After I finished talking with Maggie,
I immediately went to call Mr. Bill at the pub. It was only noon, and a
Sunday, but I knew he would be there. He was fanatical about his pub.
Apparently, Maggie had called him while I was in the hospital to tell
him what had happened, and he
was happy that I was alright. He was disappointed when I told him that
I wouldn't be able to perform at the pub anymore, but he was very nice
about it and told me that when I was older, I was welcome to come back
anytime. He also readily agreed to one final show, and said he would
schedule it for the following Saturday night. After a quick check with
Maggie, she said I should be in good enough health by then (and I would
also be going back to school on the coming Wednesday).
I was a bit depressed about having to give up the job I'd loved so
much, and I didn't really feel like seeing what Ryan and Toby were up
to for the afternoon, so I went up to my new bedroom and decided to
tinker around on the electric piano. It was going to be really
nice to have it there whenever I felt the need to escape for a little
while. With all the big changes that had taken place in my life,
now was one of those times when I just needed to let my mind go off to
that special place for a while.
I played through Elton John's classic "Daniel" and "Little Jeannie,"
which sounded perfect on the electric piano, the way I'd imagined
they had originally been meant to sound -- gentle and wistful, echoing
slightly melancholy state of mind. I then started on one of my favorite
songs from Elton's Blue Moves
album, about a nameless, aging rock star from the fifties and sixties,
who found that he was no longer the same man he was before. It was a
pretty dark song, with a slow, haunting melody and depressing lyrics.
But it was one of my favorites.
"What's that you're playing?" I heard Ryan's voice from behind me,
startling me a bit. I hadn't even noticed that he'd come in.
"It's a song called 'Idol'," I replied, my hands still gently tinkering
away at the keys.
"Is that how you feel right now, Connor? Alone?" he asked, sounding
I looked over my shoulder and saw him standing there with his eyebrows
furrowed, his expression mirroring the concern in his voice.
"No, babe," I answered. "I just like the song."
And I wasn't lying. I didn't feel alone. I may have been depressed
about a couple of things, like the topic of my mother and not being
able to play at the pub anymore, but I was still happy to be where I
was. To be with Ryan. And I was even happier when he reached down from
where he stood behind me and wrapped his arms around me, kissing me
softly on the neck, then resting his chin on my shoulder.
"Are you glad you're here, Connor? Are you sure this is what you want?"
he asked softly.
"I'm sure as long as you're sure," I replied.
"Is there anything on your mind that you'd like to talk about, babe?"
Actually, there was one little thing that had been worrying me a
little, but I wasn't sure how or even if I should bring it up to Ryan.
But I knew that my anxiety wouldn't be eased until I did.
"I guess I'm a little worried that if something happens between us,
like we break up or something, what will happen to me?" I asked quietly.
I felt Ryan sigh into the nape of my neck.
"Neither of us can predict the future, or what will happen between us.
But I know that right now, at this moment, I love you very much. And I
don't see that changing any time soon. But even if something did
happen, I'd still want you to be here. Nothing is going to change that,
at least as far as I'm concerned. I hope you know that, and I hope you
can trust me. I don't want you to worry about that," he said.
"I'm trying," I admitted. "The whole trust thing is kinda hard for me,
I guess. But I'm trying. And I love you, too."
"If anything like this is every bothering you, babe, I want you to talk
to me about it. We'll figure things out together. Okay? I don't want
you hurting if I can do anything about it. And I think talking to each
other is pretty important, so don't keep things like that bottled up."
"Okay," I promised. It would be hard, since I was so used to keeping
everything to myself, but I would try ... for me and for Ryan.
Shortly after our little "lovey-dovey" moment, Maggie sent us to the
mall to pick up some more things that I would need, since there wasn't
much worth salvaging from my old home. And I wouldn't have gone back
there to try to look for anything I might want for all the tea in
friggin' China anyway. We would've asked Toby to go with us, but he was
over at Cody's house ... again. So, Maggie handed me a wad of cash,
saying it was an "advance" on the checks I'd be getting from Social
Security and Social Services, and we were off.
As usual, the mall was quite crowded, but for the first time, it didn't
seem to bother me that much. Ryan decided he wanted to get something to
eat before we did our shopping, so we stopped at the food court and
ordered some Chinese food. After a few bites of the way too oily fried
rice, I handed it over to Ryan, who would eat anything, and went over
to McDonald's to get some McNuggets, fries, and a chocolate shake. A
nice, well-balanced meal.
