Devil You Know

Kodi and Nyx. Nyx and Kodi.

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         “You look like you’re going to an old folks’ home themed party.”

         “Well, you said it’d be sick, so I dressed for the occasion.”

         “You’re so goddamn annoying.”

         “You’re so goddamn ginger.”

         Tom pushed me so hard I fell into the hedge we were walking next to. I shoved him back, albeit a lot softer. The road roared like a gaping river next to us, and I was hyper-aware of its presence.

         Tom followed my gaze and went quite for a while, before speaking in a tone far softer than his usual dry jibes. “Remember to stay out of Marcus’ way. We’re going to let off steam, not to end up arrested.”

         “What on Earth could I do to him? Breathe on him threateningly? The guy’s built like a tank. Chunkier than your vomit.” This time I almost went through the hedge.

         “I’m serious though. Remember that time he almost tore Oskar’s ear off in rugby?”

         “I’ll stay away from him, okay mother?” I rolled my eyes and smoothed down the green bobbly reindeers on the front of the sweater. They were backed on come lovely hot pink and orange stripes. Quite eye-catching.

         “No but seriously, you look like a drunk traffic light. Hey, can you feel those auto-tuned vibrations through the pavement? Marcus’ house must be nearby.”

         “Love me some turnt partying. This is my strawberry jam.”

         “I actually hate you so much.”

         The setting sun sent our shadows criss-crossing into an X shape in front of us as we approached Marcus’ house. My heart seemed to beat unwillingly in time with the music, jumping up and down in some subliminal jive. Tom raised a hand and waved to Gretchen, one of the few other people who could look at him without being blinded. She waved back with a beer cup in her hand and sent it cascading over her cardigan. Even from this distance, I seemed to hear her trademark giggle.

         Tom patted me on the shoulder and walked a few steps ahead. “Now remember—I have no idea why you, the local bag lady, followed me here, but I don’t know you. Got it?”

         “I really don’t see your reasoning behind that, but sure. Go on ahead without me if you can’t handle my swagger.”

         Tom rolled his eyes and walked on ahead, presumably to talk to Gretchen. I slowed my pace, approaching Marcus’ house almost like a sightseer. Lights flashed from the windows, and in the garden people were chugging back soft drinks like water. I wondered briefly if they were spiked.

         Rounding the corner, I briefly regretted my choice of clothing. It had seemed funny with the ever-confident Tom striding by my side, glowing with the brightness of a thousand fiery suns, but alone my doubts and darkness flooded my head once more, watering the seeds of uncertainty that lay ever buried there.

         I plucked one of the cups from the cheap table in the garden and sniffed it. Definitely spiked.  I chucked it back in one go.

         Through the front door, a heaving mass of bodies pulsated and glistened, and I realised that they looked as I imagine my heart did in that moment—ever moving, ever beating, but always to the beat of someone else’s music.

         I pushed through them, entering into a corridor that smelled of sweat cooling for the first time as the sun dipped below the horizon. Marcus was popular. Everyone, even me, came to his parties.

         It was as I was leaning against the corridor wall, torn between going to find Tom and leaving already, that I felt a hand fall on my shoulder. “Hey Kodi. Didn’t expect you to turn up.”

         I turned, and there he was. Marcus—muscles bulging from his clothing like suet from squeezed cling film, friends backing up the corridor as though he were a film star. I found it almost sad that this was as good as it was ever going to get for people like him. Even the sports scholarship he so desperately trained for would only be enough to get him to university.

         “Well, you know me. I never turn down.”

         Marcus gave a laugh—the kind of forced exhale someone might give upon hearing a blatant lie. “Well, the half-boy talks. Surprising—I thought that was your brother’s job?”

         “Leave it alone, Marcus. You threw a party, I came. I’m not my brother.”

         Marcus put his arm around my shudders in a faux-friendly gesture. I felt the pressing against my bones. “You’re right.” He leant in closer, so close that those behind him drifted away, sensing that they were no longer part of his ever-fluctuating orbit. “You’ll never be as good as Oskar. Even your dad knows that.”

         I bristled involuntarily and tried to pull away. Marcus squeezed tighter, locking me in place. “I heard that he ignores you. Is that right? Does your daddy not love his fag son anymore?”

         I felt moisture on my face and struggled all the more, torn between growling and screaming.

         Marcus leant in closer still, until his heady breath brushed against my ear. “Kodi the homo half-boy. Never as good, never as cool. God, you make me as sick as he did.”

         I pulled away at last, violently, pushing away from the wall as though it had burned me. My brother seemed to sit in my chest like a dead weight, pulling my down, dragging me into the void of my father’s uncaring eyes. As I flung myself away from him I briefly registered the bannister of the stairs rapidly approaching my head before my vision went dark and I fell into the sensory deprivation of my own grief. 

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