It was the last day of school and by tomorrow afternoon I would be back home for the summer holidays. It had been a good year. I was part of an awesome rugby team, albeit of another school, I had learnt more about art than I had ever known existed, I was top of my class and I had fallen head over heals in love with the most gorgeous, dynamic guy I had ever met. This being said, I had absolutely no idea how he felt about me let alone him knowing how I felt about him. It scared me to think about telling him. Firstly, despite all of the rumours and obvious signs, Adriel had never verbally come out to anyone, to my knowledge. Secondly, he was really into Marcus and would probably reject me. It wasn't a very good situation. The best thing to do would be to let it all go and wait for the whole Marcus thing to frizzle out, while being there as a friend for Adriel. Yes, that would be the plan.

'Are you coming to the party tonight?' asked Gretchen on our walk back to the hostel.

'Which one? I got like five invitations in the last week,' I asked.

The kids that did not live in the hostels were usually throwing parties and the end of year one's were the biggest, from what I had heard. Lately, and very surprisingly since I was only an eighth grader, I had been approached my students from higher years handing out invites to their respective parties. It was quite an odd thing, since I had never received invitations before. Perhaps it was because it was the end of the year.

'Which one are you going to?' I asked Gretchen.

'Uhm, well most of us are going to Georgina's. You know how she is. We all think she'll have the rowdiest party,' replied Gretchen. Georgina was in the twelfth grade and I knew her through the Student Representative Council. It was also a fact that she partied extremely hard.

'Who else is going?'

'Most of the council will be there, Adriel included, in case you were wondering,' she said with an innocent smile.

'Well I wasn't wondering,' I lied and nudged her gently with my shoulder.

'So then it's settled. Her house isn't far from the school so we'll be meeting at the front gates and walking there in a large group. Safety in numbers and all,' she said as we reached the steps of the hostel.

'Okay, I'll see you then,' I said walking off to the guys dorms.

I met up with Rhys in my dorm and upon chatting found out that Adriel as well as himself and Kerry would be going to Georgina's party. That afternoon after lunch, Rhys and I headed out to the tennis court to hit around a few balls, and once we were hot and sweaty, pulled off our t-shirts and jumped in the pool. We weren't the only ones in the pool and there were numerous students either jogging or swimming or just tanning by the pool. By 18:00 we left to have our final supper of the year and thereafter took showers and got dressed for the party which was at 20:00. I pulled on a pair of dark blue jeans, buttoned up a loosely fitting white cotton shirt and laced up my All-Stars before meeting the rest of the gang at the front gates.

Georgina's house wasn't far from the school and it literally took five minutes to walk there. The party was in full swing by the time we got there and I recognised a few people from my class. I also recognised Adriel standing in a corner of the living room with Marcus huddled over him, obscuring the rest of his body from view. I stared at them with disappointment and sighed heavily.

Somebody nudged me out of my reverie and saw it was Gretchen handing me a glass of punch. I took a sip and died for a split second as the incredibly strong liquid bathed my tongue. I took a few more sips of the deadly concoction to take off the edge before finally putting it down. I went to the kitchen and filled a glass of juice instead. I decided that I wanted my stomach to still be intact by morning. I was mingling with a few people from the student council when Kerry and Adriel came up to me. I could tell Kerry was slightly tipsy but Adriel seemed unaffected by the alcohol.

'Hey,' he greeted first.

'Hey Adriel, enjoying the party?' I asked.

'Yeah, it's okay I guess. They're not really my thing though. It never was in my old school.'

'Yeah, I think we share the same opinion. I've actually never been to one like this before.'

Adriel looked at my glass and then back at me.

'What are you drinking? It doesn't look like the poison they're serving here.'

'No it sure isn't,' I said laughing, 'I got it out of the fridge. It's grape juice. You want some?'

'Yeah, sure,' he said and I led him and Kerry to the kitchen.

I grabbed a glass off the counter and retrieved the juice from the fridge before pouring Adriel, who was sitting adorably on the counter, a glass. I handed him the glass and stood next to him.

