Marie-Ange didn’t come to school all week.
I was sad about it, but I didn’t say anything to anybody. I understood why she didn’t want to come, after all. If I’d been a girl who had been brutalized by someone like that, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near them for a long while… To be honest, if I were in her place, I would beg my mother to change schools. But that’s because if I were a girl, I’m sure I’d be even more cowardly than I already am.
I kept thinking about what happened. How I could have jumped in and knocked him out so he wouldn’t have thrown her to the ground and… And… Fuck it.
Nobody talked about the incident at school, though.
I wanted to tell Molly what happened. She was Alex’s ‘friend’ after all; maybe she would have knocked some sense into him… But it would have been a bad idea to bring Molly into this issue.
The week went by slowly, I was bored and tired, and I waited for Saturday to come.
We were going to watch Greg’s team play against Rickmansworth that day. I wore my usual clothes, jeans, a nerdy T-shirt, and a checkered shirt over that. I didn’t roll up the sleeves this time, as it was starting to be cold out, and debated on whether I should take a scarf or not.
Speaking of scarves, I didn’t really have that many, just this crummy dark blue one and this Gryffindor scarf that was a part of my Hogwarts uniform back when I went to nerd conventions with my friends in America.
I decided against wearing a scarf. It wasn’t that cold yet after all.
I walked downstairs and out the door, then across the street and knocked on the Valmont’s door. Marie-Ange came to open it with a small smile. She kissed me on both cheeks and closed the door behind her.
“Greg is arguing with our mother.” She told me quickly, visibly a little bothered.
“Why?” I asked. She waved her hand and shrugged.
“Oh, you know, just the usual things.”
I didn’t dare ask for more information. I shoved my hands in my pockets and waited with Angie for her brother to come out.
He did so a minute or two later, his sports’ bag slung over his shoulder, huffing, cursing to himself “She’s unbelievable.” He told us with a frown. I shrugged and suggested we leave.
We walked a while, and hopped on a bus that went towards the pitch. We arrived about twenty minutes before the beginning of the game so Grégoire headed off to the changing rooms where he met up with Gatsby, James, and Connor, as well as the other members of the team. Marie-Ange and I settled ourselves in the nearly full bleachers. She sat down and started fiddling with her phone, a little nervously before she looked up to me and gave me a quick smile.
I looked at Angie and shuffled closer to her, pushing up my glasses.
“So!” I started, taking in a quick breath “Uh, well, how have you been since… You know.”
“Oh.” She said, looking away “I’m… Okay. My cheek isn’t sore anymore.” She told me, fiddling with her thumbs “Could we not talk about this?”
I blinked at that and nodded. Of course she wouldn’t want to talk about that, how fucking stupid was I? I gulped and bit my lip, running a hand through my hair nervously “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay.” She replied as she looked out on the pitch where her brother and his teammates walked in on the wet, green grass clad in their blue and white striped t-shirt, blue shorts and white socks. They were all buff, some taller than others, some thicker than others, and in my eyes, Greg stood out the most. He was of an average height and was quite thick, though not as thick as Gatsby, but certainly thicker than most guys on the team. I didn’t know why I kept my eyes on him the most, it was probably since he was a familiar face, and I always was interested in watching him as he played rugby.
Rugby was a sport that I could never get into. I was too tall, too skinny, not quick enough, not sporty enough… But sports in general weren’t for me. I preferred video-games and reading anyway. At least I was good at that.
My dad tried to get me to play rugby when I was a kid, but he soon gave up. I still liked to watch matches on telly with him. It was our father-son bonding time. Mum would join us, some times.
Rickmansworth’s team was on the other side of the pitch dressed in black and white. They were ready, or at least they looked ready. Hell if I knew how ready they were.
The match soon started with a well-executed kick-off from one of Rickmansworth’s players. The ball flew across the pitch and was caught by one of the guys on our team whom I didn’t recognize. He ran forward and did his best to dodge the opposing team’s tackles. He threw the ball behind him, Connor caught it and ran.
The game had just started, but I was bored. I mean, not that bored. My friends were on the pitch, after all. But I thought I could use this time I had to try and fix things up with Angie…
Marie-Ange watched her brother play as he ran across the field, catching and throwing the oval ball at his teammates. She then leaned back in her seat and looked back at me, biting her lip. I looked back at her and did the same, smiling a bit. She was cute when she looked up to me like that, I guess.
“I’ve been thinking, David,” she started “About… You—you know, when I kissed you after Gatsby’s party.”
I blinked and looked at her for a second before I rubbed the back of my neck and nodded “Uh… Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that too.”
Then came a small awkward silence cut by yelling from the pitch. Marie-Ange looked up and shuffled closer to me, her chubby cheeks a little pink.
