I thought Nic would now leave me alone. He had a big, nasty burn mark on his neck, after all. I saw a glimpse of him when school ended on Friday, and his skin around my little hickey of death was screaming red. But he still waved at me when he spotted me. I ignored him, turned around, and walked in the opposite direction.
If only I could simply just ignore him. He had permanently occupied my mind by now. The entire weekend was just Nic this, Nic that, and I was slowly losing my mind trying to understand what was going on. I tried to keep myself occupied by trying new hairstyles and makeups, but that always ended up with me planning how to change myself so completely that Nic wouldn’t recognize me ever again.
I’d done it once. I could do it again. And again because of a fucking Gabriel.
After the annoying weekend, the even more annoying Monday arrived. My need to skip school had never been so intense, but at the same time, I wanted to see if he was now done harassing me. So, I did my hair and face, chose a very nice outfit with lots of big spikes on the shoulders of my vest, belt and gloves, grabbed my bag and headed to school.
I stayed mostly on my own, hiding behind the building until it was time for our joined class. I waited until the very last minute before making my way to the classroom, and by the time I arrived, everyone else was already inside. I honestly didn’t expect to see Nic in my usual seat.
But there he was, his eyes immediately landing on me as I stepped in. And he smiled. He smiled like he’d won a round I wasn’t even aware of.
And for some reason, I relaxed a little. I burned his neck, and he was still there. I immediately got mad at myself and refused to have the thoughts seeing Nic was trying to cause, and stomped my way to the seat next to him.
“You look good today,” he said as his first words.
“You can fuck off,” I told him in a mutter as I sat down.
I could feel his eyes on me. I was ready to tell him to fuck off again, but he ended up not saying a word, and turned to look away. I stole a short glimpse of him. His smile was gone…
Oh no fucking way…
Now I felt bad for what I said. That fucking Gabriel made me feel bad! What the fuck was going on?!
I couldn’t focus on the class. Nic didn’t say a word to me. He didn’t even look at me. And for some goddamn reason, it was making me feel uncomfortably bad about myself. He was just trying to… I don’t know what, but he was trying. The burn mark on his neck seemed infected, too. It looked really painful.
And he still was being nice.
The class ended, and we both went our separate ways. He didn’t give me a single look. I was sure he was now completely done with me.
That thought made me feel even worse, so I ended up skipping the next class and went to hide on the roof instead. I found myself a nice corner in the shadows and sat down to stare into the distance.
That had to be the end of it. Why would Nic keep bothering if I was only being a massive dick to him? I wouldn’t have lasted anywhere near as long as he had. I tried so hard to be happy about it, but if I was being honest with myself, just this once, I was afraid I had just ruined something that could’ve been something good.
I mean… I’d kept my eyes and ears peeled, and I hadn’t heard a single word about me working at the candy store, so Nic hadn’t told anyone about it. I also hadn’t heard a single rumor about him kissing me, so he was keeping it to himself as well. And I hadn’t heard anything about him only acting that he was gay, only hundreds of whispers that he deserved so much better than me. So…
It wasn’t a prank.
I leaned back against the wall. It wasn’t a prank. There was no other way I could explain this situation. Nicholas Gabriel was gay and interested in me. Or was interested in me… Fucking hell…
I just… Why me? Why would anyone like such a massive dick as me? Well he sure wasn’t afraid of me, which… was… quite a nice feeling… But what did it even matter anymore?
He was already done with me.
I barely saw Nic in the next couple of days. If it hadn’t been clear that he’d lost his interest in me before, it became obvious when our next class started, and he was sitting in the front row, as far away from my usual seat as possible.
At least things were going back to normal now…
That thought made me so unbelievably mad at myself. It could’ve been something great, but I couldn’t look past his last name and see the individual behind it. Nic had never done anything wrong. Everyone knew he was an easygoing, hardworking guy with a boringly steady nature. He was rich, he was hot, he was smart, he was gay, and he was interested in me.
