Storyville 2
by Julien Gregg
Edited by Bruce

© Copyright 2005 Julien Gregg
All rights reserved.
No part of this story may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.  This story is almost all fiction.  Almost all of the characters depicted in this story exist exclusively in the imagination of the author.  Any resemblance to an actual person, living or dead, is, sometimes purely coincidental. 
  For a list of my other stories, original and fan fiction, please visit my personal website.

Chapter 5
Someone To Talk To

"What has gotten into you today?" Steve gasped, putting his hands up in front of him as if he were trying to ward me off.

We'd been home for nearly an hour, and for the whole hour we'd been trying to have a discussion. I'd brought up the fact that they all watched me too closely. I wasn't singling him out or anything. I talked about how all of them treated me as if I were going to emotionally cave in all over again. When I said that I wished that everyone would back off a little, the discussion quickly turned into an argument. Naturally, our voices began to rise.

"What do you mean?" I replied just as loud as he had been. "Every time I say anything that you could possibly try to find something wrong with, you all do it. Like today in the car . . ."

"Tommy, we care about you," he said with a sigh. "I don't understand why we have to keep telling you this. You would think that you'd feel that we care about you."

"What I feel like is that all of you keep watching for me to make a mistake," I said. "Its like you all keep waiting for me to fall, and you take every little thing I say as a sign that my fall is eminent."

"What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about the way that you tell me that I shouldn't overwork myself when I come home late from work," I retorted. "Then there's the way that Vince and Andy nearly have fits when I'm a few seconds longer on a run than I was the week before, and don't even get me started on their daily reports to Tom and Shirley about if I'm taking care of myself or not. It all has to stop, Steve. I can't live this way."

"Tommy, you're upset . . ."

"You're damned right I'm upset," I spat. "Someone has been writing messages, saying that I'm going to Hell and that I should be killed on our locker, Steve. Then someone put a bomb in our locker, and when I said something about my friends not making me want to hurt anyone or myself, you all called me on it. Steve, if Jeremy or Nick had said that, no one would have said anything about it. You'd have laughed."

"Tommy, you nearly ran yourself to death . . ."

"That's not fair, Steve," I sighed, sitting down on the couch. "When am I forgiven for not knowing how to handle my grief? When does all of this end? Do I have to go ahead and graduate now and leave for college just so that I don't have my 'friends' constantly riding my back? Let me tell you Steve, that's not what I want, but I'll do it if everyone doesn't leave me the Hell alone!"

"What is going on in here!?" Shirley demanded, coming into the living room. I'd been yelling so loud that I didn't even hear her come into the house. "I can hear you all the way across the yard, Tommy."

"Tommy's just telling me that we're all smothering him, and he's leaving for college to get away from all of us," said Steve. I was stunned to see anger in his eyes, though I don't know why I would have been stunned at the time.

"What?" She looked back and forth between us, and her eyes demanded an explanation.

"I didn't say I was leaving," I replied, glaring at my boyfriend. "I said that if I have to go ahead and graduate now and leave for college to get everyone off my back, I'll do it. I mean it. This has got to stop."

"What has to stop?" Shirley asked, glaring at me.

"Everyone goes out of their way to watch me, and if I do something any of you even think is wrong, I'm called down for it." I said quickly. "These daily reports that you get on me from Vince and Andy, I can't even work out without someone telling you exactly how long my workout was and how often I do it. If I go running, I almost always see Vince or Andy looking at the clock when I come in the door, and the other day I got a big lecture from both of them because I purposefully stayed out longer than usual. I did it to see what would happen, and I got exactly what I expected. It all ends now, Shirley, or I'm out of here."

They were both quiet for a bit after that speech. Shirley looked at me hard, and Steve just kept shaking his head. They had to understand that this couldn't continue, or I'd go out of my mind. I thought for a second that they were both just surprised that I caught them at their game, although if that were the case it would mean that they'd thought I was pretty stupid until I called them on it. That thought didn't sit well with me, either. I was starting to feel like I didn't really know any of them at all. Including Steve.

"First of all," said Shirley finally breaking the silence, "you aren't going to graduate until the end of the year. We agreed on this, Tommy."

"No," I said, shaking my head. "I decided this. You and Tom were just trying to find a way to talk me out of graduating at the end of last year. Steve was trying to find the right thing to say to make me do what he wanted. Its just another way that all of you tried to manipulate and control me."

"Manipulate and control you?" Steve barked with a harsh laugh. "Boyfriend, you are one paranoid guy. Maybe you need to talk to Dr. Franklin about this."

