He had a confidant smile on his face that I was looking forward to denting. This bigotous, self righteous bully definitely needed to be taken down a peg or three. And I knew just the way to do it. My fist, his jaw. Simple addition, no complex theories involved. Just add speed to my fist, and let it connect with his jaw, and the sum will be bully boy with one less smirk. And soon too, oh so very soon!
At least that's what I thought was going to happen. What actually happened next, happened so quickly, and took me so utterly by surprise, that I still have a hard time getting it all straight in my head. Maybe putting it down on paper will help me clear it up a bit.
With no warning that I could see, bully boy lunged at me. So surprised was I by his attack, that I took an involuntary step back to get away from him. Almost instantly Chris stepped in to occupy the space I had vacated not even seconds before. To say he moved with lightning speed would be like saying a nuclear bomb is just a really big grenade - a monumental understatement. One moment he was next to me, the next moment he was between me and our unnamed assailant.
I barely had time to notice this, and had no time at all to shout a warning at Chris. I had even less time to realize that the person I should be warning was not Chris, but instead the attacker.
Chris spoke in the same menacing voice he had used when asking bully boy if he wanted to pick on someone his own size. Just as it had been then, the sound of Chris's voice was terrifying in its beauty. Tightly controlled and very dangerous, it still somehow managed to convey a sense of innocence that was completely guileless. The next thing I knew I was staring over bully boy's groaning form, at Chris's back. His attack had been so swift, so fast, and so forceful, that it had not only caught our attacker off guard, it had left him a moaning heap on the floor. Chris paused and looked back at me. I stared at him, then at the prone form of the thug who had just leapt at me, and then back at Chris.
I just couldn't grasp it. Chris knew how to fight. The most innocent and angelic looking person I had ever met, and he knew how to fight. And not only did he know how to fight, he knew how to fight damn good! Better than me even! I knew he was strong, the tight shirt he was wearing gave evidence to a very nicely formed chest, but I had no idea he could fight. I was still baffled by it all. One second bully boy is lunging at me, the next he's a groaning mass at Chris's feet. I'll be a cooked goose if that isn't the last time I judge a person's fighting ability by their looks.
With one last glance back and a quick, innocent wink, Chris turned and started toward the huddled form of the boy at the end of the hall. We had met bully boy in almost the exact middle of the hall, so there was a good distance between us and the far end where he had been. After Chris had taken a few steps I was finally able to pull my wits together, and I started forward after him.
As I stepped over bully boy I could tell he was struggling to get up, but I was pretty sure he had learned his lesson so I let him go, and continued down the hall towards Chris and our 'damsel in distress'. (Yes, I realize that's incredibly corny, but what can I say?) Chris had reached the younger boy and was gazing down at him. As I got closer, Chris knelt down in front of the boy and slowly extended his hand placing a finger under the boy's chin. The boy jerked his head up in surprise, and that's when it got really bizarre - again.
They both froze, staring into each other's eyes.
"My God!!" Chris said, sounding just about as surprised as I felt. "Jamie!?"
I'm not sure which surprised me more, the fact that Chris seemed to know this person, or how this 'Jamie' responded. Almost before Chris had finished speaking his name, Jamie shouted Chris's own, and practically leapt into his arms, wrappings his own arms around Chris's neck and sobbing into his shoulder. "Oh Chris, thank God it's you!!" He gasped between sobs.
Slowly Chris closed his arms over Jamie's quivering form and turned his head to look at me. The look of confusion, anger, despair, and determination on his face served only to confuse me more. Who was this 'Jamie' person, and why did he get to be all wrapped up in Chris's arms!?
'Whoa there!' The very second I detected my own jealousy I throttled it mercilessly. 'I have no call to be jealous' I thought to myself. 'If Chris is gay, and this Jamie person is his boyfriend then it's none of my business! Besides, they both seemed genuinely shocked to see each other, so the probability of them being together is very slim. Hope, hope, hope!'
By now I had reached them and I decided that the best way to get answers to the million questions buzzing around in my head was to voice at least one of them. "I guess you two know each other." I said looking down at Chris curiously, almost making the statement into a question.
"Yes," he responded quietly, placing a hand on the back of Jamie's golden head, "Jamie is my cousin."
"Your cousin?" I asked stupidly, looking at the small form in Chris's arms.
"Yeah. You know, as in the son of my mother's sister? Cousin."
"Yeah, yeah, I get it. It's just, you seemed shocked to see him at first."
"Oh, that." Chris said, glancing down at Jamie. "Come to think of it," he continued, gently pulling Jamie back so he could look him in the eye, "what are you doing here? I knew you lived in San Diego, but I had no idea you were going to Pishley."
Jamie, having finally pulled himself together, let go of Chris and sat back on his feet. "Well, I didn't really want to, but after Dad got his promotion it was 'only the best' for his family. Personally I think he can stuff 'the best' right up where the sun don't shine. I was happy at my old school, no one knew about me there."
"Knew about you?" I asked, genuinely confused. "Knew what about you?"
"Nothing." Chris said quickly, standing up and putting himself between Jamie and I.
"No Chris, it's ok." Jamie said, also standing up. "It's ok Chris." Jamie didn't even come up past Chris's shoulder, and yet he spoke with the sureness of a full grown man twice his size. "I heard him talking to Greg, he doesn't care if I'm gay."
At this I was completely taken aback. He was right of course, I really couldn't care one way or the other if he was gay or not, but to hear him say it outright was something else all together. It was a symbol of overwhelming trust, and possibly even naiveté. For all he knew I could easily have been lying.
Chris was staring at me with a panicked looked in his eye, and I could see that very similar thoughts were passing through his mind as well. I also knew how he felt. If someone close to me was just about beaten to a pulp for being gay I would be pretty terrified on their behalf. So I did the only thing I could think of. I smiled.
"He's right, I don't care. And if he wants me to, I'll swear on a whole stack of Bibles never to reveal his secret to anyone. I just have one condition though. You have to promise not to develop any crushes on me." That last I said with a wink and my best smile. I was rewarded by one of the most breathtaking grins I have ever seen.
