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 7.

Sunday morning I wake up covered in sweat. Fragments of a nightmare run though my mind, but I can't remember anything solid, just bits and pieces. The more I try to remember it the more it slips away. I wish real life nightmares were like that too. Unfortunartely mine is ever present. My nightmare has not been dealt with, because I'm too scared to face it. And the more I try to put it away and leave it behind, the more it sneaks up on me.

Mark's presence has been a huge help. Yes, there have been intervals of darkness, times when the events of my childhood became unbearable. But it hasn't been nearly as hard as it used to be. Mark has been here to soften the pain. He has made it bearable, has even managed to make me not think about it for the most part. But even Mark can't save me from my dreams.

I gently pull the light grey covers off of us, revealing the body cluster underneath. Mark's body heat is almost stifling, but nice at the same time. His strong figure is protectively draped over mine. My soaked t-shirt mixed with the fact that New York mornings are freezing gives me the chills, so I gently pry his arm and leg away from me and noiselessly get out of the large wooden bed. I tip toe my way over to his closet and search for something to wear. The closet is mostly empty, except for some extra blankets and an grey t-shirt with the name of his private school written in block letters on the torso. I put the shirt on and go to use the bathroom. When I come back Mark is awake.

"There you are, I was worried you left," he says with a raspy voice and through sleepy eyes. His hair slightly messed up, making him look ridiculously sexy. He unconsciously adjusts something underneath the covers, and I smile. I like morning Mark.

"No, I had to change out of my shirt," I say as he notices I'm wearing his shirt, which looks about two sizes too large on me. Mark bursts out laughing.

"You look adorable," he finally says.

"Hey, don't laugh at me," I reply walking over to the bed and hitting him with a pillow. He lays back down.

"Come back to bed," he says, and the way his voice drops to a sexy murmur leaves me no room to argue. I get back in bed and he gently pulls me into his arms. There is something unreadable in his eyes, and it worries me.

"Is your hand okay?" I ask picking it up to check.

"It's fine," he says irritated as he pulls it away. I know he's mad at himself about what happened yesterday. I assume it's because he doesn't like being out of control. It probably makes him feel like a small child again.

"Let's look at your hand," he says as he pulls up my hand. He closely examines it, gently brushing his thumb against my flesh until he gets to my wrist where long, old white scars stand out against my flesh. They are not the recent ones that happened after the Luke situation. These are much older, and they almost took my life. I've seen him looking at these before, but he's never asked about them. Mark brings his lips to my wrist and gently kisses it.

"This looks like it hurt," he says carefully studying my face. I remain silent. "When?" he asks simply. I look away, embarrassed.

"Freshman year," I reply trying hard not to remember how depressed I was when it happened. "What were you doing freshman year?" I ask partly out of curiosity and partly to turn the attention away from my self destructive behavior.

"You probably don't want to know," he says, and he's probably right I think to myself. I slowly start running my hand through his dark hair as he closes his eyes.

"Mmm, that feels good," he says. All of a sudden we hear a knock on the door.

"Mr. Norton, breakfast is ready," I hear an older sounding female voice.

"Okay thank you, we'll be down in a minute," he replies nonchalantly.

"You have a maid?" I ask outraged.

"I don't, my father does," Mark replies like it's not a big deal. The car, the house, the parents, the service, all this feels incredibly lonely to me for some reason. Mark has all these extremely great things, yet he seems to be missing the basics, like parental attention and love. My relationship with my parents is far from perfect, yet I still feel more connected to them than Mark is to his, or at least his father. Joanna is great, and I adore her, but she certainly is preoccupied most of the time. I wonder just how lonely Mark was as a child.

Our flight leaves mid afternoon so we both get up and start preparing for breakfest. We quickly get dressed and pack our backpacks. I cannot wait to get the hell out of New York. As much as I despise some aspects of the smaller town I grew up in, it doesn't compare to the nightmare this city has been for me so far. While Mark is shaving in the bathroom I decide to make the bed. I don't care if they have a maid, I'm a guest and it's the polite thing to do. Afterwards I walk into the bathroom, sit on the sink and proceed to watch Mark finish shaving as he excitedly talks about something called "UEFA Euro" which apparently is like the soccer world cup except it's only for European countries, and is starting next week.

"So does this mean I'm going to be forced to watch a bunch of soccer with you?" I ask teasingly.

"Basically," he replies smiling.

"Great, aren't soccer players really attractive?" I ask and Mark gives me a very serious face that makes me laugh.

"Nevermind, you're not allowed to watch on second thought," he says.

"What about you?!" I ask offended.

"Jeremy, I don't watch soccer to get off on hot guys, I actually like the sport," he replies matter of factly.

