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Dec. 5th, 2009 01:49 am
backdrifter: I won NaNoWriMo 2009! (nanowrimo 2009)
[personal profile] backdrifter
He didn't see Respa at all the next day, and what was worse was that this left him open to Romy finding him. Romy practically jumped on him after homeroom, reminding Ryan of an upset cat.

"Did he go home with you?!" Romy spat, out of his mind with fury. "Oh my god, you're like some kind of masochist!"

"Leave me alone, Romy," Ryan groaned. He had never asked for Romy's friendship!

"Listen," Romy said, swinging around to stand in front of Ryan and block his way. "You don't know what he's thinking. You don't know what he could do to you."

"What he could do to me?" Ryan rolled his eyes, mimicking Romy's favorite gesture. "He's a high school delinquent, not a murderer."

"You don't know that!" Romy threw his hands up.

"Why do you care so much, anyway? Yes, he came over yesterday. We watched TV and played Mario Kart with my brothers, if you have to know so badly." He stepped to one side to go past Romy, but Romy jumped right back into place in front of him.

"Don't tell me you guys are doing it or something," Romy said, crossing his arms and leaning back from the waist, looking smug.

"Doing—no! Go away, Romy Laredo." He sidestepped one more time, and this time Romy didn't move with him.

"Fine," Romy said, sighing dramatically. "You do that. Do what you want! I'm done trying to protect you. I really tried—"

"Goodbye, Romy." With that, Ryan walked quickly to his next class.

He thought maybe Respa might be late, and that he'd turn up at lunch period. When he didn't, Ryan's thoughts took a turn for the worse, and he thought maybe it was an elaborate hoax, proving his theory that Respa was an above-average bully who would jump through hoops just to bring his victim down. He tried to tell himself that was ridiculous. But he could think of very few reasons, logical or not, why Respa would change his tune so quickly. Romy was no help, tracking him down whenever possible to nag at him about it.

Respa still hadn't turned up by the end of the day, and because Ella was the one to snap at him and demand to know where he'd hidden Respa ("Up your faggot ass?" Cassandra felt the need to chime in with, and Ella glared at her disapprovingly), he was fairly sure this was no hoax. He did poorly in karate that afternoon, Okazawa-sensei berating him soundly for every badly-executed form.

"I have to be honest," Okazawa-sensei said, standing behind Ryan as they both watched him go through his forms in the mirror. Okazawa-sensei shook his head when Ryan punched in place of a block in a combination he'd mastered last month. "It's like you've regressed a whole belt today, I don't know what it is." He nodded at Ryan's reflection in the mirror. "Even your stance is off." Okazawa-sensei was American-born with immigrant Japanese parents, and he didn't "believe" in psychiatry and pills. He wouldn't specifically say anything about the Seroquel, but he did insist that Ryan would conquer his schizophrenia best through his karate, and through meditation. (Ryan never meditated outside of class, fearing falling asleep in the middle of it. It wasn't a baseless fear.)

Ryan adjusted his stance, red with embarrassment, and he took himself through the combo again, completing it properly this time. Okazawa-sensei sighed. "Have you been meditating outside of class?"

"No," Ryan answered honestly, moving into a series of kicks that took him away from Okazawa-sensei's side.

"I want you to meditate," the sensei said, walking up to meet Ryan again. "It would put a stop to this lack of focus you have this week, and it will really help your symptoms."

"The Seroquel works fine," Ryan said tonelessly. "I'm just..." He threw a punch, hard enough that he felt it along his side. "Thinking a lot."

"Think after class," Okazawa-sensei said, and he walked away to help another student, this one in particular a woman in her late 40's with limited coordination.

The weekend offered him no reprieve. He even went so far as trying to do his homework, though months of falling asleep in class and never doing the homework anyway kept him from getting much done. He tried playing Mario Kart with his brothers; they both repeatedly flattened his choices of Yoshi and Toad with their go-to heavyweight characters, Wario and Donkey Kong. He tried to distract himself with the Internet, but for someone with as few social connections as he had, it didn't hold his interest long. He tried his homework again: No dice. The journal Doctor Sobel suggested he try to keep only distracted him for five or so minutes, and when he tried to draw something, it came out disjointed and ugly without his full attention.

He was desperate for any distraction, after all—this feeling of dread was too familiar.