'So you don't like alcohol?' he asked me, gesturing with the grape juice.

'Nope. I've tasted it a few times and I don't really care for it in all honesty. I also like being in full control of my mind and body. I'd hate to think of the shit I'd get up to if I ever got drunk.'

'Maybe we're still too young to really appreciate it,'

'Maybe, but I like to think I know what I like and what I don't like,' I countered.

'I guess, I mean, you knew you liked me from the first time we met,' he said.

I was mid sip as he said this and I almost inhaled the grape juice.

'What?' I asked, shocked at how he knew that I liked him.

'Well, I mean you knew that we could be friends, which are now. I'm just saying you never doubted it, which I did. Oh, and I'm sorry about that too.'

'It's okay, it's in the past,' I said, relieved he wasn't talking about the huge crush I had on him.

'So,' I began, 'What's you deal with liquor? Why are you here drinking grape juice with me?'

'The punch is too strong and I personally enjoy wine more. I used to steal sips from my parent's glasses at dinner time. I've grown to like the taste.'

'Yeah, wine isn't too bad. My whole family loves wine. Champagne is the best though.'

'What?! I wouldn't have guessed you to be a champagne man, a beer man maybe.'

'Beer is the worst!'

'It really is, isn't it?' chuckled Adriel.

We continued to chat for the next hour or two about general things. We spoke about our families, his mom who had passed away from cancer, my siblings, his dancing, my art and our previous schools. I listened carefully to his ever so faintly raspy voice, watched ever so diligently as he brushed his fingers through his luscious black hair that contrasted beautifully against his smooth, cream skin. I hadn't even noticed the beauty of his eyes until now; the intense bright blue around the pupil and the deep navy around the edges that seeped into the lighter colour. It took my breath away. His pouting lips were continuously flushed a bright red and tempted me into touching them with my own.

After about two hours someone interrupted our conversation to whisper something in Adriel's ear. His expression was blank for a second but then contorted into one of deep concern and irritation.

'Excuse me for a second,' he said to me before leaping off the counter and striding out of the kitchen. I waited in the kitchen for a few minutes but when he didn't return I left and wandered through the lounge and outside to where the pool was full of people some students were lying on the grass looking up at the stars. I noticed Rhys and a few other friends sitting on the patio steps and I joined there conversation which currently revolved around who was doing what during the summer vacation.

After about an hour of milling about in the cool night air I returned inside to get another glass of juice. All the conversation had made me thirsty. The lights inside were more dimmed now and as I looked around on my way to the kitchen I saw Adriel dancing with a few other people. He seemed like he was having fun so I let him be and continued to the kitchen. I got the juice and headed back into the commotion of the writhing bodies. Adriel was still dancing but had a cup in his hand, which hadn't been there before. I guess he did want to have a little fun after all. I headed back outside and managed to keep an eye on Adriel through the glass doors of the patio while listening to what my friends were saying. Adriel was handed cup after cup by random people and, not much later, was stumbling around drunkenly.

He danced quite vigorously to the thumping music and seemed to have a completely different persona than the perfect ballet dancer that he really was, or at least portrayed to the rest of the world. I watched him grind to the music. I watched his body lust after the beat. Invisible waves caressed his body, pushing it from side to side, manipulating it as it pleased. I watched it arch Adriel's back, rock his hips back and forth and slide itself ruthlessly, yet effortlessly into him. It tore at his orifices, took away his breath and diffused into his flesh. Adriel was one with the music and it threw him violently from one corner of the room to the other. I saw My Adriel disappear as something darker and untamed appeared. I walked towards the glass doors, entranced by the beautiful creature. Suddenly he fixed me with a stare. It was blank initially, and then as the darkness within him grew, he grew weak in its wake. His eyes fluttered under its pressure and he collapsed onto the dance floor. I immediately ran to him and pulled him out of the chaos. I sat with him in the passage and blew cool air into his face. He opened his eyes and smiled solemnly before speaking.

