If you don't like stories involving gay male characters, this story isn't for you. If you're a minor or if it's illegal for you to read these stories, you are not encouraged to read them and the author takes no responsibility if you do. Also, the story, and all characters in it are FICTIONAL any resemblance to real life or someone you know is a coincidence. The characters and story are the property of the author, and while I don't care if you print chapters out for your own enjoyment, please don't sell or post elsewhere without permission. This includes "borrowing characters" for your own story. If you want to do it, ask first. Any comments, questions, please send to Dluka1983@hotmail.com or post them in the forum at the website here: http://domluka.gayauthors.org/

Chapter three

Thanks to Jim for editing!

Frank dumped another bucket of water over his mom's Subaru and wiped the sweat from his brow before he removed his shirt to use as a rag in his attempt to wash away the dust the storm had left on the vehicle. It was early Sunday morning, and already a lot warmer than it had been the day before. His mom and sister were still sleeping, both worn out from staying up late to tell each other silly ghost stories. Frank had thought it would be a good idea to wash the car after breakfast, but that was before he realized they didn't have either a hose, or an outdoor spigot. He was still trying, though. Trying to keep busy.

He wiped down the car until it shined, and considered taking it into town. He had permission. It didn't seem like a bad idea. But, looking across the lake towards the red roof had him wanting to wait a little longer. Another thirty minutes. Maybe Oliver would show up. Frank hoped that he would.

Frank had done a lot of thinking about Oliver the night before. The one conclusion that he'd come to was that Oliver wasn't strange at all. If anyone deserved that description, it seemed to be his family. At least it made sense now, why he didn't have any friends. He wasn't allowed to have any. Part of Frank wanted to mind his own business. Leave the situation alone. Move on to something else. But a bigger part of him wanted to tell Oliver's mom to shove it.

Thirty-two minutes later, after a quick shower and another bagel, Oliver still hadn't shown up and Frank was tired of waiting. Maybe later, he thought, Oliver would find a way to get out. Until then, Frank seemed to once again be on his own. He woke his mom, instead of leaving a note. She was still groggy when she asked him to return by noon, at least to check in, since they currently had no other way of doing it. He took the keys to the Subaru, and as soon as he was behind the wheel, Frank decided that he was definitely happy to be driving again.

He took the roads slowly, enjoying the breeze through the open windows and the shadows the trees cast over the vehicle. He took the puddles from yesterday's storm carefully, not wanting all his work cleaning the car to go to waste. He passed Mr. Dron's house a few miles up from the lake, where the balding man with the white cowboy hat was working on an old jeep. Frank was polite enough to wave, but pretended that he was too busy to stop. The dirt road became narrow for a time after that, and then there was a stretch that didn't seem like a road at all, but two separate paths created by tire tracks through a field of mosquito-infected grass. Frank rolled his eyes, wondering how his mom had ever gotten past all this when looking for a house in the first place. Before they moved here, he'd been certain that the woman was fond of paved roads and Starbucks.

When Frank reached something that looked like a road again he figured that he was moving in the right direction, especially when he came to an old dusty stop sign that he drove right through. But, that was partly because the road he was on didn't cross another, and it was hard to imagine who'd thought to put it there in the first place.

He moved the Subaru up a steep hill as the lake faded in his rearview mirror, expecting to see paved road and potholes once he reached the bottom. But, it wasn't the street leading into town that caught his attention once he started down the hill.

Someone was in the road. From behind, he had dark hair, a gray t-shirt, and an almost slinky-like walk, relaxed and confident. When he turned and held out his thumb to hail Frank's vehicle, Frank hit the brakes so hard that the tires protested against the soggy gravel beneath, and he quickly rolled down the passenger window as he came alongside the guy on the side of the road.

"Oliver?" Frank asked incredulously.

Oliver leaned over the open window, smirking slyly in a way that caused a slow smile to grow across Frank's mouth. That is, until Oliver said something that Frank found rather unusual. "Oliver ain't here."

Frank raised an eyebrow, and then smiled like he would had he been told a funny joke. "Okay, then. You can be Bonnie and I'll be Clyde. Now get in here."

"Okay, Clyde," Oliver responded as he opened the door and dropped himself into the passenger seat. "But you ain't calling me Bonnie unless you want a punch in the mouth. I'll go with David, thanks."