Monday morning, Respa made his return, showing up bright and early for homeroom. He was surlier than Ryan ever remembered him being in the three months they'd had homeroom together, wearing an enormous hoodie he hadn't owned before with the hood drawn up and over his eyes. His hands were shoved in the pockets, his legs stretched out long in scandalously small jeans that had split at the seams by his knees. Ryan tried to talk to him when the homeroom bell rang, but Respa was off like a shot at the first peal of the synthesized bell, leaving Ryan alone and, unfortunately, in Romy's sights.

"Not much of a friend, huh? I told you so," Romy said as he sidled up to walk beside Ryan. "Whatever that was about, it's not gonna end well for you, I guarantee it."

"Would you go away?" Ryan finally said, exhaling hard in frustration. "I never asked for your friendship, you know! Or," he added when Romy opened his mouth, "acquaintanceship, whatever. I don't care. I don't want it."

"You don't want it, huh?" Romy said, tapping his chin with an index finger. "Because you've got so many friends, right? But you want Respa's friendship."

"We are friends," Ryan said, without much conviction. "Respa is my friend."

"Even though Respa tried to beat you up last week, and not a day later, he made you watch while he beat up poor Alex Steinbrenner, the saddest, wimpiest kid in the whole school." Romy tapped his chin again. "Huh."

"We made up, whatever." Ryan stopped by his history class's door. "I'm going to class now. Leave me alone, and goodbye."

Ryan was walking to third period when a hand grabbed him just above the elbow. When it pulled him toward a dark doorway, Ryan opened his mouth to yell, and the other hand covered the entire lower half of his face, silencing him. The door shut behind him, and when Ryan put his arms out, he felt the heavy wooden door on one side—and shelves on the other. The spray bottle of cleaning fluid he felt there fell to the floor and bounced off the toe of his sneaker. He bit his lip, and the hands withdrew.

A click-click of the chain above his head revealed that Ryan was, as suspected, in the janitor's closet, and that his kidnapper was Respa, who already had a finger pressed to his lips to ask for silence. His hood was still up, but in the harsh light of the bare bulb, Ryan could see now that there was a purple crescent of a welt under Respa's eye.

"Don't say anything," Respa whispered. "We have to wait for the second bell to ring, and then the guards are gonna do a quick sweep..." Ryan nodded his assent, but to be perfectly honest, he couldn't wait for Respa to relax so that they could at least change positions. This early in the morning, the janitor's big yellow rolling bucket was still in the closet, along with the mop, giving the two boys little space to stand. Ryan's abs worked double time as he leaned back over the bucket, his hands grabbing at the shelves behind him. He was sure his discomfort showed on his face.

The thumping of the guard's footsteps passed them by once, twice, and then a few minutes after that, Respa finally let out a long breath. "Christ, I thought that guy would never leave this floor," Respa swore, and he held out his arms, making grabbing motions with his fingers. "Come on, gimme that thing."

"That thing? What thing?" Ryan looked around behind him.

"The mop bucket, dumbass. There's a big space on the shelves by the ceiling for it, but we gotta put it back at the end of the period." He wriggled his fingers. "So come on, pass it up."

Ryan hefted both parts of the bucket up, lifting with his legs to pass it to Respa. Ironically, Respa wasn't as strong as he was, and he seemed to buckle a little under its weight before heaving it, grunting, onto the top shelf that Ryan would have never been able to reach. This left them with the whole floor to stand in, though that didn't last long, because Respa slumped to the floor, folding himself up as much as he could to leave Ryan some space. He leaned forward to pat the space in front of him. "Come on, sit down here with me. It's too weird when I have to look up to talk to people."

Ryan obeyed, arching his brows as he did. "Is...there a reason you dragged me in here?" he asked as he arranged himself in the far corner of the closet.

"I just needed to get out of the whole herd mentality for at least the next forty minutes, is all. Get a break." Once Ryan was settled, Respa straightened his legs out to the other wall, trapping Ryan against the corner shelves.

"You know lunch is in like, two periods, right?" Ryan said, glancing at Respa's legs.

"Yeah, I know, I know. But I can't wait, and anyway, it's not long enough of a break. I just..." He sighed, scratching behind his ear. "Class is such bullshit. Whatever."

They sat wordlessly for a couple more moments, and then Ryan spoke up. "Um... Your pants," he said, and then he wasn't sure what else to say. He didn't know how to string together the right words to ask Why don't your clothes ever fit? without sounding like a jerk. "They, uhh..."

