My Only Escape

Chapter 2

I woke up that Saturday morning to the sounds of my mom vaccuming the hallway outside of my room. I was hearing the noise almost a full minute before I became really conscious of it, the soft buzz of the machine was almost hypnotic as it pulled me from my sleep. I allowed my eyes to open and let the light of day pour in, and believe it or not my very first thoughts were of Brody. It caused a rush of emotion to wash over me, bathing me in a warmth that the sheets on my bed couldn't provide. Out of one comfortable trance...and right into another. I couldn't help but smile to myself.

The seductive sight of Brody's lips were the first thing to catch my imagination, pink and inviting with their every movement...they were amazing. Envisioning his soft hazel eyes and light brown hair came in a close second and third place, and as his face flooded into my daydream, I just...watched him. Amazed that a face and body could be so carefully constructed by the angels above and matched with such a sweet personality. It was as if he were put here for my enjoyment alone, because he fit my idea of perfection to a tee. I didn't want to move out of bed. My dreams were the only place where I could keep him still long enough to stare at him so shamelessly, and I didn't want to lose him just yet. It was the only place where I could talk to him and not feel so nervous that my words got jumbled up and caught on the edge of my tongue. It was the one place where I could lean forward and kiss him on the cheek without worrying about the consequences of possible rejection. It was a glorious image, and it took me a few moments to realize that I was getting hard as a rock just thinking about him. Jesus, Zack...snap out of it and quit being so goofy!

The hum of the vaccum got progressively louder, until it was a noisy roar just outside of my bedroom door. I heard my mom moving it back and forth, banging it against the wood seperating me from the outside world, and it was like an unforgivable intrusion into my little fantasy world here. I was fighting to hold the beauty of that sweet face for just a few seconds more, desperate to get just one imaginary kiss before he faded away. Then...'reality' came back to I heard my father's footsteps walk past my door and into the kitchen. Nothing had ever made a fantasy seem as fake, as his presence did in my life. And since I knew that he'd be anxious to show me just how much damage he could do to my real life experience as well, I might as well get up and deal with it. Afterall, I didn't have a choice, did I? This is the life I was given, and the only one I'll ever have. I'll just have to make the best of it somehow. Even when it hurts. With that thought, I got out of bed and prepared to 'survive' another day...if I could.

I got dressed in some long jean shorts and a t-shirt, teased my hair a bit in the mirror with my hands, and then listened closely over the growl of the vaccuum to hear my dad's pounding footsteps returning to 'his' bedroom before coming out of mine. It was the weekend, and I wanted to avoid running into him for as long as I possibly could. Even if that only meant a few minutes more. Once I heard the squeaks in his mattress as he laid down to watch tv, I quietly opened my door and crept outside. So far, so good.

"It's about time you got up, sleepyhead." My mom said with a smile.

"Morning..." I replied softly, my voice not fully awake just yet. I walked up behind her while she was still pushing the vaccuum and gave her a warm hug. I swear, sometimes she feels like the most huggable woman on Earth. Then again, I might be biased. She's the only source of affection that I've got in this world, really.

"What's that for?" She said.

"Nothin'..." I let go and walked into the kitchen to grab something to eat. My mom had cooked up some link sausages and there was some toast left by the side of the oven. It still maintained some of it's she always managed to do that, I'll never know. I took a bite or two of the toast while getting a saucer from the cabinet, and heard her come in the room behind me.

"I figured I'd make just something small for breakfast, and I'll buy you a decent lunch when we go out today." She said.

"Go out?" Where was I going? I can't go out, I've gotta see Brody today! I've GOT to! "Where are we going?"

"You said you were coming with me to help pick out a new couch for the living room, remember?" I had forgotten all about that entirely. "I thought we were going to make a day of it."

"Mom...I'm sorry, I totally forgot."

She already knew by the look on my face, "You already made plans, didn't you?"

"I kinda...told the guys I'd play football with them in the park today. They're supposed to call, any minute now probably." I said. She sighed a bit, but I could tell she was trying not to look too 'disappointed' or anything.

"That's ok."

"Are you sure?" I asked, PRAYING that she'd say yes!

"Yeah, yeah...go. Play with your friends. But we are going next week buddy, you got that?" She grinned, and I gave her a kiss on the cheek.

"Thanks mom." I happily grabbed my plate and walked out of the kitchen before she changed her mind. It's not that I didn't want to spend time with her. It's there's Brody...BRODY...and then there's my MOM and a couch with a flower pattern on it! NOT a hard decision for a teenage boy on a Saturday afternoon. I mean...I'm gay, but I'm not THAT gay!

I was walking back to my room when I crossed paths with my dad in the hallway, coming out of his dark room where he was watching sports with the lights off. My every motion stopped completely, and I instinctively directed my eyes down to the floor immediately. I didn't move, and remained a 'deer in headlights' for a moment that seemed to last an eternity. He looked down at me, knowing the power he had over me and probably loving every minute of it. "Don't eat in your room. What did we tell you? Go to the kitchen table." His voice was always so much more non-threatening when my mother was actually there in the house. And yet, at least in my mind, it contained just as much 'venom' in every word he spoke, if not more. I didn't even utter a single word, I just turned around and walked back to the table. Not too slowly, because he'd push me if I was moving too slow. And not too fast, because he'd take that as me giving him 'attitude'. I always had to make sure that the balance was JUST right. As obedient and complacent as humanly possible. My life with my dad was like walking through a pit of poisonous snakes, making sure that every step I took was measured and calculated to avoid putting my life at risk. These are the thoughts that rush through my mind every second that I spent within striking distance of the man. I used to wonder what life would be like if I was free from this kind of bullshit. But to be totally honest, once it goes on long enough to force you to embrace begin to forget that that freedom exists at all. Why question your life when it has already been structured for you beyond your ability to change it?

