A week a half. Mike has been staying with me a week and a half and I am starting to panic. Money is hard to find when I'm not stealing it. (I did promise him. Little bastard.) Because, really, taking a bit from my mom everyday doesn't count as stealing. It's reparations for years of mental anguish.
My therapist would totally back me up in court.
Mike's mom calls everyday, sounding like she's on the verge of a breakdown. Asking if I've heard from him. Saying that if I did could I please call her immediately? The police called too, and we nearly shit ourselves expecting them to drop by. There's been a Missing Person report filed on Mike. It's made the local news and all. It's quite exciting.
And scary as fuck.
I'm scrambling for money because we've decided we need to get out of here soon. I'm in the hallway, seriously considering searching unlocked lockers, when someone touches my shoulder.
"Hey," Alex says.
"Jesus. Don't do that," I reply.
"Yeah. Uh. Sorry." He plays with the zipper on his jacket. "I haven't talked to you in awhile."
"Yes," I say, spotting a locker, free of a school issued combination lock. I mustn't steal. I mustn't.
"Mike told me about your…"
"What?" he asks, shaking his pretty long brown hair out of his squinting eyes.
"Nothing. No matter," I respond, facing away from the taunting locker.
"Have you heard from Mike? At all?"
"Since he's been missing, I mean. His mom calls a lot. And the police. I wish I could help. I hope he's okay. And I figured if anyone knew anything it's be you. Since they think he ran away."
Alex scratches the back of his head. "I'm not, like, accusing you of anything. Sorry. I'm just worried."
I muster the most dramatic sigh possible. "Okay. Don't tell anyone."
He looks up sharply.
"Mike? He killed himself."
Oh can't you ever shut up, Ivy?
"What? No way." Alex gives a strained laugh. "I mean. How do you know?"
"He came to me. My house. He was crying and like, saying he couldn't deal with living anymore. And I tried to calm him down and he got angry with me, calling me a hypocrite. Because…you know. So, he left, and I followed him and he went to this wooded area and. And." I stop, and close my eyes, shaking a little.
"What?" Alex whispers.
"He shot himself," I say, choked up.
"Oh shit," he says. His eyes are wide.
"Shit is right."
"You could've saved him, Alex. Your little closeted life made his miserable. I mean, you could've at least been a friend to him, whether they ended up accepting either of you or not."
"No! I…I didn't…"
"You didn't do anything," I say. "And now Mikey is dead."
Alex takes a deep breath. He blinks a lot, and finally stares at me. "I'll see you later."
He sticks his hands in the pockets of his jacket and walks away from me as fast as he can. I stand there for a moment, wondering why I've just done what I've done, before shrugging it off and looking over that locker again. I sigh, and decide to leave the hallway before I do something very dishonest.
And me. I'm all about the honesty.
I enter the cafeteria, and head towards the vending machines when I make eye contact with Alex, who looks horrified and shattered in contrast to his laughing friends. I shake my head, and he breaks eye contact, putting his head down to rest on his arms.
And not but a second later he's standing up. First in his seat, then he kicks shit off the table and stands on it.
"Everyone?" he announces, his voice shaking a little.
"Alex? What the fuck?" Mark laughs.
"Hey! Everybody! Listen!" Alex shouts. Naturally he's attracting some attention, but there are still people going about their business.
"Some of you may know Mike Lanuti. Fruity Lanuti?"
The people listening start laughing, especially all of Alex's friends. "Did he come onto you, Alex?" someone calls.
"Well, uh. If you don't know who he is…he's a sophomore who we treat like shit because supposedly he's gay. He was also my best friend."
"Alex," Mark says. "What's the point?"
"And. And now he's dead."
A sort of "Oh." silence falls over the cafeteria, besides a few other noises.
"He killed himself because we made his life hell. For what? Because he's gay?"
Silence. I wonder if someone is thinking, "Well. Yeah!"
"Well. He's not even gay. Wasn't gay, I mean. This asshole," Alex spits, pointing at Mark, "thought he was gay because Mike was covering up for someone else. This asshole," he says, placing his palm on his chest. "Me. Me. I'm the fucking fag. Mike was protecting me by putting up with all your shit and now he's dead. And it's your fault!" he screams. "And mine."
