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This submission contains a fight involving minor depictions of blood. There is some harsh language, most notably anti-gay remarks made toward the main character by bullies. There is also two non-sexual romantic scenes involving two main characters. If any of those offend you, please do not read this story.

Oddity is still mostly unedited, however I plan to begin work on that process soon (between school work). I am submitting it now because I'd like comments on the general ideas and style so far. Grammar mistakes, spelling, and some structural elements are sure to change in the near future, so, for now, please be understanding and leave more general comments on the story and style itself. Thanks, and enjoy ^_^

It was the same routine everyday for so many people. Wake up, hop into the shower, and clean every part of their body thoroughly. They emerge, dripping water onto the floor, from the shower, grab their towels and dry themselves off, put on undergarments, slide on a shirt that gives a little glance of a smooth stomach, just showing the tiniest bit of tightness without being truly muscular. Then come the pants, hard to put on because they’re so tight. But they like them that way. After all, “when you’ve got it, flaunt it”.

Then, each of them, usually kids between 12 and 18, run down the stairs, maybe grab some breakfast, somehow acknowledge their parent or parents, and run out the door to catch the school bus. There are variations to the formula, but it’s generally the same wherever you go. The bus drops them off at the school, where they enter the school, armed with backpacks that feel like they’re full of bricks, packed with yesterday’s homework, and all the books that were needed to do it. Everyday, every week, every year. It’s been like this for so long that even our parents remember it. But at one particular school, something was different about today.

A few people saw it in the halls, gracefully moving amongst the jostling bodies, hips swaying from side to side in that tantalizing manner that hips have the ability to achieve when properly wielded. Then the spectacle passed, and it was first period, butts in chairs, ready to learn, pretend to pay attention, or sleep for an hour or more, then onto the next class.

Schools can be different, but in this particular school, there were two lunches, one after second period, one after third, and students went to each depending on the class they had before. The day drags on, slower and slower as the bell gets closer and closer to signaling to the kids that they can escape, free to converse with their friends and eat and have some liberty before being dragged back to the same old dull routine of school.

Second lunch changed everything.

The boys, as usual, watched the girls in their tight pants, and revealing shirts walk past, taking in every curve, especially the ones of the lower body. These are those elegantly shaped girls, whose curves make men drool with desire with every swaying movement. Their skinny, perfect bodies mock those of the outcast girls, who have some defect that keeps them from being wanted, such as being too fat, too short, not quite pretty or blonde enough, or, worse still, too smart. The eyes watched the entering girls, staring at the curves, touching them with their eyes, and, although the girls wouldn’t admit it, that was exactly what they wanted.

A new body walked through the door, clad in the tight pants that showed off every curve of the body, running down to the small feet, which were graced with purple sneakers. The curves, as should be expected, were nearly perfect, and the flaws only seemed to bring out the more perfect aspects of the body. The stares moved upward, meeting a perfectly smooth midsection, slightly revealed before being covered again by a tight light blue shirt that revealed a body, which, although not muscular, was neither scrawny nor flabby. The eyes moved to the face, smooth and delicate, light, but not creamy. Then the eyes, bright, piercing blue, yet delicate as the light of the moon. The hair, slightly dark blonde and cut medium length all around. Those starting were no longer looking on in desire, but in shock and near horror at the figure now walking through the room.

Before, the room had been filled with noise, but as this new body had entered, silence had spread through the air like a vapor, and soon no one spoke as this strange boy walked up to the food line, which had stopped moving, and began to wait, standing with feet crossed beneath him. He seemed unaware of the deafening silence, and didn’t seem to notice that the lunch line was immobile, both students and staff staring at the oddity which had chosen to barge in on the normal goings on of the school.

One of the staff serving the food made the first movement, suddenly averting her eyes and shaking her head as she returned to the mechanical task of scooping up bland food and dumping it onto the student’s plates. The students in line, their attention returning slowly to the food, began to proceed like cars on the assembly line, one at a time getting their food, then going to a table to sit down. Although no one could eat yet, not until the oddity had gotten his food and proven that it was indeed human. Some were even expecting that the thing before them wasn’t even real; that at the slightest touch it would vanish, perhaps in a puff of smoke.

Soon, the boy had reached the line, and each of the serving staff tried to give the boy his food, but he held his tray back while they stood there, impatient. Eventually, he held the tray gently to one of the staff, who promptly scooped his lunch fare onto the plate held before him. Next, the tray was placed before a server backwards in the line. The server, although puzzled, placed his food item onto the tray near the first. The tray moved almost randomly amongst the servers, collecting four things before being carried out of the line and to one of the tables.

As the oddity moved forward, hips swaying with every step, the eyes glued to him slowly managed to move to spots directly in front of them, and the other bodies in the room seemed to melt into the tables at which they sat. Everyone wondered where this strange creature would stop, hoping it would be far from them. It seemed to sense their distress, walking slowly, yet without seeming to be aware that it was moving at all, making it impossible to tell where it would decide to stop.

Ben saw the body moving his way, and knew it would soon be there, near him, behind him, then, perhaps pass him, or… the oddity stopped near where Ben sat and turned, looking at where Ben’s eyes would be if they weren’t trying to stare through the table in front of him. The body gracefully slid forward, gently setting itself down in the open spot next to Ben, which was gradually growing as the other kids surrounding the spot attempted to move covertly away from where the oddity had chosen to sit.

When it had stopped moving, comfortable in it’s new spot, those at other tables seemed to remember where they were and what they were doing, and eating and talking resumed, although the eating was faster, and the talking quieter and more intense. They were all talking about the same thing. What was this thing that now sat in their midst? Where had it come from? What was it doing here? What was it doing beside Ben?

There was complete silence at the table where Ben and the oddity sat, as though they were all observing the death of a close relative. Slowly, utensils were picked up, and food ingested, yet the eating was timid and half-hearted, with most of the table’s focus pointed at the oddity, which ate with feminine care and delicacy. Ben was the only one completely unable to eat as he started along with everyone else. Slowly, he let his mouth open, and eventually his tongue remembered how to form the words his mind was telling him to say. Slowly, they slipped out, frightened, but determined, “so… you’re back.” He paused, knowing he should add something, but unsure of what. Finally, he settled on, “it’s been a while.”

The oddity looked at him and smiled gently, showing perfect teeth, “Yes, it has been a long time, over a year, in fact. I’m happy to be back, though.”

Even eating had stopped now at the table, some forks and spoons frozen midway to their destinations as they watched the conversation unfold before them.

“You’re right, it has been a year. Where have you been, Alex?”

Suddenly, the oddity had a name, Alex. The noise at the other tables had ceased as well as all ears were tuned to catch every word uttered between Ben and Alex.

“I told my mom last summer, and she sent me away to another school out-of-state to “get better”. When she saw that it hadn’t helped, she decided that she’d missed me too much to send me back, so she enrolled me here for my sophomore year.”

