David didn’t know how he was going to face seeing Clary again, not after what had happened, not after what she had shown him. The image of her bare chest stayed constant and fresh in his mind. And he was ashamed and more confused than he ever had been at realizing that he had enjoyed it. He had. David had enjoyed seeing a boy’s female chest! It was the strangest and unnerving thought he had ever had in his whole entire life, and he doubted any other thought could ever top it. If anyone had described that scene to David he would have been disgusted, completely and utterly. But the moment she asked him if he wanted to, the moment she began to unhook her bra, he should have felt sick, he should have said no, but embarrassingly he just stared, stared in shameful pleasure.
He wondered what Clary thought about it. Did she think David left so suddenly because he was disgusted by the sight of her naked body, disgusted by what she was? If so, he doubted he would ever find the courage to correct her. David would rather let her think he was sickened than know the truth about him being only moments away from an embarrassing explosion. She would think he was gay. The whole school would think he was gay. His mum would think he was gay if she ever found out. And he wasn’t. Because he didn’t like Clary - he shouldn’t and he never would.
She sat in her usual seat, staring in deep thought down at a sheet of paper she was mindlessly coating in doodles. David watched her for a while from the doorway before he took his seat beside her. He hoped she didn’t feel as embarrassed as he did, or hurt by his reaction. But then again, he hoped she that did, that way Clary would never trap him and pull a stunt like that again. David saw her sigh and rest her head in her long and thin hands. She really could be a model, he thought. Her looks were so odd, so unwomanly, but feminine still. He couldn’t understand it. He wondered if he would think the same way if she had introduced herself as a man, or if she was still male now.
He tried to picture it, Clary with short-cropped hair and slight stubble shading her jaw line. Even then she would look beautiful, unconventionally, but attractive all the same.
David hit his head with the palm of his hand when he realized what he was thinking. He was imaging Clary as a full-blown boy, as Carl, and was still attracted. She was driving him insane. David had heard about the stages of confusion and experimentation teens go through during puberty, but he never dreamed he would be one of those people. Just the thought of being bashed in the face for liking a guy was enough to scare him off of anything. But Clary, she had tipped everything upside down! How could he go from being so completely repulsed by her very presence to being so profoundly perplexed in his feelings for her?
"Better not stare too long," David heard Jamie say beside him. His voice made him jump. "You’re starting to look all gooey eyed." His playful warning angered David, sending him into defense mode. People could not know!
"Shut up," he snapped, it was all David said to Jamie these days. "I wasn’t looking at her. I don’t even like her." It hurt him to say it, but it had to be done. No one could find out about this, no one! Jamie shook his head slowly and gave David one of those I-don’t-believe-you looks.
He noticed Clary tense up as he sat down beside her, worried, afraid probably.
"Hi," David said casually, wanting to reassure her, but not wanting to appear too friendly in front of others.
"You’re not mad?" She asked. David froze. Was Clary seriously going to bring it up here, now, in front of everyone?! Would she even dare?!
"I don’t want to talk about it," he told her. She misjudged his warning for discomfort.
"I am really sorry, I shouldn’t have done it. I can’t even imagine how you felt." A look crossed over Jamie’s features as he watched from the table beside hers, obviously eavesdropping.
"Please just drop it," David pleaded, praying for the teacher to begin so that Clary could be quiet.
"I just hope it doesn’t change things."
David turned to her abruptly, wanting to shout, wanting to tell her how much of an idiot she was being right now, but he softened his features, deciding that kindness was the best strategy. "We’re still friends. I’m not mad." David said calmly. "I’m anything but mad, trust me," he decided to add, hoping it would keep her silent. And it did. Thank God.
He moved swiftly the moment the class was free to leave, giving only a quick ‘bye’ in Clary’s direction. David wanted to avoid the conversation he knew they needed to have eventually. He would confront her sometime, but preferably in a more appropriate atmosphere, one without a hundred surrounding potential spies! He wanted to laugh then. Spies? This situation was making David feel so unbearably paranoid.
He eventually found a group of his friends playing cricket on the field, and decided to join them. It had been awhile since he had participated in anything, and no one seemed to mind David joining mid game.
"You’re up," Jamie said, handing him the bat. He took it in his grasp wishing he was out there fielding rather than batting. A group surrounded him, waiting for the ball, waiting to laugh when he messed up, or at least that’s what it felt like. He felt the urge to vomit, and was confused about his sudden stage fright. An audience had never scared him before, and the nausea only increased when David saw the bowler lift his arm to throw.
The ball came fast, too fast for David to hit, or to even swing his bat at. A round of laughter followed his first strike. It’s only a game, he reminded himself, and not an important one at that. But the need to do this right, to hit that ball as far as possible, to hit it like a man should, was all he could think about. David couldn’t understand why it was so important for him to prove himself, but it just was, and the nerves were only worsening his performance.
