Chapter 1: Ice Breaker Game
“Welcome to Mock Trial club. To those of you who are new, I’m Bruno,” the tall and charismatic Senior introduces himself. He stands at the table in the front of their moderator’s room, in front of the rows of students who are interested in joining the club.
It’s the first week of school. Fall sports and many clubs are beginning. Freshmen are still learning the ropes. The air is still sweet with the pungent scent of summertime memories. Some new friendships and relationships have formed over the summer, and some old have broken. The sound of the ringing school bell will soon become students’ alarm clock again.
It is the beginning of Giorno Giovanna’s sophomore year. This is my year, the year I’ll make a difference and leave an impact, he thinks to himself as he sits in the hot club room with the other students joining mock trial. His father, being a lawyer, was the one who got him interested in the mental sport in the first place when he was in junior high. It’s been one of his many passions ever since.
Another reason he had joined mock trial last year as a freshman, unknown to anyone who was not an immediate friend of his, is that it used to be one of the scarce times of day he could see Guido Mista, the tall, insanely cool, smart but sometimes a hot mess upperclassman whom Giorno had grown extremely close with. Though the two were different in so many ways, there was a pull of gravity between them. He first met Mista at lunch on the first day of school, freshman year. Every grade has lunch at the same time, and he was sitting with Narancia and his friends outside in the courtyard.
Everything is so clear in Giorno’s head, as if it happened only yesterday. The sun was bright, the air warm but not hot. They sat on a picnic bench next to some colorful geraniums. Narancia was blasting some Drake through his speaker and Giorno was meeting Fugo and Abbacchio for the first time. Then, out of the double doors a guy stumbled, dropping one of the many backpacks he carried on his shoulders. Fugo was the first to run and help him carry his bags to the bench. When they got there, Narancia introduced the boy to Giorno, who’s name was Guido Mista. Everyone calls him Mista though, Narancia had explained.
He was really cute that day, Giorno reminisces.
When Giorno looked at Mista for the first time, time stopped. The two stared at each other, both at a complete loss of words, and everything, even the world’s rotation, slowed down. It was as if they were both gazing into a mirror, the shiny big-pupiled eyes, the dumbstruck open mouths. Every event of their lives had been preparing them to this one single moment, the moment they met each other. It was like they were at a highest point, their potential energy at its greatest, or at the climax of their now converged stories.
From that day on, the two were drawn to each other. They laughed together, shared secrets, told stories, went shopping, explored restaurants, museums, parks together. Each seemed to illuminate a glow in each other’s eyes, a glow that only the other could see. When last year ended and summer vacation started, the two spent even more time together, as well as took many trips with their friends.
The last trip they took in the summer, they all went tentless camping. Giorno and Mista and their friends played on the beach, talked, laughed, and stargazed until the sun came up. The image of the gentle push and pull of the waves, the sparkling sand between their shoeless feet, the smell of salt and wet rock lingering in the air, the stars in the violet sky. The way he looked into Mista’s eyes, and Mista into his, the way they seemed to understand what was going through each other’s mind without words. These memories are very close to Giorno’s heart.
I love him, Giorno confirms in his head as he watches his friend Bruno give the welcoming speech to the new mock trial members. And he loves me.
“I’m one of the captains of Mock Trial,” the raven haired senior starts as he glances around the room of focused faces, “and unfortunately, I have no idea where Mista is. He’s another captain, and is supposed to be here right now. Anyway, to start off, let’s play an ice breaker game to get familiar with everyone.” Ah, the dreaded ice breaker game. A tradition of every club and sport that no one enjoys playing. The group of freshmen who sit in the corner are staring at each other, each finding random things to laugh at and make fun of.
“The freshmen this year sure are annoying,” The petit brunette next to Giorno comments in his ear as he nudges his shoulder. The gesture brings Giorno out of his nostalgia. Narancia was Giorno’s first friend last year when Giorno was new to the school. It was Narancia who taught him a great number of high school social rules. “These ones are all fine, they’re probably afraid since we’re more experienced in mock, but like, did you see the group that was standing around outside Venezia’s room?”
Giorno turns his body in the desk to face his friend. He smiles. “No, I didn’t see them.”
“Ugh, they were a bunch of girls hugging each other all like ‘I haven’t seen you in so long! Omg I missed you’. They were hella loud too. I think they woulda started coming over when they saw me standin’ there if I hadn’t sprinted. Have you seen Fugo yet today?” Narancia switches topics so quickly it takes Giorno five seconds to process it.
“Um, yeah, he has cross country though, that’s why he’s not here.” At that moment it’s Giorno’s turn in the ice breaker game. He stands dreadfully and chooses carefully what to say: “I’m Giorno, I’m a sophomore, and this is my third year doing mock trial. I do cheer and volleyball, and I’m a botany enthusiast.” As Giorno sits down, he catches a smile from Bruno. Bruno used to tutor him last year, and because of their shared composed and passionate personalities, they became best friends.
Now it’s Narancia’s turn. “I’m Narancia, I’m a Junior, and this is my fourth year of mock trial. I do cheer and volleyball and I like building model airplanes.” He sits down and takes out a lollipop from his bag.
