The following is a work of fiction. The story may contain profanity and references to gay sex. Any relation to similar events or persons, fiction or real, is completely fortuitous. If such content offends you please leave now. The author retains all rights to the story. Do not copy or use without written authority from the author. Write Bobby at with your comments.

Mad World 15

Collin's shivering reduced in severity drastically overnight. I was able to turn the heater off and just rely on the blankets and my own body heat to keep him warm. Brian remained unknown, leaving me to be alone with Collin. I appreciated the gesture, but also felt guilt for ignoring him, in a sense. He did pop his head in to say goodnight. I made sure he was comfortable and had enough to eat so maybe ignoring him was a wrong choice of words. Forgot he was here is more appropriate, because of how well he stayed silent and unobtrusive.

Not once during the night did Collin shift positions or even squirm in my arms. His exhaustion was assumed anyhow. A calm, tranquil feeling washed over me sometime while holding him. The feeling was uncomfortable in the beginning. Being at peace again was an entirely different sensation compared to the stress and chaos that I've constantly felt since Jacob's death, especially this past week. But is everything truly calm and tranquil now that Collin's back? I guess that's just yet another question that needs to be answered in time.

Jackie picked Brian up about an hour ago. I don't remember too much about him leaving, just that I opened the door for him and apologized for being distracted last night. I received a warm hug and then he walked down the stairs to his mother who was waiting at the entrance of the complex. He volunteered to walk down there so no extra noise would be made as to not disturb Collin. For being young he sure has some mature morals. That's how Jackie and Charlie wanted him to grow up, though; mature and responsible. Post departure, I went back in with Collin. As I laid next to him, I couldn't help but wonder what was going through his mind ever since he ran away. Did he think I wouldn't look for him? Has he sold himself at all? I suppose those questions can and will be answered later on.

"Michael?" Collin spoke in a soft, feeble voice. It's the first time I've heard him speak without being overtaken by the shivers.

"Yeah, babe. I'm here." I kissed the back of his head, oily hair and all, not even thinking twice about it.

"Don't you have to work today?" Again his words were languid.

"I did,"

"Are you missing because of me?"

"Of course,"

"Michael, you can't miss work just because of me. I'm fine here. I won't run away again. I promise." There was a lot of force in those words. Color was returning to his world.

"I'm not leaving you."

"You have to. You miss work all the time."

"I don't miss work all the time. I don't even have to go into work all the time. I'm on my own schedule."

"It doesn't matter."

"It does matter, and so do you. I'm not leaving you here alone."

Collin sighed with frustration. "What will it take to get you to go to work?"

"You taking a shower and eating some food. I can feel it's been a while since you've last eaten. Did you . . . do anything while out . . . ?"

"No, I didn't sleep with anyone. I couldn't bring myself to do it."

"Well, good. I'm glad to hear that. If you get up and shower and eat the food I'm going to cook you, then I'll go to work."

"Fine," he reluctantly whimpered.

"I'll start the shower for you."

"Um, Michael? Can you turn the heater on, too?"


The shower was nice and steamy when I left the bathroom. The water was hot enough to relax him, but not hot enough to scald his skin. And when he steps out of the shower the room won't be freezing in credit to the heater. For breakfast I made him scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. The eggs should give him a boost and at least keep him energized for a few hours. Really what the plan is, I'll just go to the office and pick a few things up, make some phone calls, and then go to Tammy's house for that apology I unfortunately owe her. And then there's something else I decided to do today. It was a rash decision and not thoroughly thought out. I'm going to confront Grace today. I'm taking the note to her and demanding an explanation. Tammy as a suspect is out the window. The only lead I have is Grace and that's what I'll run with. If I'm wrong, then so be it. But at least I can say I tried.

Collin stumbled out of the bedroom after a while. The shower must've relaxed him more than I expected. A glossy shine cast over his eyes and he looked almost zombie-like sitting at the table. I served him up some grub and sat down with him. He ate slowly, probably barely able to force the food down. I know what it's like to not eat for a long, long time and then suddenly have a plate of food in front of you. It feels like you're so sick you can't swallow anything, like the only thing that can stay in your stomach is water. Food is the enemy when starvation occurs. Well, not the enemy, but in such a large portion it's hell. But Collin needs his strength. I didn't give him too much, just enough to fill his stomach with nourishment.

