After finding out that I was screwing Gary Smith, people stopped coming for favors as much for a while. It didn't stop completely, of course. Nerds still needed a strong arm, preps still needed someone to do their dirty work, and Johnny still needed someone to drag Lola back home. They knew that I got the job done. They might not have been up for sharing big secrets with me, but everything else was still my area of expertise.
Zoë had been avoiding me like the plague, even ignoring me in classes that we had together. I'd been avoiding Petey, because I kind of wanted to beat the crap out of him for tossing out the note with Gary's address on it. Crabblesnitch scolded and threatened me about having been caught on campus with Gary Smith. I had to swear to never 'let' Gary on campus again, which I hadn't done in the first place, or at least alert security, which I would never do. I didn't know who told him, but my bet was on Beatrice. Zoë would never be that underhanded. It just wasn't her style. I appreciated that, too, because she could have fucking wrecked the rest of my year had she done that.
There were some people who didn't care. Russell didn't understand what was going on, and just assumed that if I said it was okay, things were okay. Trent thought it was a fucking hoot, and that I had to have 'serious balls to pull something like that.' Algie had thought that I was crazy to begin with, so he didn't give me too much crap for, in his words, "dating a future axe-murderer."
I told him Gary would never kill someone with an axe, because he might stain his shirt. I nearly shoved Algie in a locker for saying that Gary and I were dating, but he took it back.
I only considered calling Gary in the first place because I couldn't think of anyone else to go and talk to. I had his number laying on a bunch of papers for history class, none of which had been touched since Halloween night.
I wasn't calling to talk. I fucking hate being on the phone, because I really don't ever have much to say. When people are on the phone, they try to make up shit to talk about, even when they should just shut up. And there was no way in hell that I was giving Gary an excuse to keep talking for an hour. All I wanted to know was when the hell he was free, and when he wasn't.
I grabbed my cellphone and sat at my desk. It took me a few minutes to dig through the handouts from class before I found his number. I looked at it for a moment, still weirded out by the fact that I had a note from Gary Smith. I had been sure that Gary didn't write notes, that even if he did, they'd probably self-destruct after a certain amount of time, like in old spy shows.
"…fucking ridiculous." I shook my head and took a breath. I imagined calling the phone number, and then it turning out to be the number of some old person's home, or a crematorium, or something.
The phone started to ring. I couldn't decide whether or not I wanted him to pick up the phone. What the hell would he say if he picked up? Probably that I was acting like a little bitch about calling him. I know that's what I'd tell him if he was doing this. I know that's what I would say to him if he was doing this.
If he didn't pick up, I wondered what his voicemail would sound like. Would it be something short? Long and rambling? Completely nonsensical, or only the most logical statement he could come up with? Did he change it with his moods or medications? All of these were retarded questions that probably came from, like Gary said, 'dating too many chicks.' I wasn't dealing with Zoë or Pinky or Mandy. Hell, I wasn't even dealing with Petey. Shit with Gary could get complicated, but it wasn't thiscomplicated.
Anyway, he didn't pick up, so I didn't have that much time to think about it. "You've reached Smith. I'm probably incarcerated at the moment, but if you don't mind waiting ten to twenty, leave a message. If I feel like you're mildly important, I'll get back to you."
A message…I was shit at leaving messages, and I didn't exactly want to…but the only other option was just hang up and end up seeming like a fucking punk. The recording had actually started, anyway. I had to say something.
What the fuck sort of message did you leave for Gary Smith?
"It's me. Call back."
Petey knocked on my door Friday afternoon. I don't know why he bothered to knock, since my door was opened, but he looked nervous…
…Right. He was knocking because there was a good chance I'd shove his face through the door when I saw him. Which was an entirely legitimate fear.
I'd been trying to actually finish up some of my math homework, so that I didn't have to think about it the rest of the weekend. After twenty minutes of staring at it, I was fairly certain that this was going to be another weekend where I didn't do my math.
The knocking sound gave me an excuse to push the math homework to the corner of the desk and pay attention to something else. I looked over my shoulder to where Petey was standing, head bowed anxiously. I motioned for him to come in.
Petey took a couple of steps into the room and hovered by the nightstand, his hand on it as if he was using it to support himself. I shook my head, standing up so that I could turn my seat to face him. As I sat down again, I spoke. "Have you done the calculus homework yet?"