I quietly pulled out my chair from the table and sat down to eat in silence. My smile, gone. My thoughts and daydreams of Brody, gone. My interaction with my mother, gone. There was nothing...just him...and me. And I just wasn't looking for a fight today.

I made sure that my eyes were focused on my plate the whole time as my father walked up to kiss my mom on the cheek. No matter how often I had seen it, it always turned my stomach. I'd rather have Satan himself kiss my mother than that man. I had to give it to him though. When it came to pretending that I wasn't getting the living SHIT beaten out of me on an almost daily basis, his 'mask' was much better than mine. He could still smile openly, still appear to be so loving and harmless. I guess it's easier to hide the rage than it is to hide the pain it causes the people on the recieving end of it. It was almost enough to make me admire his actions. Study them. Get them down pat so that one day I could perfect it as well as he has, and never have to let another person know how many tears I've shed in the past week alone. Or pretend that I didn't have any problems at all in my life. It was baffling to think that he could use that same voice to break me down into a fit of tears from the abrasive words he would often spit in my direction, AND to speak so politely to my mom on a sunny weekend morning. To think that those same hands that had bruised and battered me for years now could touch gently. Maybe he actually 'loved' her. There were times when it seemed obvious. They'd probably be really happy if I hadn't come along and just ruined it all with my stupidity and my disgusting existence in their lives. I think that's what hurt most...thinking that my mom hated me just as much, just didn't say anything as openly and freely as HE did. Hell...some days, I wondered if EVERYONE I knew felt that way. Sighhhhh, I wish I could be good enough for him to love me too. At least enough to not hit me anymore. He will never know how much it hurts to have to endure the constant beatings and verbal abuse that he gives me without any regret at all. But...thinking that he'll change...that's just another daydream, I suppose. His love is just as untouchable as Brody's was. I'd have to work a HELL of a lot harder to be worthy enough of that kind of attention. If I haven't gotten the love and respect that I deserve by now, then I must not deserve it yet. I must be doing something wrong if I can't live as happily as the people around me, right? I must be fucking up royally, and that means that I've got to push myself harder and harder and HARDER until my body gives out and my brain shuts down! I completely intend to keep suffering and keep struggling until I'm as perfect as he expects me to be. Until my father, my mother, and the whole FUCKING WORLD, has to sit back and throw me the party that I've been working for all my life! Until my soul understands that it's not as worthless, useless, and dispicable, as my father told me it was. One day I'll show them all. One day the world will know how hard I've worked to be considered as a human being like anyone else...and that's the day that I'll KNOW I've reached perfection! Nothing less is acceptable.

"Well, I guess since I'm not going out shopping, I'll just run these clothes over to Gerry's for her charity drive." I heard the words leave my mom's mouth as she spoke to my father, and felt my stomach immediately begin to tighten up into a ball all over again. She was leaving. A shiver started to shoot through me, and an ice cold wave of fear seemed to run up my spine and rest on the back of my neck. I started to eat faster, tryng to shove enough food in my mouth to fill me up quick and allow me to run out of the house before she did. The last thing I needed was to have my confidence ripped to shreds and then go to see Brody in the park with teary eyes and red marks where he hit me. If he wants to do it when I come back, that's fine. I expect it, and accept it. But I've basically been looking forward to this day since I met him, and I guess I wanted to know...good. Well, 'nice' anyway. For an ugly asshole like me.

My mom picked up the phone in the kitchen to call and tell Gerry she was coming, but she didn't get a dial tone. She tried again, then hung up and picked it up again. Nothing. "Is one of the phones off the hook?" She asked.

"Yeah, I think the one in the bedroom is off. I'll take care of it." My dad walked away with a piece of toast, and went back to his bedroom to put the phone back on the hook. Suddenly...I felt a new tremble surge through me. One that increased with heat until it felt like I was on fire. I could only stare forward as I came to realize what he had done. He took the phone off the hook last night on PURPOSE!!! For NO fucking reason whatsoever! He did it just to be MEAN! He did it just so Brody couldn't call me! WHY??? Why the hell would he DO something like that? Does he have any idea how much that phone call meant to me??? "It's back on. Try it now." He said, strolling back into the kitchen to get some more breakfast.

My arms tensed up, sending a burning emotional flame down to my fists, hot enough to clench them tightly and grasp two handfulls of the table cloth as I glared in his direction. I couldn't believe that he was getting such a pleasure out of hurting me over and over and OVER again! I could feel blazing hot tears of rage forming in my eyes, and I stared at him hard, wishing that I had the ability to rush him and beat him to death with my bare hands. My breath was ragged, my teeth clenched tightly together...God I hated him! But what the hell was I going to do? I was HELPLESS!!! So fucking HELPLESS!!! I was a little BOY for crying out loud! How can he sleep at night knowing that he treated me this way??? The restraint that I had to put myself through was only making my hatred burn hotter inside, but instead of protesting, I did what I always did. I sat there...and did nothing. I did my best to unclench my fists, and choke back the urge to strangle him. Then I guided my eyes back down to the table, and wiped a stray tear away from my eye before my mom caught a glimpse of it and asked me what was wrong. He'd beat me up for sure if I did anything to make her ask that particular question when it came to him.

