This series is dedicated to Chris Conklin...who I sometimes miss like you wouldn't believe. I am still grateful for having him listen to me, talk to me, and believe in me. Even when I didn't believe in myself. Thank you...and rest in peace. I hope the new chapters make you proud, dude. To everyone else, enjoy this new chapter, and let me know what you think of this new chapter at or stop by my website at (And don't forget to sign the guestbook!)

"My Only Escape 13"

The lingers, you know?

The sex was amazing, indescribably HOT! And my whole body felt both relaxed and energized with an overwhelming collection of ticklish tingles at the same time.

But the love? That inescapable gravitational pull towards Brody's lingers. It's almost as if a giant rubber band had been tied around both of our waists. And the further apart we get, the stronger the pull is, forever trying to snap us back into one solid entity. Getting on that bus ride back home...I could already feel the tension of that blasted rubber band..stretching itself out, further and further, cutting off my circulation as it attempted to pull me back in the direction of my love.

But...that wasn't where I was going, was it?

No...I was going back to my life...and to HIM.

Sitting in the back of the bus, I laid my head back and just closed my eyes...thinking about what happened this afternoon. Wow...I swear that I could still 'taste' him. It was difficult for me to let go of the images, fearing that they would suddenly fade away into fantasy as though they had never happened. That would be the cruelest joke that God could ever play on me...making this all some elaborate wet dream that I was expected to wake up from later. Then again, I can't deny that I would be begging to go back to sleep...begging for more, if that was the case.

What's the point of being awake when your dreams are filled with the promise of a better life than anything your real life could ever hope to provide?

The true test didn't really begin until I got off the bus though. That shaky, 'sick', feeling in my very core that was telling me the fantasy was almost over. That the joy of sharing my very first sexual experience with the most amazing, most unapologetically BEAUTIFUL boy in existence....was about to be totally buried under the misery of having to go back home again.

Those first few steps in the direction of my house were some of the hardest steps that I've ever had to take. I walked slowly, hoping to hold on to the tingles for JUST a little bit longer. PLEASE, God. Just....just give me my moment. I know it can't last forever, and I should be ashamed for even asking it to. But if you just give me a few more minutes of joy, I swear I'll make it up to you by being a better person. I'll try harder. I will. I'll try *SO* much harder.

When I got back to the house, I saw that my mom was still at home. Which was a relief, but only a minor one. Because I know that he would be there too. There's no way that even my mother's golden presence in that house could win out over the thick cloud of tension and horror that my father kept looming over us like a building funnel cloud....ready to drop at any given moment. I've kept my guard up so much that I hardly know what it's like to sleep in my own bed without my muscles tightening up to the point of almost snapping loose from my bones. There's no safety here. The ONE place that everybody should feel at home.

I walked up the stairs, the air feeling thicker and heavier with every step...the sweet lingering jubilation of Brody's magic kiss fading as my heart prepared to defend itself for what was coming. My father was extra hard on me when he thinks I tried to outsmart him. And that trick with me cleaning out the basement was sure to bring me a LOT of pain this week. I was forced to ask myself....was it worth it. Was this one day worth the suffering I was bound to go through the second my mother left the house?

Then I thought about the tender lips of my favorite boy...and I whispered to my self...."Yeah. It was worth it."

I opened the back door and walked in. I could hear my father's television playing loudly in the background, the sound coming out of his darkened bedroom at the end of the hall. But my mom heard me come in and came to greet me at the door. I wish I could say that there was something even remotely soothing about her smile and kiss on the forehead as I stood in that kitchen...vulnerable. Alone. Already defeated by the menace that hadn't even bothered to rear its ugly head yet. If anything, I was almost insulted by her warmth. What kind of 'peace' was she really capable of bringing me? What good would it do. The weekend was here, sure...but soon, she'll be gone again...

...And he'll hurt me worse than ever.

"Honey...?" She asked, feeling a slight chill from my unaffectionate hug. "I want to talk to you, ok? Come on." She said. She grabbed a few ice cream sandwiches out of the freezer, and started walking towards the living room.

My body went stiff. Cold. Numb.

"Talk to me about what?" I asked, trying HARD to keep my trembling voice under control.

But she just said, "Come on. Let's sit down for a few moments. Just you and me."

She kept walking, and I almost felt sick to my stomach. I couldn't move. I COULDN'T. In fact, I wish that I had the courage to turn myself around and run out of that back door as fast as I could. Why does she want to talk? WHY??? She's gonna make me lie to her, isn't she? She's gonna ask me questions about 'him'...and I'm gonna be FORCED to lie to her. Just so I can keep my secret. Just to keep her out. Just to keep her safe.