The smile faded from Frank's face, and as he stared as the other boy relaxed and put a dirty foot up on the dashboard, he felt himself color. "David?" he repeated. "Oh... hey, man. Sorry about that... uh... your brother... well, Oliver's mentioned you, he just never said..." Frank trailed off, blinking hard. The resemblance was uncanny. Twins. He'd met twins before. Even identical twins, but never two that looked completely identical. There was always something. Some small difference... Perhaps David's hair was combed a little neater, and there was definitely a difference in his mannerisms... his facial expressions. There was something rougher about David. Noticeably.

"Well, he's mentioned you a couple times, too. Frank. So where're we headed?"

Frank had to take a moment to collect his thoughts as he shook his head at himself. "I guess I was going into town."


"To look around, I guess."

"I suppose it's as good a reason as any," David replied, and then turned his head to look at Frank. "So what're you waiting for? You know how to drive this thing, don't you?"

Frank found himself frowning at the impatient tone, but shifted into drive and turned onto the main road. It definitely wasn't Oliver sitting next to him.

The drive was silent for the next five minutes, as Frank stole quick glances at his new companion, feeling somewhat uncomfortable. He was normally an outgoing individual when it came to strangers, but there was something about David Martin that was just plain unapproachable.

"So where's Oliver?" Frank finally asked.

David glanced at Frank sidelong. "Miss him, do you?"

There was something a little too teasing about the remark for it to be considered friendly. Frank frowned. "I was just asking because your mom didn't seem too happy when I brought him home yesterday."

David released a tight, humorless laugh. "Don't worry about Oliver. Everyone loves Oliver." He sounded almost bitter.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Forget it. Turn left up here. I'll show you a shortcut."

Frank turned his attention back to the road again. There was a place to turn off up ahead, but it sure didn't look like a road to Frank. What it looked like was a narrow alley that turned off into the woods, and he didn't like the idea of turning onto a road when he couldn't see where it went. But, not wanting to appear as uneasy as he felt, Frank followed the instruction.

"Oliver says you guys don't go into town," Frank said. "Is it true, or did he mean just him?"

"We don't do a lot of things. But I do a lot of things no one else needs to know I do," David said cryptically.

Frank just shook his head, and did some more thinking, deciding that it was possible that David didn't want to say too much about his family. There was obviously something wrong there. From what Frank had gathered the day before, David got into trouble a lot, and for some reason, when that happened, Oliver was told to go to his room. Frank didn't think asking David what he'd done would get him any answers he was looking for, so he tried a different approach.

"You know... I spent quite a bit of time with your brother yesterday... and it's none of my business, but..."

"But you're gonna butt in, anyway?" David remarked. "Alright then, go on ahead."

Frank sighed. "Look, I just think it's messed up, the way your parents treat him," he said. "He's actually a pretty cool guy, and it's not right he doesn't have any friends just because he's... different."

David must have found something amusing about what Frank was saying, because he laughed. "Different?"

"He's not like anyone I've ever met before," Frank said honestly, recalling the way that Oliver smiled so easily. He looked at David challengingly. "I happen to like him."

To Frank's surprise, David's expression turned serious, and he gave Frank a nod. "Good. So you're not gonna listen when my parents tell you to stay away from him?"

"Probably not," Frank admitted. "I told him we'd look for frogs together."

David laughed at that, too. "Okay, Frank." And when David grinned a familiar crooked smile, Frank was finally able to relax.

"So can I ask you something?" Frank asked.

"Go ahead."

"What the hell do people do around here besides look for frogs and get rained on?"

"In town?"


"Wouldn't really know," David replied, and then answered one of Frank's earlier questions. "My parents hardly ever let us go there."

"Then what were you doing when I found you?"

"Trying to get away from my parents," David said, smirking.

"And if you never go to town, where are we going now?" Frank asked suspiciously as he watched the twisting road again.

"Just because I'm not supposed to go don't mean I don't know how to get there."

David was obviously telling the truth, because a few minutes later, the Subaru was driving right into a wide, dirt parking lot behind a small building, and as Frank realized what kind of building it was, something Oliver had said came back to him. No, Frank. I'm not supposed to go. Not ever. We used to go for church, but not no more. Frank supposed that if David knew how to get to town, it made sense that he'd know how to get to the one place where they had once been allowed to go. Frank found himself frowning again as he looked over at David, who was staring at the building with a certain amount of loathing. Obviously, whatever memories he had here weren't exactly happy ones... or maybe he simply resented that he was now forbidden from being this close to it.

