I've been looking for you for an hour."
Thorn. The guy won't leave me alone. I'm outside on the basketball courts. Not too far away from me, the basketball team is practicing. Some other people come out to watch them practice sometime. Truth is I still wasn't talking to my dad. I didn't know how I was getting home and the events from earlier had shaken me to my core.
"It was all my fault," I state, "I told Micah that Marisol swallowed. I lied. I was just trying to...fit in..."
Thorn looks over at me. He isn't even surprised when I say what I say. He sits next to me on the bleachers. The outdoor court is different from the indoor court. The guys on the team are playing with no shirts. They are all sweating as the heat beats on top of them. It's weird I came here to find solace. Truthfully I feel bad for confronting Adonis in the way I did. He's running around the court now playing with the other guys on his team.
"When they make the rules, it's people like us who had to follow them. We had to fit in," he states.
"It's weird you saying people like us. As though you aren't beautiful."
I look over at Thorn. He would fit right in with the Dollhouse. I could see him playing on the basketball team. I could see him being best friends with Adonis. I could see him getting a bunch of girls numbers with Micah. I could see him bullying kids like me with Braden. I could see him dating Serena.
But he did date Serena.
"They carried her out on a stretcher," he states, "She isn't dead."
"Oh thank God. She survived?"
Marisol tried to cut herself. I couldn't stick around to see her carried out of the bathroom. I was scared she was dead. I was scared someone would have died because of me. I was scared someone would have died because of a lie I told trying to fit in and to get Adonis and my cousin to accept me.
"That's not survival," he states, shaking his head, "She won't die. But she won't survive. A world like the one we live in will chew up a weak bitch like her and spit her out."
"Don't say that about her, you don't even know her."
"Oh please," he states, "I saw the cuts on her wrists in passing before. She was already cutting. She was already trying to find a way out. In this world, only the strong survive. Truly survive. You understand? As for the others...they just go on, not dying yet."
It was a harsh thing to say. I look down the court. Adonis was so good at basketball. They said he was going to get a full ride to almost any university he wanted because he was such a good ball player. I watch as he drives past some sucker throwing him to the ground. He dunks over the guy.
"See that guy that just fell?" Thorn asks, "What's his name?"
"I think its...oh damn...I don't know."
"Exactly. But you know Adonis don't you?" Thorn asks, "That guy's name is Kordell Kwando. He loves basketball. Two weeks ago the coach told him not to show up Adonis. Because it's important the scouts like Adonis. The coach says that he had to make Adonis look good."
"Why the fuck would he agree to that?"
"The rules of survival. If he pisses the coach off he'll be off the team or benched. So when Adonis drives the ball on him, he falls on purpose now. When he gets the ball in a game, he passes it to Adonis even though he could do a layup just as well. But Adonis has that look. He has that star look to him. He's a star."
It's crazy. Fucked up even. Adonis was literally being set up to succeed at the intentional failure of others.
"Damn. How do you know all this about Kordell?"
"I'm recruiting Kordell."
I look over at Thorn. I couldn't take it anymore.
"What are you really up to here Thorn?" I ask him, "First me, then Candy and now this random guy? What is this some sort of charity for you? What are you REALLY up to trying to do coming back here?"
"Survive," he states.
I sit there for a minute. I'm trying to wrap my head around it.
"Take five minutes. Get yourself together. Jerk off to the image of Adonis running around shirtless and sweating if you need to. It might help motivate you."
"Motivate me for what?"
"Meet me at the gym. Your cousin's party is in a month. You'll need to be ready for it by then."
"I never agreed to be your project..."
Thorn looks back at me, "You agreed. You just don't know it yet."
"You're late... " Thorn says.
A week has passed since Marisol left school. She hasn't come back. A part of me wonders if she's OK but no one else talks about her. The sad thing is nowadays in school it was normal for people to want to kill themselves. Lionsdale had multiple attempts in the last school year. It was a school with some of the top suicide rates. I knew why. It was because everyone wanted to be perfect. Everyone needed to be perfect.
