Me: My internet has been down, so I now have time and incentive to work on this….
Chapter Three: Wanna be my Partner?
During Lunch and after School of the first day
Bradley just stared at the offered hand with a look of incomprehension on his face for several seconds before reaching out and taking it. Butters….he had known someone by that name once….though, he reminded himself, pushing back the bubbling feeling that had started in his stomach, there were probably several kids in the state of Colorado by that name. It was probably a one-in-a-million chance to hope that this was the same Butters that he remembered….(though they both had blond hair…)
But no, Bradley was a pessimist. He had lost all hope of ever seeing his Butters again when he had stood on the Camp's cold grey gravel road, watching the small blond wave a bittersweet goodbye to him out the back window of the little blue car.
"Bradley." He said after a moment of collecting his thoughts once again, though he knew perfectly well that Butters already knew this. Instead of saying so, like Bradley had expected him to, however, the other blond struck up a conversation.
"I'm sorry about the way Eric acted today…." He began. Bradley almost told Butters that his name was the only one he knew thus far, but he remembered at the last moment that Mr. Mackey had told him to stay away form "Eric" for now. He assumed that he was the fat kid who had been laughing at him that morning. "…but he can be…er…well, he is a bit mean….."
"It's ok." he said simply, looking back down at his…er….tray. "I'm used to stuff like that…" After all, it was part of the reason he had ended up moving here in the first place….
Butters furrowed his brow, a small frown marring his normally up beat expression.
"Oh, w-well, that kinda stinks." he said, slight concern evident in his tone. Bradley looked back up at him for a moment, the corners of his mouth turning upwards slightly.
"Yeah, kinda." he answered, not really meaning it mockingly, but it came out a bit sarcastic. Butters didn't seem to notice, however, as he sat shoveling more of the cafeteria food into his mouth, making sure to chew twenty times before swallowing. Bradley watched the gelling mass disappear from the other blonde's plate with a type of morbid fascination.
"So," Butters asked when his mouth was clear of food. "that assignment out English teacher gave us…."
Bradley blinked. He had honestly not been aware of the fact that they even had the same English teacher, though he supposed that, with as small as South Park was, this was most likely the case.
"Yeah?" He prompted, picking up his fork and poking at his own helping of staring gel. Seeing as how Butters hadn't turned green and/or mutated yet, he was beginning to wonder if it actually was safe after all.
"Who's your partner?"
Ok, I had better explain this, I suppose. The assignment in question was that you had to partner up with one person and write a biography in the form of a children's story. Butters thought it would be a world of fun, and Bradley thought it was an odd thing for a high school class to be doing, but he wasn't going to say anything about it. Everyone else thought it was stupid, but an easy grade, and so they too were not going to say anything.
"I…don't have one yet…." Bradley admitted as if this was the most obvious thing in the world. Thinking about it, Butters supposed he could see the reason for this; Everyone always paired up with their friends on assignments like this, since they already knew things about each other's lives growing up. All they had to do was make it into a kid friendly short story and they were done.
Bradley, however, was new, and no one knew anything about him. That would mean that the person who agreed to be his partner would actually have to (heaven forbid) work. Butters rubbed his knuckles together for a moment nervously, weighing a couple of options in his mind. Bradley noticed his suddenly distracted state and decided promptly that he was going to politely ignore it. He went back to staring at the stuff on his tray, fork poised, weighing his chances of survival.
"W-well, I could be yer partner, if-if ya want…."
Bradley looked back up, surprised (again). Butters was still rubbing his knuckles together, but he was looking at him with a warm smile. Bradley found himself unconsciously biting at his thumb (again) and shyly returning the smile.
"if you want." He said around the skin pinched between his teeth. "I mean, if there's someone you would rather be partners with, I don't mind taking an F for this assignment…." he found himself mumbling quickly. Butters shook his head.
"Naw, I don't mind." He said with a chuckle. "How-how about you come over to my place after school and have dinner with my family?"
Bradley blinked, a little surprised that he has been invited over so quickly, but chalked it up to being in a small town.
"I- Sure….." he said softly, poking the mush on his tray a little too hard. This drew Butters attention to it.
"Hey, are you gonna eat that?" He asked, pointing at the still untouched stuff. Bradley blinked at him before pushing he tray across the table.
The last bell had finally rang. Bradley stretched his arms above his head, feeling his back pop in a couple of places from sitting down for so long. Across the room, Butters watched him, a small, slightly puzzled smile on his face. Ever since lunch, he had had this nagging feeling in the back of his mind, like the kind he got when he was forgetting something rather important, like his homework. However, he was pretty sure that he had not only done all of his homework that night, but turned it in as well, so it couldn't have been that.
So, then, what was it that he wasn't remembering? Sighing ad shrugging to himself ( he figured that if he ignored the feeling, whatever it was that was bothering him would come back to him whenever he least expected it to.) he stuffed the last of his book into his bag and caught Bradley by the elbow as he was exiting the room.
"Ya ready to go over at my place?" He asked cheerfully when the other blond turned to him with a vaguely alarmed look.