The boy in front lifted his arm again to bowl, slower this time for David’s benefit. He hit it, not hard or far, but he did. It bounced once and rolled across the ground only a few meters away from him. He needed to run, drop the bat and run. But the second round of laughter and taunts of playful insults froze him. "You hit like a girl," someone shouted. David looked up to see who it was. A small boy, probably a few years under him, with a large and mocking smile plastered on his face.
David stalked across the field towards him, knowing what he was about to do, knowing it was irrational, but not being able to stop. The boy seemed suddenly afraid as he watched him approaching in obvious anger. The smile slowly fell off his face, leaving a small and cowering grimace in its place. David wanted to hit him, hard and fast. He wanted to break his nose. He wanted to hear it crack, and to see the blood, and for everyone to know that it was him who did it.
But before he could get close enough to do it, he felt someone behind him grab onto his shoulders and pull him back. "What are you doing?" Jamie demanded, pushing him away from the boy. The field had grown silent and everyone was watching. It was only then that David realized how dangerously angry he must have looked. He felt his face was hot and probably red, his breathing was deep and heavy, and his fists were still clenched and ready to punch. Jamie noticed too, backing away slowly.
"I’m not gay," was all David could say. He didn’t hit like a girl because he wasn’t gay. He would punch anyone who said he was to prove it. But as David scanned the forming crowd and saw the accusing expression each face held, he realized that his actions today had only worked to confirm what he wanted to deny.
He left, running across the field and back onto the school grounds before anyone of them could say anything else. David had ruined everything. No one had suspected him before, he had given no one any reason to. But now he looked guiltier than ever. He slowed to a halt near to the library where people were sat enjoying their lunch break. What was he going to do? David couldn’t face seeing them again, not even Jamie. He tried to forget his face, slowly setting into an understanding expression, which was mimicked by onlookers. But they didn’t understand. They were wrong.
"David?" He heard someone ask. He turned to see Clary sat with a group of girls, they were all watching him. "Are you okay?"
"Not now Clary," he told her harshly before heading off into the opposite direction. David didn’t turn to look at her, afraid of seeing her hurt expression. He didn’t know where he was going, he doubted there was anywhere in the school he could go to be alone. People were everywhere he looked, watching, listening, and David felt claustrophobic.
"David," he heard Clary again. She was following him. "Please stop." He didn’t stop, but he slowed down enough to let her catch up with him. "What happened?" She asked when she saw his face. "You’re crying." He was crying?! David hadn’t even realized it. He wiped the tears away angrily and prayed that they hadn’t been there when he was on the field. Clary took him by his hand and pulled him along as she walked. People were looking, but he couldn’t force himself to pull away or to tell her to let go of him.
Clary led him to the rear end of the school where the smell was strong enough to scare people off. It was where they kept the large bins. David wished he had remembered this area before.
"Are you okay?" She asked him again. She lifted her hand to his cheek in a comforting gesture. No one was watching here, David didn’t mind.
"Not really," he confessed.
"Nothing," he didn’t want to go into detail. David felt embarrassed by it, and he would hate for Clary to think it was her fault. Because in a way it was. She had confused him so much, but David could never make her apologize for it. "I want to talk about what happened yesterday."
Clary cringed as if the memory disgusted her. "I can’t even describe how sorry and regretful I am."
She had her hair tied up today, leaving her long and elegant neck exposed. David lifted his hand and traced the curve of it softly with his fingers. He stopped when he realized what he was doing, and had to remind himself of why it was a bad idea. Clary was watching him intently, seeming concerned.
"You’re regretful?" David asked.
Clary nodded, still confused by his behavior. He wondered if he was regretful. The way Clary made him feel wasn’t good, if anything he wished that he could go back and start all over. But he knew that if he was ever by some miracle given that chance, he’d only make the same mistakes several times over. So was it still regret? Or was it just sadness at having fallen for the wrong person.
"What does this mean?" He wasn’t sure why he was asking Clary this, she was hardly the person to give a straight and honest response in reply to questions about his sexuality. But she was the only person he was brave enough to confide in. "What does liking you make me?"
Clary was silent for a long while after hearing his confession, and she seemed to struggle to give a response. "You’re the same as you’ve always been," she said eventually. It wasn’t the answer he was hoping for, but it was enough to bring him a brief sense of closure. David rested his head on her shoulder for a moment, letting his lips skim the soft skin on her neck, and liking the feel of her stray hair tickling against his face. Clary’s smell filled his nostrils, attractive and stimulating, the subtle floral aroma that he loved.
"Thank you," he told her as he rose, giving a quick laugh, uncertain about what he was finding so funny.
"Are you better now?" She asked. Her eyes were still soft and concerned. And David wondered why things had to be so difficult, why it was so hard for people to try to understand, to try to accept what is different. A few weeks ago David couldn’t understand any of it, and to be honest he still didn’t, but at least he was trying.