The next morning Lawrence’s right eye had blackened. He still had vision, but it was more than noticeable. He was going to wear sunglasses over it, but that would raise more questions than answers. So he simply walked out of his house and headed for school. As he walked through the front doors of his school Eugene and Colin were waiting for him in the cafeteria.
“How’d you get that shiner Lawrence?” Colin asked upon seeing him.
“I, um, well let’s just say slippery when wet, am I right?” Lawrence replied scratching the back of his head in and awkward tension.
“Right.” said Eugene seeing how badly Lawrence didn’t want to talk about this.
“So anyone seen Tyler?” asked Lawrence Lawrence trying his hardest to change topics.
“I don’t know, I got a text from him saying he needed to tell us something.” Colin said, “Oh, wait there his is.” he continued pointing to Tyler.
“Ya, but who’s that with him?” Eugene asked noticing the other boy around his arms.
“Hey, guys.” Tyler addressed the group.
“So Tyler, going to introduces us to your friend?” Colin asked.
“Right, everyone this is-” was all Tyler could say befor Lawrence interrupted him.
“Luke?” Lawrence said in complete surprise, to see the same boy from the library who gave him the soup, to give to Heather.
“Oh hey Lawrence, Ty, you never told me you were friends with Lawrence.” Luke said.
“Um, Tyler you want to give us a little context here.” Colin said.
“Right, everyone this is my boyfriend Luke.” Tyler told them, Colin’s and Eugene’s eyes widened when they heard this. “Luke this Colin and Eugene, I see you already know Lawrence.”
“Well, hi.” Luke said, his voice was noticeably more high pitched than Tyler’s. This was a boy who fully embraced that he was gay.
“Hey.” Colin said.
“So, is this recent?” asked Eugene.
“If you count three weeks as recent.” Tyler told him.
“Works for me.” Eugene continued shrugging his shoulders, “Welcome to the group.”
They all accepted Luke into their group, although it was a little awkward whenever Tyler and Luke would kiss. Even though they looked passed it. After about five minutes Lawrence, went off in the direction of his locker, he was about halfway to it when he looked over and saw Heather by her locker, with some other boy. A feeling of jealousy came over Lawrence. He started in the direction, but soon learned he had nothing to be jealous about. He could tell the boy was Max Fisher and by what was said he could tell he wasn’t wanted there.
“I told you you’re not my type.” Heather said in discussed.
“Oh, but you’re my type baby.” Fisher said moving closer to Heather nearly pinning her to the locker. Who knows what would have happened if Lawrence hadn’t come along when he did.
“Fisher! What do you think you're doing?” Lawrence shouted as he was walking towards them.
“Hey look pal, this is none of your-” was all Fisher said before seeing he was talking to Lawrence. “Um, Walker, I was just, you see it was a misunderstanding, I was just saying hi.” he stuttered.
“Ya, sure you were. Just get out of here Fisher.” Lawrence ordered.
“Ya, whatever.” Fisher said under his breath as he walked away defeated.
“What was all that about?” Heather asked confused.
“I’ll tell you later, come on we should get to class.” Lawrence said as the bell rang.
After the incident in the hallway, Lawrence went to his classes. It was a day that felt like it was dragging on forever, by the time lunch was served Colin, Eugene, Heather, and Lawrence were all getting use to having Luke around. About halfway through lunch Heather went to class early to finish homework, after she left Lola came up to the group of boys and before she could get a word off, Eugene jumped right into the conversation.
“Lola Valentine, I know why you're here. You're going to ask me to the dance, well OK.” he said all smug.
“In your dreams pig, I’m here to ask Lawrence.” said Lola.
Eugene just looked at her in a half surprised, half insulted look.
“No.” Lawrence said doing his best not to hurt her feelings.
“That’s what I thought, wait what? Did you just say ‘no’?” she said getting furious.
“Oh, shot down.” said Eugene starting to walk away with Lawrence not giving him time to explain himself.
As they walked away Lawrence could see out of the corner of his eye that Eugene had turned back around and flipped Lola off with both hands. Lola just stood there shocked and angry.
