Nick trotted off without a word to do as I told him, and that small bit of responsibility for his welfare somehow helped to straighten things out in my head. I walked forward a few steps, feeling and hearing the glass crackle and pop underneath my every step. My biggest fear being that one of those...things might still be lurking just outside the door, out in the darkness somewhere. Waiting to pinpoint my location from the sounds I was making by moving at all so it could lash out at me. Or even worse...that one of them might even be in the house somewhere. And yet, I continued to move through the wreckage anyway. Slowly at first, and then with a feeling of frustrated despair. The more I absorbed the amount of chaos around me, the more I realized that I had absolutely 'NO' fucking way to explain this...to ANYBODY! I thought, briefly, about going outside to see what the damage was on the outside of the house, but even with the windows broken and the locks busted, I didn't dare open that door. Not an inch.
"This is fucked up!" Nick said from behind, now wearing a pair of shoes. I looked back at him to make sure he wasn't standing around anything dangerous. Not to mention that hearing him curse was a rarity, and it just sounded so comically unnatural coming from him, especially with such a tiny boyish voice. I craned my neck to look around the corner to see the kitchen, which was pretty much in the same shape as the living room. Whatever had happened here, it seemed like it was over. At least for now. So I walked into the kitchen and grabbed a broom and dustpan. "Were those monsters?" Nick asked, still shadowing me by just a few steps.
"Sigh...Nick, be CAREFUL in here, alright?"
"I've got shoes on."
"Just...don't touch anything. Ok?" I told him.
"I'm not." Then there was silence for all of a few seconds. But when I started to sweep up the glass on the kitchen tile, Nick said, "I wanna help."
"I've got it."
"I wanna help. Let me do something..." He said grabbing one end of the broom while I was still holding on to it. Arrrgh! This was REALLY not the time for him to be a brat.
"Ok! Alright! Go in the living room and pick up the big pieces. Here..." I said, handing him a trash bag and a pair of oven mitts. "...Put those on, and try not to cut yourself."
"Ok!" He practically skipped off into the living room to...'help'. And it was almost as if he had forgotten how terrified he was just a few moments ago. Whatever. If it keeps him out of my hair while I think, then all the better.
It took about an hour to finally get enough room to move around without stepping on any debris. I had swept up the entire kitchen and was working on the living room, closing the curtains and constantly listening out for any random noises that might be heading our way from outside. We closed the bedroom doors, hoping that the growing number of frantically flying bugs and critters would sorta stay confined to the living room. With the lights on the main road leading up to the cabin out, most of the insects were drawn right into our house to buzz around our dim lamps and light bulbs, happy to have an open invitation through our broken windows. I thought turning the porchlight on might help to keep them occuppied outside, but it didn't. If anything it just attracted more bugs from an even longer distance to pour into the cabin and zip around my head at top speed.
As we checked the floor to make sure that it was clean enough, we opened the bathroom door to let Prince out. He had been scratching away at the door for over ten minutes and was starting to bark and whine to see what was going on. It was just something else to make the job of cleaning up even more annoying. Especially with Nick asking me every ten seconds if it was 'okay to let him out now'. Then, just as I was closing up the garbage bag full of broken glass, we heard the car pull up in the front of the cabin. "MOM'S HERE!" Nick shouted, racing to the door. I stood perfectly still, not knowing what to expect once she walked in and saw the windows busted in. But whatever her reaction...I was sure that my father's would be much much worse.
Nick opened the door and ran outside to wrap his arms around her as soon as she stepped out of the front seat. I slowly moved to stand in the doorway on the front porch as Nick babbled away endlessly about monsters and noises and demons trying to get into the house. Then I watched as her smile faded, and her eyes widened. She suddenly realized that Nick wasn't just chattering about nothing...the cabin had been vandalized. "Oh my word..." She said, giving Nick a squeeze and moving quickly up the front steps and past me into the house. A short muffled gasp left her lips as she examined more of the damage. "What did you boys do...?" She said softly, closing her eyes and nearly whimpering from the helplessness of trying to fix this.
"We didn't do it, Mom! The monsters did it! They were BIG, and they were pounding on the doors, and they were on the ROOF too..." Nick said. But me, I stood silent. What could I possibly say to her? Just looking at her face was a punishment for me, and even though none of this was my fault, I couldn't help but be ashamed for allowing this to happen.
"Where is your father?" She said quietly, still trying to keep her calm.
"He....he went down for coffee at Father Mackenzie's cabin." I mumbled softly.
"Sigh...does he know about this?" Nick and I both shook our heads, and she looked down at us, thinking.
"When your father gets home, let me talk to him first. And then we'll sit down and..." She started, but it was too late. We heard footsteps hurrying up to the front door, and my dad rushed in to see if everyone was ok.
"What in the world happened here???" He said, finding all three of us standing in the living room, startled to see him. Unable to run. "What's going on?" At the moment, he was in a panic, his mind attempting to assess the situation. But he was inside now, and his family was ok...he could see that. Now that he was asking questions about what happened...that panic was fading. And as he looked deeper into the possibilities, I could see that anger returning to his eyes. "Boys?"
