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This story has been written by Madison Aysha and edited by Nicole M. I hold all copyrights and reproduction or duplication without my expressed written consent is prohibited by law.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: FALLING AWAY
Being woken up by loud banging at his door was beginning to feel like a staple of everyday life. It was a Saturday morning and like most people who don't have to go to school or work, Brian was planning to sleep in until the afternoon sky was threatening to turn into the nights. Sighing as he threw the covers off of him, feet greeting the cold wood floors, he sauntered over to the front door and opened it with his hand covering his eyes from the bright blaze of light shining in from the hallway. The sight of a very formally dressed man in dark green army outfit greeted him with the stern look of impatience. Brian started to panic when he recognized the man as Tracy's father and he could feel the worry exuding from Mr. Kelly's tall frame.
"Do you know where Riley lives?" Mr. Kelly asked him, not bothering with any warm pleasantries. At over six feet tall and almost two hundred pounds, he was easily and intimidator. His skin was the color of chilled chestnut and his black hair was shaved off completely in the military cut that dominated his military life style. Only in his early forties, he had the stance of an army man, twenty years seniority and a chip on his shoulder that sometimes weighed him down. Life had not been easy for him and he always felt short changed even though he probably had had it better than most people in their city did. Some people are just naturally inclined to be bitter and jaded.
"What happened?" Brian asked frantically. He assumed that something bad must have happened for Mr. Kelly to come all the way over to his house so early and without Tracy.
"My baby girl left with that cracker! Where the fuck does he live Brian and I know your mother so you better not lie to me!" Mr. Kelly's voice was loud to the point where it could have been considered yelling. Brian backed up, slight fear at the fiery intensity that seemed to be flowing behind Tracy's father eyes and burning onto him.
"What are you talking about?" Brian asked and the next thing he knew, his shoulders were being gripped roughly and shaken by two large light brown hands.
"Don't play stupid with me, you are her best friend and I know you knew about this!"
"I really don't know what you're talking about Mr. Kelly!" Brian shrieked. Mr. Kelly eyed him suspiciously before he backed away slowly, hanging his head down low letting the shame of his actions play across his face.
"I...I'm...sorry...my baby girl done ran off with that white boy...God, he probably got her pregnant!" As Mr. Kelly backed away and sat slowly down on Brian's couch, he was reduced from the large, intimidating terror of a man into a scared, concerned father.
"She's not pregnant, she would have told me. How do you know she's with Riley?" Brian asked trying to be cautious of the words he used. He knew that Mr.Kelly didn't like white people and if he knew his daughter had been dating one, than that would have made an already bad situation worse.
"I know those two have been sneaking around! I've been in the army for twenty-three years young man, I am NO fool when it comes to anything concerning my family or not! I let her think I didn't know because I assumed she needed to find out on her own that white people can't be trusted! Now, look what's happened, he made her run off with him!!" Brian had to sit down too and process what was going on. There was no way that Tracy, his Tracy, the girl he'd known since middle school would just up and run away without a good reason. Yeah, Riley was going through some hard times and he might, but Tracy wouldn't. Nope, she wouldn't do that because she was the smart one, the responsible one, the one everyone looked at as sort of the mother figure of the group.
"Riley's a good guy Mr. Kelly. I don't think she's with him--" Brian was cut off when Mr. Kelly tossed a crumpled note in his hand. Brian skimmed the few sentences that read:
Mommy & Daddy,
I'm sorry to make you worry. I love all of you guys, but I need to go a way for a while. I have some of the money that Nana sent me and I'll be okay. I know this won't make you happy Daddy, but I'm with Riley. I love him and he needs me right now, so until things can get better for him, I'm going to stay with him for a while. It's going to be a while before I talk to you, but I want you to know I'll be safe, Riley takes care of me daddy, please don't worry. I love him and he loves me too and I have to do this. I'm almost seventeen, please trust me when I tell you that we'll be alright. I love you and tell Troy, Tyler and Tommy that I love them and I'm sorry that I have to miss their game on Saturday. Go Tigers!