You have no idea how hard it is to swallow your very soul in order to protect it from harm. How difficult it is to just exist as someone's punching bag, and never once have the ability to speak out against it, to fight back. I do. And I'm going to have to keep holding back until one day it all gets to be too much and I find myself slitting my own wrists to get away from the pain of living another day in this house. If it weren't for my mother, that day would have come and gone a long time ago. I only pray that other people aren't as hollow and frozen as I am inside.

As I sat at the table, looking at the intimidating size of him, I felt my anger turning into this cold depression, and I forced it down, down, down, into the pit of my stomach. With the storm still violently swirling in my mind, almost giving me a migraine headache at the pure fury that I was attempting to control, I backed down. I was nothing, and no matter how mad I was over missing Brody's call, I knew that I wouldn't be able to hide my emotions from either my mom or my dad for much longer. So I gobbled down the last of my breakfast and put my plate in the sink on my way back to my room. I kept a steady mantra going on in my head, repeating "Let it go Zack. Let it go. Just get your stuff, put your shoes on, and get out of the house before mom leaves you alone with him." I sped up to get dressed and took a quick look in the mirror. Sigh....not much of a reflection to be proud of, but it'll do.

Shit...who am I kidding? I'm UGLY! This whole weekend, my crush on Brody, and all this daydreaming is a TOTAL waste of my fucking time! It hurts to hate myself so deeply. Alright, ok, stop's all a stupid illusion. I look just fine. Just....just go. I'll think it now, and believe it later. Just go, meet Brody, and um....wing it from there. Yeah, that'll work.

It was then I heard the front door shut...and I knew she was gone. She was gone, and I was all alone.

The horror of the situation paralyzed me for a few moments while I contemplated just running through the kitchen and out of the house before he could stop me. But I knew, deep down inside, that he'd be waiting for me. My only 'protection' had left me, and I was on my own as far as my survival was concerned. I straightened my hair out to look good for Brody, and then slowly, secretly, inched my bedroom door open.

I was walking as softly as I could to get through the kitchen before dear old dad could see me. But he was waiting for me...just as I had predicted. I could waste my time praying that he'd just leave me alone. But God stopped answering my prayers at age 8, and I was beginning to think that he was entertained by the pain and misery I suffered through. I'll be damned if I make it even MORE entertaining by begging for help that I'll obviously never receive!

"So you got problems this morning, is that it?" He asked, pushing me in the shoulder.

"No sir." I whispered.

"No....I think you've got problems today. I saw you looking at me from the table. You don't fool me boy." He had caught me looking. And it was at that very moment that I knew for a fact that I wasn't going to be able to leave that house without at least a few harsh licks here and there.

"I'm...I'm sorry." The words had become a continuous part of my vocabulary. Apologizing for even being alive most of the time. "I have to go."

"Where you going?" He asked.

" friends are playing football in the park today."

"Did I say you could go? You think you can just leave?"

No, no, no....please, don't let him hit me. Not now. Think, Zack....THINK! "Can I....can I go? Please?"

My father paused for a few moments, and then he said, "Fine. Go. I don't give a shit. Go." And a sigh of relief escaped me. But by the time I had gotten my stuff together to go, he was already...'searching'. I was in the kitchen getting a drink of water from the sink when he called me from the hall. "ZACK! GET over here!" He shouted. My limbs froze up instantly, almost feeling the blows before he dealt them out to me. Yet, they moved me back to my room anyway, as though they were acting on instinct alone and not responding to my dire need to escape from all this.

"Y-y-yes...?" I stuttered.

"LOOK at this fucking pig sty! You're not walking out of here with your room looking like this!"

"I'm...I'm already late. I just cleaned yesterday, I can pick up some more when I come back..."

"NO! NOT when you fucking come BACK! NOW!!! Get in here and clean this shit up!"

"But...I'm late..."

"Late for WHAT?" He shouted, but I didn't answer. "You don't hear me talking to you?" I had to say something before he got even angrier.

"My friends...were supposed to call me. But the phone was off the hook..."

He grabbed me by the shirt collar and slammed me against the wall. "SO??? *I* took the fucking phone off the hook! So what???"

"I didn't say anything..." I began to sob a little under my breath, my every word spoken with a hint of the fear in my heart.

"You're not ALLOWED to say anything!!!! MY PHONE!!! Got it? MINE!"

"Ok...I understand. I'm sorry." I said, trying soooo hard to hold back the tears. Tears would surely get me beaten down to the floor. "Please? Can I go...please? I'm sorry, ok?" I whined.

"FUCK OFF!!! GO!" He screamed, shoving me hard up against the wall again before leting me go. Now's my chance...just walk away. But not too quickly. He'd think it was an 'escape', and he wouldn't stand for that. I set a comfortable pace for myself as I began to walk away, but I guess he had some extra force leftover to get rid off. He then used his huge hand to viciously push my head into the corner of the doorway to my room. It was loud enough for me to hear, even when my ears began to ring from the impact. The collision was so fierce that I could TASTE it in the back of my throat, and I held onto my forehead as the pain settled in and pulled the salty tears from my eyes. I began to cry involuntarily, the humiliation mixing itself with the agony of having my head rammed into the corner of a plaster wall, and he shouted at me right away. I slid down to the floor, holding my head, and crying outloud.

