PRIDE

A high school student who was beaten up for bringing a male date to prom comes back to the  20 year reunion with revenge on the mind.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

Lisa put her freshly streaked hair that had been done earlier at the salon behind her shoulders and lowered her head.  She put the rolled up twenty bill to her nose and sniffed back the line of coke set out for her on the “50 Cent” Cd Case.  Her head came up, she threw it back and her blonde streaks fell softly on her shoulder.  In the mirror she could see Luca sitting on the hotel bed looking back at her.

“What are you looking at?” she asked defensively.

He smiled.  “You,” he said.  “You’re sexy.”

He was not the trim all-star athlete that he was in high school; his firm chest had deflated and his flat stomach now protruded under his black cotton V-neck. His distinguished jaw line had softened to the point it was hard to tell where his face ended and his neck began. But still, there was something charming about him.  His green eyes still twinkled in the light and his smile was still mischievous and inviting.

She ran her slender finger over the dusty remanence on the Cd case and put it in her mouth to suck on it.  “Perv…” she said, a smile half-cocked.

Luca licked his lips and in a playful tone said, “You know it.”

Just then the bathroom door swung open violently.  Mellissa stumbled out from the bathroom holding a bottle of wine in her hand and dropped onto the other twin bed.  Her dress sailed down slowly over her thick, milky thighs.   “Oh my god!” she cried out. “I am so drunk!”

Lisa scowled at her long time best friend.  “Slow your ass, bitch!” she warned. “We still have a reunion to go to…”

“I am so getting laid,” Melissa replied, squirming on the bed.

Marco sat on the corner of the bed flipping through their high school year book he had been glancing at between sips of his Bacardi forty-ounce.  “I don’t know, Mel,” he said.  “You’ve put on a lot of weight since the baby.”

She frowned and pulled her dress over her knees, embarrassed.  “Oh yeah?” she mocked.  “Well you’ve lost a lot of hair!”

This was not a lie and Marco knew it.  It wasn’t the first time someone from the old crew poked fun at him for it either.  He scrunched up his face and, in a very animated and unflattering way, mimicked how he thought she sounded.

“Shut up, you faggots,” said Luca.  He got up from the bed and made his way over to Lisa at the desk.  He massaged her exposed shoulders and said, “You’re starting to harsh my buzz…”

“I can’t believe it’s been twenty years,” Marco said, still flipping through the pages of their yearbook.  He stopped at a picture of Lisa and Mellissa at their prom.  “I don’t remember this picture,” he said.  “Where were we?”

Lisa released herself from Luca’s grasp and sat down beside Marco, snatching the yearbook from his hands.  She glanced at the picture.  “Oh,” she said with a sniffle.  “This was taken when you two were beating up that gay kid and his date.  What was his name?”

Luca turned from the desk.  “Raymond,” he answered.  A heavy silence hung over the room.

Melissa sat up on the bed, her head of curls spread out on the headboard as she leaned back.  “Shit,” she said, lost in her memories.  “You really fucked him up that night…”

Luca’s eye’s looked down at the “50 Cent” CD case.  He didn’t say anything.

Lisa turned to Marco.  “Didn’t you go to the Pride parade this year?”

Marco grabbed the yearbook from Lisa’s hands and shut it.  “Shut up, you cokehead.”

*******************************

A blue Volkswagen Beetle pulled into the front drive of St. Michael’s Catholic School.  It came to a slow stop and parked in succession behind a line of minivans and four-seat sedans.  Inside the Beetle sat Raymond Jackson and his partner Jeremy Wellington.  They watched the front entrance as couple by couple and group by group of penguin suits and night dresses trickled into their old high school.

“They look so nice,” said Jeremy.

Raymond took the keys out of the ignition and grinned, showing his pearl-whites.  “Not as good as us.”

Jeremy grinned. He had a point.  Those department store clearance sale rags had nothing on their matching Hugo Boss olive three-pieces.  But that was nothing new to the two. St. Michael’s had always been behind the ball.  Fashion, ethics, humanity.

