Kay Doyle spends a lot of time feeling plain and unworthy. Due to his father's debilitating illness, Kay lives with his mom's best friend, Kaleb Xander, who raises Kay as his own. Unfortunately, Kaleb can't keep Kay from feeling unwanted by his family.
Senior year, Kay meets Johnny Collins, an enigmatic rebel. Johnny yanks Kay out of his shell and discovers he has a wild side. When Johnny pulls Kay into a dark world of sex and hardcore drugs, Kay has to find a way out. More importantly, he wants to help Johnny find salvation from the harsh reality he lives in.
Kay was glad to be out of math because of Mr. Tomlinson's x-ray gaze. When the bell rang, he had about ten minutes to get to Mrs. Sullivan's art room. He got there early and settled down in the back, opening his sketchbook and beginning to put the final touches on the sketch he'd started in math class.
Kay looked up, eyebrow raised at the coarse greeting. A smile came onto his face when he saw Johnny stood in front of him, hip cocked as he held the bag over his shoulder.
"Hey." He greeted him, motioning beside him. "By the way, my name's Kay, for future reference."
"Kay. Is that short for something?" Johnny asked, sitting down unceremoniously.
"Short for Kaleb," he said, discreetly closing his sketchbook.
He wasn't fast enough because Johnny's hand stopped the movement. "Cool. Can I see what you were working on?" he asked.
Kay made a perplexed sound. "I guess," he replied, unsure how else to respond.
He furrowed his brows and crossed his legs under the desk, waiting anxiously as Johnny looked over the silhouette Kay had finished.
"Holy shit," Johnny responded softly, looking up.
Kay gave Johnny a hesitant smile, wondering what was going on behind those stunning blue eyes.
"You're legit, dude."
Kay tilted his head, surprised by the succinct but intense response he got. "Thanks," he said, fiddling with the pencil in his hands.
"No seriously. This is fucking amazing," Johnny said, turning the page back to a sketch he'd done of Sonia a few days before. "Well, she looks like a bitch."
Kay let out a laugh and brushed his hair off his cheek. The blunt way Johnny spoke reminded him of Kaleb, and it was awesome.
"I don't think she is," he admitted.
"Then you're either blind or you drew the wrong chick," Johnny said with a laugh, glancing up and seeing Sonia waltzing into the room. "Her?"
Kay's cheeks burned as he nodded. Maybe it was because the wet dream he'd had was still lingering in the back of his mind but embarrassment came before attraction at that moment. "Yeah, her."
"You got a thing for her?" Johnny asked.
Kay winced, gently tapping his pencil on the desk. "Is it that obvious?" he asked quietly.
"A little," Johnny replied, tone dry as he pulled out a tattered green notebook, fingers gently touching the spiraled edge. "I'm not so much an artist myself. I'm more of a writer."
"You'll have to show me some of your work in return, since y'know, I showed you mine," Kay replied, and the look Johnny shot him had his cheeks burning with embarrassment.
"So that's how it works here, hm?" Johnny murmured, and the smirk on his face showed he knew he'd flustered Kay.
Kay didn't get a chance to respond, because Mrs. Sullivan came in and began teaching lesson about working with charcoal and how to keep it from smudging. She set up a large page of paper on an easel, and then asked Kay to come up and demonstrate exactly how to create a clean line without blurring it with his hand. He went up to the front of the class and took the charcoal with his left hand. Slowly, he drew a curved line from the top of the page to the bottom, keeping his hand angled so he didn't use the palm to smudge the charcoal until he wanted to. Granted, he wasn't the best person to be showing the class, because he was left-handed. It required different techniques for right-handed artists to avoid smudging.
When he came back to the table he'd been sitting at, Johnny was grinning. "Showoff," he said, and Kay could tell that he was teasing.
He shrugged as he sat down. "I'd prefer that over teacher's pet, I guess," he said, glancing up to Mrs. Sullivan.
"Nah, hate that term," Johnny said, and Kay was glad that the teacher gave them more or less a free period to experiment with charcoal so he could talk more to this guy. "So, hey, what is there to do around here?"
"Honestly? Not that much. I mostly stay in and draw, or I hang out at my dad’s work," Kay explained. “Well, Kaleb’s not really my dad, but he might as well be.” He shrugged and opened to a fresh page in his sketchbook.
Johnny gave a quizzical look. "Kaleb? You talkin' about yourself?"
Kay chuckled, sketching a long, elegant line to start the charcoal assignment of a landscape. "No, he's the guy I'm named after. Kinda like my dad, but not. He's my mom's best friend. I live with him because my parents couldn't really take care of me when I was little, so I kinda consider him more my dad than my dad."
"Ah, got it. Where's he work?" Johnny asked, mimicking his movements and grabbing a piece of charcoal.
"This bar and grill called Spyder. It's not far from here," Kay said, turning another page and abandoning the assignment in favor of a clean line that quickly turned into a noose that looped around blank space. It would soon be a lifeless neck and head with limp blond hair and a motionless expression. So much for the landscape he was supposed to be working on.
"So wait, your dad works in a bar and he lets you hang out after school?" Johnny asked, and Kay knew the other boy's gaze was completely on him.
"Yeah, I kinda grew up there. The owner’s like my godfather and they recently starting serving food so it’s not a big deal anymore that I’m not 21," Kay said with a shrug.
"Any way you could sneak some booze or something?" Johnny asked.
"Well, if you want booze, you could come over to my house as long as my dad and Trent are at work. I've never tried drinking in front of them, but I get the distinct impression they'd freak," Kay suggested with a laugh.
"Who's Trent?" Johnny asked.
Kay smiled. "Kaleb's partner. They’re kinda both my dads."
He glanced up. Johnny's cocked eyebrow made him laugh softly. Kay shrugged at the noncommittal answer. "So yeah, he's Kaleb and Trent is Trent." It sounded stupid, but it was the best way to explain it.
"So your… Kaleb or whatever? He's gay?" Johnny asked, a certain lack of tact to his voice.
Kay cocked an eyebrow, but there was no heat behind it. "I mean, yeah. He doesn't like that term, though. He's been with the same guy since I was really young and that's that," Kay said.
"Good to know he wouldn't flip if you knew a gay kid then," Johnny said. "Cause I am."
Kay nodded, surprised. He hadn’t expected it, but he should have known better than to have judged.
"Cool," he said simply. "I don't really know what I am yet." He fleshed out the hanging man with Xs for eyes and a gaping mouth had been ripped open with a razor thrown on the ground beside the tree that had grown out of the bottom of the page. His form was lanky, skeletal even, with a slit down his forearm stemming from a series of track marks. He wasn't sure where the inspiration was coming from, but it made for a cool piece of art.
"Sometimes it takes a while. Jesus fucking Christ, Kay," Johnny muttered, tugging his sketchbook from him and looking over the macabre picture. "And you just started this?"
"At the beginning of the class, yeah," Kay replied, shrugging. It wasn't a big thing for him, drawing like that. It was his passion, something as easy to him as breathing.
"Shit," Johnny said, shaking his head and going back to his own sketch.
Kay perked up and glanced over his shoulder, seeing a detailed skull, with a cleaver embedded in the middle of the bone, sitting on rocky ground. The lines were shaky, but the overall feel was intense.
"I like that," Kay murmured, resting his chin thoughtlessly on Johnny's shoulder. He got a confused look, but he was surprised the other boy didn't shrug him off.
"Thanks," Johnny said simply, acting as if he wanted to say more, but instead went quiet, focusing on his work.
Kay waited a moment before doing the same.