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


Chapter 5.

Boyfriend. Did he just say boyfriend? Surely I must have misheard, I think to myself as I look at the unwelcome stranger in disbelief.

"Do you plan to answer me sometime today?" He asks annoyed. I just stand in the doorway, speechless. I figured I didn't know a lot about Mark, but this, this is on a whole different level. Finally I manage to move aside and the intruder comes inside the house.

"Well this is a down grade from their previous house," he comments as he glances around. Finally he settles on one of the kitchen barstools while I just watch, still speechless.

"So who are you? A friend from school?" He asks and I sense a note of sarcasm in his voice. He looks me up and down with distaste in his eyes, like he's trying to figure out why someone like me would be in Mark's house.

"Yeah, a friend from school," I reply feeling something like a stab in my chest. Finally I decide to figure out what the hell is going on.

"So you're Marks boyfriend?" I ask trying to wrap my head around this bizarre situation.

"Yup, we've been going out for a couple months now but then unfortunately he had to move. But you know, we're still doing the whole long distance thing," he says smiling a fake smile. I slowly nod pretending to understand the incomprehensible words coming from his mouth. Why didn't Mark mention anything about this? Why would he do this to me? Was I just a play thing for him? Something to amuse himself with? No, I quickly dismiss that idea. Mark is not that kind of person, I know better than that. But than again in my present situation I realize I don't really know anything at all. All of a sudden a question pops into my head. Something I have a feeling Mark wouldn't like to talk to me about anytime soon. Something to do with "past indiscretions" as mentioned by his mom.

"Why did Mark move down here?" I ask as politely as I can manage. The stranger regards me curiously, and finally answers.

"He didn't tell you, huh? He's probably still pretty upset about the whole Luke thing. I don't know why he's so hard on himself. Lets just say he had some issues with coming to terms with who he really is. And his parents decided it would be best to move him to the middle of fucking nowhere, so that..." But he stops himself. "He would be really upset if I told you the whole story. But basically he really fucked up in New York. And this, this is supposed to be a fresh start or some shit," he says annoyed. At this point I'm completely confused. I start thinking that there's been some kind of mistake. There's just no way that we can be possibly talking about the same person. Mark fucking up? There's no way. Mark, the guy who jogs at 5 in the morning, who takes care of me when I break down, whose car and room are in an immaculate state. No, there's been a mistake. But when the door opens and I see Marks face freeze at the sight of the unwelcome guy I know that there's no mistake. He immediately comes to my side, putting him across from the other guy, and with a tone of voice I've never heard him use spits out "What the fuck are you doing here?" My mouth opens in surprise.

"What do you mean what am I doing here? I came to see you," the stranger says in a squeaky apologetic tone that sounds nothing like what I just heard. Mark looks beyond furious. I can see him struggling inside, finally he turns to me and flatly says.

"Jeremy I have to deal with this right now. I'll call you later okay?" I'm shocked as I realize he's asking me to leave. I look at him and try to read his face but its completely empty. I want to say something, but words fail me. Slowly I go grab my backpack from Mark's room and leave the house. As I walk home I feel completely nothing. I'm so overwhelmed with everything that my system just shuts down and processes nothing. I walk like a zombie. I get to my house and have lunch with my family, in a zombie state. I taste nothing, I smell nothing , I feel nothing. I see my mom talking, smiling, nodding her head, I see my dad scratching his head, twisting his fork as he's trying to formulate some long thought idea to my mom and sister, I see Kayla absentmindedly play with her hair as she's texting someone. All these small things happening, but none of it registers. All of a sudden I notice that my family is staring at me.

"What," I ask not too politely.

"I was inquiring about your day," my father replies. And I feel a rush of anger at his pointless question. I know none of this is his fault, but I'm not trying to be rational. Since when does he care how my day went. So after a long pause I just get up and go to my room. And I'm surprised. Surprised because I don't cry. Surprised because the only thing I feel is a fiery all consuming sense of anger. My phone rings and its Mark. I answer it.

"Hey, it's me."

"I know it's you. What do you want?" I ask harshly, surprising myself and Mark. He takes a second longer to answer.

"What did Jake tell you?" Jake, so that's the invaders name.

