The Brokenhearted Necklace
“Don't laugh at me, don't call me names
Don't get your pleasure from my pain.”
- Don't Laugh At Me, MARK WILLS
The hard, rough bark of the large fir tree pressed through the back of Lonny´s t-shirt as he leaned against the thick trunk. He sat around the backside of the tree, hidden from view of the courtyard in front of the school where Jack Flemming and his jock friends were messing around, throwing a football back and forth. The paper crackled as he gripped it with his fingertips and read the words again, for what seemed like the hundredth time. The heat of the early afternoon was making him sweat and his fingers were beginning to dampen the paper and smear the blue lines.
Lonny laid the paper on his lap and rubbed his hands on his jeans then picked up the assignment again. His head ducked as he read anxiously over the poem once more. In less than twenty minutes, he would have to read it before the class. He hadn't meant for it to be read aloud. Ms. Welch hadn't told them until end of class yesterday that it was an oral assignment. Lonny had stayed awake nearly all last night trying to come up with a suitable replacement, but his mind refused to work and he hadn't been able to manage more than a few lines. Unacceptable for his assignment.
A sigh escaped him as he leaned his head back against the tree and closed his eyes. Anxiety pinched his guts and made him feel nauseous. His mind was coming unhinged at the thought of standing before the class and reading the words he'd so painstakingly written down two nights ago. His heart was in those words, and that's what terrified him. These words weren't meant for a classroom full students who didn't understand him, who couldn't begin to understand where the words came from or who they were truly written for.
His hand drifted to the front of his t-shirt, and he ran his fingertips over the outline of the necklace hidden beneath the thin material. The familiar ache tightened his chest. His eyes stung and he blinked quickly before the tears could swell up. Lonny stared at the paper as a myriad of five year old memories floated through his mind. Even at twelve and a half years old, he had understood what was happening. Had understood how real his feelings were.
A thickness invaded his throat and he coughed and sniffed, wiping at his damp eyes.
“Heads up, queer bait!”
Lonny barely heard the words before the football ricocheted off the tree next to his head. He jerked to the side, tumbling over on the grass. His assignment flitted off his lap onto the ground. He reached for it when Jack Flemming was suddenly standing over him, snatching the paper up.
Crawling to his feet, Lonny reached for the paper. “Give it back. That's for class.” Lonny hated the submissiveness he always heard in his voice when he faced Jack or his friends.
Jack panted from having sprinted up the slope of the lawn. He was wearing basketball shorts and a tank top, and sweat glistened his muscular body. He grinned as he looked at the paper. “This for English?” He said. “What'd you write? Something faggy?”
“Just give it back.” Lonny reached for the paper as Jack pulled it away. “Come on, Jack.”
“In a minute.” Jack panted with a wide grin. “Let me read it.”
“No.” Lonny's guts twisted again. “Just give it back.”
Jack's buddies were drifting to the lawn. Lonny glanced at them anxiously then looked at the quarterback. Short, staggered laughs were beginning to erupt out of him as he read the paper.
Lonny stepped forward quick and tried to grab the paper, but Jack spun around away from him and moved towards his friends. “Hey, check it out.” He laughed and began to read the poem aloud, his voice raised so others were beginning to slow as they walked past, stopping to listen.
Tears burned Lonny's eyes as Jack's friends began to laugh, as did some of the onlookers. He fought the tears. Jack and his buddies seemed to take great pleasure in making him cry, earning him the title sissy boy. Among other things.
It didn't help that he was small for his age. At nearly eighteen years old, he still looked like a freshman or sophomore. Most would never guess him to be more than sixteen, and fifteen was the more common deduction. All the senior boys stood nearly a head taller than him, and sported thicker, more muscular builds. He wasn't scrawny, but lean, like a track runner. Had he been taller, it might have been an appealing look for him. But that lean build on his small frame just made him appear far too adolescent. Adding fodder to the sissy boy label.
But then there were so many things about him that made him an easy target for Jack and his group; his large soft eyes framed by lashes too thick for a boy, full lips just a little too red. Sandy blond hair that, when grown out, hung over his forehead in curls that only lent to the sissy boy look. Lonny kept his hair cut short, but he could do nothing about the rest of his appearance.
