will if this is about Dana, I’m sorry. I forgot you wanted to be left alone and my mind totally shut down when she started approaching you this afternoon at lunch,” I said earnestly.

 

“Dana?” he asked in surprise, “Oh! No, it’s not about her,” and then he smiled, “And actually I don’t mind her at all. She seemed nice.”

 

“Well that’s my girlfriend for you. Always friendly!” I beamed at admiration for my girl.

 

“Oh yeah, girlfriend…” he replied and stared vacantly ahead. I couldn’t help but notice a change in his tone. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but it sounded that he was disappointed or sad…

 

“Anyway,” he said as he looked back at me, “I just want to say thank you for this morning. You know, the whole situation with Scott and all. You really didn’t have to do that.”

 

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I scoffed at him, “Will, it’s the least I could do after what happened!”

 

He jumped slightly at my reply. I guess I shocked him with the tone of my voice.

 

“I mean look,” I continued, “I’m really trying to change here. I wasn’t kidding about what I said to you yesterday. I really mean it. Look, I’m different now and I realized what I did to you was wrong and was a mistake. Every day I wish I could take it all back, but I fucking can’t. I’m hoping one day you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I’m not the same person anymore. Will, I don’t expect us to be the best of friends, but I do wish to be friends with you sometime in the future.”

 

Will stared at the ground afterwards for awhile. I’m sure he’s digesting what I said and contemplated on what he should do.

 

“Tyler, I’m sorry. I just… I just-”

 

“Just need more time. I know,” I said dejectedly.

 

Will looked up to me and said, “I’m sorry…”

 

“Sorry? Why are you apologizing to me Will? It’s you I’ve hurt! You don’t have to apologize to me of all people,” I said in haste. I was confused. Will’s like a cryptic puzzle that I just can’t seem to crack. Normally, I tend to have a good judge of character and find out if people are actually genuine with me because they actually like me or they’re just doing it to get something else in return. Will was the exception. I can’t get a good read at him.

 

“Look Tyler, I want to forgive you, but every time I look at you I feel pain,” Will stated as he pumped his fist at his heart, “I know it’s been four years Tyler and I could see you’ve changed a bit. Like for today, you could’ve walked away from my scuffle with Scott but you didn’t.”

 

“Will, I told you-”

 

“Wait. Let me finish,” he said, interrupting me, “You could’ve left me alone to fend with Scott but you didn’t. You could’ve joined Scott tormenting me, but you didn’t. Don’t think I didn’t notice. I couldn’t stop thinking why.”

 

“Will I…”

 

“But the fact that you apologized to me, I don’t know, it felt… sincere and genuine. Do you know you’re the only one who apologized to me over what happened? Tyler, I really want to believe in you… It’s just… I still need a bit more time getting use to us being around each other again. The pain still burns whenever I see you. I hope you don’t take it personally.”

 

I nodded, fully understanding where he was coming from. “Listen Will,” I began, “I’m not going to force you into anything you don’t want to do. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be your friend once again. One you could grow to trust with your life at that.”

 

Will looked at me and then said, “Okay then. Kiss me.”

 

I stumbled a few steps back. Kiss him? What the fuck!? Did he really mean that? We’re in school for crying out loud!

 

“Here? Right now?” I asked nervously, as I glanced around us to see if there was anybody nearby.

 

Will looked at me strangely, “Oh god Tyler. You didn’t actually believe I was serious, did you? I was just joking!” He laughed afterwards.

 

“Oh,” I said before I ended up laughing at my own stupidity and naivety. Will just smiled and shook his head.

 

“I swear you straight boys are so crazy,” Will chuckled. I feigned a hurt look on my face, which earned him a few laughs. Well that’s good. At least he’s laughing around me now.

 

Will looked at his watch and said, “Hey I gotta go. I guess I’ll see you around.” And he proceeded to walk away.

 

“Will, wait!” I shouted as I grabbed his left arm, a bit too forcefully to the point where he almost stumbled backwards.

 

“Jesus Tyler! Easy! In case you haven’t noticed, I’m still shorter than you!” he said to me. He was rubbing the arm that I pulled, trying to see if it was broken. Great Tyler, Will hasn’t forgiven you for more than 5 minutes and here you are breaking his arm.

