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A SIDE NOTE;

Feedback would be appreciated if I would like to send me an email. Please do. I haven't received the reception I was hoping for this story, so if you are reading then please let me know.

 

I have fallen behind a tad on the schedule, there is one final chapter to come. It is partially written. It just needs to be cleaned up. So please stick around for the conclusion.

I am also sorry for mistake that still may linger, I'm trying out a new way of writing and I wrote this entire chapter using this new form.

 

You can support me on Patreon - a crowdfunding website to help allow me to dedicate more time to my writing and perfect it.

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Contact and find me on these sites. I'll be posting daily updates on Tumblr.

Email - danny2017writing@outlook.com

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For anyone who is interested, I have other stories on nifty. I will list them at the end of the story.

 

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This story has a soundtrack, songs below are featured in this chapter.

Hovering over the selected song, right click and choose open a new tab to listen, or alternatively click on the hyperlink and you'll be redirected from the story to YouTube.

 

Our Time Is Now By Lights & Motion

Rescuing Asher By Trevor Morris

 

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Chasing Christmas

By D.K. Daniels

 

 

Chapter Six

 

We walked a couple of blocks until the snow and houses traded places for giant granite pillars. A warm, busy shopping arcade, compiled with busy Christmas shoppers. Business fronts boasted loudly what was on offer, with neon and white LED panel slogans and header fonts indicating the store's name. Some we have already passed by but not limited to our Walmart, Target, McDonald's. In the background the faint squawking, ridiculous overplayed song sleigh ride by that guy Johnny Mathis echoes through the halls of the mall -- well that's who Shazam is telling me who is singing. Placing my phone back into my pocket I decided to look at a storefront window where all the presents are showcased. The display inside the window had been set up really delicately and cutely. A small sleepy town lay in a valley, sprinkled in a light offering of snow and at the center of the village was a proud erection of a pine plastic Christmas tree. All the contents of the window were from the inventory you could buy within the store. A small model business, the store sold miniature and large-scale models of buses, trains, and other nerdy things. I'm not exactly sure if this is the route I should go about finding a present for Elijah. Though it's the thought that counts... Right.

 

"You coming," Lucas asked. Being dragged out of my trance from the window I glanced over at the boys. The mall is really crowded actually, it's just the boys and me more or less. The twins are sitting on a bench by some exotic looking palm trees, which if you ask me looks completely ridiculous and out of place, considering that the rest of the mall's decor is shiny balls, blinky lights, and heavily decorated Christmas trees.

 

Personally, though, I wanted to go inside the store to see what was on offer. It Looked quirky, can you pass up a quirky shop?

 

"Yeah. Just give me a minute, "I answered.

 

Jack asked, "you going in there?" What a questionable expression. Yeah, I guess it would seem a little out of place considering I've never actually been in something like this before. However, that doesn't mean I can't start now. and since we've been walking around for a little bit and I haven't exactly seen anything that I've liked for Elijah or in giving a moment to get away from the group in order to buy something for Elijah that I really wanted, to lag behind for once in order to browse on my own.

 

I offered up that half-assed, lame excuse, "why don't you just go on without me. I'll catch up with you," I said. Guaranteed, if I was standing on their side and they were me I wouldn't exactly be listening to me either, because I don't think what I just said was very convincing. I guess that's another thing that I lack, I'm not very good at convincing people, or talking my way out of difficult situations. I always crack and crumble under pressure.

 

"You sure?" Jack asked. Jack is the sort of person that would double-check, triple-check, quadruple-check, just to make sure that you are actually okay. After all, this could be considered a little bit bizarre to him, considering he has known me for I don't know how many years.

 

"Well, I'm not going to get lost," I offered up teasingly. He seemed to be taking my word for it then. He took a moment and then offered up, "alright then," with a slight chuckle to it.

 

The rest of the boys began to walk onward and just as they were about to leave, I turned to head toward the door of the shop. The bevelled glass door stood between me and a potential Christmas present for Elijah. But before I could even place my hand on the door or even consider pushing it open, Jack called out. Glancing around he had strayed from the group. He jogged over to me and smiled as he reached me. Jack hasn't changed all that much since I first actually met him. His hair is still short and neat, the only thing that has changed is the direction of his fringe which is sometimes to the left and sometimes to the right or it can be alternatively sticking up when he's been working out and has built up a sweat. His cheeks are rather on the plump side, accompanied by a small nose and blue eyes, that really concludes his entire appearance. He is a little on the slender side, small in stature, large in heart.

 

"Hold up, I'm coming with you," Jack's voice quivered by the shudder of his footsteps.

As much as I'd like to admit it Jack is on the cute side. However, I wish that didn't transfer over into my jack off fantasies. `Is it really that hard to get away from the group for five minutes? As much as I love Jack,' I can't exactly let him see me buying something for a boy I hardly know. Yeah, I just said what I thought, more or less. I'm actually considering - no, not considering - I am actually going to buy something for Elijah. If I buy him something nice he'll like me for being so thoughtful. Reaching back for the door I delayed a little bit until he caught up with me. Letting him go ahead of me while holding the door for him, the two of us sauntered inside.

 

The man, presumably in his 50s, with greying hair, glanced up from a book and offered a warm and gentle smile. In acknowledgment, I nodded my head and murmured, "hey." The man in return offered up a similar response. Glancing around the shop not knowing exactly where to start, I made my way to the far side of the store and started up an aisle. There were crafted items in here, some stuff was made out of wood, paper Mache, and other assorted items.

 

Picking up a snow globe I glanced into the realms of the world inside the little ball. Jack stuttered on his words for a moment before asking, "so what are we doing here. For a moment I contemplated, `yeah what exactly was I doing here. I don't even know what I'm looking for, I don't even know what Elijah likes. I haven't even gotten to know him as a person yet. Would it seem a little weird if I somehow happen to miraculously get the present for him, even though I don't know who he is or what he even likes? On the off chance, I might be right in my decision-making, if I somehow decided to buy the right thing and he loves me forever then that would be wishful thinking. Glancing over at Jack I shrugged my shoulders and said, "nothing really... just looking."

 

Jack fired back without haste, "yeah, but for whom," he said. 'What does he mean for whom, is it that obvious that I'm trying to buy something for someone else? I hope the guys outside don't know what I'm trying to do here, but then again what's the harm in buying someone a present. I have bought hundreds of presents for lots of people - okay not hundreds of presents but hundreds of presents divided between maybe 30 or 40 people.

 

I don't know why I feel panicked or threatened even; it feels like my attention to Elijah is being noted by Jack, or maybe it's not, maybe it's just me being paranoid. I can't help but believe or have a sense that my thought for Elijah is wrong. Why do I like him, what is it about him that I like so much. Is it his smile, yes. Is it his hair, yes it's so feathery. Even the way his teeth dazzle perfectly from in his head is beautiful; yeah that's it, Elijah is beautiful.

 

Beautiful is such an alien-like word, even the word beautiful is unique in its own way. When you hear the word, you automatically assume that it is something exquisite or something above average. Do I think Elijah is above average? No; he is much more than average; it is a little sad to even think of him being average, because he is most certainly not average. He sets the par for all the sweethearts and little heartthrobs that have ever walked the earth; he has an entire planet to his own. I think I'm falling in love. Is this what love feels like...? Confused!

 

Feeling the air in my windpipe vanish, my throat began to seize up and my vocal muscles clenched as I tried getting the words out to Jack. "Who says I'm buying it for anybody," I teasingly added. I hope that somehow manages to get him off my back, I hope it sounded persuasive and too formal or avoided. Avoided, as in trying to avoid the discussion that was going to take place. Because, inevitably, Jack was hinting at something and I don't think I exactly wanted to find out what he was hinting at. Panicking, I injected a little bit of humour to my discussion.

 

Taking the globe as a form of distraction from what Jack is really lambasting on about, I watched the little snowflakes inside the glass rain down on top of Santa and his reindeer. Keeping my eyes intently on that sled inside the dome Jack said, "well... it's just I've never seen you in one of these stores before. "Rolling my shoulders in the form of a shrug, I plopped the globe back down as the contents of the glittery fairytale cascaded down to the watery ground. Turning my attention to a crib on the far side of the aisle I couldn't help but notice the baby Jesus had been moved from his crib to the side of the stable. Not really contemplating what I was doing I plucked up the small porcelain figure and set it back inside the manger.

 

Content that the little figurine sat gently and delicately into its home. Jack pushed forward, "so anyway... With the weather like shit, how come a cool kid is hanging out with us?"

 

I would be lying if I wasn't a little offended by that statement, it was, of course, a little bit below his power. And of course, it was Christmas. Injecting some smug sarcasm into the conversation I offered, "gee, thanks." With two hands Jack reached out, pushed at the side of my shoulder with the tips of his fingers. He gave a sheepish smile before saying, "you know I didn't mean it that way. "

 

"I know," I added coyly. Flashing a sheepish smile, I came to the junction at the top of the aisle and reverted onto the next.

 

Sauntering down the center aisle, I thought for a moment. 'Yeah, Jack wouldn't exactly know what has transpired. Maybe I should fill him in somewhat.'

 

"His family lost their home, but will you not mention it... Please " I begged.

 

`Jack has always been one to hold secrets. If you end up trusting him with something valuable then he will safeguard it for as long as he lives. I can imagine what people have told Jack; sensitive things about themselves and he'd never let you down. Jack knows pretty much everything about me, except my gay side. I can't exactly tell him that anyway because that would make our friendship awkward and I don't wanna lose the best friend I have ever had or will ever have. As always if it is a sensitive subject Jack adds a small bit of humour to make it all the more appropriate somehow. He makes the inappropriate, appropriate. He raised his hands to his lips and proceeded to mimic, "my lips are glued-well, they can be," he joking added. And as if the gesture wasn't enough he glanced around for a prop to add to the display. He quickly observed his surroundings and then caught sight of a tube of glue and just like that he picked it up and began to rocket up and down beside his lips. I couldn't help but smile. "You're such a dumbass sometimes", I teasingly said. The dumbass always makes me smile like no one else can make me smile. True, our teasing and joking has substantially hit the curb; the war plays for antics and inside jokes have never faltered. He's still the same person I met all those years ago, and he always has my back and I will always have his. It's not that I'm afraid to tell Jack that I might be gay, this weird feeling I can't quite describe, but all I know is that I prefer looking at boys rather than girls. Still, I don't even think my feelings towards the male gender are worth a friendship, even if it makes me feel miserable inside though sometimes I want to share it with the world. Even though I don't exactly know what it is that I want to share, I just feel like I want to be weird if that makes sense.

