Colson had thought he had experienced the worst of his school’s punishments for bad behavior, having been in detention almost every week since he could remember, but he had been wrong.
So, so wrong.
He stared in horror at the carnage unfolding in front of him, and wondered if the punishment for bailing on this punishment could really be any worse than what he was currently facing.
Sure, he might get suspended or something…but he wasn’t really sure that was any worse than being forced to take part on the drama club’s Christmas play. His dad would absolutely flip his shit, but he’d be able to pick up some extra shifts at work, and he’d get out of the fucking nightmare that was this drama club bullshit.
Colson was more than ready to take his chances, when Mr. Greene, the drama teacher, saw him frozen in the doorway to the practice room, and cheerfully called out to him:
“Mr. Baker! So glad you could make it.”
Too late to escape now.
Unwilling to lose face by running (or even walking) away now everyone was looking at him, Colson curled his lip in disdain and stepped further into the room.
He wasn’t a coward.
Disgusted by all this theatre shit, but not a coward.
It was exactly the kind of attitude they were expecting from him, so it wasn’t long before they were all going back to focusing on that they had been doing before Mr. Greene had drawn everyone’s attention to him. Knowing Greene, it was probably a deliberate way of irritating Colson - the guy was just like that - but unfortunately that didn’t mean Colson could avoid him. Greene was the only one who could sign off on Colson’s report that documented him actually being here…and he was also the only one who could give Colson a job to do, because Colson sure as hell wasn’t taking any initiative with this shit.
The less effort he could put in, the better. It was bad enough that people were going to think he was one of the drama nerds (albeit unwillingly), he refused to give anyone even an inkling that he was enjoying or being proactive about being part of this.
As it was, Greene sent him over to work with the group of kids working on the scenery, muttering something about putting his height to good use. Colson had never been so grateful to be a lanky motherfucker as he was right then, walking over to where four girls and two guys were leant over various bits of paper, arguing between themselves.
“Hey…apparently I’m meant to be helping out over here.” Colson announced to get their attention, watching as all six of them looked up from the paper and had six different reactions.
Brendan, always the drama queen, threw his hands up and stormed away while muttering about not wanting to deal with ‘the white trash kid in detention’. His twin sister, Ellie, smiled apologetically and went after him to calm him down. Willow looked a little nervous, which was understandable since the last time she’d seen him he had been kicking the shit out of her older brother. Cameron beamed friendlily and welcomed him to the team. Darren just smiled.
And then there was Belle.
Colson had to stop himself from staring as she smiled at him, the soft, somehow glowing expression one he’d never had directed at him before.
She looked so gorgeous, standing there in her black denim dungarees and white t-shirt with the small splotch of pink paint on the shoulder and with the paint and ink stains on her hands, Colson felt like he almost swallowed his own tongue. She just looked so…soft, so sweet, like some kind of paint-stained Christmas angel.
He was instantly in love with her.
I’m so screwed…
Being in regular contact with Belle was doing nothing to stop Colson feeling like he was doomed – because if their first meeting had been difficult, with Colson feeling like he was tripping over his words every time he spoke to her (although thankfully she seemed not to have notices his sudden incompetence when it came to speech), then the second was basically excruciating.
The thing was, Belle was nice.
Genuinely, altruistically, nice.
Unlike Brendan, who sneered at Colson every time he spoke, or Willow and Darren who were still a bit jumpy around him, Belle always took time to not just say hello when he showed up, but actually ask how his day had been and then listen when he responded - however flippant his responses were.
She laughed at his jokes, and shut Darren up when Colson saw a bit of scenery design so blatantly stupid he had to suggest it be changed - because even if he was going to be part of this fiasco, he wasn’t going to have his name associated with anything so dumb as the fake graffiti Brendan had drawn on the plans.
Modern take on the Christmas Nativity scene or not, there was no need for that bullshit.
Colson hadn’t really expected anyone to take his side, even when he explained why he didn’t like it, but then Belle had nodded and said: “That’s a fair point - what would you suggest we do instead?”
“Like, speak to someone who maybe knows how to do that graffiti shit?” Colson asked.
“I’m sure you have a whole list of degenerate friends to recommend - ” Brendan sneered, but Belle cut him off:
“Great idea, Colson. I know exactly who to ask.”
On the day of their third meeting, Belle walked into the room five minutes later than Colson, with a familiar face trailing after her.
Dom was a kind-of friend of Colson’s in the same way he was a kind-of friend with everyone in this school; he just had one of those personalities. He went to the same parties as Colson and his friends, wrote stories that had him in good standing with the English Lit kids, and apparently spent a lot of his art classes working next to Belle.
He also was well known for creating various pieces of artwork all over any walls he got get to without being seen. His fingers were constantly stained with spray paint.