And now I was in the running.
"I had to hand in my school homework," I state.
"You've heard of it, right? Students. Homework. Am I making sense now?"
"Damn, I almost forgot," he states, "Send me your assignments from now on. I'll make sure they are taken care of."
"Do I have to hire you an English tutor?" Thorn asks, "Send me your assignments. I have a guy who will take care of them for you. We don't have time to focus on schoolwork."
I didn't know what to say about that. I didn't have a chance to really say anything. Thorn had someone who he hired to do school work for him? It was cheating. It was wrong. But I had noticed Thorn was one of the best students in my class. Clearly, it was working for him.
I just look over at him. I knew Fat Matt's family had money but it was clear things had changed with him. He is so focused right now.
"So should we get on the elliptical first?" I ask.
"Squats," he states, "After you change."
"These are my workout clothes."
"Didn't I tell you to get new workout clothes?" Thorn asks, "How do you expect to be a part of the dollhouse wearing what you're wearing?"
I look down. I thought I looked normal. I had on an old white shirt and some basketball shorts.
"I mean we're working out."
"You remember Rule Number 5."
In the last week, I'd grown accustomed to Thorn and his `rules'. He had a thousand of them and he had them all memorized. What's worse was this wasn't a joke to him. At times I would laugh when he said things like this but then I'd realize he wasn't laughing at me. He was the most serious and cryptic when he came to these rules.
"No, I don't remember."
"Rule Number 5: Always be on point," he states throwing me an extra gym bag, "Always. I got you a little gift."
"Aw really? And you didn't even ask me out yet," I tease him.
It felt good having a friend who knew I was gay. I always wanted to say things like this to someone. The thing is that I wasn't sure Thorn was really a friend to me. He sort of treated me like...I don't know. He treated me like I was his client. That's the best way to describe it. He almost was managing me. It wasn't just the way I dressed. It wasn't just the way I exercised. He seemed to be managing everything.
"Hurry up and change. We have a long night ahead of us," he tells me, "You have three more weeks to get ready for this party."
He's all talk and no fun. I go ahead and do what he wants though taking the bag and changing in the bathroom. That's when I realize what is in the bag. It's this skintight spandex gym outfit. I look at it and just feel naked. I don't know how else to describe it. I did not feel comfortable running around the gym with this. It was just overly...I don't know...sexy. But I could hear Thorn's voice in my head as I walk back towards the gym. "That's the point". That is what Thorn would say. He would tell me it was the point of all of this.
"Yo...is that Yogi?" a voice states as I start making my way back to the gym.
I turn and I'm surprised to see Adonis standing there. He looks me up and down. I feel flushed with fever at that moment. I'm embarrassed at him seeing me in this outfit. He notices it too. This is the kind of thing only people really confident in their bodies wore. I didn't know I was there.
"Hey, Adonis?" I state, "You headed to the gym?"
"Yeah, sure am," he states, "I haven't seen you in a while. You been avoiding me?"
"Yeah. I didn't get to really talk to you about that thing with Marisol. Real talk man, I had no idea things were going to get like that. I swear I didn't go into detail with Serena."
"I believe you," I state.
It was Micah. Micah had done Serena's bidding once again. I should have known better.
"I felt like shit when you were mad at me. I shouldn't have let anything slip to Serena at lunch."
"I don't blame you," I state.
I blamed myself. I should have never lied on Marisol in the first place.
He nods, "Thanks, man. Truth is Serena just can't take me being around someone she doesn't approve of. She can be a real..."
He laughs, "I didn't say it."
"Why do you hang out with her?" I ask, "Are you two dating or..."
"Me and Serena. Naw...no. Nothing like that. She wants to. She's been pursuing me forever. But she's just not my type."
"What's your type?"
He shrugs, "It doesn't matter man. You never answered my question. If you haven't been avoiding me then where you been?"
"Just hitting the gym."
