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"My Only Escape 5"

Did the paralyzing fear leave me? Not by a long shot. In fact, after being 'saved' the night before by having my mother come home before facing the terror that lay waiting ahead of me...you would have thought that my sigh of relief would be genuine. It wasn't. If anything, I was even MORE terrified than usual, because I knew that my father's retaliation would NOT be avoided for long. And me paying the price for my disobedience was simply being delayed until a later time when he'd have an opportunity to put some real work into hurting me. Every moment between now and then would be one of tension and anticipation. I almost wanted to provke him enough to get it over with so I could get back to living again. The wait was always the worst part. The absolute WORST.

He was awake when my mom and I walked through the door that night, no doubt itching to get a piece of me for being out 'that' much later than he told me to be home. He didn't expect Mom to be with me, and I dodged the bullet. But I could tell he was angry, even if he was hiding it. I could feel the hate dripping off of him, and with very few words as a greeting, he went into the bedroom and shut the door. I didn't dare look him in the eye. If I had confirmed what I had done, he'd lay me out where I stood. Instead, we both swallowed our conflict and went to our seperate parts of the house. That was that.

I could hardly sleep. So afraid that he'd come into my room and try to attack me the second I shut my eyes. The anxiety that something like that causes wouldn't DARE let you sleep. My muscles refused to relax, and my heart was beating hard enough for me to almost hear aloud. But thankfully nothing happened, and eventually I drifted off. Letting a bit of that joyful afterglow creep back into my mind again. That tingly sensation that crawled over my whole body everytime I whispered Brody's name to myself. Everytime I thought of his smile. It was the only thing that lifted me out of the mud long enough to see the sunshine. A feat that I wish I could do for myself...just so I could somehow be 'more' for him, you know? Pretty for him. Smart for him. So that I could be...something worth even a fraction of the value in his smile. Something special. He deserves somebody awesome. Somebody I wish I could be.

Saturday morning. The sun shines through my window ten times brighter on a Saturday morning, it seems. I woke up pretty early, and since both of my parents were asleep, I figured that it would be the best time to sneak out of the house. I'd leave a polite little note, and then creep out of the back door before I had to face my dad again. Then I'd walk around and try to kill a few hours in the neighborhood, call Brody from the payphone at the convenience store, and spend a whole day with my angel. Our first day alone! I swear, the fear of going and the 'excitement' of going were both queasily battling it out for supremacy in the pit of my stomach. That bubbly nervous energy bursting out of control as I quickly and quietly got dressed. I was extra quiet washing up in the bathroom and all, hardly running the water hard enough to make any noise. It took longer, but near complete silence was the objective here. I used my 'ninja like' technique to warm up a few pop tarts, and grab my stuff. Then...while tying up my shoes...I heard it.

The fucking PHONE rang! The sound of it blasted through the house louder than it ever had before, and my heart stopped entirely. I was sunk! I was SO sunk! My only hope would be that my parents would be too groggy to stop me if I just ran out of the house and didn't come back until later. I tied my laces faster, and did the best with my hair that I could before grabbing my wallet and a set of house keys and heading out of my room. The answering machine picked up, and it was just the usual weekend telemarketing terrorists! I'm gonna get MURDERED because these assholes want to take a survey? GOD, I hate them!

The offensive invasion of silence had come to an end, and I walked softly down the hallway towards the kitchen, heading for the back door, and my freedom. But...I heard my parent's bedroom door open. Obviously awakened by the phone, and I froze. My feet refused to move, my heart refused to beat...this sharp pain of absolute horror shot through me all at once. He's gonna hurt me! I KNOW he is! He's not gonna let me go! He's gonna make me hurt Brody again, on this day, this REALLY important day...and Brody's never gonna speak to me again! He's gonna beat me down to the floor....and kick me...and call me names. I know it. I KNOW it! I could feel the tears beginning to well up in my eyes already.

"Where are 'you' off to so early this morning?" Thank GOD! It was my mom. I turned to wipe away the tears in my eyes before she saw them.

I was finally able to breathe again, and exhaled enough tension to put my whole body in a state of relaxation. I smiled at my own momentary panic and answered her. "I'm uh....I'm going to a friend's house today." I said. "If...if that's ok?"

"If it's ok? Of course it's ok. Go. Have a good time. Don't stay too long, ok? At least make it back for dinner." She said.

"THANKS MOM!" I think I might have let it burst out of me a bit louder than I wanted it to, but like I said, it was out of my control. I ran over and gave her a HUGE kiss on her cheek, almost knocking her over! This was it! This was my pardon! I can GO! I sped out of the door and charged down the steps, skipping two at a time! Free! FREE!!! Oh my GOD...I'm actually GOING!!! I'm going to Brody's!!!

I grabbed my bike out of the basement, and peddled my way out to the park to just sit back and think for a while, fidgeting while I wait for the time that I could actually go over and see...'him'. My Brody. I sat down on the end of the slide, and leaned back to just stare up at the sky above me. I couldn't believe I was here. I couldn't believe I was happy. It had been so long since I had been excited about anything, since I had seen a 'possibility' in anything. I had forgotten what it felt like to smile like this. I could hardly sit still, my emotions tickling me from the inside, my smile so wide that it almost hurt. The sky never looked so blue, the clouds so fluffy, the wind never smelled so sweet. God...for the first time in forever, it was good to be alive.

I checked my watch like every two minutes, sometimes less, waiting for noon to roll around so I could call Brody without looking too anxious. I don't want him thinking that I got up all early and wanted to wake him up by running over there all early. I still had an hour to wait, and spent it just feeling the rush of love carry me away from all this misery and making my life an enjoyable experience again. If I closed my eyes, it literally felt like I was flying. I thought about his hair, and his smile, and his kiss, and his chest...and my thoughts got deeper and deeper until I had to stop before I got to any forbidden parts. Still, I think the further suppression of my incredible sexual attraction to someone so undeniably beautiful only made the feeling stronger. It created this unexplainable feeling of perfection. He was the only thing on this whole Earth that ever could. I almost wanted to cry from the overwhelming sensation that the hidden promise of his love brought to my heart. When the time came for me to leave and run to the convenience store to call him, I was almost too weak in the knees to ride my bike. I never want this feeling to end. Never want it to fade.

I was nervous as I dialed the numbers, hoping that he was already awake and not still sleeping. I REALLY didn't want to look like a dork today. I'd have to basically suffocate every stupid tendency that I had in order to come off looking somewhat normal. Please pick up. Please?

"Hi! I'm not home right now, but if you leave a name, number, and..." The answering machine in his room came on, his sweet voice filling my ears with such a lovely song, and I was going to hang up, hoping that the phone ringing hadn't woken him up. But before I could do so, he picked it up really fast. "HELLO?" He said.