Dumb conversation starter, yes, but it was less awkward than talking about the fact that he'd been a big part of everyone in Bullworth knowing about me and Gary. He blinked, looking thrown off by the question. "Um…yeah. Finished it during lunch. You need help?" I shrugged. He reconsidered his words. "I'll do it for you tonight, okay?"
"Thanks, man, you're a lifesaver."
"No problem, Jimmy," he replied. An awkward silence fell, with Petey fidgeted and shuffling his feet as he looked at the floor. "How are things?"
"Could be worse," I answered honestly. "Zoë's not actively hunting me down. She's sort of just throwing death glares every so often when we run into each other in the halls."
"Well, that's good, right?" He tried to smile, but kind of failed. Miserably. He started fidgeting with the alarm clock on my nightstand. "I mean, I'm sure you guys can make up, right?"
I exhaled heavily. "I don't know. She's pretty pissed, and even if we did 'make up', I doubt we'd ever be able to get back together or anything like that." His fidgeting was driving me insane. "And sit down, will you? I'm not gonna kill you or anything."
Petey looked like he wasn't sure whether to be relieved or not, but he quickly moved to sit on the mattress. He kicked his legs. Then, almost whispering, he asked, "Do you even want to? Get back with her, I mean."
"What kind of a question is that?" I asked.
Petey shrugged. "I mean, aren't you dating Gary now?" I glared at him. "That is what you're doing, right?"
"No, I'm not dating him, we're…fucking around. Or something." I grimaced. "Whatever it is doesn't matter." Petey looked confused. I didn't blame him. Sometimes I was still confused when I thought about it too hard. Fortunately, I usually remembered not to do that.
Petey chewed on his bottom lip for a moment. "So you aren't dating Gary, but you don't know if you want to get back with Zoë?" he asked. I nodded. He kicked his legs again. "I mean, okay, that's fine. It's not like you've…gotta make a choice now or anything." He hesitated, before adding, "She's really upset, you know, still."
I wasn't so big of an idiot that I needed to be told that. "What, you talked to her or something?"
"Kind of," Petey said. I stared at him blankly, and then he continued. "She feels weird talking to me, because I'm like, your friend or whatever, but she was talking to me a little bit. You should go talk to her."
Yeah, I probably should, but I didn't know what else to say to her. I didn't have more concrete answers for her now than I had before, and I couldn't phrase what was going on in a way that she'd... well, not be okay with, but be able to deal with. I knew she wasn't going to be okay with Gary Smith being any part of my day to day life—hell, I wasn't okay with that—but…okay, fuck it, I kind of missed her.
"I'll go see her later," I promised. It sounded weak, because I never went to do things 'later'. It was always now or not at all. But I meant this.
Before Petey could point out the weakness of what I'd said, my phone rang. I held up a hand to tell Petey to wait a minute, and checked the number. I glanced over at Petey while I picked up. "Gary, I called you yesterday." Petey's face turned bright red, and he got up to go. I shook my head no and motioned for him to sit back down. And then I put the phone on speaker so he could hear it, because I wasn't going to sit and listen to Petey going, "what did he say, what did he say?" over and over again.
"Well, sorry, Hopkins," Gary drawled. He chuckled. "Heaven forbid I have a life, or might be busy."
"You don't have a life, and you're not busy," I replied. "You haven't been out long enough." What had it been…two, three weeks at this point? Gary wasn't doing anything with himself except being bored as hell. This was a strange comfort to me.
Gary paused before speaking. "I wanted to let the suspense build, Jimmy."
I shook my head. Even Petey could barely keep himself from snorting at Gary's retarded answer. "You're a fucking freak. What's up?"
"What are you doing tomorrow?" Gary asked. That was officially the weirdest thing that I'd ever been asked by Gary. Nothing sounded more out of place coming from his mouth than actually asking what I was up to. I wouldn't have felt strange if he had just told me where he was going to be and what he was doing, without feeling the need to ask where I was going to be. That would have been normal, and that would sound like Gary Smith.
Gary must have been really, really bored.
"My parents are going on a trip this weekend. I figure that the best way to deal with this is to have sex somewhere near the fine china. Or possibly in their bed. What do you say?" Petey goddamn near choked. "What was that, Hopkins?"
I laughed. "Petey's dying."