"Will you go to work now?" Collin questioned after finishing his last piece of bacon. He downed a glass of milk and took his plate to the sink.

"I'll start getting ready in a little bit. First I want to lay with you." I said sadly. I felt terrible all of a sudden. The thought of leaving him alone scares me. What if he leaves again?


"Because I've missed you. And I'm . . . I'm scared to leave you."


"Because I'm scared you'll run away again." I idly played with the food on my plate. I could feel his stare on the back of my head.

"What makes you think I will?"

"If it happened once it can happen again."

He sounded hurt when he said, "You have that little faith in me?"

"Well, come on, Collin!" I said, standing up from the table. "You're unpredictable. I'm used to securing things with money. But with you I can't do that."

"Was Jacob here because of the money?"

"No! That's not what I meant! He was with me because we loved each other so much."

"Why do you think I'm here?"

"Because you needed to?"

"More like because I wanted to. After having the past week to think about things I realized I like you a lot and I don't want to leave again."

"You . . . You mean that, then?" The level of optimism was overflowing in my words. This conversation was easing my nerves, but I still need to hear him say he wants to stay.

"Yes. You've gotta be the best boyfriend in the world. Jacob was so lucky to have you, Michael. But I'm not Jacob and I will be different. We're not the same people." Collin said emphatically, making it a point to declare his individuality.

"I know you're both different, and that's okay. I figured that out a long time ago. But you both have something that always makes me feel like the luckiest person alive."


"Your smile." And there it was. That cute, blushing smile that sends me to cloud nine. He dropped his gaze from mine in embarrassment. A smile grew on my own face. "See. Your smile is so amazing."

"Stop . . ." he giggled, cheeks just burning with fire.

I held out my arms. "Come here," He practically fell into them. I felt him take a deep breath and slowly letting it out. Either he was enjoying my scent or enjoying the feeling of being in my arms. I'll take either.

"Shouldn't you be getting ready for work now?"

"That was our agreement, wasn't it?"


"I still want to lay with you, though. I think work can wait just a little longer."

"Fine, I'll lay with you, but only because you probably won't give me a choice."

I chuckled. "Nope."

We went back into the bedroom and crawled under the covers. It was nice to smell his freshly showered scent rather than his weeklong grunge thing going on. He kept taking deep breaths, like he was enjoying my scent as well. I even heard him sniffle once in a while. But I'm afraid to ask given that he's trying to get me to go to work. But I can't just let him cry . . . without knowing the reason, although I do have some guesses. He's probably upset at himself for leaving in the first place. Perhaps he feels like he might have ruined a type of relationship that was growing into something great. I told him that-not directly-but he surely got the hint that I don't want him to leave again, that I want him to stay with me because my feelings for him are so strong. Maybe he needs to hear that directly, though, and not just as a suggestion.


But he beat me to the punch.


Collin sniffled softly. "Don't you want to know why I ran away?"

"The thought has crossed my mind. I figured you'd tell me when you're ready. Although I, uh, am dying to know."

"I just . . . I feel like shit because of what I did. At the time it seemed like the best thing for both of us. I am stupid for running away. I've never been any good at anything. My brothers and sisters always got more attention than I did because I was the runt in the family. All the other kids played sports but me. The worthless runt was only good for cleaning the house. No, wait. I wasn't even good at that! And I was reminded of it all the time. Before they kicked me out they told me that I was pathetic and useless and that being a fag fit me just fine."

"Collin, stop." I interrupted his self-loathing voyage. "You are not worthless. I loved coming home and seeing you around here in the condo, especially when you'd make dinner or clean up whatever you thought needed to be cleaned up. You're not worthless to me. If your parents are so bigoted that they can't see what an amazing boy you are, then that is definitely their loss. But don't you dare lie here and barrage yourself with hatred. I don't feel that way about you. Do you understand that? I like you just the way you are."

"You don't know me well enough to say that, though. Yeah, I've been here for a little while, but what happens when you start to get sick of me? I'm not always the independent, strong person I put on display. I can be weak. I am weak. Don't you understand what you're getting yourself into?"

"I do understand, but I don't consider it a burden. Stop degrading yourself, Collin. I like you for you. That's all you have to remember. Don't think about the negatives, only the positives. We can continue to grow, but you have to allow it to happen. Can you grow with me?"

