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Stay Free

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“I am coming back in two hours, swear to God Maxine if you exceed that time-”

“There will be consequences? Yeah I know” Max rolled her eyes and reached for the door.

“Hey!” Billy grabbed her leg “don’t give me that attitude” he snarled, Max ripped her leg out of his grip and scrambled out of the car, slamming the door behind her. Billy rolled his eyes and grabbed a cigarette from the Glove compartment and lit it quickly, revving his engine loudly and shooting away from in front of the arcade.

It was turning to autumn and the sun was just a little less warm, but a little more bright - Billy drove home, parking unevenly on the curb and slamming the car door behind him as he walked up to the front door. There was no-one home and he breathed a quiet sigh of relief, deciding to do a workout before picking up Maxine again.

The time passed quickly as he blared out some classic rock through the boombox and before he knew it he had to put down the weights. Although he was only wearing track shorts and a tank, he couldn’t be bothered to change so he grabbed a towel and dabbed his sweat away before sliding his keys off the hall table. As he was opening the door, the phone rang loudly and he chewed his lip angrily, turning and slamming the door before striding over to the phone, it could be neil and he didn’t want repercussions for ignoring it. He answered abruptly.

“Billy?” a familiar feminine voice sang on the other end of the line, he faltered for a second.

“Mrs Wheeler” he put on a charming tone, though his face was pulled into a scowl.

“Hi Hunny, I just had to let you know that Max is here now and not the arcade, she needed to let you know - apparently something urgent came up, you know what kids are like” she giggled a little.

“Oh is that so Mrs Wheeler” he sighed a little “that's just fine, I’ll be right over to pick her up”. He hung up and slammed his boot into the skirting board, Maxine never followed basic instructions. It took fifteen minutes to pull up to the Wheeler’s house and he parked outside before tossing a hand through his hair, Mrs Wheeler opened the door before he even got there, she smiled at him softly, her makeup obviously fresh, her perfume only just applied.

“I’ll go get the kids” she smiled, “come inside if you like.” Billy didn’t, he stayed planted to the doorstep. Max came running up from the basement a minute later, she looked nervous and he squinted at her angrily before giving Mrs Wheeler a dashing smile.

“Thanks so much” he said with another fake smile. Maxine hurried to the car and Billy followed, getting in and starting up the engine. Maxine was staring out the window and Billy waited until they pulled into the main road before he spoke.

“What did I say?” he said stoically and Max grimaced out of the window. “What did I say?!” he screamed, slamming his fist on the steering wheel. Max flinched and turned to him.

“I’m sorry okay! I met the others and they wanted to go play at Mikes!” her eyes were wide and nervous, Billy turned to her.

“Don’t you EVER do that again, you can walk home in the dark if you do!” he screamed and she turned to look out of the window. “What did I just say?” he yelled.

“I won’t, I’m sorry” she whispered.

“You will be” Billy muttered, speeding up so he could get out of her irritating presence. They arrived home and Max stormed up to the house with tears in her eyes. Billy cringed when he noticed Neil’s car in the driveway and he walked up slowly, following Max through the door. Susan was on the sofa with a glass of water and Neil watched from the fireplace as Maxine stormed past.

“What did you do?” Neil asked accusingly, jabbing a finger in Billy’s direction.

“Nothing!” Billy shouted, storming to his room and slamming the door behind him. He grabbed a cigarette and lay on his bed, lighting it and inhaling deeply. It was dark outside and he switched on the side lamp kicking his legs up onto the bed, reaching for the side he flicked up the switch to his stereo and ramped up the volume. Loud guitar and drums boomed through the room and Billy tossed his head against the pillow, the door slammed open and Billy flinched.

“Don’t fucking ignore me!” Neil shouted, striding over to the bed - Billy sat up and flinched. “What did you do to upset your sister?” he seethed.

“I didn’t do anything!” he answered loudly, looking anywhere but Neil’s face. He hesitated, regretting the words before they even left his mouth “and she isn’t my sister”. Neil, his face contorted into one of anger, grabbed him by the shoulder and dragged him into standing position and slammed him against the wall. Billy groaned, feeling his stomach drop as his father stared at him with anger.

“You learn to respect your mother and your sister - don't you ever” he smashed his head back against the wall “ever” and again “use that attitude with me again boy” Billy defiantly held his chin up.

No weakness. No crying. Billy repeated in his head. Don’t prove him right - a pussy for a son.

“What do you say!” his father yelled in his face, spit flying from the corner of his mouth.

“Sorry sir” he whispered, clenching his jaw tightly in an attempt to keep the tears at bay. A fist came in contact with his face, his head smashed back against the cupboard shelf again and pain swelled into his cheek. “Sorry sir!” he said clearly, not needing to be asked again. Neil left it at that, thankfully and Billy waited until Neil disappeared around the corner - only then did he let his face contort into pain and he smashed his fist against the wall again and again, hating himself for the hot tears that spilled from his eyes.

Turning, he saw Max standing outside of the doorway with wide eyes, looking nervous. He furiously stormed over and slammed the door in her face. The whole wall shook and he fell on the bed, wiping his eyes before turning his music up even louder.