I literally spent more time in the gym then I did at school. I was so sore when I got home that I would spend an hour each day just soaking in ice water. Thorn was no joke. I was convinced his calling in life should be a personal trainer.
"Hitting it hard I see. You bulking up crazy man. Nice."
He does that thing where he bites down on his lower lip. The Adonis thing. He looks me up and down and I just feel naked. I don't know how we start slowly walking to the gym together. We are taking our time. This is the first time I've had a one-on-one conversation with him.
"I'm trying man, nowhere near you," I tell him.
That's when he laughs. What the fuck? Was I actually having a conversation with Adonis and not being awkward about it? I made him laugh. When I look over at him he almost seems a little red in the cheeks. Did I just make Adonis blush?
"Maybe we can lift together. I can help train you. I know a few techniques," he states.
"He has a trainer," we are interrupted.
We turn and see Thorn standing there. He looks at me and then looks at Adonis. Thorn doesn't play when it comes to his regimen. That much is clear. The way he purses his lips is intimidating. I can tell. I look over at Adonis and can see he has no idea what he just walked in on.
"Oh my bad man," Adonis states, "Well. Yogi, we definitely need to hang out sometime."
Adonis walks away. I watch as he goes over to the treadmill. I watch as he takes off his shirt. He puts on his earphones and then he starts to run. His strong body is just perfect. That's not what gets my attention though. What gets my attention is when I see his dick in his shorts. They bounce up and down in his shorts.
"It's too soon," Thorn states.
"Too soon for what?" I ask.
Thorn looks over at Adonis. Our eyes both stare over at Adonis: The God among men.
"You want him, you'll need to be perfect. Too many flaws. Way too many. I need more time. You're going to have to call out of school. He's a distraction for you.
I watch how he looks over at Adonis. Wasn't Adonis a distraction for everyone? Let's be fucking serious here.
"Are you joking? My dad will kill me."
"He won't know."
"And what about my attendance?"
"Leave it to me. Tomorrow...your training intensifies."
Thorn cooked up an excuse. As far as my dad knew I was off on a school trip across the country. As far as the school knew I was on medical leave. He had gotten a doctor to legit write me up a medical excuse. It kind of scared me. It kind of bothered me. I didn't know how Thorn was so well connected but I knew that a car came to pick me up the next day. It's early in the morning.
This guy is there in front of the car. I have my bags with me. Thorn sent me a text message letting me know I'll be gone for a few weeks.
"Are you with Thorn?" I ask the driver.
"Mr. Michaelson requested you not to bring any bags," the driver states.
"What the hell am I going to wear?" I ask.
The driver looks at me funny, "Sir...I only follow instructions."
I leave my bags right at the door and get in the car. I'm nervous. My palms are sweating. What the hell had I agreed to? What the fuck did I sign myself up for?
I fall asleep halfway through the car ride. When I wake up we are in the mountains somewhere. I don't recognize where we are. We've been driving for hours it seems. It's colder and it seems like we are high because the altitude is making it hard for me to focus. I just feel weird at that moment. I don't know what is going on but I know that things are just not right.
When we get to the top of the hill, I see something that looks like some sort of old house. It's in the middle of nowhere. My driver pulls up next to other cars similar to the car that I am in. There are four other cars.
I'm so nervous when I get out of the car.
"Right this way, Mr. Luthor."
I'd never been a Mr. Luthor. Never. Hell, no one even called my dad Mr. Luthor except for the people who called trying to collect on his old credit cards. When I walk up to the house I just get a shiver up my spine. This place didn't exactly look like the friendliest place in the world.
By the time I walk into the old house, I realize that this was serious. By serious, I meant that Thorn wasn't just going to mentor me. He wasn't just going to take me under his wing and teach me how to be popular. No.
"Yogi...Yogi can you believe this?" a voice states.
I'm shocked when I turn to see Candice. She's standing next to a group of strangers. They look like professionals. I had not been talking to Candice for the past week. I'd been too busy or so I thought. It looked like Candice had been a little busy too. It seems like she's been dropping some pounds or something.