"What's with your parents?" Frank asked again, suddenly unable to keep the sympathy from his voice. "Why don't they let you guys come out here? Oliver said not even for school... it seems..."

David sat back in his seat and crossed his arms, but not before pointing past the church. "I think you can get out that way," he told Frank. "You should try it."

Frank was disappointed with the subject change, but decided not to push as he kept driving. He was curious about the town, too. He wasn't sure what he was hoping to find. He knew the population was practically non-existent, but anything, he thought, had to be better than a murky lake and a bunch of trees. He was setting himself up for disappointment.

Not sure of where he was going, and with no further direction from David, Frank toured a few neighborhoods where houses looked small, but in better shape than the ones near the lake. The trailer park he passed was crowded, but there he began to notice a few people were out. Some waved, and some looked on curiously as he passed. He nearly missed the school because it was so small, but there was a sign in the yard that said, "Have a happy summer." When he passed the two working cattle ranches and a slaughterhouse, David explained that most people in town who didn't collect social security worked there, including his own parents. His dad sold cattle and pigs, and his mom did accounting for the slaughterhouse.

Even the docks were empty. Frank hadn't seen many boats on the water in the last week, so it wasn't that strange, but he couldn't help thinking that this was as close as he'd ever been to a ghost town--until he reached the shops. There was one strip on the main street where people could purchase clothing at the same place they bought their groceries. The veterinarian's clinic was larger than the hospital. There was a fire truck parked in front of a residential home, and next door the sheriff's office was closed with a sign requesting volunteers. But, there were people out, some dropping their letters through the front door of the post office, and even more around the three restaurants. One sold pizzas and had free deliveries, one claimed to have the world's best chili burger, and the other sold fifteen flavors of ice cream. Glancing over at David, Frank could see that he was as unimpressed as Frank.

"You wanna get out and look around?" Frank asked. When David didn't respond, Frank glanced in his direction to see that he was still staring out the window, focused on a group of kids walking down something that could pass for a sidewalk. "Do you know them?"

"No," David said as Frank pulled over on the side of the road to park, as everyone else had done.

"Oh... so you wanna go say hi or something?"

David looked at Frank as if he'd lost his mind, and then shook his head. "Why would I want to do that?"

"I don't know," Frank replied. "'Cause that's how you meet new friends?"

"I don't need to meet them," David replied in a reasonable tone. "I already met you."

Frank stared after David as he left the vehicle, feeling bemused. For a moment there, he'd sounded like Oliver. But, Frank doubted that Oliver would send the two boys and three girls coming their way such a dismissing look. David was practically staring them down. He definitely wasn't out to make new friends. As for Frank, he felt compelled to do some damage control as he left the car and exchanged smiles with a few of the locals before he started down the sidewalk to catch up to David. "Hey, David... you won't get in trouble for coming here with me, will you?" Frank asked.

"If you cared, you would've asked before we came," David pointed out. Frank frowned at himself more than he did the comment. Mostly because it was true.

"Look, I don't want you to get in trouble," Frank insisted. "It's just... this rule thing your parents have going on seems kinda fucked up. And yesterday, with your mom...."

"She can be a bitch, can't she?" David remarked.

Frank paused, startled by his choice of words. Not in a million years would he ever think to say something like that about his own mother. "Well, she was... I mean... she acted like she didn't want Oliver to have any friends. It seemed weird, that's all."

"Makes perfect sense, though. He's her baby. The perfect son. Never complains and always does what he's told." David didn't sound resentful or bitter this time. Just like a guy stating the facts.

"Is that why you do your best to get him in trouble?" Frank remarked.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Yesterday, Oliver said he left because you told him to, then when I brought him home, your mom was trying to lock him up for something you did."

David laughed at that. "I'm always in trouble. Can't open my mouth without it happening. But that's none of your business, Frank. So how do you like your new house?"

Frank glanced sidelong at David, wanting to redirect the questioning to his dysfunctional family, but thought better of it. "There're a lot of cats," he replied, "and Oliver thinks a witch used to live there, but the walls are still standing, so that's something."

