Honey, These Labels Were A Size Too Big Anyway



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Tatemae and Honne


The difference between what you pretend to believe and what you actually believe, respectively. ​


The silence sitting between them is so immense that it’s almost painful. Teal’s lying on his back, fingers running through the uncut grass, his bitten nails soaked with dirt. He’s staring at the sky, dragging together pictures from scattered stars. He’s waiting for Ryan to say something- anything¬- but there’s nothing to say. Teal’s angry, betrayed, humiliated, and he knows that Ryan doesn’t know what to say to ease the wounds he himself caused.

Teal’s blood is simmering in his veins and his bitten lip stings, he’s honestly rather surprised that he actually made it to Ryan’s backyard this evening. Only a few hours ago, he’d sworn up and down that he’d never talk to him again, never meet in Ryan’s backyard at the dead of night. But what can he say- he’s a complete idiot.

An idiot. Idiot for reading the text, idiot for listening to the voicemail.

An idiot who cares far too much about his best friend, of course, but still: complete idiot.

Because what else would he risk losing everything for, if not for Ryan?

“You know,” Ryan finally says, his voice heavy with cigarette smoke. “I didn’t mean what I said. Not a thing.”

Teal permits a glance to his side, where Ryan’s lying next to him, but gets no glance back. Ryan’s staring at the stars as if they hold all the answers in the universe, as if they can tell him how to convince Teal that he’s truly sorry.

Teal knows that he is; he’s known Ryan for years, and he knows that he’s never one to think before he actually speaks, but Teal’s still angry anyway. Embarrassed. Ashamed. Anxious. Ways Teal’s never thought that Ryan could make him feel.

But he sighs. He’s an idiot for agreeing to listen to him one more time.

"I know you didn't," he finally says, allowing himself to breathe. His hands are shaking.

"But you hate me."

Teal doesn't know what to say to that. He's not sure himself. He tightens his grip of the grass, and there's a tearing sound as a few pieces are ripped from the ground. "it’s not- I don’t hate you. I’m really angry right now, but I don’t hate you. I could never hate you.”

Stars are huddled in clusters and stranding a few lonely ones in the blank abyss of the night sky, as if they’re part of a clique and refuse to let the others into. Lonely suns, abandoned to the blackness. Teal’s read that in some countries, unwanted children were thrown out into streets immediately after birth, just because of their gender, and he can’t help but wonder if he could do that to himself- throw out the femininity, leave a man in his place.

Ryan sighs, his breath stained with alcohol, even though Teal’s warned him time and time again that drinking at times like this does no good. He really wouldn’t be so worried about it if he hasn’t seen what it can do to people- his mother will smile at him once in a while, a bottle hanging from limp fingers and lipstick dripping from her mouth like blood.

“I’m sorry, Teal. It was just that I was with them, and they’ve heard about you and-“

“And you decided it would be a good idea to shout ‘hey girl, how’s the drag?’ to fit in with them?” Teal raises his eyebrows as Ryan runs a hand over his chin as he sits up, pulling his knees to his chest.  

Ryan’s almost a head taller than Teal, his hair chocolate brown a swept into a fringe, whilst Teal’s is bleached blond and quaffed up with unfeasible amounts of gel. They’re complete opposites; Ryan’s always stocked up on the latest clothes, jokes and phones- painfully clean shoes and coats Teal would have to save up for a year to be able to buy, that is, if he was ever interested in wearing something like that in the first place.

Teal prefers the skinny jeans and the checked shirts that he wears around his waist rather than actually where they should be, pale shirts and bead necklaces his sister gives him every time his family visit her every summer.

Ryan sighs before dragging in a trembling breath, as if he’s partly wondering whether Teal’s going to turn on him at any moment. Not that it’d be any problem if he did- Ryan’s over a head taller than Teal, and whilst Teal’s slender, Ryan is strong. Because that’s the idea, isn’t it? The bad boy’s always strong, always tough, always able to hold his own in a fight. That’s what Ryan says, anyway, words dribbling from his lips like the alcohol that accompany them.

Ryan sits up and turns straight to him. There’s a grass stain underneath his cheekbone, even though Teal has no idea how he’s managed to get it. “It’s no excuse, Teal,” he says slowly, measuring out each word on his tongue, “but it’s like… I’m expected to be a certain kinda person around people. I’m meant to be cocky and smooth, but still a massive douche, and all the girls are meant to love me. That’s how… how it’s meant to work. And I don’t just naturally fit into that.”

