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Some chapters of this story contain explicit sexual activity between teen males ranging from 14 to 18. These ages are based on the real ages of the individuals in the events. Many of the events are partially or completely fictitious, though some are true.
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I loved how he said my name, accented and softly spoken. It was almost, "Ahlohcks"
"Time to wake up."
His hand was on my chest, rubbing softly. And his accent was nearly American with the learned phrase and words.
"Ugh," I groaned. "What time is it?"
"Half past-" he began before changing to the more Americanized version of time, "Eleven-thirty."
I felt almost rested. I wasn't sore, I wasn't sweaty, I didn't feel like light could shine right through me. I could even think. Maybe that was why I thought so hard about his accent. That it came and went was obvious, and even sometimes why. I liked his accent, and I wished that he would keep using it, and never become any more Americanized. I loved his looks too. Maybe that was why I opened my eyes.
He was facing me, smiling, but trying to hide it. His red, smiling lips stood out clearly against his pale complexion, his eyes seemed to sparkle, his beautiful red hair was shining. He was gorgeous.
"What?" I asked.
"I'm happy, all. And I'm abou' bein' sure you wake up 'appy. That's all. Just gotta check on something, be right back."
I was going to get out of bed and dress before he came back, but it felt so good to not move and just lay there. I started thinking of the horrors in my life, and all the new holes in it. My life was becoming nothing more than empty, gaping holes stretched across a web of horrors. The Circle was dead, Tom was gone, Jeff was gone, Eric, gone, Todd, too.
David came right back, nearly breathless, still grinning.
"No time. Gotta get ready. Come on."
He pulled me out of the bed and watched, grinning, as I dressed.
"Never seen an American in his underwear before?" I asked, blushing, glad I didn't have an erection.
"Noh one I jus' go'outta same bed wif," he said, grinning wider and with a bit of a blush, and so cutely accented.
I had everything tucked away before it swelled up. I wondered if he was really gay, or if it was just that Brits were so much more casual about nudity, sex, and such things. I began to wonder how to find out as I walked with him to the entertainment room.
The aroma of Spam was in the air as soon as I saw Brent and Ryan's Circle-prank grins.
"What's goin' on?" I asked suspiciously.
"Goin' on? What makes you think anything's goin' on?"
Their grins came and went repeatedly. I feared they thought that David and I had slept together. We had, but not. I didn't know what the twins knew about where David had slept, but their grins told me they did know. Or they were sure they knew. And something else.
"Oh, I don't know... you guys look like you did when a prank was about to unfold during a Circle meeting. Is that enough evidence?" I argued.
They were eating soup and sandwiches off a tray, two more trays on the table.
"Sit down and eat. If you don't eat, and all of it, I'm telling your folks I didn't see you eat all weekend," Ryan said firmly.
It was no empty threat, not judging by his expression. He still smiled somewhat, but he was deadly serious, too.
I complied, finding that I had enough appetite to finish. Brent and Ryan had a head start and were off the couch before David or I were nearly started. They said they had to shower and change, and would be back.
David and I finished in silence. I felt like talking to him seriously, but we both kept glancing at the doors, waiting for the twins to return, and kept the conversation general. And ate. We grinned a lot, too. I wondered how I could smile when I now had no Circle in my life: no Tom, no Jeff, no Eric, no Todd.
I looked around for a joint, but couldn't find one. I tried to remember where my stash was, but remembered only that it got low. It often ended up behind the bar, for safety, out of habit and an agreement with the twins. I checked, but the space was empty.
"Dessert?" I asked when Brent returned, before I noticed that he held David's coat.
"No, no time," Ryan said from near the doors, holding my coat and packs. "We gotta go."
"You gotta go home, and we got something we gotta do," Ryan said convincingly.
Spam filled the air.
When the brothers had something to do, they wore formal or very particular clothing. They were both dressed for everyday. Clean, showered, ready for any typical day. I was sure they were lying.
"So how's David getting home?" I asked innocently.
"How do you think?" Brent asked sarcastically.
After handing me my coat and pack, Ryan said loudly toward the intercom that we were ready. I noticed that he didn't use the button, which reminded me of how I had been heard playing those songs alone.
I was very conflicted, thinking about what I had done the previous night. It felt great that I had made it through playing and singing, but it was also so darkly tinted by why I had, and who had been there. The conversation between Tom and Jeff still played clearly in my head.