I swear, if I ever survive my childhood...I'm not EVER gonna lie to the people I love, EVER again. I feel like a piece of me dies every time I do it. And I'm running out of pieces to give back to the ashes.

Knowing that my mother was waiting...I finally took my first shaky step forward. I think my mind went completely blank as I walked down the hall towards the living room. And the fear TRIPLED as I walked right past my father's room, the door almost all the way....but not quite. I could hear his TV playing...and I wondered if he know that I was home. Did he hear me come in? Will he be listening at the door to make sure I don't tell? I could never be sure with him. But the fear of the possibility was almost enough to paralyze me from the heart down.

I couldn't even WALK normally past their bedroom. I tiptoed by on instinct alone

My mom sat down on the sofa, and patted the seat next to her. She had been separating clothes to do a few loads of laundry, and I stepped around the hamper to nervously plop down at her side. She looked at me for a moment, then reached out a soft hand to pet my hair. "So when are you going to fill me in on why you've been odd these days? Hmm?" She asked.

"There's nothing wrong with me, Mom. I swear, ok?" I tried to stand up again, but she stopped me.

"Whoah whoah whoah....where are you going? Come on, sit down. Talk to me."

"I can't. I've got stuff to do."

"So do I. Let's say we both take a break." She said. "Come here. Sit down." Softly spoken, but a command nonetheless. I slowly sat down, and looked down at my shoes to keep from having her see my lying eyes. Please, Mommy...let me go. Don't make me do this anymore. "When you called earlier...Zack, you sounded really worried, and that doesn't sit right with me."

"You and Dad were fighting...." I mumbled softly, never lifting my gaze from the rug.

"Honey...parents are people too. Sometimes we disagree on certain things, but that's no reason to think that it's going to somehow boil out of control. That's not what I heard in your voice today. I want to know what's going on with you." Then she looked down. "Where's your arm sling? You haven't worn it in days, and don't think that I haven't noticed."

"I don't need it. My arm feels fine."

"So you know more than the doctor now, huh? Should I call him up, ask him to test you to see if you can get a degree?" She said. "Zack...wear your sling. It's only another week and a half."

"Ok, Mom. I will." I said, hoping that it would bring an end to the discussion. I was glad that the distraction had taken her mind off of the original discussion, but as she saw me fidgeting, my body language silently alerting her to my need to run away again, she lifted my chin to look me in the eye.

"So, talk to me. Baby, I can't help you if you won't tell me what's wrong."

"NOTHING'S wrong, Mom. God, just...I'm ok! Why can't you just..."

"Hey...don't be rude." She said. "Zack, this isn't like you. Sometimes I see you smile, and other times you look like you want to step out in front of a bus. And I need more from you than, 'Mom, I'm ok'." She was pushing as much as she could without practically slicing the top of my head open and pulling it out of my brain with her bare hands, but I resisted her invasion with everything that I had to give. It's not her problem. It's MY problem. I'm not WEAK, I can handle it.

"It's nothing. I promise." I said...the lie tainting my tongue with the foul and bitter taste of regret. But I attempted to peak up into her questioning eyes with a level of faked sincerity that would hopefully bring her some comfort.

I don't think it worked very well, but she told me, "Zack....honey? If you tell me, right here, right now, that you are 100 percent ok...then I'll leave it alone. For TODAY. But...if there is ANYTHING...ANYTHING wrong at all with you, I don't ever want you to feel like you can't come to me. I will drop everything and rush to be there for you whenever you need me. There's nothing that you ever feel that you have to hide from me. Do you understand that?" Slowly I nodded my head, a rush of emotion almost choking up in the back of my throat. Hold it all in, Zack. Hold it all in. "So...I'm going to ask you one more time...are you ok?"

It was almost leaping up out of my stomach...I almost said it out loud. I WANTED to tell her. For a moment, I wondered if the pain would stop if I could just look my mother in the eye and tell her about the beatings the verbal abuse, the dislocated shoulder, the other women in the house when I came home from school. I wish I could tell her how little soul I had left, and there was ONE boy on this whole planet that could take the 'hurt' away and make me finally feel sexy and though my life had meaning beyond beyond being my father's punching bag. I WISH I could put it into words and tell her everything.

But I couldn't.

The pain...the overall SHAME of it all. Yes, I was ashamed. Humiliated beyond belief. I was weak. I had been helpless. And now I was about to infect her existence with this 'virus' of a life that I've been living. I'm not gonna do it. I can't.

