Hey. I'm Cody. Nick's already set the story up pretty well, so I really don't think I need to say much before I get into it. Like Nick said, I'm twelve; he's already done a lot of pretty explicit physical descriptions of me, so I'm not gonna say any more.

Anyway, that summer when I was twelve I was just getting into puberty full-blast. That time Nick talked about my mom mentioning, when I, well, showed my mom my dick, was because I was worried about all the little bumps that were showing up. It turned out to just be hair coming in. I was hitting my growth spurt, both in how tall I was and in the place that really counts. Pretty normal stuff that everyone who has any real desire to read this has gone through themselves.

So, it was a little before that summer that I started getting frequent boners. Sometimes they were completely random, but sometimes they happened when I thought about girls...or, I soon realized, guys. I found myself sneaking peeks in the locker room and little things like that. I hadn't connected the words that everyone, including me, used, like "gay" and "fag," to myself yet. I also heard a lot about "jacking off" and such things, but didn't really know what it was. I had kissed a girl at a dance, like I told Nick, but I had very little to do with it. She had talked me into going into the dark hall at a school dance and there had just kissed me. I liked it, but then she just disappeared. When I saw her the next Monday, it was like nothing had happened.

Anyway, over the summer, I started to notice Nick staring at me. A lot. It was, well, weird. I liked it, though. I noticed a couple times that he had a boner when looking at me, and I found that I started to get them sometimes too when he was looking at me. Then I actually had a dream about him, that involved both of being naked and doing some things that I only knew vaguely about. That cemented it; after that, all of the the little things that teased Nick (and especially the humping during the wrestling match) were completely intentional.

So, fast-forward to where Nick left off. That was no good. It was completely my fault we got caught, and I feel terrible about it. I forgot that my mom got off early every other Tuesday. I should've realized she might be in the bathroom. My fault. Even more than that, it was my fault that Nick did anything. He never would have made a move if I hadn't been so clearly receptive. Even after the wrestling match, I knew that he wouldn't have done anything if I hadn't walked in on him in the shower. He denies that, but I know Nick. He doesn't, well, he usually doesn't, do rash things like that.

Yeah. Well. When Nick got sent home, I got sent to my room. I snuck across the hall to watch him from James's room, but then had to run back to mine when my mom came upstairs. I don't know why I obeyed her, I guess just force of habit. The worst she could've done was yell at me. There was really nothing stopping me from just walking out while she wasn't watching. And yet...I didn't.

After hearing me move from James's room to my own, my mom locked me in. The lock on my door can be turned only with a key, from either end. Even then, I could've gone out the window, if I really wanted to fall from a second story window onto pavement. I wasn't sure I did.

After that, I basically just moped around in my room, listened to some music--I made playlists of exclusively annoyingly whiny love songs on my iPod and plugged it into my boombox, no doubt annoying my mom. But she didn't say anything. She thought I had been seduced, and so was unable to really be mad at me.

Around seven, she came up with a plate of spaghetti. After she unlocked my door, I asked as if nothing had happened. "Mom, is it alright if Nick sleeps over tonight?"

Her lips tightened and turned white, but she didn't say anything. Instead, she set down the plate and a glass of milk, took a long, meaningful look at the window, then walked out and locked my door again.

I got bored of the music and shut it off in favor of a book after another twenty minutes or so. Of course, I couldn't get any books from the library or another part of the house, so I had only my very limited in-my-room collection, of which I had read every book I had any interest at all in reading. The others were all gifts from relatives who barely knew me, mostly dumb fantasy stuff.

I finally settled on a book I had read more than once already but still loved: Ender's Shadow. I read the beginning, thinking as much about my own situation as the brilliant three year old genetically modified street child protagonist.

Around nine, when Bean had just arrived in Battle School, I heard James come in. I set down the book and listened carefully, wondering what was going to happen. I heard my mom speak to him but couldn't hear what she was saying. They talked in the living room for a while, then I heard James say angrily, "Well, let me go beat some sense into him then!"

I couldn't hear my mom's reply, but my brother's words made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I wondered whether he was talking about me or about Nick, and wasn't sure which I would rather it be.