"What do you think he told me?" I ask annoyed. "That you're his boyfriend." Mark exhales sounding annoyed as well.

"Look, let me explain," he says but I cut him off.

"No, why don't you save your explanations for someone else Mark," I say and end the conversation. My phone continues buzzing for some time so finally I just shut it off. Fury is boiling in my whole entire body. There's a soft knock on my door and I immediately know who it is.

"What mom," I snap. She peeks her head inside my room.

"Are you okay honey?"

"Yeah, peachy," I say quietly and turn away from her. I walk into my bathroom and close the door. I look for something, anything sharp. I pick up my razor and put it on the floor. I stomp on it hard until it breaks into uneven pieces. I pick up a piece of the blade that's long and sharp. I take off my sweater and drag the blade fast and hard across my arm. I make a vertical cut. It stings and I quietly cry out from frustration, pain, anger. I repeat the process about six times, until my arms looks angry and red, stained with blood. And then, the anger disappears and I feel empty again. I sit on the cold tile floor as my blood slowly dries, leaving a very macabre looking scene. After a few moments I slowly get up and wet a tissue with warm water. I pat the angry cuts and the dried blood around them. I feel nothing.

I wake up the next morning completely disoriented. I don't remember going to sleep, I don't really remember even leaving the bathroom. Then slowly the events of the previous day come back to me and reality sets in. Mark has a boyfriend, or is at least entangled in some weird situation with another person. And all of a sudden the world seems to turn upside down. How can this person who I trusted more than anyone else turn out to have so many secrets? But after all can I really be judgmental of that? Mark doesn't judge my secrets and my unwillingness to share them with him. Maybe he expects me to be as nonjudgmental as he is. I sigh with exasperation, all this morning thinking is giving me a headache. I check the time, it's still very early but I decide to go to school so I can avoid seeing Mark. I'm not ready for that talk yet, and I'm still mad. I take a quick shower and pick a long sleeved shirt to wear. Now that my fresh cuts are healing they look even more horrific than yesterday. I look at myself with contempt. Why are you so weak, I ask myself.

Even though I give it my best effort Mark still manages to catch up to me right before math class. He looks tired and a bit disheveled, which is very unusual. I worry about him for a second but then I remember that I'm still mad.

"Jeremy, can we please talk?" He says to me and then gives Lena a pointed look. She looks at me questioningly and then walks to class alone.

"What?" I ask not able to even look at him.

"Why didn't you answer my phone calls?" For a brief second I wonder if he's joking. I mean seriously, he's asking me why I didn't pick up the phone. I just shake my head, astonished. He runs a hand though his hair, looking distressed but says nothing. Finally I realize that he isn't going to say anything else. The bell rings and I just look at him. He looks like he might be about to say something but then decides against it. I walk away.

"Jeremy," I hear him call out but I ignore it. I walk into class and sit down. The teacher starts droning on about some ridiculous math equations, I tune him out. All I can think about is Mark, with another guy. The kind of guy who reapplies his Chapstick constantly, and whose hair looks perfectly styled, and whose clothes are perfectly fitted to his body. Obviously I'm not his type. The thought hurts more than anything else. I go about my day like a zombie, barely talking to Lana who senses something is wrong but doesn't push it. When its time for photo class my nerves are all over the place. I'm a mess. I sit next to Lena sulking. Mark is already in class being interrogated by Julia. He looks more annoyed than usual at her harassment.

"So like, do you have a girlfriend?" She asks all of a sudden peaking my interest.

"Yeah, do you have a girlfriend Mark?" I ask as well. Lena and Julia look at me like I'm from another planet.

"No," Mark replies as he's looking at me, and I notice his jaw tenses. Then he looks at Julia and adds "but I do like someone a lot. That person is really stubborn though. Very hard to understand." I burn with annoyance inside. Is he talking about me? I'm stubborn? I want to lean across the table and smack his perfect head with my book. Instead I just sit stewing with annoyance. Finally after the teacher checks attendance we are divided into groups of people going into the darkroom, people going out to take pictures, and people developing film. I fall into the third category and to my dismay Mark does as well. Lena and Julia get to go outside and take pictures. I grab the necessary materials and make my way to one of the small booths for transferring film onto a reel. I'm already inside when someone comes in behind me and closes the door. Mark.

