Tension rolled in waves off Kato. Mr. P stood closer than he should be for a teacher talking with a student. Few others noticed, and none enough to linger on the pair. Yet, Noah was unwilling to look away. Kato was subtle in his expressions. Easily misinterpreted and dismissed. So, Noah didn’t want to miss a thing.
Mr. P made some comment that triggered Kato into tightening his hands into fists. Because his jacket was long in the sleeves, the gesture was nearly completely hidden. Mr. P did all the talking. He’d always been a long-winded teacher. The longer he talked, the darker Kato’s countenance became. Yet, Mr. P got in his final comments, whatever they may have been.
Kato was sent walking with Mr. P.’s permission. The moment he could retreat, Kato moved back to the music room that was his sanctuary from all that was going wrong. Noah followed.
Inside the music room Kato stood alone, holding his arms across his stomach. His head was up but that was to stare out the windows to the world beyond these four walls. The urge hit powerfully to hold him.
Lightly Noah closed the door.
Kato went stiff at the sound the door closing created. His left hand moved up to his face. Though his back faced Noah, there was no hiding what his hand was doing. He turned around with the best fake smile Kato could summon on the spot. It was a poor attempt when the tears he’d tried to subtly wipe away still rested upon his hand.
“What did he say to you?” Noah folded his arms across his chest. He blocked the only way out of the room.
But that wasn’t what made Kato nervous. He shook his head as though to deny everything. A flat look on Noah’s face stalled the denial. Arms crossed protectively over his stomach, Kato was finding it hard to make eye contact.
“He’s a…a family friend, so he was just checking in.”
“If you had an angry bone in your body, you would have hit him.”
Kato stared at the ground.
“So, what did he say?”
Shaking his head was all Kato accomplished.
“Then, I’ll guess,” Noah moved closer. “I’ve heard that bastard’s rhetoric concerning homosexuals.”
Fear lit Kato’s downward cast face.
“Until two years ago, things were fine in his class. And then, I had my first boyfriend. That’s when I first started hearing the rhetoric. And that’s when I started failing his class. It had nothing to do with my performance. It was all his perspective of me, and on being gay. The comments haven’t lessened any in two years even though I’ve had girlfriends since then.”
“How,” Kato could barely look him in the eyes, “how do you deal with that?”
Noah grinned, “I have a fierce mom that threatened to strip him of his manhood as well as his livelihood.”
Kato stared with wide eyes.
“Not everyone is that lucky though,” he acknowledged. “So, if you don’t have that. Let me step in where a parent should.”
“What are you going to do?” Kato struggled to catch a breath.
“Just have the same chat with him that my mom did two years ago. Maybe he needs a reminder,” Noah cracked his knuckles.
“You can’t!” unexpectedly, Kato held him back by his arm. Fear had washed all color from his face.
“Because he’s a teacher?” Noah’s eyes had gone dark.
“Yes,” Kato held tighter. “He’ll fail you. Or expel you. You won’t get a scholarship, or finish school on time.”
“I don’t care,” he shrugged the matter off.
“I do,” Kato moved to stand before him. He placed his hands upon Noah’s chest. The open display was enough to stall Noah in his tracks. Kato pled, “don’t throw your future away because of this. Because of me. I promise, it’s nothing.”
His fingers slipped into Kato’s hair. Kato finally met his eyes as Noah said, “I’m just gonna kick his ass a little.”
Kato’s grip on his shirt tightened.
Noah relented with a sigh, “fine, I won’t beat the crap out of him.”
Kato’s head dropped to Noah’s chest, “thank you.”
But that doesn’t mean he’s off the hook.