“Oh, so that’s why you weren’t here,” Ben said slowly, unsure of what else to say. There was an awkward silence, then Ben said quickly, “you’ve changed a lot.”

The words caused both of them to blush, but Alex quickly responded, “You haven’t changed, too much. You still say things without thinking about them,” He giggled a bit.

“I-I’m sorry…” Ben stuttered, causing Alex to laugh more.

“And you’re still overly apologetic, too. It’s okay; I have changed a lot. You’re not the only one who notices,” Alex looked around the room, showing that he did indeed realize that he had caused the silence in the room. There was a sudden increase in volume as all the kids in the room began talking in order to try and hide their interest in the goings on, even though they’d already been caught.

“Most of them probably don’t know or remember you, Alex,” Ben said, “you were the one most people ignored because they didn’t want to see you. You were the star cheerleader in eighth grade, for God’s sake, Alex, everyone knew that you were gay.”

Alex giggled again, “Not all male cheerleaders are gay, just a lot of them. I’m surprised that everyone forgot me, even after we won the cheering competition last year.”

Ben gave Alex a look that expressed regret for actions neither of them had any control over, “everyone remembered the girls, though.”

There was a silence after this, as both of the boys could think of nothing else to say. They had been apart so long; so many changes had taken place. Time ticked by again, food was eaten, the bell rang, and children filed to their classes. The only difference in the age-old routine was this oddity, called Alex, who now walked among them, like an ugly duckling.

Time crawled on towards the final bell, until finally the bells rung once more, signaling all the schoolchildren that they were finally free for the afternoon and evening. They could go home, to their families, television, siblings, and other aspects of their lives. Others chose to partake in other activities, usually with friends, sometimes as innocent as a trip around town, sometimes not so innocent. One by one, each student left the school, all talking at once and filling the air with a din that seemed meaningless, but was in reality the music of life. Simple stories of the day flitted from mouths to ears, greetings, plans, and ideas danced through the air, flowing together in strange patterns.

Through this world, the oddity moved, a bubble of sound and space separating him from the others. The din was quieter where his feet tread, the mass of bodies giving him a bit more space. The students moved like a strange river, and the oddity was like flotsam caught in the current.

“Alex!” a voice shouted above the din, causing faces to turn. Alex saw, through the parting crowd, the familiar face of Ben moving toward him, like a branch suddenly free from the tree coming to become a fellow piece of debris in the river of students. Ben soon reached Alex’s side and walked with him, noticing the difference in the crowd’s behavior. “It looks like you’ve changed things here,” Ben noted, although neither was sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing.

Into the sunlight, the student body emerged, going in all directions as they traveled onward. Ben and Alex stayed together, both noting the looks they received from the other kids. They walked together for a while, both not sure where they were going, but letting their journey pick its own route, until they stopped by Ben’s car.

“We should do something together, now that you’re back and all…” Ben’s voice trailed off as he finished talking, looking at Alex as though begging him to say yes and have some sort of idea.

“Well…” Alex paused for a second, thinking, “you could come to my place for a while, have dinner, and then we could go off for a movie.”

Ben thought for a second, then nodded, “that sounds good, I just have to call my mom and let her know; I’m sure she won’t mind.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone as Alex moved to lean against the car beside him.

“Hello, mom, it’s me,” Ben said as soon as his mother, Jessica, answered the phone.

Alex was unable to hear Jessica’s response, “Good afternoon, hon, how was your day?”

“It was fine, mom,” Ben paused for a second, before telling her the big news of the day, “Alex came back,”

“Oh, that’s great!” Came the slightly startled reply from the other end, “how is he doing?”

“He’s doing very well… he’s changed a lot,”

“Well, that’s great…” Jessica paused, waiting to hear what Ben had called to ask.

“Well… Alex and I decided that we should do something together, since we haven’t seen each other in over a year, and… well… he said I could go over to his house, eat dinner, and then maybe we could go see a movie, or something… Is that okay with you, mom?”

There was a pause before Jessica said, “well, it sounds good to me… I’ll see you later on tonight, then.”

“Yeah, see you tonight, bye.” Ben hung up the phone after Jessica said goodbye and turned to Alex, who could tell from what he had heard of the conversation that everything was okay. Alex smiled at Ben happily, causing Ben to smile back. Ben opened the passenger side door to let Alex in, then got into the car himself and started it. Instead of moving immediately, however, he reached into a CD holder on the armrest and pulled a case out, removed a disc, and placed it in the player. He waited for the music to start before putting his foot on the gas and beginning the drive to Alex’s house.

Alex smiled as he recognized the music, “this is from the concert we went to three years ago, isn’t it?”

Ben smiled, keeping his eyes on the road, “Yes, I thought we should listen to it for old times sake. Do you still listen to yours?”

Alex nodded, “yeah, it’s burned onto my MP3 player.”

Without either one saying a word, they both began to sing along with the CD, their voices mingled together perfectly. The drive seemed to go by so quickly, bringing them to the familiar house Ben had been to so many times before.

“Are you sure this will be alright with your parents?” Ben asked, realizing that Alex hadn’t called home before they’d started on their way.

Alex winced and then paused before answering, “I asked my mom if it was okay before school today. I haven’t seen you for so long, if you hadn’t said anything, I would have asked you to come here.”

They walked up to the door together, Alex opened it and said, “Mom, I’m home!” Before leading Ben toward his room. The house was very small, but large enough for the needs of Alex and his parents. It consisted of one floor with an attic and contained a kitchen/dining/living room, a bathroom, and two bedrooms. Although not much else in the house had changed, Alex’s bedroom looked very different.

Where once the walls had been bare white, they were now speckled with red and blue, forming spots of purple where the two colors intersected. Pictures, posters, and papers with quotes on them covered the wall, contrasts between colors making the scene hard to take in quickly. The pictures and posters were mostly of movies, music artists, and various famous males, although there was one spot, directly above Alex’s bed, where it seemed like a picture had been removed. The quotes ranged from political statements, to philosophical statements, and even some movie lines and lines from particularly good stand up routines. The room was practically empty, except for the bed, a bookcase full of books, a computer, and the closet where all his clothes were stored.

“How was your first day back at school, Alex?” Came a woman’s voice from the doorway, “Ah, I see that Ben was able to come, it’s great to see you again, how are you?” Wendy seemed to be older than the last time Ben had seen her, but her smile, as well as the rest of her face, was still mostly the same.

Ben answered Wendy first, “I’m doing well, school is still difficult, but I’m enjoying it. It’s nice to see you again, too. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the two of you,”

As Ben finished, Alex decided to answer the query from his mother, “Today was great, although… everyone stared at me all day…”

Wendy gave Alex a loving smile, “I told you they’d do that, dear, but you wouldn’t listen.” She turned to Ben, “Well, I’m glad to hear that, and I’m sorry you haven’t been able to see Alex for a while…” she paused, as though wondering if she should explain more, “but I’m sure you two have lots you want to do and talk about, so I’ll leave you alone for now. We’ll be eating in about 2 hours, though. We’re having steak and salad, I know how much you always loved that, Ben, and Alex is quite fond of the meal, too.” She paused for a second, as if unsure if she was supposed to say something else, and had forgotten, then, with a little wave, closed the door.