"There are other booths," I hiss at him.

"We need to talk," he says sternly and I frown. How can he be getting stern with me. I'm not the one dating other people.

"Fine. Talk then," I reply rolling my eyes. He seems a little amused by my dramatic display.

"I'm not dating Jake. I've never actually dated him. Okay?" He says matter of factly.

"No, not okay. That explains nothing," I say. I wait for him to tell me more but he just keeps running a hand through his sexy black hair. God he's so distracting.

"Why does he think you're his boyfriend?" I ask more gently. Mark looks around, I can tell he's uncomfortable and lost. It's so strange to see this guy who's usually so in control, look so at a loss. I wait for the answer.

"Do we have to discuss this now? Can't you just trust me when I say that he's not, he's not even my friend really. He's back in New York now, and I'll make a point of not talking to him again. Okay?"

"No, that's not okay. I mean what am I supposed to think." Mark comes closer to me and for a second I forget why I'm mad. His sexy tired face, his dark hair, his amazing green eyes. I'm completely lost and he knows it and is using it to his advantage.

"Why don't we just talk about it later. I promise I'll tell you everything, just not right now," he says and it's not a question, it's a statement. I sigh not understanding why he has to be so difficult. He takes another step forward. I'm leaning against the counter with the film opener. He gently touches my face and carefully watches my reaction. I find the gesture charming, the fact that he's so careful with me. I lean into his hand and a small smile forms on his lips. He's radiating alluring energy off of him and for the first time all I want to do is be ridiculously close to him. I move forward and tentatively place my lips on his. He responds and I start kissing him more aggressively, possessively. I claim his lips, his mouth. I cannot get enough. Mark groans as our tongues twist and crash against each other in the most pleasant battle. All of a sudden he puts his hands on my shoulders and separates us. He takes a deep breath and looks like he's trying very hard to control himself.

"What's wrong?" I ask quietly, feeling rejected.

"Nothing's wrong. Trust me there is nothing I want to do more right now, but I just don't want to get out of control. I think we need to go slow, considering what happened last time." Oh no. I don't want to be reminded of last time.

"But.." I say pouting and Mark chuckles. He puts his forehead on mine and closes his eyes. I put my arms around his neck and inhale his lovely smell. He places a quick chaste kiss on my lips. I know that I should be mad, and that there's a lot he still needs to tell me, but I come to realize that I trust him. Whatever is going on, I'm sure that Mark is not trying to hurt me. I'm sure of it inside, and it's a very weird comforting feeling. I look at him, my arms still around his neck. I can't be mad at this amazing human being, whatever secrets he might be hiding.

"I guess we should probably get out of here," I whisper. He nods against me, eyes still closed. I smile. Neither of us move.

"Come on Mr. Norton," I whisper playfully. He opens his eyes amused.

"That's it, you're not allowed to use my first name from now on," he says and I giggle.

"That's a lovely sound," he says and I melt, blushing furiously on the way of course. I move my arms away from his neck and one of my sleeves rolls up. As I realize Mark's looking at it, and try to pull it back down, he grabs a firm hold of my arm and looks at me shocked. His eyes examine my raw looking cuts. His face quickly changes from a look of terror to completely stone cold.

"Did you do this to yourself because of me?" he asks, his face cold and unreadable.

"I uhmmm, I was upset," I manage to mumble. He clenches his jaw and moves towards the door. I gape after him.

"Mark," I call out is disbelief.

"Not now Jeremy," he says coldly and leaves me astonished. I stand in the small room paralyzed. What the hell just happened? I figured he would be upset if he saw these, but not so upset that he would walk out on me without any explanation. Tears flow out of my eyes and I quickly rub them away, knowing I'll have to get out of here sooner rather than later.

I spend the rest of the school day looking for Mark, without any success. I go home and check my phone every minute, waiting, hoping, praying for a text or call. Nothing. Finally I admit it to myself. My self destructive behavior must have been his last straw. I mean he already had to deal with enough crap concerning me. I lay on my bed and cry, uselessly trying to soothe myself. But nothing can soothe the pain and the humiliation and sense of loss. I cry and cry and it starts to hurt, my head, my chest. I check my phone one last time, fully well knowing that there won't be anything there. I fall asleep with a pounding headache and in all my clothes.

