Copper On Our Hands

Submitted into Contest #112 in response to: End your story with a character standing in the rain.... view prompt

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Fiction LGBTQ+ Sad

CW: blades, blood, vague mentions of homophobia, explicit language, mentions of xenophobia.

Behind an ivy-covered wall outside the dorm building of the Edgar Sinnett Institute for Young Men. That’s where Ric stood. 

A cigarette held between his middle and index finger, his shirt collar unbuttoned to a level that the teachers would call inappropriate and his green and black school tie nowhere to be found. He remembered shoving it into his chest of drawers after Games and hadn’t cared enough to put it back on. If Mr. Sinnett or any of the other teachers were to see him, they would have had a fit. It would be into the headmaster’s office straightaway for inevitable punishment – most likely three weeks detention and a smack upside the head with his own shoe, the sting of the tough rubber lingering for the rest of the week at least. 

At his old school, his teachers wouldn’t have bothered reprimanding him. By the time he left, they’d given up on Ric a long time before and he probably would have gotten off without a detention. 

Not that he would have gone anyway. 

They tried to save the detentions for the bigger things – talking back to the teachers, vandalism, violence and the like – because by then punishing the smaller incidents seemed pointless.

The bigger things were what led Ric to where he was now. 

A stinking hot Tuesday in late May, 1980.

Ric had managed to escape his maths class. 

He could feel the sweat trailing down his back under the starched cotton of his shirt. A warning, of sorts, that he shouldn’t be out here. That the teachers could take one look at him and know where he’d been. Know who he was waiting for. Smell the guilt dripping off of him like they were bloodhounds. Ric could imagine his skin in their teeth, their words in his blood, as they ripped him to shreds. What was left of him would be thrown to the boys, gnawed and torn and fought over until he covered every inch of the dormitory floorboards. 

Ric was bloody well terrible at metaphors.

With everyone in their lessons, pouring their brains out over books and smudged ink, the school grounds had an eerie stillness to them. It was times like these that he almost missed his sister. But, of course, she was back in London. They hadn’t spoken in months, not even by letter. 

“Is that you, Ricky?” The sharp drawl of a voice called from somewhere nearby. 

Michael Solomon. 

Ric supposed they could be classed as best friends. 

He wasn’t quite sure. That’s what Sol always told him they were. But he’d never had a friend before, let alone a best one. 

Sol said that they were the same, him and Ric. Nobody liked them. Ric was the fresh meet, a baby bird to the school, and Sol was that catholic bastard who needed to go back to his own country. That was the stupid part, in Ric’s opinion. He always found Sol’s gravelly Northern Irish accent nice.

“Depends. If you’re really Mr. Sinnett in disguise, then no.” 

Sol rolled his eyes, pretending not to be amused, and joined Ric where he was leaning against a wall. 

Please. Ol’ Sinny wouldn’t stoop so low. He won’t admit it but he’s intimidated by you. Probably doesn’t want to get a chair thrown in his face.”

A smile tugged the edge of Ric’s mouth. 

“That was one time.”

Sol plucked the cigarette from Ric’s fingers, taking a drag. “One time enough for you to be sent here.”

He grazed his eyes over Sol as he blew the smoke up into his own face, a grey cloud getting caught in his blonde curls, drifting past his blue eyes. 

“At least I’m not a delinquent like you are.” Ric tried to tease, but his voice came out just that little bit too soft. The kind of soft that tore him open, leaving everything inside him free to view. 

Sol stared at him. 

His own eyes dragged over Ric’s face. 

Another cloud of grey was blown out, this time onto Ric’s own skin. Rather than blonde and blue, it tangled in his muddy hair, hopped along freckles on white, stung his brown eyes so much that it left him wanting to blink. 

He didn’t.

“We’re all delinquents here, Ricky,” Sol drawled, “At least we have each other,”

Ric didn’t know what that meant.

He never knew.

Sol placed the cigarette back between Ric’s parted lips. 

“Come on,” he then said, suddenly full of perk as he sat down on the patch of grass opposite the wall, “Look at what I’ve got.”