"She was a witch," David replied, seeming to reminisce. "A dead one now." He seemed pleased about that last thing, and it struck Frank as cold. "She drowned, you know. Right out there in front of your house."

That was a detail that Frank could have gone without knowing, and his expression must have said so, because David laughed at that, too. "Believe in ghosts, Frank?"

"No," Frank said shortly.

"Just kidding. She drowned, but it wasn't that close to your place. They say she was crazy enough to take her boat out in the middle of the storm. She was too heavy for it, got stuck like a pig and drowned."

"And you think this is a good thing?" Frank wanted to know.

David just shrugged. Frank was not comforted. "Hey, um... you know, I can't stay that long," he said. It was half true. His mom wanted him to check in at noon. He just didn't care to mention to his current company that he could leave again after that. But then, he didn't have to.

"Whatever. I don't have to go back with you. You don't even have to wait around with me now," David replied, and then flashed Frank a pointed look that said he knew exactly what Frank was thinking. "If you wanna go, then go."

It didn't take much to make Frank feel guilty. David only looked half dejected. But, Frank told himself, he couldn't really help wanting to flee David Martin. There was something about him that Frank simply didn't want to get to know--like, the fact that the kid just wasn't nice. It was difficult to see how Oliver and David had shared the same genes, let alone the same womb. But then again, maybe Oliver was part of the reason why David was the way he was. From what Frank understood, David lived in Oliver's shadow at home, instead of the other way around, and while he couldn't imagine how it felt to be banned from social contact outside of his family because he had a sibling who was different, he could guess that it would make anyone a little crazy. Frank pitied David, and that played a part in the way he passed up the opportunity to get out of there.

"I don't have to go yet. I wanna look around for a while."

David just nodded, but over the next half hour, his mood seemed to improve as they explored the small strip and discovered a few more buildings behind what was visible from the road. Frank was ecstatic to discover that one of those buildings was a movie theater. It only played one film a week, but going was a pastime he'd thought would be non-existent for a long time to come. When David said that he couldn't remember if he'd ever even been in a theater before, it only added to his enthusiasm, and he even said that they should come back sometime before he began to describe scenes from some of his favorites. David laughed a few times, and even added to the detailed descriptions whenever Frank mentioned a movie David's parents had rented. And for a while, Frank felt like he was back in Nebraska with his friends, talking about nothing like it was the most important thing in the world. He didn't feel like that when he was with Oliver. Not that he didn't like Oliver's company. With Oliver, everything felt new. Unfamiliar, but pleasant. With David... well, Frank would be the first to admit things with David were a little creepy at first, but as David relaxed, he reminded Frank a lot of his friends back home... or, what they'd be like if they were society-phobic.

As they explored, it became even more obvious that David didn't venture into town much when hardly anyone looked at him with recognition, and in such a small town, someone should have. Those who might have made a point to move to the other side of the street. Oliver had mentioned that the people who'd met him didn't like him, and at first, Frank wondered if people were mistaking David for Oliver. After all, he had. But, the reluctance of the townspeople to greet David could have also had a lot to do with David. Maybe he'd warmed up to Frank, but he certainly didn't seem to find anything he liked about anyone else. He'd walk straight down the middle of a sidewalk, running anyone in his path off; he narrowed his eyes at a group of girls and he'd spit a little too close to an older man's shoe as they passed him by. Frank was embarrassed by some of this behavior. Or, maybe all of it. He wanted to meet people, not scare them away. It didn't seem possible around David Martin. But still, Frank stayed with him because he didn't see David's bad behavior as that of a bully's. He saw it as something closer to a defense.

About thirty minutes before Frank was supposed to be at home checking in, he started to wish that they had a phone hooked up. That way, he could just call. It had only become even more humid as the day wore on, and he wasn't fond of the idea of getting back in a hot car where the air conditioner wouldn't kick on until he was practically home. What he preferred, was to sit in the cool shop that sold ice cream until he was properly cooled down. At least he could still take ice cream to go, which is what he intended to do when he walked into the store. David wouldn't come inside with him. In fact, he downright refused and left Frank wondering if he'd even still be there when he came back out.