It was kind of
weird shopping for things like new underwear with Ryan, but it was cute
the way he would pick out a pair of boxers or briefs and tell me how
sexy I'd look in them. I'd never really paid attention to what kind of
underwear I wore before, just buying whichever ones were cheapest, but
I ended up picking out a bunch of different kinds, all of which Ryan
said he'd love to see me in. That was the deciding factor when it came
to picking out underwear for me. I didn't even care if they'd be
comfortable or not. The only one I vetoed was the leopard print
G-string, but he was probably just kidding about that pair ...
at least I think he was.
We also picked up some other things I'd be needing now that I'd be
living with the McCormacks full-time, like deodorant, shampoo, a new
book bag, and some new
school supplies. I'd always had to just get the cheapest stuff before,
so it was a nice feeling to actually be able to pick out things that I
wanted for a change. I also decided that I wanted something new to wear
for my final show at the pub, so I picked out a wild-looking pink and
yellow polka-dot suit and pink dress shirt from one of the more upscale
Ryan thought I was crazy,
but I liked it and thought it would be fun to wear. It was expensive,
but I figured it would be worth it for my last show at the pub, and I
was sure I could wear it again for any future performances I might end
up doing, like the talent show at school next year ... and I was
definitely planning on doing that again. I had to start thinking of
other places I could perform, too, because I still needed to experience
feeling of being on stage in front of a crowd. After all the changes
that had taken place in my life, I needed that safe, familiar feeling
to help keep me at least somewhat balanced. When things became too bad
to handle, it was always the stage that was my temporary sanctuary, and
I had to find away to keep that part of my life alive.
Later that night, after we got home, I decided to sleep alone in my new
bedroom. It wasn't
because I didn't want to sleep with Ryan, and I was sure I would end up
doing that almost every night in the future, but I just wanted to have
one night in "my room." Sure, I'd had my own shitty room in the
trailer, but it wasn't comfortable and never felt like my own space. To
me, it was just a little hole in the wall where my mother stuck me and
occasionally came to give me a beating.
But now I had my own bed, my own furniture, my
own nice clothes hanging in the closet, and even a framed picture of
Ryan, Toby, and me goofing off in the back yard together sitting on my
night stand. Maggie had even managed to salvage the small box of books
and all of my Elton John cassettes from the trailer, which I hadn't
found out about until she suddenly remembered that night when we got
from the mall. When Toby got home from Cody's house, he also brought
with him a beautiful Chinese landscape painting to hang on the wall (a
gift from Tatyana), and a Native American "dreamcatcher," which Cody
had explained would "catch" all of my bad dreams while I was sleeping
if I hung it next to my bed.
Ryan seemed a little upset that I wanted to be alone that night, but I
assured him that nothing was wrong.
And it was the truth. I just needed a little time on my own. Time to
think and process everything that had happened to me over the past
couple of weeks. I was also really glad that Maggie had given me my own
room (although I would probably never admit that to Ryan), because it
allowed me to be independent in a way, and I'd always valued my
independence. I didn't want to become too dependant on him, or anyone.
I didn't understand it completely myself. It was just the way I felt.
So I didn't expect him to understand it either, hence the reason for
keeping those random, complicated thoughts to myself.
As I lay there thinking, I realized that it was a good thing that I
wasn't going back to school until Wednesday. Physically, I felt like I
could probably go back right away, even though I was still in a little
bit of pain (and my "ass cream" treatments hadn't ended yet), but I was
kind of nervous about what people would be saying when I went back. The
story had ended up in the newspaper, and although they hadn't mentioned
the fact that I'd been raped, only beaten severely, I wasn't sure if
people might have found out somehow, and I was still extremely ashamed
of that. With me staying home for a couple more days, Ryan and Toby
able to find out if anyone knew anything, and I'd at least be able
to mentally prepare a little for facing things when I did go back.
Unlike the previous week, I wouldn't have anyone staying home with me,
which would also give me more time to think. And thinking is something
I still had a lot of to do. They weren't necessarily bad thoughts, just
some things I had to figure out, like how to make peace with myself and
deal with starting a new life. But I certainly didn't have any regrets
about moving in with the McCormacks. I loved Ryan, and being able to
see him every day, to hold him every night, would be wonderful. Besides
that, I also had a new "mother" -- although it would be strange to
think of Maggie that way -- and something else that I'd always wanted,
a brother, Toby. And as much as I loved Ryan, I loved Toby, too. They
were both my guardian angels, and I didn't know what I would do without
either of them.
Even with all of these random thoughts floating around in my head, I
still managed to fall into a restful sleep ... although the medication
may have had something to do with that. My last conscious thought
before I drifted into the land of dreams was how much love I felt. I'd
never felt anything so intense before in my life. And it made me feel
safe, warm, and free.