“We had a fling that lasted way longer than it should’ve,” Max said. “And despite her having a boyfriend, something formed between us. We ended up hanging out a lot more, doing everything together and in general, just being super close.
“But just because Jaren looks like an idiot, doesn’t mean he is.” Max continued. “He noticed something was up, and because he knew that I like girls, he started to suspect that Abby and I were more than, well, just ‘friends’.”
“I’m guessing Abby didn’t like that,” Jules commented.
“That’s a major understatement,” I muttered.
“Yeah, she really didn’t,” Max rolled her eyes. “So instead of telling the truth, or denying Jaren’s accusations, she told him I was stalking her.”
Jules shook his head with a huff. "That's such bull."
"Yeah, but it is what it is." Max shrugged.
“You make it sound like it wasn’t that bad,” I frowned at her. “I mean, that bitch nearly ruined your life.”
“Wait, what else happened?” Jules asked.
“Since Abby told her dickhead of a boyfriend Max was stalking her, he and his dimwitted friends went after her,” I explained. “They spread the rumour that she was a stalker around the school, then proceeded to harass her in and out of school.”
“You make it sound worse than what it was,” Max shot back at me. “They verbally harassed me, it wasn’t anything bad.”
“Anything bad?!” I scoffed. “It was nothing but bad.”
“Did the teachers at least get involved?” Jules asked, looking between the both of us.
“Yeah, of course,” Max said. “The rumours reached their ears and we were dragged to a meeting with our parents and the principal. Take a guess on whose side they took.”
“Please tell me the police didn’t get involved,” Jules grimaced.
“Thankfully, no,” Max frowned. “Abby confessed that she exaggerated.”
“But that doesn’t mean she cleared up the rumours with anyone else!” I added. “A lot of people aren’t idiots and know what Abby’s like, knowing the rumours are false. But the rest of the lot are morons."
“That’s really shitty,” Jules frowned.
“Yeah, it kinda was,” Max agreed. “It was actually the most humiliating thing I have ever been through, and I got my first period during a class camping trip while wearing white pants.”
“Uh, wow, yeah... “ Jules fumbled. “So glad, um, that I never have to worry about... that.”
“Good,” Max said. “You should be glad.”
He smiled with a light chuckle, but then his expression became troubled.
“Abby never said anything to me,” he said. “She knows pretty much everything about me, I just figured she could … Trust me?”
“I don’t think Abby has come to terms with whatever she was feeling with Max,” I said. “She’s probably in denial and, or, she’s afraid of telling anyone that she might like girls.”
“I wouldn’t have shamed her,” Jules frowned.
“Yeah, well, I knew Oscar wouldn’t have shunned me or anything, but I was still scared of him knowing,” I said, thinking back to when I came out to Oscar. “It’s hard, you know, to come out and tell people that - especially the people closest to you.”
“Wait, Oliver, you’re gay?” Jules asked, looking rather surprised.
I felt my stomach twist, realising he never knew. It’s been so long since someone didn’t know.
“Hella gay,” I replied. “I thought it was obvious.”
“I mean, well, I was wondering,” he admitted. “You kinda got this … vibe?”
“You’re not gonna get weird now, are you?” I asked him.
He glanced at Max and then back at me.
“Uh, no,” he said.
“Hesitation much?” I replied, crossing my arms.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” he tried to explain. “I don’t even know why I hesitated, it’s fine. Really.”
“Uhhuh, totallly convincing,” Max teased.
“Look, I just- No one’s going to think I am, right?” Jules asked. “Because I’m hanging out with you?”
He hit a nerve, causing me to clench my jaw.
I scoffed at him. “Seriously?”
“I didn’t mean to upset you, I just-”
I shook my head, not wanting to hear his reasoning.
“I don’t know, Jules. I have no idea what people will think.” I frowned. “But does it really matter? People can think and say what they want, but no one defines who you are except for yourself.”
He looked at me, biting his lip.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” he said.
“Yeah, well, I mean this,” I said tightly. “If you’re worried about your rep so much, how about we just not hang out at all and you can go join Abby’s gang?”
I can’t believe I lost my spot for this guy.
“Hey, Ollie, calm down,” Max interjected. “I don’t think he meant anything bad by it.”