When I wake up I notice that my room is intensely bright. Too bright. I grab my phone and check the time. 12:15, how the fuck did I sleep so late. Why didn't anyone wake me. I struggle to get up, my head is still pounding. As I'm walking out of the room I pass by my mirror and realize that I look like hell. Disheveled hair, crumpled shirt. I sigh, appalled at my own state. I walk downstairs and decide that I'm going to skip school. Not only is the thought of Mark ignoring me the most heart wrenching possibility in the world, but the thought of sitting in a classroom, pretending everything is okay. Pretending like I don't feel dead inside, just seems unbearable. I check the house, everyone is already gone. I open the refrigerator and close it almost as fast. The sight of food makes me nauseous. I sit at the kitchen table and draw my knees up to my chin. I cradle myself and try not to think about anything because I don't want to explode in tears again. My world feels like it's falling apart, all because of one person. Why did I have to cut myself and ruin everything. All of a sudden I hear a pounding on the door. I'm frozen to the chair, terrified.

"Jeremy," I hear a familiar voice. But the tone is off, laced with panic. I get up and run to open the door. Mark is on the other side and when he sees me he looks relieved and furious at the same time.

"Where have you been?" he asks sternly. I frown at his tone.

"Here," I answer. He clenches his jaw.

"I can see that. I mean why aren't you at school?"

"If you have to know I overslept," I answer annoyed. Why does he think he just come in here and boss me around? Especially after what he pulled yesterday.

"I was really worried about you, your sister said she hasn't seen you since yesterday," he says and I roll my eyes. Of course my sister hasn't seen me, she usually avoids me like the plague. Not that I mind of course.

"Don't roll your eyes at me," he says using that same stern tone of voice. At this point I want to slam the door in his face, but instead I just walk back into my house and he follows behind.

"Jeremy," he calls after me.

"What?" I ask and want to cry all of a sudden. This whole situation is so frustrating. Why is he here? I thought he hated me. Is he doing this out of pity. "If you're just checking on me cause you think I'm gonna cut myself more or something because of you, don't worry, I won't, okay? So you can just go, I'm fine," I say on the verge of tears. He looks really hurt.

"It isn't like that, I was really worried about you," he says more softly now.

"Yeah, I'm sure you were," I reply sarcastically.

"I was. Jeremy you have to promise not to ever hurt yourself because of me again. This is really important to me," he says and his tone is serious. I just look at him and wonder why this is such a big deal.

"Please," he says, "I really need to know that you won't do that again," and picks up my arm gently uncovering the cuts. He appears almost sick when he looks at them.

"Okay, I won't do it," I reply confused. He traces the cuts with his thumb.

"Good," he finally says.

"Why is this so important to you," I ask. He regards me for a minute looking like he's trying to figure out whether he should tell me or not. He decides to go ahead.

"I've had someone hurt themselves over me before, and I don't think I could deal with that again." I look at him surprised. I want to know more, but the look on his face clearly tells me that this discussion will go no further.

"Can I see your room now?" he asks changing the subject.

"NO," I reply horrified. He looks amused.

"What can you possibly have in there that you're not willing to show me? Dead bodies? S&M items?" he jokes. But the serious look on my face lets him know that this is not a laughing matter to me.

"Whatever it is, I want to know," he says gently. I swallow. Fuck it, I doubt he's going to talk to me for much longer anyway. He might as well go in and realize what a complete freak I am.

"Fine," I say quietly. I lead the way upstairs. My room is tiny compared to Mark's. A bed, small desk, small closet and a few drawers. I'm totally embarrassed, but figure it's better he sees it now than later. He looks completely out of place in the small and messy room, which contrasts his beautiful and composed figure. And all of a sudden I feel terrible about myself. But Mark smiles at me.

"I like it. I like being able to visualize where you are, when you aren't with me," he says and my heart melts. But then I remember that he hasn't see the sheet yet. I look down, my heart beating faster. It's only a matter of time now.

"Are you okay?" he asks. I nod, still not looking at him.