Their friend Abbacchio is sitting near Narancia in the next desk over. He puts down his book as Bruno turns to face him, signaling his turn in the ice breaker.
“The name’s Leone, but call me Abbacchio, I’m a senior. This is my sixth year doing mock trial. I do model UN, robotics, and I’m the president of Latin NHS.” Some freshmen ooh and ahh as the cool senior sits back down.
And just like the day they first met, Guido Mista comes stumbling in through the classroom door, carrying two bookbags, a Starbucks cup, a massive calculus textbook, and a huge sports bag. He captures everyone’s attention as he plops down his stuff at the front of the room and takes a long drink from his coffee cup. Giorno can’t help but blush with a bit of pride as he gazes up and down at his love. His love, who is loyal, strong-willed and passionate, yet clumsy, rough, imperfect, sometimes immature. His love, who has stolen Giorno’s heart as if he was an art thief, and Giorno is the Louvre.
Bruno scrutinizes the messy bags of Mista’s. “Why are you so late? Never mind, we’re doing an ice breaker game so people can get to know each other.” The way Bruno over pronounces “ice breaker game” has Mista losing it.
“Ice breaker game? Pff, Bruno, what are you on?” The brown haired Senior chuckles out as he attempts to shove the calculus textbook into one of the overflowing backpacks. He discreetly looks at the students in the desks, hoping to land his eyes on a certain blond boy without anyone else noticing.
Bruno sighs deeply. “It was Mrs. D’s idea not mine. It’s for the freshmen. Now can you please say your name, your grade, your year of mock trial and some interesting things about yourself?” Bruno looks like he wants to die even more. No one likes ice breaker games, they’re mandatory.
Mista stands up straight and looks at the freshmen girls who are openly ogling him, then at the juniors and sophomores who are mixed together. He sees his classmate Abbacchio casually reading his book next to Narancia who is waving to him and slightly pointing his lollipop to his right at Giorno. Giorno sinks into his chair, giving Mista a sweet smile. There he is! Mista’s heart leaps upon finding his love in the room. His love, who is kind and beautiful, who exudes fortitude and resolve, yet who is sometimes easily flustered and fickle. His love, who is as sweet as a lark’s song.
“Well, as Bruno said, I’m Guido, but call me Mista, and I’m a senior. This is my seventh year doing mock trial and uh, I’m captain of the basketball team?” Some of the girls giggle out loud when he’s finished and Mista only notices because Giorno looks over at them. He can’t help but stare at Giorno, who looks so pretty to him even after a long, hot, day at school. Mista takes a seat behind the table and Bruno continues to inform the students.
“Mock trial is exactly what it sounds like. A fake trial. Some of you probably know it as Model Court. There are twelve members on a team, naturally that means six on plaintiff or prosecution, and six on defense. There are three lawyers and three witnesses for each side of the team. As of this moment, it looks like we have enough members for two teams, although there could possibly be more members coming in.” Bruno takes a moment to arrange some papers on the table. “We’ll have a varsity team and a JV team. Depending on your grade and experience with mock trial, we’ll divide up the teams and let you know for next time which team you’ll be on. In the meantime, start reading the case book and the rules and decide if you want to play a lawyer or a witness. If there are extra people, you will be bailiffs. Email me or Guido with what part you want to be.” He points to their school emails written on the whiteboard.
Mista stands up for his side of the welcoming speech. “We’ll meet in this classroom after schools on Wednesdays and Thursdays, try to make every practice. We usually stay until about 4:30.” Some of the freshmen start to laugh, but then quickly shut up once they see Mista’s serious expression. “Mock Trial is serious business, so if you ain’t fully committed, you can leave now.” No one moves. “Next meeting, which is next Wednesday, you should have an idea of what part you want to play. Next week you’ll get into your teams and decide that, and then we’ll briefly teach the basics of direct examination. Anything else Bruno?” He turns to the other mock trial captain.
“No that’s it. Welcome to the club, everyone, you can go now. Remember, read the case book!” Bruno looks like a mom who just managed to put all of his rowdy children to sleep. As the students file out, the friends stay behind, with Abbacchio going over to Bruno to talk Model UN. Narancia and Giorno have just finished taking selfies on snapchat as Narancia leans in close to his ear.
“Dude, there he is,” Narancia whispers to Giorno, gesturing with his eyes to Mista, who is still fumbling with folders and textbooks in his crowded backpacks. “Go talk to him!”
“I-I will, don’t rush me!” He steals a glance at Mista who has a smug expression painted onto his face. Giorno realizes he can hear Narancia and him talking since the room is no longer filled with chatter. He’s glad Mista’s attention is taken by their friend Fugo walking in, wearing the cross country uniform and chugging a water bottle filled with Gatorade.
“Hey, how was the turnout?” Fugo asks Mista when he puts his bottle down. He flips his head to get his hair out of his eyes.
“Well, we got enough for about two teams it looks like,” Mista answers, “plus some bailiffs an’ stuff. I bet Bruno is gonna pull some strings with Mrs. D to get us all on the same team, same side.”
“But shouldn’t the other team get some seniors? It’ll be full of freshmen, they need the most help.” Fugo is certainly the most logical one in their group.