Sol pulled a tidy sized box from his pocket. A radio, Ric realised, as he placed it onto the same grass that they both now sat. He rolled up his sleeve with one hand as he turned the dial, Ric watching from the side-lines, and a grin grew on his lips when the music crackled into the air.

“That’s not yours.” Ric near laughed, recognising exactly who the little radio belonged to.

“Matty had it coming, damn bastard,” Sol shrugged it off, rolling up his other sleeve and pulling out his pen knife to fiddle with as he always did, “Shoulda shanked him when I had the chance. Called you a fucking toff, didn’t he?”

Ric rolled his eyes. “I’m not a toff. Jesus. I’m from Hackney, for Christ’s sake.”

“Exactly,” Sol smiled with a hint of mischief, flicking the blade out with a snap, “Not your fault he found out Ric was short for Cedric.”

Ric supposed he should have regretted telling Sol that fact in the first place but he couldn’t force himself to, no matter how hard he tried. There was something in Sol’s amused smile and snorted laugh that burnt the regret away. The teasing felt rather worth it, he thought, if it brought with it that smile. 

Ric didn’t know what that meant. 

He didn’t try to. Just letting himself listen to the music now drifting up to his ears was enough.

“Who is this?”

Sol seemed to nearly scoff at that. “Elton John. Song about some lass called Jeannie or summat.”

“Never ‘eard it.” Ric sniffed.

“No. Don’t s’pose you have. Not toffy enough for you.”

When Ric kicked Sol in the shin, the latter only let out another laugh, this one loud and brash. 

“Not a fucking toff.” He grumbled.

“Course,” Sol shuffled closer to him, his battered loafers pressing against one of Ric’s thighs, “Wouldn’t be seen dead around a toff.”

“Pale as you are, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were dead.” 

When Sol leaned forward, face just inches from Ric’s own, he could only pause and try his best not to look too hard at the curl that hung over Sol’s eye. 

“And what if I was?”

Ric felt his brow furrow. “What do you mean?”

“Would you care? If I was six feet under?”

That was probably a trick. 

Probably one of Sol’s funny questions that he asked just as Ric was starting to feel comfortable. Just as he was starting to feel like he wasn’t burning from the inside out. Sol was full of funny questions, all of which seemed to be carefully sewn just to push Ric off of a cliff. 

It made Ric’s forehead crease even further this time, his tongue becoming coppery as he bit it just a little bit too hard. 

 “I–”

“You’d come with me, wouldn’t you?” Sol tilted his head to the side, turning the blade over in his fingers, “Wouldn’t make me go alone?”

Ric paused.

“I don’t know what that means.” He spoke.

“It means we’re a pair,” Sol’s voice quickly lilted, “I’d do anything for you, Ricky. And you would do anything for me,”

Sol paused. 

Ric stilled.

“You would,” the former asked, eyes trapping Ric’s with their questioning blue, “Wouldn’t you?”

Ric didn’t know what that meant. 

He didn’t think he wanted to. 

“Yes.” Ric whispered.

He didn’t know what it meant. 

But Sol smiled. 

And Ric burnt inside.

“Prove it.”

Ric swallowed.

He didn’t know what that–

“How?”

Sol stretched out his palm, every crease and mole and nick lighting up in the blistering sunlight. The blade shone in it too. 

“I’d do anything for you and you’d do anything for me. I bleed,”

Ric couldn’t help his wince as Sol sliced into his own skin.

The red rose out from the cut instantly, dripping onto Ric’s trouser leg.

“Then you bleed.” Sol finished.

He grabbed Ric’s hand. 

Ric didn’t have time to think before it was sliced into too. 

The pain spurted just as quickly as the blood did. Ric could feel the fizz in his fingertips.

Sol pressed the pool of red on his skin to Ric’s own. 

He grabbed Ric’s eyes once again as he squeezed their joint palms. 

Ric couldn’t breathe. 

The two reds mixed with one another like paint and, with it, Ric felt as though every part of him was draining away. Into Sol. 

Ric was bloody well terrible at metaphors.

“Sol.” His voice finally escaped. A question in one way, reeking of that burning confusion that he always felt around the other boy, and a statement in another. A promise. A promise of what, Ric didn’t know. 

“Ric,” Sol said into the three inches of air they shared between them, the name coming out like it was somehow a secret, “Say you’d do anything for me.”

