‘Ghost Boys’ – A short fiction by Eloise Best
Devan was aware that his life was a mess; it was just important that no one else knew. The police disapproved of his lifestyle, which he had decided was reasonable enough but that didn’t mean he was going to stop. Not when there was nowhere to go. Not when nowhere was everywhere.
“Hey,” said a tacky voice behind him, “are you new?”
Devan turned and considered the speaker, she was tall and thin with a long, fake blonde braid running over one shoulder and her skirt was hitched up, revealing long, tanned legs. She frowned when she looked at his locker, and he smiled and nodded.
“My name’s Erin, I’m a prefect. You know you aren’t supposed to paint your locker, right? Has anyone given you a tour yet? Sorry, it’s just you…” she paused, tipping her head to the side and gesturing to his whole body, “don’t look like you know the rules.”
Devan smiled innocently and, looking her in the eyes, said, “Erin, dear. Please fuck off.” he made a shooing gesture and calmly called to her retreating form “Have a nice day!” He went back to smearing pink paint in thick layers over his locker with a brush leaving long trails running down the locker below.
When he was done, he walked backwards to admire his work and found himself pressed against a tall, athletic, caramel skinned boy, leaning against the opposite row of lockers in the otherwise empty corridor, his crossed arms stretching the dark fabric of his school jumper over his biceps. Devan made a show of languidly looking him up and down. Biceps raised an eyebrow.
“I’m pretty sure that’s not how you’re supposed to wear the uniform but I admire the attempt.” Devan shrugged, He was wearing an oversized school jumper at least, and black jeans.
“I think I’m going to wear the girl’s uniform tomorrow, change it up a bit, you know? I’d hate to become predictable.” This elicited a small laugh from Biceps. Devan opened his locker and pulled out a plastic packet full of glittery foam letters and stuck the letters that spelt his name on the locker, they each slid down a little in the wet paint. He threw the rest of the pack to Biceps who picked out a letter M and stared at it blankly. Devan looked at him quizzically “Hey, are you okay?”
Devan waited impatiently for Biceps to say something else, or give something away but he was completely indecipherable. After a while, peeling pink off his hands, he broke the silence: “Are you going to do something with that?”
Biceps smiled and looked meaningfully at the, now, mostly pink locker under Devan’s own “I would but someone’s stood in front of my locker.”
“Well howdy neighbour,” he said dryly, stepping to the side. “Is M all there is?”
“It’s Micah. Devan, right? I was sent to find you by our tutor. He’s going to fucking hate you.”
A month later when Micah saw Devan reclined on a red 1965 mustang convertible in its usual space in the carpark after school, sunglasses on, jumper ridden up revealing a small blue navel piercing watching the smoke circle up from a cigarette into the clouds when he stopped walking, pulled out his headphones and watched him. People fanned out from the school doors, making their way to their cars, yelling farewells to each other, occasionally whistling at Devan’s car. Or Devan. Micah didn’t know. The carpark slowly emptied leaving only a handful of cars, Micah, and Devan. Devan propped himself up on his elbows and slid his glasses up into faded coral hair, he eyed Micah suspiciously.
“Not running home today then?”
“I was going to but I saw you here looking all philosophical and thought you might want company.”
“Want a lift then? I didn’t steal this car to use it as a sunbed.”
Then he was sliding off the hood and climbed in, drivers side, without waiting for Micah to respond and yelled from the inside before slamming the door;
“You can keep me company if you keep wearing those leggings, track star.”
Micah rolled his eyes but climbed in the passenger door anyway.
He dropped his phone into the door pocket he shifted slightly in his seat so he could rest the side of his face against the seat and watch him drive.
“Did you steal the car?”
Devan laughed and looked at Micah ready to judge his reaction “No, but I stole the credit card I paid with.”
Micah nodded and closed his eyes. He opened them when he felt the car stop and saw Devan watching him fondly but there was something else in his gaze. Looking out the windscreen Micah saw his house ahead and shut his eyes again trying to melt back into the seat.
“The windows are tinted; they can’t see you.” Devan said, softly as he could.
“Drive. Please.” Micah tried not to let his voice shake but he had a feeling that Devan didn’t need telling. Tuesdays were always the worst at home, they meant he’d had a day to fuck up somehow. He pressed on a fading bruise in the crook of his elbow with his thumb and took a deep breath. Devan dropped a packet of cigarettes into his lap Micah flipped it open and saw it was only half full and fished a metal lighter out of the cup holder. With the cold corners of the lighter pressing into his palm and the soft sound of Devan’s breathing to his right, he shut his eyes again and slept. When his eyes opened all the way he saw was Devan’s wide grin and manic eyes as he announced: “We’re here!”
Devan half climbed, half fell out the driver’s door barely landing on his feet; Micah climbed out and stretched, popping his back, as he surveyed the hills and rolling farmland around them and Devan smiled appreciatively. Devan’s gaze drifted down and stared at Micah’s ass, “You had to kill the moment” Micah said, not really minding.
Devan made a dramatic tutting sound and muttered something that sounded like spoil sport but his cheeks were dusted pink. Devan hooked the back of a foot in the grill and resumed his previous position against the windscreen, shaking a cigarette from the box and holding it loosely between his lips, watching Micah watching him. Micah slid up and lay with his legs hanging off the front, head on Devan’s thigh watching Devan holding the cigarette, absently realising Devan must have picked the box out of his lap while he was sleeping. He passed Devan the lighter and watched as in a smooth motion lit the cigarette and took a long drag, sitting up a little so he was a little closer to Micah and they both pondered the consequences of Micah’s imminent return home in their heads. They stayed like that, quiet and comfortable until, eventually, Devan spoke: “You know you don’t have to go home right? There are a thousand schools and a million roads. I don’t understand how you can live like this, stagnant; its poison. Come with me.”
Micah looked at the sky, he knew Devan was running; he’d seen the cars mileage, he’d seen the blankets on the backseat and he’d seen the credit cards in the glovebox. He knew if he didn’t run with Devan he never would and if he didn’t run he wouldn’t live.
He made eye contact upside down and sighed, their lives were lies but Micah sought out the truth in moments like this.
“Wait for me. I can’t just leave. You know what happens so we find a way to film it, take photos or something. Then we run. We leave and disappear.”
His promise was thick in the air, tangible. It was like someone had written the words in the air, in the smoke that clung to Devan’s clothes, on Micah’s cold skin. Devan grabbed Micah’s hand and held it tightly in his.
“I’m holding you to that.” Micah squeezed Devan’s hand back.
Devan slid off the bonnet and pulled Micah down with him. They stood close and still with the headlights illuminating the hill around them, time stopped, nature was silent when Micah leaned down and gently pressed his lips to Devan’s. When they pulled apart, against the magnetic force trying to draw them back together, Devan spoke, lips almost too close to Micah to be bearable: “You don’t have to go.” Micah kissed him again.
“I know.” He let go of Devan’s waist and got in the car. Devan waited for the world to start spinning, dropped into the driver’s seat and started the engine. With a final glance at Micah, searching for any sign of regret, he put his foot down and they disappeared into the dust.
The next morning left nothing behind to suggest Micah was ever in this town, that he was ever real; except an envelope containing the photographic story of a boy who was never loved and the rumour of a man who was.