"Hey, Bryce. Are you awake?" Clay opens the door to Bryce's room.
It's very late. Clay just got home after a lot of crying. He can see Bryce lying in bed under the sheets.
"Bryce?" Clay whispers, hoping to talk to Bryce.
Bryce just lays there, awake, but with his eyes closed. He can't handle talking right now and doesn't know when he may be able to. Clay gives up and leaves.
Bryce cries just a little, trying hard to hold it together.
THE NEXT MORNING...
"Hey, Bryce. You awake?" Clay knocks on Bryce's door. "It's almost 11." No response.
Clay opens the door. He sees Bryce's bed empty and made. He walks around to the bathroom. Empty. He takes his phone out to text Bryce.
CLAY: Hey. Where r u?
Clay waits for a while.
BRYCE: Went for a run
Clay takes a seat on the bed and just stays there, thinking.
Bryce walks into the house, sweaty and breathing heavily. Clay is sitting in the living room with his parents and watching some TV.
"Hey," Bryce says as he begins to walk past them.
"Hey." Clay's mom turns around. "There are leftovers in the fridge."
"Thanks. I'm god though." Bryce continues walking and Clay gets up, following him.
"You barely made it back before curfew." Clay tries to speak to Bryce but he just keeps walking. "Wanna watch a movie?" Bryce stops and turns around as they reach his room.
"Actually I'm really tired and need to take a shower. Maybe tomorrow." Bryce goes into his room.
4 DAYS LATER...
BRYCE: I'll b home late tonight. Hanging with the boys.
CLAY: That's the 3rd night in a row. We haven't actually talked in days.
Clay waits, but there's no response. He then closes his locker and goes to lunch.
"So you guys have only seen each other in class and in passing at home?" Tony leans into the table.
"Yeah. He keeps going to school early and letting me drive his car to school and back."
"That's at least nice." Tony is trying to look on the upside.
"Um, no it's not!" Hannah is getting sick of this. "It's a guilt thing.
He's probably doing something bad, that he knows you would hate, and is trying to do something small to make it easier on himself."
"Wow!" Tony looks to Hannah, surprised at that.
"I'm just saying what everyone else is thinking." Hannah sits back, taking a bite out of her sandwich.
"Well... maybe it has something to do with his friends. He's been hanging out with them a lot lately."
"Maybe. You should go see." Hannah takes a chip from Clay. "Go check out practice, and see where they go afterward."
"Isn't that a bit crazy. Stalking him."
"No! It's more like..." Hannah thinks for a second. "Watching out for him."
"While that all seems... a bit on the crazy side, I'm not going to condone this." Tony stands up. "Just talk to him." He leaves the cafeteria.
"Or not..." Hannah smiles, quickly convincing Clay that he should do it.
END OF SCHOOL...
Clay has been anxious about this all day, but Hannah was right. He knew it. If he wanted to know what was happening with Bryce, he would just have to see it with his own eyes.
So he first goes to the gym. No one is there. Then he checks out the weight room. No one if there. Then he hears some noise from outside.
He goes out and sees most of the team walking over to the football field. He doesn't see Bryce with them. But maybe he's running late. Or maybe he's already on the field.
He goes to the other side of the field and quickly slips in without being seen, walks up a few of the bleachers. He looks down at the field and the coach and rest of the team are there.
But Bryce isn't.
He waits for a while, but he never shows up. He sees Zach Dempsey walk off the field. He runs down quickly to intercept.
"Hey Clay. What's up?" Zach was always nice to Clay and he always wondered why they never became friends.
"Where's Bryce? Is he not coming to practice today?"
"Um... Bryce isn't on the team."
"What?" Clay's mind explodes.
"Yeah. Actually I haven't spoken to him in weeks, since before..." He gets awkward.
"B...bb... but I thought he talked to the coach?" Clay is getting confused.
"He did. He told coach that the doctors said he shouldn't be playing any sports. It's a real bummer. I was hoping if he joined the team again some of the guys would start laying off him."
"Umm..." Clay is still processing.
"I should get going." Zach smiles before running away.
Clay stands there as he processes everything. He was there when the doctor said he would be fine to play sports again. He was also there when Bryce told him he was back on the team.
Then it clicks. Where has he been going? What has he been doing? Who has he been with?
He snaps out of it after a couple of minutes. He's in mission mode. His mission is to find Bryce and find out what the fuck is going on. His first thought is the shed. He basically runs there.
It's empty and dirtier than usual. After that, he goes blank. Where would Bryce go? What does Bryce like to do? It comes to him that he doesn't really know Bryce.
What kind of things does he like to do, besides sports? Where did he hang out with his friends?