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`Can you hear the drums, Fernando?
I remember long ago another starry night like this.
In the firelight, you were humming to yourself
And softly strumming your guitar...
Every hour, every minute, seemed to last a hundred years.'
Fernando (ABBA, 1976)
Michael stared into the toilet bowl, the tile floor hard against his knees. He felt like hell. His stomach was still roiling and refusing to settle down, the back of his throat burned with the taste of bile. The bathroom light was bright and hurt him deep behind his eyes. He leaned his forehead down on the side of the toilet and closed his eyes. He heard thunder drum faintly in the distance.
He didn't want to go to school tomorrow. He didn't want to face whoever would have a problem with him dating Angel. He didn't want to walk the halls with a sign over his head, the way Angel did every single day. Michael wondered how many friends he would have left by the end of the day Monday. He even wondered if they'd all suspect Gene once they realized about Michael and remembered how inseparable the two of them had been last year. He wondered what the other football players would have to say to him.
He wondered if he could flee the state.
This was something he had to do, though, and the reasons why were clear in his mind. He wanted Angel, he had to have Angel, and that wasn't something he could do in secret. He also needed to help with the GSA at Northside; he couldn't let bigotry and hate control the lives of the people he cared about. He had to make a public statement about what he believed in by working in the GSA towards tolerance. He even wanted Gene's respect for once. He'd always wondered how Gene felt about his fears, his cowardice, and now he had a chance to show Gene something better, something finer inside him. Most of all, though, he just knew it was time. Past time if you wanted the truth and Michael was ready.
He couldn't help that his stomach had other ideas.
He'd started to feel sick after Gene had driven him home this afternoon, before he left to go to Refuge and try to see Bobby. The storm that brewing outside was nothing to the one that had whipped up winds in his body. Michael had been in his room, listening to an Abba CD and doing homework, when his stomach began giving him warning signals. He'd ignored them. Hours later, overwhelmed by the physical, he'd had to run to the bathroom, kneel down, and grab the toilet bowl with both hands. He had made it just in time. Every single solitary thing he'd eaten for the last 24 hours came up in a series of painful heaves.
The smell was incredible and threatened to send his stomach into his throat again, but there was nothing left to void. Michael was empty in mind and body. His stomach was demanding another offering but he had nothing left to give. He'd already given it all and then some. It felt as if some of his internal organs had come up with the last few contractions of his stomach. His head hurt and he wondered if he could keep two aspirin down. Better not to chance it, he thought, pushing away from the toilet and standing. He needed to lie down. He needed to get his stomach under control.
He needed to talk to Gene.
`You made me feel alive, but something died I fear.
I really tried to make it out,
I wish I understood,
What happened to our love, it used to be so good.'
S.O.S. (ABBA, 1975)
Gene sat in front of his computer without seeing the monitor. Lights flashed, friends around the world demanding his attention, but he didn't see, didn't hear the signals. The metal ashtray beside the keyboard was full and cigarette butts surrounded it in a tumble of ash and crushed filter tips. Gene lit another and inhaled slowly, his eyes distant and unfocused. The roll of distant thunder didn't touch his consciousness any more than the contact attempts of his friends online. His mind was elsewhere.
The stereo volume was turned up high, Abba's Gold Hits CD looping continuously in a repeat-shuffle play pattern. Gene had gotten the CD for Barbara last Christmas and they both loved it, the smooth sounds of Abba's vocal harmonies making the dance music just that much more enticing. It was a good thing that Barbara wasn't home, though; she didn't care for the music turned up loud late at night. She always worried about the neighbors in the their small apartment complex, she didn't want any trouble.
And neither did Gene; he didn't want any trouble either but somehow that's all he'd gotten lately. Trouble in battalions and on every front.
His debate record was in danger, he'd lost more rounds this past month than in the entire previous year. He kept losing his concentration at crucial moments until he'd heard it said by rival teams that Kuo had lost his edge. Bastards, he thought bitterly. Like sharks, they could smell blood and were alerting others to the feast. He had to renew his efforts, he had to regain control. If he didn't, his debate career would be in danger and his scholarship offers could be revoked. Gene couldn't let that happen. His new partner would be here tomorrow and Gene didn't know if he could deal with Matty right now. And he needed that to be the central thing he worked on. He needed to be the Vulcan Gene Kuo again, cool and logical. He needed to stop losing rounds he shouldn't. He needed to get his shit together.
