"I can't believe..." I panted, starting to cry. "....Why did you DO this, Adam??? Why???" I turned my back on both of them, trying to dry the tears from my eyes, but they were pouring out too fast for me to stop them.
"Dude, I'm sorry, ok?" Adam pleaded. "This whole situation was seriously freaking me out. And let's be real, Brody is better at dealing with this sort of thing than I am."
"There's nothing to DEAL with! It's not like solving a math problem! I just...I can't believe you'd do this to me."
"Zack..." Adam started, but Brody put a hand on his shoulder to take center stage.
I could feel him walking up behind me, and he wrapped his arms around me laying his head on my shoulder blade. "We're going to help you, Zack. We're going to get you out of this shit situation and work to keep you safe."
His embrace felt so good. Loving and affectionate. Full of concern with a desperate need to shield me from the pain I was experiencing at that moment. But it was all a lie. He's just not getting it. My pain isn't ON the outside! The true horrors of my life are being generated from within. And the longer I wrap myself up in this self deception...the harder it's going to be to return to normal when he inevitably gets tired of having to chase and cuddle me all the time. I'm 'broken'. Doesn't he understand that? It's simply not possible for me to love him the way he needs to be loved. Why can't he just leave me alone?
I began to twist and struggle to get Brody to let me go, and once I broke free, I moved over towards Adam's bedroom window to get as far away from the two of them as I possibly could. "Zack, you're being ridiculous." Adam said, but I could barely hear him over the sound of my heart breaking...as I saw the hurt look on Brody's face.
"You shouldn't have come here." I told him. A part of me wanted to make him mad. Wanted to frustrate him to the point of getting him to back the fuck off. But what I saw in his bright eyes wasn't anger. It was pity. "Come to think of it, I shouldn't have come over here, either. I just didn't expect my best friend to betray me in my time of need."
Offended, Adam said, "Now wait just a friggin' minute...!!!" But Brody stopped him again.
He took a slow step towards me. And then another. Almost the way you would approach a crazy man with a gun, or a wild animal foaming at the mouth. "Don't!" I told him, and he stopped. He put his hands up in an attempt to get me to relax, but I didn't want to relax. I wanted to go home. "My dad's going to know that I'm not home. I ran out of the back door without telling anybody, and he's gonna be pissed."
"Just talk to us for a few minutes, Zack. Just...tell us what you want us to do."
"I don't want you to do anything! I want you to get out of my way and let me hurry back to the house before I get in trouble." I said, and I felt more tears rolling down my cheeks as I tried to hold it together. "Brody, please..."
"It's just a few minutes. Then you can go, ok?"
"I'm going to get hurt. He's gonna hurt me. He's gonna hurt my mom." I sobbed. "I never should have told. He said he'd kill us both if I ever told. I'm so messed up. He's going to find out what I did and he's going to KILL me!"
"Nobody's going to kill you, Zack. Or hurt your mom. Not if you let us help you." Adam added.
But the emotion burned even hotter in the back of my throat. "I wish you guys could see things like I see it. But you can't. You have NO idea what it's like to be stuck in survival mode...all day...every day. You don't know what it's like to have someone beat you and be too scared to raise a hand to defend yourself because you know that you're only going to get it worse. You don't KNOW, ok???" I kept sniffling and crying, unable to control my emotions, even for the sake of avoiding any further embarrassment. "I look at myself in the mirror every morning, and every night, and all I see is failure. Stupid mistakes and lost opportunities and...and..." I sobbed even more, causing Adam and Brody to tear up as well. "...I'll never be good enough, ok? Not ever. I'm incapable of doing anything right. And he knows that. My father's known that for years."
Brody said, "Zack, that's just not true..."
"But it IS true! He punishes me because I provoke him to do it. I'll never be good enough, I'll never be fast enough, I'll never be able to work hard enough, to satisfy him. And I TRY, you guys! I try sooooo hard! But it doesn't matter. He always has to complain. It's never enough. There's always something to complain about. Why didn't I do this? Why didn't I do that? I work to the point of exhaustion...until I'm so weak that I can barely even stay conscious. But he always wants more. Everybody in my life always NEEDS more from me!" God, why was I even saying all of this? Both Adam and Brody were staring at me in shocked silence, but now that the floodgates had been opened, I found it hard to stop. "I know that my dad is always going to hate me, ok? I realize that. But if I can just...for ONCE...get him to respect the massive effort that I'm willing to put in...just to keep him from constantly making me feel like shit for not always giving him what he wants or whatever it is he thinks he deserves to have...I'll take it. It's not much...and it certainly isn't love..." I sniffled. "...But I'll take it. At least I'll know, for a fact, that when the beatings come...it won't be because I was slacking or falling asleep at the wheel. Don't you see? Giving everything I have until I have absolutely nothing left to give, or to keep for myself, is the only way for me to keep this from being my fault. It's the only way to feel like I'm worth anything at all for a few brief moments before he decides to tell me I'm not good enough again." I wiped my eyes free of tears, but it didn't do much good. "To you guys...it's abuse. To me? It's the only sense of love and attention that I can ever hope to get from him. And as much as it hurts...it made me who I am. It's in my DNA. The 'Zack' you doesn't exist without him. It can't."