"NOW what???" He yelled. "What the fuck are you crying for? That didn't even hurt!" He grabbed me harshly by the arm, picking me back up to my feet and trying to force me to move my hand from the painful spot where my head came into contact with the hard surface. But I refused to pull my hand away. Still crying, still hurting, all I wanted to do was get back to my room and close the door until the pain went away. To just lay down and cry until it stopped hurting so I could go out. Please...just let me go out. Eventually he pulled so forcefully at my hand that I had to give in. He grabbed me roughly by the chin, and turned me to look at him with teary eyes. He examined my forehead, "You're not even BRUISED, you faggot! STOP crying!" He shouted, but I couldn't help it. I couldn't stop if I wanted to. "STOP!!!! He repeated.

I tried, but even when I held my breath, the sobs would start again the second I started to breathe again. There was no stopping the tears at this point. They were on autopilot, and they were going to run freely until the well had been bled dry. "WHAT DID I JUST *FUCKING* SAY???? HUH???" He pushed me against the wall again, this time enough to knock the wind out of me. I coughed and wheezed a bit, but he insisted that I stop 'being a baby' and stand up. "If you can't stop crying, then you can't go out! God Damn sissy! Pretty boy without any balls at all! Go to your room! I'LL give you something to cry about!!!"

I sobbed uncontrollably. "Pleeeease! I have to go. Please, just let me go outside? Please?"

"GO TO YOUR FUCKING ROOM!!!!!!!!!" He screamed at the top of his lungs. He grabbed me by the arm, and my instincts told me to pull away. I began to cry even harder, and that's when his fist hit me hard in the back. Two or three times. My muscles knotted up between my shoulder blades, and I did my best to stop myself from crying. I was determined, but my emotions just WOULDN'Tfucking cooperate!!! I saw him begin to undo his belt and I knew that there was no way I wanted that. That's when I ran into my room and sat on the bed. But he followed me in and whipped me hard over the shoulders with it a few times before letting me cry in peace. Each strike burned me as the strap blazed across my young flesh. It stung for minutes after he had hit me, and just when he was about to leave, he swung wildly one last time, and the belt hit me around my neck, causing me to grasp it tightly and lie down on my bed as I screamed into my pillow. Whether he meant to do it was beyond me, all I knew was that I was in pain, and I was going to have to get rid of it before I got to see Brody again. I'd have to play his game and sell him my soul before he let me out of that house. For Brody...I'd do anything.

My father slammed the door to my room and went back to his own to watch more tv. He didn't say another word to me, he just let me lay there. As usual, when the sores on my back and arms from beatings before had begun to ache and pain me, I slinked off of my bed and down onto the floor. Where it was most comfortable to spread out and contort my body in such a way where I wasn't laying on a particular sore spot. the tears were just getting ready to go away, the rage resurfaced, and I became so angry that more tears washed over my face in a flood of emotion that I could no longer hold back. I HATE him! GOD I HATE HIM!!! Why does he have to hit me all the time??? What did I ever do to HIM??? My fists tightened up all over again...but I couldn't do anything WITH them! The anger was trying sooooooo hard to explode out of me and rise to the surface, but the fear of my father simply wouldn't let it show itself. It contained it and stuffed it down as far as it could go. The tension inside me was unbelievable. It was like trying to fit too many clothes in a tiny suitcase, trying to pack it down so tightly that it would it was exhausting to keep it controlled. The hatred leaked out in the frenzy of tears covering my face, but that wasn't enough. I was a balloon filling up with scalding hot steam...and despite my attempts to keep everything inside, I knew that I would eventually burst open with a fury that would finally release a lifetime's worth of suffering. Or....who knows? Maybe I should instigate him further, make him kill me or at least put me in the hospital. There's no WAY he could get away with it then. I'd gladly sacrifice my life to see him put away for the things he's done to me. It would be a blessing to leave this world knowing that he would suffer the way that I have over the last couple of years.

I sat on the floor until the tears caused an immense pressure to build up in my chest, and I couldn't hold back another second. I got up onto my knees and turned to face my bed. I let my anger take control, just for a second or two, and I began to hit my pillow as hard as I possibly could. My fist seemed to pierce straight through it to the mattress below, and the more I hated him, the harder I hit. I was crying even harder now, sobbing outloud as my fists landed a flurry of punches into the pillow until my wrists hurt and my fingers snapped, and I suddenly wanted to tear up the entire room. To take every piece of furniture, every piece of paper, every toy and gadget that I owned....and toss it about angrily in all directions! I wanted to break, smash, and scatter, everything within eye sight! I wanted to give the adrenaline rush in my muscles an exhausting experience by delivering a tantrum that would go down in the history books! "I HATE YOU!!! I HATE YOU!!! I FUCKING **HATE** YOU!!!!" I whispered to myself through gritted teeth as the punches continued. I was crying more and more with every hit, but it wasn't from sadness so much, I don't think. It was from the frustration of knowing that this was it. This was the best outlet that I had to relieve the horror and pain of my life. Hitting a stupid fucking pillow, and shouting things to myself that I could never say outloud in front of the man causing me to do this in the first place. I was slowly but surely being RAPED of my will, my confidence, my ability to handle the conflict of constantly being on someone's shitlist for life. And as the futility of it all washed over me, and my arms became to weak to continue...I broke down in a fit of silent tears, forcing myself face down into the pillow. That was it. That was the best I could do.