This boy was pure gold. His hair was the color of summer sunshine, his eyes the color of a cloudless sky in springtime. His skin was flawless, and his lips were nearly as kissable as Chris's own.
'Jeez Chris,' I almost said aloud, 'is everyone in your family gorgeous?'
"Well I guess that's settled then." Chris said smiling. "Jamie, this is my friend Adam."
"Hi Adam" Jamie said extending his hand.
"Why hello Jamie." I said, in a terrible English accent, holding his hand in my own and taking on all the poshness of a English gentleman receiving a royal visitor. "Very nice to meet you, indeed it is a pleasure." With that I finished it all off with a very theatrical bow and came up grinning like an idiot.
Both Jamie and Chris were laughing loudly. "I assure you, the pleasure is all mine." Jamie said, continuing the ruse, which of course just launched him into more giggles. "And you don't have to worry about me getting too much of a crush on you." Jamie finished once he could talk through his giggles.
"Oh," I said, feigning despair, "I'm crushed."
" Don't get me wrong," he said quickly, "you're amazingly cute, but I'm really not in the market for a boyfriend, just a really good friend. Besides, you're to old for me."
Now which comment should I respond to, eh? The one about me being cute, or the one about me being old?
By now Chris had once again returned to the floor, but this time he was on his back laughing his cute little ass off. Oh, did I say cute? Oops, I meant to say gorgeous.
"I suppose you see something funny?" I said dryly, which did nothing more then send him into yet another fit of laughter. "Well!" I really do need to drop this English gentleman thing, don't I? "Come along Jamie, we'll just go find somewhere to talk and become really good friends."
"W-wait." Chris managed to say, holding out one hand. "It's just, I was imagining you as an English gentleman all dressed up in silk and velvet and I just couldn't help myself. And then when Jamie called you old I lost it completely!" Rolling my eyes, I grasped the hand he was holding up, and helped him to his feet. You're probably sick of hearing me fawn over him, but he has just got the smoothest hands I've ever held! Come to think of it, I'm sick of me fawning. I NEVER fawn.
Of course the bell would choose that exact moment to ring, signaling the imminent beginning of third period, and cutting our fun short. "Wow," Chris said, dusting himself off, "has it really only been fifteen minutes? It seems like it's been days. What's wrong Jamie?"
"I.. It's.. I.." He looked like he was ready to burst into tears.
"Tell me." Chris prompted gently, placing a comforting hand on Jamie's shoulder.
"Well... either Greg or one of his friends is in all my classes, and they're all doing their best to make my life miserable. I mean, it's only the second day of school, and already he was going to beat me up. "And" he continued, dropping to a frightened whisper, "I don't even know how they found out I was gay."
"Well, I can see I'm going to have to have a little talk with this Gregg fellow. In the mean time, you're not going to class."
"I'm not? What am I supposed to do, hide in the bathroom for four hours?"
"No, you and I are going to my house and we're going to talk." With that said Jamie's face lit up and he hugged Chris fiercely. Chris turned to face me. "You're welcome to come if you like."
I thought for a moment. As much as I wanted to go with them, it was obvious they needed some time alone together to talk. "Nah," I said finally, "you two go talk. I'll get the homework assignment from English for you."
As we were talking the halls had begun to fill with other students, and by now they were once again jammed full. "Ok," Chris said over the growing noise of the crowd. "Thanks Adam. Oh, here, let me give you my number and address and you can come over once school's out. We'll all hang out together."
"Awesome." I said as he pulled out a pen and a piece of paper and wrote down his number and address. "Catch you two later, bye." I said, once he handed me the paper. "Have fun."
"You too." Chris said with a grin, knowing full well that I hate English.
"Bye Adam." Jamie waved as he followed Chris through the crowd. "See ya later."
"See ya bud." I called back. One more step, a swirl in the crowd, and the only evidence that they had been here at all was the piece of paper in my hand, with Chris's phone number and address written on it.
I glanced down at my watch. 'Great,' I thought, 'I've got two minutes
to get to the other end of the building and it will take me at least half
that time just to get out of a crowd that seems as impenetrable as a cement
wall.' - You ever get the feeling that the vast majority of people just
exist to get in your way?
I smiled to myself as Jamie continued to tell me about his latest crush. Once we had made it out of the school parking lot I had asked Jamie 'What's new?' Now, as we pulled into my driveway almost twenty minutes later (I'm not gonna risk killing my cousin just to get some cop's attention) he was still talking.
For the first five minutes of his narrative Jamie had been venting about how annoying it had been to have to move to a new, albeit bigger house, and a new, (debatably) better school - all because of his father's recent promotion. Not only had he been torn away from all his friends at his old school, and in his old neighborhood, but he had been thrown into, what was to him, a completely alien world known as private schooling. True, it wasn't quite as bad as some schools where they forced you to wear uniforms, but it still had an air of 'conform or else'.
Soon he had finished his tirade, and then started telling me about all the new things in his life which were, in his eyes, positive. The two most notable being first his enrollment in a dance studio (something he'd been begging his parents to let him do for almost as long as I'd known him) and second, his subsequent crush on one of the other students. It was this crush that he was telling me about as I pulled into the driveway.
"Josh is sooo cute!" Jamie crooned, throwing himself back into his seat as I turned off the engine and pulled out the keys. "Unfortunately he's also sooo straight." I raised my eyebrow curiously and he answered the unspoken question. "I saw him kissing his girlfriend. It was sweet, but I can't help wishing it had been me he was kissing."
"I know the feeling." I said as we got out and started walking up the path to the door.
"Whoa!" Jamie said, finally noticing my house. "Your house is huge Chris! All the houses on this street are huge!" He said after looking up and down the street. He was right I guess. A block that would normally have had nine or ten regular houses on it had three of four rather large mansions on each side. My house was at the end of the street in the typical suburban cul-de-sac, except that this particular cul-de-sac was comprised of mansions, my house being the granddaddy of them all.
"Yeah, I guess it is." I said somewhat unenthusiastically. I really didn't care.
