The Wall and Goat Ch. 04bysexuscumlupus©
Ch4 – Jesse
I barely slept. The blow that had knocked me across the floor of my bedroom had raised a dark purple bruise the shape of Maxie's fist on my jaw and split my lip. There was no blowing it off, it looked like I'd been in a fight and my red rimmed eyes only backed that up.
I left the house before mum was even up and trudged to school through the thick cloud that had settled over the town in lieu of the earlier snow. My new tutor clucked disapprovingly when she saw me, turning from folding all the tea towels and dish cloths that would be used in the food room that day. I liked Miss Shin, she was sharp and took no nonsense from anybody.
"And what have you gotten yourself into then Mr Newall?"
"Nothing Miss." I buried myself in a book and sat with the bruised side of my face turned to the wall. I tried not to, but once the bell went and students began to trickle in, I looked for Maxie. He arrived last and Miss Shin gasped when she saw him.
"Maxie Tau! What happened to you?" Maxie shrugged and handed her a note which she read with widening eyes. I stared at Maxie, hardly believing what I had done to him.
His hand was bandaged; the fingers obviously causing him some pain, a deep black bruise blossomed like some sadistic flower all around and below his left eye, his lovely cheek bone hidden under the uneven puffy swelling. He manged to crack a smile for some of the younger students in our tutor group.
"You should see the other guy."
"Maxie!" Miss Shin scowled at him, then at me, "What did you two do? Wander into town and try and beat up a bear?"
Maxie dropped heavily into his seat and stared at his bandaged hand lying on the desk. Was he left handed? I wasn't sure, I sure hoped not, and today of all days I wanted to avoid him, but all morning was English and art, and he was in both classes with me.
I felt haggard, and that piled on top of guilt was no good thing. Why had I kissed him, I'd given myself away for nothing, and Maxie had no reason to protect my interests now that I'd done that to him. Even against his darker skin his injuries were obvious. All registration I tongued my split lip. It hurt like shit, but it distracted me from more complex pain.
The morning was hell. Maxie winced whenever he tried to use his left hand and I felt an echoing pain in my gut when I thought of it as my doing. Rumours and whispers abounded around us, about why and how we had both gotten beaten up in the same evening. I had a headache that made me want to lie down in a dark room and I could tell that Maxie felt the same. But I avoided looking at him.
Now that his eyes were hard and dark he looked even more like...I shook my head, refusing the thought before it was even fully formed. I had lain awake all night, not just thinking about what I had done, but what had been done to me. No, I hadn't wanted to move, but leaving London had given me one unlooked for advantage. I no longer had to walk past the place, every day where...no stop that. But now I lived next door to another boy whose face reminded me of him. I must have been a real shithead in my previous life to have this much bad luck all at once.
At break I left the art room as soon as the bell went, refusing to turn and look at Maxie as he changed back into his uniform. Thank god I didn't have sport with the guy. Ian and Pete were waiting for me at the entrance doors to the long corridor that linked Work and Play.
"Fuck it's true." Ian said when he saw me.
"Did you really get into a fight with Maxie Tau?" Pete asked.
I smiled, gave them a big grin to show I was fine, which made my newly healed scab crack and blood flowed anew. I winced and sucked in the copper taste.
"Well at least you won."
I shrugged, I wasn't so sure I had.
"What is going on with you two anyways?" Pete clapped me on the shoulder and we started walking.
"Nothing." I held my chin up, putting on a show of confidence I didn't really feel, "He needs to learn to mind his own business."
"No more fights dude," Ian fiddled in his pocket for change for the vending machines, "We can't have to getting too injured to play can we?"
"Nah," I pumped my voice full of false confidence as I spoke, "He's not strong enough any way. That was a lucky shot. He's a plucky little fairy, I'll give him that."
Something hit me in the back of the skull and I turned sharply. Maxie's bag was at my feet, and he stood fuming six feet away.
"What the fuck is your problem?" I shouted at him. Inside I was panicking, what if he told everybody what had happened? How easily could I deny it?
Maxie didn't answer, but his eyes were black and he covered the space between us in three long strides, the last one ending in a kick to my shin that made me fall to my knees. He wasted no time with the follow through and his punch connected with my already bruised jaw and sent me sprawling over the floor.
"Why?" Maxie was shouting, shaking, emotions other than rage taking over his body, "Why did you take it from me?"
I was saved from answering by the interruption of teachers.
Ten minutes later we were both sat in the outer office of headmaster's study. Maxie had ice and new bandages on his sprained fingers, having used that hand to punch me despite all reason. I had a cold spot pack held against my lip, which had split even further, the sort of wound that would take weeks to properly heal. I limped when I walked, a shiny yellow bruise rising on my shin.
