Baz looks so calm. How the fuck does he do it? Here I am, slumped over the table groaning, and he’s casually eating his roast beef sandwich. Ignoring my pain. The cool, collected bastard.
“C’mon, Simon, you have to eat.” Penelope snatches one of Baz’s salt and vinegar crisps and holds it over my mouth.
“Hey!” Baz snaps. “Those are mine!”
“Shush, Basilton. Didn’t you learn to share in Year 1? Now c’mon, Simon, stop being mopey and eat the crisp.”
I open my mouth. Penny groans but feeds it to me anyway.
“I don’t know why I put up with you sometimes,” she grumbles.
“Why the long face, Snow?” Baz asks. (He always calls me by my middle name. He thinks it’s funny.) (His sense of humour is weird.)
“You know why, Baz.”
Baz rolls his grey eyes, looking more than a little annoyed. “Fucking hell, not this again. It’s just a dance!”
I plant my chin on the table and pout angrily at him. “Easy for you to say! You don’t want a date. Bloody hell, you don’t even want to go! I, on the other hand, actually enjoy other people’s company.”
Baz looks away and angrily bites into his sandwich. “I enjoy your company.”
“You and Penny tolerate me because our mums are all friends.”
“Oh stop that, Si,” Penny interjects. “You know that’s bollocks. The ‘pathetic kicked puppy’ look isn’t a good look on you. Quit it”
I lay my cheek on the table again, tracing a jagged patterns someone has etched into its surface. “I know, Pen, I know. It’s just, I was so looking forward to going with Agatha, but that all went to shit. So now I’m going alone and everyone will be staring at me and thinking ‘oh there’s poor Simon Salisbury, all alone after Agatha Wellbelove, the most popular girl in school, dumped him because he’s a terrible boyfriend. Poor soul.’ It will be awful.”
Penny shrugs. “You could always come with Micah and I.”
“And be your third wheel? No thank you. I’m pathetic, but not that pathetic.”
“Fine. Why don’t you go with Baz?”
“What?!” Baz and I yell in perfect unison. We straighten like rods are shoved into our spines. Baz is blushing profusely. He’s easily embarrassed sometimes.
Penny groans. “Not like that, you idiots. Go as friends. Just hang out together at the dance. Seriously, it’s not a big deal. Girls do it all the time.”
“B-But this would be different!” I sputter out. My tongue feels even more useless and loose than usual. (I have trouble finding the right words a lot.)
She gives me an unimpressed look over her spectacles. “Why? Because you’re both boys? Thought you were more progressive than that, Simon.”
“Hey! I am. It’s just, it’s Baz! It’d be weird, right?
Baz is intensely focusing on his sandwich. His expression is mostly blank but his eyes are wide and nervous. He just shrugs. “I guess. I wasn’t planning on going anyway.”
“See Pen? Moot point.”
Penny waves dismissively. “Fine, whatever. Go to the dance alone then. Or don’t go at all. It’s your choice.”
I sigh heavily. I think about going alone, or staying at home and scrolling through Snapchat stories of everyone at the dance. I flick my gaze over to Baz. He’s still focusing on his sandwich, but he slowly looks up and makes eye contact. His panicked expression softens a bit.
“It could be fun, I guess,” he says.
I nod slowly. “My mum could make us dinner.”
“I do like wearing suits.”
“I like dancing.”
“You can’t dance.”
“But I still like it.”
We both stare for awhile. I smile, and bit by bit, so does he.
“Well,” I say with a clap, “looks like I’ve got a date.”
Baz smirks, a little red still colouring his cheeks. (So easily embarrassed.) “What a coincidence. So do I.”
Penny rolls her eyes.
We wait in line in the foyer. I’m tapping his foot impatiently at Baz’s side. Baz is fidgeting, fiddling with his uniform sleeve and repeatedly pushing his glasses up his nose (they always slide down.) People talk around us. Chatting about dresses, suits, music, all that. I just hate standing here for so long.