"They don't fit, I know," Respa said, drumming his fingers on the top of his thigh. "My shirts, neither." And he plucked at the strained cotton that formed a snug ring around his neck, showing under the large black hoodie.

"That hoodie fits." Ryan was glad Respa had said it though, instead of leaving him hanging.

"'S not mine," he admitted. "I uh, I got it from somewhere else." He didn't elaborate on where somewhere else might be, if it was really a place at all.

They fell quiet again, and the only sounds Ryan registered was the ringing in his ears, and Respa's even breathing.

"What class did you have this period, anyway?" Ryan asked, just to ask.

"Oh. Biology," Respa said, making a dismissive noise. "Like I said, bullshit. What the fuck do I care about how birds fuck or whatever? That shit's not important."

"It's not that bad," Ryan said, feeling like a lame goody two shoes (even lamer for using the term goody two shoes, even if it was only in his head). "I mean, it's kind of interesting to learn about. I have it seventh period."

"Whatever," Respa snorted. "What about you? What're you missing right now?"

"English class," he said, trying to shift somehow so the shelves didn't dig into his spine. It didn't work out.

"With who?"

"I can't remember her name," Ryan mumbled. "I only remember a couple of my teachers' names." Because of the Seroquel knocking him out, and because the unwanted naps made him apathetic in turn. He wanted to learn, to participate, because that was what most of his classmates did, but he missed enough of the material that he could barely bring himself to try. "Your eye," he said now, not unlike the way he'd brought up Respa's clothing.

Respa touched it gingerly, as if he'd been caught doing something wrong. "Oh," was all he said at first. "Yeah. The stairs in my house, man, I took a bad spill going down 'em Friday morning. It's why I didn't come to school. My eye was all swollen up like I got punched out." Ryan didn't bring up the fact that if the bruise was that old, it wouldn't be purple anymore. It seemed almost nosy, somehow.

"Must be some rickety stairs," he said instead, resting his chin between his knees that were pressed together. "Glad you're back, though."

"You are?" Respa said, looking as if he'd been blindsided. "I mean, yeah. Good, yeah, I'm glad too." He tugged the top of each side of the zipper up and around his reddened face, sliding further down the wall he leaned against. His feet hit the opposite wall flat, and his knees bent slightly to compensate. "Glad to be back."

Ryan thought of a thousand things he could bring up right then, trapped with smells of industrial cleaner and the sensation of crudely-cut plywood shelves making grooves in the skin on his back. Chief among them was Why do you hurt Alex? Why do you hurt all those other kids? Do you even know how much people hate you?

But of course, Ryan kept his mouth shut. They spent the rest of the period drifting between quiet and conversation about unimportant things like their favorite movies and where Ryan had gotten his T-shirt. (He hadn't even noticed that morning what shirt he'd chosen, but Respa liked the white print of a boombox and he said so.) It was when the door was opened from the outside that both boys held their arms up against the harsh fluorescent lights of the hall, and against the figure that had opened the door.

The janitor sighed, pursing his lips. "I don't know what y'all are doing in here, and I honestly do not want to know. All I want is for you two to get the hell out of my cleaning supplies right now." He pointed down the hall. "Get on out of here."

"You gonna report us to security?" Respa asked suspiciously, hoisting himself up using the sides of the shelving.

"I don't get paid nearly enough to care about what you delinquents are doing with your time here," the janitor snapped. "Get up out my face!"

"Thanks, man," Respa said, offering Ryan a hand without looking back at him. Ryan grabbed ahold of Respa's forearm with both hands, and Respa pulled him upright in one motion.

"I will admit the irony's hilarious," the janitor said as Ryan left the closet, leaning against the wall. "Coming out of the closet." He snorted, crossing his arms.

"What—aw, come on, man, we're not—" Respa protested, but the janitor held up a hand.

"I said I do not give a shit what you do, so long as you do not do it in my goddamn supply closet!" the janitor barked, and he pointed down the hall. "I don't ever wanna see you near my shit again!"

As they both took off, the janitor poked his head into the closet, and Ryan guessed he'd found the mop bucket, because the next thing they heard was, "Aw, shit! Fuckin' tree motherfuckers fuckin' with my goddamn bucket! How the fuck am I supposed to get that down!"

"Yeah, he's not gonna report us," Respa said, making a dismissive gesture as he tucked the thumb of his other hand into his tiny front jeans pocket. "We're fine."
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