The problem was that his mind wasn't focused on the target. His thoughts had their own direction.
The bigotry at school was a problem that needed a solution and Gene had been asked to help provide one in the form of a GSA chapter at Northside. It wasn't a request he could turn down. Jaye hadn't known, when he first asked, that Gene was gay but he'd known that Gene was someone he could turn to with a problem. Gene knew that he had an authority at Northside that Jaye hoped to tap into to make the GSA a success and Gene had no problem with that. He didn't even have a problem with the high odds that his sexual orientation would become known at school through his involvement with the GSA.
Frankly, he doubted that many would care. It might be true that a few students and fewer teachers might look at him differently but he felt he could survive that. He'd certainly survived worse. He had a sudden vision of Dr. Friedman in his mind's eye and realized that strong people could survive almost anything. And what about the attack on Trey Hart?
Gene Kuo had nothing to complain about and his mind knew it. The problem was that his heart had other ideas. His heart wanted to drown him in self-pity and felt a hunger that he couldn't afford to feed.
What he'd lost over the last year in losing Michael's love was becoming clear to him. He had tried and failed, something Gene wasn't accustomed to. Worse, he had become aware that there was something empty in his heart that still needed Michael, craved him, his closeness, his company, his love and attention. Gene loathed the weakness that made this true while still loving the joy he knew just being with Michael. Gene loved the peacefulness that filled his heart when he watched Michael sleeping beside him. He loved the moments of playful fun between them as much as the close friendship itself. And he had no idea what he would do if, no, when Michael withdrew that closeness and pulled away from him.
It had to happen, Gene reasoned, if Angel and Michael were to have a chance. He knew that he wasn't the only one who'd failed last year; he knew Michael had tried, too, and been unable to make it work. Gene did not want to see Michael fail again, even if it was with someone else that his former lover knew success. He owed that much to Michael, surely. Gene knew he'd been the one who had put their relationship in second place, the one who had let the spark die out through inattention.
Gene's debate record last year had been almost perfect.
He wondered if anyone besides Michael knew the cost.
`One of us is crying,
One of us is lying in his lonely bed;
Staring at the ceiling,
Wishing he was somewhere else instead.
One of us is lonely, one of us is only
Waiting for a call;
Sorry for himself, feeling stupid, feeling small...'
One of Us (ABBA, 1976)
Angel pulled on his Hello Kitty pajamas, turned down the music and crawled into bed. He was so tired that his mind had shut down while he was doing his homework so he'd finally given up an hour ago and had a bath. It had been a long day. He'd hoped to rest after the last performance but first there had been the cast party and then today had turned into one endless series of problems. When he'd decided to try and see Bobby, he'd had no idea what he was in for. Jaye's idea of using Gene against Bobby's mother, while not a direct suggestion, had turned into the perfect solution to the first problem. Then, of course, they'd all had to get into Refuge and finally only Gene had seen Bobby in person. Angel was disappointed but he understood that the main goal had been reached.
They now knew that Bobby was okay and that he wanted to come home. Gene had been clear on that score. Bobby hadn't given in to the bizarre Exodus message, not yet. The staff member who spoke to Gene had told him that Bobby was on medication, whatever that meant. Angel didn't like the sound of it. He knew Bobby was fragile right now, was susceptible to influence and suggestion, even without drugs. Gene had said not to worry, he felt sure that Bobby was going to ask his mother to bring him home. And that was the first step.
Convincing Mrs. Boyd that Refuge wasn't the place for Bobby was the next one and Gene had offered to help with that, too. He was going to print out whatever he could find online to convince her that the Exodus program was flawed, that Bobby should come home. And Angel knew just how persuasive Gene could be when he tried. After all, Gene was the first student from Northside that Jeannie had ever liked, the first boy she would probably want to see be her son's friend. The fact that Gene was gay was an irony that wasn't lost on Angel. If only Jeannie knew. She didn't, of course, and she had better not find out, Angel knew. Gene was going to be their secret weapon in the fight to save Bobby from his own family and nothing could be allowed to defuse that weapon.
