HARUKI WATCHED AS THE SURFACE OF THE LAKE REFLECTED THE SUNSET BEGINNING TO BURN ON THE SKY.
He spread his long legs as far as he could. A calmness overcame him. The porch gave him access to a chaotic painting coming to life; boys tugging on duffel bags, pushing each other, pulling their friends by their sweaters in the right direction, shoving and yelling. It was a welcome distraction that would last until the sun disappeared between the trees encircling the lake; then darkness would fall and Haruki would have nowhere to hide from his thoughts.
Jazz pushed lightly on the screen door, careful not to produce the screeching sound signifying his arrival to the porch. Haruki didn't get many moments when his face betrayed tranquility. Jazz decided to savor it. He knew he had not been sincere. If anything, he had been negligent, only doing the bare minimum of checking if Haruki was okay here and there. Okay didn't mean much when it came to Haruki.
There was a tension he refused to address. He was being rightfully judged for it. It felt like being stabbed in the heart over and over again when he caught Haruki's charcoal eyes. Jazz knew him better than he should have. Ever since he first laid eyes on the Haruki there were bells chiming inside his body. Don't let him get too close, they warned. Jazz ignored them. Haruki got closer than most. But there was one detail he wasn't aware Jazz perceived everything, he knew more than Haruki could imagine, but there was a line he would not cross. Jazz Harrison ran from confrontation like a boy terrified of imaginary monsters.
Haruki heard Jazz's first step on the old, creaking wood of the porch floor. He didn't turn to face him. It was hopeless. In his mind, Jazz heard but he didn't listen. There was nothing to be done. Not even when Max was heaving in his sleep, mumbling incoherently and sweating through the cheap cotton of the sheets. There was nothing more to be said by any of them. Nazari didn't care, Dorian didn't care, Beaumont never cared and Jazz felt farther away than Haruki could bear.
"Hey, Har, whatchu doin'?" A few steps followed by a cane hitting the same wooden panels and Jazz was on the chair beside him. "God, look at 'em go. They're 'bout to kill each other over some old bungalows."
Haruki snickered with amusement, but it came out more disapproving than his friend deserved. "They're cabins, man, we're not at the beach." But he knew that Jazz was aware, he simply didn't care. Like he didn't seem to care about a lot of things lately.
"We going off after the campfire or what?" Jazz attempted to start a conversation, or elicit some excitement from Haruki, knowing full well that they were not 14 anymore. It wasn't the same as it were before Nazari strung them all together by the same thread. A thread that was wrapping tighter around their throats each day.
"Probably," replied Haruki, his features bland, his head falling backwards until it thudded on the wall behind him. He wanted to close his eyes and wake up on a stranded island. He didn't want to sneak off the campsite and go on a drive; he didn't want to take any more drugs or have any more conversations. They did the same thing every year and none of the chaperons ever noticed. No one ever noticed anything, or spoke out. Haruki was sensing a pattern and it disappointed him. Would anyone even care if he brought it to their attention that Nazari wanted to ruin them all? "Max looks horrible. Maybe we should stay inside today."
Jazz sighed. The porch light produced a noisy static before allowing its light to shower Haruki's face. He had closed his eyes and Jazz was at liberty to observe how tired he had grown. The bags under his eyes had never existed before. There were summer days when his cheeks would flush crimson. He regretted the words that came out of his mouth. "Hector's not gonna let us do that, Har."
It was a setup. Haruki knew in his heart of hearts the answer he would get. Nazari was Hector when Nazari became totalitarian. When no didn't hold weight in his judgment. The school trip had become a tradition that Hector Nazari was very attached to. Almost as if it were centuries old in his mind.
"Jazz do you ever wonder what the fuck that means?" Haruki's voice grew a few octaves. His eyes remained closed. Jazz opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off. "Let me tell you what it means, Jazz. It means we're pawns. "
They said nothing else when Haruki opened his eyes and looked ahead. Jazz also stared beyond the lake, where his and Haruki's minds met and compared secrets.
I'm sorry I'm so selfish and scared, Jazz's conscience admitted, hoping Haruki could feel it.
I'm sorry I keep thinking that I can't protect us both, Haruki's replied.
On the other side of the lake, in a cabin barely big enough to fit two people, Beaumont observed from behind his make-up mirror as Dorian and Hector electrified the already too close confinements.
It was a little known fact that Beaumont was keen on observing. Others, himself, his surroundings. The remarks he made were numbered. If he wanted to react, his body did most of the speaking. To the untrained eye he was self-obsessed and conceited, but a very-well known fact was that he didn't care about anyone's opinion but his own.
He was Max's recruitment to the Fencing Club. His allegiance lied with Maxwell Gilbert, his thoughts were about him and so were his sleepless nights that he was so skilled at covering with concealers of various brands. In his dreams, Max wasn't paper thin and crumbling, he wasn't sick or addicted.
Beaumont had noticed a change in all of them, except himself. Haruki looked as if he he had fought halfway through the Trojan War and every new battle threatened to knock him on his knees. Jazz was slowly disintegrating out of sheer terror; the thought of any situation coming to a crescendo that involved him having to make any decision with consequences was enough to diminish the light in his eyes. Max was succumbing to the poison he willingly accepted every time Nazari lead him up the stairs to the statue room in the tower. Nazari; what could Beaumont even say about him without salivating like a rabid dog. He was a battlefield; he was terror and poison. Every drug binge, every girl and every boy had brought Beaumont closer to realizing that Hector Nazari was there to give them what they wanted while keeping what they really needed dangling before their dazed eyes.
But Beaumont was no man of action. He looked and he saw as Dorian, the one he had deemed evil from the start, exchanged glances with Hector. They subtly touched the tips of their shoes together, breathed at the same pace and paid Beaumont no attention whatsoever.
The screen door was knocked on twice.
"Let's go, campers," Hector exclaimed, his smile acidic enough to burn through stone.
Beaumont said nothing. He'd been around long enough to know that keeping yourself off Hector's radar was the safest choice.