At break, all the seniors were at the pool doing a cleanup of the area, which included painting the benches. Most of us were pissed that we couldn't dive in 'cause it was pretty damn hot under the midday sun. It was often the case that students would pitch in to help with school maintenance. Our school wasn't a wealthy one like some of the others. Steve's school, for example, was a private school, and pretty exclusive. I'd never been there, but I wouldn't have been surprised to see waiters in black-and-whites serving lunch on silver trays to the pupils.
As it turned out, Carol and I went to the movies by ourselves on Friday night. Kyle and Steph decided to have a night out by themselves… or, rather, I figured she did the deciding. Maybe it was just as well, 'cause Carol felt the same way about being alone with me sometimes. Girls could be kinda possessive like that.
I liked Carol a lot. She was good company, and a pretty neat chick. I wasn't sure about being in love, though. Obviously, sex played a big part in our relationship, but I was wise enough to know that sex and love could be two different things. And that was another confusing aspect of my relationship with Kyle. I couldn't deny that sex had become a part of our friendship -- hell, the dude hardly talked about anything else! But it was incidental compared to the sex between me and Carol. And yet the bond between Kyle and me was incredibly strong. If Carol and I had had the kinda fights that Kyle and I had, I doubted if I'd be as willing to compromise as much with her as I had with Kyle. Sure, Carol and I had had some pretty wild fights where she'd throw everything but the kitchen sink at me. She was one fiery lady! Then we'd make up, and everything would be cool again. But the fights with Carol weren't like the fights with Kyle. The fights with him were much more intense, to the point where we'd totally lose our rags and wanna flatten each other. And, later, we'd both feel guilty. Pride was the only thing that caused us to avoid each other for a while after a disagreement. Then pride would give way to… to what? Love? Fucked if I knew, 'cause it was a whole different feeling to the one I had for my mom, or for Carol. It was a strong feeling… an incredibly strong feeling… far too strong to ignore. Like the time we fought after I'd told him about Steph and Steve getting it off. It was days later, and many sleepless nights, before I summoned the courage to face him, then found him sitting on the beach alone, with the wind blowing like hell. I said things that night that I'd never said to anybody. How could I have? I'd never understood friendship before I met that crazy dude with the crazy hair. I thought friendship was all about hanging with guys… nothing deeper than that… and certainly nothing to do with sex.
Saturday night, the four of us went clubbing to Corners, and the joint was packed to the rafters with people who'd come to town for the big cycle tour the next day. Kyle and I got totally wasted again, which pissed the girls big time. When Carol and I arrived at her place, where I was sleeping over, I got the big earful the moment she closed the door behind us. Closed? Try slammed.
"I don’t understand you guys. Why do you get so trashed?"
"So are Steph and I… best friends… but we don't get shitfaced every time we go out!"
"It's a guy thing."
"Don't talk crap. How could it just be a guy thing? There were plenty of other guys at the club who didn't get wasted."
"Maybe it's just a Kyle and me thing."
"You're leading him astray. He didn't drink so much before. It's like some stupid competition thing where he has to keep up with you."
"Well, if he didn't, he'd be sober like you are, and he'd be giving me a fucking earful as well."
Sunday, we all went to watch the cycle tour. There were thousands of the dudes pedaling for their lives, which made one helluva spectacle. While we were there, Kyle told me that he and his folks were going away for the school hols up the "Garden Route" and staying in a holiday bungalow. "We haven't been on a family holiday for a long time, so it's gonna be a total rave!" Meantime, Carol had told me that she and her folks were going away, and Steve was going to Durban with a bunch of his school buddies. So where did that leave me? Home alone for two weeks? Shit.
Back at school on Monday we were told that the seniors would be taking an ecology trip up the mountain the following day… we were going to check out the fire damage, and the way the indigenous plants were beginning to sprout again… nature doing its thing… the eternal Phoenix rising from the ashes. Maybe that was a lesson for all of us.
Earlier that morning, the swim team had organized a challenge between Kyle and me, just for the hell of it. So, at break, we stood on the blocks in our Speedos, while the rest of the guys cheered. I saw Wingnut in the crowd, but he was rooting for Kyle. I guessed I would've, too, if I hadn't been competing. When I was in win mode, nothing, absolutely nothing, would get in my way.
Kyle was no match for me in the freestyle events, but he was pretty close in the backstroke. He touched the wall only a second behind. In the butterfly, it was a different story. I could see the bastard right alongside me in the final lap, and he nailed me! He told me later that he'd almost died doing it, which cracked me up. Anyway, it would've looked bad if I'd creamed him in every event. Not that I didn't try.
A short time after the comp, Wingnut's friend Robbie approached Kyle, and told him that some kid had followed Wingnut into the toilet and kneed him in the balls. "He screamed 'cause the dude kicked him so hard!"
"Show me the dude," Kyle demanded as he quickly got into his tracksuit.
There was gonna be trouble, no doubt about that, so I followed Kyle as Robbie led him to the dude, and pointed to him. He was about sixteen, and a skinny kid. I recognized him as one of Alan's goons.