We walked downstairs and toward the front doors. In the short limo, I tried to figure out what was up, but I didn't have a single clue to go on, other than the twins' excitement and grins, barely held in check. David grinned, too, but was harder to read, being less familiar.
"Going to tell me if I bug ya enough?" I asked them all, generally.
"Tell ya what? Nothin' to tell," David lied, and poorly.
"Not even if you turned into Kim Streeter and stripped naked," Brent answered.
"Not even if you stripped me naked and had your way with me," Ryan said with a wink.
I choked on air. David only grinned, but I caught sense of something passing between him and Ryan.
It was quiet as the limo stopped at the end of my driveway.
"Sorry we had to cut the day short, but plans are plans," Ryan said, trying to look let down.
He handed me my packs.
I nodded suspiciously.
"I'll see you soon, promise," David said, also trying to look sad, but not succeeding.
"That's okay. Thanks, for, ya know, helping out."
"Alex, it wasn't a problem. Don't ever let shit get to you so much without talking to somebody first. I'll always be glad to listen. Honestly. Okay?"
His grin was ominous, and oh, so cute. I nodded. I climbed out, the door closed behind me. I felt cut off. Removed. Excised.
I watched the short, black limo head down the street. When it turned at the first corner, I wondered where they were going. That street dead-ended at the golf course after a few blocks, and the streets it intersected before then were small side streets leading pretty much nowhere, and it was the wrong way to take David home.
A horrible thought came then.
What if they're going to practice? Without me? Was I so bad that they decided to get rid of me? Would I care if they did? I'd rather go back to being unnoticed, anyway. It's better just being in the shadows, unnoticed, left alone. I'm gonna stay away from Erich, the breakfast table, and the lunch table. And Tom won't be taking me to school in the mornings anymore. Wonder how he's gonna do that? Tell me? Or just not be in the driveway in the morning? Do I care?
The pain at the thought confirmed that I did.
As I turned toward home, I caught sight of Tom's house. I felt a stronger pang of pain and loss.
"Things change," I said softly, sadly. "People, too."
The sun was out, shining brightly on the snow that covered anything not shoveled or plowed during the last couple of days. All the heavy snows of recently were now shoveled and shoved into towering piles. The streets and most sidewalks were clear. I couldn't help but think how my own path ahead was as cold and stark as the concrete against the packed snow.
I walked up my driveway, pack on my back and carrying the overnight pack, feeling as if the entire world were on my back. I found the front door unlocked.
"Alex?" Mom called when I shut the door behind me.
I hadn't slammed the door, but I hadn't sneaked in, either.
"How was your weekend?" she asked, coming out from the hall to the kitchen.
"Really, really exhausting," I said honestly, and with a profound sigh.
"Well, you look like you've been drug behind a car all the way home. You better get a shower and clean clothes on. No sweats. I have someone coming over in a couple of hours, and I want you presentable."
I sighed, rolled my eyes, and headed up the stairs. From the words she had used, I knew that they had someone from her or Dad's workplace coming over. I knew the drill.
I took off my coat and threw my pack and overnight bag onto my bed. I considered a joint, or some lines, but wanted a shower even more. I picked out clothes suitable for adult guests from my parents' workplaces and began the chore of showering. By the time I was dry, in briefs, teeth brushed and hair combed, I felt human again, but so worn out. At least I wasn't panting for breath. I did have to take a deeper breath now and then, but nothing very unusual.
Maybe it will be like it never happened, in time. Maybe. That, anyway. Time will tell. At least I feel like I'm getting some strength back.
I sighed. I finished dressing. I needed a joint. I sat at my desk and rolled one. I smoked it while I told my journal what had happened.
I told it that Erich had returned the favor, and he had asked if I would still do him that favor sometimes even after he got the gloves off, until he got a girlfriend, maybe. I told it that I was going to make sure to keep clear of him from now on, especially at school. I told it about my likely horrible final grades, and the guilt of telling my parents I was studying when I was actually playing with a band. I told it about Trey's return. It already knew anything else I could tell it of him.
Then I told it about Tom and me growing apart, and how much that hurt. About Tom planning on no longer driving me to school. I asked it how Tom would break that news to me, or if he would just not show up tomorrow, and strand me at home. It didn't answer. I told it again about overhearing Jeff and the jocks, and then about hearing him and Tom at the student union. And how much that had hurt, and still did.