"Dad...there were monsters outside! They trashed the house and threw things at the windows! We heard 'em!" Nick said. But even as Nick began to explain, my father's eyes had already began staring at me again. Already penetrating straight through me. Already accusing me. Knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that this mess had to be my fault, all he had to figure out was how.
"Is this a game?" He asked angrily, speaking directly to me. "Is that was this is?"
"No...Dad, Wesley didn't do it! It was the monsters!"
"Nick, go to your room."
"Go to your room and shut the door." He said, not taking his eyes off of me. "Don't come out until I tell you." Nick looked up at me, then back at Dad, and sulked off to go to our room while I stood before him in silence. "Shut the door." Dad reminded him, and I heard it close. My mother didn't have any way to really help me out of this one. She just kept her hands clasped over her mouth, looking at me for the first time with eyes that wondered if I was actually responsible for this. If I could honestly be as bad as Dad thinks I am. I don't think anything else could have hurt me more. The betrayal I felt from even a hint of her suspicion was enough to strangle me.
My father couldn't even speak at first. He walked around the living room, looking at the broken windows. Then seeing the door, with the frame busted, and the chain lock destroyed. Then he said, mostly to himself, "This...this is too much. This isn't even our cabin." He turned to face me, and I stood all alone between the two of them. "This is Father Johnson's cabin, Wesley. And....it's been destroyed."
I was afraid to speak, but more afraid not to. "Dad...I was sitting in the bedroom...Nick was in the living room with the dog...and we heard some noises outside..."
He put his hand up. "Boy...you know, you must really think I'm an idiot. Don't you?"
I stopped for a moment, but didn't try to defend myself. This was the truth. The complete and total truth. There is no way in HELL that he can possibly think that I was even capable of this level of destruction. There's just no way! So I continued. "I came in to see what was going on, and some....thing was throwing dirt and rocks at the house. Then, we heard noises coming from all over the place. Nick and I had to hide once they started breaking the windows and pounding on the doors."
I couldn't tell if my father was being calm, or if he was so furious that he couldn't find the words to speak. He glared at me so hard that I began to feel a sweat break out on my forehead. He folded his arms, and turned his back to me, a thumb and two fingers clasped around the bridge of his nose between his closed eyes. There was a silence in the room. A long one. And I couldn't even breathe. Please believe me, Dad. Just this once...believe in me.
"I cannot believe the amount of shame...and disgrace...that you have brought to this family in the last few weeks alone." He said.
"Dad, I didn't..."
"NO!" He shouted abruptly, turning to point that same incriminating finger in my face. "Please don't. Don't say a single word. Because I'm trying...Lord help me, I'm trying to keep from doing something rash at this point." He said, and turned his back on me again, whispering a soft prayer to himself before he was able to continue. "This...is simply inexcusable, Wesley. Simply inexcuseable."
"I had nothing to do with this...ok?" I said, maintaining the most quietly apologetic voice that I could manage. I didn't want to fight, I didn't even want to run. I just...I wanted him to see the truth. But it looks like all he's able to see is the disappointed vision of his least wanted child. Emotion caused my voice to tremble slightly, and my eyes watered ever so slightly while I fought to choke them back. "Dad....please? You have to believe me. I would never do this. Ok? I would NEVER do this." He didn't speak, but his anger burned red hot. I could almost feel it radiating off of his shoulders. "Dad? Please look at me."
"Henry...Wesley has never done anything like this. It had to be someone else." Finally, my Mom took a gentle stand in my corner.
My father remained quiet for a moment or two, then turned to look at me again. He stepped closer, with a stern approach that made it look like he was holding back from punching my lights out. He took a deep breath, and he said, "Tell me again...about these 'kids' that you ran off with last night."
"What?" I replied.
"The 'kids'. You said some 'kids' took you in their truck, and carried you far away from camp. So tell me about them." His eyes stared through me, as if he were waiting for me to lie.
"I don't...I don't really know them...all that well." I said, taking a small step back away from him. But he followed, getting even closer.
"You don't know them all that well? What does that mean?"
"Are they friends of yours? Are they acquaintances? Did you meet them here? Do you know them from back home? What's the deal? Who are these kids?"
"They're...they're just some...'kids'...I dunno..." I stuttered, but his look got even angrier.
"Really? That's funny, because they seem to know you pretty damn well. At least that's what Brother Chris told Father Mackenzie the other day. They came looking for you during choir...didn't they?" He said, now almost grinding his teeth. "Didn't they?" I was caught, and slowly nodded my head, the tears now beginning to drip down my cheek. "So you lied to me. Am I right, or am I wrong?"
"I didn't lie, Dad...I just..."
"You told me you didn't know them. But they knew your name, they knew where to find you..." He said, waiting for me to say something, and then shrugged his shoulders. "...You knew them well enough to climb on the back of a truck with them for a day. Didn't you? You knew them well enough to be entertained all day without returning to camp." Then he added, "I hear there was a 'disturbance' in the middle of town yesterday afternoon. A bunch of kids on the back of a truck, acting like a pack of wild savages. Loud music and screaming? Profanity? Reckless driving? That doesn't necessarily sound like a coincidence to me. You HAD to know 'something' about them, you spent the entire day with them. Right?" I nodded again, my chest fluttering and my stomach twisting itself into a knot. "Doing what?" He asked. I thought about the trouble we caused, about the diner, about the sex...and I couldn't speak. I couldn't say a single word that wouldn't turn my whole life into an instant tragedy. "What were you doing all day with them, Wesley?" He asked again, stepping even closer. I felt more tears slide down my face, and sniffled a little bit. "Fine. Don't answer. But I'm pretty sure that you knew those kids well enough to cause a lot of commotion and offend some very decent people in town. Didn't you?" I nodded again, more sniffles. "So...what you told me before, what you just stood here and told me a few seconds ago...was indeed a lie. Correct?"
