Arthur stared down at his drawing, or out the window, or at his ragged bitten thumbnail. The drawing was rubbish. It was stupid and cartoonish; he blushed just to look at it and to think of how utterly incapable he was of capturing the beauty of Brian Slade – the man he loved.

Loved, lusted after. Envied, too. He was sure there would never again be anyone as extraordinary as Brian Slade or Curt Wild. Sometimes it seemed ridiculous how much he thought about them, how many times their names ran through his mind.

Of course he kept his love very quiet. Some of the other kids seemed like they might share his interests, but he never knew what to say to them, and he was scared that they might figure him out if he did say anything. Maybe they'd be all right with the way he was, but they might not. And if his dad or his brother found out it was all over for him…

He slipped the drawing between two pages of class notes, sick of seeing it. For the hundredth time that day, the thought of the real Brian Slade sprang into his brain. He saw in his mind's eye Brian's face and body and imagined the things he said – things he did – with Curt, imagined doing the same with either one of them…

Arthur dropped his head lower and blushed even deeper.

But he wasn't shy like that inside. In his daydreams, when he sat alone in his parents' house with the record player on, he could pretend that his life was as marvelous and as sensual as Brian's or Curt's. He could be himself – tell it like it was – and think or wear whatever he wanted, fuck whoever he wanted, without having to be afraid all the time.

Sometimes, when he listened to music, he almost believed that he would live like that someday. That splendid, shining life was within his reach…

Maybe. If only he could get over himself, or get out from under his dad's thumb, or listen to these songs until he bloody learned something from them.

Arthur turned back to the window. A little pang of envy rose in him, tightening his chest and making him worry at his lower lip. He could see a few kids from the year above him traipsing across the yard, skiving off. The makeup they wore – even the one lovely boy in the group – sparkled in the spring sunlight. They were tripping over platform shoes and laughing at each other.

If he weren't so pathetic, he could have been with them. But it was far easier – far less terrifying – to go to his friends in the record store and wrap himself up in their music when he got home.