"Didn't we already establish that I know when you're lying," he says with a hint of amusement. He goes over to the bed and sits down. I hear the telltale crinkling of the plastic sheet underneath and I close my eyes. This is it, he's about to walk out of here disgusted. I open my eyes to read his reaction. He looks surprised for a fraction of a second. He raises the blanket and uncovers the see through mattress protection. I pray for the ground to open and swallow me. Mark puts the blanket back over the sheet and looks at me.

"Come here," he says and I slowly walk over to the bed. He pats the spot beside him and I sit.

"Can I touch you?" he asks softly. I nod my head, staring at him in surprise. He puts his arm around me and draws me in close. I put my head on his shoulder and a grab onto his shirt as a cascade of sobs come out of me. I'm crying so hard it's becoming difficult to breathe. Mark just holds me and soothingly rubs my back.

"It's okay, everything's okay," he says. He kisses the top of my head and I cry even harder because I don't deserve his gentleness. I don't deserve this, especially after I just doubted him. Finally, after I have completely drenched his shirt the sobs seem to come to an end. I'm still clutching to his shirt like it's my life line. We sit like that for a while, until Mark asks "Did you eat anything today?"

"No," I answer, my voice raspy from the crying.

"Why don't I go down and make you some food? You need to eat."

"No," I protest holding his shirt even harder. He chuckles.

"Jeremy, I want to take care of you. Will you eat something for me?" Even though I don't want to let him go, I know he'll just keep pestering me so finally I relent.

"Okay, I'm going to shower," I say reluctantly and get up.

I walk into the bathroom and sigh. I turn on the shower and step into the hot water. I'm not sure what I'm feeling. Obviously relief, because he hasn't run out of here screaming. I feel totally embarrassed, because he knows. It also feels good on some level, because even though he knows he seems to have accepted it, accepted me. But there's still so many questions remaining. I decide to not think for a while, because I don't want to get another huge headache. I walk out of the shower and dry off. Unfortunately, my head is still spinning with a million thoughts. What the hell is going on between me and Mark? What the hell is going on with Mark's past? When will I get any answers. I put on some clean clothes. A pair of jeans and a blue shirt. I walk out and Mark is in my room, and on my desk there's a plate of the most messily made scrambled eggs in the world, and orange juice. I try hard to hide my amusement. Has Mark ever made breakfast for himself?

"Wow," is all I can say without laughing.

"I hope you like eggs," he says amused. I sit down and slowly eat my breakfast as Mark looks on approvingly. I want to roll my eyes at him but he looks to happy, so I decide to keep on eating. I pull out a piece of an egg shell when he's not looking, and throw it away. I make a mental note to never let him cook again.

"So are you skipping school for me?" I ask in between bites.

"Yes, well someone has to feed you. Your well being is prioritized a little higher than American History," he replies and I giggle.

"Mr. Frasier wouldn't approve," I say referring to the history teacher. I finish my breakfast and say thank you.

"You're very welcome. I'm happy to cook for you anytime, if it means you'll eat," he replies. My inner self cringes at the idea.

"Okay control freak," I let his nickname slip.

"Control freak?" he asks a little hurt but mostly amused.

"That's what Lena calls you," I tell him and make my way to sit next to him again. He puts his arm around me once more and places a hand on my chin. He slowly moves his face closer to mine, smoldering me with his gaze. My breathing ceases.

"Control freak huh?" he repeats but I don't hear him because his proximity and amazing smell have shut off all my other senses. All I can concentrate on is the strange feeling of desire, something I've never really experienced before. Something Mark is very good at making me feel. "Well I do enjoy being in control when it comes to certain things, so I guess she's not too off on that," he says and his allusion makes me blush furiously.

"Stop making that face," he orders.

"What face?" I ask surprised.

"That face, that pouty face. Whenever you're excited you purse your lips, it looks like you're pouting. You have no idea how deliciously distracting it is." My insides clench at his statement, but I don't have much time to form a response because in seconds his lips are on mine and his tongue is in my mouth. His kiss is much more needy than before, and much less chaste. For a second I'm scared of going into another panic attack, but the kiss is so mesmerizing that I quickly stop worrying about that. I wrap my fingers in his hair and let him completely invade my mouth. The kiss deepens and he groans and I feel my mouth vibrate with his pleasure. Slowly I end up on my back, with him on top of me. I'm beyond excited, but a sense of fear starts spreading though my body. I've never done this with anyone least not willingly. It's terrifying and brings up feelings of shame. Mark breaks the kiss, sensing something is wrong.

