Peri and Milo (and the Not Friendship)

There's a new pen-pal system and Porter Secondary school, and most kids find it lame. Pedro, or Peri, doesn't mind, though. He'd love to meet someone new, without being judged as the weird gay kid who's a bit of a geek. Milo is a closeted trans boy who's using this as an opportunity to talk to someone as himself for once. And maybe make a friend along the way. They're paired together. And the more they talk, the more they realise that they'd probably be best friends. If they were talking in real life.

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1. Chapter One

 

SUBJECT: Converse (Our new pen-pal system)

 

TO: YR7, YR8, YR9, YR10, YR11, YR12, YR13

 

FROM: alicehamill@gmail.com

 

Dear all students,

 

As promised, our pen-pal system has finally been put into place. You will be using the programme ‘Converse’, an instant messaging system, to talk to your partners throughout the course of the year. You cannot choose your parters, they have randomly been generated for you, but we sincerely hope that you will not give up on this. We are a closely knit community, but it’s always beneficial to talk to and get to know new people. Who knows? You may make a friend out of it.
We will send you a separate email and download link for Converse at a later date. We’ve already created a new username and password for you, but you can change. Make sure not to use your actual name, however, as this is meant to be anonymous.
You may use Converse to speak to other people, but you will need to add them yourself. However, we have already added your pen-pal as your friend on the system.
Thank you, and hopefully this will be beneficial to the whole student body.

 

Mrs Hamill, Headmistress.

 

MILO

 

    Amelie Harvey looked up from her phone, frowning slightly. She was supposed to be paying attention to what her friends were saying - they were nearing the point of the sleepover where everybody shared their ‘secrets’ - but she was kind of getting bored, and she couldn’t resist peeking at the email she’d received.
    “Sorry,” she said, interrupting Zoey, who was teasing Lia about the boy she liked for the millionth time. “Did any of you guys get an email from Mrs Hamill? About that pen-pal thing?”
    “The anonymous one?” Lia snorted, glad to change the subject. “I always thought that was a terrible idea.”
    “Of course it was,” Macy, who hadn’t been paying attention either, piped up. She was lying on her front on Zoey’s sofa, a book propped up on her side and her dark eyes bored. “It’s the perfect breeding ground for bullying and torture.”
    “But our school is so perfect.” Amelia rolled her eyes, raising her voice into a sarcastic falsetto. “How on earth could anyone at Porter Secondary School be that cruel.”
    “I swear, does Mrs Hamill even know teenagers?”
    “Whatever. At least we’re getting Converse for free. I’ve heard it’s a pretty good IM-ing system.” That was Nora speaking. She sat on Amelie’s left, her black hair tied into a messy ponytail.
    “Who here is even going to talk to their partner?”
    “If I get a year seven, I might just kill myself.”
    “You might get my brother.”
    “Ew, no.”

    It might be mean, but Amelie was glad they’d moved away from talking about secrets or whatever. It was way too stereotypically girly, not to mention somebody would always bring up something that she probably didn’t want to hear. More boy talk, Nora complaining about how nobody liked her and how miserable her life way. It would probably end up with them saying how ‘all guys suck’ and wanting them to ‘all fuck off’.
    Which was probably not what Amelie wanted to hear.
    The thing was, especially this time, she really didn’t want to be asked what her secret was. She’d just say she didn’t have one, obviously. But that didn’t mean that she wasn’t still plagued with an irrational fear that they’d get her to blurt out the one thing she’d sworn to never tell anyone. 


    “Anyways,” Lia’s high voice broke through Amelie’s thoughts, causing her to jump. Oh god, no, don’t look jumpy now. That’s the worst possible thing to do. “Let’s get back to the important stuff.”
    “You seem really eager to talk about Darren again…”
    “Don’t you dare.”
    It happened every year. It was always Zoey or Bee’s house, always in January, just after the winter break, when the girls (Group. Amelie preferred it when they called it the group) would meet up and have their annual sleepover. It was pleasant enough, Amelie liked spending time with her friends and this was probably their last year all together, so she wanted to make the most of it. The past few years, however, when it came to the truth or dare and secrets part of the night, Amelie had been uncomfortable, but not scared. Sure, she always had some sort of secret, but none were as big as what she’d realised about herself the previous summer. And there was no way she was telling them that. That was the one thing she’d sworn.
    “Whatever. What about you, Nora?”
    Oh great. If Nora’s up now, that means that I’m next.
    “What?”
    “Spill the beans.”
    “Which thing do you want me to start with?”
    Oh great. Here we go. Fun.
    
And so, Nora began talking about how she had the worst life ever, and how her boyfriend was such a dick. Amelie liked Nora, she really did, but the girl could be horribly tiring at times. Amelie, with her open nature, somehow always ended up being the one who had to bear the brunt of Nora’s ranting, about her boyfriend or parents or another kid as they were walking to class or on Skype. Odds were, she’d already heard this story before everyone else.
    Nora really thinks she has it bad, doesn't she? I don’t think she’d know what inner turmoil actually felt if it smacked her in the face.
    