The largest bullseye, though, was brightly drawn around the fact that he was gay. And when Jack took his shots at that target, he never failed to hit his mark spot on.
“Give it back.” Lonny's voice was thick with tears which he tried to swallow, but only managed to choke on.
“Aww, he's gonna cry.” Jack's girlfriend, Ashley Winters, giggled and incited a wave of giggles through the small group of cheerleaders in her midst.
Jack turned back towards Lonny. “What a bunch of faggot shit.” He wadded up the paper.
“No!” Lonny cried.
Jack squeezed the wad into a tight ball and hurled it down the lawn. His friends and most of the onlookers laughed. “Oh, is the little queer gonna cry?” Jack jeered at him.
His face blazing, Lonny glanced at the onlookers. Even the ones who weren't openly laughing at him, were averting their eyes as if to make eye contact with him would obligate them to come to his aid. He had long since ceased expecting help from his classmates. From anyone, for that matter. There were only two kinds of looks he now received in this school. The combined looked of scorn and disgust...and no look at all. He rarely met anyone´s eyes anymore. Keeping his eyes down hurt less. Just not looking, not seeing...like the ones out there now pretending not to see what Jack was doing.
Resentment swelled in him as he swept his eyes over the crowd, trying to force even one person to just look, see. But if it wasn't happening to them...it wasn't happening. And why should it matter to them if it was happening? Why should they give a fuck about the school faggot? In a small southern town like this, he was barely considered human. And certainly not worth sticking your neck out for.
Fuck 'em. Unwelcome tears slipped free and he turned away quick. He moved hurriedly back to the tree to gather his things. More tears flowed and he wiped at them with annoyance. Why did he have to be such a fucking cry baby?
The bell rang loud and shrill, announcing the end of the lunch hour. Jack drilled him with more taunts as the lot of them moved down the lawn and towards the school building. Lonny knelt by the tree, his chest tight and a hard lump in his throat. His brow pinched with an angry frown as he stuffed his things in his backpack.
When he finally stood, most of the other students had disappeared back inside the school. One kid still lounged on the short concrete wall that ran along the perimeter of the sloping lawn. Lonny stared at this back. He didn't recognize him. This was a small school, and though he didn't know everyone personally, he had still crossed paths with most of them at some point. This kid didn't look familiar at all.
The kid had one hand stuffed into the front pocket of his jeans and the other hand brought a cigarette to his lips. He wore a white t-shirt that hugged his broad shoulders nicely, and a black leather jacket lay on the grass next to him. Sunlight glinted off his dark glasses as he stared forward, seemingly at nothing. His jet black hair was cropped fairly short, though curled a bit the nape of his strong neck and glistened with sweat.
A funny sensation rippled through Lonny's body and he had the sudden urge to run his fingers through the boy's hair. He quickly shook the thought from his head and shouldered his pack on his left arm. He scanned the lawn for the wadded up paper but it was nowhere to be found. Thanks to Jack, he would get an incomplete on this assignment.
As he walked down the sloping lawn to the edge of the concrete wall, the other kid turned and looked at him. Lonny couldn't see his eyes behind his dark glasses but he could feel their weight. The kid had to have witnessed Jack's little presentation, how could he have missed it?
Lonny's face burned and he wanted to yell at the kid and tell him to stop looking at him. Where moments ago he'd wanted just one person to really see what was happening...he now just wanted to be obscure, invisible. And yet the kid continued to stare at him, slowly sucking on his cigarette and letting the smoke sift out his mouth and nose.
Breaking eye contact, Lonny headed down the lawn instead of hopping off the wall and walking past the boy. He made a wide arc around behind the kid, walking quickly. As he passed by, the kid leaned down and picked something up. Lonny's steps faltered when he saw the boy holding the wadded up assignment Jack had chucked away. Lonny's guts tightened. After what Jack had done, throwing his heartfelt words out there to be trampled on and ridiculed, Lonny didn't want anyone else reading them.
He considered approaching the kid and demanding the paper back. But rather than chance a possible unpleasant confrontation, Lonny hurried past, shoving through the heavy doors leading into the school. Once inside, he cast one quick glance back at the kid outside. The boy unfolded the wadded paper, smoothed it out against his leg then folded it carefully and put it in his pocket without reading it.