Alex jumped on the bed and slid to the other side, gesturing Ben to sit on the edge of the bed across from him. Alex sat with his knees close to his body, hugging them to himself as though they might try to escape. Ben spread his legs out so that they went to either side of Alex and touched the wall. There was an awkward moment of silence. The two hadn’t seen each other for a year, and now they were back, face to face, in the alien, yet familiar setting of Alex’s room. Everything had changed, and yet everything was the same. Finally, Ben decided to start the conversation, “So… what have you been doing this past year?” Ben knew some of the story, but was interested in a more detailed explanation.

“Well…” Alex began, pausing to remember everything he could about the events that had happened. “After I came out to my parents, they weren’t sure what to do. They were both really upset, of course, but my mom took it much better than my dad did. Mom thought that I should listen to my heart, and that no matter what path I took, she would still love me, but that she would be very happy if I was someday able to marry, have a family, etc.” He paused again, this time with the same discomfort Ben had noticed in the car when he’d asked about Alex’s parents. “My dad said that he would rather have a dead son than a faggot son, and then left the room.” Alex’s eyes seemed about ready to burst forth in a stream of tears, but he paused to regain his composure and continued, “He was the one who decided that I should be sent to the Catholic school. My mother wasn’t thrilled about the idea, but my father was… not in the best of moods.” Alex paused again, trying to think of how to package his thoughts and emotions into words, while holding back the torrent of tears that might, at any moment, burst forth from his eyes. “That summer, my father never spoke to me… not a word. If he wanted me to do something, he’d have mom tell me so that he wouldn’t have to even look at me. He tried to pretend that I didn’t exist. When I left for school, he and my mom got into lots of pointless little fights and he started drinking more. Early on in the year, my mom wanted to bring me back home, and my dad yelled at her and then hit her.” A tear fell down his cheek, “he said that I wouldn’t be welcome back until I was ‘cured’. Mom told him that I would be going to the high school next year no matter what he said or did, and…” Alex’s tears began to flow freely as he finally lost his control entirely, “he left us… we don’t know where he went, or where he is now… he hasn’t called, or written anything to us… he’s just… gone.”

Ben had never seen Alex cry. Ben moved toward Alex as Alex’s knees slid down from where they had been below his chin and he moved forward as well. The two embraced. Alex’s forehead rested against Ben’s shoulder. Ben’s chin rested against Alex’s back. Alex’s arms crossed around Ben’s back. Ben’s arms rested against Alex’s side, under his arms, hands on his shoulder blades. Their chests and cheeks touched.

After a few moments like this, they slowly slid back, their bodies ceasing to touch. Their eyes, however, remained connected, as Alex’s crying began to slow and then stop. “Thank you,” Alex said softly, smiling a little at Ben.

Ben gave a small smile back, “so, what should we do for the next few hours. The two of them talked and decided to watch a little TV. While they watched, they continued to talk, Alex telling funny stories about the Catholic school, and Ben telling funny stories about high school.

As she cooked, Wendy smiled with joy to hear the laughter coming from Alex’s room. It was a sound she had missed hearing for about a year. Even after he returned from school that summer, the fact that his father had left seemed to have drained him of his usual light-heartedness, and laughter was a sound rarely heard from him. She had hoped Ben would be able to bring the old Alex back, and it seemed like that could indeed happen.

The two hours passed quickly, and when Wendy opened the door to tell the two boys that dinner was ready, they were surprised at how fast the time had gone. Throughout the meal, between his continued conversations with Alex, Ben bombarded Wendy with compliments on her wonderful cooking, causing her to blush a little each time and say something about how she made each dish.

It seemed like nothing had changed in that one year. The two best friends still sat next to each other, talking and laughing throughout the meal, as though Alex had never left. It was clear just by looking at all of them, however, that things had changed. Alex’s feminine aspects, which had been present throughout childhood, were further accentuated by his new taste in clothing. Ben had grown and matured a bit, too, losing much of the boyishness of his face. Even Wendy seemed older, caused by the stress of losing her husband and having her beloved son gone from her for a year.

While their bodies may have changed, the heart and soul of a person is constant, and despite all the changes in their lives, Ben, Alex, and Wendy remained much the same as they had always been. Time and distance may destroy some relationships, but the truest friendships and loves remain strong forever, no matter the separation.

It always starts as a little trickle, but eventually, like a dam bursting, students flow through the doors of the school, together passing fluidly inside. Bodies touch reluctantly as they rush into the building, all going in different directions. Like a river, the current goes unobstructed, as predictable as the tides, summoned by the call of the bell, almost like the figures in a fancy, antique clock.

The oddity walked through the halls, people moving to give him a little more room as they stared at his pink belly shirt and tight jeans, some watching the swaying hips as though hypnotized. He pretended not to notice, as he always did. This was his tenth day of school here, and very little had changed.

“Uh, oh, look out! Here she comes!” Came one mocking voice up ahead in the hall, putting plenty of emphasis on the word she. “It’s the ugliest girl in the school. Oh, wait, my mistake, that’s not a girl,” he paused for a second for emphasis, “that’s a little prissy, girly faggot!” He practically yelled, causing the other boys and some girls around him to start giggling as the oddity passed. These ‘jokes’ had begun after the first few days as a few of the kids, boys and girls, had gotten their courage up to say something about this bizarre new creature in their midst, and, although Alex had tried not to show it, each word hurt as bad as if someone had hit him. Instead of giving them any sort of reaction that would show that their words had an effect, he simply swung his hips a little more. The boy who made the comment stared until his girlfriend smacked him in the back of the head.

Alex continued his journey to his first class, hoping that there would be no more verbal abuse today.

“Hey, faggot!” came a voice behind him. Turning, he saw that he was practically alone in the hall, with only a few students rushing to get to their classes. The speaker was a large boy, much taller than Alex was, and with much more muscle. Two slightly smaller but equally intimidating boys followed him, one to each side, glaring at Alex with evil intent. The largest boy, clearly the leader of the group, walked forward and grabbed Alex’s shirt, “Why the hell do you wear these girl’s clothes?” He snickered a bit, causing his lackeys to follow suit. As Alex stood there, unable to move, the boy grabbed another part of his shirt with his other hand and started pulling, ripping the shirt down the middle. When he finished, his followers grabbed at opposite sleeves of the shirt and started pulling, their uneven force causing Alex to fall to the ground. Eventually the shirt tore again, this time in the back, and the two halves of the shirt each fell off of his body. The leader and his followers looked him over as Alex started crying.

“Well, well, well,” the leader sneered at Alex’s revealed upper body, “He’s got a girl’s figure, too…” the boy took both hands and grabbed at Alex’s chest, pinching the skin and causing Alex to cry out in pain, “All you’re missing is the tits.” The followers laughed cruelly.

