In the lobby, René looked like he banged down the phone. He threw open the door and huffed to the table. His leather jacket bounced. So did his loose cargo shorts sitting low on his hips with long underwear beneath them. Even the laces of his black boots flopped about as he bore down on Billy.
When René reached their table, he pretty much slammed his butt into the chair, sunglasses pushed up on his head. “Don’t you ever force me to make that kind of fucking phone call again,” he snarled while lifting his mug. “If the school double-checks, Danny’ll fry my ass.”
“You pretended to be your bro?” Billy innocently asked.
“Who the fuck else was I gonna be? Dad? As if.” René reached inside his leather jacket and withdrew his cigarettes. “You’re lucky Mom and Dad have Danny listed at the office as a contact, or we woulda been screwed. Now what the hell’s so important you got us skipping class?”
“Dude, haven’t you ever cut class?”
“No.” René blustered. “Never.”
This guy really had to lighten up and try some serious living. “You’re on the honor roll. There’s no chance you’ll fail because you missed one class.”
“Listen here.” René again shoved his finger at Billy’s face. “Don’t you dare try and dictate my life. Got it?”
“Why not?” Billy made a pfft sound. “You let everyone else.”
“I’m not about to let some little shit in grade ten manipulate me—”
“Cut it. If I hear you call me that again, I’m gonna smack your big trap shut.”
“You go ahead and try, and I’ll wipe this very floor with your ten-year-old, little shit, grade-ten ass.” René lit his cigarette. He’d pretty much sneered his words, since he was sneering.
“Fine, keep calling me a kid, but at least I know my own head. I don’t let everything scare me.” Billy leaned into the table.
“Scare me?” René placed his hand on his chest.
“Yeah. You don’t ever think for yourself, even though you’re more than capable of it. Why? ’Cause you’re too busy quoting their laws. Did they also give you a manual to study for all these rules they have for you?”
“Haha. Fun-ny. Not.” René kept scowling. “Now what do you need to talk about? The timer’s running.” He used his thumb to motion behind him at the clock tacked above the serving counter.
“Your attitude sucks.” Billy shook his head. “I wanted to talk to you about…the bus.”
“What about the bus?” Exasperation filled René’s tone. “If this is about catching rides again, the answer is no. Mom and Dad said—”
“See? There you go again. Mom says… Dad says… What do you feel?” Billy lightly punched his heart. “Right here.”
The flash in René’s eyes died. He sank back, folding his arms, the cigarette still between his index and middle fingers. “Yeah, they’re being a bit unfair, but I get their point, okay? I need space. You need space.”
“Space? My new space has gotten me a…” Billy licked his lips. “The gang wants me to go to the movies on Saturday. I had to lie and say your mom wants me to do stuff for her.”
“What’s wrong with going the movies?” René’s gaze was quizzical.
“It’s Carla…” Billy crushed a creamer container. “She…”
“Oh, I get it.” René arched a brow. “She’s not taking the hint.”
“Then you’re gonna have to set her straight, like I had to be—”
“Was Moxy hitting on you?” The green-eyed monster resurfaced beneath Billy’s skin.
“Let’s say nothing’ll ever happen between her and me. You’re gonna have to do the same.” René tapped the ash into the ashtray.
“How? I’m not you. Everyone listens to you.”
“Just tell her in a nice way you’re not interested.”
There was no way possible to reject someone nicely without hurting their feelings. Billy let go of the creamer container. He glanced up at René, who had impatience written all over his face.
“I also feel as if…” Big deal if they argued. Arguing seemed to be what they did best. “I’m not on your level.” He moved his finger to himself then toward René. “We’re together, but you still sometimes treat me like…a stupid younger brother. What’s it gonna be?”
René’s eyes shifted up to the left. He glanced back at Billy, impatience still lining his face. “When you stop acting like one.”
Frustration gathered at the back of Billy’s neck. “And how the hell am I acting like one?”
“Duh. Try right now. You have us cutting class. Maturity means owning up to your responsibilities.” René banged his index finger that held the cigarette on the table. “If you acted your age, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now, would we?”
“Yeah? But you sure don’t got your balls. Your fam has them. At least I have mine.” Billy pointed down at his crotch. “And I’m not letting anyone take them from me.”
“It’s true. You stand up to your friends. You stand up to me. The only people you don’t stand up to is your fam or anyone in authority. You take what they say and mark it in your book of rules.”
“I don’t have my balls?” René flicked back his bangs. “And where’re yours? The reason we’re sitting here is because you don’t have the balls to tell Carla to piss off.”
“It’s not about balls. It’s about not wanting to hurt someone who’s pretty cool.”
René’s eyes narrowed. “Then go to the movies with them,” he snapped. He crushed his butt out in the ashtray, shoved back his chair, and stood. “Let’s motor.”
“No. You sit your ass back down. I’m not finished.” Billy trembled. Maybe he’d pushed René too far.
Although René didn’t sit, he didn’t leave. He folded his arms, glaring. “Then hurry it up.”
“Sit. Down.” Billy made sure his words were calm. Something was happening he couldn’t put his finger on. There was a look in René’s eyes colder than the Arctic.
René yanked out his chair and sat. “You got five minutes. The timer’s on.”
I love you. I love you so bad. I don’t know why, ’cause all you do is feed me grief. Take out whatever’s going on in your head on me. All I want is for you to love me, too. Love me the way I love you.
“I don’t want us to fight. And I don’t wanna make you mad. I just wanna be with you.” Billy couldn’t stop trembling.
“You are with me.” René’s said flatly. He reached inside his jacket and withdrew his cigarettes.
At least he’d listened. The hope sitting at Billy’s feet slithered a morsel upward. “I wish…I wish I could hold your hand right now, but we can’t.”
“No, we can’t. It’ll never happen. Ever.” René lit the smoke. He pocketed his platinum lighter he always used.
“You’re never gonna let anyone know about you. Only Keith?”
Their problem was René’s inability to embrace himself. Truly embrace who he was. Sure, he’d finally accepted he had a thing for dudes, after too much pushing and prodding from Billy, but René didn’t seem to embrace the idea. Somehow, Billy had to make René see he was special simply for being super-cool René Randall Oshawee, because if Billy didn’t, they’d fail.
There was only one person who could help. He’d talk to him tomorrow morning.