"It's ok, Mom. I'm fine." I said, and although she hesitated, she decided not to push anymore. Probably waiting to find a better way to penetrate my defenses later. But for now, I had dodged another bullet.

She was almost ready to let me go, so she patted me on the knee, and then leaned in to kiss me on the forehead. "Listen, I know that I haven't been around much lately. But I have to work at the office and keep some pretty long hours to make ends meet while your father is out of work. But that doesn't mean that you can't come to me when you're feeling bad. Please remember that, k?" I agreed, and this time, when I got up from the sofa...she didn't try to stop me.

However...when I looked up from the floor...

"What's going on in here?" My father was standing there, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed.

I didn't answer. My heart rate sped up. I knew that tone of voice. The calm before the storm. I had heard it many MANY times before. Usually before the first painful slap sent tears shooting up into my eyes. I started to tremble instantly.

"Nothing. Zack says he's fine...I believe him." My mom said, but I didn't take my eyes off of my dad...and he didn't take his eyes off of me.

"Well...if we were having a family meeting, I'd like to think I'd be invited." He said. The way he was looking at me...I nearly started to cry from the fear building inside. I wanted to cower behind my mother and pray for forgiveness. He thinks I told! I said I'd NEVER tell...but he thinks I told!

"It's nothing as serious as all that. We were just having a chat, that's all." My mom said, and without saying a word, I hurriedly walked past him to get to my room and shut the door before the waterworks started. He glared at me the whole way. A subliminal death threat that followed me every step of the way.

He's gonna hurt me. I know he is. But what if he hurts HER? What could I do if he really did something to hurt my mom? If he did something to her it would be all my fault. I couldn't live with that. She's the only sense of 'home' that I'll ever have. For the rest of my life.

Things stayed quiet for a while, and I stayed locked up in my room with the door closed. I just tried my best not to be noticed for a while. There's safety in being alone. Then I made the mistake of getting hungry.

I went into the kitchen to make myself a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and my mom walked past me with the laundry basket in her arms. "Honey, can you hand me the basement laundry room key from on top of the microwave?" I gave it to her by setting it on top of the hamper, and she thanked me, going out of the back door and down the steps to put the load in the wash.

The silence of the house fell down on me like a cloudburst of bricks, and I suddenly tried to put the peanut butter and jelly away as fast as possible so I could get back to my room.

I wasn't fast enough. He must have been waiting for this opportunity.

The hand shot out from nowhere and wrapped around my throat as though God had designed it solely for that particular purpose. My oxygen was cut instantly, and I dropped the plastic peanut butter jar to the floor as I felt my frail little body slammed up against the wall. The pain didn't even register right away, not until I felt his hot breath in my face. There's something about being choked that hard that makes your eyes squint shut as tightly as humanly possible, and your legs go limp on you as you involuntarily reach up to try to loosen the vice like grip on you windpipe. Being truly choked in anger is an experience that you have to 'feel' to understand. It's an apocalyptic feeling of helplessness that I wouldn't wish on anybody.

"What did you SAY, you little shit?!?!?!" He said, keeping an ear out for my mom. "What did you tell her? Are you snitching on me now, you little FAGGOT???"

"I...I didn't....say anything..." I sputtered between gasps for air. But he slammed me even harder up against the wall as tears poured from my eyes.

"If I find out that you're running your mouth...I'll kill you BOTH! Do you understand? DO YOU???" He squeezed harder, and then slammed me against the wall one last time, this time, making sure that the back of my head hit hard enough to make me see little white stars in my eyes. I fell to my knees, trying to get my vision to focus again as I held my head in pain. "Still playing games, aren't you? Huh? I bet you thought you were pretty fucking SMART cleaning the basement up a night while everybody was sleeping. Well guess what? Since you're so fucking smart, I'm gonna have something 'special' waiting for you when you get home from school. Bet on it, smart ass! We'll see just how the pretty boy deals with that." He sneered, and then grabbed me by the hair on the back of my head, hard enough to almost rip it out at the roots. "I'm gonna fucking TORTURE you until you're fucking WORTH something! You hear me? I'm gonna turn you into something worth loving instead of the pathetic bitch of a human being that you are! So you just keep smiling while you can keep smiling. Because come tomorrow afternoon, I'm gonna start 'fixing' you, boy!"

