When I entered Grégoire’s room, I was immediately overwhelmed by the strong scent of coffee and tobacco that filled the air. Grégoire walked over to the window, pulling the curtains before he opened said window to let some fresh air in.
“Sorry ‘bout the smell.” He told me shamelessly “I really need to stop smoking in my room with the window closed.”
“It’s okay, mate.” I told him, holding a hand up. I didn’t mind, really. “So, uh… What are we gonna do?” I asked him, hands in my pockets.
The French lad walked over to his bedside table and opened the drawer which was filled with packets of cigarettes and what I believed was a box of condoms… And some other obscure things, I didn’t really take the time to look—not that I should have looked anyway.
“I’m going to smoke for a bit. You can just make yourself comfortable. I’ll be with you in a second.” He said, flicking his lighter out to light his cancer stick before he brought it to his thin lips to puff on it, leaning against the window‘s frame. He was facing me, as I went over to sit in the black beanbag that was facing the small flat-screen TV that was in his room. I noticed he had a PS4 and a DVD player, which made me wonder what exactly his mother’s job was, for her to have enough money to pay for these kinds of things for her kids, supposing that her daughter had something similar in her room.
I stopped wondering soon enough and started analyzing Grégoire’s room. Everything was in shades of blue and grey. His room was a mess, with clothes sprawled out on the floor, dirty socks under the large bed and magazines poking from under the pillow. There was a shelf on which were trophies and medals were exposed, along with a rugby ball which was signed, supposedly by a famous player I knew nothing about.
On his desk was a calendar with pictures of rugby players as well as a computer which was on charge. Above his desk was another shelf with a bunch of DVDs stacked more or less neatly.
My eyes then went from the desk to the window, where Grégoire was looking at me, finishing his cigarette, playfully exhaling the toxic fumes in rings of smoke.
After that, he crushed the end of the cigarette on the window sill and threw it out the window. He then walked over to his desk and sat down on the backwards chair, leaning forward on the back of it, his icy blue eyes looking down on me.
After studying his room, I studied his face. He had the same big eyes as his twin sister, with long, feminine eyelashes… His eyes were pretty much the only feminine feature on his face; his eyebrow was chopped in half with a scar he got from God knows where. He also had a medium sized nose, which seemed to have been broken at least once, and a powerful-looking jaw which was covered with a light black stubble, light enough to reveal that there was an aristocratic mole near the corner of his mouth. He had thin lips and when he grinned, it would reveal a crooked tooth. Just one, since all the others were perfectly aligned.
“What are you staring at?” he asked me, snapping me out of my daze. I blinked and searched for a suitable excuse. I couldn’t just tell him that I was staring at his face. That would be rude, and it’d make him question my sexuality. I wasn't quite sure I wanted him to start asking questions about that so early in our friendship.
“How, uh, how’d you break your nose?” I asked him. Damn that was stupid, but I went with it.
“Your nose, how did you break it?”
“Oh. That. It was last summer, I think…” He said, scratching the back of his head “I got in a fight with some chav on the pitch… It was pretty ridiculous now that I think of it. We both got kicked out of the game because of that.” He told me, chewing on the inside of his cheek “He was a scrawny fucker but damn could he throw a punch.”
“What happened for you to get in a fight with him?” I asked again, pushing up my glasses “I mean—If you wouldn’t mind telling me.”
He made a waving motion with his hand, scrunching up his nose as he replied “You know, the regular ‘you’re a faggot and I’m gonna shag your sister’ kind of bullshit.” He said, rolling up the sleeves of his shirt “I know I shouldn’t get angry like that, but in the heat of the moment…”
“You’re really protective of her, aren’t you?” I asked him, looking up to his eyes as if I were searching for the answer in them. He blinked and looked away, running a hand through his wavy ink-coloured hair.
“Of course I am, she’s my sister.” He told me sharply before he got off the chair and stood in front of me “So, let’s start with your lessons.” He said, holding a hand out to help me get up from the beanbag.
I blinked at him, then I snapped out of it “Oh! Lessons, right, right! Uh…” I got up and took my bag, rummaging through it before I took out my French notebook, handing it back to Grégoire
He took the notebook and read through my first lesson, brows furrowed “Right, and what are you supposed to do for the next time?” he asked me
“We gotta work on some verbs and shit.” I told him nonchalantly “With the, uh, ‘passé composé’?”
“Oh, that! It’s the easiest tense to use.” He told me, pulling out his desk chair and taking his laptop to put it on his bed to leave enough space for us to work. He told me to sit down in the chair—I did so—and we started working on the verbs.