As a tear rolled down Brody's cheek, he spoke to me with a quivering voice, "You are SO much more than what that monster made you out to be. I can't claim to have any idea about what you've been through, but I do know that you're nothing like him. He doesn't have to define you, Zack. You don't have to let his bullshit take control of you the way it does."
"You say that now...but just you wait until you decide you want something from me too." I said. "Just wait until you ask me to do something that I can do, or that I'm no good at. Then we'll see. You'll get MAD at me. You'll think I'm stupid and worthless and you'll demand that I do better...or you'll hurt me too. I know how this game goes, Brody."
"I don't want anything from you. None of us do."
"EVERYBODY wants something from me! Everybody! And I'm SCARED, ok? Because....I don't think I have anything left to give. I don't even have enough to save for myself." I whimpered. "I'm all out of juice. Drained dry. And what do I have to show for it? Nothing." Adam handed me a box of tissues, and I took them to blow my nose and clean myself up a bit. Not that looking the way I do could be any more humiliating than it has been over the past five minutes. "I thought I could beat this. I wanted to be a soldier. But I'm NOT! I'm weak! And I'm a coward! And I try to give everything that I can, but they always want more. My father wants more. My mom wants me to talk to her more, my writing teacher wants me to write more, Adam wants me to hang out more, even YOU want more from me, Brody. And I just...I can't, ok??? What can I possibly give to you when I gave it all away already and nobody else bothers to give me anything back? I'm so tired. And nobody notices. Nobody cares. I just think I'd be better off alone. At least then I won't be killing myself trying to meet impossible expectations. At least then...I won't be such a disappointment."
There was an uncomfortable silence in the room among the three of us.
I just looked down at my feet, ashamed for having spilled all of that emotional sewage on Adam's bedroom floor without warning. But, just as I was about to wipe my eyes again and walk out, Adam spoke up.
"Zack...dude...you've never been a disappointment, ok?" He said. "Listen...I know that I might have harassed you to hang out a bunch of times, and I gave you a lot of shit when you just gave me a bunch of excuses in return...but I, honestly, didn't know that you took it that way. It's not like I expected you to put your whole life on hold and rush over to take care of MY needs. I just missed having you around. I wanted us to have some fun together, that's all. I'm sorry if you thought that I was trying to force you to 'entertain' me or anything. I'm not a total psycho."
"I'm sorry, Adam. I didn't mean it that way..." I said.
"No. No, I get it. It's ok. I don't really put it on my 'to do' list to tell you that you're the best friend that I've ever had, and probably ever will have. The least I could do is remind you of that every once in a while...if for no other reason than it makes me feel as good to say it as I'm sure it does for you to hear it." Adam secretly wiped a tear away fro his eye as well, and walked closer to give me a hug around the neck. "I'd never demand anything from you, or be disappointed in who you are. Ok? You've always been alright with me, bud."
"I wish I could believe you. I really do." I said, crying on his shoulder. "I'll try harder, ok?"
"Take your time, Zack. I'm not going anywhere."
Adam let me go, and stepped back for Brody to give me a hug as well. However, when our eyes met...Brody quickly moved forward, caressed both sides of my face with his hands, and planted a BIG kiss right on my lips! Right there in front of Adam, who's eyes popped wide open the second his brain was able to process what it was seeing.
"Ummm...WOW!" He said with a tilted smirk.
I think I was still lost in a state of shock myself, followed by a rush of fear as I began to realize what Brody had just done to me in front of my best friend. When he broke the kiss, we gazed into each other's eyes for a lingering moment, and then I looked over at Adam with a deep blush flooding up into my cheeks. "I...Adam, I..."
But Adam just shook his head with a smile. "Don't even. Hehehe! I would have figured it out eventually anyway. I was geting close, but I didn't think the mystery was going to be solved tonight. That's all."
Brody and I both grinned, and Brody asked him, "Were you spying on us?"
"I had my suspicions. Let's just put it that way."
"But...but how?" I asked him, still wiping my eyes, but feeling a bit excited to have him know about me and my attractions at long last.
