It’s the last Valentine’s Day I’m going to have to endure at school. Somehow it seems to be mocking me, starting from the horrible amount of red and pink everyone’s wearing. Even the other guys are wearing the garish colors while I’ve resolutely dressed in my normal black.
I can’t stand the holidays, Valentine’s Day especially. It has nothing to do with the forgotten religious saint or the fertility festival the damn thing originally represented. No, it’s the way couples just disregard all decency and once again shove their happiness in my face. Like being single means I should automatically be miserable? Like a relationship is the end-all of being a satisfied human being? Fuck them. At least I’ve never had to listen to some girl tell me off for not calling her every hour.
I have no interest in being in a relationship. Seeing everyone acting like it’s the only thing a guy could want is really annoying as fuck.
Dropping my book bag on the floor, I take a seat for my first class of the day, trying to ignore the obnoxious amount of snuggling going around. When exactly did Valentine’s Day become an excuse to ignore all acceptable forms of public displays of affection? I might be running to the bathroom soon to vomit if this keeps up.
“Aiden, you look like someone pissed in your cereal this morning.” Ben, my best friend, sits down next to me, his hands smacking on his desk. He flashes me a toothy grin, clearly not actually caring that I hate today with a passion.
“What are you so happy about?” I finally ask when he insists on smiling at me.
“I got Vanessa a rose. I even wrote her a bitchin love poem.” His smile somehow manages to grow. “If that doesn’t get her to agree to go out with me, nothing will.”
Scowling at my terribly happy friend—Seriously, it’s Valentine’s Day; happiness is not welcome today—I pull out my math book and notebook. “What exactly do you mean by ‘bitchin love poem?’ Is this like some modern art thing?”
“Nope, even better. I wrote it myself.”
Nodding slowly, I duck my head so he can’t see me wince. “That sounds… um, bitchin.” Hideous. Seriously repulsive. God, I hate Valentine’s Day.
“Wanna read it?”
I bite my lip, knowing if he so much as shows me anything he’s written that’s supposed to convince anyone he’s in love with Vanessa, I’m going to laugh my ass off. “I’m good. For real.”
Ben smiles obliviously, his hair brushing into his eyes. “So?”
“So?” I repeat, folding my notebook open and wondering when the hell Mr. Jacobs is going to get here so the idiots will finally sit their asses down and stop making out around me.
“So, who did you get a rose for?” Ben asks, sounding even chipper than when he first sat down.
I glare at him sideways. He looks ridiculously young and happy and I sort of hate him right now. “No one. You know I don’t buy into this stupid holiday.”
“Pssh. You’re just mad because you haven’t found your ‘one’ yet,” Ben says with all the conviction of a hormonal eighteen-year-old that hasn’t had a relationship last more than three months. “When you fall in love, you’ll totally love Valentine’s Day.”
I debate whether I want to tear his love theory apart verbally to pass the time. I’m in a terrible mood, but I don’t know if I want to take him with me. He’s got that hopeful puppy-dog look he gets right before his heart is broken—This time by Vanessa, who has been looking at Ryan H. for the last month. Seeing as Ryan has a car, Ben is so outmatched. I settle for grunting noncommittally and scribbling doodles in my notebook.
There’s a commotion at the door and I sigh. Finally, the teacher is here and we can start. Except it’s not Mr. Jacobs, it’s a ridiculously cheerful girl carrying an armful of roses. I glare, realizing I’m going to have to go through the receiving, squealing, and all around vomit inducing lovey-dovey crap that comes along with girls getting flowers from secret and not so secret admirers. Fuck my life.
“Oh, no you don’t,” Ben says, grabbing my arm before I can get up and go hide out in the bathroom.
“What—Why the fuck should I stay around for this shit?” I mutter but sit down. Most of the girls are swarming the doorway anyways—There’s no getting by them to escape.
“Cheer the fuck up, Aiden. It’s just Valentine’s Day. It’s not like people are going out of their way to make you unhappy.”
“Aren’t they?” I snap, pointing at the group of giggling girls. “If I never have to hear that noise again, I’d be happy.”
Ben rolls his eyes. “Nothing makes you happy. Not the many holes in your head, your punk music, or even those funky combat boots. You are determined to be unhappy and you shouldn’t go blaming the rest of the world for your state of being.”
Glowering, I hunch over my desk, deciding to ignore him and the class until the stupidity dies down. Having eyebrow rings and a tattoo on the back of my neck isn’t some statement in being unhappy, it’s just a statement in being me. Ben wouldn’t understand, always wasting his time and energy trying to get with the next pretty, vapid thing he sees instead of figuring out himself.