I didn't speak at first. I was scared. Terrified. Here he was...right here...waiting for me to speak. Don't say anything stupid Zack. PLEASE don't say anything stupid! "H-H-Hey...Brody?" I mumbled.

"ZACK! Dude, I was wondering if you had forgotten or not. I've been up since 10 o'clock waiting for ya." His grin could be 'heard' over the phone, and it sped my heartbeat up just to feel the vibrations of his voice enter me through his enthusiasm. "So are you still coming over?"

"Yeah! I'm...um...I'm at the convenience store. Just remind me on how to get there. I guess I'll be there in about twenty minutes or so." My whole BODY was trembling. I couldn't calm down!

"No wait! Don't leave. I'll grab my bike, and I'll come get you. Ok? I'll be there as soon as I can." He said.

"Uh, ok. I'll be here." And he said goodbye, hanging up quick before I could answer. My toes were wiggling inside of my shoes, my fingers twiddling back and forth, my mind going crazy trying to rehearse some kind of 'script' to make a cool sounding greeting when he got there. I was pacing back and forth outside the convenience store window. I caught myself doing it a few times, but everytime I tried to stop, I'd just get so flustered and nervous that the energy would build up inside me, and I'd start pacing all over again. It was insane, and yet, as much as it worried me, I don't think I've ever been happier than I was waiting for my prince to come and sweep me off my feet. WHAT WAS TAKING HIM SO LONG?!?! I'm dying here!

FINALLY, after an eternity of having this ncredible turmoil spinning at the speed of light in my stomach, I saw a glimpse of Brody riding his back towards the store. I saw him way off in the distance, and mentally had to restrain myself from pacing. I kept it together as best as I could, but the butterflies in my stomach were going nuts. I felt like one of those little puppy dogs that gets excited to see you, and wags its tail so hard that it almost falls over trying to contain its happiness. I seriously couldn't WAIT for him to get there, seeing him get closer and closer as the wheels on his bike brought him inevitably closer to my love. I was nearly hyperventilating when he got there and saw the sparkle of his smile up close. "What's up?" He said.

"Hey...." It was the best I could come up with. My whole 'script' of witty and interesting things to say went flying out of the window the second I saw him come down the street.

"Did you get a snack or anything?"

"Um......no. I haven't eaten anything yet today."

"Cool! I've got some coupons for free pizza slices over at Giordano's. I figured we could go down there for some lunch and then head back to my house afterwards."

"Sure. I'm down." I was so scared, timid in a way that I can't explain. But so far, I seem to be holdng myself together.

"Ok. Let's go." He said, but when he smiled at me, his eyes staring into mine a bit longer than usual, I had to fight to keep from letting an infatuated sigh from escaping my lips. I jerked out of my frozen state, and swung a leg over my bike to ride with him. I was half hard, and just praying to the sky above that it would go down before getting any harder. Besides, it makes it REALLY hard to ride a bike.

Off we went, we got the pizza slices with a free grape soda, and sat over by the window to chow down. Brody smiled at me the whole time, making me feel so good inside. Like he was really happy to have me there. As though having me there was actually instrumental in making him happy. Just me, nobody else. Every inch of me tingled with life as I watched the sunlight gracefully cascade down on one of the most beautiful boys I'd ever seen. And it wasn't just the fact that he was cute beyond belief. He had this gentle sense of humor that could get inside of me and inspire a grin whenever he spoke. He had a stare that radiated this beautiful person inside that nobody else could see unless he was focusing on them at that particular moment in time. His intelligence and his heart just poured out of him, and you would get wrapped up in it instantly, unable to get away long enough to catch your breath. The very essence of him made you question the angels as to why they deemed you worthy to accept such a gift. I hope that my lovey dovey silence isn't annoying him too much. I just loved to listen to his voice. Hearing him talk was magic to me. Everything ABOUT Brody was magic to me. Awwww, I love him so much!

"Come on, TALK! Hehehe! I wanna hear about you today." He giggled.



"Because why?"

"Because...this is our day. And I wanna know more about you." He said. "And because I'm going to force you to whether you want to or not."

"Alright, already. Geez." I blushed with a smile. "What do you want to know?"

"What's your middle name?" I laughed a little at that being his first question.

"What? What do you need to know that for?"

"Hehehe, I wanna know. I'm startng small. Besides, you're the one making it sound like I was looking for some specific FBI information. Well, there ya go. I wanna know your middle name."

"Yeah, well...I hate my middle name. So..."

"Sooo....?" He asked again.

"Sooo...I hate my middle name." I grinned.

"I didn't ask you how you FELT about it. I asked you what it was."

"Noooo...I don't wanna tell you." I blushed an even deeper shade of red. "Next question."

"Unh-unh! No next question. Come on, tell me." His lips were curled up in the sweetest way, I almost gave in. But it was a stupid name, and it was just going to make me look like some kind of idiot in front of him. "Just TELL me!"


"BECAUSE!!!" He shouted back at me, snickering to himself.

"NO!!!" I replied, and he picked a sausage off of his pizza slice and tossed it at me.

"Aw, you suck!"

"Yes I do." I agreed, and he let me get away with it. But I knew he'd be asking more questions throughout the day. I could only hope that they didn't dive too deep into my life. I'm protective of who I am. It's one of the only things that keeps me safe. That helps me build this mask of being wortwhile to somebody. I know what happens when people find out who I am inside. They get bored. They discover the mystery of what makes me tick, and then they just...'leave'. They stop talking to me and move on to something better. I couldn't do that with Brody. It wasn't a game that I wanted to play. If he left me...if he left me I will have officially lost everything. He makes me feel human again. He makes me real. The ONLY thing. The second he denies to acknowledge me, the day he stops calling, the day he decides to be with someone else instead, someone better...that's the day I cease to exist. That's the day I fade away for good, and feel right about being gone.

"What's wrong?" He asked, and I suddenly realized that I had begun to depress myself again. Dammit, it was SO damn quick and easy to depress myself. It must have shown on my face, because he caught it pretty fast.

"Oh...nothing." I worked up a fake smile, and tried to just...stay in the moment. Just for a little bit longer. I can enjoy this, just for today. It's a much needed vacation from reality. "Just thinking."

"Well knock it off. You look all pouty and weird." He said.

"Gee, thanks."

Brody stopped talking for a moment, but looked up at me with a demon child of a grin just in time to keep me from delving into my thoughts again. "What do you say we go to the beach today?"

"The beach?"

"Yeah, the beach. We'll ride our bikes down there, have a good time, and then go back to my house when we finish."

As though I had any chance at all in denying him his every wish. "Ok. Can I finish my pizza first?"

"You can if you tell me your middle name."