I think maybe a half hour had passed, maybe a bit more, before I lifted my head from that pillow again. The house had gotten quiet again, and when I listened closely, I could hear my dad snoring from the other room. I wiped my face and did what I could to straighten my hair out again, and quietly rose to my feet. A tremble went through my body as I contemplated the idea of sneaking out of the house. I knew for a fact, that he'd beat me within an inch of my life for it...but it's not like he wouldn't do it anyway. If not for this, he'd just find something else. Besides, this is Brody. It would be worth it, as long as I got to hear his voice again. As long as I got to see him laugh. Sighhh....that would be cool. I was literally shaking as I picked up my house keys, cupping them tightly to keep them from jingling. And I opened my bedroom door...VERY slowly. I could hear the snoring much more clearly now, and I timed my steps to the rhythm of his breathing. I went into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. It looked like I had the begginings of a bump on my forehead, but it wasn't turning colors or anything. Just a little redness. I could live with that. I brushed some of the loose strands of my hair in front of it to hide it, and grabbed a washcloth. I held it right under the faucet tightly, and only turned it on just enough to wet the center of it. I didn't want to make any noise. I wiped the dried salt off of my face from where I had been crying, and folded the washcloth back over the rack. Ok....I'm ok. Still had sore spots on my back, but they'll go away eventually. For now, all I had to do was get out of the house.

I was practically on my tip toes as I went out the back door, too scared to even twist the knob. The screen door seemed a billion times louder than normal as it creaked open. But I made it out onto the back porch, and closed the door with a frightening 'click'. I made sure that I walked down the steps quickly, but not so fast that I would make any noise. Once I was on the concrete, I was home free! I smiled to myself, and laced my shoes up tight to speed over to the park.

"Afternoon, Zack." Came a voice from in front of me. It scared the shit out of me, to be honest. Hearing anyone say my name at that particular moment with me sneaking away from the dragon's lair, was terrifying. Thank God it was just Mr. Shultz from across the alley.

"Hey, Mr. Shultz." I answered.

"I didn't mean to scare ya. Geez, you look like the boogie man had been chasing you." He grinned.

I smiled a bit, but I really had to get going before Brody and the rest left the park. It would take me all day to track them down after that. "I'm meeting some friends of mine in the park today, so I've gotta run." I said. But a look came over his face, and it worried me. It was like he was looking at something on me that was...wrong.

"Come here for a second." He said with a bit of concern in his voice. I tensed up immediately.

"H-h-huh?" I mumbled.

"Come here. Let me see your forehead." He beckoned me over, but I was scared. SHIT! It shows! I shouldn't have let him see it. Dammit! I should have KNOWN better! I'm such an idiot.

"I've really gotta go, Mr. Shultz. I'm sorry..."

"Did you hit your head?" He asked. Hide it Zack! HIDE IT!

" Yeah. I was being...stupid. I walked into a corner. It's no big deal. Honest."

"Are you sure? That looks like it hurt." He motioned for me to come closer, and I did so reluctantly. I cringed at the idea of him asking me any more questions. He'd kill me if I told. He'd KILL me! "'ve got to be more careful, kiddo." He said, lifting up my hair just enough to see the bump. He touched my head so gently, so tenderly, and when his fingers ran over the bump, I winced in pain.

"Ahh..." I hissed through clenched teeth. "It was just an accident."

He finally let me go, and I backed away from the fence, flipping my hair back down to cover it a bit better this time. " put some ice on it, you hear?"

"Yes, sir." I replied. And I took off to go to the park. "I'm sorry, I really can't stay, ok?" He was a nice old man, I didn't want him to think I was brushing him off. So I waited for him to say ok before running away.

"Oh now don't be silly. Go! Have fun with your friends." He smiled, and waved me off.

"Thanks! I'll see you later, ok? Promise!" I smiled, and took off running down the alley. The park was maybe a fifteen minute walk away, but only 6 minutes running. I hope they're still there.

I was out of breath by the time I got to the park, but I was overjoyed to see that they were still there! I looked over, and they were just sitting in the grass, drinking some sodas and sharing one of those 5 dollar tubs of gummy bears from the corner shop. There he was...Brody. Not just in my imagination this time, but in the flesh. I stared at him from a distance, looking at how he moved. It seemed so graceful. Every inch of him was a silent poem for the eyes. It was amazing. I turned around and hid myself behind a tree for a few seconds while I checked my breath, smoothed out my hair, and fanned myself a bit so that I wouldn't be sweating like a madman from running all that way. I hope I look ok. I fixed my clothes and cleared my throat so my voice wouldn't squeak when I said hello. Then took a couple of deep breaths before getting the courage to walk over. Here we go.

"Hey guys!" I said, keeping my heavy breathing under control as much as possible. They all turned to see me approaching, but I was only watching Brody.

"Well, well...look who finally decided to join us at last." Adam said with a smile. I gave everyone a couple of high fives, but when I came to Brody, he looked up at me with those eyes of his sparkling in my direction, and I got the jitters something awful.

"Hey...I thought maybe you weren't coming." He said softly.

"Nope. I'm here." It was all I could think of to say. I sat down next to him and forced myself to look away from him before him and everyone else could see the longing in my eyes and know what I was thinking at that moment. Instead, I focused on the gummy bears and grabbed a handful.

"I tried to call you last night."

" dad...he had a lot of business calls and stuff to make. So...I guess the line was busy." It was a lie, I know. But he's GOTTA know that I would have talked to him all night long if my dad had let me. I would have STILL been talking to him today if he had called last night. It wasn't meant to happen yet. That's all.

"Well, are we gonna go or what?" Sam said, standing up and dusting off that cute little ass of his. God, that boy could make a pair of jeans smile.

Brody turned to me and said, "We were thinking about going on over to the lake to just chill for a while. You wanna come?"

I looked up at him, "Uh...yeah. Yeah, cool." It was almost a whisper, and I had to clear my throat again before I could talk normally again. "I'm there."

