Take me back

Sol Fitzroy?!12-2020, 2000 words

High school

At times like these, Sol was glad he'd taken Chet's hand.

His parents were being investigated for fraud and they hadn't even bothered to tell him. Sol found out like everyone else: through the news. He was only a little bitter about it.

The school was alight with rumours. Even if his classmates were equally rich and powerful, there was something about the fact that everyone had a can of Fitzroy's tomato soup in their kitchen. With the pleasure of bystanders at a train wreck, they waited for him to break.

The only person who didn’t give a shit was Chet and that made him the best friend Sol had ever had.

It helped that Chet’s expectations were painfully low. He was happy if Sol invited him over on Sundays and let him eat all the snacks. And he ate an obnoxious amount of chips, usually without asking. That was fine - Sol didn’t like chips but he did like Chet's company.

Now Chet was sitting cross-legged across from him, showing Sol his phone. "The stocks are going down," he said.

Sol didn't understand a single thing on the screen, but he knew Chet was talking about Fitzroy Foods. "What did you expect?" he told Chet. "My parents are going to be arrested."

Chet shrugged, turning his attention back to the phone. "It's too bad. I was gonna buy some, you know, as a friend thing." He grinned. "By the time you became the boss, I'd have enough for a takeover."

Sol found that funny. Sure, he was the official heir but he wouldn't be surprised if his parents had another child hidden away, someone smarter and better than him. Besides, the way things were going, there was a chance the company wouldn't even make it to the next year. He told Chet this and he laughed.

"So what's gonna happen to you?" Opening a bag of chips, he offered one to Sol, who shook his head.

Truthfully, Sol didn't know the answer. "My parents can't pay tuition in jail," he said. It sounded awfully blunt, even to himself.

"Sucks," Chet said. He took another chip and crunched. "Wanna fuck shit up before you go?"

Sol eyed him warily. He was eating his chips with too much relish.

The smart thing would've been to say no. But as always, being around Chet made Sol's head empty in a nice, floaty sort of way.

"Let me think about it."

Not that he wanted to cause trouble, but it was hard to say no when Chet was grinning like that. At least Sol could say his friend was a terrible influence.

Lyon Fitzroy was a distant cousin. Until now, Sol had never known they existed.

But these were strange times, and strange times involved going to live with a cousin whom you barely knew. Not that Sol was moving out just yet - it was a “worst-case scenario” kind of thing. Somehow or other, his cousin had gotten his number and offered a place to stay in case the court proceedings went sideways. They sounded confident that it would.

For now, he was only "getting to know" Lyon. Their words, not his.

They promised to pick him up after school and as they pulled over, smiled from behind heart-shaped glasses.

“Hey there, little cousin,” they said, exuding metropolitan charm, and Sol could tell why Lyon was a distant cousin. There was something about them that didn't fit with the Fitzroys Sol knew - Lyon lacked the arrogance, the edge that bordered on ruthlessness. Their smile was too warm, like it was how they really felt.

Sol had a feeling the years without contact weren’t mere coincidence.

Their cousin took him to a café whose prices were below anything Sol was used to and asked about him with an interest that must’ve been fake. They made small talk with ease, smiled at the right moments, and laughed with him, not at him. They were being perfectly nice and for some reason, this made Sol harden his face and straighten his back.

Lyon was the exact opposite of his family, so different that Sol doubted if they were even related. If Sol was used to quiet mansions and people who never spoke, then Lyon was the city slicker who chatted with strangers on the subway. If Sol buttoned his uniform as high as he could, then Lyon wore puffy shirts that were garishly stylish.

Even if his family looked at him with cold eyes, even if he was on the track to be disowned too, Sol was still a Fitzroy. They were both black sheep but at least Sol still belonged. He wasn’t a very good heir but he was still the heir. And what did this Lyon have?

Sol wanted to leave.

He kept his face cold, his replies short and cutting, and by the end, Lyon left with disappointment on their face.

Well, that was fine.

His parents never spoke to him anymore but that made sense. They had bigger things to worry about than some kid, namely the fact that court proceedings weren’t going well. His classmates still whispered about him, growing bolder with each grim headline on the papers. Lyon continued to bother him, sending him nice texts and well-wishes that Sol deleted right away.

Between everything, Chet was the closest person Sol had.

Sometimes Sol wondered if Chet felt the same. It was hard to tell - he was a hard guy to read. Whenever Sol thought he understood him, Chet would do something or say something or just laugh, and Sol would find his understanding shattered. Maybe it was because Sol could never be like him. Chet was a problem child, a troublemaker, even a delinquent, but he did it all with such joy.

Compared to him, Sol might as well have been a statue. He couldn’t even come up with a plan for his final send-off, even though Chet was asking.