"Leave it, Kyle," I said as I grabbed his arm. "Let me book the fucker."
"Book him later." Kyle took hold of the fuck's shirt, and shook him.
The kid didn't need to be asked the obvious question. "Alan told me to do it!"
"Leave him, Kyle," I insisted. "Let me sort it out." But it was too late. Kyle kneed the kid in the nuts, and sent him to the ground in a whimpering heap.
Suddenly, Alan appeared from behind the crowd, with a self-satisfied sneer. "I saw what he did, so you'd better book him, Mr Prefect."
Kyle spoke before I could. "Why don't you do your own fighting, you overgrown herd of beef?"
"So come on, Kyle," Alan taunted. "Take me now… if you've got the guts. We can get your prefect buddy to ref."
I made a grab for Kyle's arm, and held him. "Leave it, Kyle. You're already up shit street." Big mistake. Kyle pulled away from my grip and walked straight into Alan's fist. His tooth cut his lip, and blood began to flow. But before Kyle could react, Alan fisted him again on the same spot. I stepped between them.
"You guys need to walk away now, before this gets outa hand." I knew that the sickening, smartass smile on Alan's face would've been making Kyle's blood boil, as it was mine, but, as a prefect, I had to handle things by the book. Then, Alan turned, and swaggered away with his squad of mental deficients.
"I could've taken him out," my bud complained as he wiped the blood from his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Didn't look that way."
"I've taken him before."
"That was before, Kyle. Anyway, you're in enough crap. There were other prefects watching, so I can't even take your name off the damn book. You could face a fucking suspension."
"Cool. Early hols. I need to go and check up on Wingnut."
As he walked away, I yelled, "That was fucking stupid, Kyle! It could've waited until after school!"
"No it couldn't," he yelled back, and kept walking.
Later, I had to attend a hearing between the school's guidance counsellor and Kyle, where he was being considered for suspension. But after hearing my side of the story, the counsellor gave him work-squad duty instead. He reasoned that Kyle's energy was "misguided", 'cause he was helping a friend take revenge. What a load of crap, I thought, and explained that, from my perspective, Kyle was simply sorting out a bully. And if he hadn't, I would've… but I kept that afterthought to myself.
After the hearing, I spoke to Kyle in private. "It's better than a suspension, Kyle. At least it's not on your record."
"I guess. Thanks for what you said in there."
"Yeah, well, it's the truth. Just be careful of Alan. Two weeks ago, he and another guy kicked a dude from another school into hospital. Just watch your back… that's all."
"How come I hadn't heard about that?"
"'Cause nobody's saying a damn word… in case they're next."
"The trouble is, it's Alan who does all the fucking needling. When everyone else is just chillin', he starts the crap. I just can't sit there and be a fucking target for him… and I won't allow Wingnut to be."
"He just uses Wingnut to get to you."
"I know that. But why must the little guy get beaten up for nothing?"
"Alan knows that it hurts you, that's why. What are your folks gonna say about the letter from the counsellor?"
"They're gonna freak, as usual. Another fight at school. My mom's gonna freak big time. My dad takes it a bit better. I think he must've been a bit of a scrapper at school. So it's in the genes."
"Yeah," I laughed. "Levis or Wranglers? You've got some balls, Kyle."
"You should know. You've seen 'em up close."
"Fuck off, you pervert."
Later that afternoon, I rocked over to Kyle's place to see if his folks had given him a hard time about the letter from the counsellor.
"They freaked. I was surprised at my dad, though. He asked me if he's gonna get a phone call one day to visit me in hospital 'cause I'm always getting into fights at school. He didn't give a shit about me putting down a bully. In fact, that worried him even more."
"Remind you of something?"
"When you pushed me the other day 'cause you were worried about shitforbrains doing the same thing to me?"
"It was then that I realized… well… y'know… how you feel about stuff. Kinda like your dad feels about you. He worries. So does your mom. Anyway, I came around here to remind you about how stupid you were today. And you've gotta be fucking careful of Alan, 'cause he can be totally out of control sometimes. Your dad has probably come across Alan's type before. Bullies weren't invented yesterday."
On the way home, I thought about how Kyle's and my eyes had watered the day we fought over what shitforbrains was doing to me, and how Kyle was worried about my ending up in hospital or something. Now it was my turn to worry about him, and what dickhead Alan might be planning. One thing Kyle had in his favor, though, was that if Alan or his brain surgeons tried anything, they'd have me to deal with. And there'd be no way in the fucking world that he'd be standing by the time I'd finished with him… or his dimwit sycophants. Actually, to be honest, I would've relished the opportunity to teach those fuckwits a lesson they'd never forget.
I was almost home when I remembered what Kyle had said to Alan. "Why don’t you do your own fighting, you overgrown herd of beef?" I was still cracking up by the time I'd reached my room. Even in a fit of fury, Kyle was still able to be the comedian. And I was right. He did have balls. Big time.
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