A puzzled frown tightened Lonny's face and he turned away, hurrying to class.
...The New Kid...
“When the visions around you, Bring tears to your eyes
And all that surround you, Are secrets and lies
I'll be your strength, I'll give you hope,
Keeping your faith when it's gone
The one you should call, was standing here all along.”
- This I Promise You, N'SYNC
Lonny was sitting in the back of English class, his gut twisted up with anxiety, when the new kid entered the classroom and handed Ms. Welch a piece of paper. Lonny's eyes were down, staring at his hands balled into tight fists on his desk. His ears rang as nausea swelled inside him. Ms. Welch introduced the new boy, but Lonny barely heard her voice, much less her words.
It would be his turn soon to read his assignment, and he didn't have it. He'd considered just telling the teacher what had happened, but getting Jack in trouble would only incite greater persecution from the kid. Better to just let it go and take an incomplete. What did it matter, really? There were only three weeks left before summer vacation. His GPA was surely established. It wasn't likely one missed assignment would upset it. Still, he was stickler for turning in his assignments, keeping his grades up. He owed his mom that much, after all she'd been through because of him.
The guilt tried to squeeze out of the tight box he kept it locked in, but he refused to release it. Not right now. He had enough shit on his plate, he didn't need that too.
“I did you a favor, fag.” Jack quipped suddenly, startling Lonny.
Lonny glanced at the quarterback in the next isle over. The kid had an annoying smirk on his face that Lonny despised. Many times in his own mind, Lonny had slapped that smirk off the kid's face. But the distance between fantasy and reality were worlds apart. Boys like Jack would always intimidate Lonny, make him feel inferior. It's just the way it was.
“Now you don't have to read your queer poem in front of class and have everyone laugh at you.” Ashley sat in the desk behind Jack and shoved her face into his arm, stifling her giggles.
Apparently it had been better to have everyone outside laugh at him, rather than in class. Was that Jack's brilliant deduction?
Fuck you. Lonny looked away, wishing he had the courage to speak the words, but they would never leave his lips.
A girl stood at the head of the class, reading her poem. Lonny tried to listen but his ears were ringing worse than ever. Lonny ducked his head and closed his eyes, wishing for an escape portal like in those old sci-fi shows. Beam me up, Scotty...get me the fuck out of here. Lonny was pretty sure that last bit wasn't an actual line from the old Star Trek show, but it was surely what at least one of them had been thinking at one point or another.
Something dropped on his desk, startling him out of his thoughts. Lonny opened his eyes and stared at the crinkled, folded paper resting between his tight fists. His pulse quickened and he looked up. The new kid was sliding into the desk in front of him. Lonny stared at the back of the kid's head. He swallowed thickly and glanced down at the paper again. Five words were scribbled across the folded side; Don't give them the satisfaction.
His hands shaking a bit, Lonny slowly unfolded the paper Jack had wadded up and thrown away. He stared at his handwritten poem.
“Oh fuck.” A short, hard laugh burst from Jack.
Lonny's head snapped towards him. The kid was looking at the paper, an incredulous grin on his face. Jack glanced quickly at the teacher then reached over and smacked Lonny in the back of the head, laughing low.
“Queer boy got a boyfriend?” Jack's eyes jumped to the new kid then back to Lonny. “Ain't he sweet?”
Lonny jerked away from the quarterback, annoyed by the other kid's slap and equally annoyed at the burning in his eyes. “Leave me alone.” His voice was tight with tears and the classroom was beginning to swim before him. His face burned at Jack's implication, and in fear that the kid had heard him. Lonny's whole body tensed, waiting for the kid to spin around and insist he was no faggot, and perhaps even join Jack in ridiculing Lonny. But he remained unmoving, slouched casually in his seat, unaware of the scene taking place right behind him.
“Lonny. You're next.” Ms. Welch spoke up suddenly.
Lonny looked up quick, his anxiety intensifying. His eyes didn't make it past the back of the new kid's head. His black hair curled over the collar of his leather jacket and a vague scent of musk cologne invaded Lonny's nostrils, tantalizing his senses. Another funny sensation skittered through him. He remembered how the kid's t-shirt had hugged his shoulders and back as he'd sat outside on the wall. Lonny wished he would take his jacket off again, so he could get a closer look at his strong body.
