I know you stole it!
Oh. He had it all right.
Clenched tightly in one damp and sweaty palm.
But he hadn’t stolen it. It wasn’t worth stealing— it was trash that didn’t matter.
…Only it did. For some reason, Zach had a fixation with this piece of garbage. And right now it felt just like holding a part of Mikey in his hand, the little part he could do something about. Crush it— stomp it— burn it.
The bathroom door slammed behind him.
The blue stall door clicked shut.
With the excitement of anger, he threw the bracelet to the ground and stomped onto it until he calmed down. He vaguely heard his own haggard panting over the silence, looking down to eye what was now muddied up against the blue tiles, smoothly woven but coarsely stained. It still wasn’t finished. No, that wasn’t enough. He picked the bracelet up with the tips of his fingers, reached into his pocket and pulled out a lighter. He’d burn that motherfucker. Cremate him early—
But he stopped himself, noticing the sprinkler system right above the stall. Fuck. Of all stalls—
He shot out the door and crashed right into Mikey.
“Gentry.” The other boy deadpanned.
Gentry briefly stumbled back from the impact, but caught himself against the edge of the sink.
“Mikey.” He returned, unsmiling. The bracelet was still clenched in his palm, half-hazardly hidden in plain sight. Despite the racing thoughts coursing through his blood, he sternly reminded himself that there was no problem, and that it would remain that way unless he said otherwise. Mikey had nothing—
Nothing but the strained look on his face.
“I’m surprised you’re still here.” Mikey drawled emptily, “Didn’t swim practice end a few hours ago?”
Gentry gave an affirmative nod, then pushed himself off the sink and turned on the faucet. Water came gushing out, forming neat little drops at the sides of the plexiglass bowl. Slowly he eased his hands under the spray, rubbing them down nice and slow.
“So,” said Mikey, “What’s keeping you?”
Gentry glopped soap on both his palms, and liberally doused water on the bracelet that was now stretched tightly over his wrist. It didn’t matter what Mikey thought, what he saw, or what he didn’t see— Gentry quietly decided he wouldn’t deny a damn thing if asked. There was nothing to be ashamed of, nothing he felt sorry for. Denial had “lie” built into it if you rearranged the letters, and there was nothing to lie about; just like there was nothing he owed him, and nothing he had to say for himself.
“Stayed for a GSA event.”
Immediately he felt the rush; some skin-prickling urgency and a sweltering light-headedness; as though the bracelet was burning up against his skin.
He didn’t say anything. Instead he continued to soak and scrub his hands, silently waiting for Mikey to leave. He’d have to, sooner or later. No one waited around forever. Fact was, if you were quiet long enough, most people got bored and left you alone.
So the silence grew until it became a monster all its own… Devouring patience and composure. He could almost smell the irritation in the steam which rose up from the water— boiling hot and heavy. It tempted him to steal a look at Mikey to confirm a new suspicion, but Gentry resisted. There was no fight unless he made one. There was no issue here, no conversation, as long as he didn't answer. And most importantly, there was no hurt unless he asked for it. Besides, Mikey knew better than to get physical: the moment he did he would lose, because there was no way you could win against someone with nothing to lose. And Gentry had nothing to lose, as long as he held on to it tightly. Fact was, the silence was not new to him, and he wasn’t that scared of it. He’d keep it for nine more years if he needed to. He quietly dared Mikey to do the same, and felt a tingle of pleasure when Mikey raised his voice again.
“Today we focused on child molesters.” That condescending drawl wavered up, then sunk into a low whisper, “Makes me sick how some parents destroy their own children. Can you imagine breaking a child like that?”
Gentry turned off the faucet and shook the water from his hands.
“No. I can’t.”
He brushed past him in distaste.