And I turned him down just because of his last name. Didn’t even bother to see how things would work out.
Yes. I was mad at myself, but I chose to let it go. Everyone was right: he did deserve someone much better than me.
On Thursday, almost a week after the last time Nic and I spoke, I made my way up to the roof during lunch break. I was slowly starting to accept the fact that Nic wasn’t harassing me anymore, and that I really was just a massive jerk.
But when I stepped out on the roof, Nic was there, leaning against the railing. He glanced over his shoulder, spotted me, and turned to look away without saying anything. I was frozen to my spot, unable to decide what to do. He couldn’t be there because of me, right?
That fucking annoying hint of hope rising inside me nearly drove me angry on the spot. I wanted to sprung around and get the hell away from him, but instead, I let the door fall closed behind me. The anger faded away as I watched his back. I’d been such a dick to the guy… I needed to… What?
“How’s your neck?” I asked, finally finding the courage to approach him.
He snorted in amusement and glanced at me when I stopped next to him.
“You would’ve loved to see me try to explain where I got it from,” he said, showing the scabs on his skin. “Also, keeping it clean has been a pain in my ass.”
“I warned you,” I said with a shrug.
He watched me for a moment, then smirked. “At least you now owe me one more kiss. But don’t worry – I’ll save it for later.”
I squinted my eyes at him. He turned to face me, leaning sideways on the railing. His gaze traveled up and down my body, and when our eyes met again, he smiled.
“Tell me, because I’m a little confused… And I hope you’ll be honest with me…” he spoke, choosing his words carefully. “What is going on?”
I froze again. I was not answering that question! But at the same time, I feared I was wasting my very last chance. But I didn’t want that chance. But I wanted to know if this could lead to somewhere. But I didn’t want to know, but I did, and…
Why did he have to be so intriguing?
He took a slow step toward me, his eyes never leaving mine. “I can’t tell if you actually don’t want to have anything to do with me, or if you’re just making me bend over backwards to get your attention.”
“Maybe I just really like torturing you,” I said.
He stopped right in front of me and leaned in to whisper in my ear. Something that froze both my body and my mind.
“Go out with me.”
He pulled back to see my face and smiled at my expression, whatever the hell it was. When I didn’t say a word, he leaned against the railing.
“It doesn’t have to be a date, date. We can just grab a bite and chat a little. And imagine! You’d get to torture me the entire evening without disruptions,” he said.
“Torturing you does sound tempting,” I said slowly, squinting my eyes at him when his smile grew bigger. “I swear to god I will end you if you try anything stupid.”
Fuck! Did I just agree to go out with him?
“So it’s a date?” he asked, looking almost shocked.
I gave up. I gave up on myself and just went with the first answer that came to my mind: “Fine.”
“What are you doing today?” he asked.
“Nothing I suppose,” I said with a sigh.
“How about I come pick you up at six?” he continued.
I wanted to say whatever. I wanted to say fuck off, or at least laugh at his face. That’s what I always did. It was how I made sure I didn’t get hurt. But if I kept acting like a dick, he would get fed up with me. I was surprised he even asked me out after everything.
And if I was being honest with myself again… Nic was so goddamn intriguing I was willing to take the risk.
“Six is fine,” I said. “Don’t tell me I need to dress up.”
“No, no, let’s do something casual. Dinner at my place?” he suggested, and I immediately shook my head.
Not his place. Anything else but his place.
“I like pizza,” I said, stepping away from him. “You can choose the place.”
“I know a few good ones,” he said.
“See you at six then,” I said as I tried so hard not to run the rest of the way to the door so I could run far away from him.
I had a date with Nicholas Gabriel.
How the fuck did that happen??
I was still in shock when I arrived at home after school. Part of me couldn’t believe I’d actually said yes to the guy, but I was getting sick and tired of that part. Yes, I’d gotten massively hurt because of a Gabriel before, but yes, I was still giving another one a chance. Besides, we all were now four years older.
