Boarding School Blues
“I don’t know, Coop. It sounds crazy to me.”
Cooper leaned over and smacked a palm against the polished wood of the coffee table in their suite. Across from him, Anakin, Naveen, and Julian squeezed shoulder to shoulder on the couch. Their faces were a mixture of concern, apathy, and doubt.
“I know what I saw,” Cooper said. “Roy did something to them!”
Naveen yawned as he dug out the wax in his ear with his pinky. He flicked away the bits that came out. “I think you’re delusional. What did you even see that makes you so convinced, his dog? Roy’s job is to protect us. What reason would he possibly have to hurt Jordy or Xavier?”
“Because no one would ever suspect him!” Cooper shouted.
“Naveen has good point, Cooper,” Julian echoed in his thick accent. “And Roy searches every day.”
“Exactly! Why do you think no one’s found them yet? He’s probably throwing them off the scent! I’m telling you guys, it’s him! You should have seen the murderous look on his face. He was ready to sick his dog on me!”
“You do have that kind of face,” Naveen said and winced when Anakin and Julian punched him on either shoulder.
Cooper growled in frustration. Why couldn’t his friends see he was on to something? There was no denying the veiled threat Roy made to him when they crossed paths. The only reason he was alive was because Roy probably didn’t want to clean up the shredded bits of dog food that would have been left behind by his corpse.
“Coop, I think you should be careful,” Anakin said, running his fingers through his styled hair. “This sounds really dangerous.”
“We can’t be afraid of danger,” Cooper said, trying to sound braver than he felt. The words sounded better coming from Detective Dackery. Still, he believed in them. If Cooper couldn’t be brave enough to find Jordy and Xavier, who would be?
“Yeah, well, they’re fine,” Naveen said as he stood from the couch. “And this convo’s done. I’m going to bed.”
Cooper was about to shout something mean back, but even Anakin had a discouraging frown on his face. Did no one believe him?
“Besides,” Naveen said, smirking as he faced Cooper. “Don’t you two have…other things you’d rather be doing?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Anakin asked, although Cooper had a sneaking suspicion he knew what Naveen was hinting at already.
Naveen shrugged. “Who needs alarm clocks when we have the moaning brigade to wake us up?”
Anakin dipped his head in embarrassment, and Cooper’s temper flared. “Yeah, so what? It’s no big deal. We already know you do it, too.”
Julian gave Naveen a soft poke in the ribs. “Not only that, but he uses girl underwear too sometimes.”
“Dude!” Naveen shouted.
“What? Is true.”
“You wear what!?” Cooper shouted. He wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a girl’s undies, no matter what.
Naveen gave them all a warning finger. “Repeat any of this, and I’ll kick all of your asses. I mean it.”
“There’s nothing wrong with wearing panties,” Anakin said and shrugged. “I wear different clothes all the time.”
“Keep your voice down,” Naveen said, eyeing the open staircase that led down to the other suites. “And it’s not like that. I don’t wear them. They aren’t mine.”
Julian’s brow furrowed as he scratched his temple. “They’re not? But why do they have your initials?”
Cooper thought about Naveen’s first and last name, and the fact that he had a pair of panties. He snapped his fingers as the answer came to him.
“They’re not his! They’re Nadia’s, aren’t they?”
Naveen’s eyes widened, but he said nothing as his copper-skinned cheeks tinged a few shades darker.
“But why have her underwear?” Julian asked.
“Unless she gave them to him,” Anakin suggested.
All eyes were on Naveen, who was steadily backpedaling towards his dorm room before bumping into the closed door.
“I…uhh, I…” he trailed. Even from across the room, Naveen’s knees shook. He fumbled with the doorknob before rushing in and closing himself inside.
An awkward silence filled the room until Julian shook his head and sighed. “Come on. Let’s give talk.”
As he rose from the couch, Anakin said, “I still don’t see what the big deal is. Wear whatever clothes you wanna wear.”
“I think you’re missing the point,” Cooper said to his roommate as they followed Julian to his bedroom.
The Polish boy knocked on the door before announcing, “Naveen? Is Julian. We are coming in.”
