Chapter 1: judged on sight and made to fit
"This is your lunch, OK? Now, I put a dollar in there so you can buy some milk. You can ask one of the big kids where to do that." Sheila says, trying desperately not to act worried.
"You remember your phone number? I wrote it down for you, just in case. Put it in your pocket, I don't want you to lose it. OK? You ready?" adds Fred.
It makes sense that they'd be worried. After all, it's not everyday that your kid goes to school for the first time. This is completely normal. Reggie would even say it was cute, if he was starting first grade instead of, well, eleventh.
Reggie on the other hand, is thrilled. He's never gotten to socialize with so many of his peers, let alone go to an actual high school. He has no idea what to expect, but this is bound to be good. He has never had any real friends before!
But, as it turns out, the other students aren't as excited at the idea of being his friend. He's been walking around the cafeteria for the past ten minutes and so far not one person let him sit with them. Reggie sighs as he makes his way to the boys' washroom. This is not how he had expected his first day to go at all.
He's already crying when the sound of the door slamming open startles him. Two boys enter, talking loudly about a conversation that took place earlier that day.
"And then," says the taller one, imitating the boy's poor Southern accent, "he asked me what my leather jacket was made of. So I said, 'Your dad's foreskin.' Get it? Because his-" he stops abruptly. "Is someone crying?"
Shit. Reggie thought he was being quiet. He covers his mouth with his hand, but it's too late. The boy is already knocking on the door.
"Hey, is everything okay?"
Reggie sighs and steps out of the stall, and immediately bursts into sobs. The shorter boy hugs him and pats his shoulder. "There, there."
Once Reggie calms down, the boys introduce themselves. "I'm Bernie, Bernie Taupin," says the taller one. "And this is my friend Ray. He's almost too heterosexual to function." The last part makes Reggie laugh a little. "I'm Reginald Dwight, but all my friends call me Reggie. Well, no one but my parents calls me that at the moment, but you guys can!" he says enthusiastically.
"Nice to meet you, Reggie. Is that your natural hairline?" asks Ray. "Cute." Reggie nods, self-conciously touching his head that's already balding at the age of 16.
The ringing of the school bell makes Reggie panic again. "Do either of you know where Room G-14 is?"
Ray says "I think it's in the back building, isn't it?" and winks at Bernie. Bernie hesitates for a second, but then nods. "Yeah, man. We can walk you there, if you like." Reggie eagerly accepts.
He doesn't suspect that they may not actually be going to class until Ray and Bernie sit down on the grass. "We're not going to health class, are we?"
Bernie laughs. "No, we're not. Come sit down with us, Reggie." He does, and they start watching the gym class.
"In the name of all that is holy, will you look at Roger Taylor's gym clothes?" says Ray. "Ugh. It's way too early for me to see Plastic ass."
"It's noon," Reggie says. "What's a Plastic?"
"They're teen royalty. If North Shore was Us Weekly, they would always be on the cover." says Ray.
"That one there, that's Roger Taylor. He is one of the dumbest people you will ever meet." Bernie adds. It's clear that he doesn't find them as amusing as his friend does. "And the tall one? That's Brian May. He's so rich because his dad owns Pret-A-Manger. He knows everybody's business."
"That's why his hair is so big. It's full of secrets." says Ray.
"And evil takes a human form in Freddie Mercury. Don't be fooled, because he may seem like your typical selfish, back-stabbing, slut-faced ho-bag. But in reality, he is so much more than that. He's the queen bee. The star. Those other two are just his little workers."
Reggie nods, though he understands very little of what his new friends just said. "I take it they're not very well liked around here."
Bernie laughs bitterly. "Oh Reggie," he says, but doesn't finish the sentence. Instead, he takes a piece of paper out of his bag and starts scribbling something. "Here," he says, handing him the paper. "This map is gonna be your guide to the cafeteria. Who you sit with is crucial. You got your freshmen, ROTC guys, preps, JV jocks, Asian nerds, cool Asians, varsity jocks, unfriendly black hotties, girls who eat their feelings, girls who don't eat anything, desperate wannabes, burnouts, sexually active choir geeks, the greatest people you will ever meet, and the worst. Beware of The Plastics."
