Gwyn stood, embarrassed, in his wrestling gear. He didn’t even have enough time to grab his sweats, and consequently he was standing – feeling pretty damned near naked – in nothing more than compression shorts which left nothing to the imagination, and wrestling shoes. He shifted from foot to foot in his Omniflex shoes and Ash snorted next to him. Well, it was all very well for him, he didn’t look like he was coming off just before the end of his stripper act.
The Principal stood before them, something like cold-hearted murder in his blue eyes. Heading on past sixty, having facial hair as neatly clipped and maintained as his suit, Principal Albion was terrifying most of the time; even when he appeared to be in a good mood.
But when they were pulled up side by side in front of him like this…
The last time Gwyn had gotten in so much trouble, a young boy had been expelled from the school and Gwyn had his heart broken.
‘Gwyn ap Nudd, you’re a star pupil, you’re not known for fighting. What were you thinking?’
Each line delivered with military precision.
Gwyn was used to that.
‘Sir,’ Gwyn said carefully, trying not to listen to the monologue of naked, naked, naked, naked, practically naked running through the back of his head. His compression shorts were a shiny dove grey, they really didn’t hide anything and Gwyn was pretty sure that Albion knew more about his dick than any Principal really had a right to. ‘He was the one who sabotaged Coach Davix’s car before the championships. I saw him. And I was going to-’
‘No, you fucking did not!’ Ash spat, sounding far more nasal than usual to the blood still oozing thick from his nose. Gwyn looked briefly down at his bloodied knuckles, then stared down at Ash.
‘Language,’ Albion reprimanded, and Ash made a hissing-whistling sound complicated by the fact that his nose was possibly broken.
Gwyn’s ribs were already starting to look like a Francis Bacon painting. He was lucky nothing had fractured. Probably because Ash had gone for his kidneys. Shit-kicking street rat.
‘Sir, I was going to go through the proper channels. I’d already reported it to Head of House. But- He was gloating about it in the change rooms, and I saw red.’
‘Glashtyn, is that true?’
‘Sir, come on, man. Look at me. Do I look like the kind of person who would-’
‘Do I need to get out your records?’
‘More like a rap sheet,’ Gwyn muttered.
‘Gwyn,’ Albion snapped, and Gwyn drew himself as straight as he could and wanted sweatpants, a robe, anything. It was okay when he was about to go out on the mat – but Principal Albion hung out with his dad. It was just…gross.
‘Gwyn’s a dick,’ Ash rumbled. ‘Sorry, sorry, language. I mean, what I really mean is that he just went at me. Like no provocation. I wasn’t gloating about anything. I just wanted to get changed and get back to dorm. My brother’s helping me study for a final. You know.’
‘Gwyn, you’re dismissed. I’m putting a note in your permanent file over this, but I won’t take any action until I’ve had a longer talk with Ash, here.’
‘Great,’ Ash muttered.
‘Do you want to be suspended again? I’m quite certain that losing that full scholarship will hurt your brother’s chances of a university education quite a lot.’
Ash said nothing at all, his whole body hunched in on itself.
Gwyn left, glad for the fact that it was late afternoon and most of his fellow students would be back in their dorms so that not many had to witness his – practically naked – walk back to the change rooms. Even so, as he made his way through the Murdock Academy of Excellence, he heard several wolf whistles from boys and girls alike, and looked up to see several hands and pointing fingers marking him out.
He glowered his way back into the now deserted change rooms and showered off quickly, barely wincing as the bruises shifted on his body. He’d dealt with far worse, though he could feel that it was going to dog him for the rest of the week. The sucker punch to the kidneys had been the worst. He rubbed at his lower back carefully, then sighed. Rubbing it wasn’t going to do anything, he just had to wait it out.
He dressed into his school issue sweats and jumper – House of Doves put him in the school colours of black and blue, along with the highlights of the pale grey they were known for. He was shaking water out of his hair as he took his backpack out of his locker, shoving his phone into his pocket and toeing into his sneakers as he went.
It was dark when he headed back to his dorm, and no one pointed and shouted at him now. He walked down streets lit with yellow lights, canopies hanging over him, hardly noticing the picturesque school.
He took those sorts of things for granted, after all.