“It’s simple. In French, you have two auxiliary verbs—‘être’ and ‘avoir’, ‘to be’ and ‘to have’. You have to use those in the present tense.” He explained, settling my notebook where his laptop once laid. “Then you have to put the verb you’re gonna use in a tense called the ‘prétérit’.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know that.” I told him, a little frustrated. I knew all this, though I couldn’t get it in my head and that was annoying me to no end.
Grégoire sighed and shrugged “Well, here, let me do that for you so it’ll be done and we can do something more interesting than verbs.”
He then took my pencil and leaned over to write on my page. His handwriting was choppy though it was still readable.
As he leaned down over me, I couldn’t help but smell his… Perfume? Cologne? Deodorant? Something like that. I always thought that guys who wore that kind of stuff were pompous assholes who thought that they’d be able to get about any chick they want because they spray some sort of wicked elixir on their hot bods. But on Grégoire, it seemed different. I was probably biased since he was my new friend, and I have a tendency of thinking that my friends can do no wrong… But yeah. This was different.
He finished writing over my homework and pushed the page over to me “Now, read the verbs out loud. I want to hear you speak.”
“I already spoke with your sister, she told me I was crap at this. I suck at speaking.”
“What? You need help with speaking? Eh…” he chewed on the inside of his cheek again “Well, I can help you with that, but listen, one thing you really gotta do is listen to actual French people speak.”
“Like you two?”
“Yeah, only we’re not gonna have full conversations in front of you while you watch. It’s embarrassing.” He told me quickly “You’re gonna watch French movies with us.” He said with a grin.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. On one hand it meant movie nights with the twins. On another hand, they were French movies. The kind that’s about death, and sex, and Parisian couples getting divorced. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch that. I was okay with the sex, but the whole death and divorce bullshit was going to bore me.
“What kind of movies, though?” I finally asked.
“Well, most of the movies we own are about romance, blame that on Angie and our mother, they love that kind of stuff, but we’ve also got a few comedies, historical movies… Oh, and we have the entire Harry Potter series in French.”
“I’m not too sure I wanna hear the French dub, though.”
“You’re right about that.” He said with a chuckle “But it would help you.”
I groaned, rubbing the back of my neck before I sighed and pushed up my glasses, looking back up at Grégoire.
“Okay,” I said “I’ll watch your dumb French movies.”
“There we go!” he exclaimed, chuckling before he playfully punched me in the shoulder. I rubbed the spot where he hit me and looked back at him with a weak grin.
Soon after, Marie-Ange showed up with her hair curlier than usual due to the fact that she was just out of the shower. she had gotten dressed and had decided to join us. Greg motioned for her to come over. He then spoke to her in French with a sentence that I only barely understood. All I knew is that Angie was beaming as her brother gave her some news “You’ll watch films with us? Really? That’s really great! We can have movie nights if you want!”
I just nodded and she clasped her hands together, looking back up at her brother “Love Songs?”
“Again?” he replied with a sigh
“Of course, it’s my favourite film!”
“Yeah but he won’t get the singing—she wants us to watch a musical.”
“Well duh, if the title of the movie is ‘Love Songs’ and there are no songs in it, I’ll be disappointed.” I said, ironically.
“How about LOL then?” she suggested “It’s really good!”
“You mean that movie with Hannah Montana In it?”
“No, no, the original French one.” She corrected me “We have a version with English subtitles if you want!” she told me with a hand on my shoulder.
I looked up at her and at her big pleading eyes with a sigh. I just couldn’t say no to her when she looked at me like that…
I went back home later than usual that evening. Sure, I had sent a text to Mum, but I didn’t tell her I was going to be home at 7 PM.
I had walked across the empty street, my tall shadow accompanying me. I looked to my left tpo see that the sun was setting. Crap. Mum was going to kill me.
When I walked through the door, I carefully walked through the hallway over to the stairs, I tried my best not to get noticed, as I knew that I’d get the yelling of a lifetime… Unless she was in a good mood, which was unlikely due to the precise fact that she was sick.
“David?” called a voice from the living room “Is that you?”
I wasn’t sure if I should reply. If I did, I’d get yelled at for being late, if I didn’t I’d get yelled at for ignoring my mother. I sighed and stepped down the stairs, walking over to the living room.
“Hi, Mum.” I said monotonously, hands in the pockets of my trousers. I bit my lip and walked into the room. Mum was watching telly with a cup of coffee. I deduced that Dad wasn’t home yet. He probably had something to take care of back at work.
Mum sighed deeply and looked back at me “You should have told me you were coming home this late.”
“No. You said you were going to a friend’s house but you didn’t say until when. Now, David, I’m happy that you’ve made friends with that Molly girl and her gang, but I don’t want you staying at strangers’ houses for such long periods of time.”