“Why did you push me away? I needed to explain myself.” Lawrence told him as they walked the halls together.
“No you didn’t, trust me that girl needs to be brought down a peg or two.” Eugene said with a smile that was almost mischievous.
“Your just upset because she came to ask me to the dance and not you.”
“So and that reminds me, why did you say no? You're going with Heather aren't you?”
“No, I just don’t like school dances. I think they're stupid.”
“So do you have anything planned for that night?”
“Na, I’m just going to sit at home and do nothing. I may go see my dad, but the chances are slim.”
“K, well if you want to get together and hang out, just call.”
“You know it.”
The bell rang not long after that and the boys separated and went to separate classes. After school, Lawrence went to see Claire. It was hard every time he went there Lawrence would have to fight back tears.
“Hey Lawrence.” Claire said her expression was less than ecstatic when she said it. She knew just as Lawrence did that her time was coming to an end. Claire was getting weaker, and weaker by the day. Some of the nurses and care staff at the hospice astounded she made it as long as she did.
“Hey Claire, doing good.” Lawrence said a sad expression on his face when he said it.
“I’m making the best of a bad situation. What happened to your eye?” Claire said, her head turned in curiosity.
Lawrence said nothing, he didn’t have to say anything, Claire knew when her father was beating Lawrence, after all she went through the same thing before she was hospitalized.
“He’s a pig.” Claire said, anger in her voice. She would often try to convince Lawrence to go the police, but he wouldn’t. The safety of his little sister was more important to him.
“So, um, how’s everything been here.” Lawrence asked after a few awkward moments went by.
“Good the staff is nice, but the food is a bit of a downgrade.” Claire said.
After lawrence told Claire of his week, he left. Lawrence needed to get home before the school buses did. Leaving his sisters side was one of the hardest things Lawrence could do. Lawrence felt his guilt build with every step he took away from Claire’s bed. He knew that this wasn’t his fault, yet still he felt guilty. Weeks past and all was the same, Christmas day came not to long after. To Lawrence it was just another day, even so he still got his sisters gifts, for Scarlett a new teddy bear and for Claire a watch. Her new room didn’t have a clock, so Lawrence figured that it would be better than a pair of earrings.
Lawrence always felt sadder at Christmas, while most kids spent time with family laughing and sharing love. Lawrence was stuck with an abusive drunk, a mother who most likely forgot about him, and a sister close to death. Even so his younger sister was still alive and well, Lawrence always felt that he had raised Scarlett more than anyone. So seeing his sister happy and health filled him with a feeling of accomplishment.
With the new year settling in, a fresh new start swept the valley in which Lawrence lived. As if the changing of a year could wash away everything from the last one. Lawrence always looked at the past as this ‘people don’t forget, nothing gets forgiven.’
As he returned to school, Lawrence keeped by those words. Where most would want to forget and move on, Lawrence remembered, so he would not repeat the same action.
“Hi Lawrence.” Heather said greeting him at the school entrance. She was the first friend he saw in the new year, a good start.
“Hey, happy New Year.” Lawrence replied, smiling as he said it.
Lawrence walked with Heather, as they disgusted what happened over the break. They got on the topic of the dance, it was coming fast. Lawrence would wonder if he would ever ask Heather, if that would be the milestone that would make them a couple? Over the break Lawrence had thought about what Eugene had said, maybe he was just friends with Heather, maybe it was not meant to be? Lawrence would always snap back to reality before his thoughts would get the best of him.
Not long after Eugen, Tyler, and Luke came along. It seemed that Eugene had become good friends with Luke, seeing Eugene was laughing at a joke Luke had told. As they approached Eugene broke off from the group and pulled Lawrence aside as well.
“Hey Lawrence, first off it’s good see you.” he said giving Lawrence a hug.
Lawrence rolled his eyes slightly and returned the hug.
“It’s good to see you too bud.” Lawrence said.
“Second, your birth days in a few weeks, so Colin, Tyler, and I are going to take you out for a little birthday fun.” Eugene said.
