This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, business establishments or events is entirely coincidental. Comments and feedback are highly appreciated, send to firstname.lastname@example.org
"Jeremy, it's okay, calm down," I hear a soothing voice. I open my eyes. I'm sitting on the floor of Mark's darkroom, clutching my knees and trying to control the uncontrollable sobs and shakes that are quaking my body. His hand is gently rubbing my arm. He looks completely alarmed and out of his element. I'm not surprised at this, why would someone like him have experience dealing with what I can only call crazy. Because surely this type of behavior doesn't happen to normal people. He continues to gently stroke my arm, it's a sweet gesture that most people would find comforting. But than again, I'm not most people. I know what I'm about to say will hurt Mark, but I have to say it before I go into an even deeper panic attack.
"Please don't touch me," I whisper. He looks surprised and a little hurt but immediately removes his hand.
"Sorry, this is all my fault, I shouldn't have been so," he searches for the right word and seems at loss, finally finishing his sentence with "...so gropey."
"It's not your fault. This is what I've been trying to tell you from the beginning. You shouldn't waste your time on me." I say in between gasps for air. Finally I slowly calm down. My face is still moist, but my body feels eerily calm. The storm has passed. I know I'm messed up, and now Mark knows too. There's nothing to be anxious about anymore. Anyminute now he'll understand that trying to be close to me is a complete waste of time. He'll get up, he'll be nice about it, but he'll stop trying. He'll meet someone who's worthy of his attention and affection, someone beautiful, and smart, and amazing, just like he is. I should be glad that this happened sooner than later, I think to myself.
"Do you want to tell me what happened?" he asks gently. I think about it. All these years I've been keeping a secret, and it's been eating me alive. All these years I've been failing at forgetting. All these years I've been drowning in memories of the past. And now there's a chance to come clean. To confess to all the things that happened to a little boy. All the things that no little boy should have ever experienced. But voicing it out loud would mean that they're not just a terrible nightmare. It would mean they happened. All my night terrors coming true. And I just can't deal with that fact. So I shake my head slowly.
"No," I whisper back. Mark rubs his leg, I can tell he's trying to hide frustration.
"Why don't we go into the kitchen? I'll get you something to drink." I nod my head and get up. My fairy tale is shattered. I'm so mortified by what just happened. The boy of my dreams kissed me, and I broke down crying. He must think I'm completely nuts now. I curse Breckett for fucking my life up forever. It's his fault I'm acting like a freak.
We get to the kitchen, and like the rest of Mark's house it's quite amazing. I sit on one of the barstools and start playing with my hands nervously. Mark hands me a glass of water. I take a sip, looking down.
"I'm really sorry," he says, and I hear sincerity in his voice. I look up.
"It's not your fault," I repeat softly and slowly.
"It is, I should have been more careful, more gentle," he says and I can tell he genuinely thinks he did something wrong.
"Mark, you didn't do anything wrong. Trust me."
Mark opens his mouth to reply, but a female voice coming through the door stops him. The voice seems to be speaking to someone on the phone. He groans.
"My mom," he explains when I quizzically raise and eyebrow at him.
"Well yes of course Peter but....I did say that yes...well he's my son," she comes into the kitchen and I'm stunned. I guess after looking at the house I should have imagined it, but the word "mom" always made me think of my mom: soft spoken, mom jeans, always in the kitchen. But Mark's mom was as far away from typical "mom" as I could imagine. Long bright red nails. Perfectly styled curly red hair. Tight black dress. She gives me a charming smile as she comes in, and motions with her hand while mouthing "blah blah blah" and pointing to her phone. I laugh. Mark rolls his eyes.
"Well I certainly do appreciate that...haha yes, you sound just like my ex husband. Haha, oh goodness, okay Peter thanks so much. I owe you one. Yeah...alrighty then, bye bye." She hangs up and walks up to Mark.
"Hi darling," she says and kisses him on both cheeks.
"Hey ma," he says sounding annoyed, "you're home early." She ignores the comment.
"And this must be Jeremy," she says looking at me.
"Hi Mrs. Norton," I say back, surprised she knows my name.
"Oh just call me Joanna sweetie," she replies graciously. She's about to say more but Mark interrupts her.
