Chapter 6: Are You Okay?
Connor spent the majority of his night just sitting on his phone.
The shorter half, he sat in bed, seeing if there was a way to fall asleep in any way, and inevitably failing. This happened all the time. Most nights he would either stay up late and sleep through the majority of the next day, or not sleep at all.
He leaned against the wall with a sigh. Was he just anxious about picking Evan up late? He could set an alarm, if he was so nervous about it, but those never worked for him. He always ended up sleeping through them or waking up before they went off; if he even slept at all, that is.
He noticed a spider was making a web up in the corner on the other side of the room. He should probably take care of it, but it wasn't bothering him, and he didn't really feel like getting up. He knew for sure if it was in Zoe's room there would be much more of a scene.
He wondered if Evan was awake right now. He had been the day before, but he might have decided to sleep in this time for the sake of being allowed to. Connor looked down at his phone. Despite how sure he was that Evan wasn't going to email him, he was still anxious about missing something.
Trying not to think much, he tapped to compose and typed: "Emails are kinda difficult to keep track of. What's your number?"
Before he hit send, he stopped for a second and contemplated, against his better judgement. Was this a bad decision? What if his family decided to look through his phone and got the wrong idea? Would Evan get the wrong idea? But there wasn't really a chance that his family would look through his phone. They didn't care about anything he did anyway. He was stressing himself out for nothing.
He sent it and put his phone down on his bedside table. He was getting attached to someone that was nothing like him.
Connor bit down on his knuckle, trying to turn his attention away from Evan. At least for the time being, he shouldn't have been relevant. Connor knew he was just trying to come up with excuses to convince himself he had a good reason to be thinking about him this much.
He looked down at his electric clock on his bedside table that read 4:15 AM.
Sometimes, he thought about what his sleep schedule used to be and wished it was like that again. During the time he would go to bed at ten and wake up at seven. That would be basically impossible for him now. Just the thought of trying to correct it to that made him exhausted.
His entire schedule was nothing like it used to be. And it wasn't just sleep. Daily, he would think and do spontaneous dumb things that would mostly backfire. Usually ending up completely eating away at his confidence.
He had learned that people were going to judge him now no matter what he did, what decisions he decided to make, and usually that would boost the confidence thing, but it just made him more aware of what a fuck up he really was. Nothing worked out for him.
The only recent thing he could think of that had would be Evan.
His phone buzzed. That was unexpectedly fast, but he shouldn't have been surprised. Evan was full of surprises. The reply was just his phone number and nothing else. He didn't know why he thought there would be more.
He typed the number into his phone and sent a "hi".
Evan's response was immediate, with a "Hi, is this Connor?"
Wow, he spelled his name right. Most people would add an unnecessary E to it. Maybe remove an N.
"Yep," was his response. He wanted to add more to it, but he had no idea what, so that was all he decided to say.
Their conversations were so bland. Connor had gone in with the intention of at least having some sort of conversation, but despite how much he actually wanted to talk about, he had no idea what to start with. This was why he didn't like talking to people. Half the time he didn't know what to say.
"What are you up to?" Evan asked. What a small-talk kind of question. At least it was going somewhere.
"Not much, just chilling. I can't sleep."
"Yeah, me neither."
He tapped his chin with his finger, wondering what exactly might be bothering Evan enough to make him stay up this late. In his experience, anyone he knew other than him would be dead asleep right now, but Evan wasn't like that. The underlying impression he got from his passive insomnia was basically, "yeah I'm fucked up but it's not a big deal".
Everyone liked to downplay their issues. But Evan seemed to be a master at it. He was good at hiding things.
Truly, he was clueless. It was so hard to tell what Evan was playing at.
After a few minutes of nothing, he came to the conclusion that the conversation was over.
Connor left his class midway through, unsure of why he even decided to try and go to it.
He had driven Evan to school in the morning, but he was seeming really out of it. Not enough that he was zombie-like or anything, but enough that he could tell something was wrong.
As he walked down the empty hallway, hurriedly wanting to leave as fast as possible, he noticed something near the lockers. When he went to get a closer look, he saw that it was two people. Evan and someone he didn't recognize.
The guy he didn't recognize was clearly saying something that was upsetting Evan. All that Connor could pick out of what was being said was a "Stop-" as Evan was shoved against the locker in a confrontational way.