The time it took him to answer caused me to fret over what he might say. All of this talking put aside, all the problems he's faced alone and we've faced together, will he give me an answer I so hope for?

"I think I can manage."

My lips curled upward in an instant. "Good. Now, stop that crying. You're here for good, Collin." I kissed the back of his head a couple of times. "Well, I guess I should start getting ready for . . ."

"It was Grace." he blurted out.

"What?" I asked, the smile gone from my face. A serious tone set down upon the room.

"She's the reason I ran away. Grace made me run away."

Hearing her name come out of his mouth made my blood boil. What does she have to do with him at all? She doesn't even know him. The only time they ever saw each other was at the grocery store, but that was what ten seconds? They never had any kind of contact . . . except at Target. Grace. She was working that day. She saw the two of us in the movie section.

"What did she do?" The difficulty of keeping my anger in was extreme.

"She came over when you went to the bathroom. Did you know I'm not Jacob? Or that I'll never be anything close to what Jacob was? Because apparently Grace thought I didn't know." Collin let out a chuckle, but I could tell it was false-happy. "Who knew, right? The gist of the entire conversation was just how I'll never measure up to him, like he's some God. No offense, of course."

"None taken," I said automatically. The sinking feeling of despair came to my stomach. How could Grace say that to another human being? This bitch is sicker than I previously imagined.

"She said you're only with me so you can show off and how you need someone to want you otherwise you have nothing. One thing really stuck with me, though. She said that once I'm tired of you I'll kill myself, too, and you'll be left with nothing once again, at least until another stray comes along."

"Collin, I . . . I don't even know what to say."

The line has been crossed and now she is going to pay. I just have to think of how to make her pay without being hauled off to jail afterwards. My choices are limited. But there is one thing I know without a doubt in my mind I'll be doing. It involves a school paper and the note sent to Jacob. I'm going to confront Grace once and for all.

"Don't stress about it. You have more important things to worry about." Collin sounded sure of himself, but at the same time he sounded hopeful for the right answer from me.

"There isn't anything more important in my life other than you right now. You are officially my number one priority from here on out."

"You can't do that, Michael. I shouldn't be your number one priority."

"Well, get over it because you are." I didn't need to see his face to know he was smiling. Looks like I gave the right answer. "As far as Grace goes, I'll handle her. Don't you worry about that."

Déjà vu struck hard when I pulled up to Tammy's house. This time around, however, I'll be apologizing instead of accusing. Apologies are so hard for me. I'm too much of a proud person, but I'm not too much of an arrogant bastard to know when the wrong has come out of me. Claiming Tammy wrote Jacob the note without any trace of proof was a brazen move. Now I have to pay for my mistake.

"Well, come to apologize have you?" Tammy said, startling me. I hadn't seen her working in the garden on the side of the house.

I took a deep breath. "Yes. I read the journal. Jacob said some nice things about you. I'm . . . I'm sorry I accused you. It was a very stupid thing to do."

Conscious wiped clean.

"Thank you. I appreciate you coming back. Says a lot about you as a person." She stabbed the dirt with her shovel, leaving it sticking straight up. "Want to talk?"

Oh why not? "Sure,"

"So, Jacob told me you two had been dating for a couple of years. I'm surprised his parents never found out. I give you both credit for being so discreet."

"It wasn't easy at all. Believe me."

"You're probably the luckiest." she pointed out.

"Why's that?"

"His parents would've definitely pressed charges against you."

"Gee, thanks for the comfort."

She laughed mildly. "At least you're in the clear now, huh? I'm sure you were ecstatic when Jacob turned eighteen."

"Yeah, it was one of our defining moments."

"He never did tell me how your anniversary went."

"It was great. I took him to the beach for dinner and then we stayed the night. I, uh, proposed to him, too."

"Really! How about that."

Tammy's inside furnishings matched her perfectly. Giving that she's an older woman so was her furniture. Although, I did expect to see more cat stuff and tacky wallpaper. She's not such a bad decorator.

"We had plans to move in together as well."

Why the fuck am I talking about this? It's only going to destroy my day. Grace already has that duty. I have to go to her house with confidence and strength, not depression and angst. Grace is like . . . She's like a shark. She can sense fear and stress and she knows just how to target her prey.