'Take me home,' he said.

I lifted him up and tossed one of his arms around my neck. He managed to take small steps and we stumbled out of the front door. A couple of students were also heading back to the school, so we stayed close to them on our way back. Adriel never said a word the entire way back and I replayed the entire scene over and over in my head. The boy clinging on to me was truly an enigma. His calm fa├žade had disintegrated in front of me tonight and I had been the only one sober enough to witness it. There was a pain in Adriel that nobody knew. I had just had a glimpse of it, not knowing how deep it really extended.

We reached the hedge that surrounded his house and I opened the gate. We hobbled up the garden path to the back door.

'Adriel, do you have keys?' I asked.

He pulled a few out of his pockets. I tried the first one and the latch clicked open. I led him into the laundry room which lead to the kitchen, switching on lights as we made our way to the staircase. We started climbing but Adriel stripped and stumbled. I lifted him up into my arms and carried him the rest of the way to his bedroom which I assumed was the one with the school books and ballet slippers neatly aligned along one of the walls. I put him down on the bed.

'Adriel?'

He turned his head toward me but didn't say anything.

'You need to throw up,' I continued.

He turned away from me and moaned nonsensically. I pulled him off the bed and we stumbled once again to the bathroom. I positioned him over the toilet. I rubbed his back but nothing was coming out.

'Okay Adriel, everything has to come out,' I said, 'I'm going to help you okay.'

I washed my hands at the sink and went to sit next to him.

'I'm going to put my fingers in your mouth so you can throw up, okay,' I explained, 'Just please don't bite down.'

His mouth was slightly open and I took a few deep breaths before reaching for his lips. The manoeuvre worked and soon there was hardly any alcohol left in his stomach. I washed my hands extremely well thereafter and helped him back into his room. I went down to the kitchen, filled up a jug of water and took it to the room. I made him drink the entire thing. It was a trick my brothers had taught me. Apparently it prevented bad hangovers. This was the first time I was putting there advice to use, and it wasn't even on me.

It took a while for me to force the water into him and he fell asleep soon after. I took the glass and jug back down to the kitchen and put off the lights. I wandered up to Adriel's room, admiring the art on the walls and the architecture of the house. Adriel's room was now dimly lit by the bedside table lamp and I cast a long shadow on the wall behind me. I circled the room, inspecting it's artefacts. The beautifully carved closet, the leotard that hung from it on a hanger, the line of used ballet slippers, and the Pointe shoes that hung off the edge of a frame on the wall. I looked closer at the picture within the wooden frame. I easily made out the tall, dominating figure of principal Atwood and a very young Adriel on his shoulders. The dark hair and blue eyes were unmistakeable. But it was the woman that stood close by that intrigued me. She was incredibly beautiful. Her pale skin was radiant in the photograph and her small smile told of a kindness those around her had experienced. But, just like the Mona Lisa, it also told of a secret; there was something that only she knew, something that could cause liberation as much as it could agony. But just like the woman in Leonardo's painting, Adriel's mother had been buried with a secret too. I turned away from the haunting figure in the frame and admired the rest of the photos on the wall.

Adriel was fast asleep now and I covered him with a blanket that was near the end of the bed. I sat down next to him and watched him sleep. I slipped down the headboard and rested my head on a pillow. I watched him breathe deeply and slowly. He was calm again, almost perfect. I felt my eyes grow heavy. In my state of drowsiness I leaned over and lightly kissed Adriel on the lips. The last thing I remember was laying my head next to his. I thought I saw Adriel smile in his sleep.

*******

I awoke the next morning to find myself alone on Adriel's bed. I stayed frozen for a second, making sure that everything I was seeing and feeling was real. I heard the faint sound of someone typing. I lifted my head slightly to find Adriel sitting cross-legged on the carpeted floor in front of a laptop. He had connected a long spirally cord to it. He was probably using the internet. We had dial-up at home too for our desktop computer. He saw me move and looked up. He was wearing glasses and looked super cute.