 

“Sorry… Will, but Dana doesn’t know about what happened between you and I…” I trailed off not being able to finish my sentence. I ran my fingers through my hair again, a bit nervous about this whole situation between my girlfriend and my neighbor.

 

Will just rolled his eyes and said, “Hey. I won’t tell her as long as you don’t okay?”

 

I looked at him straight in the eye. I certainly didn’t imagine Will to be this understanding or this… well… nice.

 

“Thanks Will,” I said.

 

He just smiled, waved and walked away. This time, for the first time, he wasn’t trying to run away from me.

 

“Hey, you want a ride?” I hollered back at him, “we do live across each other after all.”

 

“Tyler, remember… time,” he said as he smiled at me.

 

“Okay then. Well, later,” I replied. There wasn’t any harm in asking though. He waved a small goodbye as I watched him walk down the street before getting inside my car and driving off.

 

Somehow, I think everything’s going to be alright.

 

 

***

(Will’s POV)

 

I looked at the building on the horizon. Ridgemont High… I’d honestly thought I’d never be back here. I sighed and proceeded to walk towards my impending day of torture.

 

As I neared the building, I realized it hasn’t changed that much at all. Ridgemont High consisted of three main buildings. The biggest one was the main academic building, where all the normal classes take place. It’s divided into two main wings on opposite sides. It also houses the library and the various offices used by the administration. The smaller building to the right of it was the special classes building where the special ed classes are held: sewing, carpentry, art, music. You name it, it’s there. And the building to its left was the gym. The last time I was here, it only housed a basketball court. I wonder if they added anything else while I was gone. The football field was located directly behind the main building.

 

The first room I’ll be passing by before reaching the main entrance was the library and I could see two people very familiar to me standing there. There was a petite little girl, about 5’3” with jet black hair dressed in rolled up polo and jeans. That’s my friend Claire. There was a guy beside her, about 6’0” high with midlength brown hair tied into a ponytail. He was wearing a simple printed T-shirt and some dark denim jeans. That’s my other friend, Rocky. Well his real name is Rockwell Hunter the third, a name he grew up to dislike. So instead we call him Rocky.

 

As I was approaching them, I could hear them arguing.

 

“Claire, please tell me there’s a reason why we aren’t heading inside. Unlike you, I actually care about my attendance record. I hope you aren’t trying to make me ditch class, because if you are, I’m not letting you copy off my exams for the next month.” I smiled, missing Rocky’s dry sense of humor.

 

I saw Claire shushing him with her hand, “Just be quiet. I’m just waiting for someone, okay? He’ll be here in a minute.”

 

I guess she didn’t recognize me as I neared them because she was still scanning the horizon for my presence.

 

I stopped a few feet from them and sheepishly said, “Hi.”

 

Both of them looked at me, each had a different expression on their face.

 

Claire’s black eyes suddenly sparked up before she ended up screaming, “Will! Oh my god! It is you!!!” before engulfing me with a huge forceful hug.

 

“It’s nice to see you too Claire,” I said as I hugged her back. In the corner of my eye, I saw a couple of students started pointing towards me and share some hushed whispers. I guess the gossip mill officially starts now.

 

As soon as Claire let go of me (and still smiling like an idiot at that), I turned toward the boy in front of me. Rocky had an expression I couldn’t really decipher. There was this sort of mixture of surprise and vacancy in his eyes that was hard to look at.

 

“Hi Rocky,” I mumbled. He didn’t say anything for awhile and then he started approaching me.

 

“Ouch! Hey what gives??” I shouted when Rocky punched me hard on my left arm. And I mean, really hard!!! I began rubbing it immediately to ease some of the pain while staring at him with a questioning look.

 

“That’s for leaving without telling me or Claire!” he said, his brows furrowed in anger. I had to look down in guilt. Okay, Rocky’s angry. This isn’t good.

 

“And this…,” he continued as he approached me once again. I closed my eyes, expecting another punch coming my way. But it didn’t come.

