EPISODE 5: Paging Dr. Foster
Shay finished listening to the voicemail from his brother. He put the phone in his pocket. His stomach churned. “Pull over here.”
“I’m not stopping.” Francis glared in the rearview mirror. “Wait. Are you crying?”
“Pull over the car or I’m dialing 911, Francis. I don’t care what you say or what you threaten to do to me. Pull. Over.” Shay stared straight ahead.
Owen turned in his seat. “Shay, what happened? Who was on the phone?”
“I said pull the fuck over!” Shay slammed his hands against Francis’s seat.
The SUV screeched to a stop. “I think he’s going to be sick.” Owen threw open his door, rushing to Shay’s side of the vehicle.
Francis drummed his fingers on the wheel. “One point for the drama queen, always under the impression his problems are more important than ours.”
Owen slammed his hand on Francis’s door. “Would you shut up and get over here?”
Shay stumbled out of the vehicle, bending over to take some deep breaths. He felt like he would pass out at any moment. “I can’t do this anymore.”
“Do what?” Owen crouched, lifting Shay’s chin. Tears wet his fingers. Shay’s glossy blue eyes were terrified. “Did what happen to Jagger scare you, Shay? It’s okay if it did. That’s normal after what you went through, but it wasn’t the killer, Shay. It was just some—”
And what you did tonight has nothing to do with any of this, Shay raged inside. “Any of it. I can’t trust anyone.”
Out of character, Shay smacked Owen’s hand away and took off running. He didn’t know the neighborhood all that well, but he knew they’d been backtracking through town towards the water for the party. The hospital was less than a mile away if he was correct. He just had to get away from Francis and Owen. If he told them where he was headed…game over. Using every ounce of his athleticism, Shay trampled through a flower bed, cutting across someone’s lawn to the backyard at full speed.
Back in the dorms, Shay had seen the truth in River’s eyes and he’d just let it all happen. He’d stood by while Owen pummeled River’s beautiful face in. He’d stood by when River was attacked by the media, today and all the other days in between. River had been ruined. He’d held his own this entire time, while everyone else pointed the finger with blame. As Shay had been coddled and sheltered from the storm, River had drowned in it.
Shay knew from the moment he woke up after his attack River wasn’t to blame. He never had been. Shay knew River’s scent. He knew the feel of his fingers, the weight of them. He knew his whisper. Shay had loved River. He still did, despite all the dirty looks and accusations he’d cast. And dammit, River loved him back.
River had tried to see him so many times over the summer. He’d been carted off by the police every single time. He’d been threatened by the Foster family. The Hathaway’s didn’t help much either. Sure, Shay had heard they’d sent River to counseling and talked about sending him to a school overseas, but he’d never heard them say their son was innocent on the news. Not once.
River was innocent. He was so innocent. If only Shay had gone home with River that night. If only he cared about love more than some stupid sport because as it turned out, water polo didn’t give a shit about him.
Shay smacked his palm to the side of a brick building. He gasped for air. By sheer luck and his own need to find River, Shay lifted his head and saw the Liberty General sign glowing like a beacon in the dark. An ambulance was pulling away from the overhang entrance. Another news crew sat parked in front of the sliding doors. To get to River…he’d have to get past them.
Wiping his nose on his sleeve, Shay made up his mind. He wouldn’t hide behind the water polo team. He wouldn’t hide from the cameras either. He was his own person, always had been, and he had to make sure River was alive…whether it cost him everything or not.
He didn’t bother to swipe the tears from his eyes when they made another appearance. Shay just kept walking. Before he knew it he was halfway across the parking lot. Thirty seconds later, he strode past the news van.
“Is that…” A woman chucked her cigarette, snapping her fingers for her microphone. “Shay Foster! Over here, Shay. Lydia Meyers from Channel 8, are you here to see River Hathaway? Have you been maintaining contact throughout this investigation, Shay? Do you know who attacked River Hathaway?”
Shay never said a word upon entering Liberty General. A police officer nodded, letting him through the doors before holding out his arms to shield Shay from the press when they tried to enter. Shay walked up to the Emergency Room desk, tuning out all the noise around him.
“I need to speak with Leif Foster, immediately.”
The nurse stood from her chair, flipping shut her metal clipboard. For someone so petite and grandmotherly in appearance, her eyes behind her thick, prescription frames packed a whole lot of attitude. “I’m sorry. Doctor Foster is unavailable at the moment. I can give him a message if you’d like.”
“I’m Shay Foster and I need to see my brother now.” He sucked in a deep breath.
The nurse craned her neck, seeking out the officer at the door. She must have gotten what she needed and looked at Shay again. “Let me page him for you.”
“Thank you.” He sighed. His hands gripped the counter.
The nurse picked up the phone, dialed someone, and turned her back to him. She whispered furiously into the receiver, glancing over her shoulder. When she set down the phone, Shay didn’t like the look on her face. “Chief Trusou will be with you in a minute.”