That was all I could take. I couldn't believe that he would throw my doctor in my face. I'd been seeing Dr. Franklin at the behest of the doctor that had taken care of me after my initial physical reaction to my mother's death. Dr. Franklin had told me more and more that he believed that I was on the road to not needing to see him for any reason. For Steve to say that was just too much.

"Fuck you, Steve," I said, and I got up and walked out of the room.

I could hear Steve and Shirley talking, but I didn't pay any attention to what they were saying. As far as I was concerned I was finished listening to either of them. I was done with it all for at least the next few hours. If either of them came to look for me, they wouldn't be happy with me once they found me. I knew they probably weren't exactly be thrilled with me either, but I hoped that both of them had the sense to leave me alone for a while.

I walked around the house, up the stairs and back down again, but I couldn't stop screaming inside my head over what had happened. The bomb hadn't hurt me or Steve. Our friends were all still completely sound and without injury. That was a wondrous thing. Why then, did my boyfriend have to try and rip my heart out? It made no sense at all to me. I had to get away from the house. I had to get away from Steve before I could calm down.

Without telling Steve where I was going, I walked out of the house and got into my car. Shirley was standing in the front yard, talking to Sharon of all people as I backed out of the driveway. She called out to me, but I was having no part of it. I drove down the street without looking back. I wasn't exactly happy with her, either.

I drove straight to the cemetery without even a second thought to where I was going. The grass in the cemetery needed to be cut, but there were flowers placed at almost every grave. No grave was decorated more than my mother's, however. Steve, Vince and I kept fresh flowers on her grave. I'd added an angel statue to watch over her when I'd first come out of my self induced insanity.

I sat on the little bench that Vince had built and placed next to the grave. I didn't say anything for a while. I just sat there, thinking about everything that had been going on lately. Someone had put a bomb in my locker. I don't think the real implications of that fact hit me until that moment. It was strange to know that someone really wanted me dead.

It wasn't the first time that I'd experienced someone wanting to kill me, but Jason Cox had been an immature brute. This person was far more dangerous. I hated to acknowledge that fact, but it was true. If someone could get into the school and plant two bombs in locked lockers, that meant that they were going to a lot of trouble to hurt us. The idea of that alone was frightening, but the whole idea about someone unknown wanting to kill me was even worse.

Then there was the way that my friends and family were treating me. I didn't know what to do about that. Running off alone probably wasn't the best idea I'd had that day, and I know it made them worry even more. I just didn't know what to do to make them understand that they were smothering me. All of them were doing it, but Steve and Nick were the worst of the bunch.

Nick and I were friends again, but that friendship, at least on my side, was tenuous. It wasn't like I was looking for something to hold against him, but this was too much already. I understood that I'd made them worry about me before, but I hadn't done a single thing to make anyone worry since then. When was I going to be given the benefit of the doubt?

Finally, in a quiet voice, I started to talk to my mother. I told her all about what had happened, leaving nothing out. I'd never kept secrets from my mother after coming out to her, and I wasn't going to start keeping them just because she was gone. I told her how I felt about everything that happened, and that was how I realized that I was more confused than angry or frightened.

Steve was what had me confused the most. I didn't understand how he could say that to me about my doctor. He'd made it sound like I was mentally unbalanced and had to talk to my doctor about anything that went on in my life. I'd been angry at Steve before, but this time I felt genuinely hurt by what he'd said to me. I didn't know what I wanted to say to him when I got home. I hate to admit it, but I was angry with him for hurting me.

After telling my mother all of this, I felt only slightly better for having gotten it all off my chest. I told her I loved her, and then I headed back to my car. I sat there for a few minutes, trying very hard to convince myself that I was ready to go home and confront Steve. Truth is, I suck at convincing myself of anything, so I knew that I wasn't headed home when I started the car.

I didn't know exactly where I was going, and I must say that I was shocked to find myself sitting in the parking lot of Dustin and Charlie's apartment building. I could see Phillip's car there, and I wondered how I would justify barging in on them. It wasn't as if I'd never been to the apartment, but it suddenly dawned on me that I'd never once been over there without Steve. That thought just made me angry all over again, so I got out of the car and walked into the building.

"Tommy," said Charlie as I walked inside the building. "What's up?"

"Hey," I said, trying hard to smile and at least make my face appear happy. "I was out for a drive, and I thought I'd stop by."

"Come on upstairs," he said, sorting through a stack of mail. "We're just hanging out. I'm sure the boys would be happy to see you."

"How's the lawn care?" I asked as I followed him up the stairs to the apartment.

"Lucrative, believe it or not," he chuckled. "We're ready to start hiring more people and buying more equipment."