I looked over at my mom, who was concerned, but mirrored a slight bit of that unforgivable accusation. Not wanting to help me. Seeing me as her angel who had now suddenly fallen from grace. I lowered my eyes to the ground, and whimpered sadly, "I didn't do this."
"No? So your 'friends' did this, am I right? Same kids. You put yourself in league with these awful kids, spent the whole day with them, and then you direct them back here to vandalize our friend's vacation home. A respected minister at our own church. You put yourself in danger, you put Nick in danger...as far as I'm concerned, you might as well have thrown the first brick."
"No, just stop. Alright. Don't insult me any more than you already have with your excuses. It's just one lie after another with you, and I'm sick of it. I'm done. I'm through playing this game." He said throwing his hands up, and then he turned to me and paused for a moment...before saying, "When we get back home next week, I'm getting the paperwork together, putting you on the list, and we're shipping you off to St. John's Military Academy For Boys. End of story."
"WHAT???" I cried.
My mother closed her eyes and sulked her shoulders, but there was really nothing else that she could say in my defense at this point. My father had just found the perfect reason to finally get rid of me. "It's for your own good, Wesley. I'm sorry. But it'll make you a better person in the long run. St. John's is the perfect place to help troubled teens..."
"I am NOT a troubled teen! What are you doing to me???" I said, feeling my pulse race with the threat of basically being thrown out of the house. "MOM???"
"Honey...maybe...maybe your father has a point. We're trying to help you, sweetheart."
"I don't NEED help! I didn't do anything! You can't even prove that I had anything to do with this!"
"It's not a bad place, Wesley." My father said, ignoring my protests completely. "I checked it out thoroughly, and there are good people there that can help you get back on track. Through education, daily prayer, and behavior modification, they can..."
"Behavior modification??? What are you talking about? I'm not out of control! I'm fine!" I shouted, feeling my heart pump faster, harder. My breathing increased, and suddenly, my whole body heated up even worse than before. My fever was returning fast, and as a sweat broke out on my forehead, I felt the muscles in my arms and legs begin to ache as I backed away from my parents. "Dad....Dad, you can't do this! I'm sorry I lied, ok? But I SWEAR to you that none of this was my fault!"
"It won't be for long, son. After a year, if we see some improvment in your behavior, we will work on bringing you home. You have my word. But for right now...you need St. John's help. You need more guidance than what I'm able to give you." My throat seemed to tighten up, and my mouth went dry in an instant. I was trembling. And suddenly, my senses seemed to elevate themselves above the norm. Getting stronger, more acute. What's going on with me. Not now! God, please...not now! "We don't care what it costs, Wesley, I'm trying my best to do what's right for you. We both are. We have to catch these problems early before you end up making a mistake in your life that you're going to regret. The best way to do that...is to keep you out of harms way, and provide you a Christian moral environment that will inspire more than just mischief and silly pranks."
"But I'm TELLING you that I didn't do this! I didn't mess up this house! Even NICK will tell you that I didn't do it! I didn't lead those kids back to this house! I didn't even add the liquor to the Communion wine to get me here in the first place! Just because you don't believe me, doesn't mean that it's not true!" I pleaded with him, trying my best to ignore my burning fever and the misery in my joints. I could feel the heat of the subtle moonlight slipping through the broken windows of the cabin, and began to subconsciously grind my teeth together. And then...I noticed something. Something that I didn't notice before. My senses picked up on something foreign, and with minimal thought...I was able to zero in on it. It was effortless, and I squinted my eyes slightly as I identified it for what it was. It was at that moment, that all time seemed to stand still.
"Listen to me, Wesley...I know that you think I'm being hard on you, and I realize that you think I'm being unfair...but one day, you're going to look back on this decision, and you're going to thank me for saving you when I had the chance." I could smell it, taste it, sense it in his posture. And as that dark feeling swelled up inside me once again, separating me from everyone else in that cabin, maybe even the world...I took a step or two closer to him with a crooked look. My eyes squinted even tighter, and an angry scowl appeared on my face. "You need this, boy. I mean just look at this place. Look at it. I leave you and your brother alone for less then two hours to have coffee with a friend, and you destroy the house? Running around with your hooligan friends. What kind of example are you setting for Nick with fiascos like this?"
Finally, when I couldn't take anymore, and my fever had dulled into a comfortable feeling of awareness, I said, quite softly, "Liar...."
"Excuse me?" He responded as though he were appalled by the idea that I would have the audacity to say such a thing in his presence.
But there was no doubt about it. Not for me. "You're lying." I could hardly believe it myself. The words seemed to spring forth as a surprise to us all. I turned to my mom, "He's lying. He's lying to both of us."
"Wes, honey...please..." She started, but I KNEW I was right!