"I'll eat it on the way then." And I got up to get some napkins to take it with us. He wasn't mad, exactly the opposite. It seemed like it was going to ba a game he'd enjoy. So he just wiped his hands off on his jeans and smiled at me as we left.

We walked our bikes most of the way while I finished eating, and I found myself being more and more comfortable around Brody every second. It was different than before, walking to school with the 'gang'. Before I had an escape if things got too weird between us. With Sam jumping around and Adam reminding us to keep up and all...there wasn't this intense pressure to really face Brody one on one. That threat of having him 'focus' on me like that and seeing everything wrong with me all at once. I didn't have any exit from any awkward moments, and while that terrified me at first, Brody surprisingly put my mind at ease. He actually laughed at my jokes. And he didn't mind looking directly into my eyes. And he really listened to me when I spoke, as though he really cared what I had to say. I can't even begin to describe what the feeling was like. That warm feeling of being needed, of feeling special to someone. I think it might have actually been the first time in my life that I truly felt like someone cared whether I was there or not. The first time it felt like I wasn't just 'filling in' for some annonymous faceless person for the moment, knowing that anybody else could step in, take my place, and entertain Brody ten times better while he systematically forgot that I was ever a part of his life. No...Brody made me feel like I mattered. Not because he needed 'somebody', but because he needed ZACK.

We rode the rest of the way to the beach and horsed around for a little bit. It wasn't really busy as it was hardly 'beach weather'. Not that Chicago is known for its beach weather for more than a month and a half out of the year. But the adjoining park was full of rollerbladers, bicyclists, skateboarders, joggers, dog walkers...constant people traffic. And yet, I felt totally alone when it came to him. I'd stare so longingly at him whenever I thought he wasn't looking. His hazel eyes looked huge up close, like two warm greenish brown pools that you could just dive into with just a thought. And from the side, his lips looked softer than anything on Earth. His skin was as smooth as wet glass, and the way the wind would sweetly lift the locks of his almond colored hair...it would leave you breathless. My head was spinning from the second he came to pick me up, and I was never so happy to be this dizzy.

After a while, we went down to the lake's edge, and I saw him pick up a thin rock to skip it accross the approaching waves. He had gotten about a good five skips before it slipped under the waters surface with a 'thunk'. He looked over at me, and I followed suit, grabbing the flattest rock I could find at my feet, and slipping it out towards the lake with a flick of the wrist. Only three skips, but Brody complimented me with, "Not bad." anyway. And we kept at it, looking for more ammo the second our last rock went under. Occassionally one of us would get an awesome score and shout out a congratulations accompanied by a high five. I think he was leading with the high score of 8 skips though. The bastard just happened to get lucky with a good rock, that's all. "So..." He asked, "You ready to tell me your middle name yet?"

I smirked at him. "You're really weird, you know that?"

"I just wanted to make sure that I got at least a little bit of extra info out of you today." He said, tossing another rock.

"Yeah, well...that one's off limits. Next question." I told him.

"Ok...next question..." He said, focusing more on the waves than on me. "What do you like to do?"


"Yeah. Like...hobbies and stuff."

"Oh, well...I dunno. Um...I kinda...write...a little bit." I tossed out another rock, only one skip. I could feel that nervousness creeping back in, trying to get a hold on me again. It scared me to talk about myself...it meant that I'd have to concentrate, that my guard would be up so I wouldn't let anything slip. Nothing about being sad could slip. Nothing about my father could slip. Nothing about being gay could slip. It was like walking blindfolded in a field of landmines.

"You write? That's cool. What do you write? Songs, poetry, stories?"

"Stories. Just...some things that I usually have on my mind. That's...that's all." Balance, that's what I needed, balance. Make it look natural.

"Stuff that's on your mind, huh? So lots of porn, then?" He giggled. "Some freaky story about one of the girls in your class?"

"Hehehe, no. No girls..." I blushed. WAIT! Was that a 'gay' thing to say? SHIT! "I mean...girls...I don't think...girls like me much." I threw a rock, it sank on the first drop.

"What makes you say that?" He said, getting a score of seven with his next toss.

"I don't know. 'Cause I'm ugly, I guess." I said, following with a bit of a shallow laugh. I threw another rock, finally...I got a score of six. That was a bit better. But I noticed this time that Brody's next toss didn't follow right after mine. In fact, I don't think he had even bent down to look for more ammo.

He stared at me a bit. "You think you're ugly?"

"No...other people think I'm ugly. That's the whole point. Hehehe!" Looking back, he was dead serious.

"I don't think you're ugly, Zack."

"Thanks. I feel much better." I said, a hint of sarcasm, frosted with another laugh. "It's your turn."

But he didn't toss right away. Not until I looked back over at him. And he seemed...I dunno...concerned about me. Like I had just repeatedly stabbed myself in the arm with a sewing needle. "I mean it, Zack." He said. The deeper he looked into my eyes, the more serious he got about that comment and having me accept it.

"Ok already. Fine. Don't get weird." I said, brushing the comment off of my shoulder. I got jittery and nervous inside, not wanting to acknowledge a compliment from someone I cared about so much. I knew better. This day has been great so far, I didn't want to have it come crumbling down around me now.

"I just don't think you're ugly. That's all." He said, and tossed out one last rock. This time...his was the one to sink on the first drop. "Come on. Let's get out of here." He said, and turned to walk away from the waves. He didn't look happy. He looked confused. Almost disappointed. And I wasn't sure what had gone wrong all of the sudden, but I knew it was my fault. It's always my fault. My heart dropped instantly into my shoe, for me to walk on with every step until I caught up to him again and sadly swung my leg over my bike to ride behind him.

We didn't talk much on the way back to his house. And that made the bike ride seem like an eternity. He wasn't angry or impolite....just....quiet. Some of the brightness and glory had been drained from his smile, and everytime my foot pushed a pedal, my heart decayed just a little bit more from the inside. And all of those microscopic holes in my logic as to why he would EVER like somebody like me, was suddenly filled up with fear and doubt. It looks like Zack, the hopeless loser, had officially fucked up again.

I'm TRYING, Brody! I want to be soooo much for you. SO damn much! But I'm NOTHING! I'm too worthless to truly be special for you. Does he have ANY idea how difficult that is? It's taking every last drop of the energy I possess, to try to even 'pretend' to be good for you. I smile, and I grin, and a joke through IMMENSE pain and torture just so I can feel worthy of having you even talk to me. I'm tryng to figure things out as quickly as I can. I'm trying to make it right. I want to make everything work the way it's supposed to with normal people. But I CAN'T! I don't even know HOW! I never did. All I know is that you're all I've got in this fucked up world right now. The love I get from you is my last string, the single rope that I'm dangling from before falling into the black abyss beneath me. Why can't you see that? Is it that I'm not enough? That I don't give enough? I can't give anymore...I've never had to actually...'give' to someone else before. Not these pieces of me that you need so badly. I kept them all at arms length before, they only got little pieces of me at a time, and that was all they needed. What other pieces of me do YOU need, Brody? Please tell me, and I'll move Heaven and Earth to present them to you on a silver platter if I can. I SWEAR I'll try my hardest! Just...don't leave me. Please don't leave me.