Brody stood up, and extended his hand to help me up too. The contact was so alive, my heart inflating the second I took a hold of his hand. He gently pulled me up, and the sore muscles behind my shoulder were causing me a great deal of misery. But the excitement I felt just from hs touch was enough to ignore it. He truly was the cure for everything wrong. He brushed some grass from my back, and as his hand touched the curve of my lower back, I felt myself getting aroused. It worried me, and I just said, "Thanks..." To give him the polite signal that I was ok. He stopped and then turned around.

"Anything on me." I saw a bit on the bottom of his long t-shirt, covering hs butt and hanging down to his thigh. I didn't dare touch it. I didn't DARE!

"C'mon, we're leaving." Adam rallied the troops, and I walked away without saying another word. Thank God. I would have exploded for sure if I had touched him there. My hands were trembling just thinking about it. Wow...oh wow. I'm going to be thinking about this for some time to come.

It was about a twenty minute walk away from the park to reach the lake, and it was good to melt myself back into some kind of non-threatening atmosphere again. I began to relax a bit more and just be a kid for a while. My friends made it so easy to do. While walking, I tried to spread myself out a bit and talk to everybody so it didn't look like I was giving Brody all of my attention. You know how it is, when you're in the closet and kinda have a crush on somebody. It's like everyone in the world is suddenly watching every move you make, and gathering evidence to 'out' you as soon as they can wrestle a confession out of you. But no matter what, I gravitated to Brody involuntarily. I just loved the way his lips moved when he spoke. I loved the way he looked at me when he was listening to what I had to say. I loved the slight jiggle in his shoulders when he giggled. Oh it was such an adorable cute and so sweet. It made me want to kiss him on the lips in mid chuckle just so I could taste his smile. He was beautiful.

"Looks like it might rain today before we even get there." He said.

"Yeah, that would suck."

"What then? Back to Adam's for more video games or something?"

"Um...I don't know, actually. I suppose we'll think of something." Was I being as short winded and boring as I thought I was? I just couldn't seem to get my mind to come up with something intelligent to say. All I could do was try to catch quick glimpses of his beauty and answer whatever questions or comments he made. It was like being hypnotized.

"Say...what happened?" He asked.

"Huh? What happened where?"

He pointed a finger, "To your head. It looks like you've got a bump right there." DAMMIT! I fucked up AGAIN!

"Oh...I...uh...I ran into something. It's really no big deal." I said, my eyes going down to the ground, hiding it from his view as I desperately tried to think of a way to change the subject.

"Does it hurt?"

"A little...yeah..."

That's when he reached up and ran his fingertips over it loosely. So loosely that it didn't hurt me at all. I stopped walking while he explored it a little, and I closed my eyes. The tenderness of his touch was electric. My breathing got a bit heavier, and I opened my eyes to look at him up close. He was right there in front of me, touching me, and I was lost in whatever brand of attention he was giving me at that moment. I liked it. His eyes were looking up at the bump as he gently lifted my bangs out of the way, but he caught me gazing at him when he looked back down to make eye contact. The thing is, he didn't turn away at first. It was almost as though he didn't mind me looking. And I saw him smile a little bit. I fell in love at that very moment. Beyond my ability to doubt or deny it, I fell in love.

"Thanks..." I whispered as he stepped back a bit.

"Thanks for what? It's not like I 'healed it up' for you." He giggled.

"Yeah, I's know..." I blushed a little, trying to keep from smiling and looking goofy in front of him. But before I could get out another word, Sam scurried over and jumped up on my back, his legs wrapping around my waist and his arms snaking themselves over my shoulders.

"Whatchya talking about?" He said playfully.

"C'mon Sam...get down." I tried to make it look like he wasn't interrupting anything, but I was a bit frustrated at losing the moment.

"Hehehe, nope! I like it up here." He grinned, and Sam pointed forward, "Onward my trusty steed! To the lake!"

I smiled a bit, but was still trying to convince Sam to get down. It was then that, purely by accident, Sam squeezed in the wrong place, and the knotted up muscles in my back and shoulders flared up with a vengence! "Ahhhhh! OW OW OW!!!" I cried out in pain, and basically collapsed to my knees with Sam coming down with me. It hurt enough to almost bring tears to my eyes, and I lay there on the ground aching.

"What? What happened?" Sam asked, looking mischeviously innocent from under that shiny blond cap of hair.

"That HURT!!!" I shouted. To this day, I still can't say where the anger came from, or how it took a hold of me so fast, but as I got back up on my feet, my temper exploded out of me.

"I didn't do anything."

"I TOLD YOU to get off of me! What the fuck, Sam! Jesus!" I shouted. Everybody kinda looked at each other, and it was then that I realized that I was basically pulling a Jekyll and Hyde transforation and surprising them all. Brody included. Sam seemed a bit hurt, and everyone else was just staring at me. I didn't know how to get myself out of it, so I just walked ahead of them to the lake. "Whatever. Just listen to me next time." looks like I fucked THAT up royally, didn't I?

We all made it out to the rocks, with the cool waves of the lake pulsating down below. We were maybe a good ten to fifteen feet up from the water itself, and sat down on the giant boulders, our feet hanging over the side. Trash-wise, there was a little bit of everything in between the rocks. From beer cans to old shoes to used condoms. It was a smorgasbord of whatever sin the local teens and college kids got themselves into out here at night. We relaxed and were back to normal in a ten minute time period, despite my sudden outburst earlier. Brody, naturally sat beside me, making my body go from relaxed to nervous and back again as I tried not to look at him for too long. Or think about him. Or hear his voice. This feeling I have all of the sudden is not easy at all to deal with, you know that?

