A tall guy I'd never noticed before lumbered toward the lockers. He looked familiar but I couldn't quite place him. I mean, I'd lived here for four years. I thought for sure I knew everyone that went to this smallish high school. "Hey, Moon. Is that a new dude?" I asked. My best friend, Ethan Moon, made it his mission to know what's going on everywhere. He always had the info on what went down at Brindleton Bay High.
"Yeah, man. Name's August Day. Just moved here from San Myshuno. That's all I got out of him when I saw him in my class first period."
That name sent a jolt through me. "No shit," I whispered.
"What?" Ethan asked.
I couldn't believe how much he'd grown and changed in looks. He wasn't the small, sweet, beautiful boy I fell in love with, God, how long ago was it? My heart sped up as my stomach tightened.
August Day was my very best friend when my family lived in San Myshuno back when I was eleven. How I loved just to look at him. He had the most perfect features plus he was funny, always cracking jokes, and he knew what to say to make people feel good. We met at a park when I was a little kid and always played together even though we lived on very different sides of the tracks in the city. He was the grandson of none other than the Llama King's late lead singer, Jackson Day, so the guy was freaking rich.
I was anything but. In fact, my family was homeless at the time. My folks never held a steady job. They were sort of what you'd call gypsies. They floated from one town to the next, picking up odd jobs, busking, or even begging. They didn't keep many tabs on me or my sister, so we'd hang out in the park after school most days. That's when I met August and for years, we'd meet up and hang out whenever we could.
I never got tired of just staring at him, he was so amazing to watch. He had the whole world at his fingertips and knew exactly what he wanted to do when he grew up. He said he wanted to be a secret agent like his great granddad, so I started calling him Double O to bust his chops. I told him he had to earn the right to a real number when he grew up. All he did was laugh when I told him. And so, "Double O" stuck.
We'd spend hours together playing all kinds of silly games until dusk.
I could stay out as long as I wanted. All I had to do was go back to the shelter. My parents didn't give a shit what the hell I was up to, but August's parents were different.
They loved him.
And he'd get in trouble if he didn't come home in time for supper.
In turn, I figured that made him really care about me. If I ever got depressed about my parents or things got me down, he was always there to make me feel better.
And that happened a lot, too, because sometimes, my parents would disappear and run off for days, leaving my sister and I to fend for ourselves. I sometimes worried I'd find them dead in an alley somewhere. But August would always try to cheer me up, joking around.
He took care of me, too, giving me his old clothes. He knew my favorite color was purple, so he'd find shirts that he knew I'd like. Sometimes I got the feeling he had his mom buy me things, but I didn't care. If it was from August, it made me feel special.
And over time, I just couldn't help myself.
I fell in love with him.
My little eleven year old brain couldn't process what to do about it. I mean...he was a guy. I didn't know anything about being gay or what that even meant. It's just August was my world, and I wanted to tell him how much I cared about him.
One day, I decided to go for it. I came up to him, stomach about to puke. It was almost as if I was watching from out of my body. I moved my mouth but nothing came out.
Worried, August asked, "What's wrong, Beau? Are you okay? Do you need something? I'll get it for you! Anything."
And then, because I was a stupid, idiot kid, I just impulsively moved my mouth toward him and kissed him.
And as God was my witness at that moment, I could have sworn he kissed me back. It was like the heavens parted, and I was with the person I loved. It was amazing for those few moments.
But then suddenly, he pushed me down and yelled, "What the hell are you doing, Beau?"
"I'm a freaking GUY!"
My heart literally died that day. I wanted to crawl away and never see August again. I was so ashamed of myself. How could I do that to him? Ruin the best friendship in the whole world? I couldn't understand what was wrong with me.
Why was I feeling like this?
But the next day, it was as if it'd never happened. August was my best pal and we went back to the way things were before that kiss.
And I was so happy.
That was until my sister, Briar, showed up at the park.
Now Briar had been coming to the park almost as long as I had, and August had seen her like a hundred times, so I thought it wasn't a big deal. August was my bro. He never even looked at her for more than a minute. She was a girl and usually, girls weren't any fun. At least, that's what my eleven year old brain thought.
But it was like a lightswitch had turned on in him. That kiss had ignited something, and it wasn't romantic feelings toward me. Suddenly, he started acting goofy around her, showing off.
And Briar was eating it up like a double decker icecream cone.
I told August we didn't need her around to play, but he just stuck up for her and Briar smirked at me. She knew the power she had over him.