Frank decided not to worry about it. He was too distracted to, anyway. The store was crowded, and waiting in line, he finally had the chance to talk to a few people. One woman his mother's age already knew who he was, and asked if his family would be coming to their barbeque this weekend. It was the first time Frank had heard of the get-together, and assumed that his mom had been invited. He also assumed that since she hadn't mentioned it, she didn't like this woman for one reason or another and they wouldn't be going. So, he left his response vague, hinting that they might be busy next weekend. He did take the woman's phone number, though, when her daughter, who was a year younger than he was, said she'd be happy to introduce him around. Someone else said they expected to see him in church on Sunday, which was also news to Frank, since the last time he'd set foot in a church was for his aunt's wedding. When he was five.

As he reached the counter, a man in his late twenties with a thick mustache was smiling at him, holding his hand out over the counter to shake Frank's, as if they were old friends. "It's nice to meet you," he said. "How's your mom? Any trouble settling in at the new place?"

"Uh... she's fine. And no," Frank replied.

"That's good to hear," the man said. "And you just tell her that if she's still interested in that job, she can come see me."

Frank raised an eyebrow at that. "Job?"

"Yeah, turns out I've got some work for her."

"Oh. That's nice... Jeff," Frank read off the man's colorful name tag. "But, she's already got one... she's gonna teach at the school."

Jeff looked as confused as Frank felt. "Well, as I understood it, she was looking for a little something extra."

Frank wanted to frown, but forced himself to smile instead. There were people watching. "Um... I'll let her know, then. Thanks."

"Alright then," Jeff said, looking satisfied, and then he took Frank's order, while Frank did his best to look like wasn't bothered by the fact his mom had been in the same store, looking for a job he wasn't aware she needed.

When he had his ice cream, Frank felt like he had to excuse himself from a few older people, and he felt relief once he was back outside in the humidity, but disappointed when David appeared to be gone. Frank was holding more than one ice-cream cone, and no longer knew what to do with the second. He started by licking the melting substance from his knuckles on the way back to his car. It wasn't that far, and he no longer had time to look for David. He'd promised his mom he'd come back, and there was no way that Frank was going to lose his driving privileges again. But as it turned out, when Frank reached his car he discovered that he didn't have to look for David at all.

"Hey," Frank called, before he even reached the hood of the Subaru, where David had decided to sit. "I thought you disappeared on me."

David's crooked smile seemed forced. "You've gotta go, don't you?"

"Yeah," Frank replied. "Are you ready?"

David nodded, looking thoughtful. "Don't know if I like it out here too much."

Frank shrugged. "It's not that bad. Here. I got this for you." He presented the least melted cone. But David didn't take it. Instead, he regarded the dessert suspiciously.

"What did you do that for?"

"Thought you'd want one," Frank replied. "You don't have something against ice cream, do you?"


"So do you want it?" Frank asked. "It's kind of melting all over my hand."

"What do you want for it?" David asked. Frank frowned, deciding that was a strange question.


David considered for a moment before taking the cone, and as soon as Frank was clean enough to drive, they headed back to the other side of the lake in silence, Frank stealing curious glances towards his new friend. "Why don't you trust anyone, David?" he finally asked. He wasn't really expecting an answer. It was just a question that he felt should be voiced. But, David's response seemed to come easily.

"I've never had a reason to."

Frank was once again curious, but didn't push the subject as they talked about other things for a while. Conversation seemed strained again, but David did tell Frank about a few of his hobbies. While Oliver liked to catch frogs and insects, David liked to explore. He swore he could find something new every day if he looked hard enough. And he liked to take pictures of the things he found. Frank didn't have to ask David about the picture he took of him. David openly explained that he'd seen Frank riding his bike. It was when Frank had stopped to stare back at a squirrel that seemed to find him interesting. When Frank asked David why he hadn't said hello, David told him plain and simple that he hadn't felt like it.

Frank wasn't expecting David to ask him to let him out of the car in the exact same place that Frank had met him. He practically refused to let Frank drive him all the way home, and while Frank didn't like it, he dropped David off on the side of the road and had to settle for a noncommittal response when Frank asked David if he wanted to hang out again sometime; with Oliver, too. By the time he was on his way home all by himself, he couldn't figure out which of the brothers confused him more.


"I think something's wrong in that house," Frank said. He sat across from his mom at the kitchen table, forcing down the late lunch she'd put together for him. He hadn't bothered to tell her that he'd spoiled his appetite with ice cream.

"Like what?" Jessica Seaberg asked.