A sharp pencil stabbed Lonny's arm then clattered to the floor. “Oh my god, the little queer really is in love.” Jack laughed as Ashley giggled.
A fierce heat rushed through Lonny's face again and he looked down, nausea gripping him with dangerous force. He kept his eyes down, focused on his paper. The kid's cologne teased him, but he refused to look up. His face burned like a furnace. He was always so careful to not put off any gay vibes in school...like gazing longingly at another boy as he had just been doing with the new kid.
“Quiet back there.” Ms. Welch spoke up as the girl at the front of the class finished up her poem.
A cold heat clutched Lonny and beads of sweat broke out across his brow. He almost wished the kid hadn't given his poem back. He had been nervous enough about reading it, and that was before Jack's little stunt outside. Half the kids in this class had been out there. He could feel them waiting for him to get up there, poised like poachers ready to cut down their prey.
He wanted to puke and wished he would. Anything to keep him from having to get up there and read the words that had meant so much to him when he'd written them down, but now felt like heavy chains around his neck about to pull him under and drown him.
“Lonny.” Ms Welch looked at him and nodded as the girl took her seat.
His legs shook as he slowly stood. The other students watched him tread reluctantly to the front of the class, the weight of their eyes heavy on his shoulders. Was this how Christ felt as he'd hauled his cross up through the jeering crowds to his own death?
The paper crackled in his hands as he turned and faced the class. Jack was kicked back in his chair, grinning unpleasantly. A look of deep amusement on his face. Lonny's gaze tried to shift to the new kid, but something stopped him. An anxiety that he would see the same scorn and disgust in the boy's eyes as in nearly every other pair of eyes that fell across him in this school.
“Come on.” Jack threw at him. “Read us your pretty poem.”
The heat was in his cheeks again. He quickly dropped his eyes to his paper.
“That's enough, Jack.” Ms Welch scolded lightly. She looked at Lonny. “Go ahead, Lonny.”
Lonny's left hand reached absently for the necklace resting beneath his t-shirt. He fingered it as he stared at the words on the badly creased paper. Lonny cleared his throat and spoke quietly. “This is called...Do You Remember.”
“Can't hear ya, gay. I mean, guy.” Jack quipped and snickers rippled through the class like ripples across the surface of a pond.
Ms. Welch frowned at Jack but urged Lonny to speak up.
“Do You Remember.” He said a little louder. His head felt funny and wondered if he would feint. Please, God, just let me feint. Much to his dismay, he remained conscious. His throat was dry, parched, and his first words squeaked out, drawing more snickers from the other students.
“Your face is a mystery
I don't know who you are
I've never heard your voice
But you haunt my heart.”
Jack let loose an - “Awww” - and Lonny lifted his eyes without raising his head. He felt the heat burning his face and wished to God he didn't blush so easily. His eyes were stinging again as he started to return to his paper when his gaze was caught by a stunning pair of deep blue, fluid eyes. They were looking back at him from the face of the new kid, who lounged causally in his seat and gazed at Lonny. Lonny's breath caught as the kid held his eyes, and something in that stare began to calm Lonny's nerves, drowning out the rest of the classroom and everyone in it.
He gazed at the boy, unable to look away from his penetrating eyes, as he began to recite the poem once more. He knew the words by heart, they were his heart.
“I saw your beauty
Through all your scars
I felt your pain
Wished I could heal them all.”
Lonny's pulsed raced as the boy's intense eyes pulled at him, drew him in. The boy seemed to be urging him to continue, to forget about everything and everyone...and just give in to the real emotion of his words, connect with his heart. Lonny's eyes began to burn with tears and he wasn't sure why as he went on.
“I gave you my love
My heart and my soul
If it were possible
I would've given more.”
He could feel the tears sliding down his cheek, could even feel the ridicule of his classmates. A part of him wanted to flee the room, run from the humiliation of his intense emotions. But he couldn't move. Couldn't stop looking at the boy. Couldn't stop reading his heart aloud.