Keeping Bernie's advice isn't very easy, because, for some reason, Freddie invites him to their table the next day. "Why don't I know you?" he asks. Reggie naively holds his hand out. "I'm Reggie. I just moved here from Africa."
Freddie blinks. "What?"
"I used to be home-schooled." Freddie looks like he thinks Reggie's joking now. "So you've never been to a real school before? Shut up. Shut up! You're like, really hot."
Reggie could feel the heat rising to his cheeks. "Uh... Thanks?"
"So you agree? So you think you're really hot?"
"What? I don't know?" This conversation was getting more and more confusing.
"If you're from Africa, why are you white?" wonders Roger, earning a smack from Brian. "You can't just ask people why they're white, Roger! Oh my god!"
"I love your name," Freddie says, changing the subject. "It's like, so adorable. What do you think about Elton?"
Reggie has no idea what the conversation is about at this point. "Who's Elton?"
Freddie laughs. "Oh, he's killing me. We have got to keep him, Bri," he says to his friend. "Elton as a name, silly!"
"Are you asking me if I want to change my name to Elton?"
Freddie shrugs. "Sure." Reggie doesn't answer, which Freddie takes as acceptance. He sighs. "Okay, we don't do this often, so this is kind of a big deal, but we want to invite you to have lunch with us for the rest of the week, darling." he says, and his sidekicks nod.
"Coolsies! See you tomorrow then."
"On wednesdays we wear wife beaters!" says Roger before he leaves.
Ray is ecstatic when Reggie (or Elton, as he's now called) tells him what happened. "You have to do it! Sit with them and tell us everything Freddie says!"
"I don't know if that's a good idea," protests Elton. "Yeah, I'm with Reggie on this one. He already ruined my life once. Do I really want to push my luck?" says Bernie. Ray sighs. "Come on, Bernie! This is your chance to get back at Freddie. Don't you want revenge?"
Bernie considers. He really does want revenge.
"Freddie seems nice," Elton tries.
"Oh, Freddie Mercury is not nice! He's a whore!" Bernie yells.
"Why do you hate him?"
Bernie doesn't answer.
"He outed Bernie as-" Ray tries to explain, but Bernie cuts him off. "Shut up Ray! Reggie, would you please just do this? For me?"
Elton wants to say no, but Bernie's eyes are like, really pretty. So he finds himself saying: "Do you have a wife beater?
Chapter 2: stupid with love
By eight period, Elton is so happy to get to math class. He can do math. In math class, nothing confusing ever happens, like past beef, or teenage drama, or...
Or boys. Okay, so math class isn't as safe as he thought.
Elton's only had one other crush in his life. A boy named Nfume, when he was five. Not enough to prepare him for the boy sitting in front of him.
His name is John Reid, he has a thick scottish accent, and before long Elton finds himself wondering how it would feel to run his hand trough the other boy's dark hair. He doesn't even know what the teacher looks like, but he knows that John likes drawing little cartoon faces on his notebook, and that he furrows his brows in frustration when he can't find the answer to a question, and that he sometimes lays his head on his desk, his shirt riding up and exposing his slightly muscular stomach. The mental image of him working out at the gym all sweaty isn't that fun to have in math class, but he makes a note to try that again in the confinement if his bedroom. He's been observing the students all day, and none of them were as charismatic or well-groomed as the dark haired boy, and none of them make him feel the way he does when he sees him. Is this what the women in his mom's romantic novels feel like? Elton feels like he could get used to this.
"See any boys you think are cute yet?" asks Brian once Freddie leaves to grab his lunch.
Elton's not sure how appropriate it is to talk to Brian about this, but he finds he can't stop himself anyway. "Well, there's this guy in my calculus class..."