To be fair, it wasn’t that he didn’t want to cause problems. Something was simmering inside of him, a feeling that only became stronger the more time he spent around Chet. Maybe this was why kids got tattoos and piercings and ran around smashing buildings.

But Chet was the one who loved life, not him. To quote his elementary school art teacher, Sol was "lacking in imagination." He wasn’t a great thinker and he really couldn’t give a good answer to anything. And now Chet was asking him for ideas!

Sol thought harder.

He settled on telling Chet he'd cheat on a test or steal someone's gym clothes or something equally troublesome.

Chet grinned but it was only muscle movement. "Come on Sol, don't you have any imagination? Do you want to go out with a bang or a whimper?"

There was nothing else Sol could say. He told Chet this was all he had.

Chet looked disappointed. It was the same face Lyon had at the end of their meeting. Sol was already used to disappointing strangers but he was getting used to this too.

For some reason, he let Lyon strong-arm him into another meeting. Not that he had much of a choice - his parents’ arrests were inevitable. No matter how much money they threw at the judge, they were looking at jail time. Public opinion demanded it.

Lyon asked how he felt about it in that nice, cousinly way of theirs. Sol refused to answer. There were some things he’d never share with anyone. Lyon wouldn’t get it, anyway.

That seemed fine with them. Lyon smiled, bought him another frappuccino, and changed the topic. It was such a graceful move, one they would’ve loved in high society. Sol should’ve been thankful but instead, he felt sick.

At that moment, Sol realized he hated being pitied.

Now he knew why Lyon was so patient with him. Why they seemed so kind and accepting, but looked at him like he was a cornered rat. All along, they had felt sorry for him.

Poor Sol Fitzroy, whose parents were going to jail. Sure, they deserved it, but what would happen to their kid? He couldn’t be left all alone in that cold house. Someone had to step up and take him in.

He’d been as unpleasant as possible and all it did was make Lyon more sympathetic. It was something that genuinely nice people did, and Sol didn’t like it.

Sol had thought he was better than Lyon but it turned out to be the opposite. His pride was irrevocably bruised, but he kept that to himself. He looked down at his frappuccino and let Lyon keep talking.

When he actually listened, Lyon was sort of pleasant.

Sol found himself wanting to change. He wanted to do something, to break free of disappointment and restraint. He wanted maybe, to be more like those two.

It was a simple but horrible plan. Sol had no idea how he thought of it.

Pretending to be the principal, he managed to get a wholesaler to deliver a truckful of frozen tuna to the school. It was ridiculously simple to impersonate the man, but maybe that was because he’d promised to pay a premium.

Then he found the pipes, jammed something down, and flooded the entire place.

There was at least an inch of water in the halls and it was steadily growing as Chet came back with a box full of tuna. Without any hesitation, he raised his arms and let the fish loose.

Soon, people were screaming. Students came out of class to wet pants and soaked shoes. Teachers tried and failed not to slip on the fish. Rancid water splashed everywhere, and the principal looked like he was going to burst a vessel.

Behind him, Chet was cackling.

Sol’s uniform was ruined but he barely noticed. He was going to get caught but he didn’t care. He would probably be expelled but that was fine. If life was going to be weird and absurd, then he was going to throw a fish at it.

Sol couldn't help it. He smiled.

Then he grabbed Chet's hand and ran.

They stopped in the middle of the road, gasping for breath as they looked back at the school. Sol hoped they were still dealing with the fish. He hoped they wouldn't find a way to clean the halls for a week at least. He hoped the pipes were broken permanently.

He hoped his parents wouldn’t go to jail. He hoped his cousin would stop bothering him. He hoped things would be alright, that he could take the good feeling from today into the future.

What else was there to hope for?

Flushed with success, Chet stood in front of Sol. He was laughing, hair still wet and plastered to his face. Like Sol, his uniform was ruined but he didn’t seem to mind. With that cocky smile on his face, he looked like he was having the time of his life.

I made him smile like that, Sol thought and felt dizzy. There was still a respectable distance between them, and he was suddenly aware that he could close it.

Well, whatever. He was already being reckless today. He stepped forward and with a dry mouth, waited for Chet to react.

Chet was a smart guy. He got the drift and grinned, showing his teeth. For better or worse, he looked up at Sol with a glint in his eye. The sharpness of his expression promised great risks - and great rewards. It was a challenge, and he raised an eyebrow, waiting for Sol.

Sol didn’t back down, not this time. He moved closer, inhaling sharply as a hand reached out to grab his collar.

"Lean down," Chet said. Then he pulled Sol forward and kissed him.

Life was weird. His parents were going to jail, his cousin pitied him, and he was going to get expelled.

But Chet Chester was kissing him.

And right now, that was all Sol needed.