"You two were really serious then. How fascinating. I'm that much sorrier for your loss." A kettle of water was screaming on the stove. "Do you like tea?"

"Tea's good,"

"So, what were you doing at his house the other day?"

"Janet called and asked if I'd like anything from his room."

"That was generous of her."

"I was stunned to even hear from her. After the funeral-were you there?" Tammy nodded quickly. "Well, after what I revealed at the funeral I didn't think she'd ever want to see me again."

"That was quite the shocker. How much sugar?"

"Just a few spoonfuls, please."

Tammy spooned sugar into the cup of steamy tea. "How did you and Jacob even meet? Weren't you graduated when he was in school?"

"I was at the high talking to an old teacher about some property when I saw him. Luck was on my side that day because an old friend ran into me who knew Jacob and introduced us. The rest is history." A smile came from the memory. I still remember thinking he was the most beautiful person I'd ever seen, and then the feelings hit. The warm feelings of lust and passion. I knew I had to have him.

"This might sound crazy, but . . ." She set the cup in front of me, pushing me to sit at the table. "Around the time you first started dating-if memory serves me right-I remember thinking Jacob looked so much happier than he usually did. He was always a cheery kid, but two years ago it just seemed his world changed. I guess that's all thanks to you." A moment of silence passed between us. A comfortable silence, I might add. She got more serious breaking the quiet. "Who wrote the note?"

"I'm not sure. I . . . I think it was his best friend." I shouldn't be telling Tammy any of this. This isn't any of her business.

Her eyes narrowed. "That red headed little girl?"

"If my suspicions are correct, and we both know my suspicions aren't the most reliable sources." We shared laughter.

"Why do you think she did it?"

I hesitated before reaching into my suit and pulling out the note and the school paper with the same handwriting. "If you look closely at the handwriting on these two papers they're nearly identical."


"Look at the name on the paper."

Her eyes darted to the top-right corner and widened. "Grace."

"Suspicious? Yes. Bull's-eye? Maybe not. But it seems dead-on to me."

"It does. Do you plan on confronting her?"

"Absolutely. She's done nothing but hate on me ever since Jacob and I started dating. I don't know what I ever did to her, but she'll rue the day she crossed me."

A bell suddenly chimed from somewhere in the kitchen. And speaking of the chime, since walking inside I've smelt a delicious scent in the air.

"Oh, right. I'm making lasagna. Would you like to stay for some?" Tammy offered politely.

"Thanks, but I actually need to be heading back to work. I'm only on a short break and the last thing I need is to upset the boss."

"All right, then. Thanks for stopping by and don't be afraid to do so in the future, huh?" Tammy led me to the door. "You have a good one, Michael."

I nodded, smiling. "You too, Tammy."

While driving back to the office, I pondered about the meaning of anything. With Jacob gone and Collin back it feels like something is still out of orbit. Can it be that I just need to confront Grace and get over this torment? But what if Grace didn't even write the note? What then? One option would be to just give up. Another option would be to continue a possibly eternal hunt. A manhunt could ruin Collin and mine's relationship. I mean, it's already caused him to run away once-although technically it was Grace who caused it, but the point being my obsession with discovering the mystery writer cannot be allowed to take over my life.

The familiar ring sung through the truck's speakers. I pushed the talk button on the steering wheel.

"This is Michael,"

"Michael, it's Barbara. A man came in looking for you. His name is Jeff Clyde. Does that name ring a bell?"


"Uh, yeah. Is he still there?"

"I told him to wait at your desk. You sound a little nervous. Who's Jeff? That name almost sounds familiar."

"I'm not at liberty to say . . . Make sure he's comfortable, though. Give him anything he wants. I'll be there as soon as possible."

I sped up dramatically. Jeff is helping me with a private deal and I specifically told him that if anything, and I mean anything, happened to call me right away. For him to show up out of the blue . . . No warning . . . So help me if something went wrong!

In record time, I made it back to the office. Barbara was outside smoking a cigarette when I skidded to a halt in a parking spot. As soon as she saw me jump out of the truck she tossed her cigarette aside, sprayed herself with something yummy smelling, and met me at the door.

"So, who is Jeff Clyde?" Barb asked impatiently.