“Ugh, how long is this going to taaaaake?” I moan.
“Calm down, you impatient git,” Baz says. “It’s the day before so lots of people are buying. Just hold your horses.”
I mockingly widen my eyes like a confused deer. “But I don’t have any horses, Baz.”
Baz rolls his eyes. He and Penny do that a lot with me. “You’re lucky you’re cute, Snow. Only handsome people get away with being so annoying.”
I nudge his shoulder. “Then I guess we’re both lucky.”
“Next!” The girl at the table shouts. I recognise that voice...
Agatha is smiling that supermodel smile she’s perfected over the years. But it falters when she sees Baz. I know she has a bit of a crush on him. (It not-so-secretly drives me crazy.) She looks at me briefly then away. I don’t blame her. It’s awkward for me too. I suddenly take immense interest in my Oxfords.
“Baz,” she says, “what a surprise. I thought you weren’t going.”
“I wasn’t. I am now.” I don’t know why Agatha likes him. He’s always so cold with her. He’s not even that cold with me.
“Oh. Well, we’ll be glad to see you there.” She takes his money and hands him a ticket. “Do you...have someone to go with?”
“Actually I do. Isn’t that right, Simon?”
I look up. Baz is grinning smugly. I smirk back. “You most certainly do, Basil. And we’re going to have a marvelous time.”
Agatha is frozen, just blinking rapidly at us. I offer my arm to Baz like a proper English gentleman. He takes it and nods at me. We walk away from a very confused Agatha with wide grins.
Once we reach the hallway, I can’t contain myself anymore. I burst out laughing. Baz joins in, though he only chuckles for a second. He doesn’t like to laugh uncontrollably like I do.
“Oh my god,”I choke out, “she is going to freak out! Holy shit the look on her face was priceless!”
“It was sort of funny,” he says calmly.
I slowly collect myself, wiping a tear from my eye. “Hoo, that made my day. Now we’ve got your ticket. All we need is to ask my mum to make dinner and drive us and...oh shit...”
Baz furrows his brow. “What is it?”
“I just remembered, the only suit I have has a huge hole in the sleeve.”
I rub the back of my neck. “Um, there was an incident with a not-so-nice dog.”
Baz sighs heavily, shaking his head. “Of course. Your need to pet strange animals will be your downfall.”
“He was cute, sue me. My mum was going to take me to buy a new one but neither of us have had time lately.”
Baz whips out his phone, dialing a number and putting it to his ear. I open my mouth to speak, but he puts one of his long fingers over my lip.
“Hello Mother,” he says cheerily. “Would you mind picking Simon and I up after school today? We have to go get him a suit. Yes, I agree, it’s important to help the needy.”
I stick my tongue out, briefly forgetting that his finger is there. Baz goes wide eyed, then makes a “yuck” face and rubs it off on his trousers.
“Thank you, mother. See you later.”
He turns the phone off with a smile on his face. “Looks like we’ve got two dates, Snow.”
Baz rarely genuinely smiles, and when he does, it’s a great sight. His usually smug face looks actually pleasant. I love it.
“Looks like we do, Basil.”
The drive to the store is giving me flashbacks to boy scouts, when Ms. Grimm-Pitch would take Baz and I to weekly meetings. We’d sing camp songs horribly until Baz’s mum got sick of it and turned up the radio to drown us out. But we stopped scouts in Year 9. And I haven’t been in this car since. So I just sit awkwardly in the back while Baz leans forward to debate politics with his mother while she’s driving. (Which seems unsafe.)
“I’m not saying you’re wrong, Mum. I’m just saying you’re not considering other viewpoints,” he says.
“I have considered the other side, Basilton,” she replies coolly, “I just don’t agree. My stance is firm.”
This is usual in the Grimm-Pitch family. Talking about tense topics with completely flat voices, like it’s just normal. If I started this kind of talk with my dad we’d be screaming at each other by now.
“Simon, love, do you have an opinion?”