 

“… this is for coming back you little pipsqueak,” Rocky bluntly said as he suddenly engulfed me in a huge bear hug, trapping myself within his arms. I was taken aback in surprise especially when I felt him carry me off the floor. I looked at my right at Claire, who was just smiling that big-ass grin of hers.

 

Jesus, help me out woman!

 

When Rocky brought me down, he roughed up my hair a bit. Rocky and Claire were older than me by a year, and they always treat me like their younger brother. I must admit, I missed them a lot when I was in LA.

 

“Well I take it back, you’re certainly not that pipsqueak we used to hang out with,” Rocky said as he circled around me. What am I, a lab specimen for you to study?

 

“Yeah, you’re looking mighty fine! If you weren’t gay and my friend, I’d totally sex it up with you!” Claire said as she began circling around me as well.

 

I blushed, which caused both of them to laugh out loud.

 

“Well, I guess that part of Will hasn’t changed a bit,” Rocky said.

 

“Yeah, still a prude!” Claire responded.

 

“Will you two please stop.” I replied as they both laughed.

 

Rocky looked at his digital watch and said, “Class is about to start in a few minutes. We should chat while walking. I want to know everything!”

 

“Sure,” I said as the three of us started walking inside. I was sandwiched between Claire and Rocky and began to explain to Rocky about my disappearing act four years ago. I explained to him clearly that it wasn’t because of Tyler Beaumont. As soon as I mentioned that name, he frowned. Rocky got into a fight with him because I failed to explain earlier about my relocation. I think I felt guilty about Rocky getting sucked into this mess and I felt the need to apologize.

 

“Well even if he didn’t play a part on you leaving, what he did to you was still unacceptable. And either way, I still would’ve kicked his ass,” he said as the three of us entered the main building.

 

I wasn’t even inside for more than ten seconds, and already there were a couple of dozen stares and hushed whispers going around the room. I guess this will be a little harder than I thought.

 

Claire must have sensed my discomfort when she suddenly screamed in the hall, “Well, what the hell are you guys looking at?!? Don’t you have anything else better to do than gawk??” That caused most of them to stop staring when Claire suddenly gave death glares around the room.

 

“Stupid dickheads!” Claire muttered under her breath. She turned to me and asked, “Are you okay!” the anger in her face gone.

 

“Yeah, I’m fine. It was just a bit… unsettling to have everyone stare at me,” I said.

 

“Rocky could always kick their asses for you,” Claire told me.

 

“What the fuck?” Rocky exclaimed. Claire and I just laughed at him.

 

“Hey listen, I kinda need to visit the principal’s secretary first before I head to class. She has my class schedule or something,” I said to the both of them.

 

“You sure, you’re going to be okay?” Rocky asked.

 

“Yeah, yeah. I’m going to be fine. You guys worry too much,” I said as I walked away from them with a wave.

 

“Well, okay. See you at lunch!” Claire called out to which I gave a fake salute to. My brothers’ antics are rubbing off on me, I swear.

 

I walked towards the end of the hall and entered the principal’s office. The principal’s secretary, a slightly old lady named Mrs. Lark, greeted me with a smile. I see, she still remembered me. We chatted a bit about where and what I was doing this past four years.

 

I should take this moment to explain that the only people who knew what happened to me four years ago were the students. It was kinda a close kept-secret just among the teenagers, which I appreciated at the very least. No one from the faculty or the other parents knew. Heck, I wouldn’t want my parents to know about that fiasco.

 

After chatting up a bit, she gave me my class schedule, locker location and told me to hurry out and get to class as the bell was about to ring. She’s still nice, though slightly partially deaf, but still nice nonetheless!

 

I headed towards my locker and decided to empty a few contents of my bag in it. A minute passed by when I suddenly saw a figure leaning against the adjacent locker. I looked at my right and saw the sneering face of Scott Alexander looking back at me. I could see he was wearing the school’s blue and yellow varsity jacket. Oh this is just what I need another dumb ass football player.

 

“Well, well. I heard in the hallways that you came back. I didn’t believe it at first, but imagine my surprise… Will Lakewood is back in town,” he said, a smirk plastered on his face.

