By the time Friday arrived, all the plans were made and the group had decided they would move to Branson the first thing Saturday morning. When Gust had informed Casey, Tracey and Mercedes, they were set to go on foot – all excited to see Luke of course and wanting desperately to celebrate with the birthday boy on his special day. Matt said he couldn’t go with them because he was too weak to travel that long with the group. He definitely was missing Luke and also his good friend Noah, but it seemed he couldn’t help that after all. Since Matt declined, Candes didn’t feel like going as well. He asked her not to let him ruin her plans, but she said she’d rather stay there with him than worry her head over his well-being while away. Plus, Gust thought it would exhaust her to travel that long in her state.
Although they were trying to ignore the huge elephant in the room, the big problem began to surface up as soon as Joe’s mother began to bombard him with questions. “What is this, a police interrogation?” Joe finally snapped at her, not able to take it anymore, “I told you I am going on a road trip with my friends; I don’t see what is wrong with that!” He was annoyed that she was in his room right now and it didn’t seem like she would be leaving any time soon.
“Who are you going with?” His mom asked with suspicion.
“Nobody you know.” He snapped again and moved out of his room. At least that would get her out of his room. It felt like she was reigning over his privacy.
And as expected, she followed his lead, “Do they have names?” She asked from behind him.
“Why do you want to know mom?” He walked into the living room and sat on the couch, which was already occupied by his cousin Claire as she watched TV. Some old chick flick was playing and he fixated his eyes on the TV despite lack of interest.
His mom stood by the side of the couch with her one hand on her hips and told him off, “I need to know if my son is hanging out with a decent crowd. Now if you will please tell me ...”
“Casey, his girlfriend Tracey and my other friend Mercedes”, He rolled his eyes and threw his head back on the headrest of the couch.
“Aren’t those friends also friends with your ex-boyfriend ... what’s his name... Gust?” Claire, who was listening to their conversation, decided to cunningly add that information so her aunt would know.
Joe clenched his jaw and tilted his head to look at her.
“What?” Marie looked stunned at Joe and asked, “Is that true, Joe?” Her anger was shown on her face.
“Oh yes, Aunt Marie. And I am quite sure that Gust must be going with them as well because it’s impossible ...”
“Now shut the hell up you fucking little bimbo.” Joe yelled at the top of his lungs making his mother shocked for a second. Even Claire jumped from her seat at the pitch of his voice. “You like to tell on me? Yeah? Gossip about me and spread rumours?” He snorted. “Well I don’t like doing that very much, but if people are irritating me, I would not hesitate to do that. You don’t want me to tell her what you did with Leon McGuire in the spare bathroom last month, do you?” Joe smirked when he saw the expected fear rise up in Claire’s appearance and she began to sweat visibly. He stood up and pointed sharply to the door for her while he raised his voice again, “Get out right now or else I will catch you by your hair and will throw you out myself.” Joe ordered.
She didn’t waste any time, and before Marie could say anything, the girl rushed out in tears. “Oh baby! Claire!” Marie called out to her but she was gone. When she turned to Joe, she had a frown on her face expressing her utter disappointment. “Joe! What is wrong with you?”
“What is wrong with YOU?” Joe yelled at her, on the verge of tears himself. “Why can’t you let me live my life happily? Why do you, of all people, want to be an antagonist in my life?”
“Joe?” Marie looked at him in disbelief.
“What? Huh? Tell me, what did I do wrong?” He asked her, “That I fell in love? Is that wrong for you now, mother?”
She composed her face while blinking through her tears, “It’s not. You fell in love with the wrong person; now that is wrong.”
Joe let out a light sardonic laugh. “He is not wrong mother.” He whispered out and then yelled, “YOU ARE! You are the one who is wrong.” He paused and watched his mother tearing up. He took some time to process his own thoughts before said with much determination, “You know what? Yes! Yes, I am going with Gust tomorrow. We will go; we need to get away from this mess you’ve created for us.” After speaking he began to walk away taking brisk steps.
“Joe!” His mother’s stern voice called him and he stopped. He turned half way and stared at her to continue. “You know what I have told you. You go meet with that guy again and that will be your last day in this house.”
His expressionless eyes at that moment took in her devastated look. He knew this threat was coming and he was prepared for it. “I don’t care mother. I don’t care anymore.”
And that was it. He walked out of that room before his mother could say anything else. But it seemed she didn’t intend to say anything else. When he reached the top of the stairs, he glanced back and his heart broke watching her weeping silently down there. But he didn’t give into her cries and turned back to head for his room.