“I didn’t ask to—”
“I know why you’re here and who you really came to see. I’ve been doing this job for longer than you’ve been alive. I’ve seen it all. Right now your brother is attending to a patient in critical condition and Chief Trusou will be glad to stay with you until Doctor Foster is available. Seeing as how you have the press after you, you can either sit over there near my desk, out of sight, or you can sit in the waiting area just like everyone else. It’s your call, Shay.”
He glanced at the doors again.
“You can forget about leaving. When I said Trusou was staying with you, I wasn’t offering you a suggestion.” Her clipboard flipped back open, making him jump. “I’m sure you’re aware he has questions for you.”
“Excuse me?” Shay pivoted to her. “I’m not here to answer questions. I’m here to ask them.”
She snorted, shaking her head. “Rich brats,” she muttered. Her hand extended, wiggling her pen to the open chair next to her desk. “Have a seat, Mr. Foster.”
“That won’t be necessary, June.” Chief Trusou put his elbows on the desk. A boyish grin lifted one side of his mouth, tilting his thick mustache. He slid a cup of coffee to the nurse; The Nook stamped across its cardboard sleeve. “One of my boys was kind enough to make a run for us. I thought after such a long night you deserved one, too.”
Her one-eighty was quick enough to make Shay’s head spin. She smoothed a hand over her graying curls and blushed. “Chief Trusou, you didn’t have to do that.”
“My wife always says to appreciate those that appreciate you.” He smiled. “Skinny vanilla latte, one shot regular, one shot decaf. How about it, June?”
She swiped the cup from the counter, smirking. “Your wife is one smart woman.” She took a sip. “Now take him out of here before I get reporters running into the windows like birds.”
Chief Trusou put an arm around Shay’s shoulders. “Have a good night, June.” He nodded and walked, slash, forcibly guided Shay down the hall to the left of the nurse’s station. “Don’t let her get to you. She’s had a hard night just like the rest of us.”
“Sure.” Shay kept his eyes straight ahead. He stopped walking. “I’m just here to see Leif, that’s it.”
The Chief took a sip of coffee. “Shay, you’re not in trouble here. I just want to talk…if that’s alright with you.”
“I just want to see Leif.” Shay backed into the wall, taking deep breaths.
“I’m assuming your brother called you?”
Shay nodded. “I-I heard.”
“And you aren’t here to see Leif, are you?” Chief Trusou sighed. “Shay, it’s okay. I’ve seen both sides of this investigation and I feel like I know you both better than you know yourselves. It’s only natural to want to see him and make sure he’s okay.”
“I didn’t do anything to him,” Shay blurted. “I just wanted to see him.”
“Shay, do you know anything about what happened to River tonight?” The Chief’s stare burned through him.
Yes. Your son almost killed River. We all stood there while he did it. Owen did this. “No. I swear.”
“Are you positive, Shay? I know you’re scared, and I know you didn’t do this or you wouldn’t risk coming here. Is someone telling you to keep quiet? You’re shaking, Shay.” Chief Trusou came closer.
Putting out his hand, Shay warded the Chief off. “I don’t like being cornered. I don’t like answering questions because I don’t know anything. Could you please give me some space?”
“Sure thing, son.” The Chief leaned against the other wall. “Let’s talk about something else. For starters, why aren’t you gallivanting around with the other troublemakers tonight?”
He laughed at Shay’s wide eyed look. “You don’t think I know what tonight is? Please. We get a sugary sweet call from the Cavelle girls every year, wanting us to look the other way while the hunt rages on. I was young once, too, but I don’t know how much fun running through the streets naked is. Seems like a whole lot of humiliation to me. Was pretty humiliating, actually.” He winked at Shay.
“I don’t know anything about that. The only challenge we got through was stealing a lobster from Rivoli’s restaurant and we were headed to another when I got the call.” Shay hung his head. God, he was such a terrible liar.
The Chief smirked. “They’re still doing that old trick? Don’t you boys know by now Rivoli expects the lobsters to be stolen? I bet those girls fill the tank every year themselves. Otherwise, old Rivoli would’ve filed suit way back when.”
“I don’t know much about Hedgewater, other than a few visits with Leif and…I don’t know my way around yet. My dad warned me about the hunt, though. I’ve only heard old stories.”
“Dean would know quite a bit about the hunt.” Chief Trusou sipped his coffee. His demeanor changed instantly at the mention of Shay’s father. “He knew quite a bit about everything.”
Shay frowned. “Excuse me?”
The Chief quickly repaired the crack in his façade, smiling at Shay. “Nothing, son. Now if you don’t mind, can I ask a few things about tonight? No pressure, of course.”
“I said I don’t know anything about River’s attack. I was with Francis and Owen the whole time.”
Shay looked at the floor. The smell of antiseptic and the chill of the hallway were getting to him. He hated hospitals, especially this one. He’d spent weeks here, recovering from his injuries. This place was where he’d woken up disoriented and scared. So much pain here, he thought. If not for River, he wouldn’t have stepped one foot in Liberty General ever again.