Amelie didn’t say this. Obviously.
    And, as Nora’s rants ended, the line that came with every one of them reached Amelie’s ears. “Fuck boys.”
    Thanks, Nora.
    
“Yeah, fuck them.” Macy piped up, still engrossed in her book.
    That’s very considerate of you.
    
Piper snorted. Piper didn’t speak very much, but when she did, she always had something good to say. “Why do men even have more power? They suck.”
    Okay, can’t argue with that point. Actually, I agree with your first sentence, Pipes.
    
“Screw them all.”
    How ironic, and nice of you, considering there’s a boy sitting right next to you, Nora. Not that you’d know it, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. Especially coming from my friends.

 

    “Amelie!”
    “W-wha?” she spluttered, looking up from the spot of carpet her eyes had been glued onto. She hadn’t noticed, but her hands were clutched into tight balls.
    “Your turn! What do you have to tell us, hm?” Lia smirked from across the room, fiddling with her reddish hair.
    “Nothing, really.” Amelie tried to keep her voice calm and nonchalant, as if it wasn’t really important. She adored acting, and prided himself on her skills, so hopefully she’d be able to pass this off.
    “Oh, really?”
    “Really.”
    “No boy problems?”
    Hah. Boy problems is literally the definition of my issues right now.
    
“I’m being honest, Lia. You guys all know everything, anyways.”
    “You don’t trust us?”
    I do. I really do. I’m just scared. I don’t want anything to change between us or our friendship, and I’m terrified that you’ll think of me as any different if I tell you what’s up.
    
“I trust you guys. That’s why I’ve already told you everything.”
    “It’s okay, Amelie. We already know you’re an open book.”

 

———

 

    “How did the sleepover go?”
    They shrugged. They were kind of tired, after staying up all night, and though they’d had a lot of fun, they still felt really guilty about lying to their friends.
    “It went okay.”
    Their mother turned from the front seat of the car to look at them. Her brown eyes were creased with concern, but also exasperation. “Amelie, nothing happened, right?”
    “No.”
    “Then stop pulling such a gloomy face. You look ugly like that.
    Isn’t this my normal face? Can’t you even accept that?
    
“I’m just tired, is all.”
    “Well, at least give an effort.”
    If you’re not going to accept a simple facial expression, how are you going to accept the fact that I’m probably not a girl?
    
“Okay, mom.”
    “Good girl.”

 

———

 

    Half an hour later, Milo Harvey burst into his room and flopped onto his back, dropping his overnight bag next to his bed and heaving a sigh of relief. At least he could be alone, and himself, here.
    Not for long.
    “Amelie! Dinner!”
    “Two minutes!”
    He sighed. Can’t I have a minute alone?
    His phone beeped again.

    SUBJECT: Converse (Login information)

    “Oh.” he murmured out loud, peering at the email. It was a rubbish idea, he knew it.
    Yet, he was still intrigued.
    “Whatever.”
    And so he tapped the attachment.

 

 

PERI

 

    Pedro Arreola, or Peri as he was known as (god, Pedro was a friggin’ awful name), rolled his eyes for the seventh time that day. This time, however, he wasn’t lucky enough to get away with it.
    “Pedro, don’t disrespect your mother!” his father called from across the dinner table, frowning at his teenage son. The use of his first name made him want to roll his eyes again, but he was smart enough to know that it was a bad idea.
    “What did he do?” his mother frowned, glancing back between her husband and her son. Behind her, her curly ponytail nearly whipped his younger sister, Sofia, in the face, causing them both to smirk at one another and for his parents to get even more angry.
    “He rolled his eyes again! It’s not funny, young man.
    “I erm- never said it was.” Peri coughed, caught off guard. Of course, this just caused Sofia to snigger even more, and for their father to turn his attention to her.
    “Any you? What’s so amusing?”
    “Nothing, papa.” she said, innocently, raising her voice to a sickly sweet soprano. Peri rolled his eyes, again. She always managed to get on their father’s good side, a sore spot for him, as he always got the short end of the stick.
    “Okay.” he turned back to Peri. “Why did you roll your eyes, boy?”
    Of course, Peri wasn’t going to tell them the real reason as to why he had rolled his eyes. His mom had asked, again, if he’d had a girlfriend, and if he did’t why. Sofia was the only one of them who knew that Peri wasn’t interesting in dating, or girls for that matter. He’d never tell them, his parents were both super conservative Christians who thought that homosexuality was a horrible sin and they would probably disown him if they found out that he much preferred males as romantic parters.
    Romantic partners.
    “Sorry, papa. I was just tired of mama asking about girlfriends. I promise I’ll tell you if anything comes up with girls.”
    “That doesn’t mean you have to right to disrespect your mother.”
    “I’m sorry.”
    “Are you?”