You're my sunshine Brody. My only patch of blue sky in this hellish storm of a life that I'm in. I want to push and KEEP pushing until he understands. I want to show him the perfection that my father thinks I'm so incapable of. He makes me want to rise above the whole world and come out on top. Nobody else can do that. Nobody.

"I've got some easy to make Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches at home if you're hungry." He said, slowing down his bike just enough to talk to me.

"That's ok. I don't need anything to eat." I mumbled softly. I wasn't about to eat his food too. Not after ruining his afternoon.

But after another short silence, he sped up a bit, and swerved in front of me to get me to stop. But I was a bit lost in my thoughts and didn't hit the brakes fast enough. I think it really caught him by surprise, and before I knew it, I was crashing right into him and we BOTH went tumbling down to the ground! Arms, legs, dizzyness...we spilled onto the concrete and lay there completely silent for a few moments while we 'took inventory' to make sure everything was alright with ourselves. It wasn't a bad wreck, just enough to knock us down really. I looked up to see my tire spinning, and then rolled over to lay back on my elbows while Brody untangled his legs from his bike.

We were both breathing hard, and then a tiny smile broke out on his face and he said, "What the hell are you DOING???"

"What am *I* doing? What are YOU doing?" I snapped back.

"You were supposed to STOP ya dork!"

"How was I supposed to know you were going to suddenly swerve in front of me like that?"

"You WEREN'T! But you could at least STOP when you saw me doing it!" He shouted, and then...after looking at each other for a quick second or two...Brody burst out laughing! I didn't want to join him, I didn't want him to suck me back into this madness of smoke and mirrors and stupid thoughts that I'd never be able to make a reality. But the more he laughed, the more my lips inevitably curled up at the sides of my mouth.

"It's not funny..." I pouted, but his laugh wouldn't leave me alone. It was more contagious than I could resist. And within seconds, I was laughing too. The two of us, feeling stupid and embarrassed, laid there giggling happily to ourselves for almost five minutes straight.

Then, Brody sat up, and caught his breath. "Zack....if I tell you something, will you believe me?"

"I don't know. What have you got to tell me?"

"Tell me you'll believe me first."

"How can I do that, unless you tell me what it is first?" I argued.

"Sighhhh....come on, humor me for a second here. Ok?"

I looked at him sideways for a moment, and then nodded. "Ok...go ahead. Shoot."

"You're not ugly, Zack. Far from it." I rolled my eyes with a smile, but he sat up straight to enforce what he was saying. "Zack, I'm serious. Don't sell yourself short. There's nothing ugly about you. At ALL." He said, and I blushed furiously, wishing he would stop already. But looking over at him again, his affection seemed so real, so genuine, that I melted all over again. "I mean it. Ok?"

"Ok..." I said.

"You believe me?" He was SO cute when he wanted to be.

"No..." I answered. "But thanks anyway."

"I suppose that's the best I can get for now. Isn't it?"

"I'm afraid so."

"I'll take it." He grinned, and extended his hand to help me up to my feet. Half of me really HATED him for having the ability to make me smile even when I didn't deserve to. But the other half...the other half was falling so deeply in love, so incredibly fast, that nothing could stop a smile from breaking through the barriers if he coaxed it out of me. Damn this confusion.

We picked ourselves up and rode back to his house, where he actually did convince me to eat something, and we sat back in his living room watching "The Family Guy" cartoon on DVD. Episode after episode, laughing our asses off until we were almost crying from it. We spent hours together, having the time of our lives. And he made me forget. He took away all of the pain, all of the secrets, all of the frustration...just with the beauty of his smile. I laughed outloud and felt the release of soooo much boyish joy inside of me. The kind of grin that I've been having to hold in for years to the point where I almost choked on it. He set it free. Blissfully free. I think we had been through ten episodes and two cans of soda each, when Brody jumped up from the couch. "Oh man! Come here! I've gotta show you something!" He practically pulled me up to my feet with a yank, and I was standing right in front of him, face to face.

"Hehehe, where are we going?" I asked, feeling giggly just having him touch my hand.

"Just come here. You've gotta check this out!"

I followed behind him as Brody pulled me through his house, not letting go of my hand until he got to his bedroom. He walked inside easily, going over to the closet and opening it up to rummage around inside. But me? I stood at the door. I blushed just BEING there, and for some reason, I got so nervous that it was hard to breathe. I fought with myself, wondering if I should dare set foot in the room or just stand in the doorway looking like a doofus. "I've got a bunch of pictures that I've gotta show you man. Like, cool stuff. When I was younger and some vacations and..." He stopped digging through his closet when he noticed that he was talking to an empty space on the bed behind him. He peeked out of the closet and saw me still standing there, trying not to hyperventilate. "...What are you doing out there?"


"No, the wolfman behind you! Of COURSE you! Get in here, goofy!" He smiled, and had to pull me inside. I was standing on his carpet now. Beige carpet...very nice. His room was really clean actually, with the exception of one t-shirt on the floor and a small corner of miscellaneous junk. Papers mostly. He went back to digging through his closet while I stood rigidly in the center of his room. I let my eyes roam around the room a bit, never once letting my head move an inch. Just my eyes. I felt my legs getting weaker by the second. My feet couldn't move, they just rocked back and forth from toe to heel as I tried to figure out what to do with my hands. I hope he can't see my heart pounding so hard in my chest. Because I could swear that my shirt was shaking with every pulse. I was so still, so stiff, I couldn't believe I was standing in his bedroom. "Here it is..." He pulled out a thick photo album, and plopped down on the bed with it. I let my eyes wander to the ceiling, then to a few posters on the walls of his favorite bands. Then to his computer desk, decorated with a rack of cds. I liked his room, it was nice. "Zack?"

"Huh?" I asked, looking over at him on the bed.

He gave me a strange look with a grin. "Dude...are you gonna join me or what?"

ON THE BED??? "Huh?" I repeated.

"Come over here, stud muffin. Share some space with me." He was joking around, but GOD if only you could feel the way my pulse race when he said that. His sexy smile and those gorgeous eyes....sighhhhh. I burst out giggling uncontrollably, like a little school girl or something.

"Quit it..." I was blushing furiously now, and that made me want to hide my entire face from his site. My hand went up into my hair and twirled a few locks around nervously as he beckoned me to sit next to him.