Lawrence had completely forgotten about his birthday, he never really celebrated his birthday, it always seemed like another day. However Eugene seemed fixed on getting him to celebrate. Sometime Lawrence hated being born so close to the start of the year.
“Look, Eugene I don’t-” was all he could say.
“No I don’t want to hear it. I will drag you out of your home if I must. You are celebrating with us.”
“Fine, what did you have in mind?”
“There's a small pub in town. I figure we go have a few drinks and just hang out.”
“A pub? Eugene I’m turning sixteen, the oldest out of us is Colin and even then-”
“Don’t worry, the owner of the place owes me big, will be fine.”
Lawrence felt uneasy, but he figured he didn’t have to drink and seeing that agreeing to this would get Eugene to shut up about it he did. The boys then returned to the group. The rest of the day and the week for that matter, just seemed to run together. Lawrence couldn’t think about anything else, but his sister and his heart. The one thing that scared Lawrence the most about Heather was what if she rejected him, would they remain friends, or would she simply stop talking to him? Knowing that there was this awkward tension between them could ruin their friendship. Lawrence figured better to be friends and lonely than strangers and heart broken.
On the following Sunday, was the day Lawrence was born. At ten o'clock that night Lawrence will have turned sixteen. He got a text that his friends were waiting for him down the road from his house. Lawrence checked once more that his father was blacked out and that Scarlett was in bed. After that Lawrence gathered his things and left.
He saw Colin’s headlights through the trees, he could hear his friends laughing. As he approached the truck he could hear them quiet down. Colin hung his arm out the open window motioning Lawrence to get in the back. As he opined the door Tyler and Eugene shouted to him “Happy birthday.”
Lawrence jumped slightly, then got in. Tyler patted his back and Eugene just smiled. The drive to the pub was short, but no less enjoyable. It was fun to be with his old group of friends again.
As they entered the pub a strong scent of cigarettes and beer hit the four boys harder then any wall could. The pub was small and warm, old wooden floors creaked with every step they took. A small fireplace filled the room with a nice oak smell, once you got passed the beer and cigarettes of course. Lawrence almost didn’t notice the barkeep staring at them as he admired the half wooden half brick walls.
“What do you kids think you're doing? Get out of here.” he shouted.
“I got this guys.” Eugene said as he placed his thumb and index finger into his mouth and whistled. “Johnny? Johnny?” he continued to call into the pub.
A man started to come over, seeing Eugene a large smile appeared across his face.
“Eugene, man it’s good to see you.” the man said embracing Eugene. “Heard about your dad, I’m sorry.”
“It’s ok, Johnny. Hey can you do me a favor and get your barrat off our backs.” Eugene said.
“No prob, Scott did you try and kick them out?” Johnny asked.
“But boss, they're just kids. They don’t belong-” was all he could say before Johnny lifted his hand to signal him to stop talking.
“I don’t want to hear it Scott. Now you treat them like any other customer here, or you’ll be in the unemployment line. I’m sorry about that guys he won't bother you again. I’ve got to run, enjoy yourselves.” Johnny said walking away.
The boys took up a seat at the bar. Lawrence could see that even the bar counter was made of an old wood. This place was less of a pub and more of a cabin.
“Hey, barkeep. Three Bud Lights.” Tyler ordered, “And don’t worry guys tonight is on me.” he continued pulling a credit card out of his pocket.
The man behind the counter pulled three beers from behind the counter and placed them in front of them, reluctantly.
“What about you?” he asked Lawrence a angry expression covered his face.
“I don’t drink.” Lawrence replied.
“Well tonight you do.” Eugene said, smiling behind Lawrence.
The bartender then pulled a beer out from the behind the counter and placed it in front of Lawrence. Lawrence looked at the bottle and frowned he knew he couldn’t drink this, but then again he never wanted to look weak in front of his friends either. Lawrence was ashamed the peer pressure got the best of him, but with one quick swig he swallowed the beer. He was surprised at the taste, it was good. Like an apple cider, only more alcoholic. Even so Lawrence caufed a little at how strong it was.
