Billy Marlin doesn’t see the woman dressed as Frankenstein’s Bride quickly approaching him and Marc because he’s busy messing with that girl-but-not, Susie. Even when she shouts to get their attention, hes not worried. She’s short and plump and an adult dressed up when it’s not even Halloween. Another weirdo, like the boy-chick he stops pushing in order to look at this bossy woman.
When the lady tells him off, he scoffs “she started it,” because he knows the lady wasn’t around when it started.
Frankenstein’s Bride locks eyes with him. “No she didn’t, Billy Marlin,” and he’s stunned. Does he know her somehow? Greendale isn’t the biggest town, but they don’t all know each other. How does she even know his name?
So he asks, and she smiles and lets his darkest secrets pour from her mouth.
When he was eleven, Billy’s parents asked him if he wanted to go to summer camp. They cited his previous summers and how they were filled with boredom and a restlessness that a town like Greendale brings out in the people that live there and spewed compliments for the camp rapid-fire, most quoting some fragment sentence they saw in the brochure. He was overwhelmed by their approach and agreed to go. It wasn’t really a question anyways.
Excited and very nervous, his parents checked him in and said their goodbyes and left. Billy was left to awkwardly stand with his bag until a counselor came over and escorted him to one of the two cabins that contained the eleven year old boys.
The counselor gave him a quick rundown- the boys bathroom was a large brick building towards the main building in case he needed to go, he should unpack and pick a bunk that’ll be his for the rest of the summer, once everyone has been checked in someone would collect them all and lead them to the campfire for a Welcome Night Jamboree- and left him to mill around the room with the few other kids who had arrived a bit early.
So far, so good.
Billy found that, while the counselors were sometimes cringey, camp was pretty good. Kayaking, hiking, canoeing -and archery that one time before it was taken away because of an inability to follow safety protocols- turned out to all be things he enjoyed. Time to just move and think without having to worry about what to say or how to act.
He still hadn’t really made any friends, but he was nice enough that people were still friendly with him. Other than a few older boys that liked to walk at the back of groups and laugh and throw baby carrots across the mess room and trip him, Billy thought he got along pretty well with most of the other campers.
One day, towards the end of summer, as they were walking back towards the cabins for the night for lights out, one of the loud boys tripped him. He fell right into a big pile of mud as people laughed. Billy quickly jumped up and tried to wipe it off, but it had gotten everywhere. It was generally frowned upon to go to the bathroom after lights out, but he grabbed some clothes and a flash light and set out.
He was in the middle of showering in one of the stalls when he heard the door swing open. He startled and his heartbeat picked up for a second, but died down quick enough as it wasn’t that unusual for last minute bathroom trips.
When he looks back on this night, he thinks if I had just hurried in the shower, if I hadn’t taken my time-
The counselors laughed it off and, when he tried to insist, threatened to send him home if he kept spreading lies. He thought of his parents and how much they complained about the hassle of driving him to camp and shook and frowned and stayed silent. It was almost time to go home anyways.
He walked as far away from his camp group as possible without getting yelled at by the camp counselors and didn’t talk to any of the other boys anymore in case they knew, and when he slept in his bunk at night he tucked the blankets as tight as possible around him like they could ever possibly be a shield. He pushed his face into the pillow and shook and tried to stop feeling the hands on him.
His dad yelled at him for lying, that this wasn’t the proper response to disliking summer camp, but if this is what it was teaching him then he wouldn’t be going back.
His mother told him that he was selfish and wanted their attention. They couldn’t have one summer without him screaming for all eyes on him.
He insisted and, in a furious rage, his mom snatched laundry detergent and made him wash his mouth out with it.
Billy was stunned and shaken up and terrified and maybe his parents didn’t want him to go to camp because they thought it would be good for him, maybe it was because they wanted to be rid of him for once and pretend like he didn’t exist.
He wasn’t sure if he could blame them.
Billy wished he had never said anything. His father wouldn’t look at him and spent a lot of nights with his hand firmly wrapped around a glass of whiskey.
His mother, however, also seemed to wish for things to go back to normal. She was sterner and less caring then normal, but didn’t ignore him completely like his dad. The first few times he tried to bring it up again, she made him wash his mouth out with the laundry detergent again.
So he stopped bringing it up. He went to school, got good grades, and punched a kid in the face for stepping on the back of his shoe.
His parents were angry, but his dad looked at him when he scolded him, so maybe it all evens out. They seemed more comfortable with this behavior anyways, because it was something they knew how to handle.
He gained new friends, people that thought his angry outbursts were funny and his silence was a plus rather than a minus, as it allowed them to converse as they wished without actually having to interact with him. They followed him around and it felt good to have the laughing crowd of boys on his side for once.
With eighth grade came Marc. He had just moved to Greendale and gravitated towards Billy and his friends immediately. Billy thought he fit in with the other followers. He was nicer than the others, though, less willing to shove a few kids around and was more worried than thrilled whenever Billy got into a fight.
Billy saw him as a follower, a group he cherishes but despises all at once for being the type to do the thing that was done to him, but the group that sticks with him now. But Marc was a little softer around the edges than the others.
Marc hoped Billy would see him as something more.
High school, specifically football, got him teammates and a uniform of sorts to denote this. He cherished that football jacket, even as a freshman when it was looked down upon to wear it. No one would mess with him with that jacket on. They knew he had people on his side if they did. People that might care, at least enough to take revenge. That was more than he had ever gotten before.
High school also brought him that bossy little blonde chick, the loud girl with the afro, the soft boy, and that probably-girl. They all existed so loudly. They yelled and fought about their problems, about the injustice of it all and how Susie shouldn’t be treated like this, why hasn’t anyone done anything about this-
Susie was the quietest of them all and so was the one that angered Billy less. But, she dared to be different and do this and had people to back her up and it made him so angry.
So he pushed her in the halls, asked if she was a chick where were her boobs? The rest of the guys thought it was funny, too. They joined in and laughed and taunted. It made him feel sick, sometimes, but it made him feel calmer, too.
So he continued.
It was silent when he and Marc left the book store. Neither wanted to say anything about the other’s secret because their own was out there in the open now, too.
They walked quietly for a bit, until Marc seemed to gather up enough courage to say something.
“Was... was what she said about you true?”
Billy was quiet when he responded, “Y-yeah.”
“Cause what she said about me was true, too.”
Billy glanced up to find Marc smiling at him softly. Billy wrapped an arm around his shoulder and off they went.