Their words after that were charged but low, and I couldn't make anything out beyond a few random words, mostly names. I did hear my mom say something about "beating," and that scared me again. Finally, James pounded up the stairs. I thought for a second he was coming for me and looked wildly around for something to defend myself with, but then he slammed the door into his room and turned on his music, loud. I recognized it as a CD he had burned. It was his "angry" music; the first track was Eminem's "Kill You."

When I was just a little baby boy,
My momma used to tell me these crazy things

I flopped back onto my bed and wondered what would happen. My mom and brother sure weren't too happy about it, and I doubted that my dad would be much better when he came back. How would Nick's parents react? I didn't really know them.

Bitch I'ma kill you! You don't wanna fuck with me
Girls neither - you ain't nuttin but a slut to me
Bitch I'ma kill you! You ain't got the balls to beef
We ain't gon' never stop beefin I don't squash the beef
You better kill me!

I rolled over and buried my face in the pillow. I was really scared, for both of us.

I said you don't, wanna fuck wit Shady
'Cuz Shady, will fuckin' kill you...

* * *

I awoke the next day to find a bowl of Cheerios, a big glass of milk and a smaller one of orange juice, and a note next to my door. I tried the handle; it was still locked. I picked up the note.


I hate to do this, but I need to go to work and I just can't trust you right now. That boy has deceived you, son. Once you get over it, I'll let you out, but he won't be allowed to see you again. His parents will see to that; I've spoken to them about it and they feel stronger about the matter than I do. You'll realize that this is a good thing, that what you were doing would condemn you to Hell, and thank us for it later.

I'll be home around three. Your brother is at work from eight (he's probably already gone) until four. I left a box of Pop-Tarts on your dresser if you get hungry, but we'll eat a real lunch when I get home.

I love you, Cody.

- Mom

When I finished reading the note, I crumpled it up and ripped it, not bothering to pick up the pieces. I looked at the clock; it was nine fifteen.

I considered my options. I wouldn't, of course, just sit there placidly for six hours. But I didn't really want to break down the door. Mom had taken my key yesterday when she locked me in in the first place. I didn't have a phone or anything in my room. I could go out the window, but that presented the dual challenge of getting down safely and getting back in so that nobody would notice.

I drank the orange juice and the milk, leaving the Cheerios there. How could she not know after twelve years that I hate Cheerios? I looked; the Pop-Tarts on my dresser were strawberry. I'm allergic to strawberries.

Well, that sealed it; there was no way I could just sit here all day. After a quick deliberation I decided the best thing to do was to go out the window.

I opened the window and took out the screen, laying it carefully on my floor. The drop was pretty far...and onto the driveway....

When I had dropped both my pillows so they were lying where I was planning to fall, I took a deep breath and put one leg up onto the windowsill. Then, realizing how fucking retarded I was being, I took my leg back down and got some pants on.

I changed my shirt and threw on some deodorant while I was at it, then grabbed my wallet. Fifteen bucks; enough for some food or whatever, but I couldn't do anything significant on it.

Then, I steeled my courage again and put a now-clothed leg over the windowsill. Slowly, trying not to envision broken limbs, I brought my other leg over and shimmied back so that my waist was resting on the sill, my arms holding me up and my legs hanging against the wall. I shifted my grip back slowly; the bricks scratched roughly against my jeans.

Taking a deep breath, I went back so that I was just hanging by my hands from the windowsill. It was more of a strain than I expected, but I managed to hold on. I looked down and guessed that I still had another five feet or so to drop. Not too bad. My wrists were starting to feel the strain, so I took another deep breath, faltered, took one more, then let go.

I hit the pillows with a thud, my legs tucking in under me. I tumbled onto my back, throwing an arm out to break my fall. I guess I scratched my wrist on the pavement a little, but I figured out pretty soon that I was alright other than that.

Finished with that ordeal, I found the key hidden under the porch, brought my pillows inside, went up to my mom's room and found her key to my room. I repaired all the damage pretty quickly, got the screen back in (with, admittedly, some difficulty). Then I swapped the strawberry box of Pop-Tarts for the cinnamon ones, which I actually liked, and had a few.