Teal runs a hand through his hair. It’ll need cutting soon, otherwise people will start to think he’s a girl again. “I know what you mean,” he says, “but I’m still not okay.” But in truth, he doesn’t know. He doesn’t understand why Ryan can’t be himself- the guy that stays out until three in the morning to watch the stars, the boy who unnecessarily memorised as many Japanese phrases he could find just so he could impress Teal after finding out that he watched anime. Ryan isn’t the ‘bad boy’, no matter how hard he tries to be.

“I don’t expect you to forgive me,” Ryan says, and he sounds so desolate, so angry at himself, that Teal almost lies and says that he does.

He doesn’t though. When he first became Teal, he expected rejection from his parents, mockery from the kids at his school, but not for Ryan to turn on him. Ryan is the one he cares for the most, but then again, maybe that old idea that it’s the ones you love that hurt you is true.

“Listen, Teal,” he continues. “I’m not doing good at the moment. My- remember my girlfriend, Nicole?” Yes, Teal remembers Nicole. She was one of the group who laughed along with Ryan as they shouted at him from the other side of the street. She fits perfectly into the masquerade Ryan leads- pretty, made up like the porcelain dolls on Teal’s grandmother’s mantelpiece.

Ryan lets out a short laugh and runs his fingers through the grass. “Yeah, I broke up with her earlier. Real hypocritical of me, because it was because she wouldn’t stop laughing about you. She called you names, Teal, and I completely lost it.”

He laughs again, tilts his head back to look up at the sky. It’s muddy brown, stained with light pollution, but there’s freckles of stars peeking through them, almost as if they’re terrified to emerge. “There’s so many things I should be, Teal, so many things I’m not. But I’m trapped in this mould that I can’t get out of now. That I should smoke all the time, do drugs. I’m meant to be cocky and a smart-ass and answer everyone back. All the good girls are meant to like me, but I’ve got to break their hearts because I’m expected to be the one that sleeps around for some reason. And it’s not bloody fair, Teal, because I play the part and look the part, but I hate every minute of it.”

Teal thinks back to a few weeks ago, when Ryan had woken him up at three in the morning by throwing twigs and small pieces of gravel at his window. Teal had first been annoyed (obviously), but his words died on his lips as he hauled him through the window, seeing the thin trickle of blood running down his temple to join the scarlet coating his chin.

He’d split his lip, almost broken his nose, and all because “someone had bumped into me at the party, Teal, and he didn’t apologise, so of course I had to hit him.” This had obviously resulted in a fight so bad that Ryan had been forced to leave.

“What do you want me to do about it?” Teal sighs, raking a hand through his hair. “If you’re really so unhappy with how your life is shaping up, the only one who can change it is you.”

“Like you?” Ryan leans closer to him, resting his head on Teal’s shoulder. His hair’s tickling the back of Teal’s neck, but neither of them move. In truth, Teal likes it when Ryan looks to him for comfort rather than the other way around.

Teal raises an eyebrow. “What do you mean?” he asks, and Ryan sighs, his breath laced with cigarette smoke.

“You know. Actually being yourself. I mean, sure your parents are still douche-y about it, but everyone else is chill. And it’s still really, um, brave, that you did that.”

Teal shrugs. “Yeah, but-“

“And I think I need to do that, too,” Ryan interrupts. “Like, why shouldn’t I do that too? I’m just pretending to be someone I’m not; some ‘bad boy’ that everyone either likes or loathes.”

He glances down at his watch and then back to Ryan again. He’s got his eyes closed, almost as if he’s half-asleep, and Teal can’t blame him- sneaking out at one in the morning and meeting his best friend in his front garden isn’t ever the best thing to do when you have school the next day, and Teal can relate to it.

Maybe even more so, considering he can never sleep anyway, so he’s always been exhausted. He shouldn’t have been checking his text messages at that time of night/morning, but maybe part of him was half-hoping for a message anyway. He couldn’t sleep- Ryan’s words were running through his head, coated in barbed wire, confirming every little doubt that Teal’s ever had.

Maybe Ryan didn’t mean it, but even after his apology it still hurts like hell.

“It’s like, a few months ago, we were both living lies, yeah? You were Jessica, but you managed to fix that by yourself. And I’m still living in mine, and it’s starting to ruin- it's starting to ruin everything.”

