Prompt: The first time Hobbs talked to Calvin.
Principal Meyers thrust a box of tissues at Calvin before snarling at him. “Clean yourself up. I don’t want you bleeding all over my carpet.”
Calvin glared at the man and grabbed a bunch of tissues. He wiped his nose before twisting one up and sticking it up his right nostril.
“Let me guess,” Meyers said with a sigh. “Ethan Hobbs.”
Calvin didn’t reply. He slouched down in his seat and crossed his arms over his chest. At least he managed not to get any blood on his T-shirt this time. His mom wouldn’t be able to buy him new clothes until the new school year started, and Calvin was too embarrassed to ask Seb, even though he’d offered the last time he caught Calvin wearing one of Ethan’s way-too-big-for-him shirts because he’d gotten his P.E. one ripped.
“For crying out loud, Summers. Can we go one day without you ending up in my office? You think I have nothing better to do?”
“I don’t know. Do you?” Calvin asked smartly.
Meyers narrowed his near black eyes. “You need to work on your attitude.”
You need to work on not being such a jerk. Like the guy even cared that Calvin had been in a fight against three seniors bigger than him. Meyers just had to look like he gave a shit.
“Do I need to get your mom up here again?”
Calvin swallowed hard, his voice quiet. “No, sir.” His mom would be upset if she had to miss work to come down because he was in the principal’s office again. It meant she’d have to make up the hours at some other point during the week, and as it was, Calvin hated that she had to spend any time at all in that shithole diner. Plus, Meyers loved to hear himself talk, especially when he was blabbering on about what a troublemaker Calvin was. It’s like his principal kept his mom there on purpose, just to punish Calvin.
Meyers stood and came to sit on the edge of his desk to face Calvin. “You’re not a dumb kid, Summers. I’ve seen your grades. You’re a talented artist. Determined. You can have a bright future if you choose the right path, and right now, you’re not on it. Do yourself a favor and find some news friends to hang out with.”
Calvin was stunned. “Stop being friends with Ethan?”
“That kid is nothing but trouble. He’s got all kinds of problems. I know things are tough for you at home, but you’re smart. Ethan is holding you back.”
Calvin balled his hands into fists at his sides. “Ethan is smart, way smarter than you think. And he isn’t the problem. It’s those jerks picking on him. He never bothers anyone, but they find him just to bully him. They call him horrible names, push him around, and steal his lunch.”
Meyers studied him. “Have you thought that maybe you’re making him weaker?”
“He’s a tiger Therian. Ethan’s the biggest kid in this school. Maybe if you stopped fighting his battles for him, he might stand up for himself and tell those kids to stop.”
Calvin stared at the man. Was he serious? “You know he can’t because of his mutism.”
“Selective Mutism. He can talk.”
“Yeah, but he can’t choose who he talks to.” The only person Ethan spoke to was Seb. Heck, Ethan and Calvin had been best friends for over a year and a half now and not even Calvin had heard him talk.
“I’m sure if he stopped being so lazy, and really tried—”
Calvin jumped to his feet. “Are you kidding me?”
“Sit down, Summers.”
“Do you know anything about Selective Mutism? Do you even care?” Calvin was so angry he was almost shaking. Lazy? If he really tried? How could he say those things? Ethan wasn’t lazy. He worked super hard all the time. Some days his anxiety was so bad he couldn’t even come to school. Meyers knew that!
“Watch your tone,” Meyers warned. He stood and took a seat behind his desk. “You and Ethan have been nothing but trouble since you arrived. No other Freshmen give me as much grief as you two. Look at you. The black eye you came in here with on Monday has barely faded, and already your back, bloodied and bruised. Ethan Hobbs is a lost cause. Cut him loose or you’re going to end up serving burgers in some dive just like your mother.”
“That’s is. Detention for a month.” Meyers grabbed the detention notepad from his drawer and slammed it on the desk.