Brian's mind stopped working after reading that. The letter didn`t make any sense to him. He could feel Mr. Kelly's eyes on him, trying to read him to see if he knew more than he was letting on.
"Mr.Kelly, I don't know where they're at." Brian responded sadly, wishing that he did. He was thinking that Riley's father had probably beaten him up again and he decided that he was going to leave and asked Tracy to go with him. Brian was angered by his assumption of Riley's selfishness. Where the hell did they think they were going and how far could they go on three thousand dollars and no skills?
"I didn't think you did. Where does Riley live, I want to talk to his parents." Mr. Kelly's voice was harsh and left no room for argument.
"His mom's dead, it's just him and his dad."
"What's the address?"
"His father won't talk to you. He's not...nice." Brian replied, refusing to look into Mr. Kelly's curious eyes.
"What do you mean?" Brian didn't want to betray Riley, but things were already going too far. He was starting to feel guilty about not saying anything sooner, maybe if he had, someone could have helped Riley and he and Tracy wouldn't have ran off.
"Riley's father...he drinks...a lot and...and...he likes to hit him." Brian's voice was low. He stood there staring at the floor waiting to get berated for not reporting the abuse sooner, but when he looked up into Mr. Kelly's unmoved eyes, he was surprised and a little annoyed by the lack of emotions behind them.
"So what? My father was rough on me too, that's just how you make a boy into a man!"
"What? No, he wouldn't just `hit' him, he would beat him! He even broke his arm once!" Brian argued, confused as to why Mr. Kelly didn't have any sympathy for an abused child.
"Some cracker gets a little roughed up by his white trash father and I'm suppose to feel sorry about that? That's no excuse for him to go running off with my baby girl! Now, what's his address?" Brian could understand Mr. Kelly's worry for his daughter, but the fact that he showed no compassion for the horrible way Riley's father treated him, disgusted him. Knowing that there was nothing he could say to try and make Tracy's father understand just what kind of pain Riley was in to make him leave in the first place, he just wrote down the address and handed it to him silently.
"Do you mind if I come with you?" Brian asked him. It wasn't that he wanted to go with him for moral support, but he was worried about where his friends could be and wanted first hand information.
"No, I need to take care of this myself. I`m going to head off to Regina`s and see what she knows and if you hear from my baby girl...please, just call me." Mr. Kelly's voice was firm and commanding, but the sad look in his eyes made Brian almost understand the rage he was feeling towards Riley. While he didn't support his views, Brian could see that in Tracy's father's eyes, he wasn't just judging Riley as a white person, but as the boy whom his teenage daughter had run off with. Still, his lack of concern for Riley was something that Brian detested. How some people, in the day and age he lived in, still held on to outdated views and opinions while choking on their own prejudices was beyond him.
He stood there, watching the front door close. Sighing to himself he knew he wouldn't be able to fall back asleep even if was barely eight o'clock in the morning. He went into his room and the first thing he laid his eyes on was a group picture with four familiar smiling faces. It was taken the previous summer at the community center they all went to. In the photo stood a smiling Brian with his arm around Tracy's waist. Riley was standing far off in the background, but the brightness of his hair, which was dyed a bright red at the time, didn't help him hide behind Jacky in the way you could tell that he was trying. Regina was leaning against Jacky, hip on her waist and full cheeks plumped with a smile that they all shared. Times were so good then, so relaxed. No one had any issues or at least none in comparison to what they all were going through now. Brian wondered to himself just when life got so complicated and when did he lose all of his friends. Maybe not in the actual sense of `lose' as in `lost`, but everyone was changing, doing different things, leaving, avoiding, so in a way he did lose them or at least parts of them were gone. He could feel his eyes getting itchy right before the threat of moisture turned into a promise. He sighed softly and told himself to stop acting so weak, so gay and that in the end, everything would hopefully fall back into it's right place.