 

I rolled my eyes at him and just said, “Good for you.” Scott was on top of my list of people I dreaded seeing again. I think he even beat out Tyler from the top spot. I hate Scott Alexander with every fiber of my being.

 

“I’m just wondering what would possess you to come back here. Didn’t you get enough the last time? Coming back for more are ya?” he goaded at me.

 

I stopped, narrowed my eyes at him and vehemently asked, “What do you want?!”

 

“I just want to make sure I didn’t forget to say hi to my favorite faggot,” Scott said as he tried to cup my chin.

 

I jerked away, pissed at this douche bag in front of me. I can see he still hasn’t changed one bit. Still the same ass he’s always been.

 

“Well you did! Now leave me the hell alone,” I shouted as I closed my locker and began to walk away. I wanted to leave Scott right there, before he decides to try to do something.

 

“Ooh, a little touchy are we?” I heard him say from the back, before I felt a pair of hands forcefully shove me from behind. I was surprised and caught so off-guard that I literally fell unto the floor, my books and a few of my papers scattering around me.

 

I looked back at him and shouted “What the fuck is wrong with you?!”

 

“Scott. What the hell are you doing?”

 

I looked behind me and found Tyler approaching the two of us. He was wearing a varsity jacket. Oh great, he’s a jock too.

 

“Oh hey Tyler. I was just giving him a little welcome back to Ridgemont,” I heard Scott say behind me as he kicked my knees. I glared at him back. I was about to stand up myself when I saw a hand beside me.

 

I looked at it and saw Tyler offering me help to stand up. It was quite a surprise. I certainly didn’t think he’d be cordial after I told him off yesterday. I hesitantly took it and found myself being hoisted up to my feet.

 

I mouthed a small gratitude, but I could see Tyler wasn’t paying attention to me. The blonde boy was busy staring at Scott, who looked like nothing bad happened.

 

“I saw you push him to the floor, Scott,” Tyler said.

 

I heard Scott snort, “Well that’s where his kind belongs! I for sure didn’t think I’d ever see his sorry ass ever again. He’s got some fucking nerve coming back here after four years. I’m just showing the little fuck what I think of him. Besides, why are you defending the little faggot anyway? Don’t tell me you’re turning into one as well?”

 

I balled my fists and began to approach Scott when Tyler beat me to him. I gasped in surprise when he slammed Scott against the lockers.

 

“Listen to me you fuck. I’m getting sick and tired of your defiant attitude. And I sure don’t as fucking hell appreciate you calling me or anyone else in this school names. I don’t want you starting any shit either. I don’t want the whole team going down in flames because you got your sorry ass in trouble. You may be my teammate Scott, but I ain’t afraid to kick your ass. I know a few people on the team who would love to teach you a lesson when it comes to respect,” Tyler said angry.

 

I just stood there with my mouth wide open, not really sure what’s currently happening.

 

Scott pushed Tyler off him and began eyeing the blonde. Oh shit, they’re going to fight.

 

“What’s going on here? And why aren’t you three in your classes?”

 

I turned my head and found a teacher staring at us with her hands on her hips. Oh thank god. She arrived in the nick of time.

 

When I turned my attention back to Tyler and Scott, I found the latter storming off down the hall before disappearing around the corner. I exhaled a sigh of relief. Drama early in the morning is not healthy at all.

 

I looked down at the floor and found my things stills scattered on the floor. I bent down and began picking them up, eager to get this day over with.

 

I saw Tyler bend down and started helping me retrieve my things. When he was done, he offered them back at me, a concerned look present on his handsome face…. Geez Will, of all the times to turn fan boy mode!

 

I got the books from him and proceeded to place it in my bag. Once I was done, Tyler was still looking at me. Okay, what do I say to him? I really wanted to thank him for helping me out, but for some reason my mouth just couldn’t bear to bring the needed words out.

 

Instead I murmured, “You really didn’t have to do that you know. I was fine.”

 

I could see him arch his eyebrows in response before telling me, “Just be careful okay?” And he walked past me after that.