"No! He's LYING!" I shouted. "You didn't go to Father Mackenzie's house for coffee. You had brandy. Three glasses of it...warm. You only drank a few sips of coffee to cover up the smell on your breath until you got home." I said, much to his shock. "And you each had a cigar. But he didn't finish his. The smoke...the scent of it is in the fibers of your shirt. Even though you sprayed it and aired it out a bit before coming home." My mother looked over at him, as if to silently ask if this was true. My father wasn't supposed to drink anymore. He had given it up a long time ago. Both the smoking and the drinking, supposedly, for her. For us. Outside of the wine in the church, he said he'd never touch a drop.
"So...you're spying on me now?" He said, trying to maintain his 'superior' status even after being caught red handed.
"It doesn't matter how I know, but I know." I told him. "And you were gonna get away with it, weren't you? You were going to come home, brush your teeth, and get a good night's sleep so you could get me up in the morning and lecture me all over again about what a 'wicked' person I was. Weren't you?"
"What I do is none of your concern! This is about you..."
"No! It isn't! It's about getting punished over and over again for the bad things I've done, right? So what's your punishment for breaking the rules and lying to your family? Huh?"
"Boy...I swear, you are REALLY pushing it!" He said angrily, but it didn't seem to work this time. It didn't intimidate me in the least.
"You're SUCH a hypocrite. I can't believe this." I could feel the fever still warming my blood to a slow boil, but there was more added to it this time. It was like...like I could literally feel Cyrus' embrace taking hold of me. As though I had each and every last one of them standing behind me. The same way they stood behind Cyrus on the front porch, or at the edge of the cliff. I felt their presence all around me, and it was strong. At that moment, I was practically invinceable.
"That's it, go to your room. I've heard enough out of you for tonight." My father said, turning his back on me.
"No." The room stopped moving. The air itself ceased to circulate at that moment. And normally, such an act of defiance would be beyond any thought in my head. But the word slipped out so easily. So freely. And once it was out...I realized that Sebastian was right. He was just a man. And in that shining realization, all of his power over me seemed to evaporate into thin air.
"What did you just say to me?"
"No. No, I'm not going to my room. I'm not going to any damn military academy either. Forget it." I said. And the essence of my newly discovered family seemed to tightly protect me from every angle. I just knew they were somehow there with me, and I longed to be close to them again.
"Wes...?" My mother was floored, and said my name almost in a whimper.
"I'm sorry, Mom. But I'm not gonna 'play this game' with him anymore either." At that, my father stomped forward in just a few steps and grabbed me by the collar of my shirt. He slammed me hard against the wall and held me there.
"You are going to learn to RESPECT me whether you like it or not! Do you hear me?"
"Let GO of me!" I struggled with him a bit when he began to slap me fiercely on the face and on top of my head. Then, with a single thrust of my arms, I pushed him off of me and sent him back against the opposite wall. My arms never felt so strong, my mind never felt so sharp. My muscles began to spasm and twitch all on their own, causing me to quake slightly where I stood. And as my adrenaline began to rise to higher levels, I felt an unexplainable itch run all over the surface of my skin. I felt heavier, more stable, more balanced. And as I looked down at my hands, I saw my fingers begin to curl up and snap into a locked position. Then they released, and my body attempted to calm itself down a bit.
The door to the bedroom opened, and I saw Nick peek his head out, his eyes watery with tears as he looked at his big brother and his father confronting one another so violently. My father just stared at me with eyes that burned with rage. I don't think I had ever seen him this upset. Then again, I've never pushed him this far before. Of course...he's never pushed ME this far before either. And as we locked our eyes on to one another, I felt myself instinctively backing away from him again. Some of it was conscious, some of it subconcious, but I couldn't bear to stand there anymore. Or even be in the house. Every breath I took felt like it was tainted air. My whole demeanor seemed to darken all at once, and a silent 'calling' came to me from out of nowhere. Freeing me from the confines of this 'prison' my father calls a family. I had to go. I needed to go. Out. Away. Somewhere that will allow me to breathe.
"You want me gone?" I asked. "You want me out of this house and no longer a part of this family? Fine, you got what you wanted. I'm out of here." I walked towards the front door of the cabin.
My mother called out to me, "Wesley! Wesley get back here! Where are you going?"
"Out where? It's too late for you to be running around in the dark." She said sternly. "Now come back in here and do what your father tells you, or..."
"Or what, Mom?" I said, opening the door. "Heh, what could he possibly do to me that he hasn't already done?" Then, with one last look, still smelling the traces of brandy on his breath, I smirked and shook my head. "You self righteous son of a bitch. I would rather you had the guts to just come out and tell me you hated me, then to hide it behind the lie that I'm some kind of problem child." I told him. "Well...you win. I'm gone. Enjoy life without me."
And with that....I just....
I don't think it really hit me until I was two or three minutes away from the cabin, shuffling my feet in the dirt of that dark road. I kept looking behind me, expecting my dad to suddenly come charging out of the house any minute, so he could jump into the car and run me over with it. But as I got further and further away, my peeks behind me got less and less frequent, and my shuffle transformed into a proud stride. I left. I mean...I actually LEFT. I stood up to my father, and I told him exactly what I wanted, and...there was nothing he could do about it. Wow. It was a sneaky rush that crept over me, but damn if it didn't feel good. In fact, it felt great. He was FORCED to listen to me. That's like, one of the scariest things I've ever done, and it empowered me like you wouldn't believe. I could feel it in my heart, the flutter of success. Something tells me, things will never be the same after tonight.