"Ah, yeah." Bradley responded, looking uneasy. "But do you mind if I stop by my house first and tell my mother where I'm going? I don't' have a cell phone I can use to call her." Butters shrugged his shoulder and laughed lightly.
"Well sure, why would I have a problem with-uh-with that?" he asked and Bradley just shrugged back, looking at the floor again shyly.
"Some people would have seen it as out of their way and troublesome." he answered, as if it were obvious. Butters tilted his head and smiled lightly.
"Well, don't worry about it, Bradley, 'cuse I'm not most people." He reached out and patted the other on the shoulder. Bradley jumped a little, not expecting this, but smiled back lightly none the less.
Bradley's house was only a few blocks from Butters', it turned out. Butters was delighted by this, saying that it would be easier for them to do their project if they lived closer together, because walking or driving distance wouldn't be so much of a problem. Bradley had just given him a small smile and asked, very politely, if he would wait outside for him. Butters was a little hurt that he wasn't invited inside, but figured that Bradley had his reasons.
Maybe their house was a mess and Bradley was embarrassed?
Yeah, that was probably it.
He leaned against the wall, near one of the front windows. The glass had been covered by a sheet of plastic, the kind used to cover things you didn't want to get paint on something when you were painting a room. The window was open about an inch, and, as he had nothing else to do but watch the grass grow (which wasn't nearly as entertaining as it sounds…) he found himself listening to the soft, muffled strains of chopped conversation drifting out from the inside.
"…friends house…..dinner….schoo….proje…." That was Bradley's voice.
"….a boy….parents…see….back before….hands to yourself….." a woman's voice, Butters assumed it was Bradley's mother. She sounded rather reluctant about something, and Butters assumed, once again, that she didn't really want Bradley coming over to his house. For a moment, he worried that she had said no, but then Bradley's voice, sounding rather annoyed, floated out to him.
"I just…..it's not like….besides…..for school….promise to be back……see you later."
A second later, Bradley exited the house, closing the door a bit harder than necessary, Butters thought, and walked up to him.
"Sorry that took so long." He muttered, looking down at his shoes. Butters smiled at him.
"I-it's ok, Bradley. I understand about strict parents. They're just worried about ya, is all." Bradley looked up at him, and smiled. It wasn't his usual shy smile though. This one was more….sardonic? Butters was puzzled for a moment, but decided it was just him getting worked up about nothing.
"I know." Bradley responded softly, sighing. Butters nodded.
"yeah, well, anyway…" he said, rubbing his knuckles together unconsciously. "let's get goin', huh? My folks'll be wondering where I've gotten to." Bradley simply nodded, looking back down at the ground. Butters headed off for his house with Bradley trailing closely behind.
"Ya can just leave your stuff by the door I-if you want." Butters said, placing his own bag and shoes neatly by the door. Bradley silently followed suit before following his partner further into the house. There was the sound of rustling in the room adjacent to the room they had entered (which Bradley assumed, judging by the furnishings, was the living room.)
"Butters, sweetie, is that you?" Came a sweet, female voice. A slender, petite woman with hair as blond as Butters' own stepped out of the room and regarded Bradley with surprise. "Oh! I didn't know you were bringing home company! Who's your little friend?" She asked.
"Oh, hi mom. This is Bradley, a friend form school. He and I are partners on an English project this week." Butters explained happily, taking Bradley's hand and tugging him forward, out form behind him.
"oh, I see." She said sweetly. She turned to Bradley and smiled. "Are you going to stay for supper?" She asked. Bradley nodded slowly.
"My….my mother said it was alright as long as it's fine with you." He replied politely. Mrs. Stotch smiled gently at him.
"That's perfectly alright with me." She told him. "Now why don't you boys run along and get started on your homework, hmmm? The sooner you get started, the sooner you'll finish, and then you can go do whatever it is boys your age like to do!" That sardonic grin slipped over Bradley's face once again for a moment. "Dinner will be ready in a couple of hours, you two." Mrs. Stotch added over her shoulder as she turned around and headed once again for the other room, which Bradley assumed was the kitchen.
"my-my r-rooms this-a-way." Butters said, leading him down the hall and to a plain door on the right. He opened it and ushered Bradley inside. The room hadn't really changed much over the years. It was still as neat as it had been when he was a child, with all of his things tucked neatly back into their proper places. His walls were a light blue with white trim, his bed neatly made with a plain blue comforter, obviously intended to match the walls. His dressers, bookshelves, nightstand, and desk were all plain white imitation oak. The walls were pretty much bare, save for some pictures of Butters and his friends hanging here and there.
All in all, the room was comfortable, but rather bland.
"So, how're we going to start this?" Bradley asked, looking up from the worn carpet he had been studying. Butters had plopped down in the desk chair and was kicking his legs back and forth distractedly.
"I dunno." He admitted, frowning slightly in thought. Silence stretched between them for a long moment, Butters lost in concentration and Bradley thinking on the problem, but not quite as hard. He was having more fun just watching Butters thinking, since the other blond would wrinkle his nose ever so often, shaking his head slightly as if rejecting an idea, his eyebrow scrunching together cutely. Bradley found himself smiling vaguely as he watched this.