Right away, Cooper was hit with the stark difference between their two bedrooms. Their beds sat on opposite ends of the room, and other than a few posters about outer space hanging from Julian’s wall and a salt lamp casting a glow on Naveen’s dresser, the room was bare. Cooper much preferred their rearranged beds and Anakin’s growing mural inside their own room.
Laying on his bed, Naveen was trying to smother himself with a pillow. When he spoke, Cooper could barely hear his muffled voice.
Cooper shut the door behind them as Julian sat on the mattress beside Naveen. A rank odor like old sweaty socks was coming from the dirty clothes pile in the corner. Laundry day couldn’t come soon enough.
“You know we do not care, right?” Julian asked. “We are your friends.”
“We all are,” Cooper said. “If you can’t talk to us, who can you talk to?”
Naveen slowly slid the pillow from his face, and when he did, he stared at the ceiling while chewing on his thoughts. The glow from the salt lamp painted his squinting face in brown shadows. Finally, he growled and sat up to face them.
“The underwear’s not mine,” he said. “It’s Nadia’s. She let’s me…use them.”
“Use them?” Anakin asked.
“I think he means…you know,” Cooper said, miming the motion Anakin did when he was getting the cum feelings. They all blushed as Naveen nodded.
“It helps me feel close to her.”
Anakin was still confused. “But she’s already your twin. Why would you need them to feel close to her? Unless…oh…”
“Don’t say it,” he said.
“You and her?”
“It’s not a big deal.”
Cooper had suspected it since the moment Naveen lost his cool over the panties. It made sense when he thought about it. Naveen already told them he’d had sex before. And he was the one who didn’t want them asking too many questions. But to find out he was having sex with Nadia, his own twin sister? Honestly, Cooper wasn’t sure how to feel. He didn’t have any siblings, but he knew what it was like to feel close to someone, to want to spend time with them. Maybe that was all that mattered. Who was he to judge?
Anakin was still trying to process what Naveen had said. Cooper could see it in the way his friend scratched his temple and furrowed his brow.
“Look, I don’t expect you guys to understand, but you can’t say anything. We promised never to tell anyone. Besides, it’s our business, anyway.”
“We won’t,” Cooper assured him, looking to the others to get their nods.
“But I have so many questions,” Anakin said as he rambled out his thoughts. “When did it start? How often do you guys do it? How does it feel?”
“Maybe later,” Cooper said. “Come on, Anakin. Let’s leave them alone for now.”
As Cooper led Anakin back into the suite, Naveen mouthed a silent thanks to him as Julian closed the door behind them.
“I can’t believe it,” Anakin breathed. “I wonder what it’s like to have real sex.”
Cooper rolled his eyes and giggled. “I’m sure it won’t take long before you find out for yourself. Come on, it’s been a long day. Let’s get some sleep.”
The hot shower water washed over Roman’s body, melting the tension in his muscles after another exhausting day at the rock climbing wall. How was it that he was still finding new places to ache? He was getting stronger, that was obvious. His arms weren’t the scrawny sticks they used to be. He wasn’t ripped like some body builder or anything, far from it, but his biceps and forearms were showing more curvature, and his calves were tight and strong. Now if only he wasn’t so short, maybe he’d start to feel like he was finally growing up.
Last night had been tough. Fielding already knew Xavier was the cause of his reoccurring nightmares, but it was the first time Roman had shared about the ways Xavier had sexually abused him. He didn’t realize it had a name, but that’s what Fielding had called the things he’d done.
“Your brother’s a jerk,” Fielding told him. “Whenever they find him, if he ever tries anything like that again, kick him in the nuts.”
“I just wish I knew why,” Roman said, his eyes dry and his tears all cried out by then. “Something happened to him, I know it.”
“Maybe it’s puberty,” Fielding said. “You know, all the hormones?”
“I guess,” Roman said, but the answer didn’t satisfy him. If it were puberty, wouldn’t the changes have happened gradually? The Xavier now was the polar opposite of the one he fondly remembered. They were yin and yang.
As Roman left the shower, he wrapped a towel around his waist before stepping into the suite. Fielding was waiting for him on the couch, and his eyes roamed all over Roman’s mostly naked body. Roman blushed at the extra attention. If he was being honest, the way Fielding had trouble taking his eyes from him or gawking over his near nakedness made him feel wanted.