“Mum—I’m 16. I know what’s dangerous and what’s not. I’m fine. And besides, I was just across the street. I told you that in my text!”
Mum heaved yet another sigh and looked at me dully before she turned back to watch telly again. Then she replied, looking back at me.
“All right, then.” She said, switching the TV off and patting the spot next to her “Come sit down.” She told me. I obliged. “Who lives across the street, anyway?” she asked me, taking her cup of coffee and taking a sip from it. I shifted in my spot before I replied.
“These two kids who are in most of my classes at school. We walk to school and back together.”
“Good! That’s great, David.” She said with a weak smile “And what are their names?”
“Uh… Grégoire and Mar—Angie.” I said, deciding to give her nickname rather than her name in fear of butchering it. “Valmont. Valmont is their surname.”
“That sounds awfully foreign.” Mum commented, putting her cup of coffee back on the coffee table.
“Yeah, well, uh, they’re French.” I replied, hands still in my pockets.
“Are they nice?”
“Yeah, they’re really nice. They helped me with my homework.”
Mum nodded at that with a smile “Good, good. So you’ve done all your homework for tonight?”
“Yes, Mum.” I said with a sigh, getting up “Anyway, where’s Dad?”
“He decided to meet some old friends at the pub, so I let him just for tonight.” She replied simply “How old are your new friends?”
“They’re my age.” I told her as I straightened my uniform “What’s for dinner tonight?”
“Oh, dear, I didn’t make any dinner… perhaps you should just make a sandwich.”
“Sure, I’ll do that… Anyway, I’m off to take a shower.”
I walked up the stairs and did a quick stop by my room to put my bag down and pick up the T-shirt and tracksuit bottoms I wear around the house and go to bed with before I headed off to the bathroom and started taking my clothes off.
I stripped down to my boxers, then I spent a good amount of time looking at the tall mirror my mother had put there and stared at my reflection for a while.
I looked at how lanky I was now that I compared myself to Grégoire. He had the sort of physique any conventionally attractive guy would have, he was thick—in a good way. Then I looked at myself and sighed. I looked like I was a living, breathing stick. I was skinny, incredibly skinny, so skinny that when I pulled in the small stomach I had in a breath, you could see my ribs. I didn’t eat all that much anyway... I never did, actually, which was why my parents thought I was anorexic a few years ago.
You could actually see quite a lot of bones on my body; cheekbones, collarbones, the bones in my hands, my knuckles, my spine, my ribs, my hipbones… Now that I looked at myself closely, I had rather feminine hips, for a guy. Dirk used to joke about how I had the body of an overgrown ten-year-old girl back when we were in the locker rooms in my school in Chicago.
I don’t have much hair on my body either. There were some times when I dreamt of growing myself a beard—I really tried, though I failed miserably. It looked ridiculous on me.
I have some hair under my armpits, like every other guy has, and a bunch of grossly ginger pubes down there. All my hair is orange and curly and I hate it so much. I wanted to shave them off this one time when I was fourteen… I took one of my Mum’s razors and shaved everything. Literally everything. Pros: My skin was as hairless and as soft as a baby’s. And I knew some girls would dig that. Cons: I actually did look like an overgrown ten-year-old girl. And last time I checked, nobody in their right mind would want to shag a ten-year-old girl.
I pulled off my underwear and stepped out of it once it fell around my ankles. Then I got in the shower and turned it on. The water fell on me like a boiling waterfall, which made me let out a girlish scream. I quickly turned the knob the other way round and sighed. Then I realised I had forgotten to take off my glasses. I took them off and threw them on the pile of clothes which was near the door, then I went back to taking my shower.
I spent about ten minutes in there, humming songs to myself and wondering what I should do next. I thought about Greg and Angie and how nice they were to me… Especially Angie. She was such a sweet girl, you know? She was sweet and feminine, and she was just really cute in general, with her big blue eyes, her chubby cheeks and her plump lips which always curled up in such an adorable smile, I also loved how soft her voice was, even though the whole softness thing was tainted by her accent.
Pressing my forehead against the back wall of the shower, I wondered. What if I asked her out? No, that would be a bad idea since A. We barely knew each other and B. Her brother would most likely kill me, regardless of the fact that we had just become friends. I thought he’d hate me for wanting to go out with his sister, for some reason.
I soon got out of the shower after pondering whether or not I should get friendlier than I already am with Marie-Ange, though I decided against it.
I wrapped myself in a towel and dried myself off, ruffling my curly hair before I pulled on my tracksuit bottoms and black T-shirt and went off to bed without eating. I wasn’t hungry anyway.