 

Oh god. He must think I’m ungrateful or something. I turned around to Tyler, wanting to say I was sorry, but again I couldn’t find the words. I just stared at him as he too disappeared around the corner. I sighed in disbelief as I headed towards my classroom.

 

I couldn’t concentrate in class that morning. My classmates were taking numerous short glances at my direction whenever I wrote something down. And I swear I could feel eyes from the back rows burning at my back. Thank goodness Rocky was there to keep me sane. I was so close in losing my cool there.

 

We didn’t meet Claire until lunch. She was standing at the entrance to the dining hall, just as we used to do before when someone got dismissed earlier than the rest.

 

We did a few greetings before heading inside. The stares inside were more than ever. People who I never knew to begin with were also staring back at me like I was some sort of weird alien. I took a deep breath.

 

“You okay?” Rocky asked as he rubbed my back.

 

I smiled at him and responded, “Yeah. Still getting used to the stares.”

 

“You want me to scream to leave you the fuck alone?” Claire asked me.

 

I laughed at her and abruptly stopped when I realized that she wasn’t kidding. I just shook my head.

 

“Nah, let’s just get our lunch and get this break over with!” I said a bit enthusiastically.

 

We grabbed a few lunch trays and fell in line. After paying at the end of the line, Rocky and Claire both guided me to their usual table at the center of the room. I was surprised to see two people already sitting there.

 

“Will this Taylor Brown,” Claire started as she pointed to a slightly lanky, tall girl with short black hair dressed in a frilly shirt, jeans, and red flats.

 

“Hi Will, it’s nice to meet you,” she said as she gave me a small wave. I noticed she had a small tattoo around her wrist. Cool. I wanted a tattoo for the longest time! I better ask where she got hers.

 

“It’s nice to meet you too,” I said.

 

“And this is Sterling Wolfe,” she said, pointing a gorgeous looking, muscular guy sitting across Taylor. He was about 6’2” if I’m not mistaken, topped with short spiked, brown hair. And when he turned, I noticed he had the most beautiful green eyes hidden in black rectangular framed glasses.

 

“It’s good to meet you Will,” he said as he extended his hand at me. Oh Jesus Christ. He has a British accent. Holy fuck.

 

“Err… It’s nice to meet you too,” I said as I slightly blushed. Thank goodness no one noticed… especially Claire. Oh god. If she saw that, I’d never hear the end of it.

 

As soon as we were all settled, I did a little asking at Taylor and Sterling. Taylor explained to me that she and her mom moved here a year ago to escape her step-dad’s physical abuse. She said that this is where her mom grew up so it was kinda more of a homecoming for them in the long run. I didn’t want to ask what became of her step-dad as it was too early in the relationship to delve into something that personal.

 

Sterling the sexy Brit, God bless his soul, actually settled down here three years ago. His parents were actually traveling businessmen and decided to finally retire here when they saw how quiet and quaint Ridgemont was. I also found out that he too, was the youngest in the family as he had an older brother off in college.

 

We were busy in the middle of eating our lunches when Claire suddenly asked out of the blue, “Will… were you late for class this morning?”

 

“Uhh.. yeah, a bit. Why?”

 

“Tyler was late to class too,” she answered matter-of-factly.

 

Everyone stopped eating at that point and looked at me.

 

“Okay, what did he do?” Rocky asked as he crossed his arms.

 

“Nothing!” I answered back, “nothing happened I swear.”

 

“Will…” Claire began.

 

“I said nothing happened okay? Can we just drop it?” I said, annoyed.

 

I could see Claire wanting to say something, but she just let it go… for the moment.

 

I turned to look at them and noticed an understanding look coming from Taylor and Sterling’s expressions. Wait a minute… Do they know as well?

 

“Wait, you guys know what happened four years ago?” I asked the two of them.

 

“Well,” Taylor started as she momentarily looked at Sterling, “everyone kinda has some twisted version of what happened to you four years ago. You’re like this school’s urban legend or something. Claire and Rocky here informed us of what truly happened though.”

 

She then leaned in forward and whispered, “Just among us at this table, some people out there have very sick imaginations about the incident if you know what I mean.”