Jeremy lit a cigarette and opened the glove box between his legs.  From inside it he pulled out a small black case about the size of a shoebox, wrapped in a red bow.  He handed it to his lover, watching for his reaction.  He would be the first to say that Raymond looked absolutely magnificent when he was pleasantly surprised.

“What’s this?” gasped Raymond.  As usual, he didn’t disappoint.

“A gift,” Jeremy replied.  He looked out his window up at the night sky.  “Full moon tonight.”

“Destiny, I suppose,” Raymond said.  He untied the bow and opened the box.  Another gasp followed.

His hand perched up and rested on his chest, playing faint.  He could feel the tears coming.  “You are the absolute best,” he whispered.  He reached in the case and pulled out a leather handled snub nose .38 with a chrome finish.  Sleek, compact, beautiful.

“It’s loaded,” said Jeremy.  He reached into the backseat and picked up his baby; a pink 9mm pistol.  He gazed upon it, every bit as in love with it as the day he bought it.  Now they both had one.

“It’s beautiful,” said Raymond, still admiring his gift.  He took a pause to lean in and kiss his lover on the lips.  “Thank you, Jeremy Wellington.”

Jeremy tucked his pink 9mm into the holster hidden under his olive suit jacket and checked his slicked ginger brush cut in the rear view mirror.  “Are you ready?”

Raymond nodded.  “For twenty years now.”

****************************

A paper banner stretched across the width of the freshly polished front foyer with “Welcome Class of ‘97” painted in big, bold letters.  Underneath it stretched a long line of St. Michael’s alumni looking around their old high school with fond memories as they waited to hand in their invitations and receive their nametags.  The mood was cheerful, buzzing with the excitement of those who rarely got a night out anymore.

At the ticket table, made up of two cafeteria benches pushed together, was Principal Malone.  Though remembered to most as a stern, joyless educator, tonight it seemed you couldn’t take the smile of his prune like face.  Age had humbled the old pupils, many of them just as wrinkled and bald now as he was.

Beside him sat one of the newer teachers just out of college, a sweet brunette by the name of Ms. Martin.  Though she was not old enough to have known the Reunionese, she couldn’t help but get swept away by their excited smiles and lavish formal wear.  One by one they handed off nametags and the students broke off into the cafeteria.  Raymond and Jeremy stood in line, exchanging polite nods and smiles with some of their old classmates.

“Everyone’s gotten so old,” whispered Raymond.

Jeremy squeezed his hip.  “Stop it. You’re terrible.”

As they stepped to the ticket table Principal Malone’s unbreakable smile went flat.  His eyeballs darted quickly to the clipboard with the guest list and they remained there, stuck on the paper.  When the principal finally stole a glance he was surprised that the two had not noticed him.  Their eyes were fixed on Ms. Martin, admiring her.

Raymond handed her his invitation.  “You are so pretty,” he said.

Ms. Martin blushed and handed them a pair of nametags.  “Oh, you’re just being nice,” she said.

“You look far too young to have been teaching when Raymond went to school here,” said Jeremy.

She bowed her head modestly, pulling on the sleeve of her fleece sweater.  “I’m just helping out,” she said.  “The school was a little short staffed.”

“How selfless,” said Jeremy, touched.

“The world needs more people like you,” said Raymond.  His eyes drifted over to Principal Malone who jumped in his seat like he had been caught peeping in a tree.  “Hello, Principal Malone,” smiled Raymond.  The principal nodded and quickly returned his eyes to the guest list in front of him.

“Have a great time, you two,” said Ms. Martin.

***********************

Inside the cafeteria was dark.  A revolving globe shot out color patterns across the walls, stars and moons and things like that.  The walls were lined with an assortment of streamers and balloons.  And while a few spirited guests had taken an early spot on the dance floor, most of those already inside had congregated in different spots along the cafeteria walls with their respective social circles of the past.  The football team was gathered on the opposite side, the cast of the play in another and a few of the old council found refuge by the stage.  In the far corner, a DJ booth had been set up where a younger man, a student perhaps, was intently focused on the glow of his laptop.

“Ugh. Matthew Good Band,” said Jeremy as they entered from the foyer.