I took in a deep breath. I was going to tell Marie-Ange that I liked her. As in ‘like’ liked her. Really liked her. I even hesitated to tell her that I loved her like I wanted to tell her by text Monday evening.
It took all the courage in me to reach to hold her hand in mine, my long, bony fingers closing around the hand they were holding. Angie looked up to me and blinked. I took in a quick breath and spoke up “I really like you, Marie-Ange.” I told her, doing my best to pronounce her name right. “I know it’s a bad time to say this.”
“What do you mean ‘a bad time’?” she asked, cheeks taking a darker shade of pink.
“I mean, with us being outside, in the cold, while your brother’s over there, doing that one thing he loves the most, and I’m here wishing I could do the… Wait, no, that’s just gross.”
Marie-Ange giggled a bit at that “It’s okay, David…” she told me softly, giving my hand a little squeeze.
I bit my lip and nodded. What should I say now? I didn’t want to ruin anything. I squeezed her hand back and smiled softly at her, closing my eyes.
It felt nice, you know, just to hold her hand after telling her that I liked her. She didn’t push me away, she didn’t say that she didn’t feel the same way. I gulped and looked back at her a little nervously “I’ve… Never had a girlfriend before.”
“Really? I would have thought that girls in America would be fighting each other to get to you.” She teased. I laughed dryly at that.
“Very funny.” I said “I garnered interest, but not… Y’know, that kind of interest. I went to prom with one of my friends, not my girlfriend, for example.”
She nodded at that and looked out to the field as Gatsby tackled some guy from Rickmansworth to the ground, making him let go of the ball. Another guy who was obviously on our team rushed to grab it and ran forward before he threw the ball to James who was left off balance. He ran to the other side of the pitch and threw himself on the ground, scoring a try for his team as the crowd cheered on.
She held my hand softly and looked back up to me again “I like you too, David…” she admitted, cheeks flushed. I smiled at her and licked my upper lip before I leaned down to try and kiss her. She turned her head away, shaking slightly “Not now… Please.”
“Oh. Right. Sorry.”
“I mean, not that I mind public displays of affection… But, I mean—you know! Here and now in front of everybody… M-maybe Alex is here! Oh God…”
“It’s okay, I get it!” I told her, still holding her hand “But… I really wanna kiss you as soon as possible.”
Marie-Ange gulped at that, blushing furiously. Had I said something wrong? I was just being honest and—sure, I was blunt. Was I too blunt? Did I scare her? I hoped I didn’t. I offered her a quick smile, she smiled back, everything was fine.
The game went on for an hour or so. I kept holding Angie’s hand as the boys on the pitch were in a scrum. Nathalie had arrived to watch the game, joining us a few minutes later with a can of beer in her hand. She waved at Marie-Ange and grinned at our entwined fingers before she settled herself next to her best friend.
They chatted or a while, trying to have a little conversation despite the noise coming from the crowd. I just sat there and watched the match while still holding Angie’s little hand. Then something caught my eye. I say something, but it actually was someone.
There was this tall, dapper gentleman who stood out from the crowd of hyper teenagers and overweight middle-aged men who came to watch the game. This man… God, this man. He was handsome. The kind of guy who would make every straight woman and gay man drool. The George Clooney-esque man who aged like fine wine. He was a tall man who seemed to be a little older than forty, dressed in a striped dark blue suit and a black tie. His presidential hair was barely starting to thin and go grey. I wondered who that man was. I had seen him before, actually. I saw him at Grégoire’s rugby practices. Until now I had always assumed that he was one of the boys’ fathers who came to watch, but I never saw him approach any of them after practice…
“That man over there.” I said, pointing over to where the man was standing near the pitch “I keep seeing him around. Do you have any idea who that is?”
Marie-Ange looked at me, then back to the man before she told me with a small voice “Oh, that’s just Mr. Westwood.”
“Westwood? Like the fashion designer?” I asked rather stupidly.
“I heard they were distant cousins. The whole family is loaded.” interrupted Nathalie between two sips of beer.
Angie nodded at that “He’s one of the richest people in town. Richer than Gatsby’s family.” She told me.
I nodded back and looked back down at where Mr. Westwood was standing.
“Why would a rich bloke want anything to do with the local rugby team?” I asked. Nathalie shrugged and Marie-Ange looked like she hesitated a bit before she spoke up.
“Well, he’s at the head of this big press company. He publishes sports magazines like Rugby Weekly and he’s in touch with the big guys in London.”
I blinked a bit “You mean, he scouts guys from our town to play pro?” I asked, knowing that Greg would like that. He’d love to be a professional player.
Angie nodded, giving my hand a squeeze.
I smiled at her and looked back to the pitch. Grégoire had the ball and ran towards the try line, threw himself on the ground, merely sliding out of one of the opponents’ grasp as he scored a try, leaving his team in the lead.