 

Chuckling, my rib cage inflated and deflated with every ripple. I guess you could say that we both looked a little bit odd to the shop owner who glanced down the aisle at us. Yeah, the sight would have to be funny, two preteen boys sniggering about something so absurdly comical, that most adults would think otherwise.

 

Starting down the aisle again I began browsing and looking over the shelves, Jack asked, "yeah... so, has he said anything or done anything weird."

 

Not sure what exactly he is on about I quizzically asked, "weird... okay, I'm lost. "

 

Jack became a little shy, it's almost as if he is playing with a deck of cards and he's not putting all his cards on the table. Cautiously he drove forward asking, "yeah like trying to kiss you and touch you." Did I just hear what I think I just heard, because I don't think my ears are fooling me. I think I just heard my best friend ask if someone touched me. Kissing is okay to talk about, it's usually a common topic to talk, like if you've been with a girl you ask your bro friends if they made it so far with the said particular girl. I don't know, it just didn't have any of those markings. Jack seemed a little hesitant about continuing but nonetheless, he did. It feels weird to have him asking me such a question but I don't think I can actually tell him I'm into boys.

 

A little embarrassed and unsure exactly how to answer I began to stare at him. The question was really odd and although Elijah hadn't exactly done anything with me it didn't serve the purpose to say that I wished something would have happened. I was unable to form the words to give Jack an answer, every time I tried to think of a reasonable response I was quickly shot down with my critical inner voice. Above all why did Jack want to know this of all things? Of course, we have been really open in the past up till now. Some things have to remain secret right? You don't go telling everybody every little detail about what you think, do you?

 

Offering a confused drawn out, "I don't know what you're talking about," I shrugged my shoulders to emphasize that I had no idea what he was talking about. Jack contemplated for a moment and thought about what he was going to say to this, but silence fell between us standing in the middle of the aisle. Then at long last, he said, "well... I heard he likes hanging around boys."

 

Now this is news to me. There has to be some form of miscommunication taking place here, but did I just hear Jack say that Elijah hangs around boys? What exactly does that statement mean? Is he implying that Elijah is gay or something like that, does he think I am or he is possibly stating `yes I think that Elijah is gay', so that he can go in for the steal? No, I don't think Jack is gay, he is too straight I guess, I don't know! I did not want to answer Jack back but I felt like I was put on the spot. I now feel under pressure or obliged to give him the information he seeks. The little voice in the back of my head suggested caution. What? is Jack against gay people? He doesn't strike me as the type, but it's not the first time I've heard of a coming out story going wrong. The people who'd come are best friends with someone and next of all everything comes crumbling down because the other person is shocked at the gay person inherently for being a fag. For some reason now I feel like I should protect Elijah even if he should be gay. And well, partly for myself too.

 

"Okay and... well, what's wrong with that?" I asked nervously.

 

"Oh, nothing... I just don't know, I thought you might feel weird with him being around in the group," Jack said.

 

"No, he's cool. Besides he's staying at my house, "I said. Glancing over at a brown and silver leather friendship bracelet with a little metal attachment I had the odd notion that maybe a friendship bracelet would suffice. Though there is no friendship to exactly account for having a friendship bracelet. If anything, I would buy Jack one quicker than buying Elijah one. Gripping the small bracelet in my hand I took it off the rail, I thought for a moment whether I should even consider getting one, but I opted not to get him one. It is nice and all but I don't think we're quite there. So, I guess it's either keep looking or gifting him one of my Christmas presents on Christmas morning.

 

"Like living..., "Jack said

 

"Short-term though..., "I said.

 

"Alright... "Jack said, as he reverted into himself and became a little quiet as he contemplated.

 

"Yep! "I said. I glanced at either side of the aisle to see what was on the shelves as I thought about what exactly say to Jack. It's funny how it is, in the past I never really had a problem thinking about what to say to Jack, there was an abundance of material for me to pull from my head but these days it's like dragging a cat by the scruff of the neck, trying to get a word out of each other. Yes, he is still out there but things have changed and I don't exactly know what it is. Just getting older I guess.

 

Secretively, Jack asked, "so do you think he's gay? "

 

It's not in my nature to exactly know whether someone is gay. I don't think I can tell if someone is gay unless they really like to wear make-up and shit. Plus I don't think I am out there, well I hope I'm not because I'm not ready to be labelled as that kid who is gay. I guess me and Elijah are sort of similar, the two of us are straight acting, but I'm not exactly sure how I go from here. If he's not gay acting then how will I know if he's gay? Will people know I'm gay even if I'm straight acting? Is that even a thing? You're gay and you pretend to be straight but you want to follow your feelings. So, in order to make everything right, you try and avoid being gay, but at the same time, you think how good it would be to be actually out of the closet, kissing boys and doing it. I guess sex is on everybody's mind at this stage but it's not exactly a requirement. I don't want to rip off someone's clothing every waking minute and go to town with them in a Humpty Hump- Pump fashion. It's just so confusing, you want to be yourself but you're afraid to be yourself. It would be awesome if he is gay, and I hope I have the courage sometime in the future to tell him how much he means to me. I admire him and like watching him ambling around the school. How he carries his books from his locker to his next class or how he loosely swings his backpack over his shoulder, the way he casually runs his fingers through his hair and how he batters his eyes'

 

Stuttering somewhat I found a reasonable excuse to fall back on. I didn't exactly want to be the one to out Elijah if he was truly gay. I don't exactly know if he is gay so I don't really see how I can exactly out him on purpose. Nonetheless, I dared to approach the topic of gayness. A topic I didn't exactly think I would be talking about with Jack of all people. What if he asks if I'm gay? I haven't exactly rehearsed coming out yet. Yeah, I know that sounds a bit weird but it actually makes a little bit more sense to me than it actually does just thinking it.

 

"Emm... I don't know. Besides I don't think I really care if he is or not," I said casually. Trying not to sound evasive is more my goal than anything. Yeah once you start lying, little by little it becomes harder to actually detect if you're lying or telling the truth. I guarantee that when I start accepting and using falsehoods then the faults will trip me up eventually. Who would care if he was gay, like if he was gay then I would totally tell him that I love him, how goddamn gorgeous he is and how awesome it would be to kiss his soft pink puffy lips. Though no, of course not. As soon as I'm standing face-to-face with him everything that I'm thinking will inevitably go out the window because he is too adorable to even stand in front of, so anything I am thinking will go out the window because I'm a cowardly mess.

 

Jack took a moment to collect his words and then said, "I guess so, though I'd be a little freaked out if I was living under the same roof. " For some reason, those words seem to kind of irritate me. Is Jack against gay people, there was no malice or any hatred present in his statement he just simply said it casually as if it were just coffee talk or small talk. For Some reason, I can't think of a reasonable response. The statement has kinda put a damper on my mood so I said evasively, "yeah maybe -- maybe we should get back to the group." At least I know when I'm back with the group then the awkward conversation that is taking place will be concluded and If there are any left questions, they will remain unanswered. Hopefully, Jack will just forget about the entire interaction and both of us can move on un-awkwardly. With a nod from Jack we decided that we had had enough and I concluded that nothing in here was for Elijah. At the door of the store I turned in the direction of the man behind the counter, and said, "thanks." As I pulled the front door open, a little bell chimed. Funny, I hadn't heard that the first time around. We left the store and blended in with the remaining last minute Christmas shoppers.

 

As we walked silently from the shop to the pizza joint, both of us were unusually quiet. Jack didn't seem as chatty as he was before and I wasn't nearly as enthusiastic about chatting either. Glancing at the darkened interior of a store window whose occupants had packed up and headed home for Christmas Eve, Jack then offered. "Sorry if that just came out of nowhere, ". The cheerful Christmas drowned out the silence between us.

 

"Well, it kind of did, "I said flusteredly.

 

"I just thought you'd like to know" Jack offered genuinely. He appeared to be actually sorry if something else came about from our little discussion. He obviously didn't mean to be a brute about it. He seemed to be just offering me a heads up more than anything else. I decided to just let the situation slip by. I can't explain it but the last couple of days I've been very apprehensive and I'm very quick to judge and snap at people. I can't figure out why am being so moody lately, whatever I'm going through right now, I hope that it will be gone by the time I sit down at that table with the rest of the guys in the pizza joint. At this rate, it's starting to get a little annoying and the frustration is building. Sometimes I just never feel normal, but then again as mum always says, `what is normal'?. I guess my definition of normal is whatever you choose to see as normal, but I am weird, so I guess that's my normal.

 

"Well thanks," I said gently. I glanced over at him, gave a flash of a smile and then we both subconsciously glided from the right side of the mall over to the left and in the doors of a fast food restaurant.

 

As soon as we came through the door the boys in a booth hollered and jeered at us. There was still a frown on Lucas, he still had a pouty face.' is he still in one of his moods? Seriously, he needs to get over himself. He is so stubborn at times; his little fiasco has gone on long enough. It's been like an hour or two since the two boys chased us, all because of him.

It's hard to do this, but Lucas is also moody. I had chosen to let it go and he should've chosen to let it go as well. Yeah it was ill timing on his behalf, but the day has gone on since those guys are gone, so why can't we just move on.

 

Approaching the booth with Jack at my side, I asked energetically, trying to get rid of any of the awkwardness lingering on from the conversation I and Jack have just had, "So guys, what we eatin'?" I said. Hovering over the table, Elijah sat on the left side of the table with Lucas in the middle and Adam on the outside and on the right side it was just Ben. As Jack slid in beside Ben, Ben looking up at me asked, "Can we get a pizza? ". Appreciation for pizza really emanated from with inside his tiny head, his eyes were the focal point of that decision. I for one can't turn down a good pizza, pizza is like the best thing since I don't know, in bed. Not that there is any way in comparison, but pizza in bed sounds even better. Of course, mom would never allow it so that idea is completely bogus. Crouching down and shimmying into the small slot beside Jack, I glanced across the table to Ben and then Jack immediately piped up, "Emm... pizza sounds nice, ".