"Whadda ya mean 'you guess'?" Jamie demanded of me, giving me a look of incredulity and disbelief that only a child can achieve. "It's huge Chris, no guessing about it! I mean, I knew your parents were loaded, but this is ridiculous."
"I know it is. I think it's a bit grandiose myself, but Mom and Dad liked it, so it's ours. Personally I think it's a lot of wasted space for three people, especially when two of them are almost never home."
"Just the three of you live here?" Jamie voiced this question after we had finally made it up the path and I had opened the door. Again his jaw dropped at the spectacle before him. To tell the truth my parents' extravagant tastes kind of disgusted me. I've never really been one for the flashy, 'I've got money and you don't' look, but that's exactly what this house screamed.
"Well actually there's six live-in helpers. John the cook, Jake the groundskeeper and his assistant Mark, and Dianne, I guess you'd call her the housekeeper, and her two helpers Janice and Samantha."
"And all of us are wasted on Chris." Dianne said, coming into the entry hall from the front room and scaring both Jamie and I half to death by her sudden appearance. She quite visibly had to suppress her laughter at having startled us.
"Geez Dianne, scare a guy right out of his wits why don't ya." I said after I'd gained back a bit of my wounded dignity, as well as closed the door.
"If the two halves of your brain had half a wit between them, you would never have left yourself open for that one." Dianne said, teasing me. I swear, despite the fact that she's almost forty years old, and therefore ancient to anyone under thirty, having Dianne as a housekeeper was almost like having an older sister. "AND you would let the staff take care of your things like any sane man, instead of insisting on doing all your own cleaning and cooking. Do you have any idea how many people would kill for what you've got?" This part was an old argument between us, although I was pretty sure she was secretly proud of me. And John was just ecstatic at the thought of being able to teach someone how to cook. In fact, he used to call me his protégé - until Dianne found out and ordered him stop.
"What!?" Jamie's voice was shrill with disbelief. "You could be waited upon hand and foot like any prince and instead you do it all yourself? Chris, your nuts!"
I just smiled and nudged Jamie toward the stairs. "You hold on there one minute young man!" Dianne said to me as I tried to guide Jamie forward. "Your parents have instructed me to keep you in line. I want to know exactly why you and your cousin are here, instead of in school."
"Aww Dianne," I whined in my best 'but mom!' voice. Of course she saw right through it. She always does.
"Spill it." She said simply.
I glanced at Jamie and saw that he had become very somber. He was looking towards his feet, and had his hands held nervously up under his chin. I looked at him with concern. "Um," I said also becoming serious, "maybe I'll let John do his job this once. Do you think you could ask him to make something for lunch and I'll tell you what's wrong while we wait?"
This was definitely out of character for me, I hated being waited upon, and Dianne knew something must be seriously wrong. Having noticed my concerned glance, and Jamie's sudden change in attitude, she assented with a simple nod. "You two wait in the front room, I'll go tell John to fix us some sandwiches and then I'll be back. I'm worried Chris, this isn't like you."
"I know. Thank you Dianne." And with that she turned and went to find John. I watched her for a moment and then turned back to Jamie who was still withdrawn and silent.
"Come on," I said gently placing my hand on Jamie's shoulder and very softly pulling him with me as I started toward the front room. Quietly Jamie followed me into the room, and we sat down on one of the couches in the large room to wait for Dianne. As we waited I looked around and once again wondered 'why?' The room was tastefully decorated and furnished, but everything had a look about it that screamed money. It wasn't any one thing in particular, there was no single piece of furniture, or decoration that you could pick out and say 'that makes this room feel gaudy'. Instead it was an accumulation of things. The extra scroll work on the wooden pieces of furniture and picture frames, and the gilt in the tabletops that was very nice, and very tasteful, but was also very apparent. Like most of the house it reeked of money, and I didn't really like it.
"Jamie," I asked softly, "what's wrong?" He was still looking down, and he had scooted himself up against my side, so I carefully put an arm around his shoulders.
"I... I..." As he tried to speak I could feel him shaking, and so picked him up and sat him across my lap so his back was to the arm of the couch next to me.
"What is it?" I asked, wrapping my arms around him protectively.
"It's just... I've been trying so hard to forget about Gregg. I pretty much had, and then Dianne asked us why we were here, and then the whole thing came back and I'm just so scared Chris." I looked at my little cousin and my heart went out to him; it ached that such an innocent child could be so scared, could ever have reason to be in such a state of terror. "I don't want to be scared anymore Chris, I don't want to be alone." He whispered and buried his face in my chest as he began to cry in earnest. If I hadn't been right next to him when he spoke, I would have completely missed his last sentence.
I could hardly bare to look at him like this, to see my beautiful cousin so sad, so alone, and so scared. I hugged Jamie's now violently shaking form close to my chest and slowly stroked his hair as I whispered in his ear. "You're not alone Jamie, you're never ever alone. You will always have me, always, forever. I promise."
Dianne had come back by now, and I could tell by the look of concern and even a little bit of love on her face, that she had been standing there long enough to have heard my last comments. She saw me look up and looked into my eyes. 'Tell me?' her eyes said to me. I nodded my head 'yes' and she came to sit next to us on the couch leaving enough room for Jamie to sit down if he decided he wanted to.
"Jamie." I said his name softly. "Can I tell Dianne now?"
"Yes." He said simply, nodding his head into my chest. "I'll be ok now," he continued, pulling back and looking me in the eyes. "Thank you Chris."
And so I told Dianne what had happened, with a few 'corrections' from Jamie. Suddenly, instead of a tall high school senior, I was fighting a giant of inhuman proportions. Instead of a simple knee to his gut, it required a long and complicated series of blows to disable him. Jamie's manner had changed again, once more he was the bright eyed, excited boy he had been in the car, and in the entryway before Dianne had asked what happened. The transformation was complete, almost as if there were two Jamie's and they had switched places without us realizing it.