“Oh, they’ll be fine, we can still help them, they’ll just be a JV team.” Mista glances at Giorno, who has stopped staring. He raises his voice to address everyone. “Hey, who wants to go get ice cream?”
“Uh, the real question is who DON’T want to get ice cream?? Let’s go!!” Narancia jumps up before anyone can correct his grammatical error and drags Fugo out of the room, clearly excited about getting a head start before the others. Bruno picks up his bag.
“Don’t you have work Mista?” he asks.
“Nah, not until 6:00 today. You?”
“I don’t work on Thursdays. Too many club activities.” Bruno and Abbacchio head out the classroom door. “We’ll meet you in the parking lot.”
“I’ll drive,” Abbacchio offers as the two seniors leave Giorno and Mista alone in the room. Giorno has his head down and is frantically texting on his phone. Mista can’t help but secretly smile at him.
“You comin’ with, Giogio?” He saves his sweet tone for his love only. The blond boy looks up with shiny eyes.
“Yeah, just texting my dad to let him know.” He walks next to Mista, who puts an arm around him as they exit the room. In the hallway, Mista leans in to Giorno’s ear.
“It’s been too long since I’ve seen you last,” he practically sings. Giorno giggles and playfully pushes against his face.
“You weirdo, I saw you at lunch, like always.”
“I know,” he coos, “still a long time.”
They meet their friends in the parking lot and load their bags into the trunk of Abbacchio’s car. Narancia calls shotgun and Giorno and Bruno sit in the middle row, leaving Mista and Fugo to sit in the back.
“Dude, hand over the aux,” Mista says, leaning forward as they drive away from the school. Abbacchio’s aux cord is long enough to reach into the back.
“Okay but you better play fire,” Narancia teases as he passes back the cord. Immediately the cord is plugged into Mista’s phone, and he scrolls through spotify. Soon some Migos plays through the speakers, and everyone, minus Bruno and Abbacchio, raps along. One would think dancing in a car isn’t possible, but the energized teenage boys find a way to car dance in their seats. Giorno looks back at Mista during Offset’s verse of BBO, watching him make lewd gestures and dance moves in his seat. He blushes as he is reminded of something: This is his love, being his easy-going, fun-loving, silly self. This is the personality that has captured his heart since the first time they met. This is the boy that Giorno wants to have by his side through every challenge he comes to face.
They’re at the second chorus of Supastars when they finally pull into the side parking lot of their favorite ice cream shop. The gang files out and heads inside. They each order their favorite flavors and sit at the counter that faces the window.
Fugo sits next to Giorno, licking a mint ice cream cone. “Do you have an idea of what part you want for mock trial?”
Giorno turns to face him, swiveling his stool. “I want to be a lawyer. Not sure which side though. Last year when I was a witness, the lawyers looked like they had hard jobs, so I want to learn how to do it from Bruno and Abbachio and Guido.” He reminisces about last year’s mock trial when he was a freshman. That year was unbelievably fun. But Giorno also thinks about the amount of hard work he’ll have to do this year to learn to be a good lawyer for mock trial. Bruno, he hopes, will also be a lawyer again this year. “What about you?” He asks Fugo, taking a spoonful of strawberry ice cream to his lips.
“I was thinking I want to be the accused witness, what’s his name, Gail Storm? Or a lawyer for either side.” Fugo, being a junior, is someone who Giorno looks up to in mock trial. He’s an amazing attorney, as Giorno concluded from last year’s season. The perfect team, Giorno thinks to himself, would be me, Fugo, and Bruno as the attorneys. And Narancia, Guido, Abbacchio on our team as well, although it would depend on what parts they want for which side they’ll be on…
There is a tap on his shoulder that makes Giorno swivel his stool around to Narancia on the other side of him.
“Dude, have you done it yet?” He looks with wide eyes into Giorno’s blushing face.
“N-no, not yet. It just… it just never feels like the right time. And you know I’d tell you as soon as possible if we did.” The truth is, Giorno hasn’t had his first kiss yet. Not with Mista, and not with anyone. Although Mista has probably kissed other people before, the two of them agreed that their first kiss together is something that must be done at the right time in the right setting. It’s not a trophy, it’s not for pleasure, they had agreed. It’s a symbol of their growing bond between them. One that will never break, even if they’re apart.
The concept of a first kiss being so sacred would be weird to people who aren’t their close friends. Giorno and Mista have good, true, friends that understand and support their decisions.
Narancia bites his chocolate rocky road ice cream off of its cone. “Aw, man, well when it happens, I want a full essay on every detail of it!”
Giorno laughs, a laugh that sounds like it can only come when someone tickles your tummy. “Of course, Narancia. You know I tell you everything.” He glances over at the seniors.
This is going to be a great school year, He thinks, I will make an impact. We all will.
When he looks over at Mista, cocking that warm and playful smile of his, Giorno feels it in the middle of his chest: the aching sensation of love.
Chapter 2: Direct Examination
The friends decide on everyone's role for Mock Trial and start discussing direct examination. Giorno gains confidence from his love while cheering at a football game.
Summer vacation is in like a week so I'll have muuuch more time to work on my stories!