Something flashes out of the corner of my eye, a red rose landing on my notebook. Blinking, I looked up in disbelief as Callie—super smiley cheerleader—hands me a white card. “Looks like you have a secret admirer, Aiden.”
“What?” I say dumbly, glancing sideways to find nearly everyone in the classroom suddenly looking at me.
She continues as if I hadn’t said anything, the card landing on top of my desk when I refuse to take it from her hand. “You know, you’re the first boy that’s gotten a rose this year. Usually guys send them to girls,” she says with a slightly accusing look.
What the hell is that supposed to mean? Am I not good enough for a rose now? Or… is she saying a guy sent me a rose?
“Hey, just because Aiden’s a guy, doesn’t mean he can’t get a rose,” Ben speaks up before I can actually ask what she’s implying. Throwing her bleach blond hair over her shoulder, Callie gives a bored huff and just steps away to the next person on her list.
“It’s the fucking twenty-first century. Geez,” Ben mutters before pasting another huge smile on and smacking me on the back. “Well, what does it say? Who sent you the rose?”
“What?” Scratching the back of my head, I look at Ben warily. My friend of forever has been acting weird ever since he spent his summer in New York with his cousins. I’m not sure exactly what he’s got in his head all of a sudden when it comes to me, but he’s been saying a lot of stupid shit like how I don’t need a girlfriend if I don’t want one, and he’d never judge me no matter what. It’s been really getting on my nerves but I don’t know if now is the time to bring it up, especially when half the class is trying to snoop over my shoulder to read the stupid card on my desk.
Shaking my head, I flip the plain white notecard open, glancing briefly at the one line before flipping it shut and pocketing it.
“Well?” Ben asks, curiosity clear in his voice.
“Well, what?” I go back to scribbling in my notebook, pointedly ignoring him.
“What did it say?”
Sighing in annoyance, I glance his way, finding two other people looking at me just as curiously. Fuck this stupid shit. “Nothing.”
“Like fuck—They wouldn’t have given you a card if it was blank.” Ben isn’t going to let it go. Actually, he looks about ready to wrestle me to the ground so he can get the thing and read it himself. That I’m only five foot ten, and slender will not stop my taller friend. That I also fight like a crazy bastard and enjoy biting will probably keep him from trying it.
“It’s just a time and place for a meetup. No name,” I finally grunt out, looking down at my desk. “I’m sure they just got me confused with someone else. There are like seven guys named Aiden in the grade below us.”
“Aiden…” Ben just sighs, something else I choose to ignore. He can tell me till he’s blue in the face and I want to beat the fuck out of him that I’m actually a likeable guy, but I know better. I barely tolerate people and people, well, they keep their distance. I might have a cute face but with the right scowl and mean enough piercings, they back the fuck off. It’s how I like it. I don’t want people in my life—My life is difficult enough.
“When is it?” Ben asks when I relax enough to think he’s dropped the subject.
“Stop fucking with me. The meetup?”
Grunting, I pull the note from my pocket and hand it to him. He reads it, his brows furrowed as he gives me the card back. “That’s a weird place to meet someone.”
I shrug. “I’m not going.”
“Yes, you are. Someone bothered to write you a card and buy you a rose. You’re fucking going—Stop being such a dick. What if they really like you?”
“Then they’re fucking dumb.” I shove the note back into my pocket, eyes falling on the rose. It’s actually kind of cool looking, the edges of the blood red petals blackened like they’ve been burnt. I reach out, letting my fingers brush over a silky smooth petal. Even the thorns are tipped in black. Do they dye roses now?
I pick it up, pressing my thumb against a thorn. It certainly feels real. Ducking my head, I give it a hesitant sniff, a small smile stealing across my lips.
Fine, it’s a cool rose. Not one of those girly pink ones or I would have tossed it already. But it’s not like you can fuck up a flower. Whoever had the nerve to send me one doesn’t automatically get a meeting with me just because the rose doesn’t suck.
The pack of girls finally leaves the doorway, the sound quieting down as the last of the class trickles in. Observing the way the black edges make a spiral pattern as they wrap around the rose, I’m pulled away by the weight of someone’s stare. It’s the new kid, the foreign transfer that showed up a month ago, currently standing halfway in the room and staring at my rose like he’s never seen one before.
Gavriil Strife is a weird one. He has golden blond hair, weird violet eyes and looks like some fucking model out of a magazine. He’s tall, built, and just has this ease about him with his stylish hair and graceful walk. Every girl in the school is chasing him hardcore, his nickname being ‘the golden prince.’ Annoying enough, but he doesn’t talk, like ever. I think I might have heard him say something once when answering a teacher, and his accent was so thick, I didn’t understand a word. No one can understand him but everyone loves him. It’s bullshit.