"Come on, Zaaaaack...sit with me." It was, by FAR, the cutest whimper and mock pouty face that I had ever witnessed. And I melted into a spot on the bed. NOT too close to him, I might add! In fact, it was far away from him as I could be without falling off the edge.

Then he leaned over, with his eyes closed, and playfully puckered up his lips...moving close to me. I reached out a hand to push him back a bit, and another, even MORE girlish, giggle escaped my lips. "STOP IT! Hehehe, you're weird!"

"The weirdest, yes, I know." Then he scooted over to be closer to me, and we both laid down on our stomachs to look through his photo album. Awwww, if only you could have seen him. He was so damn cute that it hurt. It just made you want to cuddle up to him in every picture. He was the kind of heartbreaking neighborhood kid that everyone fell in love with within the first five minutes of being around him. He had this light blond 'Dennis The Menace' mop on his head, his eyes sparkling with the same glory that I fell in love with. He has been beyond beautiful his entire life from the looks of it....and I envied him something awful.

We went through a lot of the pictures, from birthday cakes to camping trips, from Christmas presents to Halloween costumes, from school plays to summer vacations. And he had a story for every last one of them. Just sitting there listening to him enchanted me. His love was like quicksand, pulling me in further the more I struggled to get away from it. And as I glanced up to stare at him up close from the side...his soft lips, his shiny hair, his smooth skin...I was beginning to classify this as the best day of my life. Then, he showed me a few pictures of him and his father. It was the one thing that caught my attention and pulled it away from his charms. I looked back down at the photo album, and saw Brody, about 8 years old I guess, sitting on his dad's shoulders. He was smiling. His dad was smiling. They really looked happy. I saw another picture where they were wrestling on the floor, and another where they were fishing, and another where he was holding him up on his first bike. Brody continued to talk about all the fun things that they did, but I could hear his voice fading away in my mind. I just...I just looked at the photos, and felt a huge pinch of what I wish I had. Of what I'd NEVER have. Brody turned the page, and there were more pictures. A nice man, a gentle, tender, loving man. Teaching his son how to barbecue, and taking him places, and hugging him tight to express some kind of 'emotion'. I can't imagine what that must be like. I can't even fathom the concept.

Thank goodness he got back to pictures of just him and his friends. Dwelling on thoughts like that for too long can really bring you down if you're not careful. It's best to just avoid them altogether. "And THIS one...omigod...this was SO bad!" He said, and looked up at me quickly before I could fix my eyes back down to the page. He caught me. I know he did. I'm such an idiot. "Hey baby."

"Shut up..." I mumbled, trying hard not to laugh and even HARDER not to blush again.

"You can look if you want to. I won't stop you. I'll look back." He grinned.

"STOP! Hehehe, can we just go back to the pictures please?" Don't blush, don't blush, don't blush!

He used his leg to rub my own, and took a hand to brush his hair out of his eyes while he batted them at me flirtatiously. "You wanna make out?" He laughed.

Yes! More than anything in this world! "EWWW! Shut up!" It was my typical male defenses coming up to the surface. No matter how badly I wanted to smash my lips against his and kiss until the sun went down...I couldn't come out and say so. Besides, he's just kidding. He's playing around. That's Brody...always joking around. "What's this picture?"

"It's a picture of me wanting to make out with you." He kept pushing, and it was funny, but I was getting HORNY now! I felt myself starting to get firm 'down below' and although the mattress was hiding it from view...I didn't want to get caught getting a boner in front of another boy. "Come on, kiss me!" He laughed.

"NO! Get outta here!" I was turning MORE than red now, my face was almost purple at this point!

"I'll kiss YOU then! Will that be better?" He said, and by now I was hard as a rock. I mean full mast here. But despite my embarassment and my sissy-like snickering, Brody kept playing around.

"Brody....seriously. Stop." I said, trying my HARDEST to keep a straight face, but his smile triggered a laughing fit that I couldn't control. We both burst out giggling, and he was using his hands to gently shove me while I shoved him back. Everything was great. It just was so much damn fun. Then...while I was completely off guard...both of us almost out of breath from laughing so hard...the second he found a tiny opening in my usually impenetrable emotional defenses......

Brody kissed me.

It was quick. So quick that it was over before I had time to even feel it touch the side of my lips. It was like a quick peck as he tried to aim for my mouth without slowing down. Needless to say...the giggles stopped. Time ITSELF stopped. He looked down at me, silence. I looked back up at him, silence. I was still smiling, my mind unable to adjust to the sudden change in the situation. We looked into each other's eyes for what seemed like an eternity, not saying a single word. It lasted so long, in fact, that I had to wonder...did it really happen? Did I imagine it? Can being this horny at my age actually cause hallucinations?

I giggled a little bit again, letting out a bit of that nervous pressure inside. And I looked away from him while trying to reconnect with reality again. But when I giggled, he smiled back at me for a moment. Then, with a nervous tremble in his chest, his smile started to fade again. Replaced by a different look. The kind of look that I had been holding back from him since I met him. It was sensual, passionate, and all of my senses suddenly went haywire as he began to very slowly, very timidly...lean forward again. He was scared, I could see it in his eyes right before he closed them. And my heart stopped as his sweet lips touched mine with a gentle pressure. This....this was NOT my imagination! His lips....his lips were on top of mine! He was KISSING me! BRODY!!! Brody was kissing me!

All sorts of alarms went off in my mind, every bell and whistle blaring at full volume! I was paralyzed with fear! Don't move! Don't speak! Don't breathe! His kiss increased in pressure, the candied aroma of his breath filled me up as it breezed softly against my cheek. My eyes were still wide open, trying to look down far enough to see what the hell was going on! I should have been overjoyed, I should have been enjoying this! But I didn't. I COULDN'T! My mind fought tooth and nail to analyze, trying hard to understand what was happening and why. This isn't right. This isn't sane. I don't know what happened, but I panicked! I absolutely freaked out! This wasn't right, this wasn't real! I have to stop this! It's gone too far! I have to STOP this!!!

I gently moved my hands up to Brody's shoulders and pushed him away from me slowly. I was breathless, his kiss still lingering on my quivering lips. I don't think I had ever been so scared i my life as I was when he opened his eyes to look down at me and see what was wrong. Staring into those questioning eyes, decorating a face more beautiful, more outrageously gorgeous than ANYTHING I could possibly ever deserve in my life...I was overcome with confusion. A bewildering tantrum of mixed feelings and involuntary self doubt. My confidence shriveled to almost nothing in an instant, and I found myself getting sucked into a fantasy that I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find my way out of. My mind kept searching for the ropes, the smoke and mirrors, desperately looking for a reason to leave. No matter how badly I wanted this, I kept trying to shatter the illusion and wake up before I ended up completely and irreverseably damaged inside.

