I felt myself shiver the moment I walked outside, it was windy tonight. I was surprised I could make out so many stars. Then again this was further out in the country, away from the city centre. Based on the road signs I was somewhere towards Ely, a big city outside Cambridge. Another gust of wind blew past and I coughed as gross cigarette smoke invaded my lungs. Zack turned around at the site of my coughing fit and quickly dropped his cigarette, stamping it out with his foot.
“Are you okay?” he asked, genuine concern crossing his face. I held out a hand to say I was good as I leant my other hand on my knee and got my breath back. My eyes stung a little and I knew they were probably watery.
“I'm guessing you've never smoked,” Zack joked once I'd righted myself.
“Not really, didn't think it was a smart hobby to adopt. What with all the health risks,” I replied and Zack laughed.
“Yeah, My parents keep telling me to stop, but it's pretty much impossible. I started them a year ago to cope with...stuff,” I raised an eyebrow at him to continue and he let out a long sigh.
“Lily asked me to switch to her school because she misses me. She assures me it's nothing like my old school. And I asked my parents and they said yes,” he said.
“Then why did you tell Lily you couldn't?” I asked and he laughed again.
“Because I don't want to go back to a state school. I went there once and it...it ended badly. At first I kept it to myself but once I ended up in hospital I had to tell my parents everything. They transferred me pretty fast,” he said, another humourless laugh leaving his lips. Then a real one as he took in what must've been a horrified and shocked look.
“See, I was like you. Fancied my best friend. I thought if I told him that, maybe through some strange twist of fate he'd change sexuality or something. That we could be together.”
“What happened?” I asked, afraid of the answer.
“He didn't like it. He got mad and stormed off. Then I didn't see him for a few weeks. I thought that was the end of it. Then people started making comments, getting shoved into lockers. That kind of thing. That's when I realised he'd turned the entire school against me. It wasn't that bad in school. I could handle it. It was after school that was the problem. I got pretty good at finding short cuts and being a fast runner. Then I messed up. I was in hospital for about a month. In all that time I kept hoping he'd feel at least a shed of guilt and visit. But nothing,” He finished, then fished in his pocket.
“Sorry, need one” he said, his voice shaking a little, like his hands.
“You think that could happen to me?” It was barely a whisper. This time when the harsh smell of the smoke hit me I was able to ignore it. Zack finished a long drag and turned to me.
“Honestly, no clue. Maybe you have better intuition with people than I did. But think of me as a warning story I guess. It can go horribly wrong. Of course I've met people who have told their best friends and its ended great. They rarely got to be with their friend, but the friend accepted them and didn't treat them differently,” He explained with a shrug. He looked a little more relieved now that he had a cigarette. That was one heck of a dependence I thought. But I couldn't blame him based on his story. I chewed my lower lip for a few seconds.
“I know some popular people, if you did switch to our school they'd look after you, or you could just hide it,” I suggested lamely. I had a feeling Lily purposely wormed into the popular group so she could say the same thing. He shook his head.
“Funny thing about coming out. Once you have you can't imagine going back. I'd hate having to hide again. I enjoy the freedom of being me too much,” He said with a smile. I wondered how good it felt but I was nowhere near ready to tell people.
“Just, consider it. There's an equal number of people for or against it from what I tell. And it's not like you'd be alone. There's me, Lily, Kim. I know a few others who would definitely be friends with you. And a someone who would be a bitch, but she's easy to shut up with enough logic. Smart throws her off,” I said, remembering the debate and how confused she'd been. Zack laughed at the last part.
“Your pretty tough, more than I was,” He said.
“Yeah, I have guts, so many I won't tell people the truth,” I muttered darkly to myself.
“Hey, don't cut yourself short. It takes a whole other strength to always maintain control and not show people,” He replied.
“A strength? I thought it was called cowardice” I laughed and Zack shook his head. He threw his cigarette to the floor and crushed it under one of his boots. His reached out, grabbing my shoulder with his hands.
“You need to stop being so pessimist” He said with a grin.
“And whoever the guy is, he's damn lucky. Even if he doesn't know it.” Zack let me go and walked off. As I watched him walking back inside I wondered if he'd actually join our school. I kind of wished he would. It'd be nice to have someone to talk to everyday rather than every week. I mean Kim and Lily are like me, but Zack is almost exactly like me. Except his story has an ending. And the fashion taste. Though I admitted I kind of wanted the boots.
I felt a little sad when Lily's dad pulled into the parking lot, spraying gravel as he did. Zack approached the group and I raised a hand to wave bye to him. He lifted an eyebrow at the hand and pulled me into a hug instead. I paused for a second with no clue what to do. I settled on awkwardly patting his back.
“Wow, I bet you haven't even been kissed,” he joked when he broke it off. I had a pretty good feeling my face confirmed his words.
“What about you?” I'm not sure why I asked, but I was curious.
“Heh, tip for you. If you tell your best friend. Don't do it by kissing him,” Zack replied, heading towards another car where a women dressed in a business-suit was tapping away at her phone. When she saw Zack a big smile crossed her face and she opened the door from the inside for him.
“So you going to come back next week?” Lily asked as we all piled into the car. Me and Kim both agreed we would. I kind of wanted to see Zack again, try and convince him to switch schools.