 

I asked, "Pizza," in question. I raised my eyebrows and set about trying to figure out what had led them to that conclusion. The fast-food giant has more than just pizza to offer. I guess if that counts for two people wanting pizza then I guess I'm the third person to want pizza. Moving across to the far side of the table Adam asked, "get mushrooms and peppers on it. " `I'm not a fan of mushrooms, but a pizza as a pizza and if I didn't exactly like them I could just take them off.' Ben cut in and desperately disproved, "I don't like mushrooms or peppers."

 

`If Ben had some sort of super sidekick powers that had access to my brain then he had better tell me now because it's funny how he doesn't like mushrooms and peppers. The last time I remember this correctly is that I and he don't like mushrooms minus him not liking peppers at all. Whereas Lucas and Adam would devour anything. I guess similar tastes really do run in the family.

 

But the twins began to start a little spat again, between them. Their skills are masterfully comically. "I'm sick of eating Margarita, " Adam whined.

 

`that would make sense as I figure his appetite to be plain and picky. He has always been a picky child whenever he's been around here or any social outings; at family gatherings he's always said, "no I don't like my food is touching" or "I don't like ketchup on my fries," it has to always be on the side of the plate and not directly on top of fries. I'll admit that it is a little creepy that I know my cousin's preferred dish of fries and exactly how he likes it, but I don't know the first thing about how my actual brother likes his fries.

 

Don't matter, we are not even halfway around the table to find out what people want and the two twins are already taking over. It's like they think the entire pizza belongs to them; one wants margarita on it, the other wants an entire Mexican festival on top of the pizza. Surely, we have to accommodate for everyone and I definitely wanna accommodate for Elijah because a cute boy has got to love pizza. From numerous visits to this restaurant, I know the largest pizza they sell is an 18 inch, which I guess you could say is enough for all of us. So, if we got two slices each, then that would work out even.

 

"Okay hold up, "I said, letting my arms freely wander out in front of me to use as an exemple to make the idea more elaborate. If everyone got a taste of their favourite toppings on a piece of pizza, then everyone would be satisfied. Starting off with Jack I turned to him and pointed my index finger at him, with a nod of my head I asked, "will you eat pizza."

 

With a slight nod as an indicator of yes with an agreement, Jack said, "yeah. "

 

most immediately I cut in and asked, "okay, flavour?"

 

to which Jack said, "ham."

 

Shimmying around Jack I leaned on the table and glanced around him to see Ben. I asked, "you just want to cheese?" He didn't say anything was just firm to his decision with a nod of the head and a cheeky sort of smile.

 

Wasting no time, I glanced over toward Adam and sat back, "mushrooms and peppers, "I mumbled to myself. I didn't need to waste any more time asking whether I wanted a pizza or not. All I know is that I don't want mushrooms as a topping.

 

Moving on down the line I decided to avoid Lucas for the moment and went straight to Elijah. "What do you want on your pizza Elijah, "I asked nervously. Asking a boy what he wanted on his pizza is like asking do you want to go out on a date or something. Pizza and spaghetti are as you know featured in every romantic date since the dawn of age and even to prove its existence it's used in the movie Lady and the Tramp. I secretly hoped that he liked the same flavour pizza as me so that in the future the two of us could order the same pizza and not have any disagreements about it and I could somehow manage to have more of his slices.

 

My suggestion was disapproved: he shook his head from side to side that he wasn't going to have pizza. Seriously, he's not going to have pizza with us but then he said, "I don't really like pizza. "To which I said, "what really? "

 

Shrugging his shoulders Elijah just said, "yeah I've never had a craving for it."

 

Placing both of his arms down on the table Jack cupped his head into the narrow gap between his hands. in disbelief he asked, "what... pizza and pasta are the foods of love -- how can you not love pizza? "

 

His reaction to it put a smile on the everyone's face. They not believe that Elijah did not like pizza, and to be honest I think it was the first person I have ever come across that did not like pizza. Yeah, I guess if you didn't love pizza it's understandable, but not liking at all it's a little weird I guess. Everyone smiled at his disbelief when he asked again to clarify his herring," you really don't like pizza?" Adam just let out a small giggle; I set myself a warning on the inside, I felt like I'm smiling on the inside. Yeah, I don't exactly know how you can smile from the inside but it feels like it. Everyone should be trying to make the most out of the situation and make everyone feel welcome. Lucas still sat there in the corner with his stupid frown. I just know that he is actually smiling on the inside. Lucas would not pass up this opportunity to laugh about it. Have you ever had one of those moments where you feel like you want to smile at a serious moment or laugh about it because you find it amusing but you know you shouldn't, or because you're trying ever so hard not to do it that it makes it next to impossible to actually stay serious. Yeah, that's what I imagine he is like right now.

 

With the embarrassment, Elijah became a little sheepish and he offered up, "I guess I just haven't eaten it a lot." Yeah I guess that is kind of typical of Jack: if he doesn't believe something that you say to him, he will forever plague you until he gets the best answer out of you or the answer he is looking for. Of course, the answer he is looking for here is that you must eat pizza and that life is not complete without pizza and to be honest, I guess that's true because there is no life without Pizza.

 

Deciding that the entire interaction had gone on long enough, I glanced across to Jack and then back to Elijah and asked, "Humph... Okay, Lucas, what do you want? " I thought that it would be best to give Elijah a minute to think about what he wanted to get. I don't hold anything against him for not liking Pizza; I don't like a lot of foods and if I didn't want to eat them I simply won't eat them, and if Pizza is not his forte then who am I to judge. Of course, it is a little saddening that I can't share a pizza with an adorable cute boy if he ever wants to come in my direction. So, the thought of what Jack had said earlier still lingers, what if Elijah is really gay. Well, let me see; let's run through the thing again; he is pretty for one thing and something I have learned is that a lot of gay guys are like pretty. No, that doesn't sound right; gay guys cannot just be simply pretty. Straight guys are simply pretty too, hot even. Then again gay guys are hot as well, so where do you draw the line. Elijah has always dressed nice. Yeah of course but so do normal people, and by normal people I mean who is not stuck up or too reserved. The bro like guys are the closest to normal, right? The ones who are jocks, the ones that are always playing sports and have the hottest blonde girlfriend in the entire school and have the entire peer group of their year caring for their needs to just even hang out with them.

 

Lucas cut in and my dream faded away. He said, "whatever!" in a huff.

 

Are you serious? Do you really need to ruin my little dream right now with your "whatever". Can you just get over the little hurdle you're on and hurry the fuck up and make your mind up? I gave Lucas a disapproving look. I really don't know anymore; he just doesn't seem to understand. I think above all it's his stubbornness; that's the worst of all for all the little fuck ups he manages to make, and the amount of times he reluctantly says "sorry" and restarts the entire process all over again is daunting and tiring. It's his silence that drives you literally insane.

 

Smug and honest has always been my forte: "okay a fuck load of sour dipping sauce to satisfy Lucas's mood," I retorted. Though he did not do much of anything, he sat there with this cynical smirking glance looking at me, which is more annoying, and he knows it.

 

Deciding to leave it where it was I turned my attention back to Elijah and asked, "so Elijah, what will you have... If not Pizza? "

 

Elijah had been looking at the menu while I was talking to Lucas. I had noticed that he had done so many times but now he glanced up at me and mumbled out softly, "I think I'll just get spaghetti."

 

Spaghetti. At least it is the food of love, do you remember that scene from Lady and the Tramp where, the two dogs inevitably latched onto the exact same string of spaghetti and they ate all the way to the middle. Imagine, if that happened to me and Elijah, I think that would be better than any Christmas present I could ever imagine or any birthday present combined. That would be pretty cool and the best part of all would be that if it happened he liked it. Of course, my mind has habit of going on a tangent, which never helps my cause any further because I'll start getting that little stressing feeling in my chest again and soon I'll become worried that he won't look at me the same way that I'm looking at him or that I so desperately want to tell him that I like him. As I'm already sure, just about everything he does is adorable. The way he walks, the way he smiles. Even the way he's been reading the menu was something from I don't know.

 

The entire table erupted into laughter when Jack belted out with an exasperated sigh of relief," Oh thank God, at least you like spaghetti." Jack's smile radiated outward and everyone cued in on the little astonishment that took place, even Elijah had the grace to smile and finally, Scrooge himself in the corner had a moment of clarity and decided to let out a giggle. I guess if you are really in a shitty mood you wouldn't exactly be able to outstare the happiness for the moment. Yes, I know, it's only conversation, but when something is random like this, I guess it makes the moment golden.

 

Elijah then changed his facial expression to a questionable frown. He was obviously trying to contemplate and understand what Jack was on about; yes, he probably understood that he actually liked an Italian food, but what he probably was trying to reassure himself of was why would Jack even care about what sort of food he even liked. It's not like I go around telling Jack or Jack tells me what food I should or shouldn't eat, so why is Jack so interested in the food that Elijah is ordering. The two of them have never really hung out before now; Jack has never really mentioned Elijah. Yeah, he knew he existed in school, though you'd never think that he'd be this close and personal to him. Neither did I.

 

 

 

Elijah's confusion then dissipated. I decided that since everybody had said their piece on what they wanted, I decided that I was just about ready to go up and get the food. Concerning Lucas, however, Lucas would eat just about anything, so I don't think it really mattered to him and I'm not in the mood to really ask him again, because he is a Grinch right now.

 

"Okay, so will I go order now then," I asked as I readied myself to slide out of the booth and march up to the cash register.

 

"Yeah, if you want, "Jack said earnestly.

 

Urgently, Ben sat up in his seat, put one foot on the actual chair beneath him and glanced over to Jack. "Wait!," he said. "What's the plan,", he asked.