"Well..." Adam said, "...I know that girls are kinda 'icky' in Elementary school, and they can be a bit intimidating and scary in Junior High...but after a while, well...I figured that your 'sex needle' was making any efforts to point you in that particular direction." Then he giggled and added, "Besides, I don't know any boys our age that would turn down a direct invitation from a hottie like Hannah Prescott. All that delicious breast meat...and you'd rather hang out in the rain with this asshole? There's gotta be something sinister going on there." He said, and Brody playfully gave him the middle finger in response.
But then...Brody looked me in the eye, and he gave me the cutest smile ever. His ever glowing bright hazel eyes reflecting every ray of light that they could grab a hold of...and he said, "I love you. And the only thing I want from you is a smile, and for you to give me the chance to make you the happiest boy on Earth. That's it. No other services required. Ok?"
Giggling through my tears, I said, "Whatever..."
"Not good enough." He said. Then he kissed my lips again. "You give me MORE than anything I ever could have asked for. I don't need you to do or be anything more than what you are right now. I mean that. Ok?"
"Brody...hehehe..." I said, blushing, and peeking over at Adam, who obviously getting a kick out of this open display of affection.
"Tell me 'ok'. Ok???" Brody said, and he took his hand to manually nod my head for me.
"Ok..." I said softly. And he kissed me again briefly, before Adam stepped in to push him aside to hug me again.
"Quit hogging him!" Adam grinned. "Look, this doesn't change anything between us at all, ok? I promise."
"Thanks, dude." I replied.
Then, struck with a short impulse for maximum mischief...I reached down with both hands and gave Adam's ass the biggest SQUEEZE! Hahaha! "What the...HEY!!!" He said, practically jumping out of my arms and turning red in the face. I don't think I've ever seen Adam blush so hard.
"Sorry. Hehehe, I've been waiting years to find an opportunity to do that!" I said, my sad tears now being mixed with a few tears of joy. Or possibly...just relief, considering his reaction to my secret.
"Well, there you go. Two handfuls of my ass! Got that out of your system, now?" Adam teased.
"Hmmm, I'm not sure. Let me try it again..." I stepped forward and Adam nearly leapt back halfway across the room. Hahaha!
"Let's not get too frisky there, pal! This ain't no open buffet that I've got shoved down in the back of my pants!" He laughed, and Brody moved in to put an arm over my shoulder and kiss me on the cheek. Something about Brody's unconditional love just...it made you feel whole again, you know? It soothed whatever ailed you without any effort at all.
The three of us stood together in that room, smiling at one another, all of our faces stained with the salted tracks of runaway tears...and just as I began to say, "Well, one thing that I'm happy about...at least you didn't call...."
I couldn't finish my sentence before the doorbell rang downstairs. Again, Adam was quick to shout out, "I'll get it, Mom!!!"
Adam peeked over at me, and it looked like he was wincing a bit, preparing for my backlash. I said, "Dude...please tell me you didn't!"
"WHAT? He can't NOT be here for this! It's practically an intervention. We all have to be together. You know...that 'all for one' type of shit."
"Are you serious???"
"Gotta get the door! Be right back! You two, like...kiss or something." Adam said, and he hurried out the door and down the steps, leaving Brody and I standing in his bedroom, face to face.
"You know, I didn't imagine that coming out to my best friend would go this way." I smiled.
"Did you have a better plan?" Brody asked.
With a sigh, I said, "No. But that's not the point." Brody put his hands on my hips and moved in so close to me. I began to get hard, just from the boyish fragrance of him alone. "You're bad for me, you know that?"
"The worst." He replied. "But I'm not about to be the fish that you decide to toss back in the lake. So man up. You're stuck with me."
"You're so stubborn..." I sighed, and he kissed me deeply on the lips again.
But, with a more serious tone, Brody told me, "You know...this can't go on. I know you have your reasons and all, but..."
"Yeah." I said sadly. "I...I know that it's time for me to finally get away from him. To get him out of my life and my mom's life. But...I'm scared, Brody. I'm so scared."
"I don't think I know how to do this by myself..."
With another lingering kiss, Brody softly muttered, "Luckily...you don't have to."
Suddenly, I heard two sets of footsteps charging up the stairs to Adam's bedroom, and sure enough...I saw a slight blur of Sam's little blond mop of hair as he raced in and tackled me back onto Adam's bed! Hahaha! He got on top of me and started wiggling and thrashing around and hugging me so tight that I had to conserve what little bits of oxygen his death grip allowed me to have.
"Are you alright, Zack? Tell me you're ok! Omigod!" He squealed.
"I'll be fine once you get off of me! I swear! Hehehe!"
My best friends. My perfect love. My visions of hope and accomplishment in a world that had been tainted gray by a cloud of misery for so long that I was beginning to forget what the real thing felt like. They were all here at once, letting me know that I wasn't as screwed up as the voices in my head once told me I was.
Only they could make me laugh at a time like this.