 

I pouted, “Great… So apparently I’m the poster boy for the pathetic in this school. Ugh. Kill me now!”

 

I saw Sterling deeply staring at me, blushing a bit.

 

“What?” I asked him.

 

He just smiled and said, “You’re kinda cute when you pout.”

 

“What?!” I said, blushing a deep shade of red. Everyone in the table just laughed at that moment. I manage to let out a small chuckle in embarrassment. Yeah, I still find taking compliments a bit weird.

 

I couldn’t gauge if Sterling was gay from that comment. I don’t know why, but my gaydar just didn’t sense anything from him. But then again, my gaydar hasn’t been reliable based on past experiences so… yeah.

 

Everyone was still laughing at my expense when I a heard a small “Hello” behind me.

 

I turned around and saw a really pretty redhead standing before us. She had really nice brown eyes and was looking at me with them.

 

“Oh… hello Dana,” Rocky greeted the redhead.

 

Dana turned her attention to everyone in the table and greeted each and every single one.

 

“Mind if I sit down?” she asked.

 

“Oh but of course,” Sterling said as he scooted farther away from me so Dana could sit between the two of us. As soon as she was settled, she looked back at me.

 

“So Will, I heard you’re gay.”

 

“So what if I am?” I asked cautiously, not knowing where this conversation was going.

 

“Well I just want to say how brave it is for you to be out. I don’t know a lot of people who are courageous enough to freely be who they want to be in this city,” she stated.

 

I just blinked at her. I certainly didn’t see that coming.

 

“I was wondering if you would like to go to the mall with me sometimes and help me go shopping. I’m kinda curious to see if you gay guys would be able to help me more than straight guys can. Of course Claire and Taylor would be more than welcome to join us,” Dana said as she stared at the two females in our table.

 

“Count me in!” Claire answered fairly quickly.

 

While Taylor on the other hand mumbled, “I guess so.”

 

Dana clapped her hands in delight. “Good, it’s settled then! Let’s try going out this weekend!” she said as she stood up, “Oh and Will, if anyone gives you any trouble, you just tell me, okay?” She waved goodbye and walked back down the dining hall.

 

“How in the hell can she help me?” I asked in confusion as I took a sip of juice.

 

“Will love, Dana is Tyler’s girlfriend,” Claire answered.

 

I nearly choked right there as I accidentally spat a few drops of juice on the table.

 

“Whoa! Are you okay?” Sterling asked in surprise as he grabbed a few tissues and began to wipe the mess I made on the table.

 

I couldn’t answer him as I was still busy coughing. I just nodded the entire time and held a hand up saying I was fine.

 

“Dana is Tyler’s girlfriend?” I asked in disbelief as I turned around to look at Tyler’s table. He was hunched down on the table. What on earth is he doing? Hiding?

 

“Yeah. They started dating when she moved here two years ago. She’s in the cheerleading squad, which puts her in a powerful position. Surprisingly, she’s one of the nicest people in this school. It’s ironic that she fell for that metal head over there though,” Claire said as she rolled her eyes.

 

I stared at the both of them and found Tyler turning his head towards our table. Our eyes met for a second before he quickly diverted his gaze elsewhere.

 

During the last couple of periods, all I could think about was Tyler. A part of me really wants to forgive him, but there’s still that small part inside me that just can’t let go of the pain.

 

Aah, I’m so confused. Every time Tyler looks at me, I see this concern and guilt in his eyes that keeps haunting me. I can’t get that image out of my head!

 

After class, I knew exactly what I needed to do.

 

As soon as the dismissal bell rang, I quickly met up with Claire, Rocky, Taylor, and Sterling at the main entrance. They were going to the malt shop down Main Street and asked if I wanted to go. I declined saying that there was still unpacking needed to be done.

 

When they left the school grounds in Sterling’s SUV, I scanned the parking lots to find Tyler’s bright red truck. I saw Tyler get inside it last night when he left their house.

 

I saw it parked under the lamp post. I looked around and saw that most students were already gone. I decided to confront Tyler again. He was busy fumbling with his car keys when I suddenly tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned around, his eyes almost popped out of its sockets in surprise.