"I'll tell you, but you cannot tell a soul. Like, not even Frank! This is classified above top secret." I explained who he was to Barb. She was positively thrilled with the news. I started on this private matter well before Jacob passed away. It was going to be a huge surprise for him, but now that he's gone Collin will be the one to receive it. That is, of course, if he wants to. I'm now concerned about how he'll react to such a humungous change.

Mr. Clyde was out of the office in a matter of minutes after I met with him. He enlightened me of certain details regarding the deal, and handed me a small item. The news was a relief to hear and I damn near started to cry post-departure.

The rest of the day I stayed at my desk and made phone calls checking up on past and present clients. As a salesman I feel my job is never done if the client isn't one hundred percent satisfied. They're trusting me to find them their first home, or their second home, or maybe even a fixer upper to resell at a higher price. In order to gain their trust fully I must display complete confidence and control in the selling and buying situation, which isn't always an easy façade. For the past few years, however, I've managed to become a great salesman who always puts his client's needs above his own.

I'm going crazy wondering how Collin is doing at home. Hopefully he's still there when I return. I would've left him my cell phone, but hello I need it for work. Tomorrow we'll probably go and buy him one. Or buy a house phone or something. I've managed to not drive home and check on him, but to ease my own paranoia I do need to call him every once in a while at least until the trust is back. My luck seems to be on an upswing. I can only pray it stays that way.

Four rolled around all too slowly. I said my goodbyes in the office and made my way home. But one thing still needed to be done. The note and school paper sat on the passenger seat in plain sight. Should I clear the air and just be done with everything once and for all? . . . Yes. What am I going to say to Grace? Did you write this note that made my fiancé kill himself even though he was your best friend? Okay, there's probably a condensed version, but for now it works.

It took me half as long as I expected to find her house. The driveway was filled with cars so I'm assuming she-along with her entire family-is home. Is now the best time to cause a scene?

Without thinking or overanalyzing any further, I grabbed the pieces of paper from the seat next to me and paced up to the door. I knocked lightly at first, but no one ever came. Finally, after knocking several more times a woman I recognized as Grace's mom answered.

"Hi, can I help you?" A washing of fear came over me. I suddenly felt extremely foolish for being here.

"Uh, yes. Is Grace here?" My words were dry with a bit of dullness sprinkled in.

"Hold on just a sec." And she was gone in a flash, leaving the door wide open. I anxiously waited for Grace at the door. She came into view, obviously displeased that it was me at the door.

"What do you want?" she asked politely.

"Don't worry. This won't take long." I shoved the note into her chest hard. She opened the tri-folded piece of paper and lost all the color in her face in the process. Busted, bitch.

"What is this?" she asked meekly.

I stared at her in disbelief. "Are you serious? It's the note you wrote to Jacob. You know, the one that made him commit suicide?" I let the charge sink in. "Why the fuck did you write that?" I made sure to accentuate each word in a low, seething manner between clenched teeth.

"I . . . I didn't write this, Michael." There were . . . tears in her eyes. Tears of regret? Please don't tell me I made another mistake . . .

"Don't lie to me, Grace!" I whipped out the school paper next. "Look. The handwriting is the exact same! And whose name is at the top?"

"Mine, but-"

"No! Why did you write the note? What did Jacob ever do to deserve that?"

"You're not listening. I didn't-"

"Stop! Just tell the truth!"

"Shut the fuck up and listen!" she shouted. More calmly she spoke, "This isn't my handwriting. I didn't do this assignment."

"Well, if you didn't do the assignment, who did? Who just uses your name for their own work? What kind of idiot?"

Hesitating momentarily she barely said, "Todd."

The world stopped spinning. Everything I've ever known was back assward. Todd wrote the note? Todd did this!? How in the hell is this even possible? Grace has to be lying. Him and Jacob were best friends, or so I thought. What . . . ? Why . . . ? He was jealous.

"What do you mean Todd?" Eyes wide, mouth agape I asked. I'm sure the color was drained from my face now.

"He did this assignment for me when I was sick one day."

"Why would Todd write this?"

"I don't know, Michael." Tears now freely dripped from her eyes.

"How long have you all been friends?"

"Todd only came along a year before you did. It hasn't always been the four of us. It was just me, Angela, and Jacob."

"So, he started dating you a year before I dated Jacob. How interesting."