I kept strutting down that road, passing Father Mackenzie's house, where he was no doubt sleeping and snoring noisily due to his midnight sip, and further on towards the campgrounds. The night air just smelled better, the stars seemed brighter...I never felt so free before. But as that moonlight fell lightly upon the road and the trees and the grassy field in front of me...I couldn't tune out the feeling that I needed to be somewhere else. Somewhere specific. It was calling to me, and it was so powerful that my steps began to slow down as though I had to fight to pull away from it. My senses worked almost like a compass, turning me in the right direction, and leading me off of the main road. The magnetic pull was finally relaxing its hold on me as I began to obey its guidance. I began to feel better and better as I walked forward down the old hidden paths and muddy forrest hills. I won't lie...it did cross my mind that I'd be dog meat if those animals that attacked the house were anywhere out here in the dark foliage surrounding me. I'd have nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide from them, and no one would even be close enough to hear my cries for help. And yet, even while a nervous jitter ran through me, it didn't really worry me as much as it should have. In fact, I felt almost fearless with every step I took in this chosen direction. It didn't take long to recognize this particular series of shortcuts and jumps, streams and logs. I knew exactly where I was being drawn to. Right back to Rainbow's End.
My pace quickened as I got close. It was a long time in darkness before I was able to see the flickering lights of the beach's bonfire glowing in the pit in front of me. The secluded spot came alive as I got close enough to see the edge of the cliff in the distance, the bump of the music now getting louder. It was like coming home again. My body was finally getting comfortable again. The restlessness, the shortness of breath, that feeling of being 'crowded' or 'trapped', it all melted away instantly. I was almost running at this point, my feet slipping slightly on the steep incline, and when I got to the edge and looked down at the party below...I let out a long audible sigh of relief. Home. Definitely home.
I scanned the beach for a moment or two, just absorbing the intoxicating vibe of the festivities. There were the usual group of kids who seemed to be there every night, and they were surrounded by a bunch of others who somehow got sucked into the town's favorite teenage secret. Letting word of mouth spread slowly, causing the party to swell some nights, and remain mellow on others. God, the air out there felt good. It was like the moonlight alone was giving me goosebumps, and every breeze made the hairs on my arms stand up and sway gently. It made me fel alive. Then...as I continued my visual appreciation of the beach party, I saw them. Sitting together on top of some large rocks by the lake...Cyrus and his whole crew. All of them, in their respective positions around their adored leader. A rush of relief washed over me just from seeing them there. I never thought I'd be happy to catch a glimpse of people so...deliberately wicked. But I was. Extremely so. Then, my mind, maybe even my soul, seemed to 'link up' with the rest of them automatically. My body seemed to lock up with a sudden jolt of energy. Limitless energy. My temperature began to rise back into fever, and the second I felt in tune with them, I saw all of them turn to look up at me at the same time. Every eye focused on me at once. I was surprised that they could even see me up there in the dark at the top of the cliff. But they did, and Cyrus was the first to give me an evil smirk.
I wonder, if I told him what happened tonight, if he'd be proud of me. I can't wait to see what he says.
I hurried down the steep side of the cliff, nearly tripping twice, before finally making it down to the sand. And that's when I ran into Kyla. "Baby! You made it! This place was starting to seem kinda unfamiliar without you wandering around on the sidelines somewhere." She said, with her usual inebriated swagger.
"Yeah, well...I missed one party, and ran out on another. I figured, why not?" I told her.
"Good boy." She grinned.
"Hey, sissy boy!" Someone shouted out from over by the drink table. It was that jackass, Quinn, and some of his idiot friends. Making comments and laughing at me from across the beach. What really got to me was the 'boo hoo'ing they were doing, making fun of me for being reduced to tears the last time that fucker beat me up in front of everybody.
Kyla saw the humiliated frown on my face, "Screw him. Screw all of them."
"Sigh...what is he even doing here again? Why can't he just go be an asshole some place else?"
"Don't worry about those guys. You just hang with me and Jack all night, and we'll make sure he doesn't come anywhere near you." She promised.
"Come on! Let's have ourselves some fun before it's time to go back to camp and it sucks it right out of us again."
"Actually..." I said, holding her hand and pulling her back before letting her 'skip' me over to her friends. "...I don't know if I'll be at camp tomorrow." I was quiet about it, and she gave me a weird lopsided grin.
"What are you talking about? You've gotta go. Don't puss out on me now, we're in the home stretch. There's only a week left, it won't be so bad..."
"No, Kyla...I...I kinda ran out on my father tonight. I'm done." The look on her face went blank when I told her that.
"Are you shitting me, or are you actually serious?" She asked.
"Dead serious. We had this big falling out, he put his hands on me, so I pushed him and walked the fuck out. He was being a jerk anyway."
"Wes...that's...um...kinda crossing the line, don't you think? I mean, he's your dad."
Was she kidding me? "This coming from Lady Booze and Marijuana over here..."