Sol’s grip tightened.

Ric did his best not to flinch. 

One of Sol’s funny questions, he thought once again, though it hadn’t even been asked. Ric was hesitant to say that it was an order – Sol wouldn’t order him to do anything – but it was something.

A funny question, yes, perhaps. 

Or something else entirely. 

But Ric knew what it meant. 

“I would.” He whispered, feeling himself lean forwards with the words. Perhaps if he closed the three inches then everything would be alright. Perhaps everything would be better. Perhaps the fire would go away.

He wanted to.

He wanted to.

He wanted–

Sol dropped his hand. 

“Good.”

His smile burned like everything else about him. 

Elton John crooned somewhere in the back ground but Ric wasn’t quite sure he could hear it. It buzzed through his ears, in and out and in and out again, and yet he couldn’t pick out the words. Couldn’t untangle them as he felt the blood drip to the floor. 

The cigarette still sat in the fingers of his other hand, long forgotten now that the pain throbbed through his skin. He brought it to his lips quickly, taking a desperate pull of smoke as his bloody palm and fingers sat cradled in his lap. Sol watched as the grey burned its way out of his nostrils. His own wound appeared to somehow not even be bothering him, a notion Ric struggled to believe as his own pulsed with steady, stinging waves. But that was Sol all over, he supposed. Never one to show weakness. Was that what Ric was doing? Showing Sol that he was weak with each one of his flinches?

The lunch bell clanged out a ring. 

Neither boy moved. 

“Did I…” Ric stuttered, “Did I do it right?”

He flexed his fingers, letting the blood run between them, and tried his best to hold Sol’s eyes. 

But Sol didn’t speak. Didn’t answer with words. He just leant forward, curls hanging down, and kissed Ric on the cheek. 

Skin was set fire with the touch. Breaths lost in the air. 

It only lasted a second. 

Sol took the cigarette from his grip once again, the rolling paper staining with crimson. He took a drag. Ric stayed frozen, and yet still crackled into flames. 

“Better get to lunch, eh?” Sol smirked, words wrapped in tobacco. 

Ric didn’t move, still frozen, still crackling. 

Even when Sol got up, too casual for Ric to be able to decipher, he didn’t thaw into a puddle and neither was he snuffed out. All he could do was watch as Sol picked up the radio, cigarette in his upturned lips, eventually striding away. Something glinted in his eyes as he looked back to Ric, waving with his injured hand, before he vanished inside the building. 

The lunch bell rang again. 

Ric forced himself to his feet. 

Something above him rumbled.

Thunder, he realised, as the raindrops began to fall.

They spat down onto his outstretched hands, catching in the blood to make it run like watercolours and plastering his hair to his forehead. The blistering heat was still there, if only just by the coppery smell in the air.

Despite the rain beginning to soak him through, he still burnt.

He burnt and crackled and flickered and singed.

The press of Sol’s palm on his, the press of his lips on Ric’s cheek, couldn’t be blazed away no matter the heat. 

Ric just stood in the rain. 

Dripping.

Bleeding.

Burning.

And he didn’t know what any of it meant. 

September 20, 2021 11:48

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5 comments

Sarbjeet Kaur
19:53 Sep 25, 2021

Damn! I loved the atmosphere of this story - very dark and gay haha. I was hooked! :)

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Elizabeth Napier
20:20 Sep 25, 2021

Dark and gay are some of the best stories! Thanks so much for the comment - I'm so glad you liked it!

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Keya Jadav
14:00 Sep 24, 2021

Beautifully written Eli (hope you don't mind me calling ye that). It was a deep emotion hard to explain, but yet you carved it in the paper. Great job. I liked the significance of cigarettes, somehow playing a vital role. Quite funny though, Ric didn't know what all of it meant while the power swirled inside of 'im. The repetition of Ric not knowing what it all meant, made it even more powerful. Great Job!

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Elizabeth Napier
14:32 Sep 24, 2021

Thank you so much!! And of course I don't mind you calling me Eli! I've read some of your stories too and have to say that you're an amazing writer! Thanks for reading!

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Keya Jadav
14:40 Sep 24, 2021

Thank you so much :)

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