"Ooh! Is he a senior?" asks Roger.
"His name is John Reid."
Brian's eyes widen to match the size of his plate. "No. Nononononono. That's Freddie's ex. He was like, super sad about it when they broke up! "
"I thought Freddie dumped him?" asked Roger.
"OK, irregardless! Ex boyfriends are off-limits to friends. I mean, that's just, like, the rules of men's rights activism. Don't worry. I'll never tell Freddie what you said. It'll be our little secret."
Well. There goes Elton's chance of finding true love.
So what? He may not be allowed to like John, but he can still look at him. Talk to him. Think about him. (Maybe he should cut down on the last part.) "Hey, J-"
"You're the African kid, right?"
Elton looks at the blonde girl staring at him.
"I'm Arabella, leader of the North Shore Acapella Group. We participate acapella competitions against other high schools in the state, and we can get twice as much funding if we've got a gay guy. So you should think about joining." she said, handing him her card.
"Sure." Elton always did like singing.
* * * * * *
"Get in, loser! We're going shopping!
Chapter 3: don't be fooled by the pink
Elton doesn't know what he expected his first shopping trip with the Plastics to be like, but it sure as hell wasn't this.
Ray wasn't lying when he called them teen royalty. When they walk trough the mall, the crowd teenagers split like the red sea to make way. Elton can almost see a red carpet beneath his feet. It reminds him of Africa, other animals moving out of their way because they're afraid of being eaten. Freddie probably could do that.
"So how do you like North Shore?" Roger asks. "It's good. I think I'm joining the acapella team." Freddie abruptly stops walking.
"No. No, no, no, no, no. You are not joining the acapella team, darling. That's social suicide!" he half-screams. Brian nods. "You're soo lucky to have us to guide you." Elton's starting to feel insecure about how clueless he is.
After the nightmarish shopping trip (where Freddie buys Elton two pairs of platform heels he cannot walk in), Freddie invites all three of them over.
"Make sure you check out his dad's dick job. It's hard as a rock," Roger whispers in Elton's ear as they step out of Freddie's car. He soon discovers that he's right. It does appear to be hard as a rock.
"Hey, hey, hey! How are my best girlfriends?" the man greets them. "Hey, Mr. Mercury. This is Elton." His name isn't actually Elton, but he doesn't think that's worth correcting anymore.
"Welcome to our home. Just want you to know, if you need anything, don't be shy, OK? There are no rules in this house. I'm not like a regular dad. I'm a cool daddy. Right, Freddie?"
Freddie rolls his eyes. "Please don't talk to us, dad." he says, and then he guides them to his enormous room.
Elton has never seen a teen room besides his own, but he's sure this isn't what your average teen room is like. Freddie's room is a palace. Elton thinks it's probably bigger than their living room and kitchen combined.
Roger stares at his reflection at Freddie's mirror. "God, my hair is sooo bad!" he complains. Brian joins in on the pity party. "Oh, please. My pores are huge!"
"At least you guys can wear halter tops. I'm so slender they fall off me!" Freddie says from his twin-sized bed. They all turn to Elton.
"I have a fat wide arse?" he tries, which earns him disgusted looks from his new friends.
Roger squeals when he notices the hot pink notebook sitting on Freddie's desk. "Oh, my God, I remember this! We haven't looked at that in forever. Come check it out, Elton. It's our Burn Book. See, we cut out boys' pictures from the yearbook, and then we wrote comments."
Doug Weston is a grotsky little biatch. ("Still true.")
Paul McCartney is a fat virgin. ("Still half true.")
And then finally, Bernie Taupin is a disgusting hettie. along with a picture of Bernie smiling with Ray.
The first thing Bernie asks after Elton tells him about the burn book is if he's in it. Elton says he's not, but he doesn't buy it.
"Will this minimize my pores?" Ray wonders.
"No. Reggie, you have to steal that book."
"No way. I dont steal."