"Zack?" He whispered, and I suddenly felt a tear run down my cheek. I looked away from him, trying to hide it before he saw it, but it had dripped from my eye so fast that it was halfway down my cheek before I was able to catch it. He paused, and then I felt his fingers on the tip of my chin...turning my head to face him again as he leaned down, coming in for another kiss. But I stopped him. God help me, I stopped him. I pushed him away, and my feelings all got twisted around some weird emotion that I couldn't comprehend. Whatever it was, it terrified me to death, and I felt 100 times lower than I ever had before. I felt myself spiraling downward, further and further, and I couldn't stop. "What's the matter?" He whispered again.

It's not real. I kept telling myself that over and over again. I knew, if I fell for this, if I opened my heart enough to let a feeling like this inside, it would eat away at me like a cancer. I couldn't deal with this, not now. Brody was a dream that had no place in my world. My father...he made SENSE! I was worthless, a sack of shit, unworthy of ever having anything good in my life. THAT was real! THAT was life! Not....not this. This is some stupid trick that's going to end up crushing me to the point where I simply can't go on anymore. This is the death touch, and I won't go through that. I can't.

I pushed him further off of me, and sat up on the bed. "Listen....I think...I have to go now."

"You....you what?" He asked.

"I have to...yeah...I have to go." I said, getting up to my feet. I felt like I was seeing myself from the outside all of the sudden. Like I couldn't stop myself. As I reached for one of my shoes and slipped it on, I could feel a wave of chills come over me. It was so weird. But despite my confusion, I HAD to get away! I had to get out of that house and now!

"You don't have to go. Dude...?" He said, but I tuned him out. I couldn't find my other shoe. Where was my other shoe? "Zack, wait. Please?"

I kept looking for my shoe. It was the only thing keeping me from escaping this. Where was it??? I was screwing this all up again! I'm making things difficult and stupid and wrong...and I'm going to end up having it crash down around me again. He wasn't supposed to like me. He wasn't supposed to care.

"Zack!" He held on to my shoulder to keep me from moving around, but I couldn't look at his eyes. I couldn't. "Listen, I fucked up, ok?"

"It's ok. You didn't do anything. It's my fault, I'm sorry." I said, looking everywhere that I could but his face. And I began looking for my shoe again as I backed up to get some distance from him. "I've gotta go, that's all."

"I swear, I was being stupd. Forget it, ok? Just...don't go. I didn't mean to do it." Brody pleaded, a tremble appearing in his frightened voice. But I kept looking for my shoe! DAMMIT! I got down on my knees and flipped up the covers of his bed to see if it had slid underneath. "I didn't mean to DO it, Zack!"

"I know you didn't, Brody." And maybe that was the biggest part of the problem. He didn't mean to do it. Why would he? That's when the tears began suddenly welling up in my eyes and I became even more desperate to run out of that house before he caught me crying like some kind of baby. The tears were coming too fast for me to stop, and I just wanted to run away. I just wanted to run away.

"I didn't just....that's not the only reason that I brought you over here today..."

"I know. I know you didn't, Brody." I tried to keep a calmness in my voice, but I was getting worse, and I had no way to escape it. I didn't know what to do, or how to feel or....or ANYTHING! It was another panic, but this one was ice cold. This one left me dead inside, a kind of reverse energy that drained me for everything that I was worth. It was more pain than tears can solve. This was an emotional implosion that I didn't think I'd be able to survive. And why would I? It only prolongs the pain I'm in now. "I can't...'sniffle'...I can't find my shoe..." I had tears on my face, and I think he saw me crying.

"Zack, are you ok?"

"I'm fine." I shot back before he could even finish his sentence.

"Don't be mad at me." He said.

"I'm not mad."

"Yes you are. You're mad, aren't you?" He softly said with a pout in his voice.

"I'm NOT mad! I just can't find my other FUCKING shoe!" I shoued, the frustration of my search finally getting the best of me. The sound of my voice bounced off of the walls of his room, and we both stood silent for a moment. I had exploded at him, and I so didn't mean to. I'm just...I'm spoling EVERYTHING! And I can't stop myself! Then...with a defeated look in his beautiful eyes...he silently pointed finger out towards the door where my other shoe was laying on the floor. "Thanks." I whispered, and walked over to slip it on half way. I kept my eyes down to the carpet of his room, and mumbled, "I'm sorry I yelled." My embarrassment mixed with confusion an that mixed with shame which was turning into regret and the whole house of cards came tumbling down in chaos. "I'm not mad, ok?"

"I take it you're leaving?" He said, his eyes not focused on me for the first time.

"I'll...I'll call you tomorrow. Ok?" He didn't answer. "OK? I promise." He nodded sadly, and I turned to leave. I walked to the front door and left without sayng another word, hopping on my bike to high tail it home.

The whole ride home was an agony that tore me up inside. I couldn't put the pieces of what happened into any kind of order that would make them seem real. Why did he do t? Is he laughing at me? Is he trying to hurt me? Why did he do that??? WHY? He can't like me, those are the rules. He's breaking the rules. I'm worthless.......so very worthless. Everything I do is a fuck up. Everything I say is an idiot's anthem. I look stupid, I AM stupid. I NEED to be hurt. I need to learn. I'd cut my own throat right now if he told me that I wasn't good enough. I'd throw myself on a spiked fence, take an entire bottle of pills, I'd find a hundred ways to kill myself the second the words left his mouth. So why is he trying to get close to me? Why is he making me so weak inside?

The thoughts tossed and turned in my head, back and forth, up and down. And I began to realize that I had just run away from something really special. Whether I was able to handle it or not...it didn't change the fact that I had tossed away my ONE chance at something magical.

By the time I had gotten home, it felt like my entire life was over.

I hurried into the house, and slammed the door behind me. My heavy breathing already turning to sobs. I could hardly make it to my room in time before the dam burst. My mind went around and around in an endless circle. And I realized that I may have totally ruined the best day of my life. I don't know what I had done, or hadn't done, or wanted to do....I didn't know ANYTHING anymore! All I know is that I wanted Brody's kiss more than anything, and I missed it! I just...I fucking MISSED it! By being ugly and ignorant and a stupid little baby without any good common sense at all. Why did I run? Why couldn't I stop myself? What kinda of screwy malfunction do I possess that would make me do something so incredibly STUPID?!?! I've gotta call him! I've gotta let him know that I'm alright. That WE'RE alright! I've got to...I've got to make this ok. He kissed me. He really kissed me! I didn't imagine it, it happened. And HE'S the one that started it! I didn't even provoke anything like that. Maybe...maybe he meant to do it. Maybe it wasn't an accident. Maybe...maybe he's one of the only people on the planet who sees something inside me that's worth paying attention. Could it be that I'm not as worthless as I was made to believe I was? Could it be that...