"Uh ah, sure. Either way, I'm rooting for Russia," I say to Mark's amusement.

"Oh really? And why's that, because I doubt it's for their 'amazing' soccer skills," he says sarcastically.

"Russian accents are attractive," I reply irritating Mark even further. This game is becoming fun. Of course I'm not happy to be annoying Mark, but seeing him jealous about a bunch of guys on tv is kind of adorable. He shakes his head at me.

"First of all you can't root for a different team than me, or we're going to have a problem," he says in a serious tone of voice. I raise my eyebrows at him.

"So who are WE rooting for?" I ask sarcastically emphasizing the word we.

"We, sweetheart, are rooting for England," Mark says with a British accent, as he dries his face with a towel, making my blood race with the word sweetheart, "since my grandparents from dad's side are British. But I have a feeling they won't make it past the Quarter-finals. So we'll probably root for Germany, because they have a great young team."

"I see," I simply reply.

"Alright, let's get this breakfast over with," he says and we make our way downstairs. I know Mark is not looking forward to spending any prolonged period of time with his father, so I'm glad that we only have about an hour before we have to catch our flight back home.

I walk into the kitchen first, and spot Chris sitting at the huge glass table, and next to him there is a skinny black haired woman. They both get up when they see us. The woman is pretty short, has medium perfectly styled black hair, and a cold disposition. Her whole body has an unnatural bronze glow, the result of a fake tan. Right away I notice she is the complete opposite of Joanna. Joanna is womanly looking, all curves and warmth, with a light complexion, and she has a natural feminine charm about her. But something about this lady is unpleasant and frigid. She's wearing a plastic half smile, directed only towards Mark. There is something about her that I immediately dislike. Just like the people at the funeral, she seems superficial. I also realize that even though I don't know Joanna that well I have formed a small bond with her, and so therefore I don't like this woman intruding on her old home. As we get closer she still doesn't look at me. I feel like I'm invisible to her.

"Jeremy, this is Hilary, my girlfriend," Chris says addressing me. I'm pretty stunned but I recover quickly. Did Mark ever mention his dad having a girlfriend, I can't recall.

"Hi Hilary," I say and notice that she's immediately judging me, as she quickly looks me up and down and seems dissatisfied with having to shake my hand. Her nails are perfectly shaped and cut, and she has a light grey manicure. After she gives me a half second limp handshake she quickly turns to Mark with a brilliant smile, still fake. She definitely knows how to make someone feel like they don't belong.

"Mark," she says awkwardly trying for some warmth in her voice, but coming up short. She also tries going in for a hug but Mark quickly and frostily responds saying "Hilary," and passes by her into the dining room. This causes her to make a strange sound, like she's clearing her throat while someone bumps into her so that it comes out like a strangled choked noise. I raise my eyebrows, what a weird woman. We sit at the long wooden table as a personal chef serves us breakfast. My mom would have a stroke if she saw this. When Hilary is not busy giving me dirty looks she tries to communicate with Mark.

"How are you doing at school Mark? It must be quite a change, moving to such a small town." I notice the way she pronounces "small", like it's a dirty word.

"It's great," he replies after a while, not even looking at her. He turns to his father.

"Can I take the car back anytime soon?" His question makes Chris look very uncomfortable. He raises his napkin and dabs his lips, then takes a small sip of water, like he's buying himself time before having to answer.

"Well actually I've been meaning to tell you that Hilary's been using it. I think it should stay with her for now," he finally replies and I immediately know why he was anxious about his answer. I look over at Mark worried, this will make him flip out. Not surprisingly his jaw is clenched.

"She's using my car?" he asks icily? Hilary makes that awkward noise again and I try very hard not to laugh. This situation is turning into a dark comedy.

"Yes," Chris simply replies and takes another sip of the sparkling water. Mark looks like he's about to strangle Hilary, and I really don't want to leave New York in such a rotten atmosphere so I blurt out something to distract from the situation.

"So what do you do Hilary?" She regards me for a second. She makes me feel like piece of old gum stuck to her shoe.

"I'm an interior decorator," she replies irritably, like she's having to deal with an annoying child. I nod pretending to be interested.

"Yeah, she decorated this house," Mark adds with a tone of bitterness,"when all of us were still living here." I digest this information, while Hilary makes her strange noise again, and then it hits me. This is why Mark hates her so much. Now I also understand why I hate the way Mark's room feels dark and cold.

"Mark," his father warns.

"What, it's true," Mark replies. Could this get any more uncomfortable? "Why don't you get her another car? It's not like you can't afford it," he continues. His father puts his fork away and clasps his hands. He seems tense. He runs his hand through his hair, an all too familiar gesture.

"Mark, the Bugatti is staying here, for as long as Hilary wants it," he replies.

