"Hey," Michael said as Jeremy slid into the passenger seat of Michael's PT Cruiser. Jeremy smiled. "Sup." Michael glanced at Jeremy's front door, which was half-open.
"We waiting for Evan?" Michael asked. Evan and Heidi Hansen had moved in at the beginning of their junior year after Heidi married Jeremy's dad that summer. Jeremy shook his head.
"His boyfriend is coming to pick him up." Michael blinked. "Evan has a boyfriend?" Jeremy shrugged. "Apparently." Michael gestured to the door. "So why is that open?" Jeremy cursed.
"I better close that." He got out of the car and made his way to the door. Halfway there, Evan appeared. "Jeremy, learn to close the door!" he scolded playfully. Jeremy rolled his eyes.
"Whatever. When will what's-his-face be here?" Michael assumed 'what's-his-face' was Evan's boyfriend. "His name is Connor, and soon. Now, don't keep Michael waiting," Evan told Jeremy, then looked over Jeremy's shoulder.
"Sorry, Michael!" he called. Michael grinned. "It's not a big deal. Don't stress it," he replied.
Jeremy began to walk to the car, then sprung back, grabbing Evan and messing up his hair. Evan laughed and retaliated, trying to mess up Jeremy's hair. Jeremy yelped and broke free, backing up.
"Alright, you win this time," he said, retreating to the car and getting in. Evan grinned. "See you, little brother!" Jeremy called. Evan just rolled his eyes and went back inside.
Jeremy buckled his seat-belt, still laughing. Michael pulled out of the driveway, chuckling. "Isn't he older than you?" Michael asked. Jeremy sighed. "Yeah..." he said. "But I'm taller. Plus, he just feels like my little brother."
Michael nodded. Jeremy and Evan were both hesitant at first about having a new brother, but it was clear now that they both enjoyed having one. The way they acted, it wasn't immediately obvious they weren't full brothers.
They both had similar coloring, Jeremy with his light brown hair and Evan with his dirty-blond, and Jeremy's brown eyes and Evan's hazel. They both had a constant blush and light freckles.
Really, they could have easily been brothers. "So, sign-ups for the after-school play start today," Michael said. Jeremy winced.
"Yeah, I'm not doing that this year," he said, tugging at the sleeves of his cardigan that hid the electric scars.
The scars covered the inner parts of his arms and most of his back, serving as a constant reminder of what had happened. Another reminder that was much more noticeable was his eyes.
The brown in his left eye was marred with a spark of electric blue, the same color they had been while he was SQUIPed.
Michael shoved away the memories of that, leaning forward and turning on his music. Jeremy smiled a bit. "Still listening to Bob Marley?" he asked. Michael grinned. "Yep." Jeremy fake groaned.
Michael turned it down as they pulled into the school parking lot.
They got out, walking over to what they now called "The SQUIP group," which contained Rich, Jake, Christine, Brooke, and Chloe (Plus Jeremy and Michael. Michael was the only one of the group who hadn't been SQUIPed.)
Jenna Rolan would occasionally join them, but she mostly hung with her other friends. "YO! HEERE! MELL!" Rich yelled.
The group was by the steps, girls sitting on them and Jake and Rich on a nearby bench. Michael rolled his eyes. "We're right here, Lispy-boy, you don't have to yell," he said.
Rich's eyes widened with mock-hurt. "Jaaaaaaaaaake! He insulted meeeeeeeeeee..." Jake, who was sitting on a bench with his crutches beside him, just glanced lazily at Michael.
"Don't make me whap you with my crutch, Mell," he said. Rich sighed. "He wouldn't do it. I'm his boyfriend, yet he STILL won't protect me from bullies."
Michael laughed and sat down on the steps beside Brooke, who leaned against him and put her legs across Chloe's lap. Jeremy sat by Christine.
The two were close but never ended up dating (It turned out Christine had only accepted Jeremy's lunch invitation because she thought he was apologizing). Michael glanced over at them.
Jeremy was talking to Christine in a low voice, looking concerned. Michael frowned a bit. "So, how's your morning going?" Brooke asked, blinking her eyes at Michael.
After the SQUIPcident, Brooke had started hanging out with Michael. Eventually, it came out that she was still upset about her relationship with Jeremy.
She wanted to know who he really was, without the SQUIP. Somehow, it had ended up with Michael and Brooke being unexpected friends, especially once she came out as a lesbian. Michael opened his mouth to answer, only to be interrupted.
