The tall, imposing walls of Westwood Academy looked more like a prison than a place of education to Charles Vincent Aughtly. He knew what waited beyond those old, brick walls--it was a home of masks, snobs, the kind of rich you usually find in private school, know-it-all scholarship students… And him. At least, until spring, when he would finally graduate and move on with his life.
Sure, his life seemed great on the surface. He was at the top of the food chain--both king and jury. But because of that, he was hated by most people. Pretty much everyone stayed away from him, and the ones who didn't just use him for clout, or money, or status, or whatever the hell else they wanted from him. Charles didn't care. That was their deal, not his.
As soon as Charles stepped foot on campus, he was greeted by a rough voice. “Yo, Aughts! What’s up my dude? You’re ten minutes late!” Jessy Motley, AKA Motts, was Charles’ best and only friend. Motts didn’t care about status or money, he just cared about whoever he was going to bang next. And maybe, occasionally, sometimes, his friendship with Charles.
Motts was a big, burly guy, who already had a five o’clock shadow. His black hair was a mess of curls, and his big brown eyes shone with an excitement that was definitely inappropriate for seven in the morning. As always, he looked like he threw on whatever he found first on the floor of his bedroom that didn’t smell like the city dump. How he got so many girls to fall for him was way beyond Charles’ understanding.
Motts wrapped a tight arm around Charles’ shoulders, but Charles pushed him away. “I believe you mean I’m 15 minutes early.”
“And you’re usually 25 minutes early.” Motts shoved his hands into his pockets. “I was worried you weren’t going to show.”
Charles rolled his eyes and walked up to his locker, mindlessly spinning in the combination. “You know if I was sick, I would have told you.”
Motts shrugged, leaning against the locker next to Charles in that annoying way of his. “Yeah, yeah, whatever, on to real news—me and Jessica!”
Charles scrunched his nose. “Seriously? Again? You don’t know when to stop, Motts.”
It was Motts’ turn to roll his eyes. “I would protest, but you see, the sex is just too good.”
“And that’s my cue to leave.” Charles slammed his locker shut. The last thing he needed at 7 o’clock in the morning was to listen to Motts talk about his sex life.
Someone cleared their throat from behind. “Um, excuse me, Jessy, is it? You’re standing in front of my locker.”
Charles turned just in time to catch sight of him.
Lucas was a shorter boy—at least, shorter than Charles—who was lean with broad shoulders, and fluffy brunette hair that swooped over his forehead in just the right way to frame his glistening hazel eyes. He wore a turquoise button-up shirt with little shells decorating it, French tucked into a pair of jeans that lead down to his colorful converse with rainbow laces. In his arms, he was cradling a stack of papers, but Charles couldn’t make out what was on them. Lucas was the new kid in school, a scholarship student that had just started this year, but he was already loved by everyone.
Charles looked Lucas up and down, then scowled. Wordlessly, he walked away, Motts scrambling to keep up behind him. “Whoa, damn, that was cold. What did the new kid do to piss you off so much?”
Charles scoffed. “Do I need a reason to not like someone?” But Motts had a good point. Just what had perfect little Lucas done to piss off the school’s resident King Prick?
God, it made Charles sick to his stomach. But it wasn’t just that—it was the hair, the eyes, the fashion sense. It was the way Lucas’ skin glowed ever so slightly in the morning light. The little freckle dotting his right eye. The way his shirt hugged his hips just right, leading down to those tight jeans.
It wasn’t fair.
Lucas was ruining the charade. He threatened the thick walls of Charles’ closet door—which was thick for a reason, mind you, because the other side was a fucking disaster. After all, Charles’ father was…
Well, there wasn’t time to get into that.
Motts looked back at Lucas, then at Charles, and his eyes widened. “Don’t tell me… it’s 'cuz of the gay thing? Didn’t take ya for a homophobe, Aughtly.”
Charles stopped dead in his tracks and turned roughly on his heels. “What? No! I’m not like your family, Jessy.”
Motts’ face twisted. “I resent that.” He shoved his hands into his pockets. “I know they aren’t really with the times, but that was a low blow.”
Charles raked his fingers through his blonde hair. “Sorry. I’m in a mood this morning.”
“Clearly.” Motts eyes Charles up and down. “You sure you’re ok? You know you can talk to me about anything.”
And there it was. The worry. The thing Charles was absolutely hoping to avoid. He couldn’t let anyone catch on, not even Motts. If word got back to his father, Charles was done for. The only thing he could do was hope it would go away, and maybe one day fall for a girl.
Charles shifted his books in his hands. “It’s nothing, I just didn’t sleep well.”
Motts shrugged. “Alright. If you say so.”
Charles’ day continued like always. It was Tuesday, and they had a block schedule, which meant Charles had History, Math, and his Elective, which was a cooking class, because Charles really liked cooking. Well, he loved cooking. If he had his way, he would be opening his own restaurant one day–becoming a chef, sharing his food with the world.
But he was an Aughtly. Which meant he had to take over his father’s boring tech company and be a boring CEO and have a boring life with a boring wife and boring kids and God that sounded terrible. Charles sighed as he walked back to his car. The day was long, and all he wanted to do was go home.
Until he saw Lucas, standing on his tiptoes as he tried to fasten a poster to the top of the bulletin board. Charles gulped. The light hit Lucas’ face in a way that made him glow, and his hair flowed around his forehead as he struggled to push the thumbtack in through the poster and the board.
Before Charles knew what he was doing, he was behind Lucas, effortlessly pushing in the thumbtack.
Their fingers brushed.
Their fingers brushed.
And it was electric.
Lucas turned to Charles and looked up; a wide smile plastered on his face. “Oh! Thank you! It’s… Charles, right?”
Charles gulped. Oh god. Lucas knew his name. He stepped back, suddenly aware of their closeness. He could barely take it. His heart pounded in his chest relentlessly.
And he said nothing.
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