"I can't even begin to imagine why he'd write this." She stared down at the note. "Our relationship is so over." She said so quietly it was probably meant for her own ears.

I took back the papers. "I'm going to talk to him."

For the first time in the two years I've known her, Grace smiled at me. "Save a little for me."

"It'll be up to me to not destroy him entirely before you get the chance. Right."

"Goodbye, Michael."

Surprisingly, I remembered exactly where Todd's house was. And on the way there I couldn't stop thinking about why he'd written the note, and again how I accused the wrong person. Although Todd and Jacob were best friends, Jacob always told me that they weren't that close. I gathered on my own that they were only best friends because of Grace. Now my findings were proven true. But why the fuck would he blackmail Jacob like that? What would that accomplish? The questions angered me, speeding up my driving.

Only one car was in the driveway of Todd's house, and luckily it was his. How fortunate. I grabbed only the note and ran up to the door. As every second ticked by the burning rage inside of me was growing.

Todd answered the door, surprised it was me who was visiting. I must've also looked pretty intimidating; tear stained face, red eyes, and a fiercely red face. I held the note up and waited for him to say something.

"Where did you get that?" he asked shakily. The fear was already settling in.

"You know exactly where I got it." I moved right up to his face. "Why the fuck did you write this note?" You know, I must say that I was surprised at how terrifying I sounded. I scared myself.

"I never meant for him to kill himself! I just wanted him to stop hanging out with Grace so much! He was ruining our relationship." Todd cried out.

"What the fuck are you on! You wrote the fucking note because you were jealous of your girlfriend's gay best friend!?"

"All Grace talked about was Jacob this and Jacob that. It was so annoying."

"So you decided to blackmail him in order to distance them? Did you honestly think they'd be together less? Wouldn't they be together more after that?"

"I . . . I didn't mean for him to kill himself." A few tears flushed from his eyes.

Something clicked inside my head right when he said that.

"That's why you weren't at the funeral. You felt guilty because of what you did." I bit my lip to hold back any emotion and took a few steps away to reduce the chance of knocking the shit right out of him.

"I'm sorry! You have to believe me!"

"You are so fucking stupid and crazy!"

"I just wanted my girlfriend to talk about anything other than him every once in a while. Is that a crime?"

"No, and as far as I'm concerned I won't press charges for what you did. Nothing can bring Jacob back and months in court certainly won't do anyone any good. But mark my words, Todd. If I ever see you again, I can't promise I won't beat the crap out of you."

Spinning on my heels, I walked away with a sensation of triumph. The idea of running Todd over was strong, however. Jacob wouldn't want me to harm Todd, though, or anyone for that matter in a physical manner. He was absolutely opposed to that type of thing. So, to honor Jacob I did the right thing by simply walking away.

That being said . . .

I turned back around, went right up to Todd, and with all the power I could muster I slugged him square on the nose. Arms flailing, Todd fell flat on his ass, nose gushing a deep carmine colored liquid. A new sense of triumph overwhelmed me. It felt like there was an invisible force giving me a pat on the back. I stared down at Todd who was also staring at me.

"Bastard," I mumbled, turning away for the final time.

I don't know exactly what I'm doing sitting in my truck, of which I've been doing for the past twenty minutes. The only things going through my mind are what transpired today. The earlier feeling of victory has vanished and emptiness has rushed in. I thought I'd be ecstatic all night. I finally put to rest the mystery of Jacob's suicide. Why is happiness not erupting from every pore, every fiber of my being? Why is there still an emptiness that I just can't quite pinpoint? Is it just the loss of Jacob that has left a permanent gaping hole? I want to fix this void, but I don't know how. If solving the mystery of the note didn't work, what will?

My damn cell phone rang, disturbing the peaceful silence in the cabin. Without bothering to see who was calling I answered.

"Hello? . . . Oh, hi, Jeff. What's going on now? . . . I see. Well, if they're okay with it, then I can definitely begin early. Are they sure, though? I mean, they've still got two weeks. . . . Uh huh. . . . Okay. . . . That's great then. I'm gonna stop by later and check it out. Thanks, Jeff."

More good news. I guess I'll talk with Collin about it tonight. I don't even know what to say to him. As the old saying goes, out of the frying pan and into the fire. The saying may be a bit harsh for this type of thing, though. Perhaps out of the boat and into the water? I don't know. Whatever.