Natasha’s voice snaps me out of my trance. “What?” I say stupidly.
“The current economic climate. Any thoughts?”
I shrug. “I dunno. Not really my forte.” That’s true. I know little to nothing about politics or the economy.
Baz’s face shifts for a second. He almost looks concerned, sort of sympathetic. But that quickly fades in favour of a smug smile.
“Well, what about that new Superman movie? I heard it was shite.”
I love Superman, and Baz knows it. And if it were anyone else I’d be right pissed. But it’s Baz, who likes to egg me on for fun. I return his smile with equal level of smugness.
“It’s not shite,” I respond. “It’s actually quite good. You see, there were some silly parts, like the whole ‘Martha’ thing but that distracts from the real struggle between a terrifying force of nature and a normal man fighting for earth. Well, not all normal with that armoured suit. It stems from the Dark Knight Returns comics, and...”
I keep blathering on and on. I’m have trouble finding good words. I rarely make complete sense. But I can rant incoherently for hours about stuff I like. Most people get annoyed eventually, even Penny. But Baz just looks with a lazy smile, letting me keep going. I don’t know why he lets me. Though I’m not going to ask him to stop.
“Now, you two got enough money?” Natasha asks.
Baz is leaning into the window. “Yes, Mum. Simon’s got permission from Miss Salisbury to use the emergency credit card. She sees a suit as an investment.”
Natasha chuckles. “Lucy certainly is a smart woman. And you’ll be home for dinner?”
“ Yes , mother. Now please go and pick up Mordelia from soccer. She’ll be cross if you’re late again and take it out on me.”
She sighs, then leans forward to kiss her son’s cheek. “Very well. Have fun, little puff. You too, Simon!”
I wave at her. “Thanks, Ms. Grimm-Pitch.”
She revs away down the street, leaving us in front of a nice menswear shop. It’s some hipster place Baz loves. I’m trusting his judgement. (Not sure how smart that is).
“Come along, Snow,” he says, grabbing my forearm, “let’s go shopping.”
He drags me into the store. It’s all minimalist and shit. Stark whites and grey furniture and coat racks made out of pipes. Baz keeps dragging until we’re at a particular rack filled with suits. He starts to slide them around, examining them from behind his glasses with analytical but pleased grey eyes.
“You’re having too much fun with this,” I mutter.
“I have a chance to improve your abysmal wardrobe, Snow. It's a dream come true.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Is that what you do in your spare time? Plot potential outfits for me that fit your approval?”
“Yes, on a blackboard with multi coloured chalk. How about this one?”
He pulls one out. It’s classic black with a bit of grey on the lapel.
I shake my head. “Nah. I’m not as into black as you, Mr. Emo.”
Baz rolls his eyes and puts it back. He pulls out a green one next, holding it over my body to see how it looks. I shake my head again, more vigorously.
“No way, I do not look good in green.”
“Our uniforms are green.”
“Exactly! And it makes me look stupid.”
“No it doesn't,” Baz mutters, then puts it back. He keeps shuffling, but suddenly stops. A wide, sort of mischievous grin spreads across his face. He grabs something off the rack and shoves it at me, pushing me to the changing room.
“You’re trying this on,” he says, “no arguments.”
I open my mouth to protest, but I’m already in the curtained stall before I can speak. I hold out the article in front of me. It’s a simple grey suit. It’s surprisingly unfancy for something Baz would pick. But maybe that’s the point. He picked for me, not him.
I change quickly, and nervously start to step out of the room. Baz is leaning against the opposite wall but comes to attention the second I’m out. I tug nervously on jacket sleeve. I feel silly. I don’t dress nice, not outside of school. But then I see Baz’s eyes go wide and lips fall open, like he’s in absolute awe. And for some reason, I don’t feel so awkward.
“Do I look good?” I say quietly.
He smiles that genuine smile, the one that makes the corners of his eyes crinkle. “You look stunning, Simon.”