Later that night, he stood in his private toilet, one hand resting on the wall and staring down into the bowl, grateful that he wasn’t pissing blood.
He’d dealt with that before too.
His phone rang at nine exactly, and he picked it up promptly, cancelling out the inane Hellogoodbye ringtone that Ondine had programmed into it – and refused to teach him how to change it again. He’d tried googling, but he was too lazy to look thoroughly. Consequently, the bouncy words ‘everything is debatable’ met the grim face of his father when he picked up the phone.
Not entirely debatable.
‘Dad,’ Gwyn said, highlighting a passage in his text and hardly knowing if it was significant. He closed his eyes and shook the remnants of rage out of his head. He’d wanted to destroy Ash. Really, Ash was lucky that Gwyn got dragged off him.
‘Is it true? Did you get in an altercation with Ash Glashtyn? Scum of the school?’
‘No- I mean, yes, but, Dad, I-’
‘If you can’t speak in an articulate sentence then you’d best not speak at all,’ his father snapped.
Gwyn slowly lowered his head until it rested on the highlighted text. It was just damp enough that he wondered if he’d have smears of yellow on his forehead.
Silence stretched, and Gwyn realised that this was not one of those ‘don’t speak unless you’re spoken to’ times, opened his mouth to respond.
‘Well?’ his father shouted.
‘He was the one who keyed Coach Davix’s car. He broke the windscreen and the windows. I reported it to Old Pete like I was supposed to, but he just kept going on about it in the change rooms.’
‘So you decided to act like some jumped up kid on steroids and take him out, did you?’
‘No, Dad, I swear, it was just- with the championships, I-’
‘You are very fortunate that you are not in front of me right now,’ his father said, his voice going quiet and deadly with promise. Gwyn snuck an arm around his torso and nodded, even though his father couldn’t see the response.
‘Yes, Dad,’ Gwyn managed finally, his voice as meek as it ever got.
‘I don’t want you to have anything to do with those boys, do you understand me?’
‘Dad, I don’t think me breaking Ash’s nose is-’
‘Nothing,’ his father said. ‘Your reputation is already on a knife’s edge as it is. You keep mis-stepping as you are, and I’ll ship you off to a military academy faster than you can say ‘but Dad.’’
Gwyn opened his mouth to say ‘but Dad-’ and realised that was…the point. Thoroughly shamed, he pressed his thumb and index finger into his eyes and focused on his breathing. He was lucky that he wasn’t home. His father sounded like he was in a mood.
Because of you.
‘Why can’t you be more like your cousin?’ his father sighed.
‘I don’t know, Dad,’ Gwyn said, clearing his throat.
‘You’re not crying like some dick-sucking poof, are you? Jesus, I didn’t raise-’
‘Dad,’ Gwyn said, shaking his head. ‘Not crying.’
But he was a fag. Something his father knew very well, and kept trying to forget. Or beat out of him. Or berate him with insults until he magically became straight. None of it seemed to work. Though Gwyn was pretty enthusiastically behind the idea of celibacy until he could move out of the country.
‘I want you home this weekend.’
Great. Re-education. Fucking great.
‘Dad, I have mocks, and I have-’
‘This attitude of yours is a problem,’ his father said, then hung up the phone.
Gwyn thumped his forehead against his book several times, dropping his phone beside him and grateful for the Otterbox that protected it as it hit the hardwood. He’d needed to get one of those after his last altercation with his father had caused his iPhone to fly out of his hand and smash against tile. A few moments later, he’d practically done the same.
He laughed to himself. Others might be more worried, sure. He’d been in health class. He’d seen all the documentaries about how domestic violence was wrong.
But try telling that to the well-respected An-Fnwy family who had their names on two of the buildings in the school, and owned a hospital wing.
There was nothing wrong about any sort of violence if you had enough money to smooth things over.
Gwyn decided to go to bed early. He skipped dinner. He didn’t have the energy to look through it all and make sure his food was safe to eat. He could catch some fruit for breakfast the next morning.
Even so, he rested his hands on his growling stomach as he fell asleep, only vaguely remembering that he’d skipped lunch and the previous night’s dinner as well.
He was going to fall out of his weight division if he kept doing that…
It was his last thought, before he slept, yellow smears on his forehead.