Rip to deadlines
Next Wednesday after school, the students in the mock trial club slowly make their way to the club administrator’s classroom. The air is still hot in September as it was in August. In the corner are the freshmen, complaining about the heat and reading aloud the case book for the millionth time, making sure they know every detail of the witness they want to play. Narancia walks in and throws his bag into a desk and it falls to the floor, but with all the chatter in the room its sound is practically silent. He sits on top of the desk as Giorno slides into the desk next to him, reading the affidavit for one of the prosecution witnesses. I’m pretty good as a witness… I hope I can be a good lawyer too. It won’t be easy, but, I’ll put in a lot of effort and try my best to learn how.
“Giorno, hey,” Mista says, sitting in the desk in front of Giorno. He’s early, which is unusual.
“Hi,” Giorno says, a little bit breathless, “how was your neuro quiz?” Giorno asks, remembering how at lunch earlier in the day Mista was frantically studying the basics of neurology for his first quiz of the year.
He throws his arms over the back of the chair, focusing his eyes over Giorno’s open binder on the desk. “Oh, that? Wasn’t even worried. Not one bit. I think I aced it.” He averts his eyes playfully.
“You’re actually on time for a meeting for once,” Giorno points out casually.
“Yep, no basketball on Wednesdays. Now we just go extra long on Mondays and Tuesdays. It’s a nice change of schedule from last year.”
Giorno nods and turns the page in the affidavit as he pretends to be interested in reading. He’s already read the case book more than a few times, however, and of course, he knows Mista knows that.
“Are you nervous?” Mista asks, looking into Giorno’s crystal eyes.
“Y’know. All of us getting on the same team an’ all. It’s only gonna be fun if we’re together,” he says, lacing his fingers with Giorno’s on the desk. Their hands rest on top of the binder, neither one of them even attempting to hide it.
Giorno cocks his head to the side. “I didn’t really think of that. But now that you say it, I guess it would be awful if we don’t all get the same team,” he takes a breath, “anyway, I’m more worried about how I’ll do as an attorney this year, regardless of what team I’m on.”
“Don’t be. You got Bruno to teach you how it’s done. He’s a genius.” As the words leave Mista’s lips, the said senior walks into the room and progresses the meeting by calling everyone’s attention. Giorno taps Mista’s shoulder before he can go to the captain’s table up front.
“Are you coming to the game on Friday?” He asks. It’s the first football game of the season, and Giorno and Narancia are cheering.
“’Course. You asked me to film your routine, remember?” He puts his hand back where it previously was. The tiny hairs on Giorno’s arm stand up despite how warm it is in the room.
“Oh. Right, I remember.” He laughs through his words and Mista smiles at him before returning to the front.
"So this is basically how direct examination works,” Bruno says, “I'll practice on Mista. Mista, what is your full name?"
Mista smiles up at him as he swings into the swivel chair. "Guido Mista."
"And how old are you?"
"Where do you go to school, Mista?"
"I go to Hell-on-Earth high." This earns a laugh from the crowd. Giorno shakes his head as he grins.
“And where are you planning on going to college?”
Mista just laughs.
"What color is your car?"
"Silver? What kind of question is that?"
"I don't know, it was the first thing that came to my mind." The senior looks to the students. “Do you understand? The questions you ask on direct examination should introduce your witness, establish credibility, and let their side of the story be heard. The most important part of direct: do not, do not do not, use leading questions on direct. It’s against the rules. Here’s an example of a leading question: Mista, you were at the cafeteria today at 12:00, right?”
“Nah,” Mista says, kicking his feet up on the table.
“So a leading question usually ends with the words right, correct, or yes. But it’s all in how you fluctuate your voice. I can ask, Mista, didn’t you have gym class during period 2 today? That’s also a leading question.”
“Save the leading questions for cross examination. We’ll get you guys matched to your parts today, and then you should get into your groups. Lawyers get with witnesses and discuss writing your first draft of direct examination together,” Mista pauses and looks to Bruno, who is writing out the teams that their moderator has assigned them on the whiteboard. “and if you have trouble writing your direct, try just writing questions going in order from the beginning of the affidavit and going from there.”
By now Bruno has finished writing everyone’s names on the board along with their team.
“Alright.” He points behind him. “whatever color team your name is under, that’s what team you’re on. Blue team meet over in the corner of the room, red team meet in the hallway.” He hands a paper to a junior on the other team. The students chat and the red team files out into the hall. The blue team is already creating its territory, with Narancia and Giorno pushing desks together in the back.
“Nice Bruno! You got us all on the same team!” Narancia exclaims, patting Bruno’s back.
“Yeah, I did, but I had to do a lot to make it happen. Mrs. D wanted to make the teams more… equal. So try not to abuse the privilege, guys.” Bruno pulls up a desk. “Alright, let’s see. So Narancia, you’ll be Lee Way, because I think you’d make a believable PTSD college kid.”
“Hell yeah! Thanks Bruno!” Narancia sits next to Giorno, who sits next to Mista in their circle of twelve. Fugo sits next to Abbacchio, and their other friends Risotto, Melone, Ghiaccio, Formaggio, Prosciutto, his brother, Pesci, all form a circle of desks.
He definitely had to pull some strings to get all of us on the same team, Giorno thinks. Bruno sure is amazing.
