Some are white and pure. Others are black and dirty. Their skin stains, showing the marks from the touch of another colour.


6. Fifth

When I get home, I go straight upstairs, only stopping off in the kitchen to find a tube of Pringles when I realise that I haven’t eaten all day. And that’s when it hits me, because the only thing I had actually seen Collin eat all day was a measly breakfast bar.


I hope that that isn’t normal for him, even though I know that he probably won’t be able to afford a sandwich. Life in the incastum must be like living in Hell.


I spend the evening playing guitar and ignoring my parents, too busy writing lyrics (which were totally not about the boy I had met earlier) to listen to them yelling at me for whatever they decided to hate me for today.


Time flies when you’re not depressed – note the fact that I didn’t say happy, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be happy in a world like this. Before I know it, it is midnight. I put away the guitar and crawl into bed with all of my clothes still on, then fall asleep totally not thinking about Gerard again.




The next morning, my alarm wakes me up for school, and yet again, I switch my clothes with the first vaguely clean-smelling outfit I find scrunched up on the floor. It is the same boring routine, just like every day of my life so far, and probably just like every day that is yet to come.


The walk to school is uneventful, unlike the day before. And so is the rest of the day up until lunch time. I’m just sitting on the steps behind the equipment shed, eating my lunch in a safe, secluded place, when I hear the crunching of gravel and footsteps behind me. I hold my breath, terrified, and wait to be harassed with insults and slurs and possibly punches.


“Hey. Can I eat with you?” a tentative voice asks.


I turn around. “What the fuck?” No one is ever nice to me.


A boy with a lip ring and light blonde hair the colour of sunshine smiles nervously down at me. “Um. Can I eat with you? The- the rest of the boys are teasing me and stuff, and you seem like the sort of person- I mean. Um… I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.”


“No, hey, it’s okay.” I pat the space on the step next to me. “Sit.”


He sits down and opens his lunch, starting to eat. “I’m Sam,” he says through a mouthful of sandwich.


“I’m Matt.”


“Cool. How come you eat here?”


“They tease me, too,” I mumble awkwardly.




There is a silence for a few moments while we eat. I feel eyes on me but fix my gaze on my apple. I’m suddenly self-conscious and tug down my sleeves, pointlessly anxious that he might see the black smudges on my arms.


Sam notices. He breaks the silence and speaks uncertainly. “I saw you yesterday.”


“What?” I splutter. “What are you talking about?”


“I saw you. At the incastum. With that black kid.”


I swallow, terrified. There is nothing I can say to dodge this conversation. I am going to be murdered.


“Who is he?”


The pace of my worries slows slightly. This is weird. Why would he care about which particular black kid I was hanging out with? I speak cautiously.


“My friend.”


“What’s his name?”


“Collin… Where are you going with this?”


“I, um. I want to be like you.”


“What?” I frown.


“I don’t hate them. All this racism is stupid and horrible.”


“Wh- really?”


He nods.


“Well… I’m going to the incastum again tonight. You can come if you want.”


Sam smiles slightly. “Okay.”


I open my mouth to speak again but it snaps shut when I hear the obnoxious laughter and the cold, heartless voices of the popular kids behind me.


“Shit,” Sam mumbles.


“My thoughts exactly.”


“Shall we go?”


“Yeah-” I hastily shove my lunch into my bag and Sam grabs all of his things in his arms and hurriedly shuffles away with me before the other kids come too near.



After school, I sit in my room and play guitar, loud, and write more of the song I have been working on, thankful that my family decided to go out without me, the time drains away quickly, gone down the gutter along with my memory, apparently. It only occurs to me that I was supposed to be meeting Collin and Sam about an hour after the time I promised.


I had gone almost seventeen years with no good friends. I was not about to lose two of the most potentially amazing people ever just to play my guitar for a little while longer than usual. I race to the incastum and thank god when I see Sam, looking awkward and bored while leaning against the wall.


“Sam,” I say breathlessly. “I’m so sorry, I lost track of time. How long have you been here?”


“Only about a half hour,” he says dryly.


“God, I’m really sorry.”


Are we going to go in, then? ‘Cos I want to fucking do this now before I freak out and run away.”


“Right. Sure.”


I step into the incastum and unconfidently lead the way to Collin’s ‘home’. It is hard to navigate around this place, everywhere looking the same, especially in the dim moonlight.


Eventually, we stumble upon the dirtiest and poorest part of the incastum, and I know that I recognize the area.


I am still a little wary, but when I catch sight of a figure sitting huddled up in the entrance to one of the tents, I am more sure of where I am, and head in that direction. As we get nearer, the figure stands up, and in the better light I know it is Collin.


“Hey,” I say.


“Hey,” he smiles. “Who’s this?” He glances at Sam.


“My friend, Sam. He doesn’t hate you guys. Yay.”


“Hello,” Sam mumbles, giving an awkward wave.


“Hi. You want to come in?” Collin offers.


I nod and we follow Collin into his tent. Inside, Georgie is sitting on his bed, cross-legged, opposite another black boy with long curly hair. Impressive hair. The two of them are laughing and their fingers are interlocked.


They look completely and utterly happy, and the first thought that comes into my head when I see Georgie’s radiant smile is that I want to be that happy.


It is obvious – even from just a glance – that Georgie and the boy are together, and I can’t help think of just how sweet it is that he still cares about Georgie. It is clear just by looking at him that he is going to stay with Georgie through everything – most people would back off in fear of getting hurt the moment their partner starts to lose their hair, but you can see in the boy’s eyes how perfect he thinks Georgie is, exactly as he is.


Upon hearing us come in, Georgie looks up and smiles at his brother. “Hi, Collin.”


“Hey, Georgie. You remember Matt?” Collin glances back at me.


Georgie nods.


“That’s good. And he brought someone else with him. This is Sam.”


Sam waves again.


“This is Adam,” Georgie beams, turning to the boy sitting with him.


We exchange greetings.


Collin takes a step closer to me and smiles. “Anything cool happen to you l-lately?”


“Well… I did bump into this really awesome kid the other day on his way to the incastum… He’s pretty rad. But not as rad as me,” I say, grinning. Collin laughs, then we turn back to face Sam again. “Do you want to come and meet more of my friends?”


“I do,” Collin perks up.




“Sure.” He still looks a little nervous about the whole thing, not really having been given much attention from Georgie, Collin or Adam. But I am sure that some of my other friends will like him.


And, if they got along, maybe I would get to spend more time alone with Collin. Not that I’m expecting it to go anywhere. I just want to be with him.


God. I’m starting to sound like a teenage girl.


But, fuck, when had I cared about what people thought of me?

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