That he’s staring at me now, those weird eyes rimmed in black piercing into mine is unsettling as fuck and I find myself biting my lip. But I refuse to back down; he’s staring, and it doesn’t matter where he’s from, it’s still rude. Then the jackass grins at me, his expression turning mischievous like he’s got some fucking secret before he looks away and crosses to his seat. He’s seriously annoying. Weird and annoying, and I’ve caught him staring at me before. Like every class we share.
“What was that about?” Ben leans over to whisper in my ear.
“Fucking weirdo,” I mutter flatly, looking again at the rose and trying to fight the urge to glance over and see if Gavriil’s still staring. Maybe he’s pissed his didn’t get a rose, seeing as he’s a total pretty boy… Hell, maybe his ex sent me the flower? Has the kid actually taken any of the swarms of girls up on a date? He doesn’t speak a word of English yet he’s in my English class. I chance a peek, violet eyes meeting mine for a moment before I look away.
The idea of Gavriil dating anyone is annoying as fuck too, like the weird boy himself, and I huff and turn to another page of my notebook so I can draw myself a maze. I take small joy in adding spikes and pits filled with vipers for any wanderer to get stuck in. It’s a shit day and only promising to get worse.
I’ve dodged Ben’s incessant questions throughout the day about if I’m going to the stupid meetup. The only reason I’m even considering it is just because it’s on my way home. If some idiot wants to wait out in the fucking freezing cold in the middle of February after a damn snowstorm, that’s really their problem, not mine. Throwing a $5 rose in my lap doesn’t mean I’m required to freeze my ass off.
I’m actually pretty angry about the whole thing. Seriously, what stupid idiot got me a fucking rose? Who the hell thought that I’d be into some stupid romantic rendezvous on the sappiest fucking day of the year? I was embarrassed during class, everyone keeps looking at me, and the questions will not stop. If I do go, I’m probably going to do it just to tell the person off for making my Valentine’s Day even worse than normal.
Scowling into my locker, I pull my black jacket on, hunching into the heavy material. It has a few holes but layered with my sweatshirt it does the trick for the fifteen-minute walk home. Tugging my slouchy on over my shaggy dark hair, I glare sideways at Ben who is, of course, waiting for me to tell him if I’m going to meet my ‘secret admirer.’
Fuck, even the name annoys the fuck out of me.
“Fuck off.” I slam my locker shut, ducking around him.
“Stop being an ass, Aiden. It’s just one little meeting. Just give the guy a shot—Shit.” Ben stops short as I whirl, his hands held up defensively.
Guy? Glaring at the cringing brunette, I stomp back. “What the fuck do you know?”
“N-Nothing, it just sort of slipped…” Ben sucks at lying, especially to me. I take a quick look around the hall, way too many of my classmates staring at me. Growling, I grab Ben by his collar and haul him into the empty science room.
“Tell me. Now.”
“Really, it’s nothing. A guess…” Ben coughs awkwardly while I stare him down. I’m not buying it and he knows it. “Fuck… Fuck, stop snarling at me.”
“Tell me, you jackass! Who is it!”
Stumbling back, he ends up sitting heavily on the teacher’s desk. I glare as he smiles at me sheepishly. “I don’t know his name. I just… I’m pretty sure it’s a guy.”
“Why?” I growl when he feels the need to stop at that fucking revelation and not explain. Why the fuck would a guy be looking at me? I’m an asshole to everyone, and I’ve never shown an interest in hooking up with anyone, especially guys.
“Well… um… Someone asked me if you’d… might be interested…”
“Oh my god—Fucking whore, Ben! Why? Why would you tell someone that I’d—Fuck.” I whirl, pacing away before I do something uncalled for, like punch the idiot. What the fuck is wrong with him? Why would he do that? Does he hate me or some shit? He’s like my only friend—Do I have to worry about him spreading fucking rumors about me liking dick or something? Fuck.
“Aiden, you have to understand. I just thought, well… Well, I just thought,” Ben finishes lamely, wincing when I turn and glare his way.
“You think I’m gay?”
Looking uncomfortable, he gives a weak shrug. “It could explain a few things.”
And what the fuck is that supposed to mean? “Like what?” I growl, my hands on my hips as I wait expectantly for whatever stupid is going to come out of his mouth. There is nothing remotely gay about me. Fuck, if I’m anything, it’s asexual, but I hate fucking labels so I wouldn’t even say that. I have no interest in being with anyone, period.
“You don’t date,” Ben points out.
