After the 1st Kiss - Part 3

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I filled with worry and rage as I wondered, was it Reed who'd hit him? I immediately wanted to march over to Alex and demand to know who had done that to him. But I fought with the urge by going into the classroom and sitting down. Malcolm came in and sat down in his seat and I got up to temporarily take the seat in front of him. "Malcolm."

He looked up from his cell phone and his eyes went big. "Liam Santos?"

I raised an eyebrow at him using my full name like I was a celebrity. "What happened to Alex?" I asked, pointing to my cheek.

Malcolm's eyes stayed wide. "Uh..." I watched him hesitate and wondered if that meant it really was Reed. Or did the rumors cause a fight? "Okay, so, Dameon Paulson punched him."

"Who?"

"He's in grade 11 in Alex's math class. Alex got sassy in defending himself and Dameon got mad, so... That's all I can say."

That was all he could say? "Did Alex tell you not to tell me?"

Malcolm looked a little confused. "No. Alex never talks about you."

I should have known. It hurt a bit, to be honest. I nodded solemnly. "Thanks."

And even though it was clear I was no longer a part of Alex's life, I wanted to make sure this Dameon got what he deserved. When I discovered all he received was a short suspension, that what Alex said wasn't deserving of a punch considering that what Dameon said was deserving of a punch, and that he and his friends had not one ounce of regret, I decided to give him better punishment.

**

The atmosphere was awkward during the car ride home with my parents. The suspension wasn't long and my mother had even been against it. The fight happened off school grounds, there was no need for the school to get involved, she'd said. If I had known Dameon's mom was just inside the Tim Horton's, I probably wouldn't have punched him there. And if I'd know Dameon's mother would threaten to press charges if my mom kept insisting on settling it outside of school, I wouldn't have punched him at all.

Actually, I take that back. I would have still punched him. I would've just made sure it was on school grounds.

My parents knew everything. My mom was angry, but I couldn't tell whether any of that anger was directed at me. My dad was quiet as he often was in situations like this.

When we got home, I made straight for my room, but my dad stopped me. "Liam."

I turned around. He was holding my little sister, Lily, in his arms. She was still asleep from when we picked her up from preschool.

"You cannot hit people. What Mrs. Paulson threatened to do―press charges―is what's going to happen when you get outside of high school and into the real world. Violence is the wrong way."

I stared at my dad with a dead expression. I was going to punch who I wanted to punch. That was my form of justice. "You didn't see Alex's bruise. He didn't deserve that. They let Dameon off too easy."

"Liam, I understand, but you cannot go around taking things into your own hands. Especially when they don't involve you."

Somehow, my dad's words felt like a ton of bricks as they hit me. A lump formed in my throat. 'Don't involve you.' I hadn't moved, but I was suddenly in my mom's arms. She was hugging me. I didn't understand why.

Actually, I didn't want to understand why. I knew why.

"I'm angry," I whispered, glaring at the fabric on my mother's shoulder.

"I know," she said and hugged me tighter.

I heard my little sister's voice say, "Liam? Is Liam crying?"

"I'm not crying." I felt her little arms wrap around my leg. "Thanks, Lily." I patted her head and my mother let go of me. She looked at me with concerned eyes which I evaded. "Lily, do you want snack?" I asked, pasting on a smile.

Lily nodded and I led her to the kitchen by the hand, ignoring my mother's gaze.

My parents went upstairs to talk and came down later as I played with Lily. "We want you to spend your suspension babysitting Lily."

"I don't have to go to preschool?!" Lily asked, bouncing excitedly. "I can play with Liam?!"

My dad nodded and lifted her into his arms. "Yep. Liam needs Lily's light."

I didn't realize I was in a dark place until my dad said that. But he was right.

**

My parents had taken my cell phone while I was suspended. It wasn't as punishment, my mom said. She said I just needed a break. I didn't need to hear about any drama happening at school. At the end of my suspension, my parents handed me my phone and made me read the barrage of text messages under their supervision.

When I went after Dameon, I hadn't thought about what that would mean. I hadn't considered that people would try to figure out why. That people would learn Alex and I had grown up together as best friends. That I, a straight guy, had defended a gay guy.

To people like Jeremy, I was confusing. 'Didn't u say Alex wasn't your friend? Why are u defending him?' 'You got suspended over him? What's the point?' 'What the hell, Liam?" "lol r u in love with him?' 'I'm not gonna lie that's weird if u r.' 'Ur not gay, right?' 'Liam, for real. Are you gay?' 'Hey man if it's tough let me know.'

To people like Jeremy's girlfriend's friend, Priscilla, I was a hero. 'It's really cool what you did, Liam. You're really brave.' 'I wish I could explain how amazing you are.' 'Sorry, was that weird?' 'To be honest, I really like you. I've always known you were sweet. This just makes it clearer.' 'Maybe we could hang out sometime? Just us two without Jeremy and Danielle lol :)'

I sent a message to Priscilla: 'Sounds good, Pri. :) :)'

I sent a message to Jeremy: 'Not gay. Dameon was just shit. I have a strong sense of justice, you know.'

I went back to school and saw Alex still didn't bother to look my way. And I saw Reed pop into our wing and shoot me a warning glare.

I was numb, though. I didn't care. I was done. I was done with Alex.

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