"Come on! We could publish it, and then everybody would see what an ax-wound he really is. That is for your feet," he says, turning to Ray, who's sniffing a tube of cream.
"Reggie, there are two kinds of evil people. People who do evil stuff, and people who see evil stuff being done and don't try to stop it."
"No, Bernie, I can't spy on Freddie anymore. It's getting weird."
Bernie rolls his eyes. "Come on! It'll be, like, our little secret!" he says, mocking Freddie's speech.
Like every teenager who hasn't had any friends other than his parents for the first 16 years of his life, Elton is a good kid. He follows the rules and stays in line. Needless to say, he doesn't deal with confrontation very well. Which is why he almost cries when Freddie calls him at 8 p.m. to say "I know your little secret."
He does his best to keep his cool. "What secret?"
"Brian told me that you like John Reid. I mean, I don't care. It's kind of cute, actually. He's like, the worst boyfriend, but... Whatever, I mean. If you like him... I could talk to him, you know. If you want."
"You would do that for me? Nothing embarrassing though, right?" he gushed.
"No, darling, you can trust me. I know John better than anyone. But are you not mad at Brian for telling me?"
Elton sighs, and then realizes that Freddie can't see him trough the phone, and says "No."
"Because if you are, you can tell me. It was a really bitchy thing for him to do."
"Yeah, it was pretty bitchy, but I'm not mad. I mean, I guess he just likes the attention."
"See, Bri? I told you he's not mad at you."
"I can't believe you think I like attention!" cried Brian's voice.
"OK, love you. See you tomorrow." And with that, Elton survived his first three-way calling attack. But it was all worth it, because now he had something priceless: Freddie's blessing.
Chapter 4: break a vase, it's halloween!
On October 3rd, John asks Elton what day it is.
"It's October 3rd."
Two weeks later, John says "It's raining." to which Elton responds "Yeah."
But he wants things to move faster, so he follows his instincts and asks John to help him with a problem he could solve in his sleep. And John's answer is... Wrong. All wrong. But it works, and John invites him to a Halloween party.
"That flier admits one person only," he says, winking, "so don't bring some other guy with you."
He rushes home to pick the perfect costume.
In the regular world, Halloween is when children dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Plastic World, Halloween is the one night a year when a boy can dress like a total slut and no other boys can say anything about it. The hard-core boys just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears.
Of course, no one bothered to tell Elton about this rule, so he goes in a flawless Donald Duck costume.
"What the fuck are you wearing?" Roger asks.
"A costume. What the fuck are you wearing?"
Roger points at the headlight stickers he stuck on his nipples, the only things he's wearing besides his black thong. "I'm a sexy car, duh!"
Thankfully, John sees him just in time and saves him from a conversation with Roger.
"You made it!" he exclaims. "And you are... a duck! I love it. Can I get you something to drink?"
He nods. "Thanks."
John winks and makes his way to the kitchen, but he's stopped by Freddie dressed in a catgirl costume.
He can't hear them, but John is blushing and looking his way, so Elton thinks Freddie is actually keeping his promise. He can't imagine why Bernie would hate Freddie. He's such a good...
Slut! Freddie is actually making out with John right in front of him!
He's never felt this feeling before. He can hear his heartbeat in his ears. His stomach feels like it's going to fall out his butt. He has this lump in his throat like after you dry-swallow a big pill. He hates Freddie. He hates him!
"I hate him!" he cries, bursting into the tiny garage Ray and Bernie have decorated to look like a tiny graveyard. "I hate Freddie Mercury!"
"Oh, no, Reggie, what happened?" Bernie asks, sympathetic."
"He's back together with John."
Bernie puts his hand on Elton's shoulder. "I tried to warn you. Freddie's a life ruiner. He ruins people's lives."
Ray nods. "In middle school he made people sign this petition saying that Bernie-"
Bernie cuts him off. "Ray! Please! Look Reggie, we're not gonna let him get away with this."