 

“Will?” he asked me. I just stared at him. I tried to smile, but at that moment I couldn’t.

 

“Is everything okay?” he asked, concern present in his blue eyes once again. Ugh. Why must be so gorgeous?

 

“Hey can we talk?” I asked him.

 

His eyes switched to panic in an instant as he started blurting out really fast, “Listen Will if this is about Dana, I’m sorry. I forgot you wanted to be left alone and my mind totally shut down when she started approaching you this afternoon at lunch.”

 

“Dana?” What’s this got to do with- Oh yeah I forgot I asked him to leave me alone. But I wasn’t bothered by that at all.

 

“Oh! No, it’s not about her,” I added, “And actually I don’t mind her at all. She seemed nice.”

 

“Well that’s my girlfriend for you. Always friendly!”

 

“Oh yeah, girlfriend…” Ugh. Just saying that word made my mouth dry. Will snap out of it. Tyler has a girlfriend. Stop making grandeur illusions of you two ending up being together.

 

“Anyway,” I said as I looked back at him, “I just want to say thank you for this morning. You know, the whole situation with Scott and all. You didn’t have to do that really.”

 

“Are you fucking kidding me?” he bellowed, “Will, it’s the least I could do after what happened!” I jumped slightly at the sudden increase of volume in his voice. Jesus Christ. He nearly gave me a heart attack!

 

“I mean look,” he continued, “I’m really trying to change here. I wasn’t kidding about what I said to you yesterday. I really mean it. Look, I’m different now and I now realized what I did to you was wrong and was a mistake. Everyday I wish I could take it all back, but I fucking can’t. I’m hoping you could see that one day you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I’m not the same person anymore. Will, I don’t expect us to be the best of friends, but I do wish to be friends with you sometime in the future.”

 

I stared at the ground, thinking. Tyler Beaumont was genuinely asking for my forgiveness right now. But I was conflicted. On one hand, I want to move on. But on the other hand, I just couldn’t.

 

“Tyler, I’m sorry. I just… I just-”

 

“Just need more time. I know,” he said quite quickly.

 

I looked up at him, his shoulders slumped down in misery, eyes casting down on the ground. “I’m sorry…” I began.

 

“Sorry? Why are you apologizing to me Will? It’s you I’ve hurt! You don’t have to apologize to me of all people,” Tyler said quite forcefully. I took a good look at him. His blonde hair was neatly combed down. His handsome, chiseled face scrunched up in confusion. And his beautiful blue eyes were brimming with remorse. I think it was then that I realized Tyler was truly sorry for everything.

 

“Look Tyler, I want to forgive you, but every time I look at you I feel pain,” I stated, “I know it’s been four years Tyler and I could see you’ve changed a bit. Like for today, you could’ve walked away from my scuffle with Scott but you didn’t.”

 

“Will, I told you-”

 

“Wait. Let me finish,” I interrupted him, “You could’ve left me alone to fend with Scott but you didn’t. You could’ve joined Scott tormenting me, but you didn’t. Don’t think I didn’t notice. I couldn’t stop thinking why.”

 

“Will I…”

 

“But the fact that you apologized to me, I don’t know, it felt… sincere and genuine. Do you know you’re the only one who apologized to me over what happened? Tyler, I really want to believe in you… It’s just… I still need a bit more time getting use to us being around each other. The pain still burns whenever I see you. I hope you don’t take it personally…”

 

All these years I resented Tyler, but now all my anger just seemed to evaporate into thin air. I wasn’t angry anymore. Hurt yes, but anger? Nope. I mean that’s a step in the right direction right?

 

“Listen Will,” Tyler said “I’m not going to force you into anything you don’t want to do. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be your friend once again. One you could grow to trust with your life at that.” And with that, he flashed me his pearly white smile.

 

I looked at him and decided to keep the mood light and all so I said, “Okay then. Kiss me.”

 

When I said that, Tyler’s eyes went wide. He backed off a few feet and I could tell he was getting uncomfortable at the idea. I just laughed.

 

“Here? Right now?” he asked nervously as he looked around if there was anyone nearby.