'Hey sleepy head,' he said as though I was the one that should have had a hangover. He seemed really chirpy. My brothers' trick must have worked.

'Hi,' I replied.

I got off the bed and went to sit next to him on the carpet. My shoes were off and I was still in my jeans and shirt.

'What are you doing?' I asked.

'Looking for plane tickets to Durban,' he answered.

'Why Durban?'

'That's where my grandparent's live, well they live nearby, on the beach,'

'Sounds nice,' I said.

'It is. I go there every year. A few of my cousins live there too.'

'Is it your mum's parents or your dad's?' I asked.

'My mum's parents. My Dad's parents live here in Cape Town.'

'Oh, that's cool,' I said, unable to really say anything else.

'That one looks nice and cheap,' I said pointing to the screen. Adriel responded by saving the page displaying the ticket prices.

'Thanks,' he said and smiled discreetly.

'Do you want tome breakfast,' he asked.

'Uhm, sure,' I replied. I was a bit hungry to be honest.

We went down to the kitchen and Adriel and I cooked up some fried eggs and browned some bread in the oven over which we spread garlic butter. I poured two glasses of orange juice, having found the glasses last night while getting Adriel water.

We sat down at the kitchen table and ate as though we hadn't seen food in years.

'So, what exactly happened last night,' he asked suddenly, 'I don't really remember much.'

'You got a little drunk,' I said, trying to sugar coat the situation.

'Just a little?' he said, not believing me.

'Okay, you were very drunk.'

Adriel merely nodded silently and blushed heavily. I wanted to kiss his rosy cheeks.

'I'm sorry,' he said quietly.

'It's okay,' I reciprocated.

'I didn't mean to burden you. I probably spoiled your evening,' he said sincerely.

'Well, to be honest, it wasn't my type of party anyway,' I said, half being truthful, half trying to make him feel better.

'So,' he said smiling coyly, 'what kind of drunk was I? Loud, clingy, wreckless?'

'You were surprisingly quiet, brooding perhaps. I'm not really sure, I can't ever tell with you,' I said, saying too much.

'Can't ever tell what,' he probed.

'I can't ever tell what you are thinking or feeling,' I blurted.

'Don't worry, neither could my parents, and they're my parents,' he said.

After we ate we began clearing the kitchen and washing and packing away the dishes.

'So what was with the change of attitude last night?' I asked, 'I thought you weren't really into the drinking game?'

'It was nothing,' he lied.

'Were you upset about something?'

Adriel eyed me curiously before answering my question.

'Yes,' he said finally. I was glad he was opening up to me but I didn't want to push my luck too far.

'Did it have something to do with Marcus,' I spitballed.

Adriel's jaw dropped and he blushed again.

'I'm sorry, I shouldn't have pried,' I apologised. We were quiet for a while after that and I thought I had blown my chances of finally getting to really know Adriel. But then he began to speak again.

'I caught him with someone else, some girl in his class. They were going all the way if you know what I mean,' he began, 'So it upset me and I lost some of my control hence the drinking.'

'I don't really see what you saw in him in the first place,' I said.

'He's an amazing dancer, and teacher,' defended Adriel.

'He's a manipulator and user,' I interjected suddenly.

My loud and somewhat severe tone caught Adriel off guard and I saw him close up right in front of me. I packed away the last glass and looked at my watch.

'I'm sorry I think I have to go,' I said and made a bee line for the door.

'Why do you even care?' he shouted, following me out of the kitchen.

'What does it matter to you why I care?' I asked rhetorically.

'Because you kissed me,' he said finally, as I reached for the handle of the front door. I stood still.

'I thought you said you didn't remember anything,' I said, not yet turning around.

'I remember that,' he said softly and sniffled.

I turned around and saw tears in his eyes. It broke my heart and I walked towards him. I stood in front of him and held his face in the palm of my hand. I wiped away his tears before leaning forward and kissing him tenderly on the lips, like I had done the previous night.

 

Dane du Toit

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