Not that Angel or Jaye were likely to tell Jeannie that Gene was gay. They were the last people likely to out someone else. They both knew firsthand just how much hate there was in the world.
That was why the GSA was so important for Northside. Angel had made a decision today about that and planned to let the others know at school tomorrow. If they all still wanted him to lead the thing, he would. He had no idea what would be involved but he knew that the only hope gay kids at Northside had was for some sort of effort to be made to damp down the hate. And a GSA was the best solution that Angel had ever heard, in fact; it was the only solution he'd ever heard proposed. He had taken shit for who he was since he'd arrived there and had always just assumed that it would be that way until he graduated. The idea that things might change had started to impress him with possibility. This just might work. Angel knew that there were other gay students at Northside who weren't as able as he was to stare down the enemy, not as likely to stand up for themselves, not as strong.
Not that Angel always felt strong, on the contrary, he often felt like a coward. He'd never once let them see him cry, though, and he was proud of that. How often he had cried alone in a bathroom or backstage was something Angel never discussed. It was something he'd be happy to forget. Those moments curled up in a stall with mascara streaking his face weren't his finest. He was ashamed that he ever let them get to him that way. He couldn't help it, though; sometimes it just all weighed him down and hurt his heart. Still, the main thing was never to let them know it, never to let them see that they had wounded him. So he walked to class with his head held high and avoided their eyes, kept to himself when he wasn't with other drama kids and always had a sharp retort ready for any bully.
How much this cost him inside was really no one else's business.
Angel snuggled into his pillow and listened to the distant thunder. He thought of Gene today and smiled to himself. Gene was so strong, so sure of himself, so brave. He never wavered when something needed done and despite not knowing Bobby well had spent his Sunday trying to help him. Gene really was something else. Angel wasn't surprised the debater was gay, now that he thought about it. Some of the best people Angel had ever met were gay. Maybe there was some virtue in adversity after all.
The one thing that worried him about Gene was Michael. It was obvious that the two of them had been close, had been in love. What wasn't clear was why they weren't anymore. But Angel knew there were things between lovers that weren't the business of other people so he wasn't going to ask. Still, he knew that their relationship might somehow be part of whatever, if anything, he had with Michael.
And that was another thing he'd made a decision about; he was almost nearly completely sure he knew what he wanted. He thought that he might want to try something with Michael, something besides just sex. He blushed into the pillow. Not that sex with Michael was something that hadn't been on his mind a lot, it had been. Angel dreamed about Michael every night now and thought about him in the oddest moments. He'd been thinking of Michael today while waiting outside Refuge and listening to CDs. He'd thought of him tonight all through dinner with Camille and his mother.
He was thinking about Michael now, in fact. Angel slid his hand down the front of his pajama bottoms and cupped himself, curling up around the hand between his legs and closing his eyes. He always felt so comfortable doing that, so secure. He felt himself engorge slightly, slowly, as he thought of Michael. Of the flowers he'd filled the front room with this morning. Of the sweet notes he'd left tied to stems. Of his face last night at the party. Of his eyes, deep pools of green when he'd lain beside Angel right here on this bed. The heat of his hands across Angel's body. The low rumble of his voice as he spoke with his lips against Angel's skin. He wasn't sure he could tell Michael no again. He wasn't sure he even wanted to.
He listened to the thunder far off in the distance and felt himself begin to fall into the dark well of sleep.
Angel had a feeling he knew what he'd be dreaming about tonight.
`And you make me talk-
And you make me feel-
And you make me show-
What I'm trying to conceal.
If I trust in you, would you let me down?
Would you laugh at me,
If I said I care for you?'
The Name of the Game (ABBA, 1977)
Michael lay naked across his bed, staring at the ceiling. His Nokia cell phone was in his hand. The Abba Gold CD played low in the darkened room.
There was no way in hell he was going to get any sleep.
