New Kid In School

Chapter 70 - Reaching For The Truth


That’s all I got from Ariel as we were walking towards the lunch line. His eyes were completely fixated on the floor, despite my efforts to get him to look at me. Wow, what I wouldn’t give for a random nonsensical bit of Ariel ‘stream of consciousness’ babble right about now. If for no other reason than to separate him from his troubled thoughts for a little while. He really was like this shivering puppy coming in out of the cold whenever he was experiencing any level of distress, you know? You just wanted to cover him up with a warm blanket and hold him close until the trembling stopped, his wiggling and high pitched whimpers forcing you to sacrifice whatever body heat that you had to give him...just to make him feel better.

It seriously broke my heart to see him this way.

We were standing in line with our trays, and it seemed like it was hard for the workers serving us our daily slop to get his attention for anything more than a softly spoken word or a nod of his head to get a bit of food laid out on his tray. I mean, I was used to him being shy...I was used to him being worried or feeling insecure...but this was different. It seemed like he was really hurting right now. And just being a witness to it was almost too much for me to bear.

You see? This is exactly why I didn’t think it would be a good idea for Tyler to be so open and honest with him about this just for the sake of getting rid of his own guilt about that whole situation. It’s not like I was just overthinking everything and wanted him to keep it a secret forever, but...look at poor Ariel right now. Who’s thinking about HIS feelings? It looks like he’s about to burst into tears any second now. The only thing stopping him was probably the possible humiliation of doing it in front of other people in line. But he was definitely on the verge...and I didn’t have anyway to help him through it. I just...I didn’t know how, you know?

As we left the line and Ariel sort of lagged behind me on his way to our cafeteria table, I was like, “You know...when Tyler gets here, he’s gonna be super jazzed to see you again. I mean, it’s not quite Spring Break, but I’m sure it’ll put a smile on his face. It always does.”

Ariel shrugged bashfully. “Yeah. Maybe. Who knows?”

I lightly nudged him in the side to cheer him up. “Who knows? What the hell is THAT about? Hehehe! That doesn’t sound like the Ariel that I know.”

He attempted to fake a somewhat decent smile, and he said, “Tyler’s soooo beautiful, Randy. He really is.” But he sulked a bit when he added, “But I don’t know if I want to spend too much time looking at him today. I know that sounds crazy, but...I think I might just go out and eat my lunch on the back steps or something today...”

“What???” I said, slowing my pace down a bit to give him a little bump with my shoulder to guide him forward. “Don’t ditch us for lunch, dude. C’mon.”

“I’m not ditching you, Randy...I just don’t want to get all caught up in staring at him again.”

“I told you, have someone who loves you soooo much that he can’t even bear to be apart from you for longer than a few hours before he starts to worry and panic and feeling like something is wrong between you two.”

“I hate to say it, Randy...but I think, this time, there really is something wrong between us.” He mumbled sadly. It was such a quick and unexpected turn from what I was used to with those two.

As we approached our table, I said, “Maybe you’re just having some more of those nervous jitters that you’re always talking about.”

“This’s not the same. This is different. And not in a good way.”

“I told you, Ariel...Tyler is in love. Totally in love. Isn’t that enough to at least sit down and figure things out?” I asked.

“No...” He whimpered softly. “No, it isn’t.”

“Why not?” I said a bit louder.

And Ariel surprised me by raising his voice a bit more to match mine. “Because it’s not the TRUTH, dangit! That’s why!” He stared directly into my eyes at that moment, and slightly gasped from losing his temper. “Omigod...Randy...I’m sorry.”

I had to pause for a second from the shock of it, but quickly went back to trying to comfort him again. “It’s cool. My bad if I stepped over the line or anything...”

“...No, I’m the one who’s sorry. That was, like...’rude’ or whatever.” He pouted, lowering his eyes down to the table with a slight sniffle. “I didn’t mean to yell at you.”

“Heh...well, you didn’t yell at me. But I can get the frustration. So if you want me to butt out, I will. I promise.” I said.

“You can’t help me. You’re such a good guy, dude...and I know that...but, gosh...the only thing that’s going to fix this gaping hole in my chest is finding out what happened with Tyler, Matt, and Sam. And if you’re not gonna tell me, then this horrible damage is just gonna linger there in my tummy until it decides to go away on its own. I’m stuck in the mud with it, I guess.”