The leader grabbed Alex by the neck and lifted him back onto his feet, “he even cries like a girl, doesn’t he?” The followers nodded in agreement and they moved in closer to him. Alex felt a powerful blow strike his stomach, knocking the air out of him as his legs went limp. The leader’s hand on Alex’s throat kept him upright as the followers began to strike Alex as well. Blow after blow rained on Alex’s limp and non-resistant form, each one bringing forth a yelp of pain.
The bell had rung long ago, and so most students were in their classes, however a few who were either late or had left class to go somewhere else had gathered around the scene of violence, watching in shock. Some were cheering the bullies on, and ran to get their friends so that they could see the oddity finally getting what he deserved. A few ran to find some authority figure who could end the fight before Alex was seriously injured.

In the middle of the slowly growing circle of bystanders, Alex was bleeding from his nose and mouth, and bruises now covered many places on his body. His cries had ceased long ago, and he seemed almost like a life size doll being held up by the large hands of the large bully.

Since Ben drove himself into the school, he arrived several minutes after the bus that dropped Alex off every day, which meant that he rarely heard the comments thrown directly at Alex. He did, however, hear the comments made about him when he wasn’t around. Many of the girls found him attractive, but they knew they didn’t stand a chance, and were prepared to be jealous of whoever became his boyfriend. The boys, however, didn’t know exactly what sort of reaction to have. Some thought that he was an entertaining distraction, but should be left alone, since he was just trying to make it through high school, just like everyone else. Others thought that he should be forced to wear clothing more suited to a guy, as opposed to the girls clothing he wore to school every day, but that things should be left up to the school. Another group of boys had decided that students needed to take action by ridiculing him until he decided to change, getting rid of the problem for good. A few boys even thought that he should be taught a lesson through violence. Ben worried about Alex, but knew that he would be okay as long as he was inside the school, where the eyes of the hundreds of students and teachers would dissuade any violence.

As he walked through the crowded school, he heard nature’s all too familiar call and began heading toward the bathrooms. When he emerged a little over a minute later, the halls were practically empty. With a heartfelt curse, Ben began running toward his locker. As he approached a fork where the hall he was walking through joined with another, he began to hear a commotion.

He turned to look as he passed by, and, upon seeing the large crowd gathered in one place during class time, he decided to stop to investigate. He slowly moved forward, now hearing the sounds of a body being hit repeatedly. Someone was being beat up badly, and the poor victim wasn’t even fighting back. Although Ben knew he should probably turn around and try to get to his class, his curiosity got the better of him, and he slowly approached the crowd, trying to find a vantage point where he could see the action in the center of the circle.

Ben gasped as the figures in the center suddenly entered his line of sight. One was a very large bully named Steve, the other, practically dangling limp in Steve’s hand, was Alex. Blood was running steadily out of his nose and mouth, running downward like waterfalls until they dripped from his chin. His shirt was off, and Ben could see bruises there, as well as across his face.

“Alex!” Ben shouted, not thinking about the bully, only about his friend who looked nearly dead. He pushed his way into and through the crowd, and, upon reaching its center, stood to confront Steve, who dropped Alex to face his new competition. To Ben’s immense relief, the unconscious body of Alex, lying on its back, began to gasp for air. Although he was badly injured, he was still alive. Some students who had regained some of their wits decided to take Alex to the nurse’s office while Steve, presumably, proceeded to reduce Ben to the same state. Fueled by his rage, Ben didn’t intend to let that happen.

As Steve began to attempt his first blow on Ben, he ducked under it and delivered an effective and successful strike to the bully’s crotch. This gave Ben the opportunity to think for a second and realize that this could only end badly for him no mater what happened, so he decided to run while Steve recovered. Ben rushed through the crowd, which readily and with applause parted for him, and continued in the direction that Alex had been carried in.

When he reached the nurse’s office, he could see that Alex wasn’t doing very well. Both nurses were rapidly trying to stop the bleeding and clean up the blood that covered his body as the students who had offered to help both in carrying Alex here and once they had arrived were calling in an ambulance and arranging a stretcher to move him to the doorway.

Ben tried to enter the room and approach his friend, but the nurses shooed him away like some bothersome pest that they didn’t want to deal with as they continued preparing him for the trip to the hospital. After being told a few times that the nurses needed space to deal with “this poor, poor boy,” Ben moved to a space outside of the doorway, face frozen in a state of shock, horror, and concern.

After an amount of time that Ben couldn’t have quantified, even had he tried, he heard sirens outside, and the boys and the nurses began to carry Alex, who now lay on the stretcher, toward the exit where the ambulance waited for him. Ben followed as close behind as he could, staring at Alex’s feet, observing the specific pattern of treads on the bottom of his purple shoes. When the group carrying Alex handed him to the ambulance crew, Ben tried to follow the inert form into the vehicle, but the doctors inside pushed him back and closed the door in his face. As Ben watched helplessly, the ambulance accelerated and began moving away from the school until it disappeared from his view.

He stood there for only a moment before pulling his keys from his pocket and running to his car to follow his best friend to the hospital. Like a speck, the only thing moving in the area of the school, he rushed to his car, leaving all the other kids in their classes behind. There, the age-old routine continued like clockwork, with one missing gear. Slowly, the machine was falling apart, starting with Alex, clogging the gears, and now Ben, a piece removed. Only time could tell the effect this would have on the rest of the students.

Because society has no repairman, it has taken to trying to fix itself when it senses that it has been damaged. Like many others who tried to deviate from what society viewed as correct, Alex had found himself a victim of the repair process, removed from the machine like a broken gear. Ben raced down the highway, following the ambulance that had rushed on ahead long ago, feeling like time had stopped around him. Ben knew that racing to get there faster wouldn’t change the outcome a bit, and would most likely only put him in the hospital as a patient, or worse, a body, so he went only a fraction above the speed limit, making sure that he went no faster than the other cars on the road.

After a quarter of an hour, Ben pulled into the hospital parking lot and jumped out of his car, sprinting without caring for the pain quickly mounting in his legs, and the physical exhaustion felt all over the rest of his body. He rushed through the door and toward the emergency room, barely missing older patients who walked with canes, as well as those visiting their own loved ones. Finally, Ben raced through the doors and practically slid to a stop in front of the desk, exhaling unconnected illogical words, “boy… beaten… bleeding… Alex… Alive?... Where?...”

The nurse at the desk took a quick look at Ben and then asked calmly, “and your name, sir?” Ben cursed quietly at the calmness of the nurse and then chased after a doctor who was hurrying into one of the rooms nearby. Inside, lying on a bed with snow white sheets was Alex, his face crusted over with blood, his eyes closed, his body limp.