Baz rarely gives compliments outright. He prefers sarcastic jabs and endearing insults in place of obvious affection. This feels like a ray of sunshine in the middle of winter. I smile back.
“Mum! Can you help me with my tie?”
I hear my mother’s dainty footsteps approaching from down the hall. She’s like a cat, very light on her feet. I used to joke that she could walk on air. She pops her head in through my open door, blonde curls falling around her freckled face. “Knot giving you trouble there, love?”
“Yeah. I haven’t had to tie a tie since I started year 9. I’ve never unknotted my school one.”
Mum shakes her head as she walks towards me. “You certainly find the most convenient methods to keep things simple.”
“Dad would call it laziness.”
Mum starts tying the knot, hands reaching across me. She sighs, tone annoyed. “Well, your father isn’t here now, is he?”
She’s right. Dad is far away, managing some fancy school where he can rule like the king he wishes he was. I don’t see him much anymore, which is probably a good thing. He’s proud, arrogant, demanding. Plus he hates Baz’s family. That I really can’t tolerate. What father hates his son’s best friend’s family? Baz says I’m probably better off without him, and I tend to agree.
“No,” I say happily, “he’s not.”
Mum finishes with the knot. She pulls it tight with a smile. “There, perfect.” She hugs around my shoulders lovingly. “Look at you! My lovely rosebud boy, all dressed up for a dance. You look marvelous.”
I grab her hands, squeezing them slightly. “Thanks, Mum.”
WIth that, the doorbell rings it’s bass chime. Mum grins and rushes off. She’s more excited than I am, honestly.
“Simon! Hurry up!” she shouts from the stairs.
I huff, and make my way to follow her. I stop at the top of the stairs.
Baz is in is favourite suit. That greenish-black one with a bit of silver. It fits perfectly, like it was made just for him. He’s got a blood pink tie on, knotted perfectly of course. He’s wearing his contacts instead of glasses, which makes his features look weirdly sharper. His hair is slicked back like a bloody black and white movie vampire. (I prefer it loose and falling in front of his face.) (But he still looks amazing.) He sees me, and that awestruck expression appears again. Though it quickly vanishes into a typical Pitch smug smile.
“Looking good, Snow,” he muses.
I walk down to meet him. “I bloody well hope I do. Or I’m never going to trust your judgement again.”
“Oh I need to go get my phone!” My mum says cheerily, racing off towards the kitchen.
Baz chuckles a bit, but his face falls back into awe when he looks at me. My stomach starts doing funny things. I’m nervous about going with him, I guess. (Or maybe I’m just hungry.)
“Simon,” he starts, under his breath, “I-”
“Found it!” Mum yells as she runs back in. Baz jumps back a couple feet, eyes wider than saucer plates.
“Now both of you stand next to each other,” she says. “I need a photo of this.”
“Muuuuum!” I whine.
“Shush, Simon. I need a picture. You boys just look so grown up.”
I sigh and relent, standing next to Baz. I throw my arm around his shoulder. He stiffens a bit, so I almost pull away. But then I feel his own arm go to hold my waist, and everything is okay.
Mum snaps a couple photos, grinning the whole time. “Oh Natasha will love these!”
Baz groans heavily, arm falling from my waist. (I feel sort of cold without him there.) “Please do not send those to her. She will literally have them printed and framed.”
“Tough toenails, Basilton. You eat my food, you deal with my pictures being sent to your mother. Fair’s fair.”
“She’s got you there, Baz,” I say, poking his shoulder. He flashes me a grey glare before shrugging out my arm.
“Well then, shall we eat? Because I don’t know about you, Snow, but I’m famished.”
I elbow his side. “You know I’m always famished.”
“Well then,” Mum says, “let’s eat! I didn’t make all that roast beef for nothing.”
We arrive a bit late. (I wanted an extra slice of roast beef.) So when we walk in, everyone notices. They see Simon Salisbury walking in, not with a pretty girl or his recent ex-girlfriend, but with Baz Pitch, notorious arsehole and one of his closest friends. Some just nod or shrug like it’s normal (they must think like Penny), but many are wide eyed and confused. I flick my gaze over to Baz. He looks nervous. He’s always worried about being judged by others. I offer my arm for the second time in two days. He gives me an odd look, but that quickly fades into happiness. He takes it, and we walk in.
