by Galilea Oregon
Days after my scary encounter with Cole in the field, he suddenly stopped hanging out with the rest of the boys. I’d see him lurking in the halls mostly by himself, eyes darting around suspiciously. I thought we’d lost him for good to the goth kids that would smoke behind the bleachers during football games. While Cole was gone, I went back to hanging with Princeton. He was my best friend, or at least he was until Cole came along. During lunch I pulled Princeton away from a conversation with Travis, something about the chemistry test they were supposed to take that Friday.
“Prince, c’mon we need to talk.” I pulled on his skinny arm.
“What do you want?”
“Dude, c’mon let’s ditch.”
“What, no. I have a chem test after lunch,” Princeton replied angrily, pulling away from me.
“What the hell? C’mon you’ve never even studied or cared about those. Let’s go.”
“So all of a sudden, when Cole leaves you, you come back crawling to me?” Princeton’s green eyes flamed in anger and annoyance. All of a sudden, once we started high school, he became jealous and overprotective of me, even though the kid was half a foot shorter than me.
“No, ugh it’s not that. Cole’s just been acting a little weird lately and I don’t know, I think he needs his space.”
“Doesn’t mean you can bug me when Cole’s acting psycho. Why do you wanna ditch anyways? There’s nowhere to go.” Prince kicked at a rock quietly, calming down. He was always at my side, even when I pulled him into stupid things. He was a good kid. I always believed that he deserved better friends than us.
“We can go to the park or the lot,” I suggested.
“I dunno man, it’s a chemistry test.” Prince chewed on his lip. He always did that when he was nervous about something.
“It’s cool, I’ll go by myself.” I turned around to leave.
“Hey! King!” Prince called out, “I’ll see you after school or something.”
I nodded silently and ran off towards the back gate. On my way there, I passed by two girls in my English class. Madison Stevens and Grace Scott.
“Where’s your Prince, King?” Madison teased.
“Uh, what?” I was confused. I never got the whole “Prince and King” thing. Sure our names seemed to go together but he wasn’t like a lost puppy that followed me around wherever I went. Princeton had his own life, and he was very secretive about it.
“Oh my God, you know, your little sidekick. Where is he?” Grace chimed in.
“He didn’t wanna come. Hey, don’t rat on me, okay?”
“Course not.” Madison smiled at me. We’d known each other for a long time, and hooked up over the summer.
“Alright, thanks.” I darted off again.
“Bye King!” they shouted in unison.
I had ditched school multiple times before. Sometimes just to ditch, other times to avoid tests. I would rarely get in trouble, no one really cared if I showed up to a class or not. There was an opening in the fence by the football field, near the back gate. It wasn’t very noticeable since Princeton and I found sandbags to cover up the hole. As I crawled out, I thought about stupid Princeton and his stupid, pathetic skinny arms, and his pathetic yellow hair, always slicked into a comb over, like some ten year old kid from the 50’s.
God, what was his deal? Since when did he care about his grades? He could be such a pushover sometimes. Either he cared too much, or didn’t give a single damn about anything. Yeah, he was my best friend, but he tried too hard to be one of us.
Once off campus, I skated to McD’s for a vanilla shake and fries. The cashiers there already knew me. I was a regular on the weekends and sometimes I’d leave my house in the middle of the night after an argument between my parents. I’d sit there in the empty kid’s play area, red and yellow fluorescent lights illuminating my face, like some nostalgic 80’s movie still. But today, it was me in a full restaurant. It was lunch hour: middle aged men and women in suits munching on their Big Macs and fries, either on their phones, preparing for a business meeting, or talking about their plans for the weekend with their coworkers. I was invisible to them, just some gross teenage boy with ratty hair and torn up shoes.
If Princeton was here, we would be throwing fries at the adults or laughing loud enough to piss them off. But no, he was at school, taking a chemistry test. I took a sip of my shake, took the lid off and dipped my french fries in it. Prince and I invented that in seventh grade. We’d skate to McDonald’s when school ended and order shakes and fries to dip. It was disgusting to the other boys, but Prince and I relished in the salty sweetness. After long minutes sitting in silence, I realized I missed Princeton. I missed my best friend’s stupid puns and I missed taking hand sanitizer and flicking it into his eyes.
But there was something off about him. He stood out from the rest of us, but it was a subtle difference, like when you’re tuning a guitar and one of the strings is a little too loose, but you can’t notice that something is off unless you really listen to it. He looked like us, blond hair and colored eyes, your typical southern California white boys. He dressed like us: khakis and surfing or skating t-shirts, Nike or Active socks paired with Vans, sometimes Hawaiian shirts on Fridays. He talked like us, 70’s surfer slang like were straight out of Dogtown. But there was something different, unusual that made him stick out. Like when he’d stare too long at us when we’d hang out, or how he had only kissed a girl twice before.
I sighed heavily, fishing my phone from my pocket. I texted Prince.
i’m at mcd’s meet me after school. vanilla shakes and fries.
Almost immediately, my cellphone lit up and vibrated in my lap.
kk see you there in like 20 minutes. got a b+ on chem test!!!! also theres somethin i gotta tell u. super important.
I looked down at my phone, perplexed. Prince never had something “important” to tell me. I waited for about fifteen minutes, and then I saw him come through the door. Out of breath, he slid into the booth, reaching over for fries.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Julia Clement asked me to Sadie’s. There was a poster and everything.” He laughed, throwing his head back. I nearly choked on my third order of fries.
“What’d you say?” I asked, much more interested this time. Julia Clement was one of the hottest girls in our grade.
“I said thanks but no thanks.”
“WHAT? DUDE YOU COULD HAVE HOOKED ME UP WITH ONE OF HER FRIENDS!” Now I was slightly irritated.
“I said someone else had asked me.”
“Who?” Who else would ask Princeton’s skinny self? Prince grinned, leaning in closely.
“I swear there is something wrong with you. Why would you reject Julia Clement?” I threw french fries at him.
“I don’t dig her, man. And we all know the Sadie’s dance is just a way to force a guy into dating you.”
I had to agree with him on this one. It was true. Girls at our high school were so desperate to get a boyfriend, especially guys that surfed. And all of my boys surfed.
“God, Prince,” I ran my fingers through my tangled hair, “Julia Clement asked you to Sadie’s and you rejected her. What kind of guy would do that? Like the only logical explanation that could come from this is that you’re gay.”
His eyes darkened from emerald to a dark, mossy green. I recognized that face before. I’d only see it once when he got in a fight. Princeton was furious.
“I’m not gay. I got my eyes on someone else. I gotta go.” He stood up and left before I could say anything else.
Those words rang in my ears for the rest of the day, not gay.