The term had been going well. I was enjoying classes, I was meeting new people everyday and we had won every rugby match we had played so far. The only thing that wasn't going well was my little situation with Adriel. It wasn't that I found it hard for me to talk to him or that I was nervous or anything, it was just that he never really noticed me I guess. We weren't in the same class but we were both on the student council, which meant that I had more than enough time to get to know him and woo him slowly. The problem was he was having none of it. Whenever I approached him he would find somewhere else to wander off to and whenever I tried to talk to him seriously he'd pull other people into our conversation. At night when I lay in bed I would replay each meeting or brief conversation over and over in my head in an attempt to find an answer for his evasive behaviour. In summary, Adriel was an enigma, a puzzle that I couldn't solve; and I was really good at puzzles! He reminded me of a cat. He had a feline beauty, moved like the wind and seemed to get out of uncomfortable situations really fast and without harm. But what was the most characteristic was that, just like a cat, he was in control of any interaction between him and another person. People were automatically drawn to him but as soon as attention got too much he could brush them away as easily as they had came. He decided who could and who couldn't be around him. What went on inside his head though, I could never tell. His face never betrayed him.
The Kings and Queens Ball was an event Kramer held every year just before the mid-year winter holidays. It was the second of the four dances we, the Student Council, organised each year, the first being the Valentines ball and the others being the Spring Bash and Matric Dance. Unfortunately, eighth graders were not allowed at these events since we still hadn't earned the right to go to them and because we were used as help on the night of event.
Preparations had started a month ago and since this specific ball had a medieval winter theme, Adriel, Gretchen and I were in charge of recruiting enough eighth graders to be waiters on the night of the ball. Even though we weren't in charge of the event, all of the other students on the council were attending as guests, which meant that it was just the three of us that had to make sure that everything ran smoothly on the night, from beginning to end. Gretchen held a workshop for the waiters to instruct them on how to wait and what other responsibilities they had, I made sure that there were enough waiters and allocated them to their respective tables while Adriel raided the Drama faculty's closet in search of maiden and squire costumes for each of the waiters as well as ourselves.
It was the two o' clock on the Friday and the ball was only four hours away. I showered, got dressed and started the walk down the path from the hostel to the parking area in front of the school where a minibus awaited to take the student council and waiters to the hall where the ball was to be held. I looked across the field and saw Adriel walking from his house in the same direction. He was carrying two very large boxes and by the look of it was struggling to keep them from toppling over. I jogged over to him.
'Hey, you look like you need some help with that,' I said.
'Okay thanks,' said Adriel putting the boxes on the ground.
'Which one's heavier?'
I picked up the heavier box and he picked up the other one and we continued quietly down the path to the bus.
'So, what are your plans for the holidays?' I asked, just wanting to say something to him.
'I'm going to Durban,' he answered.
'Do you have family there?'
'My grandparents live there.'
'Oh cool. Well, at least it's warmer than Cape Town during the winter.'
'Yeah, at least it's that.'
Shit! I wasn't getting anywhere with this kid. He was giving me as much as a slap in the face, so I decided to lay off with the questions for a while. After about another minute of silence I couldn't help myself and had to start talking again.
'You aren't mad at me for some reason are you?'
'Why would I be mad at you?'
'I don't know? Maybe because of the top 20 or something?'
Adriel stopped and fixed me with eyes of the deepest blue I had ever seen. They were darkest around the pupil and around the outside edge and were a lighter shad in the middle. I had never seen anything like it before in my life.
'Look Tyler, I'm not mad at you. Yes, you beat me on the top 20 again but I got over that a long time ago. In fact, there wasn't really anything to get over.'
'Don't you like me then?' I asked trying to get to the bottom of the matter.
'Tyler, I am sure you are a very nice guy but we are not friends. I have my friends and I have enough of them, and so do you. We're on the student council together; we work together; we're colleagues. That is all.'
Adriel turned around and continued walking. I stood still, my feet stuck to the ground. Had I heard him right? Did he really just say that he didn't want to be friends? What the hell was up with that?
'You can always have more friends!' I shouted after him.
He turned around again.
'No you can't!' he shouted back, smiled apologetically and turned back to the path.
The other students started arriving at the hall at around six and by seven they were all seated and listening to the head student give a welcoming speech. The waiters including Adriel, Gretchen and I were all dressed up in quite authentic looking costumes. I for one had to get used to the tights and knee high leather boots very quickly. I got quite a few looks from many of the girls and even some of the guys. I wasn't really shocked even since, and even though I know I shouldn't think in such stereotypic terms, with the all the artists, dancers, musicians and actors in our school being gay wasn't something frowned upon.
I was gay and I had known for quite sometime but no one knew. I preferred it that way for now. I had two older, very manly brothers who I know would look down on me if I ever told them. Apart from that, our family still belonged to the Catholic church and in their eyes it would be a total sin. I knew that I could hide it for as long as I wanted to, the kind of person I was made it very easy to be perceived as undeniably straight. The problem was that I didn't want to. I want to be with someone too someday, share a home, have kids and make a family of my own. I couldn't tell anyone, not yet anyway.