On the way up to the condo I smelt something positively mouth-watering. Whoever is going to be eating whatever that aroma came from is damn lucky. We'll probably just go out to eat tonight, especially if Collin takes the news as a good thing.

I opened the door and stepped inside to a warm and very clean living room. And I took quick notice to something else. The smell was coming from the kitchen! My kitchen. Collin moved around a countertop and padded towards me. He bore his special grin accompanied by bright eyes.

"You're cooking?" Was the only thing I could think to say.

His grin amplified. "Yeah, I was watching the Food Network and I figured I owed you at least a good meal."

Collin draped his arms around my neck, standing on his tiptoes just slightly to equal my height. The familiar scents of basil and thyme released from his skin. He leaned closer and placed his lips right on mine. His soft, luscious lips felt heavenly against my own. Eyelids closing immediately, I focused intensely on his tongue massaging the insides of my mouth. I moaned promptly enjoying the action so much. The kiss reminded me of the first time Jacob kissed me. It was on our first date just prior to dropping him off around the corner from his house. As he was getting out of the truck he quickly leaned over the center console and gave me a full on kiss. Comparing it to Collin's kiss is almost unfair, but the feelings are the same.

"So, what are you cooking that smells so good?" I asked as we broke away from the kiss.

"Promise not to get mad?"


"Pot roast,"

"Why would I get mad over that?" I was amused and made no effort to hide it.

He bit his lip nervously, shifting in my grasp. "I sort of . . . found one of your credit cards and bought a few things."

I chuckled lightheartedly. "As long as I don't get a call from Visa I think I can manage keeping calm."

Collin laughed, "Jacob, right?"

"Oh yeah,"

"So, want to eat now, then?"

"Actually I need to take care of something real fast. I'll be done in a few minutes." I gave him a kiss on the cheek and went into the office. I unlocked the drawer with Jacob's journal and engagement ring. I flipped through the pages to the very end while holding the ring in my other hand.

April 20 2011

Collin isn't doing so good. I could hear it in his voice. It sounded like he was just getting over a cold. His skin was pale and his lips were on the verge of turning blue. It's been warmer lately because of spring, but come nightfall the temperature still drops significantly and with no real shelter it can be horrible. I gave him what money I had, but fuck it's so depressing that he has to live on the streets. I feel like maybe it's time to tell Michael. He deserves to know. I'm sure he'll understand. I mean it's not like Collin means anything to me other than being a friend. I just help him out, you know? There's nothing wrong with that. And lately I've been having this super strange feeling. Like I'm thinking about dying, not suicide or anything just what would happen if I died? What would Michael do? I don't want to sound arrogant, but he'd probably go crazy without me. Would he find someone else to love? Ew that's a horrible thought right now. But eventually I'd want him to find someone else. He can't just be miserable the rest of his life. Maybe a guy similar to me, but not exactly. I don't really have anyone in mind for him. I mean Zac Efron would be a great replacement and don't even get me started on Justin Bieber. Those of course are just fantasies though. No, if he were to start seeing someone else I'd prefer it to be someone like Collin. This is going to sound weird, but in the time I've known him he's quite the amazing kid. Him and Michael could totally feed off of each other. Michael could provide the essentials and love while Collin could return the love twofold AND give Michael a companion. Hahahaha what are the chances of them dating though, right? Come on. Michael doesn't even know about Collin so the odds are definitely stacked against that idea. Still it's interesting to think of the possibilities. If I were to die I'd want them to date. Period.

So . . . Jacob is okay with me seeing someone else . . . Seeing Collin. He wanted me to be happy without him by my side. Whoever I chose to fill in his empty spot with he wanted me to be happy. This is . . . great news! This could even be better than my own news. You know that happiness I lost earlier? Well, it's freaking back! I feel ecstatic, like invincibly ecstatic. I placed the journal and ring back in the drawer not even bothering to lock it.

Collin had two plates of food on the table. The roast looked scrumptious, but I'm too excited to eat. I have to let Collin have the news now.

"Collin, there's something I have to tell you. No, I have to show you." I said enthusiastically.

"What?" He was smiling again.

"Not here. We have to go out. Can dinner wait a little while?"

"Sure," He put the two plates in the oven and put his shoes on. "Where're we going?"