Bruno continues listing: “Abbacchio, you’re Percy Veer, the intimidating marine investigator and expert witness. Mista, you’ll be Beau Vine, the business partner of Dr. Archie Way and undercover drug dealer.”
Mista squeezes Giorno’s hand under the table as Bruno continues. “Pesci, you’ll be Ty Knotts, the first mate of Captain Storm, Formaggio you’ll be Sage Leigh, the psychologist and expert witness, and Ghiaccio, you’ll be Captain Gail Storm, the accused witness. Everyone else is a lawyer. So now figure out who will be directing and crossing who.”
Everyone nods in agreement. Bruno pulls out a sheet of paper to keep track of everyone’s role. He draws a simple chart while the rest talk with each other to figure out who will be working with who. Melone steps over backpacks to reach Bruno.
“Hey,” he greets with a smile. The gesture is returned. “you make a great captain, Bruno. Really.”
“Just doing my job.”
“Do you think I can direct Ty Knotts and cross Percy Veer?” the platinum blond asks.
“Sure, so that’s Pesci and Abbacchio.” Bruno makes corresponding marks on his sheet. “Thank you for deciding quickly. You know what to do, get to direct examination for the rest of the time today.”
“Yes sir!” Melone heads back to his desk. Mista comes up to him next and kneels on the ground.
“Dude, I got everyone’s parts. I’m only gonna say it once so pay attention.” He directs.
“Go for it.”
“So Risotto wants to direct Storm and cross Beau Vine, which is me, Prosciutto wants to direct Sage Leigh and cross Lee Way. Fugo is gonna direct Percy Veer and cross Ty Knotts… and uh, Giorno wants to direct, m-me.” He tris to hide a stutter as Bruno gives him a look, one that makes Mista feel as if he can read his mind. He can’t help it, the thought of working closely with his unofficial boyfriend makes him go crazy.
“Okay. Thank you Mista. Tell them they can all begin working. I’m going to tell the other team the first drafts of direct are due next Wednesday.” He leaves the room.
Mista slides back into his desk. It seems his instructions are not needed, as everyone has already begun to look over the affidavits and begin making their google documents for direct examination. He inches his desk closer to Giorno, who is currently having a conversation with Risotto. From the fragments that Mista picks up, he assumes it’s some kind of intellectual attorney conversation. Yeah, not for him. He scrolls through his Instagram while he waits. On his feed is a stunning photo of Giorno next to a big rose bush. It’s beautiful, he thinks. Mista isn’t sure what’s brighter: Giorno’s smile or the glare from the perfect angle of the sun. He double taps and proceeds to stalk Giorno’s account. (an activity that he usually indulges in daily)
It’s full of pictures like that one. He puts those flowers to shame. There are some with their friends and quite a few of him and Giorno together. Something about seeing him and Giorno in photos from the summertime gives him nostalgia and a sense of pride.
“Hey Mr. Beau Vine,” Giorno giggles as he turns his desk toward Mista’s.
“Excuse you it’s Dr. Vine,” He retorts as he reaches for Giorno’s mock trial binder.
“I already shared a document with you.” Going back to his laptop, Giorno types the first line: Please state your name for the court. “Alright, first question down.”
“That ain’t a question.”
He flicks Mista’s forehead.
“Okay, how about, like, where do you live? Or something? To establish your character?”
Mista scans the first paragraph in the affidavit, then gives Giorno a look. “I think the court has better things to do with their time than hear about Beau’s dinky cattle farm.”
Giorno snorts, and backspaces his question. “This is gonna take a lot of work.”
“Well it is only a first draft. We got time, don’t worry Giorno.” But Giorno furrows his brows and frowns. It isn’t as if he’s never written a direct before, but starting it is always the hardest part. Mista reaches for his hand, a technique that never fails to cheer Giorno up.
For the rest of the meeting, they manage to get more questions down on their document. Of course, they’re sloppy and some are jokes like “Did you kill Archie Way and his family?” with the answer “Of course I did.” But the point is, direct is nothing to worry about.
“You gotta save your stress for cross examination, Giorno,” their friend Risotto says when they’re all walking to the parking lot. The sun is low in the sky. It’s golden hour.
“I know I know, I just want to do my best to be a good attorney,” Giorno insists. They walk to Mista’s car, parked next to Risotto’s.
“You’ll do great. I believe in you.” He nudges Giorno’s shoulder before he gets into his car with a wave.
Mista comments once he and Giorno get into Mista’s Sentra, “Hear that? You’re the only one worrying about you, Giogio.” Giorno shrugs, hiding a sheepish smile.
“W-well that was only Risotto, he’s a co-captain, of course he has to say stuff like that. Also, did you notice he switched up the color of his contacts today?” Their friend has the tendency to wears different colored contacts to school. Today, Giorno had noticed, they were a pale electric blue.
“Ugh, those creepy-ass contacts he always wears.” Mista turns on the radio before buckling up and turning the car on. “Must have a dozen pairs of ‘em.”
They hit the road. With the windows cracked open, the music flows out into the atmosphere. The sun spills into the car and Mista reaches for his aviators that he keeps in an upper compartment. They sing along to the radio at the top of their lungs and crack jokes to make each other laugh rather than make conversation, and that’s okay with the both of them.