“You know St. Michael’s loved its New Wave,” said Raymond.  “Long sleeve shirts under short sleeved shirts and a pair of Oakley’s.”

“Purple hair and Billabong,” Jeremy added with a gag.

A voice from behind them said, “Raymond! Wow! You haven’t aged a day!”

The two of them turned around.  Though he had lost most of his hair, Raymond had no problem recognizing Lindle Stratts, the old class clown.  Though he seemed humbled by age, the famous Lindle smile was very much intact.  How could Raymond forget that smile?  It was there in the locker room when the kids used to towel whip him and scream, “Raymond Gaymond!”   Lindle would join in, dancing around like a crazed Indian.  That very same smile was there looking down on him on Prom Night when Raymond lied on that very cafeteria floor bleeding.  Lindle bent over and screamed, “You got knocked the fuck out!” and then laughed with his distinct hyena-like cackle.  Such an exuberant smile that Lindle.

“It’s me, Lindle!” he said, pointing to his nametag.

Raymond smiled wide.  “Hey, Lindle! Long time!”

“Can you believe it’s been twenty years?” asked Lindle.  He pointed to his head.  “I sure can.”

The three of them shared a gentle laugh at his expense.

“Oh, how rude of me,” said Raymond.  He pointed to his date.  “This is Jeremy.”

Lindle looked up to Jeremy who had a good foot and a half on him and gave a small bow.  “Very nice to meet you,” said Lindle.

“A pleasure,” Jeremy replied.

There was a brief break in conversation and then Lindle said, “I really think it’s great; all the progress that has been made for the gay community.  You guys looks like a very happy couple.”  Then he laughed in his cackle-like way.  “Heck! Maybe I should be gay! It’s obvious the ladies aren’t taking!”

Raymond and Jeremy smiled politely.  Then Lindle’s smile faded and he became quite serious.  “I was kind of a dick to you in high school,” he said.  “I just want to apologize.  I’ve grown up.  I’ve seen how cruel the world can be and you didn’t deserve all that.  Sure, I was young.  But that’s no excuse.  I hope you can forgive me.”

Jeremy squeezed Raymond’s arm.  “Aw! He apologized. Isn’t that mature of him?”

*****************************

Marco and Luca stepped into the front foyer of St. Michaels followed by Melissa and Lisa, whom the door had almost closed on.  “Thanks for holding the door, asshole,” Lisa scoffed.

“Equal rights,” replied Luca. His eyes scanned his old stomping ground.  The best times of his life had been in that building.  He could not help but feel a dull sadness fall over him.

As they approached the ticket counter Principal Malone leant back in his seat and looked the four of them over with much content.  He shook his head, “Look at the four of you.  Still coming in late, smelling of reefer. I see not much has changed.”

Luca gave the old man a courtesy nod, glancing into the cafeteria where the celebration was in full swing.  “Hey, Mr. Malone. Long time.”

Lisa met eyes with the young woman sitting beside Principal Malone.  “Hi! Welcome!” said the woman.  “I’m Ms. Martin!”

Congratulations,” said Lisa.  She hated fake bitches.

********************

The four of them walked into the cafeteria to a popular Backstreet Boys single playing on the speakers, much like they had twenty years ago.  Back then the whole school turned to watch them enter.  Tonight there were only two.

“Look how fat everyone is,” noted Lisa, amused.

Marco gave Melissa a playful nudge.  “You’re not alone, Lis!”

She pushed back, less playfully.  “Fuck off, Marco! I’m serious!”

Luca paused from scanning the room to bark, “Will you two just fuck and get it over with?”

Just then Lindle Stratts came dancing over.  Luca, Marco and Lisa all groaned immediately.  Not Mellissa though.  She had always thought him cute in that wounded puppy sort of way.

“Hey, guys!” Lindle shouted over the music.

Mellissa was the only one to return the greeting.  “Hey, Lindle! How have you been?”

He pointed to his head.  “Oh, you know. A little older. A little balder.”

“Yeah, I noticed,” said Luca.  His eyes remained on the dancefloor, watching intently.  Then it happened. He met eyes with Raymond staring back at him from beside the DJ booth.