I moved around the tables making sure that everything the guests were getting everything that they needed and that the waiters were doing their jobs. Some were enjoying their desserts while others were bouncing around on the dance floor. I went to the kitchen to see if anything else needed to be served. I walked in and saw Gretchen and Adriel sitting on one of the counters each with a plate in hand.
'Leftovers,' said Gretchen, 'It's pretty good.'
'There's a plate for you in the oven,' said Adriel.
I went over to the oven and removed a plate covered with foil. It was still warm and there was quite a bit of food on it.
'Thanks,' I said smiling politely at Adriel. He nodded and looked back at his plate. There was a table in the centre of the kitchen so I pulled up a chair and sat down to eat. I didn't realise until then that I was terribly hungry. Adriel hopped off the counter and put his plate onto a stack of other soiled plates.
'Well, we don't have anything to do anymore. I've organised the dirty dishes from the clean ones. The extra food has been sent to a homeless shelter and Kramer's organised for people to clean the place up in the morning,' said Adriel.
'What do I tell the waiters?' I asked.
'They can just hand around until the busses come, which will be when the ball is over. I'll let them know on my way out,' continued Adriel, 'It has been an honour serving beside you.'
And with that he bowed comically and left the kitchen. Gretchen and I laughed for a few minutes before pulling up a chair and sitting with me at the table.
'You're not fooling anyone, not even him,' she said
'What are you talking?' I asked her trying to look as though I didn't know what in the world she was talking about.
'I'm talking about your little crush on the boy that just walked out of here,'
'Adriel,' I said letting his name trickle over my lips like cool water.
'Look Ty, the truth is he is not interested,'
'How do you know that?'
'Adriel has been quite open about the way he feels and it's been quite obvious for a while now,'
'What? That he hates me?'
'He doesn't hate you. He just doesn't see you.'
'What do you mean?'
'I mean Adriel and Marcus. They've kind of been flirting with each other for a while now,'
'I would have heard of it if it were true,'
'It's not official or anything, they obviously don't want to make a big deal of it or anything,'
'I don't believe you,'
'They've been working on a duet together for a dance competition in September. They've been practising everyday since the beginning of term. It would be silly of you not to take my word for it,' she finished taking her plate and putting it on the same pile that Adriel put his. She came over and stood behind me.
'I think you should back off him for a while,' she said before squeezing my shoulder and leaving.
I sat there alone for some time just trying to make sense of everything she had told me. Between what Adriel had said to me this afternoon and what Gretchen had just told me a few minutes ago I was beginning to feel extremely hopeless. I needed some fresh air. I walked out of the kitchen and about half way through the hall heard someone call my name. It was Principal Atwood who was sitting with a few other teachers, who were chaperoning, at a table.
'I've seen you walking up and down this place all night, I hope you've had something to eat,' he said when I arrived at the table.
'Yes sir I have, thank you,' I said.
'Have you seen my son anywhere?' asked Principal Atwood.
'He was in the kitchen with me, but that was twenty minutes ago,' I answered.
'Well if you do happen to see him please tell him that I am ready to go home,'
'Sure,' I said and walked away through one of the halls side doors that led outside.
I wandered around in a large garden next to the hall. The grass was cut short and the shrubbery was neatly pruned and meandered in waves around the border of the garden. There were tall tree all over the place and the only light that enabled me to walk around without bumping into them was the light of the full moon that shone through there dense but bare branches.
I saw a figure somewhere in the distance near a very large and wide tree. The boy was turned away from me but turned and I saw the side of his face. It was Adriel. I decided to go up to him and give him his father's message. I was about fifty metres away when I heard the sound of a zipper and saw someone else emerge from behind the tree. In an effort not to bee seen I quickly hid behind a nearby tree that was equally thick as the one that had hid the other form in the distance. I could hear them talking in hushed but excited voices. I peered around the edge of the tree. I immediately recognised the other figure. The light blonde hair that glowed in the moonlight and the tall, broad-shouldered stature told me it was Marcus. I watched them from behind the tree even though I knew I should have turned around and walked away.
They kissed, at first just a quick peck but it quickly turned into something more substantial. Adriel was now leaning against the tree while Marcus stood over him. Adriel put his palms on Marcus's chest as they kissed. Then Marcus's right hand moved to Adriel's thigh and then between them. I saw Adriel's legs give way to the hand inserted between them. I looked at his face. Adriel's mouth was open, gasping silently as mist escaped from the warmth of it into the cold night air. I looked away and closed my eyes tightly trying to erase the image. I couldn't so I walked away, back to the now dying party in the hall. The night was drawing to a depressing close.
My sister picked me up from Kramer the following day. I was going to spend a few days with her before I went back to Johannesburg for the rest of the holidays. I was still emotionally hung-over from the previous night and I think my sister could tell. She didn't say anything though. We arrived at her flat where I put my stuff in the guest bedroom and went to lie on the bed. I could sense her standing in the doorway but I didn't turn around. She closed the door and I heard her footsteps grow quieter. I fell asleep.