 

I looked at him strangely and then realization of what he said hit me like a bullet train. Oh my god. He was actually going to do it! Shit! Tyler Beaumont had no problem kissing me…. Fuck.

 

You have no idea how much I had to restrain myself from planting a huge one on his lips, but I didn’t want to take advantage of his guilt so I just said, “Oh god Tyler. You didn’t actually believe I was serious, did you? I was just joking!” Besides I didn’t want to give him any trouble with his girl.

 

And then I tried to laugh it off. When Tyler realized that I was just joking, he managed to laugh at the situation as well. Okay, good.

 

After the laughter, I looked at my watch and realized I really should be going home. I told Tyler, “Hey I gotta go. I guess I’ll see you around.” And began to walk away.

 

No sooner had I walked two steps, Tyler shouted, “Will wait!” as he grabbed my left arm, the very same one Rocky sorely punched this morning. I think Tyler dislocated it or something as I came nearly down on the floor.

 

“Jesus Tyler! Take it easy will ya. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m still shorter than you!” I said to him as I began rubbing my arm.

 

He looked sheepish. “Sorry… Will, but Dana doesn’t know about what happened between you and I…” he said as he ran his fingers through his hair.

 

I just stared at him. Dana doesn’t know? Well that’s a surprise! I was quite offended he’d think I’d spoil his secret to his girlfriend. In the end, I decided to just let it go so I said, “Hey. I won’t tell her as long as you don’t okay?” Dana’s actually nice and I don’t want to kinda rain on her parade with Tyler.

 

He looked at me straight in the eyes, wondering if I meant that last part or not. When he was satisfied he said, “Thanks Will.”

 

He offered me a ride back home, but I declined saying it was still a bit too early to be close buddies. I’m glad he didn’t take it personally. I was walking down the school courtyard when I saw Tyler’s red truck drive by me. Tyler lowered his window and gave a small honk and a wave. I returned the wave with an embarrassing smile as he sped off into the distance.

 

I was thinking about what happened a few minutes ago. I mean, it was a step in the right direction right? I was busy contemplating what transpired when suddenly someone shouted, “Hey, Lakewood!”

 

I turned around at the source of the sound and found a figure leaning under shade of a big old oak tree. I didn’t really get a chance to get a good look at the face, but I know for a fact that it was a guy from the voice.

 

“Who are you?” I asked as I let my guard up once again.

 

“Now, now. No need to be a bitch. It’s just me,” said the figure as he stepped into the sunlight.

 

“What do you want Jason?” I asked as I continued to stare at him.

 

 

TBC

 

 

***

Hello again everyone! I just want to say that I am extremely grateful to all those taking their time e-mailing me and telling me how much they enjoy the story. You have no idea how much it makes my heart so fat with appreciation :3 LOL. I enjoyed writing Chapter 3 so much, I hope you enjoyed reading it too.

 

How do you guys feel about Will and Tyler finally trying to bury the hatchet? I think it’s time, don’t you think? Now as for that mysterious scuffle four years ago, which I will be aptly calling The Event, you guys would just have to wait and read it out. For now though, I’d like to focus more on Will and Tyler’s present relationship (whatever that may be).
Again, feel free to hit me up at flipped100@yahoo.com for your comments, suggestions, inquires about the story. I try my best to reply as fast as possible to every e-mail I get. I also do enjoy a good conversation every now and then. LOL.

 

Before any of you ask, chapter 4 will be DEFINITELY be uploaded sometime after Valentine’s Day. My thesis is due on that day and my professor recently gave me a lashing for being so mediocre. I need to step it up if I want to graduate on time and I can’t afford to write chapter 4 while doing that. Even though I really, really want to. I do hope you guys will be patient enough to wait for chapter 4. Afterwards, I’ll do my very best to produce a chapter every week.

 

Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my editor, Tim (yay!). He’s been such a great help cleaning the chapter and making the transitions between dialogues smoother. So any praises I receive goes to him as well! LOL. Tim, you’re awesome. Just saying.

 

Anyway, wish me luck with school! I think I’m going to need it… huhuhu

 

Cheers!

 

-Nick (brimming with lots of loooove)

 

 

 

 

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