It all started in bubbly rainbow lettering, which was just fucking typical.
LGBTQ+ CLUB, FIRST MEETING TODAY!
QUEER? QUESTIONING? WE’RE HERE FOR YOU!
EVERY THURSDAY, 3:30-4:30 PM, MR. HULLUM’S CLASSROOM
That shit assaulted his very eyes with its preschool-esque, multicolored, hand-drawn letters, yet Michael couldn’t draw his gaze away from the garish sign adorning the bulletin board across the hall from his locker. There was only one kid in the entire school who could pull this fuckery off.
Michael had only talked to the guy a couple of times in Spanish, but he was rather famous around the school for being possibly the gayest gay to ever gay. He was heinously homosexual. Quintessentially queer. He was somewhat fashion-savvy, ridiculously overemotional, and had stupid flicky hair that looked like it had come straight out of a boy band magazine. And he was eccentric as dicks. Oh, and he was British. Of course, that only drew in more asshole jocks to push him around, but he took it all with a grin and a cheap innuendo.
In short, he was the stereotypical gay teenager. And nothing pissed Michael off more than stereotypes.
He let out a tiny sigh and turned back to his locker, tossing his math textbook into his backpack and slamming the metal door with a resounding clang.
Stupid fucking Gavin and his ridiculous motherfucking queer club.
He shouldered his bag and looked back at Ray, who was shuffling through a pile of mismatched bits of graphing paper. He pulled one crumpled sheet out at random and crossed his arms, watching Michael with those unblinking brown eyes of his.
“Yo, man, you okay?” Ray asked. “You kinda sighed there for a second.”
“Uh, I’m in school,” said Michael, shouldering his backpack with more force than probably needed. “What else am I supposed to do? Smile? Laugh? This place is the fucking kingdom of sighs, dude. The goddamn empire of exhales.” Ray laughed then, turning away from the peeling puke-green paint of the lockers. He caught sight of the bulletin board for half a second, then squinted, reading the words on the poster. Oh, please don’t mention it, please don’t-
“LGBT...Q?” Ray sounded out slowly, biting his lip. “Plus? The fuck does that even mean?”
Michael swallowed. “That must have been, uh, Gavin. Huh. Weird.”
“Right.” Ray jostled him with a sharp elbow, all sarcasm and snide humor, as they made their way to the math classroom. “Ha, you gonna join?”
The tiny silver cross on its tiny silver chain was cool against his neck, but it seemed to burn into his skin in that moment.
“Why the fuck would I? I’m not gay,” he answered, the lie rolling too easily off his tongue.
Because, the fact of the matter was, God be damned, good Christian values be damned, Michael Jones was gay. That was it. He liked dudes. He was a good Christian boy, and he was gay. Ever since seventh grade- and that cute boy in his Sunday School class- he knew he was pretty much screwed for the rest of his youth. Whoop-de-fucking-do.
Of course, no one could ever know about it. Not even Ray. There were reasons for that, really fucking good ones. There was no way he’d tell anyone, not ever. It was all too fucking risky. He was dancing around a secret that he couldn’t afford to let leak.
Ray simply shrugged. “Whatever. Sounds dumb, anyway. Hey, can I copy off your math homework? I kinda.. forgot about it.”
“Hey! It isn’t my fault Mr Sorola’s voice makes me tired! It’s just so gravelly, man...”
Michael swore that the clocks in the school were all broken. There was no way the second hand could be that slow. No fucking way.
Mr Burns droned on about the Vietnam War and the effects of napalm on the country’s development and blah blah blah it’s all in the past anyway nobody fucking cares.
The whole class period, Michael had been thinking about the club. Gavin’s gay club. It would be a really shit idea to go, but he had to admit he was kind of drawn to it. Even though it would probably be just a couple of social justice warriors and maybe a confused freshman or two, it would be cool to meet other people like him. But he didn’t know the first thing about queer rights or whatever, so it wasn’t like he’d contribute much. And he didn’t want to deal with anyone getting on his case about coming out.
