August 12th 1990
Richie was crouching down at the Kissing Bridge, pocket knife in hand. After plenty of incidents with Henry during Summer last year and the bullies who replaced him after his arrest, Richie had finally come to terms with who he was. The R was crude, but still legible. The plus sign was easy to make, it would’ve taken a total idiot to fuck that up, yet he had still managed to almost write a percentage sign instead. The E, however, was the most time consuming. He didn’t want to fuck up the first initial of the boy he liked, and he was determined not to. Satisfied with his work, Richie stood up, pocketed the knife and admired the names on the bridge. There was a “JEN” not too far from his own piece of art, and a “Sofia” to the right. The bottom panel featured a heart with a single R in the middle, clearly somebody really like him. Well either him or anyone else with a name beginning with R. Ron Perlman? Robin Williams? The identity of “R” was the greatest mystery of the twentieth century for about four seconds, at which point Richie heard the unmistakable sound of a car stopping directly behind him. Well, this is it. This is where I die. He thought to himself, I survived a shapeshifting clown, but now I am to die. Farewell, cruel world. He turned slowly, only to see a car he vaguely recognised. A slightly banged up, cream and burgundy convertible with two very familiar faces in the front. “Oh thank fuck it’s you guys.” Richie huffed at the sight of Mike and Will in the front.
“Hey Rich!” Will smiled at him.
“Something wrong?” Mike asked.
“No, no, just thought you were about to come kill me because I’m at the bridge with a knife.” Richie was breathing heavily, though he didn’t know when he had started doing so.
“Doesn’t everyone carve their girlfriends name into the bridge though?”
“Yeah, but I don’t have a girlfriend. I just have…”
“A crush?” Will chuckled, “Don’t worry man, we all have crushes at some point.” Richie smiled at this, somewhat reassured by Wills words.
“You need a ride?” Mike asked, motioning to the back of the car.
“Oh, no, I have my bike.” Richie opposed the suggestion, but Mike insisted.
“Just put it in the back, there’s plenty of room for the both of you.” Richie did as Mike said and, sure enough, he fit with room to spare. “Where you headed?”
“I… I don’t know. My parents kicked me out.” Richie responded. It was true. He tried to come clean to his parents about who he was and what he liked, but they weren’t necessarily happy with it. They’d kicked him out of the house mere minutes, leaving him to roam. That was a couple of days ago now; he hadn’t seen his friends since then. They must know by now what he was, to stay away. Then again, they were all accepting of Mike and Will, so maybe it was just a coincidence that they were never around where Richie was.
“Are you serious?” Mike asked.
“Yeah.” Richie sounded guilty, as if he’d committed a crime.
“What the fuck happened?”
This was the dreaded question; the one Richie had hoped to not be asked on this car journey. He’d have to come clean to another couple. It hadn’t gone well last time, but a similar reaction this time was unlikely due to their status as partners. Still, it was nervewracking. This was a life or death situation, and all Richie saw was death.
“Rich?” Mike called his name.
“Yeah, sorry, I… zoned out. I just…”
“Don’t worry, take your time.” Will turned to comfort the boy in the back.
“I… A couple days ago, I told my parents something I shouldn’t have told them. Not for a while, if ever. I no longer have a place to stay.” With that, Mike and Will understood.
“So what?” Mike said, less of a question and more of a statement.
“What?” Richie and Will asked as one.
“I mean, why should you give any time of day to people who aren’t willing to accept you for you? So fuck them. I know you love them, but you’re gonna realise that you don’t need them. That’s what happened with my parents when the two of us left in November. Where’ve you been sleeping since then?”
“Jesus you must be tired. You’re staying with us tonight.” Will said. Mike nodded in agreement. “You need to catch up on sleep.”
“W-What?” Richie was shocked at the hospitality. He knew Mike and Will were decent people, but didn’t realise they were willing to take someone who was basically a homeless child into their home on a whim. Granted, said homeless child had been a friend for nine months, but still. “Are you sure?”
“Of course! Until social services come or one of us dies, you can stay with us. You need a place to sleep, and we’re doing pretty well with the Government payouts, so we won’t be strapped for cash.” There was a brief moment of silence before anyone spoke again.
“Unless you wanna go somewhere else?” Mike added.
“No, god no, I’m just shocked.” Richie laughed quietly. “Thank you. So much.”
“It’s really not a problem. Friends help each other out.”
“No, seriously. Thank you. I was expecting to hear someone shout ‘fag!’ at me.”
“It’s cool, Richie. You don’t need to thank us for being decent people.” Will smiled at the fourteen year old as Mike drove up the road. Will turned back after a moment of silence and Richie smiled. Maybe things would be okay without his parents. They weren’t going to out him out of shame, and he still had a place to go with people who liked him. People who cared for him. Maybe, just maybe, he could move on. For a while.