When we last saw Ben, he wasn’t feeling very welcome at home. He’s been shaky ever since his parents divorced and is much worse since recent events forced him out of his mother’s house. Lately a young tough named Gene has shown an interest in him.
“Hey, Ben. You wanna hang out.” Gene wrapped one beefy arm over Ben’s shoulders as they walked down the hall at school. He was so big Ben thought he was going to smother him, but instead he just sort of covered everything. It made Ben feel small.
The words, “I can’t,” were on his lips, but never quite made it out. “I can’t,” was what he had always said to anyone when he lived with Mom. Now that he lived with Dad, it was another matter.
Dad would never know. Ben could stay out until midnight and Dad probably wouldn’t notice. What was he going to do at Dad’s apartment, anyway? Dominate Final Fantasy X-2 again? It wasn’t like he was going to do his homework or something.
Gene let his arm drop. “You don’t wanna?” His eyes narrowed. Ben thought about the mechanical pencil Gene had given him. He was still using it because Dad kept forgetting to get another, but he’d have used it anyway. People looked at him differently when they found out he was using Gene’s pencil, as if he were under protection.
“I…” Why not? Why the Heck not? “Yeah. I do.” If Mom could hear him, she’d say he was being belligerent, but she wasn’t here, so what of it? “Um… I don’t have a skateboard.”
“That’s okay. I wasn’t going to skate today anyway. You play X-box?”
“All I’ve got is PS2. Not even a PS3.” Ben stopped at his locker. He shoved in his books and took out his backpack.
“PS3 sucks. Come over to my place. I’ve got Grand Theft Auto.” Gene waited for him.
“I’ve never played Grand Theft Auto before.” Ben followed Gene down the hall to another locker. He still wasn’t entirely comfortable with Gene. “I mostly just play Final Fantasy and stuff like that.”
“Oh, you mean RPG. I do too. I’ve got three of the Dragon Quest games.”
“You do?! Cool.”
Gene put his books away, then took a skateboard out of his locker.
“Hey, I thought you said you weren’t going skating today.”
“I’m not. This is my way home.”
“Isn’t it illegal?”
Gene shrugged, totally not worried about it. “It’s either this or walk.”
Ben got the feeling he should worry about it, but he was tired of worrying. Besides, it was Gene who’d be riding it, not him. He shrugged and turned toward the door.
“OK. So, how far is it anyway?”