I went to take a quick shower and re-did my makeup. As I was trying to decide what to wear, I saw my naked self in the mirror, holding a pair of pants. I stopped to stare at my arms, and then at the pants. Whatever I had been feeling, it all vanished, and sadness took that space.
What am I doing…?
Nic would be like his brother, right? He’d take one look at my scarred body and make a run for it. His brother had done the same at the very beginning of my sophomore year. And worse.
I looked in the mirror again. Kids were cruel. What they saw was a freak with wrinkly, discolored, web-like skin. They didn’t care that I carried those marks all over my arms and shins because I’d crawled out of a burning house with my pajamas on fire. They didn’t know I already visited the gates of heaven, and I was the only one out of my entire family the doctors were able to bring back.
I touched my arm and thought about Kenneth, then Nic. Things were different this time. They’d forgotten the easy victim, Chase Miller, and now they knew me as “Jax the Snake” Jackson, their worst nightmare. I’d end everyone who even looked at me wrong, starting from Nic.
At six o’clock, I told my dads I was going out shopping. They didn’t need to know I was going out with Nic. Not yet, anyway. First, I wanted to see how this night would end.
Nic showed up only a few minutes late. I’d waited for him a bit further away from home so my dads wouldn’t spot me standing by the street, and Nic nearly missed me. When he stopped his car, I stayed still for a short moment, trying to decide if I was doing the right thing.
I ended up finding the courage to get in his car, and he immediately greeted me with a smile and a hello. I glanced at him, his tight, gray jersey and black chinos, and fuck, I had to admit he looked good. He, too, glanced at my outfit: black jeans and a red hoodie.
“No spikes today?” he asked with a smirk as he started driving.
I pulled my spiked gloves out of my bag.
“Point taken,” he said, still smirking as he started driving. “So? Are you excited? You get to torture me all you want for the next several hours!”
“Yeah, sure,” I said, not quite able to keep the corners of my lips from trembling as I tried to hold back a smile. “Why are you excited about getting tortured?”
“Because it’s you who’ll torture me,” he replied smoothly with a wink.
I squinted my eyes even harder at him. “You’re a strange man, Gabriel.”
“And you seem to like it,” he said.
I looked out to see where we were going. He was heading to the center of the city. No surprise there. I still couldn’t believe I was there, sitting next to him, letting him take me out on a… whatever this was. Nicholas Gabriel was taking me out on a date.
“So you’re gay now?” I asked him.
“Bisexual, but no one is listening,” he said and sighed. “I do like girls very much, but…” he glanced at me as he trailed off.
“I must admit, coming out with a family like yours… That takes some balls,” I told him.
“Oh, that wasn’t scary at all. Not compared to flirting with you,” he said with a wide smirk.
I snorted at his words, and tried so hard not to smile, but failed. “You do have balls, I give you that.”
He chuckled, but then let out a deep sigh. “My parents don’t actually know yet. I am terrified because they will find out eventually, but… That’s a problem for future me.”
“You could’ve just… not come out yet,” I noted.
“I told my friend, Alan, and he’s not very good at keeping secrets,” he said with a shrug. “But I knew it would happen. Eventually.”
“That sucks ass,” I said sympathetically.
“How about you? You never told me what you are.”
“I’m a human being,” I said, squinting my eyes again.
“No, I mean… Sorry… I mean, are you still attracted to girls? Or just guys?”
“I’m attracted to torturing you,” I said, making him laugh.
“Fair enough. I’ll take that.”
It didn’t take long before we arrived at a small restaurant on a quiet street. It was nowhere near the center of the city, so I wondered if he chose this place so we wouldn’t get seen.
“Trust me, this place has the best goddamn pizza in the world,” he said as we were getting out of his car.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” I said as we walked to the door.
He opened it and held it for me with a small smile on his face, but I didn’t step in. Not yet. The confusion had returned, and I wasn’t sure if I should just make a run for it and never speak to him again.
But what if this was the beginning of something great?
So… I stepped in.