"It's MY car," Mark replies sounding like an offended child. I feel bad for him, this car and his dog are obviously the two things he has that he most cares about. Hilary nervously plays with her necklace and makes another grunting sound. I want to tell her to shut up, it's really getting on my nerves.

"No, it was a car given to you on certain conditions. Because those conditions were not met, it is now my car and I will choose to do whatever I want with it. And I choose to give it to Hilary. End of discussion." Chris sounds cold and very lawyer like. This is how Mark grew up. I look at him, and he appears to be beyond furious.

"I can give you a ride to the airport today," Hilary states. Mark turns to look at her like she's the Antichrist.

"Are you fucking kidding?" he asks.

"Mark!" His father admonishes.

"A ride? You want to give me a ride in my own car?" he asks laughing. Hilary makes that annoying sound again and this time Mark snaps. "Will you stop making that fucking noise? My God it's driving me crazy, how can you listen to that all day long?" he asks Chris, who is again running a hand through his hair. I don't know what to do. I'm caught in this strange world that I know nothing about. The only person I can relate to in this situation is the chef, who just like me is looking beyond uncomfortable as he brings out the coffee.

"Mark," I say quietly while looking at him pleadingly. I want this to end. I don't want this to escalate any further, and I certainly don't want another fight like last night. I want things to go back to normal. I want the nice, cool headed guy that I know. He looks at me and I can physically notice him calm down. His jaw unclenches. His fists relax. His eyes lose their menacing stare. He's my Mark again. He takes a deep breath.

"I apologize. That was uncalled for," he says looking at Chris and Hilary for a few seconds. His father turns to me astonished. Apparently I just performed some sort of miracle. After a minute everyone goes back to silently nibbling on their food and the rest of breakfest passes pretty quietly. I think we are all more than greatful when it's over, after Hilary makes about ten more strange throat clearing sounds. I say bye to Chris and Hilary, and Mark leaves without a word.

"Jeremy, I can see that you're a real good influence on him," Chris says to my astonishment as I'm about to leave. In two days Mark's managed to break things, yell at his father and Hilary, and I'm a good influence? In what world? He senses my questions. Just like Mark he's pretty good at reading people, I guess that's where Mark gets it from. "Trust me, this was a good weekend. Nothing like the chaos it used to be around here. I...well I haven't always been the best father, and it's a little late now. My son clearly despises me," he says in a tone of voice that makes my heart really ache for him,"but I'm glad you're around now. He really has calmed down a lot. His mother tells me he's been doing much better. And I attribute a lot of that to you. So thank you. I appreciate that." I slowly nod my head.

"It's never too late," I say without really even knowing why,"he still cares about you. He's just too stubborn to show it," I say. Chris looks at me thoughtfuly and is about to say something but from behind him I hear Hilary's strangled grunt. He closes his mouth and gives me a tight goodbye smile. God, I hate that woman.

On the flight back home I decide to ask Mark more about his father, but this only seems to irritate him.

"What can I tell you, my father is a philanderer Jeremy, he can't keep his dick in his pants for longer than fifteen minutes," he replies. I wonder how Mark can't see the connection between him and his father. He thinks he's the complete opposite of his dad, yet at least in this regard they've been pretty close. They both have an unflattering rampant sexual past.

"Did he leave your mom for Hilary?"

"No, he wasn't man enough to do that. He cheated on my mom with Hilary, and when mom found out she filed for divorce. Honestly I don't know how she can stand the sight of him."

"She doesn't seem to hate him," I comment. He looks at me thoughtfully for a second.

"She's too nice for that. She still loves the asshole. After everything he did," he replies more to himself than to me. I ask him to tell me more about how it was growing up with them.