“When I held your hand
I felt love in your touch
When we had to let go
It hurt me so much
I still think about you
Wonder where you are
Do you think of me too?
Remember me at all?”
A smile touched the boy's lovely lips, just the slightest shade of pink. Lonny's throat felt like it was full of cotton. Tears dripped off his jaw and onto his t-shirt. He didn't know if Jack and the others were laughing at him. He couldn't hear anything but the fierce pounding of his own heart as he lost himself in the boy's liquid blue eyes.
“Do you ever wonder
What might have been?
Do you stop and consider
Every now and then?”
Somehow, Lonny's gaze pulled away from the new kid. He stared at the last four lines of his poem. The words swam across the paper. A sudden, crippling ache squeezed his chest until he could hardly breathe. He tried to say the last four lines but the words wouldn't come.
“Lonny?” Ms. Welch spoke soft, low. “Are you finished?”
Lonny raised his head slowly as he became fully aware of the classroom of students again. He swiped quickly at his wet face, his cheeks scorching hot and feeling humiliated and embarrassed by his uncontrollable emotions. All the snickers and giggles filled his head like beating drums and he hurriedly folded the paper in half.
“Yeah.” He mumbled and walked quickly back to his desk, keeping his eyes averted from the new kid and everyone else. His hands shook as he dropped into his seat and folded the paper a couple more times. He gripped it in his tense fists, crunching the paper as he struggled to calm his racing heart.
Across the isle, Jack said something to him, too low for the teacher to hear. But Lonny didn't hear his words. His ears were ringing again and felt if he stood back up right then, he would pass out. His eyes lingered on the boy in front of him, and rather than grow calm, his pulse quickened more. Though the boy was facing forward, Lonny could still see his intense blue eyes, feel the way they had looked right into his soul, it seemed. The sudden urge to touch the boy nearly overwhelmed him. He just wanted to feel the warmth of his skin, taste the sweetness of his kiss...
Lonny gasped soft and sharp, and stabbed his eyes down to his desk. Startled and a little frightened by the intensity of the emotions this boy ignited in him. He didn't even know the kid, and yet...he longed to be near him, be touched and held by him. He didn't understand it and it was starting to scare him a little. How could he be feeling this way?
As if sensing his silent desires, the boy shifted in his seat then shrugged out of his jacket. He turned just then to hang the jacket on the back of his chair and caught Lonny staring at him. Lonny's eyes widened a fraction as once again the inferno heat rushed into his face. Getting a closer look at him this time, Lonny quickly took in every detail he could before the boy turned away; the extra dark rim around his deep blue irises, thick black lashes that looked like he had applied mascara yet were completely natural and somehow avoided looking girlish on the boy as Lonny's thick lashes appeared on him. The slight pucker to his lower lip that was a shade darker pink than his upper lip. The smile that consistently tugged seductively at the corner of his mouth.
“Cool poem.” The kid said suddenly, startling Lonny.
By the time Lonny found his voice, the kid had turned around and was facing forward again. Without his jacket, Lonny could see more of the kid's neck and shoulders. His skin was a deep bronze, as if he'd spent a lot of time in the sun. He didn't detect a tan line at the nape of his neck, and as the boy raised his arms and locked his fingers behind his head, Lonny could see the deep tan of his arms pouring up under his short sleeves. He'd spent a lot of shirtless time in the sun.
The temperature in the classroom seemed to increase a few degrees almost instantly. The boy was well built. His t-shirt hugged his back and shoulders, giving clear definition to his developed muscles. Lonny tried to swallow through his dry throat. He needed a drink of water badly. A tingling, needling sensation was creeping to the surface of his skin all over his body. And to his horror, the crotch of his jeans were growing tight. He glanced quickly at the clock. Fifteen more minutes before the bell. If he left his seat sporting evidence of arousal, it would just be more ammo for Jack's assaults.
Lonny took a deep breath and released it real slow. He pulled his eyes from the boy and stared down at his desk. He closed his eyes and breathed deep and slow. He tried to conjure images that would cool the heat inside him, but even with his eyes closed, he could smell the boy's cologne mixed with the faint scent of sweat, which somehow made it even more torturous.