"That's different, Wesley. I sneak out of the house and have a little bit of fun every now and then...but I go HOME afterwards. You're actually talking about running away here. Am I right?" Where was all of this coming from? I thought that Kyla would understand this better than anyone. She had enough of a track record to lead Satan's army, and now she's telling me that I'm being too 'naughty'?
"You know what? Forget it. You don't understand..." I said, and began walking over to where Jack and the others were standing.
But she didn't leave it alone. "Wesley, you've gotta go back."
"You've gotta go back. Listen, just blow off some steam with us for a while, cool your jets a little, and then go back and tell your parents it was all a big mistake. Chalk it up to a moment of extreme teen angst or something." She said.
"I'm NOT going back, Kyla. You don't know what he was gonna do to me. I'm not going back there, fuck him."
"Dude, you're talking crazy." She protested. "What are you gonna do, huh? Live out here in the woods for the rest of your life? Hitch hike to California and become a 14 year old prostitute? I mean, come on...you can't honestly tell me that you've got a credible 'master plan' for the rest of your life all figured out after one argument with your dad."
"It's NOT just one argument! He hates me! Besides, who knows? Maybe I'll find a plan that suits me better than the one I've got now." I said, and with a delicate nudge at my senses, I looked up to see Cyrus still smiling in my direction. Our eyes connected, even from that great distance, and I knew that something had changed. Deep down, I knew I wasn't the same person that I was when I saw him last. I doubt I'd even recognize that person if I saw him on a lonely road leading back to that cabin. And as I saw John Boy whisper something into his ear, his smile grew even more mischevious. And I was pretty sure that he had me. All he had to do was convince me of it.
"Well, Camp Boy...until you come to your senses, which I KNOW you will, why don't you just chill with us for a bit." Kyla grinned, then followed my line of sight over to the others on top of that rock. "You know, you're gonna end up drawing them over here like ants at a picnic if you keep giving them attention like that."
"Huh?" Our eye contact was broken, and I focused on Kyla again.
"I love those weirdos just as much as the next gal, but they don't love me back, and that keeps me and the rest of us at a safe distance from them. You, on the other hand, have captured their eye something fierce. They watch you all the time, you know? Every second that you're here. It's not good. Especially when you go staring back at them."
"I'm not. I'm just..."
"Whatever. Just keep your eyes forward and ignore them, k? You got away from them once, and Dallas doesn't have many fireworks left in case you needed to do it again." She smiled, putting an arm on my shoulder to lead me away from Cyrus' gaze.
"I've got LOTS of fireworks left!" Came a voice from behind us. We turned to see Jack's cousin, Dallas, kicking up a cloud of dust as he hurried down the beach to sit with the group of older teens in front of us. "You need more? That was fun last time!"
"Nah...it's ok. I won't need it this time." I said with a polite smile. Dallas flashed me a grin back, his eyes darting softly towards his feet for a quick second before he made the effort to hide his shyness again. What was it about this boy that seemed so genuine? So incredibly extraordinary? It radiated from him, and you could feel it in your stomach. It wasn't just that he was cute, that I could understand. But this was like some kind of strange inner 'hunger' that latched onto his spirit, as though waiting to devour it whole. To watch Dallas move in front of me was like dangling a fresh meal in front of a starving animal. And I could hardly keep my eyes off of him. What's even worse...is that when my eyes wandered back over to the others on that rock, I noticed them watching Dallas as well. As if his aura was the only thing that could take their minds off of me for a moment, and center them around someone else. I wonder....I wonder if that is how they found me to begin with...
"Wes! Snap out of it! Come on, quit staring, just turn your back to them and they'll leave you alone." Kyla said, taking a few gulps out of her cup.
"Yeah, don't tease the animals." Added one of Jack's friends. I saw him offer a cup of alcohol to Dallas, who sniffed at it a little, then turned his nose up and refused the drink. "Aw, come on little guy. It's good for you. It'll put hair on your chest."
"Hey, he's 13, he doesn't need any hair on his chest." Jack interrupted. So Dallas was older than he looked. Such a baby face. I guess he was just naturally 'pretty'. "And what did I tell you about pressuring him to drink, huh?" The guy backed off with a giggle, and that's when Jack peeked back over his shoulder at Cyrus' pack. They were staring hard at us, without shame or guilt of any kind. And Jack gave me a smile and whispered, "So what was it like?"
"What was what like?" I asked.
"You know...spending time with the freaking 'Addam's Family' over there? What was it like?"
"It was...fine. I guess."
"Fine? No, dude, tell us. Seriously. That bunch is about as twisted as you can get without being locked up for it. I've heard some weird stories about them, you know?" He whispered softly, getting everybody to lean forward to listen. "It's not just the kinky sex stuff either. They are really wild. No one has ever seen them with a 'parent' or a guardian of any kind. Ever. And just the other day, this guy Ralph said he saw one of the twins pick up a dead possum in the road, and take it home with him like it was a pet or something. He said he was petting it the whole way. Fucking weirdos, man."
The more he spoke, the more uncomfortable I became. I could feel this constricting force wrap around my chest, and it tightened my stomach to hear them disrespect Cyrus in this way. Or any of them. I sat there while they giggled and made fun and gossiped about stuff that they heard from someone else...but I began to fidget again as the feeling in my stomach became stronger. "...The girl makes out with boys who are like...eleven! What the fuck is up with that?" One of the guys laughed in an even softer whisper.