“And you boys weren’t up to any trouble? I know Francis well enough to ask.” Trusou laughed. “He’s a handful, even worse after he lost his captain’s title to my boy. Never seems to let it roll off his back, that one.”
Squinting, the Chief stepped into Shay’s space again. “Is he pulling something on you, Shay? I know his father really well. Whatever you say won’t get back to Francis. He’ll be dealt with.”
Shay shook his head. “He didn’t do it. I mean, he didn’t do anything.”
Silence stirred tension between them. Shay knew he’d fucked up big time when the Chief walked to a chair and brought it over. “Sit.”
“It wasn’t a polite suggestion. Have a seat, Shay. It’s time we had a real chat.”
Lawyer up, you idiot, Shay thought. Then I’d be guilty. I’d be an accomplice. But, I didn’t do anything! Fuck. “Sure.”
The Chief pulled off his Hedgewater Police Department jacket and crossed his ankles, leaning against the wall. “I heard about River’s stunt at the assembly today from Dean Michaelson. It seems the two of you have some unresolved issues which also involve your teammates, according to him.”
“I thought River tried to pull a prank on me during move-in. I was scared and went to the team for help. I was mad at the time.”
“And when you were mad did you try to get revenge on River for this prank you claim he pulled? Did you ask your teammates to do something about it for you?” The tone of Trusou’s questions had switched from friendly to serious. What happened to River involved Owen, and Shay had an inkling the Chief knew that now. He wasn’t stupid. He was the fucking Chief of Police.
“No. I told them about it, but I just said to keep an eye on him. Nothing more, I swear.” Shay showed his eyes, holding Trusou’s stare as confidently as he could.
“I’ll ask you one more time, Shay, did you or any of your teammates touch River Hathaway tonight?”
Pushing up his sleeves while balancing his coffee, the Chief watched him. Shay had a moment to see a strange marking on the Chief’s wrist, where the skin was a touch lighter than the rest of him. It was a flower. A purplish blue, shaded in white to pop, Shay concluded it was a tiny violet. His brain rattled with a memory. Violets. Roses. Violets. Roses… Jagger Winegarten.
Roses are red had been painted on Jagger’s chest tonight by some lunatic with a hard on for pranking. Violets are blue, Shay thought. It was either an eerie coincidence or he was actually losing his shit for trying to put things together that didn’t go. Maybe he did need those meds after all. Maybe he needed a lot of things, one being River.
“Tell me about this prank which led you to believe River was responsible.”
“Someone pushed movie tickets under my door earlier today.”
“Movie tickets? Jesus, kid, you need to learn to relax.” The Chief sighed. “You had me worried the team had gone all Godfather on Hathaway over something big, but movie tickets? Shay, are you sure you’re ready to be back there, in school, I mean.”
Shay balled his hands. “One ticket was from the night I was attacked. It was the same movie River took me to and the same time.” He looked up scowling. “The other was for tonight, admission to see the Blood Massacre. So, yeah, I was pretty fucking scared. But it wasn’t River. I know that now. I feel like such an asshole. He doesn’t deserve this, not at all.”
Tusou’s interest peaked. “Kid, do you still have those tickets?”
“Yes, sir.” Shay stood up and pulled out his wallet. He sifted through bills and club cards until he found them. “Here.”
The Chief nodded, looking them over. He held up a finger, setting down his coffee. His cell was out in no time. “I need someone to meet me in the lobby immediately. I think we may have a lead on our attacker.”
Shay waited patiently for Trusou to finish his conversation, urged to follow the Chief back down the hall. When an officer met them in the lobby, Leif wasn’t far behind.
Shay sighed in relief. “How is he?”
Leif had enough respect for his brother not fake a smile. “His family is on the way, Shay.”
What Leif wasn’t saying was there wasn’t a chance in hell Shay could go see for himself. The Hathaways weren’t likely to let him anywhere near River after the rift between their families widened over the summer. Leif also couldn’t divulge his patient’s information without the family’s consent. Shay withdrew into himself, hiding his utter devastation.
“He’s stable now,” Leif whispered in his ear. Getting an eyeful from the Chief, Leif yanked Shay towards the hall. “June?”
“Clear for the moment. Take five,” the nurse said without looking up. Whoever was under the impression the doctors ran this show was completely mistaken. General June clicked her pen like a dagger would dispense from the other end and went back to her paperwork.
“Hurry up,” Leif urged. Finally in the safety of the hallway on the other side of thick, double doors, with only one nurse pushing a cart into a room, Leif stopped. “You have two minutes. I can’t risk anymore. Don’t touch anything or him. He won’t hear you, but…you know.”
“Is he…” Shay turned to the closed door. “Will he wake up?”
“All signs point to yes. His body is healing itself with sleep and the pain killers are pretty heavy. Don’t worry, okay?”
“Thank you, Leif.” Shay hugged his brother briefly.