Nearing tears again, I told it about how hard it had been to play those songs that meant so much, and how much it had hurt. And that I had hoped that Jeff was still there to hear them. I told it how much I hoped it had hurt him. Or at least mortified him. I told it about how playing Paradise Theater had been ruined by Jeff and Tom being there.
I told it of Eric running away from me at school, and how much that had hurt, and still did. And of Darrel Myers, and how I had turned the tables on him, and how he had come and turned them on me. I wondered if he would become more friendly or not.
And I told it about David. How he had kissed me, too. And had seen me having the nightmare and then had taken me to bed and made me sleep. And how he had made me tell him of the nightmare after I had it again in the bed with him, and how much it had hurt to do, but how great it had felt once I had.
I told it that I was sure I had been left out of practice today, and that I was no longer a part of the band. That maybe I had been used. How that hurt.
I asked it if I was going to lose my mind. It refused to answer, as always, as normal.
With my guts scribbled out upon the pages, I closed the journal. The joint was long gone. I thought of the coke, and felt a pang of need and desire. I was struck by it, noticing how much I suddenly wanted it. That worried me. I knew I was now set on a path of rock and roll, bad grades, and of course, drugs, but I didn't need the rush of the cocaine right then, so I left it for when I would.
I thought of homework, and knew I needed to hit the books. I felt okay about some classes, but others were deeply worrying. I was due to participate in gym again, and shower. I groaned. I wondered how far away from me everyone was going to stay as I walked to the showers. I wondered if anyone would still be willing to talk to me while we all stood in the towel area waiting to be dismissed to dress. Tomorrow was the first day of the new semester, and floor hockey started. I groaned again.
I had less than an hour before my parents' guests arrived. I went downstairs to see if there was anything they wanted me to do. Mom was in the kitchen. I surprised her when I entered, asking, "Anything you want help with?"
"OH! No. Just go upstairs, hon."
She smiled. Not her usual smile, either.
"What about the chores you mentioned yesterday that you wanted me home for?" I asked, wondering.
"Chores? Oh, well, we'll worry about those later."
I could smell what was cooking, cake, but her smile said that it was Spam. I kept my eyes from narrowing.
"I'll call you down when they get here," she added with that suspicious smile.
I smiled, nodded, headed back upstairs.
Something is up, I decided as I entered my room. The twins cooking up something that reeked of Spam, David, too, and now Mom. What's the deal-e-
I stopped the thought dead. I didn't ever want to use Jeff's phrase again. Ever.
I returned to putting puzzle pieces together, but nothing fit. Until the Plymouth's puzzle piece came into view.
The conversation that Jeff and I had overheard between Tom and my parents came back to me. So did the fact that Jeff and I had listened outside the kitchen door, pressed so tightly together that my breath had been rapid. And I remembered touching him, feeling his hardness behind me with my hand. And his whispering breath in my ear. That deep, soul-crushing sense of loss came rushing up out of the darkness at me, to pull me back down there with it. I tried to fight, to think of something happy to buoy me upward, but the weight of Jeff was too much, and nothing could come to mind but him.
I had to wipe at my eyes, despite my best efforts not to.
Damn, you, Jeff, I thought bitterly. You, too, Tom. Fuck you guys. Damn it! I should'a known being gay would be too much to ask them to stay my friends. Well, not like we're not friends anymore. We won't be strangers, I hope. Please.
I rolled another joint and smoked it, trying to only think about the Plymouth.
The Plymouth, I knew. It's too much of a coincidence that Kevin just happened to drive past where it had been parked yesterday, then yesterday mom wanted me home for chores, but now it's company, and the twins and David were serving up Spam, too. Today's the day they give it to me, I bet.
And Tom and Jeff won't be here. Wonder how Mom and Dad will take that?
Well, should probably think how excited and surprised to act. Mom would have her camera, I figured.
I went back to the bathroom and checked my face, combed my hair better. Sighed. I worked on my delivery. I didn't want to blow it and ruin the surprise for my parents by overdoing it, yet I had to sell the surprise. I tried to remember my actions when they had surprised me with the van. I had been led to it, blindfolded, to touch it and guess at what it could be. Then Dad had removed the blindfold, and for a moment I was blinded by the lights and the flash from Mom's camera.