He stared at the phone. Too nervous to actually pick it up and call the one person whom he had been thinking about for the last week. It wasn't the actual calling of Brian that Jackson was afraid of doing, it was the talking that made him apprehensive. What would he say to him? How would he talk to him? Sure, in the quiet of his bedroom he could assume that the conversation would be easy, but the reality of it all was that it wasn't going to be. How do you tell someone that you feel betrayed without making them feel attacked? You can't and that's why picking up the phone was the hardest thing that he had to do. Finding courage, he did pick it up. He felt like a fourteen year old girl with his childish fears of admitting his pain to Brian as he dialed the digits to his house. Jackson was a man, he wasn't supposed to feel pain and he certainly wasn't supposed to talk about it. But he was feeling too miserable inside and he knew that the misery wouldn't go away unless he did something to make it leave and that being talk with Brian. Three phone rings and Brian answered with a quick hello. Jackson took a deep breath and steeled himself.
"Brian...can we talk?" Jackson's wavering voice surprised him. He could hear Brian sucking in a gust of air and he didn't know whether it was a sigh of relief or a moan of discomfort.
"I want to explain that I didn't mean to like, make you think, you know that I was one way...and with Anthony...it's, I can't...FUCK! " Brian mumbled. He couldn't find the right words to explain to Jacky that he hadn't meant to hurt him. He hadn't meant to lead him on and he didn't mean to make him upset. He wanted to tell him that he never expected to wind up with Anthony while at the same time making sure that Jackson wouldn't go off running his mouth about the two of them. He could assume that Jacky wouldn't, but he needed to make sure. Even if he tried, Brian could have easily told everyone about Jackson, but he would never do that, he could never betray a friend like that. He just hoped the feeling was mutual.
"Look, I don't want to know what's going on with the two of you, as a matter of fact I could give a fucking shit about it! I just wanted to tell you that I was sorry... about before. It was just that shit came out of nowhere and when I put two and two together, my head got twisted and shit especially after I...you know, kissed you. I've been so fucking confused man! My head is in every fucking place right now and I'm just so out it right now. I don't know why I am but I am....." Jackson's voice was distant and too far away for Brian to actually understand the meaning behind his words. That fact bothered him.
"Can you come over?"
"I don't know if that's a good thing. Like I said, my head is just really crazy right now and I don't know if I can like deal with seeing you and shit." Brian tried to pretend that Jacky's words didn't hurt, but the stinging feeling of disappointment stung nonetheless. The restless tone in Jackson's voice was numbing and made Brian feel guilty about the whole matter. The funny thing about guilt is even though it can weigh you down, it seems the more you have, the easier it is to deal with.
"Just for a while. Tracy ran away-"
"What? She ran away? What the fuck?" Jackson shrieked. Tracy wasn't the type of person to do something as reckless as running away.
"She left with Riley." The words flowed off of Brian's lips before he could stop them. He wasn't the gossipy type, but he was still in shock himself of finding out what had happened.
"Why the hell would she leave... with Riley?" Jackson's uncertain tone reminded Brian that Jackson was the only one who didn't know about the abuse that Riley had to endure. He told him that Riley's father was "hard" on him and Jackson understood the hidden meaning behind it.
"I didn't even know about that shit and I've know that nigga for like seven years and shit! God, so why would Tracy leave with him?"
"I think they're like in love or some shit."
"Her and Riley? Yo! I want to laugh at that shit, but ain't nothing funny." Jackson sighed and then there was the silence of their reflection. It was momentary and fleeting as their thoughts wavered from Riley and Tracy to the friction that was between them. Friction that left Brian uneasy and Jackson troubled.
"...just come over...for a little while. You're like one of my best friends and I can feel this...this...it's just weird okay and if we don't try and work past this shit now then we're never gonna ."
"You're right. I can't come over until around six tonight."
"My mom's gonna be here, but we can go and talk out in the hall or something. Jackson...thanks." Brian replied quickly, hanging up the phone hoping Jackson wouldn't change his mind.
"Tracy...baby, wakeup. We're here." The soft, gentle voice was blowing in her ear making her smile before she even opened her eyes. The smell of gas filled her nostrils as warm air blew past her face. The scent of gasoline was pleasant, if not thick and she inhaled deeply as she peered up into soft kind blue eyes. Riley ran his hand through her hair and smiled down at her.