Without another word, Shay slipped into the small hospital room. The monitor beeped rhythmically. A metallic scent hung in the air. A curtained partition separated him from River. In the dim light of the room, Shay crept to the curtain and pulled it aside slowly. He almost melted at the sight of the man lying in the bed, all black and blue. His arm was in a sling, carefully positioned away from his chest, most likely twisted when his hands had been tied behind his back.
Under the hospital bracelet on River’s wrist was evidence of a struggle. Angry, chaffed red marks encircled each wrist. One eye was swollen shut. River’s lips, once perfect and soft, were busted in two different places, puffy and discolored. Shay had to sit down to take it all in before he uttered a word to the man who couldn’t hear him. His fingers inched closer to River’s, but Shay hesitated.
He wasn’t supposed to touch him. Although his brother’s warning gave him pause, the medical repercussions of touching River had nothing to do with why Shay stopped.
He wasn’t worthy of ever touching River Hathaway again. He’d lost that right the minute he woke up in a hospital bed, much like this, screaming River’s name. Shay had been too out of it to argue with the cops who mistook River’s name leaving his lips as a sign that Hathaway was a suspect. When he finally came around completely, it was too late to take it back. He’d tried to explain, but things only got worse.
His parents wanted someone to blame.
The cops needed to show the community they wouldn’t take shit from the attacker, even if they had the wrong man.
He was refused access to River, no matter how hard he begged.
And then he let himself slip away. Shay had become someone different; someone scared and sad; someone who refused to talk anymore. He stayed in his house, swimming laps in the pool out back, and let the hours dwindle around him. Shay had been scared to step outside for the first few weeks. He was scared every time it rained. He was terrified when night fell. He was scared to ever let River know how much it mortified him for anyone to touch him after that night, even the man he loved.
So he stopped believing love was right for him.
He thought life would never allow them to be together, that it was a sign from higher powers River was meant for someone else; someone stronger; someone pretty on the inside.
No therapist or psychiatrist could fix the damage done to Shay’s mind and heart. The only person who could have done that was lying in a hospital bed, unable to speak, all because of him. River was here. River was hurting, now and all the days after that fateful night because of him.
Shay leaned back in the uncomfortable chair, running his hands through his hair. Words bubbled to the surface, not making sense at first. When his mind sorted out what he wanted to say, Shay went with it.
“I can remember being terrified of being sent to camp with you that summer. You remember, Riv, third grade? Our families were friends, but not super close then. I didn’t really know you and I was so shy. I cried the entire way there because I didn’t want to be away from home. I thought you would be just like the rest of them. I thought you were only nice to me around our parents and that you’d be mean once we were alone.
“But you held my hand the entire way to camp and told me it would be okay. You never made of fun of me for crying either. When I got scared the first night, you crawled into my bunk and told me stories. You were seriously the best, Riv. I think I would have hitchhiked home if you hadn’t been there.”
Shay sat forward, enthralled in the memory. “I never told you this. I thought it would weird you out. The second day of camp, when we were playing games in the lake, and they put me on that relay team…I was going to piss my pants I was so scared. The other boys were really good swimmers and that flag seemed so far away. I swear it felt like I’d have to swim miles to reach it. I thought I’d fuck up and drown or everyone would laugh at what a loser I was. But you just pushed me forward, smiled, and said, “So what, Shay. Don’t be scared. You’ll be awesome.”
“And you know what, Riv? I was good at it. I won for our team, and when I got home I was so excited to show my parents my ribbon. They put me in swimming, and through that I got into water polo. You’re the one who made me who I am. You’re the reason I love to swim and feel good about myself when I’m doing it. You’ve always been the one.”
Shay finally touched River’s hand, careful to keep their contact light. “You’re the boy who wears flip flops instead of designer sneakers. You’re the boy who makes up silly songs on his guitar just to make me laugh. You’re the boy who always tells me to fuck the world, make it yours. You’re the boy…you’re the boy I’ll always love, River, and I fucked it up. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for shutting you out. I’m sorry I was too scared and wrapped up in my own shit to protect you. I’m sorry I’m weak and I can’t stop thinking about those hands on me. I’m sorry for all it. I should be in here, not you…never you.”
Shay was hovering over River’s lips before he knew what he was doing. “I love you, River.”
“Get away from him!”
Turning around, Shay found himself face to face with Jackie Hathaway, River’s mother. “Mrs. Hath—”
“Security!” Jackie yanked on Shay’s arm until she could push him towards the door. “I want this room closed to family only. Get him out of here!”
A nurse rushed into the room. She was tall and thin, and obviously worn from a long shift. “Ma’am, I need you to lower your voice. This is a hospital and we’re trying to offer our patients a calm place to recover. If you could please come into the hallway, so as not to disturb him,” she pointed to River, “that would be great.”
“I’ll tell you what would be great, you twit, getting this trash out of my son’s room immediately.”
Churning green eyes bore into Shay as he faced Jackie. “I wasn’t doing anything. I was worried and—”
“Worried my ass. You’ve done nothing but cause my son pain. You have betrayed my trust, his, and our entire family. You’ve embarrassed him. You’ve poisoned his name. And if you think for one minute I don’t know you had something to do with this, you’re wrong, Shay Foster.” She got in his face. “You are very wrong.”
