Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
Groaning and wiping the remnants of sleep from his eyes, Jaskier flipped himself over and began the arduous journey towards his phone. Fine, he might be acting a little dramatic, but the sun was barely up and it should be illegal for humans to be awake at such an hour. Checking the time, he came to the unfortunate conclusion that snoozing his alarm was not his best option. Peeling himself from the bed, he reminded himself that he needed to make a good impression; after all, it was the first day of the school year and he would have dozens of eager young students clamoring for his attention.
Walking from his bed towards the bathroom, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and took a moment to examine his unfortunate case of bedhead and bleary, unfocused eyes. Grimacing at his reflection, Jaskier continued with his morning routine, preparing himself for the long day ahead of him. Although he truly loved being a middle school teacher, there were times that he questioned his profession of choice, especially when his alarm went off at 5:30 in the morning.
Hopping into the shower, Jaskier’s mind trailed off, wondering at how different his life had become during the past few months. Four years. Four years of his life, under the thumb of Valdo Marx, and now he was free. Sometimes the thought brought him pure, unadulterated joy, but sometimes, like at this moment, all Jaskier felt was terror. What was he supposed to do now?
Taking a calming breath, Jaskier began to hum a soothing melody to bring himself back to reality. He had left Valdo. He was safe. He didn’t have to worry about going to work anymore because his prick of a boyfriend was no longer his boss and he was fortunate enough to find another job despite the scathing recommendation written by said asshole.
Lathering up his body wash, Jaskier slipped back into his mind, remembering how young and naive he had once been. Only 22 years old and doing his student teaching, he was immediately enamoured with Valdo Marx. Who wouldn’t be? He was beautiful, smart, and extremely charming. Valdo had also been incredibly kind and cordial, refusing to even make a move on him until after he had finished his student teaching. Looking back, Jaskier wondered if Valdo had only done those things to entice Jaskier, to catch him in his web of hurt and lies.
Soon after his graduation, a position opened up at the school where he had completed his training. Valdo told him about the opening one night after they had gone out for an incredible date. As they were lying beneath the stars, Valdo had taken his hand and said, “There is a position opening up for a choral instructor at my school. I know that it might be a conflict of interest, with me dating you, but I think that you would be a great fit for the position. If you say no, well, I couldn’t blame you, but…”, and Jaskier had cut him off with a searing kiss under the starry, summer sky. Everything had been perfect.
Even now, Jaskier could not tell you if Valdo had ever loved him, but sometimes he thinks that he really had. Sometimes he would think that Valdo had loved him, but that he had just been too irritating to continue loving. The proof was in their first year dating when things were blissfully perfect. Valdo would bring home flowers and Jaskier would cook dinner. They would carpool to work and sometimes they would have phenomenal sex on their respective desks. Things were perfect, until they weren’t.
It started out small. Jaskier would be talking to a colleague about new choral techniques to teach his students. Afterwards, Valdo would rush over, grabbing him harshly by the arm, interrogating him: “Who was that and why were you standing so closely together?” He tried his best to calm his boyfriend down, but Valdo would always insist that they go home immediately. Jaskier would usually get the cold shoulder that night, even after he swore up and down that he had not been flirting with anyone, but in the morning things would be back to normal.
Then came the wardrobe. Well, Jask considered this as he brushed his teeth, the wardrobe and the food came in tandem. He remembered the first time that Valdo had called him fat. It was during Halloween. The two were returning from a crazy Halloween party, where they had both drank themselves silly. Jaskier also ate a bit too much candy, because Halloween is his favorite holiday and he wanted to enjoy himself. When they returned home that night, Valdo looked at him and said, “You might want to lay off the candy Jules, you’re getting fat.” With that Valdo had collapsed into the bed. Jaskier had been hurt, but had just written it off as the alcohol talking. God, he wished that he had been right.
It only got worse from there on, with Valdo making his meals for him because he was “unable to keep a healthy diet without supervision.” Jaskier had been mortified, but he couldn’t really argue; it was nothing that his mother had not been telling him since he was a teenager. He knew that he tended to put on weight when he was stressed and focusing on work, but to hear his lover say that it made him less attractive...well, that hurt.
