‘Tomorrow,’ Elliot thought.
“Shit, why me? What did I ever do to him?”
“Look El, you’re the one that just HAD to piss him off by the way you treated him.”
”Yeah Colin, go ahead and take Jason’s side.”
“I’m not taking anyone’s side! I’m trying to tell you that he’s going to fight you tomorrow because of the way you treat him. You treat him like shit and he never deserved that”
“Yeah, like what did I ever do to him?”
“Like what? Like WHAT? You’ve got to be kidding. When was the last time you ever just said ‘hello’ to him, just for no reason?
“Well, why should I? Everyone makes fun of him.”
“Why? Because he’s a nerd?”
“I can’t believe you man.”
Colin got off of Elliot’s bed and started walking around the room, his hands on his hips, pissed. Finally he stopped and turned toward his friend.
“Look El, do you remember what you did to him yesterday?”
“Yeah, I told him that he needed to get a life. And he does. He never joins us in B Ball. All he ever does is read his books.”
“Well, that’s just not normal Colin. Guys should hang together. He just never does anymore.”
“El, how long have you known him?”
“We grew up together since we were like three when I moved in next door to him.”
“Has he been a friend before?”
“Well, yeah. We grew up together, and played together.”
“So what’s changed between you and him?”
“Ever since we got in high school, he’s just been weird. He’s just changed.”
“What do you mean, like how? You’ve seen him. He’s just avoiding me.”
“Yeah, right. You’re avoiding him.”
“I am not!”
“Get off it, you dipshit. Elliot, you really are avoiding Jason. It seems like you’re trying your damndest to put a space between you two.”
Elliot stayed on his bed, but turned his face from Colin. Several moments passed between the two boys.
Elliot finally turned his eyes back toward Colin.
“You think so? Have I really been doing that?”
“Yeah, man. You have.”
Elliot stopped and thought for a moment, not turning his gaze off his friend Colin, starring at him.
“I’ve been a shit, haven’t I.”
“Yeah, big time.”
“Jason’s going to kick my butt tomorrow, isn’t he.”
“Yeah, there’s a good chance of that. He’s got you by two inches and like twenty pounds, you know?”
“Shit. Tomorrow’s my birthday, you know? Why of all days does he have to do it then.”
“Oh man, you know why. Just try to be his friend from now on. He’s been trying to be yours, but you’ve been so wrapped up in ‘image.’ So what if he’s a little bit different than you. So what if he likes to read more than the comic books that you read. He’s still a friend, right?”
“Yeah. He’s been there for me.” Elliot looked out the window.
“He’s always been there for you. Didn’t you know that?”
“Yeah, I guess I did. There was this one time. Just after my mom died, Jason came by to see me.”
Elliot got off the bed and walked to the window, looking at the oak tree wavering in the wind. He paused for a moment, not letting his eyes waver from that tree.
“Colin, other than you he was the only one from school who ever came to see me.”
Colin moved to his friend and put his arm over his shoulder.
“See what I mean El? He really wants to be your friend.”
Elliot turned abruptly, throwing Colin’s arm off of him.
“But he wants to fight me. He wants to kick my butt tomorrow.”
“Yeah, and you deserve it too.”
“I know, but shit. I don’t want to fight him.”
“What? The whole school heard what he said. I don’t know how to get out of this.”
“So, where are you supposed to meet?”
“At his house, next door, an hour after school lets out. I guess his parents won’t be home so he can annihilate me.”
“You want me there tomorrow with you?”
“Yeah. And bring a big rag to wipe up my blood.”
When the last class bell rang and it was time to go home, Elliot hung back. He knew what was coming. Jason earned the right to pound him, he knew it, and he knew that Jason could do it.
Slowly he got up from his desk and started his long and lonely trek home. His eyes filled with relief as Colin come up beside him.
Elliot looked at his friend. “Thanks man. Thanks for being here.”
“What are friends for, man?”
Elliot turned and started the walk down death row. Slowly his home came into view and then Jason’s home next door. Elliot’s heartbeat increased. He knew that it was time to face the music and that he was about to have the shit beaten out of him, but he also knew that his friend Colin was there with him.
“Colin? I don’t want to fight him.”
“I know. Well, I figured that you didn’t. What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to apologize to him.”
“For being a dick?”
“Yeah. I have been. I hope I get a chance to say what I have to say first. Then Jason can give me a black eye after.”
“I hope you get two black eyes.”
“Don’t you deserve both?”
“Why don’t you go home? You’re not helping much.”
Colin put his arm around Elliot’s shoulder and guided him toward his doom.
“Come on, man. Let’s just get this over with.”
The two boys walked up to Jason’s front door, Elliot pulling back slightly before Colin rang the door bell.
The door opened in an instant. Jason stood silently observing his ‘guests’ for a moment with an evil and foreboding grin before he spoke.
Stepping aside, Jason swept his hand in a welcoming gesture for his friends to enter.
Approaching dread filled Elliot. He couldn’t move. Finally Colin grabbed his hand and pulled him into the house.
The house erupted with the sounds of “Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear Elliot. Happy Birthday to you.” It was all of his friends.
Elliot turned toward Jason, smiling.
Jason grinned. “Yeah. Aren’t I though.”