Lindle noticed the exchange and looked back at Luca.  “Yeah, Raymond Gaymond came,” he said with a little cackle.  “You guys aren’t going to beat him up again, are you?”

“Shut up, Lindle,” said Marco.  He turned to Mellissa.  “Let’s go see who’s around.”

She nodded and the two of them headed towards the football team near the far exit.  For a moment Lindle stood with Luca and Lisa but nothing was said and it became very awkward, very quickly and so Lindle said his goodbyes and went off to mingle some more.

“This party is lame,” said Luca, finally breaking eye contact with Raymond across the room.  Lisa didn’t disagree.  He smiled and gave her his attention.  Placing his hand on her hip he said, “I still got some coke. You want to do a line and fuck in the bathroom like old times?”

Now he had her attention.

Raymond and Jeremy watched from beside the DJ booth as Luca and Lisa headed out into the foyer and Marco and Melissa headed over to the old football team.  “Everyone’s here now,” said Raymond, casually sipping his punch.

Jeremy rested his plastic cup on the DJ’s table.  “Shall we begin?”

Raymond placed his cup down next to Jeremy’s.  “We shall.”

As the two of them started walking towards Marco and Mellissa and the football team Lindle Stratts appeared and stopped them in their stride.  “Hey guys, guess what?!” he said.  The two of them waited for a response.  It took a moment but then Lindle said, “I just requested the Macarena!  That’s Ricky Martin, right?  You like him, right?”

Raymond reached behind him, pushed aside his suit jacket and pulled out his new leather handled snub nose .38 with the chrome finish.  He pressed the gun against Lindle’s forehead and pulled the trigger.  A deafening blast rang out.  Lindle’s head flung back, splashing open. He collapsed to the floor like a marionette.  Heads turned.  Screams and shrieks followed.  Raymond and Jeremy stared down at Lindle Stratts body and exhaled, relaxed.

“God, he just goes on forever,” said Jeremy.

Raymond agreed.  “I know, right?”

**************************

Principal Malone had started to drift off into sleep right there in his chair when a sudden bang from inside the cafeteria woke him up.  The noise was followed by panicked screams and chilling cries.  He shot up in his seat, ripe with anger. He slid his seat from out underneath him and marched to the cafeteria, encouraging the young teacher beside him not to worry as it was probably just that prankster, Lindle Stratts, lighting off fireworks again.  Would these kids ever grow up?

As he marched towards the cafeteria three more bangs rang out.  The screams intensified.  Suddenly the cafeteria doors blew open and a stampede of penguin suits and dresses came storming out running frantically for the exit.  Their looks were haunting.  There were tears streaming down their cheeks. Principal Malone felt his stomach sink.  This wasn’t fireworks.

He entered the cafeteria and saw the body of Lindle Stratts bleeding out on the ground.  Two more bodies lied in the far corner.  By the time he saw Raymond’s date holding a pink pistol at the football team, Marco Helmsman and Mellissa Clarkinson it was too late.  An arm came from behind him and wrapped around his throat.  He heard the voice…it was Raymond Jackson, the homosexual.

“Principal Malone,” Raymond said into his ear.  His voice lacked its usual flamboyant inflection.  It was flat and cold like the steel the crazed homosexual had pressed against the back of his head.

Principal Malone spoke with a seldom heard shakiness in his speech, “You are in irreparable trouble, young man.”

“No,” said Raymond.  “The trouble is being handled.”

For a second Principal Malone broke and wept, but he caught himself quickly and regained his composure.  “You’re making a mistake,” he said.

“You let them beat me,” Raymond said back.  “Right here in this room twenty years ago.”

“Come off it,” said the principal.  “It was just a little bullying.”

“A bit?” Raymond returned.  He called over to the football team, “Hey! Remember Raymond Gaymond? Remember locking me in the bathroom with a stink bomb?”

The football team looked at their feet.  Jeremy glared at their cowardice, disgusted.  He pulled the trigger on his pink pistol and a black man in a letterman jacket dropped to the floor, dead.  Shot in the heart.  Then he shot one of the white boys.  Racial equality was very important to him.  Another one of the letterman jackets ran for the door.  Jeremy grinned.  He liked the runners.  With precision aiming he pulled the trigger and the bullet whizzed through the back of the coward’s head.  He dropped to the floor just short of the door.