"Hey baby..." She whispered as she took her head out of his lap and sat upright, stretching her arms above her head. "We're there already?"
"Not yet sweetie." He laughed. They had about two more days of bus traveling before they would make it down to Florida. He had spoken to his grandmother and had convinced her that they were only stopping by for a few days for winter vacation. He didn't want to bother her, she was, after all, in her eighties and he knew that the last thing she needed was to be bothered with him, but until he and Tracy could think of someplace better to go, they would stay with her. Riley couldn't believe that Tracy wanted to be with him so much that she would give up her entire life, the only one she'd ever known, just for...him. He wasn't handsome, he wasn't popular. He didn't even have enough money to buy a bottle of water yet Tracy saw something in him that made him feel special. With her, he felt like he was worthwhile and when she was with him, Tracy felt beautiful.
"What's up nigga!" The voice spoke cautious and low and Anthony instantly recognized it as belonging to Carlos. The afternoon had been cold, not that frigid cold, but the crisp and fresh kind. The one where the wind doesn't blow or howl, but glides past you in a quiet hum of winter's coldness. The snow had begun to melt, but the basketball court where Anthony was shooting free throws by himself was free of ice or any other hazard that could mess up his game playing.
"Nothing...catch." Anthony stated as he throw the ball to Carlos, who caught it with a grin on his face. His slanted, dark eyes gleamed with mischief as he ran past Anthony and dunked the ball into the net.
"Take that kid! Get ready to lose your sweatshirt!" Carlos laughed and just like that, things were seemingly fine again.
"Oh, Jackson, how are you baby?" Ms. Washington greeted him with a warm smile on her dark brown face. Her hair was gently swept back into a bun and the edges of her hair line were traced with the faint color of gray and silver, adding to the age on her face. Barely in her late thirties, she worked tirelessly and the lines on her face and bags under her eyes were proof. She didn't mind though because all of her hard work was to ensure that her only child would have a bright future with no worries on how to pay for it.
"I'm good, how are you?" Jackson asked, always the gentlemen.
"Oh child, tired...as always!" She laughed. She stepped aside to let Jacky walk in. The smell of fresh collard greens cooking on the stove and chicken roasting in the oven reminded him of Sunday nights at his Aunt Carol's house. He loved black soul food, but his Italian mother's specialty was lasagna. He knocked softly on Brian's door, but no one answered. He could hear the light mummer of static, so he opened the door softly and saw Brian sprawled across his bed. Jackson tried to push away the thought of how perfectly peaceful, bopping his head to what Jacky was sure was some weird rock music, Brian looked. His back looking slender hidden behind a plain white t-shirt that stood out over the smooth brownness of his skin. Jackson pushed that thought aside. He had to because he knew if he let his mind continue to wonder, they would do him in. So, he put on a false smile as he tapped Brian on the shoulder.
"Hey..." Brian spoke carefully as he removed his head phones and sat upright in the bed. He motioned with his head for Jackson to close the door and once behind the quiet safety of closed doors, he continued. "I don't want you to think that I lied to you."
"Why would I think that?" Jackson inquired, eyebrow arched up perplexed.
"I don't want to dance around this. You know what you...um...saw, with me and um...Anthony and I just want you to know that...fuck, I don't know what to tell you..." Brian sighed. There was no way he was ready to come out or even admit to anyone that he was gay, no matter how close he was with them even if he had kissed Jacky, that was one thing, but actually coming out and saying it was another. He was choking on the words because he knew he couldn't say them.
"I told you...I don't want to know! I'm going to tell you this once and I never want to hear anymore about this. I--DON'T---KNOW----ANYTHING!" Jackson stated pointedly, making sure that he held onto contact with Brian for as long as possible. Brian started to fidget nervously and stood up, keeping his back turned away from Jackson.
"Can you come with me over to Tracy's. I want to see if her dad heard anything." Brian replied, thankful for Jackson's words. With Jackson's statement, Brian was allowed to hide behind them and not have to face the reality of admitting what he was. It was a simple pleasure, fleeting, but for the moment, he was content.