I hear some astounded and derogatory whispers, but I tune them out in favour of focusing on Baz. I like him this near to me. He rarely lets people, even me, be this close. So I need to savour the time I have.
“Simon!” I turn to see Penny motioning at me. Micah is next to her, waving pleasantly.
We walk to them. Penelope is an unbelievably purple dress, made of layers of fabric. It’s outlandish, just like her. Micah’s got a nice powder blue suit. It’s a good compliment to Penny’s deep violet.
“Hi Pen,” I say, leaning over to kiss her cheek. “You look awesome. You too, Micah.”
“Thanks,” Micah replies kindly.
Penny bows dramatically. “Thank you Simon. Dear God, where’d you get that suit?! It's amazing!”
“Baz picked it out yesterday.” I nudge his shoulder. He looks away with a sheepish smile.
“Of course.” She nods once firmly. “Baz has much better taste.”
“Hey!” I pout at her, and she just pats my shoulder.
“You know I love you.”
I roll my eyes like they’re footballs in a tumble dryer. “Yeah yeah, I know.”
She turns to look at Baz. “And you look good too, Pitch.”
Baz nods at her. “Thank you, Bunce.”
These two have known each other since they were in diapers, yet they still insult sarcastically and refer to one another by last names. It’s weirdly amazing.
Penny grabs Micah’s hand. “Now, Micah and I are going to dance. I suggest you two join in on the fun.”
They rush off towards the dance floor giggling, leaving Baz and I at the tiny table. I turn to him.
“Wanna dance?” I say.
“As I’ve said, Snow, you can’t dance.”
“And as I’ve said, I don’t care. I still love it.”
He lets go of my arm (wow he hasn’t this whole time) and reaches for my hand. Our fingers lace together. Little jolts of sensation flare up my arm. It feels strange and wonderful.
“Then let’s go.”
Baz is fully correct: I am a terrible dancer. But I love it. I jump and move to the rhythm as best I can, thrashing about. Baz is much smoother. He sways his hips with the beat. He raises his arms up and moves them too. He looks so calm and cool and pretty. (Pretty? Where did that come from?)
The song ends, and the music winds down. It’s a slow song. I freeze immediately. My lack of dancing skills is even more apparent during these. Baz looks at me quizzically.
“You alright, Snow?”
I look down, shuffling my feet. “I, really don’t know how to slow dance.”
I hear Baz sigh, then I feel a hand being placed on my waist. I jolt upright. Baz is smiling softly.
“Put a hand on my shoulder,” he says. “And hold my other other one. Then we just, sway.”
I cautiously place my left on his bony shoulder. He offers his other hand, and I take it. And like he said, we just, sway. It’s surprisingly nice. I don’t know where to look though, so I look at the floor.
“Hey, you alright, Snow?”
I look up. Baz’s eyes are soft, filled with worry.
“Yeah,” I say. “Just, nervous and shit. Typical me stuff.”
Baz squeezes my hand. “You don’t need to be worried with me, Simon.”
It’s very rare he uses my first name, but I like when he does. It’s nice. It reminds me that he cares for me. Because he only seems to say it when it’s meaningful.
I lean my head forward, placing it on his shoulder. He inhales sharply. We’re very close together now, it’s a bit odd. But slowly, he leans his head down to lay on me. I can feel his smooth cheek on my hair. He’s just resting it there, pressing against the curls on top of my head. It feels...nice. It’s almost like what Agatha used to do, back when we were still okay. But so, so much better. My stomach does funny things again. Like I’m on an airplane that’s doing loop-de-loops. The silence is killing me.
“I bet Agatha is having a conniption right now,” I chuckle under my breath.