When they pull into Giorno’s driveway, Mista taps his shoulder.
“I love you.”
Giorno blushes. “I know, you dork. I love you too.” They give each other’s’ hand a squeeze before Giorno steps out of the car and goes inside his house.
Mista texts him before he gets back on the road: remember to study for that history quiz you have tomorrow. don’t work on direct or else i’ll be disappointed
Friday night. Giorno and the other cheer leaders have just finished practicing their stunts as the football players file onto the field. The sun has just begun to set, so the stadium lights are not yet turned on. Crowds of students and proud parents file in through the gate that surrounds the field behind their school.
Narancia pulls Giorno aside. “Can you fix my headband before the game starts?”
Swiftly Giorno pulls the headband off of his friend’s tuft of brown hair and begins combing his fingers through it. “Hey, do you think Mista will be here soon?”
“Yeah, he’ll show, try not to worry.” Like a little brown dog, Narancia lets Giorno groom him. “Just focus on the team and the cheer. You gotta land those pikes.”
“Ugh. Pikes.” Giorno thinks he looks like a sloth waking up for the first time in years when he does pike jumps. He never seems to be able to stretch his legs high enough in front of him, and when he is successful his legs are always left with sore muscles the next day. Maybe tonight will be the night I do it right.
Once he’s done with Narancia’s hair, the two of them go back to the side of the field where the rest of the team is waiting, everyone in their assigned positions. Giorno hops into place where he belongs. Now to wait until the game starts.
The band is warming up, playing different scales and sections of their pieces. He continues to scan the arena, then his gaze lands on the student section right above where they are standing. Many of their classmates are there socializing, with the freshmen in the very back rows. Everyone is wearing orange and blue, their school colors. Giorno tries to scout out Mista but among the sea of faces it’s hard to decipher everyone. What if he doesn’t come? But he can’t think of any reason why he wouldn’t. Meaningless anxiety.
A hand nudges his shoulder to bring him back to reality. It’s Narancia.
“You lookin’ for Mista?”
“Yeah,” he doesn’t take his eyes from the crowd, “don’t see him yet.”
“Aww, you’re so in love with him,” Narancia coos in a lovey-dovey tone as he flashes a smirk. Giorno shakes his head and pushes him. He topples to the ground.
The game starts, and their home team scores a touchdown almost immediately. The cheer leaders line up in their positions for the first cheer. Giorno climbs in rhythm onto his base’s palms and they lift him high into the air. He looks to his right; Narancia is also in the air, perfectly timed. They start their cheer.
The flyers raise their arms in sync before each performing their pike jumps. Giorno lands a little wobbly, but the bases catch him, and he’s lowered to the ground before an accident can occur. Once the flyers are on the ground, there are high fives all around.
“Dude, you did it!” A pleasantly surprised Narancia commends. “I knew you were worried over nothin’.”
“Haha, yeah, thanks.” Giorno shrugs and turns away. To him, that pike was unacceptable for the field. He was too wobbly, to unstable to make a perfect landing. I hope this game goes by quick.
Unfortunately, the game drags on. At halftime, the cheer leaders perform more stunts and hype up the crowd with more chants. Normally Giorno loves it. But something’s missing. His stomach is full of emptiness even though cheer leading is his passion. What could be missing?
Luckily Giorno doesn’t have to agonize much longer before he finds the answer, and when he does, the aching disappears. During the fourth quarter, he finally spots Mista in the student section, Fugo at his side, the two of them talking to some other guys, laughing and having fun. Mista’s phone rests in a tripod balanced on the bleacher next to the edge of the student section. Mista, I seriously love you.
When Mista catches Giorno’s eye, he waves and winks. Giorno becomes so flustered that he almost doesn’t hear the crowd cheer, symbolling another touch down made by their team and a signal for them to do a routine again.
Hastily Giorno climbs on the backs of his teammates, and at a steady, pulsing beat, he’s launched in the air and does a twirl. When he’s in the air, nothing runs through his head besides planning on getting in a plank position before the bases catch him on his back. He’s successful, and the whole audience goes wild! Even some of the folks who are from the other school are cheering and clapping at the cheer team’s stunts.
Narancia embraces Giorno in a celebratory hug. With Giorno looking over his shoulder, his eyes focus on Mista in the student section. He didn’t notice before, but it seems as if their whole school is packed into those bleachers. Giorno squints to read his lips. ‘That’s my boyfriend!’
So, Mista just proclaimed them official. Wow, Giorno thinks, half paying attention to Narancia’s rave about his perfect twirls, he calls me his boyfriend? I never knew! I can’t believe it! We’re dating!!
He smiles to his ears as he zooms back to reality to take in Narancia’s words.
“How do you feel now, Giogio?” Narancia screams over the hollering crowd.
“Like I can take over the world.”
Chapter 3: Princeton, but maybe Yale
The friends enjoy lunch outside and talk about college. Giorno and Trish go shopping to prepare for a party on the weekend, and Giorno finds a warming message from Mista on their direct examination.
School's finally out!!!