The door to my bedroom slammed open against the wall, my father's foot kicking it open and sternly beckoning me to follow him into the other room with his finger! I wasn't even aware that he was home. "Come here." He said, an aggravated tone escaping through his clenched teeth. I didn't move at first, still in shock that he was even in the house today. "COME - HERE!!!" He shouted, pointing to the ground beneath his feet. Where was my mom? Where was my protection?

He didn't wait for me to move after asking twice. He basically covered the length of my whole room with two long strides, and he leaned over to dig his hands deep into me! One hand clutching at my shirt down by my waist, pinching the skin underneath. The other hand fixed itself to my hair, and as he grabbed a handful he lifted me up from the bed, and nearly tossed me accross the room. I landed halfway on my feet, but I regained my balance when I hit the dresser. "Owwww!"

"Shut up! GET in there!" He said, and as I walked out of the room, he kicked me hard in the ass, pushing me against the wall in the hallway. "THIS WAY! To the kitchen! Fucking DUMB ass!!!" He pushed and shoved me all the way to the kitchen and to the back door. Then he grabbed me fiercely by the back of my neck, squeezing so hard that my shoulders had no choice but to haunch up in a weak attempt to protect me from the assault. "Take a look at this!" He said, squeezing harder. But I couldn't see anything. My eyes were squinted tight from the pain. It felt as though the vertebrae in my neck were going to separate any moment. "LOOK AT IT!!!" He said, nearly pressing my face against the window in the back door. Then he lifted the curtain angrily and I forced my eyes to focus. That's when I saw it. A crack in the window. A hairline, not much more, but it was pretty long. About 4 or 5 inches long from the look of it. "That's what you did! Coming into this house slamming the door like you've got some kind of fucking problem!" He said, shaking me back and forth by the scruff of my neck.

"I'm sorry, Dad...I didn't mean to..."

"You didn't MEAN to? You're SORRY? Do you know what happens with that little crack in the window? It grows. It gets longer and longer, and when winter time comes, we're going to have to get it replaced. We have to PAY for that!"

"I'll...I'll pay for it daddy. I promise." Hiding my tears was impossible at this point. They were already running freely beyond my control.

"You're damn right you're gonna pay for this! We're going to go through your room tomorrow and find something of yours to sell so we can get it taken care of. That's what we're gonna do." He shook me harder. "You understand me? HUH?!?!" He squeezed so hard on my neck that I couldn't breathe, and I tried to nod as my face turned beat red and I gasped for air. But I didn't DARE put my hands up to pull his fingers away! I didn't DARE! Then, he pushed me against the wall hard and I held my throat, hoping that the oxygen would rush back in to ressucitate me. "You come home late, sit here giving me nothing but attitude, sneak out of the house this morning....now you want to break windows? Right? You're playing me for some kind of fool, right? RIGHT?"

"No..." I pleaded, looking up at him from the floor. Hoping that somewhere in my teary eyes, he'd see his son. His own flesh and blood. And he'd have some kind of mercy on me.

"Don't you LIE to me, boy!" He grabbed me by the jaws, his monsterous hand able to easily palm the lower half of my face easily and apply pressure until I could feel the inside of my cheeks being grinded against my teeth. It hurt sooo much, and I couldn't even find the courage to scream in pain. "You wanna play games. Ok...keep playing games..." And he let me go to bang my head against the wall, kicking one of my legs shortly afterwards. "What are you crying for? You wanted to play GAMES, right? We're playing!"


But he kicked me again, and again, my legs aching with the blow. Each kick stealing a bit of my life, a bit of my confidence, a piece of my soul. What kind of man would do this to a child? What kind of man could get such enjoyment out of inflicting this much pain? Why am I his target for everything? Why? OWWW! God...please make him stop! MAKE HIM STOP! "You still wanna play games? That's what you wanted, isn't it? You wanted to play? Huh? You little sack of SHIT!!!"

This is my life. I kept telling myself that this was my life. Over and over again. Not cute boys and kisses, not pizza joints and beach parties, no photo albums and pleasant memories. This was my life, right here, right now. This is reality. And the very thought of it, made me sob uncontrollably. The emotion rose to the surface and choked me, usually weakening me to drop my head in his presence and just take whatever he gave me. Usually. But for some reason, just as unimaginable and foolish as running out on Brody this afternoon was, I panicked when I saw him fumbling with the buckle on his belt. Something inside of me just snapped, as though I feared for my life. As though my worn out body wouldn't survive this beating. He was too angry, too emotional. I had fucked up BIG time! I had brought this all on myself and it was going to be ten times worse as anything else I had experienced up to this point. I'm too fucking dumb to do anything right. That's why he hurts me. THAT'S why! I wasn't good enough. I'm NEVER good enough. Not ever...

Still, my mind and my body were in a panic, and this weird sense of hysteria came over me. I got up quickly from the wall in the kitchen, and tried to run! My legs ached from him kicking me, and gave out within the first few steps. The pain that shot through me was so intense that I tripped and fell back down to the floor. But he had gotten his belt off now, and was whipping at mylegs on the floor. My body wouldn't stop moving, it wouldn't stay there and take the beating that I had earned through my idiotic actions. It REFUSED! And I got up again, bearing the pain as I ran back to my room! I shut the door, and locked it immediately! He was rght behind me, and I saw him furiously working with the handle of the door! I backed away from it, crying uncontrollably and now even more terrified than I was a few seconds ago. What had I done? I ran! I RAN!!! That was a defense! A defense....do you understand?????

"OPEN THIS FUCKING DOOR!!! NOW, ZACK!!!" He pounded on it, slamming his weight against it so hard that I thought for sure that the door and part of the wall itself would cave in from the impact. I cried even harder, knowing damn well that there would be no calming down now. There would be no negotiations. No 'taking it easy' on me this time. I could have taken the beating in the kitchen and gone to bed. I could have taken my punishment like a man, and gone on to see another day. But not now, not now. "OPEN IT!!!" His body slamming against that door frightened me beyond belief. He just kept ramming it over and over, each thud making me jump. He's going to kill me. I KNOW it! I'm going to die. He's going to get in eventually, and when he does, the beating will be more severe than anything that I can handle. "IF YOU DON'T OPEN THIS GODDAMNED DOOR, I'M GONNA BREAK IT THE FUCK DOWN!!!" He shouted at the top of his lungs. I had no way out, I had no phone, I had no way to reason with him at this point. He was going to hurt me. Please don't let him hurt me again. PLEASE?!?!?! If anyone can hear me....please don't let him hurt me again! Just this once!