 

    Sofia, who was seeing how the conversation was heading, gave a sharp cough and looked up at Peri. They looked very alike, despite the fact that she was two years younger, and female, with thick wavy hair and caramel skin, but she had a confidence that he didn’t have.
    “Did you get the email about the pen pal thing, Peri?”
    Bless you.
    Their father frowned still. He disliked Peri’s nickname, thinking it was ridiculous and improper. Their mother was on the fence about it, sometimes she used it and sometimes she didn’t. Sofia always used it. They both agreed that his given name was ridiculous.
    “Oh, that thing? Yeah.”
    “I logged in already. My ‘friend’ is called KittyPetty109.” she pulled a face.
    “Sounds like you two will get along.”
    “Shut up.”
    Their mother, who hadn’t spoken a word yet, piped up. “What’s this?”
    “It’s some programme the school came up with with. You basically go on this IM platform and talk to some random person from the school anonymously. I know most kids aren’t going to do it.”

    Peri knew that, but he couldn’t help but be intrigued by the idea. At school he usually kept to himself, only having a few close friends. He wasn’t really popular at all, he wasn’t a jock in the slightest, but he didn’t play enough mainstream games to be one of the nerds. He thought he’d actually be attacked by pitchforks if they found out he’d never played Pokemon or that he’d never touched a Game of Thrones CD. Actually, that was a lie. He’d read the first book and thought it was a bit boring, instead trying the first episode of the show. There had been one naked butt and he was out of there. He’d been 12.
    Still, he classified himself as a bit of a geek. He was super into online culture and things, loving the internet myths and stories that popped up on sites like Reddit. He was also super into comic books.
    And cartoons. But he didn’t really tell anyone about that.
    Here, however, there was a method of getting to know somebody without them being put off by his -slightly- unappealing physique and disposition. He’d always liked to know what it would be like to talk to someone without them knowing what he looked like, or his rep, just getting to know him for him.

    Fuck, Peri, that’s cheesy.

 

    “Hm. Well, if Alice thinks it’s a good idea.”
    Mrs Arreola was very close to the headmistress of school, as she was on the PTA herself, a prominent member, and practically worshipped the woman, taking every word she said as gospel. This, of course, was a source of hilarity for Peri and Sofia, who would often joke about all the stupid things their headmistress said in assembly to agitate their mother.

    “Erm, may I be excused?” Peri looked up from his empty plate. He suddenly felt the urge to log into his new account. For some reason, he felt like his pen-pal might not be so bad, after all. And that he should message them. Now.
    “You’re on dishes duty?” his father looked up. It was more of a statement then a question, so Peri just nodded.
    “Okay. You can go.”
    Muttering thanks, Peri rushed upstairs to his room, jumping onto his laptop the second he arrived. And there, just as his sister had promised, there was an email.

 

    Dear Mr Arreola,

 

    Your login details for Converse are as follows.

 

    USERNAME: PO65D (this can be changed)

 

    PASSWORD: lionlion

 

    

    Lionlion? Peri smirked as his eyes scanned the email. He’d already downloaded Converse, he used it as a method to chat to his online friends, mutual followers on websites like Tumblr and such. Logging out of his current account, he typed in the details to his new one.
    This is ridiculous. He thought to himself. I bet the other person won’t ever even talk to me, and I’ll look like in idiot.

    First thing’s first. Change the name.
    He opted for the same username as his tumblr, “Ferroxis”, which just happened to be the ship name for two of his favourite fictional character. Great, it hadn’t been taken. There was also an option for an abbreviation. Just to confuse them, he put ‘P’. Easy enough, he guessed.

    “Now, who’s my new best friend?” he murmured to himself, opening up his contacts tab.
    One person. “ladevotee” (wasn’t that the name of that Panic! At the Disco song?). Abbreviation, ‘M’. Their image was some random animated character that Peri didn’t know.

 

    - Panic! At the Disco fan?

    - Used lame abbreviations?
    -Vague?

    - Cartoons?

 

    They checked all the boxes. Peri just hoped they replied.

 

CHATLINE ACTIVE

 

P: Hi?

 

M: Hello!

P: oh god, i didn't expect you to answer so soon

M: Hahahaha. I didn’t expect anyone to message me.

P: ah, well. nice to meet you, i guess? am i really meeting you?

 

M: I think it counts.

 

P: ok, then. it’s nice to meet you. I’m P.

M: Milo.

 

P: you’re telling me your actual name?

 

M: Well, it’s more of a nickname, actually.

 

P: ohhh, ok. well, in that case, i’m peri. 

 

M: Peri? Are you a girl or a boy?

 

P: boy

 

M: Oh, I would have expected a boy.

 

M: (at this point, is it acceptable for me to speak in all lower case, because i’m lazy)

 

P: (yeah, that’s fine)

 

P: what makes you think that?

 

M: the fact that your username is “Ferroxis” makes me think of a fangirl

 

P: stopgenderstereotyping2k16

 

P: wait, you know ferrous?

 

M: i’ve only been watching ‘polaroid’ for a million years

 

P: omg. i saw you like p!atd too. we are so soulmates.

 

M: we’ve known each other for three minutes.

 

P: i make up my mind fast. do you ship them?

 

M: YESSSS

 

P: fuck yeah. oh, btw, what about you?

 

M: ?

 

P: girl or boy?

 

M: uh

 

M: boy

 

P: you sound very sure

 

M: i’m sure

 

P: ahahaha, okay. nice to meet you, milo.

 

M: nice to meet you too.

 

 

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