Baz stills, ceasing his swaying. He slowly moves his head upright. “Is that really all this is, Snow?” he mutters.
I pull my head back. Baz’s mouth is a thin line and his brow is knitted together. His eyes are very angry, but still sort cold in typical Baz fashion.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
He uses the hand that was on my waist to gesture between us. “This! What we’re doing right now, is this all just to get back at your ex? Are you just using me for petty revenge? Because I thought this night was for us. I thought I meant more to you than that.”
“That-That’’s not what I mean, Baz. Of course you mean a lot to me! You’re one of my best friends!”
His hands drop away from me. He clenches his fist open and closed, looking at the floor. He looks sad and angry and hurt all at once. “Is that all I am to you? A friend?”
“Yeah. What else would you be?”
Baz looks up, and he just looks...broken. Like something in him has been smashed. His eyes are wide and sad, his lips open a bit. He sighs heavily and turns away. “I’ve got to go.”
I reach out towards him. “Baz-”
He slaps my hand away. “Don’t, Snow. Just don’t. Not right now.”
He walks away quickly and quietly, leaving me alone on the dancefloor just as the song ends.
A thumping techno remix returns, and everyone starts jumping. I’m still frozen. What the hell just happened? Why was he so angry? I don’t know what I did. Which is not new. I tend to do stupid things and not realise it. But right now I’m very, very confused.
“Christ,” I mutter, “I’m starved.”
I march to the dismal snack area set up. There’s crisps and veggies, that sort of thing. Nothing substantial. I stuff some carrots drenched in ranch dip into my mouth. It doesn’t make me feel better like I hoped.
“Hey Simon,” a cheery voice says next to me.
I turn to see Trixie. She’s a nice girl with puffy hair, pointed ears, and freckles that almost look like sparkles. We used to call her Trixie the Pixie when we were little. We’re not friends but I see her a lot, considering she sits behind Baz and I in maths.
“Hi Trixie,” I mutter.
“What’s got you down? I swear there’s almost a dark cloud hanging over you.”
I shrug. “Baz is cross with me.”
“What about? Did you step on his toes while dancing?”
“No. I just, I made a joke about how Agatha would be freaked out by us dancing, and he got all miffed and accused me of just using him to get back at her. Which I wasn’t! I just thought it was funny, y’know? Then he asked if he was a friend to me and when I said yes he walked off. I just...I have no idea what I did wrong!”
I turn to look at Trixie, and she is staring at me like I’m the biggest moron on the planet. “Oh my god Simon...”
Trixie shakes her head. “Oh Simon, I thought coming to this dance with him meant you’d finally wisened up. But obviously not.”
“What do you mean?!”
“I mean, have you ever noticed the way Baz looks at you? Because I have. Sitting behind you makes it easy. The way he stares at you, Christ, you’d think you hung the moon.” She places a small hand on my shoulder. “I think he cares about you a lot, Simon. More than just a friend would.”
My head is spinning. I think I know what she’s saying, and it scares the crap out of me. “Are you saying that Baz...has feelings for me?”
She nods slowly. My stomach does things again, but it’s a hundred times worse. Like I’m being launched into space. I reprocess the last few days, the last few years . What I thought was just friendly behaviour from Baz suddenly becomes more. I remember the awestruck look at the shop. I remember the way he put his cheek on my hair. I remember all the times he snapped his head away when I turned to look at him, a bit of red on his cheeks. But most of all, I remember how hurt he look when I said we were only friends.
“Oh god,” I whisper. “I-I gotta go.”
Trixie pats my shoulder. “Yeah, I think you do.”
I grasp Trixie’s hand for a second. “Thanks, Trix.”
“You’re welcome. Now go!”
With that, I race off.
I know Baz will go where he always goes when he’s upset. I race across the football pitch, towards the Wavering Wood. (Baz and I named it that when we were kids.) It’s barely a wood really. Just a small collection of trees near our school.