“I told you Eugene, Lawrence can’t handle it.” Colin said.
Lawrence never did like to be insulted, he tried his hardest to ignore it, but he couldn't. Lawrence got up from the bar and went to confront Colin.
“What was that Colin?” Lawrence asked.
“I said ‘you can’t handle it’. Let’s face it Lawrence, you're not the most experience of drinkers.” Colin said.
“I can handle anything you can.” Lawrence told him, seeing if he could bluff Colin out.
“Lawrence you’re a light weight.” a small smirk came across Collin’s face.
The worst part was he was right. From just what he drank at the bar Lawrence could already feel the influences of the alcohol taking over him. Even so he wasn’t about to let Colin say that about him, the alcohol wouldn’t let him.
“Then how about a contest.” Lawrence proclaimed.
“That’s a bad idea, you're already a little tipsy as it is.” Colin shot back.
“Ya, that you’re going to hurt yourself.”
“Don’t worry about me. Tell you what how about we make this a little more interesting.”
“Ya, a bet.”
“OK, how about this. If I win, you have to ask Heather to the dance.” Colin shot out, a large smile grew across his face as well as Eugene’s.
Lawrence’s heart jumped into his throat, but he had faith in himself. Lawrence swallowed deeply before continuing.
“Fine, but if I win-” Lawrence started.
“But you won’t.” Colin cut off.
“If I win you have to dye your hair bright blue.” Lawrence said, seeing that was the only thing that might cause Colin to worry.
“Deal, hey barkeep, two shot glasses and a bottle of Jack.” Colin shouted.
Lawrence sat at a table across from Colin, Eugene placed the glasses in front of them and filed them. Lawrence grabbed his and swung his head back washing the liquid down his throat, it burned as it went down as if someone had poured tar into Lawrence mouth. Lawrence then slammed the shot glass into the wooden table. A smile appeared across his face, but it soon went away when Colin drank his with little to no trouble. Lawrence could see he was in for the long hall.
After a three drinks Lawrence could feel the strong alcohol taking control of him and a small group had started to form. Eugene and Tyler sat off in the back drinking far less seriously, they were enjoying this that much was certain. After five drinks Lawrence’s vision started to blur and his speech was severely slurred. Colin was drunk, but still far in the lead. At eight drinks Lawrence was close to passing out, but was determined to win, Colin had also started to get a slurred speech. By the tenth drink it was over, Lawrence had passed out with Colin not far behind. The crowd had then dispersed.
“Come on Tyler, let’s get them home.” Eugene said pulling Colin’s truck keys from his pocket.
Lawrence was ducking in and out of consciousness, as was Colin. Lawrence woke slightly in the back of Colin’s truck. Eugene was driving and Tyler was in the passenger seat, both Lawrence and Colin were laid in the back seat. Colin had gotten enough energy to form one slurred sentence.
“Did I win?” he asked.
“Ya buddy, Lawrence passed out first.” Tyler replied.
Lawrence couldn’t mover, or hardly see, but he could hear them. Colin didn’t stay awake for long, nor did Lawrence. After about another hour Lawrence could hear Tyler and Eugene laughing.
“So what’s the plane here Eugene?” Tyler asked after he stopped laughing.
“I figure we drop Lawrence off, then we drop Colin off with his truck, after that we head our separate ways.” Eugene told him.
“Are you insane? We can’t take Lawrence back to his place, if his dad is even remotely conscious he’s going to kill him, literally.” Tyler told him.
“Oh, Christ your right. You heard what he did when Lawrence was innocent.” Eugene said seeing the flaw in his plan. “OK, how about this we take Colin home and drop off his truck, then we drag Lawrence to my place he’ll crash there, then we go our separate ways.” he continued.
“OK sounds good to me. Hey you got a smoke?” Tyler asked before Lawrence passed out again.
That was the last time Lawrence woke up in Colin’s truck. The next time he woke would be in Eugene’s home, where he had a long next day to look forward to. At least at that moment Lawrence got a nice, deep sleep.