It hurt so badly that I just wanted to lay there on the floor and let it ache for a while before I tried to move. But instead, my dad picked up my sandwich and took a bite out of it for himself. Then he grabbed the back of my shirt, and started to 'drag' me back to my room. He was soooo much bigger than me, fueled by anger and hatred...he had no problem pulling my fragile frame from the kitchen, down the hall, back to my bedroom. Even with the friction of the carpet to give him some resistance. He dropped me down in my own doorway, and gave me a little kick to get me to crawl the rest of the way inside.

"Let me find out that you're opening your mouth about me, Zack. You don't know what PAIN is! You hear me? By the time they get here, you will be fucking damaged for LIFE!" Like I wasn't already. There wasn't a part of me that he hadn't corrupted. There wasn't a piece of my soul that he couldn't hurt. As I lay there in the middle of the floor, hearing him eat my sandwich...I felt myself almost dry heaving from the turbulent feelings being conjured up in my stomach. And suddenly....without warning...uncontrollable sobs began to escape from my lips to the point of being audible whimpers that I had to asphyxiate by holding my breath.

A few minutes went by, and I fought to contain it. That sensation that continued to expand inside until I was almost ready to slit both of my wrists just to bleed this boiling hot POISON out of my veins. And that's when I head a light tapping at my bedroom door. And I hurried to get myself together. But there was no stopping the sniffles, no hiding the red and puffy appearance of my cheeks, or the lightly salted tracks of my tears. So I got up and ran to stand behind the door, just as she began to open it. "Zack?" I didn't allow the door to open wide enough for her to peek through. It only opened a crack, and I kept my back in the corner as I attempted to clear my throat and get my voice to sound normal again. As though I HADN'T spent the last five minutes crying my eyes out on my bedroom floor. "Honey?"

"I'm not decent, Mom. I was changing clothes." I said, wiping my eyes. "What do you want?"

"Well...I just wanted to let you know that the basement looks amazing. You really did a good job on it. Even the sink is clean. you really put in a lot of hard work, and we appreciate it, ok? I'll see if maybe I can talk to the landlord about giving you a couple of bucks for getting everything so clean for him."

I don't know what it was about her love that made it hurt even worse, but I swallowed hard behind that door, and let a few more tears drip from my eyes as I took a deep breath and hid the pain in my voice. ", Mom. That would be awesome."


"I don't need any money for it. K? Just...I'm glad that you liked it. I worked hard on it." I said, and suddenly got choked up again. I put both of my hands up to my mouth and nose to cut it off though. DON'T let her hear you crying! IDIOT! Fucking IDIOT!!! You're screwing up again!What the hell is the matter with you??? STOP IT!!! Keep quiet and deal with it! Quit being an asshole! Shhhhhh! "I've gotta get dressed now." I said.

"......Ok, honey." She said, and let me close the door. I ran to my bed and slammed myself, face down, into the pillow so I could let some of the pressured feeling out without being hurt. I needed that. I needed that.

The next morning, I woke up early, and quickly made my own breakfast, some cold cereal and toast, to keep my mom from making anything. I know her, and she'd use that as an excuse to sit me down at the kitchen table and 'talk' to me some more. And I just don't have the energy to fend off her suspicions today. I just wanted to get out of that house.

I avoided my mother AND father all morning, and grabbed my backpack to go to Adam's house early. And, to be honest, even though it hurt me DEEPLY to try to put a smile on my ace for him...I welcomed the distraction from the misery in my heart. From my father's threat. And the painful punishments that I was going to have to suffer through all alone in the next few hours. A day at school is the only thing separating me from the hurting my father was anxious to put on me. And I KNEW it was coming. The wait was probably gonna be worse than the punishment itself. But for Adam...I could put the mask on. I could pretend to be happy for a little while. Smiles. Laughter. Maybe some normal companionship. It helps sometimes. Even if only a little bit. Without it, this abyss would swallow me whole.

I remember Brody showing up that morning...and his smile was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen before in my whole life. I can remember how it soothed me, inside and out. I just...I loved him sooo much that it hurt. How can I place my every hope for for very survival in the hands of one boy? One boy who doesn't even have a clue about what I'm going through. But something about his smile made it all better. If only for a few minutes...Brody's glistening eyes and soft skin was like this physical work of at that ignited my senses and made it ok to hurt this way. Every smile that we shared was an unspoken hint towards this big secret over what we shared this past weekend. I could now picture him naked from actual, visual, experience. Not just fantasy. And God....was it ever beautiful.

It was like he really enjoyed my company. The gaze in his aqua, bluish green eyes tried to convey a message that he found me attractive. Sexy. Worthwhile. WHY??? What could possibly be sexy about me? Who knows? But Brody made it acceptable for me to feel loved....and wanted...and that wasn't something that I was used to. God forbid if he were take it away from me.