He hit number three on his speed dial and pushed `send'. He listened to the ringing at the other end. The distant thunder was a little louder now but he didn't think that the storm was going to pass over his neighborhood. It was supposed to stay east of them, according to the Yahoo weather center. He'd been online a few hours ago but hadn't stayed long. He was too nervous, too distracted. He felt jumpy. He didn't want to go to school tomorrow. And he wondered what Gene would say about that. Michael felt like such a loser. He wanted to be brave; he really did, especially in front of Gene and Angel. He didn't want either of them to see him break tomorrow.
He needed something to distract him tonight, he needed to talk. He needed Gene.
There was a click as the ringing stopped.
"Kuo." came the quiet greeting.
"Yo. Gene? It's me." His voice seemed faint, even to him.
There was a brief silence.
"What's up, Mikey?" Gene's voice sounded strained. Maybe he was tired. Maybe he couldn't sleep either, thought Michael.
Michael smiled in the dark.
"I'm...worried. About tomorrow." Michael admitted.
"Hmm. Mike, don't think about it too much. Things'll work out." Gene told him.
Michael swallowed. "I just don't...I just don't know what's gonna happen, yanno? I'd feel better if I knew."
"Yeah. Well...whatever it is, it'll be over eventually. Whatever it is won't kill you. And...well, you do know you still have choices, right?" Gene asked him.
Michael shook his head. "No. I mean no; I don't have choices, babe, not about any of it. Not really."
Gene sighed audibly. "Yeah."
"Yeah?" The debater's voice was quiet.
"I need to come over. I need to see you...I need to talk. I don't think I can sleep if I don't talk to you, Gene." He managed to keep his voice from breaking, but only just.
Gene didn't answer immediately. Michael closed his eyes and tried to relax his body.
Michael sucked in his breath. He knew that tone.
"Yeah?" Michael asked cautiously.
"I...I don't think so, Mike." Gene's voice was so low that it was difficult to hear.
"Please? Gene?" He wasn't going to cry. He wasn't.
Gene exhaled audibly.
Michael had a feeling that he knew what Gene's expression was right now. Jesus, what was he going to do if he couldn't talk to Gene? He held his breath, waiting for his friend to answer.
"Mike..." Gene said slowly. "I don't think... I don't think I want you to. I don't think I want you to come over. But...mmm...I think maybe you do need to... talk."
Michael fought back tears. When he spoke, his jaw was clenched.
"Gene? I know I need to talk, what the hell do you think I just said?"
"I know, Mike." Gene's voice was strained. "But... maybe you shouldn't be talking to me tonight." There was a pause. "I was thinking...I was thinking that maybe you should call Angel. Talk to Angel tonight. I think...it'd be...a better idea if you did that. If you called Angel. And... talked."
Michael didn't answer immediately. The hurt he felt was now coupled with something else, something confusing. He wasn't sure if it also gave him pain; he wasn't sure what he felt right now. He really didn't want to talk to Gene anymore though. That much he knew.
"Fine." Michael told the debater in a flat voice. "I'll do that."
This time the silence lasted several minutes. There was the sound of music soft on Gene's end of the line.
Gene didn't speak.
Michael punched `end', disconnecting the line.
The last thing he needed tonight was shit from Gene.
`No more carefree laughter...
Silence ever after.
Walking through an empty house, tears in my eyes,
Here is where the story ends, this is goodbye.
Knowing me, knowing you,
There is nothing else we can do.'
Knowing Me, Knowing You (ABBA, 1977)
The phone woke Angel up, startling him out of a deep sleep. He reached over, eyes closed, to fumble on the nightstand for his cell phone where he'd plugged it in to charge overnight. He found the phone, pushed `talk', and put it to his ear, the charger cord trailing through the sheets down to the electrical outlet on the wall.
"Yeah?" Angel asked, yawning.
"Angel?" It was Jaye.
"I was asleep, Jaye." Angel complained.
Angel sighed. He pushed himself up in bed and plumped the pillows behind him.
"Okay, what is it? Is Trey okay?"
"Trey's good; he woke up, Angel, he's gonna to be okay, they said. Maybe be out of the ICU soon. It looks good, they all said it looks good."
Angel felt relief wash through him.
"Thank God." He said to Jaye. "Does he know what happened?"
Jaye made an angry sound. "Yeah, Angel, he does."
"It was those jocks. It was Ryan and those other jocks." Jaye told him.