"I wish *I* could made out with her when I was eleven!"
"They can hear you, you know?" I said. It came out of nowhere, and the frustration of hearing their annoying conversation was transmitted in the tone of my voice. But I knew it was true. Their stupid little whispers and giggles weren't doing them any good. The nerve of them. I looked down, and my fists were balled up, my mouth had turned into a scowl, and the darkness filed me up again. Even stronger than before. The aggression took over everything, and I felt like I was almost ready to jump on one of them. In fact, I almost felt like....Scout did anytime someone looked at Cyrus sideways.
"What his problem?" Jack chuckled, but I was clearly not in the mood to laugh about this.
"Just because they're a little different doesn't mean that you can sit over here and make fun of them."
"A little different? No, they are like 'Charles Manson' different, and any laughs we can derive from that should be enjoyed for as long as possible before they decide to run down here and hack us to pieces with a set of razor sharp cookware utensils. Hehehe!" Jack stopped his laugh cold when he saw the serious look on my face. My head down, eyes angrily staring up at his face. There's no description for how I felt at that moment. But I was almost daring him to speak another bad word about Cyrus. Just one more. Jack got uncomfortable as I stared him down, and took another sip of his beer. "Geez, Wesley, chill out, man. It's just a joke."
"Why don't you just drop it, ok?" I felt the irritation eating away at me like a corrosive acid, and I didn't know why. But no matter what it was, I wasn't about to let any one of these brainless SHEEP talk about Cyrus in this way for a second longer. As far as I was concerned, they weren't worthy to speak our father's name. I'd rather take the breath from them by force than allow them to disgrace our union.
"Wesley...?" Kyla looked worried, and as my senses began to focus again, I saw a group of people in front of me who were silently waiting to see what the hell was wrong with me. I had evidently shocked them with my severe moodswing, and just wanted to get some distance between us.
I stood up quickly, and tried to keep my thoughts straight. "Sorry. Look, I'm not myself tonight. I'm just gonna...chill by myself for a while, ok?"
"Dude, let me come with you, we need to talk." Kyla said.
"No we don't. There's nothing to talk about."
"Yes, there is. You know what I mean."
"I said NO!" I grumbled, and she stopped. "I'm not going back. Not tonight. So deal with it, and leave me the hell alone." It was the first time that I had ever really said anything that harsh to Kyla before, and the reaction on her face said it all. Somewhere between hurt and angry, she rolled her eyes and turned away from me, leaving me to my own space. Good. I wasn't in the mood to talk to her anyway. Not about this.
As I left their group, I tried to work my way through the fog of my own thoughts. I rubbed my eyes and tried to keep my mind occuppied with something rational. I couldn't understand it, but it was getting worse. Every thought in my head was becoming murky and disconnected. Like they weren't even my own. It was like falling asleep while reading a book, attempting to keep your mind focused on the lines and having your thoughts constantly wandering to something else in a dreamlike state. There was no way to fight it. It moved in so subtley that by the time I knew it was there, it was already in complete control. Begging me to give in, and simply enjoy the exhilirating ride it was promising to give me.
I walked over by the drink table and grabbed some bottled water out of the cooler. I twisted the cap off and took a long sip of the cool liquid, letting it run over my fevered lips. Then....the moment I turned around, Cyrus was standing right in front of me. With all of his soldiers behind him. It startled me for a second, but they hardly make a sound when they move anyway, so I should be used to it by now. "I see you decided to return afterall." Cyrus said softly.
I paused for a second, still wondering if it was a safe bet to even be talking to them again. "Yeah, I did. I'm not staying long though."
"You look like you had a rough night."
John Boy added, "I can hear it in the sound of your voice."
With Kristin saying, "It shows in your eyes."
Cyrus let his smile spread across his face, and he stepped closer. "Why don't you join us on the rock for a while? We'll talk."
I stepped back from him, my defenses up, keeping me from making yet another mistake. But...out of all the people on that beach, I felt completely disengaged from every last one of them...except for Cyrus and his crew. "I don't think so." My mind was getting foggy again. I could feel it.
"You're such a stubborn little pup." He smirked. "Come join us. Come on."
"Come on, Wes. You can sit with me." Dex said, his boyish grin the most innocent out of all the rest. Sebastian, of course, was too 'cool' to actually say anything at all. But while standing there in silence, he invited me with his eyes alone. His androgynous beauty intensifying with a mere gentle flick of his head, causing his soft brown locks to glide backwards a bit to reveal the pure creamy skin beneath them.
"I...I just need to be alone for a sec, k? I need to work some things out." I told them.
The twins, standing on both sides of the group, bookends as usual, turned to look towards Cyrus in the center to see what his order would be. It was then that Cyrus put a hand on my shoulder and said, "Well...you always have a seat at our table." And they began to disperse, heading back to the rock to relax alone in the dark. They were this elite group of misfits that everybody avoided like the plague. They were talked about, gossiped about, laughed at, and made fun of, and they didn't care. They almost reveled in it. Like..that separation had somehow made them better. Stronger. And they wanted me to be a part of it. Even though they hardly knew me, even though I was associated with this stupid Bible camp, even though they knew I was gay...none of it mattered. I could be whoever I wanted to be...and they'd still want me around. I wonder if Kyla and her friends could make the same claim.
