They tried to maintain the usual schedule for the first half of the day, but nobody could concentrate on the lessons. Some of the students were taken to be interrogated by the police, which only contributed to the general feeling of unrest and unhealthy excitement. Nobody in my class was questioned, but people kept whispering, sharing rumors, and it was no surprise when, after the second lesson, we were dismissed and told to remain in our rooms.
Mine was empty. I haven't seen Mathew since he'd left with Mr. Calwin the previous night. It was rumored that his parents had arrived in the afternoon, so he was likely with them, probably threatening the headmaster or demanding answers from the police.
I tried to study, but my mind kept returning to the latest events. I wondered if the police would want to talk to me. After all, I'd had a fight with Owen the week before—if him knocking me out could be considered a fight. I wasn't the only student Owen troubled, but still, it seemed reasonable that those he bullied would be interviewed. So it was no surprise when there was a knock on my door. It was slightly more surprising when I opened it to find Jesse on my doorstep.
"What're you doing?" I said. "We're supposed to stay in our rooms."
"Well, you are in your room, aren't you?" he snapped impatiently, brushing past me into the room. "Close the damn door."
"But you --"
"It's my problem, all right?" He stomped to my bed and plopped down onto it. He looked pale and disheveled and jumpy. I closed the door and walked over.
"What happened?" I said.
"You know what happened," he snapped, looking at the window. "The police is all over the place, and they've talked to me—I mean, they talked to all the seniors, but --" He shifted his eyes to me. "You can’t tell them, okay? You can't tell them I and Owen were lovers. That will make me their prime suspect right away."
"I…not that I intended to, but --"
"They stress me out, okay? They're just so mean, they speak to you like they know all about you and they trick you into saying things you don't want to." He shook his head. "I was right when I didn’t talk to them last year."
"What happened last year?"
He frowned at me. "Nothing. Forget about it." He reached out and hooked his fingers under my waistband, pulling me closer. "Come here, Gordon. Want some action to cheer you up?"
His fingers pulled at my zipper. I gasped and caught his hands. He looked up with a smile, then leaned forward and brushed his lips against the fabric of my pants, pressing them to my crotch, forcing another surprised gasp out of me. "Come on, you know you want it."
"Don't," I said, taking a step back. " You don't need this to buy my silence. I won't tell them about you, period."
He stared at me, then shook his head and leaned back, half lying on my bed.
"I don't know what I'm doing anymore." He sighed, ran his fingers through his already messed up hair. "This just stresses me out, you know?"
"What did you mean last night, when you said you've hurt others before?"
I blinked, not for the first time surprised by his habit of suddenly changing topics.
"Nothing serious." I moved to sit next to him. "Just got into a fight a few times."
"You, the nerd?" He raised an eyebrow. "I wonder who won."
"Mostly, not me. But there was that one time in my last school…" I hesitated. "You won’t talk about it, right?"
"My lips are sealed." He made a movement of turning an invisible key, then throwing it away. "Go ahead."
"There was that guy," I said. "A guy that wouldn’t leave me alone." I nervously rubbed my hands on my pants. "He just called me names, played pranks on me. I would go past him and his friends and they would go quiet, and then there would just be a sudden burst of laughter behind my back. You know how it is." He nodded, and I continued, "So that one day, we were in a locker room, and I was changing, and he tiptoed over and pulled my pants and my underwear down, and everybody laughed." I paused, swallowed hard. "You know, it wasn't even the first time he did something like that, but I guess I have reached some kind of limit that day, a point where I could take no more."
"What did you do?" Jesse's large eyes were on me, serious, attentive.
"I don't know." I laughed, but it sounded as fake as it felt. "The next thing I remember was sitting in the headmaster's office, looking at my hands, my knuckles blue and bloodied, and there were my classmates staring at me from behind the glass wall, just staring quietly, and that guy who bothered me, he wasn't there." I shook my head. "The police was there, and my parents, too. They ended up paying a large settlement to that boy's parents, and he was hospitalized for two weeks and came back with a cast and he didn't bother me again, and nobody else did. They didn’t talk to me, either, but I preferred it that way."
"Nice." Jesse nodded slowly. "Too bad you don’t remember what you did. I'd like some gruesome details."
"Yeah." I chuckled. "I mean, since I got into all the trouble after attacking him, I could at least enjoy the memories of my victory. But I just completely blacked out."
"Nice." He nodded again. Then, he raised his eyes, meeting my gaze. "You know what? Since we're sharing secrets…I'll tell you what's happened last year."