By this point Principal Malone was blubbering like a baby where he stood.  Raymond was embarrassed for him. He was disgusted by how someone who portrayed themselves as so strong could become so desperate so quick in the face of danger.  It reminded Raymond of his father earlier that night. Right before Raymond stuck a kitchen knife through his throat.

“Relax,” said Raymond.  “I’m not going to shoot you…”

“Oh, thank you!” sobbed the principal.  “You are a good man, Raymond.”

Raymond reached behind him and from out his slacks slid out the bloody kitchen knife he had used to get rid of his father.  “Oh, I don’t know about that…” he sighed.  He drove the knife deep into Principal Malone’s back.  First once, then again, and then another, and then again.  The more he pierced the skin, the easier the blade sunk into the flesh.  Principal Malone coughed up a ball of blood and collapsed, uttering one final death murmur before he expired.

Those who had not escaped the cafeteria, too scared to run, screamed out in terror at the sight of Raymond’s blood soaked hands.  Jeremy watched; proud of his lover.  Raymond smiled and ran his crimson fingers under his eyes, staining his face with the principal’s blood like war paint.  He looked up to his former peers and pointed.  “Each one of you is responsible for this,” he said, looking each and every one of them in the eye while he spoke.  “There are those who deserve this more than others but you all let it happen.  The way you stood back, much like you are now, the way you watched us be terrorized, the way you sat silent and thankful that it wasn’t you they were coming for…” Raymond laughed and licked the blood from his index finger.  “Well, I’m here now,” he said.  “And I’m coming for you…”

While Jeremy was distracted Marco leaped forward and swung a hard right that connected beautifully with the gunman’s jaw, sending him twisted to the floor. The pink pistol went sliding out of reach.  Without a moment’s hesitation Marco bolted for the doors.  From across the cafeteria Raymond fired off two shots at him from his snub nose, but he missed and Marco escaped into the halls.  Mellissa was now all alone.  She decided that she too was going to make a run for it.  But by the time she had reached the doors Jeremy had gotten back to his feet and his pink pistol was back in his grip.  He grabbed her by her frizzy curls and she screamed.  “Please!” she begged.  “I have a son!”

His face remained still and unbothered as he raised the pistol to her temple and pulled the trigger.  The shot rang out and screams followed.  Even as the side of her head blew open and blood spackled across his face, Jeremy barely blinked.  He watched her on the floor for a moment and then looked back up to his lover across the room—proud.

But Raymond was not happy.  He pointed to the doors and, in a voice almost unrecognizable, growled, “Get him! Now!

***************************

Luca opened the door to the janitor’s closet and took a peek out into the hallway to see if the coast was clear while Lisa shimmied up her panties between a shelf of toilet paper and a shelf of Windex and Drain-O.  “Did you hear that?” asked Luca.

“What?” replied Lisa.

“I heard banging,” he said.

She laughed.  “Duh…”

He spun his head back to her and glared.  “Quit fucking around.  I’m serious.”

Just then Marco came whipping around the corner at full speed.  His face was pale and shining with perspiration.  The terrified look in his eyes made the hairs on the back of Luca’s neck stand up.  “What the hell is wrong with you?” asked Luca.

Marco came to a squeaking halt.  “We gotta get the fuck out of here!” he ordered.  He had tears in his eyes.  Marco never cried.

Lisa exited the janitor’s closet and closed it shut.  She fixed her hair and joined the boys.  “Calm the fuck down, Marco. Geeze,” she said, glancing at her watch.

Marco continued, “He killed them! Lindle, the football team, Principal Malone—“

Luca grabbed him and gave him a shake.  “Who? Who killed them?”

“Raymond!” Marco shot back.  “Him and his date are shooting everybody! We gotta get the fuck out of here! Come on!”

Luca’s eyes became focused.  The reality of what he was being told settled in.  He grabbed Lisa by the hand and pulled her towards the doors leading out to the foyer.  “Come on, let’s go.”

