This guy in the baseball cap, he had seemed more friendly than their brief encounter several months ago had warranted, and when he’d mentioned the party at Double-J’s, said Rune should come (he says anything ’bout you not having no invite, I’ll just tell him to go fuck himself), the teen’s instinct had been to say no he was busy, but the words formulated in his mind transformed into a monosyllabic utterance of “sure.” And he hadn’t realized why he’d suddenly changed course until he’d heard Jezz laugh at his joke while she sat back on the worn black leather sofa in Double-J’s apartment.

It wasn’t working. What he was doing, wasn’t getting him what he wanted, in any area of his life. Home, friends, fencing — even his grades had been slipping. He knew enough about Double-J’s friends to have a good idea of what to expect at the apartment, and while little of that had any appeal to him, at least it would be different. Yeah, that was it. Try something different, see if it would work for him. And the sound of Jezz’s laugh suggested that maybe he had finally something that would work out for him.

So he’d taken Jezz’s hand, taken a step with her towards the closed door of the back room, and that’s when Double-J had pounced on him, pummeled him with his fists, thrown him around the apartment. When he’d hurt his knee he’d balled up on the floor, heard Jezz’s sneakers squeak near his head, her voice loud above the blaring music, he’s had enough! He’d closed his eyes, focused on the sounds around him, heard only music; the door to the back room did not open. Then Double-J’s heavy footfalls, backing away. Get the hell out of here, Double-J’s gruff voice directed across at Jezz, not down at Rune. Jezz’s hand on his shoulder, his getting up, eyes catching the apartment’s front door and focused solely on that as he quickly exited, Jezz’s footsteps behind him.

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