The game ended a few minutes later. Our half of the bleachers went wild, applauding our team for winning. I didn’t clap though, I just grinned. Greg looked so happy to have won, and when I looked next to me, I saw that Marie-Ange was just as delighted.
Mr. Westwood looked pleased. He seemed to be rooting for our team after all. There was a pudgy woman in her thirties taking notes next to him as he spoke to her and pointed to various boys on the field… And I swore that I saw him motion to Greg.
Then the boys went back to the changing rooms, Marie-Ange and I waited not too far from them. I dared to wrap an arm around her shoulders and watched as the guys came out. First came Gatsby who grinned at us and proudly announced: “We fucked Rickmansworth in the ass.”
“I know.” I said, Marie-Ange giggled, Gatsby looked back in the changing rooms as James and another bunch of guys came out.
Grégoire didn’t come though.
I wondered where he was, then I thought that he was probably with Mr. Westwood, lucky him… But then I saw the man walk past us with the pudgy lady. He stopped and saw us, smiled and gave us an acknowledging nod before he looked at the chubby girl next to me and spoke.
“Good afternoon, Miss Valmont.”
God, he sounded so posh and eloquent, with a deep, clear voice and a very distinct upper-class English accent.
“Good afternoon, Sir…” Angie replied with a small voice, her soft accent a little thicker than usual—that happened when she was nervous, she would tend to force a bit on the guttural ‘r’ sound. She was blushing, visibly intimidated by the man in front of her.
To be honest, so was I.
“Would I perhaps have the pleasure of seeing your brother today? I have excellent news for him.”
“He’s probably still changing.” She told him, looking over to the opening that led to the changing rooms “I would go get him but I’m not exactly allowed in there.”
“That’s perfectly fine.” The man said before he traced her jawline with the tip of his finger, which I thought was extremely weird for someone to do when they were still on Ms./Mr. terms. Perhaps they knew each other better than that, so I wouldn’t judge. I still didn’t like the idea of this man touching my ‘girlfriend’ like that, when I actually ask for permission to do so every time.
Marie-Ange gulped and nodded, offering the gentleman a small smile.
“Perhaps I should leave.” He then said.
“No!” I interjected “I’ll go get him, don’t worry.” I said, taking a step towards the small building.
Mr. Westwood thanked me before I walked into the changing room silently, walking through the corridors before I got to where the rugby team got changed. I pushed the door and there I saw… God damn.
Grégoire held Connor pushed against the wall and he was kissing him, a hand tangled in the younger boy’s curly blond hair as he panted for air while Greg kissed his neck, a hand on his hip, though it was probably lower.
“Greg— “ I started, brows furrowed in confusion.
Connor immediately pushed Grégoire away once he saw me, blushing furiously. He picked up his things and rushed out the changing room, shaking like a leaf. Poor guy.
But then I thought… Grégoire was gay? I didn’t know if that was possible, he was the most masculine guy I knew, along with Gatsby. Then I remembered that masculinity and sexuality had little to do with each other. I didn’t really mind that he was gay or not, he was still my friend. I was just surprised that I’d catch him snogging Connor of all people.
Greg held his hands up in defense and opened his mouth to speak, hesitated, closed his mouth, opened it once again, and finally something came out of it “I can explain.”
“Explain what? That you like to make out with guys? I don’t care about that.”
“… You don’t?” he asked, quirking a brow. He probably thought I was some sort of raging homophobe or something.
I shook my head. He let out a sigh of relief.
“So you’re gay.”
“No, bisexual, I like girls too.”
“Okay.” I said with a shrug “Does your sister know? ‘cause I don’t wanna fuck up and out you if she doesn’t know.”
He nodded. There was an awkward silence. I grinned nervously, Grégoire grinned as well, blushing a bit.
“Oh, and Mr. Westwood’s outside waiting for you.” I told him quickly.
“Shit!” he exclaimed “Thanks for telling me!” he said, grabbing his things and running outside.
I watched him leave the changing room and sighed. That was… Interesting.
When I walked out of the building, Angie was waiting for me there, holding her bag in front of her, giving me a small wave.
“Are you okay?”she asked. I nodded.
“Yeah. Greg’s gone with Westwood?”
She nodded at that before she looked to the ground, biting her lip. I wondered if something was wrong, maybe she was just a little bummed that she couldn’t be with her brother this evening. I held my hand out for her to take and gulped before I spoke.
“Mum and Dad are at my Aunt’s until tomorrow afternoon. Do you wanna stay at my house?”
The chubby girl looked up to me and thought for a minute “Well… Mum’s not home tonight once again, and Grégoire is probably going to stay over at Gatsby’s…” she said thoughtfully, looking away.
She then looked back up and gave me a small smile, taking my hand with a blush.
“I’d love to.”