"They left me alone a lot. They were always very busy with work. They never planned to have kids, I sort of just happened, and he didn't want me. But my mom told him she was going to do it with or without him, so for some reason he stuck around. God knows why, it's not like he ever really tried to be much of a father. Anyways, I had different babysitters, but it was kind of lonely most of the time. I wanted my parents, not strangers. But when they were home, things were even worse, they were always fighting about his infidelities. It was hard for them to hear or notice me a lot of the time. I quickly learned that to be heard in my house I had to yell the loudest...My mother threw herself into work to forget that her husband was cheating on her, my father threw himself into the arms of every gold digger around and cried about how unfair and unreasonable his wife was being. He couldn't accept that the marriage was falling apart because of him. Because he started treating her like an object, he started taking her for granted. So while they were busy hating each other, I was busy destroying my life. I think they only realized how bad things had gotten when Luke passed away and they had to do everything in their power to get me out of paying any possible legal consequences for that. So it took a dead body being carried out of my room for them to wake up and see how messed up their son was. Soon after, my dad hired Hilary to redecorate the house because all anyone could think of when they looked around was Luke's cold body. Death and depression just seemed to fill the entire house. My mom filed for divorce when she realized what was going on between my father and the decorator. And you know the rest of the story," he says. He's not in a good mood, I can tell. He pulls out his iPod and disconnects himself from me and my questions. I sigh and look out the window. New York, it could have gone much better, I think to myself. I'm glad we're going back to the safety of our normal routine. I'm watching the endless clouds. In New York I definitely witnessed a side of Mark that I've never seen before. For the first time since we've known each other his anger was directed towards me, and it was scary. I think back to my mom's words again, I've been replaying them over and over in my head. Has she seen something in Mark that I didn't? His dark side? I know she likes him, but her intuition told her to warn me. His fathers words about how much worse it used to be. I can't imagine how it could have gotten any more out of control. Seeing Mark so angry was really frightening, can I take anymore of that? What if his anger issues get worse, I wonder. I begin to think about how me and Mark are really mismatched in every sense possible. We're different physically, mentally, emotionally, and in a million other ways. When will he wake up and realize that this isn't what he wants and break up with me, leaving my world in pieces and unrepairable. There's many different scenarios of how it will happen in my mind. He'll meet someone more physically desireable, like himself, and realize he can do much better. He'll try to get physical with me and I'll freak out, making him realize how incompatible we are. Maybe he'll just simply grow tired of me. Maybe he'll realize that compared to him I'm pretty much poor. It's going to be one of those, I think.

"You're thinking too much," I hear a whisper in my ear. It makes me shiver. He gently bites, then kisses my earlobe. I smile. Perfect timing, as usual.

"Control yourself, we're in a public space Mr. Norton," I scold him quietly. He smiles at me. Piercing green eyes. I smile back, but my head is still swarmed with thoughts and worries. There's the worry that he's only with me because I remind him of Luke, something I still need to confront him about. There's his anger problem, his controlling ways. There's the situation with Taylor, whom I definitely need to talk to as soon as I can. God, why is all of this so damn complicated? Why can't I be a normal person in a normal relationship?

I get back to a mostly empty house, except for my mom. She's sitting in the kitchen, reading a gardening magazine. Her hair is pulled back in a bun and she's wearing reading glasses. The image takes me back in time.

"Nothing happened, you're exaggerating, she's exaggerating" I hear my father's voice. I'm sitting on the stairwell, hugging my knees. My parents don't know I can hear them. I see my mom. Hair back in a bun, wearing the same glasses, holding a letter.

"Did you read this?" she asks.

"Yes, it's a bunch of crap written by a woman who's got too much time on her hands. June, think clearly. The guy has amazing reviews." My mother throws him a fierce look, something I rarely see her do. She never defies my father.

"I don't care what kind of reviews he has, we're talking about my son here!"

"Your son is fine," he retorts annoyed, "completely fine. He doesn't know what he's talking about. It's not like he even said anything, just nodded his head to your questions, which were very...what do you call it.. where you, you know....leading, they were leading!" She shakes her head.

"What if something happened to him? He's been crying everytime we pick him up. He has bruises on his body," she says, her voice breaking.

"Oh for God's sake he has bruises because he's horsing around in a pool with a bunch of other kids. And he wouldn't be crying all the time if you didn't baby him so much."

"But what about this woman? She says this guy did things to her son! She even went to the police. Why would she make that up? She's asking for help. Jeremy could help."

"June, she's writing letters to everyone because she went to the police, they investigated and found the allegations to be a bunch of crap. Her story is fiction. Nothing happened." My mother sits there. She stares at the letter, and I can see a battle taking place in her mind. She believes this letter, believes every single word. But my father is standing over her. He's her husband, her soulmate, her partner, and he tells her nothing happened. And she wants so very desperately to believe that nothing happened. Everything would be so much easier, if nothing happened. So she slowly nods her head.

"Tomorrow we'll drop him off as usual," says my father.

"No," she replies.

"No what?" he asks confused.

"No, he's not going back. We don't have to believe her, but he's not going back there." She says and for the first time in his life my father knows better than to argue with her.

"Hey honey," my mom says looking up from her magazine and waking me up from my memories,"how long have you been standing there?" I smile but don't reply. I put my backpack down and sit at the table next to her.

"How was the trip?" she asks.

"Good, but sad. The funeral was sad. He was my age," I reply. She nods sympathetically. We make some snacks together and I decide it's time to go talk to Taylor. I can't delay this any longer. I need to know why he hates Mark. I walk over to his house, and for some reason I feel like I'm going behind Mark's back. I don't even want to know what his reaction would be if he were to find out, and I'm too scared to try to imagine it. As I walk up Tylor's driveway crazy thoughts swarm my head. I knock at the door, completely paranoid. Thankfully Taylor's the one to answer. He doesn't look surprised to see me.