The whole morning, my mask was in place, Brody helped to make my smile even more genuine than usual, and there were even times that I wasn't worried about coming home again. It didn't even cross my mind. As long as Brody was there with that smile...I could stand almost anything. He kept telling me that he liked being around me...but it had to be a lie. A very 'polite', well calculated lie. He didn't love me. How could he? How could he find anything about me attractive. It was all a lie, I could feel it in his tone of voice. In his 'less than sexy' interactions with me. Did I totally fuck up this weekend? Did he see something in me that he found repulsive? He'd be withdrawing from me soon. Trying to find a pleasant way to get lost. I don't deserve Brody. He should be with somebody else. Someone 'pretty'. Someone that can make HIM feel sexy and wanted, the way he does for me. God...I'm such a fucking FRAUD for keeping him away from what he really wants.

And yet...there was a part of me that needed to remain wrapped up in the lie...for JUST a little bit longer. I was enjoying it too much to let it go just yet. Lie to me, Brody. Please? Just for a little bit longer?

We got to school, and it ached to suddenly be faced with the act of splitting up and going my different ways from Brody. Another secret that I had to hide from Adam and Sam as I nearly burst into tears from having to say goodbye. But all it took to make me feel better was having Brody saying, "Keep smiling for me, sunshine." He said it quietly in my ear, and I nearly got a full blown erection from the love struck vibration that I felt from it. And I DID smile for him! For at least....another ten minutes. Before the demons crept back in.

I went to my English class, and my mind became obsessed with the threat that my dad had given me. About how much it would hurt. About how loud I would scream. About how my prayers would surely go unanswered as my body weathered the brutal storm in the distance. I looked at the windows as the dark clouds turned the sky a combination of dark gray and purple...and then rain drops began to pelt against the plexiglass. I just stared at the rain as it escalated into a downpour...the liberation of it affecting me unexpectedly. I felt the same way those storm clouds felt. When it gets to be too much...when you simply can't hold it in anymore...the lightning, the thunder, the HAS to fall. It HAS to be released. I envy the clouds. I'm jealous of their expression Because I'm imprisoned by mine.

And that's when Mr. Raffe, my English teacher, called us up, one by one, to get back our last written English projects. And when he called my name...I went up to see a 'C+' grade written on it in big red marker.

I stopped walking halfway back to my desk, looking at his comments, which had gotten increasingly bold. And by 'bold'...I mean negative in a way that required no tact or heart at ALL. The term 'hurtful' didn't quite cover it. Red marks were EVERYWHERE. Scratching out parts that really meant a lot to me, and the overall theme of his criticism was....'you suck...and you'll never be ay good, so why try?' I eventually sat down again, and I kept reading his notes...and every last hurtful word just seemed to cut deeper and deeper into my heart with a rusty blade. Most comments were given 'professionally', void of any feeling of all...and others had this feeling of frustration behind them. How can I not take that personally? Does he know how much time I spent trying to finish this assignment and finally getting him to recognize it as something special instead of a worthless piece of TRASH? STUPID!!! That's what it is, isn't it? STUPID!!!

I couldn't hold back the hurt while I was sitting there in his classroom. I tried, but my stomach tied itself in knots and my emotions and insecurities began to chew and grind on what little self esteem I had...mentally destroying my will to keep trying to please him. It's out of my hands. I'm just not good enough.

Instead...I just watched the rain dribbling down the windows, hearing the soft rumble of thunder in the background as I waited for the bell to ring. That's why he hates me. My dad's right, isn't he? I'm not so smart. I'm not so special. I'm not so 'pretty'. Why should I expect anything less?

When the bell rang, I walked out of that classroom with my head hanging low, my extremely thin skin totally penetrated to the point where I almost couldn't bear to stand on my own two feet any longer. Oversensitive? Maybe. Probably. My grades are fine. It's not like any of this is enough to keep me out of a good college or stop me from graduating. I'm far from failing. It's not like I should be 'ashamed' of something like this. And yet...the fact that my very BEST efforts to do something right were rejected...thrown down in the dirt and kicked around as though my all hard work was as meaningless as the dust on their wouldn't let go of me. It wouldn't let me forget...just how worthless I really am.