While Adam and Sam took part in a little game of who could spit the farthest out into the lake, Brody turned his attention to me, focusing on every word that I said as though it were ripped from the Bible itself. Something about that made it even harder to talk. I must have only been speaking three words per minute. JUST slow enough for me to strategize and calculate my side of the conversation so as not to sound like a complete retard. I must be pulling it off pretty well, because he seemed to stay enraptured. "So...did you think of anything to do if it rains?" I asked timidly.

"Other than sit right here and get soaking wet? No, not really. Hehehe, just so long as I don't have to go home." He replied.

"You don't want to go home?"

"'s my mom. She' some new guy..." He trailed off a bit, but he made this taste-of-bad-medicine face when he said it. And yet, it still retained a little bit of that cute half smile that I loved so much.

"Let me guess...he's not good enough?" I asked.

"Are they ever?" He looked back at me with his smile blossoming a bit more, and I realized that I was looking into his eyes. I turned away before I lost my self control. "I try, for her sake, you know? But...I don't think this idiot is going to turn out to be 'the one'. Not to mention that he keeps calling me his 'little buddy', and I HATE that! It's like being trapped on Gilligan's Island for crying out loud."

"Hehehe, yeah...I can see that being a bit of a burden." I answered, trying to get the courage to look up at him again instead of down at my feet. Thank God the motion of the lakes waves provided a decent distraction for me.

"So what about your parents?" Brody asked. I felt my spirit sink just a little bit when he mentioned it, and I suddenly thought back to what would be waiting for me back home if my mom hadn't made it back before I did.

"Ah you know...same ol' same ol'. Nothing special about them really. So has your mom ever brought home anyone you liked?" I asked.

"Not really. There was a guy who developed code for video games once. The idea of it sounded cool, but when I met him...TOTAL space cadet. All he was missing was a pair of Mr. Spock ears and a pocket protector." He grinned.

"I guess you're a pretty tough jury when it comes to your mom's dates, huh?"

"The toughest." Then Brody asked, "I'll bet your parents are just as weird though."

"Yeah well..." I mumbled. "So...what if your mom met a really great guy that you liked, then what?" He stopped and just kind of looked at me for a moment. "What?"

"You really don't like to talk about you, do you?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I mean, you never tell me much of anything. And everytime I ask, you just change it around and get back the conversation centered on me again. How come?"

I looked back down to my feet again, more determined than ever to not look him in the eye. Not so much because I was scared he'd see the love in my eyes, but because he might see some of the things that I've been trying so desperately to hide. So many things. "I...I didn't mean to be rude or anything..."

"I don't think it's rude, Zack. I'm just curious, is all. I wanna know more about you than what you tell me." Even out of the corner of my eye, I could see him smile. But I did my best to ignore it, staring so hard at the waves beneath my feet that I felt like I could almost see down to the bottom of the lake.

"There isn't anything special about me." I said under my breath.

"Sure there is. You're just keeping it secret." He poked me a bit with his finger to get me to smile, but I was concentrating too hard on covering my tracks. Being EXTRA careful to moitor everything that I said. Don't give anything away, Zack. He won't know if you don't tell him. Don't be a fucking IDIOT, Zack! Now's not the time to be stupid little 'pretty boy'. And as I imagined my father's eyes, staring down at me, listening close to see if I told, I felt a single drop of water hit my arm. Then another on my neck. Thank goodness...saved by the rain.

"I think we should go. It's starting to rain." I said, pulling my feet back under me to stand up.

"It's just a few drops. Relax." Adam said, but I was ready to pull away from this whole situation before it got any worse. I could already hear my dad's hurtful words screaming at me with my own voice. Stupid Zack. Worthless Zack. Ugly Zack. Piece of shit, go home already and quit playing around. He doesn't think of me one way or the other. Why would he care, nobody else does.

"It's a long walk. I'm gonna go. I'll see you guys tomorrow, ok?" I jumped down from the rocks and started to walk. But Brody called me back.

"Wait up. I'll come walk half way with ya." He said.

"That's not neccessary dude. You live right around the corner."

"Quiet, you. I'll hang out with you guys later, ok? Gimme a call tomorrow if you want to do something." Sam and Adam both waved us off, but not without giving us shit for being 'scared' of a few drops of rain first. Then, Brody walked through the rest of the park with me.

He didn't say anything at first, and neither did I. But I guess the silence got to him and he said, "Listen...I'm sorry know."

"Sorry? Sorry about what?"

"I didn't mean to be nosey. You don't have to get all deep into your personal life if you don't want to..."

I interrupted him, " dude, it's ok. Really. No big deal." I worked up a smile so he wouldn't feel bad, and he seemed to buy it. "I just...I don't have much to say, that's all."

"Somehow, I doubt that. But until a later date, I'll just accept that as a very lame excuse. Deal?" He giggled a bit, putting his hand on my shoulder and gently shaking a smile out of me.

"" He could really be sweet when he wanted to be.

Suddenly, as though out of nowhere, the raindrops around us increased in frequency and the clouds opened up to pour down on us with a fury. "WHOAH!!!" We shouted in unison, and ran to find some shelter. The lightning kicked in right away, and the sky growled at us with the sound of thunder. We found a flower shop in the neighborhood with an outdoor awning that was big enough to shelter us both from the storm. And we ducked underneath it to catch our breaths until it died down a bit. Looking at one another, soaked from head to toe in such a short amount of time, we couldn't help but laugh.