At next Wednesday’s lunch period, Narancia had ordered a pizza for everyone to share. It’s against the school’s rules, but that doesn’t concern anyone. The pizza guy shows up to the back of the school where the outside picnic tables are and Narancia goes over to tip him. The sun is bright, and the grass is still a fresh kind of green, as if it was the spring time. The untimely spring-like weather does not go unappreciated.
Giorno, Fugo, Bruno, Abbacchio and Narancia indulge in their shared meal. After taking a big bite of pizza, Narancia turns to Fugo.
“Dude, do you have any ideas of where you want to go yet?” He asks through a mouthful of food.
“Please finish swallowing your food before you talk.” is how Fugo responds. “But yeah, I’m gonna apply to many places. Right now I’m focused on Princeton, but maybe Yale too.”
“You can probably get into anywhere you apply to,” Giorno comments. It’s true, their friend Fugo is very intelligent. “Remember when you won that chemistry award last year? That’ll look amazing on your application. I bet you’re gonna get a ton of scholarships!”
Fugo looks away, visibly flustered. “I mean, that would be nice, but I don’t want to get your hopes up. I’m nothing special, seriously.”
Just then Mista casually walks out through the doors of the school, sipping a monster energy drink. His jeans sag ever so slightly and his sweatshirt strings are noticeably at uneven lengths. He slides in next to Bruno and across from Giorno, an empty, tired, look on his face. A slice of pizza effortlessly finds its way into his mouth.
“Oh my gosh, you look awful.” Giorno giggles, watching him closely. “Can I please give you a cream for your dark under eyes?”
If Giorno was anyone but Giorno right now, Mista probably would smack him. “Yeah, I know I look like shit. Feel like it too. But it ain’t my fault. My upstairs neighbors were fighting, they ended up throwin’ things at each other and screamin’ too.” He downs the rest of his Monster. “Then they came down and wanted me to help sort things out between ‘em. It took almost three hours, and by then it was 3 a.m. They wouldn’t leave until I came up with some magic solution for them.”
“Well what was your solution?” Bruno asks, as Giorno takes notice of him for the first time during lunch. Next to Mista, with his neat clothes and bright eyes, they look like complete opposites.
“So they were arguin’ about which one should pay some guy back, or somthin’, I don’t really know, and they’re married so that made it so much worse. Neither of ‘em wanted to, so I informed them that the best solution would be to both pay. They turned on me at that point, but I yelled louder than them and it actually worked.” He yawns and picks up another slice of pizza. “They also were complaining about the guy together to me and wouldn’t leave even after I mentioned the time like, forty-two times. It was three-fucking-thirty in the morning. But anyway, what’s up with you guys.” A statement rather than a question before his eyelids flutter.
“How many schools do you think will give Fugo scholarships?” Narancia asks abruptly. It takes Mista a few seconds to process his words.
“Like a zillion.”
“It depends on how many he applies for,” Bruno casually adds, sipping his starbucks drink.
“That would be five.” Fugo smiles proudly. A quiet Narancia grumbles. ‘Overachiever’
“Do you have a favorite one in mind?” Bruno, the intellectual.
“I’m liking Princeton. Or Yale.” Casual words like college isn’t a major chapter of everyone’s life. As if he’s talking about the fucking weather.
The intellectual smiles. “Very nice. I got accepted to Yale.”
“Is that where you’re gonna go?” Giorno, the only underclassman, asks.
“I’m not entirely sure yet. It would be a wonderful opportunity though.”
All this college talk has Giorno’s head spinning. The future is a scary thing, no doubt about it. It’s even scarier when it’s uncertain. It’s awful to imagine school without Bruno and Abbacchio, and especially without Mista. Mista will be leaving next year too.
One thing Giorno has never experienced is heartbreak. His friends and boyfriend (a newly acquired title) leaving to go to new places, better places, is a thought that makes his stomach ache.
Mista’s sixth sense of Giorno starts to tell him something is wrong, so under the picnic table he reaches around for Giorno’s hand and squeezes it. A squeeze and a troubled look is returned.
“Hey, what’s up?” Mista asks.
“It’s just… All this talk about college is really kind of sad. You guys will be leaving next year, and I’ll miss you so much.” He looks at Bruno, and then at Abbacchio, who are also listening to him.
“Giorno, no matter what college I go to we’ll never be far apart. I can tell you that,” Bruno consoles.
“Yeah, don’t worry, kiddo. We’ll come back to visit too. You have us for life.” Abbacchio looks at his nails, confident that Giorno knows he means it without trying to be too sappy.
Giorno laughs through blurry eyes. Every ounce of strength he has is working towards not letting any tears fall. Mista suppresses another yawn.
“You’re crazy if you think I’d leave you for good, man. I’m stickin’ around anyway, at least for a little while to save up some money. Who knows, maybe I’ll never even get to college,” Mista says, giving Giorno a wink.
“Don’t say that, Mista. You’ll find a great college, I’m sure.”
“Whatever you say, Bruno. But anyway, Giorno, I ain’t goin’ anywhere. Don’t worry your little head about it.” As if Mista casted a spell, Giorno’s worry starts to go away like magic. It’s an effect his love has on him. He never fails to make him feel better.
