“What is this? What are we doing?”
“It’s a hug, you idiot. I’m hugging you. It’s what people do when they care about each other.”
For David and Tommy
Tommy was sitting alone under a tree in the school yard, cradling her backpack in her lap. She looked lost and almost small, so unlike David was used to seeing her. Sure, the whole coming out thing had taken a toll on her, but he would never have expected her to be so thrown off by it. He sighed, held on tight to his lunch tray and crossed the yard.
“Hey,” he said softly, nudging her foot when he reached her.
She barely looked up. “What are you doing here, David?” she asked, fidgeting with the straps of her backpack.
“What am I doing?” David huffed out a laugh. “I’m hanging out with my friend at lunch break, that’s what.” When Tommy still didn’t look up, David started to worry though. He cleared his throat, shuffled his feet and finally asked, “Or do you want to be alone right now?”
Finally, Tommy looked up and shook her head. “No, it’s fine.” She put her backpack aside and moved over, so that David got enough space in the shade as well. It was unbearably hot today, which was why most of the other students had stayed inside in the air-conditioned cafeteria; they had the school yard almost to themselves.
David sat down next to Tommy, and when he noticed that she didn’t have any lunch, he put his tray between them. “Here, take some fries.”
“I don’t want fries.”
David shrugged. “Have my apple, then.”
She took it, and he nodded contentedly.
There was a long pause and David felt like he should say something, but he really didn’t know what. He could see that Tommy had a hard time being freshly out of the closet and he had heard some of the mean things the popular kids had thrown at her since then, not to mention the things they had said behind her back. The problem was – he had no idea how to make it all better.
“This sucks,” Tommy said finally. She was just looking at the apple in her hands instead of eating it, and instead of looking at David, and her voice sounded a little rough.
David frowned. “I’m sorry.”
Tommy shook her head. “No, it’s not your fault.” Yeah, her voice definitely sounded different. Had she been crying? Oh no. David’s heart got heavy.
“That’s not what I meant,” he said. “I just meant, I’m sorry that you’re being put through all this. You shouldn’t have to be. This shouldn’t be such a big deal.”
Tommy laughed coldly. “Well. People suck.”
“I’m sure they don’t mean it,” David tried carefully, “they’re just… they’ll get used to it.”
But Tommy shook her head fiercely. “You should have heard those girls in the locker room earlier. They were so - … well, fuck them.”
David flinched a little. Tommy swore a lot; he knew that by now. They had been friends for almost a year, but he still wasn’t really used to it. It was not like he never swore – he just always felt really bad doing it, thinking about how disappointed his mom would be. Still, as a supportive friend, he felt like he had to say it. “Yeah, you’re right, fuck them.”
Then he pulled Tommy into a hug. It was a bit weird and awkward, they weren’t that touchy-feely usually and there was a tray of half eaten lunch between them, so they were in a weird angle, but David still thought it was pretty clear what he was doing, until Tommy asked, “What is this? What are we doing?”
David laughed, not letting go of her. “It’s a hug, you idiot. I’m hugging you. It’s what people do when they care about each other.” He instantly regretted calling her an idiot, but he hoped she knew that he hadn’t meant it. Then he decided he couldn’t risk it, pulled back a little and said, “Sorry, you’re not an idiot of course.”
To his surprise, Tommy was smiling. “You’re such a dork”, she said, playfully punching his shoulder. “I don’t even know why you still hang out with me.” She still smiled when she added that second part, but David could also see her posture change back to that hunching, lost bundle of unhappiness she had been when he had found her here.
Also, it made zero sense. “What do you even mean?” he asked. She couldn’t be serious about this, could she? Tommy was his best friend in the entire world, just as important to him as his mom and Peggy – didn’t she know that?!
Tommy shrugged, still trying to keep up her smile, but she was struggling to look David in the eyes again. “I mean, I’m a weirdo and a freak. If you keep hanging out with me, you’re going to be a freak by association. You couldn’t possibly want that. I don’t want that!”
David huffed. “Nonsense.” That she would even consider him leaving her hanging now was not only absurd, but also a little hurtful. “I don’t care about all that. You’re my friend. Now stop looking so surprised, or I’ll have to hug you again.”
That did make her laugh a little, and he was glad. Getting to know this whole new side of Tommy, this insecure person that expected her best friend to drop her at the first sign of trouble, it was unnerving. But then again, David was really glad that Tommy was so open with him, and that she trusted him enough to share this side with him. David knew some people were afraid of Tommy, they thought she was scary and cold – but they had no idea. Tommy was, in fact, the biggest dork he knew, with the biggest heart. It wasn’t her fault that the world was often a terrible place for people like her, or like them maybe. No matter what, David and Tommy would always have each other.
“Can I have some of those fries?” Tommy asked and jolted him out of his thoughts.
Before David could even nod, she already started stuffing her mouth, grinning widely. “You’re a good one, David Copperfield,” she grinned, with her mouth full of fries.
David smiled widely, grabbing a couple of fries himself. “And you’ve got terrible manners, Tommy Traddles. But it’s okay, I love you anyway.”
“Aaaww, you big softie.” Tommy’s voice was teasing, but her eyes and her smile were genuine. “Anyway,” she added, “I’m dying in this heat. Summer is definitely the most emophobic season of them all.”
“Let’s go back inside?” David offered. Now that she mentioned it, his shirt was sticking to his skin, and he felt sweaty and gross in general.
Tommy cocked her head and seemed to think for a moment before she decided, “In a bit, okay? I’m not ready to face those demons from hell again.”
“Okay.” David nodded. “But… let’s go for ice cream after school, okay? I gotta show you the epic Cresselia I caught yesterday!”
Tommy’s eyes got wide and she dropped a fry in surprise. “No way!” she gasped.
“Yes way.” David grinned.
Now Tommy really punched him in the shoulder, way harder than before. “Why didn’t you lead with that, you idiot?! You could have saved us this whole sob fest.”
“Okay, okay,” David rubbed his shoulder. “Next time I catch a legendary Pokémon, I’m gonna tell you right away.”
“So, ice cream after school?”
David had a feeling that things were going to be alright.