“I don’t care,” Calvin spat out. “Don’t insult my mom, and don’t for a minute think I’m going to stop being friends with Ethan. I won’t stop protecting him from bullies, or people like you!”
“You’re looking to get suspended, Summers. But then judging from your home life, what else can be expect?”
“You don’t know anything about my life,” Calvin ground out through his teeth. “And it would be nice to get a textbook or two in this school, but then judging from its principal, what else can be expected?”
Meyers gaped at him before his entire face turned a purplish-red. He jumped to his feet and thrust a finger toward the door.
“You’re suspended for a week, Summers! Let’s see who’ll look after your friend when you’re not here.”
Calvin flipped him the bird before spinning on his heels and strolling out the door. It slammed behind him, a loud crashing noise resounding from somewhere inside the room. It sounded like maybe Meyers had thrown something. With a grin, Calvin headed for his locker to grab his backpack. His mom would be upset, but she’d understand.
He waited ten minutes outside his and Ethan’s math class until the bell rang. When Ethan came out, his big smile squeezed at Calvin’s heart. His smile faded when he saw the tissue in Calvin’s nose.
“It’s nothing. Come on. We got a week off.” Meyers didn’t know anything about Ethan, and he sure as hell didn’t know anything about them. If Calvin wasn’t in school, Ethan wouldn’t be either. He’d tell his mom he wasn’t going and that was it. Ethan never missed school. He actually liked it. For the most part. If it wasn’t for the bullies terrorizing him, he’d love school. He especially loved science and chemistry.
Calvin headed for the front doors with Ethan on his heels. Outside, Ethan stopped him by the fence, his expression worried as he cupped Calvin’s face. He frowned at Calvin’s bloodstained nose before cocking his head to one side in question. Calvin had gotten really good at understanding Ethan. His best friend was the most expressive guy he knew and he never said a word.
“I got suspended.”
Ethan put a hand to his chest.
“No, not because of you.” Calvin couldn’t help his grin. “I said “fuck you” to Principal Meyers.”
Ethan’s jaw dropped.
“He talked shit about my mom.” Calvin turned and walked with Ethan right beside him. There was no point in making Ethan feel bad by telling him everything. His best friend felt guilty enough most days. Seb would bring them their homework, and most likely chew out Principal Meyers again. The thought cheered Calvin up. He remembered the last time Seb had stormed in there after Ethan had called him.
During P.E. some asshole had snuck up on Ethan from behind and thrown a towel over his head, holding it closed from behind. Ethan had a panic attack, and Calvin had punched Teddy Henley in the mouth. After Meyers was done threatening Calvin, Ethan had called Seb to come pick them up. When Seb thundered into the room, Calvin had taken hold of Ethan’s hand. He’d never seen Seb so pissed. Principal Meyers all but shit himself.
On their way home they stopped at a park. It was empty since it was mostly a kiddie park which was falling apart. No parent in their right mind would let their toddler play in this deathtrap. Calvin climbed the rusted jungle gym. Some of the bars were missing. Ethan joined him. It was nice. Ethan took hold of Calvin’s hand. He did that sometimes. Not because they were boyfriends or anything, but because Ethan liked it. It made him feel safe.
Ethan squeezed his hand and Calvin smiled at him. His best friend’s cheeks went pink and Calvin wondered what Ethan was thinking. Then Ethan opened his mouth.
Calvin was stunned, but he was quick. He shrugged and smiled. “For what?” If he made a big deal out of it, Ethan would feel uncomfortable and he might stop. Calvin never wanted him to stop. His voice was soft and sweet. Calvin had never heard anything more amazing.
“For being my best friend. For taking care of me.”
Calvin nudged a bit closer to Ethan so he could rest his head on Ethan’s shoulder. Mostly, he didn’t want Ethan to see the tears in his eyes. He squeezed Ethan’s hand to let him know how much it meant to him that Ethan had talked to him.
“We’ll always be together, Ethan. Always.”
Copyright © 2015 Charlie Cochet. All Rights Reserved. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.