Suddenly, Butters' eyes lit up excitedly.
"I know what we could do!" He exclaimed, startling Bradley out of the slight daze he had slipped into. Bradley blinked at him to show that he was paying attention. "we c-could talk about things that happened to us when we were kids. Memories, you know, the-the ones that stand out the most to us!" He nodded to himself, expanding on the idea in his head. "a-and then, we'll pick a memory of the other's that we like, like, I'll pick one of yours that I think is kinda neat, and then, you can pick one of mine that you think is kinda neat, and-and then, you'll ask me more questions about the memory, and I'll ask you more questions, and there, the work is done!" The blond grinned at Bradley, proud of himself and his idea. Bradley's lips quirked into a small smile.
"Sounds like a good idea to me." He agreed. Butters puffed up like a piece of popcorn, (This simile made Bradley laugh softly to himself) looking even more pleased with himself.
"So." Butters began after another moment of silence. "How about you-"
He was cut off by the door opening.
"Hey son, your mother wants to know if your friend likes lemon chicken or spaghetti better." Mr. Stotch asked, poking his head around the door. His hair had grayed at the sideburns over the years, and his face had gained a few more wrinkles, but other then that, he still looked as he had seven years before.
Which is why recognition hit Bradley immediately and like a proverbial ton of bricks…only recognition neither knocked him out, nor killed him, as a ton of bricks actually would have. (Thank god for that, because without him, we wouldn't really have a story….)
You're kidding me… why do you hate me God, why?
"Hey, kid, you ok? You're looking a little pale…" Mr. Stotch said suddenly. Bradley blinked in surprise and realized that he was biting on his thumb again and that Butters was looking at him with a puzzled-slash-worried frown on his face. Bradley dropped his eyes and stared hard at the ground, feeling embarrassed.
"Oh, no, I'm-I'm fine." he muttered. "Uh, both are ok with me, it's whatever you guys want." He answered both questions. Glancing up, he gave both of them what he hoped was a reassuring smile. Mr. Stotch, he noted, was giving him a kind of odd look, but the older man seemed to shrug it off after a second.
"Ok, you boys get back to work. What do you want Butters?"
"Spaghetti is fine with me, Dad." The other blond replied. Mr. Stotch nodded and smiled at them both, leaving the room and closing the door behind him.
Now, let me pause the scene here to do some commentary for a brief moment. Bradley remembered the little episode at Camp "Pray the Gay Away" New Grace very well, as I have said before. After all, when you spend weeks in a brainwashing camp full of kids just dieing (hahaha, bad pun) to get out every hour or so, it tends to leave an impression, especially when you almost become one of the casualties yourself.
Therefore, it stands to reason that he would also remember the reason he didn't jump off of that bridge and end his life, as well as the (same) person who inadvertently put him there in the first place. (Unless you wanted to get technical. Then it was all his parent's faults.)
Oh yes, Bradley remembered Butters very, very well indeed, once again, as I have already told you. However, he had, by this time, thoroughly convinced himself that this Butters and the one that had convinced him not to jump off the bridge were two separate people, no matter hw similar they may have acted.
He couldn't really deny it anymore, however, since he did recognize Butters' father, and that was just one to many coincidences for him to logically keep up his denial.
Ok, we can un-pause the scene now, I just thought I would mention all of this.
Bradley realized that Butters had been talking to him and that he hadn't been paying attention.
"Sorry…could you-uh-repeat that please?" He asked as politely as he could. Butters tilted his head, looking for all the world like a lost little puppy.
"I said, do you have a memory you would like t-to share, or do ya want me at go first?" Bradley thought about this for a moment. He was pretty sure that Butters didn't recognize him, but then again, he had recognized Butters (kind of) and not said anything, so the opposite could just as easily have been true. He decided that testing this theory out wouldn't really hurt anything.
"I'll go first, if you don't mind…." he said slowly, lowering his thumb from his lips and focusing completely on Butters. The other blond gestured for him to continue, and Bradley, who had been standing the whole time, seated himself on the edge of Butter's bed.
"One year, when I was eight, almost nine, this older kid from my elementary school cornered me ad kissed me." He began bluntly, watching closely for Butters' reaction. Apart from looking surprised, though, the other blond didn't really react at all, so Bradley continued. He and I got into a kind of…relationship, I guess….you know how younger kids do…" Butters nodded his head. He remembered the Drama of elementary relatively well, including the soap opera that was often Stan Marsh and Wendy Testaburger.
"Well, one day, my parents happened to catch us. They decided that since they had caught my "problem" early, they could fix it by sending me off to this religious camp that was supposed to be for turning potentially gay boys…. "bi-curious" or whatever…. Into completely straight and good, Christian citizens." At this, he saw a flicker of recognition in Butters' eyes. "it was some place up in the mountains called "Camp New Grace." He added, nearly spitting out the words.
Me: I'm going to leave it there….I honestly don't like this chapter…..Please R&R and tell me how I can make it better, ok? Thank you to everyone who reviewed last time, btw :D I love you all, and you all deserve cookies!