The next morning, Billy woke up to stinging pain in his cheek and an ache in his fist. It was raining outside and Billy swung his legs over the edge of the bed, still dressed from yesterday so he quickly pulled off his shirt and switched it for a white one. He looked into the mirror and cringed at the dark bruise that had formed on his cheekbone, spreading to his hairline. His fists were fucked up too and he was glad in a way, at least people would just assume he got into a fight.

Grabbing a denim jacket, he slid it over his torso and adjusted his curls at the front of his head. Maxine was waiting by the door and he stumbled past her with his keys in his hand. Maxine hurried behind, he yanked open the door to his Camaro and slid inside - Maxine followed and he could feel her eyes on the flowering bruise on his cheek.

“Fuck off” he mumbled, not in the mood to scream and shout - grabbing a cigarette from his jacket, he swerved out of the driveway. School was buzzing with people and Billy sighed as he looked out as they milled past like ants to an ant hill. He couldn’t wait to be talk of the school, Billy Hargrove in another fight, Billy crazy fucking Hargrove and his uncontrollable rage.

He scowled at anyone who stared at the large bruise on his face and carried on with his day. Sports was first and he was not in the mood, however changed into his shorts and put on a good face. The game was going well for his side, he pushed and shoved his way past Harrington who was in defence for the other team and scored again and again. Billy could see the anger building in Steve's face but chose to carry on.

A final shove and another successful basket, the whistle blew and they had won. "Too bad, Harrington" he taunted "maybe next time" he smirked and stalked off to the changing room. The boys gathered in the shower and Billy let the steam ease the ache his bruise was omitting.

"Nice shoving out there" Harrington took the shower opposite "great tactic to win" he added angrily. Billy rolled his eyes. "You know maybe if you actually tried winning fairly, you would get some satisfaction out of it"

"So bitter about losing are we King Steve, oh I'm sorry - I thought I was being rather gentle" he smirked, obviously irritating the other. Harrington glared at him.

"You're just a cheat" he hissed and Billy turned to face him.

"And you? You're just a pussy" billy added with a large smile. "So scamper away like little pussies do, I'm bored" Billy dismissed him just like that. Steve glared at him.

"No wonder someone socked you in the face, had it coming you shitsack" Billy reacted to that, bringing up his bruise wasn't cool to Billy, not at all. He spun round and shoved Harrington to the wall, punching him in the nose. Steve recoiled and looked at him, shocked before retaliating with a punch of his own.

Billy ducked and lunged at him with his whole body. The boys of the team had gathered round now and were cheering them on. It only lasted a few more seconds before coach stormed in blowing his whistle. "Split it up" he shouted, grabbing Billy by the shoulders and yanking him back. Billy gave up immediately, knowing defeat and he glared at Harrington who was being held back by one of the guys from the team. Billy looked away and chewed on his lip furiously, wanting nothing more than to strangle the boy in front of him.

They sat in the principles office sourly, neither speaking, Billy holding a bag of frozen peas from the school kitchens to his forehead where Steve had knicked him. The principle stared at them sternly, his glasses perched precariously on the bridge of his nose. "Fighting" he started, glaring at the two boys "is unacceptable - physical violence on the school premise is conpletely beyond code. Now I don't care if you kill eachother at a party, I care if you start a brawl in my changing rooms" Billy winced at the tone, finding familiarity to his fathers.

"I am sending a call home" his head shot up and fear filled his eyes, only for a second before he replaced it with a stoic glare. Steve looked relaxed, he didn't seem to care - typical mommy's boy with his perfect parents and relaxed attitude, thought Billy - he wouldn't even get scoulded. "And the two of you are on cleaning duty in the gym for the next two weeks." Finished the principle, Billy scowled, realising that meant more time with the fuckwit. "Dismissed".

They stood and left in file, both turning opposite directions when they got to the corridor. The day dragged on and by the time it came for Billy to go the gym he decided he didn't care about the schools repercussions and so he left with everyone else, leaning on his Camaro causally as he waited for Max to appear. She looked surprised to see him.

"I thought you were on cleaning duty, got into another fight?" it was rhetorical and Billy scowled before getting into the car.

"Well I'm not" he said flatly, running a hand through his hair. Max looked concerned but knew if she said what she thought would happen if he didn't go, it would turn into a screaming match. So with no conversation, they sped towards home.

The day eased on and Max stayed in her room, hearing Billy working out in the living room with his loud music. She was concerned, not because she thought Billy would get in trouble with school, more with her step dad. She wasn't an idiot, she heard the swearing and banging. The afternoon swung into evening and soon she was being called for dinner, Billy was in his room as usual, he only ate with them when forced and today was one of those days. Her stepdad called him loudly and he shuffled out of his room, looking jittery.

The conversation was forced over dinner, Billy ate quickly and stared at the table, Susan attempted to lighten the mood but when she manages to crack a small joke, the phone pierced through with its harsh ringing tone. Max noticed Billy stiffen considerably and his posture hunched over as her step dad sauntered to the phone and picked up.

