Toxic Bad Boy(3)

By: April Brookshire


After lunch Ian and I parted ways. “Have fun in arts and crafts therapy, Caleb!”

“It’s art class, dumbshit!” I called out after his retreating back.

The well lit art classroom held boys aged twelve to seventeen. The easel I’d claimed as mine was set up next to a kid around thirteen. The little brat had better not copy off me again. The room smelled of paint and chemicals. It brought memories of watching my mom work in her studio when I was younger.

Ms. Singh, an art professor from the University of Denver, came in twice a week to do volunteer work with us troubled youth. The guard stood at the closed door and escorted her in and out of the facility, making me feel like Hannibal Lecter.

I didn’t feel as if I posed a danger to art professors or society in general. Just Josh Larsen and anyone else who dared lay a finger on the girl I loved.

I’d quickly become Ms. Singh’s favorite pupil. Not that there was much competition. The little punk next to me liked to paint stick figures having sex.

At the end of the hour, Ms. Singh surveyed my progress. “Amazing, Caleb. You have a natural talent.” Her gaze moved to the stick figure painting next to mine. The disgusted expression on her face was priceless. With a flick her flowing skirts, she drifted to where the guard stood. “See you all tomorrow.”

I encountered Ian on the way to my next elective, health class, where he’d just gotten out of. I knew this time of day was when he met with the psychiatrist and I couldn’t resist mocking him. “Have fun talking about your daddy issues.”

Strutting past me, his shoulder bumped against mine. “At least I don’t have an Oedipus complex about my stepmom.”

“Narcissus.”

“What’s your point, Caleb?” At least he could admit it. He turned a corner and I thought back to our first fistfight. We’d been scrawny middle schoolers fighting over something so stupid I couldn’t remember it. After years of antagonism and altercations we were almost friends.

In health class we were shown pictures of people with STDs. What a joy. I’d completed ninth grade health class and been through the lecture. I bit back laughter at the young kid whose eyes bugged out during the slides. Damn, they were gonna make him too scared to lose his virginity.

Looking at the kid, it amazed me I’d had sex for the first time around his age. A scrawny girl around thirteen sat at the front of the class and I pictured what Gianna looked like at that age. The female inmate was just a little girl, but with the background these kids had, most of them would already be sexually active. Although I’d been like them in that aspect, my home life had been relatively sheltered. I was grateful my girl’s had been even more so.

But that’d been shattered when Josh attacked her. Something he’d continue to pay for after they released him.

For now, he was in the same wretched position as me. He’d be locked up for a lot longer, which provided a modicum of pleasure. A decade in prison wouldn’t have been enough punishment for the fear, pain and feeling of violation he’d caused her.

Despite my resolve to remain strong, it was hard not to feel sorry for myself. Being locked up for ten months sucked and I still had nine more to go. The judge had been a bastard for making our sentence mandatory. A non-mandatory sentence could’ve seen me out of here earlier.

My release date seemed so far away and engendered a hopeless feeling I constantly fought back. I felt sorrier for Ian. At least my parents cared about me. My mom and dad had visited me twice in the past month. Together, which was a trip, since they’d done little together since the divorce.

Ian’s dad rarely answered when he called. After going through the motions without leaving a message, Ian used the rest of his phone time to call ex-girlfriends. I’d passed by once as he was on the phone and he’d been talking dirty to some chick.

I’d gagged.

At night I sometimes dreamt about Gianna. In one dream we were tagging. Like the time we’d almost got caught, except in my dream we did get caught and arrested by the cops. Gianna and I sat on a curb, handcuffed but laughing our asses off until Julie showed up breathing fire, literally.

In another dream we took off to Vegas again, but this time to get married. The oddest part was that Hailey was the person officiating the wedding, dressed in an Elvis costume. In my dream Hailey had beamed down at us, cheerfully admitting she’d been wrong about Gianna not sticking it out with me.

I’d woken from the dream feeling mixed emotions. I’d marry Gianna one day, but we were nowhere near ready for marriage. Hailey sure as hell wouldn’t be invited.

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