Back in his bedroom, Roman dropped his towel and slipped into fresh clothes before pulling on a sweater to keep warm against the nippy autumn breeze. Perfect for a walk together outside.
“Ready?” Roman asked as he pulled the bedroom door shut.
When they walked down the staircase, Roman couldn’t help but tense up as they passed the quiet 8th grade suite. Even though Xavier wasn’t there, Roman tensed as if Xavier might suddenly leap out from the shadows, having played a cruel joke on him over the past three days.
“Come on,” Fielding whispered. “Let’s go.”
Outside, the clouds hung low in the sky like thick tufts of cotton. As they strolled down the cobblestone path, Fielding looked around for signs of anyone around, but they were by themselves. Everyone else was getting ready for dinner. That was fine with Roman. The whole point of walking outside was to have some time alone.
Fielding slid his hand beside Roman’s. They stopped together on the path. Holding Fielding’s hand was like warm butter on pancakes, and Roman squeezed it gently, bringing a smile to Fielding’s face.
“This is okay, right?” he asked.
Roman nodded, swallowing back his nerves. It was a new experience for Roman, the way his chest tingled as they clasped hands. If anyone happened upon the two of them, what would they see? Two boys holding hands, sure, but that wasn’t so unusual. Out of the two hundred something students at Blue Ridge, there had to be at least a few gay couples, but is that what they were? Is that what he wanted them to be?
“Is this why you wanted to go on a walk so badly?”
Fielding shrugged. “I thought you might be more comfortable if there weren’t a lot of people around. It’s my first time doing this, too.”
“I like it,” Roman said. Taking a quick glance around, Roman leaned in and quickly kissed Fielding on the cheek. When he pulled back, Fielding’s face glowed like the sunrise.
“Come on,” he said, “we still have a little more time before we gotta head back.”
Around them, the once orange and yellow autumn leaves were now dulled, many having broken loose in scattered piles around the base of the trees. As they walked towards the lake, a flock of Canadian geese hissed at them as they flapped their wings, prepared for war if they dared come any closer.
“Geez, sensitive much?” Fielding asked and squealed as one of geese charged, chasing the two of them around the lake with angry honks. It wasn’t until they were safely to the other side that the goose finally slowed. It kept a beady, watchful eye on them as they walked away. Fielding stuck out his middle finger.
The goose had shooed them near the edge of the forest. Here, the lake water lapped against the muddy shore, and a dense cluster of cattails and weeds waved softly in the late afternoon breeze.
“Eww, it’s smelly out here,” Fielding complained, pinching his nose.
Roman laughed. “Careful. You might step in a big pile of goose poop.”
Fielding nudged a stormy gray pebble with his foot before picking it up and attempting to skip the smooth stone across the lake. It died under a heavy splash. Roman joined him and picked up a new stone before slinging it at an angle, cheering as it skipped a few more times before plopping beneath the surface.
When Fielding threw his next stone, he laughed as it accidentally flew into the nest of cattails. It landed with a chunky splurch against a jammed pile of debris stuck inside. A flash of dull yellow within the tangled weeds caught Roman’s eye, and before Fielding launched his next stone, Roman raised an arm to stop him.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, following Roman’s gaze to the thick cluster of grass.
Tiptoeing around the shore, Roman’s shoes sank in the mud the closer he got. The stench from before grew stronger with every step as a nauseous pit formed in his stomach and his mind raced. It couldn’t be.
“Please, no,” Roman whispered.
“Roman?” There was a tremor in Fielding’s voice as Roman crept ever closer.
He couldn’t know for certain until he climbed up the high bank near the trees and looked down at the lake. Roman wanted to believe it was nothing—wanted desperately to turn the other way and ignore his gut.
Part of the bank had eroded away, and Roman’s foot slipped as he tried to find purchase up the hill. Using the exposed roots from one of the nearby trees as leverage, Roman hauled his body up the ten foot drop, remembering to shift his weight like he’d been taught.
When he turned around, the view wasn’t perfect, but even through the thicket of fallen branches and dense clump of cattails, there was no mistaking it.
“Fielding, we have to get help.” There, his body trapped and floating face down in the dark waters, was Jordy Diaz.
End Chapter 14
Copyright 2023 – Levi Holland
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