"Let's bounce then!" Jackson exclaimed with a smile on his face.
The afternoon was at its lowest point where the early night of winter was fading the sky from it's dimmed blue into a darkened blue with faint highlights of orange blazing below the loss of the sun making everything hold a faint grayish/ blue glow. The air smelled like smoke, as if somewhere close by a house was burning and the scent was comforting. They talked about random things, nothing of any importance. They could both sense that the other wanted to talk about the problem to which they had found no real resolution for, but neither boy brought the subject up.
They could hear yelling going on inside of Tracy's small three bedroom home. Before they could even knock, Mr. Kelly had the door thrown open. Immediately both boys noticed the large bruise forming under his eye and the swelling of his bottom lip.
"Now is not a good time!" He yelled and brushed past them. One of Tracy's younger brothers peered from behind the door. Troy was only twelve, but looked like he was older than Tracy with his six foot frame and lanky, awkward body slouched over in that insecure pre-teen way that Brian still felt like he himself sometimes experienced.
"Riley's father is crazy! He tried to stab my dad!" Troy yelled and both Jackson and Brian stood there waiting for him to continue. "My dad went over there to try and find out what if he knew where Riley might have took Tracy, but his father told him that he didn't care and when my dad tried talking to him about it, he fucking took out a knife and tried to stab him!! My dad's going to the cops now! Do you know of anywhere that they could have went? My mom's crying and shit...we just want to know if she's okay." Troy's voice was sad and they could see him dab away at unshed tears, embarrassment showing in the way he avoided eye contact.
"The only family Ry has are his brothers and his grandmother. But, he doesn't speak with his brothers and his grandmother lives in Florida. I'm sure she's okay, don't worry about it." Brian tried to offer a few parting words of comfort. It was obvious that there was nothing they could do so they decided to grab a slice of pizza at the local chicken joint. Brian took a seat at the small table across from Jackson. The tension between them was thick enough to cut with a knife. The words exchanged were few and the conversation was obviously forced with the extra exaggerated laughs and smiles stretched too tightly to be real.
"God...we're just a hot ass mess aint we?" Brian said sarcastically after he caught Jackson averting his eyes away from his. The surprising sound of deep laughter chuckling from out of Jacky made him smile.
"Yeah...but we don't have to be..." Jackson smiled as he threw his napkin playfully at Brian's face. Brian joined in and for a few moments their laughter was real and their contact was comfortable, familiar and nice without the underlining strain of unspoken words. The dinging of the bell as someone was entering the restaurant made them look up and Brian's smiling face met the scornful eyes of Anthony. He was about to say hello to him, when he saw Carlos come up from behind him and glare at him.
"What up faggot!" Carlos hissed, directing his comment to both Jackson and Brian.
"You wanna get your ass kicked again nigga?" Jackson yelled getting up. He regretted the fight that he'd started with Carlos, but he wasn't about to let him get the best of him, especially in a public place.
"Naw...I'm cool!" Carlos smiled and then fixed his gaze on Brian. Brian tried to pretend that he wasn't unnerved by the gleam in his eyes, but he was. He looked up at Anthony, who continued to glare between Jackson and Anthony, eyes disapproving and eyebrow arching up in anger.
"Carlos, lets bounce. Fuck these nigga's, let's go light up a blunt!" Anthony spoke his words harshly and with false excitement that Brian could hear right through. Jackson looked at Anthony and then back at Carlos before sitting back down and taking a sip from his soda calmly, ignoring them.
"Yeah nigga! Brianna got the hook-up, lets call her from your crib!" Carlos smiled and Anthony nodded his head in agreement. He turned around and walked out without seeing the pain creep across Brian's face. However, Jackson saw it and threw another napkin at his face.
"Let's go! I got a new race car game!" Jackson stated with a grin on his face. Brian looked up at him gratefully before taking their trays to the garbage and walking out, with Jackson following closely behind...
T B C....
Madison Aysha Dante (c) 2005
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