 

Looking over the group of boys for approval of the decision I had made, I then realized that I didn't actually tell them what my plan was. "Well I'll just ask for toppings to be put on two slices each -- some will get two slices and some people get three."

I didn't know that that seemed a little unfair, but it's the best calculation I can do. Yes, I've been in the same situation before where some people order a pizza and then some people get more pizza than some others or some people are too slow at eating so they don't actually get their equivalent because people are too busy munching it down. But luckily all the groups I have been on usually ask before to take the last slice, because I'm aware in some groups they don't.

 

"Okay," he then offered as he slumped back down in his chair. "Is everyone okay with that?" I asked.

 

With nods from everyone I mumbled a, "alright then." Sliding out of the boot, I leisurely took my time walking to the counter. As I walked I contemplated about the turn of events I guess two slices each is better than nothing at all, but what will I get everybody to drink? Yes, I'll just let everybody get their own drink, I'll just get the pizza and spaghetti. About halfway to the counter a voice ricoched throughout the room and out of confusion it was in part embarrassing as that's if people were looking at me. I turned around but as I did a 360, I noticed that there was nobody else in the restaurant but two other people and the group of us.

 

Jack had belted out across the room, "don't you need money from us? " he asked.

 

I partially made my way back to him and said," no I'm good. "

 

A moment later Jack's witty side came into play, "Naw -- he takes baths with his money. "

 

I then headed toward the counter. I gave the woman who was at the cash register strict instructions on what the boys wanted on the pizza and I asked for a separate offering of spaghetti and with that, I made my way back to my seat.

As I arrived back in mid-sentence Jack said, "it's scary really."

 

Sliding back into the booth I glanced at Jack, "what scary, "I asked.

 

Jack broke his comment and glanced over at me, "oh just how Disney is taking over the world. `Ah, that again. Jack has some notion that Disney is taking over the entire planet and before we know it they'll rise up a bunch of machines and start dominating humans by imposing censorship. Though it is a scary notion that they are buying up nearly all of the competition in Hollywood. Yeah, competition. Doesn't that mean fewer movies and less TV shows or anything else, because if they have a bigger cost they are going to have to cut the total expenditure in half. Because they don't make movies anymore not like they used to, anyway nothing like when I was younger. Disney makes blockbusters, but only for a net gross profit as the shiny reward at the end of a hard day's work..

 

"Disney again!" I groused. Dropping my head to the table I cupped the back of my skull with my scrawny fingers. `Oh, how I would just love the world to go away right now; seriously Jack is talking about the stupidest things again.' To make matters even worse, Elijah cut in across the table, "well he does have some logic to the discussion." 'Just great... Now Jack has Elijah on his side about this fricking annoying bubonic thing. He's been nagging on for the last couple of days non-stop ever since Fox was bought out by Disney. And he should know because he is, of course, a massive Star Wars fan and since Star Wars was bought out by Disney also, he has criticised George Lucas's decision on it. And to be frank, I couldn't give a fuck who or what owns which. My main concern is I have to listen to it from Jack on a daily basis and now I'm going to have to listen to it for the rest of the Christmas season from Elijah. I thank God that Lucas is still in his moods, well... he still appears to be because he's not making conversation with anybody. He's just sitting in the corner there with his little pouty face and any time he has something intelligent to say, immediately falls flat on his face.

 

"Of course I do. They bought out Fox for $52 billion," Jack deadpanned.

 

"Okay they're taking over the world, "I smugly retorted. At this rate, if I just agree with him he will just stop talking about it. Peace of mind is what I really want not the lack of it, and anyway, the smell of pizza is fresh in the air, so I could care less about Disney right now, because that Pizza is definitely going to be scrumdiddlyumptious in my stomach.

 

Thank God he dropped the subject. He turned to me and asked, "did you order the food. " ` At least food is more important than Star Wars in his way of seeing things. He is really like a child but one of those gamer children who play all the little Mario games and all the spin-off collections of some weird comic games. It's easy to buy for Jack for his birthday and Christmas; all you have to do is pick up something that looks overly childish and give it time and no matter what it is, he will somehow find some enjoyment from the prospect of receiving such a childish gift. I guarantee if I bottom something from the legend of Zelda or SpongeBob SquarePants he still loves it no matter what, but regardless, how can you deny SpongeBob or the legend of Zelda.

 

Shifting my position in the seat I turned to face him. "Yeah, I didn't get anybody any drinks, I'll just let everyone do that themselves,".

 

"Right..., "Lucas trailed off. He didn't seem nearly as hot-headed as he did earlier on, he seems to have calmed down and regained some of his senses. Yeah, it is obvious that he is still in a bit of a shitty mood but he's obviously trying to work through it.

 

Feeling my heart heavy with burdens, and since it is Christmas, I think that letting go of all the bickering is the best form. "Hey... Man, can we possibly just forgive and forget," I gently broached.

 

"Fine, truce, "he grumbled. `I guess if anything I'd rather shake on it' so that it was official. And, doing so, I held out my hand and asked "can we shake on it?" I felt a little bit of apprehension as I left my hand dangling above the table, waiting for his side of the truce. A moment of contemplation took hold of the situation and then, after a couple of short breaths on my part, he extended his arm across the table and shook my hand firmly.

 

"If we have to... ", He groaned. ` No I'm quite sure that this is probably the best apology I'm ever going to get from Lucas so I decided to roll with it.

 

"Come on,", I whined." Let's not start off all crappy like, " I gravely offered.

 

Lucas's eyebrows sullied up and his mouth curled up. His eyes grew wider, let it linger momentarily on the table, brooding from disdain. When he had finally conjured up enough courage to rid himself of timidity, he said in low spirits, "I didn't mean what I said."

 

Trying to emotionally connect with him across the table, "I know it's just... Never mind. Sorry for calling you stupid. "As a reminder of my emphasis, I turned my left-hand palm upward and slapped the back of my right hand against the left. Immediately he started chuckling. Soon everyone's eyes were set on me and Lucas and they couldn't exactly help but smile at the exchange of words. The first time all day the two of us were actually talking, and we were finding amusement out of the whole thing that had started the disagreement.

 

"Well the comeback was kind of funny," Lucas admitted.

 

"Yeah, I guess it was," I said. My rib cage began to rattle as another series of shockwaves took over in the form of laughter and before we knew it I was laughing quite loudly and so was Lucas.

 

"Shake on it done," Lucas offered, free of any second thoughts. Doing so, I offered my hand for the second time and we shook again briefly before turning our attention back to the rest of the lads.

 

"So what will we do after the pizza, "I asked the group. There was still the unanswered question of getting Elijah a Christmas present so I need to collect it on the way home when most of the shops will be closing within the next hour, so I best make it quick if I am to buy him one. I wish I'd known sooner that they would turn up on my doorstep of all days of Christmas Eve. If he had turned up the day before last week, then I would have presumably been able to prepare for this little hiccup. Well it's not really a hiccup in his case for he lost his house, so I don't really see how that classifies as a hiccup.

 

Jack offered up, "we could go down to get Samantha a present."

 

Lucas cut in energetically, "or we could go to the nearest park and throw snowballs at bums."

 

The twins on either side of the table began to snigger to the dismal and rootless ways of Lucas's antics and comic timing. Of course, I don't think he exactly meant it but if he did, then it wouldn't surprise me either. "That's horrible! "I rebuked.

 

"Joking, I'm joking of course..."he said sheepishly.

 

"Just a tip Lucas... Think before you speak," I retorted, ' the only way I can think of actually reprimanding him without actually getting into another fight again. Lucas does not listen and when you do try and say more to him, he blows up like a goddamn volcano, because he thinks you are getting on his case.

 

Though this time around Lucas didn't take my sarcastic approach to the entire idea of him going down to snowball a couple of homeless people, it offended in the least way. Instead, he found his way back in the witty side of his personality. He returned to his full-on weird, goofy and ridiculous mode. "Software updated," he added snidely. Doing so he lifted his right hand and carefully tipped the side of his temple with it for extra comedic effect.

 

In response, I cracked a smile. Elijah enthusiastically cut in, glancing over toward him and said, "we could play some darts. " I wasn't aware that they had a dartboard in this place, and seeing what Elijah was pointing at, I myself turned 180 in the seat and leaned against the backrest. Jack hesitated for a moment before doing the exact same as me, over in the far corner. I was indeed a dartboard. All the times I have been coming and going to this pizza joint, I had never actually taking the time to notice it, because I'm usually in and out; nine times out of ten, it's buying the pizza and eat at home.

 

"We could split into two teams -- teams of three, "Jack enthusiastically butted in. Swivelling my head in his direction, I thought for a moment. I have never really been good at strategy-based games. I have always been weak in in those things. Sports too, they are just simply an effort. They're not appealing to me because I find them mind-numbingly boring, who gets enjoyment out of looking at a grown man running back and forth on a field chasing after a ball as if it were a miracle, for two-four hours. And they have the audacity to say that something as beautiful as singing is a waste of time. Well, I'm not the one that's screaming at the television, scream at my favourite NFL player as if he could hear me. I don't quite understand it, I understand the adrenaline hype but do you really have to let the neighbours know you're watching the game?

 

"Sounds like a plan," Lucas gently added.

 

After all, I guess it is better than not playing anything, or playing American Football. Yeah, there is some comic relief that comes from watching grown men running around a field chasing a ball like a 10-year-old and every so often dogpiling on top of each other. I guess the entirety of America tunes in to see that mindless comic. Even Jack has become zombie-like to their tricks, it's just bam in your face. It's everywhere you go and on everything you look at. Some giant bald-headed eagle or other form of farmyard animals are fleshed out to be their mascots; if that's not embarrassing enough I guess I must really feel embarrassed for the kids who have to dress up in the mascot uniforms and dance in front of crowds of hundreds and thousands, dancing like a turkey.

 

I will admit it's not the worst idea in the world though. I guess we have arrived at the final mark; I guess everything has been invented and I guess there's nothing else to invent, just something entirely new with a new approach to the topic. Elijah's idea, of course, will further us into the evening hours of Christmas Eve. I guess you can't deny the rivalry. Everyone has that little deep-rooted mechanism. If you're challenged you going to challenge back. If competition arises you're going to show what you're worth, and if the anticipation proves worthy, you'll show them who is worthy.