A doctor came over to Ben and put his hands on his shoulders “you can’t be in here now, please wait in the waiting room and we’ll be out as soon as we’ve finished cleaning him up,”

Ben pushed the doctor’s hands off his shoulders and moved around him, going closer to Alex, however another doctor came up beside him and grabbed one of his arms as the doctor he’d just gone past grabbed the other arm and began guiding him with gentle force back to the door. “No, I need to be here! Let go of me! Alex!” Ben shouted as the doctors pulled him back. As he passed beyond the door, Ben thought he could see Alex’s hand move a small bit, as though in response to Ben’s voice. Then the door was closed and Ben was left helplessly waiting as the doctors did what they could for Alex and saw how much he had been damaged.

As Ben sat, he thought about what effects the beating of Alex would have on him, and at the school. Would this force Alex to conform to what the other students expected from him? How would the school respond? If there was no action taken by the school, then it would show that they approved of the shunning and harassment of Alex, and if the school did take action, surely there’d be students and parents up in arms saying that the school was too harsh on the bully, and that the school was supporting Alex’s “subversive” behavior. Lastly, what would Wendy’s reaction be? Would she decide that he needed to go elsewhere in order to be safe? As he was thinking this, Wendy rushed into the room, crying and trying to prepare herself to ask the nurse about her son. Before she did, though, she saw Ben, and instead decided to go over to him. They embraced quickly, Wendy rubbing his back trying to support him, and Ben in response held her head to his shoulder gently, not sure of what else he should do. Finally, they released each other, and Wendy composed herself enough to speak, “Ben… the school called… and told me what had happened… Something about a fight… Did you see it? Is Alex okay? Why are you here, anyways, shouldn’t you still be in school?”

Ben tried to think of how to tell her and where to begin, finally settling on telling her as little as possible, “Well, I heard the noise as I was trying to get to my classroom… the bell had rung about 3 minutes before I got there, and I had just come from the bathroom. I managed to get Alex away from the bully and the other students and I took him to the nurse’s office, where they called the ambulance, and you, I guess, and then I followed the ambulance here.”

Wendy wasn’t crying as much as she had been before, although tears were still slowly running down her face, she had control of her voice, and was able to speak without pausing. “So you left school to come to make sure Alex was okay? That’s sweet of you. I had a feeling that if you knew that this had happened, you’d be here.” She sat next to Ben, placing her hand on his knee in hopes that it would provide at least a little solace to his worried heart.

As Wendy sat waiting, she pulled a folded piece of paper out of her pocket and began to twirl it worriedly in her hands, eyes staring off into space. Suddenly a door opened nearby, and Wendy jumped, dropping the paper in her hands. Wendy and Ben both reached to pick it up, but Ben’s hand touched it first, fingers gently wrapping around it. Although he didn’t want to be nosy, Ben was curious as to what it was, so he asked Wendy.

Her eyes displayed worry as she said, “Oh, it’s nothing, really… Alex just forgot it today, and he almost always has it with him. I’ll probably take it in when the doctors open the door.”

As she said this, the door to Alex’s room opened, and a doctor poked his head out, saying in an annoyed tone, “okay, now you can come in. Just be careful. He’s on painkillers now, and he lost a bit of blood, so he may be a bit out of it.”

Ben and Wendy stood and grabbed each other’s hands as they began walking slowly into the room to see how he was doing. After they had finished with him, the doctors had propped him up so that he was sitting reclined slightly. They had cleaned his face up, although they had had to plug his nose up with cotton, which was red with blood. The robe that the doctors had put over Alex was as white as the sheets, giving the blonde an almost angelic look. Near the bed lay his bloody clothes, giving Wendy a hint as to how badly Alex had been injured. When his eyes opened, Alex’s sharp, blue eyes looked gently upon his mother and best friend, and he smiled.

“Hi, mom; hi, Ben. Looks like I’ve gotten myself into a nice mess.”

Wendy chuckled a bit and ran her hair gently through Alex’s hair, “Yeah, you’ve always been good at that. Always the center of attention. How are you feeling?”

Alex gave his mother a little smile, “I just got beaten up, mom, I hurt all over.”

Wendy chuckled again, causing Ben to smile a bit through his worry. She passed the paper over to Alex and said, “I though you might want this, since you left it at home.”

Alex smiled, “I don’t need it when he’s right here, mom,”

Ben gave a puzzled look to Alex, and then to Wendy, who had a very surprised look on her face. Alex opened the paper slowly, not letting Ben see what was on it. Then, he turned it a bit so that it was visible to all in the room. On the paper was a photograph of Ben taken a few years ago. When the picture had been taken, Alex had asked for a copy. Based on how worn the crease marks in the photo were, Alex had carried it with him since he’d gotten the picture. On the back was tape, and suddenly Ben remembered the empty space on the ceiling above Alex’s bed. Looking at the picture, Ben could tell that it was the same size as that empty spot, signifying that the picture slept there above Alex every night. Ben looked back at Wendy, who was smiling innocently at Ben, telling him that she had known about this for a long time. Then he looked back at Alex, who was smiling innocently up at Ben, letting him know that Alex no longer cared if Ben knew about this secret.

“Well,” Wendy broke the silence suddenly, causing Ben and Alex to jump a little, “I guess you’re okay, Alex. Ben, are you going to be staying here for a while?”

Ben nodded, his eyes still on Alex, who continued to smile upwards.

“Okay, then, I guess I’ll go back home, I still have some work to finish up before the end of the day. From the looks of things, Alex should be discharged in a few hours, and there’s no need for me to be here. Can you give Alex a ride home after the doctors let him out?”

Ben nodded again

“Okay, then, I guess I’ll be leaving you two alone, then,” Ben though he saw Wendy give Alex a quick wink, “see you when you get home. Actually, can I talk with you for a second first, Ben?”

Ben nodded as he stood to follow Wendy out of the room. As they left, Wendy closed the door so that Alex wouldn’t hear the words they were about to exchange. “Ben… I’m really surprised that Alex let you see that.”

Ben nodded and finally was able to speak, “Yeah, me too… You seem a lot calmer than you were when you came in.”

“Now that I’ve seen that he’s okay, I’m not worried any more,” Wendy said, “plus, I didn’t want to worry him. After this past summer, I’ve gotten very good at hiding my emotions from him. I’ll probably break down once I get home.”

“What are you going to do?”

“About what?”

“About Alex and what happened today?”

“I won’t do anything. Alex is old enough to choose his path through life. He knows the risks of what he does, and he won’t do anything that will get him killed. I’ve learned a lot in my life, and I know that the worst thing I could do for him is to restrict his self-expression. He has learned, finally, that he doesn’t need to conform to the world, and that he should instead be himself and find the people who love him for who he is instead of who they want him to be. He told me that himself, actually… He told me that it was you who taught him that.” She smiled kindly and lovingly at Ben, “Thank you for making my Alex the wonderful person he is.” She laughed a bit, then added, “Just look out for him, okay.”