Please, Please, God. His hands were clenched into tight fists as he struggled to regain control and force his body to comply with his wishes. At times like this, he truly envied girls. They didn't have to worry about getting turned on in public and having the whole world see. Short of hardening nipples, which could be easily concealed, they were visually safe.
“You really are a fucking fag.” Jack nailed him with the remark, disgust in his voice.
Lonny glanced a this quick then turned away without responding. He squeezed the folded paper tighter in his fists and fought against the fresh well of tears threatening to flow.
“Jack? It's your turn.” Ms. Welch nodded at Jack.
Grinning, Jack slid out of his seat and grabbed his own paper. He shot Ashley a sly look as she snickered and glanced at Lonny.
“You'll love this.” She told Lonny.
Jack sauntered to the front of the room and turned to face the class, a smirky grin on his face. He stuffed one hand in the front pocket of his jeans and held his paper with the other.
“This is called 'God's Order'.”
Lonny's guts tightened as Jack looked straight at him and smirked again.
“In the beginning, God created Adam. He then gave him Eve. That was the plan.”
The folded paper squeezed in Lonny's fists. Ashley and some other students snickered again and Lonny could feel their eyes drilling into him. Now, more than ever, he wished he could disappear, become invisible.
Jack continued. “Man and woman, husband and wife. The two shall be one, for all of their life.”
Lonny squeezed his eyes shut as his chest tightened.
“There was no other option. No other way. It was not God's will, for men to be gay.”
Ms. Welch stepped forward a bit, her face tight. “Jack, I don't think this is appropriate-”
“It was an abomination, a filthy sin.” Jack went on, ignoring her. “For the disgusting act of men laying with men.”
“Jack, that's enough.” The teacher insisted. “You can take your seat now.”
Jack glanced at her and smirked but finished anyway. “Because in the beginning, it was just Adam and Eve. No queers in the garden, by the name of Steve.”
The classroom exploded with laughter and clapping. Lonny's throat swelled and knotted. Tears burned like fire in his eyes. The new kid sat motionless in front of him. He wasn't laughing, or clapping. He remained silent. Untouched. Unaffected. Must be nice, Lonny thought, suddenly bitter.
“That's enough!” Ms. Welch's voice raised as she addressed the class, then turned to Jack. “Sit down, Jack. That was entirely unacceptable.”
Unacceptable. Was that what it was?
You could bet Mr. Fucking All-Star wouldn't have to answer for it, though. Quarterback versus Queer Bait...yeah, the faggot would be defended. In Texas? Not fucking likely.
Lonny didn't look up as Jack came back down the isle, feeling his desire for Lonny to raise his eyes so he could see Lonny's humiliation resonating out of him. When he paused by the new kid's desk though, Lonny chanced a discreet glimpse.
“Was my poem cool too?” Jack sneered, his words dripping with sarcasm.
The kid looked at Jack, held his eyes firmly, unwavering. He said nothing, just stared at Jack with dull eyes. Jack looked away and returned to his seat, high-fiving one of his friends in the opposite isle, both laughing.
“Fucking awesome.” His friend chuckled, too low for the teacher to hear.
Jack glanced at Lonny. “Guess your boyfriend didn't like my poem as much as yours.” He smirked. “Not queer enough.”
Lonny stared a this desk, unresponsive, eyes glistening, throat working as he struggled to swallow his tears. The bell rang loud and shrill, making Lonny jump a little. The other students lunged from their seats and poured to the front of the room towards the door.
A stinging slap connected to the back of Lonny's head as Jack left his desk.
Lonny jerked away and glared at him hard, more tears filling his eyes.
The new kid stood just then and grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair. He stared at Jack with hard eyes. Huffing up, Jack took a step towards him.
“Got a problem, faggot?”
The kid continued to stare at Jack as he slipped into his jacket. Again, Jack broke eye contact first. He slipped his arm across Ashley's shoulders as they left the room with their friends.
Lonny didn't move. Didn't look at the kid though he could feel him staring down at him. He bit his lower lip hard as a tear slid down his cheek.
Just go away. Stop looking at me. Stop pretending you even see me.
“See ya 'round.” The kid's low, deep yet soft voice dropped the words down on Lonny like a warm breeze.
When Lonny finally glanced up, the kid was walking away and disappearing out the classroom door.