As I finished telling Dianne about how Adam and I had helped Jamie, John came to the front room and announced that lunch was served. Apparently the emotional stress of the day had taken its toll on Jamie's small body, because he was famished. He jumped up and ran to follow John to the dining hall where a large platter of sandwiches and a pitcher of milk waited for us.
Dianne and I followed a bit more slowly, but not much. I too was hungry, I had forgotten to eat breakfast and the two hour history period, followed by a very emotionally charged forty-some-odd minutes between having left the school and this moment had all combined to give me a very healthy appetite. John looked on in undisguised pleasure as Jamie and I tore into the sandwiches ravenously. I don't think he'd ever seen any of his meals eaten so quickly, or appreciated half as much.
"Oh wow, that was great!" Jamie said, wiping his mouth with the cloth napkin Dianne had handed him in lieu of his shirt sleeve. John and Dianne had stood back, watching us eat and talking quietly to each other. What about I couldn't hear, and at the time I had been so busy trying to race Jamie for the food that I didn't really care too much.
"You are very welcome. It's so rare that I actually get to fix Chris anything that I thought I might as well make it worth it. It would appear I have succeeded. Now, young master, if you'll excuse me, I'll take the dishes back to the kitchen."
"Come on," I said to Jamie as John cleared the table, content to let him do this part as well, "I want to show you my room."
"Oh cool, do you have any new wizards?" Jamie asked me, knowing about my obsession.
"Yeah I do, that's what I wanted to show you." I said to him as I started in the direction of the stairs once again. "Oh, Dianne." I said, turning around. "I gave my friend Adam the number to the house, and directions to get here. If he calls or comes over, tell me please?"
"Certainly. Will he be coming after school, or will I be harboring three ditchers on the second day of school?"
"He should be here after school," I said, laughingly. "Thanks Dianne." And then, finally, we managed to get all the way up the stairs and to my room without any more interruptions. I never would have imagined it would take me so long just to get from the front door to my room. But then, I probably wouldn't have counted on so many interruptions either.
"Your room's cool Chris!" Jamie said with enthusiasm, giving me a major ego boost. I love compliments.
"Thanks." I said simply. And so for the next couple of hours Jamie and I talked about life, school, families, and stuff. We played some card games for a while, and Jamie made me pull the TV and Playstation out of my closet and play with him for a while.
Eventually three o'clock rolled around and soon after I heard the phone ring. Dianne has this annoying habit of always being right next to a phone when it rings, so she's always the first one to answer it, always! I've come to just accept it, and I don't even make a move for the phone unless I hear Dianne calling out that it's for me. As it happened Dianne knocked on the open door to my room to get my attention away from the TV screen and told me Adam was on the phone. I quickly picked up the cordless phone on my desk and signaled to Dianne that she could hang up the cordless she had in her hand (all the phones are cordless, it's easier to talk to someone and move around that way).
"Hello?" I said into the phone.
"Hi, Chris?" I heard Adam and once again my heart melted at the sound of his voice.
"Yeah, what's up?" I asked him, laying back on my bed and staring at the ceiling.
"Uh, I think you might have given me bad directions to your house."
"Huh? I don't think so... what makes you say that?"
"Well, I followed 'em just like you wrote 'em on the paper, and I'm in front of this humongoid mansion."
"Is it at the end of a really big cul-de-sac?" I asked him, getting up off my bed and quickly making my way out of my room and towards the stairs as I talked.
"Yeah, it's the biggest house on the whole block."
"Yup," I said, "that's my house."
"No way!! You've got to be kidding me?"
"Nope." And as I said it I opened the front door and walked down the path to the driveway. The look of absolute shock on Adam's face as he saw me wave to him from the driveway was priceless. Just priceless! "Believe me now?" I asked into the phone as I continued to wave at his car.
"No, but I guess I don't really have much choice do I? Ok, let me park and then I'm gonna make you explain this." He hung his car phone up and then pulled his Viper into the driveway alongside my Z3.
Nice car." I said to him as he got out.
"Nice car?" He asked me. "Nice castle!!" He said waving at my house. "You live in Buckingham Palace! What are you doing in Pishley instead of living at some boarding school that'd cost your parents a small fortune?"
"I told my parents I would purposely flunk out if they tried, so they sent me to the next best thing."
"Dude, you have got it so made!"
"HI Adam!!" Jamie yelled as he came running down the path behind me.
"Well if it isn't Goldie locks. What's up lovely?" Adam asked in the most flirtatious tone of voice that I've ever heard a guy use. (Does that make him gay, or just sexually mature enough to joke about it?)
"Not much." Jamie responded, laughing a bit and turning the brightest shade of red I had ever seen on a person before.
"All right Chris," Adam said turning his attention back to me, "I want the guided tour."
"Hah! All you'll get from me is the front entryway, the stairs, the hall and my room. Hope that's good enough for you." I replied, turning and leading them both back into the house.
And so, after I had explained about 'John the cook, Jake the groundskeeper and his assistant Mark, and Dianne, I guess you'd call her the housekeeper, and her two helpers Janice and Samantha', I led Adam up to my room. Fortunately this time Dianne didn't jump out of the woodwork and startle us, I'd had just about all the excitement I could handle for one day.
After bumming around in my room for about 20 minutes we all decided that (A) we were kinda hungry again, and (B) none of us really wanted to stay here in my room for the rest of the day.
A food court, stuff to buy, and, at this particular mall, a theater. So we all piled into my car and headed for the mall. It was pretty much fun and games. Our first stop was the food court where we all got something from a different restaurant. Then we went browsing for a little while on our way to the theater and each bought a couple of things. Jamie got some shirts, I bought a gift for Dianne for being so cool to Jamie, and Adam bought something for his mom.
The entire time we were shopping I was distracted by Adam. As we walked down the main thoroughfare I would check out his butt, and when we were in the shops I watched him as he would cock his head to one side to consider the price of something, or just to gaze at something he liked. Jamie must have noticed because I saw him smiling like a cat that just got the canary when I looked over at him, and he had to put his hand over his mouth to keep from laughing out loud.
Anyway, our purchases made, we started on our way towards the theater and just guess who we bump into.