"Hey, head-phones kid. Where's Evan?" Michael glanced up. A kid with short brown hair and big glasses stood above him. Michael blinked. "Huh?" he asked.
The kid rolled his eyes and sat down in front of Michael. "Evan Hansen. You're the guy who drives him to school, right?" Michael nodded. "Sometimes. His..." Michael went to say 'boyfriend' but realized he didn't know if Evan was out. "His friend is driving him." The kid sighed.
He didn't seem inclined to move now that he had gotten his information. "I'm Jared Kleinman," he said, sticking out his hand. Michael shook it. "Michael Mell."
Brooke, who was watching the interaction quietly, smiled a bit. "Brooke Lohst." Jared nodded at her. "Cool," he said, then looked back at Michael.
"So why are you constantly driving Evan to school?" he asked. Michael gestured to Jeremy, then realized he wasn't there, and neither was Christine. He frowned a little. "Oh. Uh..."
Michael glanced around, looking for Jeremy. "Well, I'm his brother's friend, and I drive him to school. So I just ended up driving Evan as well." Jared adjusted his glasses. "Oh. Cool." Brooke spoke up.
"Your shirt's cool. Star Wars, right?" Jared looked down at his shirt, then nodded. "Yeah." Michael glanced around again, still not seeing Jeremy.
He saw Evan walking with a boy in dark clothes and long brown hair, presumably Connor. "Evan!" he called. Evan glanced over, then began walking towards them.
"Hey!" he said, then frowned at Jared. "You aren't bothering them, are you?" Jared was glaring at the long-haired boy. "What are you doing with the school-shooter?" he asked angrily.
Evan's eyes narrowed a bit. "You'd think you'd have learned my name by now, Kleinman," the other boy said. He had vibrant blue eyes with dark eyeliner. He looked dangerous.
Jared stood and brushed off his legs. Michael tensed, ready to break up a fight. "I have learned your name, Murphy," Jared replied, putting emphasis on the name.
Evan looked a bit scared now, not of Jared or the other boy, but that there would be a fight. A lot of people were watching now.
Rich looked like he would start chanting 'Fight, fight' at any second. Evan took a breath and stepped in between them. "Jared, Connor, stop."
Connor instantly stepped back, shoving his hands in his pockets. Jared kept glaring. "Jared, Connor is my friend. Stop insulting him," Evan said. Jared turned his glare on Evan.
"What about me? I'm your friend, and you aren't defending me." Evan shook his head. "You've made it very clear that we're only family friends. Connor doesn't hang out with me so his mom will pay his car insurance."
Jared opened his mouth to say something, but the bell rang, meaning there were five minutes until homeroom. Michael stood.
"Come on, guys. Class," he said. Evan looked relieved. "Alright," he said. Jared just growled and stormed off. "Thanks, Michael," Evan said. Michael shrugged.
"Thank the bell, not me," he replied, then turned and headed to his locker. He had it decorated with Pac-Man stickers and a rainbow sticker. He opened it, then blinked in confusion.
There was a cassette tape sitting on the shelf, with a rose and a note taped to it. Michael felt a fluttering in his stomach as he unfolded the letter. It was written in neat cursive.
Wow. I can't believe I have the courage to do this. Tell you how I feel, even in an anonymous letter. Just so you know, this isn't my own handwriting.
I don't want you using that to figure out who I am. So the friend who suggested it will write the final version that you'll hold in your hands. Michael, I can't stop thinking about you.
There are so many things I love about you... But we're only going to start with one. With things I can say without you guessing who I am. I love your smile.
I know, I know. How cheesy and generic. But seriously. You light up the room when you smile. Your eyes crinkle up, and you always give a little laugh- like you can't help it.
You bite your lower lip a little bit, and it knocks me out. You're beautiful. Now, this isn't the only letter you're going to get, though it may be the only letter you'll read.
I hope you read the others, but I get it if you don't. But every so often- I won't tell you when- you'll get a note and a rose. Sometimes something else special as well. So, until I get up the courage to write to you again,
Michael stared at the letter, trying to calm his heart. He carefully set the letter down, then reached for the cassette tape.
He pulled his cassette player out of his backpack and put the new tape in, pulled on his headphones, and hit play. One of his favorite songs filled his ears.
Michael smiled, tucked the cassette player into his pocket, and grabbed his stuff. He left the rose in his locker, unscrewing the top of his water bottle and leaving the rose in the water, so it didn't wilt.
He folded the letter and put that in his pocket as well, and headed to homeroom, already trying to figure out who his 'secret admirer' might be.