The headmaster bawled us out for ten solid minutes. Neither of s said a word. Fighting in school was indefensible, the fact that we had obviously been fighting before made it ever worse. Now that Maxie and I were twins in injuries, there was no clear winner; and while his fight seemed more premeditated, once I'd been made to repeat what I'd said it was obvious that he had been provoked. We got afterschool detention for a week, I got pulled off the swim team and Maxie had his student leader privileges removed. Then we got sent to isolation for the rest of the day.
Isolation was just that. A spare teaching room in Work with a bunch of those single student exam style tables all facing the same way. We were directed to desks on opposite sides of the room and told to get on with whatever work we had. Different teachers came and went to watch over us and I put my head on my arms and decided to catch up on much needed sleep.
I dreamt of him. The dream furnished him with Maxie's face, but it was him alright. I was in the Hyde Park gents, the newly refurbished underground conveniences with the lovely cream tiles, Victoriana around the borders. I didn't often go in, but I'd been with the guys all afternoon drinking and I was desperate for a piss. There had been a man at the urinals so I went to the other end. The next set of events happened in weird flashes.
He smiled at me, I looked away. I smiled back, he was handsome. I turned to leave, a hand on my elbow. Dark eyes, close to. A stall. Hot heavy breaths on my skin. Hands all over me, pushing and pressing. A kiss that hurt, blood in my mouth. Thick fingers squeezing my genitals.
I woke with a shout.
Maxie raised his head off his arms and stared at me. We were alone in the room, the clock read three pm, it was dusky outside. My jaw hurt worse than it had when I'd fallen asleep, and Maxie looked no better for his time in isolation.
Maxie turned away from me and faced the wall. It figured that he would be pissed with me, I had hit him. More than once. My jaw ached, but I couldn't be mad at him. And what the hell had he meant about me taking something from him? What was that about?
"Don't speak to me," his voice was tight, "I still want to hit you."
They sent us home at four when all the other students were long gone and although we didn't look at each other we walked home sort of together. I limped a bit on the leg where Maxie's foot had connected and Maxie walked with his scarf high up around his shoulders, obviously pained by his injuries. He walked into his house without a second look back and I stood staring at his retreating figure. Only I could ever had blown something this simple all out of proportion. I could have just been friends with the guy, been normal. But I was so pissed about moving, and then so angry at myself for wanting...stuff, that I had been awful to him.
What had I taken from him?
Mum put through the ringer when I entered the house. When my mother is angry, she doesn't speak to you. She handed me ibuprofen and a glass of orange juice and went back to the kitchen, clattering pots and pans loudly so that I would know she was mad. I went upstairs and lay on my bed. I closed my eyes, but I saw him so I opened them again. Why my imagination sometimes gave him Maxie's face I didn't know, they didn't really look that like. Same jaw, same skin tone. Same eyes when Maxie was mad. I had been such an unbelievable shit to him.
I tapped experimentally on the wall.
I shuffled closer, lying my whole body against the wall.
I knocked back twice.
"Maxie?" either he could hear me or he was ignoring me, I tried again, a fraction louder, "Maxie?"
A single tap in reply.
I rolled my back to the wall, at least he had acknowledged me. I fingered my bruised jaw gently, touched my lip, it was a wonder I didn't need stitches.
How on earth was I going to explain this to him when I couldn't even explain in to myself?
I woke twisted in the sheets, soaked in sweat that was turning chill even as I struggled to free myself. I grunted, my elbow colliding with the wall which made me yelp in pain. I got up and staggered to the bathroom. My jaw ached, yawning hurt something awful, and there was an oval blue-ish bruise on my leg the size of Maxie's boot. I finished up, flushed and hobbled back to my room. The moon was big in the sky, the stars so bright after the light pollution of London. There was someone in next door's garden. In the dark I peered closer. It was Maxie.
He was looking up at the houses his brows drawn low, and I wondered if he could see me in the dark of my room. He looked awful in the moonlight, the colour washed from his face, leaving sickly silver and the darkness of the bruising around his eye. I desperately wanted to speak to him, but I didn't dare. I was going to have to find the courage somehow. With no swim team and all the other sports clubs out of action until spring training began I was going to need someone to talk to. Ian and Pete were great, but even now, looking at Maxie out in the garden, I sensation I had no name for pulsed through me in time with my heart.
I couldn't muster up the courage to wave, or turn on the light so that he could see me, so I turned and went back to bed. I tapped softly on the wall, knowing we wasn't there and half wishing that he was.