Ben gave a worried, confused smile and managed to say yes amongst his wildly flying feelings. Wendy gave him one last smile before waving goodbye and turning to walk away, leaving him standing alone before the door to Alex’s room. He stood outside of the door for a few seconds, not moving, wondering what would happen when he opened the door, but he felt unable to think. Finally, he walked over to the door and pushed it open slowly, sliding into the room and seeing Alex’s face smiling up from the bed. Ben started to say something about the picture, but he stopped before even getting his mouth open.

“Are you going to stay here, Ben?” Alex asked quietly.

Ben paused and thought. He was supposed to be back at school; surely he would get in trouble with the principal when he got back, and maybe even get a detention. His mom would really be mad at him then, probably not let him play video games for a week, and who knows what else. But Alex was more important. “Yes,” Ben replied finally.

“Good,” Alex smiled happily up at Ben.

Ben sat on the side of the small bed, dangling his legs over the side, and resting his hands on his lap.

“Ben, can’t you sit so that you’re facing me instead of looking the other way?”


Alex thought, “Take off your shoes and actually get up onto the bed,”

Ben turned and gave Alex a look of worry, but was calmed by Alex’s smile and nod. Ben removed his shoes with his feet and put his legs up onto the bed, turning and sitting cross-legged, so that his feet were inches from Alex’s body. They sat there for a few minutes before Alex finally broke the silence, “I’m sorry that you had to leave school for me.”

Ben laughed, “after all you’ve been through today, that’s what you’re worried about? I’m here because I want to be. I’m just happy that you’re okay.”

Ben looked away from Alex’s intense gaze juxtaposed against his kind, gentle smile. He turned back when he felt warmth on his hand. Alex had moved his hand from under the sheet and put it onto Ben’s. Neither boy moved. Finally, Alex broke the silence, “I’m happy that you’re staying with me, Ben,”

Ben nodded, but didn’t say a word for a few seconds, “do you think anyone will come in here for a while?”

Alex shrugged, “I don’t know, why does it matter?”

Ben slid all the way onto the bed, sitting next to Alex, their sides touching.

Alex giggled, “This reminds me of when we were younger. We’d watch movies together sitting like this all the time. I miss those days…”

Ben sighed, “But we’re older, now, Alex. Things have changed, we’re not supposed to…” Ben stopped, unsure of what he was going to say.

Alex gave Ben a slightly disappointed look, “We’re not supposed to what? What has changed, Ben? Sure we’re older, sure things may be different in a lot of ways, but… What does it mean? Does that mean that suddenly we shouldn’t act like we want? People try to tell us that we have to act a certain way, and they push it into our heads so hard that it’s difficult to think any differently. But we have to, because they want us to not be who we are. Sure, the path they prescribe might be good for some, but it’s hell for me, and I’m sure it’s hell for you.

“Stop listening to them, Ben. Stop letting them tell you who you are, and who you should be, and what you should want, and what you should do. Live life for yourself for a change, and don’t get pushed around. It’s not the you that they want you to be that I care for, it’s who you really are that I love!” Alex began to cry, leaving Ben sitting there beside him stunned and unsure of what to do. Nobody had ever said anything like that to him before, and suddenly he began to look at himself critically for the first time.

He remembered every time he wanted to sing along with a song, but wouldn’t because he was afraid of how others would react, every piece of clothing he would have worn, but didn’t want his friends to know about, every thing that he wouldn’t admit to enjoying or allow himself the pleasure of because of how others would react. Then he looked at Alex, sitting there in tears, and thought of how happy he seemed every day, being who he was and not caring about the taunts and comments that people made. Sure it had cost him, today, but Ben felt that Alex wouldn’t be truly happy any other way.

Could Ben say he was happy with the way he changed himself in front of others? Why did he do it? Why did he want people to like him for the person he wasn’t instead of for who he was inside? Who was he really? Ben realized that he’d lived his life behind a mask in order to be safe and to get people to like him, but he finally understood what Wendy had said that he had taught to Alex. He just had to be himself and find those who loved him for the person he was, not the person they wanted him to be.

Ben looked at Alex, who was still crying, although he’d calmed down a little bit, now. As he looked at Alex, however, he suddenly felt something very different, almost like a switch had been thrown somewhere inside him. Ben put his hand on Alex’s and looked him in the eye, “you’re right, I’m being foolish. A lot of people are being foolish, actually, but I won’t be one of them any more.” Ben wasn’t sure what to do now. Usually he was so good at making decisions, but suddenly nothing seemed right.

Alex saw Ben’s hesitation and began slowly turning onto his side. Ben watched, unsure of what Alex was doing, until his arm crossed Ben’s chest, coming to rest on the other end of the bed, and Alex’s head lay in his shoulder. Ben tried to move, but Alex grabbed his hand and squeezed, whispering up into Ben’s ear, “No, not yet… just a little longer, please…” So Ben stopped moving and let Alex stay there beside him.

“Should you be moving and on your side like that?” Ben asked Alex

“Probably not,” Alex said quietly, “but I don’t care. It doesn’t hurt. I just want…” Alex stopped, but Ben knew and understood. He had no idea how long Alex had held these feelings for him, but it didn’t really matter. As they lay there, Ben could only think about how much it must have hurt Alex to be away from Ben for so long, and how much it must have hurt Alex to feel so strongly, and yet fear saying anything to Ben.

Ben wasn’t sure what he should do about the situation. His feelings were so confused that his heart seemed to hurt just trying to sort them all out in his mind. Should he continue letting Alex feel this way toward him? How did he feel towards Alex? All his life he’d thought he was straight, tried to find a girlfriend, danced only with girls, but was this feeling so bad? Suddenly he pushed Alex aside and jumped off the bed, leaving the blonde there with a slightly hurt, confused expression.

“What’s wrong, Ben?”

“I… I just wanted… I just needed…” Ben fumbled, trying to find words to express his feelings. Or to cover them up. What he had just done was wrong, wasn’t it? He shouldn’t let Alex get too close to him, only to break his heart when Ben found a girlfriend and got married. He wanted to stay best friends with Alex, but he didn’t want to be any closer. How could he tell Alex that, though? How could he avoid hurting his feelings?

“I understand,” Alex said sadly, defeated, “it’s okay, I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.”

Ben was happy that Alex understood how he felt so that he didn’t have to put it into words. Ben moved back to the chair and Alex went back to how he was sitting before. After a little while, Alex broke the silence by talking about what they might have missed that day, and Ben joined in, making jokes about the teachers and students and causing both of them to break into laughter, almost like nothing had happened. But it had, and both boys knew that things wouldn’t be the same.

On the day after the fight, the children were quieter than usual, anxiously anticipating the return of The Oddity. Would the beating change him at all, the kids all wondered. They all knew that this day decided their future. If the Oddity came in dressed like the other boys, then everything would return to how it was before he came, which, most kids agreed, was quite boring compared to the past month. All the kids, however, wondered what the outcome would be if The Oddity returned unchanged.