"Who are these people?" I ask Candice.
"Thorn sent them. Don't bother to ask them any questions they won't say anything."
I turn and notice two other people in the room. Two guys. Richard, I knew. Richard and I went way back to avoiding any sort of physical activity together. He was my lazy friend. The other guy I just recognized. It's the tall basketball player. Kordell. Why the fuck was Kordell here?
Kordell walks over to me, "Hey I'm Kordell."
Kordell was kind of cute up close. He had facial hair which I found sexy as hell. He smiles and his teeth are all perfect. He had this dark beautiful skin tone. His voice is so fucking deep. His accent is thick and sexy and I'm pretty sure with a last name like Kwando he was from Africa. He has that exotic thing to him. Looking at him I had to admit he was already muscular and already kind of fine. But he did seem to lack something. I don't know what it was. Maybe it was the fact that he had a few pimples. Maybe it was the fact that he was one of those tall guys that hunched over way too much. He just didn't have that IT factor.
"I figured he chose you too," Kordell states, "I saw you walking around with him a lot."
"So I guess I'm not his only project," I realize, "It's the four of us, then?"
Kordell, the tall jock. Candice, the smart girl. Richard, the wannabe. And then me. The awkward idiot. It was clear that whatever Thorn had planned would definitely take a lot of work.
"There he is," Richard states.
Richard points to the front of the room. I watch as the kid is so excited he takes out his inhaler. Richard just made me feel good about myself. He literally has to be the only one who is a bigger loser in this school than I am. The dude is walking around with his pants way too high and this eternal puzzled look on his face.
"He's so fucking sexy," Candice whispers to me.
I roll my eyes. Candice had to get over her crush on Thorn. I get that Thorn was sexy but it was also kind of getting clear that Thorn wasn't interested in anything but this project of his.
As we look at the top of the stairs I see Thorn. He's standing there just watching us. He's almost studying us. The group of strangers seem to be doing the same thing. They are studying us. It's almost the same way I studied micro-organisms in the petri dish in Mr. Wyatt's class last year. I tried to figure out what was what. These people were studying us in the same way. And this wasn't the first time Thorn looked at me the way that he looked at me.
"This is your orientation," Thorn announces, "I'm glad you all could make it."
I laugh at the idea, "Orientation. Jesus, Thorn. You take this a little bit serious, huh?"
"I don't see what's so funny," Thorn states.
Candice elbows me. I know she's trying to get me to shut up. I can't take this seriously though. I look at the older people in the room. They were still watching us. I hear one lean over and whisper to another while looking directly at me. And then he makes a gesture with his hands. At first, I don't know where I've seen the gesture before but then I remember. One time, Candice took me get curtains. She was measuring the curtains with her hand. She was trying to see how the curtains would look in her room. It was the same sort of feel to this man's gesture.
I felt like he was measuring me up.
I felt like he was seeing how I would fit.
"I'm going to need you all to get naked," Thorn states.
"Excuse me?" I ask.
I'm the only one who says anything. I look over to my right and see Candice drop her clothes faster than a stripper when the NFL players were in town. Candice doesn't hesitate not even a little bit. Before I know it she's standing there completely naked. She stands there revealing all her stretch marks and her boobs and her little butt. After she was done she covers herself shyly. I'm standing there just perplexed by this entirely.
This had to be a joke. It had to be a fucking joke! I turn at that moment but then I realize that no one is laughing. Not even Richard who is peeling away his clothes slowly with this painful look on his face as though he is ready to break out in tears. You would think someone was peeling away layers of his skin by how terrified he was, but he was still doing it. Then there was Kordell...sexy Kordell. He took his clothes off rather quickly. Not as quickly as Candice but he does it with a lot more confidence. I see why when he is completely naked.
Mandingo. That's the only thing I can think of when I take a look at Kordell. His dick is huge. His athletic body is perfect.
"You guys really just going to do whatever he says, just like that?" I ask.
"He says he can help us," Richard whispers to me shyly, "He says he can make us perfect."