 

"It's settled then, " I offered, placing my hand on my stomach. My stomach began to growl from hunger, not having had a bin since I ordered the food. Deeply drawing in the air in my nostrils filled them with a sweet succulent burning aroma. My mind began to wonder at the prospect of the warmed doughy brown bread smothered in juicy mushrooms, ripe sweet corn, and crispy peppers. Mmmm that practically makes my mouth begin to water. I can almost taste it on my tongue: when will the pizza get here? Out of nowhere, just like a team member on an opposing team in call of duty snipes you, a woman with a waitressing getup stopped by the edge of the table.

 

The overwhelming sweet savour of Neapolitan splendour flopped down on the table in front of me and the taste of Pizza shop in my mouth started producing an extra quantum of saliva. The all-familiar taste of pizza, a powdery bread covered in cheesy and charred meat called out to me to be eaten.

 

Ben reached across the table, clutched the lid of the box and lifted it. `Oh, my... that pizza is possibly the best-looking pizza I have ever seen in my entire life. Looks so cheesy it looks, humph... and it smells delicious too. I don't think I can hold back any longer, I don't think I can be gentlemanlike no more. who cares if I look like a slob, food is more important than general public appearance.

 

 

"Agh... smells sooo... good," Ben delightfully added. A radiant smile broke upon his face as he saw the pizza but wonder behold for him. He reached out to get his rightful piece of pizza and just like that I knew that I had to be the first one to get the pizza.

 

Shooting my hand across the table I slapped at Ben's wrist to get my hand into the box. Cupping the dough based piece of bread, I pulled it out clumped in my palm.

A slight chuckle rattled throughout my bones. Yeah, that was a bit mean but still, pizza is pizza. Ben glanced across at me quizzically,' as if he were contemplating on saying something. As if he were saying what the fuck was that for, I was practically there before you.' does something about the moment and seemed a golden opportunity that Lucas began to chuckle and soon the entire table began chuckling up on my display of affection for pizza. Yeah, I guess you could say, "screw everyone else as long as I have pizza then I'm happy." Soon all rules were off the table it was every man -- and boy for himself. Who cares if the normal rules apply any more; in the center of the table there was just a series of hands hovering over the pizza box, and the pizza was no more; as quick as the pizza had been whole it was torn apart, dishevelled, shredded beyond recognition. Each of the boys left their hands to their hungry mouths and began the process of mastication. Pizza of various commodities rolled around their wide-open traps on the display. I guess if this were a display in all sorts of contents of how truly and horrifically you can be grossly negligent then everyone at this table would qualify for this worthy award, everyone but Elijah. Elijah sat in the corner quiet and dignified eating and slurping on his spaghetti as he watched us begin to devour an entire pizza.

 

"Oh... Got the smell was so... "Lucas cooed.

 

Yeah, I couldn't disagree with that. Lucas is definitely on par with this smell. It is like totally mouth churning and it makes my stomach feel Yum. Like there are no rules involved you just must simply shut up, shove a joint oversized pizza slice into your mouth and chow down until you're full. I can actually eat a pizza every day for breakfast dinner and supper. And if it were possible, I could even add in lunch, brunch, and every little snack in between. Then again if I were to do this I'd be the size of a house or Miss Brady across the street. Seriously though she could cut back on a couple of the calories; she is the size of an entire fricking house, okay that was a little harsh, size of a family station wagon maybe. exactly that's right yeah, she looks like one of those massive buffoons. Combined with Mr. Wilson, the two of them could be the neighbourhood watch police or some equivalent to that. Because they are completely reckless when it comes to destroying fun. Seriously she's one of those women that sits out on a lawn chair all day and just watches the kids go up and down the street riding their bikes saying you should not be riding on the street. And somewhere along the line one should be contemplating that somehow the poor child of her next-door neighbour would somehow get the wind knocked out of them by an intentional driver who quickly swerved the intersection too quickly. Yeah, that seems to fit the picture. All I know is a hack who has nothing else better to do than moan and nitpick about the smaller kids on the block. Though again, she might have shifted to teenagers now and as much as I'd like 20 minutes she hasn't singled me in a long time and I hope she doesn't but who cares about her right now. Pizza is pizza and I'm eating pizza and if she has any quarrels with me I'll fuck pizza at our house.

 

"Yeah, it tastes even better than it smells, "I said. I gracefully drew my lips up on a perch and smiled.

 

"Why does that sound weird," Lucas asked. He swivelled around in his position, clutching a half-chewed slice of ham pizza in his hand. The only thing that could be heard at this present tense moment whas the overly pent up sound of chewing, which somehow would manage to drive mum mad if we were all sitting at a table. I guarantee a man would say something in the lines of what the hell, are you eating a brick or do you really have to eat that noisily. Due to the other embarrassment I guess one does not realize one is eating that loud, because the food is delicious and you're not gonna really care because you're going to chill down equally.

 

"Because it's usually looks," Elijah offered knowingly.' come to think of it, yeah that does sound a little off. I thought the saying was `it tastes better than it looks.'

 

"Yeah, it's normally it tastes better than it looks, "Jack added solemnly. How does he manage to do that I'll never understand how? All the years I've known him he seems to master the iconic role of a wise elder. I don't and he is probably the 1st to die in battle so I'm not exactly too sure that relates to anything. Scratch that. I'll take that back. Jack will probably be the last person to die in battle because after all, he is a little sly or should I say wise. He always has a plan, he is the man-boy, I mean boy with a plan. Lucas is bound to be the first one to go about dying. He'd run out to the middle of the battlement with nothing more than a pitchfork screaming this is for our land. Somewhere along the line, I can only imagine him being naked doing it too which will probably scare away the imposing enemy but still it's a funny notion to have.

 

"Oh right... "Lucas said gently.

 

A silence took hold of the group for a moment as everyone snacked on the goods. And as Lucas finished his first slice he retrieved his second. Appearing that the sliced was a little hotter than what he expected it to be, he began to blow out trying to cool it down. I could see that was an opportune moment to give him a hard time about it. Yeah, the moment is opportune to take the piss out of them with more than anything else he is blowing on a piece of pizza, blowing. Yes, the joke is pretty evident and I just cannot help myself.

 

"Yeah blow on that," I slurred. Instantly he pivoted his head around to me and turned a shade of red.

 

"Oh yeah," he said smugly." At least I don't suck... " he sarcastically lambasted.

 

The tension in the room changed. Alpha male egos came out; everyone in the room offered their acknowledgment to the spontaneous one-liner. "Oh.........," they all added teasingly. You know how it is when someone says something inappropriate and someone catches the other person off guard, it is customary that all the boys in the group join in and reciprocate to the smooth transaction of words. Yeah well, I hate that when it's me at the forefront.

 

"Okay, that was a little gay, "Lucas said honestly.' I guess it was a little too honest, to be frank. Yeah, I can understand that he was not being genuine in any way about it but in summary it seemed cut too close to home.

 

"Was it, "I asked nervously.' Hope I didn't sound too desperate but the statement that Lucas made somehow has me on edge now: does he think I'm gay or something or did he hintthat I was gay. Does he smell the gay, just like pizza. Okay, no, back on track, this is no time to be thinking about pizza that I just saw it come out or did he know I think I'm still in the closet? Well, I just think I had better choose my next words carefully.

 

"Yeah, "Jack said neutrally. He just sat back and threw the remaining stranglers of the crust from the pizza back into the box and it made a clumping sound as it hit the cardboard.

 

`Oh, shit I've been found out. I thin -- okay, my heart is going berserk in my chest. It feels as if my heart is going to just spring out of my chest. You know like one of those magical little Jack in the boxes and it'll just go boing and my life will be over. What's the worst that could happen? Everyone knowing that I'm am gay would probably account for some of the hottest boys in school coming up to me and asking me for a date, though that's just wishful thinking. Contemplating that just seems wrong somehow. Yeah it would be nice to have like every boy drooling in your direction and seemingly it would feel funny to even be thought of this way. Yeah, it would be good to make girls drool knowing that they can't touch this. A year or two down the road I can only imagine I'd be off in Egypt with those big green palms shading my every whim and beautiful half-naked women- actually scratch that, half-naked guys go fetch me my lemonade.

 

"It wasn't, "I offered defensively.

 

"Oh... it was, "Jack teasingly said. just to prove a point he gently nudged me in the arm to further the embarrassment.

 

"Nope," I added urgently. `Shit this is not going where I want to go, I need to think of something to change the conversation, just anything. Maybe I should talk about how Jack possibly still sleep with guardrails in his bed. Maybe I should talk about that shit, maybe I'll change the conversation altogether and get this gayness talk over with. I nodded my head in protest. I have now been appointed and as if Jack were looking for clarification he turned to Elijah and asked,

 

"You'd know Elijah... right," he openly said. Immediately he raised his hand to his head and slapped it so that it sounded a little sore as he tried to retract his statement. The damage had been done. Elijah looked hurt. That was such a cruel thing to say; Why did you have to say that. I should've just told him to drop it, just like the Disney thing. Then again why did he even bring it up earlier when we were in the store. Is Jack gay... Yeah... like he wants to get with my man. No that's highly unlikely, that would never happen, maybe he just wants clarification. After all, Elijah is the newest addition to our group. Even though it's none of his business or any of my business, it would be kinda cool to know.

 

"Agh... shit sorry, "Jack added earnestly. Jack became a little quiet, he was obviously thinking about what to say. Not just jack, the entire group became quiet, too quiet. Even the laughter in the group seems to have just vanished. There was nobody laughing and nobody smiling. Elijah had stopped eating his spaghetti and he turned and glanced out the window of the mall. He seemed nervous or anxious even; he glanced out at me, held my gaze embarrassedly and then shifted his attention to Adam and Lucas in the same seat as him.