"Are you okay?" he asks out of breath and concerned.

"Yeah, I'm fine," I lie. His erection still pressing into me. But surprisingly he moves off of me and lays on his side.

"Jeremy, you need to be honest with me when it comes to these things. Especially because they're a trigger for you. I need to know when you feel comfortable and when you don't. If I can't trust you to tell me that, we won't ever be able to be intimate because I would be too scared to hurt you," he says gently. And I know he knows. He might not know who, or when, or where, but he knows. I feel a sense of relief flood over me. My other secret is no longer a secret. I nod my head to let Mark know I heard.

"You promise to tell me next time?" he asks.

"I promise." He smiles. I scoot closer to him and he holds me tightly. After a while I nod off.

I wake up to the sound of a door closing. I realize it's coming from downstairs.

"Shit," I whisper.

"What?" Mark asks alarmed.

"You're not supposed to be here, you're banned," I say more to myself than to him.

"Banned? Why?" He asks incredulously.

"Long story, basically my sister's a bitch. I'll explain later," I reply panicking. Mark shakes his head in disbelief.

"You have to go," I say and he chuckles at the panic in my voice.

"You sound like a teenage girl," he retorts and I glare at him.

"Is there a back door?" he finally asks. I nod my head. Mark manages to leave unseen as I make my way into the kitchen to find my mom.

"Hey," I say and start helping her unload groceries.

"Oh hi honey, you're home early," she notices.

"Yeah, I didn't feel too well today so I skipped school."

"Oh, are you okay?" she asks concerned.

"Yeah, better now," I reply. All of a sudden the door flies open and my sister comes in, headphones blaring.

"And why are you home so early?" my mom asks.

"What?" my sister passes by, not bothering to turn down her music. She goes upstairs and slams her door. My mom sighs and I wonder what she did to deserve such fuck ups for her children. After we finish putting the food away, I go back to my room and attempt to do some homework. Suddenly my phone vibrates and I smile as I see it's a text from Mark.

*Missing you already. Hope my escape went undetected.*

I quickly write back, *You managed to sneak out of here pretty smoothly Mr. Norton, nobody noticed. Miss you more.* My phone buzzes shortly after and I check it, grinning like a little kid.

*Mr. Norton? Do you have some unfulfilled teacher fantasies I should know about? Because I can make that happen ;)* I blush at his very forward text.

*Quit distracting me with your dirty thoughts, I'm trying to do homework here :)* My phone buzzes almost right away.

*Quit making that pouty face. I'll see you tomorrow morning. Picking you up at 7:30* My insides melt. Can he get any cuter? I want to shake myself as I realize I'm becoming one of those people, those hopelessly in love romantics. Whatever, I don't care, Mark makes me insanely happy and that's all that matters.

The next day passes slowly and I don't see much of Mark except in the morning. During lunch he has to meet with his history group to work on some class project. Lena is sick. I try to look for Tyler to inquire about what the heck is going on between him and Lena, but he's nowhere to be found. Finally the last bell rings and I meet up with the most gorgeous guy in school. He's waiting outside of school, for me. I still can't wrap my head around that fact. I smile at him, feeling shy as always. He puts his phone away and smiles back. We start walking toward his car and I notice a few surprised looks. I'm surprised too, so I don't blame anyone else for feeling that way. I see Chad and my sister just glaring at us. Spencer is not at school, and I wonder just what kind of damage Mark did to him. The thought of angry Mark is scary, so I immediately try to get it out of my head. We head to his house and I'm hoping that he'll finally explain what the heck has been going on concerning his past. At the same time I decide to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all I'm hiding stuff from him as well. Is it really fair of me to except something else from him. But I have so many questions. Past indiscretions, a guy who thinks they're still dating, out of control Mark. I can't make sense of any of it.