"And you believe him?" I ask.
"Look at him," Richard states.
I turn around. I take a long look at Thorn. He wanted us to stay here for weeks for what. What would take weeks? I was so confused at that moment.
"What happens when I get naked?" I ask Thorn.
"My teams are going to perform some necessary surgical procedures," Thorn states bluntly as though he was offering me a piece of chicken or something.
The others look nervous. I even see Kordell shaking his head, "No."
"You're fucking joking. I'm fucking out of here."
"You all can leave if you want to," Thorn states, "I'm not going to force you to stay here. What I will let you know though is that if you leave out that door, you forfeit your training. In just a few weeks I can make you better. Give me a year and I can make you perfect. I can assure you of that."
I look over at Candice. She is tearing up but she's staying. I can see it in her eyes. Richard has gotten so weak that he is literally on his knees right now. He's literally just on his knees unable to move. Then I look at Kordell. He was already putting his clothes back on but when Thorn makes his promise he just stops.
"Thorn this is crazy. Don't you think you sound crazy right now?" I ask, "You want to get people to operate on us. Who are these people? We don't know their medical history."
"I assure you they are more than qualified."
"Fuck their qualifications. I'm not going to die on an operating table so that I can fit YOUR vision of beauty."
"I'm serious," Thorn states, "This is more than just being beautiful. This is about being perfect. Do you understand what I'm saying? I am giving you all the once in a lifetime opportunity. I am going to make you into living perfect dolls. Prototypes. The types of people that run the world. Isn't that what you want? Is that what you all want?"
"I want to leave. Take me home," I state.
At least he wasn't going to be rude about it. At least he was going to let me leave. I walk towards the door. The others look like they are ready to leave too. If they needed someone to convince them it was OK to walk away from this foolishness then that was fine. I'd lead the fucking way.
Thorn walks towards me. He grabs my hand, "I don't want you to leave. I'm going to be honest. I can lose all the others but you...I need. You're going to be my favorite doll. I can see it now."
He says it right in front of the others. He has no shame. The others look like they are a little confused but not really offended. I mean it's just weird behavior altogether. I see how Thorn looks at me. I'm sure he spent the most time with me out of everyone in this room. I was certain of it.
But why me?
Why did he see such potential in me?
"Thorn," I start off, "I don't know. I want to change. I want to be better, but I don't know at what cost."
"The cost is everything. But it's worth it."
"How am I sure of that?"
"You require more proof?"
"Give me something. Something to make me feel comfortable about this decision. Anything."
"There is a fifth doll, I've already started working on. Call her in."
"She's not ready sir," one of his assistants state.
"She's ready enough," he replies.
The assistant leaves. In the next few minutes, I'm shocked with what I see. Someone walks into the room, slowly. It's seductive. Catlike, almost. I swear I almost hear her purr at the top of the stairs. Yes. A feline. That's what I would compare her too.
She's wearing a gown. It's a fitted beautiful gown. The girl has the shape of a coke bottle. At first, I think it's some starlet. Her sparkly gown. Her amazing strut. The way her body curves from left to right was something straight out of an old Hollywood movie. She stands up tall. Elegant isn't the way to describe her. It's more than that.
A cat. A feline. Purring with seduction.
Her body was an hourglass but her confidence. She could walk into the room and she was a tigress. She was a wild tigress in the jungle ready to rip off the heads of anyone who crossed her.
This girl stands there and poses. Looking down at us. She is the definition of flawless.
"Holy shit..." I hear Candice state.
I recognized who the girl was only barely. Only slightly.
"Is that? That is..."
Thorn nods, "Femininity can be so attractive. Do you know what it means to say something is pussy? Usually, it's a bad term. No. I took that term and recreated it. Now to be pussy is a good thing. To be pussy is to be fierce. To be pussy is to be a cat. A tiger. A lioness. A hunter. A conqueror. Yes. She is our latest design. The Pussycat Doll."
It was Marisol. Marisol, the Pussycat Doll.
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