Luke was looking forward to this day arriving for so long and when it did, he couldn’t keep his excitement under control. It was his birthday and he was curious what Noah had planned special for him. He didn’t expect to be shoved out of the house though and when Noah asked him to go grocery shopping, he was disappointed. But then he saw that playful look on his boyfriend’s face and just knew something was cooking in his pretty head.
As he drove back home in a cab with the petty items that were on his shopping list, his mind was working overtime trying to guess what it was that Noah was hiding from him. He had this huge grin on his face that wouldn’t fade and he was humming a happy song. The driver had looked through the mirror at him with an odd look but didn’t stop him, so he went on.
‘Was he getting me a TV?? I bet it’s that. He said he would try to get one for me, didn’t he?’ his mind wouldn’t stop. And before he knew it, the cab was pulling up to his house. He paid the fare and hopped out. He was in so much of a rush to get inside, that he didn’t give much thought to why there was a convertible parked on the other side, and why it looked so familiar to him.
“Noah! I’m ho-” And as soon as he opened the door, he was astounded to see their small drawing room jam-packed with his old school buddies. “Oh my God!” He gasped not expecting THIS at all. He looked at Noah who was smiling from the corner of the room. ‘So he was planning this? Oh my God, Noah! Seriously! How many times will you make me fall for you?’ His eyes tingled with tears forming.
Everyone turned to him and broke into a squeal, “Surprise!” Casey was the first one to jump on him and give him a tight hug. “How are you, dude?” Then it was Tracey who almost shoved her boyfriend away and took his place, “Luke! It’s so good to see you.” She said while rubbing his back gently.
“Hey enough of that.” It was Mercedes pushing her away this time. “Look at my little baby buddy!” She threw her arms around him as well and he laughed feeling breathless by this whole meet and greet session. He truly loved these guys but hey ... they could give him a break! “I have missed you so much!” She whispered into his ear.
When she stepped back, Luke was laughing in disbelief. “I can’t believe this is happening. I have missed you too, Mercedes. I have missed you all. I thought I would never see you again.”
“Well this amazing boyfriend of yours wouldn’t let that happen.” Gust’s voice spoke, grabbing his attention to his best friend. He was standing by Noah’s side and looking at him happily.
“Gust!” Luke sprinted across the room to get to him and ran right into his arms.
“Woah! Dude, easy!” He laughed near his ears and Luke felt so good to be there. They stayed like that for some time before Luke loosened his grip and backed off to look at Joe and Noah. They didn’t seem to mind it. They understood which made him smile.
Joe stepped up to them and palmed his shoulder. “Happy birthday Luke!” Luke smiled and gave him a brief hug as well.
“Yeah, happy birthday!” Everyone screamed in unison for him.
“I’ll get some food and drinks for you guys.” Noah announced before he began to head for the kitchenette.
“Wait ... Noah.” Luke called out and went to him. He handed the shopping bag to his boyfriend and kissed him quickly. “Thank you.”
Noah grinned. “I love you.” He whispered. “Your friends are waiting for you. I bet you have a lot to catch up with them. I will leave you guys alone.”
Saying that, he was gone and Luke turned his attention over to his friends. The girls were as usual chatterboxes, while they went on and on with what he’d missed.
“You know that bitch Ashley Monteith, right?” Luke nodded and Mercedes continued, “Rumour is she slept with Ricky Sparks.”
He looked perplexed at her. “WOW! And I thought Ricky was gay! My gaydar sucks I guess.”
Both the girls giggled and Tracey told him, “That’s the funny thing, honey. He slept with her and then announced that he was gay.”
The whole group began to laugh at that. “Could you say mortifying?” Gust chuckled. “Poor girl didn’t even show up at school after the rumour was spread by someone. I am betting Ricky himself did that.”
“Serves her right.” Casey spoke up in his angered tone, “I didn’t like that bitch at all.” Everyone knew the reason. Ashley was rude to almost every girl who was not a cheerleader, and she would bully them. Tracey was no exception.
They chit-chatted, joked about stuff, laughed for some more time and it was going good until Noah arrived back into the living room with the drinks and chips. Luke grinned wide at him getting a smile back in return. He took the chips and literally began to hog them.
Light chuckles did come out of his friends but other than that, he noticed the room had fallen awfully quiet all of a sudden. What changed? Luke wondered scanning each one of their faces and all he could find was a distinct discomfort in them.
“Um ... where’s Candes?” Luke asked to break the silence.
“Yeah, I thought she and Matt were coming today?” Noah asked.
“Uhm ... yeah that ...” Gust cleared his throat, “Matt hasn’t been feeling very well this week and Candes wanted to stay with him.”
“What happened to him?” Noah asked in a worried tone.