Gregg and his cronies. One minute Jamie is talking very excitedly about how the special effects in the movie we're going to see are supposed to be really cool, the next he's got my hand in a death grip and he's cowering behind Adam and me, having pulled the two of us in front of him as a sort of human shield. I didn't know what he was doing at first, but it didn't take long to spot Gregg. If I had been seeing him for the first time I might have found him attractive. He had a very nice build, not too buff, but definitely strong, and a handsome face with short curly hair that from a distance looked black, but was in fact very dark brown. The situation being what it was, I simply noted all these facts and focused all the rage I could at them. He was the one that had hurt Jamie, he was the one that was making Jamie cower behind me, and he was the one that had tried to beat someone up, just because they were different. All three were sins of the worst sort in my book, and the only thing that kept me from leaping at him that very instant was the voice of my sensei, telling me that to attack in anger or revenge, was to become worse than my enemy.
Gregg saw us staring at him and I watched as his face changed rapidly. His first expression, hate, flashed so quickly that I scarcely believed I had seen it all. Second was the slightest look of fear, and final was a look of sincerity. Very slowly he approached us, his arms outstretched and his palms up in the symbol of peace. Two of his lackeys, both rather unimpressive looking twits, detached themselves from the small group Gregg had been in, and followed. As they drew close, Jamie's grip on my hand became tighter, and my desire to attack rose to a fever pitch. I forced myself to calm down, to breathe deeply. 'Gregg approaches in peace, hear him out', I thought to myself. 'See what he has to say.'
"Hey there faggots." one of the lackeys said. Gregg whirled and slapped the young man hard across the mouth. Then he turned back to us and looked directly at me.
"I just want to apologize. What I did was wrong, I'm sorry. It... It won't happen again."
If I hadn't been trying so hard to mask my emotions my jaw would have crashed to the floor in shock. That was the last thing I expected from the person who, that very day, had assaulted my cousin. It was obvious Adam didn't trust him, his face was full of suspicion. Neither of us got to voice our questions though, because as soon as he was done speaking Gregg turned and walked back towards his group of friends.
"I don't trust him." Adam said flatly. "I don't trust him one bit."
"Neither do I." I agreed.
"Me either!" Jamie spoke up from behind us. "Can we go to the movie now, I don't want to think about Gregg anymore today."
"Sounds good to me, Sport!" Adam said, brightening once more. "What did you say this movie was called again?"
And so we went to the movie. I don't remember what it was about, I can't even remember what it was called. My mind was working double, even triple time trying to figure out what Gregg was up to, but I just couldn't figure it. I had no clue what his plan was.
Although, that wasn't all I thought about during the movie. About half way through the movie I had decided to try paying attention. A few minutes later, during a particularly uninteresting scene, Adam had to go use the bathroom. Apparently the soda he'd bought and then immediately downed was a bit too much for his bladder. While he was gone Jamie leaned over towards me and whispered in an absolutely wicked snicker: "Chris has a cruuuush"
"I do not!" I whispered back indignantly, knowing all along that it was a lost cause. He just laughed quietly.
"Suuuure. Just like you weren't staring at Adam's butt while he was looking at that shirt in Macy's." Drat, he did see me. Ah well, might as well accept defeat graciously.
"Ok, I've got a crush. What about it?" So much for gracious.
"Aww, poor Chris. Don't be mad cause I noticed your in love up to your eyebrows." Ohhh, that damnable smile of his. How could you stay mad when he smiled like that?
"I'm not mad cause you noticed. I'm mad cause a certain someone else didn't notice."
"Ahh." Jamie said in understanding. He opened his mouth to say more, but apparently the lines in the bathroom had been short cause Adam was back. Jamie winked at me and then went back to watching the movie.
Alas, I was completely unable to focus any of my attention on the remainder of the movie.
When the movie was over we all decided that we had best get to our respective homes. I drove Jamie to his house, and walked him up to his door. His parents greeted me warmly, Jamie hugged me and said good-bye, and then I went back to my car and took Adam to my house so he could pick up his own car. He didn't have anything inside to come get, but I invited him in anyway and he accepted, much to my surprise.
"Here, lets take the path around the side." I said, pointing to a path that led around the side of the house. If there's only one thing I like about my parents having money, it's that they spend a good amount of it on the landscaping, so the yard is very well kept, as well as very beautiful. The path that leads from the driveway to the side door is bordered on one side by tall hedges, and flanked on the other side by a wide flower bed. It meanders around the house with a few extra curves thrown in to make it more like a park trail and less like a path from a driveway.
"This is very beautiful Chris." Adam said, looking up at the early evening moon, already visible in the pale blue sky.
"This is my favorite part about being rich, you can afford a good looking lawn."
"Humph" Adam grunted, "I think we ought to crown you as the king of understatement. This is a gorgeous yard."
I smiled to myself, and we continued down the path in silence. I don't know how he felt, but I was not in the least uncomfortable. I was happy he was there with me, and content to just walk quietly in his company.
Very soon we came upon the side door, and I unlocked it, letting us directly into the kitchen.
"Hello master Chris." John said to me as we walked in. "And who might this be?"
"First of all, don't call me master Chris. This is my friend Adam."
"Nice to meet you Adam." John said, extending his hand.
"Nice to meet you as well sir." Adam responded, taking Johns proffered hand.
"Ahh, strong grip. Good sign, means you have a strong spirit." Turning to me, John let go of Adam's hand, and asked, "Anything I can get for the two of you master Chris?"
I glared at him, with the usual ineffectiveness, and said "I think we can fend for ourselves John. Thanks for the offer though. - You want anything to drink Adam?"
"Depends," Adam answered. "What 'cha got?"
"You name it, we almost certainly have it."
"Hrmm... at the risk of being unoriginal, just give me a Coke."
"Cool," I said, and dug around in the fridge for a few minutes before handing him a Coke. I took a Root Beer for myself.
Then we went up to my room and bummed about a bit, until Adam remembered the English assignment he had picked up for me.