I woke up and the room was dark. I went into the living room but it was empty. Isobella came out of the kitchen.
'Wow, you must have been really tired,' she exclaimed.
I looked at my watch: it was seven-thirty. I had slept the whole day.
'Yeah, last night was a lot of work,' I said.
'Oh yes! How did that go?'
'It was fine,'
'Yes, just fine,' I repeated.
'Well I'm busy making supper so you can go and have your shower and it'll be ready by the time you finish.'
I turned on the spot and walked to the room to get a towel.
'Ty?' called Isobella before I disappeared, 'Are you okay?'
'I'm fine,' I said before disappearing into the room.
After the scalding shower we ate in the lounge while watching Moulin Rouge. Isobella had made my favourite pasta dish: penne with chicken and creamy basil pesto sauce. It tasted exactly like our mother's and I had three helpings. After the movie Isobella got up and took the dishes to the kitchen. I heard her put them in the sink before coming back out into the lounge.
'I'm going to bed,' she said.
'Are you going to sleep?' I asked.
'I'm going to read my book,'
She walked away and I heard the door of her room close.
I got up and switched off the television. I went to my room and pulled on a pair of pyjama pants and a t-shirt. I got into the bed and switched off the bedside lamp. I looked around blindly in the darkness. I turned onto my back. I could feel my heart beating wildly in my chest and the blood pounding in my ears. My palms were clammy and I slipped my one leg out from under the covers in an attempt to cool down. I needed to do it. She was my sister. She loved me. She would understand, right? I covered my face with a pillow and screamed into it. I sat up. It was now or never. She knows something is up. She wants me to tell her. I got out of bed. It's fine. I stepped out of the darkened room and into the dimly lit passage. I walked slowly. I slowly clenched and unclenched my fists. I was standing in front of her door now listening to the chaos of my heartbeat and to the stillness of everything around me. I knocked.
'You can come inside,' said a voice on the other side.
I walked in and Isobella gestured for me to sit next to her on the double bed. I got under the duvet next to her and rested my sullen head on her shoulder.
'Tell me,' she said.
'I don't know if you really want to hear what I might say,'
'I want to hear about anything that is upsetting you. I'm your sister and I want to help you,' she said and put her arm around my shoulders.
I stayed quiet for a few minutes trying to put my thoughts into a logical sequence that would make it easier for me to say.
'I'm in love,' I finally said.
'Oh! What's her name?' said Isobella excitedly.
I looked at her very unexcitedly. Her smile faded somewhat as it finally dawned on her what my look meant.
'Oh,' she began, 'how long have you known then?'
'Since I first laid my eyes on him,' I said.
'No, I meant how long have you known you were gay?'
'Uhm, since about 8 years old,' I confessed.
'No wonder you were always such a quiet kid. You must have been worried sick all this time,' she said holding me closer.
'Listen to me. I think it's fantastic and I think you are the bravest little person I know,'
'Really?' I said, unsure if she was being sarcastic or not.
'Really really, it was bound to happen anyway. I mean, out of four kids one of us was bound to be gay and it just happened to be the baby of the family.'
'I am 14 years old now you know,' I said scowling at her use at the word baby in reference to me, a very virile young man. Okay, teenager at least.
'So who is the lucky guy?' she asked.
She thought for a moment.
'Is that the boy you greeted at the Waterfront over the June holidays?' she inquired.
I nodded affirmatively.
'Oh I can see why you like him. Oh yes, I can see it now. He was adorable, a bit awkward looking but very cute. You have excellent taste little bro!' she said excitedly.
'Yes, he's the cutest guy I've ever seen.'
'And you are very handsome, especially when you're smiling like that.'
We both stopped smiling and quickly broke out into uncontrolled laughter.
'He hates me though,' I said once we had come down from our laughter high.
'Why? Is he straight?'
'No. He likes someone else and I can't really compete with the other guy.'
'Firstly, they're both two of the school's most amazing dancers, secondly he's very easy on the eyes, and thirdly he's in the eleventh grade. He's 17 years old. How am I supposed to compete with that? He is such a douche too.'
'I can definitely see your predicament,' she said with an expression of deep thought, 'You'll just have to wait it out. After a while Adriel will realise what kind of a person this other guy is and he'll come running in your direction. Okay maybe not running, but you'll be there when the time comes. Anyway, 17 year old boys usually want more than just holding hands and my guess is Adriel won't be ready for it when the time comes. The other guy will get fed up and break it off.'
'You think so?'
'I do, you just have to be patient and show Adriel that you are, at least, a decent person.'
I smiled at Isobella. This had gone very well.
'Please don't tell Mark and Derek or Mom and Dad.'
'My lips are sealed but I think you should tell them sooner than later.'
I didn't say anything. Isobella questioned me for the rest of the night about every single thing about my life and we only fell asleep in the early hours of the morning, our backs pressed up against each other like when I was little.