"Geez...I didn't see that coming!" A flash of lightning is what made me look in his direction at that particular moment, and that's when I saw it. Brody lifted up the front of his t-shirt a little to ring out some of the excess water out of it. My smile faded almost instantly, and a nervous shiver enveloped my whole body. I turned my eyes away from him to look in the other direction as quickly as possible, but not before catching a glimpse of the smooth, taut teenage stomach he was hiding underneath. The cutest little oval shaped belly button, and a gentle curve in his hips that led down a bit further than usual as his pants were hanging low on his slim frame. Not only that, but with his pants being so wet, so cold...I could see a faint outline his uhhhh...Was I blushing? GOD, I hope not!

I didn't say a word, and waited until he stopped...doing that...before even looking in his direction again. I gave him a bashful grin and then looked back out to see Sam and Adam high tailing it home in the downpour, screaming like the water was burning the flesh right off of them. Brody and I laughed out loud at the sight of it! They'd never make it home in time to keep from saking through 100 percent. "Looks like you saved me." Brody smiled as the thunder rolled over us again.

I looked back over at him, his dark brown loose curls sticking to his forehead, and allowed my gaze to linger slightly longer than usual before looking away again. "....yeah..." I whispered.

There was another uncomfortable silence, something he and I seem to be collecting today, and again...he was the first to speak up. "Feel like making a wish?"


"I have this uncle in the country, right? And when I was little, he used to tell me that if you look out at a rainstorm, and see a lightning bolt, then you can make a wish and it'll come true."

"What's so hard about seeing a lightning bolt? There's plenty of them out here to choose from you know?" I asked.

"Yeah, but you never really SEE them. Sre, you might catch one out of the corner of your eye, or see the sky flash for a quick second...but you've got to actually SEE one! And no cheating! You've got to see the actually strike of lightning, clearly, right in front of your eyes. Then...make your wish." Brody could have gotten me to run out and try to catch a lightning bolt with my BARE HANDS if he asked me to! So I agreed.

"'re on." And we both looked out at the sky in front of us, dead silent. But this time, not uncomfortably so. I kept my eyes peeled, but it seemed that the lightning was avoiding my gaze every single time. Always just out of the corner of my vision, or behind me, or striking as my eyes passed over it and gone by the time I focused back on that piece of the sky again. " know, this is a lot harder than I thought." I said.

"Got one!" He exclaimed.

"Bullshit! You're just saying that!" I gave him a playful shove, almost pushing him out from under our temporary sanctuary.

"Hey now! I'm already wet, don't make it worse!" He giggled as he pressed himself back against the wall.

"I'm not buying it. No way you could catch one of these things. They move too fast."

"Not really. See, the trick is to not look around to much. See, most people keep looking back and forth, back and forth, all over the place. But they're moving too fast. So the lightning bolts are either right in front of where you're looking, or right behind. And you never catch it."

"So what do you do different." He paused for a second, and I took my eyes away from the sky to look directly at Brody's face to see why he hadn't answered yet.

"Well..." He said softly, "...I found out that if you look in the right place for long enough...sometimes you get exactly what you're looking for." The words left his lips like fine poetry. And the look he gave me, in that one instant, made everything beautiful. Everything. It took me by surprise, and I began to tremble inside. This isn't happening. This isn't happening.

The voices inside my head came back. Fucking pathetic, Zack! Hahaha, fucking pathetic! You're actually going to stand here and tell me that this boy is flirting with you? Are you sick? LOOK at him! He's gorgeous! But YOU? You're just some ugly little faggot without a brain in your head! What the hell makes you think you can score a nice piece of ass like that? Get your head out of the damn clouds kid and get home. Looking for lightning must be even more braindead than I thought! Why don't you just leave before you embarass yourself even more than you already have?

As much as I try to ignore them...they're always there.

"You know what? I think I'm just gonna make a break for it, ok?" I mumbled, taking a step or two backaway from Brody and the gaze that I was rapidly falling in love with. I can dream, but I'll be damned if I fool myself into believing for ONE MINUTE that I'd be worth his time. My dad's right...I've got better things to do than to pretend that I'm somebody special.

"Are you crazy, the rain hasn't even started to slow down a bit. Just chill here with me for a little bit and we can..."

"I can't. Ok?" I hated to make his smile go away, I really did. But I knew that if I didn't protect myself from all this wishful thinking, I was going to be setting myself up for a heartbreak that I couldn't handle. Not now. "I'm sorry. Look...I'll see you in school on Monday, k?"

He looked more confused than hurt, but what could he say? "Um...sure. Ok..."

I stepped out into the rain, the ice cold water washing down over my head and shoulders as I prepared for my dash back home. That's when I turned around and meekly waved my hand to say goodbye. "I...I had a good time Brody. I really did."

"Me too." He said, no real emotion in his words.

"I hope you get your wish."

"Yeah...well...I can only hope." And without another word, I took off to run home. Every puddle that splashed up around my ankles, was a step further and further away from Brody. And yet, it was a step closer and closer to being safe again. Safe from being hurt beyond belief. I like the way things are now. I don't need much love and affection anyway. Just...just a few good times, and a nice dream to cuddle up with in bed at night. That's all. N need to go thinking I'm some prince or anything.

As I ran out of breath, I slowed down to a steady trot, and then let the rain wash over me in buckets. I was already wet, no need to worry about that anymore. And as I turned the corner of the alley to see my house in the distance...I noticed my mom's car hadn't come back yet. I know what that meant, and I knew that putting it off would only make it worse. I took a deep breath, and walked towards the back steps to face whatever was waiting for me.

One thing about a heavy rain...only you know whether or not you're crying.