John Boy and Dex were the last two to leave, not that the twins didn't slow down to make sure that they were in eyesight at all times. Dex giggled playfully and then ran off to catch up to the others. John Boy, on the other hand, remained calm. As though he could see the change in me. As though he could smell it on me. And with a smile, he said, "Bring a bottle of liquor from the table with you when you come over. K?"
He said it as if there was no question that I would go over eventually. And even though I was trying my best to be a 'stubborn little pup', he was probably right. The further away they got from me, the more I wanted to follow. My body trembled with the pull they had on me, and after about ten minutes of pretending that I really wanted to be alone...I made my decision. I went over to the drink table and waited for a couple of laughing teenagers to grab what they wanted. Then I grabbed the bottle with the most alcohol in it and looked around to see if anybody was going to stop me from taking it. Nobody did. I doubt they even saw me. I held it secretly down at my side and looked over at Kyla and the others as they watched me go back across the beach. Jack was still thinking of me as some kinda freak, Kyla was still slightly angry about what I said to her, and his friends were content just drinking and making fun of my friends. The choice was simple. I didn't belong with them any more than I belonged in that cabin with my family. They were like a whole other species. A lesser species. And I was tired of trying to dumb myself down to fit into their cookie cutter mold any more. What can I say? Cyrus was a better salesman.
I half expected the whole tribe to laugh at me as I approached the rock, giving them the satisfaction of knowing that they were right. I sorta kept my eyes down as I shuffled over with the bottle of liquor under my arm. But when I got there, not a single one of them teased me. Not a single one of them judged me. They looked down from the rock with a smile, and I saw Dex excitedly scoot over to give me a seat. For a moment I looked back over to Kyla, who shook her head, not believing that I would actually come over here and sit with 'the enemy', but that only made my choice that much easier to make. I grinned and stepped up to join them. I saw Kriegar reach down for me and thought he was going to help me up. But he merely took the bottle from my hands and almost sent me falling back to the ground. I caught my balance and sat next to Dex, who instantly snuggled up beside me, closed his eyes, and took a big whiff of my shirt. "I like your smell tonight." He hummed, and I petted his blond curls with a weird giggle. God, I love this boy.
I told them what happened between my dad and I. I told them that I stormed out. I even told them that I didn't ever want to go back there again. But Cyrus didn't seem all that impressed. He smiled, he congratulated me...but the news didn't hit him with any kind of surprise. I might as well have been telling him the end of a movie that he had already seen a million times before. It's too bad. I know it sounds stupid, but I kinda wanted him to be proud of me. That's when he finally said, "You took a big step tonight. We're happy for you. But you don't need us to reward you for being free, Wes." I gave him a confused look, and he pointed at his heart, and then at mine. "The true reward, the true freedom, is in here. That's all you need. But if it's any consolation...you impress me."
Cyrus reached down to ruffle my hair a bit, and I giggled outloud as the others grinned along with us, each reaching out a hand to do the same until my hair was about as messed up as it possibly could be. They were all just seemed so happy to see me, and it felt so good. Their energy wrapped me up and seemed to fill in everything that was missing in my world. Everything. I hate to admit it, but I don't think I had ever felt this close to a group of people before. Who knew that these rotten apples would turn out to treat me better than all the rest? Kriegar opened the bottle I had brought with me and took a swig. Cyrus took the bottle from him before he got too far in his guzzling. "What did you bring us?" He said.
"Um...I don't know. It says Bacardi...something." I had no idea what one liquor was from the other. I just grabbed whatever looked good. "Is that ok?"
Cyrus chuckled, "Bacardi 151? Oh yes, my boy, that's QUITE ok! Just...a bit strong for your first taste." I looked back at him, and shook my head, as if I needed to tell him once again that I didn't drink. Kriegar reached for the bottle again, but Cyrus puled it back from him. "Hey, where are your manners? Wesley here went through the trouble of bringing us the best...." Cyrus looked at me with a devilish smile, "...He gets first dibs."
"Hehehe...Cyrus..." I laughed, but he remained silent, still holding the bottle in his outstretched hand. "...I don't...I don't drink. You know that."
"I know. But I want you to drink anyway." He rattled the bottle a bit, letting the liquid splash around. "Do it for me. Consider it a 'communion', and the key to a better tomorrow."
He held the bottle out in front of my face, and Dex wrapped his arms around me to cuddle his warm body even closer under my arm. They were all watching me. Waiting. And when my arm reached up to touch the bottle, they all grinned madly, causing me to blush with a laugh of my own. It was the kind of thing that my father would have HATED! I could practically hear him hoot, holler, and scream, in the back of my mind about how evil it was. But...something about that, made the act all the more appealing. The others encouraged me, cheered me, celebrated me. How does somebody ignore that for the rules and regulations of some society that wants you to remain an outcast? It wasn't peer pressure. If anything, it was the rest of the world's rejection that brought me here. And I was happy to kiss it goodbye, as I slowly let my lips touch the top of a liquor bottle for the first time.