Angel closed his eyes. The music still played, almost below his threshold of hearing. There was a sharp sound of thunder, closer now, but still in the distance.
"Ryan was outside my house last night? Ryan was here?" Angel told himself he wasn't going to be afraid. He just wasn't.
"Yeah, Angel, he was outside the party, on the street, waiting for Trey...or anyone, I guess. I didn't even know he knew Trey. He might have been looking for..." Jaye's voice trailed off into silence.
"Yeah. Looking for me...or you, maybe. Ryan...he really gets mad when he talks to me. I mean, you know, Jaye, you know what he's like. He's...really crazy." Angel had a vivid memory of Ryan's hand connecting with his face last year, of the sharp cut into his skin, the shock of it, the pain. And the copper tang of blood in his mouth as he suddenly went dizzy. He'd almost fainted.
Jaye hadn't answered him. Angel could hear noises in the background that sounded like a hospital; intercoms, telephones and occasional beeps.
"Yeah." Jaye said finally. "Ryan's definitely crazy. I'd like to..."
Angel could hear Jaye struggling for words, for breath.
"Yeah, me, too." Angel told Jaye. "Me, too, Jaye."
There was a silence.
"Angel?" Jaye sounded tense.
"Listen...can I come over? I need to... see you, Angel."
Angel was fully awake now. He didn't answer right away.
"Jaye?" he finally asked.
"I don't... think so, Jaye." Angel said.
He could hear Jaye trying to gain control of his breathing.
"Umm...why not?" Jaye asked, his voice low.
"I just don't think...I don't think I want you over here tonight Jaye. I just don't think it's a good idea, okay? I just don't."
Jaye sounded angry. "But why not?"
"I don't know. I guess I just want to be alone, I need to think." And that was true, Angel thought, I really do need to think...but that's not the only reason. I'm not even sure I know why but I don't want him here tonight. He's my best friend but I just don't want to talk to him right now. I don't know what I want but that's not it. It won't kill him to sleep at home tonight, to sleep alone. I guess it won't kill me either, Angel thought. Anyway, not so you'd notice.
Jaye wasn't speaking. Angel waited patiently, listening to the soft sounds of music in the quiet room.
There was a soft click and the line went dead.
Oh, great, thought Angel, just what I need. More people who hate me.
He put the phone back on the table and rolled over but sleep didn't return. Angel nestled down under the covers and closed his eyes but it was no use. He listened to the street sounds outside his window and wondered.
He wondered how long Ryan Sellers had been outside this house last night before he'd found Trey Hart.
And he wondered where Ryan was right now.
Angel realized that sleep wasn't likely to return anytime soon.
`I have a dream, a fantasy,
To help me through reality;
And my destination makes it worth the while,
Pushing through the darkness still another mile.
I believe in angels...
Something good in everything I see,
I believe in angels...'
I Have a Dream (ABBA, 1975)
Gene was under the covers and wide-awake in the dark. He thought about the cigarettes in his bedside table but didn't feel like expending the effort to sit up and light another one. The back of his throat burned from the two packs he'd already had today. This couldn't continue. He had to cut down or find something to take his mind off of smoking. Or something to take his mind off of what prompted him to chain-smoke in the first place. He'd reached the point of vanishing returns some time ago.
The thunder had grown closer over the last hour, now providing occasional booms like cannon fire in the distance. Gene closed his eyes again. It was hopeless; he'd never get to sleep. His eyes reopened as a sudden weight hit his legs.
Flash walked up his body, four heavy points of contact that dug into Gene in a kind of moving acupressure treatment. He finally stood on Gene's chest and gazed down placidly into Gene's eyes. His were a brilliant feline green with butterfly wing shimmer in the irises. He nestled his body down into a tight ball on Gene without once breaking eye contact.
Gene closed his eyes again and relaxed as he felt Flash begin to purr, sending a low rumble of sound through Gene's rib cage. Far away thunder again slammed, rolled and faded. The bed felt very empty, despite the cat, and much too large.
Tonight was going to be long and lonely.
Gene thought he might as well get used to it.
Take it now or leave it,
Now is all we get;
Nothing promised, no regrets.
La question c'est voulez-vous?'