With the diet changes came the wardrobe change. Jaskier had always loved wearing colorful, silky clothes, with bright, patterned waistcoats being his preferred work outfit. Then, Valdo started to make comments on how he looked in his favorite waistcoat. “Really Jules, must you peacock around with that ridiculous costume you call clothing. It is clinging on to your belly and just brings attention to how much weight you’ve put on. Maybe you should wear something less...noticeable.” So there went his favorite clothes, traded in for less assuming sweater vests. “They hide your beer belly Jules and you really need that now”, Valdo would say, giving him a discerning look.
Of course his mother loved Valdo. He couldn’t truly blame her, because everyone loved Valdo. He had this charisma about him that people were just drawn towards and he never did anything untowards while they were visiting home. Valdo had been too clever to do anything suspicious in front of people. Grimacing, Jaskier noted that he had yet to tell his mother that Valdo and him were done, because he knew that she would not be pleased.
Four years. He had stayed with that man for four years. Jaskier felt tears slipping down his cheeks and silently chastised himself. “Get your shit together, Jask!”, he said, pointing at himself in the mirror. “You’re starting a new life, so don’t fuck this up.”
As he began to get dressed for the day, he sent a thank you to the universe for his friend, Priscilla. Without her he would still be stuck in that horrible situation. He had realized six months before running into Pris that things were getting bad. Valdo wouldn’t let him talk to his friends anymore and if he ever did something to dissatisfy him, Valdo would threaten to have him fired and blacklisted amongst any respectable school in the state. Jaskier loved his job and did not want to risk Valdo’s fury.
Then one day he was grocery shopping and he ran into Priscilla. She had barely recognized him, but once he called out to her she had run over, ecstatic at seeing her old college roommate. Looking him over, Priscilla grabbed his shoulders and said, “What happened to you?”, and he had just burst into tears, sobbing on her shoulder like he had so many times before. Pris made him explain what was going on and she promised him a job if he would quit and leave Valdo.
Jaskier had just stared at her in awe and said, “What kind of job? Pris, I’m a music teacher and I love my job. I don’t want to stop teaching.”
Pris had looked at him in amusement, “Oh you’re a music teacher? I wouldn’t have guessed after living with you for four years while you trained for that specific job.”
Jaskier playfully punched her, but his demeanor quickly sobered. “Look Pris, how could you guarantee me a job? Valdo is my boss and has a great amount of control on what my references look like.”
Taking his arms in hers, Pris had grinned like the cat that ate the canary, “Oh didn’t you hear? I am the new superintendent of the Redanian school district? I think that might give me sufficient pull in providing you a job.”
He had nearly fallen to the ground and kissed her feet with that announcement. The arrangements were settled over the next few weeks during secret meetings at the grocery store. When he tendered his resignation to Valdo, he had Pris by his side, who then drove him to his and Valdo’s shared apartment to help him move out. It was not a pretty scene. Valdo had never laid a hand on him throughout their relationship, but he had truly thought that that statistic would change when he had told Valdo that he was leaving. His (ex!)-boyfriend had spewed filth at him, promising him that he would never find someone else that would put up with him. Jaskier honestly kind of agreed with him, but he also knew that he would not survive living a life with Valdo, so he had left.
Jaskier pulled himself back to the present to evaluate his outfit. He was wearing his favorite turquoise waistcoat, that upon closer inspection is a collage of peacock feathers, and a matching bowtie. It brought out his eyes and emphasized his trim waistline. Valdo had tried to throw it away, but Jaskier had managed to hide it away. Although Valdo had been a dick, he had been right about the dieting and it had paid off. Jaskier knew that he looked divine in this waistcoat and he no longer had that unattractive bulge around his midsection that the piece had emphasized the last time that he had worn it. Underneath the waistcoat was a white, three-quarter sleeve, button down. These were complemented with his favorite tan slacks and dark brown Doc Martens.
Looking towards his bedside table, he began to make his final decision: glasses or contacts? He had always thought that his glasses made him look smart and sexy and began to reach towards them. Then a voice that sounded suspiciously like Valdo said “Oh Julian, you really should wear your contacts. Your glasses look ugly and nerdy, and you really don’t need anything making you look any worse.” Flinching at the negative comments that reverberated in his head, he grabbed his contacts and set to putting them in.
Finally, he gave his reflection a scrutinizing look and deemed himself not hideous and definitely presentable. He smiled and thought, “Maybe this year will be better than the last few.” With that he grabbed his keys, his school ID, and lunch and headed towards the door; he had music to make and students to impress.