"Hey Jeremey," he says smiling.

"Hey, I'm back," I state the obvious. He laughs.

"Yeah, I can see that. Come on in," he says. We walk over to his room.

"Wanna play a round?" he says pointing to the TV where I see a selection of guns. Taylor is a video game fanatic.

"Sure," I reply even thought I'm not a huge fan of video games myself. But I think I'd rather both of us were a little distracted while we have this talk. He starts setting up his character and I watch him. I realize that while I have been busy with my problems I haven't noticed all the changes that took place in Taylor. His normal looking body has now changed into more of a swimmer's physique, long and lean, but muscular. He use to have a mop of brown hair that always looked messed up, but now with a hair cut its short and very much in place. He looks at me with warm blue eyes, blue like the sky. And I am reminded of why I used to have a huge crush on him. This is it. His warmth, his friendliness, his ability to put people at easy with a smile or a simple friendly gesture.

"You need help setting up?" he asks looking at me curiously and smiling.

"No," I mumble turning my head to the TV screen. I pick my guy on the screen, a hooded ninja looking character. I pick my weapons, an Assault Rifle and something called an UZI. I have no idea what either do. We start playing. I want to ask him about Mark, but suddenly I stop myself. I realize I have been very selfish with my friends. I've only cared about my problems lately, but completely ignored theirs. I haven't been much of a good friend, only focusing on my problems and worries. So instead of pestering Taylor about Mark, I decide to go a different route.

"So, I heard you were taking some girl to Aubrey's party," I say. Of course I have heard no such thing, but it seems like a good enough introduction into the topic of girls. Taylor looks at me distracted for a second and I take the opportunity to blow up one of his cargo trucks. He looks back at the screen.

"No, where did you hear that?" he asks a little surprised.

"I dunno, someone mentioned it," I reply casually, "so you don't have a girlfriend?" I ask innocently and he looks at me again, surprised. This time I blow up his weapons shack.

"Damn it," he says turning back to the tv once again. "No, I don't, why?" he asks.

"Just curious," I reply.

"Okay dude, come on, tell me what's up," he says.

"Nothing's up, I was just wondering when you're gonna ask Lena out," smooth Jeremy, very smooth. He stares at me in bewilderment. I quickly kill his character and we hear the tell tale game over music, but Taylor doesn't even blink.

"Wha...why? Does she like me?" he asks. I put away the game control and look at him.

"I don't know, what do you think," I reply. He keeps looking at me confused.

"Do you like her?" I ask.

"Yeah, of course I like her. I just, we've been friends for so long, I don't wanna ruin that. If something doesn't work out between us, it's never going to be the same again," he says and now it's my turn to be surprised. I never thought Taylor was a deep thinker. His insight into what might actually happen is astonishing. And I guess he is right. If things go wrong between them, the three of us might never have the same dynamic again.

"Yeah, but don't let that stop you from trying. If you really like her, then it's worth it," I say. He looks at me curiously and then nods.

"Yeah, yeah you're right. I'm gonna talk to her." I smile. The thought of happy Lena makes me happy.

"Good," I reply. "So, about our phone talk the other night, what were you trying to say about Mark?" I ask trying to not sound as serious as I feel. Do I even want to know what this is about? Taylor takes a deep breath. I've known him for a long time, so I know when he is uncomfortable, and right now he is very uncomfortable.

"Look Jeremy, I don't wanna tell you who you should be friends with. I know you're pretty tight with this guy, and I'm not trying to tell you what to do. But you're one of my best friends so I feel like I have to say it, otherwise I would be a shitty friend. Mark's bad news, okay?"

"What do you mean?" I ask a little confused.

"I mean he's not the person he appears to be. I have some friends in New York that went to the same school as him, and trust me the stories I've heard about this guy. I want him as far away from me and my friends as possible," he says. I feel anger and fear rise within me. Taylor looks at me with worry, and that only irks me further.

"What stories?" I ask trying to maintain a calm voice. He shakes his head.

"He's a royal fuck up, just a shady character. He was involved with this one kid's death," he says very seriously. Mentally I breathe a sigh of relief. This story is something I've already heard. It's not anything worse.

"Well thanks for the concern, I appreciate it, I really do. But I think he's changed now," I reply.

"Jeremy, people like that don't change. He's a bad guy, okay? Just trust me on this one. I know you don't see it right now, but just trust me," he says, "you don't want to be around this kid. Nobody from his school has anything good to say about him okay. I don't want you involved with all of that. You're too nice of a guy and he will take advantage of you. He's already doing it."