Voulez-Vous (ABBA, 1977)
The sound at the window woke Angel from a dreamless sleep. He jerked upright in bed instantly and reached for the switch of the table lamp, then caught himself and dropped his hand.
Someone was at his window. He could feel his heart beating in the base of his throat. He quietly slid open the bedside table drawer and reached in his hand for the pepper spray his mother had bought him. He wrapped his hand around it and pulled the small canister to his chest, flipping open the safety cap.
Angel pushed back the covers and swung his feet around to the floor, stepping into his fluffy slippers. He listened and heard nothing but the low music from the stereo on the shelf. He moved cautiously across the floor towards the window and stood in front of it, trying to still his heart. He reached for the cord on the side of the blinds. A boom of sudden thunder startled him. Angel tried to calm his lungs and heart.
Another sound, almost a tapping.
Angel pulled hard on the cord, raising the blinds halfway up the window. The front yard was faintly lit by the yellow streetlight. A shadowed figure stood just outside the glass, his arm leaning in towards the surface. The intruder stopped his hand in midair when he saw Angel looking out at him. He leaned in closer just as Angel, clutching the pepper spray in his right hand, did the same. Angel saw his face.
It was Michael.
Angel dropped the pepper spray and unlocked the window, drawing up the lower pane. Michael knelt down in the bushes and smiled into the window at Angel. Angel's breathing was just starting to slow.
"Hi, Angel." Michael said softly. His green eyes glittered in the low light.
"Jesus, Michael! You fucking scared me to death." Angel was frowning.
Michael grinned. "I did?"
"It's not funny, Michael, you really did scare me."
"I couldn't have scared you that bad, Angel, I was really quiet."
Angel picked up the pepper spray canister and held it out to show Michael.
Michael's eyes widened and his smile disappeared.
"You're serious." Michael said.
"Fuck, yeah, I'm serious. I thought you were Ryan Sellers."
"Why would you think I was Ryan?"
Angel folded his arms across his chest. "Ryan was here last night. He's the one who hurt Trey after the party, him and his friends."
"How do you know?" asked Michael.
Angel snorted. "What, you're defending him? He was here Michael, Trey saw him, Trey recognized him."
Michael reached through the open window to touch his hand to Angel's arm. He held it there while he spoke, his eyes locked on Angel's. His voice was low and steady.
"Fuck, no, Angel, I'd never defend that asshole. I didn't know Trey was conscious or anything, I didn't know he'd said anything. Calm down, okay? I'm on your side. And I didn't mean to scare you, honest. I'm sorry."
Michael ran his hand down Angel's arm to his hand, took it and pulled Angel gently towards him and the open window. Angel allowed himself to be led and sat down on the windowsill, his body turned to face Michael, who sat down alongside him from the outside. Their bodies almost touched.
Angel studied Michael's face.
"So, okay, you're not Ryan but what are you doing outside my window in the middle of the night?" Angel asked. He noticed that Michael still held his hand and felt his face flush with warmth. A dash of lightening tore across the sky nearby. Thunder rolled, closer now.
"I wanted to see you, Angel, I wanted to talk." Michael whispered.
"What, you've never heard of a telephone?" Angel asked.
Michael squeezed Angel's hand, then drew it to his lips. He turned the hand over and kissed the palm, still looking into Angel's eyes.
"You...want to...come in and talk?" Angel asked, suddenly shy.
Michael shook his head.
"No. I want you to come out and talk." he said.
"Michael, I'm in my pajamas."
Michael ran his fingers along Angel's thighs, looking at the pajama bottoms. Light flashed close, and burst in the sky. Angel shivered, unable to take his eyes from the other boy's hand as it moved. Thunder boomed, beating heavy like a heart.
"What's this on your P.J.s, Angel?" Michael asked him.
"Umm. Hello Kitty?"
Michael laughed and pulled his hand back.
The place where his hand had touched now felt cold to Angel. He leaned into Michael, putting his head on the bigger boy's shoulder. He closed his eyes.
"Don't laugh at me, Michael." Angel said in a soft voice.
Michael wrapped his arms around Angel and pulled him closer, their bodies pressed against each other. Michael's lips brushed his forehead.
"Baby, I will never laugh at you. I promise." he told Angel.