I had stared. Grinned. Gasped. Cried.
Do I have to try to cry? Can I? On demand? I've never tried. I don't think I could. Maybe, if I really think about Jeff and Tom. And Eric. Maybe. Probably not. Maybe I shouldn't cry, anyway. It's not the van. It's the crappy old Plymouth that Mom and Dad had seen me and Tom looking at. We'd just gotten out of it, right after we had...
I thought we were gonna be friends forever. At least until...
Save it. You wanna cry, just think about that. And Jeff. And how they aren't there. Or ever will be again. That'll do it.
I sighed. I finished the joint. I sat at my desk waiting for Mom to call, watching the clock, feeling down and out. I didn't care to feel better. I picked out several roaches that were almost certainly merta and rolled them. I smoked it hastily, watching the clock.
"Down in a couple minutes, got to finish or I'll lose my place," I lied.
Geeze, lie much more to them and you'll really find out what guilt is. If I survive the real breaking up when I let myself think about Tom and Jeff and Eric later. I think I will tonight. Get it over with. See if I go crazy.
I hot-boxed the rest of the merta joint, feeling woozy and so stoned that I wondered if I would forget all about Tom and Jeff and Eric. And the Circle. And Trey. And David, who would be downstairs with the twins, and my parents. And the Plymouth.
I put the roach with the others, took several deep breaths, went into the bathroom and sprayed a little more cologne on myself, then walked to my unsurprising surprise, full of loss. Lost friendships, lost hopes, lost dreams.
My guts were wrenching, I was sweating, I was trembling. I was afraid I was going to give away what I knew. I tried to settle myself. I paused on the second floor. I focused, falling into that meditative state I had learned from the speech therapist to control my stuttering and lisp, and what I had added during the intervening years.
I am not only my breath, my pulse, I am more. My mind is more than organic tissues, blood vessels, neurons. My mind is my self. It is me. I am it. My body is only the incubator. It can be controlled.
My breath slowed, evened out, my pulse slowed, evened out. My thoughts cleared, my emotions steadied.
Buzz is still roaring along, though. Good.
I sighed and took on an air of polite interest. I wondered if it would just be the twins, David, the crappy car, and my parents. No Tom, no Jeff, no doubt.
I turned at the bottom of the stairs, looking for someone. The area was vacant. I walked toward the dining room. Empty. Front room, empty. Mom came out of the kitchen.
"Oh, there you are. I was coming to call for you again. Come on."
She waved me to follow her into the kitchen. Dad was at the table as if it were just another Sunday afternoon and he was just having a cup of coffee.
"Hi, son. How was your weekend?"
He smiled at me most normally.
"Pretty good," I said slowly. "Stayed at Brent and Ryan's. We went to the union both nights."
"Sounds like a good time. Hear any good music?"
"Yeah. Good band both nights. They played my favorite band, too."
I sat down, the buzz making me feel a little paranoid, especially with them not acting anything like I expected. Mom smiled all normal-like. I wondered if I had jumped the gun on the whole Plymouth plan. Maybe it was just a normal Sunday afternoon, with guests coming at some point.
"Where's these guests?" I asked as I sat down at the table.
"Any time now," Mom said, sitting down with her own cup of coffee.
There was a scratching noise at the garage door. Dad turned and glared at it.
"Sounds like some animal got into the garage again. Probably another raccoon."
"Well!" Mom said fearfully. "Go get it!"
"Come on, son, might as well scare it out of there. You get the broom, I'll open the door and hit the garage door button and the lights. Like normal."
Normal, I thought. At least something in my life can be normal.
I got the broom from the closet and readied. We had done this before.
"Ready?" he asked, hand on the doorknob.
He would open the door wide, I would rush the opening, shouting and waving the broom along the floor to scare the critter further into the garage, then Dad would follow me through, hitting the garage door button. I would try to spot the critter, then chase it toward the opening garage door. It had always worked.
He flung open the door.
I shouted, "SHOO!," repeatedly, swishing the broom around ahead of me, and rushed through the doorway.
One time a raccoon had gone under the car, refusing to come out. It had been a bitch to get out from under there, so, I dreaded seeing the car there. But it wasn't.
Its usual space was empty. But across the garage, was an impossibility.