"As if I'd tell you. Don't worry, though. I think you're going to love it."

We drove for about fifteen minutes until arriving at our destination. The destination is a house that sits atop a hill overlooking the city and the couple surrounding cities. The houses in the neighborhood were almost as nice as this house, but not quite as unique. Collin still couldn't quite guess what we were doing here even with the pretty obvious sign out front.

Stepping inside, he was awestruck at the entrance itself.

"How big is the house?" he asked, looking around with huge eyes and a mouth agape.

"Well, it's about five times larger than the condo. The upstairs only has the master bedroom, bath, and an office space though. Let's take a look around." I grabbed him by the hand and led him through the house.

The living room is my favorite room. Half the structure is made of glass so the view is impeccable. I can imagine sitting on a comfortable couch at night staring out at the city. The office, being upstairs, has an amazing view too, but not quite like the living room's dynamic configuration. Next I showed him the kitchen and the two other bedrooms and bathrooms. He was impressed, although still curious why we were here. The backyard is a fixer upper. It would definitely take a little work and some money to get right. A good side, though, is that it's relatively flat. Being on a hill it's a flat piece of land. Having a hilly house can be a pain anyway.

"So, why are we here exactly?" He asked when we returned to the living room.

"Isn't the view great?" I asked out of random. "I brought you up to show what a great house this is." My mood had calmed greatly and I felt peaceful and relaxed.

"It's a nice house, but why show me this one?"

I closed the distance between us, and wrapped my arms around his small waist. He looked up in my eyes and grinned shyly.

"Because I just bought it."

Collin's mouth dropped to the floor. "What?"

"I got the keys to the house today."

"You . . . bought this place?"

"Yeah, and I want you to move in with me."

"Michael!" he exclaimed, jumping on me. "Are you serious?"

"Very serious," Giving him a tight squeeze, I said. "Is this too much for you? I was so nervous about showing you."

"No, this is great. Did you buy this house for Jacob?"

"Originally no. I was working on this deal months before he passed away. It was for us, not just him. Things change, though, and I want the house to be for me and you now."

He sniffled in the crook of my neck. I set him down easily. "Oh, Michael,"

"So is that a yes?"

"Of course it is. I'm just in shock."

"Well, shock or not that's great. We can start moving in immediately. First I want to hire some carpet cleaners and I need to buy paint to refresh the walls. Oh, and we need to clean everything else."

"I love you, Michael."

Whoa. That caught me off guard. Collin just really said he loves me. And you know what? It feels great! No overanalyzing. No critical thinking. Just love and love in return.

"I love you too, Collin." I said with all the honestly in the world. I don't feel like it was rushed or too soon. After reading what Jacob said about me dating Collin I feel nothing but joy and relief. Everything in my life is finally smoothing out. Will it be easy sailing from now on? Probably not, but that's okay because now I have someone by my side to help me through every single wave.

I am no longer a lost soul in a mad world.

The End

Boy, what a long chapter. It took me a month, but I think the end speaks for itself. Before I say anything else I want to thank all of my readers. Without your encouragement and support I would not be what a writer I am today.

When I first started Mad World, I really didn't have any idea that it would turn into such a piece of work. Let's face it. In the beginning we had a rough start because of my inability to write proficiently. Writer's block kept me down for days upon end. But we all lasted the entire story and here we are. Chapter fifteen. The final piece of the puzzle. I'm not gonna lie I'm stoked it's finally over, yet at the same time I'm sad just like I am after I end every other story. As a writer I get attached to the characters as if they are real, like I see them every day or something.

I hope you all enjoyed the final chapter. I really did have a blast writing the story. Thank you to all who have written in about it. Fear not because a new story will be posted as soon as the story poll has 100 votes. Until it reaches at least that number I will not start working on anything so the faster it gets that high the better for you guys. Don't be lazy, either. Out of 1262 members I think only asking for 100 votes is gracious. I could ask for 500 or 1000, but I choose 100. Maybe it's time to require 500, though. Well, it's up to you all to decide. I'm looking forward to all three of the choices. Look, I'll even make it easy for the lazy ones: Poll Page. That link will take you directly to the polls. Yes, before you message me asking, you must be a member to vote. Thanks ahead of time to those who do vote.

And on a final note, thank you all again. Without your support I would not be the author I am today.

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