"What are you talking about, how is he taking advantage of me?" I ask outraged.

"He orders you around like a puppy, you think I don't see it?" I'm speechless. Taylor's words are really hurtful. I stay silent and Taylor pauses for a moment but then continues, "All the 'Eat this, eat that' and him walking you to class all the time, I don't like it, okay? I get bad vibes from the dude. He's been here how long? A few months, and he's already been in more fights than me and you in our whole lives. C'mon Jer, don't tell me you don't see it." I turn away and look at the floor. It's all so frustrating. I wish everyone could know Mark the way that I do, and then they wouldn't have to question his character. Yes he has fucked up many times, but he's a good person. I struggle with not yelling at Tyler, but decide that he's just trying to be a good friend. I would do the same for him. Still, it doesn't make it any less frustrating. I shake my head.

"I gotta go,"I say. He looks a little upset but nods.


"Let me know how it goes with Lena."

"Will do," he says and smiles sadly. I get up and slowly make my way home, my head swarming with thoughts and feelings. When I get to my driveway I notice Mark's car and wonder what he could possibly be doing over at my house right now. I walk past my mom who simply shrugs her shoulders when I ask why Mark's here. I go upstairs and open the door to my bedroom. Right away I know something's wrong. Mark is angry and agitated. He's leaning on my desk.

"What's wrong?" I ask cautiously, setting my house keys on the table by the door.

"Where were you?" he asks, his voice cold.

"I was at Taylor's. What are you doing here?"

"I came to drop this off, you accidentally put it in my backpack," he says tossing my Ipod on the bed. His face looks like it's made out of stone. His eyes burning with something, anger? "How is Taylor?" he asks, sarcasm dripping from his words. I sigh.

"He's okay," I reply. Mark takes a few steps toward me.

"Why did you go to see him?" he asks.

"To talk about Lena," I reply. It is partly the reason why I went. I don't want to explain to Mark that I was trying to get information on him behind his back. He steps even closer. We're inches away now. He looks upset, but I realize I'm not scared of him. I mean it's scary seeing him like this, but I'm not scared that he'll do anything to me.

"I wish you'd stop talking to him," he says as he puts his hand on my face and caresses it gently. I lean into his touch and he smiles. He knows just how to make me forget rational thinking.

"That's not going to happen," I reply slowly regaining my thought process. I can feel his facial muscles tense. "Mark, he's my friend. I won't stop talking to him unless he gives me a reason to. And you can't be mad at me for that. Now can you please tell me why you dislike him so much?" Mark exhales. He takes a few steps back and sits down on my bed.

"He knows some people from my school. People that don't like me very much. I don't know what they've told him, but I don't want it getting back to you," he says.

"Well what if I do hear something? It's not like you haven't told me everything already, right?" I ask not understanding where his worry is coming from.

"I told you an overview. There's many details that I spared. Shit you don't want to hear about, okay? Stuff that's not important anymore. And I don't want him talking to you about that bullshit, that's all." I walk over and sit next to him.

"There's nothing he could tell me that would change how I feel about you," I tell him gently, finally understanding the whole situation. He smiles at me lightly.

"Jeremy," he says and lays his head on my shoulder.

"What's wrong?" I ask lightly running my hand through his hair.

"Nothing, I'm just crazy about you, and it's very confusing," he replies making my heart skip beats. Even though it's amazing to hear him say that I am waiting for different words, and feel a little bit dissapointed. My silence surprises him. He moves his head and looks at me.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah," I nod, avoiding his eyes.

"What just happened?" he asks.

"Nothing," I reply pretending. He keeps looking at me, and I know he knows. He knows because he always knows what I'm thinking. He swallows and looks away.

"Well, I should get going," he finally says looking down at the floor. I nod silently. He gets up and walks out, leaving my heart raw. I have never felt anything like this for anyone, and to not be able to hear that it's completely reciprocated is agonizing. Maybe I'm expecting too much from him? I lay back on the bed and stare at the ceiling. How do I stop the aching in my chest? All of a sudden I feel so small and alone and isolated. All I want is for him to hold me, soothe me, tell me things are going to be okay, tell me that he feels the same way about me. Why is that so hard to do? I go to sleep feeling like I'm crazy.

When I get inside Mark's car on Monday I notice that he seems pleased about something.

"You seem happy," I state the obvious. He grins.

"Your birthday is coming up," he replies smiling. I inwardly groan, I hate birthdays.

"How do you know?" I ask not remembering ever telling Mark the date.

"I looked it up on Facebook," he replies happy with himself. I shake my head.

"You have it all planned out, don't you?" I ask Mark, well aware of his controlling tendencies. He notices my apprehension right away, as always.