He’s sitting under a tree, a cigarette between his long fingers. (He won’t quit no matter how much I beg him to.) His hair is loosened from its gelled hold, a couple of strands falling front of his scowling face. He hasn’t noticed me standing in front of him. Or he has and he’s ignoring me. Which is not unlikely.
“Baz,” I say softly. He doesn’t look up. “ Baz ,” I say again more firmly.
“Christ on a cross, what is it, Snow?” he growls.
I rub the back of my neck nervously. “Baz, I-- Uh, I should say- I”
“Spit it out Snow!”
“Urgh!” I kneel down so I can face him. His grey eyes are still cold, but I can see the hurt behind them. Of course he’s hurt. And it’s my fault.
“Baz, I don’t know-”
“Know why I’m pissed?” He roars. “You really haven’t figured it out? Christ I know you’re thick but this takes the cake.” He leans forward, sneering at me. “I’m gay, Snow! And I have stupid crush on you! Yeah, I’m a walking fucking cliche. I thought you finally felt the same way tonight but I guess I was wrong.” He slumps back against the tree, body limp and curled in slightly. “There, now you can make fun of me as much you want. You’ve already stomped on my heart and used me for your petty revenge. What worse can you do?”
I’m taken aback. Does he really think I’d do that? But the way he looks, I don’t think he’s talking sense. He’s spitting venom, just to protect himself. It’s what he does.
“I’m not going to do that, Baz,” I say. “I would never.” I reach forward with both hands. He flinches away slightly, but I hold his cheeks firm. I keep him facing me. I see the few tears falling from his eyes. “I’ve never turned my back on you before, and I’m not starting now.”
He tries to jerk away, but I won’t let him. His resolve breaks a bit. “Simon...” he says.
And I kiss him.
He inhales sharply, pulling away in shock. But quickly, he kisses me back, pushing his mouth on mine. He drops his cigarette and grasps my neck, clutching me with his long fingers.
I’m not sure what I’m doing. I just want him to stop talking like this. But honestly, it feels...right. Kissing Agatha had nothing behind it by the end, and really barely anything to start. But this, just a first kiss, feels like everything. My stomach does back flips over and over, pulse thundering in my ears. Baz’s lips are cold, soft, and intoxicating. They move against mine perfectly. I run my hands through his soft hair, grabbing a fistful to better shove his face into mine. Suddenly he pulls away.
“Sorry,” I say (I’m out of breath, it’s embarrassing.)
Baz sighs heavily. “No, Simon, it’s just...are you messing with me? Because if you are, please stop right now.”
I shake my head rapidly, moving to hold his shoulders. “No! I’m not messing with you, Baz. I never would.”
His hands slowly fall from my neck. “Then why did you kiss me?”
I shrug. “I wanted to, I guess.”
“For how long?”
“I don’t know. Probably not as long as you. But, I think for awhile. I just didn’t realise it until now.”
He raises an eyebrow. “Just now? Really?”
I shrug again. “You always say I’m unbelievably thick.”
He smirks, and I love it. It’s smug and happy and, deep down, very kind. Just like him. “That, is very true.”
I move to sit next to him against the tree. He turns to look at me. I reach forward to cup his cheek. He leans into it. “I’m serious, Baz. I like this, all of it. The kindness, the dates...the kissing. I mean, I’ve always liked being your friend, and I don’t want all that we’ve built to go away. But I also like being more than your friend.”
“What are you saying, Snow?” His voice is barely a whisper, filled with cautious hope.
“I’m saying I want to be your boyfriend.” I blurt it out before the words get caught in my throat. “Your, terrible boyfriend.”
Baz smiles softly, like he did before we danced. He leans into my touch. “You’re an idiot,” he says, but there’s no meanness in his tone. It’s his version of affectionate. “But you can certainly have, this, if you want.”
I stand outside the school. It looks looming now, weirdly. I mean, it's been literally two days since I was here, but it feels like an eternity. The whole weekend felt like a weird dream, and now I’m being thrown back into reality.