Angel slid his arm around Michael's waist.
"Why do you want me to come outside, Michael? You really can come in if you want. It's not like Mom would mind." Angel said softly, his lips on Michael's neck. "Mom likes you."
Michael squeezed Angel tight, then released, but still holding Angel in the circle of his arms. Light flared sharp, brightening the flower trellises like a flashbulb, and then dimmed. Cannon shots of thunder beat the sky and were gone.
"I'm glad your mom likes me but I'd rather you came out here, Angel. I want to talk...I want to go...don't laugh, but I want to take you parking."
Angel sat up a little and looked into Michael's eyes.
"Parking? You mean like in the movies, the way straight kids do, you mean...um.." Angel blushed and bit his lip.
Michael put his hand on Angel's chin and tilted his face up towards Michael's own.
"Yeah." he said, "Just exactly like that. I wanna to talk to you and then...I wanna..." He smiled at Angel. "Then I want us to make out, Angel."
Angel snickered and snuggled his head down onto Michael's shoulder again.
"Can I wear my Hello Kitty pajamas?" Angel asked.
Michael hugged him close. He felt Angel's lips touch the skin just above his collar in a kiss. The night air seemed heavy.
"Wear whatever you want, baby." Michael said, his voice husky. "So, you will? You'll come outside with me?"
"Yeah." Angel said. "I'll go wherever you want, Mike. I wanna talk to you, too."
Michael slid his right arm under Angel's knees and, his left arm against the other boy's back, lifted Angel out of his bedroom window and onto the flowerbed. He set Angel down and pulled the window closed, setting the screen he'd removed earlier against it loosely. He picked Angel up again and carried him across the lawn to the car parked along the street. Just then, light tore the sky open. The after image left colors inside his eyelids. Thunder struck hard, booming against the sky.
He put Angel down again to unlock the doors, then opened the passenger side to let Angel get in. He went around the car to the driver's side and got in, closing the door carefully to make the least possible noise. The last thing he wanted was to wake Mary or the neighbors. What's the minimum sentence for kidnapping, he wondered, smiling over at the beautiful boy in rumpled pajamas beside him. Michael started the car, put it in gear, and then took Angel's hand in his own.
Angel looked at him and squeezed his hand.
Michael's smile was almost imperceptible in the streetlight.
"Love those pink fluffy slippers, baby." Michael told him.
Rain began falling as the car pulled away from the curb.
`You keep telling me that you love me,
And I really do want to believe;
But did you just think I'd accept you
On nothing but faith?
Yeah, sure, babe, anything to please you.'
Better Be Good To Me (Tina Turner, 1991)
Gene pushed the cat off him and rolled over on his side in the bed. He punched the pillow, trying vainly to get comfortable. The pillow wasn't the problem, he knew, the problem was inside his head. He wondered where Michael was right now. Thunder hit the sky outside like a drum roll, just seconds after the bright flash. Was Michael in the rain somewhere? Gene hated the rain, hated being alone in bed in a storm. He hated a lot of things right now.
Gene hated feeling like a martyr. He didn't want to be a better man, he wanted to be a happy man but somehow that set of choices never managed to look appealing. So much for his famous good judgement, Gene thought. He couldn't even take care of himself first, so what good was he anyway? Even animals knew to put their own welfare ahead of others.
Of course, there was more to it than that. Maybe the problem was that he had put himself first in the past. He'd never given Michael what he should have. And look where it had gotten him. Alone with his cat. He wondered if Michael had called Angel and if he'd gotten the company he'd wanted from Angel instead. Where was Michael now? Gene wasn't sure he wanted to know. But he was pretty sure Michael would tell him.
Gene didn't want to hear about Angel anymore; he didn't want to know how much Michael thought about him, dreamt about him, worried about him. Gene just didn't want to know, period. He knew enough.
The rain hit the window just seconds after the first tear hit Gene's pillow.
But everyone knows that Vulcans don't cry.
`I can't stand the rain against my window...
Because he ain't here with me.
I can't stand the rain against my window...
Just brings back sweet memories.
I can't stand the rain against my window...
Just keeps on haunting me.'
I Can't Stand the Rain (Tina Turner, 1991)
[End of Part 14]
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