"Shoo! Sh-h-h-h," and I stopped dead in my tracks.
Wow, fucking great buzz! I thought. It looks fucking so real!
I shook my head.
"What's wrong son? See it?"
The raccoon, or the hallucination? I almost asked.
I knew it was an hallucination; it was too clean, too shiny, too perfect. I could see the overhead lights reflected in the paint. The paint on the real one had been so old that it was almost rough, it had no shine, not even when wet. Some places were simply black primer. But not on the vision in my head.
"Uh..." I said hesitantly.
I was suddenly very worried. I knew neurological problems often cropped up with repeated drug usage, and I had been repeatedly using cocaine, speed, and merta-ed pot for weeks. And the daily pain pills. And the profound lack of sleep. And the stress of finals. And Jeff. And Tom. And Eric. And Darrel. And Trey. And the temple injury, too, could have started something that the drugs and all the travails of the past weeks had hastened along.
I also knew that hallucinations were a common manifestation of neurological problems. And insanity.
I knew it was an hallucination, because it was too perfect.
It was what it might have looked like when brand new - almost. The aluminum Jelly Bean rims gleamed in polished perfection. The black paint reflected the overhead lights so cleanly that I could see the fluorescent bulbs in it. The chrome trim along the edges of the doors and windows glinted brightly. Even the tires were glossy with raised white letters, I noticed, like I always thought they should be.
I was scared.
"Dad," I said shakily.
"What is it, son?"
"I, I think I'm sick. Really sick. I think, maybe you should take me to the hospital."
I began shaking.
"What's wrong?" he asked, sounding oddly, stepping into my peripheral vision, looking worried.
I wanted to look at him, but I couldn't. The false image was alluring, drawing my eyes like moths to flame. My body was chilled through, the shivering almost seemingly expected, but the chill shivered down past my body, into me.
"I'm seeing things!" I said loudly, my voice shaking with my fright and worry.
"What?" he asked, taking me by my shoulders.
"I, I see... Dad!"
I was horrified. I didn't want to be insane.
I knew that I was stressed, had been, physically, emotionally, mentally, and I had expected that I might break down over Tom, and Jeff, and Trey, and Eric, and everything else, but I hadn't expected insanity to come so sneakingly.
I felt myself shaking all over. I couldn't hold onto the broom any longer and it fell from my fingers.
"Son, son! Calm down! It's okay!"
He bent down that little bit necessary to be eye to eye with me now, and held my shoulders firmly. He stared into my eyes, breaking my line of sight with the hallucination. His eyes were worried, his brow furrowed.
"It will be fine," he said slowly and firmly, squeezing my shoulders. "Okay?"
"Son, son, listen to me. I want you to walk toward it and touch it."
I nodded, near tears. He made sense. All I had to do was put my hand through it. Just prove it wasn't there, and my mind would snap back into reality, deny the vision.
I swallowed, then took several deep breaths. Dad walked beside me, his hand on my shoulder as I approached it.
I could see the both of us in the smooth, shining paint as we neared it. It was bizarre.
I stopped just short of it.
"Go ahead. See if it's there."
I reached out to it, hesitated, then moved my fingers through the open air. My fingers and the ones reflected back at me in the shiny paint neared each other.
I felt cold smoothness.
I flinched. Eye and hand. I couldn't move, not even to take my hand away from the manifestation of my insanity.
How can I touch something not even there!
I moved my fingers over it. They squeaked.
"Oh my God," I whispered.
I'm totally insane! I can feel a hallucination! I can hear it! Now what do I do? Live in an asylum the rest of my life?
Mom's new Polaroid Instamatic camera.
Why is she taking pictures of me going insane? Stop it! Don't you know what's going on?
Dad reached out toward the handle of the sliding door. He actually grasped it. He actually moved it. It actually made a sound as he moved it. The door slid open, making an almost familiar sound, but smoother, less grinding and rumble. Like the van should have sounded.
I'm not sure if it was that I had forgotten to breathe for so long, or if it was what I saw inside the van, or who it was, but my vision dimmed and narrowed until all I saw was the floor of the garage coming up at me.
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The Circle parts I and 2 are now available as EPUB/Kindle/PDF at my website here.
The Circle 3 will be available around January 2014.
Ask for it at your local bookstore in 2014 or find it online.
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Click here to show up on my visitor map
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