"I do. But it's your birthday so everything is flexible. We can do whatever you want. Just bring shorts. "

"Shorts?" I ask dismayed, not liking the sound of that.

"Yes, shorts," Mark replies smiling to himself. I try not to look as afraid as I feel.

My birthday falls on a Friday, and I decide to sleep in. I'm not sure where my aversion to birthdays stems from, all I know is that I don't like them. Celebrating the day you were born every year is a bizarre concept. Finally when I know I can't go back to sleep I toss and turn in bed for a while. All of a sudden I hear a pounding on the door followed by "Happy Birthday fag." Warm wishes from my sister followed by her trampling down the stairs like a herd of animals. The girl weighs 125 pounds and makes more noise than a gorilla. I guess I should be honored that she even remembers. I slowly will myself to get up and out of bed. I glance at the clock, it's 11:30 and I'm supposed to meet Mark at 1:00. He wanted to give me some time to celebrate with my family, not that I really need it since my family is well aware of the fact that I hate birthdays. I take a long shower and go into my closet. I remember Mark saying something about shorts. I'm not really a shorts kind of person so it takes a lot of deep digging in the closet to finally fish out a pair of tan capris. I pull them on and grab a white t-shirt to go with them. I put on tennis shoes and wonder if there's anything else that I should have with me. Downstairs my mom brings out an elaborate birthday breakfast and a small chocolate raspberry cake with my name on it.

"Thanks mom, you shouldn't have," I tell her while giving her a hug.

"You're welcome sweetheart," she replies. My sister is already gone and my dad had an early meeting, which I'm thankful for. My mom making this fuss over me is enough. She asks me about my plans for the day and seems a little concerned when I tell her everything is in Marks hands.

"Well what do you want to do? It's your birthday?" She asks.

"Just spend time with him I guess," I reply blushing. She blushes too. This is awkward.

"He just seems a bit, well.... He just seems to have a lot of influence on you. And before you get defensive and tell me this isn't any of my business," she says noticing my agitation, " I just want you to know that you're very strong, and you're your own person, and I don't ever want you to feel pressured by anyone else or that you have to listen to someone when it doesn't feel right." Then she sighs relieved, like she finally got this off her chest. I'm a bit stunned. My mom is the closest person to me in my family, but she doesn't usually offer such personal advice. I realize that she does have a very good point. Mark certainly has a lot of influence over me. And maybe I do need to stop being so helpless and take things into my own hands from time to time.

Mark shows up in front of my house right at one. He's actually waiting outside of his car, his head turned in direction away from the house. I take a long look at him before approaching. He looks amazing as always, but I feel like he put more care into his appearance this day, and that thought makes me melt. I feel underdressed compare to him. He's wearing long dark jeans, and a long sleeve blue collar shirt, with the sleeves rolled up. A large watch that has way too many functions on it to be considered practical. His hair is every bit in place. Finally he turns and notices me. He gives me a beautiful full face smile and says happy birthday.

"Thank you," I reply bashful. "You look really nice," I add. He smiles. I want to throw myself at him and kiss him but I hear a nosy neighbor from next door clearing her throat, so I keep my distance. I don't want Mark to feel uncomfortable.

"Ready for a little road trip?" He asks. I sigh and nod my head as Mark chuckles. As we're driving Mark takes a hold of my hand and squeezes it every now and then smiling at me. The gesture is sweet and reassuring. I appreciate that he doesn't let go even when my hand becomes clammy from apprehension about whatever the heck I'm freakin out about.

"We're almost there," he says after about an hour long drive. I realize that we're in a lake resort town. My mind can't stop, what the hell are we doing here? Finally we pull up to a nice looking wooden house that's right by the lake, with a private pier leading right into it. I raise my eyebrows at Mark terrified that he had paid for this. Immediately he realizes what I'm asking.

"It's my mom's good clients vacation house. They only use it in the summer. And my mom has a spare set of keys for whenever she wants to go," he clarifies.

"Cool," I reply in awe of the place.

"So I figured I could teach you how to swim," he says happily and my face falls. I swallow hard.

"What's wrong?" He asks. Words fail me. Images from childhood swarm my head all of a sudden. Not now, not now, not now, I repeat in my head. Mark looks puzzled.

"Jeremy," he says questioningly. I pull myself together.

"I uhhh I don't know if that's a good idea," I manage weakly. I don't want him to be upset with me. He processes this.

"Okay...okay," he says gently. "We don't have to if you don't want to. But if you're just scared of water I swear I'm prepared, I won't let anything happen to you. I've taught all my cousins." I nod swallowing again.

"Let's go check out the house for now," he says. "So what do you want to do? Just name anything and I will make it happen," he says smiling. I smile thinking. I just want to relax, nothing too exciting.