"Was that Peter Gray on the phone?"
"Yes it was hon."
"Let me guess, this is concerning my situation?" Joanna runs her perfectly manicured hand through her silky curls, obviously displeased with the question.
"Yes, don't worry it's been dealt with."
"You mean it's been paid off," he states irritated.
"I mean it has been taken care off, does it matter how? Did you want to do community service because I can go and arrange that," she counters but immediately looks apologetic when she sees the furious look Mark gives her. "I'm sorry sweetheart, I just did whatever I could to protect you, especially given your past indiscretions," she says and immediately stops, looking like she has said too much.
"Don't," Mark warns. He looks beyond furious and I ponder what in the world she could mean by "past indiscretions." Surely she can't be talking about Mark. The calm, assertive, self-possesed guy I know. At the same time I realize that in the short time he has been here he's gotten in quite a bit of trouble. But of course that's all because of me. I sit quietly, embarrassed and feeling like all of this is my fault. Somehow Mark notices right away. He's amazingly perceptive like that.
"This isn't your fault by the way, don't even think that." His mom looks at her son thoughtfully, almost as if surprised, then turns to me.
"That's right sweetheart, don't blame yourself. That awful boy is certainly at fault, but you need to learn how to control your temper Mark. You can't just go beating people up because they're not nice people. You have a temper just like your father."
"Please don't compare me to him, I'm nothing like my father," he replies bitterly and I'm sensing a pattern. Joanna shakes her head.
"Okay boys, well I need a hot bath, my flight was exhausting. It was lovely meeting you Jeremy. Please feel free to come by anytime."
"Thanks Mrs. Norton," I reply smiling. "Joanna," she corrects me and leaves the room. I sit and play with my hands trying to process everything that's just been said. I realize that because I've been so focused on myself and my problems, I haven't really taken the time to fully get to know Mark. I barely know anything about this guy, yet he seems to know so much about me. Mark looks at me and for the first time ever I notice uncertainty in his eyes. Like he's checking to make sure I'm not about to run out the door.
"What's going on behind those eyes?" he asks, in that gentle voice I swear he uses only in my presence. I shrug, and he raises his eyebrow. Finally I decide it's better to ask him.
"What did your mom mean by 'past indiscretions?'" He sighs exasperated.
"Look Jeremy, there are a lot of things I still have to tell you about myself. But right now, this just isn't the time. You've already had quite a day, thanks to me, and I don't want to add anymore...baggage on top of that. I swear I'll tell you everything at the right time. Okay? But for now I think you need to rest. You look overwhelmed. Can I make you something to eat?" I shake my head no, it's probably time to go home. I want to know what Mark's talking about, but I decide not to push.
"I should probably get going," I say. Mark looks rather unhappy about my statement but just nods with understanding.
"Can I drive you to school on Monday?" He asks.
"Sure, I'd like that," I reply as nicely as I can since he's looking so dejected.
I get home feeling exhausted. Nobody seems to be downstairs, which I'm happy about. I go to my room and pass out on my bed. I wake up to the sound of my door opening.
"Hey sweetie, I didn't even know you were home," says my mom.
"Hi, yeah I came back a few hours ago."
"Well dinner's ready, will you come down?"
"Yeah sure, thanks," I say smiling. She smiles back and walks out. I put my head down, still feeling extremely tired and trying hard not to analyze everything that happened between me and Mark and how he is probably slowly growing tired of me. Finally I get up and make my way downstairs to the dinner table. I say hi to my dad and ignore my sister, who is ignoring me back.
"So how was the party you went to?" my dad asks my sister.
"It was freaking crazy. There was a huge fight." I realize my sister must have been at Spencer's party.
"Oh goodness, what happened?" my mom asks concerned. I stay silent, but can feel my sister glaring at me.
"Mark and Spencer, again. Mark basically beat the living crap out of Spence for like seriously nothing. The guy is like hot, but seriously disturbed."
"Wait, the same Mark that was here for breakfast the other day?" my mom asks even more concerned.
"Yup, same one," replies my sister in the most bitchy tone.
"Oh, Jeremy I don't know about you hanging out with him anymore. He sounds very unstable," my dad chimes in all of a sudden.