His voice is quieter, more hesitant, as if he doesn’t know how Teal will react, even though he’s heard this a hundred times before. “I’m so stuck in it now… my grades are starting to fall so low that my college are talking about throwing me out. There’s people who want money that I can barely afford to pay back. My job at the post office is on the line. I just… What do I do anymore, Teal? I’m stuck.”

Maybe it’s just Teal’s imagination, but the sky seems to be getting lighter. Just a tentative blur of scarlet creeping into the horizon. They must have been out for hours- the seat of Teal’s jeans are starting to feel cold from the damp grass, but he doesn’t bother saying anything.

He lifts a hand and runs it through Ryan’s hair, smoothing the damp fringe from his forehead. “Listen,” he says softly, “you can still turn this all around, you know?”

Ryan lets out a small laugh, but it’s not a happy laugh. It’s the kind of laugh you’d expect when you’re sad; when you’re so sad that it’s surprising, and it’s so surprising that all you can do is laugh. “Can I really?”

“Yes.” Teal’s voice is firm. “Of course you can. You’re not trapped in anything you can't get out of. Just think about it for a while, if you want. Spend some more time revising. Try and speak to your parents for once in a while, see if they can help. They might even let you change schools, start over.”

“And move into the same school as you? One where you don't get beaten for looking at someone the wrong way?”

Teal can feel Ryan smile against his shoulder. “Why not? At least we’d see each other more, and you wouldn’t be watching kids having their heads shoved down toilets every other day.”

There’s a sigh, and Ryan lifts his head. “You realise that’s not so much a thing anymore, right? Not even at my school, and there was an attempted murder a few weeks back.”

“I remember that one. The guy’s dad is someone related to someone else who knows someone, and they got him off in the end, didn’t they?”

“Sure did.”

The sky’s definitely starting to lighten- streaks of colour raking through the black tapestry of clouds and failing stars- and Ryan yawns. “I’m gonna think about it, okay?”

He stands up and stretches, groaning at the sound of his back cracking. God, he must have been sitting in the same place for hours. Ryan does the same thing, standing up a head over Teal with a small smile on his face. “I’m sorry about today, I really am. And I really don’t deserve you, dude.”

Teal shrugs, licks his lips and is about to say that it’s fine, don’t worry about it, before Ryan’s dragging him into his arms, almost crushing him in a hug. “Seriously,” he whispers into his ear. “I’ve never deserved the things you’ve done for me, especially after the crap I’ve put you through, but you’ve always stayed, for some damn reason, and I can’t believe it.”

It takes Teal a moment to finally gather his thoughts well enough to actually tell himself to ‘hug back you idiot’, but when he finally does, Ryan only tightens his grip.


“No, because you don’t get it, Light Yagami did absolutely everything wrong.”

Teal scowls up at the ceiling, scuffing a dirt mark on his carpet with the toe of his shoe. “Shut up. You’re wrong, okay? Light just wanted to help people, and then he just got carried away-“

“You don’t get carried away when you’re a psychopathic murderer with a magical notebook in your hand.” Ryan’s voice crackles over the phone line, like wrapping paper on Christmas morning. “You just get way too into the actual murdering bit.”

Teal runs a hand through his hair (he’ll need to re-dye it soon) and sighs, albeit over-dramatically. “As long as you’re not speaking from experience here, Ryan, I’m still going to have to say you’re wrong, but whatever. We’ll just change the subject, how’s school coming along?”

There’s a laugh. “You asked me the same thing two hours ago when I was sitting next to you in class. Nothing’s really changed since then. Katie likes you, though. Your hair’s even blonder than hers.”

“There’s nothing wrong with a guy having unnaturally blonde hair,” Teal coughs and he’s rewarded with another laugh. God, Ryan’s laugh is so much sweeter without smoke blackening his lungs.

“Of course there’s not. She’s just wondering where you got it done, is all.”

“I did it myself.”

“Well, of course you did.” Ryan doesn’t even sound surprised. “But that’s not important right now. I need you to get your ass over to mine and help me with this maths coursework, okay?”

Teal whines, glancing at his clock. “Really? At this time?”

“It’s only nine, and you were complaining about how little exercise you did anyway. C’mon, you can buy me a pizza to celebrate a month of no smoking, drugs or booze. And I haven’t even been in a fight for five days.”

Teal nods, even though he knows that Ryan won’t be able to see him. And then he smiles, because maybe people don’t have to stick with the mould they're assigned after all.  

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