“That’s it, everyone out right now.” The nurse flipped a switch, going into emergency mode. “Whatever issues you have with each other can be settled in the hallway. Sir, once you’re done talking to her, you need to leave this ward immediately.”
“I was just…”
“Are you family, sir?”
“No, but I…”
“Then you need to leave this room before I do get security. How did you even get in here?” The nurse’s brown eyes narrowed.
“I…” Shay looked between the women. He was so fucked.
“I’ll tell you how he did it, his damn brother. I’d like to speak to the administrator at once. Leif Foster will not be looking after my son. I won’t allow it.” Jackie checked Shay’s shoulder. “No Foster will ever hurt my son again.”
“Mrs. Foster,” Shay tried. “I really was worried.”
“Save your lies for someone who can’t see through them. Just because you were a victim doesn’t mean it gives you the right to make everyone else feel the way you do. River doesn’t want anything to do with you and neither do we.”
“Mr. Foster,” the nurse finally addressed him. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave. I won’t ask again.”
Looking back at River one last time, knowing all hope was lost, Shay silently filed out of the room. He kept going, disregarding Jackie’s accusations, until he was in the lobby. William Hathaway, Shay’s father, was having a heated conversation with Leif and Chief Trusou. His eyes caught sight of Shay and both men had to hold William back.
It was as if time stood still for Shay. The press was outside, gawking in the windows with their cameras and bright lights. William Hathaway was slowly shaking his fist, fighting the restraints of arms around him. His mouth was open so far it was like he trying to summon the fangs of a lion. His eyes were deadly, wild and savage. Leif’s eyes were so big Shay thought they would roll out of his face. Chief Trusou’s features tightened; his attention directed completely on holding William back.
Nurses and doctors, cops and people waiting for news of their loved ones, all of them danced around him like a circus act. Shay exhaled a slow breath, dispensing the cold air wrapped around his heart. He wanted to scream. He wanted to end it all. He wanted to wrap his hands around the man’s throat that’d done this to him, to all of them.
He was done with it all. In his own world, he barely noticed the officer who led him out to a police cruiser. Next thing he knew, there was leather under his ass and a metal grid in front of him. A car door closing sounded so far away in his ears. An irregular pattern of beeps and sirens barely fazed him as the officer pulled through the throng of media and concerned citizens.
“It’s alright, kid. We’re gonna get you home. Don’t worry.”
Home? Shay didn’t know what that meant anymore.
“Come on, guys, I’m serious. This isn’t funny. I’m not going in there.” Kelly crossed his arms over the seatbelt as if that would help him stay put.
“You can’t get into the party without an invite, and as it just so happens, your invite is in there.” Luca pointed to the open gates of Hedgewater Cemetery.
“Why couldn’t we steal a lobster like everyone else? This is so unfair!” Kelly was miffed, smacking back into Luca. He gasped and sat forward. “Sorry.”
Luca laughed. “Trust me, I don’t mind.”
Jagger got out of the car. “Do the two of you need some alone time?”
“What? No,” Kelly squeaked, tangling himself in the seatbelt in hopes of getting out of the car. He finally managed to smack Luca’s hand with the belt, fling the door open, and stumble out.
“I can’t smell that bad, De Angelo.” Luca followed him, rubbing his hand.
“Virgin,” Jagger coughed. He ran away from Kelly. The small freshman was out for blood with his shaking fist.
“Fuck you, Jagger. You’re dead!”
Luca grinned. “Perfect place for it. Actually, it’s a perfect place for a lot of things.”
Kelly slowed. Jagger did too. He scratched his head, further snarling his red and black mane. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“What’s this party worth to you? That’s what it means.” Luca kept walking, slipping through the opened gates.
An earthy smell permeated the chilly air. The iron gates squeaked back and forth. Tall brick pillars towered above them. Through hundreds of black, pointed posts, Kelly could see headstone after headstone. All that was missing was a blanket of fog covering the ground and a lady in white to complete his idea of a nightmare.
“I know I’ve said this a hundred times already, but I don’t like this at all.” Kelly threw Jagger a pouty look.
Jagger leaned in, grinning broadly. “But you like him and that’s what counts. I bet you’d do anything he told you to do.”
“Shut up! Would not.” Kelly elbowed Jagger’s side.
“You so would,” Jagger teased. “I bet if he asked you to get on your knees and suck his—”
Luca’s chuckled filled the air. “I can still hear you, you know.”
Kelly gasped. He stomped his foot. “I hate you, Winegarten.”
“Hey.” Jagger put his arm out, stopping Kelly’s hissing tirade. “Where is he, anyway?”
“He’s right…Luca?” Eye’s darting around, Kelly couldn’t find their RA among the headstones and small monuments of the dead. He bravely put one foot in front of the other. “Luca?”
“Unfortunately,” a female voice blared from all around them. Kelly spotted a speaker sitting on top of a headstone and groaned. “We had to discontinue the naked dash in public. The fines were getting steeper every year and the elderly were getting bitchier.”