"I don't know," Frank replied. "They're all just kind of weird, that's all."

"Well, it is a little strange that Oliver didn't mention he and his brother were twins," she said.

"I don't think he thought to."

Jessica sighed. "So, you didn't meet anyone new in town today?" she asked. "It's nice that the Martins are close by, but it wouldn't hurt you to meet a few other people who aren't so..."

"Don't call them weird, mom."

Jessica laughed. "Like you just did?"

"I didn't mean it like that," Frank insisted, feeling guilty. Oliver would have taken offense, and even without him there, Frank felt oddly protective of his feelings. "I think it's their parents. I mean, they don't even let them go into town, and when I took Oliver home yesterday..." Frank paused, not sure if he wanted his mom to know he'd been told to stay away.

"What?" she asked expectantly.

"His mom wasn't very nice, that's all."

"She was probably worried. Parents get like that, you know," Jessica replied playfully. "And I promise, it's not just to inconvenience our offspring. That's just an added bonus." Frank smiled slightly, but it faded quickly. Jessica noticed and reached out to place her hand over his. "Frank, I'm sure everything's fine. It just sounds like Oliver's mom has her hands full, that's all. You shouldn't be letting it bother you. You should be out there meeting more friends. Did that go well today? Did you meet anyone new?"

"You mean other than David?"

"Yeah. You were gone for a while."

Frank considered his mother for a moment as he sipped his glass of milk. "Now that you mention it, I did talk to a few people. If I didn't know any better, I'd think we're expected to go to church, Mom."

Jessica laughed. "With all those old women and their clubs? No thank you."

"I'm not sure the people around here are gonna like that. They might think something's wrong with us."

"If you have to leave your own home just to pray you've got issues," Jessica stated. "If there's something wrong with someone, it's certainly not us."

Frank grinned at his mom's imitation of his grandmother. She'd passed away a few years before, but he'd always liked her. Like his own mother, Frank's grandmother had been raised in a home where organized religion had no appeal. He had no objections to being raised the same way. But, how the people around here would react to it really wasn't his concern at the moment.

"Mom?" Frank asked as he watched her spread some of the preserves he'd found in the shed onto a piece of toast.


"I went to get ice cream today."


"Yeah. The guy working there--Jeff--he said I should let you know he has a job for you if you want it."

There was something akin to disappointment in Frank's tone, which is what had Jessica putting down the butter knife to face her son. "Well, that's great," she replied.


"Yeah," she said. Jessica wasn't a fan of lying to her children. Perhaps there were times she left out a few details when she didn't think they needed to know them, but she didn't lie. She wouldn't start now. "There are a lot of repairs around here that need taking care of. It'll be easier to hire someone, so I thought I should find a job so I can do that."

"You're a teacher, Mom."

"Not for a few more months I'm not, and in the meantime...well, I do like ice cream. You didn't happen to see if they had butter pecan, did you?"

Sometimes Jessica's optimism worked Frank's nerves.

"You shouldn't have to take that job," he said sternly. She did her best not to laugh.

"And why not? If Jeff's willing to hire me for a while, we should all be grateful."


"Frank, we've talked about this. You knew things would be different when we got here, and I don't want you to worry about it, but we need the money."

"Then I'll get a job," he stated. "You need to be here with Rudy, anyway."

"Not all moms stay home with their kids all summer, Frank. You can watch Rudy when I'm gone."

"You're not one of those moms."

"Well I am now," she responded, her voice turning firm before it softened. "Frank... you're not your dad."

"I know that," he snapped. "But..."

"You don't get to pay for his mistakes. If you want a job, fine, but anything you make is yours, got it?"


"In another year, you'll have plenty of time to be an adult." She smiled, reaching for his hand. "You're already growing up too fast as it is. Give me another year to just be your mom, okay? And, we really will be okay out here. I promise. Stop worrying, or you're grounded, got it?"

Frank let out a breath, staring at his mom for a long while as he tried to figure out if her threat was valid. Knowing her, it was. It's not like she hadn't grounded him for stupider reasons in the past.

"I love you, Mom."

Jessica smiled. "I knew there was a reason why you kept me around."