Colson was a little bit surprised to see him, but still happy to chat while the others were distracted: “Hey man, I didn’t know you got involved with this shit.”
“I don’t, normally. Mr. Greene hates me.” Dom laughed loudly - and drawing a furious expression out of Greene: “But Belle’s sound, and she asked me to ‘consult’, so here I am.”
Colson shouldn’t be surprised that other people thought Belle was a good person - or ‘sound’ as Dom put it - and, when he thought about it, he wasn’t.
He just surprised at how in love he was with her after just two meetings.
I’m so unbelievably screwed…
After a week of planning sessions, Belle took Colson to the art cupboard to help her gather supplies for painting the scenery Willow and Cameron were currently drawing out back on the stage of the school theatre.
He wasn’t much use; standing outside with a big cardboard box in his arms while Belle actually found everything they had been sent out to go and get, but Belle didn’t seem to mind all that much…
“I’m just so glad I don’t have to lug it all back by myself, or with Darren.” she confided in him while putting some pots of brightly coloured paint in the box he was holding: “Don’t tell him I said it, but you’ve got a lot more muscles than he does.”
Colson knew she was only being friendly…but that didn’t stop him from winking at her: “Thanks, I worked hard for them.”
“And they’re very nice, too.” Belle laughed, clearly taking his response as a joke…but Colson didn’t mind her missing him flirting with her.
He’d seen her looking at his arms.
She hadn’t just been teasing.
Colson wasn’t the only one
On opening night, Colson was hanging out backstage, leaning against a wall and waiting for his cue to help move the scenery about on stage. They had to keep it down, as to not be heard over ‘Marine’ and ‘Joey’ dramatically bemoaning that there was no room at the inn – in rhyming couplets (Colson was seriously glad he hadn’t been put with the kids writing the script for this punishment, he might have actually punched someone), but it was still…alright.
Brendan was still a dick, obviously, but Willow had warmed up enough to offer him some sour patch kids from the bag she, Ellie, Belle, and Cameron were sharing (which was more than she’d offered Brendan - which Colson was taking as a major win), and Belle was leaning against the wall next to him, dressed in a pair of black slacks and a black button-down shirt like the rest of them, with her chocolate-coloured hair smoothed into a sleek twist, and her skin free of paint.
Honestly, Colson kind of missed the paint stains…but he had to admit he wasn’t ungrateful to be seeing the smokey eyeshadow and deep red lipstick she’d put on for when they went out on stage to take their bow after the play was over.
After a month of spending anywhere between one and three hours a day with her, Colson could safely say he’d never wanted anyone more than he wanted Belle.
She was…indescribable. Literally; he didn’t have all the words to describe her properly, and Colson prided himself on being eloquent. He adored everything about her: from the fact she was constantly sketching in a notebook just as he always had scraps of paper to write down anything he thought might sound good in a song, the way she was quick to laugh and even quicker to smile, and the fact that she was always willing to give someone a chance, no matter how disdainful they were when she met them.
Yeah, he was talking about himself.
Belle had been nice to him, even when he didn’t deserve it. Even when, to make sure everyone knew he was no coward, he’d acted like a dick.
Well, Colson still wasn’t a coward…so tonight, after they’d all taken their bow and shit, he was going to ask Belle if she wanted to go out with him at some point over the Christmas break. Just the thought was terrifying, but if she noticed anything, she was kind enough not to mention it as they waited around backstage, or as they moved scenery as required, or when they went out and took their bow with the script writers, the kid who’d done the lighting and sound effects, the kids who’d make the costumes.
She just…carried on making normal conversation, and didn’t seem to mind when Colson’s responses were a little halting and disjointed. She didn’t even say anything when they were heading out of the back of the auditorium after most of the audience had left, and Colson was trailing after her, feeling a little like a lost puppy…
He felt like an idiot, so when she paused just before she was about to say goodbye, Colson blurted out:
“Hey, Belle, I know we probably won’t be seeing each other much now my detention in theatre club is over, since if I stick around I might get kicked out for finally punching Brendan like he deserves, but I was wondering if…maybe you wanted to go out over winter break? Like, on a date?”
Belle looked surprised for a few seconds, and Colson’s heart dropped…but then she grinned, fishing a pen out of her pocket and scrawling her number on the back of his hand, before leaning up to press her lips against his cheek: “I’d love to. Text me to work something out?”
“I’d love to…” Colson echoed, feeling a little dazed from the kiss…but still overjoyed.
Belle laughed gently, before ducking out when someone called for her.
Colson waited a few seconds in the room, probably smiling like an idiot, before heading out too.
Slim and Rook were waiting for him just outside the doors, the grins on the faces confirming that they had heard everything Colson and Belle had said, with Slim greeting Colson with a congratulatory grin: “So, bro, how do we sign up next year? I’m thinking I need a way to find me a hot girl…”