Adam caught up to me in the hallway after class, big smile on his face, and even though I had an overwhelming load of self pity on my shoulders...I attempted to work up a smile for him too. The last thing I wanted to do was talk about it. The faster I cover it up, swallow it whole...the faster it'll heal. Getting other people involved only makes it worse. Only prolongs the pain. Only brings more pain to the surface. "Hey..." I said, but it didn't come out as 'happy' as I wanted it to. So I tried to perk up again. A sense of humor was the only defense I had at this point. Funny how a few 'guarded' jokes can protect a severely abused child from something so completely destructive to his psyche sometimes.

"Say, we're thinking about playing some rough n' tumble over by the lake later on today if you wanna join us. Sam says he wants to play, but I'm gonna tackle the little blond pansy hard enough to take him out of the game early! This is a big boy's game, am I right! Hehehehe!"

"Sounds cool." I said, still feeling my insides hollowing out beyond my control. Tame the anger, Zack. Come can do it. "Ummm...I don't think I'll be able to play much this week. I've got...'stuff'...I mean..." The feeling rumbled in my stomach, the pressure taking the hurt and the agony and compressing it into a solid sedimentary stone of pure self conscious anger that caused me to physically tremble as I forced myself to contain it for Adam's sake. "...I just don't think I'll be able. I'm sorry." I got to my locker and could barely keep my nerves together long enough to even put my combination in on the lock.

"This week? Like...the whole WEEK? What the hell, dude, are you on punishment or something?" He asked.

"Yeah...I guess you could say that." I must have gotten the combination wrong, because when I tried to pull the lock open, it jammed. With a frustrated huff, I started all over again.

"You ok?" Adam asked me after a short pause. come the questions. Exactly what I DIDN'T need right now.

"I'm fine." I quickly snapped back, fucking up my combination again. I tried sooooo hard to concentrate on concealing the growing depression and aggression within me. But all I could see was Mr. Raffe's smug fucking FACE, trashing everything that I ever wrote for him, EVERY time that I handed in an assignment, and it started to drive me CRAZY!!! He had NOTHING positive to say to me...not ever! Just soul crushing arsenic delivered with a fake smile and the protective shield of just being 'honest' for the sake of teaching me how to write what I write. At least where satisfying his OWN personal opinion was concerned.

"You sure? You look like you're pissed about something." Please don't, Adam. Please? If I start talking about all that's wrong with me right now, I might not ever stop. It's a volcanic eruption of problems that waits impatiently in the bottom of my gut like a giant clump of dirt filled with worms...and I've got nothing but pure VENOM to spit up when talking about my life. You're not ready to hear it, Adam. You don't want to deal with it. Trust me on this. You can't handle a trip through the irreversibly damaged parts of my life and hope to come out unaffected on the other side. If you knew the truth...if you ever knew how BAD it gets sometimes when I'm alone, forced to travel through my own agonizing thoughts in'd never look at me the same way as before. You'd never believe in my smiling face ever again. If only you knew how much it HURTS....every single day of my life, Adam. If only you had a clue. You wouldn't think it was being 'sensitive' at all. I hide it. I work HARD to hide it. But it's always there And it doesn't take much at all to conjure it up if you're careless enough to do so. "Zack? Dude, come to me. What's up?"

I pulled on my lock again and it STILL wouldn't open! And I fucking *KNOW* that I put the numbers in right this time! Didn't I? "It's not a big deal, alright?"

"I never said it was. But if you wanna talk about it..." Great. First my mom, now my best friend.

"It's just...this....this *STUPID* fucking English paper! Mr. Raffe just HATES me! I don't understand it! You know how many HOURS I spent trying to get that just right...JUST so he could give me a decent grade this time instead of tearing it down like he always does??? I've made it a MISSION to get him to say something fucking POSITIVE about my work! Even if it KILLS me!"

"Mr. Raffe's giving you problems again? Dude, I thought you'd be used to it by now. He's always like that. You can't please everybody, Zack. Everyone's got their own personal opinion. Just say 'screw him' and keep it moving."

"I can't."

"Why not?" Adam asked.

"Because I CAN'T, ok? It's like a damn splinter in my fucking EYEBALL, having him openly cut down everything I do when I do it without any remorse whatsoever! I can't help it! I don't understand what's so 'wrong' with my work that he has to find fault with EVERY last word that I fucking write! ARRRGH!" The anger was building, my voice getting louder, and I had to grit my teeth and try to breathe calmly to contain it.

It wasn't working.

"Zack, you're worrying yourself over nothing. Even YOU said that your grades were fine. Hell, they're better than mine. Why are you worried about what ONE teacher says about you? Why does it even matter?"