“She did not just say naked dash.” Kelly shook his head. “No fucking way.”
“As a freshman at Hedgewater, you will be part of an exclusive community and with all exclusive memberships, you have to earn them. This part of the hunt is your rite of passage. Every Hedgewater student before you has done it and now so will you.”
“Fucking awesome.” Jagger bit his lip. “Unzip De Angelo.”
“Gross. You just want to see me naked,” Kelly sneered.
“Trust me. Your tiny penis is far from my list of to-sees.”
“It’s not tiny!”
“Whatever you say.” Jagger wet his bottom lip, smiling.
“Your mission, if you choose to accept it,” the girl continued, “will be to run naked to the other end of the graveyard to retrieve your invitation to the party of the year. Whenever you’re ready, boys…”
“Oh god, do we have to? It’s cold out here.”
“Worried about your tiny dick going invisible?” Jagger shot him a smile.
“I bet your dick is so small it would take a microscope to find it,” Kelly retorted.
“Now who wants to compare dicks?”
“Ugh, fuck you.” Kelly sighed. He wriggled his nose, closed his eyes, and nodded. “It’s only one time and it’s just in front of some stupid girl, right?”
“And Luca…because he’s totally watching. I bet he’s jacking off, waiting for you to reveal your sweet, sweet body for him.”
Kelly squeaked. “Not helping, fool.”
Jagger’s shirt hit the ground, torn down the middle. He shrugged at Kelly, who gawked at his muscles. “I do just fine. Thanks for noticing.” Jagger winked.
“Take it off, De Angelo. You only live once and you’re not going to that party if you don’t get butt ass naked with me.”
“Words I never want to hear again.” Kelly looked around slowly. He took off his hoody; his favorite one that he hadn’t washed in a week, or was it two? It fell to the ground and he cringed. “I don’t think I can do this, Jagger.”
“Sure you can.” Jagger pulled Kelly’s t-shirt up from behind.
“What the hell are you doing? Get off me.” He squirmed, gasping as Jagger yanked the shirt over his head. Kelly slapped his arms over his chest, feeling naked already.
“Seriously, dude, you don’t have boobs. Quit that.” Jagger smacked his arms down. “Take off your shoes and we’ll drop the pants together. On three…”
Kelly swore under his breath, kicking off his sneakers. “Socks, too? I hate going barefoot.”
“Shit.” Kelly hopped on one foot then the other, pulling off his socks.
“On three.” Jagger faced him. “You can do this.”
Kelly scowled. “Don’t you dare stare at my goodies. I’m serious, Jagger.”
“I shall not gaze upon thy maidenhood, my lady.” Jagger bowed. “Oomph. Jesus, De Angelo!” He rubbed his shoulder where a small fist had hit him.
“Okay. I feel better now.” Kelly shook his arms out. “I’m ready.” He hopped up and down.
“You’re so fucking weird.”
“So says the guy with a mermaid vagina inked on his arm forever. By the way, mermaids don’t have vaginas.”
“How do they have kids then, smartass?”
Kelly grunted. “They just do.”
“Uh huh, they give birth from their mouths. You’re such a genius.” Jagger rolled his eyes. “Fuck it. One…two…three…”
Kelly squealed like a girl and dropped his drawers with Jagger. His pants and his Batman briefs went flying across the walkway after he kicked them aside. Jagger’s bare ass was already a yard or so ahead of him. Kelly fought to catch up, cupping his groin at a full run until he saw at least thirty guys and girls step out from the tree line, Luca included. They all cheered the boys on.
“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!” Mortified and freezing, Kelly tried to summon his inner Olympian and haul ass.
Kelly’s mouth was open. A shrill sound erupted and he realized he was screaming, out of embarrassment or glee, he wasn’t sure. A rush of excitement shocked his system and his hands fell away. He pumped his slender legs, running as fast as he could.
Jagger’s muscular backside tightened with every step in front of him. It was the only thing Kelly could focus on. He couldn’t look anywhere else until he ran smack dab into Jagger on the other side of the graveyard. Kelly fell on his ass, scratching his delicate skin on the pavement.
“Shit, De Angelo. Are you okay?”
Looking up, Kelly first saw the cobra between Jagger’s legs before quickly finding his face. “What! Yes. I’m fine.” He recovered, only to remember he was still very naked. “Get away. Don’t touch me. This is weird.”
Jagger, not giving two shits about his birthday suit, walked up to the girl holding out their red invitations. She eyed him up and down and he gave her a little spin. “Drink it up, doll. It’s the only time you’ll ever get a good look.”
She snorted. “Whatever. I have a boyfriend.”
He bent down to catch her stare. “And does your boyfriend like it when you ogle other guys’ dicks?”
She turned beet red. “Just take the damn invites.”
“What? Don’t want to get a look at him, too?” Jagger hitched a thumb at Kelly.
“Sorry,” she rolled her eyes, “little boys don’t do it for me.”