Marco didn’t move.  “Where are you going?” he asked.  “They’re out there! Let’s go out through the teachers’ parking lot!”

“We’re parked out front,” Lisa snapped.

“Who gives a fuck?” Marco answered.  “We need to get out of this building now!”  He shook his head and waved it off.  “Whatever. Fuck it. I’m out…”   Then he turned his back and took off around the corner.

Down the dimly lit stretch of lockers he ran, passed the vending machines, passed the attendance office, and passed the trophy case.  He pulled opened the first set of doors to the stairwell. Through the doors leading to the staff parking lot he could see the red and blue’s flashing on police cruisers racing into the property.  The shrill pitched whine of their sirens was music to his ears.  He smiled, relaxed and walked passed the stairwell, throwing open the doors to the parking lot.  A cool breeze splashed against his face.  He was home free.

“Hold it right there,” said a voice behind him.  The command was followed the click of a safety being disarmed.  The voice was familiar; flamboyant and terrifying.  Marco slowly turned around to see Raymond’s date holding a pink pistol to his head.

The doors to the police cruisers flung open and out came the officers, guns drawn.  “Freeze, asshole!” yelled one of the uniformed men.

“You shoot him, we shoot you!” hollered another.

Raymond’s date smiled, winked at Marco and said, “Worth it.”  Then he pulled the trigger and put a bullet through Marco’s head.  The police fired back and put six quick holes into the gunman.  He and Marco hit the concrete at the same time, sprawled out under a lamplight in a pool of their own blood.  The night was quiet once again.

***************************

Luca and Lisa carefully stepped out into the foyer.  Across the hall the cafeteria doors were open, the strobe globe was still spinning, the music was still blaring, but no one was in there.  Seeing the coast was clear, they made a break for the front entrance.  Lisa ran in those high heels like she had done it before.   That’s when Raymond stepped out from behind a column, his snub nose .38 pointed right at Luca’s head.   Luca and Lisa stopped in their tracks and Lisa immediately broke into tears.  “Please, Raymond,” she begged.  “Don’t do this…”

Raymond didn’t respond.  His eyes stayed glued to Luca as he said, “I’ve been waiting for this moment for twenty years…” His thumb brought down the hammer on the gun.  His aim remained steady.

Luca started to cry.  A sight not Raymond or Lisa had ever seen before.  He was a blubberer.  It was hard to watch.  “I’m sorry, okay?” he sobbed.  “Please….Please don’t…I’m sorry…”

A grin stretched across Raymond’s blood speckled face.  “There’s the fear! Not a very good feeling is it, to be scared?  Welcome to my world, Luca.  Now it’s your turn to feel what I felt.”  He took a step closer.

 

Lisa grabbed on to Luca, burying her head in his chest.  They both had completely lost control, crying like infants.  The words “stop” and “please” could be heard though their tears.  Raymond found joy in their despair.  But, as he was focused on them, he failed to notice the young teacher who had volunteered to help with the event, Miss Martin, sneak up behind him with a fire extinguisher clutched in her hands.   She raised the heavy red cylinder over her head and brought it down hard on Raymond’s crown.   Raymond fell to his knees. Miss Martin looked at the two hostages and yelled, “Run!”

Without hesitation, Luca and Lisa obliged.  They were out the front door in seconds.

Raymond got to his feet and pointed his weapon at the young teacher.  “Why? Why would you do that?”

She raised her hands as a white flag.  “I’m sorry,” she said.  “I’m not homophobic, I swear. But…It’s not right.  Murder is wrong.  You’re better than that.  You’re better than them.”

Raymond stared at her.  Or perhaps through her.

“Please don’t kill me…” she whispered.

Raymond clicked back into reality and smiled.  “Come on now, sweetheart. I’m not a monster.”  Then he pointed the gun under his chin and squeezed down on the trigger.

“No!” screamed Miss Martin.  But it was too late.  The blast rang out, a stream of blood shot up to the ceiling and Raymond fell to the floor under the “Welcome Class of ‘97” banner, dead.

The End

 

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