Things were never the same again.
Suddenly, I felt a sting on my ear.
"Earth to Beau," Ethan said, flicking me. "What's up with you?"
"Nothing. See you later, dude," I said, marching over to August.
It seemed like centuries since my parents first told me we were moving and now my dreaded first day of school was here. My morning classes went by super slow, but weren't too horrible. My teachers seemed pretty cool for the most part. But then as I was going to my locker, a guy jumped me.
Muscles tightening, I readied myself to kick his ass when he whispered in my ear, "Double O, what the hell, man? They just let your sorry rich ass in this joint."
There was only one person who'd ever called me Double O.
A smile swished over my face. "No fucking way!" I cried, so excited.
"Beau Blackwell?" I asked. He looked so different but also the same in a way. He had the same face, but was just taller with a ton of muscles.
"In the flesh," he said.
Without thinking, I grabbed him and gave him a huge hug. I didn't care who saw. I thought I'd lost him a long time ago. His parents were freaks who I figured sold him and his twin sister to drug lords for all I knew. I'd gone to visit my grandmother and uncles in Pongo for the summer before my 7th grade year. When I got back, both Beau and Briar had vanished. No matter where I searched, no one knew where his family had gone.
"Oh, God, you don't know how happy I am to see you," I said, practically toppling him over.
"Me, too, bro," he said, squeezing me back.
Beau had been my very best friend growing up. We'd been inseparable until he'd disappeared. I'd never made a close friend like that ever since. Sometimes you just click with someone where you know what each other is thinking even though we didn't have to say anything. I thought that was how all friendships were, but I was wrong.
"God," I said, "I feel like I'm freaking dreaming. What are you doing in Brindleton Bay? Where did you go? You didn't even say good bye, man."
"Yeah, well," he said, gripping his neck then shrugged, sticking his hands in his pockets. "You know my parents...and it's a long story on how we got here."
"Well, spill!" I said. I just wanted to cut school and spend the rest of the day with him.
"Like I said, long story. And I got English next with Stonefaced McFadden. Bro, you don't want to be late to her class."
Slinging my arm around him, I said, "Then you're coming over to my house. We've got to catch up."
He threw his arm around my shoulders and said, "Sure. I got football practice every day after school, but maybe on Saturday."
Arm in arm, I felt it was just like old times. "I'll have our cook make you some lasagna. Your favorite. Right?"
"You bet. Still richie rich as always, dude. Things never change, huh?" he asked.
"Nope. Guess not." I laughed. "And to think I gave my parents shit about coming here."
I'd asked him about his twin sister, Briar. I hadn't seen her at all in the halls or in class. He told me she sat with him at lunch, so I could meet up with her then. Instant butterflies flitted inside thinking about what she must look like now. She was my first crush.
For the longest time, I'd hung out with Beau never noticing how beautiful she was. Then one day we were splashing around in the fountains and it was like this rainbow appeared around her. She was breathtaking.
And all I wanted to do was be near her. Since I was a dumb-as-fuck eleven year old, I teased her, constantly, trying to get her attention.
But she didn't seem to mind. She would give me this look that sent fireworks shooting through me. I was so mesmerized by her eyes.
And we wouldn't mess around like Beau and I would. We'd talk about things. About what she wanted to do with her life. I didn't know it back then, but she was incredibly intelligent. She wanted to be a vet and take care of animals. She'd find abandoned kittens and scraggly dogs in the alleyways close to the shelter. She always had a soft spot in her heart for rejected things.
Then one day, as the sun slipped down, spraying the clouds with shimmering pink, we'd passed the time talking while I swung her on the tree chair.
And she gave me this look like I was the most important person in the world to her.
Taking her by the hand, I pulled her out of the seat and kissed her. It was magical, like someone stopped time. It was just me and her and the warm soothing breeze. Something I'd never forget.
The next day, my family and I jetted to Pongo, and when I got back, I thought I'd never see her or Beau ever again.
At lunch, I found Briar. This brunette beauty flashed a smile at me, lighting up a fire that had never died down.
She didn't recognize me at first, but when I told her who I was, she dropped her plate and rushed at me, giving me a kiss. It was crazy.
But then we lost our balance and like a felled tree, I tumbled backwards right in the middle of the cafeteria.
Before I knew it, I was sprawled out with Briar on top of me and a ton of people laughing all around.
But I didn't care.
It was like I'd finally come home.