"He's not unstable, dad," I reply starting to feel the fury grow inside of me. They can talk crap about me all day long, but to say anything negative about Mark is just completely ridiculous. The guy has basically been my saint.
"Well he just moved down here and two fights already?"
"Well Spencer isn't exactly the nicest guy," I reply.
"Well if your sister is friends with him how bad can he be?" my dad continues. I decide to ignore his naive question. The real question is what kind of psychopath must he be if she's friends with him.
"Yeah, I'd rather Mark not come around the house anymore, I don't think I can feel safe around him," says my sister as she carefully watches my response. I think all the blood drains from my face as I hear her hypocrisy. Her friend nearly gave me a heart attack in my own room, but she can't feel safe around with Mark? I grind my teeth to stop myself from either strangling her or just bursting out crying at my ridiculous predicament.
"Jeremy, I think your sister raises a good point," says my dad. My mom just looks baffled and unsure of what her own reaction should be.
"Well I don't feel safe with Kayla's friend's around. So can we ban them from the house as well?" I reply sarcastically.
"Well now, you're just saying that out of spite. Your sister has legitimate concern for her safety around this boy. Now I know he's a friend of yours, but I think you should respect her wishes," states my dad. I'm furious at this point.
"I'm not hungry anymore," I say getting up and grabbing my plate. My mom asks me to stay but I head to my room instead. All the anger and the resentment and the pain come out and I lay on my bed and cry. After a few minutes I clutch my sheets and try to steady my breathing. I wipe my face and blow my nose. I lay back down and check my phone, hoping Mark wrote me something, but am empty screen stares back at me. I open my laptop and go through my usual routine. I log onto Facebook and type in the name. And as his picture loads I feel bile rise in my throat. I suppress it and continue staring. I stare and cry, and stare, and fight the urge to throw up. Like a broken person I cling to the notion that somehow continuing this strange routine will help me resolve all that's unresolved. That somehow I will get an answer. That one day I will look at his picture and not feel what I feel. No self-hatred. No pain. That maybe, just maybe I will feel nothing. I stare until I can't stare any longer. Then I shut my computer off and lay on my bed. All the thoughts in my head are in complete chaos. And staring at the computer screen has given me a headache. But then I think about Mark. I go to sleep and the only positive thought in my head is that Monday morning I get to see Mark's face and spend at least a few alone minutes with him.
When Monday morning comes around I roll out of bed and shower quickly. I stand in front of the mirror longer than usual, trying to figure out what to wear. Finally with a sigh of resignation at the impossibility of making myself look attractive I pull on a long sleeved shirt and dark jeans. I skip breakfast to the dismay of my mother and get out of the house as quickly as I can. Mark's black car is waiting for me. I get in and he smiles at me.
"Hi," he says in a voice that I swear he uses only for me, and my insides melt.
"Hi," I reply, feeling very shy all of a sudden.
"Well I'm sure your mom already fed you twice or more, but I got you a bagel in case you're hungry," he says handing me a small white paper bag. I want to cry at this sweet gesture.
"Thank you," is all I manage to come up with.
"You're welcome," he says chuckling.
We drive to school in a nice silence. I finally feel complete and happy because Mark's next to me, and I don't need to talk. I'm not sure what he feels, but he looks content and of course amazingly composed, as always. We get to the parking lot and I already start missing him. We make our way to the ugly building of Barkley High and Mark proceeds to walk me to my class. My insides clench with joy at the thought that he cares enough to do that. We stop in front of the door as the bell's about to ring.
"You're going to be late," I say.
"Well you're worth it," he says and I blush furiously.
"Jeremy get in," I hear my teacher yell from inside of the class.
"Bye," I say grimacing. Mark smiles.
"I'll see you in the dark room," Mark replies walking away as he winks, leaving me even more red in the face. I step inside my classroom and start counting down the minutes till photo class.
When I finally I make it to my photo class I realize I'm early, but Lena and Julia are already at my table. I slump down next to Lena.
"Hey Jer," she says knowing I'll be annoyed at her use of my name.
"Hey Len," I reply and she giggles.
"Okay I'll stop. Anything to not hear Len ever again," she says smiling.
"Good," I say back.