What the hell was I going to do? I mean...if I tell Ariel anything more than what he already suspects, it’ll crush him. I don’t even think his fragile heart will be able to take it. Especially the part where Tyler was far from being the virgin he led Ariel to believe he was, having threesomes with two other cute teen blond boys as often as they could get enough time alone to do it. And there’s MY involvement in all of this...with Tyler being super infatuated and eventually having sex with the biggest boy crush of Ariel’s young life. Exactly how am I supposed to start off that story and expect him to not spiral into a deep depression that none of us will ever be able to pull him out of? On top of everything else...if I say anything to distance Tyler from the ONE person on the planet that gives his life meaning and his heart a purpose for beating at all...he’ll never speak to me again. He’ll totally HATE me for it. And, honestly...I don’t think I’d blame him.

I wouldn’t blame him at all.

“What are you guys looking so torn up about?” Ryan said as he approached our lunch table. Strange that I didn’t notice him walking up this time, seeing as he’s the prettiest jewel in the entire school as far as my personal tastes were concerned. I sort of gave him a look and gave a minimal shake of my head to let him know that it wasn’t a joke and that we were dealing with an ‘issue’ here. But even though Ariel’s head was about as low as it possibly could be, his chin nearly touching his chest at this point, I think he could see my silent signal regardless. “Oh...” Ryan said. “...Did I...did I miss something, or…?”

“I shouldn’t be here. I’ve gotta go.” Ariel said, and he began to get up, but I did my best to stop him.

“I’m sure that Tyler will be here any second. Why don’t you stick around and at least say hello? Or goodbye. Whatever.”

“I don’t think that’s going to be a good idea...” Ariel said. But before he was able to leave, Tyler showed up with his lunch tray in hand.

“S’up, you guys?” He grinned, oblivious to the dark storm cloud hovering over our table at that particular moment. “Sorry, I’m late. My last literature assignment printed up everything but the last page because the machine ran out of ink or something. So I had to get an extension to make sure that it would be ok if I turned it in tomorrow. I mean, I had the blank page, it was just illegible. So...I’m pretty sure that I’m off the hook for not...turning it in on time...” Tyler’s voice trailed off as he noticed the look on his boyfriend’s face. “...Hey, Ariel.” He smirked.

“Hi.” Ariel responded, not really peeking up from his carton of chocolate milk. His voice is too boyish and innocent to say that his response was ‘cold’...but for Ariel, it seemed an awful lot like it was close as he could get to it.

Tyler slightly winced from his disconnected greeting, and briefly looked over at me and Ryan to see if we had any idea what was going on with him right now. But what could we say? I mean, he knew what the one monkey wrench he had left stuck in the gears, but that was really something that he was going to have to handle on his own. Ryan and I couldn’t do it for him. Not without making things a thousand times worse.

“Are Or…?” Tyler asked, and for the first time, he put his hand on Ariel’s shoulder, and he seemed to slightly pull away from his touch. I, honestly couldn’t believe what I was witnessing here. “What’s the matter?”

“I dunno. Nothing, maybe. Everything, maybe. I...I dunno...” Ariel said softly.

Tyler’s smile faded instantly.

Causing Ariel to say, “I’m sorry.” It was pretty much his default setting when it came to his emotions, and Ryan and I could tell that he was ashamed for being upset. So...I don’t know, I was all for having Tyler keep this a secret for a while longer and hold off to lessen the impact of running over Ariel’s delicate heart with an 18 wheeler truck...but I’m starting to think that Ryan was right in what he said. Peel off the duct tape all at once, let it hurt for a little while, and then start trying to find ways to mend the wounds it leaves behind. Because, right now, this is doing much more damage to Ariel than struggling through it ever could. I mean, am I wrong in saying that or not?

“Ari?” Tyler asked, reaching out a hand to hold Ariel’s. But, again, he ‘politely’ pulled away from him. “Babe? What’s wrong?”

“Nuffin’...” He sulked.

But just as we were approaching a moment where the two of them might begin talking, the very BANE of my existence marched right up to our table and confidently slammed his tray down, sitting right next to me, across from Ryan. “What’s happening, bitches?” Sean gently brushed his blond locks back as he smiled at the rest of us, totally ruining the whole vibe that we had going on before he came through and shattered it like a meteor through a goddamn church window.

Everybody got quiet, all of our natural instincts and attitudes attempting to adjust to this new intruder in our midst. The only who seemed to feel comfortable with it all was Ryan...which bothered me something awful. It really did. I mean, I KNOW Ryan! Inside and out. What the hell does this Sean asshole even DO for him as a so-called ‘friend’, anyway? It doesn’t even seem like they’d get along or even speak to one another if Sean wasn’t so...heartbreakingly cute.

And that brings up a whole lot of other problems that I’m trying not to deal with for the sake of keeping my sanity. Just know that I hated it. And I hated him for it.