"Let's go see a movie," I say.

"Good idea," he replies. "Do you have anything specific in mind?"

"Horror," I reply grinning. I usually hate horror movies but the idea of seeing one next to Mark is actually appealing. I feel safe with him. And it's a good excuse to grab at his strong arm. Mark seems to like the idea but decides we should get lunch first. We have some delicious Italian food and make our way to the theatre to watch a movie about demon possession. The theatre is of a medium size and there aren't many people inside. We sit to the left, all the way in the back. Even though we jut ate Mark gets a ginormous bag of popcorn. When I question him about it he shrugs and says its not a movie experience without popcorn. I shake my head at his craziness, but dig into the oily treat anyway.

As the lights go down and the movie begins in some dark room I can almost immediately feel tension between us. We glance at each other and I giggle and look away. Mark shakes his head amused. A sexy light smile playing on his lips. All of a sudden something jumps out on the screen and I grab marks arm and mutter "crap." He chuckles at me. I slowly remove my hand, even though I don't want to. For the next 20 minutes we play this game of stolen glances and giggling, at least on my part. Then Mark makes an over exaggerated arm stretch motion with a broad smile on his face and puts his arm on the back of my chair. I shake my head at him laughing. We look at each other and slowly he leans down to kiss me. I give in to the amazing tension between us and kiss him back. It feels beyond breathtaking, in the dark yet in public. Who knew it could be so exciting and overwhelming. We kiss slowly yet passionately. His tongue exploring every part of my mouth. My hand on his face, pulling us closer and closer. I move my hand intending to put it on his leg but I miss a little and realize its planted on his manhood when he sharply inhales in, breaking our kiss. I'm still so amazed that I am able to do this to him. This amazing, gorgeous, handsome guy, is breathing out of control because of me. He looks at me unsure, I can tell he doesn't want to push anything and is leaving the pace of this up to me. I resume our kiss slowly, and start gently touching the bulge in his pants. He breaks the kiss again breathing harder and looking at me, as if to make sure this is what I really want. I smile reassuringly, this is precisely what I want right now. I continue groping him as we make out to the sounds of an exorcism, which makes me laugh into Mark's mouth.

"Sorry," I mumble embarrassed. He looks at me amused. He sits there with both his arms on the back of the chairs next to him. His hair tousled, from me wildly grabbing at it during our kiss. His jeans trying hard to contain what looks to be a pretty big bulge. He has never looked more manly and more beautiful, and I am beyond turned on. I pop the button of his jeans and unzip them. He watches me carefully, for any sign of uncertainty. I put my hand past his black Calvin Kleins and go back to kissing him. He groans in my mouth when I touch him for the very first time. And I gasp because what I'm holding is definitely bigger than anything I could have anticipated. I pull his erection out of his boxers and go back to kissing him. I slowly start to move my hand up and down, the popcorn grease on my hand providing the perfect lubrication. Mark "mmmm's" during our kiss and I speed up a little. He stops, licks his lips unconsciously as he tilts his head back. Then he looks back at me, his eyes hooded and heavy with desire.

"Jeremy," he mumbles. His breathing picks up and I'm amazed at the sight of him looking this sexy and out of control. I continue the movement feeling him hard yet silky beneath my hand. His jaw tenses and I can tell something is about to happen. He opens his mouth slightly, his breathing ragged. He picks up the popcorn bag just in time to orgasm into it with closed eyes. I slowly cease my movement, speechless and ecstatic about what just happened. Mark sits slumped, eyes still closed. Slowly he licks his lips tiredly and opens his eyes to look at me. I'm staring at him like a little boy waiting for approval. Suddenly he moves toward me and kisses me deeply.

"That was amazing," he says and I smile at him. I feel elated that our first sexual encounter went so smoothly. I didn't freak out. I didn't cry. And I actually made him orgasm. I'm doing wheelbarrows in my head. Mark quickly zips himself up and I realize that now I can be fairly certain that every part of him physically is pure perfect. He moves the armrest out of the way and draws me into his arms. We watch the remaining 15 minutes of the movie cuddled up, with him kissing my head every other minute. I feel loved and cherished. And I notice him looking at me strangely, regarding me in a new light. And I wish I was in his head and could know exactly what he's thinking. His face is peaceful and sweet and he looks at me like I'm someone special. It almost makes me want to cry.

"Are you okay?" He asks softly. I nod against his chest and hold him a little tighter. Every moment with Mark feels so special, so amazing.

"Was that good for you?" I ask quietly not looking at him. He places a kiss on my forehead.

"That was amazing, really amazing," he says and I can hear the boyish smile in his voice. I smile too.