Prologue - Identical
“What are you looking at, f*ggot?” I flinched as Neil pushed Axle away.
This had become a regular thing now – give-Axle-a-hard-time-because-he’s-gay - and I didn’t like it. At all.
Neil’s friends sniggered as Axle tried to walk away without saying anything, only to be held by the collar and dragged backwards. Right in front of Neil. The predator.
“I asked you what you were looking at, f*g. Were you ignoring me?” Quite suddenly, Neil slammed him against a locker. I flinched again.
“No, nothing.” He mumbled in reply, trying to break free from the grip Neil had on him. It didn’t do much good, I should tell you, because when Neil got his hands on something he wanted, he hardly ever let go.
“Good, because I don’t like being ignored,” he slammed a hand near Axle’s face. Axle tried not to flinch, not to look down, but he wasn’t successful. This made Neil smirk. “And I don’t like being looked at by fairies, so good job. Keep your gaze down.” The threat amused his gang.
Technically speaking, I was part of that ‘gang’…but I didn’t belong. Not really. I saw no point in cutting classes and being a rebel just to make a statement. I found no pleasure in hurting others, bullying them. Taking people’s things, making them beg, tripping them…nothing was fun. Swearing at people and insulting them to no end wasn’t one of my hobbies either, nor was hitting them.
The last option was their favorite. “Why don’t you make it clear to him?” Kane spoke, the suggestion in his voice clear.
I was mortified. Why was Neil being so difficult? What had Axle even done to him? His only mistake had been to not see Neil coming from around the corner…which wasn’t even fair. ‘He’s gay,’ Neil would say though.
A whimper escaped the freshman’s throat as Neil rolled up his sleeves and flashed that renowned smile of his. The one that told his victim to be that he was about to get it, and that Neil wasn’t going to spare him.
I took another look at Axle’s face – his eyes had widened as he saw Neil’s fist rise in the air. Moments away from breaking his nose, or worse. The smirk on Neil’s face.
I made up my mind and... the punch never made it to its target.
“Wha-?” Neil glared at me, then hissed, “What are you doing?”
“Let him go.” I sounded confident, I think, but I don’t know because I was too focused on taking in what I had just done.
“Why should I?”
“He hasn’t done anything to you, for God’s sake! Leave him be!” the gratitude on Axle’s face was giving me confidence – I had done the right thing. Not that I was looking forward to facing Neil’s wrath.
Neil didn’t say anything, but made a move to break free from my hold on his forearm. I held on firmly, which earned me another glare that intensified as Axle saw his chance and fled.
And Neil’s friends?
They were too surprised to react.
And believe it or not, I could relate to how they were feeling – even I didn’t know what had just happened. I was usually the silent bystander, so my getting involved and being (somewhat) aggressive was…super shocking, to put it directly. Not to mention unexpected.
I leveled my gaze with the grey eyes that were looking at me with an even mix of incredulity, disgust, anger…and was that hatred? It was then that I realized that I was still holding on to his arm.
I let go immediately. “Come with me,” he said, then pulled me behind him as he led me to a corner.
Once out of earshot of the others, I was subjected to the Look.
“What was that?” He seemed too angry to speak.
“I just…don’t think it’s…right.” The confidence I felt was waning away as his gaze on me intensified. It was pathetic, but there wasn’t much I could do about it.
“You’ve never had a problem before.” He reminded me, making me feel worse.
“It’s,” I started, then paused as he crossed his arms. Then, choosing to go on and piss him off anyway, I finished my sentence. “Wrong. Just because people aren’t straight doesn’t mean that you should bully them.” The choice of the word ‘bully’ was deliberate.
It achieved its purpose. Neil looked more infuriated than before. “It’s what they deserve.”
Oh, really? In which case he ought to…never mind. “Why?”
“They’re freaks! Abominations.” He breathed out noisily; angrily.
“Says Satan himself.”
He swore. “I’d tell you to go play with the fairies, but you probably would do just that. I’m warning you, I don’t want this again.”
I wasn’t in the least bit tempted to ask him ‘Or what?’ because I knew. And I also knew that he would deliver on his threat if pushed over the edge, and at that moment he was leaning precariously. I hated how, if I did incite him, I wouldn’t be the only one to face the repercussions.
He smirked at my silence. “Thought so. And don’t ever embarrass me like that.”
I didn’t reply; I walked away.
“Whatcha doing?” Neil came up behind the chair I sat on.
I looked up. “Reading,” then turned back to the book.
“You’re not still mad, are you?”
I ignored him; it's what I'd been doing all day, and he knew I wasn't happy about what had happened. It may have passed on as ‘nothing’ to him, but I wasn’t him. Even if-
“It’s not that big a deal, you know. Come on Nate.” His voice was amicable enough, but I turned away. I wasn’t going to let it pass; I may have stood down at the time, but I wasn’t over it. The disgust I felt towards him, and at myself for being so weak, was still strong.
I found myself being yanked to my feet quite unceremoniously and dragged somewhere.
We stood in front of a mirror. “Look, we’re brothers. Don’t let some *** come between us.” He said.
It was then that I realized something. But my shock he read as a ‘yeah,’ because he ruffled my hair a bit then walked out, leaving me standing there by myself, staring into the mirror, not seeing anything.
Actually, I could see, but it wasn’t only me.
I could see him, too.
And the difference between us.
While we shared the same grey eyes, black hair, crooked nose and small-for-a-guy-frame, we were different. Our faces were identical, yet distinct.
His face was one of someone happy.
Mine was of someone who was gay.