“He has had this massive headache that came up all of a sudden. I am not sure but I am guessing he will be alright soon.” Gust explained.
“I hope he gets better soon. I will give him a call sometime tomorrow maybe.” Noah said.
Gust smiled uncertainly and gave a hesitant nod.
“So he and Candes are still a couple?” Luke asked changing the subject.
“Oh yeah... yeah.” Gust looked like he wanted to say more but then quietened again. It was weird. Then like a light bulb moment, it all came to Luke when he gave a wary look over to Noah every time he spoke.
Luke opened his mouth to say something when the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it.” Noah said and went to open the door. Luke heard Mercedes exhaling and was amused that his friends were all intimidated in Noah’s presence. It was understandable though. He was their teacher for awhile, and Luke knew how it was not cool to speak about different things in front of a teacher. But he knew he will have to find a way to break the ice.
The door opened and Maxi stepped in. Noah probably invited him as well, Luke figured. He smiled at the guy and stood up excitedly. For good reason, his feet felt like being on air today. After all, it was his day.
He went up to Maxi and gave him a tight hug. “Happy fucking birthday! Hope you have a great life full with money, honey blah, blah, blah.” Maxi mumbled near his ear.
Luke chuckled. That was so Maxi. He slapped his bicep and leaned back to find him smirking. “That was so not funny.” Maxi shrugged but kept up his smile. “Well, let me introduce you to my friends from Oakdale. That’s Gust, his boyfriend Joe, that’s crazy Casey I told you about and his girlfriend Tracey. And this one here is my sweetest friend Mercedes. And guys, this is Maxi – my new friend here.”
Everyone said a ‘hey’ to him with a smile. Luke thought his friends could have shown more interest, but those poor kids were too intimidated by their former history teacher’s presence already to take much notice of Maxi.
“Uhm ... Snyder?” Maxi spoke up. “Are you sure this is your birthday party? ‘Cause it seems more to me like someone just died.”
Luke shifted his weight while others managed to chuckle nervously. Then Noah announced, “Actually, Maxi, we are not having the party over here.” Every head turned to Noah with interest as he explained, “I was thinking we could go to ‘Hell’.”
Maxi nodded but Luke and others were perplexed. The Italian brunette noticed the misunderstanding on their faces and cleared, “’Hell’ is a bar downtown – perfect for partying all night.”
“Now that’s what we need.” Casey rubbed his hands together. “I was starting to think we were going to get ... Ow!” He looked at his girlfriend sitting beside him who, Luke guessed, must have pinched him hard to stop him from saying something unwise. “What was that for?” He asked angrily and she gave him the look.
Luke tried hard not to laugh.
“That place sounds great to me.” Gust said and looked at his boyfriend for approval but Joe seemed to be deep in his own thoughts.
“Hell yeah, I can’t wait to check out the hot guys in this town. There’s gotta be some reason why I am here.” Mercedes was giggling like any teen and so was Tracey.
“So it’s settled then. We are going to hell.” Luke laughed.
Candes was bored out of her minds. Gust was gone and Matt was bedridden which certainly worried her. But he would always get snappy whenever she would ask him to see the doctor, or even be around him to help with things. So she stayed away from him giving him space like Daphna had told her to do. It only agonized her thinking that their relationship was getting strained.
She shook her head to get those negative thoughts out, and turned her laptop on. She decided she would kill some time being online. Logging to her Facebook account, Candes waited for the webpage to load. The blonde strands falling on her cheek tickled her and she tossed them behind her ear, numbly reading the latest posts. She had almost the whole school on her profile. That was the advantage of being popular around school.
She smiled. It seemed that some new gossip had come up and people were spreading it more and more. Although she was interested in checking it out, she postponed that activity for later and went to check her wall since her notifications were highly numbered. Facebook was a huge platform for gossipers to effectively create and spread rumours in their school. The latest was Ashley’s, which was not even a week old.
She frowned when her gaze caught the number of friends she had right now on Facebook. It read – twenty-seven. And the ones who were there had left numerous posts on her wall.
Candes read the posts and her eyes widened in horror – “Is the rumour true?” A wall post said which was replied heavily – “Of course it is. Didn’t you see the report that was posted on Joey’s wall?” – Other said – “haha can’t believe someone screwed the bitch and got her pregnant.” And on and on it went. Some more wall posts were there and none of them were kindly put - “Do you even know who the father of the baby is?” Nasty things like that were posted.
She shut the laptop forcefully as tears began to threaten her eyes. The news of her being pregnant was finally out somehow, and now she knew she had a huge hurdle to face. Presently, she was not at all keen on the weekend to end.
---TBC--- (Next coming on for this story will be Chapter 25 – Part B)