"Did I kill him?" Gary deadpanned, not seeming to be bothered with the fact that Petey was listening. Of course, though. Being bothered would have implied shame, and everyone knew Gary didn't have that.
"Yeah, definitely. It was all your fault."
"Good. I'd hate for someone else to do it. You planning on joining us, Petey? I'm sure my mother still has your dollhouse tucked away somewhere."
"I did not have a dollhouse," Petey was quick to assure me. I laughed again. "I'm serious, I didn't. He's making stuff up. As usual."
"Anyway," Gary continued, "are you coming or not, Jimmy? I've got to know whether I need to pick up Kibbles and Bits along with my pizza."
I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, sure. Tomorrow. Two o'clock?"
"Sure, why not?" Gary answered. "Now, do I need to take you out for a walk after dinner, or-"
I hung up on him. "He's out of his damned mind."
"Um…duh?" Petey replied, still looking beyond damaged by what he'd heard. He shook his head as if he was trying to shake images out of it. I hoped he didn't have any images of me and Gary, because I didn't want to be floating around naked in Petey's head. That was weird.
"I'm out of my mind."
"Yup, probably," Petey agreed.
I let out a long sigh, tossing my phone from hand to hand. Petey was always honest with me, which was a nice change from, well, Gary. "Am I making a mistake, Pete?"
Petey thought about it awhile before he answered, staring down at his swinging feet. I wondered if he'd ever fucking get another growth spurt. He glanced over at me out the corner of his eyes, not lifting his head. "Yeah, probably."
"Probably the biggest mistake you've made so far."
I nodded, more to myself than to him. "That's what I thought."
"That's not gonna stop you though, is it?"
Gary's house was nearly as big as his ego. It wasn't like Tad's, with the big gates or anything, but it was…nice. A perfectly arranged lawn, trimmed and neat. Large, white, fucking beautiful house. It didn't look as if children had ever lived in the house. Of course, I sort of doubted the idea that Gary had ever been a child. He came out of the womb sixteen years old and already bitter as fuck.
I bet this was the sort of house where Gary and I weren't allowed to sit on the couch. If I walked into a room with a rug, I had to take off my sneakers.
I looked down at my sneakers. They were brownish-gray from use. They'd been white when I bought them. Fuck, even Gary's house made me feel small. It made me wonder whether or not his parents were like that too, whether they looked down their nose at everything that breathed. Fortunately, I wasn't going to find that out today.
That still meant that I was going to be alone in a house with Gary. I hadn't really dealt with what that meant, and I was still trying to avoid thinking about it. This wasn't an enclosed space like Happy Volts. It wasn't even familiar territory like Bullworth. This was his space, where I was completely lost.
A couple of months ago, the idea of seeing Gary would have been laughable. Now I was…well, if Zoë was speaking to me, she would have laughed and said I was having a sleepover with the guy. But that was gay. Really gay. So I was staying at his house. For the night. And that was it.
And maybe fucking in his bed.
Shit. I was going to know what color sheets Gary slept on. If he had a bookshelf filled with comics or novels or DVDs. It was slowly occurring to me that Gary had a life prior to his complete mental breakdown, and that I was about to step into it.
There was something a little exciting about Gary no longer being a black hole of mystery and annoyance. There was something a little depressing about it too. It was weird, but I was starting to feel as if having proof that Gary was human kind of…
…Sucked. Scared me. Or something.
I saw a curtain on the first floor flick open, and then closed. I smirked. So he'd been waiting for me, just like when he'd fallen asleep waiting for me at Happy Volts. It did things for a guy's ego when he realized that he could keep Gary Smith waiting.
I started up the stairs to his front door. He opened the door before I knocked. "You're looking a little impatient, Smith."
"You're twenty minutes late, Hopkins," he replied, crossing his arms. "What, too broke to afford a watch?"
Again, seeing Gary in normal clothes was jarring. I didn't think that I'd ever get used to seeing that. Fashionably faded black jeans, a blue t-shirt, and black boots. Somehow Gary Smith managed to make jeans and a t-shirt look the same as khakis and sweater vest set. The same arrogant wannabe-Head Boy no matter what. I was halfway certain that, if I actually ever took the time to notice, he probably still looked like that when he was stripped down to his underwear. Fortunately, I was always distracted by then.
I rolled my eyes. "Too rude to let me in the house?"