"That's great," I replied, trying to sound as enthusiastic as he did. "I love what you guys did with my lawn."

Dustin and Charlie had completely landscaped the lawn around my house. They planted flowers and bushes around the front porch, and Phillip had gotten a tree stump out of the back yard for me. They came every week to cut the grass and take care of the flowers and bushes, and they really did do a great job. They'd also built a deck from my back door all the way around the pool. I was thinking about having them tear out the cement walk in front, and replacing it with cobblestones.

"Hey boys," said Meg as she came in the door behind us. "Tommy, its good to see you."

"Its good to see you, too, Meg," I replied, smiling. "How are you adjusting to life in Storyville?"

"Oh, quite nicely," she laughed. "I came to make sure that these heathens are eating tonight."

"Now you know that we eat, Meg," laughed Charlie. "You need a new excuse. Where are Jason and Carl?"

"Carl went to look for an apartment, and he took Jason with him," she said. "Jason's pretty shaken up about the bombing at the school today."

"We all are," I breathed.

"Where's Steve?" Meg asked, throwing me for a second.

"He was at home when I saw him last," I replied after a second. "He's probably either out looking for me, or calling the cavalry by now."

"Fighting?" Charlie asked as we all three walked up the stairs to the apartment.

"Something like that," I sighed.

"Well, now isn't the time for you and Steve to be fighting," said Meg. "I understand that you're both probably a little tense after this morning, but fighting isn't going to help."

"I know," I agreed. "I didn't exactly want to fight with him, but he said something to me that I didn't agree with."

We reached the apartment, and Charlie let us in. Phillip and Dustin were sitting on the couch, talking when we came into the living room. They stopped and looked at us. I smiled at them both, and Dustin smiled back. Phillip's eyes were on his mother.

"How's Jason?"

"He's fine," she replied, waiving the subject away. "I sent him apartment hunting with Carl. How are you?"

"I'm fine," he said. "I wasn't even in the building when it happened. I was a little late this morning."

"For the first time in your young life, I'm happy that you were late for school," laughed Meg.

"How are Mark and Rick, Tommy? I didn't see them after all of the confusion," said Phillip.

"They're both fine," I replied. "We all walked to the edge of the main parking lot and sat on the benches while everyone else was running around. We talked to the police, and then we all went home."

"Where's Steve?" Dustin asked.

"Steve is at home," I said. "Or he was when I left. I don't really know."

"Oh," he said, looking at me with knowing eyes. I sometimes hated that Dustin always knew when something was foul between me and Steve.

"Vince is probably over there having a fit now," said Charlie. "He couldn't wait to leave campus when he heard about the explosions."

"Great," I sighed. I knew I'd have to put up with another round of lectures from Vince when I got home. I really wasn't in the mood.

"Tommy, are you all right?" Meg asked, looking at me hard.

"Its just been a very bad day," I answered. "Things got kind of hairy after we got home, and I had to get away from them for a bit."

"Well if you need to talk, you find me," she said.

"Thanks," I replied. I actually liked that idea. Meg reminded me a bit of my mother, and she'd never hopped on the bandwagon when any of the others were riding me about doing too much.

"Hungry? We were about to start supper," said Dustin as he untangled himself from Phillip and stood up.

"I should probably go home and face the music," I replied. "I left them staring at me as I walked away."

"I'll walk out with you, Tommy," said Meg. "Phillip, you call me in the morning. I know there isn't school, but I needed to discuss something with you."

"Sure, Mom," replied Phillip as he got up to join Dustin in the kitchen. "See ya, Tommy."

"Later, Phillip," I said as I followed Meg to the door.

"I wasn't going to say anything about this in front of the boys," she said as soon as the door was closed behind us. "Shirley called me. She's very worried about you."

I didn't know what to say to that. I was sorry for making her worry, but at the same time it made me angry again. I wished they would all cut me some slack. I didn't know what to do to make them understand that smothering me was driving me crazy. Maybe opting to graduate and going on to college was the best idea. If they weren't going to back off, then I'd make them.

"I walked out on them," I sighed. "I'm sorry for that, but they have all got to calm down. I can't breathe without one of them saying I've done too much. Its driving me crazy."

"Why don't you come over to the house with me?" Meg asked. "The boys won't be back for a while, and I'll call Shirley to tell her you're with me. She can call Steve."

"I really should get home," I replied, but she was already shaking her head.

"You need someone to talk to, Tommy," she said. "You need someone who wasn't around when your mother died who can look at things objectively. That person is me. Come on."

The story will continue soon . . . .