Mark is very quiet when we get to his room. He pulls out a history book and starts doing homework at his desk, but I can tell he's just buying himself time. He doesn't want to talk, so I decide to not push, and give him time. I sit on the bed, open my backpack and dig out my English book. I guess it can't hurt to do some homework. After a while I hear a soft knock on the door followed by Joanna peeking in. When she spots Mark doing homework she looks astonished. Then she looks at me and gives me a brilliant toothy smile as she mouths "thank you." I just raise my eyebrows and nod slowly because I have no idea what she's thanking me for.

"I have to go see a colleague of mine, it's pretty important. Do you boys want me to order some food for you before I leave?"

"No that's fine mom, I'll do it if we get hungry," Mark replies.

"Who are you going to see?" He asks and I can hear a note of suspicion in his voice. I think Joanna senses it as well because she runs a hand through her hair, the same nervous tick Mark has. I guess I know where he got it now.

"Just seeing an old friend, I don't think you know him sweetie," she replies nonchalantly. Mark eyes her with even more suspicion but she pretends to not notice and leaves waving a bye to me. God I don't think I'll ever figure this family out. And here I thought I had secrets. I regard Mark carefully and he realizes I'm staring at him. He raises an eyebrow "See something you like?" He asks playfully. I feign a shocked face and he laughs. And I don't want to ruin his mood, but I figure if ever there is a good chance to ask its now, so I take it.

"Why did you move down here?" I ask. He's momentarily taken aback.

"My parents decided it was for the best," he answers and I grow frustrated at his lack of detail.

"Yes, but why?"

"Jeremy," he says in a warning tone and I interrupt him.

"Mark, it's a simple question, with everything that's happened recently don't you think I would feel better if you told me at least that?" I ask pleadingly choosing to play on his emotions. He seems to consider that and finally nods.

"Before I tell you I just want you to know that it's okay if you don't want to talk to me or don't like me after what you hear. I will completely understand." I clutch my book out of surprise, what could Mark possibly have done that would make me not like him? Is there even anything he could do for that to occur, I wonder to myself.

"Tell me you understand," he says in a serious tone.

"Understand what?" I ask confused.

"That you know you have the option of not being friends with me. That I would never hurt you or do anything else if you chose that."

"Of course I know that you would never hurt me," I reply and he looks at me gratefully. Then he starts telling me about his past.

"Back in New York I was really unhappy. I had a lot of friends, went to one of the best private schools, had rich parents who would get me anything I asked for. But inside I was just so depressed, and...rotten. I didn't care about anyone else but me. My wants, my needs, my feelings, or lack of them. My parents were never home so I just did whatever I wanted to, and hurt a lot of people in the process. I had a really hard time coming to terms with the fact that I'm not heterosexual, and I got into a lot of fights because of that. Did a lot of horrible things I regret. My parents had to constantly pay people off to keep me from paying consequences for my actions. I had a lot of careless physical relationships, and didn't consider anyone's feelings or wants beside my own," he says and takes a guarded glance at me. I'm speechless with horror. A lot of physical relationships? I knew Mark was more experienced than me, but somehow I never expected this. The thought of him and Jake was painful enough, but imagining him with many other people. I swallow hard, trying not to look as horrified as I feel. He continues looking down and I can see real shame and hurt radiate off of him. "And unfortunately my awful, selfish behavior lead to someone taking their life." I open my mouth but no words come out, I can't believe what I've just heard. "Someone taking their life" replays over and over in my head. Everything is slowly starting to make sense. His reaction to my cutting. Mark quickly goes on, "My parents decided I should move here with my mom soon after that. They were not only fed up with my behavior, which I don't blame them for in the least, but also very concerned about my physical and metal health. So they picked a small town, thinking it would somehow impact me positively. Honestly I was growing so depressed I was about to go back to doing the same exact thing I did before...but then I met you," he says and I hold my breath.

"Jeremy, say something," he implores after a long moment of silence. There's a million thoughts swirling in my head but for some reason I blurt out

"What about us?" he looks confused.

"You said your relationships were careless, didn't matter. What about us? Me? Do I matter?"

"Of course you matter Jeremy," he says like it's the most obvious thing in the world. "I'm just so concerned because I know how fragile you are, I'm scared I'll hurt you. And that's the last thing I want." I look at him trying to figure out how I feel about all this new information.

"What are you thinking?" he asks gently. He sounds worried.

"I don't know," I answer honestly. He looks down.