“Hey!” Kelly slapped his hands over his groin. “I’m eighteen.”
“Whatever you say.” The girl shooed them away. “If you’re not going to stick around,” she directed to Jagger, “then move out and stop teasing me with that.” She licked her lips.
“I swear you girls are in heat or something.” Jagger’s eyes widened.
Kelly harrumphed, “Or they’re just bitches.”
“Ladies,” Luca applauded, walking to them, “lovely show and congratulations. I’m sorry I didn’t give you a heads up. I knew Kelly would freak out if he knew.”
“I-I…” Kelly swallowed. He looked down at the ground, tightening the hold he had on his manhood.
His shirt hit him in the shoulder. His pants crumpled in front of his feet. He wasn’t so thrilled with his naked freedom anymore. Luca was staring at him…naked!
“Thanks, man.” Jagger worked a fresh tank top over his head then stepped into his jeans. “De Angelo, dude, you can get dressed now.”
Kelly snuck a peek at Luca. His bashful gaze must have sent a message to the RA. Luca turned around, smirking. Kelly got dressed in record time, wanting more than anything to hide his batman briefs under his jeans again. How friggin embarrassing, he thought. When Kelly could muster enough courage to look at Luca, he was sadly disappointed to see him talking to the Cavelle bitch.
“Hey,” Jagger said softly. “You sure you’re cool?”
“We got our invites, didn’t we? What’s cooler than that?” Kelly pushed his hair out of his eyes. His shoulders slumped. He stuffed his hands in his pockets.
“Uh, hate to break it to you but you look like you’re about to claw that bitch’s eyes out with your mind. I’d lose the scowl before he sees. Then again, he might find your hours old, crush induced jealousy endearing.”
Kelly rubbed his face. “I’m a mess.”
“Agreed. Now let’s talk about how fucking awesome that was. You just ran naked in front of a crowd of upperclassmen. Takes balls, De Angelo, and you’re right…it’s not so tiny.” Jagger bumped his shoulder. “Lose the frown, dude. We’re in.”
“We are, aren’t we?” Kelly bit his lip, uncaring of Jagger ogling his dick at this point. “I’m in.”
He’d never felt accepted during his dreadful high school days. Now it seemed there was hope after all. It did get better.
Kelly smiled like he’d never smiled before. “Shall we go and party?”
“Yes, my lady, we shall.” Jagger lifted his hand and Kelly slapped his palm down. Hand in hand, they went to meet up with Luca.
“You were screaming.” Luca tightened his arms around Kelly’s waist. The car whipped along the coast, headed for Docker’s Landing, a summer getaway on the water.
Kelly laughed. “So what? I was naked, being forced to display myself for a bunch of perverts.”
“I couldn’t help looking. When two naked guys are running in front of me…can you blame a guy?” Luca put his chin on Kelly’s shoulder.
“Already a two-timer.” Jagger shook his head. “He was staring at my ass too.”
Kelly shot Jagger his best scowl; a look of warning.
“Keep telling yourself that, Jagger.” Luca brushed his lips over Kelly’s ear. “I was actually too busy watching you.”
Kelly blushed. He turned his face to hide his gleeful eyes. Luca’s hot breath on his neck made him shiver. “It was pretty funny, though. I’m sorry, but when I was watching you run, all that kept coming to mind was that part in Metal Gear Solid 2 when you had to switch characters from Solid Snake to—”
Kelly burst into laughter. “When you had to play as Raiden and he was fucking naked the whole time. He was cupping his junk and you could make him do cartwheels. I love that shit, when the creators throw in priceless extras, even if they’re just glitches.”
Luca clapped a hand on Kelly’s knee, chuckling. “Exactly! Shit, the best glitch yet has to be in Red Dead Redemption.”
“Donkey lady,” they both cried out, heaving with giggles.
“What. The. Actual. Fuck.” Jagger glanced over at them. “What language are you speaking?”
Overjoyed with Luca, Kelly looked back at the sexy RA. Luca pushed a hand through Kelly’s hair, tendrils blowing in the wind between his fingers. “Our own.”
“Fuck me, you guys really are nerds.” Jagger laughed and stepped on the gas.
Music pounded through the trees, pouring a thumping beat over the trio as they got out of the car. Cars were parked for as far as they could see, lining each side of the thickly wooded road outside the main gate of Docker’s Landing. Four beefy looking guys stood guard at the gates, but Luca didn’t seem bothered by them in the least.
“Any problems yet,” he asked, stopping before the badass bodyguards.
“El Capitan and his first mate were throwing their weight around a few minutes ago,” the largest said, “but I think they got the message loud and clear. Amber told me to take Francis’s balls for her, but I figured that wouldn’t be very nice.”
“Yeah. She texted me about that. Douchebag water polo team.” Luca grunted. “Not at our party.”
“Hold up,” Jagger intervened, “you didn’t let them in?”
Biggy grinned. “No one plays my baby sister for a fool and gets rewarded. They want to act as one. They can be banned as one.”