The conversation was brief, full of "I understand" and "we're so sorry about him". The phone was hung up and a deafening silence filled the room. Maxine looked nervously at Billy who looked stoic as usual. "Another fight" Neil said, emotionless. Max played with her food nervously. "Then you skip your repercussion" he slammed his fists down on the table in front of Billy, making her flinch. "Will you do NOTHING right" he screamed. Billy wouldn't make eye contact and a harsh slap sounded round the room.

"Max go to your room" Susan ushered. Max watched as Neil clutched Billy's jaw. Billy was staring up at Neil defiantly - her mum forced her to her room. As Susan shut the door she heard a loud thump and she ran to her bed.

The noise did not stop for a good twenty minutes, it was just Neil screaming obscenities at Billy, then thumps and scrapes. Max plugged her headphones in eventually, not wanting to hear it anymore. She told herself that Billy had it coming, he was always such an asshole, he deserved it - but deep down she knew it wasn’t true.

The next morning, Max readied herself for school, fixing her hair and packing her backpack before wandering to the kitchen for breakfast. There was no loud music today and Max milled over her cereal nervously, when it became time to leave, she stood and approached Billy’s door hesitantly. She knocked gently, scared that he would shout at her. There was no answer.

Extremely hesitantly, she pushed the door open. “Billy?” she whispered. The light was futally attempting to push through the patterned tapestry covering the large windows, casting a warm dark tinge over the room. Max fixed her eyes on the bed, all she could see was a giant heap of blankets and a socked foot sticking out from underneath. “Billy” she repeated “Sh-should I walk to school?” she asked hesitantly.

The blanket shifted but she got no answer, Billy slumped back into the bed and she turned, grabbing her skateboard and shutting his door before leaving for school.

The house was quiet when Max got home, she had gone to the arcade after school with Lucas and Dustin and only her mum was sitting at the table with a cup of tea. She looked up and smiled as she came in “hey darlin”. Max gave her a tight smile before disappearing to her room. The night passed slowly, they ate dinner without Billy - it was awkward and tense and Max escaped to her room as quickly as possible.

The next morning, she got up early, realising that she may have to skateboard to school again - she sat at the table with her cereal and stared glumly out of the window. A minute later her head shot up as she heard Billy’s door creak. He shuffled out of his room, a white long sleeve pulled over his arms, he hung his head low, his curls were hiding his face. Max watched as he limped painfully over to the fridge, he yanked it open and grabbed a carton of milk, taking a swig before putting it back, he took a bag of frozen vegetables and held it up to his eye with a deep groan. Then he turned and max got a glimpse of his face, she choked on her cereal.

His face was unbelievably battered, one eye swollen out of shape and dark bruises adorned his countenance with a split lip and a cut running through his eyebrow. Max cringed at the sight and he glared at her before limping over to the table, collapsing in one of the chairs and Max could only assume the rest of his body was in the same condition as his face.

“Make some cereal” he commanded and Max jumped up, filling a bowl with the cheerios. She collected a spoon and set it next to him quietly before returning to her own bowl. Billy splashed some milk on before shovelling some cereal into his mouth, hissing as the cut on his lip split open again.

“A-are you okay?” Max asked, he paused for a second, glaring at her over the bowl before returning to his food and ignoring her question. She finished and cleaned her bowl before going to fetch her board.

“I’ll take you” Billy mumbled.

“You don’t have to” Max started.

“I said I’ll fucking take you” Billy snarled, standing up painfully. He limped back to his room and grabbed his keys and a bottle of water. Catching himself in the mirror he cringed heavily, seeing the state his face was in. His hair was a mess too, in unkempt curls around his head - there was no point running a comb through it, nothing was going to make his appearance any less gruesome, he didn’t want to go to the school premises but if he let Max walk to school again he was going to get beaten again.

Billy pulled his shirt down further and shook his head before limping back to the living area where Maxine was waiting patiently. They got into the car and Billy revved the engine loudly before pulling out, driving slower than usual, only because pressing down on the accelerator hurt his leg.

“Are you coming to school?” Max asked gently and Billy shook his head, he lit a cigarette as he drove and max stared out of the window, not knowing what else to say. The school was busy as per usual and Billy parked in his usual spot, letting Maxine exit before staring out at the passers by. He kept his head low and deposited of his cigarette butt out of the window before lighting another, wanting to sit still for a minute before driving away again.

As he inhaled the marlboro cigarette, he felt a tap on his window and he rolled his eyes before easing it down a notch. It was Harrington and he squinted up at him, seeing Steve’s face contort into one of shock. “What the fuck happened to you?” Steve questioned suspiciously.

“Been playing hookie, sorry you’ve been cleaning the gym all alone” he placed the cigarette between his lips again and sucked on the tip carefully, letting his arm hang on the edge of the car window.

“Well look, you can either have more work for yourself when you return or we can just do the two weeks together and have half the work, up to you” Billy felt Steve’s eyes on his swollen eye.

“I’ll come back tomorrow” Billy spat, he turned away and started the engine, not wanting Steve to look at his injuries anymore. Steve stood back and Billy reversed harshly out of the parking spot.