David leaned against the rough bark of a tree, the lake practically at his feet, and stared ahead at the shadow his house cast in the sunset. The lights were on, the windows glowing. Shadows moved inside. His family was in the living room, likely wondering where he was. It was most definitely too late to keep them from knowing he was gone at all, but he really didn't care. For a while today, he'd felt free. The feeling was a rarity for him. But he'd gotten away, if only for a little while. He'd had ice cream. Frank. David liked Frank. He wasn't sure if he trusted him enough just yet, but Frank definitely had potential.

David pushed himself off the tree, and looked down towards his feet, where the frog was still lying on its belly. He'd intended to bring it back for Oliver, since he never got the chance to go looking for frogs with Frank today. But, that wasn't going to work out now. Oliver wouldn't want this frog. In fact, David thought that it would be best if Oliver didn't even see it.

David knelt down to lift the amphibian's corpse, which he cradled in his hands for several moments. He was disappointed that it hadn't made it home alive. It was a big one. Oliver might have liked it more than that stupid chicken. Not anymore. David dropped the body into the lake, watching until only a long leg was visible on the surface.

After another twenty minutes of watching, it was dark enough. There was still movement behind the lights glowing from the living room. He felt he was safe when he found his bedroom window still unlocked, and he climbed through it silently. It was dark inside. Seemed like nothing was in front of him when he shoved the curtains out of his face. That's why he gasped when his hand touched flesh. An arm. Hands grabbed him by the shoulders as the light flicked on, blinding him, and the way his body was suddenly lifted and pulled through the small space he became disoriented. But, not so much that he couldn't hear his mother's voice.

"Be careful, Brian!" she scolded from behind her husband, whose grip on David was much too tight for David's liking.

David met his father's eyes and tried to shove him off. "Let go!" he demanded.

The little push was all it took for Brian Martin's eyes to narrow on his son, and David was soon greeted with an openhanded, but stinging strike to the face. "I warned you, ya little bastard!" Mr. Martin bellowed.

David clung to his cheek as the sting faded from it, faced his father as his mother screamed, and then narrowed his eyes as he spat in the old man's face. David knew it would only make things worse, but he did find it momentarily satisfying, the shock on his father's face. It only lasted for an instant before strong fingers were gripping his hair, dragging him from the room. David struggled, but not so much that it would allow his hair to rip from his scalp. He planned to get even for this, and he didn't plan to be bald for it. Down the stairs he went, his dad dragging him and his mother following him. He cursed the whole way.

"Get your hands off me you fucked-up son of a bitch!"

"Brian, please don't hurt him!" his mother shouted. But David didn't care. He didn't see the point. She only pretended to care if he got hurt. If she cared, she'd stop it.

"Shut up, you whore!" David screamed back at her, and spit in her direction. For that, his dad shoved him up against the wall as they reached the bottom of the basement stairs. He let go of David long enough to reach for the key to the locked door. That was when David panicked. Not the dark. He hated the dark. "No!" he screamed, his voice growing hoarse with stress, and he made a break for it. He lunged past his mother in an attempt to get to the stairs, nearly knocking her over. Nearly wasn't good enough. Her small body grabbed him from behind and she held on with all her might, pleading with him to stop. "You stop!" he retorted. "Get off me! I ain't goin' in there! No!"

David's screams were lost when his father's much larger, stronger hands took over for his mother. He was pulled back towards the door. It was open now, and David was desperate as he saw darkness nearing. He took a swing at his dad and missed. The man was too big, swinging David around like a rag doll. He was winning much too fast, but it didn't stop David from trying one more time to get away. He used his feet this time. His father hollered when David's right foot connected with a bad knee. Momentarily victorious, David never saw the next blow coming, but he felt it in his face. Hurt so bad he thought the skin on his cheek had split open and exploded, but never had time to cry out as he lost balance and the air was knocked from his lungs upon falling roughly to a cold floor. He looked up, reaching out desperately in time to see his father's shadow slam the thick door, and the light disappeared. Not even a crack from beneath the door remained, and it took a few moments of heavy breathing and gazing around in terror before David remembered that his eyes would never adjust to this. So he closed them. He swallowed against his dry throat, and started to count. Sometimes counting helped. He could count forever, and if he lost his place, he could start over. One...two...three...four...

"David?" it was a whisper, but Oliver's voice. Oliver there with him, in the dark.

David sat up to look around, even though it would do him no good. "Oliver?"

"David... you see, David? I told you you shouldn't make them angry."