Disclaimer: the poem is 'Richard Cory' by Edwin A. Robinson, thus, not mine.
WARNING: for non-explicit rape, character death, angst, and suicidal themes.
Staring. Everyone was staring at Shawn. Granted, he was staring at Shawn as well. But he was allowed to; he was Shawn's best friend and he was worried. Gus didn't know why everyone else was staring at Shawn though, because they weren't Shawn's best friend. They were strangers, every one of them. Maybe they weren't strangers to Mr. Spencer, but just because they knew him didn't mean they knew Shawn.
The officers shook Shawn's hand, told him how brave his father was, and said how he'd be sorely missed. These were the same bastards that talked about the case during Mr. Spencer's wake, about the pistol that was still missing. The same people that didn't care if Shawn heard that some asshole could be out killing people with his father's gun. How dare they act like they care about Shawn's pain.
They weren't the ones who held Shawn's hand when the gunshots fired at the funeral, they didn't feel him jump at every bang. And they weren't there before the funeral to see him trying to knot his tie with shaking hands; hear him make a painful joke about dressing up voluntarily and his dad wasn't even here to see him. They were strangers.
Even the ex-Mrs. Spencer (Anna, she says to call her now). She doesn't know Shawn any more. Almost three years since she last saw him, and she comes back trying to act all motherly. Gus can't help but hate her slightly for it. She comes back the day of the funeral, completely ignores that Shawn's seventeen years old and that he's been staying with Gus and his family for more than a week, and tries to tell him that he'll be coming home with her now.
Shawn just shrugged and didn't bother to answer back, and that scares Gus more than the thought of losing his best friend to Anna.
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean-favoured and imperially slim.
Gus thanks every God ever created by human society that Anna let's Shawn finish the two months of their junior year. It's not much, but it's two more months with his best friend. He's not sure why Shawn wanted to go back to school though, because every where they go, whispers and stares follow. The teachers look at him with pity, and the students with interest. And, to Gus, it feels like the funeral all over again. Everyone's staring at Shawn.
Everyone always stares at Shawn, and Gus has gotten used to it because Shawn always made everyone stare at him. But this was entirely different because Shawn wasn't making them, and they were still staring, and Shawn... Shawn was still just Shawn. This Shawn was no different than the pre-Henry-Spencer's-death Shawn.
"Shawn, you know it's okay to... I mean, after all that's happened, you can..." Gus was at a loss, because he'd never dealt with death before, and he didn't think kids their age were suppose to.
Shawn gave Gus a look that was half understanding and half condescending. "Gus, it's alright. I'm fine."
"You can't just be fine Shawn! I'm not! Not after all this, not when your mom is going to take you away in two months. You can't just miraculously be-"
"Gus!" That was quite possibly the first time Shawn's ever yelled at him. Shawn took a deep breath, and his voice was normal when he spoke again. "I miss him. More than I thought I would, more than I thought I could, I do. But he's dead, and there's nothing I can do about that. Everyone seems to think I'm in denial or shock, but I'm not. I'm completely aware of the situation and I've accepted it Gus. I'm fine."
Gus believed him, and so did everyone else. He repeated the phrase over again, with a sad smile, to all his teachers and all his friends, and they all believed him. If Shawn says he's fine, then he's fine, they all thought. Becuse people always believe what Shawn says.
It scares Gus that Shawn didn't change when his entire world was flipped.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good Morning!" and he glittered when he walked.
It wasn't the first time Shawn's lied. Three days later a football jock's nursing a broken nose, Shawn bruised knuckles, and Gus is one part shocked, one part angry, and two parts worried. The other two end up in the principal's office, but no matter how much Gus begs, the teachers won't let him go with Shawn.
About fifteen minutes later, Gus spots Shawn outside his English class. He raises an eyebrow at Shawn, and his best friend holds up a yellow pass and mouths 'Guidance Counselor' through the door's window. Gus is torn between sighing in relief and wincing in sympathy, so he just shrugs his shoulders instead.
"Mr. Guster!" He glances quickly from the door, to the teacher, and answers with a slightly forced 'yes'. "Would you please explain the irony in this week's poem."
Gus sneaks a peek back at the door, but Shawn's already gone, before looking at his open textbook. And Richard Cory, one calm summer night, Went home and put a bullet in his head. "Well, everyone thinks that Richard Cory is like the perfect man. He's nice, handsome, charming, has a lot of money, and they all want to be him. But it turns out he's incredibly depressed and, on a day when everything seems normal, he goes home and commits suicide. Irony."
The teacher nodded to him, satisfied, before going back to the lecture. Gus tried to pay attention, he really did because he hates being a bad student, but he couldn't stop thinking about those last two lines of 'Richard Cory'.
Shawn stays in the counselor's office for the remaining two hours of the school day and doesn't talk to Gus as they walk home. He does drag Gus back to his place and takes the decanter of scotch that Anna bought the day she came back. Shawn finishes off the half full bottle by himself, because Gus refuses to touch the stuff. As Shawn lays sprawled across his bed, bottle laying forgotten on the floor, staring at the ceiling, Gus stares at Shawn from his seat in the beanbag chair five feet away.
It scares Gus that Shawn can drink that much liquor and not be unconscious, and it makes him wonder what else he doesn't know about his best friend.
And he was rich, yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine -- we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
"Gus, you still a virgin?" Shawn asks in his inebriated state, still on his bed.
His eyebrows raised at the very random, and very personal, question. "Yeah Shawn, you know I am."
Shawn runs a hand tiredly over his face and takes a deep breath. "I'm not."
"What?" The shock is evident in his tone, and the hurt in his face. Thankfully, Shawn's not looking at him, though Gus is sure he wouldn't even notice in his current state.
"Well, it's not like I wanted to," Shawn says indignantly, then shrugs like it's no big deal.
But the hurt was swept away from Gus' face, and now he's looking at Shawn in horror and pain, and if he's honest a little anger. How could Shawn have kept something like this from him? "Wait, what do you mean 'you didn't want to'?" Shawn continues to stare at the ceiling, and Gus' anger grew, but not at his best friend. "Shawn?" He asks more forcefully.
Shawn rolls over onto his side, facing Gus. "I don't know, just... Kay, you remember that party I went to like two months ago? Well, I might've gotten a tinsey bit...drunk. And there was this chick, I forget...whatsherface, you know?" Gus didn't know, but he knew Shawn was lying, because even drunk he didn't forget things. "Well, anyway, I was over in the corner 'cause I got a little dizzy and whatsherface came over. And she started groping me and stuff, and I told her to stop, I swear I did. But then she, you know," Shawn made a vague hand gesture, then elaborated at Gus' stare. "She went ahead with it anyway."
"She raped you?"
Gus felt like he was in shock, and could do nothing more than stare at Shawn's response. "Pssh. Guys don't get raped, 'specially not by girls. Guys just get fucked."
When he woke up at ten the next morning, Gus confronted him. At first Shawn tries to laugh it off like he does every other damn thing, but after twenty minutes of pushing and yelling, he broke. Shawn still didn't tell him who did it, but he admitted to it at least. It was a step, Gus thought. A small step, but one all the same. He was sworn to secrecy by Shawn, but only on the condition that Shawn would keep seeing the guidance counselor at school.
As the weeks went by, Gus started to believe Shawn when he said that he was fine. He thought Shawn's smiles looked less fake, he thought Shawn's eyes had gained back some of their light, he thought that maybe Shawn really will be fine. Until one night, when Gus thought about Henry Spencer's pistol that was never found, and the last two lines of 'Richard Cory', and how it scared Gus that Shawn was so good at hiding things.
So on we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet in his head.