 

"I think I need to go to the bathroom," he glumly said. In doing so he dropped his head on the table and waited for the two boys to move, but they didn't think that he was seriously getting up. In doing so he asked again, "can I get out," he said timidly. Quickly they reacted and started to shimmy out of the booth. They huddled out beside the divider between the small seating areas. Elijah dragged himself across the seat twice before standing up, the two boys sat back down as soon as Elijah vacated. A moment later he was gone. Everyone remained quiet and nobody spoke out of turn. Actually, matter of fact, nobody spoke; everyone just zoned off into thoughts. Ben glanced out the window into the mall, Lucas played with the leftovers of singular crusts on the pizza box. Jack had folded his arms and bowed his head slightly. It appeared that he felt guilty and partly responsible for what had just happened. Jack is not a bad person; yeah, he may say something out of turn, just like Lucas, but when he generally means well, he means well. I just held my attention on the waitress who went about, presumably, on her last call of duty. She went about cleaning and stacking chairs up on top of tables before coming back out with a mop and bucket to clean the floor.

 

The restaurant is tailored almost identically to the traditional American diner style. It feels weird, because I somehow kinda expected a waitress from the 1950s and a milkshake to come out from behind the counter and plop one down on the table in front of me. The only thing that somehow brings me back to reality are the occasional hints that it is, in fact, an Italian restaurant with the obsessive almost intrusive red and white squares clothing the table and displayed on napkins and wall d├ęcor.

 

Turning back into the table Jack trailed off, "Eh....," disheartened. He seemed a little shaken or sad. It appeared that he knew he had said something wrong and he must have been biting his tongue for it.

 

"What was that, "I whispered gently. Of course, any sense of life that had been at the table prior to Jack's statement had lost all hope of resurfacing. the entire table just remained quiet. The two twins didn't really murmur anything, though Lucas kept on snacking on a slice of pizza.

 

"Why did he get so sad about it," Ben hesitantly asked. Everyone's eyes directed at him and we all knew what to say but we just didn't exactly know how to say it. I guess it is pretty evident now compared to Jack's statement from earlier and Elijah's reaction to what had just happened at the table, it made me realize that the possibility of him being gay is actually more out there than I originally thought. `Does that mean I have a chance or maybe just even a slim chance of asking him ou?. No, it seems almost weird to even contemplate such a thing, after all his family just lost his house. I guess that would be a little selfish of me to think of even making a move. Then again maybe he just got sensitive to the comment, I didn't exactly say anything that he was gay or anything, he just got a little sad and stormed off. No one wants to know why Elijah disappeared when we were all having a good time. How do we tell him exactly yeah you could just come out and exactly say that he is gay or maybe he's not because we don't exactly know whether he is gay or not.

 

"That's his business, "Lucas sourly added.

 

Glancing from Lucas to me, Ben didn't at all look convinced; he still seemed to be questioning what had transpired. Of course, leaving the explanation to Lucas is probably one of the worst things to do. Somehow, I think I'd have to just offer him some sort of pent-up excuse as to why he just ran off all of a sudden.

 

"Well maybe it's because his house is gone, " I said. ` I think that came off sounding a little too enthusiastic, maybe the truth is the fact that he is sad that his house is gone but the other sad fact is Jack insulted him or something. I'm not sure did he technically insult Elijah? I'm not sure but the fact remains unknown. Lucas just sat back and continued eating as if what had happened were no big deal. He really does have a funny way of showing empathy, instead his way of coping is slogging down another slice of pizza, I think that's the second slice or is it his third. Is he eating other people's slices? That wouldn't surprise me. He lifted the half-chewed peace to his churning mouth and spoke with masticated food rolling around inside his mouth.

 

"Or... Maybe he is gay," he bluntly said. He returned his attention to the pizza in his hand and he tore another piece from the doughy bread.

 

Not exactly sure how to comment on Lucas statement, I remained quiet for a moment until Jack spoke, "I feel bad now. Should I go find him," Jack asked. I glanced over at him; he seemed genuinely hurt. How could that be you did not get hurt, he was the one who was hurting. At the same time, he was probably equally as sorry for doing it as Elijah was for being on the receiving end of the statement. Then again, he is taking quite a long time in the bathroom.

 

"I don't know, "I said.' Maybe it's not exactly a good idea for him to just turn up and say I'm sorry out of the blue. Then again that is something I would do if I said something to intentionally hurt someone, so I guess some part of me deep-down wants to be the communicator between the both of them. That way I can be somewhere between them and I can go from one to the other and I can deliver their messages personally: that way I'm growing with Elijah and his trust in me and well, Jack I don't exactly need to develop trust in because I've known him all my life and I guess I have all my life to really work on such things. Elijah might be just making a pit stop. What happens if he's gone after the holidays that's a sad thought.

 

"Maybe I should apologize and bring him back, "Jack glumly commented. The clunker of the hollow dry pizza crust hitting the box on the table as Lucas flicked it out of his hand and broke the moment of silence. Reaching across the table he pointed his index finger at a couple of slices left in the box. `I guess that was a waste of money, now everything is going cold. I doubt if Elijah even touched his spaghetti. Which blows, kinda -- I mean why couldn't Jack have just like waited until he even ate half of the spaghetti first.

 

"Are you going to eat your pizza? "Lucas butted in. What Lucas was saying was not really having much regard. The problem with Elijah was far more fundamental.

 

Turning my attention back to Jack I said nonchalantly, "Maybe I should go talk to him."

 

"Do you think? "Jack said. It is the first time that he has actually shown a spark of life for one of my ideas today. I don't think if I was in his shoes that I'd want to face something so cruelly put, even if it wasn't his intention. Of course I take Jack any day before I take Lucas because Lucas, well when Lucas says something, he fucks it up altogether, not that he means it all the same. Though when Jack speaks he usually thinks before he speaks, he didn't appear to think before that one. Isn't that what any normal rational human being is supposed to do, they think before they speak or you think before you act. Yeah, that sounds about right I guess more people should look at life the way Jack does, though that doesn't make him invincible or untouchable from any of life's grievances. He is, of course, human and he is bound to stray down the wrong path from time to time. I guarantee that I have done it a few times, okay maybe more than a few times but... shut up, just contemplate on what you're supposed to be doing, Noah. Your mission's objective is to get up from your seat and go out to that lovely bubbly boy out there somewhere or whereever he has gone and make him love you. Okay, that was a little bluntly put. Maybe just be there for him first before anything else.

 

"Pizza! Can I rescue it and eat it, "Lucas bluntly cut in.' Here we go again. When he is not getting someone's attention he just goes off on a tangent.' Shifting my attention from Jack to Lucas "yes." Lucas didn't pay any regard to my agitated response. Lucas is one of those people who just keep poking and prodding you with a stick until he finally gets under your skin and you can't help but just shout back at him in frustration. A vivid image appears in my head right now: have Lucas just standing over a corpse with a little stick poking and prodding in the back of the neck just hoping that somehow the thing will twitch and he'll somehow, deep down, get his satisfaction. I have no idea why a dead body of all things but for some reason, it just seems to fit the picture.

 

"Thank you, "Lucas said. His lips began to sag and smirk, and his eyebrow arched a cocky face. He didn't think he just scooped up the pizza that he had asked for carefully and began to nibble on that like a little mouse. Shifting my attention back to Jack I tried desperately again to give him my undivided attention.

 

"Do you think Santa will know where to deliver Elijah's presents," Adam gently cut in. He glanced up from the table that was in front of him and locked eyes with me, looking across the table at him. I didn't exactly know what to say. I'm not exactly sure if he still believes in Santa but I guess it's inevitably true if he just asked me does Santa know where to go to give Elijah his presents. Just when I was about to start talking to Jack I get thrown off track again with another ridiculous question.

 

"Oh, he knows... He's smart... "Lucas wittily retorted. He scrunched up his face into a contorted fake smile and tapped his index finger on the side of his forehead to add emphasis to the joke. Then Jack looked across at me and then back to Lucas, as if he were contemplating on saying something. It really does go to show how crazy Lucas really is. Here I am trying to protect the idea of Santa Claus even though I don't believe, but they still believe. The power of belief is what keeps them excited about Christmas. And when the idea is gone it's gone. I think that Lucas would not be a little bit smug since he practically believed in Santa all up until he was about 11 or 12. I guarantee any girlfriends that he would have would not like to hear that information. How he asked for a new PlayStation for Christmas from Santa when he was 12. It's ironic it's kind of comedy actually, someone who steps and trampled all over the idea of Christmas and then somehow, he was the very one or the last child of all of us to stop believing.

 

Deciding that I'd leave Jack and Elijah to explain the whole Santa Claus thing to Adam leaving out the details that he was not real and that he is real, I said to Jack I'm more or less worried actually. "He's been gone long enough, maybe I go see what is taking him so long."

 

The table quieted down for a moment, Jack glanced across at me as I readied myself to vacate the booth. "Are you sure you want to be the one to go out to him?" Jack said.

 

"Yeah, that's okay," I replied raspily. Shimmying out of the booth, I proceeded to stand up. I started to walk off, then Jack stopped me. He reached out to me and grabbed my wrist. He slumped over in the booth as if he was forgetting to tell me something that was extremely important. As I took a step back in the direction of the table, he sat directly upright again.

 

I looked down at him and the boys at the table as he asked, "will you tell him I'm sorry?"

`I just knew I was going to play a pivotal role in reuniting the two. It's kind of exciting to kind of get in between the two of them if you get my drift that would be a hot thing in between the two of them mmm... Focus Noah.'

 

"Will do, "I replied. Giving him a bashful smile of sorts from the idea that loomed of us having a three-way and having taken note of the apology, I gloated from the table towards the toilets where he had last told us he was going. Something in my stomach felt a little weary. It felt awesome at the same time as I felt fearful. What was I even thinking; here I am going to the bathroom to see if Elijah is okay, an adorably cute boy and I think I have a crush on. Putting both hands out in front of me I pressed on the smooth surface of the door which creaked as the hinges ledged open.