Narancia reaches over Fugo and feels the air for Giorno’s arm. “Is this Giorno? Yeah I think so. Dude even though we’re not seniors yet we’ll still leave before you but even then we’ll still be friends and I’ll never lose contact with you and I love you Giorno don’t worry,” he rambles.
“You’re crushing me, Narancia.” Fugo, who’s stuck in between them. “Same with me, Giorno. We’ll all still be friends.”
Giorno takes Narancia’s hand. “Thank you, guys. Sorry to ruin the mood.”
“Nah you didn’t. Sometimes things like that just have to be heard,” Mista says, “Now, how ‘bout that eye cream?”
Later that day, after mock trial, Giorno’s dad, Dio, drives him and his friend, Trish, to the mall. They decide to hit up Sephora first.
“Hey, are you coming to Mike’s party on Saturday?” The pink haired girl asks, picking up a Two-faced Better Than Sex Mascara. Trish isn’t in mock trial like the rest of them. She’s a sophomore like Giorno, one of Giorno’s only friends who is the same age as him.
Giorno pretends to consider her question. But really he already heard about the party and immediately vetoed the idea of going. This dude Mike is some senior who’s friends with some people who are friends with other people who somehow through some gradient of friendship are friends with Mista, Narancia, and Fugo. He’s known to have parties at some marina all the time.
“I uh, I think I have a thing with Mista on Saturday. You know, like a date. And Mista hasn’t had a ton of free time lately, so it’ll be the first time in a while where we can hang out for more than an hour. So… we both can’t go.” He’s making up bullshit. He loathes the idea of going to the party.
“Huh,” Trish says, “that’s weird, Mista told me this morning that he was going.”
Giorno sweats. “O-oh. Well Mista did say he was planning on taking me somewhere. Maybe he meant… the party. He um, didn’t tell me where.” Bullshit bullshit bullshit.
Trish’s eyes go wide. “Aww! He was totally planning on taking you there!”
He must save himself. “But, ugh, I wish he had told me… haha… I don’t know… I don’t really want to go.” He plays with a liquid lipstick in his hands.
“What!? Why not?”
“Trish I have nothing to wear! And, I just don’t have a look planned yet.”
“Well it’s a good thing we’re at the MALL, Giorno!” Trish squeals. “Let’s get you some bomb ass makeup and we’ll pick you an outfit too!”
“You really think I’ll have fun there?”
“Of course? Mista wouldn’t take you if he didn’t think you would.” Great, now Giorno realizes what a horrible lie he told Trish.
So they look through the shelves and Giorno picks out new concealer, lipstick, and highlighter. Trish begs him to get a pair of falsies too.
“Do girls seriously wear all this to parties?” He asks as they’re checking out.
“Um, we wear more than that,” she answers. “Don’t worry, since you’re new to this stuff I’ll come over beforehand to help you out.”
“That’s really not necessary.”
“Do you want to look pretty for Mista?”
He considers this. “Yeah. I do.”
“Then I’ll come over.” There’s no arguing with her. Once her mind is set there’s no changing it. But that’s a reason Giorno likes Trish, she never fails to take control and let people know what she thinks.
They purge Forever 21, Aéropostale, and Brandy Melville. To Giorno’s disheartening surprise, Trish manages to convince him to buy every piece of clothing that he tried on that looked good. So not only does he have an outfit for the party, but enough outfits for the next day and the next day and the next. Part of Giorno revels in the new purchases but part of him also cringes at how much money everything costs. How does Trish manage to afford all this stuff on a regular basis?
When Giorno gets home, he has dinner with his dad, Dio. He does some of his homework, and saves the rest for study hall tomorrow. He dropped his shopping bags on his bedroom floor before dinner and he walks around them, careful not to step on them as he goes to his bed. He lays there with his phone and texts Mista.
Giorno: I didn’t know you were planning on going to that party
He waits fifteen minutes for a reply, which he opens at once.
Mista: lmao yeah. you wanna come? it’ll be fun
Giorno: Maybe. I’ll think about it
Mista: please come
Mista: i’ll only go if you go
Giorno: I said I’ll think about it
As much as Giorno loves Mista, sometimes he is too quirky for him. Giorno opens up his laptop on his pillow and opens up their direct examination google doc. Their rough draft was finished, they had finished it today at practice. Giorno reads over some of the questions and edits them. He can see that Mista made a few edits of his own, but mostly Giorno had put as much effort as he could into it.
At the end of the questions, however, there is a little paragraph. The font is different from the regular times new roman they’ve been using. Giorno makes the font bigger so he can read it:
Giogio you’ve been working really hard on the direct. I love your dedication but remember we can do it together. We’re partners after all. Don’t be afraid to ask me or Bruno or Abbacchio for help if you feel like you can’t handle it on your own. Love you. Guido
Although it’s a mystery to him what “it” could be referring to. He’s not just talking about direct here… maybe he means school in general, Giorno thinks to himself. He checks when Mista wrote the message: Monday evening, 8:00. How could he not have seen it until now? In the morning, I’ll apologize to Mista for not seeing it.
He puts the laptop back in its charger and gets ready for bed. He falls asleep, legs curled up under his blanket, fairy lights on, Mista in his mind.