In my dream he was dead. I was out in the garden and the moon filled the sky, turning the night into a silver day. Maxie was standing in his black coat and apparently nothing else. His face was bruised. I walked over to him and he opened his arms towards me. I stepped in for the embrace, to finally feel the warmth from other person on my skin but hot wetness flowed around my hand. I pulled back and the long silvery inches of a knife came with me. Blood black as pitch flowed out from the wound, soaking my hand. I tried to speak, I looked at his face and golden toffee eyes pitched towards sadness. Maxie opened his mouth to say my name but blood slopped out and down his beautiful chest. I tried to hold him up, but he was gone, and he pitched forwards. I couldn't hold him up and as I fell backwards those eyes turned dark and it was him. Not dying but laughing as he pushed me down and I could barely breathe.
I shook as I dressed the next morning and the sight of food made me wretch. Maxie was waiting at his gate and in total silence we walked, not together but not separately, to school.
So it went for the next couple of weeks. At night I sweated and shook and dreamt things I didn't understand. We didn't speak, didn't make eye contact, but every morning and evening we walked together. And we healed. The limp was gone after a few days and by the Friday of that first week the bruise around Maxie's eye was showing signs of fading. As my own damaged jaw healed, the skin turning pale he began to use his sprained hand again, working the fingers back into their natural rhythm.
The fight became common knowledge and we avoided each other in public areas of the school. I sat with Ian and Pete at lunch, who lamented at my general uselessness at getting kicked off the team. Ian took it well, but all too often he was off pleasing his more social acceptably friends. I took an easel next to Maxie's in art but made sure I was late so I wouldn't catch him changing. I could cope with the sight of his body. Trying to forget the way his lips had tasted was hard enough.
My grades were still disappointing, I was finding it hard to concentrate in class when the nights were keeping me up so much. Even though we never spoke my world seemed to revolve around him. I kept looking for that wavy dark hair, those mesmerizing eyes. I started getting thinner, not eating. Then one Thursday he wasn't there to walk home with me and something inside me snapped. I wasn't aware I'd grown to depend on him and then he wasn't there and hot angry flooded me. I ran home, using once polished muscles which now laboured under the strain. I was going to have to take up jogging again.
There was brick dust on my bed when I got home and an inch wide hole in my wall, just about where my head was when I was in bed. In the hole was a roll of paper. I fished it out. It turned out to be a poster, a photo of a pebble beach with a strange building atop it, the sunset washing over the scene. 'Strange Land' was written at the top in white typeface. On the back of the poster was a message.
Sorry about the dust.
This will make it easier to talk. Two knocks for no, one for yes. Cover the hole with the Keane poster when not in bed.
Then, in much smaller letters at the bottom.
I heard you, I'm sorry too.
I tacked the poster up over the hole and used the dust as an excuse to hoover my room. It was the one thing my mum never had to yell at me about. I loved making my room neat, the tidy orderedness of it all, everything in perfect place. All evening I thought of that hole, I thought of Maxie on the other side. I could barely keep up conversation with mum, kept playing with my food until she sent me away.
I rolled the poster away from the hole and looked through the tiny opening. I could see Maxie. The other boy sat at his desk, head bent low, working on something, probably the English assignment on Shakespearean poetry we'd been asked to do. I hadn't even started.
Suddenly I realised what I was doing. I was spying on my next door neighbour. A boy. What the fuck was I doing? What did I think was going to happen now? Well I couldn't exactly go back on the kissing him thing, and I doubted that we could just brush over either the fight or the fact that my attitude towards him had been really shitty that first week. All I knew was that I didn't want to sleep with nightmares again. I knocked on the wall and lay down.
"Hi." Maxie's voice sounded level and even, like he felt fine, he probably did, more fine than I did anyway, "You wanna talk?"
I tapped once on the wall again.
"OK, so sort of talk," I could almost feel him chuckle, "That's alright too." There was a soft pause, "I haven't forgiven you yet, you know that right?"
Knock. I wouldn't have been surprised if he'd stayed mad at me forever.
"The hand is better, I noticed you've healed pretty well. We could have really damaged each other." I didn't think this needed a response so I waited. "You stole my first kiss Jes." Maxie exhaled long and low as he said it and I pulled away from the wall in horror, "I'd never been kissed and you took it. I have to know why."
I gulped, audibly.
Maxie thumped the wall, hard.
"Really? Is that it? Because I was under the impression you hated me."
"N-no!" Already I was starting to feel that this talking through the wall idea wasn't a great plan, "I don't hate you. I never did." I managed to gulp down a breath, "You remind me of someone."
I knocked twice on the wall. I couldn't do that, I couldn't bring myself to talk about it yet.
"Alright," Maxie sounded resigned, "I'll wait. No more talking shit at school though right?"
"Good. Night Jesse." The light from his side of the wall was cut off as he pinned his own poster over the hole, and I spent the rest of the night staring at the pebble beach of Strange Land, not sleeping.