The other boy smirked and shoved him again, causing Evan let out a small yelp and the boy said something else that he couldn't hear. That seemed to cross the line for Evan, who then kneed him where it hurts and took off running out the front door, leaving his bag on the floor. He couldn't see it very well, but he did notice him actively wiping tears off his face before turning the corner and running out of sight.
Connor couldn't get there in time to try and step in. He felt a little frozen in place, like he was intruding on something he wasn't supposed to see. He snapped out of it as he realized what it implied that Evan would leave school halfway through the day after that type of encounter.
He started walking, the walk soon turning into a run as a slight panic set in. He picked up the bag Evan left behind as he passed, the kid that had been bullying him jumping back at his sudden arrival. He wanted to give him a piece of his mind, but he would have to hold back on that for now.
The doors slammed shut behind him, and he immediately took off running, slinging Evan's bag over his shoulder to make room for more movement.
Why the fuck didn't he step in? He could have stopped him before he ran off.
If he was lucky he wouldn't be showing up to a mangled body next to a tree.
Evan sat curled up with his knees to his chest, his head buried, under the tree he had broke his arm from. Connor couldn't see his face, but his back was heaving and he looked like he was crying.
Connor couldn't comprehend the relief he felt when he saw that he was fully intact.
He was breathless.
There was no reaction.
He walked over and gently lowered himself down next to him, placing the bag he had picked up in his rush to chase after him down. Evan didn't move, letting out a muffled sob. He didn't seem out of breath at all. How quickly did he get there? It made Connor a little embarrassed that he was the only one panting.
It wasn't a good idea to touch him. It could make him panic. Just sitting there was probably the best emotional support he could give at the moment.
Connor looked up at the clear sky, sun shining through the trees that made a pattern on the ground. It was beautiful. He tried to stop himself from looking at Evan just in case he would decide to just randomly look up.
It didn't take long for Evan to stop crying, finally raising his head and taking a deep breath as he wiped the tears from his face. It was admirable how easy it seemed for him to calm down.
"Are you okay?" Connor asked after another moment. He didn't want to rush it.
The only noises were the birds and rustling leaves in the wind, along with Evan's sniffles as he calmed himself.
He saw a squirrel scurry up a tree nearby with a cheek full of food, another one following closely behind. He watched them until they fell out of sight.
"Yes," Evan finally replied in a shaky voice, though it didn't sound very sincere. He sniffed again and wiped his nose on his sleeve. "Um... Can I... can I hug you?"
He raised an eyebrow, unfortunately getting a little flustered. What an unexpected question. But obviously he wasn't going to say no to that. "Sure," he said. He tried to sound casual about it but his heart had started racing.
Evan scooted closer and, kind of hesitantly, wrapped his arms around him, holding surprisingly tightly and even a bit longer than he had expected.
He gently hugged back, a fluttery feeling becoming very present in his stomach. A shiver went down his spine as Evan exhaled, unintentionally warming his shirt with his breath.
Connor wasn't sure what to do, he had never really been in an intimate situation like this with someone like Evan.
Evan hugged tighter. It made him wonder how long it had been since he had actually hugged someone.
After a few seconds, he let himself relax, and pulled him a little closer.
Eventually Evan let go and assumed the same position he had before with his knees to his chest. He didn't scoot away again though.
The hug had only lasted for a few seconds, but it felt like a lot longer. It made him think that maybe he kind of wanted it to be longer.
"Sorry," Evan said. "I'm being really dramatic aren't I."
"No, you're fine."
He laughed, probably out of spite of the situation, and wiped his hands on his jeans. Connor couldn't tell if he was acting again or was legitimately feeling better. There was a new brightness in his eyes as they darted around nervously and he looked a lot more relaxed. That hug must have done something. What it might have been, he didn't know. Maybe it lightened the mood just enough.
"What time does your mom get home?" Connor asked.
Evan checked his phone and he frowned slightly, hiding the screen from Connor's sight. "I'm guessing sometime tomorrow. Why?"
"Do you need me to drive you home?"
He scratched the back of his neck, seemingly indifferent by his question, unlike how he had been every other time he asked. "I was planning on walking, but I guess."
Connor smiled and got to his feet, picking up Evan's bag in one hand and reaching out the other. It took a few seconds of Evan looking up at him for him to realize that he was offering to help him up, his face turning a light shade of pink when he did.
When he was to his feet, they lingered for a second, looking strangely at each other. Connor noticed how blue his eyes were. He hadn't really gotten a chance to see them this close before.
He sprung his hand open and spun on his heal, starting in the direction of the road. "C'mon. My car's back at the school parking lot."