Gary closed the door behind him and crossed his arms. "Maybe I changed my mind, now that I'm looking at you. Maybe I don't want you fucking up my mother's rug."
I blinked at him. "You invited me over so that I could fuck up your mom's rug. " Gary didn't move or say anything. I groaned. "Come on, Gary, I didn't come over to stand at your door all day. I wanted to sit or something."
"You can sit on the steps," Gary deadpanned. He motioned near my feet. "I can even leave out a bowl for you if you're good." I rolled my eyes and resisted the urge to shove his dumb ass. I didn't trust him not to scream for the cops if I put my hands on him in public. I wouldn't say that he was a punk, exactly, but…I wouldn't put some 'gag' like that past him.
There wasn't much I'd put past him, honestly.
"Look, if you don't fucking want me here, that's fine," I said. He wanted me to play a game, but it was too fucking cold to stand outside and fuck around. I started turning away. "I've got shit I could be doing. Edna needed a favor, anyway."
He let me walk down the steps and get halfway down the lawn before he called out, "Are you a fucking moron, Jimmy, or do you just do a really good impression of one?" I stopped walking, but didn't turn around. "Hopkins, stop acting like an ass. I already ordered the pizza."
"You're the one that was blocking the door, Smith," I pointed out.
I heard the sound of the door being opened. "I'm not now."
I smiled, shaking my head as I turned to look at him. Gary was holding the door open, looking impatient. He didn't know what to do with himself when people didn't jump up to follow his commands. He really didn't know what to do when I didn't jump up and obey. Which was strange, considering that he'd had about a year to get used to it.
"Well?" Gary snapped. "I'm not holding this open all day. In or out?"
I considered saying no, I did. Just to fuck with his head. The fact that I thought about that at all meant I had spent too much time with Smith. He was starting to get to me. It wasn't healthy.
Of course, Gary didn't actually know how not to be a jackass. It was like reading an issue of X-Men, except his power was that he fucking oozed dickery. I reminded myself that I already knew that when Gary closed the door as soon as I was in entering distance. I reminded myself that as he smirked at me challengingly, his eyebrow raised.
"You have got to be shitting me, Gary. This is retarded. What are you, two?"
Gary shrugged. "I like the leash game."
"Leash game?" I echoed in confusion.
"You know, the one where I keep pulling you in, then letting you walk away, then yanking you back in," Gary explained. I wished he hadn't. I wondered if there would ever come a time where I didn't regret asking him to open his mouth.
Which was a dumb thing to think, because there was only one situation where I didn't regret that, and it had nothing to do with him talking. Not that I hadn't already been thinking about that, considering it was pretty much the only reason I'd agreed to come over in the first place.
I stared at him blankly. "I'm not a dog, or a fucking yoyo."
"You sure about that? I've been considering getting you a collar. Property of-"
Stopping that before that idea got too crazy. "You try that, I'll act like a dog and tear out your throat. Got it?"
Gary laughed, shaking his head. He might have actually been laughing at the joke, not at me…no, he was probably still laughing at me. "All right, Hopkins. No collar." He was quiet for a moment, before adding, "I've still got you like a yoyo, and you know it."
It wasn't worth arguing, I decided after a minute. "Am I in or out, dickface?"
Gary pretended to be surprised, or taken aback or something. "Dickface? Now isn't that mature, Jimmy." He said my name in the same way he always had, the insult thick as my name rolled off his tongue. The same tone that made my hands curl into fists and want to slam him into a wall and clobber him.
I realized something new this time. That tone, the way that Gary made my name sound the same as saying 'go fuck yourself'? Well, that would be the tone that his blowjob would have, if blowjobs had tones. It didn't lessen the desire to smash his face into a plate glass window, but it made me laugh a bit.
Well, now I had a legitimate reason not to punch him in the face. His jaw was useful.
"I didn't think your immaturity was quite so amusing to you," Gary commented, looking suspicious.
I snorted, shaking my head. I shoved him to the side, just hard enough to move him from in front of the door. I opened it and turned to look at him as I entered the house. "You wouldn't get the joke."
"I wouldn't get the joke?" Gary echoed in disbelief. He started falling me inside. "Somehow I doubt there's a funny joke that you would get that I wouldn't, Jimmy."
Hearing him say my name again just made me laugh again. "You'd be fucking surprised, Smith. You're missing out on a funny ass joke."
Gary closed the door behind us. "Enlighten me, James."