He brought a whiteboard and set it on the coffe table. It had three words written: MANS. FOLLOWERS. BODY.
"If you want to overthrow a dictator, you have to cut off his resources. Without his high-status man candy, his two minions and his supposedly hot body, he's nothing." Bernie explains. "If we want this to work, you have to keep hanging out with them like nothing's wrong. Can you do that?"
Elton nods. Bernie's mouth twists into a grin.
"Okay, let's rock this bitch."
Chapter 5: girl world
On Monday, Freddie sends Brian to apologize on his behalf. He makes some bullshit excuse for Freddie and hugs Elton.
It's almost too convenient.
Bernie and Ray's plan is simple: get Brian to think Freddie doesn't like him anymore and make him spill his dirtiest secrets. Brian is so gullible and friendly that Elton would feel bad about using him like this if Freddie wasn't doing everything in his power to constantly remind Elton of what a bitch he is. And John now being a part of their little lunch group gives him the most perfect opportunities.
Yesterday, he undid the top buttons on John's shirt, revealing some of his chest hair, just to spite Elton. "You look sexy with your shirt unbuttoned." Freddie said, making eye contact with him. "Elton, darling, will you please tell him he looks sexy with his shirt unbuttoned?"
Unfortunately, beating the shit out of Freddie in front of the whole cafeteria isn't considered socially acceptable. Which means that he has to take his revenge in a more subtle and civilized way. So yeah, he does feel guilty for what he's about to do to Brian. But you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, and Elton is hungry.
While he's waiting in the line to buy a candy cane, Bernie invites him over that night for a strategy meeting.
"I can't tonight, sorry luv. The girls and I have to practice for the talent show. We're doing a dance to this song-"
"Crocodile Rock." Bernie and Ray finish in unison.
"You know that song?"
Ray rolls his eyes. "They do it every year. Did you know that Bernie actually wrote the lyrics to that song?"
Elton shakes his head. "Freddie must've forgotten to mention."
"Sure. He must've," Bernie scoffs. "Shit. Speak of the devil. Freddie's coming. Go, go, go!" Elton whisper-screams, but it's too late.
"Ew, what were you doing talking to Bernie Taupin?"
"I don't know, he's so weird. He just came up to me and started talking about like, cowboys and shit."
It's now Freddie's turn to roll his eyes. "He's so pathetic. Let me tell you something about Bernie Taupin. We were best friends in middle school. I know, right? It's so embarrassing. I don't even... Whatever. So then in eighth grade, I started going out with my first boyfriend, David, who was totally gorgeous, but then he moved to Indiana. And Bernie was, like, weirdly jealous of him. Like, if I would blow him off to hang out with David, he'd be like, "Why didn't you call me back?" And I'd be like, "Why are you so obsessed with me?" So then, for my birthday party, which was an all-gays pool party, I was like, "Bernie, I can't invite you, because I think you're a hettie." I mean, I couldn't have a cishet at my party. There are gonna be guys there, NAKED! I mean, right? So then his mom called my mom and started yelling at her. It was so fucking cringe. And then he dropped out of school because no one would talk to him. When he came back in the fall for high school, he had terf bangs and he was totally weird, and now I guess he's obsessed with cowboys. Better them than me, I guess."
God, Elton thinks, give me strength not to punch him in the face. Amen.
He doesn't. Instead, he says, "So are you gonna send any candy canes?" Freddie giggles. "No. I don't send them, I just get them. So you better send me one, hoe." And after a pause, he adds, "Love your glasses by the way."
Elton blushes despite himself.
"They were my stepfather's in the '70's."
"Vintage! So adorable." And then he kisses the air around Elton twice and leaves.
Elton remembers when Freddie complimented some poor guy's shoes and insulted them as soon as he left. Every ounce of guilt he felt disappears as he slaps the bill on the counter.
"Two candy canes for Reginald Dwight and Roger Taylor, please. From Freddie Mercury."