"Man, this English assignment is totally annoying." Adam whined as he told me about it. "We have to read one of these stories or essays or whatever, and then write about one of the characters. As if I could care less about any of the characters!"
"I'll make you deal," I said, "you help me with the History, and I'll help you with the English. Cool?"
"Definitely cool! Just let me call mom real quick and tell her I'm gonna be later getting home than I thought."
"Sure, there's a phone on the desk right over there." I replied happily enough. Adam picked up the phone and called his mother. While he was talking I put away the TV and PlayStation - their on a roller so I just had to unplug it and wheel it back into my closet.
"She just wants me home by 11, and since it's about 7:20 now, that gives us a while."
"Cool!" I said in response, for the first time in my life excited about studying with someone.
And so we studied for a few hours, and then Adam had to go home. And it was now about ten thirty, and I was exhausted. All my homework was finished for the next day, and Lil'Bit wasn't online when I checked, so after I cleaned up my room and took a shower, I slipped under the covers of my bed. I was fairly certain that my dream from the night before wouldn't return, since Adam didn't seem to have any problem with Jamie being gay, so my mind was otherwise peaceful as I lay there on my bed, wishing that Adam was more than a friend. Eventually I drifted off to sleep.
The floors were covered in dust, and the walls sagged with the weight of the ages. In the way of dreams I knew that I was in a very old house, very old and very big. The carpets were tattered and rotting with disuse, and the once glorious tapestries and paintings adorning the walls were moth-eaten and faded.
As I walked through the halls, trying to discover where I was, and how I'd gotten here I had the uneasy feeling that eyes watched from the darkness, but the unbroken layer of dust upon the floor gave the proof that no one else had been here in ages. The hallway around me was mysteriously illuminated, but only for about five feet on either side of me. Beyond that point was darkness, so impenetrable that it easily could have been a wall.
I made my way forward cautiously, as the feeling of unseen eyes continued to work at my nerves. From time to time I came across a door leading perhaps to other hallways, or chambers full of mysterious things. Motivated by some inexplicable fear of losing my way, I chose to ignore these doors, always instead taking the pathway before me, the path that, while very unknown, was still at least partially familiar.
Slowly, and so subtly that I did not at first notice it, the darkness in front of me began to throb with momentary glimpses of light. Not a light that furthered the ring of illumination, but a light that was instead simply a reversal of colors from black to white, and back again. When I finally became aware of it, I stopped, as frightened by this new thing as I had been of losing my way in the unknown pathways I had chosen not to take. When I stopped, so too did the strange occurrence of lights. Cautiously I took another slow step forward, and noticed that it was as I put my foot down that the flash from black to white took place. I took another step, and then, slowly, I took another. Unable to discern any danger in the strange flashes I started walking again, wondering what the next surprise would bring.
Again it was with gradual progression that I noticed it, but this time I found it fascinating instead of frightening. Instead of a simple flash of solid white to replace that blackness as I walked, I began to see the house as it must have been when it was new and lived in. The carpets were thick and plush, the tapestries and paintings glorious renditions of any number of things, from a fabled battle to a noble prince standing proudly upon a cliff, observing below him the resplendent land that was his heritage. I began walking faster, wanting to see more of this amazing house, and unsatisfied with the barest of glimpses I was being allowed at each footfall. Soon, hoping to see as much as possible, I began to run through the hallway, drinking in the splendor that presented itself with each footfall.
As I ran I began to notice that in almost all of the tapestries and paintings there stood a princely figure. Tall, regal, his bearing suggesting a pride to match any Roman emperor, and yet his eyes held a sympathy and a humility that would put all but the most pious and devoted priests to shame and yet, when I looked at his stance and his eyes together, I could not help but get the impression of some unascertainable sadness. But, try as I might, I could make out no further details of this lonely prince. I could see his eyes as if they looked directly into my soul, pleading with me to find and somehow help him, and I could describe his pose, universal in all depictions which included him. But other than that he had no defining characteristics, his face was only the barest hint of a face, the slightest suggestion of a nose, the merest suspicion of a mouth, and the faintest darkening about his head giving only the most infinitesimal impression of hair. Wanting, somehow needing to see this prince's face, I began to run faster and faster. It didn't matter how fast I ran though, no matter how quickly my feet fell, how often his sorrowful and mysterious image appeared before me, or how long it stayed before it flickered once more into faded oblivion, I could never discern his appearance.
'Who are you?' I cried out in my heart as I ran. 'Who are you...' My heart ached with an irresolvable need to find and comfort this poor prince with the kind but tortured eyes. I pushed myself to run faster and faster, nearly flying through the hallway, and still, although every other part of him came into a crystalline focus, still his face was featureless except for the eyes. The eyes which seemed, with each passing heartbeat to become infinitely kinder, impossibly more beautiful, and paradoxically more painful.
Finally I could run no longer, and although it galled me to do so I slowed myself. I was surprised to realize that, although my footfalls were slowing, the picture of beauty was still around me. Curious I slowed still more, and found that unless I stopped fully, I could now walk slowly and the scene of what was, ages past, would stay before me now for many long moments before vanishing once again into the dusty and time eaten ruin that I knew myself to be in. I was very pleased, for now I could gaze about me in full, with little fear of this magical transformation disappearing before I had time to marvel at its wonders.
Quite abruptly, and to my utter dismay, I came to the end of the hall. I panicked for a moment, thinking that I must stop, and therefore be plunged once more into that horrid world of darkness and decay, a very cruel thing after having enjoyed such a splendid world of color. I was once again surprised when, after stopping, the color did not fade at all, indeed showed no signs of ever fading. It was then that I noticed the very large stained glass window that made up the end of the hallway before me.
Like everything else in the house it was beautifully crafted and finely made, with a refined sense of taste that stopped just short of becoming gaudy or opulent. It was of course a beautiful rendition of the prince that had been the subject of countless numbers of paintings, portraits and tapestries throughout the hallway I had so recently traversed.