The minute hand of the clock finally ticked to 3:15, and the classroom erupted into a million conversations. Michael high-tailed it out of the room, making his way to his locker before the halls got too crowded. He pulled out whatever textbooks he needed for tonight’s to-be-forgotten homework, then was faced with the two directions of the hallway. On one hand, he could turn right, go out the main entrance and head home- or he could go left, towards Mr Hullum’s classroom and confessions and terror and his only chance at acceptance.
Without thinking he found himself walking left, cursing under his breath the whole way.
“Fucking Gavin Free and his stupid asshole club and his shitty rainbow signs...”
He got to the English classroom in record time, going the opposite direction of the frenzied flow of students all desperate for freedom from the suffocating hallways.
His phone buzzed as he rounded the corridor towards the English classroom and he stopped to check it.
[3:23:09 PM] Ray: duuude where are you?? we were supposed to walk home together
“Fuck,” he muttered, leaning against a locker as he replied.
[3:23:42 PM] Michael: shit, sorry!! mom picked me up :((
[3:24:38 PM] Ray: its cool bro
[3:25:16 PM] Ray: tmrw?
[3:25:49 PM] Michael: tomorrow, i promise
[3:26:18 PM] Ray: cool beans
Michael slipped his phone into his pocket, feeling a strange tingle of excitement travel up his spine as he stopped outside the door. This was the closest thing to a sin he’d done, his first step towards Hell. Deep breaths. You can do this.
Apparently, Hell was an empty classroom. He peered in through the transparent panel in the door, but the place looked completely deserted. Not even Gavin himself had showed. Figures. I get up the courage to a) come out to other people and b) actively join a school club, and it’s a fucking no-show. Just fucking typical.
Michael grumbled to himself and pushed open the door, collapsing into a chair and tossing his bag onto the ground. Is this what my life has deteriorated into? Missed opportunities and empty fucking classrooms?
At 3:31 exactly (Michael knew this because he’d just checked his phone for the eighth time in five minutes), the door opened again with a low, drawn-out creak, and he reluctantly picked up his bag, expecting a janitor or a teacher to kick him out for staying late.
“Oh, bloody hell.”
Gavin Free had stalked into the room. He was clutching one of his crumpled posters in a clenched fist, and he was fuming. It was the first time Michael had seen him actually, properly pissed, and not oi you spilled your food on my skinny jeans don’t you know these are designer sort of pissed.
“Uh, hi,” Michael mumbled.
“One person? Seriously?” Gavin wasn’t even looking at him, pacing in frustration. “The work I put into this bollocking club, posters and talking to Mr Hullum and everything, and one person shows up? Christ. Christ,” he rambled.
“Hello?” Michael tried again, waving this time. Nothing. “Hey? Dickhead? You alive?”
That made Gavin turn his head. He narrowed his eyes, looking Michael up and down, almost examining him. His gaze softened, and a cocky grin slid onto his face. Michael hated that cocky fucking grin.
Be nice to him, asshole, he scolded himself. You’re the only guy that showed up to his stupid club, he’s probably really broken up about it.
Wait, did I just think that?
“Right. Well,” said Gavin, seemingly taken aback. “I’m Gavin Free, president of this club- though, I suppose it’s not much of a club if it’s just the two of-”
“Gavin. Shut up. I already know who the fuck you are.”
Gavin made a noise between a sigh and a tut, pulling up another chair.
“So,” he started. “Michael Jones, right?”
He nodded. “Before you ask, yeah, I’m, uh, I’m gay.” That was the first time he’d said it out loud. It felt unfamiliar on his tongue.
“Um, yeah. As the fourth of fucking July.”
Gavin raised his eyebrows. “Never expected you.”
The fuck is this guy’s problem? “So you think because I don’t like ballet or scarves or Lady friggin’ Gaga I’m not as gay as you are?”
“Fucking fight me, asshat.” This guy was seriously starting to get on Michael’s nerves. Then again, it didn’t take much to set off his fuse these days.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean..” Gavin trailed off. He groaned. “Sorry. It’s been a long bloody day.”