I rolled my eyes at her. “Yeah, whatever,”
“It was a bit insensitive, but you know, he’s allowed to be worried about that kind of stuff,” Max said.
I frowned at her, watching her as she raised an eyebrow and pursed her lips.
“Interesting class you guys are attending,”
A voice grabbed our attention, causing us to see Mr Palmer joining from the carpark.
“Shit, everyone - scatter!” I exclaimed, ready to run but Mr Palmer’s glare from hell convinced me to stay put.
“Really, Oliver?” he said with a disappointed tone. “Ditching again?”
I smiled sheepishly at him.
“Believe it not, Mr P, I’m actually on my way into school,” I replied. “Not out.”
“Fool me once, Oliver, shame on you,” Mr Palmer kept his disapproving stare. “Fool me twice, well, I don’t think you want a recap.”
Oh, I am so fucked.
Mr Palmer’s in a bad mood, it was clear as day. He has no patience for troublemakers, no patience for me!
“Actually, Mr Palmer, Oliver’s telling the truth,” Jules interjected, looking innocent as he smiled kindly at Satan himself. “We were running late this morning and we all just got here.”
Mr Palmer looked confused.
“You’re never late, Oliver, otherwise you’ll lose that spot you…” Mr Palmer turned to look over at the spot, surprised to see the Jeep wasn’t residing on her throne. “... like.”
“Unfortunately, Abby beat me to the punch,” I sighed. “If I decided to ditch before school, I would’ve arrived much earlier than now. There is no point in coming to school if I ditch just as I arrive.”
Mr Palmer sighed, softening his expression as he looked at me again. “So all three of you happened to be late and arrived at the exact same time?”
“When you say it like that, it sounds like a setup,” Max said. “But believe it or not, it was a coincidence. If I knew Ollie was running late, I would’ve asked for a lift from him.”
“And do any of you have a late note?” Mr Palmer asked.
We all shook our heads.
He let out a heavy sigh. “Why were you three late?”
“Uh,” I paused to think. “Car trouble.”
“Uh-huh,” he wasn’t convinced. “What about you, Julian?”
“Jules, ”Jules corrected. “Not Julian.”
“What’s your excuse?” Mr Palmer ignored him.
Man, he really is in a bad mood.
“Uh,” Jules looked at me.
“We’re next door neighbours,” I said. “I offered him a lift to school.”
“Yeah, but then the car wouldn’t start,” Jules added, backing me up. “We got here as soon as we could.”
“And the reason I was late was due to a wardrobe malfunction,” Max said, dramatically. “I made the mistake of changing my breakfast from fruit salad to cereal. I know how bad cereal is, but I wanted to treat myself.”
Mr Palmer let out yet another heavy sigh, clearly regretting his career choice.
“Guess what happened then!” Max demanded.
“You spilled the cereal-”
“I spilled the cereal all over my uniform!” Max cut him off. “And I couldn’t just leave it in the laundry like that, I had to deal with that disaster then and there! So that took a couple of minutes, but thankfully I had a backup uniform.”
“Dear lord, you kids seriously drain the life out of me,” Mr Palmer said as he rubbed his temples.
“Aw, Mr P!” I frowned at him. “That’s not nice!”
“Listen, I’ll write your late slips for class,” he ignored me, pulling out his little notebook. “But please be more careful next time. You guys are in your last year of high school, every minute counts.”
“Thank you, Mr Palmer,” Max smiled widely at him, accepting the note.
“Yeah, thanks,” Jules followed, taking his note from Mr Palmer as well.
“Knew we could always count on you, Mr P,” I winked at him as I went to the take the note but he didn’t let go of it.
“If you ditch, I’ll have Mrs Kelmer deal with you,” Mr Palmer threatened.
My eyes widened in fear as I dramatically gasped. “Anything but that!”
“So don’t ditch,” he let go of the note with a smile.
“Ha,” I nervously smiled back. “I swear on my mother’s life.”
He nodded but then shot a look at me.
“Oops, look at the time, we’re gonna be even later,” I pushed Max and Jules away from Mr Palmer. “Talk to you later, Mr P!”
We left the scene without a single look back.