 

Cracking the inner door open a tad I slipped in through the small gap, "Elijah," I called out. My voice ricoched off the walls and came back to me, reminding me that the bathroom was extremely hollow. I remember a while back that I and Jack had been on here before and the two of us started singing for some odd reason that I cannot remember why. That's funny, to have such a thought come back at such a moment. I made my way past the sink back into the brooding dimmed bathroom and I called out yet again, "Elijah you in there." Again no response came, just the plinking from one of the faucets over by the sinks. Treading carefully toward the cubicles, I nonchalantly glanced from the cubicles to the urinals. crouching down a slight bit to see if I could see any feet underneath the doors of the cubicles I peeked under. No, I didn't go right up to the door that would be awkward if someone was intentionally actually in there and I was looking under the door. It's funny I've never actually done this before but for some reason, I'm inclined to do it now. A bit nervous and apprehensive about my decision, I slowly made my way from one cubicle to the other and none of them had Elijah. Thinking that he might be up on top of a toilet I called out again, "Elijah it's me, you inthere." Still nothing came. I pushed in the cubicles doors to make sure but nobody was in any of the stalls. Feeling a little sad and worried at the same time I glanced at myself in the mirror making sure that my appearance was okay; with that I left the bathroom.

 

Standing outside the bathroom door I glanced over at the boys in the booth who had somehow moved on to another topic. They're all conversing for the most part as I contemplated exactly where would Elijah go or more importantly where would I go if someone upset me but I need to remain close to the group. The first place that came to mind was one of the seats out in the mall, so I slowly left the dead restaurant and made my way out to the mall. The mall had somewhat quieted down since we arrived and it was quite obvious that people were starting to go home and settle down for Christmas. All that was really playing now was the joyful Christmas music in the background, which somehow felt out of place. Maybe it's my mood at the moment and maybe it's because I'm just not feeling the Christmas spirit right now. Then again from the way the music is playing it almost feels as if a horror movie is being filmed. Yeah, that's it, a horror movie, I can imagine me just standing here asking hello is there anybody there somewhere if there is a crazy psycho killer. I turned my head to the right, no sign of Elijah. Turning my head to the left I saw him. Sitting there timidly on a bench about four or five shops up. He sat hunched over but his arms pressed against his knees, presumably contemplating.

 

With my heart slightly beating faster in my chest, I walked toward him pumping my two fists down, with anticipation pumping myself up that I'm going to talk to him alone and that I am determined to make him feel a little better about himself. Oh God, what does he think of me? Does he think I'm a freak, will he think I'm odd, yes that statement itself is true. I've always been considered a little odd. Finally reaching him I stood nervously waiting for his directions. He just sat there; he didn't even look up at me, something about it made me feel sad about it. Not sure what to do, I nervously blurted out, "Jack says sorry... "

 

Not even as much as a shrug or flinch or sigh. He just kept his attention drawn to the ground around his shoes. I swear to God that music that's playing in the background starting to get creepy at this point and I wished they just turned the fucking thing off already. It's the second time now I've heard that song in this particular location.' Yes, we all know it's the most wonderful time of the year. I don't think I need to be reminded every 10 minutes of the whole process to repeat again. I feel a little awkward, Iike I'm out of place and in doing so, I thought the best course of action was to sit down.

 

Glancing around nervously, not sure how I should start the conversation or if I should even have a conversation, the thought of him being gay resonated. If I'm gay which I think is most likely and he's gay then maybe he wants to be reassured that it's okay that being gay is okay even though I'm not theoretically out or anything, so I guess I don't have experience with this sort of thing, but if I accept him and not like making him feel better that someone doesn't care if he's gay even though I'd love it if he is really gay. But would such a topic make him feel even more nervous than he actually needs to be. Then again, would it be awkward for me to even come out with such a thing, maybe I should just leave, but then again this could be my opening? Thinking how I could even brace such a subject, I felt my stomach begin to churn at the prospect. What if I accidentally out myself. That little voice in the back of my head assured me that the possibility of that actually happening is slim to none. Trying to force some sort of a question or a response or just anything out of my mouth, I began to seize up. 'Think God dammit,' I scolded myself.

 

Slumping from part embarrassment and terror the word slipped out of my mouth like a vomit that I wasn't expecting. "It's okay if you are," I trailed off. I had cut myself before I did any more damage but then he swivelled his head toward me and looked up at me. A tiny inside voiced told me just keep going; don't stop now, he's actually looking at me. Even if it is a quizzical expression he is still looking at me. "Eh... If... you are it..." I nervously shattered. I don't think I can go on deciding to change the conversation all of a sudden, I quickly thought of the dartboard back in the restaurant. I guess you can imagine that of all the times I could be smooth I did not make a smooth transition, "how about we go back in and play darts."

 

He didn't really say anything he just stared. And it made me feel even more anxious than I did before I even sat down. Did I say the wrong thing or did I make a major fuck up is something in communication? I should've just kept on saying that it's okay if you are gay or if you're not then that's cool too and I'm sorry that I made you feel all weird about it. At least his head wasn't down on the ground. I did that I got him to look up at me, true he's not smiling but it's a start - right?

 

I don't know why but the music is starting to get me so catchy but so annoying, equally at the same time. Starting to subconsciously hum a couple of notes from the song I glanced over and around the mall for a couple seconds. Well, I contemplated what to say then back at Elijah. He was actually smirking. what is this sound and am I doing that, and then I realized I'm humming. Immediately, cutting it out I flushed I embarrassment and presumably from Elijah's point of view possibly turning red. Nervously I glanced away from him and looked around for a moment. Secretly peeking back, I trailed my glance upward until we both locked eyes.

 

There's something in his eyes, a twinkle. It's ludicrous to even think that how can I see a twinkle inside his eye, but then again it makes him look cute. I don't know why but his eyes are just gooey to me. Well, that's the way it makes me feel, gooey. At the same time, it's like all colourful and beautiful and bright like gumdrops and candy everywhere. Just like that expansion pack for the Sims 3, what was the name of it again. Katy Perry's Sweet Treats or something. Exactly like that the front cover of that that's the feeling. I guess it's like Charlie and the chocolate factory kind of colourful. Is he somehow smiling at me? I'll guess maybe he's grinning, or does he think I'm a complete idiot? Well if it's making him smile then I guess I can keep doing it. Even if it tarnishes my reputation. Listening closely to the words of the music I tried to pick up the music. `Just when he starts to smile why does the song have to be in the particular place that I have no clue what the words are.' I felt a little apprehensive and annoyed but listened closely because somehow, I knew that the chorus of the song is coming contemplating what the words were exactly where I sang out when the chorus came, "it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas," I goofily added.

 

After singing a couple of chords I felt a little bit stupid for even trying and I smiled bashfully at him but he smiled back. It's not an overly huge smile it's just a thank you for trying to sort of smile. And it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

 

Thinking that I might as well milk this for all it's worth if it makes him smile, I pondered the next set of words. Getting ready to sing out with all I was worth a loud ruckus and muffled shouting voices came from the top of them all. Turning to see what the distraction was I glanced up to where two boys, presumably teenagers, were kicked out of the store. They were definitely making a scene and the person who threw them out was not in any way happy with what they had possibly done. Scrutinising and trying to see their faces I became aware of the boy with the beanie. A moment of panic shot through me and then I realized exactly who they were. I turned back to Elijah, who looked like he had been crying, but the crying had ceased. Single trickles had descended his nose and he too became aware of who these boys were. Practically raising our feet without saying anything both of us started to scurry. "We need to go," I nervously said. But Elijah didn't need to be told twice because the two of us brushed against each other as we made our way down toward the restaurant to warn the boys. "Come on," Elijah breathlessly added.

 

Racing back to the booth we found the boys deep in conversation. Lucas instantly saw us coming and he stood up and showed me to cross in the booth further into the wall. He motioned for Adam to follow suit. Elijah and I plopped down on the outer seating.

 

Whatever the boys were talking about was cut short when Jack saw Elijah take his place across the table. "Hey man, I'm really sorry... "Jack said genuinely. It was evident that the two older boys could see that something was wrong after all the two of us came back in a bit of a panic and our faces suggested panic.

 

Cutting Jack off before he said anything else or anyone said anything else. "Save it, those older boys are here with us " I blubbered.

 

"From earlier," Lucas questioningly asked. His soft relaxed expression turned to shock. His face began to turn a little white from fear and the two smaller boys immediately glanced out the window into the mall.

 

"Yeah," Elijah mumbled. He glanced up over around me, to make sure if the two boys had come through the door.

 

For once Lucas didn't want to exactly wait for those two boys to come through the door and just smack the hell out of him so he stood up on the seat below him. Resting against the backrest he was going to slide over into the next booth to get out but then the boys came through the door. Their entrance was made abundantly clear the moment they stepped foot in the door. They were noisy and precocious and Lucas took a gulp and slid back down like a snake into the seat beneath him. Lucas scrunched up and slumped down and moaned, "Agh...fuck... Why did I throw the snowball? "

 

Everybody's eyes followed the teenagers along the main entrance and all the way up to the counter. Deciding that all of us looking at the same time would be a clear indicator that we are looking at them we decided to all turn our heads back in toward each other. Lucas, after all, would know if they were coming in our direction because he is in the corner directly facing them. His eyes would wonder nervously from us to them as they stood at the counter. "We'd all love to know that," I said smugly.

 

"Guys, can we get out of here," Elijah said as he began to start shaking from nervousness. Elijah seems to rattle when he's nervous, almost shivering. The density in the air completely changed since those two boys came in.

 

Looking from Elijah to Jack, then back to Lucas and then to Jack. Jack asked with a hint of disbelief, "are they that bad?"

 

"You have no idea... "Lucas sarcastically retorted. He sat up from his sleep position in the corner of the booth and placed his hands on the table as if he was about to say something but he drew back. This reminds me of dungeons and dragons for some weird reason. When I was younger we used to play it sometimes, and we'd gather around the table like this, equally confident and nervous. But the power of the table always went to that one person who knew everything that was going to happen in the game and that's the way Lucas sat, he didn't say anything.

 

The two teenagers reached the cashier began ordering. The moment their backs turned, we conjured up the idea knowingly of who should leave the table first. In doing so Lucas grabbed Ben across the table and Adam beside him and pulled the two of them slightly up from their seats the two of them actually had to stand. "Go outside," he said. In doing so Elijah gently stepped out of the booth and Adam started for the door. Ben stood up on the seating, climbed over the backrest into the other booth and also vacated the premises. When both boys were gonna Elijah just sat back down for a minute as to not attract attention. He was going to go for the door accordingly but when one of the boys looked around, in particular, the one blond-headed boy he glanced around the restaurant and from nervousness Elijah slid back into the seat.