“We’ve all had long days,” Michael snapped. “Doesn’t mean you can be a dick about it.”
Gavin ran his hand through his stupid hair, and Michael swore his hands were full of fucking glue or something because somehow he got it to be even spikier than it already was. “I said I was sorry, alright? So, down to business...” He unzipped his Union-Jack patterned backpack because of course Gavin Free has a Union-Jack patterned backpack the British prick and drew out a plain notebook. He flipped to a page filled with bullet points and notes and cleared his throat.
“So, first things first, roll call.”
“You’re a dick.”
Michael huffed. He was so fucking done with this bullshit. He shouldn’t have come at all. “Stop with this.. club thing. It’s just the two of us and it’s gonna just be the fucking two of us today, so you don’t need to do a roll call, or any shit like that. Why don’t we just.. talk, or something?”
“Yeah, uh, talk. Like, fuck, when did you figure out when you were gay?” Gavin opened his mouth to answer but Michael interrupted before he could say anything. “And if you say ‘the day I was born’ I will slit your goddamn throat.”
Gavin chuckled. “Alright, mate, chill.” He leaned back in his chair, stroking his chin as if he actually had to think about it. “I think I must have been about eight, I think? My mum has this home video of me toddling around our flat in Oxfordshire wearing this pink feather boa and singing some show-tune I heard on the radio.” He chuckled, and Michael almost gagged. What a fucking twink.
“But what about you?” Gavin prompted, taking a swig from his water bottle. “When did you, er, figure it out?”
“Seventh grade,” he replied, grimacing. “I was at Sunday School- you know, Bible study and all that- and the new kid in my class was.. well, he was hot as dicks. Course, that happened to be the exact same lesson we learnt about the sin of homosexuality, or whatever.”
“Yeah, he was there, too,” Michael deadpanned. “Didn’t have much to say about it, though. Almost like he never actually said anything about gays at all.”
Gavin burst out laughing. “Aw, Michael, you’re funny when you’re all snarky like that,” he said, grinning toothily. Then his face fell. “Wait, so your family’s, like, uber-religious, then?”
“Yeah, which is sort of.. complicated.”
“Hey, at least they haven’t kicked you out or anything,” Gavin pointed out, but Michael shook his head.
“That’s because I haven’t come out to them yet. I don’t think I ever will.”
Gavin’s eyes widened to an owl-like roundness. “What? You’re going to hide away this huge part of yourself, just like that?”
“It’s not like it’s hard.” Michael wasn’t really bugged by it. It’s not like they needed to know. He’d much rather hide than be homeless.
“Huh.” Gavin, the dumb asshole, still seemed confused. “Good luck with that.”
The pregnant pause in the conversation was conveniently broken by Michael’s phone ringing, the peppy, electronic video game music emanating from his pocket.
“Hang on a sec, I gotta take this,” he said as soon as he saw the name on the screen. Mom. He turned away from Gavin, swiping open the call. “Hello?”
“Michael, where are you? You were supposed to help me paint the fence today!”
“Ah, um. Sorry. I totally forgot- I’m at Ray’s house,” he lied. “We’re doing some math homework.”
“Well, come back as soon as you can, and don’t go anywhere without telling me again, okay?”
“Yeah, yeah. Alright, mom. See you soon.” He hung up and turned back to Gavin, shrugging apologetically. “Sorry, dude. Gotta run.” He was sort of glad for the excuse. This whole thing, with Gavin, was just getting weird and awkward and too close for comfort. He liked the guy well enough, but he could get a little... personal.
“What?” Gavin squeaked- yeah, he literally squeaked, the prick- “But you just got here!”
“And my mom is a bitch,” said Michael, shouldering his backpack.
Gavin pouted. “Come on, we haven’t got to the bit where we talk about systematic oppression and the use of homophobic slurs!”
“Sorry, man.” Michael was already halfway out the door. “See you next week.”