When I asked Mum to sleep over at Baz’s for the weekend, she didn’t hesitate to say yes. Probably didn’t think that we’d spend most of the time lying in his bed kissing. Well, not just kissing. We watched movies, ate snacks, and talked quite a bit as well. Baz admitted a lot of things. Like that he’s had a crush on me for three years, since we were 15, but never knew what to do about it. Which I understand. Crushing on your best friend is a fucking nightmare. And that he's never been with anyone else, so the kiss in the Wavering Wood was his first. I showed great restraint on my part and teased him only a bit. Then I kissed him again. And again. And again. Just because I could.
It's almost as if Baz manifests beside me. He looks like he does on any other day. Uniform perfect and pristine, black hair falling in his face, glasses perpetually sliding down his too long nose. Except that he's smiling brightly, more than I've ever seen him before. I show the same smile back.
“Hey,” I say, taking his hand on instinct.
He looks down at intertwined fingers with a furrowed brow. “Simon, are you really okay with people knowing? I wouldn't mind if you wanted us to stay a secret.”
I shake my head vigorously. “No. I told you, I'm not scared or ashamed. I like you, a lot. And I'm not gonna hide it. Is it okay with you?”
Baz’s face melts into that sunshine smile, and my heart skips a beat or two. “Yeah, it is.”
With that, we walk into the school, hand in hand. Some students notice, gawking and whispering. Baz hunches in a bit. This is what he told me he was worried about on the weekend, getting judged for being queer. So I glare at anyone staring and squeeze Baz’s hand reassuringly.
“Ignore them,” I say quietly. “They’re all fucking idiots.”
“Of course they are,” he replies, squeezing me back. “It’s just...hard.”
“I know. I’m here for you though, always.”
He flicks his eyes over, then tugs me a bit closer. “I know.”
We walk to our lockers, falling into familiar banter that lets us ignore people’s eyes on us. Baz walks me to my homeroom even though it’s in the exact opposite direction of his. We stop a few meters from the doorway. I take Baz’s other hand in mine.
“See you at lunch, yeah?” I say cheerily.
“Yeah,” he replies in an equally pleased tone. “See you then.”
I flick my eyes back to my classroom. More than a few people are watching us. I look back at Baz and raise a single brow. He takes note of our audience, and after a brief look of worry, a sly smile creeps across the face. It’s the one that always shows before he comes up with some dastardly scheme to get us extra sweets from my mum or prank one of his unwitting siblings.
But before he can act first, I grab his tie and yank him down until his mouth hits mine. He gasps sharply in surprise but quickly reciprocates. He smiles against my lips, hand moving to cup my cheek. It’s so soft my heart melts into a puddle. I let my fingers crawl up his neck, digging my nails into his nape. I really don’t want to let go.
We only break apart when the bell rings. We giggle together quietly. Like a couple of kids who are the only ones in on the joke.
“Bye for now, love,” I whisper, pressing one last peck to his lips.
“Bye for now,” he says almost wistfully.
He moves away, but our hands reach out and linger. When his touch falls away I sigh. I just watch him. How he moves so gracefully, being purposeful and poised. He's incredible. And he's all mine.
I spin on my heels to face my classroom. Most of my classmates are gawking at me. I walk in with my head held high and sit next to Penny. She hits my shoulder with a thwack.
“What the hell, Si?” She says, half annoyed and half amazed. “When did that happen?!”
I chuckle and nervously rub the back of my neck. “Uh, it’s sort of a long story.”
“Then you better tell me fucking all of it!”
I open my mouth to speak, but the teacher starts instructing. I pat Penelope’s hand, a sly, knowing, Baz-like smile on my lips. “I’ll tell you later.”
She points an accusatory finger at me. “You bloody well better, Salisbury.”
I try to pay attention to class. But my mind keeps wandering to other things. One thing, one face. That smile that makes my day brighter, that laugh that always makes me happy. It’s like how I’ve always felt around Baz multiplied tenfold. And it’s so much better.
Dear lord, I’m living a charmed life.