But Cody told me ahead of time not to fall prey to his stupid mind games or he’d simply find a way to use them against me. It’s just hard to know what’s a game and what isn’t. Even’s harder to expose him and get Ryan to see it for himself. Not without looking like a raving lunatic or an obsessively jealous boyfriend. It’s like swinging at your own reflection, you know? The only person that I can really hurt is myself.

UGH! And I’m supposed to help Ariel out with his current problems when I can barely contemplate my own? Psh, ‘experienced’ teenager in the room. Sure.

Ryan smiled and seemed to be happy to have a little bit of levity at the table. “Did you get it yet? The role, I mean.” He asked Sean, all while I was trying to hide the sudden tightening in my stomach from the aggravation of even having him invited to our cafeteria table. God….he acts like he’s so entitled to everything.

“I don’t know. But I’ve been buttering up Mr. Manus from day one. So I’m not even sweating it, dude.”

“You should totally go for it. You’re a center stage type of guy.” Ryan smiled.

Sean smiled back, saying, “This from the guy who wouldn’t even try out for one of the main roles.”

“I can’t sing, dude. Not even on my best day. You know that.”

“It’s a high school production, Ryan. Nobody is expecting you to be Beyonce, bitch! Just hit two or three notes here or there, and you’re in. What is there to figure out?” Sean giggled, and my stomach twisted itself into tighter knot than the one it was in before. Like...I felt as though I was either going to cramp up or snap myself in half.

Don’t boyfriend told me to trust him, and I do. Really...I do. I just hate that Ryan and Sean have this almost exclusive connection that exists outside of our relationship, you know? It’s like this hidden bond that I’m not a welcome part of, and it provides Sean with all the opportunities that he could ever want when it came to stealing my sweetheart away from me. A few flirtatious comments here, a few passionate glances long will it be before my boyfriend surrenders to the temptations being offered to him so willingly, and he decides to get curious about being with someone else? I mean….

...How long did it take ME when it came to Tyler?

How long did it take Sam and Matt when Tyler’s heart was on the table, you know? Isn’t this where all of these problems start off and grow from a planted seed of random infatuation into an immovable oak tree that can’t be denied...or forgiven?

Sure, I was younger when it happened to us...and I regret ever being a part of that, but how is this any different? It’s just another lustful vision of instant gratification personified. Who would I be to demand that Ryan be a better man than me in the end?

“By the way, I got that stain out of my shirt.” Sean said to Ariel, opening up a small bag of chips that he grabbed from the vending machine. “The one from the milkshake? That shit was so ice cold! You definitely caught me off guard with that one. I scrubbed a lot of it off in the bathroom, but I had to blast that thing with color safe bleach once I got home afterward.”

Ariel sort of glared at Sean for a quick second or two, but avoiding any further conflict, he lowered his eyes back down to his lunch tray again, and he mumbled, “Sorry. I get clumsy sometimes...”

“I noticed. Hehehe, is it true that you set the chem lab on fire?” Sean teased, but Ariel just kept his head down...and Tyler definitely noticed.

“Dude….do you wanna go somewhere and talk for a few minutes?” Tyler asked him.

“No. I’m ok. We can stay.”

He sounded even more emotionally wounded than before, and I was seriously starting to worry that Ariel was light years away from being ‘ok’ at this point.

Luckily, Tyler insisted, “Well, I wanna talk. Just you and me. Is that ok?”

I could see Ariel’s fingers curl up and lightly scrape the surface of our table as he fidgeted in his seat and struggled to refuse his favorite boy’s wishes. But I knew that he’d cave. He always does. “I guess...I mean, if you really want to...”

“I do. Come on. Let’s just get out of here and talk for a while. K?” Tyler said.

“M’kay...” Ariel answered timidly. Then he peeked over at Sean and quietly murmured, “Sorry for being such a klutz at the fair, or whatever...”

But Tyler was more concerned with getting him out of that lunchroom and away from everybody else so they could have some privacy. I’m not really sure what he had in mind or what he was going to tell him, but I really hope that they find some way to work out their current problems. I’m guessing that it’s all going to come down to whether Ariel is as honest with his new boyfriend as he was with me...and whether or not Tyler’s going to be as brave and perceptive enough to recognize his issues with everything that’s going on here.

Depending on what happens between them...maybe I should look to ask them for help and guidance this time around. Because, as I saw them gather up their stuff and walk away from the table...I started to wonder if maybe there was another way to get Ryan to hear me out without the usual pushback. I know what Sean told Cody in that bathroom over Spring Break...and I know that he doesn’t have any kind of loyalty to me, or any deterrent when it comes to maybe fooling around with Ryan’s heart if he’s given the green light...even for a few seconds. But whether it’s Ryan or Sean...I’m going to have to muster up enough courage to talk to one of them in order to set the record straight before it all spins out of control.

I’m so tired of having things spin out of control...