The halls were crowded when he arrived, but the crowds parted one last time as he passed through them, shocked eyes following his every movement. He wore very feminine sandals instead of the usual purple shoes because the sneakers would not have gone well with the tight, moderately short shorts he was wearing. The shirt he wore revealed the usual inch of belly line, and was, as normal, tight enough to show off his form. His body glided through the parting crowd, hips moving like a pendulum beating out of time with the clock.

The damage had been done, and the machinery of the school would never work the same again. As the days passed, the schoolchildren, one by one, started trying out new things that they’d never thought that they could do.

Boys and girls came to school dressed, fashioned, or in another way made up in ‘unusual’ ways; girls who had previously been the recipients of many a stare cut their hair short, wore little or no make-up, and began working harder in school. Some boys who had never exactly been popular started to wear clothes similar to what Alex wore: tight pants and short shirts were seen on a boy other than Alex almost daily.

Eventually, these changes led to further transformations, as the outcast boys and girls began to find each other and form groups. The most notable group formed early on was the gay-straight alliance, which Alex and a popular teacher at the school helped to create. Although it was initially small, the group grew to have about 10 members by the middle of October.

Ben had been in a class before the end of the day, the teacher had finished what she wanted to do for the day, and was letting kids have a mini study hall before they had to go home. Ben had heard a song on the radio coming in to school, and still had it stuck in his head. Without being aware of it himself, he started to hum it quietly, and then louder, until those next to him could hear it. The words began to pour from his lips, only audible to those to each side of him. The boy to Ben’s left began to sing along, their combined volume making them easier for others to hear. Another boy joined in, and then a girl, and then another boy, until half the class had joined in the now quite audible singing. The teacher sat in the back and smiled, wondering what had caused this impromptu a cappella, and wondering if any of the other kids would complain. When the bell rang, the song continued into the hall, where it was picked up by other voices that carried it out into the air outside, where it rang until the final note emerged triumphantly from at least 20 students.

As school began to get into full swing once again, life seemed to continue much as it had in the past, despite the drastic changes in attitude and attire. Homework was given, groaned over, done late at night, and passed in the next day, only to have the process repeat itself. Quizzes and tests were given, taken, and passed in, after which kids waited anxiously for their grades to return, hoping for the best. Sports teams prepared for the start of their seasons, the band rehearsed to play their peppy tunes for the game in hopes of leading their teams to victory, and cheerleaders began learning and practicing their routines for the season.

But the event all the kids were anxious about at the start of October was the homecoming dance. The dance was where new relationships would be formed, and the older boys would get to take a few of the younger girls for a spin. Boys and girls planned together, making sure they would be able to go together, getting the best outfits to show up all the other couples, and wondering who would be king and queen.

Meanwhile, the single boys and girls were hurriedly and in a panic trying to prepare as well, however their goal was quite different. These singles wanted to make themselves look good, because many of them had someone they wanted, but were afraid to ask, another single, or perhaps someone in a relationship seen as shaky. There weren’t a lot of these sought after treasures, so the competition would be fierce.

Ben and Alex seemed, for the most part, uninterested and unaffected by the impending homecoming dance, however both wanted to go, and knew that the other would be going. Ben knew that Alex wouldn’t be willing to ask anyone, although Ben had a feeling that things would be different if he hadn’t pushed Alex away that day at the hospital.

It hadn’t been long before the doctor came in and gave his verdict, announcing that Alex would be fin, and that he was free to go home. After the necessary paperwork had been done, Ben and Alex had left together, still managing to find things to talk about, and singing with the radio in between. Talk of what had happened between them that day, however, remained unuttered.

The days ticked by, and soon the day of the dance came. The school that day was abuzz with anxious, excited talk about the events of the evening. Kids asked others which party or parties they were planning to go to, many making their choice on where they should go before and after the dance. Alex and Ben stayed out of this talk, Alex knowing that he wasn’t interested in a party, and Ben having other ideas in mind.

At lunch, as usual, Alex and Ben sat together and talked. The other kids had gotten used to Alex, and were talking and laughing with him. As they got up to take care of their nearly emptied trays, Ben asked Alex, “So, what are you planning to do after the dance tonight?”

“Well,” Alex said plainly, “I really didn’t have anything I wanted to do. Most of the parties will be all about sex and drinking, anyways, and I don’t need to be a part of that.”

Ben chuckled, “yeah, I know what you mean. So, if you’re not doing anything… would you like to come to my house for the night? I’m not doing anything either, so…” Ben clearly showed his nervousness and discomfort as he finished asking.

Alex perked up to hear the question asked, but looked pained at Ben’s nervousness, attributing it to the incident at the hospital, which was only partially the truth, “I’ll ask my mom, but I’m sure it will be okay with her.”

Ben smiled, bid Alex adieu, and the two boys went their separate ways to finish off the school day. Finally, the time came, the bells rung again, and the children emerged from their classrooms, heading to wherever they were planning to go in order to wait for the time to come.

A few kids arrived extra early, but about 10 minutes before the start of the dance, cars lined up by the school, dropping their loads of children and leaving, or parked in the soon crowded parking lot. Ben and Alex arrived at roughly the same time, as they had planned earlier, and found each other waiting in the hall way.

“So, what are we going to do?” Ben asked Alex, knowing perfectly well what he was going to be doing soon.

Alex thought for a second and then replied, “I’m not sure… I don’t want to just walk up to a boy and ask him to dance. I don’t know most of them that well, and I don’t think they’re all that interested in me, anyways,”

Ben laughed, “And I don’t see any girls I’m really all that interested in.” Ben wondered if Alex would respond to this, but if Alex had a thought about the comment, he kept it to himself.

Alex smiled at Ben and said, “Well, for now let’s just dance and have a good time. We don’t have to stick together if you don’t want to,”

Ben smiled back and said, “okay, I guess we’ll see each other inside, then,”

Alex nodded and the two boys headed in, each going in separate directions. Now, Ben knew, all he could do was wait for the right moment.

The first song was a fast, techno song that all the kids in the room knew and loved, and, as the strobe lights flashed, and colored lights played across the ceiling, the group shook their bodies wildly to the heavy, synthesized instruments and drums, sometimes singing along with the music. When the song ended, it was replaced by a hip-hop song, and the boys and girls gyrated together, bodies touching. Girls not dancing with a boy danced in ways they hoped were erotic, trying to mimic the videos of girls they had seen dancing on TV in the hopes that a nice boy would see and decide to dance with her.

Song after song passed, mostly techno, hip-hop, and rap, with a few nice oldies thrown into the mix to keep things exciting, and soon the couples were longing for the first slow dance of the night. As the last tones of a catchy pop tune faded away, the couples got their wish as powerful, melodic chords rang out throughout the room. Couples who had been dancing away from each other rapidly searched for their other half and began to dance close to one another. Those who didn’t have a partner and didn’t care to look sat along the sides of the room.