I stared up at the prince's eyes, and was overwhelmed by the skill with which they had been crafted. They were colorless, not white or gray, but truly colorless - as, I realized, they had been every other time I saw them - and still they held all the emotion and feeling I had seen within them earlier.
With a cry of anguish I fell to my knees in front of this window and with my whole heart begged 'Who are you?'
'I don't know'. The answer was but the merest suggestion of a though in my mind, and yet I knew somehow that it was he, the beautiful prince, who had spoken to me.
'Help me'. He begged me, his voice grew louder in my mind, and my heart nearly burst with a desire to do so.
"How?" I asked aloud, unsure if he would be able to hear my thoughts.
'Help me. Why won't you help me?'
"But I will!! Tell me now and whatever you need I will do it!" I cried, desperately trying to make him believe.
'If only you would free me...' his voice began to trail off, to become fainter as he spoke to me.
"Please," I begged, "what do I do? How do I free you? Why won't you tell me?" I fought to keep him with me, tried as hard as I could to make him understand that I would help him, if only he would tell me how.
Slowly, ever so slowly, I saw the color begin to fade once more into dust and ruin. "Please," I called out, "please tell me how?"
'You can't be happy until you free me' I heard very faintly in my mind. 'He will haunt you forever, unless... you.... free..... me...... and with that the transformation was once again complete, the hallway was once more covered in dust and the walls sagged beneath their load.
Amazingly, the stained glass window had remained intact, but it was covered by ages of dust, and would likely appear as nothing more than a wall to someone who did not know what it was.
For many minutes I knelt in front of it, feeling only despair and loneliness. My mind was a whirl of grief and confusion. 'Why wouldn't he tell me how to help him?' and 'Who is going to haunt me?' 'Why must I free him, he speaks as if I were the one holding him prisoner?'
And then I heard a sound that drove all thought from my mind, all my emotions were banished, and I had room only for fear. I knew that laugh, what was it doing here? For a moment I stayed upon my knees, staring towards the source of the sound like a rabbit staring into the headlights of an oncoming car. The sound was growing, it was coming closer!!
With an urgency that could only be born of sheer terror I leapt to my feet, turned away from the dirt covered glass, and ran. The laugh grew in its malignancy, in hate, and in volume. It was still getting closer!!
I ran faster and faster and faster still, and always that demon laugh drew closer. And suddenly it was upon me, for I had only imagined getting up and running away. In reality I was still kneeling in front of that accursed window, immobilized by fear and self loathing. In a great explosion of glass and dust the window shattered into countless pieces, flung through the air like small missiles.
No longer did my demon bear the form of my friend, nor was it any longer a faceless thing. Its lips were curled in a cruel smile, its sharp pointed teeth glistening evilly. Its eyes glowed with an inhuman cruelty, and an unimaginable brutality. It was dressed in the tatters of once fine robes, made from what appeared to be black silk. The cloth was now clotted with dried blood and dirt, and his sharp claws were stained black with it as well. The fear I had felt before was insignificant, less than nothing, in comparison to what I felt now. And even that fear paled in comparison to the dread I felt when it spoke.
I have you now, I have you now....
When I left Chris's house that night, after studying with him for a few hours, I was in a very good mood. I had just spent that last few hours doing schoolwork, anyone would think I'd be frustrated, annoyed and terminally bored after doing something like that, but I was actually very happy. I had just spent a rather long time with the most beautiful boy I had ever met, and I had even managed not to get hard. As I thought about it, I realized that that was how I knew I was really in love with Chris. I liked just spending time with him for no other reason than to just spend time with him.
It was the way I had felt when we were walking along the path around his house to the side door. Serene and peaceful, and absolutely content to just be in his presence, know that I was welcome and wanted. That feeling had come upon me very very few times in my life, with very few people.
One of those people was my mom, and I desperately wanted to tell her
about Chris. She and I were like best friends, we both knew just about
all of the others 'dirty little secrets', and she never tired of scolding
me on my 'sleeping' habits. Well, I wonder what she's gonna say when I
tell her I'm in love... guess we'll just have to go and find out, huh?
The dark-haired young man walked along the sidewalk unaware of his surroundings. His lean frame was huddled into the bare tatters of his clothes, ineffective barriers against the chill of this early autumn. His skin crawled with goose flesh at every gentle gust of the breeze, and his teeth chattered whenever he was too lost in thought to restrain them, which at the moment meant almost constantly.
He hadn't paid any attention to where he had been, how he had gotten there, or where he was going. He still wasn't paying attention. He was far too busy thinking, and almost as busily a part of him was wishing his restless mind would just shut up and let him rest. But he couldn't, there were too many thoughts clamoring for attention.
A particularly strong breeze gusted through the cool of the night, setting his short, almost curly hair to playing in the wind, and prompting him to pull his arms even tighter against his sides, shove his hands a bit more deeply into his filthy and tattered jeans. Both were useless gestures, neither provided any of the sought after warmth.
To most others walking the streets, the night was pleasantly cool, a welcome reprieve from the heat of the day. The pale young man shivered, he was almost never warm enough. He hadn't had a decent meal in longer than he cared to remember, and had completely forgotten the feel of a real bed that was meant just for him - if ever he had truly known such a luxury.
The only beds he remembered now were the ones in the cheap motels. The filthy motels where filthy men touched him with filthy hands. His shivering had nothing to do with the coldness this time, at least not the coldness on his skin. As a cold finger of ice traced its way across his mind, he forcefully shut off that avenue of thought. He did not want to think of that, did not want to contemplate what he had become.
Had he looked up from the sidewalk to gaze upon his surroundings, he would have been surprised at how far his wayward feet had carried him from the city slums that he dejectedly called home. He would have discovered that he was in a 'nice' neighborhood, with well tended lawns and bright cheery houses. Houses that held families. Families that, despite their petty disagreements, regardless of their idle bickering, were warm tonight, and fed, and knew that no matter how mad they were, they would always have each other if it was really important. He would have seen the eyes of disapproving mothers, grateful that he did not choose to linger on their sidewalks, but anxious that he should be here in the first place. After all, what right did this dirty, filthy teen have to be miserable in their neighborhood? What made him think that he could leave his alleys and his sewers and come invade their quiet streets, while little Suzie played in the den, or little Johnny watched TV?