"So I see that you're still alive after all. I was super worried about you. Would have called but Mr. Control Freak said he was handling it," she says referring to Mark and I stifle a giggle at her apt description.
"Yeah, I got a little too drunk. I didn't want to ruin your good time so I called him. How are things with Taylor and you by the way?" I ask. She looks surprised.
"What do you mean?"
"Well you guys seemed more than friendly. Is there something happening between my two best friends?" I ask innocently. She sighs and looks sad, which in turn makes me worried because Lena is never sad.
"Well even if I wanted something to happen, I just don't think it will. I don't think he feels the same way." I make a mental note to investigate this situation further and get whatever information I can out of Taylor.
"But how do you know? Have you asked him?"
"No, but I mean wouldn't he have made a move by now if he had feelings for me? He's not exactly shy."
"True, but maybe he's thinking the same thing about you," I say as the bell rings and Mark finally makes it to his seat. He's a little out of breath.
"Hey Norton," says Lena unabashedly and I envy her at that moment.
"Hey party girl," Mark responds and Lena smiles. We spend the next ten minutes waiting for the teacher to check attendance as Mark tries very hard to doge Julia's attempts at getting to know him. When we're finally allowed to go into the darkroom Mark looks throughly annoyed.
"She doesn't give up does she," he whispers to me as we walk away from the table. I laugh. We enter the dark room and start working on our proof sheets. I can feel a tense sensual energy between me and Mark, but there are too many people, so we keep our distance. I spend lunch with Lena, and feel alone without Mark who has to go and talk to talk to one of his teachers. Finally the school day comes to an end, and I'm even more sad knowing I won't see Mark until tomorrow. I make my way out of the building when I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn around.
"I thought you were coming with me," says Mark.
"Oh, I am?" I ask.
"Yeah, why don't you come over and we can do some homework together? I'll give you a ride home later." The last place I want to be is home, so I nod my head happily in response.
We get to Mark's room and the tension is back. It's a good sort of tension, but I'm still a little terrified of it. Terrified because intimacy is probably the scariest thing in the world to me. Because I never thought I would want to be intimate with anyone after what happened with Breckett. But now that I do, it's the most conflicting feeling in the world.Â Mark lays down his backpack on the table and turns to look at me.
"Are you okay?" he asks concerned. I look at him. Am I okay? I don't know. All I know is that I'm hit with an overwhelming feeling of sadness, and loss. And I lay down on his bed, on my back, close my eyes and hope it will pass soon. Shortly after I can feel the bed dip down a little, and I know that Mark is laying next to me. We lay on his bed side by side, and I can tell he's trying very hard to be respectful of my space. I open my eyes and turn my head to look at him and he meets my gaze and smiles. Finally he says
"You're so beautiful." And I forget to breathe for a minute. He chuckles as I blush furiously and look away. I move closer and slowly and unsurely put my head on his chest. My heart beating furiously. This is the bravest move I've ever made toward physical closeness with another guy. I can feel his heart pace pick up as well. I close my eyes and take in his amazing scent, masculine, fresh, with a light hint of cologne. He smells perfect. His chest is rock hard, yet nice to lay on. His cotton t shirt soft under my cheek. I put my hand on his abs. He catches his breath lightly and I'm amazed that I can do this to him. That I can make someone as amazing as Mark excited. He slowly puts his hand on my back and quietly asks "Is this okay?" I nod my head yes. He gently kisses the top of my head. I sigh in content and can feel him smiling. And for one moment everything is perfect, and Breckett doesn't exist, and I'm not a boy who was sexually abused. I'm just a person who's being held, and loved, and cherished, and it feels amazing.
We finally get up after about an hour of just being close, and I start doing my homework while Mark takes the beastly looking dog for a walk. After five minutes I hear the door bell ring and figure he must have locked himself out. I make my way downstairs and open the door smiling. My face falls a little when I see another guy standing in front of me. He's a bit taller than me, has brown hair, tan face and blue eyes. His lips are shiny with chap-stick. He regards me with annoyance and confusion.
"Where is Mark?" he asks sharply. I just stand there for a while. Finally I remember to talk.
"Who are you?" I ask.
"I'm Mark's boyfriend, who the fuck are you?" he replies.