“I can’t believe the school lets that faggot share a pool with us. He’ll give the pool and everyone in it AIDS. I want to beat the fuck out of him---”
“Shhh, keep your voice down. He’s right over there.”
“Hm. He is. Hey! You! No sophomores are allowed in the senior locker rooms!”
Zach passed them warily. The sharks were in the locker room, not the water. For a moment, Zach felt like running. But instead, he firmly planted his feat on the ground, clenched his fists and replied, “The showers in the freshmen area are cold. You don’t officially own this part of the locker room, so if you have a problem with me being here, go run to your coach.”
The locker room was so silent now that you could hear the faucets squeak. Then, it rang out.
Zach winced and glared in the direction from which the taunt came.
Sydney returned the glare with raised eyebrows and wide eyes. He was standing with his legs apart and arms crossed, like some demented locker room hero. Gentry was beside him, arms crossed and eyes averted. He glanced at Zach for a moment, and got a good hard look in return.
“Hey FAGGOT!” Sydney taunted again, “Why don’t you talk? Got cum in your mouth?”
“Fuck off, you BREEDER.” Zach replied.
Sydney’s nostrils flared, “Watch your mouth, faggot, or I’ll watch it for you.” His eyebrows arched further up his forehead.
Zach snorted, “What will you do, make out with me so I can’t talk?”
The locker room jeered in unison, and Sydney yelled, “I won’t make out with you, you faggot! I’ll beat the shit out of you for saying that.” He crouched like a bull before attack.
“I’m a faggot all right.” Zach countered, and let his gaze shift to Gentry, “But at least I’m not a coward.”
Sydney charged his 250-pound body at Zach, but Gentry jerked him back suddenly.
“Stop it. Nationals are a month away. We can’t afford to kill any of our members now. Zach, just go… you’re still a sophomore, and no sophomores are allowed here.”
That did it. Zach had had enough. It was one thing for Sydney and everyone else to bully him, another for Gentry to be nonchalant about it.
Without a word of warning, Zach slammed Gentry against a row of lockers, resulting in a sudden and shaky gasp from the redhead.
“Get the fuck off me.” he ordered in a low voice, trying unsuccessfully to shove Zach off him.
“Seriously, Zach, get off---” he ground out, only to be punched in the face as a reply. Gentry choked back his own blood, wincing at the metallic taste in his mouth. Zach watched him disaffectedly, and punched him again for good measure. Gentry dodged it by rolling away, falling with his arms spread and his back pressed against the adjoining locker. The locker room crowd circled around, gaping in awe at the sophomore that was beating the living hell out of their leader. Gentry curled away from Zach’s blows, trying to move away only to be cornered and beaten again.
“Zach, move off!” yelled Mike.
But the words were distant and meaningless to Zach. No one deserved to be hurt more than Gentry, because no one else had pretended to be his friend only to later betray him. He wanted to see Gentry suffer the way he had because there was nothing worse than the angry burning and stinging of betrayal. These were the thoughts that raced through Zach’s mind as he landed one punch after another. He arched his knee to kick Gentry, but missed when the other boy breathlessly pulled away from the lockers and defensively crossed his forearms over his face.
“Stop it--- I don’t want to fight you, Zach. Don’t make me.”
“You already are.” Zach spat, “You just don’t use your fists. You use Carly and manipulate everyone else, and that makes you the worst kind of person. But if you think you can fuck around with me, you’re wrong.”
Gentry tensed and Zach seized the opportunity to kick him behind his feet and throw him off balance. Gentry rolled away fast enough to avoid a vicious kick in the ribs, and stood up before Zach could push him down again. Zach readied himself to deliver another blow. However, before any of the Zach could hit, Gentry ended the fight by swiftly kicking him between the legs.
Zach let out a pained gasp and stumbled backwards, dazed by the shouts of the crowd. He fell onto his knees, looking up at Gentry who in turn stared down at him. The corner of Gentry’s mouth formed a sneer, and he wiped the blood from his split lip. Then, he roughly pulled back a fistful of Zach’s hair, resulting in a round of hollering from the locker room.
“Hurt that faggot!”
Gentry’s shoulders dropped as the locker room egged him on, guffawing and jeering. Zach’s lips parted and his chest was quickly falling and rising, pressing his thin skin against his ribcage. His eyes looked to the floor, but he didn’t give as much as a whimper. His whole body was shaking, and his breath came out in gasps.
Gentry raised his hand to slap him, but then dropped it to his side. The locker room cried out at him as he turned walked away, then murmured in bewilderment as he walked out the door.