 

The blonde boy didn't play any attention to us, thinking that the coast was clear. Elijah slid out of the booth and I started to get up also. Then the blonde kid looked around again and then I think something clicked. He immediately whispered something to his friend and then the two boys were looking over at us.

 

"Right, I'm out of here," Lucas stammered. He clenched onto the back of the backrest and shot up onto the table. In doing so he leapt down to the floor and started making his way for the door. The table had trembled with the Tyrannosaurus on top of it and spilled some of the contents that had been on top of it onto the floor. Nobody waited for any sort of signal everybody to shot up out of their seats including me and we all started for the door in a panic.

 

Out of the corner of my peripheral vision, I could see the two chunky teenagers darting away from the counter. Heaviness pushed its way up from my stomach and into my chest and my heart began to palpitate. With both hands on the door, just two hand-reach away,I almost make it and then the boy with the blonde hair cut me off. Stumbling backward I started to turn to run just anywhere to get away from him. I veered off to the right, down another aisle as I choked on my words, "it wasn't me..." I pleaded. The boy just left after me and he spun me right around and I hit one of the tables behind me.

 

"Sooo..., " the blond boy chortled.

 

There was a screaming sound ricocheing throughout the room and the boy turned to see what the source of the deafening sound was. Including me, on the far side of the room, Jack had been pinned down to the table where we had been sitting. I couldn't see Elijah or Luca;, I felt myself trembling, wondering exactly what was going to happen. I guess you could say I'm seconds away from wetting myself but I'd rather die before before I wet myself. The two of them must've gotten out. Using the distraction of Jack, I pushed the blond headed boy and he went flying to the ground. Nothing but a grunt could be heard from the older boy as he hit the floor with a plop from presumably his hands. Running at the boy who had my best friend pinned down on the table, I didn't hesitate. I just knew I needed to get him off him.

 

"Get off me you fucking baboon, "Jack demanded. He pushed his two arms up toward the older boy to try and leverage himself up. A moment later I picked up the tray from the floor that Elijah's spaghetti had been on and I cracked it across the top of the boy's shoulders. The boy automatically stumbled to the right and gave Jack a moment to free himself from his grip. Reaching out for Jack's hand the two of us locked both our fingers together and I pulled him up off the table. The two of us then darted for the door not daring to look back.

 

We ran toward the main entrance of the mall where the group patiently waited, anticipating what to do next. In doing so we ran towards them, they were all there except for me and Jack. The two older teenagers were hard on our trail and the other boys began to scarper and run toward two separate automated doors. Elijah and Ben ran to the left door. Jack, Adam, and Lucas all headed for the right door. I don't know but subconsciously we all just started to split up. I ran for the left door and I stopped dead in my tracks as I reached the two other boys. The door did not open, it appeared to be out of order or something. Glancing out through the panels of glass the other boys had run out through the left door and out onto the street. They immediately stopped for a moment to notice that we couldn't get out. Turning around I looked back to the two boys who were just about to catch up with us, in doing so I fumbled and pushed Elijah and Ben toward a well-illuminated corridor which had a green emergency exit it sign above it.

 

Unsure of what to expect all three of us sprinted down the corridor panting. Soon we came to a small ramp and a tiny set of stairs which curved naturally with the building. We appear to be going lower. I think I have made a bad judgement call I contemplated I don't exactly know where we were going but we were going somewhere. And then we shot out through a glass door and out into a tarmac car park. A multi-story car park and in doing I croaked, "this way." Starting up one of the ramps, not bothering to look back to see if a car was coming or if anybody else was around us for help. We breathlessly ran up the steep incline to the next level. There's not many cars around and that panicked me a whole lot more. There is a handful of cars but not that many. Of all the days this could happen would it have to happen on Christmas Eve, when everybody is in a rush to get home to their families? Stopping for a moment to catch our breath because we couldn't hear the two boys after us, I took a moment to figure out what we needed to do. I looked around to observe our surroundings and I saw the emergency sign over by a stairwell door. everything about this place seemed bland and dark. I think this could be the worst place to get beat up because nobody will be able to actually come to your rescue. In doing so I glanced around and I noticed that a car was slightly out of place. I mean if you hid behind it you wouldn't exactly see who was behind it and if the two bullies were following us, then that could serve as a good place for someone to hide. Snuggled between a pillar and the car was a small dark spot where I drag Ben from the middle of the road and toss him into that small corner; he hit the concrete pillar a bit harshly but he got the memo. He hunkered down and crawled into that small spot. Then a pattering of feet coming up the ramp set my heart racing again and I turned and started running and so did Elijah. Yeah, I wasn't exactly sure about leaving my little cousin behind but it seemed like the best thing to do. I just hope you're safe I hope I made the right call, we reached for the door and Elijah burst open the door and we entered into acold and damp concrete stairwell. Which is cheaply built, but I don't think we exactly cared about that. Not sure what to do because the stairs went up and down I wasn't exactly sure whether we were on the first or the ground floor. Elijah went down the dim and clueless stairs and I followed suit.

 

Between the panting and the adrenaline, we descended two flights of stairs, before the door flew open above us somewhere and then we could hear the shouting and the large steps descending, chasing us.

 

Catching sight of a window I was about to go down the next flight of stairs after Elijah but I stopped and glanced out the window. It appeared that we were only on the first floor which felt a little weird considering when we were in the mall we were on the first floor but then again, I remember this was a multi-story mall which went down about three floors and went up at four floors so I guess it made sense. I didn't really wait I didn't exactly think but I kicked out the window which was slightly rusted and the protective coating that stopped the snow from coming into the building dropped to the ground below.

 

"Elijah," I called out. Turning back to see where he was I remembered that I didn't actually tell him that I had stopped and he had descended the whole flight of stairs. I panicked and was about to run out from telling I found a way out, but then the older boy arrived at the landing area at the top of the stairwell where I was. Doing what I thought was best I turned and climbed out the window from panic and fear. I pushed out the window and let go. A moment later I hit the ground. My life flash before my eyes; I thought that the ground would not come fast enough. I landed on my knees. with sharp and uncontrollable pain that I have never felt before in all my young existence through my body. I tried to stand up but then I realized I had a limp. I think I heard one of my knees crack. Stumbling backward I found my way to my feet and glanced up at the window I had just jumped out of.

 

A mix of emotions ran through my body. Guilt, fear, regret, panic. Why did I leave Elijah? I don't know why I did that, I just didn't think. I just got out the window and jumped. A sharp pain shot up my knee, and I bent my left knee to favour the pain. Glancing up again I hoped that Elijah had heard me, but then I remember the boy that was at the top of the stairs and somehow, I hope that he got away. I'll wait for a moment, "Elijah, "I shouted up at the dark hole cut into the side of the building. A moment later the boy with the green beanie popped his head out the hole in the wall. `He wasn't chasing me, why is he here? Then again maybe he cut Elijah off. Maybe worked and conspired against us, while the blonde boy chased us from the top, while the other went around and closed us off from the bottom.

 

"You get him back if you give us the fucker who threw the snowball," the boy with the beanie said.

 

"It was just a snowball, "I groaned up at the boy. My knee really felt like with bang out of shape or something. For some weird reason, I couldn't straighten it out, it hurt too much to do that.

 

"Snowball, "another voice came. The blond headed boy stuck his head out the window. And then bitterly pull themselves back in. The boy with the beanie disappeared a second after and then groans came with grunts of pain. They stuck Elijah's head out the window, gripping him by the hair. My heart sunk seeing him like that, they can't be hurting him now. I'll do anything.

 

"Ok! Okay...what do you want me to do," I pleaded to the window. they kept Elijah's head hanging out the window and then a muffled voice came from somewhere behind Elijah grunting and groaning the blond headed kid who threw the snowball. "Trade at Miller's Crossing."

 

Trade was the first thing that came to mind. Why would they want to trade Lucas, second of all, if they knew who they were supposed to be after why are they coming after all of us?

 

"Trade," I absently asked. they pulled Elijah back in through the window and the boy with the green beanie popped his head back out the small opening.

 

"A beat down," he smugly said.

 

"Em..." I murmured more from confusion then about what to do.

 

"If you get any adults involved I'll cut him, "the leader of the pair said.

 

`Hearing those words was enough to convince me that I can't get adults involved. If I ever stand a chance with Elijah I have to rescue him. Then again, I don't think I can just hand over my cousin for a beat down.' Deciding to just agree to their terms and conditions for the moment until I had my head back on straight I shouted up at the window, "okay... Miller's Crossing." I think it was more or less for them to hear it and more or less an antidote to myself as like a reminder that this is really happening. I pleaded with myself not to forget anything that they said.

 

"One hour, "a murmured voice came from inside the confined walls.

 

The boy with the beanie then took his head back in and disappeared and nobody else their head out. I assumed that they were moving to the next place and that I should be heading on, looking for the boys. Glancing up at the window I said to myself I'm more to Elijah's memory, "I'm sorry."

 

Hobbling from the side of the parking lot which held an assortment of recycling bins and general waste garbage, I made my way down the alleyway toward the street. `I hope they don't hurt him' I thought. I'll never be able to forgive myself if anything happens to him, and with that, I turned out onto the street in search of the boys.

 

The End Of Chapter 6

If you've made it this far, thank you for reading. Please, comments are welcome. Stick around as there's more to come

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Danny (Your Writerly Friend) 

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Bibliography; of LGBTQ stories by D.K. Daniels, on Nifty.

Even If We Tried

Spring Tide

As They Say

Our Little Darlings

Ghouls, Goblins & Ghastly Boys

Light The Night

Who We Are

Chasing Christmas

 

Bibliography; of LGBTQ stories by D.K. Daniels, on Iomfats

Who We Are

Bibliography; of LGBTQ stories by D.K. Daniels, On Cornercafe.us

 

Ghouls, Goblins & Ghastly Boys

Light The Night

Who We Are

Chasing Christmas