And with that, as if cued by a director, Alex starts sobbing. The mood in the cafeteria is uncomfortable. There's a loud whispery sort of silence. A crumpled paper bag ball flies through the air and smacks Alex in the face.
"Get off the table, fag!" someone, the pitcher I assume, yells. About half the cafeteria bursts out laughing, and the other half is kind of stunned.
Alex jumps off the table and runs out of the cafeteria, where I follow him. He leans against the wall where we were moments ago.
"Hey. Do you wanna come over my house after school?"
He shrugs and wipes his face off. "Yeah," he says. "Okay."
I smile. "Wonderful." I open the ever so tempting locker as a reward to myself.
Huh. Maybe the biology book is worth some money.
After school Alex and I are standing at my door as search my bag for my key. "They made me talk to my counselor," he says.
"Oh that's always good for a pick me up."
"She asked where I found out about Mike's suicide, and all. I told her I just heard it around, since you told me not to tell anyone."
"Thanks," I say, as the door flies open.
"IVYWHATISGOINGON?" Mike screams in one breath, his face bright pink.
"OH MY GOD!" Alex shouts, jumping back.
"WHY ARE WE ALL SPEAKING IN CAPITAL LETTERS?" I yell, feeling sort of left out.
"You are dead?" Alex asks Mike.
"Yes, according to Channel 9 news. What's happening here?"
"She said you killed yourself!" Alex exclaims. His mouth is still hanging open in shock, and he grabs Mike into a hug.
"You are going to squeeze him to death," I say, stepping into the house.
"Why did you tell him I was dead?" Mike asks, once the two are done with their little love fest. Aww.
"I don't know. Fun?"
"You are so fucked up," Mike sighs.
"That's not what's important here. My little compulsive lying habit got this guy out of the closet."
Taking the attention off of yourself in times like these is always a good move.
"No way. Really?"
Alex shrugs. "Yeah. Guilt. I guess." He looks a little queasy.
"What's wrong? Regret telling everyone, now that you know the resident fag isn't dead?"
"No! Not at all. This is just. Strange."
"What's strange is," Mike says as we all enter the living room to watch the news, "is seeing a report on your own suicide." Mike's school picture flashes on the screen. They've been using it a lot. "I hate that picture." He looks very thin, even for him, and as dejected as I've ever seen him.
That's one for the yearbooks. Oh, memories.
"The teenage runaway has been reported to have committed suicide in a wooded area somewhere in the southwest part of the city. Police are currently searching for the body." And it cuts to outside Mike's house, his mother bawling uncontrollably as his father has his arm around her.
"Huh. Oops?" I offer.
"Oh my god. Oh. My. God." Alex says, and I seriously think he needs to vomit. "What is going on? Why are you here?"
"We're running away," Mike tells him.
"Oh okay! Running away. What the fuck? Are you two insane? You can't leave."
"Oh no, Alex. We have to leave. Like, today in fact. Before the police come here."
"We can't leave yet! What about the money?"
"The money?" Alex asks.
"Yeah. We were stalling until I could come up with some. You have any?"
"I've got like twenty bucks. But you can't have it. You can't leave! You'll get killed."
"I'd rather be dead than miserable," I reply. Mike looks uneasy. "Are you backing out?" He shakes his head no. "Well okay then. Get your shit. We're going to go."
Alex hits my arm. "You're nuts. Here, take my money," he says, placing the bill in my hand. "I…I don't even know. I hope you two make it okay."
"It can't get any worse," I say with a smile as he leaves. I run upstairs to get my stuff together. Mikey is stuffing things into his backpack.
"So. We're leaving."
"Mmmhmm!" I pick stuff up off my floor to take with me, not really caring what it is, when I come across the magazine I took from Mr. Cline's room. I figure; if I'm getting the fuck away from here, why not give the creepy asshole a proper goodbye? "We're leaving," I say. "But first: We have a mission."