"I'll understand if you don't want to see me again," he says. Not see him again? I think about that, and how horrifying the thought alone is. And I realize that Mark can be a serial killer, and it would still not change the way I feel for him. It wouldn't change the fact that him. I finally admit it to myself. What the hell am I going to do. He sits there paralyzed, waiting for my response.

"What happened to that person?" I ask and he knows who I'm talking about right away. He looks down and clenches his jaw. I can see him struggling with many emotions. The subject is still raw for him. I feel bad for asking, but I need to know.

"His name was Luke," he slowly begins. "He was a really nice kid from what I remember, which isn't much," he admits ashamed. I bite my lip, terrified to hear what happens next. "He went to my school. Somehow he came in to my circle of friends, and we ended up spending a few nights together," he says quietly and I'm mortified. "I didn't take it seriously, I was a huge asshole and didn't take anything seriously. Like I said all I cared about was myself, and getting high, and you know..." Can this get any worse, I ask myself. But I don't say anything, because I need to hear the rest of it. "But he took it really seriously. He wanted to be in a relationship. Told me I was his first one, which I didn't even bother to ask. He started coming around all the time, crying, asking why I was ignoring him. And instead of trying to talk to him, like a normal person would, and explain in a nice way, I became even more of an asshole. Instead of feeling bad, I felt annoyed. Annoyed that he was trying to make me have feelings. Annoyed that he was around all the time. Annoyed at the way he looked at me, like I was someone special to him. I would ignore him even more, but sometimes, even worse, I would let him stay when there was no one else. Give him hope. And then ignore him again the next day." He takes a deep breath and I realize how hard it is for him to talk about this. I give him a sympathetic look, but he's in a zone of self deprecation. "One day after I let him stay the night I started ignoring him again. I was high and went to sleep. I remember he was pleading with me about something, just asking me for my attention, but I passed out. He never did drugs, but saw me doing it many times. He must have found the rest, I didn't really bother hiding it. When I woke up he was laying next to me cold and rigid, with blood and vomit pooled around his mouth and clutching a piece of paper. It just said 'I'm sorry Mark,'" he laughs the most sad and heart breaking laugh and for the first time I see Mark's eyes water. "Even as he was trying to kill himself he thought he had to apologize to me. Can you imagine?" I stare in disbelief. No, no I really can't imagine, I answer his question silently. I can't imagine Mark as anyone else besides who I know him as, which is a generous, selfless, loving person. I can't imagine the monster he's describing. He looks at me.

"You probably hate me now, don't you," he asks quietly. His voice raw. I shake my head. I walk over to where he's sitting and lean down, putting my arms around him. He freezes at first, but then hugs me back, clutching me close to him. He pulls me into his lap, and keeps holding me close. I rub his back, trying to soothe him.

"It wasn't your fault you know," I whisper.

"Yeah it was, it was completely my fault," he responds, his voice breaking.

"No it wasn't Mark. You're a good person."

"How can you say that?" he asks astonished. "I might as well have killed him Jeremy."

"You couldn't help the way you felt. It's not your fault. Of course you could have handled it much better, but it's not your fault he killed himself Mark." He shakes his head still not believing me. I hold him close, for the first time feeling like I'm not the one who needs taking care of. When he calms down I take his hand into mine and kiss it, then hold it to my face.

"You know, I barely remember what he looks like anymore," he says and my heart breaks for him. I decide to ask him a question, since he's still in the mood for talking.

"You don't...get high anymore, do you?"

"No, not anymore, not ever," he replies seriously. I nod relieved. He pulls me down further toward him and kisses my neck, holding me tightly. I wrap my arms around him and close my eyes. We're both fucked up, I realize. He breathes out heavily, he's relieved. I wonder if he seriously thought I would stop talking to him because of this. Silly Mark. I hold on to him tightly.

"I don't know what I would do without you," he whispers. And for the first time since we met I understand that Mark needs me just as much as I need him. I don't really know why, or why me, he could have had anyone. But I know that I'm important to him, and the thought makes me happy. But I also grieve, because somewhere out there, there was a boy who loved him possibly as much as I do, and never got to know Mark as I know him. And I spend some time thinking about Luke, and hoping he's in a better, happier place.