“So? You know my fucking home life. You think I want to bring anyone into that shit?”
“Bullshit,” he says, standing up and glaring back at me. “Do you think I’m blind or something? Like I can’t see when you’re checking a guy out? You spent nearly half of last class staring at Chris.”
“He was cheating off of Duley,” I snap, really not liking where this is turning. I do not check out guys.
“Was his ass cheating? Cus that’s where you were staring.”
“Are you shitting me—Did you just seriously accuse me of…?” There are no words. “Ben, I’m not gay!” I yelp in frustration.
“Whatever, jackass,” he mutters, like I’m fucking lying to him or something. “I’m not the only one who thinks it, man. Ever since Gavriil transferred in, everyone has been talking about it.”
Blinking dumbly, I hold up my hand. “What? What the fuck does that weirdo have to do with anything?”
Ben growls in exasperation. “Dude, you stare at him all the time!”
“Only because he keeps staring at me!” I turn away, my hat coming off in my hands as I grab my hair and tug. Stupid Gavriil Strife—Of course that fucker is to blame for all this. The damn pretty-boy came in here acting weird, and the second I glare at him everyone just assumes I have a thing for him because he’s gorgeous. The fucking bastard.
“Who did you tell?” I ask, spinning back to Ben. “Who fucking asked?”
Huffing, he folds his arms over his chest. “I’m not sure.”
“Like fuck you’re not—”
“I never saw the guy before. It was a couple of weeks ago during that football game you left early from.” He gives me a look and I wonder if he’s going to start accusing me of staring at their asses too. “He came up and asked if you were into guys. He had long black hair, green eyes. Tall. Really good looking.”
“Why the fuck do you feel the need to tell me he’s good looking?” I hate him so much right now. “So you just told this absolute stranger that your best friend is into guys?” I say in frustration.
“No,” he snaps back, his jaw squaring defiantly. “I told him it was a possibility. That you’re not the dating type so there was really only one way to know for sure.”
God, my life sucks so much right now. My mom is probably home drinking our fucking food money away, and here I am standing, listening to my best friend explain how I could be gay.
“Did you ever once think to ask me?” I can’t stop my angry growl. He winces and I feel a mild satisfaction that he at least feels guilty. It’s extremely mild.
“Aiden, I watched you eat half a raw potato before you realized it wasn’t an apple.”
“So—What the fuck does that have to do with anything?”
“So, you’re fucking oblivious, man. If I was going to ask someone about you, I’d ask me first because, fuck, I know you better than you know you.”
Scoffing, I glance away. “No, you don’t.”
“Oh yeah? Favorite food—Cheeseburger with extra pickles, but on a grill because you like the burn but still pink in the middle. You’re two homework assignments away from failing Mr. Pincer’s class. You spent all of yesterday with a pink barrette in your hair because you didn’t notice I put a fucking barrette in your hair. Dude, you’re a fucking space case,” he says with a wave of his hands.
I pause at that, remembering vaguely something pulling on my hair yesterday when I took my hat off. Fuck. “Pink? You jackass.”
“Do you even know how many people check you out?” he continues sternly. “Like every fucking day? I have chicks asking all the time if you’re, like, not allowed to date or something. I see guys looking at you all the time, and hell, I’m as straight as they come, but even I can admit you’re totally sexy, man.”
I splutter, glaring at him while my tongue refuses to work. I am not sexy. I am angry and unapproachable, and that is how I want to be.
“Aiden, go meet the fucking guy. For once in your life stop wandering around aimlessly after cleaning up your parents’ mess, and just live a second for yourself. People want to get to know you, so give them a fucking chance already.”
It probably would have been more poignant if my best friend wasn’t trying to send me off because he thinks I like dick. As it is, I’m just more annoyed that there are at least two people on the planet determined to make this day as fucking miserable as possible.
“I’ll go,” I finally growl, glaring him down as he beams in reply. “But only to tell this guy that you were mistaken. Bad enough he’s so retarded he thinks I’m dating material to begin with.” Seriously, you’d have to be a fucking idiot to think I was worth hanging around for any amount of time. I’m pretty sure Ben’s an idiot, and he’s well aware of my opinion on the matter.
“Seriously, dude, if it’s the guy from the game, he’s hot. I’d never do you wrong like that.”
I shake my head. There are really no words for how dumb he is today. Fucking Valentine’s Day.
“Did Vanessa like her rose?” I grunt out, feeling spiteful. Ben gives a heartfelt, woeful sigh. Answer enough. Yeah, he’s a fucking idiot and now I have to go let some really confused gay guy down on Valentine’s Day. Fuck my life.