One more tug on the lock, having it still jamming on me, nearly caused every last nerve I had to snap. "Because ALL of my high marks are now RUINED by the low grades he's giving me over petty bullshit! ALL of them! At least as far as I'M concerned, because despite all of the positive comments and recommendations that I get from my other teachers...all I can fucking see is HIM purposely trying to find something wrong with me so he can chastise me about it and make me feel like shit every single day! It's like he 'gets off' on telling me I suck in front of the entire class! Everything else I do, even in other classes, gets overshadowed by the fact that his comments are so vindictive! I just can't fucking WIN with this guy!" I said. "It doesn't matter WHAT the fuck I doesn't matter HOW hard I work, or HOW fast, or how much EFFORT I put into every last sentence I write, until I reach the point of fucking *EXHAUSTION* just trying to prove myself...he ALWAYS has some bullshit to say about it!!! He *ALWAYS* has SOME little negative comment or snide remark to fucking say to me about EVERY LAST ASSIGNMENT THAT I HAVE EVER FUCKING TURNED INTO HIM!!!! *EVERY* FUCKING TIME!!!" I said, banging on my locker in frustration. "Look at ALL of these papers! LOOK AT 'EM!!!" I pulled them all out of a folder that I kept on the top shelf of my locker, red marks and all, the highest grade being a 'B-' from him for all of my 'A++' struggle and hard work. "Look! Here's a fucked up remark that he made about my story! And's another one! And look at this one....and another one, and another one, another plot, my sentence structure, my characters, my mechanics...over and over and over again! Look at THIS one!!! 'C-'...a fucking 'C-'...he's the only one in the WHOLE class that didn't like this story! JUST him!" I went through page after page, eventually just tossing them onto the floor as I ripped them out of my folder. "I work my ASS off for him to deliver the BEST possible work that I can give him every single time and all he can fucking do is complain!!! The other students in his class couldn't care LESS! They don't put in a FRACTION of the hard work that I put in! EVER! I push myself to go above and beyond the call of duty while they just sit back and treat the whole class like it's a fucking JOKE! They do shit whenever they 'feel' like it. Me? I'm doing more work than ALL of them put together!!! I wear my fingers to the BONE trying to get some respect from this son of a bitch! But it's just never seen as a MAJOR effort on my part!!! NEVER!!! They just don't give a shit! And now I have to sit here and wallow in misery for the next couple of days because ONE asshole decided that he wanted to tear down everything I worked so hard to achieve with his bullshit attacks and tell me I'm not good enough! I'm NEVER good enough!!!" I punched my locker with my fist, the rage now desperately searching for an outlet as tears of anger began to form in my eyes. The sound was so loud, and Adam jumped a bit from hearing it. "FUCK HIM!!!! I FUCKING GIVE UP!!! I'M NOT EVEN GONNA *TRY* ANYMORE!!! I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING ELSE TO OFFER HIM!!! RAFFE CAN 'FAIL' ME IF HE WANTS TO, I DON'T EVEN FUCKING *CARE* ANYMORE!!! I LOOK LIKE A GODDAMN *IDIOT* TRYING TO GO OUT OF MY WAY TO PLEASE HIM WHEN ALL HE DOES IS SEARCH, SPECIFICALLY, FOR REASONS TO CRITICIZE ME AND MY ASSIGNMENTS!!! IT'S SUCH A *WASTE* OF MY FUCKING TIME!!!!!!" I started to brutally KICK my locker repeatedly in a burst of sudden, unrestricted VIOLENCE! Over and over again, until I backed up to give it a kick with the full power of my rage! I actually dented the door with my foot, and my heavy breathing forced tears to drip from my eyes, that I swiftly wiped away on my sleeve before anyone else saw me.

"Zack! Jesus, dude....chill out!" Adam said in shock, physically putting his hand on my chest to calm me down. "It's JUST homework. Don't let him get to you, k? Just keep pushing and soon what HE says won't matter. Raffe can eat a dick. You're better than this. No matter what, man...I've got nothing but love for ya, man. K? More people have your back than those that don't. Take some comfort in that. Just ignore him."