'Well, at least he isn't staying, he's no longer my concern.'
These were things he would have missed, these and so many more. If he had looked up at the right time he might have seen a beautiful innocent boy looking down upon him from his upstairs room, wishing for all the world that he give this stranger a blanket without making mommy mad. Or he might have caught sight of a little girl smiling her newly gap toothed smile down on him, unaware that the mysterious figure treading the sidewalk wasn't really the tooth fairy after all, it was just some boy in tattered jeans, and a thin shirt that was so dirty you could hardly tell what claim it had once had to a color.
So many things he missed that night as he walked along, staring at his feet, lost in thought and misery. He could close one avenue of thought but there was one that he had no defense against. One which time and again demanded to make its presence felt, and always knocked his pitiful protestations aside. No matter that he had entertained these thoughts a thousand-thousand times before, no matter that each time was more painful than the last. And as these thoughts knocked once more, demanded once more to be let in to the private recesses of his mind, he began to weep.
So softly it began, and so quietly, that the disapproving mothers didn't notice it. So slowly did it progress, and so quietly, that the innocent boy did not even guess that the cold young man was shivering not only from the cold, but also the sobs that wracked his tortured body. And so abruptly did it stop when he made his decision, that the gap toothed girl never even saw a sign of the weeping that had so recently held his body in its power.
'Yes,' he thought to himself, finally looking up, but still unseeing through the tears. 'Yes. So simple, so very, very simple.' His friends were gone away, gone to greater things. 'Friends, hah!' They were not his friends! Friends did not abandon you to be eaten by your demons when you needed them the most. Friends did not take and take, and never once give anything in return. They were not his friends, good riddance to them. 'But no... ' There was one. One had been his friend. One, of all of them only one, had truly been his friend. No, he had been more than a friend, he had been a lover.
He had been the ultimate lover, gentle and patient. Kind and affectionate, he had always whispered his devotions after their love making, always held the young man close, always stroked his dark hair and kissed his cheeks and eyes, and nose and lips, and had whispered of his love. And the young man had been happy. He had never truly been warm, and had never truly been well fed, but the young man had been loved. His heart had swelled to bursting with his lover's kisses and whisperings, and his caresses. His joy had been boundless, despite his meager meals and scanty clothes. He had found what most men searched the whole world over to find, only to come up empty handed. He had found it... and as he now knew to be inevitable in this heartlessly cruel world, he had lost it.
And as these thoughts came to their inevitable conclusion, as the alarm and fear and pain of that night returned to his tortured mind, he saw his solution, his answer, his salvation. His lover had been killed for no reason, the murderer wanting only the money that they had been too happy to give if only he would let them live. But this murderer was perverse and cruel, and hateful beyond words. His threats had been unspeakable, his eyes windows to the undiluted hate that stirred in his soul. He had killed the young man's lover with a single horrible shot. Not a quick shot, not painless, no, not the merciless hateful killer. He had aimed for his chest, just below the lungs. It was fatal, but not immediately so. Why the hateful murderer had spared the young man when he didn't spare his lover was a mystery. A cruel gift. After the murderer left, laughing a terrible laugh, the young man had clutched his lover to his chest, and whispered of his love. And the young man's lover had whispered of his own love, and slowly died in the young man's arms, his body growing ever colder, and taking with it the warmth of love, the only love the young man had ever known.
And now the young man's arms were empty, as he trod the cold streets
after dusk, and saw his answer. But he waited. It would not do to have
them slow down, or try to avoid him, then he would have to try again, and
he did not think he could. And so he waited, and waited, until the two
glowing lights were almost upon him, until they were about to pass him,
until he was sure the were too close for him to make use of. 'But no, I
must try.' He thought to himself. 'I must try NOW!!' And with that thought
he leapt in front of the two oncoming beams of light, and stared at the
driver, his face devoid of all emotion, all fear, all pain.
'My lover would not want this...' but it was too late, he could not
The tires squealed as the brakes locked, but the driver's attempts to stop were in vain. The young man felt the car impact his yielding flesh, felt the metal bite into his skin and brush against his brittle bones. And the physical pain? The physical pain was welcome, for with the it came his first and only reprieve from the mental anguish brought on by the thoughts that played themselves over and over in his mind.
'Soon thoughts would be gone forever,' he thought 'because the physical pain will be all that remains, and nothing else will matter.'
These thoughts passed in front of the young man's mind in mere seconds. They flashed in his eyes almost before the true force of the car was able to grip his fragile body. And grip his body it did.
Like a mother bear protecting its cubs from a wayward predator, the car hugged his body close to it's own before forcefully flinging him to the ground, a broken rag doll with unseeing eyes. And although the pain was welcome, even more so was the darkness that crept up to meet him, as swiftly as the ground rushed towards his limp and yielding body.
'Who is this stranger crouching over me?'
'Why does he look so surprised when he looks at me?'
'Why is there a light of recognition in his eyes?'
'Is this the driver of that car?'
'What car, and why does this person matter at all?
'He doesn't matter, nothing matters; let the darkness come.'
'Oh, and that new noise?'
What was that noise? But no, it was loud, blaring, a painful noise, and he did not want to hear it. 'Let go' he told his mind. 'Just go to sleep.'
His mind betrayed him, and would not let him leave in peace. Just as the darkness overwhelmed him, in the instant before he slipped into the inky blackness, his mind spat words at him in letters of brazen fire. His lover would not like this. And with that the darkness claimed him, no longer a willing volunteer, but an unwilling conscript who would fight against his new master with all his might.
The fight would have to wait, for his mind could no longer hold on to consciousness, and would no longer let him give up on life.
End Chapter Four
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it.
I promise, the mysterious young man does have a part to play in the future of this story!! What that is exactly you will just have to wait and see, if I were to tell you it would spoil the surprise.
Like I said earlier, if you want to contact me please do so at ZippyTheBookWorm@excite.com