That dealt with, I debated how I should spend my day. I had until...when did she say? three? So I should be back, locked up, by two to be safe. That was a good five and a half hours.

My first stop was, of course, Nick's house. But throwing rocks at his window yielded nothing, and neither did the doorbell. All the lights were off and the doors locked (yes, I checked, though I felt bad about doing it), so I headed to town.

Dodging the neighbors and any kids I saw, who might have heard that I was supposed to be incarcerated, I got copies made of the keys to both my house and my room. The I just chilled. I went to the theater because they had four-buck shows before noon during the week, saw The Longest Yard, which was okay. I got some books from the library, started one of them there, then went to get some pizza.

One of my good friends, Danny--one of the kids I was hanging out with yesterday, before Nick came around--was in there eating. I debated quickly whether I should let him see me, but didn't have to make a choice because he looked over while I was being indecisive. "Yo! Cody!"

I turned towards him, pretending to be just noticing him. "'Sup," I replied.

I walked over and bought my pizza, acting like nothing was out of the ordinary. Maybe he didn't know. While I was waiting for my food, I walked over and sat with him.

"What're you doing?" he asked, in between mouthfuls.

"Waiting for my food," I smiled.

"Duh. After that?"

"I don't know." I glanced at the clock. Twelve-thirty. "I don't think I can really do anything."

"Why not?"

"I think my mom wants me to do some stuff, yard work and all that shi--stuff." The sudden word change was evinced by my noticing the four-year-old girl two tabls down.

"That sucks."

"Yeah." I got my food and started eating. Danny was just finishing.

"Hey, I saw your brother this morning at work." James worked at a bike repair shop just down the street from Danny's house. "What's he so pissed about?"

I grimaced. "I dunno," I lied.

Danny looked at me strangely. I noticed for the first time just how green his eyes were. It was weird. His hair kind of played over his forehead haphazardly; it was, well, sexy. I just kind of stared as I felt something stirring under the table, and it sure as hell wasn't Danny.

Then I snapped my gaze away and looked awkwardly out the window, watching the cars go by. What the fuck. I didn't like this. Nick was one thing; Nick was amazing and wonderful and sexy as hell. But getting turned on by Danny? This was bad. Why was I feeling this way? As soon as I couldn't get to Nick for a moment I get horny looking at my best friend?

"Alright," Danny said after a minute. He was pretty clearly kind of confused. Ha. As if he had anything to be confused about. "If it turns out you can do something later, gimme a call."

"Okay," I said, not looking at am. "See ya."

"Later." Danny left, throwing out his plate on the way.

I finished my food quickly and went home, walking the back streets. Once I got near my house I just ducked into the woods, in case Mom had told some of the neighbors to watch out for me. I managed to get back inside without being seen, as far as I could tell. Nick's house was still empty; I had passed it on the way.

I replaced the keys I had borrowed, locked myself in my room, hid my new set of keys under the mattress. Then I just read for a while. I had abandoned Ender's Shadow; I had read it so many times that it didn't really matter. Now I was reading some random sci-fi. Burning City, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. It was kinda weird but pretty good.

Anyway, my mom came home about three, like she had said. She came up and into my room. "How was your day, hon?"

"Boring," I replied, "until Nick snuck in. Then it was the best day of my life."

She glowered at me. "Actually, I've spoken to Nick's parents. He's spending the next couple of days away from home. Maybe more than that."

More than a couple days?

"If you guys really want to make me depressed, you've found the perfect way. Actually, here, I'll help you out some."

I grabbed my iPod, which was already hooked up to my stereo, and threw on the saddest song I could think of on such short notice: "Motion Picture Soundtrack" by Radiohead. Not exactly the character I wanted, but I couldn't think of anything better. My mom shook her head and started to gather up the dishes I had only sort of used this morning. "Do you want lunch?"

"No," I said, pretending to be far sadder than I was, "not if I can't eat it with Nick."

She sighed, exasperated. Just as she was turning the lock in the door on her way out, inspiration struck. I turned the volume all the way up and put on "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."