"Ignore him...right..." My fists were balled up so tightly that my fingernails could have drawn blood from my palms. My head spinning with the beginnings of an explosive tantrum that I wouldn't be able to control at ALL once I let it be unleashed upon the rest of the world. To be honest...I wanted to hit something. Actually, I wanted to DESTROY something! But not an inanimate object. No...that wasn't good enough. I wanted to hit something that would be HURT by it. Something that SCREAMS! Something that CRIES! Something that BLEEDS! It made me this what my father feels like when he's beating the living hit out me every day? Is there an emotional release in finally getting a chance to smash my fucking FIST into something that bruises and breaks down from my angry assault, where it can never again function normally as far as social interactions are concerned? And then has to curl up in a little ball and suffer all alone in darkness? Hiding it from everybody else? Never talking about it...trying not to make other people 'uncomfortable' with the HORRORS the *I'M* expected to deal with from memory alone? Smile for the cameras...wear the mask...stay at arms length. Hide from the masses and keep them from ever knowing what awaits me at home. That's what my life has become. The hate and the hurt hasn't gone's just gotten pushed down to a deeper, darker, part of my mind where hopefully nobody else will ever find it. But sometimes I wonder...if I were to just 'let loose'...if I walked back into that classroom right now, hauled off, and fucking PUNCHED Mr. Raffe right in his fucking FACE today...would my pain somehow be transferred to him instead of me? Would it 'relax' me to finally let HIM deal with the hurtful comments and the harsh criticisms and the intense pressure and the unprovoked BULLSHIT that he placed on MY shoulders for a change? Instead of taking it all into myself and limping off with my tail between my legs like I always do...why not give him both barrels and let HIM be humiliated for once? I'm NOT as weak as they think...why should I pretend to be? I won't! Not for HIS sake! Not for anybody's.

But as Adam stood there in front of me, his face full of worry after seeing me basically breaking down in front of him...I realized that I had tears on my cheeks. I didn't even feel them fall. That something so simple, so small, could have such a hurtful impact on made me feel stupid. Alone. And the fact that I knew that Adam would never understand, not even if I told him the whole story, made me feel even worse. I doubt words would ever explain the feeling. And as one problem stacked itself on top of another in my illogical, mixed up, mind...I began to go numb again. Numb is the only way that I can survive. Numb is the only way to fight the hurt.

Ever since Brody has been a part of my life...I've been foolish enough to willingly lower those defenses. Hoping to find a way to let his love into my heart while blocking out everything else. Not possible. Some unintentional cruelties always sneak by undetected...until it's too late.

I was a fake. And I HATED myself. Everything hurts. Sometimes the whole WORLD hurts! And all the love and support in the world might as well be a thin layer of bug repellant against an army of locusts big enough to block out the sun itself. I hate myself for being this hurt. I hate myself for not having a defense against this when I've been through it before and I know better. I hate myself for falling for the illusion, but it's always right there beside me. My father's influence is always there, holding hands with it. And when times are at their's his voice that I hear in my head. While nobody else has the capacity to fully understand's a constant struggle to keep it from pushing me over the edge. Every day of my life. To fall into end it all now...would be a relief. An end to this pain. Without Brody...I would never know how many days I had left.

Without Brody...I doubt I'd have much reason to live at all.

"I've gotta go. I have SO much work to do...I'm never gonna finish it all. I just..." I looked at Adam, who was giving me this look of...'pity'. I didn't want pity. I didn't deserve pity. I didn't need a therapist right now...I needed a friend. Something normal to take me away from the chaos inside. "...I'll be ok. Alright? I promise."


"I PROMISE! Ok?" I said again. With more determination this time. Another lie...but a necessary one. Please Adam...let me keep the smile. It's the only thing keeping me alive right now? I've gotta stand on my own two feet without the help. I don't LIKE depending on other people...because they'll only let you down in the end. They've got their own selfish shit to worry about, just like I do. I just can't deal with what I'm feeling right now. I just wanna go home, take my beating, and then 'hide' for a while until my social mask is a bit more equipped to deal with the public the way it needs to be. Because right now...I don't think it'll be convincing enough to fool much of anybody.

"We're back to this again, huh?" Adam asked. "The secrets and lies shit is getting old, you know that?"

"I know...." I said, but gave Adam a smile regardless. "I'll hang out next week. K? Or maybe even this weekend. I just need some time to get through my...'punishment'. K?" Adam rolled his eyes, but I managed to muster up enough strength to make him giggle. "Quit being a GIRL, will ya? You act like it's an emergency that I come to play football with you. Get a bitch if you need your nuts cradled on a daily basis! Quit bothering me! Hehehe!" And that was enough to fool him into giving me a pass. Thank goodness.

Because...chances are...

...I'm not gonna be able to enjoy much of anything once I get home from school today.

It's what I deserve, after all. Why bother praying for help? It's not like 'mercy' was ever meant to be a part of my life anyway.

Then again...never was love.

Don't worry! You'll be getting another section VERY soon! So keep checking back for more! K? Let me know what you think at or just stop by the website at and say hello! :)