I jumped as he smashed against the door loudly with all his weight! The noise was so loud that I thought the whole WALL was going to come down! "OPEN IT!!!" I was frozen stiff, but I knew...I knew...if I didn't open that door he was going to kill me. So, with a fear that almost caused me to pass out over the threat on the other side of that door, I began to inch forward. "I'M NOT GONNA TELL YOU AGAIN, BOY!!! OPEN THIS FUCKING DOOR!!!" I reached out my hand to turn the knob, it was shaking so badly that I couldn't keep it still. Just as I was about to touch the knob, he pounded the door loudly with his fist! And I jumped again, jerking my hand back. My face was soaked with tears, and they got worse as I forced my hand back out towards the lock. I was crying openly now. He was going to really hurt me this time. I knew that beyond the shadow of a doubt. But he was just getting madder and madder as he pounded on that door, and my punishment for being worthless was getting more severe by the second. So....I reached out....and I opened the door.

He charged in like a runaway bull, his monsterous hand covering my entire face as he pushed my head into the wall and began hitting me repeatedly in the chest. I couldn't breathe, and his hand was mashed so hard against me that blood began to run out of my nose and smear my face. I was thrown to the floor and kicked over onto my side, the pain of it all overwhelming me all at once. I couldn't even hear what he was shouting, I couldn't even understand him. He was so enraged that he didn't even care if I bruised this time, if I bled, if I screamed. I was crying so hard that I began to choke from it, and I curled up in a tight ball on the floor, hoping to take the beating on my backside until I could catch my breath again. "GET UP!!!" He shouted, but I couldn't. I couldn't move. I just wanted the pain to stop. "GET UP!!!!"

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!!!" I shouted through my tears. "Daddy PLEASE no! Daddy....Daddy please????"

"GET UP, I SAID!!!" He pulled on the collar of my shirt, and I heard a tearing noise as he stretched it out to the point of ripping it. My body was jerked off the floor from the pull, but I fell right back down to it. "GET...UP!!!" He was gritting his teeth together so hard, I thought they would break. But I couldn't move. I couldn't MOVE!

"Daddy please..." Was all I could say, but he was having none of that. He reached over and tightly grabbed my arm in a vice like grip. He pulled on it hard, tugging it full force to pull me up from the floor. But I just wanted to lay there. I just wanted him to let me die. He pulled again as I fought to stay on the floor, and on the third yank, something happened. He pulled with all his might, all his strength, and I heard a sickening 'snap'...followed by a measure of pain that my young mind had no understanding of. For the rest of my life...I'll never forget the sound of that snap. Never.

A dislocated shoulder. That's what the doctor called it. My father had cleaned me up with a warning. A reminder of what happens to little boys that 'tell'. And he brought me into the emergency room himself. The doctor didn't really make much of the marks on me. My story? I had been in a fight with a friend of mine. A story that worked well on him and probably would work just as well with my mom. Naturally, she'd ask more questions...but I was well practiced. I could handle it. As for the doctor, he did all of the 'hmmmms' and 'ahhhhs' before taking my wrist in his hand. He rotated it very slowly, painfully, while I cried out for him to stop. Then...he suddenly folded my arm up at the elbow with another sudden 'snap', and suddenly locked my shoulder back into place. It happened so fast that I couldn't really react to it. I was just happy to be able to move it again. He told me that I should be ok, but I was going to have to wear my arm in a sling for a few weeks just to be sure. And that was that. My father took me home after that, and basically sent me to my room without any more abuse. Not even a foul word. Just..."Go to your room."

My arm stayed sore, the sling keeping it near my chest. It was navy blue with a white strap, and I could already tell that I was going to hate wearing it. I'll slip it off every now and then when I get a chance. All I know is that I'm going to simply faint if Sam tries jumping on my back when I go back to school on Monday. The last thing I remember was the torrent of questions my mother had when she came home. It was even worse than I expected, and I had hoped that my story was convincing enough. It got to the point where I just wanted her to forget about it and leave me alone. More questions from her, meant more lies from me. And I didn't want to lie to her. I didn't want to tell her the TRUTH, but I didn't want to lie to her either. Finally, after being grilled on what happened for what seemed like an eternity, she made me some tea and changed the sheets on my bed. She always had this thing where she figured that laying in a bed with fresh sheets would somehow make you feel better. I don't know where she got it from, but that was her way, and I never questioned it.

She turned the tv on for me, and fluffed some pillows to put behind me so I could sit up and watch. After a while, she even came in to sit with me. My father had gone to sleep around 10:30, and I was starting to yawn a little myself. Getting up that early in the morning will do that to you. My mom figured she'd let me get some sleep, and gave me a sweet kiss on the top of my head as she held me close to her. I didn't say anything...but when she hugged me, I felt a wave of emotion shoot through me. That small piece of affection just brought it to the surface, and I found myself having to hug her back. I held her tight, my grip constricting more and more as that emotional rush came bursting out of me. I felt like I had to hold on to her for dear life. As though this embrace was the only thing keeping me from fading away. I hugged her tighter still, and tears began to pour from my eyes. I couldn't let her go. I was digging my fingers in so deep that I was afraid that I'd hurt her. But I didn't dare let go.

"Zack? Zack, honey? What's wrong?" She asked But I couldn't answer her. I just buried my face into her chest and cried. The emotion wouldn't be contained anymore. It gushed out of me as I sobbed almost hysterically into her. "Baby, what's wrong?"

I couldn't speak, and I wanted to stop. But there was too much inside to be held back. Once the tears started they just wouldn't stop. And I held onto my embrace until both of my arms were weak and then some. My cries got louder and louder, and the tears flooded out of control. I curled up tight in her arms and refused to tell her what I was going through. Was it Brody that brought this on? Was it my rejection of him? Was it my sore arm, pressed up against her with the sling making my shoulder ache? Was it just another attack from my father that was causing me to lose so much of my sanity? Maybe it was a combination of all of life's punishments rolled into one. Whatever it was, it became this runaway train that swept me up and forced me to cry and wail for the better part of an hour. It was the most freedom that I had felt in a long long time.

My mom stopped asking what was wrong, but I could feel her concern as she held me until I was asleep. I think she may have even cried some herself, not being to figure out why I was so lost. I can't even figure out why. All I knew was that, for that one moment, all of that pain and anguish was released. It was my body, my heart, and my mind simultaneously screaming out for relief. My soul trying to come up for air. It was one of the few times that I was allowed to cry 'uncensored'...and I'd do my best to never let it happen again. Swallowing emotion is what I do. It's one of the only things I'm good at anymore.

And to think...this was to be the best day of my life.

Thank you so much for reading, and for being patient while I wrote this chapter out. It took some time to finish, but I wanted to make sure that nothing was left out. Stay tuned for the next chapter in the near future, k? Let me know what you think at Comicality@webtv.net or stop by my website at http://comicality.gayauthors.org (Don't forget to sign the guestbook!)

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