“Weren’t they mad?” Kelly slid in next to Luca, giving his best doe eyed look.
Biggy lifted his chin. “Still are apparently.” He cupped his hands around his mouth. “Go home, motherfucker. I said no!”
Jagger, Luca, and Kelly turned around to see Francis’s SUV slowly come to a stop next to them with the window rolled down. Luca shook his head. “You guys know the rules. No invite. No party. If you want to make a scene, we can call the cops.”
Owen stared at Kelly, fear in his eyes. Francis tightened his grip on the wheel. “Fuck you, Luca. We don’t want to go to your stupid party anymore. No one’s there except for a bunch of whores hitting on gay guys, your sister included, Dave.”
“I’ll skin you alive, you piece of shit.” Dave stomped towards the SUV, only to be stopped by his fellow bouncers.
“Then what do you want?” Luca tapped his foot.
Owen cleared his throat. “We’re looking for Shay. He took off after…he just ran away on foot and we’re worried. He’s not answering his phone and no one’s seen him.”
“Not our problem.” Luca shrugged.
“Kelly,” Owen pleaded. “If you see Shay, will you call me please?”
All eyes landed on Kelly. He covered his chest with his arms and nodded once. “Okay.”
“Okay,” Francis mocked. “God you’re such a loser.” He eyed Kelly. The blond then snapped his attention to Owen, jealousy consuming him. When he looked back to the small crowd, he narrowed his eyes at Kelly. “Don’t even think about it.”
Jagger growled, ready to pull Francis out of the vehicle and beat his face in, but Kelly stepped forward instead. Not sure what the hell he was doing, Kelly stopped a foot from the driver’s door.
“You might be a new breed of asshole for me, but you’re still an asshole. You can call me what you like. You can beat me up in the locker room and laugh it up with all your friends. You can even pretend that what you say or do matters to me, but in the end, we both know deep down the real loser is you…not me.” Kelly backed away. “Enjoy your evening, Francis, because I’m sure as hell going to enjoy mine.”
“Holy shit, De Angelo,” Jagger whispered.
“You’re so fucked, Kelly. You are so very fucked.” Francis pointed at him before peeling off into the night.
Wearing a broad smile, Kelly bravely took Luca’s hand in his. Adrenaline rushed through him. Francis’s words suddenly meant nothing. He wasn’t scared in the least. He had a crowd to roll with now. He had Jagger. And now…he had Luca. “Why are we still standing here? I thought this was a party?”
Luca looked him up and down, equally ecstatic. His hooded eyes gave off a lusty stare. “Hell yes.”
“Ditto,” Jagger agreed.
Minutes later, the gates of Docker’s Landing shut behind them. A wide gravel drive opened up the further they climbed the hill. Reaching its peak, Kelly looked down on the summer resort with wonder. Cabins were arranged in a semi-circle around the woodsy beach. Rocks jutted up from the moonlit waves, making seats for casual partiers. But in the middle of it all was so much color, Kelly’s eyes couldn’t comprehend.
Hundreds of students rocked out to the music, jumping up and down, throwing their hands in the air. He could practically smell the sweat from where he was standing. That and the salty water mingled in his nose, calling him closer to his first college party ever. Strobe lights blinked. Rainbows glittered from the DJ booth. Glass clinked all around him. Boys were kissing in public. Boys. Were kissing. In public. His mouth fell open. His dick started to throb.
“Kelly?” Jagger waved a hand in front of his face. “Bro?”
“I have a better idea,” Luca murmured. He tugged on Kelly’s hand, leading the stunned freshmen into the pit of no return.
Jagger waved them off. He smiled, shaking his head. He liked Luca, and surprisingly, he was happy Kelly got to go to his first college party with the hot RA, even if that meant he was the third wheel. The kid needed this, Jagger thought. After this summer, he added, they all needed this.
Watching Kelly take a shot made him laugh. He smirked when Kelly wiped his mouth, cringing, and almost died laughing when Luca started dancing on him. Kelly was as still as a statue, being humped by his RA, and Jagger got to witness the entire thing.
Always a loner, Jagger held back a bit, taking a seat on top of the hill to survey the party. He’d go down when he was good and ready, but right now he needed a bit of a break. As if the universe sensed he was winding down, his phone began to vibrate in his pocket. He glanced at it and rolled his eyes. His mother would call when he was at a party like this.
“Screw you,” he spat at the phone and turned it off.
An hour later, Jagger was so hammered he barely knew his name. He did know Kelly was finally getting with the program and grinding back against Luca; hands and mouths were involved. He did know that some guy was trying to pull him up on a platform; a guy without a shirt and piercings made for sucking on. He did know that those hands felt really good rubbing all over his body and that the music was sent straight from the gods as his denim restrained hard-on fell into place behind platform guy’s ass.
And then he knew nothing, because he licked up a pink pill from platform boy’s tongue and washed it down with vodka.
It was a party. So, he partied. They all did.
TO BE CONTINUED…
MUSIC FROM THIS EPISODE:
See you all next week!