Alex had been left standing in the middle of the room, and as the song began, he looked around, lost, as others rushed around him. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for, or why he was not joining those rushing to get off the floor, but he felt that he should stay for just a little longer. Suddenly, he was blinded as warm hands slid gently over his eyes, and a voice whispered playfully into his ear, “Guess who.” Alex could feel the body behind him, just brushing against him, and felt his heart begin to beat rapidly. He uttered a single syllable gently, knowing it to be right, but fearing that it was not, “Ben,”

“Very good,” teased the voice, however his hands stayed over Alex’s eyes as the music continued.

“So…” Alex began, “What is it?”

Ben let his hands slip from Alex’s eyes, and the light struck them, momentarily blinding him again. Ben’s hands slid down onto Alex’s shoulders and turned him around so that they were facing each other. “You said I shouldn’t let anyone else tell me what to be or do; that I should listen to my heart, right?”

Alex looked puzzled, “yeah, so?”

Ben smiled, “I know what I want, now, finally,”

Alex’s heart fluttered, knowing what the brain refused to believe, “what’s that?” Alex asked in a whisper.

Ben smiled and grabbed Alex’s hands, placing them on Ben’s shoulders, then he took his own hands and placed them on Alex’s waist. Leaning forward, he whispered, lips pressed against Alex’s ear, “just dance.”

Alex’s hands rested gently against Ben’s shoulders, and, feeling Ben’s hands holding him firmly, yet gently, he finally felt like he was truly where he belonged. Ben could see the eyes all around him, staring, but he let them stare, because it didn’t matter what they thought any more. All that mattered was that his heart was telling him that this was right; that this bond that he shared with Alex mattered more than anything else in the world, and that he couldn’t give it up, even when all he’d been taught all his life about relationships in his life said otherwise.

Their feet moved together from side to side, carrying them in a gentle circle as the song began to reach its climactic final refrain. Alex slid his arms up a few inches, slowly moving in a bit closer, and Ben responded by moving his hands back some on Alex’s waist.

Alex looked up at Ben, “how close will you let me get?”

In response, Ben wrapped his arms around Alex, bringing them together so that their bodies touched, and Alex wrapped his arms around Ben’s neck, placing his head against Ben’s shoulder. Ben looked around him and saw that, although the couples continued to dance, they had giving the two boys plenty of space, and eyes continued to be pointed their way. Ben looked away from the crowd and decided to give the eyes something to look at. He leaned down slightly and kissed Alex gently on the head, and then placed his own head lightly against the other’s.

The last chord of the song rang out, and most of the couples slowly and reluctantly separated. Ben and Alex stayed together, holding each other with Ben’s head resting against Alex’s, neither moving and neither wanting the moment to end. The next song, a hip-hop piece, began, and finally the two boys released each other, Ben looking into Alex’s eyes as soon as they came into view, “well?”

Alex’s face glowed like the sun, his smile barely beginning to show the joy contained within him, “next slow song?”

Ben chuckled and responded, “I’ll find you, no matter where you are.” And with a wink he was off, barely able to contain his own joy.

The songs continued to play, the kids continued to dance. Some kids left, deciding that they had had enough, or, in some cases, because the parents had made the decision for them. About two hours into the dance, the big moment arrived, and the DJ called for silence, which was readily granted by the entire crowd.

“Ladies and gentleman,” he cried out, his voice echoing through the speakers, “now comes the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the announcement of homecoming prince and princess and king and queen. Will the following individuals please step forward to be crowned and sit in your rightful place!” He gestured to four seats that sat on a podium at the front of the room. Four freshmen stood there holding crowns and tiaras to place upon the heads of the winners.

“First, for homecoming prince is…” he paused as the audience held its breath in eager anticipation, “Benjamin Stewart!” Ben was shocked to hear his name called out, as he was sure the honor would go to one of the more attractive males in his class. Sure, he got compliments on his looks now and then, and he was fairly popular, but he didn’t ever expect that he would be popular enough to be so honored. He walked at a medium pace up to the front, seeing several familiar faces cheering for him and giving him signals of encouragement. He walked as regally as he could up the steps, only managing to look a bit silly, and took his place on the prince’s throne, smiling and catching Alex’s eye as he was crowned. Alex stood beaming in the front, where he had moved as soon as he had heard the announcement.

“And now that the prince has taken his throne, will the princess…” He looked at his card for the first time and stared, a goofy, dumbfounded look on his face. Then shrugged, smiled, and shouted, “Alexander Murray, please take her… erm… his… place on the throne.”

The majority of the audience burst into raucous applause at the announcement, and Alex, finally becoming aware of what he had just heard, rushed forward happily onto the stage, rushing up the steps and over to the throne of the princess, where a very puzzled freshman boy placed the tiara upon the blonde’s head.

Ben turned to Alex and smiled, causing Alex to giggle and make a pose in his tiara. This caused Ben to laugh loudly. The happy laughter spread throughout the room, and Alex responded by doing more outrageous poses, impersonating a Miss America winner, among other things. When Alex had run out of poses, he gave the audience a quick smile and said, “that’s all, folks,” in a goofy voice, which got one final laugh from the crowd. As the laughter died down at last, Alex looked at Ben and held his hand out to the side. Ben understood and took the hand, uniting them as the king and queen, both members of the senior class as per custom, were announced.

After the king and queen had been crowned and sat upon their respective thrones, the DJ gave a final little speech commemorating the occasion, and called for the couples to come down to the floor for a dance. Ben and Alex, still holding hands, walked lightly across the stage and down the steps, moving to the middle of the floor where a space had been cleared for the King, Queen, Prince, and Princess. As they reached the floor, the song that Alex and Ben had listened to in the car the first day of school came drifting from the speakers. Alex gave a surprised look at Ben, who winked and smiled back, “I have my connections,”
The two came together again, this time not delaying in moving close to each other, Ben’s head once again resting against Alex’s. The song seemed to rush by, and far too soon it had ended, and Ben and Alex parted. But as Alex turned to go, Ben reached out and touched his back, causing him to turn. Ben walked closer to Alex and smiled, preparing to say the words he’d been holding back and longing to say all day, “I love you, Alex.”

Alex didn’t look at all surprised and just smiled lovingly back up at Ben. Ben wasn’t sure what to do now, as the music and dancing continued around them, so he shrugged, pulled Alex in close to him again, and the two danced and laughed, almost seeming more child-like in their antics than like the mature high school students they were once expected to be. But those days of expectations for how people should act, especially Alex, were past.

The songs continued to play, one after another, with one last slow song thrown in for good measure, until finally the DJ announced that the next song would be the last song. Afterwards, the lights came on, and the once magical room revealed itself as the school gym once more as the adults and student volunteers moved in to begin the process of cleaning, and the other kids went to drive home or to wait for their rides. Ben found Alex, and the two of them walked hand in hand with the crowd toward the main exit of the school.
As they reached the door, Alex slowed and turned to Ben with a smile, “how long do you think it will last?”

“Does it matter? It will last as long as it does, Alex, it could be until tomorrow, it could be forever, but for now, let’s live for the time we have.”

Together, they walked outside, hands together in silent rebellion.


The following comments are for "Oddity"
by RichardMV

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